Méric Casaubon

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Florence Estienne Méric Casaubon (14 August 1599 in Geneva – 14 July 1671 in Canterbury), son of Isaac Casaubon, was a French-English classical scholar. Although biographical dictionaries (including the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica) commonly accentuate his name to Méric, he himself did not do so.

Life[edit]

He was born in Geneva to a French father, scholar Isaac Casaubon; he was named for his godfather Meric de Vic. After education in Sedan, at an early age he joined his father in England, and completed his education at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford (B.A. 1618; M.A. 1621; D.D. 1636).[1][2]

His defence of his father against the attacks of certain Catholics (Pietas contra maledicos patrii Nominis et Religionis Hostes, 1621), secured him the notice and favour of James I, who conferred upon him a prebendal stall in Canterbury Cathedral (stall IX) which he held from 1628 to his death.[3] He also vindicated his father's literary reputation against certain impostors who had published, under his name, a work on The Origin of Idolatry (Vindicatio Patris adversus Impostores, 1624).

During the English Civil War he was deprived of his benefices and his prebendal stall at Canterbury Cathedral[4] and retired to Oxford[5] refusing to acknowledge the authority of Oliver Cromwell, who, notwithstanding, requested him to write an "impartial" history of the events of the period. In spite of the tempting inducements held out, he declined, and also refused the post of inspector of the Swedish universities offered him by Queen Christina. After the Restoration, he was reinstated in his benefice and his stall in Canterbury[2] and devoted the rest of his life to literary work. He died at Canterbury and is buried in the Cathedral.

Méric Casaubon's reputation was overshadowed by that of his father; but his editions of numerous classical authors, especially of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, were especially valued, and reprinted several times (but by modern standards, his translation is difficult reading). He had an interest in the study of Anglo-Saxon, which he shared with his lifelong 'trustie frend' William Somner. Edward Stillingfleet, whom Casaubon admired, bought many of his books, which are now in Archbishop Marsh's Library, Dublin. Some other volumes from his library came into Canterbury Cathedral Library through William Somner.

Controversy[edit]

In 1656 he wrote against enthusiasm, and circumscribed the domain of the supernatural. The next year he produced an edition of John Dee, portraying him as having dealings with the Devil. The background is of orthodox Anglicans wishing to discredit the sectarian Protestants of the period; but also to validate the existence of spirits to atheists. Casaubon was in touch with Nicholas Bernard about the Dee manuscript.[6] Following the Restoration, Casaubon wrote supporting the traditional theories of witchcraft.[7] He was in fact operating on several fronts: as well as attacking those who would deny the supernatural entirely, and limiting the role of reason in faith, he defended humanist learning against the claims for the new natural philosophy, emanating from figures in the Royal Society who saw it as completely replacing the old learning.[8]

Benefices[edit]

  • 1626–1630 : rector of Bleadon, Somerset
  • 1628–1671 : prebendal stall IX at Canterbury Cathedral
  • 1630–1634 : rector of St Mary in the Marsh, Kent
  • 1634–1634 : rector of Old Romney, Kent
  • 1634–1662 : vicar of Minster, Kent
  • 1634–1662 : vicar of Monkton with Birchington, Kent
  • 1643/1644 : ejected from his benefices by Parliament
  • 1660 : reinstated to the living at Minster
  • 1662–1671 : rector of Ickham, Kent

Works[edit]

  • Pietas contra maledicos patrii Nominis et Religionis Hostes (1621)
  • Vindicatio Patris adversus Impostores (1624)
  • (transl.) Marcus Aurelies Antoninus the Roman Emperor, his Meditations Concerning Himself (1634)
  • A treatise of use and custome (1638)
  • De quatuor linguis commentationis, pars prior: quae, de lingua Hebraica: et, de lingua Saxonica (1650)
  • A Treatise Concerning Enthusiasme (1656). Facsimile ed., introd. Paul J. Korshin, 1970, Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, ISBN 978-0-8201-1077-6.
  • A true and faithful relation of what passed for many years between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits (1659)
  • Of the Necessity of Reformation (1664)
  • On Credulity and Incredulity in Things natural, civil and divine (1668)
  • A Letter of Meric Casaubon to Peter Du Moulin Concerning Natural Experimental Philosophie (1669). Facsimile ed., introd. David J. Lougee, 1977, Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, ISBN 0-8201-1284-4.
  • A TREATISE PROVING Spirits, Witches, AND Supernatural Operations, BY PREGNANT INSTANCES AND EVIDENCES: Together with other Things worthy of Note. (1672). By Meric Casaubon, D. D. LONDON, Printed for Brabazon Aylmer, at the Three Pigeons in Cornbill. 1672.
  • Generall Learning: A Seventeenth-Century Treatise on the Formation of the General Scholar (ed. Richard Serjeantson, 1999)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ s:Casaubon, Meric (DNB00)
  2. ^ a b R. W. Serjeantson, 'Casaubon, (Florence Estienne) Meric (1599–1671)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [1], accessed 6 March 2010
  3. ^ A History of Canterbury Cathedral, OUP 1995, p.209.
  4. ^ Jacqueline Eales, Community and Disunity: Kent and the English Civil Wars, 1640–1649, Canterbury, 2001, p. 37.
  5. ^ A History of Canterbury Cathedral, OUP 1995, p.194.
  6. ^ Ian Bostridge, Witchcraft and its Transformations, c.1650-c.1750 (1997), pp. 55–7.
  7. ^ Bostridge, p. 53.
  8. ^ Andrew Pyle (editor), Dictionary of Seventeenth Century British Philosophers (2000), article on Casaubon, pp. 162–3.

References[edit]

  • R. W. Serjeantson, 'Casaubon, (Florence Estienne) Meric (1599–1671)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 8 Feb 2009
  • Ryan Stark, Rhetoric, Science, and Magic in Seventeenth-Century England (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2009), 146–73.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Casaubon, Florence Estienne Méric". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links[edit]