Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Felix-Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Nève

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 10
Felix-Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Nève

by Charles Francis Aiken


Orientalist and philologist, born at Ath, Belgium, 13 June, 1816; died at Louvain, 23 May, 1893. His parents were devout Catholics. Graduated with distinction from the Catholic college of Lille, Nève completed a course of academic studies at the University of Louvain, obtaining in 1838 the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy and Letters. His pronounced taste for classical and oriental languages led him to pursue higher studies under some of the most distinguished scholars of Europe, Professors Lassen of Bonn, Tiersch of Munich, and Burnouf of Paris. He became acquainted with many oriental scholars, some of them already famous, others destined like himself to win fame in after years. Among these were Muir, Wilson, A. Weber, Kuhn, Max Muller, and the distinguished orientalist and catholic priest, Dr. Windischmann.

In 1841 Nève was appointed to the chair of Greek and Latin Literature in the University of Louvain, and while teaching the classics, gave a course of studies in the Sanskrit language and literature. This work he kept up with unsparing energy and marked success for thirty-six years, at the same time making known the results of the his studies in books and in the articles contributed to the "Journal Asiatique", "Annales de Philosophie Chrétienne", "Correspondant", and other periodicals. When in 1877 he was released from his arduous duties with the title of professor emeritus, his industry continued unabated, and for the next fifteen years a series of publications came from his pen. He was a member of the Asiatic Society of Paris, the Asiatic Society of London, the Royal Academy of Belgium, and was a Knight of the Order of Leopold.

To Nève belongs the honour of giving the first impetus to the cultivation of Sanskrit studies in Belgium. The most important of his numerous publications in the field are: (1) his translation of selected hymns from the Rig-Veda, "Études sur les hymnes du Rig-Veda, avec un choix d' hymnes traduits pour le premier fois en français" (Louvain, 1842); (2) his fine study of ancient Brahmin cult of the Ribhanas, "Essai sur le mythe des Ribhanas . . . avec le texte sanskrit et la traduction française des hymnes addressés a ces divinités" (Paris, 1847); (3) his translation of the Indian drama based on the story of the epic hero Rama, "Le dénouement de l'histoire de Rama. Outtara-Rama-Charita, drame de Bhavabhouti, traduit du Sanskrit" (Brussels, 1880); (4) his collection of essays on the Vedanta philosophy and the epic and dramatic poetry of India, published under the title "Epoques littéraires de l'Inde" (Brussels, 1883).

Nève was also learned in the Armenian language and literature. A number of valuable translations and studies based on Armanian texts came from his pen. Among these may be rnentioned: (1) the Armenian story of the Tatar invasion, "Exposé des guerres de Tamerlan et de Schah-Rokh dans l'Asie occidentale, d' après le chronique arménienne inédite de Thomas de Medzoph", published in "Mémoires de l'Académie Royale de Belgique" (1861); (2) the Armenian account of the exploits of Godfrey de Bouillon, "Les chefs belges de la première croisade d'après les historiens arméniens (Brussels, 1859); (3) the valuable collection of studies on early Christian Armenian prayers and hymns entitled "L'Arménie chrétienne et sa littérature" (Louvain, 1886). Among the publications of Nève bearing on philology, a place of honour should be given to his account of the learned men who in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries laboured for the upbuilding of the University of Louvain, "La renaissance des lettres et l' essor de l'érudition ancienne en Belgique".

CHARLES F. AIKEN