Pierre Francois Tissot - Encyclopedia

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PIERRE FRANCOIS TISSOT (1768-1854), French man of letters, was born at Versailles on the 10th of March 1768. His father, a native of Savoy, was a perfumer appointed by royal warrant to the court. At the age of eighteen he entered the office of a procureur of the Chatelet, in order to learn the practice of the law; but he cultivated the Muses rather than the study of procedure, and, being a handsome youth, was occasionally invited to the fetes of the Trianon. He devoted himself ardently to the cause of the Revolution, in spite of the fact that it had ruined his family. While with the procureur he had made the acquaintance of Alexandre Goujon, and they soon became inseparable; he married Goujon's sister, Sophie (March 5, 1793), and when his brother-in-law was elected deputy to the Convention and sent on a mission to the armies of the Moselle and Rhine, Tissot went with him as his secretary; he then returned to Paris and resumed his more modest position of secretaire genera? des subsistances. On the 1st of Prairial he tried in vain to save his brother-in-law, who had been involved in the proscription of the "last Montagnards"; all he could do was to give Goujon the knife with which he killed himself in order to escape the guillotine, and he afterwards avenged his memory in the Souvenirs de Prairial. He also took under his care Goujon's widow and children. His connexion with the Jacobin party caused him to be condemned to deportation after the attempt of the 3rd Nivose in the year IX., but Bonaparte, having been persuaded to read his translation of the Bucolics, struck his name off the list. Though still a friend of the Republic, Tissot was henceforth an admirer of the First Consul; he celebrated in verse several of the emperor's victories, and the arrival in France of Marie-Louise (1810). So far he had lived on the income derived from a factory of horn lanterns in the Faubourg St Antoine; and, being at last in fairly comfortable circumstances he now devoted himself to literature. The abbe Delille took him as his assistant at the College de France; and Tissot succeeded him as head of it (1813); the emperor signed the appointment as a reward for a poem composed by Tissot on his victory at Liitzen. He was removed from this post, however, in 1821, in consequence of the publication of a Précis sur les guerres de la revolution, in which rather colourless work he had dared to say that the Convention had saved France and vanquished the Coalition. Deprived of his post, Tissot was left still more free to attack the government in the press. He was one of the founders of the newspaper Le Constitutionnel, and of the review, the Minerve. Without laying stress on his literary works (Traite de la poesie latine, 1821; translation of the Bucolics, 3rd ed., 1823; Etudes sur Virgile, 1825) we should mention the Memoires historiques et militaires sur Carnot, which he based on the papers left by the "Organizer of Victory" (1824), the Discours du General Foy (1826) and a Histoire de la guerre de la Peninsule also inspired by General Foy (1827). On the overthrow of Charles X., Tissot made a successful effort to regain his position at the College de France; he was also elected as a member of the French Academy on the death of Dacier (1833). It was then that he published his chief works: Histoire de Napoleon (2(2 vols., 1833), and Histoire complete de la revolution francaise de 1789 et 1806 (6 vols., 1833-1836), full of inconsistencies and omissions, but containing a number of the author's reminiscences; in some places they become practically memoirs, and are consequently of real value. In 1840 a carriage accident almost cost him his sight; he had to find an assistant, and passed the last years of his life in circumstances of increasing suffering, amid which, however, he preserved his cheerfulness and goodness of heart. He died at Paris on the 7th of April 1854.

See an excellent essay on Tissot by P. Fromageot in the Revue de Versailles et de Seine-et-Oise, in 1901.

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