paris time french letters
PASQUIER, ETIENNE (1529-1615), one of the glories; of the French bar, and one of not the least remarkable men of letters of the 16th century, was born at Paris on the 7th June 1529 by his own account, according to others a year earlier. Nothing is known of his family, and hardly anything of his youth, but he seems to have inherited a small property at Chlitelet in the district of 13rie. He certainly studied law early, and in 1547 was a pupil of the famous Cujas at Toulouse. Thence, like many of his contemporaries, he went to finish his studies in Italy. He was called to the Paris bar in November 154-9, having not yet (or at most barely) reached his majority. He practised diligently and with success, but by no means neglected literature. Some of his work both at this time a.nd later is light and almost frivolous. A treatise on love, the Mono-phile, appeared in 1554, and not a few similar publica-tions followed it, one of them, the 0i-dotal/tuxes (rifintrur, being somewhat Rabelaisian in character. Pasquier, how-ever, though not a, stoic, was a man of perfectly regular life, and he married early ; his wife, who was of his OWII age, affluent, and, it is said, handsome, being a widow for whom he had gained a lawsuit. The next year he bad the misfortune to eat some poisonous mushrooms and very nearly died of them ; inde,ed he did not recover fully for two years. This lost him his practice for the time, and lie again betook himself to general literature, publishing in 1560 the first book of his great work the Recherches (le la France. Before very long, hoNs-ever, clients once more came to him, and in 1565, when he was thirty-seven, his fame was established by a great speech still extant, in which he pleaded the cause of the university of Paris against the Jesuits, and won it. Ile was thenceforward constantly employed in the most important cases of the day, and his speeches, many of which we possess, displayed a polished eloquence which was new in his time. 13ut he did not neglect general literature, pursuing the Recherclas steadily, and publishing from time to time much miscellan-eous work. His literary and his legal occupations coin-cided in a curious fashion at the Grands Jours of Poitiers in 1579. These Grand Jours (an institution which fell into desuetude at the end of the 17th century, with bad effects on the social and political welfare of the French provinces) were a kind of irregular assize in which a com-mission of the parlement of Paris, selected and despatched at short notice by the king, had full power to hear and determine all causes, especially those in which seignorial rights had been abused. At the Grands Jours of Poitiers of the date mentioned, and at those of Troyes in 1583, Pasquier officiated; ancl each occasion has left a curious literary memorial of the kind of high jinks with which he and his colleagues relieved their graver duties. The Poitiers work was the celebrated collection of poems on a flea, of which English readers may find a full account in Southey's Doctor. Up to this time Pasquier had held no regular office except the lieutenant-generalship of Cognac, where his wife had property ; but in 1535 Henry III. made him advocate-general at the Paris Cours des Comptes, an important body having political as well as financial and legal functions. Pasquier distinguished himself here particularly by opposing, sometimes successfully, the mis-chievous system of selling hereditary places and offices, which more perhaps than any single thing was the curse of the older French monarchy. He was present at the famous States of Blois, where Guise was assassinated, and he met Montaigne there. The civil wars brought him much personal sorrow. His wife and children had remained in Paris much harassed by the Leaguers ; Madame Pasqttier was even imprisoned, and, though she regained her liberty, she died shortly afterwards, in 1590. Her youngest son was killed fighting on tbe royalist side tbe year before. For some years Pasquier lived at Tours, working steadily at his great book, but lie returned to Paris in IIenry IV.'s train on the 22d .March 1594. He continued until 1604 at his work in the Ohm-Are des Comptes ; then he retired. Ile survived this retirement more than ten years, produc-ing much literary work, and died after a few hours' illness on September 1, 1615, at the age of at least eighty-six.
In so long and so laborious a life Pasquier's work was naturally considerable, and it has never been fully collected or indeed printed. The standard edition is that of Amsterdam, 1723, 2 vols. folio. 13nt for ordinary readers the selections of DI. L4on Feugere, pub-lished at Paris in 2 vols. 8vo, 1849, with an elaborate introduction, are most accessible. As a poet, though very far from contemptible, Pasquier is chiefly interesting as a minor member or the Pleiade movement. As a prose writer he is of much more account. The three chief divisions of his prose work are his Recherches, his letters, and his professional speeches. All are of much value as important documents in the history of the progress of French style. The Recherches and the letters have a. value independent of this. The letters are of much biographical interest and historical importance, and the Recherches contain in a somewhat miscellaneous fashion invaluable information on a v'ast variety of subjects, literary, political, antiquarian, and other.