Antoine-François Prévost d'Exiles
(also: l'abbé Prévost)
French author. Born 1697, died 1763.
Although the abbé Prévost was, for most of his life, in the clergy, he appears to have never really been a man of the Church at heart. To his contemporaries, he was chiefly known as the editor of Histoire générale des voyages (1746-1759), a fifteen-volume compilation of popular travelogues, translated from English.
Posterity, however, knows him better as the author of Manon Lescaut (1732 - original title: Histoire du chevalier Des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut). This tale of a young nobleman enticed by the beautiful but flighty Manon has earned Prévost a place in the pantheon of letters. This love story illustrates the moral déroute of the young lovers, and describes their decline in status in the class-conscious society of the day. A perennial favourite with readers, Manon Lescaut begins as a bourgeois drama in the Old World and ends as an American tragedy. It has inspired the libretti of Aubert's opera, Manon Lescaut (1856); Massenet's Manon (1884) and Puccini's Manon Lescaut (1893), as well as H.W. Henze's Boulevard Solitude (1957).