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Marc-Antoine Charpentier masterpage Word-Music Relations masterpage

Read more about Charpentier the man

Law Faculty Register:

Marc-Antoine Charpentier enters law school, October 1662

Note: in December 2013 one of my readers, a Latinist,
 corrected my expansion of the abbreviation "cæleb."
I have corrected my translation in green, below.


Thanks to historian Joseph Bergin, we know that, for a very short while, Marc-Antoine Charpentier had enrolled for a training in the law, perhaps for a career on the margins of the Parlement or the Châtelet, or perhaps in the Church where canon law was a key to advancement.

On October 24, 1662, Charpentier wrote out the following statement in the inscription register of the Paris Law Faculty, la Faculté de Droit (AN, MM 1059, p. 11). He apparently was so nervous that he misspelled his name: Anthonicus -- which he then corrected, trying not to call attention to the mistake by crossing something out. The result was closer to Anthoniust than to Anthonius.

Ego Marcus Anthonius Charpentier cœpi excipere scripta et lectiones DD Phylippi de Buzines et Joannes Doujat cæleb. anteces. die 24 oct. an 1662
        M A Charpentier Pari.


That is to say:

"I, Marc Anthoine Charpentier undertake to receive writing and reading [in law] from Dom Philippe de Buzines and Dom Jean Doujat, celebrated professors [caelebrium antecessorum], on the 24th day of October of the year 1662.
            M. A. Charpentier, Parisian"

These twenty-seven words teach us so much!

Thanks to this document we can infer that:

  •   on the eve of his nineteenth year, Marc-Antoine Charpentier ― who would become an acknowledged master at setting Latin devotional texts to music http://www.cmbv.com/fr/edit/livres/cmbv-hc2.htm was conversant in Latin and knew at least a modicum of Greek;
  •   he had completed the cursus in one of the Parisian collèges and had been awarded the degree of maître ès arts;
  •   the Talon-Voisin family -- who had attended the wedding of Marc-Antoine's sister only a few months earlier -- was watching over Marc-Antoine;
  •   Marc-Antoine may have entered into contact with Armand-Jean de Riants as early as 1662; and
  •   Marc-Antoine reveals some of his career aspirations as he began his twentieth year.

Let us look more closely at the information provided by this document.

Marc-Antoine Charpentier's education

The statutes of the Faculté de Droit stipulated that students "ne peuvent commencer l'étude de Droit qu'après la maîtrise-ès-arts, c'est-à-dire après avoir acquis les connaissances philosophiques et des éléments de la langue grecque et latine." (Marie-Antoinette Lemasne-Desjobert, La Faculté de Droit de Paris aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Paris: Cujas, 1966, p. 74.)

To earn a maîtrise, the student had to complete ten years of study in a collège and then pass an examination by which the University of Paris validated his accomplishments. (Students who had spent less than ten years in formal studies were sometimes permitted to take this examination.)

From the very first, a student at a collège was taught in Latin, spoke in Latin, wrote in Latin; he committed to memory a host of "commonplaces," lieux communs, and he then declaimed them in class. In other words, by the time he was eighteen, Marc-Antoine Charpentier had not only studied the classics, he had also acquired considerable proficiency in Latin grammar and had learned to declaim the language according to the rhetorical practices of his day.

Several Parisian collèges provided this sort of education and were preferred by parents who were planning a legal career for their child, as were either Marc-Antoine's late parents or the guardian appointed by the officials at the Châtelet. There were the Oratorian schools (especially the collège of Juilly, located just to the west of today's Charles de Gaulle Airport); the collèges run by the Doctrinaires (but these schools were primarily located in the South); and the Jesuit Collège de Clermont in Paris, renowned for its pedagogy. The course of study known as the modo parisiensis, which was observed in the collèges of the University of Paris, was adhered to by these schools administered by religious orders. (Roland Mousnier, Les Institutions de de France sous la Monarchie absolue, Paris: PUF, 1974, vol. 1, p. 552.)

There were certain tacit prerequisites for admission to a law school. Law students must have "natural intelligence and disposition, must have received instruction from childhood on, must have a correct knowledge of the law, must work tirelessly, must spend the appropriate amount of time on their studies, ... and must have a place to study that is convenient and favorable to working." (Lemasne-Desjobert, p. 79.) Should we assume that Marc-Antoine Charpentier met all these requirements -- and that a quiet corner for studying was made available to the him somewhere, perhaps in his linener sister's left-bank lodgings?

(The education typically acquired in a collège and at the law faculty is summarized on a separate page of this site: the college and the law school)

Yet another link to the Talon family

In October 1662, only two months after Élisabeth Charpentier signed her wedding contract in the presence of Dame Marie Talon, Marc-Antoine became a student of Marie's maternal cousin, Jean Doujat, a professor of canon law at the Collège Royal (today's Collège de France). Profoundly upset by the moribund situation at the law faculty, where Philippe de Busine was the sole teacher in the Écoles du décret -- that is, the only professor who directed the "readings" from the Decretals that were an essential part of the curriculum (Lemasne-Desjobert, p.59). Busine was determined to remain unique, the better to pocket all inscription fees for himself.

