Sorbiere, Samuel

, a French writer, was born of Protestant parents Sept. 7, 1615. His father was a tradesman; his mother Louisa was the sister of the learned Samuel Petit, minister of Nismes. These dying when he was young, his uncle Petit educated hioi as his own child. Having laid a proper foundation in languages and polite literature, he went to Paris, where he studied divinity; but, being presently disgusted with this, he applied himself to physic, and soon made such a progress, as to form an abridged system for his own use, which was afterwards printed on one sheet of paper. He went into Holland in 1642, back to France in 1645, and then again to Holland | in 1616, in which year he married. He now intended to practise, and with that view went to Leyden, but again changing his mind, was scarcely settled at Leyden, when he returned to France, and was made principal of the college of Orange in 1650.

In 1653 he embraced the Popish religion; and, going to Paris in 1654, published, according to custom, a discourse upon the motives of his conversion, which he dedicated to cardinal Mazarine. He went afterwards to Rome, where he made himself known to Alexander VII, by a Latin letter addressed to that pope, in which he inveighed against the envious Protestants, as he called them. Upon his return from Rome, he came over to England; and afterwards published, in 1664, a relation of his voyage hither, which brought him into trouble and disgrace; for, having taken some unwarrantable liberties with the character of a nation with which France at that time thought it policy to be on good terms, he was stripped of his title of “Historiographer of France,” which had been given him by the king, and sent for some time into banishment. His book also was discountenanced and discredited, by a tract published against it in the city of Paris; while Sprat, afterwards bishop of Rochester, refuted its absurdities in “Observations on M. de Sorbiere’s Voyage into England,1665, 12mo. This work was reprinted with an English edition of Sorbiere’s voyage, and a life of him in 1709, 8vo. Voltaire has also been very severe upon this work: “I would not,” says he, “imitate the late Mr. Sorbiere, who, having stayed three months in England, without knowing any thing either of its manners or of its language, thought fit to print a relation, which proved but a dull scurrilous satire upon a nation he knew nothing of.

Cardinal Rospigliosi being likely to succeed Alexander VII. in the papal chair, Sorbiere made a second journey to Rome. He was known to the cardinal when he was at Rome before, and having published a collection of poems in his praise, fancied that promotion must follow. Rospigliosi was made pope, and took the name of Clement IX.; but Sorbiere was disappointed; for, though the pope gave him good words, yet he gave him nothing more, except a small sum to defray the charges of his journey. Sorbiere is said to have been one of those who could not be content, and was therefore never happy. He was continually complaining of the injustice and cruelty of fortune; | and yet his finances were always decent, and he lived in tolerable plenty. Louis XIV,. cardinal Mazarine, and pope Alexander VII. had been benefactors to him; and many were of opinion, that he had as much as he deserved. He could not help bemoaning himself even to Clement IX. who contenting himself, as we have observed, with doing him some little honours, without paying any regard to his fortune, is said to have received this complaint from him, “Most holy father, you give ruffles to a man who is without a shirt.

In the mean time, it is supposed that Sorbiere’s connections would have advanced him higher in the church, if he had been sound in his principles; but he was more of a philosopher than a divine. He revered the memory of such writers as Rabelais, whom he made his constant study: Montaione and Charron were heroes with him, nor would he suffer them to be ill spoken of in his presence: and he had a known attachment to the principles and person of Gassendi, whose life, prefixed to his works, was written by Sorbiere. These connections and attachments made him suspected of scepticism, and this suspicion was probably some check to his promotion: for, otherwise, he was a man of learning, and not destitute of good qualities. He was very well skilled in languages and polite literature, and had some knowledge in many sciences. He died of a dropsy, the 9th of April, 1670.

Though his name is so well known in the literary world, yet it is not owing to any productions of his own, but rather to the connections he sought, and the correspondences he held with men of learning. He was not the author of any considerable work, although there are more than twenty publications of his of the smaller kind. Some have been mentioned in the course of this memoir, and there are others as, “Lettres & Discours sur diverses matieres curieuses,Paris, 1660, 4to; “Discours sur la Comete,” written upon Gassendi’s principles against comets being portents, 1665; “Discours sur la transfusion de sang d‘un animal clans le corps d’un homme,” written at Rome; “Discours sceptiqne sur le passage dn chyle, & sur le mouvement du cceur,” a production of Gassendi, but published by Sorbiere in his own name. He published in 1669 at Paris, “Epistolueillustrintn & eruditorum virorum;” among which are some of Clement IXth’s letters to him, while that pope was vet cardinal. This publication was | thought improper, and imputed to vanity. He translated some of our English authors into French: as More’s Utopia, some of Hobbes’s works, and part of Camden’s Britannia. He corresponded with Hobbes; and a story has been circulated of his management in this correspondence, which is not much to his credit. Hobbes used to write to Sorbiere on philosophical subjects; and, those letters being sent by him to Gassendi, seemed so worthy of notice to that great man, that he set himself to write proper answers to them. Gassendi’s answers were sent by Sorbiere as his own to Hobbes, who thought himself happy in the correspondence of so profound a philosopher: but at length the artifice being discovered, Sorbiere was disgraced. Other minute performances of Sorbiere are omitted as being of no consequence at all. There is a “Sorberiana,” which is as good as many other of the “Ana;”' that is, good for very little. 1


Life by Graverol, prefixed to his Voyage.—Niceron. vols. IV. and X.