A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times
Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

Part 10 out of 11

"Your Majesty always was lucky," replied Boileau; "you will not find

The nuns' turn had come; orders were given to send away the pensioners
(pupils); Mother Angelica set out for the house at Paris, "where was the
battle-ground." [_Memoires pour servir a l'Histoire de Port-Royal,_
t. ii. p. 127.] As she was leaving the house in the fields, which was so
dear to her, she met in the court-yard M. d'Andilly, her brother, who was
waiting to say good by to her. When he came up to her, she said to him,
"Good by, my dear brother; be of good courage, whatever happens." "Fear
nothing, my dear sister; I am perfectly so." But she replied, "Brother,
brother, let us be humble. Let us remember that humility without
fortitude is cowardice, but that fortitude without humility is
presumption." "When she arrived at the convent in Paris, she found us
for the most part very sad," writes her niece, Mother Angelica de St.
Jean, "and some were in tears. She, looking at us with an open and
confident countenance, said, 'Why, I believe there is weeping here!
Come, my children, what is all this? Have you no faith? And at what are
you dismayed? What if men do rage? Eh? Are you afraid of that? They
are but flies! You hope in God, and yet fear anything! Fear but Him,
and, trust me, all will be well;' and to Madame de Chevreuse, who came to
fetch her daughters, 'Madame, when there is no God I shall lose courage;
but, so long as God is God, I shall hope in Him.'" She succumbed,
however, beneath the burden; and the terror she had always felt of death
aggravated her sufferings. "Believe me, my children," she would say to
the nuns, "believe what I tell you. People do not know what death is,
and do not think about it. As for me, I have apprehended it all my life,
and have always been thinking about it. But all I have imagined is less
than nothing in comparison with what it is, with what I feel, and with
what I comprehend at this moment. It would need but such thoughts to
detach us from everything." M. Singlin, being obliged to conceal
himself, came secretly to see her; she would not have her nephew, M. de
Sacy, run the same risk. "I shall never see him more," she said; "it is
God's will; I do not vex myself about it. My nephew without God could be
of no use to me, and God without my nephew will be all in all to me."
The grand-vicar of the Archbishop of Paris went to Port-Royal to make
sure that the pensioners had gone. He sat down beside Mother Angelica's
bed. "So you are ill, mother," said he; "pray, what is your complaint?"
"I am dropsical, sir," she replied. "Jesus! my dear mother, you say that
as if it were nothing at all.--Does not such a complaint dismay you?"

"No, sir," she replied; "I am incomparably more dismayed at what I see
happening in our house. For, indeed, I came hither to die here, but I
did not come to see all that I now see, and I had no reason to expect the
kind of treatment we are having. Sir, sir, this is man's day; God's day
will come, who will reveal many things and avenge everything." She died
on the 6th of August, 1661, murmuring over and over again, "Good by; good
by!" And, when she was asked why she said that, she replied simply,
"Because I am going away, my children." She had given instructions to
bury her in the preau (court-yard), and not to have any nonsense
(_badineries_) after her death. "I am your Jonas," she said to the nuns;
"when I am thrown into the whale's belly the tempest will cease." She
was mistaken; the tempest was scarcely beginning.

Cardinal de Retz was still titular Archbishop of Paris, and rather
favorable to Jansenism. It was, therefore, the grandvicars who prepared
the exhortation to the faithful, calling upon them to accept the papal
decision touching Jansen's book. There was drawn up a formula or
formulary of adhesion, "turned with some skill," says Madame Perier her
biography of Jacqueline Pascal, and in such a way that subscription did
not bind the conscience, as theologians most scrupulous about the truth
affirmed; the nuns of Port-Royal, however, refused to subscribe. "What
hinders us," said a letter to Mother Angelica de St. Jean from Jacqueline
Pascal, Sister St. Euphemia in religion, "what hinders all the
ecclesiastics who recognize the truth, to reply, when the formulary is
presented to them to subscribe, 'I know the respect I owe the bishops,
but my conscience does not permit me to subscribe that a thing is in a
book in which I have not seen it,' and after that wait for what will
happen? What have we to fear? Banishment and dispersion for the nuns,
seizure of temporalities, imprisonment and death, if you will; but is not
that our glory, and should it not be our joy? Let us renounce the gospel
or follow the maxims of the gospel, and deem ourselves happy to suffer
somewhat for righteousness' sake. I know that it is not for daughters to
defend the truth, though one might say, unfortunately, that since the
bishops have the courage of daughters, the daughters must have the
courage of bishops; but, if it is not for us to defend the truth, it is
for us to die for the truth, and suffer everything rather than abandon

Jacqueline subscribed, divided between her instinctive repugnance and her
desire to show herself a "humble daughter of the Catholic church." "It
is all we can concede," she said; "for the rest, come what may, poverty,
dispersion, imprisonment, death, all this seems to me nothing in
comparison with the anguish in which I should pass the remainder of my
life if I had been wretch enough to make a covenant with death on so
excellent an occasion of paying to God the vows of fidelity which our
lips have pronounced." "Her health was so shaken by the shock which all
this business caused her," writes Madame Prier, "that she fell
dangerously ill, and died soon after." "Think not, I beg of you, my
father," she wrote to M. Arnauld, "firm as I may appear, that nature does
not greatly apprehend all the consequences of this; but I hope that grace
will sustain me, and it seems to me as if I feel it." "The king does all
he wills," Madame de Guemenee had said to M. Le Tellier, whom she was
trying to soften towards Port-Royal; "he makes princes of the blood, he
makes archbishops and bishops, and he will make martyrs likewise."
Jacqueline Pascal was "the first victim" of the formulary.

She was not the only one. "It will not stop there," said the king, to
whom it was announced that the daughters of Port-Royal consented to sign
the formulary on condition only of giving an explanation of their
conduct. Cardinal de Retz had at last sent in his resignation. M. du
Marca, archbishop designate in succession to him, died three days after
receiving the bulls from Rome; Hardouin de Porefix had just been
nominated in his place. He repaired to Port-Royal. The days of grace
were over, the nuns remained indomitable.

"What is the use of all your prayers?" said he to Sister Christine
Brisquet; "what ground for God to listen to you? You go to Him and say,
'My God, give me Thy spirit and Thy grace; but, my God, I do not mean to
subscribe; I will take good care not to do that for all that may be
said.' After that, what ground for God to hearken to you?" He forbade
the nuns the sacraments. "They are pure as angels and proud as demons,"
repeated the archbishop angrily, as he left the convent. On the 25th of
August he returned to Port-Royal, accompanied by a numerous escort of
ecclesiastics and exons. "When I say a thing, so it must be," he said as
he entered; "I will not eat my words." He picked out twelve nuns, who
were immediately taken away and dispersed in different monasteries. M.
d'Andilly was at the gate, receiving in his carriage his sister, Mother
Agnes, aged and infirm, and his three daughters doomed to exile. "I had
borne up all day without weeping and without inclination thereto," writes
Mother Angelica de St. Jean on arrival at the _Annonciades bleues;_ "but
when night came, and, after finishing all my prayers, I thought to lay me
down and take some rest, I felt myself all in a moment bruised and
lacerated in every part by the separations I had just gone through; I
then found sensibly that, to escape weakness in the hour of deep
affliction, there must be no dropping of the eyes that have been lifted
to the mountains." Ten months later the exiled nuns returned, without
having subscribed, to Port-Royal des Champs, a little before the moment
when M. de Saci, who had become their secret director since the death of
M. Singlin, was arrested, together with his secretary, Fontaine, at six
in the morning, in front of the Bastille. "As he had for two years past
been expecting imprisonment, he had got the epistles of St. Paul bound up
together so as to always carry them about with him. 'Let them do with me
what they please,' he was wont to say; 'wherever they put me, provided
that I have my St. Paul with me, I fear nothing.'" On the 13th of May,
1666, the day of his arrest, M. de Saci had for once happened to forget
his book. He was put into the Bastille, after an examination "which
revealed a man of much wit and worth," said the king himself. Fontaine
remained separated from him for three months. "Liberty, for me, is to be
with M. de Saci," said the faithful secretary; "open the door of his room
and that of the Bastille, and you will see to which of the two I shall
run. Without him everything will be prison to me; I shall be free
wherever I see him." At last he had the joy of recovering his
well-beloved master, strictly watched and still deprived of the
sacraments. Like Luther at Wartburg, he was finishing the revisal of his
translation of the Bible, when his cousins, MM. de Pomponne and Arnauld,
entered his room on the 31st of October, 1668. They chatted a while
without any appearance of impatience on the part of M. de Saci. "You are
free," said his friends at last, who had wanted to prove him; "and they
showed him the king's order, which he read," says Abbe Arnauld, "without
any change of countenance, and as little affected by joy as he had been a
moment before by the longinquity of his release."

He lived fifteen years longer, occupied, during the interval of rest
which the Peace of the Church restored to Port-Royal, in directing and
fortifying souls. He published, one after another, the volumes of his
translation of the Bible, with expositions (_eclaircissements_) which had
been required by the examiners. In 1679 the renewal of the king's
severities compelled him to retire completely to Pomponne. On the 3d of
January, 1684, at seventy-one years of age, he felt ill and went to bed;
he died next day, without being taken by surprise, as regarded either his
affairs or his soul, by so speedy an end. "O blessed flames of
purgatory!" he said, as he breathed his last. He had requested to be
buried at Port-Royal des Champs; he was borne thither at night; the cold
was intense, and the roads were covered with snow; the carriages were
escorted by men carrying torches. The nuns looked a moment upon the face
of the saintly director, whom they had not seen for so many years; and
then he was lowered into his grave. "Needs hide in earth what is but
earth," said Mother Angelica de St. Jean, in deep accents and a lowly
voice, "and return to nothingness what in itself is but nothing." She
was, nevertheless, heart-broken, and tarried only for this pious duty to
pass away in her turn. "It is time to give up my veil to him from whom I
received it," said she. A fortnight after the death of M. de Saci, she
expired at Port-Royal, just preceding to the tomb her brother M. de
Luzancy, who breathed his last at Pomponne, where he had lived with M. de
Saci. "I confess," said the inconsolable Fontaine, "that when I saw this
brother and sister stricken with death by that of M. de Saci, I blushed--
I who thought I had always loved him--not to follow him like them; and I
became, consequently, exasperated with myself for loving so little in
comparison with those persons, whose love had been strong as death." The
human heart avenges itself for the tortures men pretentiously inflict
upon it: the disciples of St. Cyran thought to stifle in their souls all
earthly affections, and they died of grief on losing those they loved.
"Their life ebbed away in those depths of tears," as M. Vinet has said.

[Illustration: Abbey of Port-Royal----580]

The great Port-Royal was dead with M. de Saci and Mother Angelica de St.
Jean, faithful and modest imitators of their illustrious predecessors.
The austere virtue and the pious severance from the world existed still
in the house in the Fields, under the direction of Duguet; the
persecution too continued, persistent and noiseless; the king had given
the direction of his conscience to the Jesuits; from Father La Chaise,
moderate and prudent, he had passed to Father Letellier, violent and
perfidious; furthermore, the long persistence of the Jansenists in their
obstinacy, their freedom of thought which infringed the unity so dear to
Louis XIV., displeased the monarch, absolute even in his hour of
humiliation and defeat. The property of Port-Royal was seized, and
Cardinal de Noailles, well disposed at bottom towards the Jansenists, but
so feeble in character that determination, disgusted him as if it were a
personal insult, ended by once more forbidding the nuns the sacraments;
the house in the Fields was surpressed, and its title merged in that of
Port-Royal in Paris, for some time past replenished with submissive nuns.
Madame de Chateau-Renaud, "the new abbess, went to take possession; the
daughters of Mother Angelica protested, but without violence, as she
would have done in their place." On the 29th of October, 1709, after
prime, Father Letellier having told the king that Madame de Chateau-
Renaud dared not to go to Port-Royal des Champs, being convinced that
those headstrong, disobedient, and rebellious daughters would laugh at
the king's decree, and that, unless his Majesty would be pleased to give
precise orders to disperse them, it would never be possible to carry it
out, the king, being pressed in this way, sent his orders to
M. d'Argenson, lieutenant of police."

[Illustration: Reading the Decree 581]

He appeared at Port-Royal with a commissary and two exons. He asked for
the prioress; she was at church: when service was over, he summoned all
the nuns; one, old and very paralytic, was missing. "Let her be
brought," said M. d'Argenson. "His Majesty's orders are," he continued,
"that you break up this assemblage, never to meet again. It is your
general dispersal that I announce to you; you are allowed but three hours
to break up." "We are ready to obey, sir," said the mother-prioress;
"half an hour is more than sufficient for us to say our last good by, and
take with us a breviary, a Bible, and our regulations." And when he
asked her whither she meant to go, "Sir, the moment our community is
broken up and dispersed, it is indifferent to me in what place I may be
personally, since I hope to find God wherever I shall be." They got into
carriages, receiving one after another the farewell and blessing of the
mother-prioress, who was the last to depart, remaining firm to the end
there were two and twenty, the youngest fifty years old; they all died in
the convents to which they were taken. A seizure was at once made of all
papers and books left in the cells; Cardinal Noailles did not interfere.
M. de St. Cyran had depicted him by anticipation, when he said that the
weak were more to be feared than the wicked. He was complaining one day
of his differences with his bishops. "What can you expect, Monsignor?"
laughingly said a lady well disposed to the Jansenists; "God is just; it
is the stones of Port-Royal tumbling upon your head." The tombs were
destroyed; some coffins were carried to a distance, others left and
profaned; the plough passed over the ruins; the hatred of the enemies of
Port-Royal was satiated. A few of the faithful, preserving in their
hearts the ardent faith of M. de St. Cyran, narrowed, however, and
absorbed by obstinate resistance, a few theologians dying in exile, and
leaving in Holland a succession of bishops detached from the Roman
church,--this was all that remained of one of the noblest attempts ever
made by the human soul to rise, here below, above that which is permitted
by human nature. Virtues of the utmost force, Christianity zealously
pushed to its extremest limits, and the most invincible courage,
sustained the Jansenists in a conscientious struggle against spiritual
oppression; its life died out, little by little, amongst the dispersed
members. The Catholic church suffered therefrom in its innermost
sanctuary. "The Catholic religion would only be more neglected if there
were no more religionists," said Vauban, in his Memoire in favor of the
Protestants. It was the same as regarded the Jansenists. The Jesuits
and Louis XIV., in their ignorant passion, for unity and uniformity, had
not comprehended that great principle of healthy freedom and sound
justice of which the scientific soldier had a glimmering.

