Front Page Titles (by Subject) VOLTAIRE A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY Vol. VII—Part II - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. VII (Philosophical Dictionary Part 5)
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VOLTAIRE A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY Vol. VII—Part II - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. VII (Philosophical Dictionary Part 5) 
The Works of Voltaire, A Contemporary Version, (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901), A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming. Vol. VII.
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A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY.
It is very strange that since the French people became literary they have had no book written in a good style, until the year 1654, when the “Provincial Letters” appeared; and why had no one written history in a suitable tone, previous to that of the “Conspiracy of Venice” of the Abbé St. Réal? How is it that Pellisson was the first who adopted the true Ciceronian style, in his memoir for the superintendent Fouquet?
Nothing is more difficult and more rare than a style altogether suitable to the subject in hand.
The style of the letters of Balzac would not be amiss for funeral orations; and we have some physical treatises in the style of the epic poem or the ode. It is proper that all things occupy their own places.
Affect not strange terms of expression, or new words, in a treatise on religion, like the Abbé Houteville; neither declaim in a physical treatise. Avoid pleasantry in the mathematics, and flourish and extravagant figures in a pleading. If a poor intoxicated woman dies of an apoplexy, you say that she is in the regions of death; they bury her, and you exclaim that her mortal remains are confided to the earth. If the bell tolls at her burial, it is her funeral knell ascending to the skies. In all this you think you imitate Cicero, and you only copy Master Littlejohn. . . . .
Without style, it is impossible that there can be a good work in any kind of eloquence or poetry. A profusion of words is the great vice of all our modern philosophers and anti-philosophers. The “Système de la Nature” is a great proof of this truth. It is very difficult to give just ideas of God and nature, and perhaps equally so to form a good style.
As the kind of execution to be employed by every artist depends upon the subject of which he treats—as the line of Poussin is not that of Teniers, nor the architecture of a temple that of a common house, nor music of a serious opera that of a comic one—so has each kind of writing its proper style, both in prose and verse. It is obvious that the style of history is not that of a funeral oration, and that the despatch of an ambassador ought not to be written like a sermon; that comedy is not to borrow the boldness of the ode, the pathetic expression of the tragedy, nor the metaphors and similes of the epic.
Every species has its different shades, which may, however, be reduced to two, the simple and the elevated. These two kinds, which embrace so many others, possess essential beauties in common, which beauties are accuracy of idea, adaptation, elegance, propriety of expression, and purity of language. Every piece of writing, whatever its nature, calls for these qualities; the difference consists in the employment of the corresponding tropes. Thus, a character in comedy will not utter sublime or philosophical ideas, a shepherd spout the notions of a conqueror, not a didactic epistle breathe forth passion; and none of these forms of composition ought to exhibit bold metaphor, pathetic exclamation, or vehement expression.
Between the simple and the sublime there are many shades, and it is the art of adjusting them which contributes to the perfection of eloquence and poetry. It is by this art that Virgil frequently exalts the eclogue. This verse: Ut vidi ut perii, ut me malus abstulit error! (Eclogue viii, v. 41)—I saw, I perished, yet indulged my pain! (Dryden)—would be as fine in the mouth of Dido as in that of a shepherd, because it is nature, true and elegant, and the sentiment belongs to any condition. But this:
belongs not to an heroic personage, because the allusion is not such as would be made by a hero.
These two instances are examples of the cases in which the mingling of styles may be defended. Tragedy may occasionally stoop; it even ought to do so. Simplicity, according to the precept of Horace, often relieves grandeur. Et tragicus plerumque dolet sermone pedestri (Ars Poet., v. 95)—And oft the tragic language humbly flows (Francis).
These two verses in Titus, so natural and so tender:
would not be at all out of place in serious comedy; but the following verse of Antiochus: Dans l’orient desert quel devint mon ennui! (Id., acte i, scene 4)—The lonely east, how wearisome to me!—would not suit a lover in comedy; the figure of the “lonely east” is too elevated for the simplicity of the buskin. We have already remarked, that an author who writes on physics, in allusion to a writer on physics, called Hercules, adds that he is not able to resist a philosopher so powerful. Another who has written a small book, which he imagines to be physical and moral, against the utility of inoculation, says that if the smallpox be diffused artificially, death will be defrauded.
The above defect springs from a ridiculous affectation. There is another which is the result of negligence, which is that of mingling with the simple and noble style required by history, popular phrases and low expressions, which are inimical to good taste. We often read in Mézeray, and even in Daniel, who, having written so long after him, ought to be more correct, that “a general pursued at the heels of the enemy, followed his track, and utterly basted him”—à plate couture. We read nothing of this kind in Livy, Tacitus, Guicciardini, or Clarendon.
Let us observe, that an author accustomed to this kind of style can seldom change it with his subject. In his operas, La Fontaine composed in the style of his fables; and Benserade, in his translation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” exhibited the same kind of pleasantry which rendered his madrigals successful. Perfection consists in knowing how to adapt our style to the various subjects of which we treat; but who is altogether the master of his habits, and able to direct his genius at pleasure?
VARIOUS STYLES DISTINGUISHED.
Weakness of the heart is not that of the mind, nor weakness of the soul that of the heart. A feeble soul is without resource in action, and abandons itself to those who govern it. The heart which is weak or feeble is easily softened, changes its inclinations with facility, resists not the seduction or the ascendency required, and may subsist with a strong mind; for we may think strongly and act weakly. The weak mind receives impressions without resistance, embraces opinions without examination, is alarmed without cause, and tends naturally to superstition.
A work may be feeble either in its matter or its style; by the thoughts, when too common, or when, being correct, they are not sufficiently profound; and by the style, when it is destitute of images, or turns of expression, and of figures which rouse attention. Compared with those of Bossuet, the funeral orations of Mascaron are weak, and his style is lifeless.
Every speech is feeble when it is not relieved by ingenious turns, and by energetic expressions; but a pleader is weak, when, with all the aid of eloquence, and all the earnestness of action, he fails in ratiocination. No philosophical work is feeble, notwithstanding the deficiency of its style, if the reasoning be correct and profound. A tragedy is weak, although the style be otherwise, when the interest is not sustained. The best-written comedy is feeble if it fails in that which the Latins call the “vis comica,” which is the defect pointed out by Cæsar in Terence: “Lenibus atque utinam scriptis adjuncta foret vis comica!”
This is above all the sin of the weeping or sentimental comedy (larmoyante). Feeble verses are not those which sin against rules, but against genius; which in their mechanism are without variety, without choice expression, or felicitous inversions; and which retain in poetry the simplicity and homeliness of prose. The distinction cannot be better comprehended than by a reference to the similar passages of Racine and Campistron, his imitator.
“Flowery,” that which is in blossom; a tree in blossom, a rose-bush in blossom: people do not say, flowers which blossom. Of flowery bloom, the carnation seems a mixture of white and rose-color. We sometimes say a flowery mind, to signify a person possessing a lighter species of literature, and whose imagination is lively.
A flowery discourse is more replete with agreeable than with strong thoughts, with images more sparkling than sublime, and terms more curious than forcible. This metaphor is correctly taken from flowers, which are showy without strength or stability.
The flowery style is not unsuitable to public speeches or addresses which amount only to compliment. The lighter beauties are in their place when there is nothing more solid to say; but the flowery style should be banished from a pleading, a sermon, or a didactic work.
While banishing the flowery style, we are not to reject the soft and lively images which enter naturally into the subject; a few flowers are even admissible; but the flowery style cannot be made suitable to a serious subject.
This style belongs to productions of mere amusement; to idyls, eclogues, and descriptions of the seasons, or of gardens. It may gracefully occupy a portion of the most sublime ode, provided it be duly relieved by stanzas of more masculine beauty. It has little to do with comedy, which, as it ought to possess a resemblance to common life, requires more of the style of ordinary conversation. It is still less admissible in tragedy, which is the province of strong passions and momentous interests; and when occasionally employed in tragedy or comedy, it is in certain descriptions in which the heart takes no part, and which amuse the imagination without moving or occupying the soul.
The flowery style detracts from the interest of tragedy, and weakens ridicule in comedy. It is in its place in the French opera, which rather flourishes on the passions than exhibits them. The flowery is not to be confounded with the easy style, which rejects this class of embellishment.
Coldness of Style.
It is said that a piece of poetry, of eloquence, of music, and even of painting, is cold, when we look for an animated expression in it, which we find not. Other arts are not so susceptible of this defect; for instance, architecture, geometry, logic, metaphysics, all the principal merit of which is correctness, cannot properly be called warm or cold. The picture of the family of Darius, by Mignard, is very cold in comparison with that of Lebrun, because we do not discover in the personages of Mignard the same affliction which Lebrun has so animatedly expressed in the attitudes and countenances of the Persian princesses. Even a statue may be cold; we ought to perceive fear and horror in the features of an Andromeda, the effect of a writhing of the muscles; and anger mingled with courageous boldness in the attitude and on the brow of Hercules, who suspends and strangles Antæus.
In poetry and eloquence the great movements of the soul become cold, when they are expressed in common terms, and are unaided by imagination. It is this latter which makes love so animated in Racine, and so languid in his imitator, Campistron.
The sentiments which escape from a soul which seeks concealment, on the contrary, require the most simple expression. Nothing is more animated than those verses in “The Cid”: “Go; I hate thee not—thou knowest it; I cannot.” This feeling would become cold, if conveyed in studied phrases.
For this reason, nothing is so cold as the timid style. A hero in a poem says, that he has encountered a tempest, and that he has beheld his friend perish in the storm. He touches and affects, if he speaks with profound grief of his loss—that is, if he is more occupied with his friend than with all the rest; but he becomes cold, and ceases to affect us, if he amuses us with a description of the tempest; if he speaks of the source of “the fire which was boiling up the waters, and of the thunder which roars and which redoubles the furrows of the earth and of the waves.” Coldness of style, therefore, often arises from a sterility of ideas; often from a deficiency in the power of governing them; frequently from a too common diction, and sometimes from one that is too far-fetched.
The author who is cold only in consequence of being animated out of time and place, may correct this defect of a too fruitful imagination; but he who is cold from a deficiency of soul is incapable of self-correction. We may allay a fire which is too intense, but cannot acquire heat if we have none.
On Corruption of Style.
A general complaint is made, that eloquence is corrupted, although we have models of almost all kinds. One of the greatest defects of the day, which contributes most to this defect, is the mixture of style. It appears to me, that we authors do not sufficiently imitate the painters, who never introduce the attitudes of Calot with the figures of Raphael. I perceive in histories, otherwise tolerably well written, and in good doctrinal works, the familiar style of conversation. Some one has formerly said, that we must write as we speak; the sense of which law is, that we should write naturally. We tolerate irregularity in a letter, freedom as to style, incorrectness, and bold pleasantries, because letters, written spontaneously, without particular object or act, are negligent conversations; but when we speak or treat of a subject formally, some attention is due to decorum; and to whom ought we to pay more respect than to the public?
Is it allowable to write in a mathematical work, that “a geometrician who would pay his devotions, ought to ascend to heaven in a right line; that evanescent quantities turn up their noses at the earth for having too much elevated them; that a seed sown in the ground takes an opportunity to release and amuse itself; that if Saturn should perish, it would be his fifth and not his first satellite that would take his place, because kings always keep their heirs at a distance; that there is no void except in the purse of a ruined man; that when Hercules treats of physics, no one is able to resist a philosopher of his degree of power?” etc.
Some very valuable works are infected with this fault. The source of a defect so common seems to me to be the accusation of pedantry, so long and so justly made against authors. “In vitium ducit culpæ fuga.” It is frequently said, that we ought to write in the style of good company; that the most serious authors are becoming agreeable: that is to say, in order to exhibit the manners of good company to their readers, they deliver themselves in the style of very bad company.
Authors have sought to speak of science as Voiture spoke to Mademoiselle Paulet of gallantry, without dreaming that Voiture by no means exhibits a correct taste in the species of composition in which he was esteemed excellent; for he often takes the false for the refined, and the affected for the natural. Pleasantry is never good on serious points, because it always regards subjects in that point of view in which it is not the purpose to consider them. It almost always turns upon false relations and equivoque, whence jokers by profession usually possess minds as incorrect as they are superficial.
It appears to me, that it is as improper to mingle styles in poetry as in prose. The macaroni style has for some time past injured poetry by this medley of mean and of elevated, of ancient and of modern expression. In certain moral pieces it is not musical to hear the whistle of Rabelais in the midst of sounds from the flute of Horace—a practice which we should leave to inferior minds, and attend to the lessons of good sense and of Boileau. The following is a singular instance of style, in a speech delivered at Versailles in 1745:
Speech Addressed to the King (Louis XV.) by M. le Camus, First President of the Court of Aids.
“—The conquests of your majesty are so rapid, that it will be necessary to consult the power of belief on the part of posterity, and to soften their surprise at so many miracles, for fear that heroes should hold themselves dispensed from imitation, and people in general from believing them.
“But no, sire, it will be impossible for them to doubt it, when they shall read in history that your majesty has been at the head of your troops, recording them yourself in the field of Mars upon a drum. This is to engrave them eternally in the temple of Memory.
“Ages the most distant will learn, that the English, that bold and audacious foe, that enemy so jealous of your glory, have been obliged to turn away from your victory; that their allies have been witnesses of their shame, and that all of them have hastened to the combat only to immortalize the glory of the conqueror.
“We venture to say to your majesty, relying on the love that you bear to your people, that there is but one way of augmenting our happiness, which is to diminish your courage; as heaven would lavish its prodigies at too costly a rate, if they increased your dangers, or those of the young heroes who constitute our dearest hopes.”
I have sometimes heard you say—We are no longer superstitious; the reformation of the sixteenth century has made us more prudent; the Protestants have taught us better manners.
But what then is the blood of a St. Januarius, which you liquefy every year by bringing it near his head? Would it not be better to make ten thousand beggars earn their bread, by employing them in useful tasks, than to boil the blood of a saint for their amusement? Think rather how to make their pots boil.
Why do you still, in Rome, bless the horses and mules at St. Mary’s the Greater? What mean those bands of flagellators in Italy and Spain, who go about singing and giving themselves the lash in the presence of ladies? Do they think there is no road to heaven but by flogging?
Are those pieces of the true cross, which would suffice to build a hundred-gun ship—are the many relics acknowledged to be false—are the many false miracles—so many monuments of an enlightened piety?
France boasts of being less superstitious than the neighbors of St. James of Compostello, or those of Our Lady of Loretto. Yet how many sacristies are there where you still find pieces of the Virgin’s gown, vials of her milk, and locks of her hair! And have you not still, in the church of Puy-en-Velay, her Son’s foreskin preciously preserved?
You all know the abominable farce that has been played, ever since the early part of the fourteenth century, in the chapel of St. Louis, in the Palais at Paris, every Maundy Thursday night. All the possessed in the kingdom then meet in this church. The convulsions of St. Médard fall far short of the horrible grimaces, the dreadful howlings, the violent contortions, made by these wretched people. A piece of the true cross is given them to kiss, enchased in three feet of gold, and adorned with precious stones. Then the cries and contortions are redoubled. The devil is then appeased by giving the demoniacs a few sous; but the better to restrain them, fifty archers of the watch are placed in the church with fixed bayonets.
The same execrable farce is played at St. Maur. I could cite twenty such instances. Blush, and correct yourselves.
There are wise men who assert, that we should leave the people their superstitions, as we leave them their raree-shows, etc.; that the people have at all times been fond of prodigies, fortune-tellers, pilgrimages, and quack-doctors; that in the most remote antiquity they celebrated Bacchus delivered from the waves, wearing horns, making a fountain of wine issue from a rock by a stroke of his wand, passing the Red Sea on dry ground with all his people, stopping the sun and moon, etc.; that at Lacedæmon they kept the two eggs brought forth by Leda, hanging from the dome of a temple; that in some towns of Greece the priests showed the knife with which Iphigenia had been immolated, etc.
There are other wise men who say—Not one of these superstitions has produced any good; many of them have done great harm: let them then be abolished.
I beg of you, my dear reader, to cast your eye for a moment on the miracle which was lately worked in Lower Brittany, in the year of our Lord 1771. Nothing can be more authentic: this publication is clothed in all the legal forms. Read:—
“Surprising Account of the Visible and Miraculous Appearance of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar; which was worked by the Almighty Power of God in the Parish Church of Paimpole, near Tréguier, in Lower Brittany, on Twelfth-day.
“On January 6, 1771, being Twelfth-day, during the chanting of the Salve, rays of light were seen to issue from the consecrated host, and instantly the Lord Jesus was beheld in natural figure, seeming more brilliant than the sun, and was seen for a whole half-hour, during which there appeared a rainbow over the top of the church. The footprints of Jesus remained on the tabernacle, where they are still to be seen; and many miracles are worked there every day. At four in the afternoon, Jesus having disappeared from over the tabernacle, the curate of the said parish approached the altar, and found there a letter which Jesus had left; he would have taken it up, but he found that he could not lift it. This curate, together with the vicar, went to give information of it to the bishop of Tréguier, who ordered the forty-hour prayers to be said in all the churches of the town for eight days, during which time the people went in crowds to see this holy letter. At the expiration of the eight days, the bishop went thither in procession, attended by all the regular and secular clergy of the town, after three days’ fasting on bread and water. The procession having entered the church, the bishop knelt down on the steps of the altar; and after asking of God the grace to be able to lift this letter, he ascended to the altar and took it up without difficulty; then, turning to the people, he read it over with a loud voice, and recommended to all who could read to peruse this letter on the first Friday of every month; and to those who could not read, to say five paternosters, and five avemarias, in honor of the five wounds of Jesus Christ, in order to obtain the graces promised to such as shall read it devoutly, and the preservation of the fruits of the earth. Pregnant women are to say, for their happy delivery, nine paters and nine aves for the benefit of the souls in purgatory, in order that their children may have the happiness of receiving the holy sacrament of baptism.
“All that is contained in this account has been approved by the bishop, by the lieutenant-general of the said town of Tréguier, and by many persons of distinction who were present at this miracle.”
“Copy of the Letter Found Upon the Altar, at the Time of the Miraculous Appearance of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, on Twelfth-day, 1771.
“Everlasting life, everlasting punishments, or everlasting delights, none can forego; one part must be chosen—either to go to glory, or to depart into torment. The number of years that men pass on earth in all sorts of sensual pleasures and excessive debaucheries, of usurpation, luxury, murder, theft, slander, and impurity, no longer permitting it to be suffered that creatures created in My image and likeness, redeemed by the price of My blood on the tree of the cross, on which I suffered passion and death, should offend Me continually, by transgressing My commands and abandoning My divine law—I warn you all, that if you continue to live in sin, and I behold in you neither remorse, nor contrition, nor a true and sincere confession and satisfaction, I shall make you feel the weight of My divine arm. But for the prayers of My dear mother, I should already have destroyed the earth, for the sins which you commit one against another. I have given you six days to labor, and the seventh to rest, to sanctify My Holy Name, to hear the holy mass, and employ the remainder of the day in the service of God My Father. But, on the contrary, nothing is to be seen but blasphemy and drunkenness; and so disordered is the world that all in it is vanity and lies. Christians, instead of taking compassion on the poor whom they behold every day at their doors, prefer fondling dogs and other animals, and letting the poor die of hunger and thirst—abandoning themselves entirely to Satan by their avarice, gluttony, and other vices; instead of relieving the needy, they prefer sacrificing all to their pleasures and debauchery. Thus do they declare war against Me. And you, iniquitous fathers and mothers, suffer your children to swear and blaspheme against My holy name; instead of giving them a good education, you avariciously lay up for them wealth, which is dedicated to Satan. I tell you, by the mouth of God My Father and My dear mother, of all the cherubim and seraphim, and by St. Peter, the head of My church, that if you do not amend your ways, I will send you extraordinary diseases, by which all shall perish. You shall feel the just anger of God My Father; you shall be reduced to such a state that you shall not know one another. Open your eyes, and contemplate My cross, which I have left to be your weapon against the enemy of mankind, and your guide to eternal glory; look upon My head crowned with thorns, My feet and hands pierced with nails; I shed the last drop of My blood to redeem you, from pure fatherly love for ungrateful children. Do such works as may secure to you My mercy; do not swear by My Holy Name; pray to Me devoutly; fast often; and in particular give alms to the poor, who are members of My body—for of all good works this is the most pleasing to Me; neither despise the widow nor the orphan; make restitution of that which does not belong to you; fly all occasions of sin; carefully keep My commandments; and honor Mary My very dear mother.
“Such of you who shall not profit by the warnings I give them, such as shall not believe My words, will, by their obstinacy, bring down My avenging arm upon their heads; they shall be overwhelmed by misfortunes, which shall be the forerunners of their final and unhappy end; after which they shall be cast into everlasting flames, where they shall suffer endless pains—the just punishment reserved for their crimes.
“On the other hand, such of you as shall make a holy use of the warnings of God, given them in this letter, shall appease His wrath, and shall obtain from Him, after a sincere confession of their faults, the remission of their sins, how great soever they may be.
“With permission, Bourges, July 30, 1771.
“De Beauvoir, Lieut.-Gen. of Police.
“This letter must be carefully kept, in honor of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
N. B.—It must be observed that this piece of absurdity was printed at Bourges, without there having been, either at Tréguier or at Paimpole, the smallest pretence that could afford occasion for such an imposture. However, we will suppose that in a future age some miracle-finder shall think fit to prove a point in divinity by the appearance of Jesus Christ on the altar at Paimpole, will he not think himself entitled to quote Christ’s own letter, printed at Bourges “with permission”? Will he not prove, by facts, that in our time Jesus worked miracles everywhere? Here is a fine field opened for the Houtevilles and the Abadies.
The thirty conspirators who fell upon the king of Poland, in the night of November 3, of the present year, 1771, had communicated at the altar of the Holy Virgin, and had sworn by the Holy Virgin to butcher their king.
It seems that some one of the conspirators was not entirely in a state of grace, when he received into his stomach the body of the Holy Virgin’s own Son, together with His blood, under the appearance of bread; and that while he was taking the oath to kill his king, he had his god in his mouth for only two of the king’s domestics. The guns and pistols fired at his majesty missed him; he received only a slight shot-wound in the face, and several sabre-wounds, which were not mortal. His life would have been at an end, but that humanity at length combated superstition in the breast of one of the assassins named Kosinski. What a moment was that when this wretched man said to the bleeding prince: “You are, however, my king!” “Yes,” answered Stanislaus Augustus, “and your good king, who has never done you any harm.” “True,” said the other; “but I have taken an oath to kill you.”
They had sworn before the miraculous image of the virgin at Czentoshova. The following is the formula of this fine oath: “We — who, excited by a holy and religious zeal, have resolved to avenge the Deity, religion, and our country, outraged by Stanislaus Augustus, a despiser of laws both divine and human, a favorer of atheists and heretics, do promise and swear, before the sacred and miraculous image of the mother of God, to extirpate from the face of the earth him who dishonors her by trampling on religion. . . . . So help us God!”
Thus did the assassins of Sforza, of Medici, and so many other holy assassins, have masses said, or say them themselves, for the happy success of their undertaking.
The letter from Warsaw which gives the particulars of this attempt, adds: “The religious who employ their pious ardor in causing blood to flow and ravaging their country, have succeeded in Poland, as elsewhere, in inculcating on the minds of their affiliated, that it is allowable to kill kings.”
Indeed, the assassins had been hidden in Warsaw for three days in the house of the reverend Dominican fathers; and when these accessory monks were asked why they had harbored thirty armed men without informing the government of it, they answered, that these men had come to perform their devotions, and to fulfil a vow.
O ye times of Châtel, of Guinard, of Ricodovis, of Poltrot, of Ravaillac, of Damiens, of Malagrida, are you then returning? Holy Virgin, and Thou her holy Son, let not Your sacred names be abused for the commission of the crime which disgraced them!
M. Jean Georges le Franc, bishop of Puy-en-Velay, says, in his immense pastoral letter to the inhabitants of Puy, pages 258-9, that it is the philosophers who are seditious. And whom does he accuse of sedition? Readers, you will be astonished; it is Locke, the wise Locke himself! He makes him an accomplice in the pernicious designs of the earl of Shaftesbury, one of the heroes of the philosophical party.
Alas! M. Jean Georges, how many mistakes in a few words! First, you take the grandson for the grandfather. The earl of Shaftesbury, author of the “Characteristics” and the “Inquiry Into Virtue,” that “hero of the philosophical party,” who died in 1713, cultivated letters all his life in the most profound retirement. Secondly, his grandfather, Lord-Chancellor Shaftesbury, to whom you attribute misdeeds, is considered by many in England to have been a true patriot. Thirdly, Locke is revered as a wise man throughout Europe.
I defy you to show me a single philosopher, from Zoroaster down to Locke, that has ever stirred up a sedition; that has ever been concerned in an attempt against the life of a king; that has ever disturbed society; and, unfortunately, I will find you a thousand votaries of superstition, from Ehud down to Kosinski, stained with the blood of kings and with that of nations. Superstition sets the whole world in flames; philosophy extinguishes them. Perhaps these poor philosophers are not devoted enough to the Holy Virgin; but they are so to God, to reason, and to humanity.
Poles! if you are not philosophers, at least do not cut one another’s throats. Frenchmen! be gay, and cease to quarrel. Spaniards! let the words “inquisition” and “holy brotherhood” be no longer uttered among you. Turks, who have enslaved Greece—monks, who have brutalized her—disappear ye from the face of the earth.
Nearly all that goes farther than the adoration of a supreme being, and the submission of the heart to his eternal orders, is superstition. The forgiveness of crimes, which is attached to certain ceremonies, is a very dangerous one.
You think that God will forget your homicide, if you bathe in a river, if you immolate a black sheep, and a few words are pronounced over you. A second homicide then will be forgiven you at the same price, and so of a third; and a hundred murders will cost you only a hundred black sheep and a hundred ablutions. Ye miserable mortals, do better; but let there be no murders, and no offerings of black sheep.
What an infamous idea, to imagine that a priest of Isis and Cybele, by playing cymbals and castanets, will reconcile you to the Divinity. And what then is this priest of Cybele, this vagrant eunuch, who lives on your weakness, and sets himself up as a mediator between heaven and you? What patent has he received from God? He receives money from you for muttering words; and you think that the Being of Beings ratifies the utterance of this charlatan!
There are innocent superstitions; you dance on festival days, in honor of Diana or Pomona, or some one of the secular divinities of which your calendar is full; be it so. Dancing is very agreeable; it is useful to the body; it exhilarates the mind; it does no harm to any one; but do not imagine that Pomona and Vertumnus are much pleased at your having jumped in honor of them, and that they may punish you for having failed to jump. There are no Pomona and Vertumnus but the gardener’s spade and hoe. Do not be so imbecile as to believe that your garden will be hailed upon, if you have missed dancing the pyrrhic or the cordax.
There is one superstition which is perhaps pardonable, and even encouraging to virtue—that of placing among the gods great men who have been benefactors to mankind. It were doubtless better to confine ourselves to regarding them simply as venerable men, and above all, to imitating them. Venerate, without worshipping, a Solon, a Thales, a Pythagoras; but do not adore a Hercules for having cleansed the stables of Augeas, and for having lain with fifty women in one night.
Above all, beware of establishing a worship for vagabonds who have no merit but ignorance, enthusiasm, and filth; who have made idleness and beggary their duty and their glory. Do they who have been at best useless during their lives, merit an apotheosis after their deaths? Be it observed, that the most superstitious times have always been those of the most horrible crimes.
The superstitious man is to the knave, what the slave is to the tyrant; nay more—the superstitious man is governed by the fanatic, and becomes a fanatic himself. Superstition, born in Paganism, adopted by Judaism, infected the Church in the earliest ages. All the fathers of the Church, without exception, believed in the power of magic. The Church always condemned magic, but she always believed in it; she excommunicated sorcerers, not as madmen who were in delusion, but as men who really had intercourse with the devils.
At this day, one half of Europe believes that the other half has long been and still is superstitious. The Protestants regard relics, indulgences, macerations, prayers for the dead, holy water, and almost all the rites of the Roman church, as mad superstitions. According to them, superstition consists in mistaking useless practices for necessary ones. Among the Roman Catholics there are some, more enlightened than their forefathers, who have renounced many of these usages formerly sacred; and they defend their adherence to those which they have retained, by saying they are indifferent, and what is indifferent cannot be an evil.
It is difficult to mark the limits of superstition. A Frenchman travelling in Italy thinks almost everything superstitious; nor is he much mistaken. The archbishop of Canterbury asserts that the archbishop of Paris is superstitious; the Presbyterians cast the same reproach upon his grace of Canterbury, and are in their turn called superstitious by the Quakers, who in the eyes of the rest of Christians are the most superstitious of all.
It is then nowhere agreed among Christian societies what superstition is. The sect which appears to be the least violently attacked by this mental disease, is that which has the fewest rites. But if, with but few ceremonies, it is strongly attached to an absurd belief, that absurd belief is of itself equivalent to all the superstitious practices observed from the time of Simon the Magician, down to that of the curate Gaufredi. It is therefore evident that what is the foundation of the religion of one sect, is by another sect regarded as superstitious.
The Mussulmans accuse all Christian societies of it, and are accused of it by them. Who shall decide this great cause? Shall not reason? But each sect declares that reason is on its side. Force then will decide, until reason shall have penetrated into a sufficient number of heads to disarm force.
For instance: there was a time in Christian Europe when a newly married pair were not permitted to enjoy the nuptial rights, until they had bought that privilege of the bishop and the curate. Whosoever, in his will, did not leave a part of his property to the Church, was excommunicated, and deprived of burial. This was called dying unconfessed—i. e., not confessing the Christian religion. And when a Christian died intestate, the Church relieved the deceased from this excommunication, by making a will for him, stipulating for and enforcing the payment of the pious legacy which the defunct should have made.
Therefore it was, that Pope Gregory IX. and St. Louis ordained, after the Council of Nice, held in 1235, that every will to the making of which a priest had not been called, should be null; and the pope decreed that the testator and the notary should be excommunicated.
The tax on sins was, if possible, still more scandalous. It was force which supported all these laws, to which the superstition of nations submitted; and it was only in the course of time that reason caused these shameful vexations to be abolished, while it left so many others in existence.
How far does policy permit superstition to be undermined? This is a very knotty question; it is like asking how far a dropsical man may be punctured without his dying under the operation; this depends on the prudence of the physician.
Can there exist a people free from all superstitious prejudices? This is asking, Can there exist a people of philosophers? It is said that there is no superstition in the magistracy of China. It is likely that the magistracy of some towns in Europe will also be free from it. These magistrates will then prevent the superstition of the people from being dangerous. Their example will not enlighten the mob; but the principal citizens will restrain it. Formerly, there was not perhaps a single religious tumult, not a single violence, in which the townspeople did not take part, because these townspeople were then part of the mob; but reason and time have changed them. Their ameliorated manners will improve those of the lowest and most ferocious of the populace; of which, in more countries than one, we have striking examples. In short, the fewer superstitions, the less fanaticism; and the less fanaticism, the fewer calamities.
SYMBOL, OR CREDO.
We resemble not the celebrated comedian, Mademoiselle Duclos, to whom somebody said: “I would lay a wager, mademoiselle, that you know not your credo!” “What!” said she, “not know my credo? I will repeat it to you. ‘Pater noster qui.’ . . . . Help me, I remember no more.” For myself, I repeat my pater and credo every morning. I am not like Broussin, of whom Reminiac said, that although he could distinguish a sauce almost in his infancy, he could never be taught his creed or paternoster:
The term “symbol” comes from the word “symbolein,” and the Latin church adopts this word because it has taken everything from the Greek church. Even slightly learned theologians know that the symbol, which we call apostolical, is not that of all the apostles.
Symbol, among the Greeks, signified the words and signs by which those initiated into the mysteries of Ceres, Cybele, and Mythra, recognized one another; and Christians in time had their symbol. If it had existed in the time of the apostles, we think that St. Luke would have spoken of it.
A history of the symbol is attributed to St. Augustine in his one hundred and fifteenth sermon; he is made to say, that Peter commenced the symbol by saying: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty.” John added: “Maker of heaven and earth;” James proceeded: “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,” and so on with the rest. This fable has been expunged from the last edition of Augustine; and I relate it to the reverend Benedictine fathers, in order to know whether this little curious article ought to be left out or not.
The fact is, that no person heard anything of this “creed” for more than four hundred years. People also say that Paris was not made in a day, and people are often right in their proverbs. The apostles had our symbol in their hearts, but they put it not into writing. One was formed in the time of St. Irenæus, which does not at all resemble that which we repeat. Our symbol, such as it is at present, is of the fifth century, which is posterior to that of Nice. The passage which says that Jesus descended into hell, and that which speaks of the communion of saints, are not found in any of the symbols which preceded ours; and, indeed, neither the gospels, nor the Acts of the Apostles, say that Jesus descended into hell; but it was an established opinion, from the third century, that Jesus descended into Hades, or Tartarus, words which we translate by that of hell. Hell, in this sense, is not the Hebrew word “sheol,” which signifies “under ground,” “the pit”; for which reason St. Athanasius has since taught us how our Saviour descended into hell. His humanity, says he, was not entirely in the tomb, nor entirely in hell. It was in the sepulchre, according to the body, and in hell, according to the soul.
