Abbe, the French word for abbot. Before the revolution of 1789, any Frenchman who chose to devote himself to divinity, or even to finish a brief course of study in a theological seminary, became an abbe, waiting hopefully for the king to confer on him the benefice of an abbey - that is, a certain portion of the revenues of a monastery. In the mean time he engaged in any and every kind of literary labor, exerted an important influence upon society, and was to be met with everywhere - at the court of the monarch, the public tribunals, the salon of the fashionable lady, the opera, the playhouse, and the cafe. An abbe was to be found in almost every wealthy family, either as the friend of the house or the private tutor of the children. There were many good and noble abbés, who acquired distinction as theologians, poets, and savants; but as a class they subjected themselves to popular suspicion and literary satire; and with the revolution they disappeared, though the title is still sometimes used as a phrase of politeness. - Abbes com-mendataiees was the title of the 225 abbots appointed by the king of France. Each received one third of the revenues of a monastery, but he could not interfere with the prieur claustral, who had exclusive control.
The abbayes des savants were less important sinecures, applied as pensions for scholars and untitled scions of aristocracy.