Bossu, Rene Le

, a distinguished French critic, was born at Paris, March 16, 1631. He began his studies at Nanterre, where he discovered an early taste for polite literature, and soon made surprising progress in all the valuable parts of learning In 1649 he left Nanterre, was admitted a canon regular in the abbey of St. Genevieve, and after a year’s probation took the habit in this abbey. Here he applied to philosophy and divinity, in which he made great proficiency, and took upon him priest’s orders in 1657; but, either from inclination, or in obedience to his superiors, he resumed the belles letters, and taught polite literature in several religious houses. After twelve years, being tired of the fatigue of such an employment, he gave it up, with a resolution to lead a quiet and retired life. Here he published his “Parallel, or comparison betwixt the principles of Aristotle’s natural philosophy, and those of Des Cartes,Paris, 1674. His intention in tnis piece was not to shew the opposition betwixt these two philosophers, but to prove that they do not differ so much as is generally thought; yet this production of his was but indifferently received, either because these two philosophers differ too widely to be reconciled, or because Bossu had not made himself sufficiently acquainted with their opinions, and it is of little consequence now, since both have given way to a more sound system. The next treatise he published was that on “epic poetry,” which gained him great reputation: Boileau says it is one of the best compositions on this subject that ever appeared in the French language. Bossu having met with a piece wrote by St. Sorlin against this poet, he wrote a confutation of it, for which favour Boileau was extremely grateful; and it produced an intimate friendship betwixt them, which continued till our author’s death, March 14, 1680. He left a vast number of manuscript volumes, which are kept in the abbey of St. John de Chartres.

Bossu’s treatise on the epic was long thought a standard book, even in this country, being translated into English in 1719, 2 vols. 8vo, and there are, undoubtedly, many just remarks in it, but he is too visionary and fantastic for the present more refined state of public taste. His notion that Homer fixed on some moral truth or axiom, and then added a fable or story, in which it was of little consequence whether men or beasts were the heroes and speakers, has been acutely exposed by Drs. Blair and | Warton. The first edition of this “Traité de poeme epique” was published at Paris in 1675, and it went through several other editions. There was one printed at the Hague in 17 14, which F. Le Courayer had the care of, and to which he prefixed a discourse to the abbé de Morsan, containing an account of the treatise, and some encomiums upon it, and some memoirs concerning Bossu’s life. 1


Moreri. —Dict. Hist. Blair’s Lectures. Bowles’s Edit, of Pope’s Works. Gen. Dict. Baillet Jugemeus.