Nothing daunted by this question, the grandfather replied, “Yes, if it please God to make him as good a one as Bellerose”—who was the best tragic actor of that time.
The boy was discontented as he grew older, and panted for knowledge. As he contemplated a life given up to trade, he grew melancholy. He was finally sent as an out-student to the college of Clermont, and afterward to the college of Louis-le-Grand, which was under the direction of the Jesuits. The young prince of Conti was at school at that time. Gassendi, the private tutor to the natural son of a man of fortune, named Chapelle—the son at that time at school with Poguelin—discovered the boy’s talents, and taught him the philosophy of Epicurus, and gave him lessons in morals. Another of his fellow-students was one de Bergerac, of fine talents but wild disposition. Chapelle and de Bergerac became afterward distinguished.
As soon as he was through college, Poguelin entered into the king’s service as valet de chambre, and made the journey with his majesty to Narbonne. After this he studied law in Orleans, and commenced practice in Paris as an advocate. He here became associated with a few friends in getting up a series of plays. The age was one full of enthusiasm for the stage, and plays were enacted upon the stage and off of it, in private circles. The club of young men who acted together for the amusement of their friends, were so successful that they resolved to take to the public stage; and as was the custom, each took an assumed name. Poguelin assumed the name of Moliere, a name which he immortalized, and by which he was ever afterward known.
His father was very much displeased with his course, and sent a friend to persuade him to relinquish it, but the deputy was so fascinated by Poguelin’s acting, that he became a convert to him, and was not fitted to urge the arguments of the father. The family for a time refused in a manner to acknowledge their son, being ashamed of his new profession; but they are now known only through him.
The masters under whom Moliere principally studied were Italians, and he imbibed a love for the Italian comic art. He also read the Spanish comedies, and learned to admire them.
Moliere and his little band left Paris for the provinces. The times were unpropitious, for the wars of the Fronde at that time made the whole country a scene of confusion and danger. They had visited Bordeaux, and were protected by the governor of Guienne. While here, Moliere wrote and brought out a tragedy, which had so poor a success that he gave up tragedy. After a short provincial tour he returned to Paris, and renewed the acquaintance of the prince of Conti. The latter caused Moliere and his fellows to bring out plays at his palace. But Paris was too full of strife, and Moliere went to Lyons, where he wrote and brought out his first comedy, “L’Etouedi.” It met with a great success. There is an English translation, entitled “Sir Martin Marplot.” The next piece was entitled “Depit Amourex,” and its genuine humor gave it a fine reputation.