From Classic Encyclopedia 1911
MARIE CHAMPMESLE (1642-1698), French actress, was born in Rouen of a good family. Her father's name was Desmares. She made her first appearance on the stage at Rouen with Charles Chevillet (1645-1701), who called himself sieur de Champmesle, and they were married in 1666. By 1669 they were playing in Paris at the Theatre du Marais, her first appearance there being as Venus in Boyer's Fete de Venus. The next year, as Hermione in Racine's Andromaque, she had a great success at the Hotel de Bourgogne. Her intimacy with Racine dates from then. Some of his finest tragedies were written for her, but her repertoire was not confined to them, and many an indifferent play - like Thomas Corneille's Ariane and Comte d'Essex - owed its success to "her natural manner of acting, and her pathetic rendering of the hapless heroine." Phedre was the climax of her triumphs, and when she and her husband deserted the Hotel de Bourgogne (see Bejart ad fin.), it was selected to open the Comedie Frangaise on the 26th of August 1680. Here, with Mme Guerin as the leading comedy actress, she played the great tragic love parts for more than thirty years, dying on the i 5th of May 1698. La Fontaine dedicated to her his novel Belphegor, and Boileau immortalized her in verse. Her husband distinguished himself both as actor and playwright, and his Parisien (1682) gave Mme Guerin one of her greatest successes.
Her brother, the actor Nicolas Desmares (c. 1650-1714), began as a member of a subsidized company at Copenhagen, but by her influence he came to Paris and was received in 1685 sans debut - the first time such an honour had been accorded - at the Comedie Frangaise, where he became famous for peasant parts. His daughter, to whom Christian V. and his queen stood sponsors, Christine Antoinette Charlotte Desmares (1682-1753), was a fine actress in both tragedy and soubrette parts. She made her debut at the Comedie Frangaise in 1699, in La Grange Chancel's Oreste et Pylade, and was at once received as societaire. She retired in 1721.