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Étienne Dolet : the Martyr of the Renaissance, 1508-1546. A biography online

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The Martyr of the Renaissance

1508- 1546








All rights reserved

First Edition 1880
Second Edition 1899


Nineteen years have elapsed since the publication of the
first edition of this book, which aroused considerable interest
in Dolet, and met with a very favourable reception from the
leading organs of the Press, not English only, but also
American, French, and German, Having profited — I hope
— by the friendly criticisms which the book then received,
and having in the past nineteen years gathered a certain
amount of new matter, I now issue this second edition
thoroughly revised and corrected, and embodying such
fresh materials as have come to my knowledge. But
although I have found in the original edition a considerable
number of trifling and verbal errors, some of the press,
others of the author, all of which are, I hope, corrected in
this new edition, and though I have been able to add
important and interesting additional matter, I have not
discovered any material error of fact, nor any reason for
altering any of the views I expressed in the original volume,
as to Dolet, his opinions, writings, or the causes of his


The most important of the additions to this volume
are, first, the Act of Association, or Partnership between
Dolet and Helayn Dulin, as printers, which, besides giving
us other information, lets us know how Dolet obtained
the capital with which to commence business ; and secondly,
the Documents relating to the arrest of Dolet at Troyes
in 1543, and his subsequent removal to Paris, which clear
up several hitherto obscure points in this period of his
life. The Act of Association and these Documents are
curious and interesting, and I have accordingly printed
them in full, as far as they can be deciphered, in the
Appendices to this volume. In 1881, M. O. Douen wrote
two articles in the Bulletin de la Societe d'Histoire du
Protestantisme, in which he controverted my view of the
religious opinions of Dolet, and I have given at some length
(pp. 493-95) my reasons for adhering to the view I origin-
ally held and expressed on this point.

The Bibliographical Appendix has been partly re-written,
and, I think, considerably improved, although somewhat
condensed. I am now able to enumerate eighty-four books
as printed by Dolet, having discovered the existence of three
since 1880, while on the other hand two volumes which I
then attributed to his press I have ascertained were not
printed by him. Copies of forty-five of the books are in
my own possession, while there are only nine out of the
eighty-four of which I am unable to refer to a copy as now
or lately existing. I have also discovered several additional


reprints of his more popular books, and also one book
edited by him for Sebastian Gryphius. Much of the biblio-
graphical and descriptive matter which was in the edition of
1880 is omitted, but all this, together with considerable
corrections and many additions, will be found in the Biblio-
graphy prefixed to the French translation of the work by
M. Casimir Stryienski, Professor of the University of
France, published at Paris by the Librairie Fischbacher in
the year 1886. The book in its French dress met with a
very cordial reception, and one result of the attention thus
called to Dolet was, that in 1889, a statue of him was
erected at the cost of the Municipality of Paris, in the Place
Maubert, where he met with his death.

My thanks are due to M. Stryienski for undertaking
the search in the National Archives at Paris, resulting in
the discovery of the documents relating to Dolet's arrest
at Troyes in 1543, and for obtaining a transcript of them,
and revising the proofs of these documents.^ I have to
thank Mr. W. Stebbing for the assistance he has rendered
me in reference to some passages of Dolet's Latin com-
positions ; but my thanks are especially due to Mr. John
Cree, without whose aid it would have been impossible —

^ M. Stryienski was also so good as to cause the documents comprised
in the Proces (T Estienne Dolet, published by M. Taillandier in 1836,
to be compared and collated with the originals, with the satisfactory
result that the omissions and errors, although fairly numerous, are so
unimportant, being almost entirely confined to errors of spelling, that I
have made very little use of them.


owing to my long and still continuing illness — for the book
to have appeared in anything like a correct and satisfactory
form. I am indebted to him for many corrections of clerical
and printer's errors in the first edition, for the correcting
of the proofs of the present edition, for suggestions as to
many notes, and for the compilation of the present Index.


August 1899.



