Jean de La Bruyère, born in Paris in August 1645, studied law at the University of Orléans and went on to become a royal tutor. In 1688, he published the satirical work The Characters, or the Manners of the Age, with The Characters of Theophrastus, which critiqued class disparities found in aristocratic society. La Bruyère was elected to the French Academy in 1693. He died in Versailles, France, in May 1696.
French satirist Jean de La Bruyère was born in August 1645 and baptized in Paris. Not much is known of his early life: He was solidly middle class, the son of a comptroller general of municipal revenue. It is presumed that he was educated by the Oratorains (as Montesquieu would be about a half century later) and then obtained a law degree at the University of Orléans. But thanks to a small inheritance from an uncle, he was able to give up his position as an advocate in the Parlement of Paris, to purchase a post from the treasurer of finances at Caen in 1673. It was probably this position that introduced him to the noted theologian, orator and humanist Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, who was able to get La Bruyère installed in the noble household of the Grand Condé, Louis II de Bourbon, as tutor to his grandson.
The Condés were known to pride themselves on their association with men of letters, and La Bruyère was noted for his impressive vocabulary.
Death and Legacy
Jean de La Bruyère died suddenly at Versailles on May 10 or 11, 1696. There was some speculation of foul play, which was eventually ruled out.
A treatise against religious mysticism, Dialogues sur le Quiétisme (Dialogues on Quietism) by La Bruyère, was published just after his death but never reached the height of popularity that The Characters enjoyed. The Duke de Saint-Simon defended his nature, and authors Gustave Flaubert and Marcel Proust were noted fans.
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