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She was born at Saumur and was raised there. Her father, Tanneguy Le Fèvre, died in 1672 and she moved to Paris, carrying with her part of an edition of Callimachus, which she afterwards published. This was so well received that she was engaged as one of the editors of the Delphin series of classical authors, in which she edited Publius Annius Florus, Dictys Cretensis, Sextus Aurelius Victor and Eutropius. Through her father she met her husband André Dacier, who was his pupil.
In 1681 appeared her prose version of Anacreon and Sappho, and in the next few years, she published prose versions of Terence and some of the plays of Plautus and Aristophanes. In 1684 she and her husband retired to Castres, with the object of devoting themselves to theological studies. In 1685 the Daciers were rewarded with a pension by Louis XIV of France for their conversion to Roman Catholicism .
In 1699 appeared the prose translation of the Iliad (followed nine years later by a similar translation of the Odyssey), which earned her the esteem in which she is held in French literature. This version, which made Homer known for the first time to many French men of letters (including Antoine Houdar de la Motte) gave rise to a famous literary controversy. In 1714, La Motte published a poetical version of the Iliad, abridged and altered to suit his own taste, together with a Discours sur Homère, stating the reasons why Homer failed to satisfy his critical taste. Mme. Dacier replied in the same year in her work, Des causes de la corruption du goût.
La Motte carried on the discussion with light gaiety and badinage, and had the happiness of seeing his views supported by the abbé Jean Terrasson, who in 1715 produced two volumes entitled Dissertation critique sur L'Iliade, in which he maintained that science and philosophy, and especially the science and philosophy of René Descartes, had so developed the human mind that the poets of the eighteenth century were immeasurably superior to those of ancient Greece.
In the same year, Claude Buffier published Homère en arbitrage, in which he concluded that both parties were really agreed on the essential point that Homer was one of the greatest geniuses the world had seen, and that, as a whole, no other poem could be preferred to his; and, soon after (on 5 April 1716) in the house of Jean-Baptiste de Valincourt, Mme. Dacier and La Motte met at supper, and drank to the health of Homer. Nothing of importance marks the rest of Mme. Dacier's life. She died at the Louvre in 1720, aged 66.
- C.A. Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du lundi, vol. ix
- J. F. Bodin, Recherches historiques sur la ville de Saumur (1818-1814)
- Hippolyte Rigault, Histoire de la querelle des anciens et des modernes (1856)
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.