St. Thomas affirms that the saints who arose at the death of Jesus Christ, died again to rise afterwards with him, which is the most general sentiment. All these opinions are absolutely foreign to morality. We must be good men, whether the saints were raised once or twice. Our symbol has been formed, I confess, recently, but virtue is from all eternity.
If it is permitted to quote moderns on so grave a matter, I will here repeat the creed of the Abbé de St. Pierre, as it was written with his own hand, in his book on the purity of religion, which has not been printed, but which I have copied faithfully:
“I believe in one God alone, and I love Him. I believe that He enlightens all souls coming into the world; thus says St. John. By that, I understand all souls which seek Him in good faith. I believe in one God alone, because there can be but one soul of the Great All, a single vivifying being, a sole Creator.
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty; because He is the common Father of nature, and of all men, who are equally His children. I believe that He who has caused all to be born equally, who arranges the springs of their life in the same manner, who has given them the same moral principles, as soon as they reflect, has made no difference between His children but that of crime and virtue.
“I believe that the just and righteous Chinese is more precious to Him than the cavilling and arrogant European scholar. I believe that God, being our common Father, we are bound to regard all men as our brothers. I believe that the persecutor is abominable, and that he follows immediately after the poisoner and parricide. I believe that theological disputes are at once the most ridiculous farce, and the most dreadful scourge of the earth, immediately after war, pestilence, famine, and leprosy.
“I believe that ecclesiastics should be paid and well paid, as servants of the public, moral teachers, keepers of registers of births and deaths; but there should be given to them neither the riches of farmers-general, nor the rank of princes, because both corrupt the soul; and nothing is more revolting than to see men so rich and so proud preach humility through their clerks, who have only a hundred crowns’ wages.
“I believe that all priests who serve a parish should be married, as in the Greek church; not only to have an honest woman to take care of their household, but to be better citizens, to give good subjects to the state, and to have plenty of wellbred children.
“I believe that many monks should give up the monastic form of life, for the sake of the country and themselves. It is said that there are men whom Circe has changed into hogs, whom the wise Ulysses must restore to the human form.”
“Paradise to the beneficent!” We repeat this symbol of the Abbé St. Pierre historically, without approving of it. We regard it merely as a curious singularity, and we hold with the most respectful faith to the true symbol of the Church.
We understand by system a supposition; for if a system can be proved, it is no longer a system, but a truth. In the meantime, led by habit, we say the celestial system, although we understand by it the real position of the stars.
I once thought that Pythagoras had learned the true celestial system from the Chaldæans; but I think so no longer. In proportion as I grow older, I doubt of all things. Notwithstanding that Newton, Gregory, and Keil honor Pythagoras and the Chaldæans with a knowledge of the system of Copernicus, and that latterly M. Monier is of their opinion, I have the impudence to think otherwise.
One of my reasons is, that if the Chaldæans had been so well informed, so fine and important a discovery would not have been lost, but would have been handed down from age to age, like the admirable discoveries of Archimedes.
Another reason is that it was necessary to be more widely informed than the Chaldæans, in order to be able to contradict the apparent testimony of the senses in regard to the celestial appearances: that it required not only the most refined experimental observation, but the most profound mathematical science; as also the indispensable aid of telescopes, without which it is impossible to discover the phases of Venus, which prove her course around the sun, or to discover the spots in the sun, which demonstrate his motion round his own almost immovable axis. Another reason, not less strong, is that of all those who have attributed this discovery to Pythagoras, no one can positively say how he treated it.
Diogenes Laertius, who lived about nine hundred years after Pythagoras, teaches us, that according to this grand philosopher, the number one was the first principle, and that from two sprang all numbers; that body has four elements—fire, water, air, and earth; that light and darkness, cold and heat, wet and dry, are equally distributed; that we must not eat beans; that the soul is divided into three parts; that Pythagoras had formerly been Atalides, then Euphorbus, afterwards Hermotimus; and, finally, that this great man studied magic very profoundly. Diogenes says not a word concerning the true system of the world, attributed to this Pythagoras; and it must be confessed that it is by no means to an aversion to beans that we owe the calculations which at present demonstrate the motion of the earth and planets generally.
The famous Arian Eusebius, bishop of Cæsarea, in his “Evangelical Preparation,” expresses himself thus: “All the philosophers declare that the earth is in a state of repose; but Philolaus, the peripatetic, thinks that it moves round fire in an oblique circle, like the sun and the moon.” This gibberish has nothing in common with the sublime truths taught by Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and above all by Newton.
As to the pretended Aristarchus of Samos, who, it is asserted, developed the discoveries of the Chaldæans in regard to the motion of the earth and other planets, he is so obscure, that Wallace has been obliged to play the commentator from one end of him to the other, in order to render him intelligible.
Finally, it is very much to be doubted whether the book, attributed to this Aristarchus of Samos, really belongs to him. It has been strongly suspected that the enemies of the new philosophy have constructed this forgery in favor of their bad cause. It is not only in respect to old charters that similar forgeries are resorted to. This Aristarchus of Samos is also the more to be suspected, as Plutarch accuses him of bigotry and malevolent hypocrisy, in consequence of being imbued with a direct contrary opinion. The following are the words of Plutarch, in his piece of absurdity entitled “The Round Aspect of the Moon.” Aristarchus the Samian said, “that the Greeks ought to punish Cleanthes of Samos, who suggested that the heavens were immovable, and that it is the earth which travels through the zodiac by turning on its axis.”
They will tell me that even this passage proves that the system of Copernicus was already in the head of Cleanthes and others—of what import is it whether Aristarchus the Samian was of the opinion of Cleanthes, or his accuser, as the Jesuit Skeiner was subsequently Galileo’s?—it equally follows that the true system of the present day was known to the ancients.
I reply, no; but that a very slight part of this system was vaguely surmised by heads better organized than the rest. I further answer that it was never received or taught in the schools, and that it never formed a body of doctrine. Attentively peruse this “Face of the Moon” of Plutarch, and you will find, if you look for it, the doctrine of gravitation; but the true author of a system is he who demonstrates it.
We will not take away from Copernicus the honor of this discovery. Three or four words brought to light in an old author, which exhibit some distant glimpse of his system, ought not to deprive him of the glory of the discovery.
Let us admire the great rule of Kepler, that the revolutions of the planets round the sun are in proportion to the cubes of their distances. Let us still more admire the profundity, the justness, and the invention of the great Newton, who alone discovered the fundamental reasons of these laws unknown to all antiquity, which have opened the eyes of mankind to a new heaven.
Petty compilers are always to be found who dare to become the enemies of their age. They string together passages from Plutarch and Athenæus, to prove that we have no obligations to Newton, to Halley, and to Bradley. They trumpet forth the glory of the ancients, whom they pretend have said everything; and they are so imbecile as to think that they divide the glory by publishing it. They twist an expression of Hippocrates, in order to persuade us that the Greeks were acquainted with the circulation of the blood better than Harvey. Why not also assert that the Greeks were possessed of better muskets and field-pieces; that they threw bomb-shells farther, had better printed books, and much finer engravings? That they excelled in oilpaintings, possessed looking-glasses of crystal, telescopes, microscopes, and thermometers? All this may be found out by men, who assure us that Solomon, who possessed not a single seaport, sent fleets to America, and so forth.
One of the greatest detractors of modern times is a person named Dutens, who finished by compiling a libel, as infamous as insipid, against the philosophers of the present day. This libel is entitled the “Tocsin”; but he had better have called it his clock, as no one came to his aid; and he has only tended to increase the number of the Zoilusses, who, being unable to produce anything themselves, spit their venom upon all who by their productions do honor to their country and benefit mankind.
TABOR, OR THABOR.
A famous mountain in Judæa, often alluded to in general conversation. It is not true that this mountain is a league and a half high, as mentioned in certain dictionaries. There is no mountain in Judæa so elevated; Tabor is not more than six hundred feet high, but it appears loftier, in consequence of its situation on a vast plain.
The Tabor of Bohemia is still more celebrated by the resistance which the imperial armies encountered from Ziska. It is from thence that they have given the name of Tabor to intrenchments formed with carriages. The Taborites, a sect very similar to the Hussites, also take their name from the latter mountain.
Talisman, an Arabian word, signifies properly “consecration.” The same thing as “telesma,” or “philactery,” a preservative charm, figure, or character; a superstition which has prevailed at all times and among all people. It is usually a sort of medal, cast and stamped under the ascendency of certain constellations. The famous talisman of Catherine de Medici still exists.
Tartuffe, a name invented by Molière, and now adopted in all the languages of Europe to signify hypocrites, who make use of the cloak of religion. “He is a Tartuffe; he is a true Tartuffe.” Tartuferie, a new word formed from Tartuffe—the action of a hypocrite, the behavior of a hypocrite, the knavery of a false devotee; it is often used in the disputes concerning the Bull Unigenitus.
The taste, the sense by which we distinguish the flavor of our food, has produced, in all known languages, the metaphor expressed by the word “taste”—a feeling of beauty and defects in all the arts. It is a quick perception, like that of the tongue and the palate, and in the same manner anticipates consideration. Like the mere sense, it is sensitive and luxuriant in respect to the good, and rejects the bad spontaneously; in a similar way it is often uncertain, divided, and even ignorant whether it ought to be pleased; lastly, and to conclude the resemblance, it sometimes requires to be formed and corrected by habit and experience.
To constitute taste, it is not sufficient to see and to know the beauty of a work. We must feel and be affected by it. Neither will it suffice to feel and be affected in a confused or ignorant manner; it is necessary to distinguish the different shades; nothing ought to escape the promptitude of its discernment; and this is another instance of the resemblance of taste, the sense, to intellectual taste; for an epicure will quickly feel and detect a mixture of two liquors, as the man of taste and connoisseur will, with a single glance, distinguish the mixture of two styles, or a defect by the side of a beauty. He will be enthusiastically moved with this verse in the Horatii:
He feels involuntary disgust at the following:
As a physical bad taste consists in being pleased only with high seasoning and curious dishes, so a bad taste in the arts is pleased only with studied ornament, and feels not the pure beauty of nature.
A depraved taste in food is gratified with that which disgusts other people: it is a species of disease. A depraved taste in the arts is to be pleased with subjects which disgust accomplished minds, and to prefer the burlesque to the noble, and the finical and the affected to the simple and natural: it is a mental disease. A taste for the arts is, however, much more a thing of formation than physical taste; for although in the latter we sometimes finish by liking those things to which we had in the first instance a repugnance, nature seldom renders it necessary for men in general to learn what is necessary to them in the way of food, whereas intellectual taste requires time to duly form it. A sensible young man may not, without science, distinguish at once the different parts of a grand choir of music; in a fine picture, his eyes at first sight may not perceive the gradation, the chiaroscuro perspective, agreement of colors, and correctness of design; but by little and little his ears will learn to hear and his eyes to see. He will be affected at the first representation of a fine tragedy, but he will not perceive the merit of the unities, nor the delicate management that allows no one to enter or depart without a sufficient reason, nor that still greater art which concentrates all the interest in a single one; nor, lastly, will he be aware of the difficulties overcome. It is only by habit and reflection, that he arrives spontaneously at that which he was not able to distinguish in the first instance. In a similar way, a national taste is gradually formed where it existed not before, because by degrees the spirit of the best artists is duly imbibed. We accustom ourselves to look at pictures with the eyes of Lebrun, Poussin, and Le Sueur. We listen to musical declamation from the scenes of Quinalt with the ears of Lulli, and to the airs and accompaniments with those of Rameau. Finally, books are read in the spirit of the best authors.
If an entire nation is led, during its early culture of the arts, to admire authors abounding in the defects and errors of the age, it is because these authors possess beauties which are admired by everybody, while at the same time readers are not sufficiently instructed to detect the imperfections. Thus, Lucilius was prized by the Romans, until Horace made them forget him; and Regnier was admired by the French, until the appearance of Boileau; and if old authors who stumble at every step have, notwithstanding, attained great reputation, it is because purer writers have not arisen to open the eyes of their national admirers, as Horace did those of the Romans, and Boileau those of the French.
It is said that there is no disputation on taste, and the observation is correct in respect to physical taste, in which the repugnance felt to certain aliments, and the preference given to others, are not to be disputed, because there is no correction of a defect of the organs. It is not the same with the arts which possess actual beauties, which are discernible by a good taste, and unperceivable by a bad one; which last, however, may frequently be improved. There are also persons with a coldness of soul, as there are defective minds; and in respect to them, it is of little use to dispute concerning predilections, as they possess none.
Taste is arbitrary in many things, as in raiment, decoration, and equipage, which, however, scarcely belong to the department of the fine arts, but are rather affairs of fancy. It is fancy rather than taste which produces so many new fashions.
Taste may become vitiated in a nation, a misfortune which usually follows a period of perfection. Fearing to be called imitators, artists seek new and devious routes, and fly from the pure and beautiful nature of which their predecessors have made so much advantage. If there is merit in these labors, this merit veils their defects, and the public in love with novelty runs after them, and becomes disgusted, which makes way for still minor efforts to please, in which nature is still more abandoned. Taste loses itself amidst this succession of novelties, the last one of which rapidly effaces the other; the public loses its “whereabout,” and regrets in vain the flight of the age of good taste, which will return no more, although a remnant of it is still preserved by certain correct spirits, at a distance from the crowd.
There are vast countries in which taste has never existed: such are they in which society is still rude, where the sexes have little general intercourse, and where certain arts, like sculpture and the painting of animated beings, are forbidden by religion. Where there is little general intercourse, the mind is straitened, its edge is blunted, and nothing is possessed on which a taste can be formed. Where several of the fine arts are wanting, the remainder can seldom find sufficient support, as they go hand in hand, and rest one on the other. On this account, the Asiatics have never produced fine arts in any department, and taste is confined to certain nations of Europe.
Is there not a good and a bad taste? Without doubt; although men differ in opinions, manners, and customs. The best taste in every species of cultivation is to imitate nature with the highest fidelity, energy, and grace. But is not grace arbitrary? No, since it consists in giving animation and sweetness to the objects represented. Between two men, the one of whom is gross and the other refined, it will readily be allowed that one possesses more grace than the other.
Before a polished period arose, Voiture, who in his rage for embroidering nothings, was occasionally refined and agreeable, wrote some verses to the great Condé upon his illness, which are still regarded as very tasteful, and among the best of this author.
At the same time, L’Étoile, who passed for a genius—L’Étoile, one of the five authors who constructed tragedies for Cardinal Richelieu—made some verses, which are printed at the end of Malherbe and Racan. When compared with those of Voiture referred to, every reader will allow that the verses of Voiture are the production of a courtier of good taste, and those of L’Étoile the labor of a coarse and unintellectual pretender.
It is a pity that we can gift Voiture with occasional taste only: his famous letter from the carp to the pike, which enjoyed so much reputation, is a too extended pleasantry, and in passages exhibiting very little nature. Is it not a mixture of refinement and coarseness, of the true and the false? Was it right to say to the great Condé, who was called “the pike” by a party among the courtiers, that at his name the whales of the North perspired profusely, and that the subjects of the emperor had expected to fry and to eat him with a grain of salt? Was it proper to write so many letters, only to show a little of the wit which consists in puns and conceits?
Are we not disgusted when Voiture says to the great Condé, on the taking of Dunkirk: “I expect you to seize the moon with your teeth.” Voiture apparently acquired this false taste from Marini, who came into France with Mary of Medici. Voiture and Costar frequently cite him as a model in their letters. They admire his description of the rose, daughter of April, virgin and queen, seated on a thorny throne, extending majestically a flowery sceptre, having for courtiers and ministers the amorous family of the zephyrs, and wearing a crown of gold and a robe of scarlet:
Voiture, in his thirty-fifth letter to Costar, compliments the musical atom of Marini, the feathered voice, the living breath clothed in plumage, the winged song, the small spirit of harmony, hidden amidst diminutive lungs; all of which terms are employed to convey the word nightingale:
The bad taste of Balzac was of a different description; he composed familiar letters in a fustian style. He wrote to the Cardinal de la Valette, that neither in the deserts of Libya, nor in the abyss of the sea, there was so furious a monster as the sciatica; and that if tyrants, whose memory is odious to us, had instruments of cruelty in their possession equal to the sciatica, the martyrs would have endured them for their religion.
These emphatic exaggerations—these long and stately periods, so opposed to the epistolary style—these fastidious declamations, garnished with Greek and Latin, concerning two middling sonnets, the merits of which divided the court and the town, and upon the miserable tragedy of “Herod the Infanticide,”—all indicate a time and a taste which were yet to be formed and corrected. Even “Cinna,” and the “Provincial Letters,” which astonished the nations, had not yet cleared away the rust.
As an artist forms his taste by degrees, so does a nation. It stagnates for a long time in barbarism; then it elevates itself feebly, until at length a noon appears, after which we witness nothing but a long and melancholy twilight. It has long been agreed, that in spite of the solicitude of Francis I., to produce a taste in France for the fine arts, this taste was not formed until towards the age of Louis XIV., and we already begin to complain of its degeneracy. The Greeks of the lower empire confess, that the taste which reigned in the days of Pericles was lost among them, and the modern Greeks admit the same thing. Quintilian allows that the taste of the Romans began to decline in his days.
Lope de Vega made great complaints of the bad taste of the Spaniards. The Italians perceived, among the first, that everything had declined among them since their immortal sixteenth century, and that they have witnessed the decline of the arts, which they caused to spring up.
Addison often attacks the bad taste of the English in more than one department—as well when he ridicules the carved wig of Sir Cloudesley Shovel, as when he testifies his contempt for a serious employment of conceit and pun, or the introduction of mountebanks in tragedy.
If, therefore, the most gifted minds allow that taste has been wanting at certain periods in their country, their neighbors may certainly feel it, as lookers-on; and as it is evident among ourselves that one man has a good and another a bad taste, it is equally evident that of two contemporary nations, the one may be rude and gross, and the other refined and natural.
The misfortune is, that when we speak this truth, we disgust the whole nation to which we allude, as we provoke an individual of bad taste when we seek to improve him. It is better to wait until time and example instruct a nation which sins against taste. It is in this way that the Spaniards are beginning to reform their drama, and the Germans to create one.
Of National Taste.
There is beauty of all times and of all places, and there is likewise local beauty. Eloquence ought to be everywhere persuasive, grief affecting, anger impetuous, wisdom tranquil; but the details which may gratify a citizen of London, would have little effect on an inhabitant of Paris. The English drew some of their most happy metaphors and comparisons from the marine, while Parisians seldom see anything of ships. All which affects an Englishman in relation to liberty, his rights and his privileges, would make little impression on a Frenchman.
The state of the climate will introduce into a cold and humid country a taste for architecture, furniture, and clothing, which may be very good, but not admissible at Rome or in Sicily. Theocritus and Virgil, in their eclogues, boast of the shades and of the cooling freshness of the fountains. Thomson, in his “Seasons,” dwells upon contrary attractions.
An enlightened nation with little sociability will not have the same points of ridicule as a nation equally intellectual, which gives in to the spirit of society even to indiscretion; and, in consequence, these two nations will differ materially in their comedy. Poetry will be very different in a country where women are secluded, and in another in which they enjoy liberty without bounds.
But it will always be true that the pastoral painting of Virgil exceeds that of Thomson, and that there has been more taste on the banks of the Tiber than on those of the Thames; that the natural scenes of the Pastor Fido are incomparably superior to the shepherdizing of Racan; and that Racine and Molière are inspired persons in comparison with the dramatists of other theatres.
On the Taste of Connoisseurs.
In general, a refined and certain taste consists in a quick feeling of beauty amidst defects, and defects amidst beauties. The epicure is he who can discern the adulteration of wines, and feel the predominating flavor in his viands, of which his associates entertain only a confused and general perception.
Are not those deceived who say, that it is a misfortune to possess too refined a taste, and to be too much of a connoisseur; that in consequence we become too much occupied by defects, and insensible to beauties, which are lost by this fastidiousness? Is it not, on the contrary, certain that men of taste alone enjoy true pleasure, who see, hear, and feel, that which escapes persons less sensitively organized, and less mentally disciplined?
The connoisseur in music, in painting, in architecture, in poetry, in medals, etc., experiences sensations of which the vulgar have no comprehension; the discovery even of a fault pleases him, and makes him feel the beauties with more animation. It is the advantage of a good sight over a bad one. The man of taste has other eyes, other ears, and another tact from the uncultivated man; he is displeased with the poor draperies of Raphael, but he admires the noble purity of his conception. He takes a pleasure in discovering that the children of Laocoon bear no proportion to the height of their father, but the whole group makes him tremble, while other spectators are unmoved.
The celebrated sculptor, man of letters and of genius, who placed the colossal statue of Peter the Great at St. Petersburg, criticises with reason the attitude of the Moses of Michelangelo, and his small, tight vest, which is not even an Oriental costume; but, at the same time, he contemplates the air and expression of the head with ecstasy.
Rarity of Men of Taste.
It is afflicting to reflect on the prodigious number of men—above all, in cold and damp climates—who possess not the least spark of taste, who care not for the fine arts, who never read, and of whom a large portion read only a journal once a month, in order to be put in possession of current matter, and to furnish themselves with the ability of saying things at random, on subjects in regard to which they have only confused ideas.
Enter into a small provincial town: how rarely will you find more than one or two good libraries, and those private. Even in the capital of the provinces which possess academies, taste is very rare.
It is necessary to select the capital of a great kingdom to form the abode of taste, and yet even there it is very partially divided among a small number, the populace being wholly excluded. It is unknown to the families of traders, and those who are occupied in making fortunes, who are either engrossed with domestic details, or divided between unintellectual idleness and a game at cards. Every place which contains the courts of law, the offices of revenue, government, and commerce, is closed against the fine arts. It is the reproach of the human mind that a taste for the common and ordinary introduces only opulent idleness. I knew a commissioner in one of the offices at Versailles, who exclaimed: “I am very unhappy; I have not time to acquire a taste.”
In a town like Paris, peopled with more than six hundred thousand persons, I do not think there are three thousand who cultivate a taste for the fine arts. When a dramatic masterpiece is represented, a circumstance so very rare, people exclaim: “All Paris is enchanted,” but only three thousand copies, more or less, are printed.
Taste, then, like philosophy, belongs only to a small number of privileged souls. It was, therefore, great happiness for France to possess, in Louis XIV., a king born with taste.
Ovid has said in vain, that God has created us to look up to heaven: “Erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.” Men are always crouching on the ground. Why has a misshapen statue, or a bad picture, where the figures are disproportionate, never passed for a masterpiece? Why has an ill-built house never been regarded as a fine monument of architecture? Why in music will not sharp and discordant sounds please the ears of any one? And yet, very bad and barbarous tragedies, written in a style perfectly Allobrogian, have succeeded, even after the sublime scenes of Corneille, the affecting ones of Racine, and the fine pieces written since the latter poet. It is only at the theatre that we sometimes see detestable compositions succeed both in tragedy and comedy.
What is the reason of it? It is, that a species of delusion prevails at the theatre; it is, that the success depends upon two or three actors, and sometimes even upon a single one; and, above all, that a cabal is formed in favor of such pieces, whilst men of taste never form any. This cabal often lasts for an entire generation, and it is so much the more active, as its object is less to elevate the bad author than to depress the good one. A century possibly is necessary to adjust the real value of things in the drama.
There are three kinds of taste, which in the long run prevail in the empire of the arts. Poussin was obliged to quit France and leave the field to an inferior painter; Le Moine killed himself in despair; and Vanloo was near quitting the kingdom, to exercise his talents elsewhere. Connoisseurs alone have put all of them in possession of the rank belonging to them. We often witness all kinds of bad works meet with prodigious success. The solecisms, barbarisms, false statement, and extravagant bombast, are not felt for awhile, because the cabal and the senseless enthusiasm of the vulgar produce an intoxication which discriminates in nothing. The connoisseurs alone bring back the public in due time; and it is the only difference which exists between the most enlightened and the most cultivated of nations; for the vulgar of Paris are in no respect beyond the vulgar of other countries; but in Paris there is a sufficient number of correct opinions to lead the crowd. This crowd is rapidly excited in popular movements, but many years are necessary to establish in it a general good taste in the arts.
Taurobolium, a sacrifice of expiation, very common in the third and fourth centuries. The throat of a bull was cut on a great stone slightly hollowed and perforated in various places. Underneath this stone was a trench, in which the person whose offence called for expiation received upon his body and his face the blood of the immolated animal. Julian the Philosopher condescended to submit to this expiation, to reconcile himself to the priests of the Gentiles.
Pope Pius II., in an epistle to John Peregal, acknowledges that the Roman court gives nothing without money; it sells even the imposition of hands and the gifts of the Holy Ghost; nor does it grant the remission of sins to any but the rich.
Before him, St. Antonine, archbishop of Florence, had observed that in the time of Boniface IX., who died in 1404, the Roman court was so infamously stained with simony, that benefices were conferred, not so much on merit, as on those who brought a deal of money. He adds, that this pope filled the world with plenary indulgences; so that the small churches, on their festival days, obtained them at a low price.
That pontiff’s secretary, Theodoric de Nieur, does indeed inform us, that Boniface sent questors into different kingdoms, to sell indulgences to such as should offer them as much money as it would have cost them to make a journey to Rome to fetch them; so that they remitted all sins, even without penance, to such as confessed, and granted them, for money, dispensations for irregularities of every sort; saying, that they had in that respect all the power which Christ had granted to Peter, of binding and unbinding on earth.
And, what is still more singular, the price of every crime is fixed in a Latin work, printed at Rome by order of Leo X., and published on November 18, 1514, under the title of “Taxes of the Holy and Apostolic Chancery and Penitentiary.”
Among many other editions of this book, published in different countries, the Paris edition—quarto 1520, Toussaint Denis, Rue St. Jacques, at the wooden cross, near St. Yves, with the king’s privilege, for three years—bears in the frontispiece the arms of France, and those of the house of Medici, to which Leo X. belonged. This must have deceived the author of the “Picture of the Popes” (Tableau de Papes), who attributes the establishment of these taxes to Leo X., although Polydore Virgil, and Cardinal d’Ossat agree in fixing the period of the invention of the chancery tax about the year 1320, and the commencement of the penitentiary tax about sixteen years later, in the time of Benedict XII.
To give some idea of these taxes, we will here copy a few articles from the chapter of absolutions: Absolution for one who has carnally known his mother, his sister, etc., costs five drachmas. Absolution for one who has deflowered a virgin, six drachmas. Absolution for one who has revealed another’s confession, seven drachmas. Absolution for one who has killed his father, his mother, etc., five drachmas. And so of other sins, as we shall shortly see; but, at the end of the book, the prices are estimated in ducats.
A sort of letters too are here spoken of, called confessional, by which, at the approach of death, the pope permits a confessor to be chosen, who gives full pardon for every sin; these letters are granted only to princes, and not to them without great difficulty. These particulars will be found in page 32 of the Paris edition.
The court of Rome was at length ashamed of this book, and suppressed it as far as it was able. It was even inserted in the expurgatory index of the Council of Trent, on the false supposition that heretics had corrupted it.
It is true that Antoine Du Pinet, a French gentleman of Franche-Comté, had an abstract of it printed at Lyons in 1564, under this title: “Casual Perquisites of the Pope’s Shop” (Taxes des Parties Casuelles de la Boutique du Pape), “taken from the Decrees, Councils, and Canons, ancient and modern, in order to verify the discipline formerly observed in the Church; by A. D. P.” But, although he does not inform us that his work is but an abridgment of the other, yet, far from corrupting his original, he on the contrary strikes out of it some odious passages, such as the following, beginning page 23, line 9 from the bottom, in the Paris edition: “And carefully observe, that these kinds of graces and dispensations are not granted to the poor, because, not having wherewith, they cannot be consoled.”
It is also true, that Du Pinet estimates these taxes in tournois, ducats, and carlins; but, as he observes (page 42) that the carlins and the drachmas are of the same value, the substituting for the tax of five, six, or seven drachmas in the original, the like number of carlins, is not falsifying it. We have a proof of this in the four articles already quoted from the original.
Absolution—says Du Pinet—for one who has a carnal knowledge of his mother, his sister, or any of his kindred by birth or affinity, or his godmother, is taxed at five carlins. Absolution for one who deflowers a young woman, is taxed at six carlins. Absolution for one who reveals the confession of a penitent, is taxed at seven carlins. Absolution for one who has killed his father, his mother, his brother, his sister, his wife, or any of his kindred—they being of the laity—is taxed at five carlins; for if the deceased was an ecclesiastic, the homicide would be obliged to visit the sanctuary. We will here repeat a few others.
Absolution—continues Du Pinet—for any act of fornication whatsoever, committed by a clerk, whether with a nun in the cloister or out of the cloister, or with any of his kinswomen, or with his spiritual daughter, or with any other woman whatsoever, costs thirty-six tournois, three ducats. Absolution for a priest who keeps a concubine, twenty-one tournois, five ducats, six carlins. The absolution of a layman for all sorts of sins of the flesh, is given at the tribunal of conscience for six tournois, two ducats.
The absolution of a layman for the crime of adultery, given at the tribunal of conscience, costs four tournois; and if the adultery is accompanied by incest, six tournois must be paid per head. If, besides these crimes, is required the absolution of the sin against nature, or of bestiality, there must be paid ninety tournois, twelve ducats, six carlins; but if only the absolution of the crime against nature, or of bestiality, is required, it will cost only thirty-six tournois, nine ducats.
A woman who has taken a beverage to procure an abortion, or the father who has caused her to take it, shall pay four tournois, one ducat, eight carlins; and if a stranger has given her the said beverage, he shall pay four tournois, one ducat, five carlins.
A father, a mother, or any other relative, who has smothered a child, shall pay four tournois, one ducat, eight carlins; and if it has been killed by the husband and wife together, they shall pay six tournois, two ducats.
The tax granted by the datary for the contracting of marriage out of the permitted seasons, is twenty carlins; and in the permitted periods, if the contracting parties are the second or third degree of kindred, it is commonly twenty-five ducats, and four for expediting the bulls; and in the fourth degree, seven tournois, one ducat, six carlins.
The dispensation of a layman from fasting on the days appointed by the Church, and the permission to eat cheese, are taxed at twenty carlins. The permission to eat meat and eggs on forbidden days is taxed at twelve carlins; and that to eat butter, cheese, etc., at six tournois for one person only; and at twelve tournois, three ducats, six carlins for a whole family, or for several relatives.
The absolution of an apostate and a vagabond, who wishes to return into the pale of the Church, costs twelve tournois, three ducats, six carlins. The absolution and reinstatement of one who is guilty of sacrilege, robbery, burning, rapine, perjury, and the like, is taxed at thirty-six tournois, nine ducats.
Absolution for a servant who detains his deceased master’s property, for the payment of his wages, and after receiving notice does not restore it, provided the property so detained does not exceed the amount of his wages, is taxed in the tribunal of conscience at only six tournois, two ducats. For changing the clauses of a will, the ordinary tax is twelve tournois, three ducats, six carlins. The permission to change one’s proper name costs nine tournois, two ducats, nine carlins; and to change the surname and mode of signing, six tournois, two ducats. The permission to have a portable altar for one person only, is taxed at ten carlins: and to have a domestic chapel on account of the distance of the parish church, and furnish it with baptismal fonts and chaplains, thirty carlins.
Lastly, the permission to convey merchandise, one or more times, to the countries of the infidels, and in general to traffic and sell merchandise without being obliged to obtain permission from the temporal lords of the respected places, even though they be kings or emperors, with all the very ample derogatory clauses, is taxed at only twenty-four tournois, six ducats.
This permission, which supersedes that of the temporal lords, is a fresh evidence of the papal pretensions, which we have already spoken of in the article on “Bull.” Besides, it is known that all rescripts, or expeditions for benefices, are still paid for at Rome according to the tax; and this charge always falls at last on the laity, by the impositions which the subordinate clergy exact from them. We shall here notice only the fees for marriages and burials.
A decree of the Parliament of Paris, of May 19, 1409, provides that every one shall be at liberty to sleep with his wife as soon as he pleases after the celebration of the marriage, without waiting for leave from the bishop of Amiens, and without paying the fee required by that prelate for taking off his prohibitions to consummate the marriage during the first three nights of the nuptials. The monks of St. Stephen of Nevers were deprived of the same fee by another decree of September 27, 1591. Some theologians have asserted, that it took its origin from the fourth Council of Carthage, which had ordained it for the reverence of the matrimonial benediction. But as that council did not order its prohibition to be evaded by paying, it is more likely that this tax was a consequence of the infamous custom which gave to certain lords the first nuptial night of the brides of their vassals. Buchanan thinks that this usage began in Scotland under King Evan.
Be this as it may, the lords of Prellay and Persanny, in Piedmont, called this privilege “carrajio”; but having refused to commute it for a reasonable payment, the vassals revolted, and put themselves under Amadeus VI., fourteenth count of Savoy.
There is still preserved a procès-verbal, drawn up by M. Jean Fraguier, auditor in the Chambre des Comptes, at Paris, by virtue of a decree of the said chamber of April 7, 1507, for valuing the county of Eu, fallen into the king’s keeping by the minority of the children of the count of Nevers, and his wife Charlotte de Bourbon. In the chapter of the revenue of the barony of St. Martin-le-Gaillard, dependent on the county of Eu, it is said: “Item, the said lord, at the said place of St. Martin, has the right of ‘cuissage’ in case of marriage.”