In offering to the public the result of the scanty leisure of
the past eight years, I am fully sensible of its deficiencies,
but the difficulty of the task which I have undertaken may
perhaps be admitted as an extenuating circumstance, if it
does not altogether relieve me from censure.

England possesses hardly any materials for writing the
life of a French scholar of the first half of the sixteenth
century. Rich as the British Museum is in many depart-
ments, it is singularly deficient in the French and Franco-
Latin books of this period. But if this is generally the
case, it is especially so in reference to Etienne Dolet, whose
own works are among the rarest writings of the time, and
the other contemporary authorities for his life are only one
degree less so.^ Of many of the books cited in this volume,
which I have had to refer to, and in some cases to read
through, more than once, no copies are to be found in
England. Of some, a copy does not even exist in the

P Since this sentence was written, the British Museum has added
largely to its collection of books printed by Dolet. 1899.]



Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris, and the obstacles in my
way have therefore been great, when for the purpose of
solving a difficulty, of verifying a reference, or of acquiring
a new fact, a journey to Paris, Lyons, or Toulouse has
been needful. But I can at least say, without fear of
contradiction, that this book adds much to what has been
hitherto known about the life and works of Etienne Dolet,
that it supplements in many important particulars the lives
which have already appeared of him, that it contains a
much more nearly complete list than has before been given
of the books printed by him, and that it presents for the
first time to the English reader any account whatever of
the man.

The name of Etienne Dolet is all but unknown in this
country. A meagre and always inaccurate account of him
in our general biographical dictionaries, a few notices by
Jortin in his Life of Erasmus and in his Tracts^ and by
Greswell in his View of the Early Parisian Greek Press, two
or three references, appreciative though (almost inevitably)
not quite correct in the writings of Mr. [Sir] Walter Besant,
a page full of inaccuracies in a recent history of French
literature, form, with the articles in the Gentleman's
Magazine (which I proceed to notice) almost the whole
of the references to Dolet in English books. In the
Gentleman's Magazine for 1791, 1792, 1793, and 1794
will be found some interesting letters on his life, his
writings, and his opinions, arising out of the notice of him
in Jortin's tracts, and though they contain no new informa-
tion, yet being written with fairness and good feeling, they
will be read with interest, an interest which will be extended


to translations, though of no great literary merit, of two
odes of Dolet,^ which will be found in vols. Ixii. and Ixiv.
But I do not know of any reference to Dolet or any account
of him in an English book which has not many inaccuracies.

It cannot be expected that this biography will attract
many readers. Its only interest is in its subject-matter,
and there are few who will care to wade through a some-
what long record of the life of a scholar and printer of the
sixteenth century, who was not directly connected with
and did not play any important part in the political or
religious movements of the time ; but there are probably
some whose interest in the history of literature, or whose
sympathy with the unhappy fate of a man of learning and
talent, will induce to turn over the pages of this narrative.

In his native country the name of Dolet is better known.
It has been the special subject of two books, of many
articles and essays, and of innumerable references, yet all
of them wanting in accuracy and leaving much to be desired.
The only really original biography which has as yet appeared
is that of Maittaire, who has devoted to Dolet more than
a hundred pages of the third volume of his Annales
Typographici. He has there collected every passage which
he could find in the writings of Dolet where the latter
speaks of himself, and every other reference known to him
in any contemporary author, and his pages have always
been and must continue to be the basis of all subsequent
biographies of Dolet. But the work of Maittaire is only
a collection of extracts and remarks heaped together

^ One of these odes is on the death of Erasmus {see post, p. 250), the
other is addressed to Vida.


without any order or arrangement, and being written
in Latin has attracted few readers other than professed
scholars. In 1779, Nee de la Rochelle printed his Vie
de Dolet, a work of merit and interest. It is, how-
ever, a very brief and dry narrative, being little more
than Maittaire's materials arranged and translated into
French, together with an enumeration of a few books
printed bv Dolet which were before unknown. Nee de
la Rochelle admits that he has made great use of the
researches of Maittaire ; indeed he says that: he has only
endeavoured to advance further a labour which the latter
had commenced.

