Bossuet, Jacques Bénigne (16271704)

Bossuet, Jacques Bénigne (Bos`suet, Jacques Bénigne) , bishop of Meaux, born at Dijon, surnamed the “Eagle of Meaux,” of the see of which he became bishop; one of the greatest of French pulpit orators, and one of the ablest defenders of the doctrines of the Catholic Church; the great aim of his life the conversion of Protestants back to the Catholic faith; took a leading part in establishing the rights of the Gallican clergy, or rather of the Crown, as against the claims of the Pope; proved himself more a time-server than a bold, outspoken champion of the truth; conceived a violent dislike to Madame Guyon, and to Fénélon for his defence of her and her Quietists; and he is not clear of the guilt of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes; wrote largely; his “Discourse on Universal History” is on approved lines, and the first attempt at a philosophy of history; his Funeral Orations are monuments of the most sublime eloquence; while his “Politique founded on Holy Scripture” is a defence of the divine right of kings. “Bossuet,” says Professor Saintsbury, “was more of a speaker than a writer. His excellence lies in his wonderful survey and grasp of the subject, in the contagious enthusiasm and energy with which he attacks his point, and in his inexhaustible metaphors and comparisons.... Though he is always aiming at the sublime, he scarcely ever oversteps it, or falls into the bombastic or ridiculous.... The most unfortunate incident of his life was his controversy with Fénélon” (16271704).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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