Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dufief, Nicolas Gouïn

DUFIEF, NICOLAS GOUÏN (1776?–1834), French teacher, a native of Nantes, was born in or about 1776. His father, a knight of the order of St. Louis, served during the revolution as a volunteer under the French princes in Germany; his mother, the Countess Victoire Aimée Libault Gouïn Dufief, was personally engaged in the many battles fought by her relative, General Charette, against the revolutionists, for which she was afterwards known as ‘the heroine of La Vendée.’ Dufief, though a stripling of fifteen, joined in 1792 the royal naval corps assembled under the Count d'Hector at Enghien, and went through the campaign with his regiment in the army of the brothers of Louis XVIII until its disbandment. The same year he sought refuge in England, but soon afterwards sailed for the West Indies, and was attracted thence to Philadelphia, which he reached in July 1793. During his sojourn in America he became acquainted with Dr. Priestley, Thomas Jefferson, and other eminent men. Here, too, he published an essay on ‘The Philosophy of Language,’ in which he first explained to the world how he was led to make those discoveries ‘from which my system of universal and economical instruction derives such peculiar and manifold advantages.’ For nearly twenty-five years he taught French with success in America and in England, to which he returned about 1818. He died at Pentonville 12 April 1834. His chief work is ‘Nature displayed in her mode of teaching Language to Man; being a new and infallible Method of acquiring Languages with unparalleled rapidity; deduced from the analysis of the human mind, and consequently suited to every capacity: adapted to the French. To which is prefixed a development of the author's plan of tuition,’ 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1818, which despite its size and costliness reached a twelfth edition in the author's lifetime. Shortly before his death he completed ‘A Universal, Pronouncing, and Critical French-English Dictionary,’ 8vo, London, 1833. He was author, too, of ‘The French Self-interpreter, or Pronouncing Grammar,’ 12mo, Exeter (1820?).

[Prefaces to Nature Displayed; Gent. Mag. new ser. i. 561.]

G. G.