1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Benserade, Isaac de

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17305571911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 3 — Benserade, Isaac de

BENSERADE, ISAAC DE (1613–1691), French poet, was born in Paris, and baptized on the 5th of November 1613. His family appears to have been connected with Richelieu, who bestowed on him a pension of 600 livres. He began his literary career with the tragedy of Cléopâtre (1635), which was followed by four other indifferent pieces. On Richelieu’s death Benserade lost his pension, but became more and more a favourite at court, especially with Anne of Austria. He provided the words for the court ballets, and was, in 1674, admitted to the Academy, where he wielded an influence quite out of proportion to the merit of his work. In 1676 the failure of his Métamorphoses d’Ovide in the form of rondeaux gave a blow to his reputation, but by no means destroyed his vogue with his contemporaries. Benserade would probably be forgotten but for his sonnet on Job (1651). This sonnet, which he sent to a young lady with his paraphrase on Job, having been placed in competition with the Urania of Voiture, a dispute on their relative merits long divided the whole court and the wits into two parties, styled respectively the Jobelins and the Uranists. The partisans of Benserade were headed by the prince de Conti and Mile de Scudéry, while Mme de Montausier and J. G. de Balzac took the side of Voiture.

Some years before his death, on the 19th of October 1691, Benserade retired to Chantilly, and devoted himself to a translation of the Psalms, which he nearly completed.