Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was born in Paris in 1732, the son of a watchmaker. He became a watchmaker himself, and at the age of 19 invented an escapement mechanism still used in watches today.
In 1756, at 24, Beaumarchais married a rich widow who died a year later. He found himself with a fortune—the first of several he made and then lost.
Musically talented, he became harp teacher to the daughters of Louis XV in 1759. For two years (1764-65), he lived in Madrid. On his return to France, he began his career as a playwright. The Barber of Seville was written in 1770, but not presented on the stage until five years later.
Meanwhile Beaumarchais became an overnight literary success with the publication of his Memoires (1773-74). At the same time he served as a secret agent on behalf of the king. In 1775, The Barber of Seville was produced for the public and increased his fame.
The Frenchman became interested in the American Revolution and aided the revolutionary cause by organizing funds, arms, supplies and ships.
Between 1779 and 1780, he wrote a sequel to The Barber of Seville, called The Marriage of Figaro, which presents the Count and Rosina—who is now the Countess Almaviva—after several years of married life. This comedy mocked the privileged classes with great humor. The first performance was delayed until 1784 because of royal opposition.
After the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Beaumarchais became involved in political struggles which eventually forced him to flee the country in 1792 and put his family, which remained behind, in terrible danger during the most violent period of the Revolution.
Beaumarchais' great comedies were not only wildly successful, they also fueled the fires of revolution which were sweeping Europe at that time. He returned to Paris in 1796 and died there in 1799.
1732 – Born in Paris on January 24
1742 – Becomes apprentice to his watchmaker father
1753 – Invents escapement and revolutionizes watch making
1759 – Appointed harp teacher to the daughters of Louis XV
1764 – Travels to Spain in search of business opportunities with the new Spanish colony of Louisiana, which will influence his writing
1765 – Returns to France in March 1765 and becomes a playwright
1767 – His first dramatic play, Eugénie, premieres
1773 – Beaumarchais publishes his Memoires detailing his arguments in court and becomes an instant celebrity
1775 – The Barber of Seville premieres
1777 – British troops surrender at Saratoga to a rebel force largely clothed and armed by the supplies sent by Beaumarchais
1781 – The Marriage of Figaro is completed, but is banned by Louis XVI
1783 – Beaumarchais publishes the first of a series of Voltaire’s later works, preserving them for future generations
1784 – The ban on The Marriage of Figaro is lifted and performances of the play become wildly popular
1797 – First performances of The Guilty Mother
1799 – Beaumarchais dies in Paris