Beaumelle, Laurence Angliviel De La

, a French writer of some note, was born at Valleraugues, in the diocese of Allais, in 1727, and died at Paris Nov. 1773. Being invited to Denmark as professor of the French belles-lettres, he opened this course of literature by a discourse that was printed in 1751, and well received. Having always lived in the south of France, a residence in the north could hardly agree with him, but he was held in such esteem, that he quitted Denmark with the title of privy-counsellor and a pension. Stopping at Berlin, he was desirous of forming an intimacy with Voltaire, with whose writings he was much captivated; but, both being of irritable and impetuous characters, they had no sooner seen each other than they quarrelled, without hope of reconciliation. The history of this quarrel, which gave rise to so many personalities and invectives, is characteristic of both parties. A reflection in a publication of la Beaumelle, entitled “Mes Pensees,” was the first cause of it. This work, very studiously composed, but written with too much boldness, procured the author many enemies; and, on his arrival at Paris in 1753, he was imprisoned in the Bastille. No sooner was he let out, than he published his “Memoirs of Main ­tenon,” which drew on him a fresh detention in that royal prison. La Beaumelle, having obtained his liberty, retired into the country, where he put in practice the lessons he had given to Voltaire, in the following letter: “Well, then, we are once more at liberty; let us revenge ourselves on these misfortunes by rendering them of use to us. Let us lay aside all those literary infirmities which have spread so many clouds over the course of your life, so much bitterness over my youthful years. A little more glory, a little more opulence: What does it all signify? Let us seek the reality of happiness, and not its shadow. The most shining reputation is never worth what it costs. Charles V. sighs after retirement; Ovid wishes to be a fool. We are once more free. I am out of the Bastille; you are no longer at court. Let us make the best use of a benefit that may be snatched from us at every moment. Let us entertain a distant respect for that greatness which is so dangerous to those that come near it, and that authority, so terrible even to them that exercise it; and, if it be true that we cannot venture to think without risk, let us think no more. Do the of reflection counterbalance those of safety? Let us be persuaded, you, after sixty | years of experience; me, after six months of annihilation. Let us be wiser, or at least more prudent; and the wrinkles of age, and the remembrance of bolts and bars, those injuries of time and power, will prove real benefits to us.

He now cultivated literature in peace, and settled himself in the comforts of domestic life by marrying the daughter of M. Lavaisse, an advocate of great practice at Thoulouse. A lady of the court called him to Paris about the year 1772, and wished to fix him there, by procuring him the place of librarian to the king; but he did not long enjoy this* promotion; a dropsy in the chest proved fatal the following yean. He left a son and a daughter. His works are: 1. “A Defence of Montesquieu’s ' Esprit des Loix,” against the author of the “Nouvelles Ecclesiastiques,” which is inferior to that which the president de Montesquieu published himself, but for which that writer expressed his thanks. 2. “Mes Pense*es, ou, Le Qu’en dira-t-on?1751, 12mo; a book which has not kept up its reputation, though containing a great deal of wit; but the author in his politics is often wide of the truth, and allows himself too decisive a style in literature and morals. The passage in this book which embroiled him with Voltaire is this: “There have been better poets than Voltaire; but none have been ever so well rewarded. The king of Prussia heaps his bounty on men of talents exactly from the same motives as induce a petty prince of Germany to heap his bounty on a buffoon or a dwarf.” 3. “The <f Memoirs of Madame de Maintenon,1756, 6 vols. 12mo. which were followed by 9 vols. of letters. In this work many facts are given on conjecture, and others disfigured; nor is Madame de Maintenon made to think and speak as she either thought or spoke. The style has neither the propriety nor the dignity that is proper to history, but the author occasionally writes with great animation and energy, discovering at times the precision and the force of Tacitus, of whose annals he left a translation in manuscript. He had bestowed much study on that philosophic historian, and sometimes is successful in the imitation of his manner. 4. “Letters to M. de Voltaire,1761, 12mo, containing sarcastic remarks on Voltaire’s “Age of Louis XIV.” Voltaire refuted these remarks in a pamphlet entitled “Supplement to the age of Louis XIV.” in which he shews it to be an odious thing to seize upon a work on purpose to disfigure it. La Beaumelle in 1754 gave out an “Answer to this | Supplement,” which he re-produced in 1761, under the title of “Letters.” To this Voltaire made no reply; but shortly after stigmatized it in company with several others, in his infamous poem the “Pucelle,” where he describes la Beaumelle as mistaking the pockets of other men for his own. The writer, thus treated, endeavoured to cancel the calumny by a decree of the parliament of Thoulouse but other affairs prevented him from pursuing this. Voltaire, however, had some opinion of his talents; and the writer of this article has seen a letter of his in which he says’: “Ce pendard a bien de Pesprit.” “The rascal has a good deal of wit.” La Beaumelle, on the other hand, said: “Personne n’ecrit mieux que Voltaire.” “No one writes better than Voltaire.” Yet these mutual acknowledgments of merit did not prevent their passing a considerable part of their life in mutual abuse. The abb Irail informs us, that la Beaumelle being one day asked why he was continually attacking Voltaire in his books “Because,” returned he, “he never spares me in his and my books sell the better for it.” It is said, however, that la Beaumelle would have left off writing against the author of the Henriade; and even would have been reconciled with him, had he not imagined that it would be impossible to disarm his wrath, and therefore he preferred war to an insecure peace. 5. “Penses de Seneque,” in Latin and French, in 12mo, after the manner of the “Pensees de Ciceron,” by the abbe d’Olivet, whom he has rather imitated than equalled. 6. “Commentaire sur la Henriade,Paris, 1775, 2 vols. 8vo. Justice and taste are sometimes discernible in this performance, but too much severity and too many minute remarks. 7. A manuscript translation of the Odes of Horace. 8. “Miscellanies,” also in ms. among which are some striking pieces. The author had a natural bent towards satire. His temper was frank and honest, but ardent and restless. Though his conversation was instructive, it had not that liveliness which we perceive in his writings. 1