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Title: Pascal
Author: Tulloch, John, 1823-1886
Language: English
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                            PRINCIPAL TULLOCH

                        WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS
                           EDINBURGH AND LONDON
                           1878.—REPRINT, 1882

                          _All Rights reserved_


The translations in this volume are chiefly my own; but I have also taken
expressions and sentences freely from others—and especially from Dr
M’Crie, in his translation of the ‘Provincial Letters’—when they seemed
to convey well the sense of the original.  It would be impossible to
distinguish in all cases between what is my own and what I have borrowed.
The ‘Provincial Letters’ have been translated at least four times into
English.  The translation of Dr M’Crie, published in 1846, is the most
spirited.  The ‘Pensées’ were translated by the Rev. Edward Craig, A.M.
Oxon., in 1825, following the French edition of 1819, which again
followed that of Bossut in 1779.  A new translation, both of the
‘Letters’ and ‘Pensées,’ by George Pearce, Esq.—the latter after the
restored text of M. Faugère—appeared in 1849 and 1850.

                                                                     J. T.


      CHAP.                                                           PAGE

             INTRODUCTION                                                1

         I.  PASCAL’S FAMILY AND YOUTH                                   5

        II.  PASCAL’S SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES                            25

       III.  PASCAL IN THE WORLD                                        52

        IV.  PORT ROYAL AND PASCAL’S LATER YEARS                        74

         V.  THE ‘PROVINCIAL LETTERS’                                  103

        VI.  THE ‘PENSÉES’                                             157


There are few names which have become more classical in modern literature
than that of Blaise Pascal.  There is hardly any name more famous at once
in literature, science, and religion.  Cut off at the early age of
thirty-nine—the fatal age of genius—he had long before attained
pre-eminent distinction as a geometer and discoverer in physical science;
while the rumour of his genius as the author of the ‘Provincial Letters,’
and as one of the chiefs of a notable school of religious thought, had
spread far and wide.  His writings continue to be studied for the
perfection of their style and the vitality of their substance.  As a
writer, he belongs to no school, and is admired simply for his greatness
by Encyclopedist and Romanticist, by Catholic and Protestant alike,—by
men like Voltaire and Condorcet and Sainte-Beuve, no less than by men
like Bossuet, Vinet, and Neander.  His ‘Pensées’ have been carefully
restored, and re-edited with minute and loving faithfulness in our time
by editors of such opposite tastes and tendencies as M. Prosper Faugère,
M. Havet, and M. Victor Rochet.  Cousin considered it one of the glories
of his long intellectual career that he had first led the way to the
remarkable restoration of Pascal’s remains.  Of all the illustrious names
which group themselves around Port Royal, it is Pascal alone, and
Racine—who was more its pupil, but less its representative—whose genius
can be said to survive, and to invest it with an undying lustre.

Pascal’s early death, the reserve of his friends under the assaults which
the ‘Provincial Letters’ provoked, and his very fame, as a writer, have
served in some degree to obscure his personality.  To many a modern
reader he is little else than a great name.  The man is hidden away
behind the author of the ‘Pensées,’ or the defender of Port Royal.  Some
might even say that his writings are now more admired than studied.  They
have been so long the subject of eulogy that their classical character is
taken for granted, and the reader of the present day is content to look
at them from a respectful distance rather than spontaneously study them
for himself.  There may be some truth in this view.  Pascal is certainly,
like many other great writers, far more widely known than he is
understood or appreciated.  The old, which are still the common, editions
of the ‘Pensées,’ have also given a certain commonplace to his
reputation.  It were certainly a worthy task to set him more clearly
before our age both as a man and as a writer.

It is no easy task, however, to do this; and to tell the full story of
Pascal’s life is no longer possible.  Its records, numerous as they are,
are incomplete; all fail more or less at an interesting point of his
career.  They leave much unexplained; and the most familiar confidences
of his sisters and niece, who have preserved many interesting details
regarding him, have not entirely removed the veil from certain aspects of
his character.  The well-known life by Madame Périer, his elder sister,
is of course the chief authentic source of his biography.  It was written
shortly after his death, although not published for some time later; and
nothing can be more lively, graphic, and yet dignified, than its
portraiture of his youthful precocity, and, again, of the devotions and
austerities of his later years.  But it leaves many gaps unsupplied.
Like other memoirs of the kind, it is written from a somewhat
conventional point of view.  No one, as M. Havet says, was nearer to him
in all senses of the expression, or could have given a more true and
complete account of all the incidents in his life; but she was not only
his sister, but his enthusiastic friend and admirer, in whose eyes he was
at once a genius and a saint—a man of God, called to a great mission.  It
was from a consciousness of this mission, and the full glory of his
religious fame, that she looked back upon all his life; and the lines in
which she draws it are coloured, in consequence, too gravely and
monotonously.  Certain particulars she drops out of sight altogether.
These are to be found scattered here and there, sometimes in his own
letters, more frequently in the letters of his younger sister,
Jacqueline, and in a supplementary memoir, written by his niece,
Marguerite Périer, all of which have been carefully published in our
time, and made accessible to any reader. {3}  The researches of M.
Cousin, M. Faugère, and M. Havet, the curious and interesting monograph
of M. Lélut, {4a} have thrown light on various points; while the copious
portraiture of Sainte-Beuve {4b} has given to the whole an animation and
a desultory charm which no English pen need strive to imitate.

My only hope, as my aim, will be in this little volume to set before the
English reader perhaps a more full and connected account of the life and
writings of Pascal than has yet appeared in our language, freely availing
myself of all the sources I have indicated.  And if long and loving
familiarity with a subject—an intimacy often renewed both with the
‘Provincial Letters’ and the ‘Pensées’—form any qualification for such a
task, I may be allowed to possess it.  It is now nearly thirty years
since the study of Neander first drew me to the study of Pascal; and I
ventured, with the confidence of youth, to draw from the ‘Pensées,’ which
had then recently appeared in the new and admirable edition of M.
Faugère, the outlines of a Christian Philosophy. {4c}  I shall venture on
no such ambition within the bounds of this volume; but I trust I may be
able to bring together the story of Pascal’s life, controversy, and
thought in such a manner as to lead others to the study of a writer truly
great in the imperishable grandeur and elevation of his ideas, no less
than in the exquisite finish and graces of his style.


Blaise Pascal was born at Clermont-Ferrand on the 19th June 1623.  He
belonged to an old Auvergne family, Louis XI. having ennobled one of its
members for administrative services as early as 1478, although no use was
made of the title, at least in the seventeenth century.  The family
cherished with more pride its ancient connection with the legal or
‘Parliamentary’ institutions of their country. {5}  Pascal’s grandfather,
Martin Pascal, was treasurer of France; and his father, Étienne, after
completing his legal studies in Paris, acquired the position of Second
President of the Court of Aides at Clermont.  In the year 1618 he married
Antoinette Begon, who became the mother of four children, of whom three
survived and became distinguished.  Madame Pascal died in 1626 or 1628;
{6a} and two years afterwards (in 1630) Étienne Pascal abandoned his
professional duties, and came to Paris, in order that he might devote
himself to the education of his children.

Soon after the Pascal family settled in Paris, their character and
endowments seem to have attracted a widespread interest.  If not superior
to the Arnaulds, they were no less remarkable.  They did not escape the
penetrating eye of Richelieu, who, as he looked upon the father with his
son, then fifteen years of age, and his two daughters, was so struck by
their beauty that he exclaimed, without waiting for their formal
introduction to him, that he _would like to make something great of
them_. {6b}  Étienne Pascal was a man not only of official capacity, but
of keen intellectual instincts and aspirations.  He shared eagerly in the
scientific enthusiasm of his time.  A letter by him addressed to the
Jesuit Noël shows that the vein of satire, half pleasant, half severe,
which reached such perfection in the famous ‘Letters’ of his son, was not
unknown to the father.  The careful and systematic education which he
gave to his son would alone have stamped him as a man of remarkable

Gilberte, Pascal’s elder sister and biographer, exerted an influence upon
his character only second to that of his father.  She married her cousin,
M. Périer, also of a Parliamentary family, and Counsellor of the Court of
Aides at Clermont.  She was alike beautiful and accomplished, a student
of mathematics, philosophy, and history. {7}  For a time she shared in
the enjoyments of the world, like other persons of her age and condition;
but the same impulses of religious enthusiasm which animated the rest of
her family led to her practical abandonment of the world while still
young.  The memoirs which she composed, both of her brother and sister,
and her letters, all indicate a high intelligence and a mingled dignity,
sweetness, and restraint of character, which made her their best
counsellor and friend.

The younger sister, Jacqueline, has been made a special study by M.
Cousin amongst the ‘Illustrious Women of the Seventeenth Century.’  She
was beautiful as her sister, and a child of genius like her brother.  She
began to compose verses at the age of eight, and in her eleventh year
assisted in the composition and the acting of a comedy in five acts,
which was a subject of universal talk in Paris.  Her powers, both as an
actor and a verse-maker, made a wonderful reputation at the time, which,
as we shall see, was highly serviceable to her after.  Her verses, it
must be confessed, are somewhat artificial and hollow; but her letters,
and, more remarkable than either her verses or her letters, her
‘Thoughts’ on the ‘Mystery of the Death of Christ,’ are in some respects
very fine, and might even claim a place beside some of those of her
brother.  They are equally elevated in tone, and pervaded by the same
subtle, penetrating, radiant mysticism, the same rapture of
self-sacrificing aspiration, though lacking the glow of inward fire and
exquisite charm of style which marked the author of the ‘Pensées.’
Noble-minded and full of genius, she was yet without his depth and power
of feeling, or his skill and finish as an author.  In 1646 she came,
along with her brother, and greatly through his influence, strongly under
the power of religion; and in 1652, after her father’s death, she
renounced the world, and became one of the Sisters of Port Royal.  She
died amidst the persecution of the Sisters in 1661, a year before her

In Paris the elder Pascal became a centre of men of congenial
intellectual tastes with himself, and his house a sort of rendezvous for
the mathematicians and the physicists of the time.  Among them were
Descartes, Gassendi, Mersenne, Roberval, Carcavi, and Le Pailleur; and
from the frequent reunion of these men is said to have sprung the Academy
of Sciences founded in 1666.  It is interesting to notice that it was
into this same society that Hobbes was introduced on his first and second
visits to France, when he accompanied the future Duke of Devonshire there
as tutor.  With Father Mersenne and Gassendi especially he formed a warm
friendship, which sheds an interest over his life.  Possibly in some of
these reunions the author of the ‘Leviathan’ may have encountered the
young Pascal, and joined in the half admiration and half incredulity
which his wonderful powers had begun to excite.

There never certainly was a more singular story of youthful precocity
than that which Madame Périer has given of her brother, accustomed as we
have become to such stories in the lives of eminent men.  Detecting the
remarkable powers of the boy, his father had formed very definite
resolutions as to his education.  His chief maxim, Madame Périer says,
was always “to keep the boy above his work.”  And for this reason he did
not wish him to learn Latin till he was twelve years of age, when he
might easily acquire it.  In the meantime, he sought to give him a
general idea of grammar—of its rules, and the exceptions to which these
rules are liable—and so to fit him to take up the study of any language
with intelligence and facility.  He endeavoured further to direct his
son’s attention to the more marked phenomena of nature, and such
explanations as he could give of them.  But here the son’s perception
outstripped the father’s power of explanation.  He wished “to know the
reason of everything;” and when his father’s statements did not appear to
him to give the reason, he was far from satisfied.

    “For he had always an admirable perspicacity in discerning what was
    false; and it may be said that in everything and always truth was the
    sole object of his mind.  From his childhood he could only yield to
    what seemed to him evidently true; and when others spoke of good
    reasons, he tried to find them for himself.  He never quitted a
    subject until he had found some explanation which satisfied him.”

Once, among other occasions, he was so interested in the fact that the
sound emitted by a plate lying on a table when struck, suddenly ceased on
the plate being touched by the hand, that he made an inquiry into sound
in general, and drew so many conclusions that he embodied them in a
“well-reasoned” treatise.  At this time he was only twelve years of age.

At the same age he gave still more astonishing evidence of his precocious
scientific capacities.  His father, perceiving his strong scientific
bent, and desirous that he should first of all acquaint himself with
languages before the absorption of the severer, but more engrossing,
study seized him, had withdrawn from his sight all mathematical books,
and carefully avoided the subject in the presence of his son when his
friends were present.  This, as might be expected, only quickened the
curiosity of the boy, who frequently begged his father to teach him
mathematics, and the father promised to do so as a reward when he knew
Latin and Greek, which he was then learning.  Piqued by this resistance,
the boy asked one day, “What mathematical science was, and of what it
treated?”  He was told that its aim was to make figures correctly, and to
find their right relations or proportions to one another.  He began, says
his sister, to meditate during his play-hours on the information thus
communicated to him.

    “And being alone in a room where he was accustomed to amuse himself,
    he took a piece of charcoal and drew figures upon the boards, trying,
    for example, to make a circle perfectly round, a triangle of which
    the sides and angles were equal, and similar figures.  He succeeded
    in his task, and then endeavoured to determine the proportion of the
    figures, although so careful had his father been in hiding from him
    all knowledge of the kind, that he did not even know the names of the
    figures.  He made names for himself, then definitions, then axioms,
    and finally demonstrations; and in this way had pushed his researches
    as far as the thirty-second proposition of the first book of Euclid.”

At this point a ‘surprise’ visit of his father arrested him in his task,
although so absorbed was he in it, that he did not at first recognise his
father’s presence.  The older Pascal, having satisfied himself of the
astonishing achievement which the youthful mathematician had worked out
for himself in solitude, ran with tears of joy to communicate the fact to
his friend M. le Pailleur.  It was agreed betwixt them that such an
aptitude for science should no longer be balked, and the lad was
furnished with the means of pursuing his mathematical studies.  Before he
had completed his sixteenth year he had written the famous treatise on
Conic Sections which excited the “mingled incredulity and astonishment”
of Descartes. {11}

The happiness of Pascal’s home was suddenly interrupted by an unforeseen
calamity.  On coming to Paris, his father had invested his savings in
bonds upon the Hotel de Ville.  The Government, impoverished by wars and
extravagance, reduced the value of these revenues, with the result of
creating discontent and calling forth expostulation from the disappointed
annuitants.  Some of them met together, and, among others, Étienne
Pascal, and gave such vent to their feelings as to alarm the Government.
Richelieu took summary means of asserting his authority and silencing the
disturbers.  The meeting was denounced as seditious, and a warrant issued
to arrest the offenders and throw them into the Bastille.  Étienne
Pascal, having become apprised of the hostile designs of the Cardinal,
contrived to conceal himself at first in Paris, and afterwards took
refuge in the solitude of his native district.  His children were left
without his care, and plunged in the greatest sorrow.  At intervals,
indeed, he contrived to see them in secret, and is said even to have
nursed Jacqueline through a severe attack of the smallpox, which impaired
her hitherto remarkable beauty.  But all the pleasant companionship which
he had enjoyed as their instructor, and the centre of a group of
intellectual friends, was at an end.  He could only visit his home by

At this crisis (February 1639) Richelieu took a fancy to have Scudéry’s
tragi-comedy of “L’Amour Tyrannique” acted before him by young girls.
The Court lady who undertook the management of the piece appealed to
Jacqueline Pascal, whose accomplishments as a girl-actor were well known,
to assist in its performance.  She was then thirteen years of age.  The
elder sister, who, in the enforced absence of the father, was acting as
the head of the family, replied, with feeling, that “they did not owe any
favour to M. le Cardinal, who had not acted kindly towards them.”  The
request, however, was pressed, in the hope that some good might come out
of the affair to the family, and Jacqueline was allowed to appear.  The
result was all that could be anticipated.  The Cardinal, charmed by the
grace and accomplishment of her acting, received her cordially when she
ventured to approach him with a petition on behalf of her father, thrown
into a form of verses similar to many which she had already composed.
The verses have been preserved with her other pieces, and have been thus

    “O marvel not, Armand, the great, the wise,
    If I have failed to please thine ear, thine eyes;
    My sorrowing spirit, torn by countless fears,
    Each sound forbiddeth save the voice of tears.
    With power to please thee wouldst thou me inspire?—
    Recall from exile now my hapless sire.”

She has herself described, in an interesting letter to her father, {13}
the whole incident, and the result of her intercession.  Having told how
the Cardinal had been previously well prepared, and had the true state of
the case explained in reference to her father, who appears to have been
in no degree to blame in the agitation which called forth the displeasure
of the Government, she says that—

    “M. le Cardinal appeared to take great pleasure in the
    representation, especially when I spoke.  He laughed very much, as
    did the whole company.  When the comedy was finished, I descended
    from the theatre with the design of speaking to Madame d’Aiguillon
    [the same lady who had already interested herself in the business].
    But as the Cardinal seemed about to leave, I approached him directly,
    and recited to him the verses I send you.  He received them with
    extraordinary affection and caresses more than you can imagine; for
    at first, when I approached, he cried, ‘Voilà la petite Pascal!’
    Then he embraced me and kissed me, and while I said my verses he
    continued to hold me in his arms, and kissed me each moment with
    great satisfaction.  And then when I was done he said, ‘Yes; I grant
    to you all that you ask; write to your father that he may return with
    safety.’  Thereupon Madame d’Aiguillon approached, and addressed the
    Cardinal.  ‘It is truly well, sir, that you do something for this
    man.  I have heard him spoken of as a thoroughly honest and learned
    man, and it is a pity he should remain unemployed.  Then he has a son
    who is very learned in mathematics, although as yet only fifteen
    years of age.’  The Cardinal assured me once more that I might tell
    you to return in all safety; and as he seemed in such good humour, I
    asked him further that you might be allowed yourself to pay your
    thanks and respects to his Eminence.  He said you would be welcome;
    and then, with other discourse, repeated, ‘Tell your father, when he
    returns, to come and see me.’  This he said three or four times.
    After this, as Madame d’Aiguillon was going away, my sister went
    forward to salute her.  She received her with many caresses, and
    inquired for our brother, whom she said she wished to see.  It was
    this that led to his introduction to the Duchess, who paid him many
    compliments on his scientific attainments.  We were then conducted to
    a room, where we had a magnificent collation of dried sweetmeats,
    fruits, lemonade, and such things.  Here the Duchess renewed her
    caresses in a manner you will hardly believe.  In short, I cannot
    tell how much honour I received, for I am obliged to write as
    succinctly as possible.  I am greatly obliged to M. de Moudroy for
    all the trouble he has taken, and I beg you will be so good as write
    to him by the first post to thank him, for he well deserves it.  As
    for me, I esteem myself extremely happy to have in any way assisted
    in a result which must give you satisfaction.”

This letter was written from Paris on the 4th April 1639, when Jacqueline
Pascal was therefore only fourteen years of age.  It is in all respects a
remarkable and interesting production, both for the glimpse it gives of
the great Cardinal in his hours of ease, and its revelation of
Jacqueline’s own character,—her dramatic cleverness, her firmness and
wisdom in assailing the Cardinal with her prepared verses at the right
moment, her self-conscious importance as the chief actor of such a scene,
and all the same, her girlish enjoyment of the sweetmeats provided for
her.  It is a pleasant enough picture; and it deserves especially to be
noticed how prominently the scientific reputation of her brother, only
two years older than herself, is already recognised.

The sequel was all that could have been desired.  The father hastened, at
the summons of his daughter, to pay his respects to Richelieu, who gave
him a welcome reception.  “I know all your merit,” he said.  “I restore
you to your children, and commend them to you.  I desire to do something
considerable for you.”  Within two years Étienne Pascal was, in
consequence, appointed Intendant of Rouen, where he settled with his
family in 1641.  Disturbances had arisen in Normandy at this time in
connection with the payment of taxes, and the Government, believing that
the Parliament at Rouen had not acted with sufficient vigour, took the
matter into their own hands, and sent their officers to collect the
revenues of the province. {15}  Étienne Pascal’s character and previous
labours in this capacity, no less than his restoration to the Cardinal’s
favour, pointed him out as a man specially fitted for this work, which in
the circumstances was not unattended with danger.  The work in itself was
also harassing and troublesome; and the youthful Pascal, anxious to
assist his father, had busied himself in the invention of a machine for
performing arithmetical calculations, which made a great sensation at the
time.  Ingenious as the machine was, it came to little, as we shall see
in the next chapter, which will be devoted to a brief account of Pascal’s
scientific discoveries.  In the meantime it will be better to confine
ourselves to the thread of his personal history up to the important epoch
which is known as his first conversion.

Settled at Rouen, he pursued his studies with unremitting devotion, and
with only too little regard for his health.  His elder sister, who might
have won him occasionally to lighter pursuits, was married to her cousin
M. Périer in 1641, and two years afterwards went with him to Clermont,
where her husband was appointed a Counsellor in the Court of Aides.
Jacqueline was absorbed in her own poetical studies, which received a
special impetus from the friendship of Corneille, who had returned at
this time to his native town.  The illustrious dramatist speedily sought
out the Pascal family, and became one of their most intimate associates.
A prize being given every year for the best copy of verses on the
“Conception of the Virgin,” it was awarded to certain verses of
Jacqueline’s for the year 1640.  When the announcement of the result was
made she was absent, but a friend of the family rose and returned thanks
in verse in the name of the youthful poetess—_Pour une jeune muse
absente_.  The friend was Corneille, whose impromptu lines on the
occasion, along with those of Jacqueline, are still preserved. {16}
Neither have much poetic merit, but they recall an interesting incident.

A bright atmosphere of intellectual emulation and cheerful prospects
surrounds the family at this time.  But all the while it is evident, from
Madame Périer’s account, that her brother was injuring his health greatly
in his undue assiduity in his scientific pursuits.  The attempts to
perfect the construction of his arithmetical machine seem especially to
have worn out his delicate frame, and to have laid the foundation of the
nervous prostration from which he more or less suffered all his life
afterwards.  “From the age of eighteen,” she says in a significant
passage that her brother “hardly ever passed a day without pain.  In the
intermissions of his sufferings, however, his spirit was such that he was
constantly bent on some new discovery.” {17}

In the beginning of 1646 an accident happened which had important
consequences both to Pascal and his sisters.  Étienne Pascal fell upon
the ice and severely sprained his foot.  During his confinement he was
attended by two brothers who had acquired repute in the treatment of such
injuries.  They were gentlemen of family in the neighbourhood, who had
devoted themselves to medicine and anatomy from benevolent instincts and
the love of these studies.  Both were disciples of a clergyman at
Rouville, who was an enthusiastic pietist and friend of St Cyran.  Crowds
flocked to hear Pastor Guillebert whenever he preached, and many were
stirred by his eloquence to devote themselves to pious and
philanthropical labours.  One of the brothers under this inspiring
guidance built a hospital at the end of his park, and gave his children
to the service of the Church in various capacities.  The other brother,
who had no children, provided beds in the hospital and attended the sick

The character and conversation of these men made a deep impression upon
the Pascal family.  Hitherto esteemed pious, they had not yet made
religion an anxious concern in their lives.  Madame Périer says expressly
of her brother that he had been “preserved by the special protection of
God from all youthful vices, and, what was still more remarkable in the
case of a mind of such strength and pride, he had never yielded to any
libertinism of thought, but had always limited his curiosity to natural
inquiries.”  He attributed, according to her statement, this religious
sobriety of mind to the instructions and example of his father, who had a
great respect for religion, and who had impressed upon him from his
infancy the maxim, “that whatever is the object of faith cannot be the
object of reason, and still less the subject of it.”  He had seen, in his
father, the combination of scientific attainment with a strong reasoning
power, and the maxim therefore fell with weight from his lips.  And so,
when he listened to the discourses of free-thinkers, young as he was—

    “He remained unmoved by them, and simply looked upon them as men who
    had adopted the false principle that the human reason is above
    everything, and who know nothing of the real nature of faith; so that
    this spirit, so great and inquisitive, which searched so carefully
    for the reason of everything, was at the same time submissive as a
    child to all the truths of religion, and this submissive simplicity
    predominated in him through his whole life.” {18}

This is a significant extract in more ways than one.  In the meantime we
quote it as indicating the religious atmosphere of Pascal’s home, and the
pious temper which marked him from the first.  But as yet religion had
not taken hold of him with an absorbing enthusiasm.  It had its place in
his thoughts, and this a deeply respectful place; but now, about his
twenty-third year, in communication with the two friends we have
mentioned, and under the same influence which had moved them so deeply,
it began to lay hold of him more powerfully.  He and his father and
sisters read eagerly the books of St Cyran, and of Jansen, the Bishop of
Ypres, whose name became so conspicuous in connection with Port Royal.  A
discourse by the latter on “The Reformation of the Inward Man,” and also
Arnauld’s “Manual on Frequent Communion,” are supposed to have specially
impressed him.  In the language of his sister—

    “Providence led him to the study of such pious writings while he was
    not yet twenty-four years of age; and God so enlightened him by this
    course of reading, that he came to realise that the Christian
    religion obliges us to live only for God, and to have no other object
    besides Him.  So clear and necessary appeared this truth to him, that
    he gave up for a time all his researches, renounced all other
    knowledge, and applied himself alone to the ‘one thing needful’
    spoken of by our Lord.”

This event is spoken of by Pascal’s biographers as his “first
conversion,” and it appears to have been attended not only with a zealous
consecration of his own powers to the service of religion, but moreover,
as often happens in the case of youthful enthusiasm, with a warm
determination against all who seemed to him to be acting at variance with
the true faith.  “Although,” as his sister says, “he had made no special
study of scholastic theology, he was not ignorant of the judgments of the
Church against the heresies invented by human subtlety.  All indications
of heretical opinion excited his indignation, and God gave him at this
time an opportunity of testifying his zeal on behalf of religion.”  She
then adds in illustration the following story:—

    “There was at Rouen at this time a man who taught a new philosophy
    which attracted the curious.  My brother, pressed by two of his young
    friends, accompanied them to hear this man; but they were greatly
    surprised when they found, in conversation with him, that he drew
    consequences from his philosophy at variance with the decisions of
    the Church.  He sought to prove by his arguments that the body of
    Jesus Christ was not formed of the blood of the Holy Virgin, but of
    some other matter specially created, and several other like subjects.
    They pointed out to him his error, but he remained firm in his
    opinions.  Thereupon, taking into consideration how dangerous it was
    to leave the instruction of youth in the hands of a man with such
    erroneous opinions, they resolved, after previously informing him of
    their intention, to denounce him if he continued in his errors.  So
    it happened; for he despised their advice, and in such a manner, as
    to leave them no alternative but to denounce him to M. du Bellay,
    {20} who was then discharging episcopal functions in the diocese of
    Rouen for the Archbishop.  M. du Bellay sent for the man, and having
    interrogated him, was deceived by an equivocal confession of faith
    which he wrote and subscribed.  Otherwise he made little account of
    the affair as reported by the three young men.  However, when they
    saw the confession of faith, they at once recognised its defects, and
    entered into communication with the Archbishop himself, who, having
    examined into the matter, saw its gravity, and sent in writing a
    special order to M. du Bellay to make the man retract all the points
    of which he was accused, and to receive nothing from him except by
    communication of his accusers.  The order was carried out, and the
    result was that he appeared in the council of the Archbishop and
    renounced all his errors—it may be said sincerely, for he never
    showed any anger towards those who had engaged in the affair, so as
    to lead one to suppose that he had been himself deceived by the false
    conclusions which he had drawn from false principles.  It was made
    plain that his accusers had no design of injuring him, but only of
    undeceiving him, and so preventing him from seducing the young, who
    were incapable of distinguishing the true from the false in such
    subtle questions.”

This story reflects somewhat doubtfully on Pascal’s fairness and good
sense, even as told by Madame Périer.  But it has not been left in the
vagueness in which it stands in her narrative.  M. Cousin published for
the first time full details regarding it in the volume by which he may be
said to have initiated the new researches into the life and writings of
Pascal.  These details, which fill more than forty pages of appendix to
M. Cousin’s volume, {21} are no longer of any interest in themselves; but
they enable us to understand more clearly the conduct of Pascal and his
two friends.  Unhappily they deepen rather than lighten the shade which
the story throws upon Pascal’s intemperate zeal.  The name of the accused
teacher was Jacques Forton, a Capucin monk, known as the Père St Ange.
He taught no new philosophy; but he had communicated to Pascal or his
friends, in private conversation specially desired by them, certain
theological opinions which he had espoused.  These, as given in the
statement of the case signed by Pascal and his two friends, mainly
concern such abstruse subjects as the relation of reason and faith, and
the possibility of demonstrating the doctrine of the Trinity as the
source of all other knowledge.  The curious question as to the
constitution of the body of Jesus occupies only a subordinate place.  The
monk, as shown in the whole proceedings, was evidently more of a
speculative dreamer than a heretic—a man fond of disputation about
matters beyond his comprehension.  It is mentioned by the three youthful
zealots, in the _récit_ bearing their signature, that as they were about
to part with him, “after the accustomed civilities,” he was careful to
let them know that he advanced the points in dispute, not as dogmas, but
merely as propositions or thoughts for discussion, the fruit of his own

There is no reason to doubt that Pascal’s conduct on this occasion arose
entirely from honest zeal.  He thought religion compromised by the
strange reasonings which he had heard.  There is as little doubt,
however, that his zeal outran his discretion.  He showed a determination
to pursue the matter amounting to persecution.  The worthy priest had
evidently no intention of promulgating heresy; for he is glad, when
called upon, of an opportunity of proving his orthodoxy.  With this view
he produced, side by side with the articles of accusation, passages from
a former volume of his which had been printed with official sanction.
Pascal still demurred, even with this evidence before him.  A second
declaration was obtained from the priest, and the bishop refused to go
further.  The sympathies of the community were evidently against the
youthful zealots; and finally Pascal’s father, convinced that enough had
been done to vindicate the truth, successfully interposed as mediator.

Pascal’s health about this period appears to have undergone a change for
the worse.  He suffered from excessive headache and great internal heat
and pain.  A singular characteristic of his malady was his inability to
swallow water unless it was heated, and even then only drop by drop.  He
was the subject, also, of a remarkable paralytic seizure thus described
by his niece:—

    “He fell,” she says, “into a very extraordinary state, as the result
    of his great application to his scientific studies; for the senses
    (_les esprits_) having mounted strongly to the brain, he became in a
    manner paralysed from the waist downwards.  His legs and feet grew
    cold as marble; and they were obliged every day to put on socks
    soaked in brandy in order to try and restore heat in his feet.  At
    the same time the physician interdicted him from all study.” {23b}

M. Lélut {23c} explains at length this attack of Pascal’s as a well-known
form of dynamical paralysis, of a similar nature with hypochondria and
hysteria, proceeding from a disordered state of the nervous affections,
the result of overwork acting upon a delicate organisation.  The result
is temporary, as distinguished from the paralysis arising from organic
lesion, but indicates a highly susceptible constitution, the ready prey
of melancholy and imaginative exaggeration, to which, in M. Lélut’s
opinion, Pascal was more or less liable during the remaining years of his


Pascal’s scientific studies may be said to have begun with the remarkable
incident of his youth already related, when he elaborated for himself, in
a solitary chamber without books, thirty-two propositions of the first
book of Euclid.  On the other hand, these studies may be said to have
extended to his closing years, when (in 1658 and 1659) he reverted to the
abstruser mathematics, and made the _cycloid_ a subject of special
thought.  But his scientific labours were in the main concentrated in the
eight or ten years of his life which followed the removal of the family
to Rouen.  It will be convenient, therefore, to notice these labours and
discoveries in a single chapter here, which will, at the same time, carry
on the main history of his life during these years.  All that can be
expected from the present writer is a slight sketch of this part of the
subject, which indeed is all that would be interesting to the general

At the age of sixteen Pascal had already acquired a scientific
reputation.  He is spoken of by the Duchess d’Aiguillon, in the interview
with Richelieu in which she pleaded the cause of the exiled father, as
“very learned in mathematics;” and when his sister presented him after
the dramatic representation on that occasion, the Duchess gave him “great
commendation for his scientific attainments.” {26a}  When allowed by his
father to pursue the natural bent of his genius, he made extraordinary
progress.  He was still only twelve years of age, but Euclid’s Elements,
as soon as put into his hands, were mastered by him without any
explanation.  By-and-by he began to take an active part in the scientific
discussions which took place at his father’s house; and his achievement
in Conic Sections has been already narrated.

Descartes’s incredulity was not without reason; but there is no room to
doubt the fact.  The little treatise, ‘Pour les Coniques,’ still
survives.  It bears the date of 1640, and occupies only six pages. {26b}
After a very clear statement of his subject, the writer modestly

    “We have several other problems and theorems, and several
    consequences deducible from the preceding; but the mistrust which I
    have of my slight experience and capacity does not permit me to
    advance more till my present effort has passed the examination of
    able men who may oblige me by looking at it.  Afterwards, if they
    think it has sufficient merit to be continued, we shall endeavour to
    push our studies as far as God will give the power to conduct them.”

It is interesting to notice the beginning of relations betwixt Descartes
and Pascal, considering the jealousy that afterwards arose betwixt them.
There is something of this feeling from the first in the older
philosopher, who was now in the forty-fourth year of his age, and in the
full zenith of his great reputation.  He appears to have been greatly
fascinated by Pascal’s peculiar powers; but the men were of too marked
individuality of character, and too divergent in intellectual sympathy
and personal aspiration, to appreciate each other fully.

Pascal’s next achievement was the invention of an arithmetical machine,
chiefly prompted by a desire to assist his father in his official duties
at Rouen.  He has given us no description of this machine from his own
pen.  In the “Avis” addressed to all whose curiosity was excited by it,
he excuses himself from this task by the natural remark that such a
description would be useless without entering into a number of technical
details unintelligible to the general reader; and that an actual
inspection of it, combined with a brief _vivâ voce_ explanation, would be
far more satisfactory than any lengthened account in writing.  There is
an elaborate description, however, of the machine, by Diderot, in the
first volume of the ‘Encyclopédie,’ which is reprinted in the collection
of Pascal’s scientific works.  Pascal’s main difficulties occurred, not
in connection with the invention itself, which he seems to have very soon
perfected according to his own conception, but with the construction of
the instrument after he had mentally worked it out in all its details.
These difficulties proved so great, and so many imperfect specimens of
the instrument were made, that, in order to secure both his reputation
and his interest, he acquired in 1649 a special “privilége du Roi,” which
confined the manufacture of the machine to himself, and such workmen as
he should employ and sanction.  All others, “of whatever quality and
condition,” were prohibited from “making it, or causing it to be made, or
selling it.”  But neither these precautions nor the merits of the
invention itself, which were admitted by all competent judges, were of
avail to make the instrument a practical success.  Many men of
mathematical and mechanical genius in different countries have applied
themselves to the same task.  The celebrated Leibnitz is said to have
constructed a machine excelling Pascal’s in ingenuity and power.  In our
own time, Mr Babbage’s wonderful achievement in the same direction
attracted wide attention, and has been lavishly eulogised by Sir David
Brewster and others:—

    “While all previous contrivances,” says Sir David, {28a} “performed
    only particular arithmetical operations, under a sort of copartnery
    between the man and the machine, the extraordinary invention of Mr
    Babbage actually substitutes mechanism in the place of man.  A
    problem is given to the machine, and it solves it by computing a long
    series of numbers following some given law.  In this manner it
    calculates astronomical, logarithmic, and navigation tables, as well
    as tables of the powers and products of numbers.  It can integrate,
    too, innumerable equations of finite differences; and, in addition to
    these functions, it does its work cheaply and quickly; _it corrects
    whatever errors are accidentally committed_, _and it prints all its

Notwithstanding this brilliant picture, the great expense and the
complications involved in the construction of such an instrument have
seriously interfered with its success.  It is said that Mr Babbage’s
machine, much more his marvellous analytic engine, have never yet been
properly constructed. {28b}

Pascal fortunately turned his thoughts into a new and more fruitful
channel.  We have now to contemplate him as one of an illustrious band
associated in a great discovery in physical science.  Before his time
considerable progress had been made towards a knowledge of atmospheric
pressure.  Galileo and his pupil Torricelli had both been busy with the
subject.  To Pascal, however, remains the glory of carrying successfully
to a conclusion the suggestion of Torricelli, and of verifying the
results which he had indicated.  Here, as in almost all such discoveries,
it is found that different minds have been actively pursuing the same or
similar lines of thought and observation, and controversy has arisen as
to the exact merits of each; but Pascal has himself so candidly explained
{29a} how far he was indebted to his great Italian predecessors, and how
far he made original experiments of his own, that both his relation to
them and his own work stand clearly apparent.