To Maittaire and Nee de la Rochelle I must acknowledge
the greatest obligations. Much as I hope to have added
to what is contained in their books, I should probably have
found it hopeless to attempt a biography of Dolet without
the assistance of the great number of facts collected by the
one and arranged by the other. But neither of them was
able to offer any sufficient explanation, or even to give any
accurate information respecting the trials, the sentences,
or the death of Dolet ; and it was reserved for M. Tail-
landier to discover in the criminal registers of the Parliament
of Paris the letters of remission and pardon granted to
Dolet by Francis I. in 1543, which throw a flood of light
upon these matters, and which with some other pieces were
printed by Techener in 1836 under the title of Proces
d' Estienne Dolet, with an Avant Promos of much interest by
M. Taillandier.

In 1857, M. Joseph Boulmier (who in 1855 had written
an article on the same subject in the Revue de Paris)


published his Estienne Dolet, sa Vie^ ses CEuvres, son Mar tyre
(Paris, Aubry) ; and perhaps some apology is needed for
a new biography of Dolet, when one has so recently been
written by a Frenchman. Of M. Boulmier and his book
I wish to speak with all respect ; I have read and re-read
it with much interest, and with much sympathy for the
enthusiasm of the writer, who sees in his hero he Christ de
la pensee libre . . . Promethee contre Jupiter ! His book
is (as he himself calls it) a dithyramb^ displaying on every
page an exaggerated admiration for his hero, which renders
him entirely blind to his faults. He sees in Dolet a man
of the noblest character and the loftiest genius, and avows
that he writes as an advocate and that Dolet is his client,
and he warns his readers at the outset that they are not to
look for an impartial history from him. But M. Boulmier
does not seem to me to admit as fully as might have been
expected his indebtedness to Nee de la Rochelle, from whose
pages much of his work is transcribed.^ He has added
little to the narrative of his predecessor, except what is
afforded by the Proces. His list of the books printed
by Dolet is certainly the most nearly complete that has
hitherto appeared. He has added five (which had, however,
previously appeared in Brunet) to those mentioned by Nee
de la Rochelle, but, except in one or two instances, he cites
no authorities for the existence of the books, but has
contented himself with copying the titles from the Vie de
Dolet or from Brunet's Manuel.

1 I am glad to be able to say that in his translations from the writings
of Dolet, M. Boulmier seems to me to have been successful. They are
sufficiently faithful, and are marked generally by vigour and elegance.


In addition to these books, the account of Dolet and
his works contained in the Bibliotheques of Du Verdier and
La Croix du Maine, in Niceron, in Goujet, and in Bayle,
his life by Didot in the Noiivelle Biographie Generale, those
in La France Protestante of MM. Haag, and in Les Hommes
Illustres de rOrleanais^ all furnish important details. Every
one of these books is, however, full of inaccuracies, and in
no one of them is any attempt made to offer a sufficient or
satisfactory explanation of his misfortunes and fate. His
own writings must always be the foundation of every
narrative of his life. They are full of autobiographical
matter, and I believe that a lengthened and repeated study
of those of his writings that I have been able to meet with,
and of many other contemporary or nearly contemporary
books which will be found cited in this book (and of several
of which only a single copy is known), has enabled me to add
much hitherto unknown, which seems to me to be of interest,
bearing upon Dolet's life, and to explain at least in part
what has hitherto appeared inexplicable. But in addition
to printed books, I have been fortunate enough to find
in the manuscript correspondence and poems of Jean de
Boyssone - preserved in the public library of Toulouse, a
mine of interest and information respecting Dolet and his

^ The lite of Dolet in Les Hom?nes Illustres de P Orleanais is based on
a MS. life by Dom Gcrou, contained in the Orltfans Library. The MS.
is, however, merely a compilation from printed and well-known sources.

- For an account of these, see p. 82. The correspondence includes
five letters written by, and four to Dolet, in addition to those which the
latter printed in the Orationes Dua. Many others of the letters either
refer directly to Dolet or to persons and things of interest in connection
with his life.


friends. Two hasty perusals of these manuscripts and the
extracts which I have made have certainly not exhausted
all matters of interest, and it has been a source of regret
to me that I have been unable to have constantly at hand,
or to consult without long journeys, these manuscripts, as
well as the unique copies of several books which exist at
Lyons, Bordeaux, Orleans, Dole, Roanne, and elsewhere.

