RABELAIS

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RABELAIS, Francois, a humorous and satirical French writer, author of Gargantua and Pantagruel, born at Chin on, in Touraine, about 1483, was the son of an apothecary, or, according to some, of an innkeeper. Rabelais entered the Franciscan order at FontenayleComte; but the absence of all true learning soon disgusted him with this residence, and his satirical humor and some youthful indiscretions drew upon him the hatred of the monks. With the permission of Clement VII he now entered the Benedictine order (about 1523), but soon after went to Montpellier as a secular priest, and afterwards studied medicine, received the degree of doctor, and taught and practised the medical profession. Remorse or fear induced him to procure, from Paul III, absolution for the violation of his monastic vows, and he spent some time as canon in the abbey of SaintMaurdesFosses, where he was placed by the interest of his patron, the cardinal du Bellay, and where he is supposed to have written a considerable part of his Pantagruel. He was afterwards transferred to Meudon, as parish priest. He died at Paris, in 1553. Voltaire censures the Gargantua and Pantagruel, in which the taste of the age for the wonderful and the ignorance of the monks are severely satirized ; but the buffoonery which it contains must be attributed to the spirit of the age, and not to the taste of Rabelais, who is, however, much below Cervantes in humor. He was one of the first to give flexibility and finish to the yet rude and harsh language of his country. Boileau calls him la raison en masque, and Rousseau, le gentil maitre Franpois. Rabelais was a conscientious teacher of his people, and it was his pleasure to instruct the children of his parish in sacred music. His house was the resort of the learned; his purse was always open to the needy ; and his medical skill was employed in the service of his parish. His work cannot now be easily understood without glossaries and commentaries, the best of which is in the edition of Le Duchat, with engravings by Picart.