Boissi, Louis De

, a celebrated French comic writer of native wit and genuine humour, was born at Vic in Auvergne in 1694. He came early to Paris, and began to write for the stage. The rest of his life is a moral. As has often been the fate of extraordinary favourites of the | muses, though he laboured incessantly for the public, his works procured him only a competency of fame he wanted bread, and while the theatres and coffee-houses of Paris were ringing with plaudits on his uncommon talents to promote their mirth, he was languishing, with a wife and child, under the pressures of the extremest poverty. Yet, melancholy as his situation was, he lost nothing of that pride, which forbid him to creep and fawn at the feet of a patron. Boissi had friends, who would readily have relieved him; but they were never made acquainted with his real condition, or had not that friendly impetuosity which forces assistance on the modest sufferer. He at length became the prey of distress, and sunk into despondency. The shortest way to rid himself at once of his load of misery seemed to him to be death, on which he speculated with the despair of a man who has none of the consolations of religion. His wife, who was no less weary of life, listened with participation as often as he declaimed, in all the warmth of poetic rapture, on the topic of deliverance from this earthly prison, and the smiling prospects of futurity; till at length she took up the resolution to accompany him in death. But she could not bear to think of leaving her beloved son, of five years old, in a world of misery and sorrow; it was therefore agreed to take the child along with them, on their passage into another and a better, and they made choice of starving. To this end, they shut themselves up in their solitary and deserted apartment, waiting their dissolution with immovable fortitude. When any one came and knocked, they fled trembling into a corner, for fear of being discovered. Tneir little boy, who had not yet learned to silence the calls of hunger by artificial reasons, whimpering and crying, asked for bread; but they always found means to quiet him.

It occurred to one of Boissi’s friends, that it was very extraordinary he should never find him at home. At first he thought the family had changed their lodgings; but, on assuring himself of the contrary, he began to be alarmed. He called several times in one day, and at last burst open the door, when he saw his friend, with his wife and son, extended on the bed, pale and emaciated, scarcely able to utter a sound! The boy lay in the middle, and the husband and wife had their arms thrown over him. The child stretched out his little hands towards his deliverer, and his first word was Bread! It was now the third day that not | a morsel of food had entered his lips. The parents lay still in a perfect stupor; they had never heard the bursting open of the door, and felt nothing of the embraces of their agitated friend. Their wasted eyes were directed towards the boy; and the tenderest expressions of pity were in the look with which they had last beheld him, and still saw him dying. Their friend hastened to take measures for their recovery; but could not succeed without difficulty. They thought themselves already far from the troubles of life, and were terrified at being suddenly brought back to them. Void of sense and reflection, they submitted to the attempts that were made to recall them to life. At length a thought occurred to their friend, which happily succeeded. He took the child from their arms, and thus roused the last spark of paternal and maternal tenderness. He gave the child to eat; who, with one hand held his bread, and with the other alternately shook his father and mother. It seemed at once to rekindle the love of life in their hearts, on perceiving that the child had left the bed and their embraces. Nature did her office. Their friend procured them strengthening broths, which he put to their lips with the utmost caution, and did not leave them till every symptom of restored life was fully visible.

This transaction made much noise in Paris, and at length reached the ears of the marchioness de Pompadour. Boissi’s deplorable situation moved her. She immediately sent him a hundred louis-d’ors, and soon after procured him the profitable place of editor of the Mercure de France, with a pension for his wife and child, if they outlived him. His “Œuvres de Theatre” are in 9 vols. 8vo. His Italian comedy, in which path he is the author of numerous pieces, has not the merit of the above. His early satires, of which he had written many, being remembered, prevented his admission into the French academy till he was sixty years of age, though he was well entitled to that honour, by his labours and talents, twenty years sooner. He died April, 1658, complaining in his last moments, that his misery was not shortened by an earlier death, or his felicity extended by longevity. 1


Dict. Hist.—D’Alembert’s Hist, of the Members of the French Academy.— Chaufepie.—History of tke Marchioness de Pompadour. Part III. Lond. 12mo. 1760.