1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Joubert, Joseph
JOUBERT, JOSEPH (1754–1824), French moralist, was born at Montignac (Corrèze) on the 6th of May 1754. After completing his studies at Toulouse he spent some years there as a teacher. His delicate health proved unequal to the task, and after two years spent at home in study Joubert went to Paris at the beginning of 1778. He allied himself with the chiefs of the philosophic party, especially with Diderot, of whom he was in some sort a disciple, but his closest friendship was with the abbé de Fontanes. In 1790 he was recalled to his native place to act as juge de paix, and carried out the duties of his office with great fidelity. He had made the acquaintance of Mme de Beaumont in a Burgundian cottage where she had taken refuge from the Terror, and it was under her inspiration that Joubert’s genius was at its best. The atmosphere of serenity and affection with which she surrounded him seemed necessary to the development of what Sainte-Beuve calls his “esprit ailé, ami du ciel et des hauteurs.” Her death in 1803 was a great blow to him, and his literary activity, never great, declined from that time. In 1809, at the solicitation of Joseph de Bonald, he was made an inspector-general of education, and his professional duties practically absorbed his interests during the rest of his life. He died on the 3rd of May 1824. His manuscripts were entrusted by his widow to Chateaubriand, who published a selection of Pensées from them in 1838 for private circulation. A more complete edition was published by Joubert’s nephew, Paul de Raynal, under the title Pensées, essais, maximes et correspondance (2 vols. 1842). A selection of letters addressed to Joubert was published in 1883. Joubert constantly strove after perfection, and the small quantity of his work was partly due to his desire to find adequate and luminous expression for his discriminating criticism of literature and morals.
If Joubert’s readers in England are not numerous, he is well known at second hand through the sympathetic essay devoted to him in Matthew Arnold’s Essays in Criticism (1st series). See Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du lundi, vol. i.; Portraits littéraires, vol. ii.; and a notice by Paul de Raynal, prefixed to the edition of 1842.