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Title: French Classics
Author: Wilkinson, William Cleaver, 1833-1920
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's note:

    The following typographical errors have been corrected:

    Page 23: "The people--that is, the promiscuous mass of
      mankind--hardly exist to Froissart." 'promiscuous' amended from
      'promiscous'.

    Page 178: "Gil Blas, discouraged, was about to leave Dr. Sangrado's
      service, when that distinguished physician said to him--we take up
      the text of the story once more:" 'Blas' amended from 'Glas'.

    Page 189: "When the Christian religion, two centuries ago, became
      unhappily divided into Catholic and Protestant, the people of the
      north embraced the Protestant, and those south adhered still to the
      Catholic." 'unhappily' amended from 'unhappilly'.

    Page 238: "His European reputation in science made his name a tower
      of strength to the 'Encyclopædia,'--even after he ceased to be an
      editorial coadjutor in the enterprise." 'editorial' amended from
      'editoral'.

    Page 295: "Dickens's Pegasus often flies with his bit between his
      teeth. 'between' amended from 'beween'.



OTHER BOOKS BY PROFESSOR WILKINSON


THE EPIC OF SAUL

THE EPIC OF PAUL

WEBSTER: AN ODE. WITH NOTES

POEMS

A FREE LANCE IN THE FIELD OF LIFE AND LETTERS (Volume of Essays)

EDWIN ARNOLD AS POETIZER AND AS PAGANIZER

THE DANCE OF MODERN SOCIETY


FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY NEW YORK AND LONDON



  _WILKINSON'S FOREIGN CLASSICS IN ENGLISH_


  FRENCH CLASSICS

  BY

  WILLIAM CLEAVER WILKINSON

  PROFESSOR OF POETRY AND CRITICISM
  IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

  * * * * *

  FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY
  NEW YORK AND LONDON
  1909


  COPYRIGHT 1900

  BY

  WILLIAM CLEAVER WILKINSON.

  (_Printed in the United States of America_)



PREFACE.


The preparation of the present volume proposed to the author a task more
difficult far than that undertaken in the case of either of the
literatures, the Greek or the Latin, treated in the four preceding
volumes of the present series. Those volumes dealt with literatures
limited and finished; this volume deals with a literature indefinitely
vast in extent, and still in vital process of growth. The selection of
material to be used was, in the case of the earlier volumes, virtually
made for the author beforehand, in a manner greatly to ease his sense of
responsibility for the exercise of individual judgment and taste. Long
prescription, joined to the winnowing effect of wear and waste through
time and chance, had left little doubt what works of what writers, Greek
and Roman, best deserved now to be shown to the general reader. Besides
this, the prevalent custom of the schools of classical learning could
then wisely be taken as a clew of guidance to be implicitly followed,
whatever might be the path through which it should lead. There is here
no similar avoidance of responsibility possible; for the schools have
not established a custom, and French literature is a living body, from
which no important members have ever yet been rent by the ravages of
time.

The plan of this volume, together with the compass proposed for it,
created the necessity of establishing from the outset certain limits to
be very strictly observed. There could be no introductory general
matter, beyond a rapid and summary review of that literature, as a
whole, which is the subject of the book. The list of authors selected
for representation must not include the names of any still living. A
third thing resolved upon was to make the number of representative
names small rather than large, choice rather than inclusive. The
principle at this point adopted was to choose those authors only whose
merit, or whose fame, or whose influence, might be supposed
unquestionably such that their names and their works would certainly be
found surviving, though the language in which they wrote should, like
its parent Latin, have perished from the tongues of men. The proportion
of space severally allotted to the different authors was to be measured
partly according to their relative importance, and partly according to
their estimated relative capacity of interesting in translation the
average intelligent reader of to-day.

In one word, the single inspiring aim of the author has here been to
furnish enlightened readers, versed only in the English language, the
means of acquiring, through the medium of their vernacular, some
proportioned, trustworthy, and effective knowledge and appreciation, in
its chief classics, of the great literature which has been written in
French. This object has been sought, not through narrative and
description, making books and authors the subject, but through the
literature itself, in specimen extracts illuminated by the necessary
explanation and criticism.



CONTENTS.

                                             PAGE
    I.
  FRENCH LITERATURE                             5

    II.
  FROISSART                                    22

    III.
  RABELAIS                                     29

    IV.
  MONTAIGNE                                    40

    V.
  LA ROCHEFOUCAULD (LA BRUYÈRE; VAUVENARGUES)  55

    VI.
  LA FONTAINE                                  66

    VII.
  MOLIÈRE                                      76

    VIII.
  PASCAL                                       91

    IX.
  MADAME DE SÉVIGNÉ                           105

    X.
  CORNEILLE                                   117

    XI.
  RACINE                                      127

    XII.
  BOSSUET, BOURDALOUE, MASSILLON, SAURIN      137

    XIII.
  FÉNELON                                     158

    XIV.
  LE SAGE                                     174

    XV.
  MONTESQUIEU, TOCQUEVILLE                    184

    XVI.
  VOLTAIRE                                    199

    XVII.
  ROUSSEAU (ST. PIERRE)                       212

    XVIII.
  THE ENCYCLOPÆDISTS                          235

    XIX.
  MADAME DE STAEL                             239

    XX.
  CHATEAUBRIAND                               248

    XXI.
  BÉRANGER                                    256

    XXII.
  LAMARTINE                                   263

    XXIII.
  THE GROUP OF 1830                           274

    XXIV.
  JOUBERT (SWETCHINE; AMIEL)                  307

    XXV.
  EPILOGUE                                    318

  INDEX                                       319



FRENCH CLASSICS IN ENGLISH

I.

FRENCH LITERATURE.


Of French literature, taken as a whole, it may boldly be said that it
is, not the wisest, not the weightiest, not certainly the purest and
loftiest, but by odds the most brilliant and the most interesting,
literature in the world. Strong at many points, at some points
triumphantly strong, it is conspicuously weak at only one point,--the
important point of poetry. In eloquence, in philosophy, even in
theology; in history, in fiction, in criticism, in epistolary writing,
in what may be called the pamphlet; in another species of composition,
characteristically, peculiarly, almost uniquely, French--the Thought and
the Maxim; by eminence in comedy, and in all those related modes of
written expression for which there is scarcely any name but a French
name--the _jeu d'esprit_, the _bon mot_, _persiflage_, the _phrase_; in
social and political speculation; last, but not least, in scientific
exposition elegant enough in form and in style to rise to the rank of
literature proper--the French language has abundant achievement to show,
that puts it, upon the whole, hardly second in wealth of letters to any
other language whatever, either ancient or modern.

What constitutes the charm--partly a perilous charm--of French
literature is before all else its incomparable clearness, its precision,
its neatness, its point; then, added to this, its lightness of touch,
its sureness of aim; its vivacity, sparkle, life; its inexhaustible
gayety; its impulsion toward wit--impulsion so strong as often to land
it in mockery; the sense of release that it breathes and inspires; its
freedom from prick to the conscience; its exquisite study and choice of
effect; its deference paid to decorum--decorum, we mean, in taste, as
distinguished from morals; its infinite patience and labor of art,
achieving the perfection of grace and of ease--in one word, its style.

We speak, of course, broadly and in the gross. There are plenty of
French authors to whom some of the traits just named could by no means
be attributed, and there is certainly not a single French author to whom
one could truthfully attribute them all. Voltaire insisted that what was
not clear was not French--so much, to the conception of this typical
Frenchman, was clearness the genius of the national speech. Still,
Montaigne, for example, was sometimes obscure; and even the tragedist
Corneille wrote here and there what his commentator, Voltaire, declared
to be hardly intelligible. So, too, Rabelais, coarsest of humorists,
offending decorum in various ways, offended it most of all exactly in
that article of taste, as distinguished from morals, which, with
first-rate French authors in general, is so capital a point of regard.
On the other hand, Pascal--not to mention the moralists by profession,
such as Nicole, and the preachers Bourdaloue and Massillon--Pascal,
quivering himself, like a soul unclad, with sense of responsibility to
God, constantly probes you, reading him, to the inmost quick of your
conscience. Rousseau, notably in the "Confessions," and in the
"Reveries" supplementary to the "Confessions;" Chateaubriand, echoing
Rousseau; and that wayward woman of genius, George Sand, disciple she to
both--were so far from being always light-heartedly gay, that not seldom
they spread over their page a somber atmosphere almost of gloom--gloom
flushed pensively, as with a clouded "setting sun's pathetic light." In
short, when you speak of particular authors, and naturally still more
when you speak of particular works, there are many discriminations to be
made. Such exceptions, however, being duly allowed, the literary product
of the French mind, considered in the aggregate, will not be
misconceived if regarded as possessing the general characteristics in
style that we have now sought briefly to indicate.

French literature, we have hinted, is comparatively poor in poetry. This
is due in part, no doubt, to the genius of the people; but it is also
due in part to the structure of the language. The language, which is
derived chiefly from Latin, is thence in such a way derived as to have
lost the regularity and stateliness of its ancient original, without
having compensated itself with any richness and sweetness of sound
peculiarly its own; like, for instance, that canorous vowel quality of
its sister derivative, the Italian. The French language, in short, is
far from being an ideal language for the poet.

In spite, however, of this fact, disputed by nobody, it is true of
French literature, as it is true of almost any national literature, that
it took its rise in verse instead of in prose. Anciently there were two
languages subsisting together in France which came to be distinguished
from each other in name by the word of affirmation--_oc_ or _oïl_,
yes--severally peculiar to them, and thus to be known respectively as
_langue d'oc_ and _langue d'oïl_. The future belonged to the latter of
the two forms of speech--the one spoken in the northern part of the
country. This, the _langue d'oïl_, became at length the French language.
But the _langue d'oc_, a soft and musical tongue, survived long enough
to become the vehicle of lyric strains, mostly on subjects of love and
gallantry, still familiar in mention, and famous as the songs of the
troubadours. The flourishing time of the troubadours was in the eleventh
and twelfth centuries. Provençal is an alternative name of the language.

Side by side with the southern _troubadours_, or a little later than
they, the _trouvères_ of the north sang, with more manly ambition, of
national themes, and, like Virgil, of arms and of heroes. Some
productions of the _trouvères_ may fairly be allowed an elevation of aim
and of treatment entitling them to be called epic in character.
_Chansons de geste_ (songs of exploit), or _romans_, is the native name
by which those primitive French poems are known. They exist in three
principal cycles, or groups, of productions--one cycle composed of those
pertaining to Charlemagne; one, of those pertaining to British Arthur,
and a third, of those pertaining to ancient Greece and Rome, notably to
Alexander the Great. The cycle revolving around the majestic legend of
Charlemagne for its center was Teutonic, rather than Celtic, in spirit
as well as in theme. It tended to the religious in tone. The Arthurian
cycle was properly Celtic. It dealt more with adventures of love. The
Alexandrian cycle, so named from one principal theme celebrated--namely,
the deeds of Alexander the Great--mixed fantastically the traditions of
ancient Greece and Rome with the then prevailing ideas of chivalry, and
with the figments of fairy lore. (The metrical form employed in these
poems gave its name to the Alexandrine line later so predominant in
French poetry.) The volume of this quasi-epical verse, existing in its
three groups, or cycles, is immense. So is that of the satire and the
allegory in meter that followed. From this latter store of stock and
example, Chaucer drew to supply his muse with material. The _fabliaux_,
so called--fables, that is, or stories--were still another form of
French literature in verse. It is only now, within the current decade of
years, that a really ample collection of _fabliaux_--hitherto, with the
exception of a few printed volumes of specimens, extant exclusively in
manuscript--has been put into course of publication. Rutebeuf, a
_trouvère_ of the reign of St. Louis (Louis IX., thirteenth century), is
perhaps as conspicuous a personal name as any that thus far emerges out
of the sea of practically anonymous early French authorship. A frankly
sordid and mercenary singer, Rutebeuf always tending to mockery, was not
seldom licentious--in both these respects anticipating, as probably also
to some extent by example conforming, the subsequent literary spirit of
his nation. The _fabliaux_ generally mingled with their narrative
interest that spice of raillery and satire constantly so dear to the
French literary appetite. Thibaud was, in a double sense, a royal singer
of songs; for he reigned over Navarre, as well as chanted sweetly in
verse his love and longing, so the disputed legend asserts, for Queen
Blanche of Castile. Thibaud bears the historic title of The Song-maker.
He has been styled the Béranger of the thirteenth century. To Thibaud is
said to be due the introduction of the feminine rhyme into French
poetry--a metrical variation of capital importance. The songs of
Abélard, in the century preceding Thibaud, won a wide popularity.

Prose, meantime, had been making noteworthy approaches to form.
Villehardouin must be named as first in time among French writers of
history. His work is entitled, "Conquest of Constantinople." It gives an
account of the fourth crusade. Joinville, a generation later, continues
the succession of chronicles with his admiring story of the life of St.
Louis, whose personal friend he was. But Froissart of the fourteenth
century, and Comines of the fifteenth, are greater names. Froissart, by
his simplicity and his narrative art, was the Herodotus, as Philip de
Comines, for his political sagacity, has been styled the Tacitus, of
French historical literature. Up to the time of Froissart, the
literature which we have been treating as French was different enough in
form from the French of to-day to require what might be called
translation in order to become generally intelligible to the living
generation of Frenchmen. The text of Froissart is pretty archaic, but it
definitely bears the aspect of French.

With the name of Comines, who wrote of Louis XI. (compare Walter Scott's
"Quentin Durward"), we reach the fifteenth century, and are close upon
the great revival of learning which accompanied the religious
reformation under Luther and his peers. Now come Rabelais, boldly
declared by Coleridge one of the great creative minds of literature; and
Montaigne, with those essays of his, still living, and, indeed, certain
always to live. John Calvin, meantime, writes his "Institutes of the
Christian Religion" in French as well as in Latin, showing, once and for
all, that in the right hands his vernacular tongue was as capable of
gravity as many a writer before him had superfluously shown that it was
capable of levity. Amyot, the translator of Plutarch, is a French writer
of power, without whom the far greater Montaigne could hardly have been.
The influence of Amyot on French literary history is wider in reach and
longer in duration than we thus indicate; but Montaigne's indebtedness
to him is alone enough to prove that a mere translator had in this man
made a very important contribution to the forming prose literature of
France.

"The Pleiades," so called, were a group of seven writers, who, about the
middle of the sixteenth century, banded themselves together in France,
with the express aim of supplying influential example to improve the
French language for literary purposes. Their peculiar appellation, "The
Pleiades," was copied from that of a somewhat similar group of Greek
writers that existed in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Of course, the
implied allusion in it is to the constellation of the Pleiades. The
individual name by which the "Pleiades" of the sixteenth century may
best be remembered is that of Ronsard, the poet, associated with the
romantic and pathetic memory of Mary Queen of Scots. Never, perhaps, in
the history of letters was the fame of a poet in the poet's own
life-time more universal and more splendid than was the fame of Ronsard.
A high court of literary judicature formally decreed to Ronsard the
title of The French Poet by eminence. This occurred in the youth of the
poet. The wine of success so brilliant turned the young fellow's head.
He soon began to play lord paramount of Parnassus, with every air of one
born to the purple. The kings of the earth vied with each other to do
him honor. Ronsard affected scholarship, and the foremost scholars of
his time were proud to place him with Homer and with Virgil on the roll
of the poets. Ronsard's peculiarity in style was the free use of words
and constructions not properly French. Boileau indicated whence he
enriched his vocabulary and his syntax, by satirically saying that
Ronsard spoke Greek and Latin in French. At his death, Ronsard was
almost literally buried under praises. Sainte-Beuve strikingly says that
he seemed to go forward into posterity as into a temple.

Sharp posthumous reprisals awaited the extravagant fame of Ronsard.
Malherbe, coming in the next generation, legislator of Parnassus,
laughed the literary pretensions of Ronsard to scorn. This stern critic
of form, such is the story, marked up his copy of Ronsard with notes of
censure so many, that a friend of his, seeing the annotated volume,
observed, "What here is not marked will be understood to have been
approved by you." Whereupon Malherbe, taking his pen, with one
indiscriminate stroke drew it abruptly through the whole volume. "There
I Ronsardized," the contemptuous critic would exclaim, when in reading
his own verses to an acquaintance--for Malherbe was a poet himself--he
happened to encounter a word that struck him as harsh or improper.
Malherbe, in short, sought to chasten and check the luxuriant overgrowth
to which the example and method of the Pleiades were tending to push the
language of poetry in French. The resultant effect of the two contrary
tendencies--that of literary wantonness on the one hand, and that of
literary prudery on the other--was at the same time to enrich and to
purify French poetical diction. Balzac (the elder), close to Malherbe in
time, performed a service for French prose similar to that which the
latter performed for French verse. These two critical and literary
powers brought in the reign of what is called classicism in France.
French classicism had its long culmination under Louis XIV.

But it was under Louis XIII., or rather under that monarch's great
minister, Cardinal Richelieu, that the rich and splendid Augustan age of
French literature was truly prepared. Two organized forces, one of them
private and social, the other official and public, worked together,
though sometimes perhaps not in harmony, to produce the magnificent
literary result that illustrated the time of Louis XIV. Of these two
organized forces the Hôtel de Rambouillet was one, and the French
Academy was the other. The Hôtel de Rambouillet has become the adopted
name of a literary society, presided over by the fine inspiring genius
of the beautiful and accomplished Italian wife of the Marquis de
Rambouillet, a lady who generously conceived the idea of rallying the
feminine wit and virtue of the kingdom to exert a potent influence for
regenerating the manners and morals, and indeed the literature, of
France. At the high court of blended rank and fashion and beauty and
polish and virtue and wit, thus established in the exquisitely builded
and decorated saloons of the Rambouillet mansion, the selectest literary
genius and fame of France were proud and glad to assemble for the
discussion and criticism of literature. Here came Balzac and Voiture;
here Corneille read aloud his masterpieces before they were represented
on the stage; here Descartes philosophized; here the large and splendid
genius of Bossuet first unfolded itself to the world; here Madame de
Sévigné brought her bright, incisive wit, trebly commended by stainless
reputation, unwithering beauty, and charming address, in the woman who
wielded it. The noblest blood of France added the decoration and
inspiration of their presence. It is not easy to overrate the diffusive
beneficent influence that hence went forth to change the fashion of
literature, and to change the fashion of society, for the better. The
Hôtel de Rambouillet proper lasted two generations only; but it had a
virtual succession, which, though sometimes interrupted, was scarcely
extinct until the brilliant and beautiful Madame Récamier ceased, about
the middle of the present century, to hold her famous _salons_ in Paris.
The continuous fame and influence of the French Academy, founded by
Richelieu, everybody knows. No other European language has been
elaborately and sedulously formed and cultivated like the French.

But great authors are better improvers of a language than any societies,
however influential. Corneille, Descartes, Pascal, did more for French
style than either the Hôtel de Rambouillet or the Academy--more than
both these two great literary societies together. In verse, Racine,
following Corneille, advanced in some important respects upon the
example and lead of that great original master; but in prose, when
Pascal published his "Provincial Letters," French style reached at once
a point of perfection beyond which it never since has gone. Bossuet,
Bourdaloue, Fénelon, Massillon, Molière, La Fontaine, Boileau, La
Rochefoucauld, La Bruyère--what a constellation of names are these to
glorify the age of Louis XIV.! And Louis XIV. himself, royal embodiment
of a literary good sense carried to the pitch of something very like
real genius in judgment and taste--what a sun was he (with that talent
of his for kingship, probably never surpassed), to balance and to sway,
from his unshaken station, the august intellectual system of which he
alone constituted the despotic center to attract and repel! Seventy-two
years long was this sole individual reign. Louis XIV. still sat on the
throne of France when the seventeenth century became the eighteenth.

The eighteenth century was an age of universal reaction in France.
Religion, or rather ecclesiasticism--for, in the France of those times,
religion was the Church, and the Church was the Roman Catholic
hierarchy--had been the dominant fashion under Louis XIV. Infidelity was
a broad literary mark, written all over the face of the eighteenth
century. It was the hour and power of the Encyclopædists and the
Philosophers--of Voltaire, of Diderot, of D'Alembert, of Rousseau.
Montesquieu, though contemporary, belongs apart from these writers. More
really original, more truly philosophical, he was far less
revolutionary, far less destructive, than they. Still, his influence
was, on the whole, exerted in the direction, if not of infidelity, at
least of religious indifferentism. The French Revolution was laid in
train by the great popular writers whom we have now named, and by their
fellows. It needed only the spark, which the proper occasion would be
sure soon to strike out, and the awful earthshaking explosion would
follow. After the Revolution, during the First Empire, so called--the
usurpation, that is, of Napoleon Bonaparte--literature was well-nigh
extinguished in France. The names, however, then surpassingly brilliant,
of Chateaubriand and Madame de Stael, belong to this period.

Three centuries have now elapsed since the date of "The Pleiades."
Throughout this long period, French literature has been chiefly under
the sway of that spirit of classicism in style which the reaction
against Ronsardism, led first by Malherbe and afterward by Boileau, had
established as the national standard in literary taste and aspiration.
But Rousseau's genius acted as a powerful solvent of the classic
tradition. Chateaubriand's influence was felt on the same side,
continuing Rousseau's. George Sand, too, and Lamartine, were forces that
strengthened this component. Finally, the great personality of Victor
Hugo proved potent enough definitively to break the spell that had been
so long and so heavily laid on the literary development of France. The
bloodless warfare was fierce between the revolutionary Romanticists and
the conservative Classicists in literary style, but the victory seemed
at last to remain with the advocates of the new romantic revival. It
looked, on the face of the matter, like a signal triumph of originality
over prescription, of genius over criticism, of power over rule. We
still live in the midst of the dying echoes of this resonant strife.
Perhaps it is too early, as yet, to determine on which side, by the
merit of the cause, the advantage truly belongs. But, by the merit of
the respective champions, the result was, for a time at least,
triumphantly decided in favor of the Romanticists, against the
Classicists. The weighty authority, however, of Sainte-Beuve, at first
thrown into the scale that was destined to sink, was thence withdrawn,
and at last, if not resolutely cast upon the opposite side of the
balance, was left wavering in a kind of equipoise between the one and
the other.

But our preliminary sketch already reaches the limit within which our
choice of authors for representation is necessarily confined.

With first a few remarks, naturally suggested, that may be useful, on
the general subject thus rather touched merely than handled, the present
writer gives way to let now the representative authors themselves,
selected for the purpose, supply to the reader a just and lively idea of
French literature.

The first thing, perhaps, to strike the thoughtful mind in a
comprehensive view of the subject is not so much the length--though this
is remarkable--as the long _continuity_ of French literary history. From
its beginning down to the actual moment, French literature has suffered
no serious break in the course of its development. There have been
periods of greater and periods of less prosperity and fruit; but wastes
of marked suspension and barrenness there have been none.

The second thing noticeable is, that French literature has, to a
singular degree, lived an independent life of its own. It has found
copious springs of health and growth within its own bosom.

But then a third thing to be also observed is that, on the other hand,
the touch of foreign influence, felt and acknowledged by this most
proudly and self-sufficiently national of literatures, has proved to it,
at various epochs, a sovereign force of revival and elastic expansion.
Thus, the great renascence in the sixteenth century of ancient Greek and
Latin letters was new life to French literature. So, again, Spanish
literature, brought into contact with French through Corneille and
Molière, with others, gave to the national mind of France a new literary
launch. But the most recent and perhaps the most remarkable example of
foreign influence quickening French literature to make it freshly
fruitful is supplied in the great romanticizing movement under the lead
of Victor Hugo. English literature--especially Shakespeare--was largely
the pregnant cause of this attempted emancipation of the French literary
mind from the bondage of classicism.

A fourth very salient trait in French literary history consists in the
self-conscious, elaborate, persistent efforts put forth from time to
time by individuals, and by organizations, both public and private, in
France, to improve the language and to elevate the literature of the
nation. We know of nothing altogether comparable to this anywhere else
in the literature of the world.

A fifth striking thing about French literature is, that it has, to a
degree as we believe beyond parallel, exercised a real and vital
influence on the character and the fortune of the nation. The social,
the political, the moral, the religious, history of France is from age
to age a faithful reflex of the changing phases of its literature. Of
course, a reciprocal influence has been constantly reflected back and
forth from the nation upon its literature, as well as from its
literature upon the nation. But where else in the world has it ever been
so extraordinarily, we may say so appallingly, true as in France, that
the nation was such because such was its literature?

French literature, it will at once be seen, is a study possessing,
beyond the literary, a social, a political, and even a religious,
interest.

Readers desiring to push their conversance with the literary history of
France further into the catalogue of its less important names than the
present volume will enable them to do will consult with profit either
the Primer, or the Short History, of French Literature, by Mr. George
Saintsbury. Mr. Saintsbury is a well-informed writer, who diffuses
himself perhaps too widely to do his best possible work. But he has made
French literature a specialty, and he is in general a trustworthy
authority on the subject.

Another writer on the subject is Mr. H. Van Laun. Him, although a
predecessor of his own in the field, Mr. Saintsbury severely ignores, by
claiming that he is himself the first to write in English a history of
French literature based on original and independent reading of the
authors. We are bound to say that Mr. Van Laun's work is of very poor
quality. It offers, indeed, to the reader one advantage not afforded by
either of Mr. Saintsbury's works--the advantage, namely, of illustrative
extracts from the authors treated extracts, however, not unfrequently
marred by wretched translation.

A noteworthy book of the year 1889 is "A History of French Literature"
by Charles Woodward Hutson, Professor of Modern Languages in the
University of Mississippi. This is an intelligent, well-studied,
well-written, carefully conscientious, comprehensive account of French
letters from the beginning down to the present day. It has, as a
concluding chapter, a notice of the "French Writers of Louisiana." An
admirable series of books, translated from the French, on the great
French writers, has recently been brought out in Chicago. These two last
mentions, by the way, strikingly suggest how wide, territorially, the
bounds of the republic of letters are becoming in our country.

The cyclopædias are, some of them, both in articles on particular
authors and in their sketches of French literary history as a whole,
good sources of general information on the subject. Readers who command
the means of comparing several different cyclopædias, or several
successive editions of some one cyclopædia, as, for example, the
"Encyclopædia Britannica," will find enlightening and stimulating the
not always harmonious views presented on the same topics. Hallam's
"History of Literature in Europe" is an additional authority by no means
to be overlooked. And, finally, it is to be remembered that any good
general history of France will almost certainly contain notices of the
more important literary events co-ordinately with those of political,
social, economic, or scientific moment.



II.

FROISSART.

1337-1410.


French literature, for the purposes of the present volume, may be said
to commence with Froissart. Froissart is a kind of mediæval Herodotus.
His time is, indeed, almost this side the Middle Ages; but by character
and by sympathy he belongs rather to the mediæval than to the modern
world. He is delightfully like Herodotus in the style and the spirit of
his narrative. Like Herodotus, he became a traveler in order to become
an historian. Like Herodotus, he was cosmopolite enough not to be
narrowly patriotic. Frenchman though he was, he took as much pleasure in
recounting English victories as he did in recounting French. His
countrymen have even accused him of unpatriotic partiality for the
English. His Chronicles have been, perhaps, more popular in their
English form than in their original French. Two prominent English
translations have been made, of which the later, that by Thomas Johnes,
is now most read. Sir Walter Scott thought the earlier excelled in charm
of style.

Jehan or Jean Froissart was a native of Valenciennes. His father meant
to make a priest of him, but the boy had tastes of his own. Before he
was well out of his teens he began writing history. This was under the
patronage of a great noble. Froissart was all his life a natural
courtier. He throve on the patronage of the great. It was probably not a
fawning spirit in him that made him this kind of man; it was rather an
innate love of splendor and high exploit. He admired chivalry, then in
its last days, and he painted it with the passion of an idealizer. His
father had been an heraldic painter, so it was perhaps an hereditary
strain in the son that naturally attached him to rank and royalty. The
people--that is, the promiscuous mass of mankind--hardly exist to
Froissart. His pages, spacious as they are, have scarcely room for more
than kings and nobles, and knights and squires. He is a picturesque and
romantic historian, in whose chronicles the glories of the world of
chivalry--a world, as we have said, already dying, and so soon to
disappear--are fixed forever on an ample canvas, in moving form and
shifting color, to delight the backward-looking imagination of mankind.

Froissart, besides being chronicler, was something of a poet. It would
still be possible to confront one who should call this in question with
thirty thousand surviving verses from the chronicler's pen. Quantity,
indeed, rather than quality, is the strong point of Froissart as poet.

He had no sooner finished the first part of his Chronicles, a
compilation from the work of an earlier hand, than he posted to England
for the purpose of formally presenting his work to the queen, a princess
of Hainault. She rewarded him handsomely. Woman enough, too, she was,
woman under the queen, duly to despatch him back again to his native
land, where the young fellow's heart, she saw, was lost to a noble lady,
whom, from his inferior station, he could woo only as moth might woo the
moon. He subsequently returned to Great Britain, and rode about on
horseback gathering materials of history. He visited Italy under
excellent auspices, and, together with Chaucer and with Petrarch,
witnessed a magnificent marriage ceremonial in Milan. Froissart
continued to travel far and wide, always a favorite with princes, but
always intent on achieving his projected work. He finally died at
Chimay, where he had spent his closing years in rounding out to their
completeness his "Chronicles of England, France, and the Adjoining
Countries."

Froissart is the most leisurely of historians, or, rather, he is a
writer who presupposes the largest allowance of leisure at the command
of his readers. He does not seek proportion and perspective. He simply
tells us all he has been able to find out respecting each transaction
in its turn as it successively comes up in the progress of his
narrative. If he goes wrong to-day, he will perhaps correct himself
to-morrow, or day after to-morrow--this not by changing the first record
where it stands, to make it right, but by inserting a note of his
mistake at the point, whatever it may be, which he shall chance to have
reached in the work of composition when the new and better light breaks
in on his eyes. The student is thus never quite certain but that what he
is at one moment reading in his author may be an error of which at some
subsequent moment he will be faithfully advised. A little discomposing,
this, but such is Froissart; and it is the philosophical way to take
your author as he is, and make the best of him.

Of such an historian, an historian so diffuse, and so little selective,
it would obviously be difficult to give any suitably brief specimen that
should seem to present a considerable historic action in full. We go to
Froissart's account of the celebrated battle of Poitiers (France). This
was fought in 1356, between Edward the Black Prince on the English side,
and King John on the side of the French. King John, as a result of the
battle, fell into the hands of the enemy.

The king of the French was, of course, a great prize to be secured by
the victorious English. There was eager individual rivalry as to what
particular warrior should be adjudged his true captor. Froissart thus
describes the strife and the issue:

  There was much pressing at this time, through eagerness to take the
  king; and those who were nearest to him, and knew him, cried out,
  "Surrender yourself, surrender yourself, or you are a dead man!" In
  that part of the field was a young knight from St. Omer, who was
  engaged by a salary in the service of the king of England; his name
  was Denys de Morbeque, who for five years had attached himself to the
  English, on account of having been banished in his younger days from
  France, for a murder committed in an affray at St. Omer. It
  fortunately happened for this knight, that he was at the time near to
  the king of France, when he was so much pulled about. He, by dint of
  force, for he was very strong and robust, pushed through the crowd,
  and said to the king, in good French, "Sire, sire, surrender
  yourself!" The king, who found himself very disagreeably situated,
  turning to him, asked, "To whom shall I surrender myself? to whom?
  Where is my cousin, the Prince of Wales? If I could see him, I would
  speak to him." "Sire," replied Sir Denys, "he is not here; but
  surrender yourself to me, and I will lead you to him." "Who are you?"
  said the king. "Sire, I am Denys de Morbeque, a knight from Artois;
  but I serve the king of England because I cannot belong to France,
  having forfeited all I possessed there." The king then gave him his
  right-hand glove, and said, "I surrender myself to you." There was
  much crowding and pushing about; for every one was eager to cry out,
  "I have taken him!" Neither the king nor his youngest son Philip were
  able to get forward, and free themselves from the throng....

  The Prince [of Wales] asked them [his marshals] if they knew any thing
  of the king of France; they replied, "No, sir, not for a certainty;
  but we believe he must be either killed or made prisoner, since he has
  never quitted his batallion." The prince then, addressing the Earl of
  Warwick and Lord Cobham, said: "I beg of you to mount your horses, and
  ride over the field so that on your return you may bring me some
  certain intelligence of him." The two barons, immediately mounting
  their horses, left the prince, and made for a small hillock, that they
  might look about them. From their stand they perceived a crowd of
  men-at-arms on foot, who were advancing very slowly. The king of
  France was in the midst of them, and in great danger; for the English
  and Gascons had taken him from Sir Denys de Morbeque, and were
  disputing who should have him, the stoutest bawling out, "It is I that
  have got him." "No, no," replied the others, "we have him." The king,
  to escape from this peril, said: "Gentlemen, gentlemen, I pray you
  conduct me and my son in a courteous manner to my cousin the prince;
  and do not make such a riot about my capture, for I am so great a lord
  that I can make all sufficiently rich." These words, and others which
  fell from the king, appeased them a little; but the disputes were
  always beginning again, and they did not move a step without rioting.
  When the two barons saw this troop of people, they descended from the
  hillock, and, sticking spurs into their horses, made up to them. On
  their arrival, they asked what was the matter. They were answered,
  that it was the king of France, who had been made prisoner, and that
  upward of ten knights and squires challenged him at the same time, as
  belonging to each of them. The two barons then pushed through the
  crowd by main force, and ordered all to draw aside. They commanded, in
  the name of the prince, and under pain of instant death, that every
  one should keep his distance, and not approach unless ordered or
  desired so to do. They all retreated behind the king; and the two
  barons, dismounting, advanced to the king with profound reverences,
  and conducted him in a peaceable manner to the Prince of Wales.

We continue our citation from Froissart with the brief chapter in which
the admiring chronicler tells the gallant story of the Black Prince's
behavior as host toward his royal captive, King John of France (it was
the evening after the battle):

  When evening was come, the Prince of Wales gave a supper in his
  pavilion to the king of France, and to the greater part of the princes
  and barons who were prisoners. The prince seated the king of France,
  and his son the Lord Philip, at an elevated and well-covered table;
  with them were Sir James de Bourbon, the Lord John d'Artois, the Earls
  of Tancarville, of Estampes, of Dammartin, of Graville, and the Lord
  of Partenay. The other knights and squires were placed at different
  tables. The prince himself served the king's table, as well as the
  others, with every mark of humility, and would not sit down at it, in
  spite of all his entreaties for him so to do, saying that "he was not
  worthy of such an honor, nor did it appertain to him to seat himself
  at the table of so great a king, or of so valiant a man as he had
  shown himself by his actions that day." He added, also, with a noble
  air, "Dear sir, do not make a poor meal because the Almighty God has
  not gratified your wishes in the event of this day; for be assured
  that my lord and father will show you every honor and friendship in
  his power, and will arrange your ransom so reasonably, that you will
  henceforward always remain friends. In my opinion, you have cause to
  be glad that the success of this battle did not turn out as you
  desired; for you have this day acquired such high renown for prowess
  that you have surpassed all the best knights on your side. I do not,
  dear sir, say this to flatter you: for all those of our side who have
  seen and observed the actions of each party, have unanimously allowed
  this to be your due, and decree you the prize and garland for it." At
  the end of this speech, there were murmurs of praise heard from every
  one; and the French said the prince had spoken nobly and truly, and
  that he would be one of the most gallant princes in Christendom if God
  should grant him life to pursue his career of glory.

A splendid and a gracious figure the Black Prince makes in the pages of
Froissart. It was great good fortune for the posthumous fame of chivalry
that the institution should have come by an artist so gifted and so
loyal as this Frenchman, to deliver its features in portrait to
after-times, before the living original vanished forever from the view
of history. How much the fiction of Sir Walter Scott owes to Froissart,
and to Philip de Comines after Froissart, those only can understand who
have read both the old chronicles and the modern romances.

It was one of the congenial labors of Sidney Lanier--pure flame of
genius that late burned itself out so swiftly among us!--to edit a
reduction or abridgment of Froissart's Chronicles dedicated especially
to the use of the young. "The Boy's Froissart," he called it. This book
is enriched with a wise and genial appreciation of Froissart's quality
by his American editor.

Whoever reads Froissart needs to remember that the old chronicler is too
much enamored of chivalry, and is too easily dazzled by splendor of
rank, to be a rigidly just censor of faults committed by knights and
nobles and kings. Froissart, in truth, seems to have been nearly
destitute of the sentiment of humanity. War to him was chiefly a game
and a spectacle.

Our presentation of Froissart must close with a single passage
additional, a picturesque one, in which the chronicler describes the
style of living witnessed by him at the court--we may so not unfitly
apply a royal word--of the Count de Foix. The reader must understand,
while he reads what we here show, that Froissart himself, in close
connection, relates at full, in the language of an informant of his, how
this magnificent Count de Foix had previously killed, with a knife at
his throat, his own and his only son. "I was truly sorry," so, at the
conclusion of the story, Froissart, with characteristic direction of his
sympathy, says, "for the count his father, whom I found a magnificent,
generous, and courteous lord, and also for the country that was
discontented for want of an heir." Here is the promised passage; it
occurs in the ninth chapter of the third volume:

  Count Gaston Phoebus de Foix, of whom I am now speaking, was at that
  time fifty-nine years old; and I must say, that although I have seen
  very many knights, kings, princes, and others, I have never seen any
  so handsome, either in the form of his limbs and shape, or in
  countenance, which was fair and ruddy, with gray and amorous eyes,
  that gave delight whenever he chose to express affection. He was so
  perfectly formed, one could not praise him too much. He loved
  earnestly the things he ought to love, and hated those which it was
  becoming him so to hate. He was a prudent knight, full of enterprise
  and wisdom. He had never any men of abandoned character with him,
  reigned prudently, and was constant in his devotions. There were
  regular nocturnals from the Psalter, prayers from the rituals to the
  Virgin, to the Holy Ghost, and from the burial service. He had every
  day distributed as alms, at his gate, five florins in small coin, to
  all comers. He was liberal and courteous in his gifts, and well knew
  how to take when it was proper, and to give back where he had
  confidence. He mightily loved dogs above all other animals, and during
  the summer and winter amused himself much with hunting....

  When he quitted his chamber at midnight for supper, twelve servants
  bore each a lighted torch before him, which were placed near his
  table, and gave a brilliant light to the apartment. The hall was full
  of knights and squires, and there were plenty of tables laid out for
  any person who chose to sup. No one spoke to him at his table, unless
  he first began a conversation. He commonly ate heartily of poultry,
  but only the wings and thighs; for in the day-time, he neither ate nor
  drank much. He had great pleasure in hearing minstrels; as he himself
  was a proficient in the science, and made his secretaries sing songs,
  ballads, and roundelays. He remained at table about two hours, and was
  pleased when fanciful dishes were served up to him, which having seen,
  he immediately sent them to the tables of his knights and squires.

  In short, every thing considered, though I had before been in several
  courts of kings, dukes, princes, counts, and noble ladies, I was never
  at one that pleased me more, nor was I ever more delighted with feats
  of arms, than at this of the Count de Foix. There were knights and
  squires to be seen in every chamber, hall, and court, going backward,
  and forward, and conversing on arms and amours. Every thing honorable
  was there to be found. All intelligence from distant countries was
  there to be learnt, for the gallantry of the count had brought
  visitors from all parts of the world. It was there I was informed of
  the greater part of those events which had happened in Spain,
  Portugal, Arragon, Navarre, England, Scotland, and on the borders of
  Languedoc; for I saw, during my residence, knights and squires arrive
  from every nation. I therefore made inquiries from them, or from the
  count himself, who cheerfully conversed with me.

The foregoing is one of the most celebrated passages of description in
Froissart. At the same time that it discloses the form and spirit of
those vanished days, which will never come again to the world, it
discloses likewise the character of the man, who must indeed have loved
it all well, to have been able so well to describe it.

We take now a somewhat long forward step, in going, as we do, at once
from Froissart to Rabelais. Comines, an historian intervening, we must
reluctantly pass, with thus barely mentioning his name.



III.

RABELAIS.

1495-1553.


Rabelais is one of the most famous of writers. But he is, at the same
time, of famous writers perhaps quite incomparably the coarsest.

The real quality of such a writer it is evidently out of the question to
exhibit at all adequately here. But equally out of the question it is to
omit Rabelais altogether from an account of French literature.

Of the life of François Rabelais, the man, these few facts will be
sufficient to know. In early youth he joined the monastic order of
Franciscans. That order hated letters; but Rabelais loved them. He, in
fact, conceived a voracious ambition of knowledge. He became immensely
learned. This fact, with what it implies of long labor patiently
achieved, is enough to show that Rabelais was not without seriousness of
character. But he was much more a merry-andrew than a pattern monk. He
made interest enough with influential friends to get himself transferred
from the Franciscans to the Benedictines, an order more favorable to
studious pursuits. But neither among the Benedictines was this
roistering spirit at ease. He left them irregularly, but managed to
escape punishment for his irregularity. At last, after various
vicissitudes of occupation, he settled down as curate of Meudon, where
(the place, however, is doubtful, as also the date) in 1553 he died. He
was past fifty years of age before he finished the work which has made
him famous.

This work is "The Life of Gargantua and Pantagruel," a grotesque and
nondescript production, founded, probably, on some prior romance or
traditionary tale of giants. The narrative of Rabelais is a tissue of
adventures shocking every idea of verisimilitude, and serving only as a
vehicle for the strange humor of the writer. The work is replete with
evidences of Rabelais's learning. It would be useless to attempt giving
any abstract or analysis of a book which is simply a wild chaos of
material jumbled together with little regard to logic, order, or method
of whatever sort. We shall better represent its character by giving a
few specimen extracts.

Rabelais begins his romance characteristically. According as you
understand him here, you judge the spirit of the whole work. Either he
now gives you a clew by which, amid the mazes of apparent sheer
frivolity on his part, you may follow till you win your way to some
veiled serious meaning that he had all the time, but never dared frankly
avow; or else he is playfully misleading you on a false scent, which,
however long held to, will bring you out nowhere--in short, is quizzing
you. Let the reader judge for himself. Here is the opening passage--the
"Author's Prologue," it is called in the English translation executed by
Sir Thomas Urquhart and Motteaux; a version, by the way, which, with
whatever faults of too much freedom, is the work of minds and
consciences singularly sympathetic with the genius of the original; the
English student is perhaps hardly at all at disadvantage, in comparison
with the French, for the full appreciation of Rabelais:

  Most noble and illustrious drinkers, and you thrice precious pockified
  blades (for to you, and none else, do I dedicate my writings),
  Alcibiades, in that dialogue of Plato's which is entitled "The
  Banquet," whilst he was setting forth the praises of his schoolmaster
  Socrates (without all question the prince of philosophers), amongst
  other discourses to that purpose said that he resembled the Sileni.
  Sileni of old were little boxes, like those we now may see in the
  shops of apothecaries, painted on the outside with wanton toyish
  figures, as harpies, satyrs, bridled geese, horned hares, saddled
  ducks, flying goats, thiller harts, and other such counterfeited
  pictures, at pleasure, to excite people unto laughter, as Silenus
  himself, who was the foster-father of good Bacchus, was wont to do;
  but within those capricious caskets called Sileni, were carefully
  preserved and kept many rich and fine drugs, such as balm,
  ambergreese, amomon, musk, civet, with several kinds of precious
  stones, and other things of great price. Just such another thing was
  Socrates; for to have eyed his outside, and esteemed of him by his
  exterior appearance, you would not have given the peel of an onion for
  him, so deformed he was in body, and ridiculous in his gesture....
  Opening this box you would have found within it a heavenly and
  inestimable drug, a more than human understanding, an admirable
  virtue, matchless learning, invincible courage, inimitable sobriety,
  certain contentment of mind, perfect assurance, and an incredible
  disregard of all that for which men commonly do so much watch, run,
  sail, fight, travel, toil and turmoil themselves.

  Whereunto (in your opinion) doth this little flourish of a preamble
  tend? For so much as you, my good disciples, and some other jolly
  fools of ease and leisure, ... are too ready to judge, that there is
  nothing in them [Rabelais's writings] but jests, mockeries, lascivious
  discourse, and recreative lies; ... therefore is it, that you must
  open the book, and seriously consider of the matter treated in it.
  Then shall you find that it containeth things of far higher value than
  the box did promise; that is to say, that the subject thereof is not
  so foolish, as by the title at the first sight it would appear to be.

  ... Did you ever see a dog with a marrow-bone in his mouth? ... Like
  him, you must, by a sedulous lecture [reading], and frequent
  meditation, break the bone, and suck out the marrow; that is, my
  allegorical sense, or the things I to myself propose to be signified
  by these Pythagorical symbols; ... the most glorious doctrines and
  dreadful mysteries, as well in what concerneth our religion, as
  matters of the public state and life economical.

Up to this point the candid reader has probably been conscious of a
growing persuasion that this author must be at bottom a serious if also
a humorous man--a man, therefore, excusably intent not to be
misunderstood as a mere buffoon. But now let the candid reader proceed
with the following, and confess, upon his honor, if he is not
scandalized and perplexed. What shall be said of a writer who thus plays
with his reader?

  Do you believe, upon your conscience, that Homer, whilst he was
  couching his Iliad and Odyssey, had any thought upon those allegories
  which Plutarch, Heraclides Ponticus, Eustathius, Phornutus, squeezed
  out of him, and which Politian filched again from them? If you trust
  it, with neither hand nor foot do you come near to my opinion, which
  judgeth them to have been as little dreamed of by Homer, as the
  gospel sacraments were by Ovid, in his Metamorphoses; though a certain
  gulligut friar, and true bacon-picker, would have undertaken to prove
  it if, perhaps, he had met with as very fools as himself, and, as the
  proverb says, "a lid worthy of such a kettle."

  If you give any credit thereto, why do not you the same to these
  jovial new Chronicles of mine? Albeit, when I did dictate them, I
  thought thereof no more than you, who possibly were drinking the
  whilst, as I was. For, in the composing of this lordly book, I never
  lost nor bestowed any more, nor any other time, than what was
  appointed to serve me for taking of my bodily refection; that is,
  whilst I was eating and drinking. And, indeed, that is the fittest and
  most proper hour, wherein to write these high matters and deep
  sentences; as Homer knew very well, the paragon of all philologues,
  and Ennius, the father of the Latin poets, as Horace calls him,
  although a certain sneaking jobbernol alleged that his verses smelled
  more of the wine than oil.

Does this writer quiz his reader, or, in good faith, give him a needed
hint? Who shall decide?

We have let our first extract thus run on to some length, both for the
reason that the passage is as representative as any we could properly
offer of the quality of Rabelais, and also for the reason that the key
of interpretation is here placed in the hand of the reader, for
unlocking the enigma of this remarkable book. The extraordinary
horse-play of pleasantry, which makes Rabelais unreadable for the
general public of to-day, begins so promptly, affecting the very
prologue, that we could not present even that piece of writing entire in
our extract. We are informed that the circulation in England of the
works of Rabelais, in translation, has been interfered with by the
English government, on the ground of their indecency. We are bound to
admit that, if any writings whatever were to be suppressed on that
ground, the writings of Rabelais are certainly entitled to be of the
number. It is safe to say that never, no, not even in the boundless
license of the comedy of Aristophanes, was more flagrant indecency, and
indecency proportionately more redundant in volume, perpetrated in
literature, than was done by Rabelais. Indecency, however, it is, rather
than strict lasciviousness. Rabelais sinned against manners more than he
sinned against morals. But his obscenity is an ocean, without bottom or
shore. Literally, he sticks at nothing that is coarse. Nay, this is
absurdly short of expressing the fact. The genius of Rabelais teems with
invention of coarseness, beyond what any one could conceive as possible,
who had not taken his measure of possibility from Rabelais himself. And
his diction was as opulent as his invention.

Such is the character of Rabelais the author. What, then, was it, if not
fondness for paradox, that could prompt Coleridge to say, "I could write
a treatise in praise of the moral elevation of Rabelais's works, which
would make the church stare and the conventicle groan, and yet would be
truth, and nothing but the truth?" If any thing besides fondness for
paradox inspired Coleridge in saying this, it must, one would guess,
have been belief on his part in an allegorical sense hidden deep
underneath the monstrous mass of the Rabelaisian buffoonery. A more
judicious sentence is that of Hallam, the historian of the literature of
Europe: "He [Rabelais] is never serious in a single page, and seems to
have had little other aim, in his first two volumes, than to pour out
the exuberance of his animal gayety."

The supply of animal gayety in this man was something portentous. One
cannot, however, but feel that he forces it sometimes, as sometimes did
Dickens those exhaustless animal spirits of his. A very common trick of
the Rabelaisian humor is to multiply specifications, or alternative
expressions, one after another, almost without end. From the second book
of his romance--an afterthought, probably, of continuation to his
unexpectedly successful first book--we take the last paragraph of the
prologue, which shows this. The veracious historian makes obtestation of
the strict truth of his narrative, and imprecates all sorts of evil upon
such as do not believe it absolutely. We cleanse our extract a little:

  And, therefore, to make an end of this Prologue, even as I give myself
  to an hundred thousand panniers-full of fair devils, body and soul,
  ... in case that I lie so much as one single word in this whole
  history; after the like manner, St. Anthony's fire burn you, Mahoom's
  disease whirl you, the squinance with a stitch in your side, and the
  wolf in your stomach truss you, the bloody flux seize upon you, the
  cursed sharp inflammations of wild fire, as slender and thin as cow's
  hair strengthened with quicksilver, enter into you, ... and, like
  those of Sodom and Gomorrha, may you fall into sulphur, fire, and
  bottomless pits, in case you do not firmly believe all that I shall
  relate unto you in this present Chronicle.

So much for Rabelais's prologues. Our readers must now see something of
what, under pains and penalties denounced so dire, they are bound to
believe. We condense and defecate for this purpose the thirty-eighth
chapter of the first book, which is staggeringly entitled, "How
Gargantua did eat up Six Pilgrims in a Sallad:"

  The story requireth that we relate that which happened unto six
  pilgrims, who came from Sebastian near to Nantes; and who, for shelter
  that night, being afraid of the enemy, had hid themselves in the
  garden upon the chickling peas, among the cabbages and lettuces.
  Gargantua, finding himself somewhat dry, asked whether they could get
  any lettuce to make him a sallad; and, hearing that there were the
  greatest and fairest in the country--for they were as great as plum
  trees, or as walnut trees--he would go thither himself, and brought
  thence in his hand what he thought good, and withal carried away the
  six pilgrims, who were in so great fear that they did not dare to
  speak nor cough. Washing them, therefore, first at the fountain, the
  pilgrims said one to another, softly, "What shall we do? We are almost
  drowned here amongst these lettuce: shall we speak? But if we speak,
  he will kill us for spies." And, as they were thus deliberating what
  to do, Gargantua put them, with the lettuce, into a platter of the
  house, as large as the huge tun of the White Friars of the Cistercian
  order; which done, with oil, vinegar, and salt, he ate them up to
  refresh himself a little before supper, and had already swallowed up
  five of the pilgrims, the sixth being in the platter, totally hid
  under a lettuce, except his bourdon, or staff, that appeared, and
  nothing else. Which Grangousier [Gargantua's father] seeing, said to
  Gargantua, "I think that is the horn of a shell snail: do not eat it."
  "Why not?" said Gargantua; "they are good all this month:" which he no
  sooner said, but, drawing up the staff, and therewith taking up the
  pilgrim, he ate him very well, then drank a terrible draught of
  excellent white wine. The pilgrims, thus devoured, made shift to save
  themselves, as well as they could, by drawing their bodies out of the
  reach of the grinders of his teeth, but could not escape from thinking
  they had been put in the lowest dungeon of a prison. And, when
  Gargantua whiffed the great draught, they thought to have drowned in
  his mouth, and the flood of wine had almost carried them away into
  the gulf of his stomach. Nevertheless, skipping with their bourdons,
  as St. Michael's palmers used to do, they sheltered themselves from
  the danger of that inundation under the banks of his teeth. But one of
  them, by chance, groping, or sounding the country with his staff, to
  try whether they were in safety or no, struck hard against the cleft
  of a hollow tooth, and hit the mandibulary sinew or nerve of the jaw,
  which put Gargantua to very great pain, so that he began to cry for
  the rage that he felt. To ease himself, therefore, of his smarting
  ache, he called for his tooth-picker, and, rubbing towards a young
  walnut-tree, where they lay skulking, unnestled you, my gentleman
  pilgrims. For he caught one by the legs, another by the scrip, another
  by the pocket, another by the scarf, another by the band of the
  breeches; and the poor fellow that had hurt him with the bourdon, him
  he hooked to by [another part of his clothes].... The pilgrims, thus
  dislodged, ran away.

Rabelais closes his story with jocose irreverent application of
Scripture--a manner of his which gives some color to the tradition of a
biblical pun made by him on his death-bed.

The closest English analogue to Rabelais is undoubtedly Dean Swift. We
probably never should have had "Gulliver's Travels" from Swift if we had
not first had Gargantua and Pantagruel from Rabelais. Swift, however,
contrasts Rabelais as well as resembles him. Whereas Rabelais is simply
monstrous in invention, Swift in invention submits himself loyally to
law. Give Swift his world of Lilliput and Brobdingnag respectively, and
all, after that, is quite natural and probable. The reduction or the
exaggeration is made upon a mathematically calculated scale. For such
verisimilitude Rabelais cares not a straw. His various inventions are
recklessly independent one of another. A characteristic of Swift thus is
scrupulous conformity to whimsical law. Rabelais is remarkable for
whimsical disregard of even his own whimseys. Voltaire put the matter
with his usual felicity--Swift is Rabelais in his senses.

One of the most celebrated--justly celebrated--of Rabelais's
imaginations is that of the Abbey of Thélème [Thelema]. This constitutes
a kind of Rabelaisian Utopia. It was proper of the released monk to give
his Utopian dream the form of an abbey, but of an abbey in which the
opposite should obtain of all that he had so heartily hated in his own
monastic experience. A humorously impossible place and state was the
Abbey of Thélème--a kind of sportive Brook Farm set far away in a world
unrealized. How those Thelemites enjoyed life, to be sure! It was like
endless plum pudding--for every body to eat, and nobody to prepare:

  All their life was spent not in laws, statutes, or rules, but
  according to their own free will and pleasure. They rose out of their
  beds when they thought good; they did eat, drink, labor, sleep, when
  they had a mind to it, and were disposed for it. None did awake them,
  none did offer to constrain them to eat, drink, nor to do any other
  thing; for so had Gargantua established it. In all their rule, and
  strictest tie of their order, there was but this one clause to be
  observed,

    DO WHAT THOU WILT.

  ... By this liberty they entered into a very laudable emulation, to do
  all of them what they saw did please one. If any of the gallants or
  ladies should say, Let us drink, they would all drink. If any one of
  them said, Let us play, they all played. If one said, Let us go
  a-walking into the fields, they went all.... There was neither he nor
  she amongst them but could read, write, sing, play upon several
  musical instruments, speak five or six several languages, and compose
  in them all very quaintly, both in verse and prose. Never were seen so
  valiant knights, so noble and worthy, so dextrous and skilful both on
  foot and a horseback, more brisk and lively, more nimble and quick, or
  better handling all manner of weapons than were there. Never were seen
  ladies so proper and handsome, so miniard and dainty, less forward, or
  more ready with their hand and with their needle, in every honest and
  free action belonging to that sex, than were there. For this reason,
  when the time came, that any man of the said abbey, either at the
  request of his parents, or for some other cause, had a mind to go out
  of it, he carried along with him one of the ladies, namely her who had
  before that accepted him as her lover, and they were married together.

The foregoing is one of the most purely sweet imaginative passages in
Rabelais's works. The representation, as a whole, sheathes, of course, a
keen satire on the religious houses. Real religion Rabelais nowhere
attacks.

The same colossal Gargantua who had that eating adventure with the six
pilgrims is made, in Rabelais's second book, to write his youthful son
Pantagruel--also a giant, but destined to be, when mature, a model of
all princely virtues--a letter on education, in which the most pious
paternal exhortation occurs. The whole letter reads like some learned
Puritan divine's composition. Here are a few specimen sentences:--

  Fail not most carefully to peruse the books of the Greek, Arabian, and
  Latin physicians, not despising the Talmudists and Cabalists; and by
  frequent anatomies get thee the perfect knowledge of that other world,
  called the microcosm, which is man. And at some of the hours of the
  day apply thy mind to the study of the Holy Scriptures: first, in
  Greek, the New Testament, with the Epistles of the Apostles; and then
  the Old Testament in Hebrew. In brief, let me see thee an abyss and
  bottomless pit of knowledge....

  ... It behooveth thee to serve, to love, to fear God, and on him to
  cast all thy thoughts and all thy hope, and, by faith formed in
  charity, to cleave unto him, so that thou mayest never be separated
  from him by thy sins. Suspect the abuses of the world. Set not thy
  heart upon vanity, for this life is transitory; but the Word of the
  Lord endureth forever.

"Friar John" is a mighty man of valor, who figures equivocally in the
story of Gargantua and Pantagruel. The Abbey of Thélème is given him in
reward of his services. Some have identified this fighting monk with
Martin Luther. The representation is, on the whole, so conducted as to
leave the reader's sympathies at least half enlisted in favor of the
fellow, rough and roistering as he is.

Panurge is the hero of the romance of Pantagruel,--almost more than
Pantagruel himself. It would be unpardonable to dismiss Rabelais without
first making our readers know Panurge by, at least, a few traits of his
character and conduct. Panurge was a shifty but unscrupulous adventurer,
whom Pantagruel, pious prince as he was, coming upon him by chance, took
and kept under his patronage. Panurge was an arch-imp of
mischief---mischief indulged in the form of obscene and malicious
practical jokes. Rabelais describes his accomplishments in a long strain
of discourse, from which we purge our selection to follow--thereby
transforming Panurge into a comparatively proper and virtuous person:

  He had threescore and three tricks to come by it [money] at his need
  of which the most honorable and most ordinary was in manner of
  thieving, secret purloining, and filching, for he was a wicked, lewd
  rogue, a cozener, drinker, roisterer, rover, and a very dissolute and
  debauched fellow, if there were any in Paris; otherwise, and in all
  matters else, the best and most virtuous man in the world; and he was
  still contriving some plot, and devising mischief against the
  sergeants and the watch.

  At one time he assembled three or four especial good hacksters and
  roaring boys; made them in the evening drink like Templars, afterward
  led them till they came under St. Genevieve, or about the college of
  Navarre, and, at the hour that the watch was coming up that way--which
  he knew by putting his sword upon the pavement, and his ear by it,
  and, when he heard his sword shake, it was an infallible sign that the
  watch was near at that instant--then he and his companions took a
  tumbrel or garbage-cart, and gave it the brangle, hurling it with all
  their force down the hill, and then ran away upon the other side; for
  in less than two days he knew all the streets, lanes, and turnings in
  Paris as well as his _Deus det_.

  At another time he laid, in some fair place where the said watch was
  to pass, a train of gunpowder, and, at the very instant that they went
  along, set fire to it, and then made himself sport to see what good
  grace they had in running away, thinking that St. Anthony's fire had
  caught them by the legs.... In one of his pockets he had a great many
  little horns full of fleas and lice, which he borrowed from the
  beggars of St. Innocent, and cast them, with small canes or quills to
  write with, into the necks of the daintiest gentlewomen that he could
  find, yea, even in the church; for he never seated himself above in
  the choir, but always in the body of the church amongst the women,
  both at mass, at vespers, and at sermon.

Coleridge, in his metaphysical way, keen at the moment on the scent of
illustrations for the philosophy of Kant, said, "Pantagruel is the
Reason; Panurge the Understanding." Rabelais himself, in the fourth book
of his romance, written in the last years of his life, defines the
spirit of the work. This fourth book, the English translator says, is
"justly thought his masterpiece." The same authority adds with
enthusiasm, "Being wrote with more spirit, salt, and flame than the
first part." Here, then, is Rabelais's own expression, sincere or
jocular, as you choose to take it, for what constitutes the essence of
his writing. We quote from the "Prologue:"

  By the means of a little Pantagruelism (which, you know, is _a certain
  jollity of mind, pickled in the scorn of fortune_), you see me now
  ["at near seventy years of age," his translator says], hale and
  cheery, as sound as a bell, and ready to drink, if you will.

It is impossible to exaggerate the mad, rollicking humor, sticking at
nothing, either in thought or in expression, with which especially this
last book of Rabelais's work is written. But we have no more space for
quotation.

Coleridge's theory of interpretation for Rabelais's writings is hinted
in his "Table Talk," as follows: "After any particularly deep thrust ...
Rabelais, as if to break the blow and to appear unconscious of what he
has done, writes a chapter or two of pure buffoonery."

The truth seems to us to be, that Rabelais's supreme taste, like his
supreme power, lay in the line of humorous satire. He hated monkery, and
he satirized the system as openly as he dared--this, however, not so
much in the love of truth and freedom as in pure fondness for exercising
his wit. That he was more than willing to make his ribald drollery the
fool's mask from behind which he might aim safely his shafts of ridicule
at what he despised and hated is, indeed, probable. But in this is
supplied to him no sufficient excuse for his obscene and blasphemous
pleasantry. Nor yet are the manners of the age an excuse sufficient.
Erasmus belonged to the same age, and he disliked the monks not less.
But what a contrast, in point of decency, between Rabelais and Erasmus.



IV.

MONTAIGNE.

1533-1592.


Montaigne is signally the author of one book. His "Essays" are the whole
of him. He wrote letters, to be sure, and he wrote journals of travel
undertaken in quest of health and pleasure. But these are chiefly void
of interest. Montaigne the Essayist alone is emphatically the Montaigne
that survives. "Montaigne the Essayist"--that has become, as it were, a
personal name in literary history.

The "Essays" are one hundred and seven in number, distributed in three
books. They are very unequal in length: and they are on the most various
topics--topics often the most whimsical in character. We give a few of
his titles, taking them as found in Cotton's translation:

  That men by various ways arrive at the same end; Whether the governor
  of a place ought himself to go out to parley; Of liars; Of quick or
  slow speech; A proceeding of some ambassadors; Various events from the
  same counsel; Of cannibals; That we laugh and cry from the same thing;
  Of smell; That the mind hinders itself; Of thumbs; Of virtue; Of
  coaches; Of managing the will; Of cripples; Of experience.

Montaigne's titles cannot be trusted to indicate the nature of the
essays to which they belong. The author's pen will not be bound. It runs
on at its own pleasure. Things the most unexpected are incessantly
turning up in Montaigne--things, probably, that were as unexpected to
the writer when he was writing as they will be to the reader when he is
reading. The writing, on whatever topic, in whatever vein, always
revolves around the writer for its pivot. Montaigne, from no matter what
apparent diversion, may constantly be depended upon to bring up in due
time at himself. The tether is long and elastic, but it is tenacious,
and it is securely tied to Montaigne. This, as we shall presently let
the author himself make plain, is no accident of which Montaigne was
unconscious. It is the express idea on which the "Essays" were written.
Montaigne, in his "Essays," is a pure and perfect egotist, naked and not
ashamed. Egotism is Montaigne's note, his _differentia_, in the world of
literature. Other literary men have been egotists--since. But Montaigne
may be called the first, and he is the greatest; by no means the most
monstrous, but the greatest.

Montaigne was a Gascon, and Gasconisms adulterate the purity of his
French. But his style--a little archaic now, and never finished to the
nail--had virtues of its own which have exercised a wholesome influence
on classic French prose. It is simple, direct, manly, genuine. It is
fresh and racy of the writer. It is flexible to every turn, it is
sensitive to every rise or fall, of the thought. It is a steadfast
rebuke to rant and fustian. It quietly laughs to scorn the folly of that
style which writhes in an agony of expression, with neither thought nor
feeling present to be expressed. Montaigne's "Essays" have been a great
and a beneficent formative force in the development of prose style in
French.

For substance, Montaigne is rich in practical wisdom, his own by
original reflection or by discreet purveyal. He had read much, he had
observed much, he had experienced much. The result of all, digested in
brooding thought, he put into his "Essays." These grew as he grew. He
got himself transferred whole into them. Out of them, in turn, the world
has been busy ever since dissolving Montaigne.

Montaigne's "Essays" are, as we have said, himself. Such is his own way
of putting the fact. To one admiring his essays to him, he frankly
replied, "You will like me if you like my essays, for they are myself."
The originality, the creative character and force of the "Essays" lies
in this autobiographical quality in them. Their fascination, too,
consists in the revelation they contain. This was, first,
self-revelation on the part of the writer; but no less it becomes, in
each case, self-revelation in the experience of the reader. For, as face
answereth to face in the glass, so doth the heart of man to man--from
race to race and from generation to generation. If Montaigne, in his
"Essays," held the mirror up to himself, he, in the same act, held up
the mirror to you and to me. The image that we, reading, call Montaigne,
is really ourselves. We never tire of gazing on it. We are all of us
Narcissuses. This is why Montaigne is an immortal and a universal
writer.

Here is Montaigne's preface to his "Essays"--"The Author to the Reader,"
it is entitled:

  Reader, thou hast here an honest book; it doth at the outset forewarn
  thee that, in contriving the same, I have proposed to myself no other
  than a domestic and private end: I have had no consideration at all
  either to thy service or to my glory. My powers are not capable of any
  such design. I have dedicated it to the particular commodity of my
  kinsfolk and friends, so that, having lost me (which they must do
  shortly), they may therein recover some traits of my conditions and
  humours, and by that means preserve more whole, and more life-like,
  the knowledge they had of me. Had my intention been to seek the
  world's favor, I should surely have adorned myself with borrowed
  beauties. I desire therein to be viewed as I appear in mine own
  genuine, simple, and ordinary manner, without study and artifice; for
  it is myself I paint. My defects are therein to be read to the life,
  and my imperfections and my natural form, so far as public reverence
  hath permitted me. If I had lived among those nations which (they say)
  yet dwell under the sweet liberty of nature's primitive laws, I assure
  thee I would most willingly have painted myself quite fully, and quite
  naked. Thus, reader, myself am the matter of my book. There's no
  reason thou shouldst employ thy leisure about so frivolous and vain a
  subject. Therefore, farewell.

    From Montaigne, the 12th of June, 1580.

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, our author, as the foregoing date will have
suggested, derived his most familiar name from the place at which he was
born and at which he lived. Readers are not to take too literally
Montaigne's notice of his dispensing with "borrowed beauties." He was,
in fact, a famous borrower. He himself warns his readers to be careful
how they criticise him; they may be flouting unawares Seneca, Plutarch,
or some other, equally redoubtable, of the reverend ancients. Montaigne
is perhaps as signal an example as any in literature of the man of
genius exercising his prescriptive right to help himself to his own
wherever he may happen to find it. But Montaigne has in turn been freely
borrowed from. Bacon borrowed from him, Shakespeare borrowed from him,
Dryden, Pope, Hume, Burke, Byron--these, with many more, in England;
and, in France, Pascal, La Rochefoucauld, Voltaire, Rousseau--directly
or indirectly, almost every writer since his day. No modern writer,
perhaps, has gone in solution into subsequent literature more widely
than Montaigne. But no writer remains more solidly and insolubly entire.

We go at once to chapter twenty-five of the first book of the "Essays,"
entitled, in the English translation, "On the Education of Children."
The translation we use henceforth throughout is the classic one of
Charles Cotton, in a text of it edited by Mr. William Carew Hazlitt. The
"preface," already given, Cotton omitted to translate. We have allowed
Mr. Hazlitt to supply the deficiency. Montaigne addresses his
educational views to a countess. Several others of his essays are
similarly inscribed to women. Mr. Emerson's excuse of Montaigne for his
coarseness--that he wrote for a generation in which women were not
expected to be readers--is thus seen to be curiously impertinent to the
actual case that existed. Of a far worse fault in Montaigne than his
coarseness--we mean his outright immorality--Mr. Emerson makes no
mention, and for it, therefore, provides no excuse. We shall ourselves,
in due time, deal more openly with our readers on this point.

It was for a "boy of quality" that Montaigne aimed to adapt his
suggestions on the subject of education. In this happy country of ours
all boys are boys of quality; and we shall go nowhere amiss in selecting
from the present essay:

  For a boy of quality, then, I say, I would also have his friends
  solicitous to find him out a tutor who has rather a well-made than a
  well-filled head, seeking, indeed, both the one and the other, but
  rather of the two to prefer manners and judgment to mere learning, and
  that this man should exercise his charge after a new method.

  'Tis the custom of pedagogues to be eternally thundering in their
  pupil's ears, as they were pouring into a funnel, whilst the business
  of the pupil is only to repeat what the others have said: now, I
  would have a tutor to correct this error, and that, at the very first,
  he should, according to the capacity he has to deal with, put it to
  the test, permitting his pupil himself to taste things, and of himself
  to discern and choose them, sometimes opening the way to him, and
  sometimes leaving him to open it for himself; that is, I would not
  have him alone to invent and speak, but that he should also hear his
  pupil speak in turn.... Let him make him put what he has learned into
  a hundred several forms, and accommodate it to so many several
  subjects, to see if he yet rightly comprehends it, and has made it his
  own.... 'Tis a sign of crudity and indigestion to disgorge what we eat
  in the same condition it was swallowed: the stomach has not performed
  its office, unless it have altered the form and condition of what was
  committed to it to concoct....

  Let him make him examine and thoroughly sift every thing he reads and
  lodge nothing in his fancy upon simple authority and upon trust,
  Aristotle's principles will then be no more principles to him than
  those of Epicurus and the stoics: let this diversity of opinions be
  propounded to, and laid before, him; he will himself choose, if he be
  able; if not, he will remain in doubt.

    "Che, non men che saper, dubbiar m'aggrata."

      DANTE, _Inferno_, xl, 93.

    ["That doubting pleases me, not less than knowing."

      LONGFELLOW'S _Translation_.]

  For, if he embrace the opinions of Xenophon and Plato, by his own
  reason they will no more be theirs, but become his own. Who follows
  another follows nothing, finds nothing, nay, is inquisitive after
  nothing. "Non sumus sub rege; sibi quisque se vindicet." ["We are
  under no king; let each look to himself."--SENECA, _Ep._ 33.] Let him,
  at least, know that he knows. It will be necessary that he imbibe
  their knowledge, not that he be corrupted with their precepts; and no
  matter if he forget where he had his learning, provided he know how to
  apply it to his own use. Truth and reason are common to every one, and
  are no more his who spake them first, than his who speaks them after;
  'tis no more according to Plato, than according to me, since both he
  and I equally see and understand them. Bees cull their several sweets
  from this flower and that blossom, here and there where they find
  them; but themselves afterward make the honey, which is all and purely
  their own, and no more thyme and marjoram: so the several fragments he
  borrows from others he will transform and shuffle together, to compile
  a work that shall be absolutely his own; that is to say, his judgment:
  his instruction, labor, and study tend to nothing else but to form
  that.... Conversation with men is of very great use, and travel into
  foreign countries, ... to be able chiefly to give an account of the
  humors, manners, customs, and laws of those nations where he has been,
  and that we may whet and sharpen our wits by rubbing them against
  those of others....

  In this conversing with men, I mean also, and principally, those who
  live only in the records of history: he shall, by reading those books,
  converse with the great and heroic souls of the best ages.

It is difficult to find a stopping-place in discourse so wise and so
sweet. We come upon sentences like Plato for height and for beauty. An
example: "The most manifest sign of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness;
her state is like that of things in the regions above the moon, always
clear and serene." But the genius of Montaigne does not often soar,
though even one little flight like that shows that it has wings.
Montaigne's garnishes of quotation from foreign tongues are often a
cold-blooded device of afterthought with him. His first edition was
without them in many places where subsequently they appear. Readers
familiar with Emerson will be reminded of him in perusing Montaigne.
Emerson himself said, "It seemed to me [in reading the 'Essays' of
Montaigne], as if I myself had written the book in some former life, so
sincerely it spoke to my thoughts and experience." The rich old English
of Cotton's translation had evidently a strong influence on Emerson, to
mold his own style of expression. Emerson's trick of writing "'tis," was
apparently caught from Cotton. The following sentence, from the present
essay of Montaigne, might very well have served Mr. Emerson for his own
rule of writing: "Let it go before, or come after, a good sentence, or a
thing well said, is always in season; if it neither suit well with what
went before, nor has much coherence with what follows after, it is good
in itself." Montaigne, at any rate, wrote his "Essays" on that easy
principle. The logic of them is the logic of mere chance association in
thought. But, with Montaigne--whatever is true of Emerson--the
association at least is not occult; and it is such as pleases the reader
not less than it pleased the writer. So this Gascon gentleman of the
olden time never tires us, and never loses us out of his hand. We go
with him cheerfully where he so blithely leads.

Montaigne tells us how he was himself trained under his father. The
elder Montaigne, too, had his ideas on education--the subject which his
son, in this essay, so instructively treats. The essayist leads up to
his autobiographical episode by an allusion to the value of the
classical languages, and to the question of method in studying them. He
says:

  In my infancy, and before I began to speak, he [my father] committed
  me to the care of a German,... totally ignorant of our language, but
  very fluent, and a great critic, in Latin. This man, whom he had
  fetched out of his own country, and whom he entertained with a very
  great salary, for this only end, had me continually with him: to him
  there were also joined two others, of inferior learning, to attend me,
  and to relieve him, who all of them spoke to me in no other language
  but Latin. As to the rest of his family, it was an inviolable rule,
  that neither himself nor my mother, man nor maid, should speak any
  thing in my company but such Latin words as every one had learned only
  to gabble with me. It is not to be imagined how great an advantage
  this proved to the whole family: my father and my mother by this means
  learned Latin enough to understand it perfectly well, and to speak it
  to such a degree as was sufficient for any necessary use, as also
  those of the servants did who were most frequently with me. In short,
  we Latined it at such a rate that it overflowed to all the neighboring
  villages, where there yet remain, that have established themselves by
  custom, several Latin appellations of artisans and their tools. As for
  what concerns myself, I was above six years of age before I understood
  either French or Perigordin ["Perigordin" is Montaigne's name for the
  dialect of his province, Perigord (Gascony)], any more than Arabic;
  and, without art, book, grammar, or precept, whipping, or the expense
  of a tear, I had, by that time, learned to speak as pure Latin as my
  master himself, for I had no means of mixing it up with any other.

We are now to see how, helped by his wealth, the father was able to
gratify a pleasant whimsey of his own in the nurture of his boy. Highly
æsthetic was the matin _réveille_ that broke the slumbers of this
hopeful young heir of Montaigne:

  Some being of opinion that it troubles and disturbs the brains of
  children suddenly to wake them in the morning, and to snatch them
  violently and over-hastily from sleep, wherein they are much more
  profoundly involved than we, he [the father] caused me to be wakened
  by the sound of some musical instrument, and was never unprovided of a
  musician for that purpose.... The good man, being extremely timorous
  of any way failing in a thing he had so wholly set his heart upon,
  suffered himself at last to be overruled by the common opinions:...
  he sent me, at six years of age, to the College of Guienne, at that
  time the best and most flourishing in France.

