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La regnait Despreaux, leur maitre en l'art d'ecrire:
The rank which Voltaire assigned to Boileau in the Temple du Go&t, among the great writers of the age of Louis XIV. has been ratified by posterity: it was fixed indeed during his life-time, and it is a remarkable instance of good fortune that this man, who had attacked so many authors, should have enjoyed among his cotemporaries a reputation which succeeding generations have not been able to decrease.
Nicholas Boileau-Despr6aux was born at Crosne, near Paris, in 1636. He was the eleventh son of Gilles Boileau, register of the high court of Parliament. His infancy was by no means happy. His mother dying when young, and his father being wholly absorbed in business, he was abandoned to the care of an old servant, who treated him with much unkindness and severity. Her conduct, indeed, made such an impression on his mind, that he has been known to observe, if he had the offer of coming a second time into existence, upon the painful conditions of his childhood, he would much rather not be born. Regardless, however, of the neglect he experienced, he commenced his studies with success; but exhibited no qualities that could indicate his future celebrity. "Colin," his father used to say, "is a good lad, who is not over
burthened with wit, and will speak no ill of any one." —This opinion, formed upon the reserved disposition of young Nicholas, was soon discovered to be illfounded. He was on'y fourteen years of age when his talent for poetry developed itself. His father intended him for the bar; but, becoming soon disgusted with the study of the law, he directed his thoughts to the church, to which he shortly after conceived a dislike. Boileau, equally disgusted with the one and the other profession, resolved to follow the bent of his own genius, and devoted himself to poetry. His first Satires appeared in 1666. They were sought after, with much avidity, by men of taste; and as furiously condemned, by the authors whom the poet had criticized. To them succeeded his Epistles: and his Art Poetique,—that complete code of the laws of Poetry, and one of the finest compositions of the French language,—and, in 1674, he published his celebrated poem, Le Lutrin. This ingenious production, so replete with pleasantry and good writing, and in which the virtues and the vices of men are personified with considerable animation, fully established his reputation, and made him known at Court. Invited thither by Louis XIV. he had the honour to recite several cantos of his poem to that enlightened prince, who treated him with great liberality. He was granted the exclusive privilege of publishing hisown works; and, with other marks of royal favour, was made choice of by that monarch to write his history, in> conjunction with Racine. The doors of the French Academy were likewise opened to him, and those of other literary societies. Boileau, like the rest of his countrymen, carried his admiration of his king to a degree of enthusiasm: he applauded his actions with delicacy and sincerity; but was at court, as in other places, inflexible in his principles in all matters relative to the Belles Trance.] BOILEAU DESPREAUX.
Lettres; and carried, at times, his independence to the extent of rudeness. Being one day asked by the king what authors had succeeded best in comedy ?" I only know one," replied the satirist, " and that is Moliere: the rest have written nothing but farces, like the wretched pieces of Scarron." Another time, declaiming against burlesque poetry to the king, and in the presence of Mad. de Maintenon—" Happily," said he, " the taste for such productions is gone by; and Scarron even is only read in the provinces." His opinion being asked by Louis XIV. upon some verses which he had composed; "Sire," answered the poet, " nothing is impossible to your majesty; you were desirous of writing bad verses, and have completely succeeded."
After the death of Racine, Boileau, who was united to that great man by the strongest ties of friendship and esteem, seldom appeared at court, except to receive the commands of the king respecting his history. He passed the remainder of his days in retirement, either in town or country. He lamented, in his latter years, the misfortunes which terminated the reign of a monarch, of which he had been one of the principal ornaments; and feehjig his end approach, resigned himself to his fate with Christian fortitude, and died on the 11th of March, 1711, at the age of seventy-five.
Boileau, to talents of the first order, united great purity of manners, sociability, and benevolence. Though, at times, reserved and austere in his disposition, he was cornpaniable and easy of access—as the number of his friends sufficiently proves. His heart was good, but his judgment unrelenting. He beheld an enemy in every bad writer; but often relieved the wants of those whose works he