Boursault, Edmund

, a French dramatic writer and satirist, was born in 1638, at Mussi-l‘évêque in Burgundy. He was not brought up at school, and could only speak the rude provincial dialect of his country, when he came to Paris in 1651, yet, by the perusal of good books, with his good memory, he was soon able to converse and to write elegantly in French. Having composed, by order of Louis XIV. a book of no great merit, entitled “Of the proper study of sovereigns,1671, 12mo, the king was so well pleased with it, that he would have appointed him sub-preceptor to Monseigneur, if Boursault had been master of the Latin language. The duchess of Angouleme, widow of a natural son of Charles IX. having taken him to be her secretary, he was engaged to turn every week the gazette into rhyme, which procured him a pension of 2000 livres. Louis XIV. and his court were much entertained with him; but, having employed his satire against the Franciscans and the Capuchins, he was silenced. The queen’s confessor, a Spanish cordelier, caused both the gazette and the pension to be suppressed; and would have had him imprisoned, had it not been for the interest exerted in his behalf by his patrons. He shortly after obtained a new licence, and published his gazette under the title of the “Merry Muse;” but it was again suppressed. He afterwards got into favour once more, and was made receiver of the excise at Montlugon, where he died of a violent colic, aged 63, Sept. 5, 1701. He wrote several theatrical pieces, and other works. The chief of them | are, “Æsop in the city,” and “Æsop at court;” which long remained to the stage. These two pieces and the following are an agreeable satire on the ridiculous manners or the several ages and conditions of life. His verse in general is harmonious, but his style sometimes negligent, yet in general easy and suitable to the subject. 2. The “Mercure galante,” or “La comedie sans titre,” in which he ingeniously ridicules the rage for getting a place in the Mercure galaut. 3. “La satyre des satyres,” in one act. Boiltau’s satirical notice of Boursault, to avenge Moliere, with whom he had had a difference, gave occasion to this piece, which Boileau had interest enough and meanness enough to prevent being played. The satirist being some years afterwards at the baths of Bourbon, Boursault, at that time receiver of the excise at Montluc/>n, repaired thither on purpose to offer him his purse and his services. At this act of generosity Boileau was much affected; and they immediately engaged in a mutual friendship, of which Boursault was highly deserving by the gentleness of his manners, and the cheerfulness of his disposition. He behaved with less tolerance, however, towards his other censors; and was able sometimes to chastise them with effect. A cabal having prevented the success of the first representation of “Æsop in the city,” the author added to it a fable of the dog and the ox, applying the moral of it to the pit; which so effectually silenced the cabal, that the piece had a run of forty-three nights without interruption. Thomas Cornell le had a sincere regard for Boursault, whom he used to call his son, and insisted on his applying to be admitted a member of the academy. Boursault desired to be excused on account of his ignorance, adding with his usual simplicity, “What would the academy do with an ignorant and illiterate (ignare & non Lettre) member, who knows neither Latin nor Greek?” “We are not talking (returned Corneille) of a Greek or Latin academy, but of a French academy; and who understands French better than you?” There are likewise by him, 1. Some romances, “The marquis de Chavigny,” “The prince de Conde” which are written with spirit “Artemisia and Polyanthus and,” We should only believe what we see.“2. A collection of letters on subjects of respect, obligation, and gallantry; known under the name of” Lettres a Babet;“now forgotten. 3.” Lettres nouvelles,“with fables, tales, epigrams, remarks, bon-mots, &c. 3 vols. 12mo, | several times reprinted, though mostly written in a loose and inelegant style: a miscellany, which was very popular when ii first came out; but is much less at present, as the tales and bon-mots which Boursault has collected, or put into verse, are found in many other books. His fables have neither the simplicity of those of La Fontaine, nor the elegant precision of Phaedrus. There is an edition of the” Theatre de Boursault," in 3 vols. 1746, 12mo. 1


Moreri.-—Dict. Hist. Gen. Dict. —Niceron, vol. XIV. Biog. Gallica, vol. II.