In short, as in the case of Mr. Tulliver, the world was "too many" for
Eyquem _père_; and, in the education of his son, the stout Gascon,
having started out well as dissenter, fell into dull conformity at last.

We ought to give some idea of the odd instances, classic and other, with
which Montaigne plentifully bestrews his pages. He is writing of the
"Force of Imagination." He says:

  A woman, fancying she had swallowed a pin in a piece of bread, cried
  and lamented as though she had an intolerable pain in her throat,
  where she thought she felt it stick; but an ingenious fellow that was
  brought to her, seeing no outward tumor nor alteration, supposing it
  to be only a conceit taken at some crust of bread that had hurt her as
  it went down, caused her to vomit, and, unseen, threw a crooked pin
  into the basin, which the woman no sooner saw, but, believing she had
  cast it up, she presently found herself eased of her pain....

  Such as are addicted to the pleasures of the field have, I make no
  question, heard the story of the falconer, who, having earnestly fixed
  his eyes upon a kite in the air, laid a wager that he would bring her
  down with the sole power of his sight, and did so, as it was said; for
  _the tales I borrow, I charge upon the consciences of those from whom
  I have them_.

We italicize the last foregoing words, to make readers see that
Montaigne is not to be read for the truth of his instances. He uses what
comes to hand. He takes no trouble to verify. "The discourses are my
own," he says; but even this, as we have hinted, must not be pressed too
hard in interpretation. Whether a given reflection of Montaigne's is
strictly his own, in the sense of not having been first another's, who
gave it to him, is not to be determined except upon very wide reading,
very well remembered, in all the books that Montaigne could have got
under his eye. That was full fairly his own, he thought, which he had
made his own by intelligent appropriation. And this, perhaps, expresses
in general the sound law of property in the realm of mind. At any rate,
Montaigne will wear no yoke of fast obligation. He will write as pleases
him. Above all things else, he likes his freedom.

Here is one of those sagacious historical scepticisms, in which
Montaigne was so fond of poising his mind between opposite views. It
occurs in his essay entitled, "Of the Uncertainty of our Judgments:"

  Amongst other oversights Pompey is charged withal at the battle of
  Pharsalia, he is condemned for making his army stand still to receive
  the enemy's charge, "by reason that" (I shall here steal Plutarch's
  own words, which are better than mine) "he by so doing deprived
  himself of the violent impression the motion of running adds to the
  first shock of arms, and hindered that clashing of the combatants
  against one another, which is wont to give them greater impetuosity
  and fury, especially when they come to rush in with their utmost
  vigor, their courages increasing by the shouts and the career; 'tis to
  render the soldiers' ardor, as a man may say, more reserved and cold."
  This is what he says. But, if Cæsar had come by the worse, why might
  it not as well have been urged by another, that, on the contrary, the
  strongest and most steady posture of fighting is that wherein a man
  stands planted firm, without motion; and that they who are steady upon
  the march, closing up, and reserving their force within themselves for
  the push of the business, have a great advantage against those who are
  disordered, and who have already spent half their breath in running on
  precipitately to the charge? Besides that, an army is a body made up
  of so many individual members, it is impossible for it to move in this
  fury with so exact a motion as not to break the order of battle, and
  that the best of them are not engaged before their fellows can come on
  to help them.

The sententiousness of Montaigne may be illustrated by transferring here
a page of brief excerpts from the "Essays," collected by Mr. Bayle St.
John in his biography of the author. The apothegmatic or proverbial
quality in Montaigne had a very important sequel of fruitful influence
on subsequent French writers, as chapters to follow in this volume will
abundantly show. In reading the sentences sub-joined, you will have the
sensation of coming suddenly upon a treasure-trove of coined proverbial
wisdom:

  Our minds are never at home, but ever beyond home.

  I will take care, if possible, that my death shall say nothing that my
  life has not said.

  Life in itself is neither good nor bad: it is the place of what is
  good or bad.

  Knowledge should not be stuck on to the mind, but incorporated in it.

  Irresolution seems to me the most common and apparent vice of our
  nature.

  Age wrinkles the mind more than the face.

  Habit is a second nature.

  Hunger cures love.

  It is easier to get money than to keep it.

  Anger has often been the vehicle of courage.

  It is more difficult to command than to obey.

  A liar should have a good memory.

  Ambition is the daughter of presumption.

  To serve a prince, you must be discreet and a liar.

  We learn to live when life has passed.

  The mind is ill at ease when its companion has the colic.

  We are all richer than we think, but we are brought up to go
  a-begging.

  The greatest masterpiece of man is ... to be born at the right time.

We append a saying of Montaigne's not found in Mr. St. John's
collection:

  There is no so good man, who so squares all his thoughts and actions
  to the laws, that he is not faulty enough to deserve hanging ten times
  in his life.

Montaigne was too intensely an egotist, in his character as man no less
than in his character as writer, to have many personal relations that
exhibit him in aspects engaging to our love. But one friendship of his
is memorable--is even historic. The name of La Boëtie is forever
associated with the name of Montaigne. La Boëtie is remarkable for
being, as we suppose, absolutely the first voice raised in France
against the idea of monarchy. His little treatise _Contr' Un_
(literally, "Against One"), or "Voluntary Servitude," is by many
esteemed among the most important literary productions of modern times.
Others, again, Mr. George Saintsbury, for example, consider it an
absurdly overrated book. For our own part, we are inclined to give it
conspicuous place in the history of free thought in France. La Boëtie
died young; and his _Contr' Un_ was published posthumously--first by the
Protestants, after the terrible day of St. Bartholomew. Our readers may
judge for themselves whether a pamphlet in which such passages as the
following could occur must not have had an historic effect upon the
inflammable sentiment of the French people. We take Mr. Bayle St. John's
translation, bracketing a hint or two of correction suggested by
comparison of the original French. The treatise of La Boëtie is
sometimes now printed with Montaigne's "Essays," in French editions of
our author's works; La Boëtie says:

  You sow your fruits [crops] that he [the king] may ravage them; you
  furnish and fill your houses that he may have something to steal; you
  bring up your daughters that he may slake his luxury; you bring up
  your sons that he may take them to be butchered in his wars, to be the
  ministers of his avarice, the executors of his vengeance; you
  disfigure your forms by labor [your own selves you inure to toil] that
  he may cocker himself in delight, and wallow in nasty and disgusting
  pleasure.

Montaigne seems really to have loved this friend of his, whom he
reckoned the greatest man in France. His account of La Boëtie's death,
Mr. St. John boldly, and not presumptuously, parallels with the "Phædon"
of Plato. Noble writing, it certainly is, though its stateliness is a
shade too self-conscious, perhaps.

We have thus far presented Montaigne in words of his own such as may
fairly be supposed likely to prepossess the reader in his favor. We
could multiply our extracts indefinitely in a like unexceptionable vein
of writing. But to do so, and to stop with these, would misrepresent
Montaigne. Montaigne is very far from being an innocent writer. His
moral tone generally is low, and often it is execrable. He is coarse,
but coarseness is not the worst of him. Indeed, he is cleanliness itself
compared with Rabelais. But Rabelais is morality itself compared with
Montaigne. Montaigne is corrupt and corrupting. This feature of his
writings we are necessarily forbidden to illustrate. In an essay
written in his old age--which we will not even name, its general tenor
is so evil--Montaigne holds the following language:

  I gently turn aside, and avert my eyes from the stormy and cloudy sky
  I have before me, which, thanks be to God, I regard without fear, but
  not without meditation and study, and amuse myself in the remembrance
  of my better years:

                "Animus quod perdidit, optat,
    Atque in præterita se totus imagine versat."--_Petronius_, c. 128.

  ["The mind desires what it has lost, and in fancy flings itself wholly
  into the past."]

  Let childhood look forward, and age backward; is not this the
  signification of Janus' double face? Let years haul me along if they
  will, but it shall be backward; as long as my eyes can discern the
  pleasant season expired, I shall now and then turn them that way;
  though it escape from my blood and veins, I shall not, however, root
  the image of it out of my memory:

                      "Hoc est
    Vivere bis, vita posse priore frui."--_Martial_, x. 23, 7.

  ["'Tis to live twice to be able to enjoy former life again."]

Harmlessly, even engagingly, pensive seems the foregoing strain of
sentiment. Who could suppose it a prelude to detailed reminiscence on
the author's part of sensual pleasures--the basest--enjoyed in the past?
The venerable voluptuary keeps himself in countenance for his lascivious
vein by writing as follows:

  I have enjoined myself to dare to say all that I dare to do; even
  thoughts that are not to be published displease me; the worst of my
  actions and qualities do not appear to me so evil, as I find it evil
  and base not to dare to own them....

  ... I am greedy of making myself known, and I care not to how many,
  provided it be truly.... Many things that I would not say to a
  particular individual, I say to the people; and, as to my most secret
  thoughts, send my most intimate friends to my book.... For my part, if
  any one should recommend me as a good pilot, as being very modest, or
  very chaste, I should owe him no thanks [because the recommendation
  would be false].

We must leave it--as, however, Montaigne himself is far enough from
leaving it--to the imagination of readers to conjecture what "pleasures"
they are, of which this worn-out debauchee (nearing death, and thanking
God that he nears it "without fear") speaks in the following sentimental
strain:

  In farewells, we oftener than not heat our affections toward the
  things we take leave of: I take my last leave of the pleasures of this
  world; these are our last embraces.

Mr. Emerson, in his "Representative Men," makes Montaigne stand for The
Skeptic. Skeptic, Montaigne was. He questioned, he considered, he
doubted. He stood poised in equilibrium, in indifference, between
contrary opinions. He saw reasons on this side, but he saw reasons also
on that, and he did not clear his mind. "_Que sçai-je?_" was his motto
("What know I?"), a question as of hopeless ignorance--nay, as of
ignorance also void of desire to know. His life was one long
interrogation, a balancing of opposites, to the end.

Such, speculatively, was Montaigne. Such, too, speculatively, was
Pascal. The difference, however, was greater than the likeness, between
these two minds. Pascal, doubting, gave the world of spiritual things
the benefit of his doubt. Montaigne, on the other hand, gave the benefit
of his doubt to the world of sense. He was a sensualist, he was a
glutton, he was a lecher. He, for his portion, chose the good things of
this life. His body he used, to get him pleasures of the body. In
pleasures of the body he sunk and drowned his conscience, if he ever had
a conscience. But his intelligence survived. He became, at last--if he
was not such from the first--almost pure sense, without soul.

Yet we have no doubt Montaigne was an agreeable gentleman. We think we
should have got on well with him as a neighbor of ours. He was a
tolerably decent father, provided the child were grown old enough to be
company for him. His own lawful children, while infants, had to go out
of the house for their nursing; so it not unnaturally happened that all
but one died in their infancy. Five of such is the number that you can
count in his own journalistic entries of family births and deaths. But,
in his "Essays," speaking as "moral philosopher," he says, carelessly,
that he had lost "two or three" "without repining." This, perhaps, is
affectation. But what affectation!

Montaigne was well-to-do; and he ranked as a gentleman, if not as a
great nobleman. He lived in a castle, bequeathed to him, and by him
bequeathed--a castle still standing, and full of personal association
with its most famous owner. He occupied a room in the tower, fitted up
as a library. Over the door of this room may still, we believe, be read
Montaigne's motto, "_Que sçai-je?_" Votaries of Montaigne perform their
pious pilgrimages to this shrine of their idolatry, year after year,
century after century.

For, remember, it is now three centuries since Montaigne wrote. He was
before Bacon and Shakespeare. He was contemporary with Charles IX., and
with Henry of Navarre. But date has little to do with such a writer as
Montaigne. His quality is sempiternal. He overlies the ages, as the long
hulk of a great steamship overlies the waves of the sea, stretching from
summit to summit. Not that, in the form of his literary work, he was
altogether independent of time and of circumstance. Not that he was
uninfluenced by his historic place, in the essential spirit of his work.
But, more than often happens, Montaigne may fairly be judged out of
himself alone. His message he might, indeed, have delivered differently;
but it would have been substantially the same message, had he been
differently placed, in the world, and in history. We need hardly,
therefore, add any thing about Montaigne's outward life. His true life
is in his book.

Montaigne the Essayist is the consummate, the ideal, expression,
practically incapable of improvement, of the spirit and wisdom of the
world. This characterization, we think, fairly and sufficiently sums up
the good and the bad of Montaigne. We might seem to describe no very
mischievous thing. But to have the spirit and wisdom of this world
expressed, to have it expressed as in a last authoritative form, a form
to commend it, to flatter it, to justify it, to make it seem sufficient,
to erect it into a kind of gospel--that means much. It means hardly less
than to provide the world with a new Bible--a Bible of the world's own,
a Bible that shall approve itself as better than the Bible of the Old
and New Testaments. Montaigne's "Essays" constitute, in effect, such a
book. The man of the world may--and, to say truth, does--in this volume,
find all his needed texts. Here is _viaticum_--daily manna--for him, to
last the year round, and to last year after year; an inexhaustible
breviary for the church of this world! It is of the gravest historical
significance that Rabelais and Montaigne, but especially that Montaigne,
should, to such an extent, for now three full centuries, have been
furnishing the daily intellectual food of Frenchmen.

Pascal, in an interview with M. de Saci (carefully reported by the
latter), in which the conversation was on the subject of Montaigne and
Epictetus contrasted--these two authors Pascal acknowledged to be the
ones most constantly in his hand--said gently of Montaigne, "Montaigne
is absolutely pernicious to those who have any inclination toward
irreligion, or toward vicious indulgences." We, for our part, are
disposed, speaking more broadly than Pascal, to say that, to a somewhat
numerous class of naturally dominant minds, Montaigne's "Essays" in
spite of all that there is good in them--nay, greatly because of so much
good in them--are, by their subtly insidious persuasion to evil, upon
the whole quite the most powerfully pernicious book known to us in
literature either ancient or modern.



V.

LA ROCHEFOUCAULD: 1613-1680; La Bruyère: 1646(?)-1696; Vauvenargues:
1715-1747.


In La Rouchefoucauld we meet another eminent example of the author of
one book. "Letters," "Memoirs," and "Maxims," indeed name productions in
three kinds, productions all of them notable, and all still extant, from
La Rochefoucauld's pen. But the "Maxims" are so much more famous than
either the "Letters" or the "Memoirs" that their author may be said to
be known only by those. If it were not for the "Maxims," the "Letters"
and "Memoirs" would probably now be forgotten. We here may dismiss these
from our minds and concentrate our attention exclusively upon the
"Maxims." Voltaire said, "The 'Memoirs' of the Duc de La Rochefoucauld
are read, but we know his 'Maxims' by heart."

La Rochefoucauld's "Maxims" are detached sentences of reflection and
wisdom on human character and conduct. They are about seven hundred in
number, but they are all comprised in a very small volume; for they
generally are each only two or three lines in length, and almost never
does a single maxim occupy more than the half of a moderate-sized page.
The "Maxims," detached, as we have described them, have no very marked
logical sequence in the order in which they stand. They all, however,
have a profound mutual relation. An unvarying monotone of sentiment, in
fact, runs through them. They are so many different expressions,
answering to so many different observations taken at different angles,
of one and the same persisting estimate of human nature. Self-love is
the mainspring and motive of every thing we do, or say, or feel, or
think--that is the total result of the "Maxims" of La Rochefoucauld.

The writer's qualifications for treating his theme were unsurpassed. He
had himself the right character, moral and intellectual; his scheme of
conduct in life corresponded; he wrote in the right language--French;
and he was rightly situated in time, in place, and in circumstance. He
needed but to look closely within him and without him--which he was
gifted with eyes to do--and then report what he saw, in the language to
which he was born. This he did, and his "Maxims" are the fruit. His
method was largely the skeptical method of Montaigne. His result, too,
was much the same result as his master's. But the pupil surpassed the
master in the quality of his work. There is a fineness, an
exquisiteness, in the literary form of La Rochefoucauld, which Montaigne
might indeed have disdained to seek, but which he could never, even with
seeking, have attained. Each maxim of La Rochefoucauld is a "gem of
purest ray serene," wrought to the last degree of perfection in form
with infinite artistic pains. Purity, precision, clearness, density,
point, are perfectly reconciled in La Rochefoucauld's style with ease,
grace and brilliancy of expression. The influence of such literary
finish, well bestowed on thought worthy to receive it, has been
incalculably potent in raising the standard of French production in
prose. It was Voltaire's testimony, "One of the works which has most
contributed to form the national taste, and give it a spirit of accuracy
and precision, was the little collection of 'Maxims' by François, Duc de
La Rochefoucauld."

There is a high-bred air about La Rochefoucauld the writer, which well
accords with the rank and character of the man La Rochefoucauld. He was
of one of the noblest families in France. His instincts were all
aristocratic. His manners and his morals were those of his class. Brave,
spirited, a touch of chivalry in him, honorable and amiable as the world
reckons of its own, La Rochefoucauld ran a career consistent throughout
with his own master-principle--self-love. He had a wife whose conjugal
fidelity her husband seems to have thought a sufficient supply in that
virtue for both himself and her. He behaved himself accordingly. His
illicit relations with other women were notorious. But they unhappily
did not make La Rochefoucauld in that respect at all peculiar among the
distinguished men of his time. His brilliant female friends collaborated
with him in working out his "Maxims." These were the labor of years.
They were published in successive editions, during the lifetime of the
author; and some final maxims were added from his manuscripts after his
death.

Using for the purpose a very recent translation, that of A. S. Bolton
(which, in one or two places, we venture to conform more exactly to the
sense of the original), we give almost at hazard a few specimens of
these celebrated apothegms. We adopt the numbering given in the best
Paris edition of the "Maxims":

  No. 11. The passions often beget their contraries. Avarice sometimes
  produces prodigality, and prodigality avarice: we are often firm from
  weakness, and daring from timidity.

  No. 13. Our self-love bears more impatiently the condemnation of our
  tastes than of our opinions.

How much just such detraction from all mere natural human greatness is
contained in the following penetrative maxim:

  No. 18. Moderation is a fear of falling into the envy and contempt
  which those deserve who are intoxicated with their good fortune; it is
  a vain parade of the strength of our mind; and, in short, the
  moderation of men in their highest elevation is a desire to appear
  greater than their fortune.

What effectively quiet satire in these few words:

  No. 19. We have strength enough to bear the ills of others.

This man had seen the end of all perfection in the apparently great of
this world. He could not bear that such should flaunt a false plume
before their fellows:

  No. 20. The steadfastness of sages is only the art of locking up their
  uneasiness in their hearts.

Of course, had it lain in the author's chosen line to do so, he might,
with as much apparent truth, have pointed out, that to lock up
uneasiness in the heart requires steadfastness no less--nay, more--than
not to feel uneasiness.

The inflation of "philosophy" vaunting itself is thus softly eased of
its painful distention:

  No. 22. Philosophy triumphs easily over troubles passed and troubles
  to come, but present troubles triumph over it.

When Jesus once rebuked the fellow-disciples of James and John for
blaming those brethren as self-seekers, he acted on the same profound
principle with that disclosed in the following maxim:

  No. 34. If we had no pride, we should not complain of that of others.

How impossible it is for that Proteus, self-love, to elude the presence
of mind, the inexorable eye, the fast hand, of this incredulous
Frenchman:

  No. 39. Interest [self-love] speaks all sorts of languages, and plays
  all sorts of parts, even that of disinterestedness.

  No. 49. We are never so happy, or so unhappy, as we imagine.

  No. 78. The love of justice is, in most men, only the fear of
  suffering injustice.

What a subtly unsoldering distrust the following maxim introduces into
the sentiment of mutual friendship:

  No. 83. What men have called friendship is only a partnership, a
  mutual accommodation of interests, and an exchange of good offices: it
  is, in short, only a traffic, in which self-love always proposes to
  gain something.

  No. 89. Every one complains of his memory and no one complains of his
  judgment.

How striking, from its artful suppression of strikingness, is the first
following, and what a wide, easy sweep of well-bred satire it contains:

  No. 93. Old men like to give good advice, to console themselves for
  being no longer able to give bad examples.

  No. 119. We are so much accustomed to disguise ourselves to others,
  that, at last, we disguise ourselves to ourselves.

  No. 127. The true way to be deceived is to think one's self sharper
  than others.

The plain-spoken proverb, "A man that is his own lawyer has a fool for
his client," finds a more polished expression in the following:

  No. 132. It is easier to be wise for others, than to be so for one's
  self.

How pitilessly this inquisitor pursues his prey, the human soul, into
all its useless hiding-places:

  No. 138. We would rather speak ill of ourselves, than not talk of
  ourselves.

The following maxim, longer and less felicitously phrased than is usual
with La Rochefoucauld, recalls that bitter definition of the bore--"One
who insists on talking about himself all the time that you are wishing
to talk about yourself":

  No. 139. One of the causes why we find so few people who appear
  reasonable and agreeable in conversation, is that there is scarcely
  any one who does not think more of what he wishes to say, than of
  replying exactly to what is said to him. The cleverest and the most
  compliant think it enough to show an attentive air; while we see in
  their eyes and in their mind a wandering from what is said to them,
  and a hurry to return to what they wish to say, instead of considering
  that it is a bad way to please or to persuade others, to try so hard
  to please one's self, and that to listen well is one of the greatest
  accomplishments we can have in conversation.

If we are indignant at the maxims following, it is probably rather
because they are partly true than because they are wholly false:

  No. 144. We are not fond of praising, and, without interest, we never
  praise any one. Praise is a cunning flattery, hidden and delicate,
  which, in different ways, pleases him who gives and him who receives
  it. The one takes it as a reward for his merit: the other gives it to
  show his equity and his discernment.

  No. 146. We praise generally only to be praised.

  No. 147. Few are wise enough to prefer wholesome blame to treacherous
  praise.

  No. 149. Disclaiming praise is a wish to be praised a second time.

  No. 152. If we did not flatter ourselves, the flattery of others could
  not hurt us.

  No. 184. We acknowledge our faults in order to atone, by our
  sincerity, for the harm they do us in the minds of others.

  No. 199. The desire to appear able often prevents our becoming so.

  No. 201. Whoever thinks he can do without the world, deceives himself
  much; but whoever thinks the world cannot do without him, deceives
  himself much more.

With the following, contrast Ruskin's noble paradox, that the soldier's
business, rightly conceived, is self-sacrifice; his ideal purpose being,
not to kill, but to be killed:

  No. 214. Valor, in private soldiers, is a perilous calling, which they
  have taken to in order to gain their living.

Here is, perhaps, the most current of all La Rochefoucauld's maxims:

  No. 218. Hypocrisy is a homage which vice renders to virtue.

Of the foregoing maxim it may justly be said, that its truth and point
depend upon the assumption, implicit, that there is such a thing as
virtue--an assumption which the whole tenor of the "Maxims" in general
contradicts.

How incisive the following:

  No. 226. Too great eagerness to requite an obligation is a kind of
  ingratitude.

  No. 298. The gratitude of most men is only a secret desire to receive
  greater favors.

  No. 304. We often forgive those who bore us, but we cannot forgive
  those whom we bore.

  No. 313. Why should we have memory enough to retain even the smallest
  particulars of what has happened to us, and yet not have enough to
  remember how often we have told them to the same individual?

The first following maxim satirizes both princes and courtiers. It might
be entitled, "How to insult a prince, and not suffer for your
temerity":

  No. 320. To praise princes for virtues they have not, is to insult
  them with impunity.

  No. 347. We find few sensible people, except those who are of our way
  of thinking.

  No. 409. We should often be ashamed of our best actions, if the world
  saw the motives which cause them.

  No. 424. We boast of faults the reverse of those we have: when we are
  weak, we boast of being stubborn.

Here, at length, is a maxim that does not depress--that animates you:

  No. 432. To praise noble actions heartily is in some sort to take part
  in them.

The following is much less exhilarating:

  No. 454. There are few instances in which we should make a bad
  bargain, by giving up the good that is said of us, on condition that
  nothing bad be said.

This, also:

  No. 458. Our enemies come nearer to the truth, in the opinions they
  form of us, than we do ourselves.

Here is a celebrated maxim, vainly "suppressed" by the author, after
first publication:

  No. 583. In the adversity of our best friends, we always find
  something which does not displease us.

Before La Rochefoucauld, Montaigne had said, "Even in the midst of
compassion we feel within us an unaccountable bitter-sweet titillation
of ill-natured pleasure in seeing another suffer;" and Burke, after
both, wrote (in his "Sublime and Beautiful") with a heavier hand, "I am
convinced that we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in
the real misfortunes and pains of others."

La Rochefoucauld is not fairly cynical, more than is Montaigne. But as a
man he wins upon you less. His maxims are like hard and sharp crystals,
precipitated from the worldly wisdom blandly solute and dilute in
Montaigne.

The wise of this world reject the dogma of human depravity, as taught in
the Bible. They willingly accept it--nay, accept it complacently,
hugging themselves for their own penetration--as taught in the "Maxims"
of La Rochefoucauld.

JEAN DE LA BRUYÈRE is personally almost as little known as if he were an
ancient of the Greek or Roman world surviving, like Juvenal, only in his
literary production. Bossuet got him employed to teach history to a
great duke, who became his patron, and settled a life-long annuity upon
him. He published his one book, the "Characters," in 1687, was made
member of the French Academy in 1693, and died in 1696. That, in short,
is La Bruyère's biography.

His book is universally considered one of the most finished products of
the human mind. It is not a great work--it lacks the unity and the
majesty of design necessary for that. It consists simply of detached
thoughts and observations on a variety of subjects. It shows the author
to have been a man of deep and wise reflection, but especially a
consummate master of style. The book is one to read in, rather than to
read. It is full of food to thought. The very beginning exhibits a
self-consciousness on the writer's part very different from that
spontaneous simplicity in which truly great books originate. La Bruyère
begins:

  Every thing has been said; and one comes too late, after more than
  seven thousand years that there have been men, and men who have
  thought.

La Bruyère has something to say, and that to length unusual for him, of
pulpit eloquence. We select a few specimen sentences:

  Christian eloquence has become a spectacle. That gospel sadness, which
  is its soul, is no longer to be observed in it; its place is supplied
  by advantages of facial expression, by inflections of the voice, by
  regularity of gesticulation, by choice of words, and by long
  categories. The sacred word is no longer listened to seriously; it is
  a kind of amusement, one among many; it is a game in which there is
  rivalry, and in which there are those who lay wagers.

  Profane eloquence has been transferred, so to speak, from the bar ...
  where it is no longer employed, to the pulpit where it ought not to be
  found.

  Matches of eloquence are made at the very foot of the altar, and in
  the presence of the mysteries. He who listens sits in judgment on him
  who preaches, to condemn or to applaud, and is no more converted by
  the discourse which he praises than by that which he pronounces
  against. The orator pleases some, displeases others, and has an
  understanding with all in one thing--that as he does not seek to
  render them better, so they do not think of becoming better.

The almost cynical acerbity of the preceding is ostensibly relieved of
an obvious application to certain illustrious contemporary examples
among preachers by the following open allusion to Bossuet and
Bourdaloue:

  The Bishop of Meaux [Bossuet] and Father Bourdaloue make me think of
  Demosthenes and Cicero. Both of them, masters of pulpit eloquence,
  have had the fortune of great models; the one has made bad critics,
  the other bad imitators.

Here is a happy instance of La Bruyère's successful pains in redeeming a
commonplace sentiment by means of a striking form of expression; the
writer is disapproving the use of oaths in support of one's testimony:

  An honest man who says Yes, or No, deserves to be believed; his
  character swears for him.

Highly satiric in his quiet way, La Bruyère knew how to be. Witness the
following thrust at a contemporary author, not named by the satirist,
but, no doubt, recognized by the public of the time:

  He maintains that the ancients, however unequal and negligent they may
  be, have fine traits; he points these out; and they are so fine that
  they make his criticism readable.

How painstakingly, how self-consciously, La Bruyère did his literary
work is evidenced by the following:

  A good author, and one who writes with care, often has the experience
  of finding that the expression which he was a long time in search of
  without reaching it, and which at length he has found, is that which
  was the most simple, the most natural, and that which, as it would
  seem, should have presented itself at first, and without effort.

We feel that the quality of La Bruyère is such as to fit him for the
admiration and enjoyment of but a comparatively small class of readers.
He was somewhat over-exquisite. His art at times became
artifice--infinite labor of style to make commonplace thought seem
valuable by dint of perfect expression. We dismiss La Bruyère with a
single additional extract--his celebrated parallel between Corneille and
Racine:

  Corneille subjects us to his characters and to his ideas; Racine
  accommodates himself to ours. The one paints men as they ought to be;
  the other paints them as they are. There is more in the former of what
  one admires, and of what one ought even to imitate; there is more in
  the latter of what one observes in others, or of what one experiences
  in one's self. The one inspires, astonishes, masters, instructs; the
  other pleases, moves, touches, penetrates. Whatever there is most
  beautiful, most noble, most imperial, in the reason is made use of by
  the former; by the latter whatever is most seductive and most delicate
  in passion. You find in the former maxims, rules, and precepts; in the
  latter, taste and sentiment. You are more absorbed in the plays of
  Corneille; you are more shaken and more softened in those of Racine.
  Corneille is more moral; Racine, more natural. The one appears to make
  Sophocles his model; the other owes more to Euripides.

Less than half a century after La Rochefoucauld and La Bruyère had shown
the way, VAUVENARGUES followed in a similar style of authorship,
promising almost to rival the fame of his two predecessors. This writer,
during his brief life (he died at thirty-two), produced one not
inconsiderable literary work more integral and regular in form,
entitled, "Introduction to the Knowledge of the Human Mind;" but it is
his disconnected thoughts and observations chiefly that continue to
preserve his name.

Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues, though nobly born, was poor.
His health was frail. He did not receive a good education in his youth.
Indeed, he was still in his youth when he went to the wars. His culture
always remained narrow. He did not know Greek and Latin, when to know
Greek and Latin was, as it were, the whole of scholarship. To crown his
accidental disqualifications for literary work, he fell a victim to the
small-pox, which left him wrecked in body. This occurred almost
immediately after he abandoned a military career which had been fruitful
to him of hardship, but not of promotion. In spite of all that was thus
against him, Vauvenargues, in those years, few and evil, that were his,
thought finely and justly enough to earn for himself a lasting place in
the literary history of his nation. He was in the eighteenth century of
France without being of it. You have to separate him in thought from the
infidels and the "philosophers" of his time. He belongs in spirit to an
earlier age. His moral and intellectual kindred was with such as Pascal,
far more than with such as Voltaire. Vauvenargues is, however, a writer
for the few, instead of for the many. His fame is high but it is not
wide. Historically, he forms a stepping-stone of transition to a
somewhat similar nineteenth-century name, that of Joubert. A very few
sentences of his will suffice to indicate to our readers the quality of
Vauvenargues. Self-evidently, the following antithesis drawn by him
between Corneille and Racine is subtly and ingeniously thought, as well
as very happily expressed--this, whatever may be considered to be its
aptness in point of literary appreciation:

  Corneille's heroes often say great things without inspiring them;
  Racine's inspire them without saying them.

Here is a good saying:

  It is a great sign of mediocrity always to be moderate in praising.

There is worldly wisdom also here:

  He who knows how to turn his prodigalities to good account practices a
  large and noble economy.

Virgil's "They are able, because they seem to themselves to be able," is
recalled by this:

  The consciousness of our strength makes our strength greater.

So much for Vauvenargues.

And so much for what--considering that, logically, though not quite
chronologically, Vauvenargues belongs with them--we may call the
seventeenth-century group of French _pensée_-writers. A
nineteenth-century group of the same literary class will form the
subject of a chapter in due course to follow.



VI.

LA FONTAINE.

1621-1695.


La Fontaine enjoys a unique fame. He has absolutely "no fellow in the
firmament" of literature. He is the only fabulist, of any age or any
nation, that, on the score simply of his fables, is admitted to be poet
as well as fabulist. There is perhaps no other literary name whatever
among the French by long proof more secure than is La Fontaine's, of
universal and of immortal renown. Such a fame is, of course, not the
most resplendent in the world; but to have been the first, and to remain
thus far the only, writer of fables enjoying recognition as true
poetry--this, surely, is an achievement entitling La Fontaine to
monumental mention in any sketch, however summary, of French literature.

Jean de La Fontaine was humbly born, at Château-Thierry, in Champagne.
His early education was sadly neglected. At twenty years of age he was
still phenomenally ignorant. About this time, being now better situated,
he developed a taste for the classics and for poetry. With La Fontaine
the man, it is the sadly familiar French story of debauchee manners in
life and in literary production. We cannot acquit him, but we are to
condemn him only in common with the most of his age and of his nation.
As the world goes, La Fontaine was a "good fellow," never lacking
friends. These were held fast in loyalty to the poet, not so much by any
sterling worth of character felt in him as by an exhaustless,
easy-going good-nature that, despite his social insipidity, made La
Fontaine the most acceptable of every-day companions. It would be easy
to repeat many stories illustrative of this personal quality in La
Fontaine, while to tell a single story illustrative of any lofty trait
in his character would be perhaps impossible. Still, La Fontaine seemed
not ungrateful for the benefits he received from others; and gratitude,
no commonplace virtue, let us accordingly reckon to the credit of a man
in general so slenderly equipped with positive claims to admiring
personal regard. The mirror of _bonhomie_ (easy-hearted
good-fellowship), he always was. Indeed, that significant, almost
untranslatable, French word might have been coined to fit La Fontaine's
case. On his amiable side--a full hemisphere or more of the man--it sums
him up completely. Twenty years long this mirror of _bonhomie_ was
domiciliated, like a pet animal, under the hospitable roof of the
celebrated Madame de la Sablière. There was truth as well as humor
implied in what she said one day: "I have sent away all my domestics; I
have kept only my dog, my cat, and La Fontaine."

But La Fontaine had that in him which kept the friendship of serious
men. Molière, a grave, even melancholy spirit, however gay in his
comedies; Boileau and Racine, decorous both of them, at least in
manners, constituted, together with La Fontaine, a kind of private
"Academy," existing on a diminutive scale, which was not without its
important influence on French letters. La Fontaine seems to have been a
sort of Goldsmith in this club of wits, the butt of many pleasantries
from his colleagues, called out by his habit of absent-mindedness. St.
Augustine was one night the subject of an elaborate eulogy, which La
Fontaine lost the benefit of, through a reverie of his own indulged
meantime on a quite different character. Catching, however, at the name,
La Fontaine, as he came to himself for a moment, betrayed the secret of
his absent thought by asking, "Do you think St. Augustine had as much
wit as Rabelais?" "Take care, Monsieur La Fontaine: you have put one of
your stockings on wrong side out"--he had actually done so--was the only
answer vouchsafed to his question. The speaker in this case was a doctor
of the Sorbonne (brother to Boileau), present as guest. The story is
told of La Fontaine, that egged on to groundless jealousy of his wife--a
wife whom he never really loved, and whom he soon would finally
abandon,--he challenged a military friend of his to combat with swords.
The friend was amazed, and, amazed, reluctantly fought with La Fontaine,
whom he easily put at his mercy. "Now, what is this for?" he demanded.
"The public says you visit my house for my wife's sake, not for mine,"
said La Fontaine. "Then I never will come again." "Far from it,"
responds La Fontaine, seizing his friend's hand. "I have satisfied the
public. Now you must come to my house every day, or I will fight you
again." The two went back in company, and breakfasted together in mutual
good humor.

A trait or two more and there will have been enough of the man La
Fontaine. It is said that when, on the death of Madame de la Sablière,
La Fontaine was homeless, he was met on the street by a friend, who
exclaimed, "I was looking for you; come to my house, and live with me!"
"I was on the way there," La Fontaine characteristically replied. At
seventy, La Fontaine went through a process of "conversion," so called,
in which he professed repentance of his sins. On the genuineness of this
inward experience of La Fontaine, it is not for a fellow-creature of
his, especially at this distance of time, to pronounce. When he died, at
seventy-three, Fénelon could say of him (in Latin), "La Fontaine is no
more! He is no more; and with him have gone the playful jokes, the merry
laugh, the artless graces, and the sweet Muses!" La Fontaine's earliest
works were "Contes," so styled; that is, tales, or romances. These are
in character such that the subsequent happy change in manners, if not in
morals, has made them unreadable, for their indecency. We need concern
ourselves only with the Fables, for it is on these that La Fontaine's
fame securely rests. The basis of story in them was not generally
original with La Fontaine. He took whatever fittest came to his hand.
With much modesty he attributed all to Æsop and Phædrus. But invention
of his own is not altogether wanting to his books of fables. Still, it
is chiefly the consummate artful artlessness of the form that
constitutes the individual merit of La Fontaine's productions. With
something, too, of the air of real poetry, he has undoubtedly invested
his verse.

We give, first, the brief fable which is said to have been the prime
favorite of the author himself. It is the fable of "The Oak and the
Reed." Of this fable French critics have not scrupled to speak in terms
of almost the very highest praise. Chamfort says, "Let one consider,
that, within the limit of thirty lines, La Fontaine, doing nothing but
yield himself to the current of his story, has taken on every tone, that
of poetry the most graceful, that of poetry the most lofty, and one will
not hesitate to affirm, that, at the epoch at which this fable appeared,
there was nothing comparable to it in the French language." There are,
to speak precisely, thirty-two lines in the fable. In this one case let
us try representing La Fontaine's compression by our English form. For
the rest of our specimens, after a single further exception, introduced,
we confess, partly because it could be given in a graceful version by
Bryant, we shall use Elizur Wright's translation--a meritorious one,
still master of the field which, about fifty years ago, it entered as
pioneer. Mr. Wright here expands La Fontaine's thirty-two verses to it
forty-four. The additions are not ill-done, but they encumber somewhat
the Attic neatness and simplicity of the original. We ought to say, that
La Fontaine boldly broke with the tradition which had been making
Alexandrines--lines of six feet--obligatory in French verse. He rhymes
irregularly, at choice, and makes his verses long or short, as pleases
him. The closing verse of the present piece is, in accordance with the
intended majesty of the representation, an Alexandrine:

      The Oak one day said to the Reed,
  "Justly might you dame Nature blame.
  A wren's weight would bow down your frame;
      The lightest wind that chance may make
      Dimple the surface of the lake
      Your head bends low indeed,
  The while, like Caucasus, my front
  To meet the branding sun is wont,
  Nay, more, to take the tempest's brunt.
      A blast you feel, I feel a breeze.
  Had you been born beneath my roof,
  Wide-spread, of leafage weather-proof,
      Less had you known your life to tease;
      I should have sheltered you from storm.
      But oftenest you rear your form
  On the moist limits of the realm of wind.
  Nature, methinks, against you sore has sinned."

      "Your pity," answers him the Reed,
  "Bespeaks you kind; but spare your pain;
  I more than you may winds disdain.
      I bend, and break not. You, indeed,
  Against their dreadful strokes till now
  Have stood, nor tamed your back to bow:
  But wait we for the end."

                            Scarce had he spoke,
  When fiercely from the far horizon broke
  The wildest of the children, fullest fraught
  With terror, that till then the North had brought.
      The tree holds good; the reed it bends.
      The wind redoubled might expends,
  And so well works that from his bed
  Him it uproots who nigh to heaven his head
  Held, and whose feet reached to the kingdom of the dead.

Here is that fable of La Fontaine's graced by the hand of Bryant upon it
as translator. It is entitled "Love and Folly:"

  Love's worshipers alone can know
    The thousand mysteries that are his;
  His blazing torch, his twanging bow,
    His blooming age are mysteries.
  A charming science--but the day
    Were all too short to con it o'er;
  So take of me this little lay,
    A sample of its boundless lore.

  As once, beneath the fragrant shade
    Of myrtles fresh, in heaven's pure air,
  The children, Love and Folly, played--
    A quarrel rose betwixt the pair.
  Love said the gods should do him right--
    But Folly vowed to do it then,
  And struck him, o'er the orbs of sight,
    So hard he never saw again.

  His lovely mother's grief was deep,
    She called for vengeance on the deed;
  A beauty does not vainly weep,
    Nor coldly does a mother plead.
  A shade came o'er the eternal bliss
    That fills the dwellers of the skies;
  Even stony-hearted Nemesis
    And Rhadamanthus wiped their eyes.

  "Behold," she said, "this lovely boy,"
    While streamed afresh her graceful tears,
  "Immortal, yet shut out from joy
    And sunshine all his future years.
  The child can never take, you see
    A single step without a staff--
  The harshest punishment would be
    Too lenient for the crime by half."

  All said that Love had suffered wrong,
    And well that wrong should be repaid;
  When weighed the public interest long,
    And long the party's interest weighed,
  And thus decreed the court above--
    "Since Love is blind from Folly's blow,
  Let Folly be the guide of Love,
    Where'er the boy may choose to go."

In the fable of the "Rat Retired from the World," La Fontaine rallies
the monks. With French _finesse_ he hits his mark by expressly avoiding
it. "What think you I mean by my disobliging rat? A monk? No, but a
Mahometan devotee; I take it for granted that a monk is always ready
with his help to the needful!"

  The sage Levantines have a tale
      About a rat that weary grew
  Of all the cares which life assail,
      And to a Holland cheese withdrew.
  His solitude was there profound,
  Extending through his world so round.
  Our hermit lived on that within;
  And soon his industry had been
  With claws and teeth so good,
      That in his novel hermitage
      He had in store, for wants of age,
  Both house and livelihood.
  What more could any rat desire?
      He grew fat, fair, and round.
      God's blessings thus redound
  To those who in his vows retire.
  One day this personage devout,
  Whose kindness none might doubt,
  Was asked, by certain delegates
  That came from Rat-United-States,
  For some small aid, for they
  To foreign parts were on their way,
  For succor in the great cat-war:
  Ratopolis beleaguered sore,
      Their whole republic drained and poor,
  No morsel in their scrips they bore.
      Slight boon they craved, of succor sure
  In days at utmost three or four.
  "My friends," the hermit said,
  "To worldly things I'm dead.
  How can a poor recluse
  To such a mission be of use?
  What can he do but pray
  That God will aid it on its way?
  And so, my friends, it is my prayer
  That God will have you in his care."
  His well-fed saintship said no more
  But in their faces shut the door.
      What think you, reader, is the service,
  For which I use this niggard rat?
      To paint a monk? No, but a dervise.
  A monk, I think, however fat,
  Must be more bountiful than that.

The fable entitled "Death and the Dying," is much admired for its union
of pathos with wit. "The Two Doves," is another of La Fontaine's more
tender inspirations. "The Mogul's Dream" is a somewhat ambitious flight
of the fabulist's muse. On the whole, however, the masterpiece among the
fables of La Fontaine is that of "The Animals Sick of the Plague." Such
at least is the opinion of critics in general. The idea of this fable is
not original with La Fontaine. The homilists of the middle ages used a
similar fiction to enforce on priests the duty of impartiality in
administering the sacrament, so called, of confession. We give this
famous fable as our closing specimen of La Fontaine:

      The sorest ill that Heaven hath
  Sent on this lower world in wrath--
  The plague (to call it by its name),
        One single day of which
      Would Pluto's ferryman enrich,
  Waged war on beasts, both wild and tame.
  They died not all, but all were sick:
  No hunting now, by force or trick,
  To save what might so soon expire.
  No food excited their desire:
  Nor wolf nor fox now watched to slay
  The innocent and tender prey.
          The turtles fled,
  So love and therefore joy were dead.
  The lion council held, and said,
  "My friends, I do believe
  This awful scourge, for which we grieve,
  Is for our sins a punishment
  Most righteously by Heaven sent.
  Let us our guiltiest beast resign
  A sacrifice to wrath divine.
  Perhaps this offering, truly small,
  May gain the life and health of all.
  By history we find it noted
  That lives have been just so devoted.
  Then let us all turn eyes within,
  And ferret out the hidden sin.
  Himself let no one spare nor flatter,
  But make clean conscience in the matter.
  For me, my appetite has played the glutton
  Too much and often upon mutton.
  What harm had e'er my victims done?
          I answer, truly, None.
  Perhaps, sometimes, by hunger pressed,
        I've eat the shepherd with the rest.
      I yield myself if need there be;
        And yet I think, in equity,
  Each should confess his sins with me;
  For laws of right and justice cry,
  The guiltiest alone should die."
  "Sire," said the fox, "your majesty
  Is humbler than a king should be,
  And over-squeamish in the case.
      What! eating stupid sheep a crime?
  No, never, sire, at any time.
  It rather was an act of grace,
  A mark of honor to their race.
  And as to shepherds, one may swear,
      The fate your majesty describes
  Is recompense less full than fair
      For such usurpers o'er our tribes."

      Thus Renard glibly spoke,
  And loud applause from listeners broke
  Of neither tiger, boar, nor bear,
  Did any keen inquiry dare
  To ask for crimes of high degree;
      The fighters, biters, scratchers, all
  From every mortal sin were free;
      The very dogs, both great and small,
      Were saints, as far as dogs could be.

      The ass, confessing in his turn,
  Thus spoke in tones of deep concern:
  "I happened through a mead to pass;
  The monks, its owners, were at mass:
  Keen hunger, leisure, tender grass,
      And, add to these the devil, too,
      All tempted me the deed to do.
  I browsed the bigness of my tongue:
  Since truth must out, I own it wrong."
  On this, a hue and cry arose,
  As if the beasts were all his foes.
  A wolf, haranguing lawyer-wise,
  Denounced the ass for sacrifice--
  The bald-pate, scabby, ragged lout,
  By whom the plague had come, no doubt.
  His fault was judged a hanging crime.
      What! eat another's grass? Oh, shame!
  The noose of rope, and death sublime,
      For that offense were all too tame!
  And soon poor Grizzle felt the same.
      Thus human courts acquit the strong,
  And doom the weak as therefore wrong.

It is suitable to add, in conclusion, that La Fontaine is a crucial
author for disclosing the irreconcilable difference that exists, at
bottom, between the Englishman's and the Frenchman's idea of poetry. No
English-speaker, heir of Shakespeare and Milton, will ever be able to
satisfy a Frenchman with admiration such as he can conscientiously
profess for the poetry of La Fontaine.



VII.

MOLIÈRE.

1623-1673.


Molière is confessedly the greatest writer of comedy in the world. Greek
Menander might have disputed the palm; but Menander's works have
perished, and his greatness must be guessed. Who knows but we guess him
too great? Molière's works survive, and his greatness may be measured.

We have stinted our praise. Molière is not only the foremost name in a
certain department of literature; he is one of the foremost names in
literature. The names are few on which critics are willing to bestow
this distinction. But critics generally agree in bestowing this
distinction on Molière.

Molière's comedy is by no means mere farce. Farces he wrote,
undoubtedly; and some element of farce, perhaps, entered to qualify
nearly every comedy that flowed from his pen. But it is not for his
farce that Molière is rated one of the few greatest producers of
literature. Molière's comedy constitutes to Molière the patent that it
does, of high degree in genius, not because it provokes laughter, but
because, amid laughter provoked, it not seldom reveals, as if with
flashes of lightning--lightning playful, indeed, but lightning that
might have been deadly--the "secrets of the nethermost abyss" of human
nature. Not human manners merely, those of a time, or a race, but human
attributes, those of all times, and of all races, are the things with
which, in his higher comedies, Molière deals. Some transient whim of
fashion may in these supply to him the mould of form that he uses, but
it is human nature itself that supplies to Molière the substance of his
dramatic creations. Now and again, if you read Molière wisely and
deeply, you find your laughter at comedy fairly frozen in your throat,
by a gelid horror seizing you, to feel that these follies or these
crimes displayed belong to that human nature, one and the same
everywhere and always, of which also you yourself partake. Comedy,
Dante, too, called his poem, which included the _Inferno_. And a
Dantesque quality, not of method, but of power, is to be felt in
Molière.

This character in Molière the writer accords with the character of the
man Molière. It might not have seemed natural to say of Molière, as was
said of Dante, "There goes the man that has been in hell." But Molière
was melancholy enough in temper and in mien to have well inspired an
exclamation such as, "There goes the man that has seen the human heart."

A poet as well as a dramatist, his own fellow-countrymen, at least,
feel Molière to be. In Victor Hugo's list of the eight greatest poets of
all time, two are Hebrews (Job and Isaiah), two Greeks (Homer and
Æschylus), one is a Roman (Lucretius), one an Italian (Dante), one an
Englishman (Shakespeare)--seven. The eighth could hardly fail to be a
Frenchman, and that Frenchman is Molière. Mr. Swinburne might perhaps
make the list nine, but he would certainly include Victor Hugo himself.

Curiously enough, Molière is not this great writer's real name. It is a
stage name. It was assumed by the bearer when he was about twenty-four
years of age, on occasion of his becoming one in a strolling band of
players--in 1646 or thereabout. This band, originally composed of
amateurs, developed into a professional dramatic company, which passed
through various transformations, until, from being at first
grandiloquently self-styled, L'Illustre Théâtre, it was, twenty years
after, recognized by the national title of Théâtre Français. Molière's
real name was Jean Baptiste Poquelin.

Young Poquelin's bent, early encouraged by seeing plays and ballets, was
strongly toward the stage. The drama, under the quickening patronage of
Louis XIII.'s lordly minister, Cardinal Richelieu, was a great public
interest of those times in Paris. Molière's evil star, too, it was
perhaps in part that brought him back to Paris, from Orleans. He admired
a certain actress in the capital. She became the companion--probably not
innocent companion--of his wandering life as actor. A sister of this
actress--a sister young enough to be daughter, instead of
sister--Molière finally married. She led her jealous husband a wretched
conjugal life. A peculiarly dark tradition of shame, connected with
Molière's marriage, has lately been to a good degree dispelled. But it
is not possible to redeem this great man's fame to chastity and honor.
He paid heavily, in like misery of his own, for whatever pangs of
jealousy he inflicted. There was sometimes true tragedy for himself
hidden within the comedy that he acted for others. (Molière, to the very
end of his life, acted in the comedies that he wrote.) When some play of
his represented the torments of jealousy in the heart of a husband, it
was probably not so much acting, as it was real life, that the
spectators saw proceeding on the stage between Molière and his wife,
confronted with each other in performing the piece.

Despite his faults, Molière was cast in a noble, generous mold, of
character as well as of genius. Expostulated with for persisting to
appear on the stage when his health was such that he put his life at
stake in so doing, he replied that the men and women of his company
depended for their bread on the play's going through, and appear he
would. He actually died an hour or so after playing the part of the
Imaginary Invalid in his comedy of that name. That piece was the last
work of his pen.

Molière produced in all some thirty dramatic pieces, from among which we
select a few of the most celebrated for brief description and
illustration.

The "Bourgeois Gentilhomme" ("Shopkeeper turned Gentleman") partakes of
the nature of the farce quite as much as it does of the comedy. But it
is farce such as only a man of genius could produce. In it Molière
ridicules the airs and affectations of a rich man vulgarly ambitious to
figure in a social rank too exalted for his birth, his breeding, or his
merit. Jourdain is the name under which Molière satirizes such a
character. We give a fragment from one of the scenes. M. Jourdain is in
process of fitting himself for that higher position in society to which
he aspires. He will equip himself with the necessary knowledge. To this
end he employs a professor of philosophy to come and give him lessons at
his house:

  _M. Jourdain._ I have the greatest desire in the world to be learned;
  and it vexes me more than I can tell, that my father and mother did
  not make me learn thoroughly all the sciences when I was young.

  _Professor of Philosophy._ This is a praiseworthy feeling. _Nam sine
  doctrina vita est quasi mortis imago._ You understand this, and you
  have, no doubt, a knowledge of Latin?

  _M. Jour._ Yes; but act as if I had none. Explain to me the meaning of
  it--

  _Prof. Phil._ The meaning of it is, that, without science, life is an
  image of death.

  _M. Jour._ That Latin is quite right.

  _Prof. Phil._ Have you any principles, any rudiments, of science?

  _M. Jour._ Oh, yes! I can read and write.

  _Prof. Phil._ With what would you like to begin? Shall I teach you
  logic?

  _M. Jour._ And what may this logic be?

  _Prof. Phil._ It is that which teaches us the three operations of the
  mind.

  _M. Jour._ What are they--these three operations of the mind?

  _Prof. Phil._ The first, the second, and the third. The first is to
  conceive well by means of universals; the second, to judge well by
  means of categories; and the third, to draw a conclusion aright by
  means of the figures Barbara, Celarent, Darii, Ferio, Baralipton, etc.

  _M. Jour._ Pooh! what repulsive words! This logic does not by any
  means suit me. Teach me something more enlivening.

  _Prof. Phil._ Will you learn moral philosophy?

  _M. Jour._ Moral philosophy?

  _Prof. Phil._ Yes.

  _M. Jour._ What does it say, this moral philosophy?

  _Prof. Phil._ It treats of happiness, teaches men to moderate their
  passions, and--

  _M. Jour._ No, none of that. I am devilishly hot-tempered, and,
  morality or no morality, I like to give full vent to my anger whenever
  I have a mind to it.

  _Prof. Phil._ Would you like to learn physics?

  _M. Jour._ And what have physics to say for themselves?

  _Prof. Phil._ Physics is that science which explains the principles of
  natural things and the properties of bodies; which discourses of the
  nature of the elements, of metals, minerals, stones, plants, and
  animals; which teaches us the cause of all the meteors, the rainbow,
  the _ignis fatuus_, comets, lightning, thunder, thunderbolts, rain,
  snow, hail, and whirlwinds.

  _M. Jour._ There is too much hullaballoo in all that, too much riot
  and rumpus.

  _Prof. Phil._ Very good.

  _M. Jour._ And now I want to intrust you with a great secret. I am in
  love with a lady of quality; and I should be glad if you would help me
  to write something to her in a short letter which I mean to drop at
  her feet.

  _Prof. Phil._ Very well.

  _M. Jour._ That will be gallant, will it not?

  _Prof. Phil._ Undoubtedly. Is it verse you wish to write to her?

  _M. Jour._ Oh, no! not verse.

  _Prof. Phil._ You only wish prose?

  _M. Jour._ No. I wish for neither verse nor prose.

  _Prof. Phil._ It must be one or the other.

  _M. Jour._ Why?

  _Prof. Phil._ Because, sir, there is nothing by which we can express
  ourselves except prose or verse.

  _M. Jour._ There is nothing but prose or verse?

  _Prof. Phil._ No, sir. Whatever is not prose, is verse; and whatever
  is not verse, is prose.

  _M. Jour._ And when we speak, what is that, then?

  _Prof. Phil._ Prose.

  _M. Jour._ What! when I say, "Nicole, bring me my slippers, and give
  me my nightcap," is that prose?

  _Prof. Phil._ Yes, sir.

  _M. Jour._ Upon my word, I have been speaking prose these forty years
  without being aware of it; and I am under the greatest obligation to
  you for informing me of it. Well, then, I wish to write to her in a
  letter, "Fair Marchioness, your beautiful eyes make me die of love";
  but I would have this worded in a gallant manner, turned genteelly.

  _Prof. Phil._ Say that the fire of her eyes has reduced your heart to
  ashes; that you suffer day and night for her the torments of a--

  _M. Jour._ No, no, no, I don't wish any of that. I simply wish what I
  tell you--"Fair Marchioness, your beautiful eyes make me die of love."

  _Prof. Phil._ Still, you might amplify the thing a little.

  _M. Jour._ No, I tell you, I will have nothing but these very words in
  the letter; but they must be put in a fashionable way, and arranged as
  they should be. Pray show me a little, so that I may see the different
  ways in which they can be put.

  _Prof. Phil._ They may be put first of all, as you have said, "Fair
  Marchioness, your beautiful eyes make me die of love;" or else, "Of
  love die make me, fair Marchioness, your beautiful eyes;" or, "Your
  beautiful eyes of love make me, fair Marchioness, die;" or, "Die of
  love your beautiful eyes, fair Marchioness, make me;" or else, "Me
  make your beautiful eyes die, fair Marchioness, of love."

  _M. Jour._ But of all these ways, which is the best?

  _Prof. Phil._ The one you said--"Fair Marchioness, your beautiful eyes
  make me die of love."

  _M. Jour._ Yet I have never studied, and I did all right off at the
  first shot.

The "Bourgeois Gentilhomme" is a very amusing comedy throughout.

From "Les Femmes Savantes" ("The Learned Women")--"The Blue-Stockings,"
we might perhaps freely render the title--we present one scene to
indicate the nature of the comedy. There had grown to be a fashion in
Paris, among certain women high in social rank, of pretending to the
distinction of skill in literary criticism, and of proficiency in
science. It was the Hôtel de Rambouillet reduced to absurdity. That
fashionable affectation Molière made the subject of his comedy, "The
Learned Women."

In the following extracts, Molière satirizes, under the name of
Trissotin, a contemporary writer, one Cotin. The poem which Trissotin
reads, for the learned women to criticise and admire, is an actual
production of this gentleman. Imagine the domestic _coterie_ assembled,
and Trissotin, the poet, their guest. He is present, prepared to regale
them with what he calls his sonnet. We need to explain that the original
poem is thus inscribed: "To Mademoiselle de Longueville, now Duchess of
Namur, on her Quartan Fever." The conceit of the sonneteer is that the
fever is an enemy luxuriously lodged in the lovely person of its victim,
and there insidiously plotting against her life:

  _Trissotin._ Sonnet to the Princess Urania on her Fever.

    Your prudence sure is fast asleep,
    That thus luxuriously you keep
    And lodge magnificently so
    Your very hardest-hearted foe.

  _Bélise._ Ah! what a pretty beginning!

  _Armande._ What a charming turn it has!

  _Philaminte._ He alone possesses the talent of making easy verses.

  _Arm._ We must yield to _prudence fast asleep_.

  _Bél._ _Lodge one's very hardest-hearted foe_ is full of charms for
  me.

  _Phil._ I like _luxuriously_ and _magnificently_: these two adverbs
  joined together sound admirably.

  _Bél._ Let us hear the rest.

  _Triss._ Your prudence sure is fast asleep,
           That thus luxuriously you keep
           And lodge magnificently so
           Your very hardest-hearted foe.

  _Arm._ _Prudence fast asleep._

  _Bél._ _To lodge one's foe._

  _Phil._ _Luxuriously_ and _magnificently_.

  _Triss._ Drive forth that foe, whate'er men say,
           From out your chamber, decked so gay,
           Where, ingrate vile, with murderous knife,
           Bold she assails your lovely life.

  _Bél._ Ah! gently. Allow me to breathe, I beseech you.

  _Arm._ Give us time to admire, I beg.

  _Phil._ One feels, at hearing these verses, an indescribable something
  which goes through one's inmost soul, and makes one feel quite faint.

  _Arm._ Drive forth that foe, whate'er men say,
         From out your chamber, decked so gay--

  How prettily _chamber, decked so gay_, is said here! And with what wit
  the metaphor is introduced!

  _Phil._   Drive forth that foe, whate'er men say.

  Ah! in what an admirable taste that _whate'er men say_ is! To my mind,
  the passage is invaluable.

  _Arm._ My heart is also in love with _whate'er men say_.

  _Bél._ I am of your opinion: _whate'er men say_ is a happy expression.

  _Arm._ I wish I had written it.

  _Bél._ It is worth a whole poem.

  _Phil._ But do you, like me, thoroughly understand the wit of it?

  _Arm. and Bél._ Oh! Oh!

  _Phil._   Drive forth that foe, whate'er men say.

  Although another should take the fever's part, pay no attention; laugh
  at the gossips.

    Drive forth that foe, whate'er men say,
    Whate'er men say, whate'er men say.

  This _whate'er men say_, says a great deal more than it seems. I do
  not know if every one is like me, but I discover in it a hundred
  meanings.

  _Bél._ It is true that it says more than its size seems to imply.

  _Phil._ (_to Trissotin._) But when you wrote this charming _whate'er
  men say_, did you yourself understand all its energy? Did you realize
  all it tells us? And did you then think that you were writing
  something so witty?

  _Triss._ Ah! ah!

  _Arm._ I have likewise the _ingrate_ in my head--this ungrateful,
  unjust, uncivil fever that ill-treats people who entertain her.

  _Phil._ In short, both the stanzas are admirable. Let us come quickly
  to the triplets, I pray.

  _Arm._ Ah! once more, _what'er men say_, I beg.

  _Triss._ Drive forth that foe, whate'er men say--

  _Phil., Arm., and Bél._ _Whate'er men say!_

  _Triss._ From out your chamber, decked so gay--

  _Phil., Arm. and Bél._ _Chamber decked so gay!_

  _Triss._ Where, ingrate vile, with murderous knife--

  _Phil., Arm., and Bél._ That _ingrate_ fever!

  _Triss._ Bold she assails your lovely life.

  _Triss._ _Your lovely life!_

  _Arm. and Bél._ Ah!

  _Triss._ What! reckless of your ladyhood,
           Still fiercely seeks to shed your blood--

  _Phil., Arm. and Bél._ Ah!

  _Triss._ And day and night to work you harm.
           When to the baths sometime you've brought her,
           No more ado, with your own arm
           Whelm her and drown her in the water.

  _Phil._ Ah! It is quite overpowering.

  _Bél._ I faint.

  _Arm._ I die from pleasure.

  _Phil._ A thousand sweet thrills seize one.

  _Arm._ _When to the baths sometime you've brought her._

  _Bél._ _No more ado, with your own arm._

  _Phil._ _Whelm her and drown her in the water._

  With your own arm, drown her there in the baths.

  _Arm._ In your verses we meet at each step with charming beauty.

  _Bél._ One promenades through them with rapture.

  _Phil._ One treads on fine things only.

  _Arm._ They are little lanes all strewn with roses.

  _Triss._ Then, the sonnet seems to you--

  _Phil._ Admirable, new; and never did any one make any thing more
  beautiful.

  _Bél._ (_to Henriette_). What! my niece, you listen to what has been
  read without emotion! You play there but a sorry part!

  _Hen._ We each of us play the best part we can, my aunt; and to be a
  wit does not depend on our will.

  _Triss._ My verses, perhaps, are tedious to you.

  _Hen._ No. I do not listen.

  _Phil._ Ah! Let us hear the epigram.

But our readers, we think, will consent to spare the epigram. They will
relish, however, a fragment taken from a subsequent part of the same
protracted scene. The conversation has made the transition from literary
criticism to philosophy, in Moliére's time a fashionable study, rendered
such by the contemporary genius and fame of Descartes. Armande resents
the limitations imposed upon her sex:

  _Arm._ It is insulting our sex too grossly to limit our intelligence
  to the power of judging of a skirt, of the make of a garment, of the
  beauties of lace, or of a new brocade.

  _Bél._ We must rise above this shameful condition, and bravely
  proclaim our emancipation.

  _Triss._ Every one knows my respect for the fairer sex, and that, if I
  render homage to the brightness of their eyes, I also honor the
  splendor of their intellect.

  _Phil._ And our sex does you justice in this respect; but we will show
  to certain minds who treat us with proud contempt, that women also
  have knowledge; that, like men, they can hold learned
  meetings--regulated, too, by better rules; that they wish to unite
  what elsewhere is kept apart, join noble language to deep learning,
  reveal nature's laws by a thousand experiments; and, on all questions
  proposed, admit every party, and ally themselves to none.

  _Triss._ For order, I prefer peripateticism.

  _Phil._ For abstractions, I love platonism.

  _Arm._ Epicurus pleases me, for his tenets are solid.

  _Bél._ I agree with the doctrine of atoms; but I find it difficult to
  understand a vacuum, and I much prefer subtile matter.

  _Triss._ I quite agree with Descartes about magnetism.

  _Arm._ I like his vortices.

  _Phil._ And I, his falling worlds.

  _Arm._ I long to see our assembly opened, and to distinguish ourselves
  by some great discovery.

  _Triss._ Much is expected from your enlightened knowledge, for nature
  has hidden few things from you.

  _Phil._ For my part, I have, without boasting, already made one
  discovery; I have plainly seen men in the moon.

  _Bél._ I have not, I believe as yet, quite distinguished men, but I
  have seen steeples as plainly as I see you.

  _Arm._ In addition to natural philosophy, we will dive into grammar,
  history, verse, ethics, and politics.

  _Phil._ I find in ethics charms which delight my heart; it was
  formerly the admiration of great geniuses; but I give the preference
  to the Stoics, and I think nothing so grand as their founder.

"Les Précieuses Ridicules" is an earlier and lighter treatment of the
same theme. The object of ridicule in both these pieces was a lapsed and
degenerate form of what originally was a thing worthy of respect, and
even of praise. At the Hôtel de Rambouillet, conversation was cultivated
as a fine art. There was, no doubt, something overstrained in the
standards which the ladies of that circle enforced. Their mutual
communication was all conducted in a peculiar style of language, the
natural deterioration of which was into a kind of euphuism, such as
English readers will remember to have seen exemplified in Walter Scott's
Sir Piercie Shafton. These ladies called each other, with demonstrative
fondness, "Ma précieuse." Hence at last the term _précieuse_ as a
designation of ridicule. Madame de Sévigné was a _précieuse_. But she,
with many of her peers, was too rich in sarcastic common sense to be a
_précieuse ridicule_. Molière himself, thrifty master of policy that he
was, took pains to explain that he did not satirize the real thing, but
only the affectation.

"Tartuffe, or the Impostor," is perhaps the most celebrated of all
Molière's plays. Scarcely comedy, scarcely tragedy, it partakes of both
characters. Like tragedy, serious in purpose, it has a happy ending like
comedy. Pity and terror are absent; or, if not quite absent, these
sentiments are present raised only to a pitch distinctly below the
tragic. Indignation is the chief passion excited, or detestation,
perhaps, rather than indignation. This feeling is provided at last with
its full satisfaction in the condign punishment visited on the impostor.

The original "Tartuffe," like the most of Molière's comedies, is written
in rhymed verse. We could not, with any effort, make the English-reading
student of Molière sufficiently feel how much is lost when the form is
lost which the creations of this great genius took, in their native
French, under his own master hand. A satisfactory metrical rendering is
out of the question. The sense, at least, if not the incommunicable
spirit, of the original, is very well given in Mr. C. H. Wall's version,
which we use.

The story of "Tartuffe" is briefly this: Tartuffe, the hero, is a pure
villain. He mixes no adulteration of good in his composition. He is
hypocrisy itself, the strictly genuine article. Tartuffe has completely
imposed upon one Orgon, a man of wealth and standing. Orgon, with his
wife, and with his mother, in fact, believes in him absolutely. These
people have received the canting rascal into their house, and are about
to bestow upon him their daughter in marriage. The following scene from
act first shows the skill with which Molière could exhibit, in a few
strokes of bold exaggeration, the infatuation of Orgon's regard for
Tartuffe. Orgon has been absent from home. He returns, and meets
Cléante, his brother, whom, in his eagerness, he begs to excuse his not
answering a question just addressed to him:

  _Orgon (to Cléante)._ Brother, pray excuse me: you will kindly allow
  me to allay my anxiety by asking news of the family. (_To Dorine, a
  maid-servant._) Has every thing gone on well these last two days? What
  has happened? How is every body?

  _Dor._ The day before yesterday our mistress was very feverish from
  morning to night, and suffered from a most extraordinary headache.

  _Org._ And Tartuffe?

  _Dor._ Tartuffe! He is wonderfully well, stout, and fat with blooming
  cheeks and ruddy lips.

  _Org._ Poor man!

  _Dor._ In the evening she felt very faint, and the pain in her head
  was so great that she could not touch any thing at supper.

  _Org._ And Tartuffe?

  _Dor._ He ate his supper by himself before her, and very devoutly
  devoured a brace of partridges and half a leg of mutton hashed.

  _Org._ Poor man!

  _Dor._ She spent the whole of the night without getting one wink of
  sleep: she was very feverish, and we had to sit up with her until the
  morning.

  _Org._ And Tartuffe?

  _Dor._ Overcome by a pleasant sleepiness, he passed from the table to
  his room and got at once into his warmed bed, where he slept
  comfortably till the next morning.

  _Org._ Poor man!

  _Dor._ At last, yielding to our persuasions, she consented to be bled,
  and immediately felt relieved.

  _Org._ And Tartuffe?

  _Dor._ He took heart right valiantly, and fortifying his soul against
  all evils, to make up for the blood which our lady had lost, drank at
  breakfast four large bumpers of wine.

  _Org._ Poor man!

  _Dor._ Now, at last, they are both well: and I will go and tell our
  lady how glad you are to hear of her recovery.

Tartuffe repays the trust and love of his benefactor by making improper
advances to that benefactor's wife. Orgon's son, who does not share his
father's confidence in Tartuffe, happens to be an unseen witness of the
man's infamous conduct. He exposes the hypocrite to Orgon, with the
result of being himself expelled from the house for his pains; while
Tartuffe, in recompense for the injury done to his feelings, is
presented with a gift-deed of Orgon's estate. But now Orgon's wife
contrives to let her husband see and hear for himself the vileness of
Tartuffe. This done, Orgon confronts the villain, and, with just
indignation, orders him out of his house. Tartuffe reminds Orgon that
the shoe is on the other foot; that he is himself now owner there, and
that it is Orgon, instead of Tartuffe, who must go. Orgon has an
interview with his mother, who is exasperatingly sure still that
Tartuffe is a maligned good man:

  _Madame Pernelle._ I can never believe, my son, that he would commit
  so base an action.

  _Org._ What?

  _Per._ Good people are always subject to envy.

  _Org._ What do you mean, mother?

  _Per._ That you live after a strange sort here, and that I am but too
  well aware of the ill-will they all bear him.

  _Org._ What has this ill-will to do with what I have just told you?

  _Per._ I have told it you a hundred times when you were young, that in
  this world virtue is ever liable to persecution, and that, although
  the envious die, envy never dies.

  _Org._ But what has this to do with what has happened to-day?

  _Per._ They have concocted a hundred foolish stories against him.

  _Org._ I have already told you that I saw it all myself.

  _Per._ The malice of evil-disposed persons is very great.

  _Org._ You would make me swear, mother! I tell you that I saw his
  audacious attempt with my own eyes.

  _Per._ Evil tongues have always some venom to pour forth; and here
  below, there is nothing proof against them.

  _Org._ You are maintaining a very senseless argument. I saw it, I tell
  you--saw it with my own eyes! what you can call s-a-w, saw! Must I din
  it over and over into your ears, and shout as loud as half a dozen
  people?

  _Per._ Gracious goodness! appearances often deceive us! We must not
  always judge by what we see.

  _Org._ I shall go mad!

  _Per._ We are by nature prone to judge wrongly, and good is often
  mistaken for evil.

  _Org._ I ought to look upon his desire of seducing my wife as
  charitable?

  _Per._ You ought to have good reasons before you accuse another, and
  you should have waited till you were quite sure of the fact.

  _Org._ Heaven save the mark! how could I be more sure? I suppose,
  mother, I ought to have waited till--you will make me say something
  foolish.

  _Per._ In short, his soul is possessed with too pure a zeal; and I
  cannot possibly conceive that he would think of attempting what you
  accuse him of.

  _Org._ If you were not my mother, I really don't know what I might now
  say to you, you make me so savage.

The short remainder of the scene has for its important idea the
suggestion that, under the existing circumstances, some sort of peace
ought to be patched up between Orgon and Tartuffe. Meantime one _Loyal_
is observed coming, whereupon the fourth scene of act fifth opens:

  _Loy. (to Dorine at the farther part of the stage)._ Good-day, my dear
  sister; pray let me speak to your master.

  _Dor._ He is with friends, and I do not think he can see any one just
  now.

  _Loy._ I would not be intrusive. I feel sure that he will find nothing
  unpleasant in my visit; in fact, I come for something which will be
  very gratifying to him.

  _Dor._ What is your name?

  _Loy._ Only tell him that I come from Mr. Tartuffe for his benefit.

  _Dor. (to Orgon)._ It is a man who comes in a civil way from Mr.
  Tartuffe, on some business which will make you glad, he says.

  _Clé. (to Orgon)._ You must see who it is and what the man wants.

  _Org. (to Cléante)._ He is coming, perhaps, to settle matters between
  us in a friendly way. How, in this case, ought I to behave to him?

  _Clé._ Don't show any resentment, and, if he speaks of an agreement,
  listen to him.

  _Loy. (to Orgon)._ Your servant, sir. May heaven punish whoever wrongs
  you; and may it be as favorable to you, sir, as I wish!

  _Org. (aside to Cléante)._ This pleasant beginning agrees with my
  conjectures, and argues some sort of reconciliation.

  _Loy._ All your family was always dear to me, and I served your
  father.

  _Org._ I am sorry and ashamed to say that I do not know who you are,
  neither do I remember your name.

  _Loy._ My name is Loyal; I was born in Normandy, and am a royal
  bailiff in spite of envy. For the last forty years I have had the good
  fortune to fill the office, thanks to heaven, with great credit; and I
  come, sir, with your leave, to serve you the writ of a certain order.

  _Org._ What! you are here--

  _Loy._ Gently, sir, I beg. It is merely a summons--a notice for you to
  leave this place, you and yours; to take away all your goods and
  chattels, and make room for others, without delay or adjournment, as
  hereby decreed.

  _Org._ I! leave this place?

  _Loy._ Yes, sir, if you please. The house incontestably belongs, as
  you are well aware, to the good Mr. Tartuffe. He is now lord and
  master of your estates, according to a deed I have in my keeping. It
  is in due form, and cannot be challenged.

  _Damis (to Mr. Loyal)._ This great impudence is, indeed, worthy of all
  admiration.

  _Loy. (to Damis.)_ Sir, I have nothing at all to do with you.
  (_Pointing to Orgon._) My business is with this gentleman. He is
  tractable and gentle, and knows too well the duty of a gentleman to
  try to oppose authority.

  _Org._ But--

  _Loy._ Yes, sir; I know that you would not, for any thing, show
  contumacy; and that you will allow me, like a reasonable man, to
  execute the orders I have received.

The scene gives in conclusion some spirited byplay of asides and
interruptions from indignant members of the family. Then follows scene
fifth, one exchange of conversation from which will sufficiently
indicate the progress of the plot:

  _Org._ Well, mother, you see whether I am right; and you can judge of
  the rest by the writ. Do you at last acknowledge his rascality?

  _Per._ I am thunderstruck, and can scarcely believe my eyes and ears.

The next scene introduces Valère, the noble lover of that daughter whom
the infatuated father was bent on sacrificing to Tartuffe. Valère comes
to announce that Tartuffe, the villain, has accused Orgon to the king.
Orgon must fly. Valère offers him his own carriage and money--will, in
fact, himself keep him company till he reaches a place of safety. As
Orgon, taking hasty leave of his family, turns to go, he is encountered
by--the following scene will show whom:

  _Tar. (stopping Orgon.)_ Gently, sir, gently; not so fast, I beg. You
  have not far to go to find a lodging, and you are a prisoner in the
  king's name.

