Sirmond, James

, a very learned French Jesuit, was the son of a magistrate, and born at Riom, Oct. 12, 1559. At ten years of age he was sent to the college of Billon, in Lower Auvergne, the first seminary which the Jesuits had in France. He entered into the society in 1576, and two years after took the vows. His superiors, discovering his uncommon talents, sent him to Paris; where he taught classical literature two years, and rhetoric three. Two of his pupils were Charles of Valois, duke D‘Angouleme, the natural son of Charles IX., and Francis de Sales. During this time, he acquired a perfect knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages; and formed that style which has been so much esteemed by the learned. It is said that he took Muretus for his model, and never passed a day without reading some pages in his writings; and it is certain that by this, or his natural taste, he became one of the purest Latin writers of his time. In 1586, he began his course of divinity, which lasted four years. He undertook to translate into Latin the works of the Greek fathers, and began to write notes upon Sidonius Apollinaris. In 1590, he was sent for to Rome by the general of the order, Aquaviva, to take upon him the office of his secretary; which he discharged for sixteen years with success, and clothed the sentiments of his employer in very superior language. The study of antiquity was at that time his principal object: he visited libraries, and consulted manuscripts: he contemplated antiques, medals, and inscriptions: and the Italians, though jealous of the honour of their nation, acknowledged his acuteness as an antiquary, and consulted him in many cases of difficulty. At Rome he formed a friendship with the most eminent men of the time, particularly with Bellarmine and Tolet, who were of his own society, and with the cardinal Baronius, D’Ossat, and Du Perron. Baronius was much assisted by him in his “Ecclesiastical Annals,” especially in affairs relating to the Greek history upon which he furnished him with a great number of works, translated from Greek into Latin.

Sirmond returned to Paris in 1606; and from that time did not cease to enrich the public with a great number of works, particularly editions of the authors of the middle age, printed by him with great care from original manuscripts discovered by him in the public libraries. Much of his life was employed, and the better part of his reputation depends, on his labours as an editor, which produced | correct copies of Geoffrey de Vendome, Ennodius, Flocloard, Fulgentius, Valerian, Sidonius Apollinaris, one of his most valuable editions, Paschasius Radbert, Eugene of Toledo, Jdacius, AJarcellinus, and many others When his reputation> came more generally known, pop.- Urban VIII. had a desire to draw him again to Rome and caused a letter for that purpose 10 be sent to him by fattier Vittelleschi, general of their order: but Louis XIII. would not suffer a person who did so much honour to his kingdom, to leave it; and, in 1637, appointed him his confessor, in the room of father Caussin, which delicate office he accepted with great reluctance, yet demeaned himself with the utmost caution and prudence, never meddling with political affairs, or employing his interest in enriching his relations. In 1643, however, after the death of Louis XIII. he left the court, and resumed his ordinary occupations with the same tranquillity as if he had never quitted his retirement. In 1645, he went to Rome, notwithstanding his great age, for the sake of assisting at the election of a general, upon the death of Vittelleschi, as he had done thirty years before upon the death of Aquaviva; and, after his return to France, resumed his studies. But having engaged in a warm dispute in the college of the Jesuits, the exertion brought on a disorder which carried him off in a few days. He died Oct. 7, 1651, aged ninety- two.

The works of which he was author and editor amount to fifteen volumes in folio; five of which, containing his original productions, many of them on controversial points, were printed at the royal printing-house at Paris in 1696, under this title: “Jacobi Sirmondi Opera Varia, nunc primum coilecta, ex ipsius schedis emendatiora, Notis posthumis, Epistolis. et Opusculis aliquibus auctiora.” The following character is given of him by Du Pin “Father Sirmond knew how to join a great delicacy of understanding and the jnstest discernment to a profound and extensive erudition. He understood Greek and Latin in perfection, all the profane authors, history, and whatever goes under the name of belles lettres. He had a very extensive knowledge in ecclesiastical antiquity, and had studied with care all the authors ~A the middle -ige His style is pure, concise, and nervous: yet he affects too much certain expressions of the comic poets. He meditated very much upon what he wrote, and had a particular | art of reducing into a note what comprehended a great many things in a very few words. He is exact, judicious, simple; yet never omits any thing that is necessary. His dissertations have passed for a model; by which it were to be wished that every one who writes would form himself. When he treated of one subject, he never said immediately all that he knew of it; but reserved some new arguments always for a reply, like auxiliary troops, to come up and assist, in case of need, the grand body of the battle. He was disinterested, equitable, sincere, moderate, modest, laborious; and by these qualities drew to himself the esteem, not only of the learned, but of all mankind. He has left behind him a reputation which will last for many ages.1


Dupin.Niceron, vol. XVII. Hates’s “Vita: Selectoium.” Perrault’s “Les Homines lllustres.