Varillas, Anthony

, a French writer, more known than esteemed for several historical works, was descended from a good family, and born at Gueret in 1624. After a liberal education, of which he made the proper advantage, he became a private tutor to some young persons of quality; and then went to Paris, where he was well received as a man of letters, and had access to the Dupuy’s, whose house was the common rendezvous of the learned. He obtained afterwards a place in the kings’ library, by his interest with Nicolas Colbert, who was made librarian after the death of James Dupuy in 1655. Mr. Colbert, afterwards minister of state, commissioned his brother Nicolas to find out a man capable of collating certain manuscripts. Varillzte was recommended, and had the abbe" of St. Real for his coadjutor; and handsome pensions were settled upon both. But whether Varillas was negligent and careless, or had not a turn for this employment, he did not give satisfaction, and was therefore dismissed from his employment in 1662; yet had his pension continued till 1670. He then retired from the royal library, and spent the remainder of his days in study, refusing, it is said, several advantageous offers. He lived frugally and with oeconomy, and yet not through necessity, for his circumstances were easy. St. Come was the seat of his retirement; where he died June 9, 1696, aged seventy-two.

He wrote a great number of works, chiefly of the historical kind; and published, at different times and in distinct portions, a history of France, comprising a period of 176 | years under nine different reigns, beginning with Lewis XL and ending with Henry III. He published also “Les Anecdotes de Florence, ou THistoire secrette de la Maison de Medicis, at the Hague,1685, in 12mo; and, -“Histoire des Revolutions arrives en Europe en matiere de Religion,Paris, 1686, and often reprinted. Varillas had some advantages of style to recommend him as an historian; he had likewise a pleasing manner of relating and setting off facts; and his characters, though somewhat diffuse, are drawn with art, and for the most part appear curious and interesting. Add to this, that he abounds in anecdotes, and told Menage that, “of ten things which he knew, he had learned nine from conversation.” He was also profuse in his professions of sincerity, and was thought to have penetrated into the inmost recesses of the cabinet, and drawn forth a great deal of secret history from the numerous and important manuscripts which he pretends in his prefaces to have been from time to time communicated to him. All this procured him a vast reputation at first: his books were read with eagerness: and such was the call for them, that the booksellers generally sent forth two editions, in different forms, at the same time. The public, however, were at length undeceived, and came to be convinced that the historical anecdotes, which Varillas put off for authentic facts, were wholly of his own invention, notwithstanding his affected citations of titles, instructions, letters, memoirs, and relations, all of them imaginary. As his design was to please rather than instruct his readers, he omitted nothing which he thought might conduce to this. Thus he characterised persons he knew little of, as if he had lived in the greatest familiarity with them; and gave particular reasons for all the steps they took, as if he had been privy to their councils. He advanced facts with the utmost confidence, which were scarcely probable: the air of politics, which runs through all his writings, is romantic; and every event, according to him, proceeded from premeditation and design. Such is the opinion which his own countrymen soon learned to give of his “History of France,” and “Florentine Anecdotes;” but his “History of the Revolutions in matters of Religion which have happened in Europe,” utterly ruined his reputation abroad, and exposed him to the criticisms of able men in each country: of Burnet and Dr. King, in England, Brunsmann in Denmark, Puffendorf and Seckendorf in Germany, vtho | copiously detected and exposed his falsehoods and misrepresentations concerning the state of religion in their respective countries, and totally destroyed the reputation of his works. 1


Niceron, vol. V.Moreri. Reflections upon Varillas, in Dr. King’s Wuiks, vol. I.