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CRÉMIEUX, HECTOR JONATHAN:

French dramatist; born at Paris Nov. 10, 1828; died there in 1892; of the same family as Isaac Adolphe Crémieux. After a preparatory course of studies at the Lycée Bourbon he attended the Paris law school. In common with the majority of his fellow-students, he took an active part in the overthrow of the Orleanistic dynasty, and participated in the turbulent politics of the second republic. During the revolution of Feb., 1848, he secured a commission as lieutenant of the Garde Mobile. Though only twenty years of age, he carefully avoided committing himself to any extreme policy, and assumed a temporizing attitude, which he only abandoned shortly before the coup d'état of 1851, to attach himself to the administrative force of the usurper.

The revolutionary excitement of 1848 and the rôle played by Napoleon III. subsequent to the revolution, suggested to Crémieux the idea of adapting the history of Lodovico Fiesco, from the German of Friedrich Schiller, for the French stage. In collaboration with his brother Emile, he turned the sonorous masterpiece of the German poet into a spectacular tragedy of the "Hernani" type, in five acts and eight tableaux, full of stirring allusions to contemporaneous events. The emperor, solicitous to bestow political patronage upon those who had been daring enough to give him support in the risky affair of Dec. 2, rewarded Crémieux in 1852 with a clerkship in the Ministry of State; and this appointment, practically a sinecure, together with his first dramatic success, enabled him to enter upon a literary career and to exploit the financial possibilities of the Parisian stage of the second empire.

In spite of the never-wearying readiness of his pen, Crémieux could not hope to reap the whole harvest of success without assistance. During his whole career as a dramatic author he was perpetually collaborating with one or another, following therein the example set by the most popular and prolific French dramatists of his age. With Léon Battu he produced the melodramatic "Elodie, ou le Forfait Nocturne" (1852); with Taine the younger, "La Demoiselle en Loterie"; with Dennery, "Germaine," a dramatization of Edmond About's romance; with Woestyn and Bourget, "La Voie Sacrée, ou les Etapes de la Gloire"; with the Cogniard brothers, the fairy piece "Le Pied de Mouton." Ludovic Halévy, Philippe Gille, Henri Bocage, and Ernest Blum are only a few of his other collaborators. He also wrote librettos for Leo Delibes, Hervé, and Offenbach.

Crémieux's plays, written to suit the demand of the day and passing into oblivion with it, were produced at the Odéon, the Bouffes-Parisiens, the Variétés, and the Théâtre Lyrique. He tried his hand at every conceivable style of production in the dramatic category: opera, proverb, tragedy, melodrama, comedy, vaudeville, etc. Larousse, without claim to completeness, gives a list of thirty-five of his plays. But the only one which has retained its popularity is his libretto to Jacques Offenbach's "Orphée aux Enfers," a masterpiece of brilliant equivocation and mocking "blague" which has made the round of the stage of all countries and still firmly holds its position in the modern theatrical repertory. His collaboration with Offenbach brought him once more prominently before the eyes of his imperial master, who in 1864 made him Knight of the Legion of Honor. His extraordinary diligence and his favor with the public survived the empire and the first and second decades of the third republic. Crémieux committed suicide.

Bibliography:
  • Larousse, Dictionnaire, xvi. and Supplement;
  • Wells, The Modern French Drama, Boston, 1896;
  • Arends, Gesch. der Französischen Bühnenliteratur, Leipsic, 1886.
S. J. Fu.
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