Voiture, Vincent

, once celebrated as an elegant French writer, was the son of a wine-merchant, and born at Amiens in 1598. His talents and taste for the Belles Lettres gave him considerable celebrity, and easily introduced him to the polite world. He was the first in France distinguished for what is called a bel esprit; and, though | this is all the merit of his writings, yet this merit was then great, because it was uncommon. His reputation opened his way to court, and procured him pensions and honourable employments. He was sent to Spain about some affairs, whence out of curiosity he passed over to Africa. He was mightily caressed at Madrid, where he composed verses in such pure and natural Spanish, that every body ascribed them to Lopez de Veo;a. It appears by his “Letters,” that he was in England in 1633. He made two journeys to Rome, where in 1633 he was admitted a member of the academy of Humoristi; as he had been of the French academy in 1634. He was the person employed to carry the news of the birth of Lewis XIV. to Florence; and had a place in the household of that monarch. He had several considerable pensions from the court; but the love of play and women kept him from being rich. He died in 1648. He wrote verses in French, Spanish, and Italian; and there are some very fine lines written by him, but they are but few. His letters make the bulk of his works; and have been often printed in 2 vols. 12mo. They are elegant, polite, and easy; but, like the genius of the writer, without nerves or strength. Boileau praises Voiture excessively; and doubtless, considered as a polisher and refiner in a barbarous age, he was a writer to be valued; yet his letters would not now be thought models, and are indeed seldom read. Voiture, ( says Voltaire, gave some idea “of the superficial graces of that epistolary style, which is by no means the best, because it aims at nothing higher than pleasantry and amusement. His two volumes of letters are the mere pastime of a wanton imagination, in which we meet not with one that is instructive, not one that flows from the heart, that paints the manners of the times, or the characters of men: they are rather an abuse than an exercise of wit.” With all this insignificance, Voiture’s letters cost him much labour: a single one took nearly a fortnight, a proof that his wit came slower in writing than in conversation, otherwise he would never have been the delight of every company. Pope appears to have had a good opinion of these letters, as he thought them a suitable present for Miss Blount, and never seems to have suspected that this was not paying that lady’s delicacy any great compliment.1

1 Dict. Hist.- Perrauk L. Homines IKu/.ivfc.