Jean Passerat (1534 - 1602)
: A critical biography, and study of selected works

  • Roger Patterson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is concerned with critical appreciations of the life and works of Jean Passerat (1534- 1602). This approach has been made necessary by the failure of most earlier biographers to portray Passerat as anything more than a moderately talented French poet with Pleiade connections, whilst almost totally ignoring his work as one of France's leading late sixteenth-century humanists. Consequently, this has adversely affected the proper appreciation of Passer at as a literary critic and classical philologist, whose Latin scholarship enjoyed an impressive European reputation during his lifetime.

Unfortunately, this failure is symptomatic of the lack of recent research into even the most important scholars: indeed, the only humanists who have been adequately treated are Jean Dorat and Joseph Scaliger. Biography is one of the fundamental building-blocks of literary history, since it casts new light on much more than the individual concerned by illuminating his associates, their lives and their literary interests, and by adding to our general historical awareness. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that more work of a biographical nature - and taking full advantage of modern research methods – should be carried out in the field of French Renaissance studies.

From the outset, the aim of my research was to unearth as much new information on Passerat as was possible, in order to build up a thorough and accurate picture of his background, education, and career: thus the sources consulted included all Passerat's earlier biographies, plus the speeches of humanist colleagues, civil and religious registers, dedicatory verse, letters, memoirs, and above all Passerat's own works.

The latter were of particular significance, in that the scholar's personality, his literary and political interests, and the true nature of the contribution he made to French Renaissance literature were most clearly visible in his extant printed (and manuscript) works. It was this factor which led naturally to the bibliographical portion of this thesis. Given the importance of knowing the full range of matters to which Passerat turned his mind (serious and comic, Latin and French, literary and political, sacred and profane), and given the unreliability of current bibliographies, I decided to undertake a bibliographical trawl of the holdings of European and North American libraries. This research has established for the first time a complete list of Passerat's printed works (a number of which are extremely rare and so were never widely known) - and succeeded in discovering one completely unknown political pamphlet, which will be reproduced in an appendix .

The interrelation of the bibliograpical and biographical sections of this thesis also involved the study of two popular encomia (namely, Le Polimetrie, and Tout) which are commonly attributed to Passerat. These attributions - which are in many ways indicative of the total failure of bibliographers and biographers properly to appreciate that the works most typical of Passerat were erudite and Latin, and not French - have been shown to be erroneous in each case. The study of Le Polimetrie was published in French Studies, 45, No. 3 (1991), pp. 257-67.
Date of AwardJul 1992
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorJohn Lewis (Supervisor)

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