1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dubos, Jean-Baptiste

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DUBOS, JEAN-BAPTISTE (1670-1742), French author, was born at Beauvais in December 1670. After studying for the church, he renounced theology for the study of public law and politics. He was employed by M. de Torcy, minister of foreign affairs, and by the regent and Cardinal Dubois in several secret missions, in which he acquitted himself with great success. He was rewarded with a pension and several benefices. Having obtained these, he retired from political life, and devoted himself to history and literature. He gained such distinction as an author that in 1720 he was elected a member of the French Academy, of which, in 1723, he was appointed perpetual secretary in the room of M. Dacier. He died at Paris on the 23rd of March 1742, repeating as he expired the well-known remark of an ancient, “Death is a law, not a punishment.” His first work was L’Histoire des quatre Gordiens prouvée et illustrée par des médailles (Paris, 1695, 12mo), which, in spite of its ingenuity, did not succeed in altering the common opinion, which only admits three emperors of this name. About the commencement of the war of 1701, being charged with different negotiations both in Holland and in England, with the design to engage these powers if possible to adopt a pacific line of policy, he, in order to promote the objects of his mission, published a work entitled Les Intérêts de l’Angleterre mal entendus dans la guerre présente (Amsterdam, 1703, 12mo). But as this work contained indiscreet disclosures, of which the enemy took advantage, and predictions which were not fulfilled, a wag took occasion to remark that the title ought to be read thus: Les Intérêts de l’Angleterre mal entendus par l’abbé Dubos. It is remarkable as containing a distinct prophecy of the revolt of the American colonies from Great Britain. His next work was L’Histoire de la Ligue de Cambray (Paris, 1709, 1728 and 1785, 2 vols. 12mo), a full, clear and interesting history, which obtained the commendation of Voltaire. In 1734 he published his Histoire critique de l’établissement de la monarchie française dans les Gaules (3 vols. 4to)—a work the object of which was to prove that the Franks had entered Gaul, not as conquerors, but at the request of the nation, which, according to him, had called them in to govern it. But this system, though unfolded with a degree of skill and ability which at first procured it many zealous partisans, was victoriously refuted by Montesquieu at the end of the thirtieth book of the Esprit des lois. His Réflexions critiques sur la poésie et sur la peinture, published for the first time in 1719 (2 vols. 12mo), but often reprinted in three volumes, constitute one of the works in which the theory of the arts is explained with the utmost sagacity and discrimination. Like his history of the League of Cambray, it was highly praised by Voltaire. The work was rendered more remarkable by the fact that its author had no practical acquaintance with any one of the arts whose principles he discussed. Besides the works above enumerated, a manifesto of Maximilian, elector of Bavaria, against the emperor Leopold, relative to the succession in Spain, has been attributed to Dubos, chiefly, it appears, from the excellence of the style.