Charles Coypeau d'Assoucy

Charles Coypeau d'Assoucy

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Charles Coypeau was a French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 musician
Musician
A musician is an artist who plays a musical instrument. It may or may not be the person's profession. Musicians can be classified by their roles in performing music and writing music.Also....* A person who makes music a profession....

 and burlesque poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

. In the mid-1630s he began using the nom de plume "D'Assouci" or "Dassoucy".

Life


From the time he was eight or nine, Charles Coypeau began running away from home. His father then placed him in the Jesuit College of Clermont, where he acquired a solid education in classics and Christian doctrine; but the boy was always sneaking away to watch the puppeteers and organ grinders on the Pont-Neuf. These contacts with players and musicians were a major factor in the formation of Charles's musical and poetic talents, and encouraged his bent for the "burlesque
Burlesque
Burlesque is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects...

".
By the time he was seventeen, Charles had left Paris and had begun his long life of wandering, eking out a livelihood by composing, singing for local elites, and teaching the lute
Lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

. By his mid-twenties, he apparently had made his way to Italy: at any rate, by the early 1630s he had mastered the Italian theorbo
Theorbo
A theorbo is a plucked string instrument. As a name, theorbo signifies a number of long-necked lutes with second pegboxes, such as the liuto attiorbato, the French théorbe des pièces, the English theorbo, the archlute, the German baroque lute, the angélique or angelica. The etymology of the name...

, an instrument still rare in France.

In 1630, while in Grenoble
Grenoble
Grenoble is a city in southeastern France, at the foot of the French Alps where the river Drac joins the Isère. Located in the Rhône-Alpes region, Grenoble is the capital of the department of Isère...

, Charles met Pierre de Nyert, the gifted singer. Shortly after that, he went to England and performed at the court of Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

, and then to the Low Countries, where he played and sang for exiled Marguerite de Lorraine
Marguerite of Lorraine
Marguerite of Lorraine was a duchess of Orléans and Alençon. She was born in Nancy, Lorraine to Francis II, Duke of Lorraine, and Countess Christina of Salm. On 31 January 1632, she married Gaston, Duke of Orléans, son of Henry IV of France and Marie de' Medici...

, duchess of Orléans. By 1636, Charles, who now called himself "Charles Coypeau, sieur of Assoucy" (or simply "d'Assoucy"), was living in Paris. Having been presented to Louis XIII, he was soon entertaining the French court and writing poems for the royal family. For over a decade, d'Assoucy participated in numerous court concerts, having been made a "musician in ordinary to the King" (musicien ordinaire du Roi).

In 1642, he made the acquaintance of Claude-Emmanuel L'huillier, known as "Chapelle", the natural son of a wealthy financier. Through this connection to the L'huilliers, d'Assoucy became part of a group of "free spirits" (libertins) around the philosopher Pierre Gassendi
Pierre Gassendi
Pierre Gassendi was a French philosopher, priest, scientist, astronomer, and mathematician. With a church position in south-east France, he also spent much time in Paris, where he was a leader of a group of free-thinking intellectuals. He was also an active observational scientist, publishing the...

. Other members of the circle were Cyrano de Bergerac
Cyrano de Bergerac
Hercule-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac was a French dramatist and duelist. He is now best remembered for the works of fiction which have been woven, often very loosely, around his life story, most notably the 1897 play by Edmond Rostand...

, Tristan l'Hermite
Tristan l'Hermite
See also François Tristan l'HermiteTristan l'Hermite was a French political and military figure of the late Middle Ages.He was provost of the marshals of the King's household under Louis XI of France, which gave him enormous power in the Intrigues and plots that characterized that king's 22-year...

, Saint-Amant, Paul Scarron
Paul Scarron
Paul Scarron was a French poet, dramatist, and novelist. His precise birthdate is unknown, but he was baptized on July 4, 1610...

, and a young playwright who went by the name "Molière
Molière
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature...

