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Title: Beacon Lights of History, Volume 07 - Great Women
Author: Lord, John, 1810-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Beacon Lights of History, Volume 07 - Great Women" ***

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Love, the flower of Eden
The two Venuses of Socrates
The Venus Urania
The memory of Héloïse cherished
Her birth and education
Her extraordinary gifts
Her aspirations
Peter Abélard
His wonderful genius
His early scholastic triumphs
Abélard at Paris
His wit and flippancy
His scepticism
His successes
His love for Héloïse
His mad infatuation
Scandal of the intimacy
Disinterestedness of Héloïse
Secret marriage of Abélard and Héloïse
Marriage discovered
Retirement of Héloïse and Abélard to separate convents
His renewed labors
His brilliant success
Persecution of Abélard
Letters to Héloïse
Héloïse cannot conquer her love
Her high social position
Her blameless life
Loves of Héloïse and Abélard analyzed
Greatness of sentiment
Last days of Abélard
His retreat to Cluny
Peter the Venerable
Grief of Héloïse



Heroic qualities of women in the Middle Ages
Extraordinary appearance of Joan of Arc
Her early days
Her visions
Critical state of France at this period
Appreciated by Joan
Who resolves to come to the rescue of her king and country
Difficulties which surrounded her
Her services finally accepted
Her faith in her mission
Her pure and religious life
Joan sets out for the deliverance of Orleans
Succeeds in entering the city
Joan raises the siege of Orleans
Admiration of the people for her
Veneration for women among the Germanic nations
Joan marches to the siege of Rheims
Difficulty of the enterprise
Hesitation of the king
Rheims and other cities taken
Coronation of Charles
Mission of the Maid fulfilled
Successive military mistakes
Capture of Joan
Indifference and ingratitude of the King
Trial of Joan for heresy and witchcraft
Cruelty of the English to her
The diabolical persecution
Martyrdom of Joan
Tardy justice to her memory
Effects of the martyrdom



Pleasures of the body the aim of Paganism
Aim of Christianity to elevate the soul
Mistakes of monastic life
The age of Saint Theresa
Her birth and early training
Mediaeval piety
Theresa sent to a convent to be educated
Her poor health
Religious despotism of the Middle Ages
Their gloom and repulsiveness
Faith and repentance divorced
Catholic theology
Theresa becomes a nun
Her serious illness
Her religious experience
The Confessions of Saint Augustine
The religious emancipation of Theresa
Her canticles
Her religious rhapsodies
Theresa seeks to found a convent
Opposition to her
Her discouragements
Her final success
Reformation of the Carmelite order
Convent of St. Joseph
Death of Saint Theresa
Writings of Saint Theresa
Her submission to authority
Her independence
Compared with Madame Guyon
Her posthumous influence



Birth of Madame de Maintenon
Her early life
Marriage with Scarron
Governess of Montespan's children
Introduction to the King
Her incipient influence over him
Contrast of Maintenon with Montespan
Friendship of the King for Madame de Maintenon
Made mistress of the robes to the Dauphiness
Private marriage with Louis XIV
Reasons for its concealment
Unbounded power of Madame de Maintenon
Grandeur of Versailles
Great men of the court
The King's love of pomp and ceremony
Sources of his power
His great mistakes
The penalties he reaped
Secret of Madame de Maintenon's influence
Her mistakes
Religious intolerance
Revocation of the Edict of Nantes
Persecution of the Protestants
Influence of Bossuet
Foundation of the school of St. Cyr
Influence of Madame de Maintenon on education
Influence of Madame de Maintenon on morals
Influence of Madame de Maintenon on the court
Her reign a usurpation
Her greatness of character



The Duchess of Marlborough compared with Madame de Maintenon
Birth and early influence
John Churchill
Marriage of Churchill and Sarah Jennings
Colonel Churchill made a peer
The Princess Anne
Lady Churchill
Their friendship
Coronation of William and Mary
Character of William III
Treason of the Earl of Marlborough
Energy and sagacity of the Queen
Naval victory of La Hogue
Temporary retirement of Marlborough
Death of the Duke of Gloucester
Marlborough, Captain-General.
Death of William III
Accession of Anne
Power of Marlborough
Lord Godolphin
Ascendency of Lady Marlborough
Her ambition
Her pride
Renewal of war with Louis XIV
Marlborough created a duke
Whigs and Tories
Harley, Earl of Oxford
His intrigues
Abigail Hill
Supplants the Duchess of Marlborough
Coolness between the Queen and Duchess
Battle of Ramillies
Miss Hill marries Mr. Masham
Declining influence of the Duchess
Her anger and revenge
Power of Harley
Disgrace of the Duchess
The Tories in power
Dismissal of Marlborough
His persecution of the Duchess
Voluntary exile of Marlborough
Unhappiness of the Duchess
Death of Queen Anne
Return of Marlborough to power
Attacked by paralysis
Death of Marlborough
His vast wealth
Declining days of the Duchess
Her character
Her death
Reflections on her career



Queens of society first seen in Italy
Provençal poetry in its connection with chivalrous sentiments
Chivalry the origin of society
Society in Paris in the 17th Century
Marquise de Rambouillet
Her _salons_
Mademoiselle de Scudéri
Early days of Madame Récamier
Her marriage
Her remarkable beauty and grace
Her _salons_
Her popularity
Courted by Napoleon
Loss of property
Friendship with Madame de Staël
Incurs the hatred of Napoleon
Friendship with Ballanche
Madame Récamier in Italy
Return to Paris
Duke of Montmorency
Seclusion of Madame Récamier
Her intimate friends
Friendship with Châteaubriand
His gifts and high social position
His retirement from political life
His old age soothed by Récamier
Her lovely disposition
Her beautiful old age
Her death
Her character
Remarks on society
Sources of its fascinations



Literature in the 18th Century
Rise of Madame de Staël
Her precocity
Her powers of conversation
Her love of society
Her marriage
Hatred of Napoleon
Her banishment
Her residence in Switzerland
Travels in Germany
Her work on literature
Her book on Germany
Its great merits
German philosophy
Visit to Italy
Its popularity
A description of Italy
Marriage with Rocca
Madame de Staël in England
Her honors
Return to Paris
Incense offered to her
Her amazing éclat
Her death
Her merits as an author
Inaugurated a new style in literature
Her followers
Her influence
Literary women
Their future



Progress of female education
Youth of Hannah More
Her accomplishments
Teaches school
Intimacy with great men
Shines in society
Wearied of it
Her ridicule of fashionable gatherings called society
Retirement to Cowslip Green
Her patrons and friends
Labors in behalf of the poor
Foundation of schools
Works on female education
Their good influence
Their leading ideas
Christian education
Removal to Barley Wood
Views of society
Her distinguished visitors
"Coelebs in Search of a Wife"
"Christian Morals"
Her laboring at the age of eighty
The quiet elegance of her life
Removal to Clifton
Happy old age
Exalted character
Remarks on female education
The sphere of woman
What is woman to do?



Notable eras of modern civilization
Nineteenth Century, the age of novelists
Scott, Fielding, Dickens, Thackeray
Bulwer; women novelists
Charlotte Brontë, Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Eliot
Early life of Marian Evans
Appearance, education, and acquirements
Change in religious views; German translations; Continental travel
Westminster Review; literary and scientific men
Her alliance with George Henry Lewes
Her life with him
Literary labors
First work of fiction, "Amos Barton," with criticism upon
her qualities as a novelist, illustrated by the story
"Mr. Gilfils Love Story"
"Adam Bede"
"The Mill on the Floss"
"Silas Marner"
"Felix Holt"
"Daniel Deronda"
"Theophrastus Such"
General characteristics of George Eliot
Death of Mr. Lewes; her marriage with Mr. Cross
Lofty position of George Eliot in literature
Religious views and philosophical opinions
Her failure as a teacher of morals
Regret at her abandonment of Christianity



Madame de Récamier
_After the painting by Baron François Pascal Gérard_.

Abélard Teaching in the Paraclete
_After the painting by A. Steinheil_.

Joan of Arc Hears the Voices
_After the painting by Eugene Thirion_.

The Vision of St. Therese
_After the painting by Jean Brunet_.

Reception of the Great Condé by Louis XIV
_After the painting by J. L. Gérôme_.

Ministerial Conference of Louis XIV. at the Salon of Madam de Maintenon
_After the painting by John Gilbert_.

John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough
_After the painting by Pieter van der Werff, Pitti Palace, Florence_.

Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
_After the painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller_.

Mme. de Récamier
_After the painting by Mlle. Morin_

Madame de Staël
_After the painting by Mlle. de Godefroid, Versailles_.

Garrick and His Wife
_After the painting by William Hogarth_.

Hannah More
_After the painting by H.W. Pickersgill, A.R.A._.



       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1101-1164.


When Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, they yet found one
flower, wherever they wandered, blooming in perpetual beauty. This
flower represents a great certitude, without which few would be
happy,--subtile, mysterious, inexplicable,--a great boon recognized
alike by poets and moralists, Pagan and Christian; yea, identified not
only with happiness, but human existence, and pertaining to the soul in
its highest aspirations. Allied with the transient and the mortal, even
with the weak and corrupt, it is yet immortal in its nature and lofty in
its aims,--at once a passion, a sentiment, and an inspiration.

To attempt to describe woman without this element of our complex nature,
which constitutes her peculiar fascination, is like trying to act the
tragedy of Hamlet without Hamlet himself,--an absurdity; a picture
without a central figure, a novel without a heroine, a religion without
a sacrifice. My subject is not without its difficulties. The passion or
sentiment I describe is degrading when perverted, as it is exalting when
pure. Yet it is not vice I would paint, but virtue; not weakness, but
strength; not the transient, but the permanent; not the mortal, but the
immortal,--all that is ennobling in the aspiring soul.

"Socrates," says Legouvé, "who caught glimpses of everything that he did
not clearly define, uttered one day to his disciples these beautiful
words: 'There are two Venuses: one celestial, called Urania, the
heavenly, who presides over all pure and spiritual affections; and the
other Polyhymnia, the terrestrial, who excites sensual and gross
desires.'" The history of love is the eternal struggle between these two
divinities,--the one seeking to elevate and the other to degrade. Plato,
for the first time, in his beautiful hymn to the Venus Urania, displayed
to men the unknown image of love,--the educator and the moralist,--so
that grateful ages have consecrated it by his name. Centuries rolled
away, and among the descendants of Teutonic barbarians a still lovelier
and more ideal sentiment burst out from the lips of the Christian Dante,
kindled by the adoration of his departed Beatrice. And as she courses
from star to star, explaining to him the mysteries, the transported poet

"Ah, all the tongues which the Muses have inspired could not tell the
thousandth part of the beauty of the smile of Beatrice as she presented
me to the celestial group, exclaiming, 'Thou art redeemed!' O woman, in
whom lives all my hope, who hast deigned to leave for my salvation thy
footsteps on the throne of the Eternal, thou hast redeemed me from
slavery to liberty; now earth has no more dangers for me. I cherish the
image of thy purity in my bosom, that in my last hour, acceptable in
thine eyes, my soul may leave my body."

Thus did Dante impersonate the worship of Venus Urania,--spiritual
tenderness overcoming sensual desire. Thus faithful to the traditions of
this great poet did the austere Michael Angelo do reverence to the
virtues of Vittoria Colonna. Thus did the lofty Corneille present in his
Pauline a divine model of the love which inspires great deeds and
accompanies great virtues. Thus did Shakspeare, in his portrait of
Portia, show the blended generosity and simplicity of a woman's soul:--

       "For you [my Lord Bassanio]
     I would be trebled twenty times myself;
     A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times more rich;"

or, in his still more beautiful delineation of Juliet, paint an
absorbing devotion:--

     "My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
     My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
     The more I have, for both are infinite."

Thus did Milton, in his transcendent epic, show how a Paradise was
regained when woman gave her generous sympathy to man, and reproduced
for all coming ages the image of Spiritual Love,--the inamorata of Dante
and Petrarch, the inspired and consoling guide.

But the muse of the poets, even when sanctified by Christianity, never
sang such an immortal love as the Middle Ages in sober prose have handed
down in the history of Héloïse,--the struggle between the two Venuses of
Socrates, and the final victory of Urania, though not till after the
temporary triumph of Polyhymnia,--the inamorata of earth clad in the
vestments of a sanctified recluse, and purified by the chastisements of
Heaven. "Saint Theresa dies longing to join her divine spouse; but Saint
Theresa is only a Héloïse looking towards heaven." Héloïse has an
earthly idol; but her devotion has in it all the elements of a
supernatural fervor,--the crucifixion of self in the glory of him she
adored. He was not worthy of her idolatry; but she thought that he was.
Admiration for genius exalted sentiment into adoration, and imagination
invested the object of love with qualities superhuman.

Nations do not spontaneously keep alive the memory of those who have
disgraced them. It is their heroes and heroines whose praises they
sing,--those only who have shone in the radiance of genius and virtue.
They forget defects, if these are counterbalanced by grand services or
great deeds,--if their sons and daughters have shed lustre on the land
which gave them birth. But no lustre survives egotism or vice; it only
lasts when it gilds a noble life. There is no glory in the name of
Jezebel, or Cleopatra, or Catherine de' Medici, brilliant and
fascinating as were those queens; but there is glory in the memory of
Héloïse. There is no woman in French history of whom the nation is
prouder; revered, in spite of early follies, by the most austere and
venerated saints of her beclouded age, and hallowed by the tributes of
succeeding centuries for those sentiments which the fires of passion
were scarcely able to tarnish, for an exalted soul which eclipsed the
brightness of uncommon intellectual faculties, for a depth of sympathy
and affection which have become embalmed in the heart of the world, and
for a living piety which blazes all the more conspicuously from the sins
which she expiated by such bitter combats. She was human in her
impulses, but divine in her graces; one of those characters for whom we
cannot help feeling the deepest sympathy and the profoundest
admiration,--a character that has its contradictions, like that
warrior-bard who was after God's own heart, in spite of his crimes,
because his soul thirsted for the beatitudes of heaven, and was bound in
loving loyalty to his Maker, against whom he occasionally sinned by
force of mortal passions, but whom he never ignored or forgot, and
against whom he never persistently rebelled.

As a semi-warlike but religious age produced a David, with his
strikingly double nature perpetually at war with itself and looking for
aid to God,--his "sun," his "shield," his hope, and joy,--so an equally
unenlightened but devout age produced a Héloïse, the impersonation of
sympathy, disinterestedness, suffering, forgiveness, and resignation. I
have already described this dark, sad, turbulent, superstitious,
ignorant period of strife and suffering, yet not without its poetic
charms and religious aspirations; when the convent and the castle were
its chief external features, and when a life of meditation was as marked
as a life of bodily activity, as if old age and youth were battling for
supremacy,--a very peculiar state of society, in which we see the
loftiest speculations of the intellect and the highest triumphs of faith
blended with puerile enterprises and misdirected physical forces.

In this semi-barbaric age Héloïse was born, about the year 1101. Nobody
knew who was her father, although it was surmised that he belonged to
the illustrious family of the Montmorencies, which traced an unbroken
lineage to Pharimond, before the time of Clovis. She lived with her
uncle Fulbert, an ignorant, worldly-wise old canon of the Cathedral
Church of Notre Dame in Paris. He called her his niece; but whether
niece, or daughter, or adopted child, was a mystery. She was of
extraordinary beauty, though remarkable for expression rather than for
regularity of feature. In intellect she was precocious and brilliant;
but the qualities of a great soul shone above the radiance of her wit.
She was bright, amiable, affectionate, and sympathetic,--the type of an
interesting woman. The ecclesiastic was justly proud of her, and gave to
her all the education the age afforded. Although not meaning to be a
nun, she was educated in a neighboring convent,--for convents, even in
those times, were female seminaries, containing many inmates who never
intended to take the veil. But the convent then, as since, was a living
grave to all who took its vows, and was hated by brilliant women who
were not religious. The convent necessarily and logically, according to
the theology of the Middle Ages, was a retreat from the world,--a cell
of expiation; and yet it was the only place where a woman could
be educated.

Héloïse, it would seem, made extraordinary attainments, and spoke Latin
as well as her native tongue. She won universal admiration, and in due
time, at the age of eighteen, returned to her uncle's house, on the
banks of the Seine, on the island called the Cité, where the majestic
cathedral and the castle of the king towered above the rude houses of
the people. Adjoining the church were the cloisters of the monks and
the Episcopal School, the infant university of Paris, over which the
Archdeacon of Paris, William of Champeaux, presided in scholastic
dignity and pride,--next to the bishop the most influential man in
Paris. The teachers of this school, or masters and doctors as they were
called, and the priests of the cathedral formed the intellectual
aristocracy of the city, and they were frequent visitors at the house of
Fulbert the canon. His niece, as she was presumed to be, was the great
object of attraction. There never was a time when intellectual Frenchmen
have not bowed down to cultivated women. Héloïse, though only a girl,
was a queen of such society as existed in the city, albeit more admired
by men than women,--poetical, imaginative, witty, ready, frank, with a
singular appreciation of intellectual excellence, dazzled by literary
fame, and looking up to those brilliant men who worshipped her.

In truth, Héloïse was a prodigy. She was vastly superior to the men who
surrounded her, most of whom were pedants, or sophists, or bigots;
dignitaries indeed, but men who exalted the accidental and the external
over the real and the permanent; men who were fond of quibbles and
sophistries, jealous of each other and of their own reputation, dogmatic
and positive as priests are apt to be, and most positive on points which
either are of no consequence or cannot be solved. The soul of Héloïse
panted for a greater intellectual freedom and a deeper sympathy than
these priests could give. She pined in society. She was isolated by her
own superiority,--superior not merely in the radiance of the soul, but
in the treasures of the mind. Nor could her companions comprehend her
greatness, even while they were fascinated by her presence. She dazzled
them by her personal beauty perhaps more than by her wit; for even
mediaeval priests could admire an expansive brow, a deep blue eye, _doux
et penétrant,_ a mouth varying with unconscious sarcasms, teeth strong
and regular, a neck long and flexible, and shoulders sloping and
gracefully moulded, over which fell ample and golden locks; while the
attitude, the complexion, the blush, the thrilling accent, and the
gracious smile, languor, and passion depicted on a face both pale and
animated, seduced the imagination and commanded homage. Venus Polyhymnia
stood confessed in all her charms, for the time triumphant over that
Venus Urania who made the convent of the Paraclete in after times a
blessed comforter to all who sought its consolations.

Among the distinguished visitors at the house of her uncle the canon,
attracted by her beauty and accomplishments, was a man thirty-eight
years of age, of noble birth, but by profession an ecclesiastic; whose
large forehead, fiery eye, proud air, plain, negligent dress, and
aristocratic manners, by turns affable and haughty, stamped him as an
extraordinary man. The people in the streets stopped to gaze at him as
he passed, or rushed to the doors and windows for a glimpse; for he was
as famous for genius and learning as he was distinguished by manners and
aspect. He was the eldest son of a Breton nobleman, who had abandoned
his inheritance and birthright for the fascinations of literature and
philosophy. His name was Peter Abélard, on the whole the most brilliant
and interesting man whom the Middle Ages produced,--not so profound as
Anselm, or learned as Peter Lombard, or logical as Thomas Aquinas, or
acute as Albertus Magnus, but the most eloquent expounder of philosophy
of whom I have read. He made the dullest subjects interesting; he
clothed the dry bones of metaphysics with flesh and blood; he invested
the most abstruse speculations with life and charm; he filled the minds
of old men with envy, and of young men with admiration; he thrilled
admirers with his wit, sarcasm, and ridicule,--a sort of Galileo,
mocking yet amusing, with a superlative contempt of dulness and
pretension. He early devoted himself to dialectics, to all the arts of
intellectual gladiatorship, to all the sports of logical tournaments
which were held in such value by the awakened spirits of the new

Such was Abélard's precocious ability, even as a youth, that no champion
could be found to refute him in the whole of Brittany. He went from
castle to castle, and convent to convent, a philosophical
knight-errant, seeking intellectual adventures; more intent, however, on
_éclat_ and conquest than on the establishment of the dogmas which had
ruled the Church since Saint Augustine. He was a born logician, as
Bossuet was a born priest, loving to dispute as much as the Bishop of
Meaux loved to preach; not a serious man, but a bright man, ready, keen,
acute, turning fools into ridicule, and pushing acknowledged doctrines
into absurdity; not to bring out the truth as Socrates did, or furnish a
sure foundation of knowledge, but to revolutionize and overturn. His
spirit was like that of Lucien,--desiring to demolish, without
substituting anything for the dogmas he had made ridiculous.
Consequently he was mistrusted by the old oracles of the schools, and
detested by conservative churchmen who had intellect enough to see the
tendency of his speculations. In proportion to the hatred of orthodox
ecclesiastics like Anselme of Laon and Saint Bernard, was the admiration
of young men and of the infant universities. Nothing embarrassed him. He
sought a reason for all things. He appealed to reason rather than
authority, yet made the common mistake of the scholastics in supposing
that metaphysics could explain everything. He doubtless kindled a spirit
of inquiry, while he sapped the foundation of Christianity and
undermined faith. He was a nominalist; that is, he denied the existence
of all eternal ideas, such as Plato and the early Fathers advocated. He
is said to have even adduced the opinions of Pagan philosophers to prove
the mysteries of revelation. He did not deny revelation, nor authority,
nor the prevailing doctrines which the Church indorsed and defended; but
the tendency of his teachings was to undermine what had previously been
received by faith. He exalted reason, therefore, as higher than faith.
His spirit was offensive to conservative teachers. Had he lived in our
times, he would have belonged to the most progressive schools of thought
and inquiry,--probably a rationalist, denying what he could not prove by
reason, and scorning all supernaturalism; a philosopher of the school of
Hume, or Strauss, or Renan. And yet, after assailing everything
venerable, and turning his old teachers into ridicule, and creating a
spirit of rationalistic inquiry among the young students of divinity,
who adored him, Abélard settled back on authority in his old age,
perhaps alarmed and shocked at the mischief he had done in his more
brilliant years.

This exceedingly interesting man, with all his vanity, conceit, and
arrogance, had turned his steps to Paris, the centre of all intellectual
life in France, after he had achieved a great provincial reputation. He
was then only twenty, a bright and daring youth, conscious of his
powers, and burning with ambition. He was not ambitious of
ecclesiastical preferment, for aristocratic dunces occupied the great
sees and ruled the great monasteries. He was simply ambitious of
influence over students in philosophy and religion,--fond of _éclat_ and
fame as a teacher. The universities were not then established; there
were no chairs for professors, nor even were there scholastic titles,
like those of doctor and master; but Paris was full of students,
disgusted with the provincial schools. The Cathedral School of Paris was
the great attraction to these young men, then presided over by William
of Champeaux, a very respectable theologian, but not a remarkable genius
like Aquinas and Bonaventura, who did not arise until the Dominican and
Franciscan orders were established to combat heresy. Abélard, being
still a youth, attended the lectures of this old theologian, who was a
Realist, not an original thinker, but enjoying a great reputation, which
he was most anxious to preserve. The youthful prodigy at first was
greatly admired by the veteran teacher; but Abélard soon began to
question him and argue with him. Admiration was then succeeded by
jealousy. Some sided with the venerable teacher, but more with the
flippant yet brilliant youth who turned his master's teachings into
ridicule, and aspired to be a teacher himself. But as teaching was under
the supervision of the school of Notre Dame, Paris was interdicted to
him; he was not allowed to combat the received doctrines which were
taught in the Cathedral School. So he retired to Melun, about thirty
miles from Paris, and set up for a teacher and lecturer on philosophy.
All the influence of William of Champeaux and his friends was exerted to
prevent Abélard from teaching, but in vain. His lecture-room was
crowded. The most astonishing success attended his lectures. Not
contented with the _éclat_ he received, he now meditated the
discomfiture of his old master. He removed still nearer to Paris. And so
great was his success and fame, that it is said he compelled William to
renounce his Realism and also his chair, and accept a distant bishopric.
William was conquered by a mere stripling; but that stripling could have
overthrown a Goliath of controversy, not with a sling, but with a
giant's sword.

Abélard having won a great dialectical victory, which brought as much
fame as military laurels on the battlefield, established himself at St.
Geneviève, just outside the walls of Paris, where the Pantheon now
stands, which is still the centre of the Latin quarter, and the
residence of students. He now applied himself to the study of divinity,
and attended the lectures of Anselm of Laon. This celebrated
ecclesiastic, though not so famous or able as Anselm of Canterbury, was
treated by Abélard with the same arrogance and flippancy as he had
bestowed on William of Champeaux. "I frequented," said the young
mocker, "the old man's school, but soon discovered that all his power
was in length of practice. You would have thought he was kindling a
fire, when instantly the whole house was filled with smoke, in which not
a single spark was visible. He was a tree covered with thick foliage,
which to the distant eye had charms, but on near inspection there was no
fruit to be found; a fig-tree such as our Lord did curse; an oak such as
Lucan compared Pompey to,--_Stat magni nominis umbra_."

What a comment on the very philosophy which Abélard himself taught! What
better description of the scholasticism of the Middle Ages! But original
and brilliant as was the genius of Abélard, he no more could have
anticipated the new method which Bacon taught than could Thomas Aquinas.
All the various schools of the mediaeval dialecticians, Realists and
Nominalists alike, sought to establish old theories, not to discover new
truth. They could not go beyond their assumptions. So far as their
assumptions were true, they rendered great service by their inexorable
logic in defending them. They did not establish premises; that was not
their concern or mission. Assuming that the sun revolved around the
earth, all their astronomical speculations were worthless, even as the
assumption of the old doctrine of atoms in our times has led scientists
to the wildest conclusions. The metaphysics of the Schoolmen, whether
they were sceptical or reverential, simply sharpened the intellectual
faculties without advancing knowledge.

Abélard belonged by nature to the sceptical school. He delighted in
negations, and in the work of demolition. So far as he demolished or
ridiculed error he rendered the same service as Voltaire did: he
prepared the way for a more inquiring spirit. He was also more liberal
than his opponents. His spirit was progressive, but his method was
faulty. Like all those who have sought to undermine the old systems of
thought, he was naturally vain and conceited. He supposed he had
accomplished more than he really had. He became bold in his
speculations, and undertook to explain subjects beyond his grasp. Thus
he professed to unfold the meaning of the prophecies of Ezekiel. He was
arrogant in his claims to genius. "It is not by long study," said he,
"that I have mastered the heights of science, but by the force of my
mind." This flippancy, accompanied by wit and eloquence, fascinated
young men. His auditors were charmed. "The first philosopher," they
said, "had become the first divine." New pupils crowded his
lecture-room, and he united lectures on philosophy with lectures on
divinity. "Theology and philosophy encircled his brow with a double
garland." So popular was he, that students came from Germany and Italy
and England to hear his lectures. The number of his pupils, it is said,
was more than five thousand; and these included the brightest intellects
of the age, among whom one was destined to be a pope (the great Innocent
III.), nineteen to be cardinals, and one hundred to be bishops. What a
proud position for a young man! What an astonishing success for that
age! And his pupils were as generous as they were enthusiastic. They
filled his pockets with gold; they hung upon his lips with rapture; they
extolled his genius wherever they went; they carried his picture from
court to court, from castle to castle, and convent to convent; they
begged for a lock of his hair, for a shred of his garment. Never was
seen before such idolatry of genius, such unbounded admiration for
eloquence; for he stood apart and different from all other
lights,--pre-eminent as a teacher of philosophy. "He reigned," says
Lamartine, "by eloquence over the spirit of youth, by beauty over the
regard of women, by love-songs which penetrated all hearts, by musical
melodies repeated by every mouth. Let us imagine in a single man the
first orator, the first philosopher, the first poet, the first musician
of the age,--Cicero, Plato, Petrarch, Schubert,--all united in one
living celebrity, and we can form some idea of his attractions and fame
at this period of his life."

Such was that brilliant but unsound man, with learning, fame, personal
beauty, fascinating eloquence, dialectical acumen, aristocratic
manners, and transcendent wit, who encountered at thirty-eight the most
beautiful, gracious, accomplished, generous, and ardent woman that
adorned that time,--only eighteen, thirsting for knowledge, craving for
sympathy, and intensely idolatrous of intellectual excellence. But one
result could be anticipated from such a meeting: they became
passionately enamored of each other. In order to secure a more
uninterrupted intercourse, Abélard sought and obtained a residence in
the house of Fulbert, under pretence of desiring to superintend the
education of his niece. The ambitious, vain, unsuspecting priest was
delighted to receive so great a man, whose fame filled the world. He
intrusted Héloïse to his care, with permission to use blows if they were
necessary to make her diligent and obedient!

And what young woman with such a nature and under such circumstances
could resist the influence of such a teacher? I need not dwell on the
familiar story, how mutual admiration was followed by mutual friendship,
and friendship was succeeded by mutual infatuation, and the gradual
abandonment of both to a mad passion, forgetful alike of fame and duty.

"It became tedious," said Abélard, "to go to my lessons. I gave my
lectures with negligence. I spoke only from habit and memory. I was only
a reciter of ancient inventions; and if I chanced to compose verses,
they were songs of love, not secrets of philosophy." The absence of his
mind evinced how powerfully his new passion moved his fiery and
impatient soul. "He consumed his time in writing verses to the canon's
niece; and even as Hercules in the gay court of Omphale threw down his
club in order to hold the distaff, so Abélard laid aside his sceptre as
a monarch of the schools to sing sonnets at the feet of Héloïse." And
she also, still more unwisely, in the mighty potency of an absorbing
love, yielded up her honor and her pride. This mutual infatuation was,
it would seem, a gradual transition from the innocent pleasure of
delightful companionship to the guilt of unrestrained desire. It was not
premeditated design,--not calculation, but insidious dalliance:--

     "Thou know'st how guiltless first I met thy flame,
     When love approached me under friendship's name.
     Guiltless I gazed; heaven listened when you sung,
     And truths divine came mended from your tongue.
     From lips like those, what precept failed to move?
     Too soon they taught me 't was no sin to love."

In a healthy state of society this mutual passion would have been
followed by the marriage ties. The parties were equal in culture and
social position. And Abélard probably enjoyed a large income from the
fees of students, and could well support the expenses of a family. All
that was needed was the consecration of emotions, which are natural and
irresistible,--a mystery perhaps but ordained, and without which
marriage would be mere calculation and negotiation. Passion, doubtless,
is blind; but in this very blindness we see the hand of the Creator,--to
baffle selfishness and pride. What would become of our world if men and
women were left to choose their partners with the eye of unclouded
reason? Expediency would soon make a desert of earth, and there would be
no paradise found for those who are unattractive or in adverse
circumstances. Friendship might possibly bring people together; but
friendship exists only between equals and people of congenial tastes.
Love brings together also those who are unequal. It joins the rich to
the poor, the strong to the weak, the fortunate to the unfortunate, and
thus defeats the calculations which otherwise would enter into
matrimonial life. Without the blindness of passionate love the darts of
Cupid would be sent in vain; and the helpless and neglected--as so many
are--would stand but little chance for that happiness which is
associated with the institution of marriage. The world would be filled
with old bachelors and old maids, and population would hopelessly
decline among virtuous people.

No scandal would have resulted from the ardent loves of Abélard and
Héloïse had they been united by that sacred relation which was ordained
in the garden of Eden. "If any woman," says Legouvé, "may stand as the
model of a wife in all her glory, it is Héloïse. Passion without bounds
and without alloy, enthusiasm for the genius of Abélard, jealous care
for his reputation, a vigorous intellect, learning sufficient to join in
his labors, and an unsullied name."

But those false, sophistical ideas which early entered into monastic
life, and which perverted the Christianity of the Middle Ages, presented
a powerful barrier against the instincts of nature and the ordinances of
God. Celibacy was accounted as a supernal virtue, and the marriage of a
priest was deemed a lasting disgrace. It obscured his fame, his
prospects, his position, and his influence; it consigned him to ridicule
and reproach. He was supposed to be married only to the Church, and
would be unfaithful to Heaven if he bound himself by connubial ties.
Says Saint Jerome, "Take axe in hand and hew up by the roots the sterile
tree of marriage. God permits it, I grant; but Christ and Mary
consecrated virginity." Alas, what could be hoped when the Church
endorsed such absurd doctrines! Hildebrand, when he denounced the
marriage of priests, made war on the most sacred instincts of human
nature. He may have strengthened the papal domination, but he weakened
the restraints of home. Only a dark and beclouded age could have upheld
such a policy. Upon the Church of the Middle Ages we lay the blame of
these false ideas. She is in a measure responsible for the follies of
Abélard and Héloïse. They were not greater than the ideas of their age.
Had Abélard been as bold in denouncing the stupid custom of the Church
in this respect as he was in fighting the monks of St. Denis or the
intellectual intolerance of Bernard, he would not have fallen in the
respect of good people. But he was a slave to interest and
conventionality. He could not brave the sneers of priests or the
opinions of society; he dared not lose caste with those who ruled the
Church; he would not give up his chances of preferment. He was unwilling
either to renounce his love, or to avow it by an honorable, open union.

At last his intimacy created scandal. In the eyes of the schools and of
the Church he had sacrificed philosophy and fame to a second Delilah.
And Héloïse was even more affected by his humiliation than himself. She
more than he was opposed to marriage, knowing that this would doom him
to neglect and reproach. Abélard would perhaps have consented to an open
marriage had Héloïse been willing; but with a strange perversity she
refused. His reputation and interests were dearer to her than was her
own fair name. She sacrificed herself to his fame; she blinded herself
to the greatest mistake a woman could make. The excess of her love made
her insensible to the principles of an immutable morality. Circumstances
palliated her course, but did not excuse it. The fatal consequences of
her folly pursued her into the immensity of subsequent grief; and though
afterwards she was assured of peace and forgiveness in the depths of her
repentance, the demon of infatuated love was not easily exorcised. She
may have been unconscious of degradation in the boundless spirit of
self-sacrifice which she was willing to make for the object of her
devotion, but she lost both dignity and fame. She entreated him who was
now quoted as a reproach to human weakness, since the languor of passion
had weakened his power and his eloquence, to sacrifice her to his fame;
"to permit her no longer to adore him as a divinity who accepts the
homage of his worshippers; to love her no longer, if this love
diminished his reputation; to reduce her even, if necessary, to the
condition of a woman despised by the world, since the glory of his love
would more than compensate for the contempt of the universe."

"What reproaches," said she, "should I merit from the Church and the
schools of philosophy, were I to draw from them their brightest star!
And shall a woman dare to take to herself that man whom Nature meant to
be the ornament and benefactor of the human race? Then reflect on the
nature of matrimony, with its littleness and cares. How inconsistent it
is with the dignity of a wise man! Saint Paul earnestly dissuades from
it. So do the saints. So do the philosophers of ancient times. Think a
while. What a ridiculous association,--the philosopher and the
chambermaids, writing-desks and cradles, books and distaffs, pens and
spindles! Intent on speculation when the truths of nature and revelation
are breaking on your eye, will you hear the sudden cry of children, the
lullaby of nurses, the turbulent bustling of disorderly servants? In the
serious pursuits of wisdom there is no time to be lost. Believe me, as
well withdraw totally from literature as attempt to proceed in the midst
of worldly avocations. Science admits no participation in the cares of
life. Remember the feats of Xanthippe. Take counsel from the example of
Socrates, who has been set up as a beacon for all coming time to warn
philosophers from the fatal rock of matrimony."

Such was the blended truth, irony, and wit with which Héloïse dissuaded
Abélard from open marriage. He compromised the affair, and contented
himself with a secret marriage. "After a night spent in prayer," said
he, "in one of the churches of Paris, on the following morning we
received the nuptial blessing in the presence of the uncle of Héloïse
and of a few mutual friends. We then retired without observation, that
this union, known only to God and a few intimates, should bring neither
shame nor prejudice to my renown." A cold and selfish act, such as we
might expect in Louis XIV. and Madame de Maintenon,--yet, nevertheless,
the feeble concession which pride and policy make to virtue, the
triumph of expediency over all heroic and manly qualities. Like
Maintenon, Héloïse was willing to seem what she was not,--only to be
explained on the ground that concubinage was a less evil, in the eyes of
the Church, than marriage in a priest.

But even a secret marriage was attended with great embarrassment. The
news of it leaks out through the servants. The envious detractors of
Abélard rejoice in his weakness and his humiliation. His pride now takes
offence, and he denies the ties; and so does Héloïse. The old uncle is
enraged and indignant. Abélard, justly fearing his resentment,--yea,
being cruelly maltreated at his instigation,--removes his wife to the
convent where she was educated, and induces her to take the veil. She
obeys him; she obeys him in all things; she has no will but his. She
thinks of nothing but his reputation and interest; she forgets herself
entirely, yet not without bitter anguish. She accepts the sacrifice, but
it costs her infinite pangs. She is separated from her husband forever.
Nor was the convent agreeable to her. It was dull, monotonous, dismal;
imprisonment in a tomb, a living death, where none could know her
agonies but God; where she could not even hear from him who was
her life.

Yet immolation in the dreary convent, where for nearly forty years she
combated the recollection of her folly, was perhaps the best thing for
her. It was a cruel necessity. In the convent she was at least safe from
molestation; she had every opportunity for study and meditation; she was
free from the temptations of the world, and removed from its scandals
and reproach. The world was crucified to her; Christ was now her spouse.

To a convent also Abélard retired, overwhelmed with shame and penitence.
At St. Denis he assumed the strictest habits, mortified his body with
severe austerities, and renewed with ardor his studies in philosophy and
theology. He was not without mental sufferings, but he could bury his
grief in his ambition. It would seem that a marked change now took place
in the character of Abélard. He was less vain and conceited, and sought
more eagerly the consolations of religion. His life became too austere
for his brother monks, and they compelled him to leave this aristocratic
abbey. He then resumed his lectures in the wilderness. He retreated to a
desert place in Champagne, where he constructed a small oratory with his
own hands. But still students gathered around him. They, too,
constructed cells, like ancient anchorites, and cultivated the fields
for bread. Then, as their numbers increased, they erected a vast edifice
of stone and timber, which Abélard dedicated to the Holy Comforter, and
called the Paraclete. It was here that his best days were spent. His
renewed labors and his intellectual boldness increased the admiration of
his pupils. It became almost idolatry. It is said that three thousand
students assembled at the Paraclete to hear him lecture. What admiration
for genius, when three thousand young men could give up the delights of
Paris for a wilderness with Abélard! What marvellous powers of
fascination he must have had!

This renewed success, in the midst of disgrace, created immeasurable
envy. Moreover, the sarcasms, boldness, and new views of the philosopher
raised a storm of hatred. Galileo was not more offensive to the pedants
and priests of his generation than Abélard was to the Schoolmen and
monks of his day. They impeached both his piety and theology. He was
stigmatized as unsound and superficial. Yet he continued his attacks,
his ridicule, and his sarcasms. In proportion to the animosities of his
foes was the zeal of his followers, who admired his boldness and
arrogance. At last a great clamor was raised against the daring
theologian. Saint Bernard, the most influential and profound
ecclesiastic of the day, headed the opposition. He maintained that the
foundations of Christianity were assailed. Even Abélard could not stand
before the indignation and hostility of such a saint,--a man who kindled
crusades, who made popes, who controlled the opinions of the age.
Abélard was obliged to fly, and sought an asylum amid the rocks and
sands of Brittany. The Duke of this wild province gave him the abbey of
St. Gildas; but its inmates were ignorant and disorderly, and added
insubordination to dissoluteness. They ornamented their convent with the
trophies of the chase. They thought more of bears and wild boars and
stags than they did of hymns and meditations. The new abbot, now a grave
and religious man, in spite of his opposition to the leaders of the
orthodox party, endeavored to reform the monks,--a hopeless task,--and
they turned against him with more ferocity than the theologians. They
even poisoned, it is said, the sacramental wine. He was obliged to hide
among the rocks to save his life. Nothing but aid from the neighboring
barons saved him from assassination.

Thus fifteen years were passed in alternate study, glory, suffering, and
shame. In his misery Abélard called on God for help,--his first great
advance in that piety which detractors depreciated. He wrote also to a
friend a history of his misfortunes. By accident this history fell into
the hands of Héloïse, then abbess of the Paraclete, which Abélard had
given her, and where she was greatly revered for all those virtues most
esteemed in her age. It opened her wound afresh, and she wrote a letter
to her husband such as has seldom been equalled for pathos and depth of
sentiment. It is an immortal record of her grief, her unsubdued
passion, her boundless love, not without gentle reproaches for what
seemed a cold neglect and silence for fifteen long and bitter years, yet
breathing forgiveness, admiration, affection. The salutation of that
letter is remarkable: "Héloïse to her lord, to her father, to her
husband, to her brother: his servant,--yes, his daughter; his
wife,--yes, his sister." Thus does she begin that tender and long
letter, in which she describes her sufferings, her unchanged affections,
her ardent wishes for his welfare, revealing in every line not merely
genius and sensibility, but a lofty and magnanimous soul. She glories in
what constitutes the real superiority of her old lover; she describes
with simplicity what had originally charmed her,--his songs and
conversation. She professes still an unbounded obedience to his will,
and begs for a reply, if for nothing else that she may be stimulated to
a higher life amid the asperities of her gloomy convent.

     Yet write, oh, write all, that I may join
     Grief to thy griefs, and echo sighs to thine!
     Years still are mine, and these I need not spare,
     Love but demands what else were shed in prayer;
     No happier task these faded eyes pursue,--
     To read and weep is all I now can do.

Abélard replies to this touching letter coldly, but religiously, calling
her his "sister in Christ," but not attempting to draw out the earthly
love which both had sought to crush. He implores her prayers in his
behalf. The only sign of his former love is a request to be buried in
her abbey, in anticipation of a speedy and violent death. Most critics
condemn this letter as heartless; yet it is but charitable to suppose
that he did not wish to trifle with a love so great, and reopen a wound
so deep and sacred. All his efforts now seem to have been directed to
raise her soul to heaven. But his letter does not satisfy her, and she
again gives vent to her passionate grief in view of the separation:--

"O inclement Clemency! O unfortunate Fortune! She has so far consumed
her weakness upon me that she has nothing left for others against whom
she rages. I am the most miserable of the miserable, the most unhappy of
the unhappy!"

This letter seems to have touched Abélard, and he replied to it more at
length, and with great sympathy, giving her encouragement and
consolation. He speaks of their mutual sufferings as providential; and
his letter is couched in a more Christian spirit than one would
naturally impute to him in view of his contests with the orthodox
leaders of the Church; and it also expresses more tenderness than can be
reconciled with the selfish man he is usually represented. He writes:--

"See, dearest, how with the strong nets of his mercy God has taken us
from the depths of a perilous sea. Observe how he has tempered mercy
with justice; compare our danger with the deliverance, our disease with
the remedy. I merit death, and God gives me life. Come, and join me in
proclaiming how much the Lord has done for us. Be my inseparable
companion in an act of grace, since you have participated with me in the
fault and the pardon. Take courage, my dear sister; whom the Lord loveth
he chastiseth. Sympathize with Him who suffered for your redemption.
Approach in spirit His sepulchre. Be thou His spouse."

Then he closes with this prayer:--

"When it pleased Thee, O Lord, and as it pleased Thee, Thou didst join
us, and Thou didst separate us. Now, what Thou hast so mercifully begun,
mercifully complete; and after separating us in this world, join us
together eternally in heaven."

No one can read this letter without acknowledging its delicacy and its
loftiness. All his desires centred in the spiritual good of her whom the
Church would not allow him to call any longer his wife, yet to whom he
hoped to be reunited in heaven. As a professed nun she could no longer,
with propriety, think of him as an earthly husband. For a priest to
acknowledge a nun for his wife would have been a great scandal. By all
the laws of the Church and the age they were now only brother and sister
in Christ. Nothing escaped from his pen which derogates from the
austere dignity of the priest.

But Héloïse was more human and less conventional. She had not conquered
her love; once given, it could not be taken back. She accepted her
dreary immolation in the convent, since she obeyed Abélard both as
husband and as a spiritual father; but she would have left the convent
and rejoined him had he demanded it, for marriage was to her more sacred
than the veil. She was more emancipated from the ideas of her
superstitious age than even the bold and rationalistic philosopher. With
all her moral and spiritual elevation, Héloïse could not conquer her
love. And, as a wedded wife, why should she conquer it? She was both nun
and wife. If fault there was, it was as wife, in immuring herself in a
convent and denying the marriage. It should have been openly avowed; the
denial of it placed her in a false position, as a fallen woman. Yet, as
a fallen woman, she regained her position in the eyes of the world. She
was a lady abbess. It was impossible for a woman to enjoy a higher
position than the control of a convent. As abbess, she enjoyed the
friendship and respect of some of the saintliest and greatest characters
of the age, even of such a man as Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny.
And it is impossible that she should have won the friendship of such a
man, if she herself had not been irreproachable in her own character.
The error in judging Héloïse is, that she, as nun, had no right to love.
But the love existed long before she took the veil, and was consecrated
by marriage, even though private. By the mediaeval and conventional
stand point, it is true, the wife was lost in the nun. That is the view
that Abélard took,--that it was a sin to love his wife any longer. But
Héloïse felt that it was no sin to love him who was her life. She
continued to live in him who ruled over her, and to whose desire her
will was subject and obedient, according to that eternal law declared in
the garden of Eden.

Nor could this have been otherwise so long as Abélard retained the
admiration of Héloïse, and was worthy of her devotion. We cannot tell
what changes may have taken place in her soul had he been grovelling, or
tyrannical, a slave of degrading habits, or had he treated her with
cruel harshness, or ceased to sympathize with her sorrows, or
transferred his affections to another object. But whatever love he had
to give, he gave to her to the end, so far as the ideas of his age would
permit. His fault was in making a nun of his wife, which was in the eyes
of the world a virtual repudiation; even though, from a principle of
sublime obedience and self-sacrifice, she consented to the separation.
Was Josephine to blame because she loved a selfish man after she was
repudiated? Héloïse was simply unable to conquer a powerful love. It
was not converted into hatred, because Abélard, in her eyes, seemed
still to be worthy of it. She regarded him as a saint, forced by the
ideas of his age to crush a mortal love,--which she herself could not
do, because it was a sentiment, and sentiment is eternal. She was
greater than Abélard, because her love was more permanent; in other
words, because her soul was greater. In intellect he may have been
superior to her, but not in the higher qualities which imply generosity,
self-abnegation, and sympathy,--qualities which are usually stronger in
women than in men. In Abélard the lower faculties--ambition, desire of
knowledge, vanity--consumed the greater. _He_ could be contented with
the gratification of these, even as men of a still lower type can
renounce intellectual pleasures for the sensual. It does not follow that
Héloïse was weaker than he because she could not live outside the world
of sentiment, but rather loftier and nobler. These higher faculties
constituted her superiority to Abélard. It was sentiment which made her
so pre-eminently great, and it was this which really endeared her to
Abélard. By reason and will he ruled over her; but by the force of
superior sentiment she ruled over him.

Sentiment, indeed, underlies everything that is great or lovely or
enduring on this earth. It is the joy of festivals, the animating soul
of patriotism, the bond of families, the beauty of religious,
political, and social institutions. It has consecrated Thermopylae, the
Parthenon, the Capitol, the laurel crown, the conqueror's triumphal
procession, the epics of Homer, the eloquence of Demosthenes, the muse
of Virgil, the mediaeval cathedral, the town-halls of Flanders, the
colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, the struggles of the Puritans, the
deeds of Gustavus Adolphus, the Marseilles hymn, the farewell address of
Washington. There is no poetry without it, nor heroism, nor social
banqueting. What is Christmas without the sentiments which hallow the
evergreen, the anthem, the mistletoe, the family reunion? What is even
tangible roast-beef and plum-pudding without a party to enjoy them; and
what is the life of the party but the interchange of sentiments? Why is
a cold sleigh-ride, or the ascent of a mountain, or a voyage across the
Atlantic, or a rough journey under torrid suns to the consecrated
places,--why are these endurable, and even pleasant? It is because the
sentiments which prompt them are full of sweet and noble inspiration.
The Last Supper, and Bethany, and the Sepulchre are immortal, because
they testify eternal love. Leonidas lives in the heart of the world
because he sacrificed himself to patriotism. The martyrs are objects of
unfading veneration, because they died for Christianity.

In the same way Héloïse is embalmed in the affections of all nations
because she gave up everything for an exalted sentiment which so
possessed her soul that neither scorn, nor pity, nor ascetic severities,
nor gloomy isolation, nor ingratitude, nor a living death could
eradicate or weaken it,--an unbounded charity which covered with its
veil the evils she could not remove. That all-pervading and
all-conquering sentiment was the admiration of ideal virtues and
beauties which her rapt and excited soul saw in her adored lover; such
as Dante saw in his departed Beatrice. It was unbounded admiration for
Abélard which first called out the love of Héloïse; and his undoubted
brilliancy and greatness were exaggerated in her loving eyes by her
imagination, even as mothers see in children traits that are hidden from
all other mortal eyes. So lofty and godlike did he seem, amidst the
plaudits of the schools, and his triumph over all the dignitaries that
sought to humble him; so interesting was he to her by his wit, sarcasm,
and eloquence,--that she worshipped him, and deemed it the most exalted
honor to possess exclusively his love in return, which he gave certainly
to no one else. Satisfied that he, the greatest man of the world,--as he
seemed and as she was told he was,--should give to her what she gave to
him, she exulted in it as her highest glory. It was all in all to her;
but not to him. See, then, how superior Héloïse was to Abélard in
humility as well as self-abnegation. She was his equal, and yet she
ever gloried in his superiority. See how much greater, too, she was in
lofty sentiments, since it was the majesty of his mind and soul which
she adored. He was comparatively indifferent to her when she became no
longer an object of desire; but not so with her, since she was attracted
by his real or supposed greatness of intellect, which gave permanence to
her love, and loftiness also. He was her idol, since he possessed those
qualities which most powerfully excited her admiration.

