Lacordaire, Jean Baptiste Henri
LACORDAIRE, JEAN BAPTISTE HENRI (1802-1861), French ecclesiastic and orator, was born at Recey-sur-Ource, Cote d'Or, on the izth of March 1802. He was the second of a family of four, the eldest of whom, Jean Theodore (1801-1870), travelled a great deal in his youth, and was afterwards professor of comparative anatomy at Liege. For several years Lacordaire studied at Dijon, showing a marked talent for rhetoric; this led him to the pursuit of law, and in the local debates of the advocates he attained a high celebrity. At Paris he thought of going on the stage, but was induced to finish his legal training and began to practise as an advocate (1817-1824). Meanwhile Lamennais had published his Essai sur I' Indifference, a passionate plea for Christianity and in particular for Roman Catholicism as necessary for the social progress of mankind. Lacordaire read, and his ardent and believing nature, weary of the theological negations of the Encyclopaedists, was convinced. In 1823 he became a theological student at the seminary of Saint Sulpice; four years later he was ordained and became almoner of the college Henri IV. He was called from it to co-operate with Lamennais in the editorship of L'Avenir, a journal established to advocate the union of the democratic principle with ultramontanism. Lacordaire strove to show that Catholicism was not bound up with the idea of dynasty, and definitely allied it with a well-defined liberty, equality and fraternity. But the new propagandism was denounced from Rome in an encyclical. In the meantime Lacordaire and Montalembert, believing that, under the charter of 1830, they were entitled to liberty of instruction, opened an independent free school. It was closed in two days, and the teachers fined before the court of peers. These reverses Lacordaire accepted with quiet dignity; but they brought his relationship with Lamennais to a close. He now began the course of Christian conferences at the College Stanislas, which attracted the art and intellect of Paris; thence he went to N&tre Dame, and for two years his sermons were the delight of the capital. His presence was dignified, his voice capable of indefinite modulation, and his gestures animated and attractive. He still preached the gospel of the people's sovereignty in civil life and the pope's supremacy in religion, but brought to his propagandism the full resources of a mind familiar with philosophy, history and literature, and indeed led the reaction against Voltairean scepticism. He was asked to edit the Univers, and to take a chair in the university of Louvain, but he declined both appointments, and in 1838 set out for Rome, revolving a great scheme for christianizing France by restoring the old order of St Dominic. At Rome he donned the habit of the preaching friar and joined the monastery 'of Minerva. His Mtmoire pour le relaUissement en France de I'ordre des freres prkheurs was then prepared and dedicated to his country; at the same time he collected the materials for the life of St Dominic. When he returned to France in 1841 he resumed his preaching at N6tre Dame, but he had small success in re-establishing the order of which he ever afterwards called himself monk. His funeral orations are the most notable in their kind of any delivered during his time, those devoted to Marshal Drouet and Daniel O'Connell being especially marked by point and clearness. He next thought that his presence in the National Assembly would be of use to his cause; but being rebuked by his ecclesiastical superiors for declaring himself a republican, he resigned his seat ten days after his election. In 1850 he went back to Rome and was made provincial of the order, and for four years laboured to make the Dominicans a religious power. In 1854 he retired to Sorreze to become director of a private lyceum, and remained there until he died on the 22nd of November 1861. He had been elected to the Academy in the preceding year.
The best edition of Lacordaire's works is the CEuvres completes (6vols., Paris, 1872-1873), published by C. Poussielgue, which contains, besides the Conferences, the exquisitely written, but uncritical, Viede Saint Dominique and the beautiful Lettres d, unjeune homme sur la vie chretienne. For a complete list of his published correspondence see L. Petit de Julleville's Histoire de la langue et de la litterature française, vii. 598.
The authoritative biography is by Ch. Foisset (2 vols., Paris, 1870). The religious aspect of his character is best shown in Pere B. Chocarne's Vie du Pere Lacordaire (2 vols. , Paris, 1 866 English translation by A. Th. Drane, London, 1868) ; see also Count C. F. R. de Montalembert's Un Maine au XIX ime siecle (Paris, 1862 English translation by F. Aylward, London, 1867). There are lives by Mrs H. L. Lear (London, 1882) ; by A. Ricard (l vol. of L'f.cole menaisienne, Paris, 1883); by Comte O. d'Haussonville (l vol., Les Grands ecrivains Frangais series, Paris, 1897); by Gabriel Ledos (Paris, 1901); by Dora Greenwell (1867); and by the due de Broglie (Paris, 1889). The Correspondance inedite du Pere Lacordaire, edited by H. Villard (Paris, 1870), may also be consulted. See also SaintBeuve in Causeries de Lundi. Several of Lacordaire's Conferences have been translated into English, among these being, Jesus Christ (1869) ; God (1870); God and Man (1872); Life (1875). For a theological study of the Conferences de Notre Dame, see an article by Bishop J. C. Hedley in Dublin Review (October 1870).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)