Pierre Jean de Beranger

On this date in 1780, Pierre Jean de Beranger was born in Paris. Although he briefly attended a school based on the principles of Rousseau, he was largely unschooled and illiterate when he was apprenticed at age 14 to a printer, who educated him. Jean was an eye witness to the storming of the Bastille, and a life-long republican. By 1802, he was living in a garret in Paris in great poverty, where he wrote lyric poetry, songs and epics. He became a protege of Lucien Bonaparte, who sent him money and gave him commissions, eventually helping him find work as a clerk at a university. By 1813, Beranger was a highly popular songwriter. His first collection of songs, including many high-spirited satires on the clergy, was published in 1815. The song "Le Roi d'Yvetot," a satire about Napoleon, literally traveled by word of mouth and was sung throughout France. His second collection of songs, also including anti-clerical works, was published in 1821, and lost him his university position. He was tried, found guilty, fined 500 francs and imprisoned three months. Reportedly, Beranger found his warm, furnished jailroom preferable to his own cold lodgings. Beranger was imprisoned for nine months upon publication of his fourth collection of songs. In 1848, he was elected by near acclamation to the Constituent Assembly. Reluctantly, he was seated, but later quietly resigned. Numbering among his friends were many eminent Frenchmen, including Chateaubriand and Jacques Laffitte. D. 1857.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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