Rapin, Renatus

, a French Jesuit, and an able classical scholar, was born at Tours, in 1621, and entered into the society in 1639. He taught polite literature for nine years, and published various works both on that subject and on religion, which made him say to the abbe de la Chambre that he served God and the world by turns. To Latin he was particularly partial, and wrote with great facility and elegance in that language, both in prose and verse. Of the latter, he exhibited many specimens which were unrivalled in his time, particularly his “Hortorum libri quatuor;” a work, which has been much admired and applauded. It was first printed at Paris, in 1665, and afterwards re-printed with alterations and corrections by the author. In 1780, Brotier edited an edition at the Barbou press. An English version of it was published at London, in 1673, 8vo, by the celebrated Evelyn; and again, in 1706, by Mr. James Gardiner of Jesus college, in Cambridge. All his Latin poems, consisting of odes, epitaphs, sacred eclogues, and these four books upon gardens, were collected and published at Paris, in 1681, in 2 vols. 12mo. In French, which he also wrote with elegance, he published several treatises on polite literature, at various times, which were printed collectively in 1684, 2 vols. 4to, Paris; and at Amsterdam, in 2 vols. 8vo, and translated into English by Basil Rennet and others, in 1705, in 2 vols. 8vo, under the title of “The Critical Works of Mons. llapin.” The first volume contains a comparison between Demosthenes and Cicero for eloquence, Homer and Virgil for poetry, Thucydides and Livy for history, Plato and Aristotle for philosophy: the second, reflections on eloquence, on Aristotle’s poetry, on history, on philosophy. Rapin’s general design in this work was, as he tells us himself, to restore good taste, which had been somewhat corrupted by a spirit of profound erudition, that had reigned in the preceding age: but, although there are many just observations in his work, it is not that on which it would be safe for a student to rely; nor is his preference of the Roman to the Greek writers to be justified. Some of his arguments on this part of his subject are childish.

He died at Paris, Oct. 27, 1687; and in his eulogium, written by father Bouhours, he is represented, there is reason to think deservedly, as possessed of all the qualities that can adorn a man of probity. Zeal for the honour of | his society made him undertake an “History of Jansenism,” against which he had published a Latin work, in 1658, under the title of “Dissertatio de nova doctrina, seu Evangelium Jansenistarum.” He had also a contest with father Vavassor, who wrote against his “Reflections on Aristotle’s Poetics,” yet pretended to be ignorant, as there was no name to them, that Rapin was the author. 1


Gen. Dict.—Niceron, XXXII.—Moreri.