Jean d'Hesnault (1611 - 1682) Frans epicuristisch dichter zou Spinoza bezocht hebben

Bij het speuren naar sporen die naar Spinoza leiden, kwam ik een tekst tegen over de dichter Jean d’Henaut over wie ik aanvankelijk verder niets kon vinden tot ik Jean Hesnault ingaf en op de Franse wikipedia de hit kreeg: Jean Hesnault ou d'Hénault ou de Hénault (1611-1682) est un poète français, libertin de mœurs et de pensée, ami de Molière et de Chapelle. Il traduisit notamment des poèmes antiques de tendance matérialiste (début du De natura rerum de Lucrèce, chœur du second acte de la Troade de Sénèque...). 1

Frans epicuristisch dichter uit de 17e eeuw, zoon van een Parijse bakker, leerling van Gassendi, ging naar Holland om Spinoza te ontmoeten. Volgens Bayle, die een artikel had over Hesnault, beleed hij het atheïsme en fabriceerde hij drie verschillende teksten over de sterfelijkheid van de ziel. Zijn meest bekende sonnet gaat over abortus. 2  

In eerste instantie was ik bij hem als Henaut terechtgekomen in A New and General Biographical Dictionary, 3 waarin wordt verteld dat hij van Parijs naar Holland vertrok om Spinoza te ontmoeten. Dat had mij nieuwsgierig gemaakt. Ik neem hierna deze tekst in dit blog op.

Uit weer een ander bericht, dat ik daarna citeer, valt op te maken dat deze reis naar Spinoza plaats had ten tijde van de veldtocht van Lodewijk XIVe naar de Nederlanden – dus in 1672. Je zou dan meer willen weten, vooral omdat zo uitdrukkelijk wordt verteld dat hij deze kant op kwam om Spinoza te zien. Zou hij met dat leger meegekomen zijn? En zou hij echt tot bij Spinoza gekomen zijn? Spinoza zou weinig met hem hebben opgehad, volgens de schrijver van het volgend lemma, maar waar hij die informatie van heeft horen we niet?

HENAUT (john D'), A French poet4, was the son of a baker at Paris, and at first a receiver of the taxes at Fores. Then he travelled into Holland and England, and was employed by the superintendant Fouquet, who was his patron. After his return to France, he soon became distinguished as one of the finest geniuses of his age; and gained a prodigious reputation by his poetry. His sonnet on the miscarriage of Mad. de Guerchi5 is looked upon as a master-piece, though it is not written according to the rules of art, and though there happened to be a barbarism in it. He also wrote a satirical poem against the minister Colbert, which is reckoned by Boileau6 among his best pieces. This was written, by way of revenging the disgrace and ruin of his patron Fouquet7, which Henaut ascribed to Colbert: but the minister did not act upon this occasion as Richelieu would have done, but with more good sense and generosity. Being told of this sonnet, which made a great noise, he asked, "Whether there were any satirical strokes in it against the king?" and being informed there were not, "Then," said he, "I shall not mind it, nor shew the least resentment against the author." Henaut was a man who loved to refine on pleasures, and to debauch with art and delicacy: and so far, considering him as a poet, proper allowances might be made. But he was strangely wrongheaded in one respect for he professed Atheism8, and gloried in it with uncommon affectation. He went to Holland, on purpose to visit Spinoza, who nevertheless did not much esteem him. Spinoza considered him probably as one of those fashionable gentry, which every country abounds with, who are ready to take up singularities in religion, not from rational conviction, but from a profligate spirit of vain-glory: and on this account might be led to despise the man, whatever he might determine of his opinions. Spinoza did not mistake him, if he considered him in this light; for when sickness and death came to stare him in the face, things took a very different turn. Henaut then became a convert, and was for carrying matters to the other extreme; for his confessor was forced to prevent his receiving the Viaticum or Sacrament, with a halter about his neck, in the middle of his bed-chamber. This is almost always the case; men believe or disbelieve, have religion or none, without ever consulting reason, but just as constitution and humour direct; and so it is, that they usually behave ridiculously in whichever state we view them. He died in 1682. He had printed at Paris, 1670, in l2mo, a small collection of his works, under the title of "Oeuvres Diverses," "Miscellanies:" containing sonnets, and letters in verse and prose to Sappho, who was -probably the celebrated madam des Houlieres9, to whom he had the honour to be preceptor. Among these is the following imitation from this passage in the second act of Seneca's "Thyestes:"

“Illi mors gravis incubat,
“Qui notus nimis omnibus,
“Jgnotus moritur sibi."

“Heureux est l’inconnu, qui s'est bien su connoître:
“II ne voit pas de mal à mourir plus qu'a naître :
“II s'en va comme il est venu.

“Mais helas! que la mort fait une horreur extreme:
“A qui meurt de tous trop connu,
“Et trop peu connu de foy-même!"

That is, " Happy is the obscure man, who is well known to himself: he sees no more harm in dying, than in being born: he leaves the world as he came into it. But alas! how extremely horrible must death be to that man, who dies too much known to others, and too little to himself !" This shews the philosopher as well as the poet, and is equally distant from atheism and superstition: "O, si sic omnia dixisset."—Henaut had translated three books of Lucretius: but his confessor having raised in him scruples and fears, he burnt this work, so that there remains nothing of it, but the first 100 lines, which had been copied by his friends. Voltaire says, that "he would have gained great reputation, had these books that were loft been preserved, and been equal to what we have of this work." 3  

Uit Phönix aus der Asche? Politik und Kultur der niederländischen Republik im Europa des 17. Jahrhunderts. 

