French abbe and litterateur, b. at Aigueperse, June 22, 1738; d. at Paris, May 1, 1813
Delille, JACQUES, French abbe and litterateur, b. at Aigueperse, June 22, 1738; d. at Paris, May 1, 1813. He received his education at the College de Lisieux in Paris and became an instructor at the College de la Marche in the same city. His translation into verse of Virgil’s “Georgics”, which appeared in 1770, had very great success and eventually won for him a seat in the French Academy. He was afterwards appointed to the chair of poetry in the College de France and through the patronage of the Count d’Artois he received as a benefice the Abbey of Saint-Severin, but took only minor orders. In 1786 he accompanied the Count de Choiseul to Constantinople and visited Greece; his stay in the East does not seem, however, to have much influenced his literary career. The French Revolution deprived him of his position and benefice, and in 1794 he had to leave France; his exile was spent in Switzerland, Germany, and England. He returned to France in 1802 and again took his seat in the French Academy. For some years Delille was considered a great poet, Voltaire at one time even going so far as to call him the French Virgil; but he did not enjoy very long this unwarranted reputation. All agree today that he was a wonderful versifier, having at his command all the secrets of his art, but it is also recognized that his long descriptive poems betray a complete lack of poetic feeling and inspiration. They are a striking illustration of the difference between versification and poetry. His best known works are: “Traduction des georgiques de Virgile” (Paris, 1770); “Dithyrambe sur l’immortalite de fame” (Paris, 1793); “L’Imagination” (Paris, 1806); “Les Trois Regnes de la nature” (Paris, 1806); “La Conversation” (Paris, 1812).