BOSSUET by E. E. Reynolds


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Another French worthy, but certainly a different kettle of fish from Mme. de Stael (see below), is Jacques Benigne Bossuet, the 17th century divine and contemporary of Pascal. The thoroughgoing, even-tempered tribute here regards Bossuet as a prudent, fundamentally pure-in-heart middle-of-the-reader, a man whose mentors were, from life, St. Vincent de Paul, and from books, St. Augustine: thus his famed oratory was both direct and deep. Unfortunately, author Reynolds' style is not like his subject's, and Bessuet's life- largely a conglomeration of controversies with writers or theologians such as Fenelon, Malebranche and Simon, and events such as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the clash between the Papacy and Louis XIV- comes off somewhat woodenly. In political matters, Bossuet disliked representative government, and in spiritual ones, mysticism; through a considerable correspondence with Leibnitz he sought to bring the Protestants back to the fold, but Leibnitz preferred, as he said, ""the eternally variable"". As a polemicist, and in his later years as a person, Bossuet lacked charity; the same cannot be said for the author, so much so that while the Bossuet biography is welcome indeed; it might have benefited from a more incisive, ""irreverent"" investigation- at least in part.

Publisher: Doubleday