Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Jérôme-Nicolas Pâris, brother of the diacre

Benoît Audran le Jeune, after a painting by Jean Restout 
This engraving, by Benoît Audran after a portrait by Jean Restout, shows Jérôme-Nicolas, the younger brother of the diacre  Pâris.  He has the same pointed features as his older brother, accentuated by a life of austerity, but  here, as in all his portraits, he appears in splendid magisterial robes with long, carefully curled hair.  His otherworldly aura contrasts with his proud list of titles: 

"Chevalier. vicomte de Machault Romain, seigneur de Muire, Branscourt et autres lieux  Conseiller du Roy en sa Cour de Parlement [et Première Chambre des Enquestes]"

Another portrait: anonymous engraving,
colllection of Port-Royal des Champs
As the second son of the family, Jérôme-Nicolas was originally destined for the army. No doubt he was delighted unexpectedly to inherit his father's titles and office; the sources all insist on his deep affection and gratitude towards his brother.  He was received into Parlement on 26 January 1717, with special dispensation since he was under aged. He soon consolidated his connections with the monied noblesse de robe. In  March 1719 he married Claude Françoise Boucot the only daughter of François Boucot, "Ecuyer, Conseiller-Secrétaire du Roi,  Garde des Rôles des officiers de France" , who brought a dowry of  more than 150,000 livres.  Their sister Marie married a counsellor of the Grand'Chambre of the Parlement, Michel-Louis de La Grange.  Jérôme-Nicolas's marriage did not last long, for his new wife was carried away by smallpox barely six months later on 3rd October 1719, at the age of only nineteen.  

It was over a decade later in 1730 that he remarried.  His second wife was Charlotte Rogier du Lude, who is given as widow firstly of Henry Maillefer, lieutenant criminel au Baillage de Reims (died 1708) and secondly of Jean-Baptiste Lespagnol, Conseillier au Parlement de Metz. Born in 1688, she was in her early forties, with two grown-up children. Presumably she too was wealthy in her own right.  Perhaps she too was a devotée of the diacre; the only glimpse we have is a mention of her solicitude as her husband slowly wrecked his health through his pious excesses.
The dying diacre is visited by his brother.  Drawing by Bernard Picart (Port-Royal)
Jérôme-Nicolas was prominent among the Jansenists of the Parlement and from the first played a prominent role in safeguarding the memory of his brother. (He took legal action against Archbishop Vintimille; see Kreiser, Miracles, Convulsions, and Ecclesiastical Politics  p.224-8;  there are more details of his activities in this book, but I don't have access to the full text.)

Anonymous engraving:  The diacre and his brother at the foot of the Cross.  This image clearly predates Jérôme-Nicolas's death ; maybe it was commissioned by him. The Bible quotation is  from Acts 4: 29-30...."Enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders"
In September 1732 the magistrates of the Parlement of Paris were exiled to Clermont in the Auvergne. From here Jérôme-Nicolas took the opportunity to visit the Appellant Jean Soanen, the former bishop of Senez, in his place of exile, the remote Benedictine abbey of La Chaise-Dieu. The Nouvelles ecclésiastiques tells us that it was at this time, that Jérôme-Nicolas, inspired by his brother's example, determined upon the "plan de la vie pénitente" that he followed until his death. From this time onwards, whilst still fulfilling the duties of his office, he embarked upon a life of extreme austerity. The Jansenist paper lingers long over his near starvation diet and the regime of self-mortification, which brought him to an early grave on 16 August 1737. He was forty-two years old.

For the Jansenist faithful Jérôme-Nicolas's funeral was a chance to replay his brother's which had taken place a decade previously.  Crowds lined the streets, gazed out of windows and packed the church of Saint-Gervais to offer him public veneration.  When Hérault blocked his interment in the cemetery, his supporters buried him in a chapel inside the church itself. Devotees took boards and dirt from the site, and soon these relics too were said to have instigated miraculous cures.(Kreiser, p.391-93).  He left no children; his sister Marie was named as his legatee.  Spare a thought too for his widow, who never remarried but is recorded as dying in Rheims nearly forty years later, on 3rd January 1775 at the age of 87 years.

Anonymous engraving representing Jérôme-Nicolas at prayer
Collection of Port-Royal des Champs

Notice of Jérôme-Nicolas's death, Mercure de France, August 1737. p.1889

Obituary from the Nouvelles ecclésiastiques for 19th October 1737. 
In Barthélémy Doyen, Vie du B. François de Paris, diacre du diocèse de Paris (1788 ed.): .

See also

Christine Gouzi, "L’image du diacre Pâris : portraits gravés et hagiographie", Chrétiens et sociétés 2005, Vol. 12, p. 29-58: Note 30, gives ms sources.

Notice on "Geneanet"

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