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Élie Catherine Fréron

Élie Catherine Fréron (1719 - March 10, 1776), French critic and controversialist, was born at Quimper.

He was educated by the Jesuits, and made such rapid progress in his studies that before the age of twenty he was appointed professor at the college of Louis-le-Grand. He became a contributor to the Observations sur les écrits modernes of the abbé Guyot Desfontaines. The very fact of his collaboration with Desfontaines, one of Voltaire's bitterest enemies, was sufficient to arouse the latter's hostility, and although Fréron had begun his career as one of his admirers, his attitude towards Voltaire soon changed.

Fréron in 1746 founded a similar journal of his own, entitled Lettres de la Comtesse de ... It was suppressed in 1749, but he immediately replaced it by Lettres sur quelques écrits de ce temps, which, with the exception of a short suspension in 1752, on account of an attack on the character of Voltaire, was continued till 1754, when it was succeeded by the more ambitious Année littéraire. His death at Paris on the 10th of March 1776 is said to have been hastened by the temporary suppression of this journal.

Fréron is now remembered solely for his attacks on Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists, and by the retaliations they provoked on the part of Voltaire, who, besides attacking him in epigrams, and even incidentally in some of his tragedies, directed against him a virulent satire, Le Pauvrediable, and made him the principal personage in a comedy L'Ecossaise, in which the journal of Fréron is designated L'Ane littéraire. A further attack on Fréron entitled Anecdotes sur Fréron ... (1760), published anonymously, is generally attributed to Voltaire.

Fréron was the author of Ode sur la bataille de Fontenoy (1745) Histoire de Marie Stuart (1742, 2 vols.); and Histoire de l'empire d'Allemagne (1771, 8 vols.). See Ch. Nisard, Les Ennemis de Voltaire (1855); Despois, Journalistes et journaux du XVIII siècle; Barthélemy, Les confessions de Fréron; Ch. Monselet Fréron, ou l'illustre critique (1864); Fréron, sa vie, souvenirs, etc. (1876).