Thou, James Augustus

, an illustrious historian of France, was son of a first president of the parliament of Paris, and born there the 9th of October, 1553. He was so exceedingly weak and infirm in his infancy, that there was no hope of rearing him for the first five years of his life; and to this it is owing, that abundantly more care was taken to preserve his body, than to cultivate his mind, although he then appeared to be a boy of uncommon talents; for he was not addicted to the amusements of childhood, but aimed at something higher, and would divert himself with drawing and painting, for which he had always a very good taste. When he was ten years old, he was put to books, and placed in the college of Bourgogne; but in less than a year he was attacked with a violent fever, and taken home. The physicians gave him over for many months; but he recovered, and applied again to books, though with great moderation; for hie constitution was not able to* undergo the least fatigue. He was afterwards placed under the care of private tutors \ and regard seems to have been had, in the choice of them, to the weakness of his nature, as well as to the improvement of his understanding; for they were physicians, and successively four of them. Then he studied under the famous Dionysius Lambinus, and Joannes Pellerinus, who was professor of the Greek language in the College-royal.

In 1570 he went to Orleans, to pursue the law; and there the writings of Cujaci us inspired him with such an esteem for that celebrated professor, that he quitted Orleans, and repaired to him into Dauphiny. He stopped upon the road at Bourges six months, for the sake of, hearing the famous civilian Hotomannus; and then proceeded to Valence, where Cujacius was reading lectures. Here he met with Joseph Scaliger, who was upon a visit to Cujacius; and commenced a friendship with him, which he cultivated ever after with the greatest care. His father, unwilling to have him long at a distance from him, recalled him in about a year; and he returned to Paris some time before that terrible massacre of the Protestants, which was perpetrated on St. Bartholomew’s day in 1572. As he was designed for the church, he went to live with his uncle | Nicholas de Thou, who, being just made bishop of Chartres, resigned to him a canonry of Notre Dame. He began now to collect that library, which afterwards became so famous. In 1573 he accompanied Paul de Foix into Italy, and visited the principal towns, cultivating acquaintance with the learned as he passed. On his return to Paris, he applied himself to reading for four years; yet this, he used to say, was not of so much use to him as conversing with learned men, which he did daily. About the end of 1576, when civil tumults threatened the state, M. de Thou was employed in certain negotiations, which he executed so well, as to establish the reputation of a man fit for business. He afterwards went into the LowCountries, and in 1578 was made counsellor-clerk to the parliament; an honourable post, bur accepted by him with reluctance, on account of his great love for retirement and study. In 1579 he accompanied his eldest brother to the baths of Plombieres in Lorrain; and this gentleman dying, he soon after quitted the ecclesiastical state.

The plague beginning at Paris in 1580, he retired to Touraine, and took an opportunity of seeing Normandy and Britany; and on his return to Paris, after the plague Stopped, was sent, with other counsellors in parliament, to administer justice in Guyenne. He came again to Paris in 1582, and had the misfortune not to arrive till the day after his father was buried. To make amends*, however, for not being able to pay his last duties to him, he erected a most noble monument to his memory, and adorned it with eulogiums written by the first wits of the age. la 1584 he was made master of the requests; and at that time, late as it may seem, entered upon a new course of study. He took into hix house Bressieu, the professor royal of mathematics; and under his d-rection applied, this year and the following, to read the Greek Euc-lu) with the notes of Proclus. The anvction which the cardinal de Vendome had conceived for him induced him to spend some time at court; but this affection abating, he withdrew from a place he did not at all like, and devoted -himself entirely to the composing his History, which he had begun two years before. In 1587 he took a wife, having first by the official of Paris been thoroughly absolved from all ecclesiastical engagements; for he had taken the four lesser orders. He lost his mother in 158S; and other troubles of a more public kind exercised him this year. | The spirit of the league had seized Paris, and obfigef Henry II. to quit the city. Thuanus followed this prince^ and went by his order into Normandy, to sound the governors and magistrates; to acquaint them with what had happened at Paris; to confirm them m their duty; and to make known his intentions of assembling the states. Uponi his return, he was made a counsellor of state.

