François-Timoléon de Choisy  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Mémoires de l'abbé de Choisy déguisé en femme, première partie publiée en 1735, seconde partie en 1839

François Timoléon, abbé de Choisy (October 2, 1644 – October 2, 1724) was a French author.

He was born in Paris. His father was attached to the household of the duke of Orléans, and his mother, who was on intimate terms with Anne of Austria, was regularly called upon to amuse Louis XIV. By a whim of his mother, the boy was dressed like a girl until he was eighteen, and, after appearing for a short time in man's costume, he resumed woman's dress on the advice--doubtless satirical--of Madame de La Fayette. He delighted in the most extravagant toilettes until he was publicly rebuked by the duc de Montausier, when he retired for some time to the provinces, using his disguise to assist his numerous intrigues.

He had been made an abbé in his childhood, and poverty, induced by his extravagance, drove him to live on his benefice at Sainte-Seine in Burgundy, where he found among his neighbors a kindred spirit in Bussy-Rabutin. He visited Rome in the suite of the cardinal de Bouillon in 1676, and shortly afterwards a serious illness brought about a sudden and rather frivolous conversion to religion.

In 1685 he accompanied the Chevalier de Chaumont on a mission to Siam. He was ordained priest, and received various ecclesiastical preferments, such as the priory of Saint-Benoît-du-Sault in 1689. He was admitted to the Académie Française in 1687, and wrote a number of historical and religious works, of which the most notable are the following:

  • Quatre dialogues sur l'immortalité de l'âme ... (1684), written with the Abbé Dangeau and explaining his conversion
  • Traduction de l'Imitation de Jesus-Christ (1692)
  • Histoire de France sous les regnes de Saint Louis ... de Charles V et Charles VI (5 vols, 1688-1695)
  • Histoire de l'Eglise (11 vols., 1703-1723)

He is remembered, however, by his gossiping Mémoires (1737), which contain striking and accurate pictures of his time and remarkably exact portraits of his contemporaries, although he has otherwise small pretensions to historical accuracy.

The Mémoires passed through many editions, and were edited in 1868 by M. de Lescure. Some admirable letters of Choisy are included in the correspondence of Bussy-Rabutin. Choisy is said to have burnt some of his indiscreet revelations, but left a considerable quantity of unpublished manuscript. Part of this material, giving an account of his adventures as a woman, was surreptitiously used in an anonymous Histoire de madame la comtesse de Barres (Antwerp, 1735) and again with much editing in the Vie de M. l'abbé de Choisy (Lausanne and Geneva, 1742), ascribed by Paul Lacroix to Lenglet Dufresnoy; the text was finally edited (1870) by Lacroix as Aventures de l'abbé de Choisy. See also Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du lundi, vol. iii.

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