Die Gier nach Geld und Gewinn, hier und da einmal als Sparsamkeit apostrophiert, scheint nach Ansicht der meisten die Lebenseinstellung dirigiert zu haben. Und damit war im übrigen nicht nur der Handelsgewinn der großen kaufleute gemeint, sondern auch die untere Ebene der Hoteliers, Restaurateure und Kutschenvermieter. Es scheint, als ob dies eine gemeinsame Erfahrung aller Nationen gewesen sei. Zu der Zeit, als Ludwig XIV. seinen Angriff auf die Republiek begann, verdichtete sich diese Feststellung, die mehr denn je zur Ablehnung wurde. Jean Hesnault hat diese Manie, rasch und schnell zu Geld zu kommen, selbst in einem längeren Sonett angeprangert. Es mag dann unter dem Eindruck der kriegerischen Ereignisse entstanden sein, leztlich ist er aber nichts anderes als das in Verse umgesetzte allgemeine Unbehagen über diesen Characterzug.*) Zugleich bemängelten Franzosen die geringe Urbanität der der Bewohner einer ausgeschrochenen Städtelandschaft. Dazu gehörte die Unfähigkeit, Konversation zu machen - eine Eigenschaft, die im eigenen Lande so geplegt wurde -, und wenn man sich über einen Mann wie Constantijn Hugens in diser Hinsicht so positiv ausließ, dann handelte es sich eben um eine Ausnahme. Dazu trat, wie häufig zu lesen steht, ein kaum noch zu überbietendse Phlegma, das durchaus als praktisch umgesetzter Stoizismus gedeuted wurde. 10

*) Angeführt bei R. Murris, La Hollande et les Hollandais au XVIIe et au XVIIIe siècles vu par les Français, Paris 1925, S. 70f

 

Noten

1  http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Hesnault

2  Joseph Mazzini Wheeler: A Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers of All Ages and Nations. BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2008, p.167 books.google.nl/books?id=aE9tjvxrGHcC ook hier bij archive.org

3 A New and General Biographical Dictionary: Containing an Historical and Critical Account of the Lives and Writings of the Most Eminent Persons in Every Nation; Particularly the British and Irish; from the Earliest Accounts of Time to the Present Period.
Volume 7 van Printed for W. Strahan, 1784, p. 27-28
books.google.nl  

 4 Niet te verwarren met Charles Jean François Hénault (1685 - 1771), en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles-Jean-Fran%C3%A7ois_H%C3%A9nault

5 Mademoiselle de Guerchi was gescheiden van de Duc de Vitry en was gestorven aan een infectie die ze had opgelopen bij een abortus-poging. Het was een sensatie in parijs. Haar begrafenis op Saint Eustache werd verboden.
Londa L. Schiebinger: Plants and empire: colonial bioprospecting in the Atlantic world. Harvard University Press, 2004, p. 123. books.google.nl/books?id=N-4Edw8AaBcC
Zie ook Howard W. Haggard: From Medicine Man to Doctor: The Story of the Science of Healing. Courier Dover Publications, 2004, p. 63
books.google.nl/books?id=LoztVYnYv5QC
Zie ook CELEBRATED CRIMES, COMPLETE - BY ALEXANDRE DUMAS PERE (1802-1870), IN EIGHT VOLUMES. Angelique-Louise de Guerchi
www.gutenberg.org/files/2749/2749.txt

6 Nicolas Boileau (1636 – 1711) http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolas_Boileau

7 Nicolas Fouquet (1650 – 1680) nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolas_Fouquet

8 Hij was leerling van Gassendi. Molière est le plus illustre des élèves de Gassendi, et cependant il ne nous retiendra pas longtemps, parce que l’influence de son maître est moins saisissable chez ce poète que chez Sorbière et Bernier. Nous l’avons laissé, dans la compagnie de ce dernier, de Chapelle, de Hesnault et de Cyrano, suivant les leçons de philosophie que leur donnait chaque soir le complaisant chanoine de Digne, devenu l’hôte de son ami Luillier. Le professeur communiqua sans doute à ses disciples l’admiration qu’il ressentait pour la poésie si vigoureuse et si brillante de Lucrèce, car nous voyons les jeunes Hesnault et Molière entreprendre la traduction du poème De Rerum natura. [van hier]

9 Deshoulières, Madame Antoinette (ca. 1634-1694), studying prosody under the direction of the poet Jean Hesnault [van hier] Literary historians have long recognized Antoinette du Ligier de la Garde, Mme Deshoulières (1638-1694), as a leading poet during the reign of Louis XIV. Starting in 1672, Deshoulières published a series of poems that earned her contemporary acclaim as “the tenth muse” and “the French Calliope.” Her verse covered a wide range of genres: odes, idylls, sonnets, rondeaux, maxims, portraits, biblical paraphrases, and translations from Latin. Her poetry alternated between light satire, in the disguise of dog-and-cat epistles, and solemn panegyrics, in the form of odes on the triumphs of Louis XIV. In the field of drama, Deshoulières com- posed a comedy (Eaux de Bourbon), tragedies (Genséric, Jules-Antoine), even an opera libretto (Zoroastre). [van hier]

10 Horst Lademacher: Phönix aus der Asche? Politik und Kultur der niederländischen Republik im Europa des 17. Jahrhunderts. Volume 16 van Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur Nordwesteuropas. Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für niederrheinische Kulturgeschichte und Regionalentwicklung der Universität Duisburg-Essen. Waxmann Verlag, 2007, p. 110 books.google.nl/books?id=YHBatDVjh_oC