Dacier, Anne (1654–1720)

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Dacier, Anne (1654–1720)

French scholar, linguist, and translator. Name variations: Anne LeFèvre, Lefevre, Lefebvre, or Le ferre; Anne Tanneguy Lefèvre; Madame Dacier. Born Anne Lefebvre in Saumur, France, in March 1654; died in Paris on August 17, 1720; buried beside her husband in the Church of Saint Germain l'Auxerrois; daughter of (Latinized) Tanquillus Faber also known as Tannegui or Tanneguy Lefebvre (1615–1672, a humanist, classical scholar, teacher at the Protestant Academy at Saumur, and editor) and Madame Lefebvre; educated by her father; married Jean Lesnier (a printer and bookseller); married André Dacier (a scholar), in 1683 (died 1722); children: two daughters, Henriette-Susanne Dacier and Marie Dacier ; one son, Jean-Andre.

Appointed to the Ricrovati Academy in Padua. Selected works: translations of Marcus Aurelius; the first French translations of Sappho, Plautus, Aristophanes, Terence, Anacreon, and Homer (possibly in conjunction with her mother and husband).

Anne Lefebvre was born in Saumur, France, to a learned family. Her father Tanneguy Lefebvre was a classical scholar who taught at the Protestant Academy in the town. Her mother Madame Lefebvre was also schooled. Though Anne's brothers were not interested in the Greek and Latin taught them by their father, Anne, overhearing their lessons, took well to the studies. Upon seeing his daughter's extraordinary capacity for learning, Tanneguy devoted himself to her education, making Anne unusually well versed for a woman of her time. She became one of the most accomplished scholars in Europe. Following the death of her father in 1672, and facing financial difficulties, she married Jean Lesnier, a printer and bookseller. Anne was soon on her own again, although it is unknown whether he died or left her.

She moved to Paris, where she began working as a translator, publishing an edition of the works of the 3rd-century Greek scholar Callimachus, head of the Alexandrian library. The reputation acquired by this work gained her an invitation to assist in the preparation of the Delphin editions of the classics. In 1683, she married André Dacier, a member of the French Academy who had been a favorite pupil of her father; for many years, André and Anne had shared his classroom. This union was dubbed "the marriage of Greek and Latin." They lived in Paris for 45 years, mostly in an apartment in the Louvre, a fashionable indulgence granted to them by the king. Anne's three children, including a gifted daughter, died before she did, and her ensuing sorrow led her to abandon scholarship for the remainder of her life.

Despite the brevity of her intellectual career, Dacier is recognized as one of the most accomplished French scholars of the 17th century. She corresponded with Queen Christina of Sweden , among others, and translated several plays of Plautus, the whole of Terence, the Plutus and Clouds of Aristophanes, Plutarch's Lives, and the whole of Anacreon and Sappho . She is particularly known for her translation of Marcus Aurelius and Homer. Although Dacier was aided by her mother and her husband in the Marcus Aurelius translation, the preface, which drew most of the praise, is thought to be hers alone.

Dacier's classical interpretation of Homer's Iliad was at odds with the travestied Iliad, based on her work, that was published by her contemporary Houdar de La Motte. Provoked, Dacier defended the ancient text. The longstanding controversy between Ancients and Moderns was thus rekindled, and others joined in the heated debate concerning their comparative merits. Dacier and La Motte reconciled in 1716, and both of their translations have seen modern-day reissues.


Atherton, Margaret. Women Philosophers of the Early Modern Period. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994.

Kersey, Ethel M. Women Philosophers: a Bio-critical Source Book. CT: Greenwood Press, 1989.

Smith, Christopher. "Anne Lefebvre Dacier," in Katharina Wilson, ed., Encyclopedia of Continental Women Writers. CT: Garland, 1991.

Catherine Hundleby , M.A. Philosophy, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada