April 25, 2013


Storyteller and humanist who attained notoriety as a freethinker.

In 1533 or 1534 Des Périers visited Lyons, then the most enlightened town of France and a refuge for many liberal scholars.

He assisted Robert Olivétan and Lefèvre d´Etaples in the preparation of the vernacular version of the Old Testament and Étienne Dolet in the Commentariorum linguae Latinae.

Marguerite d´Angoulême, Queen of Navarre, made him her valet de chambre in 1536. He acted as her secretary and transcribed her Heptaméron. His duties may have extended beyond those of a mere copyst; some writers have maintained that the Heptaméron was his work.

The free discussions permitted at Marguerite´s court encouraged a license of thought as displeasing to the Calvinists as to the Catholics; it became skepticism in Des Périers´s Cymbalum Mundi (1537), a brilliant and violent attack upon Christianity. The allegorical form of its four dialogues in imitation of Lucian did not conceal its real meaning and the Sorbonne was able to have it suppressed (c. 1538) but it was reprinted in Paris in the same year. Althoug the queen disavowed the author, she continued to help him privately. His book made many bitter enemies for Des Périers who prudently left Paris and settled at Lyons. Tradition has it that he killed himself in 1544, but this is questionable (?).

In 1544 his collected works, Recueil des oeuvres de feu Bonaventure des Périers were printed at Lyons. The volume included his poems, the Traité des quatre vertus cardinales après Sénèque and a translation of the Lysis of Plato. The collection of stories and fables entitled the Nouvelles récréations et joyeux devis on which his fame rests appeared at Lyons in 1558. The stories are models of simple, direct narration in the vigorous, witty and picturesque French of the 16th century.

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