The insurrection of the Camisards, in the Cevennes, had been entirely of
a popular character; the Jansenists had penitents amongst the great of
this world, though none properly belonged to them or retired to their
convents or their solitudes; it was the great French burgessdom, issue
for the most part of the magistracy, which supplied their most fervent
associates. Fenelon and Madame Guyon founded their little church at
court and amongst the great lords; and many remained faithful to them
till death. The spiritual letters of Fenelon, models of wisdom, pious
tact, moderation, and knowledge of the human heart, are nearly all
addressed to persons engaged in the life and the offices of the court,
exposed to all the temptations of the world. It is no longer the desert
of the penitents of PortRoyal, or the strict cloister of Mother Angelica;
Fenelon is for only inward restrictions and an abstention purely
spiritual; from afar and in his retreat at Cambrai, he watches over his
faithful flock with a tender pre-occupation which does not make him
overlook the duties of their position. "Take as penance for your sins,"
he wrote, "the disagreeable liabilities of the position you are in: the
very hinderances which seem injurious to our advancement in piety turn to
our profit, provided that we do what depends on ourselves. Fail not in
any of your duties towards the court, as regards your office and the
proprieties, but be not anxious for posts which awaken ambition." Such
are, with their discreet tolerance, the teachings of Fenelon, adapted for
the guidance of the Dukes of Beauvilliers and Chevreuse, and of the Duke
of Burgundy himself. He went much further, and on less safe a road, when
he was living at court, under the influence of Madame Guyon. A widow and
still young, gifted with an ardent spirit and a lofty and subtile mind,
Madame Guyon had imagined, in her mystical enthusiasm, a theory of pure
love, very analogous fundamentally, if not in its practical consequences,
to the doctrines taught shortly before by a Spanish priest named Molinos,
condemned by the court of Rome in 1687. It was about the same time that
Madame Guyon went to Paris, with her book on the _Moyen court et facile
de faire l'Oraison du Coeur_ (Short and easy Method of making Orison with
the Heart). Prayer, according to this wholly mystical teaching, loses
the character of supplication or intercession, to become the simple
silence of a soul absorbed in God. "Why are not simple folks so taught?"
she said. "Shepherds keeping their flocks would have the spirit of the
old anchorites; and laborers, whilst driving the plough, would talk
happily with God: all vice would be banished in a little while, and the
kingdom of God would be realized on earth."

It was a far cry from the sanguinary struggle against sin and the armed
Christianity of the Jansenists; the sublime and specious visions of
Madame Guy on fascinated lofty and gentle souls: the Duchess of Charost,
daughter of Fouquet, Mesdames de Beauvilliers, de Chevreuse, de
Mortemart, daughters of Colbert, and their pious husbands, were the first
to be chained to her feet. Fenelon, at that time, preceptor to the
children of France (royal family), saw her, admired her, and became
imbued with her doctrines. She was for a while admitted to the intimacy
of Madame de Maintenon. It was for this little nucleus of faithful
friends that she wrote her book of _Torrents_. The human soul is a
torrent which returns to its source, in God, who lives in perfect repose,
and who would fain give it to those who are His. The Christian soul has
nothing more that is its, neither will nor desire. It has God for soul;
He is its principle of life." In this way there is nothing
extraordinary. No visions, no ecstasies, no entrancements. The way is
simple, pure, and plain; there the soul sees nothing but in God, as God
sees Himself and with His eyes." With less vagueness, and quite as
mystically, Fenelon defined the sublime love taught by Madame Guyon in
the following maxim, afterwards condemned at Rome: "There is an habitual
state of love of God which is pure charity, without any taint of the
motive of self-interest. Neither fear of punishment nor desire of reward
have any longer part in this love; God is loved not for the merit, or the
perfection, or the happiness to be found in loving Him." What singular
seductiveness in those theories of pure love which were taught at the
court of Louis XIV., by his grandchildren's preceptor, at a woman's
instigation, and zealously preached fifty years afterwards by President
(of New Jersey College) Jonathan Edwards, in the cold and austere
atmosphere of New England!

Led away by the generous enthusiasm of his soul, Fenelon had not probed
the dangers of his new doctrine. The gospel and church of Christ, whilst
preaching the love of God, had strongly maintained the fact of human
individuality and responsibility. The theory of mere (pure) love
absorbing the soul in God put an end to repentance, effort to withstand
evil, and the need of a Redeemer. Bossuet was not deceived. The
elevation of his mind, combined with strong common sense, caused him to
see through all the veils of the mysticism. Madame Guyon had submitted
her books to him; he disapproved of them, at first quietly, then
formally, after a thorough examination in conjunction with two other
doctors. Madame Guyon retired to a monastery of Meaux; she soon returned
to Paris, and her believers rallied round her. Bossuet, in his anger, no
longer held his hand. Madame Guyon was shut up first at Vincennes, and
then in the Bastille; she remained seven years in prison, and ended by
retiring to near Blois, where she died in 1717, still absorbed in her
holy and vague reveries, praying no more inasmuch as she possessed God,
"a submissive daughter, however, of the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman
Church, having and desiring to admit no other opinion but its," as she
says in her will. Bourdaloue calls mere (pure) love "a bare faith, which
has for its object no verity of the gospel's, no mystery of Jesus
Christ's, no attribute of God's, nothing whatever, unless it be, in a
word, God." In the presence of death, on the approach of the awful
realities of eternity, Madame Guyon no doubt felt the want of a more
simple faith in the mighty and living God. Fenelon had not waited so
long to surrender.

The instinct of the pious and vigorous souls of the seventeenth century
had not allowed them to go astray: there was little talk of pantheism,
which had spread considerably in the sixteenth century; but there had
been a presentiment of the dangers lurking behind the doctrines of Madame
Guyon. Bossuet, that great and noble type of the finest period of the
Catholic church in France, made the mistake of pushing his victory too
far. Fenelon, a young priest when the great Bishop of Meaux was already
in his zenith, had preserved towards him a profound affection and a deep
respect. "We are, by anticipation, agreed, however you may decide," he
wrote to him on the 28th of July, 1694: "it will be no specious
submission, but a sincere conviction. Though that which I suppose myself
to have read should appear to me clearer than that two and two make four,
I should consider it still less clear than my obligation to mistrust all
my lights, and to prefer before them those of a bishop such as you. You
have only to give me my lesson in writing; provided that you wrote me
precisely what is the doctrine of the church, and what are the articles
in which I have slipped, I would tie myself down inviolably to that
rule." Bossuet required more; he wanted Fenelon, recently promoted to
the Archbishopric of Cambrai, to approve of the book he was preparing on
_Etats d'Oraison_ (States of Orison), and explicitly to condemn the works
of Madame Guyon. Fenelon refused with generous indignation. "So it is
to secure my own reputation," he writes to Madame de Maintenon, in 1696,
"that I am wanted to subscribe that a lady, my friend, would plainly
deserve to be burned with all her writings, for an execrable form of
spirituality, which is the only bond of our friendship? I tell you,
madame, I would burn my friend with my own hands, and I would burn myself
joyfully, rather than let the church be imperilled. But here is a poor
captive woman, overwhelmed with sorrows; there is none to defend her,
none to excuse her; they are always afraid to do so. I maintain that
this stroke of the pen, given by me against my conscience, from a
cowardly policy, would render me forever infamous, and unworthy of my
ministry and my position." Fenelon no longer submitted his reason and
his conduct, then, to the judgment of Bossuet; he recognized in him an
adversary, but he still spoke of him with profound veneration. "Fear
not," he writes to Madame de Maintenon, "that I should gainsay M. de
Meaux; I shall never speak of him but as of my master, and of his
propositions but as the rule of faith." Fenelon was at Cambrai, being
regular in the residence which removed him for nine months in the year
from the court and the children of France, when there appeared his
_Explication des Maximes des Saints sur la Vie Interieure_ (Exposition of
the Maxims of the Saints touching the Inner Life), almost at the same
moment as Bossuet's _Instruction sur les Etats d' Oraison_ (Lessons on
States of Orison). Fenelon's book appeared as dangerous as those of
Madame Guyon; he himself submitted it to the pope, and was getting ready
to repair to Rome to defend his cause, when the king wrote to him, "I do
not think proper to allow you to go to Rome; you must, on the contrary,
repair to your diocese, whence I forbid you to go away; you can send to
Rome your pleas in justification of your book."

Fenelon departed to an exile which was to last as long as his life; on
his departure, he wrote to Madame de Maintenon, "I shall depart hence,
madame, to-morrow, Friday, in obedience to the king. My greatest sorrow
is to have wearied him and to displease him. I shall not cease, all the
days of my life, to pray God to pour His graces upon him. I consent to
be crushed more and more. The only thing I ask of his Majesty is, that
the diocese of Cambrai, which is guiltless, may not suffer for the errors
imputed to me. I ask protection only for the sake of the church, and
even that protection I limit to not being disturbed in those few good
works which my present position permits me to do, in order to fulfil a
pastor's duties. It remains for me, madame, only to ask your pardon for
all the trouble I have caused you. I shall all my life be as deeply
sensible of your former kindnesses as if I had not forfeited them, and my
respectful attachment to yourself, madame, will never diminish."

Fenelon made no mistake in addressing to Madame de Maintenon his farewell
and his regrets; she had acted against him with the uneasiness of a
person led away for a moment by an irresistible attraction, and
returning, quite affrighted, to rule and the beaten paths. The mere love
theory had no power to fascinate her for long. The Archbishop of Cambrai
did not drop out of that pleasant dignity. The pious councillors of the
king were working against him at Rome, bringing all the influence of
France to weigh upon Innocent XII. Fenelon had taken no part in the
declarations of the Gallican church, in 1682, which had been drawn up by
Bossuet; the court of Rome was inclined towards him; the strife became
bitter and personal; pamphlets succeeded pamphlets, letters. Bossuet
published a _Relation du Quietisme_ (An Account of Quietism), and remarks
upon the reply of M. de Cambrai. "I write this for the people," he said,
"in order that, the character of M. de Cambrai being known, his eloquence
may, with God's permission, no more impose upon anybody." Fenelon
replied with a vigor, a fullness, and a moderation which brought men's
minds over to him. "You do more for me by the excess of your
accusations," said he to Bossuet, "than I could do myself. But what a
melancholy consolation when we look at the scandal which troubles the
house of God, and which causes so many heretics and libertines (free-
thinkers) to triumph! Whatever end may be put by a holy pontiff to this
matter, I await it with impatience, having no wish but to obey, no fear
but to be in the wrong, no object but peace. I hope that it will be seen
from my silence, my unreserved submission, my constant horror of
illusion, my isolation from any book and any person of a suspicious sort,
that the evil you would fain have caused to be apprehended is as
chimerical as the scandal has been real, and that violent measures taken
against imaginary evils turn to poison."

Fenelon was condemned on the 12th of March, 1699; the sentence of Rome
was mild, and hinted no suspicion of heresy; it had been wrested from the
pope by the urgency of Louis XIV. "It would be painful to his Majesty,"
wrote the Bishop of Meaux in the king's name, "to see a new schism
growing up amongst his subjects at the very time that he is applying
himself with all his might to the task of extirpating that of Calvin, and
if he saw the prolongation, by manoeuvres which are incomprehensible, of
a matter which appeared to be at an end. He will know what he has to do,
and will take suitable resolutions, still hoping, nevertheless, that his
Holiness will not be pleased to reduce him to such disagreeable
extremities." When the threat reached Rome, Innocent XII. had already

Fenelon submitted to the pope's decision completely and unreservedly.
"God gives me grace to be at peace amidst bitterness and sorrow," he
wrote to the Duke of Beauvilliers on the 29th of March, 1699. "Amongst
so many troubles I have one consolation little fitted to be known in the
world, but solid enough for those who seek God in good faith, and that
is, that my conduct is quite decided upon, and that I have no longer to
deliberate. It only remains for me to submit and hold my peace; that is
what I have always desired. I have now but to choose the terms of my
submission; the shortest, the simplest, the most absolute, the most
devoid of any restriction, are those that I rather prefer. My conscience
is disburdened in that of my superior. In all this, far from having an
eye to my advantage, I have no eye to any man; I see but God, and I am
content with what He does."

Bossuet had triumphed: his vaster mind, his more sagacious insight, his
stronger judgment had unravelled the dangerous errors in which Fenelon
had allowed himself to be entangled. The Archbishop of Cambrai, however,
had grown in the estimation of good men on account of his moderation, his
gentle and high-spirited independence during the struggle, his
submission, full of dignity, after the papal decision. The mind of
Bossuet was the greater; the spirit of Fenelon was the nobler and more
deeply pious. "I cannot consent to have my book defended even
indirectly," he wrote to one of his friends on the 21st of July, 1699.
"In God's name, speak not of me but to God only, and leave men to think
as they please; as for me, I have no object but silence and peace after
my unreserved submission."

