vices of the original Characters of Theophrastus (The Talker, Of Dissimulation), was a move calculated to inflame the ill-intentioned curiosity of the gossip-ridden society of Louis XIV's France. The clés (anonymously published lists purporting to match the Characters with real personalities of the day) that proliferated in the wake of the Caractères'success were therefore a distinctly predictable result, even a necessary element in his audience's reception of his work. In this light, the Caractères appears as a form of moral instruction that was well adapted to its "pupils," playing on the essentially amoral and irrational energies of their imagination to lead them towards reason and self-correction. We need to see La Bruyère therefore not only as a lay preacher, a prototypical writer or philosophe,4 but also as a pedagogue. La Bruyère was no stranger to pedagogy. His first appearance on the public stage was his appointment in the Summer of 1684 as preceptor to the fourteen year old Duke Louis of Bourbon, grandson of the Great Condé and cousin of Louis XIV. Equally, from the late 1670s on, his closest intellectual ties were with the so-called Petit Concile, a Christian reformist discussion group, led by Bishop Bossuet. Bossuet
French Forum – University of Nebraska Press
Published: May 1, 2001
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