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Jacques Cazotte

France (1719 - 1792)

Jacques Cazotte (October 17, 1719 - September 25, 1792), was a French author.

Born at Dijon, he was educated by the Jesuits, and at the age of 27 he obtained a public office at Martinique. It was not till his return to Paris in 1760 with the rank of commissioner-general that he made his public debut as an author. His first attempts, a mock romance and a coarse song, gained so much popularity, both in the Court and among the people, that he was encouraged to try something more ambitious. He accordingly produced his romance, Les Prouesses inimitables d'Ollivier, marquis d'Edesse.

He also wrote a number of fantastic oriental tales, such as his Mille et une fadaises, Contes a dormir debout (1742). His first success was with a "poem" in twelve cantos, and in prose intermixed with verse, entitled Ollivier (2 vols, 1762), followed in 1771 by another romance, the Lord Impromptu. But the most popular of his works was the Diable amoureux (1772), a fantastic tale in which the hero raises the devil. The value of the story lies in the picturesque setting, and the skill with which its details are carried out.

Cazotte possessed extreme facility and is said to have dashed off a seventh canto of Voltaire's Guerre civile de Genève in a single night. About 1775 Cazotte embraced the views of the Illuminati, declaring himself possessed of the power of prophecy. It was upon this event that Jean-François de la Harpe based his famous jeu d'esprit, in which he represents Cazotte as prophesying the most minute events of the French Revolution. On the discovery of some of his counter-revolutionary letters in August 1792, Cazotte was arrested; and though he escaped for a time through the efforts of his daughter, he was beheaded the following month.

A complete edition of his work was published as the Œuvres badines et morales, historiques et philosophiques de Jacques Cazotte (4 vols, 1816-1817), though more than one collection appeared during his lifetime.

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