HOTEL CARON DE BEAUMARCHAIS
12, rue Vieille-du-Temple 75004 Paris
Tel : +33 (0)1 42 72 34 12 - E-mail : email@example.com
“The MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, Beaumarchais's most famous play, inspired the hotel’s entire decor. Charm, gaiety, joie de vivre, elegance, refinement and a spirit of freedom, all the elements making up the originality of French culture were born under Beaumarchais.”
“The famous, boisterous, 18th-century playwright Beaumarchais lived close by, just up the street, at 47 rue Vieille-du-Temple.”
Beaumarchais was born Pierre-Augustin Caron in the Rue Saint-Denis, Paris on 24 January 1732.
He was the only boy among the six surviving children of André-Charles Caron, a watchmaker from Meaux. The family had previously been Huguenots, but had converted to Roman Catholicism in the wake of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the increased persecution of Protestants that followed. The family was comfortably middle-class and Beaumarchais had a peaceful and happy childhood. As the only son, he was spoiled by his parents and sisters. He took an interest in music and played several instruments. Though born a Catholic, Beaumarchais retained a sympathy for Protestants and would campaign throughout his life for their civil rights.
From the age of ten, Beaumarchais had some schooling at a "country school" where he learned some Latin. Two years later, Beaumarchais left school at twelve to work as an apprentice under his father and learn the art of watchmaking. He may have used his own experiences during these years as the inspiration for the character of Cherubino when he wrote the Marriage of Figaro. He generally neglected his work, and at one point was evicted by his father, only to be later allowed back after apologising for his poor behaviour.
At the time, pocket watches were commonly unreliable for timekeeping and were worn more as fashion accessories. In response to this, Beaumarchais spent nearly a year researching improvements. In July 1753, at the age of twenty one, he invented an escapement for watches that allowed them to be made substantially more accurate and compact. One of his greatest feats was a watch mounted on a ring, made for Madame de Pompadour, a mistress of Louis XV. The invention was later recognised by the Academy of Sciences, but only after a dispute with Lepaute, the royal watchmaker, who attempted to pass off the invention as his own. The affair first brought Beaumarchais to national attention and introduced him to the royal court at Versailles.
Beaumarchais' problems were eased when he was appointed to teach Louis XV's four daughters the harp. His role soon grew and he became a musical advisor for the royal family.In 1759, Caron met Joseph Paris Duverney, an older and wealthy entrepreneur. Beaumarchais assisted him in gaining the King's approval for the new military academy he was building, the École Royale Militaire, and in turn Duverney promised to help make him rich. The two became very close friends and collaborated on many business ventures. Assisted by Duverney, Beaumarchais acquired the title of Secretary-Councillor to the King in 1760–61, thereby gaining access to French nobility. This was followed by the purchase in 1763 of a second title, the office of Lieutenant General of Hunting, a position which oversaw the royal parks. Around this time, he became engaged to Pauline Le Breton, who came from a plantation-owning family from Saint-Domingue, but broke it off when he discovered she was not as wealthy as he had been led to believe.
His name as a writer was established with his first dramatic play, Eugénie, which premiered at the Comédie Française in 1767. This was followed in 1770 by another drama, Les Deux amis.
Beaumarchais's Figaro plays are Le Barbier de Séville, Le Mariage de Figaro, and La Mère coupable. Figaro and Count Almaviva, the two characters Beaumarchais most likely conceived in his travels in Spain, were (with Rosine, later the Countess Almaviva) the only ones present in all three plays. They are indicative of the change in social attitudes before, during, and after the French Revolution. Figaro and Almaviva first appeared in Le Sacristain, which he wrote around 1765 and dubbed "an interlude, imitating the Spanish style."To a lesser degree, the Figaro plays are semi-autobiographical. Don Guzman Brid'oison (Le Mariage) and Bégearss (La Mère) were caricatures of two of Beaumarchais's real-life adversaries, Goezman and Bergasse. The page Chérubin (Le Mariage) resembled the youthful Beaumarchais, who did contemplate suicide when his love was to marry another. Suzanne, the heroine of Le Mariage and La Mère, was modelled after Beaumarchais's third wife, Marie-Thérèse de Willer-Mawlaz. Meanwhile, some of the Count monologues reflect on the playwright's remorse over his numerous sexual exploits.
Before France officially entered the war in 1778, Beaumarchais played a major role in delivering French munitions, money and supplies to the American army.