It had been found by the engineers engaged in the construction of
fountains for Cosmo dei Medici in Florence that they could not raise
water in an ordinary pump more than thirty-two feet above the reservoir.
The water, having reached this height, would rise no higher.  Galileo was
appealed to for a solution of the difficulty. {29b}  Imbued with the
ancient notion that Nature abhors a vacuum, and that this was, as then
prevalently believed, the explanation of the water following the
elevation of the piston in the pump, the philosopher replied in effect
that there were limits to the action of this principle, and that Nature’s
abhorrence of a vacuum did not extend beyond thirty-two feet.  He was
himself, it need hardly be said, dissatisfied with such a reply, and
accordingly he invited his pupil, Torricelli, to investigate the subject.
The latter very soon found that the weight of the water was concerned in
the result.  He made experiments with a heavier fluid—mercury—and
ascertained that a column of mercury enclosed in a tube three feet in
length hermetically sealed at the lower end, and closed with the finger
at the top, on being inserted in a basin of the same liquid and the
finger withdrawn, stood at a height of about 28 inches in the basin.  As
the specific gravities of water and mercury were in the ratio of 32 feet
and 28 inches, he was led to the conclusion that the water in the pump
and the mercury in the tube at these respective heights exerted the same
pressure on the same base, and that both were of course counterbalanced
by a determinate force.  But what was this force?  He had learned from
Galileo that the air was a heavy fluid, and he was carried, therefore,
directly to the further conclusion that the weight of the atmosphere was
the counteracting cause in both cases; in the one, pressing upon the
reservoir from which the water was drawn—and in the other, on the
surrounding mercury in the basin.  He published his experiments and
researches in 1645, but dying soon afterwards, his conclusions remained

The fame of Torricelli’s experiments had reached Paris as early as 1644,
before their formal publication.  Some one, Pascal says, had communicated
them to Father Mersenne—both a religious and scientific intimate, as we
have already seen, of the Pascal family.  Mersenne had tried the
experiments for himself, at first without success, but soon with better
fortune, after he had been to Rome and had learned more fully about them.
“The news of these having reached Rouen in 1646, where I then was,” says
Pascal, {31} “I made the Italian experiment, founding on Mersenne’s
account, with great success.  I repeated it several times, and in this
manner satisfying myself of its accuracy, I drew certain conclusions from
it, for the proof of which I made new and very different experiments in
presence of four or five hundred people of all sorts, and amongst others,
five or six Jesuit fathers of the College of Rouen.”  When his
experiments became known in Paris, he adds, they were confounded with
those which had been made in Italy, and the result was that some
attributed to him a credit which was not his due, while others, “by a
contrary injustice,” were disposed to take away the credit of what he had
really done.

It was with the view of placing the matter in a clear light, and
vindicating his own share in the train of experiments which had been
made, that he published in 1647 his “Nouvelles Expériences touchant le
Vide,” the first of his hydrostatical treatises.  He was at pains to
explain the distinction betwixt his own experiments and those which had
been made in Italy; and not content with this, he added in express words,
in an “avis au lecteur,” that he “was not the inventor of the original
experiment, but that it had been made in Italy four years before.”  So
little, indeed, did Pascal borrow directly from Torricelli, or seek to
appropriate the fruits of his researches, that he was as yet ignorant of
the explanation which the Italian had suggested of the phenomenon so
fully established.  He saw, of course, that the old maxim of Nature
abhorring a vacuum had no solid foundation; but he tried to account for
the vacuum above the water and the mercury by such a supposition as the

    “That it contained no portion of either of these fluids, or of any
    matter appreciable by the senses; that all bodies have a repugnance
    to separate from a state of continuity, and admit a vacuum between
    them; that this repugnance is not greater for a large vacuum than a
    small one; that its measure is a column of water about 32 feet in
    height, and that beyond this limit a great or small vacuum is formed
    above the water with the same facility, provided that no foreign
    obstacle interfere to prevent it.”

Pascal’s treatise, while still retaining so much of the old traditional
physics, was made an object of lively attack by the Jesuit Rector of the
College of Paris, Stephen Noël.  Pascal replied to him at first directly;
and then in answer to a second attack—and so far also in answer to a
treatise by the Jesuit, entitled “Le Plein du Vide,” published in 1648—he
made a more elaborate statement in a letter addressed to M. le Pailleur,
and in a further letter addressed to Father Noël in the same year.  There
can hardly be any doubt that this was the commencement of Pascal’s
hostile relations with the Jesuits.  On their part, they failed not to
remember in after years, and in a more serious struggle, that he was an
old enemy; whilst he on his part probably drew something of the
contemptuous scorn which he poured upon them from the recollection of
their obstinate ignorance in matters of science.

Meanwhile, in defending himself from the attacks of ignorance, Pascal did
not fail to open his own mind to fuller scientific light.  As soon as the
explanation of Torricelli was communicated to him, he accepted it without
hesitation, and resolved to carry out a further series of experiments
with the view of verifying this explanation, and of banishing for ever
the scholastic nonsense of Nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum.  If the
weight of the air was really the cause which sustained the height of the
mercury in the Torricellian tube, he saw at once that this height would
vary at different elevations, according to the varying degree of
atmospheric pressure at these elevations.  He proceeded accordingly to
test the result; but the higher levels around Rouen were too
insignificant to enable him to draw any decisive inference.  Accordingly,
he communicated with his brother-in-law in Auvergne with the view of
having an adequate experiment made during an ascent of the Puy de Dôme,
which rises in the neighbourhood of Clermont to a height of about 3000
feet.  The state of his own health prevented him from conducting the
experiment personally, and M. Périer was detained by professional
avocations from undertaking it immediately.  But at length, in September
1648, the experiment was carried out successfully, and the results
communicated to Pascal.  I cannot do better than quote the account of
this important event as rendered by an eminent scientific authority, {33}
from M. Périer’s own recital of the facts in his letter to Pascal:—

    “On the morning of Saturday, the 19th September, the day fixed for
    the interesting observation, the weather was unsettled; but about
    five o’clock the summit of the Puy de Dôme began to appear through
    the clouds, and Périer resolved to proceed with the experiment.  The
    leading characters in Clermont, whether ecclesiastics or laymen, had
    taken a deep interest in the subject, and had requested Périer to
    give them notice of his plans.  He accordingly summoned his friends,
    and at eight in the morning there assembled in the garden of the
    Pères Minimes, about a league below the town, M. Bannier, of the
    Pères Minimes; M. Mosnier, canon of the cathedral church; along with
    MM. la Ville and Begon, counsellors of the Court of Aides, and M. la
    Porte, doctor and professor of medicine in Clermont.  These five
    individuals were not only distinguished in their respective
    professions, but also by their scientific acquirements; and M. Périer
    expresses his delight at having been on this occasion associated with
    them.  M. Périer began the experiment by pouring into a vessel 16 lb.
    of quicksilver, which he had rectified during the three preceding
    days.  He then took two glass tubes, four feet long, of the same
    bore, and hermetically sealed at one end and open at the other; and
    making the ordinary experiment of a vacuum with both, he found that
    the mercury stood in each of them at the same level and at the height
    of 26 inches 3½ lines.  This experiment was repeated twice, with the
    same result.  One of these glass tubes, with the mercury standing in
    it, was left under the care of M. Chastin, one of the Religious of
    the House, who undertook to observe and mark any changes in it that
    might take place during the day; and the party already named set out
    with the other tube for the summit of the Puy de Dôme, about 500
    toises (a toise is about six feet in length) above their first
    station.  Before arriving there, they found that the mercury stood at
    the height of 23 inches and 2 lines—no less than 3 inches and 1½ line
    lower than it stood at the Minimes.  The party were ‘struck with
    admiration and astonishment at this result;’ and ‘so great was their
    surprise that they resolved to repeat the experiment under various
    forms.’  The glass tube, or the barometer, as we may call it, was
    placed in various positions on the summit of ‘the mountain’—sometimes
    in the small chapel which is there; sometimes in an exposed and
    sometimes in a sheltered position; sometimes when the wind blew, and
    sometimes when it was calm; sometimes in rain, and sometimes in a
    fog: and under all these various influences, which fortunately took
    place during the same day, the quicksilver stood at the same height
    of 23 inches 2 lines.  During their descent of the mountain they
    repeated the experiment at _Lafon-de-l’Arbre_, an intermediate
    station, nearer the Minimes than the summit of the Puy, ‘and they
    found the mercury to stand at the height of 25 inches—a result with
    which the party was greatly pleased,’ as indicating the relation
    between the height of the mercury and the height of the station.
    Upon reaching the Minimes, they found that the mercury had not
    changed its height, notwithstanding the inconstancy of the weather,
    which had been alternately clear, windy, rainy, and foggy.  M. Périer
    repeated the experiments with both the glass tubes, and found the
    height of the mercury to be still 26 inches 3½ lines.  On the
    following morning M. de la Marc, priest of the Oratory, to whom M.
    Périer had mentioned the preceding results, proposed to have the
    experiment repeated at the top and bottom of the towers of Notre Dame
    in Clermont.  He accordingly yielded to his request, and found the
    difference to be 2 lines.  Upon comparing these observations, M.
    Périer obtained the following results, showing the changes in the
    altitude of the mercurial column corresponding to certain differences
    of altitude of position:—

    Difference of altitude.        Changes in the height of the mercury.

    Toises.                        Lines.

    500                            37½

    150                            15½

    27                             2½

    7                              ½

    When Pascal received these results, all the difficulties were
    removed; and perceiving from the two last observations in the
    preceding table that 20 toises, or about 120 feet, produce a change
    of 2 lines, and 7 toises, or 42 feet, a change of ½ a line, he made
    the observation at the top and bottom of the tower of St Jacques de
    la Boucherie, which was about 24 or 25 toises, or about 150 feet
    high, and he found a difference of more than 2 lines in the mercurial
    column; and in a private house 90 steps high he found a difference of
    ½ a line. . . .  After this important experiment was made, Pascal
    intimated to M. Périer that different states of the weather would
    occasion differences in the barometer, according as it was cold, hot,
    dry, or moist; and in order to put this opinion to the test of
    experiment, M. Périer instituted a series of observations, which he
    continued from the beginning of 1649 till March 1651.  Corresponding
    observations were made at the same time at Paris and at Stockholm by
    the French ambassador, M. Chanut, and Descartes; and from these it
    appeared that the mercury rises in weather which is cold, cloudy, and
    damp, and falls when the weather is hot and dry, and during rain and
    snow, but still with such irregularities that no general rule could
    be established.  At Clermont the difference between the highest and
    the lowest state of the mercury was 1 inch 3½ lines; at Paris the
    same; and at Stockholm 2 inches 2½ lines.”

From the account here presented of these researches, there is no
difficulty in determining the exact credit due to Pascal on the one hand,
and his Italian predecessors on the other.  He completed what they had
begun, and verified what they had indicated.  As the Abbé Bossut has
expressed it, Galileo proved that air was a heavy fluid; Torricelli
conceived that its weight was the cause of the suspension of the water in
a pump and the mercury in a tube.  Pascal demonstrated that this was the
fact.  No one was more anxious than Pascal himself that Torricelli should
be acknowledged as the real discoverer of the principle which it was left
to him to establish by the test of experiment.  He claimed, however, his
own definite share in the discovery, both as having carried on a series
of independent experiments, and as having converted what he himself calls
the “conjecture” of Torricelli into an established fact.  It was painful
to him, therefore, to have this share denied, and even open accusations
made against him that he had appropriated, without acknowledgment, the
results of Torricelli’s researches.  This accusation was made in certain
theses of philosophy maintained in the Jesuit College of Montferrand in
1651, and dedicated to Pascal’s own friend, M. de Ribeyre, first
president at the Court of Aides at Clermont.  Pascal’s name was not
indeed mentioned in these theses; but there could be no doubt of the
allusion made to “certain persons loving novelty” who claimed to be the
inventors of a definite experiment of which Torricelli was the real
author.  It was this accusation which drew from Pascal his letter to M.
Ribeyre, bearing the date of 12th July of the same year, in which he has
described, with admirable lucidity and temper, his relations to the whole
subject.  In this letter he distinctly says that the Italian experiments
were known in France from the year 1644; that they were repeated in
France by several persons in several places during 1646; that he himself
had made, as we have already seen, definite experiments in 1647, and
published the results in the same year; and that he had then not
mentioned the name of Torricelli, because, while he knew that the
experiments were made in Italy four years before, he did not then know
that the experimenter was Torricelli; but that so soon as he learned this
fact—which he and his friends were so eager to know, that they sent a
special letter of inquiry to Rome—he was “ravished with the idea that the
experimenter was so illustrious a genius, whose mathematical writings,
already well known, surpassed those of all antiquity.”  He says, in
conclusion, that it was only in the same year (1647), after the
publication of his own researches, that he learned “the very fine
thought” of Torricelli concerning the cause of all the effects which had
been attributed to the horror of a vacuum.  But “as this was only a
conjecture as yet unverified,” he then, with the view of ascertaining the
truth or falsehood of it, conceived the plan of the experiments carried
out by M. Périer at the top and the foot of the Puy de Dôme.  “It is
true, sir,” he adds, “and I say it boldly, that this series of
experiments was my own invention; and therefore I may say that the new
knowledge thus acquired is entirely due to me.”

To this letter M. Ribeyre made a satisfactory and touching reply.  He
expresses disapproval of the allusion of the Jesuit father, but as the
discourse was otherwise free from offence, he was willing to attribute it
to a “pardonable emulation among _savants_,” rather than to any intention
of assailing Pascal.  He makes, in short, the best excuse he can for the
Jesuit, and hastens to assure Pascal that his reputation needed no

    “Your candour and your sincerity are too well known to admit any
    belief that you could do anything inconsistent with the virtuous
    profession apparent in all your actions and manner.  I honour and
    revere your virtue more than your science; and as in both the one and
    the other you equal the most famous of the age, do not think it
    strange if, adding to the common esteem which all have of you, a
    friendship contracted many years ago with your father, I subscribe
    myself yours,” etc.

But Pascal had to sustain suspicion and attack in a quarter more
formidable than that of the Jesuit fathers at Montferrand.  We have
already spoken of the rather unhappy commencement of relations between
him and Descartes.  Farther on we get a more pleasant glimpse of these
relations, in a letter from Jacqueline Pascal to Madame Périer, dated
25th September 1647, and apparently shortly after Pascal had retired to
Paris, along with his younger sister, leaving their father for some time
still at Rouen.  This letter is so interesting, both in its bearing on
the question which arose between Descartes and Pascal, and in itself, as
giving the only account we have of personal intercourse between these two
illustrious men, that we present it almost entire:—

    “I have delayed writing to you,” Jacqueline says, addressing her
    sister, {39a} “because I wished to tell to you at length of the
    interview of M. Descartes and my brother, and I had no leisure
    yesterday to say that on the evening of Sunday last M. Habert {39b}
    came, accompanied by M. de Montigny, a gentleman of Brittany, with
    the view of letting me know, in the absence of my brother, who was at
    church, that M. Descartes, his compatriot and good friend, had
    expressed a strong desire to see my brother, for the sake of the
    great esteem in which both he and my father were everywhere held, and
    that he begged to be allowed to wait upon him next day at nine
    o’clock in the morning, if this would not inconvenience him, whom he
    knew to be an invalid.  When M. de Montigny proposed this, I felt
    hindered from giving a definite answer, because I knew that my
    brother was reluctant to force himself to conversation, especially in
    the morning.  Nevertheless, I did not think it right to refuse, so we
    arranged that he should come at half-past ten next day.  Along with
    M. Habert and M. de Montigny there were also a young man in the dress
    of a priest, whom I did not know, M. de Montigny’s son, and two or
    three other young people.  M. de Roberval, whom my brother had
    informed of the intended visit, was also present.  After some
    civilities, talk fell upon the instrument [probably that which Pascal
    had used in the experiments], which was very much admired, while M.
    de Roberval showed it.  Then they spoke of the idea of a vacuum; and
    M. Descartes, on hearing of the experiments, and being asked what he
    thought was within the tube (_dans la seringue_), said with great
    seriousness that it was some subtle matter, to which my brother
    replied what he could.  M. Roberval, believing that my brother had
    difficulty in speaking, took up the reply to M. Descartes with some
    heat, yet with perfect civility.  M. Descartes answered with some
    harshness that he would talk to my brother as much as he wished,
    because he spoke with reason, but not to any one who spoke with
    prejudice.  Thereupon, finding from his watch it was mid-day, he
    rose, being engaged to dine at the Faubourg Saint Germain.  M.
    Roberval also rose, in such a way that M. Descartes conducted him to
    a carriage, where the two were alone, and battled at one another more
    strongly than playfully, as M. Roberval, who returned here after
    dinner, told us. . . .  I have forgotten to tell you that M.
    Descartes, annoyed at seeing so little of my brother, promised to
    return next day at eight o’clock. . . .  He desired this, partly to
    consult regarding my brother’s illness, as to which, however, he did
    not communicate anything of importance, only he counselled him to
    remain in bed every day as long as he could till he was tired, and to
    take plenty of soup.  They spoke of many other things, for he was
    here till eleven o’clock, but I cannot tell you more particularly
    what they said, as I was not present on this occasion.  We were
    prevented during the whole day from making him take his early bath.
    He had found it give him a little headache, but that was because he
    had taken it too late; and I believe the bleeding at the foot on
    Sunday had done him good, for on Monday he conversed freely and
    strongly all day—in the morning with M. Descartes, and after dinner
    with M. de Roberval, with whom he argued for a long time on many
    things, both belonging to theology and physics, and yet he took no
    further harm than perspiring much, and slept rather sound during the

The revelations of this letter are very curious.  The respectful desire
of Descartes, already so distinguished, to make Pascal’s acquaintance,
and to enter into conversation with him; his resentment of Roberval’s
interference, and their earnest altercation, prolonged in the carriage
after leaving Pascal’s house; the evidently serious character of Pascal’s
maladies, and the watchful attention of his sister.  It is clear through
all that Descartes had been busily occupied with the same physical
problems as Pascal, and that he was somewhat jealous of the results
towards which Pascal and his friends were tending.  Evidently there was a
certain measure of unfriendliness between Roberval and Descartes.  I am
unable, however, to see any traces of a coterie surrounding Pascal and
inimical to Descartes, as M. Cousin suggests. {41}  If such a coterie
existed at this time in Paris, of which the “hasty and jealous Roberval”
was the centre, and which delighted in “abusing Descartes, and attacking
him on all sides,” Jacqueline’s frank and lively letter seems enough to
show that while Roberval was Pascal’s friend and Descartes’s disputant,
there was nothing in the meantime between Descartes and Pascal but
courteous friendliness and a cordial feeling of mutual respect.

Descartes, however, in his retirement at Stockholm, plainly cherished the
impression that Roberval’s intimacy with Pascal prevented the latter from
doing full justice to his scientific position and suggestions; and having
as yet heard nothing, in June 1649, of the special results of Pascal’s
experiments on the Puy de Dôme in the preceding year, he wrote to his
friend Carcavi to let him know about these.

    “I pray you, let me know of the success of an experiment which Pascal
    is said to have made on the mountains of Auvergne. . . .  I had the
    right to expect this of him rather than of you, because it was I who
    advised him two years ago to make the experiment, and who assured him
    that, although I had not made it, I had no doubt of its success.  But
    _as he is the friend of M. Roberval_, _who professes not to be mine_,
    _I have some reason to think he follows the passions of his friend_.”

That letter was immediately communicated to Pascal by Carcavi, who was
his intimate associate no less than Roberval.  But it seems to have
elicited no reply.  Bossut {42b} says that he despised it.  On the other
hand, Descartes’s biographer and eulogist, Baillet, blames Pascal for
having carefully kept out of view Descartes’s name in all the accounts of
his discoveries; and produces an array of passages from Descartes’s
letters, showing plainly that his mind was in the line of discovery
finally verified by the experiments in Auvergne. {43a}  It may be granted
beyond doubt this was the case.  It would ill become any admirer of
Pascal to detract from the glory of Descartes.  But it must be held no
less firmly, that in the personal question raised by Descartes’s letter,
the balance of evidence is all in favour of Pascal.  There are no
indications that the two men ever met save on the occasion so frankly
described by his sister Jacqueline.  Before this Pascal had not only been
busy with the subject, but says distinctly that he had meditated the
experiment finally made on the Puy de Dôme from the time that he
published his first researches. {43b}  It was not, indeed, till about six
weeks after Descartes’s visit, or on the 15th December 1647, that he
communicated with M. Périer regarding these experiments, and his earnest
desire that they should be made; and it was not till the following
September, or about a year after Descartes’s visit, that they were
actually made.  But it is incredible that Pascal could have written as he
did if he had really, for the first time, been indebted to Descartes for
the suggestion.  Descartes’s name is not mentioned in his correspondence
with M. Périer, nor in any of his writings on the subject; and the delay
in making the experiments is sufficiently explained by the facts stated
by himself, that they could only be made effectually at some place of
greater elevation than he could command—such as “Clermont, at the foot of
the Puy de Dôme”—and by some person, such as M. Périer, on whose
knowledge and accuracy he could rely.  If we add to this the force of the
statement already quoted from his letter to M. Ribeyre, four years
afterwards, or in 1651, that he claimed the experiments as entirely “his
own invention,” and that he did so “boldly,” the case seems put beyond
all doubt—unless we are to suppose the author of the ‘Provincial Letters’
and the ‘Thoughts’ capable of wilful suppression of the truth.  On the
other hand, it is unnecessary to attribute to Descartes anything beyond a
mistaken opinion of the value of certain statements which he had no doubt
made to Pascal, and possibly some confusion of memory.  And that this is
not an unwarranted view appears from what he says in a subsequent letter
to M. Carcavi, on the 17th August of the same year, 1649—that he was
greatly interested in hearing of the success of the experiments, having
two years before besought Pascal to make them, and assured him of
success—because the supposed explanation was one, he adds, “entirely
consistent with the principles of my philosophy, apart from which he
[Pascal], would not have thought of it, his own opinion being quite
contrary.” {44}  This may or may not be true.  Pascal certainly held as
long as he could to the old maxim of “Nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum.”
“I do not think it allowable,” he says in his letter to M. Périer, “to
depart lightly from maxims handed down to us by antiquity, unless
compelled by invincible proofs.”  But the notions of Descartes on the
subject of a vacuum were at least as confused as those originally held by
Pascal. {45a}  It is absurd, therefore, to suppose that the latter could
have been indebted to the principles of the Cartesian philosophy—not to
say that this is a very different suggestion from that of the former
letter, that Descartes himself had advised the experiment to be made.
Evidently the older philosopher wrote under vague and somewhat inflated
ideas of the value of his labours and his conversation with Pascal; while
the latter, again, absorbed in his own thoughts on the subject, and
unconscious that he had received any special impulse from Descartes or
his philosophy, naturally made no mention of his name.  His silence when
Descartes’s accusation was communicated to him indicates the same
somewhat lofty reserve and confidence in the independence of his own
researches, rather than any contempt.  He felt too sure of his position
to think of defending himself, or of repelling what he no doubt regarded
as not so much a deliberate assault on the value of his own work, as an
exaggerated estimate by the other of his share in that work.

Pascal’s researches regarding atmospheric pressure conducted him
gradually to the examination of the general laws of the equilibrium of
fluids. {45b}  It had been already determined that the pressure of a
fluid on its base is as the product of the base multiplied by the height
of the fluid, and that all fluids press equally on all sides of the
vessels enclosing them.  But it still remained to determine exactly the
measure of the pressure, in order to deduce the general conditions of
equilibrium.  With the view of ascertaining this, Pascal made two unequal
apertures in a vessel filled with fluid, and enclosed on all sides.  He
then applied two pistons to these apertures, pressed by forces
proportional to the respective apertures, and the fluid remained _in
equilibrio_.  “Having established this truth by two methods equally
ingenious and satisfactory, he deduced from it the different cases of the
equilibrium of fluids, and particularly with solid bodies, compressible
and incompressible, when either partly or wholly immersed in them.”

    “But the most remarkable part of his treatise on the ‘Equilibrium of
    Fluids,’” continues Sir David Brewster, from whose exposition we
    quote, {46a} “and one which of itself would have immortalised him, is
    his application of the general principle to the construction of what
    he calls the ‘mechanical machine for multiplying forces,’ {46b}—an
    effect which, he says, may be produced to any extent we choose, as
    one may by means of this machine raise a weight of any magnitude.
    This new machine is the _Hydrostatic Press_, first introduced by our
    celebrated countryman, Mr Bramah.

    “Pascal’s treatise on the weight of the whole mass of air forms the
    basis of the modern science of Pneumatics.  In order to prove that
    the mass of air presses by its weight on all the bodies which it
    surrounds, and also that it is elastic and compressible, a balloon
    half filled with air was carried to the top of the Puy de Dôme.  It
    gradually inflated itself as it ascended, and when it reached the
    summit it was quite full and swollen, as if fresh air had been blown
    into it; or what is the same thing, it swelled in proportion as the
    weight of the column of air which pressed upon it diminished.  When
    again brought down, it became more and more flaccid, and, when it
    reached the bottom, it resumed its original condition.  In the nine
    chapters of which the treatise consists, he shows that all the
    phenomena or effects hitherto ascribed to the horror of a vacuum,
    arise from the weight of the mass of air; and after explaining the
    variable pressure of the atmosphere in different localities, and in
    its different states, and the rise of the water in pumps, he
    calculates that the whole mass of air round our globe weighs
    8,983,889,440,000,000,000 French pounds.

    “Having thus completed his researches respecting elastic and
    incompressible fluids, Pascal seems to have resumed with a fatal
    enthusiasm his mathematical studies: but, unfortunately for science,
    several of the works which he composed have been lost.  Others,
    however, have been preserved, which entitle him to a high rank
    amongst the greatest mathematicians of the age.  Of these, his
    ‘Traité du Triangle Arithmétique,’ his ‘Tractatus de Numericis
    Ordinibus,’ and his ‘Problemata de Cycloide,’ are the chief.  By
    means of the _Arithmetical Triangle_, an invention equally ingenious
    and original, he succeeded in solving a number of theorems which it
    would have been difficult to demonstrate in any other way, and in
    finding the coefficients of different terms of a binomial raised to
    an even and positive power.  The same principles enabled him to lay
    the foundation of the doctrine of probabilities, an important branch
    of mathematical science, which Huyghens, a few years afterwards,
    improved, and which the Marquis la Place and M. Poisson have so
    greatly extended.  These treatises, with the exception of that on the
    Cycloid, were composed and printed in the year 1654, but were not
    published till 1668, after the death of the author.”

Pascal’s discoveries as to the cycloid belong to a later period of his
life, after he had long forsaken the scientific studies which engrossed
him at this time, and had become an inmate of Port Royal.  But, as we
have already said, it is well to complete our view of his scientific
labours in a single chapter.

During an access of severe toothache which, in 1658, deprived him of
sleep, his thoughts fastened on certain problems connected with the
cycloid.  Fermat, Roberval, and Torricelli had all been occupied with the
subject, and made some definite progress in ascertaining its properties.
But much still remained to be done, and especially to resolve the
problems connected with it in a “general and uniform manner.”  “Pascal,”
says Bossut, “devised within eight days, and in the midst of cruel
sufferings, a method which embraced all the problems—a method founded
upon the summation of certain series, of which he had given the elements
in his writings accompanying his ‘Traité du Triangle Arithmétique.’  From
this discovery there was only a step to that of the Differential and
Integral Calculus; and it may be confidently presumed that, if Pascal had
proceeded with his mathematical studies, he would have anticipated
Leibnitz and Newton in the glory of their great invention.”

Having communicated the result of his geometrical meditation to the Duc
de Roannez and some of his other religious friends, they conceived the
design of making it subservient to the triumph of religion.  Pascal
himself was an illustrious example that the highest mathematical genius
and the humblest Christian piety might be united; but in order to give
_éclat_ to such an example, his friends proposed to propound publicly the
questions solved by the great Port Royalist in his moments of suffering,
and to offer prizes for the best solutions given of them.  This they did
in June 1658.  A programme was published making the offer of prizes of
forty and twenty pistoles, for the best determination of the area and the
centre of gravity of any segment of the cycloid, and the dimensions and
centres of gravity of solids and half and quarter solids which the same
curve would generate by revolving round an abscissa and an ordinate.  The
programme was put forth in the name of Amos Dettonville, the anagram of
Pascal’s assumed name as the writer of the ‘Provincial Letters.’
Huyghens, Sluzsius, a canon of the Cathedral of Liège, and Wren, the
architect of St Paul’s, sent in partial solutions of the problems—those
of Wren especially attracting the interest of both Fermat and Roberval.
But Wallis, of Oxford, and Lallouère, a Jesuit of Toulouse, were the only
two competitors who treated all the problems proposed.  It was held that
they had not completely succeeded in solving them; and Dettonville
published his own solution in an elaborate letter addressed to M.
Carcavi, and in a treatise on the subject.  Carcavi was an old friend of
Pascal’s father as well as of himself; and being a lawyer as well as a
mathematician, the arrangement of the affair seems to have been intrusted
to him.  This did not save him, however, from attacks by the disappointed
candidates, who accused him of unfairness; and Leibnitz has given his
decision that both Wallis and Lallouère, in the treatises which they
published,—which did not, however, appear till after Pascal’s,—had
succeeded in solving the problems.  Upon such a point we cannot pretend
to judge; but it may be safely said that the design of the Duc de Roannez
was hardly realised in the issue.  It was sufficiently proved, indeed,
that Pascal, in the midst of all his austerities and devotional
exercises, was the same Pascal who had held his own both with Descartes
and with the Jesuits.  But the life of thought which survived in him no
sooner touched the outer world of intellectual ambition, than it flamed
forth into something of the passion of controversy which his pen had
already kindled in another direction.  Religion is best vindicated, not
in the strifes of science, but by the beauty of its own activities.

Pascal’s labours on the cycloid may be said to bring to a close his
scientific career.  There is still one invention, however, of a very
practical kind, associated with the very last months of his life.
Amongst the letters of Madame Périer, there is one of date March 24,
1662, addressed to M. Arnauld de Pompone {50}—a nephew of the great
Arnauld—in which she gives a lively description of the success of an
experiment “dans l’affaire des carrosses.”  The affair was nothing less
than the trial on certain routes in Paris of what is now known as an
“omnibus;” and the idea of such conveyances for the public—“carrosses à
cinq sols,” as they were called—is attributed to Pascal.  It is certain
that the privilege of running “carrosses à cinq sols” was granted to
Pascal’s friend, the Duc de Roannez, and to other noblemen, by royal
patent, in January 1662,—and that the experiment, as described by Madame
Périer, was made with great success in the following March, and that
Pascal had an active interest in the undertaking.  His sister tells that
he had mortgaged his share of its first year’s profits in order to
provide for the poor at Blois; {51} and a note from his own hand,
appended to his sister’s letter, shows with what eagerness he entered
into the affair and hailed its success.  It is singular to connect the
name of Pascal, and that, too, during the last sad months of his life,
with so world-wide a commonplace as the omnibus.


Pascal’s health, we have seen, was very delicate.  His labours to perfect
his arithmetical machine had seriously impaired it.  The attack of
partial paralysis, described by his niece, seems to have taken place in
the early summer of 1647.  As soon as he was able, he removed to Paris,
where we find him settled with his younger sister in September of the
same year.  It was on the twenty-fifth of this month that Jacqueline
writes from Paris of Descartes’s memorable visits.  One of the motives of
his change of residence was no doubt to consult the best physicians of
the day; and Descartes, who, amongst his other numerous gifts, had some
skill in medicine, made his second visit to him partly as a physician.
“He came in part,” says Jacqueline, “to consult as to my brother’s
illness.”  He appears to have given him very sound advice, which,
unfortunately, Pascal did not follow—“to lie in bed as much as he could,
and take strong soup.”  On the contrary, he was “bled, bathed, and
purged,” after the usual medical routine of the time, apparently without
any good effects, or any alleviation of his sufferings.

The father also returned to Paris in May 1648.  The Provincial
Parliament, with regained authority, had exacted the recall of the
Intendants appointed by the Court.  Étienne Pascal’s services were
remunerated by the dignity of a Counsellor of State, and he was set at
liberty to rejoin his children.  It was at this period that the struggle
took place betwixt father and daughter as to the latter’s determination
to choose a religious life.  Encouraged by her brother after his access
of zeal at Rouen, Jacqueline was gradually more and more drawn towards
piety.  After their settlement in Paris they went frequently together to
the Church of Port Royal de Paris, to listen to the sermons of M.
Singlin, whose touching pictures of the beauty and perfection of the
Christian life awoke in the youthful enthusiast the desire of entering
Port Royal.  She opened personal communications with the sainted head of
the House, the Mère Angélique, and also with M. Singlin, who recognised
in her all the marks of a true vocation, but who would not allow her to
proceed further without her father’s consent and approval.  The brother
at this time strongly sympathised with her aspirations, and favoured
them.  On the father’s arrival in Paris, the design of his daughter was
imparted to him.  He was greatly surprised and moved by the
proposition—pleased, on the one hand, by his daughter’s devotion, and yet
deeply wounded by the idea of parting with her.  He took time for
consideration, and at length made up his mind that it was impossible to
give his consent.  Not only so, but he strongly blamed his son, who had
broken the matter to him, for encouraging his sister’s design without
first ascertaining whether it would be agreeable to himself, and he seems
for the time to have felt so much distrust in them both, that he
instructed an old domestic, who had been with them from their youth, to
watch over their actions.  This is the narrative of Madame Périer; {54a}
and the unpleasantness which arose out of this event appears also implied
in Jacqueline’s letter to her sister in the spring of the same year.

In 1649 the Pascal family left Paris for Auvergne, and seem to have
remained there for about a year and a half.  Madame Périer says nothing
of this visit, so far as her brother is concerned, beyond the fact that
he accompanied Jacqueline and her father.  The likelihood, however, is,
that the visit was in some degree prompted by a regard for Pascal’s
health.  He had made in Paris some progress towards recovery,
notwithstanding the severity of his treatment.  But he was still far from
well, and it was judged necessary, “in order to re-establish him
entirely, that he should abandon every sort of mental occupation, and
seek, as much as he could, opportunities of amusing himself.”  Her
brother, she adds, was very reluctant to take this advice, “because he
saw its danger.”  At length, however, he yielded, “considering himself
obliged to do all he could to restore his health, and because he thought
that trivial amusements could not harm him.  So he set himself on the
world.”  When this definite change in Pascal’s life began is left
uncertain, but there are indications that he had largely abandoned his
studies in 1649 and the following year.  During these years there is
nothing from his pen.  The interval between the “recital” of the
experiments on the Puy de Dôme (1648), and his letter to M. Ribeyre, 12th
July 1651, is blank in any record of scientific or literary labour.  This
is not conclusive, of course, that he was idle; but taken in connection
with the remarks of his sister, and the retirement to Auvergne, it
suggests that the family may have sought there, in rural isolation and
domestic reunion, the means of entirely withdrawing Pascal from his
severer studies, and the scientific companions who were constantly
prompting them in Paris.  It may be, also, that the father sought the
means of withdrawing Jacqueline from the neighbourhood of Port Royal, and
from the equally exciting associations to her connected with that

Of Pascal’s life at this time in Auvergne we know nothing, or next to
nothing.  There is, indeed, a single trace, of which the most has been
made, in the Memoirs of Fléchier, describing his stay at Clermont in 1665
and 1666, a few years after Pascal’s death.  In these Memoirs, Fléchier
relates an anecdote of a young lady “who was the Sappho of the country,”
and greatly beloved by all the _beaux esprits_ of the time.  Amongst
others, “M. Pascal, who had then acquired so much reputation, and another
_savant_, were continually with this _belle savante_.”  It is difficult
to know what to make of this vague if piquant anecdote.  Some of Pascal’s
more religious admirers have even been scandalised by it, and have tried
to show that it could not refer to the author of the ‘Pensées.’  M.
Cousin and other parties have emphasised it too much. {55}  There seems
no reason to doubt that the anecdote relates to the younger Pascal—it
cannot reasonably be supposed to relate to his father.  Nor is there any
ground to suppose that Pascal was less likely to be interested in a
beautiful and accomplished _demoiselle_ than any other young man of his
age.  On the contrary, there is some reason to think him at this time
peculiarly susceptible to the charms of female companionship.  The
passing glimpse which the story gives of his occupations in Auvergne, and
the comparative brightness and leisure in which it seems to set his life
for a little, are pleasing.  It suggests the idea that the change to the
country had worked successfully, and that with rest and retirement from
Paris his health had greatly benefited.

It is a very different picture we get of the once brilliant Jacqueline.
If her father had cherished any hopes of restoring her again to the
world, he was destined to disappointment.  With her conversion at Rouen,
and her association with M. Singlin and Port Royal, her old life seems
entirely to have died out.  Even her old pleasure in making verses was
renounced at the bidding of Port Royal.  She was told “that it was a
talent of which God would not take any account—it was necessary to bury
it,” and this although she only exerted it now in the service of religion
and the Church.  While Madame Périer has given us no details, and,
indeed, no facts whatever, of her brother’s life at this time, she has
given us a minute picture of Jacqueline’s austerities.  In everything
save in name she had already become a nun.  She wore a dress approaching
as nearly as possible to a religious habit; she fasted and kept vigils;
she spent her whole time either in the house alone, absorbed in religious
ecstasy, or abroad in works of active charity; in every way she made it
plainly to be known that it was only her father’s wish that kept her in
the world at all.

After a stay in Auvergne of seventeen months, the family returned to
Paris in November 1650.  There we still read of the pious labours and
devotion of Jacqueline—little or nothing of her brother.  How far the
leisure of country life may have weaned him from his old pursuits, how
far the world had begun to exercise a new attraction over him, we learn
nothing.  It is evident from his letter to M. Périer on his father’s
death, nearly a year after this, that he still cherished strongly his
religious convictions.  Yet there is nothing in all this time to tell of
his religious profession; and Madame Périer plainly does not care to
dwell upon it, but hurries forward to the later and more edifying period
of his career.  The impression is left upon us that worldly distractions
had already begun to influence his life.

