When Crebillon, the French tragic poet, published his Catiline, it was attended with an honour to literature, which though it is probably forgotten, for it was only registered, I think, as the news of the day, it becomes one zealous in the cause of literature to preserve. I give the circumstance, the petition, and the decree.
At the time Catiline was given to the public, the creditors of the poet had the cruelty to attach the produce of this piece, as well at the bookseller’s, who had printed the tragedy, as at the theatre where it was performed. The poet, irritated at these proceedings, addressed a petition to the king, in which he showed “that it was a thing yet unknown, that it should be allowed to class amongst seizable effects the productions of the human mind; that if such a practice was permitted, those who had consecrated their vigils to the studies of literature, and who had made the greatest efforts to render themselves, by this means, useful to their country, would see themselves placed in the cruel predicament of not venturing to publish works, often precious and interesting to the state; that the greater part of those who devote themselves to literature require for the first wants of life those aids which they have a right to expect from their labours; and that it never has been suffered in France to seize the fees of lawyers, and other persons of liberal professions.”
In answer to this petition, a decree immediately issued from the King’s council, commanding a replevy of the arrests and seizures of which the petitioner complained. This honourable decree was dated 21st of May, 1749, and bore the following title:—“Decree of the Council of his Majesty, in favour of M. Crebillon, author of the tragedy of Catiline, which declares that the productions of the mind are not amongst seizable effects.”
Louis XV. exhibits the noble example of bestowing a mark of consideration to the remains of a man of letters. This King not only testified his esteem of Crebillon by having his works printed at the Louvre, but also by consecrating to his glory a tomb of marble.
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