Thomas, Antony, Leonard

, a member of the French academy, was born in 1732, at Clermont in Auvergne, the country of the celebrated Pascal. He received from his mother a severe, and almost a Spartan education. The three children of that estimable woman were brought up chiefly under her own eyes. His two elder brothers died, the one in 1748, the other in 1755, both young men, and both having signalized themselves in literature. Joseph, the eldest, had produced a comedy; and John, the second, excelled in Latin poetry. The death of his second brother, impressed Antony very early with a strong sense of the vanity of worldly cares; and with a profound piety ^ which enhanced the value of his character. He had a decided taste for poetry, but was designed for the bar. In obedience to the wish of his mother, he went to Clermont, to follow a study repugnant to his taste; but going with her to Paris, when John was at the point of death, his friends offered him a professorship in the qoliege of Beauvais. This, therefore, he accepted, as more congenial to his feelings, though less splendid in appearance, than the profession for which he had been designed. He was soon in high estimation for his talents as a poet and an orator; and M. Watelet, a rich man, and a man of letters, offered him a pension as a tribute to his merit; but he chose, with becoming pride, to owe his subsistence to hi own talents, rather than to the generosity of any one: He was afterwards secretary to the duke de Praslin, minister for foreign affairs; secretary to the Swiss cantons (an independent place in the government); and finally secretary to the duke of Orleans. He was also a member of the academy, tho-ugh it is said that he once refused to be chosen, when he found that he was proposed chiefly out of pique to another candidate, M. Marmontel. Without any fortune but his pension from the court, and the trifling reward he received for his assiduous attendance at the academy, he continued to reside at Paris; and latterly, with a sister* who superintended his domestic concerns. But, his health being impaired by excessive application, he was obliged to seek the more favourable climate of Nice, where for a time he recovered the use of all his powers. But his lungs had always been weak, and being seized also with a fever, he died September 17, 1785, in the ho,use of the archbishop of Lyons, and was buried at the neighbouring village of Qulins. At the time of his death he was | employed in writing a poem on the czar Peter the Great, styled the “Pe*treade,” which has never been published.

The personal character of M. Thomas, was held still higher than even the merit of his works could claim. He bad that amiable simplicity of manners which prevents a man of genius from offending others by his superiority. He was just, moderate, gentle, an enemy to noise and ostentation, a good friend, and an affectionate son. He was not indifferent to commendation or censure, but received the one without vanity, and the other without anger. It was in 1756, that he first appeared as an author, hy publishing, 1. “Reflexions historiques et liteVaires sur le Poeme de la Religion naturelle cle Voltaire,” 12mo. In this able tract he defended revelation without bigotry; and, allowing the great talents of his antagonist, lamented his errors, and treated him with politeness. 2. In 1759 he wrote and pronounced his “Eloge du Mareschal de Saxe,” a performance which gained hini the crown from the academy, and the credit of uniting the precision of Tacitus with the elevation of Bossuet. He produced afterwards similar orations in praise of d’Aguesseau, du Guai Trouin, Sully, and Descartes, which were equally admired; and with an additional eulogium on Marcus Aurelius, published together by himself, with very valuable notes. 3. In 1772 be produced his “Essai sur le caractere, les mceurs, et Tesprit des Femmes,” 8vo. This is not esteemed equally judicious. 4. “Essai sur les Eloges,1773, 2 vols. 8vo. This is a work of great genius and eloquence and contains many able portraits of illustrious persons. He produced also, 5. Several poems; as, “Epitre au Penple,” “Ode sur les temps,” and “Jumonville,” with some others. 6. A ballet in three acts, called “Amphion;” but this is not reckoned one of the best flowers in his crown. It was played in 1767. His prose works were published collectively in 1773; and form 4 vols. 12mo; but a more complete edition appeared in 1802, 7 vols. 8vo. 1


Dict. Hist.—Europ. Mag. 1792.—Life by Deleire.