Bruyere, John De La

, one of those celebrated persons whose writings attract universal admiration, while their lives pass on in one uniform tenour, without incident or adventure, was born in 1639, 1640, or 1644, (for we have seen all these dates given), in a village of France, near the town of Dourdan, in that part of the late province of the Isle of France which is now denominated the department of the Seine and Oise. Of his education, or of his youthful manners, we have no information. His first situation appears to have been at Caen, in the province of Normandy, where he had an office in the collection of the revenue. His literary talents, however, became soon too conspicuous to permit him to remain long in a situation so little corresponding with the expanding and elevating | views of genius. The illustrious Bossuet appointed him to attend one of the royal children of France, to instruct him in history, with a pension of a thousand crowns a year. With this he might be considered at that period, and in that country, as in a state of affluence; and the literary distinctions, then the most courted by aspiring minds, were not withheld from him; for, in 163, he was elected by the express command of Lewis XIV. one of the forty members of the French academy. But he did not long enjoy that affluence which afforded him leisure to cultivate the fields of literature, nor the distinctions which he so well merited, and which were accompanied by the universal admiration of his countrymen, and indeed of all Europe. An apoplectic fit removed him from this transitory scene, in the year 1696, and in the fifty-third year of his age.

M. de la Bruyere was an ingenious philosopher, devoid of all ambition, content to enjoy in tranquillity his friends andhis books, and selecting both with judgment. Pleasure he neither sought, nor endeavoured to avoid. Ever disposed to the indulgence of a modest and placid joy, with a happy talent of exciting it, he was polite in his manners, and wise in his conversation; an enemy to every kind of affectation, and even to that of displaying the brilliancy of wit. The work by which he was distinguished was “The Characters of Theophrastus, translated from the Greek, with the Manners of the present age.” “These characters,” says Voltaire, “may be justly ranked among the extraordinary productions of the age. Antiquity furnishes no examples of such a work. A rapid, concise, and nervous style; animated and picturesque expressions; a use of language altogether new, without offending against its established rules, struck the public at first; and the allusions to living persons, which are crowded in almost every page, completed its success. When the author showed his work in manuscript to Malesieux, the latter told him that the book would have many readers, and its author many enemies .*


La Bruyere used to frequent the shop of a bookseller named Michallet, where he amused himself with reading the new pamphlets, and playing with the bookseller’s daughter, an engaging child, of whom he was very fond. One day, taking the manuscript of his “Characters” out of his packet, he offered it to Michallet, saying: Will you print this? I know not whether you will gain any thing by it, but, should it succeed, let the profits make the


dowry of my little friend here." The bookseller, though doubtful with respect to the result, ventured on the publication; the first impression was soon sold off, several editions were afterwards sold, and the profits of the work amounted to a large sum; and with this fortune Miss Michallet was afterwards advantageously married.

Month. Rev. vol. XI. N. S, from

the Memoirs of the Royal Academy of Berlin.

It somewhat sunk in the opinion of men, | when that whole generation, whose follies it attacked, were passed away; yet, as it contains many things applicable to all times and places, it is more than probable that it will never be forgotten.”

Beside this admirable work, he had begun “Dialogues on Quietism,” which were finished after his death by abbé Dupin, and published in 1699, 12mo.

The best French editions of his Characters are those of Amsterdam, 1741, 2 vols. 12mo, and of Paris, 1750, 2 vols. 12mo, and in 1765, 1 vol. 4to. The English translation of them is in 2 vols. 8vo, by Rowe, 1713, with a tedious account of his life and writings, by M. Coste. This last contains the Theophrastus, Bruyere’s Characters, with a key, his speech on admission into the French academy, and an imitation of Bruyere by Rowe.1


Life prefixed to Works.—Moreri.—Dict. Hist.Saxii Onomast.