MABLY, GABRIEL-BONNOT, ABBE DE ( 1709-85), philosophe. The abbé de Mably, one of the minor philosophes of the pre-Revolutionary period, was born at Grenoble on 14 March 1709. The abbé de Condillac, who became the foremost French exponent of the sensationalist psychology, was a brother, and the Mably family was allied with the family of Madame de Tencin and the cardinal de Tencin. It was because of these connections that Mably, after finishing his studies at the collège de Lyon, came to Paris and completed his education at the seminary of Saint-Sulpice. He entered the clergy and retained for the rest of his life the title of abbé, but he never advanced beyond the subdiaconate.
Mably's career began in the world of Madame de Tencin's salon in Paris and continued in the world of diplomacy. When cardinal de Tencin entered the ministry of Louis XV, Mably became his private secretary. During this period he drafted state documents, played a prominent role in diplomatic negotiations in the 1740s, and published a collection of international treaties in 1748.
By this time, however, he had broken with the cardinal and had retired from public life. He declined nomination to the French Academy when his writings later made this honor seem appropriate to his friends and devoted the rest of his years until his death on 23 April 1785 to a simple life of study, reflection, and writing.
His classical education had set the tone and provided the themes for much of his work. The austere morality preached by the Greek and Roman authors to which he had been introduced at school, and the simplicity of the Sparta of Lycurgus as described by Plutarch were constantly on his mind as he wrote in book after book on the necessary relationship between morality and politics and the ideal of the Spartan way of life.
His writings, which made up fifteen volumes in his collected works, included studies in diplomatic history, observations on Greek and Roman history, the history of France, the writing of history, observations on the constitutions of the