Friedrich Melchior Grimm, baron, a French critic, born in Ratisbon, Dec. 26, 1723, died in Gotha, Dec. 19, 1807. After distinguishing himself as a scholar at Leipsic, he accompanied Count Schonberg to Paris as tutor to his children. He soon afterward became reader to the prince of Saxe-Gotha, gained the acquaintance of J. J. Rousseau about 1749 by his taste for music, was introduced into the circle of the encyclopaedists, and was made secretary successively of Count Friesen and of the duke of Orleans. He was noted for romantic and sentimental amours, and joined the coterie of critics who favored the Italian and assailed the French opera. He achieved his first literary success by a pamphlet entitled Le petit prophete de Boehmischbroda (Paris, 1753), a plea in Biblical style for Italian music, which, together with several lively and enthusiastic critiques on the arts, gave him the reputation of one of the most brilliant French writers. Employed by the abbe Raynal to conduct his foreign correspondence, Grimm became the regular correspondent of seven royal personages, among whom were Catharine II. of Russia, Gustavus III. of Sweden, and Stanislas Poniatowski of Poland, chronicling for them the literary movements for which Paris was then distinguished.
This correspondence, which gives a detailed history of French literature from 1753 to 1790, is one of the best collections of criticism of the 18th century. No important work appeared in France during that period which is not the subject of ingenious and piquant remarks. He was appointed in 1776 by the duke of Saxe-Gotha his envoy at the French court, and saw the outbreak of the French revolution and described its early scenes, but retired from Paris with the other members of the diplomatic corps, and passed his last years at Gotha, holding from 1795 the title of minister plenipotentiary of Russia. His Correspondance litteraire, philosophique et critique was published in Paris (16 vols., 1812-'13). A new edition, annotated by Taschereau (5 vols., 1829-31), contains passages suppressed by the censorship under the Napoleonic regime. The Correspondance inedite de Grimm et Diderot appeared in 1829, and Etudes sur Grimm, by Sainte-Beuve and Paulin Limayrac, in 1854.