Abbe

Abbe the French name for abbot (q.v.). It is used in France not only to designate the superior of an abbey, but is also the general title of the secular clergy. Before the French Revolution it was even sometimes assumed by theological students (unordained) in the hope that the king would confer upon them a portion of the revenues of some abbey. There were at one time in France so many unordained abbes, poor and rich, men of quality and men of low birth, that they formed a particular class in society, and exerted an important influence over its character. They were seen everywhere; at court, in the halls of justice, in the theaters, the coffee- houses, etc. In almost every wealthy family was an abbe, occupying the post of familiar friend and spiritual adviser, and not seldom, that of the gallant of the lady. They corresponded, in a certain degree, to the philosophers who lived in the houses of the wealthy Romans in the time of the emperors.

 
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