  _Org._ Wretch! you had reserved this shaft for the last; by it you
  finish me, and crown all your perfidies.

  _Tar._ Your abuse has no power to disturb me, and I know how to suffer
  every thing for the sake of heaven.

  _Clé._ Your moderation is really great, we must acknowledge.

  _Da._ How impudently the infamous wretch sports with heaven!

  _Tar._ Your anger cannot move me. I have no other wish but to fulfill
  my duty.

  _Marianne._ You may claim great glory from the performance of this
  duty: it is a very honorable employment for you.

  _Tar._ The employment cannot be otherwise than glorious, when it comes
  from the power that sends me here.

  _Org._ But do you remember that my charitable hand, ungrateful
  scoundrel, raised you from a state of misery?

  _Tar._ Yes, I know what help I have received from you; but the
  interest of my king is my first duty. The just obligation of this
  sacred duty stifles in my heart all other claims; and I would
  sacrifice to it friend, wife, relations, and myself with them.

  _Elmire._ The impostor!

  _Dor._ With what treacherous cunning he makes a cloak of all that men
  revere!...

  _Tar. (to the Officer)._ I beg of you, sir, to deliver me from all
  this noise, and to act according to the orders you have received.

  _Officer._ I have certainly put off too long the discharge of my duty,
  and you very rightly remind me of it. To execute my order, follow me
  immediately to the prison in which a place is assigned to you.

  _Tar._ Who? I, sir?

  _Officer._ Yes, you.

  _Tar._ Why to prison?

  _Officer._ To you I have no account to render. (_To Orgon._) Pray,
  sir, recover from your great alarm. We live under a king [Louis XIV.]
  who is an enemy to fraud--a king who can read the heart, and whom all
  the arts of impostors cannot deceive. His great mind, endowed with
  delicate discernment, at all times sees things in their true light....
  He annuls, by his sovereign will, the terms of the contract by which
  you gave him [Tartuffe] your property. He moreover forgives you this
  secret offense in which you were involved by the flight of your
  friend. This to reward the zeal which you once showed for him in
  maintaining his rights, and to prove that his heart, when it is least
  expected, knows how to recompense a good action. Merit with him is
  never lost, and he remembers good better than evil.

  _Dor._ Heaven be thanked!

  _Per._ Ah! I breathe again.

  _El._ What a favorable end to our troubles!

  _Mar._ Who would have foretold it?

  _Org. (to Tartuffe as the Officer leads him off)._ Ah, wretch! now you
  are--

Tartuffe thus disposed of, the play promptly ends with a vanishing
glimpse afforded us of a happy marriage in prospect for Valère with the
daughter.

"The Tartuffian Age" is the title of a late Italian book admirably
translated into English by an American, Mr. W. A. Nettleton. That such
should be the Italian author's chosen title for his work incidentally
shows how cosmopolitan is our French dramatist's fame. The book is a
kindly-caustic satire on the times in which we live, found by the
satirist to be abundant in the quality of Tartuffe, that leaven of the
Pharisees which is hypocrisy.

Molière is said to have had a personal aim in drawing the character of
Tartuffe. This, at least, was like Dante. There is not much sweet
laughter in such a comedy. But there is a power that is dreadful.

Each succeeding generation of Frenchmen supplies its bright and
ingenious wits who produce comedy. But as there is no second
Shakespeare, so there is but one Molière.



VIII.

PASCAL.

1623-1662.


Pascal's fame is distinctly the fame of a man of genius. He achieved
notable things. But it is what he might have done, still more than what
he did, that fixes his estimation in the world of mind. Blaise Pascal is
one of the chief intellectual glories of France.

Pascal, the boy, had a strong natural bent toward mathematics. The story
is that his father, in order to turn his son's whole force on the study
of languages, put out of the lad's reach all books treating his favorite
subject. Thus shut up to his own resources the masterful little fellow,
about his eighth year, drawing charcoal diagrams on the floor, made
perceptible progress in working out geometry for himself. At sixteen he
produced a treatise on conic sections that excited the wonder and
incredulity of Descartes. Later he experimented in barometry, and
pursued investigations in mechanics. Later still he made what seemed to
be approaches toward Newton's binomial theorem.

Vivid religious convictions meantime deeply affected Pascal's mind. His
health, never robust, began to give way. His physicians prescribed
mental diversion, and forced him into society. That medicine, taken at
first with reluctance, proved dangerously delightful to Pascal's
vivacious and susceptible spirit. His pious sister Jacqueline warned her
brother that he was going too far. But he was still more effectively
warned by an accident, in which he almost miraculously escaped from
death. Withdrawing from the world, he adopted a course of ascetic
practices, in which he continued till he died--in his thirty-ninth year.
He wore about his waist an iron girdle armed with sharp points; and this
he would press smartly with his elbow when he detected himself at fault
in his spirit.

Notwithstanding what Pascal did or attempted worthy of fame, in science,
it was his fortune to become chiefly renowned by literary achievement.
His, in fact, would now be a half-forgotten name if he had not written
the "Provincial Letters" and the "Thoughts."

The "Provincial Letters" is an abbreviated title. The title in full
originally was, "Letters written by Louis de Montalte to a Provincial,
one of his friends, and to the Reverend Fathers, the Jesuits, on the
subject of the morality and the policy of those Fathers."

Of the "Provincial Letters," several English translations have been
made. No one of these that we have been able to find seems entirely
satisfactory. There is an elusive quality to Pascal's style, and in
losing this you seem to lose something of Pascal's thought. For with
Pascal the thought and the style penetrate each other inextricably and
almost indistinguishably. You cannot print a smile, an inflection of the
voice, a glance of the eye, a French shrug of the shoulders. And such
modulations of the thought seem everywhere to lurk in the turns and
phrases of Pascal's inimitable French. To translate them is impossible.

Pascal is beyond question the greatest modern master of that
indescribably delicate art in expression, which, from its illustrious
ancient exemplar, has received the name of the Socratic irony. With this
fine weapon, in great part, it was, wielded like a magician's invisible
wand, that Pascal did his memorable execution on the Jesuitical system
of morals and casuistry, in the "Provincial Letters." In great part, we
say; for the flaming moral earnestness of the man could not abide only
to play with his adversaries to the end of the famous dispute. His
lighter cimeter blade he flung aside before he had done, and, toward the
last, brandished a sword that had weight as well as edge and temper. The
skill that could halve a feather in the air with the sword of Saladin
was proved to be also strength that could cleave a suit of mail with the
brand of Richard the Lion-hearted.

It is generally acknowledged that the French language has never in any
hands been a more obedient instrument of intellectual power than it was
in the hands of Pascal. He is rated the earliest writer to produce what
may be called the final French prose. "The creator of French style,"
Villemain boldly calls him. Pascal's style remains to this day almost
perfectly free from adhesions of archaism in diction and in
construction. Pascal showed, as it were at once, what the French
language was capable of doing in response to the demands of a master. It
was the joint achievement of genius, of taste, and of skill, working
together in an exquisite balance and harmony.

But let us be entirely frank. The "Provincial Letters" of Pascal are
now, to the general reader, not so interesting as from their fame one
would seem entitled to expect. You cannot read them intelligently
without considerable previous study. You need to have learned,
imperfectly, with labor, a thousand things that every contemporary
reader of Pascal perfectly knew as if by simply breathing--the necessary
knowledge being then, so to speak, abroad in the air. Even thus you
cannot possibly derive that vivid delight from perusing in bulk the
"Provincial Letters" now, which the successive numbers of the series,
appearing at brief irregular intervals, communicated to the eagerly
expecting French public, at a time when the topics discussed were topics
of a present and pressing practical interest. Still, with whatever
disadvantage unavoidably attending, we must give our readers a taste of
the quality of Pascal's "Provincial Letters."

We select a passage at the commencement of the "Seventh Letter." We use
the translation of Mr. Thomas M'Crie. This succeeds very well in
conveying the sense, though it necessarily fails to convey either the
vivacity or the eloquence, of the incomparable original. The first
occasion of the "Provincial Letters" was a championship proposed to
Pascal to be taken up by him on behalf of his beleaguered and endangered
friend Arnauld, the Port-Royalist. (Port Royal was a Roman Catholic
abbey situated some eight miles to the south-west of Versailles, and
therefore not very remote from Paris.) Arnauld was "for substance of
doctrine" really a Calvinist, though he quite sincerely disclaimed being
such; and it was for his defense of Calvinism (under its ancient form of
Augustinianism) that he was threatened, through Jesuit enmity, with
condemnation for heretical opinion. The problem was to enlist the
sentiment of general society in his favor. The friends in council at
Port Royal said to Pascal, "You must do this." Pascal said, "I will
try." In a few days the first letter of a series destined to such fame
was submitted for judgment to Port Royal, and approved. It was
printed--anonymously. The success was instantaneous and brilliant. A
second letter followed, and a third. Soon, from strict personal defense
of Arnauld, the writer went on to take up a line of offense and
aggression. He carried the war into Africa. He attacked the Jesuits as
teachers of immoral doctrine.

The plan of these later letters was to have a Paris gentleman write to a
friend of his in the country (the "provincial"), detailing interviews
held by him with a Jesuit priest of the city. The supposed Parisian
gentleman in his interviews with the supposed Jesuit father affects the
air of a very simple-hearted seeker after truth. He represents himself
as, by his innocent-seeming docility, leading his Jesuit teacher on to
make the most astonishingly frank exposures of the secrets of the
casuistical system held and taught by his order.

The "Seventh Letter" tells the story of how Jesuit confessors were
instructed to manage their penitents in a matter made immortally famous
by the wit and genius of Pascal, the matter of "directing the
intention." There is nothing in the "Provincial Letters" better suited
than this at the same time to interest the general reader, and to
display the quality of these renowned productions. (We do not scruple to
change our chosen translation a little at points where it seems to us
susceptible of some easy improvement.) Remember it is an imaginary
Parisian gentleman who now writes to a friend of his in the country. Our
extract introduces first the Jesuit father speaking:

  "You know," he said, "that the ruling passion of persons in that rank
  of life [the rank of gentleman] is 'the point of honor,' which is
  perpetually driving them into acts of violence apparently quite at
  variance with Christian piety; so that, in fact, they would be almost
  all of them excluded from our confessionals, had not our fathers
  relaxed a little from the strictness of religion, to accommodate
  themselves to the weakness of humanity. Anxious to keep on good terms,
  both with the gospel, by doing their duty to God, and with the men of
  the world, by showing charity to their neighbor, they needed all the
  wisdom they possessed to devise expedients for so nicely adjusting
  matters as to permit these gentlemen to adopt the methods usually
  resorted to for vindicating their honor without wounding their
  consciences, and thus reconcile things apparently so opposite to each
  other as piety and the point of honor."...

  "I should certainly [so replies M. Montalte, with the most exquisite
  irony crouched under a cover of admiring simplicity]--I should
  certainly have considered the thing perfectly impracticable, if I had
  not known, from what I have seen of your fathers, that they are
  capable of doing with ease what is impossible to other men. This led
  me to anticipate that they must have discovered some method for
  meeting the difficulty--a method which I admire, even before knowing
  it, and which I pray you to explain to me."

  "Since that is your view of the matter," replied the monk, "I cannot
  refuse you. Know, then, that this marvelous principle is our grand
  method of _directing the intention_--the importance of which, in our
  moral system, is such, that I might almost venture to compare it with
  the doctrine of _probability_. You have had some glimpses of it in
  passing, from certain maxims which I mentioned to you. For example,
  when I was showing you how servants might execute certain troublesome
  jobs with a safe conscience, did you not remark that it was simply by
  diverting their intention from the evil to which they were accessory,
  to the profit which they might reap from the transaction? Now, that is
  what we call _directing the intention_. You saw, too, that, were it
  not for a similar divergence of _the mind_, those who give money for
  benefices might be downright simoniacs. But I will now show you this
  grand method in all its glory, as it applies to the subject of
  homicide--a crime which it justifies in a thousand instances--in order
  that, from this startling result, you may form an idea of all that it
  is calculated to effect.

  "I foresee already," said I, "that, according to this mode, every
  thing will be permitted: it will stick at nothing."

  "You always fly from the one extreme to the other," replied the monk;
  "prithee, avoid that habit. For just to show you that we are far from
  permitting every thing, let me tell you that we never suffer such a
  thing as a formal intention to sin, with the sole design of sinning;
  and, if any person whatever should persist in having no other end but
  evil in the evil that he does, we break with him at once; such conduct
  is diabolical. This holds true, without exception of age, sex, or
  rank. But when the person is not of such a wretched disposition as
  this, we try to put in practice our method of _directing the
  intention_, which consists in his proposing to himself, as the end of
  his actions, some allowable object. Not that we do not endeavor, as
  far as we can, to dissuade men from doing things forbidden; but, when
  we cannot prevent the action, we at least purify the motive, and thus
  correct the viciousness of the means by the goodness of the end. Such
  is the way in which our fathers have contrived to permit those acts of
  violence to which men usually resort in vindication of their honor.
  They have no more to do than to turn off their intention from the
  desire of vengeance, which is criminal, and direct it to a desire to
  defend their honor, which, according to us, is quite warrantable. And
  in this way our doctors discharge all their duty toward God and
  toward man. By permitting the action, they gratify the world and by
  purifying the intention, they give satisfaction to the gospel. This is
  a secret, sir, which was entirely unknown to the ancients; the world
  is indebted for the discovery entirely to our doctors. You understand
  it now, I hope?"

  "Perfectly," was my reply. "To men you grant the outward material
  effect of the action, and to God you give the inward and spiritual
  movement of the intention; and, by this equitable partition, you form
  an alliance between the laws of God and the laws of men. But, my dear
  sir, to be frank with you, I can hardly trust your premises, and I
  suspect that your authors will tell another tale."

  "You do me injustice," rejoined the monk; "I advance nothing but what
  I am ready to prove, and that by such a rich array of passages, that
  altogether their number, their authority, and their reasonings, will
  fill you with admiration. To show you, for example, the alliance which
  our fathers have formed between the maxims of the gospel and those of
  the world, by thus regulating the intention, let me refer you to
  Reginald. (_In Praxi._, liv. xxi., num. 62, p. 260.) [These, and all
  that follow, are verifiable citations from real and undisputed Jesuit
  authorities, not to this day repudiated by that order.] 'Private
  persons are forbidden to avenge themselves; for St. Paul says to the
  Romans (ch. 12th), "Recompense to no man evil for evil;" and
  Ecclesiasticus says (ch. 28th), "He that taketh vengeance shall draw
  on himself the vengeance of God, and his sins will not be forgotten."
  Besides all that is said in the gospel about forgiving offenses, as in
  the 6th and 18th chapters of St. Matthew.'"

  "Well, father, if after that, he [Reginald] says any thing contrary to
  the Scripture, it will, at least, not be from lack of scriptural
  knowledge. Pray, how does he conclude?"

  "You shall hear," he said. "From all this it appears that a military
  man may demand satisfaction on the spot from the person who has
  injured him--not, indeed, with the intention of rendering evil for
  evil, but with that of preserving his honor--_non ut malum pro malo
  reddat, sed ut conservat honorem_. See you how carefully, because the
  Scripture condemns it, they guard against the intention of rendering
  evil for evil? This is what they will tolerate on no account. Thus
  Lessius observes (_De Just._, liv. ii., c. 9, d. 12, n. 79), that, 'If
  a man has received a blow on the face, he must on no account have an
  intention to avenge himself; but he may lawfully have an intention to
  avert infamy, and may, with that view, repel the insult immediately,
  even at the point of the sword--_etiam cum gladio_.' So far are we
  from permitting any one to cherish the design of taking vengeance on
  his enemies, that our fathers will not allow any even to _wish their
  death_--by a movement of hatred. 'If your enemy is disposed to injure
  you,' says Escobar, 'you have no right to wish his death, by a
  movement of hatred; though you may, with a view to save yourself from
  harm.' So legitimate, indeed, is this wish, with such an intention,
  that our great Hurtado de Mendoza says that 'we may _pray God_ to
  visit with speedy death those who are bent on persecuting us, if there
  is no other way of escaping from it.'" (In his book, _De Spe_, vol.
  ii., d. 15, sec. 4, 48.)

  "May it please your reverence," said I, "the Church has forgotten to
  insert a petition to that effect among her prayers."

  "They have not put every thing into the prayers that one may lawfully
  ask of God," answered the monk. "Besides, in the present case, the
  thing was impossible, for this same opinion is of more recent standing
  than the Breviary. You are not a good chronologist, friend. But, not
  to wander from the point, let me request your attention to the
  following passage, cited by Diana from Gaspar Hurtado (_De Sub.
  Pecc._, diff. 9; Diana, p. 5; tr. 14, r. 99), one of Escobar's
  four-and-twenty fathers: 'An incumbent may, without any mortal sin,
  desire the decease of a life-renter on his benefice, and a son that of
  his father, and rejoice when it happens; provided always it is for the
  sake of the profit that is to accrue from the event, and not from
  personal aversion.'"

  "Good," cried I. "That is certainly a very happy hit, and I can easily
  see that the doctrine admits of a wide application. But yet there are
  certain cases, the solution of which, though of great importance for
  gentlemen, might present still greater difficulties."

  "Propose such, if you please, that we may see," said the monk.

  "Show me, with all your directing of the intention," returned I, "that
  it is allowable to fight a duel."

  "Our great Hurtado de Mendoza," said the father, "will satisfy you on
  that point in a twinkling. 'If a gentleman,' says he, in a passage
  cited by Diana, 'who is challenged to fight a duel, is well known to
  have no religion, and if the vices to which he is openly and
  unscrupulously addicted are such as would lead people to conclude, in
  the event of his refusing to fight, that he is actuated, not by the
  fear of God, but by cowardice, and induce them to say of him that he
  was a _hen_, and not a man--_gallina, et non vir_; in that case he
  may, to save his honor, appear at the appointed spot--not, indeed,
  with the express intention of fighting a duel, but merely with that of
  defending himself, should the person who challenged him come there
  unjustly to attack him. His action in this case, viewed by itself,
  will be perfectly indifferent; for what moral evil is there in one's
  stepping into a field, taking a stroll in expectation of meeting a
  person, and defending one's self in the event of being attacked? And
  thus the gentleman is guilty of no sin whatever; for, in fact, it
  cannot be called accepting a challenge at all, his intention being
  directed to other circumstances, and the acceptance of a challenge
  consisting in an express intention to fight, which we are supposing
  the gentleman never had.'"

The humorous irony of Pascal, in the "Provincial Letters," plays like
the diffusive sheen of an aurora borealis over the whole surface of the
composition. It does not often deliver itself startlingly in sudden
discharges as of lightning. You need to school your sense somewhat, not
to miss a fine effect now and then. Consider the broadness and
coarseness in pleasantry, that, before Pascal, had been common, almost
universal, in controversy, and you will better understand what a
creative touch it was of genius, of feeling, and of taste, that brought
into literature the far more than Attic, the ineffable Christian, purity
of that wit and humor in the "Provincial Letters" which will make these
writings live as long as men anywhere continue to read the productions
of past ages. Erasmus, perhaps, came the nearest of all modern
predecessors to anticipating the purified pleasantry of Pascal.

It will be interesting and instructive to see Pascal's own statement of
his reasons for adopting the bantering style which he did in the
"Provincial Letters," as well as of the sense of responsibility to be
faithful and fair, under which he wrote. Pascal says:

  I have been asked why I employed a pleasant, jocose, and diverting
  style. I reply ... I thought it a duty to write so as to be
  comprehended by women, and men of the world, that they might know the
  danger of their maxims and propositions which were then universally
  propagated.... I have been asked, lastly, if I myself read all the
  books, which I 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 read
  Escobar twice through, and I employed some of my friends in reading
  the others. But I did not make 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 unfair.

Of the wit of the "Provincial Letters," their wit and their
controversial effectiveness, the specimens given will have afforded
readers some approximate idea. We must deny ourselves the gratification
of presenting a brief passage, which we had selected and translated for
the purpose, to exemplify from the same source Pascal's serious
eloquence. It was Voltaire who said of these productions: "Molière's
best comedies do not excel them in wit, nor the compositions of Bossuet
in sublimity." Something of Bossuet's sublimity, or of a sublimity
perhaps finer than Bossuet's, our readers will discover in citations to
follow from the "Thoughts."

Pascal's "Thoughts," the printed book, has a remarkable history. It was
a posthumous publication. The author died, leaving behind him a
considerable number of detached fragments of composition, first jottings
of thought on a subject that had long occupied his mind. These precious
manuscripts were almost undecipherable. The writer had used for his
purpose any chance scrap of paper--old wrapping, for example, or margin
of letter--that, at the critical moment of happy conception, was nearest
his hand. Sentences, words even, were often left unfinished. There was
no coherence, no sequence, no arrangement. It was, however, among his
friends perfectly well understood that Pascal for years had meditated a
work on religion designed to demonstrate the truth of Christianity. For
this he had been thinking arduously. Fortunately he had even, in a
memorable conversation, sketched his project at some length to his Port
Royal friends. With so much, scarcely more, in the way of clew, to guide
their editorial work, these friends prepared and issued a volume of
Pascal's "Thoughts." With the most loyal intentions, the Port-Royalists
unwisely edited too much. They pieced out incompletenesses, they
provided clauses or sentences of connection, they toned down expressions
deemed too bold, they improved Pascal's style! After having suffered
such things from his friends, the posthumous Pascal, later, fell into
the hands of an enemy. The infidel Condorcet published an edition of the
"Thoughts." Whereas the Port-Royalists had suppressed to placate the
Jesuits, Condorcet suppressed to please the "philosophers." Between
those on the one side and these on the other, Pascal's "Thoughts" had
experienced what might well have killed any production of the human mind
that could die. It was not till near the middle of the present century
that Cousin called the attention of the world to the fact that we had
not yet, but that we still might have, a true edition of Pascal's
"Thoughts." M. Faugère took the hint, and, consulting the original
manuscripts, preserved in the national library at Paris, produced, with
infinite editorial labor, almost two hundred years after the thinker's
death, the first satisfactory edition of Pascal's "Thoughts." Since
Faugère, M. Havet has also published an edition of Pascal's works
entire, by him now first adequately annotated and explained. The
arrangement of the "Thoughts" varies in order, according to the varying
judgment of editors. We use, for our extracts, a current translation,
which we modify at our discretion by comparison of the original text as
given in M. Havet's elaborate work.

Our first extract is a passage in which the writer supposes a skeptic of
the more shallow, trifling sort, to speak. This skeptic represents his
own state of mind in the following strain as of soliloquy:

  "I do not know who put me into the world, nor what the world is, nor
  what I am myself. I am in a frightful ignorance of all things. I do
  not know what my body is, what my senses are, what my soul is, and
  that very part of me which thinks what I am saying, which reflects
  upon every thing and upon itself, and is no better acquainted with
  itself than with any thing else. I see these appalling spaces of the
  universe which inclose me, and I find myself tethered in one corner of
  this immense expansion without knowing why I am stationed in this
  place rather than in another, or why this moment of time which is
  given me to live is assigned me at this point rather than at another
  of the whole eternity that has preceded me, and of that which is to
  follow me.

  "I see nothing but infinities on every side, which inclose me like an
  atom, and like a shadow which endures but for an instant, and returns
  no more.

  "All that I know is, that I am soon to die; but what I am most
  ignorant of is, that very death which I am unable to avoid.

  "As I know not whence I came, so I know not whither I go; and I know
  only, that in leaving this world I fall forever either into
  nothingness or into the hands of an angry God, without knowing which
  of these two conditions is to be eternally my lot. Such is my
  state--full of misery, of weakness, and of uncertainty.

  "And from all this I conclude that I ought to pass all the days of my
  life without a thought of trying to learn what is to befall me
  hereafter. Perhaps in my doubts I might find some enlightenment; but I
  am unwilling to take the trouble, or go a single step in search of it;
  and, treating with contempt those who perplex themselves with such
  solicitude, my purpose is to go forward without forethought and
  without fear to try the great event, and passively to approach death
  in uncertainty of the eternity of my future condition."

  Who would desire to have for a friend a man who discourses in this
  manner? Who would select such a one for the confidant of his affairs?
  Who would have recourse to such a one in his afflictions? And, in
  fine, for what use of life could such a man be destined?

The central thought on which the projected apologetic of Pascal was to
revolve as on a pivot is, the contrasted greatness and wretchedness of
man--with Divine Revelation, in its doctrine of a fall on man's part
from original nobleness, supplying the needed link, and the only link
conceivable, of explanation, to unite the one with the other, the human
greatness with the human wretchedness. This contrast of dignity and
disgrace should constantly be in the mind of the reader of the
"Thoughts" of Pascal. It will often be found to throw a very necessary
light upon the meaning of the separate fragments that make up the
series.

We now present a brief fragment asserting, with vivid metaphor, at the
same time the fragility of man's frame and the majesty of man's nature.
This is a very famous "Thought":

  Man is but a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed.
  It is not necessary that the entire universe arm itself to crush him.
  An exhalation, a drop of water, suffices to kill him. But were the
  universe to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which
  kills him, because he knows that he is dying, and knows the advantage
  that the universe has over him. The universe knows nothing of it.

  Our whole dignity consists, then, in thought.

One is reminded of the memorable saying of a celebrated philosopher: "In
the universe there is nothing great but man; in man there is nothing
great but mind."

What a sudden, almost ludicrous, reduction in scale, the greatness of
Cæsar, as conqueror, is made to suffer when looked at in the way in
which Pascal asks you to look at it in the following "Thought"!
(Remember that Cæsar, when he began fighting for universal empire, was
fifty-one years of age:)

  Cæsar was too old, it seems to me, to amuse himself with conquering
  the world. This amusement was well enough for Augustus or Alexander;
  they were young people, whom it is difficult to stop; but Cæsar ought
  to have been more mature.

That is as if you should reverse the tube of your telescope, with the
result of seeing the object observed made smaller instead of larger.

The following sentence might be a "Maxim" of La Rochefoucauld. Pascal
was, no doubt, a debtor to him as well as to Montaigne:

  I lay it down as a fact, that, if all men knew what others say of them
  there would not be four friends in the world.

Here is one of the most current of Pascal's sayings:

  Rivers are highways that move on and bear us whither we wish to go.

The following "Thought" condenses the substance of the book proposed
into three short sentences:

  The knowledge of God without that of our misery produces pride. The
  knowledge of our misery without that of God gives despair. The
  knowledge of Jesus Christ is intermediate, because therein we find God
  and our misery.

The prevalent seeming severity and intellectual coldness of Pascal's
"Thoughts" yield to a touch from the heart, and become pathetic, in such
utterances as the following, supposed to be addressed by the Saviour to
the penitent seeking to be saved:

  Console thyself; thou wouldst not seek me if thou hadst not found me.

  I thought on thee in my agony; such drops of blood I shed for thee.

It is austerity again, but not unjust austerity, that speaks as follows:

  Religion is a thing so great that those who would not take the pains
  to seek it if it is obscure, should be deprived of it. What do they
  complain of, then, if it is such that they could find it by seeking
  it?

But we must take our leave of Pascal. His was a suffering as well as an
aspiring spirit. He suffered because he aspired. But, at least, he did
not suffer long. He aspired himself quickly away. Toward the last he
wrought at a problem in his first favorite study, that of mathematics,
and left behind him, as a memorial of his later life, a remarkable
result of investigation on the curve called the cycloid. During his
final illness he pierced himself through with many sorrows--unnecessary
sorrows, sorrows, too, that bore a double edge, hurting not only him,
but also his kindred--in practicing, from mistaken religious motives, a
hard repression upon his natural instinct to love, and to welcome love.
He thought that God should be all, the creature nothing. The thought was
half true, but it was half false. God should, indeed, be all. But, in
God, the creature also should be something.

In French history--we may say, in the history of the world--if there are
few brighter, there also are few purer, fames than the fame of Pascal.



IX.

MADAME DE SÉVIGNÉ.

1626-1696.


Of Madame de Sévigné, if it were permitted here to make a pun and a
paradox, one might justly and descriptively say that she was not a woman
of letters, but only a woman of--letters. For Madame de Sévigné's
addiction to literature was not at all that of an author by profession.
She simply wrote admirable private letters in great profusion, and
became famous thereby.

Madame de Sévigné's fame is partly her merit, but it is also partly her
good fortune. She was rightly placed to be what she was. This will
appear from a sketch of her life, and still more from specimens to be
exhibited of her own epistolary writing.

Marie de Rabutin-Chantal was her maiden name. She was born a baroness.
She was married, young, a marchioness. First early left an orphan, she
was afterward early left a widow--not too early, however, to have become
the mother of two children, a son and a daughter. The daughter grew to
be the life-long idol of the widowed mother's heart. The letters she
wrote to this daughter, married and living remote from her, compose the
greater part of that voluminous epistolary production by which Madame de
Sévigné became, without her ever aiming at such a result, or probably
ever thinking of it, one of the classics of the French language.

Madame de Sévigné was wealthy as orphan heiress, and she should have
been wealthy as widow. But her husband was profligate, and he wasted her
substance. She turned out to be a thoroughly capable woman of affairs
who managed her property well. During her long and stainless
widowhood--her husband fell in a shameful duel when she was but
twenty-five years old, and she lived to be seventy--she divided her
time between her estate, "The Rocks," in Brittany, and her residence in
Paris. This period was all embraced within the protracted reign of Louis
XIV., perhaps upon the whole the most memorable age in the history of
France.

Beautiful, and, if not brilliantly beautiful, at least, brilliantly
witty, Madame de Sévigné was virtuous--in that chief sense of feminine
virtue--amid an almost universal empire of profligacy around her. Her
social advantages were unsurpassed, and her social success was equal to
her advantages. She had the woman courtier's supreme triumph in being
once led out to dance by the king--her own junior by a dozen years--no
vulgar king, remember, but the "great" Louis XIV. Her cynical cousin,
himself a writer of power, who had been repulsed in dishonorable
proffers of love by the young marchioness during the lifetime of her
husband--we mean Count Bussy--says, in a scurrilous work of his, that
Madame de Sévigné remarked, on returning to her seat after her
dancing-bout with the king, that Louis possessed great qualities, and
would certainly obscure the luster of all his predecessors. "I could not
help laughing in her face," the ungallant cousin declared, "seeing what
had produced this panegyric." Probably, indeed, the young woman was
pleased. But, whatever may have been her faults or her follies, nothing
can rob Madame de Sévigné of the glory that is hers, in having been
strong enough in womanly and motherly honor to preserve, against many
dazzling temptations, amid general bad example, and even under malignant
aspersions, a chaste and spotless name. When it is added that, besides
access to the royal court itself, this gifted woman enjoyed the familiar
acquaintance of La Rochefoucauld--with other high-bred wits, less
famous, not a few--enough will have been said to show that her position
was such as to give her talent its best possible chance. The French
history of the times of Louis XIV. is hinted in glimpses the most vivid
and the most suggestive, throughout the whole series of the letters.

We owe it to our readers (and to Madame de Sévigné no less) first of all
to let them see a specimen of the affectionate adulation that this
French woman of rank and of fashion, literally in almost every letter of
hers, effuses on her daughter--a daughter who, by the way, seems very
languidly to have responded to such demonstrations:

    THE ROCKS, Sunday, June 28, 1671.

  You have amply made up to me my late losses; I have received two
  letters from you which have filled me with transports of joy. The
  pleasure I take in reading them is beyond all imagination. If I have
  in any way contributed to the improvement of your style, I did it in
  the thought that I was laboring for the pleasure of others, not for my
  own. But Providence, who has seen fit to separate us so often, and to
  place us at such immense distances from each other, has repaid me a
  little for the privation in the charms of your correspondence, and
  still more in the satisfaction you express in your situation, and the
  beauty of your castle; you represent it to me with an air of grandeur
  and magnificence that enchants me. I once saw a similar account of it
  by the first Madame de Grignan; but I little thought at that time that
  all these beauties were to be one day at your command. I am very much
  obliged to you for having given me so particular an account of it. If
  I could be tired in reading your letters, it would not only betray a
  very bad taste in me, but would likewise show that I could have very
  little love or friendship for you. Divest yourself of the dislike you
  have taken to circumstantial details. I have often told you, and you
  ought yourself to feel the truth of this remark, that they are as dear
  to us from those we love as they are tedious and disagreeable from
  others. If they are displeasing to us, it is only from the
  indifference we feel for those who write them. Admitting this
  observation to be true, I leave you to judge what pleasure yours
  afford me. It is a fine thing truly to play the great lady, as you do
  at present.

Conceive the foregoing multiplied by the whole number of the separate
letters composing the correspondence, and you will have no exaggerated
idea of the display that Madame de Sévigné makes of her regard for her
daughter. This regard was a passion, morbid, no doubt, by excess, and,
even at that, extravagantly demonstrated; but it was fundamentally
sincere. Madame de Sévigné idealized her absent daughter, and literally
"loved but only her." We need not wholly admire such maternal
affection. But we should not criticise it too severely.

We choose next a marvelously vivid "instantaneous view" in words, of a
court afternoon and evening at Versailles. This letter, too is addressed
to the daughter--Madame de Grignan, by her married name. It bears date,
"Paris, Wednesday, 29th July." The year is 1676, and the writer is just
fifty:

  I was at Versailles last Saturday with the Villarses.... At three the
  king, the queen, Monsieur [eldest brother to the king], Madame [that
  brother's wife], Mademoiselle [that brother's eldest unmarried
  daughter], and every thing else which is royal, together with Madame
  de Montespan [the celebrated mistress of the king] and train, and all
  the courtiers, and all the ladies--all, in short, which constitutes
  the court of France, is assembled in the beautiful apartment of the
  king's, which you remember. All is furnished divinely, all is
  magnificent. Such a thing as heat is unknown; you pass from one place
  to another without the slightest pressure. A game at _reversis_ [the
  description is of a gambling scene, in which Dangeau figures as a cool
  and skillful gamester] gives the company a form and a settlement. The
  king and Madame de Montespan keep a bank together; different tables
  are occupied by Monsieur, the queen, and Madame de Soubise, Dangeau
  and party, Langlée and party. Everywhere you see heaps of louis d'ors;
  they have no other counters. I saw Dangeau play, and thought what
  fools we all were beside him. He dreams of nothing but what concerns
  the game; he wins where others lose: he neglects nothing, profits by
  every thing, never has his attention diverted; in short his science
  bids defiance to chance. Two hundred thousand francs in ten days, a
  hundred thousand crowns in a month, these are the pretty memorandums
  he puts down in his pocket-book. He was kind enough to say that I was
  partners with him, so that I got an excellent seat. I made my
  obeisance to the king, as you told me; and he returned it as if I had
  been young and handsome.... The duke said a thousand kind things
  without minding a word he uttered. Marshal de Lorgnes attacked me in
  the name of the Chevalier de Grignan; in short, _tutti quanti_ [the
  whole company]. You know what it is to get a word from every body you
  meet. Madame de Montespan talked to me of Bourbon, and asked me how I
  liked Vichi, and whether the place did me good. She said that Bourbon,
  instead of curing a pain in one of her knees, injured both.... Her
  size is reduced by a good half, and yet her complexion, her eyes, and
  her lips, are as fine as ever. She was dressed all in French point,
  her hair in a thousand ringlets, the two side ones hanging low on her
  cheeks, black ribbons on her head, pearls (the same that belonged to
  Madame de l'Hôpital), the loveliest diamond earrings, three or four
  bodkins--nothing else on the head; in short a triumphant beauty,
  worthy the admiration of all the foreign embassadors. She was accused
  of preventing the whole French nation from seeing the king; she has
  restored him, you see, to their eyes; and you cannot conceive the joy
  it has given everybody, and the splendor it has thrown upon the court.
  This charming confusion, without confusion, of all which is the most
  select, continues from three till six. If couriers arrive, the king
  retires a moment to read the despatches and returns. There is always
  some music going on, to which he listens, and which has an excellent
  effect. He talks with such of the ladies as are accustomed to enjoy
  that honor.... At six the carriages are at the door. The king is in
  one of them with Madame de Montespan, Monsieur and Madame de Thianges,
  and honest d'Hendicourt in a fool's paradise on the stool. You know
  how these open carriages are made; they do not sit face to face, but
  all looking the same way. The queen occupies another with the
  princess; and the rest come flocking after, as it may happen. There
  are then gondolas on the canal, and music; and at ten they come back,
  and then there is a play; and twelve strikes, and they go to supper;
  and thus rolls round the Saturday. If I were to tell you how often you
  were asked after, how many questions were put to me without waiting
  for answers, how often I neglected to answer, how little they cared,
  and how much less I did, you would see the _iniqua corte_ [wicked
  court] before you in all its perfection. However, it never was so
  pleasant before, and everybody wishes it may last.

There is your picture. Picture, pure and simple, it is--comment none,
least of all, moralizing comment. The wish is sighed by "everybody,"
that such pleasant things may "last." Well, they did last the writer's
time. But meanwhile the French revolution was a-preparing. A hundred
years later it will come, with its terrible reprisals.

We have gone away from the usual translations to find the foregoing
extract in an article published forty years ago and more, in the
"Edinburgh Review." Again we draw from the same source--this time, the
description of a visit paid by a company of grand folks, of whom the
writer of the letter was one, to an iron-foundery:

    FRIDAY, _1st Oct._ (1677).

  Yesterday evening at Cone we descended into a veritable hell, the true
  forges of Vulcan. Eight or ten Cyclops were at work, forging, not arms
  for Æneas, but anchors for ships. You never saw strokes redoubled so
  justly nor with so admirable a cadence. We stood in the midst of four
  furnaces; and the demons came passing about us, all melting in sweat,
  with pale faces, wild-staring eyes, savage mustaches, and hair long
  and black--a sight enough to frighten less well-bred folks than
  ourselves. As for me, I could not comprehend the possibility of
  refusing any thing which these gentlemen, in their hell, might have
  chosen to exact. We got out at last, by the help of a shower of
  silver, with which we took care to refresh their souls, and facilitate
  our exit.

Once more:

    PARIS, _29th November_ (1679).

  I have been to the wedding of Madame de Louvois. How shall I describe
  it? Magnificence, illuminations, all France, dresses all gold and
  brocade, jewels, braziers full of fire, and stands full of flowers,
  confusions of carriages, cries out of doors, lighted torches, pushings
  back, people run over; in short, a whirlwind, a distraction; questions
  without answers, compliments without knowing what is said, civilities
  without knowing who is spoken to, feet entangled in trains. From the
  midst of all this issue inquiries after your health, which not being
  answered as quick as lightning, the inquirers pass on, contented to
  remain in the state of ignorance and indifference in which they [the
  inquiries] were made. O vanity of vanities! Pretty little De Mouchy
  has had the small-pox. O vanity, _et cætera_!

Yet again. The gay writer has been sobered, perhaps hurt, by a friend's
frankly writing to her, "You are old." To her daughter:

  So you were struck with the expression of Madame de la Fayette,
  blended with so much friendship. 'Twas a truth, I own, which I ought
  to have borne in mind; and yet I must confess it astonished me, for I
  do not yet perceive in myself any such decay. Nevertheless, I cannot
  help making many reflections and calculations, and I find the
  conditions of life hard enough. It seems to me that I have been
  dragged, against my will, to the fatal period when old age must be
  endured; I see it; I have come to it; and I would fain, if I could
  help it, not go any farther; not advance a step more in the road of
  infirmities, of pains, of losses of memory, of _disfigurements_ ready
  to do me outrage; and I hear a voice which says, "You must go on in
  spite of yourself; or, if you will not go on, you must die;" and this
  is another extremity from which nature revolts. Such is the lot,
  however, of all who advance beyond middle life. What is their
  resource? To think of the will of God and of universal law, and so
  restore reason to its place, and be patient. Be you, then, patient
  accordingly, my dear child, and let not your affection soften into
  such tears as reason must condemn.

She dates a letter, and recalls that the day was the anniversary of an
event in her life:


    PARIS, _Friday, Feb._ 5, 1672.

  This day thousand years I was married.

Here is a passage with power in it. The great war minister of Louis has
died. Madame de Sévigné was now sixty-five years old. The letter is to
her cousin Coulanges:

  I am so astonished at the news of the sudden death of M. de Louvois,
  that I am at a loss how to speak of it. Dead, however, he is, this
  great minister, this potent being, who occupied so great a place;
  whose personality [_le moi_], as M. Nicole says, had so wide a sway;
  who was the center of so many orbs. What affairs had he not to manage!
  what designs, what projects! what secrets! what interests to unravel,
  what wars to undertake, what intrigues, what noble games at chess to
  play and to direct! Ah! my God, grant me a little time; I want to give
  check to the Duke of Savoy--checkmate to the Prince of Orange. No, no,
  you shall not have a moment, not a single moment. Are events like
  these to be talked of? Not they. We must reflect upon them in our
  closets.

A glimpse of Bourdaloue:

  Ah, that Bourdaloue! his sermon on the Passion was, they say, the most
  perfect thing of the kind that can be imagined; it was the same he
  preached last year, but revised and altered with the assistance of
  some of his friends, that it might be wholly inimitable. How can one
  love God if one never hears him properly spoken of? You must really
  possess a greater portion of grace than others.

A distinguished caterer or steward, a gentleman described as possessing
talent enough to have governed a province, commits suicide on a
professional point of honor:

    PARIS, _Sunday, April_ 26, 1671.

  I have just learned from Moreuil of what passed at Chantilly with
  regard to poor Vatel. I wrote to you last Friday that he had stabbed
  himself--these are the particulars of the affair: The king arrived
  there on Thursday night; the walk, and the collation, which was served
  in a place set apart for the purpose, and strewed with jonquils, were
  just as they should be. Supper was served; but there was no roast meat
  at one or two of the tables, on account of Vatel's having been obliged
  to provide several dinners more than were expected. This affected his
  spirits; and he was heard to say several times, "I have lost my
  honor! I cannot bear this disgrace!" "My head is quite bewildered,"
  said he to Gourville. "I have not had a wink of sleep these twelve
  nights; I wish you would assist me in giving orders." Gourville did
  all he could to comfort and assist him, but the failure of the roast
  meat (which, however, did not happen at the king's table, but at some
  of the other twenty-five) was always uppermost with him. Gourville
  mentioned it to the prince [Condé, the great Condé, the king's host],
  who went directly to Vatel's apartment and said to him, "Every thing
  is extremely well conducted, Vatel; nothing could be more admirable
  than his majesty's supper." "Your highness's goodness," replied he,
  "overwhelms me; I am sensible that there was a deficiency of roast
  meat at two tables." "Not at all," said the prince; "do not perplex
  yourself, and all will go well." Midnight came; the fireworks did not
  succeed; they were covered with a thick cloud; they cost sixteen
  thousand francs. At four o'clock in the morning Vatel went round and
  found every body asleep. He met one of the under-purveyors, who was
  just come in with only two loads of fish. "What!" said he, "is this
  all?" "Yes, sir," said the man, not knowing that Vatel had despatched
  other people to all the seaports around. Vatel waited for some time;
  the other purveyors did not arrive; his head grew distracted; he
  thought there was no more fish to be had. He flew to Gourville: "Sir,"
  said he, "I cannot outlive this disgrace." Gourville laughed at him.
  Vatel, however, went to his apartment, and setting the hilt of his
  sword against the door, after two ineffectual attempts, succeeded, in
  the third, in forcing his sword through his heart. At that instant the
  couriers arrived with the fish; Vatel was inquired after to distribute
  it. They ran to his apartment, knocked at the door, but received no
  answer; upon which they broke it open, and found him weltering in his
  blood. A messenger was immediately dispatched to acquaint the prince
  with what had happened, who was like a man in despair. The duke wept,
  _for his Burgundy journey depended upon Vatel_.

The italics here are our own. We felt that we must use them.

Is it not all pathetic? But how exquisitely characteristic of the nation
and of the times! "Poor Vatel," is the extent to which Madame de Sévigné
allows herself to go in sympathy. Her heart never bleeds very
freely--for anybody except her daughter. Madame de Sévigné's heart,
indeed, we grieve to fear, was somewhat hard.

In another letter, after a long strain as worldly as any one could wish
to see, this lively woman thus touches, with a sincerity as
unquestionable as the levity is, on the point of personal religion:

  But, my dear child, the greatest inclination I have at present is to
  be a little religious. I plague La Mousse about it every day. I belong
  neither to God nor to the devil. I am quite weary of such a situation;
  though, between you and me, I look upon it as the most natural one in
  the world. I am not the devil's, because I fear God, and have at the
  bottom a principle of religion; then, on the other hand, I am not
  properly God's, because his law appears hard and irksome to me, and I
  cannot bring myself to acts of self-denial; so that altogether I am
  one of those called lukewarm Christians, the great number of whom does
  not in the least surprise me, for I perfectly understand their
  sentiments, and the reasons that influence them. However, we are told
  that this is a state highly displeasing to God; if so, we must get out
  of it. Alas! this is the difficulty. Was ever any thing so mad as I
  am, to be thus eternally pestering you with my rhapsodies?

Madame de Sévigné involuntarily becomes a maxim-maker:

  The other day I made a maxim off-hand without once thinking of it; and
  I liked it so well that I fancied I had taken it out of M. de la
  Rochefoucauld's. Pray tell me whether it is so or not, for in that
  case my memory is more to be praised than my judgment. I said, with
  all the ease in the world, that "ingratitude begets reproach, as
  acknowledgment begets new favors." Pray, where did this come from?
  Have I read it? Did I dream it? Is it my own idea? Nothing can be
  truer than the thing itself, nor than that I am totally ignorant how I
  came by it. I found it properly arranged in my brain, and at the end
  of my tongue.

The partial mother lets her daughter know whom the maxim was meant for.
She says, "It is intended for your brother." This young fellow had, we
suspect, been first earning his mother's "reproaches" for spendthrift
habits, and then getting more money from her by "acknowledgment."

She hears that son of hers read "some chapters out of Rabelais," "which
were enough," she declares, "to make us die with laughing." "I cannot
affect," she says, "a prudery which is not natural to me." No, indeed, a
prude this woman was not. She had the strong æsthetic stomach of her
time. It is queer to have Rabelais rubbing cheek and jowl with Nicole
("We are going to begin a moral treatise of Nicole's"), a severe
Port-Royalist, in one and the same letter. But this is French; above
all, it is Madame de Sévigné. By the way, she and her friends, first and
last, "die" a thousand jolly deaths "with laughing."

A contemporary allusion to "Tartuffe," with more French manners implied:

  The other day La Biglesse played Tartuffe to the life. Being at table,
  she happened to tell a fib about some trifle or other, which I
  noticed, and told her of it; she cast her eyes to the ground, and with
  a very demure air, "Yes, indeed, madam," said she, "I am the greatest
  liar in the world; I am very much obliged to you for telling me of
  it." We all burst out a-laughing, for it was exactly the tone of
  Tartuffe--"Yes, brother, I am a wretch, a vessel of iniquity."

M. de la Rochefoucauld appears often by name in the letters. Here he
appears anonymously by his effect:

  "Warm affections are never tranquil;" _a maxim_.

Not a very sapid bit of gnomic wisdom, certainly. We must immediately
make up to our readers, on Madame de Sévigné's behalf, for the
insipidity of the foregoing "maxim" of hers, by giving here two or three
far more sententious excerpts from the letters, excerpts collected by
another:

  There may be so great a weight of obligation that there is no way of
  being delivered from it but by ingratitude.

  Long sicknesses wear out grief, and long hopes wear out joy.

  Shadow is never long taken for substance; you must be, if you would
  appear to be. The world is not unjust long.

Madame de Sévigné makes a confession which will comfort readers who may
have experienced the same difficulty as that of which she speaks:

  I send you M. de Rochefoucauld's "Maxims," revised and corrected, with
  additions; it is a present to you from himself. Some of them I can
  make shift to guess the meaning of; but there are others, that, to my
  shame be it spoken, I cannot understand at all. God knows how it will
  be with you.

What was it changed this woman's mood to serious? She could not have
been hearing Massillon's celebrated sermon on the "Fewness of the
Elect," for Massillon was yet only a boy of nine years; she may have
been reading Pascal's "Thoughts"--Pascal had been dead ten years, and
the "Thoughts" had been published; or she may have been listening to one
of those sifting, heart-searching discourses of Bourdaloue--the date of
her letter is March 16, 1672, and during the Lent of that year
Bourdaloue preached at Versailles--when she wrote somberly as follows:

  You ask me if I am as fond of life as ever. I must own to you that I
  experience mortifications, and severe ones too; but I am still unhappy
  at the thoughts of death; I consider it so great a misfortune to see
  the termination of all my pursuits, that I should desire nothing
  better, if it were practicable, than to begin life again. I find
  myself engaged in a scene of confusion and trouble; I was embarked in
  life without my own consent, and know I must leave it again; this
  distracts me, for how shall I leave it? In what manner? By what door?
  At what time? In what disposition? Am I to suffer a thousand pains and
  torments that will make me die in a state of despair? Shall I lose my
  senses? Am I to die by some sudden accident? How shall I stand with
  God? What shall I have to offer to him? Will fear and necessity make
  my peace with him? Shall I have no other sentiment but that of fear?
  What have I to hope? Am I worthy of heaven? Or have I deserved the
  torments of hell? Dreadful alternative! Alarming uncertainty! Can
  there be greater madness than to place our eternal salvation in
  uncertainty? Yet what is more natural, or can be more easily accounted
  for, than the foolish manner in which I have spent my life? I am
  frequently buried in thoughts of this nature, and then death appears
  so dreadful to me that I hate life more for leading me to it, than I
  do for all the thorns that are strewed in its way. You will ask me,
  then, if I would wish to live forever? Far from it; but if I had been
  consulted, I would very gladly have died in my nurse's arms; it would
  have spared me many vexations, and would have insured heaven to me at
  a very easy rate; but let us talk of something else.

A memorable sarcasm saved for us by Madame de Sévigné, at the very close
of one of her letters:

  Guilleragues said yesterday that Pelisson abused the privilege men
  have of being ugly.

Readers familiar with Dickens's "Tale of Two Cities" will recognize in
the following narrative a state of society not unlike that described by
the novelist as immediately preceding the French Revolution:

  The Archbishop of Rheims, as he returned yesterday from St. Germain,
  met with a curious adventure. He drove at his usual rate, like a
  whirlwind. If he thinks himself a great man, his servants think him
  still greater. They passed through Nanterre, when they met a man on
  horseback, and in an insolent tone bid him clear the way. The poor man
  used his utmost endeavors to avoid the danger that threatened him, but
  his horse proved unmanageable. To make short of it, the coach-and-six
  turned them both topsy-turvy; but at the same time the coach, too, was
  completely overturned. In an instant the horse and the man, instead of
  amusing themselves with having their limbs broken, rose almost
  miraculously; the man remounted, and galloped away, and is galloping
  still, for aught I know; while the servants, the archbishop's
  coachman, and the archbishop himself at the head of them, cried out,
  "Stop that villain! stop him! thrash him soundly!" The rage of the
  archbishop was so great, that afterward, in relating the adventure, he
  said if he could have caught the rascal he would have broke all his
  bones, and cut off both his ears.

If such things were done by the aristocracy--and the spiritual
aristocracy at that!--in the green tree, what might not be expected from
them in the dry? The writer makes no comment--draws no moral. "Adieu, my
dear, delightful child. I cannot express my eagerness to see you," are
her next words. She rattles along, three short sentences more, and
finishes her letter.

We should still not have done with these letters were we to go on a
hundred pages, or two hundred, farther. Readers have already seen truly
what Madame de Sévigné is. They have only not seen fully all that she
is. And that they would not see short of reading her letters entire.
Horace Walpole aspired to do in English for his own time something like
what Madame de Sévigné had done in French for hers. In a measure he
succeeded. The difference is, that he was imitative and affected, where
she was original and genuine.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu must, of course, also be named, as, by her
sex, her social position, her talent, and the devotion of her talent,
an English analogue to Madame de Sévigné. But these comparisons, and all
comparison, leave the French woman without a true parallel, alone in her
rank, the most famous letter-writer in the world.



X.

CORNEILLE.

1606-1684.


The two great names in French tragedy are Corneille and Racine. French
tragedy is a very different affair from either modern tragedy in English
or ancient tragedy in Greek. It comes nearer being Roman epic, such as
Lucan wrote Roman epic, dramatized.

Drama is everywhere and always, and this from the nature of things, a
highly conventional literary form. But the convention under which French
tragedy should be judged, differs, on the one hand, from that which
existed for Greek tragedy, and, on the other hand, from that existing
for the English. The atmosphere of real life present in English tragedy
is absent in French. The quasi-supernatural religious awe that reigned
over Greek tragedy, French tragedy does not affect. You miss also in
French tragedy the severe simplicity, the self-restraint, the statuesque
repose, belonging to the Greek model. Loftiness, grandeur, a loftiness
somewhat strained, a grandeur tending to be tumid, an heroic tone
sustained at sacrifice of ease and nature--such is the element in which
French tragedy lives and flourishes. You must grant your French
tragedists this their conventional privilege, or you will not enjoy
them. You must grant them this, or you cannot understand them. Resolve
that you will like grandiloquence, requiring only that the
grandiloquence be good, and on this condition we can promise that you
will be pleased with Corneille and Racine. In fact, our readers, we are
sure, will find the grandiloquence of these two tragedy-writers so very
good that a little will suffice them.

Voltaire in his time impressed himself strongly enough on his countrymen
to get accepted by his own generation as an equal third in tragedy with
Corneille and Racine. There was then a French triumvirate of tragedists
to be paralleled with the triumvirate of the Greeks. Corneille was
Æschylus; Racine was Sophocles; and, of course, Euripides had his
counterpart in Voltaire. Voltaire has since descended from the tragic
throne, and that neat symmetry of trine comparison is spoiled. There is,
however, some trace of justice in making Corneille as related to Racine
resemble Æschylus as related to Sophocles. Corneille was first, more
rugged, loftier; Racine was second, more polished, more severe in taste.
Racine had, too, in contrast with Corneille, more of the Euripidean
sweetness. In fact, La Bruyère's celebrated comparison of the two
Frenchmen--made, of course, before Voltaire--yoked them, Corneille with
Sophocles, Racine with Euripides. Mr. John Morley, however, in his
elaborate monograph on Voltaire, remarks: "He [Voltaire] is usually
considered to hold the same place relatively to Corneille and Racine
that Euripides held relatively to Æschylus and Sophocles."

It was perhaps not without its influence on the style of Corneille, that
a youthful labor of his in authorship was to translate, wholly or
partially, the "Pharsalia" of Lucan. His fondness for Lucan, Corneille
always retained. This taste on his part, and the rhymed Alexandrines in
which he wrote tragedy, may together help account for the hyperheroic
style which is Corneille's great fault. A lady criticised his tragedy,
"The Death of Pompey," by saying: "Very fine, but too many heroes in
it." Corneille's tragedies generally have, if not too many heroes, at
least too much hero, in them. Concerning the historian Gibbon's habitual
pomp of expression, it was once wittily said that nobody could possibly
tell the truth in such a style as that. It would be equally near the
mark if we should say of Corneille's chosen mold of verse, that nobody
could possibly be simple and natural in that. Molière's comedy, however,
would almost confute us.

Pierre Corneille was born in Rouen. He studied law, and he was admitted
to practice as an advocate, like Molière; but, like Molière, he heard
and he heeded an inward voice summoning him away from the bar to the
stage. Corneille did not, however, like Molière, tread the boards as an
actor. He had a lively sense of personal dignity. He was eminently the
"lofty, grave tragedian," in his own esteem. "But I am Pierre Corneille
notwithstanding," he self-respectingly said once, when friends were
regretting to him some deficiency of grace in his personal carriage. One
can imagine him taking off his hat to himself with unaffected deference.

But this serious genius began dramatic composition with writing comedy.
He made several experiments of this kind with no commanding success; but
at thirty he wrote the tragedy of "The Cid," and instantly became
famous. His subsequent plays were chiefly on classical subjects. The
subject of "The Cid" was drawn from Spanish literature. This was
emphatically what has been called an "epoch-making" production.
Richelieu's "Academy," at the instigation, indeed almost under the
dictation, of Richelieu, who was jealous of Corneille, tried to write it
down. They succeeded about as Balaam succeeded in prophesying against
Israel. "The Cid" triumphed over them, and over the great minister. It
established not only Corneille's fame, but his authority. The man of
genius taken alone proved stronger than the men of taste taken together.

For all this, however, our readers would hardly relish "The Cid." Let us
go at once to that tragedy of Corneille's which, by the general consent
of French critics, is the best work of its author, the "Polyeuctes." The
following is the rhetorical climax of praise in which Gaillard, one of
the most enlightened of Corneille's eulogists, arranges the different
masterpieces of his author: "'The Cid' raised Corneille above his
rivals; the 'Horace' and the 'Cinna' above his models; the 'Polyeuctes'
above himself." This tragedy will, we doubt not, prove to our readers
the most interesting of all the tragedies of Corneille.

"The great Corneille"--to apply the traditionary designation which,
besides attributing to our tragedian his conceded general eminence in
character and genius, serves also to distinguish him by merit from his
younger brother, who wrote very good tragedy--was an illustrious figure
at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, that focus of the best literary criticism
in France. Corneille reading a play of his to the _coterie_ of wits
assembled there under the presidency of ladies whose eyes, as in a kind
of tournament of letters, rained influence on authors, and judged the
prize of genius, is the subject of a striking picture by a French
painter. Corneille read "Polyeuctes" at the Hôtel Rambouillet, and that
awful court decided against the play. Corneille, like Michael Angelo,
had to a good degree the courage of his own productions: but, in the
face of adverse decision so august on his work, he needed encouragement,
which happily he did not fail to receive, before he would allow his
"Polyeuctes" to be represented. The theatre crowned it with the laurels
of victory. It thus fell to Corneille to triumph successively,
single-handed, over two great adversary courts of critical
appreciation--the Academy of Richelieu and the not less formidable Hôtel
de Rambouillet.

The objection raised by the Hôtel de Rambouillet against the
"Polyeuctes" was that it made the stage encroach on the prerogative of
the pulpit, and preach instead of simply amusing. And, indeed, never,
perhaps, since the Greek tragedy, was the theatre made so much to serve
the solemn purposes of religion. (We except the miracle and passion
plays and the mysteries of the Middle Ages, as not belonging within the
just bounds of a comparison like that now made.) Corneille's final
influence was to elevate and purify the French theatre. In his early
works, however, he made surprising concessions to the lewd taste in the
drama that he found prevailing when he began to write. With whatever
amount of genuine religious scruple affecting his conscience--on that
point we need not judge the poet--Corneille used, before putting them
on the stage, to take his plays to the "Church"--that is, to the
priestly hierarchy who constituted the "Church"--that they might be
authoritatively judged as to their possible influence on the cause of
Christian truth.

In the "Polyeuctes" the motive is religion. Polyeuctes is historic or
traditional saint of the Roman Catholic church. His conversion from
paganism is the theme of the play. Polyeuctes has a friend Nearchus who
is already a Christian convert, and who labors earnestly to make
Polyeuctes a proselyte to the faith. Polyeuctes has previously married a
noble Roman lady, daughter of Felix, governor of Armenia, in which
province the action of the story occurs. (The persecuting Emperor Decius
is on the throne of the Roman world.) Paulina married Polyeuctes against
her own choice, for she loved Roman Severus better. Her father had put
his will upon her, and Paulina had filially obeyed in marrying
Polyeuctes. Such are the relations of the different persons of the
drama. It will be seen that there is ample room for the play of elevated
and tragic passions. Paulina, in fact, is the lofty, the impossible,
ideal of wifely and daughterly truth and devotion. Pagan though she is,
she is pathetically constant, both to the husband that was forced upon
her, and to the father that did the forcing; while still she loves, and
cannot but love, the man whom, in spite of her love for him, she, with
an act like prolonged suicide, stoically separates from her torn and
bleeding heart.

But Severus on his part emulates the nobleness of the woman whom he
vainly loves. Learning the true state of the case, he rises to the
height of his opportunity for magnanimous behavior, and bids the married
pair be happy in a long life together.

A change in the situation occurs, a change due to the changed mood of
the father, Felix. Felix learns that Severus is high in imperial favor,
and he wishes now that Severus, instead of Polyeuctes, were his
son-in-law. A decree of the emperor makes it possible that this
preferable alternative may yet be realized. For the emperor has decreed
that Christians must be persecuted to the death, and Polyeuctes has been
baptized a Christian--though of this Felix will not hear till later.

A solemn sacrifice to the gods is to be celebrated in honor of imperial
victories lately won. Felix sends to summon Polyeuctes, his son-in-law.
To Felix's horror, Polyeuctes, with his friend Nearchus, coming to the
temple, proceeds in a frenzy of enthusiasm to break and dishonor the
images of the gods, proclaiming himself a Christian. In obedience to the
imperial decree, Nearchus is hurried to execution, in the sight of his
friend, while Polyeuctes is thrown into prison to repent and recant.

"Now is my chance," muses Felix. "I dare not disobey the emperor to
spare Polyeuctes. Besides, with Polyeuctes once out of the way, Severus
and Paulina may be husband and wife."

Polyeuctes in prison hears that his Paulina is coming to see him. With a
kind of altruistic nobleness which seems contagious in this play,
Polyeuctes resolves that Severus shall come too, and he will resign his
wife, soon to be a widow, to the care of his own rival, her Roman lover.
First, Polyeuctes and Paulina are alone together--Polyeuctes having,
before she arrived, fortified his soul for the conflict with her tears,
by singing in his solitude a song of high resolve and of anticipative
triumph over his temptation.

The scene between Paulina, exerting all her power to detach Polyeuctes
from what she believes to be his folly, and Polyeuctes, on the other
hand, rapt to the pitch of martyrdom, exerting all his power to resist
his wife, and even to convert her--this scene, we say, is full of noble
height and pathos, as pathos and height were possible in the verse which
Corneille had to write. Neither struggler in this tragic strife moves
the other. Paulina is withdrawing when Severus enters. She addresses her
lover severely, but Polyeuctes intervenes to defend him. In a short
scene, Polyeuctes, by a sort of last will and testament, bequeaths his
wife to his rival, and retires with his guard. Now, Severus and Paulina
are alone together. If there was a trace of the false heroic in
Polyeuctes's resignation of his wife to Severus, the effect of that is
finely counteracted by the scene which immediately follows between
Paulina and Severus. Severus begins doubtfully, staggering, as it were,
to firm posture, while he speaks to Paulina. He expresses amazement at
the conduct of Polyeuctes. Christians certainly deport themselves
strangely, he says. He at length finds himself using the following
lover-like language:

  As for me, had my destiny become a little earlier propitious and
  honored my devotion by marriage with you, I should have adored only
  the splendor of your eyes; of them I should have made my kings; of
  them I should have made my gods; sooner would I have been reduced to
  dust, sooner would I have been reduced to ashes,  than--

But here Paulina interrupts, and Severus is not permitted to finish his
protestation. Her reply is esteemed, and justly esteemed, one of the
noblest things in French tragedy--a French critic would be likely to
say, the very noblest in tragedy. She says:

  Let us break off there; I fear listening too long; I fear lest this
  warmth which feels your first fires, force on some sequel unworthy of
  us both. [Voltaire, who edited Corneille with a feeling of freedom
  toward a national idol comparable to the sturdy independence that
  animated Johnson in annotating Shakespeare, says of "This warmth which
  feels your first fires and which forces on a sequel:" "That is badly
  written, agreed; but the sentiment gets the better of the expression,
  and what follows is of a beauty of which there had been no example.
  The Greeks were frigid declaimers in comparison with this passage of
  Corneille."] Severus, learn to know Paulina all in all.

  My Polyeuctes touches on his last hour; he has but a moment to live;
  you are the cause of this, though innocently so. I know not if your
  heart, yielding to your desires, may have dared build any hope on his
  destruction; but know that there is no death so cruel that to it with
  firm brow I would not bend my steps, that there are in hell no horrors
  that I would not endure, rather than soil a glory so pure, rather than
  espouse, after his sad fate, a man that was in any wise the cause of
  his death; and if you suppose me of a heart so little sound, the love
  which I had for you would all turn to hate. You are generous; be so
  even to the end. My father is in a state to yield every thing to you;
  he fears you; and I further hazard this saying, that, if he destroys
  my husband, it is to you that he sacrifices him. Save this unhappy
  man, use your influence in his favor, exert yourself to become his
  support. I know that this is much that I ask; but the greater the
  effort, the greater the glory from it. To preserve a rival of whom you
  are jealous, that is a trait of virtue which appertains only to you.
  And if your renown is not motive sufficient, it is much that a woman
  once so well beloved, and the love of whom perhaps is still capable of
  touching you, will owe to your great heart the dearest possession that
  she owns; remember, in short, that you are Severus. Adieu. Decide with
  yourself alone what you ought to do; if you are not such as I dare to
  hope that you are, then, in order that I may continue to esteem you, I
  wish not to know it.

Voltaire, as editor and commentator of Corneille, is freezingly cold. It
is difficult not to feel that at heart he was unfriendly to the great
tragedist's fame. His notes often are remorselessly grammatical. "This
is not French"; "This is not the right word"; "According to the
construction, this should mean so and so--according to the sense it must
mean so and so"; "This is hardly intelligible"; "It is a pity that such
or such a fault should mar these fine verses"; "An expression for comedy
rather than tragedy"--are the kind of remarks with which Voltaire chills
the enthusiasm of the reader. It is useless, however, to deny that the
criticisms thus made are, many of them, just. Corneille does not belong
to the class of the "faultily faultless" writers.

Severus proves equal to Paulina's noble hopes of him. With a great
effort of self-sacrifice, he resolves to intercede for Polyeuctes. This
is shown in an interview between Severus and his faithful attendant
Fabian. Fabian warns him that he appeals for Polyeuctes at his own
peril. Severus loftily replies (and here follows one of the most lauded
passages in the play:)

  That advice might be good for some common soul. Though he [the Emperor
  Decius] holds in his hands my life and my fortune, I am yet Severus;
  and all that mighty power is powerless over my glory, and powerless
  over my duty. Here honor compels me, and I will satisfy it; whether
  fate afterward show itself propitious or adverse, perishing glorious I
  shall perish content.

  I will tell thee further, but under confidence, the sect of Christians
  is not what it is thought to be. They are hated, why I know not; and I
  see Decius unjust only in this regard. From curiosity I have sought
  to become acquainted with them. They are regarded as sorcerers taught
  from hell; and, in this supposition, the punishment of death is
  visited on secret mysteries which we do not understand. But Eleusinian
  Ceres and the Good Goddess have their secrets, like those at Rome and
  in Greece; still we freely tolerate everywhere, their God alone
  excepted, every kind of god; all the monsters of Egypt have their
  temples in Rome; our fathers, at their will, made a god of a man; and,
  their blood in our veins preserving their errors, we fill heaven with
  all our emperors; but, to speak without disguise of deifications so
  numerous, the effect is very doubtful of such metamorphoses.

  Christians have but one God, absolute master of all, whose mere will
  does whatever he resolves; but, if I may venture to say what seems to
  me true, our gods very often agree ill together; and, though their
  wrath crush me before your eyes, we have a good many of them for them
  to be true gods. Finally, among the Christians, morals are pure, vices
  are hated, virtues flourish; they offer prayers on behalf of us who
  persecute them; and, during all the time since we have tormented them,
  have they ever been seen mutinous? Have they ever been seen
  rebellious? Have our princes ever had more faithful soldiers? Fierce
  in war, they submit themselves to our executioners; and, lions in
  combat, they die like lambs. I pity them too much not to defend them.
  Come, let us find Felix; let us commune with his son-in-law; and let
  us thus, with one single action, gratify at once Paulina, and my
  glory, and my compassion.

Such is the high heroic style in which pagan Severus resolves and
speaks. And thus the fourth act ends.

Felix makes a sad contrast with the high-heartedness which the other
characters, most of them, display. He is base enough to suspect that
Severus is base enough to be false and treacherous in his act of
intercession for Polyeuctes. He imagines he detects a plot against
himself to undermine him with the emperor. Voltaire criticises Corneille
for giving this sordid character to Felix. He thinks the tragedist might
better have let Felix be actuated by zeal for the pagan gods. The mean
selfishness that animates the governor, Voltaire regards as below the
right tragic pitch. It is the poet himself, no doubt, with that high
Roman fashion of his, who, unconsciously to the critic, taught him to
make the criticism.

Felix summons Polyeuctes to an interview, and adjures to be a prudent
man. Felix at length says, "Adore the gods or die." "I am a Christian,"
simply replies the martyr. "Impious! Adore them, I bid you, or renounce
life." (Here again Voltaire offers one of his refrigerant criticisms:
"_Renounce life_ does not advance upon the meaning of _die_; when one
repeats the thought, the expression should be strengthened.") Paulina
meantime has entered to expostulate with Polyeuctes and with her father.
Polyeuctes bids her, "Live with Severus." He says he has revolved the
subject, and he is convinced that another love is the sole remedy for
her woe. He proceeds in the calmest manner to point out the advantages
of the course recommended. Voltaire remarks--justly we are bound to
say--that these maxims are here somewhat revolting; the martyr should
have had other things to say. On Felix's final word, "Soldiers, execute
the order that I have given," Paulina exclaims, "Whither are you taking
him?" "To death," says Felix. "To glory," says Polyeuctes. "Admirable
dialogue, and always applauded," is Voltaire's note on this.

The tragedy does not end with the martyrdom of Polyeuctes. Paulina
becomes a Christian, but remains pagan enough to call her father
"barbarous," in acrimoniously bidding him finish his work by putting his
daughter also to death. Severus reproaches Felix for his cruelty, and
threatens him with his own enmity. Felix undergoes instantaneous
conversion--a miracle of grace which, under the circumstances provided
by Corneille, we may excuse Voltaire for laughing at. Paulina is
delighted; and Severus asks, "Who would not be touched by a spectacle so
tender?"

The tragedy thus comes near ending happily enough to be called a comedy.

Such as the foregoing exhibits him is the father of French tragedy,
Corneille, where at his best; where at his worst, he is something so
different that you would hardly admit him to be the same man. For never
was genius more unequal in different manifestations of itself, than
Corneille in his different works. Molière is reported to have said that
Corneille had a familiar, or a fairy, that came to him at times, and
enabled him to write sublimely; but that, when the poet was left to
himself, he could write as poorly as another man.

Corneille produced some thirty-three dramatic pieces in all, but of
these not more than six or seven retain their place on the French stage.

Corneille and Bossuet together constitute a kind of rank by themselves
among the _Dii Majores_ of the French literary Olympus.



XI.

RACINE.

1639-1699.


Jean Racine was Pierre Corneille reduced to rule. The younger was to the
elder somewhat as Sophocles or Euripides was to Æschylus, as Virgil was
to Lucretius, as Pope was to Dryden. Nature was more in Corneille, art
was more in Racine. Corneille was a pathfinder in literature. He led the
way even for Molière still more for Racine. But Racine was as much
before Corneille in perfection of art as Corneille was before Racine in
audacity of genius. Racine, accordingly, is much more even and uniform
than Corneille. Smoothness, polish, ease, grace, sweetness--these, and
monotony in these, are the mark of Racine. But if there is, in the
latter poet, less to admire, there is also less to forgive. His taste
and his judgment were surer than the taste and the judgment of
Corneille. He enjoyed, moreover, an inestimable advantage in the
life-long friendship of the great critic of his time, Boileau. Boileau
was a literary conscience to Racine. He kept Racine constantly spurred
to his best endeavors in art. Racine was congratulating himself to his
friends on the ease with which he produced his verse. "Let me teach you
to produce easy verse with difficulty," was the critic's admirable
reply. Racine was a docile pupil. He became as painstaking an artist in
verse as Boileau would have him.

It will always be a matter of individual taste, and of changing fashion
in criticism, to decide which of the two is, on the whole, to be
preferred to the other. Racine eclipsed Corneille in vogue during the
lifetime of the latter. Corneille's old age was, perhaps, seriously
saddened by the consciousness, which he could not but have, of being
retired from the place of ascendency once accorded to him over all. His
case repeated the fortune of Æschylus in relation to Sophocles. The
eighteenth century, taught by Voltaire, established the precedence of
Racine. But the nineteenth century has restored the crown to the brow of
Corneille. To such mutations is subject the fame of an author.

Jean Racine was early left an orphan. His grandparents put him, after
preparatory training at another establishment, to school at Port Royal,
where during three years he had the best opportunities of education that
the kingdom afforded. His friends wanted to make a clergyman of him; but
the preferences of the boy prevailed, and he addicted himself to
literature. The Greek tragedists became familiar to him in his youth,
and their example in literary art exercised a sovereign influence over
Racine's development as author. It pained the good Port-Royalists to see
their late gifted pupil, now out of their hands, inclined to write
plays. Nicole printed a remonstrance against the theater, in which
Racine discovered something that he took to slant anonymously at
himself. He wrote a spirited reply, of which no notice was taken by the
Port-Royalists. Somebody, however, on their behalf, rejoined to Racine,
whereupon the young author wrote a second letter to the Port-Royalists,
which he showed to his friend Boileau. "This may do credit to your head,
but it will do none to your heart," was that faithful mentor's comment,
in returning the document. Racine suppressed his second letter, and did
his best to recall the first. But he went on in his course of writing
for the stage.

Racine's second tragedy, the "Alexander the Great," the youthful author
took to the great Corneille, to get his judgment on it. Corneille was
thirty-three years the senior of Racine, and he was at this time the
undisputed master of French tragedy. "You have undoubted talent for
poetry--for tragedy, not; try your hand in some other poetical line,"
was Corneille's sentence on the unrecognized young rival, who was so
soon to supplant him in popular favor.

It was a pretty, girlish fancy of the brilliant Princess Henriette (that
same daughter of English Charles I., Bossuet's funeral oration on whom,
presently to be spoken of, is so celebrated) to engage the two great
tragedists, Corneille and Racine, both at once, in labor, without their
mutual knowledge, upon the same subject--a subject which she herself,
drawing it from the history of Tacitus, conceived to be eminently fit
for tragical treatment. Corneille produced his "Berenice" and Racine his
"Titus and Berenice." The princess died before the two plays which she
had inspired were produced; but, when they were produced, Racine's work
won the palm. The rivalry created a bitterness between the two authors,
of which, naturally, the defeated one tasted the more deeply. An
ill-considered pleasantry, too, of Racine's, in making out of one of
Corneille's tragic lines in his "Cid," a comic line for "The Suitors,"
hurt the old man's pride. That pride suffered a worse hurt still. The
chief Parisian theater, completely occupied with the works of his
victorious rival, rejected tragedies offered by Corneille.

