Salmasius, Claude

, one of the most learned men of the seventeenth century, and whom Baillet has with great propriety classed among his “Enfan* celebres par les etudes,” was born at Semur-en-Auxois, in Burgundy. His family was ancient and noble, and his father, an eminent lawyer, and a member of the parliament of Burgundy, wasa man of worth and learning. Respecting the time of his birth, all his biographers differ. Peter Burman, who has compared their differences, justly thinks it very strange that so many persons who were his contemporaries and knew him intimately, should not have | ascertained the exact dates either of his birth or death. The former, however, we presume may be fixed either in 1593 or 1594. He was educated at first solely by his father, who taught him Latin and Greek with astonishing success* At the age of ten he was able to translate Pindar very correctly, and wrote Greek and Latin verses. At the age of eleven, his father wished to send him for farther education to the Jesuits’ college at Dijon, not to board there, but to attend lessons twice a day, and improve them at his lodgings. In this scheme, however, he was disappointed. His mother, who was a protestant, had not only inspired Claude with a hatred of the Jesuits, but encouraged him to write satires against the order, which he did both in Greek and Latin, and entertained indeed throughout life the same aversion to them. Having refused therefore to comply with his father’s request m this respect, his mothef proposed to send him to Paris, where her secret wish was that he should be confirmed in her religion. This being complied with, he soon formed an acquaintance with Casaubon and some other learned men in that metropolis, who were astonished to find such talents and erudition in a mere boy. During his residence here he conversed much with the clergy of the reformed church, and being at length determined to make an open avowal of his attachment to protestantism, he asked leave of his father to go to Heidelberg, partly that he might apply to the study of the law, but principally that he might be more at his freedom in religious matters. Baillet calls this a trick of his new preceptors, who wished to persuade Salmasius’s father that Paris, with respect to the study of the law, was not equal to Heidelberg, where was the celebrated Denis Godefroi, and an excellent library.

Salmasius’s father hesitated long about this proposition. As yet he did not know that his son was so far gone in a change of religion, but still did not choose that he should be sent to a place which swarmed with protestants. He therefore wished his son would prefer Toulouse, where were at that time some eminent law professors; but“Claude refused, and some unpleasant correspondence took place between the father and the son, as appears by the words in which the former at last granted his permission” Go then, I wish to show how much more I am of an indulgent father than you are of an obedient son." The son indeed in this manifested a little of that conceit and | arrogarice which appeared in many instances in his future life, and unmoved by the kindness he had just received, refused to travel by the way of Dijon, as his fatter desired, but joined some merchants who were going to Francfort fair, and arrived at Heidelberg in Oct. 1606, or rather 1607, when he was only in his fourteenth year. Whatever may be thought of his temper, we need no other proof that he was one of the most extraordinary youths of this age that the world ever knew, than the letters addressed to him at this time by Jungerman and others on topics of philology. They afford an idea of his erudition, says Burman, which could only be heightened by the production of his answers.

To Heidelberg he brought letters of recommendation, from Casaubon, which introduced him to Godefroi, Gruter, and Lingelsheim, and his uncommon merit soon improved this into an intimacy. Under Godefroi he applied to the study of civil law with that intenseness with which he applied to every thing, but as he now had an opportunity of indulging his taste for the belles lettres, and was admitted to make researches among the treasures of the Palatine library, he spent much of his time here, abridging himself even of sleep. By such extraordinary diligence, he accumulated a vast fund of general knowledge, but in some measure injured his health, and brought on an illness which lasted above a year, and from which he recovered with difficulty.