To restore his civil rights, Beaumarchais pledged his services to Louis XV. He traveled to London, Amsterdam and Vienna on various secret missions. His first mission was to travel to London to destroy a pamphlet, Les mémoires secrets d'une femme publique, which Louis XV considered a libel of one of his mistresses, Madame du Barry. Beaumarchais was sent to London to persuade the French spy Chevalier D'Eon to return home, but while there he began gathering information on British politics and society. Britain's colonial situation was deteriorating and in 1775 fighting broke out between British troops and American rebels. Beaumarchais became a major source of information about the rebellion for the French government and sent a regular stream of reports with exaggerated rumours of the size of the success of the rebel forces blockading Boston.
Once back in France, Beaumarchais began work on a new operation. Louis XVI, who did not want to break openly with Britain, allowed Beaumarchais to found a commercial enterprise, Roderigue Hortalez and Company, supported by the French and Spanish crowns, that supplied the American rebels with weapons, munitions, clothes and provisions, all of which would never be paid for. This policy came to fruition in 1777 when John Burgoyne's army capitulated at Saratoga to a rebel force largely clothed and armed by the supplies Beaumarchais had been sending; it marked a personal triumph for him. Beaumarchais was injured in a carriage accident while racing into Paris with news of Saratoga.
Beaumarchais had dealt with Silas Deane, an acting member of the Committee of Secret Correspondence in the Second Continental Congress. For these services, the French Parliament reinstated Beaumarchais's civil rights in 1776. In 1778, Beaumarchais' hopes were fulfilled when French government agreed the Treaty of Alliance and entered the American War of Independence followed by Spain in 1779 and the Dutch Republic in 1780.
Le Barbier premiered in 1775. Its sequel, Le Mariage, was initially passed by the censor in 1781, but was soon banned from being performed by Louis XVI after a private reading. Queen Marie-Antoinette lamented the ban, as did various influential members of her entourage. Nonetheless, the King was unhappy with the play's satire on the aristocracy and overruled the Queen's entreaties to allow its performance. Over the next three years, Beaumarchais gave many private readings of the play, as well as making revisions to try to pass the censor. The King finally relented and lifted the ban in 1784. The play premiered that year and was enormously popular even with aristocratic audiences. Mozart's opera premiered just two years later. Beaumarchais's final play, La Mère, premiered in 1792 in Paris.
In homage to the great French playwright Molière, Beaumarchais also dubbed La Mère "The Other Tartuffe". All three Figaro plays enjoyed great success, and are still frequently performed today in theatres and opera houses.
It was not long before Beaumarchais crossed paths again with the French legal system. In 1787, he became acquainted with Mme. Korman, who was implicated and imprisoned in an adultery suit, which was filed by her husband to expropriate her dowry. The matter went to court, with Beaumarchais siding with Mme. Korman, and M. Korman assisted by a celebrity lawyer, Nicolas Bergasse. On 2 April 1790, M. Korman and Bergasse were found guilty of calumny (slander), but Beaumarchais's reputation was also tarnished.
Meanwhile, the French Revolution broke out. Beaumarchais was no longer the idol he had been a few years before. He was financially successful, mainly from supplying drinking water to Paris, and had acquired ranks in the French nobility. In 1791, he took up a lavish residence across from where the Bastille once stood. He spent under a week in prison during August 1792, and was released only three days before a massacre took place in the prison where he had been detained.
Nevertheless, he pledged his services to the new republic. He attempted to purchase 60,000 rifles for the French Revolutionary army from Holland, but was unable to complete the deal. While he was out of the country, Beaumarchais was declared an émigré (a loyalist of the old regime) by his enemies. He spent two and a half years in exile, mostly in Germany, before his name was removed from the list of proscribed émigrés. He returned to Paris in 1796, where he lived out the remainder of his life in relative peace. He is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
L'Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais propose à ses hôtes une expérience tout à fait unique. Un séjour dans le Paris du Grand Siècle. Une évasion dans les coulisses du temps, sous le regard complice et séduisant de Madame de Pompadour et de son protégé, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais.
C'est l'intuition géniale de Alain Bigeard, qui a conçu cet hôtel « bonbonnière » au début des années 1990, que de recréer l'ambiance d'une demeure de charme du 18e siècle. Le site -- un ancien hôtel du cœur de Paris -- se prêtait parfaitement à l'exercice, avec ses belles poutres d'époque et sa cave en pierres de taille. Chaque chambre y a été aménagée dans l'atmosphère du siècle de Louis XV et du style si délicat qui le caractérise, entre rose franc et bleu pastel.