Mlle Clairon



  • Stage name of Claire-Josèphe-Hippolyte Lérisde la Tude (1723 - 1803), the leading French actress of her day.The illegitimate daughter of a poor seamstress, she began as a singer and minor performer at the Comédie-Italienne, where she drew praise from David Garrick. In 1743 she made an acclaimed debut with the Comédie-Française in the title-role of Racine's Phèdre. Five years later she made a success of the weak tragedy Denys le Tyran by Jean-FrançoisMarmontel (1723 - 99), whose mistress she became. She subsequentlyperformed as leading lady to the celebrated actor Henri-Louis Lekain(1729 - 78) in such plays as Voltaire's L'Orphelinde la Chine (1755), in which she wore a simple robe with loosesleeves in an effort to reform stage costumes. In the 1750s Marmontelpersuaded Madame Clairon to drop her declamatory style of acting fora more natural delivery, which she accomplished after tutoring fromthe encyclopedist and critic Denis Diderot (1713 - 84).

    Madame Clairon retired from the stage in 1766 after refusing to perform in a play with a disgraced actor - a dispute that led to her spending five days in prison. She survived with help from Voltaire and in 1773 was invited to the court of the Margrave of Anspach where she wrote her Mémoires et réflexions sur l'art dramatique (1799). She died in poverty.