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Quatre contes de Prosper Mérimée   By: (1803-1870)

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Lake Forest University



This edition is intended for beginners in high schools as well as colleges. Since every instructor has his own views and methods in the matter of making the reading yield grammatical instruction, no remarks on grammar, or references to grammars, have been attempted. In order to accustom the student to the use of a dictionary, to obviate the necessity of his looking in two places for information, and to save space, the linguistic matter which usually comprises the bulk of notes has been included in the vocabulary, and the remaining material of the notes has been placed at the bottom of the page.

The inclusion of "Le Coup de pistolet, traduit de Pouchkine" as one of the "Quatre Contes de Prosper Mérimée" needs no apology, since Mérimée's version of the story is so individualized, that it has from all points of view the value of an original production.

Thanks are due Mr. Stephen H. Bush, of the Department of French in the University of Iowa, for aid in the reading of the proof sheets.



May 1, 1902.


Prosper Mérimée was born in Paris, on the 28th of September, 1803, and died at Cannes, on the 23d of September, 1870. His grandfather on his father's side was a lawyer, his father a professor at the École des Beaux Arts . His mother, a grand daughter of Mme. Leprince de Beaumont, the author of "The Beauty and the Beast" and other juvenile stories, was a painter of merit, like his father, and had a natural gift for narration.

Mérimée's early home and school training emphasized and developed three characteristics of his nature, the first of which had to do with his feelings, the second with his mind, and the third with his will.

When he was five years old, it happened that he was sent away from his mother's studio as a punishment for some misbehavior. Once outside, he began to beg pardon in tones of genuine repentance. His mother did not answer. Finally, he opened the door and dragged himself on his knees towards her, supplicating so pathetically that she burst out laughing. Then, suddenly, he arose and in an altered tone cried out: "Well, if you make fun of me, I shall never beg pardon again!" Afterwards at school, at the Collège Henri IV, he was teased and made fun of by his fellows on account of his timidity, awkwardness and the effeminate elegance of his dress. This sort of experience, aided by his natural temperament, gradually led to the concealment of his feelings. Though his voluminous correspondence, published after his death, reveals a sensitive nature, his habitual attitude towards the emotions ultimately became one of indifference and even cynicism.

He fared better in the education of his mental faculties. His parents' home was a calm retreat where thought, judgment and refinement had their abode, and the noise of mob and cannon and politics scarcely penetrated. It was an artists' home, frequented by artists, English as well as French. Here was leisure and disposition to consider the value of an idea. And here was laid the foundation of that varied education of which he gives evidence in the many sidedness of his interests and of his literary activity.

But although this quiet life in the society of artists and scholars, quite shut in from the world of politics, was conducive to the development of a refined mind, it is evident that participation in events would have been better for the development of Mérimée's will. Besides, he was humored at home, was not put to definite and perhaps disagreeable tasks. Another unfavorable influence was the reaction after Waterloo from the extreme energy of Napoleonic times, bringing about in France a general feeling of lassitude and vague fear. This may explain to some extent why Mérimée very rarely gave himself completely to a cause and why he appeared to the world as a sceptic and a dilettante... Continue reading book >>

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