The lords of Souloire had the like privilege, and having omitted it in the acknowledgment made by them to their sovereign, the lord of Montlevrier, the acknowledgement was disapproved; but by deed of Dec. 15, 1607, the sieur de Montlevrier formally renounced it; and these shameful privileges have everywhere been converted into small payments, called “marchetta.”
Now, when our prelates had fiefs, they thought—as the judicious Fleury remarks—that they had as bishops what they possessed only as lords; and the curates, as their under-vassals, bethought themselves of blessing their nuptial bed, which brought them a small fee under the name of wedding-dishes—i. e., their dinner, in money or in kind. On one of these occasions the following quatrain was put by a country curate under the pillow of a very aged president, who married a young woman named La Montagne. He alludes to Moses’ horns, which are spoken o in Exodus.
A word or two on the fees exacted by the clergy for the burial of the laity. Formerly, at the decease of each individual, the bishops had the contents of his will made known to them; and forbade those to receive the rights of sepulchre who had died “unconfessed,” i. e., left no legacy to the Church, unless the relatives went to the official, who commissioned a priest, or some other ecclesiastic, to repair the fault of the deceased, and make a legacy in his name. The curates also opposed the profession of such as wished to turn monks, until they had paid their burial-fees; saying that since they died to the world, it was but right that they should discharge what would have been due from them had they been interred.
But the frequent disputes occasioned by these vexations obliged the magistrates to fix the rate of these singular fees. The following is extracted from a regulation on this subject, brought in by Francis de Harlai de Chamvallon, archbishop of Paris, on May 30, 1693, and passed in the court of parliament on the tenth of June following:
Tears are the silent language of grief. But why? What relation is there between a melancholy idea and this limpid and briny liquid filtered through a little gland into the external corner of the eye which moistens the conjunctiva and little lachrymal points, whence it descends into the nose and mouth by the reservoir called the lachrymal duct, and by its conduits? Why in women and children, whose organs are of a delicate texture, are tears more easily excited by grief than in men, whose formation is firmer?
Has nature intended to excite compassion in us at the sight of these tears, which soften us and lead us to help those who shed them? The female savage is as strongly determined to assist her child who cries, as a lady of the court would be, and perhaps more so, because she has fewer distractions and passions.
Everything in the animal body has, no doubt, its object. The eyes, particularly, have mathematical relations so evident, so demonstrable, so admirable with the rays of light; this mechanism is so divine, that I should be tempted to take for the delirium of a high fever, the audacity of denying the final causes of the structure of our eyes. The use of tears appears not to have so determined and striking an object; but it is probable that nature caused them to flow in order to excite us to pity.
There are women who are accused of weeping when they choose. I am not at all surprised at their talent. A lively, sensible, and tender imagination can fix upon some object, on some melancholy recollection, and represent it in such lively colors as to draw tears; which happens to several performers, and particularly to actresses on the stage.
Women who imitate them in the interior of their houses, join to this talent the little fraud of appearing to weep for their husbands, while they really weep for their lovers. Their tears are true, but the object of them is false.
It is impossible to affect tears without a subject, in the same manner as we can affect to laugh. We must be sensibly touched to force the lachrymal gland to compress itself, and to spread its liquor on the orbit of the eye; but the will alone is required to laugh.
We demand why the same man, who has seen with a dry eye the most atrocious events, and even committed crimes with sang-froid, will weep at the theatre at the representation of similar events and crimes? It is, that he sees them not with the same eyes; he sees them with those of the author and the actor. He is no longer the same man; he was barbarous, he was agitated with furious passions, when he saw an innocent woman killed, when he stained himself with the blood of his friend; he became a man again at the representation of it. His soul was filled with a stormy tumult; it is now tranquil and void, and nature re-entering it, he sheds virtuous tears. Such is the true merit, the great good of theatrical representation, which can never be effected by the cold declamation of an orator paid to tire an audience for an hour.
The capitoul David, who, without emotion, saw and caused the innocent Calas to die on the wheel, would have shed tears at seeing his own crime in a well-written and well-acted tragedy. Pope has elegantly said this in the prologue to Addison’s Cato:
Terelas, Pterelas, or Pterlaus, just which you please, was the son of Taphus, or Taphius. Which signifies what you say? Gently, I will tell you. This Terelas had a golden lock, to which was attached the destiny of the town of Taphia, and what is more, this lock rendered Terelas immortal, as he would not die while this lock remained upon his head; for this reason he never combed it, lest he should comb it off. An immortality, however, which depends upon a lock of hair, is not the most certain of all things.
Amphitryon, general of the republic of Thebes, besieged Taphia, and the daughter of King Terelas became desperately in love with him on seeing him pass the ramparts. Thus excited, she stole to her father in the dead of night, cut off his golden lock, and sent it to the general, in consequence of which the town was taken, and Terelas killed. Some learned men assure us, that it was the wife of Terelas who played him this ill turn; and as they ground their opinions upon great authorities, it might be rendered the subject of a useful dissertation. I confess that I am somewhat inclined to be of the opinion of those learned persons, as it appears to me that a wife is usually less timorous than a daughter.
The same thing happened to Nisus, king of Megara, which town was besieged by Minos. Scylla, the daughter of Nisus, became madly in love with him; and although in point of fact, her father did not possess a lock of gold, he had one of purple, and it is known that on this lock depended equally his life and the fate of the Megarian Empire. To oblige Minos, the dutiful Scylla cut it off, and presented it to her lover.
“All the history of Minos is true,” writes the profound Bannier; “and this is attested by all antiquity.” I believe it precisely as I do that of Terelas, but I am embarrassed between the profound Calmet and the profound Huet. Calmet is of opinion, that the adventure of the lock of Nisus presented to Minos, and that of Terelas given to Amphitryon, are obviously taken from the genuine history of Samson. Huet the demonstrator, on the contrary shows, that Minos is evidently Moses, as cutting out the letters n and e, one of these names is the anagram of the other.
But, notwithstanding the demonstration of Huet, I am entirely on the side of the refined Dom Calmet, and for those who are of the opinion that all which relates to the locks of Terelas and of Nisus is connected with the hair of Samson. The most convincing of my triumphant reasons is, that without reference to the family of Terelas, with the metamorphoses of which I am unacquainted, it is certain that Scylla was changed into a lark, and her father Nisus into a sparrow-hawk. Now, Bochart being of opinion that a sparrow-hawk is called “neis” in Hebrew, I thence conclude, that the history of Terelas, Amphitryon, Nisus, and Minos is copied from the history of Samson.
I am aware that a dreadful sect has arisen in our days, equally detested by God and man, who pretend that the Greek fables are more ancient than the Jewish history; that the Greeks never heard a word of Samson any more than of Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, etc., which names are not cited by any Greek author. They assert, as we have modestly intimated—in the articles on “Bacchus” and “Jew”—that the Greeks could not possibly take anything from the Jews, but that the Jews might derive something from the Greeks.
I answer with the doctor Hayet, the doctor Gauchat, the ex-Jesuit Patouillet, and the ex-Jesuit Paulian, that this is the most damnable heresy which ever issued from hell; that it was formerly anathematized in full parliament, on petition, and condemned in the report of the Sieur P.; and finally, that if indulgence be extended to those who support such frightful systems, there will be no more certainty in the world; but that Antichrist will quickly arrive, if he has not come already.
This word is scientific, and a little obscure, signifying small witnesses. Sixtus V., a Cordelier become pope, declared, by his letter of the 25th of June, 1587, to his nuncio in Spain, that he must unmarry all those who were not possessed of testicles. It seems by this order, which was executed by Philip II., that there were many husbands in Spain deprived of these two organs. But how could a man, who had been a Cordelier, be ignorant that the testicles of men are often hidden in the abdomen, and that they are equally if not more effective in that situation? We have beheld in France three brothers of the highest rank, one of whom possessed three, the other only one, while the third possessed no appearance of any, and yet was the most vigorous of the three.
The angelic doctor, who was simply a Jacobin, decides that two testicles are “de essentia matrimonii” (of the essence of marriage); in which opinion he is followed by Ricardus, Scotus, Durandus, and Sylvius. If you are not able to obtain a sight of the pleadings of the advocate Sebastian Rouillard, in 1600, in favor of the testicles of his client, concealed in his abdomen, at least consult the dictionary of Bayle, at the article “Quellenec.” You will there discover, that the wicked wife of the client of Sebastian Rouillard wished to render her marriage void, on the plea that her husband could not exhibit testicles. The defendant replied, that he had perfectly fulfilled his matrimonial duties, and offered the usual proof of a re-performance of them in full assembly. The jilt replied, that this trial was too offensive to her modesty, and was, moreover, superfluous, since the defendant was visibly deprived of testicles, and that messieurs of the assembly were fully aware that testicles are necessary to perfect consummation.
I am unacquainted with the result of this process, but I suspect that her husband lost his cause. What induces me to think so is, that the same Parliament of Paris, on the 8th of January, 1665, issued a decree, asserting the necessity of two visible testicles, without which marriage was not to be contracted. Had there been any member in the assembly in the situation described, and reduced to the necessity of being a witness, he might have convinced the assembly that it decided without a due knowledge of circumstances. Pontas may be profitably consulted on testicles, as well as upon any other subject. He was a sub-penitentiary, who decided every sort of case, and who sometimes comes near to Sanchez.
A word or two on hermaphrodites. A prejudice has for a long time crept into the Russian Church, that it is not lawful to say mass without testicles; or, at least, they must be hid in the officiator’s pocket. This ancient idea was founded in the Council of Nice, who forbade the admission into orders of those who mutilated themselves. The example of Origen, and of certain enthusiasts, was the cause of this order, which was confirmed a second time in the Council of Arles.
The Greek Church did not exclude from the altar those who had endured the operation of Origen against their own consent. The patriarchs of Constantinople, Nicetas, Ignatius, Photius, and Methodius, were eunuchs. At present this point of discipline seems undecided in the Catholic Church. The most general opinion, however, is, that in order to be ordained a priest, a eunuch will require a dispensation.
The banishment of eunuchs from the service of the altar appears contrary to the purity and chastity which the service exacts; and certainly such of the priests as confess handsome women and girls would be exposed to less temptation. Opposing reasons of convenience and decorum have determined those who make these laws.
In Leviticus, all corporeal defects are excluded from the service of the altar—the blind, the crooked, the maimed, the lame, the one-eyed, the leper, the scabby, long noses, and short noses. Eunuchs are not spoken of, as there were none among the Jews. Those who acted as eunuchs in the service of their kings, were foreigners.
It has been demanded whether an animal, a man for example, can possess at once testicles and ovaries, or the glands which are taken for ovaries; in a word, the distinctive organs of both sexes? Can nature form veritable hermaphrodites, and can a hermaphrodite be rendered pregnant? I answer, that I know nothing about it, nor the ten-thousandth part of what is within the operation of nature. I believe, however, that Europe has never witnessed a genuine hermaphrodite, nor has it indeed produced elephants, zebras, giraffes, ostriches, and many more of the animals which inhabit Asia, Africa, and America. It is hazardous to assert, that because we never beheld a thing, it does not exist.
Examine “Cheselden,” page 34, and you will behold there a very good delineation of an animal man and woman—a negro and negress of Angola, which was brought to London in its infancy, and carefully examined by this celebrated surgeon, as much distinguished for his probity as his information. The plate is entitled “Members of an Hermaphrodite Negro, of the Age of Twenty-six Years, of both Sexes.” They are not absolutely perfect, but they exhibit a strange mixture of the one and the other.
Cheselden has frequently attested the truth of this prodigy, which, however, is possibly no such thing in some of the countries of Africa. The two sexes are not perfect in this instance; who can assure us, that other negroes, mulatto, or copper-colored individuals, are not absolutely male and female? It would be as reasonable to assert, that a perfect statue cannot exist, because we have witnessed none without defects. There are insects which possess both sexes; why may there not be human beings similarly endowed? I affirm nothing; God keep me from doing so. I only doubt.
How many things belong to the animal man, in respect to which he must doubt, from his pineal gland to his spleen, the use of which is unknown; and from the principle of his thoughts and sensations to his animal spirits, of which everybody speaks, and which nobody ever saw or ever will see!
Theism is a religion diffused through all religions; it is a metal which mixes itself with all the others, the veins of which extend under ground to the four corners of the world. This mine is more openly worked in China; everywhere else it is hidden, and the secret is only in the hands of the adepts.
There is no country where there are more of these adepts than in England. In the last century there were many atheists in that country, as well as in France and Italy. What the chancellor Bacon had said proved true to the letter, that a little philosophy makes a man an atheist, and that much philosophy leads to the knowledge of a God. When it was believed with Epicurus, that chance made everything, or with Aristotle, and even with several ancient theologians, that nothing was created but through corruption, and that by matter and motion alone the world goes on, then it was impossible to believe in a providence. But since nature has been looked into, which the ancients did not perceive at all; since it is observed that all is organized, that everything has its germ; since it is well known that a mushroom is the work of infinite wisdom, as well as all the worlds; then those who thought, adored in the countries where their ancestors had blasphemed. The physicians are become the heralds of providence; a catechist announces God to children, and a Newton demonstrates Him to the learned.
Many persons ask whether theism, considered abstractedly, and without any religious ceremony, is in fact a religion? The answer is easy: he who recognizes only a creating God, he who views in God only a Being infinitely powerful, and who sees in His creatures only wonderful machines, is not religious towards Him any more than a European, admiring the king of China, would thereby profess allegiance to that prince. But he who thinks that God has deigned to place a relation between Himself and mankind; that He has made him free, capable of good and evil; that He has given all of them that good sense which is the instinct of man, and on which the law of nature is founded; such a one undoubtedly has a religion, and a much better religion than all those sects who are beyond the pale of our Church; for all these sects are false, and the law of nature is true. Thus, theism is good sense not yet instructed by revelation; and other religions are good sense perverted by superstition.
All sects differ, because they come from men; morality is everywhere the same because it comes from God. It is asked why, out of five or six hundred sects, there have scarcely been any who have not spilled blood; and why the theists, who are everywhere so numerous, have never caused the least disturbance? It is because they are philosophers. Now philosophers may reason badly, but they never intrigue. Those who persecute a philosopher, under the pretext that his opinions may be dangerous to the public, are as absurd as those who are afraid that the study of algebra will raise the price of bread in the market; one must pity a thinking being who errs; the persecutor is frantic and horrible. We are all brethren; if one of my brothers, full of respect and filial love, inspired by the most fraternal charity, does not salute our common Father with the same ceremonies as I do, ought I to cut his throat and tear out his heart?
What is a true theist? It is he who says to God: “I adore and serve You;” it is he who says to the Turk, to the Chinese, the Indian, and the Russian: “I love you.” He doubts, perhaps, that Mahomet made a journey to the moon and put half of it in his pocket; he does not wish that after his death his wife should burn herself from devotion; he is sometimes tempted not to believe the story of the eleven thousand virgins, and that of St. Amable, whose hat and gloves were carried by a ray of the sun from Auvergne as far as Rome. But for all that he is a just man. Noah would have placed him in his ark, Numa Pompilius in his councils; he would have ascended the car of Zoroaster; he would have talked philosophy with the Platos, the Aristippuses, the Ciceros, the Atticuses—but would he not have drunk hemlock with Socrates?
The theist is a man firmly persuaded of the existence of a Supreme Being equally good and powerful, who has formed all extended, vegetating, sentient, and reflecting existences; who perpetuates their species, who punishes crimes without cruelty, and rewards virtuous actions with kindness.
The theist does not know how God punishes, how He rewards, how He pardons; for he is not presumptuous enough to flatter himself that he understands how God acts; but he knows that God does act, and that He is just. The difficulties opposed to a providence do not stagger him in his faith, because they are only great difficulties, not proofs; he submits himself to that providence, although he only perceives some of its effects and some appearances; and judging of the things he does not see from those he does see, he thinks that this providence pervades all places and all ages.
United in this principle with the rest of the universe, he does not join any of the sects, who all contradict themselves; his religion is the most ancient and the most extended; for the simple adoration of a God has preceded all the systems in the world. He speaks a language which all nations understand, while they are unable to understand each other’s. He has brethren from Pekin to Cayenne, and he reckons all the wise his brothers. He believes that religion consists neither in the opinions of incomprehensible metaphysics, nor in vain decorations, but in adoration and justice. To do good—that is his worship; to submit oneself to God—that is his doctrine. The Mahometan cries out to him: “Take care of yourself, if you do not make the pilgrimage to Mecca.” “Woe be to thee,” says a Franciscan, “if thou dost not make a journey to our Lady of Loretto.” He laughs at Loretto and Mecca; but he succors the indigent and defends the oppressed.
I deceive myself every day; but I suspect that all the nations who have cultivated the arts have lived under a theocracy. I always except the Chinese, who appear learned as soon as they became a nation. They were free from superstition directly China was a kingdom. It is a great pity, that having been raised so high at first, they should remain stationary at the degree they have so long occupied in the sciences. It would seem that they have received from nature an ample allowance of good sense, and a very small one of industry. Yet in other things their industry is displayed more than ours.
The Japanese, their neighbors, of whose origin I know nothing whatever—for whose origin do we know?—were incontestably governed by a theocracy. The earliest well-ascertained sovereigns were the “dairos,” the high priests of their gods; this theocracy is well established. These priests reigned despotically about eight hundred years. In the middle of our twelfth century it came to pass that a captain, an “imperator,” a “seogon,” shared their authority; and in our sixteenth century the captains seized the whole power, and kept it. The “dairos” have remained the heads of religion; they were kings—they are now only saints; they regulate festivals, they bestow sacred titles, but they cannot give a company of infantry.
The Brahmins in India possessed for a long time the theocratical power; that is to say, they held the sovereign authority in the name of Brahma, the son of God; and even in their present humble condition they still believe their character indelible. These are the two principal among the certain theocracies.
The priests of Chaldæa, Persia, Syria, Phœnicia, and Egypt, were so powerful, had so great a share in the government, and carried the censer so loftily above the sceptre, that empire may be said, among those nations, to have been divided between theocracy and royalty.
The government of Numa Pompilius was evidently theocratical. When a man says: “I give you laws furnished by the gods; it is not I, it is a god who speaks to you”—then it is God who is king, and he who talks thus is lieutenant-general.
Among all the Celtic nations who had only elective chiefs, and not kings, the Druids and their sorceries governed everything. But I cannot venture to give the name of theocracy to the anarchy of these savages.
The little Jewish nation does not deserve to be considered politically, except on account of the prodigious revolution that has occurred in the world, of which it was the very obscure and unconscious cause.
Do but consider the history of this strange people. They have a conductor who undertakes to guide them in the name of his God to Phœnicia, which he calls Canaan. The way was direct and plain, from the country of Goshen as far as Tyre, from south to north; and there was no danger for six hundred and thirty thousand fighting men, having at their head a general like Moses, who, according to Flavius Josephus, had already vanquished an army of Ethiopians, and even an army of serpents.
Instead of taking this short and easy route, he conducts them from Rameses to Baal-Sephon, in an opposite direction, right into the middle of Egypt, due south. He crosses the sea; he marches for forty years in the most frightful deserts, where there is not a single spring of water, or a tree, or a cultivated field—nothing but sand and dreary rocks. It is evident that God alone could make the Jews, by a miracle, take this route, and support them there by a succession of miracles.
The Jewish government therefore was then a true theocracy. Moses, however, was never pontiff, and Aaron, who was pontiff, was never chief nor legislator. After that time we do not find any pontiff governing. Joshua, Jephthah, Samson, and the other chiefs of the people, except Elias and Samuel, were not priests. The Jewish republic, reduced to slavery so often, was anarchical rather than theocratical.
Under the kings of Judah and Israel, it was but a long succession of assassinations and civil wars. These horrors were interrupted only by the entire extinction of ten tribes, afterwards by the enslavement of two others, and by the destruction of the city amidst famine and pestilence. This was not then divine government.
When the Jewish slaves returned to Jerusalem, they were subdued by the kings of Persia, by the conqueror Alexandria and his successors. It appears that God did not then reign immediately over this nation, since a little before the invasion of Alexander, the pontiff John assassinated the priest Jesus, his brother, in the temple of Jerusalem, as Solomon had assassinated his brother Adonijah on the altar.
The government was still less theocratical when Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, employed many of the Jews to punish those whom he regarded as rebels. He forbade them all, under pain of death, to circumcise their children; he compelled them to sacrifice swine in their temple, to burn the gates, to destroy the altar; and the whole enclosure was filled with thorns and brambles.
Matthias rose against him at the head of some citizens, but he was not king. His son, Judas Maccabæus, taken for the Messiah, perished after glorious struggles. To these bloody contests succeeded civil wars. The men of Jerusalem destroyed Samaria, which the Romans subsequently rebuilt under the name of Sebasta.
In this chaos of revolutions, Aristobulus, of the race of the Maccabees, and son of a high priest, made himself king, more than five hundred years after the destruction of Jerusalem. He signalized his reign like some Turkish sultans, by cutting his brother’s throat, and causing his mother to be put to death. His successors followed his example, until the period when the Romans punished all these barbarians. Nothing in all this is theocratical.
If anything affords an idea of theocracy, it must be granted that it is the papacy of Rome; it never announces itself but in the name of God, and its subjects live in peace. For a long time Thibet enjoyed the same advantages under the Grand Lama; but that is a gross error striving to imitate a sublime truth.
The first Incas, by calling themselves descendants in a right line from the sun, established a theocracy; everything was done in the name of the sun. Theocracy ought to be universal; for every man, whether a prince or a boatman, should obey the natural and eternal laws which God has given him.
Every prince who puts himself at the head of a party, and succeeds, is sure of being praised to all eternity, if the party lasts that time; and his adversaries may be assured that they will be treated by orators, poets, and preachers, as Titans who revolted against the gods. This is what happened to Octavius Augustus, when his good fortune made him defeat Brutus, Cassius, and Antony. It was the lot of Constantine, when Maxentius, the legitimate emperor, elected by the Roman senate and people, fell into the water and was drowned.
Theodosius had the same advantage. Woe to the vanquished! blessed be the victorious!—that is the motto of mankind. Theodosius was a Spanish officer, the son of a Spanish soldier of fortune. As soon as he was emperor he persecuted the anticonsubstantialists. Judge of the applauses, benedictions, and pompous eulogies, on the part of the consubstantialists! Their adversaries scarcely subsist any longer; their complaints and clamors against the tyranny of Theodosius have perished with them, and the predominant party still lavishes on this prince the epithets of pious, just, clement, wise, and great.
One day this pious and clement prince, who loved money to distraction, proposed laying a very heavy tax upon the city of Antioch, then the finest of Asia Minor. The people, in despair, having demanded a slight diminution, and not being able to obtain it, went so far as to break some statues, among which was one of the soldier, the emperor’s father. St. John Chrysostom, or golden mouth, the priest and flatterer of Theodosius, failed not to call this action a detestable sacrilege, since Theodosius was the image of God, and his father was almost as sacred as himself. But if this Spaniard resembled God, he should have remembered that the Antiochians also resembled Him, and that men formed after the exemplar of all the gods existed before emperors.
Theodosius immediately sent a letter to the governor, with an order to apply the torture to the principal images of God who had taken part in this passing sedition; to make them perish under blows received from cords terminated with leaden balls; to burn some, and deliver others up to the sword. This was executed with all the punctuality of a governor who did his duty like a Christian, who paid his court well, and who would make his way there. The Orontes bore nothing but corpses to the sea for several days; after which, his gracious imperial majesty pardoned the Antiochians with his usual clemency, and doubled the tax.
How did the emperor Julian act in the same city, when he had received a more personal and injurious outrage? It was not a paltry statue of his father which they defaced; it was to himself that the Antiochians addressed themselves, and against whom they composed the most violent satires. The philosophical emperor answered them by a light and ingenious satire. He took from them neither their lives nor their purses. He contented himself with having more wit than they had. This is the man whom St. Gregory Nazianzen and Theodoret, who were not of his communion, dare to calumniate so far as to say that he sacrificed women and children to the moon; while those who were of the communion of Theodosius have persisted to our day in copying one another, by saying in a hundred ways, that Theodosius was the most virtuous of men, and by wishing to make him a saint.
We know well enough what was the mildness of this saint in the massacre of fifteen thousand of his subjects at Thessalonica. His panegyrists reduce the number of the murdered to seven or eight thousand, which is a very small number to them; but they elevate to the sky the tender piety of this good prince, who deprived himself of mass, as also that of his accomplice, the detestable Rufinus. I confess once more, that it was a great expiation, a great act of devotion, the not going to mass; but it restores not life to fifteen thousand innocents, slain in cold blood by an abominable perfidy. If a heretic was stained with such a crime, with what pleasure would all historians turn their boasting against him; with what colors would they paint him in the pulpits and college declamations!
I will suppose that the prince of Parma entered Paris, after having forced our dear Henry IV. to raise the siege; I will suppose that Philip II. gave the throne of France to his Catholic daughter, and to the young Catholic duke of Guise; how many pens and voices would forever have anathematized Henry IV., and the Salic law! They would be both forgotten, and the Guises would be the heroes of the state and religion. Thus it is—applaud the prosperous and fly the miserable! “Et cole felices, miseros fuge.”
If Hugh Capet dispossess the legitimate heir of Charlemagne, he becomes the root of a race of heroes. If he fails, he may be treated as the brother of St. Louis since treated Conradin and the duke of Austria, and with much more reason.
Pepin rebels, dethrones the Merovingian race, and shuts his king in a cloister; but if he succeeds not, he mounts the scaffold. If Clovis, the first king of Belgic Gaul, is beaten in his invasion, he runs the risk of being condemned to the fangs of beasts, as one of his ancestors was by Constantine. Thus goes the world under the empire of fortune, which is nothing but necessity, insurmountable fatality. “Fortuna sævo læta negotio.” She makes us blindly play her terrible game, and we never see beneath the cards.
The theologian knows perfectly that, according to St. Thomas, angels are corporeal with relation to God; that the soul receives its being in the body; and that man has a vegetative, sensitive, and intellectual soul; that the soul is all in all, and all in every part; that it is the efficient and formal cause of the body; that it is the greatest in nobleness of form; that the appetite is a passive power; that archangels are the medium between angels and principalities; that baptism regenerates of itself and by chance; that the catechism is not a sacrament, but sacramental; that certainty springs from the cause and subject; that concupiscence is the appetite of sensitive delectation; that conscience is an act and not a power.
The angel of the schools has written about four thousand fine pages in this style, and a shaven-crowned young man passes three years in filling his brain with this sublime knowledge; after which he receives the bonnet of a doctor of the Sorbonne, instead of going to Bedlam. If he is a man of quality, or the son of a rich man, or intriguing and fortunate, he becomes bishop, archbishop, cardinal, and pope.
If he is poor and without credit, he becomes the chaplain of one of these people; it is he who preaches for them, who reads St. Thomas and Scotus for them, who makes commandments for them, and who in a council decides for them.
The title of theologian is so great that the fathers of the Council of Trent give it to their cooks, “cuoco celeste, gran theologo.” Their science is the first of sciences, their condition the first of conditions, and themselves the first of men; such the empire of true doctrine; so much does reason govern mankind!
When a theologian has become—thanks to his arguments—either prince of the holy Roman Empire, archbishop of Toledo, or one of the seventy princes clothed in red, successors of the humble apostles, then the successors of Galen and Hippocrates are at his service. They were his equals when they studied in the same university; they had the same degrees, and received the same furred bonnet. Fortune changes all; and those who discovered the circulation of the blood, the lacteal veins, and the thoracic canal, are the servants of those who have learned what concomitant grace is, and have forgotten it.
I knew a true theologian; he was master of the languages of the East, and was instructed as much as possible in the ancient rites of nations. The Brahmins, Chaldæans, Fire-worshippers, Sabeans, Syrians, and Egyptians, were as well known to him as the Jews; the several lessons of the Bible were familiar to him; and for thirty years he had tried to reconcile the gospels, and endeavored to make the fathers agree. He sought in what time precisely the creed attributed to the apostles was digested, and that which bears the name of Athanasius; how the sacraments were instituted one after the other; what was the difference between synaxis and mass; how the Christian Church was divided since its origin into different parties, and how the predominating society treated all the others as heretics. He sounded the depth of policy which always mixes with these quarrels; and he distinguished between policy and wisdom, between the pride which would subjugate minds and the desire of self-illumination, between zeal and fanaticism.
The difficulty of arranging in his head so many things, the nature of which is to be confounded, and of throwing a little light on so many clouds, often checked him; but as these researches were the duty of his profession, he gave himself up to them notwithstanding his distaste. He at length arrived at knowledge unknown to the greater part of his brethren: but the more learned he waxed, the more mistrustful he became of all that he knew. While he lived he was indulgent; and at his death, he confessed that he had spent his life uselessly.
Those who invented and perfected artillery are so many other Salmoneuses. A cannon-ball of twenty-four pounds can make, and has often made, more ravage than an hundred thunder-claps; yet no cannoneer has ever been struck by Jupiter for imitating that which passes in the atmosphere.
We have seen that Polyphemus, in a piece of Euripides, boasts of making more noise, when he had supped well, than the thunder of Jupiter. Boileau, more honest than Polyphemus, says that another world astonishes him, and that he believes in the immortality of the soul, and that it is God who thunders:
I know not why he is so astonished at another world, since all antiquity believed in it. Astonish was not the proper word; it was alarm. He believes that it is God who thunders; but he thunders only as he hails, as he rains, and as he produces fine weather—as he operates all, as he performs all. It is not because he is angry that he sends thunder and rain. The ancients paint Jupiter taking thunder, composed of three burning arrows, and hurling it at whomsoever he chose. Sound reason does not agree with these poetical ideas.
Thunder is like everything else, the necessary effect of the laws of nature, prescribed by its author. It is merely a great electrical phenomenon. Franklin forces it to descend tranquilly on the earth; it fell on Professor Richmann as on rocks and churches; and if it struck Ajax Oileus, it was assuredly not because Minerva was irritated against him.
If it had fallen on Cartouche, or the abbé Desfontaines, people would not have failed to say: “Behold how God punishes thieves and —.” But it is a useful prejudice to make the sky fearful to the perverse. Thus all our tragic poets, when they would rhyme to “poudre” or “resoudre,” invariably make use of “foudre”; and uniformly make “tonnerre” roll, when they would rhyme to “terre.”
Theseus, in “Phèdre,” says to his son—act iv, scene 2:
Severus, in “Polyeucte,” without even having occasion to rhyme, when he learns that his mistress is married, talks to Fabian, his friend, of a clap of thunder. He says elsewhere to the same Fabian—act iv, scene 6—that a new clap of “foudre” strikes upon his hope, and reduces it to “poudre”:
A hope reduced to powder must astonish the pit!
Lusignan, in “Zaïre,” prays God that the thunder will burst on him alone:
If Tydeus consults the gods in the cave of a temple, the cave answers him only by great claps of thunder.
We must endeavor to thunder less frequently.
I could never clearly comprehend the fable of Jupiter and Thunder, in La Fontaine—b. viii, fable 20.
“Vulcan fills his furnaces with two sorts of thunderbolts. The one never wanders, and it is that which comes direct from Olympus. The other diverges in its route, and only spends itself on mountains; it is often even altogether dissipated. It is this last alone which proceeds from Jupiter.”
Was the subject of this fable, which La Fontaine put into bad verse so different from his general style, given to him? Would it infer that the ministers of Louis XIV. were inflexible, and that the king pardoned? Crébillon, in his academical discourse in foreign verse, says that Cardinal Fleury is a wise depositary, the eagle, using his thunder, yet the friend of peace:
He says that Marshal Villars made it appear that he survived Malplaquet only to become more celebrated at Denain, and that with a clap of thunder Prince Eugene was vanquished:
Thus the eagle Fleury governed thunder without thundering, and Eugene was vanquished by thunder. Here is quite enough of thunder.
Horace, sometimes the debauched and sometimes the moral, has said—book i, ode 3—that our folly extends to heaven itself: “Cœlum ipsum petimus stultitia.”
We can say at present that we carry our wisdom to heaven, if we may be permitted to call that blue and white mass of exhalations which causes winds, rain, snow, hail, and thunder, heaven. We have decomposed the thunderbolt, as Newton disentangled light. We have perceived that these thunderbolts, formerly borne by the eagle of Jupiter, are really only electric fire; that in short we can draw down thunder, conduct it, divide it, and render ourselves masters of it, as we make the rays of light pass through a prism, as we give course to the waters which fall from heaven, that is to say, from the height of half a league from our atmosphere. We plant a high fir with the branches lopped off, the top of which is covered with a cone of iron. The clouds which form thunder are electrical; their electricity is communicated to this cone, and a brass wire which is attached to it conducts the matter of thunder wherever we please. An ingenious physician calls this experiment the inoculation of thunder.
