Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon  

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"It was apparently owing to my addiction to couches that Brahma conceived the idea of confining my soul in such a piece of furniture."--The Sofa: A Moral Tale (1742) by Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon

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Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon (February 13, 1707 – April 12, 1777) was a French novelist best remembered for the libertine novel The Sofa: A Moral Tale (1742).



Born in Paris, he was the son of a famous tragedian, Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon. He received a Jesuit education at the elite school Louis-le-grand. Early on he composed various light works, including plays for the Italian Theatre in Paris, and published a short tale called Le Sylphe in 1730. From 1729 to 1739 he participated in a series of dinners called "Société du Caveau" (named after the cabaret where they were held) with other artists, including Alexis Piron, Charles Collé, and Charles Duclos.

The publication of Tanzaï et Neadarne, histoire japonaise (1734), which contained veiled attacks on the Papal bull Unigenitus, the cardinal de Rohan and others, landed him briefly in the prison at Vincennes. His novel Les Égarements du cœur et de l'esprit was published in 1735 and was although he continued to edit it in 1738, it was never finished. Publication of Le Sopha in 1742 forced him into exile from Paris, which lasted several months.

Around 1744 he entered into a romantic liaison with Lady Henrietta Maria Stafford, daughter of a Jacobite chamberlain, and they were married in 1748. A son born in 1746 died in 1750. Despite financial hardship, they lived harmoniously until her death in 1755. Meanwhile, he published La Nuit et le moment (1745), Ah! quel conte! and Les Heureux Orphelins (1754). Inheriting nothing from Henriette, he was forced to sell his large library in 1757 and eventually found steady income as a royal censor (like his father) in 1759. In 1768 and 1772 he published his last two novels, Lettres de la duchesse de *** au duc de *** and Lettres athéniennes.



  • Jean Sgard, Crébillon fils, le libertin moraliste, Paris: Desjonquères, 2002.

Recent editions

  • Standard edition is Œuvres complètes, éd. Jean Sgard, 4 vols., Paris: Classiques Garnier, 1999-2002.
  • Lettres de la marquise de M*** au comte de R***, Paris, Desjonquères, 1990.
  • Les Égarements du cœur et de l'esprit, Paris: GF-Flammarion, 1985.
  • Le Sopha, Paris, Desjonquères, 1984.
  • La Nuit et le moment et Le Hasard du coin du feu, Paris, Desjonquères, 1983.
  • La Nuit et le moment, Livre de Poche Classique, 2003.
  • Les Heureux Orphelins, Paris, Desjonquères, 1995.

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