This then is love, when judged by a lofty standard,--worship of what is
most glorious in mind and soul. And this exalted love is most common
among the female sex, since their passions are weaker and their
sentiments are stronger than those of most men. What a fool a man is to
weaken this sympathy, or destroy this homage, or outrage this
indulgence; or withhold that tenderness, that delicate attention, that
toleration of foibles, that sweet appreciation, by which the soul of
woman is kept alive and the lamp of her incense burning! And woe be to
him who drives this confiding idolater back upon her technical
obligations! The form that holds these certitudes of the soul may lose
all its beauty by rudeness or neglect. And even if the form remains,
what is a mortal body without the immortal soul which animates it? The
glory of a man or of a woman is the real presence of spiritual love,
which brings peace to homes, alleviation to burdens, consolation to
sufferings, rest to labors, hope to anxieties, and a sublime repose amid
the changes of the world,--that blessed flower of perennial sweetness
and beauty which Adam in his despair bore away from Eden, and which
alone almost compensated him for the loss of Paradise.

It is not my object to present Abélard except in his connection with the
immortal love with which he inspired the greatest woman of the age. And
yet I cannot conclude this sketch without taking a parting glance of
this brilliant but unfortunate man. And I confess that his closing days
strongly touch my sympathies, and make me feel that historians have been
too harsh in their verdicts. Historians have based their opinions on the
hostilities which theological controversies produced, and on the neglect
which Abélard seemed to show for the noble woman who obeyed and adored
him. But he appears to have employed his leisure and tranquil days in
writing hymns to the abbess of the Paraclete, in preparing homilies, and
in giving her such advice as her circumstances required. All his later
letters show the utmost tenderness and zeal for the spiritual good of
the woman to whom he hoped to be reunited in heaven, and doing for
Héloïse what Jerome did for Paula, and Fénelon for Madame Guyon. If no
longer her lover, he was at least her friend. And, moreover, at this
time he evinced a loftier religious life than he has the credit of
possessing. He lived a life of study and meditation.

But his enemies would not allow him to rest, even in generous labors.
They wished to punish him and destroy his influence. So they summoned
him to an ecclesiastical council to answer for his heresies. At first he
resolved to defend himself, and Bernard, his greatest enemy, even
professed a reluctance to contend with his superior in dialectical
contests. But Abélard, seeing how inflamed were the passions of the
theologians against him, and how vain would be his defence, appealed at
once to the Pope; and Rome, of course, sided with his enemies. He was
condemned to perpetual silence, and his books were ordered to be burned.

To this sentence it would appear that Abélard prepared to submit with
more humility than was to be expected from so bold and arrogant a man.
But he knew he could not resist an authority based on generally accepted
ideas any easier than Henry IV. could have resisted Hildebrand. He made
up his mind to obey the supreme authority of the Church, but bitterly
felt the humiliation and the wrong.

Broken in spirit and in reputation, Abélard, now an old man, set out on
foot for Rome to plead his cause before the Pope. He stopped on his way
at Cluny in Burgundy, that famous monastery where Hildebrand himself had
ruled, now, however, presided over by Peter the Venerable,--the most
benignant and charitable ecclesiastical dignitary of that age. And as
Abélard approached the gates of the venerable abbey, which was the pride
of the age, worn out with fatigue and misfortune, he threw himself at
the feet of the lordly abbot and invoked shelter and protection. How
touching is the pride of greatness, when brought low by penitence or
grief, like that of Theodosius at the feet of Ambrose, or Henry II. at
the tomb of Becket! But Peter raises him up, receives him in his arms,
opens to him his heart and the hospitalities of his convent, not as a
repentant prodigal, but as the greatest genius of his age, brought low
by religious persecution. Peter did all in his power to console his
visitor, and even privately interceded with the Pope, remembering only
Abélard's greatness and his misfortunes. And the persecuted philosopher,
through the kind offices of the abbot, was left in peace, and was even
reconciled with Bernard,--an impossibility without altered opinions in
Abélard, or a submission to the Church which bore all the marks
of piety.

The few remaining days of this extraordinary man, it seems, were spent
in study, penitence, and holy meditation. So beloved and revered was he
by the community among whom he dwelt, that for six centuries his name
was handed down from father to son among the people of the valley and
town of Cluny. "At the extremity of a retired valley," says Lamartine,
"flanked by the walls of the convent, on the margin of extensive
meadows, closed by woods, and near to a neighboring stream, there exists
an enormous lime-tree, under the shade of which Abélard in his closing
days was accustomed to sit and meditate, with his face turned towards
the Paraclete which he had built, and where Héloïse still discharged the
duties of abbess."

But even this pensive pleasure was not long permitted him. He was worn
out with sorrows and misfortunes; and in a few months after he had
crossed the hospitable threshold of Cluny he died in the arms of his
admiring friend. "Under the instinct of a sentiment as sacred as
religion itself, Peter felt that Abélard above and Héloïse on earth
demanded of him the last consolation of a reunion in the grave. So,
quietly, in the dead of night, dreading scandal, yet true to his
impulses, without a hand to assist or an eye to witness, he exhumed the
coffin which had been buried in the abbey cemetery, and conveyed it
himself to the Paraclete, and intrusted it to Héloïse."

She received it with tears, shut herself up in the cold vault with the
mortal remains of him she had loved so well; while Peter, that aged
saint of consolation, pronounced the burial service with mingled tears
and sobs. And after having performed this last sad office, and given his
affectionate benediction to the great woman to whom he was drawn by ties
of admiration and sympathy, this venerable dignitary wended his way
silently back to Cluny, and, for the greater consolation of Héloïse,
penned the following remarkable letter, which may perhaps modify our
judgment of Abélard:--

"It is no easy task, my sister, to describe in a few lines the holiness,
the humility, and the self-denial which our departed brother exhibited
to us, and of which our whole collected brotherhood alike bear witness.
Never have I beheld a life and deportment so thoroughly submissive. I
placed him in an elevated rank in the community, but he appeared the
lowest of all by the simplicity of his dress and his abstinence from all
the enjoyments of the senses. I speak not of luxury, for that was a
stranger to him; he refused everything but what was indispensable for
the sustenance of life. He read continually, prayed often, and never
spoke except when literary conversation or holy discussion compelled him
to break silence. His mind and tongue seemed concentrated on
philosophical and divine instructions. Simple, straightforward,
reflecting on eternal judgments, shunning all evil, he consecrated the
closing hours of an illustrious life. And when a mortal sickness seized
him, with what fervent piety, what ardent inspiration did he make his
last confession of his sins; with what fervor did he receive the
promise of eternal life; with what confidence did he recommend his body
and soul to the tender mercies of the Saviour!"

Such was the death of Abélard, as attested by the most venerated man of
that generation. And when we bear in mind the friendship and respect of
such a man as Peter, and the exalted love of such a woman as Héloïse, it
is surely not strange that posterity, and the French nation especially,
should embalm his memory in their traditions.

Héloïse survived him twenty years,--a priestess of God, a mourner at the
tomb of Abélard. And when in the solitude of the Paraclete she felt the
approach of the death she had so long invoked, she directed the
sisterhood to place her body beside that of her husband in the same
leaden coffin. And there, in the silent aisles of that abbey-church, it
remained for five hundred years, until it was removed by Lucien
Bonaparte to the Museum of French Monuments in Paris, but again
transferred, a few years after, to the cemetery of Père la Chaise. The
enthusiasm of the French erected over the remains a beautiful monument;
and "there still may be seen, day by day, the statues of the immortal
lovers, decked with flowers and coronets, perpetually renewed with
invisible hands,--the silent tribute of the heart of that consecrated
sentiment which survives all change. Thus do those votive offerings
mysteriously convey admiration for the constancy and sympathy with the
posthumous union of two hearts who transposed conjugal tenderness from
the senses to the soul, who spiritualized the most ardent of human
passions, and changed love itself into a holocaust, a martyrdom, and a
holy sacrifice."


Lamartine's Characters; Berington's Middle Ages; Michelet's History of
France; Life of St. Bernard; French Ecclesiastical Historians; Bayle's
Critical Dictionary; Biographic Universelle; Pope's Lines on Abélard and
Héloïse; Letters of Abélard and Héloïse.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1412-1431.


Perhaps the best known and most popular of heroines is Joan of Arc,
called the Maid of Orleans. Certainly she is one of the most interesting
characters in the history of France during the Middle Ages; hence I
select her to illustrate heroic women. There are not many such who are
known to fame; though heroic qualities are not uncommon in the gentler
sex, and a certain degree of heroism enters into the character of all
those noble and strongly marked women who have attracted attention and
who have rendered great services. It marked many of the illustrious
women of the Bible, of Grecian and Roman antiquity, and especially those
whom chivalry produced in mediaeval Europe; and even in our modern times
intrepidity and courage have made many a woman famous, like Florence
Nightingale. In Jewish history we point to Deborah, who delivered Israel
from the hands of Jabin; and to Jael, who slew Sisera, the captain of
Jabin's hosts; and to Judith, who cut off the head of Holofernes. It
was heroism, which is ever allied with magnanimity, that prompted the
daughter of Jephtha to the most remarkable self-sacrifice recorded in
history. There was a lofty heroism in Abigail, when she prevented David
from shedding innocent blood. And among the Pagan nations, who does not
admire the heroism of such women as we have already noticed? Chivalry,
too, produced illustrious heroines in every country of Europe. We read
of a Countess of March, in the reign of Edward III., who defended Dunbar
with uncommon courage against Montague and an English army; a Countess
of Montfort shut herself up in the fortress of Hennebon, and
successfully defied the whole power of Charles of Blois; Jane Hatchett
repulsed in person a considerable body of Burgundian troops; Altrude,
Countess of Bertinora, advanced with an army to the relief of Ancona;
Bona Lombardi, with a body of troops, liberated her husband from
captivity; Isabella of Lorraine raised an army for the rescue of her
husband; Queen Philippa, during the absence of her husband in Scotland,
stationed herself in the Castle of Bamborough and defied the threats of
Douglas, and afterwards headed an army against David, King of Scotland,
and took him prisoner, and shut him up in the Tower of London.

But these illustrious women of the Middle Ages who performed such feats
of gallantry and courage belonged to the noble class; they were
identified with aristocratic institutions; they lived in castles; they
were the wives and daughters of feudal princes and nobles whose business
was war, and who were rough and turbulent warriors, and sometimes no
better than robbers, but who had the virtues of chivalry, which was at
its height during the wars of Edward III. And yet neither the proud
feudal nobles nor their courageous wives and daughters took any notice
of the plebeian people, except to oppress and grind them down. No
virtues were developed by feudalism among the people but submission,
patience, and loyalty.

And thus it is extraordinary that such a person should appear in that
chivalric age as Joan of Arc, who rose from the humblest class, who
could neither read nor write,--a peasant girl without friends or
influence, living among the Vosges mountains on the borders of Champagne
and Lorraine. She was born in 1412, in the little obscure village of
Domremy on the Meuse, on land belonging to the French crown. She lived
in a fair and fertile valley on the line of the river, on the other side
of which were the Burgundian territories. The Lorraine of the Vosges was
a mountainous district covered with forests, which served for royal
hunting parties. The village of Domremy itself was once a dependency of
the abbey of St. Remy at Rheims. This district had suffered cruelly
from the wars between the Burgundians and the adherents of the
Armagnacs, one of the great feudal families of France in the
Middle Ages.

Joan, or Jeanne, was the third daughter of one of the peasant laborers
of Domremy. She was employed by her mother in spinning and sewing, while
her sisters and brothers were set to watch cattle. Her mother could
teach her neither to read nor write, but early imbued her mind with the
sense of duty. Joan was naturally devout, and faultless in her morals;
simple, natural, gentle, fond of attending the village church; devoting
herself, when not wanted at home, to nursing the sick,--the best girl in
the village; strong, healthy, and beautiful; a spirit lowly but poetic,
superstitious but humane, and fond of romantic adventures. But her piety
was one of her most marked peculiarities, and somehow or other she knew
more than we can explain of Scripture heroes and heroines.

One of the legends of that age and place was that the marches of
Lorraine were to give birth to a maid who was to save the
realm,--founded on an old prophecy of Merlin. It seems that when only
thirteen years old Joan saw visions, and heard celestial voices bidding
her to be good and to trust in God; and as virginity was supposed to be
a supernal virtue, she vowed to remain a virgin, but told no one of her
vow or her visions. She seems to have been a girl of extraordinary good
sense, which was as marked as her religious enthusiasm.

The most remarkable thing about this young peasant girl is that she
claimed to have had visions and heard voices which are difficult to be
distinguished from supernatural,--something like the daemon of Socrates.
She affirmed that Saint Michael the Archangel appeared to her in glory,
also Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, encouraging her in virtue, and
indicating to her that a great mission was before her, that she was to
deliver her king and country. Such claims have not been treated with
incredulity or contempt by French historians, especially Barante and
Michelet, in view of the wonderful work she was instrumental in

At this period France was afflicted with that cruel war which had at
intervals been carried on for nearly a century between the English and
French kings, and which had arisen from the claims of Edward I to the
throne of France. The whole country was distracted, forlorn, and
miserable; it was impoverished, overrun, and drained of fighting men.
The war had exhausted the resources of England as well as those of
France. The population of England at the close of this long series of
wars was less than it was under Henry II. Those wars were more
disastrous to the interests of both the rival kingdoms than even those
of the Crusades, and they were marked by great changes and great
calamities. The victories of Crécy, Poictiers, and Agincourt--which shed
such lustre on the English nation--were followed by reverses, miseries,
and defeats, which more than balanced the glories of Edward the Black
Prince and Henry V. Provinces were gained and lost, yet no decisive
results followed either victory or defeat. The French kings, driven
hither and thither, with a decimated people, and with the loss of some
of their finest provinces, still retained their sovereignty.

At one time, about the year 1347, Edward III. had seemed to have
attained the supreme object of his ambition. France lay bleeding at his
feet; he had won the greatest victory of his age; Normandy already
belonged to him, Guienne was recovered, Aquitaine was ceded to him,
Flanders was on his side, and the possession of Brittany seemed to open
his way to Paris. But in fourteen years these conquests were lost; the
plague scourged England, and popular discontents added to the
perplexities of the once fortunate monarch. Moreover, the House of
Commons had come to be a power and a check on royal ambition. The death
of the Black Prince consummated his grief and distraction, and the
heroic king gave himself up in his old age to a disgraceful profligacy,
and died in the arms of Alice Pierce, in the year 1377.

Fifty years pass by, and Henry V. is king of England, and renews his
claim to the French throne. The battle of Agincourt (1415) gives to
Henry V. the same _éclat_ that the victory of Crécy had bestowed on
Edward III. Again the French realm is devastated by triumphant
Englishmen. The King of France is a captive; his Queen is devoted to the
cause of Henry, the Duke of Burgundy is his ally, and he only needs the
formal recognition of the Estates to take possession of the French
throne. But in the year 1422, in the midst of his successes, he died of
a disease which baffled the skill of all his physicians, leaving his
kingdom to a child only nine years old, and the prosecution of the
French war to his brother the Duke of Bedford, who was scarcely inferior
to himself in military genius.

At this time, when Charles VI. of France was insane, and his oldest son
Louis dead, his second son Charles declared himself King of France, as
Charles VII. But only southern France acknowledged Charles, who at this
time was a boy of fifteen years. All the northern provinces, even
Guienne and Gascony, acknowledged Henry VI., the infant son of Henry V.
of England. Charles's affairs, therefore, were in a bad way, and there
was every prospect of the complete conquest of France. Even Paris was
the prey alternately of the Burgundians and the Armagnacs, the last of
whom were the adherents of Charles the Dauphin,--the legitimate heir to
the throne. He held his little court at Bourges, where he lived as gaily
as he could, sometimes in want of the necessaries of life. His troops
were chiefly Gascons, Lombards, and Scotch, who got no pay, and who
lived by pillage. He was so hard pressed by the Duke of Bedford that he
meditated a retreat into Dauphiné. It would seem that he was given to
pleasures, and was unworthy of his kingdom, which he nearly lost by
negligence and folly.

The Duke of Bedford, in order to drive Charles out of the central
provinces, resolved to take Orleans, which was the key to the south,--a
city on the north bank of the Loire, strongly fortified and well
provisioned. This was in 1428. The probabilities were that this city
would fall, for it was already besieged, and was beginning to
suffer famine.

In this critical period for France, Joan of Arc appeared on the stage,
being then a girl of sixteen (some say eighteen) years of age. Although
Joan, as we have said, was uneducated, she yet clearly comprehended the
critical condition of her country, and with the same confidence that
David had in himself and in his God when he armed himself with a sling
and a few pebbles to confront the full-armed giant of the Philistines,
inspired by her heavenly visions she resolved to deliver France. She
knew nothing of war; she had not been accustomed to equestrian
exercises, like a woman of chivalry; she had no friends; she had never
seen great people; she was poor and unimportant. To the eye of worldly
wisdom her resolution was perfectly absurd.

It was with the greatest difficulty that Joan finally obtained an
interview with Boudricourt, the governor of Vaucouleurs; and he laughed
at her, and bade her uncle take her home and chastise her for her
presumption. She returned to her humble home, but with resolutions
unabated. The voices encouraged her, and the common people believed in
her. Again, in the red coarse dress of a peasant girl, she sought the
governor, claiming that God had sent her. There was something so
strange, so persistent, so honest about her that he reported her case to
the King. Meanwhile, the Duke of Lorraine heard of her, and sent her a
safe-conduct, and the people of Vaucouleurs came forward and helped her.
They gave her a horse and the dress of a soldier; and the governor,
yielding to her urgency, furnished her with a sword and a letter to the
King. She left without seeing her parents,--which was one of the
subsequent charges against her,--and prosecuted her journey amid great
perils and fatigues, travelling by night with her four armed attendants.

After twelve days Joan reached Chinon, where the King was tarrying. But
here new difficulties arose: she could not get an interview with the
King; it was opposed by his most influential ministers and courtiers.
"Why waste precious time," said they, "when Orleans is in the utmost
peril, to give attention to a mad peasant-girl, who, if not mad, must be
possessed with a devil: a sorceress to be avoided; what can she do for
France?" The Archbishop of Rheims, the prime-minister of Charles,
especially was against her. The learned doctors of the schools derided
her claims. It would seem that her greatest enemies were in the Church
and the universities. "Not many wise, not many mighty are called." The
deliverers of nations in great exigencies rarely have the favor of the
great. But the women of the court spoke warmly in Joan's favor, for her
conduct was modest and irreproachable; and after two days she was
admitted to the royal castle, the Count of Vendôme leading her to the
royal presence. Charles stood among a crowd of nobles, all richly
dressed; but in her visions this pure enthusiast had seen more glories
than an earthly court, and she was undismayed. To the King she repeated
the words which had thus far acted liked a charm: "I am Joan the Maid,
sent by God to save France;" and she demanded troops. But the King was
cautious; he sent two monks to her native village to inquire all about
her, while nobles and ecclesiastics cross-questioned her. She was,
however, treated courteously, and given in charge to the King's
lieutenant, whose wife was a woman of virtue and piety. Many
distinguished people visited her in the castle to which she was
assigned, on whom she made a good impression by her modesty, good sense,
and sublime enthusiasm. It was long debated in the royal council whether
she should be received or rejected; but as affairs were in an
exceedingly critical condition, and Orleans was on the point of
surrender, it was concluded to listen to her voice.

It must be borne in mind that the age was exceedingly superstitious, and
the statesmen of the distracted and apparently ruined country probably
decided to make use of this girl, not from any cordial belief in her
mission, but from her influence on the people. She might stimulate them
to renewed efforts. She was an obscure and ignorant peasant-girl, it was
true, but God might have chosen her as an instrument. In this way very
humble people, with great claims, have often got the ear and the
approval of the wise and powerful, as instruments of Almighty
Providence. When Moody and Sankey first preached in London, it was the
Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief-Justice--who happened to be religious
men--that, amid the cynicism of ordinary men of rank, gave them the most
encouragement, and frequently attended their meetings.

And the voices which inspired the Maid of Orleans herself,--what were
these? Who can tell? Who can explain such mysteries? I would not
assert, nor would I deny, that they were the voices of inspiration. What
is inspiration? It has often been communicated to men. Who can deny that
the daemon of Socrates was something more than a fancied voice? When did
supernatural voices first begin to utter the power of God? When will the
voices of inspiration cease to be heard on earth? In view of the fact
that _she did_ accomplish her mission, the voices which inspired this
illiterate peasant to deliver France are not to be derided. Who can sit
in judgment on the ways in which Providence is seen to act? May He not
choose such instruments as He pleases? Are not all His ways mysterious,
never to be explained by the reason of man? Did not the occasion seem to
warrant something extraordinary? Here was a great country apparently on
the verge of ruin. To the eye of reason and experience it seemed that
France was to be henceforth ruled, as a subjugated country, by a foreign
power. Royal armies had failed to deliver her. Loyalty had failed to
arouse the people. Feudal envies and enmities had converted vassals into
foes. The Duke of Burgundy, the most powerful vassal of France, was in
arms against his liege lord. The whole land was rent with divisions and
treasons. And the legitimate king, who ought to have been a power, was
himself feeble, frivolous, and pleasure-seeking amid all his perils.
_He_ could not save the country. Who could save it? There were no great
generals. Universal despair hung over the land. The people were
depressed. Military resources were insufficient. If France was to be
preserved as an independent and powerful monarchy, something
extraordinary must happen to save it. The hope in feudal armies had
fled. In fact, only God could rescue the country in such perils and
under such forlorn circumstances.

Joan of Arc believed in God,--that He could do what He pleased, that He
was a power to be supplicated; and she prayed to Him to save France,
since princes could not save the land, divided by their rivalries and
jealousies and ambitions. And the conviction, after much prayer and
fasting, was impressed upon her mind--no matter how, but it _was_
impressed upon her--that God had chosen _her_ as His instrument, that it
was her mission to raise the siege of Orleans, and cause the young
Dauphin to be crowned king at Rheims. This conviction gave her courage
and faith and intrepidity. How could she, unacquainted with wars and
sieges, show the necessary military skill and genius? She did not
pretend to it. She claimed no other wisdom than that which was
communicated to her by celestial voices. If she could direct a military
movement in opposition to leaders of experience, it was only because
this movement was what was indicated by an archangel. And so decided
and imperative was she, that royal orders were given to obey her. One
thing was probable, whether a supernatural wisdom and power were given
her or not,--she yet might animate the courage of others, she might
stimulate them to heroic action, and revive their hopes; for if God was
with them, who could be against them? What she had to do was simply
this,--to persuade princes and nobles that the Lord would deliver the
nation. Let the conviction be planted in the minds of a religious people
that God is with them, and in some way will come to their aid if they
themselves will put forth their own energies, and they will be almost
sure to rally. And here was an inspired woman, as they supposed, ready
to lead them on to victory, not by her military skill, but by indicating
to them the way as an interpreter of the Divine will. This was not more
extraordinary than the repeated deliverances of the Hebrew nation under
religious leaders.

The signal deliverance of the French at that gloomy period from the
hands of the English, by Joan of Arc, was a religious movement. The Maid
is to be viewed as a religious phenomenon; she rested her whole power
and mission on the supposition that she was inspired to point out the
way of deliverance. She claimed nothing for herself, was utterly without
vanity, ambition, or pride, and had no worldly ends to gain. Her
character was without a flaw. She was as near perfection as any mortal
ever was: religious, fervent, unselfish, gentle, modest, chaste,
patriotic, bent on one thing only,--to be of service to her country,
without reward; and to be of service only by way of encouragement, and
pointing out what seemed to her to be the direction of God.

So Joan fearlessly stood before kings and nobles and generals, yet in
the modest gentleness of conscious virtue, to direct them what to do, as
a sort of messenger of Heaven. What was rank or learning to her? If she
was sent by a voice that spoke to her soul, and that voice was from God,
what was human greatness to her? It paled before the greatness which
commissioned her. In the discharge of her mission all men were alike in
her eyes; the distinctions of rank faded away in the mighty issues which
she wished to bring about, even the rescue of France from foreign
enemies, and which she fully believed she could effect with God's aid,
and in the way that He should indicate.

Whether the ruling powers fully believed in her or not, they at last
complied with her wishes and prayers, though not until she had been
subjected to many insults from learned priests and powerful nobles, whom
she finally won by her modest and wise replies. Said one of them
mockingly: "If it be God's will that the English shall quit France,
there is no need for men-at-arms." To whom she replied: "The
men-at-arms must fight, and God shall give the victory." She saw no
other deliverance than through fighting, and fighting bravely, and
heroically, as the means of success. She was commissioned, she said, to
stimulate the men to fight,--not to pray, but to fight. She promised no
rescue by supernatural means, but only through natural forces. France
was not to despond, but to take courage, and fight. There was no
imposture about her, only zeal and good sense, to impress upon the
country the necessity of bravery and renewed exertions.

The Maid set out for the deliverance of the besieged city in a man's
attire, deeming it more modest under her circumstances, and exposing her
to fewer annoyances. She was arrayed in a suit of beautiful armor, with
a banner after her own device,--white, embroidered with lilies,--and a
sword which had been long buried behind the altar of a church. Under her
inspiring influence an army of six thousand men was soon collected,
commanded by the ablest and most faithful generals who remained to the
King, and accompanied by the Archbishop of Rheims, who, though he had no
great faith in her claims, yet saw in her a fitting instrument to arouse
the people from despair. Before setting out from Blois she dictated a
letter to the English captains before the besieged city, which to them
must have seemed arrogant, insulting, and absurd, in which she
commanded them in God's name to return to their own country, assuring
them that they fought not merely against the French, but against Him,
and hence would be defeated.

The French captains had orders to obey their youthful leader, but not
seeing the wisdom of her directions to march to Orleans on the north
side of the Loire, they preferred to keep the river between them and the
forts of the English. Not daring to disobey her, they misled her as to
the position of Orleans, and advanced by the south bank, which proved a
mistake, and called forth her indignation, since she did not profess to
be governed by military rules, but by divine direction. The city had
been defended by a series of forts and other fortifications of great
strength, all of which had fallen into the hands of the besiegers; only
the walls of the city remained. Joan succeeded in effecting an entrance
for herself on a white charger through one of the gates, and the people
thronged to meet her as an angel of deliverance, with the wildest
demonstrations of joy. Her first act was to repair to the cathedral and
offer up thanks to God; her next was to summon the enemy to retire. In
the course of a few days the French troops entered the city with
supplies. They then issued from the gates to retake the fortifications,
which were well defended, cheered and encouraged by the heroic Maid, who
stimulated them to daring deeds. The French were successful in their
first assault, which seemed a miracle to the English yeomen, who now
felt that they were attacked by unseen forces. Then other forts were
assailed with equal success, Joan seeming like an inspired heroine, with
her eyes flashing, and her charmed standard waving on to victory. The
feats of valor which the French performed were almost incredible. Joan
herself did not fight, but stimulated the heroism of her troops. The
captains led the assault; the Maid directed their movements. After most
of the forts were retaken, the troops wished to rest. Joan knew no rest,
nor fear, nor sense of danger. She would hear of no cessation from
bloody strife until all the fortifications were regained. At the assault
on the last fort she herself was wounded; but she was as insensible to
pain as she was to fear. As soon as her wound was dressed she hurried to
the ramparts, and encouraged the troops, who were disposed to retire. By
evening the last fort or bastile was taken, and the English retired,
baffled and full of vengeance. The city was delivered. The siege was
raised. Not an Englishman survived south of the Loire.

But only part of the mission of this heroic woman was fulfilled. She had
delivered Orleans and saved the southern provinces. She had now the more
difficult work to perform of crowning the King in the consecrated city,
which was in the hands of the enemy, as well as the whole country
between Orleans and Rheims. This task seemed to the King and his court
to be absolutely impossible. So was the raising of the siege of Orleans,
according to all rules of war. Although priests, nobles, and scholars
had praised the courage and intrepidity of Joan, and exhorted the nation
to trust her, since God seemed to help her, yet to capture a series of
fortified cities which were in possession of superior forces seemed an
absurdity. Only the common people had full faith in her, for as she was
supposed to be specially aided by God, nothing seemed to them an
impossibility. They looked upon her as raised up to do most wonderful
things,--as one directly inspired. This faith in a girl of eighteen
would not have been possible but for her exalted character. Amid the
most searching cross-examinations from the learned, she commanded
respect by the wisdom of her replies. Every inquiry had been made as to
her rural life and character, and nothing could be said against her, but
much in her favor; especially her absorbing piety, gentleness, deeds of
benevolence, and utter unselfishness.

There was, therefore, a great admiration and respect for this girl,
leading to the kindest and most honorable treatment of her from both
prelates and nobles. But it was not a chivalric admiration; she did not
belong to a noble family, nor did she defend an institution. She was
regarded as a second Deborah, commissioned to deliver a people. Nor
could a saint have done her work. Bernard could kindle a crusade by his
eloquence, but he could not have delivered Orleans; it required some one
who could excite idolatrous homage. Only a woman, in that age, was
likely to be deified by the people,--some immaculate virgin. Our remote
German ancestors had in their native forests a peculiar reverence for
woman. The priestesses of Germanic forests had often incited to battle.
Their warnings or encouragements were regarded as voices from Heaven.
Perhaps the deification and worship of the Virgin Mary--so hearty and
poetical in the Middle Ages--may have indirectly aided the mission of
the Maid of Orleans. The common people saw one of their own order arise
and do marvellous things, bringing kings and nobles to her cause. How
could she thus triumph over all the inequalities of feudalism unless
divinely commissioned? How could she work what seemed to be almost
miracles if she had not a supernatural power to assist her? Like the
_regina angelorum_, she was _virgo castissima_. And if she was unlike
common mortals, perhaps an inspired woman, what she promised would be
fulfilled. In consequence of such a feeling an unbounded enthusiasm was
excited among the people. They were ready to do her bidding, whether
reasonable or unreasonable to them, for there was a sacred mystery
about her,--a reverence that extorted obedience. Worldly-wise statesmen
and prelates had not this unbounded admiration, although they doubtless
regarded her as a moral phenomenon which they could not understand. Her
advice seemed to set aside all human prudence. Nothing seemed more rash
or unreasonable than to undertake the conquest of so many fortified
cities with such feeble means. It was one thing to animate starving
troops to a desperate effort for their deliverance; it was another to
assault fortified cities held by the powerful forces which had nearly
completed the conquest of France.

The King came to meet the Maid at Tours, and would have bestowed upon
her royal honors, for she had rendered a great service. But it was not
honors she wanted. She seemed to be indifferent to all personal rewards,
and even praises. She wanted only one thing,--an immediate march to
Rheims. She even pleaded like a sensible general. She entreated Charles
to avail himself of the panic which the raising of the siege of Orleans
had produced, before the English could recover from it and bring
reinforcements. But the royal council hesitated. It would imperil the
King's person to march through a country guarded by hostile troops; and
even if he could reach Rheims, it would be more difficult to take the
city than to defend Orleans. The King had no money to pay for an army.
The enterprise was not only hazardous but impossible, the royal
counsellors argued. But to this earnest and impassioned woman, seeing
only one point, there was no such thing as impossibility. The thing
_must_ be done. The council gave reasons; she brushed them away as
cobwebs. What is impossible for God to do? Then they asked her if she
heard the voices. She answered, Yes; that she had prayed in secret,
complaining of unbelief, and that the voice came to her, which said,
"Daughter of God, go on, go on! I will be thy help!" Her whole face
glowed and shone like the face of an angel.

The King, half persuaded, agreed to go to Rheims, but not until the
English had been driven from the Loire. An army was assembled under the
command of the Duke of Alençon, with orders to do nothing without the
Maid's advice. Joan went to Selles to prepare for the campaign, and
rejoined the army mounted on a black charger, while a page carried her
furled banner. The first success was against Jargeau, a strongly
fortified town, where she was wounded; but she was up in a moment, and
the place was carried, and Joan and Alençon returned in triumph to
Orleans. They then advanced against Baugé, another strong place, not
merely defended by the late besiegers of Orleans, but a powerful army
under Sir John Falstaff and Talbot was advancing to relieve it. Yet
Baugé capitulated, the English being panic-stricken, before the city
could be relieved. Then the French and English forces encountered each
other in the open field: victory sided with the French; and Falstaff
himself fled, with the loss of three thousand men. The whole district
then turned against the English, who retreated towards Paris; while a
boundless enthusiasm animated the whole French army.

Soldiers and leaders now were equally eager for the march to Rheims; yet
the King ingloriously held back, and the coronation seemed to be as
distant as ever. But Joan with unexampled persistency insisted on an
immediate advance, and the King reluctantly set out for Rheims with
twelve thousand men. The first great impediment was the important city
of Troyes, which was well garrisoned. After five days were spent before
it, and famine began to be felt in the camp, the military leaders wished
to raise the siege and return to the south. The Maid implored them to
persevere, promising the capture of the city within three days. "We
would wait six," said the Archbishop of Rheims, the chancellor and chief
adviser of the King, "if we were certain we could take it." Joan mounted
her horse, made preparations for the assault, cheered the soldiers,
working far into the night; and the next day the city surrendered, and
Charles, attended by Joan and his nobles, triumphantly entered the city.

The prestige of the Maid carried the day. The English soldiers dared
not contend with one who seemed to be a favorite of Heaven. They had
heard of Orleans and Jargeau. Chalons followed the example of Troyes.
Then Rheims, when the English learned of the surrender of Troyes and
Chalons, made no resistance; and in less than a month after the march
had begun, the King entered the city, and was immediately crowned by the
Archbishop, Joan standing by his side holding her sacred banner. This
coronation was a matter of great political importance. Charles had a
rival in the youthful King of England. The succession was disputed.
Whoever should first be crowned in the city where the ancient kings were
consecrated was likely to be acknowledged by the nation.

The mission of Joan was now accomplished. She had done what she
promised, amid incredible difficulties. And now, kneeling before her
anointed sovereign, she said, "Gracious King, now is fulfilled the
pleasure of God!" And as she spoke she wept. She had given a king to
France; and she had given France to her king. Not by might, not by power
had she done this, but by the Spirit of the Lord. She asked no other
reward for her magnificent service than that her native village should
be forever exempt from taxation. Feeling that the work for which she was
raised up was done, she would willingly have retired to the seclusion of
her mountain home, but the leaders of France, seeing how much she was
adored by the people, were not disposed to part with so great an
instrument of success.

And Joan, too, entered with zeal upon those military movements which
were to drive away forever the English from the soil of France. Her
career had thus far been one of success and boundless enthusiasm; but
now the tide turned, and her subsequent life was one of signal failure.
Her only strength was in the voices which had bidden her to deliver
Orleans and to crown the King. She had no genius for war. Though still
brave and dauntless, though still preserving her innocence and her
piety, she now made mistakes. She was also thwarted in her plans. She
became, perhaps, self-assured and self-confident, and assumed
prerogatives that only belonged to the King and his ministers, which had
the effect of alienating them. They never secretly admired her, nor
fully trusted her. Charles made a truce with the great Duke of Burgundy,
who was in alliance with the English. Joan vehemently denounced the
truce, and urged immediate and uncompromising action; but timidity, or
policy, or political intrigues, defeated her counsels. The King wished
to regain Paris by negotiation; all his movements were dilatory. At last
his forces approached the capital, and occupied St. Denis. It was
determined to attack the city. One corps was led by Joan; but in the
attack she was wounded, and her troops, in spite of her, were forced to
retreat. Notwithstanding the retreat and her wound, however, she
persevered, though now all to no purpose. The King himself retired, and
the attack became a failure. Still Joan desired to march upon Paris for
a renewed attack; but the King would not hear of it, and she was sent
with troops badly equipped to besiege La Charité, where she again
failed. For four weary months she remained inactive. She grew desperate;
the voices neither encouraged nor discouraged her. She was now full of
sad forebodings, yet her activity continued. She repaired to Compiègne,
a city already besieged by the enemy, which she wished to relieve. In a
sortie she was outnumbered, and was defeated and taken prisoner by John
of Luxemburg, a vassal of the Duke of Burgundy.

The news of this capture produced great exhilaration among the English
and Burgundians. Had a great victory been won, the effect could not have
been greater. It broke the spell. The Maid was human, like other women;
and her late successes were attributed not to her inspiration, but to
demoniacal enchantments. She was looked upon as a witch or as a
sorceress, and was now guarded with especial care for fear of a rescue,
and sent to a strong castle belonging to John of Luxemburg. In Paris, on
receipt of the news, the Duke of Bedford caused _Te Deums_ to be sung
in all the churches, and the University and the Vicar of the Inquisition
demanded of the Duke of Burgundy that she should be delivered to
ecclesiastical justice.

The remarkable thing connected with the capture of the Maid was that so
little effort was made to rescue her. She had rendered to Charles an
inestimable service, and yet he seems to have deserted her; neither he
nor his courtiers appeared to regret her captivity,--probably because
they were jealous of her. Gratitude was not one of the virtues of feudal
kings. What sympathy could feudal barons have with a low-born peasant
girl? They had used her; but when she could be useful no longer, they
forgot her. Out of sight she was out of mind; and if remembered at all,
she was regarded as one who could no longer provoke jealousy. Jealousy
is a devouring passion, especially among nobles. The generals of Charles
VII. could not bear to have it said that the rescue of France was
effected, not by their abilities, but by the inspired enthusiasm of a
peasant girl. She had scorned intrigues and baseness, and these marked
all the great actors on the stage of history in that age. So they said
it was a judgment of Heaven upon her because she would not hear counsel.
"No offer for her ransom, no threats of vengeance came from beyond the
Loire." But the English, who had suffered most from the loss of Orleans,
were eager to get possession of her person, and were willing even to
pay extravagant rewards for her delivery into their hands. They had
their vengeance to gratify. They also wished it to appear that Charles
VII. was aided by the Devil; that his cause was not the true one; that
Henry VI. was the true sovereign of France. The more they could throw
discredit and obloquy upon the Maid of Orleans, the better their cause
would seem. It was not as a prisoner of war that the English wanted her,
but as a victim, whose sorceries could only be punished by death. But
they could not try her and condemn her until they could get possession
of her; and they could not get possession of her unless they bought her.
The needy John of Luxemburg sold her to the English for ten thousand
livres, and the Duke of Burgundy received political favors.

The agent employed by the English in this nefarious business was
Couchon, the Bishop of Beauvais, who had been driven out of his city by
Joan,--an able and learned man, who aspired to the archbishopric of
Rouen. He set to work to inflame the University of Paris and the
Inquisition against her. The Duke of Bedford did not venture to bring
his prize to Paris, but determined to try her in Rouen; and the trial
was intrusted to the Bishop of Beauvais, who conducted it after the
forms of the Inquisition. It was simply a trial for heresy.

Joan tried for heresy! On that ground there was never a more innocent
person tried by the Inquisition. Her whole life was notoriously
virtuous. She had been obedient to the Church; she had advanced no
doctrines which were not orthodox. She was too ignorant to be a heretic;
she had accepted whatever her spiritual teacher had taught her; in fact,
she was a Catholic saint. She lived in the ecstasies of religious faith
like a Saint Theresa. She spent her time in prayer and religious
exercises; she regularly confessed, and partook of the sacraments of the
Church. She did not even have a single sceptical doubt; she simply
affirmed that she obeyed voices that came from God.

Nothing could be more cruel than the treatment of this heroic girl, and
all under the forms of ecclesiastical courts. It was the diabolical
design of her enemies to make it appear that she had acted under the
influence of the Devil; that she was a heretic and a sorceress. Nothing
could be more forlorn than her condition. No efforts had been made to
ransom her. She was alone, and unsupported by friends, having not a
single friendly counsellor. She was carried to the castle of Rouen and
put in an iron cage, and chained to its bars; she was guarded by brutal
soldiers, was mocked by those who came to see her, and finally was
summoned before her judges predetermined on her death. They went through
the forms of trial, hoping to extort from the Maid some damaging
confessions, or to entangle her with their sophistical and artful
questions. Nothing perhaps on our earth has ever been done more
diabolically than under the forms of ecclesiastical law; nothing can be
more atrocious than the hypocrisies and acts of inquisitors. The judges
of Joan extorted from her that she had revelations, but she refused to
reveal what these had been. She was asked whether she was in a state of
grace. If she said she was not, she would be condemned as an outcast
from divine favor; if she said she was, she would be condemned for
spiritual pride. All such traps were set for this innocent girl. But she
acquitted herself wonderfully well, and showed extraordinary good sense.
She warded off their cunning and puerile questions. They tried every
means to entrap her. They asked her in what shape Saint Michael had
appeared to her; whether or no he was naked; whether he had hair;
whether she understood the feelings of those who had once kissed her
feet; whether she had not cursed God in her attempt to escape at
Beauvoir; whether it was for her merit that God sent His angel; whether
God hated the English; whether her victory was founded on her banner or
on herself; when had she learned to ride a horse.

The judges framed seventy accusations against her, mostly frivolous, and
some unjust,--to the effect that she had received no religious training;
that she had worn mandrake; that she dressed in man's attire; that she
had bewitched her banner and her ring; that she believed her apparitions
were saints and angels; that she had blasphemed; and other charges
equally absurd. Under her rigid trials she fell sick; but they restored
her, reserving her for a more cruel fate. All the accusations and
replies were sent to Paris, and the learned doctors decreed, under
English influence, that Joan was a heretic and a sorceress.

After another series of insulting questions, she was taken to the
market-place of Rouen to receive sentence, and then returned to her
gloomy prison, where they mercifully allowed her to confess and receive
the sacrament. She was then taken in a cart, under guard of eight
hundred soldiers, to the place of execution; rudely dragged to the
funeral pile, fastened to a stake, and fire set to the faggots. She
expired, exclaiming, "Jesus, Jesus! My voices, my voices!"

Thus was sacrificed one of the purest and noblest women in the whole
history of the world,--a woman who had been instrumental in delivering
her country, but without receiving either honor or gratitude from those
for whom she had fought and conquered. She died a martyr to the cause of
patriotism,--not for religion, but for her country. She died among
enemies, unsupported by friends or by those whom she had so greatly
benefited, and with as few religious consolations as it was possible to
give. Never was there greater cruelty and injustice inflicted on an
innocent and noble woman. The utmost ingenuity of vindictive priests
never extorted from her a word which criminated her, though they
subjected her to inquisitorial examinations for days and weeks. Burned
as an infidel, her last words recognized the Saviour in whom she
believed; burned as a witch, she never confessed to anything but the
voices of God. Her heroism, even at the stake, should have called out
pity and admiration; but her tormentors were insensible to both. She was
burned really from vengeance, because she had turned the tide of
conquest. "The Jews," says Michelet, "never exhibited the rage against
Jesus that the English did against the Pucelle," in whom purity,
sweetness, and heroic goodness dwelt. Never was her life stained by a
single cruel act. In the midst of her torments she did not reproach her
tormentors. In the midst of her victories she wept for the souls of
those who were killed; and while she incited others to combat, she
herself did not use her sword. In man's attire she showed a woman's
soul. Pity and gentleness were as marked as courage and self-confidence.

It is one of the most insolvable questions in history why so little
effort was made by the French to save the Maid's life. It is strange
that the University of Paris should have decided against her, after she
had rendered such transcendent services. Why should the priests of that
age have treated her as a witch, when she showed all the traits of an
angel? Why should not the most unquestioning faith have preserved her
from the charge of heresy? Alas! she was only a peasant girl, and the
great could not bear to feel that the country had been saved by a
peasant. Even chivalry, which worshipped women, did not come to Joan's
aid. How great must have been feudal distinctions when such a heroic
woman was left to perish! How deep the ingratitude of the King and his
court, to have made no effort to save her!

Joan made one mistake: after the coronation of Charles VII. she should
have retired from the field of war, for her work was done. Such a
transcendent heroism could not have sunk into obscurity. But this was
not to be; she was to die as a martyr to her cause.

After her death the English carried on war with new spirit for a time,
and Henry VI. of England was crowned in Paris, at Notre Dame. He was
crowned, however, by an English, not by a French prelate. None of the
great French nobles even were present. The coronation was a failure.
Gradually all France was won over to the side of Charles. He was a
contemptible monarch, but he was the legitimate King of France. All
classes desired peace; all parties were weary of war. The Treaty of
Arras, in 1435, restored peace between Charles and Philip of Burgundy;
and in the same year the Duke of Bedford died. In 1436 Charles took
possession of Paris. In 1445 Henry VI. married Margaret of Anjou, a
kinswoman of Charles VII. In 1448 Charles invaded Normandy, and expelled
the English from the duchy which for four hundred years had belonged to
the kings of England. Soon after Guienne fell. In 1453 Calais alone
remained to England, after a war of one hundred years.

At last a tardy justice was done to the memory of her who had turned the
tide of conquest. The King, ungrateful as he had been, now ennobled her
family and their descendants, even in the female line, and bestowed upon
them pensions and offices. In 1452, twenty years after the martyrdom,
the Pope commissioned the Archbishop of Rheims and two other prelates,
aided by an inquisitor, to inquire into the trial of Joan of Arc. They
met in Notre Dame. Messengers were sent into the country where she was
born, to inquire into her history; and all testified--priests and
peasants--to the moral beauty of her character, to her innocent and
blameless life, her heroism in battle, and her good sense in counsel.
And the decision of the prelates was that her visions came from God;
that the purity of her motives and the good she did to her country
justified her in leaving her parents and wearing a man's dress. They
pronounced the trial at Rouen to have been polluted with wrong and
calumny, and freed her name from every shadow of disgrace. The people of
Orleans instituted an annual religious festival to her honor. The Duke
of Orleans gave a grant of land to her brothers, who were ennobled. The
people of Rouen raised a stone cross to her memory in the market-place
where she was burned. In later times, the Duchess of Orleans, wife of
the son and heir of Louis Philippe, modelled with her own hands an
exquisite statue of Joan of Arc. But the most beautiful and impressive
tribute which has ever been paid to her name and memory was a _fête_ of
three days' continuance, in 1856, on the anniversary of the deliverance
of Orleans, when the celebrated Bishop Dupanloup pronounced one of the
most eloquent eulogies ever offered to the memory of a heroine or
benefactor. That ancient city never saw so brilliant a spectacle as that
which took place in honor of its immortal deliverer, who was executed so
cruelly under the superintendence of a Christian bishop,--one of those
iniquities in the name of justice which have so often been perpetrated
on this earth. It was a powerful nation which killed her, and one
equally powerful which abandoned her.

But the martyrdom of Joan of Arc is an additional confirmation of the
truth that it is only by self-sacrifice that great deliverances have
been effected. Nothing in the moral government of God is more mysterious
than the fate which usually falls to the lot of great benefactors. To us
it seems sad and unjust; and nothing can reconcile us to the same but
the rewards of a future and higher life. And yet amid the flames there
arise the voices which save nations. Joan of Arc bequeathed to her
country, especially to the common people, some great lessons; namely,
not to despair amid great national calamities; to believe in God as the
true deliverer from impending miseries, who, however, works through
natural causes, demanding personal heroism as well as faith. There was
great grandeur in that peasant girl,--in her exalted faith at Domremy,
in her heroism at Orleans, in her triumph at Rheims, in her trial and
martyrdom at Rouen. But unless she had suffered, nothing would have
remained of this grandeur in the eyes of posterity. The injustice and
meanness with which she was treated have created a lasting sympathy for
her in the hearts of her nation. She was great because she died for her
country, serene and uncomplaining amid injustice, cruelty, and
ingratitude,--the injustice of an ecclesiastical court presided over by
a learned bishop; the cruelty of the English generals and nobles; the
ingratitude of her own sovereign, who made no effort to redeem her. She
was sold by one potentate to another as if she were merchandise,--as if
she were a slave. And those graces and illuminations which under other
circumstances would have exalted her into a catholic saint, like an
Elizabeth of Hungary or a Catherine of Sienna, were turned against her,
by diabolical executioners, as a proof of heresy and sorcery. We repeat
again, never was enacted on this earth a greater injustice. Never did a
martyr perish with more triumphant trust in the God whose aid she had so
uniformly invoked. And it was this triumphant Christian faith as she
ascended the funeral pyre which has consecrated the visions and the
voices under whose inspiration the Maid led a despairing nation to
victory and a glorious future.


Monstrelets' Chronicles; Cousinot's Chronique de la Pucelle; Histoire et
Discours du Siège, published by the city of Orleans in 1576; Sismondi's
Histoire des Français; De Barante's Histoire des Dues de Bourgogne;
Michelet and Henri Martin's Histories of France; Vallet de Viriville's
Histoire de Charles VII.; Henri Wallon; Janet Tuckey's Life of Joan of
Arc, published by Putnam, 1880.


