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is much of tradition and anecdote concerning bim, but little that is reliable. He has been the subject of much invention inspired by his immortal work, and seeking to connect him with events and to attribute to him sayings and acts corresponding to the nature of his extravagant fiction. He was born, probably, in 1495, at Chinon, a very ancient little town near the junction of the river Vienne with the Loire, in the province of Lorraine. His father, Thomas Rabelais, was an apothecary or an innkeeper, and possessed an estate in the neighborhood of Chinon called La Devinière.* At the age of ten years he was placed in an abbey in the village of Seully. Finding that he learned nothing there he was removed to the convent of La Baumette, or, according to others, to the university at Angers. Here he became acquainted with Geoffrai d’Estissac, afterwards bishop of Maillezais, and with the brothers Bellay, acquaintances which had an important bearing upon his future career. It was in accordance with the wishes of his father, who desired him to become a cordelier, that he decided to embrace the monastic profession.t Rabelais would seem to have had filial piety if no other. The cordeliers of Fontenay-le-Comte, where he was placed, Colletet says: “Faisoient voeu d'ignorance encore plus que de religion.”I lIe remained here fifteen years, passing through the requisite degrees to the priesthood, which he received, probably, in 1519.
It is related that while among the cordeliers Rabelais was put in pace, or between four walls, on bread and water, for some misdemeanor. According to one account, on a festival day, he substituted himself for the image of St. Francis, and received the worship of the people. He enjoyed the joke so well that he could not restrain his risibles; and the people seeing the saint move cried out, “A miracle!” The wonder being reported to the monks they soon discovered who was the incarnation of the sculptured saint, and demonstrated
Particulars de la Vie et Meurs de Rabelais, imprim. devant ses Euvres.
+ Antoine Leroy, Floretum Philosophicum.
$ Pierre de St. Romuald, Feuillant.
to him by their formula that he was not made of stone. Whether or not there is any truth in these stories and numberless others of the sort, it is certain that Rabelais was thoroughly dissatisfied with his life among the Franciscans, and that he was eventually treated by them with great severity.
He conceived a lively passion for the classical writers of Greece and Rome, and devoted himself to their study with all the ardor of his soul. This was the chief cause of his disagreement with the convent authorities. The study of the Greek and Roman writers was being revived at this time, but was opposed strenuously by the Franciscans, while favored and encouraged by more enlightened orders. Rabelais caught the progressive spirit of the age, and his fondness for study, doubtless, caused him to neglect his duties as an ecclesiastic. He paid the penalty of persecution, which has always been the price of progress. The monks of his convent were suspicious of one who devoted so much time to profane learning, and especially Greek. Yet we must not forget, in stating the fact, that the ecclesiastics of the day were the restorers of learning, and that it was in the religious institutions the great minds of the age were trained. This is true of Rabelais as well as of most of the other distinguished thinkers of the time, including the foremost of the protestant reformers. Rabelais was so unfortunate as to be attached to an order which did not value learning so highly as some others; and we may remark, in passing, that the same is true of the Franciscans of the present day, whether they call themselves “fathers” or “ brothers.”
About the year 1823, by order of the superior of the convent, an examination was made of the cells of Rabelais and of Pierre Lamy, confreres in classical study. A discovery was made of many Greek books, and probably also some works of Erasmus. All were confiscated by the chapter, and the two scholars were not only deprived of the means to make life in the convent tolerable, but placed under ban, and menaced with the severest persecutions. The two friends, doubly endeared by community of tastes and by persecution,
fled together. They are believed to have taken refuge in some other convent. The only information which we have of this period of our author's life is contained in the Greek letters of Budé, with whom Rabelais and Lamy at this time corresponded.
It is not to be wondered at that Rabelais should have conceived an intense disgust for those who had the power to annoy, while they could not appreciate him; nor that he should have remembered his persecutions, and resented them afterwards in the most biting satire. It is to his credit that he should rather have made them the subjects of ridicule than of anything more vindictive. Probably, had he given vent to his feelings at this time, rather than later, when passion was cooled, his work would have been more bitter and less effective.
