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Louis-Ellies Dupin

Louis Ellies Dupin

(also DU PIN)

A theologian, born 17 June, 1657, of a noble family in Normandy; died 6 June, 1719. His mother, a Vitart, was the niece of Marie des Moulins, grandmother of the poet Jean Racine. At the age of twenty Dupin accompanied Racine who made a visit to Nicole for the purpose of becoming reconciled to the gentlemen of Port Royal. But, while not hostile to the Jansenists, Dupin's intellectual attraction was in another direction; he was the disciple of Launoy, a learned critic and a Gallican. Dupin took his theological course at the Sorbonne, and received there the degree of bachelor in 1680, and of doctor in 1684.

From the beginning of his studies he had accumulated notes on the works and teachings of the Fathers. In 1686 there appeared the first volume of the "Nouvelle bibliothèque des auteurs ecclésiastiques", covering the first three centuries. In it Dupin had treated simultaneously biography, literary criticism, and the history of dogma; in this he was a pioneer leaving far behind him all previous efforts, Catholic or Protestant, which were still under the influence of the Scholastic method. He was also the first to publish such a collection in a modern language. Unfortunately he was young and worked rapidly. In this way errors crept into his writings and his productions were violently attacked. Mathieu Petit-Didier, a Benedictine, published an anonymous volume of "Remarques sur la bibliothèque des auteurs ecclésiastiques de M. Du Pin" (Paris, 1691), and this was followed by two other volumes to which the author's name was appended (Paris, 1692 and 1696). Dupin answered him in his fifth volume and Petit-Didier replied in the fore part of his second volume of "Remarques". Petit-Didier's observations were often inspired by contemporaneous prejudice. Thus Dupin had placed in the fourth century, to which indeed he rightly belongs, St. Macarius the Egyptian. Petit-Didier discovered Semipelagianism in this author's works, in reality ideas professed by many before St. Augustine, but from which the adversary of Dupin concluded that Macarius should come after Pelagius and St. Augustine (II, 198).

A more formidable enemy appeared in Bossuet, who, during a public thesis at the College of Navarre in 1692, condemned the audacity of the critic. Dupin answered him and Bossuet appealed to the civil authority, denouncing Dupin to Chancellor Boucherat and to Archbishop de Harlay. Bossuet simply enumerated the points that he disapproved in the "Bibliothèque" concerning original sin, purgatory, the canonicity of the Sacred Scriptures, the eternity of hell's torments, the veneration of saints and of their relics, the adoration of the Cross, grace, the pope and the bishops, Lent, divorce, the celibacy of the clergy, tradition, the Eucharist, the theology of the Trinity, and the Council of Nicæa. He demanded a censure and a retractation.

Like Petit-Didier Bossuet would not admit that any of the Greek or Latin Fathers differed from St. Augustine on the subject of grace, non that this matter could be called subtle, delicate, and abstract. Between Dupin and Bossuet there was a still wider difference." The liberty M. Dupin takes of so harshly condemning the greatest men of the Church should, in general, not be tolerated" (Bossuet, Œuvres, XXX, 513). On the other hand Bossuet strongly contended that heretics could not be too severely dealt with: "It is dangerous to call attention to passages that manifest the firmness of these people without also indicating wherein this firmness has been overrated: otherwise they are credited with a moral steadfastness which elicits sympathy and leads to their being excused" (op. cit., XXX, 633).

Dupin submitted but was nevertheless condemned by the Archbishop of Paris (14 April, 1696). He continued his "Bibliothèque", which was put on the Index long after his death (10 May, 1757), though other works of his were condemned at an earlier date. He had also to suffer the criticism of Richard Simon (Paris, 1730, 4 vols.). Simon and Dupin had similar views and methods so that when Bossuet was writing the "Défense de la Tradition et des Saints Pères" (which did not appear, however, until 1743), he included both in his invectives against the "haughty critics" who inclined to rabbinism and the errors of Socinus. Although Dupin spoke favourably of Arnauld and signed the "Cas de conscience", he was not a Jansenist. On these matters he rather shared the opinion of Launoy who "had found a way to be at once both demi-Pelagian and Jansenist" (Bossuet, Œuvres, XXX, 509). Dupin was pre-eminently a Gallican. It was probably on this account that Louis XIV had him exiled to Châtellerault, on the occasion of the "Cas de conscience". Dupin retracted and returned, but his chair in the College of France was irretrievably lost. Later Dubois, who aspired to the cardinalate and sought therefore the favour of Rome, made similar accusations against Dupin. Dupin was on friendly terms with Wake, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, who hoped for a union of the two Churches. The correspondence was looked on with suspicion, and in 1718 the regent had Dupin's papers seized. This act led to calumnies against the writer, who really had had no other aim than the reconciliation of the separated Anglicans. A similar purpose animated the "mémoires" he presented to Peter the Great during the latter's residence in France. Dupin died shortly after.

Besides the "Nouvelle bibliothèque ecclésiastique" (58 vols. 8vo with tables), the "Remarques" by Petit-Didier, and the "Critique" by R. Simon reprinted in Holland (19 vols. 4to), Dupin edited the works of Gerson (Paris, 1703), Optatus of Mileve (Paris, 1700), the Psalms with annotations (1691), and published "Notes sur le Pentateuque" (1701), an abridgment of "L'histoire de l'Eglise" (1712), "L'histoire profane" (1714-1716), "L'histoire d'Apollonius de Tyane" (1705, under the name of M. de Clairac), a "Traité de la puissance ecclésiastique et temporelle", a commentary on the Four Articles of the clergy of France (1707), the "Bibliothèque universelle des historiens" (1716), numerous works and articles on theology, reprints of former works, etc. Dupin was no pedant. Etienne Jordan, a contemporary who saw him, said: the morning he would grow pale over books and in the afternoon over cards in the pleasant company of ladies. His library and adjoining apartment were marvellously well kept."

NICÉRON, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire des hommes illustres (Paris, 1727-1745), II, 31; BOSSUET. Œuvres (Versailles, 1817), XXX, 475; REUSCH, Der Index der verbotenen Bücher (Bonn, 1885), II, 586; MARGIVAL, R. Simon in Revue d'histoire et de littérature religieuses (Paris, 1899), IV, 435; SAINTE-BEUVE, Port-Royal, VI, 129, 174, 365; MOSHEIM AND MACLAINE, Histoire ecclésiastique ancienne et moderne (1776), VI, 135; also ET. JORDAN, Recueil de littérature, de philosophie et d'histoire (Amsterdam, 1730), 66.


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