Mérimée, Prosper

BORN 28 Sep 1803, Paris: 7 Carré Sainte-Geneviève - DIED 23 Sep 1870, Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes
GRAVE LOCATION Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes: Cimetière Protestant du Grand-Jas, 205 avenue de Grasse (Cimetière anglais, 6e Allée)

Prosper Mérimee was the only child in an anglophile and free-thinking family. He studied Law in Paris (1819-1823), but also learned and Greek, Spanish, English and Russian. He translated many Russian books for the first time to french. He wrote his first play "Cromwell" in 1822. It was never published and he destroyed the manuscript. Also in 1822 he became friends with Stendhal.

Mérimée had an affair with Émilie Lacoste, who had been the lover of Joseph Bonaparte as well. When her husband Félix Lacoste intercepted one of his letters he challenged Mérimée for a duel. In February, 1828 the duel took place and Mérimée was wounded three times.

In 1830 he became friends with the Countess de Montijo and he stated later that she was the inspiration for his novel "Carmen" (1845). In 1833 he had a one night stand with George Sand. Mérimée was a keen archaeologist and in 1834 he was appointed inspector of historical monuments. He held this position until 1860. In 1836 Valentine Delessert became his mistress. Their affair lasted until the mid forties and in 1854 she returned the letters that she had received from him.

His story "La Vénus d'Ille" (1837) is a horror story about a statue that seems to come to life. In 1841 he rediscovered the tapestries of The Lady and the Unicorn at the Château de Boussac. George Sand immediately brought them to the attention of the public in her writings.

In 1846 he stopped writing for twenty years. After Napoleon III came to power Mérimée didn't trust him, but when Eugénie, the daughter of the Countess de Montijo, was courted by the emperor he helped her mother in coaching her. In 1853 Eugénie married the emperor and Merimée accepted the offer to become a senator on the condition that he was allowed to keep his post of Inspector of Historical Monuments. His political views became more conservative than before, much to the disappointment of his liberal friends. When Napoleon III started a biography on Julius Cesar he helped him with his research.

From 1856 onwards he spent his winters at the Côte d'Azur to ease his asthma. In 1866 he returned to fiction with "La chambre bleue". During his last years his health worsened and his views on life became more and more pessimistic. He died a few weeks after the fall of Napoleon III in 1870, five years before George Bizet would make a world famous opera of "Carmen". On 23 May 1871 his house in Paris burned down and all his manuscripts, letters and books were lost.

Related persons
• travelled with Ampère, Jean Jacques
• was a friend of Kirkpatrick, Maria Manuela, countess of Montijo
• corresponded with Panizzi, Anthony
• has a connection with Shelley, Mary
• was a friend of Stendhal
• was a friend of Viollet-le-Duc, Eugène Emanuel

27/5/1834Prosper Mérimée appointed Inspector of Historical Monuments 
16/2/1836Valentina Delessert becomes the mistress of Prosper Mérimée. All Paris except her husband knew about their affair that lasted for years. During the revolution of 1848 Merimée helped her and her husband, who was police prefect in Paris, escape to England. 
14/3/1844Prosper Mérimée is elected into the Académie française 


The grave of Prosper Mérimée at the Cimetière du Grand-Jas, Cannes.
Picture by Androom (30 Nov 2008)


The grave of Prosper Mérimée at the Cimetière du Grand-Jas, Cannes.
Picture by Androom (30 Nov 2008)


Portrait Medaillion of Prosper Mérimee in Cannes.
Picture by Androom (30 Nov 2008)


Wikipedia (EN): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosper_Merim%C3%A9e

Merle, Jean-Toussaint

Published: 10 Apr 2009
Last update: 17 Feb 2022