Henault, Charles John Francis

, an eminent French writer, and president in parliament, was born at Paris, Feb. 8, 1685. His great grandfather, Remi Henault, used to be of Lewis XIII.' s party at tennis, and that prince called him “The Baron,” because of a fief which he possessed near Triel. He had three sons, officers of horse, who were all killed at the siege of Casal. John Remi, his father, an esquire, and lord of Moussy, counsellor to the king, and secretary to the council, kept up the honour of the family, and becoming farmer-general, made his fortune. He was honoured with the confidence of the count de Pontchartrain; and, being of a poetical turn, had some share in the criticisms which appeared against Racine’s tragedies. He married the daughter of a rich merchant at Calais, and one of her brothers being president of that town, entertained the queen of England on her landing there in 1689. Another brother, counsellor in the parliament of Metz, and secretary to the duke of Berry, was associated with Mr. Crozat in the armaments, and, dying unmarried, left a great fortune to his sister. | Young Renault early discovered a sprightly, benevolent disposition, and his penetration and aptness soon distinguished itself by the success of his studies. Claude de Lisle, father of the celebrated geographer, gave him the same lessons in geography and history which he had before given to the duke of Orleans, afterwards regent. These instructions have been printed in seven volumes, under the title of “Abridgment of Universal History.

On quitting college, Henault entered the congregation of the oratory, where he soon attached himself to the study of eloquence and, on the death of the abbé Rene, reformer of LaTrappe, he undertook to pronounce his panegyric, which not meeting the approbation of father Massilon, he quitted the oratory after two years, and his father bought for him, of marshal Villeroi, the lieutenance des chasses, and the government of Corbeil. At the marshal’s he formed connections and even intimate friendships with many of the nobility, and passed the early part of his life in agreeable amusements, and in the liveliest company, without having his religious sentiments tainted. He associated with the wits till the dispute between Rousseau and De la Motte soon gave him a disgust for these trifling societies. In 1707 he gained the prize of eloquence at the French academy; and another, next year, at the academy des jeux Floraux. About this time, M. Reaumur, who was his relation, came to Paris, and took lessons in geometry under the same master, Guinee. Henault introduced him to the abbe Bignon, and this was the first step of his illustrious course. In 1713 he brought a tragedy on the stage, under the disguised name of Fuselier. As he was known to the public only by some slighter pieces, “Cornelia the Vestal” met with no better success. He therefore locked it up, without printing. In his old age his passion for these subjects revived, and Mr. Horace Walpole being at Paris* in 1768, and having formed a friendship with him as one of the amiable men of his nation, obtained this piece, and had it printed at his press at Strawberry-hill. In 1751 Mr. Henault, under a borrowed name, brought out a second tragedy, entitled “Marius,” which was well received and printed. The French biographers, however, doubt whether this was not really by M. Catix, whose name it bore.

He had been admitted counsellor in parliament in 1706, with a dispensation on account of age and in 1710, | president of the first chamber of inquests. These important places, which he determined to fill in a becoming manner, engaged him in the most solid studies. The excellent work of Mr. Dqmat charmed him, and made him eager to go back to the fountain head. He spent several years in making himself master of the Roman law, the ordonnances of the French king, their customs, and public law. M. de Morville, procureur-general of the great council, being appointed ambassador to the Hague in 1718, engaged Henault to accompany him; and his personal merit soon introduced him to the acquaintance of the most eminent personages at that time there. The grand pensionary, Heinsius, who, under the exterior of Lacedemonian simplicity, kept up all the haughtiness of that people, lost with him all that hauteur which France itself had experienced from him in the negociations for the treaty of Utrecht.

The agitation which all France felt by Law’s system, and the consequent sending of the parliament into exile, was a trial to the wise policy of the president Henault. His friendship for the first president, De Mesmes, led him to second the views of that great magistrate: he took part inall the negociations, and was animated purely by the public good, without any private advantage. On the death of the cardinal du Bois, in 1723, he succeeded in his place at the French academy. Cardinal Fleury recommended him to succeed himself as director, and he pronounced the eloge of M. de Malezieux.

