Henri-Lambert de Thibouville
Henri-Lambert d'Herbigny, marquis de Thibouville (1710 in Paris - 1784) was a notable French writer, wit and homosexual.
Born to a conseiller d'État, he at first followed a military career, rising to the rank of mestre de camp in the régiment des dragons de la Reine. He then left the army for a literary career and linked himself to Voltaire, via an assiduous correspondence (more than 50 letters by Voltaire to Thibouville survive). His taste for the theatre and declamation allowed him to act as intermediary between Voltaire and actors putting on his plays, and sometimes between Voltaire and his editors.
In 1731 Thibouville had married Louise-Élisabeth de Rochechouart, taking a female mistress, Mélanie de Laballe (who had débuted at the Comédie Française in 1746 in the rôle of Agnès in École des femmes and died of smallpox in 1748 aged only 16). This gave rise to the epigram
|“||Agnès, débuting in the world,
Melchior Grimm described Thibouville, probably around 1759, as "even more attached than M. de Villette to the cult of love which our sages rudely proscribe, but which those of ancient Greece excused with such indulgence", referring to his notorious homosexuality. Voltaire himself, in the first editions of La Pucelle d'Orléans, mentioned him alongside Honoré-Armand de Villars, accused of the same vice, in the following verses:
|“||Such has been seen, Thibouville and Villars,||”|
In a letter of 21 May 1755 to Thibouville Voltaire denied being the real author of those lines - "My poor Pucelle has become an infamous p..., accused of insupportable vulgarities. It is still mixed up with satire; for their commodity of rhyme, scandalous verses have been slipped into it against the people to whom I am most attached." However, Voltaire was accustomed to making these disingenous denials and the veracity of this one is questionable.
Thibouville's reputation rests more on his wit than his talent and his literary works have received little critical acclaim. The surviving ones include:
- Thélamine, tragedy, 1739 ;
- L'École de l'Amitié, novel, 1757 ;
- Le Danger des passions, ou anectodotes syriennes et égyptiennes, 1758 ;
- Réponses d'Abeilard à Héloïse, 1758 ;
- Namir, tragedy, 1759;
- Qui ne risque rien n'a rien, 1772 ;
- Plus heureux, 1772.
- Agnès, débutant dans le monde, / Prétendait avoir des amants; / Mais d’avoir la panse un peu ronde / Lui déplaisait, à quatorze ans. / « Ah! ménagez du moins ma taille, / Disait-elle à certain marquis. — / Le propos, dit-il, est exquis! / Suis-je né parmi la canaille! / Sur moi vous pouvez faire fond: / Vous connaîtrez, jeune merveille, / Que jamais enfants ne se font / Ni par le c.. ni par l’oreille.
- Tels on a vu Thibouville et Villars, / Imitateurs du premier des Césars, / Tout enflammés du feu qui les possède, / Tête baissée attendre un Nicomède; / Et seconder, par de fréquents écarts, / Les vaillants coups de leurs laquais picards.
- Premiered 12 November 1759. Grimm, who called it insipid, recounts that the premiere was not completed - in the fourth act its lead actor Lekain had to come out in front of the set and announce "Messieurs, if you think it good, we shall have the honour of giving you the "petite pièce" " - and that the set did not impress. Even so, Fréron remarked in his Année littéraire, that he had seen worse plays received with more indulgence.