Writer, Author, Member of the Académie Française
Lifetime: 1628 - 1703 Passed: ≈ 319 years ago
Charles Perrault was a French author and member of the Académie Française. He laid the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tale, with his works derived from earlier folk tales, published in his 1697 book Histoires ou contes du temps passé. The best known of his tales include Le Petit Chaperon Rouge ("Little Red Riding Hood"), Cendrillon ("Cinderella"), Le Maître chat ou le Chat botté ("Puss in Boots"), La Belle au bois dormant ("Sleeping Beauty"), and Barbe Bleue ("Bluebeard").
Some of Perrault's versions of old stories influenced the German versions published by the Brothers Grimm more than 100 years later. The stories continue to be printed and have been adapted to opera, ballet, theatre, and film. Perrault was an influential figure in the 17th-century French literary scene, and was the leader of the Modern faction during the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns.
Perrault was born January 12, 1628, in Paris to a wealthy bourgeois family, the seventh child of Pierre Perrault and Paquette Le Clerc. He attended very good schools and studied law before embarking on a career in government service, following in the footsteps of his father and elder brother Jean.
He took part in the creation of the Academy of Sciences as well as the restoration of the Academy of Painting. In 1654, he moved in with his brother Pierre, who had purchased the position of chief tax collector of the city of Paris. When the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres was founded in 1663, Perrault was appointed its secretary and served under Jean Baptiste Colbert, finance minister to King Louis XIV. Jean Chapelain, Amable de Bourzeys, and Jacques Cassagne (the King's librarian) were also appointed.
In 1668, Perrault wrote La Peinture (Painting) to honor the king's first painter, Charles Le Brun. He also wrote Courses de tetes et de bague (Head and Ring Races, 1670), written to commemorate the 1662 celebrations staged by Louis for his mistress, Louise-Françoise de La Baume le Blanc, duchesse de La Vallière.
Perrault was elected to the Académie française in 1671.
He married Marie Guichon, age 19, in 1672; she died in 1678.
In 1669 Perrault advised Louis XIV to include thirty-nine fountains each representing one of the fables of Aesop in the labyrinth of Versailles in the gardens of Versailles. The work was carried out between 1672 and 1677. Water jets spurting from the animals' mouths were conceived to give the impression of speech between the creatures. There was a plaque with a caption and a quatrain written by the poet Isaac de Benserade next to each fountain. Perrault produced the guidebook for the labyrinth, Labyrinte de Versailles, printed at the royal press, Paris, in 1677, and illustrated by Sebastien le Clerc.
Philippe Quinault, a longtime family friend of the Perraults, quickly gained a reputation as the librettist for the new musical genre known as opera, collaborating with composer Jean-Baptiste Lully. After Alceste (1674) was denounced by traditionalists who rejected it for deviating from classical theater, Perrault wrote in response Critique de l'Opéra (1674) in which he praised the merits of Alceste over the tragedy of the same name by Euripides.
In 1682, Colbert forced Perrault into retirement at the age of 56, assigning his tasks to his own son, Jules-Armand, marquis d'Ormoy. Colbert would die the next year, and Perrault stopped receiving the pension given to him as a writer. Colbert's bitter rival succeeded him, François-Michel le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois, and quickly removed Perrault from his other appointments.
After this, in 1686, Perrault decided to write epic poetry and show his genuine devotion to Christianity, writing Saint Paulin, évêque de Nôle (St. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, about Paulinus of Nola). Just like Jean Chapelain's La Pucelle, ou la France délivrée, an epic poem about Joan of Arc, Perrault became a target of mockery from Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux.
Charles Perrault died in Paris in 1703 at the age of 75. On 12 January 2016 Google honoured him with a doodle by artist Sophie Diao depicting characters from the Tales of Mother Goose (Histoires ou contes du temps passé).
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