These distractions rapidly acquired force after the father’s death in the
autumn of 1651 (September).  The devoted Jacqueline attended his last
moments with assiduous tenderness; but no sooner was the event over than
she renewed her determination to enter Port Royal.  The issue cannot be
so well described as in Madame Périer’s words:—

    “Being ill,” she says, “I was unable to leave Paris till the end of
    November.  In this interval, my brother, who was greatly afflicted,
    and had received much consolation from my sister, imagined that her
    affection would make her remain with him at least a year. . . .  He
    spoke to her on the subject, but in such a manner as to convey the
    impression that she would not so far contradict him for fear of
    redoubling his grief.  This led her to dissemble her intention till
    our arrival.  Then she told me that her resolution was fixed to adopt
    a religious life as soon as our respective shares [of the father’s
    property] were arranged.  She would, however, spare my brother by
    leading him to suppose she only meditated a retreat!  With this view,
    she disposed of everything in my presence; our shares were settled on
    the last day of December; and she fixed upon the 4th of January for
    carrying out her decision.  On the evening before, she begged me to
    say something to my brother, that he might not be taken by surprise.
    I did so with all the precaution I could; but although I hinted that
    it was only a retreat, with the view of knowing something of the sort
    of life, he did not fail to be deeply touched.  He withdrew very sad
    to his chamber without seeing my sister, who was then in a small
    cabinet where she was accustomed to retire for prayer.  She did not
    come out till my brother had left, as she feared his look would go to
    her heart.  I told her for him what words of tenderness he had
    spoken; and after that we both retired.  Though I consented with all
    my heart to what my sister was doing, because I thought it was for
    her the highest good, the greatness of her resolution astonished and
    occupied my mind so that I could not sleep all night.  At seven
    o’clock, when I saw that my sister was not up, I concluded that she
    was no longer sleeping, and feared that she might be ill.
    Accordingly, I went to her bed, where I found her still fast asleep.
    The noise I made awoke her; she asked me what o’clock it was.  I told
    her; and having inquired how she was, and if she had slept well, she
    said she was very well, and that she had slept excellently.  So she
    rose, dressed, and went away, doing this, as everything else, with a
    tranquillity and equanimity inconceivable.  We said no adieu for fear
    of breaking down.  I only turned aside when I saw her ready to go.
    In this manner she quitted the world on the 4th January 1652, being
    then exactly twenty-six years and three months old.” {58}

Our readers will not grudge this extract, so touching in its simplicity.
What a living picture does it give us of this remarkable family!—the
elder sister’s wakeful anxiety—the younger’s calm determination—the
brother’s half-suppressed yet deeply-moved tenderness—the proud and
sensitive reserve of all the three.  Jacqueline’s firmness was heroic,
but her heart was full of concern.  She had escaped the
half-authoritative, half-supplicating entreaties of her brother, and
found refuge for her long-cherished solicitudes of heart in the bosom of
Port Royal, and the strong counsels both of the Mère Angélique and the
Mère Agnès.  But after a while this did not satisfy her.  When the time
came to make her profession, she was anxious to do so, not merely with
her own consent, but with her brother’s.  And accordingly, she addressed
him in the following March a remarkable letter, in which, while reminding
him that she was her own mistress to do as she wished in a matter so
seriously affecting her life, she yet prayed him to give her a kindly
greeting in her solemn act, and to come to the ceremony of her taking the
vows.  The letter breathes at once the affection of a sister and the
passion of a saint,—the proud firmness so characteristic of the family,
with a charming sweetness, blending entreaty with command.  She signs
herself already “Sister of Sainte Euphémie,” the name which she adopted
as an inmate of Port Royal, addressing her brother for the most part with
the grave formal “you,” but now and then relapsing into the old familiar
“thou,” as if she were still in the family home.

    “Do not take that away,” she says, {59} “which you cannot give.  If
    it is true that the world has preserved some impressions of the
    friendship which it showed for me when I was with it, please God this
    should not turn me from quitting it, nor you from consenting to my
    doing so.  This ought rather to be my glory, and your joy, and that
    of all my true friends, as showing the strength of my God, and that
    it is not the world which quits me, but I that quit the world, and
    that the effort which it makes to retain me is to be regarded as only
    a visible punishment of the complacency with which I formerly
    regarded it, and which it now pleases God to give me power to resist.
    . . .  Do not hinder those who do well; and do well yourself; or if
    you have not the strength to follow me, at least do not hold me back.
    Do not render me ungrateful to God for the grace which He has given
    to one whom you love. . . .  I wait this proof of your brotherly
    friendship, and pray you to come to my divine betrothal, which will
    take place, God helping, on Trinity Sunday.  I wrote also to my
    faithful one [her sister Gilberte].  I beg you to console her, if
    there is need, and encourage her.  It is only for the sake of form
    that I ask you to be present at the ceremony; for I do not believe
    you have any thought of failing me.  Be assured that I must renounce
    you if you do.”

The result of this moving appeal was to bring her brother to her side.

    “He came the following day very much put out,” she says, “with a bad
    headache, the result of my letter, yet also very much softened, for
    instead of the two years which he had formerly insisted on, he wished
    me merely to wait till All Saints’ Day.  But seeing me firm not to
    delay, yet willing to give him some further time to think over the
    matter, he melted entirely, and expressed pity for the trouble which
    had made me delay so long a result which I had so long and so
    ardently desired.  He did not return at the appointed time; but M.
    d’Andilly, at my request, had the goodness to send for him on
    Saturday, and undertook the matter with so much warmth, and yet
    skill, that he consented to everything we wished.” {60}

Jacqueline gained her point so far; but painful difficulties still
remained, the story of which she herself has also told us. {61}  While
eager to be admitted to the full privileges of her vocation, she did not
wish to enter Port Royal empty-handed.  She thought herself free to endow
it with the share of her father’s fortune which had fallen to her, and
seems not to have doubted her brother’s and sister’s concurrence in this
act of liberality.  But they, on the contrary, were both for a time
deeply offended that she should apparently prefer strangers to her own
kindred.  They took the matter “in an entirely secular manner.”  This
greatly grieved her in turn; and, balked at once in her wishes and her
sisterly trust, she pictures in the most lively colours the distress she
endured.  La Mère Agnès consoled her in her disappointment, and sought to
carry her thoughts beyond the mere chagrin which so obviously mingled
with her higher feeling.  Her own somewhat resentful obstinacy gradually
yielded to the pure passivity of resignation—so strong in its seeming
weakness—which the sister of Arnauld preached to her.  At length she is
content to make no further demands upon her brother.  He and Madame
Périer shall do as they wish; the money would not be blessed unless it
came from free hearts, and was given for the love of God.  She is willing
even to be received gratuitously as a sister—a feeling evidently not
without its bitterness.  Her submission became, as may be guessed, her
triumph; a result probably not unforeseen by the deeper experience of La
Mère Agnès and M. Singlin.

When her brother—“he who had most interest in the affair”—at last came to
see her, she endeavoured to meet him as the Mother advised.  “But, with
all her effort” she could not hide the sadness of her heart.

    “This,” she says, “was so unlike my usual manner, that he perceived
    it at once; and there was no need of an interpreter to explain the
    cause, for though I put on the best face I could, he easily guessed
    that it was his own conduct which was the cause of my uneasiness.
    All the same, he was desirous of making the first complaint; and then
    I learned that both he and my sister felt themselves much aggrieved
    by what I had written.  He dwelt on this, but could hardly go on,
    seeing I made no complaint on my side.  Otherwise, I could have
    destroyed by a single word all his reasons!”

A true family trait!  The result of all was, that Pascal yielded to the
tender resignation of his sister what he had refused to her arguments.
He was so “touched,” she says, “with confusion, that he resolved to put
the whole affair in order,” and to undertake himself any risks or charges
that it might involve.

But the heads of the House required to be satisfied, no less than
Jacqueline.  They were not disposed to accept any gift which was not
freely and piously given.  Accordingly, before the final disposition of
the property was made, La Mère Angélique took care that Pascal should
understand the matter anew from the Port-Royalist point of view.  St
Cyran had taught them that they were never “to receive anything for the
house of God but that which came from God.”  Even he was not a little
surprised, according to the statement of his sister, at all this
scrupulousness—“the manner in which we deal with such matters;” and the
men of business whose presence was necessary on the occasion are
represented as astonished beyond measure.  “They had never seen business
done in such a way.”  At length, however, all was completed.  Pascal
professed the genuineness of his motives, and only regretted that it was
not in his power to do more.

If this narrative mainly concerns Jacqueline Pascal, it serves to throw
light upon the character and life of her brother at this time.  In the
course of her “relation,” Jacqueline, or her interlocutor La Mère Agnès,
makes frequent allusion to Pascal’s “worldly life.”  When she is vexed
that he will not carry out her desires in the matter of the dowry, she is
reminded that she had far more reason to be distressed by the “faults and
infidelities” into which he had fallen towards God. {63a}  He is
represented as being so much engrossed with the vanities and amusements
of the world as to prefer his own pleasure and advantage to the good of a
religious community or the pious gratification of his sister.  It was
only by some miracle that it could be otherwise; and there was no reason
to “expect a miracle of grace in a person like him.” {63b}  All the means
at his command were hardly sufficient to enable him to live in the world
“like others of his condition,” and the associates with whom he was known
to be mingling. {63c}

Plainly at this time Pascal was abandoned by Port Royal.  He had “set
himself,” as his sister briefly says, “on the world.”  As his niece more
particularly indicates, {63d} he had given himself up to the amusements
of life.  Unable to study, the love of leisure and of fashionable society
had gradually gained upon him.  At first he was moderate in his worldly
enjoyments; but a taste for them insensibly sprang up and carried him far
away from his old associations and the pious severities of his former
life.  After his father’s death this change was more clearly marked.  He
was master of his own affairs, and he plunged more freely into the
pleasures of society, although always, it is distinctly said, “without
any vice or licentiousness.”  All this, his niece adds, was very grievous
to her aunt Jacqueline, who grieved in spirit at seeing him who had been
the means of making her learn the nothingness of the world return to its

Too much is not to be made of such statements, or the still stronger
expressions of Jacqueline herself in her letters regarding her brother’s
final conversion.  When she speaks of “wretched attachments” binding him
to the world, and of his being still “haunted by the smell of the mud
which he had embraced with such _empressement_,” {64} we are to remember
that she speaks not only out of the severity of her own youthful
judgment, (and what judgment is so severe at times as that of youth?) but
out of the mouth of Port Royal.  She condemns a world which was no doubt
bad enough, but of which she knew nothing.  Her allusions to the
“grandeur” of her brother’s life and similar indications have led
Sainte-Beuve and others to speak of his extravagance at this time.  He is
supposed not only to have lived in the world, but to have lived in a
style above his means—the companion of men of higher social position than
himself, profuse in their habits and expenditure.  That he lived in the
midst of society of this kind can hardly be doubted.  It is more doubtful
how far his own habits had become those of an extravagant man of the
world.  His chief companion was one who remained bound to him through all
the rest of his life, Pascal’s influence having drawn him also from the
world when the time of his own change came.  This was the Duc de Roannez,
a young man of fewer years than himself, who seems to have possessed many
attractive qualities.  He was devoted to Pascal—could hardly “bear him
out of his sight,” as Marguerite Périer says—and Pascal warmly returned
his friendship.  It seems as if they had lived together a good deal, or
at least that Pascal spent the most of his time with the young Duke; and
it was in his house and society no doubt that he tasted the joys and
perils of that fashionable and luxurious life of which his sister speaks
so bitterly. {65a}  It was a life, after all, of thoughtless enjoyment
rather than of any deeper folly.  Both men were as yet very young—the
Duke only twenty-two years of age, and Pascal twenty-eight.  After his
simple and severe training, and the society of his Jansenist friends, it
must have been a change full of excitement, possibly of moral danger, to
the once enthusiastic student; for the society of the time was charged
with the elements both of sceptical and moral indifference.  It has been
even said that “no society was ever more grandly dissolute” than that of
the Fronde, “when women like La Barette {65b} and La Couronne took the
lead in the least discreet pleasures.”

Among the men whom Pascal evidently met at the hotel of the Duc de
Roannez, and with whom he formed something of a friendship, was the
well-known Chevalier de Méré, whom we know best as a tutor of Madame de
Maintenon, and whose graceful but flippant letters still survive as a
picture of the time.  He was a gambler and libertine, yet with some
tincture of science and professed interest in its progress.  In his
correspondence there is a letter to Pascal, in which he makes free in a
somewhat ridiculous manner with the young geometrician already so
distinguished.  Other names still less reputable—those of Miton and
Desbarreaux, for example—have been associated with Pascal during this
period.  Miton was undoubtedly an intimate ally of De Méré, and amidst
all his dissoluteness, made pretensions to scientific knowledge and
attainments as a writer.  Desbarreaux was a companion of both, but of a
still lower grade—a man of open profligacy, and a despiser of the rites
of the Church.  Along with Miton and other boon companions, he is spoken
of as betaking himself to St Cloud for carnival during the Holy Week.
{66}  The truth would seem to be that all these men came across Pascal’s
path at this time, and were more or less known to him.  His allusions to
both Miton and Desbarreaux in the Pensées imply this.  There is a certain
familiarity of knowledge indicated in the very heartiness with which he
assails them—speaking of Miton as “hateful,” {67a} and of Desbarreaux as
having renounced reason and made himself a “brute.”  {67b}  But it is
against all probability, no less than against all the facts known to us,
to suppose that Pascal had more connection with such men than meeting
them in the society in which he moved during these years, and becoming
well acquainted with the intellectual and moral atmosphere which they
breathed.  It may be too much to say, with Faugère, that he was then
consciously imbibing the experience to be afterwards utilised in his
great work, or that it was the principles professed by these men which
gave him the first idea of such a work; but we may certainly say that the
knowledge of them, as well as all the knowledge he acquired at this time,
served to deepen and extend his moral intuitions, and to give a finer
point to many of his Thoughts.  And no student of Pascal can doubt that
“if his feet touched for a moment the dirt of this dissolute society, his
divine wings remained unsoiled.” {67c}

A more interesting point than any, however, still remains in connection
with this period of his life.  It was now, or soon after, that Pascal
must have composed the “Discours sur les Passions de l’Amour,” one of the
most exquisite fragments which have come from his pen,—remarkable both in
itself and in the circumstances of its discovery by M. Cousin about
thirty years ago.  M. Cousin has himself related these circumstances in
minute detail, and with a certain self-elation. {67d}  According to M.
Faugère, there was no particular difficulty, and therefore no particular
merit, in the discovery.  The fragment was clearly indexed in a catalogue
of the Pascal MSS. in the well-known State library of Paris as follows:
“Discours sur les Passions de l’Amour, par M. Pascal,” and again in the
body of the volume the fragment was entitled, “Discours, etc., on
l’attribue à M. Pascal.”  The genuineness of the fragment seems admitted
on all hands.  “In the first line,” says Cousin, “I felt Pascal, and my
conviction of its authorship grew as I proceeded—his ardent and lofty
manner, half thought, half passion, and that speech so fine and grand, an
accent which I would recognise amongst a thousand.” {68a}  “The soul and
thought of Pascal,” says Faugère, “shine everywhere in the pages, steeped
in a melancholy at once chaste and ardent.”  {68b}

The following extracts may give some idea of this remarkable paper.  It
commences in an abstract, aphoristic manner not uncommon with Pascal:—

    “Man is born to think; he is never a moment without thinking.  But
    pure thought, which, if it could be sustained, would make him happy,
    fatigues and prostrates him.  He could not live a life of mere
    thought; movement and action are necessary to him.  He must be
    agitated by the passions, whose sources he feels deep and strong in
    his heart.  The passions most characteristic of man, and which
    embrace most others, are love and ambition.  They have no affinity,
    yet they are often united; together, they tend to weaken if not
    destroy each other.  For however grand the human spirit, it is only
    capable at once of one great passion.  When love and ambition meet,
    each therefore falls short of what it would otherwise be.  Age
    determines neither the beginning nor the end of these two passions.
    They are born with the first years, they continue often to the last.”

    “Man finds no full scope for love in himself, yet he loves.  It is
    necessary, therefore, for him to seek an object of love elsewhere.
    This he can only find in beauty.  But as he himself is the most
    beautiful creature that God has made, he must find in himself the
    type of that beauty which he seeks elsewhere.  This defines and
    embodies itself in the difference of sex.  A woman is the highest
    form of beauty.  Endowed with mind, she is its living and marvellous
    personation.  If a beautiful woman wishes to please, she will always
    succeed.  The fascinations of beauty in such a case never fail to
    captivate, whatever man may do to resist them.  There is a spot in
    every heart which they reach.”

    “Love is of no age; it is always being born.  The poets tell us so,
    and hence we represent it as a child.  It creates intelligence, and
    feeds upon intelligence. . . .  We exhaust our power of gratifying it
    every day, and yet every day it is necessary to renew its

    “Man in solitude is an incomplete being; he needs companionship for
    happiness.  He seeks this commonly in a like condition with his own,
    because habits of desire and opportunity in such a case are most
    readily found by him.  But _sometimes he fixes his affections on an
    object far beyond his rank_, and the flame burns the more intensely
    that he is forced to conceal it in his own bosom.  When we love one
    of elevated condition, ambition may at first coexist with affection.
    But love soon becomes the master.  It is a tyrant which suffers no
    rival; it must reign alone.  Every other emotion must subserve and
    obey its dictates.  A high attachment fills the heart more completely
    than a common and equal one.  Small things are carried away in the
    great capacity of love.”

    “The pleasure of loving, without daring to say anything of one’s
    love, has its pains, but also its sweetnesses.  With what transport
    do we regulate all our actions with the view of pleasing one whom we
    infinitely value! . . .  The fulness of love sometimes languishes,
    receiving no succour from the beloved object.  Then we fall into
    misery; and hostile passions, lying in wait for the heart, tear it in
    a thousand pieces.  But anon a ray of hope—the very least it may
    be—raises us as high as ever.  Sometimes this comes from mere
    dalliance, but sometimes also from an honest pity.  How happy such a
    moment when it comes!”

    “The first effect of love is to inspire a great respect.  We revere
    whom we really love.  This is right, and we know nothing in the world
    so grand as this. . . .  In love we forget fortune, parents, friends,
    and the reason of this is that we imagine we need nothing else than
    the object of our love.  The heart is full; there is no room for care
    nor disquietude.  Passion is then necessarily in excess; there is a
    plenitude in it which resists the commencement of reflection.  Yet
    love and reason are not to be opposed, and love has always reason
    with it, although it implies a precipitation of thought which carries
    us away without due examination.  Otherwise we should be very
    disagreeable machines.  Do not exclude reason from love, therefore;
    they are truly inseparable.  The poets are wrong in representing love
    as blind.  It is necessary to take away his veil, and give him
    henceforth the joy of sight.”

    “It is not merely the result of custom, but a dictate of nature, that
    man should make the first advances in love. . . .  Great souls
    require an inundation of passion to disturb and fill them; but when
    they begin to love, they love supremely. . . .  When we are away from
    the object of our love we resolve to do and say many things, but when
    we are present we hesitate.  The explanation is, that at a distance
    the reason is undisturbed, but in presence of the beloved object it
    is strangely moved.  In love we fear to hazard lest we lose all.  It
    is necessary to advance, yet who can tell to what point?  We tremble
    always till we reach this point, and yet prudence does not help us to
    keep it when we have found it. . . .  There is nothing so
    embarrassing as to be in love, and see something in our favour
    without daring to believe in it.  Hope and fear rage within us, and
    the last too often triumphs.”

The question arises, What interpretation are we to put on these chaste
yet glowing sentences?  It seems hardly possible to believe that they
were not penned out of some real experience.  Pascal was not the man to
busy himself in writing an imaginary essay on such a subject.  Nothing
can be conceived less like the sketch of a mere moral analyst standing
outside the passion he describes.  There may be a tendency here and there
to over-analysis, and to the balancing of antitheses now on one side and
now on the other; but there is the breath of true passion all through the
piece, and touching, as with fire, many of its many fine utterances.  Who
was then, conceivably, the object of Pascal’s affections?  We have it on
the authority of his niece that at this time, when he lived so much as
the companion of the Duc de Roannez, he contemplated marrying and
settling in the world. {71}  This, and the indications of the piece
itself, have led to the conjecture that he was in love with the sister of
his friend.  Charlotte Gouffier de Roannez was then about sixteen years
of age, endowed with captivating graces of form and manner, animated by a
sweet intelligence and by that charm of spiritual sympathy so likely to
prove attractive to a man like Pascal.  Occupying rooms in the house of
his friend, who, we have seen, could not bear him out of his sight,
Pascal and Mademoiselle de Roannez were necessarily much in each other’s
society.  What so natural as that he should fall in love, and overlooking
all disparity of rank, cherish the secret hope of a union with one so
gifted and beautiful?—or why may not ambition have mingled with his love,
as he himself implies, and carried him for a time into a dreamland from
which all shadows fell away?

It is impossible to do more than form conjectures in such a matter.  To
M. Faugère nothing seems more probable.  M. Cousin resents the
supposition as derogatory to Pascal, and as utterly inconsistent with the
usages of the age of Louis XIV.  But even were it impossible, according
to the usages of the time, that Pascal should have ever married
Mademoiselle de Roannez, this is no proof that he may not have fallen in
love with her.  There is much in this paper that favours the idea, that
while Pascal loved deeply he yet never told his love; and the social
obstacles, which for a time may have seemed to him surmountable, at last
may have shut out all hope from his heart.  Many causes might unite to do
this, even supposing his love was returned.  It is certain that he
continued the warm friend, not only of the Duc de Roannez, but of his
sister; and in after-years a correspondence was established betwixt them
implying the highest degree of mutual esteem and confidence.  We have
only the letters of Pascal; nothing is known of those of Mademoiselle de
Roannez; the rigidity of the Jansenist copyists have given us only
extracts even of the former.  All trace of earthly passion, if it ever
existed, has gone from the pious page in which the Jansenist saint sets
forth his exhortations.  Yet it argues no common interest, that Pascal
should pause in the midst of his conflict with the Jesuits to advise and
direct his former companion; and Faugère professes that even before he
had read the ‘Discours’ he could trace a “tender solicitude”—more than
the mere impulse of Christian charity—beneath all the grave severity of
his religious phrases.

The fate of Mademoiselle de Roannez was not a happy one.  After
vacillating for some time between the cloister and the world—obeying the
guidance of Pascal, either directly or through Madame Périer, and even
passing through her novitiate at Port Royal with “extraordinary
fervour”—she was persuaded to marry and become the Duchesse de la
Feuillade.  But her marriage proved unfortunate.  Her children died
young; her own health broke down; she herself at length died under an
operation, bequeathing a legacy to Port Royal, which had remained
entwined with all dearest associations.  Whether Pascal and she had loved
each other or not, this sacred Home bound their best thoughts together,
and serves to recall their highest aspirations.

It falls to us now to describe how Port Royal claimed the heart of
Pascal, and called forth the chief activities of his remaining years.


Whatever day-dreams Pascal may have cherished, “God called him,” as his
sister says, “to a great perfection.”  It was not in his nature to be
satisfied with either the enchantments or the ambitions of the world.
All the while that he mixed in the luxurious society of Paris, and seemed
merely one of its thoughtless throng, there were throbs within him of a
higher life which could not be stilled.  His conscience reproached him
continually amidst all his amusements, and left him uneasy even in the
most exulting moments of the love that filled his heart.  This is no
hypothetical picture, but one suggested by himself in conversation with
his sister.  She tells us from her retreat how her brother came to see
her, fascinated by the steadfastness of her faith, in contrast with his
own indifference and vacillation.  Formerly it was his zeal which had
drawn her to higher thoughts.  Now it is the attraction of her piety
which sways him, and leaves him unhappy amidst all the seductions of the
society in which he mingles.  “God made use of my sister,” says Madame
Périer, “for the great design, as He had formerly made use of my brother,
when He desired to withdraw my sister from her engagements in the world.”

The severe Jacqueline tells with unfaltering breath the story of her
brother’s spiritual anxieties.  She had ceased herself to have any
worldly thoughts.

    “She led,” says Madame Périer, “a life so holy, that she edified the
    whole house: and in this state it was a special pain to her to see
    one to whom she felt herself indebted, under God, for the grace which
    she enjoyed, no longer himself in possession of these graces: and as
    she saw my brother frequently, she spoke to him often, and finally
    with such force and sweetness, that she persuaded him, as he had at
    first persuaded her, absolutely to abandon the world.”

Writing to her sister on the 25th of January 1655, she says that Pascal
came to see her at the end of the previous September.

    “At this visit he opened himself to me in such a manner as moved my
    pity, confessing that in the midst of his exciting occupations, and
    of so many things fitted to make him love the world—to which we had
    every reason to think him strongly attached—he was yet forcibly moved
    to quit all; both by an extreme aversion to its follies and
    amusements, and by the continual reproach made by his conscience.  He
    felt himself detached from his surroundings in such a manner as he
    had never felt before, or even approaching to it; yet, otherwise, he
    was in such abandonment that there was no movement in his heart to
    God.  Though he sought Him with all his power, he felt that it was
    more his own reason and spirit that moved him towards what he knew to
    be best, than any movement of the Divine Spirit.  If he only had the
    Divine sentiments he once had, he believed himself, in his present
    state of detachment, capable of undertaking everything.  It must be,
    therefore, some wretched ties {76} which still held him back, and
    made him resist the movements of the Divine Spirit.  The confession
    surprised me as much as it gave me joy; and thenceforth I conceived
    hopes that I had never had, and thought I must communicate with you
    in order to induce you to pray on his behalf.  If I were to relate
    all the other visits in detail, I should be obliged to write a
    volume; for since then they have been so frequent and so long, that I
    was wellnigh engrossed by them.  I confined myself to watching his
    mood without attempting unduly to influence him; and gradually I saw
    him so growing in grace that I would hardly have known him.  I
    believe you will have the same difficulty, if God continues His work;
    especially in such wonderful humility, submission, diffidence,
    self-contempt, and desire to be nothing in the esteem and memory of
    men.  Such he is at present.  God alone knows what a day will bring

Finally, after many visits and struggles with himself, especially as to
his choice of a spiritual guide, he became an inmate of Port Royal des
Granges, under the guidance of M. de Saci.  The questions betwixt him and
his sister as to his selection of a confessor or director are very
curious, revealing, as they do, the quiet self-possessed decision of the
one, the scruples of the other, and the proud self-respect of both.  As
to one of Pascal’s difficulties, she says, without misgiving—“I saw
clearly that this was only a remnant of independence hidden in the depth
of his heart, which armed itself with every weapon to ward off a
submission which yet in his state of feeling must be perfect.”  M.
Singlin was willing to assist the sister with his advice, but was
reluctant himself, in his weak state of health, to assume full
responsibilities towards the brother.  Jacqueline herself appeared to him
the best director her brother could have for the time; and there is a
charming blending of humility and yet assumption in the manner in which
she relates this, and speaks of “our new convert.”  But finally there is
found in M. de Saci a director “with whom he is delighted, for he comes
of a good stock” (dont it est tout ravi, aussi est-il de bonne race).

Pascal first sought retirement in a residence of his own in the country.
It is particularly mentioned amongst the reasons for his withdrawal from
Paris, that the Duc de Roannez, “who engaged him almost entirely,” was
about to return there.  Unable to find everything to his wish, however,
in his own house, “he obtained a chamber or little cell among the
Solitaries of Port Royal,” from which he wrote to his sister with extreme
joy that he was lodged and treated like a prince, “according to St
Bernard’s judgment of what it was to be a prince.”  It is still
Jacqueline’s pen which reports all this to Madame Périer.  She continues
in the same letter:—

    “He joins in every office of the Church from Prime to Compline,
    without feeling the slightest inconvenience in rising at five o’clock
    in the morning; and as if it was the will of God that he should join
    fasting to watching, in defiance of all the medical prescriptions
    which had forbidden him both the one and the other, he found that
    supper disagreed with him, and was about to give it up.” {77}

Such is the story of Pascal’s final conversion and retirement from the
world.  Jacqueline’s details fill in the briefer sketch of Madame Périer,
and both tell the story at first hand.  None could have known so well as
they did all the circumstances.  It is remarkable, therefore, that
neither of them says anything of the well-known incident, emphasised by
Bossut as the mainly exciting cause of his great change:—

    “One day,” it is said, “in the month of October 1654, when he went,
    according to his habit, to take his drive to the bridge of Neuilly
    _in a carriage and four_, the two leading horses became restive at a
    part of the road where there was a parapet, and precipitated
    themselves into the Seine.  Fortunately, the first strokes of their
    feet broke the traces which attached them to the pole, and the
    carriage was stayed on the brink of the precipice.  The effect of
    such a shock on one of Pascal’s feeble health may be imagined.  He
    swooned away, and was only restored with difficulty, and his nerves
    were so shattered that long afterwards, during sleepless nights and
    during moments of weakness, he seemed to see a precipice at his
    bedside, over which he was on the point of falling.”

This alarming incident, which comes from nearly contemporary tradition,
no doubt contributed to Pascal’s retirement from the world, and no less
probably also a strange vision he had at this time, to which we shall
afterwards advert.  But it is peculiarly interesting to trace the inner
history of Pascal’s great change.  Evidently, from what his sister says,
his mind had been for some time very ill at ease in the great world in
which he lived.  How far this was the working of his old religious
convictions continually renewing their influence through the conversation
of his sister, how far it was mere weariness and disgust with the
frivolities of fashionable life, and how far it may have been baffled
hope and the disenchantments of a broken dream of love, we cannot clearly
tell.  All may have moved him, and brought him to that strange state of
isolation which she describes from his own account.  But plainly the
world-weariness preceded the fresh dawn of divine strength in his heart;
and there is a tone of hopelessness in speaking of his detachment from
all the things surrounding him, which favours the thought that some new
and unwonted smart had entered into his life, and driven him forth to the
quiet shelter, where at length he found his old peace with God, and the
great mission to which God had called him.

                                * * * * *

The monastery of Port Royal, in which his sister had already found a
home, remains indelibly associated with Pascal.  It was founded in the
beginning of the thirteenth century, in the reign of Philip Augustus; and
a later tradition claimed this magnificent monarch as the author of its
foundation and of its name.  It is said that one day he wandered into the
famous valley during the chase, and became lost in its woods, when he was
at length discovered near to an ancient chapel of St Lawrence, which was
much frequented by the devout of the neighbourhood, and that, grateful
because the place had been to him a Port Royal or royal refuge, he
resolved to build a church there.  But this is the story of a time when,
as it has been said, “royal founders were in fashion.”  More truly, the
name is considered to be derived from the general designation of the fief
or district in which the valley lies, _Porrois_—which, again, is supposed
to be a corruption of _Porra_ or _Borra_, meaning a marshy and woody

The valley of Port Royal presents to this day the same natural features
which attracted the eye of the devout solitary in the seventeenth
century.  Some years ago I paid a long-wished-for visit to it.  It lies
about eighteen miles west of Paris, and seven or eight from Versailles,
on the road to Chevreuse.  As the traveller approaches it from
Versailles, the long lines of a level and somewhat dreary road, only
relieved by rows of tall poplar-trees, break into a more picturesque
country.  An antique mouldering village, with quaint little church, its
grey lichen-marked stones brightened by the warm sunshine of a September
day, and the straggling vines drooping their pale dusty leaves over the
cottage-doors, made a welcome variety in the monotonous landscape.  How
hazy yet cheerful was the brightness in which the poor mean houses seemed
to sleep!  After this the road swept down a long declivity, crowned on
one side by an irregular outline of wood, and presenting here and there
broken and dilapidated traces of former habitations.  The famous valley
of Port Royal lay before us.  It was a quiet and peaceful yet gloomy
scene.  The seclusion was perfect.  No hum of cheerful industry enlivened
the desolate space.  An air rather as of long-continued neglect rested on
ruined garden and terraces, on farmhouse and dovecot, and the remains as
of a chapel nearer at hand.  The more minutely the eye took in the scene,
the more sad seemed its wasted recesses and the few monuments of its
departed glories.  The stillness as of a buried past lay all about, and
it required an effort of imagination to people the valley with the sacred
activities of the seventeenth century.

A rough wooden enclosure has been erected on the site of the high altar
surmounted by a cross.  It contained a few memorials, amongst the most
touching of which were simple portraits of Arnauld, Le Maitre, De Saci,
Quesnel, Nicole, Pascal, the Mère Angélique, the Mère Agnès, Jacqueline
Pascal, and Dr Hanlon the physician.  Two portraits of the Mère Agnès
particularly impressed me.  The lines of the face were exquisitely
touching in their gentle bravery and patience.  As I looked at the noble
and sweet countenances grouped on the bare unadorned walls, the sacred
memories of the place rose vividly before my mind.  It was here alone
that the recluses from the neighbouring Grange met the sainted
sisterhood, and mingled with them the prayers and tears of penitence.
Otherwise they dwelt apart, each in diligent privacy, intent on their
works of education or of charity.  All the ruin and decay and somewhat
dreary sadness of the scene could not weaken my sense of the beautiful
life of thought and faith and hope and love that had once breathed there;
and never before had I felt so deeply the enduring reality of the
spiritual heroism and self-sacrifice, the glory of suffering and of
goodness, that had made the spot so memorable.

The monastery was founded, not by Philip Augustus, but by Matthieu, first
Lord of Marli, a younger son of the noble house of Montmorency.  Having
formed the design of accompanying the crusade proclaimed by Innocent III.
to the Holy Land, he left at the disposal of his wife, Mathilde de
Garlande, and his kinsman, the Bishop of Paris, a sum of money to devote
to some pious work in his absence.  They agreed to apply it to the
erection of a monastery for nuns in this secluded valley, that had
already acquired a reputation for sanctity in connection with the old
chapel dedicated to St Lawrence, which attracted large numbers of
worshippers.  The foundations of the church and monastery were laid in
1204.  They were designed by the same architect who built the Cathedral
of Amiens, and ere long the graceful and beautiful structures were seen
rising in the wilderness.  The nuns belonged to the Cistercian order.
Their dress was white woollen, with a black veil; but afterwards they
adopted as their distinctive badge a large scarlet cross on their white
scapulary, as the symbol of the “Institute of the Holy Sacrament.”

The abbey underwent the usual history of such institutions.
Distinguished at first by the strictness of its discipline and the piety
of its inmates, it became gradually corrupted with increasing wealth,
till, in the end of the sixteenth century, it had grown notorious for
gross and scandalous abuses.  The revenues were squandered in luxury; the
nuns did what they liked; and the extravagances and dissipations of the
world were repeated amidst the solitudes which had been consecrated to
devotion.  But at length its revival arose out of one of the most obvious
abuses connected with it.  The patronage of the institution, like that of
others, had been distributed without any regard to the fitness of the
occupants, even to girls of immature age.  In this manner the abbey of
Port Royal accidentally fell to the lot of one who was destined by her
ardent piety to breathe a new life into it, and by her indomitable and
lofty genius to give it an undying reputation.

Jacqueline Marie Arnauld—better known by her official name, La Mère
Angélique—was appointed abbess of Port Royal when she was only eight
years of age.  She was descended from a distinguished family belonging
originally to the old _noblesse_ of Provence, but which had migrated to
Auvergne and settled there.  Of vigorous healthiness, both mental and
physical, the Arnaulds had already acquired a merited position and name
in the annals of France.  In the beginning of the sixteenth century it
found its way to Paris in the person of Antoine Arnauld, Seigneur de la
Mothe, the grandfather of the heroine of Port Royal.  M. de la Mothe, as
he was commonly called, was endowed with the energetic will, and with
more than the usual talents, of his family.  He was specially known as
Procureur-général to Catherine de Médicis; but, as he himself said, he
wore “a soldier’s coat as well as a lawyer’s robe.”  He was a Huguenot,
and nearly perished in the Bartholomew massacre.  He had eight sons,
every one of whom more or less achieved distinction in the service of
their country; but his second son and namesake peculiarly inherited his
father’s legal talents, and became his successor in the office of
Procureur-général.  He more than rivalled his father’s forensic success;
and many traditions survive of his great eloquence, and of the
pre-eminent ability with which he pleaded on behalf of the University of
Paris for the expulsion of the Jesuits from France, under suspicion of
having instigated an attempt on the life of Henri IV. in 1593.  This
great effort has been called the “original sin” of the Arnauld family
against the Jesuit order, which was never forgiven.  His eloquence
produced such an impression, that it is said the judges rose in their
seats to listen to his speech, while crowds assembled at the closed doors
of the Court to catch its partial echoes.  And yet, like some other great
speeches, it cannot now be read without weariness.

Antoine Arnauld married the youthful daughter of M. Marion, the
Avocat-général, who became a mother while still only a girl of fifteen,
but who grew into a noble and large-hearted woman, full of deeds of piety
and charity.  In all, the couple had twenty children, and felt, as may be
imagined, the pressure of providing for so many.  Out of this pressure
came the remarkable lot of two of the daughters.  The benefices of the
Church were a fruitful field of provision, and the avocat-général, the
maternal grandfather of the children, had large ecclesiastical influence.
The result was the appointment not only of one daughter to the abbey of
Port Royal, but also of a younger sister, Agnès, only six years of age,
to the abbey of St Cyr, about six miles distant from Port Royal.
Difficulties, not without reason, were found in obtaining the papal
sanction to such appointments; but these were at last overcome by means,
it is said, more creditable to M. Arnauld’s ability than to his

At the age of eleven, in the year 1602, Angélique was installed Abbess of
Port Royal.  Her sister took the veil at the age of seven.  United in the
nursery, they had also spent some months together at the abbey of St Cyr,
in preparation for their solemn office.  They were of marked but very
contrasted characters.  The elder inherited the strong will and dominant
energy of her race.  As yet, and for some time afterwards, without any
religious bias, she contemplated her prospects with a quiet and proud
consciousness of responsibility.  The younger sister was of a softer and
more submissive nature.  She shrank from her high position, saying that
an abbess had to answer to God for the souls of her nuns, and she was
sure that she would have enough to do to take care of her own.  Angélique
had no such scruples.  She was glad to be an abbess, and was resolved
that her nuns should thoroughly do their duty.  These sayings have been
preserved in the memoirs of the family, and are supposed to indicate
happily the firm, persistent spirit and legislative capacity of the one
sister, in contrast with the passive rather than active strength, and
milder yet no less enduring purpose, of the other.

