Godeau, Anthony

, a learned French bishop and writer, was descended from a good family at Dreux, and born in 1605. Being inclined to poetry from his youth, he applied himself to it, and so cultivated his genius, that he made his fortune by it. His first essay was a paraphrase in verse of the Benedicite, which was much commended. He was but twenty -four when he became a member of that society which met at the house of Mr. Conrart, to confer upon subjects of polite learning, and to communicate their performances. From this society cardinal Richlieu took the hint, and formed the resolution, of establishing the French academy for belles lettres; and our author in a few years obtained the patronage of that powerful ecclesiastic. The bishopric of Grasse becoming vacant in 1636, cardinal Richelieu recommended him to the king, who immediately conferred it upon him; and as soon as the ceremony of consecration was over, he repaired to his diocese, and applied himself to the functions of his office. He held several synods, composed a great number of pastoral instructions for the use of his clergy, and restored ecclesiastical discipline, which had been almost entirely | neglected. He obtained from pope Innocent X. a bull for uniting the bishopric of Vence to that of Grasse, as his predecessor William le Blore had before obtained from Clement VIII. This arrangement, considering the propinquity of the two dioceses, and the small income of both together (about 450l.) was not unreasonable; but when Godeau found the people and clergy averse to it, he gave up his pretensions, and contented himself with the bishopric of Vence only. He assisted in several general assemblies of the clergy, held in 1645 and 1655; in which he vigorously maintained the dignity of the episcopal order, and the system of pure morality, against those who opposed both. One of his best pieces upon this subject, was published in 1709, with the title of “Christian Morals for the Instruction of the Clergy of the Diocese of Vence” and was afterwards translated into English, by Basil Kennet. These necessary absences excepted, he constantly resided upon his diocese, where he was perpetually employed in visitations, preaching, reading, writing, or attending upon the ecclesiastical or temporal affairs of his bishopric, till Easter-day, April 17, 1671; when he was seized with a fit of an apoplexy, of which he died the 21st.

He was a very voluminous author, both in prose and verse. Moreri, after giving a list of fifty works, adds many fugitive pieces of devotional poetry. One of his principal works is his “Ecclesiastical History,” intended to be comprized in 3 vols fol. The first appeared in 1653, containing the “History of the first eight centuries;” but as he did not finish the other two, they remained in manuscript. He was, however, the first person who gave a “Church History” in the French language. He was the author also of a “Translation of the Psalms into French verse,” which were so well approved, that those of the reformed religion have not scrupled to use them at home in their families, instead of the version of Marot, which is adapted and consecrated to the public service. Of this work Basil Kennet has given a criticism in the preface to “An Essay towards a Paraphrase on the Psalms,1709, 8vo. The Jesuit, Vavassor, wrote a piece on purpose to prove that our author had no true taste for poetry; and Boileau remarks several defects in his poetical performances. 1


Dupib. —Niceron, vol. XVIII. and XX. —Moreri.