       *       *       *       *       *

A. D. 1515-1582.


I have already painted in Cleopatra, to the best of my ability, the
Pagan woman of antiquity, revelling in the pleasures of vanity and
sensuality, with a feeble moral sense, and without any distinct
recognition of God or of immortality. The genius of Paganism was simply
the deification of the Venus Polyhymnia,--the adornment and pleasure of
what is perishable in man. It directed all the energies of human nature
to the pampering and decorating of this mortal body, not believing that
the mind and soul which animate it, and which are the sources of all its
glory, would ever live beyond the grave. A few sages believed
differently,--men who rose above the spirit of Paganism, but not such
men as Alexander, or Caesar, or Antony, the foremost men of all the
world in grand ambitions and successes. Taking it for granted that this
world is the only theatre for enjoyment, or action, or thought, men
naturally said, "Let us eat and drink and be merry, for to-morrow we
die." And hence no higher life was essayed than that which furnished
sensual enjoyments, or incited an ambition to be strong and powerful. Of
course, riches were sought above everything, since these furnished the
means of gratifying those pleasures which were most valued, or
stimulating that vanity whose essence is self-idolatry.

With this universal rush of humanity after pleasures which centred in
the body, the soul was left dishonored and uncared for, except by a few
philosophers. I do not now speak of the mind, for there were
intellectual pleasures derived from conversation, books, and works of
art. And some called the mind divine, in distinction from matter; some
speculated on the nature of each, and made mind and matter in perpetual
antagonism, as the good and evil forces of the universe. But the
prevailing opinion was that the whole man perished, or became absorbed
in the elemental forces of nature, or reappeared again in new forms upon
the earth, to expiate those sins of which human nature is conscious. To
some men were given longings after immortality, not absolute
convictions,--men like Plato, Socrates, and Cicero. But I do not speak
of these illustrious exceptions; I mean the great mass of the people,
especially the rich and powerful and pleasure-seeking,--those whose
supreme delight was in banquets, palaces, or intoxicating excitements,
like chariot-racings and gladiatorial shows; yea, triumphal processions
to raise the importance of the individual self, and stimulate vanity
and pride.

Hence Paganism put a small value, comparatively, on even intellectual
enjoyments. It cultivated those arts which appealed to the senses more
than to the mind; it paid dearly for any sort of intellectual training
which could be utilized,--oratory, for instance, to enable a lawyer to
gain a case, or a statesman to control a mob; it rewarded those poets
who could sing blended praises to Bacchus and Venus, or who could excite
the passions at the theatre. But it paid still higher prices to athletes
and dancers, and almost no price at all to those who sought to stimulate
a love of knowledge for its own sake,--men like Socrates, for example,
who walked barefooted, and lived on fifty dollars a year, and who at
last was killed out of pure hatred for the truths he told and the manner
in which he told them,--this martyrdom occurring in the most
intellectual city of the world. In both Greece and Rome there was an
intellectual training for men bent on utilitarian ends; even as we endow
schools of science and technology to enable us to conquer nature, and to
become strong and rich and comfortable; but there were no schools for
women, whose intellects were disdained, and who were valued only as
servants or animals,--either to drudge, or to please the senses.

But even if there were some women in Paganism of high mental
education,--if women sometimes rose above their servile condition by
pure intellect, and amused men by their wit and humor,--still their
souls were little thought of. Now, it is the soul of woman--not her
mind, and still less her body--which elevates her, and makes her, in
some important respects, the superior of man himself. He has dominion
over her by force of will, intellect, and physical power. When she has
dominion over him, it is by those qualities which come from her
soul,--her superior nature, greater than both mind and body. Paganism
never recognized the superior nature, especially in woman,--that which
must be fed, even in this world, or there will be constant unrest and
discontent. And inasmuch as Paganism did not feed it, women were
unhappy, especially those who had great capacities. They may have been
comfortable, but they were not contented.

Hence, women made no great advance either in happiness or in power,
until Christianity revealed the greatness of the soul, its perpetual
longings, its infinite capacities, and its future satisfactions. The
spiritual exercises of the soul then became the greatest source of
comfort amid those evils which once ended in despair. With every true
believer, the salvation of so precious a thing necessarily became the
end of life, for Christianity taught that the soul might be lost. In
view of the soul's transcendent value, therefore, the pleasures of the
body became of but little account in comparison. Riches are good, power
is desirable; eating and drinking are very pleasant; praise, flattery,
admiration,--all these things delight us, and under Paganism were sought
and prized. But Christianity said, "What shall a man give in exchange
for his soul?"

Christianity, then, set about in earnest to rescue this soul which
Paganism had disregarded. In consequence of this, women began to rise,
and shine in a new light. They gained a new charm, even moral
beauty,--yea, a new power, so that they could laugh at ancient foes, and
say triumphantly, when those foes sought to crush them, "O Grave, where
is thy victory? O Death, where is thy sting?" There is no beauty among
women like this moral beauty, whose seat is in the soul. It is not only
a radiance, but it is a defence: it protects women from the wrath and
passion of men. With glory irradiating every feature, it says to the
boldest, Thus far shalt thou come and no farther. It is a benediction to
the poor and a welcome to the rich. It shines with such unspeakable
loveliness, so rich in blessing and so refined in ecstasy, that men gaze
with more than admiration, even with sentiments bordering on that
adoration which the Middle Ages felt for the mother of our Lord, and
which they also bestowed upon departed saints. In the immortal paintings
of Raphael and Murillo we get some idea of this moral beauty, which is
so hard to copy.

So woman passed gradually from contempt and degradation to the
veneration of men, when her soul was elevated by the power which
Paganism never knew. But Christianity in the hands of degenerate Romans
and Gothic barbarians made many mistakes in its efforts to save so
priceless a thing as a human soul. Among other things, it instituted
monasteries and convents, both for men and women, in which they sought
to escape the contaminating influences which had degraded them. If
Paganism glorified the body, monasticism despised it. In the fierce
protests against the peculiar sins which had marked Pagan
life,--gluttony, wine-drinking, unchastity, ostentatious vanities, and
turbulent mirth,--monasticism decreed abstinence, perpetual virginity,
the humblest dress, the entire disuse of ornaments, silence, and
meditation. These were supposed to disarm the demons who led into foul
temptation. Moreover, monasticism encouraged whatever it thought would
make the soul triumphant over the body, almost independent of it.
Whatever would feed the soul, it said, should be sought, and whatever
would pamper the body should be avoided.

As a natural consequence of all this, piety gradually came to seek its
most congenial home in monastic retreats, and to take on a dreamy,
visionary, and introspective mood. The "saints" saw visions of both
angels and devils, and a superstitious age believed in their
revelations. The angels appeared to comfort and sustain the soul in
temptations and trials, and the devils came to pervert and torment it.
Good judgment and severe criticism were lost to the Church; and,
moreover, the gloomy theology of the Middle Ages, all based on the fears
of endless physical torments,--for the wretched body was the source of
all evil, and therefore must be punished,--gave sometimes a repulsive
form to piety itself. Intellectually, that piety now excites our
contempt, because it was so much mixed up with dreams and ecstasies and
visions and hallucinations. It produces a moral aversion also, because
it was austere, inhuman, and sometimes cruel. Both monks and nuns, when
they conformed to the rules of their order, were sad, solitary,
dreary-looking people, although their faces shone occasionally in the
light of ecstatic visions of heaven and the angels.

But whatever mistakes monasticism made, however repulsive the religious
life of the Middle Ages,--in fact, all its social life,--still it must
be admitted that the aim of the time was high. Men and women were
enslaved by superstitions, but they were not Pagan. Our own age is, in
some respects, more Pagan than were the darkest times of mediaeval
violence and priestly despotism, since we are reviving the very things
against which Christianity protested as dangerous and false,--the
pomps, the banquets, the ornaments, the arts of the old Pagan world.

Now, all this is preliminary to what I have to say of Saint Theresa. We
cannot do justice to this remarkable woman without considering the
sentiments of her day, and those circumstances that controlled her. We
cannot properly estimate her piety--that for which she was made a saint
in the Roman calendar--without being reminded of the different estimate
which Paganism and Christianity placed upon the soul, and consequently
the superior condition of women in our modern times. Nor must we treat
lightly or sneeringly that institution which was certainly one of the
steps by which women rose in the scale both of religious and social
progress. For several ages nuns were the only charitable women, except
queens and princesses, of whom we have record. But they were drawn to
their calm retreats, not merely to serve God more effectually, nor
merely to perform deeds of charity, but to study. As we have elsewhere
said, the convents in those days were schools no less than asylums and
hospitals, and were especially valued for female education. However, in
these retreats religion especially became a passion. There was a fervor
in it which in our times is unknown. It was not a matter of opinion, but
of faith. In these times there may be more wisdom, but in the Middle
Ages there was more zeal and more unselfishness and more intensity,--all
which is illustrated by the sainted woman I propose to speak of.

Saint Theresa was born at Avila, in Castile, in the year 1515, at the
close of the Middle Ages; but she really belonged to the Middle Ages,
since all the habits, customs, and opinions of Spain at that time were
mediaeval. The Reformation never gained a foothold in Spain. None of its
doctrines penetrated that country, still less modified or changed its
religious customs, institutions, or opinions. And hence Saint Theresa
virtually belonged to the age of Bernard, and Anselm, and Elizabeth of
Hungary. She was of a good family as much distinguished for virtues as
for birth. Both her father and mother were very religious and studious,
reading good books, and practising the virtues which Catholicism ever
enjoined,--alms-giving to the poor, and kindness to the sick and
infirm,--truthful, chaste, temperate, and God-fearing. They had twelve
children, all good, though Theresa seems to have been the favorite, from
her natural sprightliness and enthusiasm. Among the favorite books of
the Middle Ages were the lives of saints and martyrs; and the history of
these martyrs made so great an impression on the mind of the youthful
Theresa that she and one of her brothers meditated a flight into Africa
that they might be put to death by the Moors, and thus earn the crown
of martyrdom, as well as the eternal rewards in heaven which martyrdom
was supposed to secure. This scheme being defeated by their parents,
they sought to be hermits in the garden which belonged to their house,
playing the part of monks and nuns.

At eleven, Theresa lost her mother, and took to reading romances, which,
it seems, were books of knight-errantry, at the close of the chivalric
period. These romances were innumerable, and very extravagant and
absurd, and were ridiculed by Cervantes, half-a-century afterwards, in
his immortal "Don Quixote." Although Spain was mediaeval in its piety in
the sixteenth century, this was the period of its highest intellectual
culture, especially in the drama. De Vega and Cervantes were enough of
themselves to redeem Spain from any charges of intellectual stupidity.
But for the Inquisition, and the Dominican monks, and the Jesuits, and
the demoralization which followed the conquests of Cortés and Pizarro,
Spain might have rivalled Germany, France, and England in the greatness
of her literature. At this time there must have been considerable
cultivation among the class to which Theresa belonged.

Although she never was sullied by what are called mortal sins, it would
appear that as a girl of fourteen Theresa was, like most other girls,
fond of dress and perfumes and ornaments, elaborate hair-dressing, and
of anything which would make the person attractive. Her companions also
were gay young ladies of rank, as fond of finery as she was, whose
conversation was not particularly edifying, but whose morals were above
reproach. Theresa was sent to a convent in her native town by her
father, that she might be removed from the influence of gay companions,
especially her male cousins, who could not be denied the house. At first
she was quite unhappy, finding the convent dull, _triste_, and strict. I
cannot conceive of a convent being a very pleasant place for a worldly
young lady, in any country or in any age of the world. Its monotony and
routine and mechanical duties must ever have been irksome. The pleasing
manners and bright conversation of Theresa caused the nuns to take an
unusual interest in her; and one of them in particular exercised a great
influence upon her, so that she was inclined at times to become a nun
herself, though not of a very strict order, since she was still fond of
the pleasures of the world.

At sixteen, Theresa's poor health made it necessary for her to return to
her father's house. When she recovered she spent some time with her
uncle, afterwards a monk, who made her read good books, and impressed
upon her the vanity of the world. In a few months she resolved to become
a nun,--out of servile fear rather than love, as she avers. The whole
religious life of the Middle Ages was based on fear,--the fear of being
tortured forever by devils and hell. So universal and powerful was this
fear that it became the leading idea of the age, from which very few
were ever emancipated. On this idea were based the excommunications, the
interdicts, and all the spiritual weapons by which the clergy ruled the
minds of the people. On this their ascendency rested; they would have
had but little power without it. It was therefore their interest to
perpetuate it. And as they ruled by exciting fears, so they themselves
were objects of fear rather than of love.

All this tended to make the Middle Ages gloomy, funereal, repulsive,
austere. There was a time when I felt a sort of poetic interest in these
dark times, and called them ages of faith; but the older I grow, and the
more I read and reflect, the more dreary do those ages seem to me. Think
of a state of society when everything suggested wrath and vengeance,
even in the character of God, and when this world was supposed to be
under the dominion of devils! Think of an education which impressed on
the minds of interesting young girls that the trifling sins which they
committed every day, and which proceeded from the exuberance of animal
spirits, justly doomed them to everlasting burnings, without
expiations,--a creed so cruel as to undermine the health, and make life
itself a misery! Think of a spiritual despotism so complete that
confessors and spiritual fathers could impose or remove these
expiations, and thus open the door to heaven or hell!

And yet this despotism was the logical result of a generally accepted
idea, instead of the idea being an outgrowth of the despotism, since the
clergy, who controlled society by working on its fears, were themselves
as complete victims and slaves as the people whom they led. This idea
was that the soul would be lost unless sins were expiated, and expiated
by self-inflicted torments on the body. Paul taught a more cheerful
doctrine of forgiveness, based on divine and infinite love,--on faith
and repentance. The Middle Ages also believed in repentance, but taught
that repentance and penance were synonymous. The asceticism of the
Church in its conflict with Paganism led to this perversion of apostolic
theology. The very idea that Christianity was sent to subvert,--that is,
the old Oriental idea of self-expiation, seen among the fakirs and sofis
and Brahmins alike, and in a less repulsive form among the
Pharisees,--became once again the ruling idea of theologians. The
theologians of the Middle Ages taught this doctrine of penance and
self-expiation with peculiar zeal and sincerity; and fear rather than
love ruled the Christian world. Hence the austerity of convent life. Its
piety centred in the perpetual crucifixion of the body, in the
suppression of desires and pleasures which are perfectly innocent. The
highest ideal of Christian life, according to convent rules, was a
living and protracted martyrdom, and in some cases even the degradation
of our common humanity. Christianity nowhere enjoins the eradication of
passions and appetites, but the control of them. It would not mutilate
and disfigure the body, for it is a sacred temple, to be made beautiful
and attractive. On the other hand the Middle Ages strove to make the
body appear repulsive, and the most loathsome forms of misery and
disease to be hailed as favorite modes of penance. And as Christ
suffered agonies on the cross, so the imitation of Christ was supposed
to be a cheerful and ready acceptance of voluntary humiliation and
bodily torments,--the more dreadful to bear, the more acceptable to
Deity as a propitiation for sin. Is this statement denied? Read the
biographies of the saints of the Middle Ages. See how penance, and
voluntary suffering, and unnecessary exposure of the health, and eager
attention to the sick in loathsome and contagious diseases, and the
severest and most protracted fastings and vigils, enter into their
piety; and how these extorted popular admiration, and received the
applause and rewards of the rulers of the Church. I never read a book
which left on my mind such repulsive impressions of mediaeval piety as
the Life of Catherine of Sienna, by her confessor,--himself one of the
great ecclesiastical dignitaries of the age. I never read anything so
debasing and degrading to our humanity. One turns with disgust from the
narration of her lauded penances.

So we see in the Church of the Middle Ages--the Church of Saint
Theresa--two great ideas struggling for the mastery, yet both obscured
and perverted: faith in a crucified Redeemer, which gave consolation and
hope; and penance, rather than repentance, which sought to impose the
fetters of the ancient spiritual despotisms. In the early Church, faith
and repentance went hand in hand together to conquer the world, and to
introduce joy and peace and hope among believers. In the Middle Ages,
faith was divorced from repentance, and took penance instead as a
companion,--an old enemy; so that there was discord in the Christian
camp, and fears returned, and joys were clouded. Sometimes faith
prevailed over penance, as in the monastery of Bec, where Anselm taught
a cheerful philosophy,--or in the monastery of Clairvaux, where Bernard
lived in seraphic ecstasies, his soul going out in love and joy; and
then again penance prevailed, as in those grim retreats where hard
inquisitors inflicted their cruel torments. But penance, on the whole,
was the ruling power, and cast over society its funereal veil of
dreariness and fear. Yet penance, enslaving as it was, still clung to
the infinite value of the soul, the grandest fact in all revelations,
and hence society did not relax into Paganism. Penance would save the
soul, though surrounding it with gloom, maceration, heavy labors, bitter
tears, terrible anxieties. The wearied pilgrim, the isolated monk, the
weeping nun, the groaning peasant, the penitent baron, were not thrown
into absolute despair, since there was a possibility of appeasing divine
wrath, and since they all knew that Christ had died in order to save
some,--yea, all who conformed to the direction of those spiritual guides
which the Church and the age imposed.

Such was Catholic theology when Theresa--an enthusiastic, amiable, and
virtuous girl of sixteen, but at one time giddy and worldly--wished to
enter a convent for the salvation of her soul. She says she was
influenced _by servile fear_, and not by love. It is now my purpose to
show how this servile fear was gradually subdued by divine grace, and
how she became radiant with _love_,--in short, an emancipated woman, in
all the glorious liberty of the gospel of Christ; although it was not
until she had passed through a most melancholy experience of bondage to
the leading ideas of her Church and age. It is this emancipation which
made her one of the great women of history, not complete and entire, but
still remarkable, especially for a Spanish woman. It was love
casting out fear.

After a mental struggle of three months, Theresa resolved to become a
nun. But her father objected, partly out of his great love for her, and
partly on account of her delicate and fragile body. Her health had
always been poor: she was subject to fainting fits and burning fevers.
Whether her father, at last, consented to her final retirement from the
world I do not discover from her biography; but, with his consent or
without it, she entered the convent and assumed the religious
habit,--not without bitter pangs on leaving her home, for she did
violence to her feelings, having no strong desire for monastic
seclusion, and being warmly attached to her father. Neither love to God
nor a yearning after monastic life impelled the sacrifice, as she
admits, but a perverted conscience. She felt herself in danger of
damnation for her sins, and wished to save her soul, and knew no other
way than to enter upon the austerities of the convent, which she endured
with remarkable patience and submission, suffering not merely from
severities to which she was unaccustomed, but great illness in
consequence of them. A year was passed in protracted miseries, amounting
to martyrdom, from fainting fits, heart palpitations, and other
infirmities of the body. The doctors could do nothing for her, and her
father was obliged to order her removal to a more healthful monastery,
where no vows of enclosure were taken.

And there she remained a year, with no relief to her sufferings for
three months. Her only recreation was books, which fortified her
courage. She sought instruction, but found no one who could instruct her
so as to give repose to her struggling soul. She endeavored to draw her
thoughts from herself by reading. She could not even pray without a
book. She was afraid to be left alone with herself. Her situation was
made still worse by the fact that her superiors did not understand her.
When they noticed that she sought solitude, and shed tears for her sins,
they fancied she had a discontented disposition, and added to her
unhappiness by telling her so. But she conformed to all the rules,
irksome or not, and endured every mortification, and even performed acts
of devotion which were not required. She envied the patience of a poor
woman who died of the most painful ulcers, and thought it would be a
blessing if she could be afflicted in the same way, in order, as she
said, to purchase eternal good. And this strange desire was fulfilled,
for a severe and painful malady afflicted her for three years.

Again was she removed to some place for cure, for her case was
desperate. And here her patience was supernal. Yet patience under bodily
torments did not give the sought-for peace. It happened that a learned
ecclesiastic of noble family lived in this place, and she sought relief
in confessions to him. With a rare judgment and sense, and perhaps pride
and delicacy, she disliked to confess to ignorant priests. She said
that the half-learned did her more harm than good. The learned were
probably more lenient to her, and more in sympathy with her, and assured
her that those sins were only venial which she had supposed were mortal.
But she soon was obliged to give up this confessor, since he began to
confess to her, and to confess sins in comparison with which the sins
she confessed were venial indeed. He not only told her of his slavery to
a bad woman, but confessed a love for Theresa herself, which she of
course repelled, though not with the aversion she ought to have felt. It
seems that her pious talk was instrumental in effecting his deliverance
from a base bondage. He soon after died, and piously, she declared; so
that she considered it certain that his soul was saved.

Theresa remained three months in this place, in most grievous
sufferings, for the remedy was worse than the disease. Again her father
took her home, since all despaired of her recovery, her nervous system
being utterly shattered, and her pains incessant by day and by night;
the least touch was a torment. At last she sank into a state of
insensibility from sheer exhaustion, so that she was supposed to be
dying, even to be dead; and her grave was dug, and the sacrament of
extreme unction was administered. She rallied from this prostration,
however, and returned to the convent, though in a state of extreme
weakness, and so remained for eight months. For three years she was a
cripple, and could move about only on all-fours; but she was resigned
to the will of God.

It was then, amid the maladies of her body, that she found relief to her
over-burdened soul in prayer. She no longer prayed with a book,
mechanically and by rote, but mentally, with earnestness, and with the
understanding. And she prayed directly to God Almighty, and thereby
came, she says, to love Him. And with prayer came new virtues. She now
ceases to speak ill of people, and persuades others to cease from all
detractions, so that absent people are safe. She speaks of God as her
heavenly physician, who alone could cure her. She now desires, not
sickness to show her patience, but health in order to serve God better.
She begins to abominate those forms and ceremonies to which so many were
slavishly devoted, and which she regards as superstitious. But she has
drawbacks and relapses, and is pulled back by temptations and vanities,
so that she is ashamed to approach God with that familiarity which
frequent prayer requires. Then she fears hell, which she thinks she
deserves. She has not yet reached the placidity of a pardoned soul.
Perfection is very slow to be reached, and that is what the Middle Ages
required in order to exorcise the fears of divine wrath. Not, however,
until these fears are exorcised can there be the liberty of the gospel
or the full triumph of love.

Thus for several years Theresa passed a miserable life, since the more
she prayed the more she realized her faults; and these she could not
correct, because her soul was not a master, but a slave. She was drawn
two ways, in opposite directions. She made good resolutions, but failed
to keep them; and then there was a deluge of tears,--the feeling that
she was the weakest and wickedest of all creatures. For nearly twenty
years she passed through this tempestuous sea, between failings and
risings, enjoying neither the sweetness of God nor the pleasures of the
world. But she did not lose the courage of applying herself to mental
prayer. This fortified her; this was her stronghold; this united her to
God. She was persuaded if she persevered in this, whatever sin she might
commit, or whatever temptation might be presented, that, in the end, her
Lord would bring her safe to the port of salvation. So she prayed
without ceasing. She especially insisted on the importance of mental
prayer (which is, I suppose, what is called holy meditation) as a sort
of treaty of friendship with her Lord. At last she feels that the Lord
assists her, in His great love, and she begins to trust in Him. She
declares that prayer is the gate through which the Lord bestows upon her
His favors; and it is only through this that any comfort comes. Then she
begins to enjoy sermons, which once tormented her, whether good or bad,
so long as God is spoken of, for she now loves Him; and she cannot hear
too much of Him she loves. She delights to see her Lord's picture, since
it aids her to see Him inwardly, and to feel that He is always near her,
which is her constant desire.

About this time the "Confessions of Saint Augustine" were put into
Theresa's hands,--one of the few immortal books which are endeared to
the heart of Christians. This book was a comfort and enlightenment to
her, she thinking that the Lord would forgive her, as He did those
saints who had been great sinners, because He loved them. When she
meditated on the conversion of Saint Augustine,--how he heard the voice
in the garden,--it seemed to her that the Lord equally spoke to her, and
thus she was filled with gratitude and joy. After this, her history is
the enumeration of the favors which God gave her, and of the joys of
prayer, which seemed to her to be the very joys of heaven. She longs
more and more for her divine Spouse, to whom she is spiritually wedded.
She pants for Him as the hart pants for the water-brook. She cannot be
separated from Him; neither death nor hell can separate her from His
love. He is infinitely precious to her,--He is chief among ten thousand.
She blesses His holy name. In her exceeding joy she cries, "O Lord of my
soul, O my eternal Good!" In her ecstasy she sings,--

     "Absent from Thee, my Saviour dear!
     I call not life this living here.
     Ah, Lord I my light and living breath,
     Take me, oh, take me from this death
     And burst the bars that sever me
       From my true life above!
     Think how I die Thy face to see,
     And cannot live away from Thee,
       O my Eternal Love!"

Thus she composes canticles and dries her tears, feeling that the love
of God does not consist in these, but in serving Him with fidelity and
devotion. She is filled with the graces of humility, and praises God
that she is permitted to speak of things relating to Him. She is filled
also with strength, since it is He who strengthens her. She is
perpetually refreshed, since she drinks from a divine fountain. She is
in a sort of trance of delight from the enjoyment of divine blessings.
Her soul is elevated to rapture. She feels that her salvation, through
grace, is assured. She no longer has fear of devils or of hell, since
with an everlasting love she is beloved; and her lover is Christ. She
has broken the bondage of the Middle Ages, and she has broken it by
prayer. She is an emancipated woman, and can now afford to devote
herself to practical duties. She visits the sick, she dispenses
charities, she gives wise counsels; for with all her visionary piety she
has good sense in the things of the world, and is as practical as she is
spiritual and transcendental.

And all this in the midst of visions. I will not dwell on these
visions, the weak point in her religious life, though they are visions
of beauty, not of devils, of celestial spirits who came to comfort her,
and who filled her soul with joy and peace.

     "A little bird I am,
       Shut from the fields of air,
     And in my cage I sit and sing
       To Him who placed me there;
     Well pleased a prisoner to be,
     Because, my God, it pleases Thee."

She is bathed in the glory of her Lord, and her face shines with the
radiance of heaven, with the moral beauty which the greatest of Spanish
painters represents on his canvas. And she is beloved by everybody, is
universally venerated for her virtues as well as for her spiritual
elevation. The greatest ecclesiastical dignitaries come to see her, and
encourage her, and hold converse with her, for her intellectual gifts
were as remarkable as her piety. Her conversation, it appears, was
charming. Her influence over the highest people was immense. She
pleased, she softened, and she elevated all who knew her. She reigned in
her convent as Madame de Staël reigned in her _salon_. She was supposed
to have reached perfection; and yet she never claimed perfection, but
sadly felt her imperfections, and confessed them. She was very fond of
the society of learned men, from first to last, but formed no
friendships except with those whom she believed to be faithful
servants of God.

At this period Theresa meditated the foundation of a new convent of the
Carmelite order, to be called St. Joseph, after the name of her patron
saint. But here she found great difficulty, as her plans were not
generally approved by her superiors or the learned men whom she
consulted. They were deemed impracticable, for she insisted that the
convent should not be endowed, nor be allowed to possess property. In
all the monasteries of the Middle Ages, the monks, if individually poor,
might be collectively rich; and all the famous monasteries came
gradually to be as well endowed as Oxford and Cambridge universities
were. This proved, in the end, an evil, since the monks became lazy and
luxurious and proud. They could afford to be idle; and with idleness and
luxury came corruption. The austere lives of the founders of these
monasteries gave them a reputation for sanctity and learning, and this
brought them wealth. Rich people who had no near relatives were almost
certain to leave them something in their wills. And the richer the
monasteries became, the greedier their rulers were.

Theresa determined to set a new example. She did not institute any
stricter rules; she was emancipated from austerities; but she resolved
to make her nuns dependent on the Lord rather than on rich people. Nor
was she ambitious of founding a large convent. She thought that thirteen
women together were enough. Gradually she brought the provincial of the
order over to her views, and also the celebrated friar, Peter of
Alcantara, the most eminent ecclesiastic in Spain. But the townspeople
of Avila were full of opposition. They said it was better for Theresa to
remain where she was; that there was no necessity for another convent,
and that it was a very foolish thing. So great was the outcry, that the
provincial finally withdrew his consent; he also deemed the revenue to
be too uncertain. Then the advice of a celebrated Dominican was sought,
who took eight days to consider the matter, and was at first inclined to
recommend the abandonment of the project, but on further reflection he
could see no harm in it, and encouraged it. So a small house was bought,
for the nuns must have some shelter over their heads. The provincial
changed his opinion again, and now favored the enterprise. It was a
small affair, but a great thing to Theresa. Her friend the Dominican
wrote letters to Rome, and the provincial offered no further objection.
Moreover, she had bright visions of celestial comforters.

But the superior of her convent, not wishing the enterprise to succeed,
and desiring to get her out of the way, sent Theresa to Toledo, to visit
and comfort a sick lady of rank, with whom she remained six months.
Here she met many eminent men, chiefly ecclesiastics of the Dominican
and Jesuit orders; and here she inspired other ladies to follow her
example, among others a noble nun of her own order, who sold all she had
and walked to Rome barefooted, in order to obtain leave to establish a
religious house like that proposed by Theresa. At last there came
letters and a brief from Rome for the establishment of the convent, and
Theresa was elected prioress, in the year 1562.

But the opposition still continued, and the most learned and influential
were resolved on disestablishing the house. The matter at last reached
the ears of the King and council, and an order came requiring a
statement as to how the monastery was to be founded. Everything was
discouraging. Theresa, as usual, took refuge in prayer, and went to the
Lord and said, "This house is not mine; it is established for Thee; and
since there is no one to conduct the case, do Thou undertake it." From
that time she considered the matter settled. Nevertheless the opposition
continued, much to the astonishment of Theresa, who could not see how a
prioress and twelve nuns could be injurious to the city. Finally,
opposition so far ceased that it was agreed that the house should be
unmolested, provided it were endowed. On this point, however, Theresa
was firm, feeling that if she once began to admit revenue, the people
would not afterwards allow her to refuse it. So amid great opposition
she at last took up her abode in the convent she had founded, and wanted
for nothing, since alms, all unsolicited, poured in sufficient for all
necessities; and the attention of the nuns was given to their duties
without anxieties or obstruction, in all the dignity of
voluntary poverty.

I look upon this reformation of the Carmelite order as very remarkable.
The nuns did not go around among rich people supplicating their aid as
was generally customary, for no convent or monastery was ever rich
enough, in its own opinion. Still less did they say to rich people, "Ye
are the lords and masters of mankind. We recognize your greatness and
your power. Deign to give us from your abundance, not that we may live
comfortably when serving the Lord, but live in luxury like you, and
compete with you in the sumptuousness of our banquets and in the
costliness of our furniture and our works of art, and be your companions
and equals in social distinctions, and be enrolled with you as leaders
of society." On the contrary they said, "We ask nothing from you. We do
not wish to be rich. We prefer poverty. We would not be encumbered with
useless impediments--too much camp equipage--while marching to do battle
with the forces of the Devil. Christ is our Captain. He can take care of
his own troops. He will not let us starve. And if we do suffer, what of
that? He suffered for our sake, shall we not suffer for his cause?"

The Convent of St. Joseph was founded in 1562, after Theresa had passed
twenty-nine years in the Convent of the Incarnation. She died, 1582, at
the age of sixty-seven, after twenty years of successful labors in the
convent she had founded; revered by everybody; the friend of some of the
most eminent men in Spain, including the celebrated Borgia, ex-Duke of
Candia, and General of the Jesuits, who took the same interest in
Theresa that Fénelon did in Madame Guyon. She lived to see established
sixteen convents of nuns, all obeying her reformed rule, and most of
them founded by her amid great difficulties and opposition. When she
founded the Carmelite Convent of Toledo she had only four ducats to
begin with. Some one objected to the smallness of the sum, when she
replied, "Theresa and this money are indeed nothing; but God and Theresa
and four ducats can accomplish anything." It was amid the fatigues
incident to the founding a convent in Burgos that she sickened and died.

It was not, however, merely from her labors as a reformer and nun that
Saint Theresa won her fame, but also for her writings, which blaze with
genius, although chiefly confined to her own religious experience. These
consist of an account of her own life, and various letters and mystic
treatises, some description of her spiritual conflicts and ecstasies,
others giving accounts of her religious labors in the founding of
reformed orders and convents; while the most famous is a rapt portrayal
of the progress of the soul to the highest heaven. Her own Memoirs
remind one of the "Confessions of Saint Augustine," and of the
"Imitation of Christ," by Thomas à Kempis. People do not read such books
in these times to any extent, at least in this country, but they have
ever been highly valued on the continent of Europe. The biographers of
Saint Theresa have been numerous, some of them very distinguished, like
Ribera, Yepez, and Sainte Marie. Bossuet, while he condemned Madame
Guyon for the same mystical piety which marked Saint Theresa, still
bowed down to the authority of the writings of the saint, while Fleury
quotes them with the decrees of the Council of Trent.

But Saint Theresa ever was submissive to the authority of the Pope and
of her spiritual directors. She would not have been canonized by Gregory
XV. had she not been. So long as priests and nuns have been submissive
to the authority of the Church, the Church has been lenient to their
opinions. Until the Reformation, there was great practical freedom of
opinion in the Catholic Church. Nor was the Church of the sixteenth
century able to see the logical tendency of the mysticism of Saint
Theresa, since it was not coupled with rebellion against spiritual
despotism. It was not until the logical and dogmatic intellect of
Bossuet discerned the spiritual independence of the Jansenists and
Quietists, that persecution began against them. Had Saint Theresa lived
a century later, she would probably have shared the fate of Madame
Guyon, whom she resembled more closely than any other woman that I have
read of,--in her social position, in her practical intellect, despite
the visions of a dreamy piety, in her passionate love of the Saviour, in
her method of prayer, in her spiritual conflicts, in the benevolence
which marked all her relations with the world, in the divine charity
which breathed through all her words, and in the triumph of love over
all the fears inspired by a gloomy theology and a superstitious
priesthood. Both of these eminent women were poets of no ordinary merit;
both enjoyed the friendship of the most eminent men of their age; both
craved the society of the learned; both were of high birth and beautiful
in their youth, and fitted to adorn society by their brilliant talk as
well as graceful manners; both were amiable and sought to please, and
loved distinction and appreciation; both were Catholics, yet permeated
with the spirit of Protestantism, so far as religion is made a matter
between God and the individual soul, and marked by internal communion
with the Deity rather than by outward acts of prescribed forms; both had
confessors, and yet both maintained the freedom of their minds and
souls, and knew of no binding authority but that divine voice which
appealed to their conscience and heart, and that divine word which is
written in the Scriptures. After the love of God had subdued their
hearts, we read but little of penances, or self-expiations, or forms of
worship, or church ceremonies, or priestly rigors, or any of the
slaveries and formalities which bound ordinary people. Their piety was
mystical, sometimes visionary, and not always intelligible, but deep,
sincere, and lofty. Of the two women, I think Saint Theresa was the more
remarkable, and had the most originality. Madame Guyon seems to have
borrowed much from her, especially in her methods of prayer.

The influence of Saint Theresa's life and writings has been eminent and
marked, not only in the Catholic but in the Protestant Church. If not
direct, it has been indirect. She had that active, ardent nature which
sets at defiance a formal piety, and became an example to noble women in
a more enlightened, if less poetic, age. She was the precursor of a
Madame de Chantal, of a Francis de Sales, of a Mère Angelique. The
learned and saintly Port Royalists, in many respects, were her
disciples. We even see a resemblance to her spiritual exercises in the
"Thoughts" of Pascal. We see her mystical love of the Saviour in the
poetry of Cowper and Watts and Wesley. The same sentiments she uttered
appear even in the devotional works of Jeremy Taylor and Jonathan
Edwards. The Protestant theology of the last century was in harmony with
hers in its essential features. In the "Pilgrim's Progress" of Bunyan we
have no more graphic pictures of the sense of sin, the justice of its
punishment, and the power by which it is broken, than are to be found in
the writings of this saintly woman. In no Protestant hymnals do we find
a warmer desire for a spiritual union with the Author of our salvation;
in none do we see the aspiring soul seeking to climb to the regions of
eternal love more than in her exultant melodies.

     "For uncreated charms I burn,
       Oppressed by slavish fears no more;
     For _One_ in whom I may discern,
       E'en when He frowns, a sweetness I adore."

That remarkable work of Fénelon in which he defends Madame Guyon, called
"Maxims of the Saints," would equally apply to Saint Theresa, in fact to
all those who have been distinguished for an inward life, from Saint
Augustine to Richard Baxter,--for unselfish love, resignation to the
divine will, self-renunciation, meditation too deep for words, and union
with Christ, as represented by the figure of the bride and bridegroom.
This is Christianity, as it has appeared in all ages, both among
Catholic and Protestant saints. It may seem to some visionary, to others
unreasonable, and to others again repulsive. But this has been the life
and joy of those whom the Church has honored and commended. It has
raised them above the despair of Paganism and the superstitions of the
Middle Ages. It is the love which casteth out fear, producing in the
harassed soul repose and rest amid the doubts and disappointments of
life. It is not inspired by duty; it does not rest on philanthropy; it
is not the religion of humanity. It is a gift bestowed by the Father of
Lights, and will be, to remotest ages, the most precious boon which He
bestows on those who seek His guidance.


Vie de Sainte Thérèse, écrite par elle-même; Lettres de Sainte Thérèse;
Les Ouvrages de Sainte Thérèse; Biographie Universelle; Fraser's
Magazine, lxv. 59; Butler's Lives of the Saints; Digby's Ages of Faith;
the Catholic Histories of the Church, especially Fleury's "Maxims of the
Saints." Lives of Saint Theresa by Ribera, Yepez, and Sainte Marie.


       *       *       *       *       *

A. D. 1635-1719.


I present Madame de Maintenon as one of those great women who have
exerted a powerful influence on the political destinies of a nation,
since she was the life of the French monarchy for more than thirty years
during the reign of Louis XIV. In the earlier part of her career she was
a queen of society; but her social triumphs pale before the lustre of
that power which she exercised as the wife of the greatest monarch of
the age,--so far as splendor and magnificence can make a monarch great.
No woman in modern times ever rose so high from a humble position, with
the exception of Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great. She was not born
a duchess, like some of those brilliant women who shed glory around the
absolute throne of the proudest monarch of his century, but rose to her
magnificent position by pure merit,--her graces, her virtues, and her
abilities having won the respect and admiration of the overlauded but
sagacious King of France. And yet she was well born, so far as blood is
concerned, since the Protestant family of D'Aubigné--to which she
belonged--was one of the oldest in the kingdom. Her father, however, was
a man of reckless extravagance and infamous habits, and committed
follies and crimes which caused him to be imprisoned in Bordeaux. While
in prison he compromised the character of the daughter of his jailer,
and by her means escaped to America. He returned, and was again
arrested. His wife followed him to his cell; and it was in this cell
that the subject of this lecture was born (1635). Subsequently her
miserable father obtained his release, sailed with his family to
Martinique, and died there in extreme poverty. His wife, heart-broken,
returned to France, and got her living by her needle, until she too,
worn out by poverty and misfortune, died, leaving her daughter to
strive, as she had striven, with a cold and heartless world.

This daughter became at first a humble dependent on one of her rich
relatives; and "the future wife of Louis XIV. could be seen on a morning
assisting the coachmen to groom the horses, or following a flock of
turkeys, with her breakfast in a basket." But she was beautiful and
bright, and panted, like most ambitious girls, for an entrance into what
is called "society." Society at that time in France was brilliant,
intellectual, and wicked. "There was the blending of calculating
interest and religious asceticism," when women of the world, after
having exhausted its pleasures, retired to cloisters, and "sacrificed
their natural affections to family pride." It was an age of intellectual
idlers, when men and women, having nothing to do, spent their time in
_salons_, and learned the art of conversation, which was followed by the
art of letter-writing.

To reach the _salons_ of semi-literary and semi-fashionable people,
where rank and wealth were balanced by wit, became the desire of the
young Mademoiselle d'Aubigné. Her entrance into society was effected in
a curious way. At that time there lived in Paris (about the year 1650) a
man whose house was the centre of gay and literary people,--those who
did not like the stiffness of the court or the pedantries of the Hôtel
de Rambouillet. His name was Scarron,--a popular and ribald poet, a
comic dramatist, a buffoon, a sort of Rabelais, whose inexhaustible wit
was the admiration of the city. He belonged to a good family, and
originally was a man of means. His uncle had been a bishop and his
father a member of the Parliament of Paris. But he had wasted his
substance in riotous living, and was reduced to a small pension from the
Government. His profession was originally that of a priest, and he
continued through life to wear the ecclesiastical garb. He was full of
maladies and miseries, and his only relief was in society. In spite of
his poverty he contrived to give suppers--they would now be called
dinners--which were exceedingly attractive. To his house came the noted
characters of the day,--Mademoiselle de Scudéry the novelist, Marigny
the songwriter, Hénault the translator of Lucretius, De Grammont the pet
of the court, Chatillon, the duchesses de la Salière and De Sévigné,
even Ninon de L'Enclos; all bright and fashionable people, whose wit and
raillery were the admiration of the city.

It so happened that to a reception of the Abbé Scarron was brought one
day the young lady destined to play so important a part in the history
of her country. But her dress was too short, which so mortified her in
the splendid circle to which she was introduced that she burst into
tears, and Scarron was obliged to exert all his tact to comfort her. Yet
she made a good impression, since she was beautiful and witty; and a
letter which she wrote to a friend soon after, which letter Scarron
happened to see, was so remarkable, that the crippled dramatist
determined to make her his wife,--she only sixteen, he forty-two; so
infirm that he could not walk, and so poor that the guests frequently
furnished the dishes for the common entertainments. And with all these
physical defects (for his body was bent nearly double), and
notwithstanding that he was one of the coarsest and profanest men of
that ungodly age, she accepted him. What price will not an aspiring
woman pay for social position!--for even a marriage with Scarron was to
her a step in the ladder of social elevation.

Did she love this bloated and crippled sensualist, or was she carried
away by admiration of his brilliant conversation, or was she actuated by
a far-reaching policy? I look upon her as a born female Jesuit,
believing in the principle that the end justifies the means. Nor is such
Jesuitism incompatible with pleasing manners, amiability of temper, and
great intellectual radiance; it equally marked, I can fancy, Jezebel,
Cleopatra, and Catherine de Médicis. Moreover, in France it has long
been the custom for poor girls to seek eligible matches without
reference to love.

It does not seem that this hideous marriage provoked scandal. In fact,
it made the fortune of Mademoiselle d'Aubigné. She now presided at
entertainments which were the gossip of the city, and to which stupid
dukes aspired in vain; for Scarron would never have a dull man at his
table, not even if he were loaded with diamonds and could trace his
pedigree to the paladins of Charlemagne. But by presiding at parties
made up of the _élite_ of the fashionable and cultivated society of
Paris, this ambitious woman became acquainted with those who had
influence at court; so that when her husband died, and she was cut off
from his life-pension and reduced to poverty, she was recommended to
Madame de Montespan, the King's mistress, as the governess of her
children. It was a judicious appointment. Madame Scarron was then
thirty-four, in the pride of womanly grace and dignity, with rare
intellectual gifts and accomplishments. There is no education more
effective than that acquired by constant intercourse with learned and
witty people. Even the dinner-table is no bad school for one naturally
bright and amiable. There is more to be learned from conversation than
from books. The living voice is a great educator.

Madame Scarron, on the death of her husband, was already a queen of
society. As the governess of Montespan's children,--which was a great
position, since it introduced her to the notice of the King himself, the
fountain of all honor and promotion,--her habits of life were somewhat
changed. Life became more sombre by the irksome duties of educating
unruly children, and the forced retirement to which she was necessarily
subjected. She could have lived without this preferment, since the
pension of her husband was restored to her, and could have made her
_salon_ the resort of the best society. But she had deeper designs. Not
to be the queen of a fashionable circle did she now aspire, but to be
the leader of a court.

But this aim she was obliged to hide. It could only be compassed by
transcendent tact, prudence, patience, and good sense, all of which
qualities she possessed in an eminent degree. It was necessary to gain
the confidence of an imperious and jealous mistress--which was only to
be done by the most humble assiduities--before she could undermine her
in the affections of the King. She had also to gain his respect and
admiration without allowing any improper intimacy. She had to disarm
jealousy and win confidence; to be as humble in address as she was
elegant in manners, and win a selfish man from pleasure by the richness
of her conversation and the severity of her own morals.

Little by little she began to exercise a great influence over the mind
of the King when he was becoming wearied of the railleries of his
exacting favorite, and when some of the delusions of life were beginning
to be dispelled. He then found great solace and enjoyment in the society
of Madame Scarron, whom he enriched, enabling her to purchase the estate
of Maintenon and to assume its name. She soothed his temper, softened
his resentments, and directed his attention to a new field of thought
and reflection. She was just the opposite of Montespan in almost
everything. The former won by the solid attainments of the mind; the
latter by her sensual charms. The one talked on literature, art, and
religious subjects; the other on fêtes, balls, reviews, and the glories
of the court and its innumerable scandals. Maintenon reminded the King
of his duties without sermonizing or moralizing, but with the insidious
flattery of a devout worshipper of his genius and power; Montespan
directed his mind to pleasures which had lost their charm. Maintenon was
always amiable and sympathetic; Montespan provoked the King by her
resentments, her imperious exactions, her ungovernable fits of temper,
her haughty sarcasm. Maintenon was calm, modest, self-possessed,
judicious, wise; Montespan was passionate, extravagant, unreasonable.
Maintenon always appealed to the higher nature of the King; Montespan to
the lower. The one was a sincere friend, dissuading from folly; the
other an exacting lover, demanding perpetually new favors, to the injury
of the kingdom and the subversion of the King's dignity of character.
The former ruled through the reason; the latter through the passions.
Maintenon was irreproachable in her morals, preserved her self-respect,
and tolerated no improper advances, having no great temptations to
subdue, steadily adhering to that policy which she knew would in time
make her society indispensable; Montespan was content to be simply
mistress, with no forecast of the future, and with but little regard to
the interests or honor of her lord. Maintenon became more attractive
every day from the variety of her intellectual gifts and her unwearied
efforts to please and instruct; Montespan, although a bright woman,
amidst the glories of a dazzling court, at last wearied, disgusted and
repelled. And yet the woman who gradually supplanted Madame de Montespan
by superior radiance of mind and soul openly remained her friend,
through all her waning influence, and pretended to come to her rescue.

The friendship of the King for Madame de Maintenon began as early as
1672; and during the twelve years she was the governess of Montespan's
children she remained discreet and dignified. "I dismiss him," said she,
"always despairing, never repulsed." What a transcendent actress! What
astonishing tact! What shrewdness blended with self-control! She
conformed herself to his tastes and notions. At the supper-tables of her
palsied husband she had been gay, unstilted, and simple; but with the
King she became formal, prudish, ceremonious, fond of etiquette, and
pharisaical in her religious life. She discreetly ruled her royal lover
in the name of virtue and piety. In 1675 the King created her Marquise
de Maintenon.

On the disgrace of Madame de Montespan, when the King was forty-six,
Madame de Maintenon still remained at court, having a conspicuous office
in the royal household as mistress of the robes to the Dauphiness, so
that her nearness to the King created no scandal. She was now a stately
woman, with sparkling black eyes, a fine complexion, beautiful teeth,
and exceedingly graceful manners. The King could not now live without
her, for he needed a counsellor whom he could trust. It must be borne in
mind that the great Colbert, on whose shoulders had been laid the
burdens of the monarchy, had recently died. On the death of the Queen
(1685), Louis made Madame de Maintenon his wife, she being about fifty
and he forty-seven.

This private and secret marriage was never openly divulged during the
life of the King, although generally surmised. This placed Madame de
Maintenon--for she went by this title--in a false position. To say the
least, it was humiliating amid all the splendors to which she was
raised; for if she were a lawful wife, she was not a queen. Some,
perhaps, supposed she was in the position of those favorites whose fate,
again and again, has been to fall.

One thing is certain,--the King would have made her his mistress years
before; but to this she would never consent. She was too politic, too
ambitious, too discreet, to make that immense mistake. Yet after the
dismissal of Montespan she seemed to be such, until she had with
transcendent art and tact attained her end. It is a flaw in her
character that she was willing so long to be aspersed; showing that
power was dearer to her than reputation. Bossuet, when consulted by the
King as to his intended marriage, approved of it only on the ground that
it was better to make a foolish marriage than violate the seventh
commandment. La Chaise, the Jesuit confessor, who travelled in a coach
and six, recommended it, because Madame de Maintenon was his tool. But
Louvois felt the impropriety as well as Fénelon, and advised the King
not thus to commit himself. The Dauphin was furious. The Archbishop of
Paris simply did his duty in performing the ceremony.

Doubtless reasons of State imperatively demanded that the marriage
should not openly be proclaimed, and still more that the widow of
Scarron should not be made the Queen of France. Louis was too much of a
politician, and too proud a man, to make this concession. Had he raised
his unacknowledged wife to the throne, it would have resulted in
political complications which would have embarrassed his whole
subsequent reign. He dared not do this. He could not thus scandalize all
Europe, and defy all the precedents of France. And no one knew this
better than Madame de Maintenon herself. She appeared to be satisfied if
she could henceforth live in virtuous relations. Her religious scruples
are to be respected. It is wonderful that she gained as much as she did
in that proud, cynical, and worldly court, and from the proudest monarch
in the world. But Louis was not happy without her,--a proof of his
respect and love. At the age of forty-seven he needed the counsels of a
wife amid his increasing embarrassments. He was already wearied,
sickened, and disgusted: he now wanted repose, friendship, and fidelity.
He certainly was guilty of no error in marrying one of the most gifted
women of his kingdom,--perhaps the most accomplished woman of the age,
interesting and even beautiful at fifty. She was then in the perfection
of mental and moral fascinations. He made no other sacrifice than of his
pride. His fidelity to his wife, and his constant devotion to her until
he died, proved the sincerity and depth of his attachment; and her
marvellous influence over him was on the whole good, with the exception
of her religious intolerance.

As the wife of Louis XIV. the power of Madame de Maintenon became almost
unbounded. Her ambition was gratified, and her end was accomplished. She
was the dispenser of court favors, the arbiter of fortunes, the real
ruler of the land. Her reign was political as well as social. She sat in
the cabinet of the King, and gave her opinions on State matters whenever
she was asked. Her counsels were so wise that they generally prevailed.
No woman before or after her ever exerted so great an influence on the
fortunes of a kingdom as did the widow of the poet Scarron. The court
which she adorned and ruled was not so brilliant as it had been under
Madame de Montespan, but was still magnificent. She made it more
decorous, though, probably more dull. She was opposed to all foolish,
expenditures. She discouraged the endless fêtes and balls and
masquerades which made her predecessor so popular. But still Versailles
glittered with unparalleled wonders: the fountains played; grand
equipages crowded the park; the courtiers blazed in jewels and velvets
and satins; the salons were filled with all who were illustrious in
France; princes, nobles, ambassadors, generals, statesmen, and ministers
rivalled one another in the gorgeousness of their dresses; women of rank
and beauty displayed their graces in the Salon de Venus.

The articles of luxury and taste that were collected in the countless
rooms of that vast palace almost exceeded belief. And all these blazing
rooms were filled, even to the attic, with aristocratic servitors, who
poured out perpetual incense to the object of their united idolatry, who
sat on almost an Olympian throne. Never was a monarch served by such
idolaters. "Bossuet and Fénelon taught his children; Bourdaloue and
Massillon adorned his chapel; La Chaise and Le Tellier directed his
conscience; Boileau and Molière sharpened his wit; La Rochefoucauld
cultivated his taste; La Fontaine wrote his epigrams; Racine chronicled
his wars; De Turenne commanded his armies; Fouquet and Colbert arranged
his finances; Molé and D'Aguesseau pronounced his judgments; Louvois
laid out his campaigns; Vauban fortified his citadels; Riquet dug his
canals; Mansard constructed his palaces; Poussin decorated his chambers;
Le Brun painted his ceilings; Le Notre laid out his grounds; Girardon
sculptured his fountains; Montespan arranged his fêtes; while La
Vallière, La Fayette, and Sévigné--all queens of beauty--displayed their
graces in the Salon de Venus." What an array of great men and brilliant
women to reflect the splendors of an absolute throne! Never was there
such an _éclat_ about a court; it was one of the wonders of the age.

And Louis never lost his taste for this outward grandeur. He was
ceremonious and exacting to the end. He never lost the sense of his own
omnipotence. In his latter days he was sad and dejected, but never
exhibited his weakness among his worshippers. He was always dignified
and self-possessed. He loved pomp as much as Michael Angelo loved art.
Even in his bitterest reverses he still maintained the air of the "Grand
Monarque." Says Henri Martin:--

"Etiquette, without accepting the extravagant restraints which the court
of France endured, and which French genius would not support, assumed an
unknown extension, proportioned to the increase of royal splendor. It
was adapted to serve the monarchy at the expense of the aristocracy,
and tended to make functions prevail over birth. The great dukes and
peers were multiplied in order to reduce their importance, and the King
gave the marshals precedence over them. The court was a scientific and
complicated machine which Louis guided with sovereign skill. At all
hours, in all places, in the most trifling circumstances of life, he was
always king. His affability never contradicted itself; he expressed
interest and kindliness to all; he showed himself indulgent to errors
that could not be repaired; his majesty was tempered by a grave
familiarity; and he wholly refrained from those pointed and ironical
speeches which so cruelly wound when falling from the lips of a man that
none can answer. He taught all, by his example, the most exquisite
courtesy to women. Manners acquired unequalled elegance. The fêtes
exceeded everything which romance had dreamed, in which the fairy
splendors that wearied the eye were blended with the noblest pleasures
of the intellect. But whether appearing in mythological ballets, or
riding in tournaments in the armor of the heroes of antiquity, or
presiding at plays and banquets in his ordinary apparel with his thick
flowing hair, his loose surtout blazing with gold and silver, and his
profusion of ribbons and plumes, always his air and port had something
unique,--always he was the first among all. His whole life was like a
work of art; and the rôle was admirably played, because he played it

The King was not only sacred, but he was supposed to have different
blood in his veins from other men. His person was inviolable. He
reigned, it was universally supposed, by divine right. He was a divinely
commissioned personage, like Saul and David. He did not reign because he
was able or powerful or wealthy, because he was a statesman or a
general, but because he had a right to reign which no one disputed. This
adoration of royalty was not only universal, but it was deeply seated in
the minds of men, and marked strongly all the courtiers and generals and
bishops and poets who surrounded the throne of Louis,--Bossuet and
Fénelon, as well as Colbert and Louvois; Racine and Molière, as well as
Condé and Turenne. Especially the nobility of the realm looked up to the
king as the source and centre of their own honors and privileges. Even
the people were proud to recognize in him a sort of divinity, and all
persons stood awe-struck in the presence of royalty. All this reverence
was based on ideas which have ever moved the world,--such as sustained
popes in the Middle Ages, and emperors in ancient Borne, and patriarchal
rule among early Oriental peoples. Religion, as well as law and
patriotism, invested monarchs with this sacred and inalienable
authority, never greater than when Louis XIV. began to reign.

But with all his grandeur Louis XIV. did not know how to avail himself
of the advantages which fortune and accident placed in his way. He was
simply magnificent, like Xerxes,--like a man who had entered into a
vast inheritance which he did not know what to do with. He had no
profound views of statesmanship, like Augustus or Tiberius. He had no
conception of what the true greatness of a country consisted in. Hence
his vast treasures were spent in useless wars, silly pomps, and
inglorious pleasures. His grand court became the scene of cabals and
rivalries, scandals and follies. His wars, from which he expected glory,
ended only in shame; his great generals passed away without any to take
their place; his people, instead of being enriched by a development of
national resources, became poor and discontented; while his persecutions
decimated his subjects and sowed the seeds of future calamities. Even
the learned men who shed lustre around his throne prostituted their
talents to nurse his egotism, and did but little to elevate the national
character. Neither Pascal with his intense hostility to spiritual
despotism, nor Racine with the severe taste which marked the classic
authors of Greece and Rome, nor Fénelon with his patriotic enthusiasm
and clear perception of the moral strength of empires, dared to give
full scope to his genius, but all were obliged to veil their sentiments
in vague panegyrics of ancient heroes. At the close of the seventeenth
century the great intellectual lights had disappeared under the
withering influences of despotism,--as in ancient Rome under the
emperors all manly independence had fled,--and literature went through
an eclipse. That absorbing egotism which made Louis XIV. jealous of the
fame of Condé and Luxembourg, or fearful of the talents of Louvois and
Colbert, or suspicious of the influence of Racine and Fénelon, also led
him to degrade his nobility by menial offices, and institute in his
court a burdensome formality.

In spite of his great abilities, no monarch ever reaped a severer
penalty for his misgovernment than did Louis. Like Solomon, he lived
long enough to see the bursting of all the bubbles which had floated
before his intoxicated brain. All his delusions were dispelled; he was
oppressed with superstitious fears; he was weary of the very pleasures
of which he once was fondest; he saw before him a gulf of national
disasters; he was obliged to melt up the medallions which commemorated
his victories, to furnish bread for starving soldiers; he lost the
provinces he had seized; he saw the successive defeat of all his
marshals and the annihilation of his veteran armies; he was deprived of
his children and grandchildren by the most dreadful malady known to that
generation; a feeble infant was the heir of his dominions; he saw
nothing before him but national disgrace; he found no counsellors whom
he could trust, no friends to whom he could pour out his sorrows; the
infirmities of age oppressed his body; the agonies of remorse disturbed
his soul; the fear of hell became the foundation of his religion, for he
must have felt that he had a fearful reckoning with the King of kings.

Such was the man to whom the best days of Madame de Maintenon were
devoted; and she shared his confidence to the last. She did all she
could to alleviate his sorrows, for a more miserable man than Louis XIV.
during the last twenty years of his life never was seated on a throne.
Well might his wife exclaim, "Save those who occupy the highest places,
I know of none more unhappy than those who envy them." This great woman
attempted to make her husband a religious man, and succeeded so far as a
rigid regard to formalities and technical observances can make a man

It may be asked how this formal and proper woman was enabled to exert
upon the King so great an influence; for she was the real ruler of the
land. No woman ever ruled with more absolute sway, from Queen Esther to
Madame de Pompadour, than did the widow of the profane and crippled
Scarron. It cannot be doubted that she exerted this influence by mere
moral and intellectual force,--the power of physical beauty retreating
before the superior radiance of wisdom and virtue. La Vallière had
wearied and Montespan had disgusted even a sensual king, with all their
remarkable attractions; but Maintenon, by her prudence, her tact, her
wisdom, and her friendship, retained the empire she had won,--thus
teaching the immortal lesson that nothing but respect constitutes a sure
foundation for love, or can hold the heart of a selfish man amid the
changes of life. Whatever the promises made emphatic by passion,
whatever the presents or favors given as tokens of everlasting ties,
whatever the raptures consecrating the endearments of a plighted troth,
whatever the admiration called out by the scintillations of genius,
whatever the gratitude arising from benefits bestowed in sympathy, all
will vanish in the heart of a man unless confirmed by qualities which
extort esteem,--the most impressive truth that can be presented to the
mind of woman; her encouragement if good, her sentence to misery if bad,
so far as her hopes centre around an earthly idol.

Now, Madame de Maintenon, whatever her defects, her pharisaism, her
cunning, her ambition, and her narrow religious intolerance, was still,
it would seem, always respected, not only by the King himself,--a great
discerner of character,--but by the court which she controlled, and even
by that gay circle of wits who met around the supper-tables of her first
husband. The breath of scandal never tarnished her reputation; she was
admired by priests as well as by nobles. From this fact, which is well
attested, we infer that she acted with transcendent discretion as the
governess of the Duke of Maine, even when brought into the most
intimate relations with the King; and that when reigning at the court
after the death of the Queen, she must have been supposed to have a
right to all the attentions which she received from Louis XIV. And what
is very remarkable about this woman is, that she should so easily have
supplanted Madame de Montespan in the full blaze of her dazzling beauty,
when the King was in the maturity of his power and in all the pride of
external circumstance,--she, born a Protestant, converted to Catholicism
in her youth under protest, poor, dependent, a governess, the widow of a
vulgar buffoon, and with antecedents which must have stung to the quick
so proud a man as was Louis XIV. With his severe taste, his experience,
his discernment, with all the cynical and hostile influences of a proud
and worldly court, and after a long and searching intimacy, it is hard
to believe that he could have loved and honored her to his death if she
had not been worthy of his esteem. And when we remember that for nearly
forty years she escaped the scandals which made those times unique in
infamy, we are forced to concede that on the whole she must have been a
good woman. To retain such unbounded power for over thirty years is a
very remarkable thing to do.

Madame de Maintenon, however, though wise and virtuous, made many grave
mistakes, as she had many defects of character. Great as she was, she
has to answer for political crimes into which, from her narrow religious
prejudices, she led the King.

The most noticeable feature in the influence which Madame de Maintenon
exercised on the King was in inciting a spirit of religious intolerance.
And this appeared even long before Madame de Montespan had lost her
ascendency. For ten years before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes
there had been continual persecution of the Protestants in France, on
the ground that they were heretics, though not rebels. And the same
persecuting spirit was displayed in reference to the Jansenists, who
were Catholics, and whose only sin was intellectual boldness. Anybody
who thought differently from the monarch incurred the royal displeasure.
Intellectual freedom and honesty were the real reasons of the disgrace
of Racine and Fénelon. For the King was a bigot in religion as well as a
despot on a throne. He fancied that he was very pious. He was regular in
all his religious duties. He was an earnest and conscientious adherent
to all the doctrines of the Catholic Church. In his judgment, a
departure from those doctrines should be severely punished. He was as
sincere as Torquemada, or Alva, or Saint Dominic. His wife encouraged
this bigotry, and even stimulated his resentments toward those who
differed from him.

At last, in 1685, the fatal blow was struck which decimated the
subjects of an irresponsible king. The glorious edict which Henry IV.
had granted, and which even Richelieu and Mazarin had respected, was
repealed. There was no political necessity for the crime. It sprang from
unalloyed religious intolerance; and it was as suicidal as it was
uncalled for and cruel. It was an immense political blunder, which no
enlightened monarch would ever have committed, and which none but a cold
and narrow woman would ever have encouraged. There was no excuse or
palliation for this abominable persecution any more than there was for
the burning of John Huss. It had not even as much to justify it as had
the slaughter of St. Bartholomew, for the Huguenots were politically
hostile and dangerous. It was an act of wanton cruelty incited by
religious bigotry. I wonder how a woman so kind-hearted, so intelligent,
and so politic as Madame de Maintenon doubtless was, could have
encouraged the King to a measure which undermined his popularity, which
cut the sinews of natural strength, and raised up implacable enemies in
every Protestant country. I can palliate her detestable bigotry only on
the ground that she was the slave of an order of men who have ever
proved themselves to be the inveterate foes of human freedom, and who
marked their footsteps, wherever they went, by a trail of blood. Louis
was equally their blinded tool. The Order--the "Society of Jesus"--was
created to extirpate heresy, and in this instance it was carried out to
the bitter end. The persecution of the Protestants under Louis XIV. was
the most cruel and successful of all known persecutions in ancient or
modern times. It annihilated the Protestants, so far as there were any
left openly to defend their cause. It drove out of France from two
hundred thousand to four hundred thousand of her best people, and
executed or confined to the galleys as many more, They died like sheep
led to the slaughter; they died not with arms, but Bibles, in their
hands. I have already presented some details of that inglorious
persecution in my lecture on Louis XIV., and will not repeat what I
there said. It was deemed by Madame de Maintenon a means of grace to the
King,--for in her way she always sought his conversion. And when the
bloody edict went forth for the slaughter of the best people in the
land, she wrote that "the King was now beginning to think seriously of
his salvation. If God preserve him, there will be no longer but one
religion in the kingdom." This foul stain on her character did not
proceed from cruelty of disposition, but from mistaken zeal. What a
contrast her conduct was to the policy of Elizabeth! Yet she was no
worse than Le Tellier, La Chaise, and other fanatics. Religious
intolerance was one of the features of the age and of the Roman
Catholic Church.

But religious bigotry is eternally odious to enlightened reason. No
matter how interesting a man or woman may be in most respects, if
stained with cruel intolerance in religious opinions, he or she will be
repulsive. It left an indelible stain on the character of the most
brilliant and gifted woman of her times, and makes us forget her many
virtues. With all her excellences, she goes down in history as a cold
and intolerant woman whom we cannot love. We cannot forget that in a
great degree through her influence the Edict of Nantes was repealed.

The persecution of the Protestants, however, partially reveals the
narrow intolerance of Madame de Maintenon. She sided but with those
whose influence was directed to the support of the recognized dogmas of
the Church in their connection with the absolute rule of kings. The
interests of Catholic institutions have ever been identical with
absolutism. Bossuet, the ablest theologian and churchman which the
Catholic Church produced in the seventeenth century, gave the whole
force of his vast intellect to uphold an unlimited royal authority. He
saw in the bold philosophical speculations of Descartes, Malebranche,
Spinoza, Leibnitz, and Locke an insidious undermining of the doctrines
of the Church, an intellectual freedom whose logical result would be
fatal alike to Church and State. His eagle eye penetrated to the core of
every system of human thought. He saw the logical and necessary results
of every theory which Pantheists, or Rationalists, or Quietists, or
Jansenists advanced. Whatever did not support the dogmas of mediaeval
and patriotic theologians, such as the Papal Church indorsed, was
regarded by him with suspicion and aversion. Every theory or speculation
which tended to emancipate the mind, or weaken the authority of the
Church, or undermine an absolute throne, was treated by him with
dogmatic intolerance and persistent hatred. He made war alike on the
philosophers, the Jansenists, and the Quietists, whether they remained
in the ranks of the Church or not. It was the dangerous consequences of
these speculations pushed to their logical result which he feared and
detested, and which no other eye than his was able to perceive.

Bossuet communicated his spirit to Madame de Maintenon and to the King,
who were both under his influence as to the treatment of religious or
philosophical questions. Louis and his wife were both devout supporters
of orthodoxy,--that is, the received doctrines of the Church,--partly
from conservative tendencies, and partly from the connection of
established religious institutions with absolutism in government.
Whatever was established, was supported because it was established. They
would suffer no innovation, not even in philosophy. Anything progressive
was abhorred as much as anything destructive. When Fénelon said, "I
love my family better than myself, my country better than my family, and
the human race better than my country," he gave utterance to a sentiment
which was revolutionary in its tendency. When he declared in his
"Télémaque" what were the duties of kings,--that they reigned for the
benefit of their subjects rather than for themselves,--he undermined the
throne which he openly supported. It was the liberal spirit which
animated Fénelon, as well as the innovations to which his opinions
logically led, which arrayed against him the king who admired him, the
woman who had supported him, and the bishop who was jealous of him.
Although he charmed everybody with whom he associated by the angelic
sweetness of his disposition, his refined courtesies of manner, and his
sparkling but inoffensive wit,--a born courtier as well as philosopher,
the most interesting and accomplished man of his generation,--still,
neither Bossuet nor Madame de Maintenon nor the King could tolerate his
teachings, so pregnant were they with innovations; and he was exiled to
his bishopric. Madame de Maintenon, who once delighted in Fénelon,
learned to detest him as much as Bossuet did, when the logical tendency
of his writings was seen. She would rivet the chains of slavery on the
human intellect as well as on the devotees of Rome or the courtiers of
the King, while Fénelon would have emancipated the race itself in the
fervor and sincerity of his boundless love.

This hostility to Fénelon was not caused entirely by the political
improvements he would have introduced, but because his all-embracing
toleration sought to protect the sentimental pantheism which Madame
Guyon inculcated in her maxims of disinterested love and voluntary
passivity of the soul towards God, in opposition to that rationalistic
pantheism which Spinoza defended, and into which he had inexorably
pushed with unexampled logic the deductions of Malebranche. The men who
finally overturned the fabric of despotism which Richelieu constructed
were the philosophers. The clear but narrow intellect of the King and
his wife instinctively saw in them the natural enemies of the throne;
and hence they were frowned upon, if not openly persecuted.

We are forced therefore to admit that the intolerance of Madame de
Maintenon, repulsive as it was, arose in part, like the intolerance of
Bossuet, from zeal to uphold the institutions and opinions on which the
Church and the throne were equally based. The Jesuits would call such a
woman a nursing mother of the Church, a protector of the cause of
orthodoxy, the watchful guardian of the royal interests and those of all
established institutions. Any ultra-conservatism, logically carried out,
would land any person on the ground where she stood.

But while Madame de Maintenon was a foe to everything like heresy, or
opposition to the Catholic Church, or true intellectual freedom, she was
the friend of education. She was the founder of the celebrated School of
St. Cyr, where three hundred young ladies, daughters of impoverished
nobles, were educated gratuitously. She ever took the greatest interest
in this school, and devoted to it all the time her numerous engagements
would permit. She visited it every day, and was really its president and
director. There was never a better school for aristocratic girls in a
Catholic country. She directed their studies and superintended their
manners, and brought to bear on their culture her own vast experience.
If Bossuet was a born priest, she was a born teacher. It was for the
amusement of the girls that Racine was induced by her to write one of
his best dramas,--"Queen Esther," a sort of religious tragedy in the
severest taste, which was performed by the girls in the presence of the
most distinguished people of the court.

Madame de Maintenon exerted her vast influence in favor of morality and
learning. She rewarded genius and scholarship. She was the patron of
those distinguished men who rendered important services to France,
whether statesmen, divines, generals, or scholars. She sought to bring
to the royal notice eminent merit in every department of life within the
ranks of orthodoxy. A poet, or painter, or orator, who gave remarkable
promise, was sure of her kindness; and there were many such. For the
world is full at all times of remarkable young men and women, but there
are very few remarkable men at the age of fifty.

And her influence on the court was equally good. She discouraged
levities, gossip, and dissipation. If the palace was not so gay as
during the reign of Madame de Montespan, it was more decorous and more
intellectual. It became fashionable to go to church, and to praise good
sermons and read books of casuistry. "Tartuffe grew pale before
Escobar." Bossuet and Bourdaloue were equal oracles with Molière and
Racine. Great preachers were all the fashion. The court became very
decorous, if it was hypocritical. The King interested himself in
theological discussions, and became as austere as formerly he was gay
and merry. He regretted his wars and his palace-building; for both were
discouraged by Madame de Maintenon, who perceived that they impoverished
the nation. She undertook the mighty task of reforming the court itself,
as well as the morals of the King; and she partially succeeded. The
proud Nebuchadnezzar whom she served was at last made to confess that
there was a God to whom he was personally responsible; and he was
encouraged to bear with dignity those sad reverses which humiliated his
pride, and drank without complaint the dregs of that bitter cup which
retributive justice held out in mercy before he died. It was his wife
who revealed the deceitfulness, the hypocrisy, the treachery, and the
heartlessness of that generation of vipers which he had trusted and
enriched. She was more than the guardian of his interests; she was his
faithful friend, who dissuaded him from follies. So that outwardly Louis
XIV. became a religious man, and could perhaps have preached a sermon on
the vanity of a worldly life,--that whatever is born in vanity must end
in vanity.

It is greatly to the credit of Madame de Maintenon that she was
interested in whatever tended to improve the morals of the people or to
develop the intellect. She was one of those strong-minded women who are
impressible by grand sentiments. She would have admired Madame de Staël
or Madame Roland,--not their opinions, but their characters. Politics
was perhaps the most interesting subject to her, as it has ever been to
very cultivated women in France; and it was with the details of cabinets
and military enterprises that she was most familiar. It was this
political knowledge which made her so wise a counsellor and so necessary
a companion to the King. But her reign was nevertheless a usurpation.
She triumphed in consequence of the weakness of her husband more than by
her own strength; and the nation never forgave her. She outraged the
honor of the King, and detracted from the dignity of the royal station.
Louis XIV. certainly had the moral right to marry her, as a nobleman may
espouse a servant-girl; but it was a _faux-pas_ which the proud
idolaters of rank could not excuse.

And for this usurpation Madame de Maintenon paid no inconsiderable a
penalty. She was insulted by the royal family to the day of her death.
The Dauphin would not visit her, even when the King led him to the door
of her apartments. The courtiers mocked her behind her back. Her rivals
thrust upon her their envenomed libels. Even Racine once so far forgot
himself as to allude in her presence to the miserable farces of the poet
Scarron,--an unpremeditated and careless insult which she never forgot
or forgave. Moreover, in all her grandeur she was doomed to the most
exhaustive formalities and duties; for the King exacted her constant
services, which wearied and disgusted her. She was born for freedom, but
was really a slave, although she wore gilded fetters. She was not what
one would call an unhappy or disappointed woman, since she attained the
end to which she had aspired. But she could not escape humiliations. She
was in a false position. Her reputation was aspersed. She was only a
wife whose marriage was concealed; she was not a queen. All she gained,
she extorted. In rising to the exalted height of ruling the court of
France she yet abdicated her throne as an untrammelled queen of society,
and became the slave of a pompous, ceremonious, self-conscious,
egotistical, selfish, peevish, self-indulgent, tyrannical, exacting,
priest-ridden, worn-out, disenchanted old voluptuary. And when he died
she was treated as a usurper rather than a wife, and was obliged to
leave the palace, where she would have been insulted, and take up her
quarters in the convent she had founded. The King did not leave her by
his will a large fortune, so that she was obliged to curtail her

Madame de Maintenon lived to be eighty-four, and retained her
intellectual faculties to the last, retiring to the Abbey of St. Cyr on
the death of the King in 1715, and surviving him but four years. She was
beloved and honored by those who knew her intimately. She was the idol
of the girls of St. Cyr, who worshipped the ground on which she trod.
Yet she made no mark in history after the death of Louis XIV. All her
greatness was but the reflection of his glory. Her life, successful as
it was, is but a confirmation of the folly of seeking a position which
is not legitimate. No position is truly desirable which is a false one,
which can be retained only by art, and which subjects one to humiliation
and mortifications. I have great admiration for the many excellent
qualities of this extraordinary and gifted woman, although I know that
she is not a favorite with historians. She is not endeared to the heart
of the nation she indirectly ruled. She is positively disliked by a
large class, not merely for her narrow religious intolerance, but even
for the arts by which she gained so great an influence. Yet, liked or
disliked, it would be difficult to find in French history a greater or
more successful woman.


Henri Martin's History of France; Biographic Universelle; Miss Pardoe's
History of the Court of Louis XIV.; Lacretelle's History of France; St.
Simon's Mémoires; Voltaire's Siècle de Louis XIV.; Guizot's History of
France; Early Days of Madame de Maintenon, Eclectic Magazine, xxxii. 67;
Life and Character of Madame de Maintenon, Quarterly Review, xcvi. 394;
Fortnightly Review, xxv. 607; Temple Bar, Iv. 243; Fraser, xxxix. 231;
Mémoires of Louis XIV., Quarterly Review, xix. 46; James's Life and
Times of Louis XIV.; James's Life of Madame de Maintenon; Secret
Correspondence of Madame de Maintenon; Taine on the Ancien Régime;
Browning's History of the Huguenots, Edinburgh Review, xcix. 454;
Butler's Lives of Fénelon and Bossuet; Abbé Ledieu's Mémoire de Bossuet;
Bentley, Memoirs de Madame de Montespan, xlviii. 309; De Bausset's Life
of Fénelon.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1660-1744.


In the career of Madame de Maintenon we have seen in a woman an
inordinate ambition to rise in the world and control public affairs. In
the history of the Duchess of Marlborough, we see the same ambition, the
same love of power, the same unscrupulous adaptation of means to an end.
Yet the aim and ends of these two remarkable political women were
different. The Frenchwoman had in view the reform of a wicked court, the
interests of education, the extirpation of heresy, the elevation of men
of genius, the social and religious improvement of a great nation, as
she viewed it, through a man who bore absolute sway. The Englishwoman
connived at political corruptions, was indifferent to learning and
genius, and exerted her great influence, not for the good of her
country, but to advance the fortunes of her family. Madame de Maintenon,
if narrow and intolerant, was unselfish, charitable, religious, and
patriotic; the Duchess of Marlborough was selfish, grasping,
avaricious, and worldly in all her aspirations. Both were
ambitious,--the one to benefit the country which she virtually ruled,
and the other to accumulate honors and riches by cabals and intrigues in
the court of a weak woman whom she served and despised. Madame de
Maintenon, in a greater position, as the wife of the most powerful
monarch in Christendom, was gentle, amiable, condescending, and
kind-hearted; the Duchess of Marlborough was haughty, insolent, and
acrimonious. Both were beautiful, bright, witty, and intellectual; but
the Frenchwoman was immeasurably more cultivated, and was impressible by
grand sentiments.

And yet the Duchess of Marlborough was a great woman. She was the most
prominent figure in the Court of Queen Anne, and had a vast influence on
the politics of her day. Her name is associated with great statesmen and
generals. She occupied the highest social position of any woman in
England after that of the royal family. She had the ear and the
confidence of the Queen. The greatest offices were virtually at her
disposal. Around her we may cluster the leading characters and events of
the age of Queen Anne.

Sarah Jennings, the future Duchess of Marlborough, was born in 1660. She
belonged to a good though not a noble family, which for many generations
possessed a good estate in Hertfordshire. Her grandfather, Sir John
Jennings, was a zealous adherent to the royal cause before the
Revolution, and received the Order of the Bath, in company with his
patron, Charles I., then Prince of Wales. When Sarah was twelve years of
age, she found a kind friend in the Duchess of York, Mary Beatrice
Eleanora, Princess of Modena (an adopted daughter of Louis XIV.), who
married James, brother of Charles II. The young girl was thus introduced
to the dangerous circle which surrounded the Duke of York, and she
passed her time, not in profitable studies, but in amusements and
revels. She lived in the ducal household as a playmate of the Princess
Anne, and was a beautiful, bright, and witty young lady, though not well
educated. In the year 1673 she became acquainted with John Churchill, a
colonel of the army and a gentleman of the bedchamber to the Duke of
York,--the latter a post of honor, but of small emolument. He was at
that time twenty-three years of age, a fine-looking and gallant soldier,
who had already distinguished himself at the siege of Tangier. He had
also fought under the banners of Marshal Turenne in the Low Countries,
by whom he was called the "handsome Englishman." At the siege of
Maestricht he further advanced his fortunes, succeeding the famous Earl
of Peterborough in the command of the English troops, then in alliance
with Louis XIV. He was not a man of intellectual culture, nor was he
deeply read. It is said that even his spelling was bad; but his letters
were clear and forcible. He made up his deficiency in education by
irresistibly pleasing manners, remarkable energy, and a coolness of
judgment that was seldom known to err.

His acquaintance with the beautiful Sarah Jennings soon ripened into
love; but he was too poor to marry. Nor had she a fortune. They however
became engaged to each other, and the betrothal continued three years.
It was not till 1678 that the marriage took place. The colonel was
domestic in his tastes and amiable in his temper, and his home was
happy. He was always fond of his wife, although her temper was quick and
her habits exacting. She was proud, irascible, and overbearing, while he
was meek and gentle. In other respects they were equally matched, since
both were greedy, ambitious, and worldly. A great stain, too, rested on
his character; for he had been scandalously intimate with Barbara
Villiers, mistress of Charles II., who gave him £5000, with which he
bought an annuity of £500 a year,--thus enabling him to marry
Miss Jennings.

In 1685 Charles II. died, and was succeeded by his brother the Duke of
York, as James II. The new King rewarded his favorite, Colonel
Churchill, with a Scotch peerage and the command of a regiment of
guards, James's two daughters, the princesses Mary and Anne, now became
great personages. But from mutual jealousy they did not live together
very harmoniously. Mary, the elder daughter, was much the superior of
her sister, and her marriage with William of Orange was
particularly happy.

The Princess Anne was weak and far from being interesting. But she was
inordinately attached to Lady Churchill, who held a high post of honor
and emolument in her household. It does not appear that the attachment
was mutual between these two ladies, but the forms of it were kept up by
Lady Churchill, who had ambitious ends to gain. She gradually acquired
an absolute ascendency over the mind of the Princess, who could not live
happily without her companionship and services. Lady Churchill was at
this time remarkably striking in her appearance, with a clear
complexion, regular features, majestic figure, and beautiful hair, which
was dressed without powder. She also had great power of conversation,
was frank, outspoken, and amusing, but without much tact. The Princess
wrote to her sometimes four times a day, always in the strain of
humility, and seemed utterly dependent upon her. Anne was averse to
reading, spending her time at cards and frivolous pleasures. She was
fond of etiquette, and exacting in trifles. She was praised for her
piety, which would appear however to have been formal and technical.
She was placid, phlegmatic, and had no conversational gifts. She played
tolerably on the guitar, loved the chase, and rode with the hounds until
disabled by the gout, which was brought about by the pleasures of the
table. In 1683 she married Prince George of Denmark, and by him had
thirteen children, not one of whom survived her; most of them died in
infancy. As the daughter of James II., she was of course a Tory in her
political opinions.

Lady Churchill was also at that time a moderate Tory, and fanned the
prejudices of her mistress. But in order to secure a still greater
intimacy and freedom than was consistent with their difference in rank,
the two ladies assumed the names of Mrs. Morley and Mrs. Freeman. In the
correspondence between them the character of the Princess appears to the
greater advantage, since she was at least sincere in her admiration and
friendship. She assumes no superiority in any respect; in her
intellectual dependence she is even humble.

Anne was seemingly disinterested in her friendship with Lady Churchill,
having nothing to gain but services, for which she liberally compensated
her. But the society of a weak woman could not have had much fascination
for so independent and self-sustained a person as was the proud peeress.
It eventually became irksome to her. But there was no outward flaw in
the friendship until Anne ascended the throne in 1702,--not even for
several years after.

The accession of William and Mary in 1689 changed the position of Anne,
to whom the nation now looked as a probable future queen. She was at
that time severely censured for her desertion of her father James, and
her conduct seemed both heartless and frivolous. But she was virtually
in the hands of an unscrupulous woman and the great ministers
of State. On the flight of the King, James II., the Princess
Anne retired to Chatsworth,--the magnificent seat of the Earl of
Devonshire,--accompanied by Lady Churchill, her inseparable companion.

Two days before the coronation of William and Mary, Lord Churchill was
created Earl of Marlborough, and was sworn a member of the Privy Council
and a lord of the bedchamber. This elevation was owing to his military
talents, which no one appreciated better than the King, who however
never personally liked Marlborough, and still less his ambitious wife.
He was no stranger to their boundless cupidity, though he pretended not
to see it. He was politic, not being in a position to dispense with the
services of the ablest military general of his realm.

William III. was a remarkably wise and clearheaded prince, and saw the
dangers which menaced him,--the hostility of Louis XIV., the rebels in
Ireland, and the disaffection among the Jacobite nobility in England,
who secretly favored the exiled monarch. So he rewarded and elevated a
man whom he both admired and despised. William had many sterling
virtues; he was sincere and patriotic and public-spirited; he was a
stanch Protestant of the Calvinistic school, and very attentive to his
religious duties. But with all his virtues and services to the English
nation, he was not a favorite. His reserve, coldness, and cynicism were
in striking contrast with the affability of the Stuarts. He had no
imagination and no graces; he disgusted the English nobles by drinking
Holland gin, and by his brusque manners. But nothing escaped his eagle
eye. On the field of battle he was as ardent and fiery as he was dull
and phlegmatic at Hampton Court, his favorite residence. He was capable
of warm friendships, uninteresting as he seemed to the English nobles;
but he was intimate only with his Dutch favorites, like Bentinck and
Keppel, whom he elevated to English peerages. He spent only a few months
in England each year of the thirteen of his reign, being absorbed in war
most of the time with Louis XIV. and the Irish rebels.

William found that his English throne was anything but a bed of roses.
The Tories, in the tumults and dangers attending the flight of James
II., had promoted his elevation; but they were secretly hostile, and
when dangers had passed, broke out in factious opposition. The
high-church clergy disliked a Calvinistic king in sympathy with
Dissenters. The Irish gave great trouble under Tyrconnel and old Marshal
Schomberg, the latter of whom was killed at the battle of the Boyne. A
large party was always in opposition to the unceasing war with Louis
XIV., whom William hated with implacable animosity.

The Earl of Marlborough, on the accession of William, was a moderate
Tory, and was soon suspected of not being true to his sovereign. His
treason might have resulted in the return of the Stuarts but for the
energy and sagacity of Queen Mary, in whose hands the supreme executive
power was placed by William when absent from the kingdom. She summoned
at once the Parliament, prevented the defection of the navy, and
ferreted out the hostile intrigues, in which the lord-treasurer
Godolphin was also implicated. But for the fortunate naval victory of La
Hogue over the French fleet, which established the naval supremacy of
England, the throne of William and the Protestant succession would have
been seriously endangered; for William was unfortunate in his Flemish

When the King was apprised of the treasonable intrigues which endangered
his throne, he magnanimously pardoned Godolphin and the Duke of
Shrewsbury, but sent Marlborough to the Tower, although he soon after
released him, when it was found that several of the letters which
compromised him had been forged. For some time Marlborough lived in
comparative retirement, while his wife devoted herself to politics and
her duties about the person of the Princess Anne, who was treated very
coldly by her sister the Queen, and was even deprived of her guards. But
the bickerings and quarrels of the royal sisters were suddenly ended by
the death of Mary from the small-pox, which then fearfully raged in
London. The grief of the King was sincere and excessive, as well as that
of the nation, and his affliction softened his character and mitigated
his asperity against Marlborough, Shortly after the death of his queen,
William made Marlborough governor of the Duke of Gloucester, then (1698)
a very promising prince, in the tenth year of his age. This prince, only
surviving son of Anne, had a feeble body, and was unwisely crammed by
Bishop Burnet, his preceptor, and overworked by Marlborough, who taught
him military tactics. Neither his body nor his mind could stand the
strain made upon him, and he was carried off at the age of eleven by
a fever.

The untimely death of the Prince was a great disappointment to the
nation, and cast a gloom over the remaining years of the reign of
William, who from this time declined in health and spirits. One of his
last acts was to appoint the Earl of Marlborough general of the troops
in Flanders, knowing that he was the only man who could successfully
oppose the marshals of France. Only five days before his death the King
sent a recommendation to Parliament for the union of Scotland and
England, and the last act of Parliament to which he gave his consent was
that which fixed the succession in the House of Hanover. At the age of
fifty-one, while planning the campaign which was to make Marlborough
immortal, William received his death-stroke, which was accidental. He
was riding in the park of Hampton Court, when his horse stumbled and he
was thrown, dislocating his collar-bone. The bone was set, and might
have united but for the imprudence of the King, who insisted on going to
Kensington on important business. Fever set in, and in a few days this
noble and heroic king died (March 8, 1702),--the greatest of the English
kings since the Wars of the Roses, to whom the English nation owed the
peaceful settlement of the kingdom in times of treason and rebellion.

The Princess Anne, at the age of thirty-seven, quietly ascended the
throne, and all eyes were at once turned to Marlborough, on whom the
weight of public affairs rested. He was now fifty-three, active, wise,
well poised, experienced, and generally popular in spite of his ambition
and treason. He had, as we have already remarked, been a moderate Tory,
but as he was the advocate of war measures, he now became one of the
leaders of the Whig party. Indeed, he was at this time the foremost man
in England, on account of his great talents as a statesman and
diplomatist as well as general, and for the ascendency of his wife over
the mind of the Queen.

Next to him in power was the lord-treasurer Godolphin, to whom he was
bound by ties of friendship, family alliance, and political principles.
Like Marlborough, Godolphin had in early life been attached to the
service of the House of Stuart. He had been page to Charles II., and
lord chamberlain to Mary of Modena. The Princess Anne, when a young
lady, became attached to this amiable and witty man, and would have
married him if reasons of State had not prevented. After the Revolution
of 1688 his merits were so conspicuous that he was retained in the
service of William and Mary, and raised to the peerage. In sound
judgment, extraordinary sagacity, untiring industry, and unimpeached
integrity, he resembled Lord Burleigh in the reign of Elizabeth, and,
like him, rendered great public services. Grave, economical, cautious,
upright, courteous in manners, he was just the man for the stormy times
in which he lived. He had his faults, being fond of play (the passion of
that age) and of women. Says Swift, who libelled him, as he did every
prominent man of the Whig party, "He could scratch out a song in praise
of his mistress with a pencil on a card, or overflow with tears like a
woman when he had an object to gain."

But the real ruler of the land, on the accession of Anne, was the
favored wife of Marlborough. If ever a subject stood on the very
pinnacle of greatness, it was she. All the foreign ambassadors flattered
her and paid court to her. The greatest nobles solicited or bought of
her the lucrative offices in the gift of the Crown. She was the
dispenser of court favors, as Mesdames de Maintenon and Pompadour were
in France. She was the admiration of gifted circles, in which she
reigned as a queen of society. Poets sang her praises and extolled her
beauty; statesmen craved her influence. Nothing took place at court to
which she was not privy. She was the mainspring of all political cabals
and intrigues; even the Queen treated her with deference, as well as
loaded her with gifts, and Godolphin consulted her on affairs of State.
The military fame of her husband gave her unbounded _éclat_. No
Englishwoman ever had such an exalted social position; she reigned in
_salons_ as well as in the closet of the Queen. And she succeeded in
marrying her daughters to the proudest peers. Her eldest daughter,
Henrietta, was the wife of an earl and prime minister. Her second
daughter, Anne, married Lord Charles Spencer, the only son of the Earl
of Sunderland, one of the leaders of the Whig party and secretary of
state. Her third daughter became the wife of the Earl, afterwards Duke,
of Bridgewater; and the fourth and youngest daughter had for her husband
the celebrated Duke of Montague, grand-master of the Order of the Bath.

Thus did Sarah Jennings rise. Her daughters were married to great nobles
and statesmen, her husband was the most famous general of his age, and
she herself was the favorite and confidential friend and adviser of the
Queen. Upon her were showered riches and honor. She had both influence
and power,--influence from her talents, and power from her position. And
when she became duchess,--after the great victory of Blenheim,--and a
princess of the German Empire, she had nothing more to aspire to in the
way of fortune or favor or rank. She was the first woman of the land,
next to the Queen, whom she ruled while nominally serving her.

There are very few people in this world, whether men or women, who
remain unchanged under the influence of boundless prosperity. So rare
are the exceptions, that the rule is established. Wealth, honor, and
power will produce luxury, pride, and selfishness. How few can hope to
be superior to Solomon, Mohammed, Constantine, Theodosius, Louis XIV.,
Madame de Maintenon, Queen Elizabeth, Maria Theresa, or Napoleon, in
that sublime self-control which looks down on the temptations of earth
with the placid indifference of a Marcus Aurelius! Even prosperous
people in comparatively humble life generally become arrogant and
opinionated, and like to have things in their own way.

Now, Lady Marlborough was both proud by nature and the force of
circumstances. She became an incarnation of arrogance, which she could
not conceal, and which she never sought to control. When she became the
central figure in the Court and in the State, flattered and sought after
wherever she went, before whom the greatest nobles burned their incense,
and whom the people almost worshipped in a country which has ever
idolized rank and power, she assumed airs and gave vent to expressions
that wounded her friend the Queen. Anne bore her friend's intolerable
pride, blended with disdain, for a long time after her accession. But
her own character also began to change. Sovereigns do not like dictation
from subjects, however powerful. And when securely seated on her throne,
Anne began to avow opinions which she had once found it politic to
conceal. She soon became as jealous of her prerogative as her uncle
Charles and her father James had been of theirs. She was at heart a
Tory,--as was natural,--and attached to the interests of her banished
relatives. She looked upon the Whigs as hostile to what she held dear.
She began to dislike ministers who had been in high favor with the late
King, especially Lord Chancellor Somers and Charles Montague, Earl of
Halifax,--since these powerful nobles, allied with Godolphin and
Marlborough, ruled England. Thus the political opinions of the Queen
came gradually to be at variance with those advanced by her favorite,
whose daughters were married to great Whig nobles, and whose husband was
bent on continuing the war against Louis XIV. and the exiled Stuarts.
But, as we have said, Anne for a long time suppressed her feelings of
incipient alienation, produced by the politics and haughty demeanor of
her favorite, and still wrote to her as her beloved Mrs. Freeman, and
signed her letters, as usual, as her humble Morley. Her treatment of the
Countess continued the same as ever, full of affection and confidence.
She could not break with a friend who had so long been indispensable to
her; nor had she strength of character to reveal her true feelings.

Meanwhile a renewed war was declared against Louis XIV. on account of
his determination to place his grandson on the throne of Spain. The
Tories were bitterly opposed to this war of the Spanish succession, as
unnecessary, expensive, and ruinous to the development of national
industry. They were also jealous of Marlborough, whose power they feared
would be augmented by the war, as the commander-in-chief of the united
Dutch and English forces. And the result was indeed what they feared.
His military successes were so great in this war that on his return to
England he was created a duke, and soon after received unusual grants
from Parliament, controlled by the Whigs, which made him the richest man
in England as well as the most powerful politically. Yet even up to this
time the relations between his wife and the Queen were apparently most
friendly. But soon after this the haughty favorite became imprudent in
the expressions she used before her royal mistress; she began to weary
of the drudgeries of her office as mistress of the robes, and turned
over her duties partially to a waiting-woman, who was destined
ultimately to supplant her in the royal favor. The Queen was wounded to
the quick by some things that the Duchess said and did, which she was
supposed not to hear or see; for the Duchess was now occasionally
careless as well as insolent. The Queen was forced to perceive that the
Duchess disdained her feeble intellect and some of her personal habits,
and was, moreover, hostile to her political opinions; and she began to
long for an independence she had never truly enjoyed. But the Duchess,
intoxicated with power and success, did not see the ground on which she
stood; yet if she continued to rule her mistress, it was by fear rather
than love.

About this period (1706) the struggles and hostilities of the Whigs and
Tories were at their height. We have in these times but a feeble
conception of the bitterness of the strife of these two great parties in
the beginning of the eighteenth century. It divided families, and filled
the land with slanders and intrigues. The leaders of both parties were
equally aristocratic and equally opposed to reform; both held the people
in sovereign contempt. The struggle between them was simply a struggle
for place and emolument. The only real difference in their principles
was that one party was secretly in favor of the exiled family and was
opposed to the French war, and the other was more jealously Protestant,
and was in favor of the continuance of the war. The Tories accused
Marlborough of needlessly prolonging the war in order to advance his
personal interests,--from which charge it would be difficult to
acquit him.

One of the most prominent leaders of the Tories was Harley, afterwards
Earl of Oxford, who belonged to a Puritan family in Hertfordshire, and
was originally a Whig. He entered Parliament in the early part of the
reign of William. Macaulay, who could see no good in the Tories, in his
violent political prejudices maintained that Harley was not a man of
great breadth of intellect, and exerted an influence in Parliament
disproportionate to his abilities. But he was a most insidious and
effective enemy. He was sagacious enough to perceive the growing
influence of men of letters, and became their patron and friend. He
advanced the fortunes of Pope, Arbuthnot, and Prior. He purchased the
services of Swift, the greatest master of satire blended with bitter
invective that England had known. Harley was not eloquent in speech; but
he was industrious, learned, exact, and was always listened to with
respect. Nor had he any scandalous vices. He could not be corrupted by
money, and his private life was decorous. He abhorred both gambling and
drunkenness,--the fashionable vices of that age. He was a refined,
social, and cultivated man.

This statesman perceived that it was imperatively necessary for the
success of his party to undermine the overpowering influence of the
Duchess of Marlborough with the Queen. He detested her arrogance,
disdain, and grasping ambition. Moreover, he had the firm conviction
that England should engage only in maritime war. He hated the Dutch and
moneyed men, and Dissenters of every sect, although originally one of
them. And when he had obtained the leadership of his party in the House
of Commons, he brought to bear the whole force of his intellect against
both the Duke and Duchess. It was by his intrigues that the intimate
relations between the Duchess and the Queen were broken up, and that the
Duke became unpopular.

The great instrument by which he effected the disgrace of the imperious
Duchess was a woman who was equally his cousin and the cousin of the
Duchess, and for whom the all-powerful favorite had procured the office
of chamber-woman and dresser,--in other words, a position which in an
inferior rank is called that of lady's-maid; for the Duchess was wearied
of constant attendance on the Queen, and to this woman some of her old
duties were delegated. The name of this woman was Abigail Hill. She had
been in very modest circumstances, but was a person of extraordinary
tact, prudence, and discretion, though very humble in her
address,--qualities the reverse of those which marked her great
relative. Nor did the proud Duchess comprehend Miss Hill's character and
designs any more than the all-powerful Madame de Montespan comprehended
those of the widow Scarron when she made her the governess of her
children. But Harley understood her, and their principles and aims were
in harmony. Abigail Hill was a bigoted Tory, and her supreme desire was
to ingratiate herself in the favor of her royal mistress, especially
when she was tired of the neglect or annoyed by the railleries of her
exacting favorite. By degrees the humble lady's-maid obtained the same
ascendency over the Queen that had been exercised by the mistress of the
robes,--in the one case secured by humility, assiduous attention, and
constant flatteries; in the other, obtained by talent and brilliant
fascinations. Abigail was ruled by Harley; Sarah was ruled by no one but
her husband, who understood her caprices and resentments, and seldom
directly opposed her. Moreover, she was a strong-minded woman, who could
listen to reason after her fits of passion had passed away.

The first thing of note which occurred, showing to the Duchess that her
influence was undermined, was the refusal of the Queen to allow Lord
Cowper, the lord chancellor, to fill up the various livings belonging to
the Crown, in spite of the urgent solicitations of the Duchess. This
naturally produced a coolness between Mrs. Freeman and Mrs. Morley.
Harley was now the confidential adviser of the Queen, and counselled her
"to go alone,"--that is, to throw off the shackles which she had too
long ignominiously worn; and Anne at once appointed high-church
divines--Tories of course--to the two vacant bishoprics. The
under-stream of faction was flowing unseen, but deep and strong, which
the infatuated Duchess did not suspect.

The great victory of Ramillies (1706) gave so much _éclat_ to
Marlborough that the outbreak between his wife and the Queen was delayed
for a time. That victory gave a new lease of power to the Whigs. Harley
and St. John, the secret enemies of the Duke, welcomed him with their
usual smiles and flatteries, and even voted for the erection of
Blenheim, one of the most expensive palaces ever built in England.

