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at length in the “ Collection of Royal and Noble Wills," 1780, 4to, p. 376.
BEAULIEU DE PONTAULT. See PONTAULT.
BEAUMARCHAIS (PETER AUGUSTIN CARON - DE), a French dramatic writer of modern celebrity, was born at Paris, Jan. 24, 1732. His father was a watchmaker, and at the age of twenty-one himself invented an improvement in watchmaking, which being contested by an eminent artist, was decided in favour of young Beaumarchais by the academy of sciences. Being passionately fond of music, and especially of the harp, he introduced some improvements in this instrument, which, with his excellent performance, gained him admittance to Mesdames, the daughters of Louis XV. to give them lessons, and this was the origin of his fortune. He lost two wives successively, and then gained three considerable law-suits. which he published concerning each of these causes, excited great
attention. He had also an affair of honour with a duke, in consequence of which he was sent to Fort L'Evêque. He was afterwards employed in some political transactions by the ministers Maurepas and Vergennes. He supported the scheme for the caisse d'escompte, or bank of discount, which he vainly thought to have made a rival to that of England: but he was more successful, although after much opposition, in procuring the adoption of a scheme for a fire-pump to supply the city of Paris with water. A plan, also, concerning poor women, was executed at Lyons, and gained him the thanks of the merchants of that city. After the death of Voltaire, he purchased the whole of his manuscripts, and not being able to print them in France, established a press at Kell, where they were printed in a very magnificent manner with Bas
When the American war took place, Beaumarchais speculated in supplying the Americans with arms, ammunition, &c. and although some of his ships were taken by the English, he was so successful with the rest as to realize a considerable fortune, and built a magnificent house in the Faubourg St. Antoine. He was planning the construction of a bridge over the Seine, when the revolution intervened to oppose his projects, and although he was one of those
Biog. Brit.—Bp. Fisher's Sermon published by Baker.-Park's edition of Walpole's Royal and Noble Authors.
who had contributed to the public stock of discontent, he never became popular with the revolutionists. In 1792, having signed a contract with the war minister, to furnish 60,000 musquets, which he was to procure from Holland, and not having delivered one, although he had received 500,000 francs in advance, the people accused him of forming a depot of them in his house on the Boulevard, and he was imprisoned for a time, but released, after which he took refuge in England. In 1794 he returned to Paris, and began to collect the remains of his fortune, but dissipated the principal part in a speculation on salt. In May 1799, he died of an apoplectic stroke, after a life of bustle and intrigue, and divided between literature and business. His countrymen do not represent his character in the most amiable light : his morals were not of the purest species, and his more favourable personal accomplishments were obscured by a self-conceit, and a love of talking about and praising himself, which he could never repress. It was said that if he had been ordered to be hanged, he would have requested a gallows as high as Haman's, that he might be more conspicuous.
His works are, 1.“ Memoires contre les sieurs de Goetzman, La Blache, Marin d'Arnaud," 1774 and 1775. “ Memoire en reponse a celui de Guillaume Kornmann," Paris, 1787. These relate to his law-suits above-mentioned, to which it is said that no man but himself could have attached such an importance as to render them objects of public curiosity and conversation. His dramatic career was more brilliant. It began with, 3. " Eugenie," a drama in five acts, 1767, taken partly from the Diable Boiteux of Le Sage, and partly from some incidents in his own family. 4.“ Les deux amis,” 1770. 5. “ Le Barbier de Seville," 1775. 6. “Le Mariage de Figaro,” 1784, two pieces since familiarized to the English stage, the former by Colman the elder, and the latter by Holcroft. 7.“ Tarare," an opera, 1787, not of much poetical merit. 8. “ La Mere coupable,” 1792. 9.“ Memoire en reponse au manifeste du roi d'Angleterre,” afterwards suppressed. 10. “Memoires a Lecointre de Versailles, ou mes six Epoques, Paris, 1795. These and other pieces have been since collected into an edition of his works published in 1809, 7 vols. 8vo. In 1802, a life of him was published, which we have not seen. ?
| Biog. Moderne.--Dict. Hist.
BEAUMELLE (LAURENCE ANGLIVIEL DE LA), a French writer of some note, was born at Valleraugues, in the diocese of Allais, in 1727, and died at Paris Nov. 1773. Being invited to Denmark as professor of the French belles-lettres, he opened this course of literature by a discourse that was printed in 1751, and well received. Having always lived in the south of France, a residence in the north could hardly agree with him, but he was held in such esteem, that he quitted Denmark with the title of privy-counsellor and a pension. Stopping at Berlin, he was desirous of forming an intimacy with Voltaire, with whose writings he was much captivated; but, both being of irritable and impetuous characters, they had no sooner seen each other than they quarrelled, without hope of reconciliation. The history of this quarrel, which gave rise to so many personalities and invectives, is characteristic of both parties. A reflection in a publication of la Beaumelle, entitled “Mes Pensées,” was the first cause of it. This work, very studiously composed, but written with too much boldness, procured the author many enemies; and, on his arrival at Paris in 1753, he was imprisoned in the Bastille. No sooner was he let out, than be published his “ Memoirs of Maintenon,” which drew on him a fresh detention in that royal prison. La Beaumelle, having obtained his liberty, retired into the country, where he put in practice the lessons he had given to Voltaire, in the following letter: “ Well, then, we are once more at liberty ; let us revenge ourselves on these misfortunes by rendering them of use to us. Let us lay aside all those literary infirmities which have spread so many clouds over the course of your
life, so much bitterness over my youthful years. A little more glory, a little more opulence: What does it all signify? Let us seek the reality of happiness, and not its shadow. The most shining reputation is never worth what it costs. Charles V. sighs after retirement; Ovid wishes to be a fool. We are once more free. I am out of the Bastille; you are no longer at court. Let us make the best use of a benefit that may
be snatched from us at every moment. Let us entertain a distant respect for that greatness which is so dangerous to those that come near it, and that authority, so terrible even to them that exercise it; and, if it be true that we cannot venture to think without risk, let us think
Do the pleasures of reflection counterbalance those of safety? Let us be persuaded, you, after sixty
years of experience; me, after six months of annihilation. Let us be wiser, or at least more prudent; and the wrinkles of age, and the remembrance of bolts and bars, those injuries of time and power, will prove real benefits to us."
