Patru, Oliver

, a polite scholar, and memorable for being one of the first polishers and refiners of the French language, was born in 1604 at Paris, where his father was procurator to the parliament. After studying the law, and being received an advocate, he went into Italy; and, on his return to Paris, frequented the bar. “He was the first,” says Voltaire, “who introduced correctness and purity of language in pleadings.” He obtained the reputation of a most exact speaker and excellent writer, and was esteemed so perfectly knowing in grammar and in his own language, that all his decisions were submitted to as oracles. Vaugelas, the famous grammarian, to whom the French language was greatly indebted, for much of its | perfection, confesses that he learned much from Patru and Boileau applied to him to review his works, and used to protit by his opinion. Patru was an extremely rigid censor, though just; and when Racine made some observations upon the works of Boileau a little too subtle and refined, Boileau, instead of the Latin proverb, “Ne sis mihi patruus,” “Do not treat me with the severity of an uncle,” replied, “Ne sis mihi Patru,” “Do not treat me with the severity of Patru.

Patru was in his personal character honest, generous, sincere; and preserved a gaiety of temper which no adversity could affect: for this famous advocate, in spite of all his talents, lived almost in a state of indigence. The love of the belles lettres made him neglect the law; and the barren glory of being an oracle to the best French writers had more charms for him, than all the profits of the bar. Hence he became so poor, as to be reduced to the necessity of selling his books, which seemed dearer to him than his life; and would actually have sold them for an underprice, if Bqileau had not generously advanced him a larger sum, with this further privilege, that he should have the use of them as long as he lived*. His death was preceded by a tedious illness, during which he received a present of five hundred crowns from the statesman Colbert, as a mark of the esteem which the king had for him. He died Jan. 16, 1681. He had been elected a member of the French academy in 1640, by the interest of cardinal Richelieu, and made a speech of thanks on his reception, with which the academicians were so much pleased, as to order that every new member should in future make one of a similar kind on being admitted; and this rule has been observed ever since. When M. Conrart, a member of the French academy died, one of the first noblemen at court, but whose mind was very moderately cultivated, having offered for the vacant place, Patru opened the meeting with the following apologue: “Gentlemen, a.:mcien Grecian had an admirable Lyre; a string broke, but instead of replacing it with one of catgut, he would have a silver one, and the Lyre with its silver string was no longer harmonious.” The fastidious care with which he retouched and finished every thing he wrote, did not permit him to


This act of generosity was dramatised at Paris in 1802, in a piece entitled “La Bibliotheque de Patru,” in which Boileau is made to give 30,000 livres to the library, which really cost him only 4000.

| publish much. His miscellaneous works were printed at Paris in 1670, 4to; the third edition of which, in 1714, was augmented with several pieces. They consist of <f Pleadings,“” Orations,“” Letters,“” Lives of some of his Friends,“” Remarks upon the French Language,“&c. A very ingenious tract by him was published at Paris in 1651, 4to, with this title,” Reponse du Cure a la Lettre du Mar^uillier sur la conduite de M. le Coadjuteur." 1

Chaufepie. Nicereo, vol. VI, Perrault’s “Les Homines Illustres.