The remarkable story of Angélique’s conversion by the preaching of a
Capucin friar in 1608, her strange contest with her parents which
followed, the strengthening impulses in different directions which her
religious life received, first from the famous St Francis de Sales, and
finally, and especially, from the no less remarkable Abbé de St Cyran,
all belong to the history of Port Royal, and cannot be detailed here.  It
is a touching and beautiful story, which can never lose its interest.  It
is only necessary that we draw attention to the temporary removal of the
Abbess with her nuns to Paris in the year 1635, and to the settlement in
the valley, during their absence from it, of the band of Solitaries whose
piety and genius, no less than the heroic devotion of the sisterhood,
have shed such a glory around it.  It was the spiritual influence of St
Cyran which overflowed in this direction.  The religious genius of this
remarkable man, of whom we shall speak more particularly in the next
chapter, laid its spell upon the social life around him, and brought to
his feet some of the most able and distinguished young men of the time.
The elder brother of Angélique and Agnès Arnauld, known as M. d’Andilly,
was amongst his devoted friends; and it was through him that St Cyran
first became connected with Port Royal.  D’Andilly was married, and a
courtier—a busy man in the political circles of his day; but he had long
bowed before the force of St Cyran’s religious convictions, and finally
he too abandoned the world, and sought the retirement of Port Royal,
whither three of his nephews had preceded him; and a younger and yet more
distinguished brother, the namesake of his father, soon followed him.  It
was D’Andilly who said of St Cyran, “I was under such obligations to him
that I loved him more than life.”  On the other hand, St Cyran said of
him, “He has not the virtue of a saint or an anchorite, but I know no man
of his condition who is so solidly virtuous.”

The brotherhood of Port Royal had its beginning in 1637 with the
conversion of two of the nephews of D’Andilly and the Mère Angélique,
children of Arnauld’s eldest daughter, who had married unhappily and been
soon separated from her husband.  These grandsons of Arnauld are known as
M. le Maitre and M. de Sercourt, the former of whom, like his ancestors,
had greatly distinguished himself at the bar.  The latter was no less
distinguished as a soldier.  In the midst of worldly success, they
forsook everything and gave themselves to a life of religious retirement,
in which they were by-and-by joined by a younger and still more
remarkable brother, known as M. de Saci, trained for the Church, and
already mentioned in connection with Pascal’s conversion.  He became
Pascal’s spiritual director, and held with him the famous conversation on
Epictetus and Montaigne.  To the same group of men belonged Singlin, of
whom we have heard so much in former pages, and Lancelot and Fontaine;
above all, Antoine Arnauld, the youngest of the large Arnauld family, and
the most indefatigable of them all.  Singlin was a favourite of St Cyran,
and his successor in the office of spiritual director to the monastery,
as De Saci was again the successor of Singlin in the same capacity.  He
was a man of less ability and knowledge than many of the others, the son
of a wine merchant, who did not begin his religious studies till a
comparatively late period, but of a very direct and simple character, and
well skilled in the mysteries of the conscience, which made him a
spiritual power in the community.  He was withal of singular humility,
and would fain have retired from the office of Confessor when St Cyran
was set at liberty in 1643 after his long imprisonment; but neither then
nor afterwards, on his illustrious friend’s death, was he allowed to do
so.  St Cyran warned him that he could not fly from the duties of such a
position without incurring the guilt of disobedience.  De Saci seems to
have been especially remarkable for his quiet self-possession and
cautious insight into character.  His brother, Le Maitre, brings out in a
curious manner the contrast between his own impetuous character and the
leisurely efficiency of De Saci’s temper.  As they sat at their evening
meal—“a very modest collation”—

    “He had hardly begun his supper when mine was already half digested.
    . . .  Of quick and warm disposition, I had seen the end of my
    portion almost as soon as the beginning; it rapidly disappeared; and
    as I was thinking of rising from the table, I saw my brother De Saci,
    with his usual coolness and gravity, take a little piece of apple,
    peel it quietly, cut it leisurely, and eat it slowly.  Then, after
    having finished, he rose almost as light as he had sat down, leaving
    untouched nearly all his very moderate portion.  He went away as if
    he were quite satisfied, and even appeared to grow fat upon fasts.”

Claude Lancelot was the schoolmaster of the community, and represents to
us perhaps more fully than any other name its famous system of education.
Fontaine was one of its chief memoir writers, from whom we derive so much
of our knowledge of the society; while the younger Arnauld, of whom we
shall afterwards speak, Nicole, and the subject of our present sketch,
represent its philosophical and literary activity.

Such was the company to which Pascal joined himself in 1655.  They had
been settled in divers places,—at first, in 1637, when they were still
only a few disciples gathered around St Cyran, in the immediate
neighbourhood of Port Royal de Paris; and then, when driven from this
after their great head’s imprisonment, for a short time at a place called
Ferté Milon; and then, finally, in 1639, at Port Royal des Champs.  Here
they made a great change for the better by their assiduous industry.
They drained the marshy valley, cleared it of its overgrowth of
brushwood, and converted it into a comparatively smiling and salubrious
abode.  On the return of the sisterhood from Port Royal de Paris in 1648,
the nuns found the place improved beyond their expectations.  The
conventual buildings had been repaired, and the church kept in good
preservation.  The bells of the church tower pealed a welcome; a large
concourse of the neighbouring poor assembled in the courtyard to greet
them; while the Solitaries—one of their number, a priest, bearing a
cross—waited at the church door to enter with them, and swell with their
voices the Te Deum with which they celebrated their return.  After this
they parted, a few of the brotherhood repairing to a house which had been
taken for them in Paris, but others retiring to the well-known farm on
the hill known as Les Granges.  There was, of course, the strictest
seclusion maintained in the nunnery, as before, and the inmates of Les
Granges were wellnigh as completely severed from it as the brethren who
retired to Paris.

The mode of life of the Solitaries was simple in the highest degree.
They wore no distinctive dress.  Their wants were supplied by the barest
necessaries in the shape of lodging and furniture.  From early morning,
three A.M., to night, they were occupied in works of piety, charity, or
industry.  They met in the chapel after their private devotions to say
matins and lauds, a service which occupied about an hour and a half,
after which they kissed the earth in token of a common lowliness, and
sought each his own room for a time.  The round of devotion thus
commenced was continued with a steady uniformity,—Prime at half-past six;
Tierces at nine, and after this a daily Mass; Sexte at eleven; Nones at
two; Vespers at four; and Compline closing the series at a quarter-past
seven. {89}  The Gospel and Epistles were read daily; and sometimes
during or after dinner the Lives of the Saints.  They dined together; and
a walk thereafter formed the sole recreation of the day.  Two hours in
the morning, and two in the afternoon, were devoted to work in the fields
or in the garden by those who were able for such tasks.  Confession and
communion were frequent, but no uniform rule was enforced.  In this, as
in fasting and austerities generally, each recluse was left to his own
free will; and, as will be seen in Pascal’s case, there was no need to
stimulate the morbid desire for bodily mortification.

                                * * * * *

It was in the last month of 1654 that Pascal’s final conversion and
adhesion to Port Royal took place.  His mind for some time before had
been greatly agitated, as already explained—filled with disgust of the
world and all its enjoyments.  Then had come the accident at the Bridge
of Neuilly, and about the same time, or a little later, a remarkable
vision or ecstasy which he has himself described, and which has given
rise to a good deal of useless speculation.  During life he never spoke
of this matter, unless it may have been to his confessor; {90} but after
his death two copies of a brief writing were found upon him,—the one
written on parchment enclosing the other written on paper, and carefully
stitched into the clothes that he had worn day by day.  It is beyond
question that Pascal must have been deeply touched by the event, whatever
may have been its precise nature, the memorial of which he had thus
preserved.  The footnote shows the writing in the original, as printed by
M. Faugère: there are some variations in the copies, but it seems most
correctly given as below.  It may be translated as follows:—

                                * * * * *

                         The year of grace 1654.
  Monday 23d November, day of St Clement, pope and martyr, and others in
                             the martyrology.
                Vigil of St Chrysogone, martyr and others.
   From about half-past ten o’clock in the evening till about half-past

               God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,
                   Not of philosophers and of savants.
             Certitude.  Certitude.  Sentiment.  Joy.  Peace.
                           God of Jesus Christ
                           My God and your God.
                         Thy God will be my God—
                Oblivion of the world and of all save God.
            He is found only by the ways taught in the Gospel.

                       Grandeur of the human soul.
    Just Father, the world hath not known Thee, but I have known Thee.
                       Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
                    I have separated myself from Him—
           They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water.
                      My God, will you forsake me?—

              Oh, may I not be separated from Him eternally!
       This is life eternal, that they know Thee the only true God,
                    and Him whom Thou hast sent, J.-C.
                              Jesus Christ—
                              Jesus Christ—
 I have separated myself from Him; I have fled, renounced, crucified Him.
                Oh that I may never be separated from Him!
          He is only held fast by the ways taught in the Gospel.

                      Renunciation total and sweet,
                                etc. {91}

                                * * * * *

It is difficult to make much of this document.  Are we to suppose that
Pascal, on the 23d of November 1654, thought he saw a vision, revealing
to him the truth of Christianity, and the vanity of philosophy and the
world?  Even if Pascal did this, our estimate of the matter could hardly
be much affected.  But there is no evidence that he himself attached a
supernatural character to the incident.  He felt, no doubt, that a real
revelation had come to him, that his mind had been lifted in spiritual
ecstasy away from the love of all that for a time had hid from him the
presence of God and of a higher world.  The moment of this blessed
experience had been sacred to him.  He had tried to trace it in these
broken characters, and in seasons of doubt or depression he may have
sought to awaken a new fervour of faith and love by their contemplation.
This seems all the natural meaning of the incident; but, as some have
endeavoured to attach to it a supernatural importance, so others, in whom
the idea not only of the supernatural but of the spiritual only excites
contempt, have tried to give to it a purely superstitious character.  It
was Condorcet who first applied to the paper the epithet of Pascal’s
“Amulette;” and Lélut has adopted the epithet, and written a volume more
or less relating to it.  He supposes the vision to have occurred to
Pascal on the evening of the day when the event at Neuilly had upset his
nervous system—always easily disturbed—and brought before him a frightful
picture of his alienation from God, and the piety of his early manhood.
Facts mingled with the dreams of his excited imagination.  He saw the
horses plunging over the precipice, and an abyss seemed to open beside
him—the abyss of eternity; when, lo! from the depths of the abyss there
appeared a globe of fire (_un globe de feu_) encircled with the Cross;
and the irresistible impulse was stirred in him to throw aside the world
for ever, and embrace God,—“Not the God of philosophers or of savants,”
but “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob—the God of Jesus Christ,”
from whom he had been severed, but from whom he felt he never more would
be severed; abiding in Him in “sweet and total renunciation” of all else.
The idea, of course, is that Pascal’s dream or vision was the result of
physical derangement; and it may be safely granted that if the reality at
all corresponded to Lélut’s imaginary picture, this is its natural
explanation.  The story of the “vision” and the “abyss” are thus made,
not without a certain appearance of probability, to fit into one another,
and both into the accident at Neuilly; and a certain congruity of
external and internal alarm is hence given to the great crisis of
Pascal’s life.  Unhappily, however, there is a lack of evidence regarding
the accident itself, {94} and, still more, the accompanying story of the
abyss seen by Pascal at his side, which must make the reader cautious who
has no theory to support.  Voltaire, in his usual manner, made the most
of Pascal’s supposed delusions.  “In the last years of his life,” he
said, “Pascal believed that he had seen an abyss _by the side of his
chair_,—need we on that account have the same fancy?  I, too, see an
abyss, but it is in the very things which he believed that he had
explained.”  He quotes also the authority of Leibnitz for the statement
that Pascal’s melancholy had led his intellect astray—a result, he adds,
not at all wonderful in the case of a man of such delicate temperament
and gloomy imagination.  But Voltaire was not precise here, as in other
matters about Pascal.  He understood him too little to be a good judge of
his mental peculiarities.  All that Leibnitz really said was, that
Pascal, “in wishing to fathom the depths of religion, had become
scrupulous even to folly.” {95}

Whatever explanation we may give of the supposed incidents attending
Pascal’s conversion, there never was a more absurd fancy than that
Pascal’s mind suffered any eclipse in the great change that came to him.
He may have been credulous, he may have been superstitious.  The miracle
of the Holy Thorn may be an evidence of the one, and the unnatural
asceticism of his later years a proof of the other.  But to speak of the
author of the ‘Provincial Letters,’ of the problems on the Cycloid, and
finally of the ‘Pensées,’ as if his intellect had suffered from his
conversion, is to use words without meaning.  All his noblest writings
were the product of his religious experience, and he never soared so high
in intellectual and literary achievement as when moving on the wings of
spiritual indignation or of spiritual aspiration.

The whole interest of Pascal’s life from this period is concentrated in
his writings—first the ‘Provincials,’ and then the ‘Pensées,’ to which we
devote separate chapters.  There was only the interval of a year between
his conversion and the commencement of his great controversy, and little
is known of how he passed his time during this interval.  He seems to
have remained chiefly at Port Royal under the guidance of M. de Saci, and
to have felt an unwonted measure of happiness in his triumph over the
world and in the possession of his own quiet thoughts.  We have seen how
he spoke of being treated “like a prince,” and even his health seemed to
improve, notwithstanding the regularity and severity of his religious
devotions.  He communicated his feelings of elation to his sister, who
replied (19th January 1655) that she was delighted to find him “gay in
his solitude,” as she never was at his happiness in the world.
“Notwithstanding,” she adds, “I do not know how M. de Saci adapts himself
to so light-hearted a penitent, who professes to find compensation for
the vain joys and amusements of the world in joys somewhat more
reasonable, and _jeux d’esprit_ more allowable, instead of expiating them
by perpetual tears.”

How long Pascal’s pious elation continued is not said, nor have we any
further details of his religious life at Port Royal.  He never absolutely
took up his abode there as one of the Solitaries, and could therefore say
in his sixteenth Provincial Letter, without more than an innocent
equivocation, that he “did not belong to Port Royal.”  He was still found
there, however, in the beginning of the following year (1655), when the
affair of M. Arnauld and the Sorbonne was approaching its crisis, and the
idea of his famous letters was started in a meeting, to be afterwards
mentioned, between him and Arnauld and Nicole.  After this, during the
publication of the ‘Letters,’ Pascal seems chiefly to have resided in
Paris, probably with a view to the greater facilities he enjoyed there in
prosecuting his assaults upon the Jesuits, which continued till the
spring of 1657.  During the following year he was busy with the great
idea of a work in defence of religion, suggested partly by his own
intellectual activity, but partly also by a special incident at Port
Royal which made a great impression upon him.

This was the famous “miracle” of the Holy Thorn.  Madame Périer’s
daughter, Marguerite Périer—the same to whom we are indebted for
interesting memorials of her uncle’s life—had become, with her sister, a
pupil at Port Royal.  She suffered from an apparently incurable disease
of the eye, _fistula lachrymalis_.  On a sudden she was reported to be
entirely cured, and the cure was attributed to the touch of a relic which
had been brought to the abbey by a priest,—a supposed thorn from the
crown of Christ.  It is remarkable that the Mère Angélique was somewhat
slow of belief as to the “miracle,” and that she marvelled the world
should make so much of it.  But it secured the credence of Pascal, and
became a great fact in the history of Port Royal, staying for a time the
hand of persecution, and pointing, as its friends believed, to the
visible interposition of heaven.  How could the accusations against Port
Royal be true, seeing what God Himself had done on its behalf?  “This
place, which men say is the devil’s temple, God makes His house.  Men
declare that its children must be taken out of it, and God heals them
there.  They are threatened with all the furies; God loads them with His
favours.”  This was Pascal’s own language on the subject, {97} and there
can be no doubt that the supposed miracle deeply affected him.  He was
“sensibly touched,” it is said, “by such a grace, regarding it as
virtually done to himself, seeing it was done to one so near to him in
kindred, and who was his spiritual daughter in baptism.”  He was
penetrated by a great joy, and much occupied by the thought of what had
happened, and the general subject of miracles.  There was in this manner
awakened in him “the extreme desire of employing himself on a work in
refutation of the principles and false reasonings of the atheists.”  “He
had studied them,” his sister continues, “with great care, and applied
his whole mind to search out the means of convincing them.  His last year
of work was entirely occupied in collecting divers thoughts on this

Unhappily, in the course of 1658 Pascal’s old illness returned with
redoubled severity, and the last four years of his life became in
consequence years of great languor and interruption of his projected
work.  The practice of continuous composition failed him.  Hitherto he
had been wont to develop his thoughts completely,—to write them out, as
it were, mentally before committing them to paper; but now he began the
habit of transferring his ideas rapidly, and sometimes imperfectly, to
manuscript, as they arose in his mind.  In many cases, if not in all,
these first sketches remained as originally made, without any revision or
further reconstruction; and from the mass of papers accumulated in this
manner during these years the ‘Pensées’ were formed—the story of whose
publication will be afterwards told.  Strangely, it was in this very
year, during a fit of severe toothache, apparently connected with his
general illness, that Pascal began his wonderful series of problems on
the cycloid, showing how fresh and unimpaired his scientific genius
remained under all the changes of his health and of his main intellectual

The last years of Pascal’s life, in their deep suffering, and in their
many traits of pious resignation and self-denial, have been fully
sketched by Madame Périer.  We do not think it necessary to repeat the
sketch here, touching and beautiful as in some respects it is.  It is
impossible to read her simple and earnest narrative without emotion, and
yet the emotion is apt to evaporate in translation.  It is impossible,
also, to avoid the feeling that, with all the tenderness and humility of
Pascal’s later years, there mingle a strange pride in his very
austerities, and something of the nature of religious mania, which,
beautiful as may be the forms it sometimes takes, is yet in its spirit,
and in not a few of its excesses, essentially unlovely.  Pascal’s care of
the poor, his love of them—“to serve the poor in a spirit of poverty” was
what appeared to him “most agreeable to God”—his wish to die among them,
to be carried to the Hospital for Incurables, and breathe his last there;
the story of his rescue of the poor girl who asked alms from him on the
streets; his unparalleled patience, and even gladness, in suffering, so
that he seemed to welcome it and bind it about him as a garment; his
wonderful humility and yet his noble courage at the last in the matter of
the Formulary,—all this goes to the heart of the reader.  It must be a
cold heart that is not moved by the picture of a great soul striving “to
renounce all pleasure and all superfluities,”—to copy literally, like St
Francis, the portrait of his Master.  But here, as everywhere, the human
copy falls infinitely short of the divine Original.  There is the
loveliness of a true human life beneath all the picture of suffering
presented to us in the Gospels.  All the hues of natural feeling have
gone out of the last years of Pascal.  He not only bore suffering—he
preferred it; and he boldly justified his preference.  “Sickness,” he
said, “is the natural state of the Christian; it puts us in the condition
in which we always ought to be.”  In this spirit he strove to deaden any
sensation of pleasure in his food, in the attentions of his relatives and
friends, even in his studies.  He could not bear to see his sister
caressing her children; there seemed to him harm in even saying that a
woman was beautiful; the married state was a “kind of homicide or rather
Deicide.”  He thought it wrong that any one should find pleasure in
attachment to him, for he “was not the final object of any being, and had
not wherewith to satisfy any.”  So jealous was he of any surprise of
pleasure, of any thought of vanity or complacency in himself and his
work, that he wore a girdle of iron next his skin, the sharp points of
which he pressed closely when he thought himself in any danger,
especially in such moments of intercourse with the world as he still
sometimes allowed himself.

Such details are neither interesting in themselves nor do they present
Pascal in his highest character.  One cannot help feeling that, touching
as Madame Périer’s narrative is, there must have been, even in the Pascal
of later years, more than she has drawn for us.  One glimpse we get, but
not in her pages, of a more natural temper, when he withstood his
Jansenist friends in the matter of subscribing the Formulary demanded
from the Port Royalists.  He had himself previously been willing to
subscribe, with certain restrictions, when his sister Jacqueline alone
stood out in her resistance to what she deemed a treasonable betrayal of
the cause.  She signed at last, but against her conscience, and, so to
speak, with her blood.  She died immediately afterwards, the first victim
of the signature, as she has been called, and bequeathing a letter to her
fellow-sufferers on the subject.  Whether inspired by her words or not,
Pascal took a firm stand against any further concessions, and in a famous
interview with Arnauld, Nicole, and Sainte-Marthe, he argued the point
with such strength and vehemence that he fell fainting to the ground.

This was in the end of 1661, when his sufferings were fast drawing to a
close.  In the previous summer, when at Clermont, he had written to
Fermat that he was so weak as to be “unable to walk without a stick, or
to hold himself on horseback.”  His weakness had grown apace, and in June
1662 he was seized with his last illness.  It was necessary that his
sister should nurse him, and this could only be done by his removal to
her house, for he had given up his own house to a poor family, one of
whose children had taken smallpox, and he would allow neither the child
to be removed nor his sister to run the risk of carrying infection to her
children.  He left his own home for hers, therefore, on the 27th of June,
and never returned.  Three days after his removal he was seized with a
violent colic, which deprived him of all sleep.  His physicians at first
were not alarmed, as his pulse continued good, but gradually pain and
sleeplessness wore him out.  He confessed both to the _curé_ of the
parish and to his friend Sainte-Marthe, one of the directors of the
community.  He wished, as we said, to die in the Hospital for Incurables
amongst the poor, but in his state of weakness it was impossible to
gratify this wish.  After the administration of the last sacrament, which
he received with tearful emotion, he thanked the _curé_, and exclaimed,
“May God never leave me!”  These were his last words.  Convulsions having
returned, he expired on the 19th of August 1662.

It is unnecessary to attempt any estimate of Pascal’s character.  The
reader must draw it for himself in the light of these pages.  With all
enthusiasm for its grandeur and unity of purpose, and that moral and
intellectual elevation which it everywhere shows, it may be found lacking
in breadth and variety, and that familiar interest and charm which
strangely often come from the contemplation of human weakness rather than
of human strength.  There is certainly less to love in him than to
admire—less to call forth delight than respect.  The play of natural
individuality is hidden behind lines of lofty distance, and latterly of
Jansenist severity.  A proud, ascetic, and worn figure seems to rise
before us; but strangely Pascal’s portrait, as known to us, conveys no
idea of asceticism.  The face is full-fleshed and expressive, like the
face of a child, with large ripe lips and open eyes of wonder,—a portrait
which suggests the companion of the Duc de Roannez in his years of
pleasure, rather than the weary and pain-worn penitent of Port Royal.


Pascal’s ‘Letters to a Provincial’ represent a great controversy, the
nature of which it is necessary to explain.  They are, at the same time,
the most perfect expression of his literary genius, and touch theological
questions with such an inimitable grace and felicity of expression as to
have awakened a universal intellectual interest.  It may be hard to
justify this interest by any analysis of their contents, or by such
extracts as can be given from them.  No English can convey the exquisite
fitness of French polemical expression in its highest form, its mingled
force and delicacy, its keenness and yet its lightness.  We shall,
however, endeavour to give as clearly as we can an account, first, of the
controversy out of which the ‘Letters’ originated, and then of the
consummate skill with which Pascal conducted it.

M. de St Cyran is not merely one of the chief figures connected with Port
Royal: he was the fountain-head of its special power.  To his influence
and teaching it was indebted for its chief glory and its most terrible
sufferings.  Jean Baptist du Vergier d’Hauranne, better known by the
above official designation, was of noble family.  He was born at Bayonne
in 1581, and early devoted himself to the study of theology at Louvain
and Paris.  While a student, he is supposed to have first made the
acquaintance of Cornelius Jansen, and to have begun with him that
co-operation which was destined to bear such remarkable fruits.  Their
intimacy was one based on spiritual affinity and a common enthusiasm.
For Jansen was the son of poor peasants, without even a surname.  His
father is only known as Jan Ottosen, or John the son of Otto; as the son
in his turn was Cornelius Jansen, or the son of John.  Jansen was the
younger of the two friends, having been born in 1585; but he appears to
have exercised a powerful influence over his older companion.  The great
bond of their union and common enthusiasm was the study of St Augustine.
For the purpose of pursuing this study undisturbed, they retired to the
seaside near Bayonne, and here they established themselves in scholastic
seclusion.  Smitten with the desire of attaining theological truth, they
found the Schoolmen constantly appealing to St Augustine as their
authority, and they consequently resolved to examine this authority for
themselves, and so ascend to what they believed to be the source of their
favourite science.  Had they taken only one step further, they would have
approached Protestantism; and as it was, the favourite charge which the
Jesuits afterwards made against them was, that they were Calvinists in
disguise.  Unconsciously they were so, notwithstanding all their
disclaimers.  The Jesuits were unscrupulous; but their penetration here,
as in many other cases, was not at fault.  The doctrines so warmly
espoused by Jansen and St Cyran were the old doctrines of _grace_, which
Calvin and they alike borrowed from St Augustine, and he in his turn
found in the Epistles of St Paul. {105}  And the controversy which their
labours were destined once more to awaken in the bosom of the Catholic
Church was nothing else than the old dispute which, since the days of
Augustine and Pelagius, had more than once already agitated it.

The fellow-students continued their studies near Bayonne for five years.
So closely did they work, that Jansen is said to have spent days and
nights in the same chair, snatching only brief intervals of rest.  A game
at battledore and shuttlecock occasionally relieved their vigils; but no
serious employment divided their attention with the arduous task upon
which they had entered, of mastering and digesting the principles of the
Augustinian theology.  The Bishop of Bayonne offered preferment to
D’Hauranne, and there were projects of settling Jansen also at the head
of a college; but it was not till some time afterwards that either of
them entered upon official labours.  They were left during those years to
the uninterrupted studies which subsequently resulted in the great work
of Jansen.  The system of theological thought associated with his name
was then definitely matured.

It is beyond our province to sketch the career of these fellow-students,
one of whom became the chief spiritual director of Port Royal, and the
other its great theological centre.  The abbey of St Cyran was the only
preferment which D’Hauranne ever accepted, notwithstanding Richelieu’s
repeated offers of a bishopric.  He was content to exercise from his
monastic seclusion an influence far more powerful than that of any bishop
of his day.  And so penetrating and dangerous did this influence seem to
the great Minister whose efforts to bind him to his side had so often
failed, that he at length shut him up in Vincennes (May 1638).  Here he
remained in close confinement for more than four years; but even from
this gloomy retreat the impression of his great personal power was spread
abroad, and felt in many quarters as steadily as before.  He survived his
release only a few months.  His long imprisonment had broken down his
health; and although the enthusiasm of his spirit was strong as ever, his
weakened body was no longer able to answer to its demands.  He could
hardly “hold himself up,” and a slight attack of illness carried him off.

St Cyran’s chief strength seems to have lain in a concentrated enthusiasm
and quiet strength of will which enabled him to hold his own against all
opposition, and to subdue other minds larger than his own to his
purposes.  When the Prince de Condé interceded for him after his arrest,
Richelieu’s reply was: “Do you know of whom you are speaking?  That man
is more dangerous than six armies.  _I_ say that attrition with
confession is necessary: _he_ believes that contrition is necessary.
{106}  And in the affair of Monsieur’s marriage all France has given way
to me, and he alone has the hardihood to oppose it.”  Against all
enticements and assaults alike he set a proud and firm faith in his own
mission—a patience sublime in its calmness, and in the unwavering
consciousness of Divine right on his side.  “I am careful to complain of
nothing,” he said in his imprisonment.  “I am ready to remain here a
hundred years; to die here, if God will.  I am ready for whatever He
designs—for action or for suffering.”  The same faith and quiet assurance
gave him his marvellous influence over others, and that fascination which
made him a power in the cultivated society of Paris.  All the Arnauld
family more or less owned his influence; and it was his teaching mainly
that peopled Port Royal with the Solitaries who have made it so

The life and work of Jansen seem at first far removed from Port Royal.
He returned to Louvain after his sojourn at Bayonne, and became a
professor of theology in its famous university, on whose behalf he was
employed in several political negotiations with the Spanish Court.
Finally he was appointed Bishop of Ypres, in which capacity he is chiefly
known in the ecclesiastical world.  His fame, however, rests not on any
political or ecclesiastical labours, but on the results flowing from his
original studies at Bayonne.  He never forgot his devotion to St
Augustine.  He is said to have read the whole of his writings ten times,
and the treatises against the Pelagians not less than thirty times.  The
fruit of all this studious devotion was his work known briefly as the
‘Augustinus,’ {107} published two years after his death (in 1640).
Nothing could have seemed more innocent or laudable than the attempt by a
bishop of the Church to set forth the doctrine of St Augustine.  The book
professed to have been undertaken in a humble spirit.

    “I have avoided error where I could,” says the author; “for the cases
    in which I could not, I implore the reader’s pardon. . . .  Let the
    knowledge of my sincerity make amends for the simplicity of my error.
    I know that if I have erred, it is not in the assertion of Catholic
    truth, but in the statement of the opinion of St Augustine; for I
    have not laid down what is true or false, what is to be held or
    rejected according to the faith of the Catholic Church, but only what
    Augustine taught and declared was to be held.”

A task of such a character, carried out in such a spirit, might have
seemed a harmless one.

But the Jesuits had long marked both St Cyran and Jansen as theological
foes, opposed to their special doctrines.  They endeavoured therefore,
first of all, to prevent the publication of Jansen’s work; and failing in
this, they directed all their efforts to procure a condemnation of the
book from the Court of Rome.  “Never,” it has been said, “did any book
receive a more stormy welcome.  Within a few weeks of its appearance the
University, the Jesuits, the executors of Jansen, the printer of the
‘Augustinus,’ the Spanish governor of the Low Countries, and the Papal
Nuncio were engaged in a warfare of pamphlets, treatises, pasquinades,
pleadings, synods, audiences, which it would be impossible to set forth
in historical sequence.” {108}  In the midst of all this, Jansen’s old
fellow-student received the book, in the preparation of which he also had
had some share, in his prison at Vincennes, as if an echo of his own
thoughts.  “It would last as long as the Church,” he said.  “After St
Paul and St Augustine, no one had written concerning grace like Jansen.”

The Jesuits were resolved in their hostility.  They knew that the book,
while assuming a historical form, and professing in the main to represent
the doctrine of Augustine as directed against the errorists of his own
time, had a side reference to the “opinions of certain modern authors,”
understood to be well-known theologians of their own school.  This was in
fact acknowledged in an appendix.  Unable any longer to wreak their
vengeance on the author himself, they were resolved to put his work under
ban; and accordingly, a Bull was obtained from Rome in the summer of
1642, condemning Jansen by name, and declaring that the ‘Augustinus’
contained “many propositions already condemned” by the Holy See.  It was
doubted whether the Pope, Urban VIII., designed to go the length
announced in the bull, and the terms of the condemnation were rumoured to
have been inserted by a Papal officer in the interests of the Jesuits.
The Universities of Louvain and Paris therefore did not take any steps to
carry out the condemnation.  They remained spectators of the controversy
which raged around them, in which the Archbishop of Paris on one side,
and the youngest of the Arnauld family on the other, were conspicuous.

Antoine Arnauld was the last of the twenty children born to the great
parliamentary orator and Catherine Marion his wife, of whom we have
already spoken.  His nephews, Le Maitre and De Saci, were so near his own
age, that they were accustomed to call him familiarly _le petit oncle_.
Early consecrated to theological studies by the influence of St Cyran and
his mother, he espoused zealously the Augustinian doctrines.  A splendid
prospect seemed opening before him, had he chosen to enter the Church and
pursue an ecclesiastical career in the ordinary manner.  But while
thirsting for theological distinction, he had scruples about his vocation
to the holy office.  He overcame his scruples so far as to become a
priest; but not only would he not accept the benefices placed within his
reach by powerful friends—he insisted on resigning such as he held.  He
even disposed of his patrimony for the benefit of Port Royal, preserving
only as much as would provide him with the bare necessaries of life.  He
became a doctor in 1641, and already, in 1643, the interest of the whole
theological world was aroused by his treatise, ‘Of Frequent Communion.’

The aim of this treatise, as of all Arnauld’s writings, was
anti-Jesuitical.  He set forth, backed by the authority of “Fathers,
Popes, and Councils,” the necessity of spiritual preparation for the Holy
Communion, in opposition to the formula which had been boldly advanced by
more than one Jesuit teacher, that “the more we are devoid of divine
grace, the more ought we to seek Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.”  The
commotion made by the publication shows how grave was the need for it.
On the one hand it was warmly welcomed, many pious bishops and doctors
testifying approbation of its contents; on the other hand it was
violently assailed.  The Jesuit pulpits resounded with abuse of it and of
its author.  All Paris was disturbed by the noise which it made.  “There
must be a snake in the grass somewhere,” it was wittily remarked, “for
the Jesuits were never so excited when only the glory of God was at
stake.”  The learned Petavius, and even the Prince de Condé, did not
disdain to mingle in the combat.  For a time Arnauld seemed to triumph,
but finally the influence of Rome was brought against him, and he was
glad to take refuge in concealment—the first of the many concealments
into which his incessant polemical activity drove him in the course of
his long life.  He never abated his opposition.  He had no sooner retired
from one controversy, than he reappeared in some other.  His energy knew
no bounds, his love of fighting no pause.  When in his old age his friend
and fellow-student Nicole advised him to rest.  “Rest!” he said; “have I
not all eternity to rest in?”

It was a matter of course that when the great Jansenist controversy
began, Arnauld should be found in the van of it.  ‘An Apology for Jansen’
appeared from his pen in 1644, and a second ‘Apology’ in the following
year.  It seemed for a time as if the Jesuits would be foiled in their
efforts to secure the effectual condemnation of the book.  But at length
one of their number, Nicolas Cornet, Syndic of the Faculty of Theology at
Paris, collected its essential heresy in the shape of seven propositions.
These propositions were afterwards reduced to five; and at length, on the
31st of May 1653, a formal condemnation of them was obtained from the
Court of Rome.  There was no longer any doubt as to the attitude of the
Holy See.  All the propositions were declared to be distinctly heretical,
and the first and the fifth, moreover, to be blasphemous and impious.
This result was not reached without much debate and delay.  No sooner had
Cornet’s propositions appeared than Arnauld assailed them and all who
supported them.  A congregation of four cardinals and eleven theological
assessors had been appointed to examine them in the end of the year 1651.
They had taken, therefore, a year and a half to their work, and the
sentence at length issued was intended to bring the long warfare to a
close.  In point of fact it kindled a fresh fire, and opened, if not a
larger, yet a more vital controversy.  Arnauld retired willingly before a
new writer summoned by himself into the field, and girded with his
blessing as he went forth to the encounter.

The five propositions, which were professed to be extracted from Jansen’s
book, and as such were condemned by the Papal Bull of 31st May 1653, are
so intimately connected with the ‘Provincial Letters’ as to claim a place
in our pages.  They are as follows:—

    I.  There are divine commandments which good men, although willing,
    are unable to obey; and the grace by which these commandments are
    possible is also wanting in them.

    II.  No person, in the state of fallen nature, is able to resist
    internal grace.

    III.  In order to render human actions meritorious or otherwise,
    liberty from necessity is not required, but only liberty from

    IV.  The semi-Pelagians, while admitting the necessity of prevenient
    grace—or grace preceding all actions—were heretics, inasmuch as they
    said that this grace was such as man could, according to his will,
    either resist or obey.

    V.  The semi-Pelagians also erred in saying that Christ died or shed
    His blood for all men universally.

It would be needless for us to touch these propositions, even by way of
explanation.  We have endeavoured to state them from the original Latin
as clearly as we can, so that they may bear some definite meaning even to
the non-theological reader.  But their very statement bristles with
controversy, and the half-extinct meanings of old questions that go to
the root of Christian thought lie hid in their language.  All the
propositions were condemned without reserve, but two points were left
unsettled.  It was not asserted that the propositions were to be found in
the ‘Augustinus,’ and that they were condemned in the sense in which
Jansen held them, and in no other.  The course of the controversy and the
fate of Port Royal in the end mainly turned upon these points.

The Papal Bull condemning the five propositions was speedily published in
France, and the triumph of the Jesuits was undisguised.  A great blow had
been struck, and for a time all seemed inclined to bow before it.
Political reasons combined with others to give effect to the Papal
verdict.  Cardinal Mazarin, in possession of the favour of the
Queen-mother, had imprisoned his enemy, Cardinal de Retz, who had so long
waged in the intrigues and wars of the Fronde a restless conflict with
them; and as the latter in his prosperity had shown a certain favour for
Port Royal, this was enough to stimulate, on the part of Mazarin, an
interest on behalf of the Jesuits.  Yet he was reluctant to move actively
against the Jansenists.  M. d’Andilly still had his ear in matters of
State, and by his intervention and that of others the project of an
armistice was for a time entertained.  Port Royal was to keep silence, if
its enemies did not push their triumph to an extremity.  Even the
indefatigable Arnauld seems to have promised to be quiet.  But the
Jesuits were too conscious of their power, and too relentless in their
hostility, to pause in their determination to crush their opponents.
They had recourse both to gibes and to active persecution.  They printed
an almanac with the figure of Jansen as frontispiece, flying in the guise
of a winged devil before the Pope and the king into the arms of the
Huguenots.  They assailed the Duc de Liancourt, and refused him
absolution in his own parish church, for no other reason but that he was
on friendly relations with Port Royal, and would not withdraw, at their
demand, his granddaughter from its protection.  This affair, which
appears to have been deliberately planned, caused a great sensation, and
became, strangely, the indirect occasion of the ‘Provincial Letters.’

