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Zibeline   By: (1831-1911)

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By Philippe De Massa

Translated By D. Knowlton Ranous


MARQUIS DE MASSA, soldier, composer, and French dramatist, was born in Paris, December 5, 1831. He selected the military career and received a commission in the cavalry after leaving the school of St. Cyr. He served in the Imperial Guards, took part in the Italian and Franco German Wars and was promoted Chief of Squadron, Fifth Regiment, Chasseurs a Cheval, September 10, 1871. Having tendered his resignation from active service, he was appointed a lieutenant colonel in the territorial army February 3, 1880. He has been decorated with the Legion of Honor.

The Marquis de Massa is known as a composer of music and as a dramatic author and novelist. At the Opera Comique there was represented in 1861 Royal Cravate, written by him. Fragments of two operas by him were performed at the Paris Conservatory of Music in 1865, and in 1868. The list of his principal plays follows: 'Le Service en campagne, comedy (1882); La Cicatrice, comedy (1885); Au Mont Ida, Fronsac a La Bastille, and La Coeur de Paris, all in 1887; La Czarine and Brouille depuis Magenta (1888), and La Bonne Aventure all comedies 1889. Together with Petipa he also wrote a ballet Le Roi d'Yvetot (1866); music by Charles Labarre. He further wrote Zibeline, a most brilliant romance (1892) with an Introduction by Jules Claretie; crowned by the Academie Francaise. This odd and dainty little story has a heroine of striking originality, in character and exploits. Her real name is Valentine de Vermont, and she is the daughter of a fabulously wealthy French American dealer in furs, and when, after his death, she goes to Paris to spend her colossal fortune, and to make restitution to the man from whom her father won at play the large sum that became the foundation of his wealth, certain lively Parisian ladies, envying her her rich furs, gave her the name of Zibeline, that of a very rare, almost extinct, wild animal. Zibeline's American unconventionality, her audacity, her wealth, and generosity, set all Paris by the ears. There are fascinating glimpses into the drawing rooms of the most exclusive Parisian society, and also into the historic greenroom of the Comedie Francaise, on a brilliant "first night." The man to whom she makes graceful restitution of his fortune is a hero of the Franco Mexican and Franco Prussian wars, and when she gives him back his property, she throws her heart in with the gift. The story is an interesting study of a brilliant and unconventional American girl as seen by the eyes of a clever Frenchman.

Later came 'La Revue quand meme, comedy, (1894); Souvenirs et Impressions (1897); La Revue retrospective, comedy (1899); and Sonnets' the same year.

PAUL HERVIEU de l'Academe Francaise.



I have often declared that I never would write prefaces! But how can one resist a fine fellow who brings one an attractive manuscript, signed with a name popular among all his friends, who asks of one, in the most engaging way, an opinion on the same then a word, a simple word of introduction, like a signal to saddle?

I have read your Zibeline, my dear friend, and this romance your first has given me a very keen pleasure. You told me once that you felt a certain timidity in publishing it. Reassure yourself immediately. A man can not be regarded as a novice when he has known, as you have, all the Parisian literary world so long; or rather, perhaps, I may more accurately say, he is always a novice when he tastes for the first time the intoxication of printer's ink.

You have the quickest of wits and the least possible affectation of gravity, and you have made as well known in Mexico as in Paris your couplets on the end of the Mexican conflict with France. 'Tout Mexico y passera!' Where are they, the 'tol de rols' of autumn?

Yesterday I found, in a volume of dramatic criticism by that terrible and charming Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly, an appreciation of one of your comedies which bears a title very appropriate to yourself: 'Honor... Continue reading book >>

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