Olivet, Pierre Joseph

Olivet, Pierre Joseph abbot of Thoulier, a French Roman Catholic theologian and writer, was born at Salins April 1, 1682. On leaving college he joined- the Jesuits, passing successively some time in the Jesuit colleges of Rheims, Dijon, and Paris. In this manner he became acquainted with a number of distinguished men, such as Maucroix, the friend of Lafontaine, father Oudin, president Bouhier, Boileau, Huet, La Monnoye, J. B. Rousseau, etc. They incited him to write, and his first attempts were French verses; but soon finding that he would never succeed in poetry, he gave it up and applied himself to Latin prose. He was a great admirer of the ancients, and especially of Cicero, whom he considered as the only master of eloquence. In 1713 he was sent to Rome by his superiors for the purpose of writing the history of the society; but frightened at the long time he would be obliged to devote to this uncongenial employment, Olivet left the society as he was about taking the final vows. They vainly offered him the place of instructor to the prince of Asturias to induce him to remain. In 1723 Olivet was elected a member of the French Academy. He passed the remainder of his life at Paris, engaged in various literary works, and in occasional squabbles with his associates in the academy. He died Oct. 8, 1768. The personal character of Olivet appears, notwithstanding the attacks of some of his enemies, to have been without reproach. Among his numerous friends, who always spoke of him with the greatest respect, no one appears to have had a higher opinion of his talents and virtues than Voltaire, who was introduced by Olivet into the French Academy (see Discours de M. de Voltaire a l'Acaduensie Franpaise, in his (Euvres completes, vol. 46). Several letters of Voltaire to Olivet are extant. Olivet's principal work is an edition of Cicero, which was originally published at Paris (1740-1742, 9 vols. 4to). It is of little critical value, though it contains many useful notes, chiefly extracted from preceding commentators, It was reprinted at Geneva (1758, 9 vols. 4to), and very incorrectly at Oxford (1783, 10 vols. 4to). Olivet's translations of Cicero are some of the best that have been published, though, like most of the French translations, they are deficient in accuracy. Of these the principal are, the De Natura Deorum (1721, 1732, etc.): — Tusculance Quaestiones (1737, 1747), of which the third and fifth books are translated by Bouhier: — the Orations against Catiline, together with the Philippics of Demosthenes (1727,1736, etc.). He also edited extracts from Cicero, with a translation into French, under the title of Pensees de Ciceron, which has been frequently reprinted and extensively used in the French schools. The only other work of Olivet worthy of notice is his continuation of Pelisson, Histoire de l'Academie Franqaise (1729, 2 vols. 4to; 1730, 2 vols. 12mo). etc. See Eloge de l'Abbe d'Olivet, Necrologe (1770); D'Alembert, Hist. des Menrbres de l'Academie Francaise, vol. vi; Bachaumont, Memoires secrets (Oct. 1768); Mairet, Eloge histor. et litter. de l'Abbe d'Olivet (1839).

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