Postel, William

, a very ingenious but visionary man, was by birth a Norman, of a small hamlet called Dolerie where he was born in 1510. Never did genius struggle with more vigour against the extremes of indigence. At eight years old, he was deprived of both his parents by the plague when only fourteen, unable to subsist in his native place, he removed to another near Pontoise, and undertook to keep a school. Having thus obtained a little money, he went to Paris, to continue his studies but there was plundered and suffered so much from cold, that he languished for two years in an hospital. When he recovered, he again collected a little money by gleaning irv the country, and returned to Paris, where he subsisted by waiting on some of the students in the college of St. Barbe; but made, at the same time, so rapid a progress in knowledge, that he became almost an universal scholar. His acquirements were so extraordinary, that they became known to the king, Francis I. who, touched with so much merit, under such singular disadvantages, sent him to the East to collect manuscripts. This commission he executed so well, that on his return, he was appointed royal professor of mathematics and languages, with a considerable salary. Thus he might appear to be settled for life; but this was not his destiny. He was, unfortunately for himself, attached to the chancellor Poyet, who fell under the displeasure of the queen of Navarre

1 Life by Dorigny, Dnpin. —Niceron, vol. XXII. Blounl’s Cervsura. —Saxii Onomasticon.
| and Postel, for no other fault, was deprived of his appointments, and obliged to quit France. He now became a wanderer, and a visionary. From Vienna, from Rome, from the order of Jesuits, into which he had entered, he was successively banished for strange and singular opinions; for which also he was imprisoned at Rome and at Venice. Being released, as a madman, he returned 10 Paris, whence the same causes again drove him into Germany. At Vienna he was once more received, and obtained a professorship; but, having made his peace at home, was again recalled to Paris, and re-established in his places. He had previously recanted his errors, but relapsing into them, was banished to a monastery, where he performed acts of penitence, and died Sept. 6, 1581, at the age of seventy-one. Postel pretended to be much older than he was, and maintained that he had died and risen again which farce he supported by many tricks, such as- colouring his beard and hair, and even painting his face. For the same reason, in most of his works, he styles himself, “Postellus restitntus.” Notwithstanding his strange extravagances, he was one of the greatest geniuses of his time; had a surprising quickness and memory, with so extensive a knowledge of languages, that he boasted he could travel round the world without an interpreter. Francis I. regarded him as the wonder of his age Charles IX. called him his philosopher; and when he lectured at Paris, the crowd of auditors was sometimes so great, that they could only assemble in the open court of the college, while he taught them from a window. But by applying himself very earnestly to the study of the Rabbins, and of the stars, he turned his head, and gave way to the most extravagant chimeras. Among these, were the notions that women at a certain period are to have universal dominion over men that all the mysteries of Christianity are demonstrable by reason that the soul of Adam had entered into his body that the angel Raziel had revealed to him the secrets of heaven and that his writings were dictated by Jesus Christ himself. His notion of the universal dominion of women, arose from his attachment to an old maid at Venice, in consequence of which he published a strange and now very rare and high-priced book, entitled “Les tres-marveilieuseS victoires des Femmes du Nouveau Monde, et comme elles doivent par raison a tout le monde commander, et me’ me a; eeux qui auront la monarchic du Monde viel,Paris, 1553, | 16mo. At the same time, he maintained, that the extraordinary age to which he pretended ttf have lived, was occasioned hy his total abstinence from all commerce with that sex. His works are as numerous as, they are strange and some of them are very scarce, hut very little deserve to be collected. One of the most important is entitled “De orbis concordia,” Bale, 1544, folio. In this the author endeavours to bring all the world to the Christian faith under two masters, the pope, in spiritual affairs, and the king of France in temporal. It is divided into four books; in the first of which he gives the proofs of Christianity; the second contains a refutation of the Koran; the third treats of the origin of idolatry, and all false religions and the fourth, on the mode of converting Pagans, Jews, and Mahometans, Of his other works, amounting to twenty-six articles, which are enumerated in the “Dictionnaire Historique,” and most of them by Brunet as rarities with the French collectors, many display in their very titles the extravagance of their contents; such as, “Clavis absconditorum a, constitutione ixmndi,Paris, 1547, 16mo; “De Ultimo judicio;” “Proto-evangelium,” &c. Some are on subjects of more real utility. But the fullest account of the whole may be found in a book published at Liege in 1773, entitled “Nouveaux eclaircissemens sur 3a Vie et les ouvrages de Guillaume Postel,” by father des Billons. The infamous book, “De tribus impostoribus,” has been very unjustly attributed to Postel, for, notwithstanding all his wildness, he was a believer. 1
1 Chanfrpie. -—Niceron, vol. VIII Bullarl’s Academie des Sciences. Blount’s Censura. —Saxii Onomasticon.