Fenelon was not detached from the world and his hopes to quite such an
extent as he would have had it appear. He had educated the Duke of
Burgundy, who remained passionately attached to him, and might hope for a
return of prosperity. He remained in the silence and retirement of his
diocese, with the character of an able and saintly bishop, keeping open
house, grandly and simply, careful of the welfare of the soldiery who
passed through Cambrai, adored by his clergy and the people. "Never a
word about the court, or about public affairs of any sort that could be
found fault with, or any that smacked the least in the world of baseness,
regret, or flattery," writes St. Simon; "never anything that could give
a bare hint of what he had been or might be again. He was a tall, thin
man, well made, pale, with a large nose, eyes from which fire and
intellect streamed like a torrent, and a physiognomy such that I have
never seen any like it, and there was no forgetting it when it had been
seen but once. It combined everything, and there was no conflict of
opposites in it. There were gravity and gallantry, the serious and the
gay; it savored equally of the learned doctor, the bishop, and the great
lord; that which appeared on its surface, as well as in his whole person,
was refinement, intellect, grace, propriety, and, above all, nobility.
It required an effort to cease looking at him. His manners corresponded
therewith in the same proportion, with an ease which communicated it to
others; with all this, a man who never desired to show more wits than
they with whom he conversed, who put himself within everybody's range
without ever letting it be perceived, in such wise that nobody could drop
him, or fight shy of him, or not want to see him again. It was this rare
talent, which he possessed to the highest degree, that kept his friends
so completely attached to him all his life, in spite of his downfall, and
that, in their dispersion, brought them together to speak of him, to
sorrow after him, to yearn for him, to bind themselves more and more to
him, as the Jews to Jerusalem, and to sigh after his return and hope
continually for it, just as that unfortunate people still expects and
sighs after the Messiah."

Those faithful friends were dropping one after another. The death of the
Duke of Burgundy and of the Duke of Chevreuse in 1712, and that of the
Duke of Beauvilliers in 1714, were a fatal blow to the affections as well
as to the ambitious hopes of Fenelon. Of delicate health, worn out by
the manifold duties of the episcopate, inwardly wearied by long and vain
expectation, he succumbed on the 7th of January, 1715, at the moment when
the attraction shown by the Duke of Orleans towards him and "the king's
declining state" were once more renewing his chances of power. "He was
already consulted in private and courted again in public," says St.
Simon, "because the inclination of the rising sun had already shown
through." He died, however, without letting any sign of yearning for
life appear, "regardless of all that he was leaving, and occupied solely
with that which he was going to meet, with a tranquillity, a peace, which
excluded nothing but disquietude, and which included penitence,
despoilment, and a unique care for the spiritual affairs of his diocese."
The Christian soul was detaching itself from the world to go before God
with sweet and simple confidence. "O, how great is God! how all in all!
How as nothing are we when we are so near Him, and when the veil which
conceals Him from us is about to lift!" [_Euvres de Fenelon, Lettres
Spirituelles,_ xxv. 128.]

[Illustration: Bossuet----591]

So many fires smouldering in the hearts, so many different struggles
going on in the souls, that sought to manifest their personal and
independent life have often caused forgetfulness of the great mass of the
faithful who were neither Jansenists nor Quietists. Bossuet was the real
head and the pride of the great Catholic church of France in the
seventeenth century; what he approved of was approved of by the immense
majority of the French clergy, what he condemned was condemned by them.
Moderate and prudent in conduct as well as in his opinions, pious without
being fervent, holding discreetly aloof from all excesses, he was a
Gallican without fear and without estrangement as regarded the papal
power, to which he steadfastly paid homage. It was with pain, and not
without having sought to escape therefrom, that he found himself obliged,
at the assembly of the clergy in 1682, to draw up the solemn declarations
of the Gallican church. The meeting of the clergy had been called forth
by the eternal discussions of the civil power with the court of Rome on
the question of the rights of regale, that is to say, the rights of the
sovereign to receive the revenues of vacant bishoprics, and to appoint to
benefices belonging to them. The French bishops were of independent
spirit; the Archbishop of Paris, Francis de Harlay, was on bad terms with
Pope Innocent XI.; Bossuet managed to moderate the discussions, and kept
within suitable bounds the declaration which he could not avoid. He had
always taught and maintained what was proclaimed by the assembly of the
clergy of France, "that St. Peter and his successors, vicars of Jesus
Christ, and the whole church itself, received from God authority over
only spiritual matters and such as appertain to salvation, and not over
temporal and civil matters, in such sort that kings and sovereigns are
not subject to tiny ecclesiastical power, by order of God, in temporal
matters, and cannot be deposed directly or indirectly by authority of the
keys of the church; finally, that, though the pope has the principal part
in questions of faith, and though his decrees concern all the churches
and each church severally, his judgment is, nevertheless, not
irrefragable, unless the consent of the church intervene." Old doctrines
in the church of France, but never before so solemnly declared and made
incumbent upon the teaching of all the faculties of theology in the

Constantly occupied in the dogmatic struggle against Protestantism,
Bossuet had imported into it a moderation in form which, however, did not
keep out injustice. Without any inclination towards persecution, he,
with almost unanimity on the part of the bishops of France, approved of
the king's piety in the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. "Take up your
sacred pens," says he in his funeral oration over Michael Le Tellier,

"ye who compose the annals of the church; haste ye to place Louis amongst
the peers of Constantine and Theodosius. Our fathers saw not as we have
seen an inveterate heresy falling at a single blow, scattered flocks
returning in a mass, and our churches too narrow to receive them, their
false shepherds leaving them without even awaiting the order, and happy
to have their banishment to allege as excuse; all tranquillity amidst so
great a movement; the universe astounded to see in so novel an event the
most certain sign as well as the most noble use of authority, and the
prince's merit more recognized and more revered than even his authority.
Moved by so many marvels, say ye to this new Constantine, this new
Theodosius, this new Marciaau, this new Charlemagne, what the six hundred
and thirty Fathers said aforetime in the council of Chaloedon, You have
confirmed the faith; you have exterminated the heretics; that is the
worthy achievement of your reign, that is its own characteristic.
Through you heresy is no more. God alone could have wrought this marvel.
King of heaven, preserve the king of earth; that is the prayer of the
churches, that is the prayer of the bishops." Bossuet, like Louis XIV.,
believed Protestantism to be destroyed. "Heresy is no more," he said.
It was the same feeling that prompted Louis XIV., when dying, to the
edict of March 8, 1715. "We learn," said he, "that, abjurations being
frequently made in provinces distant from those in which our newly
converted subjects die, our judges to whom those who die relapsed are
denounced find a difficulty in condemning them, for want of proof of
their abjuration. The stay which those who were of the religion styled
Reformed have made in our kingdom since we abolished therein all exercise
of the said religion is a more than sufficient proof that they have
embraced the Catholic religion, without which they would have been
neither suffered nor tolerated." There did not exist, there could not
exist, any more Protestants in France; all who died without sacraments
were relapsed, and as such dragged on the hurdle. Those who were not
married at a Catholic church were not married. M. Guizot was born at
Nimes on the 4th of October, 1787, before Protestants possessed any civil
rights in France.

Bossuet had died on the 12th of April, 1704. When troubles began again
in the church, the enemies of the Jansenists obtained from the king a
decree interdicting the _Reflexions morales cur le Nouveau Testament,_ an
old and highly esteemed work by Father Quesnel, some time an Oratorian,
who had become head of the Jansenists on the death of the great Arnauld.
Its condemnation at Rome was demanded. Cardinal de Noailles, Archbishop
of Paris, had but lately, as Bishop of Chalons, approved of the book; he
refused to retract his approbation; the Jesuits made urgent
representations to the pope; Clement XI. launched the bull _Unigenitus,_
condemning a hundred and one propositions extracted from the _Reflexions
morales_. Eight prelates, with Cardinal de Noailles at their head,
protested against the bull; it was, nevertheless, enregistered at the
Parliament, but not without difficulty. The archbishop still held out,
supported by the greater part of the religious orders and the majority of
the doctors of Sorbonne. The king's confessor, Letellier, pressed him to
prosecute the cardinal and get him deposed by a national council; the
affair dragged its slow length along at Rome; the archbishop had
suspended from the sacred functions all the Jesuits of his diocese; the
struggle had commenced under the name of Jansenism against the whole
Gallican church. The king was about to bring the matter before his bed
of justice, when he fell ill. He saw no more of Cardinal de Noailles,
and this rupture vexed him. "I am sorry to leave the affairs of the
church in the state in which they are," he said to his councillors. "I
am perfectly ignorant in the matter; you know, and I call you to witness,
that I have done nothing therein but what you wanted, and that I have
done all you wanted. It is you who will answer before God for all that
has been done, whether too much or too little. I charge you with it
before Him, and I have a clear conscience. I am but a know-nothing who
have left myself to your guidance." An awful appeal from a dying king to
the guides of his conscience. He had dispeopled his kingdom, reduced to
exile, despair, or falsehood fifteen hundred thousand of his subjects,
but the memory of the persecutions inflicted upon the Protestants did not
trouble him; they were for him rather a pledge of his salvation and of
his acceptance before God. He was thinking of the Catholic church, the
holy priests exiled or imprisoned, the nuns driven from their convent,
the division among the bishops, the scandal amongst the faithful. The
great burden of absolute power was evident to his eyes; he sought to let
it fall back upon the shoulders of those who had enticed him or urged him
upon that fatal path. A vain attempt in the eyes of men, whatever may be
the judgment of God's sovereign mercy. History has left weighing upon
Louis XIV. the crushing weight of the religious persecutions ordered
under his reign.


It has been said in this History that Louis XIV. had the fortune to find
himself at the culminating point of absolute monarchy, and to profit by
the labors of his predecessors, reaping a portion of their glory; he had
likewise the honor of enriching himself with the labors of his
contemporaries, and attracting to himself a share of their lustre; the
honor, be it said, not the fortune, for he managed to remain the centre
of intellectual movement as well as of the court, of literature and art
as well as affairs of state. Only the abrupt and solitary genius of
Pascal or the prankish and ingenuous geniality of La Fontaine held aloof
from king and court; Racine and Moliere, Bossuet and Fenelon, La Bruyere
and Boileau lived frequently in the circle of Louis XIV., and enjoyed in
different degrees his favor; M. de la Rochefoucauld and Madame de Sevigne
were of the court; Lebrun, Rigaud, Mignard, painted for the king;
Perrault and Mansard constructed the Louvre and Versailles; the learned
of all countries considered it an honor to correspond with the new
academies founded in France. Louis XIV. was even less a man of letters
or an artist than an administrator or a soldier; but literature and art,
as well as the superintendents and the generals, found in him the King.
The puissant unity of the reign is everywhere the same. The king and the
nation are in harmony.

Pascal, had he been born later, would have remained independent and
proud, from the nature of his mind and of his character as well as from
the connection he had full early with Port-Royal, where they did not rear
courtiers; he died, however, at thirty-nine, in 1661, the very year in
which Louis XIV. began to govern. Born at Clermont, in Auvergne,
educated at his father's and by his father, though it was not thought
desirable to let him study mathematics, he had already discovered by
himself the first thirty-two propositions of Euclid, when Cardinal
Richelieu, holding on his knee little Jacqueline Pascal, and looking at
her brother, said to M. Pascal, the two children's father, who had come
to thank him for a favor, "Take care of them; I mean to make something
great of them." This was the native and powerful instinct of genius
divining genius; Richelieu, however, died three years later, without
having done anything for the children who had impressed him beyond giving
their father a share in the superintendence of Rouen; he thus put them in
the way of the great Corneille, who was affectionately kind to
Jacqueline, but took no particular notice of Blaise Pascal. The latter
was seventeen; he had already written his _Traite des Coniques_ (Treatise
on Conics) and begun to occupy himself with "his arithmetical machine,"
as his sister, Madame Perier calls it. At twenty-three he had ceased to
apply his mind to human sciences; "when he afterwards discovered the
roulette (cycloid), it was without thinking," says Madame Perier, "and to
distract his attention from a severe tooth-ache he had." He was not
twenty-four when anxiety for his salvation and for the glory of God had
taken complete possession of his soul. It was to the same end that he
composed the _Lettres Provinciales,_ the first of which was written in
six days, and the style of which, clear, lively, precise, far removed
from the somewhat solemn gravity of Port-Royal, formed French prose as
Malherbe and Boileau formed the poetry. This was the impression of his
contemporaries, the most hard of them to please in the art of writing.
"That is excellent; that will be relished," said the recluses of Port-
Royal, in spite of the misgivings of M. Singlin. More than thirty years
after Pascal's ddath, Madame de Sevigne, in 1689, wrote to Madame de
Grignan, "Sometimes, to divert ourselves, we read the little Letters (to
a provincial). Good heavens, how charming! And how my son reads them!
I always think of my daughter, and how that excess of correctness of
reasoning would suit her; but your brother says that you consider that it
is always the same thing over again. Ah! My goodness, so much the
better! Could any one have a more perfect style, a raillery more
refined, more natural, more delicate, worthier offspring of those
dialogues of Plato, which are so fine? And when, after the first ten
letters, he addresses himself to the reverend Jesuit fathers, what
earnestness, what solidity, what force! What eloquence! What love for
God and for the truth! What a way of maintaining it and making it
understood! I am sure that you have never read them but in a hurry,
pitching on the pleasant places; but it is not so when they are read at
leisure." Lord Macaulay once said to M. Guizot, "Amongst modern works I
know only two perfect ones, to which there is no exception to be taken,
and they are _Pascal's Provincials_ and the _Letters of Madame de

[Illustration: Blaise Pascal----597]

Boileau was of Lord Macaulay's opinion; at least as regarded Pascal.
"Corbinelli wrote to me the other day," says Madame de Sevigne, on the
15th of January, 1690: "he gave me an account of a conversation and a
dinner at M. de Lamoignon's: the persons were the master and mistress of
the house, M. de Troyes, M. de Toulon, Father Bourdaloue, a comrade of
his, Desprdaux, and Corbinelli. The talk was of ancient and modern
works. Despreaux supported the ancient, with the exception of one single
modern, which surpassed, in his opinion, both old and new. Bourdaloue's
comrade, who assumed the well-read air, and who had fastened on to
Despreaux and Corbinelli, asked him what in the world this book could be
that was so remarkably clever. Despreaux would not give the name.
Corbinelli said to him, 'Sir, I conjure you to tell me, that I may read
it all night.' Despreaux answered, laughing, 'Ah! sir, you have read it
more than once, I am sure.' The Jesuit joins in, with a disdainful air,
and presses Despreaux to name this marvellous writer. 'Do not press me,
father,' says Despreaux. The father persists. At last Despreaux takes
hold of his arm, and squeezing it very hard, says, 'You will have it,
father; well, then, egad! it is Pascal.' 'Pascal,' says the father, all
blushes and astonishment; 'Pascal is as beautiful as the false can be.'
'False,' replied Despreaux: 'false! Let me tell you that he is as true as
he is inimitable; he has just been translated into three languages.' The
father rejoined, 'He is none the more true for that.' Despreaux grew
warm, and shouted like a madman: 'Well, father, will you say that one of
yours did not have it printed in one of his books that a Christian was
not obliged to love God? Dare you say that that is false?' 'Sir,' said
the father, in a fury, 'we must distinguish.' 'Distinguish!' cried
Despreaux; 'distinguish, egad! distinguish! Distinguish whether we are
obliged to love God!' And, taking Corbinelli by the arm, he flew off to
the other end of the room, coming back again, and rushing about like a
lunatic; but he would not go near the father any more, and went off to
join the rest of the company. Here endeth the story; the curtain falls."
Literary taste and religious sympathies combined, in the case of Boileau,
to exalt Pascal.

