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Francois Clement

Member of the Benedictine Congregation of Saint-Maur and historian (1714-1793)

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Clement, FRANCOIS, a member of the Benedictine Congregation of Saint-Maur and historian. b. at Beze in the department of Cote-d’Or, France, 1714; d. at Paris, March 29, 1793. He made his first studies at the college of the Jesuits at Dijon. Soon after his profession in 1731 his superiors sent him to the monastery of the “Blancs-Manteaux” at Paris to assist in the learned labors of the congregation. To great intellectual gifts Clement added scientific acumen and an unflagging industry which especially fitted him for his task. He knew no fatigue and at night gave barely two or three hours to sleep. He first busied himself with the preparations for volumes XI and XII of the “Histoire litteraire de la France“; these volumes covered the years 1141-4167 and were edited by Clemencet. He then edited, in collaboration with Dom Brial, a fellow-Benedictine, volumes XII and XIII of the work begun by Bouquet in 1738, “Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France” (Paris, 1786), or as the title is generally given “Scriptores rerum gallicarum et francicarum”. These volumes contain altogether 439 original documents, accompanied by exhaustive introductions, numerous explanatory remarks, and acute critical notes. Clement’s chief work is a revised edition of the chronology first issued by Clemencet in one volume, entitled: “L’art de verifier les dates des faits historiques”. The new edition in which the original work appeared in an entirely changed form was published at Paris in 1770. A third edition (Paris, 1783-1787) embraced three folio volumes; in this the original underwent even greater alterations, and the labor on it cost Clement more than ten years of toil. In contrast to Clemencet he treated his matter objectively, and was influenced neither by prejudices against the Jesuits nor by a blind predilection for the Jansenists. His position met with the approval of scholars and he was made a member of the “Academie des Inscriptions”. The work is still of value, and it has been well called “the finest memorial of French learning of the eighteenth century”. Clement was engaged in the preparation of a fourth and much enlarged edition when a stroke of apoplexy caused his death. The unfinished work was completed by Viton de Saint-Allais and appeared with additional matter in eighteen volumes (Paris, 1818-19). Viton de Saint-Allais also published from the literary remains of Clement the treatise “L’art de verifier les dates des faits historiques avant Pere chretienne” (Paris, 1820). A work of less importance was one begun by Dom Poncet and edited by Clement, entitled: “Nouveaux eclaircissements sur l’origine et le Pentateuque des Samaritans” (Paris, 1760). Clement’s industry in collecting material is shown by the “Catalogus manuscriptorum codicum Collegii Claramontani, quem excipit catalogue domus professae Parisiensis, uterque digestus et notis ornatus” (Paris, 1764). For information concerning his letters see the “Revue benedictine”, XII, 508.


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