Pierre Bayle, a French philosophical writer, horn at Carla, in the county of Foix, Nov. 18, 1647, died in Holland, Dec. 28, 1706. He was the son of a Protestant clergyman, and was educated at the university of Puylaurens and by the Jesuits of Toulouse, under whose influence he renounced Protestantism; but he soon recanted, and to avoid persecution took refuge in Geneva, where he became acquainted with the Cartesian philosophy. He wished to devote himself to science; but being poor, he served as a tutor in several families. Returning to France, he became professor of philosophy in the Protestant university at Sedan in 1075. There he wrote an anonymous pamphlet in defence of the duke of Luxemburg, who was charged before a high court of councillors of state with having made a compact and holding regular intercourse with the devil; and soon afterward published his Cogi-tationes rationales de Deo, Anima et Malo, in opposition to the doctrines of Poiret. In 1681 the university of Sedan was suppressed by Louis XIV., and Bayle with the other professors removed to Rotterdam, where he continued his professorship.
His Pensees sur la Comete, published there in 1682, to allay the fears revived among the people on the appearance of the comet of 1680, was prohibited in France by the police, but eagerly read. His pamphlet in reply to the Ilutoire du Galvi-nisme of the Jesuit Maimbourg was also very successful, and was ordered to be publicly burned by the executioner. In 1684 Bayle commenced a literary journal, under the title of Nourelles de la republique des lettres, which was popular, but led to many quarrels. On the occasion of the severe measures of Louis XIV. against the Protestants, he wrote a plea for toleration entitled Commentaire philosophique sur les paroles de l'Erangile: "Contraim-les d'en-trer." For this Jurieu, the jealous author of a rival and unsuccessful answer to Maimbourg, denounced him as indifferent to religion, in fact almost an Infidel, and finally had him dismissed from his professorship, deprived of his pension, and at last in 1698 forbidden by the common council of Rotterdam to teach either publicly or privately. Bayle then began his famous and long projected Dietionnaire historique et critique, in which he intended to point out the errors and supply the deficiencies of the most important publications of the same kind.
In 1696 the first edition appeared (2 vols, folio, Rotterdam), and had at once an immense success. His enemies, however, arraigned him before the consistory of the Walloon church, who ordered him to make many corrections and alterations in various important articles. The controversy in this matter occupied much of his time, and prevented him from improving as completely as he wished the work to which he had devoted his life. Bayle has been called the Montaigne of the 17th century; but, with a similar tendency to skepticism and greater earnestness, he lacks the ease and grace of that writer. He published the second edition of his Dietionnaire in 1702, but the most valuable editions are those of 1740, at Basel and Amsterdam, both in 4 vols, folio. The English edition by Thomas Birch and Lockman (10 vols, folio, London, 1734-'41), contains many additions. The most recent is that of Beuchot (16 vols. 8vo, Paris, 1820).