Dubos, John Baptist

, an eminent French writer and critic, secretary, and one of the forty members of the French academy, censor-royal, &c. was born at Beauvais, in December, 1670. After some elementary education at home, he came to Paris in 1686, and pursuing his studies, took his bachelor’s degree in divinity in 1691. One of his uncles, a canon of the cathedral of Beauvais, being attacked by a dangerous illness, resigned his canonry to him in 1695, but on his recovery chose to revoke his resignation. The nephew appears to have felt this and other disappointments in his view of promotion so keenly, as to determine to change his profession. He accordingly left Beauvais in the last-mentioned year, returned to Paris, and soon was distinguished as a man of abilities. The same year he acquired a situation in the office for foreign affairs, and became patronized by M. de Torcy, by whose means he accompanied the French plenipotentiaries to Ryswick, in 1696, where peace was concluded. After his return to France, he was sent to Italy in 1699, although without an ostensible character, to negociate some affairs of importance in the Italian courts, which occupied him until 1702. Some time after, he went to England, as charge d’affaires, and while the war occasioned by the contest about the crown of Spain was at its height, and had involved all Europe, he was the only minister France had at the court of St. James’s, where he resided without rank or character. He then went to the Hague, and to Brussels, and at this latter place wrote the manifesto of the elector of Bavaria, which did him so much credit. In 1707 we find him at Neufchatel, and in 1710 at Gertruydenburgh, and he appears to have had a considerable hand in the treaties of peace concluded at Utrecht, Baden, and | Rastadt. All these services were recompensed in 1705, by the priory of Veneroles, and in 1714 by a canonry of the church of Beauvais. Having been employed in other state affairs by the regent and by cardinal Dubois, he was rewarded in 1716 by a pension of 2000 livres, and in 1723 was promoted to the abbey of Notre-Dame de Ressons, near Beauvais. As it was now his intention to execute the duties of these preferments, he received in 1724 the orders of subdeacon and deacon, and was about to have taken possession of his canonry, when he was seized with a disorder at Paris, which proved fatal March 23, 1742. In 1720 he was elected into the French academy, and in 1723 was appointed their secretary.

His works, which procured him a very high reputation in France, were published inxhe following order: 1. “Histoire des quatre Gordiens, prouvee et illustree par les medailles,Paris, 1695, 12mo, in which he proves, contrary to the common opinion, that there was a fourth Gordianus, the son of the younger Gordianus of Africa; but this produced two answers, in which his opinion was attacked. 2. “Animadversiones ad Nicolai Bergerii librog de publicis et militaribus imperii Romani viis,Utrecht and Leyden, 1699. 3. “Les interets de PAngleterre, mal entendiis dans la guerre presente,” Amst. 1704, of which there have been several editions, but it appears to have been better relished in France than in England; it consists of many melancholy prophecies respecting England, one of which only, the separation of the American colonies from the mother country, which he hints at, has been fulfilled. 4. “Histoire de la ligue de Cambrai, faite Tan 1508, centre la republique de Venise,Paris, 1709, 2 vols. 12mo, and reprinted in 1728. 5. “Reflections critiques sur la Poesie et la Peinture,Paris, 1719, 2 vols. 12mo, and often reprinted in 3 vols, and translated into English. This work, on which the abbe“Dubos’s reputation now principally rests, contains many useful remarks, in a style peculiarly agreeable, but his taste has been frequently attacked, and his enthusiasm for the arts doubted. Voltaire gave him the praise of having seen, heard, and reflected upon the fine arts, and he must be allowed to be upon some topics an elegant writer, and an ingenious reasoner; but, with regard to the subject of music, both his prejudices and his ignorance are visible. He not only determines, says Dr. Burney, that the French and Fleming* | cultivated music before the Italians; but, wholly unacquainted with the compositions of other parts of Europe, asserted that there was no music equal to that of Lulli, only known and admired in France. And where, adds the doctor, will he be believed, except in that kingdom, when he says that foreigners allow his countrymen to understand time and measure better than the Italians? He never loses an opportunity of availing himself of the favourable opinions of foreigners in behalf of French music, against that of other parts of Europe. Not only Guicciardini, but Addison, Gravina, and Vossius, all equally unacquainted with the theory, practice, or history of the art, and alike deprived of candour by the support of some favourite opinion or hypothesis, are pressed into the service of his country. If when D’Alembert wrote his Eulogy, he could say that Dubos was one of those men of letters who had more merit than fame, the converse of the proposition is now nearer the truth, and yet the merit of having produced a very agreeable book may be allowed him; and a book, a great deal of which will contribute to form a just taste on those subjects with which he is really acquainted. 6.” Histoire critique de l’etablissment de la monarchic Franoise dans les Gaules," Paris, 1734, 3 vols. 4to. Profiting by some criticisms on this work from the pen of M. Hoffman, professor of history at Wittemberg, he left for publication a corrected edition, which appeared in 1743, 2 vols. 4to. Besides these, he published a translation in French prose, of part of Addison’s Cato, and some discourses held in the French academy. 1


Moreri. Eulogy by D’Alembert. —Dict. Hist. Barney’s History f Music, vol. II.