Literary Sociability and Literary Property in France, 1775–1793
Beaumarchais, the Société des Auteurs Dramatiques and the Comédie Française
The first full-length, scholarly study of the Société des auteurs dramatiques (SAD), this book describes the form, the meaning, the achievements, and the failures of the first professional association for creative writers in European history. Founded by the well-known playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais in 1777 under the protection of prominent aristocrats at the court of King Louis XVI, the SAD comprised the playwrights most closely associated with the royal theater of the kingdom, the Comédie FranÃ§aise. Its two dozen members discussed and worked to advance both their collective interests under the royal theater regulations (which governed such issues of literary property, creative control, and remuneration) and to promote their public image as playwrights and men of letters more broadly - while at the same time competing with each other, sometimes intensely, for control over that image. Gregory Brown traces the story of the SAD from its conception in the mid-1770s through to the French Revolution, exploring first the Society's founding in 1777, then its trajectory until its dissolution at the end of 1780, and finally discusses a revival of the group during the Revolution. In each chapter, Brown analyzes the strategic efforts of Beaumarchais and his associates, to shape regulations and legislation concerning droits d'auteur (authorial remuneration and literary property) and their efforts to reshape the public status and identity of playwrights through correspondence, print and face-to-face encounters with the troupe of the Comédie FranÃ§aise, the theater's aristocratic supervisors at court, its lawyers and government administrators, its commercial publics, and other, authors. Brown argues against previous treatments of the SAD, which have presented it as a spontaneous, dissident challenge to constituted social and political authority under the Old Regime. He demonstrates instead how the SAD emerged from within existing lines of authority in e
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface; Introduction: Men of letters and literary sociability in 18th-century France; An association of men of letters: the formation of the Society of Dramatic Authors; Beaumarchais at court: on the civility and cultural power of Gens de lettres; Playwrights, print and publicity: the success and failure of the SAD in 1780; Literary sociability and the Revolution: social interests, politics and literary property, July 1789-January 1791; From liberty to patriotism; Conclusion: copyright, community and enlightenment; Select bibliography; Index.
Gregory Brown is Associate Professor of History at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA. He is author of A Field of Honor: Writers, Court Culture and Public Theater in French Literary Life from Racine to the Revolution and The French Revolution: Cultures in Conflict.
'An important, enormously intelligent book, grounded in exhaustive original research, that will make a major contribution to more than one field. A model of cutting-edge cultural history.' Professor David A. Bell, Johns Hopkins University, USA 'Gregory S. Brown's challenging interpretation of the Société des auteurs dramatiques provides a new, convincing analysis of this fascinating institution and writes a new chapter in the biography of Beaumarchais, the most important playwright of the late Old Regime.' Professor Jeffrey S. Ravel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA ’[Gregory Brown's] detailed treatment of eighteenth-century institutions, society, and attitudes is a valuable contribution to the literature and one that writers and librarians will find useful and interesting.’ Libraries and the Cultural Record ’Brown's study will be essential reading for everyone interested in Beaumarchais the man, French theatre history, and the development of the status of the author in society.’ Modern and Contemporary France ’Brown has uncovered a wealth of new material on the activities of the Society of Dramatic Authors, which enables him to offer an original interpretation of its cutural role.’ H-France Review ’Brown's study is solidly documented and sheds much light on the role of sociability in the cultural politics of late eighteenth-century France.’ Journal of Modern History