Joseph-Alphonse Esménard

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Joseph-Alphonse Esménard (1770, Pélissanne – 25 June 1811, Fondi) was a French poet and the brother of the journalist Jean-Baptiste Esménard.


An editor of Royalist newspapers, Esménard left France after 10 August 1792 and travelled throughout Europe, going to England, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Constantinople and Greece. Returning to Paris in 1797, he wrote for La Quotidienne but was forced to emigrate again after 18 Fructidor, not without first spending two months in the Prison du Temple. He returned to France again after 18 Brumaire, but soon afterwards left for Saint-Domingue as secretary to general Leclerc on the Saint-Domingue expedition. On his return from the expedition, he was made head of the bureau des théâtres under the interior minister thanks to the protection of Savary. Soon after this, however, he left once again to follow admiral Villaret de Joyeuse to Martinique.

Esménard then came back to France for good, where he received favours from the imperial government for services rendered - censor of theatres and libraries, censor of the Journal de l'Empire and chef de division to the ministry of police. In 1810, he was elected to the Académie française.

For having published a satirical article against one of Napoleon's envoys to Russia in the Journal de l'Empire, he was exiled to Italy for a few months. On his return trip he died in a carriage accident at Fondi, near Naples.


Esménard is best known for the didactic and descriptive poem entitled La Navigation, first published in 8 verses in 1805, then re-edited to 6 verses in 1806. It is a precise work, drawn from observations made by the author in the course of his travels. Its versification, however, is monotonous and it is marked by a total absence of action and movement.

Esménard wrote Le triomphe de Trajan, a three-act opera with music by Jean-François Lesueur, on the life of Trajan but full of flattering allusions to Napoleon I of France. It was produced to triumphal reviews in 1807. He also wrote the three-act opera Fernand Cortez ou la conquête du Mexique (1809) in collaboration with Victor-Joseph-Étienne de Jouy, with music by Gaspare Spontini. This too proved very successful. He also wrote several verses to the glory of Napoleon, collected as La Couronne poétique de Napoléon (1807).

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