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Thomas Jefferson and French Theatre

Updated on May 10, 2010
Comedie Francaise (Today: The Odeon)in Jefferson's time--late 18th century. Jefferson thought this was one of  the most beautiful buildings in France.
Comedie Francaise (Today: The Odeon)in Jefferson's time--late 18th century. Jefferson thought this was one of the most beautiful buildings in France.
Comedie Francaise (Today: The Odeon) in 1910--rebuilt twice in the same design after two fires. (Postcard)
Comedie Francaise (Today: The Odeon) in 1910--rebuilt twice in the same design after two fires. (Postcard)
Interior fo a grand theater in Jefferson's time.
Interior fo a grand theater in Jefferson's time.

The following is information about Thomas Jefferson's theater-going while he was in Paris, 1784-1789.

The following notes are from the two-volume collection: Jefferson's Memorandum Books: Accounts with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767-1826, edited by

James A. Bear, Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton and published by Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1997.

Jefferson may have gone to the theater more frequently and not entered the ticket expense in his Memorandum Books. Some of the entries have to do with repaying a friend for tickets otherwise not noted.

Jefferson went to many musical concerts and opera performances, which are not described in this entry on theaters. If you would like to see a list of the musical peformances he attended at the Comédie-Italienne, the Concert Spirituel (Tuileries Palace), and the Paris Opera, consult Thomas Jefferson, Musician & Violinist by Sandor Salgo, The Thomas Jefferson Foundatin, 2000.
Jefferson's memorandum books : accounts, with legal records and miscellany, 1767-1826
The items in quotation marks are Thomas Jefferson's own entries.
The comments in brackets are from the editors.

September 2, 1784

"Sept. 2. Pd. tickets to Italian comedy 18f"
[The present Odéon is a reconstruction on the same site , of the home of the Comédie-Française, which on this date presented two comedies, La Métromanie by "Alexis Piron, and Crispin rival de son maître by
Alain René Lesage (Journal de Paris, 7 Sept. 1784).]


November 10, 1785
"Nov. 10 Pd. at Nicolet's 3f12"
[Jean Baptiste Nicolet's petit spectacle on the Boulevard du Temple, known officially as Les Grands Danseurs et Sauteurs de Corde, combined broad farce and pantomime with rope dancing, tumbling, and ballet. For the evening's program see Journal de Paris, 14 Nov. 1785 (Max Aghion Le Théâtre à Paris au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 1926, p. 259-65.]

December 29, 1786
"Dec. 29. Repd. Colo. Franks lodge a the Variety 12f."
[The Théâtre des Variétés Amusantes was a stage for farce and light comedy at the Palais-Royal. The young John Quincy Adams marveled at the tremendous popularity with the upper classes of this and other Parisian petits spectacles, which in his opinion offered "nothing but low buffoonery, and scurrility," the plays being both witless and "very indecent" (Diary of John Quincy Adams, ed. David Grayson Allet et al. Cambridge, Mass., 1981, I, 212-14; Max Aghion, Le Théâtre à Paris au XVIIIe siècle. Paris, 1926, p. 279-82. TJ may have attended the Variétés the previous night, when the program was Desenne's Le Revenant ou les Deux Grenadiers, L.J.J. Dancourt's Jacquot ete Colas duellistes, and Thomas d'Hèle's Gilles ravisseur (Journal de Paris, 28 Dec. 1786).]

January 13, 1787
"Jan. 13 Pd. at Varieties 3f"

[On the program of the Théâtre des Variétés Amusantes for this evening were Desenne's Le Revenant ou les Deux Grenadiers, Le Bal, and Le Mari à deux femmes ou le Valet à deux maîtres Journal de Paris, 13 Jan. 1787).]

October 25, 1787
"Pd. for dinner at Palais royal 24f -- Varieties 3f."
[On this evening's program a Théâtre des Variétés was A. J. Dumaniant's three-act comedy, La Nuit aux aventures, accompanied by Laroche's Dumont, ou le Modèle des amis, and Joseph Patrat's L'Anglais, ou le Fou raisonnable (Journal de Paris, 25 Oct. 1787)]

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    • profile image

      Harlan Lewin 

      7 years ago

      Thank you bettybarnes. Merry Christmas to you, too.

    • bettybarnesb profile image

      bettybarnesb 

      7 years ago from Bartlett, TN

      Totally love history. Beautiful hub!

      Merry Christmas!

    • ltfawkes profile image

      ltfawkes 

      8 years ago from NE Ohio

      Very interesting. I was especially appreciative that you included Adams' reaction to the entertainment at the Variety. That adds new insight into the differences between those two great men who fought each other all through their political careers, finally managed to reconcile, and died on the same day.

      Thanks.

      L.T.

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