Indignant at such an outrage, Arnauld was no longer to be restrained.  He
rushed before the public with a pamphlet under the title, “Letter of a
Doctor of the Sorbonne to a Person of Condition, concerning an event
which has recently happened in a parish of Paris to a Nobleman of the
Court, February 24, 1655.”  The Letter opened with an expression of his
wish to dispute no more; but as Sainte-Beuve hints, the avowed desire of
peace plunged him all the more into war.  His letter called forth
numerous replies.  He responded by a “Second Letter,” in the shape of a
volume.  In this letter his enemies seemed to see his fate written.  They
extracted from it two propositions which in their view clearly
contravened the Papal verdict—namely, 1st, that he had expressed doubts
whether the five propositions condemned as heretical were in Jansen’s
book at all; and 2d, that he had really reproduced the first of the five
condemned propositions in one of his own statements, that according to
both the Gospel and the Fathers, St Peter, a just man, was wanting in
grace when he fell.  This was nothing but undisguised Jansenism, and his
accusers in the Sorbonne rallied for his overthrow.  A meeting was
summoned to consider the letter, and to judge it and the author.

The details of the proceedings would weary the reader.  It is sufficient
to say that, notwithstanding the concessions wrung from Arnauld, some of
which were humiliating enough, he was condemned on the first point (Jan.
1656)—the great question of “fait,” in contrast to the question of
“droit,” involved in the second statement as to grace being wanting to St
Peter in his fall.  His condemnation, however, was mainly secured by the
introduction of a number of monks who swelled the majority against him,
and the legality of whose vote was challenged by many members.  But, as
Pascal afterwards said, “it was easier to find monks than arguments.”
The second and doctrinal point received professedly more deliberate
discussion.  The sittings regarding it were protracted till the close of
the month, the 29th of January.  But the result was really forestalled.
The restriction laid on free debate was such as to lead no fewer than
sixty doctors to withdraw, protesting to Parliament against the
interference with their rights.  Their protest, however, came to nothing.
Sentence was finally passed, against not only Arnauld, but all who
adhered to him or espoused his opinions.  The victim, with his usual
adroitness, escaped his pursuers, and went once more into a concealment
which all their vigilance could not penetrate.  Two days after the
censure he wrote to one of his nieces, “I am in very close hiding, and by
God’s grace without trouble or disquiet.”  “Would you like me to tell you
where M. Arnauld is hidden?” inquired a lady of the _gendarmes_ who were
searching her house for traces of him.  “He is safely hidden here,”
pointing to her heart; “arrest him if you can.”

It was in the interval betwixt the first and second judgment of the
Sorbonne that the first of the ‘Provincial Letters’ appeared.  The story
is, {116a} that during the course of the process Arnauld, Nicole, and
Pascal, along with M. Vitart, the steward of the Duc de Luynes (to whom
Arnauld’s second Letter had been addressed), and other friends, were met
in secrecy at Port Royal des Champs.  Their conversation turned to the
pending case, and the misapprehensions and prejudices which prevailed in
the public mind regarding it.  It was felt that some effort should be
made to clear away these prejudices, and to diffuse right information in
a popular form.  Arnauld, ever ready with his pen, was prepared himself
to undertake this task; and in a few days afterwards he read to his
friends a long and serious paper in vindication of his position.  But his
friends were not moved as he expected.  His pen, powerful in its own
sphere, was not fitted to tell upon the popular mind; and his audience
were too honest to conceal their disappointment.  Arnauld, in his turn,
frankly acknowledged the truth forced upon him.  “I see you do not find
my paper what you wished, and I believe you are right,” he said; and
then, turning all at once to Pascal, he said, “But you, who are young,
who are clever, {116b} you ought to do something.”  The effect was not
lost upon Pascal.  He divined with his genuine literary instinct exactly
what was required in the circumstances, although distrusting his power to
produce it.  He promised, however, to make an attempt, which his friends
might polish and put in shape as they thought fit.  Next day he produced
“A Letter written to a Provincial by one of his friends.”  The Letter was
unanimously pronounced exactly what was required, and ordered to be
printed.  It appeared on the 23d January 1656; and a second followed six
days later.

Nothing could have been happier or more admirably suited for their
purpose than those Letters.  They took up the subject for the first time
in a light intelligible to all.  They brought to play upon it not only a
penetrating and rapid intelligence, but a brightness of wit, and a
dramatic creativeness, which made the Sorbonne and its parties, the
Jansenists and their friends, alive before the reader.  Never was the
triumph of genius over mere learned labour more complete.  Arnauld, as he
listened to them, must have felt his own thoughts spring up before him
into a living shape, hardly less startling to himself than to his

Addressing his friend in the country, the author expresses his surprise
at what he has come to learn of the character of the disputes dividing
the Sorbonne:—

    “We have been imposed upon,” he says.  “It was only yesterday that I
    was undeceived.  Until then I had thought that the disputes of the
    Sorbonne were really important, and deeply affected the interests of
    religion.  The frequent convocation of an assembly so illustrious as
    that of the Theological Faculty of Paris, attended by so many
    extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances, induced such high
    expectations that one could not help believing the business to be of
    extraordinary importance.  You will be much surprised, however, when
    you learn from this letter the upshot of the grand demonstration.  I
    can explain the matter in a few words, having made myself perfectly
    master of it.”

Two questions, he says, were under examination—“the one a question of
fact, the other a question of right.”

He explains the question of fact as consisting in the point whether M.
Arnauld was guilty of temerity in expressing his doubts as to the
propositions being in Jansen’s book after the bishops had declared that
they were.  No fewer than seventy-one doctors undertook his defence,
maintaining that all that could reasonably be asked of him was to say
that “he had not been able to find them, but that if they were in the
book, he condemned them there.”

    “Some,” he continues, “even went a step farther, and protested that,
    after all the search they had made in the book, they had never
    stumbled upon these propositions, and that they had, on the contrary,
    found sentiments entirely at variance with them.  They then earnestly
    begged that if any doctor present had discovered them, he would have
    the goodness to point them out; adding that what was so easy could
    not be reasonably refused, as that would be the surest way to silence
    all objectors, M. Arnauld included.  But this they have always
    refused to do.  So much for the one side.

    “On the other side are eighty secular doctors, and some forty
    mendicant friars, who have condemned M. Arnauld’s proposition,
    without choosing to examine whether he has spoken truly or
    falsely—who, in fact, have declared that they have nothing to do with
    the veracity of his proposition, but simply with its temerity.
    Besides these were fifteen who were not in favour of the censure, and
    who are called Neutrals.”

Having thus stated the question of fact, and the balance of parties
regarding it, Pascal dismisses it at once, important as it proved in the
after-history of Port Royal.

    “As to the issue of the question of fact, I own I give myself very
    little concern.  It does not affect my conscience in the least
    whether M. Arnauld is presumptuous or the reverse; and should I be
    tempted from curiosity to ascertain whether these propositions are
    contained in Jansen, his book is neither so very scarce nor so very
    large but that I can read it all through for my own enlightenment
    without consulting the Sorbonne at all.”

Only, while himself hitherto inclined to believe with common report that
the propositions were in Jansen, he was now almost led to doubt that they
were so from the absurd refusal to point them out.  In this respect he
fears the censure will do more harm than good.  “For, in truth, people
have become sceptical of late, and will not believe things till they see

But the point being in itself so frivolous, he hastens to take up the
question of right, as touching the faith.  And here the play of the
dialogue begins:—

    “You and I supposed that the question here was one involving the
    deepest principles of grace, as to whether it is given to all men, or
    whether it is efficacious of itself.  But truly we were deceived.
    You must know I have become a great theologian in a short time, and
    you will see the proofs of it.”

He describes, then, how he had made a visit to a doctor of the Sorbonne,
who was his neighbour, and one of the most zealous opponents of the
Jansenists, to inquire into the controversy.  He asked him why the
question as to grace should not be set at rest by a formal decision that
“grace is really given to all”?  But he received a rude rebuff, and was
told that this was not the point.  “There were those on his side who held
that grace is not given to all, and even the examiners themselves had
declared, in a full meeting of the Sorbonne, that this opinion was
problematical.”  This was, in fact, his own view; and he confirmed it by
what he said was a celebrated passage of St Augustine, “We know that
grace is not given to all men.”  He was equally unfortunate in his second
inquiry.  His neighbour, opposed as he was to Jansenism, would not
condemn the doctrine of efficacious grace.  The doctrine, on the
contrary, was quite orthodox, was held by the Jesuits, and had even been
defended by himself in his thesis at the Sorbonne.  The inquirer is
confounded, and ventures to ask then in what M. Arnauld’s heresy
consisted?  “In this,” replies his friend, “that he does not acknowledge
that the just have the power of obeying the commandments of God in the
way in which we understand it.”  Having got to what he supposes the
“heart of the affair,” he posts off to a Jansenist acquaintance, “a very
decent man notwithstanding.”  But if he was puzzled before, he is still
more puzzled when he hears the worthy Jansenist declare that it is no
heresy to hold that “all the just have always the power of obeying the
Divine commandments.”  Confounded by such a reply, he felt that he had
been too plain-spoken with both Jansenist and Molinist. {120}  There must
be something more in this dispute than he understood; and if not, there
was no reason why there should not now be peace in the Church and the
Sorbonne.  He returned to the Molinist, whom he had first visited, with
this assurance.  The Jansenists, he said, were quite at one with the
Jesuits as to the power of the righteous always to obey the commandments
of God.

    “All very well,” said he, “but you must be a theologian to see the
    gist of the matter.  The difference between us is so subtle that we
    can hardly make it out ourselves.  It is quite beyond _your_
    understanding.  Suffice it for you to know that the Jansenists will
    indeed say that the just have always the power of obeying the
    commandments—this is not the point in dispute; but they will not say
    that this power is _proximate_.  _That_ is the point.”

Mystified more than ever by this new and unknown expression, of which he
could get no explanation, the inquirer now returned to his Jansenist
friend to demand of him if he admitted it.  “Do you admit the _proximate
power_?” was all that he could say to him.  He had charged his memory
carefully with the expression, all the more that he did not understand
it.  The Jansenist smiled, and said coldly, “Tell me in what sense you
use the expression, and I will tell you what I believe about it.”  But
this was just what he could not do.  So he gave the haphazard answer,
that he used it “in the sense of the Molinists.”  “Which of the
Molinists?” was the rejoinder.  “All of them together, as being one body,
and having one and the same mind,” was the second answer at random: upon
which he is assured he is very ill informed; that the Molinists, instead
of being at one, are hopelessly divided, but that being united in the
design to ruin M. Arnauld, they have all agreed to use this term,
understanding it in different senses, and so by an apparent agreement to
form a compact body in order to crush him more confidently.

The ingenuous inquirer hesitates to believe in such wickedness.  He
professes himself to be animated by a pure desire of understanding the
subject, and asks still that the mysterious word _proximate_ may be
explained to him.  His Jansenist friend professes a willingness to
enlighten him, but says that his explanation would be liable to
suspicion.  He must have recourse to those who invented the expression,
and is referred to a M. le Moine, on the one hand, as representing the
Molinists or Jesuits; and a Father Nicolai as representing the Dominicans
or “New Thomists.”  Both of these were real characters: the former a
doctor of the Sorbonne, and a violent anti-Jansenist, who had written on
the subject of grace; the latter a Dominican, who is said, however, by
Nicole to have abandoned the principles of his order and embraced
Pelagianism.  The bewildered seeker after theological knowledge resorts,
not to these worthies themselves, with whom he professes to have no
acquaintance, but to certain disciples of theirs.  In this manner he gets
a definition of “proximate power,” from which it is apparent that, while
the Jesuits and Dominicans are only agreed in using the same
expression—the meanings they put into it being entirely different—the
Jansenists and Dominicans agree in substance, while only differing in the
use of words.  The passage in which the result of his successive
interviews is described is one of the happiest in the letter.  On
receiving from the Dominicans, whom he terms “Jacobins,” from their
association with the Rue de St Jacques, where the first Dominican convent
in Paris was erected, an explanation of the doctrine of grace, he

    “Capital!  So, according to you, the Jansenists are Catholics, and M.
    le Moine a heretic; for the Jansenists say that the just have the
    power of praying, but that further efficacious grace is necessary—and
    this is what you also approve.  M. le Moine, however, says that the
    just may pray without efficacious grace—and this you condemn.  ‘Ay,’
    they replied, ‘but M. le Moine calls this power _proximate power_.’
    ‘But what is this, my father,’ I exclaimed in turn, ‘but to play with
    words—to say that you agree as to the common terms you employ, while
    your sense is quite different?’  To this they made no reply; and at
    this very point the disciple of M. le Moine, with whom I had
    consulted, arrived by what seemed to me a lucky and extraordinary
    conjuncture.  But I afterwards found that these meetings were not
    uncommon; that, in fact, they were continually mixing the one with
    the other.  I addressed myself immediately to M. le Moine’s disciple:
    ‘I know one,’ said I, ‘who maintains that the just have always the
    power of praying to God, but that nevertheless they never pray
    without an efficacious grace which determines them, and which is not
    always given by God to all the just.  Is such a one a heretic?’
    ‘Wait,’ said my doctor; ‘you take me by surprise.  Come, gently.
    _Distinguo_.  If he calls this power _proximate power_, he is a
    Thomist, and yet a Catholic; if not, he is a Jansenist, and therefore
    a heretic.’  ‘He calls it,’ said I, ‘neither the one nor the other.’
    ‘He is a heretic then,’ said he; ‘ask these good fathers.’  It was
    unnecessary to appeal to them, for already they had assented by a nod
    of their heads.  But I insisted.  ‘He refuses to use the word
    _proximate_, because no one can explain it to him.’  Whereupon one of
    the fathers was about to give his definition of the term, when he was
    interrupted by M. le Moine’s disciple.  ‘What!’ said he; ‘do you wish
    to recommence our quarrels?  Have we not agreed never to attempt an
    explanation of this word _proximate_, but to use it on both sides
    without saying what it means?’  And to this the Jacobin assented.  I
    saw at once into their plot, and rising to quit them, I said, ‘Of a
    truth, my fathers, this is nothing, I fear, but a quibble; and
    whatever may come of your meetings, I venture to predict that when
    the censure is passed, peace will not be restored. . .  Surely it is
    unworthy, both of the Sorbonne and of theology, to make use of
    equivocal and captious terms without giving any explanation of them.
    Tell me, I entreat you, for the last time, fathers, what I must
    believe in order to be a Catholic?’  ‘You must say,’ they all cried
    at once, ‘that all the just have the _proximate power_.’ . . .  ‘What
    necessity can there be,’ I argued, ‘for using a word which has
    neither authority nor definite meaning?’  ‘You are an opinionative
    fellow,’ they replied.  ‘You shall use the word, or you are a
    heretic, and M. Arnauld also; for we are the majority, and if
    necessary we can bring the Cordeliers into the field and carry the

The second Letter, entitled “Of Sufficient Grace,” is exactly in the same

    “Just as I had sealed my last letter,” the writer opens, “I received
    a visit from our old friend, M. N---, a most fortunate circumstance
    for the gratification of my curiosity.  For he is thoroughly informed
    in the questions of the day, and up to all the secrets of the
    Jesuits, at whose houses, including those of the leading men, he is a
    constant visitor.”

Using his friend conveniently as an informant, Pascal proceeds to explain
to the Provincial the question of sufficient grace as betwixt the
Jesuits, Jansenists, and Dominicans.  The amusement of the Letter
consists in the manner in which he brings out, as before, the substantial
identity in opinion of the Dominicans and Jansenists, notwithstanding the
junction of the former with the Jesuits to oppress the latter.  The
Jesuits hold the old Pelagian doctrine that grace is given to all,
dependent for its efficacy upon the free will of the recipient.  This is
with them _sufficient grace_.  The Jansenists follow St Augustine, and
will not allow any grace to be _sufficient_ which is not also
efficacious.  What is the view of the Dominican?—

    “It is rather an odd one,” he says; “for while they agree with the
    Jesuits in allowing a _sufficient grace_ given to all men, they
    nevertheless hold that with this grace alone men cannot act, but
    require further from God an _efficacious grace_ which determines
    their will to action, and which is not given to all.”

In short, _this grace_ is _sufficient_ without being so.  It bears the
same name as the grace of the Jesuits, but in reality the Dominican
doctrine is that of the Jansenists, that men require efficacious grace in
order to pious action.  What is the meaning of all this jumble of
opinion?  Simply, that the Dominicans are too powerful to be quarrelled
with.  The Jesuits are content that they should so far use the same
language with them.

    “They do not insist upon their denying the necessity of efficacious
    grace.  This would be to press them too far.  People should not
    tyrannise over their friends; and the Jesuits have really gained
    enough.  But the world is content with words; and so the name of
    sufficient grace being received on all sides, though in different
    senses, none except the most subtle theologians can dream that the
    expression does not signify the same to the Jacobins and the Jesuits;
    and the result will show that the latter are not the greatest dupes.”

This conclusion becomes the subject of conversational by-play, similar to
that of the first Letter:—

    “I went straight,” adds the writer, “to the Jacobins, at whose door I
    found a good friend of mine, a great Jansenist—for you must know I
    have friends amongst all parties—who was inquiring for another
    father, different from the one I wanted.  But I persuaded him to
    accompany me, and asked for one of my New Thomist friends.  He was
    delighted to see me again.  ‘Ah, well,’ I said to him, ‘it seems it
    is not enough that all men have a _proximate power_ by which they can
    never act with effect; they must also have a _sufficient grace_, with
    which they can act just as little.  Is not this the opinion of your
    school?’  ‘Yes,’ said the good father, ‘and I have this very morning
    been maintaining this in the Sorbonne.  I spoke my full half-hour;
    and had it not been for the sand-glass, I bade fair to reverse the
    unlucky proverb which circulates in Paris—“He votes with his cap
    [merely by nodding his assent, without speaking] like a monk of the
    Sorbonne.”’  ‘And what about your half-hour and your sand-glass?’
    said I.  ‘Do they shape your discourses by a certain measure?’
    ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘for some days past.’  ‘And do they oblige you to
    speak half an hour?’  ‘No, we may speak as shortly as we like.’  ‘But
    not,’ I said, ‘as much as you like.  What a capital rule for the
    ignorant—what an excellent excuse for those who have nothing worth
    saying!  But to come to the point, my father—this grace which is
    given to all, is it sufficient?’  ‘Yes,’ said he.  ‘And yet it has no
    effect without _efficacious_ grace?’  ‘Quite true,’ said he.  ‘And
    all men have the _sufficient_, but not all the _efficacious_?’
    ‘Exactly so.’  ‘That is to say,’ I urged, ‘that all have enough
    grace, and yet not enough—that there is a grace which is
    _sufficient_, and yet does not _suffice_.  In good sooth, my father,
    that is subtle doctrine.  Have you forgotten, in quitting the world,
    what the word _sufficient_ means?  Do you not remember that it
    includes everything necessary for acting? . . .  How, then, do you
    leave it to be said, that all men have _sufficient_ grace for acting,
    while you confess that another grace is absolutely necessary for
    acting, and that all have not this? . . .  Is it a matter of
    indifference to say that with sufficient grace we can really act?’
    ‘Indifference!’ said he; ‘why, it is _heresy_—formal _heresy_.  The
    necessity of efficacious grace for effective action is a point of
    _faith_.  It is heresy to deny this.’  ‘Where, then, are we now? and
    what side must I take?  If I deny sufficient grace, I am a Jansenist.
    If I admit it, like the Jesuits, so that efficacious grace is no
    longer necessary, I shall be a heretic, you say.  And if I admit it,
    as you do, so that efficacious grace is still necessary, why I sin
    against common-sense, I am a blockhead, say the Jesuits.  What can I
    do in this dilemma, of being a blockhead, a heretic, or a Jansenist?
    To what a strait are we come, if it is only Jansenists, after all,
    who are at variance with neither faith nor reason, and who preserve
    themselves both from folly and error?’”

The Dominican, in short, is made to appear very ridiculous in his union
with the Jesuits.  Clearly he fights on their side against the Jansenists
at the expense of his honesty and consistency.  He is confounded by a
parable representing the absurdity of his position.

    “‘It is all very easy to talk,’ was all he could say in reply.  ‘You
    are an independent and private person; I am a monk, and in a
    community.  Do you not understand the difference?  We depend upon
    superiors; they depend upon others.  They have promised our votes,
    and what would you have me to do?’  We understood his allusion, and
    remembered how a brother monk had been banished to Abbeville for a
    similar cause.”

The writer is disposed to pity the monk as he relates with a melancholy
tone how the Dominicans, who had from the time of St Thomas been such
ardent defenders of the doctrine of grace, had been entrapped into making
common cause with the Jesuits.  The latter, availing themselves of the
confusion and ignorance introduced by the Reformation, had disseminated
their principles with great rapidity, and become masters of the popular
belief; while the poor Dominicans found themselves in the predicament of
either being denounced as Calvinists, and treated as the Jansenists then
were, or of falling into the use of a common language with the Jesuits.
What other course was open to them in such a case than that of saving the
truth at the expense of their own credit! and while admitting the name of
sufficient grace, denying, after all, that it was sufficient!  That was
the real history of the business.

This pitiful story of the New Thomist awakens a respondent pity in the
writer.  But his Jansenist companion is roused to indignant

    “Do not flatter yourselves,” he exclaims, “that you have saved the
    truth.  If it had no other protector than you, it would have perished
    in such feeble hands.  You have received into the Church the name of
    its enemy, and this is to receive the enemy itself.  Names are
    inseparable from things.  If the term _sufficient_ grace be once
    admitted, you may talk finely about only understanding thereby a
    grace insufficient; but this will be of no avail.  Your explanation
    will be held as odious in the world, where men speak far more
    sincerely of less important things.  The Jesuits will triumph.  It
    will be their sufficient grace, and not yours—which is only a
    name—which will be accepted.  It will be theirs, which is the reverse
    of yours, that will become an article of faith.”

In vain the New Thomist proclaims his readiness to suffer martyrdom
rather than allow this, and to maintain the great doctrine of St Thomas
to the death.  His allusion to the importance of the doctrine only calls
forth more severely the indignant eloquence of the Jansenist, and he
brings the Letter to a close in a passage which forestalls the graver and
loftier tone of the later Letters.

    “Confess, my father, that your order has received an honour which it
    ill discharges.  It abandons that grace which has been intrusted to
    it, and which has never been abandoned since the creation of the
    world.  That victorious grace which was expected by patriarchs,
    predicted by prophets, introduced by Jesus Christ, preached by St
    Paul, explained by St Augustine, the greatest of the Fathers,
    embraced by his followers, confirmed by St Bernard, the last of the
    Fathers, sustained by St Thomas, the Angel of the Schools,
    transmitted by him to your order, maintained by so many of your
    fathers, and so gloriously defended by your monks under Popes Clement
    and Paul—that efficacious grace which was left in your hands as a
    sacred deposit, that it might always, in a sacred and enduring order,
    find preachers to proclaim it to the world till the end of time—finds
    itself deserted for interests utterly unworthy.  It is time that
    other hands should arm themselves in its quarrel.  It is time that
    God should raise up intrepid disciples to the Doctor of Grace, who,
    strangers to the entanglements of the world, should serve God for the
    sake of God.  Grace may no longer count the Dominicans among her
    defenders; but she will never want defenders, for she creates them
    for herself by her own almighty strength.  She demands pure and
    disengaged hearts, nay, she herself purifies and delivers them from
    worldly interests inconsistent with the truths of the Gospel.
    Consider well, my father, and take heed lest God remove the
    candle-stick from its place, and leave you in darkness and dishonour
    to punish the coldness which you have shown in a cause so important
    to His Church.”

The first two Letters are closely connected.  They deal with the special
question between Arnauld and the Sorbonne.  A short “Reply from the
Provincial” is interposed between the second and third.  This reply may
be supposed to be a part of the device employed by Pascal to arouse
public attention and circulate the Letters.  The friend in the country
tells how they have excited universal interest.  Everybody has seen them,
heard them, and believed them.  They are valued not merely by
theologians, but men of the world, and ladies, have found them
intelligible and delightful reading.  This is no exaggerated picture of
the sensation which they produced.  Their success was prodigious, and
increased with every successive Letter.  In an atmosphere charged with
the theological spirit, yet wearied with the dulness of theological
controversy, Pascal’s mode of treating the subject came as a breath of
new life.  Here was one who was evidently no mere theologian—who knew
human nature as well as Divine truth.  His clear and penetrating
intellect saw at once the many aspects of the dispute lying deep in the
human interests and passions engaged; and as he touched these one by one,
and by subtle and vivid strokes brought them to the front—as Molinist,
New Thomist, and Jansenist appeared upon the scene, and showed in their
natural characters what play of dramatic life was moving under all the
dulness of the debate at the Sorbonne—there was a universal outcry of
welcome.  The Letters passed from hand to hand.  The post-office reaped a
harvest of profit; copies went through the whole kingdom.

    “‘You can have no idea how much I am obliged to you for the Letter
    you sent me,’ writes a friend to a lady; ‘it is so very ingenious,
    and so nicely written.  It narrates without narrating.  It clears up
    the most intricate matters possible; its raillery is exquisite; it
    enlightens those who know little of the subject, and imparts double
    delight to those who understand it.  It is an admirable apology; and
    if they would take it, a delicate and innocent censure.  In short,
    the Letter displays so much art, so much spirit, and so much
    judgment, that I burn with curiosity to know who wrote it.’”

This is the report of the Provincial; and if it is Pascal himself who
speaks, he had little idea that his own _badinage_ would be echoed by
grave critics, in after-years, as not in excess of the actual merit of
his productions.  “The best comedies of Molière,” says Voltaire, “have
not more wit than the first Provincial Letters.”  It must be admitted
that the brightness of the wit is somewhat dimmed after the lapse of two
centuries.  Even the genius of Pascal fails to lighten all the tortuous
absurdities of controversies so purely verbal, and there is an occasional
baldness in the clever device of pitting Molinist, New Thomist, and
Jansenist against one another.  The professed artlessness of the speeches
is at times too apparent.  But nothing, upon the whole, can be finer than
the address with which this is done; the changes of scene and the turns
of the dialogue are managed with admirable felicity; there is an
exquisite fitness and Socratic point in all the evolutions of the
argument, which we feel even now when we see so clearly behind the
scenes, and know that Molinist and New Thomist must have had a good deal
more to say for themselves.  We have only to imagine the atmosphere of
the Sorbonne, or the wider social atmosphere throughout France in the
seventeenth century, impregnated to its core by a subtle controversial
ecclesiasticism, to realise the impression made by “the Small Letters.”
The question everywhere was, Who could have written them?  There seems at
first to have been no suspicion of Pascal.  He had previously only been
known as a scientific writer; and the secret was, of course, jealously
guarded.  Although planned at Port Royal des Champs, he did not remain
there while engaged in their composition.  He repaired, as we have
already said, to Paris, and after a while took up his abode “at a little
inn opposite to the Jesuit College of Clermont, just behind the
Sorbonne.”  Here he lodged with his brother-in-law, M. Périer, who had
lately come to Paris; and here, too, the latter was visited by Père
Defrétat, a Jesuit and distant relative, who came to tell him that the
suspicions of the Society were beginning to point to Pascal.  All the
while Pascal was busy in the room below; and, “behind the closed curtains
of the bed by the side of which they were talking, a score of fresh
impressions of the seventh Letter were laid out to dry.” {132}

Pascal rejoiced in his incognito.  It was not till the controversy had
somewhat advanced that he assumed the pseudonym Louis de Montalte.  The
third Letter he closed mysteriously with the letters E. A. A. B. P. A. F.
D. E. P., which have been interpreted to mean “Et ancien ami Blaise
Pascal, Auvergnat, fils de Étienne Pascal.”  There can be no doubt that
he took a distinct pleasure in the anonymous wounds which he inflicted.
He had a certain love of controversy from the beginning, a feeling of
self-assertion when he took up a cause, and a personal ambition to
triumph in it, which carried him forward, and which come out with almost
painful vividness in the closing letters.

The rage of the Jesuits may be imagined.  At first they hardly knew
whether to laugh with the world or to be indignant.  The first Letter was
read in the dining-hall of the Sorbonne itself.  Some were amused, others
greatly provoked.  But, as the Letters proceeded, there was no room for
any feeling but indignation.  It was so difficult to set forth any direct
reply to productions mingling such a subtle irony with grave attack.
They could only say of them, as they afterwards more formally did—_Les
menteurs immortelles_.  Of the first Letters it is said that 6000 copies
were printed; but, as they were easily passed from hand to hand, this
gives no idea of the numbers who actually read them.  Their fame grew
with each successive issue.  More than 10,000 copies were printed of the
seventeenth Letter; and editions of the earlier ones were so frequently
reprinted, that it can no longer be told which belonged really to the
first edition.

It is impossible, and would be useless, for us to attempt any description
of the whole series of Letters.  We have thought it right to dwell at
some length on the first two, because they enter so directly into the
controversy betwixt Pascal’s friends and the Sorbonne, and because they
are really, in some respects, the cleverest, if not the most valuable.
The third Letter, on the “Censure of M. Arnauld,” and again, the three
concluding Letters, {133} are closely connected with the first two.
Their object, in one form or another, is the defence of the Jansenist
doctrine, and of the Port Royalists, as its supporters.  The intervening
twelve Letters stand quite by themselves.  They open up the whole subject
of the moral theology of the Jesuits, and constitute the most powerful
assault probably ever directed against it.  The subject is one which, in
a volume like this, we can only touch upon, and this more with the view
of drawing out the marked literary features of Pascal’s assault, than of
meddling with the merits of the controversy which he waged so
relentlessly.  In the meantime, we must wind up, as briefly as possible,
the more personal aspects of the controversy.

Between the date of the second and the third Letter, the process before
the Sorbonne had been finished, and M. Arnauld’s censure pronounced.  The
third Letter deals with this censure.  The writer represents the long
preparation for it, the manner in which the Jansenists had been denounced
as the vilest of heretics, “the cabals, factions, errors, schisms, and
outrages with which they have been so long charged.”  Who would not have
thought, in such circumstances, that the “blackest heresy imaginable”
would have come forth under the condemning touch of the Sorbonne?  All
Christendom waited for the result.  It was true that M. Arnauld had
backed up his opinions by the clearest quotations from the Fathers,
expressing apparently the very things with which he had been charged.
But points of difference imperceptible to ordinary eyes would no doubt be
made clear under the penetration of so many learned doctors.  Thoughts of
this kind kept everybody in a state of breathless suspense waiting for
the result.  “But, alas! how has the expectation been balked!  Whether
the Molinist doctors have not deigned to lower themselves to the level of
instructing us, or for some other secret reason, they have done nothing
else than pronounce the following words: ‘This proposition is rash,
impious, blasphemous, deserving of anathema, and heretical!’”

It was not to be wondered at, in the circumstances, that people were in a
bad humour, and were beginning to think that after all there may have
been no real heresy in M. Arnauld’s proposition.  A heresy which could
not be defined, except in general terms of abuse, seemed at the least
doubtful.  The writer is puzzled, as usual, and has recourse to “one of
the most intelligent of the Sorbonnists” who had been so far neutral in
the discussion, and whom he asks to point out the difference betwixt M.
Arnauld and the Fathers.  The “intelligent” Sorbonnist is amused at the
_naïveté_ of the inquiry.  “Do you fancy,” he says, “that if they could
have found any difference they would not have pointed it out?”  But why,
then, pursues the ingenuous inquirer, should they in such a case pass

    “‘How little you understand the tactics of the Jesuits!’ is the
    answer.  ‘How few will ever look into the matter beyond the fact that
    M. Arnauld is condemned!  Let it be only cried in the streets, “Here
    is the condemnation of M. Arnauld!”  This is enough to give the
    Jesuits a triumph with the unthinking populace.  This is the way in
    which they live and prosper.  Now it is by a catechism in which a
    child is made to condemn their opponents; now by a procession, in
    which Sufficient Grace leads Efficacious Grace in triumph; and
    by-and-by by a comedy, in which the devils carry off Jansen;
    sometimes by an almanac; and now by this censure.’  The truth is,
    that it is M. Arnauld himself, and not merely his opinions, that are
    obnoxious.  Even M. le Moine himself admitted ‘that the same
    proposition would have been orthodox in the mouth of any other; it is
    only as coming from M. Arnauld that the Sorbonne have condemned it.’
    . . .  Here is a new species of heresy,” concludes the writer.  “It
    is not the sentiments of M. Arnauld that are heretical, but only his
    person.  It is a case of personal heresy.  He is not a heretic for
    anything he has said or written, but simply because he is M. Arnauld.
    This is all they can say against him.  Whatever he may do, unless he
    cease to exist he will never be a good Catholic.  The grace of St
    Augustine will never be the true grace while he defends it.  It would
    be all right were he only to combat it.  This would be a sure stroke,
    and almost the only means of establishing it and destroying Molinism.
    Such is the fatality of any opinions which he embraces.”

In the three concluding Letters, as we have said, Pascal reverts to the
special subject of Jansenism and Port Royal.  These Letters are
considerably longer than the opening ones.  It is of the sixteenth, in
fact, that he makes the well-known remark, that “it was very long because
he had no time to make it shorter.”  Upon the whole, also, these Letters
are less happy in style and manner.  It is evident that Pascal, if he
gave blows which made his opponents and the opponents of Port Royal
wince, also received some bruises in return.  The shamelessness of the
attacks made upon his friends and himself, contemptible as they were in
their nature, left scars upon a mind and temper so sensitive and reserved
as his.  The “insufferable audacity” with which “holy nuns and their
directors” had been charged with disbelieving the mysteries of the faith
was “a crime which God alone was capable of punishing.”  To bear such a
charge required a degree of humility equal to that of the nuns
themselves—to believe it, “a degree of wickedness equal to that of their
wretched defamers.”  As for himself, it seemed enough to say of him that
he belonged to Port Royal, as if it were only at Port Royal that there
could be found those capable of defending the purity of Christian
morality.  He knew and honoured the work of the pious recluses who had
retired to that monastery, although “he had never had the honour of
belonging to them.”  And in the seventeenth Letter he says:—

    “I have no more to say than that I am not a member of that community,
    and to refer you to my letters, in which I have declared that ‘I am a
    private individual;’ and again in so many words that ‘I am not of
    Port Royal.’ . . .  You may touch Port Royal if you choose, but you
    shall not touch me.  You may turn people out of the Sorbonne, but
    that will not turn me out of my lodging.”

These statements, of course, are to be received as so far a part of the
disguise under which Pascal pursued his task.  It was true that he had no
official connection with Port Royal, that he was under no rule to live in
its retirements, and that he was only occasionally found there.  He was
singularly free, “without engagements, entanglement, relationship, or
business of any kind.”  All the same he was a Port Royalist in sympathy
and community of opinion.  The interests of Port Royal were his
interests, and its friends his friends.  His own sister was one of its
zealous inmates.  There is a certain force, therefore, in the taunt that
Pascal, in “unmasking the duplicity of the Jesuits, did not hesitate to
imitate it.”  His statements are not beyond the licence accorded to those
who would drive an enemy off the scent, and shelter themselves within an
anonymity which they have chosen to assume; but they are none the less
artful and misleading.  They justify themselves as the fence of the
_littérateur_, hardly as the armour of the moralist.  But the truth is,
that long before this Pascal had warmed to his work as a
controversialist.  He was determined to give no advantage, and to spare
no weapons within the bounds of decency, that might make the Jesuits feel
the force of his assault.  Their accusation of heresy especially
exasperated him.

    “When was I ever seen at Charenton?” {138} he says in the seventeenth
    Letter, addressed to the Jesuit Father Annat.  “When have I failed in
    my presence at mass, or in my Christian duty to my parish church?
    What act of union with heretics, or of schism with the Church, can
    you lay to my charge?  What council have I contradicted?  What Papal
    constitution have I violated?  You _must answer_, father; else—you
    know what I mean.”

The Jansenist doctrine of grace, as we have already explained, approached
indefinitely the doctrine of Calvin.  Both were derived from Augustine;
and St Thomas, as his interpreter, handed on to the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries the precious deposit.  The line of thought was
continuous, and it was not easy to break it at Calvin, and isolate him as
a heretic, while holding to other teachers as Catholic and orthodox.
This was the dilemma of the New Thomists, so pithily expressed by one of
themselves in the second Letter.  But it was also Pascal’s own dilemma;
and the consciousness which he and his friends had of the nearness of the
Jansenist doctrine to that of Calvin, made them all the more sensitive
under the charge of heresy.  The Jesuits had art enough to see the
advantages which came from this association.  The Port Royalists and
Pascal failed in the magnanimity which clung to a truth no less because
it was identified with an abused name.  They insisted upon distinguishing
between the tenets of Jansen and Calvinism.  If what the Papal decree
meant and the Sorbonne meant in the condemnation of the Jansenist
proposition was that they condemned the doctrines of Calvin, then they
were all agreed.—Jesuits, Jansenists, and Port Royalists.

