Chatel, Peter Du

, in Latin Castellanus, a very learned French prelate, is said by some to have been of obscure birth, but his biographer Galland makes him of an ancient family, and the son of a brave knight. Yet this is doubtful, if what he said to king Francis I. be more than a witticism. The king once asked him if he was a gentleman; to which Chatel answered “that there were three in the ark, but he did not really know from which of them he descended.” He was, however, born at Arc, in Burgundy, and in the eleventh year of his age, before which his parents died, he was sent to Dijon, for education, where he made an astonishing progress, and before he had been there six years, was appointed a teacher, in which capacity he soon distinguished himself, and on one occasion made a public display of more than grammatical talents. His master, Peter Turreau, was accused of being | an astrologer, and Chatel pleaded his cause so ably that he was acquitted. He afterwards travelled, in order to cultivate the acquaintance of the learned men of his time, and particularly of Erasmus, whom he met at Basil, and who conceived such a high opinion of his learning, as to recommend him to Frobenius, to be corrector of the Greek and Latin authors, printed at his celebrated press. While here he had also an opportunity of correcting some of Erasmus’s works; but they left Basil together, when the popish religion was established there. Erasmus retired to Fribourg, and Chatel returned to France, where he accepted the offer made him by some persons of distinction, to be tutor to certain young men who were to study law at Bourges, under the celebrated Alciat. As they were not yet prepared to depart, he read public lectures on the Greek text of St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans; and unfortunately for his reputation, was entrapped into an intrigue with a young woman, a circumstance on which Bayle expatiates with his usual delight ~in what is indelicate. ChatePs scholars, however, being at length ready, he accompanied them to Bourges, and studied law, filling up his leisure hours with topics of polite literature. His diligence was unremitting, as he slept scarcely three hours in the night, and the moment he waked ran with eagerness to his books. This method of study he preserved, even afterwards, when appointed reader to the king.

Having an inclination to visit Italy, the bishop of Auxerre, who was going there in a diplomatic character, took him with him, but at Rome he found little enjoyment except in contemplating the remains of antiquity. The corruption of morals at the court of Rome appeared so atrocious in his eyes, that for many years afterwards he could not speak on the subject without indignation, and appears indeed to have conceived as bad an opinion of the court of Rome as any of the reformers, and expressed himself with as much severity. From Rome he went to Venice, and was induced to accept the office of teaching polite literature in the island of Cyprus, with a pension of two hundred crowns, and there he read lectures for two years with great success. He afterwards went into Egypt, Jerusalem, and Constantinople, and on his return home, the French ambassador at the Porte gave him letters of strong recommendation to Francis I. who appointed him his reader; and entertained him with the utmost familiarity. | Chatel availed himself of this favour to procure advantages to learning and learned men; but although his sentiments were so far liberal as to admit that the church wanted reforming, he supported the catholic religion, and even assisted the inquisitors and informers. He was also averse to capital punishments for heresy, and involved himself in danger by pleading for some pretended heretics, who, it was reported, were to be put to death. He likewise appeased the king’s wrath against the Waldenses before the slaughter of Cabrioles and Merindol, and once delivered Dolet out of prison. His zeal for maintaining the rights of the Gallican church against the pretensions of the court of Rome, rendered him odious there, and the doctors of the Sorbonne were not less displeased with him for the protection he granted in 1545, to Robert Stephens, the celebrated printer. These were favourable symptoms of liberality, at least, if not of an inclination to befriend the cause of the reformation, and soften the rigours of persecution. But Chatel wanted firmness, and withdrawing his protection from Stephens, the latter was forced to retire into another country. Chatel was perhaps influenced by the favours heaped upon him by Francis T. who made him bishop of Tulle in 1539, and afterwards bishop of Macron. He is said never to have appeared to more advantage as a divine and a man of eloquence than when he prepared Francis I. for death, and delivered his funeral oration. Yet in this oration, by hinting that the soul of Francis had immediately gone to heaven, he alarmed the doctors of the Sorbonne, who complained that he was heretic enough to oppose the doctrine of purgatory. A more valid objection, perhaps, might have been his high praise of Francis I. whose character was not that of perfect purity.

Henry II. the successor of Francis, finding that Chatel intended to leave the court, by way of detaining him, bestowed on him the important office of grand almoner, and translated him to the bishopric of Orleans, in which he is said to have introduced some salutary reformation among the ignorant and vicious priests. Here he frequently preached, and very wonderful accounts are given of the effects of his eloquence upon the most hardened impenitents. On one of these occasions he was seized with a fit of the palsy, which proved fatal Feb. 3, 1552, and which some protestant writers considered as a judgment on him for maintaining a conduct contrary to the convictions | of his own mind. He was undoubtedly a man inclined to moderation, but appears to have been ambitious, and too much ensnared by a court life. His learning was very extensive; but we have only in print a Latin letter from Francis I. to Charles V. ascribed to him, and his funeral oration on Francis I. both printed in his life by Galland, published by Baluze, Paris, 1674, 8vo. There was, however, an edition of the oration printed in 1547, under the title “Le trepas, obseques, et enterrement de Francois I. avec les deux sermons fu neb res,” &c. 4to. 1

1 Gen. Dict. —Moreri. —Dict. Hist. Jortin’s Erasmus. Crevier Hist, de l’Université de Paris.