The provincials could not satisfy for long the pious ardor of Pascal's
soul; he took in hand his great work on the _Verite de la Religion_.
He had taken a vigorous part in the discussions of Port-Royal as to
subscription of the formulary: his opinion was decidedly in favor of
resistance. It was the moment when MM. Arnauld and Nicole had discovered
a restriction, as it was then called, which allowed of subscribing with a
safe conscience. "M. Pascal, who loved truth above all things," writes
his niece, Marguerite Perier; "who, moreover, was pulled down by a pain
in the head, which never left him; who had exerted himself to make them
feel as he himself felt; and who had expressed himself very vigorously in
spite of his weakness, was so grief-stricken that he had a fit, and lost
speech and consciousness. Everybody was alarmed. Exertions were made to
bring him round, and then those gentlemen withdrew. When he was quite
recovered, Madame Perier asked him what had caused this incident. He
answered, 'When I saw all those persons that I looked upon as being those
whom God had made to know the truth, and who ought to be its defenders,
wavering and falling. I declare to you that I was so overcome with grief
that I was unable to support it, and could not help breaking down.'"
Blaise Pascal was the worthy brother of Jacqueline; in the former, as
well as the latter, the soul was too ardent and too strong for its
covering of body. Nearly all his relatives died young. "I alone am
left," wrote Mdlle. Perier, when she had become, exceptionally, very
aged. "I might say, like Simon Maccabeus, the last of all his brethren,
All my relatives and all my brethren are dead in the service of God and
in the love of truth. I alone am left; please God I may never have a
thought of backsliding!"

Pascal was unable to finish his work. "God, who had inspired my brother
with this design and with all his thoughts," writes his sister, "did not
permit him to bring it to its completion, for reasons to us unknown."
The last years of Pascal's life, invalid as he had been from the age of
eighteen, were one long and continual torture, accepted and supported
with an austere disdain of suffering. Incapable of any application, he
gave his attention solely to his salvation and the care of the poor.
"I have taken it into my head," says he, "to have in the house a sick
pauper, to whom the same service shall be rendered as to myself;
particular attention to be paid to him, and, in fact, no difference to be
made between him and me, in order that I may have the consolation of
knowing that there is one pauper as well treated as myself, in the
perplexity I suffer from finding myself in the great affluence of every
sort in which I do find myself." The spirit of M. de St. Cyran is there,
and also the spirit of the gospel, which caused Pascal, when he was
dying, to say, "I love poverty, because Jesus Christ loved it. I love
wealth, because it gives the means of assisting the needy." A genius
unique in the extent and variety of his faculties, which were applied
with the same splendid results to mathematics and physics, to philosophy
and polemics, disdaining all preconceived ideas, going unerringly and
straightforwardly to the bottom of things with admirable force and
profundity, independent and free even in his voluntary submission to the
Christian faith, which he accepts with his eyes open, after having
weighed it, measured it, and sounded it to its uttermost depths, too
steadfast and too simple not to bow his head before mysteries, all the
while acknowledging his ignorance. "If there were no darkness," says he,
"man would not feel his corruption; if there were no light, man would
have no hope of remedy. Thus it is not only quite right, but useful, for
us that God should be concealed in part, and revealed in part, since it
is equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own misery,
and to know his own misery without knowing God." The lights of this
great intellect had led him to acquiesce in his own fogs. "One can be
quite sure that there is a God, without knowing what He is," says he.

In 1627, four years after Pascal, and, like him, in a family of the long
robe, was born, at Dijon, his only rival in that great art of writing
prose which established the superiority of the French language. At
sixteen, Bossuet preached his first sermon in the drawing-room of Madame
de Rambouillet, and the great Conde was pleased to attend his theological
examinations. He was already famous at court as a preacher and a
polemist when the king gave him the title of Bishop of Condom, almost
immediately inviting him to become preceptor to the dauphin. A difficult
and an irksome task for him who had already written for Turenne an
exposition of the Catholic faith, and had delivered the funeral orations
over Madame Henriette and the Queen of England. "The king has greatly at
heart the dauphin's education," wrote Father Lacoue to Colbert; "he
regards it as one of his grand state-strokes in respect of the future."
The dauphin was not devoid of intelligence. "Monseigneur has plenty of
wits," said Councillor Le Gout de Saint-Seine in his private journal,
"but his wits are under a bushel." The boy was indolent, with little
inclination for work, roughly treated by his governor, the Duke of
Montausier, who was endowed with more virtue than ability in the
superintendence of a prince's education. "O," cried Monseigneur, when
official announcement was made to him of the project of marriage which
the king was conducting for him with the Princess Christine of Bavaria,
"we shall see whether M. Huet (afterwards bishop of Avranches) will want
to make me learn ancient geography any more!" Bossuet had better
understood what ought to be the aim of a king's education. "Remember,
Monseigneur," he constantly repeated to him, "that destined as you are to
reign some day over this great kingdom, you are bound to make it happy."
He was in despair at his pupil's inattention. "There is a great deal to
endure with a mind so destitute of application," he wrote to Marshal
Bellefonds; "there is no perceptible relief, and we go on, as St. Paul
says, hoping against hope." He had written a little treatise on
inattention, _De Incogitantia,_--in the vain hope of thus rousing his
pupil to work. "I dread nothing in the world so much," Louis XIV would
say, "as to have a sluggard (_faineant_) dauphin; I would much prefer to
have no son at all!" Bossuet foresaw the innumerable obstacles in the
way of his labors. "I perceive, as I think," he wrote to his friends,
"in the dauphin the beginnings of great graces, a simplicity, a
straightforwardness, a principle of goodness, an attention, amidst all
his flightiness, to the mysteries, a something or other which comes with
a flash, in the middle of his distractions, to call him back to God. You
would be charmed if I were to tell you the questions he puts to me, and
the desire he shows to be a good servant of God. But the world! the
world! the world! pleasures, evil counsels, evil examples! Save us,
Lord! save us! Thou didst verily preserve the children from the furnace,
but Thou didst send Thine angel; and, as for me, alas! what am I?
Humility, trepidation, absorption into one's own nothingness!"

It was not for Bossuet that the honor was reserved of succeeding in the
difficult task of a royal education. Fenelon encountered in the Duke of
Burgundy a more undisciplined nature, a more violent character, and more
dangerous tendencies than Bossuet had to fight against in the
grand-dauphin; but there was a richer mind and a warmer heart; the
preceptor, too, was more proper for the work. Bossuet, nevertheless,
labored conscientiously to instruct his little prince, studying for him
and with him the classical authors, preparing grammatical expositions,
and, lastly, writing for his edification the _Traite de la Connaissance
de Dieu et de soi-mime_ (Treatise on the Knowledge of God and of Self),
the _Discours sur l'Histoire Universelle_ (Discourse on Universal
History), and the _Politique tiree de l'Ecriture Sainte_ (Polity derived
from Holy Writ). The labor was in vain; the very loftiness of his
genius, the extent and profundity of his views, rendered Bossuet unfit to
get at the heart and mind of a boy who was timid, idle, and kept in fear
by the king as well as by his governor. The dauphin was nineteen when
his marriage restored Bossuet to the church and to the world; the king
appointed him almoner to the dauphiness, and, before long, Bishop of

Neither the assembly of the clergy and the part he played therein, nor
his frequent preachings at court, diverted Bossuet from his duties as
bishop; he habitually resided at Meaux, in the midst of his priests. The
greater number of his sermons, written at first in fragments, collected
from memory in their aggregate, and repeated frequently with divergences
in wording and development, were preached in the cathedral of Meaux. The
dauphin sometimes went thither to see him. "Pray, sir," he had said to
him, in his childhood, "take great care of me whilst I am little; I will
of you when I am big." Assured of his righteousness as a priest and his
fine tact as a man, the king appealed to Bossuet in the delicate
conjunctures of his life. It is related that it was the Bishop of Meaux
who dissuaded him from making public his marriage with Madame de
Maintenon. She, more anxious for power than splendor, did not bear him
any ill-will for it; amidst the various leanings of the court, divided as
it was between Jansenism and Quietism, it was to the simple teaching of
the Catholic church, represented by Bossuet, that she remained
practically attached. Right-minded and strong-minded, but a little
cold-hearted, Madame de Maintenon could not suffer herself to be led away
by the sublime excesses of the Jansenists or the pious reveries of Madame
Guyon; the Jesuits had influence over her, without her being a slave to
them; and that influence increased after the death of Bossuet. The
guidance of the Bishop of Meaux, in fact, answered the requirements of
spirits that were pious and earnest without enthusiasm: less ardent in
faith and less absolute in religious practice than M. de St. Cyran and
Port-Royal, less exacting in his demands than Father Bourdaloue,
susceptible now and then of mystic ideas, as is proved by his letters to
Sister Cornuau, he did not let himself be won by the vague ecstasies of
absolute (pure) love; he had a mind large enough to say, like Mother
Angelica Arnauld, "I am of all saints' order, and all saints are of my
order; "but his preferences always inclined towards those saints and
learned doctors who had not carried any religious tendency to excess, and
who had known how to rest content with the spirit of a rule and a faith
that were practical. A wonderful genius, discovering by flashes, and as
if by instinct, the most profound truths of human nature, and giving them
expression in an incomparable style, forcing, straining the language to
make it render his idea, darting at one bound to the sublimest height by
use of the simplest terms, which he, so to speak, bore away with him,
wresting them from their natural and proper signification. "There, in
spite of that great heart of hers, is that princess so admired and so
beloved; there, such as Death has made her for us!" Bossuet alone could
speak like that.

He was writing incessantly, all the while that he was preaching at Meaux
and at Paris, making funeral orations over the queen, Maria Theresa, over
the Princess Palatine, Michael Le Tellier, and the Prince of Conde. The
Edict of Nantes had just been revoked; controversy with the Protestant
ministers, headed by Claude and Jurieu, occupied a great space in the
life of the Bishop of Meaux. He at that time wrote his _Histoire des
Variations,_ often unjust and violent, always able in its attacks upon
the Reformation; he did not import any zeal into persecution, though all
the while admitting unreservedly the doctrines universally propagated
amongst Catholics. "I declare," he wrote to M. de Baville, "that I am
and have always been of opinion, first, that princes may by penal laws
constrain all heretics to conform to the profession and practices of the
Catholic church; secondly, that this doctrine ought to be held invariable
in the church, which has not only conformed to, but has even demanded,
similar ordinances from princes." He at the same time opposed the
constraint put upon the new converts to oblige them to go to mass,
without requiring from them any other act of religion.