". Saint-Amant and Scarron had already introduced into France the burlesque travesty or parody, a distinctive poetic genre written in eight-syllable rhyming couplets studded with puns and erotic allusions, that treated mythological or historical subjects in a comic fashion, rather than the usual heroic or epic manner. D'Assoucy was soon writing in this "burlesque" style: his first travesty was Le Jugement de Pâris (1646-47); his second was Ovide en belle humeur, a travesty of Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

's Métamorphoses (1649).

D'Assoucy remained active musically. In 1647, he played theorbo at Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau is a commune in the metropolitan area of Paris, France. It is located south-southeast of the centre of Paris. Fontainebleau is a sub-prefecture of the Seine-et-Marne department, and it is the seat of the arrondissement of Fontainebleau...

 with a group of Italian musicians for Luigi Rossi's Orfeo. In 1648, the Théâtre du Marais
Théâtre du Marais
The Théâtre du Marais has been the name of several theatres and theatrical troupes in Paris, France. The original and most famous theatre of the name operated in the 17th century. The name was briefly revived for a revolutionary theatre in 1791, and revived again in 1976...

 asked him to set to music the airs for La grande journée ou le mariage d'Orphée et Eurydice, a pièce à machines ("play with machines"), that is a play with music, dancing and special effects. Pierre Corneille
Pierre Corneille
Pierre Corneille was a French tragedian who was one of the three great seventeenth-century French dramatists, along with Molière and Racine...

 commissioned him to write music for Andromède (1650), a "play with machines" (pièce à machines), and d'Assoucy was hailed as "one of the most famous masters of [the musical] art." That same year saw the creation and publication of d'Assoucy's own Les Amours d'Apollon et de Daphné, the first comédie en musique, a new genre that was the forerunner of the French-language operas Lully
Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste de Lully was an Italian-born French composer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered the chief master of the French Baroque style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in...

 would begin writing in the early 1670s.

By the late 1640s, the circle of "free spirits" had begun to disintegrate: d'Assoucy and Scarron had quarreled in 1648, and in 1650 d'Assoucy and Cyrano attacked one another with their pens. The feud involved a series of satirical texts. Bergerac wrote Contre Soucidas (an anagram of his enemy's name) and Contre un ingrat ("Against an Ungrateful Person"), while d'Assoucy counterattacked with Le Combat de Cyrano de Bergerac avec le singe de Brioché au bout du Pont-Neuf ("The Battle Between Cyrano de Bergerac and Brioché's Monkey On the Pont-Neuf Bridge"). It has been suggested that d'Assoucy was Cyrano's lover. Not long after this dispute, d'Assoucy broke with Chapelle.

Accompanied by two "musical pages", d'Assoucy set off in the summer of 1650 for Turin
Turin
Turin is a city and major business and cultural centre in northern Italy, capital of the Piedmont region, located mainly on the left bank of the Po River and surrounded by the Alpine arch. The population of the city proper is 909,193 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat...

, with letters of introduction to "Madame Royale"
Christine Marie of France
Christine of France was the sister of Louis XIII and the Duchess of Savoy by marriage. At the death of her husband Victor Amadeus I in 1637, she acted as regent of Savoy between 1637 and 1648....

, Regent of Savoy
Savoy
Savoy is a region of France. It comprises roughly the territory of the Western Alps situated between Lake Geneva in the north and Monaco and the Mediterranean coast in the south....

. (He had recently begun singling out talented adolescent boys, "pages", to whom he would teach the theorbo and singing.) Madame Royale apparently was less than enchanted, and by December 1651 d'Assoucy was back in southern France, where the Estates of Languedoc
Languedoc
Languedoc is a former province of France, now continued in the modern-day régions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées in the south of France, and whose capital city was Toulouse, now in Midi-Pyrénées. It had an area of approximately 42,700 km² .-Geographical Extent:The traditional...

 were meeting. There he renewed his friendship with Molière
Molière
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature...

