NovelGuide: Cyrano de Bergerac: Biography
The French playwright and poet Edmond Rostand was born in Marseilles, France, on April 1, 1868, into a literary and artistic family. His aunt, Victorine Rostand, wrote poetry, and his uncle, Alexis Rostand, composed music. His father, Eugène Rostand, taught economics at the Académie des Sciences Politiques et Morales de Marseilles, but wrote and translated poetry in his spare time. Rostand was educated at the Lycée Marseilles. He was recognized for his skill as a poet as young as sixteen. From 1884 to 1886, he continued his education at the Collège Stanislas in Paris, where he excelled academically. In an attempt to please his father, he studied law for two years in Paris, but was already attracting attention as a writer. In 1887 he won a literary essay competition held by the Marseilles Academy. He also began to write a collection of poetry called Les Musardises (Daydreams), which he published in 1890, the same year that he abandoned his law studies.
In 1890 Rostand married Rosemonde Gérard, herself a published poet. After the marriage, she dedicated herself to her husband’s literary career and helped him in his work. Their two sons, Jean and Maurice, also became writers. Long after Rostand's death, Rosemonde wrote a biography of her husband, Edmond Rostand (published in 1935), in which she wrote lovingly of the early days of their marriage.
During the 1890s Rostand wrote and produced a succession of plays: Les Romanesques (1894; translated as The Romantics, 1921), La Princesse Lointaine (1895; translated as The Princess Far Away, 1921), La Samaritaine (1897; translated as The Woman of Samaria, 1921), and Cyrano de Bergerac (1897; translated under the same title, 1922). Cyrano de Bergerac met with immediate acclaim. At the premiere, it was reported that the audience wept and ladies threw their gloves and fans at the author.
Shortly after La Samaritaine premiered, Rostand began an affair with the actress Sarah Bernhardt, for whom he had written La Princesse Lointaine, La Samaritaine, and the role of Roxane in Cyrano de Bergerac, which she never performed. He was never to be faithful to Rosemonde again, conducting affairs with the poet Anna de Noailles, and the actresses Simone Marquet and Mary Marquet. Rosemonde finally began an open affair with Tiarko Richepin, a friend of her eldest son, in 1911. Despite the affairs, the Rostands’ marriage remained intact.
In 1901, Rostand was elected a member of the prestigious Académie Française. However, Rostand did not relish his fame. Suffering from poor health, he retired to his family's country estate at Cambon. He continued to write plays and poetry, but none of his works achieved the success of Cyrano de Bergerac. Rostand died of pneumonia in Paris on December 2, 1918.