Duche De Vancy, Joseph Francis

, born at Paris, Oct. 29, 1668, was the son of a gentleman of the bedchamber to the French king. His father took great pains in his education; but left him scarcely any property, and he soon had recourse to his pen as the means of gaining a subsistence. The marchioness de Maintenon, having seen some of his essays, made choice of him to furnish her pupils at St. Cyr with sacred sonnets, and recommended him so strongly to Pontchartrain, the secretary of state, that the minister, taking the poet for some considerable personage, went and made him a visit. Duche, seeing a secretary of state enter his doors, thought he was going to be sent to the Bastille^; but he was soon relieved from his fright by the civilities of the minister. Duche had as much gentleness in his disposition as charms in his wit, and never indulged in any strokes of satire. Rousseau and he were the delight of the companies they frequented; but the impression made by Duche, though less striking at first, was most lasting. He was also admired for the talent of declamation, which he possessed in no common degree. The academy of inscriptions and belles lettres were pleased to admit him of their body; but he died in the prime of life, Dec. 14, 1704. Duche presented the French theatre with three tragedies, Jonathan, Absalom, and Deborah, of which the second, containing several pathetic scenes, still keeps its ground on the stage; and also wrote some ballets, tragedies, &c. for the opera. Of these last, his “Iphigenia” is his best performance and in the opinion of his countrymen, has many of the excellencies of the Grecian tragedies. There is likewise by this author a collection of edifying stories, which used to be read at St. Cyr with no less edification than pleasure, but which has sometimes been confounded with the pious and moral stories of the abbé de Choisi. The two works are indeed written in the same design, that of disengaging youth from frivolous reading but the collection of the poet is less known than that of the abbé yet is not inferior to it, either in elevation of sentiment, in truth of character, or even in elegance | of style. His hymns and his sacred canticles were also sung at St. Cyr. 1