Barthelemy, Jean Jacques
french anacharsis book
BARTHELEMY, JEAN JACQUES, a celebrated French writer, was born on the 20th January 1716, at Cassis, a little seaport on the shores of the Mediterranean. He was educated, first at the college of the Oratory in Marseilles, and afterwards at that of the Jesuits in the same city. While completing the course of study requisite for the church, which he intended to join, he devoted much attention to Oriental languages, in which he became very proficient. After assuming the ecclesiastical habit, he resided with his family at Aubagne, and during this period of his life was introduced by his friend, M. Cary of Marseilles, to the study of classical antiquities, particularly in the department of numismatics. In 1744 he repaired i to Paris, carrying with him a letter of introduction to M. Gros de Boze, perpetual secretary of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Letters, and keeper of the medals. He became assistant to De Boze, and on the death of the treasures of classical remains. While on his journey he made the acquaintance of the French ambassador, M. de Stainville, afterwards due de Choiseul, and of his wife. The minister conceived a great regard for Barthelemy, and on his accession to power loaded the scholar with benefits. In 1759 he gave him a pension on the archbishopric of Albi ; in 1765 he conferred on him the treasurership of St Martin de Tours, and, in 1768, made him secretary-general to the Swiss guards. In addition to these sources of revenue, the abbe enjoyed a pension of 5000 livres on the ilierc-ure de France. His income, which was thus considerable, was well employed by him ; he supported and established in life three nephews, and gave largely to indigent men of letters. In 1789, after the publication of his great work, he was elected a member of the French respect felt for his character and talents, that the Committee of Public Safety were no sooner informed of the arrest, than they gave orders for his immediate release. Barthelemy died soon after, on the 30th April 1795.
The great work on which Barthelemy's fame rests appeared in 1788, and was entitled Voyage du :mine Anacharsis sec Greee, dans le milieu du, quatrieme siecle avant l'ere Chraicnne. He had begun it in 1757, and, during an uninterrupted succession of thirty years, occupied his leisure hours in bringing it to maturity. The hero, a young Scythian, descended from the famous philosopher Anacharsis, whose name he bears, is supposed to repair to Greece for instruction in his early youth, and after making tne tour of her republics, colonies, and islands, to return to his native country and write this book in his old age, after the Macedonian hero had overturned the Persian empire. In the manner of modern travellers, lie gives an account of the customs, government, and antiquities of the country he is supposed to have visited ; a copious introduction supplies whatever may be wanting in respect to historical details ; whilst various dissertations on the music of the Greeks, on the literature of the Athenians, and on the economy, pursuits, ruling passions, man• ners, and customs, of the surrounding states, supply ample information on the subjects of which they treat. The author, indeed, is not profound ; and the young Scythian seldom penetrates much below the surface. But his remarks are commonly judicious, and to considerable erudition he unites singular skill in the distribution of his materials, and a happy talent for presenting his subject in the most agreeable and attractive form. The assumed character is so admirably sustained throughout, that we can scarcely persuade ourselves we are not perusing a book of real travels, and communing with an actual personage who has recorded his observations and experience for the instruction and improvement of his countrymen. Modern scholarship has superseded most of the details in the Voyage, but the author himself did not imagine his book to be a register of accurately ascertained facts ; he rather intended to afford to his countrymen, in an interesting form, some knowledge of Greek civilization. The Charieles of Becker is a more recent attempt in a similar direction, but, though superior in scholarship, it wants the charm of style which is the principal quality in the Anacharsis.