Des Barreaux, James Vallee, Lord

, a French nobleman, born at Paris in 1602, was, like the English lord Rochester, a great wit, a great libertine, and a great penitent. He made a vast progress in his studies under the Jesuits, who, perceiving his genius, endeavoured to get him into their society; but his family would not listen to their proposal, and he soon himself began to treat them with ridicule. While very young, his father procured him | the place of a counsellor in the parliament of Paris, where his wit was aumired but he would never report a cause; for he used to say that it was a sordid occupation, and unworthy of a man of parts, to read wrangling papers with attention, and to endeavour to understand them. It is said, indeed, that on one occasion, when his clients were urgent for a decision, he sent for both parties, burnt the papers before them, and paid down the sum that was the cause of the dispute, to the amount of four or five hundred livres. One account says, that he left this place from the following cause. Cardinal Richelieu falling in love with the celebrated beauty Marion de Lorme, whose affections were entirely placed on our Des Barreaux, proposed to him by a third hand, that if he would resign his mistress, he should have whatever he should desire. Des Barreaux answered the proposal in a jesting way, feigning to believe the cardinal incapable of so much weakness. This enraged the minister so highly, that he persecuted Des Barreaux as long as he lived, and forced him not only to quit his place, but even to leave the kingdom. But another account says that his resignation of the bar was voluntary, and with a view to become a man of pleasure, which appears to be more probable. During his career, however, he made a great number of Latin and French verses, and. some pleasing songs; but never pursued any thing seriously, except good cheer and diversions, and being very entertaining in company, he was in high request with men of wit and taste. He had his particular friends in the several provinces of France, whom he frequently visited, and it was his practice to shift his quarters, according to the seasons of the year. In winter, he went to seek the sun on the coasts of Provence; and passed the three worst months in the year at Marseilles. The house which he called his favourite, was that of the count de Clermont de Lodeve, in Languedoc; where, he used to say, good cheer and liberty were on their throne. Sometimes he went to Balzac, on the banks of the Charante but his chief residence was at Chenailles on the Loire. His general view in these ramblings was to search out the best fruits and the best wines in the climates: but sometimes, to do him justice, his object was more intellectual, as, when he went into Holland, on purpose to see Des Cartes, and to improve hr the instructions of that great genius. | His friends do not deny that he was a great libertine; but pretend, that fame, according to custom, had said more of him than is true, and that, in the latter part of his life, he was convinced of the reality of religion. They say, that he did not disapprove the truths of Christianity, and wished to be fully convinced of them; but he thought nothing was so dim’cult to a man of wit as to be a true believer. He was born a catholic, but paid little attention either to the worship or doctrines of the Romish religion; and he used to say, that if the Scriptures are to be the rule of our actions and of our belief, there was no better religion than the protestant. Four or five years before his death, we are told that he entirely forsook his vicious courses, paid his debts, and, having never been married, gave up the remainder of his estate to his sisters; reserving to himself for life an annuity of 4000 livres. He then retired to Chalon on the Soane, which he said was the best and purest air in France; hired a small house, and was visited by the better sort of people, particularly by the bishop, who afterwards spoke well of him. He died in that city, May 9. 1673, having made the famous devout sonnet two or three years before his death, which begins, “Grand Dieu, tes jugemens,” &c. But Voltaire has endeavoured to deprive him of the merit of this, by ascribing it to the abbe de Levau. It is, however, the only one of Des Barreaux’s poems, which in general were in the style of Sarazin and Chapelle, that has obtained approbation, Dreux du Radier, in his “Recreations historiques,” asserts that it is an imitation of a sonnet by Desportes, who published it in 1G03; and if so, the imitation must be allowed greatly to surpass the original. 1


Dict. Hist.—Biog. Universelle, in Barreaux.—Gen. Dict.