Jacques Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre - Encyclopedia




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SAINT - PIERRE, JACQUES HENRI BERNARDIN DE (1737-1814), French man of letters, was born at Havre on the 19th of January 1737. He was educated at Caen and at Rouen, and became an engineer. According to his own account he served in the army, taking part in the Hesse campaign of 1760, but was dismissed for insubordination, and, after quarrelling with his family, was in some difficulty. He appears at Malta, St Petersburg, Warsaw, Dresden, Berlin, holding brief commissions as an engineer and rejoicing in romantic adventures. But he came back to Paris in 1765 poorer than he set out. He came into possession of a small sum at his father's death, and in 1768 he set out for the Isle of France (Mauritius) with a government commission, and remained there three years, returning home in 1771. These wanderings supplied Bernardin with the whole of his stock-in-trade, for he never again quitted France. On his return from Mauritius he was introduced to D'Alembert and his friends, but he took no great pleasure in the company of any literary man except J. J. Rousseau, of whom in his last years he saw much, and on whom he formed both his character and his style. His Voyage d file de France (2 vols., 177 3) gained him a reputation as a champion of innocence and religion, and in consequence, through the exertions of the bishop of Aix, a pension of r000 livres a year. It is soberest and therefore the least characteristic of his books. The Etudes de la nature (3 vols., 1784) was an attempt to prove the existence of God from the wonders of nature; he set up a philosophy of sentiment to oppose the materializing tendencies of the Encyclopaedists. His masterpiece, Paul et Virginie, appeared in 1789 in a supplementary volume of the Etudes, and his second great success, much less sentimental and showing not a little humour, the Chaumiere indienne, not till 1790. In 1792 he married a very young girl, Felicite Didot, who brought him a considerable dowry. For a short time in 1792 he was superintendent of the Jardin des Plantes, and on the suppression of the office received a pension of 3000 livres. In 1795 he became a member of the Institute. After his first wife's death he married in 1800, when he was sixty-three, another young girl, Desiree Pelleport, and is said to have been very happy with her. On the 21st of January 1814 he died at his house at Eragny, near Pontoise.

Paul et Virginie has been pronounced gaudy in style and unhealthy in tone. Perhaps Bernardin is not fairly to be judged by this famous story, in which the exuberant sensibility of the time finds equally exuberant expression. His merit lies in his breaking away from the arid vocabulary which more than a century of classical writing has brought upon France, in his genuine preference for the beauties of nature, and in his attempt to describe them faithfully. After Rousseau, and even more than Rousseau, Bernardin was in French literature the apostle of the return to nature, though both in him and his immediate follower Chateaubriand there is still much mannerism and unreality.

Aime Martin, disciple of Bernardin and the second husband of his second wife, published a complete edition of his works in 18 volumes XXIV. 2 a (Paris, 1818-1820), afterwards increased by severe volumes of correspondence and memoirs (1826). Paul et Virginie, the Chauntiere indienne, &c. have often been separately reprinted. See also Arvede Barin's Bernardin de Saint Pierre (1891).

ST Pierre and Miquelon, two islands io m. off the south coast of Newfoundland, united area about 91 sq. m. Both are rugged masses of granite, with a few small streams and lakes, a thin covering of soil and scanty vegetation. Miquelon, the larger of the two, consists of Great Miquelon and Little Miquelon, or Langlade; previous to 1783 these were separated by a navigable channel, but they have since become connected by a dangerous mudbank. St Pierre has a sheltered harbour with about 14 ft. of water, and a good roadstead for large vessels. Their importance is due to their proximity to the great Banks, which makes them the centre of the French Atlantic fisheries. These are kept up by an elaborate system of bounties by the French government, which considers them of great importance as training sailors for the navy. Fishing lasts from May till October, and is carried on by nearly five hundred vessels, of which about two-thirds are fitted out from St Pierre, the remainder coming from St Malo, Cancale and other French coast towns. The resident population, which centres in the town of St Pierre, is about 650o, swelled to over io,000 for a time each year by extra fishing hands from France, but is steadily declining owing to emigration into Canada. Owing to the low rates of duty, vast quantities of goods, especially French wines and liquors, are imported, and smuggled to Newfoundland, the United States and Canada, though of late years this has been checked by a gradual rise in the scale of duties, and by the presence since 1904 of a British consul. St Pierre is connected with Halifax (N.S.) and St Johns (Newfoundland) by a regular packet service, and is a station of the Anglo American Cable Co. and the Compagnie francaise des cables telegraphiques. Excellent facilities for primary and secondary education are given, but the attraction of the fisheries prevents their being fully used.

