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Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 651 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CHARLES DE BROSSES (1709-1777), French magistrate and scholar, was born at Dijon and studied law with a view to the magistracy. The bent of his mind, however, was towards literature and science, and, after a visit to Italy in 1739 in company with his friend Jean Baptiste de Lacurne de Sainte-Palaye, he published his Lettres sur Petal actuel de la ville souterraine d'Herculee (Dijon, 1750), the first work upon the ruins of Herculaneum. It was during this Italian tour that he wrote his famous letters on Italy, which remained in MS. till long after his death. In 176o he published a dissertation, Du culte des dieux fetiches, which was afterwards inserted in the Encyclopedie methodique. At the solicitation of his friend Buffon, he under-took his Histoire des navigation aux terres australes, which was published in 1756, in two vols. 4to, with maps. It was in this work that de Brosses first laid down the geographical divisions of Australasia and Polynesia, which were afterwards adopted by John Pinkerton and succeeding geographers. He also contributed to the Encyclopedie the articles " Langues," " Musique," " Etymologie." In 1765 appeared his work on the origin of language, Traite de la formation mecanique des langues, the merits of which are recognized by E. B. Tylor in Primitive Culture. De Brosses had been occupied, during a great part of his life, on a translation of Sallust, and in attempting to supply the lost chapters in that celebrated historian. At length in 1777 he published L'Histoire du septieme siecle de la republique romaine, 3 vols. 4to, to which is prefixed a learned life of Sallust, reprinted at the commencement of the translation of that historian by Jean Baptiste Dureau de La Malle. These literary occupations did not prevent the author from discharging with ability his official duties as first president of the parliament of Burgundy, nor from carrying on a constant and extensive correspondence with the most distinguished literary characters of his time. In 1758 he succeeded the marquis de Caumont in the Academie des Belles-lettres; but when in 1770 he presented himself at the French Academy, his candidature was rejected owing to Voltaire's opposition on personal grounds. Besides the works already mentioned, he wrote several memoirs and dissertations in the collections of the Academy of Inscriptions, and in those of the Academy of Dijon, and he left behind him several MSS., which were unfortunately lost during the Revolution. His letters on Italy were, however, found in MS. in the confiscated library by his son, the emigre officer Rene de Brosses, and were first published in 1799, in the uncritical edition of Antoine Serieys, under the title of Lettres historiques et critiques. A fresh edition, freed from errors and interpolations, by R. Colomb, with the title L'Italie it y a cent ans, was issued in 1836; and two subsequent reprints appeared, one edited by Poulet-Malassis, under the title Lettres familieres (1858); the other, a re-impression of Colomb's edition, under that of Le President de Brosses en Italie (1858). See H. Mamet, Le President de Brosses, sa vie et ses ouvrages (Lille, 1874) ; also Cunisset-Carnot, " La Querelle de Voltaire et du president de Brosses," in the Revue des Deux Blondes (February 15, 1888).
End of Article: CHARLES DE BROSSES (1709-1777)

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