Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Henri De Maupas Du Tour: The Funeral Oration for Vincent De Paul, 23 November 1660

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Henri De Maupas Du Tour: The Funeral Oration for Vincent De Paul, 23 November 1660

Article excerpt

Henri de Maupas du Tour: The Funeral Oration for Vincent de Paul, 23 November 1660. Introduction, Translation, and Annotation by Edward R. Udovic, C.M. (Chicago: Vincentian Studies Institute, De Paul University. 2015. Pp. 223. $29.99 paperback. ISBN 978-1-936696-07-9.)

To the undergraduate, it may seem extravagant to devote an entire book to a single speech. But Udovic's attention in this elegant volume warrants the labor, and not simply because St. Vincent de Paul's career remains an intriguing chapter of early-modern French Catholicism. Scholars are only just now beginning to submit the life of Vincent and the ministries of his followers to more heightened scrutiny, and justly so. The bolder accomplishments of Vincent's life are now well publicized: for instance, his foundation of the Congregation of the Mission in 1625 and his establishment, along with St. Louise de Marillac, of the Daughters of Charity in 1633. Yet historians have much work to do in measuring his exact influence in French dévot circles, the extent of his collaboration with lay patrons, and the cumulative effects on the French Church of his lengthy career. Udovic begins here with an essential part of this task: probing the utterances, myths, and assertions advanced by contemporary commentators like Henri de Maupas du Tour. Starting with the work by Maupas du Tour (1606-80) is eminently sensible: he was a seasoned disciple and collaborator of Vincent, he was prominent among dévot circles in his own right, and he was the first to publicly comment on Vincent's life and merits.

The reader would do well to approach this work with two observations in mind. The first is that Vincent remains a difficult subject to the scientific biographer, and second that Maupas du Tour's eulogy is not a scientific biography. Vincent was notoriously restrained in his correspondence and sometimes cryptic; so interpreting his life makes acute demands on the analyst. Moreover, when he wrote his oration, Maupas du Tour assuredly did not consult the more than 30,000 letters Vincent bequeathed to historians. As well as remembering the enormous scope of this particular subject's activity, Maupas du Tour's text must also be foregrounded with the special exigencies placed on the eulogist in composing a life prior to Vincent's canonization in 1737, added with the tailored literary demands of the seventeenth century. …

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