Hue 1', Fierre Daniel
time bochart huet origen
HUE 1', FIERRE DANIEL (I630 - 1721), bishop of Avranches, is the last of those encyclopmdic and massive scholars of whom France produced so many. He left no successor to his omnivorous learning, prodigious memory, and indomitable energy. He was born at Caen of a family formerly Huguenot. He lost both father and mother while still a child, and was brought up by his aunt, wife of the mathematician Gilles Mach, to whom he owed his respect for science. He says himself that the ardour of study did not possess him in earliest until in early manhood he was reading the Geographie Sacree of Bochart, and suddenly became intoxicated with the desire of becoming a scholar. It may be remarked dint a youth who was not already studious would hardly be reading such a book. However, the statement means that he began about that time to study not in earnest only but with passion and fury. In Hebrew alone so great was his industry that he read through the Old Testament in the original no less than four-and-twenty times during Ids life. At the age of twenty lie had already achieved a reputation as one of the most promising scholars of the time. He went at the age of twenty-one to Paris, where he formed a friendship with Gabriel Naude, conservator of the Mazarin library. In the following year Bochart, being invited by Queen Christina to her court at Stockholm, took his friend Huet with him. This journey, in which he saw Leyden, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen, as well as Stockholm, resulted chiefly in the discovery of souse fragments of Origen's Commentary on St Matthew, which gave Huet the idea of editing Origen. On his return to France be assisted at the foundation of the academy of Caen, and shortly afterwards quarrelled with his friend Bochart, who accused him of having suppressed a line in Origen in the Eucharistic controversy, Shortly afterwards lie removed to Paris, where he entered into close relations with Chapelain. At this time arose the famous dispute of Ancients and Moderns. Huet took the side of the Ancients against Charles Perrault and Desmarets. Among his friends at this period were Corrart and Pellis son. His taste for mathematics led him to the study of astronomy, and in 1672 he founded the Academy of Science at Caen. He next turned his attention to anatomy, and, being himself shortsighted, devoted his inquiries mainly to the question of vision and the formation of the eye. In this pursuit lie made more than 800 dissections. He then learned all that was then to be learned in chemistry, and wrote a Latin poem on salt. All this time he was no mere book-worm or recluse, but was haunting the salons of Mlle. de Seudery and the studios of painters ; nor did his scientific researches interfere with his classical studies, for during this time he was discussing with Bochart the origin of certain medals, and was learning Syriac andArabic under the Jesuit Parvillieis. Nor did he neglect the lighter walks of letters. He translated the pastorals of Longus, wrote a tale called Diane de Castro, and defended in a treatise on the origin of romance the reading of fiction. Then, being appointed assistant tutor to the Dauphin, he edited with the assistance of Anne Lefevre, afterwards Madame Dacicr, the well-known edition of the classics ad mans Delphini. He also continued to work upon Ids edition of Origen, and issued one of his greatest works, the Demonstration Erasegelique. It was at the age of forty-six that he took orders, a step which lie had contemplated for some years. Two years later the king gave him the abbey of Aunay, where he wrote Ids Questions d'ilassay, SUP Caccord de let Foi et de lee liaison, his Critique de. la Philosophic, de Descartes, his i(emoires pour scrvir a l'Histoire day Cartesianisme, his dissertation on the site of the terrestrial paradise, and his discussion with Boileau on the Sublime. In 1685 lie was made bishop of Soissons, but after waiting for installation for four years lie took the bishopric of Avranches instead. He exchanged the cares of his bishopric for what he thought would be the easier chair of the Abbey of Fontenay, hut there lie was vexed with continual law suits. At length he retired to the Jesuits' House in the Rue Saint Antoine at Paris, where he ended his days, in 1721, amidst incessant labours maintained to the end, at the age of ninety-one. His great library and manuscripts, after being bequeathed to the Jesuits, were bought by the king for the royal library.
It is impossible here to enter upon an estimate of the place in philosophy, literature, and scholarship now occupied by this remarkable and omnivorous student. It has been disputed whether a writer who could so strenuously ad vocate the claim of philosophy could have been at the same time an orthodox believer. Perhaps like many other men Huet separated his creed from his philosophy, and while he argued on Descartes forgot that he was a bishop. In the Thetiana will be found the most ready materials for arriving at an idea of his prodigious labours, exact memory, and wide scholarship. His own autobiography, found in his Consinentarius de rebus ad 01111 pertinentit us, was translated into English by Dr Aiken in 1726. It remains to be said that he owed the preservation of his faculties to extreme old' age, and perhaps the prolongation of his life, to the rigid observance of a spare diet which he began at the age of forty, dining moderately, and taking no other supper than a little bouillon.