Champmesle. I. Marie Desmares, a French actress, born in Rouen in 1644, died at Auteuil in 1098. Her father, the son of a president of the parliament of Normandy, being disinherited on account of his mesalliance, and obliged to engage in business, she took to the stage, married an actor, and in 1669 went with her husband to Paris, where the reputation they had acquired in Rouen was increased by their performances. In 1070 she personated Hermione at the hotel de Bourgbgne, and Racine, at first skeptical, became so delighted with her pathetic genius, that he gave her instruction in acting, caused her to play the principal characters of his tragedies, became her lover, and was said to have written Phedre for her. She was as celebrated for her beauty and amiability as for her genius and amours. The wits and courtiers thronged her house, and one lover succeeded another. Boileau, while extolling her genius, satirizes her as Claudia; and when Racine was supplanted by the count de Clermont-Tonnerre, the wags said that her passion for the great dramatist had been deracinee par le tonnerre. She performed at the Comedie Francaisc from the time of the foundation of the theatre in 1680 till a little while before her death.
II. Charles Chevillet, popularly known as Champmesle, husband of the preceding, a French playwright and comedian, born in Paris in 1045, died in 1701. He was the son of a tradesman, and after his marriage he acquired some fame as a comedian, especially in ridiculing the class of society from which he sprang. He was a friend of La Fontaine, and was believed to have cooperated with him in writing plays. The most noted of his own productions was Le Parisien, a comedy performed in 1082, the success of which was mainly due to the performance by Madame Guerin, the widow of Moliere, of one of the principal parts. Notwithstanding his wife's unfaithfulness, he retained his love for her, and died suddenly while he was having the anniversary of her death commemorated in the church.