MAREUIL, JACQUES DE, half-pay lieutenant of a detachment of colonial regular troops, amateur actor; he arrived in Canada in the spring of 1693 and left again in the autumn of 1694.
This officer, to whom Abbé Auguste Gosselin gives the name of Jacques-Théodore Cosineau de Mareuil, is principally famous for the scandal he caused during his brief stay at Québec, and he might be considered the first free-thinker in Canada. He lived at the Château Saint-Louis.
The carnival season at Quebec has always been the occasion for social merry-making. The first governors took advantage of the winter season to have plays staged at the Château Saint-Louis. These performances brought together the military and civil élite of the colony. The bishop of Quebec, just as did Bossuet and Massillon, frowned most severely on the theatre. At his request, Governors La Barre [see Le Febvre] and Denonville* had desisted from giving any such dramatic presentations. Frontenac [see Buade], at the beginning of his second term of office, imitated their discretion. The year 1693 had, however, been a particularly good one, and it was proposed to celebrate the carnival with more than the usual lustre by preparing entertainments. The theatre was taken up again, probably because Lieut. Mareuil, Frontenac’s protégé, had a liking for the stage and was himself an enthusiastic actor. Corneille’s Nicomède and Racine’s Mithridate were staged; preparations were even being made to put on Tartuffe, when the bishop, dismayed by the harm that this play might do to his flock, decided to interpose his authority and that of the Church. It was the principal actor and perhaps even the unofficial director of the little château troupe that he was attacking when, on 10 January, he asked the parish priests of Quebec to condemn the theatre in general and Lieut. Mareuil in particular. Then on 16 Jan. 1694 the prelate published two pastoral letters in quick succession, one “on impious speech,” directed against the free-thinker Mareuil by name, the other “about plays,” aimed at Mareuil, who had the title role in Tartuffe. However, Mareuil was not the sort of man to take things lying down.
On 19 January he presented a petition to the intendant, Bochart* de Champigny, demanding that M. Dupré*, a priest of the parish of Quebec. supply him with a copy of the sermon delivered at high mass in the parish church. The priest refused. The matter was brought before the Conseil Souverain. There the bishop testified that he had “several times charitably warned him [Mareuil], and had had him warned by persons of authority who were most trustworthy, so that he would repudiate the blasphemous and shockingly lewd remarks that he had made during the year that he had been in the country, both against God and against the Blessed Virgin and the saints. . . .” The council postponed action, through fear of displeasing the governor. On 15 March Mareuil called upon the council to give a ruling, and to declare invalid and improper the pastoral letter that had been read against him in the cathedral. The council finally ordered Mareuil’s arrest and asked the bishop to produce the letters in question. It was Frontenac’s guards who carried out the arrest, on 14 October. The prisoner was forbidden to communicate with any other person. On 15 November the bishop, foreseeing that he would not get complete satisfaction from the council, declared that he was referring the whole matter to France. At last, on 29 November, Frontenac argued before the council that the case had been badly handled, that a great number of “one-sided views, intrigues and private passions” had become mixed up in it, that no proof had yet been adduced against the accused; that consequently he was obliged to release the prisoner, “a man whose person is perhaps hated more than the crime that he is alleged to have committed.” Jacques de Mareuil was set at large the same day, and Frontenac had him embarked secretly on the last ship bound for France.
AN, Col., B, 17, ff.99, 115; C11A, 13, ff.95, 129, 178; F3, 5, ff.186–270 passim (see PAC Report, 1885, lxi; 1899, Supp., 92, 310–11). APQ Rapport, 1922–23, 810. Caron, “Inventaire des documents,” APQ Rapport, 1939–40, 315, 317, 320–2, 324, 327–28. Jug. et délib., III. Mandements des évêques de Québec (Tetû et Gagnon), I, 301–8. Jean Béraud, 350 ans de théâtre au Canada français (Encyclopédie du Canada français, I, [Ottawa, 1958]), 11–14. Cahall, The Sovereign Council of New France, 85–93. Delalande, Le Conseil souverain, 198–202. Eccles, Frontenac, 297ff, 302–5. Auguste Gosselin, “Un episode de l’histoire du théâtre au Canada (1694),” RSCT, 2d ser., IV (1898), sect.i, 53–72. “Ordonnance de M. Bochart Champigny . . . (19 janv. 1694),” BRH, XXXIX (1933), 125–27. Alfred Rambaud, “La vie orageuse et douloureuse de Mgr de Saint-Vallier, deuxième évêque de Québec (1653–1727),” RUL, IX (1954–55), 90–108.