With an insatiable thirst for knowledge, Salmasius had an early and stro’ng passion for fame. He commenced author when between sixteen and seventeen years of age, by publishing an edition of “Nili, archiepiscopi Thessalonicensis, de primatu papae llomani, libri duo, item Barlaam monachus, cum interpretatione Latina: Cl. Salmasii opera et studio, cum ejusdemin utrumque notis,Hanover, 1608, and Heidelberg, 1608 and 1612, 8vo. By this publication against the authority of the pope, he seemed determined to make a more publit avowal of his sentiments than he had yet done, and to shew his zeal for the protestants, by consecrating his first labours as an author to their service. In 1609 appeared his edition of “Florus,” printed at Paris, 8vo, and dedicated to Gruter, whose notes are given along with those of Sahnasius. This was reprinted in 1636, and in 1638, to which last he added “Lucii Ampelii libellus inemorialis ad Macrinum,” which had never before appeared. | In 1610, he returned home and was admitted an advocate, but had no intention to follow that profession, and preferred literature an 1 criticism as the sole employment of his life, and derived the highest reputation that erudition can confer. Such was his reputation, that he began to be courted by foreign princes and universities. The Venetians thought his residence among them would be such an honour, that they offered him a prodigious stipend; and with this condition, that he should not be obliged to read lectures above three times a year. We are told, that our university of Oxford made some attempts to get him over into England; and it is certain, that the pope made similar overtures, though Salmasius had not only deserted his religion, and renounced his authority, but had actually written against the papacy itself. He withstood, however, all these solicitations; but at last, in 1632, complied with an invitation from Holland, ‘and went with his wife, whom he had married in 1621, to Leyden. He did not go there to be professor, or honorary professor; but, as Vorstius in his “Funeral Oration” expresses it, tc to honour the university by his name, his writings, and his presence."

Upon the death of his father, in 1640, he returned for a time into France; and, on going to Paris, was much caressed by cardinal Richelieu, who used all possible means to detain him, and even offered him his own terms; but could not prevail. The obligation he had to the States of Holland, the love of freedom and independence, and the necessity of a privileged place, in order to publish such things as he was then meditating, were the reasons which enabled him to withstand the cardinal. Salmasius also refused the large pension, which the cardinal offered him, to write his history, because in such a work he thought he must either give offence, or advance many things contrary to his own principles, and to truth, While he was in Burgundy to settle family affairs, the cardinal died, and was succeeded by Mazarin, who, upon our author’s return to Paris, honoured him with the same solicitations as his predecessor had done. Salmasius, however, declined his offers, and after about three years absence, returned to Holland: whence, though attempts were afterwards made to draw him back to France, it does not appear that he ever entertained the least thought of removing. In the summer of 1650, he went to Sweden, to pay queen Christina a visit, with whom he continued till the summer following. | The reception and treatment he met with, as it is described by the writer of his life, is very characteristic of that extraordinary patroness of learned men. “She performed for him all offices,” says he, “which could have been expected even from an equal. She ordered him to choose apartments in her palace, for the sake of having him with her, * ut lateri adhaereret,’ whenever she would But Sal^ masius was almost always ill while he stayed in Sweden, the climate being more than his constitution could bear: at which seasons the queen would come to the side of his bed, hold long discourses with him upon subjects of the highest concern, and, without any soul present, but with the doors all shut, would mend his fire, and do other necessary offices for him.” She soon, however, changed her mind with regard to Salmasius, and praised his antagonist Milton, with whom his celebrated controversy had now begun. After the murder of Charles I Charles II., now in Holland, employed Salmasius to write a defence of his father and of monarchy. Salmasius, says Johnson, was at this time a man of skill in languages, knowledge of antiquity, and sagacity of emendatory criticism, almost exceeding all hope of human attainment; and having, by excessive praises, been confirmed in great confidence of himself, though he probably had not much considered the principles of society or the rights of government, undertook the employment without distrust of his own qualifications, and, as his expedition in writing was wonderful, produced in 1649 his “Defensio Regia pro Carolo I. ad Serenissimum Magnae Britannise Regem Carolum II. filium natu majorem, hseredem et successorem legitimum. Sumptibus Regiis, anno 1649.” Milton, as we have noticed in his life, was employed, by the Powers then prevailing, to answer this book of Salmasius, and to obviate the prejudices which the reputation of his great abilities and learning might raise against their cause; and he accordingly published in 1651, a Latin work, entitled “Defensio pro Populo Anglicano contra Claudii Salmasii Defensionem Regiam.” Of these two works Hobbes declared himself unable to decide whose language was best, or whose arguments were worst, he might have added, or who was most to blame for scurrility and personal abuse. Dr. Johnson remarks, that Salmasius had been so long not only the monarch, but the tyrant of literature, that almost all mankind were delighted to find him defied and insulted by a new name, not yet considered | as any one’s rival. There is no proof, however, that Salrnasius’s general reputation suffered much from a contest in which he had not employed the powers which he was acknowledged to possess. His misfortune was to treat of subjects which he had not much studied, and any repulse to a man so accustomed to admiration, must have been very galling. He therefore prepared reply to Milton, but did not live to finish‘ it, nor did it appear until published by his son in the year of the restoration, when the subject, in England at least, was no longer fit for discussion. He died at the Spa, Sept. 3, 1653, in consequence of an imprudent use of the waters; but as he had reproached Milton with losing his eyes in their contest, Milton delighted himself with the belief that he had shortened Salmasius’s life. Nothing, however, can be more absurd, if any credit is to be given to the account which Salmasius’s biographer, Clement, gives of his feeble constitution, and long illness.