Many books printed and edited, and some entirely
written by Dolet, have wholly perished, and no trace of any
copy can be found. Of others a single copy exists in some
public library in France ; of some I myself possess the only
copy known, while there remain several in the possession of
collectors in France, which no opportunity has been afforded
me of seeing. In the Bibliographical Appendix to this
volume, perhaps the part of the most real value, there is
contained at least a more nearly complete and a more
accurate list of the books printed by Dolet than has
previously appeared. Nee de la Rochelle mentions forty-
nine, M. Boulmier fifty-three. In this book the number is
brought up to eighty-three, of fifty-one of which I have
seen and indicate the locality of copies, and of each of the
remaining thirty-two the authorities on which it is inserted
in the list are given.

On two points an explanation, and perhaps an apology,
is needed. Of several of the friends and contemporaries
of Dolet, notably Jean de Boyssone, Jean de Pins, and
Matthieu Gripaldi, I have given what may be thought
unnecessarily long accounts, while I have neglected others
of far more importance. It would have been easy for me
greatly to have increased the size of this book (already too


large) by notices of and digressions on Marot, Rabelais,
and other eminent persons, whose lives were to some extent
connected with that of Dolet, but while I have endeavoured
to neglect nothing which can have any real bearing upon
my hero and his history, I have sought to avoid whatever
could easily be found elsewhere, and accordingly such notices
only are given of those with whom Dolet came in contact
as are necessary for the proper understanding of the narrative,
except as to persons where the common books of reference
supply either no information, or none that is adequate.
In these cases I have ventured to insert detailed notices of
some length.

Had I endeavoured, after the fashion of many modern
writers of biography, to interweave with the life of Dolet
the general history of literature and scholarship in France
during the period in question, I might have made a more
popular book, but it would have been one with no special
raison d'etre^ and for writing which I had no special

The other point on which an excuse is needed is that
learned men are sometimes spoken of by their French,
sometimes by their Latinised names. This has not arisen
trom carelessness. I should have preferred uniformly to
cite them by their native names, and I have generally done
so. There are, however, a few persons {e.g. Villanovanus,
Scaliger, Zazius, Nizolius) who so usually style themselves
by their Latinised names, that any others would seem
strange and affected ; and it has sometimes happened that,
for the sake of harmony, other writers are with them referred
to by their Latinised names.


To the chronology of the life of Dolet I have given
great attention. Every account of him which has hitherto
appeared contains errors as to dates, some of which will be
found to be specifically noticed and corrected, but in no
case has a date been inserted in this book without careful
consideration, and wherever it is found to differ from that
given by any other writer cited, the change has not been
made until after much thought. It would have considerably
lengthened the book had I in every case expressed the
reasons which had induced me to differ from my predecessors
in matters of chronology. Every one acquainted with the
history of this period will know the great difficulty in
ascertaining the years of events which are dated in January,
February, or March. I cannot hope that I have always
been successful in arriving at a right conclusion, but if any
errors of chronology are found, at least they do not arise
from carelessness. The dates given in this book are always,
unless otherwise expressed, new style^ the year being treated
as beginning on the first of January.

I cannot conclude this preface without acknowledging
the obligations I am under to M. Baudrier, President of
the Court of Appeal of Lyons. With a kindness and a gener-
osity which have made me for ever his debtor, M. Baudrier
placed at my disposal the interesting chapter (still unfortu-
nately in manuscript) on Dolet which he had written, part of
a contemplated work on the Lyonese printers of the sixteenth
century, his list of the books printed by Dolet, his copy of
Nee de la Rochelle's Vie de Dolet, with the author's
manuscript additions and corrections, and he has assisted me
in many other ways. I should have been entirely ignorant


of the existence of two books in my Bibliographical list, and
should have been unable to see copies of two more, had it
not been for his kindness. If M. Baudrier, having devoted
many years to the subject of the books printed at Lyons in
the sixteenth century, had felt unwilling to offer information
collected with much expenditure of time and labour to a
stranger, whose use of it would to some extent forestall the
President's own work, I could neither have felt surprise nor
had cause of complaint. I have from time to time expressed
in the notes to this book the specific obligations I am under
to M. Baudrier.^

