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MARQUIS DE LOUIS FONTANES (1757-1821)

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Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 608 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MARQUIS DE LOUIS FONTANES (1757-1821), French poet and politician, was born at Niort (Deux Sevres) on the 6th of March 1957. He belonged to a noble Protestant family of Languedoc which had been reduced to poverty by the revocation of the edict of Nantes. His father and grandfather remained Protestant, but he was himself brought up as a Catholic. His parents died in 1774-1775, and in 1777 Fontanes went to Paris, where he found a friend in the dramatist J. F. Ducis. His first published poems, some of which were inspired by English models, appeared in the Almanach des Muses; " Le Cri de mon cceur," describing his own sad childhood, in 1778; and " La Foret de Navarre " in 1780. His translation from Alexander Pope, L'Essai sur l'homme, was published with an elaborate preface in 1783, and La Chartreuse and Le Jour des moils in the same year, Le Verger in 1788 and his Epitre sur l'edit en faveur des non-catholiques, and the Essai sur l'astronomie in 1789. Fontanes was a moderate reformer, and in 1790 he became joint-editor of the Moderateur. He married at Lyons in 1792, and his wife's first child was born during their flight from thesiege of that town. Fontanes was in hiding in Paris when the four citizens of Lyons were sent to the Convention to protest against the cruelties of Collot d'Herbois. The petition was drawn up by Fontanes, and the authorship being discovered, he fled from Paris and found shelter at Sevran, near Livry, and afterwards at Andelys. On the fall of Robespierre he was made professor of literature in the l cole Centrale des Quatre-Nations, and he was one of the original members of the Institute. In the Memorial, a journal edited by La Harpe, he discreetly advocated reaction to the monarchical principle. He was exiled by the Directory and made his way to London, where he was closely associated with Chateaubriand. He soon returned to France, and his admiration for Napoleon, who commissioned him to write an 'loge on Washington, secured his return to the Institute and his political promotion. In 1802 he was elected to the legislative chamber, of which he was president from 1804 to 1810. Other honours and titles followed. He has been accused of servility to Napoleon, but he had the courage to remonstrate with him on the judicial murder of the duc d'Enghien, and as grand master of the university of Paris (1808-1815) he consistently supported religious and monarchical principles. He acquiesced in the Bourbon restoration, and was made a marquis in 1817. He died on the 17th of March 1821 in Paris, leaving eight cantos of an unfinished epic poem entitled La Grece sauvee. The verse of Fontanes is polished and musical in the style of the 18th century. It was not collected until 1839, when Sainte-Beuve edited the Euvres (2 vols.) of Fontanes, with a sympathetic critical study of the author and his career. But by that time the Romantic movement was in the ascendant and Fontanes met with small appreciation. FONTENAY-LE-COMTE, a town of western France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Vendee 3o m. N.E. of La Rochelle on the State railway between that town and Saumur. Pop. (1906) town, 7639; commune, 10,326. Fontenay, an ancient and straggling town, is situated a few miles south of the forest of Vouvant and on both banks of the Vendee, at the point where it becomes navigable. The church of Notre-Dame (15th to 18th centuries), which has a fine spire and a richly sculptured western entrance, and the church of St Jean (16th and 17th centuries) are the chief religious buildings. The town has several houses of the 16th and 17th centuries. The most remarkable of these is the Had de Terre Neuve (1595-1600), which contains much rich decoration together with collections of furniture and tapestry. Fontenay was the birthplace of many prominent men during the 15th and 16th centuries, and the Fontaine des Quatre-Tias, a fountain in the Renaissance style, given to the town by King Francis I., commemorates the fact. The chief square is named after Francois Viete, the great mathematician, who was born at Fontenay in 1540. The public institutions of the town include a tribunal of first instance and a communal college. Among its industries are the manufacture of felt hats, oil and soap and timber-sawing, flour-milling and tanning. There is trade in horses, mules, timber, grain, fruit, &c. Fontenay was in existence as early as the time of the Gauls. The affix of " comte " is said to have been applied to it when it was taken by King Louis IX. from the family of Lusignan and given to his brother Alphonse, count of Poitou, under whom it became capital of Bas-Poitou. Ceded to the English by the treaty of Bretigny in 136o it was retaken in 1372 by Duguesclin. It suffered repeated capture during the Religious Wars of the 16th century, was dismantled in 1621 and was occupied both by the republicans and the Vendeans in the war of 1793, From 1790 to 1806 it was capital of the department of Vendee.
End of Article: MARQUIS DE LOUIS FONTANES (1757-1821)
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