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Rabelais

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RABELAIS, Francois, frah-swi French author: b. Chinon, Touraine, about 1483 (according to other authorities 1490 or 1495); d. Paris, 9 April 1553. Regarding his birth, parentage and early youth nothing definite is known. It is a fact, however, established by still existing documents, that in 1519 he was a member of the Franciscan order at Fontenay le-Comte, in Poitou, and being at first freely permitted to study, acquired Arabic, Hebrew and Greek, and read omnivorously on almost all subjects. Eventually, however, the Francis cans came to distrust the new learning. Rabe lais was deprived of his books, and in disgust fled the monastery. Shortly afterward, in 1524, he obtained permission of Clement VII to enter the Benedictine order; he moved to Maillezais, but before long quitted this brotherhood also, and began to traverse the country under the habit of a secular priest. His biographers have found it difficult to follow him during this period of his life, but it seems that in his wan derings he cultivated all the sciences of the day, and especially philology, with assiduity, and that in this he exhibited powers of acquisition such as few have possessed before or since. In 1530 he was enrolled as bachelor in the faculty of medicine at Montpellier, where he lectured on Galen and Hippocrates in 1531-32, although it was not till 1537 that he obtained the degree of doctor. In 1532 he went to Lyons, where he published 'Manardi Epistolic Medicinales); Aphorismi) ; and 'Testamentum Cuspidii (1532). In the same year he also, probably, brought out the first germ of his probably, (1532), of which, according to his own account, more copies were sold in two months than of the Bible in nine years. He was made physician to the Lyons Hospital, and was a member of the Societe Angelique, a coterie of scholars that had gathered around the workshop of Gryphius, the printer. The first dated edition of came out in 1533. This first specimen of the power of Rabe lais in the style that has rendered him famous has all the grotesque humor, amounting even to buffoonery, and the variety of marvelous ad ventures of his later works of the kind, but wants the delicate raillery, the sustained alle gory and profound philosophy which most students of Rabelais find in the subsequent ver sions of (Gargantua,) and still more in the last three books of (Pantagruel.) The first part of (Pantagruel) appeared under the anagrammatic pseudonym of Alcofribas Nasier, within a year or so after the first work, and its success was such that it passed through three editions in one year. Under the same pseudonym he also published in 1533 the first of a series of alma nacs, of which now only a few fragments exist, and 'Prognostication Pantagrueline.) In 1534 he accompanied, probably as physician, Bishop, later. Cardinal, Jean du Bellay, on an embassy to Rome. The result of this journey was an edition of (Marliani Topographia Antiquie Roma) (1534). Not long after he is found again at 'Lyons, where the (Gargantua,) as we now have it, first saw the light in 1535. Late

in 1535 he was again at Rome with Du Bellay, and on this occasion obtained from the Pope absolution for having neglected to enter a Ben edictine house and other delinquencies. It was granted in response to his pro Apostasia' (1535). In the year following he is known to have been practising his art at Pans, but his love of wandering had not yet ceased, and his place of abode for the next eight or nine years was as unsettled as it had been during any previous part of his life. From 1539-43 he appears to have been in the service of Guillaume du Bellay, the elder brother of the cardinal, and to have resided with him in Piedmont of which he was governor. In 1546 he was probably in Pans, when the third book of his appeared. In this the fantastical and trivial adventures that crowd the previous books give place in a great meas ure to regular dissertations, in which all the great moral and social questions of the day are discussed with the gaiety and irony peculiar to Rabelais, and with a freedom that roused the suspicion of the clergy, who endeavored to have it suppressed. The favor of the king se !cured the free publication of this book, but it was with more difficulty that a license was ob tained for the fourth book from the next king (Henry II), who had succeeded Francis in 1547. A mutilated edition of this appeared sur reptitiously at Lyons in 1547. • The license to publish was not obtained till 1550, and it was only in 1552 that a complete and authentic edi tion of the book appeared. In 1549 he was again in Rome and a description of some court festivities appeared under the title (Sciomachie (Lyons 1549). Rabelais was installed in the cure of Meudon, which he had had bestowed on him by his former patron, Jean du Bellay, in 1553, and it is possible, though by no means sure, that he resided there chiefly during the re mainder of his life, resigning two months be fore his death. He left at his death the whole of the fifth book of in manu script. Sixteen chapters of this appeared under the title (Lisle Sonante' at Lyons in 1562. The entire fifth book was not published until 1564. The original manuscript was discovered in 1840, ending a long controversy as to its authenticity. A sixth book was intended to be added, but there is only a fragment of it indicating its sub (Les Noces de Panurge.) His enemies busily pointed out impieties, and he once fled to Metz to escape danger. Rabelais was one of the first to give flexibility and finish to the yet rude and harsh language of his country. Boileau calls him La raison en masque, and Rousseau, Le gentil maitre Francois. His house was the resort of the learned; his purse always open to the needy; and his medical skill em ployed in the service of his parish. His work cannot now be easily understood without a glossary and commentary. It has been widely regarded, especially in France, as a treasury of wisdom, wit and shrewd sense. See GARAGAN TVA and PANTAGRUEL.

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