Latude - Encyclopedia

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LATUDE (1725-1805), prisoner of the Bastille, was born at Montagnac in Gascony on the 23rd of March 1725. He received a military education and went to Paris in 1748 to study mathematics. He led a dissipated life and endeavoured to curry favour with the marquise de Pompadour by secretly sending her a box of poison and then informing her of the supposed plot against her life. The ruse was discovered, and Mme de Pompadour, not appreciating the humour of the situation, had Latude put in the Bastille on the 1st of May 1749. He was later transferred to Vincennes, whence he escaped in 1750. Retaken and reimprisoned in the Bastille, he made a second brief escape in 1756. He was transferred to Vincennes in 1764, and the next year made a third escape and was a third time recaptured. He was put in a madhouse by Malesherbes in 1775, and discharged in 1777 on condition that he should retire to his native town. He remained in Paris and was again imprisoned. A certain Mme Legros became interested in him through chance reading of one of his memoirs, and, by a vigorous agitation in his behalf, secured his definite release in 1784. He exploited his long captivity with considerable ability, posing as a brave officer, a son of the marquis de la Tude, and a victim of Pompadour's intrigues. He was extolled and pensioned during the Revolution, and in 1 793 the convention compelled the heirs of Mme de Pompadour to pay him 60,000 francs damages. He died in obscurity at Paris on the 1st of January 1805.

The principal work of Latude is the account of his imprisonment, written in collaboration with an advocate named Thiery, and entitled Le Despotisme devoile, ou Memoires de Henri Masers de la Tude, detenu pendant trente-cinq ans dans les diverses prisons d'etat (Amsterdam, 1787, ed. Paris, 1889). An Eng. trans. of a portion was published in 1787. The work is full of lies and misrepresentations, but had great vogue at the time of the French Revolution. Latude also wrote essays on all sorts of subjects.

See J. F. Barriere, Memoires de Linguet et de Latude (1884); G. Bertin, Notice in edition of the Memoires (1889); F. FunckBrentano, "Latude," in the Revue des deux mondes (1st October 1889).

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