After a struggle pitting the Parlement against Busine, Jean Doujat  was named to the faculty by the Parlement in 1655. Himself a judge in the Parlement and a member of the French Academy, Doujat soon became one of the central figures at the law school and did much to give the establishment renewed vigor. (Lemasne-Desjobert, pp. 17, 45-46, 58, 61, 87, 89ff.; and Dictionnaire de biographie française, "Doujat.")

When Marc-Antoine Charpentier began his studies in the fall of 1662, Jean Doujat was teaching canon law, that is, the Decretals, the papal decrees. Author of a Spanish grammar, a method for learning foreign languages, a Latin treatise on Christian marriage, and a variety of Latin "oratii," Doujat had been selected to fulfill a clause in the will of Jean d'Artis, his late predecessor (and supporter in the nomination struggle.) D'Artis had bequeathed 1,000 livres to cover the costs of a folio edition of his writings on canon law. (The volume was published in 1656.) When Charpentier signed up to study with Doujat, the latter was doubtlessly at work on the two-volume study of French canon law that would be published in 1671.

(Another clause in d'Artis' will is of particular interest. He provided money for scholarships to poor law students. Here is some evidence that, after 1651, a fund existed so that regents could award scholarships to needy young men.)

Celibacy was an issue in the appointment of a professor. That is, Doujat's predecessor, Jean d'Artis, had long argued that the only way to reverse the decline at the law school was to select unmarried men as regent-antecessors. Thus, "pour affirmer une dernière fois ses convictions de célibataire, d'Artis rendit dans ce testament le mariage des régents responsable de la décadence des études à la faculté de droit canon, et il voulut exclure de son legs les régents mariés ou même qui se marieraient après l'expiration de leurs fonctions." (Dictionnaire de biographie française, "Artis").

Therefore when Doujat was nominated to succeed d'Artis in 1651, one of the principal points in his favor had been the fact that "being unmarried, Doujat would occupy one of the chairs with great dignity," Doujat n'étant pas marié, remplirait très dignement une des chaires (Lemasne-Desjobart, p. 59).

Doujat was also the scindic of the faculty -- which now totaled six "regents," plus an undetermined number of agrégés appointed by the Parlement of Paris to ensure a more comprehensive course of study. As scindic, Doujat verified the accuracy of the record books, to ensure that the candidates for exams had completed the requirements; he signed all theses, having first verified that there were no errors or faulty principles; he also took minutes of faculty meetings. (Lemasne-Desjobert, pp. 21-22, 38-39; see also the article on Doujat at Wikipedia.fr.) Voltaire suggests that Doujat eventually married and fathered children (Le Siècle de Louis XIV : Catalogue de la plupart des écrivains français qui ont paru dans le Siècle de Louis XIV, pour servir à l’histoire littéraire de ce temps, 1751).

How was Jean Doujat related to Marie Talon?

In the mid-sixteenth century a certain Louis Doujat had left Toulouse to establish himself in Parisian legal circles. One of his sons remained in Toulouse, where he was a councillor in the Parlement of Toulouse. Another son, Jean Doujat, joined his father in Paris and served as avocat général to Catherine de Médicis. The granddaughter of this Jean Doujat, Françoise Doujat, would marry Omer Talon, the renowned avocat général in the Parlement of Paris. By 1662 their daughter, Marie Talon, would befriend Marc-Antoine Charpentier's sister Élisabeth.

Meanwhile, the Toulouse branch of the family had produced the Jean Doujat with whom Marc-Antoine would study in 1662. This particular Jean Doujat -- like Françoise Doujat-Talon -- was the great-grandchild of the Louis Doujat who had gone to Paris in the mid-sixteenth century. In other words, Françoise Doujat-Talon and Professor Jean Doujat were cousins issus de germains, blood relatives in the "third-degree"; and Marie Talon was Jean's blood relative to the "fourth degree." (BnF, ms. Dossiers bleus, 241, "Doujat," no. 6214, fol. 11; and Louis Moreri, Grand dictionnaire, ed. of 1745, "Doujat, Jean.")

Marie Talon was the wife of Daniel Voisin (Patricia Ranum, Portraits around Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Baltimore, 2004, pp. 95-98). Daniel's brother was a Jesuit, having followed the path taken earlier by his maternal uncle, Pierre de Verthamon, one of the leading Jesuits in France. There presumably is a cause and effect between these two Jesuits and the gratitude later expressed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier's sister, Étiennette, for the instruction she had received as a child from the Jesuits at the Noviciate. I have hypothesized elsewhere that, thanks to Father Verthamon's protection, Marc-Antoine Charpentier may well have been educated at the Jesuit Collège de Clermont, as what we today would call a "scholarship student." Whatever the merits of that hypothesis, in 1662, at this crucial moment in Marc-Antoine's education, we encounter Jean Doujat, a member of the Talon-Voisin-Verthamon clan.

