Chenier. I. Louis de, a French historian, born at Montfort, Languedoc, in 1723, died in Paris, May 25,1796. Established as a merchant at Constantinople, he was afterward employed there in the French embassy, and subsequently sent on a mission to Morocco, where he was successively consul general and charge d'atfaires. He published Recherches Mstoriques sur les Maures et l'emjrire de Maroc (Paris, 1787), and Histoire des revolutions de l'Emjtire Ottoman jusqu a la mort du sultan Abdul-IIamed (new ed., 1808). II. Andre Marie de, a French poet, son of the preceding, born in Constantinople, Oct. 29,1762, guillotined in Paris, July 25, 1794. After completing his education, he entered the military service, but soon resigned his commission and repaired to Paris. In 1784 he travelled through Switzerland, Italy, and the archipelago, to his native city. In 1787 he was made secretary to the French embassy in London, and spent nearly three years in England. On returning to Paris he joined the moderate party, and expressed his disapprobation of the violent measures of the revolutionists, not only in his conversation, but in several articles marked by cutting irony and invective. The revolution of Aug. 10 closed for a time his political career, and he applied himself again to poetry.
But when Louis XVI. was arraigned before the convention, Chenier assisted Males-herbes in his defence of the king, and on his condemnation he drew up an address for an appeal to the people. On the assassination of Marat by Charlotte Corday, he was among the first to applaud the act, thus making himself still more obnoxious to the terrorists. While on a visit to Mme, de Pastoret at Passy, a commissary from the committee of public safety came to arrest that lady. Chenier interfered in her behalf, and was himself arrested and taken to the prison of St. Lazare. There he wrote some of his most bitter poems against the tyrants of the day; at the same time that he composed for the countess de Coigny, one of his fellow prisoners, La jeune captive, a poem which alone would have been sufiicient to commend his name to posterity. On July 25 he was arraigned before the revolutionary tribunal, and sent forthwith to the guillotine, he preserved his self-possession to the last, suffering death with unfaltering courage. An edition of his poems was published in 1820, and various editions have since appeared. The idyls L'aveugle, La liberte, and Le jeune malade are considered his masterpieces.
III. Marie Joseph, a French poet, brother of the preceding, born in Constantinople, Aug. 28, 1764, died in Paris. Jan. 10, 1811. After leaving college he was for two years an officer; but as early as 1783 he left the military service and devoted himself to literature. His first attempts at tragedy were not successful; but in 1789 he produced Charles IX., a play with marked republican tendencies, which hit the popular vein, and was received with great applause. Henri VIII. was performed in 1791, and was succeeded by La mort de Calas, both remarkable for purity of style, but above all for democratic aspirations, He also produced the tragedies of Cains Cracchns, Timoleon, and Fenelon, which were proscribed on account of their republican sentiments, He was the author of the Chant du depart, which next to the Marseillaise is the most celebrated lyric of the revolution. He was chosen to the national convention in 1792, but, although siding with the montagne party, he was the first to oppose revolutionary excesses. He was chosen president of the convention in 1795, and afterward became a member of the council of 500. The tragic end of his brother affected him deeply, notwithstanding their political differences.
Discontinuing almost his contributions to the stage and his speeches on political subjects, he now confined his activity mainly to the subject of public education. In 1801 he published Discours sur les progres des coiinaissances en Europe, et de l'enscignement public en France. From 1803 to 1806 he was inspector of public instruction, being at the same time a member of the tribunate. In 1800 and 1807 be delivered a series of historical lectures upon French literature. In 1808, Napoleon having requested the French institute to report upon the recent progress of French literature, the report was written by Chenier under the title of Tableau historique de l'etat et des progres de la litterature franpaise depute 1789, a work remarkable for extensive knowledge, soundness of criticism, and great impartiality. His last performance was another report upon the decennial prizes. During all this time poetry had not been neglected; he had written several satirical or philosophical episties, the style of which is at once fervid and classic; the two most remarkable among the number being one addressed to Voltaire, and another Sur la calomnie, in which he repelled the calumnies hurled against him in consequence of his brother's death.
He has left also several tragedies; one of them, Tibere, is pronounced his masterpiece. His complete works were published in 8 vols. 8voin 1823-0, with notices by Daunou and Arnaut.