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Louis-Francois de Bausset

French cardinal, writer, and statesman (1748-1824)

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Bausset, LOUIS-FRANCOIS DE, a French cardinal, writer, and statesman, b. in 1748 at Pondichery, where his father held an administrative position; d. in Paris, 1824. He studied in France at the Jesuit “College de la Fleche” and at St. Sulpice. Ordained priest, he became vicar-general at Aix in 1772; administrator of Digne, 1778; Bishop of Alais, in Languedoc, 1784. Although a prominent member of the Assembly of Notables of Languedoc in 1786 and in 1788, he was not delegated to the Etats Generaux of 1789. In 1791, Bausset was one of the first bishops who endorsed the “Exposition of Principles on the Civil Constitution of the Clergy”. He declined to take the oath and passed to Switzerland. Returning to France in 1792, he was incarcerated, but set free when Robespierre fell (9 Thermidor). He then retired to Villemoison, where be began his literary career. After the Concordat of 1801 Bausset cheerfully resigned his see into the hands of Pius VII. Ill health prevented his appointment to one of the newly-formed sees, but Napoleon made him a canon of St. Denis (1806) and a member of the Council of the University of France (1808). Under the Restoration, he became president of the University Council and peer of the realm (1815); Member of the French Academy (1816); Cardinal (1817), and Minister of State (1821). The valuable library and manuscripts of Bausset were bequeathed to St. Sulpice.

The career of Bausset as educator and statesman deserves no special notice; he was guided by, more than he guided, the policy of the two regimes under which he served. From his pen we have, besides several minor writings, “Expose des principes sur le serment”, with a long introduction by Emery (Paris, 1796); “Notices historiques” on Cardinal Boisgelin (Paris, 1804), on Legris-Duval (Paris, 1820), and on Talleyrand (Paris, 1821); two considerable biographies: “Histoire de Fenelon” (Versailles, 1809; Paris, 1823; ed. Migne, 1826) and “Histoire de J.—B. Bossuet eveque de Meaux” (Paris, 1814, 1819; Versailles, 1821; Besancon, 1847). The original documents concerning Fenelon he had from the Abbe Emery, Superior of Saint-Sulpice. Bossuet’s manuscripts, not yet purchased by the National Library, he borrowed from Lamy, a bookseller into whose hands they had fallen. The purity of his style won for Bausset the decennial prize awarded by the Institute of France to the best biography. Still, that very purity often passes into a tiresome sameness which fails to suggest either the winning qualities of Fenelon’s character or the elevation of the Eagle of Meaux. As a historian, Bausset fails in critical acumen and judicial impartiality. His “Histoire de Fenelon” is so much of a panegyric that, especially in the delicate and intricate question of the Quietist movement, it needs to be supplemented and corrected by such works as those of Griveau and of Crousle. It is said that the “Histoire de Bossuet” was written as an offset against the partiality which Bausset had shown to Fenelon; if so, Bausset had a strange way of rehabilitating the subject of his second biography, praising Bossuet’s Gallicanism as Bossuet himself, tormented in his last years by the “Defensio cleri gallicani”, would not have wished it praised. Brunetiere calls Bausset’s “Histoire of Bossuet” “la plus franchement gallicane de toutes”.


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