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Title: Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature, Vol. III (of 6) The Reaction in France
Author: Brandes, Georg
Language: English
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CENTURY LITERATURE, VOL. III (OF 6) THE REACTION IN FRANCE***


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MAIN CURRENTS IN NINETEENTH CENTURY LITERATURE

by

GEORGE BRANDES

In Six Volumes Illustrated

III

THE REACTION IN FRANCE



London: William Heinemann
New York: The Macmillan Company
MCMVI


[Illustration: ROBESPIERRE]



        _Hätt 'ich gezaudert zu werden,
        Bis man mir's Leben gegönnt.
        Ich wäre noch nicht auf Erden
        Wie Ihr begreifen könnt.
        Wenn Ihr seht, wie sie sich geberden._
                                    --GOETHE.

        _There is no philosophy possible where fear of consequences
        is a stronger principle than love of truth._
                                                --JOHN STUART MILL.


CONTENTS

            INTRODUCTION

        I.  THE REVOLUTION
       II.  THE CONCORDAT
      III.  THE PRINCIPLE OF AUTHORITY
       IV.  "LE GÉNIE DU CHRISTIANISME"
        V.  JOSEPH DE MAISTRE
       VI.  BONALD
      VII.  CHATEAUBRIAND
     VIII.  MADAME DE KRÜDENER
       IX.  LYRIC POETRY: LAMARTINE AND HUGO
        X.  LOVE IN THE LITERATURE OF THE PERIOD
       XI.  DISSOLUTION OF THE THEORETICAL PRINCIPLE OF AUTHORITY
      XII.  DISSOLUTION OF THE PRACTICAL PRINCIPLE OF AUTHORITY
     XIII.  CULMINATION AND COLLAPSE OF THE REACTION
      XIV.  CONCLUSION

            LIST OF PORTRAITS
            ROBESPIERRE
            CHATEAUBRIAND
            JOSEPH DE MAISTRE
            BONALD
            LAMARTINE
            VICTOR HUGO
            LAMENNAIS

THE REACTION IN FRANCE



INTRODUCTION


A certain aggregation of personages, actions, emotions and moods, ideas
and works, which make their appearance in France, find expression in
the French language, and influence French society at the beginning
of the nineteenth century, form in my eyes a naturally coherent
group, from the fact that they all centre round one idea, namely, the
re-establishment of a fallen power. This fallen power is the principle
of authority.

By the principle of authority I understand the principle which assumes
the life of the individual and of the nation to be based upon reverence
for inherited tradition.

That power which is its essential quality, authority owes simply to
its own existence, not to reason; it is a result of the involuntary or
voluntary subjection of men's minds to existing conditions. Authority
had originally only two instruments at its disposal, compulsion and
fear, instruments which it will always retain and use; but at an early
age it began to call forth such feelings as reverence and gratitude.
Men were not ashamed of, did not suffer from, their dependence on
authority, when they felt that they owed an obligation to it. The
authority of the family, the authority of society, the authority of the
state (long synonymous with the will of the despotic ruler) gradually
asserted themselves, and supported themselves, one and all, upon a
still higher authority, the authority of religion. In it the principle
of authority reaches the absolute stage. The will of the Almighty
becomes the supreme law, to which all must bow and which must be
blindly obeyed.

The principle of authority has had a powerful educative influence on
the human race; but its real mission is to make itself superfluous. At
a comparatively low stage man submits to law because it emanates from
authority; at a higher, because he recognises its reasonableness. Where
authority is absolute it must, and as a matter of fact does, demand
recognition as something mysterious and miraculous, and treat all
criticism as rebellion and heresy.

It is its ratification by religion which makes authority absolute.
Owing, however, to the manner in which Christianity had developed in
Europe, the principle of authority had not as yet manifested itself
in that continent in perfect purity. Christianity had (officially at
least) proclaimed itself to be the religion of love, the religion
of Christ. History shows that what the church in reality laid most
weight on was belief in the dogmas of Christianity and in the duty
of submission to supernatural authority--not love, but obedience was
necessarily of supreme importance to it as well as to the state.
So far, however, even the strictest of theologians, priests, and
religious writers had employed the language of religious enthusiasm,
had proclaimed the message of love along with the doctrines of the
faith, and striven not merely to further the cause of authority, but
also to win souls. It was not until a majority of the educated minds
of many countries freed themselves from the yoke of authority in the
domain of the supernatural, and consequently became critically disposed
towards it in the political and social domains also, that the principle
of authority in its purity and its barrenness began to be vindicated
unemotionally, with arguments appealing most frequently to reason
alone, but occasionally also to the imagination.

It is possible to champion the principle of authority in church and
state, in society and in the family, nay, even in the domain of human
knowledge, as the principle of knowledge and of wisdom. During the
period of which I purpose describing the spiritual life it was so
championed in all those domains, but at the time now referred to it was
overthrown in them all.

In order to understand how it came to be resuscitated, proclaimed,
developed, vindicated, established, and finally again overthrown, it
is necessary that we should see how, and by virtue of what fundamental
principles, it was annulled at the time of the Revolution.

It was not attacked at once in all the different domains; but it became
evident that its existence in them all depended upon its existence
in what was considered the highest, that of religion. For it was the
church which, as authority, imparted authority in all the other spheres
of life--to the "king by the grace of God," to marriage as a sacrament,
&c. &c.

Therefore the principle of authority in general stood or fell with the
authority of the church. When that was undermined, it drew all other
authorities with it in its fall.

Not that the man who, in the eighteenth century, laboured more
energetically and successfully than any other for the emancipation of
the intellect from ecclesiasticism and dogma had foreseen such a result
of his labour. Far from it! Voltaire desired no outward revolution.
In his little tale, _Le monde comme il va_, the wise Babouc, who
is at first utterly revolted by the depravity of the great city of
Persepolis, gradually comes to see that the bad state of matters has
its good sides; and, when the fate of the city hangs upon his report
to the angel Ithuriel, he pronounces himself to be entirely opposed to
its destruction. Even the angel does not in the end propose making any
change in the customs of Persepolis, because, "though things are not
good, they are certainly bearable." This train of thought can hardly
be called revolutionary; and Voltaire is, at least at times, of the
same opinion as Babouc. It was always to the sovereigns, not to the
peoples, that he appealed to transform his ideas into actions, and he
often declared that the cause of kings and of philosophers was one
and the same. Hence when Holbach and his collaborators asserted that
"hardly once in a thousand years was there to be found amongst these
rulers by the grace of God, these representatives of the Deity, a man
possessing the most ordinary sense of justice or compassion, or the
commonest abilities and virtues," Voltaire could not control his wrath.
His letters to the King of Prussia, too, contain violent outbursts of
indignation at _Le Système de la Nature_. He did not recognise himself
in these disciples and in these conclusions.

Nevertheless it is Voltaire who constitutes the destructive principle
throughout the Revolution, just as it is Rousseau who is the rallying,
uniting spirit. For Voltaire had destroyed the principle of authority
by vindicating the liberty of thought of the individual, Rousseau had
displaced and superseded it by the feeling of universal brotherhood and
mutual dependence. What these two great men had planned the Revolution
carried into effect; it was the executor of their wills; the thought
of the individual became destructive action, and the feeling of mutual
dependence, uniting organisation. From Voltaire came the wrath of the
revolutionists, from Rousseau their enthusiasm.



I

THE REVOLUTION


Authority being originally, and in its essence, ecclesiastical and
religious, an understanding of the successive developments in the
position of the Revolution to church and religion is indispensable to a
comprehension of the intellectual reaction which followed. For, as that
reaction meant the re-establishment of the principle of authority, it
naturally, as well as logically, began with the rehabilitation of the
church.

The Revolution was in reality quite as much of a religious as of a
political nature. Regarded from one standpoint, it was the practical
result of the labours of the great free-thinking philosophers of the
eighteenth century. It is to the Revolution of 1789 that we owe the
greatest conquest wrested by the human intellect from prejudice and
power--liberty of conscience, religious toleration. It is certainly not
to the Christian church that humanity is indebted for this inestimable
blessing, for the church opposed to the utmost every demand suggestive
of it.

At the moment when the Revolution begins, all the preparations for
the great encounter between the principle of authority on the one
side and the principles of individuality and solidarity on the other
are complete. All the leaders, all the knights and squires who are to
fight in the great joust, are already at their posts, unknown to each
other, unknown to the world, which is soon to ring with their names.
They are men with very varied pedigrees and pasts. There are noblemen
like Mirabeau, priests like Mauret, Fauchet, and Talleyrand, physicians
like Marat, lawyers like Robespierre, poets, philosophers, orators,
authors like M. J. Chénier, Condorcet, Danton, and Desmoulins--a whole
host of men of talent and men of character. The church rallies all its
forces for a desperate struggle, in which it is doomed to be worsted;
the Revolution progresses, first hesitatingly, then threateningly,
then irresistibly, finally in the intoxication of victory. With
the summoning of the Estates the lists are opened; challenges are
exchanged; and the great umpire, history, gives the signal for the fray.

As soon as the Estates are assembled the first and unanimous demand of
the clergy is that "the Catholic, apostolic, and Roman religion" shall
be recognised as the national religion, with the exclusive monopoly of
public worship. And yet among the lower orders of the clergy were to be
found many republicans; but of the liberty demanded by these, religious
liberty did not form a part. The liberal-minded abbés might declaim
against the Inquisition, and bestow on it such epithets as cannibal and
tiger-like, but they were all opposed to toleration. The revolutionary
abbé, Fauchet--he who, after the capture of the Bastille, blessed the
tricoloured uniforms of the citizen soldiers, and made of the tricolour
the national flag--now jeered at the idea of toleration, and prophesied
general and complete demoralisation as its only possible result. He
went so far as to maintain that those who belonged to no church ought
not to have the right to marry, "since one could not consider such
persons bound by their word."

When the Estates met as the National Assembly, the clergy were soon
compelled to make concessions; but even when the feeling against them
found expression, it always in the end assumed the mildest, most
deferential form. When, for example, in February 1790, incensed by
Garat's declaring consecration to the priesthood to be civic suicide,
a number of priests, amongst them Abbé Maury and the Bishops of Nancy
and Clermont, started up, accused Garat of blasphemy, and moved that
the Catholic religion should be proclaimed as the national religion,
the motion was rejected, but in such a manner as clearly evinced the
timidity and hesitation of its opponents. It would, they declared,
be an insult to religion, and to the feelings of the whole Assembly,
to act as if there could be any doubt in such a matter. Men did not
yet dare to say what they thought; and so an Assembly, the majority
of which were free-thinkers, took part in church processions and
attended Catholic public worship. Only two months later the motion
that Catholicism should be proclaimed the state religion was again
brought forward, this time after Maury's angry tirade against the
proposal to secularise the property of the church. The proposer of
the motion on this occasion was a priest, Dom Gerle, who afterwards,
as a Jacobin, did his utmost to blot out the remembrance of his first
public appearance. Mirabeau answered with a reference to a window in
the Louvre which he could see from the place where he stood; "the
very window," he shouted, "from which a French autocrat, who combined
secular aims with the spiritual aims of religion, fired the shot which
gave the signal for the massacre of St. Bartholomew." But once again
the Assembly avoided the settling of the question by declaring that
the majesty of religion and the reverence due to it forbade their
making it the subject of debate. The Left with one accord refrained
from voting and a protest was signed by 297 members, of whom 144 were
ecclesiastics. Vacillation and self-contradiction were the order of the
day.

The aristocracy, who a hundred years before had joyfully acclaimed
Louis XIV's revocation of the Edict of Nantes, had been influenced to
such an extent by the literature of the eighteenth century that, in
their capacity as an Estate, they in a genuinely Voltairean spirit
expressed themselves in favour of universal toleration; but they at the
same time gave hesitating expression to the opinion that the Catholic
church ought to be the national church. The Third Estate, the citizens,
a considerable proportion of whom were Jansenists, and consequently
in reality less liberal-minded, had expressed itself in a similarly
evasive manner. But once the National Assembly was constituted, there
was no longer any real uncertainty. As we all know, one of the first
acts of that Assembly was the Declaration of the Rights of Man, and
liberty of thought and speech in matters of religion was specified as
one of these rights. Article 10 of the Declaration runs as follows:
"No one may be harassed on account of his opinions, not even of
his religious opinions, provided his expression of the same be not
subversive of lawful order." The Pope replied by declaring this liberty
to be "an unnatural and foolish right, subversive of reason" (_sic_).
This was a sufficient indication of the relative positions of the two
camps.

When toleration becomes the subject of debate in the Constituent
Assembly we perceive the direction things are taking. One of the
clauses in the first draught of the Declaration of the Rights of Man
ran thus: "Public worship being a matter of public import, it is the
prerogative of society to control it, to permit the rites of one church
and forbid those of another." Upon this clause Mirabeau made a violent
attack.

"It is not toleration that I champion," he said. "In the matter of
religion, unrestricted liberty is in my eyes such a sacred right that
the employment of the word toleration to express it savours to me of
tyranny; for the very existence of an authority which has the power to
tolerate, and, consequently, the power not to do so, is an infringement
on freedom of thought." In a subsequent debate he went still farther.
"A ruling religion has been spoken of. What is meant in this case by
'ruling'? I do not understand the word, and must request a definition
of it. Does it mean a religion which suppresses other religions? Has
not the Assembly interdicted the word suppression? Or does it mean the
religion of the sovereign? The sovereign has not the right to rule over
men's consciences or to direct their opinions. Or does it apply to the
religion of the majority? Religion is a matter of opinion. This or that
religion is the outcome of this or that opinion. An opinion is not
formed by counting votes. Thought is a man's own, is independent, and
cannot be restricted."

It is evident that men were beginning to have the courage of their
opinions in religious matters.

I adduce another example of the rapidity with which, both in the
Assembly and in society in general, they were advancing from a timid
first apprehension to certainty of the great spiritual revolution which
was taking place.

In October 1789 there stood at the bar of the National Assembly a
deputation of curiously dressed men with oriental features. They
were Jews from Alsace and Lorraine, who had been deputed by their
fellow-believers to appeal for mercy.

"Most noble Assembly," they said, "we come in the name of the Eternal,
who is the source of all justice and truth, in the name of God, who
has given to all men the same rights and the same duties, in the name
of humanity, which has been outraged for centuries by the infamous
treatment to which the unfortunate descendants of the oldest of nations
have been subjected in almost every country, to beseech you humbly to
take our unhappy fate into consideration. Those Jews who are everywhere
persecuted, everywhere humiliated, and yet are always submissive, never
rebellious; those Jews who are despised and harassed by all nations,
whereas they ought to be pitied and tolerated, cast themselves at your
feet, and venture to hope that, even in the midst of the important
tasks which engross you, you will not neglect and despise their
complaint, but will listen compassionately to the timid protests which
they venture to offer from the depth of degradation in which they are
sunk.... May an improvement in our position, which we have hitherto
desired in vain, and which we now tearfully implore, be your work, your
benefaction!"

Clermont-Tonnerre warmly supported this petition. He was opposed by
the audacious and callous Abbé Maury, who argued thus: "It is absurd
to talk in our days of persecution and intolerance. The Jews are
our brothers. But to make the Jews citizens would be equivalent to
permitting Englishmen or Danes to become Frenchmen without any process
of naturalisation, without ceasing to be Englishmen or Danes." He also
dwelt upon the usurious proclivities of the Jews and the other vices
attributed to them: "Not a man amongst them has ennobled his hands by
guiding a plough or cultivating a plot of ground."

Considering that Jews were strictly prohibited by law from acquiring
even the smallest piece of land, and that their position was such that
when they entered a town they were liable to the same duty as was
imposed on pigs, Maury's argument was easy of refutation. But hatred
of the Jews was still so strong that no one contradicted him. It was
feared that, if civic rights were conferred on the Jews, they would
turn the whole of Alsace into a Jewish colony.

There was a general feeling of embarrassment. Only one member of
the Assembly, a man who as yet had attracted no notice, Maximilien
Robespierre, spoke in favour of the motion for granting the Jews
equality. He declared their vices to be the consequence of the degraded
position in which they had been kept.

But he was alone in supporting a measure which, significantly enough,
classed Protestants, actors, and Jews together. The human rights of
the Protestants and the actors were acknowledged, but, as Mirabeau
recognised the impossibility of passing the clause of the motion
which concerned the Jews, he adjourned the debate on this clause
indefinitely. Two years passed. In 1791 the Jews once more appealed.
But in what a changed tone! The humble prayer of the slave had become
the peremptory demand of the man. The conclusion of the appeal runs as
follows:--

"If there were one religion which incapacitated its followers from
being citizens, whilst the followers of all other religions made good
citizens, then these other religions would be the ruling religions;
but there is no ruling religion, since all have equal rights. If the
Jews are refused civic rights because they are Jews, they are punished
for belonging by birth to a certain religion. In this case there is no
religious liberty, seeing that loss of civic rights accompanies the
liberty. This much is certain--in advancing men to religious liberty,
the intention was that they should simultaneously be advanced to civic
liberty; there is no half liberty, just as there is no half justice."

Two years spent in the atmosphere of the Revolution had given to these
pariahs not only self-esteem but pride. This time the measure was
passed without debate.

In the Constituent Assembly the animosity towards positive religion
and its priests with which the "philosophers" had inoculated their
age did not find vent in words; as yet it only expressed itself in
deeds. All church property was proclaimed to be state property.
Voltaire had impressed upon his disciples that it was their mission "to
annihilate the infamous thing" (_écraser l'infame_). In the decisions
of the Assembly faithful Catholics saw an attempt to carry out this
injunction. It seemed to them as if all the powers of hell had been
let loose upon the church of Christ, "as if the philosophers were bent
upon exterminating the Christian religion, not only in France, but
throughout Europe, nay, throughout the whole world." (_Conjuration
contre la religion catholique et les souverains_, 1792.) In order to
attain this result the "philosophers" had addressed themselves to the
sovereigns of the great countries, to Frederick of Prussia, Catherine
of Russia, and others; but it was from the French middle class that the
blow came.

The priests, who, as the saying goes, have found what Archimedes
sought, a fulcrum in another world from which to move this one, now
began to stir up the spirit of fanaticism in the provinces. In the town
of Arras a picture of the crucifixion was paraded in the streets, in
which Maury and the royalists were represented standing on the right
side of the cross, and the revolutionists on the left side, below the
unrepentant thief. At Nîmes there was a regular riot when the news came
that a Protestant, Saint-Étienne, had been elected President of the
National Assembly.

The new ordering of the church's affairs was brought about by a
coalition of the Voltairean and Jansenist members of the Assembly.
The Jansenists had a religious hatred of earthly greatness, and, as
fatalists, unquestioningly accepted the existence of human misery.
Therefore it displeased them to see the church rich, and they took
no account of the manner in which the poor benefited by its wealth.
Moreover, the scandalous lives led by many of the high-placed
ecclesiastics aroused their moral indignation. Everyone, for instance,
knew that Bishop Jarante's mistress, Mademoiselle Guimard, distributed
ecclesiastical promotion behind the scenes of the opera, that the
Archbishop of Narbonne had a regular harem in one of his abbeys, and
that the monks of the Abbey of Granselve had quarters for their ladies
in a neighbouring village, where the tables were regularly spread for
nightly revels.

If the revolutionists had been content with secularising church
property, they could not well have been convicted of attacking
religion. But they interfered in the church's internal arrangements and
discipline, and even altered its ritual; and its dignitaries naturally
proclaimed that the foundations of religion were shaken. Therefore
the ordinary priest hardly ever dared take the oath of allegiance to
the constitution. The small yearly payment received from the state by
those who did so was likened to Judas Iscariot's blood-money, although
in times past it had been considered just that bishops should own
palaces and pleasure-grounds, and have luxuries of every kind at their
disposal, while the lower orders of the clergy were positively starving.

As a result of the new order of things many riotous and many comic
scenes were witnessed in the provinces. In one of Camille Desmoulins'
newspaper articles we find an amusing description of the compulsory
parting between a village curé and his charge. Coming out at the church
door one Sunday after mass, Monsieur le Curé is surprised by the sight
of a coach loaded with all his belongings. On the top sits Javotte,
his housekeeper, to whom the schoolmaster, with tears in his eyes, is
saying farewell. The curé is handed into the carriage amidst cries of:
"Good-bye, good-bye, your Reverence!" and off he has to go, though he
rages and storms as long as his church steeple is in sight. In other
places, however, the priest was forced to take the oath with the
bayonet at his breast; and in one instance a recalcitrant was shot dead
in his pulpit. But if dissident priests were occasionally maltreated,
the treatment meted out by these priests to their opponents was
infinitely worse. They taught the peasants that the new constitution,
which did not in reality interfere with religion at all, was a work
of the devil. They impressed upon their congregations that it was a
mortal sin to take the sacrament from the hands of a priest who had
sworn allegiance to the government, that the children of parents who
had been married by such priests were illegitimate, nay, that the curse
of God rested on them. One priest who had taken the oath was stoned
in his church, another was hanged from the chancel lamp. The churches
which had been closed by order of the National Assembly were broken
open again. In certain departments murderous bands of devotees, led by
priests, marched about armed with guns and spears. The situation was
worst in Brittany. When the Breton peasant who had gone many miles to
hear mass said by a true, _i.e._ non-juring priest, on his return met a
dozen or so of his neighbours coming out of his own church, where they
had been comfortably attending the ministrations of the new government
curé, he was so infuriated that he felt justified in committing any of
the outrages to which the church incited him.

By the time the Legislative Assembly met, there were no longer any
Estates. The nobles had emigrated, and the exiled ecclesiastical
dignitaries were imploring assistance at foreign courts. The lower
ranks of the clergy, inspired by anti-revolutionary fanaticism, were
inflaming the ignorant multitude. The debates now held in the Assembly
were very different in tone from those of the old days. Now the
standing grievance against religion was the naïvely formulated one
that it did not harmonise with the constitution, and that against the
clergy, that their one aim was to recover their property. The lies and
violence of the priests had stirred up a feeling of great bitterness
against them. A few conciliatory voices were heard, such as that of
André Chénier, who maintained that the priests did not trouble the
state when the state did not interfere with them, or Talleyrand, who
insisted that, as no form of religion was prescribed by law, neither
should any be prohibited by law; but Voltairean indignation was long
the order of the day.

These were the halcyon days of the Girondists, and the Girondists were
the practical expression of the ideas of Voltaire.

In a public declaration drawn up by their famous leader, Vergniaud,
we read: "The rebellious priests are preparing a revolt against the
constitution; these insolent myrmidons of absolutism are supplicating
all the sovereigns of Europe for money and soldiers wherewith to
reconquer the sceptre of France." Roland, as Minister of the Interior,
said: "Mutinous and hypocritical priests, concealing their plans and
their passions under the sacred veil of religion, do not hesitate to
excite fanaticism and to arm their misguided fellow-citizens with the
sword of intolerance." When the proposal to banish the priests was
under discussion, Vergniaud spoke, half jestingly, half seriously, of
the iniquity of bringing evil upon other countries by sending them
such a gift. "Generally speaking," he maintained, "nothing can be more
immoral than that one country should send into another the criminals
of whom it desires to be rid." But he comforts himself with the idea
that in Italy they will be received as saints, and that "in this gift
of living saints which we are sending him, the Pope will recognise
a humble attempt to express our gratitude for all the arms, legs,
and other relics of dead saints with which he has favoured our pious
credulity during the centuries gone by."

"Yes," cries Isnard, the future President of the Convention, "let us
send these plague-stricken creatures to the hospitals of Italy." And
he adds that when a priest is depraved, he is never partly, but always
wholly depraved, that to forgive crimes is the same as to commit them,
that an end must be put to the existing state of matters, and that the
enemies of the Revolution are themselves compelling the Revolution to
crush them. From his lips issue for the first time the terrible words
which were to be echoed and re-echoed times without number in days to
come: "There is no need of proofs." That is to say, all priests accused
were at once to be banished.

And when the fear was expressed that such proceedings would result
in civil war, the noted Girondist, Guadet, a disciple of Holbach,
reassured the Assembly with a speech containing the following
assertion: "Every one knows that a priest is as cowardly as he is
covetous, that he wields no weapons but those of superstition, and
that, having fought nowhere but in the theological prize-ring, he is a
nonentity on the field of battle." It was soon seen how mistaken, in
this matter at least, Guadet and his sympathisers were, and what bold,
enthusiastic leaders the priests made in the sanguinary civil war which
ensued.

Things reached such a pitch that speakers actually began to excuse
themselves when they were obliged to address the Assembly on church
matters. François de Nantes (as spokesman of a committee, be it noted)
declares: "Our one consolation in being obliged to take up your time
with the discussion of church matters is the hope that the measures
you will take will prevent the necessity of your ever hearing of them
again." His whole speech is a tissue of audacities.

These sentiments were shared by high and low. One of Louis XVI.'s
ministers, the insolent, high-handed Cahier de Gerville, said one day,
on leaving the council chamber, to his colleague Molleville, who noted
down the expression in his Memoirs: "I wish I had these damned vermin,
the clergy of all lands, between my fingers, that I might squeeze
them all to death at once." But the spirit of the Revolution found
temperate, dignified expression in a letter from the Republic to the
Pope, which a woman had been commissioned to write. It is addressed
to "The Prince-Bishop in Rome." In the name of the Republic Madame
Roland writes: "High-priest of the Roman church, sovereign of a state
which is slipping out of your hands, know that the only possible way in
which you can preserve state and church is by making a disinterested
confession and proclamation of those gospel principles which breathe a
spirit of the purest democracy, the tenderest humanity, and the most
perfect equality--principles with which Christ's representatives have
adorned themselves only for the purpose of supporting and increasing a
sovereign power which is now falling to pieces from decrepitude. The
age of ignorance is past."

But such language as this is quite out of keeping with what was
generally spoken and written. The period of calm conviction was at an
end, that of unbridled passions had begun. The passions followed in the
track of the convictions. Hatred of Catholicism reached its climax; it
broke out in one great flame all over France. Those were the golden
days of the Clubs.

The Cordelier Club held its meetings in the chapel of a monastery. All
the paintings, tapestries, and carvings were torn down; nothing but
the skeleton of the church remained. The president's seat was in the
chancel, where the rain blew in through the broken panes of the east
window. His table was composed of joiners' benches; on it lay a row
of red caps, and whoever wished to speak had to put on one of these.
Behind him was a statue of Liberty with broken instruments of torture
in her hands. Planks, fragments of stalls, of church benches, or of
shattered images provided seats for a dirty, wild audience in ragged
_carmagnoles_ (as their jackets were called), shouldering spears, or
sitting with their bare arms crossed. The orators spoke boldly and to
the point; everything was called by its plainest name; an indecent
word or audacious gesture roused applause. They were often interrupted
by opponents, and at times by the screeching of small owls, which had
been driven from their homes under the monastery roof, and now flew
in and out through the broken windows seeking food. These were not
to be silenced by the chairman's bell; they were sometimes shot, and
fell fluttering and bleeding among the crowd. Among the speakers were
Danton, Marat, and Camille Desmoulins--the amiable, witty Camille,
whose moderation brought upon him the charge of hypocrisy, and who even
before the tribunal of the Revolution spoke of the _sans-culotte_,
Jesus. Camille had private reasons for his hatred of the priests. When,
in December 1790, he wished to marry his beloved Lucile, without doubt
one of the purest and most beautiful of the female characters of the
Revolution, no priest would perform the ceremony because he had written
in a newspaper article that the religion of Mahomet was as intelligible
as the religion of Jesus. He was obliged to recant this assertion and
to go to confession before he could be married. But now he made amends.
In his newspaper, _Le vieux Cordelier_, he wrote: "The whole subject
of priests and of religions is disposed of when it has been said that
they resemble each other in all being equally absurd, and when it has
been instanced that the Tatars eat the excrement of the Grand Lama as
the greatest delicacy. There is no fool too foolish to be honoured as
Jupiter's equal. The Mongolians worship a cow, which is the object
of as many genuflexions as the god Apis.... We have not the right to
be aggravated by such follies, we who in our simplicity have so long
allowed ourselves to be persuaded that it is possible to swallow a god
as one swallows an oyster." An influential paper which had a great
circulation among the Cordeliers was Loustalot's _Les Révolutions de
Paris_. One of its numbers, published during Lent 1792, contained the
following tirade, apropos of the shows at the fair: "In the days when
there was a ruling religion in France, the tonsured jugglers allowed
no competition during Holy Week. They alone might give performances.
Now there is free competition. When the ordinary conjurer shows himself
upon his stage he is attired in a cloak and strange headgear, by which
he is distinguished from the surrounding crowd; but as soon as the
performance is over he takes off his costume. The priest wears his
all day long, and performs his part off as well as on the stage....
When will they blush to play the rôle of the harlequins of humanity?"
Henceforward the revolutionary nickname of the priests is "theophagi."
In the month of April the same newspaper contains an article in which
it is proposed to apply to priests the regulations instituted by
Johanna of Naples for the control of women of ill-fame. "They ought to
be shut up in a house where they can preach and pray as much as they
choose for those who seek them there, but should be prohibited from
going abroad, so that they may not infect the population." The wine of
Voltaire has turned into vinegar, into poison.

A rival club of a very different type from the Cordeliers' was the
Jacobins'. Its intellectual tendency was more serious and more
pedantic. Its patron was Rousseau, as its rival's was Voltaire. The
original programme of the Jacobins--love of equality, hatred of all
established inequality--was derived purely from Rousseau; with it they
managed to combine ambition, a cold, calculating, revolutionary spirit
of persecution, and, underlying everything else, devotion to rule,
that is to say, to the regulation of society according to Rousseau's
principles.

To the student who observes historic phenomena from the literary point
of view, nothing in the history of the Revolution is more striking
than the distinct manner in which all its men of action and of words
acknowledge the literature of the eighteenth century to be the
mainspring of their actions and utterances. They seem to seek no other
honour than that of transforming ready-made principles into action.
At Mirabeau's grave it was told to his honour that he had said of the
philosophers: "They have produced light; I will produce movement." And
there is scarcely a paragraph in the _Contrat Social_ which did not,
during the course of the Revolution, reappear either in a law, or a
public declaration, or a newspaper article, or a speech in the National
Assembly, or in the very constitution of the Republic itself.

The most important of its theories--that power emanates from the
people, that law is the expression of their will--is to be found
literally reproduced in the Declaration of the Rights of Man. As soon
as the idea of association occurs to the Jacobins they instantaneously
trace it back to Rousseau, and employ all his phraseology. Abbé Fauchet
writes, in an article in _La Bouche de Fer_: "Great Rousseau, of the
candid mind and feeling heart! thou art one of the first to have
understood the eternal laws of equity. Yes; every man has a right
to the earth, has a right of property in what he requires for his
support." And he goes on to maintain that the social contract is a
contract between the man and his country. Saint-Just expresses himself
in almost the same words in his speech demanding the death of Louis
XVI.: "The social contract is a contract which the citizens conclude
with one another, and not a contract with the government. Men have no
responsibility in the matter of a contract into which they have not
entered." But it is Robespierre who, as leader of the Jacobins, gives
typical expression to their devotion to the principles of Rousseau.
He was the first enemy of the Girondist rationalism; hence we find
him, at the time when this rationalism was most distinctly proving
its destructive tendency, declaring in a charge to the Jacobins that
the Revolution is under the direction of God, is in fact His work. He
felt impelled to give his revolutionary sentimentality this affected
expression, which implied its relationship with what was called
"natural religion."

It was not this feeling, but the spirit of contemptuous indignation
awakened by Voltaire, which, towards the middle of the year 1792,
became the dominant feeling in the Legislative Assembly and in France.
In August the edict was passed which condemned all refractory priests
to banishment to one of the colonies. Arrests of such priests took
place every day. Then came the September slaughter. The imprisoned
priests were the first to fall. Abbé Baruel writes: "These executioners
did not all belong to the dregs of the people. A man shouted to the
priests who were being murdered: 'Scoundrels, murderers, monsters,
contemptible hypocrites! the day of vengeance has come at last. No
longer shall you delude the people with your masses, your scrap of
bread upon the altar!'" The fortitude displayed by most of the priests
is worthy of all admiration. In the prison of the Carmelite Convent,
172 of them unhesitatingly elected to be shot rather than take the
oath of allegiance to the constitution. It is touching to read the
description of the composure of those who were locked into the church:
"From time to time we sent some of our comrades up to the window
in the tower, to look in what posture the unfortunate men who were
being sacrificed in the courtyard were meeting their fate, so that
we might know how to conduct ourselves when our turn came. They told
us that those who stretched out their arms suffered longest, because
the sword-blows slackened before they reached the head" (Jourgniac de
Saint-Méard.) In all, 1480 human beings were butchered. The number is
unquestionably an appalling one; but it is to be noted, as not without
interest, that, according to Michelet's calculation, the number of
men (and women) executed between the beginning and the end of the
Revolution does not amount to a fortieth part of the number killed in
the battle of the Moskwa alone.

The hatred which had found such ferocious expression in the Days of
September had not cooled down when the Convention assembled. Let us see
what the member of Convention writes, reads, and says on the subject
of priests and religion. One of them, Lequinio by name, presents his
colleagues with a book which he has written and dedicated to the Pope.
Its title is _Les Préjugés Détruits_. In it we read: "Religion is a
political chain invented for the purpose of fettering men; its only
use has been to ensure the pleasures of a few individuals by holding
all the others in check." The tirades against the priests in this
book surpass in violence and indecency any yet published. Amongst
its mildest affirmations concerning them is one perpetually made at
this time, with all manner of variations: "When they are honest, they
are stupid or mad; as a rule they are audacious impostors, veritable
assassins of the human race." We must go to Kierkegaard's _Öieblikket_
(The Moment) to find outbursts corresponding to this. Such is the
literature of the day. And Lequinio is not to be regarded as an
exception, though he carried his war with prejudice to the extent of
inviting the public executioner to dine with him and his family for
the purpose of overcoming the prejudice against that official. In _Les
Révolutions de Paris_, the newspaper which the member of Convention
perused before he went forth to take his part in the debates of the
day, he read one morning in December 1792, apropos of the celebration
of the midnight mass in Paris: "There is no particular harm in holding
exhibitions of dancing marionettes or conjurers' tricks in the public
streets in the light of day; it is quite permissible that children and
nurses should be amused. But to meet in dark assembly halls at night
for the purpose of singing hymns, lighting tapers, and burning incense
in honour of an illegitimate child and an unfaithful wife is a scandal,
an offence against public morality, which demands the attention of the
police and strict repressive measures."[1] Previously quoted utterances
have been aglow with exasperation, hatred, and scorn; but as yet they
have not been ribald. They were the revengeful cries of that human
reason which had been so long fettered and tortured. This language is
scurrilous. And there is another change. Those who have hitherto been
oppressed are betraying a marked inclination in their turn to play the
part of oppressors.

Action followed swiftly upon resolve. "They proceeded," writes Mercier
in _Le nouveau Paris_, "to the destruction of everything connected
with the old worship, not with the frenzy of zealotry, but with an
ironical contempt and uncontrolled mirth which could not but astound
the onlooker." The churches were positively ravaged. One troop of its
emissaries communicated to the Convention that they had "permitted
'brown Mary' (a certain miracle-working image) to retire, after all
the hard work she had had in fooling the world for 1800 years." The
altars were plundered for the benefit of the treasury of the Republic.
Here is a fragment of a report: "There are no longer any priests in
the Department of Nièvre. The altars have been despoiled of the piles
of gold which ministered to priestly vanity. Thirty millions worth
of valuable articles will be sent to Paris. Two carts laden with
crucifixes, gold croziers, and two millions in gold coin, have already
arrived at the Mint. Three times as much will immediately follow."

Sometimes the carts stopped at the door of the assembly hall of the
Convention, and sacks full of gold and silver were piled up in the hall
itself.

Another report is in the ironical style. "I have been unjustly accused
of an onslaught on religion. The fact is that I asked most politely
before I acted, and three or four hundred saints begged for permission
to go to the Mint. The language employed on the occasion was something
in this style: 'Ye who have been the tools of fanaticism, ye saints and
holy ones of every description, show now that ye are patriots, and help
your country by marching to the Mint!'"

In a third report the delegates congratulate themselves on the result
of their "philosophic mission" in the Department of Gers. "Public
feeling was ripe, and it was decided that the abolition of fanaticism
should be solemnly celebrated on the last day of the third Decade.
The whole population assembled in a rustic spot to hold the festival
of brotherhood. After a Spartan meal they hurried into the town, tore
down all the emblems of fanaticism, and trampled them under foot. A
scavenger's cart drove up, bringing two miracle-working virgins and a
variety of crucifixes and images of saints, to which, but a short time
before, superstition had offered incense. All this ridiculous rubbish
was piled upon a bonfire, on which already lay a collection of patents
of nobility, and burned amidst the rejoicings of an enormous crowd.
Round this philosophic pyre on which so many delusions were consumed
the _carmagnole_ was danced all night."

In a fourth report we read: "Sixty-four refractory priests were living
in a house belonging to the people. I ordered them to be marched
through the town to prison. The new kind of monster, which had not as
yet been exhibited to the gaze of the public, produced an excellent
effect. Shouts of 'Vive la République!' rose from the crowd that
surrounded the herd. Have the goodness to let me know what I am to do
with the five dozen animals whom I have held up to the ridicule of the
multitude. I gave them actors as an escort."

The debates which preceded the proclamation of religious liberty on
the 3rd Ventôse of the year III. were all in this same tone. However
divided the Convention might be upon other questions, upon this there
was absolute unanimity. Marked as is the difference in the nation's
frame of mind during, and after, the Reign of Terror, there is no
difference in its attitude towards Catholicism. When, as one result
of the proclamation of religious liberty, a few churches had been
reopened, the fact was announced by the weekly paper _Le Décade
Philosophique_, under the heading "Theatres," in the following terms:
"On the 18th and 25th of this month a comedy was played in several
parts of Paris. The chief character, in an absurd costume, performed a
variety of foolish antics, at which the spectators did not laugh. As we
are not in the habit of criticising revived plays when they are neither
useful nor instructive, we shall take no further notice of this one."

Mirabeau had said that men's first aim must be "to decatholicise"
France. To all appearance this was being done. One Commune after
another petitioned to be allowed to change its name, which was almost
always that of some saint. Saint-Denis, for instance (whose headless
patron never existed), was renamed Franciade. Most of the provinces
followed the example of Paris. Nothing that could remind men of
the "kingdom by the grace of God" was spared. In 1793 a venerable,
white-bearded Alsatian, a member of the Committee of Public Safety,
Ruhl by name, managed to get possession of the sacred, miracle-working
ampulla containing the anointing oil which a dove had brought down
from heaven on the occasion of the coronation of Clovis. Followed by a
vast crowd, he bore it in triumph to the great square of Reims, where
the magistrates and other public officials had already assembled round
the statue of Louis XV. Here he delivered an oration against tyranny
and tyrants, and wound up by throwing the sacred vessel at the head
of Louis le Bien-aimé with such violence that it broke into a hundred
pieces, and the sacred oil trickled once again down the cheeks of the
Lord's Anointed.

Events such as these, and language such as the above quoted, show
plainly enough how determinedly the Revolution was attacking the
principle of authority. It was highly significant that patents of
nobility were burned in the same bonfire with the images of the saints,
and that disbelief in the sacred ampulla led to the flouting of
royalty. From the moment when the authority of religion was overthrown,
the magic power of authority in every domain was gone.

It was supplanted by the watchword: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.
But this watchword contained at least two fundamental principles
instead of one. Liberty as a fundamental principle may be regarded as
emanating from Voltaire, fraternity from Rousseau. And equality and
liberty did not combine well. When, not long before the Revolution,
Saint-Martin, the mystic, proclaimed his mysterious doctrine of
the Holy Trinity (Ternaire)--liberty, equality, and fraternity,
which always had been, and always should be--he did not foresee the
possibility of disunion, of conflict, between these principles.
Voltaire says somewhere: "It was a wise provision that made of the
Trinity one God; if there had been three they would have come to
blows." In 1793 Saint-Martin's trinity revealed the contradictions
which lay latent in it.

In the month of April the new Declaration of the Rights of Man which
Robespierre had drawn up and persuaded the Jacobins to accept as
their programme was published, and in the same month, whilst the
violent dispute between Robespierre and Vergniaud was going on, there
emanated from the opposite camp the plan of a constitution, evolved
by Condorcet, Barrère, Thomas Paine, Pétion, Barbaroux, Sièyes, and
others, and drawn up by Condorcet.

If we place these two documents side by side, we have before us in
embryo the two ideas which in the future were to struggle for the
mastery, namely, the idea of liberalism and the idea of socialism, the
former derived from Voltaire, the latter from Rousseau. As the two
programmes deal point by point with the same subjects, the difference
strikes us here as it does nowhere else.

In the first years of the Revolution there had been no mention of
socialism. Men aimed at freeing capital from unjust burdens, not at
limiting its power. This is clearly shown by the fact that the first
proof which the victorious bourgeoisie gave of their authority after
the storming of the Bastille was the publication of a decree that
the printers were to be held responsible for every book or pamphlet
published by writers without known means of subsistence (_sans
existence connue_). This regulation was published on the 24th of
July 1789, exactly ten days after the capture of the Bastille. The
bourgeoisie took care, as soon as they had mounted themselves, to draw
the ladder up after them. Their first act, when they had won their own
place by the aid of the pen, was to take the pen out of the hand of the
classes below them.

The Convention, nourished on the ideas of Rousseau and Mably,
comprehended that inequality within the citizen society was the worst
enemy of political equality, and dreamed of producing equality by
giving property to all. Condorcet wished to devote the funds at the
disposal of the state, not to the abolishment of private property, but
to the equalisation of any excessive disproportion in the distribution
of worldly possessions. Right of succession was to be abolished, the
means of education were to be made accessible to all, &c, &c. It was
not till the owners of property began, after the fall of Robespierre,
to resist the claims of those who owned nothing, that the attack on
property as such was made. Babeuf's communistic conspiracy followed.
The conspiracy was betrayed and defeated, drowned in the blood of the
conspirators without a voice being raised in defence of the ideas which
had inspired it. Socialism did no more than put out feelers at the time
of the Revolution.

Whilst the Girondists' Declaration of the Rights of Man ensures first
and foremost the rights of the individual--freedom of conscience and
of thought (_les franchises de la pensée_ was the expression in those
days), the inviolability of the home, equality in sight of the law,
the proportioning of punishment to crime--the Jacobins in every matter
insist upon the responsibility of human beings for each other and the
duty entailed by brotherhood.

The Girondists laid down the principle of non-interference. The
Jacobins taught: The men of all countries are brothers, and the
different nations ought to help each other to the best of their
ability, like citizens of the same state. The nation which oppresses
another nation declares itself the enemy of all. Those who make war
upon any one nation in order to arrest the progress of liberty and
abolish the rights of humanity ought to be assailed by all the others,
not as ordinary enemies, but as insurrectionary murderers and robbers.

The Girondists opposed every tyranny in human shape, but they seldom
tried to protect from the tyranny of circumstances. Their work was for
the most part of a negative nature. The Jacobins perceived more clearly
the uselessness of bestowing on the sick the right to be cured without
curing them, the mockery in solemnly conferring on the lame the right
to walk. Yet there was no essential difference between them. Condorcet
the Girondist felt as strongly as any Jacobin that free competition was
a lie when in the race one man was mounted on an excellent horse while
the other had to run barefoot.

It was the feeling of duty to society (as defined by Rousseau) which
led to Robespierre's significant intervention in the war between
the Revolution and positive religion. Once the Revolution had
broken into the churches axe in hand, it seemed as if the movement
were irresistible. Men mounted on the frailest of scaffolding to
scrape from the ceilings of churches portraits of popes concealed
by century-old spiders' webs. Images of saints were torn from their
niches, and fanaticism destroyed some of the finest works of Gothic
art; the emissaries of the Revolution descended even into the vaults,
and flashed their lanterns in the pale faces of the dead; fragments
of broken-up altars were piled together "like shapeless stones in a
quarry." The chairmen of the revolutionary committees wore velvet
breeches made out of episcopal robes, and shirts cut out of choristers'
surplices. In the end a few atheistic enthusiasts (Anacharsis Clootz,
a man of German extraction, Chaumette, and Hébert) made their voices
heard, and carried the mob with them in their iconoclastic fury.

Except on this occasion we hear as little of atheism during the
Revolution as of socialism. Belief in God and immortality, the common
creed of Voltaire and Rousseau, is the creed held unchanged by almost
all the chosen leaders of the people. And this same belief pervades all
the writings of the period. Thomas Paine's _Age of Reason_ is a good
example. Even such a recklessly disreputable poem as Parny's _Guerre
des Dieux_ inculcates the same doctrine, Camille Desmoulins writes in
a letter: "Mon cher Manuel! Les rois sont mûrs, mais le bon Dieu ne
l'est pas encore (notez que je dis _le bon Dieu_ et non pas _Dieu_, ce
qui est fort différent)." This is the standpoint of the age; its task
was not to subject the conception of God to criticism, but to free it
from the legendary encumbrances of the positive religions. The atheists
in the National Assembly led the Revolution beyond its proper goal and
instigated excesses which degraded it in the eyes of the contemporary
generation.

Clootz succeeded in persuading a bishop, Gobel by name, to write a
letter to the Convention, which began: "Citizens, representatives! I
am a priest, that is to say, a quack. Hitherto I have been an honest
quack; I have only deceived because I myself was deceived." It ended,
of course, with the information that he had become converted to
philosophy.

Chaumette, an enthusiast, who had procured the abolition of corporal
punishment in educational institutions and of legally regulated
prostitution, persuaded the Commune to consecrate the cathedral of
Notre Dame to "the worship of Reason." Within the church was erected
a temple with the inscription _À la Philosophie_, the porch of which
was decorated with busts of the great philosophers. On the dedication
day, when the door was thrown open, a young actress, Mademoiselle
Candeille, representing Liberty, issued forth, and a hymn to Liberty,
written by Marie-Joseph Chénier and set to music by Gossec, composer to
the Republic, was sung in her honour. On another occasion Mademoiselle
Maillard of the Opera, a stately and beautiful woman, chosen to
represent the goddess of Reason, was carried shoulder-high out of the
old cathedral in a chair decked with garlands of oak leaves and was
escorted by trumpeters, a crowd of red-capped citizens, and a number
of members of the Convention, to the assembly hall of that body, whose
president solemnly impressed a kiss on her brow. But these ceremonies,
innocent in themselves, were degraded by the ribald manner in which
they were imitated by the mob. Women of bad character had themselves
carried in triumphal processions as goddesses of Reason. Wild revels
were held in churches; the church of Saint-Eustache was actually turned
into a tavern. The relics of Saint Geneviève were burned, and such
a bonfire of wooden images of saints, prayer-books, and Old and New
Testaments was lit on the Place de la Grève that the flames rose to the
second stories of the houses.

Clootz was elected president of the Jacobin Club. Hereupon Robespierre,
as a good disciple of Rousseau, and with his eye on Europe, prevailed
on the Convention to issue a public declaration that the French people
acknowledged the existence of the Supreme Being; and he moreover
persuaded the Jacobins to present a petition to the Convention, praying
that assembly to do all that was in its power to restore belief in God
and in the immortality of the soul. He denounced the iconoclasts as
fanatics of the Catholic type, and atheism as aristocratic. When, in
May 1794, he mounted the tribune to urge the Convention to celebrate
a festival in honour of the Supreme Being, he proceeded, after saying
a few enthusiastic words in praise of Rousseau, to make a deliberate
attack on Christianity. "All men's imaginings disappear in presence of
the truth, and all follies succumb to reason.... What have the priests
to do with God? The position of priests to morality is the same as
that of quacks to the science of medicine." Assuming, in the manner
of his century, that religions are the inventions of their priests,
he says: "The priests have made of God a fire-ball, a bull, a tree, a
man, a king. The Supreme Being's true priest is nature, his temple the
universe, his worship virtue." He goes on to show that priests have
everywhere supported tyranny: "It is you who have said to kings: Ye
are the representatives of God on earth; it is from Him ye hold your
authority! And the kings in their turn have said to you: In very truth
ye are God's messengers; let us divide the incense and the spoils!"

The result of these endeavours was the Convention's proclamation to all
the nations of the earth that it countenanced free worship of God, and
that it censured "the excesses of philosophy as strongly as the crimes
of fanaticism." One paragraph of this proclamation runs: "Your rulers
will tell you that the French nation has banished all religions and
has ordained the worship of certain men instead of the worship of the
Deity; they represent us to you as an idolatrous and insane people.
They lie. The French people and its representatives favour liberty of
worship of every kind." It was decided to celebrate a certain number
of religious festivals--the festivals of liberty, of equality, of
humanity, one in honour of the great men who in their day had been
liberators, &c.,&c.

The first outcome of this decision was the famous festival in honour
of the Supreme Being. There is something touchingly comic in the
childishness of the whole proceeding. With a bouquet of flowers and
ears of wheat in his hand, Robespierre, elected president for the
day, led the assembled Convention through Paris to the Champ de Mars.
On its march it was encircled by a tricoloured ribbon carried by
children, youths, middle-aged and old men, decked according to their
age with violets, myrtle, oak, or vine leaves. Every member of the
Convention wore a tricoloured scarf and carried a bouquet of flowers,
fruits, and ears of corn. When they had taken their places in the space
reserved for them on the highest part of the plain, a ceremony was
proceeded with, which, according to the testimony of eye-witnesses,
was impressive, though somewhat theatrical. An invocation of the Most
High was sung by thousands of voices. The young girls strewed flowers,
the young men brandished their weapons and swore that they would save
France and liberty. The rites concluded with a performance in the
taste of the day. In a conspicuous position stood a group of monsters
specially designed by the famous painter, David--impiety, selfishness,
disunion, and ambition, evil things which were to be exterminated from
the earth henceforth and for ever. Robespierre seized a torch and flung
it at the monsters. As they had been drenched with turpentine they
burned up at once, and in their place there appeared an incombustible
statue of Wisdom. A curious irony of fate willed it that this statue
should be completely blackened by the flames and smoke.

The festival in honour of the Supreme Being was an ingenuous expression
of the piety of the eighteenth century. Robespierre was perfectly
right in lamenting that Rousseau had not lived to see that day; it
would have been a festival after his own heart. And so firmly were
these religious ideas rooted in the minds of the legislators that they
stood when Robespierre fell. The "citizen" religion instituted by
the Convention was not of his evolving. Far from turning back after
his death, men pressed eagerly onwards. The Republican calendar was
introduced. As "the Christian era had been the era of lies, deception,
and charlatanism." the Christian reckoning was abolished; time was
reckoned from 1792, the week was superseded by the decade, and it was
proposed to give to the various saints' days the names of agricultural
implements and useful domestic animals.

Ere long regular liturgies and catechisms of the new religion were
published. In one such book (_Office des décadis en discours, hymnes et
prières en usage dans les temples de la Raison_) we read:--

"Liberty, thou supreme happiness of man upon earth, hallowed be thy
name by all nations throughout the world! May thy joy-bringing kingdom
come and put an end to the reign of tyrants! May thy holy worship take
the place of the worship of those miserable idols whose altars thou
hast overthrown!... I believe in a Supreme Being who has created men
free and equal, who has formed them to love one another and not to hate
one another, who desires to be honoured by the exhibition of virtue,
not of fanaticism, and in whose eyes the noblest of worships is the
worship of truth and reason. I believe in the approaching fall of all
tyrants, in the regeneration of morality, the ever-increasing spread of
all the virtues, and the eternal triumph of liberty."

Simultaneously, however, men confessed their faith in other and less
innocent ways. The churches were dismantled to serve the purposes of
the new religion. Practical reasons made the abolition of Sunday a
vital question; ere long suspicion attached to every one who observed
it--and in those days it was dangerous to be suspected. The violent
attempts made during the rule of the Convention to prevent the
observance of Sunday constituted a new species of tyranny, which,
although more excusable than the tyranny it superseded, was no less
barbarous and unreasonable.

Even under the Directory, when the first symptoms of a reactionary
movement in the lower ranks of society were already perceptible, there
were, as we are told by a writer of the day, members of Assembly who
had nervous attacks if they as much as heard the word "priest"; and
the work of destruction was carried on with avidity. "Every man," says
Laurent, "who had a drop of revolutionary blood in his veins laboured
with feverish enthusiasm at the destruction of Christianity." In
official reports the faithful Catholics are described as "weak-minded."
A proclamation of the Directory relating to the elections of the year
VI. declares that it is necessary to erase from the lists "the unhappy
fanatics, who are blinded by credulity, and who might take it into
their heads to throw themselves once more at the feet of the priests."

The priests had continued to be the most terrible enemies of the
Revolution. The bloody war in La Vendée was to a great extent their
work. The horrors perpetrated during this struggle recall those of the
Middle Ages. One priest who had sworn allegiance to the constitution
was stoned to death by yelling women, and another was torn to pieces,
also by women. Before the Republican President, Joubert, was killed,
his hands were sawn off. In one town the Royalists buried their
revolutionary enemies alive; when the Republican troops arrived they
saw arms sticking up out of the ground, the hands clenching the turf.

The revolutionists were soon compelled to acknowledge that their
proceedings had had the opposite effect to what they had wished and
expected. Significantly enough, the envoys sent to La Vendée were
the first to advise complete separation of church from state. In
their opinion this was the only means of tranquillising men's minds
and restoring the country to peace. As far back as the days of the
Legislative Assembly it had been proposed by a priest that the state
should cease to subsidise any religion. But men were too excited
then to refrain from violent espousal of one side or the other. The
revolutionists hoped, as they often said, "to put an end to all
sectarianism" by the aid of universal education. They fondly imagined
that the era of dogmas was past, that the time had come when, in the
words of Jefferson, the American, the miraculous conception of Christ
in the womb of a virgin was to be classed along with the miraculous
conception of Minerva in the head of Jupiter. In a report drawn up
under the Convention we read: "Soon men will only make acquaintance
with these foolish dogmas, the offspring of fear and delusion, to
despise them. Soon the religion of Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, and
Cicero will be the religion of the world." And when, in her Memoirs,
Madame Roland has occasion to use the word "catechism," she considers
it necessary to explain it for the benefit of posterity. She writes:
"So rapidly are things moving now that the readers of this passage will
perhaps ask: What was that? I will tell them."

The men of the Revolution had failed to comprehend that the great
body of the people, profoundly ignorant, and imbued with ideas and
feelings which had been transmitted from generation to generation for
centuries, were irresponsive to their appeals, terrified by their acts
of violence, and prepared, from old habit, to give themselves over into
the hands of the priests again, as soon as opportunity offered. In
1800, in a letter to Bonaparte, General Clarke writes: "Our religious
revolution has been a failure. France has become Roman Catholic again.
It would take thirty years' liberty of the press to destroy the
spiritual power of the Bishop of Rome." He is mistaken only in his
computation of thirty years. Three hundred would be more nearly the
number required, and even this would only suffice if to liberty of the
press were added good, free, and entirely secular education.

It was not the common people alone who had quietly remained faithful
to the church. In the upper-class families in the provinces the
mother, with her daughters, had generally remained Catholic, since
the father, with the Frenchman's natural caution and distrust of free
thought, almost invariably, whatever his private opinions might be,
regarded religion as a beneficial restraint upon women. The ladies
had always embroidered altar-cloths, patronised the priest, given him
money for his poor parishioners, attended mass most regularly. Now
the celebration of mass was forbidden. The industrious and phlegmatic
French peasant, his wife, and his whole household had, until the
Revolution came, been accustomed to look up to _Monsieur le curé_ as a
species of earthly providence, been accustomed to salute him reverently
when he passed, and to ask his advice; he had baptized the children,
and from his hands they had received their first sacrament; he had
united Jacques to Fanchette in holy matrimony; he had administered the
last sacraments to the old mother. No one read in the peasant's house;
no one cultivated literature, or philosophy, or music. Every impulse
of the soul that rose above the plough-share and the clods which it
flung up took the direction of the church. Poor as it might be, it
was a festal hall in comparison with the cottar's hovel--and it was
a holy place; they knelt in it. Now the church was closed. Any one
who has seen the peasants of France or Italy pray, seen the touching
devotion which shines from eyes as earnest and as clear as a dog's,
can understand what it meant to such people that there was no longer
to be mass or priest. And Sunday too! The peasant is opposed to every
change the utility of which is not at once apparent to him. Sunday to
be done away with! Had any one ever heard the like? Could such an idea
have occurred to any one except these gentlemen in Paris? Sunday, which
had been kept holy for more than a thousand years--possibly since the
creation of the world! God Himself had rested on the seventh day; but
now the week was to have ten days, and to be called _Décade_, a word
which conveyed no meaning. Was God, too, to be done away with?

Add to all this the effect upon the younger and as yet undepraved
priests. Frayssinous, who, after the Restoration, became so famous as a
Catholic vindicator of Christianity, tells how he himself and a friend,
also a priest, continued to perform their sacred avocations during the
Reign of Terror in spite of all the threats of banishment, and how, in
order to prove and strengthen themselves, and familiarise themselves
with the death which awaited them if they were discovered, they went in
turn to watch the executions on the permanent scaffold of Rodez.

Think of young enthusiasts such as these, or the priests described
in Lamartine's _Jocelyn_, meeting their flocks on Sunday mornings in
underground caves, in cold, damp cellars, which might well call to mind
the catacombs of the early Christians. The congregation talk of the
trials of the church, comfort one another, hear a sermon, receive the
holy sacrament, and go their way with tearful eyes and uplifted hearts.
The great lady and the simple peasant woman have felt that they are
members of one body, as they never felt it when the one occupied the
best seat in church while the other sat on the bench at the door.

Even the confiscation of the property of the church turned out to
be for the church's good. Many a priest who had been demoralised by
good living suddenly found himself reduced to apostolic poverty. If
deprivations only roused the wrath of many, they chastened others.
The cause for which a man suffers becomes dear to him. The wavering,
half-philosophic priest who (as we are told by Barante) was almost
ashamed to confess his belief in the doctrines of Christianity, felt
his self-esteem increase when the cause which he served was persecuted.
In 1801 Bishop Lecoz writes: "The religion which our Saviour founded
without the aid of wealth, He will maintain without its aid, which is
unworthy of His acceptance. When he called His twelve apostles, to what
did He call them? To the enjoyment of riches or of honour? No; to toil,
to care, to suffering. If then we, the servants of Jesus Christ, now
find ourselves almost in this apostolic condition, ought we to grumble?
Nay, let us rather rejoice at this precious deprivation of the world's
goods; let us thank the Lord, who has restored things to that old
condition for which the most pious of His children have never ceased to
long."

As the feeling of horror and shame produced by the Reign of Terror,
when it was past, turned the thoughts of many Frenchmen once more in
the direction of monarchy and the royal house, so the cruel persecution
of religion awoke ardent sympathy for the church and its priests.

In Belgium (now incorporated with France), where there had been
wholesale banishment of the clergy, insurrections had broken out all
over the country. To quell them it had been necessary to burn numbers
of villages and kill several thousand peasants. In France there was now
not only one Vendée; every province had its own. In 1800 the royalist
and church party had the upper hand almost everywhere in the country
communes of the twelve western departments; they had 40,000 men under
arms. Even the men whose interests bound them most closely to the new
order of things, the men who had acquired the confiscated property of
the church, were not happy in their new possessions. The land of the
new owner had formerly belonged to the priest, the hospital, or the
school. These had been plundered, and he had become rich through their
impoverishment. The women of his household, his wife, his mother, were
uneasy and often depressed, and when he himself was ill he felt the
stings of an evil conscience; he trusted that the priest would grant
him absolution at the last moment, but was tormented by the fear that
he might not. (Taine, _Le régime moderne_, i. 134, &c.)

All this was a good preparation for the rehabilitation of religion.
And we must not forget the intellectual force, the valuable ally,
which the church gained by suddenly, as it were, finding itself able
to appropriate the fundamental principle of the Revolution, and in
its name win new supporters. The whole situation was altered from
the day when the church, hostile to liberty up to the last possible
moment, finally, vanquished by necessity, inscribed liberty on its
banner. Oppressed, and feeling the need of liberty for itself, it now
spoke in the name of liberty, and that so touchingly that all who
heard the crocodile weep took it to be a defenceless creature. Liberal
Catholicism--how the words jar!--came into being. The church wrested
the best weapon of the Revolution out of its hands, and put it into
those of her own adherents--only temporarily, of course, until she had
reconquered her old power; then, alas for liberty! But in the meantime
the Pope had suddenly become _liberal_--religious liberalism, they
called it. When the order of the Jesuits was reconstructed, even the
Jesuits declared that their desire was "good, true liberty."

How much honesty there was in this appeal to liberty was seen as soon
as religion was in power again. When, in 1808, Napoleon demanded of
the Pope that he should concede liberty of religion, the Pope replied:
"Because such liberty is at variance with the law of the church, with
the decrees of its councils, and with the Catholic religion, because,
moreover, by reason of the terrible consequences it would entail, it is
incompatible with the peace and happiness of nations, we have condemned
it." Simple-minded Catholics, like Lamennais, who at a somewhat later
period acted on the supposition that all this talk of liberty was
intended to be taken literally, discovered how much it meant. But even
after Lamennais had been disposed of by a papal bull in 1832, his
disciple Montalembert, who renounced his master's theories and became
the most vigorous champion of the church in the middle of this century,
was permitted to go on preaching _liberal_ Catholicism. It was not
until 1873, when such Catholicism could no longer be turned to any
possible use, that it was anathematised in one of the most virulent
bulls on record. Only few of those who read the bull in the newspapers
understood its full import.

The appeals in the name of liberty gained the church many supporters;
and to the men of principle who, at the moment of the revulsion under
the Consulate, were influenced by these appeals, and whose sympathy
for the church was increased by the harsh treatment meted out to the
Pope under the Empire, there were added on the restoration of the
Bourbons the many whose religion is always that of their masters, all
the approvers of Holberg's fox' moral: "Give no thought to religious
matters; abide blindly by the prevailing belief!"

About the year 1800, however, though an occasional revolutionary excess
was still not unheard of, France enjoyed complete religious liberty,
guaranteed by law. To the persecution of priests under the Convention
and the imperfect tolerance of the Directory had succeeded perfect
legal security for all confessions; the priests had been relieved
from the obnoxious oath, its place being taken by a simple promise
to obey the law; and each priest was now supported by the voluntary
contributions of his parishioners, the state abstaining from all
interference. These contributions were naturally often small, and many
a prelate looked back with longing to the flesh-pots of the old days,
and to what Robespierre called the alliance between the sceptre and
the censer. Bonaparte had the choice between fostering the germ of
religious liberty and making a tool of religious tradition. He did not
deliberate. The re-establishment of the church was an indispensable
link in the chain of his policy.[2]


[1] Louis Blanc (in his _Histoire de la Révolution_, viii. 35)
has misunderstood this article. He takes the unfaithful wife and
illegitimate son to mean Marie Antoinette and the Dauphin. A note in
the original text has escaped his observation; it is to the effect that
the "founders of the three greatest religions were bastards."

[2] Laurent, _Histoire du droit des gens_, tome xiv.; Carlyle,
_History of the French Revolution_, i.-iii.; Louis Blanc, _Histoire
de la révolution française_, i.-xii.; Chateaubriand, _Mémoires
d'outre-tombe_, i., ii.



II

THE CONCORDAT


One night in the month of October 1801 the gates of Paris were secretly
opened to admit a closed carriage with a military escort. What was
concealed in that carnage? Was it a criminal? Was it contraband ware?
There sat in it an old priest, Caprara by name, the Pope's envoy to
General Bonaparte; and the contraband article thus smuggled into
Paris in the darkness was the Concordat, the compact with Rome which
re-established the Christian religion in France. It was considered rash
to allow a priest coming on such an errand to make his entrance in
daylight; the First Consul, with his usual sagacity and forethought,
had arranged that he should arrive at night. It was not violence that
was feared, only laughter. "They dared not," says Thiers, "put such
temptation in the way of the mirth-loving population of Paris."[1]

The same difficulty recurred in April 1802, when, after countless
attempts to come to an agreement, during the course of which it often
seemed as if the negotiations were on the point of being finally broken
off, things were so far settled that Napoleon could accord an official
reception to the Cardinal-Legate. Ecclesiastical etiquette prescribes
that a gold crucifix shall be borne in front of a papal legate, and the
Cardinal demanded that on his way to the reception at the Tuileries
this should be done by a mounted officer in a red uniform. On this
occasion also the Government, as Thiers tells us, was afraid of the
effect of such a spectacle on the population of Paris. A compromise
was come to; it was agreed to do with the crucifix what had been done
with the Cardinal himself six months previously, namely, drive it in a
closed carriage.

