1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Boursault, Edme

BOURSAULT, EDME (1638–1701), French dramatist and miscellaneous writer, was born at Mussy l’Évêque, now Mussy-sur-Seine (Aube), in October 1638. On his first arrival in Paris in 1651 his language was limited to a Burgundian patois, but within a year he produced his first comedy, Le Mort vivant. This and some other pieces of small merit secured for him distinguished patronage in the society ridiculed by Molière in the École des femmes. Boursault was persuaded that the “Lysidas” of that play was a caricature of himself, and attacked Molière in Le Portrait du peintre ou la contre-critique de l’École des femmes (1663). Molière retaliated in L’Impromptu de Versailles, and Boileau attacked Boursault in Satires 7 and 9. Boursault replied to Boileau in his Satire des satires (1669), but was afterwards reconciled with him, when Boileau on his side erased his name from his satires. Boursault obtained a considerable pension as editor of a rhyming gazette, which was, however, suppressed for ridiculing a Capuchin friar, and the editor was only saved from the Bastille by the interposition of Condé. In 1671 he produced a work of edification in Ad usum Delphini: la véritable étude des souverains, which so pleased the court that its author was about to be made assistant tutor to the dauphin when it was found that he was ignorant of Greek and Latin, and the post was given to Pierre Huet. Perhaps in compensation Boursault was made collector of taxes at Mont-luçon about 1672, an appointment that he retained until 1688. Among his best-known plays are Le Mercure galant, the title of which was changed to La Comédie sans titre (1683); La Princesse de Clèves (1676), an unsuccessful play which, when refurbished with fresh names by its author, succeeded as Germanicus; Ésope à la ville (1690); and Ésope à la cour (1701). His lack of dramatic instinct could hardly be better indicated than by the scheme of his Ésope, which allows the fabulist to come on the stage in each scene and recite a fable. Boursault died in Paris on the 15th of September 1701.

The Œuvres choisies of Boursault were published in 1811, and a sketch of him is to be found in M. Saint-René Taillandier’s Études littéraires (1881).