"When the emperors imposed a like obligation on the Donatists," he wrote
to the Bishop of Mirepoix, "it was on the supposition that they were
converted, or would be; but the heretics at the present time, who declare
themselves by not fulfilling their Easter (communicating), ought to be
rather hindered from assisting at the mysteries than constrained thereto,
and the more so in that it appears to be a consequence thereof to
constrain them likewise to fulfil their Easter, which is expressly to
give occasion for frightful sacrilege. They might be constrained to
undergo instruction; but, so far as I can learn, that would hardly
advance matters, and I think that we must be reduced to three things; one
is, to oblige them to send their children to the schools, or, in default,
to find means of taking them out of their hands; another is, to be firm
as regards marriages; and the last is, to take great pains to become
privately acquainted with those of whom there are good hopes, and to
procure for them solid instruction and veritable enlightenment; the rest
must be left to time and to the grace of God. I know of nothing else."
About the same time Fenelon, engaged upon the missions in Poitou, being
as much convinced as the Bishop of Meaux of a sovereign's rights over the
conscience of the faithful, as well as of the terrible danger of
hypocrisy, wrote to Bossuet, telling him that he had demanded the
withdrawal of the troops in all the districts he was visiting: "It is no
light matter to change the sentiments of a whole people. What difficulty
must the apostles have found in changing the face of the universe,
overcoming all passions, and establishing a doctrine till then unheard
of, seeing that we cannot persuade the ignorant by clear and express
passages which they read every day in favor of the religion of their
ancestors, and that the king's own authority stirs up every passion to
render persuasion more easy for us! The remnants of this sect go on
sinking little by little, as regards all exterior observance, into a
religious indifference which cannot but cause fear and trembling. If one
wanted to make them abjure Christianity and follow the Koran, there would
be nothing required but to show them the dragoons; provided that they
assemble by night, and withstand all instruction, they consider that they
have done enough." Cardinal Noailles was of the same mind as Bossuet and
FEnelon. "The king will be pained to decide against your opinion as
regards the new converts," says a letter to him from Madame de Maintenon;
"meanwhile the most general is to force them to attend at mass. Your
opinion seems to be a condemnation of all that has been hitherto done
against these poor creatures. It is not pleasant to hark back so far,
and it has always been supposed that, in any case, they must have a
religion." In vain were liberty of conscience and its inviolable rights
still misunderstood by the noblest spirits, the sincerity and
high-mindedness of the great bishops instinctively revolted against
the hypocrisy engendered of persecution. The tacit assuagement of the
severities against the Reformers, between 1688 and 1700, was the fruit of
the representations of Bossuet, Fenelon, and Cardinal Noailles. Madame
de Maintenon wrote at that date to one of her relatives, "You are
converted; do not meddle in the conversion of others. I confess to you
that I do not like the idea of answering before God and the king for all
those conversions."

At the same time with the controversial treatises, the _Elevations sur
les Mysteres_ and the _Meditations sur l'Evangile_ were written at Meaux,
drawing the bishop away to the serener regions of supreme faith. There
might he have chanced to meet those Reformers, as determined as he in the
strife, as attached, at bottom, as he, for life and death, to the
mysteries and to the lights of a common hope. "When God shall give us
grace to enter Paradise," St. Bernard used to say, "we shall be above all
astonished at not finding some of those whom we had thought to meet
there, and at finding others whom we did not expect." Bossuet had a
moments glimpse of this higher truth; in concert with Leibnitz, a great
intellect of more range in knowledge and less steadfastness than he in
religious faith, he tried to reconcile the Catholic and Protestant
communions in one and the same creed. There were insurmountable
difficulties on both sides; the attempt remained unsuccessful.

The Bishop of Meaux had lately triumphed in the matter of Quietism,
breaking the ties of old friendship with Fenelon, and more concerned
about defending sound doctrine in the church than fearful of hurting his
friend, who was sincere and modest in his relations with him, and humbly
submissive to the decrees of the court of Rome. The Archbishop of
Cambrai was in exile at his own diocese; Bossuet was ill at Meaux, still,
however, at work, going deeper every day into that profound study of Holy
Writ and of the fathers of the church which shines forth in all his
writings. He had stone, and suffered agonies, but would not permit an
operation. On his death-bed, surrounded by his nephews and his vicars,
he rejected with disdain all eulogies on his episcopal life. "Speak to
me of necessary truths," said he, preserving to the last the simplicity
of a great and strong mind, accustomed to turn from appearances and
secondary doctrines to embrace the mighty realities of time and of
eternity. He died at Paris on the 12th of April, 1704, just when the
troubles of the church were springing up again. Great was the
consternation amongst the bishops of France, wont as they were to shape
themselves by his counsels. "Men were astounded at this mortal's
mortality." Bossuet was seventy-three.

A month later, on the 13th of May, Father Bourdaloue in his turn died.
A model of close logic and moral austerity, with a stiff and manly
eloquence, so impressed with the miserable insufficiency of human
efforts, that he said as he was dying, "My God, I have wasted life; it is
just that Thou recall it." There remained only Fenelon in the first
rank, which Massillon did not as yet dispute with him. Malebranche was
living retired in his cell at the Oratory, seldom speaking, writing his
_Recherches sur la Verite_ (Researches into Truth), and his _Entretiens
sur la Metaphysique_ (Discourses on Metaphysics), bolder in thought than
he was aware of or wished, sincere and natural in his meditations as well
as in his style. In spite of Flechier's eloquence in certain funeral
orations, posterity has decided against the modesty of the Archbishop of
Cambrai, who said at the death of the Bishop of Nimes, in 1710, "We have
lost our master." In his retirement or his exile, after Bossuet's death,
it was around Fenelon that was concentrated all the lustre of the French
episcopate, long since restored to the respect and admiration it

Fenelon was born in Perigord, at the castle of Fenelon, on the 6th of
August, 1651. Like Cardinal Retz he belonged to an ancient and noble
house, and was destined from his youth for the church. Brought up at the
seminary of St. Sulpice, lately founded by M. Olier, he for a short time
conceived the idea of devoting himself to foreign missions; his weak
health and his family's opposition turned him ere long from his purpose,
but the preaching of the gospel amongst the heathen continued to have for
him an attractionn which is perfectly depicted in one of the rare sermons
of his which have been preserved. He had held himself modestly aloof,
occupied with confirming new Catholics in their conversion or with
preaching to the Protestants of Poitou; he had written nothing but his
_Traite de l'Education des Filles,_ intended for the family of the Duke
of Beauvilliers, and a book on the _ministere du pasteur_. He was in bad
odor with Harlay, Archbishop of Paris, who had said to him curtly one
day, "You want to escape notice, M. Abbe, and you will;" nevertheless,
when Louis XIV. chose the Duke of Beauvilliers as governor to his
grandson, the Duke of Burgundy, the duke at once called Fenelon, then
thirty-eight years of age, to the important post of preceptor.

Whereas the grand-dauphin, endowed with ordinary intelligence, was
indolent and feeble, his son was, in the same proportion, violent, fiery,
indomitable. "The Duke of Burgundy," says St. Simon, "was a born demon
(_naquit terrible_), and in his early youth caused fear and trembling.
Harsh, passionate, even to the last degree of rage against inanimate
things, madly impetuous, unable to bear the least opposition, even from
the hours and the elements, without flying into furies enough to make you
fear that everything inside him would burst; obstinate to excess,
passionately fond of all pleasures, of good living, of the chase madly,
of music with a sort of transport, and of play too, in which he could not
bear to lose; often ferocious, naturally inclined to cruelty, savage in
raillery, taking off absurdities with a patness which was killing; from
the height of the clouds he regarded men as but atoms to whom he bore no
resemblance, whoever they might be. Barely did the princes his brothers
appear to him intermediary between himself and the human race, although
there had always been an affectation of bringing them all three up in
perfect equality; wits, penetration, flashed from every part of him, even
in his transports; his repartees were astounding, his replies always went
to the point and deep down, even in his mad fits; he made child's play of
the most abstract sciences; the extent and vivacity of his wits were
prodigious, and hindered him from applying himself to one thing at a
time, so far as to render him incapable of it."

As a sincere Christian and a priest, Fenelon saw from the first that
religion alone could triumph over this terrible nature; the Duke of
Beauvilliers, as sincere and as christianly as he, without much wits,
modestly allowed himself to be led; all the motives that act most
powerfully on a generous spirit, honor, confidence, fear and love of
God, were employed one after the other to bring the prince into
self-subjection. He was but eight years old, and Fenelon had been only
a few months with him, when the child put into his hands one day the
following engagement:--

"I promise M. l'Abbe de Fenelon, on the honor of a prince, to do at once
whatever he bids me, and to obey him the instant he orders me anything,
and, if I fail to, I will submit to any kind of punishment and disgrace."

"Done at Versailles the 29th of November, 1689.
"Signed: Louis."

[Illustration: Fenelon and the Duke of Burgundy----610]

The child, however, would forget himself, and relapse into his mad fits.
When his preceptor was chiding him one day for a grave fault, he went so
far as to say, "No, no, sir; I know who I am and what you are." Fenelon
made no reply; coldly and gravely he allowed the day to close and the
night to pass without showing his pupil any sign of either resentment or
affection. Next day the Duke of Burgundy was scarcely awake when his
preceptor entered the room. "I do not know, sir," said he, "whether you
remember what you said to me yesterday, that you know what you are and
what I am. It is my duty to teach you that you do not know either one or
the other. You fancy yourself, sir, to be more than I; some lackeys, no
doubt, have told you so, but I am not afraid to tell you, since you force
me to it, that I am more than you. You have sense enough to understand
that there is no question here of birth. You would consider anybody out
of his wits who pretended to make a merit of it that the rain of heaven
had fertilized his crops without moistening his neighbors. You would be
no wiser if you were disposed to be vain of your birth, which adds
nothing to your personal merit. You cannot doubt that I am above you in
lights and knowledge. You know nothing but what I have taught you; and
what I have taught you is nothing compared with what I might still teach
you. As for authority, you have none over me; and I, on the contrary,
have it fully and entirely over you; the king and Monseigneur have told
you so often enough. You fancy, perhaps, that I think myself very
fortunate to hold the office I discharge towards you; disabuse yourself
once more, sir; I only took it in order to obey the king and give
pleasure to Monseigneur, and not at all for the painful privilege of
being your preceptor; and, that you may have no doubt about it, I am
going to take you to his Majesty, and beg him to get you another one,
whose pains I hope may be more successful than mine." The Duke of
Burgundy's passion was past, and he burst into sobs. "Ah! sir," he
cried, "I am in despair at what took place yesterday; if you speak to
the king, you will lose me his affection; if you leave me, what will be
thought of me? I promise you. I promise you . . . that you shall be
satisfied with me; but promise me . . ."

Fenelon promised nothing; he remained, and the foundation of his
authority was laid forever in the soul of his pupil. The young prince
did not forget what he was, but he had felt the superiority of his
master. "I leave the Duke of Burgundy behind the door," he was
accustomed to say, "and with you I am only little Louis."

God, at the same time with Fenelon, had taken possession of the Duke of
Burgundy's soul. "After his first communion, we saw disappearing little
by little all the faults which, in his infancy, caused us great
misgivings as to the future," writes Madame de Maintenon. "His piety has
caused such a metamorphosis that, from the passionate thing he was, he
has become self-restrained, gentle, complaisant; one would say that that
was his character, and that virtue was natural to him." "All his mad
fits and spites yielded at the bare name of God," Fenelon used to say;
"one day when he was in a very bad temper, and wanted to hide in his
passion what he had done in his disobedience, I pressed him to tell me
the truth before God; then he put himself into a great rage and bawled,
'Why ask me before God? Very well, then, as you ask me in that way, I
cannot deny that I committed that fault.' He was as it were beside
himself with excess of rage, and yet religion had such dominion over him
that it wrung from him so painful an avowal." "From this abyss," writes
the Duke of St. Simon, "came forth a prince affable, gentle, humane,
self-restrained, patient, modest, humble, and austere towards himself,
wholly devoted to his obligations and feeling them to be immense; he
thought of nothing but combining the duties of a son and a subject with
those to which he saw himself destined."

"From this abyss " came forth also a prince singularly well informed,
fond of study, with a refined taste in literature, with a passion for
science; for his instruction Fenelon made use of the great works composed
for his father's education by Bossuet, adding thereto writings more
suitable for his age; for him he composed the _Fables_ and the _Dialogues
des Morts,_ and a _Histoire de Charlemagne_ which has perished. In his
stories, even those that were imaginary, he paid attention before
everything to truth. "Better leave a history in all its dryness than
enliven it at the expense of truth," he would say. The suppleness and
richness of his mind sufficed to save him from wearisomeness; the
liveliness of his literary impressions communicated itself to his pupil.
"I have seen," says Fenelon in his letter to the French Academy, "I have
seen a young prince, but eight years old, overcome with grief at sight of
the peril of little Joash; I have seen him lose patience with the chief
priest for concealing from Joash his name and his birth; I have seen him
weeping bitterly as he listened to these verses:--

'O! miseram Euridicen anima fugiente vocabat;
Euridicen toto referebant flumine ripx.'"

The soul and mind of Fenelon were sympathetic; Bossuet, in writing for
the grand-dauphin, was responsive to the requirements of his own mind,
never to those of the boy's with whose education he had been intrusted.

Fenelon also wrote _Telemaque_. "It is a fabulous narrative," he himself
says, "in the form of an heroic poem, like Homer's or Virgil's, wherein I
have set forth the principal actions that are meet for a prince whose
birth points him out as destined to reign. I did it at a time when I was
charmed with the marks of confidence and kindness showered upon me by the
king; I must have been not only the most ungrateful but the most
insensate of men to have intended to put into it satirical and insolent
portraits; I shrink from the bare idea of such a design. It is true that
I have inserted in these adventures all the verities necessary for
government and all the defects that one can show in the exercise of
sovereign power; but I have not stamped any of them with a peculiarity
which would point to any portrait or caricature. The more the work is
read, the more it will be seen that I wished to express everything
without depicting anybody consecutively; it is, in fact, a narrative done
in haste, in detached pieces and at different intervals; all I thought of
was to amuse the Duke of Burgundy, and, whilst amusing, to instruct him,
without ever meaning to give the work to the public."

_Telemaque_ was published, without any author's name and by an
indiscretion of the copyist's, on the 6th of April, 1699. Fenelon was in
exile at his diocese; public rumor before long attributed the work to
him; the _Maximes des Saints_ had just been condemned, _Telemaque_ was
seized, the printers were punished; some copies had escaped the police;
the book was reprinted in Holland; all Europe read it, finding therein
the allusions and undermeanings against which Fenelon defended himself.
Louis XIV. was more than ever angry with the archbishop. "I cannot
forgive M. de Cambrai for having composed the Telemaque," Madame de
Maintenon would say. Fenelon's disgrace, begun by the _Maximes des
Saints_ touching absolute (pure) love, was confirmed by his ideal picture
of kingly power. Chimerical in his theories of government, high-flown in
his pious doctrines, Fenelon, in the conduct of his life as well as in
his practical directions to his friends, showed a wisdom, a prudence, a
tact which singularly belied the free speculations of his mind or his
heart. He preserved silence amid the commendations and criticisms of the
_Telemaque_. "I have no need and no desire to change my position," he
would say; "I am beginning to be old, and I am infirm; there is no
occasion for my friends to ever commit themselves or to take any doubtful
step on my account. I never sought out the court; I was sent for
thither. I staid there nearly ten years without obtruding myself,
without taking a single step on my own behalf, without asking the
smallest favor, without meddling in any matter, and confining myself to
answering conscientiously in all matters about which I was spoken to.
I was dismissed; all I have to do is to remain at peace in my own place.
I doubt not that, besides the matter of my condemned work, the policy of
_Telemaque_ was employed against me upon the king's mind; but I must
suffer and hold my tongue."

