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François Hédelin, abbé d'Aubignac
His father practised at the Paris bar, and his mother was a daughter of the great surgeon Ambroise Paré. Francois Hédelin was educated for his father's profession, but, after practising some time at Nemours he abandoned law, took holy orders, amd was appointed tutor to one of Richelieu's nephews, the duc de Fronsac. This patronage secured for him the abbey Aubignac and of Mainac. The death of the duc de Fronsac 1646 put an end to hopes of further preferment, and the abbé d'Aubignac retired to Nemours, occupying himself with literature till his death.
He took an energetic share in the literary controversies of his time. Against Gilles Ménage he wrote a Térence justifié (1656); he laid claim having originated the idea of the Carte de tendre of Mlle de Scudéry's Clélié; and after being a professed admirer of Corneille turned against him because he had neglected to mention the abbé in his Discours sur le poème dramatique. He was the author four tragedies: La Cyminde (1642), La Pucelle d'Orléans (1642), Zénobie (1647) and Le Martyre de Sainte Catherine (1650). Zénobie was written with the intention of affording a model in which the strict rules of the drama, as understood by the theorists, were served.
In the choice of subjects for his plays, he seems to have been guided by a desire to illustrate the various kinds of tragedy--patriotic, antique and religious. The dramatic authors whom he was in the habit of criticizing were not slow to take advantage of the opportunity for retaliation offered by the production of these mediocre plays.
It is as a theorist that Aubignac still arrests attention. It has been proved that to Jean Chapelain belongs the credit of having been the first to play so large a part in the history of the French stage; but the laws of dramatic method and construction generally were codified by d'Aubignac in his Pratique du théâtre. The book was only published in 1657, but had been begun at the desire of Richelieu as early as 1640.
His Conjectures académiques ou dissertation sur l'Iliade d'Homère, which was not published until nearly forty years after his death, threw doubts on the existence of Homer, and anticipated in some sense the conclusions of Friedrich August Wolf in his Prolegomena ad Homerum (1795).
The contents of the Pratique du théâtre are summarized by Ferdinand Brunetière in his notice of Aubignac in the Grande Encyclopédie. See also G Saintsbury, Hist. of Criticism, bk v., and Hippolyte Rigault , Histoire de la querelle des anciens et modernes (1859).
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