Rabelais found many valuable friends at this period, including Budé, several members of the Brisson family, and André Tiraqueau, lieutenant-general of the bailliwick. It is related that the latter, hearing of the incarceration of Rabelais, by the Franciscans, repaired with a posse of the principal inhabitants of the city, to the gates of the abbey, in the name of the king, forced them open, and found Frère François in one of the dungeons of the convent, where he would have died in a short time. * In good time the excellent Budé was able to write to Pierre Lamy : have learned that your tribulations have terminated, since your persecutors have been made aware that they were placing themselves in hostility with persons of credit, and with the king himself ;” and to Rabelais, “I have received from one of the most brilliant and most humane among your brothers the news that there have been restored to you your books, your pleasures, and that you have recovered your liberty and your former tranquility.”+
It was decided, with good reason, that there was phatic incompatability between the temperament of Rabelais,
* Nouvelle Biog. Gen., t. xli. | It is proper to state here that Rabelais has been charged with the grossest misconduct in his convent, and there is much reason to believe that his troubles were not altogether attributable to unjust persecution.-- Vie de Rabelais, prefixed to his works.
and life among the Franciscans. Accordingly, efforts were made to release him from his vows, and an indulgence was finally obtained from Pope Clement VII., authorizing his transfer to the order of St. Benedict, (which brotherhood were among the most learned and liberal of the day,) and permitting him to enter the abbey of Maillezais, with the title and habit of a regular prebendary, and the right to hold benefices. Yet even here, and in these improved circumstances, was too much restraint for his free and erratic spirit. He soon quitted his new retreat, and, adopting the habit of a secular priest, wandered about, leading a sort of vagabond existence, sometimes practising medicine, sometimes discharging the functions of the priesthood. We find him about this time domiciled with the Bishop Geoffroi d'Estissac, who had been his fellow-student at La Baumette, and who had gathered about him a company of choice spirits at his chateau of Ligugé. Here our author found congenial society among many men of learning and letters, both ecclesiastics and men of the world. Among them was Jean Bouchet, procurer at Poictiers, author of the “ Annales d'Aquitaine,” whom Rabelais afterwards addressed, in verse, in his “ Epistre de Maistre François Rabelais Homme de Grans Lettres Grécques et Latines a Jehan Bouchet, Traictant des imaginations qu'on peult avoir attendant la chose desirée.” This is followed by the “Epistre responsive dudict Bouchet audict Rabelais. Contenant la description d'une belle demeure, et louanges de messieurs d’Estissac.”* From these epistles and some passages in “Pantagruel,” we learn how well Rabelais enjoyed the time spent in this delightful retreat. He speaks in the latter work of his walks by the “sweet river” of the Clain, where he doubtless conceived the plan of his immortal work, while reflecting upon the life among the Franciscans from which he had lately escaped. While here he devoted himself with renewed delight to study, taking up various branches of natural science, but giving the preference to botany and medicine. He became one of the most profound and encyclopedic scholars of any time. “It is certain," says Colletet, "that
* Vide Eurres de Rabelais, t. viii.
† Gargantua, c. xxiii.
he was a very learned philologist, and a very profound philosopher, theologian, mathematician, physician, juriconsult, musician, arithmetician, geometrician, astronomer, and seems to have been also poet and painter. But as natural science was most to his taste, he resolved to apply himself entirely to that, and for that purpose he went immediately to Montpellier."*
There is a hiatus between his departure from Ligugé and his arrival at Montpellier, during which time we have no authentic account of him. According to Hubert Sassanaus,t Rabelais was at the universities of Paris and Bourges in the period from the year 1524 to 1530. The first record we have of him at Montpellier, is an entry preserved in the registry of the faculty of medicine, bearing date September 16, 1530. This is probably the date of his entry at that university. He followed the school exercises during the whole of the year 1531, and made a commentary upon the “Aphorisms” of Hippocrates and the “Art Parva” of Galen. He went to Lyons in the beginning of the year 1532, where he practised medicine. He was physician of the Hotel Dieu, of Lyons, from November, 1532, to the end of February, 1534. He is also said here to have discharged the functions of a corrector of the press for a publishing house, and his name is found attached to a large number of publications upon medicine, archeology, jurisprudence, &c.; he also calculated an almanac for the meridian of Lyons.
Ile made two journeys to Rome, one at the commencement of the year 1534, the other in 1536-7, as physician to the French ambassador, the Cardinal du Bellay. This du Bellay, who had been one of his fellow students at Angers, was man of learning and taste, and was very fond of having about him men of wit and intelligence like Rabelais. Our author passed his time pleasantly
* Ilistoire des Poëts François. Par M. Colletet.
† Alexandri Quantitates, Paris, 1539. † "Ce cardinal qui faisoit grand cas des hommes savants, et qui l'estoit extrêmement lui-même, ayant gousté la doctrine et la suffisance profonde de Rabelais, d'ailleurs l'ayant reconnu de belle humeur et d'un entretien capable de divertir la plus noir melancholie, le retint tonjours auprès de sa personne en qualité de son médicine ordinaire et de toute sa famille, et l'eut tonjours depuit en grande considératiou.''-Colletet, Op. cit.