Flechier, Esprit

, the celebrated bishop of Nismes, distinguished equally for elegant learning, abilities, and exemplary piety, was born June 10, 1632, at Perne, near Avignon, in Provence, and educated in the study of literature and virtue under his uncle Hercules AudifiTret. After the death of this relation, who was principal of the congregation styled De la Doctrine Chretienne, he appeared at Paris, about 1659, where he was soon distinguished as a man of genius, and an able preacher. A description of a carousal, in Latin verse, which, notwithstanding the difficulty of a subject unknown to the ancients, was pure and classical, first attracted the public admiration. It was published in 1669, in folio, and entitled “Cursus Regius,” and has since been included in his miscellaneous works. His funeral orations completed the fame which his sermons had begun. He had pronounced one at Narbonne, in 1659, when professor of rhetoric there, on the bishop of that city, but this is not extant. The first of those that are published, was delivered in 1672, at the funeral of madam de Montausier, whose husband had become his patron and friend. He soon rose to be the rival of Bossuet in this species of eloquence. His oration on | mareschal Turenne, pronounced in 1676, is esteemed the most perfect of these productions; it excited at once the liveliest regret for the deceased hero, and the highest admiration of the orator. The last oration in the collection must have agitated his feelings as well as exercised his talents, for it was in honour of his well-tried friend the duke of Montausier, who died in 1690. In 1679 he published his history of the emperor Theodosius the Great, the ouly part that was ever executed, of a plan to instruct the dauphin, by writing for him the lives of the greatest Christian princes. The king, after having testified his regard for him by giving him the abbey of S. iSeverin, and the office of almoner in ordinary to the dauphin, promoted him in 1685 to the see of Lavaur, saying to him at the same time, < Be not surprised that I so Jong delayed to reward your merit; I was afraid of losing the pleasure of hearing your discourses.“Two years after, he was made bishop of Nismes. In his diocese he was no less remarkable for the mildness and indulgence by which he drew hack several protestants to his church, than for his general charity, and attention to the necessities of the unfortunate of all descriptions. At the time of a famine, in 1709, his charity was unbounded, and was extended to persons of all persuasions; and his modesty was at all times equal to his benevolence. Numbers were relieved by him, without knowing the source of their good fortune. His father had been a tallowchandler; but Flechier had too much real greatness of mind to conceal the humbleness of his origin: and, being once insolently reproached on that subject, he had the spirit to reply,I fancy, sir, from your sentiments, if you had been so born, you would, have made candles still.“It is said that he had a presentiment of his death by means of a dream; in consequence of which, he employed an artist to design a monument for him, wishing to have one that was modest and plain, not such as vanity or gratitude might think it necessary to erect. He urged the artist to execute this design before his death, which happened Feb. 16, 1710.” He died,“says d’Alembert,” lamented by the catholics, regretted by the protestants, having always exhibited to his brethren an excellent model of zeal and charity, simplicity and eloquence."

His works are, 1. “CEuvres Mesle*es,” miscellaneous works, 12mo, in verse and prose, both French and Latin, Of his compositions in the latter language, it is generally | remarked, that they are distinguished by classical purity and good taste. 2. An edition of Gratiani, “De casibus iliustriuni Virornm,” 4to. S. “Panegyrics of the Saints,” esteemed one of the best works of the kind. 4. His funeral Orations, which are* eight in number. 5. His Sermons, in 3 vols. If mo, less forcible than his panegyrics, or his orations. He had studied old quaint discourses, which he ridiculed, and called his buffoons; yet they had in some degree vitiated his style of writing sermons. 6. “The History of Theodosius,” above-mentioned. 7. “The Life of cardinal Ximenes,” one volume, 4to, or two volumes, 12mo. 8. “Letters,” 2 vols. 12mo, in a pure, but not an epistolary style, y. “The Life of cardinal Commendon, translated from the Latin of Gratiani,” one vol. 4 to, or two vols. 12mo. 10. Posthumous Works, containing pastoral letters of the most excellent paternal tenderness, and other matters. Of all these a handsome edition was printed in 1782, 9 vols. 8vo. But in this edition the correspondence with Baville, the persecuting intendant of Languedoc, which had been promised, was suppressed by authority.

They who compare the eloquence of his funeral orations with those of Bossuet, whom he rivalled, say, that in Bossuet there is less elegance and purity of language, but greater strength and masculine character. The style of Flechier is more flowing, finished, and uniform; that of Bossuet unequal, but fuller of those bold traits, those lively and striking figures, which are characteristic of true genius. Flechier owes more to art, Bossuet to nature. 1


Eulogy by D’Alembert. —Moreri. —Niceron, vols. I. and X.