Meursius, John

, a learned Dutchman, was born in 1579 at Losdun, a town near the Hague, where his father was minister. At six years of age his father began to teach him the elements of the Latin language; and the year after sent him to a school at the Hague, where he continued four years. He was then removed to Leyden, and made so great a progress in literature, that at twelve he could write with fluency in Latin. He advanced with no less rapidity in the Greek language, for which he conceived a particular fondness; insomuch that at thirteen he made Greek verses, and at sixteen wrote a “Commentary upon Lycophron,” the most obscure of all the Greek authors. When he had finished the course of his studies, and gained the reputation of a person from whom much might be expected, the famous John Barnevelt intrusted him with the education of his children; and he attended them ten years, at home and in their travels. This gave him an opportunity of seeing almost all the courts in Europe, of visiting the learned in their several countries, and of examining the best libraries. As he passed through Orleans, in 1608, he was made doctor of law. Upon his return to Holland, the curators of the academy of Leyden appointed him, in 1610, professor of history, and afterward of Greek; and the year following, the States of Holland chose him for their historiographer. In 1612 he married a lady of an ancient and good family, by whom he had a son, called after his own name, who died in the flower of his age, yet not till he had given specimens of his uncommon learning, by several publications.

Barnevelt having been executed in 1619, they proceeded to molest all who had been any way connected with him, and who were of the party of the Remonstrants, which he had protected. Meursius, as having been preceptor to his children, was unjustly ranked in this number, although he had never interfered in their theological disputes: but as he had always acquitted himself well in his professorship, they had not even a plausible pretence to remove him from the chair. They used, however, all the means of ill treatment they could devise, to make him quit it of himself: they reproached him with writing too many books, and said that the university, on that account, did not reap any benefit from his studies. Meursius, thus ill-treated, only waited for an opportunity of resigning his post with honour and, at last, in 1625, the following failone- presented itself Christieni IV. king of Denmark, | offered him at that time the professorship of history and politics, in the university of Sora, which he had just reestablished; and also the place of his historiographer. These Meursius accepted with pleasure, and went immediately to Denmark, where he fully answered all the expectations which had been conceived of his capacity, and was highly respected by the king and the chief men at court. He was greatly afflicted with the stone at the latter end of his life, and died Sept. 20, 1639, a* his epitaph at Sora shews; and not in 1641, as Valerius Andreas says in his “Bibliotheca Belgica.

Most authors have agreed in extolling the ingenuity, learning, and merit of Meursius he excelled particularly in the knowledge of the Greek language and antiquities and applied himself with such indefatigable pains to correct, explain, translate, and publish many works of the ancients, that John Imperialis asserted that more Greek authors, with Latin versions and emendations, had been published by Meursius alone than by all the learned together for the last hundred years. He was the author and editor of above sixty works, many of which are inserted in the collection of Greek and Latin antiquities by Graevius and Gronovius. His “Eleusinia, sive de Cereris Eleusinae sacro et festo,” to which all who have since written upon that subject have been greatly indebted, is a very valuable work, but now become scarce. We do not know that it has been printed more than twice: first at Leyden, 1619, in 4to, and afterwards in the seventh volume of Gronovius’s Greek Antiquities. The entire works of Meursius, however, edited by Lami, were published in twelve large volumes in folio, at Florence, in 1741—63.

It seems almost needless to observe, that the shamefully obscene Latin work, entitled “Meursius de elegantiis Latinae linguae,” was not written either by this author or his son; but was, as the French biographers assures us, the production of Nicolas Chorier, an attorney at Grenoble. It probably had the name of John Meursius prefixed by way of throwing a ridicule upon the grave and learned professor. His son produced, as we have said, some learned works, but not such as to rival those of his father. 1


Niceron, vol. XII. —Moreri.