    “Was that all you meant, father?” asks Pascal in his concluding
    Letter.  “Was it only the error of Calvin that you were so anxious to
    get condemned under the name of ‘the sense of Jansen’?  Why did you
    not tell us this sooner? you might have saved yourself a world of
    trouble; for we were all ready without the aid of bulls or briefs to
    join with you in condemning that error. . . .  Now, when you have
    come the length of declaring that the error which you oppose is the
    heresy of Calvin, it must be apparent to every one that they [the
    Port Royalists] are innocent of all error; for so decidedly hostile
    are they to this, the only error with which you charge them, that
    they protest by their discourses, by their books, by every mode, in
    short, in which they can testify their sentiments, that they condemn
    that heresy with their whole heart, and in the same manner in which
    it has been condemned by the Thomists, whom you acknowledge without
    scruple to be Catholics.”

The professed point of difference stated in the same Letter—namely, that
the Thomists and Sorbonnists (and of course the Port Royalists with them)
held that efficacious grace is resistible, while Calvin held that it was
irresistible—may or may not hold in reference to special expressions of
Calvin.  But there is nothing, upon the whole, stronger in Calvin than
there is in Augustine on the subject of grace; and on the other hand, an
“efficacious grace,” which is “resistible”—which the human heart can
accept or repel _at will_—seems open to all the ironical play which
Pascal directs so skilfully in his first Letters against the Jesuit
doctrine of a _sufficient_ grace which is not yet sufficient.  The truth
is, that apart from verbal subtleties, which Pascal could handle no less
familiarly, only far more skilfully, than his adversaries, there is no
rational position intermediate between the Pelagian doctrine (which is
also substantially the Aristotelian) of free will and moral habit, and
the Augustinian doctrine of Divine grace and spiritual inspiration.  The
source of character is either from within the character itself, which has
power to choose good and to be good if it will, or it is from a higher
source—the grace of God, and the power of a Divine ordination.  These are
the only real lines of controversy.  The Christian thinker may decline
controversy on such a subject altogether, acknowledging that the mystery
of character is in its roots beyond our ken,—that we know not, and in the
nature of the case cannot know, where the Human ends and the Divine
begins.  In such a case there is no room for argument.  But we cannot
with consistency step off one line on to the other.  In other words, we
cannot logically abuse Calvin while we hold with Augustine, or profess to
revere St Thomas while we abuse Jansen.

But it is more than time to turn from this side of the ‘Provincial
Letters.’  This was the controversy out of which they sprang—which
mingles itself most with the personality of Pascal—and hence it has
claimed a somewhat detailed treatment.  The great subject to which the
intervening and chief portion of the Letters is directed is not, indeed,
more important in itself, but it is more diversified, and more
practically interesting.  Here, however, Pascal was more obviously
performing a task than in the other Letters.  He was speaking less out of
his heart.  Having grappled with the Jesuits, and noticed their tactics
in the affair of the Sorbonne, he is led to look into their whole system.
He takes up their books and studies them, in part at least; while his
friends Nicole and Arnauld also study them for him.  And the result is
the remarkable and memorable assault contained in his thirteen
Letters—from the fourth to the sixteenth—directed against all the main
principles of the Jesuit system.

It would lead us quite away from our purpose to enter into the range of
this great controversy, or to endeavour to estimate its value, or the
merits of the attack and defence on particular points.  The subject is
one by itself, more or less entering into the whole question of morals,
and especially the immense fabric of casuistry or moral theology built up
by successive teachers in the Jesuit schools.  Trained, as he was, a
devout disciple of the Roman Church, enthusiastic on behalf of its
doctrines and preachers, Pascal had apparently no knowledge of the
details of Jesuit doctrine and morality before he began his task of
inquiry and assault.  Austere and simple in his own principles of virtue,
direct and unbending in his modes of action, he was evidently appalled by
the study of the Jesuit system, and the endless complexities of
compromise and evasion which it presented.  In seizing, as he did
everywhere, upon the immoral aspects of the system, and touching them
with the most graphic colours of exposure, he cannot be said to be
unfair; for the materials with which he dealt were all abundant in their
writings.  His quotations may be sometimes taken at random, and may set
forth, without any of the alleviating shades surrounding them in their
proper context, special points as parts of a general sequence of thought.
They were, no doubt, often furnished to him by Nicole or Arnauld, who
hunted them through the immense volumes of casuistical divinity in which
they were contained.  But there is no reason to suppose that in any case
he has been guilty of misquotation, or that he has attributed sentiments
to the Jesuit doctors not to be found in them.  This is very much his own

    “I have been asked if I have myself read all the books which I have
    quoted.  I answer, No.  If I had done so, I must have passed a great
    part of my life in reading very bad books; but I have read Escobar
    twice through, and I have employed some of my friends in reading the
    others.  But I have not made use of a single passage without having
    myself read it in the book from which it is cited, without having
    examined the subject of which it treats, and without having read what
    went before and followed, so that I might run no risk of quoting an
    objection as an answer, which would have been blameworthy and

No doubt this is true.  There is all, and more than all, that Pascal
quoted to be found in the Jesuit writings, and his own language is not
too strong in speaking of much that he quotes as “abominable.”
Notwithstanding, it may be said that the effect of his representation is
a certain unfairness towards the Jesuits.  He presses them at a cruel
advantage when he insists upon developing from his own point of view, or
still more from the mouth of some of their too simple followers, all the
practical consequences of their special rules.  The system of casuistry
was one not solely of Jesuitical invention.  It was the necessary
outgrowth of the radical Roman principle of Confession.  Nay, it
flourished to some extent within the Protestant Church itself in the
seventeenth century, as the writings of two very different men, Jeremy
Taylor and Richard Baxter, show.  Once admit the principle of directing
the conscience by external rather than internal authority, and you lay a
foundation upon which any amount of folly, and even crime, may be built
up.  This was the general principle of Jesuitism as a system of
education; but it came to it from the Church which Pascal, no less than
the Jesuits, revered.  Nay, it was in its general character a principle
as characteristic of Port Royal as of Loyola and his followers.  There is
the enormous difference, no doubt, that the ethics of Port Royal were
comparatively faithful to the essential principles of morality which
Nature and the Gospel alike teach—that its practical excesses were quite
in a different direction from the laxity of the Jesuits.  But two things
are to be remembered, not in favour of the Jesuits, but in explanation of
their excesses: 1st, that they aimed, as Pascal himself points out, at
governing the world, and not merely a sect—that their whole idea of the
Church in relation to the world was different from that of the Port
Royalists; and 2d, that their system of morals not merely rested on a
wrong and dangerous principle (which Pascal’s no less did), but had been
endlessly developed in their schools by many inferior hands.  This was
Pascal’s great weapon against them, and so far it was quite a legitimate
weapon, as he himself claimed.  As none of their books could appear
without sanction, the Order was more or less responsible for all the
frightful principles set forth in some of these books.  All the same, it
is not to be presumed that such a system of moral, or rather immoral,
consequences was deliberately designed by the Society.  Pascal himself
exempts them from such a charge.  “Their object,” he says, “is not the
corruption of manners; . . . but they believe it for the good of religion
that they should _govern all consciences_, and so they have evangelical
or severe maxims for managing some sorts of people, while whole
multitudes of lax casuists are provided for the multitude that prefer
laxity.” {144a}  The Jesuit system of morality, in short, was the growth
of the Jesuit principle of accommodation, added on to the Roman principle
of external authority.  Looking at morality entirely from without, as an
artificial mode of regulating life and society for the supreme good of
the Church, the Jesuit casuists were driven, under the necessities of
such a system, from point to point, till all essential moral distinction
was lost in the mechanical manipulations of their schools.  Whatever
happened, no man or woman was to be lost to the Church; the complications
of human interest and passion were to be brought within its fold and
smoothed into some sort of decent seeming, rather than cast beyond its
pale and made the prey of its enemies. {144b}  The task was a hopeless
one.  In the pages of Pascal the Jesuits too obviously make a deplorable
business both of religion and morality.  But they were as much the
victims as the authors of a system which Rome had sanctioned, and which
came directly from the claims which it made to govern the world not
merely by spiritual suasion, but by external influence.  Jesuitism may be
bad, and the Jesuit morality exposed by Pascal abominable, but the one
and the other are the natural outgrowth of a Church which had become a
mechanism for the regulation of human conduct, rather than a spiritual
power addressing freely the human heart and conscience.

Our space will not admit of an analysis of the thirteen Letters dealing
with the Jesuits, and we can hardly give any quotations from them.
Suffice it to say, that Pascal passes in the fourth Letter to a direct
assault upon the Society.  “Nothing can equal the Jesuits,” the Letter
begins.  “I have seen Jacobins, doctors, and all sorts of people; but
such a visit as I have made today baffles everything, and was necessary
to complete my knowledge of the world.”  He then describes his visit to a
very clever Jesuit, accompanied by his trusty Jansenist friend, and
gradually unfolds from the mouth of the former the whole system of moral
theology which had grown up in the Jesuit schools,—their notions of
“actual grace,” or the necessity of a special conscious knowledge that an
act is evil, and ought to be avoided, before we can be said to be guilty
of sin in committing the act; their famous doctrines of _probabilism_ and
of _directing the intention_, and all the consequences springing out of
them.  Nothing can be more ingenious than the manner in which the Jesuit
is led forward to unfold point after point of his hateful system, as if
it were one of the greatest boons which had ever been invented for
mankind, until from concession to concession he is plunged into the most
horrible conclusions, and the Jansenist can stand the disclosures no
longer, but breaks forth in the end of the tenth Letter into a powerful
and eloquent denunciation of the doctrines to which he has been

Any lighter vein that may have lingered in the Letters is abandoned from
this point.  Pascal ceases to address his friend in the country; the
playful interchange that sprang from the idea of a third party, to whom
Pascal was supposed to be merely reporting what he had heard, occurs no
more.  He turns to the Jesuit fathers directly, and addresses them, as if
unable any longer to restrain his indignation, commencing the eleventh
Letter with an admirable defence of his previous tone, and of the extent
to which he had used the weapon of ridicule in assailing them, and
passing on to reiterate his charges, and to repel the calumnies with
which they had assailed him and his Port Royalist friends.  The reader
may weary, perhaps, for a little, as he threads his way through the
successive accusations, and the monotonous train of evil principles which
underlies them all, more or less.  He may wish that Pascal had gone to
the roots of the system more completely, and had laid bare its germinal
falsehood, instead of heaping detail upon detail, and always adding a
darker hue to the picture which he draws.  But any such mode of treatment
would not half so well have served his purpose.  His audience were not
prepared for any philosophy of exposure, still less for any attack upon
the essential principles of the Church; he himself did not see how the
successive laxities which he fixes with his poignant satire, or sets in
the light of his withering scorn, spring from a vicious conception of
Christianity and of the office of the Church.  He does what he does,
however, with exquisite effect; and the Jesuit Order, many and powerful
as have been its opponents, never before nor since felt itself more
keenly and unanswerably assailed.  Many of them were forced to laugh at
the picture of their own follies, and the immoral nonsense which
distilled from the lips of Father Bauny and others, in explanation or
defence of their practices.  “Read that,” says the confidential Jesuit
who expounds to Pascal their system: “it is ‘The Summary of Sins,’ by
Father Bauny; the fifth edition, you see, which shows that it is a good
book.  ‘In order to sin,’ says Father Bauny, ‘it is necessary to know
that the _thing we wish to do is not good_.’”  “A capital commencement,”
I remarked.  “Yet,” said he, “only think how far envy will carry some
people.  It was on this very passage that M. Hallier, before he became
one of our friends, quizzed Father Bauny, saying of him ‘_Ecce qui tollit
peccata mundi_—Behold the man who taketh away the sins of the world.’”
{147}  Then after an elaborate description of all that goes to make a

    “‘O my dear sir,’ cried I, ‘what a blessing this will be to some
    friends of my acquaintance!  You have never, perhaps, in all your
    life met with people who have fewer sins to account for!  In the
    first place, they never think of God at all, still less of praying to
    Him; so that, according to M. le Moine, they are still in a state of
    baptismal innocence.  They have never had a thought of loving God, or
    of being contrite for their sins; so that, according to Father Annat,
    they have never committed sin through the want of charity and
    penitence. . . .  I had always supposed that the less a man thought
    of God the more he sinned; but from what I see now, if one could only
    succeed in bringing himself not to think of God at all, everything
    would be peace with him in all time coming.  Away with your
    half-and-half sinners who have some love for virtue!  They will be
    damned every one of them.  But as for your out-and-out sinners,
    hardened and without mixture, thorough and determined in their evil
    courses, hell is no place for them.  They have cheated the devil by
    stern devotion to his service!’” {148}

It is in hits like these, everywhere scattered throughout the earlier
letters, to which no translation can do justice, and which lose half
their edge by being separated from their context, that the wit of Pascal
shines.  A more delicate, and at the same time more scathing irony,
cannot be conceived.  He hits with the lightest stroke, and in the most
natural manner, yet his lash cuts the flesh, and leaves an intolerable
smart.  All that could be said in answer was, that his representations
were lies.  They were conscious exaggerations, no doubt, as all satirical
representations are.  This is of their very nature.  But the extent to
which they told, and the bitterness of the feeling which they excited at
the time, and have continued to excite amongst the Jesuits and their
friends, show how much truth there was in them.  Nothing can be more
pitiful and less satisfactory than mere complaints of their falsehood.
Such complaints were hardly to have been expected from any other quarter
than the Jesuits themselves.  Yet even Chateaubriand, in his new-born
zeal for the Church, could say of their author, “Pascal is only a
calumniator of genius.  He has left us an immortal lie.”

Of the graver part of the Letters, the following are the only extracts
that our space will permit:—


    “Such is the way in which our teachers have discharged men from the
    ‘painful’ obligation of actually loving God.  And so advantageous a
    doctrine is this, that our Fathers Annat, Pintereau, Le Moine, and A.
    Sirmond even, have defended it vigorously when assailed by any one.
    You have only to consult their answers in the ‘Moral Theology;’ that
    of Father Pintereau, in particular (second part), will enable you to
    judge of the value of this dispensation by the price which it has
    cost, even the blood of Jesus.  This is the crown of such a
    doctrine.”  (A quotation is then given from Father Pintereau to the
    effect that it is a characteristic of the new Evangelical law, in
    contrast to the Judaical, that “God has lightened the troublesome and
    arduous obligation of exercising an act of perfect contrition in
    order to be justified.”)  “‘O father,’ said I, ‘no patience can stand
    this any longer.  One cannot hear without horror such sentiments as I
    have been listening to.’  ‘They are not my sentiments,’ said the
    monk.  ‘I know that well; but you have expressed no aversion to them;
    and far from detesting the authors of such maxims, you cherish esteem
    for them.  Do you not fear that your consent will make you a
    participator in their guilt?  Was it not sufficient to allow men so
    many forbidden things under cover of your palliations?  Was it
    necessary to afford them the occasion of committing crimes that even
    you cannot excuse by the facility and assurance of absolution which
    you offer them? . . .  The licence which your teachers have assumed
    of tampering with the most holy rules of Christian conduct amounts to
    a total subversion of the Divine law.  They violate the great
    commandment which embraces the law and the prophets; they strike at
    the very heart of piety; they take away the spirit which giveth life.
    They say that the love of God is not necessary to salvation; they
    even go the length of professing that this dispensation from loving
    God is the special privilege which Jesus Christ has brought into the
    world.  This is the very climax of impiety.  The price of the blood
    of Jesus, the purchase for us of a dispensation from loving Him!
    Before the incarnation we were under the necessity of loving God.
    But since God has so loved the world as to give His only Son for it,
    the world, thus redeemed by Him, is discharged from loving Him!
    Strange theology of our time!—to take away the anathema pronounced by
    St Paul against those “who love not the Lord Jesus Christ;” to blot
    out the saying of St John, that “he that loveth not abideth in
    death;” and the words of Jesus Christ Himself, “He that loveth me not
    keepeth not my commandments!”  In this manner those who have never
    loved God in life are rendered worthy of enjoying Him throughout
    eternity.  Behold the mystery of iniquity accomplished!  Open your
    eyes, my father; and if you have remained untouched by the other
    distortions of your Casuists, let this last by its excess compel you
    to abandon them.’” {150a}


    “What, my fathers! must the imaginations of your doctors pass for
    faithful verities?  Must we not expose the sayings of Escobar, {150b}
    and the fantastic and unchristian statements of others, without being
    accused of laughing at religion?  Is it possible you have dared to
    repeat anything so unreasonable? and have you no fear that in blaming
    me for ridiculing your absurdities, you were merely furnishing me
    with a fresh subject of arousing attack, and of pointing out more
    clearly that I have not found in your books any subject of laughter
    which is not in itself intensely ridiculous; and that in making a
    jest of your moral maxims, I am as far from making a jest of holy
    things as the doctrine of your Casuists distant from the holy
    doctrine of the Gospel?  In truth, sirs, there is a vast difference
    between laughing at religion and laughing at those who profane it by
    their extravagant opinions.  It were an impiety to fail in respect
    for the great truths which the Divine Spirit has revealed; but it
    would be no less impiety of another kind to fail in contempt for
    falsehoods which the spirit of man has opposed to them. . . .  Just
    as Christian truths are worthy of love and respect, the errors which
    oppose them are worthy of contempt and hatred: for as there are two
    things in the truths of our religion—a divine beauty which renders
    them lovable, and a holy majesty which renders them venerable; so
    there are two things in such errors—an impiety which makes them
    horrible, and an impertinence which renders them ridiculous.” {151a}

Many examples from the Scriptures and the Fathers are then quoted in
defence of the practice of directing ridicule against error; and he
closes with a singularly appropriate passage from Tertullian: “Nothing is
more due to vanity than laughter; it is the Truth properly that has a
right to laugh, because she is cheerful—and to make sport of her enemies,
because she is sure of victory.”

    “Do you not think, my fathers, that this passage is singularly
    applicable to our subject?  The letters which I have hitherto written
    are ‘only a little sport before the real combat.’  As yet I have been
    only playing with the foils, and ‘rather indicating the wounds that
    might be given you than inflicting any.’  I have merely exposed your
    sayings to the light, without commenting on them.  ‘If they have
    excited laughter, it is only because they are so laughable in
    themselves.’  These sayings come upon us with such surprise, it is
    impossible to help laughing at them; for nothing produces laughter
    more than surprising disproportion between what one hears and what
    one expects.  In what other way could the most of these matters be
    treated? for, as Tertullian says, ‘To treat them seriously would be
    to sanction them.’” {151b}


    “Too long have you deceived the world, and abused the confidence
    which men have put in your impostures.  It is high time to vindicate
    the reputation of so many people whom you have calumniated; for what
    innocence can be so generally acknowledged as not to suffer
    contamination from the daring aspersion of a society of men scattered
    throughout the world, who, under religious habits, cover irreligious
    minds; who perpetrate crimes as they concoct slanders—not against,
    but in conformity with, their own maxims?  No one can blame me,
    surely, for having destroyed the confidence which you might otherwise
    have inspired, since it is far more just to vindicate for so many
    good people whom you have decried, the reputation for piety they
    deserved, than to leave you a reputation for sincerity which you have
    never merited.  And as the one could not be done without the other,
    how important was it to make the world understand what you really
    are.  This is what I have begun to do; but it will require time to
    complete the work.  The world, however, shall hear of you, my
    fathers, and all your policy will not avail to shelter you.  The very
    efforts you make to ward off the blow will only serve to convince the
    least enlightened that you are afraid, and that, smitten in your own
    consciences by my charges, you have had recourse to every expedient
    to prevent exposure.”  {152}

The effect of the ‘Provincial Letters’ was not only to alarm the Jesuits,
but the Church.  The scandal of their exposure was so deeply felt, that
the _curés_ of Paris and Rouen appointed committees to investigate the
accuracy of Pascal’s quotations, and the result of their investigation
was entirely in Pascal’s favour.  This led ultimately to the matter being
carried before a General Assembly of the clergy of Paris, which, however,
declined to give any formal decision.  In the meantime, an ‘Apology for
the Casuists’ was published by a Jesuit of the name of Pirot, of such a
character as to increase rather than abate the scandal, and a new
controversy gathered around this publication.  The Sorbonne took up the
question, and, after examination, condemned Pirot’s Apology (July 1658)
as they had formerly done Arnauld’s propositions, and ultimately it was
included by Rome in the ‘Index Expurgatorius,’ along with the ‘Provincial
Letters,’ to which it was designed as a reply.  While the question was
before the Sorbonne, the _curés_ of Paris published various writings,
under the name of ‘Facta,’ in support of the conclusions to which they
had come.  These writings were prepared in concert with Pascal and his
friends, and the second and fifth are ascribed entirely to his pen.  It
is even said that he looked upon the latter, in which he drew a parallel
betwixt the Jesuits and Calvinists (to the disadvantage of the
Protestants), as the _best thing he ever did_. {153}  Long after Pascal’s
death (in 1694) an elaborate answer appeared, by Father Daniel, to the
‘Provincial Letters,’ under the title of ‘Entretiens de Cléandre et
d’Eudoxe sur les Lettres au Provincial;’ but notwithstanding a certain
amount of learning and apparent candour, the reply made no impression
upon the public.  Even the Jesuits themselves felt it to be a failure.
“Father Daniel,” it was said, “professed to have reason and truth on his
side; but his adversary had in his favour what goes much farther with
men,—the arms of ridicule and pleasantry.”  As late as 1851 an edition of
the ‘Letters’ appeared by the Abbé Maynard, accompanied by a professed
refutation of their misstatements.  But the truth is, Pascal’s work is
one of those which admit of no adequate refutation.  Even if it be
granted that he has occasionally made the most of a quotation, and
brought points together which, taken separately in their connection, have
not the offensive meaning attributed to them, this touches but little the
reader who has enjoyed their exquisite raillery or has been moved by
their indignant denunciation.  The real force of the Letters lies in
their wit and eloquence—their mingled comedy and invective.  They may be
parried or resented—they can never be refuted.

We have already quoted Voltaire’s saying, “The best comedies of Molière
have not more wit than the first Provincial Letters.”  “Bossuet,” he
added, “has nothing more sublime than the concluding ones.”  They were
regarded by him as “models of eloquence and pleasantry,” as the “first
work of genius” that appeared in French prose.  When Bossuet himself was
asked of what work he would most wish to have been the author, he
answered, “The ‘Provincial Letters.’”  Madame de Sévigné writes of them
(Dec. 21, 1689): “How charming they are! . . .  Is it possible to have a
more perfect style, an irony finer, more delicate, more natural, more
worthy of the Dialogues of Plato? . . .  And what seriousness of tone,
what solidity, what eloquence in the last eight Letters!”  Our Gibbon
attributed to the frequent perusal of them his own mastery of “grave and
temperate irony.”  Boileau pronounced them “unsurpassed” in ancient or
modern prose.  Encomiums could hardly go higher, and yet the language of
Perrault is in a still higher strain: “There is more wit in these
eighteen Letters than in Plato’s Dialogues; more delicate and artful
raillery than in those of Lucian; and more strength and ingenuity of
reasoning than in the orations of Cicero.”  Their style especially is
beyond all praise.  It has “never been surpassed, nor perhaps equalled.”
There may be, as there is apt to be in all such concurrent verdicts, a
strain of excess.  The duller English sense may not catch all the finer
edges of a style which it may yet feel to be exquisite in its general
clearness, harmony, and point; the absurdities of verbal argument and of
Jesuit sophistry may sometimes pall upon the attention, and hardly raise
a smile at this time of day.  It is the fate of even the finest polemical
literature to grow dead as it grows old; yet none can doubt the
immortality of the genius which has so long given life to such a
controversy, and charmed so many of the highest judges of literary form.
It is not for any Englishman to challenge the verdict of a Frenchman in a
matter of style.

Pascal himself evidently thought highly of his success.  He liked the
controversy, its excitement, and the applausive echo which followed each
Letter.  Like every true artist, he felt the joy and yet the gravity of
his work.  He took up his pen with a pleasurable sense of mastery, and
yet he wrote some of the Letters six or seven times over.  He spared no
pains, yet he never wearied.  All his intellectual life for the time was
thrown into the controversy, and his most finely-tempered strokes made
music in his own mind, while they carried confusion to his adversaries
and triumph to his friends.  The sensation made by the Letters was, of
course, mainly confined to France; but the nervous Latinity of Nicole
soon communicated something of the same sensation to a wider circle.
{156}  Pascal has himself told us that he never repented having written
them, nor “the amusing, agreeable, ironical style” in which they were
written.  Even the condemnation of the Papal See, abject in some respects
as was his devotion to his Church, did not move him on this point.  He
left on record, amongst his Thoughts, the following solemn declaration:


From Pascal’s finished work we turn to his unfinished Remains.  The one
will always be regarded as the chief monument of his literary skill, and
of the executive completeness of his mind.  But the other is the worthier
and nobler tribute to the greatness of his soul, and the depth and power
of his moral genius.  Few comparatively now read the ‘Provincial Letters’
as a whole; fewer still are interested in the controversy which they
commemorate.  But there are hardly any of higher culture—none certainly
of higher thoughtfulness—to whom the ‘Pensées’ are not still attractive,
and who have not sought in them at one time or another some answer to the
obstinate questionings which the deeper scrutiny of human life and
destiny is ever renewing in the human heart.  No answer may have been
found in them, but every spiritual mind must have so far met in the
author of the ‘Pensées’ a kindred spirit which, if it has seen no farther
than others, has yet entered keenly upon the great quest, and traversed
with a singular boldness the great lines of higher speculation that
“slope through darkness up to God.”

The literary history of the ‘Pensées’ is a very curious one.  They first
appeared in the end of 1669, in a small duodecimo volume, with the
appropriate motto, “Pendent opera interrupta.”  Their preparation for the
press had been a subject of much anxiety to Pascal’s friends.  What is
known as the “Peace of the Church”—a period of temporary quiet and
prosperity to Port Royal—had begun in 1663; and it was important that
nothing should be done by the Port Royalists to disturb this peace.  It
had been agreed, therefore, that all passages bearing on the controversy
with the Jesuits and the Formulary should be omitted; but beyond this
Madame Périer desired that the volume should only contain what proceeded
from her brother, and in the precise form and style in which it had left
his hand.  She evidently lacked full confidence in the Committee of
Editors, of whom the Duc de Roannez was the chief, notwithstanding their
professions of strict adherence to the manuscripts.  The volume at last
appeared, with a preface by her own son, and no fewer than nine
“approbations,” signed amongst others by three bishops, one archdeacon,
and three doctors of the Sorbonne.

Unhappily Madame Périer had too much cause for alarm.  Editors and
Approvers alike had claimed the liberty, not only of arranging but of
modifying both the matter and the style of the ‘Pensées,’ and this
notwithstanding a statement in the preface that, in giving, as they
professed to do, only “the clearest and most finished” of the fragments,
they had given them as they found them, _without adding or changing
anything_.  “These fragments,” says M. Faugère, “which sickness and death
had left unfinished, suffered, without ceasing to be immortal, all the
mutilation which an exaggerated prudence or a misdirected zeal could
suggest, with the view not only of guarding their orthodoxy, but of
embellishing their style—the style of the author of the ‘Provincials’!”
“There are not,” he adds, “twenty successive lines which do not present
some alteration, great or small.  As for total omissions and partial
suppressions, they are without number.”  M. Cousin is equally emphatic.
“There are,” he says, “examples of every kind of alteration—alteration of
words, alteration of phrases, suppressions, substitutions, additions,
arbitrary compositions, and, what is worse, decompositions more arbitrary

It is impossible to defend the first editors of the ‘Pensées.’  But it
should be remembered that their task was one not only of theological
perplexity, but of great literary difficulty.  Pascal’s manuscripts were
a mere mass of confused papers, sometimes written on both sides, and in a
hand for the most part so obscure and imperfectly formed as to be
illegible to all who had not made it a special study.  The papers were
pasted or bundled together without any natural connection, parts
containing the same piece being sometimes intersected and sometimes
widely separated from one another.  If the editors, therefore, did their
work ill, it was partly no doubt from incompetency, but partly from its
inherent difficulty, and from the fact that being so near to Pascal they
could hardly appreciate the feelings of the modern critic as to the
sacredness of his style, and of all that came from his pen.

The edition of 1669 continued to be reprinted with little alteration for
a century.  Various additional fragments were brought to light,
especially the famous conversation between De Saci and Pascal regarding
Epictetus and Montaigne; but the form of the fragments remained
unchanged.  It was not till the edition of Condorcet in 1776 that they
can be said to have undergone any new _rédaction_.  Unhappily Pascal
suffered in the hands of the Encyclopedists, as he had previously
suffered in the hands of the Jansenists and the Sorbonne.  The first
editors had expunged whatever might seem at variance with orthodoxy.
Condorcet suppressed or modified whatever partook of a too lofty
enthusiasm or a too fervent piety.  It became a current idea among the
Encyclopedists that the accident at Neuilly had affected Pascal’s brain.
We have already seen how Voltaire spoke of this; and he directed an early
attack (1734) upon the doctrine of human nature contained in the
‘Pensées.’  Now, in his old age, he hailed Condorcet’s edition, and
reissued it two years later, with an Introduction and Notes by himself.

In the following year, 1779, appeared the elaborate and well-known
edition of Pascal’s works by the Abbé Bossut, accompanied by an admirable
“Discours sur la Vie et les Ouvrages de Pascal.”  In this edition the
remains are found for the first time in some degree of completeness.  All
the fragments published by Port Royal, and all those subsequently brought
to light by Des Molets and others, are included and arranged in a new
order.  But meritorious as were Bossut’s editorial labours as a whole,
they did not attempt any restoration of the ‘Pensées’ to their original
text; and even the new fragments published by him were not left
untouched.  He embodied, for example, the famous conversation with De
Saci, but without giving De Saci’s part of the dialogue.  In short, he
reproduced, as M. Havet says, all the faults of the first editors, and
made others of his own.  This is the more remarkable that he is said to
have had in his possession a copy of the original manuscripts.
Condorcet, however, consulted the original manuscripts themselves,
without any thought of doing justice to Pascal’s text.

So matters remained till 1842, when M. Cousin published his famous Report
on the subject to the French Academy.  The French public then found to
their astonishment that, with so many editions of the ‘Pensées,’ they had
not the ‘Pensées’ themselves.  While philosophers had disputed as to his
ideas, and critics admired his style, the veritable Pascal of the
‘Pensées’ had all the time lain concealed in a mass of manuscripts in the
National Library.  Such a story, it may be imagined, did not lack any
force in the manner in which M. Cousin told it; and an eager desire arose
for a new and complete edition of the fragments.  Cousin had prepared the
way, but he did not himself undertake this task, which was reserved for
M. Faugère, whose great edition appeared two years later, in 1844.
Nothing can deprive M. Faugère of the credit of being the first editor of
a _complete_ and _authentic_ text of the ‘Pensées.’

Other editions of distinctive merit have since appeared; and it may be
admitted that, in the natural reaction from the laxity of former
editions, he gave a too literal transcript of the manuscripts, including
some things of little importance, and others more properly belonging to
an edition of the ‘Provincial Letters’ than of the ‘Pensées.’  But,
whether it be the result of early association or of greater familiarity
with M. Faugère’s pages, I own still a preference for this edition, while
admitting the admirable perspicuity and intelligence of many of M.
Havet’s notes, and the splendour of the edition of M. Victor Rochet, the
most recent (1873) that has come under my notice.

The principle observed by M. Faugère is strongly defended in his preface.
He allowed himself no discretionary powers of emendation, because “the
limits of such a power might,” he says, “be too easily overstepped, and
would have left room for belief that greater liberties had been taken
than was actually the case.”  “The manuscripts,” he adds, “have been
read, or rather studied, page by page, line by line, syllable by
syllable, to the end; and, with the exception of illegible words (which,
however, are carefully indicated), they have passed completely into the
present edition.”

So far, this principle has been adhered to by subsequent editors.  There
has been no further tampering with Pascal’s words, but more or less
latitude has been taken in publishing all the manuscript details, and
especially in the arrangement of the several fragments.  Faugère fancied
that he could trace in Pascal’s own notes the indication of an interior
arrangement, into which the several parts of his proposed work in defence
of religion were intended to fall; and he has grouped the fragments in
his second volume according to these supposed indications.  M. Havet does
not think that it is possible any longer to discover the true order of
the fragments.  He does not believe that any such order existed in the
author’s own mind.  He had a general design, and certain great divisions;
a preface was sketched here, and a chapter there; but in throwing his
thoughts upon paper as they presented themselves to him, he did not stop
to assort them, or to bring them into any fitting connection.  What
Pascal himself did not do, M. Havet does not think it possible any editor
can do.  Accordingly, he recurs to the old, if somewhat arbitrary,
arrangement of Bossut, as the most familiar and useful.  M. Rochet
follows an elaborate arrangement, professedly founded on the original
plan of Pascal, as sketched by himself in the conversation reported by
his nephew in the preface to the primary edition of the fragments.  He
considers that all the Thoughts find their natural place in this plan and
in no other.  But M. Rochet’s classifications are, partly at least,
inspired by his own ecclesiastical tendencies; and he is far from just to
the labours of M. Faugère, and the real light and order which these
labours introduced into the development of Pascal’s ideas.

It is unnecessary for us to attempt to hold the balance between Pascal’s
several editors, or to say which of them has most justice on his side.
Of two things there can be no doubt: first, that any special arrangement
of the ‘Pensées,’ so as to give the idea of a connected book in defence
of religion, is, so far, arbitrary—the work, that is to say, of the
editor rather than of the author; and secondly, that there is no
difficulty, from the original preface and otherwise, of gathering the
general order of Pascal’s ideas, and the method which appeared to him the
true one of meeting the irreligion of his day, and vindicating the divine
truth of Christianity—points which shall afterwards come before us.

The special question raised by M. Cousin as to Pascal’s scepticism will
also be best discussed in its true order, in connection with such
passages as have suggested it.  Considering Pascal’s traditionary
reputation as the defender of religion, there was a character of surprise
in this question, that forced a lively debate, as soon as it was raised,
in France and Germany, and even England.  Vinet and Neander both joined
in it; and the two lectures delivered by the latter before the Royal
Academy of Sciences in Berlin in 1847, are highly deserving of perusal by
all students of philosophy. {164}  But the issue is an absurd one, before
the combatants are agreed as to the meaning of the word Scepticism, and
before the reader has before him the views of Pascal, and the manner in
which he defines his own attitude in relation to what he considered the
two great lines of thought opposed to Christianity.  When we are in
possession of his own statements, we may find that much of the indignant
rhetoric of M. Cousin is beside the question, and that, although Pascal
was certainly no Cartesian, and has used some strong and rash expressions
about the weakness of human reason, neither is he a sceptic in any usual
sense.  He has, in fact, defined his own position with singular clearness
and force.

But before turning to his views on these higher subjects, it will be well
to present our readers with some of Pascal’s more miscellaneous and
general Thoughts.  In doing so, it is not necessary, in such a volume as
this, that we indicate throughout the edition from which we take our
quotations.  We shall quote from the editions of Faugère or Havet, as may
be most convenient, and take them in such order as suits our own purpose
of exhibiting Pascal’s mind as clearly as we can.  For the same reason,
we shall give such passages as appear to us not always the most just or
accurate in thought, but the most characteristic or representative of the
veritable Pascal, whose true words were so long concealed from the world.
We cannot do better, in the first instance, than note what so great a
mathematician has to say of geometry and the “mathematical mind,”
compared with the naturally _acute_ mind (“l’esprit de finesse”), betwixt
which he draws an interesting parallel.  The fragment on the
“Mathematical” or “Geometric Mind” was, with the exception of a brief
passage given by Des Molets {165} in 1728, originally published, although
with numerous suppressions, in Condorcet’s edition of the ‘Pensées.’  It
appeared for the first time in its complete form, and under its proper
title, in Faugère’s edition, along with its natural pendant, the
closely-allied fragment, entitled “L’Art de Persuader.”  We give a few
passages from the first fragment:—

    “We may have three principal objects in the study of truth—one to
    discover it when we seek it, another to demonstrate it when we
    possess it, and a third and last to discriminate it from the false
    when we examine it. . . .  Geometry excels in all three, and
    especially in the art of discovering unknown truths, which it calls
    _analysis_. . .  There is a method which excels geometry, but is
    impossible to man, _for whatever transcends geometry transcends us_
    [in natural science, as he explains elsewhere].  This is the method
    of defining everything and proving everything. . .  A fine method,
    but impossible; since it is evident that the first terms that we wish
    to define, suppose precedent terms necessary for their
    explanation—and that the first propositions that we wish to prove,
    suppose others which precede them; and so it is clear we can never
    arrive at absolutely first principles.  In pushing our researches to
    the utmost, we necessarily reach primitive words that admit of no
    further definition, and principles so obvious, that they require no
    proof.  Man can never, therefore, from natural incompetency, possess
    an absolutely complete science. . . .  But geometry, while inferior
    in its aims, is absolutely certain within its limits.  It neither
    defines everything, nor attempts to prove everything, and must, so
    far, yield its pretension to be an absolute science; but it sets out
    from things universally admitted as clear and constant, and is
    therefore perfectly true, because in consonance with nature.  Its
    function is not to define things universally clear and understood,
    but to define all others; and not to attempt to prove things
    intuitively known to men, but to attempt to prove all others.
    Against this, the true order of knowledge, those alike err who
    attempt to define and to prove everything, and those who neglect
    definition and demonstration where things are not self-evident.  This
    is what geometry teaches perfectly.  It attempts no definition of
    such things as _space_, _time_, _motion_, _number_, _equality_, and
    the like, because these terms designate so naturally the things which
    they signify, that any attempt at making them more clear ends in
    making them more obscure.  For there is nothing more futile than the
    talk of those who would define primitive words. {166}

    . . . . . . . .