Still, Racine did not have things all his own way. Some good critics
considered the rage for this younger dramatist a mere passing whim of
fashion. These--Madame de Sévigné was of them--stood by their "old
admiration," and were true to Corneille.

A memorable mortification and chagrin for our poet was now prepared by
his enemies--he seems never to have lacked enemies--with lavish and
elaborate malice. Racine had produced a play from Euripides, the
"Phædra," on which he had unstintingly bestowed his best genius and his
best art. It was contrived that another poet, one Pradon, should, at the
self-same moment, have a play represented on the self-same subject. At a
cost of many thousands of dollars, the best seats at Racine's theater
were all bought by his enemies, and left solidly vacant. The best seats
at Pradon's theater were all bought by the same interested parties, and
duly occupied with industrious and zealous applauders. This occurred at
six successive representations. The result was the immediate apparent
triumph of Pradon over the humiliated Racine. Boileau in vain bade his
friend be of good cheer, and await the assured reversal of the verdict.
Racine was deeply wounded.

This discomposing experience of the poet's, joined with conscientious
misgivings on his part as to the propriety of his course in writing for
the stage, led him now, at the early age of thirty-eight, to renounce
tragedy altogether. His son Louis, from whose life of Racine we have
chiefly drawn our material for the present sketch, conceives this change
in his father as a profound and genuine religious conversion. Writers
whose spirit inclines them not to relish a condemnation such as seems
thus to be reflected on the theater take a less charitable view of the
change. They account for it as a reaction of mortified pride. Some of
them go so far as groundlessly to impute sheer hypocrisy to Racine.

A long interval of silence, on Racine's part, had elapsed, when Madame
de Maintenon, the wife of Louis XIV., asked the unemployed poet to
prepare a sacred play for the use of the high-born girls educated under
her care at St. Cyr. Racine consented, and produced his "Esther." This
achieved a prodigious success; for the court took it up, and an exercise
written for a girls' school became the admiration of a kingdom. A second
similar play followed, the "Athaliah"--the last, and, by general
agreement, the most perfect work of its author. We thus reach that
tragedy of Racine's which both its fame and its character dictate to us
as the one by eminence to be used here in exhibition of the quality of
this Virgil among tragedists.

Our readers may, if they please, refresh their recollection of the
history on which the drama is founded by perusing Second Kings, chapter
eleven, and Second Chronicles, chapters twenty-two and twenty-three.
Athaliah, whose name gives its title to the tragedy, was daughter to
the wicked king, Ahab. She reigns as queen at Jerusalem over the kingdom
of Judah. To secure her usurped position, she had sought to kill all the
descendants of King David, even her own grandchildren. She had
succeeded, but not quite. Young Joash escaped, to be secretly reared in
the temple by the high-priest. The final disclosure of this hidden
prince, and his coronation as king in place of usurping Athalia,
destined to be fearfully overthrown, and put to death in his name,
afford the action of the play. Action, however, there is almost none in
classic French tragedy. The tragic drama is, with the French, as it was
with the Greeks, after whom it was framed, merely a succession of scenes
in which speeches are made by the actors. Lofty declamation is always
the character of the play. In the "Athalia," as in the "Esther," Racine
introduced the feature of the chorus, a restoration which had all the
effect of an innovation. The chorus in "Athalia" consisted of Hebrew
virgins, who at intervals marking the transitions between the acts,
chanted the spirit of the piece in its successive stages of progress
toward the final catastrophe. The "Athalia" is almost proof against
technical criticism. It is acknowledged to be, after its kind, a nearly
ideal product of art.

First, in specimen of the choral feature of the drama, we content
ourselves with giving a single chorus from the "Athalia." This we turn
into rhyme, clinging pretty closely all the way to the form of the
original. Attentive readers may, in one place of our rendering, observe
an instance of identical rhyme. This, in a piece of verse originally
written in English, would, of course, be a fault. In translation from
French, it may pass for a merit; since, to judge from the practice of
the national poets, the French ear seems to be even better pleased with
such strict identities of sound, at the close of corresponding lines,
than it is with those definite, mere resemblances to which, in English
versification, rhymes are rigidly limited.

Suspense between hope and dread, dread preponderating, is the state of
feeling represented in the present chorus. Salomith is the leading
singer:

  SALOMITH.

    The Lord hath deigned to speak,
  But what he to his prophet now hath shown--
  Who unto us will make it clearly known?
    Arms he himself to save us, poor and weak?
    Arms he himself to have us overthrown?

  THE WHOLE CHORUS.

  O promises! O threats! O mystery profound!
    What woe, what weal, are each in turn foretold?
  How can so much of wrath be found
    So much of love to enfold?

  A VOICE.

  Zion shall be no more; a cruel flame
    Will all her ornaments devour.

  A SECOND VOICE.

    God shelters Zion; she has shield and tower
  In his eternal name.

  FIRST VOICE.

  I see her splendor all from vision disappear.

  SECOND VOICE.

  I see on every side her glory shine more clear.

  FIRST VOICE.

  Into a deep abyss is Zion sunk from sight.

  SECOND VOICE.

  Zion lifts up her brow amid celestial light.

  FIRST VOICE.

  What dire despair!

  SECOND VOICE.

                    What praise from every tongue!

  FIRST VOICE.

  What cries of grief!

  SECOND VOICE.

                        What songs of triumph sung!

  A THIRD VOICE.

  Cease we to vex ourselves; our God, one day,
    Will this great mystery make clear.

  ALL THREE VOICES.

    Let us his wrath revere,
  While on his love, no less, our hopes we stay.

The catastrophe is reached in the coronation of little Joash as king,
and in the destruction of usurping and wicked Athaliah. Little Joash, by
the way, with his rather precocious wisdom of reply, derived to himself
for the moment a certain factitious interest, from the resemblance,
meant by the poet to be divined by spectators, between him and the
little Duke of Burgundy, Louis XIV.'s grandson, then of about the same
age with the Hebrew boy, and of high reputation for mental vivacity.

The scene in which the high-priest, Jehoiada, for the first time
discloses to his foster-son, Joash, the latter's royal descent from
David, and his true heirship to the throne of Judah, will serve
sufficiently to exhibit what maturity of modest and pious wisdom the
dramatist attributes to this Hebrew boy of nine or ten years. Nine or
ten years of age Racine makes Joash, instead of seven, as Scripture
interpreted without violence would make him. The lad has had his sage
curiosity excited by seeing preparations in progress for some important
ceremonial. That ceremonial is his own coronation, but he does not guess
the secret. Nay, he has just touchingly asked his foster-mother,
observed by him to be in tears:

  What pity touches you? Is it that, in a holocaust to be this day
  offered, I, like Jephtha's daughter in other times, must pacify by my
  death the anger of the Lord? Alas, a son has nothing that does not
  belong to his father!

The discreet foster-mother refers the lad to her husband, Jehoiada, now
approaching. Joash rushes into the arms of the high-priest, exclaiming,
"My father!" "Well, my son?" the high-priest replies. "What
preparations, then, are these?" asks Joash. The high-priest bids him
prepare himself to listen and learn, the time being now come for him to
pay his debt to God:

  _Joash._ I feel myself ready, if he wishes it, to give to him my life.

  _Jehoiada._ You have often heard read the history of our kings. Do you
  remember, my son, what strict laws a king worthy of the crown ought to
  impose upon himself?

  _Joash._ A wise and good king, so hath God himself declared, puts not
  his reliance upon riches and gold; he fears the Lord his God, has ever
  before him his precepts, his laws, his judgments severe, and does not
  with unjust burdens overwhelm his brethren.

Fénelon had already been two years preceptor to the Duke of Burgundy
when this tragedy was written. It is impossible not to feel that Racine
must have had that prince in mind when he put into the mouth of young
Joash sentiments so likely to have been instilled into the heart of his
royal pupil, the great king's grandson, by such a preceptor as Fénelon.
How could the selfish old monarch of France contrive to avoid
recognizing his own portrait suggested by contrast in that description
of the good king from the lips of little Joash? Racine was here treading
on treacherous ground. He will presently find his footing quite give way
under him, to let him down into the "horrible pit" of disgrace with his
king. This not, however, in the present play.

The tragedist has generously bestowed upon wicked Queen Athaliah a
certain loftiness of spirit which, in its display in the final
catastrophe, almost redeems her to admiration, if not to sympathy. There
is nothing in the play more nearly sublime in declamation than the final
speech in which Athaliah greets her own doom, and blasphemously
forecasts, for young King Joash, a future of apostasy from God. With
this admirable piece of rhetoric, resembling a burst of blasphemy from
Satan in "Paradise Lost," so far as French poetry may be allowed to
resemble English, we conclude our representation of Racine. Athaliah has
now just heard the announcement of things that assure her of the
overthrow of her usurpation. She expresses herself in a speech, the
first words of which were, no doubt, designed by the poet to recall the
celebrated traditional exclamation of Julian the Apostate, uttered at a
moment of irretrievable disaster to his impious hopes--"O Galilean, thou
hast conquered!" as follows:

  God of the Jews, 'tis thou that dost prevail!
  Ay, it is Joash; all without avail
  Seek I to cheat myself with other thought:
  I know the wound my weapon on him wrought;
  I see his father Ahaziah's face;
  Naught but brings back to me that hated race.
  David doth triumph, Ahab only fall--
  Unpitying God, thou only hast done all!
  'Tis thou that, flattering me to hope in vain
  For easy vengeance, o'er and o'er again
  Hast with myself myself embroiled anew,
  Now pangs of conscience rousing, not a few,
  Now dazzling me with thy rich treasures rare,
  Which I to burn or pillage did not dare.
  Let him, then, reign, this son, thy care, thy toil,
  And, so to signalize his new-got spoil,
  Let him into my bosom plunge the knife,
  And take with filial hand his mother's life.
  Hearken what wish for him she dying breathes--
  Wish? nay, what hope, assured hope, bequeaths--
  That, disobedient, proud, rebellious, he,
  Faithful to Ahab's blood received from me,
  To his grandfather, to his father, like,
  Abhorrent heir of David, down may strike
  Thy worship and thy fane, avenger fell
  Of Athaliah, Ahab, Jezebel!

With words thus rendered into such English verse as we could command for
the purpose, Athaliah disappears from the stage. Her execution follows
immediately. This is not exhibited, but is announced with brief, solemn
comment from Jehoiada. And so the tragedy ends.

The interest of the piece, to the modern reader, is by no means equal to
its fame. One reproaches one's self, but one yawns in conscientiously
perusing it. Still, one feels the work of the author to be
irreproachably, nay, consummately, good. But fashions in taste change;
and we cannot hold ourselves responsible for admiring, or, at any rate,
for enjoying, according to the judgment of other races and of former
generations. It is--so, with grave concurrence, we say--It is a great
classic, worthy of the praise that it receives. We are glad that we have
read it; and, let us be candid, equally glad that we have not to read it
again.

As has already been intimated, Racine, after "Athaliah," wrote tragedy
no more. He ceased to interest himself in the fortune of his plays. His
son "Louis," in his Life of his father, testifies that he never heard
his father speak in the family of the dramas that he had written. His
theatrical triumphs seemed to afford him no pleasure. He repented of
them rather than gloried in them.

While one need not doubt that this regret of Racine's for the devotion
of his powers to the production of tragedy was a sincere regret of his
conscience, one may properly wish that the regret had been more heroic.
The fact is, Racine was somewhat feminine in character as well as in
genius. He could not beat up with stout heart undismayed against an
adverse wind. And the wind blew adverse at length to Racine, from the
principal quarter, the court of Versailles. From being a chief favorite
with his sovereign, Racine fell into the position of an exile from the
royal presence. The immediate occasion was one honorable rather than
otherwise to the poet.

In conversation with Madame de Maintenon, Racine had expressed views on
the state of France, and on the duties of a king to his subjects, which
so impressed her mind that she desired him to reduce his observations to
writing and confide them to her, she promising to keep them profoundly
secret from Louis. But Louis surprised her with the manuscript in her
hand. Taking it from her, he read in it, and demanded to know the
author. Madame de Maintenon could not finally refuse to tell. "Does M.
Racine, because he is a great poet, think that he knows every thing?"
the despot angrily asked. Louis never spoke to Racine again. The
distressed and infatuated poet still made some paltry request of the
king--to experience the humiliation that he invoked. His request was not
granted. Racine wilted, like a tender plant, under the sultry frown of
his monarch. He could not rally. He soon after died, literally killed by
the mere displeasure of one man. Such was the measureless power wielded
by Louis XIV.; such was the want of virile stuff in Racine. A spirit
partly kindred to the tragedist, Archbishop Fénelon, will presently be
shown to have had at about the same time a partly similar experience.



XII.

BOSSUET: 1627-1704; BOURDALOUE: 1632-1704; MASSILLON: 1663-1742; SAURIN:
1677-1730.


We group four names in one title, Bossuet, Bourdaloue, Massillon,
Saurin, to represent the pulpit orators of France. There are other great
names--as Fléchier and Claude--but the names we choose are the greatest.

Bossuet's individual distinction is, that he was a great man as well as
a great orator; Bourdaloue's, that he was priest-and-preacher simply;
Massillon's, that his sermons, regarded quite independently of their
subject, their matter, their occasion, regarded merely as masterpieces
of style, became at once, and permanently became, a part of French
literature; Saurin's, that he was the pulpit theologian of
Protestantism.

The greatness of Bossuet is an article in the French national creed. No
Frenchman disputes it; no Frenchman, indeed, but proclaims it.
Protestant agrees with Catholic, infidel with Christian, at least in
this. Bossuet, twinned here with Corneille, is to the Frenchman, as
Milton is to the Englishman, his synonym for sublimity. Eloquence,
somehow, seems a thing too near the common human level to answer fully
the need that Frenchmen feel in speaking of Bossuet. Bossuet is not
eloquent, he is sublime. That in French it is in equal part oratory,
while in English it is poetry almost alone, that supplies in literature
its satisfaction to the sentiment of the sublime, very well represents
the difference in genius between the two races. The French idea of
poetry is eloquence; and it is eloquence carried to its height, whether
in verse or in prose, that constitutes for the Frenchman sublimity. The
difference is a difference of blood. English blood is Teutonic in base,
and the imagination of the Teuton is poetic. French blood, in base, is
Celtic; and the imagination of the Celt is oratoric.

Jacques Bénigne Bossuet was of good _bourgeois_, or middle-class, stock.
He passed a well-ordered and virtuous youth, as if in prophetic
consistency with what was to be his subsequent career. He was brought
forward while a young man in the Hôtel de Rambouillet, where, on a
certain occasion, he preached a kind of show sermon, under the auspices
of his admiring patron. In due time he attracted wide public attention,
not merely as an eloquent orator, but as a profound student and as a
powerful controversialist. His character and influence became in their
maturity such that La Bruyère aptly called him a "Father of the Church."
"The Corneille of the pulpit," was Henri Martin's characterization and
praise. A third phrase, "the eagle of Meaux," has passed into almost an
alternative name for Bossuet. He soared like an eagle in his eloquence,
and he was bishop of Meaux.

Bossuet and Louis XIV. were exactly suited to each other, in the mutual
relation of subject and sovereign. Bossuet preached sincerely--as every
body knows Louis sincerely practiced--the doctrine of the divine right
of kings to rule absolutely. But the proud prelate compromised neither
his own dignity nor the dignity of the Church in the presence of the
absolute monarch.

Bossuet threw himself with great zeal, and to prodigious effect, into
the controversy against Protestantism. His "History of the Variations of
the Protestant Churches," in two good volumes, was one of the mightiest
pamphlets ever written. As tutor to the Dauphin (the king's eldest son),
he produced, with other works, his celebrated "Discourse on Universal
History."

In proceeding now to give, from the four great preachers named in our
title, a few specimen passages of the most famous pulpit oratory in the
world, we need to prepare our readers against a natural disappointment.
That which they are about to see has nothing in it of what will at first
strike them as brilliant. The pulpit eloquence of the Augustan age of
France was distinctly "classic," and not at all "romantic," in style.
Its character is not ornate, but severe. There is little rhetorical
figure in it, little of that "illustration" which our own different
national taste is accustomed to demand from the pulpit. There is plenty
of white light, "dry light" and white, for the reason; but there is
almost no bright color for the fancy, and, it must be added, not a great
deal of melting warmth for the heart.

The funeral orations of Bossuet are generally esteemed the masterpieces
of this orator's eloquence. He had great occasions, and he was great to
match them. Still, readers might easily be disappointed in perusing a
funeral oration of Bossuet's. The discourse will generally be found to
deal in commonplaces of description, of reflection, and of sentiment.
Those commonplaces, however, are often made very impressive by the
lofty, the magisterial, the imperial manner of the preacher in treating
them. We exhibit a specimen, a single specimen only, and a brief one, in
the majestic exordium to the funeral oration on the Princess Henrietta
of England.

This princess was daughter to that unfortunate Stuart, King Charles I.
of England. Her mother's death--her mother was of the French house of
Bourbon--had occurred but a short time before, and Bossuet had on that
occasion pronounced the eulogy. The daughter, scarcely returned to
France from a secret mission of state to England, the success of which
made her an object of distinguished regard at Versailles, suddenly fell
ill and died. Bossuet was summoned to preach at her funeral. (We have
not been able to find an English translation of Bossuet, and we
accordingly make the present transfer from French ourselves. We do the
same, for the same reason, in the case of Massillon. In the case of
Bourdaloue, we succeeded in obtaining a printed translation which we
could modify to suit our purpose.) Bossuet:

  It was then reserved for my lot to pay this funereal tribute to the
  high and potent princess, Henrietta of England, Duchess of Orleans.
  She whom I had seen so attentive while I was discharging a like office
  for the queen, her mother, was so soon after to be the subject of a
  similar discourse, and my sad voice was predestined to this melancholy
  service. O vanity! O nothingness! O mortals! ignorant of their
  destiny! Ten months ago would she have believed it? And you, my
  hearers, would you have thought, while she was shedding so many tears
  in this place, that she was so soon to assemble you here to deplore
  her own loss? O princess! the worthy object of the admiration of two
  great kingdoms, was it not enough that England should deplore your
  absence, without being yet further compelled to deplore your death?
  France, who with so much joy beheld you again, surrounded with a new
  brilliancy, had she not in reserve other pomps and other triumphs for
  you, returned from that famous voyage whence you had brought hither so
  much glory, and hopes so fair? "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity."
  Nothing is left for me to say but that: that is the only sentiment
  which, in presence of so strange a casualty, grief so well-grounded
  and so poignant permits me to indulge. Nor have I explored the Holy
  Scriptures in order to find therein some text which I might apply to
  this princess; I have taken, without premeditation and without choice,
  the first expression presented to me by the Preacher with whom vanity,
  although it has been so often named, is yet, to my mind, not named
  often enough to suit the purpose that I have in view. I wish, in a
  single misfortune, to lament all the calamities of the human race, and
  in a single death to exhibit the death and the nothingness of all
  human greatness. This text, which suits all the circumstances and all
  the occurrences of our life, becomes, by a special adaptedness,
  appropriate to my mournful theme; since never were the vanities of the
  earth either so clearly disclosed or so openly confounded. No, after
  what we have just seen, health is but a name, life is but a dream,
  glory is but a shadow, charms and pleasures are but a dangerous
  diversion. Every thing is vain within us, except the sincere
  acknowledgment made before God of our vanity, and the fixed judgment
  of the mind, leading us to despise all that we are.

  But did I speak the truth? Man, whom God made in his own image, is he
  but a shadow? That which Jesus Christ came from heaven to earth to
  seek, that which he deemed that he could, without degrading himself,
  ransom with his own blood, is that a mere nothing? Let us acknowledge
  our mistake; surely this sad spectacle of the vanity of things human
  was leading us astray, and public hope, baffled suddenly by the death
  of this princess, was urging us too far. It must not be permitted to
  man to despise himself entirely, lest he, supposing, in common with
  the wicked, that our life is but a game in which chance reigns, take
  his way without rule and without self-control, at the pleasure of his
  own blind wishes. It is for this reason that the Preacher, after
  having commenced his inspired production by the expression which I
  have cited, after having filled all its pages with contempt for things
  human, is pleased at last to show man something more substantial by
  saying to him, "Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the
  whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with
  every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Thus
  every thing is vain in man, if we regard what he gives to the world:
  but, on the contrary, every thing is important, if we consider what he
  owes to God. Once again: every thing is vain in man, if we regard the
  course of his mortal life; but every thing is of value, every thing is
  important, if we contemplate the goal where it ends, and the account
  of it which he must render. Let us, therefore, meditate to-day, in
  presence of this altar and of this tomb, the first and the last
  utterance of the Preacher; of which the one shows the nothingness of
  man, the other establishes his greatness. Let this tomb convince us of
  our nothingness, provided that this altar, where is daily offered for
  us a Victim of price so great, teach us at the same time our dignity.
  The princess whom we weep shall be a faithful witness, both of the one
  and of the other. Let us survey that which a sudden death has taken
  away from her; let us survey that which a holy death has bestowed upon
  her. Thus shall we learn to despise that which she quitted without
  regret, in order to attach all our regard to that which she embraced
  with so much ardor--when her soul, purified from all earthly
  sentiments, full of the heaven on whose border she touched, saw the
  light completely revealed. Such are the truths which I have to treat,
  and which I have deemed worthy to be proposed to so great a prince,
  and to the most illustrious assembly in the world.

It will be felt how removed is the foregoing from any thing like an
effort, on the preacher's part, to startle his audience with the
far-fetched and unexpected. It must, however, be admitted that Bossuet
was not always--as, of our Webster, it has well been said that he always
was--superior to the temptation to exaggerate an occasion by pomps of
rhetoric. Bossuet was a great man, but he was not quite great enough to
be wholly free from pride of self-consciousness in matching himself as
an orator against "the most illustrious assembly in the world."

The ordinary sermons of Bossuet are less read, and they perhaps less
deserve to be read, than those of Bourdaloue and Massillon.


BOURDALOUE was a voice. He was the voice of one crying, not in the
wilderness, but amid the homes and haunts of men, and, by eminence, in
the court of the most powerful and most splendid of earthly monarchs. He
was a Jesuit; one of the most devoted and most accomplished of an order
filled with devoted and accomplished men. It belonged to his Jesuit
character and Jesuit training that Bourdaloue should hold the place that
he did, as ever-successful courtier at Versailles, all the while that,
as preacher, he was using the "holy freedom of the pulpit" to launch
those blank fulminations of his at sin in high places, at sin even in
the highest, and all the briefer while that, as confessor to Madame de
Maintenon, he was influencing the policy of Louis XIV.

No scandal of any sort attaches to the reputation of Louis Bourdaloue.
He was a man of spotless fame--unless it be a spot on his fame that he
could please the most selfish of sinful monarchs well enough to be that
monarch's chosen preacher during a longer time than any other pulpit
orator whatever was tolerated at Versailles. He is described by all who
knew him as a man of gracious spirit. If he did not reprobate and
denounce the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, that was rather of the
age than of Bourdaloue.

Sainte-Beuve, in a remarkably sympathetic appreciation of
Bourdaloue--free, contrary to the critic's wont, from hostile
insinuation even--regards it as part of the merit of this preacher that
there is, and that there can be, no biography of him. His public life is
summed up in simply saying that he was a preacher. During thirty-four
laborious and fruitful years he preached the doctrines of the Church;
and this is the sole account to be given of him, except, indeed, that in
the confessional he was, all that time, learning those secrets of the
human heart which he used to such effect in composing his sermons. He
had very suave and winning ways as confessor, though he enjoined great
strictness as preacher. This led a witty woman of his time to say of
him: "Father Bourdaloue charges high in the pulpit, but he sells cheap
in the confessional." How much laxity he allowed as confessor, it is, of
course, impossible to say. But his sermons remain to show that, though
indeed he was severe and high in requirement as preacher, he did not
fail to soften asperity by insisting on the goodness, while he insisted
on the awfulness, of God. Still, it cannot be denied that somehow the
elaborate compliments which, as an established convention of his pulpit,
he not infrequently delivered to Louis XIV., tended powerfully to make
it appear that his stern denunciation of sin, which at first blush might
seem directly leveled at the king, had in reality no application at all,
or but the very gentlest application, to the particular case of his Most
Christian Majesty.

We begin our citations from Bourdaloue with an extract from a sermon of
his on "A Perverted Conscience." The whole discourse is one well worth
the study of any reader. It is a piece of searching psychological
analysis, and pungent application to conscience. Bourdaloue, in his
sermons, has always the air of a man seriously intent on producing
practical results. There are no false motions. Every swaying of the
preacher's weapon is a blow, and every blow is a hit. There is hardly
another example in homiletic literature of such compactness, such
solidity, such logical consecutiveness, such cogency, such freedom from
surplusage. Tare and tret are excluded. Every thing counts. You meet
with two or three adjectives, and you at first naturally assume, that,
after the usual manner of homilists, Bourdaloue has thrown these in
without rigorously definite purpose, simply to heighten a general
effect. Not at all. There follows a development of the preacher's
thought, constituting virtually a distinct justification of each
adjective employed. You soon learn that there is no random, no waste, in
this man's words. But here is the promised extract from the sermon on "A
Perverted Conscience." In it Bourdaloue depresses his gun, and
discharges it point-blank at the audience before him. You can almost
imagine you see the ranks of "the great" laid low. Alas! one fears that,
instead of biting the dust, those courtiers, with the king in the midst
of them to set the example, only cried bravo in their hearts at the
skill of the gunner:

  I have said more particularly that in the world in which you live---I
  mean the court--the disease of a perverted conscience is far more
  common, and far more difficult to be avoided; and I am sure that in
  this you will agree with me. For it is at the court that the passions
  bear sway, that desires are more ardent, that self-interest is keener,
  and that, by infallible consequence, self-blinding is more easy, and
  consciences, even the most enlightened and the most upright, become
  gradually perverted. It is at the court that the goddess of the world,
  I mean fortune, exercises over the minds of men, and in consequence
  over their consciences, a more absolute dominion. It is at the court
  that the aim to maintain one's self, the impatience to raise one's
  self, the frenzy to push one's self, the fear of displeasing, the
  desire of making one's self agreeable, produce consciences which
  anywhere else would pass for monstrous, but which, finding themselves
  there authorized by custom, seem to have acquired a right of
  possession and of prescription. People, from living at court, and from
  no other cause than having lived there, are filled with these errors.
  Whatever uprightness of conscience they may have brought thither, by
  breathing its air and by hearing its language they are habituated to
  iniquity, they come to have less horror of vice, and, after having
  long blamed it, a thousand times condemned it, they at last behold it
  with a more favorable eye, tolerate it, excuse it; that is to say,
  without observing what is happening, they make over their consciences,
  and, by insensible steps, from Christian, which they were, by little
  and little become quite worldly, and not far from pagan.

What could surpass the adaptedness of such preaching as that to the need
of the moment for which it was prepared? And how did the libertine
French monarch contrive to escape the force of truth like the following,
with which the preacher immediately proceeds?

  You would say, and it really seems, that for the court there are other
  principles of religion than for the rest of the world, and that the
  courtier has a right to make for himself a conscience different in
  kind and in quality from that of other men; for such is the prevailing
  idea of the matter--an idea well sustained, or rather unfortunately
  justified, by experience.... Nevertheless, my dear hearers, St. Paul
  assures us, that there is but one God and one faith; and woe to the
  man who dividing him, this one God, shall represent him as at court
  less an enemy to human transgressions than he is outside of the court;
  or, severing this one faith, shall suppose it in the case of one class
  more indulgent than in the case of another.

Bourdaloue, as Jesuit, could not but feel the power of Pascal, in his
"Provincial Letters," constantly undermining the authority of his order.
His preaching, as Sainte-Beuve well says, may be considered to have
been, in the preacher's intention, one prolonged confutation of Pascal's
immortal indictment. We borrow of Sainte-Beuve a short extract from
Bourdaloue's sermon on slander, which may serve as an instance to show
with what adroitness the Jesuit retorted anonymously upon the Jansenist:

  Behold one of the abuses of our time. Means have been found to
  consecrate slander, to change it into a virtue, and even into one of
  the holiest virtues---that means is, zeal for the glory of God.... We
  must humble those people, is the cry; and it is for the good of the
  Church to tarnish their reputation and to diminish their credit. That
  idea becomes, as it were, a principle; the conscience is fashioned
  accordingly, and there is nothing that is not permissible to a motive
  so noble. You fabricate, you exaggerate, you give things a poisonous
  taint, you tell but half the truth; you make your prejudices stand for
  indisputable facts; you spread abroad a hundred falsehoods; you
  confound what is individual with what is general; what one man has
  said that is bad, you pretend that all have said; and what many have
  said that is good, you pretend that nobody has said; and all that once
  again for the glory of God. For such direction of the intention
  justifies all that. Such direction of the intention will not suffice
  to justify a prevarication, but it is more than sufficient to justify
  calumny, provided only you are convinced that you are serving God
  thereby.

In conclusion, we give a passage or two of Bourdaloue's sermon on "An
Eternity of Woe." Stanch orthodoxy the reader will find here. President
Edwards's discourse, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," is not more
unflinching. But what a relief of contrasted sweetness does Bourdaloue
interpose in the first part of the ensuing extract, to set off the grim
and grisly horror of that which is to follow! We draw, for this case,
from a translation, issued in Dublin under Roman Catholic auspices, of
select sermons by Bourdaloue. The translator, throughout his volume,
has been highly loyal in spirit toward the great French preacher; but
this has not prevented much enfeebling by him of the style of his
original, to which we here do what we can to restore the tone:

  There are some just, fervent, perfect souls, who, like children in the
  house of the Heavenly Father, strive to please and possess him, in
  order only to possess and to love him; and who, incessantly animated
  by this unselfish motive, inviolably adhere to his divine precepts,
  and lay it down as a rigorous and unalterable rule, to obey the least
  intimation of his will. They serve him with an affection entirely
  filial. But there are also dastards, worldlings, sinners, terrestrial
  and sensual men, who are scarcely susceptible of any other impressions
  than those of the judgments and vengeance of God. Talk to them of his
  greatness, of his perfections, of his benefits, or even of his
  rewards, and they will hardly listen to you; and, if they are
  prevailed upon to pay some attention and respect to your words, these
  will sound in their ears, but not reach their hearts.... Therefore, to
  move them, to stir them up, to awaken them from the lethargic sleep
  with which they are overwhelmed, the thunder of divine wrath and the
  decree that condemns them to eternal flames must be dinned into their
  ears: "Depart from me, ye accursed, into everlasting fire" (Matt.
  xxv). Make them consider attentively, and represent to them with all
  the force of grace, the consequences and horror of this word
  "eternal."...

It is not imagination, it is pure reason and intelligence, that now in
Bourdaloue goes about the business of impressing the thought of the
dreadfulness of an eternity of woe. The effect produced is not that of
the lightning-flash suddenly revealing the jaws agape of an unfathomable
abyss directly before you. It is rather that of steady, intolerable
pressure gradually applied to crush, to annihilate, the soul:

  ... Struck with horror at so doleful a destiny, I apply to this
  eternity all the powers of my mind; I examine and scrutinize it in all
  its parts; and I survey, as it were, its whole dimensions. Moreover,
  to express it in more lively colors, and to represent it in my mind
  more conformably to the senses and the human understanding, I borrow
  comparisons from the Fathers of the Church, and I make, if I may so
  speak, the same computations. I figure to myself all the stars of the
  firmament; to this innumerable multitude I add all the drops of water
  in the bosom of the ocean; and if this be not enough, I reckon, or at
  least endeavor to reckon, all the grains of sand on its shore. Then I
  interrogate myself, I reason with myself, and I put to myself the
  question: If I had for as many ages, and a thousand times as many,
  undergone torments in that glowing fire which is kindled by the breath
  of the Lord in his anger to take eternal vengeance, would eternity be
  at an end? No; and why? Because it is eternity, and eternity is
  endless. To number up the stars that shine in the heavens, to count
  the drops of water that compose the sea, to tell the grains of sand
  that lie upon the shore, is not absolutely impossible; but to measure
  in eternity the number of days, of years, of ages, is what cannot be
  compassed, because the days, the years, and the ages are without
  number; or to speak more properly, because in eternity there are
  neither days, nor years, nor ages, but a single endless, infinite
  duration.

  To this thought I devote my mind. I imagine I see and rove through
  this same eternity, and discover no end, but find it to be always a
  boundless tract. I imagine that the wide prospect lies open on all
  sides, and encompasses me around: that if I rise up or if I sink down,
  or what way soever I turn my eyes, this eternity meets them; and that
  after a thousand efforts to get forward I have made no progress, but
  find it still eternity. I imagine that after long revolutions of time,
  I behold in the midst of this eternity a damned soul, in the same
  state, in the same affliction, in the same misery still; and putting
  myself mentally in the place of this soul, I imagine that in this
  eternal punishment I feel myself continually devoured by that fire
  which nothing extinguishes; that I continually shed those floods of
  tears which nothing can dry up; that I am continually gnawed by the
  worm of conscience, which never dies; that I continually express my
  despair and anguish by that gnashing of teeth, and those lamentable
  cries, which never can move the compassion of God. This idea of
  myself, this representation, amazes and terrifies me. My whole body
  shudders, I tremble with fear, I am filled with horror, I have the
  same feelings as the royal prophet when he cried, "Pierce thou my
  flesh with thy fear, for I am afraid of thy judgments."

That was a touching tribute from the elder to the younger--tribute
touching, whether wrung, perforce, from a proudly humble, or freely
offered by a simply magnanimous heart--when, like John the Baptist
speaking of Jesus, Bourdaloue, growing old, said of Massillon, enjoying
his swiftly crescent renown: "He must increase, and I must decrease." It
was a true presentiment of the comparative fortune of fame that impended
for these two men. It was not, however, in the same path, but in a
different, that Massillon outran Bourdaloue. In his own sphere, that of
unimpassioned appeal to reason and to conscience, Bourdaloue is still
without a rival. No one else, certainly, ever earned, so well as he,
the double title which his epigrammatic countrymen were once fond of
bestowing upon him--"The king of preachers, and the preacher of kings."


Jean Baptiste MASSILLON became priest by his own internal sense of
vocation to the office, against the preference of his family that he
should become, like his father, a notary. He seems to have been by
nature sincerely modest in spirit. He had to be forced into the
publicity of a preaching career at Paris. His ecclesiastical superior
peremptorily required at his hands the sacrifice of his wish to be
obscure. He at once filled Paris with his fame. The inevitable
consequence followed. He was summoned to preach before the king at
Versailles. Here he received, as probably he deserved, that celebrated
compliment in epigram from Louis XIV.: "In hearing some preachers, I
feel pleased with them; in hearing you, I feel displeased with myself."

It must not, however, be supposed that Massillon preached like a prophet
Nathan saying to King David, "Thou art the man"; or like a John the
Baptist saying to King Herod, "It is not lawful for _thee_ to have
_her_"; or like a John Knox denouncing Queen Mary. Massillon, if he was
stern, was suavely stern. He complimented the king. The sword with which
he wounded was wreathed with flowers. It is difficult not to feel that
some unspoken understanding subsisted between the preacher and the king,
which permitted the king to separate the preacher from the man, when
Massillon used that great plainness of speech to his sovereign. The king
did not, however, often invite this master of eloquence to make the
royal conscience displacent with itself. Bourdaloue was ostensibly as
outspoken as Massillon; but somehow that Jesuit preacher contented the
king to be his hearer during as many as ten annual seasons, against the
one or two only that Massillon preached at court before Louis.

The work of Massillon generally judged, though according to Sainte-Beuve
not wisely judged, to be his choicest, is contained in that volume of
his which goes by the name of "Le Petit Carême"--literally, "The Little
Lent"--a collection of sermons preached during a Lent before the king's
great-grandson and successor, youthful Louis XV. These sermons
especially have given to their author a fame that is his by a title
perhaps absolutely unique in literature. We know no other instance of a
writer, limited in his production strictly to sermons, who holds his
place in the first rank of authorship simply by virtue of supreme
mastership in literary style.

Still, from the text of his printed discourses--admirable, exquisite,
ideal compositions in point of form as these are--it will be found
impossible to conceive adequately the living eloquence of Massillon.
There are interesting traditions of the effects produced by particular
passages of particular sermons of his. When Louis XIV. died, Massillon
preached his funeral sermon. He began with that celebrated single
sentence of exordium which, it is said, brought his whole audience, by
instantaneous, simultaneous impulse, in a body to their feet. The modern
reader will experience some difficulty in comprehending at once why that
perfectly commonplace-seeming expression of the preacher should have
produced an effect so powerful. The element of the opportune, the
apposite, the fit, is always great part of the secret of eloquence.
Nothing more absolutely appropriate can be conceived than was the
sentiment, the exclamation, with which Massillon opened that funeral
sermon. The image and symbol of earthly greatness, in the person of
Louis XIV., had been shattered under the touch of iconoclast death. "God
only is great!" said the preacher; and all was said. Those four short
words had uttered completely, and with a simplicity incapable of being
surpassed, the thought that usurped every breast. It is not the surprise
of some striking new thought that is the most eloquent thing. The most
eloquent thing is the surprise of that one word, suddenly spoken, which
completely expresses some thought, present already and uppermost, but
silent till now, awaiting expression, in a multitude of minds. This
most eloquent thing it was which, from Massillon's lips that day, moved
his susceptible audience to rise, like one man, and bow in mute act of
submission to the truth of his words. The inventive and curious reader
may exercise his ingenuity at leisure. He will strive in vain to
conceive any other exordium than Massillon's that would have matched the
occasion presented.

There is an admirable anecdote of the pulpit, which--though since often
otherwise applied--had, perhaps, its first application to Massillon.
Some one congratulating the orator, as he came down from his pulpit, on
the eloquence of the sermon just preached, that wise self-knower fenced
by replying, "Ah, the devil has already apprised me of that!" The
recluse celibate preacher was one day asked whence he derived that
marvelous knowledge which he displayed of the passions, the weaknesses,
the follies, the sins, of human nature. "From my own heart," was his
reply. Source sufficient, perhaps; but from the confessional, too, one
may confidently add.

There is probably no better brief, quotable passage to represent
Massillon at his imaginative highest in eloquence, than that most
celebrated one of all, occurring toward the close of his memorable
sermon on the "Fewness of the Elect." The effect attending the delivery
of this passage, on both of the two recorded occasions on which the
sermon was preached, is reported to have been remarkable. The manner of
the orator--downcast, as with the inward oppression of the same
solemnity that he, in speaking, cast like a spell on the
audience--indefinitely heightened the magical power of the awful
conception excited. Not Bourdaloue himself, with that preternatural
skill of his to probe the conscience of man to its innermost secret,
could have exceeded the heart-searching rigor with which, in the earlier
part of the discourse, Massillon had put to the rack the quivering
consciences of his hearers. The terrors of the Lord, the shadows of the
world to come, were thus already on all hearts. So much as this,
Bourdaloue, too, with his incomparable dialectic, could have
accomplished. But there immediately follows a culmination in power, such
as was distinctly beyond the height of Bourdaloue. Genius must be
super-added to talent if you would have the supreme, either in poetry or
in eloquence. There was an extreme point in Massillon's discourses at
which mere reason, having done, and done terribly, its utmost, was fain
to confess that it could not go a single step farther. At that extreme
point, suddenly, inexhaustible imagination took up the part of exhausted
reason. Reason had made men afraid; imagination now appalled them.
Massillon said:

  I confine myself to you, my brethren, who are gathered here. I speak
  no longer of the rest of mankind. I look at you as if you were the
  only ones on the earth; and here is the thought that seizes me, and
  that terrifies me. I make the supposition that this is your last hour,
  and the end of the world; that the heavens are about to open above
  your heads, that Jesus Christ is to appear in his glory in the midst
  of this sanctuary, and that you are gathered here only to wait for
  him, and as trembling criminals on whom is to be pronounced either a
  sentence of grace or a decree of eternal death. For, vainly do you
  flatter yourselves; you will die such in character as you are to-day.
  All those impulses toward change with which you amuse yourselves, you
  will amuse yourselves with them down to the bed of death. Such is the
  experience of all generations. The only thing new you will then find
  in yourselves will be, perhaps, a reckoning a trifle larger than that
  which you would to-day have to render; and according to what you would
  be if you were this moment to be judged, you may almost determine what
  will befall you at the termination of your life.

  Now I ask you, and I ask it smitten with terror, not separating in
  this matter my lot from yours, and putting myself into the same frame
  of mind into which I desire you to come--I ask you, then, If Jesus
  Christ were to appear in this sanctuary, in the midst of this
  assembly, the most illustrious in the world, to pass judgment on us,
  to draw the dread line of distinction between the goats and the sheep,
  do you believe that the majority of all of us who are here would be
  set on his right hand? Do you believe that things would even be equal?
  Nay, do you believe there would be found so many as the ten righteous
  men whom anciently the Lord could not find in five whole cities? I put
  the question to you, but you know not; I know not myself. Thou only, O
  my God, knowest those that belong to thee! But if we know not those
  who belong to him, at least we know that sinners do not belong to him.
  Now, of what classes of persons do the professing Christians in this
  assembly consist? Titles and dignities must be counted for naught; of
  these you shall be stripped before Jesus Christ. Who make up this
  assembly? Sinners, in great number, who do not wish to be converted;
  in still greater number, sinners who would like it, but who put off
  their conversion; many others who would be converted, only to relapse
  into sin; finally, a multitude who think they have no need of
  conversion. You have thus made up the company of the reprobate. Cut
  off these four classes of sinners from this sacred assembly, for they
  will be be cut off from it at the great day! Stand forth now, ye
  righteous! where are you? Remnant of Israel, pass to the right hand!
  True wheat of Jesus Christ, disengage yourselves from this chaff,
  doomed to the fire! O God! where are thine elect? and what remains
  there for thy portion?

  Brethren, our perdition is well nigh assured, and we do not give it a
  thought. Even if in that dread separation which one day shall be made,
  there were to be but a single sinner out of this assembly found on the
  side of the reprobate, and if a voice from heaven should come to give
  us assurance of the fact in this sanctuary, without pointing out the
  person intended, who among us would not fear that he might himself be
  the wretch? Who among us would not at once recoil upon his conscience,
  to inquire whether his sins had not deserved that penalty? Who among
  us would not, seized with dismay, ask of Jesus Christ, as did once the
  apostles, "Lord, is it I?"

What is there wanting in such eloquence as the foregoing? Wherein lies
its deficiency of power to penetrate and subdue? Voltaire avowed that he
found the sermons of Massillon to be among "the most agreeable books we
have in our language. I love," he went on, "to have them read to me at
table." There are things in Massillon that Voltaire should not have
delighted to read, or to hear read--things that should have made him
wince and revolt, if they did not make him yield and be converted. Was
there fault in the preacher? Did he preach with professional, rather
than with personal, zeal? Did his hearers feel themselves secretly
acquitted by the man, at the self-same moment at which they were openly
condemned by the preacher? It is impossible to say. But Massillon's
virtue was not lofty and regal; however it may have been free from just
reproach. He was somewhat too capable of compliance. He was made bishop
of Clermont, and his promotion cost him the anguish of having to help
consecrate a scandalously unfit candidate as archbishop of Cambray.
Massillon's, however, is a fair, if not an absolutely spotless, fame.
Hierarch as he was, and orthodox Catholic, this most elegant of eloquent
orators had a liberal strain in his blood which allied him politically
with the "philosophers" of the time succeeding. He, with Fénelon, and
perhaps with Racine, makes seem less abrupt the transition in France
from the age of absolutism to the age of revolt and final revolution.
There is distinct advance in Massillon, and advance more than is
accounted for by his somewhat later time, toward the easier modern
spirit in Church and in State, from the high, unbending austerity of
that antique pontiff and minister, Bossuet.


In dealing with SAURIN we are irresistibly reminded of the train of
historic misfortunes that age after age have visited France. It bears
eloquent, if tragic testimony to the enduring noble qualities of the
French people, that they have survived so splendidly so much national
suicide. What other great nation is there that has continued great and
spilled so often her own best blood? The Revocation of the Edict of
Nantes, with its sequel of frightful hemorrhage in the loss to France of
her Huguenots, the guillotine of the Revolution, the decimations of
Napoleon, the madness of the Franco-German war, the Commune!

To such reflections we are forced; for Jacques Saurin preached his great
sermons in French as a compulsory exile from France. He had a year or
two's experience as French preacher in London; but from his
twenty-eighth year till he died at fifty-two he was pastor of the French
church at The Hague in Holland.

Saurin's living renown was great; and his renown has never been less,
though it has been less resounding, since he died. This is as it could
not but be; for the reputation of Saurin as preacher rested from the
first on solid foundations that were not to be shaken. If he had been a
loyal Roman Catholic, he would have been twinned with Bossuet, whom he
somewhat resembles, in the acclamations of general fame. It is far more
in name than in merit that Bossuet surpasses him. Bossuet's
quasi-pontifical relation to the Gallican Church indeed engaged him in
various activities which seemed to display a talent in him
correspondingly more various than that of Saurin, who remained almost
exclusively a preacher. But the difference is probably a difference of
fortune rather than a difference of original gift. The intellect that
expresses itself in Saurin's sermons is certainly a spacious intellect.
Saurin is in mere intellect as distinctly "great" as is Bossuet. In
imagination, however, that attribute of genius as distinguished from
talent, to Bossuet we suppose must be accorded superiority over Saurin.

Clearness, French clearness; order, French order; solidity of matter;
sobriety of thought; soundness of doctrine; breadth of comprehension;
sagacity and instructedness of interpretation; solemnity of inculcation;
progress and cumulation of effect; strength and elevation, rather than
grace and winningness, of style; address to the understanding, rather
than appeal to the emotions; certitude of logic, rather than play of
imagination; a theological, more than a practical, tendency of
interest--such are the distinguishing characteristics of Saurin as
preacher.

Sermons are literary products in which change from fashion to fashion of
thought and of form makes itself felt more than in almost any other kind
of literature. The sermons of one age are generally doomed to be
obsolete in the age next following. But to this general rule Saurin's
sermons come near constituting an exception. They might, many of them,
perhaps most of them, still be preached. This, certain pulpit
plagiarists of a generation or two ago, are said to have learned.

The following extract will give our readers an idea how Saurin, toward
the close of a discourse--having now done, for the occasion, with
dispassionate argument--would follow up and press his hearer with
deliberately vehement, unescapable oratoric harangue and appeal. His
text is: "Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world."
Analyzing this, he states thus his second head of discourse: "Motives
to virtue are superior to motives to vice."

  What [under the first head] I affirmed of all known truth, that its
  force is irresistible, I affirm, on the same principle, of all motives
  to virtue: the most hardened sinners cannot resist them if they attend
  to them; there is no other way of becoming insensible to them than to
  turn the eyes away from them....

  And where is the man so blinded as to digest the falsehoods which the
  motives to vice imply? Where is the wretch desperate enough to reason
  in this manner:

  "I love to be esteemed; I will, therefore, devote myself exclusively
  to acquiring the esteem of those men who, like me, will in a few days
  be devoured by worms, and whose ashes will in a few days, like my own,
  be mixed with the dust of the earth; but I will not take the least
  pains to obtain the approbation of those noble intelligences, of those
  sublime spirits, of those angels, of those seraphims, who are without
  ceasing around the throne of God; I will not take the least pains to
  have a share in those praises with which the great God will one day,
  in the sight of heaven and of earth, crown those who have been
  faithful to him.

  "I love glory; I will therefore apply myself exclusively to make the
  world say of me: That man has a taste quite exceptional in dress, his
  table is delicately served, there has never been either base blood or
  plebeian marriage in his family, nobody offends him with impunity, he
  permits none but a respectful approach; but I will never take the
  least pains to make envy itself say of me: That man fears God, he
  prefers his duty above all other things, he thinks there is more
  magnanimity in forgiving an affront than in revenging it, in being
  holy than in being noble in the world's esteem, and so on.

  "I am very fond of pleasure; I will therefore give myself wholly up to
  gratify my senses, to lead a voluptuous life, to have the spectacle
  follow the feast, debauchery the spectacle, and so on; but I will
  never take the least pains to secure that _fullness of joy_ which is
  at _God's right hand_, that _river of pleasure_ whereof he gives to
  drink to those _who put their trust under the shadow of his wings_.

  "I hate constraint and trouble; I will apply myself therefore
  exclusively to escape the idea of emotions of penitence, above all,
  the idea of prison cells, of exile, of the rack, of the stake; but I
  will brave the chains of darkness with their weight, the demons with
  their fury, hell with its torments, eternity with its horrors. I have
  made my decision; I consent to curse eternally the day of my birth, to
  look eternally upon annihilation as a blessing beyond price, to seek
  eternally for death without being able to find it, to vomit eternally
  blasphemies against my Creator, to hear eternally the howlings of the
  damned, to howl eternally with them, and to be eternally, like them,
  the object of that sentence, Depart from me, ye cursed, into
  everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Once more,
  Where is the wretch desperate enough to digest these propositions? Yet
  these are the motives to vice.

To illustrate the point-blank directness, the almost excessive fidelity,
amounting to something very like truculence, with which Saurin would
train his guns and fire his broadsides into the faces and eyes of his
hearers, let the following, our final citation, serve; we quote from the
conclusion to a powerful sermon on infidelity:

  Let us here put a period to this discourse. We turn to you, my
  brethren.... You congratulate yourselves for the most part,... on
  detesting infidelity, and on respecting religion. But shall we tell
  you, my brethren, how odious soever the men are whom we have just been
  describing, we know of others more odious still. There is a
  restriction in the judgment which the prophet pronounces on the first,
  when he calls them, in the words of my text, the most foolish and the
  most brutish among the people; and there are men who surpass them in
  brutality and in extravagance.

  Do not think we exceed the truth of the matter, or that we are
  endeavoring to obtain your attention by paradoxes. In all good faith,
  I speak as I think, I find more refinement, and even, if I may venture
  to say so, a less fund of corruption in men who, having resolved to
  abandon themselves to the torrent of their passions, strive to
  persuade themselves, either that there is no God in heaven, or that he
  pays no attention to what men do on earth; than in those who,
  believing in a God who sees them and heeds them, live as if they
  believed nothing of the sort. Infidels were not able to support, in
  their excesses, the idea of a benefactor outraged, of a Supreme Judge
  provoked to anger, of an eternal salvation neglected, of a hell
  braved, _a lake burning with fire and brimstone_, and _smoke ascending
  up for ever and ever_. It was necessary, in order to give free course
  to their passions it was necessary for them to put far away from their
  eyes these terrifying objects, and to efface from their minds these
  overwhelming truths.

  But you, you who believe that there is a God in heaven, you who
  believe yourselves under his eye, and who insult him without remorse
  and without repentance, you who believe that this God holds the
  thunderbolt in his hand to crush sinners, and who live in sin, you who
  believe that there are devouring flames and chains of darkness, and
  who brave their horrors, you who believe the soul immortal, and who
  concern yourselves only with time; what forehead, what forehead of
  brass, is the one you wear!

One thing in just qualification of the praise due to Saurin for his
pulpit eloquence requires to be added. When he attempts the figure of
apostrophe, as he frequently does, personifying inanimate objects and
addressing them in the way of oratoric appeal, he is very apt to produce
a frigid effect, the absolute opposite of genuine eloquence. Nothing but
imagination white-hot with passion justifies, in the use of the orator,
the expedient of such apostrophe as this which Saurin affects. With
Saurin, both the necessary imagination and the necessary passion seem
somehow to fail; and he possessed neither the perfect judgment nor the
perfect taste, nor yet the fine feeling, that might have chastised the
audacities to which his ambition incited him. His rhetorically bold
things he did in a certain cold-blooded way; so that, with him, what
should have been the climax of oratoric effectiveness, or else not been
at all, produces sometimes instead a reaction and recoil of
disappointment. We thus indicate a shortcoming in Saurin which deposes
this great preacher, one is compelled to admit, despite his remarkable
merits, from the first into the second rank of orators.

Both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant lines of French pulpit
eloquence are continued down to our own day. Lacordaire, Père Félix,
Père Hyacinthe, of the Catholics, Frédéric Monod, Adolph Monod,
Coquerel, of the Protestants, are names worthy to be here set down; and
it may be added that Eugène Bersier, deceased in 1889, challenges on the
whole not unequal comparison with the men treated in this chapter for
pulpit power. He may be described as a kind of nineteenth-century
Bossuet, tempered to Massillon, among French Protestant preachers.

But there is no Louis XIV. now to cast over any great preachers, even of
the Roman Catholics, the illusive, factitious, reflected glory of the
person and court, the sentence and seal, of the "most illustrious
sovereign of the world."

The seventeenth-century sacred eloquence of France, the sacred
eloquence, that is to say, of the "great" French age, will always remain
a unique tradition in the history of the pulpit.



XIII.

FÉNELON.

1651-1715.


If Bossuet is to Frenchmen a synonym for sublimity, no less to them is
Fénelon a synonym for saintliness. From the French point of view, one
might say, "the sublime Bossuet," "the saintly Fénelon," somewhat as one
says, "the learned Selden," "the judicious Hooker." It is as much a
French delight to idealize Fénelon an archangel Raphael, affable and
mild, as it is to glorify Bossuet a Michael in majesty and power.

But saintliness of character was in Fénelon commended to the world by
equal charm of person and of genius. The words of Milton describing Eve
might be applied, with no change but that of gender, to Fénelon, both
the exterior and the interior man:

  Grace was in all his steps, heaven in his eye,
  In every gesture dignity and love.

The consent is general among those who saw Fénelon, and have left behind
them their testimony, that alike in person, in character, and in genius,
he was such as we thus describe him.

Twice, in his youth, he was smitten to the heart with a feeling of
vocation to be a missionary. Both times he was thwarted by the
intervention of friends. The second time, he wrote disclosing his
half-romantic aspiration in a glowing letter of confidence and
friendship to Bossuet, his senior by many years, but not yet become
famous. Young Fénelon's friend Bossuet was destined later to prove a
bitter antagonist, almost a personal foe.

Until he was forty-two years old, François Fénelon lived in comparative
retirement, nourishing his genius with study, with contemplation, with
choice society. He experimented in writing verse. Not succeeding to his
mind, he turned to prose composition, and, leading the way, in a new
species of literature, for Rousseau, for Chateaubriand, for Lamartine,
and for many others, to follow, went on writing what, in ceasing to be
verse, did not cease to be poetry.

The great world will presently involve Fénelon in the currents of
history. Louis XIV., grown old, and become as selfishly greedy now of
personal salvation as all his life he had been selfishly greedy of
personal glory, seeks that object of his soul by serving the Church in
the wholesale conversion of Protestants. He revokes the Edict of Nantes,
which had secured religious toleration for the realm, and proceeds to
dragoon the Huguenots into conformity with the Roman Catholic Church.
The reaction in public sentiment against such rigors grew a cry that had
to be silenced. Fénelon was selected to visit the heretic provinces, and
win them to willing submission. He stipulated that every form of
coercion should cease, and went to conquer all with love. His success
was remarkable. But not even Fénelon quite escaped the infection of
violent zeal for the Church. It seems not to be given to any man to rise
wholly superior to the spirit of the world in which he lives.

The luster of Fénelon's name, luminous from the triumphs of his mission
among the Protestants, was sufficient to justify the choice of this man,
a man both by nature and by culture so ideally formed for the office as
was he, to be tutor to the heir prospective of the French monarchy. The
Duke of Burgundy, grandson to Louis XIV., was accordingly put under the
charge of Fénelon to be trained for future kingship. Never, probably, in
the history of mankind, has there occurred a case in which the victory
of a teacher could be more illustrious than actually was the victory of
Fénelon as teacher to this scion of the house of Bourbon. We shall be
giving our readers a relishable taste of St. Simon, the celebrated
memoir-writer of the age of Louis XIV., if out of the portrait in
words, drawn by him from life, of Fénelon's princely pupil, we transfer
here a few strong lines to our pages. St. Simon says:

  In the first place, it must be said that Monseigneur the Duke of
  Burgundy had by nature a most formidable disposition. He was
  passionate to the extent of wishing to dash to pieces his clocks when
  they struck the hour which called him to what he did not like, and of
  flying into the utmost rage against the rain if it interfered with
  what he wanted to do. Resistance threw him into paroxysms of fury. I
  speak of what I have often witnessed in his early youth. Moreover, an
  ungovernable impulse drove him into whatever indulgence, bodily or
  mental, was forbidden him. His sarcasm was so much the more cruel, as
  it was witty and piquant, and as it seized with precision upon every
  point open to ridicule. All this was sharpened by a vivacity of body
  and of mind that proceeded to the degree of impetuosity, and that
  during his early days never permitted him to learn any thing except by
  doing two things at once. Every form of pleasure he loved with a
  violent avidity, and all this with a pride and a haughtiness
  impossible to describe; dangerously wise, moreover, to judge of men
  and things, and to detect the weak point in a train of reasoning, and
  to reason himself more cogently and more profoundly than his teachers.
  But at the same time, as soon as his passion was spent, reason resumed
  her sway; he felt his faults, he acknowledged them, and sometimes with
  such chagrin that his rage was rekindled. A mind lively, alert,
  penetrating, stiffening itself against obstacles, excelling literally
  in every thing. The prodigy is, that in a very short time piety and
  grace made of him a different being, and transformed faults so
  numerous and so formidable into virtues exactly opposite.

St. Simon attributes to Fénelon "every virtue under heaven"; but his way
was to give to God rather than to man the praise of the remarkable
change which, during Fénelon's charge of the Duke of Burgundy, came over
the character of the prince.

The grandfather survived the grandson; and it was never put to the stern
proof of historical experiment whether Fénelon had indeed turned out one
Bourbon entirely different from all the other members, earlier or later,
of that royal line.

Before, however, the Duke of Burgundy was thus snatched away from the
perilous prospect of a throne, his beloved teacher was parted from him,
not indeed by death, but by what, to the archbishop's susceptible and
suffering spirit, was worse than death, by "disgrace." The disgrace was
such as has ever since engaged for its subject the interest, the
sympathy, and the admiration of mankind. Fénelon lost the royal favor.
That was all--for the present; but that was much. He was banished from
court, and he ceased to be preceptor to the Duke of Burgundy. The king,
in signal severity, used his own hand to strike Fénelon's name from the
list of the household of his grandson and heir. The archbishop--for
Fénelon had previously been made archbishop of Cambray--returned into
his diocese as into an exile. But his cup of humiliation was by no means
full. Bossuet will stain his own glory by following his exiled former
pupil and friend, with hostile pontifical rage, to crush him in his
retreat.

The occasion was a woman, a woman with the charm of genius and of
exalted character, a Christian, a saint, but a mystic--it was Madame
Guyon. Madame Guyon taught that it was possible to love God for himself
alone, purely and disinterestedly. Fénelon received the doctrine, and
Madame Guyon was patronized by Madame de Maintenon. Bossuet scented
heresy. He was too much a "natural man" to understand Madame Guyon. The
king was like the prelate, his minister, in spirit, and in consequent
incapacity. It was resolved that Fénelon must condemn Madame Guyon. But
Fénelon would not. He was very gentle, very conciliatory, but in fine he
would not. Controversy ensued, haughty, magisterial, domineering, on the
part of Bossuet; on the part of Fénelon, meek, docile, suasive. The
world wondered, and watched the duel. Fénelon finally did what king
James's translators misleadingly make Job wish that his adversary had
done--he wrote a book, "The Maxims of the Saints." In this book, he
sought to show that the accepted and even canonized teachers of the
Church had taught the doctrine for which, in his own case and in the
case of Madame Guyon, condemnation was now invoked. Bossuet was pope at
Paris: and he, in full presence, denounced to the monarch the heresy of
Fénelon. At this moment of crisis for Fénelon, it happened that news was
brought him of the burning of his mansion at Cambray with all his books
and manuscripts. It will always be remembered that Fénelon only said:
"It is better so than if it had been the cottage of a poor
laboring-man."

Madame de Maintenon, till now his friend, with perfect frigid facility
separated herself from the side of the accused. The controversy was
carried to Rome, where at length Fénelon's book was condemned--condemned
mildly, but condemned. The pope is said to have made the remark that
Fénelon erred by loving God too much, and Fénelon's antagonists by
loving their fellow-man too little. Fénelon bowed to the authority of
the Church, and meekly in his own cathedral confessed his error. It was
a logical thing for him, as loyal Catholic, to do; and he did it with a
beautiful grace of humility. The Protestant spirit, however, rebels on
his behalf, and finds it difficult even to admire the manner in which
was done by him a thing that seems so unfit to have been done by him at
all. Bossuet did not long survive his inglorious triumph over so much
sanctity of personal character, over so much difficult and beautiful
height of doctrinal and practical instruction to virtue. Fénelon seems
to have been reported as preaching a funeral sermon on the dead prelate.
"I have wept and prayed," he wrote to a friend, "for this old instructor
of my youth; but it is not true that I celebrated his obsequies in my
cathedral, and preached his funeral sermon. Such affectation, you know,
is foreign to my nature." The iron must have gone deep, to wring from
that gentle bosom even so much cry as this of wounded feeling.

It is hard to tell what might now have befallen Fénelon, in the way of
good fortune--he might even have been recalled to court, and
re-installed in his office of tutor to the prince--had not a sinister
incident, not to have been looked for, at an inopportune moment
occurred. The "Telemachus" appeared in print, and kindled a sudden flame
of popular feeling, which instantly spread in universal conflagration
over the face of Europe. This composition of Fénelon's the author had
written to convey, under a form of quasi-poetical fiction, lessons of
wisdom in government to the mind of his royal pupil. The existence of
the manuscript book would seem to have been intended to be a secret from
the king--indeed, from almost every one, except the pupil himself for
whose use it was made. But a copyist proved false to his trust, and
furnished a copy of "Telemachus" to a printer in Holland, who lost no
time in publishing a book so likely to sell. But the sale of the book
surpassed all expectation. Holland not only, but Belgium, Germany,
France, and England multiplied copies as fast as they could; still
Europe could not get copies as fast as she wanted them.

The secret of such popularity did not lie simply in the literary merits
of "Telemachus." It lay more in a certain interpretation that the book
was supposed to bear. "Telemachus" was understood to be a covert
criticism of Louis XIV., and of the principle of absolute monarchy
embodied in him. This imputed intention of the book could not fail to
become known at Versailles. The result, of course, was fatal, and
finally fatal, to the prospects, whatever these may have been, of
Fénelon's restoration to favor at court. The archbishop thenceforward
was left to do in comparative obscurity the duties of his episcopal
office in his diocese of Cambray. He devoted himself, with exemplary and
touching fidelity, to the interests of his flock, loving them and loved
by them, until he died. It was an entirely worthy and adequate
employment of his powers. The only abatement needful from the praise to
be bestowed upon his behavior in this pastoral relation is that he
suffered himself sometimes to think of his position as one of
"disgrace." His reputation meantime for holy character and conduct was
European. His palace at Cambray, hospitably open ever to the resort of
suffering need, indeed almost his whole diocese, lying on the frontier
of France, was by mutual consent of contending armies, treated in war as
a kind of mutual inviolable ground, invested with privilege of
sanctuary. It was an instructive example of the serene and beautiful
ascendency sometimes divinely accorded to illustrious personal goodness.

There had been a moment, even subsequently to the affair of the
"Telemachus" publication, when it looked as if, after long delay, a
complete worldly triumph for Fénelon was assured, and was near. The
father of the Duke of Burgundy died, and nothing then seemed to stand
between Fénelon's late pupil and the throne, nothing but the precarious
life of an aged monarch, visibly approaching the end. The Duke of
Burgundy, through all changes, had remained unchangingly fast in his
affectionate loyalty to Fénelon. Sternly forbidden, by the jealous and
watchful king, his grandfather, to communicate with his old teacher, he
yet had found means to send to Fénelon, from time to time, reassuring
signals of his trust and love. Fénelon was now, in all eyes, the
predestined prime minister of a new reign about to commence. Through
devoted friends of his own, near to the person of the prince at court,
Fénelon sent minutes of advice to his pupil, which outlined a whole
beneficent policy of liberal monarchical rule. A new day seemed dawning
for France. The horrible reaction of the Regency and of Louis XV. might,
perhaps, have been averted, and, with that spared to France, the
revolution itself might have been accomplished without the Revolution.
But it was not to be. The Duke of Burgundy first buried his wife, and
then, within a few days, followed her himself to the grave. He died
sincerely rejoicing that God had taken him away from the dread
responsibility of reigning.

"All my ties are broken," mourned Fénelon; "there is no longer any thing
to bind me to the earth." In truth, the teacher survived his pupil but
two or three years. When he died, his sovereign, gloomy with
well-grounded apprehension for the future of his realm, said, with tardy
revival of recognition for the virtue that had perished in Fénelon:
"Here was a man who could have served us well under the disasters by
which my kingdom is about to be assailed."

Fénelon's literary productions are various; but they all have the
common character of being works written for the sake of life, rather
than for the sake of literature. They were inspired each by a practical
purpose, and adapted each to a particular occasion. His treatise on the
"Education of Girls" was written for the use of a mother who desired
instruction on the topic from Fénelon. His argument on the "Being of a
God" was prepared as a duty of his preceptorship to the prince. But the
one book of Fénelon, which was an historical event when it appeared, and
which stands an indestructible classic in literature, is the
"Telemachus." It remains for us briefly to give some idea of this book.

The first thing to be said is, that those are mistaken who suppose
themselves to have obtained a true idea of "Telemachus" from having
partly read it at school, as an exercise in French. The essence of the
work lies beyond those few opening pages to which the exploration of
school-boys and school-girls is generally limited. This masterpiece of
Fénelon is much more than a charming piece of romantic and sentimental
poetry in prose. It is a kind of epic, indeed, like the "Odyssey," only
written in rhythmical prose instead of rhythmical verse; but, unlike the
"Odyssey," it is an idyllic epic written with an ulterior purpose of
moral and political didactics. It was designed as a manual of
instruction--instruction made delightful to a prince--to inculcate the
duties incumbent on a sovereign.

Telemachus, our readers will remember, was the son of Ulysses. Fénelon's
story relates the adventures encountered by Telemachus in search for his
father, so long delayed on his return from Troy to Ithaca. Telemachus is
imagined by Fénelon to be attended by Minerva, the goddess of wisdom,
masked from his recognition, as well as from the recognition of others,
under the form of an old man. Minerva, of course, constantly imparts the
wisest counsel to young Telemachus, who has his weaknesses, as had the
young Duke of Burgundy, but who is essentially well-disposed, as Fénelon
hoped his royal pupil would finally turn out to be. Nothing can exceed
the urbanity and grace with which the delicate business is conducted by
Fénelon, of teaching a bad prince, with a very bad example set him by
his grandfather, to be a good king. The style in which the story is
told, and in which the advice is insinuated, is exquisite, is beyond
praise. The "soft delicious" stream of sound runs on, as from a
fountain, and like "linked sweetness long drawn out." Never had prose a
flow of melody more luscious. It is perpetual ravishment to the ear. The
invention, too, of incident is fruitful, while the landscape and
coloring are magical for beauty. We give a few extracts, to be read with
that application in mind to Louis XIV., and to the state of France,
which, when the book was first printed, gave it such an exciting
interest in the eyes of Europe. Telemachus, after the manner of Æneas to
Queen Dido, is relating to the goddess Calypso, into whose island he has
come, the adventures that have previously befallen him. He says that he,
with Mentor (Minerva in disguise), found himself in Crete. Mentor had
been there before, and was ready to tell Telemachus all about the
country. Telemachus was naturally interested to learn respecting the
Cretan monarchy. Mentor, he says, informed him as follows:

  The king's authority over the subject is absolute, but the authority
  of the law is absolute over him. His power to do good is unlimited,
  but he is restrained from doing evil. The laws have put the people
  into his hands, as the most valuable deposit, upon condition that he
  shall treat them as his children. It is the intent of the law that the
  wisdom and equity of one man shall be the happiness of many, and not
  that the wretchedness and slavery of many should gratify the pride and
  luxury of one. The king ought to possess nothing more than the
  subject, except what is necessary to alleviate the fatigue of his
  station, and impress upon the minds of the people a reverence of that
  authority by which the laws are executed. Moreover, the king should
  indulge himself less, as well in ease as in pleasure, and should be
  less disposed to the pomp and the pride of life than any other man. He
  ought not to be distinguished from the rest of mankind by the
  greatness of his wealth, or the vanity of his enjoyments, but by
  superior wisdom, more heroic virtue, and more splendid glory. Abroad
  he ought to be the defender of his country, by commanding her armies;
  and at home the judge of his people, distributing justice among them,
  improving their morals, and increasing their felicity. It is not for
  himself that the gods have intrusted him with royalty. He is exalted
  above individuals only that he may be the servant of the people. To
  the public he owes all his time, all his attention, and all his love;
  he deserves dignity only in proportion as he gives up private
  enjoyments for the public good.

Pretty sound doctrine, the foregoing, on the subject of the duties
devolving on a king. The "paternal" idea, to be sure, of government is
in it; but there is the idea, too, of limited or constitutional
monarchy. The spirit of just and liberal political thought had, it
seems, not been wholly extinguished, even at the court, by that
oppression of mind--an oppression seldom, if ever, in human history
exceeded--which was enforced under the unmitigated absolutism of Louis
XIV. The literature that, with Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, the
Encyclopædists, prepared the Revolution, had already begun virtually to
be written when Fénelon wrote his "Telemachus." It is easy to see why
the fame of Fénelon should by exception have been dear even to the
hottest infidel haters of that ecclesiastical hierarchy to which the
archbishop of Cambray himself belonged. This lover of liberty, this
gentle rebuker of kings, was of the freethinkers, at least in the
sympathy of political thought. Nay, the Revolution itself is foreshown
in a remarkable glimpse of conjectural prophecy which occurs in the
"Telemachus." Idomeneus is a headstrong king, whom Mentor is made by the
author to reprove and instruct for the Duke of Burgundy's benefit. To
Idomeneus--a character taken, and not unplausibly taken, to have been
suggested to Fénelon by the example of Louis XIV.--to this imaginary
counterpart of the reigning monarch of France, Mentor holds the
following language. How could the sequel of Bourbon despotism in
France--a sequel suspended now for a time, but two or three generations
later to be dreadfully visited on the heirs of Louis XIV.--have been
more fully foreshadowed? The "Telemachus":

  Remember that the sovereign who is most absolute is always least
  powerful; he seizes upon all, and his grasp is ruin. He is, indeed,
  the sole proprietor of whatever his state contains; but, for that
  reason, his state contains nothing of value; the fields are
  uncultivated, and almost a desert; the towns lose some of their few
  inhabitants every day; and trade every day declines. The king, who
  must cease to be a king when he ceases to have subjects, and who is
  great only in virtue of his people, is himself insensibly losing his
  character and his power, as the number of his people, from whom alone
  both are derived, insensibly diminishes. His dominions are at length
  exhausted of money and of men: the loss of men is the greatest and the
  most irreparable he can sustain. Absolute power degrades every subject
  to a slave. The tyrant is flattered even to an appearance of
  adoration, and every one trembles at the glance of his eye; but, at
  the least revolt, this enormous power perishes by its own excess. It
  derived no strength from the love of the people; it wearied and
  provoked all that it could reach, and rendered every individual of the
  state impatient of its continuance. At the first stroke of opposition,
  the idol is overturned, broken to pieces, and trodden under foot.
  Contempt, hatred, fear, resentment, distrust, and every other passion
  of the soul unite against so hateful a despotism. The king who, in his
  vain prosperity, found no man bold enough to tell him the truth, in
  his adversity finds no man kind enough to excuse his faults, or to
  defend him against his enemies.

So much is perhaps enough to indicate the political drift of the
"Telemachus." That drift is, indeed, observable everywhere throughout
the book.

We conclude our exhibition of this fine classic, by letting Fénelon
appear more purely now in his character as dreamer and poet. Young
Prince Telemachus has, Ulysses-like, and Æneas-like, his descent into
Hades. This incident affords Fénelon opportunity to exercise his best
powers of awful and of lovely imagining and describing. Christian ideas
are, in this episode of the "Telemachus," superinduced upon pagan, after
a manner hard, perhaps, to reconcile with the verisimilitude required by
art, but at least productive of very noble and very beautiful results.
First, one glimpse of Tartarus as conceived by Fénelon. It is the
spectacle of kings who on earth abused their power that Telemachus is
beholding:

  Telemachus observed the countenance of these criminals to be pale and
  ghastly, strongly expressive of the torment they suffered at the
  heart. They looked inward with a self-abhorrence now inseparable from
  their existence. Their crimes themselves had become their punishment,
  and it was not necessary that greater should be inflicted. They
  haunted them like hideous specters, and continually started up before
  them in all their enormity. They wished for a second death, that might
  separate them from these ministers of vengeance, as the first had
  separated their spirits from the body--a death that might at once
  extinguish all consciousness and sensibility. They called upon the
  depths of hell to hide them from the persecuting beams of truth, in
  impenetrable darkness; but they are reserved for the cup of vengeance,
  which, though they drink of it forever, shall be ever full. The truth,
  from which they fled, has overtaken them, an invincible and
  unrelenting enemy. The ray which once might have illuminated them,
  like the mild radiance of the day, now pierces them like lightning--a
  fierce and fatal fire, that, without injury to the external parts,
  infixes a burning torment at the heart. By truth, now an avenging
  flame, the very soul is melted like metal in a furnace; it dissolves
  all, but destroys nothing; it disunites the first elements of life,
  yet the sufferer can never die. He is, as it were, divided against
  himself, without rest and without comfort; animated by no vital
  principle, but the rage that kindles at his own misconduct, and the
  dreadful madness that results from despair.

If the "perpetual feast of nectar'd sweets" that the "Telemachus"
affords is felt at times to be almost cloying, it is not, as our readers
have now seen, for want of occasional contrasts of a bitterness
sufficiently mordant and drastic. But the didactic purpose is never lost
sight of by the author. Here is an aspect of the Elysium found by
Telemachus. How could any thing be more delectably conceived and
described? The translator, Dr. Hawkesworth, is animated to an English
style that befits the sweetness of his original. The "Telemachus:"

  In this place resided all the good kings who had wisely governed
  mankind from the beginning of time. They were separated from the rest
  of the just; for, as wicked princes suffer more dreadful punishment
  than other offenders in Tartarus, so good kings enjoy infinitely
  greater felicity than other lovers of virtue, in the fields of
  Elysium.

