Bernard, Peter Joseph

, a French poet, was the son of a sculptor at Grenoble in Dauphine, and born in 1710. Being sent to the college of Jesuits at Lyons, he made rapid progress under able masters, who were desirous of attaching him to their body but the young scholar, too fond of liberty and pleasure, would not consent to that Confinement. Being drawn to Paris by the wish to make a figure in the poetical world, he was obliged to employ himself for two years as clerk to a notary. The light pieces of | poetry he sent abroad at intervals, of which the best are the epistle to Claudine, and the song of the Rose, procured him a patron in the marquis de Pezay, who took him with him to the campaign of Italy. Bernard was at the battles of Parma and Guastalla and behaved with considerable bravery. Being presented to the marechal de Coigni, who commanded there, he was lucky enough to please him by his wit and agreeable manners. The marechal took him to be his secretary, admitted him to his intimacy, and some time afterwards procured him the place of secretarygeneral of the dragoons. From gratitude he attached himself constantly to this Maecenas, till 1756, when he was deprived of him by death. He was in great request in all the select companies of the court and of Paris; whom he delighted by the brilliant wit, and warmth of his verses and airs, of which some are worthy of Anacreon. In 1771 the sudden loss of his memory put an end to his happiness, and he fell into a state of mental imbecillity. In this condition he went to a revival of his opera of Castor, and was incessantly asking, “Is the king come Is the king pleased with it Is madame de Pompadour pleased with it” thinking he was all the while at Versailles and rioting in the delirium of a courtly poet. He died in this unhappy state, Nov. 1, 1775. Besides his lighter pieces of poetry, which got him the appellation of le gentil Bernard, several operas added much to his reputation. In 1803 an edition of his works was published in 2 vols. 8vo, and 4 vols. 18mo, comprehending several pieces not before published; but upon the whole, according to the opinion of his countrymen, his talents were not of the first order, and his popularity appears to have been owing more to his gratifying the passions than the taste of his companions and readers. 1


Dict. Hist. Biog. Universelle.