It is true, that inoculation for the smallpox, which has preserved so many mortals, caused some to perish, to whom the smallpox had been inconsiderately given; and in like manner the inoculation of thunder ill-performed would be dangerous. There are great lords whom we can only approach with the greatest precaution, and thunder is of this number. We know that the mathematical professor Richmann was killed at St. Petersburg, in 1753, by a thunderbolt which he had drawn into his chamber: “Arte sua periit.” As he was a philosopher, a theological professor failed not to publish that he had been thunderstruck like Salmoneus, for having usurped the rights of God, and for wishing to hurl the thunder: but if the physician had directed the brass wire outside the house, and not into his pent-up chamber, he would not have shared the lot of Salmoneus, Ajax Oileus, the emperor Carus, the son of a French minister of state, and of several monks in the Pyrenees.
What is toleration? It is the appurtenance of humanity. We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies—it is the first law of nature.
When, on the exchange of Amsterdam, of London, of Surat, or of Bassora, the Gueber, the Banian, the Jew, the Mahometan, the Chinese Deist, the Brahmin, the Christian of the Greek Church, the Roman Catholic Christian, the Protestant Christian, and the Quaker Christian, traffic together, they do not lift the poniard against each other, in order to gain souls for their religion. Why then have we been cutting one another’s throats almost without interruption since the first Council of Nice?
Constantine began by issuing an edict which allowed all religions, and ended by persecuting. Before him, tumults were excited against the Christians, only because they began to make a party in the state. The Romans permitted all kinds of worship, even those of the Jews, and of the Egyptians, for whom they had so much contempt. Why did Rome tolerate these religions? Because neither the Egyptians, nor even the Jews, aimed at exterminating the ancient religion of the empire, or ranged through land and sea for proselytes; they thought only of money-getting; but it is undeniable, that the Christians wished their own religion to be the dominant one. The Jews would not suffer the statue of Jupiter at Jerusalem, but the Christians wished it not to be in the capitol. St. Thomas had the candor to avow, that if the Christians did not dethrone the emperors, it was because they could not. Their opinion was, that the whole earth ought to be Christian. They were therefore necessarily enemies to the whole earth, until it was converted.
Among themselves, they were the enemies of each other on all their points of controversy. Was it first of all necessary to regard Jesus Christ as God? Those who denied it were anathematized under the name of Ebionites, who themselves anathematized the adorers of Jesus.
Did some among them wish all things to be in common, as it is pretended they were in the time of the apostles? Their adversaries called them Nicolaites, and accused them of the most infamous crimes. Did others profess a mystical devotion? They were termed Gnostics, and attacked with fury. Did Marcion dispute on the Trinity? He was treated as an idolater.
Tertullian, Praxeas, Origen, Novatus, Novatian, Sabellius, Donatus, were all persecuted by their brethren, before Constantine; and scarcely had Constantine made the Christian religion the ruling one, when the Athanasians and the Eusebians tore each other to pieces; and from that time to our own days, the Christian Church has been deluged with blood.
The Jewish people were, I confess, a very barbarous nation. They mercilessly cut the throats of all the inhabitants of an unfortunate little country upon which they had no more claim than they had upon Paris or London. However, when Naaman was cured of the leprosy by being plunged seven times in the Jordan—when, in order to testify his gratitude to Elisha, who had taught him the secret, he told him he would adore the god of the Jews from gratitude, he reserved to himself the liberty to adore also the god of his own king; he asked Elisha’s permission to do so, and the prophet did not hesitate to grant it. The Jews adored their god, but they were never astonished that every nation had its own. They approved of Chemos having given a certain district to the Moabites, provided their god would give them one also. Jacob did not hesitate to marry the daughters of an idolater. Laban had his god, as Jacob had his. Such are the examples of toleration among the most intolerant and cruel people of antiquity. We have imitated them in their absurd passions, and not in their indulgence.
It is clear that every private individual who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster. This admits of no difficulty. But the government, the magistrates, the princes!—how do they conduct themselves towards those who have a faith different from their own? If they are powerful foreigners, it is certain that a prince will form an alliance with them. The Most Christian Francis I. will league himself with the Mussulmans against the Most Catholic Charles V. Francis I. will give money to the Lutherans in Germany, to support them in their rebellion against their emperor; but he will commence, as usual, by having the Lutherans in his own country burned. He pays them in Saxony from policy; he burns them in Paris from policy. But what follows? Persecutions make proselytes. France will soon be filled with new Protestants. At first they will submit to be hanged; afterwards they will hang in their turn. There will be civil wars; then Saint Bartholomew will come; and this corner of the world will be worse than all that the ancients and moderns have ever said of hell.
Blockheads, who have never been able to render a pure worship to the God who made you! Wretches, whom the example of the Noachides, the Chinese literati, the Parsees, and of all the wise, has not availed to guide! Monsters, who need superstitions, just as the gizzard of a raven needs carrion! We have already told you—and we have nothing else to say—if you have two religions among you, they will massacre each other; if you have thirty, they will live in peace. Look at the Grand Turk: he governs Guebers, Banians, Christians of the Greek Church, Nestorians, and Roman Catholics. The first who would excite a tumult is empaled; and all is tranquil.
Of all religions, the Christian ought doubtless to inspire the most toleration, although hitherto the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men. Jesus, having deigned to be born in poverty and lowliness like his brethren, never condescended to practise the art of writing. The Jews had a law written with the greatest minuteness, and we have not a single line from the hand of Jesus. The apostles were divided on many points. St. Peter and St. Barnabas ate forbidden meats with the new stranger Christians, and abstained from them with the Jewish Christians. St. Paul reproached them with this conduct; and this same St. Paul, the Pharisee, the disciple of the Pharisee Gamaliel—this same St. Paul, who had persecuted the Christians with fury, and who after breaking with Gamaliel became a Christian himself—nevertheless, went afterwards to sacrifice in the temple of Jerusalem, during his apostolic vacation. For eight days he observed publicly all the ceremonies of the Jewish law which he had renounced; he even added devotions and purifications which were superabundant; he completely Judaized. The greatest apostle of the Christians did, for eight days, the very things for which men are condemned to the stake among a large portion of Christian nations.
Theudas and Judas were called Messiahs, before Jesus: Dositheus, Simon, Menander, called themselves Messiahs, after Jesus. From the first century of the Church, and before even the name of Christian was known, there were a score of sects in Judæa.
The contemplative Gnostics, the Dositheans, the Cerintheins, existed before the disciples of Jesus had taken the name of Christians. There were soon thirty churches, each of which belonged to a different society; and by the close of the first century thirty sects of Christians might be reckoned in Asia Minor, in Syria, in Alexandria, and even in Rome.
All these sects, despised by the Roman government, and concealed in their obscurity, nevertheless persecuted each other in the hiding holes where they lurked; that is to say, they reproached one another. This is all they could do in their abject condition: they were almost wholly composed of the dregs of the people.
When at length some Christians had embraced the dogmas of Plato, and mingled a little philosophy with their religion, which they separated from the Jewish, they insensibly became more considerable, but were always divided into many sects, without there ever having been a time when the Christian church was reunited. It took its origin in the midst of the divisions of the Jews, the Samaritans, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenians, the Judaites, the disciples of John, and the Therapeutæ. It was divided in its infancy; it was divided even amid the persecutions it sometimes endured under the first emperors. The martyr was often regarded by his brethren as an apostate; and the Carpocratian Christian expired under the sword of the Roman executioner, excommunicated by the Ebionite Christian, which Ebionite was anathematized by the Sabellian.
This horrible discord, lasting for so many centuries, is a very striking lesson that we ought mutually to forgive each other’s errors: discord is the great evil of the human species, and toleration is its only remedy.
There is nobody who does not assent to this truth, whether meditating coolly in his closet, or examining the truth peaceably with his friends. Why, then, do the same men who in private admit charity, beneficence, and justice, oppose themselves in public so furiously against these virtues? Why!—it is because their interest is their god; because they sacrifice all to that monster whom they adore.
I possess dignity and power, which ignorance and credulity have founded. I trample on the heads of men prostrated at my feet; if they should rise and look me in the face, I am lost; they must, therefore, be kept bound down to the earth with chains of iron.
Thus have men reasoned, whom ages of fanaticism have rendered powerful. They have other persons in power under them, and these latter again have underlings, who enrich themselves with the spoils of the poor man, fatten themselves with his blood, and laugh at his imbecility. They detest all toleration, as contractors enriched at the expense of the public are afraid to render their accounts, and as tyrants dread the name of liberty. To crown all, in short, they encourage fanatics who cry aloud: Respect the absurdities of my master; tremble, pay, and be silent.
Such was the practice for a long time in a great part of the world; but now, when so many sects are balanced by their power, what side must we take among them? Every sect, we know, is a mere title of error; while there is no sect of geometricians, of algebraists, of arithmeticians; because all the propositions of geometry, algebra, and arithmetic, are true. In all the other sciences, one may be mistaken. What Thomist or Scotist theologian can venture to assert seriously that he goes on sure grounds?
If there is any sect which reminds one of the time of the first Christians, it is undeniably that of the Quakers. The apostles received the spirit. The Quakers receive the spirit. The apostles and disciples spoke three or four at once in the assembly in the third story; the Quakers do as much on the ground floor. Women were permitted to preach, according to St. Paul, and they were forbidden according to the same St. Paul: the Quakeresses preach by virtue of the first permission.
The apostles and disciples swore by yea and nay; the Quakers will not swear in any other form. There was no rank, no difference of dress, among apostles and disciples; the Quakers have sleeves without buttons, and are all clothed alike. Jesus Christ baptized none of his apostles; the Quakers are never baptized.
It would be easy to push the parallel farther; it would be still easier to demonstrate how much the Christian religion of our day differs from the religion which Jesus practised. Jesus was a Jew, and we are not Jews. Jesus abstained from pork, because it is uncleanly, and from rabbit, because it ruminates and its foot is not cloven; we fearlessly eat pork, because it is not uncleanly for us, and we eat rabbit which has the cloven foot and does not ruminate.
Jesus was circumcised, and we retain our fore-skin. Jesus ate the Paschal lamb with lettuce, He celebrated the feast of the tabernacles; and we do nothing of this. He observed the Sabbath, and we have changed it; He sacrificed, and we never sacrifice.
Jesus always concealed the mystery of His incarnation and His dignity; He never said He was equal to God. St. Paul says expressly, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, that God created Jesus inferior to the angels; and in spite of St. Paul’s words, Jesus was acknowledged as God at the Council of Nice.
Jesus has not given the pope either the march of Ancona or the duchy of Spoleto; and, notwithstanding, the pope possesses them by divine right. Jesus did not make a sacrament either of marriage or of deaconry; and, with us, marriage and deaconry are sacraments. If we would attend closely to the fact, the Catholic, apostolic, and Roman religion is, in all its ceremonies and in all its dogma, the reverse of the religion of Jesus!
But what! must we all Judaize, because Jesus Judaized all His life? If it were allowed to reason logically in matters of religion, it is clear that we ought all to become Jews, since Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was born a Jew, lived a Jew and died a Jew, and since He expressly said, that He accomplished and fulfilled the Jewish religion. But it is still more clear that we ought mutually to tolerate one another, because we are all weak, irrational, and subject to change and error. A reed prostrated by the wind in the mire—ought it to say to a neighboring reed placed in a contrary direction: Creep after my fashion, wretch, or I will present a request for you to be seized and burned?
My friends, when we have preached toleration in prose and in verse, in some of our pulpits, and in all our societies—when we have made these true human voices resound in the organs of our churches—we have done something for nature, we have re-established humanity in its rights; there will no longer be an ex-Jesuit, or an ex-Jansenist, who dares to say, I am intolerant.
There will always be barbarians and cheats who will foment intolerance; but they will not avow it—and that is something gained. Let us always bear in mind, my friends, let us repeat—for we must repeat, for fear it should be forgotten—the words of the bishop of Soissons, not Languet, but Fitzjames-Stuart, in his mandate of 1757: “We ought to regard the Turks as our brethren.”
Let us consider, that throughout English America, which constitutes nearly the fourth part of the known world, entire liberty of conscience is established; and provided a man believes in a God, every religion is well received: notwithstanding which, commerce flourishes and population increases. Let us always reflect, that the first law of the Empire of Russia, which is greater than the Roman Empire, is the toleration of every sect.
The Turkish Empire, and the Persian, always allowed the same indulgence. Mahomet II., when he took Constantinople, did not force the Greeks to abandon their religion, although he looked on them as idolaters. Every Greek father of a family got off for five or six crowns a year. Many prebends and bishoprics were preserved for them; and even at this day the Turkish sultan makes canons and bishops, without the pope having ever made an imam or a mollah.
My friends, there are only some monks, and some Protestants as barbarous as those monks, who are still intolerant. We have been so infected with this furor, that in our voyages of long duration, we have carried it to China, to Tonquin, and Japan. We have introduced the plague to those beautiful climes. The most indulgent of mankind have been taught by us to be the most inflexible. We said to them at the outset, in return for their kind welcome—Know that we alone on the earth are in the right, and that we ought to be masters everywhere. Then they drove us away forever. This lesson, which has cost seas of blood, ought to correct us.
The author of the preceding article is a worthy man who would sup with a Quaker, an Anabaptist, a Socinian, a Mussulman, etc. I would push this civility farther; I would say to my brother the Turk—Let us eat together a good hen with rice, invoking Allah; your religion seems to me very respectable; you adore but one God; you are obliged to give the fortieth part of your revenue every day in alms, and to be reconciled with your enemies on the day of the Bairam. Our bigots, who calumniate the world, have said a hundred times, that your religion succeeded only because it was wholly sensual. They have lied, poor fellows! Your religion is very austere; it commands prayer five times a day; it imposes the most rigorous fast; it denies you the wine and the liquors which our spiritual directors encourage; and if it permits only four wives to those who can support them—which are very few—it condemns by this restriction the Jewish incontinence, which allowed eighteen wives to the homicide David, and seven hundred, without reckoning concubines, to Solomon, the assassin of his brother.
I will say to my brother the Chinese: Let us sup together without ceremony, for I dislike grimaces; but I like your law, the wisest of all, and perhaps the most ancient. I will say nearly as much to my brother the Indian.
But what shall I say to my brother the Jew? Shall I invite him to supper? Yes, on condition that, during the repast, Balaam’s ass does not take it into its head to bray; that Ezekiel does not mix his dinner with our supper; that a fish does not swallow up one of the guests, and keep him three days in his belly; that a serpent does not join in the conversation, in order to seduce my wife; that a prophet does not think proper to sleep with her, as the worthy man, Hosea, did for five francs and a bushel of barley; above all, that no Jew parades through my house to the sound of the trumpet, causes the walls to fall down, and cuts the throats of myself, my father, my mother, my wife, my children, my cat and my dog, according to the ancient practice of the Jews. Come, my friends, let us have peace, and say our benedicite.
Tophet was, and is still, a precipice near Jerusalem, in the valley of Hinnom, which is a frightful place, abounding only in flints. It was in this dreary solitude that the Jews immolated their children to their god, whom they then called Moloch; for we have observed, that they always bestowed a foreign name on their god. Shadai was Syrian; Adonai, Phœnician; Jehovah was also Phœnician; Eloi, Elohim, Eloa, Chaldæan; and in the same manner, the names of all their angels were Chaldæan or Persian. This we have remarked very particularly.
All these different names equally signify “the lord,” in the jargon of the petty nations bordering on Palestine. The word Moloch is evidently derived from Melk, which was the same as Melcom or Melcon, the divinity of the thousand women in the seraglio of Solomon; to-wit, seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. All these names signify “lord”: each village had its lord.
Some sages pretend that Moloch was more particularly the god of fire; and that it was on that account the Jews burned their children in the hollow of the idol of this same Moloch. It was a large statue of copper, rendered as hideous as the Jews could make it. They heated the statue red hot, in a large fire, although they had very little fuel, and cast their children into the belly of this god, as our cooks cast living lobsters into the boiling water of their cauldrons. Such were the ancient Celts and Tudescans, when they burned children in honor of Teutates and Hirminsule. Such the Gallic virtue, and the German freedom!
Jeremiah wished, in vain, to detach the Jewish people from this diabolical worship. In vain he reproaches them with having built a sort of temple to Moloch in this abominable valley. “They have built high places in Tophet, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, in order to pass their sons and daughters through the fire.”
The Jews paid so much the less regard to the reproaches of Jeremiah, as they fiercely accused him of having sold himself to the king of Babylon; of having uniformly prophesied in his favor; and of having betrayed his country. In short, he suffered the punishment of a traitor; he was stoned to death.
The Book of Kings informs us, that Solomon built a temple to Moloch, but it does not say that it was in the valley of Tophet, but in the vicinity upon the Mount of Olives. The situation was fine, if anything can be called fine in the frightful neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Some commentators pretend, that Ahaz, king of Judah, burned his son in honor of Moloch, and that King Manasses was guilty of the same barbarity. Other commentators suppose, that these kings of the chosen people of God were content with casting their children into the flames, but that they were not burned to death. I wish that it may have been so; but it is very difficult for a child not to be burned when placed on a lighted pile.
This valley of Tophet was the “Clamart” of Paris, the place where they deposited all the rubbish and carrion of the city. It was in this valley that they cast loose the scape-goat; it was the place in which the bodies of the two criminals were cast who suffered with the Son of God; but our Saviour did not permit His body, which was given up to the executioner, to be cast in the highway of the valley of Tophet, according to custom. It is true, that He might have risen again in Tophet, as well as in Calvary; but a good Jew, named Joseph, a native of Arimathea, who had prepared a sepulchre for himself on Mount Calvary, placed the body of the Saviour therein, according to the testimony of St. Matthew. No one was allowed to be buried in the towns; even the tomb of David was not in Jerusalem.
Joseph of Arimathea was rich—“a certain rich man of Arimathea,”—that the prophecy of Isaiah might be fulfilled: “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death.”
Though there are few articles of jurisprudence in these honest alphabetical reflections, we must, however, say a word or two on torture, otherwise called “the question”; which is a strange manner of questioning men. They were not, however, the simply curious who invented it; there is every appearance, that this part of our legislation owes its first origin to a highwayman. Most of these gentlemen are still in the habit of screwing thumbs, burning feet, and questioning, by various torments, those who refuse to tell them where they have put their money.
Conquerors having succeeded these thieves, found the invention very useful to their interests; they made use of it when they suspected that there were bad designs against them: as, for example, that of seeking freedom was a crime of high treason, human and divine. The accomplices must be known; and to accomplish it, those who were suspected were made to suffer a thousand deaths, because, according to the jurisprudence of these primitive heroes, whoever was suspected of merely having a disrespectful opinion of them, was worthy of death. As soon as they have thus merited death, it signifies little whether they had frightful torments for several days, and even weeks previously—a practice which savors, I know not how, of the Divinity. Providence sometimes puts us to the torture by employing the stone, gravel, gout, scrofula, leprosy, smallpox; by tearing the entrails, by convulsions of the nerves, and other executors of the vengeance of Providence.
Now, as the first despots were, in the eyes of their courtiers, images of the Divinity, they imitated it as much as they could. What is very singular is, that the question, or torture, is never spoken of in the Jewish books. It is a great pity that so mild, honest, and compassionate a nation knew not this method of discovering the truth. In my opinion, the reason is, that they had no need of it. God always made it known to them as to His cherished people. Sometimes they played at dice to discover the truth, and the suspected culprit always had double sixes. Sometimes they went to the high priest, who immediately consulted God by the urim and thummim. Sometimes they addressed themselves to the seer and prophet; and you may believe that the seer and prophet discovered the most hidden things, as well as the urim and thummim of the high priest. The people of God were not reduced, like ourselves, to interrogating and conjecturing; and therefore torture could not be in use among them, which was the only thing wanting to complete the manners of that holy people. The Romans inflicted torture on slaves alone, but slaves were not considered as men. Neither is there any appearance that a counsellor of the criminal court regards as one of his fellow-creatures, a man who is brought to him wan, pale, distorted, with sunken eyes, long and dirty beard, covered with vermin with which he has been tormented in a dungeon. He gives himself the pleasure of applying to him the major and minor torture, in the presence of a surgeon, who counts his pulse until he is in danger of death, after which they recommence; and as the comedy of the “Plaideurs” pleasantly says, “that serves to pass away an hour or two.”
The grave magistrate, who for money has bought the right of making these experiments on his neighbor, relates to his wife, at dinner, that which has passed in the morning. The first time, madam shudders at it; the second, she takes some pleasure in it, because, after all, women are curious; and afterwards, the first thing she says when he enters is: “My dear, have you tortured anybody to-day?” The French, who are considered, I know not why, a very humane people, are astonished that the English, who have had the inhumanity to take all Canada from us, have renounced the pleasure of putting the question.
When the Chevalier de Barre, the grandson of a lieutenant-general of the army, a young man of much sense and great expectations, but possessing all the giddiness of unbridled youth, was convicted of having sung impious songs, and even of having dared to pass before a procession of Capuchins without taking his hat off, the judges of Abbeville, men comparable to Roman senators, ordered not only that his tongue should be torn out, that his hands should be torn off, and his body burned at a slow fire, but they further applied the torture, to know precisely how many songs he had sung, and how many processions he had seen with his hat on his head.
It was not in the thirteenth or fourteenth century that this affair happened; it was in the eighteenth. Foreign nations judge of France by its spectacles, romances, and pretty verses; by opera girls who have very sweet manners, by opera dancers who possess grace; by Mademoiselle Clairon, who declaims delightfully. They know not that, under all, there is not a more cruel nation than the French. The Russians were considered barbarians in 1700; this is only the year 1769; yet an empress has just given to this great state laws which would do honor to Minos, Numa, or Solon, if they had had intelligence enough to invent them. The most remarkable is universal tolerance; the second is the abolition of torture. Justice and humanity have guided her pen; she has reformed all. Woe to a nation which, being more civilized, is still led by ancient atrocious customs! “Why should we change our jurisprudence?” say we. “Europe is indebted to us for cooks, tailors, and wig-makers; therefore, our laws are good.”
Protestants, and above all, philosophical Protestants, regard transubstantiation as the most signal proof of extreme impudence in monks, and of imbecility in laymen. They hold no terms with this belief, which they call monstrous, and assert that it is impossible for a man of good sense ever to have believed in it. It is, say they, so absurd, so contrary to every physical law, and so contradictory, it would be a sort of annihilation of God, to suppose Him capable of such inconsistency. Not only a god in a wafer, but a god in the place of a wafer; a thousand crumbs of bread become in an instant so many gods, which an innumerable crowd of gods make only one god. Whiteness without a white substance; roundness without rotundity of body; wine changed into blood, retaining the taste of wine; bread changed into flesh and into fibres, still preserving the taste of bread—all this inspires such a degree of horror and contempt in the enemies of the Catholic, apostolic, and Roman religion, that it sometimes insensibly verges into rage.
Their horror augments when they are told that, in Catholic countries, are monks who rise from a bed of impurity, and with unwashed hands make gods by hundreds; who eat and drink these gods, and reduce them to the usual consequences of such an operation. But when they reflect that this superstition, a thousand times more absurd and sacrilegious than those of Egypt, produces for an Italian priest from fifteen to twenty millions of revenue, and the domination of a country containing a hundred thousand square leagues, they are ready to march with their arms in their hands and drive away this priest from the palace of Cæsar. I know not if I shall be of the party, because I love peace; but when established at Rome, I will certainly pay them a visit.—By M. Guillaume, a Protestant minister.
The first among the Westerns who spoke of the Trinity was Timæus of Locri, in his “Soul of the World.” First came the Idea, the perpetual model or archetype of all things engendered; that is to say, the first “Word,” the internal and intelligible “Word.” Afterwards, the unformed mode, the second word, or the word spoken. Lastly, the “son,” or sensible world, or the spirit of the world. These three qualities constitute the entire world, which world is the Son of God “Monogenes.” He has a soul and possessed reason; he is “empsukos, logikos.”
God, wishing to make a very fine God, has engendered one: “Touton epoie theon genaton.”
It is difficult clearly to comprehend the system of Timæus, which he perhaps derived from the Egyptians or Brahmins. I know not whether it was well understood in his time. It is like decayed and rusty medals, the motto of which is effaced: it could be read formerly; at present, we put what construction we please upon it.
It does not appear that this sublime balderdash made much progress until the time of Plato. It was buried in oblivion, and Plato raised it up. He constructed his edifice in the air, but on the model of Timæus. He admits three divine essences: the Father, the Supreme Creator, the Parent of other gods, is the first essence. The second is the visible God, the minister of the invisible one, the “Word,” the understanding, the great spirit. The third is the world.
It is true, that Plato sometimes says quite different and even quite contrary things; it is the privilege of the Greek philosophers; and Plato has made use of his right more than any of the ancients or moderns. A Greek wind wafted these philosophical clouds from Athens to Alexandria, a town prodigiously infatuated with two things—money and chimeras. There were Jews in Alexandria who, having made their fortunes, turned philosophers.
Metaphysics have this advantage, that they require no very troublesome preliminaries. We may know all about them without having learned anything; and a little to those who have at once subtle and very false minds, will go a great way. Philo the Jew was a philosopher of this kind; he was contemporary with Jesus Christ; but he has the misfortune of not knowing Him any more than Josephus the historian. These two considerable men, employed in the chaos of affairs of state, were too far distant from the dawning light. This Philo had quite a metaphysical, allegorical, mystical head. It was he who said that God must have formed the world in six days; he formed it, according to Zoroaster, in six times, “because three is the half of six and two is the third of it; and this number is male and female.”
This same man, infatuated with the ideas of Plato, says, in speaking of drunkenness, that God and wisdom married, and that wisdom was delivered of a well-beloved son, which son is the world. He calls the angels the words of God, and the world the word of God—“logon tou Theou.”
As to Flavius Josephus, he was a man of war who had never heard of the logos, and who held to the dogmas of the Pharisees, who were solely attached to their traditions. From the Jews of Alexandria, this Platonic philosophy proceeded to those of Jerusalem. Soon, all the school of Alexandria, which was the only learned one, was Platonic; and Christians who philosophized, no longer spoke of anything but the logos.
We know that it was in disputes of that time the same as in those of the present. To one badly understood passage, was tacked another unintelligible one to which it had no relation. A second was inferred from them, a third was falsified, and they fabricated whole books which they attributed to authors respected by the multitude. We have seen a hundred examples of it in the article on “Apocrypha.”
Dear reader, for heaven’s sake cast your eyes on this passage of Clement the Alexandrian: “When Plato says, that it is difficult to know the Father of the universe, he demonstrates by that, not only that the world has been engendered, but that it has been engendered as the Son of God.”
Do you understand these logomachies, these equivoques? Do you see the least light in this chaos of obscure expressions? Oh, Locke! Locke! come and define these terms. In all these Platonic disputes I believe there was not a single one understood. They distinguished two words, the “logos endiathetos”—the word in thought, and the word produced—“logos prophorikos.” They had the eternity from one word, and the prolation, the emanation from another word.
The book of “Apostolic Constitutions,” an ancient monument of fraud, but also an ancient depository of these obscure times, expresses itself thus: “The Father, who is anterior to all generation, all commencement, having created all by His only Son, has engendered this Son without a medium, by His will and His power.”
Afterwards Origen advanced, that the Holy Spirit was created by the Son, by the word. After that came Eusebius of Cæsarea, who taught that the spirit paraclete is neither of Father nor Son. The advocate Lactantius flourished in that time.
“The Son of God,” says he, “is the word, as the other angels are the spirits of God. The word is a spirit uttered by a significant voice, the spirit proceeding from the nose, and the word from the mouth. It follows, that there is a difference between the Son of God and the other angels; those being emanated like tacit and silent spirits; while the Son, being a spirit proceeding from the mouth, possesses sound and voice to preach to the people.”
It must be confessed, that Lactantius pleaded his cause in a strange manner. It was truly reasoning à la Plato, and very powerful reasoning. It was about this time that, among the very violent disputes on the Trinity, this famous verse was inserted in the First Epistle of St. John: “There are three that bear witness in earth—the word or spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three are one.”
Those who pretend that this verse is truly St. John’s, are much more embarrassed than those who deny it; for they must explain it. St. Augustine says, that the spirit signifies the Father, water the Holy Ghost, and by blood is meant the Word. This explanation is fine, but it still leaves a little confusion.
St Irenæus goes much farther; he says, that Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho, in concealing three spies of the people of God, concealed the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; which is strong, but not consistent. On the other hand, the great and learned Origen confounds us in a different way. The following is one of many of his passages: “The Son is as much below the Father as He and the Holy Ghost are above the most noble creatures.”
What can be said after that? How can we help confessing, with grief, that nobody understands it? How can we help confessing, that from the first—from the primitive Christians, the Ebionites, those men so mortified and so pious, who always revered Jesus though they believed Him to be the son of Joseph—until the great controversy of Athanasius, the Platonism of the Trinity was always a subject of quarrels. A supreme judge was absolutely required to decide, and he was at last found in the Council of Nice, which council afterwards produced new factions and wars.
EXPLANATION OF THE TRINITY, ACCORDING TO ABAUZIT.
“We can speak with exactness of the manner in which the union of God and Jesus Christ exists, only by relating the three opinions which exist on this subject, and by making reflections on each of them.
“Opinion of the Orthodox.
“The first opinion is that of the orthodox. They establish, 1st—A distinction of three persons in the divine essence, before the coming of Jesus Christ into the world; 2nd—That the second of these persons is united to the human nature of Jesus Christ; 3rd—That the union is so strict, that by it Jesus Christ is God; that we can attribute to Him the creation of the world, and all divine perfections; and that we can adore Him with a supreme worship.
“Opinion of the Unitarians.
“The second is that of the Unitarians. Not conceiving the distinction of persons in the Divinity, they establish, 1st—That divinity is united to the human nature of Jesus Christ; 2nd—That this union is such that we can say, that Jesus Christ is God; that we can attribute to Him the creation of the world, and all divine perfections, and adore Him with a supreme worship.
“Opinion of the Socinians.
“The third opinion is that of the Socinians, who, like the Unitarians, not conceiving any distinction of persons in the Divinity, establish, 1st—That divinity is united to the human nature of Jesus Christ; 2nd—That this union is very strict; 3rd—That it is not such that we can call Jesus Christ God, or attribute divine perfections and the creation to Him, or adore Him with a supreme worship; and they think that all the passages of Scripture may be explained without admitting any of these things.
“Reflections on the First Opinion.
“In the distinction which is made of three persons in the Divinity, we either retain the common idea of persons, or we do not. If we retain the common idea of persons, we establish three gods; that is certain. If we do not establish the ordinary idea of three persons, it is no longer any more than a distinction of properties; which agrees with the second opinion. Or if we will not allow that it is a distinction of persons, properly speaking, we establish a distinction of which we have no idea. There is no appearance, that to imagine a distinction in God, of which we can have no idea, Scripture would put men in danger of becoming idolaters, by multiplying the Divinity. It is besides surprising that this distinction of persons having always existed, it should only be since the coming of Jesus Christ that it has been revealed, and that it is necessary to know them.
“Reflections on the Second Opinion.
“There is not, indeed, so great danger of precipitating men into idolatry in the second opinion as in the first; but it must be confessed that it is not entirely exempt from it. Indeed, as by the nature of the union which it establishes between divinity and the human nature of Jesus Christ, we can call him God and worship him, but there are two objects of adoration—Jesus Christ and God. I confess it may be said, that it is God whom we should worship in Jesus Christ; but who knows not the extreme inclination which men have to change invisible objects of worship into objects which fall under the senses, or at least under the imagination?—an inclination which they will here gratify without the least scruple, since they say that divinity is personally united to the humanity of Jesus Christ.
“Reflections on the Third Opinion.
“The third opinion, besides being very simple, and conformable to the ideas of reason, is not subject to any similar danger of throwing men into idolatry. Though by this opinion Jesus Christ can be no more than a simple man, it need not be feared that by that He can be confounded with prophets or saints of the first order. In this sentiment there always remains a difference between them and Him. As we can imagine, almost to the utmost, the degrees of union of divinity with humanity, so we can conceive, that in particular the union of divinity with Jesus Christ has so high a degree of knowledge, power, felicity, perfection, and dignity, that there is always an immense distance between him and the greatest prophets. It remains only to see whether this opinion can agree with Scripture, and whether it be true that the title of God, divine perfections, creation, and supreme worship, are not attributed to Jesus Christ in the Gospels.”
It was for the philosopher Abauzit to see all this. For myself I submit, with my heart and mouth and pen, to all that the Catholic church has decided, and to all that it may decide on any other such dogma. I will add but one word more on the Trinity, which is a decision of Calvin’s that we have on this mystery. This is it:
“In case any person prove heterodox, and scruples using the words Trinity and Person, we believe not that this can be a reason for rejecting him; we should support him without driving him from the Church, and without exposing him to any censure as a heretic.”
It was after such a solemn declaration as this, that John Calvin—the aforesaid Calvin, the son of a cooper of Noyon—caused Michael Servetus to be burned at Geneva by a slow fire with green fagots.
“Pilate therefore said unto him, ‘Art thou a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto truth: every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.’ Pilate saith unto him, ‘What is truth?’ and when he had said this, he went out,” etc.—St. John, chap. xviii.
