French author. Born 1803, died 1870.
Mérimée made his début in 1825 with an anthology, Théatre de Clara Gazul. Next came some short stories and an historical novel, Chronique du règne du Charles IX (1829).
In 1834, he was made inspector-general of historical monuments. His interest in history and archaeology which led him to make many voyages, also provided him with story-telling material.
The prevalent theme in his oeuvre is the clash between passion and social order. Thus, Colomba (1840) deals with vendetta and love on Corsica; La Vénus d'Ille depicts the supernatural power of love; and, of course, there is Carmen (1845), that most passionate of tales, which forms the basis for Bizet's 1875 opera.
An interesting insight into Prosper Mérimée's rather self-absorbed personality may be gotten from the memories of Lillie de Hegermann-Lindencrone, an American-born socialite married to a Danish diplomat, who met the author in Paris in November 1868. On this occasion, she subjected Mérimée to a popular party game of the time, a sort of GTKY quiz. While this is altogether a trivial little event in the life of Mérimée, it does show another side of him. The questions, and Mérimée's answers, were:
Upon which human quality do you place highest regard? - Endurance
Which are you favorite authors? - Pr. Mérimée
What is your preferred occupation? - Building castles in the air
Who would you rather be? - Napoleon III
Which historical persons do you most detest? - Mazarin
Which human frailties do you find easiest to forgive? - Having a sweet tooth.
(For yet another look at Mérimée's quirky personality, see Mérimée's dictation, noded by thbz)