Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/786

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769
RABELAIS

be read (see Wright's Syr. Lit. p. 9). According to his biographer (Overbeck, p. 172) he himself produced a version (or revision) of the New Testament in Syriac. This may have been, as Wright suggests (Syr. Lit. p. 11), “ a first step in the direction of the Philoxenian version.” But there is great probability in F. C. Burkitt's hypothesis that the product of Rabbūlā's work, at least as regards the Gospels, is to be found in the current Peshīṭta text, which “ represents the Greek text as read in Antioch about 400 A.D." and “ was prepared by Rabbula and published by his authority as a substitute for the Diatessaron."[1]

Rabbūlā seems to have been a man of great force, devotion and self-denial: on the one hand intellectually gifted, and on the other thoroughly consistent in his practice of religion. But his attractiveness is marred, as in the case of many of his contemporaries, by the bitterness of a narrow orthodoxy.  (N. M.) 


RABELAIS, FRANÇOIS (c. 1490–1553), French humorist, was born at Chinon on the Vienne in the province of Touraine. The date of his birth is wholly uncertain: it has been put by tradition, and by authorities long subsequent to his death, as 1483, 1490, and 1495. There is nothing in the positive facts of his life which would not suit tolerably well with any of these dates; most 17th-century authorities give the earliest, and this also accords best with the age of the eldest of the Du Bellay brothers, with whom Rabelais was (perhaps) at school. In favour of the latest it is urged that, if Rabelais was born in 1483, he must have been forty-seven when he entered at Montpellier, and proportionately and unexpectedly old at other known periods of his life. In favour of the middle date, which has, as far as recent authorities are concerned, the weight of consent in its favour, the testimony of Guy Patin (1601–1672), a witness of some merit and not too far removed in point of time, is invoked. The only contribution which need be made here to the controversy is to point out that if Rabelais was born in 1483 he must have been an old man when he died, and that scarcely even tradition speaks of him as such.

With regard to his birth, parentage, youth, and education everything depends upon this tradition, and it is not until he was according to one extreme hypothesis thirty-six, according to the other extreme twenty-four, that we have solid testimony respecting him. In the year 1519, on the 5th of April, the François Rabelais of history emerges. The monks of Fontenay le Comte bought some property (half an inn in the town), and among their signatures to the deed of purchase is that of François Rabelais. Before this all is cloudland. It is said that he had four brothers and no sisters, that his father had a country property called La Devinière, and was either an apothecary or a tavern-keeper. Half a century after his death De Thou mentions that the house in which he was born had become a tavern and then a tennis-court. It still stands at the corner of a street called the Rue de la Lamproie, and the tradition may be correct. An indistinct allusion of his own has been taken to mean that he was tonsured in childhood at seven or nine years old; and tradition says that he was sent to the convent of Seuilly. From Seuilly at an unknown date tradition takes him either to the university of Angers or to the convent school of La Baumette or La Basmette, founded by good King René in the neighbourhood of the Angevin capital. Here he is supposed to have been at school with the brothers Du Bellay, with Geoffroy d'Estissac and others. The next stage in this (so far as evidence goes, purely imaginary) career is the monastery of Fontenay le Comte, where, as has been seen, he is certainly found in 1519 holding a position sufficiently senior to sign deeds for the cornmunity, where he, probably in 1511, took priest's orders, and where he also pursued, again certainly, the study of letters, and especially of Greek, with ardour. From this date, therefore, he becomes historically visible. The next certain intelligence which we have of Rabelais is somewhat more directly biographical. The letters of the well-known Greek scholar Budaeus, two of which are addressed to Rabelais himself and several more to his friend and fellow-monk Pierre Amy, together with some notices by André Tiraqueau, a learned jurist, to whom Rabelais rather than his own learning has secured immortality, show beyond doubt what manner of life the future author of Gargantua led in his convent. The letters of Budaeus show that an attempt was made by the heads of the convent or the order to check the studious ardour of these Franciscans; but it failed, and there is no positive evidence of anything like actual persecution, the phrases in the letters of Budaeus being merely the usual exaggerated Ciceronianism of the Renaissance. Some books and papers were seized as suspicious, then given back as innocent; but Rabelais was in all probability disgusted with the cloister-indeed his great work shows this beyond doubt. In 1524, the year of the publication of Tiraqueau's book above cited, his friend Geoffroy d'Estissac procured from Clement VII. an indult, licensing a change of order and of abode for Rabelais. From a Franciscan he became a Benedictine, and from Fontenay he moved to Maillezais, of which Geoffroy d'Estissac was bishop. But even this learned and hospitable retreat did not apparently satisfy Rabelais. In or before 1530 he left Maillezais, abandoned his Benedictine garb for that of a secular priest, and, as he himself puts it in his subsequent Supplicatio pro Apostasy to Pope Paul III., " per seculum diu agates fuit.” For a time the Du Bellays provided him with an abode near their own chateau of Langey. He is met at Montpellier in the year just mentioned. He entered the faculty of medicine there on the 16th of September and became bachelor on the 1st of November, a remarkably short interval, which shows what was thought of his acquirements. Early in 1531 he lectured publicly on Galen and Hippocrates, while his more serious pursuits seem to have been chequered by acting in a morale comédie, then a very frequent university amusement. Visits to the Îles d'Hières, and the composition of a fish sauce in imitation of the ancient garum, which he sent to his friend Étienne Dolet, are associated, not very certainly, with his stay at Montpellier, which, lasting rather more than a year at first, was renewed at intervals for several years.

In 1532, however, he had moved from Montpellier to Lyons. Here he plunged into manifold work, literary and professional. He was appointed before the beginning of November physician to the Hôtel Dieu, with a salary of forty livres per annum, and lectured on anatomy with demonstrations from the human subject. He edited for Sebastian Gryphius, in the single year 1532, the medical Epistles of Giovanni Manardi, the Aphorisms of Hippocrates, with the Ars Parva of Galen, and an edition of two supposed Latin documents, which, however, happened unluckily to be forgeries.

At this time Lyons was the centre and to a great extent the headquarters of an unusually enlightened society, and indirectly it is clear that Rabelais became intimate with this society. A manuscript distich, which was found in the Toulouse library, deals with the death of an infant named Théodule, whose country was Lyons and his father Rabelais, but we know nothing more about the matter. What makes the Lyons sojourn of the greatest real importance is that at this time probably appeared the beginnings of the work which was to make Rabelais immortal. It is necessary to say “ probably,” because the strange uncertainty which rests on so much of his life and writings exists here also. There is no doubt that both Gargantua and Pantagruel were popular names of giants in the Middle Ages, though, curiously enough, no mention of the former in French literature much before Rabelais's time has been traced. In 1526, however, Charles de Bordigné, in a satiric work of no great merit, entitled la Légende de Pierre Faifeu, has the name Gargantua with an allusion, and in 1532 (if not earlier) there appeared at Lyons les Grandes et inestimable chroniques dn grand et énorme giant Gargantua. This is a short book on the plan of the later burlesques and romances of the Round Table. Arthur and Merlin appear with Grantgosier,

as he is here spelt, Galemelle (Gargamelle), Gargantua himself.

  1. See S. Ephraim's Quotations from the Gospel (Cambridge, 1901), p. 57 f.; Evangelion du-Mepharreshe (Cambridge, 1904), ii. 5; and Early Eastern Christianity (London, 1904), lecture ii.