Bernard Joseph Saurin

Biography of Bernard Joseph Saurin

Bernard-Joseph Saurin was a lawyer, poet, and playwright born in Paris in 1706 and who died in that city on 17 November 1781.

Saurin was the son of Joseph Saurin, a converted Protestant minister and mathematician who had been accused in 1712 by Jean-Baptiste Rousseau of being the actual author of defamatory verses that gossip had attributed to Rousseau.

Attracted to literature, and frequenting the Society of the Caveau, he became a lawyer at Parliament, a career which he did not like, but endured for fifteen years in order to support his family. His professional life in the theatre began when he was forty.

Neither his comedy Les Trois rivaux (The Three Rivals), nor his tragedy Aménophis met with success, which came in 1760 with the tragedy Spartacus and the comedy Les Mœurs du temps (The Manners of the Time), which were applauded at the Comédie-Française. In the following year, the author was elected a member of the French Academy.

He attended the literary cafes and the salons of Madame de Staël, Mme de Tencin, Madame Geoffrin and Madame d'Épinay. Friend of Voltaire, Saint-Lambert, Montesquieu, Turgot and Helvétius, he could be regarded as one of the philosophers.

He translated some English works into French, and saw some of his works translated in turn into English. Among the better known of his plays was Béverlei (1768), a tragedy.

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