Valesius, Henry

, or Henry de Valois, a French critic of great abilities and learning, was born at Paris in 1603, of parents, whose circumstances supported them without any profession. He began his studies at Verdun in 1613, under the Jesuits, and the greatest hopes were formed of him from his childhood. He was recalled to Paris five years after, and continued there in the college of Clermont; where he learned rhetoric under Petavius, who, as well as father Sirmond, conceived a great esteem for him. After having maintained his theses in philosophy with much applause, he went to Bourges in 1622, to study the civil law; and at the end of two years returned to Paris, where he was received advocate. He frequented the bar for seven years, but more to oblige his father than out of any fondness for the law, which he at length quitted, and devoted himself entirely to literary pursuits. Greek and Latin authors were all his study, and all his pleasure. Sunday he consecrated to devotion, Saturday afternoon he allotted to his friends; but all the rest of the week was spent in reading and labour. His own library not sufficing, he borrowed books of every body; and he used to say, that he learned more from other people’s books than his own, because, not having the same opportunity of reviewing them, he read them over with more care. He acquired a great reputation by his learning and publications, when a misfortune befel him, which interrupted the course of his studies. He had always a weak sight; but continual application had hurt him so, in this respect, that he lost his right eye, and saw very indifferently with the left. This put him under the necessity of having a reader; for, though his father was of too sparing a humour to make him an allowance for this purpose, yet the defect was supplied by the generosity of his friends. His father, however, died in 1650; and then his circumstances were better suited to his necessities. The same year he composed an oration in | praise of Christina queen of Sweden, who had just ascended the throne; and her majesty, by way of acknowledging the favour, promised to send him a gold chain, and gave him at the same time an invitation to accompany the learned Bochart to Sweden. But the chain never came, and the invitation ended in nothing, for which Valesius himself is said to have been to blame, having been so imprudent, while he was meditating this journey, as to make use of some satirical expressions on the learned in those parts; which, being related to the queen, occasioned her majesty’s neglect of him.

In 1734, Valesius had published at Paris, in 4to, “Excerpta Polybii, Diodori Siculi, Nicolai Damasceni, Dionysit Halicarnassensis, Appiani Alexandrini, Dionis, & Joannis Antiocheni, ex Collectaneis Constantini Augusti Porphyrogenitae, nunc primum Greece edita, Latine versa cum notis.” The emperor Constantine Porphyrogenetes, who died in the year 959, had made extracts from the Greek historians of such things as he thought most useful; and had ranged these extracts under certain titles and common places, in number fifty-three. Each contained two books; one of “Extracts from the writers of Universal History,” another of “Extracts from the Historians of the Emperors.” Only two of these titles are extant: one “de Legationibus,” the first book of which was published by Fulvius Ursinus, at Antwerp, 1582, in 4to; the second by David Ho3schelius, at Augsburg, 1603, in 4to; and both under the title of “Eclogse Legationum, &c.” The other title is “de Virtutibus & Vitiis,” and is the work under present consideration. A merchant of Marseilles had brought an ancient manuscript of it from the Isle of Cyprus, and sold it to Mons. Peiresc, who sent it to Paris. Here it lay neglected a long time till at length Pithaeus engaged Valesius to translate and publish it: which he did, and very properly dedicated it to Peiresc, to whom the public is obliged for it, and of whose ardour, in the promotion of letters, we have the following anecdote. Some time after, Valesius had read a passage in an ancient author, relating to the harbour of Smyrna, which could not be understood without viewing the situation upon the spot. He acquainted Peiresc with this difficulty; who immediately sent a painter, to take a view of that port, and afterwards communicated it to Valesius. Valesius thanked Peiresc for the trouble he had been at; but added, probably not in very | guarded language, that it did not clear up the doubt so well as he could wish. Peiresc, vexed that he had been at so much expence, wrote back, that he had endeavoured to give him satisfaction; and that, if he had not succeeded, it must not be ascribed to either himself or the painter, but to his own temper and humour, which were satisfied with nothing.

In 1636 he gave a good edition of “Ammianus Marcellinus,” in 4to, corrected in a great number of places from the manuscripts, and illustrated with very ingenious and learned notes. A second edition, with more notes of Valesius, and those of Lindenbrog, came out at Paris, 1681, in folio, edited by his brother Adrian Valesius; and James Gronovius also published a third at Leyden, 1693, fol. and 4to. The critical talents and learning which Valesius had displayed in these publications, recommended him as the most proper person to superintend a work of greater importance, an edition of the ancient ecclesiastical historians. M. de Montchal, abp. of Tholouse, a learned man, whom the clergy of France had requested to give an edition of these historians, undertook the affair; and applied to Valesius to assist him privately. But Valesius was too jealous of his reputation, to let another person enjoy the fruits of his labours; and therefore absolutely refused his aid. The archbishop, either too much taken up with the business of his see, or despairing of success in what he had undertaken, soon after excused himself to the clergy; and at the same time advised them to apply to Valesius, as a man who was every way qualified for the task. To this Valesius had no objection, and his employers by way of encouragement settled a pension upon him. This was about 1650, and the Historians were published in Greek and Latin, with good notes, in the following order: “Eusebii Pamphili historia ecclesiastica, ejusdemque libri de vita Constantini, & panegyricus atque oratio Constantini ad sanctos,Paris, 1659; “Socratis & Sozomeni historia ecclesiastica,” 166S; “Theodoreti et Evagrii historia ecclesiastica, item excerpta & historia ecclesiastica Philostorgii,1673. These were reprinted in 3 vols. folio, first at Amsterdam in 1699, and then at Cambridge in 1720; to which last edition some remarks, but very inconsiderable ones, scattered up and down in various authors, were collected and subjoined by the editor William Reading.

In 1660, Valesius was honoured with the title of | historicgrapber of France; and had also a pension settled on him by the king, in consideration of his edition of Eusebius, which had appeared the year before. In 1662 he lost his left eye, so that now he was blind; and, notwithstanding all the skill of oculists, the most that could be done for him was, to enable him to see a little with the left eye, a new cataract, almost as soon as it was removed, forming itself again in the right. In 1663 he had an addition to his pension from the crown. He had hitherto lived among his books, but now, at the age of sixty, he surprized his friends by marrying a handsome young woman, by whom he had seven children. He died the seventh of May, 1676, having spent the two last years of life in all the miseries of one oppressed with infirmities. He was a man of great abilities and learning, and an admirable critic; but his disposition was far from being amiable. He was sparing in his praise, but so tenacious of the respect he thought due to him, as to resent the smallest attempt to criticise or find fault with what he wrote, and this irritable temper increased with his years.

After his death, was published, by the care of James Gronovius, “Notae & animadversiones in Harpocrationem & Philippi Jacobi Maussaci Notas. Ex Bibliotheca Gulielmi Prousteau,” Lugd. Bat. 1682, in 4to. Three Latin, funeral orations upon three of his intimate friends are inserted in Bates’s “Vitæ selectoruip aliquot virorum;” the first made upon Sirmond in 1651, the second upon Petrus Puteanus in 1652, and the third upon Petavius in 1653. We omitted an hexameter poem, made upon the recovery of the king’s health, and published by himself in 1663, with the title of “Soteria pro Ludovico magno.” There are also “Harangues à la reine de Suede, & quelques autres petites pieces.1

1 Vita Valesii ab Adriano Valcsio, in Bates’s “Vitas selectorum.” —Niceron, rol. V.Chaufepie in Valuis. Uaher’s Liie and Luteis, p. 609, 613, 6H.