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PAUL HERVIEU (1857-1915)

The following biography was originally published in The Continental Drama of Today. Barrett H. Clark. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1914. pp. 150-1.

Paul Hervieu was born in 1857 at Neuilly, near Paris. He studied for the Bar, and passed his examinations at the age of twenty. After a few years' practice and after refusing a diplomatic post, he set to writing short stories and novels, which appeared in the early 1880s. His first play, Point de Lendemain, a short adaptation of a story, was produced in 1890, and five years later The Nippers appeared, firmly establishing Hervieu's reputation. He was elected to the French Academy in 1900.

The plays of Hervieu are perhaps the nearest approach to true tragedy [of their day]; they are also what the French call "thesis plays." With his faultless logic, clear and direct methods of writing, and admirable sincerity, he comments on and criticizes those phases of life that seem to need correcting -- the law, chiefly, and its relation to man and woman in the married state. The Nippers (Les Tenailles) is the story of a woman who tries to leave her husband and get a divorce; the husband refuses, until some years later his wife tells him, in a dispute, that he is not the father of the child. Whereupon she refuses to be divorced, in spite of her husband's insistence. The child binds them together. "We are only two miserable beings," she says, "and misery knows none but equals." The Passing of the Torch (La Course du Flambeau) shows the sacrifice of one generation for the next; The Labyrinth (Le Dédale) proves the thesis that the child is the everlasting bond between man and wife. The best plays of Hervieu -- The Labyrinth, The Nippers, and The Passing of the Torch -- rightfully place their author [as a] master-psychologist of the French stage [of his day. Hervieu died in Paris on September 25, 1915.]