Arnauld Family

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ARNAULD FAMILY. Three generations of the Arnauld family played significant roles in the political, religious, philosophical, and literary worlds of the seventeenth century. A parliamentary family, they were well-known figures of the noblesse de robe ('nobility of the robe'), a class of hereditary nobles in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France who acquired their rank by holding high state offices. The Arnaulds were prominently associated with Port-Royal des Champs ('Port-Royal of the Fields'), a convent of Cistercian nuns near Versailles, and members of the Jansenist movement. The Jansenists, under the guidance of Jean Duvergier de Hauranne, abbot of Saint-Cyran, constituted the Augustinian current of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, and read the Augustinus (1640) of Jansenius, bishop of Ypres, as a faithful translation of Augustinian doctrine.

The first generation was that of Antoine Arnauld (15601619), called the "lawyer," who married Catherine Marion. In July 1594, after an assassination attempt against Henry IV, he represented the University of Paris and pleaded against the Jesuits before the Parlement of Paris. A second assassination attempt by Jean Chastel on Henry IV led to the expulsion of the Jesuits from the jurisdiction of the Parlement of Paris in December of that year. The Arnaulds thus became known as important figures in the Parliamentarian and Gallican (Church of France) worlds, both intensely opposed to the influence of the Jesuits, the main instruments of Vatican policy and doctrine in France.

Antoine Arnauld and Catherine Marion had twenty children, of whom ten survived. The eldest of these was Robert Arnauld d'Andilly (15891674). Although his political ambitions were dampened by Cardinal Richelieu, he was a prominent figure at court, and much appreciated by Anne of Austria, Louis XIV's mother. After joining the Solitaires (hermits devoted to study) at Port-Royal, he translated the Church Fathers. Alceste, in Molière's Le misanthrope, is probably a caricature of this courtier who "preached solitude in the midst of the court" and led a number of influential ladies (Mme. de Longueville, the Princess de Guémené [Louise de Montbazon], Mme. de Sablé, Mme. de Caumartin, and others) to take an interest in the affairs of Port-Royal.

The second child of Antoine Arnauld and Catherine Marion was Catherine (15901651), who married Isaac Le Maistre; their sons were to become famous as Solitaires of Port-Royal. The third child, Jacqueline (15911661), was to become a famous abbess of Port-Royal under the name of Mère Angélique. It was she who, in 1609, inspired the return of Port-Royal to the strict observance of monastic discipline. Her sister Jeanne (15931671), fifth child and third daughter, also became abbess of Port-Royal, while three other daughters became nuns there. Their brother Henri (15971692) became bishop of Angers and played a prominent role in the opposition of the Port-Royalist movement to the obligation, imposed by the archbishop of Paris and the ecclesiastical hierarchy, to sign the formulary, a formal denunciation of the heresy of Jansenius.

The youngest son and twentieth child of Antoine Arnauld was named Antoine (16121694). Known as the "great Arnauld," he was the theologian of Port-Royal, a vigorous enemy of the Jesuits, and the philosophical opponent of Malebranche (16381715), the Oratorian philosopher. His defense of the Jansenists led to his exclusion from the Faculty of Theology at the Sorbonne, and, thus, indirectly to the campaign of the Provincial Letters written by his friend Blaise Pascal (under the pseudonym Montalte) against Jesuit theological and moral doctrines. In 1668, Antoine Arnauld successfully negotiated the "Peace of the Church," a momentary lull in the persecution of Port-Royal, which allowed him and his colleague Pierre Nicole to devote their energies to anti-Protestant controversy.

The death of Mme. de Longueville in 1679, however, brought an end to her protection of the monastery. When Louis XIV let it be known that he planned to put an end to the Jansenist movement, Arnauld and Nicole fled to the Netherlands. Nicole was to negotiate his return a few years later, but Arnauld refused any compromise. He traveled incognito and pursued his writings: religious polemics against the Jesuits and philosophical treatises against Malebranche. Jurieu's violent tract, L'esprit de M. Arnauld (1684; The spirit of Mr. Arnauld), had silenced Arnauld in anti-Protestant controversy, but the harm was done, and the Edict of Nantes was revoked the following year. Arnauld died in exile in 1694, and his heart was brought back to Port-Royal des Champs.

The history of the following generation concerns two families: the children of Robert Arnauld d'Andilly and those of Catherine Arnauld by Isaac Le Maistre. Arnauld d'Andilly had ten children, of whom five daughters were to become nuns at Port-Royal. A sixth was raised at the same monastery. The most famous of his daughters was Angélique de Saint-Jean (16241684), who became abbess of Port-Royal. His two eldest sons, Antoine (16161698), later known as the Abbot Arnauld, and Simon (16181699), marquis de Pomponne, were educated by Martin de Barcos, nephew of Saint-Cyran and, like his uncle, abbot at Saint-Cyran. Their father gave marked preference to Simon, who inherited the family estate of Pomponne and became secretary of state for foreign affairs to Louis XIV. He fulfilled his father's political ambitions, played a prominent role in the life of the literary salons, invited Molière to perform his plays in his home, and maintained the allegiance of the Arnauld family to Port-Royal. His brother, the Abbot Arnauld, recorded his disappointment in his Memoirs, often published with those of his father. Their two brothers, Charles-Henry de Luzancy (16231684) and Jules-Armand de Villeneuve (16341657), were both brought up in the petites écoles of Port-Royal, in the company of Jean Racine, the playwright, Pierre Le Pesant de Boisguilbert, the economist, and Pascal's nephew, Étienne Périer.

The five sons of Catherine Arnauld and Isaac Le Maistre all became Solitaires at Port-Royal. Antoine (16081658), a prominent attorney, was guided by Saint-Cyran and retired from public life in 1637. His life provides a striking example of the Port-Royalist conception of a life given to religious values, one incompatible with the social values of honnêteté ('politeness'). His example was followed by his brothers, Jean Le Maistre de Saint-Elme (c. 1609c. 1690), Simon Le Maistre de Séricourt (16121650), and Charles Le Maistre de Valmont (c. 16141652), all of whom remained laymen. Their brother Louis-Isaac Le Maistre de Saci (16131684), who had been guided, with his brother Antoine, by Saint-Cyran, became a priest and confessor of Port-Royal in 1649. He inspired the great Port-Royal translation of the Bible and is also well known for his discussion with Pascal on his conception of apologetics: the Entretien de Pascal avec M. de Sacy (Pascal's discussion with Mr. de Sacy), in which Augustine provides the solution to the philosophical opposition between Epictetus the Stoic and Montaigne the skeptic.

More than thirty members of the Arnauld family played a role in the history of Port-Royal, and a number of them figured prominently in the political, theological, philosophical, and literary worlds of the seventeenth century; their lives illustrate the profound influence of Port-Royal Augustinianism on French culture in the classical age.

See also Cartesianism ; Henry IV (France) ; Jansenism ; Jesuits ; Louis XIV (France) ; Nantes, Edict of ; Pascal, Blaise ; Skepticism.


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Antony McKenna

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