    “In geometry the principles are palpable, but removed from common
    use. . . .  In the sphere of natural wit or acuteness, the principles
    are in common use and before all eyes—it is only a question of having
    a good view of them; for they are so subtle and numerous, that some
    are almost sure to escape observation. . . .  All geometers would be
    men of acuteness if they had sufficient insight, for they never
    reason falsely on the principles recognised by them.  All fine or
    acute spirits would be geometers if they could fix their thoughts on
    the unwonted principles of geometry.  The reason why some finer
    spirits are not geometers is, that they cannot turn their attention
    at all to the principles of geometry; but geometers fail in finer
    perception, because they do not see all that is before them, and
    being accustomed to the plain and palpable principles of geometry,
    and never reasoning until they have well ascertained and handled
    their principles, they lose themselves in matters of intellectual
    subtlety, where the principles are not so easily laid hold of.  Such
    things are seen with difficulty; they are felt rather than seen.
    They are so delicate and multitudinous that it requires a very
    delicate and neat sense to appreciate them. . . .  So it is as rare
    for geometers to be men of subtle wit as it is for the latter to be
    geometers, because geometers like to treat these nicer matters
    geometrically, and so make themselves ridiculous; they like to
    commence with definition, and then go on to principles—a mode which
    does not at all suit this sort of reasoning.  It is not that the mind
    does not take this method, but it does so silently, naturally, and
    without conscious art.  The perception of the process belongs only to
    a few minds, and those of the highest order. . . .  Geometers, who
    are only geometers, are sure to be right, provided the subject come
    within their scope, and is capable of explanation by definition and
    principles.  Otherwise they go wrong altogether, for they only judge
    rightly upon principles clearly set forth and established.  On the
    other hand, subtle men, who are only subtle, lack patience, in
    matters of speculation and imagination, to reach first principles
    which they have never known in the world, and which are entirely
    beyond their beat. . . .

    “There are different kinds of sound sense.  Some succeed in one order
    of things, and not in another, in which they are simply extravagant.
    . . .  Some minds draw consequences well from a few principles,
    others are more at home in drawing conclusions from a great variety
    of principles.  For example, some understand well the phenomena of
    water, with reference to which the principles are few, but the
    results extremely delicate, so that only very great accuracy of mind
    can trace them.  Such men would probably not be great geometers,
    because geometry involves a multitude of principles, and because the
    mind which may penetrate thoroughly a few principles to their depth
    may not be at all able to penetrate things which combine a multitude
    of principles. . . .  There are two sorts of mind: the one fathoms
    rapidly and deeply the consequences of principles—this is the
    observant and accurate mind; the other embraces a great multitude of
    principles, without confounding them—and this is the mathematical
    mind.  The one is marked by energy and accuracy, the other by
    amplitude.  But the one may exist without the other.  The mind may be
    powerful and narrow, or it may be ample and weak.” {168}

Few of Pascal’s Thoughts are more interesting than those on “Eloquence
and Style.”  So great a master of the art of expression had naturally
something to say on these subjects.

    “Continued eloquence wearies.  Princes and kings amuse themselves
    sometimes; they are not always upon their thrones—they tire of these.
    Grandeur must be laid aside in order to be realised.

    “Eloquence is a picture of thought; and thus those who, after having
    drawn a picture, still go on, make a tableau and not a likeness.

    “Eloquence is the art of saying things in such a manner—first, that
    those to whom they are addressed can understand them without trouble
    and with pleasure; and secondly, that they may be interested in them
    in such a way that their _amour propre_ may lead them gladly to
    reflect upon them.  It consists, therefore, in a correspondence
    established between the mind and heart of the hearers on the one
    side, and the thoughts and expressions used on the other, and so
    implies a close study of the human heart in order to know all its
    springs, and to find the due measures of speech to address to it.  It
    must confine itself, as far as possible, to the simplicity of nature,
    and not make great what is small, nor small what is great.  It is not
    enough that a thing be fine, it must be fitting,—neither in excess
    nor defect.”

    “Eloquence should prevail by gentle suasion, not by constraint.  It
    should reign, not tyrannise.

    “There are some who speak well, and who do not write well.  The
    place—the assembly—excites them, and draws forth their mind more than
    they ever experience without such excitement.”

    “Those who make antitheses by forcing the sense are like men who make
    false windows for the sake of symmetry.  Their rule is not to speak
    correctly, but to make correct figures.”

    “There should be in eloquence always what is true and real; but that
    which is pleasing should itself be the real.”

    “When we meet with the natural style we are surprised and delighted,
    for we expected to find an author, and we find a man; whilst those of
    good taste who in looking into a book think to find a man, are
    altogether surprised to find an author.  _Plus poetice quam humane
    locutus es_.  They honour nature most who teach her that she can
    speak best on all subjects—even on theology.”

    “There are men who always dress up nature.  No mere king with them,
    but an august monarch.  No Paris, but the capital of the kingdom.
    There are places in which it is necessary to call Paris Paris;
    others, where we must call it the capital of the kingdom.”

    “When in composition we find a word repeated, and on trying to
    correct it find it so suitable that a change would spoil the sense,
    it is better to let it alone.  This stamps it as fitting, and it is a
    stupid feeling which does not recognise that repetition in such a
    case is not a fault; for there is no universal rule.

    “The meaning itself changes with the words which express it.  The
    meaning derives its dignity from the words, instead of imparting it
    to them.”

    “The last thing that we discover in writing a book is to know what to
    put at the beginning.

    “When a discourse paints a passion or effect naturally, we find in
    ourselves the truth of what we hear, which was there without our
    knowing it, so that we are led to like the man who discovers so much
    to us.  For he does not show us his own good, but ours; and this good
    turn makes him lovable.  Besides that, the community of intelligence
    we have with him necessarily inclines the heart towards him.

    “Let none allege that I have said nothing new.  The arrangement of
    the matter is new.  When we play at tennis, both play with the same
    ball; but one plays better than the other.  They might as well accuse
    me of using old words, as if the same thoughts differently arranged
    would not form a different discourse; just as the same words
    differently arranged express different thoughts.

    “There is a definite standard of taste and beauty, which consists in
    a certain relation between our nature—it may be weak or strong, but
    such as it is—and the thing that pleases us.  All that is formed to
    this standard delights us,—house, song, writing, verse, prose, women,
    buds, rivers, trees, rooms, dress, etc.  All that is not formed by
    this standard disgusts men of good taste.

    “I never judge of the same thing exactly in the same manner.  I
    cannot judge of my work in the course of doing it.  I must do as
    painters do, place myself at a distance from it, but not too far.
    How then?  You may guess.”

We do not look to Pascal especially for worldly insight, or for that
sharp knowledge of men that make the sayings of clever social writers
like Rochefoucauld or Horace Walpole memorable, if not always wise or
kind.  But there are many of the Thoughts which show that the penitent of
Port Royal had looked with clear observant eyes below the surface of
Paris society, and that he had a deep sense not only of the moral but the
social weaknesses of humanity.

    “When passion leads us towards anything, we forget duty; as we like a
    book we read it, while we ought to be doing something else.  In order
    to be reminded of our duty, it is necessary to propose to do
    something that we dislike; then we excuse ourselves on the ground
    that we have something else to do, and so we recollect our duty by
    this means.

    “How wisely are men distinguished by their exterior rather than by
    their interior qualifications!  Which of us two shall take the lead?
    Which shall yield precedence?  The man of less talent?  But I am as
    clever as he.  Then we must fight it out.  But he has four lackeys
    and I have only one.  That is a visible difference.  We have only to
    count the numbers.  It is my place then to give way, and I am a fool
    to contest the point.  In this way peace is kept, which is the
    greatest of blessings.

    “There is a great advantage in rank, which gives to a man of eighteen
    or twenty a degree of acceptance, publicity, and respect which
    another can hardly obtain by merit at fifty.  It is a gain of thirty
    years without any trouble.

    “Respect for others requires you to inconvenience yourself.  This
    seems foolish, yet it is very proper.  It seems to say, I would
    gladly inconvenience myself if you really required me to do so,
    seeing I am ready to do so without serving you.

    “‘This is _my_ dog,’ say children; ‘that sunny seat is mine.’  There
    is the beginning and type of the usurpation of the whole earth.

    “This _I_ is hateful.  You, Miton, {171} merely cover it, you do not
    take it away; you are therefore always hateful.  Not at all, you say;
    for if we act obligingly to all men, they have no reason to hate us.
    So far true, if there was nothing hateful in the _I_ itself but the
    displeasure which it gives.  But if I hate it because it is
    essentially unjust, because it makes itself the centre of everything,
    I shall hate it always.  In short, this _I_ has two qualities: it is
    unjust in itself, in that it makes itself the centre of everything;
    it is an annoyance to others, in that it would serve itself by them.
    Each _I_ is the enemy, and would be the tyrant, of all others.

    “He who would thoroughly know the vanity of men has only to consider
    the causes and effects of love.  The cause is a _je ne sais quoi_, an
    indefinable trifle—the effects are monstrous.  If the nose of
    Cleopatra had been a little shorter, it would have changed the
    history of the world.

    “You have a bad manner—‘excuse me, if you please.’  Without the
    apology I should not have known that there was any harm done.
    Begging your pardon, the ‘excuse me,’ is all the mischief.

    “Do you wish men to speak well of you?  Then never speak well of

    “The more mind we have, the more do we observe men of original mind.
    It is your commonplace people that find no difference betwixt one man
    and another.

    “It is the contest that delights us, and not the victory.  It is the
    same in play, and the same in search for truth.  We love to watch in
    argument the conflicts of opinion; but the plain truth we do not care
    to look at.  To regard it with pleasure, we must see it gradually
    emerging from the contest of debate.  It is the same with passions:
    the struggle of two contending passions has great interest, but the
    dominance of one is mere brutality.

    “The example of chastity in Alexander has not availed in the same
    degree to make men chaste, as his drunkenness has to make them
    intemperate.  Men are not ashamed not to be so virtuous as he; and it
    seems excusable not to be more vicious.  A man thinks he is not
    altogether sunk in the mud when he follows the vices of great men.

    “I have spent much time in the study of the abstract sciences, but
    the paucity of persons with whom you can communicate on such
    subjects, gave me a distaste for them.  When I began to study man, I
    saw that these abstract studies are not suited to him, and that in
    diving into them I wandered farther from my real object than those
    who were ignorant of them, and I forgave men for not having attended
    to these things.  But I thought at least I should find many
    companions in the study of mankind, which is the true and proper
    study of man.  I was mistaken.  There are yet fewer students of man
    than of geometry.

    “People in general are called neither poets nor geometers, although
    they have all that in them, and are capable of being judges of it.
    They are not specifically marked out.  When they enter a room, they
    speak of the subject on hand.  They do not show a greater aptitude
    for one subject than another, except as circumstances call out their
    talents. . . .

    “It is poor praise when a man is pointed out on entering a room as
    being a clever poet; a bad mark that he should only be referred to
    when the question is as to the merit of some verses. . . .

    “Man is full of wants, and likes those who can satisfy them.  ‘Such a
    one is a good mathematician,’ it may be said.  But then I must be
    doing mathematics; he would turn me into a proposition.  Another is a
    good soldier; he would take me for a besieged place.  Give me your
    true man of general talents, who can adapt himself to all my needs.

    “If a man sets himself at a window to see the passers-by, and I
    happen to pass, can I say that he set himself there to see me?  No;
    for he does not think of me in particular.  But if a man loves a
    woman for her beauty, does he love _her_?  No; for the smallpox,
    which will destroy her beauty without killing her, will cause him to
    love her no more.  And if any one loves me for my judgment or my
    memory, does he really love _me_?  No; for I may lose those qualities
    without ceasing to be.  Where, then, is this _me_, if it is neither
    in soul nor body?

    “How is it that a lame man does not anger us, but a blundering mind
    does?  Is it that the cripple admits that we walk straight, but a
    crippled mind accuses us of limping?  Epictetus asks also, Why are we
    not annoyed if any one tells us that we are unwell in the head, and
    yet are angry if they tell us that we reason falsely or choose
    unwisely?  The reason is, that we know certainly nothing ails our
    head, or that we are not crippled in body.  But we are not so certain
    that we have chosen correctly.

    “All men naturally hate one another.

    “Desire and force are the source of all our actions—desire of our
    voluntary, force of our involuntary actions.

    “Men are necessarily such fools, that it would be folly of another
    kind not to be a fool.

    “To make a man a saint, grace is absolutely necessary; and whoever
    doubts this does not know what a saint is, nor what a man is.

    “The last act is always tragedy, whatever fine comedy there may have
    been in the rest of life—We must all die alone.”

    “There can only be two kinds of men: the righteous, who believe
    themselves sinners; and sinners, who believe themselves righteous.

    “Unbelievers are the most credulous; they believe the miracles of
    Vespasian to escape believing the miracles of Moses.

    “Atheists should speak only of things perfectly clear, but it is not
    perfectly clear that the soul is material.

    “Atheism indicates force of mind, but only up to a certain point.”

Some of the foregoing Thoughts {174} may appear to our readers sufficient
to warrant the charge of scepticism, already adverted to.  Pascal
certainly speaks at times both of human life and human reason in a
contemptuous manner.  Even Rochefoucauld could hardly express himself
more bitterly than he does now and then when he fixes his clear gaze upon
the folly, the vanity, the weaknesses which make up man’s customary life,
and the deceits which he practises upon himself and his fellows.  All the
world seems to him at such times “in a state of delusion.”  If there is
truth, it “is not where men suppose it to be.”  The majority are to be
followed, not “because they have more reason, but because they have more

    “The power of kings is founded on the reason and on the folly of the
    people, but chiefly on their folly.  The greatest and most important
    thing in the world has weakness for its basis, and the basis is
    wonderfully secure, for there is nothing more certain than that
    people will be weak. . . .  Our magistrates well understand this
    mystery. . . .  Save for their crimson robes, ermine, palaces of
    justice, fleur-de-lis, they would never have duped the world.  Where
    would the physician be without his ‘cassock and mule,’ and the
    theologian without his ‘square cap and flowing garments’?  These vain
    adornments impress the imagination, and secure respect.  We cannot
    look at an advocate in his gown and wig without a favourable
    impression of his abilities.  The soldier alone needs no disguise,
    because he gains his authority by actual force, the others by

In such sentences, as well as in some previously quoted, the cynicism of
both Hobbes and Montaigne seems to speak.  Man is really a fool, and
society rests upon force.  The further down we go, we come, not to any
natural rights, or essential principles of justice, which reason is
capable of judging, but only to a mass of customs built up out of selfish
instincts, and controlled by external influence.  Pascal repeats
Montaigne over and over again, and seems to make many of his cynicisms
his own.  This is not to be denied.  “Montaigne is right.  Custom should
be followed because it is custom, and because it is found to be
established, without inquiry whether it be reasonable or not.”  Yet he
puts in a caveat, as we shall see more fully afterwards, just when he
seems most to have identified himself with the representative of
scepticism.  In blindly following custom, he reserves “those matters
which are not contrary to natural or divine right;” and the root of
custom, even in the popular mind, he believes to be a dim sense of
justice.  Again, in a similar vein, he asks, “Why follow ancient laws and
ancient opinions?  _Are they wiser_?  _No_.  But they stand apart from
present interests; and _thus take away the root of difference_.”  Here,
as so often, the moralist supplants the sceptic, and suggests a higher
thought, while seeming to approve of a superficial Pyrrhonism.

It is easy, in one sense, to make out a case of scepticism against
Pascal.  He always writes strongly.  There is passion in all his thought.
He had a strong and deep sense of human weakness, and incapacity to
attain the highest truth.  He spoke of the philosophy of Descartes
without respect.  With most of the Port Royalists, indeed, he seems to
have concurred in the Cartesian doctrine of automata, {176} strangely
revived in our day by Professor Huxley.  But he repudiated the notion of
“subtle matter,” and even spoke of it with contempt (_dont il se moquait
fort_).  “He could not bear,” his niece tells us, in a passage often
quoted and emphasised, “the Cartesian manner of explaining the formation
of all things.”  “I cannot forgive Descartes,” he said.  “He would
willingly in all his philosophy have done without God, if he could; but
he could not get on without letting him give the world a fillip to set it
agoing: after that, he has nothing more to do with God.”  Whether he had
studied Descartes or not, he evidently did not share the enthusiasm of
Arnauld and others for his philosophy.  He even spoke of it as “useless,
uncertain, and troublesome—nay, as ridiculous.” {177}  He has added, in
that brusque, rapid, forceful style characteristic of many of his
Thoughts, that “he did not think the whole of philosophy worth an hour’s
trouble.”  Again: “To set light by philosophy is the true philosophy.”
When we look at such expressions, and many others, it is not to be
wondered at that Pascal has been accused of scepticism.  As he could not
forgive Descartes, so Cousin cannot forgive him for his depreciation of
Descartes.  One who saw nothing in Cartesianism or philosophy in general
beyond what these rash sentences, freshly restored in all their audacity,
declare, could be nothing but an “enemy of all philosophy.”

It is impossible not to feel that there is some ground for this
accusation, and that, if we were to draw our knowledge of Pascal merely
from such passages, Cousin makes out something of a case against him.
But many other passages, hardly less emphatic, must make every candid
reader pause before he comes to any definite conclusion on the subject,
if it is necessary to come to such a conclusion at all.  It must never be
forgotten that we have nowhere the complete mind of Pascal; that it was
of the very nature of thoughts rapidly dashed upon paper—as the very form
of many we have quoted clearly indicates they were—to be one-sided and
often extravagant.  Pascal, of all men, is not to be measured by his
strong expressions.  His intellectual nature, while profound, was narrow
and intense.  He put his whole soul into what moved him for the time; and
a certain excess of passionate intellectual emotion evidently speaks in
some of the most striking of the ‘Pensées.’  We may imagine how in
some—perhaps in many—cases they would have been toned down had he lived
to revise and refashion them into a harmonious whole.  That interior
elaboration,—“a kind of second creation of genius,” as M. Faugère
says—which no one else may venture upon,—would undoubtedly have come from
his own masterly hand, if it had been given him to bring fragment to
fragment, and to fit them together into a complete fabric.  It would be a
hard thing to judge any student, and especially a student like Pascal, by
the scattered notes of his library table; and precious as these fragments
are, we must remember that this is their character, and nothing else.
The fact that we now have them in all their native _hardiesse_ makes this
caution not the less but all the more necessary.

In passing on to consider more particularly Pascal’s philosophical and
religious attitude, we shall see more fully the bearing of these remarks.
Pascal, in point of fact, embraces many points of view; and, if he leans
sometimes to scepticism, he sees also the strong side of what he calls
dogmatism or rational philosophy.  The very exaggerations of his
language, now on this side and now on that, show that he himself is more
than either, as his own words bear.  “It is necessary,” he says, “to have
three qualities—those of the Pyrrhonist, of the geometrician (the
dogmatist), and of the humble Christian.  These unite with and attemper
one another, so that we doubt when we should, we aim at certainty when we
should, and we submit when we should.”  He certainly thought that he had
found a surer road to truth than either Dogmatism or Pyrrhonism.  Whether
he succeeded in doing so will appear as we proceed.

The famous conversation with De Saci, when he entered Port Royal, must be
taken as the chief key to Pascal’s own philosophical attitude.  There is
nowhere in any of the Thoughts so complete an exhibition of his point of
view; and all the editors who have most entered into Pascal’s
spirit—Sainte-Beuve, Faugère, and Havet alike—have recognised its
importance.  It is really, as Havet says, of the nature of an
introduction to the ‘Pensées.’

In this conversation Pascal signalises what he believes to be the two
great opposing systems of human philosophy at all times; the rational,
dogmatic, or Stoical, on the one hand—the sceptical, or Epicurean, on the
other.  He takes Epictetus as the representative of the one; Montaigne as
the representative of the other.  In depicting dogmatism at other times,
he seems to have Descartes especially in view; but in speaking of
scepticism and Pyrrhonism (which is his own expression), it is always
Montaigne that he has before him.  Montaigne is Pyrrhonist _par
excellence_; and undoubtedly the famous Essays had greatly fascinated
Pascal, like many others in his generation.  He was constantly drawn to
them as embodying one, and that a deep, phase of his own experience.  He
felt his own thought expressed in many pages of Montaigne, and had that
favour for the Essays that every thoughtful man has for the book that
makes his own experience alive, and brings it clearly before him.  But he
has, at the same time, made plainly intelligible his own differences from
Montaigne, and marked with his usual boldness the limitations of his
thought.  If Pascal is Pyrrhonist, he is certainly not Pyrrhonist after
the manner of Montaigne, deeply as he responds to many of the notes of
the Essays, and at times seems to make them his own.

The conversation with De Saci took place in 1654, when Pascal first went
to Port Royal des Champs, and De Saci became his spiritual director.  We
owe its preservation to Fontaine, from whose manuscript ‘Memoirs’ it was
extracted, and first published in 1728 by Des Molets.  After all the
labour of Faugère, Havet believes himself to have given for the first
time the correct text of the conversation from the original print of Des
Molets, based on Fontaine’s manuscripts, rather than from the text of the
‘Memoirs’ as afterwards published.  Fontaine describes in his _naïve_
manner the impression made by Pascal upon De Saci, and how the brilliancy
of power which had charmed all the world could not be hidden within the
shades of Port Royal.  Ignorant of the Fathers of the Church, he had
found by his own mental and spiritual penetration the very truths to be
met with in them; and De Saci seemed to see another St Augustine before
him in the wonderful talk of the gifted penitent.  It was his practice in
dealing with his penitents to adapt his conversation to their peculiar
powers.  If he spoke with M. Champagne, for example, he talked with him
of painting.  If he saw M. Hamon, he inquired about the art of medicine.
If it was the surgeon of the place, he had something to say of surgery.
All was designed to lead the thoughts from all human things up to God.
With Pascal, therefore, it was philosophy upon which his conversation
fell, to try the depths of his mind, and see what special direction he
needed.  “Pascal told him that the two books most familiar to him were
Epictetus and Montaigne, and he lavished great praise on both.  M. de
Saci had always wished to read these two authors, and asked M. Pascal to
explain them fully.”

    “Epictetus,” said Pascal, “is one of the philosophers of the world
    who have best known the duties of man.  Above all things, he would
    have man regard God as his chief object—to be persuaded that He
    governs all things with righteousness—to submit to Him cordially, and
    to follow Him willingly, as having made all things with perfect
    wisdom.  Such a disposition would stay all complaints and murmurs,
    and prepare the human mind to bear quietly the most troublesome
    events.  ‘Never say,’ he observes (Enchirid. 11), ‘I have lost that;
    say rather, I have restored it.  My son is dead; I have surrendered
    him.  My wife is dead; I have given her up.’  And so of every other
    good. . . .  While its use is permitted, regard it as a good
    belonging to others, as a traveller does in an inn.  You should not
    wish,’ he adds, ‘that things be as you desire, but you should desire
    them to be as they are.’ . . .  It is your duty to play well the part
    assigned to you, but to choose the part is the act of Another.  Have
    always death before your eyes, and the evils which are least
    supportable, and you would never think meanly of anything, nor desire
    anything in excess.  He shows in a thousand ways what is the duty of
    man.  He wishes him to be humble, to conceal his good resolutions,
    especially in their beginnings, that he may carry them out in secret.
    Nothing is so ruinous to them as publicity.  He never ceases to
    repeat that the whole duty and desire of man ought to be to
    acknowledge the will of God, and to follow it.

    “Such were the lights of this great mind, who has so well understood
    the duties of man.  I venture to say, that he would have deserved to
    be adored if he had only known as well human weakness; but in order
    to do this, he must have been God Himself.  Mere man as he was, after
    having so well explained human duty, he loses himself in the
    presumption of human capacity.  He avers that God has given to every
    man the means of acquitting himself of all his obligations; that such
    means are always within his own power, that happiness is to be sought
    by things within our reach, since God has given us them for this very
    end.  He points out in what our freedom consists: goods, life, esteem
    are not in our power, and therefore do not lead to God; but none can
    force the mind to believe what is false, nor the will to love that
    which will make it miserable.  These two powers are therefore free;
    and by these we can render ourselves perfect—know God perfectly, love
    Him, obey Him, please Him—vanquish all vices, acquire all virtues,
    and so make ourselves holy, and the fellows of God.  These
    principles, truly diabolic in their pride, lead to other errors—such
    as that the soul is a portion of the Divine substance, that grief and
    death are not evils, that we may kill ourselves when we are in such
    trouble that we may believe God summons us, etc.

    “As for Montaigne—of whom you wish me also, my dear sir, to
    speak—being born in a Christian country, he makes profession of the
    Catholic religion, and so far there is nothing peculiar about him.
    But in the search for a system of morals dictated by reason without
    the light of faith, he has to lay down his principles on this
    supposition, and to consider man apart from revelation.  He conceives
    things in such a universal uncertainty that doubt itself is seized
    with uncertainty, and doubts whether it doubts.  His scepticism
    returns upon itself in a perpetual circle without repose, opposing
    equally those who maintain that all is uncertain, and those who
    maintain that nothing is, so utterly indisposed is he to any fixity.
    In this doubt which doubts itself, and this ignorance which is
    ignorant of itself, is to be found the essence of his thought.  He
    cannot express it by any positive term; for if he was to say that he
    doubts, he betrays himself by making it certain that he doubts; and
    this being formally against his intention, he can only explain
    himself by an interrogation.  Not wishing to say, I do not know, he
    can only ask, What do I know?  He has made this his device, putting
    it under a pair of balances, which, weighted in each scale by a
    contradiction, hangs in perfect equilibrium.  In other words, he is
    pure Pyrrhonist.  This is the point round which turn all his
    discourses and all his essays.  This is the only thing which he
    leaves fixed, although he may not always keep it before him. . . .

    “It is in this humour, fluctuating and variable as it is, that he
    combats with an invincible firmness the heretics of his time, who
    assumed to know the exclusive sense of Scripture.  From the same
    point of view he thunders vigorously against the horrible impiety of
    those who dare to be certain that there is no God!  He attacks them
    especially in the ‘Apology for Raymond de Sebonde.’  Having
    voluntarily set aside revelation, and abandoned themselves to their
    natural light—all faith set aside—he asks them on what authority
    they, who know not the essential reality of anything, dare to judge
    of that Sovereign Being who is infinite by His very definition.  He
    demands upon what principles they rest, and presses them to point
    them out.  He examines all that they bring forward, and so searches
    them by his wonderful penetration as to show the hollowness of what
    passes for the most clear and established truths.  He inquires if the
    soul knows anything whatever—if it knows itself; whether it is
    substance or accident, body or spirit; what is each of these things,
    and if there is anything belonging to some order different from
    either; if the soul knows its own body; if it knows what matter is,
    or can distinguish the innumerable varieties of body produced from
    matter; how it can reason if it is material, and how it can be united
    to a special body, and feel its passions if it be spiritual.  When
    did it begin to be, with the body or before, and if it ends with it
    or not? . . . .  The ideas of God and truth are inseparable, and if
    the one is or is not, if the one is certain or uncertain, the other
    is necessarily the same.  Who knows if the common sense (_le sens
    commun_) which we take as a judge of the truth is really this,
    designed for such a purpose?  Who knows what truth is, and how can we
    be sure of having it without knowing it?  Who knows even what Being
    is, since it is impossible to define it; and in trying to do so, it
    is necessary to presuppose the very idea itself, and say _it is_? . .

    “I confess, sir, I might look with joy upon the manner in which the
    author invincibly crumples up proud reason with its own arms.  I
    could love with my whole heart the minister of so mighty a vengeance
    if, as a faithful disciple of the Church, he had followed its moral
    guidance.  But he acts, on the contrary, like a pagan, concluding
    that we ought to abandon care for others and dwell in peace, gliding
    lightly over such subjects lest we lose ourselves in them, and taking
    that to be true and good which at first appears to be so.  This is
    why he follows everywhere the evidence of the senses and the notions
    of the community. . . .  In this manner, he says, there is nothing
    extravagant in his conduct.  He does as others do.  Whatever they do
    in the foolish thought that they are following the true good, he does
    from another principle, that as the probabilities (_vraisemblances_)
    are equally on one side and the other, so example and convenience
    carry the day with him.  He mounts his horse like any one else—not as
    a philosopher—because the horse allows him to do so, but without
    thinking there is any right in the matter, and not knowing whether
    the horse, on the contrary, may not be entitled to make use of him.
    He puts constraint to himself in order to shun certain vices; and
    even guards marriage faithfully, merely on account of the disorder
    which would otherwise follow. . . .

    “I cannot dissemble that in reading Montaigne, and comparing him with
    Epictetus, I find in them the two greatest defenders of the most
    celebrated sects of the world, who profess to follow reason rather
    than revelation.  We must follow one or other.  Either there is a God
    and a Sovereign Good, or this is uncertain, and all is
    uncertain,—whether there is any true good or not. . . .

    “The error in both is, in not seeing that the present state of man
    differs from that in which he was created.  The one, observing only
    the traces of his primitive grandeur, and ignoring his corruption,
    has treated human nature as if it were whole, without any need of a
    Redeemer—this leads to the height of pride; the other, sensible of
    man’s present misery, and ignorant of his original dignity, treats
    human nature as necessarily weak and irreparable, and thus, in
    despair of attaining any true good, plunges it into a depth of
    baseness.” {185}

These two states, Pascal goes on to argue, must be taken together before
the truth can be reached.  Apart, they give a false picture of man; and
generate on the one hand pride, on the other hand immorality.  It is only
the Gospel which unites them, in a right manner, “by a divine art.”  It
brings together the opposites, and explains, by a wondrous, truly
heavenly way, how they may coexist, not as attributes of the same
subject, as systems of human philosophy have made them, but as different
endowments—the one of nature, the other of grace.  “Behold the new and
surprising union which God alone could teach and alone accomplish, and
which is only an image and an effect of the ineffable union of two
natures in the one person of the God-man.”

In these latter sentences—which we have been obliged, for the sake of
brevity, to compress—we have the suggestion of Pascal’s philosophy both
of human nature and of Divine revelation.  He recurs over and over again
to the same idea, that man is great and yet weak, full of capacity and
yet miserable, and that the Gospel alone holds the key to this enigma of
human nature.  This, more than any other, is the pervading thought round
which all the others gather.

    “This twofoldness (_duplicité_),” he says, “is so visible, that some
    have conceived that man must have two souls—a simple subject
    appearing to them incapable of such and so sudden variations; an
    immeasurable presumption on the one hand, a horrible abasement on the
    other.  In spite of all the miseries which cleave to us, and hold us,
    as it were, by the throat (_nous tiennent à la gorge_), there is
    within us an irrepressible instinct which exalts us.  The greatness
    of man is so visible that it may be deduced from his very misery.
    His very miseries prove his greatness.  They are the miseries of a
    great lord, of a dethroned sovereign.  The greatness of man consists
    in his knowledge of his misery.  A tree does not know itself to be
    miserable. . . .  He is miserable—the fact is beyond question; but he
    is great in knowing it.” {186}

Again, reverting to the very same line of thought, as in the conversation
with De Saci—

    “Philosophers have propounded sentiments not at all adapted to the
    twofold condition of man.  They have sought to inspire emotions of
    pure greatness; but this is not man’s condition.  They have sought on
    the other hand to inspire sentiments of mere baseness; but neither is
    this man’s condition.  Man needs abasement, not of nature, however,
    but of penitence; not that he remain degraded, but that he may rise
    to greatness.  He needs to feel within him the emotion of
    greatness,—not of merit, however, but of grace. . . .  Two sects have
    sprung out of this conflict between reason and sense in man.  The
    one, in renouncing passion, has aspired to divinity; the other, in
    renouncing reason, has sunk to mere brutality. . . .  The principles
    of the respective philosophies are so far true—Pyrrhonism, Stoicism,
    Atheism even.  But the conclusions are false, because the opposite
    principles are equally true. . . .  We labour under an incapacity of
    demonstrating all things invincible to Dogmatism.  We have an innate
    idea of truth invincible to all Pyrrhonism. . . .  Nature confounds
    the Pyrrhonist, and reason the Dogmatist;”—

or, as the passage was originally written,—

    “We cannot be Pyrrhonists without violating nature; we cannot be
    Dogmatists without renouncing nature.” {187}

These and other passages sufficiently show Pascal’s relation to
philosophy, and to Pyrrhonism in particular.  He is no enemy of
philosophy, but he certainly does not believe it capable of explaining
the riddle of human nature.  He is so far from being a Pyrrhonist in the
sense of resting on Pyrrhonism, that he seeks to mount on its shoulders
to a higher truth.  Nay, he clearly recognises that man has an inborn
faculty for truth which not all the contradictions of his experience can
belie.  We may and must doubt as to many things; but there are principles
lying at the root of human life which are invincible to all doubt.  We
can demonstrate many things; but there are natural realities beyond our
power of demonstration.  On the side of sense, all things seem to
fluctuate and waver in uncertainty; on the side of mere intellect we soon
cross the limit of our powers.  But Humanity is more than either sense or
intellect.  There is, as he believes, a primitive endowment of spiritual
instinct in man, which looks forth upon a higher world of reality.
Repeatedly, and in various applications, he recurs to these three radical
sides or elements of Humanity; “the sensible—the intellectual, or the
exercise of reason left to itself—and the spiritual or divine.”  Pascal
despairs of a philosophy which is either a mere generalisation of
sensible experience, or which aims at demonstrating everything from a
purely rational point of view; but he is so far from resting in mere
intellectual doubt, that he tries to find a ground for human certitude in
a deeper stratum of Humanity than either sense or what he calls “reason.”
Neander and others have vindicated for him a supreme position as a
philosopher on this very account.  With them he is not only no sceptic,
but he stands forth among the men who have specially vindicated the
claims of Humanity as endowed with the divine attributes of “spirit” and
“will”—the men of “full mental healthiness” who have recognised in man a
free spiritual life no less than a life of sense and intellect.  This may
or may not be.  But the mere fact that Pascal has aimed at a deeper
ground of certitude, whether he has made it clear or not, and whether or
not he has spoken with undue depreciation of other sources of knowledge,
should be enough to vindicate him from the charge of even philosophical
scepticism.  In the following passage he has explained his views more
fully.  More than any other, perhaps, it may be taken as the text of his

    “We discover truth,” he says, “not only by reasoning, but by feeling
    (_le cœur_); and it is in this latter manner that we discover first
    principles—and in vain does reasoning, which has no share in their
    production, try to combat these principles.  The Pyrrhonists, who
    attempt this, labour in vain.  We know that we are not deceived,
    however incapable we may be of proving so by any power of reasoning.
    This incapacity only demonstrates the weakness of our reasoning
    faculty, and not the incertitude of all our knowledge, as they
    pretend.  Nay, our knowledge of first principles, such as the ideas
    of _space_, _time_, _motion_, _number_, is as certain as any obtained
    by reasoning.  It is, in fact, upon such conclusions of feeling and
    instinct that Reason must ultimately rest and base all its arguments.
    We _feel_ that there are three dimensions in space, and that numbers
    are infinite; and reason hence demonstrates that there are no two
    square numbers the one of which is double the other.  Principles are
    felt, propositions deduced, and both with certitude, although in
    different ways.  And it is as absurd for the ‘reason’ to demand of
    the ‘heart’ proofs of its first principles before asserting them, as
    it would be for the ‘heart’ to demand of the ‘reason’ a _feeling_ of
    all propositions that she demonstrates before accepting them.  This
    weakness, therefore, should only serve to humble reason in its desire
    to make itself judge of everything, but by no means to moderate the
    certitude of our conviction, as if reason were alone capable of
    instructing us.” {189}

There may be something to object to in Pascal’s mode of expression in the
above passage.  Cousin has made the most of his confusion of “reason” and
“reasoning”—“la raison” and “le raisonnement.”  The expression “le cœur,”
by which he designates the higher faculty of intuition, may be inadequate
and misleading—complex and disturbing in its association.  But withal,
his attitude in favour of a ground of certainty in human knowledge is
unmistakable.  So far he is not only not with Montaigne, but he is
clearly against him.  The rights of nature, as he says, rise up against
the Pyrrhonist.  They make themselves good.  And however strongly Pascal
may draw the picture of human weakness, and all the contrarieties which
our nature encloses, he does not mean by this to strike at the roots of
all knowledge, and leave man a prey to helpless doubt.  He means merely
to shake the throne of rational security, and to show that no conclusions
of mere philosophy can reach all the exigencies of man’s condition.  His
analysis of human nature is the analysis of a moralist, and not of a
psychologist or rational philosopher.  He looks at man always as a
spiritual being.  It is his spiritual capacity which alone makes him
great, and yet intensifies all the lower contradictions of his nature.
It is “thought alone which makes man’s greatness.”  A man can be
conceived “without hands or feet or head, but not without thought.”

    “The possession of the earth would not add to my greatness.  As to
    space, the universe encloses and absorbs me as a mere point, but by
    thought I embrace it. . . .  Man is but a reed, the feeblest of
    created things—but one possessing thought (_un roseau pensant_).  It
    needs not that the universe should arm itself to crush him.  A
    breath, a drop of water, suffices for his destruction.  But were the
    whole universe to rise against him, man is yet greater than the
    universe, since man _knows_ that he dies.  He knows the universe
    prevails against him.  The universe knows nothing of its power.”