The fees imposed by the law faculty could mount quickly: 25 livres for an inscription, 16 livres for an examination, 15 livres for defending a thesis, and 150 livres for a doctorande (Lemasne-Desjobert, pp. 22-23). Since orphaned Marc-Antoine had inherited only a few hundred livres from his father, the cost of a law-school education would have had to be paid by his guardian or by well-to-do family friends. The only other option was to get one or both professors to renounce some or all of the fees due, or to convert someone's bequest into a scholarship. (The testament of d'Artis, 1651, immediately comes to mind.) We can, of course, merely hypothesize about the financial arrangements surrounding Marc-Antoine Charpentier's matriculation at the law faculty, but it seems likely that his guardian was consulting Marie Talon, and that a financial arrangement had been worked out so that this talented, but nearly penniless youth could continue his studies.

Armand-Jean de Riants

We cannot be sure whether, in October 1662, Armand-Jean de Riants was one of the agrégés who were being imposed upon stubborn Philippe de Busines by the Parlement and the royal administration. That Lemasne-Desjobert's study does not mention Riants' name, is no proof that he was not involved at the law faculty in 1662. These aggrégés where not faculty members, they were adjuncts who taught a specialization sporadically and for short periods of time. (For Riants, see Ranum, Portraits, pp. 262-267.)

On the other hand, we know that in January 1664 Riants went through the inscription register for the Faculty that bears Marc-Antoine Charpentier's inscription. He marked large X's through the blank columns so that names could not be entered fraudently, and on the first page of the register he noted that these modifications had been made by "me, Armand Jean de Rians Villeray, doctor of canon law agrégé." With a colleague named Louis Laurens, Riants added a similar statement at the bottom of each page for the period 1662-1664, and each time he signed his name.

In other words, there is a strong possibility that Armand-Jean de Riants was a parlement-appointed agrégé at the law faculty as early as 1662, and that there he crossed paths with Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Or did Riants already know the Charpentier family through the Châtelet? Was he the godfather of Marc-Antoine's younger brother, Armand-Jean Charpentier?

Marc-Antoine's statement in the register

That October day in 1662, Marc-Antoine Charpentier did not simply copy out and sign a routine, formulaic statement provided by the law faculty. He clearly drew it up himself, for into it he wove some expressions rarely found in his classmates' statements.

For example, Marc-Antoine's use of scripta is very unusual: most students simply refer to the texts, lectiones, that their professor would be reading aloud and commenting upon. A noteworthy exception is a student-priest who stated that he was going to "write and listen to the readings by Dom Philippe de Busine, scribere et audire lectiones D. Ph. de Busine (MM 1059, p. 13). Does this allusion to "writing" mean that friends of the Charpentier family were giving Marc-Antoine reason to hope that he would one day not only "read" and interpret the law, but play a role in actually writing it in a more professional legal capacity?

Another intriguing word is woven into Marc-Antoine's statement: unlike his classmates, he emphasizes that both Busine and Doujat were "celebrated." (Influenced by the argument about celibacy, I initially read "cæleb" as an abbreviation for "celibate," rather than "celebrated," which it clearly is. I thank my Latinist reader for setting me straight!) His motivations for paying this unexpected compliment can only be guessed.

That October day in 1662, when Marc-Antoine Charpentier signed the register, several dozen young men wrote out similar statements of intention and signed their names. Some of them stated that they had earned a baccalauréat, that is, had completed their first year of study and had passed a one-hour exam on Justinian's Institutes. That Marc-Antoine did not use this title suggests that he was a first-year student.

Not every student signed up to study with the same pair of professors. It is not clear how much choice Marc-Antoine had, in becoming Doujat's student, rather than Hallé's or Cottin's or Le Blanc's or Deloy's. But in so doing, he was putting himself under the wing of one of the most respected scholars of canon law in the realm. Canon law -- that branch of law that, as Joseph Bergin points out, provided a key to open the doors to a career in the Church (see my Musing on the college and the law school. As for Busines, he might be described as an illustre inconnu, that is, his name crops up in sources but he left no imprint upon history: for example, the Dictionnaire de biographie française does not devote so much as a paragraph to him, and no published works (if they existed) found their way into the catalogue of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The course of study on which Marc-Antoine was embarking would last three years (Lemasne-Desjobart, pp. 66, 119). Every trimester -- that is, in late October, early January, and early June -- the students renewed their commitment and named the professors with whom they would be studying. Thumbing through this register, one can pick out students who return from trimester to trimester. For example, Nicolas Rousseau, who inscribed his name just after Marc-Antoine's in October 1662, returned in January 1663, as did Patrick Kearny, the Irishman from the diocese of Cloyne in County Cork, who signed immediately after Rousseau in October 1662.

The inevitable attrition also can be noted. In fact, Marc-Antoine Charpentier was among the drop-outs. When January 1663 rolled around, he did not sign the register, and his name does not reappear. Did he drop out because he had done so poorly that his name had been entered in the register of the refusés (since lost)? Did he rebel against the career plans that had been worked out for him? Or, circa January 1663, did a different career opportunity open to him?

So many questions that cannot be answered!

See my related Musing about the sort of education that Marc-Antoine Charpentier can be presumed to have received:

Collège and law school