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ANTOINE FREDERIC OZANAM (1813-1853)

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Originally appearing in Volume V20, Page 429 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ANTOINE FREDERIC OZANAM (1813-1853), French scholar, was born at Milan on the 23rd of April 1813. His family, which was of Jewish extraction, had been settled in the Lyonnais for many centuries, and had reached distinction in the third generation before Frederic through Jacques Ozanam (164o-1717), an eminent mathematician. Ozanam's father, Antoine, served in the armies of the republic, but betook himself, on the advent of the empire, to trade, teaching, and finally medicine. The boy was brought up at Lyons and was strongly influenced by one of his masters, the Abbe Noirot. His conservative and religious instincts showed themselves early, and he published a pamphlet against Saint-Simonianism in 1831, which attracted the attentionof Lamartine. In the following year he was sent to study law at Paris, where he fell in with the Ampere family, and through them with Chateaubriand, Lacordaire, Montalembert; and other leaders of the neo-Catholic movement. Whilst still a student he took up journalism and contributed considerably to Bailly's Tribune catholique, which became (November 1, 1833) L'univers. In conjunction with other young men he founded in May 1833 the celebrated charitable society of St Vincent de Paul, which numbered before his death upwards of two thousand members. He received the degree of doctor of law in 1836, and in 1838 that of doctor of letters with a thesis on Dante, which was the beginning of one of his best-known books. A year later he was appointed to a professorship of commercial law at Lyons, and in 184o assistant professor of foreign literature at the Sorbonne. He married in June 1841, and visited Italy on his wedding tour. At Fauriel's death in 1844 he succeeded to the full professorship of foreign literature. The shcrt remainder of his life was extremely busy with his professorial duties, his extensive literary occupations, and the work, which he still continued, of district-visiting as a member of the society of St Vincent de Paul. During the revolution of 1848, of which he took an unduly sanguine view, he once more turned journalist for a short time in the Ere nouvelle and other papers. He travelled extensively, and was in England at the time of the Exhibition of 1851. His naturally weak constitution fell a prey to consumption, which he hoped to cure by visiting Italy, but he died on his return at Marseilles on the 8th of September 1853. Ozanam was the leading historical and literary critic in the neo-Catholic movement in France during the first half of the 19th century. He was more learned, more sincere, and more logical than Chateaubriand; less of a political partisan and less of a literary sentimentalist than Montalembert. In contemporary movements he was an earnest and conscientious advocate of Catholic democracy and socialism and of the view that the church should adapt itself to the changed political conditions consequent to the Revolution. In his writings he dwelt upon important contributions of historical Christianity, and maintained especially that, in continuing the work of the Caesars, the Catholic church had been the most potent factor in civilizing the invading barbarians and in organizing the life of the middle ages. He confessed that his object was " to prove the contrary thesis to Gibbon's," and, although any historian who begins with the desire to prove a thesis is quite sure to go more or less wrong, Ozanam no doubt administered a healthful antidote to the prevalent notion, particularly amongst English-speaking peoples, that the Catholic church had done far more to enslave than to elevate the human mind. His knowledge of medieval literature and his appreciative sympathy with medieval life admirably qualified him for his work, and his scholarly attainments are still highly esteemed. His works were published in eleven volumes (Paris, 1862-1865). They include Deux chanceliers d'Angleterre, Bacon de Verulam et Saint Thomas de Cantorbery (Paris, 1836) ; Dante et la philosophie catholique au XIITeme siecle (Paris, 1839; 2nd ed., enlarged 1845); Etudes germaniques (2 vols., Paris, 1847-1849), translated by A. C. Glyn as gistory of Civilization in the Fifth Century (London, 1868) ; Documents inedits pour servir d l'histoire de l'Italie depuis le VIII'n, siecle jusqu'au XI.Pme (Paris, 1850); Les poetes franciscains en Italie au XIIIe+ne siecle (Paris, 1852). His letters have been partially translated into English by A. Coates (London, 1886). There are French lives of Ozanam by his brother, C. A. Ozanam (Paris, 1882) ; Mme. E. Humbert (Paris, 188o); C. Huit (Paris, 1882) ; M. de Lambel (Paris, 1887) ; L. Curnier (Paris, 1888) ; and B. Faulquier (Paris, 1903). German lives by F. X. Karker (Paderborn, 1867) and E. Hardy (Mainz, 1878) ; and an interesting English biography by Miss K. O'Meara (Edinburgh, 1867; 2nd ed., London, 1878). (C. H. HA.)
End of Article: ANTOINE FREDERIC OZANAM (1813-1853)
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