Louis-Sébastien Mercier

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mercier, Louis-Sébastien


Born June 6, 1740, in Paris; died there Apr. 25, 1814. French writer.

The son of a merchant, Mercier studied at the College of the Four Nations. In 1766 he wrote the novella The Story of the Arab Poet Izerban and published the treatise On the Hardships of War. In his novel The Savage (1767), the influence of J. J. Rousseau is apparent. In 1770, in Amsterdam, Mercier’s social novel The Year 2440 was published anonymously; this work expressed antifeudal and libertarian ideas.

Mercier’s philosophical views were dualistic. Like Rousseau, he recognized the material nature of the world; but he accepted the idea of god and the immortality of the soul. Mercier gave what is in many ways an accurate account of Rousseau’s world view in On J.-J. Rousseau: One of the Principal Writers That Prepared the Way for the Revolution (1791). Mercier expressed his aesthetic views in the treatise On the Theater (1773), in which he called for the democratization of art and championed the heroic style and emotionalism. As a playwright, Mercier wrote the historical dramas The Have-not (1772), The Judge (1774), and The Barrel-load of the Vinegar Merchant (1775).

In his multivolume work The Tableau of Paris (1781-88; Rus-sian translation, vols. 1-2, 1935-36), Mercier vividly depicted the prerevolutionary era. He greeted the French Revolution enthusiastically with his pamphlet The Year 1789, but he was frightened by the Jacobin dictatorship. He spent time in prison for his association with the Girondists. Mercier remained a republican during the Empire.


Théâtre complet, vols. 1-4. Amsterdam-Leiden, 1778-1884.
In Russian translation:
Neimushchie. Tachka uksusnika. In Frantsuzskii teatr epokhi Pros-veshcheniia, vol. 2. Moscow, 1957.


Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946, pp. 785-88.
Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatra, vol. 2. Under the general editorship of S. S. Mokul’skii. Moscow, 1957.
Levbarg, L. A. L. S. Mers’e. Leningrad-Moscow, 1960.
Beclard, L. Sebastien Mercier. Paris, 1903.
Majewski, H. F. The Preromantic Imagination of L.-S. Mercier. New York, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.