It is a pity for mankind that Pilate went out, without hearing the reply: we should then have known what truth is. Pilate was not very curious. The accused, brought before him, told him that he was a king, that he was born to be a king, and he informs himself not how this can be. He was supreme judge in the name of Cæsar, he had the power of the sword, his duty was to penetrate into the meaning of these words. He should have said: Tell me what you understand by being king? how are you born to be king, and to bear witness unto the truth? It is said that you can only arrive at the ear of kings with difficulty; I, who am a judge, have always had extreme trouble in reaching it. Inform me, while your enemies cry outside against you; and you will render me the greatest service ever rendered to a judge. I would rather learn to know the truth, than condescend to the tumultuous demand of the Jews, who wish me to hang you.
We doubtless dare not pretend to guess what the Author of all truth would have said to Pilate. Would he have said: “Truth is an abstract word which most men use indifferently in their books and judgments, for error and falsehood”? This definition would be wonderfully convenient to all makers of systems. Thus the word wisdom is often taken for folly, and wit for nonsense. Humanly speaking, let us define truth, to better understand that which is declared—such as it is.
Suppose that six months only had been taken to teach Pilate the truths of logic he would doubtless have made this concluding syllogism: A man’s life should not have been taken away who has only preached a good doctrine; now he who is brought before me, according even to his enemies, has often preached an excellent doctrine; therefore, he should not be punished with death.
He might also have inferred this other argument: My duty is to dissipate the riots of a seditious people, who demand the death of a man without reason or juridical form; now such are the Jews on this occasion; therefore I should send them away, and break up their assembly. We take for granted that Pilate knew arithmetic; we will not therefore speak of these kinds of truths.
As to mathematical truths, I believe that he would have required three years at least before he would have been acquainted with transcendent geometry. The truths of physics, combined with those of geometry, would have required more than four years. We generally consume six years in studying theology; I ask twelve for Pilate, considering that he was a Pagan, and that six years would not have been too many to root out all his old errors, and six more to put him in a state worthy to receive the bonnet of a doctor. If Pilate had a well organized head, I would only have demanded two years to teach him metaphysical truths, and as these truths are necessarily united with those of morality, I flatter myself that in less than nine years Pilate would have become a truly learned and perfectly honest man.
I should afterwards have said to Pilate: Historical truths are but probabilities. If you have fought at the battle of Philippi, it is to you a truth, which you know by intuition, by sentiment; but to us who live near the desert of Syria, it is merely a probable thing, which we know by hearsay. How can we, from report, form a persuasion equal to that of a man, who having seen the thing, can boast of feeling a kind of certainty?
He who has heard the thing told by twelve thousand ocular witnesses, has only twelve thousand probabilities equal to one strong one, which is not equal to certainty. If you have the thing from only one of these witnesses, you are sure of nothing—you must doubt. If the witness is dead, you must doubt still more, for you can enlighten yourself no further. If from several deceased witnesses, you are in the same state. If from those to whom the witnesses have only spoken, the doubt is still augmented. From generation to generation the doubt augments, and the probability diminishes, and the probability is soon reduced to zero.
Of the Degrees of Truth, According to Which the Accused are Judged.
We can be made accountable to justice either for deeds or words. If for deeds, they must be as certain as will be the punishment to which you will condemn the prisoner; if, for example, you have but twenty probabilities against him, these twenty probabilities cannot equal the certainty of his death. If you would have as many probabilities as are required to be sure that you shed not innocent blood, they must be the fruit of the unanimous evidences of witnesses who have no interest in deposing. From this concourse of probabilities, a strong opinion will be formed, which will serve to excuse your judgment; but as you will never have entire certainty, you cannot flatter yourself with knowing the truth perfectly. Consequently you should always lean towards mercy rather than towards rigor. If it concerns only facts, from which neither manslaughter nor mutilation have resulted, it is evident that you should neither cause the accused to be put to death nor mutilated.
If the question is only of words, it is still more evident that you should not cause one of your fellow-creatures to be hanged for the manner in which he has used his tongue; for all the words in the world being but agitated air, at least if they have not caused murder, it is ridiculous to condemn a man to death for having agitated the air. Put all the idle words which have been uttered into one scale, and into the other the blood of a man, and the blood will weigh down. Now, if he who has been brought before you is only accused of some words which his enemies have taken in a certain sense, all that you can do is to repeat these words to him, which he will explain in the sense he intended; but to deliver an innocent man to the most cruel and ignominious punishment, for words that his enemies do not comprehend, is too barbarous. You make the life of a man of no more importance than that of a lizard; and too many judges resemble you.
The sovereign is called a tyrant who knows no laws but his caprice; who takes the property of his subjects, and afterwards enlists them to go and take that of his neighbors. We have none of these tyrants in Europe. We distinguish the tyranny of one and that of many. The tyranny of several is that of a body which would invade the rights of other bodies, and which would exercise despotism by favor of laws which it corrupts. Neither are there any tyrannies of this kind in Europe.
Under what tyranny should you like best to live? Under none; but if I must choose, I should less detest the tyranny of a single one, than that of many. A despot has always some good moments; an assemblage of despots, never. If a tyrant does me an injustice, I can disarm him through his mistress, his confessor, or his page; but a company of tyrants is inaccessible to all seductions. When they are not unjust, they are harsh, and they never dispense favors. If I have but one despot, I am at liberty to set myself against a wall when I see him pass, to prostrate myself, or to strike my forehead against the ground, according to the custom of the country; but if there is a company of a hundred tyrants, I am liable to repeat this ceremony a hundred times a day, which is very tiresome to those who have not supple joints. If I have a farm in the neighborhood of one of our lords, I am crushed; if I complain against a relative of the relatives of any one of our lords, I am ruined. How must I act? I fear that in this world we are reduced to being either the anvil or the hammer; happy at least is he who escapes this alternative.
“Tyrannos,” formerly “he who had contrived to draw the principal authority to himself”; as “king,” “Basileus,” signified “he who was charged with relating affairs to the senate.” The acceptations of words change with time. “Idiot” at first meant only a hermit, an isolated man; in time it became synonymous with fool. At present the name of “tyrant” is given to a usurper, or to a king who commits violent and unjust actions.
Cromwell was a tyrant of both these kinds. A citizen who usurps the supreme authority, who in spite of all laws suppresses the house of peers, is without doubt a usurper. A general who cuts the throat of a king, his prisoner of war, at once violates what is called the laws of nations, and those of humanity.
Charles I. was not a tyrant, though the victorious faction gave him that name; he was, it is said, obstinate, weak, and ill-advised. I will not be certain, for I did not know him; but I am certain that he was very unfortunate.
Henry VIII. was a tyrant in his government as in his family, and alike covered with the blood of two innocent wives, and that of the most virtuous citizens; he merits the execrations of posterity. Yet he was not punished, and Charles I. died on a scaffold.
Elizabeth committed an act of tyranny, and her parliament one of infamous weakness, in causing Queen Mary Stuart to be assassinated by an executioner; but in the rest of her government she was not tyrannical; she was clever and manœuvering, but prudent and strong.
Richard III. was a barbarous tyrant; but he was punished. Pope Alexander VI. was a more execrable tyrant than any of these, and he was fortunate in all his undertakings. Christian II. was as wicked a tyrant as Alexander VI., and was punished, but not sufficiently so.
If we were to reckon Turkish, Greek, and Roman tyrants, we should find as many fortunate as the contrary. When I say fortunate, I speak according to the vulgar prejudice, the ordinary acceptation of the word, according to appearances; for that they can be really happy, that their minds can be contented and tranquil, appears to me to be impossible.
Constantine the Great was evidently a tyrant in a double sense. In the north of England he usurped the crown of the Roman Empire, at the head of some foreign legions, notwithstanding all the laws, and in spite of the senate and the people, who legitimately elected Maxentius. He passed all his life in crime, voluptuousness, fraud, and imposture. He was not punished, but was he happy? God knows; but I know that his subjects were not so.
The great Theodosius was the most abominable of tyrants, when, under pretence of giving a feast, he caused fifteen thousand Roman citizens to be murdered in the circus, with their wives and children, and when he added to this horror the facetiousness of passing some months without going to tire himself at high mass. This Theodosius has almost been placed in the ranks of the blessed; but I should be very sorry if he were happy on earth. In all cases it would be well to assure tyrants that they will never be happy in this world, as it is well to make our stewards and cooks believe that they will be eternally damned if they rob us.
The tyrants of the Lower Greek Empire were almost all dethroned or assassinated by one another. All these great offenders were by turns the executioners of human and divine vengeance. Among the Turkish tyrants, we see as many deposed as those who die in possession of the throne. With regard to subaltern tyrants, or the lower order of monsters who burden their masters with the execration with which they are loaded, the number of these Hamans, these Sejanuses, is infinite.
Du Boulay, in his “History of the University of Paris,” adopts the old, uncertain, not to say fabulous tradition, which carries its origin to the time of Charlemagne. It is true that such is the opinion of Guagin and of Gilles de Beauvais; but in addition to the fact that contemporary authors, as Eginhard, Almon, Reginon, and Sigebert make no mention of this establishment; Pasquier and Du Tillet expressly assert that it commenced in the twelfth century under the reigns of Louis the Young and of Philip Augustus.
Moreover, the first statutes of the university were drawn up by Robert de Coceon, legate of the pope, in the year 1215, which proves that it received from the first the form it retains at present; because a bull of Gregory IX., of the year 1231, makes mention of masters of theology, masters of law, physicians, and lastly, artists. The name “university” originated in the supposition that these four bodies, termed faculties, constituted a universality of studies; that is to say, that they comprehended all which could be cultivated.
The popes, by the means of these establishments, of the decisions of which they made themselves judges, became masters of the instruction of the people; and the same spirit which made the permission granted to the members of the Parliament of Paris to inter themselves in the habits of Cordeliers, be regarded as an especial favor—as related in the article on “Quête”—dictated the decrees pronounced by that sovereign court against all who dared to oppose an unintelligible scholastic system, which, according to the confession of the abbé Triteme, was only a false science that had vitiated religion. In fact, that which Constantine had only insinuated with respect to the Cumæan Sibyl, has been expressly asserted of Aristotle. Cardinal Pallavicini supported the maxim of I know not what monk Paul, who pleasantly observed, that without Aristotle the Church would have been deficient in some of her articles of faith.
Thus the celebrated Ramus, having composed two works in which he opposed the doctrine of Aristotle taught in the universities, would have been sacrificed to the fury of his ignorant rival, had not King Francis I. referred to his own judgment the process commenced in Paris between Ramus and Anthony Govea. One of the principal complaints against Ramus related to the manner in which he taught his disciples to pronounce the letter Q.
Ramus was not the only disputant persecuted for these grave absurdities. In the year 1624, the Parliament of Paris banished from its district three persons who wished to maintain these openly against Aristotle. Every person was forbidden to sell or to circulate the propositions contained in these theses, on pain of corporal punishment, or to teach any opinion against ancient and approved authors, on pain of death.
The remonstrances of the Sorbonne, in consequence of which the same parliament issued a decision against the chemists, in the year 1629, testified that it was impossible to impeach the principles of Aristotle, without at the same time impeaching those of the scholastic theology received by the Church. In the meantime, the faculty having issued, in 1566, a decree forbidding the use of antimony, and the parliament having confirmed the said decree, Paumier de Caen, a great chemist and celebrated physician of Paris, for not conforming to it, was degraded in the year 1609. Lastly, antimony being afterwards inserted in the books of medicines, composed by order of the faculty in the year 1637, the said faculty permitted the use of it in 1666, a century after having forbidden it, which decision the parliament confirmed by a new decree. Thus the university followed the example of the Church, which finally proscribed the doctrine of Arius, under pain of death, and approved the word “consubstantial,” which it had previously condemned—as we have seen in the article on “Councils.”
What we have observed of the university of Paris, may serve to give us an idea of other universities, of which it was regarded as the model. In fact, in imitation of it, eighty universities passed the same decree as the Sorbonne in the fourteenth century; to wit, that when the cap of a doctor was bestowed, the candidate should be made to swear that he will maintain the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary; which he did not regard, however, as an article of faith, but as a Catholic and pious opinion.
There are cases in which we must not judge of a nation by its usages and popular superstitions. Suppose Cæsar, after having conquered Egypt, wishing to make commerce flourish in the Roman Empire, had sent an embassy to China by the port of Arsinoë, the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. The emperor Yventi, the first of the name, then reigned in China; the Chinese annals represent him to us as a very wise and learned prince. After receiving the ambassadors of Cæsar with all Chinese politeness, he secretly informs himself through his interpreter of the customs, the usages, sciences, and religion of the Roman people, as celebrated in the West as the Chinese people are in the East. He first learns that their priests have regulated their years in so absurd a manner, that the sun has already entered the celestial signs of Spring when the Romans celebrate the first feasts of Winter. He learns that this nation at a great expense supports a college of priests, who know exactly the time in which they must embark, and when they should give battle, by the inspection of a bullock’s liver, or the manner in which fowls eat grain. This sacred science was formerly taught to the Romans by a little god named Tages, who came out of the earth in Tuscany. These people adore a supreme and only God, whom they always call a very great and very good God; yet they have built a temple to a courtesan named Flora, and the good women of Rome have almost all little gods—Penates—in their houses, about four or five inches high. One of these little divinities is the goddess of bosoms, another that of posteriors. They have even a divinity whom they call the god Pet. The emperor Yventi began to laugh; and the tribunals of Nankin at first think with him that the Roman ambassadors are knaves or impostors, who have taken the title of envoys of the Roman Republic; but as the emperor is as just as he is polite, he has particular conversations with them. He then learns that the Roman priests were very ignorant, but that Cæsar actually reformed the calendar. They confess to him that the college of augurs was established in the time of their early barbarity, that they have allowed this ridiculous institution, become dear to a people long ignorant, to exist, but that all sensible people laugh at the augurs; that Cæsar never consulted them; that, according to the account of a very great man named Cato, no augur could ever look another in the face without laughing; and finally, that Cicero, the greatest orator and best philosopher of Rome, wrote a little work against the augurs, entitled “Of Divination,” in which he delivers up to eternal ridicule all the predictions and sorceries of soothsayers with which the earth is infatuated. The emperor of China has the curiosity to read this book of Cicero; the interpreters translate it; and in consequence he admires at once the book and the Roman Republic
What! is it in our eighteenth century that vampires exist? Is it after the reigns of Locke, Shaftesbury, Trenchard, and Collins? Is it under those of d’Alembert, Diderot, St. Lambert, and Duclos that we believe in vampires, and that the reverend father Dom Calmet, Benedictine priest of the congregation of St. Vannes, and St. Hidulphe, abbé of Senon—an abbey of a hundred thousand livres a year, in the neighborhood of two other abbeys of the same revenue—has printed and reprinted the history of vampires, with the approbation of the Sorbonne, signed Marcilli?
These vampires were corpses, who went out of their graves at night to suck the blood of the living, either at their throats or stomachs, after which they returned to their cemeteries. The persons so sucked waned, grew pale, and fell into consumption; while the sucking corpses grew fat, got rosy, and enjoyed an excellent appetite. It was in Poland, Hungary, Silesia, Moravia, Austria, and Lorraine, that the dead made this good cheer. We never heard a word of vampires in London, nor even at Paris. I confess that in both these cities there were stock-jobbers, brokers, and men of business, who sucked the blood of the people in broad daylight; but they were not dead, though corrupted. These true suckers lived not in cemeteries, but in very agreeable palaces.
Who would believe that we derive the idea of vampires from Greece? Not from the Greece of Alexander, Aristotle, Plato, Epicurus, and Demosthenes; but from Christian Greece, unfortunately schismatic. For a long time Christians of the Greek rite have imagined that the bodies of Christians of the Latin church, buried in Greece, do not decay, because they are excommunicated. This is precisely the contrary to that of us Christians of the Latin church, who believe that corpses which do not corrupt are marked with the seal of eternal beatitude. So much so, indeed, that when we have paid a hundred thousand crowns to Rome, to give them a saint’s brevet, we adore them with the worship of “dulia.”
The Greeks are persuaded that these dead are sorcerers; they call them “broucolacas,” or “vroucolacas,” according as they pronounce the second letter of the alphabet. The Greek corpses go into houses to suck the blood of little children, to eat the supper of the fathers and mothers, drink their wine, and break all the furniture. They can only be put to rights by burning them when they are caught. But the precaution must be taken of not putting them into the fire until after their hearts are torn out, which must be burned separately. The celebrated Tournefort, sent into the Levant by Louis XIV., as well as so many other virtuosi, was witness of all the acts attributed to one of these “broucolacas,” and to this ceremony.
After slander, nothing is communicated more promptly than superstition, fanaticism, sorcery, and tales of those raised from the dead. There were “broucolacas” in Wallachia, Moldavia, and some among the Polanders, who are of the Romish church. This superstition being absent, they acquired it, and it went through all the east of Germany. Nothing was spoken of but vampires, from 1730 to 1735; they were laid in wait for, their hearts torn out and burned. They resembled the ancient martyrs—the more they were burned, the more they abounded.
Finally, Calmet became their historian, and treated vampires as he treated the Old and New Testaments, by relating faithfully all that has been said before him.
The most curious things, in my opinion, were the verbal suits juridically conducted, concerning the dead who went from their tombs to suck the little boys and girls of their neighborhood. Calmet relates that in Hungary two officers, delegated by the emperor Charles VI., assisted by the bailiff of the place and an executioner, held an inquest on a vampire, who had been dead six weeks, and who had sucked all the neighborhood. They found him in his coffin, fresh and jolly, with his eyes open, and asking for food. The bailiff passed his sentence; the executioner tore out the vampire’s heart, and burned it, after which he feasted no more.
Who, after this, dares to doubt of the resuscitated dead, with which our ancient legends are filled, and of all the miracles related by Bollandus, and the sincere and revered Dom Ruinart? You will find stories of vampires in the “Jewish Letters” of d’Argens, whom the Jesuit authors of the “Journal of Trévoux” have accused of believing nothing. It should be observed how they triumph in the history of the vampire of Hungary; how they thanked God and the Virgin for having at last converted this poor d’Argens, the chamberlain of a king who did not believe in vampires. “Behold,” said they, “this famous unbeliever, who dared to throw doubts on the appearance of the angel to the Holy Virgin; on the star which conducted the magi; on the cure of the possessed; on the immersion of two thousand swine in a lake; on an eclipse of the sun at the full moon; on the resurrection of the dead who walked in Jerusalem—his heart is softened, his mind is enlightened; he believes in vampires.”
There no longer remained any question, but to examine whether all these dead were raised by their own virtue, by the power of God, or by that of the devil. Several great theologians of Lorraine, of Moravia, and Hungary, displayed their opinions and their science. They related all that St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and so many other saints, had most unintelligibly said on the living and the dead. They related all the miracles of St. Stephen, which are found in the seventh book of the works of St. Augustine. This is one of the most curious of them: In the city of Aubzal in Africa, a young man was crushed to death by the ruins of a wall; the widow immediately invoked St. Stephen, to whom she was very much devoted. St. Stephen raised him. He was asked what he had seen in the other world. “Sirs,” said he, “when my soul quitted my body, it met an infinity of souls, who asked it more questions about this world than you do of the other. I went I know not whither, when I met St. Stephen, who said to me, ‘Give back that which thou hast received.’ I answered, ‘What should I give back? you have given me nothing.’ He repeated three times, ‘Give back that which thou hast received.’ Then I comprehended that he spoke of the credo; I repeated my credo to him, and suddenly he raised me.” Above all, they quoted the stories related by Sulpicius Severus, in the life of St. Martin. They proved that St. Martin, with some others, raised up a condemned soul.
But all these stories, however true they might be, had nothing in common with the vampires who rose to suck the blood of their neighbors, and afterwards replaced themselves in their coffins. They looked if they could not find in the Old Testament, or in the mythology, some vampire whom they could quote as an example; but they found none. It was proved, however, that the dead drank and ate, since in so many ancient nations food was placed on their tombs.
The difficulty was to know whether it was the soul or the body of the dead which ate. It was decided that it was both. Delicate and unsubstantial things, as sweetmeats, whipped cream, and melting fruits, were for the soul, and roast beef and the like were for the body.
The kings of Persia were, said they, the first who caused themselves to be served with viands after their death. Almost all the kings of the present day imitate them; but they are the monks who eat their dinner and supper, and drink their wine. Thus, properly speaking, kings are not vampires; the true vampires are the monks, who eat at the expense of both kings and people.
It is very true that St. Stanislaus, who had bought a considerable estate from a Polish gentleman, and not paid him for it, being brought before King Boleslaus by his heirs, raised up the gentleman; but this was solely to get quittance. It is not said that he gave a single glass of wine to the seller, who returned to the other world without having eaten or drunk. They afterwards treated of the grand question, whether a vampire could be absolved who died excommunicated, which comes more to the point.
I am not profound enough in theology to give my opinion on this subject; but I would willingly be for absolution, because in all doubtful affairs we should take the mildest part. “Odia restringenda, favores ampliandi.”
The result of all this is that a great part of Europe has been infested with vampires for five or six years, and that there are now no more; that we have had Convulsionaries in France for twenty years, and that we have them no longer; that we have had demoniacs for seventeen hundred years, but have them no longer; that the dead have been raised ever since the days of Hippolytus, but that they are raised no longer; and, lastly, that we have had Jesuits in Spain, Portugal, France, and the two Sicilies, but that we have them no longer.
Those who love the study of history are glad to understand by what title a citizen of Veletri governed an empire, which extended from Mount Taurus to Mount Atlas, and from the Euphrates to the Western Ocean. It was not as perpetual dictator; this title had been too fatal to Julius Cæsar, and Augustus bore it only eleven days. The fear of perishing like his predecessor, and the counsels of Agrippa, induced him to take other measures; he insensibly concentrated in his own person all the dignities of the republic. Thirteen consulates, the tribunate renewed in his favor every ten years, the name of prince of the senate, that of imperator, which at first signified only the general of an army, but to which it was known how to bestow a more extensive signification—such were the titles which appeared to legitimate his power.
The senate lost nothing by his honors, but preserved even its most extensive rights. Augustus divided with it all the provinces of the empire, but retained the principal for himself; finally, he was master of the public treasury and the soldiery, and in fact sovereign.
What is more strange, Julius Cæsar having been enrolled among the gods after his death, Augustus was ordained god while living. It is true he was not altogether a god in Rome, but he was so in the provinces, where he had temples and priests. The abbey of Ainai at Lyons was a fine temple of Augustus. Horace says to him: “Jurandasque tuum per nomen ponimus aras.” That is to say, among the Romans existed courtiers so finished as to have small altars in their houses dedicated to Augustus. He was therefore canonized during his life, and the name of god—divus—became the title or nickname of all the succeeding emperors. Caligula constituted himself a god without difficulty, and was worshipped in the temple of Castor and Pollux; his statue was placed between those of the twins, and they sacrificed to him peacocks, pheasants, and Numidian fowls, until he ended by immolating himself. Nero bore the name of god, before he was condemned by the senate to suffer the punishment of a slave.
We are not to imagine that the name of “god” signified, in regard to these monsters, that which we understand by it; the blasphemy could not be carried quite so far. “Divus” precisely answers to “sanctus.” The Augustan list of proscriptions and the filthy epigram against Fulvia, are not the productions of a divinity.
There were twelve conspiracies against this god, if we include the pretended plot of Cinna; but none of them succeeded; and of all the wretches who have usurped divine honors, Augustus was doubtless the most unfortunate. It was he, indeed, who actually terminated the Roman Republic; for Cæsar was dictator only six months, and Augustus reigned forty years. It was during his reign that manners changed with the government. The armies, formerly composed of the Roman legions and people of Italy, were in the end made up from all the barbarians, who naturally enough placed emperors of their own country on the throne.
In the third century they raised up thirty tyrants at one time, of whom some were natives of Transylvania, others of Gaul, Britain, and Germany. Diocletian was the son of a Dalmatian slave; Maximian Hercules, a peasant of Sirmik; and Theodosius, a native of Spain—not then civilized.
We know how the Roman Empire was finally destroyed; how the Turks have subjugated one half, and how the name of the other still subsists among the Marcomans on the shores of the Danube. The most singular of all its revolutions, however, and the most astonishing of all spectacles, is the manner in which its capital is governed and inhabited at this moment.
The forger of whom we have spoken so much, who made the testament of Cardinal Richelieu, says in chapter iv.: “That it would be much better to allow venality and the ‘droit annuel’ to continue to exist, than to abolish these two establishments, which are not to be changed suddenly without shaking the state.”
All France repeated, and believed they repeated after Cardinal Richelieu, that the sale of offices of judicature was very advantageous. The abbé de St. Pierre was the first who, still believing that the pretended testament was the cardinal’s, dared to say in his observation on chapter iv.: “The cardinal engaged himself on a bad subject, in maintaining that the sale of places can be advantageous to the state. It is true that it is not possible to otherwise reimburse all the charges.”
Thus this abuse appeared to everybody, not only unreformable, but useful. They were so accustomed to this opprobrium that they did not feel it; it seemed eternal; yet a single man in a few months has overthrown it. Let us therefore repeat, that all may be done, all may be corrected; that the great fault of almost all who govern, is having but half wills and half means. If Peter the Great had not willed strongly, two thousand leagues of country would still be barbarous.
How can we give water in Paris to thirty thousand houses which want it? How can we pay the debts of the state? How can we throw off the dreaded tyranny of a foreign power, which is not a power, and to which we pay the first fruits as a tribute? Dare to wish it, and you will arrive at your object more easily than you extirpated the Jesuits, and purged the theatre of petits-maîtres.
No power can reproach the Venetians with having acquired their liberty by revolt; none can say to them, I have freed you—here is the diploma of your manumission.
They have not usurped their rights, as Cæsar usurped empire, or as so many bishops, commencing with that of Rome, have usurped royal rights. They are lords of Venice—if we dare use the audacious comparison—as God is Lord of the earth, because He founded it.
Attila, who never took the title of the scourge of God, ravaged Italy. He had as much right to do so, as Charlemagne the Austrasian, Arnold the Corinthian Bastard, Guy, duke of Spoleto, Berenger, marquis of Friuli, or the bishops who wished to make themselves sovereigns of it.
In this time of military and ecclesiastical robberies, Attila passed as a vulture, and the Venetians saved themselves in the sea as kingfishers, which none assist or protect; they make their nest in the midst of the waters, they enlarge it, they people it, they defend it, they enrich it. I ask if it is possible to imagine a more just possession? Our father Adam, who is supposed to have lived in that fine country of Mesopotamia, was not more justly lord and gardener of terrestrial paradise.
I have read the “Squittinio della libertà di Venezia,” and I am indignant at it. What! Venice could not be originally free, because the Greek emperors, superstitious, weak, wicked, and barbarous, said—This new town has been built on our ancient territory; and because a German, having the title of Emperor of the West, says: This town being in the West, is of our domain?
It seems to me like a flying-fish, pursued at once by a falcon and a shark, but which escapes both. Sannazarius was very right in saying, in comparing Rome and Venice: “Illam homines dices, hanc posuisse deos.” Rome lost, by Cæsar, at the end of five hundred years, its liberty acquired by Brutus. Venice has preserved hers for eleven centuries, and I hope she will always do so.
Genoa! why dost thou boast of showing the grant of a Berenger, who gave thee privileges in the year 958? We know that concessions of privileges are but titles of servitude. And this is a fine title! the charter of a passing tyrant, who was never properly acknowledged in Italy, and who was driven from it two years after the date of the charter!
The true charter of liberty is independence, maintained by force. It is with the point of the sword that diplomas should be signed securing this natural prerogative. Thou hast lost, more than once, thy privilege and thy strong box, since 1748: it is necessary to take care of both. Happy Helvetia! to what charter owest thou thy liberty? To thy courage, thy firmness, and thy mountains. But I am thy emperor. But I will have thee be so no longer. Thy fathers have been the slaves of my fathers. It is for that reason that their children will not serve thee. But I have the right attached to my dignity. And we have the right of nature.
When had the Seven United Provinces this incontestable right? At the moment in which they were united; and from that time Philip II. was the rebel. What a great man was William, prince of Orange: he found them slaves, and he made them free men! Why is liberty so rare? Because it is the first of blessings.
It is easy to write in prose, but very difficult to be a poet. More than one “prosateur” has affected to despise poetry; in reference to which propensity, we may call to mind the bon-mot of Montaigne: “We cannot attain to poetry; let us revenge ourselves by abusing it.”
We have already remarked, that Montesquieu, being unable to succeed in verse, professed, in his “Persian Letters,” to discover no merit in Virgil or Horace. The eloquent Bossuet endeavored to make verses, but they were detestable; he took care, however, not to declaim against great poets.
Fénelon scarcely made better verses than Bossuet, but knew by heart all the fine poetry of antiquity. His mind was full of it, and he continually quotes it in his letters.
It appears to me, that there never existed a truly eloquent man who did not love poetry. I will simply cite, for example, Cæsar and Cicero; the one composed a tragedy on Œdipus, and we have pieces of poetry by the latter which might pass among the best that preceded Lucretius, Virgil, and Horace.
A certain Abbé Trublet has printed, that he cannot read a poem at once from beginning to end. Indeed, Mr. Abbé! but what can we read, what can we understand, what can we do, for a long time together, any more than poetry?
“Viand” comes no doubt from “victus”—that which nourishes and sustains life: from victus was formed viventia; from viventa, “viand.” This word should be applied to all that is eaten, but by the caprice of all languages, the custom has prevailed of refusing this denomination to bread, milk, rice, pulses, fruits, and fish, and of giving it only to terrestrial animals. This seems contrary to reason, but it is the fancy of all languages, and of those who formed them.
Some of the first Christians made a scruple of eating that which had been offered to the gods, of whatever nature it might be. St. Paul approved not of this scruple. He writes to the Corinthians: “Meat commendeth us not to God: for neither if we eat are we the better; neither if we eat not, are we the worse.” He merely exhorts them not to eat viands immolated to the gods, before those brothers who might be scandalized at it. We see not, after that, why he so ill-treats St. Peter, and reproaches him with having eaten forbidden viands with the Gentiles. We see elsewhere, in the Acts of the Apostles, that Simon Peter was authorized to eat of all indifferently; for he one day saw the firmament open, and a great sheet descending by the four corners from heaven to earth; it was covered with all kinds of four-footed beasts, with all kinds of birds and reptiles—or animals which swim—and a voice cried to him: “Kill and eat.”
You will remark, that Lent and fast-days were not then instituted. Nothing is ever done, except by degrees. We can here say, for the consolation of the weak, that the quarrel of St. Peter and St. Paul should not alarm us: saints are men. Paul commenced by being the jailer, and even the executioner, of the disciples of Jesus; Peter had denied Jesus; and we have seen that the dawning, suffering, militant, triumphant church has always been divided, from the Ebionites to the Jesuits.
I think that the Brahmins, so anterior to the Jews, might well have been divided also; but they were the first who imposed on themselves the law of not eating any animal. As they believed that souls passed and repassed from human bodies to those of beasts, they would not eat their relatives. Perhaps their best reason was the fear of accustoming men to carnage, and inspiring them with ferocious manners.
We know that Pythagoras, who studied geometry and morals among them, embraced this humane doctrine, and brought it into Italy. His disciples followed it a very long time: the celebrated philosophers, Plotinus, Jamblicus, and Porphyry, recommended and even practised it—though it is very rare to practise what is preached. The work of Porphyry on abstinence from meat, written in the middle of our third century, and very well translated into our language by M. de Burigni, is very much esteemed by the learned; but it has not made more disciples among us than the book of the physician Héquet. It is in vain that Porphyry proposes, as models, the Brahmins and Persian magi of the first class, who had a horror of the custom of burying the entrails of other creatures in our own; he is not now followed by the fathers of La Trappe. The work of Porphyry is addressed to one of his ancient disciples, named Firmus, who, it is said, turned Christian, to have the liberty of eating meat and drinking wine.
He shows Firmus, that in abstaining from meat and strong liquors, we preserve the health of the soul and body; that we live longer, and more innocently. All his reflections are those of a scrupulous theologian, of a rigid philosopher, and of a mild and sensible mind. We might think, in reading his work, that this great enemy of the church was one of its fathers.
He speaks not of metempsychosis, but he regards animals as our brethren, because they are animated like ourselves; they have the same principles of life; they have, as well as ourselves, ideas, sentiment, memory, and industry. They want but speech; if they had it, should we dare to kill and eat them; should we dare to commit these fratricides? Where is the barbarian who would roast a lamb, if it conjured him by an affecting speech not to become at once an assassin, an anthropophagus?
This book proves, at least, that among the Gentiles there were philosophers of the most austere virtue; but they could not prevail against butchers and gluttons. It is to be remarked, that Porphyry makes a very fine eulogium on the Essenians: he is filled with veneration for them, although they sometimes eat meat. He was for whoever was the most virtuous, whether Essenians, Pythagoreans, Stoics, or Christians. When sects are formed of a small number, their manners are pure; and they degenerate in proportion as they become powerful. Lust, gaming, and luxury then prevail, and all the virtues fly away:
It is said of Marcus Brutus, that before killing himself, he pronounced these words: “Oh, Virtue! I believed that thou wert something, but thou art only a vile phantom!”
Thou wast right, Brutus, if thou madest virtue consist in being the chief of a party, and the assassin of thy benefactor, of thy father, Julius Cæsar. Hadst thou made virtue to consist only in doing good to those who depended on thee, thou wouldst not have called it a phantom, or have killed thyself in despair.