At last, a week later, on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1802 (28th
Germinal of the year X.), a copy of the Concordat was posted up early
in the morning in all the streets of Paris, and the First Consul,
after signing the Peace of Amiens in honour of the day, proceeded
to Notre Dame, to hear the great Te Deum sung in celebration of the
reinstitution of Christian worship, or, to use the official expression,
the reconciliation of the Republic with Heaven. Programmes of the
ceremonies had been distributed. The First Consul was attended by a
numerous and distinguished suite. He had himself intimated to the wives
of all the high officials that they were expected to appear in full
dress. They accompanied Madame Bonaparte; he himself was surrounded
by his staff, all his generals, and all the most important civil
functionaries. The carriages which had belonged to the old court were
taken into use again on this occasion. Bonaparte drove to church in
the old royal state-coach, and with all the pomp of royalty. Salvoes
of artillery proclaimed to the world this resurrection of the church
from the dead and this first attempt at the revival of royal power
and royal splendour. The route of the procession from the Tuileries
to Notre Dame was lined by troops of the First Army Corps. The
Archbishop of Paris received the First Consul at the church door and
offered him holy water. He was then conducted under a canopy to the
seat reserved for him. The Senate, the Legislative Assembly, and the
Tribune occupied the places at the two sides of the altar. The church
was soon full of uniforms, beautiful dresses, and liveries. Liveries,
which had disappeared during the Revolution, reappeared along with
cassocks. Behind the First Consul stood his generals, in gala uniform,
"rather obedient than convinced," as Thiers remarks. They did their
best to show what was really the case, namely, that they were there
against their will, and that the whole ceremony was in their eyes a
contemptible farce. Their behaviour was characterised by those who
differed from them as "unseemly." That of the First Consul presented
a marked contrast. Attired in his red consul's uniform, he stood
motionless, with a severe, inscrutable countenance, serious and cold,
displaying neither the indifference of the unwilling spectators nor the
devotion of the faithful. On the hilt of his sword glittered the famous
Regent diamond, which he had had set there for the occasion, as a sign
that the symbols of majesty which had hitherto belonged to the crown
now belonged to the sword. His demeanour showed plainly enough that
this act of his was not an act of faith, but of will, and that he was
determined his will should prevail.

On the morning of the day on which this famous Te Deum was sung, the
Government organ, _Le Moniteur_, published by Bonaparte's express order
a review of a book, the second edition of which was dedicated to him
as the restorer of the church. The book was Chateaubriand's _Génie du
Christianisme_. The review was written by Fontanes; it had appeared in
the _Mercure_ three days before, but was now, by Government orders,
republished in the official organ. _Le Génie du Christianisme_ was as
much part of the programme of the day as the low-necked dresses and the
liveries. The religious reaction in society and in literature may be
dated almost from the same hour, from the same fête. In a letter from
Joubert to Chateaubriand's friend, Madame de Beaumont, we come upon the
remarkable words: "Our friend was created and brought into the world
expressly for this occasion."

The planning and compassing of this same religious solemnity had cost
Bonaparte an infinite amount of trouble. But of what avail was it that
at every street corner men read that "the example of centuries, as
well as reason, bade them appeal to the papal sovereign to reconcile
opinions and customs"? Of what avail that the city was illuminated
and a state concert given at the Tuileries in honour of the solemn
occasion? The feeling inspired was dissatisfaction, a dissatisfaction
as great as the joy inspired in its day by the festival in honour of
the Supreme Being.

When Bonaparte, on his return from Notre Dame, turned in the Tuileries
to one of his officers, General Delmas, and asked his opinion of the
grand religious ceremony, that officer replied: "It was an excellent
Capuchin carnival play (_Capucinade_); there was only one thing
wanting--the million of people who have given their lives to break down
what you are building up again." And in these words Delmas expressed
the general feeling of Napoleon's officers. In November 1801 the
exasperation of the army at the idea of a reconciliation with the
church had made itself distinctly felt; men who were on such intimate
terms with Bonaparte as Lannes and Augereau had plainly expressed their
annoyance at the prospect of having to show their uniforms in a church;
and it was a common remark among the soldiers that the French flags had
never won so many laurels as now, when they were no longer consecrated.
When the generals received a direct order to appear at Notre Dame they
sent Augereau (in vain, we know) as their spokesman to the Tuileries to
implore that they might be excused.

The army was the element in society which had remained most faithful to
the fundamental ideas of the Revolution. When, under the Directory, the
royalist reaction seemed on the point of victory, it was foiled because
the Republican Government, weak and divided as it was, could rely upon
the army. For in the army the true republican principle of equality had
been maintained as it had been nowhere else. Before the Revolution,
officer and private had been separated by a yawning chasm. The officer
was originally the feudal lord, then the landowner, then the nobleman;
and no private soldier, however greatly he distinguished himself, could
make his way up into this higher caste. During the Revolution these
relations had been turned upside down. In the first place there were,
amongst the crowds who volunteered as private soldiers, many men of
noble birth; and in the second place, the nobility had been deprived
of their right to officer the army; the officers were chosen from the
ranks. Moreover, the fatigues and hardships shared alike by all during
the wars of the Republic had made officers and privates comrades. In
spite of regimental discipline, the private soldier felt himself to be
the brother-in-arms of his officer, whose equal he might any day become
by his bravery and the fortunes of war.

A return to monarchical government would have been at once fatal to
this new constitution of the army; and every mark of favour shown to
the church was regarded as a presage or preliminary of such a return.
Hence the army still spoke the old revolutionary language--was equally
hostile to kings, nobles, and priests. It lived in apprehension of a
restoration of the monarchy and of Catholicism, trusted in Bonaparte
as the man who was to prevent this, and was prepared, in case of his
defection, to appeal to another Jacobin general--Jourdan, Bernadotte,
or Augereau--to arrange a counter _coup d'état_.

So bitter was the feeling in the army against the Catholic priesthood
at the moment when the Concordat was signed, that secret meetings were
held and a conspiracy was organised to annul this compact with the
church. Many officers of rank, even distinguished generals, were mixed
up in the affair. Moreau was in communication with the conspirators,
although he never attended their meetings. At one of these meetings
they went the length of resolving on the assassination of the First
Consul. A certain Donnadieu offered to do the deed. But General
Oudinot, who was present, informed Davoust of what was impending, and
Donnadieu, who was arrested, confessed everything. The conspirators
were dispersed; some were imprisoned, some banished, among the latter
being General Monnier, who had commanded one of Desaix's brigades at
Marengo.[2]

All this gives us a sufficiently clear idea of the state of opinion in
the army. And the civil authorities were of the same mind. The plan
of the Concordat had met with unanimous opposition. Talleyrand, as
Minister of Foreign Affairs, had persistently advised against it. The
Concordat struck at himself, as a former bishop, and with his political
clearsightedness he foresaw its serious consequences for France. The
Council of State received the First Consul's announcement that he had
signed the compact with cold silence, and yet it was in this assembly
that he had his most devoted adherents. Even Thiers, whose admiration
for Bonaparte leads him to give an incomplete account of the episode of
the Concordat, writes: "The members sat gloomy and dumb, as if they had
seen one of the most beneficial achievements of the Revolution undone
before their eyes. The icy silence was not broken. They dispersed
without expressing an opinion, without saying a word."

The announcement met with even a worse reception in the Legislative
Assembly. That body entered its protest against the re-establishment of
the church by electing as its president Dupuis, the author of _Origine
des cultes_, a book then much in repute, which explains Christianity as
an astronomical myth (the work parodied in Monod's famous pamphlet on
Napoleon as a sun-myth). Bonaparte, although he already felt himself
possessed of almost unlimited power, dared not lay the Concordat alone
before the Legislative Assembly; along with it he submitted to their
approval the so-called Organic Laws, which aimed at establishing the
relative independence of the French church. Knowing that they feared
papal influence, he hoped by this means to secure their votes. But it
was not until all its most energetic members had been expelled that the
Assembly sanctioned the Concordat.

In the Tribune there was a regular revolt, and nothing less than a
new breach of the constitution, namely, the reduction of the number
of members of that Chamber to eighty, was required to overcome its
opposition. To only three classes of men did the Concordat immediately
give entire satisfaction. These were (1) the clergy, with the exception
of those who had sworn allegiance to the Republican constitution and
who were now dismissed; (2) the numerous possessors of church property,
who had hitherto felt themselves insecure, but were now confirmed in
their ownership; (3) the great, ignorant peasant class, who could
neither read nor write, and who longed for their Sunday and their
church pageantry.

Even in the circle of the First Consul's most intimate associates one
attempt after another had been made to shake his resolve. The spirit
of the eighteenth century was strong in the men whose great or rare
gifts made them the most eminent of the day, and it was these men whom
Bonaparte chose for his companions. They all belonged to the class of
"moderate Revolutionists," and were all disciples of Voltaire. Men like
the famous astronomer Laplace, like the mathematicians Lagrange and
Monge, told Bonaparte every day that he was on the point of bringing
disgrace on his reign and his century. His old companions-in-arms, says
Thiers, though they knew how the nation honoured them, dreaded the
ridicule which awaited them if they knelt before the altar. Even his
own brothers, who associated with the most talented writers of the day,
importuned him not to stake his enormous power on a step so utterly at
variance with the spirit of the times.

These strong expressions, like the previously quoted words of Madame
Roland, show how certain men were that Christianity was to be regarded
as dead.

It was not religious conviction which induced a man with a mind
like Bonaparte's to act, regardless of all considerations and
representations, in opposition to the whole of thinking France. Many
of his utterances prove that he himself shared the opinions of the
men he was opposing, that he did homage to the so-called enlightened
deism of the eighteenth century. Certain assertions made by Bonaparte
to Monge have been quoted to prove that he was an orthodox believer.
"My religion is a very simple one," he said. "I see this great,
complex, magnificent universe, and say to myself that it cannot have
been produced by chance, but must be the work of an unknown, almighty
being, who is as superior to man as the universe is to our cleverest
machines." But would not Voltaire have expressed himself exactly thus?
Bonaparte continued: "But this truth is too concise, too brief, for
man; he wants to know many secrets about himself and his future which
the universe does not tell him. Here religion steps in, and tells each
individual what he longs to know. The one religion undoubtedly denies
what the other asserts. But I do not, like Volney, conclude from this
that all religions are worthless, but rather that they are all good."
This is the language of Lessing's Nathan. And quite in keeping with it
is another assertion made to Monge: "In Egypt I was a Mahometan; I must
be a Catholic in France. I do not believe in religions, but in the idea
of a God."

Some years earlier, in a speech made before the Directory and all
the public officials (December 1797), he had reckoned attachment to
religion, along with attachment to monarchy and feudalism, among "the
prejudices which the French people must overcome." When in Egypt, he
had not scrupled to proclaim himself a Mussulman. His proclamation
to the Arabian population contains this clause: "We, too, are good
Mussulmans. Is it not we that have destroyed the power of the Pope,
who commanded war upon Mussulmans?" Now he certainly (officially)
called the same Pope "the holy Father" and (privately) "the good
lamb"; nevertheless, when negotiations were being hindered by Romish
intrigues, he wrote of him in his letters as "the old fox," and called
the priests, or, to use his own word, _la prêtraille_, "imbecile
bunglers."

His behaviour during these same negotiations with Rome witnesses
equally strongly to his political wiliness and his unorthodoxy.
Cardinal Consalvi, before setting out on his journey to Paris in 1801,
had been imprudent enough to write to a friend of the anxiety he felt
in thus venturing into the very jaws of the lion, into the hot-bed
of that Revolution which had very recently shown itself so terribly
hostile to religion and its priests. Bonaparte owned a sort of Odin's
raven, which repeated all such private confessions to him. This raven
was at the post office where the Cardinal's letter was opened, and
its master consequently prepared just such a reception as was likely
to make an impression on the man to whose character the letter gave a
clue. It was evening when Consalvi arrived in Paris, but his audience
was already appointed for the next morning, so that he had neither
time to recover from the fatigues of the journey nor to take counsel
with the Pope's representatives. Early in the morning he was driven
to the Tuileries and ushered into a small bare room which he took to
be the anteroom of the First Consul's audience chamber. After he had
waited here for some time, a small door was opened, and through it he
passed, to his surprise, into a long suite of splendid apartments,
where all the principal government officials, the Senate, the
Legislative Assembly, the generals, and the staff were assembled. In
the courtyard he could see several regiments drawn up for inspection.
It was, as he himself wrote, the sudden transition from a hut to a
palace. All the dazzling splendour and formidable signs of authority
by which the consular dignity could be enhanced were here exhibited,
and when, in the farthest room of the suite, the Cardinal at last
entered the presence of the three Consuls, who sat surrounded by a
splendid retinue, Bonaparte advanced to meet him and said curtly, in
an imperious voice: "I know why you have come. You have five days for
negotiation. If the treaty is not signed by that time, everything is
at an end." Consalvi was undoubtedly perturbed for the moment, but he
succeeded in gaining time, and with the subtlety and skill of Romish
statecraft placed so many difficulties in Napoleon's way that the
latter, in one of the stormy audiences which followed, shouted angrily
and arrogantly: "If Henry VIII., who had not the twentieth part of my
power, could change the religion of his country, how much easier is it
for me to do it! I will change it, not in France alone, but throughout
Europe. Rome will weep blood when it is too late."

In this contemptuous manner did the restorer of religion speak of the
power he intended to restore.

It is, therefore, not altogether surprising that, as in the case of
a similar attempt made by Julian the Apostate 1500 years before,
laughter, sometimes only dreaded, sometimes actual, was the inseparable
adjunct of each step taken towards the reinstitution of the old
religion. When Bonaparte read Pius VII.'s first brief at a Council of
State, the brief in which the Pope intimates that he takes "his dear
son Talleyrand" into favour again, sounds of half-stifled laughter were
heard among the audience. Even Bonaparte himself was not always able
to preserve his gravity. On the day when Cardinal Consalvi, apparelled
in Roman purple, publicly presented him with a copy of the Concordat,
the First Consul was suddenly seized with a convulsive fit of laughter
which struck the whole assembly with consternation. And some years
later than this he was still so little edified by religious rites, and
so unable to control his countenance during their performance--he who
as a rule showed himself a master in the art--that when the Pope was
anointing him Emperor in 1804 he scandalised the spectators by yawning
incessantly during the whole ceremony. Charles X., true Bourbon as he
was, showed the proper seriousness when his turn came in 1825. With
unmoved countenance, without the shadow of a smile, he allowed himself
to be stripped to the waist and anointed, first on the head, then on
breast, back, and arms.

Everything connected with the restoration of priestly authority and
the reinstitution of Catholic worship was so utterly at variance
with the customs and ideas which had prevailed in France since the
Revolution that the witnesses of such rites could hardly believe their
own eyes; they could not persuade themselves to take them seriously.
In proof of this let me quote the words of such an eye-witness, De
Pradt, Archbishop of Malines. He says: "If one single individual, by
laughing, had given the signal, there would have been a perfectly
inextinguishable Homeric outburst. This was the reef on which it was
possible that everything might be wrecked. Fortunately Fouché, the
Chief of Police, had taken the proper precautions, and, thanks to him,
Paris kept a serious face."[3]

The occasion to which this utterance more particularly refers was
that of the Pope's visit to Paris. A Pope in Paris! This was a risky
experiment after all that had happened there during the last fifteen
years, and with "a population so light-hearted and still so strongly
influenced by philosophy." In hopes of inducing the Pope to give up the
journey, his advisers at the last moment laid the above quoted Egyptian
proclamation upon his table. But it was too late to shake his resolve.
The meeting of the two potentates took place at Fontainebleau. After
the first exchange of compliments and cordialities, they drove to the
Palace in the same carriage. Napoleon's face beamed with satisfaction,
and as he handed the Pope up the steps, each of his unusually lively
glances seemed to say: "Do you see my prize? I have him." By a comical
inadvertency, the great procession to Paris was led by a troop of
mounted Mamelukes. The sight of the bronze-hued visages of these
Mahometan horsemen transported the spectator in fancy to Mecca.
They made the entrance seem more like that of a Mahometan than of a
Christian high priest. The Pope's own face betrayed the embarrassment
he felt on finding himself in such an entirely new world. It was easily
seen that his foot, though it was kissed by multitudes, did not tread
this soil with perfect confidence. His priestly retinue, resplendent in
gorgeous episcopal vestments, and the military court which came to meet
it, shining in burnished mail, presented a strange contrast. One might,
says Archbishop de Pradt, have imagined one's self suddenly transported
to Japan at the moment of a visit from its spiritual to its temporal
emperor.

In order thoroughly to understand the First Consul's reasons for
determinedly adhering to and carrying out a project which at the first
glance seems unpatriotic and impolitic, we must consider the matter in
the first place from the purely economic point of view.

The Revolution had plunged France into economic distress. Prosperity
was at an end; the population was threatened by famine; in the middle
of the nineties more than half of the country lay uncultivated. The
lands of the _émigrés_ and the church had been paid for by their
purchasers in paper-money, but this paper-money was valueless. The
economic salvation of the country could only be accomplished by turning
to account the resources which had been made available by the new
distribution of the state property.

The land which had been taken from the nobility and the church had
long been left entirely uncultivated because, since the fruits of
the earth require time to blossom and mature, no one was willing to
plough and sow without the certainty that the ground would remain in
his possession long enough to reward him for his labour. But such
certainty was impossible as long as the old owners of the land were in
the country and had not renounced their right to it. Nothing but their
extermination could make the cultivation of the new national property a
reasonable proceeding. It was because the Reign of Terror exterminated
them that it was demanded and endured. When it had fulfilled its
double task of saving the Republic and ensuring the security of the
new distribution of property, it was overthrown. What the owners of
property demanded after its fall was, first and foremost, a government
under which it was possible for them to utilise their newly acquired
land.

There were in France still only the elements of a modern social
organism, of new conditions of proprietorship, of a new code of
laws--everything was incomplete. The Estates had disappeared; classes
did not as yet exist. The new order of things had not yet become, as it
were, a part of the family and the individual ethical consciousness.
Security, durability, was what now had to be achieved.

This could not be done by restoring the monarchy; for at this period
monarchy still meant the old order of things, the old laws, the old
distribution of property. Bonaparte gave France the security she
desired. And he did more than this; by his victories he spread the new
French ideas and customs abroad throughout Europe.

The weak point in the international position of France at the beginning
of the century lay in the antagonism between its new social order
and the old social order prevailing in all the other countries. For
the sake of its own security it was necessary that the French nation
should metamorphose the social institutions of the nations it overcame.
Bonaparte understood this, and introduced the new order of things
wherever his influence permitted him to do so.

But, on the other hand, he considered it necessary to make concessions,
real or apparent, in those matters in which he could not otherwise
bring about uniformity between French conditions and those of the rest
of Europe. To ensure the stability of the new order of things, he
felt obliged to do what he himself called _mettre les institutions de
la France en harmonie avec celles de l'Europe_. He imagined that the
imperial crown upon his head would reconcile the powers to the French
Revolution; he believed that the creation of a nobility would promote a
more harmonious feeling between foreign nations and his own; and in the
same manner he considered it good policy to give France back a state
church bearing some resemblance to the churches of other countries.

He began at the foundation, that is to say, with the church. The
Concordat was concluded in 1802. In the same year was founded the order
of the Legion of Honour, which satisfactorily answered its purpose as a
mark of military distinction, but failed in what it was really intended
to accomplish, the creation of an aristocracy. In 1804 the Empire
was created. In 1807 the law of entail was reintroduced. In 1808 an
entirely new aristocracy was created.

All this, however, did not produce real similarity between France and
the rest of Europe. There was little resemblance between Napoleon,
the elected emperor, and the kings and emperors of the old dynasties;
and Napoleon's aristocracy was an aristocracy without privileges, his
church a church without endowments. But, although his various attempts
at restoration resulted in the estrangement of many of the best
elements in French society, it cannot be denied that they evidenced
political sagacity in both internal and international questions.

There was sound political economy in the idea of the Concordat.

It had not as yet been possible to efface the species of disgrace which
attached to the ownership of the confiscated property of the church
and the nobles. Consequently it did not yet possess the same market
value as other property. An inherited estate and an estate belonging
to the nation yielding the same revenue did not find purchasers at the
same price; the latter had to be sold for forty per cent. less. The
state could only alter this condition of matters in one way, namely,
by inducing the former possessors of what was now state property to
make a distinct renunciation of their right to it. In most cases this
could not be accomplished. As regarded church property, however, it was
possible; for the church had a head, whose decisions were binding on
all his subjects.

By means of the Concordat with the Pope Bonaparte succeeded in giving
the purchasers of church property that security which they had so long
desired in vain. The Pope declared distinctly that neither he nor his
successors would ever lay claim to the church lands which had been
sold. So now there was no longer either risk or sin in owning them.
In return the state promised the church a fixed income. The clergy of
all ranks were to receive remuneration--a comparatively modest yearly
payment in money and a dwelling-house. The churches which had not
been sold were made over to them. As regarded the expenses entailed
by the maintenance of public worship, the clergy were referred to
their Commune or Department (which was entitled to levy a tax for
this purpose) and to the charity of the faithful. Agreements of the
same kind were come to in the matter of the church educational and
charitable institutions. The state had deprived the Catholic church
of at least 5000 millions of capital and 270 millions of revenue; in
return it promised a yearly revenue of seventeen millions--thus doing a
good stroke of business at the same time that it tranquillised both the
owners of church property and the great body of orthodox Catholics.

The Concordat placed the three chief Christian confessions and the
Jewish religion in the same position; they were all under state
protection and their clergy were all dependent on the state for their
incomes. Napoleon evidently overestimated the power which this gave him
over the Catholic church, the only one of any importance in France.
It soon opposed him, upon which he used violence, actually carrying
off the Pope and keeping him prisoner. He himself set his Concordat at
naught.

But its sound political and tactical basis enabled it to survive both
this breach and its projector's fall.

The very important part which Bonaparte's personal ambition must have
played in the evolution of the Concordat need only be suggested. With
the authority of the church had been overthrown the authority of the
monarchy. What was required was the restoration of the principle of
authority. All the ceremonial of the old monarchy returned of its own
accord at the moment when religion again became a power in the state.
The revivification of the idea of authority which the Revolution
misunderstood and scorned has been described as Napoleon's greatest and
most arduous achievement.[4] It has been said with truth that no one
ever developed the instinct and the gift of ruling as naturally and as
boldly as he. But from the moment when, no longer content with being a
power in virtue of his genius and of the new social order, he attempted
to restore autocratic monarchy, what he relied on was not that idea
of authority which amalgamates with the idea of right, and is an
expression of the reasonableness of things, but the idea of authority
which influences by dazzling and which is accepted blindly. And from
that moment the alliance with the church was a necessity. When, in
1808, Wieland asked the Emperor why he had not adapted the religion he
had reintroduced somewhat more to the spirit of the times, Napoleon
laughed and replied: "Yes, my dear Wieland! It is certainly not a
religion intended for philosophers. The philosophers believe neither
in me nor my religion; and for the people who do believe one cannot do
miracles enough or allow them to retain too many." It would hardly be
possible to assert more plainly that authority is a dazzling, deluding
power. On other occasions Napoleon employed the word which became the
intellectual catchword of the following period--he described religion
as _order_. Johannes Müller writes to his brother in 1806: "The Emperor
spoke of what lay at the foundation of all religions, and of their
necessity, and said that men required to be kept in order."

In this conception of religion as order we seem to trace some
resemblance between Napoleon and the Jacobins, just as there is
certainly a similarity between his attempts to rehabilitate the church
and Robespierre's endeavours to reanimate religious feeling. As a
politician Robespierre believed in the ordering, regulating power of
religion, and as a politician at a period when the great majority of
educated men were deists, he feared atheism as an idea altogether
foreign to his age.

Bonaparte perceived what an invaluable instrument in the hand of a
ruler a traditional religion and form of public worship was, and, if
for no other reason than this, was determined on an alliance with the
clergy, whom he, when a victor in Italy, had flattered and favoured
with a view to eventualities. He was well aware that in France as
in other countries the ignorant majority were still attached to the
traditional religion, and that the teachings of the eighteenth-century
philosophers could not possibly as yet have penetrated to the lowest
and widest layer of the population. At an earlier period he had
openly avowed his aims. At a meeting of his Council of State in the
year 1800 he exclaimed: "With my government functionaries, my armed
police, and my priests I am in a position to do whatever I please."
To him the priest was a police official like the others, simply with
a different uniform. In the notes which he dictated to Montholon he
plainly intimates that the Concordat originated in his wish to attach
the clergy to the new order of things, and to break the last tie which
bound them, and the country with them, to the old royal house. He had
carefully weighed in his own mind the choice which lay open to him
between Catholicism and Protestantism. He conceded to his advisers
that the inclination of the moment was probably more in the direction
of Protestantism. "But," he sagaciously queried, "is Protestantism
the old religion of France? Is it possible to create in a people
habits, tastes, memories? The principal charm of a religion lies in
its memories. When I am at Malmaison I never hear the church bell of
the neighbouring village ring without feeling moved. And in France who
could feel moved in a Protestant church, which evokes no memories of
childhood, and the cold, severe appearance of which is so little in
harmony with the ideas of the people?" "Besides," said he to Las Casas,
"all my great aims were to be attained much more certainly with the
aid of Catholicism. It kept the Pope on my side, and with my influence
in Italy and my military strength there I did not doubt that sooner or
later, by one means or another, I should get this same Pope into my
power. And from that moment what influence! what a lever with which to
move public opinion throughout the world!... Had I returned from Moscow
as a conqueror I should easily have induced the Pope to forget the loss
of his temporal power. I should have made him an idol; he would have
stayed with me. Paris would then have become the metropolis of the
Christian world, and I should have ruled the religious as well as the
political world.... _My_ church councils would then have represented
Christianity; the Popes would simply have been their presidents."

Note, too, the arguments employed by Portalis, the official vindicator
and champion of the Concordat. Attempting to prove the impossibility
of introducing a new religion and the necessity of restoring the
old one, he writes: "In ancient times, in the days of ignorance and
barbarism, it was possible for very great men to proclaim themselves
inspired by God, and, following the example of Prometheus, to bring
down fire from heaven to animate a new world. But what is possible
among a people still in the process of development is not possible
in an old, time-worn nation, whose habits and thoughts it is so
difficult to change." He begins, we see, by appealing to the authority
of custom. And he continues: "Men believe in a religion only because
they take it to be the work of a God. All is lost as soon as the
hand of man is allowed to appear." It is unnecessary to argue that
this language is not the language of faith. What Portalis refers to
are the unsuccessful attempts to supersede the so-called revealed
religion by a revolutionary religion, a "religion of reason," like
Rousseau's and Robespierre's. These attempts had failed although the
new religion did not need to be invented, but in reality already
lived in the minds of the educated classes--had failed because it was
impossible, directly after the overthrow of all outward authority,
to give to the conviction shared by the majority of the educated an
outward authority of the nature of that which had been overthrown.
They bore no fruit, because their originators failed to grasp the fact
that the human mind is perpetually remoulding its religious and moral
conceptions, because they did not understand that the emancipated mind
must inevitably feel itself moving onward even faster than before its
emancipation towards a more perfect apprehension, and must consequently
feel itself compelled ever and anew to reject every limiting, dogmatic
principle. But to return, because the spontaneously evolved and chosen
form of belief had proved untenable, to the much more untenable, old,
petrified form, was certainly better politics than logic. There was
no argument possible except an appeal to the direct utility of the
proceeding. Therefore Portalis returns again and yet again to the
position, not that religion is true, but that it is useful, that it
is necessary, that it is impossible to rule without it, that morality
without religious dogmas would be "like justice without courts for
its administration." It is plain that the doctrine of hell-fire, as
long as it is believed in, is a powerful instrument in the hand of a
ruler. Portalis is actually honest enough to say in plain words: "The
question of the truth or falsehood of this or that positive religion is
a purely theological question, which does not concern us. Even if they
are false, religions have this advantage, that they are a hindrance to
the spread of arbitrary, independent teaching. They form a faith-focus
for individuals. Governments are at ease with regard to ascertained
dogmas which do not change. Superstition is, so to speak, regulated,
circumscribed, confined within bounds which it either cannot or dare
not overstep."

With subtle duplicity Bonaparte endeavoured to represent the
restoration of the church in a different light to the different
parties. To the Catholics it was represented as a service to
Christianity only paralleled by the deeds of Constantine and
Charlemagne, to the philosophers as an act by which the church was
completely subjected to the state and the secular authorities. "It is
an inoculation against religion," said Napoleon to the philosopher
Cabanis; "in fifty years there will be no religion left in France." So
much is certain, that he had no doubt whatever that by bringing about
this reconciliation between church and state he was ensuring himself an
obedient and devoted ally. To what extent he was mistaken is matter of
history. He had soon cause to repent bitterly of having allied himself
with the most undeveloped and ignorant, instead of the ablest and best,
part of the nation. De Pradt tells that he heard Napoleon say again
and again "that the Concordat was the greatest mistake of his reign."
It can hardly be called a political mistake. But it certainly was the
first and decisive departure from the spirit of the Revolution. It
ensured certain of the secular results of that Revolution, but ensured
them at the expense of the progress of French civilisation.[5]


[1] Thiers, _Histoire du consulat et de l'empire_, iii. 211, 342.

[2] L. von Stein, _Geschichte der socialen Bewegung in Frankreich_, i.
230.

[3] De Pradt, _Histoire des quatre concordats_, ii. 212.

[4] See Guizot in the _Revue des deux mondes_, February 15, 1863.

[5] Sources: Thiers, _Histoire du Consulat_; Lanfrey, _Histoire de
Napoléon I_.; Mignet, _Histoire de la Révolution_, ii.; De Pradt,
_Histoire des quatre concordats_; Portalis, _Discours et rapports sur
le concordat_; Lorenz von Stein, _Geschichte der socialen Bewegung in
Frankreich_, i.; Taine, _Le régime moderne_, i.



III

THE PRINCIPLE OF AUTHORITY


Bonaparte, intending as he did to deal the Republic a death-blow,
struck at its heart. He recognised that it would never be possible
thoroughly to suppress civil liberty unless he first suppressed the
endeavour after spiritual liberty which had become ever more strenuous
during the course of the Revolution. The Concordat prepared the way for
the recovery by ecclesiasticism of all its old power.

It appeared to contemporaries as if all the tremendous exertions which
had been made might now be regarded as made in vain. When we call to
mind what had been done we cannot but be filled with astonishment.
The movement towards emancipation which had begun in the days of the
Renaissance with warm enthusiasm for Greek and Roman antiquity, which
next, in England, through the genius of Newton, had acquired as its
mainstay a new conception of the universe, and, gradually taking
possession of natural science, had brought forth a new philosophy
as its offspring and freemasonry as its witness--this same movement
had, like a flying spark, been carried, through Voltaire's mind, to
France. And here a marvellous thing happened. Only a few decades after
Corneille had written _Polyeucte_ and Racine _Athalie_, a few years
after Bossuet had preached absolute obedience and Pascal written in
letters of fire his creed of absolute paradox, a handful of men, most
of them exiled or in disgrace, succeeded, under perfectly autocratic
rule, in winning over to their opinions first the ablest men of the
day, then the upper classes, then princes and princesses who were soon
to be kings and empresses, and finally the middle classes. Thus the
new truth, which was born in low estate, but was revered even in its
cradle by mighty kings--by Frederick of Prussia, Joseph of Austria,
and Catherine of Russia--became the great power among the rising
generation, numbering among its adherents even abbés and priests.

Human reason had risen and freed itself with athletic strength.
Everything that existed had to justify its existence. Where men
heretofore had prayed for a miracle they now investigated into
causes. Where they had believed in a miracle they discovered a law.
Never before in the history of the world had there been such doubt,
such labour, such inquiry, such illumination. The new philosophers
had not the weapons of authority at their command, but only those
of satire, and it was with satire and mockery that they at first
attacked. They annihilated with laughter. On Voltaire's refined scorn
followed Rousseau's virulent wrath. Never before had there been such
undermining or such declaiming. Human reason, which in every domain
had for centuries been compelled to drudge like a serf, which had
been intoxicated with legends and lulled to sleep with psalms and set
phrases, had been roused as if by the crow of a cock and had leaped
up wide awake. Was all that the heroes of reason had thought out, and
its martyrs suffered for, now to be swept aside as useless? Were the
enthusiasms that had made so many of the noblest hearts beat high, and
inspired them with courage on the battlefield and the scaffold, now all
to be squeezed together like the genius in the fairy tale, and shut up
for good in an iron strong-box sealed with the seal of an Emperor and a
Pope?

For the time being the emancipatory movement was checked. It began
once more to be inexpedient not to profess faith in revealed religion,
and after the fall of Napoleon it was even dangerous. In religious
matters those in power never carry on the controversy by opposing
reasons with reasons. The proofs of the gainsayers were not answered
by proofs, but by the stopping of commons. The majority of the men
without private means who had prepared themselves for government
appointments, and could not overcome their irresistible desire to have
a three-course dinner every day, were entirely reliable supporters of
the re-establishment of the church. No one over twenty-five years of
age will be surprised by the number of supporters orthodoxy gained from
the moment when it advanced from being an absurdity to being a means of
subsistence.

To such converts add the great party of the timorous, all those who
lived in fear of the Red Republic, and in whose eyes religion was,
first and foremost, a safeguard against it. It was among these that
the army of the principle of authority obtained most recruits. From a
religious body the church suddenly turned into a political party.

A change in outward conditions is always prepared for by a change
in opinions, and the outward change even more certainly produces
opinions which correspond to the new conditions. The feelings and
thoughts which prepared for the Concordat were, after its conclusion,
at perfect liberty to express themselves; they called forth others
of the same nature; and with the expression of these feelings and
thoughts in literature began an intellectual movement which has its
point of departure in the Concordat and translates that document into
the language of literature. It is the course of this intellectual
movement which we are to follow. If we omitted to do so, there would be
a sensible hiatus in that psychology of the first half of our century
which it is the object of these studies to elaborate. Granted that the
subject is not a paying one, that it is neither rich nor attractive, it
is nevertheless, from our point of view, a very important one.

From which class of society did the literary movement emanate? If
it could by any possibility have emanated from the peasantry, there
might have been something simple-hearted and touching about it; if
from the ranks of the hardly tried, suffering priesthood, it would
perhaps have attracted attention by its fervour; if it had been the
production of the party who, following the example of their ruler,
attached themselves to the church from worldly motives, it would have
been marked by the absence of any inspiring idea. But none of these
supposed cases is the actual one. These three groups formed the public
for the new literature, were its sounding-board and echo; not one of
them was intellectually fertile. The new Catholic school of literature
was destitute of the qualities of simplicity and fervour. But it was
not without an inspiring idea. With conviction and determination it
vindicates the idea which the Revolution had utterly repudiated and
discredited, namely, the principle of authority. Its tendency is rather
political than religious. Its leaders do not desire so much to rescue
souls as to rescue tradition; they crave for religion as a panacea for
lawlessness; the persistency of their appeal to authority is due to
their bankruptcy in everything except outward authority.

The movement begins at widely separated, disconnected points; none of
its originators are at first acquainted with each other. During the
Revolution Chateaubriand, for instance, is wandering about in America,
De Maistre in Switzerland; Bonald plans his first work at Heidelberg.
As soon as the intellectual reaction begins, most of the emigrants
return home, and the principle of authority is championed in literature
both by foreign, independent writers like De Maistre, and by men
like Chateaubriand and Bonald, whom Bonaparte's assumption of power
recalls to France. These latter attach themselves for the time being to
Bonaparte, in his capacity of restorer of the church; but soon, either
during his reign or after his fall, they espouse, with far greater
warmth, far more strength of conviction, the cause of the Bourbons, to
which their own fundamental principle draws them with all the force of
consistency. Napoleon's plan of gaining the support of the church and
depriving the Bourbons of the sympathy of the clergy by means of the
Concordat failed, as it was naturally predestined to do. Soon there was
open war between him and the Pope; and soon the literary movement, the
origin of which is contemporaneous with the Concordat, declares itself
openly on the side of royalty with its supposed rightful claims.

The originators of the movement naturally feel drawn to each other;
they make one another's acquaintance, and soon found a kind of school.
They have several important characteristics in common, characteristics
which are also to be found even in the latest disciples of the school,
men like Lamennais, De Vigny, Lamartine, and Hugo. They are all without
exception of noble birth and bound by personal ties to the old royal
families. De Maistre was the King of Sardinia's ambassador in Russia.
Bonald served in his youth in Louis XV.'s regiment of Musketeers, and
during that King's last days went regularly to his bedside to get the
parole for the day--he had had smallpox, and consequently ran no risk
of infection. The first time his duty brought him into the apartment of
the new King, Louis XVI., Marie Antoinette honoured the young Musketeer
with a friendly look and a few gracious words. That last glance of a
dying King, who bequeathed to his successor a ruined monarchy, and that
first look of a young, beautiful, and hopeful Queen were never effaced
from Bonald's memory. They became the guiding stars of his life. As to
Chateaubriand, directly he heard of the judicial murder of the Duke
of Enghien he sent in his resignation as Secretary of Legation under
Napoleon's government, and from that moment until 1824 acted the part
of a faithful servant of the Bourbons. It was a rôle which he entered
into so seriously, and which circumstances rendered so compulsory,
that he played it to perfection. As regards the next generation,
Lamartine has told us, in the preface to his _Meditations_ and in his
_Reminiscences_ how, as a young officer in the Guards, he galloped
by the side of Louis XVIII.'s carriage when that monarch moved from
Paris to St. Germain. De Vigny was from his childhood an enthusiastic
Royalist; in the days of the Empire his father gave him the Cross of
St. Louis to kiss; his ideas of feudal fealty made him an officer of
the King; his pride led him to stand to his colours even when all the
hopes he had conceived of the Legitimist monarchy were disappointed
and superseded by an unexpressed feeling of contempt; after the
Revolution of 1830 he became the unprejudiced, but reserved and laconic
Conservative whose acquaintance we make in his later works.[1] Victor
Hugo has himself sufficiently explained to his readers how powerful was
the influence exercised upon him as a young author by the recollection
of the Royalist surroundings of his childhood, and especially by the
teaching of his mother, the enthusiastically loyal Breton bourgeois.

The theoretic leaders of this school are not great geniuses. They
are strong, despotic characters, who love power because they require
obedience, and authority because they desire submission; or they are
proud and vain members of the aristocracy of intellect, who would
rather bow the knee to a paradox than follow with the crowd of writers
who have done homage to reason; or (but this only seldom) they are
romanticists, who are moved to tears by the thought of the faith
which they no longer possess, but which they make desperate efforts
to acquire. They are fighters like De Maistre and Lamennais--men
made of the stuff of pontiffs and inquisitors, or they are obstinacy
personified, like Bonald and Chateaubriand, who speak as they do
more from obstinacy than persuasion. "Moi, catholique entêté," says
Chateaubriand of himself. That is the correct word--obstinate, not
fervent.

Their power over their contemporaries lay in their talent. For talent
is such a magician that it can sustain any cause for a considerable
time. Chateaubriand was the colourist of the school; De Maistre, with
his strength of character, his wit, and his astounding theories, its
leader; Bonald, with his rules for everything, its schoolmaster. The
best of the young, aspiring poets of the day began their career under
its influence, and though it did not retain its hold on them long,
it gained by their means a popularity which, added to the authority
possessed by its thinkers, was sufficient to make its cause seem for
a short time victorious, more especially as the restoration of the
Bourbons realised its political ideals.

In the course of a few years, however, all its best men, with music
playing and colours flying, went over to the enemy's camp. The school
was dissolved by its own essential unnaturalness. The principle which
held it together, that principle of tradition and authority which
had presented the appearance of an impregnable fortress, turned out
to be undermined, hollow, concealing under its very foundations an
unsuspected explosive. Men discovered that they had taken up their
position on the top of a powder magazine, and hastened to leave it
before it blew up.

Sylvain Maréchal writes in a book published in 1800 (_Pour et contre la
Bible_): "A very decided religious reaction distinguishes this first
year of the nineteenth century." It distinguishes the first twenty, and
in countries of slow development and those inclined to be stationary,
at least seventy.

The literary reaction against the spirit of the eighteenth century does
not begin as a definitely religious reaction. We have seen that in
the group of works which I have designated the "Emigrant Literature"
it "has not yet become submission to authority, but is the natural
and justifiable defence of feeling, soul, passion, and poetry against
frigid intellectuality, exact calculation, and a literature stifled
by rules and dead traditions." Of the first step in this reactionary
movement I wrote: "The first move is only to take Rousseau's weapons
and direct them against his antagonist, Voltaire."[2] Men are no longer
contented with Voltaire's cold deism; they oppose to it Rousseau's
copious and vague sentimentality. They follow in Rousseau's footsteps,
build on the foundation of his emotionalism and imagination. A glance
at the successive phases of the Revolution has shown us that this
movement is, as it were, presaged in the midst of the great upheaval
by Robespierre's attempt to place Rousseau as an obstacle in the way
of the annihilation of all the sentiment which had been so closely
associated with the tradition and authority of the church, and which
threatened to disappear with the church. In its origin the great
religious reaction was, as we have seen, only the revulsion, the
revolt, of feeling against reason; what begot it was the perfectly
vague craving to feel and to give expression to feeling. The history
of the movement is the history of the lamentable manner in which this
craving was gradually misdirected.

The first step in the reaction was the election of Rousseau to lead the
revolt, the second was a revolt against Rousseau. Let us open almost
any work by Bonald, De Maistre, or Lamennais, and we find that its
point of departure is an eager attempt to refute Rousseau, or, rather,
to satirise and crush him. During the first stage of the reaction _the
principle of sentiment_ was opposed to the dominion of reason; during
the second, _the principle of authority_ is championed against all
former principles, that of sentiment included. The transition from the
one stage to the other is marked by the endeavour to vindicate and
reinstate authority by means of an appeal to sentiment. This is aimed
at in Ballanche's _Du Sentiment considéré dans la Littérature et dans
les Arts_ (1801), and is also the main aim of Chateaubriand's _Génie du
Christianisme_ (1802).

Rousseau is now regarded as the most dangerous advocate of the ideas of
the eighteenth century. A short account of the charges brought against
him will show what there was of truth in them, what of falsehood.

First, the political attack. A fact which the nineteenth century has
repeatedly insisted on, and which must not be forgotten, is that
the eighteenth century was devoid of any proper understanding and
appreciation of history. One of its most famous representatives,
D'Alembert, went so far as to wish that the remembrance of all past
times could be blotted out. The naïve belief of Rousseau and his
century that isolated thought, unconnected with history or reality,
is capable of changing the whole existing order of things, was now
universally contested. The preceding generation had believed that all
would be well when they had a written constitution which abolished what
they considered abuses and established what they regarded as right.
They had looked upon this piece of paper, or, to use their phraseology,
these tables of the law, as the real constitution. In confutation of
this idea, Joseph de Maistre propounds his theory: "Man cannot make a
constitution, and a lawful constitution cannot be written." He is both
unmistakably right and extraordinarily wrong.

He has a prescience of the great truth, which may be regarded as
acknowledged in the politics of to-day, that the true constitution of
a country is the actual existing distribution of power, a distribution
which is not changed although dilettante politicians alter it upon a
sheet of paper. In De Maistre's judgment the powers that be have right
on their side. Any rebellion seems to him a crime; but, keenly alive to
realities, he has no faith in a written constitution as a preventive.
Writing on the subject of a preventive of lawlessness, he says: "It
may be custom, or conscience, or a papal tiara, or a dagger, but it is
always a something." The written constitution alone is to him nothing
real.

His great mistake is to be found in the reason on which he bases his
aversion to this written constitution. He is of opinion that what is
written, what is foreseen and determined by human wisdom, is to be
regarded as an infringement on the province of divine providence. "It
is impertinence towards God not to have confidence in the unforeseen
future; every government which is founded upon settled laws is founded
upon a usurpation of the prerogative of the divine law-giver." The real
working constitution he regards, on the contrary, as being of a divine
nature, for, from his orthodox standpoint, he maintains that it is God
who makes the nations what they are. To the sovereignty of the people
he, like Bonald and Lamennais, opposes the sovereignty of God, thus
finally anchoring in theocracy.

Rousseau's political theories were undoubtedly most imperfect, and
it was easy to perceive the dangers that lay concealed in them.
His principle, that no one is bound to obey laws to which he has
not given his consent, not only strikes at the authority which is
power, but also at the authority which is simply a form of reason,
and thus makes all government impossible. His second principle, that
sovereignty is an attribute of the people, may, if the word "people"
be unwisely apprehended, lead to tyranny of the majority and make
all liberty impossible. His third great principle, that all men are
equal, may lead to universal levelling instead of to justice. Here are
enough points of attack for a criticism undertaken from the modern
standpoint. Hegel in his day attempted such a criticism. He propounded
a new interpretation of the sovereignty of the people, defining it as
really meaning the sovereignty of the state. Heiberg, who was given to
carrying the Hegelian theories to extremes, presents us (in his essay
"On Authority") with Hegel's idea in the astounding and reactionary
proposition that "it is a matter of no consequence whether or not the
interests of the citizens are furthered by the development of the
state, since it is not the state which exists for the sake of the
citizens, but the citizens who exist for the sake of the state."[3]
Though we of the present day have a distinct antipathy to such
propositions, we nevertheless give to these protests against Rousseau's
theories the attention which we consider due to any development of
modern thought. But the protests of De Maistre's day were neither based
on thought nor on reason, but purely and simply on belief in authority;
and the opposition is, moreover, dishonourable in its methods; the
attack is always directed against some isolated proposition, which, if
we read it with the desire to understand it, is comprehensible, but
which it is easy to reduce to an absurdity, because of the audacious
manner in which it is expressed.

Bonald, for instance, scoffs at Rousseau for saying: "A people has
always the right to change its laws, even the best of them; for if
it chooses to do itself an injury, who has the right to prevent it?"
The proposition is a rash one, but it does not in reality justify the
retrogressive step; it only denies the right of outsiders to make it an
excuse for interfering; and the reader is unpleasantly affected when he
discovers that the reason why Bonald is so exasperated by these words
is that he considers the law-giving power to be the prerogative of God,
not of the people.

Rousseau's social theories were also violently attacked. It is not
difficult to understand how Rousseau, with the society of his own
day before his eyes, should arrive at the conclusion that it would
be quite possible to do without a society at all; but this mistaken
idea, in combination with the fanciful one of a lost, happy, natural
condition, led him to formulate such a proposition as: "Man is born
good, and society corrupts him," and to give utterance to the comic
paradox, which reappears in all the polemical works of the Restoration
period, pierced with refutations as a pin-cushion is with pins: "The
man who thinks is a degenerate animal." Such utterances lent themselves
to attack. In the ardour of his impeachment of society, Rousseau
permits himself to say: "Society is not a consequence of the nature
of man. Everything that has not its origin in the nature of things
has disadvantages, and civil society has most of all." "Society!"
cries Bonald, not without eloquence; "as if society consisted of the
walls of our houses or the ramparts of our towns! as if there were
not, wherever a human being is born, a father, a mother, a child, a
language, heaven, earth, God, and society!" The doctrine he instils
into his contemporaries is that the earliest society was a family,
and that in the family authority is not elective, but a result of
the nature of things. To the doctrine that society is the result of
a voluntary agreement, of a contract, he opposes his doctrine that
society is enforced (_obligée_), is the production of a power--whether
it be the power of persuasion or of arms. To the theory that power,
that authority, originally received the law from the people he opposes
his theory that there can be no people before there is a power. To
the revolutionary principle that society is _fraternity and equality_
he opposes the principle of patriarchal absolutism, that society is
_paternity and dependence_. Power belongs to God, and is communicated
by Him. Here again the argument of historical actuality proves
extraordinarily convincing, and the author seizes the opportunity to
deduce, as it were surreptitiously, the doctrine of the one and only
lawful sovereignty, sovereignty by the grace of God, from our respect
for history and reality.

In order to strike as deadly a blow as possible at Rousseau's
conception of the state as a contract, this conception was represented
as not only foolish, but actually criminal. And yet it is but
the natural, the inevitable outcome of the eighteenth century's
over-estimation of the conscious side of human life and want of
understanding of the unconscious, the instinctive. How much more
justly does Hegel judge Rousseau! He gives him the credit of having
laid down a principle, "the constituent of which is thought"--in other
words, will--as the principle of the state, observing that he was only
mistaken in understanding by will merely the individual, conscious,
and arbitrary will, a misunderstanding which leads to "other, merely
reasonable conclusions, subversive of the absolutely divine, and its
authority and majesty."[4] In the _Contrat Social_ Jean-Jacques had
attempted to find the basis of governments and laws in the nature of
man and society, taken purely in the abstract. But before Rousseau's
day Montesquieu had written: "I have never heard law discussed without
a careful investigation being made into the origin of societies, a
proceeding which to me seems perfectly absurd. If human beings did not
form a society, if they avoided or fled from one another, one would ask
the reason and try to find out why they kept separate; but, as it is,
they are all born bound to each other. A son is born in his father's
home and remains connected with him--this is society and its cause."

If, for the relation of the child to the father, we substitute the
relation to the mother, as being even a closer one, the reasoning is
perfectly correct. But Rousseau, leaving this solution out of the
question, desired to show what ideas had led men to hold together,
what aim they proposed to themselves in so doing, and by what means
they could best attain this aim. Now, it admits of no dispute that
it is only by the mutual consent of its members that society exists.
This consent or contract is most undoubtedly the spiritual basis on
which society rests; but the contract is entered into tacitly, is an
understood thing, has always existed, has consequently no external
actuality. In exactly the same manner we accept the geometric
definition of the origin of a ball: A ball, or sphere, is generated by
the revolution of a semicircle about its diameter. The definition is
perfectly correct, but has no connection whatever with the material
conditions requisite to the existence of any given ball. Never yet has
a ball been made by causing a semicircle to revolve round its axis.

This same figure may be retained as giving an exact idea of the style
of reasoning on social subjects characteristic of the eighteenth
century, nay, of the whole intellectual tendency of the century. It is
a dissolving, isolating tendency; it is in the direction of geometry
and algebra; men endeavour to comprehend the most difficult and most
complicated real situations by the aid of abstract ideas. This is a
weakness which enables Bonald to gain an easy victory by an appeal to
the principle of power. He opposes Rousseau's disintegrating theories
with the doctrines of the days of the old absolute monarchy: "God is
the sovereign _power_ that rules all beings; the God-man is the _power_
that rules mankind, the head of the state is the power that rules all
his subjects, the head of the family is the _power_ in his house. As
all power is created in the image of God and originates with God, all
power is absolute."[5]

Rousseau is, thirdly, attacked in the domain of morality. He had
endeavoured to make "the inward, unwritten law," of which Antigone
speaks, the source of every outward moral law. He had said: "What God
desires man to do, He does not let him know through another man; He
tells him it Himself, writes it on the table of his heart." If this
be the case, what becomes of tradition and authority and revelations
at second hand? Bonald consequently replies: "If man were obliged to
obey this inward law, he would be as devoid of will as the stone, which
must submit to the law of gravitation; if, on the contrary, he is at
liberty not to obey it, an _authority_ is required, which shall direct
his attention to these laws and teach him to obey them." Thus in morals
too the guiding power is transferred from man's own inward feeling to
outward authority.

The antagonism to Rousseau is so strong that Bonald, for instance,
writes page upon page of declamation against the philosopher's appeal
to mothers to nurse their children themselves. One would imagine that,
in this instance at least, Rousseau's theories would meet with the
approval of the stern inculcators of duty. Not at all--the appeal in
question shows that Jean-Jacques looked upon human beings as simply
animals. "J. J. Rousseau declared in the name of nature that it was
the duty of women to suckle their children, exactly as she-animals
do, and for the same reason.... Fathers and mothers, regarded by the
philosophers as simply males and females, in turn regarded their
children simply as their young."[6] And why is Bonald so wrathful?
Evidently because he fears that Rousseau may deprive religion of some
of its credit by issuing a reasonable commandment not inscribed on the
tables of its laws. "Rousseau," he goes on to say, "probably imagined
that he had surprised religion in the neglect of a duty; but possibly
religion, more far-sighted than he, feared anything which might serve
young married people as a reason or excuse for living separated from
each other, even momentarily." The motherly solicitude of the Catholic
church for the happiness of spouses and the multiplication of the human
race--this also is to be placed in the clearest light by means of an
attack on Rousseau.

We have seen to what misunderstanding of the idea of society the
unhistoric, mathematical line of thought of the eighteenth century led.
A kindred line of thought produced a very similar misunderstanding
of poetry. In their admiration for mathematical reasonableness, and
for the certainty with which general truths had been arrived at by
mathematical inferences, men were eager to communicate to language,
as far as possible, the quality of mathematically exact expression.
Condillac defined science as _une langue bien faite, i.e._ a perfectly
clear and perfectly exact language. The fact was not sufficiently
appreciated that, when it is desired to reproduce impressions which
are different in different persons, and which even in the same person
may change from one moment to another, a flexible, impressionable
language is required, a language which accepts its spirit and whole
stamp from the person using it. Scientific men began to deride what
they called poetry and style, and maintained that in writing thought
was everything, form nothing. Barante, who, in a critical work
published at the beginning of the new century, was the first to protest
against these ideas of his age, argues cleverly: "When Chimène says to
Rodrigue: 'Go! I do not hate thee,' it is plain, if we submit these
words to calm investigation, that they mean the same as if she had
said: 'Go! I love thee'; and yet, if she used the latter expression,
she would be quite a different being; her consideration for her father
would be gone, and so would her modesty and her charm."

The poets, who were in reality influenced by the same ideas as the
scientists, and were as far as they from conceiving of style as the
direct outcome of the personality, set themselves to work to fabricate
style, and spoke of it as we speak of the music composed for any given
libretto. They looked upon the art of writing as a perfectly external
art, and the descriptive school, with Delille at their head, took
unpoetic themes--physics, botany, astronomy, sea-voyages--and out of
them manufactured style. (See poetical works of Boisjolin, Gudin, Aimé
Martin, and Esménard.) Cournand actually wrote a poem in four cantos
on style itself and its various species. Poetry was regarded as an
artificial form communicated to the matured thought. This was the idea
which Buffon had contradicted in his notable proposition: _Le style
c'est l'homme même_, a proposition which was presently to become the
most hackneyed of quotations, inevitable whenever the subject of style
was broached, and employed by none so frequently as by those who were
neither men nor possessors of style.[7] The poets of the eighteenth
century derived their conception of the nature of poetry from their own
practice. As their own poetry, their own language, was not a natural
product, but the result of labour and the observance of certain rules
respecting elegance of expression, choice of similes, and employment of
mythology, they naturally believed that language and thought originated
independently of each other.

When Bonald, in opposition to their theory, propounds his, namely, that
language and thought cannot be separated--the theory upon which (in
his principal work, _La législation primitive_) he founds his whole
system--he is unquestionably in the right. But this doctrine meets with
the same fate as other doctrines propounded by the restorers of the
past; the disease of orthodoxy from which the author suffers causes him
to twist and turn every true thought until he makes a perfect monster
out of it. "The answer to the vital question regarding the intellectual
life of man may," says Bonald, "be given in the following form: Man
must think his words before he speaks his thought. In other words,
man must know the word before he speaks it, which self-evident fact
excludes all possibility of his having himself invented language."
Thus Bonald arrives at the favourite theory of the nineteenth-century
reactionaries, namely, that language was originally given to man by
God. Kierkegaard expresses the same idea when he declares that it
cannot possibly be conceded that man himself invented language (_On the
Idea of Fear_). Why? Because it was revealed to him by God, ready made.

It is Locke's and Condillac's reasonable theory of the slow evolution
of language and ideas which Bonald contradicts with his principle
of the necessity of an original revelation of language and ideas.
Upon this belief of his he bases nothing less than the dogma of the
existence of God, which entails all the others. To it we always come
back, turn where we will. As none of the reactionaries have any
idea of science--they are men of good parts with such an education
as is given in the Jesuit schools--there is nothing in the way of
scientific nonsense which they do not talk and write. The science of
language is sacrificed along with political and social science on
the altar of theocracy. It may be mentioned as a remarkable instance
of the manner in which these reactionaries held together that in
1814 Bonald published a new edition of De Maistre's work, _Sur le
principe générateur des constitutions politiques_, that is to say,
he circulated a book in which written constitutions were strongly
condemned, although he himself, arguing from the standpoint of his
theory of the direct revelation of language, had come to the conclusion
that every commandment, from the ten commandments downwards, must have
been noted down, must exist in black and white. But to him, as to De
Maistre, the real matter of importance was that the constitution should
make no concession to the spirit of the times, that authority should
stand secure, unimperilled by the gales of liberty; therefore he did
not hesitate to profit by the aid of a co-religionary, even though he
differed from him on an important point.

It was not enough for the reactionaries that they themselves had been
brought up in the Jesuit schools; they were fain to have the whole
youth of the nation sent there. De Maistre was all his life the patron
and ardent champion of the Jesuits. At the court of St. Petersburg he
exposed himself to much unpleasantness rather than throw them over.

The third part of Bonald's _Législation primitive_, which treats
chiefly of education, is directed against Rousseau's _Émile_; he
cannot forgive this book for teaching that religion ought not to form
a part of children's education. In all seriousness he mentions, as an
example of the fatal results of Rousseau's principles of education,
that during the last five months seventy-five children have been
sentenced to punishment for various crimes. He then proceeds to
expound his own principles. Their aim, as was to be expected, is the
suppression of all individuality. "We require a continuous, universal,
uniform (_perpétuel, universel, uniforme_) course of instruction,
and consequently continuity, universality, and uniformity in our
teachers; therefore we must have a corps of teachers, for without
a corps we can ensure neither continuity nor universality nor
uniformity." He maintains that married teachers cannot be expected to
sacrifice themselves to their calling, and unmarried ones are equally
unserviceable unless they are under the restraint of religious vows;
"for secular teachers, even though they be unmarried, are incapable
of forming a real corps, because they enter it and leave it according
to their own inclination and caprice; moreover, no father of a family
would dare to entrust his children to an unmarried man whose morals
were not certified by his religious vows and discipline." By force of
these arguments he arrives at the conclusion that the whole education
of the nation should be entrusted to the clergy, should be distinctly
religious, and should early accustom children to reverence that
authority to which they are to submit throughout their lives.

Obstinate insistence on the principle of authority is, then, the
distinctive, the ruling feature of this literary group. The French
rebuilders of society champion the principle with much more ardour
than those of Germany, partly because of their racial peculiarities,
partly because of their different religion. The reactionary movement in
German literature has its origin, as we have seen, in the law-defying
self-assertion and self-will of the individual.[8] In spite of its
Catholic tendencies and its apery of Catholicism, German Romanticism
never became so entirely Catholic, so deferential to authority, as the
French reaction. Teutonic and Protestant self-will always militated
against this. The French mind yielded easily. And it must be allowed
that there is something attractive in the complete, unmitigated
reaction which is lacking in the undecided, incomplete reaction.

Even when the revulsion is at hand, and the dissolution of the
school fast approaching, we find Lamennais maintaining in his book
on indifference in the matter of religion that it is not sentiment,
and still less the spirit of investigation, which is the mark of true
religion, but that "the true religion is incontestably the religion
which is founded upon the strongest possible _visible authority_."
And from the very beginning of the movement the utterances of all
its adherents breathe the same spirit. To Bonald religion is a kind
of police for maintaining order. In proof of this let me quote a few
sentences which I have collected from his works:--

"Religion, which is the _bond_ in every society, more especially
tightens the knot of political society; the very word religion
(_religare_) sufficiently indicates that it is the natural and
necessary _bond_ of human society in general, of the family, and of the
state.--Religion introduces _order_ into society, because it teaches
men whence _power_ and duties proceed.--The principles _of order_ are
an essential part of religion.--Religion will triumph because, as
Malebranche says, _order_ is the inviolable law of minds." Rejoicing at
the spread of the reaction, he exclaims: "We already see all European
authors who have any real title to fame acknowledging or defending the
necessity of the Christian religion, and stamping their works with
the seal of its immortality; for--let authors mark this well--all
works in which the fundamental principles of _order_ are denied or
controverted will disappear; only those in which they are acknowledged
and reverently upheld will descend with honour to posterity." We
observe that there is no question here of piety, of fervent faith,
of sentiment. Religion is the bond, is order, is the principle
of authority. How far we are from Germany, where even moonlight
sentimentality turned into religion!

Curiously enough, this enthusiastic vindication of religion as order
gives Bonald a certain resemblance (which he himself would have angrily
refused to acknowledge) to the man he detested almost more than any
other, namely, Robespierre. Robespierre, too, had a passionate love of
order, and for its sake desired a state religion. The difference is
that Robespierre only wished such order as would preserve the gains of
the Revolution, whilst to Bonald the word meant the sum and substance
of all old tradition.

He and De Maistre are at one on this point. De Maistre says: "Without
a Pope no sovereignty, without sovereignty no unity, without unity no
_authority_, without authority no faith." He places monarchy beyond
the reach of all criticism and investigation by pronouncing it to
be a _miracle_. He eulogises brute force as such. In his books he
submits military society to the discipline of the corporal's cane,
civil society to that of the executioner's axe.[9] This last was the
measure which Robespierre took in grim reality, though not until he
saw no salvation for the Revolution except in a dictatorship. Thus De
Maistre, too, has his points of resemblance to Robespierre. He puts the
finishing touch to his work in a eulogy of the Inquisition.

What these writers vindicate is, then, authority and power. In the
state authority is overthrown by popular institutions which entail
compulsory changes of ministry; in religion it is endangered when the
clergy attain to comparative independence of Rome (hence De Maistre's
book against Gallicanism), or are made completely independent ("by
Presbyterianism," as Bonald has it); in the family it is done away
with from the moment that divorce is permitted under any circumstances
whatsoever. King, minister, and subject; Pope, priest, and flock;
husband, wife, and child--these are to Bonald inseparable triads,
formed after the image of the Trinity. And in their inseparability they
safeguard the great fundamental principles of authority and order.

By sounding here and sounding there, and everywhere coming upon the
same fundamental thought, we have discovered what was the ruling idea
of the new period. It may be called by many names. It is the great
principle of _externality_, as opposed to that of inward, personal
feeling and private investigation; it is the great principle of
_theocracy_, of the sovereignty of God, as opposed to the sovereignty
of the people; it is the principle of _authority and power_, as
opposed to the principles of liberty, of human rights, and of human
interdependence. And when we examine the life of the day in all its
various developments, we everywhere find the same watchword and the
same white flag. The fundamental idea sets its mark upon everything.

In the state it leads to the principle of right being superseded by
the principle of might--which goes by the name of divine power, and
becomes monarchy by the grace of God. In society it banishes the
idea of fraternity, substituting a half-patriarchal, half-tyrannical
paternal relation--the idea of equality being simultaneously superseded
by that of dependence. In the domain of morality it effaces the inward
law and substitutes papal bulls and the decrees of church councils. It
does not look upon religion as faith, but as a bond, as the "political
fetter" which the Revolutionists had so lately upbraided it with being.
It champions indissolubility in marriage and in the state. It teaches
that language was a direct gift to man from God, thereby stifling
the science of language at its birth in order to erect a theological
pyramid above its corpse. It makes real scientific progress impossible
by keeping all inquiry and research in the leading-strings of powerful
outward authority. It dulls the understanding of the rising generation
by entrusting its education to a corps of cultivated, well-bred
half-men, sworn to blind obedience to the General of the Jesuit order.

