The Defense and Illustration of the French Language


Joachim Du Bellay was born in Anjou, western France, in about 1522. In 1549, he published l'Olive (The olive), his first collection of sonnets and the first cycle of love sonnets in the French vernacular. That same year, he put forward his ideas on the French language and poetic practices in this work, La Deffence, et illustration de la langue francoyse (The defense and illustration of the French language). Du Bellay shared his essay with friends, who later formed the group of 16th-century poets known as the Pleiades. His text, which was part of a broader debate on the art of poetry, became the manifesto of the new literary school. In it, Du Bellay defended the use of the French language against those, notably the Renaissance humanists, who preferred the classical languages of Greek and Latin. Du Bellay accompanied his attack on the humanists with a critique of the old French poets. He argued that it was necessary to renew French language and syntax and to create new literary genres. Together, Du Bellay, Pierre de Ronsard (1524–85), Jean-Antoine de Baïf (1532–89), Étienne Jodelle (1532–73), and others would adopt the new approach to poetry. Du Bellay was in poor health for much of his life and died in Paris in 1560.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Arnoul L'Angelier, Paris

Title in Original Language

La Deffence, et illustration de la langue francoyse

Type of Item

Physical Description

47 pages


  • On title page, I.D.B.A. corresponds to Joachim Du Bellay of Anjou. Certain later editions were published with the author's name.

Last updated: January 8, 2018