Duval, Valentine Jamerai

, a man of extraordinary talents, and who by their means was enabled to emerge from poverty and obscurity, was born in 1695 in the little | village of Artonay in Champagne. At the age rjf ten years he lost his father, a poor labourer, who left his wife poor, and burthened with children, at a time when war and famine desolated France. In this state Duval accustomed himself from his infancy to a rude life, and to the privation of almost every necessary. He had scarcely learned to read, when, at the age of twelve years, he entered into the service of a peasant of the same village, who appointed him to take care of his poultry, but at the commencement of the severe winter of 1709, he quitted his native place, and travelled towards Lorraine. After a few days journey he was seized by an excessive cold, and even attacked by the small-pox, but by the humane care of a poor shepherd in the environs of the village of Monglat, aided by the strength of his constitution, he recovered, and quitted his benefactor to continue his route as far as Clezantine, a village on the borders of Lorraine, where he entered into the service of another shepherd, with whom he remained two years; but taking a disgust to this kind of life, chance conducted him to the hermitage of La llochette, near Deneuvre. The hermit, known by the name of brother Palemon, received him, made him partake his rustic labours, and when obliged to resign his place to a hermit sent to brother Palemon by his superiors, he got a letter of recommendation to the hermits of St. Anne, at some distance from La Rochette, and a mile or two beyond Luneville, where he arrived in 1713, and was entrusted with the care of six cows. The hermits also taught him to write; and as he had a great ardour for books, he engaged in the business of the chase, and with the money he procured for his game, was already enabled to make a small collection of books, when an unexpected occasion furnished him with the means of adding to it some considerable works. Walking in the forest one day in autumn, he found a gold seal, with a triple face well engraved on it. He went the following Sunday to Luneville, to entreat the vicar to publish it in the church, that the owner might recover it by applying to him at the hermitage. Some weeks after, a Mr. Foster, or Forster, an Englishman, knocked at the gate of St. Anne’s, and inquired for his. seal. In the course of the conversation which passed between him and Duval, he was surprized to find that the latter had picked up some knowledge of heraldry, and being much pleased with his answers, gave him two guineas as a recompense. Desirous | of being better acquainted with this young lad, he made him promise to come and breakfast with him at Luneville every holiday. Duval kept his word, and received a crown-piece at every visit. This generosity of Mr. Foster continued during his abode at Luneville, and he added to it his advice respecting the choice of books and maps. The application of Duval, seconded by such a guide, could not fail of being attended with improvement, and he acquired a considerable share of various kind of knowledge.

Tin number of his books had gradually incivased to four hundred volumes, but his wardrobe continued the same. A coarse linen coat for summer, and a woollen one for winter, with his wooden shoes, constituted nearly the whole of it. His frequent visits at Luneville, the opulence and luxury that prevailed there, and the state of ease he began to feel, did not tempt him to quit his first simplicity; and he would have considered himself as guilty of robbery if he had spent a farthing of what was given him, or what he gained, for any other purpose than to satisfy his passion for study and books. Economical to excess as to all physical wants, and prodigal in whatever could contribute to his instruction and extend his knowledge, his privations gave him no pain. In proportion as his mind ripened, and the circle of his ideas enlarged, he began to reflect upon his abject state. He felt that he was not in his proper place; and he wished to change it. From this instant a secret inquietude haunted him in his retreat, accompanied him in the forest, and distracted him in the midst of his studies.

Seated one day at the foot of a tree, absorbed in his reflections, and surrounded by maps of geography, which he examined with the most eager attention, a gentleman suddenly approached him, and asked with an air of surprise what he was doing. “Studying geography,” said he. “And do you understand any thing of the subject r” “Most assuredly I never trouble myself about things I do not understand.” “And what place are you now seeking for?” “I am trying to find the most direct way to Quebec.” “For what purpose?” “That I might go there, and continue my studies in the university of that town.” < But why need you go for this purpose to the end of the world? There are universities nearer home, superior to that of Quebec; and if it will afTord you any pleasure, I will point them out to you." At this moment they were joined by a large retinue belonging to the young princes of Lorraine, who were hunting in the forest with | count Vidampiere and baron Pfutschner, their governors. A variety of questions were put to Duval, which he answered with equal precision and good sense, and without being out of countenance. In consequence of this interview, Leopold, duke of Lorraine, took him under his protection, and when he was brought to the court at Luneville, the duke received him in the midst of a numerous assembly, whom this singular event had collected. He answered every question that was put to him, without being confused, notwithstanding the novelty of the scene to him, and the important part he had to act; and the duke committed the care of his establishment at the college of Pont-a-Mousson to baron Pfutschner. Here his natural taste for study, added to his desire of answering the expectations of his illustrious patron, made him redouble his zeal. History, geography, and antiquities, were the studies he preferred, and in which his new guides were peculiarly qualified to assist him. He lived two years in this house; and the improvement he made was so great, that duke Leopold, as a recompense, and to give him an opportunity of still further progress, permitted him in 1718 to make a journey to Paris in his suite. On his return the next year the duke appointed him his librarian, and conferred on him the office of professor of history in the academy of Luneville.

