Nicole, Peter

, a celebrated French divine, was born at Chartres, Oct. 6, 1625. He was the son of John Nicole above mentioned, who, discovering him to be a youth of promising talents, gave him his first instructions in grammar, and so grounded him in classical knowledge, that at the age of fourteen he was qualified to go to Paris, and commence a course of philosophy; and at its completion, in about two years, he took the degree of M. A. July 23, 1644. He afterwards studied divinity at the Sorbonne, | in 1645 and 1646 and, during this course, learned He* brew, improved himself farther in Greek, acquired a knowledge of Spanish and Italian. He also devoted part of his time to the instruction of the youth put under the care of messieurs de Port-royal. As soon as he had completed three years, the usual period, in the study of divinity,he proceeded bachelor in that faculty in 1649, on which oc* casion he maintained the theses called the Tentative, He afterwards prepared himself to proceed a licentiate;, but was diverted from it by the dispute which arose about the five famous propositions of Jansenius, added to his connections with Mr. Arnauld. By this means he was at more leisure to cultivate his acquaintance with gentlemen of the Port-royal, to which house he now retired, and assisted Mr. Arnauld in several pieces, which that celebrated di* vine published in his own defence. They both went to M. Varet’s house at Chatillon near Paris, in 1664, and there continued to write, inconcert. Nicole afterwards resided at several places, sometimes at Port-royal, sometimes at Paris, &c. He was solicited to take holy orders but, after an examination of three weeks, and consulting with M. Pavilion, bishop of Aleth, he remained only a tonsured priest. It has been asserted by some, that having failed to answer properly when examined for the subdeaconship, he considered his being refused admission to it, as a warning from heaven. He continued undisturbed at Paris till 1677, when a letter which he wrote, for the bishops of St. Pons and Arras, to pope Innocent XI. against the relaxations of the casuists, drew upon him a storm, that obliged him to withdraw. He went 6rst to Chartres, where his father was lately dead; and, having settled his temporal affairs, he repaired to Beauvais, and soon after took his leave of the kingdom, in 1679. He retired first to Brussels, then went to Liege, and, after that, risited Orval, and several other places. A letter, dated July 16, 1679, which he wrote to Harlai, archbishop of Paris, facilitated his return to France: and Robert, canon of the church of Paris, obtained leave of that archbishop, some time after, for Nicole to come back privately to Chartres. Accordingly he repaired immediately to that, city, under the name of M. Berci, and resumed his usual employments. The same friend afterwards solicited a permission for him to return to Paris, and having obtained it at length in 1683, he employed his time in the composition of various new works. In 1693, | perceiving himself to be grown considerably infirm, he resigned a benefice, of a very moderate income, which her had at Beauvais; and after remaining for about two years more in a very languishing state, died of the second stroke of an apoplexy, Nov. 16, 1695, aged 70 years.

He lived all his life with great simplicity, loved retirement and quiet, and was very little versed in the manners of the world, in which, however, he acquired great fame for his excellence in metaphysics. His judgment was solid; and he was more than commonly learned. Yet he is said to have been so credulous, that he believed every thing he heard, however improbable, being unable to imagine that any one would deceive him. His conversation was agreeable, but not prompt; he was slow in producing reasons for what he advanced. This occasioned him to say of M. de Treville, a man of genius, and a fluent speaker, *' He is too hard for me in the chamber, but by the time I get to the stairs-foot, I have puzzled him." Nicole was also a man of such timidity, that he scarcely dared to stir from his house, for fear of unforeseen accidents, by which thousands, he said, had been killed or wounded.

His arduous application to polite literature enabled him to imitate the style of the best Latin authors, particularly that of Terence; but he is most admired as an elegant writer in his own language. In France he suffered much by undertaking the defence of Jansenius, whose opinions were condemned by the Sorbonne, the clergy of France, and indeed the whole church. His works are very numerous, consisting of not less than an hundred articles: the principal are, I.“Moral Essays,” 14 vols. 12mo, among which are three volumes of “Letters and Reflections on the Epistles and Gospels,” 5 vols, which joined to the “Theological Instructions on the Sacrament,” 2 vols, “on the Creed,” 2 vols.; “on the Lord’s Prayer,” 1 vol.; “on the Decalogue,” 2 vols. and the “Treatise on Prayer,” 2 vols, form the 23 volumes of what are called “Moral Essays.” 2. “Lettresimaginaires et visionaires,1667, 2 vols. 12mo. 3. The small “Perpetuity of the Faith,” with a defence of it. 4. The large “Perpetuity,” written in conjunction with M. Arnauld, 3 vols. 4to, but almost entirely by M. Nicole. 5. “Les Prejuges legitimes centre les Calvinistes,” 12mo. 6. “Tr. de PUnke* de l’Eglise,” against Jurieu. 7. “Les Pretendes Réformés convaincus de Schisme; Réfutation des principales erreurs | des Quitistes.” Besides many other controversial pieces in defence of Jansenius and M. Arnauld, he published a selection of Latin epigrams, entitled “Epigrammaturn Delectus,1659, 12mo, and a Latin translation of the “Provincial Letters,” with notes, &c. under the assumed name of Wendrock. A history of the life and writings of M. Nicole was published in 1735, 12mo. 1


Niceron, vol. XXIX.—Moreri.—Gen. Dict.