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Linguet, Simon Nicholas Henri

LINGUET, SIMON NICHOLAS HENRI (1736-1794), French journalist and advocate, was born on the 14th of July 1736, at Reims, whither his father, the assistant principal in the College de Beauvais of Paris, had recently been exiled by lettre de cachet for engaging in the Jansenist controversy. He attended the College de Beauvais and won the three highest prizes there in 1751. He accompanied the count palatine of Zweibriicken to Poland, and on his return to Paris he devoted himself to writing. He published partial French translations of Calderon and Lope de Vega, and wrote parodies for the Opera Comique and pamphlets in favour of the Jesuits. Received at first in the ranks of the philosophes, he soon went over to their opponents, possibly more from contempt than from conviction, the immediate occasion for his change being a quarrel with d'Alembert in 1762. Thenceforth he violently attacked whatever was considered modern and enlightened, and while he delighted society with his numerous sensational pamphlets, he aroused the fear and hatred of his opponents by his stinging wit. He was admitted to the bar in 1764, and soon became one of the most famous pleaders of his century. But in spite of his brilliant ability and his record of having lost but two cases, the bitter attacks which he directed against his fellow advocates, especially against Gerbier (1725-1788), caused his dismissal from the bar in 1775. He then turned to journalism and began the Journal de politique et de litterature, which he employed for two years in literary, philosophical and legal criticisms. But a sarcastic article on the French Academy compelled him to turn over the Journal to La Harpe and seek refuge abroad. Linguet, however, continued his career of free lance, now attacking and now supporting the government, in the Annales politiques, civttes et litteraires, published from 1777 to 1792, first at London, then at Brussels and finally at Paris. Attempting to return to France in 1780 he was arrested for a caustic attack on the due de Duras (1715- 1789), an academician and marshal of France, and imprisoned nearly two years in the Bastille. He then went to London, and thence to Brussels, where, for his support of the reforms of Joseph II., he was ennobled and granted an honorarium of one thousand ducats. In 1786 he was permitted by Vergennes to return to France as an Austrian counsellor of state, and to sue the due d'Aiguillon (1730-1798), the former minister of Louis XV., for fees due him for legal services rendered some fifteen years earlier. He obtained judgment to the amount of 24,000 livres. Linguet received the support of Marie Antoinette; his fame at the time surpassed that of his rival Beaumarchais, and almost excelled that of Voltaire. Shortly afterwards he visited the emperor at Vienna to plead the case of Van der Noot and the rebels of Brabant. During the early years of the Revolution he issued several pamphlets against Mirabeau, who returned his ill-will with interest, calling him " the ignorant and bombastic M. Linguet, advocate of Neros, sultans and viziers." On his return to Paris in 1791 he defended the rights of San Domingo before the National Assembly. His last work was a defence of Louis XVI. He retired to Marnes near Ville d'Avray to escape the Terror, but was sought out and summarily condemned to death " for having flattered the despots of Vienna and London." He was guillotined at Paris on the 27th of June 1794.

Linguet was a prolific writer in many fields. Examples of his attempted historical writing are Histoire du siecle d'Alexandre le Grand (Amsterdam, 1762), and Histoire impartiale des Jesuites (Madrid, 1768), the latter condemned to be burned. His opposition to 'the philosophes had its strongest expressions in Fanatisme des philosophes (Geneva and Paris, 1764) and Histoire des revolutions de I'empire remain (Paris, 1766-1768). His Theorie des lois civiles (London, 1767) is a vigorous defence of absolutism and attack on the politics of Montesquieu. His best legal treatise is Memoire pour le comte de Morangies (Paris, 1772); Linguet's imprisonment in the Bastille afforded him the opportunity of writing his Memoires sur la Bastille, first published in London in 1789; it has been translated into English (Dublin, 1783, and Edinburgh, 1884-1887), and is the best of his works, though untrustworthy.

See A. Deverite, Notice pour seroir a I'histoire de la vie et des ecrits de S. N. H. Linguet (Liege, 1782); Gardoz, Essai historique sur la vie et les ouvrages de Linguet (Lyon, 1808) ; J. F. Barriere, Memoire de Linguet et de Latude (Paris, 1884) ; Ch. Monselet, Les Oublies et les dedaignes (Paris, 1885), pp. 1-41; H. Monin, " Notice sur Linguet," in the 1889 edition of Memoires sur la Bastille; J. Cruppi, Un avocat journaliste au 18' siecle, Linguet (Paris, 1895) ; A. Philipp, Linguet, ein Nationalokonom des XV III Jahrhunderts in seinen rechtlichen, socialen und volksvrirtschaftlichen Anschauungen (Zurich, 1896); A. Lichtenberger, Le Socialisme utopique (1898), pp. 77-131.

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

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