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FRANÇOIS DE MALHERBE
Caen, 1555—1628, Paris After receiving an unusually excellent education, first in Caen, his native town, then in Paris, Basel, and Heidelberg, Malherbe went to Provence (1576), and spent a large part of the next twenty years there. In 1605 he went to Paris, where he became the first " écuyer du roi,” and, later, "gentilhomme ordinaire de la chambre.” Most of the remainder of his life was spent at the
He is best known as a lyric poet, though his verses hardly fill one small volume. And of the poems in this volume his reputation rests on a small number in which the ideas are simply and perfectly expressed. He left also an interesting correspondence.
His importance lies in the fact that he was the first to set forth the principles which in a sense reacted against, and in a sense organized, the chaotic individualism of the Renaissance. He aimed at simplicity, perfect clearness, and precision, and wanted to describe things in their most general features. He wrote slowly, with the utmost care and the most scrupulous attention to form. He had few ideas and was lacking in sentiment and imagination, but had great common sense, good taste, and an excellent choice of words. Balzac, Voiture, Vaugelas, the Academy, and the Hôtel de Rambouillet continued in the same direction, purifying and fixing the language, and making it the perfect means of expression which it became with Racine and Bossuet.
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