Calmet, Augustine

, a learned Benedictine of the college of St. Vanncs, was born at Mesnil-la-Horgue, near Commercy, Feb. 26, 1672, and was first educated in the priory of Breuii. In 1687 he went to study at the | university of Pont-a-Mousson, where he was taught a course of rhetoric. On leaving this class, he entered among the Benedictines in the abbey of St. Mansuy, in the fauxbourg of Toul, Oct. 17, 1688, and mad,e profession in the same place Oct. 23, 1689. He began his philosophical course in the abbey of fcfe. Evre, and completed that and his theological studies in the abbey of St. Munster. At his leisure hours he studied the Hebrew language with great attention and success, and likewise improved his knowledge of the Greek. In 1696 he was sent with some of his companions to the abbey of Moyenmoutier, where they studied the Holy Scriptures under P. D. Hyacinthe Alliot. Two years aftef, in 1698, Calmet was appointed to teach philosophy and theology to the young religious of that monastery, an employment which he filled until 1704, when he was sent, with the rank of sub-prior, to the abbey of Munster. There he was at the head of an academy of eight or ten religious, with whom he pursued his biblical studies, and having, while at Moyenmoutier written commentaries and dissertations, on various parts of the Bible, he here retouched and improved these, although without any other design, at this time, than his own instruction. During a visit, however, at Paris, in 1706, he was advised by the abbe Duguet, to whom he had been recommended by Mabillon, to publish his commentaries in French, and the first volume accordingly appeared in 1707. In 1715 he became prior of Lay, and in 1718 the chapter-general appointed bim abb 6 of St. Leopold, of Nancy, and the year following he was made visitor of the congregation. In 1728 he was chosen abbe* of Senones, on which occasion he resigned his priory of Lay. When pope Benedict XIII. confirmed his election, the cardinals proposed to his holiness that Calmet should also have the title of bishop in partibus infiddium, with power to exercise the episcopal functions in those parts of the province which are exempt from the jurisdiction of the ordinary; but this Calmet refused, and wrote on the subject to Rome. The pope in Sept. 1729, addressed a brief to him, accepting of his excuses, and some time after sent him a present of his works, in 3 vols. fol. Calmet took possession of the abbey of Senones, January 3, 1729, and continued his studies, and increased the library and museum belonging to the abbey with several valuable purchases, particularly of the medals of the deceased M. de Corberon, secretary of slate, and of the | natural curiosities of M, Voile. Here be died Oct. 25, 1757, respected by all ranks, Roman catholics and Protestants, for his learning and candour, and by his more particular friends and those of his own order, for his amiable temper and personal virtues. His learning, indeed, was most extensive, as the greater part of his long life was devoted to study, but amidst such vast accumulation of materials, we are not surprized that he was sometimes deficient in selection, and appears rather as a collector of facts, than as an original thinker. His principal works are, 1. “Commentaire litteral sur tous les livres de l’Aneten et da Nouyeau Testament,1707 1716, 23 vols. 4to; reprinted in 26 vols. 4to, and fol. and abridged in 14 vols. 4to. Rondet published a new edition of this abridgment in 17 vols. 4to, Avignon, 1767 1773. M. Fourmont, Arabic professor in the royal college, had begun an attack on this commentary, because Calmet had not, as he thought, paid sufficient respect to the rabbins, but the king (Louis XIV.) and the cardinal de Noailles obliged him to desist. The celebrated father Simon wrote some letters against Calmet, which were communicated to him by Pinsonnat, the Hebrew professor, who did not approve of them, nor did Anquetille, the librarian of Tellier, archbishop of Rheims, nor were they published until eighteen or twenty years afterwards, and even then the censors expunged many illiberal passages respecting Calmet. 2. The “Dissertations and Prefaces” belonging to his commentary, published separately with nineteen new Dissertations, Paris, 1720, 2 vols. 4to. 3. “Histoire de PAncien et du Nouveau Testament,” intended as an introduction to Fleury’s “Ecclesiastical History,” 2 and 4 vols. 4to; and 5 and 7 vols. 12mo. 4. “Dictionnaire historique, critique, et chronologique de la Bible.Paris, 1730, 4 vols. fol. This work, which is a valuable treasure of sacred history and criticism, was soon made known to the English public by a translation, in 3 vols. fol. London, 1732, by Sam.D’Oyly, M. A. vicar of St. Nicholas, Rochester, and John Colson, F. R. S. vicar of Chalk, in Kent, a work elegantly printed and embellished with a profusion of fine engravings. A new edition appeared in 17^5, 4to, with valuable additions from subsequent critics, travellers, and philosophers. 5. “Histoire ecclesiasiique et civile de la Lorraine,” 3 vols. fol. reprinted 1745, in 5 vols. fol. 6. “Bibliotheque des Ecrivains de Lorraine,” fol, 1751. 7. “Histoire | universelle sacrée et profane,” 15 vols. 4to. This Calmet did not live to finish, and in other respects it is not his best work. 7. “Dissertations sur les apparitions des Anges, des Demons, et des Esprits, et sur les Revenans et Vampires de Hongrie,Paris, 1746, 12mo, and Einfidlen, 1749, 12mo, a work, say the French critics, in which there are many symptoms of old age, and its credulous weaknesses. It was however translated and published in English in 1759, 8vo. The author admits the reality of apparitions, on the authority of the scriptures, but discredits many of the miraculous stories concerning them to which his own church has given currency. 9. f Commentaire litteral, historique, et moral, sur la Regie de St. Benoit,“1754, 2 vols. 4to. 10.” De la Poesie et Musique des anciens Hebreux," Amst. 1723, 8vo. His conjectures on this subject, Dr. Burney thinks, are perhaps as probable as those of any one of the numerous authors who have exercised their skill in expounding and defining what some have long since thought involved in Cimmerian darkness. Calmet also left a vast number of manuscripts, or rather manuscript collections, as it had long been his practice to copy, or employ others to copy, whatever he found curious in books. In 1733, he deposited in the royal library, a correct transcript of the Vedam, a work which the natives of Hiudostan attribute to their legislator Brama, who received it, according to their tradition, from God himself. This copy came into Calmet' s possession by means of a bramin who had been converted by the Jesuit missionaries. Calmet’s life was written by Dom Fange, his nephew and successor in the abbey of Senones, and published in 8vo. It was afterwards translated into Italian by Benedetto Passionei, and published at Rome in 1770. 1