Salmasius, Dr. Johnson has observed, was not only the monarch, but the tyrant of literature, and it must be allowed that although he had few, if any equals, in extent of erudition, and therefore little cause of jealousy, he was impatient of contradiction, and arrogant and supercilious to those who differed from him in opinion. But he must have had qualities to balance these imperfections, before he could have attained the very high character given by the most learned men of his age, by Casaubon, by Huetius, by Gronovius, by Scioppius, by our Selden, by Grotius, Gruter, Balzac, Menage, Sarravius, Vorstius, &c. &c. &c. Those who have critically examined his writings attribute the imperfections occasionally to be found in them to the hasty manner in which he wrote; and a certain hurry and impetuosity of temper when he took up any subject which engaged his attention. Gronovius seems to think that he was sometimes overwhelmed with the vastness of his erudition, and knew not how to restrain his pen. Hence, Gronovius adds, we find so many contradictions in his works, for he employed no amanuensis, and was averse to the task of revision.

Of his numerous works, we may notice as the most valuable, 1. “Amici, ad amicum, de suburbicariis regiohibus et ecclesiis suburbicariis, epistola,1619, 8vo, reprinted more correctly at the end of his epistles in 1656. This was written in consequence of a dispute between Godefroi | and father Sirmond. 2. “Historic Augustse scriptores sex,Paris, 1620, fol. 3. “Sept. Florentis Tertulliani liber de Pallio,” ibid. 1622, 8vo, and Leyden, 1656, 8vo. This involved him in a controversy with Denis Petau, to whom he published two answers. 4. “Pliniani exercitationes in Caii Julii Solini Polyhist.” &c. ibid. 1629, 2 vols, fol. and Utrecht, 1689, which last edition has another work edited by Saumaise, “De homonymis Hiles iatricae exercitationes ineditae,” &c. 5. “De Usuris,Leyden, 1638, 8vo. 6. “Notae in pervigilium Veneris,” ibid. 1638, 12nio. 7. “De modo usurarum,” ibid. 1639, 8vo. 8. “Dissertatio de fcenore trapezitico, in tres libros divisa,” ibid, 1640. 9. “Simplicii commentarius in Enchiridion Epicteti,” &c. ibid. 164-0, 4to, and Utrecht, 1711. 10. “Achillis Tatii Alexandrini Eroticon de Clitophontis et Leucippes amoribus, libri octo,” ibid. 1640, 12mo. 11. “Interpretatio Hippocratis aphorismi 69, sect. iv. de calculo,” &c. ibid. 1640, 8vo. 12. “De Hellenistica: commentarius controversiam de lingua hellenistica decidens, et plenissime pertractans origines et dialecticos Graecae lingua?,Leyden, 1645. 13. " Observationes in jus Atticum et Romanum,’ 1 ibid. 1645, 8vo, &c. &c. with many ortiers on various subjects of philosophy, law, and criticism. A collection of his letters was published soon after his death by Antony Clement, 4to, with a life of the author, but many others are to be found in various collections. 1


Life by Clement. .—Baillet Jugemens. Blount’s Censora.—Moreri.—Burman’s “Sylloge.”—Saxii Onomasticon.