Jacques Delille - Encyclopedia

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JACQUES DELILLE (1738-1813), French poet, was born on the 22nd of June 1738 at Aigue-Perse in Auvergne. He was an illegitimate child, and was descended by his mother from the chancellor De l'Hopital. He was educated at the college of Lisieux in Paris and became an elementary teacher. He gradually acquired a reputation as a poet by his epistles, in which things are not called by their ordinary names but are hinted at by elaborate periphrases. Sugar becomes "le miel americain que du suc des roseaux exprima l'Africain." The publication (1769) of his translation of the Georgics of Virgil made him famous. Voltaire recommended the poet for the next vacant place in the Academy. He was at once elected a member, but was not admitted until 1774 owing to the opposition of the king, who alleged that he was too young. In his Jardins, ou fart d'embellir les paysages (1782) he made good his pretensions as an original poet. In 1786 he made a journey to Constantinople in the train of the ambassador M. de Choiseul-Gouffier.

Delille had become professor of Latin poetry at the College de France, and abbot of Saint-Severin, when the outbreak of the Revolution reduced him to poverty. He purchased his personal safety by professing his adherence to revolutionary doctrine, but eventually quitted Paris, and retired to St Die, where he completed his translation of the Aeneid. He emigrated first to Basel and then to Glairesse in Switzerland. Here he finished his Homme des champs, and his poem on the Trois regnes de la nature. His next place of refuge was in Germany, where he composed his La Pitie; and finally, he passed some time in London, chiefly employed in translating Paradise Lost. In 1802 he was able to return to Paris, where, although nearly blind, he resumed his professorship and his chair at the Academy, but lived in retirement. He fortunately did not outlive the vogue of the descriptive poems which were his special province, and died on the 1st of May 1813.

Delille left behind him little prose. His preface to the translation of the Georgics is an able essay, and contains many excellent hints on the art and difficulties of translation. He wrote the article "La Bruyere" in the Biographie universelle. The following is the list of his poetical works: - Les Georgiques de V'irgile, traduites en vers francais (Paris, 1769, 1782, 1785, 1809); Les Jardins, en quatre chants (1780; new edition, Paris, 1801); L'Homme des champs, ou les Georgiques francaises (Strassburg, 1802); Posies fugitives (1802); Dithyrambe sur l'immortalite de l'ame, suivi du passage du Saint Gothard, poeme traduit de l'Anglais de Madame la duchesse de Devonshire (1802);(1802); La Pitie, poeme en quatre chants (Paris, 1802); L'Eneide de Virgile, traduite en vers francais (4 vols., 180 4); Le Paradis perdu (3 vols., 1804); L'Imagination, poeme en huit chants (2 vols., 1806); Les trois regnes de la nature (2 vols., 1808); La Conversation (1812). A collection given under the title of Poesies diverses (1801) was disavowed by Delille.

His Ouvres (16 vols.) were published in 1824. See Sainte-Beuve, Portraits litteraires, vol. ii.

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