Meanwhile Harley pursued his intrigues to effect the downfall of the
Duchess. Miss Hill, unknown to her great relative and patroness, married
Mr. Masham, equerry to Prince George, who was shortly after made a
brigadier-general and peer. Nothing could surpass the indignation of the
Duchess when she heard of this secret marriage. That it should be
concealed from her while it was known to the Queen, showed conclusively
that her power over Anne was gone. And, still further, she perceived
that she was supplanted by a relative whom she had raised from
obscurity. She now comprehended the great influence of Harley at court,
and also the declining favor of her husband. It was a bitter reflection
to the proud Duchess that the alienation of the Queen was the result of
her own folly and pride rather than of royal capriciousness. She now
paid no inconsiderable penalty for the neglect of her mistress and the
gratification of her pride. Pride has ever been the chief cause of the
downfall of royal favorites. It ruined Louvois, Wolsey, and Thomas
Cromwell; it broke the chain which bound Louis XIV. to the imperious
Montespan. It ever goes before destruction. The Duchess of Marlborough
forgot that her friend Mrs. Morley was also her sovereign the Queen. She
might have retained the Queen's favor to the end, in spite of political
opinions; but she presumed too far on the ascendency which she had
enjoyed for nearly thirty years. There is no height from which one may
not fall; and it takes more ability to retain a proud position than to
gain it. There are very few persons who are beyond the reach of envy and
detraction; and the loftier the position one occupies, the more subtle,
numerous, and desperate are one's secret enemies.

The Duchess was not, however, immediately "disgraced,"--as the
expression is in reference to great people who lose favor at court. She
still retained her offices and her apartments in the royal palace; she
still had access to the Queen; she was still addressed as "my dear Mrs.
Freeman." But Mrs. Masham had supplanted her; and Harley, through the
influence of the new favorite, ruled at court. The disaffection which
had long existed between the secretary of state and the lord treasurer
deepened into absolute aversion. It became the aim of both ministers to
ruin each other. The Queen now secretly sided with the Tories, although
she had not the courage to quarrel openly with her powerful ministers,
or with her former favorite. Nor was "the great breach" made public.

But the angry and disappointed Duchess gave vent to her wrath and
vengeance in letters to her husband and in speech to Godolphin. She
entreated them to avenge her quarrel. She employed spies about the
Queen. She brought to bear her whole influence on the leaders of the
Whigs. She prepared herself for an open conflict with her sovereign; for
she saw clearly that the old relations of friendship and confidence
between them would never return. A broken friendship is a broken jar; it
may be mended, but never restored,--its glory has departed. And this is
one of the bitterest experiences of life, on whomsoever the fault may be
laid. The fault in this instance was on the side of the Duchess, and not
on that of her patron. The arrogance and dictation of the favorite had
become intolerable; it was as hard to bear as the insolence of a
petted servant.

The Duke of Marlborough and Lord Godolphin took up the quarrel with
zeal. They were both at the summit of power, and both were leaders of
their party. The victories of the former had made him the most famous
man in Europe and the greatest subject in England. They declined to
serve their sovereign any longer, unless Harley were dismissed from
office; and the able secretary of state was obliged to resign.

But Anne could not forget that she was forced to part with her
confidential minister, and continued to be ruled by his counsels. She
had secret nocturnal meetings in the palace with both Harley and Mrs.
Masham, to the chagrin of the ministers. The court became the scene of
intrigues and cabals. Not only was Harley dismissed, but also Henry St.
John, afterwards the famous Lord Bolingbroke, the intimate friend and
patron of Pope. He was secretary of war, and was a man of great ability,
of more genius even than Harley. He was an infidel in his religious
opinions, and profligate in his private life. Like Harley, he was born
of Puritan parents, and, like him, repudiated his early principles. He
was the most eloquent orator in the House of Commons, which he entered
in 1700 as a Whig. At that time he was much admired by Marlborough, who
used his influence to secure his entrance into the cabinet. His most
remarkable qualities were political sagacity, and penetration into the
motives and dispositions of men. He gradually went over to the Tories,
and his alliance with Harley was strengthened by personal friendship as
well as political sympathies. He was the most interesting man of his age
in society,--witty, bright, and courtly. In conversational powers he was
surpassed only by Swift.

Meanwhile the breach between the Queen and the Duchess gradually
widened. And as the former grew cold in her treatment of her old friend,
she at the same time annoyed her ministers by the appointment of Tory
bishops to the vacant sees. She went so far as to encroach on the
prerogatives of the general of her armies, by making military
appointments without his consent. This interference Marlborough
properly resented. But his influence was now on the wane, as the nation
wearied of a war which, as it seemed to the Tories, he needlessly
prolonged. Moreover, the Duke of Somerset, piqued by the refusal of the
general to give a regiment to his son, withdrew his support from the
Government. The Duke of Shrewsbury and other discontented noblemen left
the Whig party. The unwise prosecution of Dr. Sacheverell for a
seditious libel united the whole Tory party in a fierce opposition to
the Government, which was becoming every day more unpopular. Harley was
indefatigable in intrigues. "He fasted with religious zealots and
feasted with convivial friends." He promised everything to everybody,
but kept his own counsels.

In such a state of affairs, with the growing alienation of the Queen, it
became necessary for the proud Duchess to resign her offices; but before
doing this she made one final effort to regain what she had lost. She
besought the Queen for a private interview, which was refused. Again
importuned, her Majesty sullenly granted the interview, but refused to
explain anything, and even abruptly left the room, and was so rude that
the Duchess burst into a flood of tears which she could not
restrain,--not tears of grief, but tears of wrath and shame.

Thus was finally ended the memorable friendship between Mrs. Morley and
Mrs. Freeman, which had continued for twenty-seven years. The Queen and
Duchess never met again. Soon after, in 1710, followed the dismissal of
Lord Godolphin, as lord treasurer, who was succeeded by Harley, created
Earl of Oxford. Sunderland, too, was dismissed, and his post of
secretary of state was given to St. John, created Viscount Bolingbroke.
Lord Cowper resigned the seals, and Sir Simon Harcourt, an avowed
adherent of the Pretender, became lord chancellor. The Earl of
Rochester, the bitterest of all the Tories, was appointed president of
the council. The Duke of Marlborough, however, was not dismissed from
his high command until 1711. One reason for his dismissal was that he
was suspected of aiming to make himself supreme. On his return from the
battle of Malplaquet, he had coolly demanded to be made captain-general
for life. Such a haughty demand would have been regarded as dangerous in
a great crisis; it was absurd when public dangers had passed away. Even
Lord Cowper. his friend the chancellor, shrunk from it with amazement.
Such a demand would have been deemed arrogant in Wallenstein, amid the
successes of Gustavus Adolphus.

No insignificant cause of the triumph of the Tory party at this time was
the patronage which the Tory leaders extended to men of letters, and the
bitter political tracts which these literary men wrote and for which
they were paid. In that age the speeches of members of Parliament were
not reported or published, and hence had but little influence on public
opinion. Even ministers resorted to political tracts to sustain their
power, or to undermine that of their opponents; and these were more
efficient than speeches in the House of Commons. Bolingbroke was the
most eloquent orator of his day; but no orators arose in Anne's reign
equal to Pitt and Fox in the reign of George III. Hence the political
leaders availed themselves of the writings of men of letters, with whom
they freely associated. And this intercourse was deemed a great
condescension on the part of nobles and cabinet ministers. In that age
great men were not those who were famous for genius, but those who were
exalted in social position. Still, genius was held in high honor by
those who controlled public affairs, whenever it could be made
subservient to their interests.

Foremost among the men of genius who lent their pen to the service of
nobles and statesmen was Jonathan Swift,--clergyman, poet, and satirist.
But he was more famous for his satire than for his sermons or his
poetry. Everybody winced under his terrible assaults. He was both feared
and hated, especially by the "great;" hence they flattered him and
courted his society. He became the intimate friend and companion of
Oxford and Bolingbroke. He dined with the prime minister every Sunday,
and in fact as often as he pleased. He rarely dined at home, and almost
lived in the houses of the highest nobles, who welcomed him not only for
the aid he gave them by his writings, but for his wit and agreeable
discourse. At one time he was the most influential man in England,
although poor and without office or preferment. He possessed two or
three livings in Ireland, which together brought him about £500, on
which he lived,--generally in London, at least when his friends were in
power. They could not spare him, and he was intrusted with the most
important secrets of state. His insolence was superb. He affected
equality with dukes and earls; he "condescended" to accept their
banquets. The first time that Bolingbroke invited him to dine, his reply
was that "if the Queen gave his lordship a dukedom and the Garter and
the Treasury also, he would regard them no more than he would a groat."
This assumed independence was the habit of his life. He indignantly
returned £100 to Harley, which the minister had sent him as a gift: he
did not work for money, but for influence and a promised bishopric. But
the Queen--a pious woman of the conventional school--would never hear of
his elevation to the bench of bishops, in consequence of the "Tale of a
Tub," in which he had ridiculed everything sacred and profane. He was
the bitterest satirist that England has produced. The most his powerful
friends could do for him was to give him the deanery of St. Patrick's in
Dublin, worth about £800 a year.

Swift was first brought to notice by Sir William Temple, in the reign of
William and Mary, he being Sir William's secretary. At first he was a
Whig, and a friend of Addison; but, neglected by Marlborough and
Godolphin,--who cared but little for literary genius,--he became a Tory.
In 1710 he became associated with Harley, St. John, Atterbury, and
Prior, in the defence of the Tory party; but he never relinquished his
friendship with Addison, for whom he had profound respect and
admiration. Swift's life was worldly, but moral. He was remarkably
temperate in eating and drinking, and parsimonious in his habits. One of
his most bitter complaints in his letters to Stella--to whom he wrote
every day--was of the expense of coach-hire in his visits to nobles and
statesmen. It would seem that he creditably discharged his clerical
duties. He attended the daily service in the cathedral, and preached
when his turn came. He was charitable to the poor, and was a friend to
Ireland, to whose people he rendered great services from his influence
with the Government. He was beloved greatly by the Irish nation, in
spite of his asperity, parsimony, and bad temper. He is generally
regarded by critics as a selfish and heartless man; and his treatment of
the two women whose affections he had gained was certainly inexplicable
and detestable. His old age was miserable and sad. He died insane,
having survived his friends and his influence. But his writings have
lived. His "Gulliver's Travels" is still one of the most famous and
popular books in our language, in spite of its revolting and vulgar
details. Swift, like Addison, was a great master of style,--clear,
forcible, and natural; and in vigor he surpassed any writer of his age.

It was the misfortune of the Duchess of Marlborough to have this witty
and malignant satirist for an enemy. He exposed her peculiarities, and
laid bare her character with fearless effrontery. It was thus that he
attacked the most powerful woman in England: "A lady of my acquaintance
appropriated £26 a year out of her allowance for certain uses which the
lady received, or was to pay to the lady or her order when called for.
But after eight years it appeared upon the strictest calculation that
the woman had paid but £4, and sunk £22 for her own pocket. It is but
supposing £26 instead of £26,000, and by that you may judge what the
pretensions of modern merit are when it happens to be its own
paymaster." Who could stand before such insinuations? The Duchess
afterwards attempted to defend herself against the charge of peculation
as the keeper of the privy purse; but no one believed her. She was
notoriously avaricious and unscrupulous. Swift spared no personage in
the party of the Whigs, when by so doing he could please the leaders of
the Tories. And he wrote in an age when libels were scandalous and
savage,--libels which would now subject their authors to punishment. The
acrimony of party strife at that time has never since been equalled.
Even poets attacked each other with savage recklessness. There was no
criticism after the style of Sainte-Beuve. Writers sought either to
annihilate or to extravagantly praise. The jealousy which poets
displayed in reference to each other's productions was as unreasonable
and bitter as the envy and strife between country doctors, or musicians
at the opera.

There was one great writer in the age of Queen Anne who was an exception
to this nearly universal envy and bitterness; and this was Addison, who
was as serene and calm as other critics were furious and unjust. Even
Swift spared this amiable and accomplished writer, although he belonged
to the Whig party. Joseph Addison, born in 1672, was the most fortunate
man of letters in his age,--perhaps in any succeeding age in English
history. He was early distinguished as a writer of Latin poems; and in
1699, at the age of twenty-seven, the young scholar was sent by
Montague, at the recommendation of Somers, to the Continent, on a
pension of £300 a year, to study languages with a view to the diplomatic
service. On the accession of Anne, Addison was obliged to return to
literature for his support. Solicited by Godolphin, under the advice of
Halifax, to write a poem on the victories of Marlborough, he wrote one
so popular that he rapidly rose in favor with the Whig ministry. In 1708
he was made secretary for Ireland, under Lord Wharton, and entered
Parliament. He afterwards was made secretary of state, married a
peeress, and spent his last days at Holland House.

But Addison was no politician; nor did he distinguish himself in
Parliament or as a political writer. He could not make a speech, not
having been trained to debate. He was too timid, and his taste was too
severe, for the arena of politicians. He is immortal for his essays, in
which his humor is transcendent, and his style easy and graceful, As a
writer, he is a great artist. No one has ever been able to equal him in
the charming simplicity of his style. Macaulay, a great artist himself
in the use of language, places Addison on the summit of literary
excellence and fame as an essayist. One is at loss to comprehend why so
quiet and unobtrusive a scholar should have been selected for important
political positions, but can easily understand why he was the admiration
of the highest social circles for his wit and the elegance of his
conversation. He was the personification of urbanity and every
gentlemanly quality, as well as one of the best scholars of his age;
but it was only in an aristocratic age, when a few great nobles
controlled public affairs, that such a man could have been so
recognized, rewarded, and honored. He died beloved and universally
lamented, and his writings are still classics, and likely to remain so.
He was not an oracle in general society, like Mackintosh and Macaulay;
but among congenial and trusted friends he gave full play to his humor,
and was as charming as Washington Irving is said to have been in his
chosen circle of admirers. Although he was a Whig, we do not read of any
particular intimacy with such men as Marlborough and Godolphin.
Marlborough, though an accomplished and amiable man, was not fond of the
society of wits, as were Halifax, Montague, Harley, and St. John. As for
the Duchess, she was too proud and grand for such a retired scholar as
Addison to feel at ease in her worldly coteries. She cared no more for
poetry or severe intellectual culture than politicians generally do. She
shone only in a galaxy of ladies of rank and fashion. I do not read that
she ever took a literary man into her service, and she had no more taste
for letters than the sovereign she served. She was doubtless
intellectual, shrewd, and discriminating; but her intellect was directed
to current political movements, and she was coarse in her language. She
would swear, like Queen Elizabeth, when excited to anger, and her wrath
was terrible.

On the dismissal of the great Duke from all his offices, and the
"disgrace" of his wife at court, they led a comparatively quiet life
abroad. The Duchess had parted with her offices with great reluctance.
Even when the Queen sent for the golden keys, which were the badge of
her office, she refused to surrender them. No one could do anything with
the infuriated termagant, and all were afraid of her. She threatened to
print the private correspondence of the Queen as Mrs. Morley. The
ministers dared not go into her presence, so fierce was her character
when offended. To take from her the badge of office was like trying to
separate a fierce lioness from her whelps. The only person who could
manage her was her husband; and when at last he compelled her to give up
the keys, she threw them in a storm of passion at his head, and raved
like a maniac. It is amazing how the Queen could have borne so long with
the Duchess's ungovernable temper, and still more so how her husband
could. But he was always mild and meek in the retirement of his home,--a
truly domestic man, to whom pomp was a weariness. Moreover, he was a
singularly fortunate man. His ambition and pride and avarice were
gratified beyond precedent in English history. He had become the
foremost man in his country, and perhaps of his age. And his wife was
still looked to as a great personage, not only because of her position
and rank, but for her abilities, which were doubtless great. She was
still a power in the land, and was surrounded by children and
grandchildren who occupied some of the highest social positions
in England.

But she was not happy. What can satisfy a restless and ambitious woman
whose happiness is in external pleasures? There is a limit to the favors
which fortune showers; and when the limits of success are reached, there
must be disappointment. The Duchess was discontented, and became morose,
quarrelsome, and hard to please. Her children did not love her, and some
were in bitter opposition to her. She was perpetually embroiled in
family quarrels. Nothing could soften the asperity of her temper, or
restrain her unreasonable exactions. At last England became hateful to
her, and she and her husband quitted it, and resided abroad for several
years. In the retirement of voluntary exile she answered the numerous
accusations against her; for she was maligned on every side, and
generally disliked, since her arrogance had become insupportable, even
to her daughters.

Meanwhile the last days of Queen Anne's weary existence were drawing to
a close. She was assailed with innumerable annoyances. Her body was
racked with the gout, and her feeble mind was distracted by the
contradictory counsels of her advisers. Any allusion to her successor
was a knell of agony to her disturbed soul. She became suspicious, and
was even alienated from Harley, whom she dismissed from office only a
few days before her death, which took place Aug. 1, 1714. She died
without signing her will, by which omission Mrs. Masham was deprived of
her legacy. She died childless, and the Elector George of Hanover
ascended her throne.

On the death of the Queen, Marlborough returned to England; and it was
one of the first acts of the new king to restore to him the post of
captain-general of the land forces, while his son-in-law Sunderland was
made lord-lieutenant of Ireland. A Whig cabinet was formed, but the Duke
never regained his old political influence, and he gradually retired to
private life, residing with the Duchess almost wholly at Holywell. His
peaceful retirement, for which he had longed, came at last. He employed
his time in surveying the progress of the building of Blenheim,--in
which palace he was never destined to live,--and in simple pleasures,
for which he never lost a taste. His wife occupied herself in
matrimonial projects for her grandchildren, seeking alliances of
ambition and interest.

In 1716 the Duke of Marlborough was attacked with a paralytic fit, from
the effects of which he only partially recovered. To restore his health,
he went to Bath,--then the fashionable and favorite watering-place,
whose waters were deemed beneficial to invalids; and here it was one of
the scandals of the day that the rich nobleman would hobble from the
public room to his lodgings, in a cold, dark night, to save sixpence in
coach-hire. His enjoyments were now few and transient. His nervous
system was completely shattered, after so many labors and exposures in
his numerous campaigns. He lingered till 1722, when he died leaving a
fortune of a million and a half pounds sterling, besides his vast
estates. No subject at that time had so large an income. He left a
military fame never surpassed in England,--except by Wellington,--and a
name unstained by cruelty. So distinguished a man of course received at
his death unparalleled funeral honors. He was followed to his temporary
resting-place in the vaults of Westminster by the most imposing
procession that England had ever seen.

The Duchess of Marlborough was now the richest woman in England.
Whatever influence proceeds from rank and riches she still possessed,
though the titles and honors of the dukedom descended by act of
Parliament, in 1706, to the Countess of Godolphin, with whom she was at
war. The Duchess was now sixty-two, with unbroken health and
inextinguishable ambition. She resided chiefly at Windsor Lodge, for she
held for life the office of ranger of the forest. It was then that she
was so severely castigated by Pope in his satirical lines on "Atossa,"
that she is said to have sent £1000 to the poet, to suppress the
libel,--her avarice and wrath giving way to her policy and pride. For
twenty years after the death of her husband she continued an intriguing
politician, but on ill-terms with Sir Robert Walpole, the prime
minister, whom she cordially hated, more because of money transactions
than political disagreement. She was a very disagreeable old woman, yet
not without influence, if she was without friends. She had at least the
merit of frankness, for she concealed none of her opinions of the King,
nor of his ministers, nor of distinguished nobles. She was querulous,
and full of complaints and exactions. One of her bitterest complaints
was that she was compelled to pay taxes on her house in Windsor Park.
She would even utter her complaints before servants. Litigation was not
disagreeable to her if she had reason on her side, whether she had
law or not.

It was not the good fortune of this strong-minded but unhappy woman to
assemble around her in her declining years children and grandchildren
who were attached to her. She had alienated even them. She had no
intimate friends. "A woman not beloved by her own children can have but
little claim to the affections of others." As we have already said, the
Duchess was at open variance with her oldest daughter Henrietta, the
Countess of Godolphin, to whom she was never reconciled. Her quarrels
with her granddaughter Lady Anne Egerton, afterwards Duchess of Bedford,
were violent and incessant. She lived in perpetual altercation with her
youngest daughter, the Duchess of Montague. She never was beloved by any
of her children at any time, since they were in childhood and youth
intrusted to the care of servants and teachers, while the mother was
absorbed in political cabals at court. She consulted their interest
merely in making for them grand alliances, to gratify her family pride.
Her whole life was absorbed in pride and ambition. Nor did the
mortification of a dishonored old age improve her temper. She sought
neither the consolation of religion nor the intellectual stimulus of
history and philosophy. To the last she was as worldly as she was
morose. To the last she was a dissatisfied politician. She reviled the
Whig administration of Walpole as fiercely as she did the Tory
administration of Oxford. She haughtily refused the Order of the Bath
for her grandson the Duke of Marlborough, which Walpole offered,
contented with nothing less than the Garter. "Madam," replied Walpole,
"they who take the Bath will sooner have the Garter." In her old age her
ruling passion was hatred of Walpole. "I think," she wrote, "'tis
thought wrong to wish anybody dead, but I hope 'tis none to wish he may
be hanged." Her wishes were partly gratified, for she lived long enough
to see this great statesman--so long supreme--driven to the very
threshold of the Tower. For his son Horace she had equal dislike, and he
returned her hatred with malignant satire. "Old Marlborough is dying,"
said the wit; "but who can tell? Last year she had lain a great while
ill, without speaking, and her physician told her that she must be
blistered, or she would die. She cried out, 'I won't be blistered, and I
won't die,'"

She did indeed last some time longer; but with increasing infirmities,
her amusements and pleasures became yearly more circumscribed. In former
years she had sometimes occupied her mind with the purchase of land; for
she was shrewd, and rarely made a bad bargain. Even at the age of eighty
she went to the city to bid in person for the estate of Lord Yarmouth.
But as her darkened day approached its melancholy close, she amused
herself by dictating in bed her "Vindication," After spending thus six
hours daily with her secretary, she had recourse to her chamber organ,
the eight tunes of which she thought much better to hear than going to
the Italian opera. Even society, in which she once shone,--for her
intellect was bright and her person beautiful,--at last wearied her and
gave her no pleasure. Like many lonely, discontented women, she became
attached to animals; she petted three dogs, in which she saw virtues
that neither men nor women possessed. In her disquiet she often changed
her residence. She went from Marlborough House to Windsor Lodge, and
from Windsor Lodge to Wimbledon, only to discover that each place was
damp and unhealthy. Wrapt up in flannels, and wheeled up and down her
room in a chair, she discovered that wealth can only mitigate the evils
of humanity, and realized how wretched is any person with a soul filled
with discontent and bitterness, when animal spirits are destroyed by the
infirmities of old age. All the views of this spoiled favorite of
fortune were bounded by the scenes immediately before her. While she was
not sceptical, she was far from being religious; and hence she was
deprived of the highest consolations given to people in disappointment
and sorrow and neglect. The older she grew, the more tenaciously did she
cling to temporal possessions, and the more keenly did she feel
occasional losses. Her intellect remained unclouded, but her feelings
became callous. While she had no reverence for the dead, she felt
increasing contempt for the living,--forgetting that no one, however
exalted, can live at peace in an atmosphere of disdain.

At last she died, in 1744, unlamented and unloved, in the eighty-fourth
year of her age, and was interred by the side of her husband, in the
tomb in the chapel of Blenheim. She left £30,000 a year to her
grandson, Lord John Spencer, provided he would never accept any civil
or military office from the Government. She left also £20,000 to Lord
Chesterfield, together with her most valuable diamond; but only small
sums to most of her relatives or to charities. The residue of her
property she left to that other grandson who inherited the title and
estates of her husband. £60,000 a year, her estimated income, besides a
costly collection of jewels,--one of the most valuable in Europe,--were
a great property, when few noblemen at that time had over £30,000
a year.

The life of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, is a sad one to contemplate,
with all her riches and honors. Let those who envy wealth or rank learn
from her history how little worldly prosperity can secure happiness or
esteem, without the solid virtues of the heart. The richest and most
prosperous woman of her times was the object of blended derision,
contempt, and hatred throughout the land which she might have adorned.
Why, then, it may be asked, should I single out such a woman for a
lecture,--a woman who added neither to human happiness, national
prosperity, nor the civilization of her age? Why have I chosen her as
one of the Beacon Lights of history? Because I know of no woman who has
filled so exalted a position in society, and is so prominent a figure in
history, whose career is a more impressive warning of the dangers to be
shunned by those who embark on the perilous and troubled seas of mere
worldly ambition. God gave her that to which she aspired, and which so
many envy; but "He sent leanness into her soul."


Private Correspondence of the Duchess of Marlborough; Mrs. Thompson's
Life of the Duchess of Marlborough; "Conduct," by the Duchess of
Marlborough, Life of Dr. Tillotson, by Dr. Birch; Coxe's Life of the
Duke of Marlborough; Evelyn's Diary; Lord Mahon's History of England;
Macaulay's History of England; Lewis Jenkin's Memoirs of the Duke of
Gloucester; Burnet's History of his own Times; Lamberty's Memoirs;
Swift's Journal to Stella; Liddiard's Life of the Duke of Marlborough;
Boyer's Annals of Queen Anne; Swift's Memoir of the Queen's Ministry;
Cunningham's History of Great Britain; Walpole's Correspondence, edited
by Coxe; Sir Walter Scott's Life of Swift; Agnes Strickland's Queens of
England; Marlborough and the Times of Queen Anne; Westminster Review,
lvi. 26; Dublin University Review, lxxiv. 469; Temple Bar Magazine, lii.
333; Burton's Reign of Queen Anne; Stanhope's Queen Anne.


       *       *       *       *       *

A. D. 1777-1849.


I know of no woman who by the force of beauty and social fascinations,
without extraordinary intellectual gifts or high birth, has occupied so
proud a position as a queen of society as Madame Récamier. So I select
her as the representative of her class.

It was in Italy that women first drew to their _salons_ the
distinguished men of their age, and exercised over them a commanding
influence. More than three hundred years ago Olympia Fulvia Morata was
the pride of Ferrara,--eloquent with the music of Homer and Virgil, a
miracle to all who heard her, giving public lectures to nobles and
professors when only a girl of sixteen; and Vittoria Colonna was the
ornament of the Court of Naples, and afterwards drew around her at Rome
the choicest society of that elegant capital,--bishops, princes, and
artists,--equally the friend of Cardinal Pole and of Michael Angelo, and
reigning in her retired apartments in the Benedictine convent of St.
Anne, even as the Duchesse de Longueville shone at the Hôtel de
Rambouillet, with De Retz and La Rochefoucauld at her feet. This was at
a period when the Italian cities were the centre of the new civilization
which the Renaissance created, when ancient learning and art were
cultivated with an enthusiasm never since surpassed.

The new position which women seem to have occupied in the sixteenth
century in Italy, was in part owing to the wealth and culture of
cities--ever the paradise of ambitious women--and the influence of
poetry and chivalry, of which the Italians were the earliest admirers.
Provençal poetry was studied in Italy as early as the time of Dante; and
veneration for woman was carried to a romantic excess when the rest of
Europe was comparatively rude. Even in the eleventh century we see in
the southern part of Europe a respectful enthusiasm for woman coeval
with the birth of chivalry. The gay troubadours expounded and explained
the subtile metaphysics of love in every possible way: a peerless lady
was supposed to unite every possible moral virtue with beauty and rank;
and hence chivalric love was based on sentiment alone. Provence gave
birth both to chivalry and poetry, and they were singularly blended
together. Of about five hundred troubadours whose names have descended
to us, more than half were noble, for chivalry took cognizance only of
noble birth. From Provence chivalry spread to Italy and to the north of
France, and Normandy became pre-eminently a country of noble deeds,
though not the land of song. It was in Italy that the poetical
development was greatest.

After chivalry as an institution had passed away, it still left its
spirit on society. There was not, however, much society in Europe
anywhere until cities arose and became centres of culture and art. In
the feudal castle there were chivalric sentiments but not society, where
men and women of cultivation meet to give expression and scope to their
ideas and sentiments. Nor can there be a high society without the aid of
letters. Society did not arise until scholars and poets mingled with
nobles as companions. This sort of society gained celebrity first in
Paris, when women of rank invited to their _salons_ literary men as well
as nobles.

The first person who gave a marked impulse to what we call society was
the Marquise de Rambouillet, in the seventeenth century. She was the
first to set the fashion in France of that long series of social
gatherings which were a sort of institution for more than two hundred
years. Her father was a devoted friend of Henry IV., belonged to one of
the first families of France, and had been ambassador to Rome. She was
married in the year 1600, at the age of fifteen. When twenty-two, she
had acquired a distaste for the dissipations of the court and everything
like crowded assemblies. She was among the first to discover that a
crowd of men and women does not constitute society. Nothing is more
foreign to the genius of the highest cultivated life than a crowded
_salon_, where conversation on any interesting topic is impossible;
where social life is gilded, but frivolous and empty; where especially
the loftiest sentiments of the soul are suppressed. From an early period
such crowds gathered at courts; but it was not till the seventeenth
century that the _salon_ arose, in which woman was a queen and an

The famous queens of society in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
do not seem to have mixed much in miscellaneous assemblies, however
brilliant in dress and ornament. They were more exclusive. They reserved
their remarkable talents for social reunions, perhaps in modest
_salons_, where among distinguished men and women they could pour out
the treasures of the soul and mind; where they could inspire and draw
out the sentiments of those who were gifted and distinguished. Madame du
Deffand lived quietly in the convent of St. Joseph, but she gathered
around her an elegant and famous circle, until she was eighty and blind.
The Saturday assemblies of Mademoiselle de Scudéry, frequented by the
most distinguished people of Paris, were given in a modest apartment,
for she was only a novelist. The same may be said of the receptions of
Madame de la Sablière, who was a childless widow, of moderate means. The
Duchesse de Longueville--another of those famous queens--saw her best
days in the abbey of Port Royal. Madame Récamier reigned in a small
apartment in the Abbaye-au-Bois. All these carried out in their _salons_
the rules and customs which had been established by Madame de
Rambouillet, It was in her _salon_ that the French Academy originated,
and its first members were regular visitants at her hotel. Her
conversation was the chief amusement. We hear of neither cards nor
music; but there were frequent parties to the country, walks in the
woods,--a perpetual animation, where ceremony was banished. The
brilliancy of her parties excited the jealousy of Richelieu. Hither
resorted those who did not wish to be bound by the stiffness of the
court. At that period this famous hotel had its pedantries, but it was
severely intellectual. Hither came Mademoiselle de Scudéri; Mademoiselle
de Montpensier, granddaughter of Henry IV.; Vaugelas, and others of the
poets; also Balzac, Voiture, Racan, the Duc de Montausier, Madame de
Sévigné, Madame de la Fayette, and others. The most marked thing about
this hotel was the patronage extended to men of letters. Those great
French ladies welcomed poets and scholars, and encouraged them, and did
not allow them to starve, like the literary men of Grub Street. Had the
English aristocracy extended the same helping hand to authors, the
condition of English men of letters in the eighteenth century would have
been far less unfortunate. Authors in France have never been excluded
from high society; and this was owing in part to the influence of the
Hôtel de Rambouillet, which sought an alliance between genius and rank.
It is this blending of genius with rank which gave to society in France
its chief attraction, and made it so brilliant.

Mademoiselle de Scudéry, Madame de la Sablière, and Madame de
Longueville followed the precedents established by Madame de Rambouillet
and Madame de Maintenon, and successively reigned as queens of
society,--that is, of chosen circles of those who were most celebrated
in France,--raising the intellectual tone of society, and inspiring
increased veneration for woman herself.

But the most celebrated of all these queens of society was Madame
Récamier, who was the friend and contemporary of Madame de Staël. She
was born at Lyons, in 1777, not of high rank, her father, M. Bernard,
being only a prosperous notary. Through the influence of Calonne,
minister of Louis XVI., he obtained the lucrative place of Receiver of
the Finances, and removed to Paris, while his only daughter Juliette was
sent to a convent, near Lyons, to be educated, where she remained until
she was ten years of age, when she rejoined her family. Juliette's
education was continued at home, under her mother's superintendence; but
she excelled in nothing especially except music and dancing, and was
only marked for grace, beauty, and good-nature.

Among the visitors to her father's house was Jacques Rose Récamier, a
rich banker, born in Lyons, 1751,--kind-hearted, hospitable,
fine-looking, and cultivated, but of frivolous tastes. In 1793, during
the Reign of Terror, being forty-two, he married the beautiful daughter
of his friend, she being but fifteen. This marriage seems to have been
one of convenience and vanity, with no ties of love on either
side,--scarcely friendship, or even sentiment. For a few years Madame
Récamier led a secluded life, on account of the troubles and dangers
incident to the times, but when she did emerge from retirement she had
developed into the most beautiful woman in France, and was devoted to a
life of pleasure. Her figure was flexible and elegant, her head
well-poised, her complexion brilliant, with a little rosy mouth, pearly
teeth, black curling hair, and soft expressive eyes, with a carriage
indicative of indolence and pride, yet with a face beaming with
good-nature and sympathy.

Such was Madame Récamier at eighteen, so remarkable for beauty that she
called forth murmurs of admiration wherever she appeared. As it had
long been a custom in Paris, and still is, to select the most beautiful
and winning woman to hand round the purse in churches for all charities,
she was selected by the Church of St. Roche, the most fashionable church
of that day; and so great was the enthusiasm to see this beautiful and
bewitching creature, that the people crowded the church, and even
mounted on the chairs, and, though assisted by two gentlemen, she could
scarcely penetrate the crowd. The collection on one occasion amounted to
twenty thousand francs,--equal, perhaps, to ten thousand dollars to-day.
This adaptation of means to an end has never been disdained by the
Catholic clergy. What would be thought in Philadelphia or New York, in
an austere and solemn Presbyterian church, to see the most noted beauty
of the day handing round the plate? But such is one of the forms which
French levity takes, even in the consecrated precincts of the church.

The fashionable drive and promenade in Paris was Longchamps, now the
Champs Élysées, and it was Madame Récamier's delight to drive in an open
carriage on this beautiful avenue, especially on what are called the
holy days,--Wednesdays and Fridays,--when her beauty extorted
salutations from the crowd. Of course, such a woman excited equal
admiration in the _salons_, and was soon invited to the fêtes and
parties of the Directory, through Barras, one of her admirers. There
she saw Bonaparte, but did not personally know him at that time. At one
of these fêtes, rising at full length from her seat to gaze at the
General, sharing in the admiration for the hero, she at once attracted
the notice of the crowd, who all turned to look at her; which so annoyed
Bonaparte that he gave her one of his dreadful and withering frowns,
which caused her to sink into her seat with terror.

In 1798 M. Récamier bought the house which had Récamier belonged to
Necker, in what is now the Chaussée d'Antin. This led to an acquaintance
between Madame Récamier and Madame de Staël, which soon ripened into
friendship. In the following year M. Récamier, now very rich,
established himself in a fine chateau at Clichy, a short distance from
Paris, where he kept open house. Thither came Lucien Bonaparte, at that
time twenty-four years of age, bombastic and consequential, and fell in
love with his beautiful hostess, as everybody else did. But Madame
Récamier, with all her fascinations, was not a woman of passion; nor did
she like the brother of the powerful First Consul, and politely rejected
his addresses. He continued, however, to persecute her with his absurd
love-letters for a year, when, finding it was hopeless to win so refined
and virtuous a lady as Madame Récamier doubtless was,--partly because
she was a woman of high principles, and partly because she had no great
temptations,--the pompous lover, then Home Minister, ceased his

But Napoleon, who knew everything that was going on, had a curiosity to
see this woman who charmed everybody, yet whom nobody could win, and she
was invited to one of his banquets. Although she obeyed his summons, she
was very modest and timid, and did not try to make any conquest of him.
She was afraid of him, as Madame de Staël was, and most ladies of rank
and refinement. He was a hero to men rather than to women,--at least to
those women who happened to know him or serve him. That cold and cutting
irony of which he was master, that haughty carriage and air which he
assumed, that selfish and unsympathetic nature, that exacting slavery to
his will, must have been intolerable to well-bred women who believed in
affection and friendship, of which he was incapable, and which he did
not even comprehend. It was his intention that the most famous beauty of
the day should sit next to him at this banquet, and he left the seat
vacant for her; but she was too modest to take it unless specially
directed to do so by the Consul, which either pride or etiquette
prevented. This modesty he did not appreciate, and he was offended, and
she never saw him again in private; but after he became Emperor, he made
every effort to secure her services as maid-of-honor to one of the
princesses, through his minister Fouché, in order to ornament his court.
It was a flattering honor, since she was only the wife of a banker,
without title; but she refused it, which stung Napoleon with vexation,
since it indicated to him that the fashionable and high-born women of
the day stood aloof from him. Many a woman was banished because she
would not pay court to him,--Madame de Staël, the Duchesse de Chevreuse,
and others. Madame Récamier was now at the height of fashion, admired by
Frenchmen and foreigners alike; not merely by such men as the
Montmorencys, Narbonne, Jordan, Barrère, Moreau, Bernadotte, La Harpe,
but also by Metternich, then secretary of the Austrian embassy, who
carried on a flirtation with her all winter. All this was displeasing to
Napoleon, more from wounded pride than fear of treason. In the midst of
her social triumphs, after having on one occasion received uncommon
honor, Napoleon, now emperor, bitterly exclaimed that more honor could
not be shown to the wife of a marshal of France,--a remark very
indicative of his character, showing that in his estimation there was no
possible rank or fame to be compared with the laurels of a military
hero. A great literary genius, or woman of transcendent beauty, was no
more to him than a great scholar or philosopher is to a vulgar rich man
in making up his parties.

It was in the midst of these social successes that the husband of
Madame Récamier lost his fortune. He would not have failed had he been
able to secure a loan from the Bank of France of a million of francs;
but this loan the Government peremptorily refused,--doubtless from the
hostility of Napoleon; so that the banker was ruined because his wife
chose to ally herself with the old aristocracy and refuse the favors of
the Emperor. In having pursued such a course, Madame Récamier must have
known that she was the indirect cause of her husband's failure. But she
bore the reverse of fortune with that equanimity which seems to be
peculiar to the French, and which only lofty characters, or people of
considerable mental resources, are able to assume or feel. Most rich
men, when they lose their money, give way to despondency and grief,
conscious that they have nothing to fall back upon; that without money
they are nothing. Madame Récamier at once sold her jewels and plate, and
her fine hotel was offered for sale. Neither she nor her husband sought
to retain anything amid the wreck, and they cheerfully took up their
abode in a small apartment,--which conduct won universal sympathy and
respect, so that her friends were rather increased than diminished, and
she did not lose her social prestige and influence, which she would have
lost in cities where money is the highest, and sometimes the only, test
of social position. Madame de Staël wrote letters of impassioned
friendship, and nobles and generals paid unwonted attention. The death
of her mother soon followed, so that she spent the summer of 1807 in
extreme privacy, until persuaded by her constant friend Madame de Staël
to pay her a visit at her country-seat near Geneva, where she met Prince
Frederick of Prussia, nephew of the great Frederic, who became so
enamored of her that he sought her hand in marriage. Princes, in those
days, had such a lofty idea of their rank that they deemed it an honor
to be conferred on a woman, even if married, to take her away from her
husband. For a time Madame Récamier seemed dazzled with this splendid
proposal, and she even wrote to the old banker, her husband, asking for
a divorce from him. I think I never read of a request so preposterous or
more disgraceful,--the greatest flaw I know in her character,--showing
the extreme worldliness of women of fashion at that time, and the
audacity which is created by universal flattery. What is even more
surprising, her husband did not refuse the request, but wrote to her a
letter of so much dignity, tenderness, and affection that her eyes were
opened. "She saw the protector of her youth, whose indulgence had never
failed her, growing old, and despoiled of fortune; and to leave him who
had been so good to her, even if she did not love him, seemed rightly
the height of ingratitude and meanness." So the Prince was dismissed,
very much to his surprise and chagrin; and some there were who regarded
M. Récamier as a very selfish man, to appeal to the feelings and honor
of his wife, and thus deprive her of a splendid destiny. Such were the
morals of fashionable people in Europe during the eighteenth century.

Madame Récamier did not meddle with politics, like Madame de Staël and
other strong-minded women before and since; but her friendship with a
woman whom Napoleon hated so intensely as he did the authoress of
"Delphine" and "Germany," caused her banishment to a distance of forty
leagues from Paris,--one of the customary acts which the great conqueror
was not ashamed to commit, and which put his character in a repulsive
light. Nothing was more odious in the character of Napoleon than his
disdain of women, and his harsh and severe treatment of those who would
not offer incense to him. Madame de Staël, on learning of the Emperor's
resentment towards her friend, implored her not to continue to visit
her, as it would certainly be reported to the Government, and result in
her banishment; but Madame Récamier would obey the impulses of
friendship in the face of all danger. And the result was indeed her
exile from that city which was so dear to her, as well as to all
fashionable women and all gifted men.

In exile this persecuted woman lived in a simple way, first at Chalons
and then at Lyons, for her means were now small. Her companions,
however, were great people, as before her banishment and in the days of
her prosperity,--in which fact we see some modification of the
heartlessness which so often reigns in fashionable circles. Madame
Récamier never was without friends as well as admirers. Her amiability,
wit, good-nature, and extraordinary fascinations always attracted gifted
and accomplished people of the very highest rank.

It was at Lyons that she formed a singular friendship, which lasted for
life; and this was with a young man of plebeian origin, the son of a
printer, with a face disfigured, and with manners uncouth,--M.
Ballanche, whose admiration amounted to absolute idolatry, and who
demanded no other reward for his devotion than the privilege of worship.
To be permitted to look at her and listen to her was enough for him.
Though ugly in appearance, and with a slow speech, he was well versed in
the literature of the day, and his ideas were lofty and refined.

I have never read of any one who has refused an unselfish idolatry, the
incense of a worshipper who has no outward advantage to seek or
gain,--not even a king. If it be the privilege of a divinity to receive
the homage of worshippers, why should a beautiful and kind-hearted
woman reject the respectful adoration of a man contented with worship
alone? What could be more flattering even to a woman of the world,
especially if this man had noble traits and great cultivation? Such was
Ballanche, who viewed the mistress of his heart as Dante did his
Beatrice, though not with the same sublime elevation, for the object of
Dante's devotion was on the whole imaginary,--the worship of qualities
which existed in his own mind alone,--whereas the admiration of
Ballanche was based on the real presence of flesh and blood animated by
a lovely soul.

Soon after this friendship had begun, Madame Récamier made a visit to
Italy, travelling in a _voiture_, not a private carriage, and arrived at
Rome in Passion Week, 1812, when the Pope was a prisoner of Napoleon at
Fontainebleau, and hence when his capital was in mourning,--sad and
dull, guarded and occupied by French soldiers. The only society at Rome
in that eventful year which preceded the declining fortunes of Napoleon,
was at the palace of Prince Torlonia the banker; but the modest
apartment of Madame Récamier on the Corso was soon filled with those who
detested the rule of Napoleon. Soon after, Ballanche came all the way
from Lyons to see his star of worship, and she kindly took him
everywhere, for even in desolation the Eternal City is the most
interesting spot on the face of the globe. From Rome she went to Naples
(December, 1813), when the King Murat was forced into the coalition
against his brother-in-law. In spite of the hatred of Napoleon, his
sister the Queen of Naples was devoted to the Queen of Beauty, who was
received at court as an ambassadress rather than as an exile. On the
fall of Napoleon the next year the Pope returned from his thraldom; and
Madame Récamier, being again in Rome, witnessed one of the most touching
scenes of those eventful days, when all the nobles and gentry went out
to meet their spiritual and temporal sovereign, and amid the exultant
shouts and rapture of the crowd, dragged his gilded carriage to St.
Peter's Church, where was celebrated a solemn _Te Deum._

But Madame Récamier did not tarry long in Italy, She hastened back to
Paris, for the tyrant was fallen. She was now no longer beaming in
youthful charms, with groups of lovers at her feet, but a woman of
middle age, yet still handsome,--for such a woman does not lose her
beauty at thirty-five,--with fresh sources of enjoyment, and a keen
desire for the society of intellectual and gifted friends. She now gave
up miscellaneous society,--that is, fashionable and dissipated crowds of
men and women in noisy receptions and ceremonious parties,--and drew
around her the lines of a more exclusive circle. Hither came to see her
Ballanche, now a resident of Paris, Mathieu de Montmorency, M. de
Châteaubriand, the Due de Broglie, and the most distinguished nobles of
the ancient regime, with the literary lions who once more began to roar
on the fall of the tyrant who had silenced them, including such men as
Barante and Benjamin Constant. Also great ladies were seen in her
_salon_, for her husband's fortunes had improved, and she was enabled
again to live in her old style of splendor. Among these ladies were the
Duchesse de Cars, the Marchionesses de Podences, Castellan, and
d'Aguesseau, and the Princess-Royal of Sweden. Also distinguished
foreigners sought her society,--Wellington, Madame Krüdener, the friend
of the Emperor Alexander, the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire, the Duke
of Hamilton, and whoever was most distinguished in that brilliant circle
of illustrious people who congregated at Paris on the restoration of
the Bourbons.

In 1819 occurred the second failure of M. Récamier, which necessarily
led again to a new and more humble style of life. The home which Madame
Récamier now selected, and where she lived until 1838, was the
Abbaye-au-Bois, while her father and her husband, the latter now
sixty-nine, lived in a small lodging in the vicinity. She occupied in
this convent--a large old building in the Rue de Sèvres--a small
_appartement_ in the third story, with a brick floor, and uneven at
that. She afterwards removed to a small _appartement_ on the first
floor, which looked upon the convent garden.

Here, in this seclusion, impoverished, and no longer young, Madame
Récamier received her friends and guests. And they were among the most
distinguished people of France, especially the Duc de Montmorency and
the Viscount Châteaubriand. The former was a very religious man, and the
breath of scandal never for a moment tainted his reputation, or cast any
reproach on the memorable friendship which he cultivated with the most
beautiful woman in France. This illustrious nobleman was at that time
Minister of Foreign Affairs, and was sent to the celebrated Congress of
Vienna, where Metternich, the greatest statesman of the age, presided
and inaugurated a reaction from the principles of the Revolution.

But more famous than he was Châteaubriand, then ambassador at London,
and afterwards joined with Montmorency as delegate to the Congress of
Vienna, and still later Minister of Foreign Affairs, who held during the
reign of Louis XVIII. the most distinguished position in France as a
statesman, a man of society, and a literary man. The author of the
"Genius of Christianity" was aristocratic, moody, fickle, and vain,
almost spoiled with the incense of popular idolatry. No literary man
since Voltaire had received such incense. He was the acknowledged head
of French literature, a man of illustrious birth, noble manners,
poetical temperament, vast acquisitions, and immense social prestige. He
took sad and desponding views of life, was intensely conservative, but
had doubtless a lofty soul as well as intellectual supremacy. He
occupied distinct spheres,--was poet, historian, statesman, orator, and
the oracle of fashionable _salons_, although he loved seclusion, and
detested crowds. The virtues of his private life were unimpeached, and
no man was more respected by the nation than this cultivated scholar and
gentleman of the old school.

It was between this remarkable man and Madame Récamier that the most
memorable friendship of modern times took place. It began in the year
1817 at the bedside of Madame de Staël, but did not ripen into intimacy
until 1818, when he was fifty and she was forty-one. His genius and
accomplishments soon conquered the first place in her heart; and he kept
that place until his death in 1848,--thirty years of ardent and
reproachless friendship. Her other friends felt great inquietude in view
of this friendship, fearing that the incurable melancholy and fitful
moods of the Viscount would have a depressing influence on her; but she
could not resist his fascinations any easier than he could resist hers.
The Viscount visited her every day, generally in the afternoon; and when
absent on his diplomatic missions to the various foreign courts, he
wrote her, every day, all the details of his life, as well as
sentiments. He constantly complained that she did not write as often as
he did. His attachment was not prompted by that unselfish devotion which
marked Ballanche, who sought no return, only the privilege of adoration.
Châteaubriand was exacting, and sought a warmer and still increasing
affection, which it seems was returned. Madame Récamier's nature was not
passionate; it was simply affectionate. She sought to have the wants of
her soul met. She rarely went to parties or assemblies, and seldom to
the theatre. She craved friendship, and of the purest and loftiest kind.
She was tired of the dissipation of society and even of flatteries, of
which the Viscount was equally weary. The delusions of life were
dispelled, in her case, at forty; in his, at fifty.

This intimacy reminds us of that of Louis XIV. and Madame de Maintenon.
Neither could live without the other. But their correspondence does not
reveal any improper intimacy. It was purely spiritual and affectionate;
it was based on mutual admiration; it was strengthened by mutual respect
for each other's moral qualities. And the friendship gave rise to no
scandal; nor was it in any way misrepresented. Every day the statesman,
when immersed even in the cares of a great office, was seen at her
modest dwelling, at the same hour,--about four o'clock,--and no other
visitors were received at that hour. After unbending his burdened soul,
or communicating his political plans, or detailing the gossip of the
day, all to the end of securing sympathy and encouragement from a great
woman, he retired to his own hotel, and spent the evening with his sick
wife. One might suppose that his wife would have been jealous. The wife
of Carlyle never would have permitted her husband to visit on such
intimate terms the woman he most admired,--Lady Ashburton,--without a
separation. But Châteaubriand's wife favored rather than discouraged the
intimacy, knowing that it was necessary to his happiness. Nor did the
friendship between Madame Récamier and the Due de Montmorency, the
political rival of Châteaubriand, weaken the love of the latter or
create jealousy, a proof of his noble character. And when the pious Duke
died, both friends gave way to the most sincere grief.

It was impossible for Madame Récamier to live without friendship. She
could give up society and fortune, but not her friends. The friendly
circle was not large, but, as we have said, embraced the leading men of
France. Her limited means made no difference with her guests, since
these were friends and admirers. Her attraction to men and women alike
did not decrease with age or poverty.

