port pascal school
NICOLE, PIERRE (1625-1695), one of the most distinguished of the Port-Royalists, a scholar of great excellence, and, according to Bayle (who had no particular reason for praising him), " one of the best writers in Europe," was born at Chartres in 1625. Like his friend Pascal he was a precocious boy, though his precocity showed itself in classics and in miscellaneous reading, not in mathematics, and it was when he was transferred from his native town to Paris to finish his education that the rising school of Port Royal fixed its attention upon him. At an early age he was made a master in the Port Royal school, where his special department was classical instruction, though he is said to have taken no small part in the famous Art de Penser or Port Royal logic. He shared in the history of the school, and with the exception of Arnauld and Pascal may be said to have been its most accomplished member. Not a little of the materials of the Provinciales is said to be due to him, and at the completion of Pascal's great work he translated it into Latin. One of the most virtuous men in France, he was a favourite of the notorious duchess of Longueville for politico-theological reasons, and he was the immediate master of Racine. This latter circumstance brought about an incident thoroughly discreditable to the dramatist. Nicole was the author of certain Lettres Mr its Visionnaires or a UM Visionnaire,-as they are most frequently cited. The actual title of the collected work is Les Imaginaires et its Visionnaires (1667). In these he had attacked Desmarets de Saint Sorlin, and with the excessive puritanism which characterized his sect had reflected on fiction and the drama generally. Racine, without a shadow of personal provocation, replied in two letters of great asperity, of which the first was actually published, and the second only delayed (it was published after its author's death) owing to the judicious counsel of Boileau. But Nicole made no reply, and indeed public opinion condemned Racine without hesitation. Nicole, who, owing to the theological disputes in which he was concerned, had never fully taken orders, and who had been compelled at one time to leave France, devoted himself in his later years chiefly to moral philosophy. The first • volume of his Essais de Morale appeared in 1671, and the rest of his life was chiefly occupied on this book, though he wrote many others. He was warmly admired by many of the best judges among his contemporaries, Madame de Sthrigne deserving especial mention, and numerous selections of his ethical works have appeared in recent times. Modern opinion hardly recognizes in Nicole the right to hold the place close to Pascal which his own time accorded to him. His style is clear, simple, and correct, but a little flat and monotonous • his thought sensible, just, and charitable, but somewhat destitute of depth, subtlety, and originality. He was certainly one of the best men of his time, but as certainly not one of the greatest ; and his reputation was due first to his scholarship, secondly to his moderation. He died of apoplexy, November 16, 1695, and had latterly somewhat separated himself from the Jansenists. Numerous stories are told of his personal timidity and unreadiness in oral argument. It does not appear that his works (by far the most important of which is the already-mentioned Essais de Morale, Paris, 1671, sq.) were ever collected.