Slike strani
[ocr errors]

tant ministers. The king, afterwards resolving to have a conference about religion with the principal prelates of the kingdom, sent for Du Perron to assist in it; but, as he was yet only a layman, he nominated him to the bishopric of Evreux, that he might be capable of sitting in it. He came with the other prelates to St. Denis, and is said to have contributed more than any other person to the change in Henry's sentiments.

After this, he was sent with M. d'Ossat to Rome, to negotiate Henry's reconciliation to the holy see; which at length he effected more to the satisfaction of the king, than of his subjects; that part of them at least, who were zealous for Gallican liberties, and thought the dignity of their king prostituted upon this occasion. After a year's residence at Rome, he returned to France; where, by such services as have already been mentioned, he obtained promotion to the highest dignities. He wrote, and preached, and disputed against the reformed; particularly against Du Plessis Mornay, with whom he had a public conference, in the presence of the king, at Fontainbleau. The king resolved to make him grand almoner of France, to give him the archbishopric of Sens, and wrote to Clement VIII. to obtain for him the dignity of a cardinal; which that pope conferred on him, in 1604, with singular marks of esteem. The indisposition of Clement soon after made the king resolve to send the French cardinals to Rome; where Du Perron was no sooner arrived, than he was employed by the pope in the congregations. He had a great share in the elections of Leo X. and Paul V. He assisted afterwards in the congregations upon the subject of Grace, and in the disputes which were agitated between the Jesuits and the Dominicans: and it was principally owing to his advice, that the pope resolved to leave these questions undecided. He was sent a third time to Rome, to accommodate the differences between Paul V. and the republic of Venice. This pope had such an opinion of the power of his eloquence and address, that he said to those about him, "Let us beseech God to inspire cardinal Du Perron, for he will persuade us to do whatever he pleases."

After the murder of Henry IV. in 1610, Du Perron devoted himself entirely to the court and see of Rome, and prevented every measure in France which might displease that power, or hurt its interests. He rendered useless the arret of the parliament of Paris, against the book of cardi


nal Bellarmine; and favoured the infallibility of the pope, and his superiority over a council, in a thesis maintained in 1611, before the nuncio. He afterwards held a provincial assembly, in which he condemned Richer's book, "concerning ecclesiastical and civil authority:" and, being at the assembly of Blois, he made an harangue to prove, that they ought not to decide some questions, on account of their being points of faith. He was one of the presidents of the assembly of the clergy, which was held at Rouen in 1615; and made harangues to the king at the opening and shutting of that assembly, which were much applauded. This was the last of his public services; for after this he retired to his house at Bagnolet, and employed himself wholly in revising and completing his works. This was with him a matter of great importance, for he not only had a private press in his house, that he might have them published correctly, and revised every sheet himself, but is said also to have printed a few copies of every work that he wished to appear to advantage, for the revisal of his friends before publication. He died at Paris, Sept. 5, 1618, aged sixty-three. He was a man of great abilities; had a lively and penetrating wit, and a particular talent at making his views appear reasonable. He delivered himself upon all occasions with great clearness, dignity, and eloquence. He had a prodigious memory, and had studied much. He was very well versed in antiquity, both ecclesiastical and profane; and had read much in the fathers, councils, and ecclesiastical historians, of which he knew how to make the best use to perplex, if not to conrince his adversaries. He was warmly attached to the see of Rome, and strenuous in defending its rights and prerogatives; and therefore it cannot be wondered, that his name has never been held in high honour among those of his countrymen who have been accustomed to stand up for the Gallican liberties. They consider indeed that ambition was his ruling passion, and that it extended even to literature, in which he thought he ought to hold the first rank. In his youth he had translated into French verse a part of the Eneid; and the praises which Desportes and Bertaut bestowed on this performance made him fancy that his style was superior to that of Virgil. He was in his own opinion, says the abbé Longuerue, the commander-in-chief of literature; and authors found that his opinion was to be secured before that of the public. His VOL. XXIV.


favourite authors were Montaigne, whose essays he called the breviary of all good men, and Rabelais, whom, by way of distinction, he called "The author."

The works of Du Perron, the greatest part of which had been printed separately in his life-time, were collected after his death, and published at Paris, 1620 and 1622, in 3 vols. folio. The first contains his great "Treatise upon the Eucharist," against that of Du Plessis Mornay. The second, his "Reply to the Answer of the King of Great Britain." The following was the occasion of that work: James I. of England sent to Henry IV. of France a book, which he had written himself, concerning differences in religion. Henry put it into the hands of Du Perron's brother, who informed his majesty, from what the cardinal had observed to him, that there were many passages in that book, in which the king of England seemed to come near the catholics; and that it might be proper to send some able person, in hopes of converting him entirely. Henry accordingly, after taking the advice of his prelates in this affair, desired to know of the king of England, whether he would approve of a visit from the cardinal Du Perron? King James answered that he should be well pleased to confer with him, but for reasons of state could not do it. After this, Isaac Casaubon, who had been engaged in several conferences with Du Perron about religion, and seemed much inclined to that egregious absurdity, a reunion between the popish and reformed church, was prevailed on to take a voyage into England; where he spoke advantageously of Du Perron to the king, and presented some pieces of poetry to him, which the cardinal had put into his hands. The king received them kindly, and expressed much esteem for the author; which Casaubon noticing to Du Perron, he returned a letter of civility and thanks to his Britannic majesty; in which he told him, that,

