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Maury, Jean Siffrein

MAURY, JEAN SIFFREIN (1746-1817), French cardinal and archbishop of Paris, the son of a poor cobbler, was born on the 26th of June 1746 at Valreas in the Comtat-Venaissin, the district in France which belonged to the pope. His acuteness was observed by the priests of the seminary at Avignon, where he was educated and took orders. He tried his fortune by writing floges of famous persons, then a favourite practice; and in 1771 his eloge on Fenelon was pronounced next best to Laharpe's by the Academy. The real foundation of his fortunes was the success of a panegyric on St Louis delivered before the Academy in 1772, which caused him to be recommended for an abbacy. In 1777 he published under the title of Discours choisis his panegyrics on Saint Louis, Saint Augustine and Fenelon, his remarks on Bossuet and his Essai sur I'ttoquence de la chaire, a volume which contains much good criticism, and remains a French classic. The book was often reprinted as Principes de I'iloquence. He became a favourite preacher in Paris, and was Lent preacher at court in 1781, when King Louis XVI. said of his sermon: " If the abbe had only said a few words on religion he would have discussed every possible subject." In 1781 he obtained the rich priory of Lyons, near P6ronne, and in 1785 he was elected to the Academy, as successor of Lefranc de Pompignan. His morals were as loose as those of his great rival Mirabeau, but he was famed in Paris for his wit and gaiety. In 1789 he was elected a member of the states-general by the clergy of the bailliage of P6ronne, and from the first proved to be the most able and persevering defender of the ancien regime, although he had drawn up the greater part of the cahier of the clergy of P6ronne, which contained a considerable programme of reform. It is said that he attempted to emigrate both in July and in October 1789; but after that time he held firmly to his place, when almost universally deserted by his friends. In the Constituent Assembly he took an active part in every important debate, combating with especial vigour the alienation of the property of the clergy. His life was often in danger, but his ready wit always saved it, and it was said that one ban mot would preserve him for a month

When he did emigrate in 1792 he found himself regarded as a martyr to the church and the king, and was at once named archbishop in parlibus, and extra nuncio to the diet at Frankfort, and in 1794 cardinal. He was finally made bishop of Montefiascone, and settled down in that little Italian town but not for long, for in 1798 the French drove him from his retreat, and he sought refuge in Venice and St Petersburg. Next year he returned to Rome as ambassador of the exiled Louis XVIII. at the papal court. In 1804 he began to prepare his return to France by a well-turned letter to Napoleon, congratulating him on restoring religion to France once more. In 1806 he did return; in 1807 he was again received into the Academy; and in 1810, on the refusal of Cardinal Fesch, was made archbishop of Paris. He was presently ordered by the pope to surrender his functions as archbishop of Paris. This he refused to do. On the restoration of the Bourbons he was summarily expelled from the Academy and from the archiepiscopal palace. He retired to Rome, where he was imprisoned in the castle of St Angelo for six months for his disobedience to the papal orders, and died in 1817, a year or two after his release, of disease contracted in prison and of chagrin. As a critic he was a very able writer, and Sainte-Beuve gives him the credit of discovering Father Jacques Bridayne, and of giving Bossuet his rightful place as a preacher above Massillon; as a politician, his wit and eloquence make him a worthy rival of Mirabeau. He sacrificed too much to personal ambition, yet it would have been a graceful act if Louis XVIII. had remembered the courageous supporter of Louis XVI., and the pope the one intrepid defender of the Church in the statesgeneral.

The (Enures choisies du Cardinal Maury (5 vols., 1827) contain what is worth preserving. Mgr Ricard has published Maury's Correspondance diplomatique (2 vols., Lille, 1891). For his life and character see Vie du Cardinal Maury, by Louis Siffrein Maury, his nephew (1828); J. J. F. Poujoulat, Cardinal Maury, sa vie el ses csuvres (1855); Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du lundi (vol. iv.); Mgr Ricard, L'Abbe Maury (1746-1791), L'Abbe Maury avant 1789, L'Abbe Maury el Mirabeau (1887); G. Bonet-Maury, Le Cardinal Maury d'apres ses memoires el sa correspondance inedits (Paris, 1892); A. Aulard, I^es Orateurs de la constituante (Paris, 1882). Of the many libels written against him during the Revolution the most noteworthy are the Petit cartme de I'abbf. Maury, with a supplement called the Seconde annee (1790), and the Vie privee de I abbe Maury (1790), claimed by J. R. Hebert, but attributed by some writers to Restif de la Bretonne. For further bibliographical details see J. M. Qudrard, La France litleraire, vol. v. (1833).

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

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