The fall of Charles X., in 1830, led of course to the political downfall
of Châteaubriand, and of many of Madame Récamier's best friends. But
there was a younger class of an opposite school who now came forward,
and the more eminent of these were also frequent visitors to the old
queen of society,--Ampère, Thiers, Mignet, Guizot, De Tocqueville,
Sainte-Beuve. Nor did she lose the friendship, in her altered fortunes,
of queens and nobles. She seems to have been received with the greatest
cordiality in whatever chateau she chose to visit. Even Louis Napoleon,
on his release from imprisonment in the castle of Ham, lost no time in
paying his respects to the woman his uncle had formerly banished.

One of the characteristic things which this interesting lady did, was to
get up a soiree in her apartments at the convent in aid of the sufferers
of Lyons from an inundation of the Rhône, from which she realized a
large sum. It was attended by the _élite_ of Paris. Lady Byron paid a
hundred francs for her ticket. The Due de Noailles provided the
refreshments, the Marquis de Verac furnished the carriages, and
Châteaubriand acted as master of ceremonies. Rachel acted in the rôle of
"Esther," not yet performed at the theatre, while Garcia, Rubini, and
Lablache kindly gave their services. It was a very brilliant
entertainment, one of the last in which Madame Récamier presided as a
queen of society. It showed her kindness of heart, which was the most
conspicuous trait of her character. She wished to please, but she
desired still more to be of assistance. The desire to please may arise
from blended vanity and good-nature; the desire to be useful is purely
disinterested. In all her intercourse with friends we see in Madame
Récamier a remarkable power of sympathy. She was not a woman of genius,
but of amazing tact, kindness, and amiability. She entered with all her
heart into the private and confidential communications of her friends,
and was totally free from egotism, forgetting herself in the happiness
of others. If not a woman of genius, she had extraordinary good sense,
and her advice was seldom wrong. It was this union of sympathy,
kindness, tact, and wisdom which made Madame Récamier's friendship so
highly prized by the greatest men of the age. But she was exclusive; she
did not admit everybody to her salon,--only those whom she loved and
esteemed, generally from the highest social circle. Sympathy cannot
exist except among equals. We associate Paula with Jerome, the Countess
Matilda with Hildebrand, Vittoria Colonna with Michael Angelo, Hannah
More with Dr. Johnson. Friendship is neither patronage nor philanthropy;
and the more exalted the social or political or literary position, the
more rare friendship is and the more beautiful when it shines.

It was the friendships of Madame Récamier with distinguished men and
women which made her famous more than her graces and beauty. She
soothed, encouraged, and fortified the soul of Châteaubriand in his fits
of depression and under political disappointments, always herself
cheerful and full of vivacity,--an angel of consolation and spiritual
radiance. Her beauty at this period was moral rather than physical,
since it revealed the virtues of the heart and the quickness of
spiritual insight. In her earlier days--the object of universal and
unbounded admiration, from her unparalleled charms and fascinations--she
may have coquetted more than can be deemed decorous in a lady of
fashion; but if so, it was vanity and love of admiration which were the
causes. She never appealed to passion; for, as we have said, her own
nature was not passionate. She was satisfied to be worshipped. The love
of admiration is not often allied with that passion which loses
self-control, and buries one in the gulf of mad infatuation. The
mainspring of her early life was to please, and of her later life to
make people happy. A more unselfish woman never lived. Those beauties
who lure to ruin, as did the Sirens, are ever heartless and
selfish,--like Cleopatra and Madame de Pompadour. There is nothing on
this earth more selfish than what foolish and inexperienced people often
mistake for love. There is nothing more radiant and inspiring than the
moral beauty of the soul. The love that this creates is tender,
sympathetic, kind, and benevolent. Nothing could be more unselfish and
beautiful than the love with which Madame Récamier inspired Ballanche,
who had nothing to give and nothing to ask but sympathy and kindness.

One of the most touching and tender friendships ever recorded was the
intercourse between Châteaubriand and Madame Récamier when they were
both old and infirm. Nothing is more interesting than their letters and
daily interviews at the convent, where she spent her latter days. She
was not only poor, but she had also become blind, and had lost all
relish for fashionable society,--not a religious recluse, saddened and
penitent, like the Duchesse de Longueville in the vale of Chevreuse, but
still a cheerful woman, fond of music, of animated talk, and of the
political news of the day, Châteaubriand was old, disenchanted,
disappointed, melancholy, and full of infirmities. Yet he never failed
in the afternoon to make his appearance at the Abbaye, driven in a
carriage to the threshold of the salon, where he was placed in an
arm-chair and wheeled to a corner of the fireplace, when he poured out
his sorrows and received consolation. Once, on one of those dreary
visits, he asked his friend to marry him,--he being then seventy-nine
and she seventy-one,--and bear his illustrious name. "Why," said she,
"should we marry at our age? There is no impropriety in my taking care
of you. If solitude is painful to you, I am ready to live in the same
house with you. The world will do justice to the purity of our
friendship. Years and blindness give me this right. Let us change
nothing in so perfect an affection."

The old statesman and historian soon after died, broken in mind and
body, living long enough to see the fall of Louis Philippe. In losing
this friend of thirty years Madame Récamier felt that the mainspring of
her life was broken. She shed no tears in her silent and submissive
grief, nor did she repel consolation or the society of friends, "but the
sad smile which played on her lips was heart-rending.... While
witnessing the decline of this noble genius, she had struggled, with
singular tenderness, against the terrible effect of years upon him; but
the long struggle had exhausted her own strength, and all motives for
life were gone."

Though now old and blind, yet, like Mme. du Deffand at eighty, Madame
Récamier's attractions never passed away. The great and the
distinguished still visited her, and pronounced her charming to the
last. Her vivacity never deserted her, nor her desire to make every one
happy around her. She was kept interesting to the end by the warmth of
her affections and the brightness of her mind. As it is the soul which
is the glory of a woman, so the soul sheds its rays of imperishable
light on the last pathway of existence. No beauty ever utterly passes
away when animated by what is immortal.

Madame Récamier died at last of cholera, that disease which of all
others she had ever most dreaded and avoided. On the 11th of May, 1849,
amid weeping relatives and kneeling servants and sacerdotal prayers,
this interesting woman passed away from earth. To her might be applied
the eulogy of Burke on Marie Antoinette.

Madame Récamier's place in society has never since been filled with
equal grace and fascination. She adopted the customs of the Hôtel de
Rambouillet,--certain rules which good society has since observed. She
discouraged the _tête-à-tête_ in a low voice in a mixed company; if any
one in her circle was likely to have especial knowledge, she would
appeal to him with an air of deference; if any one was shy, she
encouraged him; if a _mot_ was particularly happy, she would take it up
and show it to the company. Presiding in her own _salon_, she talked but
little herself, but rather exerted herself to draw others out; without
being learned, she exercised great judgment in her decisions when
appeals were made to her as the presiding genius; she discouraged
everything pedantic and pretentious; she dreaded exaggerations; she kept
her company to the subject under discussion, and compelled attention;
she would allow no slang; she insisted upon good-nature and amiability,
which more than anything else marked society in the eighteenth century.

We read so much of those interesting reunions in the _salons_ of
distinguished people in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that we
naturally seek to know what constituted their peculiar charm. It seems
to me to have been conversation, which is both an art and a gift. In
these exclusive meetings women did not reign in consequence of their
beauty so much as their wit. Their vivacity, intelligence, and tact, I
may add also their good-nature, were a veil to cover up all
eccentricities. It was when Madame du Deffand was eighty, and blind,
that Horace Walpole pronounced her to be the most interesting woman in
France. Madame de Staël, never beautiful, was the life of a party at
forty-five; Madame Récamier was in her glory at fifty; Hannah More was
most sought when she was sixty. There can be no high society where
conversation is not the chief attraction; and men seldom learn to talk
well when not inspired by gifted women. They may dictate like Dr.
Johnson, or preach like Coleridge in a circle of admirers, or give vent
to sarcasms and paradoxes like Carlyle; but they do not please like
Horace Walpole, or dazzle like Wilkes, or charm like Mackintosh. When
society was most famous at Paris, it was the salon--not the card table,
or the banquet, or the ball--which was most sought by cultivated men and
women, where conversation was directed by gifted women. Women are
nothing in the social circle who cannot draw out the sentiments of able
men; and a man of genius gains more from the inspiration of one
brilliant woman than from all the bookworms of many colleges. In society
a bright and witty woman not merely shines, but she reigns. Conversation
brings out all her faculties, and kindles all her sensibilities, and
gives expression to her deepest sentiments. Her talk is more than music;
it is music rising to the heights of eloquence. She is more even than an
artist: she is a goddess before whom genius delights to burn
its incense.

Success in this great art of conversation depends as much upon the
disposition as upon the brains. The remarkable women who reigned in the
salons of the last century were all distinguished for their
good-nature,--good-nature based on toleration and kind feeling, rather
than on insipid acquiescence. There can be no animated talk without
dissent; and dissent should be disguised by the language of courtesy. As
vanity is one of the mainsprings of human nature, and is nearly
universal, the old queens of society had the tact to hide what could not
easily be extirpated; and they were adepts in the still greater art of
seeming to be unconscious. Those people are ever the most agreeable who
listen with seeming curiosity, and who conceal themselves in order to
feed the vanity of others. Nor does a true artist force his wit. "A
confirmed punster is as great a bore as a patronizing moralist."
Moreover, the life of society depends upon the general glow of the
party, rather than the prominence of an individual, so that a brilliant
talker will seek to bring out "the coincidence which strengthens
conviction, or the dissent which sharpens sagacity, rather than
individual experiences, which ever seem to be egotistical. In agreeable
society all egotism is to be crushed and crucified. Even a man who is an
oracle, if wise, will suggest, rather than seem to instruct. In a
congenial party all differences in rank are for the time ignored. It is
in bad taste to remind or impress people with a sense of their
inferiority, as in chivalry all degrees were forgotten in an assemblage
of gentlemen." Animated conversation amuses without seeming to teach,
and transfers ideas so skilfully into the minds of others that they are
ignorant of the debt, and mistake them for their own. It kindles a
healthy enthusiasm, promotes good-nature, repels pretension, and rebukes
vanity. It even sets off beauty, and intensifies its radiance. Said
Madame de la Fayette to Madame de Sévigné: "Your varying expression so
brightens and adorns your beauty, that there is nothing so brilliant as
yourself: every word you utter adds to the brightness of your eyes; and
while it is said that language impresses only the ear, it is quite
certain that yours enchants the vision." "Like style in writing," says
Lamartine, "conversation must flow with ease, or it will oppress. It
must be clear, or depth of thought cannot be penetrated; simple, or the
understanding will be overtasked; restrained, or redundancy will
satiate; warm, or it will lack soul; witty, or the brain will not be
excited; generous, or sympathy cannot be roused; gentle, or there will
be no toleration; persuasive, or the passions cannot be subdued." When
it unites these excellences, it has an irresistible power, "musical as
was Apollo's lyre;" a perpetual feast of nectared sweets, such as, I
fancy, Socrates poured out to Athenian youth, or Augustine in the
gardens of Como; an electrical glow, such as united the members of the
Turk's Head Club into a band of brothers, or annihilated all
distinctions of rank at the supper-table of the poet Scarron.

We cannot easily overrate the influence of those who inspire the social
circle. They give not only the greatest pleasure which is known to
cultivated minds, but kindle lofty sentiments. They draw men from the
whirlpools of folly, break up degrading habits, dissipate the charms of
money-making, and raise the value of the soul. How charming, how
delightful, how inspiring is the eloquence which is kindled by the
attrition of gifted minds! What privilege is greater than to be with
those who reveal the experiences of great careers, especially if there
be the absence of vanity and ostentation, and encouragement by those
whose presence is safety and whose smiles are an inspiration! It is the
blending of the beatitudes of Bethany with the artistic enjoyments of
Weimar, causing the favored circle to forget all cares, and giving them
strength for those duties which make up the main business of human life.

When woman accomplishes such results she fills no ordinary sphere, she
performs no ordinary mission; she rises in dignity as she declines in
physical attractions. Like a queen of beauty at the tournament, she
bestows the rewards which distinguished excellence has won; she breaks
up the distinctions of rank; she rebukes the arrogance of wealth; she
destroys pretensions; she kills self-conceit; she even gains
consideration for her husband or brother,--for many a stupid man is
received into a select circle because of the attractions of his wife or
sister, even as many a silly woman gains consideration from the talents
or position of her husband or brother. No matter how rich a man may be,
if unpolished, ignorant, or rude, he is nobody in a party which seeks
"the feast of reason and the flow of soul." He is utterly insignificant,
rebuked, and humiliated,--even as a brainless beauty finds herself _de
trop_ in a circle of wits. Such a man may have consideration in the
circle which cannot appreciate anything lofty or refined, but none in
those upper regions where art and truth form subjects of discourse,
where the aesthetic influences of the heart go forth to purify and
exalt, where the soul is refreshed by the communion of gifted and
sympathetic companions, and where that which is most precious and
exalted in a man or woman is honored and beloved. Without this influence
which woman controls, "a learned man is in danger of becoming a pedant,
a religious man a bigot, a vain man a fool, and a self-indulgent man a
slave." No man can be truly genial unless he has been taught in the
school where his wife, or daughter, or sister, or mother presides as a
sun of radiance and beauty. It is only in this school that boorish
manners are reformed, egotisms rebuked, stupidities punished, and
cynicism exorcised.

But this exalting influence cannot exist in society without an
attractive power in those ladies who compose it. A crowd of women does
not necessarily make society, any more than do the empty, stupid, and
noisy receptions which are sometimes held in the houses of the
rich,--still less those silly, flippant, ignorant, pretentious,
unblushing, and exacting girls who have just escaped from a fashionable
school, who elbow their brothers into corners, and cover with confusion
their fathers and mothers. A mere assemblage of men and women is nothing
without the charms of refinement, vivacity, knowledge, and good-nature.
These are not born in a day; they seldom mark people till middle life,
when experiences are wide and feelings deep, when flippancy is not
mistaken for wit, nor impertinence for ease. A frivolous slave of dress
and ornament can no more belong to the circle of which I now speak, than
can a pushing, masculine woman to the sphere which she occasionally
usurps. Not dress, not jewelry, not pleasing manners, not even
innocence, is the charm and glory of society; but the wisdom learned by
experience, the knowledge acquired by study, the quickness based on
native genius. When woman has thus acquired these great resources,--by
books, by travel, by extended intercourse, and by the soaring of an
untrammelled soul,--then only does she shine and guide and inspire, and
become, not the equal of man, but his superior, his mentor, his guardian
angel, his star of worship, in that favored and glorious realm which is
alike the paradise and the empire of the world!


Miss J. M. Luyster's Memoirs of Madame Récamier; Memoirs and
Correspondence by Lenormant; Marquis of Salisbury's Historical Sketches;
Mrs. Thomson's Queens of Society; Guizot's sketch of Madame Récamier;
Biographie Universelle; Dublin Review, 57-88; Christian Examiner,
82-299; Quarterly Review, 107-298; Edinburgh Review, 111-204; North
British Review, 32; Bentley's Magazine, 26-96; The Nation, 3, 4, 15;
Fraser's Magazine, 40-264.


       *       *       *       *       *

A. D. 1766-1817.


It was two hundred years after woman began to reign in the great cities
of Europe as queen of society, before she astonished the world by
brilliant literary successes. Some of the most famous women who adorned
society recorded their observations and experiences for the benefit of
posterity; but these productions were generally in the form of memoirs
and letters, which neither added to nor detracted from the splendid
position they occupied because of their high birth, wit, and social
fascinations. These earlier favorites were not courted by the great
because they could write, but because they could talk, and adorn courts,
like Madame de Sévigné. But in the eighteenth century a class of women
arose and gained great celebrity on account of their writings, like
Hannah More, Miss Burney, Mrs. Macaulay, Madame Dacier, Madame de la
Fayette,--women who proved that they could do something more than merely
write letters, for which women ever have been distinguished from the
time of Héloïse.

At the head of all these women of genius Madame de Staël stands
pre-eminent, not only over literary women, but also over most of the men
of letters in her age and country. And it was only a great age which
could have produced such a woman, for the eighteenth century was more
fruitful in literary genius than is generally supposed. The greatest
lights, indeed, no longer shone,--such men as Shakspeare, Bacon, Milton,
Corneille, Racine, Boileau, Molière,--but the age was fruitful in great
critics, historians, philosophers, economists, poets, and novelists, who
won immortal fame, like Pope, Goldsmith, Johnson, Addison, Gibbon,
Bentley, Hume, Robertson, Priestley, Burke, Adam Smith, in England;
Klopstock, Goethe, Herder, Schiller, Lessing, Handel, Schlegel, Kant, in
Germany; and Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Marmontel, D'Alembert,
Montesquieu, Rollin, Buffon, Lavoisier, Raynal, Lavater, in France,--all
of whom were remarkable men, casting their fearless glance upon all
subjects, and agitating the age by their great ideas. In France
especially there was a notable literary awakening. A more brilliant
circle than ever assembled at the Hôtel de Rambouillet met in the salons
of Madame Geoffrin and Madame de Tencin and Madame du Deffand and Madame
Necker, to discuss theories of government, political economy, human
rights,--in fact, every question which moves the human mind. They were
generally irreligious, satirical, and defiant; but they were fresh,
enthusiastic, learned, and original They not only aroused the people to
reflection, but they were great artists in language, and made a
revolution in style.

It was in this inquiring, brilliant, yet infidel age that the star of
Madame de Staël arose, on the eve of the French Revolution. She was born
in Paris in 1766, when her father--Necker--was amassing an enormous
fortune as a banker and financier, afterwards so celebrated as finance
minister to Louis XVI. Her mother,--Susanne Curchod,--of humble Swiss
parentage, was yet one of the remarkable women of the day, a lady whom
Gibbon would have married had English prejudices and conventionalities
permitted, but whose marriage with Necker was both fortunate and happy.
They had only one child, but she was a Minerva. It seems that she was of
extraordinary precocity, and very early attracted attention. As a mere
child Marmontel talked with her as if she were twenty-five. At fifteen,
she had written reflections on Montesquieu's "Spirit of Laws," and was
solicited by Raynal to furnish an article on the Revocation of the Edict
of Nantes. So brilliant a girl was educated by her wealthy parents
without regard to expense and with the greatest care. She was fortunate
from the start, with unbounded means, surrounded with illustrious
people, and with every opportunity for improvement both as to teachers
and society,--doubtless one important cause of her subsequent success,
for very few people climb the upper rounds of the ladder of literary
fame who are obliged to earn their living; their genius is fettered and
their time is employed on irksome drudgeries.

Madame de Staël, when a girl, came very near losing her health and
breaking her fine constitution by the unwise "cramming" on which her
mother insisted; for, although a superior woman, Madame Necker knew very
little about the true system of education, thinking that study and labor
should be incessant, and that these alone could do everything. She
loaded her daughter with too many restraints, and bound her by a too
rigid discipline. She did all she could to crush genius out of the girl,
and make her a dictionary, or a machine, or a piece of formality and
conventionalism. But the father, wiser, and with greater insight and
truer sympathy, relaxed the cords of discipline, unfettered her
imagination, connived at her flights of extravagance, and allowed her to
develop her faculties in her own way. She had a remarkable fondness for
her father,--she adored him, and clung to him through life with peculiar
tenderness and devotion, which he appreciated and repaid. Before she
was twenty she wrote poetry as a matter of course. Most girls do,--I
mean those who are bright and sentimental; still, she produced but
indifferent work, like Cicero when he was young, and soon dropped rhyme
forever for the greater freedom of prose, into which she poured from the
first all the wealth of her poetic soul. She was a poet, disdaining
measure, but exquisite in rhythm,--for nothing can be more musical than
her style.

As remarked in the lecture on Madame Récamier, it is seldom that people
acquire the art of conversation till middle life, when the mind is
enriched and confidence is gained. The great conversational powers of
Johnson, Burke, Mackintosh, Coleridge, Wilkes, Garrick, Walpole, Sydney
Smith, were most remarkable in their later years, after they had read
everything and seen everybody. But Madame de Staël was brilliant in
conversation from her youth. She was the delight of every circle, the
admiration of the most gifted men,--not for her beauty, for she was not
considered beautiful, but for her wit, her vivacity, her repartee, her
animated and sympathetic face, her electrical power; for she could
kindle, inspire, instruct, or bewitch. She played, she sang, she
discoursed on everything,--a priestess, a sibyl, full of inspiration,
listened to as an oracle or an idol. "To hear her," says Sismondi, "one
would have said that she was the experience of many souls mingled into
one, I looked and listened with transport. I discovered in her features
a charm superior to beauty; and if I do not hear her words, yet her
tones, her gestures, and her looks convey to me her meaning." It is said
that though her features were not beautiful her eyes were
remarkable,--large, dark, lustrous, animated, flashing, confiding, and
bathed in light. They were truly the windows of her soul; and it was her
soul, even more than her intellect, which made her so interesting and so
great. I think that intellect without soul is rather repulsive than
otherwise, is cold, critical, arrogant, cynical,--something from which
we flee, since we find no sympathy and sometimes no toleration from it.
The soul of Madame de Staël immeasurably towered above her intellect,
great as that was, and gave her eloquence, fervor, sincerity,
poetry,--intensified her genius, and made her irresistible.

It was this combination of wit, sympathy, and conversational talent
which made Madame de Staël so inordinately fond of society,--to satisfy
longings and cravings that neither Nature nor books nor home could fully
meet. With all her genius and learning she was a restless woman; and
even friendship, for which she had a great capacity, could not bind her,
or confine her long to any one place but Paris, which was to her the
world,--not for its shops, or fashions, or churches, or museums and
picture-galleries, or historical monuments and memories, but for those
coteries where blazed the great wits of the age, among whom she too
would shine and dazzle and inspire. She was not without heart, as her
warm and lasting friendships attest; but the animating passion of her
life was love of admiration, which was only equalled by a craving for
sympathy that no friendship could satisfy,--a want of her nature that
reveals an ardent soul rather than a great heart; for many a
warm-hearted woman can live contentedly in retirement, whether in city
or country,--which Madame de Staël could not, not even when surrounded
with every luxury and all the charms of nature.

Such a young lady as Mademoiselle Necker--so gifted, so accomplished, so
rich, so elevated in social position--could aspire very high. And both
her father and mother were ambitious for so remarkable a daughter. But
the mother would not consent to her marriage with a Catholic, and she
herself insisted on a permanent residence in Paris. It was hard to meet
such conditions and yet make a brilliant match; for, after all, her
father, though minister, was only a clever and rich Swiss
financier,--not a nobleman, or a man of great family influence. The
Baron de Staël-Holstein, then secretary to the Swedish embassy,
afterwards ambassador from Sweden, was the most available suitor, since
he was a nobleman, a Protestant, and a diplomatist; and Mademoiselle
Necker became his wife, in 1786, at twenty years of age, with a dowry of
two millions of francs. Her social position was raised by this marriage,
since her husband was a favorite at court, and she saw much of the Queen
and of the great ladies who surrounded her.

But the marriage was not happy. The husband was extravagant and
self-indulgent; the wife panted for beatitudes it was not in his nature
to give. So they separated after a while, but were not divorced. Both
before and after that event, however, her house was the resort of the
best society of the city, and she was its brightest ornament. Thither
came Grimm, Talleyrand, Barnave, Lafayette, Narbonne, Sieyès,--all
friends. She was an eye-witness to the terrible scenes of the
Revolution, and escaped judicial assassination almost by miracle. At
last she succeeded in making her escape to Switzerland, and lived a
while in her magnificent country-seat near Geneva, surrounded with
illustrious exiles. Soon after, she made her first visit to England, but
returned to Paris when the violence of the Revolution was over.

She returned the very day that Napoleon, as First Consul, had seized the
reins of government, 1799. She had hailed the Revolution with transport,
although she was so nearly its victim. She had faith in its ideas. She
believed that the people were the ultimate source of power. She condoned
the excesses of the Revolution in view of its aspirations. Napoleon
gained his first great victories in defence of its ideas. So at first,
in common with the friends of liberty, she was prepared to worship this
rising sun, dazzled by his deeds and deceived by his lying words. But
she no sooner saw him than she was repelled, especially when she knew he
had trampled on the liberties which he had professed to defend. Her
instincts penetrated through all the plaudits of his idolaters. She felt
that he was a traitor to a great cause,--was heartless, unboundedly
ambitious, insufferably egotistic, a self-worshipper, who would brush
away everything and everybody that stood in his way; and she hated him,
and she defied him, and her house became the centre of opposition, the
headquarters of enmity and wrath. What was his glory, as a conqueror,
compared with the cause she loved, trodden under foot by an iron, rigid,
jealous, irresistible despotism? Nor did Napoleon like her any better
than she liked him,--not that he was envious, but because she stood in
his way. He expected universal homage and devotion, neither of which
would she give him. He was exceedingly irritated at the reports of her
bitter sayings, blended with ridicule and sarcasm. He was not merely
annoyed, he was afraid. "Her arrows," said he, "would hit a man if he
were seated on a rainbow." And when he found he could not silence her,
he banished her to within forty leagues of Paris. He was not naturally
cruel, but he was not the man to allow so bright a woman to say her
sharp things about him to his generals and courtiers. It was not the
worst thing he ever did to banish his greatest enemy; but it was mean
and cruel to persecute her as he did after she was banished.

So from Paris--to her the "hub of the universe"--Madame de Staël, "with
wandering steps and slow, took her solitary way." Expelled from the Eden
she loved, she sought to find some place where she could enjoy
society,--which was the passion of her life. Weimar, in Germany, then
contained a constellation of illustrious men, over whom Goethe reigned,
as Dr. Johnson once did in London. Thither she resolved to go, after a
brief stay at Coppet, her place in Switzerland; and her ten years' exile
began with a sojourn among the brightest intellects of Germany. She was
cordially received at Weimar, especially by the Court, although the
dictator of German literature did not like her much. She was too
impetuous, impulsive, and masculine for him. Schiller and Wieland and
Schlegel liked her better, and understood her better. Her great works
had not then been written, and she had reputation chiefly for her high
social position and social qualities. Possibly her exceeding vivacity
and wit seemed superficial,--as witty French people then seemed to both
Germans and English. Doubtless there were critics and philosophers in
Germany who were not capable of appreciating a person who aspired to
penetrate all the secrets of art, philosophy, religion, and science then
known who tried to master everything, and who talked eloquently on
everything,--and that person a woman, and a Frenchwoman. Goethe was
indeed an exception to most German critics, for he was an artist, as few
Germans have been in the use of language, and he, like Humboldt, had
universal knowledge; yet he did not like Madame de Staël,--not from
envy: he had too much self-consciousness to be envious of any man, still
less a woman. Envy does not exist between the sexes: a musician may be
jealous of a musician; a poet, of a poet; a theologian, of a theologian;
and it is said, a physician has been known to be jealous of a physician.
I think it is probable that the gifted Frenchwoman overwhelmed the great
German with her prodigality of wit, sarcasm, and sentiment, for he was
inclined to coldness and taciturnity.

Madame de Staël speaks respectfully of the great men she met at Weimar;
but I do not think she worshipped them, since she did not fully
understand them,--especially Fichte, whom she ridiculed, as well as
other obscure though profound writers, who disdained style and art in
writing, for which she was afterwards so distinguished. I believe
nine-tenths of German literature is wasted on Europeans for lack of
clearness and directness of style; although the involved obscurities
which are common to German philosophers and critics and historians alike
do not seem to derogate from their literary fame at home, and have even
found imitators in England, like Coleridge and Carlyle. Nevertheless,
obscurity and affectation are eternal blots on literary genius, since
they are irreconcilable with art, which alone gives perpetuity to
learning,--as illustrated by the classic authors of antiquity, and such
men as Pascal, Rousseau, and Macaulay in our times,--although the
pedants have always disdained those who write clearly and luminously,
and lost reverence for genius the moment it is understood; since clear
writing shows how little is truly original, and makes a disquisition on
a bug, a comma, or a date seem trivial indeed.

Hitherto, Madame de Staël had reigned in _salons_, rather than on the
throne of letters. Until her visit to Germany, she had written but two
books which had given her fame,--one, "On Literature, considered in its
Relations with Social Institutions," and a novel entitled
"Delphine,"--neither of which is much read or prized in these times.
The leading idea of her book on literature was the perfectibility of
human nature,--not new, since it had been affirmed by Ferguson in
England, by Kant in Germany, and by Turgot in France, and even by Roger
Bacon in the Middle Ages. But she claimed to be the first to apply
perfectibility to literature. If her idea simply means the
ever-expanding progress of the human mind, with the aids that Providence
has furnished, she is doubtless right. If she means that the necessary
condition of human nature, unaided, is towards perfection, she wars with
Christianity, and agrees with Rousseau. The idea was fashionable in its
day, especially by the disciples of Rousseau, who maintained that the
majority could not err. But if Madame de Staël simply meant that society
was destined to progressive advancement, as a matter of fact her view
will be generally accepted, since God rules this world, and brings good
out of evil. Some maintain we have made no advance over ancient India in
either morals or literature or science, or over Greece in art, or Rome
in jurisprudence; and yet we believe the condition of humanity to-day is
superior to what it has been, on the whole, in any previous age of our
world. But let us give the credit of this advance to God, and not
to man.

Her other book, "Delphine," published in 1802, made a great sensation,
like a modern first-class novel, but was severely criticised. Sydney
Smith reviewed it in a slashing article. It was considered by many as
immoral in its tendency, since she was supposed to attack marriage.
Sainte-Beuve, the greatest critic of the age, defends her against this
charge; but the book was doubtless very emotional, into which she poured
all the warmth of her ardent and ungoverned soul in its restless
agitation and cravings for sympathy,--a record of herself, blasted in
her marriage hopes and aspirations. It is a sort of New Héloïse, and,
though powerful, is not healthy. These two works, however, stamped her
as a woman of genius, although her highest triumphs were not yet won.

With the éclat of these two books she traversed Germany, studying laws,
literature, and manners, assisted in her studies by August v. Schlegel
(the translator of Shakspeare), who was tutor to her children, on a
salary of twelve thousand francs a year and expenses. She had great
admiration for this distinguished scholar, who combined with his
linguistic attainments an intense love of art and a profound
appreciation of genius, in whatever guise it was to be found. With such
a cicerone she could not help making great acquisitions. He was like
Jerome explaining to Paula the history of the sacred places; like Dr.
Johnson teaching ethics to Hannah More; like Michael Angelo explaining
the principles of art to Vittoria Colonna. She mastered the language of
which Frederick the Great was ashamed, and, for the first time, did
justice to the German scholars and the German character. She defended
the ideal philosophy against Locke and the French materialists; she made
a remarkable analysis of Kant; she warmly praised both Goethe and
Schiller; she admired Wieland; she had a good word for Fichte, although
she had ridiculed his obscurities of style.

The result of her travels was the most masterly dissertation on that
great country that has ever been written,--an astonishing book, when we
remember it was the first of any note which had appeared of its kind. To
me it is more like the history of Herodotus than any book of travels
which has appeared since that accomplished scholar traversed Asia and
Africa to reveal to his inquisitive countrymen the treasures of Oriental
monarchies. In this work, which is intellectually her greatest, she
towered not only over all women, but over all men who have since been
her competitors. It does not fall in with my purpose to give other than
a passing notice of this masterly production in order to show what a
marvellous woman she was, not in the realm of sentiment alone, not as a
writer of letters, but as a critic capable of grasping and explaining
all that philosophy, art, and literature have sought to accomplish in
that _terra incognita_, as Germany was then regarded. She revealed a new
country to the rest of Europe; she described with accuracy its manners
and customs; she did justice to the German intellect; she showed what
amazing scholarship already existed in the universities, far surpassing
both Paris and Oxford. She appreciated the German character, its
simplicity, its truthfulness, its sincerity, its intellectual boldness,
its patience, its reserved power, afterwards to be developed in
war,--qualities and attainments which have since raised Germany to the
foremost rank among the European nations.

This brilliant Frenchwoman, accustomed to reign in the most cultivated
social circles of Paris, shows a remarkable catholicity and breadth of
judgment, and is not shocked at phlegmatic dulness or hyperborean
awkwardness, or laughable simplicity; because she sees, what nobody else
then saw, a patience which never wearies, a quiet enthusiasm which no
difficulty or disgust destroys, and a great insight which can give
richness to literature without art, discrimination to philosophy without
conciseness, and a new meaning to old dogmas. She ventures to pluck from
the forbidden tree of metaphysics; and, reckless of the fiats of the
schools, she entered fearlessly into those inquiries which have appalled
both Greek and schoolman. Think of a woman making the best translation
and criticism of Kant which had appeared until her day! Her revelations
might have found more value in the eyes of pedants had she been more
obscure. But, as Sir James Mackintosh says, "Dullness is not accuracy,
nor is an elegant writer necessarily superficial." Divest German
metaphysics of their obscurities, and they might seem commonplace; take
away the clearness of French writers, and they might pass for profound.
Clearness and precision, however, are not what the world expects from
its teachers. It loves the fig-trees with nothing but leaves; it adores
the _stat magni nominis umbra_. The highest proof of severe culture is
the use of short and simple words on any subject whatever; and he who
cannot make his readers understand what he writes about does not
understand his subject himself.

I am happy to have these views corroborated by one of the best writers
that this country has produced,--I mean William Matthews:--

"The French, who if not the most original are certainly the acutest and
most logical thinkers in the world, are frequently considered frivolous
and shallow, simply because they excel all other nations in the
difficult art of giving literary interest to philosophy; while, on the
other hand, the ponderous Germans, who living in clouds of smoke have a
positive genius for making the obscure obscurer, are thought to be
original, because they are so chaotic and clumsy. But we have yet to
learn that lead is priceless because it is weighty, or that gold is
valueless because it glitters. The Damascus blade is none the less keen
because it is polished, nor the Corinthian shaft less strong because it
is fluted and its capital curved."

The production of such a woman, in that age, in which there is so much
learning combined with eloquence, and elevation of sentiment with acute
observation, and the graces of style with the spirit of
philosophy,--candid, yet eulogistic; discriminating, yet
enthusiastic,--made a great impression on the mind of cultivated Europe.
Napoleon however, with inexcusable but characteristic meanness, would
not allow its publication. The police seized the whole edition--ten
thousand--and destroyed every copy. They even tried to get possession of
the original copy, which required the greatest tact on the part of the
author to preserve, and which she carried with her on all her travels,
for six years, until it was finally printed in London.

Long before this great work was completed,--for she worked upon it six
years,--Madame de Staël visited, with Sismondi, that country which above
all others is dear to the poet, the artist, and the antiquarian. She
entered that classic and hallowed land amid the glories of a southern
spring, when the balmy air, the beautiful sky, the fresh verdure of the
fields, and the singing of the birds added fascination to scenes which
without them would have been enchantment. Châteaubriand, the only French
writer of her day with whom she stood in proud equality, also visited
Italy, but sang another song; she, bright and radiant, with hope and
cheerfulness, an admirer of the people and the country as they were; he,
mournful and desponding, yet not less poetic, with visions of departed
glory which the vast debris of the ancient magnificence suggested to his
pensive soul, O Italy, Italy! land of associations, whose history never
tires; whose antiquities are perpetual studies; whose works of art
provoke to hopeless imitation; whose struggles until recently were
equally chivalric and unfortunate; whose aspirations have ever been with
liberty, yet whose destiny has been successive slaveries; whose hills
and plains and vales are verdant with perennial loveliness, though
covered with broken monuments and deserted cities; where monks and
beggars are more numerous than even scholars and artists,--glory in
debasement, and debasement in glory, reminding us of the greatness and
misery of man; alike the paradise and the prison of the world; the
Minerva and the Niobe of nations,--never shall thy wonders be exhausted
or thy sorrows be forgotten!

     "E'en in thy desert what is like to thee?
     Thy very weeds are beautiful; thy wastes
     More rich than other lands' fertility;
     Thy wreck a glory, and thy ruin grand."

In this unfortunate yet illustrious land, ever fresh to travellers, ever
to be hallowed in spite of revolutions and assassinations, of popes and
priests, of semi-infidel artists and cynical savants, of beggars and
tramps, of filthy hotels and dilapidated villas, Madame de Staël
lingered more than a year, visiting every city which has a history and
every monument which has antiquity; and the result of that journey was
"Corinne,"--one of the few immortal books which the heart of the world
cherishes; which is as fresh to-day as it was nearly one hundred years
ago,--a novel, a critique, a painting, a poem, a tragedy; interesting to
the philosopher in his study and to the woman in her boudoir, since it
is the record of the cravings of a great soul, and a description of what
is most beautiful or venerated in nature or art. It is the most
wonderful book ever written of Italy,--with faults, of course, but a
transcript of profound sorrows and lofty aspirations. To some it may
seem exaggerated in its transports; but can transports be too highly
colored? Can any words be as vivid as a sensation? Enthusiasm, when
fully expressed, ceases to be a rapture; and the soul that fancies it
has reached the heights of love or beauty or truth, claims to comprehend
the immortal and the infinite.

It is the effort of genius to express the raptures and sorrows of a
lofty but unsatisfied soul, the glories of the imperishable in art and
life, which gives to "Corinne" its peculiar charm. It is the mirror of a
wide and deep experience,--a sort of "Divine Comedy," in which a Dante
finds a Beatrice, not robed in celestial loveliness, coursing from
circle to circle and star to star, explaining the mysteries of heaven,
but radiant in the beauty of earth, and glowing with the ardor of a
human love. Every page is masculine in power, every sentence is
condensed thought, every line burns with passion; yet every sentiment
betrays the woman, seeking to reveal her own boundless capacities of
admiration and friendship, to be appreciated, to be loved with that
fervor and disinterestedness which she was prepared to lavish on the
object of her adoration. No man could have made such revelations,
although it may be given to him to sing a greater song. While no woman
could have composed the "Iliad," or the "Novum Organum," or the
"Critique of Pure Reason," or "Othello," no man could have written
"Corinne" or "Adam Bede."

In painting Corinne, Madame de Staël simply describes herself, as she
did in "Delphine," with all her restless soul-agitations; yet not in too
flattering colors, since I doubt if there ever lived a more impassioned
soul, with greater desires of knowledge, or a more devouring thirst for
fame, or a profounder insight into what is lofty and eternal, than the
author of "Corinne." Like Héloïse, she could love but one; yet, unlike
Héloïse, she could not renounce, even for love, the passion for
admiration or the fascinations of society. She does not attempt to
disguise the immense sacrifices which love exacts and marriage implies,
but which such a woman as Héloïse is proud to make for him whom she
deems worthy of her own exalted sentiments; and she shows in the person
of Corinne how much weakness may coexist with strength, and how timid
and dependent is a woman even in the blaze of triumph and in the
enjoyment of a haughty freedom. She paints the most shrinking delicacy
with the greatest imprudence and boldness, contempt for the opinions and
usages of society with the severest self-respect; giving occasion for
scandal, yet escaping from its shafts; triumphant in the greatness of
her own dignity and in the purity of her unsullied soul. "Corinne" is a
disguised sarcasm on the usages of society among the upper classes in
Madame de Staël's day, when a man like Lord Neville is represented as
capable of the most exalted passion, and almost ready to die for its
object, and at the same time is unwilling to follow its promptings to an
honorable issue,--ready even, at last, to marry a woman for whom he
feels no strong attachment, or even admiration, in compliance with
expediency, pride, and family interests.

But "Corinne" is not so much a romance as it is a description of Italy
itself, its pictures, its statues, its palaces, its churches, its
antiquities, its literature, its manners, and its aspirations; and it is
astonishing how much is condensed in that little book. The author has
forestalled all poets and travellers, and even guidebooks; all
successive works are repetitions or amplifications of what she has
suggested. She is as exhaustive and condensed as Thucydides; and, true
to her philosophy, she is all sunshine and hope, with unbounded faith in
the future of Italy,--an exultant prophet as well as a critical observer.

This work was published in Paris in 1807, when Napoleon was on the apex
of his power and glory; and no work by a woman was ever hailed with
greater enthusiasm, not in Paris merely, but throughout Europe. Yet
nothing could melt the iron heart of Napoleon, and he continued his
implacable persecution of its author, so that she was obliged to
continue her travels, though travelling like a princess. Again she
visited Germany, and again she retired to her place near Geneva, where
she held a sort of court, the star of which, next to herself, was Madame
Récamier, whose transcendent beauty and equally transcendent loveliness
of character won her admiration and friendship.

In 1810 Madame de Staël married Rocca, of Italian or Spanish origin, who
was a sickly and dilapidated officer in the French army, little more
than half her age,--he being twenty-five and she forty-five,--a strange
marriage, almost incredible, if such marriages were not frequent. He,
though feeble, was an accomplished man, and was taken captive by the
brilliancy of her talk and the elevation of her soul. It is harder to
tell what captured her, for who can explain the mysteries of love? The
marriage proved happy, however, although both parties dreaded ridicule,
and kept it secret. The romance of the thing--if romance there was--has
been equalled in our day by the marriages of George Eliot and Miss
Burdett Coutts. Only very strong characters can afford to run such
risks. The caprices of the great are among the unsolved mysteries of
life. A poor, wounded, unknown young man would never have aspired to
such an audacity had he not been sure of his ground; and the probability
is that she, not he, is to be blamed for that folly,--if a woman is to
be blamed for an attachment which the world calls an absurdity.

The wrath of Napoleon waxing stronger and stronger, Madame de Staël felt
obliged to flee even from Switzerland. She sought a rest in England; but
England was hard to be reached, as all the Continent save Russia was in
bondage and fear. She succeeded in reaching Vienna, then Russia, and
finally Sweden, where she lingered, as it was the fashion, to receive
attentions and admiration from all who were great in position or eminent
for attainments in the northern capitals of Europe. She liked even
Russia; she saw good everywhere, something to praise and enjoy wherever
she went. Moscow and St. Petersburg were equally interesting,--the old
and the new, the Oriental magnificence of the one, the stupendous
palaces and churches of the other. Romanzoff, Orloff, the Empress
Elizabeth, and the Emperor Alexander himself gave her distinguished
honors and hospitalities, and she saw and recorded their greatness, and
abandoned herself to pleasures which were new.

After a delightful winter in Stockholm, she sailed for England, where
she arrived in safety, 1813, twenty years after her first visit, and in
the ninth of her exile. Her reception in the highest circles was
enthusiastic. She was recognized as the greatest literary woman who had
lived. The Prince Regent sought her acquaintance; the greatest nobles
feted her in their princely palaces. At the house of the Marquis of
Lansdowne, at Lord Jersey's, at Rogers's literary dinners, at the
reunions of Holland House, everywhere, she was admired and honored. Sir
James Mackintosh, the idol and oracle of English society at that time,
pronounced her the most intellectual woman who had adorned the
world,--not as a novelist and poet merely, but as philosopher and
critic, grappling with the highest questions that ever tasked the
intellect of man. Byron alone stood aloof; he did not like strong-minded
women, any more than Goethe did, especially if they were not beautiful.
But he was constrained to admire her at last. Nobody could resist the
fascination and brilliancy of her conversation. It is to be regretted
that she did not write a book on England, which on the whole she
admired, although it was a little too conventional for her. But she was
now nearly worn out by the excitements and the sorrows of her life. She
was no longer young. Her literary work was done. And she had to resort
to opium to rally from the exhaustion of her nervous energies.

On the fall of Napoleon, Madame de Staël returned to Paris,--the city
she loved so well; the city so dear to all Frenchmen and to all
foreigners, to all gay people, to all intellectual people, to all
fashionable people, to all worldly people, to all pious people,--to them
the centre of modern civilization. Exile from this city has ever been
regarded as a great calamity,--as great as exile was to Romans, even to
Cicero. See with what eagerness Thiers himself returned to this charmed
capital when permitted by the last Napoleon! In this city, after her ten
years' exile, Madame de Staël reigned in prouder state than at any
previous period of her life. She was now at home, on her own throne as
queen of letters, and also queen of society. All the great men who were
then assembled in Paris burned their incense before her,--Châteaubriand,
Lafayette, Talleyrand, Guizot, Constant, Cuvier, Laplace. Distinguished
foreigners swelled the circle of her admirers,--Blücher, Humboldt,
Schlegel, Canova, Wellington, even the Emperor of Russia. The
Restoration hailed her with transport; Louis XVIII. sought the glory of
her talk; the press implored her assistance; the salons caught
inspiration from her presence. Never was woman seated on a prouder
throne. But she did not live long to enjoy her unparalleled social
honors. She was stifled, like Voltaire, by the incense of idolaters; the
body could no longer stand the strain of the soul, and she sunk, at the
age of fifty-one, in the year 1817, a few months before her husband
Rocca, whom, it appears, she ever tenderly loved.

Madame de Staël died prematurely, as precocious people generally
do,--like Raphael, Pascal, Schiller, I may add Macaulay and Mill; but
she accomplished much, and might have done more had her life been
spared, for no one doubts her genius,--perhaps the most remarkable
female writer who has lived, on the whole. George Sand is the only
Frenchwoman who has approached her in genius and fame. Madame de Staël
was novelist, critic, essayist, and philosopher, grasping the
profoundest subjects, and gaining admiration in everything she
attempted. I do not regard her as pre-eminently a happy woman, since her
marriages were either unfortunate or unnatural. In the intoxicating
blaze of triumph and admiration she panted for domestic beatitudes, and
found the earnest cravings of her soul unsatisfied. She sought relief
from herself in society, which was a necessity to her, as much as
friendship or love; but she was restless, and perpetually travelling.
Moreover, she was a persecuted woman during the best ten years of her
life. She had but little repose of mind or character, and was worldly,
vain, and ambitious. But she was a great woman and a good woman, in
spite of her faults and errors; and greater in her womanly qualities
than she was in her writings, remarkable as these were. She had a great
individuality, like Dr. Johnson and Thomas Carlyle. And she lives in the
hearts of her countrymen, like Madame Récamier; for it was not the
beauty and grace of this queen of society which made her beloved, but
her good-nature, amiability, power of friendship, freedom from envy, and
generous soul.

In the estimation of foreigners--of those great critics of whom Jeffrey
and Mackintosh were the representatives--Madame de Staël has won the
proud fame of being the most powerful writer her country has produced
since Voltaire and Rousseau. Historically she is memorable for
inaugurating a new period of literary history. With her began a new
class of female authors, whose genius was no longer confined to letters
and memoirs and sentimental novels. I need not enumerate the long
catalogue of illustrious literary women in the nineteenth century in
France, in Germany, in England, and even in the United States. The
greatest novelist in England, since Thackeray, was a woman. One of the
greatest writers on political economy, since Adam Smith, was a woman.
One of the greatest writers in astronomical science was a woman. In
America, what single novel ever equalled the success of "Uncle Tom's
Cabin"? What schools are better kept than those by women? And this is
only the beginning, since it is generally felt that women are better
educated than men, outside of the great professions. And why not, since
they have more leisure for literary pursuits than men? Who now sneers at
the intellect of a woman? Who laughs at blue-stockings? Who denies the
insight, the superior tact, the genius of woman? What man does not
accept woman as a fellow-laborer in the field of letters? And yet there
is one profession which they are more capable of filling than men,--that
of physicians to their own sex; a profession most honorable, and
requiring great knowledge, as well as great experience and insight.

Why may not women cope with men in the proudest intellectual
tournaments? Why should they not become great linguists, and poets, and
novelists, and artists, and critics, and historians? Have they not
quickness, brilliancy, sentiment, acuteness of observation, good sense,
and even genius? Do not well-educated women speak French before their
brothers can translate the easiest lines of Virgil? I would not put such
gentle, refined, and cultivated creatures,--these flowers of Paradise,
spreading the sweet aroma of their graces in the calm retreats from toil
and sin,--I would not push them into the noisy arena of wrangling
politics, into the suffocating and impure air of a court of justice, or
even make them professors in a college of unruly boys; but because I
would not do them this great cruelty, do I deny their intellectual
equality, or seek to dim the lustre of the light they shed, or hide
their talents under the vile bushel of envy, cynicism, or contempt? Is
it paying true respect to woman to seek to draw her from the beautiful
sphere which she adorns and vivifies and inspires,--where she is a
solace, a rest, a restraint, and a benediction,--and require of her
labors which she has not the physical strength to perform? And when it
is seen how much more attractive the wives and daughters of favored
classes have made themselves by culture, how much more capable they are
of training and educating their children, how much more dignified the
family circle may thus become,--every man who is a father will rejoice
in this great step which women have recently made, not merely in
literary attainments, but in the respect of men. Take away intellect
from woman, and what is she but a toy or a slave? For my part, I see no
more cheering signs of the progress of society than in the advancing
knowledge of favored women. And I know of no more splendid future for
them than to encircle their brows, whenever they have an opportunity,
with those proud laurels which have ever been accorded to those who have
advanced the interests of truth and the dominion of the soul,--which
laurels they have lately won, and which both reason and experience
assure us they may continue indefinitely to win.


Miss Luyster's Memoirs of Madame de Staël; Mémoires Dix Années d'Exil;
Alison's Essays; M. Shelly's Lives; Mrs. Thomson's Queens of Society;
Sainte-Beuve's Nouveaux Lundis; Lord Brougham on Madame de Staël; J.
Bruce's Classic Portraits; J. Kavanagh's French Women of Letters;
Biographic Universelle; North American Review, vols. x., xiv., xxxvii.;
Edinburgh Review, vols. xxi., xxxi., xxxiv., xliii.; Temple Bar, vols.
xl., lv.; Foreign Quarterly, vol. xiv.; Blackwood's Magazine, vols.
iii., vii., x.; Quarterly Review, 152; North British Review, vol. xx.;
Christian Examiner, 73; Catholic World, 18.


