Prosper Merimee

On this date in 1803, writer and dramatist Prosper Mérimée was born in Paris. The son of an artist, he initially studied law, then switched to the humanities. His first play, “Cromwell,” was published in 1822, followed by several famed literary “hoaxes,” more plays and a travel book. A student of language, Mérimée made the first translations into French of many Russian classics.

In the 1830s he was appointed chief of cabinet to two ministers, then inspector-general of historical monuments, where his archaeological interests could be explored. His most famous novella, Carmen, was published in 1845 and later made into an opera by fellow rationalist Georges Bizet in 1869. Mérimée was made a senator in 1853 by Empress Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III.

Merimée’s cultural legacy includes the system of classification of historic monuments that he established and the major sites that he saved, such as the walled citadel of Carcasonne, and his part in the foundation of the National Museum of Medieval History in Paris. The French national list of heritage monuments is called the Base Mérimée in his honor. (D. 1870)

Freedom From Religion Foundation