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Esprit Flechier

Bishop; b. at Pernes, France, 1632; died at Montpellier, 1710

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Flechier, ESPRIT, bishop; b. at Pernes, France, 1632; died at Montpellier, 1710; member of the Academy, and together with Bourdaloue, Bossuet, Fenelon, and Mascaron, one of the greatest sacred orators of his century; his earliest studies were made at Tarascon, under the guidance of his uncle, who was superior of a religious congregation. He himself entered this congregation, where he received holy orders, but soon left it and went to Paris in 1660. It was not long before he acquired a reputation as a wit and spiritual writer. A Latin poem in honor of Louis XIV first won for him the favor of the Court. He devoted to literature and history the leisure which remained after the fulfilment of his duties as tutor in the household of Caumartin, Councillor of State, and it was then he wrote his chief historical work, “Memoires sur les grands jours tenus a Clermont en 1665”. He was tutor to the Dauphin when his preaching began to make him famous. His funeral eulogies in particular won for him more than one comparison with Bossuet. It happened that on a number of occasions he had to treat the same subjects as the Bishop of Meaux, for instance the funeral oration of Maria Theresa, and to arouse almost the same sentiments of admiration.

He was received a member of the French Academy in 1673, on the same day as Racine. Having been consecrated bishop in 1685, he left the See of Lavaur for that of Nimes in 1687. During his administration he was remarkable for his great charity and his zeal in converting Protestants, but this did not prevent him from devoting himself to letters and to making the Academy of Nimes, of which he was the director, shine with particular brilliancy. He was less a preacher of the Gospel than a remarkable panegyrist. His sermons are as different from those of Bourdaloue as his funeral orations resemble Bossuet’s. He was much more an elegant man of letters and fashionable orator than a severe moralist and humble preacher. He delighted in ingenious turns of phrase, sonorous words and pretentious periods which have the appearance of seeking applause and which are hardly in accord with the spirit of the Gospel. His funeral oration for Turenne is in every classical handbook. His oratorical works have been collected under the title of “Oraisons Funebres” (Paris, 1878), “Sermons”, and “Panegyriques”. In history he has left an “Histoire du Cardinal Ximenes” (Paris, 1693), the “Vie de Theodose le Grand” and “Lettres choisies sur divers suj ets”. The last edition of the “Oeuvres” of Flechier is in two volumes (Paris, 1886).



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