Banier, Anthony

, licentiate in laws, member of the academy of inscriptions and belles lettres, and an ecclesiastic in the diocese of Clermont, in Auvergne, where he applied himself to his several studies, except philosophy, to pursue which he went to Paris, was born in 1673. His parents being too poor to maintain him in this city, commanded him to return home but the friendships he had contracted, and the pleasure they gave him, were more irresistible than the authority of his relations; for he told them, that he was determined to remain where he was, and seek, in the exertion of his abilities, far those resources which, from their indigence, he had not any reason to expect. He was very shortly afterwards received into the family of Monsieur du Metz, president of the chamber of accounts, who intrusted to him the education of his sons, who always honoured him with their patronage and esteem. The exercises which he had set for these young gentlemen gave birth to his “Historical Explanation of Fables,” and, in some measure, determined the author to make mythology the principal object of his studies during the remainder of his life. | This work appeared at first only in two volumes 12mo; but the uncommon taste and erudition discovered through the whole were the causes of his obtaining, in the year 1714, an admission into the academy of inscriptions and belles lettres, as one of their scholars. In 1716, this order was suppressed, and that of the associates augmented to ten, of which number was B&nier. In 1729, he was elected one of their pensioners. In 1715, he published a new edition of his “Explanation of Fables,” in dialogues, to which he annexed a third volume so great was the difference between this edition and the former, that it became justly entitled to all the merits of a new performance. Besides the five dialogues, which he added on subjects either not treated of in his former undertaking, or else very slightlymentioned, there is scarcely a single article which has not been retouched, and enriched by new conjectures or rendered more valuable by the multitude of proofs which are advanced in its support. “Until that time,” says the abbe du Fresnoy, in his catalogue of historians, “the origin of ancient fables had never been explained with such knowledge and discernment mythology is sought after at its first source, profane history. Here are no endeavours to mark out its affinity to the sacred writings and it is more than probable that the ill success which Huet bishop of Avranches, Bochart, and many others, met with in their attempts of this kind, was the chief reason to induce Banier to drop so fruitless an undertaking. This, however, is a work in which the author, without losing himself in the labyrinth of a science which is but too often less replete with use than ostentation, has not only unravelled all the notions which the ancients, even of the remotest times, had entertained of their deities, but traced out, with equal judgment and precision, the progress of their religious worship in the succeeding ages of the world.

The turn which Banier had for researches of this nature, perpetually incited him to carry them to their utmost stretch his knowledge of the learned languages made him, perhaps of all others, the most equal to the task nor can there be more convincing instances of his excellence as a writer, than his historical explanation, and his thirty dissertations before the academy of belles lettres, which are now printed in the memoirs of that body, either entire or by extracts. The lists may be seen in the third volume of the panegyrics upon their deceased members, printed in | 12mo, at Paris, 1740. There are also to be found the titles of many other essays, on subjects different from mythology, and which prove in how extensive a circle the abilities of Banier were capable of moving. In 1725, he gave new life to “The treatises on History and Literature,” under the fictitious name of Vigneul Marville, but whose real author was Bonaventure d’Argonne, a carthusian friar. Three editions of this work had been already published, and in the third volume of the third edition, which was an appendix to the whole, scarce any thing appeared but articles relating to the former part of it, and an index referring to the pages in which the principal matters were contained. Banier added those articles to their proper subjects in the two first volumes, which were injudiciously designed to have been read as detached pieces in the third. And in return for having stripped this last volume, the able editor has replaced it by a new one which is filled with tracts of history, anecdotes of literature, critical remarks, comparisons, extracts from scarce and valuable books, sentiments on various authors, refutations of errors and ridiculous customs; together with memorable sayings and lively repartees.

Of equal service was Banier to the third voyage of Paul Lucas into Egypt; and that of Cornelius Bruyn, or Le Brun. That of Paul Lucas appeared in 1719, at Rouen, in 3 vols. 12mo. With regard to Corn. Le Brun, his voyage to the Levant was published in 1714, at Amsterdam, in folio and his voyage to the East Indies came also out in folio, at the same place, 1718. Some booksellers at Rouen, choosing to reprint them both, intrusted the revising of them to Banter, who made several alterations, and added some remarks. This republication appeared in 1725, in 5 vols. 4to, but the Dutch edition is the best. His engagements with this work were however unable to prevent his application to mythology, his favourite study, the fruits of which appeared during the last ten years of his life, in his translation of the metamorphoses of Ovid, with historical remarks and explanations, published 1732, at Amsterdam, in folio, finely ornamented with copper plates, by Picart. and reprinted at Paris, 1738, in 2 vols. 4to and in his “Mythology, or Fables explained by 'history,” a work full of the most important matter, printed at Paris, 1740, in two different forms, the one in 3 vols. 4to, and the other in several, 12mo. The eighth volume of this | extensive work treats of those public and solemn ceremonies of the Greeks, which composed a part of the religion of the ancients, and which were instituted in their age of heroes.

The abbe already began to perceive the attacks of a distemper, which seemed to be conducting him insensibly to the grave, when some booksellers at Paris prevailed upon him to superintend the new edition, which they designed to give^ of “A general History of the ceremonies, manners, and religious customs of all the nations in the world;” a magnificent edition of which had made its appearance, about twenty years before, in Holland. Banier embarked in this attempt, with l’abbe le Mascrier, a Jesuit, who had assisted in the French translation of Thuanus. This, which was finished in 1741, in seven volumes folio, is much more valuable than the Dutch edition as there are in it numberless corrections, a larger quantity of articles, and several new dissertations, written by these ingenious compilers. The Dutch author, particularly where he mentions the customs and ceremonies of the Roman church, is more occupied in attempting to make his readers laugh, than solidly to instruct them. The new editors, whilst they retained these passages, were also careful to amend them. The abbe Banier died on Nov. 19, 1741, in the 69th year of his age. An English translation of his Mythology and Fables of the Ancients, was published in London, 1741, in 4 vols. 8vo. 1


Moreri. —Dict. Hist. His Eloge, by M. Bose, in the Hist. of the Academy vol, XVI, —Saxii Onomasticon.