       *       *       *       *       *

A. D. 1745-1833.


One of the useful and grateful tasks of historians and biographers is to
bring forward to the eye of every new generation of men and women those
illustrious characters who made a great figure in the days of their
grandfathers and grandmothers, yet who have nearly faded out of sight in
the rush of new events and interests, and the rise of new stars in the
intellectual firmament. Extraordinary genius or virtue or services may
be forgotten for a while, but are never permanently hidden. There is
always somebody to recall them to our minds, whether the interval be
short or long. The Italian historian Vico wrote a book which attracted
no attention for nearly two hundred years,--in fact, was forgotten,--but
was made famous by the discoveries of Niebuhr in the Vatican library,
and became the foundation of modern philosophical history. Some great
men pass out of view for a generation or two owing to the bitterness of
contemporaneous enemies and detractors, and others because of the very
unanimity of admirers and critics, leading to no opposition. We weary
both of praise and censure. And when either praise or censure stops, the
object of it is apparently forgotten for a time, except by the few who
are learned. Yet, I repeat, real greatness or goodness is never
completely hidden. It reappears with new lustre when brought into
comparison with those who are embarked in the same cause.

Thus the recent discussions on the education of women recall to our
remembrance the greatest woman who lived in England in the latter part
of the last century,--Hannah More,--who devoted her long and prosperous
and honorable life to this cause both by practical teaching and by
writings which arrested the attention and called forth the admiration of
the best people in Europe and America. She forestalled nearly everything
which has been written in our times pertaining to the life of woman,
both at school and in society. And she evinced in her writings on this
great subject an acuteness of observation, a good sense, a breadth and
catholicity of judgment, a richness of experience, and a high moral tone
which have never been surpassed. She reminds us of the wise Madame de
Maintenon in her school at St. Cyr; the pious and philanthropic Mary
Lyon at the Mount Holyoke Seminary; and the more superficial and
worldly, but truly benevolent and practical, Emma Willard at her
institution in Troy,--the last two mentioned ladies being the pioneers
of the advanced education for young ladies in such colleges as Vassar,
Wellesley, and Smith, and others I could mention. The wisdom, tact, and
experience of Madame de Maintenon--the first great woman who gave a
marked impulse to female education in our modern times--were not lost on
Hannah More, who seems to have laid down the laws best adapted to
develop the mind and character of woman under a high civilization.
England seems to have been a century in advance of America, both in its
wisdom and folly; and the same things in London life were ridiculed and
condemned with unsparing boldness by Hannah More which to-day, in New
York, have called out the vigorous protests of Dr. Morgan Dix. The
educators of our age and country cannot do better than learn wisdom from
the "Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education," as well as
the "Thoughts on the Manners of the Great," which appeared from the pen
of Hannah More in the latter part of the 18th century, in which she
appears as both moralist and teacher, getting inspiration not only from
her exalted labors, but from the friendship and conversation of the
great intellectual oracles of her age. I have not read of any one woman
in England for the last fifty years, I have not heard or known of any
one woman in the United States, who ever occupied the exalted position
of Hannah More, or who exercised so broad and deep an influence on the
public mind in the combined character of a woman of society, author, and
philanthropist. There have been, since her day, more brilliant queens of
fashion, greater literary geniuses, and more prominent philanthropists;
but she was enabled to exercise an influence superior to any of them, by
her friendship with people of rank, by her clear and powerful writings,
and by her lofty piety and morality, which blazed amid the vices of
fashionable society one hundred years ago.

It is well to dwell on the life and labors of so great and good a woman,
who has now become historical. But I select her especially as the
representative of the grandest moral movement of modern times,--that
which aims to develop the mind and soul of woman, and give to her the
dignity of which she has been robbed by paganism and "philistinism." I
might have selected some great woman nearer home and our own time, more
intimately connected with the profession of educating young ladies; but
I prefer to speak of one who is universally conceded to have rendered
great service to her age and country. It is doubly pleasant to present
Hannah More, because she had none of those defects and blemishes which
have often detracted from the dignity of great benefactors. She was
about as perfect a woman as I have read of; and her virtues were not
carried out to those extremes of fanaticism which have often marked
illustrious saints, from the want of common-sense or because of
visionary theories. Strict and consistent as a moralist, she was never
led into any extravagances or fanaticisms. Stern even as a
disciplinarian, she did not proscribe healthy and natural amusements.
Strong-minded,--if I may use a modern contemptuous phrase,--she never
rebelled against the ordinances of nature or the laws dictated by
inspiration. She was a model woman: beautiful, yet not vain; witty, yet
never irreverent; independent, yet respectful to authority; exercising
private judgment, yet admired by bishops; learned, without pedantry;
hospitable, without extravagance; fond of the society of the great, yet
spending her life among the poor; alive to the fascinations of society,
yet consecrating all her energies of mind and body to the good of those
with whom she was brought in contact; as capable of friendship as Paula,
as religious as Madame Guyon, as charming in conversation as Récamier,
as practical as Elizabeth, as broad and tolerant as Fénelon, who was
himself half woman in his nature, as the most interesting men of genius
are apt to be. Nothing cynical, or bitter, or extravagant, or
contemptuous appears in any of her writings, most of which were
published anonymously,--from humility as well as sensitiveness. Vanity
was a stranger to her, as well as arrogance and pride. Embarking in
great enterprises, she never went outside the prescribed sphere of
woman. Masculine in the force and vigor of her understanding, she was
feminine in all her instincts,--proper, amiable, and gentle; a woman
whom everybody loved and everybody respected, even to kings and queens.

Hannah More was born in a little village near Bristol, 1745, and her
father was the village schoolmaster. He had been well educated, and had
large expectations; but he was disappointed, and was obliged to resort
to this useful but irksome way of getting a living. He had five
daughters, of whom Hannah was the fourth. As a girl, she was very
precocious in mind, as well as beautiful and attractive in her person.
She studied Latin when only eight years of age. Her father, it would
seem, was a very sensible man, and sought to develop the peculiar
talents which each of his daughters possessed, without the usual
partiality of parents, who are apt to mistake inclination for genius.
Three of the girls had an aptitude for teaching, and opened a
boarding-school in Bristol when the oldest was only twenty. The school
was a great success, and soon became fashionable, and ultimately famous.
To this school the early labors of Hannah More were devoted; and she
soon attracted attention by her accomplishments, especially in the
modern languages, in which she conversed with great accuracy and
facility. But her talents were more remarkable than her
accomplishments; and eminent men sought her society and friendship, who
in turn introduced her to their own circle of friends, by all of whom
she was admired. Thus she gradually came to know the celebrated Dean
Tucker of Gloucester cathedral; Ferguson the astronomer, then lecturing
at Bristol; the elder Sheridan, also giving lectures on oratory in the
same city; Garrick, on the eve of his retirement from the stage; Dr.
Johnson, Goldsmith, Reynolds, Mrs. Montagu, in whose _salon_ the most
distinguished men of the age assembled as the headquarters of
fashionable society,--Edmund Burke, then member for Bristol in the House
of Commons; Gibbon; Alderman Cadell, the great publisher; Bishop
Porteus; Rev. John Newton; and Sir James Stonehouse, an eminent
physician. With all these stars she was on intimate terms, visiting them
at their houses, received by them all as more than an equal,--for she
was not only beautiful and witty, but had earned considerable reputation
for her poetry. Garrick particularly admired her as a woman of genius,
and performed one of her plays ("Percy") twenty successive nights at
Drury Lane, writing himself both the prologue and the epilogue. It must
be borne in mind that when first admitted to the choicest society of
London,--at the houses not merely of literary men, but of great
statesmen and nobles like Lord Camden, Lord Spencer, the Duke of
Newcastle. Lord Pembroke, Lord Granville, and others,--she was teaching
in a girls' school at Bristol, and was a young lady under thirty
years of age.

It was as a literary woman--when literary women were not so numerous or
ambitious as they now are--that Hannah More had the _entrée_ into the
best society under the patronage of the greatest writers of the age. She
was a literary lion before she was twenty-five. She attracted the
attention of Sheridan by her verses when she was scarcely eighteen. Her
"Search after Happiness" went through six editions before the year 1775.
Her tragedy of "Percy" was translated into French and German before she
was thirty; and she realized from the sale of it £600. "The Fatal
Falsehood" was also much admired, but did not meet the same success,
being cruelly attacked by envious rivals. Her "Bas Bleu" was praised by
Johnson in unmeasured terms. It was for her poetry that she was best
known from 1775 to 1785, the period when she lived in the fashionable
and literary world, and which she adorned by her wit and brilliant
conversation,--not exactly a queen of society, since she did not set up
a _salon_, but was only an honored visitor at the houses of the great; a
brilliant and beautiful woman, whom everybody wished to know.

I will not attempt any criticism on those numerous poems. They are not
much read and valued in our time. They are all after the style of
Johnson and Pope;--the measured and artificial style of the eighteenth
century, in imitation of the ancient classics and of French poetry, in
which the wearisome rhyme is the chief peculiarity,--smooth, polished,
elaborate, but pretty much after the same pattern, and easily imitated
by school-girls. The taste of this age--created by Burns, Byron,
Wordsworth, Browning, Tennyson, Longfellow, and others--is very
different. But the poems of Hannah More were undoubtedly admired by her
generation, and gave her great _éclat_ and considerable pecuniary
emolument. And yet her real fame does not rest on those artificial
poems, respectable as they were one hundred years ago, but on her
writings as a moralist and educator.

During this period of her life--from 1775 to 1785--she chiefly resided
with her sisters in Bristol, but made long visits to London, and to the
houses of famous or titled personages. In a worldly point of view these
years were the most brilliant, but not most useful, period of her life.
At first she was intoxicated by the magnificent attentions she received,
and had an intense enjoyment of cultivated society. It was in these
years she formed the most ardent friendships of her life. Of all her
friends, she seems to have been most attached to Garrick,--the idol of
society, a general favorite wherever he chose to go, a man of
irreproachable morals and charming conversational powers; at whose
house and table no actor or actress was ever known to be invited, except
in one solitary instance; from which it would appear that he was more
desirous of the attentions of the great than of the sympathy and
admiration of the people of his own profession. It is not common for
actors to be gifted with great conversational powers, any more than for
artists, as a general thing, to be well-read people, especially in
history. Hannah More was exceedingly intimate with both Garrick and his
wife; and his death, in 1779, saddened and softened his great
worshipper. After his death she never was present at any theatrical
amusement. She would not go to the theatre to witness the acting of her
own dramas; not even to see Mrs. Siddons, when she appeared as so
brilliant a star. In fact, after Garrick's death Miss More partially
abandoned fashionable society, having acquired a disgust of its
heartless frivolities and seductive vices.

With the death of Garrick a new era opened in the life of Hannah More,
although for the succeeding five years she still was a frequent visitor
in the houses of those she esteemed, both literary lions and people of
rank. It would seem, during this period, that Dr. Johnson was her
warmest friend, whom she ever respected for his lofty moral nature, and
before whom she bowed down in humble worship as an intellectual
dictator. He called her his child. Sometimes he was severe on her, when
she differed from him in opinion, or when caught praising books which
he, as a moralist, abhorred,--like the novels of Fielding and Smollet;
for the only novelist he could tolerate was Richardson. Once when she
warmly expatiated in praise of the Jansenists, the overbearing autocrat
exclaimed in a voice of thunder: "Madam, let me hear no more of this!
Don't quote your popish authorities to me; I want none of your popery!"
But seeing that his friend was overwhelmed with the shock he gave her,
his countenance instantly changed; his lip quivered, and his eyes filled
with tears. He gently took her hand, and with the deepest emotion
exclaimed: "Child, never mind what I have said,--follow true piety
wherever you find it." This anecdote is a key to the whole character of
Johnson, interesting and uninteresting; for this rough, tyrannical
dogmatist was also one of the tenderest of men, and had a soul as
impressible as that of a woman.

The most intimate woman friend, it would seem, that Hannah ever had was
Mrs. Garrick, both before and after the death of her husband; and the
wife of Garrick was a Roman Catholic. Hannah More usually spent several
months with this accomplished and warm-hearted woman at her house in
Hampton, generally from March to July. This was often her home during
the London season, after which she resided in Bristol with her sisters,
who made a fortune by their boarding-school. After Hannah had entered
into the literary field she supported herself by her writings, which
until 1785 were chiefly poems and dramas,--now almost forgotten, but
which were widely circulated and admired in her day, and by which she
kept her position in fashionable and learned society. After the death of
Garrick, as we have said, she seemed to have acquired a disgust of the
gay and fashionable society which at one time was so fascinating. She
found it frivolous, vain, and even dull. She craved sympathy and
intellectual conversation and knowledge. She found neither at a
fashionable party, only outside show, gay dresses, and unspeakable
follies,--no conversation; for how could there be either the cultivation
of friendship or conversation in a crowd, perchance, of empty people for
the most part? "As to London," says she, "I shall be glad to get out of
it; everything is great and vast and late and magnificent and dull." I
very seldom go to these parties, and I always repent when I do. My
distaste of these scenes of insipid magnificence I have not words to
tell. Every faculty but the sight is starved, and that has a surfeit. I
like conversation parties of the right sort, whether of four persons or
forty; but it is impossible to talk when two or three hundred people are
continually coming in and popping out, or nailing themselves to a card
table. "Conceive," said she, "of the insipidity of two or three hundred
people,--all dressed in the extremity of fashion, painted as red as
bacchanals, poisoning the air with perfumes, treading on each other's
dresses, not one in ten able to get a chair when fainting with
weariness. I never now go to these things when I can possibly avoid it,
and stay when there as few minutes as I can." Thus she wrote as early as
1782. She went through the same experience as did Madame Récamier,
learning to prefer a small and select circle, where conversation was the
chief charm, especially when this circle was composed only of gifted men
and women. In this incipient disgust of gay and worldly society--chiefly
because it improved neither her mind nor her morals, because it was
stupid and dull, as it generally is to people of real culture and high
intelligence--she seems to have been gradually drawn to the learned
prelates of the English Church,--like Dr. Porteus, Bishop of Chester,
afterwards of London; the Bishop of St. Asaph; and Dr. Home, then Dean
of Canterbury. She became very intimate with Wilberforce and Rev. John
Newton, while she did not give up her friendship for Horace Walpole,
Pepys, and other lights of the social world.

About this time (1785) she retired to Cowslip Green, a pretty cottage
ten miles from Bristol, and spent her time in reading, writing, and
gardening. The country, with its green pastures and still waters, called
her back to those studies and duties which are most ennobling, and which
produce the most lasting pleasure. In this humble retreat she had many
visitors from among her illustrious friends. She became more and more
religious, without entirely giving up society; corresponding with the
eminent men and women she visited, especially Mrs. Montagu, Dr. Porteus,
Mrs. Boscawen, Mr. Pepys, and Rev. John Newton. In the charming
seclusion of Cowslip Green she wrote her treatise on the "Manners of the
Great;" the first of that series in which she rebuked the fashions and
follies of the day. It had an immense circulation, and was published
anonymously. This very popular work was followed, in 1790, by a volume
on an "Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World," which
produced a still deeper sensation among the great, and was much admired.
The Bishop of London (Porteus) was full of its praises; so was John
Newton, although he did not think that any book could wean the worldly
from their pleasures.

Thus far most of the associations of Hannah More had been with the
fashionable world, by which she was petted and flattered. Seeing clearly
its faults, she had sought to reform it by her writings and by her
conversation. But now she turned her attention to another class,--the
poor and ignorant,--and labored for them. She instituted a number of
schools for the poor in her immediate neighborhood, superintended them,
raised money for them, and directed them, as Madame de Maintenon did the
school of St. Cyr; only with this difference,--that while the
Frenchwoman sought to develop the mind and character of a set of
aristocratic girls to offset the practical infidelity that permeated the
upper walks of life, Hannah More desired to make the children of the
poor religious amid the savage profligacy which then marked the peasant
class. The first school she established was at Cheddar, a wild and
sunless hollow, amid yawning caverns, about ten miles from Cowslip
Green,--the resort of pleasure parties for its picturesque cliffs and
fissures. Around this weird spot was perhaps the most degraded peasantry
to be found in England, without even spiritual instruction,--for the
vicar was a non-resident, and his living was worth but £50 a year. In
her efforts to establish a school in such a barbarous and pagan locality
Hannah met with serious obstacles. The farmers and petty landholders
were hostile to her scheme, maintaining that any education would spoil
the poor, and make them discontented. Even the farmers themselves were
an ignorant and brutal class, very depraved, and with intense
prejudices. For a whole year she labored with them to disarm their
hostilities and prejudices, and succeeded at last in collecting two
hundred and fifty children in the schoolhouse which she had built. Their
instruction was of course only elemental, but it was religious.

From Cheddar, Hannah More was led to examine into the condition of
neighboring places. Thirteen contiguous parishes were without a resident
curate, and nine of these were furnished with schools, with over five
hundred scholars. Her theory was,--a suitable education for each, and a
Christian education for all. While she was much encouraged by her
ecclesiastical aristocratic friends, she still encountered great
opposition from the farmers. She also excited the jealousy of the
Dissenters for thus invading the territory of ignorance. All her
movements were subjected to prelates and clergymen of the Church of
England for their approval; for she put herself under their patronage.
And yet the brutal ignorance of the peasantry was owing in part to the
neglect of these very clergymen, who never visited these poor people
under their charge. As an excuse for them, it may be said that at that
time there were 4,809 parishes in England and Wales in which a clergyman
could not reside, if he would, for lack of a parsonage. At that time,
even in Puritan New England, every minister was supposed to live in a
parsonage. To-day, not one parish in ten is provided with that desirable

Not only were the labors of Hannah More extended to the ignorant and
degraded by the establishment of schools in her neighborhood, at an
expense of about £1,000 a year, part of which she contributed herself,
but she employed her pen in their behalf, writing, at the solicitation
of the Bishop of London, a series of papers or tracts for the times,
with special reference to the enlightenment of the lower classes on
those subjects that were then agitating the country. The whole land was
at this time inundated with pamphlets full of infidelity and discontent,
fanned by the French Revolution, then passing through its worst stages
of cruelty, atheism, and spoliation. Burke about the same time wrote his
"Reflections," which are immortal for their wisdom and profundity; but
he wrote for the upper classes, not merely in England, but in America
and on the continent of Europe. Hannah More wrote for the lower classes,
and in a style of great clearness and simplicity. Her admirable
dialogue, called "Village Politics," by Will Chip, a country carpenter,
exposed the folly and atrocity of the revolutionary doctrines then in
vogue. Its circulation was immense. The Government purchased several
thousand copies for distribution. It was translated into French and
Italian. Similar in spirit was the tract in reply to the infidel speech
of M. Dupont in the French Convention, in which he would divorce all
religion from education. The circulation of this tract was also very
great. These were followed, in 1795, by the "Cheap Repository," a
periodical designed for the poor, with religious tales, most of which
have since been published by Tract Societies, among them the famous
story of "The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain." The "Cheap Repository" was
continued for three years, and circulated in every village and hamlet of
England and America. It almost equalled the popularity of the "Pilgrim's
Progress." Two millions of these tracts were sold in the first year.

In 1799 Hannah More's great work entitled "Strictures on the Modern
System of Female Education" appeared, which passed through twenty
editions in a few years. It was her third ethical publication in prose,
and the most powerful of all her writings. Testimonies as to its value
poured in upon her from every quarter. Nothing was more talked about at
that time except, perhaps, Robert Hall's "Sermons." It was regarded as
one of the most perfect works of its kind that any country or age had
produced. It made as deep an impression on the English mind as the
"Émile" of Rousseau did on the French half a century earlier, but was
vastly higher in its moral tone. I know of no treatise on education so
full and so sensible as this. It ought to be reprinted, for the benefit
of this generation, for its author has forestalled all subsequent
writers on this all-important subject. There is scarcely anything said
by Rev. Morgan Dix, in his excellent Lenten Lectures, which was not said
by Hannah More in the last century. Herbert Spencer may be more
original, possibly more profound, but he is not so practical or clear or
instructive as the great woman who preceded him more than half
a century.

The fundamental principle which underlies all Hannah More's theories of
education is the necessity of Christian instruction, which Herbert
Spencer says very little about, and apparently ignores. She would not
divorce education from religion. Women, especially, owe their elevation
entirely to Christianity. Hence its influence should be paramount, to
exalt the soul as well as enlarge the mind. All sound education should
prepare one for the duties of life, rather than for the enjoyment of its
pleasures. What good can I do? should be the first inquiry. It is
Christianity alone that teaches the ultimate laws of morals. Hannah More
would subject every impulse and every pursuit and every study to these
ultimate laws as a foundation for true and desirable knowledge. She
would repress everything which looks like vanity. She would educate
girls for their homes, and not for a crowd; for usefulness, and not for
admiration; for that; period of life when external beauty is faded or
lost. She thinks more highly of solid attainments than of
accomplishments, and would incite to useful rather than unnecessary
works. She would have a girl learn the languages, though she deems them
of little value unless one can think in them. She would cultivate that
"sensibility which has its seat in the heart, rather than the nerves."
Anything which detracts from modesty and delicacy, and makes a girl
bold, forward, and pushing, she severely rebukes. She would check all
extravagance in dancing, and would not waste much time on music unless
one has a talent for it. She thinks that the excessive cultivation of
the arts has contributed to the decline of States. She is severe on that
style of dress which permits an indelicate exposure of the person, and
on all forms of senseless extravagance. She despises children's balls,
and ridicules children's rights and "Liliputian coquetry" with ribbons
and feathers. She would educate women to fulfil the duties of daughters,
wives, and mothers rather than to make them dancers, singers, players,
painters, and actresses. She maintains that when a man of sense comes to
marry, he wants a companion rather than a creature who can only dress
and dance and play upon an instrument. Yet she does not discourage
ornamental talent; she admits it is a good thing, but not the best thing
that a woman has. She would not cut up time into an endless
multiplicity of employments, She urges mothers to impress on their
daughters' minds a discriminating estimate of personal beauty, so that
they may not have their heads turned by the adulation that men are so
prone to lavish on those who are beautiful. While she deprecates
harshness, she insists on a rigorous discipline. She would stimulate
industry and the cultivation of moderate abilities, as more likely to
win in the long race of life,--even as a barren soil and ungenial
climate have generally produced the most thrifty people. She would
banish frivolous books which give only superficial knowledge, and even
those abridgments and compendiums which form too considerable a part of
ordinary libraries, and recommends instead those works which exercise
the reasoning faculties and stir up the powers of the mind. She
expresses great contempt for English sentimentality, French philosophy,
Italian poetry, and German mysticism, and is scarcely less severe on the
novels of her day, which stimulate the imagination without adding to
knowledge. She recommends history as the most improving of all studies,
both as a revelation of the ways of Providence and as tending to the
enlargement of the mind. She insists on accuracy in language and on
avoiding exaggerations. She inculcates co-operation with man, and not
rivalry or struggle for power. What she says about women's
rights--which, it seems, was a question that agitated even her age--is
worth quoting, since it is a woman, and not a man, who speaks:--

"Is it not more wise to move contentedly in the plain path which
Providence has obviously marked out for the sex, and in which custom has
for the most part rationally confirmed them, rather than to stray
awkwardly, unbecomingly, unsuccessfully, in a forbidden road; to be the
lawful possessors of a lesser domestic territory, rather than the
turbulent usurpers of a wider foreign empire; to be good originals,
rather than bad imitators; to be the best thing of one's kind, rather
than an inferior thing even if it were of a higher kind; to be excellent
women, rather than indifferent men? Let not woman view with envy the
keen satirist hunting vice through all the doublings and windings of the
heart; the sagacious politician leading senates and directing the fate
of empires; the acute lawyer detecting the obliquities of fraud, or the
skilful dramatist exposing the pretensions of folly; but let her
remember that those who thus excel, to all that Nature bestows and books
can teach must add besides that consummate knowledge of the world to
which a delicate woman has no fair avenues, and which, even if she could
attain, she would never be supposed to have come honestly by.... Women
possess in a high degree that delicacy and quickness of perception, and
that nice discernment between the beautiful and defective which comes
under the denomination of taste. Both in composition and action they
excel in details; but they do not so much generalize their ideas as
men, nor do their minds seize a great subject with so large a grasp.
They are acute observers, and accurate judges of life and manners, so
far as their own sphere of observation extends; but they describe a
smaller circle. And they have a certain tact which enables them to feel
what is just more instantaneously than they can define it. They have an
intuitive penetration into character bestowed upon them by Providence,
like the sensitive and tender organs of some timid animals, as a kind of
natural guard to warn of the approach of danger,--beings who are often
called to act defensively.

"But whatever characteristic distinctions may exist between man and
woman, there is one great and leading circumstance which raises woman
and establishes her equality with man. Christianity has exalted woman to
true and undisputed dignity. 'In Christ Jesus there is neither rich nor
poor, bond nor free, male nor female,' So that if we deny to women the
talents which lead them to excel as lawyers, they are preserved from the
peril of having their principles warped by that too indiscriminate
defence of right and wrong to which the professors of the law are
exposed. If we question their title to eminence as mathematicians, they
are exempted from the danger of looking for demonstration on subjects
which, by their very nature, are incapable of affording it. If they are
less conversant with the powers of Nature, the structure of the human
frame, and the knowledge of the heavenly bodies than philosophers,
physicians, and astronomers, they are delivered from the error into
which many of each of these have sometimes fallen, from the fatal habit
of resting on second causes, instead of referring all to the first. And
let women take comfort that in their very exemption from privileges
which they are sometimes disposed to envy, consist their security and
their happiness."

Thus spoke Hannah More at the age of fifty-four, with a wider experience
of society and a profounder knowledge of her sex than any Englishwoman
of the eighteenth century, and as distinguished for her intellectual
gifts and cultivation as she was for her social graces and charms,--the
pet and admiration of all who were great and good in her day, both among
men and women. Bear these facts in mind, ye obscure, inexperienced,
discontented, envious, ambitious seekers after notoriety or novelty!--ye
rebellious and defiant opponents of the ordinances of God and the laws
of Nature, if such women there are!--remember that the sentiments I have
just quoted came from the pen of a woman, and not of a man; of a woman
who was the best friend of her sex, and the most enlightened advocate of
their education that lived in the last century; and a woman who, if she
were living now, would undoubtedly be classed with those whom we call
strong-minded, and perhaps masculine and ambitious. She recognizes the
eternal distinction between the sphere of a man and the sphere of a
woman, without admitting any inferiority of woman to man, except in
physical strength and a sort of masculine power of generalization and
grasp. And _she_ would educate woman for her own sphere, not for the
sphere of man, whatever Christianity, or experience, or reason may
define that sphere to be. She would make woman useful, interesting,
lofty; she would give dignity to her soul; she would make her the friend
and helpmate of man, not his rival; she would make her a Christian
woman, since, with Christian virtues and graces and principles, she will
not be led astray.

But I would not dwell on ground which may be controverted, and which to
some may appear discourteous or discouraging to those noble women who
are doomed by dire and hard misfortunes, by terrible necessities, to
labor in some fields which have been assigned to man, and in which
departments they have earned the admiration and respect of men
themselves. This subject is only one in a hundred which Hannah More
discussed with clearness, power, and wisdom. She is equally valuable and
impressive in what she says of conversation,--a realm in which she had
no superior. Hear what she says about this gift or art:

"Do we wish to see women take a lead in metaphysical disquisitions,--to
plunge in the depths of theological polemics? Do we wish to enthrone
them in the chairs of our universities, to deliver oracles, harangues,
and dissertations? Do we desire to behold them, inflated with their
original powers, laboring to strike out sparks of wit, with a restless
anxiety to shine, and with a labored affectation to please, which never
pleases? All this be far from them! But we _do_ wish to see the
conversation of well-bred women rescued from vapid commonplaces, from
uninteresting tattle, from trite communications, from frivolous
earnestness, from false sensibility, from a warm interest about things
of no moment, and an indifference to topics the most important; from a
cold vanity, from the overflows of self-love, exhibiting itself under
the smiling mask of an engaging flattery; and from all the factitious
manners of artificial intercourse. We _do_ wish to see the time passed
in polished and intelligent society considered as the pleasant portion
of our existence, and not consigned to premeditated trifling and
systematic unprofitableness. Women too little live or converse up to
their understandings; and however we deprecate affectation and pedantry,
let it be remembered that both in reading and conversing, the
understanding gains more by stretching than stooping. The mind by
applying itself to objects below its level, contracts and shrinks itself
to the size of the object about which it is conversant. In the faculty
of speaking well, ladies have such a happy promptitude of turning their
slender advantages to account, that though never taught a rule of
syntax, they hardly ever violate one, and often possess an elegant
arrangement of style without having studied any of the laws of
composition, And yet they are too ready to produce not only pedantic
expressions, but crude notions and hackneyed remarks with all the vanity
of conscious discovery, and all from reading mere abridgments and scanty
sketches rather than exhausting subjects."

Equally forcible are her remarks on society:--

"Perhaps," said she, "the interests of friendship, elegant conversation,
and true social pleasure, never received such a blow as when fashion
issued the decree that _everybody must be acquainted with everybody_.
The decline of instructive conversation has been effected in a great
measure by the barbarous habit of assembly _en masse_, where one hears
the same succession of unmeaning platitudes, mutual insincerities, and
aimless inquiries. It would be trite, however, to dwell on the vapid
talk which must almost of necessity mark those who assemble in crowds,
and which we are taught to call society, which really cannot exist
without the free interchange of thought and sentiment. Hence society
only truly shines in small and select circles of people of high
intelligence, who are drawn together by friendship as well as

About two years after this work on education appeared,--education in the
broadest sense, pertaining to woman at home and in society as well as at
school,--Hannah More moved from her little thatched cottage, and built
Barley Wood,--a large villa, where she could entertain the increasing
circle of her friends, who were at this period only the learned, the
pious, and the distinguished, especially bishops like Porteus and
Horne, and philanthropists like Wilberforce. The beauty of this new
residence amid woods and lawns attracted her sisters from Bath, who
continued to live with her the rest of their lives, and to co-operate
with her in deeds of benevolence. In this charming retreat she wrote
perhaps the most famous of her books, "Coelebs in Search of a
Wife,"--not much read, I fancy, in these times, but admired in its day
before the great revolution in novel-writing was made by Sir Walter
Scott. Yet this work is no more a novel than the "Dialogues of Plato."
Like "Rasselas," it is a treatise,--a narrative essay on the choice of a
wife, the expansion and continuation of her strictures on education and
fashionable life. This work appeared in 1808, when the writer was
sixty-three years of age. As on former occasions, she now not only
assumed an anonymous name, but endeavored to hide herself under deeper
incognita,--all, however, to no purpose, as everybody soon knew, from
the style, who the author was. The first edition of this popular
work--popular, I mean, in its day, for no work is popular long, though
it may remain forever a classic on the shelves of libraries--was sold in
two weeks. Twelve thousand were published the first year, the profits of
which were £2,000. In this country the sale was larger, thirty thousand
copies being sold during the life of the author. It was also translated
into most of the modern languages of Europe. In 1811 appeared her work
on "Christian Morals," which had a sale of ten thousand; and in 1815 her
essay on the "Character and Practical Writings of Saint Paul," of which
seven thousand copies were sold. These works were followed by her "Moral
Sketches of Prevailing Opinions and Manners," of which ten thousand were
sold, and which realized a royalty of £3,000.

At the age of eighty, Hannah More wrote her "Spirit of Prayer," of which
nearly twenty thousand copies were printed; and with this work her
literary career virtually closed. Her later works were written amid the
pains of disease and many distractions, especially visits from
distinguished and curious people, which took up her time and sadly
interrupted her labors. At the age of eighty, though still receiving
many visitors, she found herself nearly alone in the world. All her most
intimate friends had died,--Mrs. Garrick at the age of ninety-eight; Sir
William Pepys (the Laelius of the "Bas Bleu"); Dr. Porteus, Bishop of
London; Dr. Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury; Bishop Horne, Bishop
Barrington; Dr. Andrew, Dean of Canterbury; and Lady Cremon, besides her
three sisters. The friends of her earlier days had long since passed
away,--Garrick, Johnson, Reynolds, Horace Walpole. Of those who started
in the race with her few were left. Still, visitors continued to throng
her house to the last, impelled by admiration or curiosity; and she was
obliged at length to limit her _levee_ to the hours between one
and three.

Hannah More lived at Barley Wood nearly thirty years in dignified
leisure, with an ample revenue and in considerable style, keeping her
carriage and horses, with a large number of servants, dispensing a
generous hospitality, and giving away in charities a considerable part
of her income. She realized from her pen £30,000, and her sisters also
had accumulated a fortune by their school in Bristol. Her property must
have been considerable, since on her death she bequeathed in charities
nearly £10,000, beside endowing a church. She spent about £900 a year in

The last few years of her residence at Barley Wood were disturbed by the
ingratitude and dishonesty of her servants. They deceived and robbed
her, especially those to whom she had been most kind and generous. She
was, at her advanced age, entirely dependent on these servants, so that
she could not reform her establishment. There was the most shameless
peculation in the kitchen, and money given in charity was appropriated
by the servants, who all combined to cheat her. Out of her sight, they
were disorderly: they gave nocturnal suppers to their friends, and drank
up her wines. So she resolved to discharge the whole of them, and sell
her beautiful place; and when she finally left her home, these servants
openly insulted her. She removed to a house in Clifton, where she had
equal comfort and fewer cares. In this house she spent the remaining
four years of her useful life, dispensing charities, and entertaining
the numerous friends who visited her, and the crowd who came to do her
honor. She died in September, 1833, at the age of eighty-eight,
retaining her intellectual faculties, like Madame de Maintenon, nearly
to the last. She was buried with great honors. A beautiful monument was
erected to her memory in the parish church where her mortal remains were
laid,--the subscription to this monument being five times greater than
the sum needed.

Hannah More was strongly attached to the Church of England, and upheld
the authority of the established religious institutions of the country.
She excited some hostility from the liberality of her views, for she
would occasionally frequent the chapels of the Dissenters and partake of
their communion. She was supposed by many to lean towards Methodism,--as
everybody was accused of doing in the last century, in England, who led
a strictly religious life. She was evangelical in her views, but was not
Calvinistic; nor was she a believer in instantaneous conversions, any
more than she was in baptismal regeneration. She contributed liberally
to religious and philanthropic societies. The best book, she thought,
that was ever published was Jeremy Taylor's "Holy Living and Dying;" but
her opinion was that John Howe was a greater man. She was a great
admirer of Shakspeare, whom she placed on the highest pedestal of human
genius. She also admired Sir Walter Scott's poetry, especially
"Marmion." She admitted the genius of Byron, but had such detestation of
his character that she would not read his poetry.

The best and greatest part of the life of Hannah More was devoted to the
education and elevation of her sex. Her most valuable writings were
educational and moral. Her popularity did not wane with advancing years.
No literary woman ever had warmer friends; and these she retained. She
never lost a friend except by death. She had to lament over no broken
friendships, since her friendships were based on respect and affection.
Her nature must have been very genial. For so strict a woman in her
religious duties, she was very tolerant of human infirmities. She was
faithful in reproof, but having once given her friendship she held on to
it with great tenacity; she clung to the worldly Horace Walpole as she
did to Dr. Johnson. The most intimate woman friend of her long life was
a Catholic. Hannah was never married, which was not her fault, for she
was jilted by the man she loved,--for whom, however, she is said to have
retained a friendly feeling to the last. Though unmarried, she was
addressed as Mrs., not Miss, More; and she seems to have insisted on
this, which I think was a weakness, since the dignity of her character,
her fame and high social position, needed no conventional crutch to make
her appear more matronly. As a mere fashionable woman of society, her
name would never have descended to our times; as a moralist she is
immortal, so far as any writer can be. As an author, I do not regard her
as a great original genius; but her successful and honorable career
shows how much may be done by industry and perseverance. Her memory is
kept especially fresh from the interest she took in the education of her
sex, and from her wise and sage counsels, based on religion and a wide
experience. No woman ever had better opportunities for the study of her
sex, or more nobly improved them. She was the most enlightened advocate
of a high education for women that her age and even her
century produced.

Now, what is meant by a high education for women? for in our times the
opinions of people in regard to this matter are far from being
harmonious. Indeed, on no subject is there more disagreement; there is
no subject which provokes more bitter and hostile comments; there is no
subject on which both men and women wrangle with more acerbity, even
when they are virtually agreed,--for the instincts of good women are
really in accord with the profoundest experience and reason of men.

In the few remarks to which I am now limited I shall not discuss the
irritating and disputed question of co-education of the sexes, which can
only be settled by experience. On this subject we have not yet
sufficient facts for a broad induction. On the one hand, it would seem
that so long as young men and women mingle freely together in
amusements, at parties and balls, at the theatre and opera, in the
lecture-room, in churches, and most public meetings, it is not probable
that any practical evils can result from educational competition of the
two sexes in the same class-rooms, especially when we consider that many
eminent educators have given their testimony in its favor, so far as it
has fallen under their observation and experience. But, on the other
hand, the co-education of the sexes may imply that both girls and boys,
by similarity of studies, are to be educated for the same sphere. Boys
study the higher mathematics not merely for mental discipline, but in
order to be engineers, astronomers, surveyors, and the like; so, too,
they study chemistry, in its higher branches, to be chemists and
physicians and miners. If girls wish to do this rough work, let them
know that they seek to do men's work. If they are to do women's work, it
would seem that they should give more attention to music, the modern
languages, and ornamental branches than boys do, since few men pursue
these things as a business.

The question is, Is it wise for boys and girls to pursue the same
studies in the more difficult branches of knowledge? I would withhold no
study from a woman on the ground of assumed intellectual inferiority. I
believe that a woman can grasp any subject as well as a man can, so far
and so long as her physical strength will permit her to make exhaustive
researches. There are some studies which task the physical strength of
men to its utmost tension. If any woman has equal physical power with
men to master certain subjects, let her pursue them; for success, even
with men, depends upon physical endurance as well as brain-power. And
thus the question is one of physical strength and endurance; and women
must settle for themselves whether they can run races with men in
studies in which only the physically strong can hope to succeed.

Then, again, I would educate women with reference to the sphere in which
they must forever move,--a sphere settled by the eternal laws of Nature
and duty, against which it is folly to rebel. Does any one doubt or deny
that the sphere of women _is_ different from the sphere of men? Can it
be questioned that a class of studies pursued by women who are confined
for a considerable period of life to domestic duties,--like the care of
children, and the details of household economy, and attendance on the
sick, and ornamental art labors,--should not be different from those
pursued by men who undertake the learned professions, and the government
of the people, and the accumulation of wealth in the hard drudgeries of
banks and counting-houses and stores and commercial travelling? There is
no way to get round this question except by maintaining that men should
not be exempted from the cares and duties which for all recorded ages
have been assigned to women; and that women should enter upon the
equally settled sphere of man, and become lawyers, politicians,
clergymen, members of Congress and of State legislatures, sailors,
merchants, commercial travellers, bankers, railway conductors, and
steamship captains. I once knew the discontented wife of an eminent
painter, with a brilliant intellect, who insisted that her husband
should leave his studio and spend five hours a day in the drudgeries of
the nursery and kitchen to relieve her, and that she should spend the
five hours in her studio as an amateur,--that they thus might be on an
equality! The husband died in a mad-house, after dying for a year with a
broken heart and a crushed ambition. He was obliged to submit to his
wife's demand, or fight from morning to night and from night to morning;
and as he was a man of peace, he quietly yielded up his prerogative. Do
you admire the one who prevailed over him? She belonged to that class
who are called strong-minded; but she was perverted, as some noble minds
are, by atheistic and spiritualistic views, and thought to raise women
by lifting them out of the sphere which God has appointed.

If, then, there be distinct spheres, divinely appointed, for women and
for men, and an education should be given to fit them for rising in
their respective spheres, the question arises, What studies shall woman
pursue in order to develop her mind and resources, and fit her for
happiness and usefulness? This question is only to be answered by those
who have devoted their lives to the education of young ladies. I would
go into no details; I would only lay down the general proposition that a
woman should be educated to be interesting both to her own sex and to
men; to be useful in her home; to exercise the best influence on her
female and male companions; to have her affections as well as intellect
developed; to have her soul elevated so as to be kindled by lofty
sentiments, and to feel that there is something higher than the
adornment of the person, or the attracting of attention in those noisy
crowds which are called society. She should be taught to become the
friend and helpmate of man,--never his rival She is to be invested with
those graces which call out the worship of man, which cause her to shine
with the radiance of the soul, and with those virtues which men rarely
reach,--a superior loftiness of character, a greater purity of mind, a
heavenlike patience and magnanimity. She is not an angel, but a woman;
yet she should shine with angelic qualities and aspire to angelic
virtues, and prove herself, morally and spiritually, to be so superior
to man, that he will render to her an instinctive deference; not a mock
and ironical deference, because she is supposed to be inferior and weak,
but a real deference, a genuine respect on which all permanent
friendship rests,--and even love itself, which every woman, as well as
every man, craves from the bottom of the soul, and without which life
has no object, no charm, and no interest.

Is woman necessarily made a drudge by assuming those domestic duties
which add so much to the unity and happiness of a family, and which a
man cannot so well discharge as he can the more arduous labors of
supporting a family? Are her labors in directing servants or educating
her children more irksome than the labors of a man, in heat and cold,
often among selfish and disagreeable companions? Is woman, in
restricting herself to her sphere, thereby debarred from the pleasures
of literature and art? As a rule, is she not already better educated
than her husband? However domestic she may be, cannot she still paint
and sing, and read and talk on the grandest subjects? Is she not really
more privileged than her husband or brother, with more time and less
harassing cares and anxieties? Would she really exchange her graceful
labors for the rough and turbulent work of men?

But here I am stopped with the inquiry, What will you do with those
women who are unfortunate, who have no bright homes to adorn, no means
of support, no children to instruct, no husbands to rule: women cast out
of the sphere where they would like to live, and driven to hard and
uncongenial labors, forced to run races with men, or starve? To such my
remarks do not apply; they are exceptions, and not the rule. To them I
would say, Do cheerfully what Providence seems to point out for _you_;
do the best you can, even in the sphere into which you are forced. If
you are at any time thrown upon your own resources, and compelled to
adopt callings which task your physical strength, accept such lot with
resignation, but without any surrender of your essentially feminine and
womanly qualities; do not try to be like men, for men are lower than you
in their ordinary tastes and occupations. And I would urge all women,
rich and poor, to pursue some one art,--like music, or painting, or
decoration,--not only for amusement, but with the purpose to carry it so
far that in case of misfortune they can fall back upon it and get a
living; for proficiency in these arts belongs as much to the sphere of
women as of men, since it refines and cultivates them.

But again some may say,--not those who are unfortunate, and seemingly
driven from the glories and beatitudes of woman's sphere, but those who
are peculiarly intellectual and aspiring, and in some respects very
interesting,--Why should not we embark in some of those callings which
heretofore have been assigned to or usurped by man, and become
physicians, and professors in colleges, and lawyers, and merchants, not
because we are driven to get a living, but because we prefer them; and
hence, in order to fit ourselves for these departments, why should we
not pursue the highest studies which task the intellect of man? To such
I would reply, Do so, if you please; there is no valid reason why you
should not try. Nor will you fail unless your frailer bodies fail, as
fail they will, in a long race,--for do what you will to strengthen and
develop your physical forces for a million of years, you will still be
women, and physically weaker than men; that is, your nervous system
cannot stand the strain of that long-continued and intense application
which all professional men are compelled to exert in order to gain
success. But if you have in any individual case the physical strength of
a man, do what you please, so long as you preserve the delicacy and
purity of womanhood,--practise medicine or law, keep school, translate
books, keep boarders, go behind a counter; yea, keep a shop, set types,
keep accounts, give music and French lessons, sing in concerts and
churches,--do whatever you can do as well as men. You have that right;
nobody will molest you or slander you. If you must, or if you choose to,
labor so, God help you!

So, then, the whole question of woman's education is decided by physical
limitations, concerning which there is no dispute, and against which it
is vain to rebel; and we return to the more agreeable task of pointing
out the supreme necessity of developing in woman those qualities which
will make her a guide and a radiance and a benediction in that sphere to
which Nature and Providence and immemorial custom would appear to have
assigned her. Let her become great as a woman, not as a man. Let her
maintain her rights; but in doing so, let her not forget her duties. The
Bible says nothing at all about the former, and very much about the
latter. Let her remember that she is the complement of a man, and hence
that what is most feminine about her is most interesting to man and
useful to the world. God made man and woman of one flesh, yet unlike.
And who can point out any fundamental inferiority or superiority between
them? The only superiority lies in the superior way in which each
discharges peculiar trusts and responsibilities. It is in this light
alone that we see some husbands superior to their wives, and some wives
superior to their husbands. No sensible person would say that a girl is
superior to her brother because she has a greater aptness for
mathematics than he, but because she excels in the queen-like attributes
and virtues and duties peculiar to her own sex and belonging to her own
sphere,--that sphere so beautiful, that when she abdicates it, it is
like being expelled from Paradise; for, once lost, it can never be
regained. That education is best even for a great woman,--great in
intellect as in soul,--which best develops the lofty ideal of womanhood;
which best makes her a real woman, and not a poor imitation of man, and
gives to her the dignity and grace of a queen over her household, and
brings out that moral beauty by which she reigns over her husband's
heart, and inspires the reverence which children ought to feel. Do we
derogate from the greatness of women when we seek to kindle the
brightness of that moral beauty which outshines all the triumphs of mere
intellectual forces? Should women murmur because they cannot be superior
in everything, when it is conceded that they are superior in the best
thing? Nor let her clutch what she can neither retain nor enjoy. In the
primeval Paradise there was one tree the fruit of which our mother Eve
was forbidden to touch or to eat. There is a tree which grows in our
times, whose fruit, when eaten by some, produces unrest, discontent,
rebellion against God, unsatisfied desires, a revelation of unrealized
miseries, the mere contemplation of which is enough to drive to madness
and moral death. Yet of all the other trees of life's garden may woman
eat,--those trees that grow in the boundless field which modern
knowledge and enterprise have revealed to woman, and which, if she
confine herself thereto, will make her a blessing and a glory forever to
fallen and afflicted humanity.


Life of Hannah More, by H.C. Knight; Memoirs, by W. Roberts; Literary
Ladies of England, by H.K. Elwood; Literary Women, by J. Williams;
Writings of Hannah More; Letters to Zachary Macaulay; Edinburgh Review,
vol. xiv.; Christian Observer, vol. xxxv.; Gentleman's Magazine, vol.
xxv.; American Quarterly, vol. lii.; Fraser's Magazine, vol. x.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1819-1880.


Since the dawn of modern civilization, every age has been marked by some
new development of genius or energy. In the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries we notice Gothic architecture, the rise of universities, the
scholastic philosophy, and a general interest in metaphysical inquiries.
The fourteenth century witnessed chivalric heroism, courts of love,
tournaments, and amorous poetry. In the fifteenth century we see the
revival of classical literature and Grecian art. The sixteenth century
was a period of reform, theological discussions, and warfare with
Romanism. In the seventeenth century came contests for civil and
religious liberty, and discussions on the theological questions which
had agitated the Fathers of the Church. The eighteenth century was
marked by the speculations of philosophers and political economists,
ending in revolution. The nineteenth century has been distinguished for
scientific discoveries and inventions directed to practical and
utilitarian ends, and a wonderful development in the literature of
fiction. It is the age of novelists, as the fifteenth century was the
age of painters. Everybody now reads novels,--bishops, statesmen,
judges, scholars, as well as young men and women. The shelves of
libraries groan with the weight of novels of every description,--novels
sensational, novels sentimental, novels historical, novels
philosophical, novels social, and novels which discuss every subject
under the sun. Novelists aim to be teachers in ethics, philosophy,
politics, religion, and art; and they are rapidly supplanting lecturers
and clergymen as the guides of men, accepting no rivals but editors and

This extraordinary literary movement was started by Sir Walter Scott,
who made a revolution in novel-writing, introducing a new style, freeing
romances from bad taste, vulgarity, insipidity, and false sentiment. He
painted life and Nature without exaggerations, avoided interminable
scenes of love-making, and gave a picture of society in present and past
times so fresh, so vivid, so natural, so charming, and so true, and all
with such inimitable humor, that he still reigns without a peer in his
peculiar domain. He is as rich in humor as Fielding, without his
coarseness; as inventive as Swift, without his bitterness; as moral as
Richardson, without his tediousness. He did not aim to teach ethics or
political economy directly, although he did not disguise his opinions.
His chief end was to please and instruct at the same time, stimulating
the mind through the imagination rather than the reason; so healthful
that fastidious parents made an exception of his novels among all others
that had ever been written, and encouraged the young to read them. Sir
Walter Scott took off the ban which religious people had imposed on

Then came Dickens, amazingly popular, with his grotesque descriptions of
life, his exaggerations, his impossible characters and improbable
incidents: yet so genial in sympathies, so rich in humor, so indignant
at wrongs, so broad in his humanity, that everybody loved to read him,
although his learning was small and his culture superficial.

Greatly superior to him as an artist and a thinker was Thackeray, whose
fame has been steadily increasing,--the greatest master of satire in
English literature, and one of the truest painters of social life that
any age has produced; not so much admired by women as by men; accurate
in his delineation of character, though sometimes bitter and fierce;
felicitous in plot, teaching lessons in morality, unveiling shams and
hypocrisy, contemptuous of all fools and quacks, yet sad in his
reflections on human life.

