La Bruyère, Jean de

La Bruyère, Jean de zhäN də lä brüyĕrˈ [key], 1645–96, French writer. He lived (1684–96) as tutor in the house of the prince de Condé. His great work, Les Caractères de Théophraste, traduits du grec; avec Les Caractères ou les mœurs de ce siècle, appeared in 1688 and subsequently in revised and augmented editions until the ninth (1696). The first, and least, part of this work is a translation of Theophrastus; the balance is a series of random character sketches, maxims, and literary discussions, written in a terse, ironic style. La Bruyère's strong moral views on the contemporary economy, on the widespread poverty, and on the idle life of the nobility gained lasting attention. He was less a reformer than a detached observer. A defender of classical writers in the “quarrel of the ancients and moderns,” he was admitted to the French Academy in 1693.

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