I am very virtuous, says a miserable excrement of theology. I possess the four cardinal virtues, and the three theological ones. An honest man asks him: What are the cardinal virtues? The other answers: They are fortitude, prudence, temperance, and justice.
If thou art just, thou hast said all. Thy fortitude, prudence, and temperance are useful qualities: if thou possessest them, so much the better for thee; but if thou art just, so much the better for others. It is not sufficient to be just, thou shouldst be beneficent; this is being truly cardinal. And thy theological virtues, what are they?
Faith, hope, and charity.
Is there virtue in believing? If that which thou believest seems to thee to be true, there is no merit in believing it; if it seems to thee to be false, it is impossible for thee to believe it.
Hope should no more be a virtue than fear; we fear and we hope, according to what is promised or threatened us. As to charity, is it not that which the Greeks and Romans understood by humanity—love of your neighbor? This love is nothing, if it does not act; beneficence is therefore the only true virtue.
What a fool! Yes, truly, I shall trouble myself to serve men, if I get nothing in return! Every trouble merits payment. I pretend to do no good action, except to insure myself paradise.
Ah, good sir, that is to say, that if you did not hope for paradise, or fear hell, you would never do a good action. You quote me lines from Juvenal, to prove to me that you have only your interest in view. Racine could at least show you, that even in this world we might find our recompense, while waiting for a better:
Believe me, doctor, there are two things which deserve to be loved for themselves—God and Virtue.
Ah, sir! you are a Fénelonist.
I will inform against you at the tribunal of Meaux.
Go, and inform!
What is virtue? Beneficence towards your neighbor. Can I call virtue anything but that which does good! I am indigent, thou art liberal. I am in danger, thou succorest me. I am deceived, thou tellest me the truth. I am neglected, thou consolest me. I am ignorant, thou teachest me. I can easily call thee virtuous, but what will become of the cardinal and theological virtues? Some will remain in the schools.
What signifies it to me whether thou art temperate? It is a precept of health which thou observest; thou art the better for it; I congratulate thee on it. Thou hast faith and hope; I congratulate thee still more; they will procure thee eternal life. Thy theological virtues are celestial gifts; thy cardinal ones are excellent qualities, which serve to guide thee; but they are not virtues in relation to thy neighbor. The prudent man does himself good; the virtuous one does it to other men. St. Paul was right in telling thee, that charity ranks above faith and hope.
But how! wilt thou admit of no other virtues than those which are useful to thy neighbor? How can I admit any others? We live in society; there is therefore nothing truly good for us but that which does good to society. An hermit will be sober, pious, and dressed in sackcloth: very well; he will be holy; but I will not call him virtuous until he shall have done some act of virtue by which men may have profited. While he is alone, he is neither beneficent nor the contrary; he is nobody to us. If St. Bruno had made peace in families, if he had assisted the indigent, he had been virtuous; having fasted and prayed in solitude, he is only a saint. Virtue between men is a commerce of good actions: he who has no part in this commerce, must not be reckoned. If this saint were in the world, he would doubtless do good, but while he is not in the world, we have no reason to give him the name of virtuous: he will be good for himself, and not for us.
But, say you, if an hermit is gluttonous, drunken, given up to a secret debauch with himself, he is vicious; he is therefore virtuous, if he has the contrary qualities. I cannot agree to this: he is a very vile man, if he has the faults of which you speak; but he is not vicious, wicked, or punishable by society, to which his infamies do no harm. It may be presumed, that if he re-enters society, he will do evil to it; he then will be very vicious; and it is even more probable that he will be a wicked man, than it is certain that the other temperate and chaste hermit will be a good man; for in society faults augment, and good qualities diminish.
A much stronger objection is made to me: Nero, Pope Alexander VI., and other monsters of the kind, have performed good actions. I reply boldly, that they were virtuous at the time. Some theologians say, that the divine Emperor Antoninus was not virtuous; that he was an infatuated Stoic, who, not content with commanding men, would further be esteemed by them; that he gave himself credit for the good which he did to mankind; that he was all his life just, laborious, beneficent, through vanity; and that he only deceived men by his virtues. To which I exclaim: My God! often send us such knaves!
When I speak of vision, I do not mean the admirable manner in which our eyes perceive objects, and in which the pictures of all that we see are painted on the retina—a divine picture designed according to all the laws of mathematics, which is, consequently, like everything else from the hand of the Eternal geometrician; in spite of those who explain it, and who pretend to believe, that the eye is not intended to see, the ear to hear, or the feet to walk. This matter has been so learnedly treated by so many great geniuses, that there is no further remnant to glean after their harvests.
I do not pretend to speak of the heresy of which Pope John XXII. was accused, who pretended that saints will not enjoy beatific vision until after the last judgment. I give up this vision. My subject is the innumerable multitude of visions with which so many holy personages have been favored or tormented; which so many idiots are believed to have seen; with which so many knavish men and women have duped the world, either to get the reputation of being favored by heaven, which is very flattering, or to gain money, which is still more so to rogues in general.
Calmet and Langlet have made ample collections of these visions. The most interesting in my opinion is the one which has produced the greatest effects, since it has tended to reform three parts of the Swiss—that of the young Jacobin Yetzer, with which I have already amused my dear reader. This Yetzer, as you know, saw the Holy Virgin and St. Barbara several times, who informed him of the marks of Jesus Christ. You are not ignorant of how he received, from a Jacobin confessor, a host powdered with arsenic, and how the bishop of Lausanne would have had him burned for complaining that he was poisoned. You have seen, that these abominations were one of the causes of the misfortune which happened to the Bernese, of ceasing to be Catholic, Apostolical, and Roman.
I am sorry that I have no visions of this consequence to tell you of. Yet you will confess, that the vision of the reverend father Cordeliers of Orleans, in 1534, approaches the nearest to it, though still very distant. The criminal process which it occasioned is still in manuscript in the library of the king of France, No. 1770.
The illustrious house of St. Memin did great good to the convent of the Cordeliers, and had their vault in the church. The wife of a lord of St. Memin, provost of Orleans, being dead, her husband, believing that his ancestors had sufficiently impoverished themselves by giving to the monks, gave the brothers a present which did not appear to them considerable enough. These good Franciscans conceived a plan for disinterring the deceased, to force the widower to have her buried again in their holy ground, and to pay them better. The project was not clever, for the lord of St. Memin would not have failed to bury her elsewhere. But folly often mixes with knavery.
At first, the soul of the lady of St. Memin appeared only to two brothers. She said to them: “I am damned, like Judas, because my husband has not given sufficient.” The two knaves who related these words perceived not, that they must do more harm to the convent than good. The aim of the convent was to extort money from the lord of St. Memin, for the repose of his wife’s soul. Now, if Madame de St. Memin was damned, all the money in the world could not save her. They got no more; the Cordeliers lost their labor.
At this time there was very little good sense in France: the nation had been brutalized by the invasion of the Franks, and afterwards by the invasion of scholastic theology; but in Orleans there were some persons who reasoned. If the Great Being permitted the soul of Madame de St. Memin to appear to two Franciscans, it was not natural, they thought, for this soul to declare itself damned like Judas. This comparison appeared to them to be unnatural. This lady had not sold our Lord Jesus Christ for thirty deniers; she was not hanged; her intestines had not obtruded themselves; and there was not the slightest pretext for comparing her to Judas.
This caused suspicion; and the rumor was still greater in Orleans, because there were already heretics there who believed not in certain visions, and who, in admitting absurd principles, did not always fail to draw good conclusions. The Cordeliers, therefore, changed their battery, and put the lady in purgatory.
She therefore appeared again, and declared that purgatory was her lot; but she demanded to be disinterred. It was not the custom to disinter those in purgatory; but they hoped that M. de St. Memin would prevent this extraordinary affront, by giving money. This demand of being thrown out of the church augmented the suspicions. It was well known, that souls often appeared, but they never demanded to be disinterred.
From this time the soul spoke no more, but it haunted everybody in the convent and church. The brother Cordeliers exorcised it. Brother Peter of Arras adopted a very awkward manner of conjuring it. He said to it: “If thou art the soul of the late Madame de St. Memin, strike four knocks;” and the four knocks were struck. “If thou are damned, strike six knocks;” and the six knocks were struck. “If thou art still tormented in hell, because thy body is buried in holy ground, knock six more times;” and the other six knocks were heard still more distinctly. “If we disinter thy body, and cease praying to God for thee, wilt thou be the less damned? Strike five knocks to certify it to us;” and the soul certified it by five knocks.
This interrogation of the soul, made by Peter of Arras, was signed by twenty-two Cordeliers, at the head of which was the reverend father provincial. This father provincial the next day asked it the same questions, and received the same answers.
It will be said, that the soul having declared that it was in purgatory, the Cordeliers should not have supposed that it was in hell; but it is not my fault if theologians contradict one another.
The lord of St. Memin presented a request to the king against the father Cordeliers. They presented a request on their sides; the king appointed judges, at the head of whom was Adrian Fumée, master of requests.
The procureur-general of the commission required that the said Cordeliers should be burned, but the sentence only condemned them to make the “amende honorable” with a torch in their bosom, and to be banished from the kingdom. This sentence is of February 18, 1535.
After such a vision, it is useless to relate any others: they are all a species either of knavery or folly. Visions of the first kind are under the province of justice; those of the second are either visions of diseased fools, or of fools in good health. The first belong to medicine, the second to Bedlam.
VISION OF CONSTANTINE.
Grave theologians have not failed to allege a specious reason to maintain the truth of the appearance of the cross in heaven; but we are going to show that these arguments are not sufficiently convincing to exclude doubt; the evidences which they quote being neither persuasive nor according with one another.
First, they produce no witnesses but Christians, the deposition of whom may be suspected in the treatment of a fact which tended to prove the divinity of their religion. How is it that no Pagan author has made mention of this miracle, which was seen equally by all the army of Constantine? That Zosimus, who seems to have endeavored to diminish the glory of Constantine, has said nothing of it, is not surprising; but the silence appears very strange in the author of the panegyric of Constantine, pronounced in his presence at Trier; in which oration the panegyrist expresses himself in magnificent terms on all the war against Maxentius, whom this emperor had conquered.
Another orator, who, in his panegyric, treats so eloquently of the war against Maxentius, of the clemency which Constantine showed after the victory, and of the deliverance of Rome, says not a word on this apparition; while he assures us, that celestial armies were seen by all the Gauls, which armies, it was pretended, were sent to aid Constantine.
This surprising vision has not only been unknown to Pagan authors, but to three Christian writers, who had the finest occasion to speak of them. Optatianus Porphyrius mentions more than once the monogram of Christ, which he calls the celestial sign, in the panegyric of Constantine which he wrote in Latin verse, but not a word on the appearance of the cross in the sky.
Lactantius says nothing of it in his treatise on the “Death of Persecutors,” which he composed towards the year 314, two years after the vision of which we speak; yet he must have been perfectly informed of all that regards Constantine, having been tutor to Crispus, the son of this prince. He merely relates, that Constantine was commanded, in a dream, to put the divine image of the cross on the bucklers of his soldiers, and to give up war: but in relating a dream, the truth of which had no other support than the evidence of the emperor, he passes in silence over a prodigy to which all the army were witnesses.
Further, Eusebius of Cæsarea himself, who has given the example to all other Christian historians on the subject, speaks not of this wonder, in the whole course of his “Ecclesiastical History,” though he enlarges much on the exploits of Constantine against Maxentius. It is only in his life of this emperor that he expresses himself in these terms: “Constantine resolved to adore the god of Constantius; his father implored the protection of this god against Maxentius. Whilst he was praying, he had a wonderful vision, which would appear incredible, if related by another; but since the victorious emperor has himself related it to us, who wrote this history; and that, after having been long known to this prince, and enjoying a share in his good graces, the emperor confirming what he said by oath—who could doubt it? particularly since the event has confirmed the truth of it.
“He affirmed, that in the afternoon, when the sun set, he saw a luminous cross above it, with this inscription in Greek—‘By this sign, conquer:’ that this appearance astonished him extremely, as well as all the soldiers who followed him, who were witnesses of the miracle; that while his mind was fully occupied with this vision, and he sought to penetrate the sense of it, the night being come, Jesus Christ appeared to him during his sleep, with the same sign which He had shown to him in the air in the day-time, and commanded him to make a standard of the same form, and to bear it in his battles, to secure him from danger. Constantine, rising at break of day, related to his friends the vision which he had beheld; and, sending for goldsmiths and lapidaries, he sat in the midst of them, explained to them the figure of the sign which he had seen, and commanded them to make a similar one of gold and jewels; and we remember having sometimes seen it.”
Eusebius afterwards adds, that Constantine, astonished at so admirable a vision, sent for Christian priests; and that, instructed by them, he applied himself to reading our sacred books, and concluded that he ought to adore with a profound respect the God who appeared to him.
How can we conceive that so admirable a vision, seen by so many millions of people, and so calculated to justify the truth of the Christian religion, could be unknown to Eusebius, an historian so careful in seeking all that could contribute to do honor to Christianity, as even to quote profane monuments falsely, as we have seen in the article on “Eclipse?” And how can we persuade ourselves that he was not informed of it, until several years after, by the sole evidence of Constantine? Were there no Christians in the army, who publicly made a glory of having seen such a prodigy? Had they so little interest in their cause as to keep silence on so great a miracle? Ought we to be astonished, after that, that Gelasius, one of the successors of Eusebius, in the siege of Cæsarea in the fifth century, has said that many people suspected that it was only a fable, invented in favor of the Christian religion?
This suspicion will become much stronger, if we take notice how little the witnesses agree on the circumstances of this marvellous appearance. Almost all affirm, that the cross was seen by Constantine and all his army; and Gelasius speaks of Constantine alone. They differ on the time of the vision. Philostorgius, in his “Ecclesiastical History,” of which Photius has preserved us the extract, says, that it was when Constantine gained the victory over Maxentius; others pretend that it was before, when Constantine was making preparations for attacking the tyrant, and was on his march with his army. Arthemius, quoted by Metaphrastus and Surius, mentions the 20th of October, and says that it was at noon; others speak of the afternoon at sunset.
Authors do not agree better even on the vision: the greatest number acknowledged but one, and that in a dream. There is only Eusebius, followed by Philostorgius and Socrates, who speaks of two; the one that Constantine saw in the day-time, and the other which he saw in a dream, tending to confirm the first. Nicephorus Callistus reckons three.
The inscription offers new differences: Eusebius says that it was in Greek characters, while others do not speak of it. According to Philostorgius and Nicephorus, it was in Latin characters; others say nothing about it, and seem by their relation to suppose that the characters were Greek. Philostorgius affirms, that the inscription was formed by an assemblage of stars; Arthemius says that the letters were golden. The author quoted by Photius, represents them as composed of the same luminous matter as the cross; and according to Sosomenes, it had no inscription, and they were angels who said to Constantine: “By this sign, gain the victory.”
Finally, the relation of historians is opposed on the consequences of this vision. If we take that of Eusebius, Constantine, aided by God, easily gained the victory over Maxentius; but according to Lactantius, the victory was much disputed. He even says that the troops of Maxentius had some advantage, before Constantine made his army approach the gates of Rome. If we may believe Eusebius and Sosomenes, from this epoch Constantine was always victorious, and opposed the salutary sign of the cross to his enemies, as an impenetrable rampart. However, a Christian author, of whom M. de Valois has collected some fragments, at the end of Ammianus Marcellinus—relates, that in the two battles given to Licinius by Constantine, the victory was doubtful, and that Constantine was even slightly wounded in the thigh; and Nicephorus says, that after the first apparition, he twice combated the Byzantines, without opposing the cross to them, and would not even have remembered it, if he had not lost nine thousand men, and had the same vision twice more. In the first, the stars were so arranged that they formed these words of a psalm: “Call on me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me;” and the last, much clearer and more brilliant still, bore: “By this sign, thou shalt vanquish all thy enemies.”
Philostorgius affirms, that the vision of the cross, and the victory gained over Maxentius, determined Constantine to embrace the Christian faith; but Rufinus, who has translated the “Ecclesiastical History” of Eusebius into Latin, says that he already favored Christianity, and honored the true God. It is however known, that he did not receive baptism until a few days before his death, as is expressly said by Philostorgius, St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, Socrates, Theodoret, and the author of the Chronicle of Alexandria. This custom, then common, was founded on the belief that, baptism effacing all the sins of him who received it, he died certain of his salvation.
We might confine ourselves to these general reflections, but by superabundance of right we will discuss the authority of Eusebius, as an historian, and that of Constantine and Arthemius, as ocular witnesses.
As to Arthemius, we think that he ought not to be placed in the rank of ocular witnesses; his discourse being founded only on his “Acts,” related by Metaphrastus, a fabulous author: “Acts” which Baronius pretends it was wrong to impeach, at the same time that he confesses that they are interpolated.
As to the speech of Constantine, related by Eusebius, it is indisputably an astonishing thing, that this emperor feared that he should not be believed unless he made oath; and that Eusebius has not supported his evidence by that of any of the officers or soldiers of the army. But without here adopting the opinion of some scholars, who doubt whether Eusebius is the author of the life of Constantine, is he not an author who, in this work, bears throughout the character of a panegyrist, rather than that of a historian? Is he not a writer who has carefully suppressed all which could be disadvantageous to his hero? In a word, does he not show his partiality, when he says, in his “Ecclesiastical History,” speaking of Maxentius, that having usurped the sovereign power at Rome, to flatter the people he feigned at first to profess the Christian religion? As if it was impossible for Constantine to make use of such a feint, and to pretend this vision, just as Licinius, some time after, to encourage his soldiers against Maximin, pretended that an angel in a dream had dictated a prayer to him, which he must repeat with his army.
How could Eusebius really have the effrontery to call a prince a Christian who caused the temple of Concord to be rebuilt at his own expense, as is proved by an inscription, which was read in the time of Lelio Geraldi, in the temple of Latran? A prince who caused his son Crispus, already honored with the title of Cæsar, to perish on a slight suspicion of having commerce with Fausta, his stepmother; who caused this same Fausta, to whom he was indebted for the preservation of his life, to be suffocated in an overheated bath; who caused the emperor Maximian Hercules, his adopted father, to be strangled; who took away the life of the young Licinius, his nephew, who had already displayed very good qualities; and, in short, who dishonored himself by so many murders, that the consul Ablavius called his times Neronian? We might add, that much dependence should not be placed on the oath of Constantine, since he had not the least scruple in perjuring himself, by causing Licinius to be strangled, to whom he had promised his life on oath. Eusebius passes in silence over all the actions of Constantine which are related by Eutropius, Zosimus, Orosius, St. Jerome, and Aurelius Victor.
After this, have we not reason to conclude that the pretended appearance of the cross in the sky is only a fraud which Constantine imagined to favor the success of his ambitious enterprises? The medals of this prince and of his family, which are found in Banduri, and in the work entitled, “Numismata Imperatorum Romanorum”; the triumphal arch of which Baronius speaks, in the inscription of which the senate and the Roman people said that Constantine, by the direction of the Divinity, had rid the republic of the tyrant Maxentius, and of all his faction; finally, the statue which Constantine himself caused to be erected at Rome, holding a lance terminating in the form of a cross, with this inscription—as related by Eusebius: “By this saving sign, I have delivered your city from the yoke of tyranny”—all this, I say, only proves the immoderate pride of this artificial prince, who would everywhere spread the noise of his pretended dream, and perpetuate the recollection of it.
Yet, to excuse Eusebius, we must compare him to a bishop of the seventeenth century, whom La Bruyère hesitated not to call a father of the Church. Bossuet, at the same time that he fell so unmercifully on the visions of the elegant and sensible Fénelon, commented himself, in the funeral oration of Anne of Gonzaga of Cleves, on the two visions which worked the conversion of the Princess Palatine. It was an admirable dream, says this prelate; she thought that, walking alone in a forest, she met with a blind man in a small cell. She comprehended that a sense is wanting to the incredulous as well as to the blind; and at the same time, in the midst of so mysterious a dream, she applied the fine comparison of the blind man to the truths of religion and of the other life.
In the second vision, God continued to instruct her, as He did Joseph and Solomon; and during the drowsiness which the trouble caused her, He put this parable into her mind, so similar to that in the gospel: She saw that appear which Jesus Christ has not disdained to give us as an image of His tenderness—a hen become a mother, anxious round the little ones which she conducted. One of them having strayed, our invalid saw it swallowed by a hungry dog. She ran and tore the innocent animal away from him. At the same time, a voice cried from the other side that she must give it back to the ravisher. “No,” said she, “I will never give it back.” At this moment she awakened, and the explanation of the figure which had been shown to her presented itself to her mind in an instant.
To make a vow for life, is to make oneself a slave. How can this worst of all slavery be allowed in a country in which slavery is proscribed? To promise to God by an oath, that from the age of fifteen until death we will be a Jesuit, Jacobin, or Capuchin, is to affirm that we will always think like a Capuchin, a Jacobin, or a Jesuit. It is very pleasant to promise, for a whole life, that which no man can certainly insure from night to morning!
How can governments have been such enemies to themselves, and so absurd, as to authorize citizens to alienate their liberty at an age when they are not allowed to dispose of the least portion of their fortunes? How, being convinced of the extent of this stupidity, have not the whole of the magistracy united to put an end to it?
Is it not alarming to reflect that there are more monks than soldiers? Is it possible not to be affected by the discovery of the secrets of cloisters; the turpitudes, the horrors, and the torments to which so many unhappy children are subjected, who detest the state which they have been forced to adopt, when they become men, and who beat with useless despair the chains which their weakness has imposed upon them?
I knew a young man whose parents engaged to make a Capuchin of him at fifteen years and a half old, when he desperately loved a girl very nearly of his own age. As soon as the unhappy youth had made his vow to St. Francis, the devil reminded him of the vows which he had made to his mistress, to whom he had signed a promise of marriage. At last, the devil being stronger than St. Francis, the young Capuchin left his cloister, repaired to the house of his mistress, and was told that she had entered a convent and made profession.
He flew to the convent, and asked to see her, when he was told that she had died of grief. This news deprived him of all sense, and he fell to the ground nearly lifeless. He was immediately transported to a neighboring monastery, not to afford him the necessary medical aid, but in order to procure him the blessing of extreme unction before his death, which infallibly saves the soul.
The house to which the poor fainting boy was carried, happened to be a convent of Capuchins, who charitably let him remain at the door for three hours; but at last he was recognized by one of the venerable brothers, who had seen him in the monastery to which he belonged. On this discovery, he was carried into a cell, and attention paid to recover him, in order that he might expiate, by a salutary penitence, the errors of which he had been guilty.
As soon as he had recovered strength, he was conducted, well bound, to his convent, and the following is precisely the manner in which he was treated. In the first place he was placed in a dungeon under ground, at the bottom of which was an enormous stone, to which a chain of iron was attached. To this chain he was fastened by one leg, and near him was placed a loaf of barley bread and a jug of water; after which they closed the entrance of the dungeon with a large block of stone, which covered the opening by which they had descended.
At the end of three days they withdrew him from the dungeon, in order to bring him before the criminal court of the Capuchins. They wished to know if he had any accomplices in his flight, and to oblige him to confess, applied the mode of torture employed in the convent. This preparatory torture was inflicted by cords, which bound the limbs of the patient, and made him endure a sort of rack.
After having undergone these torments, he was condemned to be imprisoned for two years in his cell, from which he was to be brought out thrice a week, in order to receive upon his naked body the discipline with iron chains.
For six months his constitution endured this punishment, from which he was at length so fortunate as to escape in consequence of a quarrel among the Capuchins, who fought with one another, and allowed the prisoner to escape during the fray.
After hiding himself for some hours, he ventured to go abroad at the decline of day, almost worn out by hunger, and scarcely able to support himself. A passing Samaritan took pity upon the poor, famished spectre, conducted him to his house, and gave him assistance. The unhappy youth himself related to me his story in the presence of his liberator. Behold here the consequence of vows!
It would be a nice point to decide, whether the horrors of passing every day among the mendicant friars are more revolting than the pernicious riches of the other orders, which reduce so many families into mendicants.
All of them have made a vow to live at our expense, and to be a burden to their country; to injure its population, and to betray both their contemporaries and posterity; and shall we suffer it?
Here is another interesting question for officers of the army: Why are monks allowed to recover one of their brethren who has enlisted for a soldier, while a captain is prevented from recovering a deserter who has turned monk?
VOYAGE OF ST. PETER TO ROME.
Of the famous dispute, whether Peter made the journey to Rome, is it not in the main as frivolous as most other grand disputes? The revenues of the abbey of St. Denis, in France, depend neither on the truth of the journey of St. Dionysius the Areopagite from Athens to the midst of Gaul; his martyrdom at Montmartre; nor the other journey which he made after his death, from Montmartre to St. Denis, carrying his head in his arms, and kissing it at every step.
The Carthusians have great riches, without there being the least truth in the history of the canon of Paris, who rose from his coffin three successive days, to inform the assistants that he was damned.
In like manner it is very certain that the rights and revenues of the Roman pontiff can exist, whether Simon Barjonas, surnamed Cephas, went to Rome or not. All the rights of the archbishops of Rome and Constantinople were established at the Council of Chalcedon, in the year 451 of our vulgar era, and there was no mention in this council of any journey made by an apostle to Byzantium or to Rome.
The patriarchs of Alexander and Constantinople followed the lot of their provinces. The ecclesiastical chiefs of these two imperial cities, and of opulent Egypt, must necessarily have more authority, privileges, and riches, than bishops of little towns.
If the residence of an apostle in a city decided so many rights, the bishop of Jerusalem would have been, without contradiction, the first bishop of Christendom. He was evidently the successor of St. James, the brother of Jesus Christ, acknowledged as the founder of this church, and afterwards called the first of all bishops. We should add by the same reasoning, that all the patriarchs of Jerusalem should be circumcised, since the fifteen first bishops of Jerusalem—the cradle of Christianity and tomb of Jesus Christ—had all received circumcision. It is indisputable that the first largesses made to the church of Rome by Constantine, have not the least relation to the journey of St. Peter.
1. The first church raised at Rome was that of St. John; it is still the true cathedral. It is evident that it would have been dedicated to St. Peter, if he had been the first bishop of it. It is the strongest of all presumptions, and that alone might have ended the dispute.
2. To this powerful conjecture are joined convincing negative proofs. If Peter had been at Rome with Paul, the Acts of the Apostles would have mentioned it; and they say not a word about it.
3. If St. Peter went to preach the gospel at Rome, St. Paul would not have said, in his Epistle to the Galatians: “When they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcisions was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.”
4. In the letters which Paul writes from Rome, he never speaks of Peter; therefore, it is evident that Peter was not there.
5. In the letters which Paul writes to his brethren of Rome, there is not the least compliment to Peter, nor the least mention of him; therefore, Peter neither made a journey to Rome when Paul was in prison, nor when he was free.
6. We have never known any letter of St. Peter’s dated from Rome.
7. Some, like Paul Orosius, a Spaniard of the fifth century, say that he was at Rome in the first years of the reign of Claudius. The Acts of the Apostles say that he was then at Jerusalem; and the Epistles of Paul, that he was at Antioch.
8. I do not pretend to bring forward any proof, but speaking humanly, and according to the rules of profane criticism, Peter could scarcely go from Jerusalem to Rome, knowing neither the Latin nor even the Greek language, which St. Paul spoke, though very badly. It is said that the apostles spoke all the languages of the universe; therefore, I am silenced.
9. Finally, the first mention which we ever had of the journey of St. Peter to Rome, came from one named Papias, who lived about a hundred years after St. Peter. This Papias was a Phrygian; he wrote in Phrygia; and he pretended that St. Peter went to Rome, because in one of his letters he speaks of Babylon. We have, indeed, a letter, attributed to St. Peter, written in these obscure times, in which it is said: “The Church which is at Babylon, my wife, and my son Mark, salute you.” It has pleased some translators to translate the word meaning my wife, by “chosen vessel”: “Babylon, the chosen vessel.” This is translating comprehensively.
Papias, who was, it must be confessed, one of the great visionaries of these ages, imagined that Babylon signified Rome. It was, however, very natural for Peter to depart from Antioch to visit the brethren at Babylon. There were always Jews at Babylon; and they continually carried on the trade of brokers and peddlers; it is very likely that several disciples sought refuge there, and that Peter went to encourage them. There is not more reason in supposing that Babylon signifies Rome, than in supposing that Rome means Babylon. What an extravagant idea, to suppose that Peter wrote an exhortation to his comrades, as we write at present, in ciphers! Did he fear that his letter should be opened at the post? Why should Peter fear that his Jewish letters should be known—so useless in a worldly sense, and to which it was impossible for the Romans to pay the least attention? Who engaged him to lie so vainly? What could have possessed people to think, that when he wrote Babylon, he intended Rome?
It was after similar convincing proofs that the judicious Calmet concludes that the journey of St. Peter to Rome is proved by St. Peter himself, who says expressly, that he has written his letter from Babylon; that is to say, from Rome, as we interpret with the ancients. Once more, this is powerful reasoning! He has probably learned this logic among the vampires!
The learned archbishop of Paris, Marca, Dupin, Blondel, and Spanheim, are not of this opinion; but it was that of Calmet, who reasoned like Calmet, and who was followed by a multitude of writers so attached to the sublimity of their principles that they sometimes neglected wholesome criticism and reason. It is a very poor pretence of the partisans of the voyage to say that the Acts of the Apostles are intended for the history of Paul, and not for that of Peter; and that if they pass in silence over the sojourn of Simon Barjonas at Rome, it is that the actions and exploits of Paul were the sole object of the writer.
The Acts speak much of Simon Barjonas, surnamed Peter; it is he who proposes to give a successor to Judas. We see him strike Ananias and his wife with sudden death, who had given him their property, but unfortunately not all of it. We see him raise his sempstress Dorcas, at the house of the tanner Simon at Joppa. He has a quarrel in Samaria with Simon, surnamed the Magician; he goes to Lippa, Cæsarea, and Jerusalem; what would it have cost him to go to Rome?
It is very difficult to decide whether Peter went to Rome under Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, or Nero. The journey in the time of Tiberius is only founded on the pretended apocryphal fasti of Italy.
Another apocrypha, entitled “Catalogues of Bishops,” makes Peter bishop of Rome immediately after the death of his master. I know not what Arabian tale sent him to Rome under Caligula. Eusebius, three hundred years after, makes him to be conducted to Rome under Claudius by a divine hand, without saying in what year.
Lactantius, who wrote in the time of Constantine, is the first veracious author who has said that Peter went to Rome under Nero, and that he was crucified there.
We must avow, that if such claims alone were brought forward by a party in a lawsuit, he would not gain his cause, and he would be advised to keep to the maxim of “uti possedetis”; and this is the part which Rome has taken.
But it is said that before Eusebius and Lactantius, the exact Papias had already related the adventure of Peter and Simon; the virtue of God which removed him into the presence of Nero; the kinsman of Nero half raised from the dead, in the name of God, by Simon, and wholly raised by Peter; the compliments of their dogs; the bread given by Peter to Simon’s dogs; the magician who flew into the air; the Christian who caused him to fall by a sign of the cross, by which he broke both his legs; Nero, who cut off Peter’s head to pay for the legs of his magician, etc. The grave Marcellus repeats this authentic history, and the grave Hegesippus again repeats it, and others repeat it after them; and I repeat to you, that if ever you plead for a meadow before the judge of Vaugirard, you will never gain your suit by such claims.
I doubt not that the episcopal chair of St. Peter is still at Rome in the fine church. I doubt not but that St. Peter enjoyed the bishopric of Rome twenty-nine years, a month, and nine days, as it is said. But I may venture to say that that is not demonstratively proved; and I say that it is to be thought that the Roman bishops of the present time are more at their ease than those of times past—obscure times, which it is very difficult to penetrate.
The celebrated Waller has been much spoken of in France; he has been praised by La Fontaine, St. Évremond, and Bayle, who, however, knew little of him beyond his name.
He had pretty nearly the same reputation in London as Voiture enjoyed in Paris, but I believe that he more deserved it. Voiture existed at a time when we were first emerging from literary ignorance, and when wit was aimed at, but scarcely attained. Turns of expression were sought for instead of thoughts, and false stones were more easily discovered than genuine diamonds. Voiture, who possessed an easy and trifling turn of mind, was the first who shone in this aurora of French literature. Had he come after the great men who have thrown so much lustre on the age of Louis XIV., he would have been forced to have had something more than mere wit, which was enough for the hotel de Rambouillet, but not enough for posterity. Boileau praises him, but it was in his first satires, and before his taste was formed. He was young, and of that age in which men judge rather by reputation than from themselves; and, besides, Boileau was often unjust in his praise as well as his censure. He praised Segrais, whom nobody read; insulted Quinault, who everybody repeated by heart; and said nothing of La Fontaine.
