Baillet, Adrian

, an eminent French critic, was born at Neuville near Beauvais in Picardy, June 13, 1649. His father, who was poor, and unable to give him a learned education, sent him to a small school in the neighbourhood, where he soon learned all that was taught there, and desirous of more, went frequently to a neighbouring convent, where, by his assiduities in performing little menial offices, he ingratiated himself with them, and by their interest was presented to the bishop of Beauvais. The bishop placed him in the college or seminary of that name, where | he studied the classics with unwearied assiduity, borrowing books from his friends, and it is even said he took money privately from his father, in order to buy books. In the course of his reading, which was accurate and even- critical, he formed, about the age of seventeen, a commonplace book of extracts, which he called his “Juvenilia,” in two large volumes, very conducive to his own improvement, and afterwards to that of M. de Lamoignon, his patron’s son. He then studied philosophy, but with less relish, his predilection being in favour of history, chronology, and geography; yet in defending Ins philosophical theses, he always proved his capacity to be fully equal to his subject. In 1670 he went to one of those higher seminaries, formerly established by the French bishops for the study of divinity, which he pursued with his usual ardour and success, although here his early taste discovered itself, in his applying with most eagerness to the fathers and councils, as more nearly connected with ecclesiastical history. So intent was he on researches of this kind, that he fancied himself solely qualified for a life of studious retirement, and had a design of going, along with his brother Stephen, to the abbey La Trappe, but this was prevented by the bishop of Beauvai? bestowing upon him, in 1672, the appointment of teacher of the fifth form in the college, from which, in 1674, he was promoted to the fourth. This produced him about sixty pounds a-year, with part of which he assisted his poor relations, and laid out the rest in books, and had made a very good collection when he left the college. Among other employments at his leisure hours he compiled two volumes of notices of authors who had disguised their names, of which the preface only has been published.

In 1676, he received holy orders, and passed his examinations with high approbation. Monnoye, one of his biographers, mentions a circumstance very creditable to his superiors, that, although they were satisfied with his learning, they would not have admitted him into orders, if they had not discovered that he was superior to the vanity which sometimes accompanies a reputation for learning. The bishop of Beauvais now gave him the vicarage of Lardieres, which netted only 30l. yearly, yet with this pittance, Baillet, who maintained a brother, and a servant, contrived to indulge his humanity to the poor, and his passion for books, to purchase which he used to go once a year to Paris. His domestic establishment was upon the most temperate scale, | no drink but water, and no meat, but brown bread, and sometimes a little bacon, and a few herbs from his garden boiled in water with salt, and whitened with a little milk. The cares of his parish, however, so much interrupted his favourite studies that he petitioned, and obtained another living, the only duties of which were singing at church, and explaining the catechism. A higher and more grateful promotion now awaited him, as in 1680, he was made librarian to M. Lamoignon, not the first president of the parliament, as Niceron says, for he was then dead, but his son, who at that time was advocate-general. To this place he was recommended by M. Hermant, a doctor of the Sorbonne, who told Lamoignon that Baillet was the proper person for him, if he could excuse his awkwardness. Lamoignon answered that he wanted a man of learning, and did not regard his outward appearance. To Baillet such an appointment was so gratifying that for some time he could scarcely believe M. Hermant to be serious. When he found it confirmed, however, he entered upon his new office with alacrity, and one of his first employments was to draw up an index of the library, which extended to thirty-five folio volumes, under two divisions, subjects and author’s names. The Latin preface to the index of subjects, when published, was severely, but not very justly censured by M. Menage, as to its style. After this, he completed four volumes of his celebrated work “Jugemens des Savans,” and gave them to the bookseller with no other reserve than that of a few copies for presents. The success of the work was very great, and the bookseller urged him to finish the five volumes that were, to follow. He did not, however, accomplish the whole of his design, which was to consist of six parts. I. In the first he was to treat of those printers, who had distinguished themselves by their learning, ability, accuracy, and fidelity. Of critics, that is, of those who acquaint us with authors, and their books, and in general those, who give an account of the state of literature, and of all that belongs to the republic of letters. Of philologists, and all those who treat of polite literature. Of grammarians and translators of all kinds. II. Poets, ancient and modern writers of romances and tales in prose rhetoricians, orators, and writers of letters, either in Latin, or in any of the modern languages. III. Historians, geographers, and chronologists of all sorts. IV. Philosophers, physicians, and | mathematicians. V. Authors upon the civil and canon law, poJitics, and ethics. VI. Writers on divinity particularly the fathers, school-divinity heretics, &c. He published, however, only the first of these divisions, and half of the second, under the title of “Jugemens des Savans sur les principaux ouvrages des Auteurs,Paris, 1685, 12mo. It is, in fact, a collection of the opinions of others, with seldom those of the author, yet it attracted the attention of the literary world, and excited the hostility of some critics, particularly M. Menage, to whom, indeed, Baillet had given a previous provocation, by treating him rather disrespectfully. The first attack was by father Commire, in a short poem entitled “Asinus in Parnasso,” the Ass on Parnassus, followed afterwards by “Asinus ad Lyram,” and “Asinus Judex,” all in defence of Menage and the poets and an anonymous poet wrote “Asinus Pictor.” It does not appear, however, that these injured the sale of the work; and in 1686, the five other volumes, upon the poets, were published, with a preface, in which the author vindicates himself with ability. M. Menage now published his “Anti-Baillet,” in which he endeavoured to point out Baillet‘ s errors and another author attacked him in “Reflexions sur le Jugemens des Savans, [envoy 6ez a l’auteur par un Academicien,1691, with Hague on the title, but really in France, and, according to Niceron, written by father Le Tellier, a Jesuit, all of which order resented Baillet’ s partiality to the gentlemen of Port Royal. The editor of the Amsterdam edition of the “Jugemens,” attributes this letter to another Jesuit, a young man not named. Of these censures some are undoubtedly just, but others the cavils of caprice and hypercriticism.

