1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Court de Gebelin, Antoine

COURT DE GEBELIN, ANTOINE (1728–1784), French scholar, son of Antoine Court (q.v.), was born at Nîmes in 1728. He received a good education, and became, like his father, a pastor of the Reformed Church. This office, however, he soon relinquished, to devote himself entirely to literary work. He had conceived the project of a work which should set in a new light the phenomena, especially the languages and mythologies, of the ancient world; and, after his father’s death, he went to Paris in order to be near the necessary books. After long years of research, he published in 1775 the first volume of his vast undertaking under the title of Le Monde primitif, analysé et comparé avec le monde moderne. The ninth volume appeared in 1784, leaving the work still unfinished. The literary world marvelled at the encyclopaedic learning displayed by the author, and supposed that the French Academy, or some other society of scholars, must have combined their powers in its production. Now, however, the world has well-nigh forgotten the huge quartos. These learned labours did not prevent Gebelin from pleading earnestly the cause of religious tolerance. In 1760 he published a work entitled Les Toulousaines, advocating the rights of the Protestants; and he afterwards established at Paris an agency for collecting information as to their sufferings, and for exciting general interest in their cause. He co-operated with Franklin and others in the periodical work entitled Affaires de l’Angleterre et de l’Amérique (1776, sqq.), which was devoted to the support of American independence. He was also a supporter of the principles of the economists, and Quesnay called him his well-beloved disciple. In the last year of his life he became acquainted with Mesmer, and published a Lettre sur le magnétisme animal. He was imposed upon by speculators in whom he placed confidence, and was reduced to destitution by the failure of a scheme in which they engaged him. He died at Paris on the 10th of May 1784.

See La France protestante, by the brothers Haag, tome iv.; Charles Dardier, Court de Gebelin (Nîmes, 1890).