He now cultivated literature in peace, and settled himself in the comforts of domestic life by marrying the daughter of M. Lavaisse, an advocate of great practice at Thoulouse. A lady of the court called him to Paris about the year 1772, and wished to fix him there, by procuring him the place of librarian to the king; but he did not long enjoy this promotion ; a dropsy in the chest proved fatal the following year. He left a son and a daughter. His works are: 1. “A Defence of Montesquieu's . Esprit des Loix,” against the author of the “ Nouvelles-Ecclesiastiques,” which is inferior to that which the president de Montesquieu published himself, but for which that writer expressed his thanks. 2. “Mes Pensées, ou, Le Qu'en dira-t-on ?" 1751, 12mo; a book which has not kept up its reputation, though containing a great deal of wit; but the author in his politics is often wide of the truth, and allows himself too decisive a style in literature and morals. The passage in this book which embroiled him with Voltaire is this: “There have been better poets than Voltaire; but none have been ever so well rewarded. The king of Prussia heaps his bounty on men of talents exactly from the same motives as induce a petty prince of Germany to heap his bounty on a buffoon or a dwarf.” 3. “The “ Memoirs of Madame de Maintenon," 1756, 6 vols, 12mo. which were followed by 9 vols. of letters. In this work many facts are given on conjecture, and others disfigured; nor is Madame de Maintenon made to think and speak as she either thought or spoke. The style has neither the propriety nor the dignity that is proper to history, but the author occasionally writes with great animation and energy, discovering at times the precision and the force of Tacitus, of whose annals he left a translation in manuscript. He had bestowed much study on that philosophic historian, and sometimes is successful in the imitation of his manner. 4." Letters to M. de Voltaire,” 1761, 12mo, containing sarcastic remarks on Voltaire's " Age of Louis XIV.” Voltaire refuted these remarks in a pamphlet entitled “Supplement to the age of Louis XIV.” in which he shews it to be an odious thing to seize upon a work on purpose to disfigure įt, La Beaumelle in 1754 gave out an " Answer to this
Şupplement,” which he re-produced in 1761, under the title of Letters.” To this Voltaire made no reply; but shortly after stigmatized it in company with several others, in his infamous poem the “ Pucelle, where he describes la Beaumelle as mistaking the pockets of other men for his own.
The writer, thus treated, endeavoured to cancel the calumny by a decree of the parliament of Thoulouse; but other affairs prevented him from pursuing this. Voltaire, however, had some opinion of his talents; and the writer of this article has seen a letter of his in which he says : “ Ce pendard a bien de l'esprit.”—“The rascal has a good deal of wit.” La Beaumelle, on the other hand, said : “ Personne n'écrit mieux que Voltaire.”" No one writes better than Voltaire.” Yet these mutual acknowledgments of merit did not prevent their passiog a considerable part of their life in mutual abuse. The abbé Irail informs us, that la Beaumelle being one day asked why he was continually attacking Voltaire in his books? “Because," returned he," he never spares me in his; and my books sell the better for it.” It is said, however, that la Beaumelle would have left off writing against the author of the Henriade; and even would have been reconciled with him, had he not imagined that it would be impossible to disarm his wrath, and therefore he preferred war to an insecure peace. 5. " Pensées de Seneque,” in Latin and French, in 12mo, after the manner of the “ Pensées de Cicéron,” by the abbé d'Olivet, whom he has rather imitated than equalled. 6. “Commentaire sur la Henriade,". Paris, 1775, 2 vols. 8vo. Justice and taste are sometimes discernible in this performance, but too much severity and too many minute remarks. 7. A manuscript translation of the Odes of Horace. 8. “Miscellanies," also in MS. among which are some striking pieces. The author had a natural bent towards satire. His temper was frank and honest, but ardent and restless. Though his conversation was instructive, it had not that liveliness which we perceive in his writings.'
BEAUMONT (Sir John), an English poet, was the son of Francis Beaumont one of the judges of the common pleas in the reign of queen Elizabeth, and brother of Francis, the dramatic colleague of Fletcher. He was born în 1582, at Grace-Dieu, the family seat in Leicestershire,
1 Dict. Hist.