And as this same idea, not long after its first vigorous appearance,
attains to the possession of a literature, it soon sets its mark upon
fiction, upon lyric poetry, from ballad and song to ode and hymn, nay,
even upon the drama. In literature, too, the lily reigns. The new
school becomes known as the seraphic school. Its heroes, its typical
characters, are martyrs, as in Chateaubriand's writings, or prophets,
as in Hugo's and De Vigny's. Its poets seek their inspiration and their
points of departure in the Bible and Milton. Authoresses like Madame de
Krüdener play the rôle of prophetesses, and as such exercise a distinct
influence on the social development of the period. The consecration
of the King and the birth of the Crown Prince call forth high-flown
and deeply reflective poems from such authors as Hugo and Lamartine.
The birth of the Count de Chambord is little less than a miracle, and
is celebrated in song throughout the country. Chateaubriand, with
the cross in his hands, drives heathen mythology out of fiction; and
with the cross in their hands, Lamartine and Hugo expel it from lyric
poetry. On the stage the Knights Templar and the Maccabees (whose
acquaintance we made in Zacharias Werner's _Sons of the Vale_ and _The
Mother of the Maccabees_) make their appearance, the former introduced
by Raynouard, the latter by Guiraud. There is not a feeling in the
human heart, not a corner of the human mind, and not a branch of
literature, upon which this restoration of the spirit of the past does
not set its stamp during its day of power.[10]


[1] See John Stuart Mill's essay on De Vigny in _Dissertations and
Discussions_, i.

[2] _Emigrant Literature_, p. 199.

[3] Hegel, _Werke_, viii., "Philosophie des Rechts," 367; Heiberg,
_Pros. Skrifter_, 10 B, 335.

[4] Hegel, _Werke_, viii. 314.

[5] Haller, in his famous _Restauration der Staatswissenschaft_,
chooses exactly the same point of departure as Bonald, namely, an
attack on _Le Contrat Social_.

[6] Bonald, _Du Divorce, considéré au 19me siècle relativement à l'état
domestique et à l'état publique de la société_ (edition of 1817, pp. 29
and 31).

[7] We owe to Madame Girardin the one witty thing that has been said
on the subject of Buffon's dictum. When trying to prove that in
each of George Sand's novels the influence of some real personage
enthusiastically admired by the authoress is to be distinctly traced,
she quotes the saying of a wit: "It is when we are criticising the
works of women writers that we are most often obliged to exclaim with
Buffon: _Le style c'est l'homme_." (Le Vicomte de Launay, _Lettres
parisiennes_, i. 89).

[8] Cf. _The Romantic School in Germany_, p. 42.

[9] Cf. _The Romantic School in Germany_, pp. 12, 326.

[10] Bonald, _Théorie du pouvoir_, i-iii.; _La législation primitive;
Essai analytique sur les lois naturelles; Du divorce_; Barante,
_Tableau de la littérature française au 18me siècle_; Lamennais, _Essai
sur l'indifférence en matière de religion_; Laurent, _Histoire du droit
des gens_, xvi.


[Illustration: CHATEAUBRIAND]



IV

"LE GÉNIE DU CHRISTIANISME"


Chateaubriand's book, _Le Génie du Christianisme_, which originally
bore the significant title _Beautés de la Religion Chrétienne_, marks
the transition from the first to the second stage of the reaction,
because, cold and devoid of real feeling as it is, it is an attempt to
vindicate and rehabilitate authority by means of an appeal to sentiment
and imagination.

It was a defence of Christianity of a perfectly new species, from the
fact that it appealed to imagination, not to faith; to sentiment, not
to reason. It impresses one as being proffered under the conviction
that reason was now inimical to Christianity, and that faith no longer
existed.

The author, not many years before he wrote this work, had been a
free-thinker, indeed a materialist. We have proof of this in some
marginal notes in his own handwriting, discovered by Sainte-Beuve in a
book which had belonged to him. Alongside of the words: "God, matter,
and destiny are one," Chateaubriand has written: "This is my system;
this is what I believe." Alongside of the following sentences: "You
say that God has created you free. That is not the point in question.
Did he foresee that I should fall, that I should be miserable to all
eternity? Yes, undoubtedly. In that case your God is nothing but
a horrible and unreasonable tyrant," we read in the margin: "This
objection is irrefutable, and completely demolishes the whole edifice
of Christian doctrine. But in any case it is doctrine which no one
believes in now."

This is the standpoint of Chateaubriand's youth, but one to which he
did not long adhere. He was too much the born doubter to be able to
hold firmly to even a negative conviction. What there was of faith
in the philosophy of the eighteenth century, namely, its belief in
the steady progress of humanity, was probably what he first rejected,
and on the loss of this conviction quickly followed the loss of all
the rest. He himself attributes his conversion to the influence of
his mother's dying prayer to him to keep to her faith. "I wept and
believed," he says.

Himself converted, or half converted, by means of sentiment, he
now endeavoured to influence others in the same manner. Although
intellectual receptivity for the dogmas of Christianity was no longer
to be looked for, it was surely still possible to arouse sympathy with
its touching, noble poetry. It was an idea characteristic of both the
period and the man, this of transforming the apology for Christianity
into aesthetics. He devotes a whole chapter to the sweet, melodious
music of the church bells. He describes the simple village church,
with its feeling of innocence and peace. He presents us with pictures
and symbols when we expect proofs. Bonald remarked that in books which
were works of reason, such as his own, truth displayed itself like a
king at the head of his army on the day of battle, while in books like
Chateaubriand's _Génie du Christianisme_ it had more resemblance to a
queen on her coronation day, surrounded with everything magnificent and
beautiful that could be got together. His meaning is that Chateaubriand
aims rather at moving men than at convincing them. In private
conversation he expressed himself more bluntly. He said: "I gave my
pills as they were; he gave his with sugar."

Certainly no book affords a clearer indication of the want of serious
reality in the religious regeneration of the day. Its point of view
is that which men have agreed to call the romantic. It is to the past
it turns, and as the Romanticist is a man of imagination, he sees the
past in an imaginary light. The religion of the Romanticist is a parade
religion, a tool for the politician, a lyre for the poet, a symbol for
the philosopher, a fashion for the man of the world.

Like the German, the Danish, and, at a later period, the French
Romanticists, Chateaubriand loves the mysterious. He begins his
vindication of belief in authority by appealing to men's sense of
mystery in life generally: "There is nothing beautiful or sweet or
great in life that is not mysterious. The most wonderful feelings are
those which at once move and perplex us. Bashfulness, chaste love,
pure friendship, are full of mystery.... Is not innocence, which in
its essence is nothing but holy ignorance, the most ineffable mystery?
Women, the more admirable half of the human race, cannot live without
mysteries." The transition from this to the dogmas of a so-called
revealed religion strikes us as sudden.

De Maistre makes a somewhat similar use of mystery. When he has
shown that such and such a social institution is inexplicable, he
believes that he has proved it to be divine. There is, in his opinion,
no reasonable explanation for hereditary royalty and hereditary
nobility--which is proof sufficient that they exist by the grace of
God. What is there to be said in defence of war? Hardly anything,
thinks De Maistre; consequently war too is a mystery. A little
reflection shows us the necessity of such argument. Authority demands
mystery as its counterpart. Note what Michaud says in the dedication
of his poem, "An Exile's Spring" (_Le printemps d'un proscrit_), 1803:
"Society ought to have its mysterious side as well as religion; I have
always thought that we should at times believe in the laws of our
country as we believe in the commandments of God. In private as well as
in public life there are things which a man does better if he does them
without reflecting upon his reason for acting."

The style of Chateaubriand's work is dazzlingly brilliant. But for
this it would not have created the sensation it did. It contains
descriptions of nature, emotional outbursts, and some few sparsely
scattered thoughts of real value. But all that is of genuine value from
the literary and poetical point of view is to be found in the tales
_Atala_ and _René_, which, according to Chateaubriand's original plan,
were to have formed chapters of the work--where they would have cut a
curious figure among such chapters as those on missionaries and sisters
of mercy. They were, preliminarily, sent out as feelers long before
the main work, and they do not concern us now; we have studied them in
their historical significance in their proper place.[1]

In _Le Génie du Christianisme_ Chateaubriand did not, he has himself
told us, endeavour to prove that Christianity is excellent because it
comes from God, but that it comes from God because it is excellent.

He shows that men have been wrong in despising Christianity, that it
has beautiful, noble, poetic qualities. He does not perceive that, even
if he succeeds in proving in many instances the narrowness of view of
those Encyclopedists whom he is continually attacking, this in itself
is no manner of proof of the divine origin of religion.

The whole work is in reality an outcome of the dislike and contempt
which he had gradually developed for the philosophy and literature of
the eighteenth century. The spirit of this philosophy and literature
now appeared to him to be fatal to all the higher desires and
aspirations of the human soul. The eighteenth century had misunderstood
feeling and poetry. Therefore what it had exalted must be condemned,
and what it had dared to disdain must be exalted. And for what had it
shown greater contempt than for Christianity!

Chateaubriand was not a man of a pious, but of an artistic nature; and
he conceived a fruitful artistic idea. Perceiving that the classic
period in France had reached the term of its natural life, he contended
that the imitation of the works of heathen antiquity ought now to
cease. It had gone on, at least in appearance, for not less than 250
years. Poets had neglected national and religious subjects for those
of ancient mythology; by the end of the eighteenth century they were
not even imitating antiquity, but the seventeenth-century authors of
their own country. Now there had been enough of it; now it was time for
France to dismiss mythology and have a literature inspired by its own
history and its own religion.

In this roundabout way Chateaubriand arrived at his vindication of the
beauty of Christianity, and of its superiority in artistic value to any
of the heathen religions.

The nature of the vindication evidences the nature of the whole
movement which the work inaugurates. Its æsthetic part is preceded by
a dogmatic introduction which, in keeping with the rest of the book,
aims at proving the beauty of the dogmas of Christianity. I adduce a
few examples of the absurd results of this "how beautiful!" style of
reasoning.

Of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper Chateaubriand writes: "We do not
know what objections could be offered to a means of grace which evokes
such a chain of poetical, moral, historical, and supernatural ideas, a
means of grace which, beginning with flowers, youth, and charm, ends
with bringing God down to earth to give Himself as spiritual sustenance
to man." What objection indeed could be offered? None, if all this be
true.

In spite of his æsthetic bias, Chateaubriand sets to work with a good
deal of pedantry. Celibacy, as enjoined on the Catholic priesthood, is
considered first from the moral point of view, and, thus considered, is
denominated the most moral of institutions. A second chapter, with the
somewhat comical title: "Virginity, considered from the poetical point
of view," is devoted to the same subject. It ends with the following
burst of eloquence: "Thus we see that virginity, beginning in the
lowest link of the chain of beings (its significance among animals had
been taken into consideration), makes its way upwards to man, from man
to the angels, and from the angels to God, to lose itself in Him." In
the original edition, as if this were not enough, there was added: "God
is the great solitary, the eternal celibate of the universe." It is
curious that no notice should be taken of His paternal relation to the
second person of the Trinity. But this omission makes the appeal to
the case of the Saviour the more effective. Chateaubriand says: "The
law-giver of Christianity was born of a virgin and died virgin." And to
this he adds: "Did he not intend thereby to teach us that the earth, as
regarded human beings, was now, both for political and natural reasons,
sufficiently populated, and that, far from multiplying the race, we
ought rather to restrict its increase?"

We are struck dumb by finding Malthus's theory of population come
out as the sum and end of this Christian Romanticism. Who would have
believed that there was so much political economy in the Gospels!

On the subject of the Trinity we read: "In nature the number 3 seems
to be the number superior to all others; it is not a product; hence
Pythagoras calls it the number without a mother. Even in the doctrines
of polytheistic religions we here and there come upon a dim intuition
of the Trinity. The Graces chose its number as theirs."

Thus in Chateaubriand's imagination the Trinity is upborne by the three
Graces as Caryatides. In keeping with this is his attempt to prove the
divine origin of the cross from the existence of the constellation, the
Southern Cross.

In keeping with his defence of Christian dogma is such a defence of
the Christian form of worship as the following: "Speaking generally,
we may answer that the rites of Christianity are in the highest degree
moral, if for no other reason than that they have been practised by our
fathers, that our mothers have watched over our cradles as Christian
women, that the Christian religion has chanted its psalms over our
parents' coffins and invoked peace upon them in their graves." If
argument were required when it is perfectly self-evident that the same
defence may be offered for any religion, we might urge that it is a
very unsuitable one in this particular case, where the object in view
was to induce sons to abjure the anti-Christian beliefs professed by
their fathers.

No less droll are the arguments drawn from natural history to prove the
love displayed in the order of the universe. Chateaubriand writes: "Is
an alligator, is a serpent, is a tiger less loving to its young than a
nightingale, a hen, or even a woman?... Is it not as wonderful as it is
touching to see an alligator build a nest and lay eggs like a hen, and
a little monster come out of the shell just like a chicken? How many
touching truths are contained in this strange contrast! how it leads us
to love the goodness of God!"

Chateaubriand is positively jocose in his attempts to prove the divine
purpose evident in nature. He declares that the birds of passage come
to us at a season when the earth yields no crops on purpose to be fed;
and he maintains that the domestic animals are born with exactly the
amount of instinct required to enable us to tame them.

When the Neo-Catholic authors embark on any subject connected with
natural science, they at once become extremely comic. Any one
interested should read (in his review of Bonald's _La législation
primitive_) Chateaubriand's outburst of horror at having heard a little
boy answer his teacher's question: What is man? with the words: A
mammal. And in the same spirit De Maistre repeatedly asserts that the
whole science of chemistry requires to be placed on a different, a
religious basis, or declares his conviction that some honest scientist
will certainly succeed in proving that it is not the moon, but God, who
produces the ebb and flow of the tide, as also that water, which is an
element, cannot be resolved into oxygen and hydrogen. He is of opinion
that birds are a living proof of the incorrectness of the law of
gravitation. In this connection one of the characters in his _Soirées
de St. Pétersbourg_ remarks that there is more of the supernatural in
birds than in other animals, a fact witnessed to by the signal honour
shown them in the choice of the dove to represent the Holy Spirit.
That alligators should lay eggs, that birds should fly--such feats are
miracles in the eyes of the Neo-Catholics.

On the dogmatic part of the work follows the æsthetic, which is the
more important. In it Chateaubriand endeavours to prove that "of all
the religions which have ever existed, the Christian religion is the
most poetical, the most human, the most favourable to freedom, to art,
and to literature--that to it the modern world owes everything, from
agriculture to the abstract sciences, from asylums for the unfortunate
to churches built by Michael Angelo and ornamented by Raphael--that
there is nothing more divine than its morality, nothing more beautiful
and noble than its dogmas and its rites--that it favours genius,
purifies taste, approves and stimulates virtuous passion, invigorates
thought, provides poets and artists with the noblest themes, &c., &c."

For two hundred years the great dispute had been going on as to the
comparative superiority of the works of ancient and modern literature.
It had occupied the minds of Corneille and Racine; it had produced the
earliest translations of Greek and Roman poetry; and it had by slow
degrees led the modern mind to recover its self-confidence, after the
first overpowering impression of the grandeur of ancient literature
had worn off. It was this two hundred years' long discussion which
Chateaubriand revived in a new form, namely, as the question of the
value of the Christian religion to poetry and the arts, compared with
that of the old mythologies. In the most remarkable manner he ignores
the fact that the great question in the case of a religion is not
whether or in what degree it is poetical, but whether it has the truth
on its side or not. Very remarkable, too, are the arguments to which
he has recourse to support his assertions! He vaunts, for example, the
æsthetic superiority of the Christian hell to the heathen Tartarus.
Is it not infinitely grander--"poetry of torture, hymns of flesh and
blood"?

He poetically jingles hell's instruments of torture, employs them as
æsthetic rattles for the old, dull children of the new century, and
brings into fashion a sort of drawing-room Christianity, specially
adapted to the requirements of the_ blasés_ upper classes of France. In
the seventeenth century men believed in Christianity, in the eighteenth
they renounced and extirpated it, and now, in the nineteenth, the
kind of piety was coming into vogue which consisted in looking at it
pathetically, gazing at it from the outside, as one looks at an object
in a museum, and saying: How poetic! how touching! how beautiful!
Fragments from the ruins of monasteries were set up in gardens, with a
figure dressed as a hermit guarding them; a gold cross was once more
thought a most becoming ornament for a fashionable lady; the audiences
at sacred concerts melted into tears. Men were touched by the thought
of all the comfort religion affords to the poor and the suffering. They
had lost the simple faith of olden days and now clung to externals,
to the significance of the Catholic church in literature and art, its
influence on society and the state. To make the antiquated principle of
authority look young and attractive they painted it with the rouge of
sentimental enthusiasm; but they only succeeded in making the principle
that had once been so awe-inspiring, ridiculous.

Constant wrote his book on religion in the house of his friend, Madame
de Charrière, Chateaubriand wrote his in the companionship of his
devoted and intimate friend, Madame de Beaumont, who assisted him
by searching for the quotations he required. His mind does not seem
to have been taken up with his work to the exclusion of all mundane
thoughts.

We know how grandiloquently Chateaubriand inveighed during Louis
XVIII.'s reign against the married priests, in what a bitter spirit he
stirred up the royalist and church party against them, how determined
he was that they should be deprived of every sou of their pay, to
punish them for having taken advantage of the laws of the Republic
to marry like other citizens. Yet was not he himself, as the author
of _Le Génie du Christianisme_ (in the preface to which he writes of
himself as "the humble Lévite"), a kind of priest, nay, more than a
common priest? And was not he married, and that, too, without the aid
of a priest? I draw attention to this because it is one of the thousand
signs of something that is to be detected everywhere throughout this
religious reaction, something to which I believe we are justified in
applying, ugly as it is, the word "hypocrisy."

Such, then, is Chateaubriand's book, and such are the circumstances in
which it came into being. To its unprecedented success and enormous
influence it owes an importance greater than its proper due. It was the
book of the moment; it smuggled in, well packed in sentimentality, that
principle of authority which was soon to ascend the throne.


[1] _Emigrant Literature_, pp. 17, 33.



V

JOSEPH DE MAISTRE


The ascension was brought about by a man of a very different stamp.

Count Joseph de Maistre was born at Chambéry in Savoy in 1754. The De
Maistre family, which belonged to the highest class of the bureaucracy,
had immigrated from France at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
In the boy's home his father's severe, imperious spirit, with its
strong tone of old-fashioned piety, ruled supreme. Joseph, who was the
eldest of ten children, was trained in such absolute obedience that
even when he was at the University of Turin he never allowed himself
to read a book without first writing to ask his father's permission.
From a very early age he was devoted to serious study. He learned seven
languages, which is an uncommon thing for a Frenchman to do even now,
and was more uncommon then. He entered the civil service, became, like
his father before him, a magistrate in his native town and a senator,
and married at the age of thirty-two.

Two children had been born to him when the French Revolution broke out
and made a complete change in his life. Savoy was incorporated with
France, and to remain faithful to his king Joseph de Maistre gave up
his home; he had to choose between becoming a citizen of the French
Republic and having all his property confiscated, and he chose without
hesitation. For a few years he lived in Switzerland. Here he wrote his
first work, _Considérations sur la France_ (published anonymously in
London in 1797), and made the acquaintance of Madame de Staël. Though
he considered that her head had been turned by modern philosophy (in
his opinion an inevitable consequence in the case of any woman), he
acknowledged her to be "astonishingly brilliant, especially when she
was not trying to be so." They bickered and wrangled, but were none the
less good friends.

In 1797, when the King of Sardinia was obliged to leave his continental
territories and take refuge on his rocky island, Count de Maistre
happened to be in Turin. He fled to Venice, arriving after many
hairbreadth escapes, and there he and his family suffered great
privations. From 1800 to 1802, as chief magistrate of Sardinia, he
laboured hard to improve the slovenly administration of justice which
he found prevailing there. In 1802 the deserted king sent him as
envoy-extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to St. Petersburg. His
acceptance of this appointment obliged him to part from his wife and
children, to whom he was tenderly attached. The pay was so miserable
that it barely sufficed to cover his own necessary expenses--he could
not afford to provide himself with a fur-lined coat. But in Russia, now
passing through the most prosperous period of the reign of Alexander
I, De Maistre's capacities found scope for development, and this poor
ambassador of a petty power succeeded in winning the Emperor's entire
confidence. The strength and purity of his character, his pronounced
royalist and conservative views, his knowledge, his sagacity, and his
wit ensured him a prominent place at a court whose sovereign knew how
to appreciate both an uncommon character and remarkable talent.

Although by birth a Piedmontese, and as a diplomatist to a certain
extent a cosmopolitan, Joseph de Maistre belongs by his language--and
not by that alone--to French literature. All his literary theories
were French, and there was much that was French in his intellectual
idiosyncrasy. Not only was France always in his eyes the chief power
in Europe, and the King of France, as "the most Christian king," the
main bulwark of monarchy and Christianity, but he was at heart on the
side of France even when it was for his ideas that her enemies were
waging war upon her. In spite of everything he rejoiced when Republican
France defeated the army of the allied monarchs. For what they desired
was the division of France, the annihilation of its power. "But our
descendants, who will think with indifference of our sufferings and
dance upon our graves, will make very light of the excesses which we
have witnessed and which have preserved undivided the most delectable
kingdom after that of heaven." He desires the defeat of the Jacobins,
but not the ruin of France, which would be equivalent to the inevitable
intellectual relapse of the human race.

[Illustration: DE MAISTRE]

In a manner he felt himself to be a Frenchman. All his life long he
proclaims, and by his actions proves, himself to be the loyal subject
and servant of the King of Sardinia; but, when he is more than usually
ill rewarded for his services, the thought strikes him that it was
really by a kind of mistake of nature that he was not born a Frenchman.
We read in one of his letters (_Correspondance diplomatique_, i. 197):
"I cannot get rid of the feeling that, let me do what I will, I am
not the man to suit His Majesty. Sometimes in my poetic day-dreams I
imagine that nature, carrying me in her apron from Nice to France,
tripped on the Alps (a very excusable thing in an old lady) and let
me fall into Chambéry. She ought by rights to have gone straight to
Paris, or at any rate to have stopped at Turin, where I could have
developed properly; but on the 1st of April 1754 the irreparable
mistake was made. I discover in myself a certain Gallican element, for
which, be it observed, I have all due respect." Thus it is not merely
permissible but obligatory to set De Maistre's name first on the list
of the men who brought about the powerful reaction in France against
the fundamental ideas of the eighteenth century.

His first book, written in 1796, already shows the character of the
reaction to which he gives expression, and which he endows with
stubborn consistency. While the Revolution is still proceeding, but
at the moment when the counter-revolution is beginning to make its
influence felt, he eagerly vindicates the two powers which the century
had repudiated--belief in the supernatural and fidelity to political
tradition.

Maintaining that every nation, like every individual, has its mission
to fulfil, he declares that France has guiltily abused the position
of authority given to her in Europe. She stood at the head of the
religious system, and not without reason were her kings called
"the most Christian." As she has used her power to act in direct
contradiction to her mission, it can surprise no one that she is being
brought back to the right path by terrible chastisements. The French
Revolution is marked by _Satanic_ traits, which distinguish it from
anything ever seen before and possibly from anything that will ever be
seen again. Its so-called legislators have issued such a proclamation
as this: "The nation supports no religion," words which would almost
seem to indicate hatred of the Divine Being.

Even Rousseau, though he was "the most mistaken of men," perceived that
it was only a narrow-minded and arrogant philosophy which could suppose
the founders of such religions as the Jewish and the Mahometan to be
nothing but lucky impostors. Philosophy is a disintegrating, religion
alone an organising power. But no religion in the world can be compared
with Christianity. It alone, although it is founded upon supernatural
facts and is a revelation of incomprehensible dogmas, has been believed
for eighteen centuries and been defended by the greatest men of all
ages, from Origen to Pascal. Now it has been dethroned and its altars
have been overturned. Philosophy reigns triumphant. But if Christianity
issues from this ordeal purer and stronger than ever--then, Frenchmen,
make way for the most Christian king, place him on his ancient throne,
lift high his flaming banner (_oriflamme_), and proclaim that Christ
commands, guides, and conquers!

There is no government but theocracy (priestly rule), and every
constitution comes from God. A constitution is never the result of a
contract, and the laws which rule the nations are never written laws,
for those constitutions which are written are never anything but
proclamations of older laws, of which all that can be said is that they
exist because they exist. The constitution of 1795 is, like earlier
revolutionary constitutions, made for _man_. But there is not such
a thing as _man_: "In the course of my life I have seen Frenchmen,
Italians, Russians, &c.; I know, too, thanks to Montesquieu, that
there are Persians; but _man_ I have never met; if he exists, it is
contrary to my knowledge." No; when the population, the customs, the
religion, the geographical position, the existing political conditions,
the good and bad qualities of a nation are known, then a constitution
is the solution to the problem of finding the laws suitable for that
particular nation.

De Maistre traces the probable course of the counter-revolution. He
sagaciously demonstrates the unreasonableness of the supposition that
it can only be the outcome of the will of the people. Very possibly a
minority of four or five persons, he says, will give France a king.
Letters from Paris will announce to the provinces that the country
has a king, and the provinces will shout: _Vive le roi!_ With his
obstinate faith in providence he foretells the restoration (even in its
details) at a time when all hopes of such an event seemed indeed to
be built upon sand, and in process of so doing exhibits a fascinating
combination of excessive enthusiasm for the pre-revolutionary
conditions with a practical political sagacity which avoids any
overstraining of principle that would make the restoration of these
conditions impossible. On the delicate question, whether or not the
restoration of the monarchy will entail the return of the national
property to its original owners, he expresses himself with a caution
which is strikingly at variance with the generally confident, defiant
tone of the book. He explains that a revolutionary government is, by
its very nature, an unsteady government. Under it nothing is certain.
As the ownership of national property is not yet, in the opinion of
the general public, free from the reproach originally attaching to it,
a government which considered itself in no way debarred from undoing
what it had done would in all probability lay hands on this property as
soon as it could. "But under a steady, permanent government everything
is permanent, so that even for the acquirers of national property it
is important that the monarchy should be restored; they will then know
what they have to rely upon." In other words, he has at least so much
regard for actual circumstances as to acknowledge that it will not be
possible to reign after the Revolution in exactly the same manner as
before it.

His fundamental political doctrine is that the state is an organism,
that as an organism it possesses real unity, and lives its life by
virtue of a far-off past, from which it refreshes itself as from a
perennial source, and by virtue of an inward, secret fountain of
life. It is not the outcome of discussion and arrangement, but of
an unfathomable mystery. Hence a written constitution signifies
nothing. It is the soul of the nation which gives the nation unity and
permanence, and this soul is the love of the nation for itself and
its national memories. France is not thirty millions of human beings
living between the Pyrenees and the Rhine, but a thousand millions who
have lived there. Our country is nought else but the unity of those
who live, those who have lived, and those who will live in the days to
come on the same fragment of the earth's surface. The fact that one
family is the symbol of the continued existence of this nation leads De
Maistre to monarchy.

Sovereignty cannot be divided. Therefore the king does not share his
power with the great of the land. These latter have no privileges, but
they have duties. They form the king's council; they are guardians of
the national unity, inasmuch as they unite the people to the throne,
and guardians of the national continuity, inasmuch as they are the
sustainers of tradition. It is their duty perpetually to proclaim to
the people the benefit of authority, and to the king the benefits of
liberty. The law is, as law, the same for all, therefore destitute of
the pliability which is a necessity if freedom is to be granted and
ensured. An enlightened autocracy secures liberty.

When Bonaparte appears and quickly develops into Napoleon, Joseph
de Maistre is, naturally, his implacable enemy. Nevertheless, he
recognises the autocrat in him. He feels that the unity of the French
nation is embodied in him, and this though he regards him as the
_demonium meridianum_ (see _Correspondance diplomatique_, ii. 65).
In July 1807 he writes: "In those newspapers which are his organs
Bonaparte causes himself to be called the messenger of God. Nothing
could be truer. Bonaparte comes straight from heaven ... as lightning
does." In other words, De Maistre saw in the calamities which Napoleon
brought upon Europe, as in all "heaven-sent" calamities, judgments,
the justice of which did not diminish the guilt of those who executed
them. In 1808, out of love for his country, he did violence to his own
inclinations by endeavouring to obtain an audience of Napoleon for the
purpose of pleading the cause of Sardinia. He took this step not in
his capacity of minister, but privately and on his own responsibility.
Napoleon, though he did not answer De Maistre's letter (written from
St. Petersburg), was evidently impressed by the quality of the man;
he ordered the French ambassador at the Russian court to show him
favour, and did not take his audacity at all amiss. De Maistre's own
court, however, did. It was intimated to him that the Cabinet, to
which he had sent immediate notice of the measure taken, had been
disagreeably surprised by it. He replies proudly and satirically:
"The Cabinet has been surprised! The skies may fall--that is a matter
of no consequence--but heaven preserve us from an unexpected idea!
I am now more than ever persuaded that I am not the man you want. I
can promise you to transact His Majesty's affairs as well as any man,
but I cannot promise never to surprise you. That is a weakness in my
character which I am incapable of curing." He proved the truth of what
he himself somewhere says, that trusting to the constancy of court
favour is "like lying down on the wing of a windmill to sleep soundly."
When vindicating himself he writes: "I know everything that can be said
against Bonaparte; he is a _usurper_, he is a _murderer_; but note
well that he is less of a usurper than William of Orange and less of a
murderer than Elizabeth of England. ... As yet we are not stronger than
God, and we must come to terms with him to whom it has pleased God to
entrust the power" (_Lettres et opuscules_, i. 114.)

Joseph de Maistre spent fourteen years of his life as envoy at St.
Petersburg. The long separation from the female members of his family
was very painful to him, and the cares of a father often weighed
heavily on his mind. It is touching to read in one of his letters
that when he was lying awake at night, over-tired with work, he often
imagined that he heard his youngest little daughter, whom he did not
know, crying in Turin.

As a proof of his favour and esteem for De Maistre, the Czar gave
commissions in the Russian army to his brother and son. The brother
was wounded during the campaign in the Caucasus. The son fought in the
war against Napoleon. "No one," writes the father, "knows what war is
unless he has a son fighting. I do what I can to banish the thoughts of
hewn-off arms and smashed skulls that constantly torment me; then I sup
like a youth, sleep like a child, and awake like a man, that is to say,
early."

The great panegyrist of the executioner and the _auto da fé_ had in
private life a very tender heart. His private utterances often convey
the impression of kindliness, as his public do of whimsical wit.

He perhaps shows most amiably in his letters to his daughter: "You
ask me, dear child, why it is that women are condemned to mediocrity.
They are not. They may become great, but it must be in a feminine way.
Every creature ought to keep to its own place and not strive after
advantages other than those which properly belong to it. I have a dog
called Biribi, who is a great amusement to us all; if he were to take
it into his head to have himself saddled and bridled to carry me out
into the country, I should be as little pleased with him as with your
brother's English mare if she were to take it into her head to jump on
my knee or to sit down at the breakfast-table with me. The mistakes
some women make come from their imagining that in order to rise above
the common level they must act like men.... If twenty years ago a
pretty woman had asked me: 'Do you not believe that a woman is just as
capable of being a great general as a man?' I should have answered:
'Most undoubtedly I do, Madam. If you commanded an army, the enemy
would fall on their knees to you as I do now, and you would enter their
capital with drums beating and banners flying.' If she had said to me:
'What is there to prevent my knowing as much of astronomy as Newton?' I
should have replied with equal sincerity: 'Nothing whatever, O peerless
beauty! You have but to look through the telescope, and the stars will
consider it an honour to be gazed at by your beautiful eyes, and will
hasten to discover all their mysteries to you.' These are the things
we say to women, both in prose and verse; but the woman who takes such
speeches seriously is uncommonly stupid." After declaring that woman's
mission is to bear and to bring up men, he adds: "But, dear child, I
am for moderation in everything. I believe, speaking generally, that
women ought not to aim at acquirements which are at variance with their
duties, but I am far from thinking that they ought to be perfectly
ignorant. I do not wish them to believe that Pekin is in France, or
that Alexander the Great proposed marriage to a daughter of Louis XIV."
And in a following letter he writes: "I see that you are angry with me
for my impertinent attack on learned women. It is absolutely necessary
that we should make friends again before Easter. The fact that you have
misunderstood me ought to make the process easy. I never said that
women were monkeys; I swear to you by all that is most holy that I have
always thought them incomparably more beautiful, more amiable, and more
useful; but I did say, and this I abide by, that the women who want to
be men are monkeys; for wanting to be learned is wanting to be a man. I
think that the Holy Spirit has shown His wisdom in arranging things as
they are, sad as it may seem. I make my humble obeisance to the young
lady you tell me of, who is writing an epic poem, but heaven preserve
me from becoming her husband; I should live in terror of seeing her
delivered in my house of a tragedy, or possibly even of a farce--for
when talent has once set off, there is no knowing where it will stop."

"The best and most convincing observation in your letter is that upon
the raw material employed in the creation of man. Strictly speaking, it
is only man who is made of dust and ashes, or, not to mince matters, of
dirt, whereas woman was made of a mire that had already been prepared
and elevated to the dignity of a rib. _Corpo di Bacco! questo vuol
dir molto_. You cannot say too much, my dear child, as far as I am
concerned, about the nobility of women, even those of the bourgeois
class; to a man there should be nothing more excellent than a woman,
just as to a woman, &c, &c.... But it is precisely because of the
exalted opinion I have of these noble ribs that I become seriously
angry when I see any of them desiring to transform themselves into
original mire. And now it seems to me that the question is completely
disposed of." (_Lettres et opuscules_, i. 145, 156).

It surprises us to find the strictly orthodox Catholic jesting thus
lightly with Bible legend; but even in his witty and sportive moods
De Maistre is faithful to his reactionary principles. It is one of
his characteristics that a certain piquant wit goes hand in hand with
the violent, dæmonic energy of his attack, an energy which reveals
itself even in the little fact that his favourite expression is _à
brûle-pourpoint_ (in its literal meaning--to fire with the muzzle of
one's pistol upon one's antagonist's coat).

In the _Soirées de St. Pétersbourg_, in which he already writes of
Bacon with some of that animosity to which he afterwards gave full vent
in a large and erudite work, he makes a humorous observation which is
quite in accord with the newest scientific view of the matter: "Bacon
was a barometer that announced fine weather, and because he announced
it, men believed that it was he who had produced it." And in a letter
he writes: "I cannot tell how there came to be this war to the death
between me and the late Lord Chancellor Bacon. We have boxed like
two Fleet Street boxers, and if he has pulled out some of my hair, I
imagine that his wig no longer sits very straight on his head."

When De Maistre is broaching his favourite theories, his humour is
often very sarcastic, as, for instance, when he discourses, in the
second part of the _Soirées_, on the ways of maintaining _esprit de
corps_. There is much cynicism in such pleasantry as this: "To produce
discipline and the feeling of honour in any corps or society, special
rewards are of less avail than special punishments." He shows how
the idea had occurred to the Romans of making military punishment a
privilege--only soldiers had the right to be beaten with rods made of
the wood of the vine. No man who was not a soldier might be beaten with
such a rod, and no other kind of rod might be used to flog a soldier
with. "I cannot understand how some such idea has not occurred to any
of our modern rulers. If I were asked for advice on the subject, I
should not go back to the vine rod, for slavish imitation is useless.
I should suggest laurel rods." He further proposes that a great
forcing-house should be erected in the capital, exclusively for the
purpose of producing the necessary supply of laurel branches with which
the non-commissioned officers are to belabour the backs of the Russian
army. This forcing-house is to be under the supervision of a general,
who must also be a Knight of St. George of the Second Class, at lowest,
and whose title is to be "Chief Inspector of the Laurel Forcing-House";
the trees are to be attended to by old pensioners of unblemished
character; models of the rods, which must all be exactly alike, are to
be kept in a red case at the War Office; each non-commissioned officer
is to carry one hanging by a ribbon of St. George from his button-hole;
and on the façade of the forcing-house is to be inscribed: This is _my_
tree, which brings forth _my_ leaves.

De Maistre lived at St. Petersburg in great poverty, which he bore
without being humiliated by it. He was distrusted and constantly
left in the lurch by his ungrateful court, which did not even repay
him the sums that from time to time he was obliged to advance out of
his slender means to necessitous fellow-countrymen in Russia. During
these years his theories matured and his intellectual idiosyncrasies
became more marked. The letters, private as well as diplomatic, which
he wrote at this time give us an excellent idea of the spirit and
the general conditions prevailing at the court of Alexander I. Those
written previous to and during Napoleon's campaign in Russia are
especially interesting from the graphic impression they give of the
fears, hopes, panics, and rejoicings produced at that time throughout
the Russian empire by war news, whether true or false. At first De
Maistre is in great anxiety about the issue of the war. He clearly
sees the incompetence of the generals who are appointed to direct the
operations against such a leader as the Emperor of the French. But from
the moment when it is known how ill-equipped the French army is to face
the Russian autumn, not to mention the Russian winter, he is no longer
in doubt; he foresees that Napoleon's fall and the restitution of all
his conquests--events which he had long regarded as certain to happen
sooner or later--are close at hand.

Six of De Maistre's works were written at St. Petersburg. Of these
_Du Pape, De l'Église Gallicane, Examen de la Philosophie de Bacon_,
and _Soirées de St. Pétersbourg_ are the most important and the most
characteristic of their author.

The _Soirées_ contain the ideas on the subject of God and the world
upon which his theory of the state is based. Anticipating the objection
that the authority of his absolute monarchs rests upon no foundation,
that they are utterly irresponsible, that, in other words, autocracy is
unjust, he meets it with the preliminary general answer that injustice
is the law of every society, because it is the law of all life on
earth. In nature itself might is right--with the right of the stronger,
plants and animals are perpetually destroying one another. And this
law: Might is right, is far from losing its validity in the world of
man; here also it prevails, as the law of war. War is a perpetually
recurring phenomenon in the life of the human race. Except for a
few years in each century, it has raged from the most ancient times
until now, and it will continue to do so. Human blood will always be
flowing upon earth. For the chastisement of heaven is upon man. To
this conception of war the military profession owes the high position
it holds and always has held. No trade is considered so honourable as
that of the soldier. The human race, taken as a whole, is guilty and
deserves the scourge of war, unjustly though the punishment may fall in
single cases.

It is, then, as the representative of God upon earth that the autocrat
is, in the first place, the war-lord, in the second, the possessor of
the divine and terrible prerogative of _punishing the guilty_. This
prerogative necessarily entails the existence of a man whose profession
it is to execute the punishments ordained by human justice. And such
a man is always to be found--a strange and inexplicable fact, for our
reason is at a loss to discover any motive which can lead a man to
choose such a profession. Hence the character who is the mouthpiece
of De Maistre's own opinions is inspired with a feeling of awe and
reverence by the much misjudged executioner.

According to the general, and, in De Maistre's opinion, entirely
justifiable verdict, every soldier, simply as such, is so noble that
he ennobles even those actions which are generally regarded as the
most degrading; he may exercise the calling of the executioner without
suffering the slightest degradation, so long as he only carries out the
sentence of death upon members of his own profession and uses no other
instruments for the purpose but its weapons. It is not without its
significance that on every page of the Old Testament shines the name,
the Lord of Hosts. No action is more inseparably connected in men's
minds with honour than the innocent shedding of innocent blood. It is
in the very passion of carnage that De Maistre admires the soldier
most. Such a thing has never been known as an army refusing to fight.
It is an irresistible impulse that drives men onward into battle. And
why is this so? In order that to the end of time there may be fulfilled
that law of the violent destruction of living beings which extends
throughout creation, from the lowest animal to man.

But although from time immemorial there has been no calling more
honourable than that which involves the shedding of innocent blood, a
remarkable prejudice has caused the calling of the executioner to be as
much disdained as the soldier's is respected.

De Maistre inquires if this man who, in preference to all profitable
and honourable callings, has chosen that of torturing and killing his
fellow-men, is not really a being of some peculiar and higher kind. And
in his dialogues the Count, who is his own mouthpiece, answers:--

"I myself have no doubt on the subject. Outwardly, he is formed like
ourselves; but he is an abnormal being, and it is only a special act
of creative power which can add such a member to the human family. He
is like a world in himself. All shun him; his house stands in a desert
place, every one withdrawing as far as possible from the spot where
he lives with his mate and his young ones, whose voices are the only
cheerful human sounds that fall upon his ear; but for them he would
hear nothing but shrieks of agony.... A sinister signal is given. One
of the lowest menials of justice knocks at his door and informs him
that his services are required; he sets off; he arrives at a public
place where human beings are crowding together in excited expectancy. A
prisoner--a parricide, a committer of sacrilege--is flung at his feet;
he seizes this man, binds him to a cross which is lying on the ground,
then raises his arm--the terrible silence that follows is only broken
by the sound of the crashing of bones under the blows of the iron mace
and the screams of the victim. He unbinds the man; he carries him to
the wheel; the broken limbs are twined round its spokes, the head hangs
down, the hair stands on end, and from the mouth, open like the opening
of a glowing furnace, there come at intervals a few broken syllables of
entreaty for death.--He has finished his task; his heart is beating,
but it is with pleasure; he is satisfied with his work; he says in his
heart: No man breaks on the wheel better than I. He comes down from the
scaffold and holds out his bloody hand, into which, from as great a
distance as possible, the official whose duty it is to pay him flings
a few gold pieces, with which he marches off between two rows of human
beings who shrink from him with horror. He sits down to table and eats;
he goes to bed and sleeps; and when he awakes next morning his thoughts
run on everything but his occupation of the day before. Is he a man?
Yes. God allows him to enter His temples and accepts his prayer. He is
no criminal, and yet in no human language is he called honourable or
estimable."

"Nevertheless all greatness, all power, all order depend upon the
executioner. He is the terror of human society and the tie that
holds it together. Take away this incomprehensible force, and that
very moment order is superseded by chaos, thrones fall, and states
disappear. God, who is the source of the power of the ruler, is also
the source of punishment; He has suspended our world upon these two
poles, for the Lord is the Lord of the poles, and round them He sets
the world revolving."

And in order that this reverence for the office of the executioner
which it is in keeping with his plan to inculcate, and which it
entertains him to astound with, may make a proper impression on the
reader, De Maistre takes up the subject again in one of the later
conversations. He asks what a reasoning being coming from another
world to investigate into the conditions prevailing in ours would
think of the executioner, and himself gives the answer: "He is an
august being, the corner-stone of society. Since crime has undoubtedly
taken up its abode upon earth, and since it can only be kept in check
by punishment, it is plain that, if the executioner disappeared, all
order would disappear with him. And what greatness of soul, what noble
disinterestedness must we presume that man to be possessed of who takes
upon himself the execution of a task which, though certainly a very
honourable one, is most painful and repugnant to human nature, &c."

In these utterances we have at one and the same time the delight in
consistency which is to be observed in the earliest nineteenth-century
devotees of the principle of authority, the delight in a disconcerting
idea which is one of De Maistre's own chief mental characteristics,
and the delight in describing suffering which he has in common with
Görres and so many of the other champions of the gloomy doctrine of the
necessary subjection of humanity to kings and priests.

De Maistre resents hearing men so often talk as if crime went
unpunished. What do they mean by this? "For whom are the gallows, the
knout, the wheel, and the stake and fagot provided? Surely for the
criminal." Justice may sometimes miscarry, but such exceptions do not
alter the rule. It is folly to believe in all the judicial murders one
hears talked about. Take the frequently quoted case of Calas. Nothing
is more doubtful than his innocence.

The very fact that Voltaire defended him speaks against it.

But given the worst--that an innocent man is deprived of his life--why,
it is simply a misfortune like any other. When a guilty man escapes
we have another exception and misfortune of the same kind. The
events which lead to the discovery of a crime are, however, often so
unexpected and improbable that we cannot but believe that human justice
is supported by higher aid. And all the time that we are foolishly
blaming human justice for having punished an innocent man, nothing is
more probable than that he really is guilty, though of some other,
unknown crime. Many such cases are on record, the truth coming to
light through the confession of the criminals. De Maistre, we observe,
understands how to extricate himself from a difficulty.

Something of the same nature holds good in the matter of sickness. Its
injustice, too, is only apparent. If every kind of intemperance could
be prevented, most, nay, in reality all diseases would be done away
with. This inference may be arrived at by arguing as follows: If there
were no moral evil in the world there would be no physical evil, and
since an infinite number of diseases are direct consequences of certain
offences, it is permissible to generalise and say that this holds good
of them all.

Everything, then, is ordered upon moral principles. It is undeniable
that life is a terrible thing, but this does not prove that God is
unjust; he is offended, he is insulted, and to appease his anger blood
is required. Man early comprehended his own fall, early understood
that it is the innocent who must and alone can, by the transference of
merit, atone for the sins of the guilty, that there is no salvation
without the shedding of sacrificial blood.

Hence the idea of sacrifice is one of perpetual and keen interest to
De Maistre. Sacrifice is ideal slaughter, slaughter the one and only
aim of which is the accomplishment of what is right and meet. From the
earliest ages men have offered both animal and human sacrifices; and in
Christianity the practice is sanctified and acquires a deeper meaning.
Here it is not any chance and possibly guilty individual who is the
victim, but a being who is elected to die because of his innocence.
This, therefore, is ideal sacrifice.

All this is undoubtedly an offence to reason. But contrariety to
reason is the sign and seal of truth. The theory which is the most
obviously reasonable is the theory which never stands the test of
practice. Nothing could be more obviously reasonable than the whole
philosophy of the eighteenth century, with its faith in man and its
liberalism. But its very reasonableness bespeaks its superficiality.
It satisfies reason; but experience opens men's eyes to its futility.
Nothing seems more self-evident than that man is born free. Yet when
Rousseau writes: "Man is born free, nevertheless he is everywhere in
fetters," he does not notice that he is not only writing nonsense, but
distinctly affirming that he is doing so. It would be quite as sensible
to say; Sheep are born carnivorous, nevertheless they everywhere
live on vegetable food. In the same way, nothing is theoretically
more unreasonable than hereditary monarchy. If, without any previous
experience, men were called on to choose a government, that man
would be thought mad who hesitated to give an elective monarchy the
preference over a hereditary one. And yet we know from experience that
the latter is the best, the former the worst form of government. In
other words, the world, far from being a reasonable world, is full of
things that are profoundly at variance with reason.

Christianity, the Christian conception of life, is therefore no new,
hitherto unknown conception. It is connected by many links with the
whole succession of heathen religions, and is prepared for by them.
All the truths of Christianity are foreshadowed in the creeds of
heathendom. In heathen sacrificial practices, for instance, we already
have the essential idea of sacrifice. And De Maistre waxes wroth
over Voltaire's violent, irreligious tirades against the sacrificial
festivals of the old pagans. He is yet more exasperated when, at the
end of a description of a sacrifice of both adults and children, he
comes upon the words; "However, the sacrifices of the Inquisition, of
which we have so often spoken, are a hundred times more execrable."

It is apropos of this utterance that (in his essay _Éclaircissement
sur les sacrifices_) De Maistre first takes up the cudgels for the
Inquisition, to the defence of which institution he was ere long
to devote a special work. He writes: "The passage relating to the
Inquisition appears to have been written during an attack of delirium.
What! The lawful execution of a small number of human beings,
condemned to death by a fully qualified court of justice according to
the strict letter of a penal law which had previously been solemnly
proclaimed, and which each one of the victims was perfectly free to
avoid transgressing--to call such an execution a hundred times more
abominable than the horrible act of the parents who cast their children
into the flaming arms of Moloch! What wild insanity! What forgetfulness
of all reason, all justice, all shame!" De Maistre storms thus because
he is here attacking the man who was his opposite, and who fought, like
himself, with the weapons of wit and paradox, but wielded them with far
greater power.

Founding his theory of the state upon the basis of religion, De Maistre
derived the power of the ruler from God. It is from God that kings
receive their rights, and to God that they owe duty. It is not the
king's power but his duty that is absolute, for it is duty to the
Absolute. The rights of the people may be called the duty of the king
to God. In the proverb: "The voice of the people is the voice of God,"
there is this truth, that the rights of the people are the rights of
God in His relation to the king. And "the voice of God" is not a mere
figure of speech; the living voice of God speaks through the church.
The king is responsible to God, and the church is the depositary of
divine truth. But the church, as well as the state, is under the rule
of an autocrat. As the state means the king, advised and guided by
the great men of his country, so the church means the Pope, advised
and guided by cardinals and bishops. The very idea of sovereignty
implies that the king is absolute, the Pope infallible. People are not
surprised that the captain of a ship should be, as such, an infallible
sovereign, should permit no criticism of his orders, should issue
unqualified commands and require them to be obeyed blindly; yet they
are surprised that in all church matters the Pope should be infallible.
They are accustomed to the idea that all the other courts of justice,
low and high, are submitted to the jurisdiction of a highest court, the
judgments of which are irreversible and may not be criticised; yet they
are astonished that the Pope, as head of the church, is infallible. If
they had any conception of what sovereignty means, they would not be
astonished. A skilful attempt, this of De Maistre's, to prove to laymen
the reasonableness of ecclesiastical dogma.

In his book _Du Pape_, which Catholics consider a work of the first
importance, he carries his reasoning on ecclesiastical matters to its
logical conclusion.

This book was the outcome of the remorse he felt for having, at a
trying moment, forgotten the reverence due to the head of the church.
When, three years after the conclusion of the Concordat, the Pope went
to Paris, at Napoleon's request, to anoint and crown him Emperor,
Joseph de Maistre, the ardent royalist, was so incensed that in various
letters to his court he used such language in writing of the Holy
Father that his _Mémoires et correspondance diplomatique_ of these
years were published by Cavour in 1858 with the view of depriving the
papal power of a spiritual ally. In the course of a few years Napoleon
and the Pope quarrelled, and when De Maistre saw the Pope insulted and
ill-used by the Emperor, he repented his hasty words, and resolved to
make ample reparation.

The fundamental idea of _Du Pape_ is that there is no human society
without government, no government without sovereignty, and no
sovereignty without infallibility. This attribute of infallibility is
so indispensable that men are obliged to assume its existence even in
secular societies (where it does not exist) on pain of seeing these
societies dissolved. The church lays claim to no more than do the other
authorities, although it has this immeasurable advantage over them,
that its infallibility is not only taken for granted by man, but also
guaranteed by God.

De Maistre writes: "A great and powerful nation has lately, before our
own eyes, made the most strenuous efforts in the direction of liberty
which the world has ever beheld. What has it gained by these? It has
covered itself with ridicule and shame, and has ended by setting a
Corsican gendarme on the throne of the kings of France." He shows
how the Catholic religion necessarily forbids every kind of revolt,
whereas Protestantism, which is a result of the sovereignty of the
people, leaves the decision of everything to private feeling--a
supposed species of moral instinct. "There is such accordance, such a
strong family likeness, such interdependence between the papal and the
kingly power that the former has never been shaken without the latter
suffering too." As a proof of this he quotes the following utterance
of Luther: "Princes are as a rule the greatest fools and the most
arrant rogues on the face of the earth; nothing good can be expected
from them; they are God's executioners, whom He employs to chastise
us." He avers that Protestantism, which has no reverence for royalty,
has no respect for marriage: "Had not Luther the audacity to write in
his exposition of the book of Genesis (1525) that the example of the
patriarchs leaves it an open question whether or not a man may have
more than one wife, that the thing is neither sanctioned nor forbidden,
and that he, for his part, will not take it upon him to decide one way
or other?--edifying doctrine, of which practical application was soon
made in the family of the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel." (Luther gave his
consent to this prince having two wives at the same time.)

In opposition to Rousseau's doctrine De Maistre maintains that man is
by nature a slave, but that Christianity has, in a supernatural manner,
emancipated him. For this reason he calls the Christian woman a truly
supernatural being. Voltaire he without more ado calls the man "into
whose hands hell has given all its power." And he puts the crowning
touch to his work by propounding the following theory: "Monarchy is a
_miracle_, and instead of reverencing it as such, we rail against it as
tyranny. The soldier who does not kill a man when commanded to do so
by his lawful sovereign is not less guilty than he who kills without
having received orders to do so." Those states which have introduced
Protestantism have been punished by the loss of their monarchs. De
Maistre has discovered that the average length of reigns is shorter in
Protestant than in Catholic countries. The one inexplicable exception
to this rule is provided by Denmark, which is the only Protestant
country whose sovereigns live as long after the Reformation as before
it. "Denmark appears, from some unknown reason, but doubtless one
honourable to the nation, to have been exempted from this law of the
shortening of reigns."[1]

The fifth book of the earliest edition of _Du Pape_ was afterwards
published as a separate work. It is the well-known _De l'Église
Gallicane_, a treatise in which De Maistre draws from the doctrine of
papal authority conclusions utterly subversive of the claim of the
French church to relative independence. On this occasion he assumes
an antagonistic and supercilious attitude towards Bossuet, a man for
whom he generally has nothing but praise. The special object of his
attack and invective is the Church Council held in France in 1682
for the purpose of strictly defining the limits of the Pope's power.
He is almost as much incensed against that of 1700, which pronounced
Jesuits and Jansenists to be equally blameworthy. It is to a life-long
enthusiasm that De Maistre here gives expression. From his youth he had
been the devoted friend, admirer, and supporter of the Jesuits. His
diplomatic letters from Russia tell of his constant endeavours to be of
assistance to them in their difficult position as Roman Catholics in a
Greek Catholic country, of his anxiety to shield them when the court
is exasperated by their efforts to convert members of the aristocracy,
&c, &c. He now, as their champion, attacks Pascal. His attack is not
made from the standpoint of philosophy, as it easily might have been,
in so far as their sensible apprehension of the fact that there can
be no other morality except morality of intention gives the Jesuits
in certain ways the advantage over the man of genius who impeached
them. Nor is his defence of the Jesuits conducted altogether from
the standpoint of the man of the world, as it might well have been,
in so far as the Jesuits, with their modification of principles and
their practical indulgence, have followed the prudent rule that it is
unwise to alarm and better to have some of the moral law fulfilled by
demanding little than none by demanding all. He contents himself with
maintaining that the Jesuit treatises on morality attacked by Pascal
are obsolete, unread books, which Pascal dragged from their mouldy
obscurity with the sole aim of insulting and injuring an order, the
strict morality and stern self-discipline of which even its enemies had
been forced to admit. Then, by way of variety taking up for a moment
the standpoint of the worldling, he remarks humorously: "It is, when we
come to think of it, very comical that we worldlings should take upon
us to inveigh against the _lax morality_ of the Jesuits. This much is
certain, that the whole aspect of society would be changed if every
member of it acted up even to Escobar's moral standard, and were guilty
of no shortcomings other than those excused by him."

It was very natural that the energetic champion of the ideas of the
past should, towards the close of his career, make a special effort
to clear the reputation of the great, misunderstood, misjudged
Inquisition. This he did in his _Letters to a Russian Nobleman on
the Subject of the Spanish Inquisition_. In these letters De Maistre
says everything that can be said in vindication and in honour of the
Inquisition; yet in reading them we are irresistibly reminded of the
remark of the old tiger in the _Hitopadesa_: "Nevertheless," says
the tiger, "nevertheless, it is difficult to prove the falsehood
of the report that tigers eat men." De Maistre shows that many of
the assertions made of the Inquisition are incorrect; he proves,
for instance, that it was a secular, not an ecclesiastical court of
justice. But the only part of the book that has any attraction for us
is that in which he defends its proceedings. He says: "In Spain and
Portugal, as elsewhere, every man who lives quietly is unmolested;
as to the rash person who attempts to teach others what to believe,
or who disturbs public order, he has only himself to blame.... The
modern propagator of heretical doctrine, haranguing at his ease in his
own room, is quite untroubled by the knowledge that Luther's line of
argument produced the Thirty Years' War; but the old legislators, who
knew the price men might have to pay for these fatal doctrines, most
justly punished with death a crime which was capable of shaking society
to its foundations and bathing it in blood.... It is thanks to the
Inquisition that for the last three hundred years there has been more
happiness and peace in Spain than anywhere else in Europe."

To the _Letters_ De Maistre has prefixed a quotation, which is to the
effect that all great men have been intolerant, and that it is right to
be so. "Let him who comes across a well-intentioned sovereign," says
Grimm, the Encyclopedist, "preach tolerance in matters of faith to
him, so that he may fall into the snare, and, by his toleration, give
the persecuted party time to recover and prepare itself, when its turn
of power comes, to crush its opponent. Voltaire's discourse, with its
babble of tolerance, is a discourse only for simpletons and those who
allow themselves to be fooled, or for people who have no interest in
the matter."

A gross fallacy conceals itself in this argument. Every genuine,
overpowering enthusiasm naturally makes tolerance impossible. Yet
Voltaire's doctrine is none the less valid because of this. The
difficulty is easy of solution. The principle of intolerance is the
theoretical, that of tolerance the practical, principle. In theory no
consideration, no toleration, no mercy! For error must be crushed and
torn asunder, follies must be blown from the cannon's mouth, and lies
flayed alive. But what about the liar, and the fool, and the erring
one? Are they also to be hewn asunder, or flayed alive, or blown from
the cannon's mouth? They are to go their way. The domain of real life
is the domain of tolerance.

De Maistre's _Examen de la philosophie de Bacon_ was not published
until after its author's death. It is the most disputatious and
tedious of his works, and one in which the combative champion of
Christianity is plainly grappling with a subject that is beyond his
powers. He desired to confute Bacon because he believed that the
ungodliness of the French philosophy of the eighteenth century was
entirely to be ascribed to his influence; and he falls upon him with
positive theological fury, attacking all his theories--his theory of
consciousness, of nature, of light, of the weather, of the soul, of
religion; attacking him where he is right, and where, for once in a
way, he is wrong; finding him out in immaterial and merely superficial
inconsistencies; pointing out defects in his Latin and in his taste;
fighting in a noisy, violent, dogmatic manner, with weapons drawn from
the arsenals of supernaturalism and tradition. In single chapters, such
as that on _Causes Finales_, he displays a certain futile acuteness; in
others, such as that entitled _Union de la Religion et de la Science_,
cold-blooded fanaticism. In this latter chapter we read: "Science
undoubtedly has its value, but it is necessary that it should be kept
within bounds.... It has been very aptly said that science resembles
fire: confined to the hearths which are destined to receive it, it is
man's most useful and powerful servant; left to the hazard of chance,
it is a terrible scourge."

Faithful to his rule of allowing no stain to cling to the shield
or sword of the church, he vehemently maintains (contradicting an
assertion of Bacon's French translator) that the church has never
opposed the progress of natural science. The translator had plainly
affirmed that nothing had injured the church more than the clear
demonstration of the truth of certain facts which it had long denied,
and the proclaimers of which it had actually persecuted; and he had
named Galileo as an example. After lauding the church as the patron
of science in other cases, and trying as far as possible to explain
away the case of Galileo, De Maistre is forced to make an admission.
And this is how he does it: "Galileo was condemned by the Inquisition,
that is to say, by a court liable to err like any other, and which in
this case actually was mistaken regarding the main point at issue;
but Galileo in numberless ways damaged his own cause, and by his own
repeated indiscretions brought upon himself a humiliation which he
might easily, and without dishonour, have avoided.... If he had kept
his promise not to write, if he had not been determined to find proof
in Holy Scripture of the truth of the Copernican theory, if he had even
written in Latin instead of unsettling the public mind by employing the
vulgar tongue, nothing would have happened to him."

To the end De Maistre was true to his character; he would not yield a
foot of the ground that had been lost centuries before.[2]

He is a great and fascinating personality, this successful advocate of
a lost cause, which unmistakably gained ground during his lifetime. As
the upholder of authority, of monarchy, and of the gloomy view of life,
as the disputant, as the knight of Christianity, and as the scorner of
science, he has a faint resemblance to Kierkegaard. But his system is
an edifice of ideas relating to the outer, Kierkegaard's one of ideas
relating to the inner, world.

De Maistre is the thoroughly convinced and vehement, yet cold-hearted
champion of the principle of authority. There is heart in his letters,
but there is none in his books. In them there is nothing but heated
argument, propounded with much subtlety of logic and pungency of
wit. In his sarcasm he often reminds us of Voltaire, and his grim
delight in horrors at times recalls Swift. It gives him pleasure to
astonish and to irritate. He loves paradox, because it makes him feel
his superiority, because it perplexes the reader, and because it
makes attack difficult, paradox being a redoubt which one can without
dishonour evacuate before the assault.

His Christianity is an entirely external thing. He is a Christian
as a man is a Protectionist or a Free-trader, on grounds of general
theoretical conviction. His Christianity is a Christianity without
brotherly love--nay, it is a Christianity without Christ as saviour and
reconciler. In it Christ is only the sanguinary sacrifice demanded by
the offended Deity--like Iphigenia or Jephthah's daughter. Faguet has
aptly said that De Maistre's Christianity is "fear, passive obedience,
and state religion." It is a Christianity which does not originate in
Jerusalem, but in Rome; and he himself "is something in the nature of
an officer of the Pope's bodyguard."

The most ardent assailant of the spirit and philosophy of the
eighteenth century, the century in which he was born, has this in
common with it, that he is destitute of the proper apprehension of
history. He would fain ignore the eighteenth century, just as it was
fain to ignore the Middle Ages. He is the counterpart of the woman
who represented the goddess of reason--he is the man who represents
the principle of authority pure and simple, without any historical
qualification. And at heart he is as devoid of religious feeling as the
century which he attacks in the name of revealed religion.

Hard and cold, with a sarcastic and at times a cruel expression on his
countenance, but noble in character and strong of will, he stands at
the threshold of the new century like--if not the good, at least the
best spirit of the great, universal reaction. There is no possibility
of confusing him with the dwarfish figures who during the course of
the century have diluted his ideas, taken the sap and strength out of
his thoughts, and torn and twisted his doctrines in order to oppress
and dissemble under cover of them. Joseph de Maistre was a mind, these
others have only been bodies. He was a man without baseness and without
hypocrisy, a colonel of the Papal Zouaves as _litterateur_, the most
soldierlike and the most attractive figure which the reactionary camp
of the century has to show.


[1] _Du Pape_, pp. 160, 174, 383.

[2] Joseph de Maistre, _Considérations sur la France; Lettres et
opuscules_, i., ii; _Correspondance diplomatique_, i., ii.; _Soirées de
St. Pétersbourg_, i., ii; _Du Pape; De l'Église Gallicane; Examen de la
philosophie de Bacon,_ i., ii.; Margerée, _Le Comte J. de Maistre_; E.
Faguet, _Politiques et moralistes du 19me siècle_.



VI

Bonald


Side by side with Joseph de Maistre stands Bonald, the famous medieval
schoolmaster of the European reaction, a man with the same bent of
mind and the same practical aims, but as monotonous as De Maistre is
versatile, as conventional as De Maistre is wittily fantastic.

Louis Gabriel Ambroise, Vicomte de Bonald, was born in 1754 (the same
year as De Maistre) at Monna, in the south of France. He began life
as an officer in Louis XV.'s musketeers. During the first stage of
the Revolution he favoured liberal ideas, but only for a short time.
He married early, and was made chief magistrate of the Department of
Aveyron, an appointment which he resigned when Louis XVI. found himself
obliged to consent to the subjection of the clergy to the secular laws.
In 1791 he emigrated, and joined the army of the Prince of Condé.
He wrote his _Théorie du Pouvoir_ at Heidelberg. The police of the
Directory destroyed almost the whole first edition of this book, but a
copy which had been sent to Bonaparte luckily reached its destination
and made such a favourable impression on the great man that he removed
its author's name from the list of exiles. Not unprofitably had Bonald
taught that every revolution is begun by the subject but ended by
the ruler, that it begins because the authorities have been weak and
have yielded, and ends because they have recovered strength. He had
shown that all disturbance only serves to strengthen authority, and
prophesied that the Revolution, which had begun with the declaration
of the rights of man, would end with the declaration of the rights of
God. These latter being the very rights which Bonaparte, by means of
his Concordat, was now proclaiming, Bonald's position was assured. He
remained devotedly attached to the Bourbons, but was content to dream
of them in an appointment conferred on him by the Emperor. He was made
_conseiller tutélaire_ of the University, with a salary of 12,000
francs a year for doing nothing. Chateaubriand reviewed his books with
reverent admiration. De Maistre wrote to him after the publication
of his _Recherches Philosophiques_; "Is it conceivable that nature
has amused herself by tuning two strings until they are in as perfect
harmony with each other as your mind and mine? If certain manuscripts
of mine are ever printed, you will find in them almost the same
expressions you yourself have used, and yet I certainly have altered
nothing." In another letter he expresses himself even more strongly: "I
have thought nothing which you have not written, and written nothing
which you have not thought." Bonald felt himself flattered by these
assertions, though he doubted their truth--and this with good reason,
for, similar as are the results arrived at by these comrades-in-arms,
there is little resemblance between their mental processes.

