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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.


  • [Jean Baptiste Massillon, a celebrated French pulpit-orator; born in Provence, 1663; preached before Louis XIV. at the court, 1699; bishop of Clermont, 1717; member of the Academy, 1719, died 1742.]
  • To that which I know best by heart.

  • When asked by Louis XIV. to what sermon he gave the preference, he replied, “À celui que je sais le mieux.” The effect which the preaching of Massillon had upon his hearers is illustrated by the compliment paid him by the king, perhaps the greatest ever given to a subject by his sovereign, and that sovereign the Grand Monarque: “Father, I have heard many great orators, and I have been satisfied with them; but as for you, whenever I hear you I am dissatisfied with myself” (Mon père, j’ai entendu plusieurs grands orateurs, et j’en ai été fort content: pour vous, toutes les fois que je vous ai entendu, j’ai été très mécontent de moi-même) Mme. de Maintenon likewise made the most favorable comparison in her power, when she said of Massillon’s diction, “He is the Racine of prose” (Il a la même diction dans la prose que Racine dans la poésie),—Racine, who wrote his plays for the schoolgirls of St. Cyr to act in the presence of their benefactress. When one of his brethren was congratulating him upon the admirable manner in which he had preached on a certain occasion, Massillon interrupted him: “Stop, father! the Devil has already told it to me more eloquently than you” (Le diable me l’a déjà dit plus éloquemment que vous).
  • Voltaire said that Massillon’s eloquence “savored of the courtier, the academician, the wit, and the philosopher.”