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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 432 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SEIGNEUR AND ABBE DE PIERRE DE BOURDEILLE BRANTOME (c. 1540-1614), French historian and biographer, was born in Perigord about 1540. He was the third son of the baron de Bourdeille. His mother and his maternal grandmother were both attached to the court of Marguerite of Valois, and at her death in 154y he went to Paris, and later (1555) to Poitiers, to finish his education. He was given several benefices, the most important of which was the abbey of Brant6me (see below), but he had no inclination for an ecclesiastical career. At an early age he entered the prcfession of arms. He showed himself a brave soldier, and was brought into contact with most of the great leaders who were seeking fame or fortune in the wars that distracted the continent. He travelled much in Italy; in Scotland, where he accompanied Mary Stuart (then the widow of Francis I.); in England, where he saw Queen Elizabeth (1561, 1579); in Morocco (1564); and in Spain and Portugal. He fought on the galleys of the order of Malta, and accompanied his great friend, the French commander Philippe Strozzi (grandson of Filippo Strozzi, the Italian general, and nephew of Piero), in his expedition against Terceira, in which Strozzi was killed (1582). During the wars of religion under Charles IX. he fought in the ranks of the Catholics, but he allowed himself to be won over temporarily by the ideas of the reformers, and though he publicly separated himself from Protestantism it had a marked effect on his mind. A fall from his horse compelled him to retire into private life about 1589, and he spent his last years in writing his Memoirs of the illustrious men and women whom he had known. He died on the 15th of July 1614. Brantome left distinct orders that his manuscript should be printed; a first edition appeared, however, late (1665–1666) and not very complete. Of the later editions the most valuable are: one in 15 volumes (1740); another by Louis Jean Nicolas Monmerque (1780–1860) in 8 volumes (1821–1824), reproduced in Buchan's Pantheon litteraire; that of the -Bibliotheque elzevirienne, begun (1858) by P. Merimee and L. Lacour, and finished, with vol. xiii., only in 1893; and Lalanne's edition for the Societe de 1'Histoire de France (12 vols., 1864–1896). Brantome can hardly be regarded as a historian proper, and, his Memoirs cannot be accepted as a very trustworthy source of information. But he writes in a quaint conversational way, pouring forth his thoughts, observations or facts without order or system, and with the greatest frankness and naivete. His works certainly gave an admirable picture of the general court-life of the time, with its unblushing and undisguised profligacy. There is not a homme illustre or a dame galante in all his gallery of portraits who is not stained with vice; and yet the whole is narrated with the most complete unconsciousness that there is anything objectionable in their conduct. The edition of L. Lalanne has great merit, being the first to indicate the Spanish, Italian and French sources on which Brantome drew, but it did not utilize all the existing MSS. It was only after Lalanne's death that the earliest were obtained for the Bibliotheque Nationale. At Paris and at Chantilly (Musee Conde) all Brantome's original MSS., as revised by him several times, are now collected (see the Bibliotheque de l'ecole des Charles, 1904), and a new and definitive edition has therefore become possible. Bra.ntfine's poems (which amount to more than 2200 verses) were first published in 1881; see Lalanne's edition.

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