He shortly after read public lectures on history and antiquities, which were attended with the greatest success, and frequented by a number of young Englishmen, among whom was the immortal Chatham. Duval, struck with the distinguished air, as well as with the manly and sonorous voice of this young man, predicted more than once a part of his fate. The generosity of DuvaPs pupils, added to his own economy, soon enahled him to shew his gratitude to the hermits of St. Anne. He formed the project of building a:iew this hermitage, the cradle of his fortune, and of consecrating to it all his savings. A handsome square buuding, with a chapel in the middle of it, and surrounded with a considerable quantity of land, consisting of a garden, an orchard, a vineyard, a nursery of the best fruit-trees, and some arable ground, were the result of this generous intention. His principles of beneficence and humanity led him to render this institution useful to the public. The hermits of St. Anne were ordered to furnish gratuitously, and at the distance of three leagues round, the produce of their nursery, and every kind of tree that | should be demanded of them, and to every person without exception. They were further obliged to go and plant them themselves, if it were required, without exacting any reward, or even taking refreshment, unless they found themselves at too great a distance from the hermitage to return to dinner.

Duval, occupied by his studies, and the inspection of the hermitage of St. Anne, had spent many years in perfect content, when an unexpected accident interrupted his felicity. Dnke Leopold died in 1738, and his son Francis exchanged the duchy of Lorraine for the grand duchy of Tuscany. King Stanislaus, the new possessor of Lorraine, used indeed the most urgent entreaties to prevail on Duval to continue in the office of professor in the academy of Luneville, but his attachment to his old patron would not permit him to listen to the proposal. He went to Florence, where he was placed at the head of the ducai library, which was transferred thither. Notwithstanding the charming climate of Italy, Lorraine, to which he had so many reasons to be attached, did not cease to be the object of his regret. His regret was considerably increased by his separation from the young duke Francis, who, on his marriage with the heiress of the house of Austria, was obliged of course to reside at Vienna. The science of medals, upon which Duval had already read lectures in Lorraine, became now his favourite amusement, and he was desirous of making a collection of ancient and modern coins. He was deeply engaged in this pursuit, when the emperor Francis, who had formed a similar design, sent for him, that he might have the care and management of the collection. In 1751 he was appointed sub-preceptor to the archduke Joseph, the late emperor; but he refused this office, and gave the reasons of his refusal in writing. He preserved, nevertheless, the friendship of their majesties, and continued to receive new proofs of it. He was, indeed, beloved by all the Imperial family; but, from his extreme modesty, he was scarcely acquainted with the personsof many individuals of it. The eldest archduchesses passing him one day without his appearing to know them, the king of the Romans, who was a little behind them, and who perceived his absence, asked him if he knew those ladies “No, sir,” said he ingenuously. “I do not at all wonder at it,” replied the prince; “it is because my sisters are not antiques.| His health being impaired by his close application to study, he was advised to take a journey to re-establish it. He returned into France, and arrived at Paris in 1752, where he found a number of persons who were desirous of shewing him civilities, and rendering his abode agreeable, particularly the abbé Lenglet du Fresnoy, M. du Fresne d’Aubigny, the abbe Barthelemi, M. de Bose, M. Duclos, and Madame de Graffigny. On his return he passed by Artonay, his native village, and purchased his paternal cottage, which one of his sisters had sold from indigence; and having caused, it to be pulled down, he built on the spot a solid and commodious house, which he made a present of to the community, for the abode of the schoolmaster of the village. His beneficence distinguished itself also in a hamlet situated near Artonay, where, finding that there were no wells, he had some dug at his own expence.

From his good constitution, hardened by fatigue, he lived to the age of seventy-nine years, without feeling the infirmities of old age. In his eightieth year he was all at once attacked with the gravel, which brought him to the brink of the grave. In this painful state his philosophy gave him a superiority over common minds: a prey to the most excruciating pains, his firmness and intrepidity were invincible, and he preserved all his presence of mind. By the cares, however, of the empress, his disorder took a favourable turn, and he was snatched from the arms of death; but in the following year he was seized with a fever, occasioned by indigestion, which weakened him every day, and put an end to his life Nov. 3, 1775. His works were published, with Memoirs of his Life, at Paris in 1784, 2 vols. 8vo. There was also an account of him published in the Mercure de France, 1735. 1


From a ms account of Duval, in which there is too much of the romantic for our purpose, See also —Dict. Hist.