Every tongue was held within range of King Louis XIV. It was only on the
22d of December, 1701, four years after Fenelon's departure, that the
Duke of Burgundy thought he might write to him in the greatest secrecy:
"At last, my dear archbishop, I find a favorable opportunity of breaking
the silence I have kept for four years. I have suffered many troubles
since, but one of the greatest has been that of being unable to show you
what my feelings towards you were during that time, and that my affection
increased with your misfortunes, instead of being chilled by them. I
think with real pleasure on the time when I shall be able to see you
again, but I fear that this time is still a long way off. It must be
left to the will of God, from whose mercy I am always receiving new
graces. I have been many times unfaithful to Him since I saw you, but He
has always done me the grace of recalling me to Him, and I have not,
thank God, been deaf to His voice. I continue to study all alone,
although I have not been doing so in the regular way for the last two
years, and I like it more than ever. But nothing gives me more pleasure
than metaphysics and ethics, and I am never tired of working at them. I
have done some little pieces myself, which I should very much like to be
in a position to send you, that you might correct them as you used to do
my themes in old times. I shall not tell you here how my feelings
revolted against all that has been done in your case, but we must submit
to the will of God and believe that all has happened for our good.
Farewell, my dear archbishop. I embrace you with all my heart; I ask
your prayers and your blessing. --Louis."

"I speak to you of God and yourself only," answered Fenelon in a letter
full of wise and tender counsels; it is no question of me. Thank God, I
have a heart at ease; my heaviest cross is that I do not see you, but I
constantly present you before God in closer presence than that of the
senses. I would give a thousand lives like a drop of water to see you
such as God would have you."

Next year, in 1702, the king gave the Duke of Burgundy the command of the
army in Flanders. He wrote to Fenelon, "I cannot feel myself so near you
without testifying my joy thereat, and, at the same time, that which is
caused by the king's permission to call upon you on my way; he has,
however, imposed the condition that I must not see you in private. I
shall obey this order, and yet I shall be able to talk to you as much as
I please, for I shall have with me Saumery, who will make the third at
our first interview after five years' separation." The archbishop was
preparing to leave Cambrai so as not to be in the prince's way; he now
remained, only seeing the Duke of Burgundy, however, in the presence of
several witnesses; when he presented him with his table-napkin at supper,
the prince raised his voice, and, turning to his old master, said, with a
touching reminiscence of his childhood's passions, "I know what I owe
you; you know what I am to you."

The correspondence continued, with confidence and deference on the part
of the prince, with tender, sympathetic, far-sighted, paternal interest
on the part of the archbishop, more and more concerned for the perils and
temptations to which the prince was exposed in proportion as he saw him
nearer to the throne and more exposed to the incense of the world. "The
right thing is to become the counsel of his Majesty," he wrote to him on
the death of the grand dauphin, "the father of the people, the comfort of
the afflicted, the defender of the church; the right thing is to keep
flatterers aloof and distrust them, to distinguish merit, seek it out and
anticipate it, to listen to everything, believe nothing without proof,
and, being placed above all, to rise superior to every one. The right
thing is to desire to be father and not master. The right thing is not
that all should be for one, but that one should be for all, to secure
their happiness." A solemn and touching picture of an absolute monarch,
submitting to God and seeking His will alone. Fenelon had early imbued
his pupil with the spirit of it; and the pupil appeared on the point of
realizing it; but God at a single blow destroyed all these fair hopes.
"All my ties are broken," said Fenelon; "I live but on affection, and of
affection I shall die; we shall recover ere long that which we have not
lost; we approach it every day with rapid strides; yet a little while,
and there will be no more cause for tears." A week later he was dead,
leaving amongst his friends, so diminished already by death, an
immeasurable gap, and amongst his adversaries themselves the feeling of a
great loss. "I am sorry for the death of M. de Cambrai," wrote Madame de
Maintenon on the 10th of January, 1715; "he was a friend I lost through
Quietism, but it is asserted that he might have done good service in the
council, if things should be pushed so far." Fenelon had not been
mistaken, when he wrote once upon a time to Madame de Maintenon, who
consulted him about her defects, "You are good towards those for whom you
have liking and esteem, but you are cold so soon as the liking leaves
you; when you are frigid your frigidity is carried rather far, and, when
you begin to feel mistrust, your heart is withdrawn too brusquely from
those to whom you had shown confidence."

Fenelon had never shown any literary prepossessions. He wrote for his
friends or for the Duke of Burgundy, lavishing the treasures of his mind
and spirit upon his letters of spiritual guidance, composing, in order to
convince the Duke of Orleans, his _Traite de l'Existence de Dieu,_
indifferent as to the preservation of the sermons he preached every
Sunday, paying more attention to the plans of government he addressed to
the young dauphin than to the publication of his works. Several were not
collected until after his death. In delivering their eulogy of him at
the French Academy, neither M. de Boze, who succeeded him, nor M. Dacier,
director of the Academy, dared to mention the name of _Telemaque_.
Clever (_spirituel_) "to an alarming extent" (_faire peur_) in the
minutest detail of his writings, rich, copious, harmonious, but not
without tendencies to lengthiness, the style of Fenelon is the reflex of
his character; sometimes, a little subtle and covert, like the prelate's
mind, it hits and penetrates without any flash (_eclat_) and without
dealing heavy blows. "Graces flowed from his lips," said Chancellor
d'Aguesseau, "and he seemed to treat the greatest subjects as if, so to
speak, they were child's play to him; the smallest grew to nobleness
beneath his pen, and he would have made flowers grow in the midst of
thorns. A noble singularity, pervading his whole person, and a something
sublime in his very simplicity, added to his characteristics a certain
prophet-like air. Always original, always creative, he imitated nobody,
and himself appeared inimitable." His last act was to write a letter to
Father Le Tellier to be communicated to the king. "I have just received
extreme unction; that is, the state, reverend father, when I am preparing
to appear before God, in which I pray you with instance to represent to
the king my true sentiments. I have never felt anything but docility
towards the church and horror at the innovations which have been imputed
to me. I accepted the condemnation of my book in the most absolute
simplicity. I have never been a single moment in my life without feeling
towards the king personally the most lively gratitude, the most genuine
zeal, the most profound respect, and the most inviolable attachment. I
take the liberty of asking of his Majesty two favors, which do not
concern either my own person or anybody belonging to me. The first is,
that he will have the goodness to give me a pious and methodical
successor, sound and firm against Jansenism, which is in prodigious
credit on this frontier. The other favor is, that he will have the
goodness to complete with my successor that which could not be completed
with me on behalf of the gentlemen of St. Sulpice. I wish his Majesty a
long life, of which the church as well as the state has infinite need.
If peradventure I go into the presence of God, I shall often ask these
favors of Him."

How dread is the power of sovereign majesty, operative even at the
death-bed of the greatest and noblest spirits, causing Fenelon in his
dying hour to be anxious about the good graces of a monarch ere long,
like him, a-dying !

Our thoughts may well linger over those three great minds, Pascal,
Bossuet, and Fenelon,--one layman and two bishops; all equally absorbed
by the great problems of human life and immortality. With different
degrees of greatness and fruitfulness, they all serve the same cause.
Whether as defenders or assailants of Jansenism and Quietism, the
solitary philosopher or the prelates engaged in the court or in the
guidance of men, all three of them serving God on behalf of the soul's
highest interests, remained unique in their generation, and without
successors as they had been without predecessors.

Leaving the desert and the church, and once more entering the world, we
immediately encounter, amongst women, one, and one only, in the first
rank--Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marchioness of Sevigne, born at Paris on
the 5th of February, 1627, five months before Bossuet. Like a
considerable number of women in Italy in the sixteenth century, and in
France in the seventeenth, she had received a careful education. She
knew Italian, Latin, and Spanish; she had for masters Menage and
Chapelain; and she early imbibed a real taste for solid reading, which
she owed to her leaning towards the Jansenists and Port-Royal. She was
left a widow at five and twenty by the death of a very indifferent
husband, and she was not disposed to make a second venture. Before
getting killed in a duel, M. de Sevigne had made a considerable gap in
the property of his wife, who, however, had brought him more than five
hundred thousand livres. Madame de Sevigne had two children: she made up
her mind to devote herself to their education, to restore their fortune,
and to keep her love for them and for her friends. Of them she had many,
often very deeply smitten with her; all remained faithful to her, and,
she deserted none of them, though they might be put on trial and
condemned like Fouquet, or perfidious and cruel like her cousin M. de
Bussy-Rabutin. The safest and most agreeable of acquaintances, ever
ready to take part in the joys as well as the anxieties of those whom she
honored with her friendship, without permitting this somewhat superficial
sympathy to agitate the depths of her heart, she had during her life but
one veritable passion, which she admitted nobody to share with her. Her
daughter, Madame de Grignan, the prettiest girl in France, clever,
virtuous, business-like, appears in her mother's letters fitful,
cross-grained, and sometimes rather cold. Madame de Sevigne is a friend
whom we read over and over again, whose emotions we share, to whom we go
for an hour's distraction and delightful chat. We have no desire to chat
with Madame de Grignan; we gladly leave her to her mother's exclusive
affection, feeling infinitely obliged to her, however, for having
existed, inasmuch as her mother wrote letters to her. Madame de
Sevigne's letters to her daughter are superior to all her other letters,
charming as they are. When she writes to M. de Pomponne, to M. de
Coulanges, to M. de Bussy, the style is less familiar, the heart less
open, the soul less stirred. She writes to her daughter as she would
speak to her; it is not letters, it is an animated and charming
conversation, touching upon everything, embellishing everything with an
inimitable grace. She gave her daughter in marriage to Count de Grignan
in January, 1669; next year her son-in-law was appointed lieutenant-
general of the king in Provence; he was to fill the place there of the
Duke of Vendome, too young to discharge his functions as governor. In
the month of January, 1671, M. de Grignan removed his wife to Aix: he was
a Provencal, he was fond of his province, his castle of Grignan, and his
wife. Madame de Sevigne found herself condemned to separation from the
daughter whom she loved exclusively. "In vain I seek my darling
daughter; I can no longer find her, and every step she takes removes her
farther from me. I went to St. Mary's, still weeping and still dying of
grief; it seemed as if my heart and my soul were being wrenched from me;
and, in truth, what a cruel separation! I asked leave to be alone: I was
taken into Madame du Housset's room, and they made me up a fire. Agnes
sat looking at me without speaking: that was our bargain. I staid there
till five o'clock, without ceasing to sob: all my thoughts were mortal,
wounds to me. I wrote to M. de Grignan, you can imagine in what key.
Then I went to Madame de La Fayette's, who redoubled my griefs by the
interest she took in them. She was alone, ill and distressed at the
death of one of the nuns; she was just as I could have desired. I
returned hither at eight; but when I came in, O! can you conceive what I
felt as I mounted these stairs? That room into which I used always to
go, alas! I found the doors of it open, but I saw everything
disfurnished, everything disarranged, and your little daughter, who
reminded me of mine. The wakenings of the night were dreadful; I think
of you continuously: it is what devotees call an habitual thought, such
as one should have of God, if one did one's duty. Nothing gives me any
distraction. I see that carriage, which is forever going on and will
never come near me. I am forever on the highways; it seems as if I were
afraid sometimes that the carriage will upset with me. The rains there
have been for the last three days reduce me to despair; the Rhone causes
me strange alarm. I have a map before my eyes, I know all the places
where you sleep. This evening you are at Nevers; on Sunday you will be
at Lyons, where you will receive this letter. I have received only two
of yours; perhaps the third will come; that is the only comfort I desire:
as for others, I seek for none." During five and twenty years Madame de
Sevign~ could never become accustomed to her daughter's absence. She set
out for the Rochers, near Vitry, a family estate of M. de Sevigne's. Her
friend the Duke of Chaulnes was governor of Brittany. "You shall now
have news of our states as your penalty for being a Breton. M. de
Chaulnes arrived on Sunday evening, to the sound of everything that can
make any in Vitry. On Monday morning he sent me a letter; I wrote back
to say that I would go and dine with him. There are two dining-tables in
the same room; fourteen covers at each table. Monsieur presides at one,
Madame at the other. The good cheer is prodigious; joints are carried
away quite untouched, and as for the pyramids of fruit, the doors require
to be heightened. Our fathers did not foresee this sort of machine,
indeed they did not even foresee that a door required to be higher than
themselves. Well, a pyramid wants to come in, one of those pyramids
which make everybody exclaim from one end of the table to the other; but
so far from that boding damage, people are often, on the contrary, very
glad not to see any more of what they contain. This pyramid, then, with
twenty or thirty porcelain dishes, was so completely upset at the door,
that the noise it made put to silence the violins, hautbois, and
trumpets. After dinner, M. de Locmaria and M. de Coetlogon danced with
two fair Bretons some marvellous jigs (passe pipds) and some minuets in a
style that the court-people cannot approach; wherein they do the Bohemian
and Breton step with a neatness and correctness which are charming. I
was thinking all the while of you, and I had such tender recollections of
your dancing and of what I had seen you dance, that this pleasure became
a pain to me. The States are sure not to be long; there is nothing to do
but to ask for what the king wants; nobody says a word, and it is all
done. As for the governor, he finds, somehow or other, more than forty
thousand crowns coming in to him. An infinity of presents, pensions,
repairs of roads and towns, fifteen or twenty grand dinner-parties,
incessant play, eternal balls, comedies three times a week, a great show
of dress, that is the States. I am forgetting three or four hundred
pipes of wine which are drunk; but, if I did not reckon this little item,
the others do not forget it, and put it first. This is what is called
the sort of twaddle to make one go to sleep on one's feet; but it is what
comes to the tip of your pen when you are in Brittany and have nothing
else to say."

