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Racine

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RACINE, Jean Baptiste, zhOil West a sen, French dramatist: b. La Ferte-Milon, Picardy, 21 Dec. 1639; d. Paris, 21 April 1699. He studied at the College of Beauvais, and subsequently at the Port-Royal Institution, where, under the care of Lancelot and Lemaistre, he became a profound Greek scholar. In 1658 he left the Port-Royal, and began the study of philosophy at the College d'Harcourt at Paris. To this period belong his first literary efforts, and ode called de la Seine,' composed in honor of Louis XIV's marriage, and for which he was rewarded by Chapelam, then the dispenser of the royal bounty; and two comedies now lost. About the same time he intimate ntimate with La Fontaine, and this intimacy was so far from .tending to make his life more regular, that those of his relations who took most interest in him, and who had destined him for the Church, began to be anxious about his prospects. In 1661 he went to live with an uncle, a canon regular and vicar-general of the cathedral at Uzes (department of Gard), whose influence it was expected would suffice for procuring him a benefice. In this last particular they were dis appointed; and at the end of about two years, during which Racine had been vainly endeavor ing to study theology, he returned to Paris and the world. In 1663 he was presented at court, and soon made the acquaintance of Boileau and Moliere, and began to write for the stage. His first tragedy, the (Thebaide,' was first per formed by Moliere's troupe at the Palais-Royal in June 1664, as was also his next, (Alexandre le Grand' in 1665. His first two tragedies were merely tentative pieces, containing but few in dications of the author's dramatic genius. .His first master-piece was (Andromaque,' which on its performance in 1667 produced a profound impression and excited well-merited admira tion. It was brought out at the Hotel de Bourgogne, Racine having in the meantime quarreled with Moliere. The immediate suc cessor of (Andromaque was a comedy (Racine's only extant comedy), (Les Plaid curs,' a witty and delightful imitation of the (Wasps' of Aristophanes. It appeared in 1668, and was at first rather coldly received, being indeed saved only by the laughter of the king. His next pieces were (1669) ; (Berenice' (1670), composed at the request of Henrietta of England, who had also invited Corneille to write a drama on the same subject; (Bajazet' (1672) ; (Mithridate) (1673) ; (Iphi genie' (1674), considered by Voltaire the great est work that the French stage has produced; (1677), the last piece that Racine pro duced expressly for the theatre. Little is known of the private life of Racine during this period, almost all his correspondence hav ing been burned from a too pious respect for his memory. In July 1673 he obtained a seat in the French Academy. In 1675 he was nomi nated by Colbert a royal councillor and treas urer of France for the general government of Moulins (Bourbonnais), but never entered on the duties of his office His withdrawal from the theatre in 1677 was partly due to chagrin at the success of a hostile party of theatrical critics who set up for being fine wits and applauded one Pradon, a writer now never heard of, at the expense of Racine. Soon after (1678) he was appointed, along with Boileau, historiog rapher to the king, whom he accompanied in his campaign in Flanders. About this time Ra cine became reconciled with his relations and former friends at Port-Royal. His marriage belongs to the same period. It was happy and resulted in the birth of seven children. From then on Racine played, with considerable suc cess, the part of a courtier. After a silence of 12 years Racine, at the solicitation of Madame de Maintenon, added two other pieces to the list of his dramatic works —'Esther' (1689) and 'Athalie' (1691), the latter often spoken of hy French critics as the mast perfect of his works.

They were .both intended for the pupils of Saint-Cyr, the institution founded by Madame de Maintenon. The death of Racine is said to have been hastened by grief at losing the favor of the king. As a dramatist Racine is usually considered the model of the' classical or national tragic drama of the French and in estimating his poivers in this field it is necessary for the critic to take into account the stiff con ventional restraints to which that drama is sub jected. What Racine achieved within these limits is extraordinary. He added to the con ventional drama as he received it a grace of which- one would not have deemed it capable; he was greater as a poet than as a dramaturgist, and wrote in a style of finished perfection and distinction, developing French versification to its ultimate of rhythm and dignity. In his re straint, proportion; balance, he is rightly re garded as classic. 'Perhaps it would be no ex aggeration to assert,' says Dowden, grandeur and beauty are nowhere else so united in French dramatic art as in 2 Be sides his dramas Racine wrote several stinging epigrams, some odes and hymns, an abridgment of the history of Port-Royal, letters and his torical fragments on the campaigns of Louis XIV. Among his letters are two in reply to a work of Nicole of the Port-Royal, entitled 'Les Visionnaires) (1666), in which the author bit terly denounces poets and still more dramatic writers. The tone of these letters is severely sarcastic and naturally caused great offense to his old friends and masters. Only one of the letters was published at' the time they were written, the other after his death. After his retirement from the theatre Racine found it easy, as has been said, to reconcile himself with his old friends. See ATHALIE: Prams.

The first collected edition containing nine tragedies then written was published in 1675 76; another containing practically all of his important works appeared in 1697. Both are in two volumes. Since then there have been almost innumerable editions of varying perfection. 'Among these one of the best is that published at Paris in three volumes (1801-05), regarded as a marvel of typography. An excellent ecli tion• of Completes) was published in 10 volumes in 1865-73 in Hachette s collection of the 'Grands Ecrivains de In France,' pre ceded by an admirable essay on Racine and his time by Paul Mesnard. There is an English metrical translation by R. B. Boswell • (2 vols., London 1913). Most of his tragedies have also been translated into many other languages and -have found many imitators, some of whom, however, succeeded in reaching Racine's perfec tion. Consult Beyle, M. H., 'Racine et Shaks pearel (Paris 1854) ; Blaze de Bury, M. P. R. S. 'Racine and the French Drama) (London 1845); Canfield, 1). F., 'Corneille and Racine in England' (New York 1904) ; Deschanel, E. A. E. M., 'Racine) (2 vols., Paris 1891) ; Ga vault, P., ed. 'Conferences de l'Odion) (Paris 1916) ; Larroumet, G., 'Racine) (Paris 1898); Lemaitre, J., 'Jean Racine) (Paris 1908); Mas son-Forestier, A., 'Autour d'un Racine Ignore) (Paris 1910) ; Monceaux, P., (Paris 1892) ; Morgan, J. P., 'Catalogue of Racine Col lection) (London '1906) ; Racine, L., (Mernoires de Jean (Lausanne 1747) •, Roy, J. J. E., de Jean Racine' (Tours 1863) ; Sainte-Beuve, C A., 'Port-Royal) (7 vols., Paris 1908); Stapfer, P., 'Racine et Victor (Pans 1894) ' • Trollope, H. M., 'Cor wine and Racine) (in 'Foreign Classics for English .Readers,) Edinburgh 1881).