Waller, although superior to Voiture, was not perfect. His poems of gallantry are very graceful, but they are frequently languid from negligence, and they are often disfigured by conceits. In his days, the English had not learned to write correctly. His serious pieces are replete with vigor, and exhibit none of the softness of his gallant effusions. He composed a monody on the death of Cromwell, which, with several faults, passes for a masterpiece; and it was in reference to this eulogy that Waller made the reply to Charles II., which is inserted in “Bayle’s Dictionary.” The king—to whom Waller, after the manner of kings and poets, presented a poem stuffed with panegyric—told him that he had written more finely on Cromwell. Waller immediately replied: “Sire, we poets always succeed better in fiction than in truth.” This reply was not so sincere as that of the Dutch ambassador, who, when the same king complained to him that his masters had less regard for him than for Cromwell, replied: “Ah, sire! that Cromwell was quite another thing.” There are courtiers in England, as elsewhere, and Waller was one of them; but after their death, I consider men only by their works; all the rest is annihilated. I simply observe that Waller, born to an estate of the annual value of sixty thousand livres, had never the silly pride or carelessness to neglect his talent. The earls of Dorset and Roscommon, the two dukes of Buckingham, the earl of Halifax, and a great many others, have not thought it below them to become celebrated poets and illustrious writers; and their works do them more honor than their titles. They have cultivated letters as if their fortunes depended on their success, and have rendered literature respectable in the eyes of the people, who in all things require leaders from among the great—who, however, have less influence of this kind in England than in any other place in the world.
All animals are perpetually at war; every species is born to devour another. There are none, even to sheep and doves, who do not swallow a prodigious number of imperceptible animals. Males of the same species make war for the females, like Menelaus and Paris. Air, earth, and the waters, are fields of destruction.
It seems that God having given reason to men, this reason should teach them not to debase themselves by imitating animals, particularly when nature has given them neither arms to kill their fellow-creatures, nor instinct which leads them to suck their blood.
Yet murderous war is so much the dreadful lot of man, that except two or three nations, there are none but what their ancient histories represent as armed against one another. Towards Canada, man and warrior are synonymous; and we have seen, in our hemisphere, that thief and soldier were the same thing. Manichæans! behold your excuse.
The most determined of flatterers will easily agree, that war always brings pestilence and famine in its train, from the little that he may have seen in the hospitals of the armies of Germany, or the few villages he may have passed through in which some great exploit of war has been performed.
That is doubtless a very fine art which desolates countries, destroys habitations, and in a common year causes the death of from forty to a hundred thousand men. This invention was first cultivated by nations assembled for their common good; for instance, the diet of the Greeks declared to the diet of Phrygia and neighboring nations, that they intended to depart on a thousand fishers’ barks, to exterminate them if they could.
The assembled Roman people judged that it was to their interest to go and fight, before harvest, against the people of Veii or the Volscians. And some years after, all the Romans, being exasperated against all the Carthaginians, fought them a long time on sea and land. It is not exactly the same at present.
A genealogist proves to a prince that he descends in a right line from a count, whose parents made a family compact, three or four hundred years ago, with a house the recollection of which does not even exist. This house had distant pretensions to a province, of which the last possessor died of apoplexy. The prince and his council see his right at once. This province, which is some hundred leagues distant from him, in vain protests that it knows him not; that it has no desire to be governed by him; that to give laws to its people, he must at least have their consent; these discourses only reach as far as the ears of the prince, whose right is incontestable. He immediately assembles a great number of men who have nothing to lose, dresses them in coarse blue cloth, borders their hats with broad white binding, makes them turn to the right and left, and marches to glory.
Other princes who hear of this equipment, take part in it, each according to his power, and cover a small extent of country with more mercenary murderers than Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, and Bajazet employed in their train. Distant people hear that they are going to fight, and that they may gain five or six sous a day, if they will be of the party; they divide themselves into two bands, like reapers, and offer their services to whoever will employ them.
These multitudes fall upon one another, not only without having any interest in the affair, but without knowing the reason of it. We see at once five or six belligerent powers, sometimes three against three, sometimes two against four, and sometimes one against five; all equally detesting one another, uniting with and attacking by turns; all agree in a single point, that of doing all the harm possible.
The most wonderful part of this infernal enterprise is that each chief of the murderers causes his colors to be blessed, and solemnly invokes God before he goes to exterminate his neighbors. If a chief has only the fortune to kill two or three thousand men, he does not thank God for it; but when he has exterminated about ten thousand by fire and sword, and, to complete the work, some town has been levelled with the ground, they then sing a long song in four parts, composed in a language unknown to all who have fought, and moreover replete with barbarism. The same song serves for marriages and births, as well as for murders; which is unpardonable, particularly in a nation the most famous for new songs.
Natural religion has a thousand times prevented citizens from committing crimes. A well-trained mind has not the inclination for it; a tender one is alarmed at it, representing to itself a just and avenging God; but artificial religion encourages all cruelties which are exercised by troops—conspiracies, seditions, pillages, ambuscades, surprises of towns, robberies, and murder. Each marches gaily to crime, under the banner of his saint.
A certain number of orators are everywhere paid to celebrate these murderous days; some are dressed in a long black close coat, with a short cloak; others have a shirt above a gown; some wear two variegated stuff streamers over their shirts. All of them speak for a long time, and quote that which was done of old in Palestine, as applicable to a combat in Veteravia.
The rest of the year these people declaim against vices. They prove, in three points and by antitheses, that ladies who lay a little carmine upon their cheeks, will be the eternal objects of the eternal vengeances of the Eternal; that Polyeuctus and Athalia are works of the demon; that a man who, for two hundred crowns a day, causes his table to be furnished with fresh sea-fish during Lent, infallibly works his salvation; and that a poor man who eats two sous and a half worth of mutton, will go forever to all the devils.
Of five or six thousand declamations of this kind, there are three or four at most, composed by a Gaul named Massillon, which an honest man may read without disgust; but in all these discourses, you will scarcely find two in which the orator dares to say a word against the scourge and crime of war, which contains all other scourges and crimes. The unfortunate orators speak incessantly against love, which is the only consolation of mankind, and the only mode of making amends for it; they say nothing of the abominable efforts which we make to destroy it.
You have made a very bad sermon on impurity—oh, Bourdaloue!—but none on these murders, varied in so many ways; on these rapines and robberies; on this universal rage which devours the world. All the united vices of all ages and places will never equal the evils produced by a single campaign.
Miserable physicians of souls! you exclaim, for five quarters of an hour, on some pricks of a pin, and say nothing on the malady which tears us into a thousand pieces! Philosophers! moralists! burn all your books. While the caprice of a few men makes that part of mankind consecrated to heroism, to murder loyally millions of our brethren, can there be anything more horrible throughout nature?
What becomes of, and what signifies to me, humanity, beneficence, modesty, temperance, mildness, wisdom, and piety, while half a pound of lead, sent from the distance of a hundred steps, pierces my body, and I die at twenty years of age, in inexpressible torments, in the midst of five or six thousand dying men, while my eyes which open for the last time, see the town in which I was born destroyed by fire and sword, and the last sounds which reach my ears are the cries of women and children expiring under the ruins, all for the pretended interests of a man whom I know not?
What is worse, war is an inevitable scourge. If we take notice, all men have worshipped Mars. Sabaoth, among the Jews, signifies the god of arms; but Minerva, in Homer, calls Mars a furious, mad, and infernal god.
The celebrated Montesquieu, who was called humane, has said, however, that it is just to bear fire and sword against our neighbors, when we fear that they are doing too well. If this is the spirit of laws, it is also that of Borgia and of Machiavelli. If unfortunately he says true, we must write against this truth, though it may be proved by facts.
This is what Montesquieu says: “Between societies, the right of natural defence sometimes induces the necessity of attacking, when one people sees that a longer peace puts another in a situation to destroy it, and that attack at the given moment is the only way of preventing this destruction.”
How can attack in peace be the only means of preventing this destruction? You must be sure that this neighbor will destroy you, if he become powerful. To be sure of it, he must already have made preparations for your overthrow. In this case, it is he who commences the war; it is not you: your supposition is false and contradictory.
If ever war is evidently unjust, it is that which you propose: it is going to kill your neighbor, who does not attack you, lest he should ever be in a state to do so. To hazard the ruin of your country, in the hope of ruining without reason that of another, is assuredly neither honest nor useful; for we are never sure of success, as you well know.
If your neighbor becomes too powerful during peace, what prevents you from rendering yourself equally powerful? If he has made alliances, make them on your side. If, having fewer monks, he has more soldiers and manufacturers, imitate him in this wise economy. If he employs his sailors better, employ yours in the same manner: all that is very just. But to expose your people to the most horrible misery, in the so often false idea of overturning your dear brother, the most serene neighboring prince!—it was not for the honorary president of a pacific society to give you such advice.
WEAKNESS ON BOTH SIDES.
Weakness on both sides is, as we know, the motto of all quarrels. I speak not here of those which have caused blood to be shed—the Anabaptists, who ravaged Westphalia; the Calvinists, who kindled so many wars in France; the sanguinary factions of the Armagnacs and Burgundians; the punishment of the Maid of Orleans, whom one-half of France regarded as a celestial heroine, and the other as a sorceress; the Sorbonne, which presented a request to have her burned; the assassination of the duke of Orleans, justified by the doctors; subjects excused from the oath of fidelity by a decree of the sacred faculty; the executioners so often employed to enforce opinions; the piles lighted for unfortunates who persuaded others that they were sorcerers and heretics—all that is more than weakness. Yet these abominations were committed in the good times of honest Germanic faith and Gallic naïveté! I would send back to them all honest people who regret times past.
I will make here, simply for my own particular edification, a little instructive memoir of the fine things which divided the minds of our grandfathers. In the eleventh century—in that good time in which we knew not the art of war, which however we have always practised; nor that of governing towns, nor commerce, nor society, and in which we could neither read nor write—men of much mind disputed solemnly, at much length, and with great vivacity, on what happened at the water-closet, after having fulfilled a sacred duty, of which we must speak only with the most profound respect. This was called the dispute of the stercorists; and, not ending in a war, was in consequence one of the mildest impertinences of the human mind.
The dispute which divided learned Spain, in the same century, on the Mosarabic version, also terminated without ravaging provinces or shedding human blood. The spirit of chivalry, which then prevailed, permitted not the difficulty to be enlightened otherwise than in leaving the decision to two noble knights. As in that of the two Don Quixotes, whichever overthrew his adversary caused his own party to triumph. Don Ruis de Martanza, knight of the Mosarabic ritual, overthrew the Don Quixote of the Latin ritual; but as the laws of chivalry decided not positively that a ritual must be proscribed because its knight was unhorsed, a more certain and established secret was made use of, to know which of the books should be preferred. The expedient alluded to was that of throwing them both into the fire, it not being possible for the sound ritual to perish in the flames. I know not how it happened, however, but they were both burned, and the dispute remained undecided, to the great astonishment of the Spaniards. By degrees, the Latin ritual got the preference; and if any knight afterwards presented himself to maintain the Mosarabic, it was the knight and not the ritual which was thrown into the fire.
In these fine times, we and other polished people, when we were ill, were obliged to have recourse to an Arabian physician. When we would know what day of the moon it was, we referred to the Arabs. If we would buy a piece of cloth, we must pay a Jew for it; and when a farmer wanted rain, he addressed himself to a sorcerer. At last, however, when some of us learned Latin, and had a bad translation of Aristotle, we figured in the world with honor, passing three or four hundred years in deciphering some pages of the Stagyrite, and in adoring and condemning them. Some said that without him we should want articles of faith; others, that he was an atheist. A Spaniard proved that Aristotle was a saint, and that we should celebrate his anniversary; while a council in France caused his divine writings to be burned. Colleges, universities, whole orders of monks, were reciprocally anathematized, on the subject of some passages of this great man—which neither themselves, the judges who interposed their authority, nor the author himself, ever understood. There were many fisticuffs given in Germany in these grave quarrels, but there was not much bloodshed. It is a pity, for the glory of Aristotle, that they did not make civil war, and have some regular battles in favor of quiddities, and of the “universal of the part of the thing.” Our ancestors cut the throats of each other in disputes upon points which they understood very little better.
It is true that a much celebrated madman named Occam, surnamed the “invincible doctor,” chief of those who stood up for the “universal of the part of thought,” demanded from the emperor Louis of Bavaria, that he should defend his pen with his imperial sword against Scott, another Scottish madman, surnamed the “subtle doctor,” who fought for the “universal of the part of the thing.” Happily, the sword of Louis of Bavaria remained in its scabbard. Who would believe that these disputes have lasted until our days, and that the Parliament of Paris, in 1624, gave a fine sentence in favor of Aristotle?
Towards the time of the brave Occam and the intrepid Scott, a much more serious quarrel arose, into which the reverend father Cordeliers inveigled all the Christian world. This was to know if their kitchen garden belonged to themselves, or if they were merely simple tenants of it. The form of the cowls, and the size of the sleeves, were further subjects of this holy war. Pope John XXII., who interfered, found out to whom he was speaking. The Cordeliers quitted his party for that of Louis of Bavaria, who then drew his sword.
There were, moreover, three or four Cordeliers burned as heretics, which is rather strong; but after all, this affair having neither shaken thrones nor ruined provinces, we may place it in the rank of peaceable follies.
There have been always some of this kind, the greater part of whom have fallen into the most profound oblivion; and of four or five hundred sects which have appeared, there remain in the memory of men those only which have produced either extreme disorder or extreme folly—two things which they willingly retain. Who knows, in the present day, that there were Orebites, Osmites, and Insdorfians? Who is now acquainted with the Anointed, the Cornacians, or the Iscariots?
Dining one day at the house of a Dutch lady, I was charitably warned by one of the guests, to take care of myself, and not to praise Voetius. “I have no desire,’ said I, “to say either good or evil of your Voetius; but why do you give me this advice?” “Because madam is a Cocceian,” said my neighbor. “With all my heart,” said I. She added, that there were still four Cocceians in Holland, and that it was a great pity that the sect perished. A time will come in which the Jansenists, who have made so much noise among us, and who are unknown everywhere else, will have the fate of the Cocceians. An old doctor said to me: “Sir, in my youth, I have debated on the ‘mandata impossibilia volentibus et conantibus.’ I have written against the formulary and the pope, and I thought myself a confessor. I have been put in prison, and I thought myself a martyr. I now no longer interfere in anything, and I believe myself to be reasonable.” “What are your occupations?” said I to him. “Sir,” replied he, “I am very fond of money.” It is thus that almost all men in their old age inwardly laugh at the follies which they ardently embraced in their youth. Sects grow old, like men. Those which have not been supported by great princes, which have not caused great mischief, grow old much sooner than others. They are epidemic maladies, which pass over like the sweating sickness and the whooping-cough.
There is no longer any question on the pious reveries of Madame Guyon. We no longer read the most unintelligible book of Maxims of the Saints, but Telemachus. We no longer remember what the eloquent Bossuet wrote against the elegant and amiable Fénelon; we give the preference to his funeral orations. In all the dispute on what is called quietism, there has been nothing good but the old tale revived of the honest woman who brought a torch to burn paradise, and a cruse of water to extinguish the fire of hell, that God should no longer be served either through hope or fear.
I will only remark one singularity in this proceeding, which is not equal to the story of the good woman; it is, that the Jesuits, who were so much accused in France by the Jansenists of having been founded by St. Ignatius, expressly to destroy the love of God, warmly interfered at Rome in favor of the pure love of Fénelon. It happened to them as to M. de Langeais, who was pursued by his wife to the Parliament of Paris, on account of his impotence, and by a girl to the Parliament of Rennes, for having rendered her pregnant. He ought to have gained one of these two causes; he lost them both. Pure love, for which the Jesuits made so much stir, was condemned at Rome, and they were always supposed at Paris to be against loving God. This opinion was so rooted in the public mind that when, some years ago, an engraving was sold representing our Lord Jesus Christ dressed as a Jesuit, a wit—apparently the loustic of the Jansenist party—wrote lines under the print intimating that the ingenious fathers had habited God like themselves, as the surest means of preventing the love of him:
At Rome, where such disputes never arise, and where they judge those that take place elsewhere, they were much annoyed with quarrels on pure love. Cardinal Carpegne, who was the reporter of the affairs of the archbishop of Cambray, was ill, and suffered much in a part which is not more spared in cardinals than in other men. His surgeon bandaged him with fine linen, which is called cambrai (cambric) in Italy as in many other places. The cardinal cried out, when the surgeon pleaded that it was the finest cambrai: “What! more cambrai still? Is it not enough to have one’s head fatigued with it?” Happy the disputes which end thus! Happy would man be if all the disputers of the world, if heresiarchs, submitted with so much moderation, such magnanimous mildness, as the great archbishop of Cambray, who had no desire to be an heresiarch! I know not whether he was right in wishing God to be loved for himself alone, but M. de Fénelon certainly deserved to be loved thus.
In purely literary disputes there is often as much snarling and party spirit as in more interesting quarrels. We should, if we could, renew the factions of the circus, which agitated the Roman Empire. Two rival actresses are capable of dividing a town. Men have all a secret fascination for faction. If we cannot cabal, pursue, and destroy one another for crowns, tiaras, and mitres, we fall upon one another for a dancer or a musician. Rameau had a violent party against him, who would have exterminated him; and he knew nothing of it. I had a violent party against me, and I knew it well.
Why do we scarcely ever know the tenth part of the good we might do? It is clear, that if a nation living between the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the sea, had employed, in ameliorating and embellishing the country, a tenth part of the money it lost in the war of 1741, and one-half of the men killed to no purpose in Germany, the state would have been more flourishing. Why was not this done? Why prefer a war, which Europe considered unjust, to the happy labors of peace, which would have produced the useful and the agreeable?
Why did Louis XIV., who had so much taste for great monuments, for new foundations, for the fine arts, lose eight hundred millions of our money in seeing his cuirassiers and his household swim across the Rhine; in not taking Amsterdam; in stirring up nearly all Europe against him? What could he not have done with his eight hundred millions?
Why, when he reformed jurisprudence, did he reform it only by halves? Ought the numerous ancient customs, founded on the decretals and the canon law, to be still suffered to exist? Was it necessary that in the many causes called ecclesiastical, but which are in reality civil, appeal should be made to the bishop; from the bishop to the metropolitan; from the metropolitan to the primate; and from the primate to Rome, “ad apostolos?”—as if the apostles had of old been the judges of the Gauls “en dernier ressort.”
Why, when Louis XIV. was outrageously insulted by Pope Alexander VII.—Chigi—did he amuse himself with sending into France for a legate, to make frivolous excuses, and with having a pyramid erected at Rome, the inscriptions over which concerned none but the watchmen of Rome—a pyramid which he soon after had abolished? Had it not been better to have abolished forever the simony by which every bishop and every abbot in Gaul pays to the Italian apostolic chamber the half of his revenue?
Why did the same monarch, when still more grievously insulted by Innocent XI.—Odescalchi—who took the part of the prince of Orange against him, content himself with having four propositions maintained in his universities, and refuse the prayers of the whole magistracy, who solicited an eternal rupture with the court of Rome?
Why, in making the laws, was it forgotten to place all the provinces of the kingdom under one uniform law, leaving in existence a hundred different customs, and a hundred and forty-four different measures?
Why were the provinces of this kingdom still reputed foreign to one another, so that the merchandise of Normandy, on being conveyed by land into Brittany, pays duty, as if it came from England?
Why was not corn grown in Champagne allowed to be sold in Picardy without an express permission—as at Rome permission is obtained for three giuli to read forbidden books?
Why was France left so long under the reproach of venality? It seemed to be reserved for Louis XIV. to abolish the custom of buying the right to sit as judges over men, as you buy a country house, and making pleaders pay fees to the judge, as tickets for the play are paid for at the door.
Why institute in a kingdom the offices and dignities of king’s counsellors: Inspectors of drink, inspectors of the shambles, registrars of inventories, controllers of fines, inspectors of hogs, péréquateurs of tailles, fuel-measurers, assistant-measurers, fuelpilers, unloaders of green wood, controllers of timber, markers of timber, coal-measurers, corn-sifters, inspectors of calves, controllers of poultry, gaugers, assayers of brandy, assayers of beer, rollers of casks, unloaders of hay, floor-clearers, inspectors of ells, inspectors of wigs?
These offices, in which doubtless consist the prosperity and splendor of an empire, formed numerous communities, which had each their syndics. This was all suppressed in 1719; but it was to make room for others of a similar kind, in the course of time. Would it not be better to retrench all the pomp and luxury of greatness, than miserably to support them by means so low and shameful?
Why has a nation, often reduced to extremity and to some degree of humiliation, still supported itself in spite of all the efforts made to crush it? Because that nation is active and industrious. The people are like the bees: you take from them wax and honey, and they forthwith set to work to produce more.
Why, in half of Europe, do the girls pray to God in Latin, which they do not understand? Why, in the sixteenth century, when nearly all the popes and bishops notoriously had bastards, did they persist in prohibiting the marriage of priests; while the Greek Church has constantly ordained that curates should have wives?
Why, in all antiquity, was there no theological dispute, nor any people distinguished by a sectarian appellation? The Egyptians were not called Isiacs or Osiriacs. The people of Syria were not named Cybelians. The Cretans had a particular devotion for Jupiter, but were not called Jupiterians. The ancient Latins were much attached to Saturn, but there was not a village in all Latium called Saturnian. The disciples of the God of Truth, on the contrary, taking the title of their master himself, and calling themselves, like him, “anointed,” declared, as soon as they were able, eternal war against all nations that were not “anointed,” and made war upon one another for upwards of fourteen hundred years, taking the names of Arians, Manichæans, Donatists, Hussites, Papists, Lutherans, Calvinists, etc. Even the Jansenists and Molinists have experienced no mortification so acute as that of not having it in their power to cut one another’s throats in pitched battle. Whence is this?
Why does a bookseller publicly sell the “Course of Atheism,” by the great Lucretius, printed for the dauphin, only son of Louis XIV., by order and under the direction of the wise duke of Montausier, and of the eloquent Bossuet, bishop of Meaux, and of the learned Huet, bishop of Avranches? There you find those sublime impieties, those admirable lines against Providence and the immortality of the soul, which pass from mouth to mouth, through all after-ages:
And a hundred other lines which charm all nations—the immortal productions of a mind which believed itself to be mortal. Not only are these Latin verses sold in the Rue St. Jacques and on the Quai des Augustins, but you fearlessly purchase the translations made into all the patois derived from the Latin tongue—translations decorated with learned notes, which elucidate the doctrine of materialism, collect all the proofs against the Divinity, and would annihilate it, if it could be destroyed. You find this book, bound in morocco, in the fine library of a great and devout prince, of a cardinal, of a chancellor, of an archbishop, of a round-capped president: but the first eighteen books of de Thou were condemned as soon as they appeared. A poor Gallic philosopher ventures to publish, in his own name, that if men had been born without fingers, they would never have been able to work tapestry; and immediately another Gaul, who for his money has obtained a robe of office, requires that the book and the author be burned.
Why are scenic exhibitions anathematized by certain persons who call themselves of the first order in the state, seeing that such exhibitions are necessary to all the orders of the state, and that the laws of the state uphold them with equal splendor and regularity?
Why do we abandon to contempt, debasement, oppression, and rapine, the great mass of those laborious and harmless men who cultivate the earth every day of the year, that we may eat of all its fruits? And why, on the contrary, do we pay respect, attention, and court, to the useless and often very wicked man who lives only by their labor, and is rich only by their misery?
Why, during so many ages, among so many men who sow the corn with which we are fed, has there been no one to discover that ridiculous error which teaches that the grain must rot in order to germinate, and die to spring up again—an error which has led to many impertinent assertions, to many false comparisons, and to many ridiculous opinions?
Why, since the fruits of the earth are so necessary for the preservation of men and animals, do we find so many years, and so many centuries, in which these fruits are absolutely wanting? why is the earth covered with poisons in the half of Africa and of America? why is there no tract of land where there are not more insects than men? why does a little whitish and offensive secretion form a being which will have hard bones, desires, and thoughts? and why shall those beings be constantly persecuting one another? why does there exist so much evil, everything being formed by a God whom all Theists agree in calling good? why, since we are always complaining of our ills, are we constantly employed in redoubling them? why, since we are so miserable, has it been imagined that to die is an evil—when it is clear that not to have been, before our birth, was no evil? why does it rain every day into the sea, while so many deserts demand rain, yet are constantly arid? why and how have we dreams in our sleep, if we have no soul? and if we have one, how is it that these dreams are always so incoherent and so extravagant? why do the heavens revolve from east to west, rather than the contrary way? why do we exist? why does anything exist?
We are told that human nature is essentially perverse; that man is born a child of the devil, and wicked. Nothing can be more injudicious; for thou, my friend, who preachest to me that all the world is born perverse, warnest me that thou art born such also, and that I must mistrust thee as I would a fox or a crocodile. Oh, no! sayest thou; I am regenerated; I am neither a heretic nor an infidel; you may trust in me. But the rest of mankind, which are either heretic, or what thou callest infidel, will be an assemblage of monsters, and every time that thou speakest to a Lutheran or a Turk, thou mayest be sure that they will rob and murder thee, for they are children of the devil, they are born wicked; the one is not regenerated, the other is degenerated. It would be much more reasonable, much more noble, to say to men: “You are all born good; see how dreadful it is to corrupt the purity of your being. All mankind should be dealt with as are all men individually.” If a canon leads a scandalous life, we say to him: “Is it possible that you would dishonor the dignity of canon?” We remind a lawyer that he has the honor of being a counsellor to the king, and that he should set an example. We say to a soldier to encourage him: “Remember that thou art of the regiment of Champagne.” We should say to every individual: “Remember thy dignity as a man.”
And indeed, notwithstanding the contrary theory, we always return to that; for what else signifies the expression, so frequently used in all nations: “Be yourself again?” If we are born of the devil, if our origin was criminal, if our blood was formed of an infernal liquor, this expression: “Be yourself again,” would signify: “Consult, follow your diabolical nature; be an impostor, thief, and assassin; it is the law of your nature.”
Man is not born wicked; he becomes so, as he becomes sick. Physicians present themselves and say to him: “You are born sick.” It is very certain these doctors, whatever they may say or do, will not cure him, if the malady is inherent in his nature; besides, these reasoners are often very ailing themselves.
Assemble all the children of the universe; you will see in them only innocence, mildness, and fear; if they were born wicked, mischievous, and cruel, they would show some signs of it, as little serpents try to bite, and little tigers to tear. But nature not having given to men more offensive arms than to pigeons and rabbits, she cannot have given them an instinct leading them to destroy.
Man, therefore, is not born bad; why, therefore, are several infected with the plague of wickedness? It is, that those who are at their head being taken with the malady, communicate it to the rest of men: as a woman attacked with the distemper which Christopher Columbus brought from America, spreads the venom from one end of Europe to the other.
The first ambitious man corrupted the earth. You will tell me that this first monster has sowed the seed of pride, rapine, fraud, and cruelty, which is in all men. I confess, that in general most of our brethren can acquire these qualities; but has everybody the putrid fever, the stone and gravel, because everybody is exposed to it?
There are whole nations which are not wicked: the Philadelphians, the Banians, have never killed any one. The Chinese, the people of Tonquin, Lao, Siam, and even Japan, for more than a hundred years have not been acquainted with war. In ten years we scarcely see one of those great crimes which astonish human nature in the cities of Rome, Venice, Paris, London, and Amsterdam; towns in which cupidity, the mother of all crimes, is extreme.
If men were essentially wicked—if they were all born submissive to a being as mischievous as unfortunate, who, to revenge himself for his punishment, inspired them with all his passions—we should every morning see husbands assassinated by their wives, and fathers by their children; as at break of day we see fowls strangled by a weasel who comes to suck their blood.
If there be a thousand millions of men on the earth, that is much; that gives about five hundred millions of women, who sew, spin, nourish their little ones, keep their houses or cabins in order, and slander their neighbors a little. I see not what great harm these poor innocents do on earth. Of this number of inhabitants of the globe, there are at least two hundred millions of children, who certainly neither kill nor steal, and about as many old people and invalids, who have not the power of doing so. There will remain, at most, a hundred millions of robust young people capable of crime. Of this hundred millions, there are ninety continually occupied in forcing the earth, by prodigious labor, to furnish them with food and clothing; these have scarcely time. In the ten remaining millions will be comprised idle people and good company, who would enjoy themselves at their ease; men of talent occupied in their professions; magistrates, priests, visibly interested in leading a pure life, at least in appearance. Therefore, of truly wicked people, there will only remain a few politicians, either secular or regular, who will always trouble the world, and some thousand vagabonds who hire their services to these politicians. Now, there is never a million of these ferocious beasts employed at once, and in this number I reckon highwaymen. You have therefore on the earth, in the most stormy times, only one man in a thousand whom we can call wicked, and he is not always so.
There is, therefore infinitely less wickedness on the earth than we are told and believe there is. There is still too much, no doubt; we see misfortunes and horrible crimes; but the pleasure of complaining of and exaggerating them is so great, that at the least scratch we say that the earth flows with blood. Have you been deceived?—all men are perjured. A melancholy mind which has suffered injustice, sees the earth covered with damned people: as a young rake, supping with his lady, on coming from the opera, imagines that there are no unfortunates.
Some very subtle Greeks formerly consulted Pope Honorius I., to know whether Jesus, when He was in the world, had one will or two, when He would sleep or watch, eat or repair to the water-closet, walk or sit.
“What signifies it to you?” answered the very wise bishop of Rome, Honorius. “He has certainly at present the will for you to be well-disposed people—that should satisfy you; He has no will for you to be babbling sophists, to fight continually for the bishop’s mitre and the ass’s shadow. I advise you to live in peace, and not to lose in useless disputes the time which you might employ in good works.”
“Holy father, you have said well; this is the most important affair in the world. We have already set Europe, Asia, and Africa on fire, to know whether Jesus had two persons and one nature, or one nature and two persons, or rather two persons and two natures, or rather one person and one nature.”
“My dear brethren, you have acted wrongly; we should give broth to the sick and bread to the poor. It is doubtless right to help the poor! but is not the patriarch Sergius about to decide in a council at Constantinople, that Jesus had two natures and one will? And the emperor, who knows nothing about it, is of this opinion.”
“Well, be it so! but above all defend yourself from the Mahometans, who box your ears every day, and who have a very bad will towards you. It is well said! But behold the bishops of Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, and Morocco, all declare firmly for the two wills. We must have an opinion; what is yours?”
“My opinion is, that you are madmen, who will lose the Christian religion which we have established with so much trouble. You will do so much mischief with your folly, that Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, and Morocco, of which you speak to me, will become Mahometan, and there will not be a Christian chapel in Africa. Meantime, I am for the emperor and the council, until you have another council and another emperor.”
“This does not satisfy us. Do you believe in two wills or one?”
“Listen: if these two wills are alike, it is as if there was but one; if they are contrary, he who has two wills at once will do two contrary things at once, which is absurd: consequently, I am for a single will.”
“Ah, holy father, you are a monothelite! Heresy! the devil! Excommunicate him! depose him! A council, quick! another council! another emperor! another bishop of Rome! another patriarch!”
“My God! how mad these poor Greeks are with all their vain and interminable disputes! My successor will do well to dream of being powerful and rich.”
Scarcely had Honorius uttered these words when he learned that the emperor Heraclius was dead, after having been beaten by the Mahometans. His widow, Martina, poisoned her son-in-law; the senate caused Martina’s tongue to be cut out, and the nose of another son of the emperor to be slit: all the Greek Empire flowed in blood. Would it not be better not to have disputed on the two wills? And this Pope Honorius, against whom the Jansenists have written so much—was he not a very sensible man?
WIT, SPIRIT, INTELLECT.
A man who had some knowledge of the human heart, was consulted upon a tragedy which was to be represented; and he answered, there was so much wit in the piece, that he doubted of its success. What! you will exclaim, is that a fault, at a time when every one is in search of wit—when each one writes but to show that he has it—when the public even applaud the falsest thoughts, if they are brilliant?—Yes, doubtless, they will applaud the first day, and be wearied the second.
What is called wit, is sometimes a new comparison, sometimes a subtle allusion; here, it is the abuse of a word, which is presented in one sense, and left to be understood in another; there, a delicate relation between two ideas not very common. It is a singular metaphor; it is the discovery of something in an object which does not at first strike the observation, but which is really in it; it is the art either of bringing together two things apparently remote, or of dividing two things which seem to be united, or of opposing them to each other. It is that of expressing only one-half of what you think, and leaving the other to be guessed. In short, I would tell you of all the different ways of showing wit, if I had more; but all these gems—and I do not here include the counterfeits—are very rarely suited to a serious work—to one which is to interest the reader. The reason is, that then the author appears, and the public desire to see only the hero; for the hero is constantly either in passion or in danger. Danger and the passions do not go in search of wit. Priam and Hecuba do not compose epigrams while their children are butchered in flaming Troy; Dido does not sigh out her soul in madrigals, while rushing to the pile on which she is about to immolate herself; Demosthenes makes no display of pretty thoughts while he is inciting the Athenians to war. If he had, he would be a rhetorician; whereas he is a statesman.
The art of the admirable Racine is far above what is called wit; but if Pyrrhus had always expressed himself in this style:
—if Orestes had been continually saying that the “Scythians are less cruel than Hermione,” these two personages would excite no emotion at all; it would be perceived that true passion rarely occupies itself with such comparisons; and that there is some disproportion between the real flames by which Troy was consumed and the flames of Pyrrhus’ love—between the Scythians immolating men, and Hermione not loving Orestes. Cinna says, speaking of Pompey:
This thought is very brilliant; there is much wit in it, as also an air of imposing grandeur. I am sure that these lines, pronounced with all the enthusiasm and art of a great actor, will be applauded; but I am also sure that the play of “Cinna,” had it been written entirely in this taste, would never have been long played. Why, indeed, was heaven bound to do Pompey the honor of making the Romans slaves after his death? The contrary would be truer: the manes of Pompey should rather have obtained from heaven the everlasting maintenance of that liberty for which he is supposed to have fought and died.
