François Edouard Joachim Coppée (January 12, 1842 – May 23, 1908), was a French poet and novelist.
He was born in Paris. His father being a civil servant, and his mother very attentive. After passing through the Lycée Saint-Louis he became a clerk in the ministry of war, and soon won public favour as a poet of the Parnassian school. His first printed verses date from 1864. They were republished with others in 1866 in a collected form (Le Reliquaire), followed (1867) by Intimités and Poèmes modernes (1867-1869). In 1869 his first play, Le Passant, was received with marked approval at the Odéon theatre, and later Fais ce que dois (1871) and Les Bijoux de la délivrance (1872), short metrical dramas inspired by the war, were warmly applauded.
After holding a post in the library of the senate, Coppée was chosen in 1878 as archivist of the Comédie Française, an office he held till 1884. In that year his election to the Académie française caused him to retire from all public appointments. He continued to publish volumes of poetry at frequent intervals, including Les Humbles (1872), Le Cahier rouge (1874), Olivier (1875), L'Exilée (1876), Contes en vers, &c. (1881), Poèmes et récits (1886), Arrière-saison (1887), Paroles sincères (1890).
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In his later years he produced less poetry, but he published two more volumes, Dans la prière et la lutte and Vers français. He had established his fame as le poète des humbles. Besides the plays mentioned above, two others written in collaboration with Armand d'Artois, and some light pieces of little importance, Coppée produced Madame de Maintenon (1881), Severo Torelli (1883), Les Jacobites (1885), and other serious dramas in verse, including Pour la couronne (1895), which was translated into English (For the Crown) by John Davidson, and produced at the Lyceum Theatre in 1896.
The performance of a short episode of the Commune, Le Pater, was prohibited by the government (1889). Coppée's first story in prose, Une Idylle pendant le siège, appeared in 1875. It was followed by various volumes of short tales, by Toute une jeunesse (1890) an attempt to reproduce the feelings, if not the actual wants, of the writer's youth, Les Vrais Riches (1892), Le Coupable (1896), &c. He was made an officer of the Legion of Honour in 1888.
A series of reprinted short articles on miscellaneous subjects, entitled Mon franc-parler, appeared from 1893 to 1896; and in 1898 came La Bonne Souffrance, the result of Coppée's reconversion to the Roman Catholic Church, which gained wide popularity. The immediate cause of his return to the faith was a severe illness which twice brought him close to death. Up to now he had taken little open interest in public affairs, but he joined the most violent section of the Nationalist movement, whilst retaining contempt for the apparatus of democracy. He took a leading part against the prisoner in the Dreyfus affair, and was one of the originators of the notorious Ligue de la Patrie Française.
In verse and prose Coppée concerned himself with the plainest expressions of human emotion, with elemental patriotism, and the joy of young love, and the pitifulness of the poor, bringing to bear on each a singular gift of sympathy and insight. The lyric and idyllic poetry, by which he will chiefly be remembered, is animated by musical charm, and in some instances, such as La Bénédiction and La grève des forgerons, displays a vivid, though not a sustained, power of expression.
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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