Author: Pierre-Augustin de Beaumarchais,Talia Felix
Publisher: Talia Felix
In Eugenia, the title character is a Welsh girl of good birth who believes herself to be married to a wealthy young Earl. In fact, the Earl has deliberately misled her and knowingly had arranged a fraudulent wedding ceremony; their union is invalid, but Eugenia is already pregnant, and the Earl is only days away from a legitimate marriage to another woman. Even Eugenia does not know his secret, but with his new wedding fast approaching, he cannot keep his shameful behavior hidden much longer. Will he give in to his true love for Eugenia and save her from a life of indignity, or will he follow the wishes of others and marry according to his own family's demands? Duels, disownments and near-death experiences abound in this famous play of the 18th century.The play Eugénie (as it's called in French) premiered in Paris in 1767 and had "acquired acclaim for itself before it had even graced the stage." It was the first feature play of author Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, who already was well known for his literary accomplishments; he'd gotten his start arguing his rights to a patent through publicly published letters, and had made a splash internationally with his account of his adventures in Spain while he was attempting to force an unfaithful lover of his sister's to do right by her; this story was adapted into a play in his own lifetime, by none other than Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Beaumarchais had written some theater as well, but prior to Eugénie all of his scripts had either been rejected by the theaters, or else were simple one-act comedies (parades) intended for performance at private functions. Eugénie was his first serious play, but it was a success. The genre is known now as drame bourgeois, and was seen at the time as a halfway point between comedy and tragedy. William Howarth, in this book Beaumarchais and the Theater, indicates that the playwright had originally set his story in Brittany, and developed the English setting at a later point for uncertain reasons - perhaps to play off the mood of fashionable sentimental English stories such as those by Samuel Richardson, which were extremely popular at the time. The new setting did, however, create some problems: as Englishwoman Elizabeth Griffiths wrote in the introduction to her contemporary adaptation The School for Rakes, she found Beaumarchais had "unluckily adopted Spanish manners" for his English characters and did not demonstrate a familiarity with local laws and customs, and in her case she realized the troubles caused by the cultural mismatch to be so numerous that she had to resort to merely adapting the play rather than translating. To my knowledge, this book which you hold in your hands is the first ever direct English translation of Eugénie to have seen print. After the initial premier, Eugénie was extremely well-received, and even moreso after Beaumarchais made some cuts to the play's copious running time (which changes were reflected in the printed editions.) It found itself being one of the first plays known to be performed in New Orleans in the French colony of Louisiana, and early printings of The Barber of Seville were always certain to announce on the title page that the play was "from the author of Eugénie."