A proof of the high estimation in which Bonald was held is to be found
in the touching letter in which Napoleon's brother, Louis, King of
Holland, entreats him to undertake the education of his eldest son.
Louis begins by telling what a complete invalid he himself is, how
dearly he loves his son, how imperative it is that this son should be
educated by a man, in the fullest acceptation of that word, in order
that he too may become one. Then he says: "Although I do not know you
personally, my investigations have led me to the conclusion that you
are one of the men whom I esteem most highly. Therefore you will pardon
me that now, when I have to choose the person to whom I must entrust
what is more to me than life, I apply to you. If the happiness which
you doubtless enjoy in a peaceful home has not made you indifferent to
the service you are capable of rendering--I do not say to me, a single
individual, but to a whole nation which is even more deserving than it
is unfortunate (and that is saying much)--you will consent to become my
son's tutor." And he concludes in the same strain, defending himself
against slanders which he imagines may have reached Bonald's ears. With
such humility did a king appeal to this man--and in vain; he refused
the request.

[Illustration: BONALD]

A still more remarkable instance may be adduced of the importance
at that time attributed to the influence of a determined upholder
of authority of Bonald's calibre. One day Bonald received a note
requesting him to call upon Cardinal Maury, an ecclesiastic whose
position under the Empire was a very different one from that of the
days when he argued in the National Assembly against the civic rights
of the Jews. When they were alone, the Cardinal asked Bonald what his
answer would be if the Emperor requested him to undertake the education
of the King of Rome. For a moment Bonald was silent, astonished by the
honour shown him. He then gave, it is said, the discouraging answer: "I
confess that, if I ever taught him to rule, it would be in any place
but Rome." After the restoration of the monarchy no one did more than
Bonald to ensure that Rome and its spirit, the principle of authority,
should rule in place of being ruled. All his life long he had opposed
the liberty of the press. He attained to the position of its censor.

In 1815 he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies, where he sat on the
extreme Right. Under Louis XVIII, he was made a member of the Academy
and a peer of France, in which latter capacity he obstinately opposed
liberty of religion and liberty of the press. In 1830 he retired from
public life because it was against his conscience to swear allegiance
to the monarchy of July.

Any one taking up Bonald's works directly after De Maistre's will have
difficulty in wading through them. For nearly all of them are deadly
dull. There are no human beings in his books, nothing but doctrines,
and Bonald's doctrines consist of theologico-political propositions,
which we are required to accept without proof. One cannot imagine a
mind with a more implicit belief in dogmas, that is to say, a mind
which more entirely ignores realities and scientific thought. He seems
never to have doubted. Never once during his long career as an author
does it appear to have entered his mind to question any one of the few
simple fundamental principles on which he bases his theories. These
principles are to be found in his works in a petrified form--speaking
exactly, in the form of triads. Like the scholastics of the Middle Ages
before him, like Hegel after him, Bonald thinks in triads, only he
thinks without any perception of the two-sidedness of ideas, without
flexibility, without inspiration. All relations are by him reduced
to the great triad of cause, means, and effect. In the state we have
power as the cause, ministers as the means, and subjects as the effect.
In the religious world we have the triad--God, Jesus the Mediator,
and man. In another acceptation Jesus is himself power, minister,
and subject--power by his thought, minister by his word, subject as
sacrifice. In the political sense, too, he is power, minister, and
subject--power as King of the Jews, minister as priest, subject as the
submissive martyr.

In the family, in society, in the state, in the universe, the same
tri-unity is demonstrated; and all this is done with the aim of proving
the necessity and the truth of monarchy. Monarchy is a true thing
because it is founded on the principle by which the world is ordered.
The universe is monarchic. Hence revolutionists and republicans, who
have dared for the moment to abolish monarchy, have actually been
making the bold attempt to overturn the order of the universe. It is
not a constitution which they have abolished, but _the_ constitution,
for there is only one.

Bonald jeers at the witness of experience, scorns that of history--the
lessons of experience are without significance to him who is in
possession of the eternal, fundamental principles. Even natural history
he will have nothing to do with, because in it he perceives the idea of
evolution, which is of the evil one.

There is no such thing as historical evolution; there is historical
tradition, and it is to this we must cling. For by means of tradition
we reach God. In the chain of blind men which we call humanity only the
first blind man requires a staff, and this staff is the commandment of
God, which is transmitted by tradition.

The eighteenth century had placed more faith than any of its precursors
in man's conscious capacity of invention and production. Rousseau
maintained that it was man who invented and founded society. Bonald
contests this theory. Man, he says, has invented nothing; he no more
invented the family or society than he invented speech or writing.
He was in the beginning the blank page, the _tabula rasa_, of which
Condillac and the Sensationalists romanced--this blank page has not
been filled with the impressions of the senses, but with the direct
instructions of God.

For God was not merely the creator "in the beginning"; he continues to
create to this very day. He founded society, and founded it that it
might preserve his words and his thoughts. But this it can only do by
preserving tradition unbroken.

The intention, the mission of tradition, then, is to keep God in the
world. Hence every attempt to break with tradition is an attempt at
spiritual suicide. And the endeavour to preserve tradition is simply
aspiration after the full pulsation of life. A tenacious clinging to
the purest spiritual inheritance produces the purest, fullest life.
Therefore Bonald clings to the dogmas and to the supremacy of the Roman
Catholic church.

In order to vindicate the doctrine of creation and continued creative
acts in every domain of nature, he is obliged to prove the same
immutability in the universe of which he is the advocate in politics;
hence from the year 1800 onwards he is perpetually attacking what was a
comparatively new thing in those days, the doctrine of evolution. Like
Voltaire before him and Disraeli after him, he makes merry over the
idea of man being descended from a fish.

With love and understanding, but with a persistently flattering pen,
Bonald describes the government of France under kings like Henry IV.
and regents like Richelieu. In his turn attacking the revolutionary
assailants of the old monarchy and its nobles, he skilfully argues that
the monarchy was not the despotism nor the aristocracy the exclusive
caste which their detractors made them out to have been. He shrewdly
points out the defects of the succeeding system, with its much boasted
liberty for every one, which meant no more than that every one had a
right to vote, and warmly defends the advantages of the old order of
things, which permitted the rich man to become a nobleman, but set
limits to plutocracy by prohibiting the nobleman's working to become
rich. He wilfully overlooks the fact that the original advantages of
the old monarchy existed at last only on paper, and that under its
auspices the most shameful injustice and the basest cupidity grew up
and prospered.

In his aversion to the independence of parliaments and courts of
justice, to liberty of conscience and liberty of the press, Bonald
is doubtless sincere enough, but in his eulogies of the old form of
government there is a want of common honesty. As a historian he is
ignorant, but not so ignorant as not to know what that government
really was.

His writings are now not only antiquated but decayed. Open his long
treatises where we will, a faint odour of dust and musty leaves and
corruption meets us. The most important chapters in the once famous
_Recherches Philosophiques_ (such as those on the origin of speech and
writing) read like fragments of some old theological text-book.

As a general rule the shorter treatises and occasional articles of
philosophers of Bonald's type retain most freshness. But one can read
through the two thick volumes which Bonald published under the title
of _Mélanges littéraires et politiques_ without coming upon a single
page to which the word "fresh" can be applied. Even such essays as
those on the writings of Voltaire, on the Jews, and on tolerance,
topics which might have been expected to tempt him to say something
strong or bitter--at any rate something which would imprint itself
on the memory--are terribly monotonous and colourless. Whether he is
disapproving of Voltaire's morality, or maintaining that the Jews ought
to be deprived of civic rights, or proving that tolerance is a vice and
an impossibility, we have always the same solemn and empty ceremonial,
the same application of the formula of cause, means, and effect, the
same grave, monotonous tempo--one, two, three; one, two, three. Bonald
is unreadable because of the very passionlessness on which he prided
himself.

The only one among his books which still attracts readers, and that
simply because of its occasional flashes of passionate enthusiasm, is
the famous _Du Divorce_, undoubtedly the most entertaining of them all.

It begins with a long jeremiad on the sad condition of the world
since authority was overthrown. Modern philosophy, which originated
in Greece, among that people who remained children to the end, and
who ever sought wisdom by other paths than those of reason (_sic!_),
began by atheistically or deistically (!) denying God. Now, Hume and
Condillac, with their doctrine that all our knowledge is derived from
the impressions of the senses, have turned man, who is "a reasonable
being, served by his organs," into an animal pure and simple, an
ordinary product of nature. The universal dissolving tendency has
penetrated into family life, and instead of the old relation between
parents and children--authority and submission--we have the spirit of
revolt in the young hearts and ideas of equality in the young brains;
the children regard themselves as the equals of their parents, actually
permitting themselves to address them as "thou"; the parents, conscious
of their own weakness, no longer dare to assert their authority, but
try to become their children's "friends" or "confidants"--only too
frequently their accomplices.

The enervated conception of life is imaged in an equally enervated
conception of death. It has been proposed to preserve the ashes of the
departed in glass or porcelain urns, and, horrible to relate! a mother
has actually been permitted by the authorities to burn the corpse of
her daughter in heathen fashion. There has been universal agitation for
the abolition of capital punishment, that precious institution, _ce
premier moyen de conservation de la société_, and in some countries
it is already abolished. Governments have had attacks of "the sudden
madness which goes by the name of philanthropy." The so-called natural
sciences ("so-called" is amusing), which ought really to be styled the
material sciences, because they treat of the material world alone, have
ousted the higher, the intellectual sciences, beginning with that of
metaphysics, so renowned in days of old. In poetry noble tragedy has
had to make way for the light and humorous style. In fiction, which so
clearly mirrors the spirit of an age, love used always to be sacrificed
to duty. Now the reverse is the case; and it is Rousseau who has
written the novel "which more than any other has misled the imagination
and corrupted the hearts of women," namely, _La nouvelle Héloïse_.
The principle of authority has been overthrown even in the art of
gardening: "The rural uncultivatedness of the English garden has taken
the place of the symmetrical splendour of the art of Le Nôtre."

In view of all this endeavour to dissolve society, Bonald makes his
attempt to save it. It is a special institution which he aims at
rescuing. Society is founded upon marriage, stands or falls with that.
The Revolution has made divorce lawful. But where divorce is possible,
marriage no longer exists. Therefore every possible effort must be made
to procure the repeal of the law of divorce. The effort was made, and
was only too successful.

Let us hear what Bonald's theory is.

He maintains (as usual) that a properly developed reasoning faculty
reduces all relations to the triad of ideas--cause, means, and
effect--the most universally applicable which reason can evolve. These
ideas lie at the foundation of every judgment, and form the basis of
all social order. Every society consists of three distinct personages,
who may be termed the social personages. Reason perceives in God, who
wills, the first _cause_; in the man who executes God's will, the
_means_, or minister, or mediator; and in the order of things which
goes by the name of society, the _effect_ which is produced by the will
of God and the action of man. But the reason which argues thus exists,
in Bonald's opinion, only in conjunction with the Catholic religion. He
says: "Religion, which places God at the head of society, gives man an
exalted idea of his own dignity and a strong feeling of independence,
whilst philosophy, which assigns the highest place to man himself,
is always grovelling at the feet of some idol or other--in Asia at
Mahomet's, in Europe at Luther's, Rousseau's, or Voltaire's." (_Du
Divorce_, 42.)

We observe that Bonald calmly classes Luther with anti-Christians like
Mahomet and Voltaire. All the Catholic authors of the period do this,
and also insist on the affinity between Protestantism and immorality.
When De Maistre is discoursing on the Reformation he asserts with
the utmost gravity that one half of Europe changed its religion in
order that a dissolute monk might be enabled to marry a nun. In his
_Théorie du Pouvoir_ (ii. 305) Bonald writes: "A choleric, sensual monk
reformed religion in Germany; a voluptuous, cruel king reformed it in
England.... It is significant that the Reformation was supported in
Germany by the Landgrave of Hesse, who was desirous to marry Margarethe
von Saale whilst his first wife still lived; in England by Henry VIII,
who wished to divorce Katharine of Arragon in order to marry Anne
Boleyn; and in France by Margaret of Navarre, a princess of more than
doubtful morals. Divorce was the ruin of the West as polygamy had been
of the East." In his Essay on English Literature (_Œuvres_, vi.
75) Chateaubriand, touching on Luther's marriage, writes: "He married
for two reasons--to show a good example, and to deliver himself from
temptation. The man who has transgressed laws always tries to draw his
weak brethren after him, that he may shield himself behind numbers; he
flatters himself that the acquiescence of many will lead men to believe
in the propriety and rectitude of acts which were often only the result
of accident or passion. Sacred vows were doubly violated--Luther
married a nun."

These violent outbursts against Luther and Lutheranism are explained by
the fact that the French reactionaries, like the German Romanticists,
clearly perceived that the modern intellectual tendency of which
they were so much afraid was the inevitable result of Protestantism.
Lamennais, for example, writes (_Essai sur l'indifférence_): "It is
now acknowledged that the church and its dogmas rest upon authority,
as upon an impregnable rock. Hence it is that the adherents of all the
different sects, who disagree upon every other point, unite in the
attempt to undermine this main pillar of all truth. Lutheran, Socinian,
Deist, Atheist, are the names which mark the gradual development of the
one doctrine; one and all with unflagging perseverance pursue their
particular plan of attack on authority."

Reason, then, Catholic reason, the alone genuine, sees everywhere
(according to Bonald) the three social personages--power, minister, and
subject. In the different domains of society they receive different
names. In the religious world they are called God, priest, and flock;
in the political, king, aristocracy or official class, subjects or
people; in domestic life, father, mother, and child.

The reader who is not yet familiar with Bonald's mode of thought is
likely to be taken aback by this last idea; but Bonald is so perfectly
serious in his identification of the father with power, the mother
with the minister, and the child with the subject, that he actually,
as a rule, employs the designations father, mother, and child in
place of the others; because, he says, they apply to animals as well
as to man, whereas power, minister, and subject apply exclusively to
thinking beings. Besides, he elsewhere says, we must do our utmost to
spiritualise man and his relations in view of the attempts that are
made to degrade them.

He introduces his theory with his customary formulæ. Man and woman, he
says, both exist; but their manner of existence is not the same. They
are like each other, but not equals. The union of the sexes is the
object of the difference between them. The production of a human being
is the object of their union. The father is strong, the child weak;
the father active, the child inactive. The mother forms the connecting
link. How so? The father, says Bonald, is a conscious being, and cannot
become a father except with his own will; the mother, on the contrary,
may, even with full consciousness, become a mother _against her will_
(hence inactively). The child neither wills to be born nor is conscious
of being born.

It is, thus, upon that revolting and tragic arrangement of nature which
permits a woman to become a mother against her will that Bonald bases
the difference in rank of the sexes. He says, moreover (_Du Divorce_,
fifth edition, p. 71): "In this gradation of their relationship is to
be found the solution of the question of divorce," namely, that it
ought not to be allowed.

If Bonald's mad theory, like many another equally mad, had simply
remained a theory, which no one dreamt of putting into practice, there
would be nothing to resent. But it was upon the principles proclaimed
in his work that the laws of marriage and divorce which held good in
France for the next seventy years were based![1] Immediately after
the restoration of the Bourbons (twelve years after the publication
of _Du Divorce_) Bonald's influence was so irresistible that the
lethargic, religiously disposed National Assembly abolished divorce by
an overwhelming majority--236 to 11 votes.

It may be said, proceeds Bonald, writing of education, that the father
is the power which, through the mother as minister or means, performs
the reproductive and maintaining acts, which have the child as object
or "subject."

The relation of man and woman in marriage is simply this: Man is power
(_le pouvoir_), woman is duty (_le devoir_). Does not Holy Scripture
itself call man woman's head (or reason), woman man's helpmeet (or
minister), and signify that the child is the subject by perpetually
inculcating obedience as its duty?

Woman resembles man as man resembles God. Man is created in the image
of God, but is not because of this his equal. Woman is made of the
flesh and blood of man, but is his inferior. Bonald's theory chimes
in with Milton's: "He for God only, she for God in him." (_Paradise
Lost_, Book IV.) He says: "The society of the family is a society to
which the man contributes the protecting power of strength, the woman
the necessities of weakness; he _le pouvoir_, she _le devoir_." Thus
does the French philosopher caricature the doctrine of St. Paul, which,
in its day, was a great and noble advance in the direction of the
emancipation of woman.

What, then, is Bonald's definition of marriage? Marriage is the
engagement entered into by two persons of opposite sexes to found a
society--the society which is called a family. It is this engagement
which distinguishes marriage from every other species of cohabitation
of man and woman. Bonald refers with the utmost indignation to
Condorcet's witty saying, that if men have any duty towards the
beings who do not yet exist, it cannot be that of endowing them with
existence. "Indeed it is!" he exclaims. "Marriage exists for the
express purpose of continuing the race." But we are not therefore to
conclude, maintains Bonald, that a childless marriage, that is to say,
a marriage which appears to have failed in accomplishing its purpose,
may be dissolved; for, by annulling the first marriage in order to
legalise a second, the production of children in the first is made
impossible, without their production in the second being positively
ensured. Though a husband and wife have no children, there is always
a possibility that children may come; and since marriage is only
instituted for the sake of the possible children, the fact that they
as yet have none is no reason for annulling it. To Bonald marriage
is the possible society, to which the family, as the real society,
corresponds. "_The object of marriage_" he teaches, "_is not the
happiness of the wedded pair._" What, then, is its object? "_Marriage_"
he answers, "_exists for the sake of society._" In marriage religion
and the state see only the duties which it imposes.

But if marriage exists only for the sake of society, what, we eagerly
ask, is the aim of society? True to his theological dogma, that society
by preserving its tradition, _i.e._ itself, preserves nothing less than
God, Bonald answers (as indeed he must) with the empty formula: _The
aim of society is its own preservation_.[2]

Not a word does he waste upon the vain supposition that institutions
exist for man's sake; not a thought does he bestow on human happiness,
on the development of the race, or the evolution of human greatness.

The one and only vital consideration being the production and welfare
of children, polygamy, the putting away of a wife, and divorce seem
to Bonald all equally reprehensible. He remarks that the introduction
of divorce and the introduction of polygamy seem to follow naturally
one on the other, seeing that Luther (this story appears in every
single book of our period), who permitted divorce, also, though in all
secrecy, countenanced the bigamy of the Landgrave of Hesse. Bonald
declares that he sees no difference between the polygamy which consists
in having several wives at the same time and that which consists in
having them one after the other; he forgets that he hereby pronounces a
second marriage, after the death of husband or wife, to be as culpable
as marriage after divorce. Everywhere, he declares, where divorce is
legal, and where, consequently, a woman is entitled to see in every man
a possible husband, the women are devoid of chastity, or at any rate
of modesty. He instances England as an example--England. He compares
the state of matters in that country, where in given cases divorce is
permitted, with the conditions prevailing among certain savage races,
where the husband obliges his wife's lover, when he catches him _in
flagranti delicto_, to pay for a pig, which the three roast and eat
in company. England, with its comparatively liberal institutions, is
Bonald's and Lamennais' scapegoat. Lamennais says of England that
nowhere else is there to be found a population as blunted, as destitute
of the sense of morality, of higher ideas, of everything that elevates
the mind and ennobles human life.[3]

All this is exaggeration, and of a most untruthful and illogical kind.
But there is both logic and truth in what gives these details their
significance, namely, Bonald's conception of the close connection
between the question of divorce and the whole political question. He
sees that a republic or _democracy_ (the Republic is so obnoxious
to him that he will not even use the word) inevitably leads to the
loosening of the marriage tie.

He writes: "In 1792 divorce was legalised. No one was surprised, for
this was one of the inevitable and long-foreseen consequences of
the process of demolition carried on at that time with such ardour;
but now, when our desire is to re-build, now, divorce entering as a
principle into the edifice of society, shakes that edifice to its very
foundations. Divorce was in harmony with the democracy which has too
long ruled in France under different names and forms. In domestic as
well as in public affairs power was delivered over to the passions of
_the subjects_; there was disorder in the family and disorder in the
state; there was similarity and harmony between the two disorders.
But it is plain to every one that divorce is directly at variance
with the spirit of the hereditary and indissoluble monarchy. If
we retain divorce, we have order in the state and disorder in the
family--indissolubility here, dissolubility there, hence no harmony.
On that side to which man is inclined to bend, the law must prop him
up; in our days it must forbid disorganised natures disorganisation,
as in olden days it forbade half-savage barbarians cruel and bloody
vengeance."

Thus Bonald succeeds in resting his theory of marriage upon his
fundamental principle of sovereignty by the grace of God. The
conclusion he arrives at is that divorce ought to be unconditionally
prohibited, and that simple separation without permission to marry
again is a sufficient remedy for the ills arising from unfortunate
marriages. When his theories became laws, the marriage laws of France,
they produced a state of matters in that country which excited the
ridicule of the whole world--a state of matters which, for example,
made it impossible for a young girl whose bridegroom ran off with her
dowry on the wedding day ever to marry again or have lawful offspring.
In the case of incendiaries and murderers the law permitted the plea of
extenuating circumstances; they might be set at liberty after behaving
well for a certain number of years; but, according to Bonald's doctrine
and the laws of France, the deserted, victimised young girl had not the
same hope of liberty that was extended to the girl who had burned a
whole family in their beds or murdered her own father.

The scheme for a code of civil law prepared by the Convention contained
the following clauses:--

In the matter of marriage men are free to act as they please, that is
to say, marriage comes under the category of matters of conscience.

It is the formation of an alliance in which man and woman stand on an
equal footing.

The contracting parties are free to determine the conditions of their
union.

Husband and wife have or exercise equal rights as regards the disposal
of their property.

Divorce is permissible if desired by both or by one of the spouses.

The law forbids any limitation of the right of divorce.

It appears that the great liberty in the matter of divorce thus
suddenly bestowed was, like all suddenly acquired liberty, abused at
first. Both men and women, without bestowing much thought on their
children, recklessly gave way to ephemeral passions which had neither
the justification nor the dignity of true love. Corresponding phenomena
are to be found throughout all history, wherever fetters have been
broken. But for those who, like Bonald, had no faith in liberty and
believed in no disciplining power except that of restraint, what
occurred sufficiently proved the necessity of returning to the old
order of things.

The ideal marriage (an ideal which will never be lost sight of and
which is sometimes realised) is, of course, that in which the two
united human beings love each other till death, nay, with a love that
lasts beyond death. But this ideal marriage is the result of a rare,
fortunate choice, not of compulsory laws.

For such laws the children formed the natural pretext. Bonald propounds
his doctrine of the rights of the child in the following effective,
admirably expressed proposition: "As the contract of marriage concerns
three persons, the father, the mother, and the child, it cannot be
annulled because two agree in desiring that it should be. Since the
child is under age, society defends its cause against its parents,
and as the child's advocate protests against the dissolubility of
marriage." This argument premises, in the first place, that the
continuance of the marriage at all costs is what is undoubtedly best
for the child, a premise which is distinctly open to doubt. In the
second place, it presupposes the welfare of the child to be the one
vital and all-important matter, a presupposition which only adherents
of the principle of authority can be expected to accept without proof.
And lastly, it takes account only of the children born in wedlock,
regarding the others as non-existent, though it is well known that
one of the saddest results of the traditional order of things is
that not all children are born with equal claims upon their parents,
nor, consequently, upon society. Bonald's social order, in which the
welfare of the child is declared to be of supreme importance, has in
our day led to more than 2,800,000 French men and women being born as
illegitimate children, in an undeserved inferiority to their parents
which is more strongly insisted on in France than in other countries.

But, absurd in many of its details as Bonald's theory is, it is
valuable, nay, precious, as being in all its main features a consistent
application of the principle of authority in the domain of the
family. Bonald has, what semi-liberals never have, a keen perception
of the connection between the political and the social principles
of the Revolution. He is not able, like those whose very essence is
foolish inconsistency, to separate the former from the latter, and to
overlook the fact that the traditional theory of marriage, which is
still in part the accepted one, is most intimately connected with the
traditional theory of the state, which is now generally rejected.

The connection becomes obvious whenever the matter is discussed. The
American slave-owners defended themselves against the accusations of
the abolitionists by declaring that the relations existing between
slaves and their masters were in no respect vitally different from
those existing in the family and in marriage. We see, too, that quite
as much has been said and written against the permissibility of divorce
in any case whatever as would be said and written to-day against a
proposal to increase the facility of divorce, or, indeed, against any
change in the received conception of what makes the union of man and
woman desirable.

In this province, as in every other, the principle of authority has
as its opponent the principle of free thought--in various forms. If
we leave the socialistic theories (which we shall consider later in
connection with the Saint-Simonists) altogether out of the question,
we find authority confronted in the matter under discussion by free
thought in the shape of the principle of individualism, as developed
by English, French, and American thinkers. The code of laws drafted by
the Convention, from which extracts have been given above, is based on
this principle, the fundamental idea of which is that it is not, as is
generally maintained, the family, but the individual human being who
is the main pillar of society, and that this individual is sovereign.
The doctrine of the sovereignty of God, as proclaimed by the devotees
of hereditary autocracy, and the ambiguous doctrine of the sovereignty
of the people, as proclaimed by the revolutionary worshippers of the
majority, are superseded by the doctrine of _the sovereignty of the
individual_ (an expression first employed by the American writer Samuel
Warren, from whom it was borrowed by John Stuart Mill).[4] Sovereignty
of the individual ensures, as the phrase implies, the absolute liberty
of every human being--prohibits any man's usurping any authority or
control whatever over other men. The adherents of this doctrine say:
_Either_ tutelage for every one, _i.e._ censorship of the press, a
regular police-spy system, passports, tariffs, prohibition of divorce,
laws regulating the intercourse of the sexes--the whole system of
arbitrary restriction of the freedom of the individual, _or_ the
sovereignty of the individual, _i.e._ liberty of the press, liberty of
speech, liberty to travel, free-trade, liberty of research, and liberty
in the relations of the sexes. From their standpoint the only possible
vindication of a law which restricts the liberty of the individual is
that the provisional compulsory order of things is merely the speediest
means of arriving at a more perfect order of things with more complete
liberty--for liberty is the ideal of individualism. The thinkers of
this school regard the interference of the state in matters of the
affections as unwarranted; they maintain that the legal tie which keeps
two beings of opposite sexes united is _either superfluous_--when it
is their own wish to remain united, _or revolting_--when it is not
their wish. They hold that society acts most criminally towards a
married couple, one of whom detests the other, if it obliges them to
remain together and bring children into being, the fruit of the desire
of the one and the loathing of the other. They consider it revolting
that society should compel a woman against her will to bear a child
to a drunkard, a child which from its birth possesses its father's
depraved instincts and lusts. And they consider it equally terrible
that a man's whole life should be sacrificed to a connection which
reduces him to despair. They take as much thought of the children yet
unborn as Bonald does of those already in existence. They do not,
like him, see in the fact that it is possible for a woman to become a
mother against her will a proof of the imperfection of woman, but a
proof of the uncivilised condition of society. Clearly perceiving the
interdependence of all the different provinces of human life, they
maintain it to be most improbable that one alone of these provinces
should be, by means of tradition, absolutely rightly ordered, seeing
that the ordering of all the others has been found to be altogether
wrong and has consequently been completely changed in the course of
the last hundred years. Such is the line of argument most frequently
employed by writers of this school.[5] In this case, as in many others,
it is doubtful if pure liberalism points out the right way of arriving
at the desired end. The principle is stated here simply as being the
direct opposite of that of authority. What is undoubtedly desirable,
in this as in every other case, is absolute liberty of investigation.
If a thinker in a Catholic country expresses his opinion freely on
the subject of the mass, or any other of the prescribed rites and
practices of the church, he is, as a rule, dubbed a scorner of religion
in general, if not an atheist. For the orthodox Catholic believes that
"religion" consists in, or at least can only exist in combination
with, certain ecclesiastical traditions and customs with which in his
consciousness it has always been associated. It never occurs to him
that the assailant of these customs may have a far nobler and purer
conception of religion than himself. He has observed that those whom he
has hitherto found wanting in respect for the ordinances of religion
have been disorderly, immoral men, capable of all kinds of foolish
actions. From this he too quickly draws a general conclusion; his
intellect is not sufficiently developed to enable him to distinguish
between the different types of assailants; he confuses the earnest
thinker and champion of a higher truth with the common rabble of
graceless scoffers--confuses his superior with his inferiors.

The very same thing happens in the matter of the traditional conception
of the proper relation of the sexes. The rules and regulations of this
relation in a given country at a given time are no more marriage than
Catholicism in Spain in the eighteenth century is religion. Some men
are below the standard presupposed by the institution of marriage as it
exists, some are above it, whilst the majority in civilised countries
exactly come up to it, bring public opinion into harmony with their
views, and, confounding the two groups of those who think otherwise,
hold them up together to public scorn.

The same idea which leads to the assertion of the principle of
authority in religion and in the state leads to its assertion in the
matter of the relation of the sexes.

The mistake as regards religion consists in the supposition that
the church, because its mission for centuries has been to ennoble,
is of essential importance in the production of nobler feelings and
thoughts--the supposition that love of truth is not natural to man,
increasing with his general development, but must be communicated to
him and kept up in him by the perpetual agency of bishops, priests,
churches, church councils, &c.

The corresponding mistake in the matter of the mutual relations of man
and woman lies in the belief that human beings do not by nature love
order and refinement in this relation, and love it the more the more
highly developed and consequently refined they are, that men do not
instinctively love their children and protect their children's mother,
but that all these qualities and virtues must be first manufactured,
then preserved in the human soul by the aid of legislation--although
the requisite laws are, strangely enough, only produced by the combined
action of all those persons who, taken separately, are supposed to
be devoid of the qualities and virtues in question. Entirely the
opposite of this is the real truth; it is only their love of these same
virtues and blessings which induces men patiently to submit to all the
artificial arrangements and compulsory rules under which they groan.
They submit because it has been impressed on them from their childhood
that such institutions as the existing ones are the only guarantee for
the maintenance of the virtues and benefits they so highly prize.

One result of this state of matters is the repression or complete
prevention of all unprejudiced inquiry into the nature and working of
the human soul; men are trained to accept unquestioningly as truth
everything that bears the warrant of tradition or authority, and the
opponents of the principle of authority are accused of desiring and
favouring immorality.

If a man set himself seriously to ascertain what in our day is the most
degrading and stultifying of all the principles that exist upon this
earth, he could not avoid arriving at the conclusion that the principle
of authority is the one most deserving of this unenviable distinction.

The principle of authority consistently applied produces such axioms
as: Marriage exists for the sake of society, and the object of society
is to preserve itself, or--the same thing differently put: Marriage
in its traditional form is sacred, because it is indispensable to the
preservation of pure morality. And in what does pure morality consist?
In the preservation of marriage in its traditional form.

There is no progress possible on these lines. We go round in a ring
without moving from the spot.

But if, on the contrary, the opponents of the principle of authority
insist: The object of society is the greatest happiness of its
members, and the object of marriage the welfare of the family, we are
left free to find out what this welfare and this greatest happiness
are. And if they further say: "Moral purity consists in that species
of relation between beings of opposite sexes which conduces most
to their development and mutual happiness, taking the farthest off
as well as the immediate results of the union into consideration,"
this definition, supposing it to be accepted or put to the test
of experiment, leaves such freedom for thorough and scientific
investigation into all that concerns the health of the body, of the
soul, and of society as has never before been known.

Order and refinement! These were the watchwords of the champions
of the principle of authority. By all means let us have order and
refinement--but what men have had to learn, and what they will learn
even though it should take them centuries, is that order and refinement
are the work of science or natural development, and never are or can
be the work of arbitrary legislation, or of a criminal code and a
public opinion founded upon tradition and authority. There is no real
ordering, no real order of society but that which is the result of
scientific insight into the nature of man. All societies--the society
called the family as well as that called the state--exist, not for
their own sake, but for the sake of men, for the purpose of enabling
each individual composing them to attain certain great aims and great
benefits. Such aims and benefits are personal development, moral
purity, the education of the young, the protection of women.

If these objects can only be attained in the manner indicated by the
principle of authority, then of course liberty, in so many other
domains regarded as a blessing, is in these domains to be regarded
as a curse, and is to be attacked and exterminated. But if they can
_possibly_ be attained in other ways, possibly be attained _better_
in other ways (and such a possibility is difficult to disprove), if,
finally, the measure of attainment arrived at in the traditional
manner is hardly worth taking into account, then absolutely free
inquiry, without regard to human or superhuman authority, is man's
bounden duty. In a century such as that in which we live the principle
of authority, as the principle which prevents all free inquiry,
is the worst, the most stupid, and the most degrading that can be
imagined, and stands self-condemned. The man who, by deriding or
forbidding free investigation into any social question whatsoever,
prevents, as he undoubtedly does, the suggestion of hypotheses and
the trying of practical experiments which might prove to be of value
to his fellow-men, is a criminal, for whom, if there were equity and
justice upon earth, no punishment would be considered too severe. It
unfortunately happens that the majority of educated men are criminals
of this class, so that the prospect of having them punished is very
slight.

Bonald was such a criminal; but in his outward circumstances we can
find no trace of the pursuit of an avenging Nemesis. He lived to the
age of eighty-six, and was all his life one of the most influential
and respected men of his period. He died in 1840, full of days and of
honour.


[1] Louis de Viel-Castel, _Histoire de la Restauration_, iv. 487.

[2] "La société a pour parvenir à sa fin, _qui est sa conservation, des
lois_". _Du Divorce_, 107.

[3] _Progrès de la révolution et de la guerre contre l'église_, p. 35.

[4] John Stuart Mill, _Autobiography_, p. 256.

[5] See, for example, Stephen Pearl Andrews, _Love, Marriage, and
Divorce_ (New York); also Émile de Girardin, _L'homme et la femme_.



VII

CHATEAUBRIAND


There was no poetry in France under the Empire. Chateaubriand was
doubtless an author with great poetic gifts, but Napoleon was the one
poet in the grand style. Chateaubriand who hated him, felt this. He
writes (in the fourth part of his _Mémoires_): "A marvellous power of
imagination inspired this cold politician; but for his muse he would
not have been what he was. His intellect carried out his poetic ideas."
The long succession of his wars, victories, and defeats was a great
Iliad, the Russian campaign a giant tragedy, with which none written at
a desk could compare.

Even in the days of the Revolution, for kindred reasons, poetry had
disappeared. A few poets still wrote tragedies in the old style; only
they transformed Voltaire's philosophical tragedy into political
tragedy, exploiting the republics of Rome and Greece for the benefit
of the new French Republic, which discovered the prototypes of its
heroes in the men whom it called the sansculottes of Rome and Athens.
But the interest of these plays could not compare with the interest of
the great dramas of the National Assembly and the Convention. Just as
in ancient days the gladiatorial combats destroyed men's appreciation
of plays in which no one was really killed, now the fifth acts of
tragedies seemed flat and stale in comparison with the concluding
scenes in the meetings of the Convention, during which the vanquished
were led off to the scaffold. The dagger of Melpomene could not, in the
long run, compete with the guillotine. Who by means of a poetical work
could produce an emotion at all corresponding to what the audience felt
on the occasion of the impeachment, sentence, and death of the King
and Queen? Who could devise stage plots to compare with Robespierre's
and Danton's plots against Vergniaud and the Girondists, or the snares
that were afterwards laid for Robespierre? We have evidence that this
was the feeling of contemporaries. Ducis, the famous translator of
Shakespeare, replies to a friend who has been urging him to write
for the theatre: "Do not talk to me of tragedies! We have tragedies
in every street. I have but to put my foot out at the door to step
into blood up to the ankles." That there is not much exaggeration
in these words is proved by a letter written by Chaumette in 1793
to the municipal authorities of Paris, in which he complains that
short-sighted persons were constantly exposed to the unpleasantness of
stepping into human blood.

Under Napoleon there is another circumstance to be taken into
account, namely, that France had a master. When an author attempted
any slight deviation from the beaten track, he was promptly checked.
Take Raynouard for an example. His play, _Les États de Blois_, which
had been performed at St. Cloud, was prohibited in Paris by express
order of the Emperor. It was the cannon's turn to speak. The great
cannon in front of the Invalides, which was constantly thundering
out the intelligence of a new victory, drowned every other voice.
And all the hearts full of youthful enthusiasm, all the ardent souls
that at another time would have vented their ardour in poetry, all
those who were most warmly attached to liberty and to the ideas of the
Revolution, crowded to the colours, and endeavoured to forget their
longing for liberty and poetry in the intoxication of martial glory.
Intellectual life was extinguished as a sweet song sung in a room is
stopped by the incessant rattling of heavy carts through the street.
A couple of anecdotes may serve to illustrate the noisiness and the
depression. To the question, "What do you think at this time?" Sièyes
replied, "I do not think." To the question, "What have you done under
the Empire for your convictions?" General Lafayette replied, "I have
remained standing upright."

Two of the arts were susceptible of inspiration by the spirit of the
time--the art of the painter and the art of the actor. Gérard painted
the battle of Austerlitz, Gros the plague scenes at Jaffa, the battle
of Aboukir, and the battle of the Pyramids. Talma, who, as he himself
tells, learned for the first time one evening when he was in company
with the leaders of the Girondists to understand and to represent Roman
Republicans, not as they exist in the imagination of school-boys, but
as men--Talma learned from Napoleon to play the parts of Cæsars and of
kings. According to the well known story, Bonaparte employed Talma to
instruct him in the art of assuming imperial attitudes. The real truth
is the reverse of this. It was from Napoleon that Talma learned the
authoritative deportment, the short, commanding tone, the imperious
gestures which he then reproduced on the stage. When, in 1826, the
great actor lay consumed with raging fever, he carefully examined in a
mirror the traces of madness and terror on his own face, and, half mad
at the time, struck himself on the forehead and cried: "Now I have it!
If I ever act again, I shall do exactly this when I play the part of
Charles VI." Thus passionately did this man love his art. But from his
sick-bed he was not to rise again.

One branch of literature alone acquired an influence which it had not
before possessed--the youngest of all the branches, which had hitherto
been of no importance, but which soon became a power--the newspaper.
The well-known _Journal des Débats_ was started to begin the attack
upon Voltaire and to provide the prevailing ideas of the day with an
organ. The French clerical press employed every possible means to
attain its end. In exactly the same spirit which led it, after the
Franco-Prussian war, to dub Voltaire "the miserable Prussian," it now
searched his letters for passages which might convict him of treachery
to his country. In one of the letters to the King of Prussia the great
Frenchman's detractors discovered the offensive phrase: "Every time
I write to Your Majesty I tremble as our regiments did at Rossbach;"
and they hoped with the aid of quotations such as this to irritate the
victor of Jena with the philosophers of the school of Voltaire. They
emphasised the fact that, according to the testimony of contemporaries,
the principal cause of the faintheartedness shown by the French army
in the war with Frederick was the fanatic admiration of its officers
for that king, a feeling which actually prevented their believing in
the possibility of defeating a general who shared and favoured the
convictions by which they themselves were inspired. In place of drawing
an inference from this favourable to the convictions or ideas in
question, the clerical party drew one unfavourable to the persons who,
like Voltaire, had promulgated these ideas in France; they denounced
them as traitors to their country. The following utterance of the
editor of the _Journal des Débats_ gives us some notion of the general
tone of that paper: "When I say the philosophy of the eighteenth
century, I mean everything that is false in legislation, morals, and
politics." The Neo-Catholics had another newspaper entirely in their
hands, the _Mercure de France_, the most notable contributors to which
were Chateaubriand and Bonald. The authors who formed the remnant of
the army of the eighteenth century attempted to combat the influence of
these powerful journals, but with little success.

In former days the whole energy of the contending parties had been
expended in winning over the reading public, or the nation, to their
respective sides; now the desire of both was to win the favour of the
mighty potentate. The _Journal des Débats_ endeavoured to stir up the
Emperor's wrath against "philosophy." "The philosophers" tried to make
him angry with the _Journal des Débats_. The clerical party denounced
the philosophers as destroyers by profession, who, as such, must
inevitably hate Napoleon, the great master-builder. The philosophers
accused the clericals of intending, as soon as the Emperor's building
was completed, to hand over the keys of it to another.

The future showed that the philosophers were right. The adherents
of the Neo-Catholic school were and remained closely attached to
the old royal family. Their mode of procedure was to praise Delille
because he was in disgrace, and Chateaubriand because, by resigning
his appointment after the execution of the Duke of Enghien, he proved
himself to be an enemy of tyranny. They drew men's attention to all the
good points of the old régime under pretext of writing history.

Napoleon, who kept a keen eye upon journalistic literature, at last
lost patience. A written communication has been preserved which was
put into the hands of one of the Emperor's officials, to be by him
transmitted to Fiévée, the publisher of the _Mercure_ (a man with whom
the Emperor sometimes corresponded privately). Every word in this paper
is significant; note particularly the change from the impersonal third
to the first person singular. There is no direct indication as to who
is the writer of the document; in the beginning it is that indefinite,
anonymous being, the Government, that speaks; then all at once we
feel who is wielding the pen--the lion shows his claws. "Monsieur
de Lavalette will go to Monsieur Fiévée and say to him that in the
_Journal des Débats_, which is read with more attention than the other
newspapers, because it has ten times as large a circulation, articles
have been found, written in a spirit altogether favourable to the
Bourbons, consequently with complete indifference to the welfare of the
state; say that it has been determined to suppress any articles in this
paper that are too ill-affected; that the system pursued is undoubtedly
a system of long-suffering; that it is, however, not enough that they
should not be directly hostile; that the Government has the right to
demand that they shall be entirely devoted to the reigning house, and
that they shall not suffer but oppose everything which can add lustre
to the cause of the Bourbons or evoke reminiscences favourable to
them; that as yet no decisive step has been determined on; that the
inclination is to permit the _Journal des Débats_ to continue to appear
if men are presented to _me_ in whom _I_ can have confidence, and to
whom _I_ can entrust the editorship of the paper."[1]

We observe the direction which events were taking. During the course
of the Emperor's reign Neo-Catholicism lost ever more and more of that
favour which it at first enjoyed, and not until the return of the
Bourbons did it once more completely triumph. Immediately after the
accession of Napoleon, Chateaubriand, Bonald, and De Maistre have full
liberty to write, the _Journal des Débats_ is encouraged to undertake
its crusade against the philosophy of the eighteenth century, the
Pope visits Napoleon in Paris, all honour is shown to the clergy,
Frayssinous preaches where and what he pleases. During the last years
of the Empire the leaders of the Catholic party are compelled to be
silent, the _Journal des Débats_ is suppressed, the Pope is a prisoner,
the clergy are in deep disgrace, and Frayssinous may not preach at
all.--Not until the monarchy was restored was there a rehabilitation of
ecclesiasticism, a confirmation of what had been begun by the Concordat.

It has been said, and said with truth, that no real poetry was written
under the rule of Napoleon; nevertheless an attempt, and by no means an
insignificant attempt, was made at this time to give to the France of
the nineteenth century what Voltaire in his _Henriade_ had attempted
to give to the France of the eighteenth--neither more nor less than a
great national epic.

It cannot be denied that the task was a tolerably hopeless one. At a
time when all Europe was resounding with the names of the heroes of
the new empire, and Napoleon was, as has been said, "binding the open
wounds of France with the flags of her enemies," when the doings of the
day were throwing all the doings of times past into the shade, where
was an author to find a hero for an epic or deeds that would enthral
the reading world?

The enterprise was undertaken by no less a man than Chateaubriand,
the successful initiator of the literary movement of the period, the
most admired author of his day. It was not only inclination but also
a certain feeling of duty which induced Chateaubriand to undertake a
great epic work. In his first work he had maintained that the legends
of Christianity infinitely surpassed in beauty those of heathen
mythology; that they appealed far more strongly to the poet; that the
Christian, as father, husband, lover, bride, was more admirable and
of more value to art than the mere natural being. He felt obliged to
follow up his rule with an example, his theory with proof; and for this
reason, and also to show what he was capable of, he determined to write
a Christian epic.

True to the intellectual tendency of which he had been the first
distinguished exponent, he did not choose modern or active heroes, in
fact did not choose heroes at all, but martyrs as his theme. They also
give the name to his work, _Les Martyrs ou le Triomphe de la Religion
Chrétienne_, which, written as it is in prose, produces more the effect
of an ordinary two-volume novel than of an epic. To understand this
choice of subject we must remember that the point of view of the men
of this school was not really that of the Empire at all, but that of
the returned _émigrés_. They had not yet recovered from the horror
excited in them by the deeds of the Revolution. In the leaders of the
Revolution they saw only men of blood, in the vanquished party only
hapless victims. In their eyes the real hero was not the conqueror, not
the adventurous soldier, but Louis XVI., the innocent sufferer. What
were they if not martyrs, all those Christian priests who in the Days
of September were murdered for the sake of their religion, all those
men and women who died in La Vendée for their loyalty to the King by
the grace of God! Victims as innocent as the Princesse de Lamballe, or
the maidens of Verdun, or the lately executed Duke of Enghien, were
heroines and heroes a thousand times more worthy to be sung than the
men who were defiling themselves with blood on all the battle-fields of
Europe.

In 1802 Chateaubriand conceived the idea of his epic; in 1806 the first
cantos were ready for publication. But the events of the epic were to
happen in all parts of the world known to the Romans. Chateaubriand
was not indolent by nature; it was not his aim to finish the work as
quickly as possible in order to rest upon his laurels. He stopped
short, and in July 1806 went off to travel in Greece, Syria, Egypt, and
Carthaginian Africa, returning through Spain. The one object of this
tour was, he himself gives us to understand in the prefaces to _Les
Martyrs_ and the _Notes of Travel (Itinéraire)_, the perfecting of his
work. In the one preface we read: "This journey was undertaken for the
sole purpose of seeing and painting those districts in which I intended
to lay the scenes of _Les Martyrs_"; in the other: "I did not undertake
this journey in order to describe it. I had a purpose, and that purpose
I have accomplished in _Les Martyrs_; I went in quest of pictures--that
was all."

No, that was not all--neither all that Chateaubriand proposed to
himself in taking the journey, nor even all that he wished others
to see in it. Chateaubriand is Childe Harold before the real Childe
Harold; he is a legitimist and Roman Catholic Byron. His René is the
forerunner of the Byronic heroes; he himself, in his pilgrimages, is
a forerunner of that half-fictitious, half-real Harold whom love of
adventure and longing for new impressions drive from land to land. But
the Byron of the ecclesiastical revival could not, like the English
nobleman who still felt the blood of the Vikings in his veins, rest
satisfied with the honest confession of such a simple motive as this
for his wanderings. It would not have been at all in the spirit of
Chateaubriand's period, nor would it have been in keeping with the
part he played in that period, for him to go to Jerusalem to study
landscape, to cover his palette with colours, and fill his sketch-book
with sketches. When Childe Harold talks of his pilgrimage, he employs
the word in its secondary meaning. Chateaubriand uses it in its
original meaning. He tells every one that he is going to the Holy
Land to strengthen his faith by the sight of all the holy places.
He brings back with him water from the Jordan, and when the Comte
de Chambord is born it is with this water that the royal infant is
baptized. He himself says: "It may seem strange nowadays to speak of
sacred vows and pilgrimages, but in this matter, as every one knows,
I have no feeling of shame; I long ago took my place in the ranks of
the superstitious and weak-minded. I am perhaps the last Frenchman who
will set out for the Holy Land with the ideas, aims, and feelings of
a medieval pilgrim. And though I do not possess the virtues which so
conspicuously distinguished the De Coucys, De Nesles, De Chatillons,
and De Montforts, I have at least their faith; by this sign even the
old crusaders would recognise me as one of themselves."

There is an awkward discrepancy between this utterance and the words
quoted above: "I went in quest of imagery--that was all." And in
Chateaubriand's _Mémoires d'outre-tombe_ we find a confession of yet
another object in his quest of pictures, which throws a curious light
upon the feelings and motives of the would-be pilgrim. He hoped by
his efforts after fame, by his studies and his travels, to win the
favour of a lady with whom he was in love. Taken in itself this is most
natural. Chateaubriand was an ardent lover and frantically ambitious.
It is not surprising that he should have said to himself: Fame,
greater, more deserved, that I may deserve her better, that I may show
her my ardent desire to render myself worthy of her favour! The lady
herself appears to have been ambitious for him, and to have allowed him
to view the possession of herself as a possible, far-off reward of new
efforts. Though we may acknowledge that there is something medieval and
chivalrous in such a relationship as this, an extraordinary confusion
of ideas is none the less proved in the man who talks of a crusade and
a pilgrimage. And yet Chateaubriand was no priestly casuist; he was a
haughty, self-important, cynical aristocrat, who defiantly attached the
colours of the church to his helmet and wore them not only at every
joust but at every rendezvous.

In his _Mémoires d'outre-tombe_ he writes: "But have I in my
_Itinéraire_ really told everything about that voyage on which I
embarked from the port of Desdemona and Othello? Was it in the spirit
of repentance that I sought the sepulchre of Christ? _One single
thought_ consumed me; I counted the moments with impatience. Standing
on the deck of my ship, with my eyes fixed on the evening star, I
prayed for a fair wind to carry me swiftly onwards, for fame--in order
that I might be loved. I hoped to win fame in Sparta, at Mount Zion,
at Memphis, at Carthage, and to carry it with me to the Alhambra.
Would another remember me with as great steadfastness as mine under my
probation?... If I secretly enjoy a moment's happiness, it is disturbed
by memories of those days of seduction, of enchantment, of madness."

This is the language of a modern Tannhäuser, looking back with longing
to his Venusberg. Chateaubriand has evidently forgotten that he had
attributed to himself the emotions and aims of a medieval pilgrim. The
lady who had given him a rendezvous at the Alhambra was a young Madame
de Mouchy, who died insane. Contemporaries represent her as a marvel
of beauty, charm, and refinement. Chateaubriand had been married since
1792. His marriage was undoubtedly a rash and foolish one, but, as the
ardent champion of Christian morality, he ought to have considered
himself bound by it, regardless of circumstances. In his _Mémoires_ he
tells how it came about: "The negotiations were entered into without
my knowledge. I had not seen Mademoiselle de Lavigne more than three
or four times.... I did not feel myself at all fitted to be a husband.
All my illusions were still strong; nothing was exhausted in me; the
vigour of life had been redoubled in me by my travels. I was constantly
tormented by my muse. My sister had a high opinion of Mademoiselle
de Lavigne, and saw in this marriage an independent position for me.
Arrange it, then, said I. As a public man I am not to be influenced,
but in private life I am the prey of any one that chooses to take
possession of me; to avoid an hour's annoyance I could let myself be
made a slave for half a century." Fortunately, he did not feel himself
a slave.

In the rôle of the returned pilgrim, then, he wrote his epic. An
epic in the nineteenth century! In our days no one believes in the
possibility of such a thing. A clearer comprehension than that
possessed by any former age of the historical conditions which went to
the production of the great national epics of antiquity has convinced
us of the vanity of endeavouring in modern times to rival works of the
freshness of the _Iliad_ or the naïveté (in spite of a high degree of
culture) of the _Odyssey_. Just as little as it would occur to any
real poet to-day to imitate the _Vedas_, the _Psalms of David_, or
the _Voluspa_, would it occur to him to attempt to compete with the
immortal works in which, late in the morning of their days, nations,
childlike and yet mature, have told the story of their gods and of
their heroes--as the Greeks have done in their national epics, the
Germans in the _Nibelungenlied_, and the Finns in _Kalevala_. The
epics which, like Virgil's and Tasso's, Camoens', Klopstock's, and
Voltaire's, are conscious, laboured imitations of these old popular
works, and which have transformed the miraculous element in them into
dead epic machinery, have never taken rank with their models; their
comparative value depends upon how close, in time and in spirit, they
are to these models. The more naïveté they display, the colder they
leave us. The epic poems written in modern times which have not been
failures--Goethe's _Hermann und Dorothea_, or Mickiewicz's _Herr (Pan)
Tadeusz_--have entirely dispensed with the appurtenances of the old
epic. But this Chateaubriand had not the slightest intention of doing.
Far from it--he rather meant to add to their number, in order to
exhibit the vast superiority of the Christian to the antique apparatus.

As he has no command of verse, he determines to write his epic in
prose; but, great master of prose as he is, we know in anticipation
how he will grope after a style. And we are sensible, as we read, of
a confusion of influences--Homer, the Revelation of St. John, Dante
and Milton, the Fathers of the Church and Suetonius. The action takes
place in the days of Diocletian; one half of the characters are pagans,
the other half Christians. The hero, Eudore, wins the heart of a young
pagan girl; he converts her, and they die together as martyrs in the
arena of the Colosseum. Her father is a Greek priest of the Homeric
gods. Some of the events happen in ancient Gaul.

His imitation of the Homeric style has led the author into much
artificiality and exaggeration. In the first place he has made his
Greeks too religious. They show the same childlike faith in their gods
as do those Homeric heroes from whom they are separated by the space
of eleven centuries. The Greeks of the age of Eudore were for the most
part confirmed sceptics, and those who still believed in their gods did
it in a rationalistic manner. Chateaubriand's Greek maiden comes upon
Eudore in the forest, while he is resting under a tree. He is young
and handsome. He rises hurriedly when he sees her. "Are not you the
hunter Endymion?" she stammers confusedly. "And you," asks the young
man in his turn, "are not you an angel?" These are not simply polite
speeches; the speakers mean what they say. In Chateaubriand's pages
it is the most simple matter possible for two lovers living in the
most enlightened country in the world to take each other for legendary
characters and supernatural beings. Cymodocée's father says in the same
style to the young man: "Prithee, my guest, forgive my frankness; I
have ever yielded obedience to truth, _the daughter of Saturn_ and the
mother of virtue." Even as far back as the days of Plato a Greek was
perfectly capable of naming truth without mentioning either its parents
or the grandparents of virtue.

We come upon phrases which might have been translated from Homer. When
Cymodocée wants to find out who Eudore is, she says: "In what harbours
has your ship cast anchor? Do you come from Tyre, famed for the wealth
of its merchants? or from beautiful Corinth, after receiving precious
gifts from your hosts?" &c.

This sort of thing is passable in dialogue, but the effect is
distressing when the narrator himself either altogether forgets the
1500 years which separate him from the characters of the story, and
writes as they speak, or else employs expressions borrowed from the
medieval romances of chivalry. He writes, for instance, in Homeric
style: Nothing would have disturbed the happiness of Démodocus, if he
could only have found a husband for his daughter who would have treated
her with proper consideration _after leading her home to a house full
of treasures_. And of Velléda, the Gallican Druidess, we are told, in
the true ballad style: _Fille de roi a moins de beauté, de noblesse et
de grandeur_.

And if the author sometimes writes as if he himself were the last of
the Homeridæ, his characters in retaliation often talk as if they
foresaw the whole course of modern intellectual development. The
Christian bishop, Cyrille, speaking of the heathen myths, says: "A time
will perhaps come when these falsehoods of the childish days of old
will simply be ingenious fables, themes for the song of the poet. But
in our days they confuse men's minds." What an enlightened man!

It is unnecessary to pass the whole work in review. The author's great
ability is only displayed in details and incidental episodes. One
beautiful passage is that in which he describes the arrival of the
Greek family to visit the Christian family, who are all in the field,
binding sheaves; it has a peculiar, idyllic charm which recalls the
Book of Ruth, and yet it breathes the New Testament spirit. The account
of Velléda's death is also very fine. There is all the fire and divine
frenzy of Chateaubriand, the poet's, genius in his representation of
Velléda.

There are longer passages than these well worthy of attention, such
as the description of the battle between the Franks and the combined
armies of the Romans and the Gauls, which, written as it was a number
of years before Sir Walter Scott's historical novels, is significant
and novel with its element of national characterisation. As in all
Chateaubriand's works, the descriptions of nature are fine.

It ought to be observed that when, in his _Memoirs_, Chateaubriand
himself has occasion to write of _Les Martyrs_, he does so with proud
modesty; he shows that he is conscious of the faultiness of the work in
certain respects, and draws particular attention to the small degree
of success it has had in comparison with _Le Génie du Christianisme_.
He ascribes the comparatively unfavourable reception which it met
with at first principally to outward circumstances; and in this he is
right. Napoleon's relations with the Pope were at that moment strained
and unfriendly. What Chateaubriand had written of Diocletian as the
persecutor of the Christians was applied to the Emperor. There were
allusions to the humble circumstances of Napoleon's youth and to his
insatiable ambition in the description of Galerius, and allusions to
his court in the description of Diocletian's.

Hence _Les Martyrs_ was not supported and circulated by the Government,
as Chateaubriand's first work had been. And the clergy, with the Bishop
of Chartres at their head, did not consider the book sufficiently
orthodox; they discovered heresies in it. But in the end, in spite of
everything, it made its way. Four editions were sold in a few years.

What Chateaubriand desired to prove by means of this work was
the peculiar adaptability of the Christian legend, of Christian
supernaturalism, to the use of the poet. What he succeeded in proving
was that in our days orthodox Christian poetry comes centuries too
late. The poets who have dealt with supernatural themes have as a
rule been more successful in their representations of hell than in
their descriptions of the state of the blessed. In Dante a perfect
host of bold figures, so powerfully conceived that they dominate
the whole poem, emerge from the waters and the flames of perdition.
Amongst the damned of the Inferno those whom we remember best are the
almost superhumanly defiant and proud Italian nobles of the poet's own
day--Farinata, for example. As to Milton, his Satan is universally
acknowledged to be his most masterly character; and it has been
maintained, not without reason, that the prototype of this character
is to be sought among those energetic Puritan rebels who, even when
they were overcome, did not cease to defy the royal authority. Each
age paints its Lucifer in its own image. Chateaubriand's rebellious
spirit is not the traditional devil either, but a devil who has
brought about the French Revolution. Every time he and his attendant
courtiers open their mouths it is to utter one or other of the
watchwords of the revolutionary period. In Satan's speech to his army
we are astonished to hear the echo of the oratory of 1792. After a few
introductory Biblical phrases he falls into the style of the hymns of
the Revolution, which Chateaubriand has amused himself by caricaturing.

Satan says: "_Dieux des nations, trônes, ardeurs, guerriers généreux,
milices invincibles, magnanimes enfants de cette forte patrie, le jour
de gloire est arrivé."_

French literature had progressed so far that the Marseillaise was put
into the mouth of the devil by the country's greatest poet.

And what kind of being is he, this devil? A spark of life is
communicated to him by caricaturing Rouget de Lisle. But for this he is
a boneless, bloodless allegorical figure. Watch him descending to his
kingdom. "Quicker than thought he traverses space, which will one day
disappear (a truly marvellous idea, this!); on the farther side of the
howling remains of chaos he comes to the boundaries of those regions
which are as imperishable as the vengeance which created them--cursed
regions, death's grave and cradle, over which time has no power,
and which will still exist when the universe has been carried away
like a tent that is set up for a day; ... he follows no path through
the darkness, but, drawn downwards by the weight of his crimes(!),
descends _naturally_ into hell." In his kingdom he is surrounded by
figures which are either purely allegorical--in which case they are the
funnier the more terrible the author has intended them to be--or else
caricatures of Voltairians and Voltaire, which, in the middle of this
solemn epic poem, produce the effect of scraps of ill-natured newspaper
articles which have found their way in by some mistake.

Death is thus described: "A phantom suddenly appears upon the threshold
of the inexorable portals--it is Death. It shows like a dark spot
against the flames of the burning prison-cells behind it; its skeleton
allows the livid yellow beams of hell-fire to pass through the
apertures between its bones.... Satan, seized with horror, turns away
his head to avoid the skeleton's kiss." And here are two other demons:
"Bound by a hundred knots of adamant (!) to a throne of bronze, the
demon of Despair sits ruling the empire of Sorrow.... At the entrance
of the first vestibule the Eternity of Sufferings lies stretched upon
a bed of iron; he is motionless; his heart does not even beat; in his
hand he holds an inexhaustible hour-glass. He knows and says only one
word--Never." We are reminded of the automaton upon a clock, which says
nothing but Cuc-koo.

These demons are like nothing upon earth, but the prototypes of the
demons of false wisdom are unmistakable. We have seen that all the
ideas of the day on the subject of religion might be summed up in
the one word, _order_. Hence in hell, as well as in heaven, order is
pertinaciously insisted on. Apropos of a quarrel in hell we read: "A
terrible conflict would have ensued if God, who is the sole origin of
all _order_, even in hell, had not reduced the brawlers to silence."
And we are told of the demon of False Wisdom: "He found fault with the
works of the Almighty; he desired in his pride to establish another
_order_ amongst the angels and in the kingdom of heavenly wisdom; it
was he who became the father of Atheism, that horrible spectre whom
Satan himself had not begotten, and who fell in love with Death."

Curiously enough it is precisely a change of order, a change in the
order of precedence in the court of heaven itself, which this most
hateful of all devils has been attempting to make.

He speaks. "The feigned severity of his voice, his apparent calmness,
deceive the blinded crowd: 'Monarchs of hell, ye know that I have
always been opposed to violence; we shall only prevail by gentleness,
by argument, by persuasion. Let me spread among my worshippers and
among the Christians themselves those principles which dissolve the
ties of society and undermine the foundations of empires!'"

Compare with this the description of the philosophers of the day:
"These disciples of a vain science attack the Christians, praise a
life of retirement, live at the feet of the great, and ask for money.
Some of them occupy themselves seriously with the idea of forming a
sort of Platonic commonwealth, peopled by sages, who will spend their
lives together as friends and brothers; others meditate profoundly
on the secrets of nature. Some see everything in mind, others seek
everything in matter; some, although they live under a monarchy, preach
a republic, asserting that society ought to be demolished and rebuilt
upon a new plan; others, in imitation of the Christians, attempt to
teach the people morality. Divided as regards what is good, of one
accord in all that is evil, swollen with vanity, taking themselves
for great geniuses, these sophists invent all manner of extraordinary
notions and systems. At their head is Hieroclos, a man worthy to be the
leader of such a battalion.... There is something cynical and shameless
in his face; it is easy to see how unfit his ignoble hands are to wield
the sword of the soldier, how fit to handle the pen of the atheist or
the sword of the executioner."

These assertions are made of Rome and of Hieroclos, but Paris and
Voltaire are so plainly indicated that proof is unnecessary.

French literature had now come the length of representing Voltaire,
the man who time after time struck the sword out of the hands of the
Catholic executioners and extinguished the flames in which they were
preparing to burn innocent victims, as a man specially cut out for the
trade of executioner. And so careless had the champions of orthodoxy
become that they forgot his obstinate faith in God, and, desiring to
paint the devil as black as possible, represented him as an atheist.
Now, whatever else Satan and his comrades may be, they neither are nor
can be atheists.[1]

Let us turn from Chateaubriand's hell to his Paradise. It is always
difficult to describe heaven. We all know what hell is, but when heaven
is in question a certain feeling of embarrassment comes over us.
Information is scarce, as a French lady said. And to describe it was
doubly difficult at the time when Parny, in his _Guerre des Dieux_,
had, so to speak, produced in anticipation a parody of any such attempt
that might be made. Fragments of Parny's graceless poem were still in
all men's minds. Its best scenes, such as the arrival of the Trinity
at Mount Olympus, and the return visit paid in heaven by the gods,
are really witty, although the style, instead of corresponding to the
imposing title, is as smooth and polished as the paintings of "Velvet"
Breughel. Yet even Parny's scurrility did not make the heaven of
orthodoxy as comical as it is made by Chateaubriand's enthusiasm.

