Freron - Encyclopedia

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Elie Catherine FRERON (1719-1776), French critic and controversialist, was born at Quimper in 1719. He was educated by the Jesuits, and made such rapid progress in his studies that before the age of twenty he was appointed professor at the college of Louis-le-Grand. He became a contributor to the Observations sur les ecrits modernes of the abbe Guyot Desfontaines. The very fact of his collaboration with Desfontaines, one of Voltaire's bitterest enemies, was sufficient to arouse the latter's hostility, and although Freron had begun his career as one of his admirers, his attitude towards Voltaire soon changed. Freron in 1746 founded a similar journal of his own, entitled Lettres de la Comtesse de ... It was suppressed in 17 4 9, but he immediately replaced it by Lettres sur quelques ecrits de ce temps, which, with the exception of a short suspension in 1752, on account of an attack on the character of Voltaire, was continued till 1754, when it was succeeded by the more ambitious Annee litteraire. His death at Paris on the 10th of March 1776 is said to have been hastened by the temporary suppression of this journal. Freron is now remembered solely for his attacks on Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists, and by the retaliations they provoked on the part of Voltaire, who, besides attacking him in epigrams, and even incidentally in some of his tragedies, directed against him a virulent satire, Le Pauvre diable, and made him the principal personage in a comedy L'Ecossaise, in which the journal of Freron is designated L'Ane litteraire. A further attack on Freron entitled Anecdotes sur Freron ... (1760), published anonymously, is generally attributed to Voltaire.

Freron was the author of Ode sur la bataille de Fontenoy (1745) Histoire de Marie Stuart (1742, 2 vols.); and Histoire de l'empire d'Allemagne, (1771, 8 vols.). See Ch. Nisard, Les Ennemis de Voltaire (1853); Despois, Journalistes et journaux du X VIIIe siecle; Barthelemy, Les confessions de Freron; Ch. Monselet, Freron, ou l'illustre critique (1864); Freron, sa vie, souvenirs, &c. (1876).

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