There are in existence two woodcuts of the sixteenth century
purporting to be portraits of Etienne Dolet. Of these, one is
exactly reproduced on the title-page of this volume. It appears in
the first edition of La Prosopographie of Du Verdier (Lyon, 1573").
The book was printed only twenty-seven years after Dolet's death,
by Anthony Gryphius (the son of his old friend Sebastian), who
as a youth must frequently have seen Dolet ; and at the time it
appeared, there must have been many persons living at Lyons who
well remembered him. The baldness and the prematurely aged
appearance of the face agree with the description given by Odonus
hereinafter quoted, written when Dolet was only twenty-seven
years of age, but when he was taken by Odonus for near forty .^

\} M. Baudrier died on June 17, 1884. His son, M. Julien Baudrier,
is now engaged in giving to the public the valuable collections made
by his father relating to Lyoncsc printers. Three volumes have already
appeared, but I am sorry to say they do not include either Dolet or
Gryphius. 1899.]

2 In the edition of 1605, though much augmented in many respects,
the portrait and notice of Dolet are omitted.

2 No indication is given by M. Boulmier of the source of the portrait


The other portrait is one engraved by Tobias Stimmer for Reusner's
Icones (Basileae, 1589), and is certainly a mere fancy sketch,
bearing no resemblance to that of Du Verdier.

At the end of this book will be found the mark of Dolet referred
to as within a floriated border. The initial letters of the different
chapters are with one exception reproductions of the woodcut
initials used by Dolet. A, D, L, O are from his De Officio Legati^
G, N, T from his De Imit. Cic. adv. Floridum Sabinum^ B and H
from the De Ant. Statu Burgundia of Paradin, I is an initial letter
of Seb. Gryphius copied from one in his edition of the Adagia
Erasmi (1529, fol.).

which is prefixed to his Estienne Dolet ; but in the advertisements of the
book it was described as grave d^apres r original de la Bibliotheque
Itnperiale. But no such portrait of Dolet is to be found in the
Bibliotheque. M. Boulmier's portrait is more or less a fancy portrait,
clearly based on that of Du Verdier, but much altered, especially in the
expression, and arranged in a fancy border. Indeed, the late M. Aubry,
the publisher of the book, informed me that such was the case, and
that he had adapted the border from another portrait of the sixteenth

Darley Dale,

June 1880.



I. Orleans and Paris .....

II. Padua ........

III. Venice ........

IV. Toulouse .......

V. Jean de Caturce and Jean de Boyssone
VI. The Floral Games .....

VII. The Orator .......

VIII. Guillaume Bude and Jaccjues Bording .
IX. Lyons ........

X. The Ciceronians ......

XL The Commentaries .....

XII. The Charge of Plagiarism ....

XIII. Work and Leisure .....

XIV. A Homicide and its Consequences

XV. The Printer ......

XVI. The Genethliacum and the Avant Naissance
XVII. Grammarian and Translator
XVIII. The Historian ......










XIX. Marot and Rabelais


XXII. The First President

XXIII. The Second Enfer

XXIV. The Place Maubert
XXV. Opinions and Character

XXVI. Claude Dolet



APPENDIX A, Documents
APPENDIX B, Bibliography




Sit thou a patient looker on ;

Judge not the play before the play be done.

Her plot has many changes ; every day

Speaks a new scene, the last act crowns the play.


In a state of societ}' so corrupted as that in which we live, the best
companions and instructors are ancient books. — T. L. Pe.^cock;.

Online LibraryRichard Copley ChristieÉtienne Dolet : the Martyr of the Renaissance, 1508-1546. A biography → online text (page 1 of 48)