CAZOTTE, JACQUES (1719–1792), French author, was born at Dijon, on the 17th of October 1719. He was educated by the Jesuits, and at twenty-seven he obtained a public office at Martinique, but it was not till his return to Paris in 1760 with the rank of commissioner-general that he made a public appearance 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 essay something more ambitious. He accordingly produced his romance, Les Prouesses inimitables d’Ollivier, marquis d’Édesse. He also wrote a number of fantastic oriental tales, such as his Mille et une fadaises, Contes à 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 turned 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 fact that La Harpe based his famous jeu d’esprit, in which he represents Cazotte as prophesying the most minute events of the Revolution. On the discovery of some of his letters in August 1792, Cazotte was arrested; and though he escaped for a time through the love and courage of his daughter, he was executed on the 25th of the following month.
The only complete edition is the Œuvres badines et morales, historiques et philosophiques de Jacques Cazotte (4 vols., 1816–1817), though more than one collection appeared during his lifetime. An édition de luxe of the Diable amoureux was edited (1878) by A. J. Pons, and a selection of Cazotte’s Contes, edited (1880) by Octave Uzanne, is included in the series of Petits Conteurs du XVIIIe siècle. The best notice of Cazotte is in the Illuminés (1852) of Gérard de Nerval.