Hospital, Michel De L'

, chancellor of France, and one of the most liberal-minded men of his time, was the son of a physician, and born at Aigneperse in Auvergne, in 1505. His father sent him to study in the most celebrated universities of France and Italy, where he distinguished himself at once by his genius for literature, and for business. Having diligently studied jurisprudence, he was quickly advanced to very honourable posts; being successively auditor of the congregation called the congregation of Rota at Rome, and counsellor in the parliament of Paris, which he held during twelve years. He has described in one of his poems his habits of life during this time. He rose at a very early hour, and in the autumnal, winter, and spring sessions, was often in the court of justice before day-break, and reluctantly rose from his seat, when the beadle, at ten o’clock (the hour of dinner) announced the breaking up of the court. He says, that he made it a rule to listen to all with patience, to interrupt no one, to express himself as concisely as possible, and to oppose unnecessary delays. He mentions, with evident satisfaction, the joy which he felt when the vacations allowed him to quit Paris, and breathe in the country. The cares of magistracy he then banished wholly from his thoughts, and endeavoured, by harmless relaxation, to enable himself, on his return to the discharge of his functions, to resume them with fresh vigour. “But,” says he, “there is nothing frivolous in my amusements; sometimes Xenophon is the companion of my walks; sometimes the divine Plato regales me with the discourses of Socrates. History and poetry have their turns; but my chief delight is in the sacred writings: what comfort, what holy calm, does the meditation of them confer!| L‘Hospital was then appointed by Henry II. to be his ambassador at the council of Trent, which was sitting at Bologna, By his own desire, he was soon recalled from that honourable employment, and on his return experienced, at first, some coldness from the court, but was soon restored to the royal favour, and appointed master of the requests. In the beginning of If 54- he was made superintendent of the royal finances in France. His merits in this post were of the most singular and exalted kind. By a severe ceconomy, he laboured to restore the royal treasure, exhausted by the prodigality of the king, Henry II. and the dishonest avarice of his favourites; he defied the enmity of those whose profits he destroyed, and was himself so rigidly disinterested, that after five or six years’ continuance in this place, he was unable to give a portion to his^daughter, and the deficiency was supplied by the liberality of the sovereign. On the death of Henry, in 1549, the cardinal of Lorraine,then at the head of affairs, introduced l’Hospital into the council of state. Hence he was removed by Margaret of Valois, who took him into Savoy, as her chancellor. But the confusions of France soon made it necessaryto recal a man of such firmness and undaunted integrity. In the midst of faction and fury, he was advanced to the high office of chancellor of that kingdom, where he maintained his, post, like a philosopher who was superior.‘to fear, or any species of weakness. At the breaking out of the conspiracy of Amboice, in 1560, and on all other occasions, he was the advocate for mercy and reconciliation; and by the edict of Romorantin, prevented the establishment of the inquisition in France. It was perhaps for reasons of this kind, and his general aversion to persecution for religion’s sake, that the violent Romanists ac>­cused him of being a concealed Protestant; forgetting that by such suspicions they paid the highest compliment to the spirit of Protestantism. The queen, Catherine of Medicis, who had contributed to the elevation of l’Hospital, being too violent to approve his pacific measures, ex-, eluded him from the council of war; on which he retired to his country- house at Vignay near Estampes. Some days after, when the seals were demanded of him, he resigned them without regret, saying, that “the affairs of the world were too corrupt for him to meddle with them.” In lettered ease, amusing himself with Latin poetry, and a select society of friends“, he truly enjoyed his retreat, till his | happiness was interrupted by the atrocious day of St. Bartholomew, in 1572. Of this disgraceful massacre,- he thought as posterity has thought but, though his friends conceived it probable that he might be included in the proscription, ha disdained to seek his safety by flight. So firm was he, that when a party of horsemen actually advanced to his house, though without orders, for the horrid purpose of murdering him, he refused to close his gates” If the small one,“said he,” will not admit them, throw open the large“and he was preserved only by the arrival of another party, with express orders from the king to declare that he was not among the proscribed. The persons who made the lists, it was added, pardoned him the opposition he had always made to their projects.I did not know,“said he coldly, without any change of countenance,” that I had done any thing to deserve either death or pardon." His motto is said to have been,

Si fractus illabatur orbis

Impavidum ferient ruinae,

and certainly no person ever had a better right to assume that sublime device. This excellent magistrate, and truly, great man, died March 13, 1573, at the age of 68 years. “L‘ Hospital,” says Brantome, “was the greatest, worthiest, and most learned chancellor, that was ever known in France. His large white beard, pale countenance, austere manner, made all who saw him think they beheld a true portrait of St. Jerome, and he was called St. Jerome by the courtiers. All orders of men feared him; particularly the members of the courts of justice; and, when he examined them on their lives, their discharge of their duties, their capacities, or their knowledge, and particularly when he examined candidates for offices, and found them deficient, he made them feel it. He was profoundly vesrsed in polite learning, very eloquent, and an excellent pbdt^ His severity was never ill-naturec! he made due aHbwance” for the imperfections of human nature was always equtil ‘ and always firm. After his death his Vety enemies acknowledged that he was the greatest magistrate whom France had known, and that they did not ’expect to see such another.“There are extant by him, 1.” Latin Poems/’ Their unpretending simplicity is their greatest merit; but they shew such real dignity of character, they breathe sc* pure a spirit of virtue, and are full of such excellent sentiments of public and private worth, that they will always | be read with pleasure. 2. “Speeches delivered in the meeting of the States at Orleans.” As an orator he shines much less than as a poet. 3. “Memoirs, containing Treaties of Peace,” &c. &c. It is said that he had also projected a history of his own time in Latin, but this he did not execute. The best edition of his poems is that of Amsterdam, 1732, 8vo. He left only one child, a daughter, married to Robert Hurault, whose children added the name of l‘Hospital to that of their father; hut the male line of this family also was extinct in 1706. Nevertheless, the memory of the chancellor has received the highest honours within a few years of the present time. In 1777, Louis XVI. erected a statue of white marble to him, and in the same year he was proposed by the French academy for the subject of an eloge. M. Guibert and the abbe Remi contended for the prize. It was adjudged to the latter, who did not, however, print his work; M. Guibert was less prudent, but his eloge gave little satisfaction. The celebrated Condorcet afterwards entered the lists, but with equal want of success. Such fastidiousness of public opinion showed the high veneration entertained for the character of L’ Hospital. In 1807, M. Bernardi published his “Essai sur la Vie, les Ecrits, et les Loix de Michel de L’Hospital,” in one vol. 8vo, a work written with taste and judgment; from these and other documents, Charles Butler, esq. has lately published an elegant “Essay on the Life” of L’Hospital, principally with a view to exhibit him as a friend to toleration. 1


Gen. Dict. —Moreri. Butler’s Life, —Saxii Onomast.