"In the centre of the created worlds, in the midst of the innumerable
stars which serve as ramparts, roads and avenues, is suspended the
great city of God, of which no mortal tongue can tell the marvels. The
Almighty himself laid its twelve foundation stones, and surrounded
it with that wall of jasper which the beloved disciple saw the
angel measuring with the golden reed. Clothed with the glory of the
Most High, Jerusalem is adorned like a bride for her bridegroom....
Richness of material vies with perfection of form. Here hang in mid-air
galleries of sapphires and diamonds, which the genius of man feebly
imitated in the gardens of Babylon. There rise triumphal arches, built
of dazzling stars. Arcades of suns traverse the endless spaces of the
firmament...."

A native of Copenhagen is irresistibly reminded by all this of the
glories of "Tivoli" as they revealed themselves to his childish eyes on
evenings when the grounds were illuminated.

We are allowed a glimpse of the interior of the holy city. Here the
choirs of cherubim and seraphim, angels and archangels, principalities
and powers, are perpetually meeting and separating. These beings, who,
it would seem, had not been entirely safe from ridicule, seeing that
Parny had belaboured them so unmercifully[2], now hold a new triumphal
entry. From this time onward they become regular denizens of the realm
of poetry; we find the whole host assembled even in De Vigny's _Eloa_
(1823) and in Victor Hugo's _Odes_ (livre i., ode 5, ode 9, ode 10). We
learn what their occupations are; "Some are the keepers of the 20,000
war-chariots of Zebaoth and Elohim, others guard the quivers of the
Lord, his deadly thunderbolts, and the terrible horses which are the
carriers of pestilence, war, famine, and death. One million of these
ardent beings order the courses of the stars, relieving each other in
this glorious occupation like the vigilant sentinels of a great army."
In Parny's poem their occupation is less arduous. The duty he assigns
to them, because of their limited intelligence, is principally that
of acting as decorations. They stand in rows along the walls and look
on.[3]

All the things which Chateaubriand's angels guard lie, as it were, in
a great arsenal ready for use on given occasions. In the following
description we see them in use. The occasion is the proclamation by
the Trinity to the blessed saints of Eudore's approaching martyrdom:
"When these vicissitudes of the church had been communicated to the
elect by a single word of the Almighty, there was silence in heaven
for the space of half-an-hour. All the celestial beings cast their
eyes to the ground. From the heights of heaven Mary let a first look
of love fall upon the poor victim confided to her tender care. The
palms of the confessors grew green again in their hands. The glorious
squadron opened its ranks to make room for the new martyrs." Michael,
the dragon-slayer, shoulders his redoubtable spear; his deathless
comrades don shining cuirasses; diamond and golden shields, the quivers
of the Lord, and the flaming swords are taken down from the vaulted
roof of heaven; the wheels of the chariot of Immanuel turn upon their
axles of fire and lightning; the cherubim spread their rushing wings,
"_et allument la fureur de leurs yeux_." This is half masquerade, half
ballet.

But let us pass from these adjuncts to bliss itself. We find it thus
described: "The chief happiness of the elect lies in the consciousness
that their bliss is boundless; they experience for ever the delectable
feelings of the mortal who has just done a virtuous or heroic deed,
or of the genius in the act of conceiving a great idea, or of the man
enjoying the delights of legitimate (!) love or of a friendship tried
by long misfortune. The grandeur and the omnipotence of the Almighty
are the constant theme of their discourse. 'O God,' they cry, 'how
great Thou art!'"

Chateaubriand has not succeeded in making heavenly bliss particularly
attractive. Our first feeling is apt to be one of pity for the
unfortunate Deity thus compelled eternally to listen to his own
praises. He is thus described: "Far from the eyes of the angels is
accomplished the mystery of the Trinity. The Spirit which mounts and
descends perpetually from the Son to the Father and from the Father
to the Son unites itself with them in these unfathomable depths. A
triangle of fire appears at the entrance to the Holy of Holies. The
awe-stricken spheres stop in their courses, the hosannas of the angels
are silenced.... The fiery triangle disappears, the sanctuary opens,
and the three Potentates are seen. The Father sits upon a throne of
clouds, a compass in his hands, a sphere beneath his feet; on his right
hand sits the Son, armed with lightnings; on the left the Holy Spirit
rises like a pillar of fire. Jehovah gives a sign, and time, reassured,
continues its course."

We are not informed how many times in the day, week, or month this
magnificent ceremony takes place. Possibly it is in the intervals of
these accomplishments of the mystery of the Trinity that the Divine
Being divides itself, for at times it appears to be divided: "Appealed
to by the God of mercy and peace on behalf of the threatened church,
the mighty and terrible God made known his plans to the assembled hosts
of heaven."[4]

On ordinary occasions the Son sits at a mystic table, and four and
twenty elders, clothed in white, with crowns of gold on their heads,
sit upon thrones by his side. Close by stands his living chariot, the
wheels of which emit fire. When the Expected of the Nations deigns to
vouchsafe a perfect vision of himself to the elect, they fall down
before him as if dead; but he stretches forth his right hand and says
to them: "Rise, ye blessed of my Father! Look upon me. I am the First
and the Last!"

We feel as if this performance must lose much of its impressiveness by
repetition.

As an example of the supernaturalness of this heaven, it may be
mentioned that the raiment of the holy elders is made _white_ in the
blood of the Lamb. That it is a modern production we observe from the
fact that, in spite of the remarkable arbitrariness which prevails, its
author has not escaped the influence of the spirit of his day, for even
in this heaven we hear of laws of nature. We are told of the blessed
that they desire to comprehend the laws which explain the easy flight
of heavy bodies through the ether. This is a sort of anticipation of
the standpoint in Byron's _Cain_.

From the artistic point of view it is interesting to observe the
kind of imagery by means of which Chateaubriand, when he is neither
borrowing from the Revelation of St. John nor from Milton, attempts
to give an idea of the glories of heaven. When Dante makes the same
attempt, he has recourse to visions, to the glories of that mystic rose
which the Gothic cathedral builders feebly endeavoured to imitate;
but Chateaubriand, the man of modern ideas and of much experience as
far as the outward world is concerned, has recourse to impressions of
travel. The arcades of heaven are compared to the gardens of Babylon,
to the pillars of Palmyra in the sands of the desert. When the blessed
spirits are hastening through the created world we are told of the
scene that displays itself to them: "Thus present themselves to the
eye of the traveller the great plains of India, the fertile valleys
of Delhi and Kashmir, shores covered with pearls and fragrant with
ambergris, where the tranquil waves lay themselves to rest beneath the
blossoming cinnamon trees." Such imagery is somewhat too realistic for
the spiritual theme. We shrink from representing all these archangels
to ourselves in Indian surroundings. But it is in such ways that nature
revenges herself upon the man who believes he can set her aside or
can produce something superior to her productions. A later author of
this same school, De Vigny, who writes as much under the influence of
Ossian as of Milton, compares the ether of the firmament to the mists
of the Scottish mountains. The indistinct form of Lucifer descried
far off in space by the angel Eloa is compared to the waving plaid of
some wandering Scotchwoman, seen through the misty clouds falling on
the hill-tops. The conjunction of an angel and a plaid strikes us as a
curious one.

The scenery which this group of authors considers unquestionably the
most beautiful is not the jumbled, potpourri landscape of the German
Romanticists; no, what they, in harmony with the spirit of their day,
admire is that Paradisaic landscape in which the strictest order
prevails--symmetrical, architectural, a sort of dilution of Claude
Lorraine. Take, for an example, the commencement of De Vigny's _Le
Déluge_:

     La terre était riante et dans sa fleur première;
     Le jour avait encor cette même lumière
     Qui du ciel embelli couronna les hauturs
     Quand Dieu la fit tomber de ses doigts créateurs.
     Rien n'avait dans sa forme altéré la nature,
     Et des monts _réguliers_ l'immense architecture
     S'élevait jusqu' aux cieux par ses degrés _égaux_
     Sans que rien de leur chaîne eût brisé les anneaux.
            *       *       *       *       *
     Et des fleuves aux mers le cours était _réglé_
     Dans un _ordre_ parfait qui n'était pas troublé.
     Jamais un voyageur n'aurait, sous le feuillage
     Rencontré, loin des flots, l'émail du coquillage,
     Et la perle habitait son palais de cristal;
     Chaque trésor restait dans l'élément natal,
     Sans enfreindre jamais la céleste défense.

This partiality for model, ideal landscape tempts our authors more and
more frequently to lay the scenes of their works in heaven.

Chateaubriand continues to be a greater master in the description of
earthly than of heavenly surroundings.

The action of De Vigny's earliest poems takes place, in genuine
Seraphic style, midway between heaven and earth.

The scene of Victor Hugo's ode, _Louis XVII._, is the gate of heaven,
that of _La Vision_ heaven itself, the heavenly Jerusalem. In _La
Vision_ we come upon familiar imagery:

     Le char des Séraphins fidèles,
     Semé d'yeux, brillant d'étincelles,
     S'arrêta sur son triple essieu;
     Et la roue aux traces bruyantes,
     Et les quatres ailes tournoyantes
     Se turent au souffle de Dieu.
      *       *       *       *
     Adorant l'Essence inconnue
     Les Saints, les Martyrs glorieux,
     Contemplaient, sons l'ardente Nue,
     Le Triangle mystérieux.

Though Lamartine in his first works lingers lovingly over terrestrial
scenes, he yet constantly soars in hymns into the celestial ether
where, as he tells us, sacred poetry dwells, crowned with palms and
stars.

Lord Byron, who, like De Vigny, writes a poem on the Flood (_Heaven and
Earth_), is also partial to ether, though not such theological ether,
as a surrounding; but he loves wilder scenery, and it is as the painter
of the sea that he finds his true sphere. He lifts poetry out of its
ethereal environment and deposits it in the fresh, salt element.

Chateaubriand, then, hardly succeeded in proving what he wished to
prove, the superiority of Christianity to the purely human sources
of poetic inspiration. Each time he attempts to do so he exposes or
condemns himself. I adduce one other striking example of this.

His hero, Eudore, sailing up the Gulf of Megara, with Ægina in front
of him, Piræus on the right and Corinth on the left, sees all these
towns, which once were so flourishing, lying in ruins. A Greek
fellow-passenger is moved to tears by the remembrance of his country's
ancient glory, and we are told in touching words how the individual
feels as if his individual griefs disappeared when he is brought
face to face with the great, overwhelming calamities which crush
whole nations. Then Eudore says: "Such an idea seemed to be beyond my
youthful grasp, and nevertheless I understood it, whilst the other
young men who were on board did not. What caused this difference
between us? Our religions. They were pagans, I was a Christian."

Chateaubriand plainly desires to impress upon us that such an
appreciation of natural surroundings and the lessons taught by them
is a special possession of the Christian, of which the pagan, as
pagan, is destitute. But his position is considerably weakened by our
knowledge that the utterance referred to by Eudore is nothing more nor
less than a translation from a famous letter written by Sulpicius to
Cicero,[5] that the sentiments in question are actually the sentiments
of a pagan. We can hardly be expected to accept this as a proof of the
pagan's want of poetic feeling. But the trait is typical. Throughout
all Chateaubriand's writings dogmatic religion is constantly proclaimed
to be in possession of certain supernatural beauties and qualities of
which nature, as nature, is devoid; and yet everything in that religion
which is of poetical or moral value is simply an expression of human
nature. As Feuerbach puts it: "Every theory of God is, in its essence,
a theory of human nature."

Passing this half audacious, half conventional work, _Les Martyrs_,
once again in review, we cannot deny that the part of it which directly
treats of the supernatural world of Christianity is a failure. Indeed,
Chateaubriand himself openly confesses as much in his _Memoirs_.
The parts which have any real value are the purely human parts, one
of which we shall presently criticise. It was inevitable that the
doubt and indifference of the century concerning the supernatural
world should set its mark on the work of an author whose own
religious enthusiasm was as much a matter of deliberate intention and
determination as Chateaubriand's.

Chateaubriand was not a conscious hypocrite, but he deceived
himself. Proof of the manner in which he himself was affected by the
reading of his _Martyrs_ is to be found in that refined and charming
autobiographical work, which all agree in accepting as reliable--_Les
Enchantements de Prudence_, by Madame de Saman, otherwise Madame Allart
de Méritens, the last woman whom Chateaubriand loved, and who loved him
in return.

This lady tells how, in the summer of 1828, they used to meet at the
Pont d'Austerlitz and dine together in the Jardin des Plantes in a
private room. "He ordered champagne, to dispel my coldness, as he said;
and then I sang to him Béranger's songs--_Mon âme, La bonne vieille.
Le Dieu des bonnes gens_, &c. He listened as if enchanted." She paints
these meetings in the warmest colours,[6] and she mentions that it was
one of Chateaubriand's greatest pleasures to listen to her reading
passages from his works. (Both in this book and elsewhere Madame de
Saman shows herself to have been possessed of excellent literary
taste.) He especially loved to hear her read his descriptions of
landscape. "But sometimes," she says, "to affect him more profoundly,
I produced _Les Martyrs_, and read the speeches and thanksgiving
hymns of the confessors, or the thrilling prison and torture-chamber
scenes. Then he could not restrain his tears. One day he began to
weep; I continued to read; he sobbed convulsively; I still went on,
and when I came to the passage which tells how Eudore secretly offered
to sacrifice himself in order to win the salvation of his mother,
who had been too weak in her love for her children, he could contain
himself no longer, and burst into a passion of tears and sobs. It was
a case of emotions returning to their source. His highly strung nerves
gave way. Completely overcome, exhausted with weeping, he expressed
his gratitude to me, said that he had never experienced such rapture,
called me by all the sweet names men give to the Muses, told me that I
was beautiful, more especially praised my eyes and their expression,
imagining in the ardour of his passion that he had never seen
anything like them before." The lady was at this time about twenty,
Chateaubriand exactly sixty years old.

This quotation shows us that even such frigid passages in _Les Martyrs_
as the speeches of the white-robed elders had really been _felt_ by
the author himself. We are touched by this young and noble woman's
enthusiastic admiration for an old man, and the man himself rises in
the reader's estimation from the fact of his being able, even at that
age, to win the love of such a woman. But it is in strange surroundings
that we come upon this outburst of strong emotion, a thing so rare
with Chateaubriand that it may almost be called unique. Champagne, the
songs of his political and religious opponent, Béranger, caresses and
declarations of love, fits of weeping and sobbing over _Les Martyrs_,
followed by more love-making! What an environment for the epic of
orthodoxy! What an excess of human passion in a Seraphic poet, a former
minister of state and pilgrim to Jerusalem![7]

_Les Martyrs_ shows Chateaubriand's weakest side as an author. Such
a scene as that described with the best intentions by Madame Allart
de Méritens shows his weakest side as a man. And yet this outburst of
human passion makes almost a satisfactory impression upon us compared
with the artificiality by which he is so often distinguished. God and
the king are too constantly in his mouth. We must not, however, allow
this artificiality to blind us to what is really great in the talent
and in the life of this remarkable personage.

In order to get a complete impression of Chateaubriand it is necessary
to read the twelve volumes of _Mémoires d'outre-tombe_, as also those
by which they are supplemented. Just as Rousseau's _Confessions_
form the most interesting of his books, so the _Mémoires_ constitute
Chateaubriand's most impressive work. In them we find a complete
personality--a whole man, and that a man of mark. This important
personage, who possesses no great acuteness of observation as far as
humanity in general is concerned, who, in fact, occupies himself very
little with humanity in general, has focussed all his acuteness upon
the one subject which really interests him, his own ego, and has half
consciously, half unconsciously, but in any case very completely,
revealed and exhibited it to us. It is an ego proud to the verge
of arrogance, melancholy to the verge of despondency, sceptical to
the verge of indifference, without faith in progress of any kind,
profoundly persuaded of the vanity of even those things which afford
it temporary pleasure, such as love, fame, worldly position, and, as
time goes on, ever more saturated with ennui and ever more absorbingly
occupied with itself. It is an ego which owns a warm, prolific
imagination and great artistic talent, and which, at a period (the end
of the eighteenth century) when taste was all in favour of the light,
the pretty, the small, felt itself solitary in its love of the grand,
of the beauty of magnitude.

In a certain sense Chateaubriand was like no other man of his day.
He satisfied, as we saw, the requirement of the moment so exactly
with his _Génie du Christianisme_ that, as a sort of intellectual
standard-bearer, he acquired an importance out of proportion to his
character and talent.

In so far the moment at which he made his appearance magnified him.

But, looking at the matter from the other side, it may be maintained
with equal certainty that the moment at which he entered upon his
career forced on him a part which, for half a century, brought him into
conflict with his own inmost nature. That nature was always rebelling
against the part; the man's independence and uncontrollableness were
in perpetual collision with the politico-religious orthodoxy which it
had become his life-task to give expression to and champion. In other
words, his position in the world involved him in incurable discord with
himself.

In his old age he sometimes plainly confesses this. Towards the
conclusion of his work on the congress of Verona he says openly: "As an
officer of the regiment of Navarre I had come back from the forests of
America to join legitimate monarchy in its exile and to fight under its
banner _against my own judgment_ (contre mes propres lumières)--_all
this without conviction_, simply from a soldier's sense of duty, and
because I, having had the honour of driving in the royal carriages
from and to Versailles, considered myself peculiarly bound to support
a prince of the blood royal."[8] We find him, however, only two pages
farther on in the same book ascribing the fortunate issue of the war
in Spain, which he had forced on against the desire of France, Spain,
and England, less to his own ability, which he is not at all given to
undervaluing, than to "one of the latest miracles performed by Heaven
for the race of St. Louis."

Here, as in all his later works, he makes a marked difference between
monarchy as an idea and the person of the monarch. He tries to
reconcile avowed, unaltered loyalty to ideas with a frank contempt for
the capacities and characters of kings.

There is no doubt that the foolish ingratitude of the Bourbons towards
the man to whom they owed so much added largely to this contempt. But
in his Memoirs he shows that it began early; he would have us believe
that it dated from his earliest acquaintance with Louis XVIII, and
his environment. He soon perceived that King Louis did not favour
him, and it wounded his pride to find that the King's brother, the
future Charles X., had not read one of his books, not even _Le Génie
du Christianisme_. Looking back on his past life he writes: "Louis the
Eighteenth and his brother did not understand me at all. The latter
said of me: 'Good-hearted and hot-headed!' These hackneyed words ...
were completely misapplied. My head is very cool, and my heart has
never beat very warmly for kings."

The old monarchy, unless it actually felt itself so self-dependent
as to be indebted to no one, was bound to regard itself as under
obligation to Chateaubriand, not only because, as an officer in Condé's
army, he had fought and suffered in its cause, not only because, under
Napoleon, he had stopped midway in his career and defied the mighty
potentate by sending in his resignation after the execution of the
Duke of Enghien, but also because, in 1814, even before Napoleon's
abdication at Versailles, he had influenced public opinion in favour of
the Bourbons by means of a pamphlet which Louis XVIII himself declared
to have been as useful to him as a hundred thousand soldiers.

The pamphlet in question, _Buonaparte et les Bourbons_, is perhaps
the most passionate, most vindictive, most venomous, and most
artificially enthusiastic party work written by Chateaubriand. It is
an insane shriek of hatred of the fallen Napoleon, who is stripped of
every fragment of his glory, and a hurrah of hollow enthusiasm for
sunken-chested Louis XVIII, who is deified. In no other work does
Chateaubriand display so much vindictive stupidity. He goes so far
as to deny Bonaparte's ability as a general. He describes him as an
incompetent officer, who could do nothing but command his troops to go
forward, and who gained his victories simply by the excellence of these
troops and not by his conduct of them, as a commander who never ensured
and never knew when to make a retreat, and who, far from improving
the art of war, led it back to its infancy again.[9] The Marquise de
Seiglière in Sandeau's famous comedy does not talk greater nonsense
about Napoleon.

Louis XVIII, on the other hand, is called a prince famed for his
sagacity. We are told that, of all the rulers possible for France at
the moment, he is the one most suited to the position of the country
and the _spirit of the century_, whilst Bonaparte is the one of all
others least fit to reign.

This is what we find in the official pamphlet. But how differently
Chateaubriand thinks and speaks in his Memoirs! In them he does justice
to Bonaparte's military skill; he says of him that "he invented war in
the grand style;" and he has also suddenly discovered that the winning
of one battle after another is no inconsiderable part of the duty of
a general. Because they flatter his own vanity, he relates various
anecdotes which show how Napoleon, unbiassed by his (Chateaubriand's)
hatred, displayed his appreciation of him. After Chateaubriand had
turned against him, Napoleon demanded to be informed by the Academy,
why a prize had not been awarded to the _Génie du Christianisme_. And
when (at Fontainebleau) he had read with perfect calmness the offensive
pamphlet described above, he merely remarked: "_This_ is correct;
_that_ is not correct. I do not blame Chateaubriand. He was my enemy in
my day of prosperity; but those miscreants," &c, &c. Apropos of this,
Chateaubriand makes the amusing and surprising remark: "My admiration
of Bonaparte (this time without the _u_) has always been great and
sincere." He is undoubtedly telling the truth. He admired and envied
Napoleon. He measured himself with him and felt the disadvantage of
having such a contemporary.

In his Memoirs he also tells the truth about those kings for whom he
professed such loyalty and reverence.

He tells that in 1814 he dreaded the impression likely to be produced
by Louis XVIII's personal appearance, and he gives a copy of the
high-flown description which he in consequence circulated of the King's
entry into Paris, a description which he wrote, he says, without being
asked to do so, and without any taste for such compositions, but
_beautifying everything with the aid of the Muses_. "A man makes his
appearance before the officers, who have never seen him, before the
grenadiers, who hardly know him by name. Who is this man? He is the
King! One and all fall down at his feet."

Then he tells the real facts of the entrance, and calmly remarks: _I
lied with regard to the soldiers_. He gives a fine description of the
attitude of the remnant of Napoleon's Old Guard, who were drawn up
outside Notre Dame, and through whose ranks the King had to pass. "I
do not believe that human countenances ever wore a more terrible and
threatening expression." He declares that they looked as if they were
on the point of cutting the King to pieces.

And he makes no endeavour to show the baselessness of their contempt.
After telling how his plan of defence during the Hundred Days was
foiled by the cowardliness of the King and his immediate following,
he exclaims: "Why did I come into the world _in an age in which I am
so out of place?_ Why have I been a Royalist _against my instinct_ at
a time when a miserable tribe of courtiers would not listen to me,
could not understand me? Why was my lot cast amongst that crowd of
mediocrities who looked on me as a madman when I spoke of courage, as a
revolutionist when I spoke of liberty?"[10]

As the Memoirs advance, the champion of monarchy throws ever more light
upon the piety, understanding, and character of Louis XVIII. "It is
to be feared that to_ the most Christian King's_ religion was no more
than a medicinal liquor, well adapted to form one of the ingredients
of the brew called monarchy." He writes of "the voluptuous imagination
which the King had inherited from his father." He remarks that he was
fond of praising himself and making fun of himself at the same time;
for instance, when speaking of possible heirs to the throne, "he drew
himself up with a capable, arch air; but it was not my intention to
dispute the King's ability in this or any other matter."[11] When
giving a more minute description of Louis's character, he says:
"Selfish and devoid of prejudices, it was his aim to preserve his
own tranquillity at all costs.... Without being cruel, the King was
inhuman." He tells how Louis boasted of being able to raise a favourite
so high as to make him the object of universal envy, and thereupon
remarks: "To be able to raise others, one must be certain of not
falling one's self. But what were kings in the days of Louis XVIII.?
Though they could still make a man rich, it was no longer in their
power to make him great. They were now nothing but their favourites'
bankers."

And not content even with such severe language as this, Chateaubriand
at times takes to satire. In his account of the Congress of Verona he
tells how it came about that he at one time stood so high in the King's
favour that his fellow-ministers were positively jealous of him: "The
King often went to sleep in the Cabinet Council; and it was the best
thing he could do, for when he was not asleep he told stories. He had
a great gift of mimicry. But this did not amuse M. de Villèle, who
wished to discuss affairs of state. M. de Corcière put his elbows, his
snuffbox, and his blue pocket-handkerchief on the table; the other
ministers listened in silence. I alone could not help being amused by
His Majesty's anecdotes, and this evidently delighted him. When he was
searching for an excuse to tell a story, he would say in his little
thin, clear voice: 'I want to make M. de Chateaubriand laugh.'"[12]

It does not surprise us that Chateaubriand, after demonstrating how
in a democratic community men make their way by talking volubly of
liberty, the progress of humanity, the future, &c, should wind up
with the following description of the conditions prevailing in the
aristocratic, royalist society, the praises of which he had always
sung: "Play whist, bring out with an air of seriousness and profundity
the impertinences and witticisms which you have prepared, and the
brilliant career of your genius is assured."

Thus completely was the man who inaugurates the half-beliefs, the
æsthetic Christianity, and the affected royalism of the nineteenth
century cured of all illusions.

He was too proud to wear his mask to the end, and he threw it off
completely "beyond the grave."

He himself names as his "chief faults" ennui, disgust with everything,
and constant doubt. These faults had their good sides. Profound
indifference to all this world has to bestow preserved him from the
temptations of base ambition; doubt preserved him from placing implicit
confidence in the doctrines which a spirit of aristocratic defiance
more than anything else led him to champion; his pride sustained him,
and though it did not preserve him from hypocrisy, it kept him from
ever committing a mean action. But, until the ingratitude of the
authority which he had reinstated roused him to rebellion, there was a
hopeless discord between his nature and the part he played.


[1] Paul Heyse expresses this thought in an excellent epigram:

     Bist du schon gut, weil du gläubig bist?
     Der Teufel ist sicher kein Atheist.


[2]

     O honte, ô crime! on rosse les Puissances,
     On jet à bas dix mille intelligences
     Qui figuraient dans les processions;
     De leurs gradins les Trônes on renverse,
     On foule aux pieds les Dominations
     Et des Vertus le troupeau se disperse.
      ... l'on jet à leur nez,
     Devinez quoi? les têtes chérubines
     Aux frais mentons, aux lèvres purpurines.
       Parny, _La Guerre des Dieux_, canto 10.


[3]

     Propres sans plus à garnir les gradins,
     À cet emploi se borne leur génie,
     C'est ce qu'au bal nous autres sots humains
     Nous appelons: faire tapisserie.


[4]

     _Cf_. Parny:
     Étaient-ils trois, ou bien n'étaient-ils qu'un?
     Trois en un seul; vous comprenez, j'espère?
     Figurez-vous un vénérable père,
     Au front serein, à l'air un peu commun,
     Ni beau, ni laid, assez vert pour son âge
     Et bien assis sur le dos d'un nuage ...
     De son bras droit à son bras gauche vole
     Certain pigeon coiffé d'un auréole ...
     Sur ses genoux un bel agneau repose,
     Qui, bien lavé, bien frais, bien délicat,
     Portant au cou ruban couleur de rose,
     De l'auréole emprunt aussi l'éclat.
     Ainsi parut le triple personnage....



[5] _Ad familiares_, lib. iv. Epist. 5.

[6] "In this condition he was more enamoured, more vivacious; he told
me that I gave him the most rapturous pleasure, called me a seductress,
&c, and in that secluded place did what he pleased" (Madame de Saman,
_Les Enchantements de Prudence. Avec préface de George Sand_, 1873, pp.
166, &c).

[7] Chateaubriand, _Les Martyrs_, more particularly books iii. and
viii.; _Mémoires d'outre-tombe_; Sainte-Beuve, _Chateaubriand et
son groupe littéraire sous l'Empire_; Nettement, _Histoire de la
littérature française sous la Restauration_, i., ii.

[8] _Congrès de Vérone_, ii. 527.

[9] _Buonaparte et les Bourbons_, pp. 36, 37.

[10] _Mémoires d'outre-tombe_, 1849, iv. 452, &c, vi. I, &c.

[11] "Et il se rengorgea d'un air capable et goguenard; mais je ne
prétendais disputer au Roi aucune puissance."

[12] _Mémoires d'outre-tombe_, viii. 216, 222; _Congrès de Vérone_, i.
172, ii. 525.



VIII

MADAME DE KRÜDENER


Amongst the personages of the day we come upon one class peculiarly
characteristic of this period, namely, the converts. In an anxiously
religious age following upon one of little faith this class was
inevitably a numerous one. Laharpe's conversion during the very course
of the Revolution had excited much attention. Chateaubriand himself
was a convert. It is possibly the converts who help us to the clearest
understanding of the nature of the new spirit, for in them we see it
striving with and overcoming the old. The convert is, moreover, always
ardent; he is full of his new belief, and consequently has, or affects,
a peculiarly expressive countenance. The rule that the spirit of a
period mirrors itself typically in that period's leading characters
holds doubly good in the case of the individual whose character it is
to be converted, especially if that individual is a woman. History
contains no record of a woman, with her receptive nature, having led
her age onward to new development, but some woman generally presents us
with a specially marked type of the character of her age. The _émigrés_
group themselves round Madame de Staël, the leaders of Romanticism
rally round Caroline Schlegel, and the age of the rehabilitation of
religion finds poetically pious expression in Madame de Krüdener.

In Madame de Staël's _Delphine_ there is a scene in which the
heroine enchants a large company with her graceful and expressive
performance of a certain foreign dance, the shawl-dance. This scene
had a foundation of reality. Her beautiful dancing was one of the
many things for which the young and charming Baroness de Krüdener was
remarkable. In _Delphine_ we read: "Never did grace and beauty produce
a more remarkable effect upon a numerous assembly. This foreign dance
has a charm of which nothing we are accustomed to see can give any
idea. It is an altogether Asiatic mixture of indolence and vivacity,
of melancholy and gaiety.... Sometimes when the music became softer
Delphine walked a few steps with head bent and arms crossed, as if
some memory or some regret had suddenly intermingled itself with the
joyousness of a festival; but, soon recommencing her light and lively
dance, she enveloped herself in an Indian shawl, which, showing the
contours of her figure and falling back with her long hair, made of her
a perfectly enchanting picture." The word _Asiatic_ is unmistakably
the characterising word. In 1803 Joubert writes of Madame de Krüdener:
"She is charming, with something Asiatic about her--nature exaggerated.
Such extreme tenderness of feeling can hardly exist without a touch of
extravagance."

Julie Barbe (Juliane Barbara) de Vietinghof was born in 1764 at Riga,
in Livonia. Her education was conducted half on French, half on German
lines. Her father was a distinguished, sagacious man of the world, a
philosopher and Freemason, an art-lover and a Mæcenas; her mother,
a sensible, conscientious woman, had been brought up on strict,
old-fashioned Lutheran principles. Both parents belonged to the highest
class of the old German-Russian aristocracy of the Baltic Provinces,
and were connected with the Russian court.

The first teacher who made a real impression upon their young daughter,
and whose instructions powerfully influenced her future, was the famous
Parisian ballet-dancer, Vestris. At the age of eighteen Julie married
Baron de Krüdener, a Russian diplomatist, a man fifteen years her
senior, who had already been married twice, and had been divorced from
both his wives. Her heart had no share in this union; the match was
considered an excellent one, her vanity was gratified, and she had no
manner of objection to her husband. He seems to have been a sensible,
worthy, well-educated man, cultivated and calm, by no means devoid of
feeling, but both by nature and from his position wedded to all the
conventions of society. The Graces had not stood by his cradle.

It was into the most brilliant society of the eighteenth century that
Baron de Krüdener introduced his wife. At the time of his marriage he
was Russian envoy in Kurland, and immediately after the honeymoon the
couple proceeded to Mitau, where Krüdener negotiated the incorporation
of the Duchy with Russia, and where they were honoured with a visit
from the Czar (Paul I.). Amateur theatricals provided the young wife
with her chief occupation and interest. She went on acting until almost
immediately before the birth of her only son. A few weeks after this
event the young mother was presented to the Empress Catherine at St.
Petersburg. Thence Krüdener was sent as Russian ambassador to Venice;
the most dissipated town of the day, where his wife lived in a whirl of
gaiety.

In Venice a gifted young enthusiast, Alexander Stakjev, her husband's
private secretary, fell violently in love with Madame de Krüdener,
but so great was his esteem for Krüdener and for the object of his
attachment that not a syllable crossed his lips. So well did he
preserve his secret that Krüdener took him with him when he was
transferred to Copenhagen in 1784. In the woods of Frederiksborg
Juliane and her adorer roved about admiring the beauties of nature in
company. It was to the husband that Stakjev at last naïvely confessed
his passion. Krüdener was imprudent enough to show the letter to his
wife, who now for the first time became certain of the nature of
Stakjev's feeling for her, a feeling which she did not return, but
which, with innate coquetry, she had encouraged. The knowledge that
it was in her power to call forth such a passion had an extraordinary
effect upon her. From this moment it was the one dream of her life to
be adored. Stakjev took his departure, but all that had been fermenting
in Julie's young heart now forced its way to the surface. Possessed
by an ardent desire to love and be loved, she had first attempted to
find the ideal of her dreams in her husband. When he, more the father
than the lover, only tried to keep her extravagant feeling in check,
she fell back upon herself, and grieved at being what is now called
misunderstood, but what she called "not felt." Stakjev's passion rushed
past her like a breath of fire and thawed the inward cold which, as
it were, held her emotions ice-bound. They now demanded an outlet. In
Copenhagen, which, of all the places she had lived in, seemed to her
the most unbearable--it is to be remembered that this was a hundred
years ago--she threw herself into a whirl of trivial social amusements,
which engrossed her time and mind, and brought in their train much
indiscriminate and reckless coquetry. Shattered nerves and an affection
of the lungs were the result of all the balls and theatricals, and she
was ordered to spend the winter of 1789 in the South.

Instead of making her way to some quiet sunny spot on the shores of the
Mediterranean, the lady whose health had completely broken down under
the strain of town life hastened to Paris and there revived. In this
intellectual city she is suddenly struck by her own ignorance, acquires
a taste for reading, or rather for writers, and procures introductions
to the great authors of the day--Barthélémy, the author of _Le jeune
Anarcharse_, at whose reception into the Academy she was present, and
Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, for whose _Paul et Virginie_ she had always
had the greatest admiration. She makes a cult of Saint-Pierre and
nature, witnesses the fall of the Bastille, but at the same time runs
up an account of some 20,000 francs at her milliner's. When she is in
the south of France, a young officer, M. de Frègeville, falls in love
with her. Less inexperienced now than she had been in Copenhagen, she
yields, after a struggle, to his persuasions. He induces her to spend
another winter in France, in spite of a promise given to her husband,
and to return to Paris instead of to Copenhagen in the following year
(1791).

After Louis XVI's unsuccessful attempt at flight, Paris was no longer
a safe place of residence for Madame de Krüdener. She made her escape
from France with M. de Frègeville, who was disguised as her lackey,
spent some weeks at Brussels, and then travelled by way of Cassel and
Hanover to Hamburg, still accompanied and protected by her lover in
his character of lackey. At Hamburg she was met by her husband, but
as she even there refused to part from her favourite servant, there
was a violent scene. Krüdener advised her to go for a time to her
mother at Riga, and thither too she was accompanied by the disguised
French officer. Her mother received her most cordially. In 1792, when
she and her mother went to St. Petersburg to see her dying father,
she again met her husband, who had come there to raise the money he
required to procure a divorce. She threw herself at his feet, was
forgiven, and made promises which she did not keep. For the next few
years she wandered about Europe, separated from her husband and from De
Frègeville, but living the life of the dissolute, gay lady of the last
decade of the eighteenth century. Even in his most private letters of
this year her husband never mentions her name.

After meeting her old adorer, Stakjev, at St. Petersburg, Madame de
Krüdener went to Riga, where she remained for some time, then to
Berlin, and thence to Leipzig, where she spent great part of 1793.
From Leipzig she returned to Riga, but almost at once finding that
town unbearable, retired to the family property of Kosse. Here she
formed great plans; it was her intention to become the benefactress
of her serfs, "to educate the Esthonian people and make them happy."
In 1795 she stayed for a few months at Riga, and then went to Berlin.
In 1796 she lived first at Lausanne, then at Geneva with her friend,
Abbé Becker. She frequented the society of the French _émigrés_, was
perfectly idolised, and went from fête to fête dancing the shawl-dance,
which for a time was the great passion of her now mature womanhood.
When young girls began to dance the shawl-dance too, she went off
with her friend, the _émigré_ De Vallin, to Munich. After De Vallin's
compulsory return to France, and Becker's death, Madame de Krüdener
suddenly began to long for her husband and her step-child, but all that
came of this was a flying visit to Munich, where she had the pleasure
of making the acquaintance of this step-child, now a grown woman. After
a stay at Teplitz, she returned to Munich, but was presently at Teplitz
again, and thence went to Berlin, where, in 1800, M. de Krüdener took
up his residence as Russian ambassador. During these years of wandering
she had probably changed her lovers even more frequently than her place
of residence.

The winter of 1800-1801 she spent in Berlin as Russian ambassadress;
but her unpunctuality and general eccentricity made her anything but
a favourite at the well-ordered court of William III. Social success
being her one desire, she tried, now that she was no longer young, to
attract attention by the audacity of her toilettes. She had never been
a beauty, but her expressive features and her gracefulness had always
been much admired. The simplicity which had made her so irresistible
ten years earlier, had now given place to a desire to create a
sensation by a daring style of dress, or rather undress. She covered
her still beautiful hair with a wig, according to the fashion of the
day. Her features and complexion had lost the freshness of youth.

It was at this time that her restless heart, which still craved for
strong emotions, began to open itself to the influence of religious
fanaticism. In a letter to her most intimate friend she writes: "Shall
I confess something to you? It is in all humility of heart I write it.
You know that I am not arrogant--how can a Christian be? But I believe
that God has deigned to bless my husband ever since my return. There
is no imaginable benefit or favour that is not bestowed on him. Why
should I not believe that the prayer of a pious heart which simply
and trustingly beseeches God to help it to contribute to another's
happiness is certain to be answered?"

Why not, indeed? We should willingly believe that it was the presence
of Madame de Krüdener which induced Providence to shower orders and
distinctions upon the Baron if we did not happen to know for a fact
that it was another, less romantic reason which led the Emperor Paul
thus to favour him. The facts of the case are as follows: In the
middle of an entertainment which the Baron was giving in Berlin to the
Prussian royal family and the Grand Duchess Helena, a despatch arrived
from the autocrat of all the Russias, commanding Krüdener instantly
to declare war with Prussia. Their Majesties were still in the house.
Instead of breaking up the fête by displaying this Gorgon's head to his
guests, the Russian ambassador calmly let them dance on; and knowing,
like the sagacious politician he was, how imprudent and how fatal
for Russia such a war would be, he wrote a dissuasive letter to his
Emperor, though well aware that, in all human probability, life-long
exile in Siberia would be his reward. Naturally he mentioned nothing of
all this to his wife. The improbable happened. Paul allowed himself to
be dissuaded, and, full of admiration for his minister's courage and
wisdom, overwhelmed him with proofs of his favour.--So we see there is
a different explanation from Madame de Krüdener's.

From this time onwards her letters become ever more pious and edifying.
She now writes of religion as her panacea against melancholy, and tells
of the thousand sources of happiness which it offers.

In the midst of all this comes a new love affair and another separation
from her husband. In the summer of 1801 we find her at Teplitz. Then
she pays a long visit to Madame de Staël at Coppet, where the desire to
make a sensation as an authoress is aroused in her, and she dashes off
three short stories and the beginning of a novel. To make this last as
perfect as possible, she goes to Paris to seek advice from Bernardin
de Saint-Pierre and make Chateaubriand's acquaintance. Chateaubriand
gives her a copy of his _Génie du Christianisme_ before he has even
distributed his presentation copies, and she is not a little proud
when Madame de Staël finds this book upon her table. But she makes
such indiscreet, unscrupulous use of Chateaubriand's confidences that
he is estranged from her for years, a complete breach being only with
difficulty avoided.

She is surprised in Paris by the news of Krüdener's death. She shuts
herself up, full of grief and remorse. It had been "her dream to
return to him once more, ease the burden of years for him, and requite
his unending generosity." It was not long, however, before Madame de
Krüdener issued from her retirement. In her first short stories she
had imitated Saint-Pierre's style. Now her novel was ready. She called
it _Valérie_; her own youthful love affair with Alexander Stakjev had
furnished her with the plot. It is a well-written, sympathetic story,
perceptibly influenced by _Werther_. But Madame de Krüdener was not
satisfied with writing a novel; she wished her novel to be read and
talked of. The manner in which she set herself to ensure that it should
be, shows that at this period she had not, in spite of her attempts
to do so, altogether renounced the world. She was not contented with
the usual stratagems, such as getting one critic after another to
look through the story in manuscript, reading the whole or parts to
select companies of friends, &c, &c,; no--she prepared its success in
a more determined and thorough manner. Her first step was to write as
follows to a friend in Paris, Dr. Gay, an unknown and vain member of
the medical profession, in whose career she had promised to interest
herself:--

" ... I have another favour to ask of you. Will you get some clever
verse-writer to address a little poem to our friend Sidonie (Sidonie
is the heroine in Madame de Krüdener's first short story). I need
hardly ask you to be sure to see that this poem is in as good taste as
possible. The heading is simply to be _À Sidonie_. Sidonie is to be
asked: 'Why do you live in the country, depriving us by this retired
life of your charm and your wit? Does the sensation you have created
not call you to Paris? Only there will your charms and your talents be
admired as they deserve. Your fascinating dancing has been described,
but who is capable of describing all your attractions?' My friend,
it is to your friendship I confide all this; I feel quite ashamed on
Sidonie's behalf, for I know her modesty. You, too, know that she is
not vain. I have more serious reasons than the gratification of petty
vanity for asking you to have these verses written, and for my other
actions. Be sure to say that she lives in great retirement, and that
only in Paris is it possible to meet with appreciation. Take care to
conceal that you have anything to do with this matter. Have the verses
printed in the evening newspaper. It is quite true that Sidonie's
dancing is described in _Delphine_. Read the book; it will interest
you. But remember, it is not to be mentioned in the verses that it is
in _Delphine_ she is described. It is only the heading, _À Sidonie_,
that is to give any clue to the person to whom they are addressed.
Be so kind as to pay the newspaper. I hope to be able to explain my
reasons to you. Send me the number containing the verses as soon as it
comes out. If the paper will not accept the verses, or if there is to
be too long a delay in their appearance, send me the manuscript and I
shall have them inserted in a newspaper here. You will be doing a great
favour to your friend, and she will explain to you by word of mouth why
she has asked it. You know her timidity, her love of solitude, and her
dislike of praise; but it is an important service you are doing her."

A fortnight later we have another letter on the same subject, another
request to know if Dr. Gay has read _Delphine_: "Madame de Staël
told Sidonie that she would describe her dancing, and you will find
the description in the first volume. Many people think that she has
described Sidonie's face, way of speaking, and lively imagination,
and mixed up with this her own religious and political opinions; for
Sidonie is _profoundly religious_, and takes very little interest in
politics." On this follow more directions with regard to the poem:
"It must tell that her beautiful dancing has been described, without
intimating by whom--must simply say: 'An able pen has depicted your
dancing; the success you have met with everywhere is well known; your
charms have been sung as well as your wit, and yet you persistently
conceal them from the world. A solitary life in your home is your
choice. There you seek happiness in religion, in nature, in study, &c,
&c, &c.' This, dear friend, is what I want; I shall give you my reasons
by-and-by."

The address to Sidonie arrives; Madame de Krüdener acknowledges its
reception: "It is only fair, dear friend, that you should have a copy
of the charming elegy you have written for me, so I herewith send you
one; I wish to keep yours myself."

The elegy runs: "What is it you seek in your solitude? Paris, bewitched
by the magic emanating from you, by your grace, by the brilliant
talents with which Heaven has gifted you, surely offers you hearts
enough, hearts which your gentle spirit has enchained. We saw you, we
flocked round you on that day when you exercised the seductive power of
grace and the constraining power of beauty, the day when, assured of
the palm of genius, you did not despise the praises offered to talent.
You even smiled upon a certain ingenious versifier who ventured to
blend his weak voice with the chorus of the sages and to sketch your
magic dance in words. But the memory of those festive days has been
effaced by the thunderbolt which has fallen from heaven upon you! Do
not our hearts share in your melancholy reflections? Have they not,
devoutly silent, sighed with you in your sorrow? We would not offend
you with impotent consolation, that paraded offering to a paraded
sorrow--we heard you sigh, and we sighed with you. We sighed with you,
and you flee from us! Why do you flee? We are decked in mourning weeds;
the arts keep silence; love hides itself, and with it hide all its
attendant gaieties, that of yore were your joy and your glory."

There is as much again, but this is enough. Madame de Krüdener's letter
ends: "I send you this elegy, the antique colouring (!) and beauty of
which I admire. I appropriate nothing in it except the sorrow, which
you have correctly observed in me and have desired to alleviate. I
have much more than this to say to you, dear Dr. Gay, much that is
more flattering for you, but I cannot find room for it here, can only
with a grateful heart offer my thanks to your art, your noble art, so
beneficial to humanity (!)."

Dr. Gay then proceeded to rhyme his prose. Madame de Krüdener writes to
him: "Sidonie has requested me to convey her heartfelt thanks to the
kindest of friends. The verses are charming. They are already in print.
What an enviably gifted man he is who wrote them! How easy it is to see
that he is Sidonie's friend! How well he paints what he desires us to
see! In every stroke one feels that it is the soul which has wielded
the brush--and what a noble soul!... Sidonie has also received an elegy
in prose, which you must see, and which she considers exceedingly
beautiful. What talent is displayed in the noble, simple style, and
how one is drawn to the mind which speaks such a language! A few
alterations have been made, very few; you have been most successful in
doing what was desired!"

We observe that Sidonie was not content with writing out a rough draft
of her own encomiums, but that she also corrected the fair copy. Such
proceedings require no comment. The indefatigable doctor composes
more poems, and receives requests to plague this, that, and the other
critic. No importuning was required in the case of the pious historian,
Michaud, who spent thirty years of his life in writing the history
of the Crusades; it was rendered superfluous by the intimacy of his
relations with the authoress; his criticism was an enthusiastic one.
At last Madame de Krüdener is able to write to a friend: "My health
is much improved; I have been at balls eight nights running without
being the worse for it. What happiness! I cannot tell you, my friend,
how much I am made of; poems are showered on me, I am overwhelmed with
attentions, people dispute the privilege of a word with me. It is a
thousand times more than I deserve; but _Providence loves to overwhelm
its children with benefits_, even when they do not deserve them....
I should look upon it as cowardice not to publish a work which in my
opinion is a useful one; therefore I regard the journey to Paris in the
light of _a duty_; for my heart, my imagination, everything, draws me
to the Lake of Geneva."

She went to Paris, and _Valérie_ was published in December 1803. All
Madame de Krüdener's guns were primed, ready to salute the book.
Not one missed fire. All the bells of criticism tolled. Like a good
general, she was on the field of battle herself. She drove incognito
from one fashionable shop to another, asking for hats, or scarfs, or
feathers, or wreaths, or ribbons _à la Valérie_. When this elegant
and still beautiful lady drove up in her carriage and asked with such
assurance for these articles of her own invention, the shopkeepers
did their utmost to come to an understanding of what she wanted and
to provide it. And when astonished shop-girls denied the existence of
such wares, Madame de Krüdener smiled so kindly and pitied them so much
because they did not know _Valérie_ that she quickly transformed them
into eager canvassers of readers for her book. She drove on with her
purchases to other shops, and in a few days had produced amongst the
shopkeepers such a furious competition in articles _à la Valérie_ that
her friends, when they went at her instigation to ask for these wares,
became innocent accomplices in her stratagem, and were constrained to
bear witness to her triumph.

Now Madame de Krüdener writes to her friend: "The success of _Valérie_
is complete and unprecedented. An acquaintance said to me the other
day: 'There is something _supernatural_ about such success.' Yes, my
friend, it is the will of Heaven that this purer morality should be
diffused throughout France, where as yet it is not so well understood."

Hardly had this feverish craving for celebrity been satisfied, this
refinement of hypocrisy been brought to perfection, when Madame de
Krüdener's genuine conversion took place. It came about in this wise.
Sitting at the window of her house in Riga one day in 1805, she was in
the act of bowing to one of the most favoured of her numerous admirers
when the unfortunate man was seized with a fit of apoplexy and fell
down dead. This incident preyed on her mind. Her melancholy, however,
did not render her independent of earthly requirements, and she sent
one day for a shoemaker to measure her for a pair of shoes. The man
came. At first she hardly noticed him, but while he was kneeling in
front of her she was struck by his happy expression. "Are you happy?"
she asked him. "I am the happiest man in the world," was the reply.
This shoemaker was one of the "awakened," a member of the community of
Moravian Brethren. He had an aversion to work, and lived at home with
his mother, Frau Blau, one of the worst religious hypocrites in Riga,
who gained her livelihood by imposing upon the rich members of her
sect. The sight of the shoemaker's happiness made such an impression on
Madame de Krüdener's susceptible soul that she again and again visited
his mother and him. At their house she made acquaintance with many more
of the Moravian Brethren, and was soon as enthusiastic a Christian
believer as any one of them. A gradual, slow training in Christianity
would not have been possible in her case, but the doctrine of sudden
conversion and entire change of life was one well calculated to have a
strong effect upon her, now that she was over forty.

The same ardour which she had exhibited in the passions of her youth
she now expended on the passion of her maturer years. Both her words
and actions are henceforth inspired by religious enthusiasm. She
divides her time between devotional exercises and charitable deeds.
Her whole previous life seems to her to have been nothing but error
and foolishness. Her whole life now is but one feeling, love to her
Saviour. "I have not a thought except to please, to serve, to sacrifice
everything to Him through whose grace I desire nothing except to be
allowed to love all my fellow-men, and who shows me nothing in the
future but glimpses of bliss. Oh, if men but knew the happiness of
religion, how they would shun every care except care for their souls!"

Such was Madame de Krüdener's state of mind when, travelling once more
in the autumn of 1806, she met and became intimate with Queen Louisa
of Prussia. It was not long after the battle of Jena. The Queen, in
her deep dejection, was peculiarly open to the persuasion of Madame de
Krüdener's glowing religious eloquence, and Madame de Krüdener gained
great influence over her, and through her over the King. We have proof
of this in a letter from the Queen written some time afterwards. "I
owe to your kind heart a confession which I am certain will cause you
to shed tears of joy. It is that you have made me better than I was.
Your straightforward words when we talked together on the subject of
religion and Christianity have made the deepest impression upon me."

Madame de Krüdener went to Karlsruhe on purpose to see Jung-Stilling.
Jung-Stilling had made a literary reputation for himself by the book
in which he gave an account of his early life as a pious journeyman
tailor. As a medical student at Strasburg he had associated with Goethe
and won his favour. After practising successfully as an oculist, and
holding a professorship of political economy, he had become a kind of
prophet among the Pietists of South Germany, and was honoured as a
saint by the pious court-circle and nobility of Baden. His character
was not strong enough to stand such adulation, and he had degenerated
into a vain and unreliable old twaddler, who boasted of his knowledge
of the other world and revealed the hidden mysteries and designs of
God by means of interpretations of the Revelation of St. John. To
Jung-Stilling Madame de Krüdener now did homage as her master and
guide. He had a weakness for the admiration of great ladies, and a
close friendship sprang up between them. The venerable ghost-seer
was at this time writing his _Theorie der Geisterkunde_ (Theory of
Spirits). Madame de Krüdener was firmly persuaded of the truth of one
of his wise predictions, namely, that the millennium was to begin in
the year 1816, or 1819 at latest.

Not long after this visit to Karlsruhe she met Queen Hortense, who
was so fascinated by her that she gave her a private audience every
morning. But it would seem that Madame de Krüdener ingratiated herself
in this case chiefly by reading to the Queen the manuscript of a novel
she was writing, _Othilde_ by name, the pious moral of which did not
prevent its being a "truly delicious" love-story.

She was now a pattern of every kind of Christian humility. When at
Karlsruhe she climbed up to the dirtiest garrets to do deeds of
charity. One day when she found a servant-girl crying in the street
because she had been sent out to sweep, the great lady took the broom
and swept the pavement herself.

The spiritual condition of Alsace at this time was somewhat remarkable.
To some of its most intellectually advanced inhabitants the irreligion
of the Revolution had communicated itself, but the great mass of the
Protestant population had been terrified into a kind of religious
mysticism, the distinctive feature of which was the belief in the near
approach of the millennium. The most eminent clergyman in Alsace was
the universally respected Pastor Oberlin of Waldbach, a man of the
most sincere piety, who was, however, crazy enough to draw maps of the
kingdom of heaven and publish a plan of the heavenly Jerusalem. He knew
the exact order of precedence of the blessed dead, and was in regular
communication with departed friends. Madame de Krüdener, provided
with letters of introduction to this gentleman and others of the same
persuasion, made her appearance in Alsace.

She had heard that a German pastor at Markirch, named Fontaines, had
the power of working miracles, and that in his house lived a famous
prophetess, Marie Kummer (generally known as "die Kummerin"), a
hysterical Würtemberg peasant woman, who held constant communication
with angels, and in her trances revealed the will of God. And she
had also been told that Fontaines had expressed a wish to make the
acquaintance of the divinely inspired lady from the North whom Marie
Kummer had seen in a vision. In June 1808 Madame de Krüdener arrived at
his house. He welcomed her solemnly on the threshold with the words of
John to Jesus: "Art thou that one that should come, or do we look for
another?" Flattered and delighted, Madame de Krüdener remained under
the roof of this man, who was now generally supposed to be her lover.
They spent their time in the study of the Revelation of St. John, and
every day the lady listened to Marie Kummer's prophecies of the high
mission and the great future awaiting her, and also Fontaines, who was
to be her apostle. She wrote to a friend: "I am the happiest creature
in the world.... The fulness of time is at hand; great calamities
are about to happen, but you need not be afraid. The kingdom of the
Lord is near, and He Himself will reign upon the earth for a thousand
years." She goes on to say: "Imagine that I have literally _experienced
miracles_. You have no conception of the happiness felt by those who
give themselves entirely to Jesus Christ. He in His goodness and mercy
has given me the distinct promise that He will answer the prayers I
offer for my relations and friends."

It is not to be denied that the language in which she describes this
new ardent devotion has a suspicious similarity to the language of a
love which is not at all heavenly. Of God she writes: "It is impossible
for me to tell what tenderness burns in my heart, how many tears I
shed, what words tremble through my whole being when I feel myself
loved thus--I, poor worm of the earth! I said to God the other day:
'What can I say to Thee, O my Beloved! (_O mon bien-aimé!_) Would that
I could shout over the whole earth, and through all the heavens, how
much I love Thee! Would that I could lead not only all men, but all the
rebel spirits back to Thee!"

In the Vatican hangs a picture by a modern Italian painter which
represents a nun kneeling at the feet of Christ, who returns her
tearful gaze with the tenderest of glances. One involuntarily thinks
of this picture when reading Madame de Krüdener's outbursts during
her period of divine intoxication. She writes on another occasion:
"All we have to do is to love, and to persuade others to love, the
kindest, the best, the tenderest of all fathers." During her pious
wanderings about the country, preaching and converting, she was
joined by a young missionary. He was one of the many in whom she
was afterwards disappointed, but shortly after he came to her she
describes their feelings when worshipping together in such words as
these: "What emotion! Can you imagine the bliss of our communions? No
language can express it. We could not even hear the words spoken." It
is impossible in reading this not to think of a passage in the writings
of one of Madame de Krüdener's early admirers: "Lezay prétend (dit
Chênedollé) que Madame de Krüdener dans les moments les plus décisifs
avec son amant fait une prière à Dieu, en disant: Mon Dieu, que je
suis heureuse! Je vous demande pardon de l'excès de mon bonheur?" He
adds: "Elle reçoit ce sacrifice comme une personne qui va recevoir sa
communion."[1] Similar pious emotionalism is, however, common to all
the mystics of the day.

Madame de Krüdener did not know that both Fontaines and Marie Kummer
had a past which was anything but confidence-inspiring.

At the outbreak of the Revolution Fontaines, then aged twenty, was
a violent Jacobin; during the Reign of Terror he cast in his lot
with Eulogius Schneider, and was one of the most eager of that man's
followers in denouncing the clergy, closing churches, plundering
Strasburg Cathedral, &c. He held orations in the temples of Reason,
got himself appointed a Protestant pastor, married, and behaved in
such a scandalous manner that he was compelled to give up his charge.
Nevertheless, when the reaction against the Revolution set in, he
received another call, as representative of the extremest Pietism, and
soon gained a great reputation as an exorciser of evil spirits. When
it came out that he had managed in three years (1801-4) to make away
with almost all the means of his congregation, he had to retire into
obscurity for a time. In 1805 he received a call to Markirch. There,
two years later, he took Marie Kummer into his house. This woman,
though she was a simple vagrant, and had changed her religion several
times, was held in great reverence by the Pietists. A certain Pastor
Hiller consecrated her to be the bride of Jesus. In the course of time
she bore this same pastor a son, who was destined, they declared, to
become the witness mentioned in the third verse of the eleventh chapter
of the Book of Revelation. The worldly-minded civil authorities none
the less condemned Marie to the pillory and a term of imprisonment.
When she came out of prison she proclaimed the end of the world to be
at hand, and advised a general emigration of believers to the Holy
Land. She actually persuaded a number of foolish persons to set out
with her for Jerusalem, and to entrust her with the travelling funds;
but when they reached Vienna she was taken into custody. After a term
of imprisonment there she went back to Alsace. The comet of 1807
furnished her with a pretext for sensational prophecies of plague,
famine, and war, and on hearing the report of the arrival of the
Russian baroness she had a vision, in which that lady's high destiny
was revealed to her.

When Madame de Krüdener had lived in the edifying company of Fontaines
and Marie Kummer for fully eight months, Fontaines began to feel
that he was no longer safe in Markirch. Tales of his past life were
being circulated. Marie Kummer consequently had a vision in which she
received a divine command to go to Würtemberg and found a colony of
true Christians there. The three at once set out. At their religious
meetings in Würtemberg Fontaines was always dressed in black, Madame
de Krüdener in blue, and Marie in grey. Besides prophesying the
approaching end of the world they incautiously inveighed against the
ungodly sovereign of the country, who had introduced a new liturgy.
This led to Marie's imprisonment and the banishment of the other two.
Marie joined Fontaines and Madame de Krüdener in Baden as soon as she
was released, and there they again lived in intimate companionship,
occupying themselves as before with devotional exercises and
prophesying.

Madame de Krüdener, called to Riga by her mother's last illness, held
meetings there too, at which she interpreted the Book of Revelation
and dispensed the sacrament. At these meetings she was assisted by
the pious shoemaker's pious mother, Frau Blau, in her character of
prophetess. Towards the close of the year 1811 Madame de Krüdener
returned to Karlsruhe. Fontaines had by this time been ordered off,
but she continued to work in company with Marie Kummer, who was looked
up to as a great prophetess because she had foretold the victory of
the white over the black angel, and had announced that the people from
the north of whom Jeremiah had written would presently make their
appearance. The Russian war established her reputation, and after
the news of the conflagration of Moscow came she was regarded as a
positively sacred personage.

There is not the slightest doubt that Madame de Krüdener was entirely
persuaded of the purity of her motives, and that she acted in all
sincerity. She is not merely converted herself; she is possessed by
a passion for converting. Again and again the idea of converting the
very denizens of hell and the devil himself occurs to her. It was
but natural that she had to bear much and painful misunderstanding
on the part of those who were unable to believe in the change that
had taken place in her. Even her own mother despised her and stopped
writing to her. But no misunderstanding cooled her enthusiasm, which
made an impression even upon rationalists. One of these, Sonntag, the
chief dignitary of the Livonian church, who had carefully observed her
behaviour at Riga in 1811, wrote many years afterwards that, though in
his official capacity he had been obliged to sever his connection with
her, he owed it to her to bear witness that she showed the deepest,
purest, most active, most self-forgetful and self-sacrificing sympathy
with every suffering and need of humanity.

Soon she, too, receives the gift of prophecy. It was not an
uncommon gift at this time. Both De Maistre and Bonald prophesied
the restoration of the royal family many years in advance, thereby
winning considerable renown. But whenever their prophecies are of a
more definite nature, it happens with them as with the prophecies of
old--they do not come to pass. De Maistre, for instance, writing on
the subject of the proposed seat of government in America, says: "I
may safely wager ten to one that the town will not be built, or that
it will not be called Washington, or that the Congress will not meet
there;" which three things all happened. In 1807 he wrote (_Opuscules_,
p. 98): "Nothing can restore the power of Prussia. This famous edifice,
built of blood, filth, false coin, and pamphlets, has collapsed in one
moment and is gone for ever." He also prophesied that the restoration
of the Bourbons would take place quite peacefully, without foreign
interference, and that autocratic rule and the power of the aristocracy
would in the end be strengthened by the Revolution, &c., &c. Some of
Bonald's prophecies (in his _Théorie du Pouvoir_) were rather more
successful, for the simple reason that he who prophesies the end of the
transient, prophesies what is certain to come true some day; there are
things concerning the future to which Horatio's words apply: "There
needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us this."

But Madame de Krüdener's prophecies attracted more attention than those
of any of her contemporaries. In October 1814 she wrote from Strasburg
to a lady at the Russian court: "We shall soon witness the punishment
of guilty France, a punishment which Providence would have spared it
if it had continued to bow beneath the cross." How was it possible,
after Napoleon's return from Elba, to interpret this otherwise than as
a mysterious prevision of this return?

She also wrote: "The storm is approaching; the lilies which the
Eternal had preserved--the pure, delicate, symbolic flowers which had
been crushed by a sceptre of iron, because such was the will of the
Eternal--those lilies, which ought to have pled their cause before the
tribunal of the purity and love of God, have only shown themselves to
disappear." What could this be but a prophecy of the flight of Louis
XVIII?

The fame of these predictions sped over Europe. One of the first to
hear of them was Czar Alexander. Worn out by the campaigns of 1813 and
1814, tormented by an uneasy conscience, grieved by the sudden death
of his only child and by the desertion of its mother, a lady who had
been his mistress for eleven years, but whose affections were now
transferred to one of his aides-de-camp, enfeebled by excesses of every
kind, Alexander was exactly in the condition to be influenced by pious
mysticism.[2]

He had been brought up without any religious education whatever. When,
during his depression after the capture of Moscow, Prince Galitzin
recommended him to seek comfort in the study of the Bible, such a
thing as a Russian Bible was not to be found in the Winter Palace, and
he had to be contented for the time with a French translation of the
Vulgate. The proceedings at the Congress of Vienna, the faithlessness
of Austria, the ingratitude of France, and the animosity aroused by
his favourite project, the rehabilitation of Poland, in that country
itself, had completely shaken his faith in human nature. The surprise
of Napoleon's return from Elba had shaken his nerves. From the moment
of his mistress's desertion he came under the influence of his wife,
the Empress Elizabeth, who in her deserted condition had long ago
taken refuge in melancholy mysticism. She persuaded him when he was
at Karlsruhe to visit Jung-Stilling and learn what was his opinion of
the political situation, viewed from the standpoint of the Book of
Revelation. Jung-Stilling assured him that Napoleon was none other than
the Apollyon mentioned in the ninth chapter of that book, and that the
millennium was at hand.

In 1814, at the court of Baden, Madame de Krüdener had made the
acquaintance of the Czarina, and since then the ardent prophetess had
carried on a correspondence with one of Elizabeth's maids of honour who
had an enthusiastic admiration for the Czar, with the full intention
that her letters should be shown to him. Certain sentences in them
were unmistakably written for his reading, such as the following:
"What you tell me of the Czar's great and noble qualities I have long
known. I know, too, that the Lord will grant me the happiness of seeing
him--that the Prince of Darkness will in vain endeavour to prevent
our meeting. I have much to say to the Czar." Immediately after the
despatch of the letter here quoted from, Madame de Krüdener moved to
Heilbronn; the Russian headquarters were presently transferred there,
and late in the evening of the 4th of June 1815, heedless of the
aide-de-camp's rebuffs, she made her way, unannounced, into the Czar's
presence, and remained closeted with him for three hours. When she left
him, Alexander's eyes were full of tears, and he was much agitated.
Soon her influence over him was complete. They would shut themselves
up together for half a day at a time, praying, reading the Bible, and
discussing theological problems.

