Jean-François Casimir Delavigne was a French poet and dramatist.


Delavigne was born at Le Havre, but was sent to Paris to be educated at the Lycée Napoleon. He read extensively. When, on 20 March 1811 the empress Marie Louise gave birth to a son, named in his cradle as king of Rome, the event was celebrated by Delavigne in a Dithyrambe sur la naissance du roi de Rome, which obtained him a sinecure in the revenue office.

About this time he competed twice for an academy prize, but without success. Inspired by the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, he wrote two impassioned poems, the first entitled Waterloo, the second, Devastation du muse, both written in the heat of patriotic enthusiasm, and teeming with popular political allusions. A third, less successful poem, Sur le besoin de s'unir après le départ des étrangers, was afterwards added. These stirring pieces, termed by him Messéniennes, found an echo in the hearts of the French people.

Twenty-five thousand copies were sold; Delavigne was famous. He was appointed to an honorary librarianship, with no duties to discharge. In 1819 his play Les Vêpres Siciliennes was performed at the Odéon, then just rebuilt; it had previously been refused for the Théâtre Français. On the night of the first representation, which was warmly received, Picard, the manager, is said to have exclaimed, "You have saved us! You are the founder of the second French Theatre."

This success was followed up by the production of the Comédiens (1820), an inferior play, with little plot, and the Paria (1821), which contained some well-written choruses. The latter piece obtained a longer lease of life than its intrinsic literary merits warranted, on account of the popularity of the political opinions freely expressed in it: so freely expressed, indeed, that the displeasure of the king was incurred, and Delavigne lost his post. But Louis-Philippe of France, willing to gain the people's good wishes by complimenting their favourite, wrote to him as follows:

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