Longueil, Christophe de


Longueil, Christophe de
(ca. 1488-1522)
   French-Netherlandish humanist, born at Mechelen in Brabant to a local woman and an aristocratic French bishop who was French ambassador to the Netherlands. In 1497 his father sent him to study at the University of Paris. After his father's death in 1500 Longueil left school and began a military career, first in the service of King Louis XII of France, then in the service of Philip the Handsome, duke of Burgundy. After Duke Philip died in 1506, Longueil studied law at Bologna (1507) and then at Poitiers (1508-1510). His interest in natural science led to his being appointed to lecture on Pliny the Elder, a classical authority on scientific matters; he also lectured on the Pandects, a branch of Roman law. Pope Leo X granted Longueil a brief of legitimation, making him eligible for an honorary papal appointment and pension. In 1514 he received a doctorate in law from the University of Valence and delivered an oration in praise of law that was published there. He moved to Paris and was appointed to the Parlement of Paris. There he assisted the humanist and publisher Nicolas Bérault with a collection of various scholars' notes and commentaries on Pliny.
   In order to perfect his Greek, Longueil went to Rome, where he studied with Janus Lascaris and Marcus Musurus. He met other influential figures at the Curia, including Pietro Bembo, and associated with the Roman Academy, a sodality of enthusiasts for study of Roman antiquities. His acceptance among this group was a tribute to the pure Ciceronian style of his Latin. The discrepancy between his earlier expressions of French patriotism and his aspirations to be recognized at the curia as truly "Roman" involved him in an unpleasant personal conflict with rivals at Rome, and for a time he went back to France. He returned to Italy in 1519, first to Venice and the following year to Padua, where for a time he lived as a guest of Bembo. After the death of Pope Leo X, Longueil became the protégé of Reginald Pole, a cousin of Henry VIII of England. While a house guest of Pole at Padua, he fell ill and died. Pole wrote a biographical sketch that was prefixed to an edition of several of Longueil's works and letters.
   During his brief life, Longueil acquired a great reputation on account of his ability to write Ciceronian Latin. He was highly regarded by the influential French humanist Guillaume Budé, but his relations with the even more famous Dutch humanist Erasmus were cool, for Erasmus endorsed a more open, moderately eclectic style of Latin and was critical of those humanists (mostly Italians at the Roman curia) who regarded Cicero as the only proper model both for style and vocabulary. Since Longueil was the leading non-Italian supporter of this Ciceronianism, and since he was circumspectly but obviously critical of Erasmus' own Latin, an undercurrent of hostility grew up between them. Though Erasmus expressed regret at Longueil's premature death, when his Ciceronianus (1528) was published, repudiating the sterile purism and artificiality of the "Ciceronian" style of Latin, Longueil was a target of his criticism.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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