History was his favourite study not a bare collection of dates, but a knowledge of the laws and manners of nations to obtain which he drew instruction from private conversations, a method he so strongly recommends in his preface. After having thus discussed the most important points of public law, he undertook to collect and publish the result of his inquiries, and he is deservedly accounted the first framer of chronological abridgements; in which, without stopping at detached facts, he attends only to those which form a chain of events that perfect or alter the government and character of a nation, and traces only the springs which exalt or humble a nation, extending or contracting the space it occupies in the world. His work has had the fortune of those literary phenomena, where novelty and merit united excite minds eager after glory, and fire the ardour of young writers to press after a guide whom few can | overtake. The first edition of the work, the result of forty years’ reading, appeared in 1744, under the auspices of the chancellor Daguesseau, with the modest title. of “An Essay.” The success it met with surprised the author. He made continual improvements in it, and it has gone through nine editions, and been translated into Italian, English, and German, and even into Chinese. As the best writers are not secure from criticism, and are indeed the only ones that deserve it, the author read to the academy of belles lettres a defence of his abridgement.

All the ages and events of the French monarchy being present to his mind, and his imagination and memory being a vast theatre on which he beheld the different movements and parts of the actors in the several revolutions, he determined to give a specimen of what passed in his own mind, and to reduce into the form of a regular drama, one of the periods of French history, the reign of Francis II. which, though happy only by being short, appeared to him one of the most important by its consequences, and most easy to be confined within a dramatic compass. His friend the chancellor highly approved the plan, and wished it to be printed. It accordingly went through five editions; the harmony of dates and facts is exactly observed in it, and the passions interested without offence to historic truth.

In 1755 Henault was chosen an honorary member of the academy of belles lettres, having been before elected into the academies of Nanci, Berlin, and Stockholm. The queen also appointed him superintendant of her house. His natural spnghtliness relieved her from the serious attendance on his private morning lectures. The company of persons most distinguished by their wit and birth, a table more celebrated for the choiceof the guests than its delicacies, the little comedies suggested by wit, and executed by reflection, united at his house all the pleasures of an agreeable literary life. All the members of this ingenious society contributed to render it pleasing, and the president was not inferior to any. He composed three comedies, “La Petite Maison;” “Le Jaloux de Soimeme,” and “Le Ileveil d’Epimenide.” The subject of the last was the Cretan philosopher, who is pretended to have slept twenty-seven years. The queen was particularly pleased with this piece.

He was now in such favour witji her majesty, that, on the place of superintendant becoming vacant by the death | of M. Bernard de Conbert, master of requests, and the sum he had paid for it being lost to his family, Henault solicited it in favour of several persons, till at last the queen bestowed it on himself, and consented that he should divide the profits with his predecessor’s widow. On the queen’s death he held the same place under the dauphiness. A delicate constitution made him liable to much illness, which, however, did not interrupt the serenity of his mind. He made several journeys to the waters of Plombieres: in one of these he visited the deposed king Stanislaus at Luneville; and in another accompanied his friend the marquis de Pauliny, ambassador to Switzerland.

In 1763 Henault drew near his end. One morning, after a quiet night, he felt an oppression, which the faculty pronounced a suffocating cough. His confessor being sent to him, he formed his resolution without alarm. He mentioned afterwards, that he recollected having then said to himself, “What do I regret” and called to mind that saying of madame de Sevigne, “I leave here only dying creatures.” He received the sacraments. It was believed the next night would be his last; but by noon the next day he was out of danger. “Now,” said he, “I know what death is. It will not be new to me any more.” He never forgot it during the following seven years of his life, which, like all the rest, were gentle and calm. Full of gratitude for the favours of Providence, resigned to its decrees, offering to the Author of his being a pure and sincere devotion; he felt his infirmities without complaining, and perceived a gradual decay with unabated firmness. He died Dec. 24, 1771, in his 86th year. He married, in 1714, a daughter of M. le Bas de Montargis, keeper of the royal treasure, &c. who died in 1728, without leaving any issue. He treated as his own children, those of his sister, who had married, in 1713, the count de Jonsac, and by him had three sons and two daughters. The two younger sons were killed, one at Brussels, the other at Lafelt, both at the head of the regiments of which they were colonels; the eldest long survived, and was lieutenant-general and governor of Collioure and Port Vendre in Roussillon. The elder daughter married M. le Veneur, count de Tillieres, and died in 1757; the second married the marquis d’Aubeterre, ambassador to Vienna, Madrid, and Rome. In 1800 a very able posthumous work of the president’s was published at Paris, entitled “Histoire | Critique de l’Etablissement des Francois dans les Gaules,” 2 vols. 8vo. 1