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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Pierre-Antoine, Comte de Daru

DARU, Pierre-Antoine, Comte de (17671829), a distinguished author and statesman of France, was born at Montpellier, where his father held the office of secretary to the intendancy of Languedoc. From the Oratorians of the military school at Tournon he imbibed an enthusiasm for study, and an admiration of the master-pieces of ancient literature, which remained with him for life. At the age of sixteen he entered the army; and in the following year, though under the legal age, he obtained the rank of commissary. In 1791, in spite of his attachment to the principles of the Revolution, he was accused before the “Club” of treasonable relations with the marquis of Bouzol; but the eloquence of his defence secured his acquittal. In the following year, however, while he was serving in Brittany, the senseless suspicion of the times was such that his use of the ironical expression mes amis les Anglais caused him to be thrown into prison. The eighteen months of durance spent at Rennes and Orleans were mainly devoted to the study and translation of Horace, in imitation of whose style he also produced an Épitre à mon sans-Culotte, as he designates the keeper to whom he was intrusted. After his release he served under Pétiet and Massena in several important situations in the commissariat and in the office of the ministry of war. His generous love of justice was strikingly displayed by the appeal which he made in favour of Ferraud, whom he believed to have been wrongfully removed from a post to which he himself was appointed. The first consul made him secretary to the ministry at war; and, the day after the battle of Marengo, nominated him one of the commissioners for the execution of the convention concluded between General Berthier and General Melas. In 1805 he was made a counsellor of state and intendant-general of the emperor's military household. In the following year he received the appointment of intendant-general of the Brunswick territory, and subsequently of commissioner for the execution of the treaties of Tilsit and Vienna, as well as minister plenipotentiary at Berlin. In 1806 he was elected a member of the Institute, and in 1808 an honorary member of the Berlin Academy. In 1811 he was appointed minister secretary of state; and shortly afterwards he received the portfolio of the war department. He accompanied Napoleon in his Russian campaign. When the retreat from Moscow had commenced, he had to assume the functions of intendant-general of the army; and his iron constitution, and capacity for labour, enabled him to fulfil, with apparent ease, duties which might have killed several men of ordinary strength. C'est un lion pour le travail, said Napoleon himself. After the restoration of the Bourbons he was made intendant-general to the king, an appointment which he received in December 1814. But on the return of Napoleon from Elba he joined the standard of his old master, subscribed a considerable sum for the purpose of arming the Parisian fédérés, and in his capacity of counsellor of state attached his signature to the celebrated declaration of the 25th March. His conduct towards the emperor displays a frank and simple independence of character combined with a genuine devotion to Napoleon's cause. “They don't speak well of my arc de triomphe,” said Napoleon one day. “There are two persons whom I have heard praise it,” replied Daru,—your majesty and his architect.” The second restoration found him compromised by his connection with the Government of the Hundred Days; and he retired for a time into private life, and devoted himself to literary pursuits. But in 1819 he was summoned by royal ordinance to the Chamber of Peers, where his rectitude of judgment and administrative knowledge signalized him as one of the most powerful defenders of the national liberties. In 1821 he published his Histoire de Venise, which is by far the most important of his works, and is regarded as the most complete and impartial history of that singular republic equally remarkable for its strength and duration. His subsequent work, the Histoire de Bretagne (3 vols. 1826), displays great labour and accuracy, but is devoid of interest, except to historical antiquaries. His other productions consist of a poetical translation of Horace, which, in spite of the malicious epigram of Le Brun, Je ne lis point Daru, j'aime trop mon Horace, has enjoyed in France a well-merited reputation; a variety of occasional poems, discourses, and éloges pronounced in the Academy; and speeches delivered in the Chamber of Peers. He died at his residence near Meulan, September 5, 1829, aged sixty-two. His remains were deposited in the Cimitière Montmartre, and five discourses were pronounced over his tomb by MM. Mirbel, Cuvier, Silvestre de Sacy, Ternaux, and Leroy.


See the “Notice” by M. Viennet prefixed to the fourth edition of the Histoire de Venise, 9 vols. 1853, and three articles by Sainte-Beuve in Causeries du Lundi, vol. ix.