DOLET, Etienne

Etienne Dolet's unflagging pursuit of his own Ciceronian and Aristotelian intellectual ideals and his reckless disregard for the opinion of others in the dangerous time of the Inquisition led to his death in the Place Maubert in Paris. By then, however, he had managed to write and print several of his own works and translations, including important texts on language, and had edited and printed an impressive number of works by French, Latin, and Greek authors whom we now associate with the central debates of the early Renaissance and Reformation in France.
Dolet was born in 1509 in Orleans, France, where he received a liberal ed­ucation. At the age of twelve he traveled to Paris, where he studied rhetoric, particularly Cicero, whose work he admired and emulated throughout his life. Five years later Dolet journeyed to Italy, where he studied at the University of Padua for three years and in Venice for one year. The time spent in Padua had a profound impact on Dolet. There he studied with Aristotelian scholars who opposed Christian doctrine by rejecting belief in the immortality of the individ­ual soul. Along with Cicero's opinions, the ideas of the Aristotelians appealed to Dolet, who passionately opposed medieval superstition. Many of the ration­alist opinions Dolet learned in Italy later led his enemies to condemn him, despite no evidence of real atheism in his writings.
Dolet then returned to France to study law at the University of Toulouse, where he became known as an outspoken proponent of freethinking. Elected the official orator of the group of French students from the north, the Nation fran-caise, Dolet delivered two orations against what he called the stupidity, bigotry, and cruelty of the inhabitants and leaders of Toulouse. For Dolet, Toulouse, the seat of the Inquisition in France, represented medieval jurisprudence and the­ology in their most narrow-minded form. Dolet's speeches were so inflammatory that the authorities had little trouble bringing charges of heresy against him. Arrested and imprisoned, he was liberated by protectors and was then banished from the city. Heading for Italy, he passed through Lyon, where he immediately began working as reader and corrector for the printer Sebastian Gryphius.
While learning the trade with Gryphius, Dolet published his two speeches against Toulouse, the Orationes duae in Tholosam (1534). Soon thereafter, Dolet became a printer in his own right, having received the privilege royal, or king's authorization, in 1538. He remained a printer and editor in Lyon for the rest of his life. At his own press, Dolet published works he wrote, those he translated, and many texts by French, Greek, and Latin authors, including Clement Marot,* Francois Rabelais,* Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples,* Galen, Sophocles, Seneca, Cic­ero, the Psalms, and the Bible in French.
The Commentarii linguae latinae (Commentary on the Latin language, vol. 1, 1536, vol. 2, 1538), a sort of etymological dictionary of Latin, reflects Dolet's humanist background and belief in the value of studying classical languages and literature. Over the course of his life and work, Dolet, like many other humanists of his day, began increasingly to favor the use of the vernacular in printed texts. To counter his commentaries on the Latin language, Dolet envisioned a work of a similar scale in French, L'orateur françoys. We have only the first part of the project, entitled La manière de bien traduire d'une langue en autre, pub­lished in 1540, which marks the beginning of a long, important debate about language, spelling, translation, and imitation in the French Renaissance.
Dolet's intellectual convictions, along with a passionate and even aggressive personality, contributed to a prolific printing career, but also to a turbulent life and violent death. Not long after settling in Lyon, Dolet was involved in a fight with a man who apparently wanted to kill him. After mortally wounding his assailant, Dolet fled to Paris to ask for King Francois I's* pardon, which he received. He returned to Lyon, but in 1542 was arrested again and condemned for publishing heretical texts, probably at the instigation of vindictive fellow printers in Lyon, whom Dolet had criticized. Once again, Dolet sought and received the king's pardon. Dolet made many enemies, however, who continued to plot against him. Arrested once again, in 1544, for distributing heretical books in Paris, Dolet escaped his captors and fled to Italy. Returning too quickly to France, he was caught and imprisoned in Paris, where he was burned in 1546, along with a pile of his books, in the Place Maubert.
R. Christie, Etienne Dolet, the Martyr of the Renaissance, 1508-1546, 1899.
C. Longeon, ed., Bibliographie des oeuvres d'Etienne Dolet; Ecrivain, éditeur, et im­primeur, 1980.
V. Worth, Practicing Translations in Renaissance France: The Example of Extreme Dolet, 1988.
Karen S. James

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dolet, Etienne — (1509 1546)    humanist, printer    Born in Orléans, Etienne Dolet was a leading French humanist. He produced commentaries on the ancient authors and the Latin language (Com mentarii linguae latinae, 1536 38), as well as editions of clément marot …   France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present

  • Dolet, Étienne — ▪ French scholar and printer born Aug. 3, 1509, Orléans, France died Aug. 3, 1546, Paris  French humanist, scholar, and printer whose Commentarii linguae Latinae contributed notably to Latin scholarship. He is often described as “the first martyr …   Universalium

  • Dolet, Etienne — (1509 1546)    French humanist and printer, notorious in his own time for the boldness with which he denounced traditional learning in his own French and Latin writings and for the controversial or forbidden books (many of them written by early… …   Historical Dictionary of Renaissance

  • DOLET, ÉTIENNE —    a learned French humanist, born at Orleans, became, by the study of the classics, one of the lights of the Renaissance, and one of its most zealous propagandists; suffered persecution after persecution at the hands of the Church, and was… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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  • DOLET (É.) — DOLET ÉTIENNE (1509 1546) Après avoir fait à Paris des humanités classiques très soignées, Étienne Dolet entreprend le traditionnel tour des universités européennes, notamment à Padoue, qui est l’un des centres les plus réputés de l’humanisme… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Dolet — Dolet, Etienne, geb. um 1509 zu Orleans, Buchdrucker, Humanist und Poet in lat. und franz. Sprache, geistreich und witzig, aber ausgelassen und spottsüchtig. wurde mehr als einmal eingesetzt und begnadigt, endlich den 3. August 1546 zu Paris als… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

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