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INTRODUCTION

Pierre-Augustin Caron, who later assumed the name Beaumarchais, was born in Paris on the 24th of January, 1732. His early education was obtained at a private school, which he left at the age of thirteen to become an apprentice to his father, a watchmaker by trade. At first he was far from industrious, and his mind, eager for pleasure, turned to literature, music, and the theater rather than to the handicraft he was to learn. But parental discipline soon came to his rescue. As a result, he devoted the next six or seven years perseveringly to the mysteries of watchmaking, his only recreations being to write verses, practice music, and arrange little theatrical entertainments with his sisters. At the age of twenty-one he invented a new escapement in the construction of watches. His right to the invention was contested. The case was laid before the Académie des Sciences, which, after a careful investigation, decided in favor of young Caron. This stroke of fortune resulted in his appointment as watchmaker to the King."

In 1756 he married the widow of one of the subordinate officers at court, whose post he had purchased a short time previously. A year later his wife died. Although he inherited none of her property, he was able to keep his little office, and, by means of the position it gave him, to secure a foothold in the society of the capital. In 1760 his musical talents and his personal charms procured his introduction into the circle of the daughters of Louis XV. His popularity and success were now such that he gave up his trade, and, with fortune still favoring, soon became the friend and favorite of royalty.

The great financier Paris-Duverney, whose École Militaire was fast becoming a failure for lack of royal patronage, induced Beaumarchais to endeavor to enlist the sympathies of the princesses, and if possible of the king himself, in the institution. Beaumarchais succeeded, and the future of the school was assured. Then Duverney, to show his gratitude, advanced him a large sum of money and introduced him to the mysteries of high finance. In the year 1764 he went to Madrid to look after some of Duverney's business interests, and at the same time to demand satisfaction of a certain Clavijo, who had broken his promise of marriage to one of Beaumarchais's sisters.

The following year he returned to Paris, and, having obtained another and more important office at court, made his bow to the world of literature. He could now well afford to devote his time to the pursuit of letters, for through his association with Duverney he had amassed a fortune in successful speculation. His first attempts at the drama, "Eugénie” (1767) and "Les Deux Amis" (1770), were ordinary, and similar to the type of serious, domestic drama advocated by La Chaussée and Diderot.

A second venture in marriage (1768) ended with the death of his wife after two years of wedded life.

In the meantime Pâris-Duverney had died, leaving a statement to the effect that he owed Beaumarchais fifteen thousand francs. The debt was repudiated by the Comte de la Blache, grand-nephew and heir of the old banker, and Beaumarchais was accused of forging the document. The case was taken to the courts and contested with bitterness. In the lower court Beaumarchais lost; then he won on an appeal; and finally he lost again by the reversal of the decree. Not only was his suit dismissed, but he was condemned on all points, and, as a result of false charges, sentenced to pay damages for slander. To make matters worse, he had in the interim become involved in a quarrel with the Duc de Chaulnes, by whom he was insulted

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