Hercule-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (6 March 1619 – 28 July 1655) was a French dramatist and duelist who is now best remembered for the many works of fiction which have been woven around his life story. In these fictional works he is featured with an overly large nose; portraits suggest that he did have a big nose, though not nearly as large as described in Edmond Rostand's play and the subsequent works about him.
Life and works
Several scholars claim to have found evidence of Cyrano's homosexuality. Research indicates that around 1640 he became the lover of Charles Coypeau d'Assoucy, a writer and musician, until around 1653, when they became engaged in a bitter rivalry. This led to Bergerac sending d'Assoucy death threats that compelled him to leave Paris. The quarrel extended to a series of satirical texts by both men. Bergerac wrote Contre Soucidas (an anagram of his enemy's name) and Contre un ingrat (“Against an Ingrate”), while D’Assoucy counterattacked with Le Combat de Cyrano de Bergerac avec le singe de Brioché, au bout du Pont-Neuf
The model for the Roxane character of the Rostand play was Bergerac's cousin, who lived with his sister, Catherine de Cyrano, at the Convent of the Daughter of the Cross As in the play, Bergerac did fight at the siege of Arras (1640), a battle of the Thirty Years' War between French and Spanish forces in France (though this was not the more famous final Battle of Arras, fought fourteen years later). One of his confreres in the battle was the Baron Christian of Neuvillette, who married Cyrano's cousin. However, the plotline of the play, Cyrano de Bergerac, involving Roxane and Christian is entirely fictional.
Cyrano was a freethinker and a pupil of Pierre Gassendi, a canon of the Catholic Church who tried to reconcile Epicurean atomism with Christianity. Cyrano's insistence on reason was rare in his time, and he would have been at home in the Enlightenment that came a century after his death.
He was injured by a falling wooden beam in 1654 while entering the house of his patron, the Duc D'Arpajon. Whether it was a deliberate attempt on his life or merely an accident is unknown. It is also inconclusive as to whether or not his death was a result of the injury, or an unspecified disease. He died over a year later on July 28, 1655 aged 36. His place of death was the house of his cousin, Pierre De Cyrano, in Sannois. He was buried in a church in Sannois.
Cyrano de Bergerac's works Le Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (The Other World; The States and Empires of the Moon) (published posthumously, 1657) and Les États et Empires du Soleil (The States and Empires of the Sun) (1662) are classics of early modern science fiction. In the former, Cyrano travels to the moon using rockets powered by firecrackers and meets the inhabitants. The moon-men have four legs, musical voices, and firearms that shoot game and cook it.