poet satires desportes latter death france
REGNIER, MATHURIN (1573-1613), the greatest satirist of France, was born at Chartres on the 21st December 1573. His father, Jacques Regnier, was a bourgeois of goad means and position ; his mother, Simonne Desportes, was the sister of the poetical Abbe Desportes, one of the most distinguished of the disciples of Ronsard. Desportes, who was richly beneficed and in great favour at court, seems to have been regarded at once as Mathurin Regnier's natural protector and patron, and the boy himself, with a view to his following in his uncle's steps, was tonsured at nine years old. It appears that Jacques Regnier, any rate for a time, encouraged his son to imitate his uncle in poetry also, though he afterwards changed his views. The boy was somewhat early introduced to general society of the jovial kind, for his father built a tennis court at the end of his garden which became semi-public and was much frequented. The poet's enemies said that his father had been a common gaming-house keeper, and that the court was built with the ruins of some church property ; but this seems to be mere scandal. Little is known of his youth, and it is chiefly conjecture which fixes the date of his visit to Italy in the suite of the Cardinal de Joyeuse in 1586. Others give 1583 and 1593, but the former date is certainly too early, and the latter pro-bably too late. Indeed the greatest uncertainty exists as to the dates and incidents of Regnier's short life, and his biographers hitherto have chiefly busied themselves in upsetting each others' facts without supplying fresh details of an authentic character. It is commonly said that the poet, finding Joyeuse an inactive or unwilling patron, trans-ferred his services to Philippe do Bethune, Sully's brother, who went as ambassador t,o Rome in 1601 ; but this seems doubtful, for one of the very few positive documents con-cerning Regnicr speaks of him as still in Joyeuse's service a year later. 1Vhat is generally certain is that during the greaer part of his youth he lived partly in Paris and partly in Italy, after a somewhat idle and very dissipated fa.shion. He early began the practice of satirical writing, and the enmity which existed between his uncle Desportes and the poet Malherbe gave him occasion to attack the latter in some of his very best verses. It has been generally said that Regnier obtained full possession of a canonry at Chartres, to the reversion of which he had been appointed when a child, in 1604, and a singular legend is told of the immediate circumstances ; but the formal registry of admission signed by himself is extant, and is dated 1609, a further instance of the uncertainty which prevails respecting him. In 1606 Desportes died, leaving nothing to Regnier, though they seem to have been on excellent terms to the last. The poet was even disappointed of the succession to Desportes's abbacies, but he obtained a pension (the amount as usual variously stated at 2000 and 6000 livres) chargeable upon one of them, by the influence of the Marquis de Cceuvres, afterwards Marechal d'Estrees, the brother of Henry IV.'s Gabrielle. He also became a great favourite with his bishop, Philippe Hurault, at whose abbacy of Royaumont Regnier spent much time in the later years of his life. On the other hand the death of Henry IV. deprived him of his last hope of great preferments, and appears to have considerably soured his temper. Ile did not long survive the kinrr. His life had always been one of dissipation, or, to speak fcrankly, debauchery, and in the autumn of 1613 he went to Rouen to put himself under the care of a quack doctor. An apparent cure was followed by a feast at which the patient drank his physician's health too freely in strong Spanish wine, and died of pleurisy or fever at his hotel, the Erni d'OrMans on the 13th October. His body was disembowelled and' the entrails deposited in the parish church, that of St 3iarie Mineure, the other remains being carried to Royaumont and buried there.
Such is the meagre amount of positive knowledge respecting one of the greatest poets of France. Nor can it be said that Regrtier's literary history is quite accurately ascertained, though it is less dubious than his personal. The period immediately preceding and following his death was a period of numerous collections of licentious and satirical poems, some published, some still remaining in manuscript. Gathered from these there has been a floatine- mass of epigrams, Ice., attributed to Regnier, few of which are cePtainly authentic, and most of which do no particular credit to his memory. On these editors of his works have exercised freely the tight of acceptance or rejection, so that it is very rare to find two editions of Regnier which exactly agree in contents. His acknowledged or undoubted work, however, is that on which his fame rests, and it falls into three classes : - regular satires in alexandrine couplets, serious poems in various metres, and satirical or jocular epigrams and light pieces, which often, if not alway s, exhibit considerable. licence of language. This latter class is, however, much the least important in every way. The real greatness of Regnier consists in the vigour and polish of his satires, contrasted and heightened as that vigour is with the exquisite feeling and melancholy music of some of his minor poems. In the latter Regnier is a disciple of Ronsard (whom he defended brilliantly ag,ainst Malherbe), without the occasional pedantry, the affectation, or the undue fluency of the Pleiade but in the satires ho had hardly any master (Vauquelin de la iresnaye and Agrippa d'Aubigne, who preceded him in point of composition, did not publish their satires until later) except tho ancients. He has sometimes followed Horace closely, but always in an entirely original spirit. Ms vocabulary is varied and picturesque, but is not marred by the maladroit classicism of some of the Ronsardists. His verse is extraordinarily forcible and nervous, but what distinguishes him especially from most satirists is the way in which he gets the better of' what may be called the commonplaces of satire, and to a great extent at any rate avoids the tendency of all Freneli poetry to run into types. IIis keen and accurate knowledge of human nature and even. his purely literary qualities extorted the admiration of Boileau - usually the severest of critics in regard to all poets of the preceding age except 3Ialherbe. Regnier, moreover, in respect of :dallied° has himself displayed remarkable independence and acuteness of literary criticism, and the famous passage in which he satirizes the poet of Caen contains the best denunciation of the merely " correct" theory of poetry that has ever been written. I.astly, Regnier had a most unusual descriptive faculty, and the vividness of what may be called his narrative satires was not approached in France for at least two centuries after his death. his merits are displayed in the masterpiece entitled Macette oic deconeertee, but hardly any one of the sixteen satires which he has left falls below even a very high standard. In general it may be said that Regnicr is the last poet who shows the poetic faculties of the French tongue before the classical reforms of the 17th. century had cramped and curtailed them, and that he shows these faculties in something like perfection.
The first edition of ilegnies satires appeared in 1608 published ly Gabriel Rao:). There was anottur NOD, and another in 1G12. The author had also eontributed to two eolleetion. - Les Muse) Gaillartles in 1C00 and Le Temple d'Apollon in 1611. In the year uf his death (1613) a eotnpleter collection BPPeared, and another in 161G. The chief editions of the 18th et ntury are that of nrosserte (1729), which supplies the standard commentary on Reg& r, and that of Lenglet Dufresnoy (1730. Recently the poet has been frequently and carefully reprinted. The editions of Prosper Polterin in 1860, of II. de Barthelemy in 18G2, and 0(31. Courbct 1875 may be specially mentioned. The last. ja into after the originals In Rae type, and well edited, Is perhaps the best, as M. de Burthelcmy'g is the inuest, of recent copies.