, whose theatrical troop was performing for the Estates. Back in Paris by late 1652, d'Assoucy reminded Louis XIV of the position he had once held in the royal music, collected what was due on his pension, and played occasionally for the king. He was also composing and publishing songs, giving lessons on the lute and theorbo, and writing poems, among them the Ravissement de Proserpine (April 1653).

In 1655, d'Assoucy began over a decade of wandering that he would recount in his Rimes redoublées and in his two-volume Aventures des voyages du Sieur d'Assoucy where fact rubs shoulders with hyperbole and, perhaps, outright fiction. In the early summer of 1655, he set off for Turin with yet another musical "page," a talented boy named Pierre Valentin, known to d'Assoucy's readers as "Pierrotin" and to Italian music-lovers as "Pietro Valentino". The reasons for their hasty departure can only be guessed: creditors? the ultra-devout Compagnie du Saint Sacrement, which viewed travesties as immoral? gambling? his long-standing relations with the "free thinkers"? his persisting interest in young boys? Perhaps a bit of them all? At Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

 he again encountered Molière
Molière
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature...

 and went with him to Languedoc, where the troop performed for the Estates. While in Montpellier
Montpellier
-Neighbourhoods:Since 2001, Montpellier has been divided into seven official neighbourhoods, themselves divided into sub-neighbourhoods. Each of them possesses a neighbourhood council....

 d'Assoucy was imprisoned, apparently on moral grounds.

After wandering from city to city for two years, d'Assoucy and his page reached Turin in June 1657. Once again d'Assoucy's bid to join the musicians of Madame Royale failed, probably because the elderly and pious Duchess was repelled by his equivocal verse and his maladroit conduct. By 1658, he and his page had left Turin, hoping for patronage at the court of the Gonzagas
House of Gonzaga
The Gonzaga family ruled Mantua in Northern Italy from 1328 to 1708.-History:In 1433, Gianfrancesco I assumed the title of Marquis of Mantua, and in 1530 Federico II received the title of Duke of Mantua. In 1531, the family acquired the Duchy of Monferrato through marriage...

 at Mantua
Mantua
Mantua is a city and comune in Lombardy, Italy and capital of the province of the same name. Mantua's historic power and influence under the Gonzaga family, made it one of the main artistic, cultural and notably musical hubs of Northern Italy and the country as a whole...

. Captivated by the talents of thirteen-year-old Pierrotin, the Duke of Mantua tried to buy him, and when that failed he kidnapped the boy and spirited him off to Venice, where he was castrated and studied with the famous master, Giovanni Bicilli. d'Assoucy followed Pierrotin's trail for a full year, stopping in Venice, Modena, Florence, and by early 1662, Rome.

During most of his six years in Rome, d'Assoucy was relatively prosperous. He received substantial gifts from the various nobles for whom he wrote poems or performed music. For example, in early 1666, he was briefly in touch with Queen Christina of Sweden, and in 1666-67 he was in the pay of the French Ambassador and contributed to several lavish musical entertainments in the Farnese Palace where the Ambassador resided. It perhaps was at the Farnese, in 1667, that d'Assoucy met Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Marc-Antoine Charpentier, , was a French composer of the Baroque era.Exceptionally prolific and versatile, he produced compositions of the highest quality in several genres...

 and offered him "my bread and my pity." At the time, D'assoucy himself was in financial straits. He had gotten Pierrotin back in 1664 and for three years had spent most of his income on the singer, who had become a drunk and a thief. In November 1667, the indebted d'Assoucy had the youth arrested; and in December he himself was imprisoned by the Holy Office. Liberated in the fall of 1668, he quickly set off for France.

Back in Paris by the fall of 1670, he renewed his friendship with Molière
Molière
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature...

, who proposed that d'Assoucy write music for his forthcoming pièce à machines, the Malade imaginaire. Circa September 1672 Molière reneged on the offer and gave the commission to Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Marc-Antoine Charpentier, , was a French composer of the Baroque era.Exceptionally prolific and versatile, he produced compositions of the highest quality in several genres...

