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Bourdaloue, Louis

BOURDALOUE, LOUIS (1632-1704), French Jesuit and preacher, was born at Bourges on the 20th of August 1632. At the age of sixteen he entered the Society of Jesus, and was appointed successively professor of rhetoric, philosophy and moral theology, in various colleges of the Order. His success as a preacher in the provinces determined his superiors to call him to Paris in 1669 to occupy for a year the pulpit of the church of St Louis. Owing to his eloquence he was speedily ranked in popular estimation with Corneille, Racine, and the other leading figures of the most brilliant period of Louis XIV.'s reign. He preached at the court of Versailles during the Advent of 1670 and the Lent of 1672, and was subsequently called again to deliver the Lenten course of sermons in 1674, 1675, 1680 and 1682, and the Advent sermons of 1684, 1689 and 1693. This was all the more noteworthy as it was the custom never to call the same preacher more than three times to court. On the revocation of the Edict of Nantes he was sent to Languedoc to confirm the new converts in the Catholic faith, and he had extraordinary success in this delicate mission. Catholics and Protestants were unanimous in praising his fiery eloquence in the Lent sermons which he preached at Montpellier in 1686. Towards the close of his life he confined his ministry to charitable institutions, hospitals and prisons, where his sympathetic discourses and conciliatory manners were always effective. He died in Paris on the 13th of May 1704. His peculiar strength lay in his power of adapting himself to audiences of every kind, and throughout his public career he was highly appreciated by all classes of society. His influence was due as much to his saintly character and to the gentleness of his manners as to the force of his reasoning. Voltaire said that his sermons surpassed those of Bossuet (whose retirement in 1669, however, practically coincided with Bourdaloue's early pulpit utterances); and there is little doubt that their simplicity and coherence, and the direct appeal which they made to hearers of all classes, gave them a superiority over the more profound sermons of Bossuet. Bourdaloue may be with justice regarded as one of the greatest French orators, and many of his sermons have been adopted as text-books in schools.

Bibliography. - The only authoritative source for the Sermons is the edition of Père Bretonneau (14 vols., Paris, 1707-1721, followed by the Pensées, 2 vols., 1734). There has been much controversy both as to the authenticity of some of the sermons in this edition and as to the text in general. It is, however, generally agreed that the changes confessedly made by Bretonneau were merely formal. Other editions not based on Bretonneau are inferior; some, indeed, are altogether spurious (e.g. that of Abbé Sicard, 1810). Among critical works are: Anatole Feugère, Bourdaloue, sa prédication et son temps (Paris, 1874); Adrien Lézat, Bourdaloue, théologien et orateur (Paris, 1874); P.M. Lauras, Bourdaloue, sa vie et ses œuvres (2 vols., Paris, 1881); Abbé Blampignon, Etude sur Bourdaloue (Paris, 1886); Henri Chérot, Bourdaloue inconnu (Paris, 1898), and Bourdaloue, sa correspondance et ses correspondans (Paris, 1898-1904); L. Pauthe, Bourdaloue (les maîtres de la chaire au XVIIe siècle) (Paris, 1900); E. Griselle, Bourdaloue, histoire critique de sa prédication (2 vols., Paris, 1901), Sermons inédits; bibliographie, etc. (Paris, 1901), Deux sermons inédits sur le royaume de Dieu (Lille and Paris, 1904); Ferdinand Castets, Bourdaloue, la vie et la prédication d'un religieux au XVIIe siècle, and La Revue Bourdaloue (Paris, 1902-1904); C.H. Brooke, Great French Preachers (sermons of Bourdaloue and Bossuet, London, 1904); F. Brunetière, "L'Eloquence de Bourdaloue," in Revue des deux mondes (August 1904), a general inquiry into the authenticity of the sermons and their general characteristics.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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