Bossuet, Jacques Bénigne


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Bossuet, Jacques Bénigne

(zhäk bānē`nyə bôsüā`), 1627–1704, French prelate, one of the greatest orators in French history. At an early age he was made a canon at Metz; he became bishop of Condom and was (1670–81) tutor to the dauphin (father of Louis XV), for whom he wrote his great Discourse on Universal History (1681, tr. 1778, 1821), Politics Derived from Holy Writ (1709), and Treatise of the Knowledge of God and One's Self (1722). In 1681 he became bishop of Meaux. Unrivaled for his eloquence, he is celebrated for his Funeral Orations (1689), particularly those on Henrietta of England, on her daughter, and on Condé, which are masterpieces of their kind. He was also a great moralist, a magnificent stylist, and a powerful controversialist, brilliantly attacking Fénelon and the quietists, the Jesuits, and the Protestants.

Bibliography

See biography by E. E. Reynolds (1963); studies by A. Rabelliau (5th ed. 1900) and M. C. Gotaas (1953, repr. 1970).

Bossuet, Jacques Bénigne

 

Born Sept. 27, 1627, in Dijon; died Apr. 12, 1704, in Paris. French writer, church leader, and bishop.

In his works on historical and political topics (Discourse on Universal History, 1681, and Politics Derived From Holy Writ, published in 1709), Bossuet considered historical development as the embodiment of divine providence and defended the idea of the divine origin of a monarch’s absolute power. He made a distinction between despotism and absolutism as a form of rule subordinate to the principle of reason, and he spoke about a monarch’s obligations. He was an ideologist of Gallicanism (Declaration of the French Clergy, 1682). Bossuet’s historical works were subjected to criticism by the Enlightenment thinkers of the 18th century (C. L. Montesquieu and Voltaire). His church sermons and Funeral Orations (1669) have been preserved mostly in rough drafts and summaries. Bossuet’s works are characterized by a rationalistic severity of style and a precision of metaphors.

WORKS

Oeuvres complètes, vols. 1–31. Paris, 1862–66.

REFERENCES

Lanson, G. Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 1 (17th century). St. Petersburg, 1899. (Translated from French.)
Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946. Pages 459–61.
Brunetière, F. Bossuet. Paris, 1913.
Ruf, A. H. Bossuet und Fenelon. Würzburg-Aumühle, 1940.

V. IA. BAKHMUTSKII