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de La Monnoye, Bernard (15th June 1641-15th October 1728)

He was a Poet, composer, translator, philologist, critic and lawyer born in Dijon, France, who received his first education in Jesuit schools.  It was here that he came to the notice of people when he wrote essays in French and Latin epigrams.

Following the wishes of his father he went to Orleans to become a law student and in between his studies there he continued with his love of literature and interest in authors.

In 1662 he went back home where he start practicing law at the Dijon Parlament,  but this was relatively short lived as he wanted to pursue his love of literature.  He took the decision to leave the bar with the excuse that he was having health problems.

He became known in Dijon’s intellectual circles and spent his time involved with them and reading.  His love of literature saw him writing his own material and in 1671 he wrote a poetic essay where he discussed “the abolition of the duel” which won a contest at the French Academy.  This essay would gain praise from the French author Charles Perraultand further praise from Voltaire sometime later.

He went on to be the winner of the French Academy’s contest on four further occasions to the point that there was talk that there were thoughts of asking him to not to enter again so that other authors may be in with a chance of success.

In 1672 he decided to accept a position at the Court of Finances to assist with his living expenses and soon after became a married man.

During the 8 years that he remained at the Court of Finances he became a prolific writer of verse which began to gain him recognition and he was also noted for his hymns in written Latin and his translation of the poem “Gloss of Saint Therese” from Spanish to French.

He became a corresponding member of the Accademia dei Ricovrat in Padua in the mid 1680s and sometime during these years he translated works on cider, Champagne and Burgundy wine and composed about twelve riddles as a sonnet.

In 1700, going by the pseudonym Gui Barozai he wrote the carol collection called Thirteen Christmas which was followed by Sixteen More Christmas.  His composition “Guillo, pranton tamborin”, popularly known as “Patapan” is still regularly heard today.   The carols were not without their controversy, however, as a committee at the Sorbonne was posed a question by several priests who accused of it mocking the Bible.  He also saw the need to publish a Gloassary to accompany the carol after there were complaints about his use of the Bourgogne dialect when writing the carols.

He contributed to Dictionnaire by Pierre Bayle and became recognised as a philologist across Europe when he began corresponding with other scholars while concentrating on studies of historical authors and Greek literature among others. Before long he decided to move and in 1707 he settled in Paris.

In 1713 he became a member of the French Academy after having refused the offer of a place on several occasions.  Two years later he found himself needing legal help when he was working as an editor and added his own writings to Menagiana by Gilles Menage.  Although he had received the support of Cardinal de Rohan he was in trouble for not meeting his contractual obligations and it wasn’t long before he had to declare himself bankrupt. This was a difficult time where he lost all the money he had made and had to resort to selling the French Academy medals he had received.

His wife passed away around this time, leaving behind their four children, and life became even more difficult for him to endure.  He somehow managed to survive on money from his book sales as well as pensions of six hundred francs each given by his publisher and the Duke of Villeroy.

Bernard passed away in October 1728 when he was 87 years old.

The King’s Singers recordings
Patapan and Farandole (Bernard de la Monnoye/Georges Bizet/Jeremy Jackman)
EMI 49909 (CDA Little Christmas Music)
Jeremy Jackson – Countertenor and composer
Alastair Hume – Countertenor
Bob Chilcott – Tenor and Arranger
Bruce Russell – Baritone
Simon Carrington – Baritone
Stephen Connolly – Bass

Patapan recordings
Robert Shaw Chorale
RCA 6429 – 2 – RG (CD: A Festival of Carols)
(Arrangers – Robert Shaw/Alice Parker)

Dale Warland Singers + Ensemble
Gothic 49208 (CD: Christmas with the Dale Warland Singers)