  Telemachus advanced toward these kings, whom he found in groves of
  delightful fragrance, reclining upon the downy turf, where the flowers
  and herbage were perpetually renewed. A thousand rills wandered
  through these scenes of delight, and refreshed the soil with a gentle
  and unpolluted wave; the song of innumerable birds echoed in the
  groves. Spring strewed the ground with her flowers, while at the same
  time autumn loaded the trees with her fruit. In this place the burning
  heat of the dog-star was never felt, and the stormy north was
  forbidden to scatter over it the frosts of winter. Neither War that
  thirsts for blood, nor Envy that bites with an envenomed tooth, like
  the vipers that are wreathed around her arms and fostered in her
  bosom, nor Jealousy, nor Distrust, nor Fears, nor vain Desires, invade
  these sacred domains of peace. The day is here without end, and the
  shades of night are unknown. Here the bodies of the blessed are
  clothed with a pure and lambent light, as with a garment. The light
  does not resemble that vouchsafed to mortals upon earth, which is
  rather darkness visible; it is rather a celestial glory than a
  light--an emanation that penetrates the grossest body with more
  subtilty than the rays of the sun penetrate the purest crystal, which
  rather strengthens than dazzles the sight, and diffuses through the
  soul a serenity which no language can express. By this ethereal
  essence the blessed are sustained in everlasting life; it pervades
  them; it is incorporated with them, as food with the mortal body; they
  see it, they feel it, they breathe it, and it produces in them an
  inexhaustible source of serenity and joy. It is a fountain of delight,
  in which they are absorbed as fishes are absorbed in the sea; they
  wish for nothing, and, having nothing, they possess all things. This
  celestial light satiates the hunger of the soul; every desire is
  precluded; and they have a fulness of joy which sets them above all
  that mortals seek with such restless ardor, to fill the vacuity that
  aches forever in their breast. All the delightful objects that
  surround them are disregarded; for their felicity springs up within,
  and, being perfect, can derive nothing from without. So the gods,
  satiated with nectar and ambrosia, disdain, as gross and impure, all
  the dainties of the most luxurious table upon earth. From these seats
  of tranquillity all evils fly far away; death, disease, poverty, pain,
  regret, remorse, fear, even hope--which is sometimes not less painful
  than fear itself--animosity, disgust, and resentment can never enter
  there.

The leaden good sense of Louis XIV. pronounced Fénelon the "most
chimerical" man in France. The founder of the kingdom of heaven would
have been a dreamer, to this most worldly-minded of "Most Christian"
monarchs. Bossuet, who, about to die, read something of Fénelon's
"Telemachus," said it was a book hardly serious enough for a clergyman
to write. A _more_ serious book, whether its purpose be regarded, or its
undoubted actual influence in molding the character of a prospective
ruler of France, was not written by any clergyman of Fénelon's or
Bossuet's time.

Fénelon was an eloquent preacher as well as an elegant writer. His
influence exerted in both the two functions, that of the writer and that
of the preacher, was powerfully felt in favor of the freedom of nature
in style as against the conventionality of culture and art. He
insensibly helped on that reform from a too rigid classicism, which in
our day we have seen pushed to its extreme in the exaggerations of
romanticism. Few wiser words have ever been spoken on the subject of
oratory than are to be found in his "Dialogues on Eloquence."

Disappearing space warns us that we must perforce let pass from presence
the gracious spirit of Fénelon. But we should wrong this most engaging
of prelates, and we should wrong our readers, not still to represent a
side of his character and of his literary work, a very important side,
that thus far has been only hinted at in incidental allusion. We mean
that distinctively religious side which belongs alike to the man and to
the writer.

Fénelon, as priest, was something more than professional preacher,
pastor, theologian. He was a devout soul, the subject of a transcendent
Christian experience, even verging on mysticism. In his capacity of
spiritual director, he wrote what are called "spiritual letters," many
of which survive, included in his published works. These have a very
peculiarly ripe, sweet, chaste, St. John-like quality of tone, and they
are written in a pure, simple, transparent style, that reads as if the
thought found its own form of expression without the smallest trouble on
the part of the writer. The style, in fact, is absolute perfection; you
cannot tell the mere literal truth about it and not thus seem to be
exaggerating its merit. Even in translation some charm of such ultimate
felicity in it cannot fail to be felt.

Almost any "spiritual" letter that we happen first to strike will be as
good as any other, to illustrate the rare culture of heart, the deep
spiritual wisdom, the perfect urbanity in manner, reconciled with the
perfect frankness in fact, and the circumfluent grace of literary style,
with which this heavenly-minded man conducted, through correspondence,
his cure of individual souls. We pluck out a few specimen sentences from
two different letters, and present them detached, without setting of
context:

  Consent to be humiliated; silence and peace in humiliation are the
  true good of the soul. One might be tempted to speak humbly, and one
  might find a thousand fine pretexts for doing so; but it is still
  better to be silent humbly. The humility which still speaks is still
  to be suspected; in speaking, self-love consoles itself a little.

What now follows, ending our extracts from Fénelon's writings, we give,
not only for its own value, but for the light it throws on the charming
humility of the author:

  It has seemed to me that you needed to enlarge your heart in the
  matter of the defects of others....

  Perfection bears with ease the imperfection of others; it becomes all
  things to all men. One must grow accustomed to the idea of the
  grossest defects in good souls....

  I beg of you more than ever not to spare me in respect of my defects.
  Should you believe that you see one that I perhaps have not, that will
  be no great misfortune. If your hints wound me, that sensitiveness
  will show me that you have touched the quick; thus you will always
  have conferred on me a great benefit in disciplining me to be little,
  and in accustoming me to take reproof. I ought to be more abased that
  another in proportion as I am more exalted by my position, and as God
  requires of me more complete death to all. I need such simplicity, and
  I hope that, far from weakening, it will strengthen our union of
  heart.

It is impossible not to associate with Fénelon, in the thought of this
spiritual life of his, explored and purified so deep, that remarkable
woman, Madame Guyon, to whom in certain religious relations the great
and gentle archbishop ostensibly, and perhaps really, submitted himself,
as one who learns to one who teaches. Her exaltation--how far real, and
how far illusory only, let us leave it for the All-knower to judge--made
Madame Guyon easily equal to the seemingly audacious part of spiritual
guide to a man who was at once one of the most illustrious writers, one
of the most highly placed Church dignitaries, and one of the saintliest
Christians in Europe. It is undoubtedly true that the sage can learn
more from the fool than the fool can from the sage; and therefore if it
could be proved to have been indeed the fact that, of the two, Fénelon
was the greater gainer from the relation existing between himself and
Madame Guyon, that might well be only because he was already a wiser
person than she.

We have no room here to show Madame Guyon by any of her extant letters
addressed to Fénelon; but we may take the present occasion to introduce
at least a few stanzas from one of those sweet little Christian poems of
hers which a spirit not far alien from Fénelon's own, we mean William
Cowper, has put for us into fairly happy English expression. Madame
Guyon spent ten years in prison--for teaching that souls should love God
unselfishly, for his own sake only!--and it is in prison that this
meekly triumphing song of hers must be imagined as sung by the author.
It bears the title, "The Soul that Loves God Finds Him Everywhere."

       *       *       *       *       *

  To me remains nor place nor time;
  My country is in every clime;
  I can be calm and free from care
  On any shore, since God is there.

  While place we seek, or place we shun,
  The soul finds happiness in none;
  But, with a God to guide our way,
  'Tis equal joy to go or stay.

  Could I be cast where thou art not,
  That were indeed a dreadful lot;
  But regions none remote I call,
  Secure of finding God in all.

       *       *       *       *       *

  Ah, then! to his embrace repair;
  My soul, thou art no stranger there;
  There love divine shall be thy guard,
  And peace and safety thy reward.

French literature, unfortunately, is on the whole such in character as
to need all that it can show to be cast into the scale of moral
elevation and purity. Fénelon alone--he was not alone, as the instance
of Madame Guyon has just freshly been reminding us--but Fénelon alone
were enough, in quality supported by quantity, not indeed to overcome,
but to go far toward overcoming, the perverse inclination of the
balance.



XIV.

LE SAGE.

1668-1747.


Le Sage was a fruitful father of literary product, but it is as the
author of "Gil Blas" that he is entitled to his place in these pages.
"The Adventures of Gil Blas" justly enjoys the distinction of being
among the few works of fiction that are read everywhere, and everywhere
acknowledged to be masterpieces in literature. Lapse of time and change
of fashion seem not to tend at all toward making "Gil Blas" obsolete.
With every generation of men it takes as it were a fresh lease of
inexhaustible immortality.

Of course, there must be something elemental in the quality and merit of
a book, especially a book of fiction, concerning which this can truly be
said. A novel "Gil Blas" is generally called. The name is hardly
descriptive. Le Sage's masterpiece is rather a book of human nature and
of human life. It constitutes already, embraced within the compass of a
single work, that which it was the ambition of the novelist Balzac to
achieve in an Alexandrian library of fiction; "Gil Blas" is the whole
"comedy" of man. The breadth of it is enormous. There is hardly any
thing lacking to it that is human--unless it be some truly noble human
character, some truly noble human action.

We spoke of it not amiss, when we used Balzac's half-cynical word and
called it the _comedy_ of man. Le Sage involuntarily reveals his own
limitation in the fact that he has converted into comedy the whole
mingled drama of man's earthly condition. Within his proper individual
bounds, this man's dimensions are so large that he has been not unfitly
styled Shakespearean. But Shakespeare exceeds Le Sage in measure by a
whole hemisphere. Shakespeare knows how to be serious, to be tragic; as
Le Sage does not. Matter of tragedy indeed abounds in "Gil Blas," but
it is all treated lightly, in the manner of comedy. You are allured, in
reading, to laugh, when, if you return at all upon yourself, you are
conscious you ought rather to weep. Le Sage is the antithesis of
Rousseau, of Chateaubriand, of Lamartine, of George Sand--writers who
know as little of laughter as Le Sage does of tears.

But it should at once, and strongly, be said that Le Sage is no cynic.
It is not a sneering, but a smiling, mask that he wears. The smile is of
a worldly-wisdom not ill-pleased with itself, and therefore not
ill-pleased with the world which it rallies. It is a genial smile. But
for all that, if you are yourself at bottom a serious man, you are
disturbed at last. You are vexed to find yourself incessantly brought to
smile at what you know ought to move your shame, your indignation, or
your grief. The moral temper which Le Sage exhibits and which he
engenders is not the "enthusiasm of humanity." It is less the temper to
help your fellow-men than the temper to profit the most that you can by
their weaknesses, by their follies, and even by their crimes. Le Sage's
hero, "Gil Blas," goes through a series of "adventures," in which nearly
every human sin is committed by him and by his fellows, either
unblushingly, or, if with any show of compunction at all, then with such
show of compunction as is almost worse than perfect indifference would
be. The book is not in intention immoral, but only unmoral. It may well
be questioned whether in effect it be not the more immoral for this very
character in it. The abounding gay animal spirits of the narrative go
frisking along as if let loose in a lucky world where moral distinctions
were things that did not exist; the real world indeed, only with the
deepest reality of all left out!

Verisimilitude seems hardly sought. The situations often waver on the
edge of the ludicrously farcical. The tenor of the production stops
barely short of sheer extravaganza. There is no unity, progressiveness,
culmination of plot. The whole book is a mere concatenation, scarcely
concatenation, succession, say rather, of "adventures," any one of
which is nearly as good a starting-point for the reader as any other
would be.

The scene of the story and the local color are all Spanish. Le Sage's
previous experience of travel in Spain, as well as his long occupation
in translating from the Spanish into French, probably influenced him to
this choice of medium for his masterpiece; which, by the way, it cost
the author intervals of time covering twenty-two years to bring to its
completion. The fact of its Spanish character gave color to the charge,
deemed now to have been exploded, that "Gil Blas" was plagiarized by Le
Sage from a Spanish original. It may be added that laying the scene and
action of his story in Spain left Le Sage the more free to satirize, as
he undoubtedly does, certain persons and certain manners belonging to
his own country, France.

Of Alain René Le Sage, the man, there need little be said. He was a
successful writer of comedies for the stage. Of these the most were
ephemeral productions. Two, however, and one especially, the "Turcaret,"
have the honor of ranking, in French literature, next to the very
highest in their kind, the comedies of Molière. Never rich, Le Sage was
always independent in spirit. The story is told of him that, arriving
once unavoidably late at a noble mansion where he had made an
appointment to read one of his own productions, he was reproached by the
distinguished hostess for making the company lose an hour in waiting;
whereupon he replied: "I give the company a chance to recover their lost
hour," and refusing to be placated bowed himself out.

Smollet, the celebrated English novelist--and historian so-called--has
translated "Gil Blas." We make use of his translation in presenting our
extracts from this novel to our readers. There are two passages, both
deservedly famous, which will admirably exemplify Le Sage at his best;
one of these is the immortal episode concerning the illustrious
physician, Doctor Sangrado, and the other is the instructive relation
of Gil Blas's experience in discharging the office of what one might
call literary valet and critic to an archbishop.

First we introduce Doctor Sangrado.

Gil Blas is at this time in the Spanish town of Valladolid serving an
ecclesiastic in the capacity of lackey. His master, falling sick, sends
for a physician. Gil Blas--the novel is autobiographic in form--shall
tell his own story:

  I therefore went in search of Dr. Sangrado, and brought him to the
  house.... The licentiate having promised to obey him in all things,
  Sangrado sent me for a surgeon, whom he named, and ordered him to take
  from my master six good porringers of blood, as the first effort, in
  order to supply the want of perspiration. Then he said to the surgeon:
  "Master Martin Omnez, return in three hours and take as much more; and
  repeat the same evacuation to-morrow. It is a gross error to think
  that blood is necessary for the preservation of life; a patient cannot
  be blooded too much; for as he is obliged to perform no considerable
  motion or exercise, but just only to breathe, he has no more occasion
  for blood than a man who is asleep--life, in both, consisting in the
  pulse and respiration only." The doctor having ordered frequent and
  copious evacuations of this kind, he told us that we must make the
  canon drink warm water incessantly; assuring us that water, drank in
  abundance, was the true specific in all distempers whatever.... We set
  about warming water with all despatch; and as the physician had
  recommended to us, above all things, not to be too sparing of it, we
  made my master drink for the first dose two or three pints, at as many
  draughts. An hour after we repeated it, and returning to the charge,
  from time to time, overwhelmed his stomach with a deluge of water, the
  surgeon seconding us, on the other hand, by the quantity of blood
  which he drew from him. In less than two days the old canon was
  reduced to extremity.

Blood-letting, as an expedient of the healing art, has happily gone out
of fashion; but Dr. Sangrado's other master secret, the therapeutic
drinking of hot water, has been rehabilitated in our days. We sincerely
hope that none of our hot-water-drinking readers will let Le Sage laugh
them out of countenance in holding to their habit--if it really does
them good!

Gil Blas is promoted to be servant, and then professional assistant, to
the famous Dr. Sangrado. Gil Blas and the doctor's maid were warned by
their master against eating much, but, now, however, Gil Blas shall
himself again resume the part of narrator:

  He allowed us, by way of recompense, to drink as much water as we
  could swallow: far from restricting us in this particular, he would
  sometimes say, "Drink, my children; health consists in the suppleness
  and humectation of the parts: drink water in great abundance: it is an
  universal menstruum that dissolves all kinds of salt. When the course
  of the blood is too languid, this accelerates its motion; and when too
  rapid, checks its impetuosity".... "If thou feelest in thyself," said
  he to me, "any reluctance to simple element, there are innocent aids
  in plenty that will support thy stomach against the insipid taste of
  water; sage, for example, and balm will give it an admirable flavor;
  and an infusion of corn-poppy, gillyflower, and rosemary, will render
  it still more delicious."

  Notwithstanding all he could say in praise of water, and the excellent
  beverages he taught me to compose, I drank of it with such moderation,
  that perceiving my temperance, he said: "Why, truly, Gil Blas, I am
  not at all surprised that thou dost not enjoy good health. Thou dost
  not drink enough, my friend. Water taken in small quantities serves
  only to disentangle the particles of the bile, and give them more
  activity; whereas they should be drowned in a copious dilution: don't
  be afraid, my child, that abundance of water will weaken and relax thy
  stomach: lay aside that panic fear which perhaps thou entertainest of
  plentiful drinking."

Gil Blas, discouraged, was about to leave Dr. Sangrado's service, when
that distinguished physician said to him--we take up the text of the
story once more:

  "I have a regard for thee, and without further delay will make thy
  fortune.... I spare thee the trouble of studying pharmacy, anatomy,
  botany, and physic: know, my friend, all that is required is to bleed
  the patients and make them drink warm water. This is the secret of
  curing all the distempers incident to man".... I assured him that I
  would follow his maxims as long as I lived, even if they should be
  contrary to those of Hippocrates. But this assurance was not
  altogether sincere; for I disapproved of his opinion with regard to
  water, and resolved to drink wine every day, when I went out to visit
  my patients.

This resolution Gil Blas carried out, and, returning home drunk in
consequence, gave Dr. Sangrado an artfully heightened account of a
scuffle he had had with a rival physician of his master named Cuchillo.
Let Gil Blas pursue the narrative:

  "Thou hast done well, Gil Blas," said Dr. Sangrado, "in defending the
  honor of our remedies against that little abortion of the faculty. He
  affirms, then, that aqueous draughts are improper for the dropsy!
  Ignorant wretch! I maintain, I do, that a dropsical patient cannot
  drink too much."... He perceived that I drank more water that evening
  than usual, the wine having made me very thirsty, ... and said, with a
  smile, "I see, Gil Blas, thou hast no longer an aversion to water.
  Heaven be praised! thou drinkest it now like nectar."... "Sir," I
  replied, "there is a time for all things: I would not at present give
  a pint of water for an hogshead of wine." The doctor, charmed with
  this answer, did not neglect such a fair opportunity of extolling the
  excellence of water.... "There are still a few," he exclaimed, "who,
  like thou and I, drink nothing but water; and, who, as a preservative
  from, or cure of all distempers, trust to hot water unboiled: for I
  have observed that boiled water is more heavy and less agreeable to
  the stomach."

  ... I entered into the doctor's sentiments, inveighed against the use
  of wine, and lamented that mankind had contracted a taste for such a
  pernicious liquor. Then (as my thirst was not sufficiently quenched) I
  filled a large goblet with water, and having swallowed long draughts
  of it: "Come, sir," said I to my master, "let us regale ourselves with
  this benevolent liquor." ... He applauded my zeal, and during a whole
  quarter of an hour exhorted me to drink nothing but water. In order to
  familiarize myself to this prescription, I promised to swallow a great
  quantity every evening; and that I might the more easily perform my
  promise, went to bed with a resolution of going to the tavern every
  day.

In passing from the humor of Le Sage's Dr. Sangrado, we cannot refrain
from exhorting the reader not to miss that refinement about water made
hot without actually boiling. The present writer seems to himself to
have encountered the same delicacy of hot-water-drinking in his own
personal observation of those who now practice this method of health or
of cure.

A later fortune of Gil Blas, in his long career of extremely various
"adventures," shaken from change to change as in a kaleidoscope, was to
fall into the service of an archbishop, by whom he was soon advanced to
a post of confidential favor. Gil Blas became in fact the archbishop's
"guide, philosopher, and friend," in the very important matter of that
high dignitary's literary and historical reputation. This happened
through Gil Blas's felicity in copying out with judicious calligraphy--a
calligraphy such as seemed to their author to commend those productions
in some fit proportion to their worth--the venerable archbishop's
homilies. Gil Blas thus relates the immediate, and then the more remote,
result of his submitting to the archbishop his maiden essay in copy-hand
reproduction of that prelate's pulpit rhetoric:

  "Good heaven!" cried he in a transport, when he had surveyed all the
  sheets of my copy, "was ever anything seen so correct? You transcribe
  so well that you must certainly understand grammar. Tell me
  ingenuously, my friend, have you found nothing that shocked you in
  writing it over? Some neglect, perhaps, in the style, or improper
  term?" "O, sir," answered I, with an air of modesty, "I am not learned
  enough to make critical observations; and if I was, I am persuaded
  that the works of your grace would escape my censure." The prelate
  smiled at my reply; and, though he said nothing, discovered through
  all his piety, that he was a downright author.

  By this kind of flattery, I entirely gained his good graces, became
  more and more dear to him every day.... One evening he repeated in his
  closet, when I was present, with great enthusiasm, an homily which he
  intended to pronounce the next day in the cathedral; and, not
  satisfied with asking my opinion of it in general, obliged me to
  single out the particular passages which I most admired. I had the
  good luck to mention those that he himself looked upon to be the best,
  his own favorite morceaus: by which means I passed, in his judgment,
  for a man who had a delicate knowledge of the true beauties of a work.
  "This is," cried he, "what is called having taste and sentiment: well,
  friend, I assure thee thou hast not got Boeotian ears." In a word, he
  was so well satisfied with me, that he pronounced with some vivacity,
  "Gil Blas, henceforth give thyself no uneasiness about thy fortune: I
  undertake to make it extremely agreeable; I love thee; and, as a proof
  of my affection, make thee my confidant."

  I no sooner heard these words than I fell at his grace's feet, quite
  penetrated with gratitude; I heartily embraced his bandy legs, and
  looked upon myself as a man on the high way to wealth and opulence.
  "Yes, my child," resumed the archbishop, whose discourse had been
  interrupted by my prostration, "thou shalt be the repository of my
  most secret thoughts. Listen with attention to what I am going to say:
  my chief pleasure consists in preaching; the Lord gives a blessing to
  my homilies; they touch the hearts of sinners, make them seriously
  reflect on their conduct, and have recourse to repentance.... I will
  confess my weakness; I propose to myself another reward, a reward
  which the delicacy of my virtue reproaches me with in vain! I mean the
  esteem that the world shows for fine polished writing. The honor of
  being reckoned a perfect orator has charmed my imagination; my
  performances are thought equally strong and delicate; but I would, of
  all things, avoid the fault of good authors who write too long, and
  retire without forfeiting the least tittle of my reputation.
  Wherefore, my dear Gil Blas," continued the prelate, "one thing that I
  exact of thy zeal is, whenever thou shalt perceive my pen smack of old
  age, and my genius flag, don't fail to advertise me of it: for I don't
  trust to my own judgment, which may be seduced by self-love." ...
  "Thank heaven, sir," said I, "that period is far off: besides, a
  genius like that of your grace will preserve its vigor much better
  than any other; or, to speak more justly, will be always the same. I
  look upon you as another Cardinal Ximenes, whose superior genius,
  instead of being weakened by age, seemed to receive new strength from
  it." "No flattery, friend," said he, interrupting me. "I know I am
  liable to sink all at once: people at my age begin to feel
  infirmities, and the infirmities of the body often affect the
  understanding. I repeat it to thee again, Gil Blas, as soon as thou
  shalt judge mine in the least impaired, be sure to give me notice; and
  be not afraid of speaking freely and sincerely, for I shall receive
  thy advice as a mark of thy affection. Besides, thy interest is
  concerned; if, unhappily for thee, it should come to my ears that the
  public says my discourses have no longer their wonted force, and that
  it is high time for me to repose myself, I frankly declare that thou
  shalt lose my friendship, as well as the fortune I have promised. Such
  will be the fruit of thy foolish reserve!"

Gil Blas was destined soon to be put to the extreme proof of his
fidelity. Himself must tell how:

  In the very zenith of my favor we had a hot alarm in the episcopal
  palace: the archbishop was seized with a fit of the apoplexy; he was,
  however, succored immediately, and such salutary medicines
  administered that in a few days his health was re-established; but his
  understanding had received a rude shock, which I plainly perceived in
  the very next discourse which he composed. I did not, however, find
  the difference between this and the rest so sensible as to make me
  conclude that the orator began to flag, and waited for another homily
  to fix my resolution. This, indeed, was quite decisive; sometimes the
  good old prelate repeated the same thing over and over, sometimes rose
  too high or sunk too low; it was a vague discourse, the rhetoric of an
  old professor, a mere capucinade. [The word, "capucinade," satirizes
  the Capuchin monks.]

  I was not the only person who took notice of this. The greatest part
  of the audience when he pronounced it, as if they had been also hired
  to examine it, said softly to one another, "This sermon smells strong
  of the apoplexy." Come, master homily-critic, said I then to myself,
  prepare to do your office; you see that his grace begins to fail; it
  is your duty to give him notice of it, not only as the depository of
  his thoughts, but, likewise, lest some one of his friends should be
  free enough with him to prevent you; in that case you know what would
  happen: your name would be erased from his last will....

  After these reflections I made others of a quite contrary nature. To
  give the notice in question, seemed a delicate point. I imagined that
  it might be ill-received by an author like him, conceited of his own
  works; but, rejecting this suggestion, I represented to myself that he
  could not possibly take it amiss after having exacted it of me in so
  pressing a manner. Add to this that I depended upon my being able to
  mention it with address, and make him swallow the pill without
  reluctance. In a word, finding that I ran a greater risk in keeping
  silence than in breaking it, I determined to speak.

  The only thing that embarrassed me now was how to break the ice.
  Luckily the orator himself extricated me from that difficulty by
  asking what people said of him, and if they were satisfied with his
  last discourse. I answered that his homilies were always admired, but
  in my opinion the last had not succeeded so well as the rest in
  affecting the audience. "How, friend!" replied he with astonishment,
  "has it met with any Aristarchus?" "No, sir," said I, "by no means;
  such works as yours are not to be criticised; everybody is charmed
  with them. Nevertheless, since you have laid your injunctions upon me
  to be free and sincere, I will take the liberty to tell you that your
  last discourse, in my judgment, has not altogether the energy of your
  other performances. Are you not of the same opinion?"

  My master grew pale at these words, and said with a forced smile, "So,
  then, Mr. Gil Blas, this piece is not to your taste?" "I don't say so,
  sir," cried I, quite disconcerted, "I think it excellent, although a
  little inferior to your other works." "I understand you," he replied,
  "you think I flag, don't you? Come, be plain; you believe it is time
  for me to think of retiring." "I should not have been so bold," said
  I, "as to speak so freely if your grace had not commanded me; I do no
  more, therefore, than obey you, and I most humbly beg that you will
  not be offended at my freedom." "God forbid," cried he, with
  precipitation, "God forbid that I should find fault with it. In so
  doing I should be very unjust. I don't at all take it ill that you
  speak your sentiment; it is your sentiment only that I find bad. I
  have been most egregiously deceived in your narrow understanding."

  Though I was disconcerted, I endeavored to find some mitigation in
  order to set things to rights again; but how is it possible to appease
  an incensed author, one especially who has been accustomed to hear
  himself praised? "Say no more, my child," said he, "you are yet too
  raw to make proper distinctions. Know that I never composed a better
  homily than that which you disapprove, for my genius, thank heaven,
  hath as yet lost nothing of its vigor. Henceforth I will make a better
  choice of a confidant and keep one of greater ability than you. Go,"
  added he, pushing me by the shoulders out of his closet, "go tell my
  treasurer to give you a hundred ducats, and may heaven conduct you
  with that sum. Adieu, Mr. Gil Blas, I wish you all manner of
  prosperity, with a little more taste."

It would be hard, we think, to overmatch anywhere in literature the
shrewd but genial satire, the quiet, effective comedy, of the foregoing.
How deep it gently goes, probing and searching into the secret springs
of our common human nature! The cool, the frontless calculation of
self-interest on Gil Blas's part throughout the whole course of his
conduct of the relation between himself and the archbishop is perfectly
characteristic of the impudent easy-heartedness everywhere displayed of
this conscienceless adventurer. It illustrates the consummate art of the
author that the whole is so managed that, while you do not sympathize
with his hero, you still are by no means forced to feel unplesantly
offended at him. This is a great feat of lullaby to the conscience of
the reader; for the character of the work is such that if, in perusing
it, you should throughout keep vigilantly obeying the wholesome
safeguard injunction of the apostle, "Abhor that which is evil," you
would be so busy doing the duty of abhorring as seriously to interfere
with your enjoyment of the comedy. To get the pleasure or the profit,
and at the same time leave the taint, that is the problem often in
studying the masterpieces of literature. As generally, so in the case of
"Gil Blas," it is a problem perhaps best to be solved by being still
more intent on leaving the taint than on getting the pleasure or the
profit.

On the whole, the reading of "Gil Blas" entire is a task or a diversion
that may safely in most cases be postponed to the leisure of late life.
The whole is such, or is not so good, as the part that has here been
shown. It is an instance in which the building is very fairly
represented by a single specimen brick. Multiply what you have seen by
the necessary factor, and you have the total product with little or no
loss.

It ought to be added that "Gil Blas," as in local color and in what
might be styled medium not French at all, is also in general character
the least French of French productions. It seems almost as if expressly
written to be part of what Goethe taught his disciples to look for,
namely, a "world-literature." "Gil Blas," though French in form, is in
essence French only because it is human. And for the same reason it is
of every other nation as well. It possesses, therefore, as French
literature a unique and, so to speak, paradoxical importance in not
being French literature; it is, in fact, perhaps quite the only French
book that is less national than universal.



XV.

MONTESQUIEU: 1689-1755; DE TOCQUEVILLE: 1805-1859.


To Montesquieu belongs the glory of being the founder, or inventor, of
the philosophy of history. Bossuet might dispute this palm with him; but
Bossuet, in his "Discourse on Universal History," only exemplified the
principle which it was left to Montesquieu afterward more consciously to
develop.

Three books, still living, are associated with the name of
Montesquieu--"The Persian Letters," "The Greatness and the Decline of
the Romans," and "The Spirit of Laws." "The Persian Letters" are a
series of epistles purporting to be written by a Persian sojourning in
Paris and observing the manners and morals of the people around him. The
idea is ingenious; though the ingenuity, we suppose, was not original
with Montesquieu. Such letters afford the writer of them an admirable
advantage for telling satire on contemporary follies. This production of
Montesquieu became the suggestive example to Goldsmith for his "Citizen
of the World; or, Letters of a Chinese Philosopher." We shall have here
no room for illustrative citations from Montesquieu's "Persian Letters."

The second work, that on the "Greatness and the Decline of the Romans,"
is less a history than a series of essays on the history of Rome. It is
brilliant, striking, suggestive. It aims to be philosophical rather than
historical. It deals in bold generalizations. The spirit of it is,
perhaps, too constantly and too profoundly hostile to the Romans.
Something of the ancient Gallic enmity--as if a derivation from that
last and noblest of the Gauls, Vercingetorix--seems to animate the
Frenchman in discussing the character and the career of the great
conquering nation of antiquity. The critical element is the element
chiefly wanting to make Montesquieu's work equal to the demands of
modern historical scholarship. Montesquieu was, however, a full worthy
forerunner of the philosophical historians of to-day. We give a single
extract in illustration--an extract condensed from the chapter in which
the author analyzes and expounds the foreign policy of the Romans. The
generalizations are bold and brilliant,--too bold, probably, for strict
critical truth. (We use, for our extract, the recent translation by Mr.
Jehu Baker, who enriches his volume with original notes of no little
interest and value.) Montesquieu:

  This body [the Roman Senate] erected itself into a tribunal for the
  judgment of all peoples, and at the end of every war it decided upon
  the punishment and the recompenses which it conceived each to be
  entitled to. It took away parts of the lands of the conquered states,
  in order to bestow them upon the allies of Rome, thus accomplishing
  two objects at once--attaching to Rome those kings of whom she had
  little to fear and much to hope, and weakening those of whom she had
  little to hope and all to fear.

  Allies were employed to make war upon an enemy, but the destroyers
  were at once destroyed in their turn. Philip was beaten with the half
  of the Ætolians, who were immediately afterward annihilated for having
  joined themselves to Antiochus. Antiochus was beaten with the help of
  the Rhodians, who, after having received signal rewards, were
  humiliated forever, under the pretext that they had requested that
  peace might be made with Perseus.

  When they had many enemies on hand at the same time, they accorded a
  truce to the weakest, which considered itself happy in obtaining such
  a respite, counting it for much to be able to secure a postponement of
  its ruin.

  When they were engaged in a great war, the Senate affected to ignore
  all sorts of injuries, and silently awaited the arrival of the proper
  time for punishment; when, if it saw that only some individuals were
  culpable, it refused to punish them, choosing rather to hold the
  entire nation as criminal, and thus reserve to itself a useful
  vengeance.

  As they inflicted inconceivable evils upon their enemies, there were
  not many leagues formed against them; for those who were most distant
  from danger were not willing to draw nearer to it. The consequence of
  this was, that they were rarely attacked; whilst, on the other hand,
  they constantly made war at such time, in such manner, and against
  such peoples, as suited their convenience; and, among the many nations
  which they assailed, there were very few that would not have submitted
  to every species of injury at their hands if they had been willing to
  leave them in peace.

  It being their custom to speak always as masters, the ambassadors whom
  they sent to nations which had not yet felt their power were certain
  to be insulted; and this was an infallible pretext for a new war.

  As they never made peace in good faith, and as, with the design of
  universal conquest, their treaties were, properly speaking, only
  suspensions of war, they always put conditions in them which began the
  ruin of the states which accepted them. They either provided that the
  garrisons of strong places should be withdrawn, or that the number of
  troops should be limited, or that the horses or the elephants of the
  vanquished party should be delivered over to themselves; and if the
  defeated people was powerful on sea, they compelled it to burn its
  vessels, and sometimes to remove, and occupy a place of habitation
  farther inland.

  After having destroyed the armies of a prince, they ruined his
  finances by excessive taxes, or by the imposition of a tribute under
  the pretext of requiring him to pay the expenses of the war--a new
  species of tyranny, which forced the vanquished sovereign to oppress
  his own subjects, and thus to alienate their affection.

  When they granted peace to a king, they took some of his brothers or
  children as hostages. This gave them the means of troubling his
  kingdom at their pleasure. If they held the nearest heir, they
  intimidated the possessor; if only a prince of a remote degree, they
  used him to stir up revolts against the legitimate ruler.

  Whenever any people or prince withdrew their obedience from their
  sovereign, they immediately accorded to them the title of allies of
  the Roman people, and thus rendered them sacred and inviolable; so
  that there was no king, however great he might be, who would for a
  moment be sure of his subjects, or even of his family.

  Although the title of Roman ally was a species of servitude, it was,
  nevertheless, very much sought after; for the possession of this title
  made it certain that the recipients of it would receive injuries from
  the Romans only, and there was ground for the hope that this class of
  injuries would be rendered less grievous than they would otherwise be.

  Thus, there was no service which nations and kings were not ready to
  perform, nor any humiliation which they did not submit to, in order to
  obtain this distinction....

  These customs were not merely some particular facts which happened at
  hazard. They were permanently established principles, as may be
  readily seen; for the maxims which the Romans acted upon against the
  greatest powers were precisely those which they had employed in the
  beginning of their career against the small cities which surrounded
  them....

  But nothing served Rome more effectually than the respect which she
  inspired among all nations. She immediately reduced kings to silence,
  and rendered them as dumb. With the latter, it was not a mere question
  of the degree of their power; their very persons were attacked. To
  risk a war with Rome was to expose themselves to captivity, to death,
  and to the infamy of a triumph. Thus it was that kings, who lived in
  pomp and luxury, did not dare to look with steady eyes upon the Roman
  people, and, losing courage, they hoped, by their patience and their
  obsequiousness, to obtain some postponement of the calamities with
  which they were menaced.

The "Spirit of Laws" is probably to be considered the masterpiece of
Montesquieu. It is our duty, however, to say that this work is quite
differently estimated by different authorities. By some, it is praised
in terms of the highest admiration, as a great achievement in wide and
wise political or juridical philosophy. By others, it is dismissed very
lightly, as the ambitious, or, rather, pretentious, effort of a
superficial man, a showy mere sciolist.

The philosophical aim and ambition of the author at once appear in the
inquiry which he institutes for the three several animating _principles_
of the several forms of government respectively distinguished by him;
namely, democracy (or republicanism), monarchy, and despotism. What
these three principles are will be seen from the following statement:
"As _virtue_ is necessary in a republic, and in a monarchy _honor_, so
_fear_ is necessary in a despotic government." The meaning is that in
republics virtue possessed by the citizens is the spring of national
prosperity; that under a monarchy the desire of preferment at the hands
of the sovereign is what quickens men to perform services to the State;
that despotism thrives by fear inspired in the breasts of those subject
to its sway.

To illustrate the freely discursive character of the work, we give the
whole of chapter sixteen--there are chapters still shorter--in Book
VII.:

    AN EXCELLENT CUSTOM OF THE SAMNITES.

  The Samnites had a custom which in so small a republic, and especially
  in their situation, must have been productive of admirable effects.
  The young people were all convened in one place and their conduct was
  examined. He that was declared the best of the whole assembly had
  leave given him to take which girl he pleased for his wife; the second
  best chose after him, and so on. Admirable institution! The only
  recommendation that young men could have on this occasion was their
  virtue and the service done their country. He who had the greatest
  share of these endowments chose which girl he liked out of the whole
  nation. Love, beauty, chastity, virtue, birth, and even wealth itself,
  were all, in some measure, the dowry of virtue. A nobler and grander
  recompense, less chargeable to a petty state and more capable of
  influencing both sexes, could scarce be imagined.

  The Samnites were descended from the Lacedemonians; and Plato, whose
  institutes are only an improvement of those of Lycurgus, enacted
  nearly the same law.

The relation of the foregoing chapter to the subject indicated in the
title of the book is sufficiently obscure and remote for a work like
this, purporting to be philosophical. What relation exists seems to be
found in the fact that the custom described tends to produce that
popular virtue by which republics flourish. But the information, at all
events, is curious and interesting.

The following paragraphs, taken from the second chapter of Book XIV.,
contain in germ a large part of the philosophy underlying M. Taine's
essays on the history of literature:

    OF THE DIFFERENCE OF MEN IN DIFFERENT CLIMATES.

  A cold air constringes the extremities of the external fibers of the
  body; this increases their elasticity, and favors the return of the
  blood from the extreme parts to the heart. It contracts those very
  fibers; consequently it increases also their force. On the contrary, a
  warm air relaxes and lengthens the extremes of the fibers; of course
  it diminishes their force and elasticity.

  People are therefore more vigorous in cold climates. Here the action
  of the heart and the reaction of the extremities of the fibers are
  better performed, the temperature of the humors is greater, the blood
  moves freer toward the heart, and reciprocally the heart has more
  power. This superiority of strength must produce various effects; for
  instance, a greater boldness--that is, more courage; a greater sense
  of superiority--that is, less desire of revenge; a greater opinion of
  security--that is, more frankness, less suspicion, policy, and
  cunning. In short, this must be productive of very different tempers.
  Put a man into a close, warm place, and for the reasons above given he
  will feel a great faintness. If under this circumstance you propose a
  bold enterprise to him, I believe you will find him very little
  disposed towards it; his present weakness will throw him into a
  despondency; he will be afraid of every thing, being in a state of
  total incapacity. The inhabitants of warm countries are, like old men,
  timorous; the people in cold countries are, like young men, brave.

In the following extract, from chapter five, Book XXIV., the climatic
theory is again applied, this time to the matter of religion, in a style
that makes one think of Buckle's "History of Civilization":

  When the Christian religion, two centuries ago, became unhappily
  divided into Catholic and Protestant, the people of the north embraced
  the Protestant, and those south adhered still to the Catholic.

  The reason is plain: the people of the north have, and will forever
  have, a spirit of liberty and independence, which the people of the
  south have not; and therefore a religion which has no visible head is
  more agreeable to the independency of the climate than that which has
  one.

Climate is a "great matter" with Montesquieu. In treating of the subject
of a State changing its religion, he says:

  The ancient religion is connected with the constitution of the
  kingdom, and the new one is not; the former _agrees with the climate_,
  and very often the new one is opposite to it.

For the Christian religion, Montesquieu professes profound
respect--rather as a pagan political philosopher might do, than as one
intimately acquainted with it by a personal experience of his own. His
spirit, however, is humane and liberal. It is the spirit of Montaigne,
it is the spirit of Voltaire, speaking in the idiom of this different
man, and of this different man as influenced by his different
circumstances. Montesquieu had had practical proof of the importance to
himself of not offending the dominant hierarchy.

On the whole, concerning Montesquieu it may justly be said, that of all
political philosophers, he, if not the profoundest, is at least one of
the most interesting; if not the most accurate and critical, at least
one of the most brilliant and suggestive.

As to Montesquieu the man, it is perhaps sufficient to say that he seems
to have been a very good type of the French gentleman of quality. An
interesting story told by Sainte-Beuve reveals, if true, a side at once
attractive and repellent of his personal character. Montesquieu at
Marseilles employed a young boatman, whose manner and speech indicated
more cultivation than was to have been looked for in one plying his
vocation. The philosopher learned his history. The youth's father was at
the time a captive in one of the Barbary States, and this son of his was
now working to earn money for his ransom. The stranger listened
apparently unmoved, and went his way. Some months later, home came the
father, released he knew not how, to his surprised and overjoyed family.
The son guessed the secret, and, meeting Montesquieu a year or so after
in Marseilles, threw himself in grateful tears at his feet, begged the
generous benefactor to reveal his name and to come and see the family he
had blessed. Montesquieu, calmly expressing himself ignorant of the
whole business, actually shook the young fellow off, and turned away
without betraying the least emotion. It was not till after the
cold-blooded philanthropist's death that the fact came out.

A tranquil, happy temperament was Montesquieu's. He would seem to have
come as near as any one ever did to being the natural master of his part
in life. But the world was too much for him; as it is for all--at last.
Witness the contrast of these two different sets of expressions from
his pen. In earlier manhood he says:

  Study has been for me the sovereign remedy for all the
  dissatisfactions of life, having never had a sense of chagrin that an
  hour's reading would not dissipate. I wake in the morning with a
  secret joy to behold the light. I behold the light with a kind of
  ravishment, and all the rest of the day I am happy.

In late life, the brave, cheerful tone had declined to this:

  I am broken down with fatigue; I must repose for the rest of my life

Then it took a further fall to this:

  I have expected to kill myself for the last three months, finishing an
  addition to my work on the origin and changes of the French civil law.
  It will take only three hours to read it; but, I assure you, it has
  been such a labor to me, that my hair has turned white under it all.

Finally it touches nadir:

  It [his work] has almost cost me my life; I must rest; I can work no
  more.

  My candles are all burned out; I have set off all my cartridges.

When Montesquieu died, only Diderot, among Parisian men of letters,
followed him to his tomb.

Belonging to an entirely different world, literary, social, political,
from that in which Montesquieu flourished--more than one full century,
and that a French century, had intervened--was a man kindred in genius
with him, to whom, for the double reason that his intellectual rank
deserves it, and that the subject of his principal work is one to
command especially the interest of Americans, we feel compelled to
devote serious, though it must be hastening, attention. We refer to
Alexis de TOCQUEVILLE, the author of that famous book, "Democracy in
America." We can most conveniently discharge our duty by letting their
likeness in intellectual character and achievement bridge for us the
chasm of time between the two men, and thus considering the later in
conjunction here with the earlier author.

"Democracy in America" is a most remarkable book to have been, as in
fact it was, the production of a young man of thirty. It was the fruit
of a tour in the United States undertaken by the writer ostensibly to
visit in an official capacity the prisons of the new nation that France
had helped create, in a kind of counterpoise to England, on this side of
the Atlantic. The inquisitive young French inspector inspected much more
than the prison system of the lusty infant republic. He observed and
studied American institutions and manners at large, in order to lay a
base line for the boldest speculative triangulation into the probable
political future of the world.

Tocqueville held the belief that democracy, as a system of government,
was destined to prevail universally. He wrote his observations and
reflections, and he made his guesses, primarily for the instruction of
France. So confident was his conviction on the subject of democratic
destiny for his own country at least, that, while as yet the apparently
profound peace was undisturbed of the monarchical reaction under Louis
Philippe, he predicted an impending revolution; predicted in fact the
revolution which actually occurred in 1848. France, after that date,
both during the prophet's life, and subsequently to his death,
experienced her vibrations from, one form of government to another; but
no one can now deny that thus far the resultant tendency is in favor of
Tocqueville's bold speculative forecast of the political future of his
nation. The same thing is true, we think, more broadly, of the world in
general; and of this Brazil apparently furnishes a striking late
instance in confirmation.

"Democracy in America" is a classic in literature. Its credit is highest
with those best qualified to form a judgment. But its fame is universal.
It associates its author in rank of genius with the foremost political
philosophers of the world--with Machiavelli, with Montesquieu, with
Burke. Every American aiming at a political career, every American
journalist having to discuss political subjects should be familiar with
this book. Mr. Bryce's more recent work on the United States, which has
sprung so suddenly into such commanding fame, by no means supersedes,
though it does most usefully supplement, the monumental treatise of
Tocqueville--a name generally miscalled "De Tocqueville."

Of Alexis de Tocqueville's life it need only be said that, sprung of a
noble French family, he ran a respectable, though neither a brilliant,
nor a very influential, career in the politics of his country; until,
discontented with the second empire, that of the usurper, Louis
Napoleon, he retired, about 1851, from public service and devoted
himself to labor with the pen. His second chief work was "The Ancient
Régime," published in 1856, three years before his death.

We cannot probably make a better brief selection, at once more
characteristic and more interesting, from Tocqueville's "Democracy in
America" than by presenting in large part the chapter entitled: "Causes
which render democratic armies weaker than other armies at the outset of
a campaign, and more formidable in a protracted warfare."

A striking illustrative light was destined to be thrown by momentous
subsequent history in our own land on the sagacity and justness of the
speculations hazarded here by the author on his particular topic.

It would not be far wrong to consider that Americans, by the great civil
war, furnished, in a single historical case, the double example required
for complete illustration of Tocqueville's point: an example of the
democratic, together with an example of the aristocratic, community
engaging in war after a long peace. Readers may make each his own
comparison of the Frenchman's philosophical speculations with the actual
facts that emerged in the course of our national strife:

  Any army is in danger of being conquered at the outset of a campaign,
  after a long peace; any army which has long been engaged in warfare
  has strong chances of victory: this truth is peculiarly applicable to
  democratic armies. In aristocracies the military profession, being a
  privileged career, is held in honor even in time of peace. Men of
  great talents, great attainments, and great ambition embrace it; the
  army is in all respects on a level with the nation, and frequently
  above it.

  We have seen, on the contrary, that among a democratic people the
  choicer minds of the nation are gradually drawn away from the
  military profession to seek, by other paths, distinction, power, and
  especially wealth. After a long peace--and in democratic ages the
  periods of peace are long--the army is always inferior to the country
  itself. In this state it is called into active service: and until war
  has altered it, there is danger for the country as well as for the
  army.

  I have shown that in democratic armies, and in time of peace, the rule
  of seniority is the supreme and inflexible law of advancement. This is
  not only a consequence, as I have before observed, of the constitution
  of these armies, but of the constitution of the people, _and it will
  always occur_.

The words italicized by us above illustrate the intrepid firmness of our
author in staking the fortune of an opinion of his upon the risk of
confutation by future fact. He affirms, it will be seen, absolutely, and
does not seek to save himself by a clause.

  Again, as among these nations the officer derives his position in the
  country solely from his position in the army, and as he draws all the
  distinction and the competency he enjoys from the same source, he does
  not retire from his profession or is not superannuated till toward the
  extreme close of life. The consequence of these two causes is that
  when a democratic people goes to war after a long interval of peace
  all the leading officers of the army are old men. I speak not only of
  the generals, but of the non-commissioned officers, who have most of
  them been stationary, or have only advanced step by step. It may be
  remarked with surprise that in a democratic army after a long peace
  all the soldiers are mere boys, and all the superior officers in
  declining years; so that the former are wanting in experience, the
  latter in vigor. This is a strong element of defeat, _for the first
  condition of successful generalship is youth_. I should not have
  ventured to say so if the greatest captain of modern times had not
  made the observation. [The unequaled success of the aged Von Moltke in
  the conduct of the Prussian war against France in 1870 is here a
  curious comment on the text.]

       *       *       *       *       *

  I am therefore of opinion that when a democratic people engages in a
  war after a long peace, it incurs much more risk of defeat than any
  other nation; but it ought not easily to be cast down by its reverses,
  for the chances of success for such an army are increased by the
  duration of the war. When a war has at length by its long continuance
  roused the whole community from their peaceful occupations and ruined
  their minor undertakings the same passions which made them attach so
  much importance to the maintenance of peace will be turned to arms.
  War, after it has destroyed all modes of speculation, becomes itself
  the great and sole speculation, to which all the ardent and ambitious
  desires which equality engenders are exclusively directed. Hence it is
  that the self-same democratic nations which are so reluctant to engage
  in hostilities sometimes perform prodigious achievements when once
  they have taken the field.

  As the war attracts more and more of public attention, and is seen to
  create high reputations and great fortunes in a short space of time,
  the choicest spirits of the nation enter the military profession. All
  the enterprising, proud, and martial minds, no longer of the
  aristocracy solely, but of the whole country, are drawn in this
  direction. As the number of competitors for military honors is
  immense, and war drives every man to his proper level, great generals
  are always sure to spring up. A long war produces upon a democratic
  army the same effects that a revolution produces upon a people; it
  breaks through regulations, and allows extraordinary men to rise above
  the common level. Those officers whose bodies and minds have grown old
  in peace are removed, or superannuated, or they die. In their stead a
  host of young men are pressing on whose frames are already hardened,
  whose desires are extended and inflamed by active service. They are
  bent on advancement at all hazards, and perpetual advancement. They
  are followed by others with the same passions and desires, and after
  these are others yet, unlimited by aught but the size of the army. The
  principle of equality opens the door of ambition to all, and death
  provides chances for ambition. Death is constantly thinning the ranks,
  making vacancies, closing and opening the career of arms.

  There is, moreover, a secret connection between the military character
  and the character of democracies which war brings to light. The men of
  democracies are naturally passionately eager to acquire what they
  covet, and to enjoy it on easy conditions. They, for the most part,
  worship chance, and are much less afraid of death than of difficulty.
  This is the spirit which they bring to commerce and manufactures; and
  this same spirit, carried with them to the field of battle, induces
  them willingly to expose their lives in order to secure in a moment
  the rewards of victory. No kind of greatness is more pleasing to the
  imagination of a democratic people than military greatness--a
  greatness of vivid and sudden luster, obtained without toil, by
  nothing but the risk of life.

  Thus, while the interest and the tastes of the members of a democratic
  community divert them from war, their habits of mind fit them for
  carrying on war well; they soon make good soldiers when they are
  roused from their business and their enjoyments.

  If peace is peculiarly hurtful to democratic armies, war secures to
  them advantages which no other armies ever possess; and these
  advantages, however little felt at first, cannot fail in the end to
  give them the victory. An aristocratic nation which, in a contest with
  a democratic people, does not succeed in ruining the latter at the
  outset of the war always runs a great risk of being conquered by it.

"Democracy in America" must be credited with a very important teaching
influence on the political thought of mankind. This influence is more
than the impulse of stimulating speculation. It is a practical force
fruitful of solid political result. The present writer remembers hearing
Tocqueville taught to eager audiences of French students in the Collège
de France, at Paris, by M. Laboulaye, a popular professor in that
national institution. This was while in France the second empire
remained as yet apparently firm on its base, and while in this country
the great duel between section and section remained as yet apparently
doubtful. The applause with which the lecturer's praise of free
institutions was greeted signified much. It signified that the leaven of
Tocqueville's ideas was working in those youthful hearts. (M.
Laboulaye's lectures, which possessed original merit of their own, were
finally published in a volume.) Present republican France owes, in no
despicable degree, its existence to the fact that Tocqueville had
visited, and reported, and interpreted the United States to his
countrymen. Perhaps, also, it is true that the American Union is
standing to-day partly because the popular sentiment created by
Tocqueville in France favorable to American democracy was too strong,
too vivid, and too universal, for the emperor safely to disregard it, in
imperial acts, long threatened, hostile to the integrity of the
republic. If Tocqueville's guess is right, if democratic institutions
are indeed ultimately to prevail throughout the world, certainly it
cannot be denied that the prophet himself will have done his part toward
fulfilling his prophecy.

We feel that we shall have done scant justice to the high and serious
spirit who forms the subject of these concluding pages of the present
chapter, if we do not go from the one work itself, by example out of
which we have shown him, to expressions of his in his correspondence
that may let us a little deeper into the personal secret of the man
himself. Tocqueville, although, as we have intimated, a believer in the
democratic destiny of the world, was not such in virtue of being a
democrat by preference himself. On the contrary, his own aristocratic
blood favoring it perhaps, his individual choice would apparently have
gone, not for, but against, democracy. This seems to be indicated in
what follows, written to a friend concerning the purpose of his work,
"Democracy in America":

  I wished to show what in our days a democratic people really was, and,
  by a rigorously accurate picture, to produce a double effect on the
  men of my day. To those who have fancied an ideal democracy, as a
  brilliant and easily realized dream, I undertook to show that they had
  clothed the picture in false colors; that the democratic government
  which they desired, though it may procure real benefits to the people
  who can bear it, has none of the elevated features with which their
  imaginations would endow it; and moreover, that such a government can
  only maintain itself under certain conditions of faith, enlightenment,
  and private morality, which we have not yet reached, and which we must
  labor to attain before grasping their political results.

  To men for whom the word "democracy" is the synonym of overthrow,
  spoliation, anarchy, and murder, I have endeavored to prove that it
  was possible for democracy to govern society, and yet to respect
  property, to recognize rights, to spare liberty, to honor religion;
  that if democratic government is less fitted than other forms to
  develop some of the finest faculties of the human soul, it has yet its
  noble and its lovely features; and that perhaps, after all, it may be
  the will of God to distribute a moderate degree of happiness to the
  mass of men, and not to concentrate great felicity and great
  perfection on a few. I have tried, moreover, to demonstrate that,
  whatever might be their opinion upon these points, the time for
  discussing them was past; that the world marched onward day by day
  towards a condition of social equality, and dragged them and every one
  along with it; that their only choice now lay between evils henceforth
  inevitable; that the practical question of this day was not whether
  you would have an aristocracy or a democracy, but whether you would
  have a democratic society, without poetry and without grandeur, but
  with morality and order; or a democratic society disorganized and
  depraved, delivered over to a furious frenzy, or else bent beneath a
  yoke heavier than any that have weighed upon mankind since the fall of
  the Roman Empire.

The "Commune" in France, "Nihilism" in Russia, "Socialism" in Germany,
"Nationalism" in the United States, are all of them, each in its own
different way, remarkable historical commentaries on the prophetic
political forecast contained in the foregoing letter.

Here is ripe practical wisdom occurring in a letter written by
Tocqueville about two years before his death:

  You know that my most settled principle is, that there is no period of
  a man's life at which he is entitled to _rest_; and that effort out of
  one's self, and still more above one's self, is as necessary in age as
  in youth--nay, even more necessary. Man in this world is like a
  traveler who is always walking towards a colder region, and who is
  therefore obliged to be more active as he goes farther north. The
  great malady of the soul is _cold_. And in order to counteract and
  combat this formidable illness, he must keep up the activity of his
  mind not only by work, but by contact with his fellow-men and with the
  world. Retirement from the great conflicts of the world is desirable
  no doubt for those whose strength is on the decline; but absolute
  retirement, away from the stir of life, is not desirable for any man,
  nor at any age.

His experience as practical politician made him write thus:

  It is a sad side of humanity that politics uncovers. We may say,
  without making any exception, that nothing there is either thoroughly
  pure or thoroughly disinterested; nothing really generous, nothing
  hearty or spontaneous. There is no _youth_, even among the youngest;
  and something cold, selfish, and premeditated may be detected even in
  the most apparently passionate proceedings.

There was so much wholesome reaction in Tocqueville's moral nature that,
notwithstanding the disparaging views, on his part, thus revealed of
human worth, he never became cynical. He could even write as follows to
a friend of his who, he thought, went too far in decrying mankind:

  You make humanity out worse than it is. I have seen many countries,
  studied many men, mingled in many public transactions, and the result
  of my observation is not what you suppose. Men in general are neither
  very good nor very bad; they are simply _mediocre_. I have never
  closely examined even the best without discovering faults and
  frailties invisible at first. I have always in the end found among the
  worst certain elements and _holding-points_ of honesty. There are two
  men in every man: it is childish to see only one; it is sad and unjust
  to look only at the other.... Man, with all his vices, his weaknesses,
  and his virtues, this strange mixture of good and bad, of low and
  lofty, of sincere and depraved, is, after all, the object most
  deserving of study, interest, pity, affection, and admiration to be
  found upon this earth; and since we have no angels, we cannot attach
  ourselves to anything greater or worthier than our fellow-creatures.

On the whole, Alexis de Tocqueville's own practice in life showed that
he wrote not only with sincerity, but with earnestness, when he wrote
those words. It was not of such Frenchmen as was Tocqueville that the
author of that heavy sentence on France could have been thinking--that
the French character was made up without conscience. We, for our part,
cannot but maintain that Tocqueville is as much more solid as he may be
less brilliant than his predecessor and fellow, Montesquieu. They were
both too theoretical; that is, too exclusively French as distinguished,
for instance, from English, in political philosophy. They began to be
deductive, when to be inductive yet longer would have been their wiser
part. In a word--like Guizot, too, the author of the "History of
Civilization," and the minister of Citizen-King Louis Philippe--both
Montesquieu and Tocqueville failed of escaping what the French would
call the defect of their quality.



XV.

VOLTAIRE.

1694-1778.


By the volume and the variety, joined to the unfailing brilliancy, of
his production; by his prodigious effectiveness; and by his universal
fame, Voltaire is undoubtedly entitled to rank first, with no fellow,
among the eighteenth-century literary men, not merely of France, but of
the world. He was not a great man, he produced no great single work, but
he must nevertheless be pronounced a great writer. There is hardly any
species of composition to which, in the long course of his activity, he
did not turn his talent. It cannot be said that he succeeded splendidly
in all; but in some he succeeded splendidly, and he failed abjectly in
none. There is not a great thought, and there is not a flat expression,
in the whole bulk of his multitudinous and multifarious works. Read him
wherever you will, in the ninety-seven volumes (equivalent, probably in
the aggregate, to two hundred volumes like the present) which, in one
leading edition, collect his productions, you may often find him
superficial, you may often find him untrustworthy, you will certainly
often find him flippant, but not less certainly you will never find him
obscure, and you will never find him dull. The clearness, the vivacity
of this man's mind were something almost preternatural. So, too, were
his readiness, his versatility, his audacity. He had no distrust of
himself, no awe of his fellow-men, no reverence for God, to deter him
from any attempt with his pen, however presuming. If a state ode were
required, it should be ready to order at twelve to-morrow; if an epic
poem--to be classed with the "Iliad" and the "Æneid "--the "Henriade"
was promptly forthcoming, to answer the demand. He did not shrink from
flouting a national idol, by freely finding fault with Corneille; and he
lightly undertook the task of extinguishing a venerable form of
Christianity, simply with pricks, innumerably repeated, of his
tormenting pen.

A very large part of the volume of Voltaire's production consists of
letters, written by him to correspondents perhaps more numerous, and
more various in rank, from kings on the throne down to scribblers in the
garret, than ever, in any other case, exchanged such communications with
a literary man. Another considerable proportion of his work in
literature took the form of pamphlets, either anonymously or
pseudonymously published, in which this master-spirit of intellectual
disturbance and ferment found it convenient, or advantageous, or safe,
to promulge and propagate his ideas. A shower of such publications was
incessantly escaping from Voltaire's pen. More formal and regular, more
confessedly ambitious, literary essays of his, were poems in every
kind--heroic, mock-heroic, lyric, elegiac, comic, tragic,
satiric--historical and biographical monographs, and tales or novels of
a peculiar class.

Voltaire's poetry does not count for very much now. Still, its first
success was so great that it will always remain an important topic in
literary history. Besides this, it really is, in some of its kinds,
remarkable work. Voltaire's epic verse is almost an exception, needful
to be made, from our assertion that this author is nowhere dull. "The
Henriade" comes dangerously near that mark. It is a tasteless
reproduction of Lucan's faults, with little reproduction of Lucan's
virtues. Voltaire's comedies are bright and witty, but they are not
laughter-provoking; and they do not possess the elemental and creative
character of Shakespeare's or Molière's work. His tragedies are better;
but they do not avoid that cast of mechanical which seems necessarily to
belong to poetry produced by talent, however consummate, unaccompanied
with genius. Voltaire's histories are luminous and readable narratives,
but they cannot claim the merit either of critical accuracy or of
philosophic breadth and insight. His letters would have to be read in
considerable volume in order to furnish a full satisfactory idea of the
author. His tales, finally, afford the most available, and, on the
whole, likewise the best means of arriving shortly and easily at a
knowledge of Voltaire.

But, before coming to these, we owe it to our readers, and perhaps to
ourselves, to justify with example what, a little way back, we said of
Voltaire as epic poet.

Voltaire was profoundly influenced by his personal observations of what
England was, alike in her literary, her political, and her theological
aspects. Voltairism may, in fact, be pronounced a transplantation from
English soil. It was English deism "mixed with cunning sparks
of"--French wit. A very short passage from the "Henriade" will suffice
the double purpose of showing what in quality of style that poem of
Voltaire's is, and of suggesting its author's sense of debt to the
England which, for its freedom and its free-thinking, he so much
admired. The reader will not fail to note the skill with which Voltaire
manages in praising another country to give a very broad hint to his
own. The old-fashioned formal heroic couplet, with rhyme, in which the
following passage appears translated, is not inapposite to the
artificial cast and style of the original. Various passions, such as
"Fear," are not only personified in the "Henriade," but made to play the
part of veritable characters in the action of the poem. Supernatural
interferences occur. History is boldly fabricated or falsified at the
pleasure of the poet. Of this audacious freedom the passage from which
we take our extract presents an instance. Voltaire sends his hero on a
mythical mission to England to solicit help from Queen Elizabeth. He
here meets every reader's familiar old friend, "a venerable hermit," who
instructs him in English history and manners. Voltaire wrote prefaces
and notes to vindicate his epic practices. He went to Virgil for
precedents. Lucan he censured for not making free enough with his
history. "Eliza" is, of course, Queen Elizabeth, and "Bourbon," is the
hero of the epic, Henry IV. of France, from whose name, it need not be
said, comes the title, "Henriade." We quote from the first canto of the
poem:

  A virgin queen the regal scepter sway'd,
  And fate itself her sovereign power obeyed.
  The wise Eliza, whose directing hand
  Had the great scale of Europe at command;
  And ruled a people that alike disdain
  Or freedom's ease, or slavery's iron chain.
  Of every loss her reign oblivion bred;
  There, flocks unnumbered graze each flowery mead.
  Britannia's vessels rule the azure seas,
  Corn fills her plains, and fruitage loads her trees.
  From pole to pole her gallant navies sweep
  The waters of the tributary deep.
  On Thames's banks each flower of genius thrives,
  There sports the Muse, and Mars his thunder gives.
  Three different powers at Westminster appear,
  And all admire the ties which join them there.
  Whom interest parts the laws together bring,
  The people's deputies, the peers and king.
  One whole they form, whose terror wide extends
  To neighboring nations, and their rights defends.
  Thrice happy times, when grateful subjects show
  That loyal, warm affection which is due!
  But happier still, when freedom's blessings spring
  From the wise conduct of a prudent king!
  O when, cried Bourbon, ravished at the sight,
  In France shall peace and glory thus unite?

A poem flaunting on its front invidious praise like the foregoing of a
foreign government so different from the government of France, could not
be very acceptable to the ruling classes of his time in the author's own
country. But in England, during the poet's two years' stay in that
island, a revised edition of the "Henriade" was issued under auspices
the most august and imposing. Queen Caroline headed the list of
subscribers, and such was the brilliancy of the patronage extended to
the poem that Voltaire, as is with probability said, netted forty
thousand dollars from his English edition--a sum of money equivalent to,
say, one hundred thousand dollars, present value. This early success
laid the foundation of a fortune for Voltaire, which the skill, the
prudence, the servility, the greed, and the unscrupulousness of the
owner subsequently built into proportions that were nothing less than
princely. Voltaire's annual income at his death was about a hundred
thousand dollars. It seems incredible that a man so rich, and, in some
ways, it must be acknowledged, so generous, should have been at the same
time so mean, so sordid, so literally perjured in sordidness, as
Voltaire is demonstrated, and admitted even by his farthest-going
admirers, for instance, Mr. John Morley, to have been.

Among Voltaire's tales doubtless the one most eligible for use, to serve
our present purpose, is his "Candide." This is a nondescript piece of
fiction, the design of which is, by means of a narrative of travel and
adventure, constructed without much regard to the probability of
particular incidents, to set forth, in the characteristic mocking vein
of Voltaire, the vanity and misery of mankind. The author's invention is
often whimsical enough; but it is constantly so ready, so reckless, and
so abundant, that the reader never tires as he is hurried ceaselessly
forward from change to change of scene and circumstance. The play of
wit is incessant. The style is limpidity itself. Your sympathies are
never painfully engaged, even in recitals of experience that ought to be
the most heart-rending. There is never a touch of noble moral sentiment
to relieve the monotony of mockery that lightly laughs at you and
tantalizes you, page after page, from the beginning to the end of the
book. The banter is not good-natured; though, on the other hand, it
cannot justly be pronounced ill-natured; and it is, in final effect upon
the reader's mind, bewildering and depressing in the extreme. Vanity of
vanities, all is vanity; such is the comfortless doctrine of the book.
The apples are the apples of Sodom, everywhere in the world. There is no
virtue anywhere, no good, no happiness. Life is a cheat, the love of
life is a cruelty, and beyond life there is nothing. At least, there is
no glimpse given of any compensating future reserved for men, a future
to redress the balance of good and ill experienced here and now. Faith
and hope, those two eyes of the soul, are smilingly quenched in their
sockets, and you are left blind, in a whirling world of darkness, with a
whirling world of darkness before you.

Such is "Candide." We select a single passage for specimen. The passage
we select is more nearly free than almost any other passage as long, in
this extraordinary romance, would probably be found, from impure
implications. It is, besides, more nearly serious in apparent motive
than is the general tenor of the production. Here, however, as
elsewhere, the writer keeps carefully down his mocking mask. At least,
you are left tantalizingly uncertain all the time how much the grin you
face is the grin of the man, and how much the grin of a visor that he
wears.

Candide, the hero, is a young fellow of ingenuous character brought
successively under the lead of several different persons wise in the
ways of the world, who act toward him, each in his turn, the part of
"guide, philosopher, and friend." Candide, with such a mentor bearing
the name Martin, has now arrived at Venice. Candide speaks:

  "I have heard a great talk of the Senator Pococuranté, who lives in
  that fine house at the Brenta, where they say he entertains foreigners
  in the most polite manner. They pretend this man is a perfect stranger
  to uneasiness." "I should be glad to see so extraordinary a being,"
  said Martin. Candide thereupon sent a messenger to Signor Pococuranté
  desiring permission to wait on him the next day.

  Candide and his friend Martin went into a gondola on the Brenta, and
  arrived at the palace of the noble Pococuranté: the gardens were laid
  out in elegant taste and adorned with fine marble statues; his palace
  was built after the most approved rules of architecture. The master of
  the house, who was a man of sixty, and very rich, received our two
  travelers with great politeness, but without much ceremony, which
  somewhat disconcerted Candide, but was not at all displeasing to
  Martin.

  As soon as they were seated two very pretty girls, neatly dressed,
  brought in chocolate, which was extremely well frothed. Candide could
  not help making encomiums upon their beauty and graceful carriage.
  "The creatures are well enough," said the senator. "I make them my
  companions, for I am heartily tired of the ladies of the town, their
  coquetry, their jealousy, their quarrels, their humors, their
  meannesses, their pride, and their folly. I am weary of making
  sonnets, or of paying for sonnets to be made, on them; but, after all,
  these two girls begin to grow very indifferent to me."

  After having refreshed himself, Candide walked into a large gallery,
  where he was struck with the sight of a fine collection of paintings.

  "Pray," said Candide, "by what master are the two first of these?"
  "They are Raphael's," answered the senator. "I gave a great deal of
  money for them seven years ago, purely out of curiosity, as they were
  said to be the finest pieces in Italy: but I cannot say they please
  me; the coloring is dark and heavy; the figures do not swell nor come
  out enough, and the drapery is very bad. In short, notwithstanding the
  encomiums lavished upon them, they are not, in my opinion, a true
  representation of nature. I approve of no paintings but where I think
  I behold Nature herself; and there are very few, if any, of that kind
  to be met with. I have what is called a fine collection, but I take no
  manner of delight in them."

  While dinner was getting ready Pococuranté ordered a concert. Candide
  praised the music to the skies. "This noise," said the noble Venetian,
  "may amuse one for a little time; but if it was to last above half an
  hour it would grow tiresome to everybody, though perhaps no one would
  care to own it. Music is become the art of executing what is
  difficult; now, whatever is difficult cannot be long pleasing.

  "I believe I might take more pleasure in an opera, if they had not
  made such a monster of that species of dramatic entertainment as
  perfectly shocks me; and I am amazed how people can bear to see
  wretched tragedies set to music, where the scenes are contrived for
  no other purpose than to lug in, as it were by the ears, three or four
  ridiculous songs, to give a favorite actress an opportunity of
  exhibiting her pipe. Let who will or can die away in raptures at the
  trills of a eunuch quavering the majestic part of Cæsar or Cato, and
  strutting in a foolish manner upon the stage. For my part, I have long
  ago renounced these paltry entertainments, which constitute the glory
  of modern Italy, and are so dearly purchased by crowned heads."
  Candide opposed these sentiments, but he did it in a discreet manner.
  As for Martin, he was entirely of the old senator's opinion.

  Dinner being served up, they sat down to table, and after a very
  hearty repast, returned to the library. Candide, observing Homer
  richly bound, commended the noble Venetian's taste. "This," said he,
  "is a book that was once the delight of the great Pangloss, the best
  philosopher in Germany." "Homer is no favorite of mine," answered
  Pococuranté very coolly. "I was made to believe once that I took a
  pleasure in reading him; but his continual repetitions of battles must
  have all such a resemblance with each other; his gods that are forever
  in a hurry and bustle, without ever doing any thing; his Helen, that
  is the cause of the war, and yet hardly acts in the whole performance;
  his Troy, that holds out so long without being taken; in short, all
  these things together make the poem very insipid to me. I have asked
  some learned men whether they are not in reality as much tired as
  myself with reading this poet. Those who spoke ingenuously assured me
  that he had made them fall asleep, and yet that they could not well
  avoid giving him a place in their libraries; but that it was merely as
  they would do an antique, or those rusty medals which are kept only
  for curiosity, and are of no manner of use in commerce."

  "But your excellency does not surely form the same opinion of Virgil?"
  said Candide. "Why, I grant," replied Pococuranté, "that the second,
  third, fourth, and sixth books of his 'Æneid' are excellent; but as
  for his pious Æneas, his strong Cloanthus, his friendly Achates, his
  boy Ascanius, his silly King Latinus, his ill-bred Amata, his insipid
  Lavinia, and some other characters much in the same strain, I think
  there cannot in nature be anything more flat and disagreeable. I must
  confess I prefer Tasso far beyond him; nay, even that sleepy
  tale-teller Ariosto."

  "May I take the liberty to ask if you do not receive great pleasure
  from reading Horace?" said Candide. "There are maxims in this writer,"
  replied Pococuranté, "from whence a man of the world may reap some
  benefit; and the short measure of the verse makes them more easily to
  be retained in the memory. But I see nothing extraordinary in his
  journey to Brundusium, and his account of his bad dinner; nor in his
  dirty, low quarrel between one Rupilius, whose words, as he expresses
  it, were full of poisonous filth; and another, whose language was
  dipped in vinegar. His indelicate verses against old women and
  witches have frequently given me great offense; nor can I discover the
  great merit of his telling his friend Mæcenas, that, if he will but
  rank him in the class of lyric poets, his lofty head shall touch the
  stars. Ignorant readers are apt to advance everything by the lump in a
  writer of reputation. For my part, I read only to please myself. I
  like nothing but what makes for my purpose." Candide, who had been
  brought up with a notion of never making use of his own judgment, was
  astonished at what he heard; but Martin found there was a good deal of
  reason in the senator's remarks.

  "Oh, here is a Tully!" said Candide; "this great man, I fancy, you are
  never tired of reading." "Indeed, I never read him at all," replied
  Pococuranté. "What the deuce is it to me whether he pleads for
  Rabirius or Cluentius? I try causes enough myself. I had once some
  liking to his philosophical works; but when I found he doubted of
  everything, I thought I knew as much as himself, and had no need of a
  guide to learn ignorance."

  "Ha!" cried Martin, "here are fourscore volumes of the 'Memoirs of the
  Academy of Sciences,' perhaps there may be something curious and
  valuable in this collection." "Yes," answered Pococuranté; "so there
  might, if any one of these compilers of this rubbish had only invented
  the art of pin-making. But all these volumes are filled with mere
  chimerical systems, without one single article conducive to real
  utility."

  "I see a prodigious number of plays," said Candide, "in Italian,
  Spanish, and French." "Yes," replied the Venetian; "there are, I
  think, three thousand, and not three dozen of them good for anything.
  As to those huge volumes of divinity, and those enormous collections
  of sermons, they are not all together worth one single page of Seneca;
  and I fancy you will readily believe that neither myself nor any one
  else ever looks into them."

  Martin, perceiving some shelves filled with English books, said to the
  senator: "I fancy that a republican must be highly delighted with
  those books, which are most of them written with a noble spirit of
  freedom." "It is noble to write as we think," said Pococuranté; "it is
  the privilege of humanity. Throughout Italy we write only what we do
  not think; and the present inhabitants of the country of the Cæsars
  and Antoninuses dare not acquire a single idea without the permission
  of a father Dominican. I should be enamored of the spirit of the
  English nation did it not utterly frustrate the good effects it would
  produce by passion and the spirit of party."

  Candide, seeing a Milton, asked the senator if he did not think that
  author a great man. "Who?" said Pococuranté sharply. "That barbarian,
  who writes a tedious commentary, in ten books of rambling verse, on
  the first chapter of Genesis! That slovenly imitator of the Greeks,
  who disfigures the creation by making the Messiah take a pair of
  compasses from heaven's armory to plan the world; whereas Moses
  represented the Deity as producing the whole universe by his fiat! Can
  I think you have any esteem for a writer who has spoiled Tasso's hell
  and the devil; who transforms Lucifer, sometimes into a toad, and at
  others into a pigmy; who makes him say the same thing over again a
  hundred times; who metamorphoses him into a school-divine; and who, by
  an absurdly serious imitation of Ariosto's comic invention of
  fire-arms, represents the devils and angels cannonading each other in
  heaven! Neither I, nor any other Italian, can possibly take pleasure
  in such melancholy reveries. But the marriage of Sin and Death, and
  snakes issuing from the womb of the former, are enough to make any
  person sick that is not lost to all sense of delicacy. This obscene,
  whimsical, and disagreeable poem met with the neglect that it deserved
  at its first publication; and I only treat the author now as he was
  treated in his own country by his contemporaries."

  Candide was sensibly grieved at this speech, as he had a great respect
  for Homer, and was very fond of Milton. "Alas!" said he softly to
  Martin, "I am afraid this man holds our German poets in great
  contempt." "There would be no such great harm in that," said Martin.
  "Oh, what a surprising man!" said Candide to himself. "What a
  prodigious genius is this Pococuranté! Nothing can please him!"