In the brilliant constellation of which Dickens and Thackeray were the
greater lights was Bulwer Lytton,--versatile; subjective in genius;
sentimental, and yet not sensational; reflective, yet not always sound
in morals; learned in general literature, but a charlatan in scientific
knowledge; worldly in his spirit, but not a pagan; an inquisitive
student, seeking to penetrate the mysteries of Nature as well as to
paint characters and events in other times; and leaving a higher moral
impression when he was old than when he was young.

Among the lesser lights, yet real stars, that have blazed in this
generation are Reade, Kingsley, Black, James, Trollope, Cooper, Howells,
Wallace, and a multitude of others, in France and Germany as well as
England and America, to say nothing of the thousands who have aspired
and failed as artists, yet who have succeeded in securing readers and in
making money.

And what shall I say of the host of female novelists which this age has
produced,--women who have inundated the land with productions both good
and bad; mostly feeble, penetrating the cottages of the poor rather than
the palaces of the rich, and making the fortunes of magazines and
news-vendors, from Maine to California? But there are three women
novelists, writing in English, standing out in this group of mediocrity,
who have earned a just and wide fame,--Charlotte Bronté, Harriet
Beecher Stowe, and Marian Evans, who goes by the name of George Eliot.

It is the last of these remarkable women whom it is my object to
discuss, and who burst upon the literary world as a star whose light has
been constantly increasing since she first appeared. She takes rank with
Dickens, Thackeray, and Bulwer, and some place her higher even than Sir
Walter Scott. Her fame is prodigious, and it is a glory to her sex;
indeed, she is an intellectual phenomenon. No woman ever received such
universal fame as a genius except, perhaps, Madame de Staël; or as an
artist, if we except Madame Dudevant, who also bore a _nom de
plume_,--Georges Sand. She did not become immediately popular, but the
critics from the first perceived her remarkable gifts and predicted her
ultimate success. For vivid description of natural scenery and rural
English life, minute analysis of character, and psychological insight
she has never been surpassed by men; while for learning and profundity
she has never been equalled by women,--a deep, serious, sad writer,
without vanity or egotism or pretension; a great but not always sound
teacher, who, by common consent and prediction, will live and rank among
the classical authors in English literature.

Marian Evans was born in Warwickshire, about twenty miles from
Stratford-on-Avon,--the county of Shakspeare, one of the most fertile
and beautiful in England, whose parks and lawns and hedges and
picturesque cottages, with their gardens and flowers and thatched roofs,
present to the eye a perpetual charm. Her father, of Welsh descent, was
originally a carpenter, but became, by his sturdy honesty, ability, and
abiding sense of duty, land agent to Sir Roger Newdigate of Arbury Hall.
Mr. Evans's sterling character probably furnished the model for Adam
Bede and Caleb Garth.

Sprung from humble ranks, but from conscientious and religious parents,
who appreciated the advantage of education, Miss Evans was allowed to
make the best of her circumstances. We have few details of her early
life on which we can accurately rely. She was not an egotist, and did
not leave an autobiography like Trollope, or reminiscences like Carlyle;
but she has probably portrayed herself, in her early aspirations, as
Madame de Staël did, in the characters she has created. The less we know
about the personalities of very distinguished geniuses, the better it is
for their fame. Shakspeare might not seem so great to us if we knew his
peculiarities and infirmities as we know those of Voltaire, Rousseau,
and Carlyle; only such a downright honest and good man as Dr. Johnson
can stand the severe scrutiny of after times and "destructive

It would appear that Miss Evans was sent to a school in Nuneaton before
she was ten, and afterwards to a school in Coventry, kept by two
excellent Methodist ladies,--the Misses Franklin,--whose lives and
teachings enabled her to delineate Dinah Morris. As a school-girl we are
told that she had the manners and appearance of a woman. Her hair was
pale brown, worn in ringlets; her figure was slight, her head massive,
her mouth large, her jaw square, her complexion pale, her eyes
gray-blue, and her voice rich and musical. She lost her mother at
sixteen, when she most needed maternal counsels, and afterwards lived
alone with her father until 1841, when they removed to Foleshill, near
Coventry. She was educated in the doctrines of the Low or Evangelical
Church, which are those of Calvin,--although her Calvinism was early
modified by the Arminian views of Wesley. At twelve she taught a class
in a Sunday-school; at twenty she wrote poetry, as most bright girls do.
The head-master of the grammar school in Coventry taught her Greek and
Latin, while Signor Brizzi gave her lessons in Italian, French, and
German; she also played on the piano with great skill. Her learning and
accomplishments were so unusual, and gave such indication of talent,
that she was received as a friend in the house of Mr. Charles Bray, of
Coventry, a wealthy ribbon-merchant, where she saw many eminent literary
men of the progressive school, among whom were James Anthony Froude and
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

At what period the change in her religious views took place I have been
unable to ascertain,--probably between the ages of twenty-one and
twenty-five, by which time she had become a remarkably well-educated
woman, of great conversational powers, interesting because of her
intelligence, brightness, and sensibility, but not for her personal
beauty. In fact, she was not merely homely, she was even ugly; though
many admirers saw great beauty in her eyes and expression when her
countenance was lighted up. She was unobtrusive and modest, and retired
within herself.

At this period she translated from the German the "Life of Jesus," by
Strauss, Feuerbach's "Essence of Christianity," and one of Spinoza's
works. Why should a young woman have selected such books to translate?
How far the writings of rationalistic and atheistic philosophers
affected her own views we cannot tell; but at this time her progressive
and advanced opinions irritated and grieved her father, so that, as we
are told, he treated her with intolerant harshness. With all her
paganism, however, she retained the sense of duty, and was devoted in
her attentions to her father until he died, in 1849. She then travelled
on the Continent with the Brays, seeing most of the countries of Europe,
and studying their languages, manners, and institutions. She resided
longest in a boarding-house near Geneva, amid scenes renowned by the
labors of Gibbon, Voltaire, and Madame de Staël, in sight of the Alps,
absorbed in the theories of St. Simon and Proudhon,--a believer in the
necessary progress of the race as the result of evolution rather than of
revelation or revolution.

Miss Evans returned to England about the year 1857,--the year of the
Great Exhibition,--and soon after became sub-editor of the "Westminster
Review," at one time edited by John Stuart Mill, but then in charge of
John Chapman, the proprietor, at whose house, in the Strand, she
boarded. There she met a large circle of literary and scientific men of
the ultra-liberal, radical school, those who looked upon themselves as
the more advanced thinkers of the age, whose aim was to destroy belief
in supernaturalism and inspiration; among whom were John Stuart Mill,
Francis Newman, Herbert Spencer, James Anthony Froude, G.H. Lewes, John
A. Roebuck, and Harriet Martineau,--dreary theorists, mistrusted and
disliked equally by the old Whigs and Tories, high-churchmen, and
evangelical Dissenters; clever thinkers and learned doubters, but
arrogant, discontented, and defiant.

It was then that the friendly attachment between Miss Evans and Mr.
Lewes began, which ripened into love and ended in a scandal. Mr. Lewes
was as homely as Wilkes, and was three years older than Miss Evans,--a
very bright, witty, versatile, learned, and accomplished man; a
brilliant talker, novelist, playwright, biographer, actor, essayist, and
historian, whose "Life of Goethe" is still the acknowledged authority in
Germany itself, as Carlyle's "Frederic the Great" is also regarded. But
his fame has since been eclipsed by that of the woman he pretended to
call his wife, and with whom (his legal wife being still alive) he lived
in open defiance of the seventh Commandment and the social customs of
England for twenty years. This unfortunate connection, which saddened
the whole subsequent life of Miss Evans, and tinged all her writings
with the gall of her soul, excluded her from that high conventional
society which it has been the aim of most ambitious women to enter. But
this exclusion was not, perhaps, so great an annoyance to Miss Evans as
it would have been to Hannah More, since she was not fitted to shine in
general society, especially if frivolous, and preferred to talk with
authors, artists, actors, and musical geniuses, rather than with
prejudiced, pleasure-seeking, idle patricians, who had such attractions
for Addison, Pope, Mackintosh, and other lights of literature, who
unconsciously encouraged that idolatry of rank and wealth which is one
of the most uninteresting traits of the English nation. Nor would those
fashionable people, whom the world calls "great," have seen much to
attract them in a homely and unconventional woman whose views were
discrepant with the established social and religious institutions of the
land. A class that would not tolerate such a genius as Carlyle, would
not have admired Marian Evans, even if the stern etiquette of English
life had not excluded her from envied and coveted _réunions_; and she
herself, doubtless, preferred to them the brilliant society which
assembled in Mr. Chapman's parlors to discuss those philosophical and
political theories of which Comte was regarded as the high-priest, and
his positivism the essence of all progressive wisdom.

How far the gloomy materialism and superficial rationalism of Lewes may
have affected the opinions of Miss Evans we cannot tell. He was her
teacher and constant companion, and she passed as his wife; so it is
probable that he strengthened in her mind that dreary pessimism which
appeared in her later writings. Certain it is that she paid the penalty
of violating a fundamental moral law, in the neglect of those women
whose society she could have adorned, and possibly in the silent
reproaches of conscience, which she portrayed so vividly in the
characters of those heroines who struggled ineffectually in the conflict
between duty and passion. True, she accepted the penalty without
complaint, and labored to the end of her days, with masculine strength,
to enforce a life of duty and self-renunciation on her readers,--to live
at least for the good of humanity. Nor did she court notoriety, like
Georges Sand, who was as indifferent to reproach as she was to shame.
Miss Evans led a quiet, studious, unobtrusive life with the man she
loved, sympathetic in her intercourse with congenial friends, and
devoted to domestic duties. And Mr. Lewes himself relieved her from many
irksome details, that she might be free to prosecute her intense
literary labors.

In this lecture on George Eliot I gladly would have omitted all allusion
to a mistake which impairs our respect for this great woman. But defects
cannot be unnoticed in an honest delineation of character; and no candid
biographers, from those who described the lives of Abraham and David, to
those who have portrayed the characters of Queen Elizabeth and Oliver
Cromwell, have sought to conceal the moral defects of their subjects.

Aside from the translations already mentioned, the first literary
efforts of Miss Evans were her articles in the "Westminster Review," a
heavy quarterly, established to advocate philosophical radicalism. In
this Review appeared from her pen the article on Carlyle's "Life of
Sterling," "Madame de la Sablière," "Evangelical Teachings," "Heine,"
"Silly Novels by Lady Novelists," "The Natural History of German Life,"
"Worldliness and Unworldliness,"--all powerfully written, but with a
vein of bitter sarcasm in reference to the teachers of those doctrines
which she fancied she had outgrown. Her connection with the "Review"
closed in 1853, when she left Mr. Chapman's home and retired to a small
house in Cambridge Terrace, Hyde Park, on a modest but independent
income. In 1854 she revisited the Continent with Mr. Lewes, spending her
time chiefly in Germany.

It was in 1857 that the first tales of Miss Evans were published in
"Blackwood's Magazine," when she was thirty-eight, in the full maturity
of her mind.

"The Sad Fortunes of Amos Barton" was the first of the series called
"Scenes of Clerical Life" which appeared. Mr. Blackwood saw at once the
great merit of the work, and although it was not calculated to arrest
the attention of ordinary readers he published it, confident of its
ultimate success. He did not know whether it was written by a man or by
a woman; he only knew that he received it from the hand of Mr. Lewes, an
author already well known as learned and brilliant. It is fortunate for
a person in the conventional world of letters, as of society, to be well

This story, though gloomy in its tone, is fresh, unique, and
interesting, and the style good, clear, vivid, strong. It opens with a
beautiful description of an old-fashioned country church, with its high
and square pews, in which the devout worshippers could not be seen by
one another, nor even by the parson. This functionary went to church in
top-boots, and, after his short sermon of platitudes, dined with the
squire, and spent the remaining days of the week in hunting or fishing,
and his evenings in playing cards, quietly drinking his ale, and smoking
his pipe. But the hero of the story--Amos Barton--is a different sort of
man from his worldly and easy rector. He is a churchman, and yet
intensely evangelical and devoted to his humble duties,--on a salary of
£80, with a large family and a sick wife. He is narrow, but truly
religious and disinterested. The scene of the story is laid in a retired
country village in the Midland Counties, at a time when the Evangelical
movement was in full force in England, in the early part of last
century, contemporaneous with the religious revivals of New England;
when the bucolic villagers had little to talk about or interest them,
before railways had changed the face of the country, or the people had
been aroused to political discussions and reforms. The sorrows of the
worthy clergyman centered in an indiscreet and in part unwilling
hospitality which he gave to an artful, needy, pretentious, selfish
woman, but beautiful and full of soft flatteries; which hospitality
provoked scandal, and caused the poor man to be driven away to another
parish. The tragic element of the story, however, centres in Mrs.
Barton, who is an angel, radiant with moral beauty, affectionate,
devoted, and uncomplaining, who dies at last from overwork and
privations, and the cares of a large family of children.

There is no plot in this story, but its charm and power consist in a
vivid description of common life, minute but not exaggerated, which
enlists our sympathy with suffering and misfortune, deeply excites our
interest in commonplace people living out their weary and monotonous
existence. This was a new departure in fiction,--a novel without
love-scenes or happy marriages or thrilling adventures or impossible
catastrophes. But there is great pathos in this homely tale of sorrow;
with no attempts at philosophizing, no digressions, no wearisome
chapters that one wishes to skip, but all spontaneous, natural, free,
showing reserved power,--the precious buds of promise destined to bloom
in subsequent works, till the world should be filled with the aroma of
its author's genius. And there is also great humor in this clerical
tale, of which the following is a specimen:--

"'Eh, dear,' said Mrs. Patten, falling back in her chair and lifting up
her withered hands, 'what would Mr. Gilfil say if he was worthy to know
the changes as have come about in the church in these ten years? I don't
understand these new sort of doctrines. When Mr. Barton comes to see me
he talks about my sins and my need of marcy. Now, Mr. Hackett, I've
never been a sinner. From the first beginning, when I went into service,
I've al'ys did my duty to my employers. I was as good a wife as any in
the country, never aggravating my husband. The cheese-factor used to say
that my cheeses was al'ys to be depended upon.'"

To describe clerical life was doubtless the aim which Miss Evans had in
view in this and the two other tales which soon followed. In these, as
indeed in all her novels, the clergy largely figure. She seems to be
profoundly acquainted with the theological views of the different sects,
as well as with the social habits of the different ministers. So far as
we can detect her preference, it is for the Broad Church, or the
"high-and-dry" clergy of the Church of England, especially those who
were half squires and half parsons in districts where conservative
opinions prevailed; for though she was a philosophical radical, she was
reverential in her turn of mind, and clung to poetical and consecrated
sentiments, always laying more stress on woman's _duties_ than on
her _rights_.

The second of the Clerical series--"Mr. Gilfil's Love Story"--is not so
well told, nor is it so interesting as the first, besides being more
after the fashion of ordinary stories. We miss in it the humor of good
Mrs. Patten; nor are we drawn to the gin-and-water-drinking parson,
although the description of his early unfortunate love is done with a
powerful hand. The story throughout is sad and painful.

The last of the series, "Janet's Repentance," is, I think, the best. The
hero is again a clergyman, an evangelical, whose life is one long
succession of protracted martyrdoms,--an expiation to atone for the
desertion of a girl whom he had loved and ruined while in college. Here
we see, for the first time in George Eliot's writings, that inexorable
fate which pursues wrong-doing, and which so prominently stands out in
all her novels. The singular thing is that she--at this time an advanced
liberal--should have made the sinning young man, in the depth of his
remorse, to find relief in that view of Christianity which is expounded
by the Calvinists. But here she is faithful and true to the teaching of
those by whom she was educated; and it is remarkable that her art
enables her apparently to enter into the spiritual experiences of an
evangelical curate with which she had no sympathy. She does not mock or
deride, but seems to respect the religion which she had herself

And the same truths which consoled the hard-working, self-denying curate
are also made to redeem Janet herself, and secure for her a true
repentance. This heroine of the story is the wife of a drunken, brutal
village doctor, who dies of delirium tremens; she also is the slave of
the same degrading habit which destroys her husband, but, unlike him, is
a victim of remorse and shame. In her despair she seeks advice and
consolation from the minister whom she had ridiculed and despised; and
through him she is led to seek that divine aid which alone enables a
confirmed drunkard to conquer what by mere force of will is an
unconquerable habit. And here George Eliot--for that is the name she now
goes by--is in accord with the profound experience of many.

The whole tale, though short, is a triumph of art and abounds with acute
observations of human nature. It is a perfect picture of village life,
with its gossip, its jealousies, its enmities, and its religious
quarrels, showing on the part of the author an extraordinary knowledge
of theological controversies and the religious movements of the early
part of the nineteenth century. So vivid is her description of rural
life, that the tale is really an historical painting, like the Dutch
pictures of the seventeenth century, to be valued as an accurate
delineation rather than a mere imaginary scene. Madonnas, saints, and
such like pictures which fill the churches of Italy and Spain, works of
the old masters, are now chiefly prized for their grace of form and
richness of coloring,--exhibitions of ideal beauty, charming as
creations, but not such as we see in real life; George Eliot's novels,
on the contrary, are not works of imagination, like the frescos in the
Sistine Chapel, but copies of real life, like those of Wilkie and
Teniers, which we value for their fidelity to Nature. And in regard to
the passion of love, she does not portray it, as in the old-fashioned
novels, leading to fortunate marriages with squires and baronets; but
she generally dissects it, unravels it, and attempts to penetrate its
mysteries,--a work decidedly more psychological than romantic or
sentimental, and hence more interesting to scholars and thinkers than to
ordinary readers, who delight in thrilling adventures and exciting

The "Scenes of Clerical Life" were followed the next year by "Adam
Bede," which created a great impression on the cultivated mind of
England and America. It did not create what is called a "sensation." I
doubt if it was even popular with the generality of readers, nor was the
sale rapid at first; but the critics saw that a new star of
extraordinary brilliancy had arisen in the literary horizon. The unknown
author entered, as she did in "Janet's Repentance," an entirely new
field, with wonderful insight into the common life of uninteresting
people, with a peculiar humor, great power of description, rare felicity
of dialogue, and a deep undertone of serious and earnest reflection. And
yet I confess, that when I first read "Adam Bede," twenty-five years
ago, I was not much interested, and I wondered why others were. It was
not dramatic enough to excite me. Many parts of it were tedious. It
seemed to me to be too much spun out, and its minuteness of detail
wearied me. There was no great plot and no grand characters; nothing
heroic, no rapidity of movement; nothing to keep me from laying the book
down when the dinner-bell rang, or when the time came to go to bed. I
did not then see the great artistic excellence of the book, and I did
not care for a description of obscure people in the Midland Counties of
England,--which, by the way, suggests a reason why "Adam Bede" cannot be
appreciated by Americans as it is by the English people themselves, who
every day see the characters described, and hear their dialect, and know
their sorrows, and sympathize with their privations and labors. But
after a closer and more critical study of the novel I have come to see
merits that before escaped my eye. It is a study, a picture of humble
English life, painted by the hand of a master, to be enjoyed most by
people of critical discernment, and to be valued for its rare fidelity
to Nature. It is of more true historical interest than many novels which
are called historical,--even as the paintings of Rembrandt are more
truly historical than those of Horace Vernet, since the former painted
life as it really was in his day. Imaginative pictures are not those
which are most prized by modern artists, or those pictures which make
every woman look like an angel and every man like a hero,--like those of
Gainsborough or Reynolds,--however flattering they may be to those who
pay for them.

I need not dwell on characters so well known as those painted in "Adam
Bede." The hero is a painstaking, faithful journeyman carpenter,
desirous of doing good work. Scotland and England abound in such men,
and so did New England fifty years ago. This honest mechanic falls in
love with a pretty but vain, empty, silly, selfish girl of his own
class; but she had already fallen under the spell of the young squire of
the village,--a good-natured fellow, of generous impulses, but
essentially selfish and thoughtless, and utterly unable to cope with his
duty. The carpenter, when he finds it out, gives vent to his wrath and
jealousy, as is natural, and picks a quarrel with the squire and knocks
him down,--an act of violence on the part of the inferior in rank not
very common in England. The squire abandons his victim after ruining her
character,--not an uncommon thing among young aristocrats,--and the girl
strangely accepts the renewed attentions of her first lover, until the
logic of events compels her to run away from home and become a vagrant.
The tragic and interesting part of the novel is a vivid painting of the
terrible sufferings of the ruined girl in her desolate wanderings, and
of her trial for abandoning her infant child to death,--the inexorable
law of fate driving the sinner into the realms of darkness and shame.
The story closes with the prosaic marriage of Adam Bede to Dinah
Morris,--a Methodist preacher, who falls in love with him instead of his
more pious brother Seth, who adores her. But the love of Adam and Dinah
for one another is more spiritualized than is common,--is very
beautiful, indeed, showing how love's divine elements can animate the
human soul in all conditions of life. In the fervid spiritualism of
Dinah's love for Adam we are reminded of a Saint Theresa seeking to be
united with her divine spouse. Dinah is a religious rhapsodist, seeking
wisdom and guidance in prayer; and the divine will is in accordance with
her desires. "My soul," said she to Adam, "is so knit to yours that it
is but a divided life if I live without you."

The most amusing and finely-drawn character in this novel is a secondary
one,--Mrs. Poyser,--but painted with a vividness which Scott never
excelled, and with a wealth of humor which Fielding never equalled. It
is the wit and humor which George Eliot has presented in this inimitable
character which make the book so attractive to the English, who enjoy
these more than the Americans,--the latter delighting rather in what is
grotesque and extravagant, like the elaborate absurdities of "Mark
Twain." But this humor is more than that of a shrewd and thrifty
English farmer's wife; it belongs to human nature. We have seen such
voluble sharp, sagacious, ironical, and worldly women among the
farm-houses of New England, and heard them use language, when excited or
indignant, equally idiomatic, though not particularly choice. Strike out
the humor of this novel and the interest we are made to feel in
commonplace people, and the story would not be a remarkable one.

"Adam Bede" was followed in a year by "The Mill on the Floss," the scene
of which is also laid in a country village, where are some well-to-do
people, mostly vulgar and uninteresting. This novel is to me more
powerful than the one which preceded it,--having more faults, perhaps,
but presenting more striking characters. As usual with George Eliot, her
plot in this story is poor, involving improbable incidents and
catastrophes. She is always unfortunate in her attempts to extricate her
heroes and heroines from entangling difficulties. Invention is not her
forte; she is weak when she departs from realistic figures. She is
strongest in what she has seen, not in what she imagines; and here she
is the opposite of Dickens, who paints from imagination. There was never
such a man as Pickwick or Barnaby Rudge. Sir Walter Scott created
characters,--like Jeannie Deans,--but they are as true to life as Sir
John Falstaff.

Maggie Tulliver is the heroine of this story, in whose intellectual
developments George Eliot painted herself, as Madame De Staël describes
her own restless soul-agitations in "Delphine" and "Corinne." Nothing in
fiction is more natural and life-like than the school-days of Maggie,
when she goes fishing with her tyrannical brother, and when the two
children quarrel and make up,--she, affectionate and yielding; he,
fitful and overbearing. Many girls are tyrannized over by their
brothers, who are often exacting, claiming the guardianship which
belongs only to parents. But Maggie yields to her obstinate brother as
well as to her unreasonable and vindictive father, governed by a sense
of duty, until, with her rapid intellectual development and lofty
aspiration, she breaks loose in a measure from their withering
influence, though not from technical obligations. She almost loves
Philip Wakem, the son of the lawyer who ruined her father; yet out of
regard to family ties she refuses, while she does not yet repel, his
love. But her real passion is for Stephen Gurst, who was betrothed to
her cousin, and who returned Maggie's love with intense fervor.

     "Why did he love her? Curious fools, be still!
     Is human love the fruit of human will?"

She knows she ought not to love this man, yet she combats her
passion with poor success, allows herself to be compromised in her
relations with him, and is only rescued by a supreme effort of
self-renunciation,--a principle which runs through all George Eliot's
novels, in which we see the doctrines of Buddha rather than those of
Paul, although at times they seem to run into each other. Maggie erred
in not closing the gate of her heart inexorably, and in not resisting
the sway of a purely "physiological law." The vivid description of this
sort of love, with its "strange agitations" and agonizing ecstasies,
would have been denounced as immoral fifty years ago. The _dénouement_
is an improbable catastrophe on a tidal river, in the rising floods of
which Maggie and her brother are drowned,--a favorite way with the
author in disposing of her heroes and heroines when she can no longer
manage them.

The secondary characters of this novel are numerous, varied,
and natural, and described with great felicity and humor. None
of them are interesting people; in fact, most of them are very
uninteresting,--vulgar, money-loving, material, purse-proud, selfish,
such as are seen among those to whom money and worldly prosperity are
everything, with no perception of what is lofty and disinterested, and
on whom grand sentiments are lost,--yet kind-hearted in the main, and in
the case of the Dobsons redeemed by a sort of family pride. The moral of
the story is the usual one with George Eliot,--the conflict of duty with
passion, and the inexorable fate which pursues the sinner. She brings
out the power of conscience as forcibly as Hawthorne has done in his
"Scarlet Letter."

The "Mill on the Floss" was soon followed by "Silas Marner," regarded by
some as the gem of George Eliot's novels, and which certainly--though
pathetic and sad, as all her novels are--does not leave on the mind so
mournful an impression, since in its outcome we see redemption. The
principal character--the poor, neglected, forlorn weaver--emerges at
length from the Everlasting Nay into the Everlasting Yea; and he emerges
by the power of love,--love for a little child whom he has rescued from
the snow, the storm, and death. Driven by injustice to a solitary life,
to abject penury, to despair, the solitary miser, gloating over his gold
pieces,--which he has saved by the hardest privation, and in which he
trusts,--finds himself robbed, without redress or sympathy; but in the
end he is consoled for his loss in the love he bestows on a helpless
orphan, who returns it with the most noble disinterestedness, and lives
to be his solace and his pride. Nothing more touching has ever been
written by man or woman than this short story, as full of pathos as
"Adam Bede" is full of humor.

What is remarkable in this story is that the plot is exactly similar to
that of "Jermola the Potter," the masterpiece of a famous Polish
novelist,--a marvellous coincidence, or plagiarism, difficult to be
explained. But Shakspeare, the most original of men, borrowed some of
his plots from Italian writers; and Mirabeau appropriated the knowledge
of men more learned than he, which by felicity of genius he made his
own; and Webster, too, did the same thing. There is nothing new under
the sun, except in the way of "putting things."

After the publication of the various novels pertaining to the rural and
humble life of England, with which George Eliot was so well acquainted,
into which she entered with so much sympathy, and which she so
marvellously portrayed, she took a new departure, entering a field with
which she was not so well acquainted, and of which she could only learn
through books. The result was "Romola," the most ambitious, and in some
respects the most remarkable, of all her works. It certainly is the most
learned and elaborate. It is a philosophico-historical novel, the scene
of which is laid in Florence at the time of Savonarola,--the period
called the Renaissance, when art and literature were revived with great
enthusiasm; a very interesting period, the glorious morning, as it were,
of modern civilization.

This novel, the result of reading and reflection, necessarily called
into exercise other faculties besides accurate observation,--even
imagination and invention, for which she is not pre-eminently
distinguished. In this novel, though interesting and instructive, we
miss the humor and simplicity of the earlier works. It is overloaded
with learning. Not one intelligent reader in a hundred has ever heard
even the names of many of the eminent men to whom she alludes. It is
full of digressions, and of reflections on scientific theories. Many of
the chapters are dry and pedantic. It is too philosophical to be
popular, too learned to be appreciated. As in some of her other stories,
highly improbable events take place. The plot is not felicitous, and the
ending is unsatisfactory. The Italian critics of the book are not, on
the whole, complimentary. George Eliot essayed to do, with prodigious
labor, what she had no special aptitude for. Carlyle in ten sentences
would have made a more graphic picture of Savonarola. None of her
historical characters stand out with the vividness with which Scott
represented Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots, or with which even
Bulwer painted Rienzi and the last of the Barons.

Critics do not admire historical novels, because they are neither
history nor fiction. They mislead readers on important issues, and they
are not so interesting as the masterpieces of Macaulay and Froude. Yet
they have their uses. They give a superficial knowledge of great
characters to those who will not read history. The field of history is
too vast for ordinary people, who have no time for extensive reading
even if they have the inclination.

The great historical personage whom George Eliot paints in "Romola" is
Savonarola,--and I think faithfully, on the whole. In the main she
coincides with Villani, the greatest authority. In some respects I
should take issue with her. She makes the religion of the Florentine
reformer to harmonize with her notions of self-renunciation. She makes
him preach the "religion of humanity," which was certainly not taught in
his day. He preached duty, indeed, and appealed to conscience; but he
preached duty to God rather than to man. The majesty of a personal God,
fearful in judgment and as represented by the old Jewish prophets, was
the great idea of Savonarola's theology. His formula was something like
this: "Punishment for sin is a divine judgment, not the effect of
inexorable laws. Repentance is a necessity. Unless men repent of their
sins, God will punish them. Unless Italy repents, it will be desolated
by His vengeance." Catholic theology, which he never departed from, has
ever recognized the supreme allegiance of man to his Maker, because _He_
demands it. Even among the Jesuits, with their corrupted theology, the
motto emblazoned on their standard was, _Ad majorem dei gloriam_. But
the great Dominican preacher is made by George Eliot to be "the
spokesman of humanity made divine, not of Deity made human." "Make your
marriage vows," said he to Romola, "an offering to the great work by
which sin and sorrow are made to cease."

But Savonarola is only a secondary character in the novel. He might as
well have been left out altogether. The real hero and heroine are Romola
and Tito; and they are identified with the life of the period, which is
the Renaissance,--a movement more Pagan than Christian. These two
characters may be called creations. Romola is an Italian woman, supposed
to represent a learned and noble lady four hundred years ago. She has
lofty purposes and aspirations; she is imbued with the philosophy of
self-renunciation; her life is devoted to others,--first to her father,
and then to humanity. But she is as cold as marble; she is the very
reverse of Corinne. Even her love for Tito is made to vanish away on the
first detection of his insincerity, although he is her husband. She
becomes as hard and implacable as fate; and when she ceases to love her
husband, she hates him and leaves him, and is only brought back by a
sense of duty. Yet her hatred is incurable; and in her wretched
disappointment she finds consolation only in a sort of stoicism. How far
George Eliot's notions of immortality are brought out in the spiritual
experiences of Romola I do not know; but the immortality of Romola is
not that which is brought to light by the gospel: it is a vague and
indefinite sentiment kindred to that of Indian sages,--that we live
hereafter only in our teachings or deeds; that we are absorbed in the
universal whole; that our immortality is the living in the hearts and
minds of men, not personally hereafter among the redeemed To quote her
own fine thought,--

     "Oh, may I join the choir invisible
     In pulses stirred to generosity,
     In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn
     For miserable aims that end in self,
     In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,
     And, with their mild persistence, urge man's search
     To vaster issues!"

Tito is a more natural character, good-natured, kind-hearted, with
generous impulses. He is interesting in spite of his faults; he is
accomplished, versatile, and brilliant. But he is inherently selfish,
and has no moral courage. He gradually, in his egotism, becomes utterly
false and treacherous, though not an ordinary villain. He is the
creature of circumstances. His weakness leads to falsehood, and
falsehood ends in crime; which crime pursues him with unrelenting
vengeance,--not the agonies of remorse, for he has no conscience, but
the vindictive and persevering hatred of his foster father, whom he
robbed. The vengeance of Baldassare is almost preternatural; it
surpasses the wrath of Achilles and the malignity of Shylock. It is the
wrath of a demon, from which there is no escape; it would be tragical if
the subject of it were greater. Though Tito perishes in an improbable
way, he is yet the victim of the inexorable law of human souls.

But if "Romola" has faults, it has remarkable excellences. In this book
George Eliot aspires to be a teacher of ethics and philosophy. She is
not humorous, but intensely serious and thoughtful. She sometimes
discourses like Epictetus:--

"And so, my Lillo," says she at the conclusion, "if you mean to act
nobly, and seek to know the best things God has put within reach of man,
you must learn to fix your mind on that end, and not on what will happen
to you because of it. And remember, if you were to choose something
lower, and make it the rule of your life to seek your own pleasure and
escape what is disagreeable, calamity might come just the same; and it
would be a calamity falling on a base mind,--which is the one form of
sorrow that has no balm in it, and that may well make a man say, 'It
would have been better for me if I had never been born.'"

Three years elapsed between the publication of "Romola" and that of
"Felix Holt," which shows to what a strain the mind of George Eliot had
been subjected in elaborating an historical novel. She now returns to
her own peculiar field, in which her great successes had been made, and
with which she was familiar; and yet even in her own field we miss now
the genial humanity and inimitable humor of her earlier novels. In
"Felix Holt" she deals with social and political problems in regard to
which there is great difference of opinion; for the difficult questions
of political economy have not yet been solved. Felix Holt is a political
economist, but not a vulgar radical filled with discontent and envy. He
is a mechanic, tolerably educated, and able to converse with
intelligence on the projected reforms of the day, in cultivated
language. He is high-minded and conscientious, but unpractical, and gets
himself into difficulties, escaping penal servitude almost by miracle,
for the crime of homicide. The heroine, Esther Lyon, is supposed to be
the daughter of a Dissenting minister, who talks theology after the
fashion of the divines of the seventeenth century; unknown to herself,
however, she is really the daughter of the heir of large estates, and
ultimately becomes acknowledged as such, but gives up wealth and social
position to marry Felix Holt, who had made a vow of perpetual poverty.
Such a self-renunciation is not common in England. Even a Paula would
hardly have accepted such a lot; only one inspired with the philosophy
of Marcus Aurelius would be capable of such a willing sacrifice,--very
noble, but very improbable.

The most powerful part of the story is the description of the remorse
which so often accompanies an illicit love, as painted in the proud,
stately, stern, unbending, aristocratic Mrs. Transome. "Though youth has
faded, and joy is dead, and love has turned to loathing, yet memory,
like a relentless fury, pursues the gray-haired woman who hides within
her breast a heavy load of shame and dread." Illicit love is a common
subject with George Eliot; and it is always represented as a mistake or
crime, followed by a terrible retribution, sooner or later,--if not
outwardly, at least inwardly, in the sorrows of a wounded and
heavy-laden soul.

No one of George Eliot's novels opens more beautifully than "Felix
Holt," though there is the usual disappointment of readers with the
close. And probably no description of a rural district in the Midland
Counties fifty years ago has ever been painted which equals in graphic
power the opening chapter. The old coach turnpike, the roadside inns
brilliant with polished tankards, the pretty bar-maids, the repartees of
jocose hostlers, the mail-coach announced by the many blasts of the
bugle, the green willows of the water-courses, the patient cart-horses,
the full-uddered cows, the rich pastures, the picturesque milkmaids, the
shepherd with his slouching walk, the laborer with his bread and bacon,
the tidy kitchen-garden, the golden corn-ricks, the bushy hedgerows
bright with the blossoms of the wild convolvulus, the comfortable
parsonage, the old parish church with its ivy-mantled towers, the
thatched cottage with double daisies and geraniums in the
window-seats,--these and other details bring before our minds a rural
glory which has passed away before the power of steam, and may never
again return.

"Felix Holt" was published in 1866, and it was five years before
"Middlemarch" appeared,--a very long novel, thought by some to be the
best which George Eliot has written; read fifteen times, it is said, by
the Prince of Wales. In this novel the author seems to have been
ambitious to sustain her fame. She did not, like Trollope, dash off
three novels a year, and all alike. She did not write mechanically, as a
person grinds at a mill. Nor was she greedy of money, to be spent in
running races with the rich. She was a conscientious writer from first
to last. Yet "Middlemarch," with all the labor spent upon it, has more
faults than any of her preceding novels. It is as long as "The History
of Sir Charles Grandison;" it has a miserable plot; it has many tedious
chapters, and too many figures, and too much theorizing on social
science. Rather than a story, it is a panorama of the doctors and
clergymen and lawyers and business people who live in a provincial town,
with their various prejudices and passions and avocations. It is not a
cheerful picture of human life. We are brought to see an unusual number
of misers, harpies, quacks, cheats, and hypocrites. There are but few
interesting characters in it: Dorothea is the most so,--a very noble
woman, but romantic, and making great mistakes. She desires to make
herself useful to somebody, and marries a narrow, jealous, aristocratic
pedant, who had spent his life in elaborate studies on a dry and
worthless subject. Of course, she awakes from her delusion when she
discovers what a small man, with great pretensions, her learned husband
is; but she remains in her dreariness of soul a generous, virtuous, and
dutiful woman. She does not desert her husband because she does not love
him, or because he is uncongenial, but continues faithful to the end.
Like Maggie Tulliver and Romola, she has lofty aspirations, but marries,
after her husband's death, a versatile, brilliant, shallow Bohemian, as
ill-fitted for her serious nature as the dreary Casaubon himself.

Nor are we brought in sympathy with Lydgate, the fashionable doctor with
grand aims, since he allows his whole scientific aspirations to be
defeated by a selfish and extravagant wife. Rosamond Vincy is, however,
one of the best drawn characters in fiction, such as we often
see,--pretty, accomplished, clever, but incapable of making a sacrifice,
secretly thwarting her husband, full of wretched complaints, utterly
insincere, attractive perhaps to men, but despised by women. Caleb Garth
is a second Adam Bede; and Mrs. Cadwallader, the aristocratic wife of
the rector, is a second Mrs. Poyser in the glibness of her tongue and
in the thriftiness of her ways. Mr. Bullstrode, the rich banker, is a
character we unfortunately sometimes find in a large country town,--a
man of varied charities, a pillar of the Church, but as full of cant as
an egg is of meat; in fact, a hypocrite and a villain, ultimately
exposed and punished.

The general impression left on the mind from reading "Middlemarch" is
sad and discouraging. In it is brought out the blended stoicism,
humanitarianism, Buddhism, and agnosticism of the author. She paints the
"struggle of noble natures, struggling vainly against the currents of a
poor kind of world, without trust in an invisible Rock higher than
themselves to which they could entreat to be lifted up."

In another five years George Eliot produced "Daniel Deronda," the last
and most unsatisfactory of her great novels, written in feeble health
and with exhausted nervous energies, as she was passing through the
shadows of the evening of her life. In this work she doubtless essayed
to do her best; but she could not always surpass herself, any more than
could Scott or Dickens. Nor is she to be judged by those productions
which reveal her failing strength, but by those which were written in
the fresh enthusiasm of a lofty soul. No one thinks the less of Milton
because the "Paradise Regained" is not equal to the "Paradise Lost."
Many are the immortal poets who are now known only for two or three of
their minor poems. It takes a Michael Angelo to paint his grandest
frescos after reaching eighty years of age; or a Gladstone, to make his
best speeches when past the age of seventy. Only people with a wonderful
physique and unwasted mental forces can go on from conquering to
conquer,--people, moreover, who have reserved their strength, and lived
temperate and active lives.

Although "Daniel Deronda" is occasionally brilliant, and laboriously
elaborated, still it is regarded generally by the critics as a failure.
The long digression on the Jews is not artistic; and the subject itself
is uninteresting, especially to the English, who have inveterate
prejudices against the chosen people. The Hebrews, as they choose to
call themselves, are doubtless a remarkable people, and have
marvellously preserved their traditions and their customs. Some among
them have arisen to the foremost rank in scholarship, statesmanship, and
finance. They have entered, at different times, most of the cabinets of
Europe, and have held important chairs in its greatest universities. But
it was a Utopian dream that sent Daniel Deronda to the Orient to collect
together the scattered members of his race. Nor are enthusiasts and
proselytes often found among the Jews. We see talent, but not visionary
dreamers. To the English they appear as peculiarly practical,--bent on
making money, sensual in their pleasures, and only distinguished from
the people around them by an extravagant love of jewelry and a proud and
cynical rationalism. Yet in justice it must be confessed, that some of
the most interesting people in the world are Jews.

In "Daniel Deronda" the cheerless philosophy of George Eliot is fully
brought out. Mordecai, in his obscure and humble life, is a good
representative of a patient sufferer, but "in his views and aspirations
is a sort of Jewish Mazzini." The hero of the story is Mordecai's
disciple, who has discovered his Hebrew origin, of which he is as proud
as his aristocratic mother is ashamed The heroine is a spoiled woman of
fashion, who makes the usual mistake of most of George Eliot's heroines,
in violating conscience and duty. She marries a man whom she knows to be
inherently depraved and selfish; marries him for his money, and pays the
usual penalty,--a life of silent wretchedness and secret sorrow and
unavailing regret. But she is at last fortunately delivered by the
accidental death of her detested husband,--by drowning, of course.
Remorse in seeing her murderous wishes accomplished--though not by her
own hand, but by pursuing fate--awakens a new life in her soul, and she
is redeemed amid the throes of anguish and conscious guilt.

"Theophrastus Such," the last work of George Eliot, is not a novel, but
a series of character sketches, full of unusual bitterness and withering
sarcasm. Thackeray never wrote anything so severe. It is one of the most
cynical books ever written by man or woman. There is as much difference
in tone and spirit between it and "Adam Bede," as between "Proverbs" and
"Ecclesiastes;" as between "Sartor Resartus" and the "Latter-Day
Pamphlets." And this difference is not more marked than the difference
in style and language between this and her earlier novels. Critics have
been unanimous in their admiration of the author's style in "Silas
Marner" and "The Mill on the Floss,"--so clear, direct, simple, natural;
as faultless as Swift, Addison, and Goldsmith, those great masters of
English prose, whose fame rests as much on their style as on their
thoughts. In "Theophrastus Such," on the contrary, as in some parts of
"Daniel Deronda," the sentences are long, involved, and often almost

In presenting the works of George Eliot, I have confined myself to her
prose productions, since she is chiefly known by her novels. But she
wrote poetry also, and some critics have seen considerable merit in it.
Yet whatever merit it may have I must pass without notice. I turn from
the criticism of her novels, as they successively appeared, to allude
briefly to her closing days. Her health began to fail when she was
writing "Middlemarch," doubtless from her intense and continual studies,
which were a severe strain on her nervous system. It would seem that she
led a secluded life, rarely paying visits, but receiving at her house
distinguished literary and scientific men. She was fond of travelling on
the Continent, and of making short visits to the country. In
conversation she is said to have been witty, tolerant, and sympathetic.
Poetry, music, and art absorbed much of her attention. She read very
little contemporaneous fiction, and seldom any criticisms on her own
productions. For an unbeliever in historical Christianity, she had great
reverence for all earnest Christian peculiarities, from Roman Catholic
asceticism to Methodist fervor. In her own belief she came nearest to
the positivism of Comte, although he was not so great an oracle to her
as he was to Mr. Lewes, with whom twenty years were passed by her in
congenial studies and labors. They were generally seen together at the
opening night of a new play or the _début_ of a famous singer or actor,
and sometimes, within a limited circle, they attended a social or
literary reunion.

In 1878 George Eliot lost the companion of her literary life. And yet
two years afterward--at the age of fifty-nine--she surprised her friends
by marrying John Walter Cross, a man much younger than herself. No one
can fathom that mystery. But Mrs. Cross did not long enjoy the
felicities of married life. In six months from her marriage, after a
pleasant trip to the Continent, she took cold in attending a Sunday
concert in London; and on the 22d of December, 1880, she passed away
from earth to join her "choir invisible," whose thoughts have enriched
the world.

It is not extravagant to say that George Eliot left no living competitor
equal to herself in the realm of fiction. I do not myself regard her as
great a novelist as Scott or Thackeray; but critics generally place her
second only to those great masters in this department of literature. How
long her fame will last, who can tell? Admirers and rhetoricians say,
"as long as the language in which her books are written." She doubtless
will live as long as any English novelist; but do those who amuse live
like those who save? Will the witty sayings of Dickens be cherished like
the almost inspired truths of Plato, of Bacon, of Burke? Nor is
popularity a sure test of posthumous renown.

The question for us to settle is, not whether George Eliot as a writer
is immortal, but whether she has rendered services that her country and
mankind will value. She has undoubtedly added to the richness of English
literature. She has deeply interested and instructed her generation.
Thousands, and hundreds of thousands, owe to her a debt of gratitude for
the enjoyment she has afforded them. How many an idle hour has she not
beguiled! How many have felt the artistic delight she has given them,
like those who have painted beautiful pictures! As already remarked, we
read her descriptions of rural character and life as we survey the
masterpieces of Hogarth and Wilkie.

It is for her delineation of character, and for profound psychological
analysis, that her writings have permanent value. She is a faithful
copyist of Nature. She recalls to our minds characters whom everybody of
large experience has seen in his own village or town,--the conscientious
clergyman, and the minister who preaches like a lecturer; the angel who
lifts up, and the sorceress who pulls down. We recall the misers we have
scorned, and the hypocrites whom we have detested. We see on her canvas
the vulgar rich and the struggling poor, the pompous man of success and
the broken-down man of misfortune; philanthropists and drunkards, lofty
heroines and silly butterflies, benevolent doctors and smiling
politicians, quacks and scoundrels and fools, mixed up with noble men
and women whose aspirations are for a higher life; people of kind
impulses and weak wills, of attractive personal beauty with meanness of
mind and soul. We do not find exaggerated monsters of vice, or faultless
models of virtue and wisdom: we see such people as live in every
Christian community. True it is that the impression we receive of human
life is not always pleasant; but who in any community can bear the
severest scrutiny of neighbors? It is this fidelity to our poor humanity
which tinges the novels of George Eliot with so deep a gloom.

But the sadness which creeps over us in view of human imperfection is
nothing to that darkness which enters the soul when the peculiar
philosophical or theological opinions of this gifted woman are
insidiously but powerfully introduced. However great she was as a
delineator of character, she is not an oracle as a moral teacher. She
was steeped in the doctrines of modern agnosticism. She did not believe
in a personal God, nor in His superintending providence, nor in
immortality as brought to light in the gospel. There are some who do not
accept historical Christianity, but are pervaded with its spirit. Even
Carlyle, when he cast aside the miracles of Christ and his apostles as
the honest delusions of their followers, was almost a Calvinist in his
recognition of God as a sovereign power; and he abhorred the dreary
materialism of Comte and Mill as much as he detested the shallow atheism
of Diderot and Helvetius. But George Eliot went beyond Carlyle in
disbelief. At times, especially in her poetry, she writes almost like a
follower of Buddha. The individual soul is absorbed in the universal
whole; future life has no certainty; hope in redemption is buried in a
sepulchre; life in most cases is a futile struggle; the great problems
of existence are invested with gloom as well as mystery. Thus she
discourses like a Pagan. She would have us to believe that Theocritus
was wiser than Pascal; that Marcus Aurelius was as good as Saint Paul.

Hence, as a teacher of morals and philosophy George Eliot is not of much
account. We question the richness of any moral wisdom which is not in
harmony with the truths that Christian people regard as fundamental, and
which they believe will save the world. In some respects she has taught
important lessons. She has illustrated the power of conscience and the
sacredness of duty. She was a great preacher of the doctrine that
"whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." She showed that
those who do not check and control the first departure from virtue will,
in nine cases out of ten, hopelessly fall.

These are great certitudes. But there are others which console and
encourage as well as intimidate. The _Te Domine Speravi_ of the dying
Xavier on the desolate island of Sancian, pierced through the clouds of
dreary blackness which enveloped the nations he sought to save.
Christianity is full of promises of exultant joy, and its firmest
believers are those whose lives are gilded with its divine radiance.
Surely, it is not intellectual or religious narrowness which causes us
to regret that so gifted a woman as George Eliot--so justly regarded as
one of the greatest ornaments of modern literature--should have drifted
away from the Rock which has resisted the storms and tempests of nearly
two thousand years, and abandoned, if she did not scorn, the faith which
has animated the great masters of thought from Augustine to Bossuet.
"The stern mournfulness which is produced by most of her novels gives us
the idea of one who does not know, or who has forgotten, that the stone
was rolled away from the heart of the world on the morning when Christ
arose from the tomb."


Miss Blind's Life of George Eliot. Mr. Cross's Life of George Eliot, I
regret to say, did not reach me until after the foregoing pages had gone
to press. But as this lecture is criticism rather than history, the few
additional facts that might have been gained would not be important;
while, after tracing in that _quasi_-autobiography the development of
her mental and moral nature, I see no reason to change my conclusions
based on the outward facts of her life and on her works. The Nineteenth
Century, ix.; London Quarterly Review, lvii. 40; Contemporary Review,
xx. 29, 39; The National Review, xxxi. 23, 16; Blackwood's Magazine,
cxxix. 85-100, 112, 116, 103; Edinburgh Review, ex. 144, 124, 137, 150;
Westminster Review, lxxi. 110, lxxxvi. 74, 80, 90, 112; Dublin Review,
xlvii. 88, 89; Cornhill Magazine, xliii.; Atlantic Monthly, xxxviii. 18;
Fortnightly Review, xxvi. 19; British Quarterly Review, lxiv. 57, 48,
45; International Review, iv. 10; Temple Bar Magazine, 49; Littell's
Living Age, cxlviii.; The North American Review, ciii. 116, 107;
Quarterly Review, cxxxiv. 108; Macmillan's Magazine, iii. 4; North
British Review, xiv.

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