Jean Bouchet

Jean Bouchet

Jean Bouchet

Jean Bouchet

Excerpt

Jean Bouchet is well known to students of Renaissance France as the longest surviving rhétoriqueur poet. He has found a place in many specialised studies, but no general study of his work has been undertaken since Auguste Hamon's biography in 1901. Hamon's book, although still very useful as an account of Bouchet's life, is by now, after eighty years' work on the French Renaissance, inadequate as an introduction to Bouchet's work. Bouchet, poet, historian, moralist and religious writer, composing works between 1496 and 1557, is recognised to be a significant figure from many different points of view. First of all, although he spent most of his life in Poitiers, he met or corresponded with a large number of important people and is sometimes a unique source of information about them. He appears to have had considerable influence on the development of the production of mystery plays throughout his region of France. From a literary point of view, we can see him as a poet adapting a taste formed before 1500 as he reacts to the changed aesthetics of a different age. In the course of his long life he saw both the early percolation of humanism into France and the first flowering of the French Renaissance, and we find in his work a curious blending of encouragement and resistance to the renewal of classical influence. Finally, the subject matter of most of his work is of interest because it summarises the fruits of his own wide reading and was intended to benefit those who knew no Latin.

Herein lies Bouchet's major importance as a writer. It was his books of information and instruction that won him his widest readership among his contemporaries. He was a populariser of knowledge; legal, moral, historical and theological. He is a determinedly Christian writer in one of the most confused periods of the Church's history, and his success in appealing to readers of religious literature justifies a close consideration of the stance he adopted. He is at once an eloquent critic of the shortcomings of the Church and one of the very earliest writers in French attempting to combat Lutheranism by providing alternative instruction in French. Bouchet intends his instruction to be a summary of the Catholic Church's teaching and his readers accepted it as such; he can there-

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