[ocr errors]

except the sole title of Catholic, he could find nothing wanting in his majesty, that was necessary to make a most perfect and accomplished prince." The king replied, that, "believing all things which the ancients had unanimously thought necessary to salvation, the title of Catholic could not be denied him." Casaubon having sent this answer to Du Perron, he replied to it in a letter, dated the 15th of July, 1611, in which he assigns the reasons that obliged him to refuse the name of Catholic to his Britannic majesty. Casaubon sent him a writing by way of answer, in

the name of the king, to all the articles of his letter; to which the cardinal made a large reply, which constitutes the bulk of the second volume of his works. The third contains his miscellaneous pieces; among which are, "Acts of the Conference held at Fontainbleau against Du Plessis Mornay;" moral and religious pieces in prose and verse, orations, dissertations, translations, and letters.

There was a fourth volume of his embassies and negotiations, collected by Cæsar de Ligni, his secretary, and printed at Paris in 1629 and 1633, folio: but these are supposed not to have done him much honour, and Wicquefort thinks him as a diplomatic character inferior to d'Ossat in every respect. There were also published afterwards, under his name, "Perroniana," which, like most of the ana, is a collection of puerilities and impertinences. 1

PERROT (NICOLAS), sieur d'A BLANCOURT, a scholar of considerable parts, and once admired for his translations. from ancient authors, was born at Chalons, April 5, 1606. He sprung from a family which had been illustrious in the law, and the greatest care was bestowed on his education. His father, Paul Perrot de la Saller, who was a protestant, and also a man learning, sent him to pursue his studies in the college of Sedan; where he made so rapid à progress, that, at thirteen, he had gone through the classics. He was then taken home, and placed for some time under a private tutor, after which he was sent to Paris, where he studied the law five or six months, and was, when only in his eighteenth year, admitted advocate of parliament; but did not adhere long to the bar. Another change he made about this time of great importance, was that of his religion, for popery, of which he embraced the tenets at the persuasion of his uncle Cyprian Perrot, who, in hopes of procuring him some valuable benefices, took great pains to recommend the church as a profession, but in vain. Nor did he succeed better in retaining him as a convert, for he had scarcely distinguished himself in the republic of letters, by writing a preface to the "Honnête Femme," for his friend, father Du Bosc, than he felt a desire to return to the religion he had quitted. He was now, however, in his twenty-seventh year, and had sense enough to guard

1 Dupin.-Bullart's Academie des Sciences.-Vie de Du Perron, by Burigny. Biog. Univ. in Duperron.-Perrault's Les Hommes Illustres.

against precipitation in a matter of so much consequence. He studied, therefore, the differences betwixt the Romish and reformed church, and after three years' investigation, during which he did not disclose his intention to any one, he set out from Paris to Champagne, where he abjured popery; and very soon after went to Holland, till the clamour which followed this step was over. He was near a year in Leyden, where he learned Hebrew, and contracted a friendship with Salmasius. From Holland he went to England; then returned to Paris; and, after passing some weeks with M. Patru, took an apartment near the Luxembourg. He passed his days very agreeably; and though he devoted the greatest part of his leisure to books, mixed occasionally in society, and was the respected associate of all the learned in Paris. In 1637 he was admitted a member of the French academy, but was soon after forced to leave Paris, on account of the wars; and therefore retired to his estate, called Ablancourt, where he lived till his death. He died Nov. 17, 1664, of the gravel, with which he had been afflicted the greater part of his life.

He was a man of great acuteness, imagination, judgment, and learning, and thought equal to the production of any work; yet we have no original pieces of his, excepting the "Preface" above mentioned, "A Discourse upon the Immortality of the Soul," and a few letters to Patru. But he made French translations of many ancient writers, which were once admired for their elegance, purity, and chasteness of style. Among these are Tacitus, Lucian, Cæsar, Thucydides, and Arrian; but he took too great liberties with the sense of his author, for the sake of imitating his manner, and producing something like an original. He is said to have succeeded best while he profited by the advice of Patru, Conrart, and Chapelain; and it is certain that those translations written in his latter days, when he had not that advantage, are inferior to the others. When he was asked, why he chose to be a translator, rather than an author, he answered, that "he was neither a divine nor lawyer, and consequently not qualified to compose pleadings or sermons; that the world was filled with treatises on politics; that all discourses on morality were only so many repetitions of Plutarch and Seneca; and that, to serve one's country, a man ought rather to translate valuable authors, than to write new books, which seldom contain any thing new." The minister Colbert,

[ocr errors]
« PrejšnjaNaprej »