Ladvocat, John Baptist

, an useful and agreeable French writer, was born Jan. 3, 1709, at Vauxcouleurs, in Champagne, where his father was a magistrate. He studied in his native place, but particularly at Pont-a-mousson, where he was called “the prince of philosophers,” an academical title given to those who distinguished themselves by their talents and application. Being intended for the church, he was sent to the seminary of St. Louis in Paris, where he remained five years. He afterwards took the degree of bachelor of divinity, was admitted of the house of the Sorbonne in 1734, and of the society in 1736, being then in his licentiateship; but after finishing that career with equal ardour and reputation, he was placed in the second rank, among more than 140 competitors. He took a doctor’s degree June 1738, and afterwards served the curacy of Greux, and Dom-Remi, to which he had been nominated by his bishop. This prelate proposed to have M. Ladvocat near him, fix him in his chapter, and place his whole confidence in him; but the Sorbonne did not give the bishop time to execute his plan for one of their royal professorships becoming vacant by the resignanation of M. Thierri, chancellor of the church and university of Paris, they hastened to appoint M. Ladvocat to it, January 11, 1740. Our new professor was unable to continue his lectures more than two years and a half, from a disorder of his lungs, thought by the physicians to be incurable, but of which he at length cured himself by consulting the best authors. In the mean time he wrote two tracts, one “on the Proofs of religion,” the other, “on the Councils,” both which are valued by catholics. In October 1742, he resigned his chair to be librarian to the Sorbonne, an office then vacant by the premature death of the abbe Guedier de St. Aubin, and made use of the leisure this situation afforded, to improve himself in the learned languages, which he had never neglected in the midst of his other studies. He was often consulted by Louis, duke of | Orleans, first prince of the blood, who, among other things, wished to become acquainted with the original language of the holy scriptures. M. Ladvocat took advantage of his situation with this prince to represent to him what great and important benefits religion would derive from the establishment of a professor who should explain the holy scriptures according to the Hebrew text. M. the duke immediately comprehending all the good which would result from this professorship, realized it in 1751, and chose M. Ladvocat to fulfil its duties; desiring that for that time only, without any precedent being drawn from it in future, the offices of librarian and professor, which till then had been incompatible, might center in one person. M. Ladvocat was no sooner appointed to this professorship, than he considered by what means he might procure scholars to it; in which he was again seconded by the pious liberality of its august founder. The seminary of the Holy Family, endowed by Anne of Austria, offered choice subjects; the duke assembled them, and revived that seminary by paying the debts which had been necessarily contracted in repairing its buildings. The extinct, or suspended fellowships, rose to new existence, and were no longer given but to deserving competitors; an emulation for understanding scripture inspired the most indifferent, and. all the students in divinity hastened to receive lectures from the Orleans professor. The example was followed by some other communities, and this school, which seemed at first likely to be deserted, had the credit of training up many men of great talents. M. Ladvocat died at Paris, December 29, 1765, by which event the house and society of the Sorhonne lost one of its most learned members, the faculty of theology one of its most ingenious doctors, and religion one of its ablest defenders. There is scarce any kind of knowledge which he had not pursued; philosophy, mathematics, the learned languages, history, theology, the holy scripture, all fixed his attention. Assiduous and deliberate study had made the Greek and Latin fathers familiar to him: no monument of ecclesiastical antiquity had escaped his researches; but his peculiar study was to find the true sense of the sacred books; and the theses which he caused to be maintained on the Pentateuch, the Psalms, and the Book of Job, at which the most distinguished among the learned were present, prove the utility of his labours. A genius lively and penetrating, uncommon and extensive, | accurate and indefatigable; a ready and retentive memory, a delicate and enlightened feeling, a decided taste formed from the best models of antiquity, a clear and impartial judgment, a fertile, singular, and natural imagination, and a conversation, which, without seeking for ornaments of style, never failed to prove agreeable and interesting, characterized the scholar in M. Ladvocat, and gained him the regard and esteem of all with whom he had any intercourse or connections. He was frequently consulted on the most intricate and important points, by persons of the greatest distinction in different departments, while his uniform conduct, full of candour and simplicity, tender and compassionate, honest and virtuous, rendered him, though always far from affluence, the resource of indigent men of letters, and made him a kind relation, an excellent friend, beloved by all who had any intercourse with him, and a most valuable member of society in general. His works are, “A Hebrew Grammar,1758, 8vo; “The Historical Dictionary,” 4 vols. 8vo, reprinted several times during his lite; “Tractatus de Consiliis” a “Dissertation on Psalm, 67, Exurgat Deus;” “Lettres sur FAutorite des Textes originaux de FEcriture Sainte;” “Jugemens sur qoelques nouvelles Traductions de ‘lEcriture Sainte, d’apres le Texte Hebreu.” The four last were published after his death. M. Ladvocat assisted in the “Dict. Geographique,” which has appeared under the name of M. the abbé de Vosgiens, the best edition of which is that of 1772, 8vo. He had planned several other works which ke had not time to finish, but which were impatiently expected even in foreign countries. 1


Dict. Hist. In this article we have principally followed the account by Ladvocat’s successor in the last edition of his “Dict. Hist.” Many French writers spoke disrespectfully of Ladvocat at the time of his death; but it is to be remarked, that he was no friend to the Encyclopedists.