During the holding of the states at Blois, he returned to Paris, where he was in danger of losing his life; fur the news of the duke of Guise’s death arriving, all who were of known attachment to the king were obliged to hide themselves. Thuanus was among them, hut happily escaped under the disguise of a soldier. He repaired to the king, who, being removed to Tours, resolved to establish a parliament there, to oppose that of the league; and De Thou would have been made the first president of it, if he had not been fixed against accepting that office; He afterwards accompanied Mr. de Schomberg into Germany, to assist in raising forces for the king, and drawing succours from the German princes he passed by Italy, and was at Venice, when the news of Henry Illd’s death made him immediately return to France. Henry IV. received him very kindly, to whom he gave an exact account of all that had been done, and continued very faithfully in his service; while the king placed the greatest confidence in him, and employed him in many important negotiations. After the battle of Yvry, which Henry IV. gained in 159O, De Thou obtained leave to visit his wife at Senlis, whom he had not seen above a year; and arrived there, after having been detained some time upon the road by a fever. His purpose was to settle at Tours and he was one evening upon the road thither, when a party of the enemy carried off his wife and equipage, while he escaped by the swiftness of his horse, and found ipeaus soon after to recover his lady. In 1592, he had the plague, and despaired of life, but was happily cured by the infusion of bezoarstone into strong waters. The year after, the king made him his first librarian, which place became vacant by the death of the learned James Amyot, famous for his translation of Plutarch and other ancient Greek authors. In 1592, the duke of Guise having made his peace with the king, Thuanus was one of the persons appointed to regulate the conditions of the treaty he became the same year president à mortier by the death of his uucle Augustin de | Thou, which honour had long been promised him. He was afterwards concerned in many negotiations with the Protestant party, and was greatly instrumental in bringing forward the edict of Nantes, which was signed in April 1598, and afterwards revoked, as is well known, by Louig XIV. in 1685. In 1601, he lost his wife, whom he immortalized by elegies; but soon after recovered so far from his grief, great as it was, as to take another. During the regency of queen Mary of Medicis, Thuanus was one of the general directors of the finances; and was, to the end of his life, engaged more or less in the service of the state. He died the 17th of May, 1617, and was interred with his fami-ly in the chapel of St. Andrew of the Arches,

He left behind him a general history of his own times from 1545 to 1608, written in very clear and excellent Latin. “Among many things,” says Grotius to him, “which posterity will admire, this above all astonishes me, how you, always as it should seem engaged in business, should find leisure and indefatigable force of mind to know so many and so great things as you have known, and to write them in such a manner as you have written them.” And in another place, “You have comprised a history of the whole world in such a manner, as could not have been expected from a man of the most leisure: such is the plenty of your iQatter, such the elegance of your language.Isaac Casaubon says, “that Thuanus seems to him to have been providentially given for an example to the age in which he lived of piety, sincerity, probity, and in short of all virtue mid goodness.” Thuanus has acquired immortal glory by his History, which, says Perrault, is written with an exactness and fidelity beyond example. This biographer adds, that he “never disguised or concealed the truth; but had a noble and generous boldness, for which he has been praised by all the great men of his time. This work is worthy of the ancients, and perhaps would have exceeded a great part of what the ancient Romans have left us in the way of history, if he had not affected to imitate them too closely; for this has put him upon Latinizing the proper names of men, towns, countries, and other things, in so strange a manner, as to make a glossary necessary, in order to know frequently what he means.

Part of this History was first printed at Paris in 1604, with a dedication to Henry IV. which is thought to be as masterly a composition in its kind, as the dedication of | Casaubon’s Polybius to the same monarch, and that of the “Instittitiones Christianae” of Calvin to Francis I. The publication of the history, in separate parts, was alterwards continued by the author, who, however, does not seem to have published it all in his life-time; or any part of it, except the volume just mentioned, in a manner conformable to his original copy, which, therefore, he deposited in the hands of a friend, that it might be printed after his death, just as he wrote it. It was long, however, before this could be effected. Thuanus was an honest historian, and with respect to things and persons boldly delivered the truth. There would of course be many exceptionable passages in his work, many that would highly offend individuals both in church and state; and this was the reason why, though printed frequently and in different countries, it never came out free from castrations, and agreeable to the author’s original copy, till 1733. It was then handsomely printed at London, and published under the direction, and chiefly at the expence, of the excellent Dr. Mead, in seven volumes folio; to which are prefixed four Latin letters, inscribed to that celebrated patron of letters, and giving an account of the various changes and chances this History has undergone; of the different editions; what each of them contain, and how they vary; and by what materials and assistances the editors have at length been enabled to give a very complete and perfect copy of it.

Thuanus excelled in poetry as well as history, and published several productions of that kind, as “Metaphrasis poetica librorum sacrorum aliquot,158 I, in 8vo. These paraphrases are upon the books of Job, Ecclesiastes, the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and the six lesser prophets. “De re accipitraria,Paris, 1514, 4to. Vossius and others have much cowmen. ‘ed this work, and have not scrupled, on the merit of it, to rank Thuanus with the best poets of his age. “Crauibe, Viola, Lilium, Phlogis, Terpsinoe, Paris, 1611,” in4to; a miscellaneous collection. There arc also ’ Thuana" but it may be said of them, as of the Anas in general, that they contain little that is worthy of the name of their supposed author.

Thuanus had no children by his first wife; but three sons by the second, the eldest of whom, Francis Augustus Thuanus, a very excellent man, was beheaded at Lyons in 1642, for not revraling a conspiracy, which had been entrusted to him, against cardinal Richelieu. The cardinal | was supposed not to be sorry for the opportunity that offered of revenging, upon the son, what the father had said of his great uncle Antony Duplessis de Richelieu, in the following passage of his history: “Antonius Plessianus Richelius, vulgo dictus Monachus, quod earn vitam prafessus fuisset; dein, voto ejurato, omni se licentiae ac libidinis generc contaminasset.” This unfortunate gentleman was thirty-five years of age. 1


Niceron.—Life which accompanies his History.—For a more ample account, the English reader may be satisfactorily referred to a “Life of Thuanus,” published in 1807, 8vo, by the Rev, J. Collinson, M. A. of Queen’s college, Oxford.