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French Antoine RIVAROL

French writer and epigrammatist

Source :  Pierre de LAUBIER

Born: on June 23, 1753 in Bagnols-sur-Cèze, France
Died: on April 11, 1801 in Berlin, Germany


His father, an innkeeper, was a cultivated man. The son assumed the title of comte de Rivarol, asserting a connection with a noble Italian family, but his enemies said his name was really Riverot and that he was not of a noble family. After various vicissitudes, he went to Paris in 1777 and won some academic prizes. In 1784, his treatise Sur l'universalité de la langue française and his translation of Dante's Inferno were favourably noted. The year before the French Revolution broke out, he and a certain Champcenetz published a lampoon, titled Petit Almanach de nos grands hommes pour 1788, that ridiculed without pity a number of writers of proven or future talent, along with a great many nobodies.

When the press proved crucial for the fate of the French Revolution, Rivarol took up the cudgels on the Royalist side, writing in the Journal politique of Antoine Sabatier de Castres and the Actes des Apotres of Jean Gabriel Peltier. He left France in 1792, first settling in Brussels, then moving successively to London, Hamburg, and Berlin, where he died .

Rivarol's rivals in France - in sharp conversational sayings - included Alexis Piron and Nicolas Chamfort. Many of Rivarol's "maximes" were ill-natured and hold only for their place and time. Nevertheless, their brilliance is incontrovertible, such as this timeless comment: "The most civilized people are as near to barbarism as the most polished steel is to rust. Nations, like metals, have only a superficial brilliancy."

His brother, Claude François (1762-1848), was also an author. His works include Isman, ou le fatalisme (1795), a novel; Le Véridique (1827), comedy; Essai sur les causes de la révolution française (1827).

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