In 1688, Baillet published his very amusing work, “Les Enfans devenus celebres par leurs etudes et par leurs ecrits,Paris, 2 vols. 12mo. This collection of examples of young geniuses was thought well calculated to excite emulation, and soon became a very popular book, the professors of the universities, and other teachers of youth, strongly recommending it. His next work was of a singular cast. Conceiving that when Menage wrote his “Anti-Baillet” he meant a personal, as well as a critical attack, he began to form a catalogue of all works published with similar titles, beginning with the Anti-Cato of Cassar, the most ancient of the Anti’s, and concluding with trie AntiBaillet. This was published in 1689. “Des Satyres | personelles, Traite historique et critique de celles, qui portent le titre d’Anti,Paris, 2 vols. 12mo. The industrious Marchand, however, has given a very long catalogue of Anti’s omitted by Baillet, in his vol. I. under the article Anti-Garasse. Bailiet afterwards prepared a more useful work, for which he had made copious collections, with a view to discover the names of those authors who have used fictitious ones. In 1678 he had written in Latin “Elenchus Apocalypticus Scriptorum Cryptonymorum,” but of this he published only a preliminary treatise in French, “Auteurs degnisez sous des noms etraiigers, &c. tome I. contenant le traite preliminaire, sur le changement et la supposition des noms parmi les Auteurs,Paris, 1620, 12mo. His design resembled that of Placcius in his treatise “De Anonymis et Pseudonymis,” and they had some communication together on the subject. Niceron attributes Baillet’s suppression of this work to the fear of giving offence, which might surely have been avoided if he had left contemporary writings to some future editor. In 1691, he wrote the “Life of Des Cartes,” in 2 vols. 4to, which was criticised in “Reflexions cl' un Academicien sur la Vie de M. des Cartes, envoyees a un de ses amis en Hollande,” ascribed, by Le Long, to Gallois, and by Marchand, to Le Tellier. The chief fault, is that very common one, in single lives, of introducing matters very slightly, if at all, connected with the history of the principal object, and from much that is in this work, Des Cartes might be supposed a warlike general, or a controversial divine. It succeeded so well, however, that a second edition was prevented only by his death but before that event he abridged it in one volume 12mo, and also wrote the life of Richer, doctor of the Sorbonne, which was not printed until several years after his death, at Liege, 1714, 12mo.

His next publication ranks him among the pseudonymous authors, a “History of Holland,” from the peace in 1609 to that of Nimeguen in 1679, under the name of Balthasar d’Hezenail de la Neuville, the anagram of Baillet de la Neuville en Hez, 4 vols. 12mo. Next year he published “De la Devotion a la Sainte Vierge, et du Culte qui lui est du,” 12mo, a piece of catholic superstition, which was attacked in two pamphlets. He had formed many more useful designs, as an universal ecclesiastical dictionary, embracing every subject of doctrine, morality, and discipline; but this and all his other schemes were interrupted by his | death, Jan. 21, 1706. He was much regretted as an indefatigable scholar, and a valuable contributor to literary history. His extreme temperance and close application to study injured his health, and brought on all those miseries of a sedentary life, which exhausted his constitution, when only in his fifty-sixth year. In Lamoignon’s family, he was treated with the tenderness and respect due to his laborious services and blameless character. His last moments were marked by piety and fortitude, and his last breath expressed a blessing on his benefactors. His “.lugemens des Savans,” Mr. Dibdin justly observes, is one of those works with which no man fond of typographical and bibliographical pursuits, can dispense. In 1722, a new edition of it in 7 vols. 4to, was published by M. de la Monnoye, including the “Anti-Baillet” and a new edition at Amsterdam, 1725, in 16 or sometimes 8 vols. 12mo, by far the best. These editions are improved by Monnoye’s useful notes, a life of Baillet, some of the pamphlets written against him, and other documents of importance.

Besides these, Baillet published, “1.” De la conduitedes Ames,“1695, 12mo, under the fictitious name of Daret de la Villeneuve. 2.” Discours sur la vie des Saints,“Paris, 1700, 8vo, reprinted before the” Vies des Saints,“Paris, 1701, 3 vols. fol. and 1704, 8vo. 3.” Histoire d&s Fetes Mobiles Les vies des Saints de PAncien Testament, &c.“Paris, 1703, fol. 4.” Les maximes de St. Etienne de Grammonte,“Paris, 1704, 12mo, a translation from the Latin. 5.” La vie de Godfrey Hermant,“a posthumous work, Amst. 1717, 12mo. 6. *” Histoire des demeles du Pape Boniface VIII. avec Philippe le Bel, roy de France," also posthumous, Paris, 1718, 12mo. 1

1 Con. Dict. —Moreri. —Niceron.Marchand; see Index, Dibdin’s Bibliomania. —Saxii Onomasticon.