Introduction History

 Régnault de Segrais (1624-1701)

Segrais deserves a place apart, not only because of the close ties of friendship which linked him to Moisant de Brieux but also because, on the Founder's death, he was the one who carried on the latter's task at the Academy which was then called: " The Académie of Monsieur Segrais."

He was also one of the wittiest men of his Age.

Born in Caen of " an ancient and noble family " - he was a distant relative of Malherbe -he attended the "Collège des Jésuites" ( the Jesuits' school ). The Count of Fiesque after unsuccessfully introducing him to the Hôtel de Rambouillet, presented him, in 1648, to the Grande Demoiselle ( the Duchesse de Montpensier) who took him in her service. He was to remain with her for some twenty years being both her secretary and her "ghost-writer" - her famous "Portraits"are probably Segrais' work

Then he went on to the Marquise de Lafayette's service and signed for her the" Princesse de Montpensier " " Zaïde and the " Princesse de Clèves "in fact, these works show his mark.

His own production began with " Eclogues , which like "Athys" made his name as a " bucolic poet" and earned him this line in Boileau' s 'Art Poétique' (IV-2Ol):

"Que Segrais dans l'églogue en charme les forêts"
(Let Segrais in eclogues delight the forests)

He also published novels then translated"-The Aeneid " in two instalments.

His translation of the "Georgics" remained unknown until after his death.

Segrais, a very versatile man, was also interested in mathematics and, through Huet, became acquainted with the fanous Fermat.

In 1662 "the new Voiture from Caen" took over Boisrobert's seat at the French Academy (Boisrobert had also been a member of the Academy of Caen).

Segrais was to remain for ever attached to Caen and wrote:
"Caen my famous hometown and my first love " He also celebrated it in his verse:

Caen qui, par son assiette est commode et plaisante,
Par son air toujours pur, sa demeure riante,
Par ses prés, par ses eaux et par mille beautés
Justement le dispute aux plus nobles cités


"Caen a pleasant abode, easy to live in
With its air forever pure and its smiling scene,
With its meads and streams and many beauties
Rightly vies with the noblest cities."
 

After 1676,Segrais returned to his native town where he settled, marrying a wealthy cousin; he then accommodated the Académie in his own home and became first Alderman (1683-1686). We owe him "the reclaiming of the Préfecture gardens".

Until his death, he was the absolute ruler over the intellectual life of the region of Caen, decided that a statue of Malherbe should be placed in the Botanic gardens of the city and enjoyed such a reputation -that the Intendant Foucault,in his drawing-room, provided for a special corner where a hidden scrivener carefully collected the witticisms which had dropped from the scholar's mouth. 

He died on Good Friday 25 March 1701 leaving in his will a bequest of 3,000 pounds to the Oratorians in Caen. Foucault, Galland, Lamonnoie, Madame d'Osseville and others wrote his epitaphs: