Massieu, William

, an ingenious and learned French writer, was born in 1665, of a good family at Caen, where he continued till he had gone through the classics. At sixteen he went to Paris, and performed a course of philosophy in the college of the Jesuits; and, after he had finished his noviciate, was appointed, according to the usage of the society, to teach polite literature. They sent him to Rennes to teach rhetoric; and, after a due time, he returned to Paris to study theology: for succeeding in which he seemed so particularly formed, that his superiors desired him to devote himself wholly to it. This destination affected him much, his love of the belles lettres far exceeding his taste for theology; and therefore he quitted his society, and re-entered the world. His uncommon talents soon made him known, and recommended him to the favour of those who could serve him. M de Sacy (Le Maistre) took him into his house, as a preceptor to his children; and M. de Tourreil borrowed his assistance in translating Demosthenes. He became a pensionary of the | academy of inscriptions in 1705, and was elected professor royal of the Greek language in 1710. Homer, Pindar, Theocritus, and Demosthenes, were his favourite authors; and his lectures on them were highly admired, and much attended. Though he had yet given nothing to the public, yet his merit was so well known, and his connections with the learned so numerous, that, in 1714, he was chosen a member of the French academy. Massieu may be ranked among the unfortunate literati. The circumstances of his family were extremely narrow, so that he had to struggle with poverty during his youth. In the family of M. de Sacy, he saved some money, but afterwards lost it by placing it in bad hands. Towards the latter end of his life, he suffered bodily grievances: he had frequent and severe attacks of the gout; and two cataracts deprived him of his sight A paralytic disorder seized him in August 1722, which being followed by an apoplexy, proved fatal Sept. 26.

Several critical dissertations by Massieu upon classical antiquity are inserted in “The Memoirs of the academy of inscriptions.” His “Oration” at his reception into the Frencli academy is printed in the collections of the academy. He had the care of an edition of the “New Testament” in Greek, printed at Paris in 1715, in 2 vols. 12mo. He had also the care of M. de Tourreil’s works, published at Paris in 1722, in 2 vols. 4to. De Tourreil desired Massieu, on his death-bed, to give the public his translation of Demosthenes, which that author did very faithfully; and added to it some of his “Opuscula,” with a preface of his own. 1

1 Niceron, vols. XII. and XX. Dicf. Hist.