Marsais, Cæsar Chesneau Du

, a French grammarian of high reputation, was born at Marseilles, July 17, 1676, and entered into the congregation of die oratory, but disgusted at the too great confinement of that institution, soon quitted it, and went to Paris. There he married in 1704, and practised for a time with some success as an advocate. Ere long, however, we find him quitting that profession, as not continuing to be advantageous, and separated from his wife, on finding her temper intolerable. He then undertook the care of educating pupils in several great families; among others, that of the president des Maisons, of the Scottish adventurer Law, and the marquis de Beaufremont. Some of these pupils did great honour to his care of their principles and learning. Still he was not fortunate enough to obtain any permanent provision; and undertook a kind of academy, which did not succeed; and he was for a considerable time reduced to go about giving lessons at private houses, and subsisting in a very straitened and precarious manner. At length, the persons who conducted the Encyclopedia, engaged him to bear a part in that great work, to which the articles on the subject of grammar, furnished by him, proved a most important aecession. They are distinguished by a sound and luminous philosophy, an extent of learning by no means common, great precision in the rules, and no less accuracy in the application of them. | He had now struggled for the chief part of his life with adverse circumstances; when the count de Lauragais, struck with his merit, and affected by his situation, settled upon him an annuity of a thousand livres. He died June 11, 1756, at the age of eighty. Du Marsais had been considered during his life as sceptical, but is said to have returned to a sense of religion before his death. Several anecdotes were circulated respecting his indifference to religion, which materially injured his fortune. It was even said, that being called upon to educate three brothers in a great family, he asked the parents in what religion they would have them brought up? A story of little probability, but which passed sufficiently current to injure him in the minds of many respectable persons. His disposition was mild and equal, his understanding clear and precise; and his manners had a kind of simplicity which occasioned him to be called the Fontaine of philosophers. Fontenelle said of him, “C‘est le nigaud le plus spirituel, & l’homme d’esprit le plus nigaud que je connoisse,” that is, “He is for a simpleton the most ingenious, and for a man of genius the most of a simpleton of any one I know.” As his own character was so natural, so also was he an ardent admirer of nature, and an enemy to all affectation; and his precepts are said to have had great effect in teaching the celebrated actress le Couvreur, that simple and natural style of declamation which made her performance so pathetic, and raised her reputation to so great a height.

The principal works of du Marsais are, 1. “An Explanation of the Doctrine of the Gallican church, with respect to the pretensions of the court of Rome,” 12mo. This esteemed work was undertaken by the desire of the president des Maisons, and was not published till after the death of the author. 2. “Explanation of a reasonable Method of learning the Latin language,1722, 12mo. This work, which was most highly commended by d’Alembert and others, was long very scarce, even in France. 3. “A treatise on Tropes,1730, 8vo, and 1731, 12mo; a tract much and justly admired for its original conceptions and logical precision. 4. “Les veritables Principes de la Grammaire,” &c. 1729, 4to only the preface toan intended Latin grammar. 5. “The Abridgment of Father Jouvenci'a Mythology,” disposed according to his method, 1731, 12mo. 6. “Logic,” or reflections on the operations of the mind; a very short work, in which is | compressed almost the whole art of reasoning. It was reprinted at Paris, in 1762, in 12mo, with the articles which he furnished for the Encyclopedia. At length, his whole works were collected by Duchosal and Millon, and published at Paris, 1797, 7 vols. 8vd In 1804 the institute of France proposed his eloge as a prize essay, and the prize was gained by Degerando, who published it in 1805. That prefixed to his works was by D’Alembert, with whom, as well as with Voltaire, he was at one time too much connected for his reputation. 1


Dict. Hist. Biog. Universelle in Duimrsais. —Moreri.