Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/94

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84
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tive. Just the contrary prevailed in England, for here the Royal Society was the mother society, and all the organizations for spe- cial study have been offsprings from her.

A century of honorable and useful works could not save the academies from the insatiable maw of the revolutionary Govern- ment, and on the 8th of August, 1793, the following article was proposed and passed : " Article I. All academies and literary societies patented and paid by the nation are suppressed/'

When, two years later, the Directory restored and reconsti- tuted the academies into the Institute, after the original plans of Colbert, the empty chairs of the old members told with what deadly thoroughness the Revolutionary Committee suppressed the learned bodies through the guillotine and exile.

There had been the Academie Frangaise, Academie des Inscrij)- iions et Belles-Lettres, Academie des Sciences, and Academie de Peinture et Sculpture, now styled Academie des Beaux-Arts. Under succeeding governments the Institute and its academies underwent various changes as to name and classification of sec- tions, but as they exist to-day the several academies are fulfilling practically the same aims and functions with which they started. A fifth academy was added by Guizot in 1832, as L Academie des Sciences Morales et Politiques.

I. The Academie Frangaise is the oldest, and in many respects, the most illustrious of the five.

The great Cardinal Richelieu, betwixt his intrigues of state and his more laborious task of writing indifferent tragedies, found time to play the patron to a coterie of learned men, who met at regular intervals for social and intellectual intercourse. Whether through his political insight or literary ambition it is not possible to know, but he clearly foresaw what a powerful influence such a society might wield, and esteemed it good statecraft that the Gov- ernment should hold a supervisory interest. All was grist that came to his mill. For several years, or as early as 1630, Godeau Gombauld, Giry Habert, Serisay de Malleville, Chapelaine, au- thor of La Pucelle, and other literary men of note, had been accus- tomed to meeting weekly at the house of Conrart, secretary of Louis XIII, where literary subjects were the usual topics, and where new works of the members were read. Since even such harmless societies were contrary to the law of France, strict se- crecy was enjoined. But Richelieu had ears all over France. In 1033 Malleville took with him to the meetings his friend Farey, who, in all innocence, introduced the Abbe* Bois-Robert. This satellite of the prime minister proved to be the ears in this in- stance, and reported to his master the excellence of these gath- erings. Richelieu lost no time in offering to act as patron to the society, extended to it his protection, and promised letters of incor-