Until the nineteenth century Jacques-Auguste de Thou (1553–1617) was among the most famous and most valued of historians. While his first fame was a succès de scandalethe History of His Time was placed on the Index in 1609 — de Thou’s work quickly found favor with the humanistically-educated learned class throughout Europe. The esteem in which the History was held transcended religious divisions. The historian received letters of praise from staunchly orthodox Spain and Portugal as well as from heretic England and Germany; through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries his History was read with enthusiasm by certain cardinals at the very curia which condemned it; and so staunch a champion of orthodoxy as Bishop Bossuet did not hesitate to appeal to “such a great author” for support in his own historical works.1 To the philosophe of the Enlightenment de Thou’s impartiality in describing the impassioned times through which he lived and the exact yet eloquent style with which he wrote the History of His Time were familiar touchstones. Voltaire appealed to the “truthful and eloquent de Thou” again and again in his works,2 William Pitt rose in the House of Commons to quote the words of the “great historian of France” during the early years of the French Revolution,3 Lessing4 and Herder5 praised him with poetic hyperbole, and Edward Gibbon referred to “the authority of my masters, the grave Thuanus and the philosophic Hume.…”6


French Revolution French Translation Historical Writer Work Today Great Historian 
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  1. 2.
    William Pitt the Younger, The Speeches of William Pitt in the House of Commons, II (London, 1806 ), 94.Google Scholar
  2. Henry Harrisse, Le président de Thou et ses descendants (Paris, 1905).Google Scholar
  3. Jacques-Auguste de Thou, Histoire Universelle, ed. Desfontaines (“London” — in reality Paris, 1734). I refer to this translation as the “Paris” translation in this book, for reasons given in chapter 5.Google Scholar
  4. Heinrich Düntzer, Jacques-Auguste de Thous Leben, Schriften, und historische Kunst (Darm-stadt, 1837 ), PP. 48–54, includes the most complete listing to date. Düntzer lists less than half the poems discussed in Chapter 4 of this book.Google Scholar
  5. James Boswell, Life of Johnson (Oxford, England, Oxford Standard Authors Edition, revised edition, 1952 ), p. 24.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1966

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel Kinser
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryNorthen Illinois UniversityUSA

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