FORGET, ANTOINE, tonsured cleric, schoolmaster; b. 19 Nov. 1672 at Reuilly (dept. of Indre), France; d. 21 Oct. 1749 at the seminary of Angers, France.
We know little of Antoine Forget’s childhood and early studies. Living of Reuilly, where the Sulpicians enjoyed seigneurial rights, Forget probably benefited from the schools which the seigneurs put at the disposal of their censitaires. The same policy was observed by the Sulpicians of Montreal, who at the end of the 17th century urged their confrères in Paris to send them qualified teachers for the primary schools (“petites écoles”) in Montreal. The seminary of Paris then decided to grant “a six-month bursary” to a candidate who would go to train, according to the methods advocated by Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, at the seminary for schoolmasters in the parish of Saint-Hippolyte in Paris. This seminary was run by Brother Nicolas Vuyart, one of the leading members of the new order of Brothers of the Christian Schools. Forget probably arrived at the seminary in October 1700 to correct certain faults and to aquire practices suitable for his role as an educator, in accordance with La Salle’s recommendations in his Conduite des Écoles chrétiennes.
In April 1701 Antoine Forget was ready to leave for Canada; François Lechassier, superior of the seminary in Paris, then informed François Dollier* de Casson, superior in Montreal, that Forget was “capable of teaching children well and that he is known of long date to be of good morals.” Armand Donay, who was to travel to New France with Forget, stated that the latter “taught school well and besides reading and writing he was good in arithmetic.” Before his departure it was agreed that the schoolmaster should neither wear the cassock nor direct himself towards the priesthood; in addition he would not receive any salary and would be content with “being fed and clothed.”
Forget arrived in Montreal in July 1701 and was soon after permitted by Dollier de Casson to wear the cassock. In February 1702 he asked Paris to send him books and school supplies such as a spelling-book, La Salle’s Instructions et prières pour la Sainte-Messe, a handwritten collection of letters, a civilité (a manual of etiquette for children), a catechism, a psalter, etc. Thanks to these books, and by drawing inspiration from his training in Paris, Forget reformed the archaic methods of teaching used in Montreal’s primary schools.
In 1703 he received, it seems, the minor orders, but he was still refused permission to receive the priesthood, on the pretext that he had not “enough education.” He pursued his career thus until 1715, when, tired and ill, he returned to France to seek care and rest. The following year Forget tried to return to Montreal – Jacques Talbot seems to have replaced him then – but the Sulpicians of Paris were opposed and sent him to Issy-les-Moulineaux (dept. of Hauts-de-Seine) to try him out. Two months later, on 17 May 1716, he was offered the direction of the school at Villeneuve-le-Roi (dept. of Val-de–Marne), but Forget refused stubbornly and the Sulpicians tried to get rid of him by offering him 300 livres and even suggesting to him that he “go into trade” to make a living. Forget replied that he “was not apt for that.”
It cannot be stated with certainty that Antoine Forget ever lived at Villeneuve-le-Roi, but it is known that he left the seminary at Issy before 29 July 1718 for the seminary of Angers, where he was bursar. He died there on 21 Oct. 1749. Although he had received no salary he left the sum of 339 livres, which was distributed among his heirs, as much to ease their poverty as in recognition of the services rendered the seminary of Angers by Antoine Forget.
Archives du grand séminaire d’Angers (France), Registre des sépultures du séminaire,