Burette, Peter John

, born at Paris in 1665, was the son of a surgeon, who, not being very prosperous in his practice, had recourse for his support to music; and first performed, professionally, at Lyons; and afterwards went to Paris and played on the harp to Louis XIV. who was much pleased with his performance. His son, Peter John, was so sickly and feeble during infancy, that he passed almost his whole youth in amusing himself on the spinet, and in the study of music; but he had so strong a | passion for this instrument, that he had scarcely arrived at his ninth year when he was heard at court, accompanied by his father on the harp. Two years after, the king heard him again, when he performed a duet with his father on the harp, and at eleven years of age he assisted him in giving lessons to his scholars. His taste for music, however, did not extinguish his passion for other sciences. He taught himself Latin and Greek with little assistance from others; and the study of these languages inclined him to medical inquiries. At eighteen years old he attended, for the first time, the public schools, went through a course of philosophy, and took lessons in the schools of medicine. And even during this time he learned Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, German, and English, sufficiently to understand them in books. He was at length admitted of the faculty at Paris, and practised with reputation during thirty-three years. In 1705, he was received into the academy of belleslettres, and in 1706 he had a considerable share in the publication of the “Journal des Scavans,” at which he laboured more than thirty years. In 1718, he had an appointment in the royal library. The public are obliged to the abbe Fraguier for the learned dissertation which M. Burette produced on the music of the ancients. This learned abbe, supposing that the Greeks applied the same sense to the word harmony, as is given to it by the moderns, and that, consequently, they knew counterpoint, or music in parts, Burette proved that he was mistaken, and that the ancients meant no more by the term harmony, than we do by proportion. He demonstrated, that the Greeks practised no other simultaneous consonances than unisons and octaves. This learned and indefatigable inquirer after the music of the ancient Greeks, was seized, in 1745, with a paralytic affection, and after languishing during during the whole year 1746, he died in 1747, at eighty-two. His library, consisting of 15,000 volumes, was composed of the most curious and well-chosen books that could be procured in all languages. He has supplied the Memoires of the Acad. des inscrip. et belles-lettres with dissertations on the dancing of the ancients, on play or gaming, on single combat, and on horse-racing, and enriched these memoirs with a translation of Plutarch’s treatise on music, with notes and remarks. He must be allowed, oil every subject concerning ancient music, the | merit of great diligence and learning; but he does not seem always to have been possessed of an equal share of sagacity, or with courage sufficient to confess himself unable to explain inexplicable passages in his author. He never sees a difficulty; he explains all. Hence, amidst great erudition, and knowledge of antiquity, there are a thousand unintelligible explanations in his notes upon Phrtarch. 1


Moreri.—Burney and Hawkins’s Hist. of Music.—Rees’s Cyclopædia.