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Jacques Amyot

Bishop of Auxerre (1513-1593)

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Amyot, JACQUES, Bishop of Auxerre, Grand Almoner of France, and man of letters, b. October 30, 1513; d. February 6, 1593. He studied in Paris at the College de France, where he earned his living by performing menial services for his fellow students. Although naturally slow, his uncommon diligence enabled him to accumulate a large stock of classical and general knowledge. He took his degree of Master of Arts at the age of nineteen. A secretary of State engaged him as tutor to his children and recommended him to Marguerite d’Angouleme the only sister of Francis I. He was appointed Professor of Greek and Latin in the University of Bourges. During the ten years in which he held this position, he translated into French the Greek novel “Theagenes and Chariclea” and several of Plutarch’s “Lives”. Francis I, to whom these works were dedicated, conferred upon their author the abbey of Bellozane. After the death of Francis I Amyot accompanied the French ambassador to Venice, and later went to Rome. Cardinal de Tournon, whose favor he had won, sent him with a letter from Henry II to the Council of Trent. On his return the king named him tutor to his two younger sons. He now finished the translation of Plutarch’s “Lives”, and afterwards undertook that of Plutarch’s “Morals”, which he finished in the reign of Charles IX. The latter made him Bishop of Auxerre, Grand Almoner of France, and Curator of the University of Paris. Notwithstanding his success, Amyot did not neglect his studies; he revised all his translations with great care. His translation of Plutarch is the basis of North’s English translation, the source of Shakespeare’s three Roman plays. During his closing years, France was the prey of civil war. Happening to be at Blois when the Guises were murdered, Amyot was falsely accused of having connived at the assassination. This charge greatly afflicted the aged Bishop. It is the general opinion of scholars that, by his translation of Plutarch, Amyot contributed greatly to the refinement of the French language. His style is always simple, charming, picturesque, and pithy. Arnyot’s works are: translations of Heliodorus (1547) and of Diodorus Siculus (1554), “Amours pastorales de Daphnis et Chloe” (1559), “Vies des hommes illustres de Plutarque” (1565-75), “Oeuvres morales de Plutarque” (1572).


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