Jesuit theologian, literary critic, and historian of the Jansenist movement; b. Tours, France, Nov. 3, 1621; d. Paris, Oct. 27, 1687. Rapin entered the Society of Jesus in 1639, and taught rhetoric for nine years at Tours and Paris before commencing his career as an author. He wrote many theological and ascetical works, such as L'Esprit du christianisme (Paris 1672), La Perfection du christianisme (Paris 1673), and La Foi des derniers siècles (Paris 1679). His chief importance, however, lies in the prominent part he played against the Jansenists. His lively Histoire du Jansénisme (ed. E. Domenech, Paris 1861) and its sequel, Mémoires sur l'Église … (ed. L. Aubineau, 3 v. Paris 1865), despite strong bias, greatly illumine their subject.
As a Latin versifier and literary critic, Rapin enjoyed an even greater reputation among his contemporaries. They acclaimed his Hortorum libri IV (Paris 1665) worthy of the Age of Augustus. This work encouraged the vogue for "Nature" gardens, themselves part of the wider cult of "Nature" that permeated philosophy, literature, and the arts until at least the French Revolution. His influence is also recognizable in the writings of Jean de La Bruyère. Despite Rapin's conservatism, apparent for example in his Réflexions sur la poetique d'Aristote … (Paris 1676), in which he champions the "ancients" against the "moderns" in that famous quarrel, his literary criticism reflects originality.
Bibliography: j. orcibal, Les Origines du jansénisme, 5 v. (Louvain 1947–62) v. 3. e. b. o. borgerhoff, The Freedom of French Classicism (Princeton 1950). f. courel, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiberg 1957–65) 8:992–993. p. galtier, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50) 13.2:1663. c. sommervogel et al., Bibliothéque de la Compagnie de Jésus (Brussels-Paris 1890–1932) 6:1443–58.
[j. q. c. mackrell]