Marmontel, Jean Francois

Marmontel, Jean Francois a celebrated French critic, and a leader in the Φρενχη school of infidelity which flourished under the guidance of Diderot, Holbach, and Voltaire, was born at Bort, in Limousin, in 1723, of humble parentage. He was educated at the Jesuits' college at Mauriac, but, not inclining towards asceticism, went to Paris finally (1746), and there became intimate with the great freethinkers of the 18th century. Marmontel wielded an able pen, and largely devoted himself to authorship, producing both original works and translations of valuable English writers. By intercession of Madame Pompadour, he secured a secretaryship at Versailles in 1753. Later he became editor of the Mercure, for which he wrote, in part, his celebrated Contes Moraux, afterwards published in book form (Paris, 1761, 2 vols.). These Moral Tales were received with extraordinary favor, and were translated into most of the languages of Europe. Though written with great elegance and animation, their morality is rather questionable, and, appearing at a time when literature was unusually weighed down by freethinkers and atheists, the French clergy declaimed against the Contes Moraux. The opposition of the clergy became more decided against Marmontel in 1767, when he published his Belisaire, a political romance. A chapter of it treats on toleration. This part of the work was specially objected to by the doctors of the Sorbonne "as heretical and blasphemous," and quickly the cry resounded through the pulpits of the capital, and thence into those of the inland towns, until the excitement became general. Belisaire was condemned by the archbishop of Paris. Voltaire could hardly say enough in its praise, and the empress Catharine II honored it by a special order for its immediate translation into Russian. Marmontel himself came off victor in this contest with the Sorbonne and the clergy, and gained the honorable appointment of historiographer of France. To the Encyclopedie (s.v.) he contributed "Elements de Litterature" (1787, 6 vols. 8vo); he had charge, moreover, of its departments of poetry and general literature. During the Revolution he retired to the country, and died at the village of Abloville, near Evreux, December 31, 1799. An edition of his (Euvres Completes was published by himself in 17 vols.; another in 18 vols. (Paris, 1818); a third in 7 vols. (Paris, 1819-20). See Saint-Surin, Notice sur Marmontel (1824); Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du Lundi, vol. iv; Morellet, Eloge de Marmontel (1805); Villenave, Notice sur les Ouvrages de Marmontel (1820); Edinb. Rev. 1806 (Jan.); Schlosser, Gesch. d. 18'en

u. 19en Jahrhunderts, 2:2, § 1; Thomas, Diet. of Biog. and Mythol. s.v.; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, s.v. (J. H. W.)

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