Even in Brittany and at the Rochers, Madame de Sevigne always has
something to say. The weather is frightful; she is occupied a good deal
in reading the romances of La Calprenede and the _Grand Cyrus,_ as well
as the _Ethics_ of Nicole. "For four days it has been one continuous
tempest; all our walks are drowned; there is no getting out any more.
Our masons, our carpenters keep their rooms; in short, I hate this
country, and I yearn every moment for your sun; perhaps you yearn for my
rain; we do well, both of us. I am going on with the _Ethics_ of Nicole,
which I find delightful; it has not yet given me any lesson against the
rain, but I am expecting it, for I find everything there, and conformity
to the will of God might answer my purpose, if I did not want a specific
remedy. In fact, I consider this an admirable book; nobody has written
as these gentlemen have, for I put down to Pascal half of all that is
beautiful. It is so nice to have one's self and one's feelings talked
about, that, though it be in bad part, one is charmed by it. What is
called searching the depths of the heart with a lantern is exactly what
he does; he discloses to us that which we feel every day, but have not
the wit to discern or the sincerity to avow. I have even forgiven the
swelling in the heart (_l'enflure du coeur_) for the sake of the rest,
and I maintain that there is no other word to express vanity and pride,
which are really wind: try and find another word. I shall complete the
reading of this with pleasure."

Here we have the real Madame de Sevigne, whom we love, on whom we rely,
who is as earnest as she is amiable and gay, who goes to the very core of
things, and who tells the truth of herself as well as of others. "You
ask me, my dear child, whether I continue to be really fond of life. I
confess to you that I find poignant sorrows in it, but I am even more
disgusted with death; I feel so wretched at having to end all this
thereby, that, if I could turn back again, I would ask for nothing
better. I find myself under an obligation which perplexes me: I embarked
upon life without my consent, and I must go out of it; that overwhelms
me. And how shall I go? Which way? By what door? When will it be?
In what condition? Shall I suffer a thousand, thousand pains, which will
make me die desperate? Shall I have brain-fever? Shall I die of an
accident? How shall I be with God? What shall I have to show Him?
Shall fear, shall necessity bring me back to Him? Shall I have no
sentiment but that of dread? What can I hope? Am I worthy of heaven?
Am I worthy of hell? Nothing is such madness as to leave one's salvation
in uncertainty, but nothing is so natural; and the stupid life I lead is
the easiest thing in the world to understand. I bury myself in these
thoughts, and I find death so terrible, that I hate life more because it
leads me thereto than because of the thorns with which it is planted.
You will say that I want to live forever then: not at all; but, if my
opinion had been asked, I should have preferred to die in my nurse's
arms; that would have removed me from vexations of spirit, and would have
given me Heaven full surely and easily."

Madame de Sevigne would have very much scandalized those gentlemen of
Port-Royal, if she had let them see into the bottom of her heart as she
showed it to her daughter. Pascal used to say, "There are but three
sorts of persons: those who serve God, having found Him; those who employ
themselves in seeking Him, not having found Him; and those who live
without seeking Him or having found Him. The first are reasonable and
happy; the last are mad and miserable; the intermediate are miserable and
reasonable." Without ever having sought and found God, in the absolute
sense intended by Pascal, Madame de Sevigne kept approaching Him by
gentle degrees. "We are reading a treatise by M. Namon of Port-Royal on
continuous prayer; though he is a hundred feet above my head, he
nevertheless pleases and charms us. One is very glad to see that there
have been and still are in the world people to whom God communicates His
Holy Spirit in such abundance; but, O God! when shall we have some
spark, some degree of it? How sad to find one's self so far from it, and
so near to something else! O, fie! Let us not speak of such plight as
that: it calls for sighs, and groans, and humiliations a hundred times a

After having suffered so much from separation, and so often traversed
France to visit her daughter in Provence, Madame de Sevigne had the
happiness to die in her house at Grignan. She was sixty-nine, and she
had been ill for some time; she was subject to rheumatism; her son's
wildness had for a long while retarded the arrangement of her affairs;
at last he had turned over a new leaf, he was married, he was a devotee.
Madame de Grignan had likewise found a wife for her son, whom the king
had made a colonel at a very early age; and a husband for her daughter,
little Pauline, now Madame de Simiane. "All this together is extremely
nice, and too nice," wrote Madame de Sevigne to M. de Bussy, "for I find
the days going so fast, and the months and the years, that, for my part,
my dear cousin, I can no longer hold them. Time flies, and carries me
along in spite of me; it is all very fine for me to wish to stay it, it
bears me away with it, and the idea of this causes me great fear; you
will make a pretty shrewd guess why." Death came at last, and Madame de
Sevigne lost all her terrors. She was attacked by small-pox whilst her
sick daughter was confined to her bed, and died on the 19th of April,
1696, thanking God that she was the first to go, after having so often
trembled for her daughter's health. "What calls far more for our
admiration than for our regrets," writes M. de Grignan to M. de
Coulanges, "is the spectacle of a brave woman facing death, of which she
had no doubt from the first days of her illness, with astounding firmness
and submission. This person, so tender and so weak towards all that she
loved, showed nothing but courage and piety when she believed that her
hour was come; and we could not but remark of what utility and of what
importance it is to have the mind stocked with good matter and holy
reading, for the which Madame de Sevigne had a liking, not to say a
wonderful hungering, from the use she managed to make of that good store
in the last moments of her life." She had often taken her daughter to
task for not being fond of books. "There is a certain person who
undoubtedly has plenty of wits, but of so nice and so fastidious a sort,
that she cannot read anything but five or six sublime works, which is a
sign of distinguished taste. She cannot bear historical books; a great
deprivation this, and of that which is a subsistence to everybody else.
She has another misfortune, which is, that she cannot read twice over
those choice books which she esteems exclusively. This person says that
she is insulted when she is told that she is not fond of reading: another
bone to pick." Madame de Sevigne's liking for good books accompanied her
to the last, and helped her to make a good end.

All the women who had been writers in her time died before Madame de
Sevigne. Madame de Motteville, a judicious and sensible woman, more
independent at the bottom of her heart than in externals, had died in
1689, exclusively occupied, from the time that she lost Queen Anne of
Austria, in works of piety and in drawing up her _Memoires_. Mdlle. de
Montpensier, "my great Mademoiselle," as Madame de Sevigne used to call
her, had died at Paris on the 5th of April, 1693, after a violent
illness, as feverish as her life. Impassioned and haughty, with her head
so full of her greatness that she did not marry in her youth, thinking
nobody worthy of her except the king and the emperor, who had no fancy
for her, and ending by a private marriage with the Duke of Lauzun, "a
cadet of Gascony," whom the king would not permit her to espouse
publicly; clever, courageous, hare-brained, generous, she has herself
sketched her own portrait. "I am tall, neither fat nor thin, of a very
fine and easy figure. I have a good mien, arms and hands not beautiful,
but a beautiful skin and throat too. I have a straight leg and a
well-shaped foot; my hair is light, and of a beautiful auburn; my face is
long, its contour is handsome, nose large and aquiline; mouth neither
large nor small, but chiselled, and with a very pleasing expression; lips
vermilion; teeth not fine, but not frightful either. My eyes are blue,
neither large nor small, but sparkling, soft, and proud, like my mien. I
talk a great deal, without saying silly things or using bad words. I am
a very vicious enemy, being very choleric and passionate, and that, added
to my birth, may well make my enemies tremble; but I have also a noble
and a kindly soul. I am incapable of any base and black deed; and so I
am more disposed to mercy than to justice. I am melancholic; I like
reading good and solid books; trifles bore me, except verses, and them I
like, of whatever sort they may be, and undoubtedly I am as good a judge
of such things as if I were a scholar."

A few days after Mademoiselle, died, likewise at Paris, Madelaine de la
Vergne, Marchioness of La Fayette, the most intimate friend of Madame de
Sevigne. "Never did we have the smallest cloud upon our friendship," the
latter would say; "long habit had not made her merit stale to me, the
flavor of it was always fresh and new; I paid her many attentions from
the mere prompting of my heart, without the propriety to which we are
bound by friendship having anything to do with it. I was assured, too,
that I constituted her dearest consolation, and for forty years past it
had always been the same thing." Sensible, clever, a sweet and safe
acquaintance, Madame de La Fayette was as simple and as true in her
relations with her confidantes as in her writings. La Princesse de
Olives alone has outlived the times and the friends of Madame de La
Fayette. Following upon the "great sword-thrusts" of La Calprenede or
Mdlle. de Scudery, this delicate, elegant, and virtuous tale, with its
pure and refined style, enchanted the court, which recognized itself at
its best, and painted under its brightest aspect; it was farewell forever
to the "Pays de Tendre." Madame de La Fayette had very bad health; she
wrote to Madame de Sevigne on the 14th of July, 1693, "Here is what I
have done since I wrote to you last. I have had two attacks of fever;
for six months I had not been purged; I am purged once, I am purged
twice; the day after the second time, I sit down to table. O, dear!
I feel a pain in my heart; I do not want any soup. Have a little meat
then. No, I do not want any. Well, you will have some fruit. I think I
will. Very well, then, have some. I don't know, I think I will have
something by and by; let me have some soup and a chicken this evening.
Here is the evening, and there are the soup and the chicken: I don't want
them. I am nauseated; I will go to bed; I prefer sleeping to eating. I
go to bed, I turn round, I turn back, I have no pain, but I have no sleep
either. I call, I take a book, I shut it up. Day comes, I get up, I go
to the window. It strikes four, five, six; I go to bed again, I doze
till seven, I get up at eight, I sit down to table at twelve, to no
purpose, as yesterday. I lay myself down in my bed again in the evening,
to no purpose, as the night before. Are you ill? Nay. I am in this
state for three days and three nights. At present I am getting some
sleep again, but I still eat merely mechanically, horse-wise, rubbing my
mouth with vinegar otherwise I am very well, and I haven't even so much
pain in the head." Fault was found with Madame de La Fayette for not
going out. "She had a mortal melancholy. What absurdity again! Is she
not the most fortunate woman in the world? That is what people said,"
writes Madame de Sevigne; "it needed that she should be dead to prove
that she had good reason for not going out, and for being melancholy.
Her reins and her heart were all gone was not that enough to cause those
fits of despondency of which she complained? And so, during her life,
she showed reason, and after death she showed reason, and never was she
without that divine reason which was her principal gift."

Madame de La Fayette had in her life one great sorrow, which had
completed the ruin of her health. On the 16th of March, 1680, after the
closest and longest of intimacies, she had lost her best friend, the Duke
of La Rochefoucauld. Carried away in his youth by party strife and an
ardent passion for Madame de Longueville, he had at a later period sought
refuge in the friendship of Madame de La Fayette. "When women have
well-formed minds," he would say, "I like their conversation better than
that of men; you find with them a certain gentleness which is not met
with amongst us, and it seems to me, besides, that they express
themselves with greater clearness, and that they give a more pleasant
turn to the things they say." A meddler and intriguer during the
Fronde, sceptical and bitter in his _Maximes,_ the Duke of La
Rochefoucauld was amiable and kindly in his private life. Factions and
the court had taught him a great deal about human nature; he had seen it
and judged of it from its bad side. Witty, shrewd, and often profound,
he was too severe to be just. The bitterness of his spirit breathed
itself out completely in his writings; he kept for his friends that
kindliness and that sensitiveness of which he made sport. "He gave me
wit," Madame de La Fayette would say, "but I reformed his heart." He
had lost his son at the passage of the Rhine, in 1672. He was ill,
suffering cruelly. "I was yesterday at M. de La Rochefoucauld's,"
writes Madame de Sevigne, in 1680. "I found him uttering loud shrieks;
his pain was such that his endurance was quite overcome without a single
scrap remaining. The excessive pain upset him to such a degree that he
was sitting out in the open air with a violent fever upon him. He
begged me to send you word, and to assure you that the wheel-broken do
not suffer during a single moment what he suffers one half of his life,
and so he wishes for death as a happy release." He died with Bossuet at
his pillow. "Very well prepared as regards his conscience," says Madame
de Sevigne again; "that is all settled; but, in other respects, it might
be the illness and death of his neighbor which is in question, he is not
flurried about it, he is not troubled about it. Believe me, my daughter,
it is not to no purpose that he has been making reflections all his
life; he has approached his last moments in such wise that they have had
nothing that was novel or strange for him." M. de La Rochefoucauld
thought worse of men than of life. "I have scarcely any fear of
things," he had said; "I am not at all afraid of death." With all his
rare qualities and great opportunities he had done nothing but
frequently embroil matters in which he had meddled, and had never been
anything but a great lord with a good deal of wit. Actionless
penetration and sceptical severity may sometimes clear the judgment and
the thoughts, but they give no force or influence that has power over
men. "There was always a something (_je ne sais quoi_) about M. de La
Rochefoucauld," writes Cardinal de Retz, who did not like him; "he was
for meddling in intrigues from his childhood, and at a time when he had
no notion of petty interests, which were never his foible, and when he
did not understand great ones, which, on the other hand, were never his
strength. He was never capable of doing anything in public affairs, and
I am sure I don't know why. His views were not sufficiently broad, and
he did not even see comprehensively all that was within his range, but
his good sense,--very good, speculatively,--added to his suavity, his
insinuating style, and his easy manners, which are admirable, ought to
have compensated more than it did for his lack of penetration. He
always showed habitual irresolution, but I really do not know to what to
attribute this irresolution; it could not, with him, have come from the
fertility of his imagination, which is anything but lively. He was
never a warrior, though he was very much the soldier. He was never a
good partyman, though he was engaged in it all his life. That air of
bashfulness and timidity which you see about him in private life was
turned in public life into an air of apology. He always considered
himself to need one, which fact, added to his maxims, which do not show
sufficient belief in virtue, and to his practice, which was always to
get out of affairs with as much impatience as he had shown to get into
them, leads me to conclude that he would have done far better to know
his own place, and reduce himself to passing, as he might have passed,
for the most polite of courtiers and the worthiest (_le plus honnete_)
man, as regards ordinary life, that ever appeared in his century."