The islands were occupied by the French in 1660, and fortified in 1700. In 1702 they were captured by the British, and held till 1763, when they were given back to France as a fishing station. They are thus the sole remnant of the French colonies in North America. Destroyed by the English in 1778, restored to France in 1783, again captured and depopulated by the English in 1793, recovered by France in 1802 and lost in 1803, the islands have remained in undisputed French possession since 1814 (Treaty of Paris).

See Henrique, Les Colonies francaises, t. ii. (Paris,1889); Levasseur, La France, t. ii. (Paris, 1893); L'Annee coloniale, yearly since 1899, contains statistics and a complete bibliography; P. T. McGrath in The New England Magazine (May 1903) describes the daily life of the people. (W. L. G.) ST POL, Counts Of. The countship of St Pol-sur-Ternoise in France (department of Pas-de-Calais), belonged in the 11th and 12th centuries to a family surnamed Candavene. Elizabeth, heiress of this house, carried the countship to her husband, Gaucher de Chatillon, in 1205. By the marriage of Mahaut de Chatillon with Guy VI. of Luxemburg, St Pol passed to the house of Luxemburg. It was in possession of Louis of Luxemburg, constable of France, who was beheaded in 1475. The constable's property was confiscated by Louis XI., but was subsequently restored in 1488 to his granddaughters, Marie and Frangoise of Luxemburg. Marie (d. 1542) was countess of St Pol, and married Francois de Bourbon, count of Vendome. Their son, Francois de Bourbon, count of St Pol (1491-1545), was one of the most devoted and courageous generals of Francis I. Marie, daughter of the last-mentioned count, brought the countship of St Pol to the house of Orleans-Longueville. In 1705 Marie of Orleans sold it to Elizabeth of Lorraine-Lillebonne, widow of Louis de Melun, prince of Epinoy, and their daughter married the prince of Rohan-Soubise, who thus became count of St Pol. (M. P.*) ST POL-DE-Leon, a town of north-western France, in the department of Finistere, about 1 m. from the shore of the English Channel, and 131 m. N. of Morlaix by the railway to Roscoff. Pop. (1906), town, 3353; commune, 8140. St Pol-deLeon is a quaint town with several old houses. The cathedral is largely in the Norman Gothic style of the 13th and early 14th centuries. The west front has a projecting portico and two towers 180 ft. high with granite spires. Within the church there are beautifully carved stalls of the 16th century and other works of art. On the right of the high altar is a wooden shrine containing the bell of St Pol de Leon, which was said to cure headache and diseases of the ear, and at the side of the main entrance is a huge baptismal font, popularly regarded as the stone coffin of Conan Meriadec, king of the Bretons. Notre Dame de Kreizker, dating mainly from the second half of the 14th century, has a celebrated spire, 252 ft. high, which crowns the central tower. The north porch is a fine specimen of the flamboyant style. In the cemetery, which has a chapel of the 15th century, there are ossuaries of the year 150o.

In the 6th century a Welsh monk, Paul, became bishop of the small town of Leon, and lord of the domain in its vicinity, which passed to his successors and was increased by them. In 1793 the town was the centre of a serious but unsuccessful rising provoked by the recruiting measures of the Convention.

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