The days immediately preceding the battle of Waterloo they spend at
Heidelberg, occupied in studying the Psalms. The intelligence of
the reverses at Ligny and Quatre-Bras on the 16th and 17th of June
reaches Alexander when he is thus employed; the Psalms console him and
convince him of the justice of his cause. He prays and fasts. On the
18th of June the battle of Waterloo is fought. Alexander immediately
sets out for Paris, but with the understanding that Madame de Krüdener
is to follow promptly. His greatest grief at this moment is that his
brother Constantine is not converted too. Before leaving Heidelberg
our prophetess visits the prisoners who are awaiting their sentence
of death and preaches to them with great effect; then she follows the
Czar, whose Christian disposition affords her intense satisfaction.

In Paris her influence reaches its culminating point. The Czar calls
upon her on the evening of her arrival. Her apartments in the Hôtel
Montchenu are so situated that he can come to her at any hour of
the day from the Elysée-Bourbon Palace by a private garden door. No
dissipation, no amusement had now any temptation for the man whom
the Parisians remembered as being so gay but a few years previously.
"I am a disciple of Christ," he said; "I go about with the Gospel
in my hands, and know nothing else." And Madame de Krüdener writes
of him: "Alexander is the elect of God. He is treading the path of
renunciation." Only language borrowed from the Apocalypse could express
what she saw in him--a founder of the kingdom of Christ upon earth, an
angel of peace with the flaming sword of power, the prince of light,
&c, &c. Napoleon, on the other hand, she, like Adam Müller and his
followers, believed to be the devil himself. Alexander was to restore
the power of Christianity upon earth, and to obliterate the last trace
of the Revolution and its deeds.

Alexander's reverence and gratitude knew no bounds. In the beginning
of September a great review of 150,000 Russian troops was held at the
Camp des Vertus in Champagne. Madame de Krüdener's presence could
not be dispensed with. The Czar's carriage was sent for her early in
the morning, and he received her, not like a favourite subject, but
like a messenger from heaven, sent to lead his troops to victory.
"Bare-headed, or wearing the little straw-hat which she generally
carried hanging from her arm; her still fair hair hanging in plaits
upon her shoulders, with a stray curl falling on her brow; dressed in a
plain, dark robe, to which its cut and her bearing imparted elegance,
and which was confined at the waist by a simple girdle--thus she
arrived at dawn of day, thus she stood at the moment of prayer in front
of the astonished army."[3]

About a year before this Alexander had read a book by the German mystic
Franz von Baader, _On the Necessity Produced by the Revolution for a
New and More Intimate Connection between Religion and Politics_. Under
its influence he had formed a vague project for uniting the Christian
monarchs of Europe in a mysterious alliance, which was to be in a
very special manner commended to the protection of God; but at Vienna
he had been obliged to give up all thoughts of carrying this project
into effect. Now he discussed it with Madame de Krüdener. She entered
into it eagerly, declaring that she herself had already, by the grace
of God, conceived the very same idea. And who dare say that it is
impossible or even unlikely that such an idea as this, _the plan of the
Holy Alliance_, should have originated in the brain of a poor, silly
woman, whose head had been turned by the amours of her youth and the
religious enthusiasm of her later years? It is, as a matter of fact,
more than probable that Europe and civilisation owe their thanks to her
for it. A man who is distinctly inclined to undervalue her influence,
and who is wrong where he denies it, Queen Louisa of Prussia's beloved
brother, the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, writes: "Madame
de Krüdener never exercised the smallest influence over my angelic
sister of Prussia, nor yet over the King, her husband, who judged this
lamentably famous woman perfectly correctly. Of the Emperor Alexander
she had, on the contrary, taken such complete possession that the Holy
Alliance, which he proposed and succeeded in forming, may be regarded
as entirely her work; you may be sure that I should not say this unless
I were certain of it."

Some days after her arrival in Paris, Alexander said to Madame de
Krüdener: "I am leaving France; but before my departure I shall publish
a manifesto, acknowledging our gratitude to God the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Ghost, for His protection, and calling on all nations
to unite in common submission to the Gospel." With these words he
handed her a paper. It was the draft of the compact between the three
sovereigns. Capefigue, who actually saw this document, writes: "I have
lying before me the rough draft of the compact; it is from beginning
to end in the Emperor Alexander's handwriting, with corrections by
Madame de Krüdener. The words _The Holy Alliance_ are written by that
extraordinary woman." Thus even the name is of her devising. She chose
it with a reference to the prophecies of the end of the world in the
Book of the Prophet Daniel.

Having traced this woman's career from the very beginning, we know who
and what she was; we have also some idea of what the Revolution was;
consequently our first feeling is one of astonishment that these pious
maxims and reminiscences of the Apocalypse written, with the same pen
which wrote the Elegy to Sidonie, by the lady who a few years before
was buying scarfs and hats _à la Valérie_, should have had power to
stem the renewed impetus of the current of the Revolution for fifteen
years. Not for fifteen years did inevitable evolution, the progress of
science, the audacity of art, the rebellion of hearts, take shape in
action which broke the charm.

The three monarchs "solemnly declare, in the name of the most holy and
indivisible Trinity, that their intention in the present proclamation
is to assert in face of the universe their irrevocable determination
to be guided, both in the government of their own dominions and in
their political relations with other governments, entirely by the rules
of justice, love, and truth contained in the Christian religion. Far
from being only applicable in private life, these prescriptions ought
directly to influence the conduct of rulers, as indicating the only
means of placing the institutions of society on a solid foundation and
remedying their imperfections."

So much for the words of the compact. What was really sincere and
benevolent intention on the part of the foolish imperial enthusiast was
sagacious hypocrisy on that of his brother monarchs. Who does not know
the rest? Who does not know what the Holy Alliance came to mean--the
introduction of a general European reaction, in essence barbarism, in
its outward form a lie? It was in the name of the Holy Alliance that,
during the saddest decades of our century, even the very feeblest
endeavours in the direction of intellectual and political liberty were
checked or crushed.

The Alliance received the voluntary adhesion of the potentate who
had most to gain from it, the Pope. Without any petty consideration
of his own position as head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pius
lauded to the skies the resolution of his compeers--Alexander, the
Greek Pope; the King of Prussia, the Lutheran Pope; and the King of
England, the Anglican Pope. At the Congress of Vienna he proposed a
plan of restoration in comparison with which the dreams of all the
reactionaries of other days paled and all previous attempts to restore
pre-Revolutionary conditions sank into nothingness. With one stroke of
the pen the existence of the Revolution and the Empire was blotted out.
The Holy Roman Empire was to be restored, and along with it all the
social conditions and institutions of the Middle Ages--tithes, church
property, exemption of the clergy from taxation, and the Inquisition.

The last years of Madame de Krüdener's life present no events of
historical interest. She became ever more sincerely and fanatically
religious, and her desire to display her faith in deeds became ever
more ardent. It was now the one desire of her heart and object of her
life to help the poor and the sick. She preached to the poor, founded
churches, and proclaimed the advent of the kingdom of God. But from the
moment when her Christianity took a practical form the character of
her position changed. The royal personages, the authorities, all the
great, who as long as she remained the court lady had smiled upon her,
instinctively divined an enemy in her as soon as she began to address
herself to the people. On one occasion she traversed Switzerland from
frontier to frontier in a sort of mad religious triumphal procession;
the next time she visited that country she was driven out of one town
after the other. At Basle, where she distributed tracts among the
soldiers and according to her own account converted half the garrison,
the infuriated clergy succeeded in having her expelled from the town.
In Baden, where her charities during a famine were truly munificent,
her house was surrounded by gendarmes, and the people who had sought
refuge with her were dispersed. She was expelled from Lucerne by the
police authorities. When she tried to make her way into France through
Alsace, she was turned back, and was at the same time forbidden to
return to Baden. She was finally conducted under police escort to the
Russian frontier, being passed on by the Würtemberg to the Bavarian,
by the Bavarian to the Saxon, by the Saxon to the Prussian police,
and by these last handed over to the authorities of her own country.
She had lost Alexander's favour for ever, partly because she had been
much too communicative about the origin of the Holy Alliance, partly
because of the mixed and often bad company in which she travelled
about. The accounts which she gave in her religious periodicals and
pamphlets of social evils, of the boundless distress of the poor and
the unjust oppressions of their rulers, were denounced as socialism and
communism. Christianity as she understood it could not but be obnoxious
to the authorities. She was, moreover, foolish enough to express her
enthusiastic sympathy with the Greek war of independence in a very
incautious manner, and presumptuous enough to declare openly that the
Emperor, as founder of the Holy Alliance, was in duty bound to place
himself in the forefront of a crusade against Turkey. Cast off by
Alexander, she left St. Petersburg, and from this time onwards lived,
as a missionary, a life of self-inflicted penance. She underwent all
kinds of hardships, suffering voluntarily herself, and alleviating the
sufferings of others whenever it was possible. She died in 1824 while
on a missionary expedition in the Crimea.

An interesting contrast to the French-Russian Madame de Krüdener is to
be found in the German-Russian Princess Galizin, a lady who belongs to
the end of the eighteenth, as Madame de Krüdener does to the beginning
of the nineteenth century. Madame de Krüdener's characteristics stand
out more sharply on such a background as the life of Madame de Galizin.
The Princess's is a genuinely German type of character. She is as
simple as her younger contemporary is polished and complex; she is
ingenuous and at the same time sentimental, full of soul and wanting
in brain-power. Her husband was, like Krüdener, a man of the world. He
was a friend and admirer of Diderot; it was, indeed, Diderot who first
inspired the Princess with the desire and the courage to study, but
she soon became that philosopher's ardent opponent. As careless of her
feminine attractions as Madame de Krüdener was coquettish, Madame de
Galizin had her head shaved to make it impossible for her to go into
society, and from the age of twenty-four lived a life of seclusion.
To cure herself entirely of egoism she "offered to the God of love
the sacrifice of her understanding." As an instance of her ignorance
of the world it may be mentioned that, when her son desired to enter
the military service of a foreign country, she applied first to the
Prussian, then to the Austrian commander-in-chief for permission to
send along with him a tutor who was to guard him against the irregular
habits of military life, and was astonished by receiving the answer
from both that it was impossible for an officer to join the army
accompanied by a male governess of this description.

In spite of Princess Galizin's warm-hearted sincerity, her tone is
as pietistically supernatural as Madame de Krüdener's is mystically
sensual.[4]

In Madame de Krüdener we have before us a being whose original
equipment would seem to mark her as destined to act some important
part. She possesses a vigour of life and a vividness of emotion
sufficient for two ordinary human beings; only it is not healthy vigour
and emotion, but an inward restlessness, an inward fire, which gives
out sparks incessantly on every side. There is in her an original
capital of Russian volatility and pliability, German sentimentality,
French sense of proportion, and "Asiatic" sensual charm.

She enters life with no thorough education behind her, no serious
aim before her, with a strong craving for happiness, and a poetic
turn--predestined, therefore, to live in illusions. When she finds
herself surrounded by admirers she gives herself up to dizzy enjoyment
of this gratification, and begins to regard herself as a superior
being. As long as she preserves outward fidelity to her husband she
lives in the illusion that she is the heroine of duty. When she becomes
unfaithful, she chooses a new model, and is transformed in her own
estimation into another ideal, the ideal fair sinner. She writes of the
ladies of Geneva, that they have neither the charm of virtue nor "the
charm of sin." This latter she herself acquired. She continued to be
ideal in so far as it is ideal to be the first of one's own species,
unique. On this supposition of her own ideality is founded her belief
that it was she who brought happiness (orders and titles) to her
husband.

All illusion consists in a wrong association of cause and
effect--religious illusion like the rest. But religious illusion is a
double illusion; the individual subject to it does not trace the effect
to its cause, but to a vague origin, the centre of existence--illusion
number one--and in the centre of existence he places, not, as he
imagines, the Deity, but himself--illusion number two. The beautiful
wife believes that her husband receives his decorations direct from
God, but also that she herself is the cause of God's bestowing them.
She is the real cause, God is the means by which she works. She
continues to lead her gay life as long as it continues to provide her
with illusions. But a clever woman, with highly-strung nerves, tires
in the long run of such a life, tires of the new admirer's jealousy
of his predecessor, and of fooling herself and another for, say, the
tenth time with the words: "You are the only man I have ever loved."
After this life has lost its illusions, and existence for the time
being its charm, the possibility of a new illusion presents itself.
Madame de Krüdener regards the apoplectic shock which killed her lover
in the same light as St. Augustine, Pascal, and Luther regarded similar
occurrences. It is a hint, a warning to her. The happy shoemaker tells
her of his certainty of being one of the elect of God. When she learns
the secret of his happiness, she resolves that she too will be one of
the elect.

Faith in God is in her case the satisfaction of the desire to be
elect, to be the chosen one. She believes herself to be converted,
and is, at the bottom of her heart, what she was. When she puts into
the mouth of the Deity the words in which He assures her of His
love, what is she doing but once again writing letters and elegies
to Sidonie? The echo of her own self-adoration sounds to her like a
voice from heaven, and she thanks God now as she did before for being
thus distinguished--by herself. What she desires now as before is to
be loved. As Chateaubriand proceeded to his earthly Alhambra via the
earthly Jerusalem, she seeks her heavenly Alhambra by the way of the
heavenly Zion. The only difference in their cases is, that he wishes to
deceive others; she deceives herself. She is a coquette; so is he, and
so is Lamartine; they are haughty coquettes, and she is a humble one.

What chiefly distinguishes her from them is, however, not her
character, but her gifts and her feminine nature. Chateaubriand, as
a man, has at least a sufficient glimmering of science to make it
impossible for him to be imposed on by miracle-workers and village
sibyls. Madame de Krüdener is a woman, and in a reactionary age the
definition holds good: Woman is the natural prey of the priests.
Destitute of any scientific basis of thought, she sooner or later,
except in rare, unusually favourable circumstances, becomes a prey to
her enthusiasm, which does not know on what to expend itself, to her
vague longings after she knows not what, to her cowardice, which is
terrified by the calamities of life, to her various illusions; and
all these powers--enthusiasm, longing, fear, and imagination--deliver
up their victim bound hand and foot as a prey to the Church, whose
authority has, moreover, been imprinted upon her soul by her education
from her earliest youth. Such was the case with Madame de Krüdener.
All that she comes into contact with of the intellectual life of her
day--its great wars of liberation, its research, its philosophy, its
enthusiasm for enlightenment--passes by her without being understood;
the one quality of the spirit of her age that she understands and
appropriates is its dissoluteness. When the reaction against the 18th
century sets in, and it is, naturally, first and foremost taxed with
impiety and frivolity, Madame de Krüdener immediately joins in the
cry, because she herself has had no eyes for anything else in it, has
comprehended nothing in it but its frivolousness and loose morality.

The reaction gains strength; it soon has a literature of its own, a
literature treating of all those supernatural things which the authors
persuade their readers that they believe in. They write whole volumes
about thrones and principalities, cherubim and seraphim; they appear
to be in sober earnest, but it never occurs to them that any human
being will take them seriously. After any amount of ability has been
displayed in the championing of tradition, there appears a woman
who is simple enough to take everything literally, to believe that
Marie Kummer has talked with angels, and that Fontaines has had such
supernatural visions as it was the height of the fashion to describe in
verse. Poets had begun to hymn the praises of the miracle-worker and
the prophet--a poor naïve Magdalen takes them at their word, believes
in the miracles which are shown her, and tries her hand at prophesying.
We are preparing to shake our heads with a smile, when we perceive that
the powers of the day are taking her seriously. She herself becomes
a power. Chateaubriand, who neither believes in her nor with her,
but who believes in her influence, tries to gain her support for his
political projects, but in vain. She has but one desire, to restore
to Christianity that authority which the Revolution had destroyed. In
her eyes the Revolution has only accomplished one deed, the overthrow
of sacred tradition; she, for her part, desires to do only the one,
opposite, deed--to give back to Christianity its world-overshadowing
power.

Alexander takes up the idea; the other powers adopt it as a useful
political lever. As long as her sole desire is to vindicate the
_authority_ of Christianity, as long as she aims at improving and
converting the nations _from above_, and in concert with their
sovereigns, Madame de Krüdener stands upon the pinnacle of honour
and glory. But the revulsion comes. The consistent development of
her religious tendency compels her to attempt a conversion of the
nations _from below_, to go forth among them and, after the manner of
the old apostles, practise Christianity in action instead of merely
proclaiming it as doctrine. What childishness! So naïve is she that she
believes the potentates will regard her new endeavours with the same
favour which they showed to her earlier ones. She does not understand
that authority dreads all interference with its own principle except
official interference. From the moment when she begins really to act
as a Christian, she is treated as a revolutionist. In the feeling
of the universal brotherhood of humanity which inspires her, and
in the enthusiasm with which she pleads the cause of the poor and
the oppressed, the champions of authority see proof that she is--a
socialist and a communist.

And thus it fell to Madame de Krüdener's lot to give practical proof
of what the rehabilitation of Christianity as authority meant. For it
was only as _authority_, as _power_, as _order_, that Christianity
was wanted. It was employed as the police, the army, the prisons
were employed, to keep everything quiet and support the principle of
authority. From the moment when it began to be regarded as a personal
matter, as a thing in itself, and to be practised in a manner which
threatened to produce social disturbances, from that moment it was
_disorder_, and the authorities expedited it, in the person of Madame
de Krüdener, as promptly as possible from frontier to frontier.[5]


[1] A manuscript of Chênedollé's, quoted by Sainte-Beuve in _Derniers
Portraits_, p. 290.

[2] Chateaubriand, _Congrès de Vérone_, i. 147.

[3] Sainte-Beuve, from the account of an eye-witness.

[4] Katerkamp, _Denkwürdigkeiten aus dem Leben der Fürstinn Amalia von
Galitzin_, Münster, 1828.

The best idea of her religious enthusiasm is to be gained from such a
production as the following beautiful little poem:--

                 GEBET DER LIEBE.

    Liebe! lehre uns beten, dass uns erhöre die Liebe.
    O der Liebe vereintes Gebet ist Quelle der Liebe,
    Quelle des ewigen Lebens und unaussprechlicher Wonne!
    Schwester, rufe mir zu: "O Bruder! Bitten der Liebe
    Sende dem Vater für mich--ich sende Bitten der Liebe
    Täglich dem Vater für dich." O Schwester! der Bitten nicht eine
    Kann an die Liebe, von Liebe, für Liebe umsonst seyn.]

[5] Sources: Charles Eynard, _Vie de Madame Krüdener_, vols. i. and
ii.; Sainte-Beuve, _Portraits de Femmes; Derniers Portraits; Deutsche
Rundschau_ for November and December 1899.



IX

LYRIC POETRY: LAMARTINE AND HUGO


When the Hundred Days were over, and Louis XVIII, had returned for
the second time, a mixed feeling, in which melancholy was the chief
ingredient, took possession of the French people. Their king's first
return had partaken of the appearance of a recall by the nation. But,
seeing that he himself had made no attempt whatever to resist Napoleon
with the troops which remained faithful to him, it was not possible
to disguise the fact that he had been brought back by the bayonets of
foreign armies. Hence in the eyes of the great majority his second
accession bore the appearance of a humiliation inflicted upon France.
But, on the other hand, it meant the restoration of lawful liberty
after the terrible military despotism under which France had now sighed
for so many years.

To literature the restoration of the monarchy was, to all appearance at
least, a herald of liberty. After the lapse of twenty-five years, free
discussion of ideas was again possible. The heavy hand which had lain
so crushingly on the press had been removed. The fettered intellects
and suppressed ideas were free to bestir themselves; men were at
liberty to investigate into and judge the past, the Empire as well as
the Revolution; and no great hindrances were placed in the way of their
deliberating the future of France.

They were free to do it, but had they any inclination? If they had, it
was of the slightest. The mood of France was the mood which follows
on a long illness or on a war which has ended in defeat. Not that
men longed for redress on the field of battle. Towards the close of
Napoleon's reign no echo was awakened in their hearts when the cannon
in front of the Invalides proclaimed a victory. They longed for peace,
as the sick man, exhausted by blood-letting, longs for rest.

To Frenchmen the idea of living a long, peaceful life once more became
a familiar one. For years mothers had trembled when they saw their sons
approaching the age of manhood, that is to say, the age at which they
became first soldiers and ere long corpses; now they began to hope that
these sons had a long life before them. The youths, to whom in their
boyhood the rattle of drums and blare of trumpets had been familiar
sounds, who even at school had accustomed themselves to the thought of
early won honour and an early death, were now obliged to familiarise
themselves with the idea of life in time of peace. The natural death to
which they now looked forward seemed hideous in comparison with death
as it had displayed itself to them heretofore, gloriously beautiful
in the purple of victory; what was almost a feeling of disappointment
came over them, and they began to brood. Most of the young men who had
so long been forced to sacrifice their personal life to the life of
the State, the requirements of war, the general aims of their country,
welcomed with delight the news that they might break the ranks, and
were no longer bound to walk in step behind the drum; they shook the
dust of the highways off their feet, threw off their uniforms, and
tried to banish every remembrance of military discipline. Coming
straight from the battle-fields of the Empire, from the noise and
bloodshed of war, they took refuge in the quietness of a country life,
far from the bustle and uproar of human crowds. Such was the mood of
the moment--a wearied, but complex mood. There was disappointment in
it, and hope, and inclination to personal day dreaming. It was not a
mood favourable to action, but to brooding, reflection, deliberation.

This national mood explains how it was possible for such poetry as
Lamartine's _Les Méditations_ to become the favourite literature of
the day. No book since Chateaubriand's _Génie du Christianisme_ had
made such a sensation as did the First Part of this work; 45,000 copies
of it were sold in four years. Strange as it may seem to us now, the
Restoration period found in Lamartine's poetry an interpretation of its
feelings and of all that moved its inmost heart--a picture of its ideal
longings, painted in the clearest, loveliest dream-colours. It was
poetry that resembled the music of an Æolian harp, but the wind that
played upon the strings was the spirit of the age. The poems were not
so much songs as reflections, not so much heart as spirit harmonies;
but in real life there had for long been enough, and more than enough,
of the positive--definite forms, decided characters, solid substance,
silent acceptance of the strokes of fate. It was by no means considered
a fault that there was no strong passion in the poems, no tendency to
see the dark and dreadful sides of life, or, in fact, life as it is.
There had been enough of all this in reality. After a period during
which so many instincts had been forcibly suppressed, men rejoiced in
this purely poetic instinct, in this most melodious poet, who had, as
he himself said, a chord for every feeling and mood. They longed for
just such lyric restfulness after philosophy, revolution, and wars
without end. The poem _Le Lac_ was read with delight by the whole
French-speaking world, just because it was so long since men had felt
in sympathy with nature, so long since they had looked at the face
of the earth from any point of view but the tactical one. It was not
only, however, as the poet of feeling that Lamartine represented the
spirit of the day; he also represented it in his character of orthodox
Christian. The leading note in his poetry was the note of Christian
royalism, and devotion to the Bourbon family in particular.

To us, who are acquainted with a Lamartine in whom the Revolution of
1848 seemed to find its incarnation, a Lamartine who was universally
regarded as a prophet of humanism, it is of interest to examine the
poet's spiritual starting-point.

[Illustration: LAMARTINE]

Alphonse de Lamartine was born at Mâcon in 1790, of a family belonging
to the ranks of the lesser nobility. His father was one of the king's
last faithful adherents at the time of the Revolution, and suffered
for his devotion. Alphonse's loving, pious mother taught him to read
in an illustrated Bible. He thus received his first literary and
artistic impressions from scenes in the lives of the Patriarchs, the
stories of Joseph and Samuel, of Sarah, and of Tobias and the Angel.
After 1794 the family lived a very retired life upon small means on
their little property of Milly. The son was at first taught at home
by an amiable abbé, then sent to a school at Lyons, the rough, coarse
tone of which was terribly repellent to a boy of a naturally refined
disposition. By his mother's and his own wish he was removed to a
school at Belley, kept by certain Jesuits who had managed to elude the
laws banishing them from France, and who called themselves _Fathers of
the Faith_. Here young Lamartine felt himself inexpressibly happy. The
teachers were kind and refined; one of them reminded him of Fénélon;
in the present century the Jesuits are undoubtedly not only the most
unscrupulous, but also the most amiable, cleverest, and consequently
most dangerous of all ecclesiastics. Amongst his fellow-pupils
Lamartine soon found friends of his own standing, scions of French
and Sardinian noble families. Among these were a young Alfieri,
young Virieu, who, as V., plays a part in Graziella, and a nephew of
Joseph de Maistre, Louis de Vignet. Through de Vignet Lamartine made
acquaintance with all the members of the famous de Maistre family;
Count Joseph attracted him least as a personality, but influenced him
both by letters and by his works.

One day at Belley a master read some passages of Chateaubriand to the
boys. The grandeur and charm of the majestic style made the deepest
impression upon Lamartine, who had never heard anything like it before.
But he declares in his Memoirs that he almost immediately assumed a
critical attitude; he fell, he says, into a frenzy of admiration, but
"not into a frenzy of bad taste." And he maintains that he presently,
in talking to his comrades about the _Génie du Christianisme_, summed
up his objections in the following pronouncement: "The main element
in all perfect beauty, naturalness, is wanting. It is beautiful; but
it is too beautiful." In other words, Lamartine, who himself wrote so
instinctively, thought Chateaubriand's style strained. It is probable
that he slightly antedates this criticism. In any case his admiration
was such that as late as 1824, when hymning the consecration of Charles
X., he wrote:--

                 L'ARCHEVÊQUE.
     Et ce preux chevalier qui sur l'écu d'airain
     Porte au milieu des lis la croix du pélerin,
     Et dont l'œil, rayonnant de gloire et de génie,
     Contemple du passé la pompe rajeunie?

                   LE ROI.
     _Chateaubriand!_ Ce nom à tous les temps répond;
     L'avenir au passé dans son cœur se confond:
     Et la France des preux et la France nouvelle
     Unissent sur son front leur gloire fraternelle.

Tasso was another poet whom Alphonse read with enthusiastic admiration.
Ossian taught him that it is possible for true poetry to be vague and
misty. Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, with his sweetness and his harmony,
was Lamartine's, as well as Madame de Krüdener's, favourite model.

Some of the entertaining and immoral books of the eighteenth century
which fell into the boy's hands delighted him, and excited his youthful
imagination for a short time, but these impressions were effaced by
those of the Jesuit school. A combination of religious enthusiasm and
delight in the freshness and beauty of nature purified his mind and
inspired it with activity.

"Were I to live a thousand years," he writes in his Memoirs, "I should
never forget those days of study, those hours of prayer, those nights
spent in meditation, and the raptures of joy with which I fulfilled my
duties, thinking all the time of God." And almost in the same breath
he tells of the bliss of skimming in winter on his skates across the
frozen marshes, as if borne on spirit wings, or of sitting under the
hornbeams in the mild, still spring air, lost in devotional feeling,
and happy in perfect peace of conscience.

The return of the Bourbons was hailed with rejoicing by the Lamartine
family, including Alphonse, now a young man. The father (who had
been wounded on the 10th of August 1792) conducted his son to Paris,
and had him enrolled in the King's Guard. It fell one day to the
young officer's lot to walk by the King's bath-chair, when he was
being wheeled through the galleries of the Louvre to inspect the art
treasures brought back by Napoleon from his various campaigns. The
profound reverence of the youth's own mind made him imagine Louis's
voice to be melodious, his person majestic and distinguished, his
glance commanding, his speech brilliant, his silence eloquent. Several
times after this the King addressed a few words to him when he was
riding by the side of the royal carriage.

When Napoleon had landed at Cannes and was making his triumphal
progress through France, Lamartine followed the Court to the Flemish
frontier; there the Guard was disbanded and sent home, and after
the Hundred Days Lamartine did not re-enter it, nor did he ever see
the King again. But when, in 1820, Louis read the first volume of
Lamartine's poems, he remembered their writer as a young officer of
his Guard, and sent him, by way of reward, an edition of the poets of
ancient Greece and Rome. Lamartine, apropos of this, makes the somewhat
hasty remark, that King Louis evidently looked upon himself as an
Augustus, who had discovered a Virgil.

The new poet openly proclaims himself to be a disciple of Chateaubriand
and Bonald. In his _Raphael_ (chap. 1.) he tells how he came to make
Bonald's acquaintance. When he was at Chambéry (in his twenty-fifth
year) worshipping the beautiful young Creole celebrated in his poems
under the name of Elvire, that lady asked him to write an ode to
Bonald, who was a frequent and honoured visitor at her house, Lamartine
informs us that all he then knew of Bonald was his name, and the halo
shed around it by its owner's fame as a Christian legislator. "I
imagined to myself," he says, "that I was addressing a modern Moses,
who derived from the rays of a new Sinai the divine light with which
he illuminated human laws." And so the ode which is to be found in the
first collection of Lamartine's poems under the title _Le Génie_ was
written. In it the young poet affirms--

     Ainsi des sophistes célèbres
     Dissipant les fausses clartés,
     Tu tires du sein des ténèbres
     D'éblouissantes vérités.
     Par le désordre à _l'ordre_ même
     L'univers moral est conduit.

Here, as everywhere, we come upon that meagre conception of
good--order. Bonald responded by sending Lamartine a complete edition
of his works. The poet read them with enthusiasm. In notes appended
to his ode at a later period he denies that they made any really
profound impression on him; but he is confusing his earlier with his
later conviction. He writes: "I read these works with that poetical
enthusiasm for the past and that emotional reverence inspired by
ruins which youthful imagination so easily transforms into dogma and
doctrine. For some months I tried to believe, on the authority of
Chateaubriand and Bonald, in revealed governments; but in my case,
as in other people's, the tendency of the day and the development of
human reason dispelled these beautiful illusions, and I comprehended
that God reveals nothing to man but his social inclinations, and that
the various systems of government are revelations of the age, of
circumstances, of the vices and virtues of humanity." It is certain
that Lamartine considerably antedates this conviction of his. All
the _Méditations_ are in the same tone as the ode to Bonald. The
one entitled _Dieu_ is dedicated to Lamennais, the dithyramb on the
subject of sacred poetry to Genoude, the translator of the Bible.
Lamartine himself wrote for _Le Conservateur_, a newspaper from the
first appearance of which Chateaubriand dated the pronounced European
reaction; and when this paper was given up, he, along with Lamennais
and Bonald, started a new one on the same lines, _Le Défenseur_, the
special aim of which was to oppose constitutional government. It fell
to Lamartine's lot to solicit a contribution from Joseph de Maistre. It
is significant that our poet, who by this time was aged thirty, should
write to the author of _Du Pape_ in such a tone as this: "Monsieur le
Comte! At the time I received your book and your kind and flattering
letter, I was very ill. I employ my earliest returning strength to
thank you for both, but specially for the honour you do me in calling
me nephew, a title of which I boast to all who know you. It is a title
which in itself is a reputation, in such estimation is your name held
by all those who in this misled and contemptible age understand true
and profound genius. M. de Bonald and you, Monsieur le Comte, and one
or two others who at a distance follow in your steps, have founded an
imperishable school of high philosophy and Christian politics, the
influence of which is steadily increasing, especially among the younger
generation."

In this same letter Lamartine defines Joseph de Maistre's position in
literature to be that of leader of the best writers, and attributes
the antagonism to him to "that absurd Gallican presumption" which De
Maistre has discountenanced in a manner worthy of all admiration.
Lamartine, thus, unmistakably favours the unlimited ecclesiastical
authority of the Pope--but, note well, only in theory. In his poetry
he is not nearly so dogmatic. When, for example--responding to
Chateaubriand's appeal--he considers it his duty, as a Christian poet,
to drive heathen mythology out of poetry, it is not really a pious, but
an artistic instinct by which he is inspired. The old myths had, as far
as lyric poetry was concerned, long ago dwindled into mere allegories
or paraphrases, things far too vapid to have an injurious effect upon
any one's religion. A crusade against faith in Apollo and Amor was a
perfectly unnecessary undertaking.

Lamartine's influence was due to the fact that he uttered, now the sad,
now the comforting, now the inspiring words which thousands craved to
hear. They did not feel the want of new thoughts in his utterances;
they were moved by the sound of his sympathetic voice. They felt
once more vibrating within them fibres which, during the period of
universal depression, had been completely benumbed; he conjured tones
from strings which had long given forth no sound; and men delighted
in the novelty which consisted in a revival of old memories. But,
besides all this, there was one really new element. For Lamartine the
ugly and the bad, nay, even the petty and the mean, did not exist. He
clothed everything in a garment of shining light. There was a heavenly
radiance over his poetry. For the first time for long years, a wealth
of beautiful feeling found expression in melodious verse.

The great naturalist Cuvier, in his speech on the occasion of
Lamartine's reception into the Academy in 1830, declared that men,
in the profound obscurity which surrounds their reason, require a
leader who can snatch them out of the black perplexity of doubt and
draw them along with him into the region of light and certainty. He
accused Byron of having seen nothing in the universe but a temple for
the God of evil, and greeted Lamartine as the poet of hope. Thus did
France, like some poor creature recovering from a dangerous illness,
confuse hope with belief, comfort with dogma, vital energy with
determined vindication of Papal authority--until at last the force of
circumstances dispelled the mist, and forced men of letters as well as
the general public to adopt definite standpoints.

Even later than this, Lamartine was still the man of the period. Only
four months before the outbreak of the Revolution of July, a eulogium
of Daru is prescribed as the theme of his oration before the French
Academy. He accomplishes the feat of pronouncing it without naming
Napoleon's name; and he says frankly: "This century will be dated from
our double restoration of lost blessings, the restoration of liberty
by the throne and of the throne by liberty.... Let us not forget that
our future is inseparably bound up with that of our kings, that it
is impossible to separate the tree from its root without drying up
the trunk, and that in our country it is monarchy which has borne
everything, even the perfect fruit of liberty."

Lamartine now enjoys a period of triumph, the period of budding fame.
Fame did not come to him early, for he was thirty years old; but it
penetrated like the first rays of the rising sun into his ambitious
soul. Let us picture to ourselves a salon in the days of Louis XVIII,
as described by writers of the day. About a hundred persons are
assembled in a suite of drawing-rooms in the house of some important
personage, say General Foy. Lamartine, then an attaché of the embassy
in Florence, but for the moment in Paris on one of his short visits, is
among the invited guests.[1] A movement of admiration passes through
the assembly as he enters--young, erect, handsome, aristocratic in
mien and bearing. A crowd, chiefly of ladies, gathers round him; he is
conscious of charming faces, splendid toilettes, smiles and flattery on
every side. People forget for a moment to offer their congratulations
to the deputies present on their last speeches. Even those who have not
seen Lamartine before know him at once, for he outshines all. General
Foy goes up to him, enthusiastically presses his hand, and assures him
that it is in his power, whenever he chooses, to become an ornament
of the Chamber, which has long stood in need of just such a talented
champion of the sacred principles of royalty. Then Lamartine, in the
melodious voice which as yet has never uttered a political catchword,
repeats one or two of his first poems--_L'Enthousiasme, Souvenir, Le
Désespoir, La Prière, La Foi_, or some such reflective pieces--thereby
producing boundless ecstasy, and calling forth outbursts of every
shade of enthusiasm and gratitude. Benjamin Constant comes up with
his impenetrable, solemnly ironic mien, congratulates him on having
discovered this new fountain of poetical inspiration, and assures him
that he knows of no such loftiness and purity of thought and expression
except in Schiller's reflective poems. The ladies are of opinion that
this comparison is very flattering indeed to Schiller, an unknown
German bourgeois poet, whose name they just remember having heard. What
is he compared with Lamartine!

Various circumstances contributed to heighten the effect produced by
the poems themselves--in the first place, the uncommon and almost
feminine personal beauty of their author; in the second, the rumours
in circulation regarding the lady whose praises were sung with such
seraphic enthusiasm, such supernatural purity. It was reported that the
poet had loved, and that death had deprived him of the object of his
affections. Much trouble was taken to discover the actual circumstances
of the case. Who was this Elvire? What was her real name?

We of to-day have been sufficiently enlightened by Lamartine's own
later prose works, but with the satisfaction of curiosity on this
subject interest in Lamartine's lyric poetry is not extinguished.

It was natural that the contemporaries of the youthful Lamartine should
see in him first and foremost the poet of the throne and the altar.
His earliest published poem was a heart-felt expression of gratitude
to the Jesuit school which had sheltered him in his boyhood. Such
a poem as his Ode was simply the essence of Chateaubriand's _Génie
du Christianisme_ versified. His lines on the birth of the Duke of
Bordeaux (Comte de Chambord), after the death of his father, the Duc
de Berry, with their refrain: "He is born, the miraculous child!"
expressed the feelings of the most loyal Catholics. And on every
occasion, in almost all of the poems, he lauds and magnifies, justifies
and adores God, Providence. At times, as for instance in the poem _La
Semaine Sainte_, written during a visit to the young Duc de Rohan,
who later in life became an archbishop and a cardinal, his verse is
almost like a fervently devotional burning of incense. If he is to be
taken at his word when he asserts, in writing of this poem many years
afterwards, that he alone, among the young men who gathered round the
Duke, had no relish whatever for the church's mystic joys, all we can
conclude is that his poetic talent was carried away by the current of
the tendency of the day.

Most of the purely religious poetry of Lamartine's youthful period
is, from its want of simplicity and real feeling, almost unreadable
nowadays. It is not lyric; it is not concise; it is reflection without
matter, meditation without thoughts, breadth without depth. A good
example is the poem dedicated to Byron, entitled _L'Homme_. The French
poet's conception of his English contemporary is the traditional,
stereotyped, inexpressibly silly one of the day, namely, that he
touches only the chords of despair, that his eye, like Satan's, fathoms
abysses, &c. To show Byron how the true poet ought to sing, Lamartine
strikes up the most servile hymn of praise to a God who, he himself
tells us, plagues, tortures, plunders, overwhelms with misfortune and
misery, and concludes with the exhortation:

    Jette un cri vers le ciel, ô chantre des enfers!

The notes appended at a later period to this poem betray an astonishing
ignorance of Lord Byron's history; almost everything affirmed of him is
incorrect. Though Lamartine added a poem to Child Harold, he never so
much as learned to spell the name correctly.

The same admonitory tone which he here assumes towards Byron he adopted
many years later in writing of Alfred de Musset, to whom he also
offered pious and moral truisms as medicaments.

The piety which Lamartine felt in duty bound to display is less
offensive, because more sincere, in the ode entitled _L'Immortalité_.
This poem is addressed to the beloved of his youth, Elvire, whose
scepticism was a great grief to him, and its aim is to comfort her
on her death-bed with the prospect of an immortality in which until
now she has refused to believe. But even here we have such frigid
allegorical ideas as: "And Hope, standing by thy side, O Death!
dreaming upon a grave, opens to me a fairer world."

In only one of the poems which invoke the Deity is Lamartine really
the lyric poet and not merely the fluent verse-writer, namely in _Le
Désespoir_, a Meditation which expresses revolt against our idea of
God. In this poem we have rhythmic flow, passion, and two qualities
rarely found in Lamartine's productions--vigour and conciseness. What
has God seen since the creation of the world?

    La vertu succombant sous l'audace impunie,
    L'imposture en honneur, la vérité bannie;
        L'errante liberté
    Aux dieux vivants du monde offerte en sacrifice;
    Et la force, par-tout, fondant de l'injustice
        Le règne illimité.

And in its original form the poem contained verses, suppressed at the
time of publication, which expressed sentiments far more bitter and
impious than these. It is characteristic that almost immediately after
the appearance of _Le Désespoir_, Lamartine, at his mother's request,
refuted the ideas it expressed in a reply-poem, _Dieu à l'Homme_,
which, though not wanting in melodious sonority, is, as even its author
perceived, not to be compared with the first. The first, he himself
correctly observes, is the product of inspiration, the second of
reflection.

But all the theological trappings were, as one might say, only glued on
to Lamartine's poetry. Or one might perhaps with more propriety liken
them to a carelessly constructed raft, which for a time floats upon the
bosom of the stream and then breaks up into its component parts and
disappears. All this pious dogmatism soon resolved itself into love of
nature, worship of nature, a sincerely religious philosophy of nature.

What really lived and breathed in those early poems was something
independent of their religious dogmatism, namely, the whole emotional
life of a gentle, yet dignified soul. The soul which found expression
in them had this characteristic of the new century, that it loved
solitude, and only in solitude found itself and felt itself rich.
It was an unsociable soul, only disposed to vibrate in harmony with
nature. It was sad and pathetically earnest; under no circumstances
whatever cheerful or gay. And, finally, it was never erotic; one only
of the poems was an expression of the happiness of satisfied love; the
feeling pervading all the rest was sorrow over the loss of the loved
one, whom death had claimed as his prey. The poetry of the eighteenth
century had resolved love into gallantry, had taken neither it nor
woman seriously, but in this new poetry love was the silent worship of
a memory, and woman was adored and glorified as she had been in the
days of the Minnesingers; only now it was woman as the departed one, as
the spirit.

Never did Lamartine depict the wild grief of loss at the moment of the
loss; in his poems grief has become a condition, a silent despair which
blunts, stiffens, tortures, and at a rare time dissolves into tears.

This new song was song which flowed naturally from its fountain,
plentiful and pure; it was music like harp-strains blended with the
tones of celestial violins. And, borne on these tones, simple, familiar
emotions communicated themselves to the reader's mind, such thoughts
as that of the poem _La Retraite_--happiness awaits me nowhere; or of
_L'Automne_--nature's autumnal mourning garb harmonises with my sorrow
and is pleasant to my eyes; or of _Le Golfe de Baya_--this spot, once
the scene of such great events, preserves not a trace of them; in like
manner we ourselves shall disappear, leaving no trace behind. But,
note well; a thought like this last was expressed in such wonderfully
beautiful lines as the following:

     Ainsi tout change, ainsi tout passe;
     Ainsi nous-mêmes nous passons,
     Hélas! sans laisser plus de trace
     Que cette barque où nous glissons
     Sur cette mer où tout s'efface.

There was never any systematic description of nature, or any attempt
at painting; the momentary impression of nature was caught, even as it
passed, by genius, and preserved for all time.

The poet is sitting at evening on the bare mountain side. Venus rises
above the horizon (_Le Soir_). A ray from the star seems to glide
across his brow and touch his eyes, and he feels as if the departed
one, in whose companionship he had lived here, were hovering near him.
He addresses the ray from Venus:

     Mon cœur à ta clarté s'enflamme,
     Je sens des transports inconnus,
     Je songe à ceux qui ne sont plus:
     Douce lumière, es-tu leur âme?

Or, sitting on a rock by the lake (_Le Bourget_), where in bygone
happy days he had sat by her side, he is painfully affected by the
feeling of the mutability of everything human as compared with the
unchangeableness of inanimate nature. This is the emotion to which
he gives expression in his poem _Le Lac_, which, in spite of its
extraordinary popularity, is probably the best he ever wrote. It is
an excellent type of his poetry; flowing gently, with no exertion
perceptible, not even that exertion which we call art, it is as
naturally melodious as the rippling of the lake. The emotion which
the poet desires to express is indicated with admirable precision in
the metaphor with which the first verse concludes: Is it impossible
to cast anchor on the ocean of time even for a single day? The lake
is described with its waves breaking upon the rocks as they did a
year ago, when the beloved one heard their murmur; and the bereaved
lover recalls the words which she spoke in the stillness of night, as
their boat floated on the waters--an invocation to time, that happy
time, to stay its flight, a prayer to it to hasten for the unhappy
and suffering, but to linger with those who love and are beloved.
He repeats her concluding cry: Prayer is fruitless; let us love one
another and enjoy the passing hour! For man there is no haven, time
has no shore; it flows on and we disappear. On this memory of the
thoughts of his dead love follows the poet's own invocation to nature.
He invokes the lake, the silent rocks, the caves, the dark woods, the
things which time spares and those which it re-animates, and beseeches
them to preserve the remembrance of that night.

And Lamartine, so spiritual in his expression of the grief and
loneliness of the bereaved lover, is almost as spiritual when for
once he gives expression to happy love. This he does in _Chant
d'amour_, a poem which he himself naïvely describes as a modern Song
of Solomon, quieter in tone and less Oriental in colouring than the
old, but which in reality has as little resemblance to that song as
the chastest spirituality of the West has to the glowing sensuality of
the East. Here, as elsewhere, the chord which he touches is the chord
of plaintive tenderness, gradually modulating into that of religious
devotion.

Of Lamartine's youthful verse these purely human poems are all that
we really care for nowadays. We are terribly bored by the vapid
compositions which, following the prescribed rule for religious poetry,
consist of nothing but adoration of the Deity as he reveals himself in
his works.

The poet whose acquaintance we make in the human poems is unmistakably
very vain, much engrossed with himself and his own lovableness, and at
times too honeyed in his language. But his vanity is so childlike and
innocent that it does not affect us unpleasantly; and we are favourably
impressed by the fact that it is not literary vanity. Lamartine
rejoices that he is good-looking, a favourite with distinguished women,
a good horseman, in course of time an eloquent orator; but he is not
conceited about his poetical gifts, not even proud of them. The man
whose talent was that of the true improvisatore with proud humility
describes himself in his prefaces and memoirs as one who cultivates
art for his pleasure, and who does not belong to the number of the
specially initiated. And he really is the dilettante in so far as he is
too careless to be called a true artist. He has unconscious technique,
he has flexibility and ease, but along with these an inclination to
long-windedness and repetition which at times spoils his effects, and
a want of the power of self-criticism which makes it difficult, nay,
almost impossible, for him to correct and improve. Nevertheless, all
his life long he was a poet, a true poet--in spite of his artistic
defects one of the most genuine whom France has produced. It was
not his fault that he made his appearance in literature under the
unpropitious planet of the reaction period.

It was under the influence of the same planet that the man destined to
become the most famous French poet of the nineteenth century won a name
for himself. Victor Hugo, born in 1802, is for a long period of his
life as good a Catholic and royalist as Lamartine, his senior by twelve
years. Hugo's literary career corresponds closely with the political
career of the French nation. He is an adherent of the Bourbons as
long as they are the reigning family. When the Revolution of July
takes place, he sympathises with it, and he is an adherent of the
new monarchy from the moment it is founded. During the reign of King
Louis Philippe, at whose court he is a frequent guest, he becomes an
enthusiastic eulogist of Napoleon when the cult of Napoleon is revived
in France. He warmly supports the candidature of Louis Napoleon for the
post of President of the Republic, continues to lend him his support
when he occupies that post, and is even favourable to the idea of an
empire, until the feeling that he is despised as a politician estranges
him from the Prince-President, and resentment at the _coup d'état_
drives him into the camp of the extreme Republicans. His life may be
said to mirror the political movements of France during the first half
of the century. He was, as is so often the case with poets, not a
leading spirit, but an organ.

In the last preface to his _Odes et Ballades_ Hugo, in his pompous
manner, writes of his own career: "History goes into ecstasies over
Michel Ney, who, born a cooper, became a marshal of France, and over
Murat, who, born an ostler, became a king. The obscurity of their
origin is considered to give them an additional claim to respect, and
to add to the glory of the position to which they have attained. Of
all the ladders which lead from darkness to light, the one which it is
most difficult and most meritorious to mount by is undoubtedly that
which leads from the position of loyal aristocrat to that of democrat.
To rise from a hut to a palace is, no doubt, an uncommon and admirable
achievement, but to rise from error to truth is more uncommon and more
admirable. In the case of the first ascent, the man gains something,
increases his comfort, his power, his wealth, with every upward step;
in the case of the second, exactly the opposite happens ... he must
pay for his spiritual growth with one sacrifice of temporal well-being
after another ... and if it is true that Murat could with pride lay his
postillion's whip beside his sceptre, saying: 'This is what I began
with,' then certainly the poet may with more justifiable pride and
greater inward satisfaction point to the royalist odes which he wrote
as a child and youth, and lay them beside the democratic poems and
works which he has written as a grown man. And the pride is perhaps
especially justifiable in one who at the end of his ascent, on the
topmost step of the ladder of light, has found banishment, in the man
who can date this preface from exile."

[Illustration: VICTOR HUGO]

Victor Hugo was the son of one of Napoleon's officers who had
originally been a violent revolutionist, and as such had exchanged
his Christian name, Joseph, for that of Brutus, which, however, he
dropped again when the Revolution was at an end. Joseph Hugo was at
Besançon, in command of a battalion, when his famous son was born. A
few weeks later he was sent to Corsica. From Corsica he was transferred
to Elba, thence to Genoa and the Italian army. He entered the service
of Napoleon's brother Joseph when Joseph became King of Naples, and
at Naples his wife and children joined him in October 1807. When in
1808 Joseph was made King of Spain, Colonel Hugo followed him to that
country, sending his wife and three little sons to Paris, where they
lived from 1808 till 1811. In the spring of 1811 they accompanied a
strong detachment of troops to Madrid, but Hugo thought it prudent
to send them back to Paris in the following year, while he himself,
who had been promoted with extraordinary rapidity to be aide-de-camp
to the King, major-domo of the palace, general, Count of Cisuentes,
inspector-general of the Peninsular army, and governor of three
provinces, took part in the war until the defeat of Vittoria, in June
1813, obliged Joseph to abdicate. Napoleon, who could not bear General
Hugo, and always treated him badly, refused to confirm his appointment
as general and his title as count (his other preferments he had lost),
and ordered him to enter the French army again with the rank of major.
In 1814 and 1815 Joseph Hugo distinguished himself by his able defence
of the fortress of Thionville. His son writes of him as if he had been
an ardent votary of Napoleon. This he most certainly was not, and when
the Bourbons returned they at once gained his complete allegiance by
restoring him to his rank of general, with promotion dating from 1809,
the year in which he had received it from King Joseph. Thus it was not
only Victor Hugo's mother, the daughter of a loyal shipowner of the
Breton town of Nantes, who was a devoted royalist; his father, too,
was strongly attached to the restored royal house. Causes entirely
unconnected with politics produced a misunderstanding between the
parents, and they separated. The sons, Abel, Eugène, and Victor,
remained with their mother in Paris.

All three possessed literary ability, though only the youngest lived
long enough to display his full power and win fame. All three were, to
begin with, champions of royalty and the church. Victor said as a boy:
"I will be Chateaubriand, or no one."

After winning prizes for their poems in Paris and at Toulouse, the
three brothers, with the view of earning a living, started a literary
periodical (in 1819). Chateaubriand was at this time editing the
extreme Conservative newspaper _Le Conservateur_. The brothers named
their venture _Le Conservateur littéraire_, and Chateaubriand gave it
a warm welcome. The new periodical came out twice a month until March
1821, and Victor Hugo alone supplied more poems and articles than all
the other contributors together. In _Le Conservateur littéraire_ are
already to be found some of his most famous odes--_Les Vierges de
Verdun_, the odes on the fate of La Vendée, on the death of the Duke
of Berri, on the birth of the Duke of Bordeaux, and the beautiful,
more personal song of rejoicing on the occasion of the restoration of
the statue of Henry IV. And in it we also find, to the number of over
a hundred, his first essays in criticism, of which only a few, and
these much tampered with, have been included in the collection entitled
_Littérature et Philosophie mêlées_.

At this period poetry is to Victor Hugo the daughter of religion.
Apropos of an ode on the existence of God, he writes: "The desire to
thank a bountiful God in language worthy of Him begat poetry. From its
birth it shared in the triumphs of religion, which united the earliest
societies and began the civilisation of the world. At the present day,
when, in order to demolish society, men attack religion, the only
bridle upon man, the only lasting tie which holds societies together,
it is not surprising that they should seek to make an ally of poetry.
But the divine muse does not allow herself to be inspired by that which
is nought."

And at this period, too, he proclaims the superiority of Corneille
and Racine to Shakespeare and Schiller: "We have never understood
the difference alleged to exist between classic and romantic art.
Shakespeare's and Schiller's dramas differ from Corneille's and
Racine's only in being more faulty."

The first edition of Victor Hugo's _Odes_ appeared in 1822. Louis
XVIII., who read them over and over again, settled an annuity of 1000
francs a year on the poet out of his private purse; in the following
year the Ministry of the Interior conferred on him a pension of 2000
francs; and in 1826 the King, on being applied to, increased the amount
of his yearly grant.

The King had good reason to show approval, for these first poems
of Victor Hugo contain the whole system of orthodox political and
religious principles valid under the Bourbon monarchy. They are a
faithful image of the period during which they were written.

They pass in review the history of France from 1789 to 1825. In
those of them which treat of the Revolution we observe, as in the
corresponding poems by Lamartine, that two words occur more frequently
than any others--executioners and victims. In the history of the
Revolution Hugo sees nothing else. For its leading spirits he has but
this one designation--executioners; the Convention he describes as a
creation of the devil (livre i. ode 4); and, little as he loves heathen
mythology, he cannot resist using the expression, _Hydra_ of anarchy,
when he wishes to depict the horrors of the revolutionary period. For
the enemies of the Revolution victims is the stereotyped designation;
the revolt of La Vendée is eulogised in every second poem, and odes
are addressed to its heroes and heroines (_La Vendée, Quiberon,
Mlle. Sombreuil_). The guillotine is always present to the poet's
imagination, and is the constant object of his anathemas, except when,
as in the ode _Le Dévouement_ (livre iv. ode 4), he is carried away to
the extent of desiring martyrdom for himself, "because the martyrs'
angel is the most beautiful of all the angels who bear the souls of men
to heaven."

Following in the footprints of Chateaubriand, Victor Hugo goes back
to the Christian martyrs of ancient Rome, and in no fewer than four
odes (_Le repas libre, L'homme heureux, Le chant du cirque, Un chant
de fête de Néron_) describes the agonising triumph of the martyrs over
the brutal and voluptuous cruelty to which they in outward appearance
succumb. And the symbolism, too, is the same as in Chateaubriand's
poetry; it is the death of the orthodox noble or priest which is
represented under the form of the butcheries of the circus.

One of the finest of these poems of the Revolution is the oldest,
written in memory of a little company of innocent young girls who,
under the Reign of Terror, were executed after a long imprisonment
without being brought to trial, on the vague and incorrect suspicion
that they had testified pleasure when the Prussians entered their town
(_Les vierges de Verdun_). Hugo paints the tribunal of the Convention
blacker than is necessary, by crediting the public prosecutor,
Fouquier-Tinville, with impure designs upon his victims and putting
insulting proposals into his mouth; but even without the addition of
unhistorical incidents, the sentence of these girls was so shameful,
their fate so tragic, and their behaviour so beautiful and dignified,
that they well deserved a poetic monument, even a better one than Hugo
raised to them.[2]

The poet's pathos is entirely justifiable in cases like this, where the
Revolution showed its dark and unjust side in its dealings with youth
and innocence, but it becomes grating and false as soon as his dogmas
come into play. His tone in writing of the monarchy and the glories
of royalty is positively insufferable. In the Ode to Louis XVIII.
God calls upon the seraphs, the prophets, and the archangels to do
obeisance to the newly arrived heir to the throne: "Courbez-vous, c'est
un Roi." And not content with this, the Deity Himself calls him by his
title, not his name: "O Roi!" and reminds him that _God's own Son was,
like him, a king with a crown of thorns_. In the poem on the occasion
of the baptism of the Comte de Chambord, the language is even stronger:
"God has given us one of His angels, _as He gave us His Son in the days
of old_." We are reminded that the water of the river Jordan (brought
home by Chateaubriand) in which the child has been baptized is the same
in which Jesus was baptized; it is the will of Heaven, we are told,
"that the reassured world should, even by the very water used for his
baptism, recognise a _Saviour_." In _La Vision_ the eighteenth century
is summoned before the judgment-seat of God, and there accused of
having in the pride of its knowledge mocked at the dogmas which are the
support of the law and of morality. It timidly expresses the hope that
the future will view its actions in a more favourable light, but it is
mercilessly condemned; the "guilty century" is plunged into the abyss,
pursued as it falls by the inexorable voice of the judge.

The standpoint from which Napoleon (who is always called Buonaparte)
is viewed harmonises with that from which the Revolution is judged;
he is the usurper, the savage soldier, the murderer of Enghien; and
again and again it is impressed on us that lilies are better than
laurels. Under the name of Colonel G. A. Gustaffson (livre iii. ode
5), Gustavus IV., who lived as an exile in France during the reign of
Louis XVIII, is eulogised as the representative of the fallen kings.
The personality and story of Gustavus are represented in a manner which
witnesses to Hugo's remarkable ignorance of foreign history--the king's
whole life is a model life; his great mind is like a temple, whence
proceeds the voice of God; he dictates the history of the future; he is
the successor of the ancient seers; actuated by disgust at seeing the
monarchs bow their necks to Napoleon's yoke, he has voluntarily taken
off his crown, and thereby raised his head high above all the other
royal heads on earth. Could folly go farther than this? The wretched,
insane Gustavus a model king! The Bourbons are of course exalted to
the skies. All their family events--birth, baptism, death, ascension,
consecration--are treated as of world-wide import. In a poem on the
subject of the reprehensible war which France, at Chateaubriand's
instigation, carried on with Spain in the interests of the European
reaction, royalty, the royal power, is declared to be miraculous; and
in the same poem the king is expressly described as the war-lord,
supporting himself by the power of the sword; war is, we are told, the
companion of royalty:

     Il faut, comme un soldat, qu'un prince ait une épée;
     Il faut, des factions quand l'astre impur a lui,
     Que, nuit et jour, bravant leur attente trompée
         Un glaive veille auprès de lui;
     Ou que de son armée il se fasse un cortège;
        Que son fier palais se protège
        D'un camp au front étincelant;
     _Car de la Royauté la Guerre est la compagne:_
     On ne peut briser le sceptre de Charlemagne,
        Sans briser le fer de Roland.

It is not surprising that all these odes should have mottoes taken
either from the Bible or from religious works, notably Chateaubriand's
_Les Martyrs_, a book by which men's minds were so powerfully impressed
that the younger poets of the day took a pride in transposing whole
pages of it into verse.[3] Lamartine addressed his ode _Le Génie_ to
Bonald; Hugo dedicates an ode with the same name to Chateaubriand, of
whom he writes that "he suffers the double martyrdom of genius and
virtue."

He addresses several poems to Lamartine--it is his desire, he writes,
to go into battle on the same war-chariot as his friend, to manage the
horses while Lamartine wields the spear--and these poems are among the
most attractive of all, partly because they are remarkably beautiful,
and testify to the respectful and yet at the same time brotherly
feeling of the younger for the elder poet, partly because in them we
have, along with Hugo's views on religious and social questions, the
expression of his ideas on the subject of art. All the poems prove with
what earnestness, but also with what exaggerated and almost offensive
self-consciousness, the young poet has apprehended his mission--it is
always called a prophet's mission; the poet is a seer, a shepherd of
the people; of Lamartine, Hugo goes the length of declaring that one
feels as if God had revealed Himself to him face to face. But it is in
the poems to Lamartine that we perceive most clearly what is Hugo's
conception of the position and relation of the new literature to that
of the eighteenth century. It bears a remarkable resemblance to a
kindred literary phenomenon in Denmark, namely, Oehlenschläger and his
friends' conception of their position to Baggesen. Read, for example,
the poem _La Lyre et la Harpe_ (livre iv. ode 2). The lyre represents
the frivolous, licentious poetry of the preceding century, which chants
the praises of Jupiter, Mars, Apollo, and Eros, and inculcates an
intellectual epicureanism, whereas in the tones of the harp we hear
the admonition to watch and pray, to remember the seriousness of life,
to think of death, to support and help our stumbling brethren. The
poem is dedicated to "Alph. de L."; the word harp in itself pointed to
Lamartine.

This offensive attitude towards the past is the first symptom of the
approaching breach with that past's whole system of ideas, from which
Hugo's significance as an author and leader of a literary movement
dates.[4]


[1] Villemain, _M. de Féletz et les salons de son temps_.

[2] Any one interested in their real story will find it told according
to the original historical documents in Cuvillier-Fleury's _Portraits
Politiques_, 1851, pp. 377, &c.

[3] For example, Émile Deschamps, _Poésies_, edition of 1841, p. 124.
"Une page des martyrs."

[4] Lamartine, _Mémoires; Voyage en Orient; Méditations poétiques;
Nouvelles méditations poétiques; Harmonies poétiques et religieuses_,
i. ii; Victor Hugo, _Odes et Ballades_; Edmond Biré, _Victor Hugo avant
1830_.



X

LOVE IN THE LITERATURE OF THE PERIOD


Of great significance as regards the whole character of the period is
the answer to the question: What is the nature of the amatory sentiment
in the writings of the authors of this group?

Of all the emotions treated of in literature the emotion of love is
that which receives most attention, and as a rule makes most impression
on the reader. Knowledge of the manner in which it is apprehended and
represented is an important factor in any real understanding of the
spirit of an age. In the age's conception of the passion of love we
have, as it were, a gauge by which we can measure with extreme accuracy
the force, the nature, the temperature of its whole emotional life. We
see gallantry transformed into passion in the works of Rousseau. In
the writings of Germany's great poets this passion is chastened and
humanised. The German Romanticists turn love into a sort of moonlight
sentimentality. In revolutionary times it is represented as at war with
existing and regular social relations. In the works of the sceptical
authors of the nineteenth century, such as Heine, it is undermined by
doubt of its existence.[1]

In such a period as that at present under consideration, a period which
rejects the claims of the body, pins its faith to authority, and prizes
order above all things, love necessarily receives a characteristic
imprint. If we glance at the most notable descriptions of love which
the period has bequeathed to us, we gain some idea of its main types of
humanity, male and female.

The first pair to meet our eyes are Eudore and Velléda in _Les Martyrs_.

The hero of _Les Martyrs_ is peculiarly interesting to us because
Chateaubriand has painted him with many of the features of his
own expressive countenance. So great is the similarity of their
circumstances that the words and the reflections with which
Chateaubriand and Eudore begin to tell the stories of their lives are
almost identical. Eudore says: "Born at the foot of Mount Taygetus, the
melancholy murmur of the sea was the first sound that fell upon my ear.
On how many shores have I since then watched those waves break that I
am now gazing on! Who could have told me a few short years ago that I
should hear the waves moaning on the beaches of Italy, on the shores
of the Batavians, the Britons, and the Gauls, which I then saw laving
the bright sands of Messenia?" And Chateaubriand, in his _Voyage en
Italie_, writes: "Born on the rocky shores of Brittany, the first sound
which fell on my ear when I came into the world was the roar of the
sea; and on how many shores have I since then seen the billows break
on which I am now gazing! Who could have told me a few short years ago
that I should hear moaning by the graves of Scipio and Virgil the waves
that rolled at my feet on English beaches and the shores of Maryland?"
&c.

Both these heroes are, thus, far-travelled and sorely tried men of
the type of Odysseus and Æneas. Common to both are astonishment at
the many and strange adventures of their own lives, and admiration of
themselves, who have been protected throughout all these dangers by
higher powers. But more significant is another feature which they have
in common. Eudore, like Chateaubriand, is the hero who brings about the
triumph of Christianity upon earth. Chateaubriand does in the reign of
Napoleon what Eudore did in the reign of Galerius; and it is not his
fault that he is not a martyr; the thought of martyrdom was one which
often occupied him in his youth; he repeatedly said to friends that
he would not have drawn back if his life had been required of him.
The heroic figure always present to his imagination as a pattern is
nothing less than the sacrificial victim who atones for the ungodliness
and apostasy of the age, and who by his life-work and his sufferings
appeases an angry God. In the first edition of _Les Martyrs_ Eudore
is plainly called a lesser Christ. In writing of him the author uses
the expression that the Almighty demanded "une hostie entière." In the
later editions this particular expression was, on religious grounds,
omitted, but in another place the same idea has been inadvertently
retained, with an almost comic effect. In the account of Eudore's
martyrdom we read: "The chair of fire was now ready. Seated on its
glowing bars, the Christian teacher preached the Gospel more eloquently
than before. Seraphims shed the dew of heaven on him, and his guardian
angel sheltered him with his wings. _Il paraissait dans la flamme comme
un pain délicieux préparé pour les tables célestes_."