[Illustration: La Rochefoucauld and his fair Friends----629]

Cardinal de Retz had more wits, more courage, and more resolution than
the Duke of La Rochefoucauld; he was more ambitious and more bold; he
was, like him, meddlesome, powerless, and dangerous to the state. He
thought himself capable of superseding Cardinal Mazarin, and far more
worthy than he of being premier minister; but every time he found himself
opposed to the able Italian he was beaten. All that he displayed, during
the Fronde, of address, combination, intrigue, and resolution, would
barely have sufficed to preserve his name in history, if he had not
devoted his leisure in his retirement to writing his _Memoires_.
Vigorous, animated, always striking, often amusing, sometimes showing
rare nobleness and high-mindedness, his stories and his portraits
transport us to the very midst of the scenes he desires to describe and
the personages he makes the actors in them. His rapid, nervous,
picturesque style is the very image of that little dark, quick, agile
man, more soldier than bishop, and more intriguer than soldier,
faithfully and affectionately beloved by his friends, detested by his
very numerous enemies, and dreaded by many people, for the causticity of
his tongue, long after the troubles of the Fronde had ceased, and he was
reduced to be a wanderer in foreign lands, still Archbishop of Paris
without being able to set foot in it. Having retired to Commercy, he
fell under Louis XIV.'s suspicion. Madame de Sevigne, who was one of his
best friends, was anxious about him. "As to our cardinal, I have often
thought as you," she wrote to her daughter; "but, whether it be that the
enemies are not in a condition to cause fear, or that the friends are not
subject to take alarm, it is certain that there is no commotion. You
show a very proper spirit in being anxious about the welfare of a person
who is so distinguished, and to whom you owe so much affection." "Can I
forget him whom I see everywhere in the story of our misfortunes,"
exclaimed Bossuet, in his funeral oration over Michael Le Tellier,
"that man so faithful to individuals, so formidable to the state, of a
character so high that he could not be esteemed, or feared, or hated by
halves, that steady genius whom, the while he shook the universe, we saw
attracting to himself a dignity which in the end he determined to
relinquish as having been too dearly bought, as he had the courage to
recognize in the place that is the most eminent in Christendom, and as
being, after all, quite incapable of satisfying his desires, so conscious
was he of his mistake and of the emptiness of human greatness? But, so
long as he was bent upon obtaining what he was one day to despise, he
kept everything moving by means of powerful and secret springs, and,
after that all parties were overthrown, he seemed still to uphold himself
alone, and alone to still threaten the victorious favorite with his sad
but fearless gaze." When Bossuet sketched this magnificent portrait of
Mazarin's rival, Cardinal de Retz had been six years dead, in 1679.

Mesdames de Sevigne and de La Fayette were of the court, as were the Duke
of La Rochefoucauld and Cardinal de Retz. La Bruyere lived all his life
rubbing shoulders with the court; he knew it, he described it, but he was
not of it, and could not be of it. Nothing is known of his family. He
was born at Dourdan in 1639, and had just bought a post in the Treasury
(_tresorier de France_) at Caen, when Bossuet, who knew him, induced him
to remove to Paris as teacher of history to the duke, grandson of the
great Conde. He remained forever attached to the person of the prince,
who gave him a thousand crowns a year, and he lived to the day of his
death at Conde's house. "He was a philosopher," says Abbe d'Olivet in
his _Histoire de l'Academie Francaise;_ "all he dreamt of was a quiet
life, with his friends and his books, making a good choice of both; not
courting or avoiding pleasure; ever inclined for moderate fun, and with
a talent for setting it going; polished in manners, and discreet in
conversation; dreading every sort of ambition, even that of displaying
wit." This was not quite the opinion formed by Boileau of La Bruyere.
"Maximilian came to see me at Auteuil," writes Boileau to Racine on the
19th of May, 1687, the very year in which the _Caracteres_ was published;
"he read me some of his _Theophrastus_. He is a very worthy (_honnete_)
man, and one who would lack nothing, if nature had created him as
agreeable as he is anxious to be. However, he has wit, learning, and
merit." Amidst his many and various portraits, La Bruyere has drawn his
own with an amiable pride. "I go to your door, Ctesiphon; the need I
have of you hurries me from my bed and from my room. Would to Heaven I
were neither your client nor your bore. Your slaves tell me that you are
engaged and cannot see me for a full hour yet; I return before the time
they appointed, and they tell me that you have gone out. What can you be
doing, Ctesiphon, in that remotest part of your rooms, of so laborious a
kind as to prevent you from seeing me? You are filing some bills, you
are comparing a register; you are signing your name, you are putting the
flourish. I had but one thing to ask you, and you had but one word to
reply: yes or no. Do you want to be singular? Render service to those
who are dependent upon you, you will be more so by that behavior than by
not letting yourself be seen. O man of importance and overwhelmed with
business, who in your turn have need of my offices, come into the
solitude of my closet; the philosopher is accessible; I shall not put you
off to another day. You will find me over those works of Plato which
treat of the immortality of the soul and its distinctness from the body;
or with pen in hand, to calculate the distances of Saturn and Jupiter. I
admire God in His works, and I seek by knowledge of the truth to regulate
my mind and become better. Come in, all doors are open to you; my
antechamber is not made to wear you out with waiting for me; come right
in to me without giving me notice. You bring me something more precious
than silver and gold, if it be an opportunity of obliging you. Tell me,
what can I do for you? Must I leave my books, my study, my work, this
line I have just begun? What a fortunate interruption for me is that
which is of service to you!"

[Illustration: La Bruyere----633]

From the solitude of that closet went forth a book unique of its sort,
full of sagacity, penetration, and severity, without bitterness; a
picture of the manners of the court and of the world, traced by the hand
of a spectator who had not essayed its temptations, but who guessed them
and passed judgment on them all,--"a book," as M. de Malezieux said to La
Bruyere, "which was sure to bring its author many readers and many
enemies." Its success was great from the first, and it excited lively
curiosity. The courtiers liked the portraits; attempts were made to name
them; the good sense, shrewdness, and truth of the observations struck
everybody; people had met a hundred times those whom La Bruyere had
described. The form appeared of a rarer order than even the matter; it
was a brilliant, uncommon style, as varied as human nature, always
elegant and pure, original and animated, rising sometimes to the height
of the noblest thoughts, gay and grave, pointed and serious. Avoiding,
by richness in turns and expression, the uniformity native to the
subject, La Bruyere riveted attention by a succession of touches making a
masterly picture, a terrible one sometimes, as in his description of the
peasants' misery:

To be seen are certain ferocious animals, male and female, scattered over
the country, dark, livid, and all scorched by the sun, affixed to the
soil which they rummage and throw up with indomitable pertinacity; they
have a sort of articulate voice, and, when they rise to their feet, they
show a human face; they are, in fact, men. At night they withdraw to the
caves, where they live on black bread, water, and roots. They spare
other men the trouble of sowing, tilling, and reaping for their
livelihood, and deserve, therefore, not to go in want of the very bread
they have sown." Few people at the court, and in La Bruyere's day, would
have thought about the sufferings of the country folks, and conceived the
idea of contrasting them with the sketch of a court-ninny. "Gold
glitters," say you, "upon the clothes of Philemon; it glitters as well as
the tradesman's. He is dressed in the finest stuffs; are they a whit the
less so when displayed in the shops and by the piece? Nay; but the
embroidery and the ornaments add magnificence thereto; then I give the
workman credit for his work. If you ask him the time, he pulls out a
watch which is a masterpiece; his sword-guard is an onyx; he has on his
finger a large diamond which he flashes into all eyes, and which is
perfection; he lacks none of those curious trifles which are worn about
one as much for show as for use; and he does not stint himself either of
all sorts of adornment befitting a young man who has married an old
millionnaire. You really pique my curiosity: I positively must see such
precious articles as those. Send me that coat and those jewels of
Philemon's; you can keep the person. Thou'rt wrong, Philemon, if, with
that splendid carriage, and that large number of rascals behind thee, and
those six animals to draw thee, thou thiukest thou art thought more of.
We take off all those appendages which are extraneous to thee to get at
thyself, who art but a ninny."

More earnest and less bitter than La Rochefoucauld, and as brilliant and
as firm as Cardinal de Retz, La Bruyere was a more sincere believer than
either. "I feel that there is a God, and I do not feel that there is
none; that is enough for me; the reasoning of the world is useless to me.
I conclude that God exists. Are men good enough, faithful enough,
equitable enough to deserve all our confidence, and not make us wish
at least for the existence of God, to whom we may appeal from their
judgments and have recourse when we are persecuted or betrayed?" A very
strong reason and of potent logic, naturally imprinted upon an upright
spirit and a sensible mind, irresistibly convinced, both of them, that
justice alone can govern the world.

La Bruyere had just been admitted into the French Academy, in 1693. In
his admission speech he spoke in praise of the living, Bossuet, Fenelon,
Racine, La Fontaine; it was not as yet the practice. Those who were not
praised felt angry, and the journals of the time bitterly attacked the
new academician. He was hurt, and withdrew almost entirely from the
world. Four days before his death, however, "he was in company. All at
once he perceived that he was becoming deaf, yes, stone deaf. He
returned to Versailles, where he had apartments at Conde's house.
Apoplexy carried him off in a quarter of an hour on the 11th of May,
1696," leaving behind him an incomparable book, wherein, according to his
own maxim, the excellent writer shows himself to be an excellent painter;
and four dialogues against Quietism, still unfinished, full of lively and
good-humored hostility to the doctrines of Madame Guyon. They were
published after his death.

We pass from prose to poetry, from La Bruyere to Corneille, who had died
in 1684, too late for his fame, in spite of the vigorous returns of
genius which still flash forth sometimes in his feeblest works.
Throughout the Regency and the Fronde, Corneille had continued to occupy
almost alone the great French stage. Rotrou, his sometime rival with his
piece of Venceslas, and ever tenderly attached to him, had died, in 1650,
at Dreux, of which he was civil magistrate. An epidemic was ravaging the
town, and he was urged to go away. "I am the only one who can maintain
good order, and I shall remain," he replied. "At the moment of my
writing to you the bells are tolling for the twenty-second person to-day;
perhaps to-morrow it will be for me; but my conscience has marked out my
duty. God's will be done!" Two days later he was dead.

Corneille had dedicated _Polyeucte_ to the regent Anne of Austria. He
published in a single year _Rodogune_ and the _Mort de Pompee,_
dedicating this latter piece to Mazarin, in gratitude, he said, for an
act of generosity with which his Eminence had surprised him. At the same
time he borrowed from the Spanish drama the canvas of the _Menteur,_ the
first really French comedy which appeared on the boards, and which
Moliere showed that he could appreciate at its proper value. After this
attempt, due perhaps to the desire felt by Corneille to triumph over his
rivals in the style in which he had walked abreast with them, he let
tragedy resume its legitimate empire over a genius formed by it. He
wrote _Heraclius_ and _Nicomede,_ which are equal in parts to his finest
masterpieces. But by this time the great genius no longer soared with
equal flight. _Theodore_ and _Pertharite_ had been failures. "I don't
mention them," Corneille would say, "in order to avoid the vexation of
remembering them." He was still living at Rouen, in a house adjoining
that occupied by his brother, Thomas Corneille, younger than he, already
known by some comedies which had met with success. The two brothers had
married two sisters.

"Their houses twain were made in one;
With keys and purse the same was done;
Their wives can never have been two.
Their wishes tallied at all times;
No games distinct their children' knew;
The fathers lent each other rhymes;
Same wine for both the drawers drew." --[Ducis.]

It is said, that when Peter Corneille was puizled to end a verse he would
undo a trap that opened into his brother's room, shouting, "Sans-souci, a

Corneille had announced his renunciation of the stage; he was translating
into verse the _Imitation of Christ_. "It were better," he had written
in his preface to _Pertharite,_ "that I took leave myself instead of
waiting till it is taken of me altogether; it is quite right that after
twenty years' work I should begin to perceive that I am becoming too old
to be still in the fashion. This resolution is not so strong but that it
may be broken; there is every, appearance, however, of my abiding by it."

Fouquet was then in his glory, "no less superintendent of literature than
of finance," and he undertook to recall to the stage the genius of
Corneille. At his voice, the poet and the tragedian rose up at a single

"I feel the selfsame fire, the selfsame nerve I feel,
That roused th' indignant Cid, drove home Iloratius' steel;
As cunning as of yore this hand of mine I find,
That sketched great Pompey's soul, depicted Cinna's mind,"--

wrote Corneille in his thanks to Fouquet. He had some months before said
to Mdlle. du Pare, who was an actress in Moliere's company, which had
come to Rouen, and who was, from her grand airs, nicknamed by the others
the Marchioness,

"Marchioness," if Age hath set


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