  After finishing their survey of the library they went down into the
  garden, when Candide commended the several beauties that offered
  themselves to his view. "I know nothing upon earth laid out in such
  bad taste," said Pococuranté; "everything about it is childish and
  trifling; but I shall have another laid out to-morrow upon a nobler
  plan."

  As soon as our two travelers had taken leave of his excellency,
  "Well," said Candide to Martin, "I hope you will own that this man is
  the happiest of all mortals, for he is above everything he possesses."
  "But do you not see," answered Martin, "that he likewise dislikes
  everything he possesses? It was an observation of Plato long since,
  that those are not the best stomachs that reject, without distinction,
  all sorts of aliments." "True," said Candide; "but still, there must
  certainly be a pleasure in criticising everything, and in perceiving
  faults where others think they see beauties." "That is," replied
  Martin, "there is a pleasure in having no pleasure." "Well, well,"
  said Candide. "I find that I shall be the only happy man at last, when
  I am blessed with the sight of my dear Cunegund." "It is good to
  hope," said Martin.

The single citation preceding sufficiently exemplifies, at their best,
though at their worst not, the style and the spirit of Voltaire's
"Candide;" as his "Candide" sufficiently exemplifies the style and the
spirit of the most characteristic of Voltaire's writings in general.
"Pococurantism" is a word, now not uncommon in English, contributed by
Voltaire to the vocabulary of literature. To readers of the foregoing
extract, the sense of the term will not need to be explained. We
respectfully suggest to our dictionary-makers, that the fact stated of
its origin in the "Candide" of Voltaire would be interesting and
instructive to many. Voltaire coined the name, to suit the character of
his Venetian gentleman, from two Italian words which mean together
"little-caring." Signor Pococuranté is the immortal type of men that
have worn out their capacity of fresh sensation and enjoyment.

Mr. John Morley's elaborate monograph on Voltaire claims the attention
of readers desirous of exhaustive acquaintance with its subject. This
author writes in sympathy with Voltaire, so far as Voltaire was an enemy
of the Christian religion; but in antipathy to him, so far as Voltaire
fell short of being an atheist. A similar sympathy, limited by a similar
antipathy, is observable in the same author's still more extended
monograph on Rousseau. The sympathy works without the antipathy to limit
it, in Mr. Morley's two volumes on "Diderot and the Encyclopædists"--for
Diderot and his closest fellows were good thorough-going atheists.

Even in Voltaire and Rousseau, but particularly in Voltaire, Mr. Morley,
though his sympathy with these writers is, as we have said, not
complete, finds far more to praise than to blame. To this eager apostle
of atheism, Voltaire was at least on the right road, although he did,
unfortunately, stop short of the goal. His influence was potent against
Christianity, and potent it certainly was not against atheism. Voltaire
might freely be lauded as on the whole a mighty and a beneficent
liberalizer of thought.

And we, we who are neither atheists nor deists--let us not deny to
Voltaire his just meed of praise. There were streaks of gold in the base
alloy of that character of his. He burned with magnanimous heat against
the hideous doctrine and practice of ecclesiastical persecution. Carlyle
says of Voltaire, that he "spent his best efforts, and as many still
think, successfully, in assaulting the Christian religion." This, true
though it be, is liable to be falsely understood. It was not against the
Christian religion, as the Christian religion really is, but rather
against the Christian religion as the Roman hierarchy misrepresented it,
that Voltaire ostensibly directed his efforts. "You are right," wrote he
to his henchman D'Alembert, in 1762, "in assuming that I speak of
superstition only; for as to the Christian religion, I respect it and
love it, as you do." This distinction of Voltaire's, with whatever
degree of simple sincerity on his part made, ought to be remembered in
his favor, when his memorable motto, "_Écrasez l'Infâme_," is
interpreted and applied. He did not mean Jesus Christ by _l'Infâme_; he
did not mean the Christian religion by it; he did not even mean the
Christian Church by it; he meant the oppressive despotism and the crass
obscurantism of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. At least, this is what he
would have said that he meant, what in fact he substantially did say
that he meant, when incessantly reiterating, in its various forms, his
watchword, "_Écrasez l'Infâme_," "_Écrasons l'Infâme_"--"Crush the
wretch!" "Let us crush the wretch!" His blows were aimed, perhaps, at
"superstition;" but they really fell, in the full half of their effect,
on Christianity itself. Whether Voltaire regretted this, whether he
would in his heart have had it otherwise, may well, in spite of any
protestation from him of love for Christianity, be doubted. Still, it is
never, in judgment of Voltaire, to be forgotten that the organized
Christianity which he confronted was in large part a system justly
hateful to the true and wise lover, whether of God or of man. That
system he did well in fighting. Carnal indeed were the weapons with
which he fought it; and his victory over it was a carnal victory,
bringing, on the whole, but slender net advantage, if any such advantage
at all, to the cause of final truth and light. The French Revolution,
with its excesses and its horrors, was perhaps the proper, the
legitimate, the necessary, fruit of resistance such as was Voltaire's,
in fundamental spirit, to the evils in Church and in State against
which he conducted so gallantly his life-long campaign.

But though we thus bring in doubt the work of Voltaire, both as to the
purity of its motive and as to the value of its fruit, we should wrong
our sense of justice to ourselves if we permitted our readers to suppose
us blind to the generous things that this arch-infidel did on behalf of
the suffering and the oppressed. Voltaire more than once wielded that
pen of his, the most dreaded weapon in Europe, like a knight sworn to
take on himself the championship of the forlornest of causes. There is
the historic case of Jean Calas at Toulouse, Protestant, an old man of
near seventy, broken on the wheel, as suspected, without evidence, and
against accumulated impossibilities, of murdering his own son, a young
man of about thirty, by hanging him. Voltaire took up the case and
pleaded it to the common sense, and to the human feeling, of France,
with immense effectiveness. It is, in truth, Voltaire's advocacy of
righteousness, in this instance of incredible wrong, that has made the
instance itself immortal. His part in the case of Calas, though the most
signal, is not the only example of Voltaire's literary knighthood. He
hated oppression, and he loved liberty, for himself and for all men,
with a passion as deep and as constant as any passion of which nature
had made Voltaire capable. If the liberty that he loved was
fundamentally liberty as against God no less than as against men, and if
the oppression that he hated was fundamentally the oppression of being
put under obligation to obey Christ as lord of life and of thought, this
was something of which, probably, Voltaire never had a clear
consciousness.

We have now indicated what was most admirable in Voltaire's personal
character. On the whole, he was far from being an admirable man. He was
vain, he was shallow, he was frivolous, he was deceitful, he was
voluptuous, he fawned on the great, he abased himself before them, he
licked the dust on which they stood. "_Trajan, est-il content?_" ("Is
Trajan satisfied?")--this, asked, in nauseous adulation, and nauseous
self-abasement, by Voltaire of Louis XV., so little like Trajan in
character--is monumental. The occasion was the production of a piece of
Voltaire's written at the instance of Louis XV.'s mistress, the infamous
Madame de Pompadour. The king, for answer, simply gorgonized the poet
with a stony Bourbon stare.

But, taken altogether, Voltaire's life was a great success. He got on in
the world, was rich, was fortunate, was famous, was gay, if he was not
happy. He had his friendship with the great Frederick of Prussia, who
filled for his false French flatterer a return cup of sweetness,
cunningly mixed with exceeding bitterness. His death was an appropriate
_coup de théâtre_, a felicity of finish to such a life quite beyond the
reach of art. He came back to Paris, whence he had been an exile,
welcomed with a triumph transcending the triumph of a conqueror. They
made a great feast for him, a feast of flattery, in the theater. The old
man was drunk with delight. The delight was too much for him. It
literally killed him. It was as if a favorite actress should be quite
smothered to death on the stage under flowers thrown in excessive
profusion at her feet.

Let Carlyle's sentence be our epigraph on Voltaire:

"No great Man.... Found always at the top, less by power in swimming
than by lightness in floating."



XVII

ROUSSEAU: 1712-1778; St. Pierre: 1737-1814.


There are two Rousseaus in French literature. At least there was a
first, until the second effaced him, and became the only.

We speak, of course, in comparison, and hyperbolically. J. B. Rousseau
is still named as a lyric poet of the time of Louis XIV. But when
Rousseau, without initials, is spoken of, it is always Jean Jacques
Rousseau that is meant.

Jean Jacques Rousseau is perhaps the most squalid, as it certainly is
one of the most splendid, among French literary names. The squalor
belongs chiefly to the man, but the splendor is wholly the writer's.
There is hardly another example in the world's literature of a union so
striking of these opposites.

Rousseau's life he has himself told, in the best, the worst, and the
most imperishable of his books, the "Confessions." This book is one to
which the adjective charming attaches, in a peculiarly literal sense of
the word. The spell, however, is repellent as well as attractive. But
the attraction of the style asserts and pronounces itself only the more,
in triumph over the much there is in the matter to disgust and revolt.
It is quite the most offensive, and it is well-nigh the most
fascinating, book that we know.

The "Confessions" begin as follows:

  I purpose an undertaking that never had an example, and whose
  execution never will have an imitator. I would exhibit to my fellows a
  man, in all the truth of nature, and that man--myself.

  Myself alone. I know my own heart, and I am acquainted with men. I am
  made unlike any one I have ever seen--I dare believe unlike any living
  being. If no better than, I am at least different from, others.
  Whether nature did well or ill in breaking the mold wherein I was
  cast, can be determined only after having read me.

  Let the last trumpet sound when it will, I will come, with this book
  in my hand, and present myself before the Sovereign Judge. I will
  boldly proclaim: Thus have I acted, thus have I thought, such was I.
  With equal frankness have I disclosed the good and the evil. I have
  omitted nothing bad, added nothing good; and if I have happened to
  make use of some unimportant ornament, it has, in every case, been
  simply for the purpose of filling up a void occasioned by my lack of
  memory. I may have taken for granted as true what I knew to be
  possible, never what I knew to be false. Such as I was, I have
  exhibited myself--despicable and vile, when so; virtuous, generous,
  sublime, when so. I have unveiled my interior being, such as Thou,
  Eternal Existence, hast beheld it. Assemble around me the numberless
  throng of my fellow-mortals; let them listen to my confessions, let
  them blush at my depravities, let them shrink appalled at my miseries.
  Let each of them, in his turn, with equal sincerity, lay bare his
  heart at the foot of thy throne, and then let a single one tell thee,
  if he dare, _I was better than that man_.

Notwithstanding our autobiographer's disavowal of debt to example for
the idea of his "Confessions," it seems clear that Montaigne here was at
least inspiration, if not pattern, to Rousseau. But Rousseau resolved to
do what Montaigne had done, more ingenuously and more courageously than
Montaigne had done it. This writer will make himself his subject, and
then treat his subject with greater frankness than any man before him
ever used about himself, or than any man after him would ever use. He
undoubtedly succeeded in his attempt. His frankness, in fact, is so
forward and eager that it is probably even inventive of things
disgraceful to himself. Montaigne makes great pretense of telling his
own faults, but you observe that he generally chooses rather amiable
faults of his own to tell. Rousseau's morbid vulgarity leads him to
disclose traits in himself of character or of behavior, that, despite
whatever contrary wishes on your part, compel your contempt of the man.
And it is for the man who confesses, almost more than for the man who is
guilty, that you feel the contempt.

The "Confessions" proceed:

  I was born at Geneva, in 1712, of Isaac Rousseau and Susannah Bernard,
  citizens.... I came into the world weak and sickly. I cost my mother
  her life, and my birth was the first of my misfortunes.

  I never learned how my father supported his loss, but I know that he
  remained ever after inconsolable.... When he used to say to me, "Jean
  Jacques, let us speak of your mother," my usual reply was, "Well,
  father, we'll cry then," a reply which would instantly bring the tears
  to his eyes. "Ah!" he would exclaim with agitation, "give me her back,
  console me for her loss, fill up the void she has left in my soul.
  Could I love thee thus wert thou but _my_ son?" Forty years after
  having lost her he expired in the arms of a second wife, but with the
  name of the first on his lips, and her image engraven on his heart.

  Such were the authors of my being. Of all the gifts Heaven had
  allotted them, a feeling heart was the only one I had inherited.
  While, however, this had been the source of their happiness, it became
  the spring of all my misfortunes.

"A feeling heart!" That expression tells the literary secret of
Rousseau. It is hardly too much to say that Rousseau was the first
French writer to write with his heart; but heart's blood was the ink in
which almost every word of Rousseau's was written. This was the spring
of his marvelous power. Rousseau:

  My mother had left a number of romances. These father and I betook us
  to reading during the evenings. At first the sole object was, by means
  of entertaining books, to improve me in reading; but, ere long, the
  charm became so potent, that we read turn about without intermission,
  and passed whole nights in this employment. Never could we break up
  till the end of the volume. At times my father, hearing the swallows
  of a morning, would exclaim, quite ashamed of himself, "Come, let's to
  bed; I'm more of a child than you are!"

The elder Rousseau was right respecting himself. And such a father would
almost necessarily have such a child. Jean Jacques Rousseau is to be
judged tenderly for his faults. What birth and what breeding were his!
The "Confessions" go on:

  I soon acquired, by this dangerous course, not only an extreme
  facility in reading and understanding, but, for my age, a quite
  unprecedented acquaintance with the passions. I had not the slightest
  conception of things themselves at a time when the whole round of
  sentiments was already perfectly familiar to me. I had apprehended
  nothing--I had felt all.

Some hint now of other books read by the boy:

  .... Plutarch especially became my favorite reading. The pleasure
  which I found in incessantly reperusing him cured me in some measure
  of the romance madness: and I soon came to prefer Agesilaus, Brutus,
  and Aristides to Orondates, Artemenes, and Juba. From these
  interesting studies, joined to the conversations to which they gave
  rise with my father, resulted that free, republican spirit, that
  haughty and untamable character, fretful of restraint or subjection,
  which has tormented me my life long, and that in situations the least
  suitable for giving it play. Incessantly occupied with Rome and
  Athens, living, so to speak, with their great men, born myself the
  citizen of a republic [Geneva], the son of a father with whom
  patriotism was the ruling passion, I caught the flame from him--I
  imagined myself a Greek or a Roman, and became the personage whose
  life I was reading.

On such food of reading and of reverie, young Rousseau's imagination and
sentiment battened, while his reason and his practical sense starved and
died within him. Unconsciously thus in part were formed the dreamer of
the "Émile" and of "The Social Contract." Another glimpse of the home
life--if home life such experience can be called--of this half-orphan,
homeless Genevan boy:

  I had a brother, my elder by seven years.... He fell into the ways of
  debauchery, even before he was old enough to be really a libertine.
  ... I remember once when my father was chastising him severely and in
  anger, that I impetuously threw myself between them, clasping him
  tightly. I thus covered him with my body, receiving the blows that
  were aimed at him; and I held out so persistently in this position,
  that whether softened by my cries and tears, or fearing that I should
  get the worst of it, my father was forced to forgive him. In the end
  my brother turned out so bad that he ran away and disappeared
  altogether.

It is pathetic--Rousseau's attempted contrast following, between the
paternal neglect of his older brother and the paternal indulgence of
himself:

  If this poor lad was carelessly brought up, it was quite otherwise
  with his brother.... My desires were so little excited, and so little
  crossed, that it never came into my head to have any. I can solemnly
  aver, that till the time when I was bound to a master I never knew
  what it was to have a whim.

Poor lad! "Never knew what it was to have a whim!" It well might be,
however--his boy's life all one whim uncrossed, unchecked; no contrast
of saving restraint, to make him know that he was living by whim alone!

Young Jean Jacques was at length apprenticed to an engraver. He
describes the contrast of his new situation and the effect of the
contrast upon his own character and career:

  I learned to covet in silence, to dissemble, to dissimulate, to lie,
  and at last to steal, a propensity for which I had never hitherto had
  the slightest inclination, and of which I have never since been able
  quite to cure myself....

  My first theft was the result of complaisance, but it opened the door
  to others which had not so laudable a motive.

  My master had a journeyman named M. Verrat.... [He] took it into his
  head to rob his mother of some of her early asparagus and sell it,
  converting the proceeds into some extra good breakfasts. As he did not
  wish to expose himself, and not being very nimble, he selected me for
  this expedition. Long did I stickle, but he persisted. I never could
  resist kindness, so I consented. I went every morning to the garden,
  gathered the best of the asparagus, and took it to "the Molard," where
  some good creature, perceiving that I had just been stealing it, would
  insinuate that little fact, so as to get it the cheaper. In my terror
  I took whatever she chose to give me and carried it to M. Verrat.

  This little domestic arrangement continued for several days before it
  came into my head to rob the robber, and tithe M. Verrat for the
  proceeds of the asparagus.... I thus learned that to steal was, after
  all, not so very terrible a thing as I had conceived, and ere long I
  turned this discovery to so good an account, that nothing I had an
  inclination for could safely be left within my reach....

  And now, before giving myself over to the fatality of my destiny, let
  me, for a moment, contemplate what would naturally have been my lot
  had I fallen into the hands of a better master. Nothing was more
  agreeable to my tastes, nor better calculated to render me happy, than
  the calm and obscure condition of a good artisan, more especially in
  certain lines, such as that of an engraver at Geneva.... In my native
  country, in the bosom of my religion, of my family, and my friends, I
  should have led a life gentle and uncheckered as became my character,
  in the uniformity of a pleasing occupation and among connections dear
  to my heart. I should have been a good Christian, a good citizen, a
  good father, a good friend, a good artisan, and a good man in every
  respect. I should have loved my station; it may be I should have been
  an honor to it; and after having passed an obscure and simple, though
  even and happy, life, I should peacefully have departed in the bosom
  of my kindred. Soon, it may be, forgotten, I should at least have been
  regretted as long as the remembrance of me survived.

  Instead of this ... what a picture am I about to draw!

Thus ends the first book of the "Confessions."

The picture Rousseau is "about to draw" has in it a certain Madame de
Warens for a principal figure. This lady, a Roman Catholic convert from
Protestantism, had forsaken a husband, not loved, and was living on a
bounty from King Victor Amadeus of Sardinia. For Annecy, the home of
Madame de Warens, our young Jean Jacques, sent thither by a Roman
Catholic curate, sets out on foot. The distance was but one day's walk;
which one day's walk, however, the humor of the wanderer stretched into
a saunter of three days. The man of fifty-four, become the biographer of
his own youth, finds no lothness of self-respect to prevent his
detailing the absurd adventures with which he diverted himself on the
way. For example:

  Not a country-seat could I see, either to the right or left, without
  going after the adventure which I was certain awaited me. I could not
  muster courage to enter the mansion, nor even to knock, for I was
  excessively timid; but I sang beneath the most inviting window, very
  much astonished to find, after wasting my breath, that neither lady
  nor miss made her appearance, attracted by the beauty of my voice, or
  the spice of my songs--seeing that I knew some capital ones that my
  comrades had taught me, and which I sang in the most admirable manner.

Rousseau describes the emotions he experienced in his first meeting with
Madame de Warens:

  I had pictured to myself a grim old devotee--M. de Pontverre's "worthy
  lady" could, in my opinion, be none other. But lo, a countenance
  beaming with charms, beautiful, mild blue eyes, a complexion of
  dazzling fairness, the outline of an enchanting neck! Nothing escaped
  the rapid glance of the young proselyte; for that instant I was hers,
  sure that a religion preached by such missionaries could not fail to
  lead to paradise!

This abnormally susceptible youth had remarkable experiences, all within
his own soul, during his sojourn, of a few days only, on the present
occasion, under Madame de Warens's hospitable roof. These experiences,
the autobiographer, old enough to call himself "old dotard," has,
nevertheless, not grown wise enough to be ashamed to be very detailed
and psychological in recounting. It was a case of precocious love at
first sight. One could afford to laugh at it as ridiculous, but that it
had a sequel full of sin and of sorrow. Jean Jacques was now forwarded
to Turin, to become inmate of a sort of charity school for the
instruction of catechumens. The very day after he started on foot, his
father, with a friend of his, reached Annecy on horseback, in pursuit of
the truant boy. They might easily have overtaken him, but they let him
go his way. Rousseau explains the case on behalf of his father as
follows:

  My father was not only an honorable man, but a person of the most
  reliable probity, and endowed with one of those powerful minds that
  perform deeds of loftiest heroism. I may add, he was a good father,
  especially to me. Tenderly did he love me, but he loved his pleasures
  also, and, since our living apart, other ties had, in a measure,
  weakened his paternal affection. He had married again, at Nyon; and
  though his wife was no longer of an age to present me with brothers,
  yet she had connections; another family circle was thus formed, other
  objects engrossed his attention, and the new domestic relations no
  longer so frequently brought back the remembrance of me. My father was
  growing old, and had nothing on which to rely for the support of his
  declining years. My brother and I had something coming to us from my
  mother's fortune; the interest of this my father was to receive during
  our absence. This consideration did not present itself to him
  directly, nor did it stand in the way of his doing his duty; it had,
  however, a silent, and to himself imperceptible, influence, and at
  times slackened his zeal, which, unacted upon by this, would have been
  carried much farther. This, I think, was the reason, that, having
  traced me as far as Annecy, he did not follow me to Chamberi, where he
  was morally certain of overtaking me. This will also explain why, in
  visiting him many times after my flight, I received from him on every
  occasion a father's kindness, though unaccompanied by any very
  pressing efforts to retain me.

Rousseau's filial regard for his father was peculiar. It did not lead
him to hide, it only led him to account for, his father's sordidness.
The son generalized and inferred a moral maxim for the conduct of life
from this behavior of the father's--a maxim, which, as he thought, had
done him great good. He says:

  This conduct on the part of a father of whose affection and virtue I
  have had so many proofs, has given rise within me to reflections on my
  own character which have not a little contributed to maintain my heart
  uncorrupted. I have derived therefrom this great maxim of morality,
  perhaps the only one of any use in practice; namely, to avoid such
  situations as put our duty in antagonism with our interest, or
  disclose our own advantage in the misfortunes of another, certain that
  in such circumstances, however sincere the love of virtue we bring
  with us, it will sooner or later, and whether we perceive it or not,
  become weakened, and we shall come to be unjust and culpable in our
  acts without having ceased to be upright and blameless in our
  intentions.

The fruitful maxim thus deduced by Rousseau, he thinks he tried
faithfully to put in practice. With apparent perfect assurance
concerning himself, he says:

  I have sincerely desired to do what was right. I have, with all the
  energy of my character, shunned situations which set my interest in
  opposition to the interest of another, thus inspiring me with a secret
  though involuntary desire prejudicial to that man.

Jean Jacques at Turin made speed to convert himself, by the abjurations
required, into a pretty good Catholic. He was hereon free to seek his
fortune in the Sardinian capital. This he did by getting successively
various situations in service. In one of these he stole, so he tells us,
a piece of ribbon, which was soon found in his possession. He said a
maid-servant, naming her, gave it to him. The two were confronted with
each other. In spite of the poor girl's solemn appeal, Jean Jacques
persisted in his lie against her. Both servants were discharged. The
autobiographer protests that he has suffered much remorse for this lie
of his to the harm of the innocent maid. He expresses confident hope
that his suffering sorrow, already experienced on his behalf, will stand
him in stead of punishment that might be his due in a future state.
Remorse is a note in Rousseau that distinguishes him from Montaigne.
Montaigne reviews his own life to live over his sins, not to repent of
them.

The end of several vicissitudes is, that young Rousseau gets back to
Madame de Warens. She welcomes him kindly. He says:

  From the first day, the most affectionate familiarity sprang up
  between us, and that to the same degree in which it continued during
  all the rest of her life. _Petit_--Child--was my name,
  _Maman_--Mamma--hers; and _Petit_ and _Maman_ we remained, even when
  the course of time had all but effaced the difference of our ages.
  These two names seem to me marvelously well to express our tone toward
  each other, the simplicity of our manners, and, more than all, the
  relation of our hearts. She was to me the tenderest of mothers, never
  seeking her own pleasure, but ever my welfare; and if the senses had
  anything to do with my attachment for her, it was not to change its
  nature, but only to render it more exquisite, and intoxicate me with
  the charm of having a young and pretty mamma whom it was delightful
  for me to caress. I say quite literally, to caress; for it never
  entered into her head to deny me the tenderest maternal kisses and
  endearments, nor into my heart to abuse them. Some may say that, in
  the end, quite other relations subsisted between us. I grant it; but
  have patience--I cannot tell everything at once.

With Madame de Warens, Rousseau's relations, as is intimated above,
became licentious. This continued until, after an interval of years
(nine years, with breaks), in a fit of jealousy he forsook her.
Rousseau's whole life was a series of self-indulgences, groveling,
sometimes, beyond what is conceivable to any one not learning of it all
in detail from the man's own pen. The reader is fain at last to seek the
only relief possible from the sickening story, by flying to the
conclusion that Jean Jacques Rousseau, with all his genius, was wanting
in that mental sanity which is a condition of complete moral
responsibility.

We shall, of course, not follow the "Confessions" through their
disgusting recitals of sin and shame. We should do wrong, however, to
the literary, and even to the moral, character of the work, were we not
to point out that there are frequent oases of sweetness and beauty set
in the wastes of incredible foulness which overspread so widely the
pages of Rousseau's "Confessions." Here, for example, is an idyll of
vagabondage that might almost make one willing to play tramp one's self,
if one by so doing might have such an experience:

  I remember, particularly, having passed a delicious night without the
  city on a road that skirted the Rhone or the Saône, for I cannot
  remember which. On the other side were terraced gardens. It had been a
  very warm day; the evening was charming; the dew moistened the faded
  grass; a calm night, without a breeze; the air was cool without being
  cold; the sun in setting had left crimson vapors in the sky, which
  tinged the water with its roseate hue, while the trees along the
  terrace were filled with nightingales gushing out melodious answers to
  each other's song. I walked along in a species of ecstasy, giving up
  heart and senses to the enjoyment of the scene, only slightly sighing
  with regret at enjoying it alone. Absorbed in my sweet reverie, I
  prolonged my walk far into the night, without perceiving that I was
  wearied out. At length I discovered it. I lay voluptuously down on the
  tablet of a sort of niche or false door sunk in the terrace wall. The
  canopy of my couch was formed by the over-arching boughs of the trees;
  a nightingale sat exactly above me; its song lulled me to sleep; my
  slumber was sweet, and my awaking still more so. It was broad day; my
  eyes, on opening, fell on the water, the verdure, and the admirable
  landscape spread out before me. I arose and shook off dull sleep; and,
  growing hungry, I gayly directed my steps toward the city, bent on
  transforming two _pieces de six blancs_, that I had left, into a good
  breakfast. I was so cheerful that I went singing along the whole way.

This happy-go-lucky, vagabond, grown-up child, this sentimentalist of
genius, had now and then different experiences--experiences to which the
reflection of the man grown old attributes important influence on the
formation of his most controlling beliefs:

  One day, among others, having purposely turned aside to get a closer
  view of a spot that appeared worthy of all admiration, I grew so
  delighted with it, and wandered round it so often, that I at length
  lost myself completely. After several hours of useless walking, weary
  and faint with hunger and thirst, I entered a peasant's hut which did
  not present a very promising appearance, but it was the only one I saw
  around. I conceived it to be here as at Geneva and throughout
  Switzerland, where all the inhabitants in easy circumstances are in
  the situation to exercise hospitality. I entreated the man to get me
  some dinner, offering to pay for it. He presented me with some skimmed
  milk and coarse barley bread, observing that that was all he had. I
  drank the milk with delight, and ate the bread, chaff and all; but
  this was not very restorative to a man exhausted with fatigue. The
  peasant, who was watching me narrowly, judged of the truth of my story
  by the sincerity of my appetite. All of a sudden, after having said
  that he saw perfectly well that I was a good and true young fellow
  that did not come to betray him, he opened a little trap-door by the
  side of his kitchen, went down and returned a moment afterward with a
  good brown loaf of pure wheat, the remains of a toothsome ham, and a
  bottle of wine, the sight of which rejoiced my heart more than all the
  rest. To these he added a good thick omelette, and I made such a
  dinner as none but a walker ever enjoyed. When it came to pay, lo! his
  disquietude and fears again seized him; he would none of my money, and
  rejected it with extraordinary manifestations of disquiet. The
  funniest part of the matter was, that I could not conceive what he was
  afraid of. At length, with fear and trembling, he pronounced those
  terrible words, _Commissioners_ and _Cellar-rats_. He gave me to
  understand that he concealed his wine because of the excise, and his
  bread on account of the tax, and that he was a lost man if they got
  the slightest inkling that he was not dying of hunger. Everything he
  said to me touching this matter, whereof, indeed, I had not the
  slightest idea, produced an impression on me that can never be
  effaced. It became the germ of that inextinguishable hatred that
  afterward sprang up in my heart against the vexations to which these
  poor people are subject, and against their oppressors. This man,
  though in easy circumstances, dared not eat the bread he had gained by
  the sweat of his brow, and could escape ruin only by presenting the
  appearance of the same misery that reigned around him.

A hideously false world, that world of French society was, in Rousseau's
time. The falseness was full ripe to be laid bare by some one; and
Rousseau's experience of life, as well as his temperament and his
genius, fitted him to do the work of exposure that he did. What one
emphatically calls character was sadly wanting in Rousseau--how sadly,
witness such an acted piece of mad folly as the following:

  I, without knowing aught of the matter, ... gave myself out for a
  [musical] composer. Nor was this all: having been presented to M. de
  Freytorens, law professor, who loved music, and gave concerts at his
  house, nothing would do but I must give him a sample of my talent; so
  I set about composing a piece for his concert quite as boldly as
  though I had really been an adept in the science. I had the constancy
  to work for fifteen days on this fine affair, to copy it fair, write
  out the different parts, and distribute them with as much assurance as
  though it had been a masterpiece of harmony. Then, what will scarcely
  be believed, but which yet is gospel truth, worthily to crown this
  sublime production I tacked to the end thereof a pretty minuet which
  was then having a run on the streets.... I gave it as my own just as
  resolutely as though I had been speaking to inhabitants of the moon.

  They assembled to perform my piece. I explain to each the nature of
  the movement, the style of execution, and the relations of the
  parts--I was very full of business. For five or six minutes they were
  tuning; to me each minute seemed an age. At length, all being ready, I
  rap with a handsome paper _bâton_ on the leader's desk the five or six
  beats of the "_Make ready_." Silence is made--I gravely set to beating
  time--they commence! No, never since French operas began, was there
  such a _charivari_ heard. Whatever they might have thought of my
  pretended talent, the effect was worse than they could possibly have
  imagined. The musicians choked with laughter; the auditors opened
  their eyes and would fain have closed their ears. But that was an
  impossibility. My tormenting set of symphonists, who seemed rather to
  enjoy the fun, scraped away with a din sufficient to crack the
  tympanum of one born deaf. I had the firmness to go right ahead,
  however, sweating, it is true, at every pore, but held back by shame;
  not daring to retreat, and glued to the spot. For my consolation I
  heard the company whispering to each other, quite loud enough for it
  to reach my ear: "It is not bearable!" said one. "What music gone
  mad!" cried another. "What a devilish din!" added a third. Poor Jean
  Jacques, little dreamedst thou, in that cruel moment, that one day
  before the king of France and all the court, thy sounds would excite
  murmurs of surprise and applause, and that in all the boxes around
  thee the loveliest ladies would burst forth with, "What charming
  sounds! what enchanting music! every strain reaches the heart!"

  But what restored every one to good humor was the minuet. Scarcely had
  they played a few measures than I heard bursts of laughter break out
  on all hands. Every one congratulated me on my fine musical taste;
  they assured me that this minuet would make me spoken about, and that
  I merited the louded praises. I need not attempt depicting my agony,
  nor own that I well deserved it.

Readers have now had an opportunity to judge for themselves, by
specimen, of the style, both of the writer and of the man Jean Jacques
Rousseau. The writer's style they must have felt even through the medium
of imperfect anonymous translation, to be a charming one. If they have
felt the style of the man to be contrasted, as squalor is contrasted
with splendor, that they must not suppose to be a contrast of which Jean
Jacques himself, the confessor, was in the least displacently conscious.
Far from it. In the latter part of his "Confessions," a part that deals
with the author as one already now acknowledged a power in the world of
letters, though with all his chief works still to write, Rousseau speaks
thus of himself (he was considering at the time the ways and means
available to him of obtaining a livelihood):

  I felt that writing for bread would soon have extinguished my genius,
  and destroyed my talents, which were less in my pen than in my heart,
  and solely proceeded from an elevated and noble manner of thinking....
  It is too difficult to think nobly when we think for a livelihood.

Is not that finely said? And one need not doubt that it was said with
perfect sincerity. For our own part, paradoxical though it be to declare
it, we are wholly willing to insist that Rousseau did think on a lofty
plane. The trouble with him was, not that he thus thought with his
heart, rather than with his head--which, however, he did--but that he
thought with his heart alone, and not at all with his conscience and his
will. In a word, his thought was sentiment rather than thought. He was a
sentimentalist instead of a thinker. One illustration of the divorce
that he decreed for himself, or rather--for we have used too positive a
form of expression--that he allowed to subsist, between sentiment and
conduct, will suffice. It was presently to be his fortune, as author of
a tract on education (the "Emile"), to change the habit of a nation in
the matter of the nurture for babes. French mothers of the higher social
class in Rousseau's time almost universally gave up their infants to be
nursed at alien bosoms. Rousseau so eloquently denounced the
unnaturalness of this, that from his time it became the fashion for
French mothers to suckle their children themselves. Meantime, the
preacher himself of this beautiful humanity, living in unwedded union
with a woman (not Madame de Warens, but a woman of the laboring class,
found after Madame de Warens was abandoned), sent his illegitimate
children, against the mother's remonstrance, one after another, to the
number of five, to be brought up unknown at the hospital for foundlings!
He tells the story himself in his "Confessions." This course on his own
part he subsequently laments with many tears and many self-upbraidings.
But these, alas, he intermingles with self-justifications, nearly as
many--so that at last it is hard to say whether the balance of his
judgment inclines for or against himself in the matter. A paradox of
inconsistencies and self-contradictions, this man--a problem in human
character, of which the supposition of partial insanity in him, long
working subtly in the blood, seems the only solution. The occupation
finally adopted by Rousseau for obtaining subsistence was the copying of
music. It extorts from one a measure of involuntary respect for
Rousseau, to see patiently toiling at this slavish work, to earn its
owner bread, the same pen which had lately set all Europe in ferment
with the "Emile" and "The Social Contract."

From Rousseau's "Confessions," we have not room to purvey further. It is
a melancholy book--written under monomaniac suspicion on the part of the
author that he was the object of a wide-spread conspiracy against his
reputation, his peace of mind, and even his life. The poor, shattered,
self-consumed sensualist and sentimentalist paid dear in the agonies of
his closing years for the indulgences of an unregulated life. The
tender-hearted, really affectionate, and loyal friend came at length to
live in a world of his own imagination, full of treachery to himself.
David Hume, the Scotchman, tried to befriend him; but the monomaniac was
incapable of being befriended. Nothing could be more pitiful than were
the decline and the extinction that occurred of so much brilliant
genius, and so much lovable character. It is even doubtful whether
Rousseau did not at last take his own life. The voice of accusation is
silenced in the presence of an earthly retribution so dreadful. One may
not indeed approve, but one may at least be free to pity, more than he
blames, in judging Rousseau.

Accompanying, and in some sort complementing the "Confessions," are
often published several detached pieces called "Reveries," or "Walks."
These are very peculiar compositions, and very characteristic of the
author. They are dreamy meditations or reveries, sad, even somber, in
spirit, but "beautiful exceedingly," in form of expression. Such works
as the "René" of Chateaubriand, works but too abundant since in French
literature, must all trace their pedigree to Rousseau's "Walks."

This author's books in general are now little read. They worked their
work and ceased. But there are in some of them passages that continue to
live. Of these, perhaps quite the most famous is the "Savoyard Curate's
Confession of Faith," a document of some length, incorporated into the
"Émile." This, taken as a whole, is the most seductively eloquent
argument against Christianity that perhaps ever was written. It
contains, however, concessions to the sublime elevation of Scripture and
to the unique virtue and majesty of Jesus, which are often quoted, and
which will bear quoting here. The Savoyard Curate is represented
speaking to a young friend as follows:--

  I will confess to you further, that the majesty of the Scriptures
  strikes me with admiration, as the purity of the gospel hath its
  influence on my heart. Peruse the works of our philosophers with all
  their pomp of diction; how mean, how contemptible, are they, compared
  with the Scripture! Is it possible that a book at once so simple and
  sublime should be merely the work of man? Is it possible that the
  Sacred Personage, whose history it contains, should be himself a mere
  man? Do we find that he assumed the tone of an enthusiast or ambitious
  sectary? What sweetness, what purity, in his manners! What an
  affecting gracefulness in his delivery! What sublimity in his maxims!
  What profound wisdom in his discourses! What presence of mind, what
  subtilty, what truth, in his replies! How great the command over his
  passions! Where is the man, where the philosopher, who could so live
  and die, without weakness and without ostentation? When Plato
  described his imaginary good man loaded with all the shame of guilt,
  yet meriting the highest reward of virtue, he described exactly the
  character of Jesus Christ: the resemblance was so striking that all
  the Fathers perceived it.

  What prepossession, what blindness, must it be to compare the son of
  Sophroniscus to the Son of Mary! What an infinite disproportion there
  is between them! Socrates, dying without pain or ignominy, easily
  supported his character to the last; and if his death, however easy,
  had not crowned his life, it might have been doubted whether Socrates,
  with all his wisdom, was anything more than a vain sophist. He
  invented, it is said, the theory of morals. Others, however, had
  before put them in practice; he had only to say what they had done,
  and reduce their examples to precepts. Aristides had been _just_
  before Socrates defined justice; Leonidas gave up his life for his
  country before Socrates declared patriotism to be a duty; the Spartans
  were a sober people before Socrates recommended sobriety; before he
  had even defined virtue Greece abounded in virtuous men. But where
  could Jesus learn, among his compatriots, that pure and sublime
  morality of which he only has given us both precept and example? The
  greatest wisdom was made known amidst the most bigoted fanaticism, and
  the simplicity of the most heroic virtues did honor to the vilest
  people on the earth. The death of Socrates, peaceably philosophizing
  with his friends, appears the most agreeable that could be wished for;
  that of Jesus, expiring in the midst of agonizing pains, abused,
  insulted, cursed by a whole nation, is the most horrible that could be
  feared. Socrates, in receiving the cup of poison, blessed indeed the
  weeping executioner who administered it; but Jesus, in the midst of
  excruciating tortures, prayed for his merciless tormentors. Yes, if
  the life and death of Socrates are those of a sage, the life and death
  of Jesus are those of a God. Shall we suppose the evangelic history a
  mere fiction? Indeed, my friend, it bears not the marks of fiction; on
  the contrary, the history of Socrates, which nobody presumes to doubt,
  is not so well attested as that of Jesus Christ. Such a supposition,
  in fact, only shifts the difficulty without removing it; it is more
  inconceivable that a number of persons should agree to write such a
  history, than that one only should furnish the subject of it. The
  Jewish authors were incapable of the diction, and strangers to the
  morality contained in the Gospel, the marks of whose truth are so
  striking and inimitable that the inventor would be a more astonishing
  character than the hero.

So far in eloquent ascription of incomparable excellence to the Bible
and to the Founder of Christianity. But then immediately Rousseau's
Curate proceeds:--

  And yet, with all this, the same Gospel abounds with incredible
  relations, with circumstances repugnant to reason, and which it is
  impossible for a man of sense either to conceive or admit.

The compliment to Christianity almost convinces you--until suddenly you
are apprised that the author of the compliment was not convinced
himself!

Jean Jacques Rousseau, in the preface to his "Confessions," appealed
from the judgment of men to the judgment of God. This judgment it was
his habit, to the end of his days, thanks to the effect of his early
Genevan education, always to think of as certainly impending. Let us
adjourn our final sentence upon him until we hear that Omniscient award.


In pendant to what we have said and have shown of Rousseau, some notice
may here properly be given of another celebrated writer, or writer
perhaps we should say of a celebrated book, who stands to Rousseau in
the relation of sequel and echo. We mean ST. PIERRE, the author of "Paul
and Virginia."

This is a very famous little classic. It is a kind of prose idyll, a
pastoral of lowly and simple life, a life lived by the subjects of it in
the spirit of return to the conditions of nature, such as Jean Jacques
Rousseau idealized the conditions of nature to be. The author's own
personal experience furnished him the hint, the ground, and the
material, of his bucolic romance. It had happened to St. Pierre, in the
course of a somewhat fruitless and vagabond life, to be sent in an
official capacity to Mauritius, or the Isle of France. In this remote
island, as in a kind of Utopia, the scene of the story of "Paul and
Virginia" is laid.

St. Pierre was already thirty-one years old when he took his distant
voyage; he stayed three years in Mauritius, and then he waited sixteen
years, becoming therefore, fifty years old, before he made use of what
he had experienced in publishing his romance of "Paul and Virginia." He
had meantime seen a great deal of Rousseau during the latter's declining
years, and from him had learned that art of writing by virtue of which
he was destined to constitute the second of succession in a literary
line to be continued after him in Chateaubriand and Lamartine, in Madame
de Stael and George Sand.

It is the historical importance thus attaching to St. Pierre's name,
even more perhaps than it is the merit and the fame of his books, or of
his book--for of his books other than "Paul and Virginia," we need not
trouble our readers with even the titles--that warrants us in listing
him, as we do, among the select "immortals" of French literature. St.
Pierre's distinguishing note was the supposed return to nature and to
natural unsophisticated sentiment accomplished in his writings.

But the return, with him, was by no means completely satisfactory. There
was always something unreal in St. Pierre's passion for nature; and the
feeling with which he wrote seems, to us of to-day, to have been neither
very deep nor very sincere. Still, all was accepted and was highly
effective in its time; Europe was flooded with tears in reading "Paul
and Virginia," much as afterward it was flooded with tears in reading an
equally notable, but far less wholesome book, that prose masterpiece of
the youthful Goethe, "The Sorrows of Werther." The "Corinne" of Madame
de Stael afterward, later the "Jocelyn" of Lamartine, later again the
passionate earlier novels of George Sand, served to their respective
fresh generations of readers a somewhat similar office, that of
stimulating and of expressing the vague longing and aspiration of youth.

The plot of "Paul and Virginia" is simplicity itself. Two young French
widows--widows we may euphemistically call the women both, though the
mother of Paul had never been married--meet, strangers to each other, in
Mauritius, and their children, Paul and Virginia respectively, grow up
from babyhood together, as if brother and sister, in a state of nature
such as never was anywhere in the world outside of a romance, until at
last, Virginia undertaking a vain voyage to France to bring round a rich
alienated aunt of her mother's, perishes by shipwreck on her return; in
prompt sequel of which calamity, all the remaining personages of the
tale, down to the very dog, naturally and sentimentally, one after
another, die. The story is represented as told to a traveler in the Isle
of France by a sympathetic old man who had been an eye-witness of all.

Two extracts, one from the beginning, and one from the end, of the
romance, will sufficiently indicate its quality.

Paul and Virginia being now about twelve years of age, Virginia goes,
accompanied by Paul, to restore to the master a runaway female slave to
whom he had been cruel, and to intercede with him on the sufferer's
behalf. She has accomplished her purpose, and the two have set out to
return. They lose their way. This is the state of the case at the point
at which our first extract begins, as follows:

  "God will have pity on us," replied Virginia; "he listens to the voice
  of the little birds which ask him for food." She had scarcely uttered
  these words when they heard the noise of water falling from a
  neighboring rock. They hastened to it, and, after having quenched
  their thirst at this spring clearer than crystal, they gathered and
  ate a few cresses which grew on its banks. As they were looking around
  them to find some more substantial nourishment, Virginia descried a
  young palm-tree among the trees of the wood. The cabbage which is
  found at the top of this tree, inclosed within its leaves, is an
  excellent food; but although its stalk is not thicker than a man's leg
  it was more than sixty feet high. The wood of this tree is indeed
  composed only of a collection of filaments; but its internal bark is
  so hard that it blunts the sharpest hatchets, and Paul had not even a
  knife. He thought of setting fire to this palm-tree at its foot.
  Another difficulty--he had no steel to strike fire with, and besides,
  in this island so covered with rocks, I do not believe it would be
  possible to find a single flint. Necessity inspires industry, and
  often the most useful inventions have come from men reduced to
  extremity. Paul resolved to light a fire after the manner of the
  negroes. With the sharp end of a stone he made a small hole in the
  branch of a tree that was very dry, which he placed under his feet; he
  then with the edge of the stone made a point to another branch
  equally dry, but of a different kind of wood. He next placed the piece
  of pointed wood in the small hole of the branch which was under his
  feet, and turning it rapidly round in his hands, as one turns a mill
  to froth chocolate, he in a few moments perceived smoke and sparks
  arise from the point of contact. He collected together dry herbs and
  other branches of trees, and set fire to the foot of the palm-tree,
  which soon afterward fell with a violent noise. The fire served him
  also in stripping the cabbage of the long woody and prickly leaves
  which enclosed it. Virginia and he ate a part of this cabbage raw, and
  the rest cooked in the ashes, and they found them equally agreeable to
  the taste.... After their meal ... an hour of walking brought them to
  the banks of a large river, which barred their way.... The noise of
  its waters terrified Virginia; she dared not try to ford it. Paul
  accordingly took Virginia on his back, and passed thus laden over the
  slippery rocks of the river, regardless of the turbulence of the
  waters. "Fear not," said he to her; "I feel myself very strong with
  you." ... When Paul had passed over, and was on the bank, he wished to
  continue his journey laden with his sister, flattering himself that he
  could ascend in that manner the mountain of the Three Peaks, which he
  saw before him at the distance of half a league; but his strength soon
  began to fail, and he was obliged to set her on the ground and to
  throw himself down beside her.... Virginia plucked from an old tree,
  which hung over the banks of the river, some long leaves of hart's
  tongue which hung down from its trunk. She made of these a kind of
  buskins with which she bound her feet, which the stones of the way had
  caused to bleed, for in her hurry to do good she had forgotten to put
  on her shoes. Feeling herself relieved by the freshness of the leaves
  she broke off a branch of bamboo and began to walk, leaning with one
  hand on the cane and with the other on her brother.

  In this manner they walked on slowly through the woods; but the height
  of the trees and the thickness of their foliage made them soon lose
  sight of the mountain of the Three Peaks, by which they had directed
  themselves, and even of the sun, which was already setting. After some
  time they quitted, without perceiving it, the beaten path which they
  had till then followed, and found themselves in a labyrinth of trees,
  shrubs, and rocks, which had no farther outlet. Paul made Virginia sit
  down, and ran almost distracted in search of a path out of this thick
  wood; but he wearied himself in vain. He climbed to the top of a lofty
  tree, to discover at least the mountain of the Three Peaks, but he
  could perceive nothing around him but tops of trees, some of which
  were illuminated by the last rays of the setting sun. Already the
  shadow of the mountains covered the forests in the valleys; the wind
  was going down, as is usual at sunset; a profound silence reigned in
  these solitudes, and no noise was heard but the cry of the stags who
  came to seek repose in these unfrequented recesses. Paul, in the hope
  that some hunter might hear him, cried out as loud as he could:
  "Come! Come! and help Virginia!" But only the echoes of the forest
  answered to his voice and repeated several times successively:
  "Virginia! Virginia!"

  Paul now descended from the tree, overcome with fatigue and
  disappointment; ... he began to weep. Virginia said to him: "Do not
  weep, my dear, unless you wish to overwhelm me with grief.... O! I
  have been very imprudent." And she began to shed tears. Nevertheless,
  she said to Paul, "Let us pray to God, my brother, and he will have
  pity on us." Scarcely had they finished their prayer when they heard
  the barking of a dog.... "I believe," said Virginia, "it is Fidèle,
  our house-dog."

Of course all turned out happily. A rescue party had come in search of
the estray, and they were soon brought with rejoicing home.

Such as the foregoing passage will have served to show is the charm of
unfallen simplicity and innocence represented by St. Pierre to have been
cast, forming as if an Eden in the wilderness, about these happy
children of nature on whom society had had no chance to exercise its
baneful power. True, they suffered, though in Eden. True, others sinned,
as well as suffered, about them, for there was slavery and there was
cruelty; but that was in the wilderness outside; in Eden they did not
sin. It was all Rousseauism in experiment and reduced to absurdity. By
Rousseauism we indicate the doctrinal dream of that dreamer; by no means
the actual waking practice of the man that dreamed.

It may seem a strange marring of the idea of a sufficiency in nature,
let nature but be unhindered by society, to renew the world in the
purity of paradise, that the end of the idyll of Paul and Virginia
should have come about through an effort on the part of Virginia's
mother, made quite in the spirit of the present artificial order of
things, to secure a bequest from an aunt of hers in France, whom the
niece had offended by marrying as she did; but so it was. Virginia
undertakes the necessary voyage, and, as we have already said, perishes
by shipwreck on the coast of Mauritius in returning. The heart-rending
agony of the final catastrophe we have no space to exhibit. The author
seems to hint that Virginia might have been saved, could she have
brought herself to assent to the desire of an entreating honest
stalwart seaman that she should disembarrass her person of her clothes.
It is almost the step taken from the sublime to the ridiculous for the
author to make his heroine perish thus as a martyr to her own invincible
modesty.

The bereaved mother has visions of her departed daughter's accomplished
felicity in the world unseen. These she describes to the neighbor, who,
a venerable old man, tells the traveler the tale. Now for the final
extract from the text of the book:

  "O my worthy neighbor!" said she [Paul's mother] to me [the old man
  who tells the whole story]: "I thought last night I beheld Virginia
  clothed in white, in the midst of groves and delicious gardens. She
  said to me: 'I enjoy the most desirable happiness.' Then she
  approached Paul with a smiling air and bore him away with her. As I
  endeavored to retain my son I felt that I myself was quitting the
  earth, and that I was following him with inexpressible pleasure. I
  then wished to bid my friend farewell, when I perceived her following
  us with Mary and Domingo. [These are negro slaves of the two mothers.]
  But what seems still more strange is, that Madame de la Tour
  [Virginia's mother] had the same night a dream attended with similar
  circumstances."

  I replied to her, "My friend, I believe that nothing happens in the
  world without the permission of God. Dreams do sometimes foretell the
  truth."

  Madame de la Tour related to me that the same night she had also had a
  dream entirely similar. I had never observed in these two ladies the
  least propensity to superstition; I was therefore struck with the
  resemblance of their dreams, and I had no doubt but that they would be
  soon realized. This opinion, that truth sometimes presents itself to
  us during our sleep, is generally spread among all the nations of the
  earth. The most illustrious men of antiquity have entertained it,
  amongst others, Alexander, Cæsar, the Scipios, the two Catos, and
  Brutus, who were by no means inclined to superstition. The Old and the
  New Testament supply us with a variety of examples of dreams that have
  been realized....

  But whether this opinion concerning dreams be true or not, those of my
  unfortunate friends were speedily realized. Paul died two months after
  the death of his dear Virginia, whose name he incessantly pronounced.
  Margaret [Paul's mother] beheld her end approach a week after that of
  her son with a joy which virtue only can feel. She bade Madame de la
  Tour the most tender farewell, "in the hope," she said, "of a sweet
  and eternal reunion. Death is the greatest of all blessings," added
  she; "we ought to desire it. If life be a punishment we ought to wish
  for its end; if it be a trial, we should wish it short."

  The governor took care of Domingo and Mary, who were no longer able to
  labor, and who did not long survive their mistresses. As for poor
  Fidèle, he pined away about the same time as he lost his master.

  I conducted Madame de la Tour to my house. She bore up under these
  heavy afflictions with an incredible fortitude of mind. She had
  comforted Paul and Margaret up to their last moments, as if she had
  only their misfortune to support. When she no longer beheld them, she
  spoke of them every day as of beloved friends who were in the
  neighborhood. She survived them, however, but a month....

  The body of Paul was placed by the side of Virginia, at the foot of
  the same bamboos; and near the same spot the remains of their tender
  mothers and their faithful servants were laid. No marble was raised
  over their humble turf, no inscription engraved to celebrate their
  virtues; but their memory remains indelible in the hearts of those
  whom they have assisted.

If we have treated somewhat lightly this romance of sentimentalism and
of naturalism it is because of the taint of ungenuineness--that is, of
unreality more or less conscious on the author's part--that we seem to
ourselves to discover in its pages. But the masterpiece of Bernardin de
St. Pierre is after all a serious literary fact. For instance, if "Paul
and Virginia" had never been written it is doubtful if we should ever
have had that series of romantico-realistic little pieces of fiction
from the pen of George Sand, out of one of which we shall presently
exemplify this woman of genius to our readers. A production in
literature is to be judged not only by its own inherent quality, but
also, perhaps not less by its entail of influence.

"Paul and Virginia," in becoming a school-book for the learning of
French, may be said to have bought increase of celebrity at the price of
some diminution in fame. In our own opinion, however, which, after all
that we have said, hardly needs to be thus expressly stated, the book
still remains quite as famous as its intrinsic merits entitle it to be.
Its chief security of renown in the future lies, and will continue more
and more to lie, in the striking fact of its renown in the past.

We formally part with Rousseau and with his first literary foster-child.
But we shall trace their features still, again and again, persisting in
authors to follow who could not escape a tell-tale impress, open to all
to see, stamped from that singularly fecund, and singularly potent,
literary paternity.



XVIII.

THE ENCYCLOPÆDISTS.


A cenotaph is a monument erected to the memory of one dead, but not
marking the spot in which his remains rest. The present chapter is a
cenotaph to the French Encyclopædists. It is in the nature of a memorial
of their literary work, but it will be found to contain no specimen
extracts from their writings.

Everybody has heard of the Encyclopædists of France. Who are they? They
are a group of men who, during the eighteenth century, associated
themselves together for the production of a great work to be the
repository of all human knowledge,--in one word, of an encyclopædia. The
project was a laudable one; and the motive to it was laudable--in part.
For there was mixture of motive in the case. In part, the motive was
simple desire to advance the cause of human enlightenment; in part,
however, the motive was desire to undermine Christianity. This latter
end the encyclopædist collaborators may have thought to be an
indispensable means subsidiary to the former end. They probably did
think so--with such imperfect sincerity as is possible to those who set
themselves, consciously or unconsciously, against God. The fact is, that
the Encyclopædists came at length to be nearly as much occupied in
extinguishing Christianity as in promoting public enlightenment. They
went about this their task of destroying in a way as effective as has
ever been devised for accomplishing a similar work. They gave a vicious
turn of insinuation against Christianity to as many articles as
possible. In the most unexpected places, throughout the entire work,
pitfalls were laid of anti-Christian implication, awaiting the unwary
feet of the explorer of its pages. You were nowhere sure of your ground.
The world has never before seen, it has never seen since, an example of
propagandism altogether so adroit and so alert. It is not too much to
say further that history can supply few instances of propagandism so
successful. The Encyclopædists might almost be said to have given the
human mind a fresh start and a new orbit. The fresh start is, perhaps,
spent; the new orbit has at length, to a great extent, returned upon the
old; but it holds true, nevertheless, that the Encyclopædists of France
were for a time, and that not a short time, a prodigious force of
impulsion and direction to the Occidental mind. It ought to be added
that the aim of the Encyclopædists was political also, not less than
religious. In truth, religion and politics, Church and State, in their
day, and in France, were much the same thing. The "Encyclopædia" was as
revolutionary in politics as it was atheistic in religion.

The leader in this movement of insurrectionary thought was Denis
DIDEROT. Diderot (1713-1784) was born to be an encyclopædist, and a
captain of encyclopædists. Force inexhaustible, and inexhaustible
willingness to give out force; unappeasable curiosity to know;
irresistible impulse to impart knowledge; versatile capacity to do every
thing, carried to the verge, if not carried beyond the verge, of
incapacity to do anything thoroughly well; quenchless zeal and
quenchless hope; levity enough of temper to keep its subject free from
those depressions of spirit and those cares of conscience which weigh
and wear on the overearnest man; abundant physical health--gifts such as
these made up the manifold equipment of Diderot for rowing and steering
the gigantic enterprise of the "Encyclopædia" triumphantly to the port
of final completion, through many and many a zone of stormy adverse wind
and sea, traversed on the way. Diderot produced no signal independent
and original work of his own; probably he could not have produced such a
work. On the other hand, it is simply just to say that hardly anybody
but Diderot could have achieved the "Encyclopædia." That, indeed, may
be considered an achievement not more to the glory than to the shame of
its author; but whatever its true moral character, in whatever
proportion shameful or glorious, it is inalienably and peculiarly
Diderot's achievement--at least in this sense, that without Diderot the
"Encyclopædia" would never have been achieved.

We have already, in discussing Voltaire, adverted sufficiently to Mr.
John Morley's volumes in honor of Diderot and his compeers. Diderot is
therein ably presented in the best possible light to the reader; and we
are bound to say that, despite Mr. Morley's friendly endeavors, Diderot
therein appears very ill. He married a young woman whose simple and
touching self-sacrifice on her husband's behalf he presently requited by
giving himself away, body and soul, to a rival. In his writings he is so
easily insincere that not unfrequently it is a problem, even for his
biographer, to decide when he is expressing his sentiments truly and
when not, insomuch that, once and again, Mr. Morley himself is obliged
to say, "This is probably hypocritical on Diderot's part," or something
to that effect. As for filthy communication out of his mouth and from
his pen--not, of course, habitual, but occasional--the subject will not
bear more than this mention. These be thy gods, O Atheism! one, in
reading Mr. Morley on Diderot, is tempted again and again to exclaim. To
offset such lowness of character in the man it must in justice be added
that Diderot was, notwithstanding, of a generous, uncalculating turn of
mind, not grudging, especially in intellectual relations, to give of his
best to others, expecting nothing again. Diderot, too, as well as
Voltaire, had his royal or imperial friends, in the notorious Empress
Catherine of Russia, and in King Stanislaus of Poland. He visited
Catherine once in her capital, and was there munificently entertained by
her. She was regally pleased to humor this gentleman of France,
permitting him to bring down his fist in gesture violently on the
redoubtable royal knee, according to a pleasant way Diderot had of
emphasizing a point in familiar conversation. His truest claim to
praise for intellectual superiority is, perhaps, that he was a prolific
begetter of wit in other men.

D'ALEMBERT (Jean le Rond, 1717-1783) was an eminent mathematician. He
wrote especially, though not at first exclusively, on mathematical
subjects for the "Encyclopædia." He was, indeed, at the outset,
published as mathematical editor of the work. His European reputation in
science made his name a tower of strength to the "Encyclopædia,"--even
after he ceased to be an editorial coadjutor in the enterprise. For
there came a time when D'Alembert abdicated responsibility as editor and
left the undertaking to fall heavily on the single shoulder, Atlantean
shoulder it proved to be, of Diderot. The celebrated "Preliminary
Discourse," prefixed to the "Encyclopædia," proceeded from the hand of
D'Alembert. This has always been esteemed a masterpiece of comprehensive
grasp and lucid exposition. A less creditable contribution of
D'Alembert's to the "Encyclopædia" was his article on "Geneva," in the
course of which, at the instance of Voltaire, who wanted a chance to
have his plays represented in that city, he went out of his way to
recommend to the Genevans that they establish for themselves a theater.
This brought out Rousseau in an eloquent harangue against the theater as
exerting influence to debauch public morals. D'Alembert, in the contest,
did not carry off the honors of the day. D'Alembert's "Éloges," so
called, a series of characterizations and appreciations written by the
author in his old age, of members of the French Academy, enjoy deserved
reputation for sagacious intellectual estimate, and for clear, though
not supremely elegant, style of composition.

Diderot and D'Alembert are the only men whose names appear on the
title-page of the "Encyclopædia;" but Voltaire, Rousseau, Turgot,
Helvétius, Duclos, Condillac, Buffon, Grimm, Holbach, with many besides
whom we must not stay even to mention, contributed to the work.

The influence of the "Encyclopædia," great during its day, is by no
means yet exhausted. But it is an influence indirectly exerted, for the
"Encyclopædia" itself has long been an obsolete work.

There is a legal maxim that the laws are silent when a state of war
exists. Certainly, amid the madness of a revolution such as, during the
closing years of the eighteenth century, the influence of Voltaire,
Rousseau, and the Encyclopædists, with Beaumarchais, reacting against
the accumulated political and ecclesiastical oppressions of ages,
precipitated upon France, it might safely be assumed that letters would
be silent. But the nation meantime was portentously preparing material
for a literature which many wondering centuries to follow would occupy
themselves with writing.



XIX.

MADAME DE STAEL.

1766-1817.


In Madame de Stael we encounter a truly redoubtable figure in
literature.

But Madame de Stael in her day seemed more than a writer, more even than
a writer of what the Germans would call world-importance; she was, or
she seemed, a prodigious living personal force. For her tongue was not
less formidable than her pen. In truth, the fame of Madame de Stael is
due to the twofold power which, during her life-time, she exercised, and
exercised in very uncertain proportions, first perhaps as a talker and
second as a writer. She is generally allowed, and that upon the most
incontestable authority, to have been one of the most brilliant and most
effective talkers in the history of the human race.

This power in Madame de Stael of personal impression you are not free to
ascribe to any charm that she owned of physical beauty; for Madame de
Stael was not a beautiful woman. By her friend, Madame Récamier, that
charm was exercised to the full, and that charm Madame de Stael, did
not despise. So far from it, she is said once (thus at least the present
writer seems to remember, but he has been unable to verify his
impression) passionately to have exclaimed that she would give all her
genius for one evening of Madame Récamier's beauty. This was not the
vanity on her part of wish to be admired. It was the pathos of longing
to be loved. "Never, never," she cried out in anguish, "I shall never be
loved as I love." She was true woman after all; and it would be
inexpiable wrong against her not to say this also, and say it with
emphasis, however sharply we may be just in pronouncing the masculine
strength of her character. The contrast was so obvious between Madame de
Stael and Madame Récamier in point of mere personal charm that, in a
moment evil for him, a gentleman once seated between them permitted
himself the awkwardness of saying, in ill-advised intention of
compliment to both, but with most unhappy chief effect to the contrary,
alike on this side and on that, "How fortunate! I sit between Wit and
Beauty." "Yes, and without possessing either the one or the other,"
retorted Wit, amply avenging herself for being reminded that she was not
also Beauty. Madame de Stael had certainly justified one half of the
gentleman's compliment; and Madame Récamier, with her serene ineffable
charm, did not need to speak in order to justify the other.

It was, then, by the pure dry light of her intellect and her wit that
Madame de Stael dazzled so in conversation--dazzled so, and so
attracted. Wherever she was, there was the center. She made a _salon_
anywhere, by simply being there. And Madame de Stael's _salon_ was felt
by the ruler of Europe to be a formidable political power implacably
hostile to himself. "Somehow," said Napoleon, "I observe that, whatever
is talked about at Madame de Stael's, those who go there come away
thinking less favorably of me." It seems to have been in part because
she said nothing, and would say nothing, of Napoleon in her "Germany,"
that he finally suppressed that book. "You will speak ill of me when you
get back to your academy," said to Plato the tyrant of Syracuse. "In
the academy we shall not have time to speak of you at all," was the
philosopher's reply.

Madame de Stael was singularly fortunate in heredity on both sides of
her parentage. Her father was an eminent banker and minister of finance,
who enjoyed the noblest and clearest renown as a man both of talent and
of character. Her mother was that beautiful and gifted daughter of a
Swiss pastor whom the historian Gibbon once thought he loved, but whom
he dutifully gave up at the will of his father. "I sighed as a lover and
obeyed as a son," Gibbon says in his "Autobiography." This was after
years had passed with him--"years that bring the philosophic mind!" The
obese but famous English historian, still a bachelor, was a frequent
guest at the house of M. Necker, where he had the opportunity gallantly
to admire the brilliant daughter of the woman who might have been his
wife.

We have said enough to show that, with the exception of personal beauty,
Madame de Stael enjoyed every external advantage that could help to give
her a shining career. Her wealth was something more than a mere
accessory advantage; she needed it to sustain her in the waste of money
made necessary by her wanderings through Europe to escape the tyrannous
hand of Napoleon. Her exile was agony to her, for she loved France, and
she loved Paris with inextinguishable affection. It is impossible to
deny to the obstinacy that refused to burn even a pinch of incense to
the god of her nation's idolatry, for the sake of permission to return
to every thing that she loved--it is impossible, we say, to deny to this
obstinacy in Madame de Stael the title of a true and heroic virtue.

How costly-brave was the attitude that Madame de Stael steadfastly kept
toward Napoleon, during the fifteen years of his unparalleled sway, may
be guessed from the account that she gives of the unnerving, the
prostrating effect upon her of the presence, the character, and the
genius of that extraordinary man. In her "Reflections on the French
Revolution" she has the following passage, almost equally striking
whether taken as a description or as a confession:

  Far from gaining re-assurance in meeting Buonaparte oftener, he
  intimidated me daily more and more. I confusedly felt that no emotion
  of the heart could possibly take effect upon him. He looks upon a
  human being as a fact or as a thing, but not as a fellow-creature. He
  does not hate any more than he loves; there is nothing for him but
  himself; all other beings are so many ciphers. The force of his will
  lies in the imperturbable calculation of his selfishness.... His
  successes are as much to be credited to the qualities which he lacks
  as to the talents which he possesses. Neither pity, nor attraction,
  nor religion, nor attachment to any idea whatsoever, could make him
  swerve from the main path he had chosen. Every time I heard him talk I
  was struck with his superiority; this, however, had no resemblance to
  the superiority of men trained and cultivated by study or by society,
  a class of which England and France can offer examples. But his
  courses of remark indicated a tact for seizing upon circumstances like
  that which the hunter has for seizing upon his prey. Sometimes he
  recounted the political and military incidents of his life in a manner
  to interest greatly; he had even, in narrations that admitted gayety,
  a trace of Italian imagination. Still, nothing could get the better of
  my revulsion for what I perceived in him. I felt, in his soul, a
  sword, cold and cutting, that froze while it wounded; I felt, in his
  mind, a fundamental irony from which nothing great, nothing beautiful,
  not his own glory even, could escape; for he despised the nation whose
  suffrages he sought; and no single spark of enthusiasm mixed with his
  wish to astonish mankind.

  It was during the interval between the return of Buonaparte (from
  Italy), and his setting out for Egypt toward the end of 1787, that I
  several times saw him in Paris; and never could I overcome the
  difficulty which I experienced in breathing in his presence. I was one
  day seated at table between him and the Abbé Sieyès; singular
  situation, could I have foreseen the future! [Sieyès, two years later,
  became one in a triumvirate of "consuls," of whom Napoleon was
  another.] I scrutinized carefully the face of Napoleon; but every time
  he detected my observing glances he had the art to rob his eyes of all
  expression, as if they were changed to marble. His countenance was
  then immobile, save a vague smile that he brought upon his lips at a
  venture, in order to throw out any one who might wish to mark the
  external signs of his thought.

It was not a light thing, and Madame de Stael did not feel it a light
thing, to hold out as she did, never once dipping her colors, against
the will and the power of the man whom she thus describes.

This passionate woman of genius, twice linked by marriage in a union
marked by violent and opposite disparities of age--for the second
husband was as much younger as the first was older than she--sought
satisfaction for her hungry desire of love in "relations," if not
ambiguous, at least apparently ambiguous, with men other than her
husbands. One of these men was Benjamin Constant, whose conversational
powers, exercised in partnership, never in rivalship, with Madame de
Stael, helped make the society in which they shone as twin stars
together, the admiration, the envy, the despair, of cultivated Europe.
Benjamin Constant, as Madame de Stael's companion of travel in Germany,
was no doubt part, though August Wilhelm Schlegel was part still
greater, of the vitalizing intellectual influence that helped her
produce her work on that country. Schlegel, by the way, had previously
accompanied Madame de Stael in that Italian tour and sojourn of hers,
the fruit of which was the novel, or the book of travels, or both in
one, entitled "Corinne." This book was the first of her books to give
its author a European fame. Besides being studied as a text-book in the
schools, "Corinne" is still read as a production important in literary
history.

The "De l'Allemagne" (literally "Concerning Germany") is generally
esteemed the masterpiece of its author. From this we draw our
illustrations by specimen of the literary quality of Madame de Stael.
The "Germany" may be said to have first introduced that country to
France, almost to Europe in general. Its scope is comprehensive. It
describes Germany in a great variety of aspects; but it is on the
literature of Germany that it expends its strength.

Madame de Stael's "Preface" to her "Germany," written in England, where,
after its arbitrary suppression in France, the volume was finally
published, is an interesting bit of reading. Witness one or two
extracts:

  My bookseller took upon himself the responsibility of the publication
  of my book, after submitting it to the censors....

  At the moment when the work was about to appear, and when the 10,000
  copies of the first edition had been actually printed off, the
  minister of the police, known under the name of General Savary, sent
  his officers to the bookseller's, with orders to tear the whole
  edition in pieces, and to place sentinels at the different entrances
  to the warehouse, for fear a single copy of this dangerous writing
  should escape.

What a glimpse is there incidentally afforded of the intolerable
despotism of Napoleon!

Madame de Stael thinks silently of her lovely and beloved friend Madame
Récamier, who had suffered from Napoleon by her relation with the exiled
woman of letters, when still in her preface she writes:

  Some of my friends were banished, because they had had the generosity
  to come and see me; this was too much: to carry with us the contagion
  of misfortune, not to dare to associate with those we love, to be
  afraid to write to them, or pronounce their names, to be the object by
  turns, either of affectionate attentions which make us tremble for
  those who show them, or of those refinements of baseness which terror
  inspires, is a situation from which every one, who still values life,
  would withdraw!

We advance into the body of the work.

The German Lessing had himself found in his literary countrymen the same
fault that Madame de Stael, near the beginning of her book, points out
as follows:

  In literature, as in politics, the Germans have too much respect for
  foreigners, and not enough of national prejudices. In individuals it
  is a virtue, this denial of self, and this esteem of others; but the
  patriotism of nations ought to be selfish.

Bismarck and Moltke in politics and in war, Herman Grimm, for example,
in literature, with his appalling claim for Goethe's "Faust," as the
"greatest work of the greatest poet of all nations and times," have
lately "changed all that." The fault of Germany now is not over-modesty.

The boundless freedom, nay, audacity, of speculative thought indulged by
the Germans is stimulantly contrasted with their strangely contented
subserviency (which then was) in more material matters. The sentence we
italicize below was canceled by Napoleon's censors, before their master
took the shorter method of canceling the book:

  The enlightened men of Germany dispute vehemently among themselves the
  dominion of speculations, and will suffer no shackles in this
  department; but they give up, without difficulty, all that is real in
  life to the powerful of the earth. _This real in life, so disdained by
  them, finds, however, those who make themselves possessors of it, and
  these, in the end, carry trouble and constraint even into the empire
  of the imagination._

The following passage concerning Voltaire and a particular production of
his pen is one of the most trenchantly critical expressions that the
reader would find in the whole course of the "Germany." The German name
of Leibnitz occurring in it will suggest the association of contrast by
which such a criticism of a Frenchman found its way into a book treating
of things German. Leibnitz had propounded a metaphysical theory of
universal optimism, which--like all philosophic hypotheses, even those
apparently least practical, let them once become widely entertained--was
having its influence on national thought and national character. With
Voltaire's "Candide" the readers of this volume will already have
acquired sufficient acquaintance to make Madame de Stael's remarks upon
it here presented additionally interesting:

  Voltaire so well perceived the influence that metaphysics exercise
  over the general bias of men's minds that to combat Leibnitz he wrote
  _Candide_. He took up a curious whim against final causes, optimism,
  free will, in short, against all the philosophical opinions that exalt
  the dignity of man; and he composed _Candide_, that work of a
  diabolical gayety, for it appears to be written by a being of a
  different nature from ourselves, insensible to our condition, well
  pleased with our sufferings, and laughing like a demon or an ape at
  the miseries of that human species with which he has nothing in
  common....

  _Candide_ brings into action that scoffing philosophy, so indulgent in
  appearance, in reality so ferocious; it presents human nature under
  the most lamentable point of view, and offers us, in the room of every
  consolation, the sardonic grin which frees us from all compassion for
  others by making us renounce it for ourselves.

When Madame de Stael comes in due course to speak of the masterpiece of
Goethe, his "Faust," she prepares her French readers to be shocked with
a first disappointment. She says:

  Certainly we must not expect to find in it either taste, or measure,
  or the art that selects and terminates, but if the imagination could
  figure to itself an intellectual chaos, such as the material chaos has
  often been described, the _Faust_ of Goethe should in propriety have
  been composed at that epoch.... The drama of _Faust_ certainly is not
  a good model. Whether it be considered as an offspring of the delirium
  of the mind, or of the satiety of reason, it is to be wished that such
  productions may not be multiplied; but when such a genius as that of
  Goethe sets itself free from all restrictions the crowd of thoughts is
  so great that on every side they break through and trample down the
  barriers of art.

We close our series of extracts by giving what this most brilliant among
the French women that have been at the same time great talkers and great
writers found to say of that high art of conversation in which her
countrymen surpass the world and in which she surpassed her countrymen:

  The _bon-mots_ of the French have been quoted from one end of Europe
  to the other. Always they have displayed the brilliancy of their merit
  and solaced their griefs in a lively and agreeable manner; always they
  have stood in need of one another, as listeners taking turns in mutual
  encouragement; always they have excelled in the art of knowing under
  what circumstances to speak, and even under what circumstances to keep
  still, when any commanding interest triumphs over their natural
  liveliness; always they have possessed the talent of living a quick
  life, of cutting short long discourses, of giving way to their
  successors who are desirous of speaking in their turn; always, in
  short, they have known how to take from thought and feeling no more
  than is necessary to animate conversation without overstaking the
  feeble interest which men generally feel for one another.

  The French are in the habit of treating their own misfortunes lightly
  from the fear of fatiguing their friends; they guess the weariness
  which they would occasion by that which they would experience.... The
  desire of appearing amiable induces men to assume an expression of
  gayety, whatever may be the inward disposition of the soul; the
  physiognomy by degrees influences the feelings, and that which we do
  for the purpose of pleasing others soon takes off the edge of our own
  individual sufferings.

  _A sensible woman has said that Paris is, of all the world, the place
  where men can most easily dispense with being happy._ [The foregoing
  italicized passage was, Madame de Stael says, "suppressed by the
  literary censorship under the pretext that there was so much happiness
  in Paris now that there was no need of doing without it."] ... But
  nothing can metamorphose a city of Germany into Paris.

