Duclos, Charles Dineau

, born at Dinant in Bretagne, about the close of 1705, the son of a hatter, received a distinguished education at Paris. His taste for literature obtained him admission to the most celebrated academies of the metropolis, of the provinces, and of foreign countries. Being chosen to succeed Mirabaud, as perpetual secretary of the French academy, he filled that post as a man who was fond of literature, and had the talent of procuring it respect. Though domesticated at Paris, he was appointed in 1744 mayor of Dinant; and in 1755 had a patent of nobility granted him by the king, in reward for the zeal which the states of Bretagne had shewn for the service of the country. That province having received orders to point out such subjects as were most deserving of the favours of the monarch, Duclos was unanimously named by the tiers-6tat. He died at Paris, March 26, 1772, with the title of historiographer of France. His conversation was at once agreeable, instructive and lively. He reflected deeply, and expressed his thoughts with, | energy, and illustrated them by well selected anecdotes. Lively and impetuous by nature, he was frequently the severe censor of pretensions that had no foundation. But age, experience, intercourse with society, a great fund of good sense, at length taught him to restrict to mankind in general those hard truths which never fail to displease individuals. His austere probity, from whence proceeded that bluntness for which he was blamed in company, his beneficence, and his other virtues, gave him a right to the public esteem. “Few persons,” says M. le prince de Beauvau, “better knew the duties and the value of friendship. He would boldly serve his friends and neglected merit on such occasions he displayed an art which excited no distrust, and which would not have been expected in a man who his whole life long chose rather to shew the truth with force, than to insinuate it with address.” At first he was of the party which went under the name of the philosophers; but the excesses of its leader, and of some of his subalterns, rendered him somewhat more circumspect. Both in his conversation and in his writings he censured those presumptuous writers, who, under pretence of attacking superstition, undermine the foundations of morality, and weaken the bands of society. Once, speaking on this subjert, “these enthusiastic philosophers,” said he, “will proceed such lengths, as at last to make me devout.” Besides, he was too fond of his own peace and happiness to follow them in their extravagancies, and placed no great value on their friendship or good will. “Duclos est a la fois droit et adroit,” said one of his philosophical friends, and it was in consequence of this prudence, that he never would publish any tiling of what he wrote as historiographer of France. “Whenever I have been importuned,” said he, “to bring out some of my writings on the present reign, I have uniformly answered, that I was resolved neither to ruin myself by speaking truth, nor debase myself by tla tery. However, I do not the less discharge my duty. If I cannot speak to my contemporaries, I will shew the rising generation what their fathers were.” Indeed, we are told that he did compose the history of the reign of Lewis XV. and that after his death it was lodged in the hands of the minister. The preface to this work may be seen in the first vol. of the “Pieces inte>essantes” of M. de la Place. Duclos’s works consist of some romances, which have been much admired in. France; 1. “The Confessions | of count ***.” 2. “The baroness de Luz.” 3. “Memoirs concerning the Manners of the eighteenth Century;” each in 1 vol. 12mo. 4. <l Acajou;“in 4to and 12mo, with plates. In the Confessions he has given animation and action to what appeared rather dry and desultory in his” Considerations on the Manners.“Excepting two or three imaginary characters, more fantastical than real, the remainder seems to be the work of a master. The situations, indeed, are not so well unfolded as they might have been; the author has neglected the gradations, the shades; and the romance is not sufficiently dramatical. But the interesting story of madame de Selve proves that M. Duclos knew how to finish as well as to sketch. His other romances are inferior to the” Confessions.“The memoirs relating to the manners of the eighteenth century abound in just observations on a variety of subjects. Acajou is no more than a tale, rather of the grotesque species, but well written. 5.” The History of Lewis XI.“1745, 3 vols. 12mo; and the authorities, an additional volume, 1746, contain curious matter. The style is concise and elegant, but too abrupt and too epigrammatical. Taking Tacitus for his model, whom, by the way, he approaches at a veryhumble distance, he has been less solicitous about the exact and circumstantial particularization of facts, than their aggregate compass, and their influence on the manners, laws, customs, and revolutions of the state. Though his diction has been criticised, it must be confessed that his lively and accurate narration, perhaps at the same time rather dry, is yet more supportable than that ridiculous pomp of words which almost all the French authors have employed in a department where declamation and exaggeration are the greatest defects. 6.” Considerations on the Manners of the present Century,“12mo; a book replete with just maxims, accurate definitions, ingenious discussions, novel thoughts, and well-drawn characters, although the style is sometimes obscure, and there is here and there an affectation of novelty, in which a writer of consummate taste would not have indulged; but these defects are amply compensated by a zeal for truth, honour, probity, beneficence, and all the moral and social virtues. Lewis XV. said of this book,” It is the work of a worthy man.“7.” Remarks on the general Grammar of PortRoyal.“In these he shews himself a philosophical grammarian. 7.” Voyage en Italie,“1791, 8vo. This trip he | took in 1767 and 1768. 8.” Memoirs secrets sur les regnes de Louis XIV et Louis XV. 1791," 2 vols. 8vo, in which are many curious anecdotes and bold facts. He wrote also several dissertations in the Memoirs of the academy of belles-lettres, which contain much eruuiti Hi, qualified by the charms of wit, and ornamented by a diction clear, easy, correct, and always adapted to the subject. Duclos had a greater share than any other in the edition of 1762 of the Dictionary of the French Academy; in which his usual accuracy and judgment are everywhere apparent and he had begun a continuation of the history of that society. His whole works were collected for the first time, and printed at Paris in 1806, 10 vols. 8vo, with a life by M. Auger, and many pieces left by him in manuscript. This edition appears to have revived his fame in France, and made him be enrolled among her standard authors. 1