We have here the fundamental idea that distinguishes the type. The
first sacrifice, the first saviour, the first "host," is not enough.
Although he is a Christian, Chateaubriand does not believe that the
sacrificial death of Christ has been a complete atonement, has done all
that was required. To ensure the triumph of religion minor saviours,
such as Chateaubriand himself and his hero Eudore, are still needed.
In German Romanticism even a miserable creature like Golo in Tieck's
_Genoveva_ is understood to have a resemblance to Christ; the same is
the case with Eudore.[2] Though he errs in his youth and for a short
time treads the path of destruction in beautiful Naples (Chateaubriand
knew by experience that the best resolutions are no security against
such backsliding), he reforms, stands steadfast in every trial, and
dies a shining light.

His love for Velléda is one of these trials.

Velléda is undoubtedly the most remarkable and most influential
female character in the French literature of this period. She is a
Gallic maiden of the third century, and in her Chateaubriand depicts
the French national type. "This was no ordinary woman. She had that
attractive waywardness which distinguishes the women of Gaul. Her
glance was quick and keen, the expression of her mouth slightly
satirical, her smile peculiarly gentle and expressive. Her bearing
was now proud, now voluptuous. Her whole personality was a mixture
of gentleness and dignity, of artlessness and art." But Velléda is
not simply French; she bears the distinct impress of the age of her
creation; she is an ideal of 1808. She is a priestess, and belongs to
the family of the Arch-Druid. In the first decade of the nineteenth
century the feminine character was not perfect unless it was marked
by religious enthusiasm. It was also obligatory that Velléda should
not be purely and simply the child of nature; she is so only to the
same extent as were the ladies of 1808. We are expressly and somewhat
pedantically told of her that in the family of the Arch-Druid she had
been "carefully instructed in the literature of Greece and in the
history of her own country." Velléda is the last priestess of the
Druids, as Cymodocée is the last priestess of Homer. A short time ago
Corinne had been the model of the ambitious young Frenchwoman, now she
was supplanted by Velléda; and, literature not being merely a medium of
expression for society, but also an important agent in remoulding it,
we see the type pass from the world of imagination into the world of
reality. What is Madame de Krüdener, standing in front of the Russian
army, but a Christian Velléda?

When we make the acquaintance of the young priestess she is seated
in a boat which is tossing on the waves of a tempestuous sea, trying
to still the storm with her incantations; for she, like Fouqué's
Undine, has, or believes she has, a certain power over the sea. Later
we hear her, in an eloquent speech, calling on her countrymen to
take up arms against the Romans and reconquer their liberty. We see
her, as the priestess of Teutates, sharpening her sickle to offer a
human sacrifice. How beautiful she is as her creator describes her to
us--tall and straight, scantily clothed in a short, black, sleeveless
tunic, her golden sickle hanging from a girdle of steel! Her eyes are
blue, her lips rose-red; her fair flowing hair is bound with a slender
oak-branch or a wreath of verbena.

Hardly has she seen Eudore than she loves him. But such simple and
natural passion is not enough for the age; it demands that Velléda
shall be a devotee of Vesta, shall have taken the oath of eternal
virginity. "I am a virgin, the virgin of the island of the Seine;
whether I keep my oath or break it I die--die for your sake." Eudore
admires her, but does not love her. His relation to her is that of the
pious Æneas to Dido, a fact to which the author makes him draw our
attention. The unfortunate Velléda tries all her magic arts. At one
time she determines to steal her way in to Eudore on the moonbeams;
at another she is preparing to fly into the tower which he inhabits
and win his love in the shape of another woman, but the very thought
arouses her jealousy and causes her to desist. Eudore, though he does
not return her passion, feels himself, as it were, infected by its
atmosphere when he is beside her. As a Christian he shrinks with horror
from the temptation. "At least twenty times while Velléda was telling
me of her sad and tender feelings, I was on the point of throwing
myself at her feet, announcing her victory, and making her happy by
the acknowledgment of my defeat. At the moment when I was about to
succumb, the compassion with which the unhappy woman inspired me saved
me. But this very compassion, which saved me at first, in the end
proved my destruction; for it deprived me of the last remnant of my
strength." Looking at the matter from the purely artistic point of
view, it offends our taste to hear a man dilate thus upon his struggles
to preserve his virtue; Eudore's outbursts of shame and remorse do not
become him well. "O Cyrille," he says, "how can I go on with such a
story! I blush with shame and confusion." When at last, after Velléda
has attempted to kill herself, this knight of the doleful countenance
has yielded and is lying at her feet, nothing less will serve him
than to set all the powers of hell loose on the occasion. "I fell at
Velléda's feet. ... Hell gave the signal for these terrible nuptials;
the spirits of darkness howled from their abyss, the chaste spouses
of our forefathers turned away their faces, my guardian angel hid his
with his wings and returned to heaven." Even at the supreme moment
this depressing hero is incapable of self-surrender; he is ashamed; he
resembles a boy who, with a feeling compounded of gluttony and fear of
flogging, devours a stolen apple. "My happiness resembled despair, and
any one seeing us in the midst of our rapture would have taken us for
two criminals who had just received their sentence of death. From that
moment I felt that I was stamped with the seal of divine wrath. Thick
darkness spread like a smoke-cloud in my soul; I felt as if a host of
rebellious spirits had suddenly taken possession of it. Thoughts filled
my mind which until this moment had never occurred to me; the language
of hell poured from my lips; I uttered such blasphemies as are heard in
the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth."

It is, thus, on a background of hell-fire that Chateaubriand depicts
the love of the Christian confessor and the heathen prophetess. In
_Atala_, where we have a kindred representation of combined suffering
and pleasure, the insincere anathema against earthly love was not yet
launched.

We come upon much the same idea in one of Alfred de Vigny's youthful
works, _Eloa_, a beautiful and notable poem which describes the
seduction of a charming young angel of the female sex by the Prince
of Darkness. The Satan of _Les Martyrs_ was a revolutionist, but De
Vigny's Satan is hardly to be distinguished from the Eros of the
ancients. Without telling who he is, he ensnares the fair angel with
his personal charms and his eloquence, and draws her with him into the
abyss. He himself describes his power in the following words:

     Je suis celui qu'on aime et qu'on ne connaît pas.
     Sur l'homme j'ai fondé mon empire de flamme
     Dans les désirs du cœur, dans les rêves de l'âme,
     Dans les liens des corps, attraits mystérieux,
     Dans les trésors du sang, dans les regards des yeux.
     C'est moi qui fait parler l'épouse dans ses songes;
     La jeune fille heureuse apprend d'heureux mensonges;
     Je leur donne des nuits qui consolent des jours,
     Je suis le Roi secret des secrètes amours.

We are irresistibly reminded of the song to Eros in the _Antigone_ of
Sophocles.

As the period is now rapidly descending the incline leading to the
conception of Eros as the devil himself, it is only natural that in the
descriptions of "real" love on which it prides itself it should be more
frigid and impotent, more seraphic and platonic than any other age we
are acquainted with. Let us see how the Velléda of the day, Madame de
Krüdener herself, describes love in _Valerie_.

Although _Valerie_ is an imitation of _Werther_, it is in many ways
extremely unlike _Werther_. It is the story of a young Swede, Gustave
Linar by name, who in his childhood learned from his mother "to love
virtue," and who continues to love it until he dies. Along with virtue
he loves Valérie, but Valérie is the wife of the Count, his master and
ideal, and is herself such a quintessence of all the virtues that he
regards her with a reverence which makes desire impossible. Alexander
Stakjev confessed his feelings to Krüdener, but Gustave utters not a
word to the Count, nor does he ever speak of his sufferings to the
woman he loves.[3] Preyed upon by uncomprehended and unavowed love, and
far too well-behaved to shoot himself, he dies of consumption.

This is his style: "O my friend, how criminal of me to have yielded
to a passion which I was well aware would be my destruction! But I
will at least die in the love of virtue and sacred truth; I will not
charge Heaven with my misfortunes, as so many men in my plight do (what
virtue); I will endure without complaint the suffering which I have
brought upon myself, and which I love, although it is killing me. I
will go when the Almighty calls me, burdened with many sins, but not
with that of suicide." (ii. 63.)

Gustave is not a man. It is generally acknowledged that the
portraiture of men is not the strong point of female authors. They
almost invariably depict them as entirely absorbed in their relations
with women. Gustave is, as already observed, a Scandinavian; but
Scandinavians have no reason to be proud of this compatriot, in whom
the vigour of the Northerner is conspicuously absent. The national
colouring of the story is confined almost entirely to the Teutonic
sentimentality in which the descriptions are immersed, and to a
variety of Swedish names, which, it goes without saying, are as a rule
incorrectly spelt. At Venice Gustave gives a fête in Valerie's honour;
the decorations are intended to remind her of the home of her youth,
amongst the birches and pines; when she catches sight of them she
cries: "Ah! c'est Dronnigor" (Drottninggård).

There is nothing characteristically Swedish about Gustave. Really
beautiful in the description of his character is the gleam of youthful
philanthropic enthusiasm shed over his confessions. It seems to him
that in most men's lives the period of love is succeeded by that of
ambition. There is something fine and sincere in the language in which
he tells that the glory others desire is not that which in his eyes has
seemed desirable. "The glory of which I dreamed was won by occupying
one's self with the happiness of all, as love occupies itself with
the happiness of a single individual. It was virtue in the man who
possessed it, before his fellow-men gave it the name of fame." And
he adds: "What has real glory in common with the petty vanity of the
many, with the pitiful contention that one is something because one is
striving hard to be it?" It is strange to find sentiments like these in
a book the fame of which was due to such artifices as were employed to
puff _Valérie_.

The heroine is equipped with all the charms which a lady as
passionately in love with herself as Madame de Krüdener was could
communicate to her own portrait. She is a thorough woman, whilst
the unfortunate Gustave, though quite aware of the foolishness and
hopelessness of his passion, is absolutely unable to burst his bonds
and begin to live the life of a man. He is obliged to content himself
with such humble expressions of his adoration as kissing a child whom
his mistress has kissed on the spot which her lips have touched, or
kissing the outside of the window-pane on the inside of which she is
resting her bare arm during the pause between two dances at a ball, or
pressing her hand and feeling the ring given her by her husband, or
fainting in her presence, so that she is obliged to bathe his brow with
eau-de-Cologne.

A faint perfume of eau-de-Cologne may be said to pervade the whole
story. It is significant that the first service which Valérie asks
Gustave to do her after they have become intimate is to procure her
secretly a little rouge, which her husband objects to her using. With
the odour of eau-de-Cologne is blended an odour of propriety and
veneration which is so powerful that it is almost obnoxious, and a
supernaturalness in the matter of the affections which is both silly
and unbeautiful. Valérie is _enceinte_ when Gustave conceives his
passion for her, but this circumstance has no curative effect on him,
though he lives in intimate companionship with her until her son is
born. They wax enthusiastic together over Ossian and Clarissa Harlowe.
Gustave never feels the slightest jealousy of the Count, nor does the
Count of him. It is with the Count's hand in his that Gustave dies.
Love is, in short, so purified, so unnaturally seraphic, that with its
passion it has also lost its poetry. This is doubly significant when we
happen to know how little seraphic was the life with which this poetess
of love had prepared herself to write her novel, and how cleverly she
herself managed to reconcile the sacred with the more carnal aspects of
love.

Lamartine and his Elvire are the last couple on whose relations we have
time to dwell.

Lamartine's youthful poems treated of love, but of a love so pure
that it was called "une prière à deux." It was depicted with the
transfiguring ideality which is the result of the death of the beloved
one. The poet presses to his lips the crucifix which she kissed before
she died, and the poem _Le Crucifix_ is so soulful that we believe
Lamartine when he tells us in a note appended to it: "I never re-read
these verses." In his novel, _Raphael_, a much later work, he gives us
the real facts of the same love story, and these throw a new light on
the famous poems.

Julie, to give the lady known by the name of Elvire her real name,
is a créole, aged twenty-eight. She is an orphan, and has married a
man of seventy, a famous scientist, that she may have a protector;
but her actual relation to him has never been anything but that of a
daughter to a father. She has an affection of the heart which may at
any time prove fatal. By the Lake of Bourget in Savoy (the lake of
which Lamartine has sung so beautifully), where she is spending the
autumn for the sake of her health, she meets Raphael, the young hero
of the book, a man differing in nothing but name from its author, who
in its pages gives us not only real facts, but even calls his friends
and acquaintances by their real names. He describes himself as he
was then--twenty-four years old, young and poor, solitary and shy,
tender-hearted and given to enthusiasms, already a little _blasé_ from
much dissipation, tired of all the commonplace and dissolute amours in
which he had hitherto indulged.

It cannot be said that Lamartine gave an altogether too unfavourable
description of himself. The delicacy and refinement of Raphael's
feelings was such that his comrades used laughingly to declare that
he was home-sick for heaven. In a somewhat clumsy manner Lamartine
attempts to give us an idea of this refinement: "If he had wielded the
brush, he would have painted the Madonna of Foligno; if the chisel,
he would have sculptured Canova's Psyche. If he had been a poet, he
would have written the lamentations of Job, Tasso's Herminia stanzas,
Shakespeare's moonlight scene in _Romeo and Juliet_, and Lord Byron's
description of Haydee." Fortunately it was not required of him to do
any of these things, as they had been done by others. We know that in
his efforts at a later period in one of the three directions, namely,
as a poet, he did not attain to the level of the masters named.

In _Raphael_ we have a masterly description of a young man's ardent
love, a love which, though it has taken possession of him heart and
soul, is of an almost altogether spiritual nature, partly because its
object inspires such a degree of reverence and compassion that the
senses are not allowed to come into play, partly because the young man,
after leading a loose life with women for whom he has felt no respect,
shudders at the very idea of his relation to this woman, whom he
reveres, becoming one of the same nature with his past amours.

He has had love affairs, but he has never been truly in love before.
It seems to him as if, when she looks at him, there is a remoteness in
her gaze which he has never felt before in human eye. It reminds him
of the gleam of the stars, which has traversed millions of miles of
space. He has a hesitation in approaching her which makes the distance
between them seem impassable. When he at last succeeds in making her
acquaintance, it is the name and the position of a brother which she
gives him, and with this he is contented and happy. No sooner have they
found one another than he feels as if he were relieved from a heavy
burden--the burden of his heart. As soon as he gives it away he learns
what life in all its fulness is. He feels as if he were floating in the
purest ether; his joy is infinite and luminous as the air of heaven.
During the first hours which he spends with her he loses all perception
of time; he is certain that a thousand years spent thus would to him be
so many seconds. He does not feel like a human being, but like a living
hymn of praise.

And this ecstatic mood lasts as long as he breathes the same air with
her. They are happy together during the beautiful summer days, and
prolong their summer into autumn: "Our summer was in ourselves."

We feel that this description of the bliss of young love is a
description of something that really has existed. The young couple are
living not far from the place where Rousseau, as a youth, loved Madame
de Warens. Raphael is rather younger than Julie--he is twenty-four, she
twenty-eight; this gives their relation a certain resemblance to that
between Rousseau and his protectress; but the emotions of Raphael and
Julie are as incorporeal and romantic as those of the other couple were
substantially human.

And not only the happiness produced by the presence of the loved one,
but the pain of separation, the longing for letters, the fever of
expectation when the time of meeting draws near, and the agonies of
parting are described, with many admirable realistic touches, in a
manner worthy of a great writer.

Raphael lives in the country, Julie in Paris. When he takes a walk, his
steps involuntarily turn towards the north, to diminish the distance
which separates him from her. His day contains only one happy hour,
that which brings the postman with her letter. As soon as he hears the
postman's step he is at the window; he meets him at the street door,
hides the letter in his pocket, and hastens with trembling knees to his
room, where he locks himself in to read it in privacy. Later in the
story, when Raphael is in Paris, we have the admirable description of
his wanderings on the winter evenings back and forwards across one of
the Seine bridges, waiting for the moment when the lamp in her window
shall show him that her guests have taken their departure, and that
he is certain to find her alone. Note the blind beggar on the bridge,
into whose tin cup he never forgets to throw his mite; the striking of
the hour and the half-hour by the church clocks; and another delicate
little touch--Raphael's hearing gradually becomes so acute that he
distinguishes the separate chime of each clock in the chorus.

All this is excellent. Unfortunately the novel as a whole is spoiled by
its religious purpose.

The authors of this period could not write of love pure and simple;
they felt obliged to mix religion up with it. Lamartine makes his
lovers go through whole courses of philosophy and theology together.
They hold different opinions, and she is intellectually his superior.
He still retains the beliefs of his childhood. In the house of her
famous husband she has associated with intellectually emancipated men
of science, whose opinions, marked with the stamp of the eighteenth
century, she has imbibed. He and she really belong to different
generations--she to the generation of the empire, he to that of the
monarchy. Faust, when he is catechised by his Gretchen, is obliged to
parry her attempt to convert him by explaining his unbelief to her
in palliating euphemisms; the opposite happens here; Raphael makes
long, fruitless attempts to convert his Julie to faith in God and
Christianity. The first time the innocent youth recommends her to seek
aid from God, he is astonished when, instead of answering him, she
looks sad and indifferent and turns away her face. He timidly asks her
reason for so doing. She answers: "That word distresses me." "What!
the word which signifies life, love, and everything that is good--how
can it distress the most perfect of God's creatures?" &c., &c. Then
she is obliged to explain to him that what he calls _God_ is what she
calls _law_--an infinite greatness, an absolute, inevitable necessity,
something that it is impossible to move with prayers.

To this conviction of hers is due Julie's easy and yet dignified
moral attitude. She says: "I was educated by a philosopher, and in
my husband's house I have lived in the society of free-thinking men,
who have severed themselves entirely from the dogmas and observances
of a church which they have helped to undermine; hence I have no
superstitions and none of the weak-minded scruples which impel most
women to bow their heads under a second yoke, superadded to that which
our consciences impose upon us."

It is Raphael who plays the girl's part when, time after time, he
supplicates a woman of a spirit like this to return to the bosom of the
Roman Catholic Church. "I besought her to seek in a religion of love
and tenderness, in the sacred gloom of our churches, in the mysterious
faith in that Christ who is the God of tears, in genuflections and
prayer, the relief and the comfort which I myself had found in them in
my youth." Raphael's attempt at conversion was not entirely successful;
he himself was satisfied with the result, but a more strictly orthodox
Christian would hardly have been so.

It is love, we are led to understand, which teaches Julie to believe
in God. "There is a God," she said; "there is an infinite love, of
which ours is only one drop, a drop which falls back into the divine
ocean from which we have drawn it. This ocean is God. At this moment I
feel, I see, I understand Him by means of my happiness.... Yes," she
continued, with even more ardour in her glance and voice, "let the
perishable names by which we have called the attraction which draws us
to one another be forgotten. There is only one name which expresses
it--that is God. He has revealed Himself to me in your eyes. God, God,
God!" she called, as if teaching herself a new language; "God is you;
God is what I am to you. We are God."

All this impresses us as having more purpose in it than truth to
nature. Not such is the eloquence of happy love.

Had Julie's husband, the old philosopher, happened to overhear these
effusions, he could have told the lovers that such doctrines and such
emotions, far from being Christian, are pure pantheism. We cannot doubt
that he would have done so with perfect calmness, for he does not
feel the slightest jealousy. He knows that Julie and Raphael write to
each other every day, and he also knows the ethereal nature of their
love. When Raphael comes to Paris, all he says to him is: "Remember
that you have not one friend but two in this house. Julie could not
make a better choice of a brother, nor I of a son." It is comical
that Raphael, for his part, should feel no disquietude concerning
the old man, unless we reckon as such a feeling of regret that he is
drawing near to the grave without any belief in immortality; and it is
characteristic of the period that even the aged scientist is in the end
converted.

The old man has, in a manner, no ground for jealousy. Lamartine has
very naïvely introduced into his novel a piece of realism, which,
while it explains many things, weakens the edifying effect which he
aimed at producing. Julie's reply to Raphael's first confession of
love decides once and for all the nature of their mutual relations.
She says: "I believe only in an invisible God, who has imprinted His
image upon nature, His law upon our instincts, and His morality upon
our reason. Reason, feeling, and conscience are the only revelations I
acknowledge. None of these three oracles of my life would forbid me to
belong to you; my whole soul would prostrate itself at your feet, if
this could purchase your happiness. But are we not more certain of the
spirituality and eternity of our love when it remains on the heights of
pure thought, in regions inaccessible to change and death, than when
it degrades and profanes itself by descending to the base regions of
sensuality?"

It is, we observe, the love that despises the senses which Julie
somewhat affectedly extols. Now, certain as it is that love can
continue to exist even when circumstances forbid its complete
gratification, it is equally certain that renunciation for the sake
of renunciation and of spirituality is contrary to nature. When the
religious reaction set in in Denmark, Ingemann, in his youthful works,
preached such renunciation. The question whether Julie really favoured
the principle, or whether we are not in reality indebted for it to
Lamartine, who admired without practising it, must be left undecided.
In his reminiscences of his love affairs, Lamartine is in the habit
of describing himself as emancipated from all sensual desire. And we
know them all, these love affairs; for the man who, according to his
own account, had always such complete control over his passions, had
very little control over his pen. We know (from his _Confidences_) how
during his meetings with Lucy, the beautiful girl of sixteen, in the
cold frosty weather, he was as cold as the winter night. We remember
the sentence in _Graziella_: "We slept two steps from each other; my
cold indifference protected me." It may be doubtful whether it was
really Julie who enounced the principle of renunciation, but there can
be no doubt of the genuineness of the next speech attributed to her.
She adds, blushing deeply, that the renunciation she demands of him is
imperative--on account of her health; she has medical authority for
what she says; she would leave his arms like a shadow, like a corpse:
"The sacrifice would be the sacrifice not only of my dignity, but of my
life."

It is impossible to deny that there is an extraordinary inconsistency
between this last utterance and those which precede it, and that this
exceedingly practical explanation deprives the spiritual friendship of
much of its spirituality. We seem to come down from the seventh heaven
and feel the solid earth beneath our feet again.

There follow scenes like those in _Valérie_--projects of suicide which
are never carried into execution; nights spent by the lovers in tender
converse, with a thick oaken door between them; rapt, sentimental
ecstasies. This is a love which finds expression only in lingering
looks, languishing that reaches the verge of insanity, sighs that are
almost screams, long silences and endless outpourings--never a caress
or an embrace. Unpleasant, almost offensive, in any case unnatural,
is the manner in which, in this love-story too, our attention is
perpetually drawn to the fact that the lovers keep their vow, that
their love remains platonic. On the one solitary occasion when there
seems to be real danger, there arrives at the critical moment--who?
None other than that estimable old man, Monsieur Bonald, with whose
theories on the subject of woman and of marriage we are acquainted. He
is coming to stay with Julie, arrives at twelve o'clock at night, and
is thus saved the grief of seeing his pupils rebel against order. Even
in his novel, Lamartine does not miss the opportunity of proclaiming
that he was at variance with Bonald, especially as regarded his
doctrine of theocratic government. It became the fashion to disagree
with Bonald. Chateaubriand himself remarks in his _Memoirs_ (iv. 23):
"Monsieur de Bonald was a clever man. His sagacity was mistaken for
genius."

Whenever Julie pities Raphael, he answers her with pious outbursts in
which he compares her and himself to Abélard and Héloïse. "Have I ever
let you feel that I desire ought else than to share this suffering with
you? Does it not make both of us voluntary and pure victims? Is not
this the eternal burnt-offering of love, which has perhaps not been
offered before the eyes of the angels since the days of Héloïse until
now?"

When, after studying _Raphael_, we re-read Lamartine's poems to Elvire,
we have a new key to the understanding of the idealism and vagueness
of this poetic love, which, obliged to renounce sensual pleasures,
pretends that the corporeal world does not exist for it. A distinction
must, however, be drawn between the later poems and some written much
earlier and in a perfectly different tone, a tone which recalls the
eighteenth century. Take as examples the poems _À Elvire_ (which is in
reality addressed to _Graziella_) and _Sapho_.

We have now enough of examples; let us consider to what conclusion
they have led us. Choosing a simple emotion, but one of those which
every school of literature sets itself to express and interpret, and
which each expresses and interprets in a characteristic manner, we
have examined a number of different specimens of the manner in which
it is interpreted by this particular school. Here, as in all the
other domains of literature which we have inspected, we have found
the natural side of life ignored, or concealed, or blackened, or
represented as something to be ashamed of. Chateaubriand and Madame
de Krüdener seek out cases in which love is considered to be criminal
and sinful, and either describe the triumphant yells of the powers of
hell when the hero succumbs or the jubilations of the principalities
and powers when the infamy is not perpetrated. We have the same
paraphernalia in Alfred de Vigny's writings:

     Les Chérubins brûlants qu'enveloppent six ailes,
     Les tendres Séraphins, Dieux des amours fidèles,
     Les Trônes, les Vertus, les Princes, les Ardeurs,
     Les Dominations, les Gardiens, les Splendeurs,
     Et les Rêves pieux, et les saintes Louanges,
     Et tous les Anges purs, et tous les grands Archanges.

De Vigny makes Satan speak like Eros, that is to say, Eros like Satan.
Lamartine enthrones love in his poetry as seraphic, as emancipated from
all earthly passion, but in _Raphael_ describes it as what it really
was, ethereal against its will--which, however, only adds to the merit
of the lovers and provides angels and burnt-offerings, these latter of
a sweet savour unknown since the days of poor Abélard.

And below everything there is an under-current of hypocrisy. Eudore,
who would have us believe that he is made utterly miserable by
Velléda's passion, is nevertheless secretly flattered by her having cut
her white throat for his sake. He bewails his fall in expressions which
convey the idea that he feels tempted to fall again. The authoress of
_Valerie_ proclaims the moral purity of her heroine in the market-place
and clamours of chastity and renunciation in all the newspapers at a
time when she herself is peculiarly unfit to be a teacher of morality.
Lamartine, as novelist, naïvely gives an explanation of his relations
with Elvire which differs entirely from the impression of them that
the public had naturally gathered from the ethereal ecstasies of _Les
Méditations_, and ends by smothering the real beauties of his literary
art in languid, lachrymose sentimentality.

In the representation of love, as in everything else, men aimed
at supernaturalness, and only succeeded in either crippling or
hypocritically ignoring nature.[4]


[1]

    Doch wenn du sprichst: Ich liebe dich,
    So muss ich weinen bitterlich.



[2] (F. L. Liebenberg, _Bidrag til den Oehlenschlägerske Litteraturs
Historie_, i 183. Genoveva "sees Christ in him."

[3] In two successive editions of his _Französische
Litteraturgeschichte_, Julian Schmidt, in giving an account of
_Valérie_, has made the mistake of asserting that Gustave confesses to
the husband.

[4] Sources: Lamartine, _Graziella; Raphael; Les Confidences;
Mémoires_; Madame de Krüdener, _Valérie_; Chateaubriand, _Les Martyrs_,
ix., x.



XI

DISSOLUTION OF THE THEORETICAL PRINCIPLE OF AUTHORITY


In the lyric poetry of Lamartine and Victor Hugo, as in the prose of
Chateaubriand, there was, in spite of the unconditioned assertion of
the principle of authority, a hidden or germinating antagonism to that
principle in _literature_, as demanding unqualified reverence for the
past, its writers, and its forms.

It has already been remarked that the great political and social
revolution in France did not affect literary _form_. As regarded this,
there was no necessity to re-establish the principle of authority;
it had never been overthrown. In no domain are the French less
revolutionary than in that of literature. The Academy is the one
institution of the country which has held its ground since the days of
Richelieu, and to-day it has the same name, the same aims, and even the
same number of members that it had then. In literature the principle
of authority was known by the name of the classic spirit, and the
Revolution, far from weakening the classic spirit, had strengthened
it. The Revolution itself is a classic French tragedy. Like all other
French tragedies, it clothes its heroes in Greek and Roman garb. In
their style and language they imitate the republicans of ancient Rome,
and it is significant that it is the most cultivated and literary
revolutionary party, the Girondists, who adopt the antique "thou" and
the antique designation of "citizen." The Jacobins are the direct
descendants of Corneille--the same toga style of oratory, the same
love of magnificent laconicism. With the same enthusiasm with which
Cromwell's soldiers metamorphosed themselves into ancient Hebrews,
adopting their names and singing their psalms, the Frenchmen of the
Revolution metamorphosed themselves into ancient Romans; and when
David, the Jacobin and intimate friend of Robespierre, left his seat in
the Legislative Assembly to paint the Horatii or the Brutus exhibited
in 1791, he simply took his associates as models; as painter he did not
need to go a step beyond the boundaries of his own period.

Just as French tragedy, when it came into being, had refused to build
upon the foundation of the history of its own country, had turned its
back on French tradition and laid its scenes in far-away Rome in the
far-off, dimly discerned past, now the Revolution, heedless of history,
heedless of the France of its own day, took far-off, un-historically
appreciated antiquity, with its republicans, evolved under such
different conditions, as the model to be exactly imitated. The modern
Gracchi and Horatii imitated the ancient. There is, as has often been
remarked, a Roman loftiness of style in Madame Roland's letters to
Buzot. The ladies of the Directory at times took Cornelia, and more
frequently Aspasia, as their model, even in dress. In the language of
some of Napoleon's earliest letters to Josephine the influence of Latin
models is to be traced; and even when he no longer stands in need of a
model, his style is as classic as his profile. His taste in literature
was also classic; his attachment to "les règles" and his admiration of
Corneille are matter of history. As long as he is the ruler of France,
even those authors who make an attempt at a species of opposition,
such as Raynouard, keep in the classic track. A comparison of Werner's
_Söhne des Thals_ (Sons of the Vale) with Raynouard's _Les Templiers_
will show how differently the same subject can be approached. The
German poet is as mysterious and incomprehensible, as extravagant and
fantastic in his treatment of the theme as the Frenchman with his
obligatory alexandrines, his king and his queen, his five acts and
his three unities, is well-regulated and law-abiding. Raynouard's
play represents a sort of lawsuit between church and state; the king
conducts his case in a most orderly manner; the Knights Templar conduct
theirs in an equally orderly manner, and are thereupon burnt in an
orderly manner--orderly, for we see as little as possible of the
execution and of what precedes it; we only hear of it all in one of
those long concluding narrations which were in vogue as far back as
the days of Euripides. And the metre is still the metre prescribed by
Boileau, that father of evil. The meaning of the clause, which is cut
in two by the cæsura, ends with the line, and the lines are as like
each other as one penny bun is like another penny bun. There is neither
harmony, nor animation, nor rhythm, nor rhyme in them, for _larmes_ and
_armes, époux_ and _coups, souffrir_ and _mourir_ can hardly be called
rhymes. They resemble molluscs, these lines; and one of the features
they have in common with molluscs is, that it is possible to cut them
in two without their showing any less sign of life because of it.

One consequence of this retention of the classic spirit is the exact
resemblance between the style of some of the most eminent prose authors
of this day and the style of their abhorred opponents, the philosophers
of the eighteenth century. We have the most conspicuous instance
of this in Joseph de Maistre. De Maistre's inability to comprehend
history, his want of the critical faculty and of any deep religious
feeling, his tendency to systematise, his argumentativeness, which
tempted him to draw hard and fast conclusions--all this in combination,
really deriving from the eighteenth century, found expression in the
style of that century. Bonalds cold, argumentative style, his craze
for reducing everything to formulas, his persuasion that he makes his
positions mathematically obvious, show that he too is a child of the
century which produced Condillac, and his work a product of the very
spirit which he combated. The only difference is, that such a man
as Condillac is as clear and consistent as Bonald is changeable and
self-contradictory.

A distinguishing feature in both classic prose and poetry is _the
domination of reason_. It is against this ruler that literature
makes its first revolt in Madame de Staël's emotional style and
Chateaubriand's richly coloured prose. Emotion and colour--these are
the two great exiles who now return from a long banishment. And,
curiously enough, it is not only his talents but his art theories
which make of Chateaubriand a rebel against the principle of authority
in literature, the very principle which it was his aim by means of
literature to uphold. For classical poetry from its earliest days
had sought its subjects and its inspiration in heathen antiquity
and heathen mythology, and he was calling upon his fellow authors
to open their own and their countrymen's eyes and ears to a poetry
diametrically opposed to this, namely, the poetry of Christianity--was,
in other words, _attacking literary tradition as the champion of
Christian tradition_. His artistic principles show him to be of the new
age, his political and social principles mark him as the man of the
past; he is two-faced; he gives poetical expression to all the modern
emotions, wearing a mask of unchangeable reverence for all the official
authorities of the past. It is more especially his style which makes
of him a Romanticist before the days of Romanticism. Hence, when first
Lamartine and then Hugo follow his example, forsake heathen, and seek
their themes in Christian mythology, society is for a time at a loss
to know whether it is to recognise a conservative or a revolutionary
spirit in these attempts to uphold the sacredness of religion in new
ways. But by degrees the germ of revolt against the principle of
authority latent in the new literary standpoint develops to such an
extent that the countenance of the new school is changed.

It is interesting to trace the stages of this development in Victor
Hugo's different prefaces to his _Odes_. In the first (of 1822), which
consists of only a few lines, the young poet asserts that loyalty
and Christian faith are the standards of true poetry. The nineteenth
century, he declares, has first revealed to the world the truth that
poetry _does not depend upon the form given to ideas, but upon the
ideas themselves_. In his preface to the second edition (published
the same year) he further observes that the poet's task now is to
substitute for the faded, false colours of the heathen mythology those
new and true ones which belong to the Christian conception of the
origin of the universe. The ode ought now to speak the severe, the
consolatory, the pious language of which an old society, quitting with
trembling steps "the revels of atheism and anarchy" stands in such need.

He earnestly hopes that his readers will not think that he is so
conceited as "to wish to strike out a new path or create a new literary
style." In the preface of 1824 the same assurances are repeated, in
very characteristic words; but we feel that the young poet is now
the object of suspiciously observant criticism, and that the name
"Romanticist," as synonymous with transgressor of the laws of classic
art, is one which men will be very apt to apply to him. He is eager to
prove his literary orthodoxy. What is needed, he says, is not novelty,
but truth. It is this need which he aims at supplying. Taste, "which is
neither more nor less than _authority_ in literature," shows him that
works which are true as regards their matter ought also to be true as
regards their style. This leads to the demand for "local colouring," a
demand which the classic authors can hardly be said to have supplied.
But it is an understood matter that the laws imposed upon the language
by Boileau are to be _religiously_ observed. Of him Hugo writes:
"Boileau shares with Racine the unique merit of having given its
permanent form to the French language; this in itself is a sufficient
proof that he too possessed _creative genius_!" Boileau a creative
genius! With what derisive laughter will Victor Hugo, ere many years
have passed, receive such an assertion!

Of the poet Hugo writes that it is his duty to lead the vanguard of the
people like a pillar of fire, lead them back to the great principles
of _order_, morality, and honour. The flaw in the literature of the
century of Louis "the Great" is that its authors invoke the gods of
heathendom instead of the God of Christianity. If in this matter,
Hugo naïvely remarks, they had acted differently, the "triumph of the
sophistical writings" of the eighteenth century would have been much
impeded. What might not have been the fate of "philosophy," if the
cause of God had been championed by genius instead of by virtue alone!

He vigorously objects to being called romantic. He affirms that he
"has not the slightest idea of what is meant by classic and romantic
literature." Refusing to be influenced by all the nonsense written
on the subject at that time, he in the following sensible utterance
declares the distinction to be an empty and meaningless one: "It is
an acknowledged fact that every literature receives an impression,
in some cases strong, in some weak, from the climate, customs, and
history of the nation of which it is the expression. David, Homer,
Virgil, Tasso, Milton, Corneille, men each one of whom represents a
literature and a nation, have nothing in common but genius." It is
impossible, therefore, to divide them into classical and romantic
poets. He combats the assertion that the literary revival (evidently
referring to Chateaubriand) is an outcome of the political revolution.
"The literature of to-day may to a certain extent be the result of the
Revolution, without on that account being its expression. Revolutionary
society had its literature, _ugly and foolish as itself_. That society
and that literature are dead and will never come to life again. _Order_
has revived in all the institutions of society; it is also reviving in
literature.... Just as the Revolution originated in literature, so the
literature of our day is _the anticipatory expression of the pious and
loyal society_ which will most certainly arise from those ruins."

Hugo was mistaken; the literature in question was the exact expression
of the intellectual mood of its day, and the attempts at reform which
aroused such anxiety were really forerunners of a literary revolution.
For they destroyed faith in authority as authority--in this particular
case faith in Boileau. From the moment when it was discovered that
there were spots even in this sun, it was not possible to confine doubt
to the few points where it had first modestly and cautiously insinuated
itself. Literary tradition was a principle; it had to be either
accepted or rejected.

In reading Hugo's second last preface to the _Odes_ (1826) we feel
that his thoughts, always turning upon _order_, that favourite idea of
the day, are about to drive him from the shore of literature out on
to the open sea. He has discovered that order is in reality something
different from the regularity which is attained by discipline and
coercion. Employing a simile which occurred naturally to a youth
brought up in the neighbourhood of Versailles, with Chateaubriand's
descriptions of the luxuriant landscape of North America as his
leisure reading, he compares the gardens of Versailles and their
carefully clipped, symmetrically trimmed trees with a forest in the
New World, and exclaims: "We will not ask, Where here is splendour,
where grandeur, or beauty? but simply, Where is _order_ and where
_disorder?_" He recognises now that regularity concerns only the
outward form of things, but that order lies at their very foundation,
and is a result of the skilful arrangement of their elements. "A
writer is not classic," he says, "because he _slavishly_ treads in the
footprints which others have left on the road."

We have thus followed Hugo step by step along the path which leads him
towards the final breach with the literary principle of authority. One
year more, and he throws off the yoke, assumes the leadership of the
Romantic School in France, and in its first manifesto, the preface
to _Cromwell_ (October, 1827), declares that there is a tyranny of
the past in literature exactly as there is in politics, and that this
tyranny lies like a nightmare on the breast of the young generation:
"The train of the eighteenth century still stretches into ours, but
should not we young men who have seen Bonaparte be too proud to bear
such a train?" Observe that he now, in direct antagonism to the spirit
of the Restoration, invokes Napoleon as a species of liberator. And he
writes of "that rouged, powdered and patched poetry, that literature of
hoops and furbelows." He is aiming his first blow at Boileau.

New as Lamartine had seemed, both in style and matter, he had retained
many of the classic circumlocutions. In spite of his aversion to the
lyre, he often named it in his poetry, and in choosing his subjects he
preferred the abstract to the concrete.

Victor Hugo was as yet almost equally cautious. "Granted that it is
advantageous and at times necessary," he writes, "to renew a few
worn-out expressions, to replace a few old phrases, and perhaps even to
endeavour to improve our verse by increasing the sonority of its metre
and the purity of its rhyme, it cannot be too often repeated that this
must be the limit of all attempts at perfecting it. Every reform at
variance with the natural accent and genius of our mother-tongue must
be regarded as an attack on the first principles of taste."

Neither alteration of the rhythm, nor variability in the position
of the cæsura, nor the continuation of the phrase from one line to
another (changes all of which he afterwards vindicated), does he as yet
consider permissible. In the _Odes_ he conforms to the old poetic court
fashion (he does not, for instance, say _Convention_, but _Senate_,
does not say _shawl_, but _drapery_ or _treasure of Kashmir_), only
making a few cautious attempts at a change of metre, with the object of
rendering the ode style less stiff and heavy.

That court fashion was of the following nature. A small collection had
been made of refined expressions, of choice words--the elect, as it
were, of language--which alone had admission into poetry. Poets did not
say sword, but brand, did not say soldier, but warrior, and they never
mentioned such things as guns or knives; just as Danish poetry for long
acknowledged only roses, lilies, violets, woodruff, and at the outside
a dozen other flowers as representatives of the whole floral world.
The consequence of this was that the supply of words was extremely
limited, that there were only a few hundred pairs of noble rhymes,
and that the same expressions, which had to be constantly repeated,
brought with them exactly the same thoughts and feelings. The poetic
oratory of those days was very much on a par with the pulpit oratory
of our own. Sublime was the adjective applied to the dignified flow of
words in which things were spoken of as far as possible without ever
calling them by their real names--and, be it observed, only things that
reminded men as little as possible of their earthly nature, of the
material side of their being. One result of this was that the direct,
unambiguous mention of common things in any work which laid claim to
the privilege of classic style at once produced a comic effect. When
Lebrun's _Cid_ was acted, the word _chambre_ called forth a murmur of
disapproval. It also explains how the attempt made about the time of
the earliest experiments in the Romantic style to introduce Shakespeare
into France created such consternation. Every one knows that _Othello_,
acted in the translation of Alfred de Vigny at the Odéon--that is to
say to an audience of students, the least prejudiced and least prudish
of Parisian audiences--was hissed because of the occurrence in it of
the word "pocket-handkerchief."

Count Alfred de Vigny, who was born in 1797, belonged to a family of
ancient lineage, and was brought up a loyal adherent of monarchy by
the grace of God. In 1814 he received a lieutenant's commission in the
army of Louis XVIII, and he quickly developed into one of the most
attractive and most independent literary characters of the day. In
several branches of literature it was he who took the first step in
the new direction, Hugo who followed. He wrote a historical novel in
the style of Sir Walter Scott before Hugo did (_Cinq-Mars_, 1826), had
a play acted before Hugo (the rhymed translation of _Othello_, 1829),
the style of which created a great sensation, and he forestalled Hugo
in introducing freedom and flexibility into lyric poetry. He was the
Columbus of the new movement, Hugo the Amerigo Vespucci who gave the
newly discovered continent its name.

It is not a matter for surprise that, at a time when authority was
upheld on every side, Hugo should have begun by accommodating himself
to existing literary rules, nay, by actually believing in them as
real laws of poetry and language. But presently he commenced to
experiment with them a little, to shake them a little, to doubt them
a little, to interpret them in his own way, doing it all with the
profoundest reverence, until it became no longer possible for him
to observe them, upon which he overthrew them. In one of his poems
(_Les Contemplations_, i., vii.) he gives a witty description of the
revolution which he ended by making:

                   Je suis ce monstre énorme,
     Je suis le démagogue horrible et débordé
     Et le dévastateur du vieil ABCD;
     Causons,
         Quand je sortis du collège, du thème,
     Des vers latins, farouche, espèce d'enfant blême
     Et grave, au front penchant, aux membres appauvris;
     Quand, tâchant de comprendre et de juger, j'ouvris
     Les yeux sur la nature et sur Part, l'idiome
     Peuple et noblesse, était l'image du royaume;
     La poésie était la monarchie; un mot
     Était un duc ou pair ou n'était qu'un grimaud;
     Les syllabes, pas plus que Paris et que Londres,
     Ne se mêlaient; ainsi marchent sans se confondre
     Piétons et cavaliers traversant le pont Neuf;
     La langue était l'État avant quatre-vingt-neuf;
     Les mots, bien ou mal nés, vivaient parqués en castes;
     Les uns, nobles, hantant les Phèdres, les Jocastes,
     Les Méropes, ayant le décorum pour loi,
     Et montant à Versaille aux carosses du roi;
     Les autres, tas de gueux, drôles patibulaires,
     Habitant les patois, quelques-uns aux galères
     Dans l'argot; dévoués à tous les genres bas,
     Déchirés en haillons dans les halles; sans bas,
     Sans perruque; créés pour la prose et la farce.
           *       *       *       *       *
     Alors, brigand, je vins; je m'écriai: Pourquoi
     Ceux-ci toujours devant, ceux-lâ toujours derrière?
     Et sur l'Académie, aïeule et douairière,
     Cachant sous ses jupons les tropes effarés,
     Et sur les bataillons d'alexandrins carrés
     Je fis souffler un vent révolutionnaire.
     Je mis un bonnet rouge au vieux dictionnaire.
     Plus de mot sénateur! plus de mot roturier!
     Je fis une tempête au fond de l'encrier,
     Et je mêlai parmi les ombres débordées,
     Au peuple noir des mots l'essaim blanc des idées;
     Et je dis; Pas de mot où l'idée au vol pur
     Ne puisse se poser, tout humide d'azur!

But Hugo, even when he doubts, has not yet reached this stage. He
still styles his poetry "cavalier" poetry, stamping himself by a word
which recalls the restoration of royalty in England as the poet of the
restoration of royalty in France. The rock on which he splits is the
impossibility of harmonising religious and literary tradition. This is
especially felt in the ballads. Hugo revives memories of the Middle
Ages and feudalism. What could be more royalist? But the literature of
the age of Louis XIV. had utterly rejected the Middle Ages and their
memories--so what could be less classical? One of the ballads (_La
ronde du sabbat_) describes a witches' dance, another treats of sylphs
and fairies; the motley superstitions of the old popular legends are
revived--Romanticism is not far off. And the tone is anything but
classic; in France, as in Germany and Denmark, the style of the popular
ballad supplants the dignified, literary style. There is, moreover,
in these poems a new patriotic element (_Le géant, Le pas d'armes du
roi Jean_) which turns from classic antiquity to the France of the
far-off past. Of this national movement, too, Chateaubriand had been
the leader; his description of the ancient Gauls in _Les Martyrs_ was
the first attempt in the new direction; it made a powerful impression
(according to his own confession) on such a man as Augustin Thierry,
the future author of _The Age of the Merovingians_; we may safely say
that it gave the impulse generally to a more graphic and animated
historical style. But even this patriotic element was new and foreign
to French poetry, was consequently a rebellion against tradition. The
revival of old French subjects was accompanied by a revival of old
French metres. Here also Chateaubriand led the way with that charming
exile's song beginning with the beautiful lines:

     Combien j'ai douce souvenance
     Du joli lieu de ma naissance!
     Ma sœur, qu'ils étaient beaux, ces jours
          De France!

a song which was sung on the little rocky island in the Bay of St.
Malo as he was laid to rest in the grave which he had hewn for himself
there. And the tones of the days of Ronsard and the Pleiades are
re-echoed simultaneously by Alfred de Vigny, the brothers Deschamps,
Sainte-Beuve, and Hugo.

In May 1828 Alfred de Vigny published, in _Madame de Soubise_, lines
like:

     La voyez-vous croître,
     La tour du vieux cloître?
     Et le grand mur noir
     Du royal manoir?
     Entrons dans le Louvre.
     Vous tremblez, je croi,
     Au son du beffroi?
     La fenêtre s'ouvre,
     Saluez le roi.

In June he is followed and surpassed by Hugo in the admirable lines in
_Le pas d'armes du roi Jean_:

     Cette ville
     Aux longs cris,
     Qui profile
     Son front gris.
     Des toits frêles,
     Cent tourelles,
     Clochers grêles,
     C'est Paris!

The metre, the picturesqueness, the melodiousness, and the concision
which distinguish such verse were something quite new in French poetry.

It seemed at first as if the principle of authority had received new
and powerful support from the re-engrafting of the traditions of
Christianity and monarchy upon literature. But it soon became evident
that religious and literary tradition could not thrive together.
The former at first took refuge under the wings, in the very bosom
of the latter, but the inherent antagonism soon revealed itself,
and the principle of authority in its literary shape was set aside,
nay, overthrown by the new spirit, which had all the appearance of
sincerely desiring to uphold the practical, that is to say, the
politico-religious principle of authority.

We have now to see how the practical principle of authority came to
share the fate of the theoretical, the literary principle.[1]

[1] Victor Hugo, _Odes et Ballades; Cromwell_; A. de Vigny, _Poésies
complètes_; Émile Deschamps, _Poésies_; Antony Deschamps, _Poésies_;
Raynouard, _Les Templiers_.



XII

DISSOLUTION OF THE PRACTICAL PRINCIPLE OF AUTHORITY


On a dark, foggy day in February 1854, a little company of friends
followed the remains of one of France's most notable men to a Paris
cemetery. The procession made its way between two ranks of soldiers,
who were there not to show honour, but to preserve order, to the
"common trench." Such had been the will of the deceased. When the earth
had been thrown on the coffin, the grave-digger asked: "Is there no
cross?" "No," was the answer.

No monument shows where that dead man was laid, though his name was
known throughout Europe, and there is no cross upon his grave, though
he had been an abbé and a priest, in fact for a long period the most
notable champion of the church. It was Lamennais who by his own wish
was buried thus.

[Illustration: LAMENNAIS]

Félicité de la Mennais (it was not till late in life that he gave his
name the more democratic form) was born in 1782 at St. Malo; so he,
like Chateaubriand, is a Breton; and the obstinacy of his race was
innate in his character. The Breton authors constitute what may be
called the Vendée of literature; they continue with words the fight
which their fathers fought with material weapons.

As a youth Lamennais was slight, thin, and of an excitably lively
temperament. At an early age he lost his mother, and after this was
even more determined and self-willed than he had been before. His
religious vocation was long doubtful; as a youth he devoted much time
to music and mathematics, played the flute, and learned the use of
various weapons. He fought a serious duel, which proved a hindrance
to him in the career which he subsequently chose, had love affairs,
and wrote poetry.[1] He was so little inclined to accept the dogmas
of Christianity that he did not make his first communion till he was
twenty-two, when he had attained to settled religious convictions.
After this he began to study theology, and in 1808, at the age of
twenty-six, he took the tonsure. But when the time of his ordination as
a priest drew near, he was seized with such horror of the vow he was
about to take that he again and again postponed the decisive step, and
did not really become a priest until he was thirty-five. His letters
of these years show the distracted condition of his soul; the proud
heart winced and writhed at the thought of giving the power over itself
into strange hands. And things were no better when all was over and
the irrevocable vow taken. The first letter he wrote to his brother
after the dreaded ordination, to which he had finally been persuaded to
consent, had actually taken place, gives a gloomy description of his
mental condition:

"Although silence has been imposed on me, I believe that it is both
allowable and right to let you know once and for all exactly how
matters stand with me. I am extremely unhappy, and it is impossible
that I can henceforward be anything else. They may reason as they
like, may twist and turn things as they please, to persuade me of the
opposite, but there is not the slightest probability that they will
ever succeed in convincing me of the non-existence of a fact which I
perceive. The only consolation I can accept is the cheap counsel to
make a virtue of necessity.... All I desire is forgetfulness, in every
acceptation of the word. Would to God I could forget myself!"

With such throes as these was the birth of Lamennais' faith in his
religious vocation accompanied. He overcame his despair; he, to whom
it was a necessity to be whatever he was with his whole soul--even if
it was the opposite of what he had been before--became with his whole
soul a priest. So absolutely did he feel himself one that his first
angry exclamation when Rome left him in the lurch in 1832 was: "I will
teach them what it means to defy a priest!" He had a strong character
and a narrow mind; a born party man, it was his nature to take a side
obstinately and blindly, to defend what he for the moment regarded
as absolute truth with passionate love and eloquent hate. Hence as
soon as the ruling idea of the period takes hold of him he becomes
its doughtiest champion--the most ardent, the most consistent, the
most sincere and most undaunted defender of the autocratic principle
of authority and the unconditional submission which that principle
demands. The man who had suffered such agony of mind in yielding up
his own reason and will to the will of the church, the one real priest
of the Neo-Catholic school, seems, as it were, to grudge other men
better conditions than had been granted to himself. When, in language
ominous of storm, he proclaims the gospel of authority and obedience,
he, beyond all others, makes us feel how personal passion finds
satisfaction in the sweeping, universal demand, how the Ego which has
felt itself compelled once for all to submit to authority asserts
itself by bending and bowing the wills and thoughts of all other men to
that rule with which it now identifies itself.

Violent and obstinately independent, Lamennais certainly recognised
no authority within his own camp. His remarks upon the other leaders
of the school form a pleasing collection of invectives. Of Bonald,
for instance, he writes: "Poor humanity! How M. de Bonald should be
suggested to me by the word 'humanity' passes my comprehension. The
transition is an abrupt one. They say that the poor man has become
quite feeble-minded lately." Of Chateaubriand: "The King and he, he
and the King--this is the whole history of France.... No one can
understand, he least of all, how Europe is to dispense with his
talents. He prophesies that Europe will fare ill." Of Frayssinous,
who as leader of the Gallican party in the church was his opponent:
"You call him moderate. Why? Because your attention has been drawn to
something cold in him, which you take to be moderation, but which is
only congealed hatred." Such is the tone of Lamennais' letters. There
was, nevertheless, in his vigorous and, if not blindly precipitate, at
least blindly impetuous character the very stuff to make a matchless
champion of the absolute authority of the church--and this, till the
end came, he proved to be--a champion whose capacity of subjecting
others to discipline was greater than his capacity of allowing himself
to be persuaded against his honest conviction.

In 1808 he published his _Reflections on the Position of the Church
in France_, a work which was suppressed by Napoleon's government. He
greeted the returning Bourbons with enthusiasm. But he was not yet
famous. Between 1817 and 1823, however, there was published, volume by
volume, a work which kept men's minds in a constant ferment, and gave
occasion to violent controversy; between the publication of the second
and third volumes its author had to take up his pen in his own defence.
This work was the Abbé de la Mennais' _Essai sur l'indifférence
en matière de religion_. In it the period of the restoration of
ecclesiasticism collects all its powers for a last, decisive battle.
We find all the leading principles of the day enunciated with a
peremptoriness and a determined consistency in the drawing of
conclusions which seem to indicate that the revulsion is at hand.

The tendency and even the title of this book suggest comparison with
the work which inaugurated the religious revival in Germany in the
beginning of the nineteenth century, Schleiermacher's famous _Reden
über die Religion an die Gebildeten unter ihren Verächtern_ (Lectures
upon Religion to the Educated amongst those who despise it). Both works
aim at counteracting the same thing, the indifference towards religion,
the positive contempt for it, prevailing amongst the educated classes.
Both make an attempt, now that faith has become weak, to rebuild the
edifice of piety upon a new foundation. It is in this attempt that the
different nationality of the authors makes itself strongly felt.

Schleiermacher, emotional and fervent, is of opinion that the only
hope for religion lies in surrendering all its outworks and leading
it back to its inmost stronghold, the purely personal _feeling_ of
the individual. He tries to penetrate to the very foundation of human
existence, to the depth where both consciousness and action originate,
to the sources of personal life. He calls upon his reader to try to
realise the original condition of the soul, in which the Ego and the
object are blent in one, where there is consequently no question either
of perception of the object or of perception of a self differing from
the object. He describes this as a condition which we are incessantly
experiencing and yet not experiencing, since all life consists in its
perpetual cessation and recurrence. It is, he says, evanescent and
invisible, like the fragrance exhaled by dew-laden flowers and fruits,
chaste and light, like a virginal kiss, and holy and fecund, like a
bridegroom's embrace; nay, it is not only _like_ all this, it _is_
all this; for this condition of the human soul is the marriage of the
universe, of the All, with reason personalised; in this condition the
individual is for a moment the world-soul and feels its infinite life
to be his own. "This," says Schleiermacher, "is the nature of the
first conception of every living and original energising force in your
lives, to whatever province it may belong; it is such a condition that
produces every religious emotion."[2]

In consequence of this theory Schleiermacher regards every feeling,
every emotion, in so far as it expresses the united life of the Ego
and the All in the manner described, as religious. "The feelings, the
feelings alone, provide the elements of religion." He maintains that
there is no feeling which is not religious, unless it is the product
of a diseased or depraved condition, adding a note to the effect that
this holds good even of the feelings of sensual enjoyment, so long as
they are not contrary to nature or depraved. His endeavour is to rescue
religion from antagonism with science and culture by making it out to
be the essence of every noble, nay, of every healthy feeling. A true
German, he pantheistically maintains that the broad stream of life
which flows through all created beings is the sacred fountain of all
piety and all religions. Therefore he would do away with every definite
religious system; even belief in God and immortality does not seem to
him to be essential to religion. He exclaims enthusiastically: "Join
with me in reverently offering a lock to the holy, outcast soul of
Spinoza in the realm of shades. He apprehended the great world-spirit;
the infinite was to him all in all, the universe his one and eternal
love; with holy innocence and deep humility he mirrored himself in it,
and it in return found its most pleasing mirror in him. He was full of
religion and of the spirit of holiness."

Even the age of enlightenment did not deal so-called revealed religion
a severer blow than did this emotionalism. Schleiermacher, as we see,
resolves religion into feeling, and in so doing destroys its authority
by making over this authority to the human soul in all its endless
variability. All rules, ordinances, dogmas, and principles disappear;
each individual is, by a special process, to make everything his
own. For Schleiermacher maintains that "however perfectly a man may
understand such principles, however firmly he may be convinced that he
possesses them, if he does not know and cannot prove that they have
arisen in himself as expressions of his own spiritual life and are
consequently originally his own, we must not let ourselves be persuaded
to believe that such a man is a religious man. He is not; his soul has
never conceived; his religious ideas are only supposititious children,
the offspring of other souls, whom he, in the secret feeling of his own
impotence, has adopted."

Thus essentially Protestant in the good (hence not the sectarian) sense
of the word is the religious revival in Germany in its beginnings.
It asserts _personal_ originality to be the one essential factor in
religion, and defines as the province of religion the whole widespread
realm of our warm, true feelings. Natural, healthy feeling is always
holy, at no time peculiarly holy.

A marked and significant contrast to all this is provided by the
principles set forth in Lamennais' great work, which forms the
Latin and Catholic counterpart to Schleiermacher's Lectures. These
principles, the programme of pure externality, are as follows:

1. That _feeling_ or indirect revelation is not the means by which men
are intended to attain to the knowledge of true religion.

2. That _scientific research_ or _reasoning_ is not the means by which
men are intended to attain to the knowledge of true religion.

3. That _authority_ is the means by which men are intended to attain to
the knowledge of true religion; and that consequently the true religion
is unquestionably the religion which rests upon the strongest possible
visible (!) authority.

It is to prove these three remarkable and droll assertions that
Lamennais has written his four thick volumes. Let us make ourselves
acquainted with their very imperfect chain of reasoning.

It is of paramount importance to us human beings to discover an
infallible criterion of what is true and what is false. What we seek is
_certainty_. But where are we to find it?

We cannot derive it from our senses, for our senses deceive us, says
Lamennais. That the senses conjointly correct such false impressions
as each sense separately produces, is a fact of which he does not take
cognisance. We are, in his opinion, the less certain of any necessary
connection between the impressions of our senses and the reality of
things, from our not even being certain of our own existence. How we,
if we are not certain of that, can be certain of anything whatsoever,
is a question he leaves unanswered.

Conviction, the inward feeling that the thing must be so, is, he
affirms, as deceptive as are the impressions of the senses. The
irresistible force with which a principle imposes itself upon our
reason affords no proof of the truth of that principle. Error is
always possible. That one may quite well acknowledge one's fallibility
generally speaking, and yet regard one's self as certain of the truth
in many single, definite cases, is another fact he leaves out of
reckoning.

Next comes the turn of scientific research or reasoning. This, he
maintains, leads to doubt of everything, for the highest of all
principles do not admit of proof; we are not certain, moreover, of the
reliability of memory. It is impossible to parry this attack upon the
scientific method in so far that it is of course impossible to prove
the reliability of memory without pre-supposing the reliability of
the memory which is to be proved. But of the indirect proofs of the
reliability of memory provided by human experience Lamennais does not
say a single word.

He touches provisionally upon the subject of complete doubt. Complete
doubt would lead to complete insanity. The spirit of self-preservation
compels us to believe and to act according to our belief. It is, in
the Abbé's opinion, this want of ability to doubt, or the knowledge
that one will, if one doubts, be regarded by other men as ignorant or
mad, which forms the foundation of all human certainty. Common consent
(_sensus communis_) thus becomes for us the seal of truth, and there is
no other. Difference of opinion at once begets uncertainty. A principle
or a fact is more or less certain according as it is more or less
universally accepted and borne witness to. Hence Lamennais' definition
of a science is: A science is a collection of thoughts and facts on
which all men are agreed. Though his standpoint is a different one, he
resembles the English empirical philosophers of a later day in refusing
even to such a science as geometry any foundation but that of common
consent. The fact that many a mistaken scientific conclusion has been
taken for truth is due, he believes, to the circumstance that science
has reached only a small number of human beings. What, he exclaims, are
a few hundred savants compared with the whole human race! He strangely
enough forgets that the human race has never unanimously accepted a
single scientific truth previous to its discovery by men of science, in
fact has never shown original unanimity in any belief.

Lamennais asks: When two persons disagree, what do they do after they
have in vain attempted to over-persuade one another? and he answers:
They appeal to arbitration. But what is arbitration? Arbitration is
_authority_, and this authority declares with which of the differing
opinions certainty, or if not certainty, at least probability rests.
The fact that the arguments of reason, as such, only create doubt, and
the fact that the strongest proof of the mistakenness of an assertion
always is: "You are the only one who thinks thus," direct us to the
_principle of authority_ as the only true and final principle.

Lamennais' theory, consistently developed, would lead to acceptance
of the vote of the majority as the proof of truth. But our final
destination is, as we know, the Catholic religion. It is interesting to
follow the vaults by which the principle of authority, conceived of as
it is in this work, carries us straight into the arms of the church.

Lamennais begins by defining all learning, all apprehension, as the
obeying of an authority. This is the same as Bonald's theory, that we
accept language upon the authority of those who teach us it, and accept
along with it the truths which are necessary to self-preservation,
truths which God in his all-powerful word (_i.e._ language) has
revealed to every people upon earth. Our intellectual life, _the law of
which is obedience_, is, then, simply a participation in the highest
reason, a perfect harmony with the witness which the infinite being has
borne of himself. Divine reason, which communicates itself by means of
language, is the first cause of the existence of reasonable beings, and
faith their necessary manner of being. Thus the principle of certainty
and the principle of life are one.

Man being created for truth, the reason of universal humanity cannot
err. Very different is it with the reason of the individual, which
can be overwhelmed by doubt. If it separates itself from society it
dies. _Væ soli!_ exclaims Lamennais. The proud man imagines when he
is required to bow to authority that what is demanded of him is that
he shall yield up his reason. He is mistaken. Authority is simply
universal reason, reason revealed through a witness. "It animates and
preserves the universe which it has created. Without it no existence,
no truth, no order."

It is, then, authority alone which gives us certainty concerning
religion. "Religion is not only doctrine, not only systematised
knowledge--it is also, it is essentially, a law." But there is no law
without authority; these two ideas involve each other. Thus religion
is necessarily based upon authority--the true religion upon supreme
authority. It is defined as: "The sum of the laws which follow from
the nature of reasonable beings;" and to learn what these are we must,
consequently, have recourse to authority.

Let us follow the connecting thread in this network of sophisms, that
we may be able to pull it to pieces. It runs thus: Reason is developed
only by the aid of language, the witness. The witness is only to be
found in society. Hence man can only live in society. Hence there
must have been society, intercourse, between God and the first man.
(Observe the unproved assertion of the existence of an Adam, also
Bonald's doctrine that God gave Adam language--in short, elements taken
from so-called revealed religion as authority, employed to prove that
so-called revealed religion rests upon authority.) The necessity of
witness involves the necessity of faith, without which witness would
be of no effect. Hence faith lies in the very nature of man, is the
first condition of life. The certainty of faith is founded upon its
harmony with reason, _i.e._ upon the strength of the authority which
bears witness. Hence the witness of God is infinitely certain, since
it is nought else but the revelation of infinite reason or of supreme
authority. No witness is possible except where there is society. Hence
no authority or certainty is possible without a society. No human
society can exist except in virtue of that original society of God and
man which came into being by virtue of the truths or laws originally
revealed by his word. Hence these truths cannot be lost in any society
without the destruction of that society resulting from the loss.
They are consequently to be found in every society. These essential
truths are preserved only by means of witness, which has no power or
effect without authority. Hence, as there is no authority except in
society, there is also no society without authority; where there is
no authority, there is no society. But it is to be noted that there
are two species of society; for man stands both in temporal relations
to his fellow-men, and in eternal relations to them and to God. These
two societies are the political or civil (temporal) society and the
spiritual (eternal) society. Consequently there are two authorities,
and these authorities are _infallible_, each in its own domain.

This all sounds extraordinarily logical; if _ergo_ were a sufficient
proof, there would be no want of proofs. But let us examine one or two
of the links in the chain of argument.

The Ego, says Lamennais, cannot alone, in solitude, develop
self-consciousness. The premise is correct, and we infer from it what
there is to infer when we say that the _I_ has consequently developed
with the assistance of a _you_. This is a thought to which Feuerbach
has devoted special attention, and which he has followed out in a
variety of directions. But Lamennais, taking as his premise the Old
Testament supposition of a single man existing before the rest of the
race, builds the doctrine of the communication between this man and
God, and all that follows thereon, upon this foundation, which sinks
with the edifice erected on it.