  ... To succeed in conversation one must be able clearly to observe the
  impression produced at each moment on people, that which they wish to
  conceal, that which they seek to exaggerate, the inward satisfaction
  of some, the forced smile of others; one may see passing over the
  countenances of those who listen half formed censures which may be
  evaded by hastening to dissipate them before self-love is engaged on
  their side. One may also behold there the first birth of approbation,
  which may be strengthened without, however, exacting from it more
  than it is willing to bestow. There is no arena in which vanity
  displays itself in such a variety of forms as in conversation.

  I once knew a man who was agitated by praise to such a degree that
  whenever it was bestowed upon him he exaggerated what he had just said
  and took such pains to add to his success that he always ended in
  losing it. I never dared to applaud him from the fear of leading him
  to affectation and of his making himself ridiculous by the heartiness
  of his self-love. Another was so afraid of the appearance of wishing
  to display himself that he let fall words negligently and
  contemptuously; his assumed indolence only betrayed one more
  affectation, that of pretending to have none. When vanity displays
  herself, she is good-natured; when she hides herself, the fear of
  being discovered renders her sour, and she affects indifference,
  satiety, in short, whatever may persuade other men that she has no
  need of them. These different combinations are amusing for the
  observers, and one is always astonished that self-love does not take
  the course, which is so simple, of naturally avowing its desire to
  please, and making the utmost possible use of grace and truth to
  attain the object.

There is something in the foregoing strain of ascription from Madame de
Stael to the social virtues of the French which recalls that remarkable
character given by Pericles, in his noble funeral oration reported by
Thucydides, to the national spirit and habit of the Athenians in
contrast with those of their Spartan neighbors and enemies.

If of Madame de Stael the woman we shall in any respect have failed to
give a just idea, it will be by not having adequately represented the
generosity of her character. Her desire and her ability to shine should
not be permitted, in any one's conception of her, to obscure her
fondness and her fitness for loving and for being loved. Those who knew
her intimately bear touching testimony to this quality of womanliness in
the personal character of Madame de Stael. She was fundamentally an
amiable, as she was conspicuously a strenuous, spirit, and no mutations
in fashion or in taste will ever reduce her to less than a great
tradition in literature.



XX.

CHATEAUBRIAND.

1768-1848.


Chateaubriand--his is a faded fame. He was a false brilliant from the
first, but he glittered during his time like a veritable Mountain of
Light. Men hardly found out till he died that instead of being precious
stone he was nothing but paste.

Our figure misrepresents the fact. Chateaubriand was _not_ thus spurious
through and through. He had streaks of genuine in him. His true symbol
perhaps would be a common rubble-stone flawed splendidly with diamond.

The reaction of disparagement, which is now the critical vogue as to
Chateaubriand's personal and literary value, meets occasional stout
challenge from redoubtable voices. Mr. Matthew Arnold, for instance,
protests against it, triumphantly citing out of the author for whom he
stands up what certainly would read like the utterance of a mind both
large and noble, could one rid one's self of the feeling that
Chateaubriand in writing it had his own case chiefly in view, as
follows:

  It is a dangerous mistake, sanctioned, like so many other dangerous
  mistakes, by Voltaire, to suppose that the best works of imagination
  are those which draw the most tears.... The true tears are those which
  are called forth by the beauty of poetry; there must be as much
  admiration in them as sorrow.

The author of the foregoing, assuredly, excites with his pathos quite as
much admiration as sorrow.

Chateaubriand forms an essential link in the chain of literary history
for France. He constitutes almost the sole representative of French
literature for the period of the First Empire, so-called--that is, the
time of the supreme ascendency of Napoleon Bonaparte. Madame de Stael
alone needs to be named as his rival and peer. Chateaubriand, in his
day--and his day was a long one, for he outlived the empire, the
restoration, and the reign of Louis Philippe--was well-nigh an equal
power with Napoleon himself. In his own opinion, he was fully such; for
his self-complacency was unbounded.

Never in the history of letters did it twice happen to an author to be
better served by opportunity than in two cases was Chateaubriand. The
Encyclopædists, with Voltaire and Rousseau, had had their hour, and a
reaction had set in, when Chateaubriand's "Genius of Christianity"
appeared. It was the exact moment for such a book. It seemed to create
the reactionary movement with which it coincided, and it rendered its
author not merely famous, but powerful. Napoleon saw his account in
making use of a writer who had the secret of such popularity. Besides,
the Napoleonic sagacity was equal to perceiving that return to religious
belief was needful for France. Napoleon made overtures to Chateaubriand,
which Chateaubriand accepted. The author took office at the gift of the
dictator.

But Chateaubriand was himself too supremely an egotist to be securely
attached to another egotist's interest by any flattery that could be
bestowed upon him. When, at the word of Napoleon, the Duke d'Enghien was
murdered, Chateaubriand--let him have the credit of his high
spirit--resigned his office and separated himself from the tyrant who
had conferred it. Chateaubriand's first happy synchronism with the
course of events was his publishing the "Genius of Christianity" when he
did. His second was his publishing the pamphlet "Bonaparte and the
Bourbons" at the very moment when that restoration impended which raised
Louis XVIII. to the throne of France. The new monarch acknowledged that
Chateaubriand's book had been worth an army to his cause.

Chateaubriand prolonged his literary career to a great age, enjoying
almost to the end an undisputed supremacy among the authors of France.
There has seldom been a more uncloudedly, more dazzlingly, brilliant
contemporary success achieved by any writer of any age or any nation.
The renown continues, but the splendor of the renown has passed away.
Why? Our answer is, Chateaubriand's writing is vitiated by a vein of
unreality, of falseness, running through it. This character in his
writing but reflected, we fear, a character in the writer. There is
ground for suspecting that Chateaubriand was at heart lacking in
genuineness. It was inseparable defect in the man that gave that hollow
ring to the words. It is but a just reprisal upon Chateaubriand that his
literary fame should suffer by the fault detected in his personal
character. A man's words are seldom in the long run more weighty than
the man.

Chateaubriand was a kind of continuer and modifier of a celebrated
French writer that preceded him. He was a better-bred, a much purified,
an aristocratic Rousseau. He may be pronounced second greatest in the
succession of the literary sentimentalists of France.

René François Augustus, Viscount de Chateaubriand, to give him now his
full name and title, lived a life replete with adventure and
vicissitude. At twenty-three years of age he fled from the horrors of
the French Revolution to travel in America and to find a north-west
passage to the Polar Sea. He called, with a letter of introduction, on
President Washington, to whose prudent dissuasion of the young man from
his project of arctic exploration, founded on the difficulty of the
task, Chateaubriand had the French readiness, together with the
necessary egotism, to make the complimentary reply: "But, sir, my task
is not so difficult as yours was, that of creating a state." In his
posthumous biography, the "_Memoirs d'Outre Tombe_" [Memoirs from Beyond
the Tomb], Chateaubriand, alluding to this interview of his with
Washington, said, sententiously and loftily, "There is a virtue in the
look of a great man."

Our adventurer never found that north-west passage which he came to
seek, but he took impressions of a strange new world, impressions that
he afterward turned to various literary account. His "René" was one
fruit of these experiences of his. The "René" is a romantic and
sentimental tale, the main interest of which, where it possessed
interest, lay in the seductive style of the composition, the idealizing
descriptions occurring in it of American landscape, and the tone of
melancholy reflection that pervaded it. The "noble red man" is made in
it to talk like a Socrates come again, or like a French Christian
philosopher born "the heir of all the ages." Such absurd inconsistency
with the truth of things well illustrates that taint of lurking
falseness which to such a degree vitiates all Chateaubriand's work.

The French Revolution had made great strides while Chateaubriand was
discovering the north-west passage by musing and dreaming in the woods
and by the streams of the New World. Learning that many members of his
social class, the aristocracy of France, had fled from their homes and
were rallying in other lands to make a stand against their enemies,
Chateaubriand resolved to join them. He was nigh to shipwreck on his
way. In a siege, after his arrival, he was saved from death by the
chance of his having the manuscript of his "Atala" in the right spot on
his person to intercept a ball from the enemy. But he was severely
wounded nevertheless, and, worse still, was attacked with the small-pox.
Thus disabled, he started on foot to make a journey of hundreds of
miles. He, of course, suffered many hardships, and one night gave up to
die in a ditch in which he lay down to rest. He was picked up and
carried to Namur. Here, as he crawled on hands and knees through the
streets, he was befriended by some women who saw his condition. After
many adventures, he found himself in London, where he lived squalidly on
what he could earn by hack-work with his pen.

His family meantime were suffering in France. Some of them had actually
been guillotined, and some were imprisoned, among them his wife, his
sister, and his mother. The mother died praying for her son's conversion
from infidel error. The sister wrote to her brother the pathetic story,
but she too had died before her letter reached that brother's hand.
"These two voices," Chateaubriand says, "coming up from the grave, ...
struck me with peculiar force.... I wept and believed." The "Genius of
Christianity" was written in the spirit of this sentimental conversion
of the author.

We pass over, with mere mention of some principal titles, his other
books, not previously named, as his "Itinerary," a volume of travels;
his "Moses," his "Martyrs," his "Essay on English Literature," his
"Translation of the Paradise Lost," to make the brief extracts for which
we have room from the "Genius of Christianity."

This work is designed as a manual of Christian evidence, an argument for
the truth of the Christian religion. It is written, of course, from a
Roman Catholic point of view, but it may be described as liberal and
literary, rather than strict and ecclesiastical. It is far from being
closely reasoned. There is, in fact, a great deal of digression and
discussion in it. The aim of the author was evidently more to make a
readable book suited to the times than to produce an apologetic work
that would stand four-square against all hostile attack. The author's
question with himself as he wrote seemed to have been, not, Is this
valid, and necessary to the demonstration? but, Will this be
interesting? The consequence is that the "Genius of Christianity" is now
worthy of note rather as a book that has had a history than as a book
that possesses permanent value. It contains, however, writing that will
satisfactorily exhibit the style of Chateaubriand--a clear, pure,
brilliant, harmonious poetic prose.

Chateaubriand raises and answers the question why the ancients failed in
feeling for the beauties and sublimities of nature, thus:

  It can scarcely be supposed that men endued with such sensibility as
  the ancients could have wanted eyes to perceive the charms of nature
  and talents for depicting them, had they not been blinded by some
  powerful cause. Now, this cause was their established mythology,
  which, peopling the universe with elegant phantoms, banished from the
  creation its solemnity, its grandeur, and its solitude. It was
  necessary that Christianity should expel the whole hosts of fauns, of
  satyrs, and of nymphs, to restore to the grottoes their silence, and
  to the woods their scope for uninterrupted contemplation. Under our
  religion the deserts have assumed a character more pensive, more
  vague, and more sublime; the forests have attained a loftier pitch;
  the rivers have broken their petty urns, that in future they may only
  pour the waters of the abyss from the summit of the mountains; and the
  true God, in returning to his work, has imparted his immensity to
  nature.

The foregoing, paradoxical perhaps, is certainly a sharp turning of the
tables upon modern paganizers who mourn the dead Greek and Roman
divinities of grove and stream.

Here is a passage in description of nature that every reader must
acknowledge to be charming. It is throughout thoroughly characteristic
of the author. The closing sentence is certainly French rather than
Hebrew in spirit--Chateaubriand rather than David:

  Penetrate into those forests of America coeval with the world. What
  profound silence pervades these retreats when the winds are hushed!
  What unknown voices when they begin to rise! Stand still, and
  everything is mute; take but a step, and all nature sighs. Night
  approaches; the shades thicken; you hear herds of wild beasts passing
  in the dark; the ground murmurs under your feet; the pealing thunder
  roars in the deserts; the forest bows; the trees fall; an unknown
  river rolls before you. The moon at length bursts forth in the east;
  as you proceed at the foot of the trees she seems to move before you
  at their tops and solemnly to accompany your steps. The wanderer seats
  himself on the trunk of an oak to await the return of day; he looks
  alternately at the nocturnal luminary, the darkness, and the river: he
  feels restless, agitated, and in expectation of something
  extraordinary. A pleasure never felt before, an unusual fear, cause
  his heart to throb as if he were about to be admitted to some secret
  of the Divinity; he is alone in the depths of the forest, but the mind
  of man is equal to the expanse of nature, and all the solitudes of the
  earth are less vast than one single thought of his heart. Even did he
  reject the idea of a deity, the intellectual being, alone and
  unbeheld, would be more august in the midst of a solitary world than
  if surrounded by the ridiculous divinities of fabulous times. The
  barren desert itself would have some congeniality with his discursive
  thoughts, his melancholy feelings, and even his disgust for a life
  equally devoid of illusion and of hope.

  There is in man an instinctive melancholy which makes him harmonize
  with the scenery of nature. Who has not spent whole hours seated on
  the bank of a river contemplating its passing waves? Who has not found
  pleasure on the sea-shore in viewing the distant rock whitened by the
  billows? How much are the ancients to be pitied, who discovered in the
  ocean naught but the palace of Neptune and the cavern of Proteus! It
  was hard that they should perceive only the adventures of the Tritons
  and the Nereids in the immensity of the seas, which seems to give an
  indistinct measure of the greatness of our souls, and which excites a
  vague desire to quit this life, that we may embrace all nature and
  taste the fullness of joy in the presence of its author.

How Roman Catholic, rather than catholic, in tone, is the "Genius of
Christianity," the following deliciously written sentiment about the
Virgin Mary will sufficiently show:

  They who see nothing in the chaste queen of angels but an obscure
  mystery are much to be pitied. What touching thoughts are suggested by
  that mortal woman, become the immortal mother of a Saviour-God! What
  might not be said of Mary, who is at once a virgin and a mother, the
  two most glorious characters of woman!--of that youthful daughter of
  ancient Israel, who presents herself for the relief of human
  suffering, and sacrifices a son for the salvation of her paternal
  race! This tender mediatrix between us and the Eternal, with a heart
  full of compassion for our miseries, forces us to confide in her
  maternal aid, and disarms the vengeance of Heaven. What an enchanting
  dogma, that allays the terror of a God by causing beauty to intervene
  between our nothingness and his Infinite Majesty.

  The anthems of the Church represent the Blessed Mary seated upon a
  pure-white throne more dazzling than the snow. We there behold her
  arrayed in splendor, as a mystical rose, or as the morning star,
  harbinger of the Sun of grace; the brightest angels wait upon her,
  while celestial harps and voices form a ravishing concert around her.
  In that daughter of humanity we behold the refuge of sinners, the
  comforter of the afflicted, who, all good, all compassionate, all
  indulgent, averts from us the anger of the Lord.

  Mary is the refuge of innocence, of weakness, and of misfortune. The
  faithful clients that crowd our churches to lay their homage at her
  feet are poor mariners who have escaped shipwreck under her
  protection, aged soldiers whom she has saved from death in the fierce
  hour of battle, young women whose bitter griefs she has assuaged. The
  mother carries her babe before her image, and this little one, though
  it knows not as yet the God of heaven, already knows that divine
  mother who holds an infant in her arms.

Finally, to illustrate the amusing real lack of logic, masking in
logical form, of which Chateaubriand was capable, we give the
syllogistic-looking conclusion that sums up the book:

  Christianity is perfect; men are imperfect.

  Now, a perfect consequence cannot spring from an imperfect principle.

  Christianity, therefore, is not the work of men.

  If Christianity is not the work of men, it can have come from none but
  God.

  If it came from God, men cannot have acquired a knowledge of it but by
  revelation.

  Therefore, Christianity is a revealed religion.

Chateaubriand was long a venerated figure, central in the pure and
brilliant _salon_ of Madame Récamier, that later Marchioness Rambouillet
at Paris. His easy airs of patriarchal condescension toward the younger
generation of authors who drew around him there naturally engaged them
to prolong the long days of his triumphs. But his triumphs may be said
to have come to an end when Sainte-Beuve was ready to pronounce, as he
did, that this defender of Christianity was a skeptic at heart, this
preacher and praiser of purity was a libertine in life. We will not say
that we accept this destructive view of Chateaubriand's character. But
we are bound to confess that we wish there were more internal evidence
contained in his writings to throw doubt on the justice of a sentence so
severe.


DE MAISTRE (Joseph Marie, 1753-1821), is another author who, like
Chateaubriand, a little earlier than he, took up a polemic for
Christianity as represented in Roman Catholicism. A truly high and nobly
earnest spirit was De Maistre, as such contrasting with Chateaubriand, a
far deeper and far more philosophical thinker than his brilliant
compeer, but wanting in that grace and seductiveness of style which gave
to Chateaubriand his life-long wide supremacy in the empire of French
letters. It would be not incongruous, if there were room for it in our
volume, to prolong this chapter with some brief notice and
exemplification of De Maistre's literary work. We must content ourselves
with this respectful bare mention of his name.

The proportionately small space in these pages that, in here ending our
notice of him, we allot to Chateaubriand, fails indeed to represent by
symbol to the eye the proportionate space that he occupies in the
literature of his country. But it has afforded us fairly adequate
opportunity to exhibit in description and specimen the characteristic
quality of his literary production.



XXI.

BÉRANGER.

1780-1857.


Béranger was a song-writer, the whole of him. He was a song-writer and
nothing else. It is his own word, "My songs, they are myself."

Béranger was not the rose-crowned lyrist of love and wine; he was not
Anacreon. Béranger was not the hymner of heroes and kings, a maker of
odes; he was not Pindar. Béranger was not the poet of the world, the gay
world and the wise; he was not Horace. Béranger was not by chance the
lowly melodist, who might by chance as well have been a lofty bard; he
was not Robert Burns. Béranger was the song-singer of the people; he
himself elected to be such, and he was by the people elected to be such;
he said himself, "My muse is the people." In one word, Béranger
was--Béranger. There was none like him before, there has been none like
him since; Béranger is alone. We do not thus praise him, we simply
describe him.

But it is possible to describe him better. We do so by borrowing from
Victor Hugo through Sainte-Beuve.

Sainte-Beuve, not in his essay on Béranger (which, in appreciating,
somewhat depreciates the poet), but among the interesting things that,
under the title "Chateaubriana," he prints at the close of his monograph
in two volumes on Chateaubriand, has the following personal recollection
of his own, which, given here, will serve a threefold purpose; that of
hinting incidentally the relation of four celebrated French authors to
one another, that of illustrating the ready fecundity and plasticity of
Victor Hugo's genius, and that of setting forth in concrete example
Béranger's master method in his songs, which master method is
essentially Béranger, the song-writer, himself. Sainte-Beuve says--of
course we translate:

  Victor Hugo, returning one morning from the garden of the Luxembourg
  (1828 or 1829) said to me: "If I should see Béranger, I would give him
  the subject of a pretty song. I just now met M. de Chateaubriand in
  the Luxembourg; he did not see me; he was wrapt in thought, intently
  observing some children who, seated on the ground, were playing and
  tracing figures in the sand. If I were Béranger I would make a song on
  the subject: 'I have been minister, I have been ambassador, etc., I
  wear the decoration of the Order of the Holy Ghost, that of the Order
  of the Golden Fleece, that of the order of St. Andrew, etc.; and one
  sole thing at last amuses me: it is to watch children playing in the
  sand. I wrote "René," I wrote the "Genius of Christianity," I stood up
  against Napoleon, I opened the poetic era of the century, etc.; and I
  know only one thing that amuses me: to watch children at play upon the
  sand. I have seen America, I have seen Greece and Rome, I have seen
  Jerusalem, etc.' And after each enumeration of various experiences,
  forms of greatness or of honor, all kept returning still to this: to
  watch children playing and tracing circles in the sand." The plan
  sketched by Victor Hugo was perfect, far better than I have given it
  here; but the motive is plain, the idea of the refrain. Never have I
  had better defined to me the difference that separates the song, even
  the most elevated in character, from the ode properly so-called.

There is Béranger, his whole secret, summed up in small by a masterhand.
What Béranger, then, did was to choose wisely, with long heed, some
single, simple, obvious sentiment, appealing to every body's experience,
shut that sentiment up into a short, neat, striking, rememberable form
of words suited to be sung, make of that form of words a refrain to
recur at intervals, and finally on that refrain build up, one after
another to the end, the stanzas of his song. He worked slowly and
painfully. His genius was never very prolific. The time of his chief
fruitfulness was short, covering only fifteen years, the fifteen years
between Waterloo (1815) and the elevation of Louis Philippe to the
throne of France (1830). During this time his largest product hardly
exceeded a dozen songs a year.

Béranger's first discipline to his art may be considered to have been a
certain favorite diversion of his childhood, the carving of
cherry-stones. This exercise of skill he practiced sedulously with
delight when a boy, and in it learned the long, minute patience of art.
The man's songs were cut gems laboriously finished, like the boy's
carvings in cherry-stones.

Béranger became immensely popular. He remained so to the end. When he
died, and it was after prolonged silence on his part--if one can call
silence a period marked, indeed, by non-production, but filled with the
singing, from land's end to land's end, of his songs in every
mouth--when he died the empire buried him and the nation attended his
funeral. He had been born poor, and he was reared in poverty. Rich he
would not be, when a man. He took infinite pains to be of the people,
and he succeeded. The people were loving and honoring themselves in
loving and honoring Béranger. Sainte-Beuve, with that critical
incredulity of his, thought that Béranger carried his demonstrative
cultivation of the "people" to the point of something like affectation.
Perhaps; but the affectation, if it was such, had a sound basis in it of
real instinctive popular sympathy. Still, Béranger's emphasized
identification of himself with the people was not all a matter of
instinct with him. It was in part a matter of deliberately adopted
policy. He said:

  The people wanted a man to speak to them the language they love and
  understand, and to create imitators to vary and multiply versions of
  the same text. _I have been that man._

Béranger was quite willing to make any moral descent that might seem to
him necessary in order to reach his audience. He may have been
instinctively, but he was also deliberately, low and lewd in some of his
songs.

  Without their help [said he, that is without the help of such immoral
  songs] I am disposed to think that the others would not have been able
  to go so far, or so low, or even so high; no offense in this last word
  to the virtues of good society.

Even the best of Béranger's songs lack any thing like lift and
aspiration. They are conceived in a comparatively low tone. The noblest
leaven in them is love of France and of liberty. Béranger hated the
Bourbons; they persecuted him, but that only helped him sing them off
the throne of France. Béranger's songs did more than any other one
individual influence, perhaps they did more than all other individual
influences combined, first to overturn the restored Bourbon dynasty
after Waterloo, and, second, to bring about the elevation of Louis
Napoleon to power.

For Béranger was a passionate admirer of the great Napoleon. True, he
deprecated the exhaustions visited on France by the wars of glory which
Napoleon waged. But that famous piece of his, "The King of Yvetot," in
which this deprecation found voice, was a protest so lightly conceived
and at bottom so genial, that the jealousy of Napoleon himself could
afford to laugh at it. The pieces in which, on the contrary, he
celebrated the praises of the emperor were written with an emotion
contagiously vivid. Let us now have before us "The King of Yvetot," with
an appropriate contrast to it afterward supplied in one of these
encomiastic pieces.

"Yvetot" is the name of an ancient French town, situated in a seignory
the lord of which once enjoyed the nominal rank of king. The effect of
Béranger's title to his song is of course humorous. The song-writer's
purpose was to draw, in the king whom he describes, a whimsical contrast
to the restless Napoleon. Thackeray furnishes us with a happily
sympathetic rendering of Béranger's "King of Yvetot," as follows; for
brevity's sake we omit one stanza:

  There was a king of Yvetot,
    Of whom renown hath little said,
  Who let all thoughts of glory go,
    And dawdled half his days a-bed;
  And every night, as night came round,
  By Jenny with a night-cap crowned,
              Slept very sound.
  Sing, ho, ho, ho! and he, he, he!
  That's the kind of king for me.

  And every day it came to pass
    That four lusty meals made he,
  And step by step, upon an ass,
    Rode abroad his realms to see;
  And wherever he did stir,
  What think you was his escort, sir?
              Why, an old cur.
  Sing, ho, ho, ho! and he, he, he!
  That's the kind of king for me.

  If e'er he went into excess,
    'Twas from a somewhat lively thirst,
  But he who would his subjects bless,
    Odd's fish!--must wet his whistle first,
  And so from every cask they got,
  Our king did to himself allot
                    At least a pot.
  Sing, ho, ho, ho! and he, he, he!
  That's the kind of king for me.

  To all the ladies of the land
    A courteous king, and kind, was he;
  The reason why you'll understand,
    They named him _Pater Patriæ._
  Each year he called his fighting-men,
  And marched a league from home, and then,
                   Marched back again.
  Sing, ho, ho, ho! and he, he, he!
  That's the kind of king for me.

       *       *       *       *       *

  The portrait of this best of kings
    Is extant still, upon a sign
  That on a village tavern swings,
    Famed in the country for good wine.
  The people in their Sunday trim,
  Filling their glasses to the brim,
                     Look up to him.
  Singing, ha, ha, ha! and he, he, he!
  That's the sort of king for me.

In his autobiography, an interesting book, Béranger says that hardly any
other writer equally with himself could have dispensed with the help of
the printer. His songs traveled of themselves from mouth to mouth
without the intervention of printed copies. In fact, Béranger was
already famous before his works went into print. It was this oral
currency of his songs that made them such engines of power. That
brilliant Bohemian wit among Frenchmen, Chamfort, defined, it is said,
before Béranger's time, the government of France to be absolute monarchy
tempered by songs. This celebrated saying does not overstate the degree,
though it may misstate the kind, of influence that Béranger exercised
with his lyre. He was, by conviction and in sympathy, a determined and
ardent republican, and yet, in fact, he founded, or played the chief
part in founding, the imperial usurpation of Louis Napoleon. This he did
by getting the glories of the great emperor sung by Frenchmen throughout
France, until the very name of Napoleon became an irresistible spell to
conjure by. We now give the most celebrated of these Bonaparte songs.
Mr. William Young, an American, has a volume of translations from
Béranger. Of this particular song, Mr. Young's version is so felicitous
that we unhesitatingly choose it for our readers. The title of the song
is, "The Recollections of the People." It was, we believe, founded on an
incident of Béranger's own observation; we shorten again by a stanza:

  Aye, many a day the straw-thatched cot
    Shall echo with his glory!
  The humblest shed, these fifty years,
    Shall know no other story.
  There shall the idle villagers
    To some old dame resort,
  And beg her with those good old tales
    To make their evenings short.
  "What though they say he did us harm
    Our love this cannot dim;
  Come, Granny, talk of him to us;
    Come, Granny, talk of him."

  "Well, children--with a train of kings
    Once he passed by this spot;
  'Twas long ago; I had but just
    Begun to boil the pot.
  On foot he climbed the hill, whereon
    I watched him on his way;
  He wore a small three-cornered hat;
    His overcoat was gray.
  I was half frightened till he spoke;
    'My dear,' says he, 'how do?'"
  "O, Granny, Granny, did he speak?
    What, Granny! speak to you?"

       *       *       *       *       *

  "But when at length our poor Champagne
    By foes was overrun,
  He seemed alone to hold his ground;
    Nor dangers would he shun.
  One night--as might be now--I heard
    A knock--the door unbarred--
  And saw--good God! 'twas he, himself,
    With but a scanty guard.
  'O what a war is this!' he cried,
    Taking this very chair."
  "What! Granny, Granny, there he sat?
    What! Granny, he sat there?"

  "'I'm hungry,' said he: quick I served
    Thin wine and hard brown bread;
  He dried his clothes, and by the fire
    In sleep drooped down his head.
  Waking, he saw my tears--'Cheer up,
    Good dame!' says he, 'I go
  'Neath Paris' walls to strike for France
    One last avenging blow.'
  He went; but on the cup he used
    Such value did I set--
  It has been treasured." "What! till now?
    You have it, Granny, yet?"

  "Here 'tis; but 'twas the hero's fate
    To ruin to be led;
  He, whom a pope had crowned, alas!
    In a lone isle lies dead.
  'Twas long denied: 'No, no,' said they,
    'Soon shall he re-appear;
  O'er ocean comes he, and the foe
    Shall find his master here.'
  Ah, what a bitter pang I felt,
    When forced to own 'twas true!"
  "Poor Granny! Heaven for this will look,
    Will kindly look on you."

There was not in Béranger's genius much innate and irrepressible
buoyancy toward poetry, as we English-speakers conceive poetry. But he
practiced a severely self-tasking art of verse, which at last yielded a
product sufficiently consummate in form to command the admiration of
qualified critics. He became unquestionably first among the song-writers
of France; he even elevated song-writing, popular song-writing, to the
rank of acknowledged literature. His fashion, and, with his fashion, his
currency, are rapidly becoming things of the past; but the real merit of
his achievement, and, more than that, the fact of his extraordinary
influence make his name securely immortal in the literary history, and
in the literature, of France.



XXII.

LAMARTINE.

1791-1869.


Lamartine, the man, was an image incongruously molded of gold and of
clay. Take him at his best, and what is there better? Take him at his
worst, and you would not wish worse.

The same contrast holds, but not in the same degree, in Lamartine the
author. He is at once one of the most admirable, and one of the least
admirable, of writers.

There are few figures in history worthier to command the homage of
generous hearts than the figure of Lamartine in 1848, calming and
quelling the mob of Paris by the simple ascendant of genius and of
bravery. There are few figures in history more abject than the figure of
Lamartine, toward the close of his life, in the garb of a beggar
holding out his hat to mankind for the pence and half-pence of wonder,
of sympathy, and of sympathetic shame.

Perhaps we instinctively fall into some contagious conformity to
Lamartine's own exaggerating rhetoric in expressing ourselves as we do.

The chief facts of the life of Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine
are briefly these. Well-born, having for mother a woman of more than
Cornelian, of Christian, virtue, who herself mainly educated her son, he
traveled, loved, lost, wept "melodious tears"--mixed much in Parisian
society, until, at thirty, he published under the title "Meditations," a
volume of verse which made him instantly, brilliantly, triumphantly,
famous. Every thing desirable was easy to him now. He married an
Englishwoman of wealth, he wrote and published more poetry, amusing
himself meantime with various diplomatic service, was made member of the
French Academy, and in 1832 went traveling in the East, like an Eastern
prince for lavish splendor of equipage and outlay. His book, "Memories
of the Orient," published three years after, was the fruit of what he
saw and felt and dreamed during this luxurious experience of travel.
Dreamed, we say, for Lamartine drew freely on his imagination to expand
and embellish his memories of the East. Other volumes of verse, his
"Jocelyn," his "Fall of an Angel," and his "Recollections" followed
speedily.

The Revolution of 1830 had seated Louis Philippe on the throne.
Lamartine under him had been elected to the legislature of France and
had been making reputation as an orator. The poet and orator would now
be historian. Lamartine wrote his celebrated "History of the
Girondists," which, after first appearing in numbers, was issued in
volume in 1847. This book had in it the fermenting principle of a fresh
revolution. In 1848 that revolution came, and Louis Philippe fled from
Paris and from France, in precipitate abdication of his throne.

Now was the moment of glory and of opportunity for Lamartine. During
the three months following, he may be said to have ruled France.
Eloquence and bravery together never won triumphs more resplendent than
were Lamartine's during this swift interval of his dizzy elevation to
power. He was in title simply minister for foreign affairs, in a
provisional government which he had had himself the decision and the
intrepidity among the first to propose. But his personal popularity, his
serene courage, his magical eloquence, gave him much the authority of
dictator. It cannot be asserted that Lamartine, in this crisis, proved
himself a statesman able to cope with the stern exactions of the hour.
The candidate for such distinction success only can crown, and Lamartine
did not succeed. He fell, as suddenly and as swiftly as he had risen.
Yesterday omnipotent, he was absolutely impotent to-day.

But nothing can deprive Lamartine of the pacific glory his due from
several extraordinary feats of eloquence achieved by him, at imminent
risk to himself, on behalf of mankind. A mob of forty thousand Parisian
fanatics roared into the street before the Hôtel de Ville to compel the
Provisional Government sitting there to adopt the red flag as the ensign
of the republic. This meant nothing less than a new reign of terror for
France. Lamartine, single-handed, met the wild beast to its teeth, and
with one stroke of the sword that went forth from his mouth laid it
tamed at his feet. "The red flag you bring us," cried the orator to the
mob, he shining the while resplendent in a personal beauty touched with
the gleam of genius and glorified with the consecration of courage--like
a descended Apollo, the rattling quiver borne on his shoulder--"The red
flag you bring us," said he, "has only gone round the Champ de Mars,
trailed in the blood of the people--in 1791 and in 1793; while the
tricolor has gone round the world, with the name, the glory, and the
liberty of our country." This eloquent condensation of history,
untremblingly shot, at close quarters, full in the face of those
wild-eyed insurgents, felled them, as if it had been a ball from a
cannon. But ranks from behind still pressed forward with menacing
cries. "Down with Lamartine!" "Down with the time-server!" "Off with his
head! His head! His head! Lamartine's head!"

The brandished weapons were in Lamartine's very face. But that gentle
blood never blenched. "My head, citizens? You want my head? Indeed, but
I wish you had it, every one of you. If Lamartine's head were now on
each pair of shoulders among you, you would be wiser than you are, and
the revolution would go on more prosperously." The mob was in
Lamartine's hand again, taken captive with a jest.

It is generally granted that Lamartine saved the nation from a new reign
of terror. But eloquence is not statesmanship; and Lamartine, weighed in
the balance, was found wanting. He served at last only to hand over the
state to Louis Napoleon, first president, and then emperor.

Under Napoleon, Lamartine, now and henceforward simply a private
citizen, found his affairs embarrassed. He had been a prodigal spender
of money. He toiled at letters to mend his broken fortunes. But his sun
was past its meridian, and it settled hopelessly in cloud toward its
west. He wrote a pseudo-biography of himself and published it as a
serial in one of the Paris daily newspapers. He almost literally with
his own hands performed the profaneness execrated by the poet, and "tare
his heart before the crowd"--or would have done so, if his production,
the "Confidences," so called, had really been what it purported to be,
the actual story of his life. It was in fact as much imagination as
revelation. But the once overwhelmingly popular author now cheapened
himself before the public in almost every practicable way. He brought
his own personal dignity to market in his works--and did this over and
over again. The public bought their former idol at his own cheapened
price, and he still remained poor. In 1850 a public subscription was
opened for his relief. As a last humiliation, the proud patrician
submitted to accept a pension from the empire of Louis Napoleon. This he
enjoyed but two years, for in two years after he died. A further space
of two years, and the empire itself that granted Lamartine his pension
had met its Sedan and ceased to be.

Fresh from admiring the radiant pages of Lamartine's rhetoric in prose,
from admiring the iridescent play in color, the deliquescent melody in
sound, of his verse, we feel it painful to admit to ourselves that so
much indisputably fine effect goes for little or nothing, now that the
fashion of that world of taste and feeling for which this writer wrote
has passed returnlessly away. But so it is. Lamartine, like
Chateaubriand, and for substantially the same reason, namely, lack of
fundamental genuineness, has already reached that last pathetic phase,
well-nigh worse than total eclipse, of literary fame, the condition of
an author important in the history of literature, rather than in
literature.

Poet, orator, historian, statesman, this munificently gifted nature was
most profoundly, most controllingly, poet. But he was French poet, which
is to say that his poetry is removed, if not quite from access to the
English mind, at least from access to the English mind through
translation. He, however, enjoyed at first high English reputation as
poet, and the publication of "Jocelyn," his masterpiece in verse, may be
said to have been even a European event in literary history.

The story of "Jocelyn" is avouched by the author to be almost a series
of actual occurrences. This assertion, to those familiar with
Lamartine's style in asserting, will not be quite so conclusive as on
its face it appears. At any rate, if "Jocelyn" be truth, Lamartine has
made truth read like fiction, and fiction of a highly improbable sort.
The story, true or fictitious--and which it is, as nobody now knows, so
nobody now cares--we need not detain our readers to report.

The poet staggered his public by printing on the title-page to his
"Jocelyn" the words, "An Episode," as much as to say that a certain
"Epic of Humanity," which he might finally (but which, as a matter of
fact, he never did) produce, would be large enough to make shrink into
the dimensions of a mere episode this poem of ten thousand lines more or
less!

Now for an extract or two. In the "Edinburgh Review," of a date not far
from fifty years past now, we find our translation. A day of festival,
followed by a long evening of out-door dancing to music, has just
closed. The breaking-up is described, with the sequel of young Jocelyn's
pensive and yearning emotions:

  Then later, when the fife and hautboy's voice
  Began to languish like a failing voice,
  And moistened ringlets, by the dance unstrung,
  Close to the cheek in drooping tresses clung,
  And wearied groups along the darkening green
  Gliding, in converse soft and low, were seen,
  What sounds enchanting to the ear are muttered!
  Adieus, regrets, the kiss, the word half uttered--
  My soul was stirred; my ear with sweet sounds rife
  Drank languidly the luscious draught of life;
  I followed with my step, my heart, my eye,
  Each maiden that with wearied eyes went by,
  Thrilled at the rustle of each silken dress,
  And felt that each that passed still left a joy the less.
  At last the dance is hushed, the din at rest,
  The moon is risen above the mountain's crest;
  Only some lover, heedless of the hour,
  Wends homeward, dreaming, to his distant bower;
  Or, where the village paths divide, there stand
  Some loitering couples, lingering hand in hand,
  Who start to hear the clock's unwelcome knell,
  Then dive and vanish in the forest dell.

  And now I am at home alone. 'Tis night.
  All still within the house, no fire, no light.
  Let me, too, sleep. Alas! no sleep is there!
  Pray then. My spirit will not hear my prayer.
  My ear is still with dancing measures ringing,
  Echoes which memory back to sense is bringing;
  I close my eyes: before my inward glance
  Still swims the _fête_, still whirls the giddy dance;
  The graceful phantoms of the vanished ball
  Come flitting by in beauty each and all;
  A glance still haunts my couch; a soft hand seems
  To press my hand, that trembles in my dreams,
  Fair tresses in the dance's flight brought nigh,
  Just touch my cheek, and like the wind flow by,
  I see from maiden brows the roses falling,
  I hear beloved lips my name recalling--
  Anne, Lucy, Blanche!--Where am I--What is this?
  What must love be, when even love's dream is bliss!

There is an indefinable French difference, but, that apart, the
foregoing is somewhat like Goldsmith in his "Deserted Village." Or is it
the resemblance of meter that produces the impression?

"Jocelyn," though certainly intended by the author to be pure, wavers at
points on the edge of the exceptionably ambiguous. The following spring
song, however, put by the poet into the mouth of his Laurence, is an
inspiration as innocent as it is sweet:

  See, in her nest, the nightingale's mute mate,
    Hatching her young, her patient vigil hold.
  See how with love her fostering wings dilate,
    As if to screen her nurslings from the cold.

  Her neck alone, in restlessness upraised,
    O'ertops the nest in which her brood reposes,
  And her bright eye, with weary watching glazed,
    Closing to sleep, with every sound uncloses.

  Care for her callow young consumes her rest,
    My very voice her downy bosom shakes,
  And her heart pants beneath its plumy vest,
    And the nest trembles with each breath she takes.

  What spell enchains her to this gentle care?
    Her mate's sweet melody the groves among,
  Who, from some branching oak, high poised in air
    Sends down the flowing river of his song.

  Hark! dost thou hear him, drop by drop distilling
    The sighs that sweetest after transport be,
  Then suddenly the vault above us filling
    With foaming cataracts of harmony?

  What spell enchains him in his turn--what makes
    His very being thus in languor melt--
  But that his voice a living echo wakes,
    His lay within one loving heart is felt!

  And, ravished by the note, his mate still holds
    Her watch attentive through the weary time;
  The season comes, the bursting shell unfolds,
    And life is music all, and love, and prime.

Passing now from Lamartine's poetry, expressly such, we go to his prose,
which, however, is scarcely, if at all, less poetical. Poetry, or at
least, the presence in power, and in great proportionate excess of
power, of imagination, lording it over every thing else, over memory,
judgment, taste, good sense, veracity--characterizes all that proceeded
from Lamartine's pen. His history is valueless, almost valueless, as
history. His travels are utterly untrustworthy as records of fact.
Lamartine cannot tell the simple truth. Persons, things, events, suffer
a sea-change, always to something rich and strange seen by him looming
in the luminous haze of atmosphere with which his imagination
perpetually invests them. His men are ennobled, like Ulysses
transfigured by Pallas-Athene. His women are beautiful as houris fresh
from paradise. The aspects of ocean and shore and wood and stream and
mountain and sky, are all, to Lamartine, washed with a light that never
was on sea or land or in heaven overhead, the consecration and the
poet's dream. This quality in Lamartine's style does not prevent his
being very fine. He is very fine; but you feel, Oh, if this all were
also true!

On the whole, large, splendid, scenic, admirable in instinct for
choosing his point of view, as Lamartine is in his histories, brilliant
even, and fecund in suggestion, we turn from the ostensibly historical
in our author to the ostensibly autobiographical, in order to find our
prose specimens of his quality in the "Confidences." Lamartine never
perhaps did any thing finer, any thing more characteristic, than in
telling his story of "Graziella" in that work. This story is an
"episode" where it appears; or rather--for it is hardly so much as let
into the continuous warp and woof of the "Confidences"--it is a
separable device of ornament embroidered upon the surface of the fabric.
It is probably, indeed, to some extent autobiographic; but the
imagination had as much part in it as the memory. For instance, the
actual girl that is transfigured into the "Graziella" of the story was
not a coral-grinder, as she is represented by Lamartine, but an
operative in a tobacco factory. The real beauty of the tale is, by a
kind of just retribution on the author, inseparably bound up with
unconscious revelation on his part of heartless vanity and egotism in
his own character. You admire, but while you admire you wonder, you
reprobate, you contemn. A man such as this, you instinctively feel, was
not worthy to live immortally as an author. You are reconciled to let
Lamartine pass.

"Graziella" is a story of love and death, on one side, of desertion and
expiation--expiation through sentimental tears--on the other. One would
gladly trust, if one could, that the reality veiled under the fiction
was as free in fact from outward guilt as it is idealized to have been
by the writer's fancy. But neither this supposition, nor any other
charitable supposition whatever, can redeem "Graziella" from the
condemnation of being steeped in egregious vanity, egotism, and false
sentiment, from the heart of the author.

We strike into the midst of the narrative, toward the end. There has
been described the growth of relation between the author and the heroine
of the idyll, a fisherman's daughter. And now this heroine, Graziella,
is desired in marriage by a worthy young countryman of hers. Such a
suitor--for she loves, though secretly, the author (this by the way is a
thing almost of course with Lamartine)--the girl cannot bring herself to
accept. In despair she flees to make herself a nun. She is found by the
autobiographer alone in a deserted house. He ministers to her in her
exhausted state--and this to the following result:

  "I feel well," said she to me, speaking in a tone of voice that was
  low, soft, even, and monotonous, as if her breast had completely lost
  its vibration and its accent at the same time, and as if her voice had
  only retained one single note. "I have in vain sought to hide it from
  myself--I have in vain sought to hide it forever from thee. I may die,
  but thou art the only one that I can ever love. They wished to
  betroth me to another; thou art the one to whom my soul is betrothed.
  I will never give myself to another on earth, for I have already
  secretly given myself to thee. To thee on earth, or to God in heaven!
  that is the vow I made the first day I discovered that my heart was
  sick for thee! I well know that I am only a poor girl, unworthy to
  touch thy feet even in thought; therefore, have I never asked thee to
  love me. I never will ask thee if thou dost love me. But I--I love
  thee, I love thee, I love thee!" And she seemed to concentrate her
  whole soul in those three words. "Now despise me, mock me, spurn me
  with thy feet! Laugh at me if thou wilt, as a mad thing who fancies
  she is a queen in the midst of her tatters. Hold me up to the scorn of
  the whole world! Yes, I will tell them with my own lips--'Yes, I love
  him. And had you been in my place you would have done as I have--you
  would have loved him or have died.'"

The man thus wooed by the maid assures her of his reciprocal affection.
But the author explains to his readers:

  Alas! it was not real love, it was but its shadow in my heart. But I
  was too young and too ingenuous not to be deceived by it myself. I
  thought that I adored her as so much innocence, beauty, and love
  deserved to be adored by a lover. I told her so, with that accent of
  sincerity which emotion imparts; with that impassioned restraint which
  is imparted by solitude, darkness, despair, and tears. She believed it
  because she required that belief to live, and because she had enough
  passion in her own heart to make up for its insufficiency in a
  thousand other hearts.

The autobiographer is summoned away by his mother, and he goes,
lacerating Graziella's heart, but swearing a thousand oaths of fealty to
his beloved. Alas! the "treacherous air of absence" undid all--with him,
though not with her. He blames himself in retrospect--gently--and pities
himself lamentably, as follows:

  I was at that ungrateful period of life when frivolity and imitation
  make a young man feel a false shame in the best feelings of his nature
  ... I would not have dared to confess ... the name and station of the
  object of my regret and sadness.... How I blush now for having blushed
  then! and how much more precious was one of the joy-beams or one of
  the tear-drops of her chaste eyes than all the glances, all the
  allurements, all the smiles for which I was about to sacrifice her
  image! Ah! man, when he is too young, cannot love! He knows not the
  value of any thing! He only knows what real happiness is after he has
  lost it.... True love is the ripe fruit of life. At twenty, it is not
  known, it is imagined.

A farewell letter from Graziella dying:

  "The doctor says that I shall die in less than three days. I wish to
  say farewell to thee ere I lose all my strength. Oh! if I had thee
  near me, I would live! But it is God's will. I will soon speak to
  thee, and forever, from on high. Love my soul! It shall be with thee
  as long as thou livest. I leave thee my tresses, which were cut off
  for thy sake one night. Consecrate them to God in some chapel in thy
  own land, that something belonging to me may be near thee!"

The autobiographer "complied with the order contained in her dying
behest." He says: "From that day forward, a shadow of her death spread
itself over my features and over my youth." He apostrophizes the
remembered Graziella as follows:

  "Poor Graziella! Many days have flown by since those days. I have
  loved, I have been loved. Other rays of beauty and affection have
  illumined my gloomy path. Other souls have opened themselves for me,
  to reveal to me in the hearts of women the most mysterious treasures
  of beauty, sanctity, and purity that God ever animated on earth, to
  make us understand, foretaste, and desire heaven; but nothing has
  dimmed thy first apparition in my heart.... Thy real sepulcher is in
  my soul. There every part of thee is gathered and entombed. Thy name
  never strikes my ear in vain. I love the language in which it is
  uttered. At the bottom of my heart there is always a warm tear which
  filters, drop by drop, and secretly falls upon my memory, to refresh
  it and embalm it within me."

The pensive poet even makes poetry on the subject, twenty years
afterward, poetry which, in his customary triplets of expression, he
calls "the balm of a wound, the dew of a heart, the perfume of a
sepulchral flower." He wrote it, he says, "with streaming eyes." He
prints his stanzas--for Lamartine is eminently of those who, as it has
been said, weep in print and wipe their eyes with the public--and with a
sigh, says:

  Thus did I expiate by these written tears the cruelty and ingratitude
  of my heart of nineteen. I have never been able to reperuse these
  verses without adoring that youthful image which the transparent and
  plaintive waves of the Gulf of Naples will roll eternally before my
  eyes ... and without detesting myself! But souls forgive on high. Hers
  has forgiven me. Forgive me also, you!--I have wept.

We ought not to disturb, with any further words of our own, the
impression of himself which Lamartine has now made on the reader. He has
given us here his own true image. He is the weeping poet. It is fit--let
him dissolve, let him exhale, from view in tears.

Lachrymose Lamartine, farewell!



XXIII.

THE GROUP OF 1830.

VICTOR HUGO: 1802-1885; SAINTE-BEUVE: 1804-1869; BALZAC: 1799-1850;
GEORGE SAND: 1804-1876; DE MUSSET: 1810-1857.


As a convenient method of inclusion and condensation for a number of
authors who must by no means be omitted, but for whom there is left
little room in these pages, we adopt the plan of making a cluster of
important names to be treated in a single chapter. The political and the
literary history of France join a sort of synchronism with one another
at a certain point of time, which makes this arrangement not only
feasible but natural.

The accession of Louis Philippe to the throne of France and the first
representation of Victor Hugo's "Hernani" in Paris both occurred in the
year 1830. The Bourbon or absolutist tradition in French politics and
the classic tradition in French letters were thus at one and the same
moment decisively interrupted. For, as in the commencing reign of Louis
Philippe, the "Citizen King" of France, the French people became for the
first time, under monarchical rule, a recognized estate in the realm,
so, with the triumph of Victor Hugo's "Hernani" on the stage, the hour
may be said to have struck of culmination in splendor and in influence
for the romantic movement in French literature. The dominance of the
ideas indicated in the expression "the Romantic Movement" was then
suddenly for the moment so overwhelming and so wide that it amounted
almost to a usurpation of letters in France. We might indeed have
written "The French Romanticists" as a fairly good alternative title to
the present chapter.


1. VICTOR HUGO.

The men of 1830--we thus use a designation which has come to be
established in French literary history--began each man his career in
letters as a fighting romanticist. Victor Hugo was the acknowledged
Achilles of the fight. Whoever wavered backward, Victor Hugo clamped his
feet for his lifetime on the bridge of war, where his plume nodded
defiance, seeming still to say for its wearer standing with a cliff of
adamant at his back,

  Come one, come all, this rock shall fly
  From its firm base as soon as I.

Around Victor Hugo, as the towering central figure among them all, were
mustered, though some of them not to remain in this comradeship with
him, Sainte-Beuve, Balzac, George Sand, De Musset. There were others
than these, but these shall for us here constitute the group of 1830.

We shall be in yet better accord with Victor Hugo's estimate of himself,
if we take for his symbol a being mightier even than a demigod like
Achilles. Let us do so and call him a Titan. But the past tense half
seems an anachronism in speaking of Victor Hugo. The earth still
trembles to his retiring footsteps and to the portentous reaction of his
wrestle in war with the gods. This is his glory--he fought against
Olympus, and, if he did not overthrow, at least he was not overthrown.
Olympus in our parable was classicism in power; Victor Hugo was the
genius of insurgent romanticism.

We thus repeat yet again terms which it would be difficult precisely to
define. Classicism and romanticism are two forces in literature,
seemingly opposed to each other, which, however, need to be compounded
and reconciled in a single resultant, in order to the true highest
effect from either. For neither classicism nor romanticism alone
concludes the ultimate theory of literature.

Classicism criticises; romanticism creates. Classicism enjoins
self-control; romanticism encourages self-indulgence. Classicism is
mold; romanticism is matter. Classicism is art; romanticism is nature.
Classicism is law; romanticism is life. Romanticism is undoubtedly first
and indispensable; but so, not less, classicism is indispensable, though
second. Neither, in short, can get along without the other. But Victor
Hugo represents romanticism.

Victor Hugo's personality seems to have been a literary force almost as
much as was his genius. As his quantity was immense, so his quality was
vivific. Such a man was certain to be not only the master of a school
but the center of a worship. Mr. Swinburne's late volume on Victor Hugo
may be cited in extreme example of the deific ascription rendered by
many at the shrine of this idolatry. Mr. Matthew Arnold, on the other
hand, lost no opportunity to flout with indignity the claims of Victor
Hugo to his supreme literary godship.

This great French writer has so recently died that, for the purposes of
this book, he might almost be considered still living. At any rate, he
has of late been so much talked about in current periodicals; he is, in
some of his books, so freshly familiar to all, and, if we must say it,
he offers a subject so perplexing to treat at this moment judicially,
that we shall in some measure avoid responsibility by presenting him
here with the utmost brevity--brevity, however, to be taken rather as a
homage, than as a slight, to the unmanageable greatness by imminency of
his merit and his fame.

Victor-Marie Hugo wrote verse very early, beginning as a classicist. In
later youth he was royalist and religious in spirit. At twenty he
acquired the title of "the sublime boy." How he acquired this title
seems a matter of doubt. It is generally supposed to have been given by
Chateaubriand, in his quality of patriarch of French letters. But this
origin of the sobriquet the present writer has seen seriously suggested
to be, along with the sobriquet itself, the pure invention of Victor
Hugo's own imaginative egotism; which fruitful source of autobiography
is said also to have yielded the poet's noble pedigree--the process of
production employed on his part being, in the latter case, the extremely
simple one of adopting for ancestry the ancient line of a family,
bearing the same name indeed with himself, but otherwise utterly
unrelated to his own humble house. The really extraordinary independence
of fact with which Victor Hugo undoubtedly made his assertions
respecting himself renders any testimony that he bears on this point
interesting as imagination rather than instructive as history. For three
or four years now he was an irrepressible producer and publisher of
verse. At twenty-five he put out his "Cromwell," a drama, with a
belligerent preface in favor of romanticism. After this each play of his
was a battle for that literary cause. His "Hernani" (1830) was at last
more than a battle--it was a victory.

The royalist in due time became republican. When Louis Napoleon was
president, Victor Hugo opposed him. When Louis Napoleon made himself
emperor, Victor Hugo denounced him. Banished for this from France, the
poet betook himself to Belgium. Repelled from Belgium, he found refuge
in England. Here, or, more exactly, in the island of Jersey first, and
longer, afterward, in the island of Guernsey, he remained till the
second empire fell. He then returned to Paris, and shared the melancholy
fortunes of that beleaguered capital during the Prussian siege and
during the anarchy of the Commune. Here, finally, he died, and, by his
own will and testament, in a quite other than the original meaning of
that pregnant Scripture phrase, "was buried"--for his funeral was to be
attended with peculiar obsequies. He signified his wish to be treated in
burial exactly as one of those paupers of whose cause he had been in his
works the life-long champion.

During his long exile, which, notwithstanding his passionate love of
Paris, he refused to shorten by any understanding arrived at with the
emperor, he kept persecuting that usurper with printed diatribes, both
in prose and in verse, which for mordant bitterness have probably never
been surpassed in the literature of invective. One of these diatribes
was a book entitled "The History of a Crime." To this he prefixed a kind
of _imprimatur_ of his own, which may be quoted here as well
exemplifying the high oracular style of expression characterized by
short sentences and short paragraphs--these often of a single sentence
only--that he habitually affected:

  This work is more than opportune. It is imperative. I publish it.

    V. H.

Victor Hugo's egotism was so vast that it was insane if it was not
sublime. To exemplify adequately this statement by extracts would ask
pages of room. The four lines about to follow, from one of his longer
poems, present a modest and moderate example. The poet has been
supposing the impossible case that the Supreme Being should take
different views, in a certain matter, from his, the poet's, own--that he
should outrage his, the poet's, sense of moral propriety. Here is how,
in that case, Victor Hugo would, he declares, deal with offending Deity
(we translate literally the original Alexandrines, line for line,
without attempting to reproduce either meter or rhyme):

  I would go, I would see him, and I would seize him,
  Amid the heavens, as one takes a wolf amid the woods,
  And, terrible, indignant, calm, extraordinary,
  I would denounce him with his own thunder.

To Victor Hugo himself, the foregoing was not blasphemy; it was simply
sublimity of a sort suitable to the character of the poet. There was, it
is said, fully developed mental unsoundness in his father's family and
in his own. Victor Hugo's own genius had, we suspect, some trace of a
real, though noble, insanity in it.

In 1862, appeared "Les Miserables," which must be accounted, if not the
greatest, at least the most popular work of its author. This book was
issued simultaneously in eight different cities and in nine different
languages--a circumstance probably not paralleled in the history of
literature. The fame of "Les Miserables" does not fade, and it hardly
will fade. It is a book of truly prodigious elemental power. That,
however, Victor Hugo's genius in producing it worked with some
disturbing consciousness of a theory of literary art to be exemplified
and defended, the following curious note, inserted in the midst of the
text, at a point of interest in the story, may serve to show:

  Then the poor old man began sobbing and soliloquizing; _for it is a
  mistake to suppose that there is no soliloquy in nature. Powerful
  agitations often talk aloud._

"Les Miserables" is justly open to many strictures, both on literary
grounds and on ethical; but it must be pronounced, notwithstanding, a
great, and, on the whole, a noble work.

Victor Hugo made this approach to the illimitable in power, that he was
well-nigh equally able to do great things and to do small. To exhibit by
specimen his achievement in verse we shall offer here a few of his small
things, in the impossibility of representing his great. The small things
that we offer may acquire a value extrinsic to themselves if thought of
as the gentle play of a giant who could with the same ease have
astonished you by exhibitions of strength.

Victor Hugo went a second time, having once failed, to intercede with
King Louis Philippe on behalf of a political offender condemned to
death. It was late at night, and the monarch could not be seen. The
intercessor would not be baffled, and, bethinking himself to appeal by
the tenderness of birth and of death to the king, wrote four lines of
verse which he left on the table. The allusions in them are to a lovely
daughter of the royal house just lost and to a little son just born. We
give the French text, and follow it with a close English translation:

  Par votre ange envolée ainsi qu'une colombe,
    Par ce royal enfant doux et frèle roseau,
  Grace encore une fois! grace au nom de la tombe!
    Grace au nom du berceau!

  By your lost angel, dove-like from you flown,
    By this sweet royal babe, fair, fragile reed,
  Mercy once more! Be mercy, mercy shown,
    In the tomb's name, and cradle's, both, I plead.

The poet's plea availed.

Another little gem of Victor Hugo's is the following quatrain, which,
though it may have had at first some particular occasion, is capable of
the most general application. Again we give the French, for the French
here almost translates itself:

  Soyons comme l'oiseau posé pour un instant
    Sur des rameaux trop frêles;
  Qui sent trembler la branche, mais qui chant pourtant,
    Sachant qu'il a des ailes.

This may be thus rendered, almost word for word:

  Like the bird let us be, for one moment alight
    Upon branches too frail to uphold,
  Who feels tremble the bough, but who sings in despite,
    Knowing well she has wings to unfold.

One more little gem from Victor Hugo's treasury of such we are happily
able to present in a version whose authorship will commend it; Mr.
Andrew Lang translates "The Grave and the Rose." The poet here affirms,
as he is very fond of doing, that capital article in his creed, the
immortality of the soul:

  The Grave said to the Rose,
    "What of the dews of morn,
  Love's flower, what end is theirs?"
    "And what of souls outworn,
  Of them whereon doth close
    The tomb's mouth unawares?"
  The Rose said to the Grave.

  The Rose said, "In the shade
    From the dawn's tears is made
  A perfume faint and strange,
    Amber and honey sweet."
    "And all the spirits fleet
  Do suffer a sky-change
    More strangely than the dew--
    To God's own angels new,"
  The Grave said to the Rose.

The majesty with which this great Frenchman would sometimes, in prose,
condescend to be an acrobat walking the tight-rope of grandiloquence
stretched over a bottomless abyss of the ridiculous, is well shown in
his monograph on Shakespeare. This is accessible in a scholarlike
English translation (A. C. McClurg & Co., Chicago, publishers) by
Melville B. Anderson. The following sentences will indicate what it is.
No one familiar with Victor Hugo can doubt that the great presence of
HIMSELF, the writer, was really the chief thing in his musing eye, when,
in the latter part of this extract, he was ostensibly describing and
vindicating romanticist Shakespeare:

  Shakespeare, shuddering, has within himself winds, spirits, magic
  potions, vibrations; he sways in the passing breeze, obscure
  effluences pervade him, he is filled with the unknown sap of life.
  Thence his agitation, at the core of which is peace. It is this
  agitation which is lacking in Goethe, wrongly praised for his
  impassiveness, which is inferiority. All minds of the first order have
  this agitation. It is in Job, in Æschylus, in Alighieri. This
  agitation is humanity.... It seems at times as if Shakespeare
  terrified Shakespeare. He shudders at his own depth. This is the sign
  of supreme intelligence. It is his own vastness which shakes him and
  imparts to him strange and mighty oscillations. There is no genius
  without billows. An intoxicated savage, it may be. He has the savagery
  of the virgin forest; he has the intoxication of the high sea.

"He shudders at his own depth"--hardly could we resist the temptation to
bracket in "[Victor Hugo]" after the pronoun "he." Every reader should
do this mentally for himself; he otherwise will miss that important part
of the true sense, which here is written between the lines. There never
was genius with more inseparable, unescapable, tyrannizing consciousness
of itself. You feel the personality even more than you feel the genius
in reading Victor Hugo.

A considerable part of Victor Hugo's prose production, mostly fiction,
has been translated into English. Messrs. T. Y. Crowell & Co. publish
six portly volumes in a uniform edition. From "Les Miserables" in this
series we make extracts which will briefly represent Victor Hugo's prose
at its very best, alike in style, in thought, and in spirit. In the
first, the writer gives utterance to reflections inspired by the final
event of the battle of Waterloo:

  This vertigo, this terror, this downfall into ruin of the loftiest
  bravery which ever astounded history--is that causeless? No. The
  shadow of an enormous right is projected athwart Waterloo. It is the
  day of destiny. The force which is mightier than man produced that
  day. Hence the terrified wrinkle of those brows; hence all those great
  souls surrendering their swords. Those who have conquered Europe have
  fallen prone on the earth, with nothing left to say or to do, feeling
  the present shadow of a terrible presence. _Hoc erat in fatis._ That
  day the perspective of the human race underwent a change. Waterloo is
  the hinge of the nineteenth century. The disappearance of the great
  man was necessary to the advent of the great century. Some one, a
  person to whom one replies not, took the responsibility on himself.
  The panic of heroes can be explained. In the battle of Waterloo there
  is something more than a cloud, there is something of the meteor. God
  has passed by.

In the second, Victor Hugo contrasts the two leaders, the conqueror and
the conquered, of that momentous day:

  Waterloo is the strangest encounter in history. Napoleon and
  Wellington. They are not enemies; they are opposites. Never did God,
  who is fond of antitheses, make a more striking contrast, a more
  extraordinary comparison. On one side, precision, foresight, geometry,
  prudence, an assured retreat, reserves spared, with an obstinate
  coolness, an imperturbable method, strategy, which takes advantage of
  the ground, tactics, which preserve the equilibrium of batallions,
  carnage, executed according to rule, war regulated, watch in hand,
  nothing voluntarily left to chance, the ancient classic courage,
  absolute regularity; on the other intuition, divination, military
  oddity, superhuman instinct, a flaming glance, an indescribable
  something which gazes like an eagle, and which strikes like the
  lightning, a prodigious art in disdainful impetuosity, all the
  mysteries of a profound soul, association with destiny; the stream,
  the plain, the forest, the hill, summoned, and in a manner, forced to
  obey, the despot going even so far as to tyrannize over the field of
  battle; faith in a star mingled with strategic science, elevating but
  perturbing it. Wellington was the Barême of war; Napoleon was its
  Michael Angelo; and on this occasion genius was vanquished by
  calculation. On both sides some one was awaited. It was the exact
  calculator who succeeded. Napoleon was waiting for Grouchy; he did
  not come. Wellington expected Blücher; he came.

It remains only to exemplify, as best in small space we can, Victor
Hugo's portentous, his terrific, power in working up a tragic situation,
and displaying it as in a calcium-light of intense imaginative
description or narration. We shall then feel that this Titanic figure in
French literature is at least by suggestive partial glimpses fairly
before our readers. From "Les Miserables," we take the following
passage, introduced by the original author as a first step only in the
climax by which he represents the supreme agony of his hero in a great
crisis of his life:

  It sometimes happens that on certain shores of Bretagne or Scotland a
  man, traveler or fisherman, while walking at low tide on the beach,
  far from shore, suddenly notices that for several minutes past he has
  been walking with some difficulty. The beach under foot is like pitch;
  his soles stick fast to it; it is no longer sand, it is bird-lime....

  The man pursues his way, he walks on, turns toward the land, endeavors
  to approach the shore. He is not uneasy. Uneasy about what? Only he is
  conscious that the heaviness of his feet seems to be increasing at
  every step that he takes. All at once he sinks in. He sinks in two or
  three inches. Decidedly, he is not on the right road: he halts to get
  his bearings. Suddenly he glances at his feet; his feet have
  disappeared. The sand has covered them. He draws his feet out of the
  sand, he tries to retrace his steps, he turns back, he sinks in more
  deeply than before. The sand is up to his ankles, he tears himself
  free from it and flings himself to the left, the sand reaches to
  mid-leg, he flings himself to the right, the sand comes up to his
  knees. Then, with indescribable terror, he recognizes the fact that he
  is caught in a quicksand....

  He shouts, he waves his hat, or his handkerchief, the sand continually
  gains on him.... He is condemned to that terrible interment, long,
  infallible, implacable, which it is impossible to either retard or
  hasten, which lasts for hours, which will not come to an end, which
  seizes you erect, free, in the flush of health, which drags you down
  by the feet, which, at every effort that you attempt, at every shout
  that you utter, draws you a little lower, which has the air of
  punishing you for your resistance by a redoubled grasp, which forces a
  man to return slowly to earth, while leaving him time to survey the
  horizon, the trees, the verdant country, the smoke of the villages on
  the plain, the sails of the ships on the sea, the birds which fly and
  sing, the sun and the sky.... The wretched man ... shrieks, implores,
  cries to the clouds, wrings his hands, grows desperate. Behold him in
  sand up to his belly, the sand reaches to his breast, he is only a
  bust now. He uplifts his hands, utters furious groans, clenches his
  nails on the beach, tries to cling fast to that ashes, supports
  himself on his elbows in order to raise himself from that soft sheath,
  and sobs frantically; the sand mounts higher. The sand has reached his
  shoulders, the sand reaches to his throat; only his face is visible
  now. His mouth cries aloud, the sand fills it; silence. His eyes still
  gaze forth, the sand closes them; night. Then his brow decreases, a
  little hair quivers above the sand; a hand projects, pierces the
  surface of the beach, waves, and disappears. Sinister obliteration of
  a man!

Victor Hugo's hero was involved thus in a quicksand--but the quicksand
in his case was underground, and dark as Erebus; it was a quicksand
composed of the unspeakable foulness and fetor of a cess-pool--he was
wading up to his very chin in the noisome Styx of the great Paris sewer.
All this to rescue, upborne in his arms above his head, a man
unconscious, perhaps already dead from wounds received, and a man whom
he, the rescuer, hated. There is Victor Hugo for you, Victor Hugo in his
glory. For the glory of Victor Hugo as novelist is in climaxes of agony,
lashed together and reared like an endless ladder reaching to heaven.
This his strength is his weakness. All is said that need be said in
hostile criticism of Victor Hugo's writings, when it is said that he is
always to the last degree egotistic and to the last degree theatric.
Effect is every thing, truth nothing, with him.

That Victor Hugo willed to be buried exactly like a pauper did not
prevent the occurrence of certain very important contrasts between his
obsequies and the rites of an ordinary pauper funeral; perhaps, indeed,
such a will on his part contributed to create the difference which at
all events existed. The funeral attendance was said to be the most
numerous ever seen in France. A million spectators were present. Three
large wagons headed the procession filled with floral gifts. A beautiful
diadem of Irish lilies was contributed by Tennyson, inscribed "To the
World's Greatest Poet."

The French apotheosis of a national idol would not be complete without
tribute from the theater. Accordingly, the Theâtre Français produced a
drama by M. Rénan entitled "_Mort_," in which the shades of Corneille,
Racine, Boileau, Voltaire, and Diderot hold a dialogue about human
progress in the century to follow them, and, Corneille asking, "What
poet will sing in that era, as sweet and tender as Racine, as logical as
Boileau, as clear in style as Voltaire," the genius of the age lyrically
answers, "Hugo," at the same time placing a crown on Hugo's bust.

Victor Hugo the man, especially as he mellowed with old age, was a
sunny, sweet, benignant nature. He was a hearty, one might almost say a
partisan, believer in God--atheism was so offensive to him.
Unfortunately, however, Victor Hugo's theism was not such as to enforce
departure, in his own personal practice, from that deplorable tradition
of his country which has rendered so many distinguished French authors,
from the earliest to the latest, offenders against the laws of marriage
and of chastity.


2. SAINTE-BEUVE.

Sainte-Beuve is an instance of the half-malicious sportiveness of nature
or of fortune. What he chiefly desired was the fame of a poet. What he
chiefly got was the fame of a critic. But Sainte-Beuve's fame as a
critic was far more in fact, if far less to his mind, than any fame that
he could have achieved as a poet. In poetry, he never could have risen
higher than to be a poet of the second or of the third rank. He is
admitted to be a critic of the first rank. Nay, in the opinion of many,
Sainte-Beuve constitutes a rank by himself, having no peers.

Sainte-Beuve's range of subjects was very wide. He exercised himself to
be equally open and fair toward all schools of taste and of opinion
alike. At the outset, he was of the coterie of the romanticists. But he
soon broke with these, either personally repelled by antipathies, or
else unconsciously attracted by a secret sympathy of his own, too strong
for his contrary will to resist, toward the classical standards
respesented in the seventeenth-century writers. He never seems to feel
himself more entirely in his element than when he is appreciating the
literature of the French golden age.

As to religion, Sainte-Beuve, having had his phase of pietism even,
ended by becoming a blank unbeliever. But his own antipathetic personal
attitude of intellect and of heart toward Christianity he would not in
the least allow to disturb the urbanity and serenity of his tolerance
for the most orthodox Christian writers. Such, at any rate, was his
standard and ideal.

But at this point, as at all points, the complaisance of Sainte-Beuve's
writing is a manner with him, rather than a spirit. It does not
penetrate deeply. He loves his "insinuations." That is his own word. He
is willing to write a whole essay in criticism for the sake of the
"insinuations" which his deceitful blandness will sheathe. Or, rather,
he would sooner give up the whole essay than forego a phrase, or perhaps
a single word, containing his insinuation. It was partly his critical
conscience, no doubt, instinctively nice about shades of opinion and of
expression; but then a something very like malice was mingled with his
critical conscience. With all that must be conceded to the value of
Sainte-Beuve's critical work, readers are conscious, in concluding the
perusal of almost any one of his essays, that the result to them is a
sapor remaining on their literary palate, rather than substance of
nutriment entered into their mental digestion. Their food has been
refined into a flavor.

For our illustration of Sainte-Beuve, we go to a paper of his on
Bossuet. But we need to prepare our readers. Sainte-Beuve is a writer
for the few, instead of for the many. To profit from him requires some
effort of attention. One must study a little, as well as simply read.
Sainte-Beuve does not deal in heavy strokes. His lines are most of them
fine, many of them hair-lines vanishing almost into invisibility. He
escapes you like Proteus. Very different is he, by this elusive quality
of his, from his countryman, M. Taine, whose bold crayon sketches are at
once appreciable to all.

In the choice indicated of specimen, we draw from a series of short
criticisms which the author called _Causeries du Lundi_; "Monday-Chats,"
Mr. William Matthews, who has a volume of select translations from them,
not unhappily renders the title. These were originally published as
Monday articles in the columns of two Paris journals, the
_Constitutionel_ and the _Moniteur_. Mr. Matthews's volume is introduced
by a most readable biographical sketch and literary appreciation of
Sainte-Beuve himself from the pen of the translator. M. Sainte-Beuve, we
ought to say, in addition to his very considerable body of criticism,
ranging, as we have intimated, over a wide field of literature, wrote an
extended historical monograph on Port Royal, which is constantly
referred to by writers as an authority on its subject.

The critic characterizes his subject broadly by his most commanding
traits:

  The simple idea of order, of authority, of unity, of the continual
  government of Providence, Bossuet, among the moderns, has grasped more
  completely than any other man, and he applies it on all occasions
  without effort, and, as it were, by an irrefutable deduction. Bossuet
  is the Hebrew genius, expanded, fecundated by Christianity, and open
  to all the gains of the human intelligence, but acknowledging
  something of sovereign interdiction, and closing its vast horizon
  precisely at the point where its light ceases. In mien and in tone he
  resembles a Moses; there are mingled in his speech traits
  characteristic of the Prophet-King, touches of a pathos ardent and
  sublime; there sounds the voice eloquent by eminence, the simplest,
  the strongest, the most abrupt, the most familiar, the most suddenly
  outbursting in thunder. Even where he holds his course unbending, in
  an imperious flood, he bears along with him treasures of eternal human
  morality. And it is by all these qualities that he is for us a unique
  man, and that, whatever may be the employment he makes of his speech,
  he remains the model of eloquence the most exalted, and of language
  the most beautiful.

Sainte-Beuve is so much a critic that he cannot help criticising by the
way, or even sometimes perhaps a little out of the way. But it will be
quite to our purpose if we admit here what Sainte-Beuve incidentally
says of Lamartine:

  [Bossuet] was early distinguished for surprising gifts of memory and
  of understanding. He knew Virgil by heart, as, a little later, he knew
  Homer. "Less easy to understand is it," says M. de Lamartine, "_how
  he was infatuated all his life_ with the Latin poet, Horace, spirit
  exquisite, but the reverse of spontaneous and natural, who strings his
  lyre with only the softest fibers of the heart; a careless
  voluptuary," etc. M. de Lamartine, who has so well discerned the great
  features of the eloquence and of the talent of Bossuet, has studied a
  little too lightly his life, and he has here proposed to himself a
  difficulty which does not exist; there is nowhere mention made in fact
  of that _inexplicable predilection_ of Bossuet for Horace, _the least
  divine of all the poets_. M. de Lamartine must have inadvertently read
  "Horace" instead of "Homer." ... It was Fénelon (and not Bossuet) who
  read and relished Horace more than any other poet, who knew him by
  heart.... The great pagan preference of Bossuet (if one may use such
  an expression) was quite naturally for Homer; after him for Virgil;
  Horace, in his judgment and in his liking, came far behind them. But
  the book by eminence which gave early direction to the genius and to
  the entire career of Bossuet, and which dominated all within him, was
  the Bible; it is said that the first time he read it he was
  illuminated and transported by it. He had found in it the source
  whence his own genius was destined to flow, like one of the four great
  rivers in Genesis.

Sainte-Beuve speaks of the relation of the Hotel de Rambouillet to the
future great man:

  The young Bossuet was conducted thither one evening to preach there an
  improvised sermon. In lending himself to these singular exercises and
  to these tournaments where his person and his gifts were challenged,
  treated as an intellectual virtuoso in the salons of the Hôtel de
  Rambouillet and the Hôtel de Nevers, it does not appear that Bossuet
  was in consequence subjected to the slightest charge of vanity, and
  there is no example of a precocious genius so praised, caressed by the
  world, and remaining so perfectly exempt from all self-love and from
  all coquetry.

