Lenglet Du Fresnoy, Nicholas

, a voluminous French writer, was born October 5, 1674, at Beauvais. He entered the Sorbonne, as a student, under M. Pirot, a celebrated doctor of that house; but, being convicted of having privately obtained from this gentleman’s bureau, some papers relative to what was then transacting in the Sorbonne, respecting Maria d’Agreda’s “Mystical city of God,” and having published, 1696, a “Letter addressed to Messieurs the Syndics and doctors in divinity of the faculty of Paris,” concerning this censure, M. Pirot expelled him. Lenglet then went to the seminary of St. Magloire, entered into sacred orders, and took his licentiate’s degree, 1703. He was sent to Lisle, 1705, by M. Torcey, minister for foreign affairs, as first secretary for the Latin and French languages, and with a charge to watch that the elector of Cologn’s ministers, who were then at Lisle, might do nothing against the king’s interest; and was also entrusted by the elector with the foreign correspondence of Brussels and Holland. When Lisle was taken in 1708, Lenglet obtained a safeguard for the elector of Cologn’s furniture and property from prince Eugene. Having made himself known to that prince through M. Hoendorf, he desired the latter to tell his highness, that he would give up the memoirs of the Intendants for fifty pistoles, which the prince sent him; but be wrote to M. Hoendorf eight days after, to say that the papers had been seized at his house by the minister’s order, and kept the money. He discovered a conspiracy formed by a captain at the gates of Mons, who had promised not only to deliver up that city, but also the electors of Cologn and Bavaria, who had retired thither, for a hundred thousand piastres. Lenglet was arrested at the Hague fur his “Memoirs sur la Collation des Canonicats de Tournay,” which he had published there, to exclude the disciples of Jansenius from this collation; but he obtained his liberty six weeks after, at prince Eugene’s solicitation. After his return to France, the prince de Cellemare’s conspiracy, which cardinal Albtjroni had planned, being discovered in Dec. 1718, he was chosen to find out the number and designs of the conspirators, which he did, after receiving a promise that none of those so discovered should be sentenced to death; this promise the court kept, and gave Lenglet a pension. In 1721, he went to Vienna, pretending to solicit the removal of M. Ernest, whom the Dutch had made dean of Tournay; | but having no orders from France for the journey, was arrested at Strasburgh on his return, and confined six months in prison. This disgrace the abbé Lenglet attributed to the celebrated Rousseau, whom he had seen at Vienna, and from whom he had received every possible service in that city; and thence originated his aversion to him, and the satire which he wrote against him, under the title of “Eloge historique de Rousseau, par Brossette,” which that friend of Rousseau’s disavowed, and the latter found means to have suppressed in Holland, where it had been printed, in 1731. Lenglet refused to attach himself to cardinal Passionei, who wished to have him at Rome, and, indeed, he was so far from deriving any advantage from the favourable circumstances he found himself in, or from the powerful patrons which he had acquired by his talents and services, that his life was one continued series of adventures and misfortunes. His passion was to write, think, act, and live, with a kind of cynical freedom; and though badly lodged, clothed, and fed, he was still satisfied, while at liberty to say and write what he pleased; which liberty, however, he carried to so great an extreme, and so strangely abused, that he was sent to the bastille ten or twelve times. Lenglet bore all this without murmuring, and no sooner found himself out of prison, than he laboured to deserve a fresh confinement. The bastille was become so familiar to him, that when Tapin (one of the life guards) who usually conducted him thither, entered his chamber, he did not wait to hear his commission, but began himself by saying, “Ah M. Tapin, good morning” then turning to the woman who waited upon him, cried, “Bring my little bundle of linen and snuff directly,” and followed M. Tapin with the utmost cheerfulness. This spirit of freedom and independence, and this rage for writing, never left him; he chose rather to work and live alone in a kind of garret, than reside with a rich sister, who was fond of him, and offered him a convenient apartment at her house in Paris, with the use of her table and servants. Lenglet would have enjoyed greater plenty in this situation, but every thing would have fatigued him, and he would have thought regularity in meals quite a slavery. Some have supposed that he studied chymistry, and endeavoured to discover the philosopher’s stone, to which operations he desired no witnesses. He owed his death to a melancholy accident; for going home about six in the evening, Jan. 15, 1755, after | having dined with his sister, he fell asleep, while reading a new book which had been sent him, and fell into the tire. The neighbours went to his assistance, but too late, his head being almost entirely burnt. He had attained the age of eighty-two. The abbé Lenglet’s works are numerous their subjects extremely various, and many of them very extravagant. Those which are most likely to live are his, “Méthode pour etudier l’Histoire, avec un Catalogue des principaux Historiens,” 12 vols.; “Methode pour Etudier la Geographic,” with maps; “Histoire de la Philosophic Hermetique,” and “Tablettes Chronologiques de T Histoire Universelle,1744-, two vols. An enlarged edition of this work was published in 1777. His “Chronological Tables” were published in English, in 8vo. It is a work of great accuracy, and of some whim, for he lays down a calculation according to which a reader may go through an entire course of universal history, sacred and profane, in the space of ten years and six months at the rate of six hours per day. 1


Moreri. —Dict. Hist.Niceron, vol. XVII, in art. Dufresnoy.