It is hardly possible to speak more eloquently of the dignity of human
nature.  And if it is the same voice which speaks in such pathetic or it
may be harsh tones of human weakness and misery, and the disproportions
of our natural life, it is the very consciousness of greatness that
inspires the consciousness of misery.  Looking from such a height of
human dignity, he sees all the depths of human baseness.  It is this
higher spirit which consecrates Pascal as a moralist.  Has he rebuked the
presumptions of humanity? has he called upon proud reason to humble
itself? has he gibed human philosophy, and even gloried for a moment in
the contradictions of empiricism?  It is never that he may laugh at man,
or that he may rest in the mere contemplation of his follies or
extravagances, but because he himself profoundly realised the height and
the depth of his being—the grandeur to which he could rise, or to which
God could raise him, and the baseness and miseries to which he could
sink.  Doubtless, as with all concentrated and meditative natures, Pascal
delights to dwell on the weaker and gloomier side of humanity.  This was
partly the result of his Jansenist leanings, but mainly it came from his
own intense reality of feeling.  It was bred of his austere sadness of
heart, and is found to run as a note of profound constitutional
melancholy through all his letters, and all his life, as well as his
Thoughts.  In the view of eternity, and of the awful issues involved in
religion, the common life and pursuits of man seemed to him not only
frivolous, but criminal.  He looked forth, therefore, on this common life
with eyes not only of tears, but of displeasure.  He seemed even at times
to derive something of stern satisfaction from its very follies and
absurdities.  But this is only the temporary mood of the profound
moralist touched to his heart by pangs that he cannot resist.  His true
view of life is never cynical,—but always grave, if bitter—and hopeful,
if stern.

Pascal’s supposed philosophical scepticism admits of something of the
same explanation.  He has not only no wish to disturb the fundamental
verities of human thought, but he endeavours to fix them in an
ineradicable instinct or universal “sense,” against which all the
assaults of Pyrrhonism must break.  But the while he is himself deeply
moved by the perplexities of human reason.  Although no Pyrrhonist in
thought, he knows too well in experience the depths of Pyrrhonism.  His
mind is one of those to be met with in all ages, which, while it clings
to faith, and is even strong in the assertion of faith’s claims, is yet
in certain moments utterly distracted by doubt.  Constantly searching the
foundations of human knowledge,—sifting them as with lighted glance,—they
seemed to him at times to crumble away before him.  Nothing remained
fixed to his piercing look.  As few minds have experienced, he felt the
awful darkness which encloses all mortal aspiration, and the keenest
audacities of human speculation.  The incapacities of human reason at
such times overwhelmed him, and left him hopeless, or, still worse, in a
half-derisive mood.  And these moods, as well as his clearer and more
elaborate thoughts, hastily transferred to paper, are found amongst his
notes.  It is quite impossible to vindicate his consistency, and it is
not in the least necessary to do this, as already explained; while we
feel bound to maintain that his higher mood is his true mood, and that
the Pascal of the ‘Pensées’—the veritable Pascal—is to be judged, not by
his weakness but by his strength; by his moments of clear mental sanity
and insight, and not by his moments of despair or of derisive mockery of
all human philosophy.

This seems to us the true light in which to regard the famous wager-essay
on the existence of God, which has been a scandal even to some of his
greatest admirers.  It is impossible to defend this essay on any
principle of sound philosophy.  Either there is a God or there is not.
Which side of the question shall we take?  “Reason,” he says, “cannot
decide.”  The fact, he means, cannot be demonstrated according to his
customary use of the word reason.  But if it cannot, there must yet be a
balance of reason, and proof on one side or the other.  And the only fair
and manly issue of such a question must be, On which side lies this
balance?  A valid theistic conclusion can be found in no other way, and
least of all in any calculation of chances, or balance of self-interest.
And yet it is this last which Pascal has put forward with such prominence
in this famous essay.  “Wager,” he says.  “If you win, you win
everything; if you lose, you lose nothing.  Wager, then, without
hesitation, that God exists. . . .  On one side is an eternity of life,
of infinite blessedness to be gained, and what you stake is finite. . . .
Our proposition is, that the finite is to be vested in a wager, in which
there is an equal chance of gain and loss, and _infinitude to gain_.”
The play was hardly worthy of Pascal, and the ‘mystery of the game’ could
certainly never be unravelled in any such way.  But not a few minds like
Pascal’s—with deep spiritual intuitions and yet a craving for scientific
certainty constantly mocking these intuitions—have felt in a similar
manner the hazard of the great question, and may have said to themselves,
“We must take our stand, and this is the side which weighs in the
balance.  We can lose nothing; we may gain everything.”  The mood is not
a lofty one, and it is no higher in Pascal than in any one else; but
there are moments of terrible doubt, when the soul is so borne away on
the surge of the sceptical wave that rises from the depth of all human
speculation, that it can only cling to the Divine by an effort of will,
and with something of the gamester’s thought that this is the winning
side!  The thought may be shallow and poor in itself, but in such cases
it comes not out of the shallows but out of the depths of a mind torn by
distracting doubts in the face of the dreadful problems of life.

Out of the same depth of spiritual experience and trenchant moral
analysis comes all that is true and valuable in his so-called ‘Apology.’
That the ‘Pensées’ were more or less designed to form such an Apology—to
be woven into the plan of a treatise in defence of the Christian
religion—seems beyond doubt.  He had himself, according to the statement
of his nephew, unfolded such a plan to his friends, in a lengthened
conversation about the year 1657 or 1659.  They were charmed with the
loftiness of his design, and listened to his exposition of it for two or
three hours with unabated interest.  He was to commence with an analysis
of human nature, and to advance from the contemplation of its mysteries,
obscurities, and perplexities, to the consideration of the various
methods, philosophical and religious, by which reason had endeavoured to
meet the difficulties of thought and life.  After explaining the
inconclusiveness and absurdities of these methods—represented by the
diverse philosophies and religions of the world—he was to call attention
to the Jewish religion, and the superiority which it presents to all
others, both in the extraordinary circumstances of its history, and in
the revelation which it gives of one God, Creator and Governor of the
world, and of the origin of man—his primitive innocence and fall.  The
idea of the fall, which was a central one in all Pascal’s thoughts, was
to be fully expounded, in its own character and as “the source not only
of whatever is most inexplicable in man’s nature, but also of a multitude
of things, external to him, of which he knows not the causes.”  From the
fall he was to pass to the hopes of deliverance revealed in the Old
Testament, and especially the lofty conception which it gives of God as a
God of love, a feature peculiar to it, and “which he deemed the essence
of true religion.”

From such general considerations—of the nature of prolegomena or
“preparation” for the reader’s mind—he proceeded to furnish a brief view
of “the positive proofs of the truths he wanted to establish,—proofs
derived from the authenticity of the books of Moses, especially the
miracles they record, the figures and types they embody.”  He then went
on more at length to prove the truth of religion from prophecy, which he
is represented as having studied deeply, and certain views of which, “of
a nature wholly original,” he explained with great clearness.  Finally,
“after going through the books of the Old Testament,” he advanced to
those of the New, “and deduced from them his crowning proofs of the
truths of the Gospel.”  He began with Christ, whose divine mission he
already supposed to be established by the argument from prophecy, and
added additional force of evidence from His resurrection, His miracles,
His doctrines, and the tenor of His life; then from the character and
mission of the apostles; and lastly, from the style and manner of the New
Testament books, and especially of the Gospels, “the multitude of
miracles, martyrs, and the saints,”—in a word, from all “by which the
Christian religion is so triumphantly established.”

It is needless to say how imperfectly this design was ever accomplished;
and no ingenuity of restoration can make of Pascal’s apologetic plan
anything but a mass of imperfect fragments.  Yet he has left us a
definite series of Thoughts on the Jewish religion, on Miracles, Figures,
and Prophecy, and also on Jesus Christ and the general character of the
Christian religion.  In these Thoughts, it must be admitted, there is but
little to reward our study in comparison with those of a more
introductory and philosophical nature.  Pascal’s genius was in no degree
historical, and but slightly critical—not to mention that the very idea
of historical criticism had not emerged in his time, nor long afterwards.
While realising so profoundly the perplexities of human experience, he
has no conception of the difficulties that beset historical tradition;
nor do his habits of scientific investigation, and the natural severity
and logical rigour of his mind, seem to have suggested to him any
misgivings as to the prevalence of miraculous agency in the world.  The
perfect faith with which he accepted the “miracle” of the Holy Thorn is a
sufficient indication of his state of mind in this respect, and how ready
he was to accept evidence the very idea of which merely excites a smile
of wonder in the modern mind.

It cannot be said, therefore, to be any matter of regret that Pascal did
not live to complete the historical portion of his projected work,—what
he seems himself, from the report of his friends, to have considered the
main structure of the defence he intended to rear on behalf of the
religion so dear to him.  He expended his real strength on the portico to
the designed temple.  His genius fitted him to deal with this, and with
this alone, in any adequate manner.  His moral analysis, at once keen and
veracious, enabled him not only to lay bare all the “disproportions” of
humanity, but, moreover, to unfold the adaptation of Christianity as a
spiritual system to meet and remedy these disproportions.  This is the
real “apologetic” work of the ‘Pensées,’ and the only one for which
Pascal’s mind pre-eminently fitted him.  He sees in the Gospel a Divine
Power which is capable of ministering to man’s higher wants—a power of
infinite compassion towards human weakness and misery, of infinite help
for the one and remedy for the other.  The Christian religion, according
to him, alone “understands at once man’s greatness and degradation, and
the reason of both the one and the other.”  “It is equally important for
man to know his capacity of being like God and his unworthiness of Him.
To know of God without knowing his misery, or to know his misery without
knowing the Redeemer, who alone can deliver him from it, is alike
dangerous.  The one knowledge constitutes the pride of the philosopher,
the other the despair of the atheist.  Man must therefore have the double
experience, and so it has pleased God to reveal it.  This the Christian
religion does; in this it consists.”  Again: “Christ is the centre in
which alone we find at once God and our misery.  In Him alone we have a
God whom we must approach without pride, and before whom we may yet bow
without despair.”  In another and more lengthened passage he brings the
two ideas of human corruption and divine redemption closely together, the
one as supplementary of the other, and expressly emphasises the
perfection with which Christianity fits so to speak, into all the wards
of the human enigma,—in comparison with every system of human philosophy.

    “Without divine knowledge,” he says, “what have men been able to do
    save to exalt themselves in the consciousness of their original
    greatness, or abase themselves in the view of their present weakness?
    Unable to see the whole truth, they have never attained to perfect
    virtue.  One class considering nature as incorrupt, another as
    irreparable, they have been alternately the victims of pride or
    sensuality—the two sources of all vice. . . .  If, in one case, they
    recognised man’s excellence, they ignored his corruption; and so, in
    escaping indulgence, they lost themselves in pride.  In the other
    case, in acknowledging his weakness they ignored his dignity, and,
    while escaping vanity, plunged into despair.  Hence the diverse sects
    of Stoics and Epicureans, of Dogmatists and Academicians, etc.  The
    Christian religion alone can reconcile these discrepancies and cure
    both evils, not by expelling the one by the other, according to the
    wisdom of this world, but by expelling both the one and the other by
    the simplicity of the Gospel.  For it teaches the just that while it
    elevates them even to be partakers of the divine nature, they still
    carry with them in this lofty state the source of all their
    corruption, making them during life subjects of error, misery, death,
    and sin.  At the same time, it proclaims to the most impious that
    they are capable of becoming partakers of a Redeemer’s grace.  By
    thus warning those whom it justifies, and consoling those whom it
    condemns, it tempers with just measure fear and hope, through the
    twofold capacity in all of grace and sin; so that it abases
    infinitely more than reason, yet without producing despair, and
    exalts infinitely more than natural pride, yet without puffing
    up,—plainly showing that it alone is exempt from all error and wrong,
    and possesses the power at once of instructing and correcting men.
    Who, then, can withhold his belief in this revelation, or refuse to
    adore its celestial light?  For is it not more clear than day that we
    feel in ourselves the ineffaceable traces of divine excellence?  And
    it is equally clear that we experience every hour the effects of our
    fall and ruin.  What, then, comes to us from all this chaos and wild
    confusion, in a voice of irresistible conviction, but the
    irrefragable truth of both those sides of humanity?” {199}

This passage conveys very clearly at once the gist of Pascal’s philosophy
and the chief merit of his line of Christian apology.  The two cannot be
separated.  They run constantly into one another.  He was a Christian
apologist in so far as he was a Christian philosopher; and those who
reject his line of Christian defence, will also reject his whole mode of
thought.  To him the only solution of human perplexity in thought and
life is Christ.  He is the “object and centre of all things, in whom
alone all contradictions are reconciled.”  This is the conclusion of his
intelligence, and not of his despair.  Whatever may be the traces of
scepticism in his intellectual nature, it is doing him great injustice to
represent his acceptance of Christianity as a mere refuge from
uncertainty.  He is a totally different man from Huet, with whom Cousin
has ventured to compare him in this respect.  He never dallies on the
surface; mere traditionalism has but a slight hold of him.  He is a
Christian not because he has been taught Christianity, or because the
Church as a divine institution claims his allegiance.  All these
influences may have affected him, and given a turn to his mind; but they
do not touch the essence of his thoughts.  Anything he does say of the
external claims of Christianity has but little weight.  It is out of the
depths of his own spiritual experience that his faith is born.  It is a
voice within him, a conflicting cry of weakness and aspiration going up
everywhere from humanity, that find their answer in Christ.  There is the
enigma of man on the one side, to him otherwise hopeless, and Christ on
the other, holding the keys of the enigma in His hand.  The solution
appeared to him perfect, according to his study and analysis of the
problem—the twofoldness that he found in man, of divine dignity on the
one hand, and frivolous, sensual degradation on the other.  Both facts,
he says, are equally clear and certain.  Man’s fall from a state of
divine innocence alone explains them; and the Gospel alone recognises the
one side as well as the other of human nature, and provides a Power
capable of restoring its true balance and rectifying all its disorder.
He felt in himself the might of this power healing all the wounds of his
own heart, and binding up the shreds of his Christian efforts “to do
justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”  Whether we agree with
all his analyses, or recognise all the adaptations which he describes, it
is impossible not to feel that they were living to him, and that he saw
in Christianity not merely a refuge for the disappointed heart, but a
true philosophy of life—the only “sure and sound philosophy,” as Justin
Martyr had found long before him.

It is in the same spirit that he writes in many of his later ‘Pensées.’
Some of the passages already quoted are in fact taken from the chapter
“On the Christian Religion,” which appears to have been intended to form
one of the concluding chapters of his Apology.  But he repeats over and
over again the same strain—that the present condition of man is only
intelligible in the light of the Christian revelation, and that this
revelation alone answers to all man’s necessities.  Christ has not only
proclaimed a higher truth to man, which man is bound to accept under
penalties of default.  This tone is also found sometimes, but
comparatively seldom.  The prevailing note is, that there is an admirable
fitness between the two—the mysteries of human nature witnessing to the
divine veracity of the Gospel, and the Gospel again holding the only key
to these mysteries, and the only power of unravelling them and restoring
them to their divine original.  “Jesus Christ,” he says, “is for all men;
Moses for one people.”  “The knowledge of God without a knowledge of our
misery produces pride; that of our misery without God leads to despair.
The knowledge of Jesus is the means by which we at once find God and our
misery.”  “Without Jesus Christ man is sunk in vice and misery. . . .  In
Him is all our virtue and felicity.”

Of the more directly apologetic ‘Pensées’ of Pascal there are many of
great significance and interest, slight as may be the value of his
general historical argument, so far as this can be traced.  Wherever he
trusts to his own clear judgment and profound penetration, he throws out
sentences weighty with meaning, and capable of being expanded into trains
of argument.  Our shortening space warns us that our quotations must come
to an end; but the reader may thank us for drawing his attention to the

    “Even when Epictetus had discovered the right way, he could only say
    to man, ‘You follow a wrong one.’  He shows that there is another,
    but he does not lead to it. . . .  Jesus Christ alone leads to
    it—_via_, _veritas_.

    “Jesus Christ has spoken great things so simply that they seem to
    have cost Him little thought—and yet so fitly that we see well what
    His thought was.”  [This combination of clearness and _naïveté_ is

    “The apostles were either deceived or deceivers; either supposition
    is full of difficulty.

    “What right have they to say, ‘It is impossible that we should rise
    again’?  Which is the more difficult to be—to be born, or to be
    raised from the dead?  Is it less difficult to come into being than
    to return to being?  Custom (experience) renders the one easy to us;
    the want of custom makes the other seem impossible.  But _this is a
    popular way of judging_.

    “Who taught the evangelists the qualities of a truly heroic soul,
    that they should paint it to such perfection in Jesus Christ?  Why
    have they made Him weak in His agony?  Did they not know how to
    describe a death of fortitude?  Assuredly; for it is the same St Luke
    paints St Stephen’s death as so much braver than that of Jesus
    Christ.  They have made Him capable of fear before the necessity of
    death had come, then entirely calm and brave.  But when they show Him
    in trouble, the trouble comes from Himself; in the face of men He
    remains unmoved.

    “The highest achievement of reason is to recognise that there is an
    infinity of things which surpass its powers.

    “If we submit everything to reason, our religion would have nothing
    mysterious or supernatural.  If we violate the principles of reason,
    our religion will be absurd and ridiculous.

    “There are two extremes—to exclude reason, and to admit only reason.

    “It is your own consent, and the steady voice of your own reason, and
    not that of others, which must make you believe.

    “If antiquity was the rule of faith, the ancients were without a

    “Let them say what they will, it must be confessed that the Christian
    religion is something astonishing.  ‘That is because you were born in
    it,’ they say.  So far from this, I am on my guard against it on this
    very account, lest this incline me unduly to it.  But though I was
    born in it, the facts are not the less as I find them.”

True to his whole conception of religion as the free choice of the heart
and will, Pascal does not find any special difficulty in the fact of so
many rejecting Christianity.  It is of its very nature that it cannot be
forced on any mind.  The God of the Gospel can only be reached by faith.
To all without faith, or the inner eye to see Him, He is a _Deus
absconditus_, “a God who hides himself.”  In one of his letters to
Mademoiselle de Roannez, he dwells upon this idea, which also continually
recurs in his Thoughts:—

    “If God continually revealed Himself to man, faith would have no
    value; we could not help believing.  If He did not reveal Himself,
    there could be no such thing as faith.  While hiding Himself, He yet
    reveals Himself to those who are willing to be His servants. . . .
    All things hide a mystery.  All are a veil which conceal God.  The
    Christian must recognise Him in all. . . .  There is light enough for
    those who wish to see, but darkness enough for those who are of an
    opposite disposition. . . .  For God would rather move the will than
    the intellect.  Perfect clearness would cure the one, but injure the

And so this great mind comes round once more to its central thought, that
religion is born not of science, but of love and faith.  Christianity
appeared to Pascal divine—as the only true interpreter of human
experience; and where this experience bore no witness to it, and found no
blessing in it, the fault and the misery were its own.  The divine light
was not gone because men did not see it, when they were not willing to
see it.  This may seem a hard saying,—a paradox of faith rejoicing in its
own illumination, rather than an utterance of reason challenging the
world.  But can a divine appeal ever go further?  Christian apology has
its own sphere, no less than science; and the evidence which the one
desiderates is not the supreme life and power of the other.  It may not
on this account be the less satisfactory or the less rational when the
whole life of humanity is looked at.

If we ask ourselves, in conclusion, what is the chief charm of the
‘Pensées,’ we feel inclined to answer,—their touching reality.  They are
the utterances of one who thought not only deeply but passionately.  A
strange thrill of personal emotion runs through them all, animating them
with vitality, even when one-sided or extravagant.  One of his own
countrymen {204} has said of Pascal that it was his mission to do for
theology what Socrates did for philosophy—to bring it down from heaven to
earth.  And certainly there is the breathing movement as of a human heart
through his whole writings.  More than anything else, it is this vitality
combined with his exquisite literary art which sets him above all his
friends and contemporaries—Arnauld, De Saci, Le Maitre, Nicole, or
Fontaine.  Still, when we read the ‘Provincial Letters’ or the ‘Pensées,’
we feel ourselves in communion with a living writer who knew how to light
up with an immortal touch both the follies of ecclesiasticism and the
struggles of a solitary spirit after truth.  The tenderness of a genuine
insight mingles with all the sublimity and severe reserve of the thought,
and so we get close to a true soul, distant as Pascal himself in some
respects remains to us.  The play of human feeling which we miss in the
man moves in his writings, and touches our hearts with an ineffable
sympathy, even when we remain unconvinced or unenlightened.

                              END OF PASCAL.


{3}  Lettres, Opuscules, et Mémoires de Madame Périer et de Jacqueline,
Sœurs de Pascal, et de Marguerite Périer, sa nièce; publiés sur les
Manuscrits originaux, par M. P. Faugère.  Paris, 1845.

{4a}  Jacqueline Pascal, par M. Victor Cousin.  Troisième éd.  1856.
Lélut, L’Amulette de Pascal.  Paris, 1846.

{4b}  Sainte-Beuve.  Port Royal.  Tom. ii. iii.  Mr Beard, in his two
volumes on Port Royal, gives an excellent sketch of Blaise and Jacqueline
Pascal, in which he has made a diligent use of all the recent French
authorities on the subject.

{4c}  British Quarterly Review, August 1850.

{5}  The Provincial Parliaments in France before the Revolution
discharged within a definite area the same judicial and administrative
functions as the Parliament of Paris; but they were always regarded as
offshoots of the latter, and subordinate to its supreme direction.  They
possessed no lawful political powers.  Lalanne, Dictionnaire Historique,
Art. “Parl.,” p. 1421.  The “Court of Aides,” according to the same
authority, p. 32, decided in the last resort civil and criminal processes
relating to subsidies, assessments, and taxes in general, and
superintended the collection of the royal revenues.

{6a}  Gilberte Pascal—Madame Périer—says, in her life of her brother,
1626.  Marguerite Périer, her daughter, Pascal’s niece, says 1628.
Cousin (B. Pascal), App. I. 315.  Faugère, Lettres, Opuscules, etc., p.

{6b}  Cousin, Jacqueline Pascal, p. 23.

{7}  Memoir by Marguerite Périer, her daughter, quoted by Cousin, ibid.,
p. 24.  “Do not think,” adds Cousin, “that this portrait is embellished:
the austere Marguerite flatters no one; and if she, a Jansenist, says
that her mother was beautiful, we may be sure that she was very much so.”

{10}  “The exterior angle of a triangle is equal to the two interior and
opposite angles; and the three interior angles are together equal to two
right angles.”

{11}  Baillet, Vie de Descartes, liv. V. c. v. p. 39.


    “Ne vous étonnez pas, incomparable Armand,
    Si j’ai mal contenté vos yeux et vos oreilles;
    Mon esprit agité de frayeurs sans pareilles
    Interdit à mon corps et voix et mouvement.
    Mais pour me rendre ici capable de vous plaire,
    Rappelez de l’exil mon misérable père.”

{13}  Cousin, Jacqueline Pascal, pp. 72–75.

{15}  The Intendant was a special Royal Commissioner, sent into the
provinces to watch over the administration of justice and the finances.

{16}  See Cousin, Jacqueline Pascal, pp. 78–80.

{17}  M. Lélut’s volume (already referred to) deserves special attention
in its bearing on Pascal’s health, and the character of his sufferings.
He lays great stress on Pascal’s highly-strung nervous constitution, in
connection both with the precocity of his genius, his physical
sufferings, his religious susceptibility, and the profound melancholy
which affected his later years.  The study is very interesting in some
respects, but is overstrained in its physiological details and imaginary

{18}  Madame Périer, Vie de Pascal.

{20}  A disciple and friend of François de Sales, who had been bishop of
Bellay or Belley, but had at this time demitted his bishopric for the
Abbey of Aulney-Havet.

{21}  The documents containing these details are found among the Pascal
MSS. in the National Library at Paris, having been given by Marguerite
Périer to one of the Guerrier family, by whose care so many interesting
memorials of Pascal have been preserved.  See Faugère, Int. to Ed. of
Pensées, xlvi.-ix.

{23a}  Cousin, app. 392.

{23b}  Faugère, Lettres, Opuscules, etc., p. 452.  It is difficult to
make out the exact chronological sequence of some of the facts mentioned
by Pascal’s sister and niece.  But a special accession of ill-health,
according to both, seems to have followed his conversion at Rouen, and to
have been amongst the causes of his removal to Paris in 1647.

{23c}  Pp. 134–137.

{26a}  Jacqueline Pascal, p. 73.

{26b}  Œuvres de Blaise Pascal, t. 4.  Paris, 1819.

{28a}  North British Review, August 1844, p. 296.

{28b}  I owe this information to the kindness of my friend, Professor
Tait of Edinburgh.  He further informs me that “of late years the
calculating machine of M. Scheutz has been employed in the production of
many valuable tables almost hopelessly beyond the power of mere mental
calculation;” and that a very simple and ingenious machine, known as the
Arithmomètre of M. Thomas, is to be found in the office of almost every
engineer and actuary.

{29a}  Letter to M. Ribeyre, Œuvres, t. iv.

{29b}  The illustrious Italian was then advanced in years.  He died in
January 1642.

{31}  Œuvres, t. iv. pp. 160,161.

{33}  Sir D. Brewster, in an article on Pascal’s Writings and Discoveries
in North Brit. Rev., Aug. 1844.  Sir David’s account is almost literally
translated from M. Périer’s letter to Pascal, of date September 22, 1648,
and embodied in Pascal’s “Récit de la grande Expérience de l’Équilibre
des Liqueurs,” first published in 1648.

{39a}  Cousin, Jacqueline Pascal, p. 94.

{39b}  “Evidently,” says Cousin, “M. Habert de Montmor, the Mæcenas of
the _savants_ of the time.”

{41}  Blaise Pascal.  Préface de la nouvelle éd., P. 46.  Œuvres, t. i.

{42a}  Jus mihi esset hoc ipsum ab ipso potius quam a te expectare, ideo
quod ego ipsi, jam biennium effluxit, auctor fuerim ejus experimenti
faciendi, eumque certum reddiderim, nec de successu non dubitare,
quamquam id experimentum nunquam fecerim.  Verum quoniam D. R. amicitia
junctus est qui mihi ultro adversatus . . . non sine ratione credendum
est eum sequi passiones amici sui.—Descartes, Epist.  Amstelodami, 1683.

{42b}  Discours sur la Vie et les Ouvrages de Pascal, p. xviii.

{43a}  Any reader curious as to how far Descartes had advanced in this
matter may consult Montucla, Histoire des Mathématiques, vol. vi. p. 205.
Montucla, no less than Baillet, writes with a clear bias in Descartes’s

{43b}  Récit de la grande Expérience de l’Équilibre des Liqueurs.
Œuvres, t. iv. p. 301—“Je méditai des lors l’expérience dont je fais voir
ici le Récit.”

{44}  Intererat mea id rescire, ipse enim petii ab illo, jam exacto
biennio, ut id faceret, eumque pulchri successus certum reddidi, quod
esset omnino conforme meis Principiis, absque quo nunquam de eo
cogitasset, eo quod contrariâ tenebatur sententiâ.—Ep. lxix., ibid.

{45a}  Professor Tait, article “Vacuum,” Chambers’s Encyclopedia.

{45b}  These further researches are expounded in two treatises, ‘De
l’Équilibre des Liqueurs,’ and ‘De la Pesanteur de l’Air,’ supposed to
have been written in 1653, but not published till 1663, after the
author’s death.

{46a}  North British Review, August 1844.  Sir David in the main
translates from M. Bossut’s “Discours.”

{46b}  Œuvres, t. iv. p. 187.

{50}  Faugère, Lettres, etc., p. 80.

{51}  Vie de Pascal.

{54a}  Cousin, Vie de Jacqueline, p. 43.

{54b}  Ibid., p. 101.

{55}  B. Pascal, app. vii. p. 491.

{58}  Vie de Jacqueline.

{59}  Cousin’s Jacqueline, p. 189.

{60}  Cousin’s Jacqueline, p. 161.

{61}  Relation de la Sœur Jacqueline de Sainte-Euphémie Pascal à Port
Royal, 10 Juin 1653—a long narrative, extending to about 50 pages of
Cousin’s volume.  See also Lettres, Opuscules, etc., ed. by Faugère, pp.

{63a}  Relation de la Sœur Jacqueline, etc., p. 182.

{63b}  Ibid., p. 187.

{63c}  Ibid., p. 194.

{63d}  Mémoire, Faugère, p. 453.

{64}  Jacqueline Pascal, pp. 237, 244.

{65a}  Marguerite Périer says that Pascal had always a room at the Duc de
Roannez’s, and that he stayed there frequently, although he had a house
of his own in Paris.

{65b}  Lélut, p. 234.  Women throughout this time took the lead, and were
never so active, even in French politics.  “Beautiful, witty, and
dissolute, they brought into public affairs their frivolous ideas, and
sacrificed to their vanity their honour and that of their houses.”—La
Vallée, Hist. des Français, t. iii. p. 195, quoted in Kitchin’s Hist. of
France, vol. iii. p. 114.

{66}  Lélut, p. 238.

{67a}  Pensées, éd. de M. Faugère, t. i p. 197.

{67b}  Ibid., t. ii p. 91.

{67c}  Faugère, Introduction.

{67d}  Blaise Pascal, App. No. 7.

{68a}  Blaise Pascal, App. No. 7.

{68b}  Introd. to Ed. of Pensées.

{71}  Il prit la résolution de suivre le train commun du monde,
c’est-à-dire de prendre une charge et se marier.—Faugère, p. 453.

{76}  “D’horribles attaches”—an expression already alluded to, which has
given rise to a good deal of speculation.—Jacqueline Pascal, Cousin, p.

{77}  Cousin, Jacqueline Pascal, pp. 236–241.

{87}  Fontaine, vol. i. p. 354.

{89}  See Beard’s Port Royal, vol. i. pp. 207, 208.

{90}  Recueil d’Utrecht, quoted by Maynard, vol. i. p. 78.


                           L’an de grâce 1654.
   Lundi 23 novémbre, jour de St Clément, pape et martyr, et autres au
                Veille de St Chrysogone, martyr et autres.
   Depuis environ dix heures et demie du soir jusques environ minuit et
               Dieu d’Abraham, Dieu d’Isaac, Dieu de Jacob,
                    Non des philosophes et de savants.
          Certitude.  Certitude.  Sentiment.  Joie.  Paix. {92}
                           Dieu de Jésus-Christ
                        Deum meum et Deum vestrum.
                         Ton Dieu sera mon Dieu—
                  Oubli du monde et de tout hormis Dieu.
      Il ne se trouve que par les voies enseignées dans l’Evangile.
                        Grandeur de l’âme humaine.
       Père juste, le monde ne t’a point connu, mais je t’ai connu.
                    Joie, joie, joie, pleurs de joie.
                           Je m’en suis séparé—
                    Dereliquerunt me fontem aquæ vivæ.
                       Mon Dieu me quitterez-vous?—
                Que je n’en sois pas séparé éternellement!
          Cette est la vie éternelle qu’ils te connaissent seul
                vrai Dieu et celui que tu as envoyé, J.-C.
                              Jésus Christ—
                              Jésus Christ—
           Je m’en suis séparé; je l’ai fui, renoncé, crucifié.
                     Que je n’en sois jamais séparé!
     Il ne se conserve que par les voies enseignées dans l’Evangile.
                      Renonciation totale et douce,

{92}  In the parchment copy, “Certitude, joie, certitude, sentiment, vue,

{94}  The evidence of an anonymous MS. in the collection of P. Guerrier,
grandnephew of Pascal, in which the story is told on the authority of two
friends of the Pascal family, M. Arnoul de St Victor and M. le Pierre de
Barillon.  The evidence for the story of the abyss is not even
contemporaneous.  It comes from an Abbé Boileau, unconnected with the
poet of that name, who first told it in a volume of letters published in

{95}  Leibnitziana, quoted by Sainte-Beuve, t. iii. p. 286.

{97}  Pensées, t. ii. p 76, 2d ed., Havet.

{101}  Recueil d’Utrecht, Maynard, vol. i. p. 555.

{102}  The most authentic portrait of Pascal is probably that prefixed by
M. Faugère to his edition of the ‘Pensées.’  The sketch, in red chalk,
was found amongst the papers of M. Domat, an eminent advocate, and one of
Pascal’s well-known friends.  It bears below an inscription by Domat’s
son—“Portrait de M. Pascal fait par mon père”—and is supposed to
represent him in his earlier years, when he studied natural philosophy
along with his friend.

{105}  The following genealogy, from a Jesuit source, represents not
unfairly the origin of Jansenism and Port Royalism as a theological
system: “Paulus genuit Augustinum; Augustinus Calvinum; Calvinus
Jansenium; Jansenius Sancyranum; Sancyranus Arnaldum et fratres ejus.”
The sequel will show how earnestly Pascal disclaims Calvinism.

{106}  “Attrition” is a scholastic term for the first acute emotions of
the grace of repentance.  “Contrition” denotes the grace in a more
advanced stage of development.

{107}  The full title is, “Cornelii Jansenii Episcopi Iprensis
Augustinus: seu doctrina S. Augustini de humanæ naturæ sanitate,
ægritudine, medicinâ, adversus Pelagianos et Massilienses.”

{108}  Beard’s Port Royal, vol. i. p. 243.

{116a}  Recueil d’Utrecht, p. 271.  See also Sainte-Beuve, vol. iii. p.

{116b}  _Curieux_ in the sense, says Sainte-Beuve, of _bel-esprit_,

{120}  A name applied to the Jesuits after Louis Molina, a Spanish Jesuit
(1535–1600), whose “Scientia Media,” akin to the Arminian doctrine of
Divine foreknowledge, was very famous in its day.

{132}  Beard’s Port Royal, vol. i. p. 271.  Founded on Recueil d’Utrecht,
p. 278, and Sainte-Beuve, t. ii. p. 555.

{133}  M. Sainte-Beuve connects only the two concluding Letters with the
first two, but the sixteenth Letter also, upon the whole, as a direct
defence of Jansen and Port Royal, may be said to connect itself with
these rather than with the intervening series assailing the Jesuits.
There were eighteen Letters in all published by Pascal, but there is a
brief fragment of a nineteenth Letter supposed to be also from his pen,
and a farther Letter from the pen of M. le Maitre on the Inquisition,
commonly printed along with the others.

{138}  After the Edict of Nantes (1598), the Protestants were permitted
to assemble for worship at Charenton, a small town about four miles from

{144a}  Letter V.

{144b}  “The grand project of our Society,” Pascal makes his Jesuit
informant say (Letter VI.), “is for the good of religion, never to
repulse any one, let him be what he may, and so avoid driving people to

{147}  Letter IV.

{148}  Letter IV.

{150a}  Letter X.

{150b}  “Who is Escobar?” Pascal represents himself as inquiring in the
fifth Letter.  “Not know Escobar?” cries the monk; “the member of the
Society who compiled a Moral Theology from twenty-four of our fathers.”
This book, which Pascal says he “read twice through,” was the great
repository from which he gathered the details of Jesuit doctrine which he
exposes with such minuteness.  Escobar, like so many of the chief Jesuit
writers, was a Spaniard, born at Valladolid in 1589.  His name became a
sort of proverb in connection with their casuistical system, and
“escobarder” came to signify “to palter in a double sense.”

{151a}  Letter XI.

{151b}  Ibid.

{152}  Letter XV.

{153}  This is Sainte-Beuve’s statement (t. iii. p. 138), repeated by Mr
Beard, and founded apparently on Nicole.

{156}  Nicole’s translation into Latin of the ‘Provincial Letters,’ in
preparation for which he is said to have read repeatedly over all the
plays of Terence, appeared at Cologne in 1658, about a year after their

{164}  These lectures will be found, translated by the writer of the
present volume, in Kitto’s Journal of Sacred Literature, April-October,

{165}  In his Mémoires de Littérature et d’Histoire.

{166}  Faugère, i. pp. 123–129.

{168}  Faugère, i. pp. 149–152.

{171}  See p. 66.

{174}  Chiefly from Pensées Diverses.—Faugère’s ed., vol. i. pp. 177–242.

{176}  The following passage from Fontaine’s Memoirs, quoted by Cousin
(B. Pascal, p. 132), gives an interesting and lively glimpse of the
philosophical discourses at Port Royal.  It may not be without some
application to the modern no less than the original Cartesian doctrine.
“How many little agitations raised themselves in this desert touching the
human science of philosophy and the new opinions of M. Descartes!  As M.
Arnauld in his hours of relaxation conversed on these subjects with his
more intimate friends, the excitement spread on every side, and the
solitude, in the hours of social intercourse, resounded with these
discussions.  There was hardly a solitary who did not talk of ‘automata.’
To beat a dog was no longer a matter of any moment.  The stick was laid
on with the utmost indifference, and a great fool was made of those who
pitied the animals, _as if they had any feeling_.  They said they were
only clockwork, and that the cries they uttered when they were beaten
were no more than the noise of some little spring that had been moved,
and that all this involved no sensation.  They nailed the poor animals
upon boards by the fore-paws, in order to dissect them while still alive,
and to see the circulation of the blood, which was a great subject of
discussion.  The chateau of the Duc de Luynes was the source of all these
curious inquiries, and a source that was inexhaustible.  There they
talked incessantly, and with admiration, of the new system of the world
according to M. Descartes.”

{177}  Fragment sur la Philosophie de Descartes.

{185}  Havet, i. pp. cxxiv-cxxxiii

{186}  Faugère, ii. pp. 81, 82.

{187}  Faugère, ii. pp. 91, 92, 99, 104.

{189}  Faugère, p. 108.

{190}  Faugère, p. 84.

{199}  Faugère, ii. pp. 136, 137.

{204}  The lamented Prévost Paradol, Études sur les Moralistes Français.

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