In the following passage, Sainte-Beuve appreciates, not without
insinuated criticism, the younger eloquence of Bossuet the preacher.
Conceive this atheist critic, for such in effect Sainte-Beuve was,
entering into the spirit of the orthodox Christian, exclusively for the
purpose of justly judging and enjoying a strain of pulpit eloquence! But
that is Sainte-Beuve:

  When he portrays to us Jesus purposing to clothe himself with a flesh
  like our own, and when he sets forth the motives for this according to
  the Scriptures, with what bold relief and what saliency he does it! He
  exhibits that Saviour who above all seeks out misery and distress,
  shunning to take on the angelic nature which would have exempted him
  from this, leaping over, in some sense, and tasking himself to pursue,
  to _apprehend_ wretched human nature, precisely because it is
  wretched, clinging to it and running after it, although it flies from
  him, although it recoils from being assumed by him; aiming to secure
  for himself real human flesh, real human blood, with the qualities and
  the weaknesses of our own, and that for what reason? _In order to be
  compassionate._ Although in all this Bossuet only makes use of the
  terms of the Apostle and perhaps of those of Chrysostom, he employs
  them with a delight, a luxury, a gust for reduplication, which
  bespeaks vivacious youth: "He has," says the apostle, "_apprehended_
  human nature; it flew away, it would have nothing of the Saviour; what
  did he do? He ran after it with headlong speed, leaping over the
  mountains, that is to say, the ranks of the angels.... He ran like a
  giant, with great strides and immeasurable, passing in a moment from
  heaven to earth.... There he overtook that fugitive nature; he seized
  it, he apprehended it, body and soul." Let us study the youthful
  eloquence of Bossuet, even in his risks of taste, as one studies the
  youthful poetry of the great Corneille.

Sainte-Beuve cannot let Lamartine alone. In the clause following,
italicized by us, our readers are to recognize an irony on the part of
the critic:

  M. de Lamartine, who, _with that second sight which is granted to
  poets_, knew how to see Bossuet distinctly as he was when young, etc.

Having quoted, with significant italics disposed here and there, a
highly realistic imaginary picture of the youthful Bossuet from the hand
of Lamartine, Sainte-Beuve says:

  Here is a primitive Bossuet much toned down and mollified, so it seems
  to me, a Bossuet drawn very much at will, to resemble Jocelyn and
  Fénelon, in order that it may be said afterward [by Lamartine]: "The
  soul evidently in this great man was of one temper, and the genius of
  another. Nature had made him tender; dogma had made him hard." I do
  not believe in this contradiction in Bossuet, a nature having the most
  perfect harmony, and the least at war with itself, that we know. But
  what for me is not less certain is, that the illustrious biographer
  [Lamartine] here treats literary history absolutely as history is
  treated in an historical romance; there you lightly invent your
  character, where your information fails, or where dramatic interest
  demands it. And without refusing the praise which certain ingenious
  and delicate touches of this portrait merit, I will permit myself to
  ask more seriously: Is it proper, is it becoming, thus to paint
  Bossuet as a youth, to fondle thus with the brush, as one would a
  Greek dancing-woman or a beautiful child of the English aristocracy,
  him who never ceased to grow under the shadow of the temple, that
  serious youth who gave promise of the simple great man, all genius and
  all eloquence? Far, far from him [Bossuet] these fondlings and these
  physiological feats of a brush which amuses itself with carmine and
  with veins....

You feel, with regard to the foregoing criticism, that it is as just as
it is penetrative. Lamartine fairly provoked it.

Here is a trait of Bossuet's that pertained remarkably also to Daniel
Webster:

  Bossuet is not one of those ingenious men of talent who have the art
  of treating commonplace subjects excellently, and of introducing into
  them foreign materials; but let the subject presented to him be vast,
  lofty, majestic, he is at his ease, and, the higher the theme, the
  more is he equal to its demands, on his proper plane, and in his
  element.

The Abbé Maury is a critic belonging to the classical school of French
literature. His best-known work is a treatise on pulpit eloquence. La
Harpe is another critic of the same class with Maury, who has a
considerable work, historical and critical, devoted to French literature
in general. To these two writers Sainte-Beuve makes instructive allusion
in the following passage:

  Two opinions found expression when the Sermons of Bossuet were first
  published, in 1772; I have already indicated that of the Abbé Maury,
  who placed these sermons above everything else of that kind which the
  French pulpit had produced; the other opinion, which was that of La
  Harpe, and which I have known to be shared since by other sensible
  men, was less enthusiastic and showed itself more sensitive to the
  inequalities and to the discordances of tone. It would be possible to
  justify both of these opinions, with the understanding that the first
  should triumph in the end, and that the genius of Bossuet, there as
  elsewhere, should keep the first rank. It is very true that, read
  continuously, without any notice of the age of the writer, and of the
  place and circumstances of their composition, some of these discourses
  of Bossuet may offend or surprise minds that love to dwell upon the
  more uniform and more exact continuity of Bourdaloue or of Massillon.

Victor Cousin is one among the somewhat numerous writers who, within the
bounds of this same paper on Bossuet, fall under the touch of
Sainte-Beauve's critical lance, that weapon borne ever in rest and ready
for any encounter:

  A great writer of our days, M. Cousin ... has been disposed once more
  to despoil Louis XIV. of his highest glory in order to carry it all
  back to the epoch preceding. M. Cousin has a convenient method of
  exaggerating and aggrandizing the objects of his admiration: he
  degrades or depresses their surroundings. It is thus that, to exalt
  Corneille, in whom he sees Æschylus, Sophocles, all the Greek tragic
  poets united, he sacrifices and diminishes Racine; it is thus that, in
  order the better to celebrate the epoch of Louis XIII. and of the
  regency which followed, he depresses the reign of Louis XIV.

It is Sainte-Beuve's specialty--in aim, whether in achievement or
not--to be without the tendency thus charged upon M. Cousin, to violate
proportion in his criticism. The insinuating delicacy of his adverse, or
at least disparaging, critical judgment toward a distinguished
contemporary author is well exemplified in the following passage, in
which the critic, by his instinct as critic, is irresistibly drawn to
make a return to Cousin. The wise reader familiar with Mr. Matthew
Arnold will see how exactly the latter caught from his French master the
trick of method here displayed:

  Ah, I cannot refrain from expressing another thought. When M. Cousin
  speaks so at his ease of Louis XIV., of Louis XIII., and of Richelieu,
  confidently attributing superiority to that which he prefers and which
  he thinks resembles him, I am astonished that he has never once asked
  himself this question: "What would have been the gain, what the loss
  to my own talent, this talent which is daily compared with that of the
  writers of the great age--what would have been gained or lost to that
  admirable talent" (I forget that it is he that is speaking) "if I had
  had to write or to discourse, were it but for a few years, in the very
  presence of Louis XIV., that is to say, of that royal good sense,
  calm, sober, and august? And that which I should have thus gained or
  lost, in my vivacity and my eloquence, would it not have been
  precisely that which it lacks in the way of gravity, of proportion, of
  propriety, of perfect justice, and, consequently, of true authority?"

Lamartine does not escape still another light thrust from this dangerous
delicate lance, aimed yet again, with exquisite accuracy, through an
unquestionable joint in the victim's harness:

  "These two rivals in eloquence," says M. de Lamartine, speaking of
  Bossuet and of Bourdaloue, "were passionately compared. _To the shame
  of the time_, the number of Bourdaloue's admirers surpassed in a short
  time that of the enthusiastic devotees of Bossuet. The reason of this
  preference for a cold argumentation above a sublime eloquence lies in
  the nature of human things. The men of middling stature have more
  resemblance to their age than the giants have to their contemporaries.
  The orators who deal in argument are more easily comprehended by the
  multitude than the orators who are fired with enthusiasm; one must
  have wings to follow the lyric orator." ... This theory, invented
  expressly to give the greatest glory to the _lyric orators_ and to the
  giants, is here at fault. M. de Bausset, author of a work on Bossuet,
  has remarked, on the contrary, as a kind of singularity, that it never
  entered any man's head at that time to consider Bossuet and Bourdaloue
  as subject of comparison, and to weigh in the balance their merit and
  their genius, as was so often done in the case of Corneille and of
  Racine; or, at least, if they were compared, it was but very seldom.
  To the honor and not to the shame of the time, the public taste and
  sentiment took note of the difference. Bossuet, in the higher sphere
  of the episcopate, remained the oracle, the doctor, a modern Father of
  the Church, the great orator, who appeared on funeral and majestic
  occasions; who sometimes re-appeared in the pulpit at the monarch's
  request, or to solemnize the assemblies of the clergy, leaving on each
  occasion an overpowering and ineffaceable recollection of his
  eloquence. Meanwhile Bourdaloue continued to be for the age the usual
  preacher by eminence, the one who gave a connected course of lectures
  on moral and practical Christianity, and who distributed the daily
  bread in its most wholesome form to all the faithful. Bossuet has said
  somewhere, in one of his sermons: "If it were not better suited to the
  dignity of this pulpit to regard the maxims of the Gospel as
  indubitable than to prove them by reasoning, how easily could I show
  you," etc. There, where Bossuet would have suffered from stooping and
  subjecting himself to too long a course of proof and to a continuous
  argumentation, Bourdaloue, who had not the same impatience of genius,
  was, beyond doubt, an apostolic workman who was more efficient in the
  long run, and better fitted for his task by his constancy. The age in
  which both appeared had the merit to make this distinction, and to
  appreciate each of them without opposing one to the other; and to-day
  those who glory in this opposition, and who so easily crush Bourdaloue
  with Bossuet, the man of talent with the man of genius, because they
  think they are conscious themselves of belonging to the family of
  geniuses, too easily forget that this Christian eloquence was designed
  to edify and to nourish still more than to please or to subdue.

The "bright consummate flower" of Bossuet's eloquence is to be found in
his Funeral Discourses. Of one of these, Sainte-Beuve, with a sudden
sympathetic swell of kindred eloquence in description, speaks, in a
passage with quotation from which we close our exemplifications of this
famous critic:

  The death of the Queen of England came to offer him (1669) the
  grandest and most majestic of themes. He needed the fall and the
  restoration of thrones, the revolution of empires, all the varied
  fortunes assembled in a single life, and weighing upon one and the
  same head; the eagle needed the vast depth of the heavens, and, below,
  all the abysses and the storms of the ocean.

It has been to us some satisfaction that the wrong of distortion by
reduction in scale done to the majestic figure of Bossuet in our own
treatment of him, and unavoidable there, could thus in a measure be
redressed by return to the subject in effective quotation from
Sainte-Beuve. Looking back on the extracts preceding, we feel that
enough is expressed, or suggested, in them, to justify us in saying,
There is Bossuet.

But at any rate we have great confidence in saying, There is
Sainte-Beuve.


3. BALZAC.

Honoré de Balzac is one of the heroes of literature. He set himself
labors of Hercules in literary production, and he toiled at his tasks of
will with a tireless tenacity little less than sublime. The moral
spectacle of such courageous industry in Balzac, the present writer
admires, not the less, but the more, that the intellectual achievement
resulting seems to him not commensurately great. Balzac's long "toil and
endeavor" was not leavened and lightened and turned into play by that
"reflex of unimpeded energy" in him which a lofty philosopher has
defined happiness to be. He did his work hardly--with profuse sweat of
his brow. His mind did not answer to that definition of genius which
makes it a faculty of lighting its own fires. His fires Balzac lighted
with late hours, artificial illumination, strong stimulant drinks. He
burned himself out early in life--comparatively early, that is to say;
he died at fifty-one.

The moral triumph of Balzac we have but half suggested. Not only did he
lack the spontaneous joy of genius at work; he lacked also, for many
and many a doubtful year, the encouragement of recognition and success.
Book after book of his failed, and still he toiled on. The world was
fairly conquered at last. The reverse of Tulliver's experience happened
with Balzac. One man, in his case, proved "too many" for the world.

For his own part, he freely confesses, the present writer not only
admires; he wonders. Balzac's novels do not please him, either as
products of genius or as works of art. They please him solely as
monuments of victorious labor. They have to his mind exactly the quality
that was to have been expected from the history of their production.
They smell of oil, they smack of sweat. They are full of stimulated,
rather than stimulating, thought. So much as one passage in which
imagination played its magnificent play in easy and easily perfect
creation, one passage in which the words flowed of themselves, and did
not come each pumped with a several stroke of author's will, he cannot
remember ever to have found in Balzac. He wonders, therefore, and
helplessly wonders, that Balzac should be esteemed, as he is, and that
by some good judges, one of the greatest writers in the world.

What Balzac undertook was to write the whole "human tale of this wide
world"--that is, to represent in fiction all the manifold phases and
aspects of human life and character. He calls the entire series of his
novels "The Human Comedy." This title, we have seen it stated, was not
original with Balzac, but was adopted by him at the suggestion of a
friend who hit upon it as a kind of balance and contrast to Dante's
expression, "Divine Comedy." It is not quite a cynic conception of human
character and human destiny that Balzac intended thus to express. Still,
on the other hand, his view of human nature and human life cannot be
said to be genial. The disagreeable preponderates in his fiction--the
disagreeable one must call it, rather than the tragic. For true tragedy
there is not height enough. In reading Balzac, you breathe for the most
part an atmosphere of the not merely common, but--vulgar. Of course, the
novelist himself would have said, Very well, such is man, and such is
life. This one need not deny, but one can say, It was at least not
desirable that readers should be obliged to feel the novelist to be
himself vulgar, along with his characters. There is such a thing as
refined dealing with people not refined.

Realism was Balzac's aim, and realism was the rock on which Balzac
suffered double shipwreck. In seeking to be realistic, he became vulgar;
and in seeking to be realistic, he became unreal. For there is an air of
unreality diffused everywhere over the pages, meant to be realistic or
nothing, of this voluminous writer. Balzac evolved the personages of his
fiction out of his own consciousness. They are none of them human
beings, such as you meet in the real world. They are _simulacra_,
images, bodiless projections, of the author's own mind. They move over
his canvas like the specters thrown by the magic-lantern on its screen.

Balzac and Dickens are sometimes paralleled. There certainly is in a
number of particulars a superficial resemblance between them. Both
undertake to be realists. Both concern themselves chiefly with people of
the average sort--sort, perhaps, even tending toward the vulgar. Both
exaggerate to a degree that makes them at times almost caricaturists.
Both deal abundantly in minute detail of description. But the contrast
too between them is great. Balzac is far less spontaneous than Dickens.
You feel that Dickens improvises. You never feel this about Balzac. You
can hear Balzac drive his Pegasus with shout and with lash. Dickens's
Pegasus often flies with his bit between his teeth. Dickens was an
observer of men and of things--of books, a student never; there is
perhaps scarcely another instance in nineteenth-century literature of an
author who owed so little as did Dickens to study of books. From books,
on the other hand, Balzac purveyed a large share of his material.
Dickens writes as if unconscious that a race of men like the critics
existed. Balzac writes in view of the critics. These in fact seem to be
his audience quite as much as do the general public. Balzac, beginning
that novel of his from which we are presently to draw our sole brief
extract to exhibit his manner, enters, according to a fashion of his,
upon an elaborate unnecessary description of the house in which the
scene of his action is laid. But he prefaces thus:

  Before describing this house, it may be well, in the interest of other
  writers, to explain the necessity for such didactic preliminaries,
  since they have raised a protest from certain ignorant and voracious
  readers who want emotions without undergoing the generating process,
  the flower without the seed, the child without gestation. Is Art
  supposed to have higher powers than Nature?

Such a sentence as that--prefatory, but in the body of the text, and not
in a formal preface--would have been impossible to Dickens. In Balzac,
it is the most natural thing in the world. And it discloses the secret
of the character everywhere stamped on his production. He wrote as a
professional writer. He conformed to a law that he himself imposed upon
his genius, instead of leaving his genius free to be a law to itself. A
real realist, a realist, that is to say, such by nature, and not merely
by profession, a realist like De Foe, for example, could never have
committed the offense against art of disturbing thus that very illusion
of reality which he sought to produce, by exhibiting and defending the
method adopted by him to produce it. There could not be a case imposing
more obligation on the artist to conceal his art. But Balzac, instead,
forces upon his reader the thought of art by calling its very name.

Balzac paints with a big brush and puts on plenty of color. No one need
fear in reading him that he will miss delicate shades. There are none
such to miss. Balzac does not suggest. He speaks right out. Nay, he
insists. You shall by no means fail of understanding him.

But, over against everything that can thus justly be said in diminution
of his worth, there remain the unalterable facts, of Balzac's great
reputation, just now looming larger than ever, of his voluminous
literary achievement, of his population of imaginary personages
projected into the world of thought, by actual count more, we believe,
than two thousand poll. There is published a portly biographical
dictionary exclusively devoted to the characters of Balzac's fiction.

Paralyzed to choose, even to think of choosing, out of the enormous
volume of this writer's laborious production, a single page for
exemplifying his quality, we pitch desperately upon the conclusion of
that story of his called by the accomplished American translator of it,
Miss Katharine Prescott Wormeley, "The Alkahest," "The Search for the
Absolute" is the author's own title. This work, belonging in the endless
series of volumes dedicated to the display of the "comedy of human life"
in all its phases, is a novel which undertakes to illustrate the effect
on character and destiny of an exclusive supreme absorption in
scientific pursuits. The hero has at length reached the catastrophe of
his career. He is an old man who has wrecked fortune after fortune in
chemical quest of a scientific chimera, The Absolute. A monomaniac
before, he is paralytic now, and the last night of his life is slowly
passing. Balzac:

  The old man made incredible efforts to shake off the bonds of his
  paralysis; he tried to speak and moved his tongue, unable to make a
  sound; his flaming eyes emitted thoughts; his drawn features expressed
  an untold agony; his fingers writhed in desperation; the sweat stood
  in drops upon his brow. In the morning, when his children came to his
  bed-side and kissed him with an affection which the sense of coming
  death made day by day more ardent and more eager, he showed none of
  his usual satisfaction at these signs of their tenderness. Emmanuel
  [the dying man's son-in-law], instigated by the doctor, hastened to
  open the newspaper, to try if the usual reading might not relieve the
  inward crisis in which Balthazar was evidently struggling. As he
  unfolded the sheet he saw the words, "DISCOVERY OF THE ABSOLUTE,"
  which startled him and he read a paragraph to Marguerite [the
  daughter] concerning a sale made by a celebrated Polish mathematician
  of the secret of the Absolute. Though Emmanuel read in a low voice,
  and Marguerite signed to him to omit the passage, Balthazar heard it.

  Suddenly the dying man raised himself by his wrists and cast on his
  frightened children a look which struck like lightning; the hairs that
  fringed the bald head stirred, the wrinkles quivered, the features
  were illumined with spiritual fires, a breath passed across that face
  and rendered it sublime; he raised a hand, clenched in fury, and
  uttered with a piercing cry the famous words of Archimedes,
  "EUREKA!"--"I have found."

  He fell back upon his bed with the dull sound of an inert body, and
  died, uttering an awful moan, his convulsed eyes expressing to the
  last, when the doctor closed them, the regret of not bequeathing to
  science the secret of an enigma whose veil was rent away--too late--by
  the fleshless fingers of death.

The reader there has Balzac at his highest and best.

Those desirous of acquainting themselves with some integral work of this
author's will choose wisely if they choose any one of these four: "Père
Goriot," "César Birotteau," "Modeste Mignon," "The Alkahest" ("The
Search for the Absolute"). Mr. Saintsbury, a competent hand, edits a
series of translations from Balzac, including the novels just named,
together with everything else worth possessing from his industrious pen.


4. GEORGE SAND.

In virile quality, Madame de Stael seemed _rediviva_, or should we keep
the more familiar masculine gender, and say _redivivus_? in George Sand.
"It only happened that she was a woman," said some one, of the latter
personage; and indeed the chance that made her such seemed half on the
point of being reversed by the choice of the subject herself. For,
besides that she has her fame permanently under a pseudonym naturally
betokening a man as its owner, it is a fact that she did, at one time,
in order to greater freedom of the world, wear man's clothes and
otherwise play the man among her Parisian fellows. This episode in her
experience doubtless helped give her that great advantage over other
women, which her genius enabled her to use to effect so surpassing, in
describing the male human being such as he himself recognizes himself to
be.

The episode, however, was short, and George Sand is thought by her
admirers--and her admirers include some very grave and self-respecting
persons, the late Mr. Matthew Arnold being one example--never to have
parted with a certain paradoxical womanly reserve and delicacy which
ought logically to have been quite lost out of her nature through the
coarse and soiled contacts to which she herself willingly, and even
willfully, subjected it.

But, poor George Sand! Let us never, in judging her, forget how
ill-bestead a childhood was hers, and how unhappy a marriage was
provided for her warm and passionate youth. Her life began in protest,
and protest was the early strength of her genius and her endeavor. She
protested against things as they were, and, according to her light--a
light sadly confused with misguiding cross-lights from many quarters
besides her own eager self-will--fought, and pleaded, and wept,
aspiring, hoping, believing, for an ideal world in which love should be
law; or rather an ideal world in which law should have ceased, and love
should be all. From one of the last of her innumerable books, perhaps
from the very last, Mr. Matthew Arnold translates this expression, which
he repeats as summing up the motive of her work--"the sentiment of the
ideal life, which is none other than man's normal life as we shall one
day know it."

The word "love" does not occur in this expression, but that word and
that thought make the luminous legend over everything hers by the light
of which everything hers is to be read and interpreted.

Of course, George Sand's "love" is not the sentiment which the apostle
Paul sings in that prose canticle of his found in the thirteenth chapter
of First Corinthians. But neither is it the purely animal passion that
base souls might understand it. The peculiar affection natural between
the sexes it indeed includes, but it includes much more. It includes all
domestic, all social affections. In short, it is love in the largest
sense. The largest sense, but not the highest. For it is love, the
indulgence, the appetite; not love, the duty, the principle. George
Sand's gospel is that you may love and indulge yourself; Paul's gospel
is that you must love and deny yourself. Paul says love is the
fulfilling of the law; George Sand virtually says love is the annulling
of the law.

Because in many passionate and powerful novels, read everywhere in
Europe and not only in France, read also in America, George Sand has
preached this gospel of love as the virtual solvent of existing society,
Mr. Justin Macarthy pronounces the opinion that she is on the whole
incomparably the greatest force in literature of her generation. He
probably would attribute to her as a chief motor the portentous
movements in human society which we of to-day feel, like tides of the
sea, bearing us on, no one knows whither. It is no doubt true that
George Sand has contributed what mechanicians call a "moment," not
sufficiently considered, to make up the urgency that is pushing us all
in the direction toward uncalculated social solutions and social
reconstructions. This constitutes her a notable social force working by
literature; a force, however, that has already chiefly spent itself, or
that persists, so far as it does persist, translated indistinguishably
into other forms.

For George Sand is no longer read as she formerly was, her fashion
having already to a great extent passed away. It is a common testimony
that, as she wrote like one improvising, so her writing is to be read
once and not returned to. Her "Consuelo," in its time such a rage, and
still often spoken of as her masterpiece, is now even a little hard to
get through. You yawn, you feel like skipping, you do skip, and you
finally shut up the book wondering why such bright writing should make
such dull reading.

There occurred a sharp, decisive change, a change, however, not
consistently maintained, in George Sand's quality of production. From
producing novels of social ferment, she turned to producing the
quietest, most quieting, idyllic little stories in the world. There is a
long list of such. "La Petite Fadette," "François le Champi," "Les
Maîtres Sonneurs," are among the best of them. From this last,
consummately well translated by our countrywoman, Miss Katharine
Prescott Wormeley, who has Messrs. Roberts Brothers for her publishers,
we shall offer a very short extract in specimen. But first a short
passage from one of her earlier books, in order that our readers may get
a sense of the change that she underwent, or rather--for no doubt the
change was voluntary and calculated on her part--the change that she
chose to make, in her manner. It is simply her two contrasted manners
that we aim to illustrate--not at all, in either case, the matter or
doctrine set forth. To illustrate this last we should have no room, had
we the inclination.

From "Lélia," we translate a passage descriptive of Alpine scenery, or
rather of the effect on the mind of Alpine scenery. After lighting upon
this passage for our choice we found that Mr. Saintsbury too, in his
"Specimens of French Literature," had made the same selection, at double
length, for his sole exemplification of George Sand. We are thus
confirmed in trusting that we shall show our author, if far too briefly,
still at her best:

  "Look where we are; is it not sublime, and can you think of aught else
  than God? Sit down upon this moss, virgin of human steps, and see at
  your feet the desert unrolling its mighty depths. Did ever you
  contemplate anything more wild and yet more full of life? See what
  vigor in this free and vagabond vegetation; what movement in those
  woods which the wind bows and sways, in those great flocks of eagles
  hovering incessantly around the misty summits and passing in moving
  circles like great black rings over the sheet, white and watery, of
  the glacier. Do you hear the noise that rises and falls on every side?
  The torrents weeping and sobbing like unhappy souls; the stags moaning
  with voices plaintive and passionate, the breeze singing and laughing
  among the heather, the vultures screaming like frightened women; and
  those other noises, strange, mysterious, indescribable, rumbling
  muffled in the mountains; those colossal icebergs cracking in their
  very heart; those snows, sucking and drawing down the sand; those
  great roots of trees grappling incessantly with the entrails of the
  earth and toiling to heave the rock and to rive the shale; those
  unknown voices, those vague sighs, which the soil, always a prey to
  the pains of travail, here expires through her gaping loins; do you
  not find all this more splendid, more harmonious, than the church or
  the theater?"

With our utmost effort to convey, through close fidelity, the feeling of
George Sand's style, the delicious music of it, its sweet opulence of
diction, its warmth of color, its easy spontaneity, its lubricity, its
flow, we must ask our readers to imagine all twice as charming as they
could possibly find it in any translation. As to the substance of what
is said in the foregoing sentences? Other travelers may have been more
fortunate, but the present writer is obliged to admit that he never saw
"great flocks," or any flocks at all, of eagles "incessantly hovering
around the summits" of the Alps. Indeed, the eagle is generally supposed
to be a solitary bird, not inclined to fly in flocks. Also, he has never
happened to meet with "stags" in the Alps, much less to hear them moan
passionately or otherwise. "The vultures screaming," etc.? In short, he
would be quite unable to verify in its details George Sand's beautiful
description, which he thinks must have been written from the heart of
the writer, much more than from either her eye or her ear.

Successive generations of readers are not apt to be satisfied with
merely subjective truth in what is offered them to read. There must be
fact of some sort to correspond with statement, in order permanently to
secure the future for an author. But feeling, rather than fact, at least
in her earlier work, is the substance to which George Sand's magical
style gave such exquisite form.

Now for a specimen passage done in her later manner.

This we take from "Les Maîtres Sonneurs," or "The Bagpipers," as Miss
Wormeley renders the title. Brulette is a charming peasant girl, who,
brought up in the same house with José, has known him only as a shy,
recluse, silent, sullen, even downright stupid boy, if not indeed almost
a "natural." He has cultivated music secretly, and he now makes trial of
his art for the first time before Brulette. She turns away, and he is in
despair, till he sees that she turned away to hide her fast-coming
tears. He then demands to know what she thought of while he was playing.
Brulette replies, and José in his turn expresses his mind:

  "I did not think of any thing," said Brulette, "but a thousand
  recollections of old times came into my mind. I seemed not to see you
  playing, though I heard you clearly enough; you appeared to be no
  older than when we lived together, and I felt as if you and I were
  driven by a strong wind, sometimes through the ripe wheat, sometimes
  into the long grass, at other times upon the running streams; and I
  saw the fields, the woods, the springs, the flowery meadows, and the
  birds in the sky among the clouds. I saw, too, in my dream, your
  mother and my grandfather sitting before the fire, and talking of
  things I could not understand; and all the while you were in the
  corner on your knees saying your prayers, and I thought I was asleep
  in my little bed. Then again I saw the ground covered with snow, and
  the willows full of larks, and the night full of falling stars; and we
  looked at each other, sitting on a hillock, while the sheep made their
  little noise of nibbling the grass. In short I dreamed so many things
  that they are all jumbled up in my head; and if they made me cry it
  was not for grief, but because my mind was shaken in a way I can't at
  all explain to you."

  "It is all right," said José. "What I saw and what I dreamed as I
  played, you saw too! Thank you, Brulette; through you I know now that
  I am not crazy, and that there is a truth in what we hear within us,
  as there is in what we see. Yes, yes," he said, taking long strides up
  and down the room, and holding his flute above his head, "it
  speaks!--that miserable bit of reed! It says what we think; it shows
  what we see; it tells a tale as if with words; it loves like the
  heart; it lives; it has a being! And now, José, the mad man; José, the
  idiot; José, the starer, go back to your imbecility; you can afford to
  do so, for you are as powerful, and as wise, and as happy as others."

  So saying, he sat down and paid no further attention to any thing
  about him.

Little speeches like the foregoing make up what, throughout the whole
story of "The Bagpipers" does duty for dialogue between the characters.
Charming, but in no proper sense of the word natural or verisimilar.

George Sand and Balzac are often set in antithesis to each other as
respectively idealistic and realistic writers. Different enough, indeed,
they are, but the difference is that of temperament, of genius, and not
that of method. Balzac is all conscience (his sort of conscience), will,
work; George Sand is all freedom, improvisation, play--around her
everywhere a nameless exquisite charm.


5. MUSSET.

Alfred de Musset makes a melancholy figure in literary history. Few men
ever had a more brilliant morning than he; few men ever had an evening
more somber. And Musset's evening fell at mid-day. Heine, with that
bitterness which was his, could say of the still youthful poet, "A young
man with a very fine future--behind him!"

What this writer accomplished, he accomplished by the pure felicity of
genius--genius, flushed and quickened with the warm blood of youth. He
did nothing in the way of self-tasking, but all in the way of
self-indulging. He obeyed whim, and not will. When the whim failed, he
failed. Will indeed he seemed not to have, but only willfulness. He died
at forty-seven, but he had already ceased living at forty.

It is generally agreed that in what makes genius for the poet, namely,
capacity of poetic feeling, propensity to poetic rhythm, command of
poetic phrase, and power to see with the imagination, Musset belongs
among the foremost singers of France. What he lacked was moral equipment
to match. We mean not moral goodness, though this, too, he missed, but
moral strength. He might have soared like the eagle, for he had eagle's
pinions; but he had not the eagle's heart, and after a few daring upward
flights he fluttered ignobly downward, and thereafter, except at
intervals too rare, kept the ground. Some charge this lamentable failure
on Musset's part to the ill influence over him of George Sand, with whom
in the fresh splendor of his young fame he entered into an unhappy
"relation"--a "relation" sought by the woman in the case, who of the two
was the older. She, as some think, sucked Musset's heart out of him like
a vampire. But what a confession to make on the man's behalf of flaccid
moral fiber in him! Such a man, one would say, was certain to fall in
due time prey to some one; in default of other hunter, then prey to
himself. It is one of the things least consistent with a favorable view
of George Sand's fundamental character that, two years after Musset's
death, and some twenty years after the time of her "relation" with him,
she should publish, thinly veiled under the form of fiction, a story of
that relation, in which she herself appeared vindicated, and the
unhappy dead was held up to the laughter and contempt of Europe. Paul de
Musset, Alfred's brother, replied in a book which claimed to set the
facts in their true light before the world. Wretched wrangle! A little
more of dull conformity on her part to things as she found them, and a
little less of passionate protest against them in literature and in
life, would have helped George Sand shun scandals that happily limit her
influence as they deservedly darken her fame. There is too much reason
to fear that this woman, in whom genius was certainly greater than was
conscience, made, after the manner of Goethe, a deliberate study of
Musset in quest of material to be worked up in literary product.

Musset was greatest as poet, but he wrote admirable prose in novels and
in comedies. He singularly combined capacity of hard and brilliant wit
in prose dialogue with capacity of the softest, most dewy sentiment in
musical verse. Some of his comedies are established classics of the
French stage.

We confine ourselves here to brief exhibition by specimen of what Musset
accomplished in that species of literary work in which he was greatest,
namely, poetry. A quaternion of pieces called "The Nights" will supply
us perhaps with our best single extract, at once practicable and
characteristic. These pieces are entitled respectively "Night of May,"
"Night of August," "Night of October," "Night of December." They are
couched in the form of dialogue between the poet and his muse. Of course
they are highly charged with autobiographic quality. The poet poses in
them very pensively before the public. The Byronic melancholy, without
the Byronic passion, pervades them. Our extract we take, condensing it,
from the "Night of December." In it, the poet's muse talks to the poet
in what might easily pass for an almost pious vein. We could make
extracts in which the piety would be far, very far, less edifying, would
in fact take on the characteristic dissolute French type of moral
sentiment. His muse's talk to the poet is somewhat such as might be
imagined to be a confidential consolatory strain of condescension from
the goddess-mother Venus to her son, the Virgilian "pious" Æneas. We
make our translation closely line for line, almost word for word. The
rhyme we sacrifice for the sake of what we trust may seem to wise judges
a fairly good approximation, otherwise impossible in a literal
rendering, to the spirit and rhythm of the original:

  Is it aimlessly, then, that Providence works,
  And absent, then, deem'st thou the God that thee smote?
  The stroke thou complainest of saved thee perchance,
  My poor child, for 'twas then that was opened thy heart.
  An apprentice is man, and his master is pain,
  And none knows himself until he has grieved.
  It is a stern law, but a law that's supreme,
  As old as the world and as ancient as doom,
  That the baptism we of misfortune must take,
  And that all at this sorrowful price must be bought.
  The harvest to ripen has need of the dew,
  To live and to feel man has need of his tears,
  Joy has for its symbol a plant that is bruised
  Yet is wet with the rain and covered with flowers.
  Wast not saying that thou of thy folly wast cured?
  Art not young, art not happy, and everywhere hailed?
  And those airy-light pleasures which make life beloved,
  If thou never hadst wept, what worth to thee they?

       *       *       *       *       *

  Wouldst thou feel the ineffable peace of the skies,
  The hush of the nights, the moan of the waves,
  If somewhere down here fret and failure of sleep
  Had not brought to thy dream the eternal repose?

       *       *       *       *       *

  Of what then complainest? The unquenchable hope
  Is rekindled in thee 'neath the hand of mischance.
  Why choose to abhor thy vanished young years,
  And an evil detest that thee better has made?

Imagine the foregoing in its own original music, and invested with that
hovering, wavering atmosphere of pathos which Musset knew so well how to
throw over his verse, and you will partly understand what the charm is
of this French poet to his countrymen.

Musset exhibits something of the wit that he was, in the following bit
of rhymed epigram, which, breaking up two stanzas for the purpose, we
take from his poem entitled "Namouna." The rhymes were necessary here to
convey the effect of smartness belonging to the original, and we
accordingly preserve them:

  Lord Byron for model has served me, say you,
  You know not then Byron set Pulci in view?
  Read up the Italians, you'll see if he stole.
  Nothing is any one's, every one's all.
  Dunce deep as a schoolmaster surely were he
  Who should dream left for him one word there could be
  That no man before him had hit upon yet;
  They somebody copy who cabbage-plants set.

This self-vindicating epigram of Musset's may be pronounced clever
rather than satisfactory.

Musset--the juxtaposition and contrast of the two men irresistibly
provokes the reflection--was as much less than Balzac by inferiority of
will as he was greater by superiority of genius.

Already, such is the pace of progress in these last days of the
nineteenth century, the "men of 1830" are beginning to seem a generation
long gone by. The future will see whether their successors of the
present time enjoy a more protracted supremacy.



XXIV.

JOUBERT: 1754-1824; Madame Swetchine: 1782-1859; Amiel: 1821-1881.


We come now to that nineteenth-century group, foreshadowed on an earlier
page, of French _pensée_-writers.

The longer lapse of time in JOUBERT'S case, constantly confirming his
claim to be a true classic, justifies us in placing, as we do, his name
not only first but principal in the title to the present chapter.

Joseph Joubert presents the singular case of a man of letters living to
a good old age, whose published literary work, and, therefore, whose
literary fame, are wholly posthumous. He left behind him more than two
hundred blank books filled with notes of thoughts which were to
constitute after he died his title to enduring remembrance.

Everything important surviving from his pen exists in the form of what
the French call _pensées_. The sense of this word one of Joubert's own
_pensées_ very well expresses:

  I should like to convert wisdom into coin, that is, mint it into
  _maxims_, into _proverbs_, into _sentences_, easy to keep and to
  circulate.

Another of his _pensées_ confesses, perhaps we should say rather,
professes, what the ambition was that this most patient of writers
indulged with reference to the literary form of his work:

  If there exists a man tormented by the accursed ambition of putting a
  whole book into a page, a whole page into a phrase, and that phrase
  into a word, that man is myself.

Joubert was a natural unchangeable classicist in taste and spirit. The
Periclean age of Greece, the Augustan age of Rome, the "great age" of
France, that of Louis XIV., supplied Joubert with most of the books that
fed his mind. He remained distinctively Christian in creed, though not
nicely orthodox according to any accepted standard. Like so many of his
literary compatriots, Joubert owed a great debt, for intellectual
quickening, shaping, and refining, to brilliant and beautiful women.

We show a few, too few, specimens that may indicate this gifted
Frenchman's rare and precious quality:

  Religion is a fire to which example furnishes fuel, and which goes out
  if it does not spread.

  The Bible is to the religions [of mankind], what the Iliad is to
  poetry.

A comparison, the latter foregoing, however faulty by defect we may
justly esteem it, loyally designed, of course, by the author to render
profound homage to the Bible.

  Only just the right proportion of wit should be put into a book; in
  conversation a little too much is allowable.

  We may convince others by our arguments; but we can persuade them only
  by their own.

  Frankness is a natural quality; constant veracity is a virtue.

In pondering such golden sentences, one is constantly incited to make
maxims one's self; which, indeed, is a part of the value of this kind of
literature.

  Gravity is but the rind of wisdom; but it is a preservative rind.

The foregoing happy English rendering of the French maxim we borrow from
Mr. Henry Attwell, who has published a selection of Joubert's _pensées_
translated, the translation being accompanied with the original text.

  Children have more need of patterns than of critics.

  Children should be made reasonable, but they should not be made
  reasoners. The first thing to teach them is that it is reasonable for
  them to obey and unreasonable for them to dispute. Without that,
  education would waste itself in bandying arguments, and every thing
  would be lost if all teachers were not clever cavillers.

  In a poem there should be not only poetry of images, but poetry of
  ideas.

  Words, like lenses, darken whatever they do not help us see.

  Buffon says that genius is but the aptitude for being patient. The
  aptitude for a long-continued and unwearying effort of attention is
  indeed, the genius of observation; but there is another genius, that
  of invention, which is aptitude for a quick, prompt, and ever-active
  energy of penetration.

Buffon's is a good working definition, to say the least--for genius of
any sort.

  The end of a production should always call to mind its beginning.

This may be compared to the law in musical composition requiring that a
piece end in the key in which it began.

  Taste is the literary conscience of the soul.

"Artistic," instead of "literary," Joubert might have widened his
"thought" by saying.

  When there is born in a nation a man capable of producing a great
  thought, another is born there capable of understanding it and of
  admiring it.

  That which astonishes, astonishes once; but that which is admirable is
  more and more admired.

  Fully to understand a great and beautiful thought requires, perhaps,
  as much time as to conceive it.

A few individual literary judgments now, and we shall have shown from
Joubert all that our room will admit:

  Seek in Plato forms and ideas only. These are what he himself sought.
  There is in him more light to see by than objects to see, more form
  than substance. We should breathe him and not feed on him.

  Homer wrote to be sung, Sophocles to be declaimed, Herodotus to be
  recited, and Xenophon to be read. From these different destinations of
  their works, there could not but spring a multitude of differences in
  their style.

  Xenophon wrote with a swan's quill, Plato with a pen of gold, and
  Thucydides with a stylus of bronze.

  In Plato the spirit of poetry gives life to the languors of
  dialectics.

  Plato loses himself in the void; but one sees the play of his wings;
  one hears the noise of their motion.

  Cicero is, in philosophy, a kind of moon. His teaching sheds a light,
  very soft, but borrowed, a light altogether Greek, which the Roman has
  softened and enfeebled.

  Horace pleases the intellect, but he does not charm the taste. Virgil
  satisfies the taste no less than the reflective faculty. It is as
  delightful to remember his verses as to read them.

  There is not in Horace a single turn, one might almost say a single
  word, that Virgil would have used, so different are their styles.

  Behind the thought of Pascal, we see the attitude of that firm and
  passionless intellect. This it is, more than all else, which makes him
  so imposing.

  Fénelon knows how to pray, but he does not know how to instruct We
  have in him a philosopher almost divine, and a theologian almost
  without knowledge.

  M. de Bausset says of Fénelon: "He loved men better than he knew
  them." Charmingly spoken; it is impossible to praise more wittily what
  one blames, or better to praise in the very act of blaming.

  The plan of Massillon's sermons is insignificant, but their
  bas-reliefs are superb.

  Montesquieu appears to teach the art of making empires; you seem to
  yourself to be learning it when you listen to him, and every time you
  read him you are tempted to go to work and construct one.

  Voltaire's judgment was correct, his imagination rich, his intellect
  agile, his taste lively, and his moral sense ruined.

  It is impossible for Voltaire to satisfy, and impossible for him not
  to please.

  In Voltaire, as in the monkey, the movements are charming and the
  features hideous. One always sees in him, at the end of a clever hand,
  an ugly face.

  That oratorical "authority" [weight of personal character] of which
  the ancients speak--you feel it in Bossuet more than in any other man;
  after him, in Pascal, in La Bruyère, in J. J. Rousseau even, but never
  in Voltaire.

  The style of Rousseau makes upon the soul the impression which the
  flesh of a lovely woman would make in touching us. There is something
  of the woman in his style.

  Racine and Boileau are not fountain-heads. A fine choice in imitation
  constitutes their merit. It is their books that imitate books, not
  their souls that imitate souls. Racine is the Virgil of the
  unlettered.

  Molière is comic in cold blood. He provokes laughter and does not
  laugh. Herein lies his excellence.

  Bernardin [St. Pierre] writes by moonlight, Chateaubriand by sunlight.

The quality of both writers is such that we seem simply to be making the
transition from masculine to feminine in going, as now we do, from
Joubert to Madame Swetchine.


Madame SWETCHINE lives, and deserves to live, in French literature--for,
though Russian, she wrote in French--by the incomparable exquisiteness
of her personal, expressing itself in her literary, quality. Purest of
pure was she, as in what she wrote, so in what she was. Through
sympathetic contemporary description she makes an impression as of one
of Fra Angelico's female saints released for a life from the fixed
canonization of the canvas.

Madame Swetchine's life was chiefly spent in Paris, where the French
language, already long before, in St. Petersburg, grown easy and
tripping on her tongue, became to her a second, perhaps more familiar,
vernacular. She was a high-born, high-bred, refined, and elegant woman
of the world--woman in the world we should rather say, for, in the
truest sense, _of_ it she never was--who held brilliant,
choicely-frequented _salons_, but who, without ostentation and without
affectation, would go from her oratory, which indeed seems to have been
a private "chapel," in the full ecclesiastic sense of that word, to her
drawing-room; who had even, as Sainte-Beuve indulgently, but with
something of his inseparable irony, intimates, the effect of vibrating
from the one to the other in the course of the same evening. Madame
Swetchine was married young very unequally to a man twenty-five years
her senior; but she set the edifying example of half a century's wifely
devotion to that husband whom, at the wish of her father, well beloved,
she had dutifully accepted in place of a noble young suitor, the choice
of her own affections.

Two volumes--both of "Thoughts," though one of them bears the title
"Airelles"--shut up within themselves the fragrance that was Madame
Swetchine. We cull a few specimens:

  Often one is prophet for others only because one is historian for
  one's self.

  The chains which bind us the closest are those which weigh on us the
  least.

  The best of lessons for many persons would be to listen at key-holes;
  it is a pity for their sake that this is not honorable.

  Go always beyond designated duties, and remain within permitted
  pleasures.

  Upon the whole, there is in life only what we put there.

  I love knowledge; I love intellect; I love faith--simple faith--yet
  more, I love God's shadow better than man's light.

  He who has ceased to enjoy his friend's superiority has ceased to love
  him.

  Since there must be chimeras, why is not perfection the chimera of all
  men?

  "Woman is in some sort divine," said the ancient German. "Woman," says
  the follower of Mahomet, "is an amiable creature who only needs a
  cage." "Woman," says the European, "is a being nearly our equal in
  intelligence, and perhaps our superior in fidelity." Everywhere
  something detracted from our dignity!

  No two persons ever read the same book or saw the same picture.

  Strength alone knows conflict. Weakness is below even defeat, and is
  born vanquished.

  We are rich only through what we give, and poor only through what we
  refuse.

Madame Swetchine was a woman of wealth and of leisure so-called; but it
may be doubted whether any poor woman in Paris worked harder. She
carried with her when she went hence what, through all her conscientious
activity, outward and inward, she had in her own being become; and she
found besides that ample further reward, unknown, which she had thus
grown capable of receiving.


Henri Fréderic AMIEL, who lived an almost silent life of sixty
years--not quite silent, for he piped a volume or two of ineffectual
verse--became a bruit of marvel and of praise soon after his death,
through the publication from his "Journal Intime" ["Private Journal"] of
a select number of his "Thoughts" found recorded there. How permanent a
glow may prove to be the brightness of fame for Amiel thus suddenly
outbursting, time only will decide. Already two very opposite opinions
find expression concerning his merit--one applausive to the point almost
of veneration, the other very freely irreverent.

Both these two contradictory opinions admit of being apparently
justified from the text of his "Journal." Take the following for an
example on one side:

  Is not mind simply that which enables us to merge finite reality in
  the infinite possibility around it? Or, to put it differently, is not
  mind the universal virtuality, the universe latent? If so, its zero
  would be the germ of the infinite, which is expressed mathematically
  by the double zero (00).

The foregoing sentence is unintelligible enough to make, probably, the
impression of pretty pure jargon on most minds. But in truth the amount
of such writing in Amiel's "Journal" is proportionally very small.

Another line of entries in the "Journal" tending to reflect
disparagement upon the writer consists of reiterated confessions on
Amiel's part of morbid weakness of will, with habits of helpless morbid
introspection, which, disappointing the hopes of his friends,
practically shut him up his whole life long in a well-nigh total
sterility of genius. On this count of the indictment against Amiel it is
quite impossible to defend him. He was inexcusably non-productive. His
"Journal" itself shows that its author should have done more than that.

This book, admirably translated into English by Mrs. Humphrey Ward,
exhibits Amiel in the character of a man who always thought and felt and
spoke and wrote on the side of what was pure and good and noble. He was
a profoundly religious soul. As the years went on with him, and he
became more and more the passive prey of his own eternally active
thought, there appear to be registered some decline from the simplicity,
and some corruption from the wholesomeness, of his earlier religious
experience. In fact, he at last seems to let go historical Christianity
altogether, still clinging, however, pathetically to God, as Father, all
the time that he regards God's fatherly providence over the world as
only a subjective beautiful illusion of faith existing in his own
imaginative mind!

Amiel judges the present age and the current tendency of things:

  The age of great men is going.... By continual leveling and division
  of labor society will become everything and man nothing.... A plateau
  with fewer and fewer undulations, without contrasts and without
  oppositions--such will be the aspect of human society. The
  statistician will register a growing progress, and the moralist a
  gradual decline: on the one hand, a progress of things; on the other,
  a decline of souls. The useful will take the place of the beautiful,
  industry of art, political economy of religion, and arithmetic of
  poetry.

He writes to himself a sort of "spiritual letter" that might almost have
been Fénelon's (the date is 1852, he was therefore now thirty-one years
old):

  We receive everything, both life and happiness; but the _manner_ in
  which we receive, this is what is still ours. Let us, then, receive
  trustfully without shame or anxiety. Let us humbly accept from God
  even our own nature, and treat it charitably, firmly, intelligently.
  Not that we are called upon to accept the evil and the disease in us,
  but let us accept ourselves in spite of the evil and the disease.

The first following "thought" is a deep intuition:

  There are two states or conditions of pride. The first is one of
  self-approval, the second one of self-contempt. Pride is seen probably
  at its purest in the last.

  To do easily what is difficult for others is the mark of talent. To do
  what is impossible for talent is the mark of genius.

  Chateaubriand posed all his life as the wearied Colossus, smiling
  pitifully upon a pigmy world, and contemptuously affecting to desire
  nothing from it, though at the same time wishing it to be believed
  that he could if he pleased possess himself of every thing by mere
  force of genius.

  We are never more discontented with others than when we are
  discontented with ourselves.

  To grow old is more difficult than to die, because to renounce a good
  once and for all costs less than to renew the sacrifice day by day and
  in detail.

From entries fourteen years apart in date, we bring together, abridging
them, two expressions of Amiel about Victor Hugo:

  His ideal is the extraordinary, the gigantic, the overwhelming, the
  incommensurable. His most characteristic words are immense, colossal,
  enormous, huge, monstrous. He finds a way of making even child-nature
  extravagant and bizarre. The only thing which seems impossible to him
  is to be natural.

  He does not see that pride is a limitation of the mind, and that a
  pride without limitations is a littleness of soul. If he could but
  learn to compare himself with other men, and France with other
  nations, he would see things more truly, and would not fall into these
  mad exaggerations, these extravagant judgments. But proportion and
  fairness will never be among the strings at his command. He is vowed
  to the Titanic; his gold is always mixed with lead, his insight with
  childishness, his reason with madness. He cannot be simple; the only
  light he has to give blinds you like that of a fire. He astonishes a
  reader and provokes him, he moves him and annoys him. There is always
  some falsity of note in him, which accounts for the _malaise_ he so
  constantly excites in me. The great poet in him cannot shake off the
  charlatan. A few shafts of Voltairean irony would have shriveled the
  inflation of his genius and made it stronger by making it saner. It is
  a public misfortune that the most powerful poet of a nation should not
  have better understood his _rôle_, and that, unlike those Hebrew
  prophets who scourged because they loved, he should devote himself
  proudly and systematically to the flattery of his countrymen. France
  is the world; Paris is France; Hugo is Paris; peoples, bow down!

Amiel had a just perception of the immense healing virtue lodged in
happiness:

  What doctor possesses such curative resources as those latent in a
  spark of happiness or a single ray of hope?

A vent of frank French distaste for the German type of book. Amiel had
been reading the great nineteenth-century philosopher Lotze:

  The noise of a mill-wheel sends one to sleep, and these pages without
  paragraphs, these interminable chapters, and this incessant
  dialectical clatter, affect me as though I were listening to a
  word-mill. I end by yawning like any simple non-philosophical mortal
  in the face of all this heaviness and pedantry. Erudition and even
  thought are not everything. An occasional touch of _esprit_, a little
  sharpness of phrase, a little vivacity, imagination, and grace, would
  spoil neither.

  He who is too much afraid of being duped has lost the power of being
  magnanimous.

The following shows a good heart as well as a wise head:

  The errand-woman has just brought me my letters. Poor little woman,
  what a life! She spends her nights in going backwards and forwards
  from her invalid husband to her sister, who is scarcely less helpless,
  and her days are passed in labor. Resigned and indefatigable, she goes
  on without complaining, till she drops.

  Lives such as hers prove something.... The kingdom of God belongs not
  to the most enlightened but to the best; and the best man is the most
  unselfish man. Humble, constant, voluntary self-sacrifice--this is
  what constitutes the true dignity of man.... Society rests upon
  conscience and not upon science. Civilization is, first and foremost,
  a moral thing.

He first passes judgment on Goethe, and then afterward checks himself:

  He [Goethe] has so little soul. His way of understanding love,
  religion, duty, and patriotism has something mean and repulsive in it.
  There is no ardor, no generosity, in him. A secret barrenness, an
  ill-concealed egotism, makes itself felt through all the wealth and
  flexibility of his talent.

  One must never be too hasty in judging these complex natures.
  Completely lacking as he is in the sense of obligation and of sin,
  Goethe nevertheless finds his way to seriousness through dignity.
  Greek sculpture has been his school of virtue.

Under date 1874, Amiel asks a question and answers it. He had before
said, "My creed has melted away":

  _Is_ there a particular Providence directing all the circumstances of
  our life, and therefore imposing all our trials upon us for
  educational ends? Is this heroic faith compatible with our actual
  knowledge of the laws of nature? Scarcely. But what this faith makes
  objective we may hold as subjective truth.... What he [the moral
  being] cannot change he calls the will of God, and to will what God
  wills brings him peace.

A melancholy fall from his earlier state! A whole sky between such
conscious false motions toward self-deceiving and the victory which
overcomes the world, even our faith. Amiel had now definitely lost his
health.

Toward the end, occurs this striking and illuminating word about one of
the worst of human passions:

  Jealousy is a terrible thing. It resembles love, only it is precisely
  love's contrary. Instead of wishing for the welfare of the object
  loved, it desires the dependence of that object upon itself, and its
  own triumph. Love is the forgetfulness of self; jealousy is the most
  passionate form of egotism, the glorification of a despotic, exacting,
  and vain ego, which can neither forget nor subordinate itself. The
  contrast is perfect.

Doubting Amiel still thinks that Christ is better than Buddha:

  Sorrow is the most tremendous of all realities in the sensible world,
  but the transfiguration of sorrow, after the manner of Christ, is a
  more beautiful solution of the problem than the extirpation of sorrow,
  after the method of Cakyamouni [Buddha].

Amiel was a naturally noble spirit, not equal to making for himself the
career that he needed. But the right career, made for him, would have
left to history and to literature a very different man from the writer
of Amiel's "Journal."


The very latest conspicuous French candidate for renown as a writer of
_pensées_ is Joseph ROUX, a rural Roman Catholic priest, and a man still
living. Out of a volume of his "Thoughts" lately translated and
published in America under the title of "Meditations of a Parish
Priest," we show the following specimen of literary criticism peculiarly
pertinent to the subject of the present chapter:

  Pascal is somber, La Rochefoucauld bitter, La Bruyère malicious,
  Vauvenargues melancholy, Chamfort acrimonious, Joubert benevolent,
  Swetchine gentle.

  Pascal seeks, La Rochefoucauld suspects, La Bruyère spies,
  Vauvenargues sympathizes, Chamfort condemns, Joubert excuses,
  Swetchine mourns.

  Pascal is profound, La Rochefoucauld penetrating, La Bruyère
  sagacious, Vauvenargues delicate, Chamfort paradoxical, Joubert
  ingenious, Swetchine contemplative.

_Pensée_-writing has gained such headway in France, there is so much
literary history behind it there, and it is in itself so fascinating a
form of literary activity, that, in that country at least, the fashion
will probably never pass away.



XXV.

EPILOGUE.


How much author's anguish of self-tasking and of self-denial, in
exploration, study, selection, rejection, condensation, retrenchment, to
say nothing of the anxiety to be clear in expression, to be true, to be
proportionate, to be just, finally, too, to be entertaining as well as
instructive--this little book has cost the producer of it, no one is
likely ever to guess that has not tried a similar task with similar
application of conscience himself.

For instance, to name Ronsard, the brilliant, the once sovereign
Ronsard--lately, after so long occultation of his orb, come, through the
romanticists of to-day, or shall we write "of yesterday"? almost to
brightness again--to name this poet, without at least giving in specimen
the following celebrated sonnet from his hand, which, for the sake of
making our present point the clearer, we may now show in a neat version
by Mr. Andrew Lang (but why should Mr. Lang, in his fourth line, change
Ronsard's "fair" to "young"?):

  When you are very old, at evening
    You'll sit and spin beside the fire, and say,
    Humming my songs, "Ah well, ah well-a-day!
  When I was young, of me did Ronsard sing."
  None of your maidens that doth hear the thing,
    Albeit with her weary task foredone,
    But wakens at my name, and calls you one
  Blest, to be held in long remembering.

  I shall be low beneath the earth, and laid
  On sleep, a phantom in the myrtle shade,
    While you beside the fire, a grandame gray,
  My love, your pride, remember and regret;
  Ah, love me, love! we may be happy yet,
    And gather roses while 'tis called to-day:

--then, for another instance, to pass over Boileau and not bring forward
from him even so much as the following characteristic epigram, wherein
this wit and satirist pays his sarcastic respects to that same poet
Cotin whom (pp. 81 ff.) we showed Molière mocking under the name of
"Trissotin" (here we must do our own translating):

  In vain, with thousandfold abuse,
  My foes, through all their works diffuse,
    Have thought to make me shocking to mankind;
  Cotin, to bring my style to shame,
  Has played a much more easy game,
    He has his verses to my pen assigned--

to achieve, we say, these abstinences, and abstinences such as these,
was a problem hard indeed to solve.

The result of all is before the reader; and, good or bad, it is, we are
bound to confess, the very best that, within the given limits, we could
do. Such students of our subject as we may fortunately have succeeded in
making hungry for still more knowledge than we ourselves supply, we can
conscientiously send, for further partial satisfaction of their desire,
to that series of books, already once named by us, which has lately been
published at Chicago, under the title, "The Great French Writers."
Messrs. A. C. McClurg & Co. have done a true service to the cause of
letters in general, and in particular to the cause of what may be called
international letters, in reproducing this series of books. They are
good books, they are well translated, and they appear in handsome form.
Madame de Sévigné, Montesquieu, Bernardin de St. Pierre, and three names
that, together with all of their several kinds, economists,
philosophers, historians, we here have been obliged to omit, Turgot,
Victor Cousin, Thiers, are in the list of authors treated in the volumes
thus far issued.

An interesting doubt may, in retrospect of all, be submitted, without
author's solution supplied, to entertain the speculation of the wisely
considerate reader. Let the earlier still living French literature, that
part of the whole body, we mean, ending, say, with the date of
Montesquieu, which, in a rough approximate way, may be described as
dominated by the spirit of classicism--let this be compared with the
later French literature, that section in which the leaven of romanticism
has strongly worked, and do you find existing an important fundamental
difference in intimate quality between the one and the other? Is the
later literature of a certain softer fiber, a more yielding consistence,
than characterizes the earlier? Does the earlier present a harder, more
quartz-like structure, a substance better fitted to resist yet for ages
to come the slow but tireless tooth of time?



INDEX.


The merest approximation only can be attempted in hinting here the
pronunciation of French names. In general, the French distribute the
accent pretty evenly among all the syllables of their words. We mark an
accent on the final syllable chiefly in order to correct a natural
English tendency to slight that syllable in pronunciation. In a few
cases we let a well-established English pronunciation stand. N notes a
peculiar nasal sound, ü, a peculiar vowel sound, having no equivalent in
English.


  Ab´é-lard, Pierre (1079-1142), 13.

  Academy, French, 16, 62, 119, 238, 264.

  Æs´chy-lus, 77, 118, 127, 128.

  Æsop, 69.

  Alembert. _See_ D'Alembert.

  Al-ex-an´der (the Great), 12, 103.

  AM'I-EL, Henri Frédéric, 313-318.

  Am-y-ot´ (am-e-o´), Jacques (1513-1593), 14.

  An-ac´re-on, 256.

  Anderson, Melville B., 281.

  An´ge-lo, Michael, 120, 282.

  Ariosto, 208.

  Ar-is-toph´a-nes, 32.

  Ar-nauld´ (ar-no´), Antoine (1612-1694), 94.

  Arnold, Matthew, 248, 276, 291, 298, 299.

  Arthur (King), 12.

  Attwell, Henry, 309.

  Au´-gus-tine, St., Latin Christian Father, 67.

  Au-gus´tus (the emperor), 103.


  Bacon, Francis, 43, 53.

  Baker, Jehu, 185.

  BAL´ZAC, Honoré de (1799-1850), 174, 275, 293-298, 303.

  Bal´zac, Jean Louis Guez de (1594-1654), 15, 16.

  Beau-mar-chais´ (bo-mar-sh´a), Pierre Augustin Caron de (1732-1799),
    239.

  BÉ-RAN-GER (ba-roN-zha´), Pierre Jean de (1780-1857), 13, 256-263.

  Ber-si-er´ (bêr-see-a´), Eugène, 157

  Bismarck, 244.

  Boi-leau´-Des-pré-aux´(bwä-lo-da-pra-o´), Nicolas (1636-1711), 14, 17,
    18, 67, 68, 127, 128, 130, 285, 311, 319.

  Bolton, A. S., 57.

  BOS-SU-ET´ (bo-sü-a´), Jacques Bénigne (1627-1704), 16, 17, 62, 63,
    100, 127, 129, 137-142, 153, 154, 157, 158, 161, 162, 184, 286-293,
    311.

  BOUR-DA-LOUE´, Louis (1632-1704), 10, 17, 63, 111, 115, 137, 140,
    142-148, 150, 151, 291, 292.

  Bryant, William Cullen, 69, 70.

  Bryce, James, 192.

  Buckle, Henry Thomas, 189.

  Buffon (bü-foN), Georges Louis Leclerc de (1707-1788), 238, 309.

  Bur´gun-dy, Duke of (1682-1712), 133, 136, 159, 160, 161, 164, 165.

  Burke, Edmund, 43, 61, 192.

  Burns, Robert, 256.

  Bussy (büs-se´), Count, 106.

  By´ron, Lord, 43, 307.

  Cæsar, Julius, 48, 103.


  Calas (cä-lä´), Jean, 211.

  Calvin, John (1509-1564), 13.

  Carlyle, Thomas, 209, 212.

  Catherine (Empress of Russia), 237.

  Cham-fort´ (shäN-for´), Sebastien Nicolas (1741-1794), 69, 261, 318.

  Char-le-magne (shar-le-man), 12.

  Charles I. (of England), 129, 139.

  Charles IX. (of France), 53.

  CHA-TEAU-BRI-AND´(shä-to-bre-äN´) François Auguste de (1768-1848), 10,
    18, 159, 175, 226, 229, 248-255, 276, 311, 315.

  Cicero, 63, 310.

  "Classicism," 15, 18, 275, 276.

  Claude (klod), Jean (1619-1687), 137.

  Coleridge, S. T., 13, 33, 38, 39.

  Comines (ko-meen´), Philippe de (1445-1509), 13, 26, 29.

  Condé (koN-dä´), Prince of, "The Great Condé" (1621-1686), 112.

  Condillac (koN-de-yäk), Etienne Bonnot de (1715-1780), 238.

  Condorcet (koN-dor-sa´), Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat de
    (1743-1794), 100, 101.

  Constant (koN-sto´N), Benjamin (1767-1830), 243.

  Coquerel (kok-rel´), Athanase Laurent Charles (1795-1868), 157.

  CORNEILLE (kor-nal´), Pierre (1606-1684), 10, 16, 17, 19, 64, 65,
    117-127, 129, 137, 138, 200, 285, 291, 292.

  Cotin (ko-taN´) Abbé (17th century), 81, 319.

  Cotton, Charles (1630-1687), 40, 43, 45.

  Cousin (koo-zaN´), Victor (1792-1867), 101, 290, 291, 320.

  Cowper, William, 173.


  D'Alembert (dä-läN-bêr´), Jean le Rond (1717-1783), 17, 219, 238.

  Dante, Alighieri, 76, 77, 91, 281.

  Demosthenes, 63.

  Descartes (da-kärt´), René (1596-1650), 16, 86, 92.

  D'Holbach (dol-bak´), properly, Holbach, Paul Henri Thyry,
    (1723-1789), 238.

  Dickens, Charles, 33, 116, 295, 296.

  DIDEROT (de-dro), Denis (1713-1784), 17, 191, 209, 236, 237, 238, 285.

  Dryden, John, 43, 127.

  Duclos (dü-klo´), Charles Pineau (1704-1772), 238.


  "_Écrasez l'Infâme_," 210.

  Edward (the Black Prince), 24, 26.

  Edwards, President Jonathan, 145.

  Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 43, 45, 52.

  Encyclopædists, 17, 167, 209, 235-239, 249.

  Epictetus, 54.

  Erasmus, 39, 99.

  Euripides, 64, 118, 127, 129.


  _Fabliaux_ (fab´le-o´), 12.

  Faugère (fo-zhér´), Armand Prosper (1810), 101.

  Félix, Père, 157.

  Fénelon (fan-loN´), François de Salignac de la Mothe (1651-1715), 17,
    134, 137, 153, 158-173, 310, 315.

  Fléchier (flache-a´), Esprit (1632-1710), 137.

  Foix (fwä), Count of, 27, 28.

  FROISSART (frwä-sar´), Jean (1337-1410?), 13, 22-29.


  Gaillard (ga-yar´), Gabriel Henri (1726-1806), 119.

  Gargant´ua, 29, 34-37.

  Gibbon, Edward, 118, 241.

  Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, 184, 229, 244, 245, 281, 305, 317.

  Goldsmith, Oliver, 67, 184, 269.

  Grignan (green-yäN´), Madame de, 108.

  Grimm, Friedrich Melchior (1723-1807), 238.

  Grimm, Herman, 244.

  Guizot, François Pierre Guillaume (1787-1874), 199, 320.

  Guyon (ge-yoN´) Madame (1648-1717), 161, 172, 173.


  Hallam, Henry, 21, 33.

  Havet (ä-va´) (editor of Pascal's works), 101.

  Hawkesworth, Doctor, 169.

  Hazlitt, William Carew, 43.

  Helvétius (el-va-se-üss´), Claude Adrien (1715-1771), 238.

  Henriette, Princess, 129, 139.

  Henry of Navarre (Henri IV. of France), 53, 202.

  Herodotus, 13, 22, 310.

  Holbach. See D'Holbach.

  Homer, 14, 31, 32, 77, 206, 208, 310.

  Hooker ("The Judicious"), 158.

  Horace, 32, 206, 256, 310.

  HUGO (ü-go´), VICTOR Marie (1802-1885), 18, 19, 77, 256, 257, 274,
    275-285, 315, 316.

  Hume, David, 43, 226.

  Hutson, Charles W., 21.

  Hyacinthe (e´ä´saN), Père (1827-), 157.


  Job, 77, 161, 281.

  Johnes, Thomas, 22.

  Joinville (zhwaN-veel´), Jean de (1224?-1319?), 13.

  JOUBERT (zhoo´bar), Joseph (1754-1824), 65, 307-311.

  Julian (The Apostate), 135.

  Juvenal, 62.


  La Boëtie (lä-bo-a-te´), 49, 50.

  Laboulaye (la´boo-la´), Edouard René Lefebvre, 196.

  LA BRUYÈRE (lä-brü-e-yêr´), Jean (1646?-1696), 17, 62-64, 118, 138,
  311, 318.

  Lacordaire (la-kor-dêr´), Jean Baptiste Henri (1802-1861), 157.

  LA FONTAINE (lä-foN-tan´) Jean de (1621-1695), 17, 66-75.

  La Harpe (lä-arp), Jean François de, 290.

  LAMARTINE (lä-mar-ten´), Alphonse Marie Louis de (1790-1869), 18, 159,
    175, 229, 263-274, 287, 289, 290, 291.

  Lang, Andrew, 280, 319.

  Langue d'oc, 11.

  Langue d'oïl, 11.

  Lanier, Sidney, 27.

  LA ROCHEFOUCAULD (lä-rosh-foo-ko´), François, Duc de (1613-1680), 17,
    43, 55-62, 103, 106, 114.

  Longfellow, Henry W., 44.

  Lotze, Rudolf Hermann, 316.

  Louis IX. (1215-1270) (St. Louis), 12, 13.

  Louis XI. (1423-1483), 13.

  Louis XIII. (1601-1643), 15, 77, 291.

  Louis XIV. (1638-1715) (Quatorze), 15, 17, 106, 130, 133, 136, 137,
    138, 142, 143, 148, 149, 157, 159, 166, 167, 170, 291.

  Louis XV. (1710-1774), 149, 212.

  Louis XVIII. (1755-1824), 249.

  Louis Napoleon (1808-1873), 193, 259, 261, 266, 277.

  Louis Philippe (1773-1850), 192, 199, 249, 257, 264.

  Lucan, 117, 118, 201.

  Lucretius, 77, 127.

  Luther, Martin, 13, 37.


  Machiavelli, 192.

  Maintenon (mäN-teh-noN´), Madame de (1635-1719), 130, 136, 142, 161,
    162.

  Maistre (mêtr), Joseph Marie de (1753-1821), 255.

  Malherbe (mäl-êrb´), François (1555-1628), 15, 18.

  Martin (mar täN´), Henri (1810- ), 138.

  MASSILLON (mäs-se-yoN´), Jean Baptiste (1663-1742), 10, 17, 115, 137,
    142, 147, 148-153, 157, 311.

  Matthews, William, 287.

  Maury, the Abbé, 290.

  McCarthy, Justin, 300.

  M'Crie, Thomas, 94.

  Menander, 75.

  Milton, John, 75, 137, 158, 207, 208.

  MOLIÈRE (mo lei-êr´) (real name, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, 1622-1673)
    17, 19, 67, 75-91, 100, 119, 126, 127, 176, 201, 311, 319.

  Moltke, Count von, 194, 244.

  Monod (mo´no´), Adolphe, 157.

  Monod, Frédéric, 157.

  Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley, 116.

  MONTAIGNE (mon-tän´), Michel Eyquem de (1533-1592), 10, 13, 14, 40-54,
    56, 61, 103, 190, 214.

  Montespan (moN-tess-pâN'), Madame de (1641-1707), 109.

  MONTESQUIEU (moN-tes-ke-uh´), Charles de Secondat de (1689-1755,), 17,
    167, 184-191, 192, 199, 311, 320.

  Morley, John, 118, 203, 209, 237.

  Motteux, Peter Anthony (1660-1718), 30.

  MUSSET (mü-sá´), (1810-1857), Alfred de, 275, 303-307.

  Musset, Paul de, 305.


  Napoleon Bonaparte, 18, 153, 240, 241, 242, 244, 248, 249, 259, 282.

  Nettleton, W. A., 91.

  Newton, Sir Isaac, 92.

  Nicole (ne-kol´), Pierre (1625-1695), 10, 114, 128.


  "Obscurantism" (disposition in the sphere of the intellect to love
    darkness rather than light), 210.


  Pan-tag´ru-el, 29, 35, 37, 38.

  Panurge (pä-nürzh´), 37, 38.

  PASCAL, Blaise (1623-1662), 10, 16, 17, 43, 52, 54, 65, 91-104, 115,
    145, 310, 311, 318.

  Pascal, Jacqueline, 92.

  Pericles, 247.

  Petrarch, Francesco, 23.

  Phædrus, 69.

  Pindar, 256.

  Plato, 30, 45, 188, 208, 240, 318.

  "Pleiades" (ple´ya-dez), 14, 15, 18.

  Plutarch, 14, 31, 42, 48, 215.

  "Pó-co-cu´rant-ism," 208.

  Pompadour, Madame de (1721-1764), 212.

  Pompey, 48.

  Pope, Alexander, 43, 127.

  Poquelin (po-ke-lâN´). See Molière.

  Port Royal, 94, 100, 128, 287.

  Pradon (prä-doN'), 129, 130.

  Provençal (pro-vaN-sal), 11.

  Ptolemy Philadelphus, 14.


  RABELAIS (rä-bla), François (1495?-1553?), 10, 13, 29-39, 50, 54, 67,
    113, 114.

  RACINE (rä-seen´), Jean (1639-1699), 17, 64, 65, 67, 117, 118,
    127-137, 153, 285, 291, 292, 311.

  Rambouillet (roN-boo-ya), Hôtel de, 15, 16, 81, 84, 120, 138, 288.

  Récamier (ra-ka-me-a´) Madame (1777-1849), 16, 239, 240, 244, 255.

  Renan (reh-noN´), Joseph Ernest (1823), 285.

  Richelieu (resh-le-uh´), Cardinal, (1585-1642), 15, 16, 77, 119, 291.

  "Romanticism," 18, 275, 276.

  Ronsard (roN-sar´), Pierre de, (1524-1585), 14, 15, 319.

  Rousseau (roo-so´), Jean Baptiste (1670-1741), 212.

  ROUSSEAU, Jean Jacques (1712-1778), 10, 17, 18, 48, 159, 167, 175,
    209, 212-228, 229, 234, 238, 239, 249, 311.

  Roux (roo), Joseph (living), 318.

  Ruskin, John, 60.

  Rutebeuf (rü-te-buf´) (b. 1230), _trouvère_, 12.


  Sablière (sä-bli-êr´), Madame de la, 67, 68.

  Saci (sä-se´), M. de, 54.

  Saintsbury, George, 20, 49, 298, 301.

  SAINTE-BEUVE (saNt-buv´), Charles Augustin (1804-1869), 15, 18, 142,
    145, 148, 190, 255, 256, 275, 285-293.

  SAND (säNd), GEORGE (Madame Dudevant, 1804-1876), 10, 18, 175, 229,
    234, 275, 298-303, 304.

  SAURIN (so-raN´), Jacques (1677-1730), 137, 153-157.

  Scott, Sir Walter, 13, 22, 26, 85.

  Schlegel, August Wilhelm, 243.

  Selden, John ("The learned"), 158.

  Seneca, 42.

  SÉVIGNÉ (sa-ven-ya´), Madame de, Marie de Rabutin-Chantal (1626-1696),
    16, 85, 105-117, 129, 320.

  Shakespeare, 19, 43, 53, 75, 77, 91, 174, 201, 281.

  Smollett, Tobias George, 176.

  Socrates, 30, 227, 251.

  Sophocles, 64, 118, 127, 128, 291, 310.

  STAEL(-Holstein) (stä-el-ol-staN´), Anne Louise Germanie de
    (1766-1817), 18, 229, 239-247, 248.

  Stanislaus (King of Poland), 237.

  St. John, Bayle, 48, 49, 50.

  ST. PIERRE, Jacques Henri Bernardin de (1737-1814), 228-235, 311, 320,

  St. Simon, 159, 160.

  SWETCHINE (svetch-een´), Anne Sophie, (1782-1857), 311, 313, 318.

  Swift, Dean, 35.

  Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 77, 276.


  Tacitus, 13, 129.

  Taine, H. (1828), 188, 286.

  Tasso, 208.

  Thibaud (te bo´), _troubadour_ (1201-1253), 12, 13.

  Thiers (te êr´), Louis Adolphe (1797-1877), 320.

  Thucydides, 247.

  TOCQUEVILLE (tok-veel´), Alexis Charles Henri Clerel de (1805-1859),
    191-199.

  _Troubadour_, 11.

  _Trouvère_, 11, 12.

  Turgot (tür-gö´), Anne Robert Jacques (1727-1781), 238, 320.


  Urquhart, Sir Thomas, 30.


  Van Laun, H., 20.

  VAUVENARGUES (vo-ve-narg´), Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de (1715-1747),
    64-66, 318.

  Villehardouin (vel-ar-doo-aN´), Geoffroy (1165?-1213?), 13.

  Villemain (vel-maN´), Abel François (1790-1870), 93.

  Virgil, 11, 14, 65, 127, 130, 206, 310, 311.

  Voiture (vwä-tur´), Vincent (1598-1648), 16.

  VOLTAIRE (vol-têr´), François Marie Arouet de (1694-1778), 10, 17, 35,
    43, 56, 65, 100, 118, 124, 125, 126, 128, 152, 167, 190, 199-212,
    238, 239, 245, 248, 249, 285, 311.


  Wall, C. H., 85.

  Walpole, Horace, 116.

  Warens (vä-raN), Madame de, 217, 218, 220, 225.

  Washington, George, 250.

  Webster, Daniel, 141, 290.

  Wormeley, Katharine Prescott, 297, 298, 302.

  Wright, Elizur, 69.


  Xenophon, 310.


  Young, William, 261.





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