.

In March 1673, d'Assoucy was yet again imprisoned. After five months he was liberated and acquitted through the intervention of Louis XIV, who not only appointed him musician to the royal household but also awarded him a pension. He continued to write circumstantial poetry, particularly in honor of the king. On October 29, 1677, he died in his lodging on the Île de la Cité
Île de la Cité
The Île de la Cité is one of two remaining natural islands in the Seine within the city of Paris . It is the centre of Paris and the location where the medieval city was refounded....

.

D'Assoucy, the Writer


D'Assoucy's position in French literature is eloquently summarized by Charles E. Scruggs (pp. 55-56):

"Thus ended this long life full of movement and creative activity -- a life and artistic output closely matching the spirit of the baroque age of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Through three quarters of a century Dassoucy had experienced the vicissitudes of fortune and had felt strongly the effects of changing social and esthetic values. Through his many travels, he had witnessed the pageantry and corruption in the courts of the rulers of Europe from London to Rome. His diversified talents gave him an entry into all segments of society -- from the rough, bawdy taverns of provincial crossroads to the drawing rooms of the Louvre
Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

. He learned to roll with the tide of adversity and to reap the harvest of good fortune when it happened along.

"Despite his 'invisible persecutors,' d'Assoucy maintained a stubborn independence and an irreverence for authority in all its forms. His artistic sensibilities remained faithful to the baroque impulses which had held sway in his formative years, an age that had also produced Théophile de Viau
Théophile de Viau
Théophile de Viau was a French Baroque poet and dramatist.Born at Clairac, near Agen in the Lot-et-Garonne and raised as a Huguenot, Théophile de Viau participated in the Protestant wars in Guyenne from 1615-1616 in the service of the Comte de Candale. After the war, he was pardoned and became a...

, Mathurin Régnier
Mathurin Régnier
Mathurin Régnier was a French satirist.-Life:Régnier was born in Chartres, current region of Centre....

, Saint-Amant, Paul Scarron
Paul Scarron
Paul Scarron was a French poet, dramatist, and novelist. His precise birthdate is unknown, but he was baptized on July 4, 1610...

, Tristan l'Hermite
Tristan l'Hermite
See also François Tristan l'HermiteTristan l'Hermite was a French political and military figure of the late Middle Ages.He was provost of the marshals of the King's household under Louis XI of France, which gave him enormous power in the Intrigues and plots that characterized that king's 22-year...

 and Cyrano de Bergerac
Cyrano de Bergerac
Hercule-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac was a French dramatist and duelist. He is now best remembered for the works of fiction which have been woven, often very loosely, around his life story, most notably the 1897 play by Edmond Rostand...

.

"D'Assoucy was influenced by some of the most liberal free-thinkers of his day, from the epicurianphilosophy of Gassendi
Pierre Gassendi
Pierre Gassendi was a French philosopher, priest, scientist, astronomer, and mathematician. With a church position in south-east France, he also spent much time in Paris, where he was a leader of a group of free-thinking intellectuals. He was also an active observational scientist, publishing the...

 and La Mothe le Vayer to the unbounded hedonism of his close friend Chapelle. Unattracted by dry speculation, Dassoucy was much closer attuned to Chapelle than to the epicurians. His artistic sensibilities are reflected in the loosely associated Parisian literary circle of the sixteen forties. This group, among whom were Cyrano, Tristan, Scarron, Chapelle, d'Assoucy and Le Royer de Prade, expounded a literary theory that ran counter to the rule-governed 'classical' esthetic which was fast developing. They were the irréguliers who could not accept the discipline of the new movement and who preferred to be extravagant, flamboyant, audacious, fantastic, shocking. They did not wish to see the VERB restrained and purified nor the creative impulse controlled by REASON. To these writers, linguistic virtuosity was an end in itself. They became drunk with the VERB. [...] d'Assoucy fully subscribed to this esthetic."

Works online