Corneille, Pierre


French dramatist, born in Rouen.

Although Corneille is considered to be the father of French tragedy, six of his first eight plays were comedies. He was commissioned by Cardinal Richelieu to write conformist plays, but Corneille refused. His first important plays were 'Medee' and 'Le Cid', which established his reputation.

Corneille was elected to the Academie Francaise in 1647.

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Diderot, Denis


Diderot was a French man of letters and philosopher, and chief editor of the Encyclopedie.

He was born in Langres, studied the arts in Paris, and became a prolific writer, publishing novels, plays, satires, essays, and letters. His 'Pensees philosophiques' (Philosophical Thoughts) was burned by the Parliament of Paris for its anti-Christian ideas, and he was imprisoned for his 'Lettre sur les aveugles' (Essay on Blindness).

After completion of the Encyclopedie - for which he worked for 20 years - he went for some time to St. Peters-burg in Russia. On his return he wrote 'Elements of Physiology' in which he foreshadowed the doctrine of evolution as later proposed by Darwin.
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Lafayette, Marie


Marie Lafayette was a French writer, born in Paris, married to Francois Motier, comte de La Fayette.

At first she lived with her husband in his estate but decided later to return to Paris where she formed a literary circle and began to write.

Madame de La Fayette's first novel was published anonymously, her second under a different name, and her masterpiece 'La Princess de Cleves' again anonymously.
Its dignified dialogue and psychological insights openeda new era in the history of the novel.


Lafontaine, Jean de


French poet, born at Chateau-Thierry. He was a friend of Moliere and Racine and lived mostly in Paris. He is famous for his 'Contes' and a prose narrative 'LES AMOURS DE PSICHÉ ET DE CUPIDON'.

But Lafontaine is best known for his many 'Fables' (Tales) usually called 'La Fontaine Fables', which were published over the last 25 years of his life and which rank among the greatest masterpieces of French literature.