Lamennais declares the infallible sign of the truth to be universal
consent. _But upon what does the authority of this consent rest?_ Has
it a cause, or is it simply a fact?

If it has a cause, if the reason of all is to provide the law for the
reason of the individual, then that very individual reason for which
Lamennais has such a profound contempt is, after all, the supreme judge
of the truth. For it is it which, in the first place, invests universal
consent with its great importance, and in the second, determines in
each separate case whether or not universal consent is to be bestowed.

If, on the other hand, the authority of common consent is a fact,
that is to say, a thing which simply follows from our nature, then
the certainty with which it inspires us is in no wise different from
any other certainty. But Lamennais himself has just been opposing the
idea of certainty resulting from an inward feeling, been denying our
certainty even of our own existence, the certainty which we require
being _infallible_ certainty. What on earth should make belief in
authority more infallible than any other certainty?

Lamennais' chain of argument leads us finally to two infallible
authorities. The word "infallible" tells us that the Roman Catholic
Church is not far off. Infallibility insinuates itself as an inevitable
consequence of authority.

There is one point on which all the writers who help to bring about
the revival of ecclesiasticism agree, on which Joseph de Maistre, the
inaugurator of the revival, is in perfect harmony with Lamennais, its
last exponent, little favour though he shows to the other paradoxes
of his latest disciple. This point is the infallibility of the Pope.
It must be remembered that in the eighteenth century the Papal power
had appeared to be defunct. A Pope had corresponded with Voltaire and
accepted the dedication of his _Mahomet_. The Pope had himself done
away with his faithful Janissaries, the Jesuits. The religious reaction
begins by the re-assertion, nay, by the exaggeration even from a Roman
Catholic point of view, of the power and importance of the Pope. De
Maistre said: "Without the Pope, no authority; without authority, no
faith"--that is, without a Pope, no faith. The supremacy of the Pope
thus becomes the very fountain, the very kernel of Christianity; in our
days (in the writings of Bishop Ségur) the Pope has actually become a
sacrament, "the real presence of Jesus upon earth."

De Maistre argued thus: There is no religion without a visible
church; there is no church without government, no government without
sovereignty, and no sovereignty without infallibility. He cited
the principle of the irresponsibility of the king, which, in his
estimation, was essentially the same as that of the infallibility
of the Pope. Every government, he insisted, is from its very nature
absolute, endures no insubordination; from the moment when it becomes
permissible to oppose it, on the pretence of its being unjust or
mistaken, it can no longer be called a government. And he attempted,
as we have already seen, to prove, by appeal to the unquestioned
discipline prevailing on board ship and the unquestioned decisions of
the courts of justice, how familiar men are in all other domains of
life with that idea of infallibility which it is considered correct to
take umbrage at where the Pope is concerned.

This dexterous defence has every merit conceivable in a defence of an
irredeemably lost case. That we are obliged to regard the temporal
sovereign, though he is not infallible, as being so, does not prove
that the Pope, as the spiritual sovereign, really is infallible. The
fact that there must always be a supreme power, qualified to demand
outward submission, does not prove that this power has also the right
to demand intellectual submission. But perhaps outward submission is
sufficient? Joseph de Maistre in reality grants that it is. He writes:
"As regards the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope, we have no
_interest_ in throwing doubt upon it. When one of those theological
questions which must of necessity be submitted to the arbitration of a
supreme court occurs, it is of no interest to us whether it is decided
in this way or that, but it is of great interest that it should be
decided at once and without appeal."

Lamennais, who like De Maistre arrives at the conclusion that there
are two infallible authorities, the authority of the state and the
authority of the church, goes, as being a generation younger than his
master, a stage farther on the road they both tread. When it proves
to be impossible in the long run to uphold the two authorities, each
in its own domain, he does not hesitate to decide which of them, in
case of a collision, must give way to the other. He draws his final
inference thus; "Spiritual authority corresponds to the inalterable
law of justice and truth, temporal authority to the force which
compels rebellious wills to submit to this law. _Force is necessarily
subordinate to the law, the state to the church_. Otherwise we should
have to acknowledge two independent powers--the one the preserver
of justice and truth, the other blind, and therefore by its nature
destructive of justice and truth."[3] A haughty conclusion this, and
most characteristic of the beginning of the nineteenth century!

It proves what power Lamennais desired the Catholic Church to possess.
We have still to note the last vault, by which it is proved that the
Catholic Church _is_ the authority of which so much has been written.
Lamennais writes: "In the choice of a religion, then, the question
reduces itself to this--Is there anywhere to be found such an authority
as that which we have described, or, in other words, is there a
spiritual and visible society which declares (!!) that it possesses
this authority? We say a visible society, for every witness is external
(remember that the witness of the inward voice is rejected), and we
affirm that such witness would afford conclusive proof of the authority
spoken of, because it would be the expression of the most universal
reason."

"If such a society did not exist, the only true religion would be the
traditional religion of the human race, _i.e._ the sum of the dogmas
and precepts which are hallowed by their being traditional in every
nation, and which were originally revealed by God."

"But if there is such a society, then its dogmas and precepts
constitute the true religion." From this climax the rest of the
argument follows of itself: "Since the death of Jesus Christ Christian
society has incontestably been in possession of the highest authority.
Of the various Christian communities the Catholic Church is clearly
stamped as that possessing most authority. In it alone are to be found
all the truths of which man stands in need; it alone provides him with
perfect knowledge of the duties or laws of reason; in it alone he finds
certainty, salvation, and life."

Now we have reached the desired haven. But it is not enough that we
have reached it in a perfectly disabled condition--we suffer shipwreck
within the harbour. For Lamennais frankly confesses at the end of his
book that all religions rest upon authority, but that nevertheless
the original traditions of all except one have been more or less
corrupted by additions which must be regarded as errors. These errors
have, however, also been validated by authority, exist only by its
permission. What a confession! It destroys the virtue of his whole
argument.

But of this Lamennais is quite unconscious. He approvingly quotes
the following utterance of a Catholic writer: "The Catholic religion
is a religion of authority, and therefore it alone is a religion of
certainty and peace," and triumphantly recalls Rousseau's saying, that
if any one could persuade him on Sunday that he was in duty bound to
submit in matters of faith to the decision of another, he would on
Monday become a Catholic, and that every thoughtful, truthful man
placed in the same position would act in exactly the same manner.
Lamennais claps his hands with delight at having produced such a proof
of its being right for the individual to submit to authority in matters
of faith. A pretty proof!

One of two things must be the case. The authority of the Catholic
Church either does, or does not, rest upon the universal acknowledgment
of its validity. If it does, then the authority of the church _is_
universally acknowledged and needs no vindication, since no one denies
it. If it does not, then, according to Lamennais' own theory, it is
invalid, and no defence is of any avail.

But we cannot stop here. The doctrine that universal consent is the
criterion of what is true, must itself prove its truth by being
universally accepted. Can one imagine a more cruel instance of the
irony of fate than that the doctrine in question should have been
not only universally disputed but actually (in 1832) repudiated by
the church itself? Lamennais was then suddenly left in the lurch,
_alone_ with the doctrine that it is the complete unanimity of all
which proves truth. Can one imagine a more absurd contradiction? Yes,
a more absurd is possible, namely, the very thing which presently
happened--Lamennais, the obedient son of the church, bowing to its
authority, himself renounced and abjured his doctrine that the
authority of the church is the infallible seal of the truth.

But we do not need to look so far ahead as 1832 to see how the
supporters of the principle of authority came into conflict with their
own principle. Whatever men may support, their first requirement
is liberty to speak. The divine thing about liberty is that even
those who hate it need it and demand it. The _Conservateur_ began by
ardently vindicating the liberty of the press, but was soon exceedingly
inconvenienced by it. One party could not well deny the other's right
to a liberty which it had claimed for itself; it could not well do
it--but it did it. And the very same thing happened in the matter of
parliamentary government, or, as it was then called, _the parliamentary
prerogative_. It was the journalists and orators of the Catholic and
royalist school who, immediately after the restoration of the monarchy,
overthrew the first ministry, a ministry chosen by the king. The
Catholics desired to get the helm of the state into their own hands.
Thus it was the school of the principle of authority which first
sanctioned the very opposite principles--liberty of the press in the
widest sense of the word and the power of the parliamentary majority.
It undermined the ground upon which authority rested.

Following the career of the haughty, passionate priest, Lamennais, we
can trace the process stage by stage. The constitution (_la Charte_),
between which and the monarchy there was an inseparable connection,
ensured liberty of religion, on paper at least. But this liberty of
religion incensed Lamennais, who knew that one religion alone was
the true one. The foolish phrase was then in vogue, that the right
to freedom of conscience is the right to be free from conscience.
Lamennais and his followers maintained that a man ought to obey his
conscience; and this, in their opinion, their opponents did not do. But
they forgot that there is a duty which comes before that of obeying
one's conscience, namely, the duty of enlightening it. If it be immoral
to act against one's conscience, it is not less immoral to manufacture
a conscience with the aid of false and arbitrary principles.

In the name of conscience and authority, then, Lamennais published
a protest against the irreligion of the state, that is, against its
recognition of no confession--what he called "political atheism." He
started the cry: The laws of France are atheistical. He went farther.
In a famous letter addressed to Bishop Frayssinous, and published in
the newspaper _Le Drapeau blanc_, he declared that as the generation
now to be brought up was a generation born in blood, hard by the
scaffold of Louis XVI. and the altar of the goddess of reason, it
could only be saved by Christ, only educated by Christianity. But all
education in France was, he maintained, atheistic. "Am I exaggerating,
Monseigneur, when I say that there are in France educational
institutions, more or less closely connected with the University,
where children are brought up in practical atheism and hatred of
Christianity? In one of these horrible dens of vice and irreligion
thirty of the pupils have been known to approach the table of the
Lord, receive the sacred wafer, keep it, and commit a sacrilege which
formerly would have been punished by law, namely, use it to seal the
letters which they wrote to their parents. ... The influence of the
University is producing an ungodly, depraved, rebellious generation."

These indiscreet revelations were very unwelcome to the party in
power, who were much annoyed by such attacks on the constitution from
a quarter where they had looked for warm support. When Lamennais found
that he was treated with coldness and received reprimands instead of
thanks, he went a step farther.

We have already seen that his doctrine led to the sacrificing of
secular to ecclesiastical infallibility in cases of collision between
them. But this was in reality equivalent to acknowledging that the
heretical, free-thinking school was right in repudiating the quality of
inviolability and irreversibility which the royalist writers ascribed
to the monarchy by the grace of God. It moreover made the temporal
power dependent on the spiritual, namely, on the Pope. All the bishops
of France responded with a manifesto in which they declared the secular
to be independent of the Papal power.

Lamennais, the champion of _authority_, now stood in the most strained
relations with both the ecclesiastical and the temporal authorities.

His democratic period does not lie within the scope of the present
work. We shall only note the germs of the later development which exist
in his original theory of authority. This new theory of authority is
fascinatingly unlike the good old hard and fast doctrine propounded by
Bonald and De Maistre immediately after the Revolution. The reaction
is now much more an affair of reason, consequently much less an affair
of immovable principles. Every serious attempt to show the grounds
upon which the principle of authority rests must inevitably deal the
principle a death-blow; for authority does not rest upon grounds.
Lamennais' doctrine, which at first sight seemed so favourable to
autocracy, proved on closer inspection to be extremely democratic. The
whole edifice rested upon the principle of the authority of the human
race. But beneath this fundamental idea--the authority of the human
race--another was perceptible; and what was this other but the idea so
repugnant to the reactionaries, Rousseau's old idea--_the sovereignty
of the people!_ Lamennais' readers did not observe this at once; he did
not see it himself; but it lay dormant there, and one fine day it awoke
and was recognised by all.

Lamennais desired to substitute theocracy for monarchy. But theocracy
was not popular, was at any rate only popular when the word was
interpreted in the sense of the old proverb: _vox populi, vox
Dei_--when God's voice meant the voice of the people. The practical
result of his doctrine was, then, merely the weakening of that secular
authority which it asserted to be subject to the fiat of the reason of
all; for the reason of all, which had at first been personified in the
sovereign church, was very soon personified in the sovereign people.
When Lamennais at last, in _Les Paroles d'un Croyant_, instigated to
intellectual revolt, all the difference in his position was that he now
desired theocracy for the sake of the people, instead of, as formerly,
for the sake of their rulers.

The Revolution of July produced liberty of the press, and the first use
Lamennais made of this was to publish a demand for the emancipation
of education from state control and for the separation of the church
from the state. He hoped by this means to get education altogether
into the hands of the church, and thereby restore its old religious
tendency. In the autumn of 1830 he started the famous newspaper
_L'Avenir_, the watchword of which was the separation of church and
state. Appeal to Rome was his answer to every attack; his newspaper
was supposed to reflect the exact state of opinion there; but the
Vatican remained obstinately silent. The fact of the matter was that it
regarded Lamennais' liberal ideas with anything but favour, and had no
inclination whatever to relinquish the state grant to the church. His
opponents continuing to maintain that his opinions were incompatible
with Catholic orthodoxy, Lamennais went to Rome in February 1831, to
inquire of the Pope if it was (as he himself put it) a crime to fight
for God, justice, and truth, and if it was desirable that he should
continue his efforts. He was detained in Rome on one pretext or another
until August 1832.

Presently the bull was published in which he, the opponent of
indifference on the subject of religion, is declared guilty of
religious indifferentism. In it we read: "From the impure source of
this indifference springs also the erroneous and absurd, or, more
correctly speaking, insane theory that liberty of conscience should be
allowed and secured to all.... But, as St. Augustine said, _what worse
death is there than liberty to go astray?_ For it stands to reason
that when every restraint is removed that can keep men to the paths
of truth, their nature, which inclines to evil, will plunge into the
abyss.... Amongst these must be reckoned that abominable liberty which
we can never sufficiently loathe and dread, the liberty of the press to
publish any work whatsoever, a liberty which some dare to champion with
such ardour".[4]

This was plain speaking. Lamennais made submission, and his newspaper
stopped appearing. But the cup given him to drink was gall and
wormwood, and only a drop was needed to make it overflow. From this
time onwards he stood prepared to throw himself into the arms of the
Revolution. And ere long he took the leap.

What most interests us, who are confining our attention to the first
stage of Lamennais' psychological development, is to observe the
manner in which his childish faith in authority is undermined as soon
as he has the opportunity of seeing the holy thing close at hand. He
writes from Rome in a private letter: "The Pope is pious, and has the
best intentions; but he has little knowledge of the world, and is
completely ignorant of the condition of the church and of society; he
sits immovable in the darkness which closes in ever thicker round him,
weeping and praying; his task, his mission is to prepare and hasten
the final catastrophes which must precede the regeneration of society,
and without which this regeneration would either be impossible or
incomplete. Therefore God has given him into the hands of men who are
as base as it is possible to be. Ambitious, greedy, and depraved, in
their foolish frenzy they call on the Tatars to produce in Europe what
they call _order_."

Is it not a remarkable coincidence that Lamennais, too, should end
by finding a stumbling-block in the word which had determined the
intellectual development of the whole generation? Victor Hugo in his
endeavour to vindicate the principle of authority in matters of taste
at last feels himself obliged to criticise and enlarge the idea of
order; Lamennais in his battle for Catholicism is compelled to do the
same. With what passionate grief does he describe in his letters the
corruption which he finds prevailing amongst the props and pillars of
_order_ in Rome!

"Catholicism was my life, because it is the life of humanity; my desire
was to defend it, and to rescue it from the abyss into which it is
sinking deeper every day. Nothing would have been easier. It did not
suit the bishops that I should do it. There remained Rome. To Rome I
went, and there I saw the most shameful sewer that has ever defiled
the sight of man. The gigantic _cloaca_ of the Tarquinii would be too
strait for so much filth. No god but self-interest reigns there; they
would sell nations, sell the human race, sell the Three Persons of the
Holy Trinity, for a piece of ground and a few piastres."

Such was the appearance at close quarters of the power whose most
dauntless knight Lamennais had been. Was it any wonder that he turned
round! Was it any wonder that he, like the priests of the ancient
Saxons to whom Renan has compared him, cut down with a well-directed
blow of his axe the divinity to whose altar he had summoned the
reluctant world!

But even more remarkable than this clearsightedness in a single matter
are the gleams of profounder general insight which we now find in
Lamennais' letters. Hitherto he had sought absolute truth, and had
looked to authority to ensure this. Now he suddenly arrives at the idea
of relativity, the idea which most thoroughly and utterly demolishes
the principle of authority.

"The older I grow the more it astonishes me to see how all the beliefs
which are deepest rooted in us depend upon the age in which we live,
the society into which we have been born, and a thousand other equally
accidental circumstances. Only think what our beliefs would be if we
had come into the world ten centuries earlier, or had been born in this
century at Teheran, at Benares, or on the Island of Otaheite!"

There is more philosophy in these two sentences, which forestall
Taine's theory of the influence of surroundings, than in all the
volumes of Lamennais' famous chief work.[5]


[1]

The following verses date from his earliest youth:

     On a souvent vu des maris,
     Jaloux d'une épouse légère;
     On en a vu même à Paris,
     Mais ce n'est pas le tien, ma chère.

     On a vu des amants transis,
     Ainsi qu'une faveur bien chère,
     Implorer un simple souris,
     Mais ce n'est pas le tien, ma chère.


[2] _Reden über die Religion_. Fifth edition, pp. 50, 54, 56.

[3] _Du progrès de la révolution et de la guerre contre l'église_.

[4] Atque ex hoc putidissimo _indifferentismi_ fonte absurda illa fluit
ac erronea sententia, seu potius deliramentum, asserendam esse ac
vindicandam cuilibet _libertatem conscientiæ_.... _At quæ pejor mors
animæ quam libertas erroris?_ inquiebat Augustinus. Freno quippe omni
adempto, quo homines contineantur in semitis veritatis, proruit jam in
præceps ipsorum natura ad malum inclinata.... Huc spectat deterrima
illa ac nunquam satis execranda et detestabilis libertas artis librariæ
ad scripta quælibet edenda in vulgus, quam tanto convicio audent
nonnulli efflagitare ac promovere.

[5] Lamennais, _Essai sur l'indifférence; Progrès de la révolution et
de la guerre contre l'église; Correspondance par M. Forgues; Œuvres
inédits par M. Blaize_; Schleiermacher, _Reden über die Religion_;
Renan, _Essais de morale et de critique_; Schérer, _Mélanges de
critique religieuse_.



XIII

CULMINATION AND COLLAPSE OF THE REACTION


We have been carried on a few years too far by following Lamennais
to the period of his conversion to democracy. At the time of the
completion of his book on indifference in the matter of religion,
that is in 1823, he, like all the other adherents of the principle of
theocracy, still aimed at strengthening the authority of the monarch by
means of the authority of the church.

Presently the particular monarch in question dies, and Charles
X. ascends the throne. He ascends it with all possible pomp and
ceremonial. He is taken to Reims to be anointed. The ceremony was
performed on the 20th of May 1825, and it seemed as if the old royalist
and religious superstitions had risen from their graves for the
occasion. One of the oldest of these was the belief that crowned heads
possessed the power of curing scrofula. This power had been regarded as
absolutely indisputable. A lady of Valenciennes, who had been touched
by Louis XV., and who afterwards, in the hope of getting into favour,
sent in a medical certificate that she was entirely cured of scrofula,
received the answer: "The privileges which the Kings of France enjoy
in the matter of the healing of scrofula have been attested by such
conclusive proofs that they require no further confirmation."

This was under Louis XV. Under Charles X. people showed themselves
no less orthodox. We remember that at the time of the Revolution the
ampulla containing the sacred oil was shivered into fragments. In
the eyes of pious Catholics this was sacrilege of the deepest dye.
Gregory of Tours, the earliest chronicler who tells of the baptism
of Clovis, has evidently no idea that this little fig-shaped vial of
heavenly anointing oil was used on the occasion. But some centuries
later various traditions on the subject were committed to writing,
some of them telling that the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove, others
that an angel, had deposited it in the cathedral of Reims; and these
traditions, which had survived as popular beliefs, were now freshened
up again. The man who had been priest at the church of St. Remi at
Reims in 1793, and from whom the sacred ampulla had been taken by
force, came forward and declared that before giving it up he had
extracted most of the congealed oil which it contained; and this he
now produced.[1] Another of the faithful asserted that at the time the
sacrilege was committed he had collected some fragments of the ampulla,
which he had kept until now. The priest and the church officials
recognised these fragments as genuine.


So Charles X. was able to rejoice his subjects with the intelligence
that he was to be anointed with the sacred oil of Clovis. The fragments
of the old ampulla were introduced into a new one, covered with gold
and precious stones, and the precious drops were diluted with others.
Particulars of the anointment have already been given in connection
with the coronation of Napoleon. At ten o'clock on the morning of the
following day, the King mounted a beautiful white horse and rode in
the midst of a brilliant retinue, and attended by a troop of hussars,
to the hospital of St. Mark. There the chief physician to the royal
household awaited him at the head of a band of 121 persons afflicted
with scrofula. The King, after offering a short prayer in the hospital
chapel, set boldly to his task of curing them. The famous surgeon
Dupuytren was not ashamed to hold the heads of some of the patients
during the comedy.

Lamartine celebrated the anointment of Charles X. in a cycle of poems
(_Chant du sacre_) and Victor Hugo in an enthusiastic ode. But on the
occasion of the same memorable event there was also written a little
song which led to its author's prosecution and punishment. The song was
called _Sacre de Charles le Simple_, and the name of its writer was
Béranger.

The tone of Victor Hugo's ode, _Le Sacre de Charles X_, was, as the
following verse shows, orthodox, Biblical, and royalist:

     Mais trompant des vautours la fureur criminelle,
     Dieu garda sa colombe au lys abandonné.
     Elle va sur un Roi poser encor son aile:
           Ce bonheur à Charles est donné!
     Charles sera sacré suivant l'ancien usage,
           Comme Salomon, le Roi sage,
           Qui goûta les célestes mets,
     Quand Sadoch et Nathan d'un baume l'arrosèrent,
     Et, s'approchant de lui, sur le front le baisèrent,
           En disant: "Qu'il vive à jamais!"

The tone of Béranger's poem was disrespectful in the extreme. He
apostrophises the sparrows, which, according to an old custom, had been
driven into the church to fly about there, and charges them to guard
their liberty better than human beings have guarded theirs:

            Français, que Reims a réunis,
            Criez: Montjoie et Saint-Denis!
            On a refait la sainte ampoule,
            Et, comme au temps de nos aïeux,
            Des passereaux lâchés en foule
            Dans l'église volent joyeux.
            D'un joug brisé ces vains présages
            Font sourir sa majesté.
    Le peuple s'écrie: Oiseaux, plus que nous soyez sages,
       Gardez bien, gardez bien votre liberté!

            O oiseaux, ce roi miraculeux
            Va guérir tous les scrofuleux.
            Fuyez, vous qui de son cortège
            Dissipez seuls l'ennui mortel;
            Vous pourriez faire un sacrilége
            En voltigeant sur cet autel.
            Des bourreaux sont les sentinelles
            Que pose ici la piété.
    Le peuple s'écrie: Oiseaux, nous envions vos ailes.
       Gardez bien, gardez bien votre liberté!
            Gardez bien votre liberté!

With the exception of Delavigne, who is a direct descendant of the
eighteenth century writers, and who in his _Méseniennes_ shows himself
to have been an equally ardent revolutionist and patriot, Pierre de
Béranger was the only poet who had kept aloof from the dominant group
of thinkers and talented writers. Born in 1780, he was nine at the time
of the storming of the Bastille, which event left as ineffaceable an
impression on his mind as did those writings of Voltaire which he read
in his childhood. The following anecdote will serve to show how early
he arrived at definite conclusions on religious matters. One day when
he was only thirteen years old he was standing laughing scornfully at
his aunt, who was sprinkling the room with holy water during a dreadful
thunderstorm, when a flash of lightning came into the room, passing so
close to him that he fell to the ground unconscious. He was so long in
recovering that it was feared he was dead. The first thing he did when
he opened his eyes was to call triumphantly to his kind, pious aunt:
"Well, was your holy water of any use?" The anecdote has an air of
truth, and it is told in depreciation of him by orthodox writers. It
was in this same spirit that he now attacked the Bourbons, and their
holy water was of no use to them.

At the very time when they were making themselves ridiculous there
occurred a remarkable phenomenon. A poetic halo developed round the
once hated name of Napoleon. He was transformed from a historical into
a mythical figure; during his own life-time he became a legendary
hero. The compulsory inactivity which suddenly followed on a display
of energy that had kept all Europe in constant agitation, powerfully
affected the popular imagination. There was in reality no element of
greatness in Napoleon's compulsory second abdication, and his plan
of placing himself under the protection of England was simply a rash
one. But the ignoble manner in which the English treated him added
to his fame. The far-off, lonely island in the middle of the great
ocean became, as it were, a pedestal for the heroic figure. The real
Bonaparte was transformed into an ideal Napoleon. History made him over
to poetry and legend.

Even his former enemies could not restrain an expression of admiration
for the man in whose direction all eyes turned. Chateaubriand gave
utterance to the famous saying, "that Napoleon's grey coat and hat upon
a stick, planted on the coast at Brest, would be enough to make all
Europe take up arms."

Béranger wrote the soulful poem _Les souvenirs du peuple_, which
perhaps gives us the simplest and most beautiful picture of the
legendary hero, but also that which has least resemblance to the real
man, for it makes him out to be as kindly as he is great. It is the
poem which begins:

     On parlera de sa gloire
     Sous le chaume bien long-temps:
     L'humble toit, dans cinquante ans,
     Ne connaîtra plus d'autre histoire.

The reminiscences of the Emperor are put into the mouth of the old
grandmother, who at different periods of her life has seen him--first
as the victorious general, then as the happy father on his way to Notre
Dame, then as the defender of France against the allied armies. A good
specimen verse is:

     Mes enfants, dans ce village,
     Suivi de rois, il passa.
     Voilà bien long-temps de ça:
     Je venais d'entrer en ménage.
     À pied grimpant le coteau
     Où pour voir je m'étais mise
     Il avait petit chapeau
     Et redingote grise.
     Près de lui je me troublai!
     Il me dit: Bon jour, ma chère,
         Bon jour, ma chère.
     Il vous a parlé, grand'mère,
         Il vous a parlé!

The young men who not long ago had been thankful to break their ranks
and escape from the tyranny of military discipline, now began to look
back with longing to the heroic days of the Consulate and the Empire.
They had been dreaming, writes De Musset, of the ice of Russia and
the sun of the Pyramids, and the world of the day seemed an empty,
colourless world. "The King of France sat upon his throne, and some
held out their hats for him to throw an alms into them, and others
held out crucifixes, which he kissed. And when boys talked of glory,
the answer was: 'Become priests!' and when they talked of honour, the
answer was: 'Become priests!' and when they talked of hope, of love, of
energy and life, it was still: 'Become priests!'"[2]

And so they became priests. Why and how they did it we can learn from
the novels which describe the life of the period, such as Beyle's
_Rouge et Noire_. This was undoubtedly the priests' golden age. On the
7th of June 1814, three days after the publication of the Charter, the
notorious law was passed which prescribed compulsory observation of
Sundays and holy-days. Frenchmen were to be Catholics under penalty of
fine. Even the adherents of other creeds were obliged to decorate their
houses on the occasion of processions of the Holy Sacrament. On the 7th
of August 1814 the order of the Jesuits was solemnly re-established.
The education of the country was placed in the hands of the clergy. As
much of its power as possible was taken from the University, if for no
other reason than because numbers of the students had taken part in the
defence of Paris against the foreign troops, _i.e._ the allies of the
monarchy.

At this time there begins within the Catholic Church itself a short
process of fermentation (to which Joseph de Maistre's and Lamennais'
feud with Gallicanism belongs), which in the course of a score of
years produces the hitherto unknown phenomenon of perfect unity among
Catholics. Catholicism and submission to Rome become one and the
same thing. And another, kindred phenomenon, quite as unheard of, is
witnessed in our century. Religious unity spreads even beyond the
bounds of the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestant Church holds out
its hand to the Catholic, which in days gone by it had abominated as
the Babylonian whore. Glancing at the later religious development of
the century, we find that in our days the difference between orthodox
Protestantism and Catholicism is only an apparent difference, only the
difference between faith in the infallibility of the Bible and faith
in the infallibility of the Pope. The Protestants reject the reason of
the eighteenth and the scientific criticism of the nineteenth century;
they go back to the creeds of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,
and do not consider even these orthodox enough; Luther is too advanced
for them. Schleiermacher is regarded as a free-thinker by orthodox
Germany; Bossuet's attitude is reprobated by French Catholics. He is
considered a heretic, in as far as he asserted the independence of
the French church. We remember that Joseph de Maistre disapproved of
him. Even Montalembert, in his book on the interests of Catholicism
in the nineteenth century, mentions him in a condemnatory tone. But
the movement does not stop here. The contributors to the Catholic
newspapers and periodicals take to writing historical articles which
constitute a regular crusade against the great pagan geniuses who
founded the civilisation of Europe, such as Pindar, Plato, Virgil.
In Danish literature we have an equivalent in Grundtvig's earliest
historical pronouncements.[3] Hence Montalembert, in the work just
referred to, is able to declare triumphantly: "Lying history, parodied
history, declamatory history, as written by Voltaire, Dulaure, and
Schiller, the men who educated our fathers, would hardly be put up with
to-day, even in a feuilleton." A glance through Lamennais' letters is
sufficient to persuade us that one great cause of the Revolution of
July was the behaviour of the clerical party. The Jesuits acted as the
storming force of fanaticism. Missionaries, whose fervent faith was due
to their gross ignorance, were sent to all parts of the country. They
sometimes converted whole regiments at a time, and these were then led
by their officers in a body to the altar.

The worship of the Virgin developed in a way it had never done before.
Belief in Mary underwent the same change that belief in Christ had done
in ancient days, only more quickly. She was gradually transformed from
a human into a divine being.

Let us for a moment follow the course of the religious reaction beyond
the period under consideration, and we shall see that this movement has
progressed with giant steps. The dogma of Mary's immaculate conception,
from which, in the twelfth century, the Middle Ages shrank, has been
finally accepted and sanctioned. Mary imperceptibly supplants Christ
and becomes the deity of France, as she already was of Italy and Spain.
In one of the manuals used in the education of Catholic priests[4]
we read: "The blessed Virgin is to be honoured as the spouse of God
the Father, because with her and in her he begot our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ; in her we honour all the divine and adorable perfections
with which God has endowed her by communicating to her in abundant
measure his fertility, his wisdom, his holiness, and his divine
fulness of life." In a work on the immaculate conception written by
Archbishop Malou, Mary is represented as being at one and the same
time the daughter of God, the spouse of God, and the mother of God;
so involved are his explanations of the relationships of the Trinity
that one of the conclusions we arrive at is that she is the daughter
of her own son. In a book by the Abbé Guillon, _Le Mois de Marie_, she
is represented as a kind of chief divinity, to whom consequently it is
safest of all to pray. "To be the mother of God means to have a kind of
power over God, to retain, if it is permissible to use the expression,
a kind of _authority_ over him." Authority thus culminates in the
Madonna.

The Mariolaters, in the manner of the schoolmen of the Middle Ages,
set about collecting proofs of the immaculate conception from the
writings of the Fathers. One ecclesiastic, Passaglia by name, collected
8000. Archbishop Malou declared himself able to produce not fewer
than 800,000 proofs of it. One's head begins to swim. On Mariolatry
followed, about the middle of the century, the recrudescence of the
worship of relics; for the relics which had stopped working miracles
at the time of the Revolution, began to work them again for the
generation educated by the Jesuits. In 1844 Bishop Arnoldi of Treves
began to exhibit the coat of our Saviour, a seamless linen garment
which is mentioned in a falsified clause introduced (as is convincingly
demonstrated by two German historians, J. Gildemeister and H. von
Sybel) between 1106 and 1124 into a proclamation of Pope Sylvester
(327) as having been given by the Empress Helena to the Cathedral of
Treves. It is affirmed to be the garment mentioned in the 19th chapter
of the Gospel of St. John as worn by Jesus before his crucifixion.
But besides the sacred coat at Treves, there are some twenty more in
other parts of the world, all claiming to be equally genuine. The
one in Galatia is much older than the one at Treves. The genuineness
of several of them is attested by papal briefs. In 1843 Gregory XVI.
ratified the genuineness of the coat at Argenteuil; but Leo X. had
already, in 1514, acknowledged the claim of the Treves coat, and its
champions would not bow to the new decree; the consequence was that
pilgrimages were made to both. Görres, in his _Historisch-politische
Blätter_, rejoices at the success of the great pilgrimage to the sacred
coat of Treves.

The religious reaction reaches its climax in the famous Encyclical of
Pius IX., which pronounces free thought to be the delirium of liberty,
anathematises civil marriage, separation of church and state, liberty
of religion, liberty of the press, liberty of speech, and the erroneous
idea that the church ought to make its peace with progress, liberalism,
and modern civilisation. But even more severely consistent than the
Encyclical are the apologies for it, the German Bishop Kettler's _Die
falsche und die wahre Freiheit_ and the French Bishop Dupanloup's
_La convention du 15 Septembre et l'Encyclique du 8 Décembre_, which
explain and justify the Pope's determined stand against "the insolent
repudiation of all the great truths which form the foundation of human
society." Let no one, however, imagine that these pamphlets are either
very sensational in tone or very full of glaring absurdities. Both in
manner and matter they have a strong resemblance to moderate articles
in a Danish Liberal newspaper.

To such results did the Neo-Catholic movement lead. But it is to be
noted that these results belong entirely to the domain of political
history, and in no way concern literature. _Every movement continues
to affect the course of general history long after it has ceased
influencing the history of literature_. It affects the latter as
long as it has, not only monarchs, nobles, and bishops, but men of
distinguished intellect and talent in its service. After 1830 this
is no longer the case with the religious reaction in France. The
difference between the reaction in 1820 and the reaction with which
exhausted and unhappy France was visited after the defeats and the
Commune of 1870-71, is that the former vigorous crusade against light
had almost every Frenchman of intellect and talent in its service, in
its army, whilst the latter could not boast of a single supporter with
any literary pretensions.

We have now to see how that first reaction came to an end. It was,
in the first place, attacked from without. The daily press began to
declaim against the spirit of antagonism to enlightenment; Béranger
sang his songs on the subject; one enterprising publisher, Touquet by
name, brought out between the years 1817 and 1824 thirty-one thousand
copies of the works of Voltaire (1,598,000 vols.) and twenty-four
thousand five hundred copies of the works of Rousseau. He was punished
and the sale of his books was prohibited; but this aroused such
exasperation that the _Globe_ prophesied a general apostasy from
Catholicism, whereupon the country was again inundated with the Touquet
editions.

The government next wreaked its vengeance on a master of language,
the rustic simplicity of whose satiric pamphlets proved an effective
offensive weapon.

Paul Louis Courier, born in Paris in 1773, was one of the cleverest
writers of the age. From his father, a rich bourgeois who in his youth
had narrowly escaped being murdered because he had had an amour with a
lady of rank, he inherited a burning hatred of the indolent and haughty
aristocracy. At the age of twenty he entered an artillery regiment and
served in the campaigns of the Revolution, but they only gave him a
loathing of war. From his earliest youth literature had had a strong
attraction for him, especially ancient literature, which he studied as
a philologist. In 1795 he left his regiment, which was then besieging
Mainz, without permission, and occupied himself with translating Latin
authors. In 1798 we find him again in the army, in Italy; presently
he is studying in Paris; then he returns to Italy in command of a
squadron of artillery. He keeps quiet during the Empire, and after its
fall lives the life of an agriculturist and Hellenist on his farm in
Touraine.

It was the persecution by the victorious clerical party of every
countryman, however insignificant, in whom they detected an enemy,
which induced Paul Louis Courier to appear before the public as an
author. In 1816 he wrote a _Petition to the Two Chambers_, employing
for the first time that plain, shrewd rustic style which, with the
purest Greek models in view, he was so successful in acquiring. In
simple, clear, always moderate language he tells of the injuries
inflicted by clerically disposed provincial tyrants upon unfortunate
peasants guilty of not having taken off their hats to a priest or of
having "spoken ill of the government." He confesses that there is
probably a good foundation for the accusations, since in his part of
the country the priests are not popular, and very few people know what
the _government_ is. Then he shows how imprisonment for six months
without a proper trial, and misery, sickness, and death brought upon
the children and other relatives of the prisoners, are the punishment
for perfectly trifling offences. Forty gendarmes are sent to a village
directly it falls under the suspicion of "Bonapartism"; the suspected
persons are taken naked from their beds and fettered like criminals.
"They are carried off; their relations, their children would have
followed them, if it had been permitted by authority. _Authority_,
Messieurs! that is the great word in France.... Everywhere we see
inscribed: _Not reasons, authority_. It is true that this authority is
not the authority of the councils or of the fathers of the church, much
less of the law; but it is the authority of the gendarmes, and that is
as good as any other."

Courier did not write books, or even what we generally call pamphlets.
He produced his effect with tracts of a few pages. In these, with
apparent naïve downrightness, in reality with consummate satiric art,
he kept up an agitation against the rule of the hereditary monarchy
until his assassination in 1825.

A gem of satiric humour is his _Pétition pour les villageois que l'on
empêche de danser_. Its occasion was the prohibition by hypocritical
magistrates and priests of dancing in the village market-places. He
unveils the hypocrisy which lies at the root of the new holy-day
regulations, and the harm which they do. He is perfectly aware of the
fact that these holy-days were originally ordained for the good of
the serfs and bondmen--but there are no serfs and bondmen in France
now. Once their taxes are paid, the peasants now work for themselves,
and to _compel_ them to be idle is ridiculous; it is worse even than
the old imposts; those at least benefited the courtiers, but idleness
benefits no one. He describes the hot-headed young village priests,
who fulminate against dancing and all other pleasures, and compares
them with the aged curé of Véretz, who is beloved by his flock for his
gentle goodness, but who is hated and persecuted by the authorities
because of his having sworn allegiance to the constitution at the time
of the Revolution. In a later tract Courier tells of the assassination
of this good old man. He writes of everything without resentment,
simply ejaculating with a sigh that comes from the heart: "Thy will,
O Lord, be done!" He cannot, however, resist adding: "Who could have
predicted this in the days of Austerlitz?"

He grants that the rural population is much more settled and much
happier now than it was before the Revolution, but he maintains that it
is also much less religious. "The curé of Azai, who wished last Easter
to have his canopy carried by four male communicants, could not find
four such in the village. The peasant is so happy in possession of the
land of which he has so lately become owner (the confiscated lands
of the nobility and the church) that he is entirely absorbed in its
cultivation, and forgets religion and everything else." Courier allows
that Lamennais is right in reproaching the people with indifference in
the matter of religion. "We do not belong to the number of the lukewarm
whom the Lord, as Holy Scripture tells us, spews out of his mouth; we
are worse; we are cold."

Nowhere do we find more graphic descriptions than in Courier's writings
of the state of society throughout France during the latter years of
Louis XVIII's reign.

He was again and again imprisoned for his pamphlets; but he did
not allow this to intimidate him. In his _Réponse aux anonymes qui
ont écrit des lettres_ he writes: "It is not my cleverness, but my
stupidity which has landed me in prison. I have put faith in the
Charter (_la Charte_); I confess it to my shame.... If it had not been
for the Charter I should never have dreamt of talking to the public
of the things that occupy my thoughts. Robespierre, Barras, and the
great Napoleon had taught me for twenty years to hold my tongue.... But
then came the Charter, and people said to me: 'Speak, you are a free
man; write away, print; the liberty of the press is secured along with
every other liberty. What are you afraid of?' ... So I said, with my
hat in my hand: 'Will you graciously grant us leave to dance in our
market-place on Sunday?'.... 'Gendarmes--off with him to the lock-up.
The longest possible term of imprisonment, a fine besides,' &c, &c."

In another letter he writes with perfect calmness, and yet with biting
severity, of the consequences of the celibacy of the priesthood. One
of the priests who had inveighed most fiercely against the harmless
peasant dances is discovered to be a seducer and murderer. Some years
back he had murdered a woman who had been his mistress. In this case
his fellow-priests attempted to throw the blame of the murder on
her husband. Since then he has murdered and cut in pieces a young
girl whom he had seduced. His superiors have sent him, unpunished,
across the frontier, so that he is now an honoured preacher of the
Gospel in Savoy. Courier shows what crimes, born of superstition and
covetousness, are committed in districts where the inhabitants are
so orthodox that nothing would induce them to eat meat on Friday; he
says: "This is the true faith--honest, childlike, without suspicion of
hypocrisy," and adds laconically: "They say that morality is founded
upon this."

The little satire entitled _Pièce diplomatique_ he was obliged to
publish privately. It is a letter supposed to be written by King Louis
to his cousin, Ferdinand of Spain, in 1823, after the war undertaken by
France to restore that depraved Bourbon to his throne had been brought
to a successful conclusion. In it Courier satirises Louis's attitude
to the constitution. His cousin will not hear of a constitution, but
Louis maintains that, far from being burdensome, it is agreeable and
advantageous to the king.

Extremely witty is the pamphlet _Simple Discours_, in which Courier
ventured to express his disapprobation of the proposal made by the
court party to raise a national subscription for the purpose of
purchasing the property and castle of Chambord for the heir to the
throne. The delicate little Duke of Bordeaux, afterwards Comte de
Chambord, was born so long after his father's death that his birth was
regarded as a miracle. Lamartine, Victor Hugo, and De Musset all sang
of this wonderful event, Lamartine and Hugo comparing the child to
Joash. The proposal to raise the national subscription was, thus, made
at a time when an enthusiastic feeling prevailed in loyalist circles;
but Courier, true to his principles, opposed it from his peasant
standpoint.

Soon all the historians, with the exception of Michaud, began to write
in a spirit ominous of danger to the restored monarchy. In 1823 Thiers
published the first part of his history, which produced much the same
effect as Béranger's songs.

The government of France had always been in the habit of supporting
literature. All the rulers of France had done so, with the exception
of Napoleon, and the Bourbons were expected to follow the example of
their ancestors. But they gave sparingly, in spite of the enthusiastic
welcome and homage which they received from both poets and prose
writers. On the few disaffected authors they revenged themselves to the
best of their ability; to punish Béranger, his rival, Désaugiers, was
made a court favourite; Delavigne was punished with the loss of his
post as librarian.

But more dangerous than the attacks from without were the germs of
dissolution which appeared within the school of authority itself. The
authors, both prose writers and poets, who formed the Immanuelist or
Legitimist group, felt their principles wavering.

We have already seen that Lamennais was on the verge of defection. And
his plight was the plight of all the others; the germs of the new were
stirring within them in spite of their sincere desire to defend the old.

This is particularly observable in the case of Alfred de Vigny, who
belongs to a generation a little younger than Lamartine, a little
older than Victor Hugo. His family, as we have seen, was royalist. His
father, who had been an officer and a brilliant courtier in the days
of Louis XV., lost all his property at the time of the Revolution.
After the fall of the Empire, Alfred, then sixteen, was equipped at
his father's expense and enrolled in the gendarme corps of the guards.
When the Hundred Days came, he attended the king on the first stages
of his flight; when they were over, he was made a lieutenant in the
royal foot-guards. But the time of active service was past, and
nothing remained but the tedium of garrison life; the young man sought
compensation in unremitted intellectual activity.

In his boyhood everything had been done to keep his thoughts from
turning to Napoleon and all that concerned him. Hence almost before his
schooldays were over he donned the white cockade and entered the guard
of the Bourbons. But the ungrateful Bourbons, ungrateful because they
believed that people owed everything to them, kept him waiting nine
years for promotion, when he became captain by seniority.

When he began to write, his books gave dissatisfaction at the stupid
court; though their whole tendency was royalist, they were regarded as
seditious. He was accused of liberalism because he exalted Richelieu at
the expense of Louis XIII. His father's early inculcations of devotion
to the house of Bourbon proved of no avail; he now began to see what
that devotion really was--"superstition, political superstition, a
groundless, childish old belief in the fealty incumbent on men of noble
birth, a kind of vassalage."[5]

Chivalry might, and did, induce him to preserve the outward appearance
of a royalist; he would, for instance, have defended the monarchy
during the Revolution of July if his services as an old officer had
been required; but at heart he was no longer a monarchist--though this
by no means implied that he was a democrat. "The world," he writes in
his diary, "is vacillating between two absurdities, monarchy by the
grace of God and the sovereignty of the people."

In the matter of religious faith he fell away even earlier. In spite
of all the angels and archangels, principalities and powers of his
youthful poems, he was suited for anything rather than a champion of
the faith. By nature he was melancholy and sceptical, so melancholy
that no ray of hope or momentary happiness seems ever to have
penetrated into his heart, so sceptical in regard to the creed which he
confessed with his lips that he nourished a kind of personal animosity
to the idea of God and of the immortality of the soul.

As early as 1824 we find him giving expression (in his diary) to his
conception of life in the following parable: "I see a crowd of men,
women, and children, all sound asleep. They awake in a prison. They
become reconciled to their prison and make little gardens in its yard.
By degrees they begin to notice that one after the other of them is
taken away, never to return. They neither know why they are in prison
nor where they are taken to afterwards, and they know that they will
never know it. Nevertheless, some among them tell the others what
becomes of them after their period of imprisonment--tell without
knowing. Are they not mad? It is plain that the lord of the prison, the
governor, could, if such had been his will, have let us know the charge
on which we have been arrested and all the particulars of our case.
Since he has not done it, and never will do it, let us be content to
thank him for the more or less comfortable quarters he has given us...."

There is much contempt in this for the theologians, with their
pretensions to knowledge, and much acrimony beneath the gratitude to
"the lord of the prison." He adds in the same tone: "How good God is,
what an adorable jailer, to sow so many flowers in our prison yard!...
How explain this wonderful, consoling pity, which makes our punishment
so mild? For no one has ever doubted that we are punished--we only do
not know for what."

Six years later, employing the same parable, he writes: "I feel myself
bowed down, O Lord, by the weight of a punishment which causes me
constant suffering; but as I neither know my crime nor the accusation
brought against me, I reconcile myself to my prison. _I plait straw_ in
order sometimes to forget it. For this is what human work amounts to. I
am prepared for all possible evils, and I thank Thee, O Lord, for every
day which has passed without any calamity!"

But two years after this he speaks out plainly: "The world revolts at
the injustices entailed by its creation; dread of eternity prevents it
from speaking openly; but its heart is full of hatred of the God who
created evil and death. When a defier of the gods, like Ajax the son of
Oileus, appears, the world approves him and loves him. Such another is
Satan, such Orestes, such Don Juan. All who have combated the injustice
of heaven have been admired and secretly loved by men."

De Vigny's diary shows that down to the very last days of the
hereditary monarchy the connection between the literary, merely
theoretical principle of authority and the practical, working principle
was perfectly well understood. Germinating Romanticism was not less
ardently opposed by the political opposition (who saw in the young
school a support of ecclesiasticism) than by the men who from principle
adhered to old tradition. De Vigny tells that he asked Benjamin
Constant during the winter of 1819 what was the cause of the extreme
disfavour shown by the Left to the poetry of the day. The answer was
that the party _wished to avoid the appearance of breaking every
chain_, and therefore retained the least irksome, the literary.

When the Revolution of July came, and put an end to the reign of the
Bourbons, Vigny's attachment to the ideas of the restoration came to
an end too. He writes: "I feel happy that I have left the army; after
thirteen years of ill-rewarded service I may regard myself as quits
with the Bourbons.... I have done for ever with burdensome political
superstition."

Lamartine, too, at this time showed signs of an intellectual
development of a suspicious nature. He continued to sing his pious
hymns, but the orthodox Genevan pastor, Vinet, discovered that this
piety was Christianity only in appearance, and that a most unorthodox
pantheism lay concealed beneath the Christian phraseology.[6]

And Victor Hugo, whom one would have taken, judging by his début, to
be more reliable, soon showed himself, not only by the style of his
poems, but by their tone, to be a doubtful acquisition. In 1822, in the
ode entitled _Buonaparte_, he had pronounced Napoleon to be a false
god, an emissary of hell; and even as late as June 1825, in _Les Deux
Îles_ (Corsica and St. Helena), he had caused the nations to shout in
chorus to the fallen Emperor: "Honte! Opprobre! Malheur! Anathême!
Vengeance!" and the curses of the dead, as the echo of his fatal glory,
to roll like thunder from the Volga, the Tiber, and the Seine, from
the walls of the Alhambra, from the grave at Vincennes (Enghien's),
from Jaffa, from the Kremlin which he had tried to destroy, from all
his bloody battle-fields. Now, a year and a half later, Hugo suddenly
strikes a different chord. In the first ode _À la Colonne de la Place
Vendôme_, written in February 1827, Buonaparte has become Napoleon, and
his glory the glory of France. The occasion of the ode was this. At the
conclusion of peace in 1814, Austria had demanded that the Frenchmen
to whom Napoleon had given titles which conveyed the idea of supremacy
over any Austrian town or province should cease to bear these titles.
This was all that was required, no objection being raised to titles
which merely recalled the French victories in Austria. The French
government had persuaded Austria to refrain from making the agreement
arrived at public, and the Austrian ambassador contrived to avoid
wounding French susceptibility by placing himself on his reception
evenings so near the door that it was not necessary to announce the
guests. But in the beginning of 1827 this ambassador was recalled,
and his successor was ordered by the Austrian government to decide
the matter finally. Consequently, on one of his reception evenings,
Marshal Oudinot, Duke of Reggio, and Marshal Soult, Duke of Dalmatia,
were simply announced by their military titles and their family names.
They immediately withdrew, and the affair aroused a great sensation and
considerable animosity. As the two officers in question were in high
favour with the royal family, the royalist party took up their cause
and made it the cause of France. Victor Hugo, who was created to give
expression to every prevailing sentiment, and who was conscious before
any one else of that movement in men's minds which in the course of a
few years was to transform Napoleon into a legendary and national hero,
made himself for the first time, in his ode _À la Colonne de la Place
Vendôme_, the organ of the cult of the great memories of the Empire.
The column, cast of the metal of conquered cannon, which roared as it
was melted in the furnace, speaks to the poet in the silent watches of
the night, in its character of last remnant of the great empire and
the great army. He hears a murmur from the bronze battalions on its
sides, hears the sound of names: _Tarentum, Reggio, Dalmatia, Treviso_,
sees the eagles on the pedestal whetting their beaks, and feels that
the immortal shades are awakening. Who dare think of wiping out this
history of France written in blood with the points of swords! Who dare
dispute the right of the old generals to the inheritance of Napoleon's
glory! Who dare strike at the trophies of France! Every spark struck
from the column is a flash of lightning. With magnificent eloquence and
ardent enthusiasm Napoleon's history is evolved into a heroic poem,
and any sagacious reader of that poem might have foreseen that in the
course of a year Hugo (in his poem "Bounaberdi," in _Les Orientales_,
the motto of which is: "Grand comme le monde") would go over to the
veritable cult of Napoleon. And since Bonapartism and Liberalism,
in those days shaded off into each other--_vide_ Béranger, Armand
Carrel, and Heinrich Heine--it would also have been easy to foresee
the possibility of his defining Romanticism a few years later (in the
preface to _Hernani_) as "liberalism in literature."


[1] See the notes to Lamartine's _Chant du sacre_.

[2] Alfred de Musset, _Confessions d'un enfant du siècle_.

[3] See Saisset, _La philosophic et la renaissance religieuse. Revue
des deux mondes_, 1853, tome i.

[4] _Manuel de piété à l'usage des seminaries_, 7 éd. Paris, 1835.

[5] _Journal d'un poète_, 47.

[6] See Vinet's interesting essays on modern French lyric poetry.



XIV

CONCLUSION


But what did more than anything else to forward the dissolution of
the school of authority was the great and crowning piece of folly, as
regards literature, committed by the Bourbons in 1824. Chateaubriand
was dismissed in the most contemptuous manner from the Villèle
ministry, and that at the moment when he had just added to the
reputation of the name of Bourbon by the successful Spanish war, which
he himself called his political _René_, that is to say, his political
masterpiece. Chateaubriand, the man to whom in a manner everything was
due, the man who had laid the foundation stone of the whole building
that had been erected, was contemptuously set aside.[1] And the
ingratitude of his colleagues was as glaring as that of the court, for
it was he who had made ministers of Villèle and Corbière.[2]

His popularity amongst the royalists was at this time at its height,
and with reason; for the war in Spain, which he had succeeded in
carrying through in spite of all manner of opposition in Europe and
the disinclination of France itself, was well calculated to do service
to the cause of the monarchy by the grace of God, then in considerable
disrepute.

Not that Chateaubriand himself was simple enough to have any respect
whatever for that Ferdinand of Spain for whom French troops were to
shed their blood, in order that he might be restored to a throne
which his own people considered him unfit to occupy. He calls him a
promise-breaker and a traitor, calls him a tyrant who allowed himself
to be influenced by the evil passions of his female relations, one of
those cowardly tyrants who have no peace until they have done some
high-handed deed, and who sit and tremble when they have done it.

Chateaubriand's reason for making war was this. He knew that France
was undermined by Bonapartist and Republican plots, which were widely
spread even in the army; he knew that discontent with the restored
monarchical government was universal; therefore, trusting to the
friendship of the Emperor Alexander, he determined, in spite of
Canning's protests and Metternich's dissuasions, to stake everything on
one card. Victory, which he considered probable, meant the suppression
of the plots, the union under the white flag of all the different
parties, and the firm establishment of the Bourbons on the family
thrones of Spain and France. In the case of victory, which the inward
disunion of Spain might even make easy (as it actually did), the French
nation would behold the spectacle of the tricoloured flag lowered to
the white, and would, for the first time since Napoleon's palmy days,
hear tidings of victories won by the arms of France, and that in a
country which the great Emperor himself had not been able thoroughly
to subdue. All this meant "new laurels for the race of St. Louis,"
as Chateaubriand says, and--new laurels for its minister of foreign
affairs, a fact which he did not forget to take into account.[3]

As we all know, the French army under the command of the Duke of
Angoulème, the heir-apparent, succeeded, almost without bloodshed,
in liberating Ferdinand at Cadiz, and conducting him back to Madrid.
Ferdinand immediately wrote a letter of thanks to Louis XVIII. The
answer to this was written for Louis by Chateaubriand; it is amusing
to compare it with Paul Louis Courier's imaginary letter from Louis to
Ferdinand. Chateaubriand exhorts the Spanish monarch to refrain from
high-handedness, "which, instead of strengthening the power of the
king, only weakens it"--a piece of good advice to which Ferdinand paid
uncommonly little attention.

In its giddy elation over this Spanish triumph the court entirely
neglected the man to whom the success was originally due. Chateaubriand
was no favourite. The Duchess of Angoulème did not address a word to
him when he came, on receiving the news of Ferdinand's liberation,
to offer his congratulations on her husband's success. Villèle and
Corbière were envious of him, and feared that he might wish to take
their places; such an idea had never occurred to him, but they were too
deeply in his debt not to bear him a grudge.

The court and the cabinet plotted to bring about his downfall. On the
5th of June 1824 Corbière interrupted him in the middle of a speech in
the Chamber, to prevent his enjoying a triumph as an orator immediately
before his disgrace. On the following morning, when Chateaubriand,
still suspecting no evil, presented himself at the Tuileries to pay his
respects to the King's brother, he learned his fate from the manner in
which an aide-de-camp said to him: "Monsieur le Comte, I did not expect
to see you here. Have you not received anything?" Shortly afterwards
his secretary brought him his formal dismissal by the King in the shape
of a curt "ordonnance" of a dozen lines. It was little wonder that he
felt himself irreparably insulted by the tone of the letter and the
manner of his dismissal.[4] In mentioning Villèle's attempt to excuse
himself by pleading an accidental delay in the delivery of the letter,
but for which the humiliating incident at the Tuileries would not
have occurred, Chateaubriand justifiably remarks "that it is hardly
the thing to address to a man of position a letter which one would be
ashamed to write to a footman who was to be turned out of the house."

Christian humility was not the leading feature in Chateaubriand's
character; he did not turn the right cheek when he was struck on the
left. He writes very characteristically: "And yet my long and faithful
attachment did perhaps deserve some little consideration. It was
impossible for me entirely to ignore what I perhaps after all really
was worth, or entirely to forget that I was _the restorer of religion_,
the author of _The Spirit of Christianity_."

The restorer of religion did not feel obliged to act in the spirit
of Christianity. He naïvely says: "It would have been better if I
had displayed a humbler, more cast-down, more Christian spirit.
Unfortunately I am not faultless, have not attained to the perfection
recommended in the Gospel. If my enemy gave me a box on the ear I
should not turn round and present the other cheek. If he were a subject
I should have his life, or he should take mine; if he were the King ..."

The sentence does not end, because Chateaubriand's behaviour made any
end superfluous. He went over openly to the opposition, and it is to be
noted that it was to the thorough-going opposition, which had always
seemed to him to be the only sensible thing under a representative
government, anything less being impotent. The day after his fall he met
with a warm reception from the whole party then in antagonism to the
government. An article by Bertin in the _Journal des Débats_ announced
that he had become the leader of the party, and he was soon also
practically the editor of that newspaper.

The whole Seraphic school, of which he was the founder, soon followed
him. Lafayette sent him a laurel leaf. Constant flattered him. He began
to fraternise with Béranger, who afterwards addressed a poem to him.
Two of its verses run:

    Son éloquence à ces rois fit l'aumône:
    Prodigue fée, en ses enchantements
    Plus elle voit de rouille à leur vieux trône,
    Plus elle y sème et fleurs et diamants.

    Mais de nos droits il gardait la mémoire.
    Les insensés dirent: Le ciel est beau.
    Chassons cet homme, et soufflons sur sa gloire,
    Comme au grand jour on éteint un flambeau.

Victor Hugo addressed a eulogistic and consolatory ode to him (livre
iii. ode 2) containing such sentiments as: Was a court the place for
you? and: What can be more beautiful than a laurel scathed by lightning?

Chateaubriand's defection was a fatal blow to the monarchy by the grace
of God. As long as the illusions of the restoration lasted, the poets
of France were _Immanuelistic_ and saw a guardian angel beside every
cradle and every bier. With Chateaubriand's illusions vanished the
illusions of all the rest, and the Immanuelistic school was succeeded
by one to which Southey gave the name of _Satanic_, a name which it
accepted--a school with a keen eye for all that is evil and terrible, a
gloomy view of life, and a tendency to rebellion.

But while the minds of Frenchmen were still occupied with this
unexpected and momentous event, there occurred a more momentous event,
which stirred the whole world, namely, Byron's death in Greece.

The news of Byron's death raised the enthusiasm for the first war of
liberation that had been fought since the Revolution to fever heat.
A new ideal was conceived by the human mind. With Napoleon the glory
of energy had passed away, and the heroes of action had for a time
disappeared from the earth. Human enthusiasm was, as has been said, in
the plight of a pedestal from which the statue has been removed. Byron
took possession of the vacant place with his fantastically magnificent
heroes. Napoleon had supplanted Werther, René, and Faust; Byron's
Promethean and despairing heroes supplanted Napoleon. Byron was in
marvellous accord with the spirit and the cravings of the age. Orthodox
dogmas had in the early years of the century overcome revolutionary
and free-thinking principles; now orthodoxy was in its turn undermined
and obsolete. There was at this moment no future for either
thorough-going unbelief or thorough-going piety. There remained doubt,
as doubt--_poetic_ Radicalism, the thousand painful and agitating
questions concerning the goal and the worth of human life. These were
the questions which Byron asked.

But he did not ask indifferently. It was the spirit of rebellion which
asked with his voice, and which through his voice made of the young
generation in all lands one cosmopolitan society. They united their
voices with his in the cry:

      .... Revolution
     Alone can save the world from hell's pollution.

His death did far more to advance the cause of liberty in general than
his life. Under the restored monarchy by the grace of God society had
been reduced to an extreme of believing subjection to authority, of
slavish subjection to theology, of dutiful subjection to power--to
an extreme of supineness and hypocrisy. That monarchy was rotten to
the core, but supported outwardly by superstition and bayonets. In
England Bentham, the Radical philosopher, ashamed to see the reaction
successful even in that most advanced of countries, had tried to
undermine it by appealing to men's _interests_. Byron let loose all the
_passions_. His attack was not directed at any one point; he aimed at
revolutionising men's minds, at awaking them to the sense of tyranny.

The politicians of the Holy Alliance period believed that they had
bound the spirit of the Revolution in everlasting chains, that they had
broken, once and for all, the link which united the nineteenth century
to the eighteenth. "Then this one man tied the knot again, which a
million of soldiers had hewn through. American republicanism, German
free-thought, French revolutionism, Anglo-Saxon radicalism--everything
seemed combined in this one spirit. After the Revolution had been
suppressed, the press gagged, and science induced to submit, the son of
imagination, the outlawed poet, stepped into the breach," and called
all vigorous intellects to arms again against the common enemy.[5]
The restored monarchy does not really survive him. The principle of
authority has never had a more inveterate opponent.

In literature the French reaction begins in the name of _feeling_ with
Madame de Staël and the whole group of writers connected with her; in
society it begins in the name of _order_ with Robespierre and those
revolutionists who were his associates. Madame de Staël and Robespierre
have this in common, that they are both pupils of Rousseau. After the
reaction against Voltaire comes the reaction against Rousseau. On the
festival of the Supreme Being follows the great Te Deum in Notre-Dame;
on Madame de Staël follows Bonald. The principle of feeling is ousted,
or employed, as in the writings of Chateaubriand, to support authority;
the principle of order is merged in the principle of authority, which
soon controls every domain of life and literature. This principle is,
as it were, personified in the first group of reactionaries, led by
Joseph de Maistre and Bonald. It has its epic in _Les Martyrs_, and the
idea of order reigns in its poets' descriptions of heaven, of hell, and
sometimes even of terrestrial scenery. It has its political monument in
the Holy Alliance. The supernatural everywhere supplants the natural.
We have not only seraphic epic, but also seraphic lyric poetry,
seraphic love, pious pilgrimages, and seraphic predictions and visions.

In no country had the principle of authority in the domain of literary
style received such homage and honour as in France. The new school
itself begins by acknowledging it. But it unfortunately soon becomes
evident that the principle of the newly introduced matter, namely,
Christian tradition, is utterly at variance with the traditional
principles of literature--and authority begins to totter. Much the
same thing happens in another domain. The lady in whose brain the idea
of the Holy Alliance originates stands in high favour with the powers
as long as her principles seem entirely to coincide with theirs; the
moment they discover that it is possible for Christian tradition to
unsettle men's minds with regard to authority, they feel obliged to
break the tool they have been using; and thenceforward the idea of
the brotherhood of humanity is regarded as the source of rebellious
feelings and doctrines which undermine authority. Lamennais is the
author by whom the principle of authority is most consistently set
forth and determinedly upheld during this period; but it soon becomes
apparent that beneath his doctrine of the sovereignty of universal
reason lies concealed the revolutionary doctrine of the sovereignty
of the people; the principle, as it were, puts an end to itself. At
this same time the enemies of the liberty of the press are compelled
to make use of this liberty for their own purposes, and the enemies of
parliamentary government defend parliamentary government in order to
bring about the fall of a ministry which keeps them out of power. Soon
all the personages whom we have watched appearing on the scene, from
Chateaubriand to Madame de Krüdener, from Victor Hugo to Lamennais,
are at war with the potentates whose cause they began by championing
with such ardour, and at war with that principle of authority which had
ruled themselves and the age.

And the principle falls, never to rise again.


[1] For particulars of this dismissal see Chateaubriand, _Congrès de
Vérone_, ii, 502, &c; and Guizot, _Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire de
mon temps_.

[2] _Mémoires d'outre-tombe_, vii. 269, &c.

[3] Chateaubriand, _Congrès de Vérone_, i. 20, 41; ii. 528.

[4] _Congrès de Vérone_, ii. 508-528.





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