What, then, would any work be which should be full of such far-fetched and questionable thoughts? How much superior to all these brilliant ideas are those simple and natural lines:
True beauty consists, not in what is called wit, but in sublimity and simplicity. Let Antiochus, in “Rodogune,” say of his mistress, who quits him, after disgracefully proposing to him to kill his mother:
Antiochus has wit; he makes an epigram against Rodogune; he ingeniously likens her last words in going away, to the arrows which the Parthians used to discharge in their flight. But it is not because his mistress goes away, that the proposal to kill his mother is revolting: whether she goes or stays, the heart of Antiochus is equally wounded. The epigram, therefore, is false; and if Rodogune did not go away, this bad epigram could not be retained.
I select these examples expressly from the best authors, in order that they may be the more striking. I do not lay hold of those puns which play upon words, the false taste of which is felt by all. There is no one that does not laugh when, in the tragedy of the “Golden Fleece,” Hypsipyle says to Medea, alluding to her sorceries:
Corneille found the stage and every other department of literature infested with these puerilities, into which he rarely fell.
I wish here to speak only of such strokes of wit as would be admitted elsewhere, and as the serious style rejects. To their authors might be applied the sentence of Plutarch, translated with the happy naïveté of Amiot: “Tu tiens sans propos beaucoup de bons propos.”
There occurs to my recollection one of those brilliant passages, which I have seen quoted as a model in many works of taste, and even in the treatise on studies by the late M. Rollin. This piece is taken from the fine funeral oration on the great Turenne, composed by Fléchier. It is true, that in this oration Fléchier almost equalled the sublime Bossuet, whom I have called and still call the only eloquent man among so many elegant writers; but it appears to me that the passage of which I am speaking would not have been employed by the bishop of Meaux. Here it is:
“Ye powers hostile to France, you live; and the spirit of Christian charity forbids me to wish your death . . . . but you live; and I mourn in this pulpit over a virtuous leader, whose intentions were pure. . . . . ”
An apostrophe in this taste would have been suitable to Rome in the civil war, after the assassination of Pompey; or to London, after the murder of Charles I.; because the interests of Pompey and Charles I. were really in question. But is it decent to insinuate in the pulpit a wish for the death of the emperor, the king of Spain, and the electors, and put in the balance against them the commanderin-chief employed by a king who was their enemy? Should the intentions of a leader—which can only be to serve his prince—be compared with the political interests of the crowned heads against whom he served? What would be said of a German who should have wished for the death of the king of France, on the occasion of the death of General Merci, “whose intentions were pure”? Why, then, has this passage always been praised by the rhetoricians? Because the figure is in itself beautiful and pathetic; but they do not thoroughly investigate the fitness of the thought.
I now return to my paradox; that none of those glittering ornaments, to which we give the name of wit, should find a place in great works designed to instruct or to move the passions. I will even say that they ought to be banished from the opera. Music expresses passions, sentiments, images; but where are the notes that can render an epigram? Quinault was sometimes negligent, but he was always natural.
Of all our operas, that which is the most ornamented, or rather the most overloaded, with this epigrammatic spirit, is the ballet of the “Triumph of the Arts,” composed by an amiable man, who always thought with subtlety, and expressed himself with delicacy; but who, by the abuse of this talent, contributed a little to the decline of letters after the glorious era of Louis XIV. In this ballet, in which Pygmalion animates his statue, he says to it:
I remember to have heard this line admired by some persons in my youth. But who does not perceive that the movements of the body of the statue are here confounded with the movements of the heart, and that in any sense the phrase is not French—that it is, in fact, a pun, a jest? How could it be that a man who had so much wit, had not enough to retrench these egregious faults? This same man—who, despising Homer, translated him; who, in translating him, thought to correct him, and by abridging him, thought to make him read—had a mind to make Homer a wit. It is he who, when Achilles reappears, reconciled to the Greeks who are ready to avenge him, makes the whole camp exclaim:
A man must indeed be fond of witticisms, when he makes fifty thousand men pun all at once upon the same word.
This play of the imagination, these quips, these cranks, these random shafts, these gayeties, these little broken sentences, these ingenious familiarities, which it is now the fashion to lavish so profusely, are befitting no works but those of pure amusement. The front of the Louvre, by Perrault, is simple and majestic; minute ornaments may appear with grace in a cabinet. Have as much wit as you will, or as you can, in a madrigal, in light verses, in a scene of a comedy, when it is to be neither impassioned nor simple, in a compliment, in a “novellette,” or in a letter, where you assume gayety yourself in order to communicate it to your friends.
Far from having reproached Voiture with having wit in his letters, I found, on the contrary, that he had not enough, although he was constantly seeking it. It is said that dancing-masters make their bow ill, because they are anxious to make it too well. I thought this was often the case with Voiture; his best letters are studied; you feel that he is fatiguing himself to find that which presents itself so naturally to Count Anthony Hamilton, to Madame de Sévigné, and to so many other women, who write these trifles without an effort, better than Voiture wrote them with labor. Despréaux, who in his first satires had ventured to compare Voiture to Horace, changed his opinion when his taste was ripened by age. I know that it matters very little, in the affairs of this world, whether Voiture was or was not a great genius; whether he wrote only a few pretty letters, or that all his pieces of pleasantry were models. But we, who cultivate and love the liberal arts, cast an attentive eye on what is quite indifferent to the rest of the world. Good taste is to us in literature what it is to women in dress; and provided that one’s opinions shall not be made a party matter, it appears to me that one may boldly say, that there are but few excellent things in Voiture, and that Marot might easily be reduced to a few pages.
Not that we wish to take from them their reputation; on the contrary, we wish to ascertain precisely what that reputation cost them, and what are the real beauties for which their defects have been tolerated. We must know what we are to follow, and what we are to avoid; this is the real fruit of the profound study of the belles-lettres; this is what Horace did when he examined Lucilius critically. Horace made himself enemies thereby; but he enlightened his enemies themselves.
This desire of shining and of saying in a novel manner what has been said by others, is a source of new expressions as well as far-fetched thoughts. He who cannot shine by thought, seeks to bring himself into notice by a word. Hence it has at last been thought proper to substitute “amabilités,” for “agrémens”; “négligemment” for “avec négligence”; “badiner les amours,” for “badiner avec les amours.” There are numberless other affectations of this kind; and if this be continued, the language of Bossuet, of Racine, of Corneille, of Boileau, of Fénelon, will soon be obsolete. Why avoid an expression which is in use, to introduce another which says precisely the same thing? A new word is pardonable only when it is absolutely necessary, intelligible, and sonorous. In physical science, we are obliged to make them; a new discovery, a new machine, requires a new word. But do we make any new discoveries in the human heart? Is there any other greatness than that of Corneille and Bossuet? Are there any other passions than those which have been delineated by Racine, and sketched by Quinault? Is there any other gospel morality than that of Bourdaloue?
They who charge our language with not being sufficiently copious, must indeed have found sterility somewhere, but it is in themselves. “Rem verba sequuntur.” When an idea is forcibly impressed on the mind—when a clear and vigorous head is in full possession of its thought—it issues from the brain, arrayed in suitable expressions, as Minerva came forth in full armor to wait upon Jupiter. In fine, the conclusion from this is that neither thoughts nor expressions should be far-fetched; and that the art, in all great works, is to reason well, without entering into too many arguments; to paint well, without striving to paint everything; and to be affecting, without striving constantly to excite passions. Certes, I am here giving fine counsel. Have I taken it myself? Alas! no!
The word “spirit,” when it signifies “a quality of the mind,” is one of those vague terms to which almost every one who pronounces it attaches a different sense; it expresses some other thing than judgment, genius, taste, talent, penetration, comprehensiveness, grace, or subtlety, yet is akin to all these merits; it might be defined to be “ingenious reason.”
It is a generic word, which always needs another word to determine it; and when we hear it said: “This is a work of spirit,” or “He is a man of spirit,” we have very good reason to ask: “Spirit of what?” The sublime spirit of Corneille is neither the exact spirit of Boileau, nor the simple spirit of La Fontaine; and the spirit of La Bruyère, which is the art of portraying singularity, is not that of Malebranche, which is imaginative and profound.
When a man is said to have “a judicious spirit,” the meaning is, not so much that he has what is called spirit, as that he has an enlightened reason. A spirit firm, masculine, courageous, great, little, weak, light, mild, hasty, etc., signifies the character and temper of the mind, and has no relation to what is understood in society by the expression “spirited.”
Spirit, in the ordinary acceptation of the word, is much akin to wit; yet does not signify precisely the same thing; for the term, “man of spirit,” can never be taken in a bad sense; but that of “a wit,” is sometimes pronounced ironically.
Whence this difference? It is that “a man of spirit” does not signify “superior wit,” “marked talent”; and “a wit” does. This expression, “man of spirit,” announces no pretensions; but “wit” is a sort of advertisement; it is an art which requires cultivation; it is a sort of profession; and thereby exposes to envy and ridicule.
In this sense, Father Bouhours would have been right in giving us to understand that the Germans had no pretensions to wit; for at that time their learned men occupied themselves in scarcely any works but those of labor and painful research, which did not admit of their scattering flowers, of their striving to shine, and mixing up wit with learning.
They who despise the genius of Aristotle should, instead of contenting themselves with condemning his physics—which could not be good, inasmuch as they wanted experiments—be much astonished to find that Aristotle, in his rhetoric, taught perfectly the art of saying things with spirit. He states that this art consists in not merely using the proper word, which says nothing new; but that a metaphor must be employed—a figure, the sense of which is clear, and its expression energetic. Of this, he adduces several instances; and, among others, what Pericles said of a battle in which the flower of the Athenian youth had perished: “The year has been stripped of its spring.”
Aristotle is very right in saying that novelty is necessary. The first person who, to express that pleasures are mingled with bitterness, likened them to roses accompanied by thorns, had wit; they who repeated it had none.
Spirited expression does not always consist in a metaphor; but also in a new term—in leaving one half of one’s thoughts to be easily divined; this is called “subtleness,” “delicacy”; and this manner is the more pleasing, as it exercises and gives scope for the wit of others.
Allusions, allegories, and comparisons, open a vast field for ingenious thoughts. The effects of nature, fable, history, presented to the memory, furnish a happy imagination with materials of which it makes a suitable use.
It will not be useless to give examples in these different kinds. The following is a madrigal by M. de la Sablière, which has always been held in high estimation by people of taste:
It does not appear that the author could either better have masked, or better have conveyed, the meaning which he was afraid to express. The following madrigal seems more brilliant and more pleasing; it is an allusion to fable:
There is another, and a very old one. It is by Bertaut, bishop of Séez, and seems superior to the two former; it unites wit and feeling:
Strokes like these please every one, and characterize the delicate spirit of an ingenious nation. The great point is to know how far this spirit is admissible. It is clear that, in great works, it should be employed with moderation, for this very reason, that it is an ornament. The great art consists in propriety.
A subtle, ingenious thought, a just and flowery comparison, is a defect when only reason or passion should speak, or when great interests are to be discussed. This is not false wit, but misplaced; and every beauty, when out of its place, is a beauty no longer.
This is a fault of which Virgil was never guilty, and with which Tasso may now and then be charged, admirable as he otherwise is. The cause of it is that the author, too full of his own ideas, wishes to show himself, when he should only show his personages.
The best way of learning the use that should be made of wit, is to read the few good works of genius which are to be found in the learned languages and in our own. False wit is not the same as misplaced wit. It is not merely a false thought, for a thought might be false without being ingenious; it is a thought at once false and elaborate.
It has already been remarked that a man of great wit, who translated, or rather abridged Homer into French verse, thought to embellish that poet, whose simplicity forms his character, by loading him with ornaments. On the subject of the reconciliation of Achilles, he says:
In the first place it does not at all follow, because one has overcome one’s anger, that one shall not be beaten. Secondly, is it possible that a whole army should, by some sudden inspiration, make instantaneously the same pun?
If this fault shocks all judges of severe taste, how revolting must be all those forced witticisms, those intricate and puzzling thoughts, which abound in otherwise valuable writings! Is it to be endured, that in a work of mathematics it should be said: “If Saturn should one day be missing, his place would be taken by one of the remotest of his satellites; for great lords always keep their successors at a distance?” Is it endurable to talk of Hercules being acquainted with physics, and that it is impossible to resist a philosopher of such force? Such are the excesses into which we are led by the thirst for shining and surprising by novelty. This petty vanity has produced verbal witticisms in all languages, which is the worst species of false wit.
False taste differs from false wit, for the latter is always an affectation—an effort to do wrong; whereas the former is often a habit of doing wrong without effort, and following instinctively an established bad example.
The intemperance and incoherence of the imaginations of the Orientals, is a false taste; but it is rather a want of wit than an abuse of it. Stars falling, mountains opening, rivers rolling back, sun and moon dissolving, false and gigantic similes, continual violence to nature, are the characteristics of these writers; because in those countries where there has never been any public speaking, true eloquence cannot have been cultivated; and because it is much easier to write fustian than to write that which is just, refined, and delicate.
False wit is precisely the reverse of these trivial and inflated ideas; it is a tiresome search after subtleties, an affectation of saying enigmatically what others have said naturally; or bringing together ideas which appear incompatible; of dividing what ought to be united; of laying hold on false affinities; of mixing, contrary to decency, the trifling with the serious, and the petty with the grand.
It were here a superfluous task to string together quotations in which the word spirit is to be found. We shall content ourselves with examining one from Boileau, which is given in the great dictionary of Trévoux: “It is a property of great spirits, when they begin to grow old and decay, to be pleased with stories and fables.” This reflection is not just. A great spirit may fall into this weakness, but it is no property of great spirits. Nothing is more calculated to mislead the young than the quoting of faults of good writers as examples.
We must not here forget to mention in how many different senses the word “spirit” is employed. This is not a defect of language; on the contrary, it is an advantage to have roots which ramify into so many branches.
“Spirit of a body,” “of a society,” is used to express the customs, the peculiar language and conduct, the prejudices of a body. “Spirit of party,” is to the “spirit of a body,” what the passions are to ordinary sentiments.
“Spirit of a law,” is used to designate its intention; in this sense it has been said: “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” “Spirit of a work,” to denote its character and object. “Spirit of revenge,” to signify desire and intention of taking revenge. “Spirit of discord,” “spirit of revolt,” etc.
In one dictionary has been quoted “spirit of politeness”; but from an author named Bellegarde, who is no authority. Both authors and examples should be selected with scrupulous caution. We cannot say “spirit of politeness,” as we say “spirit of revenge,” of “dissension,” of “faction”; for politeness is not a passion animated by a powerful motive which prompts it, and which is metaphorically called spirit.
“Familiar spirit,” is used in another sense, and signifies those intermediate beings, those genii, those demons, believed in by the ancients; as the “spirit of Socrates,” etc.
Spirit sometimes denotes the more subtle part of matter; we say, “animal spirits,” “vital spirits,” to signify that which has never been seen, but which gives motion and life. These spirits, which are thought to flow rapidly through the nerves, are probably a subtile fire. Dr. Mead is the first who seems to have given proofs of this, in his treatise on poisons. Spirit, in chemistry, too, is a term which receives various acceptations, but always denotes the more subtile part of matter.
Is not this word a striking proof of the imperfection of languages; of the chaos in which they still are, and the chance which has directed almost all our conceptions? It pleased the Greeks, as well as other nations, to give the name of wind, breath—“pneuma”—to that which they vaguely understand by respiration, life, soul. So that, among the ancients, soul and wind were, in one sense, the same thing; and if we were to say that man is a pneumatic machine, we should only translate the language of the Greeks. The Latins imitated them, and used the word “spiritus,” spirit, breath. “Anima” and “spiritus” were the same thing.
The “rouhak” of the Phœnicians, and, as it is said, of the Chaldæans likewise, signified breath and wind. When the Bible was translated into Latin, the words, breath, spirit, wind, soul, were always used differently. “Spiritus Dei ferebatur superaquas”— the breath of God—the spirit of God—was borne on the waters.
“Spiritus vitæ”—the breath of life—the soul of life. “Inspiravit in faciem ejus spiraculum,” or “spiritum vitæ”—And he breathed upon his face the breath of life; and, according to the Hebrew, he breathed into his nostrils the breath, the spirit, of life.
“Hæc quum dixisset, insufflavit et dixit eis, accipite spiritum sanctum”—Having spoken these words, he breathed on them, and said: Receive ye the holy breath—the holy spirit.
“Spiritus ubi vult spirat, et vocem ejus audis; sed nescis unde veniat”—The spirit, the wind, breathes where it will, and thou hearest its voice (sound); but thou knowest not whence it comes.
The distance is somewhat considerable between this and our pamphlets of the Quay des Augustins and the Pont-neuf, entitled, “Spirit of Marivaux,” “Spirit of Desfontaines,” etc.
What we commonly understand in French by “esprit,” “bel-esprit,” “trait d’esprit,” are—ingenious thoughts. No other nation has made the same use of the word “spiritus.” The Latins said “ingenium”; the Greeks, “eupheuia”; or they employed adjectives. The Spaniards say “agudo,” “agudeza.” The Italians commonly use the term “ingegno.”
The English make use of the words “wit,” “witty,” the etymology of which is good; for “witty” formerly signified “wise.” The Germans say “verständig”; and when they mean to express ingenious, lively, agreeable thoughts, they say “rich in sensations”—“sinnreich.” Hence it is that the English, who have retained many of the expressions of the ancient Germanic and French tongue, say, “sensible man.” Thus almost all the words that express ideas of the understanding are metaphors.
“Ingegno,” “ingenium,” comes from “that which generates”; “agudeza,” from “that which is pointed”; “sinnreich,” from “sensations”; “spirit,” from “wind”; and “wit,” from “wisdom.”
In every language, the word that answers to spirit in general is of several kinds; and when you are told that such a one is a “man of spirit,” you have a right to ask: Of what spirit?
Girard, in his useful book of definitions, entitled “French Synonymes,” thus concludes: “In our intercourse with women, it is necessary to have wit, or a jargon which has the appearance of it. (This is not doing them honor; they deserve better.) Understanding is in demand with politicians and courtiers.” It seems to me that understanding is necessary everywhere, and that it is very extraordinary to hear of understanding in demand.
“Genius is proper with people of project and expense.” Either I am mistaken, or the genius of Corneille was made for all spectators—the genius of Bossuet for all auditors—yet more than for people of expense.
The wind, which answers to “Spiritus,”—spirit, wind, breath—necessarily giving to all nations the idea of air, they all supposed that our faculty of thinking and acting—that which animates us—is air; whence our “souls are a subtile air.” Hence, manes, spirits, ghosts, shades, are composed of air.
Hence we used to say, not long ago, “A ‘spirit’ has appeared to him; he has a ‘familiar spirit;’ that castle is haunted by ‘spirits;’ ” and the populace say so still.
The word “spiritus” has hardly ever been used in this sense, except in the translations of the Hebrew books into bad Latin.
“Manes,” “umbra,” “simulacra,” are the expressions of Cicero and Virgil. The Germans say, “geist”; the English, “ghost”; the Spaniards, “duende,” “trasgo”; the Italians appear to have no term signifying ghost. The French alone have made use of the word “spirit” (esprit). The words for all nations should be, “phantom,” “imagination,” “reverie,” “folly,” “knavery.”
When a nation is beginning to emerge from barbarism, it strives to show what we call wit. Thus, in the first attempts made in the time of Francis I., we find in Marot such puns, plays on words, as would now be intolerable.
These fine ideas are not such as at once present themselves to express the grief of nations. Many instances of this depraved taste might be adduced; but we shall content ourselves with this, which is the most striking of all.
In the second era of the human mind in France—in the time of Balzac, Mairet, Rotrou, Corneille—applause was given to every thought that surprised by new images, which were called “wit.” These lines of the tragedy of “Pyramus” were very well received:
There was thought to be great art in giving feeling to this dagger, in making it red with shame at being stained with the blood of Pyramus, as much as with the blood itself. No one exclaimed against Corneille, when, in his tragedy of “Andromeda,” Phineus says to the sun:
The sun flying because he is not so bright as Andromeda’s face, is not at all inferior to the blushing dagger. If such foolish sallies as these found favor with a public whose taste it has been so difficult to form, we cannot be surprised that strokes of wit, in which some glimmering of beauty is discernible, should have had these charms.
Not only was this translation from the Spanish admired:
not only was there thought to be a very spirited refinement in the line of Hypsipyle to Medea, in the “Golden Fleece”: “I have attractions only; you have charms;” but it was not perceived—and few connoisseurs perceive it yet—that in the imposing part of Cornelia, the author almost continually puts wit where grief alone was required. This woman, whose husband has just been assassinated, begins her studied speech to Cæsar with a “for”:
Thus she breaks off, at the very first word, in order to say that which is at once far-fetched and false. Never was the wife of one Roman citizen the slave of another Roman citizen: never was any Roman called lord; and this word “lord” is, with us, nothing more than a term of honor and ceremony, used on the stage.
Besides the defect so common to all Corneille’s heroes, of thus announcing themselves—of saying, I am great, I am courageous, admire me—here is the very reprehensible affectation of talking of her birth, when the head of Pompey has just been presented to Cæsar. Real affliction expresses itself otherwise. Grief does not seek after a “yet more.” And what is worse, while she is striving to say “yet more,” she says much less. To be a daughter of Rome is indubitably less than to be daughter of Scipio and wife of Pompey. The infamous Septimius, who assassinated Pompey, was Roman as well as she. Thousands of Romans were very ordinary men: but to be daughter and wife to the greatest of Romans, was a real superiority. In this speech, then, there is false and misplaced wit, as well as false and misplaced greatness.
She then says, after Lucan, that she ought to blush that she is alive:
Lucan, after the brilliant Augustan age, went in search of wit, because decay was commencing; and the writers of the age of Louis XIV. at first sought to display wit, because good taste was not then completely found, as it afterwards was.
What a poor artifice! what a false as well as impudent notion! Cæsar conquered at Pharsalia only because Pompey married Cornelia! What labor to say that which is neither true, nor likely, nor fit, nor interesting!
This is the “bis nocui mundo” of Lucan. This line presents us with a very great idea; it cannot fail to surprise; it is wanting in nothing but truth. But it must be observed, that if this line had but the smallest ray of verisimilitude—had it really its birth in the pangs of grief, it would then have all the truth, all the beauty, of theatrical fitness:
This is Lucan again. She wishes, in the “Pharsalia,” that she had married Cæsar.
This sentiment is not in nature; it is at once gigantic and puerile: but at least it is not to Cæsar that Cornelia talks thus in Lucan. Corneille, on the contrary, makes Cornelia speak to Cæsar himself: he makes her say that she wishes to be his wife, in order that she may carry into his house “the mortal poison of a noxious star”; for, adds she, my hatred cannot be abated, and I have told thee already that I am a Roman, and I sue for nothing. Here is odd reasoning: I would fain have married thee, to cause thy death; and I sue for nothing. Be it also observed, that this widow heaps reproaches on Cæsar, just after Cæsar weeps for the death of Pompey and promises to avenge it.
It is certain, that if the author had not striven to make Cornelia witty, he would not have been guilty of the faults which, after being so long applauded, are now perceived. The actresses can scarcely longer palliate them, by a studied loftiness of demeanor and an imposing elevation of voice.
The better to feel how much mere wit is below natural sentiment, let us compare Cornelia with herself, where, in the same tirade, she says things quite opposite:
Let us overlook the slight defects of style, and consider how mournful and becoming is this speech; it goes to the heart: all the rest dazzles for a moment, and then disgusts. The following natural lines charm all readers:
It is by such comparisons that our taste is formed, and that we learn to admire nothing but truth in its proper place. In the same tragedy, Cleopatra thus expresses herself to her confidante, Charmion:
Charmion might answer: Madam, I know not what the noble flame of a princess is, which dares not expose her to shame; and as for princesses who never say they are in love, but when they are sure of being loved—I always enact the part of confidante at the play: and at least twenty princesses have confessed their noble flames to me, without being at all sure of the matter, and especially the infanta in “The Cid.”
Nay, we may go further: Cæsar—Cæsar himself—addresses Cleopatra, only to show off double-refined wit:
Here, then, we have Cæsar hating his greatness for having taken him away a little while from Cleopatra; but forgiving his greatness when he remembers that this greatness has procured him the success of his passion. He has the lofty hope of an illustrious probability; and it was only to acquire the dear privilege of this illustrious probability, that his ambitious arm fought the battle of Pharsalia.
It is said that this sort of wit, which it must be confessed is no other than nonsense, was then the wit of the age. It is an intolerable abuse, which Molière proscribed in his “Précieuses Ridicules.”
It was of these defects, too frequent in Corneille, that La Bruyère said: “I thought, in my early youth, that these passages were clear and intelligible, to the actors, to the pit, and to the boxes; that their authors themselves understood them, and that I was wrong in not understanding them: I am undeceived.”
In England, to express that a man has a deal of wit, they say that he has “great parts.” Whence can this phrase, which is now the astonishment of the French, have come? From themselves. Formerly, we very commonly used the word “parties” in this sense. “Clelia,” “Cassandra,” and our other old romances, are continually telling us of the “parts” of their heroes and heroines, which parts are their wit. And, indeed, who can have all? Each of us has but his own small portion of intelligence, of memory, of sagacity, of depth and extent of ideas, of vivacity, and of subtlety. The word “parts” is that most fitting for a being so limited as man. The French have let an expression escape from their dictionaries which the English have laid hold of: the English have more than once enriched themselves at our expense. Many philosophical writers have been astonished that, since every one pretends to wit, no one should dare to boast of possessing it.
“Envy,” it has been said, “permits every one to be the panegyrist of his own probity, but not of his own wit.” It allows us to be the apologists of the one, but not of the other. And why? Because it is very necessary to pass for an honest man, but not at all necessary to have the reputation of a man of wit.
The question has been started, whether all men are born with the same mind, the same disposition for science, and if all depends on their education, and the circumstances in which they are placed? One philosopher, who had a right to think himself born with some superiority, asserted that minds are equal; yet the contrary has always been evident. Of four hundred children brought up together, under the same masters and the same discipline, there are scarcely five or six that make any remarkable progress. A great majority never rise above mediocrity, and among them there are many shades of distinction. In short, minds differ still more than faces.
We have blind, one-eyed, cross-eyed, and squinting people—visions long, short, clear, confused, weak, or indefatigable. All this is a faithful image of our understanding; but we know scarcely any false vision: there are not many men who always take a cock for a horse, or a coffeepot for a church. How is it that we often meet with minds, otherwise judicious, which are absolutely wrong in some things of importance? How is it that the Siamese, who will take care never to be overreached when he has to receive three rupees, firmly believes in the metamorphoses of Sammonocodom? By what strange whim do men of sense resemble Don Quixote, who beheld giants where other men saw nothing but windmills? Yet was Don Quixote more excusable than the Siamese, who believes that Sammonocodom came several times upon earth—and the Turk, who is persuaded that Mahomet put one-half of the moon into his sleeve? Don Quixote, impressed with the idea that he is to fight with a giant, may imagine that a giant must have a body as big as a mill, and arms as long as the sails; but from what supposition can a man of sense set out to arrive at a conclusion, that half the moon went into a sleeve, and that a Sammonocodom came down from heaven to fly kites at Siam, to cut down a forest, and to exhibit sleight-of-hand?
The greatest geniuses may have their minds warped, on a principle which they have received without examination. Newton was very wrongheaded when he was commenting on the Apocalypse.
All that certain tyrants of souls desire, is that the men whom they teach may have their intellects distorted. A fakir brings up a child of great promise; he employs five or six years in driving it into his head, that the god Fo appeared to men in the form of a white elephant; and persuades the child, that if he does not believe in these metamorphoses, he will be flogged after death for five hundred thousand years. He adds, that at the end of the world, the enemy of the god Fo will come and fight against that divinity.
The child studies, and becomes a prodigy; he finds that Fo could not change himself into anything but a white elephant, because that is the most beautiful of animals. The kings of Siam and Pegu, say he, went to war with one another for a white elephant: certainly, had not Fo been concealed in that elephant, these two kings would not have been so mad as to fight for the possession of a mere animal.
Fo’s enemy will come and challenge him at the end of the world: this enemy will certainly be a rhinoceros; for the rhinoceros fights the elephant. Thus does the fakir’s learned pupil reason in mature age, and he becomes one of the lights of the Indies: the more subtle his intellect, the more crooked; and he, in his turn, forms other intellects as distorted as his own.
Show these besotted beings a little geometry, and they learn it easily enough; but, strange to say, this does not set them right. They perceive the truths of geometry; but it does not teach them to weigh probabilities: they have taken their bent; they will reason against reason all their lives; and I am sorry for them.
Unfortunately, there are many ways of being wrong-headed. 1. Not to examine whether the principle is true, even when just consequences are drawn from it; and this is very common.
2. To draw false consequences from a principle acknowledged to be true. For instance: a servant is asked whether his master be at home, by persons whom he suspects of having a design against his master’s life. If he were blockhead enough to tell them the truth, on pretence that it is wrong to tell a lie, it is clear that he would draw an absurd consequence from a very true principle.
The judge who should condemn a man for killing his assassin, would be alike iniquitous, and a bad reasoner. Cases like these are subdivided into a thousand different shades. The good mind, the judicious mind, is that which distinguishes them. Hence it is, that there have been so many iniquitous judgments; not because the judges were wicked in heart, but because they were not sufficiently enlightened.
Physical and Moral.
Woman is in general less strong than man, smaller, and less capable of lasting labor. Her blood is more aqueous; her flesh less firm; her hair longer; her limbs more rounded; her arms less muscular; her mouth smaller; her hips more prominent; and her belly larger. These physical points distinguish women all over the earth, and of all races, from Lapland unto the coast of Guinea, and from America to China.
Plutarch, in the third book of his “Symposiacs,” pretends that wine will not intoxicate them so easily as men; and the following is the reason which he gives for this falsehood:
“The temperament of women is very moist; this, with their courses, renders their flesh so soft, smooth, and clear. When wine encounters so much humidity, it is overcome, and it loses its color and its strength, becoming discolored and weak. Something also may be gathered from the reasoning of Aristotle, who observes, that they who drink great draughts without drawing their breath, which the ancients call ‘amusizein,’ are not intoxicated so soon as others; because the wine does not remain within the body, but being forcibly taken down, passes rapidly off. Now we generally perceive that women drink in this manner; and it is probable that their bodies, in consequence of the continual attraction of the humors, which are carried off in their periodical visitations, are filled with many conduits, and furnished with numerous pipes and channels, into which the wine disperses rapidly and easily, without having time to affect the noble and principal parts, by the disorder of which intoxication is produced.” These physics are altogether worthy of the ancients.
Women live somewhat longer than men; that is to say, in a generation we count more aged women than aged men. This fact has been observed by all who have taken accurate accounts of births and deaths in Europe; and it is thought that it is the same in Asia, and among the negresses, the copper-colored, and olive-complexioned, as among the white. “Natura est semper sibi consona.”
We have elsewhere adverted to an extract from a Chinese journal, which states, that in the year 1725, the wife of the emperor Yontchin made a distribution among the poor women of China who had passed their seventieth year; and that, in the province of Canton alone, there were 98,222 females aged more than seventy, 40,893 beyond eighty, and 3,453 of about the age of a hundred. Those who advocate final causes say, that nature grants them a longer life than men, in order to recompense them for the trouble they take in bringing children into the world and rearing them. It is scarcely to be imagined that nature bestows recompenses, but it is probable that the blood of women being milder, their fibres harden less quickly.
No anatomist or physician has ever been able to trace the secret of conception. Sanchez has curiously remarked: “Mariam et spiritum sanctum emisisse semen in copulatione, et ex semine amborum natum esse Jesum.” This abominable impertinence of the most knowing Sanchez is not adopted at present by any naturalist.
The periodical visitations which weaken females, while they endure the maladies which arise out of their suppression, the times of gestation, the necessity of suckling children, and of watching continually over them, and the delicacy of their organization, render them unfit for the fatigue of war, and the fury of the combat. It is true, as we have already observed, that in almost all times and countries women have been found on whom nature has bestowed extraordinary strength and courage, who combat with men, and undergo prodigious labor; but, after all, these examples are rare. On this point we refer to the article on “Amazons.”
Physics always govern morals. Women being weaker of body than we are, there is more skill in their fingers, which are more supple than ours. Little able to labor at the heavy work of masonry, carpentering, metalling, or the plough, they are necessarily intrusted with the lighter labors of the interior of the house, and, above all, with the care of children. Leading a more sedentary life, they possess more gentleness of character than men, and are less addicted to the commission of enormous crimes—a fact so undeniable, that in all civilized countries there are always fifty men at least executed to one woman.
Montesquieu, in his “Spirit of Laws,” undertaking to speak of the condition of women under divers governments, observes that “among the Greeks women were not regarded as worthy of having any share in genuine love; but that with them love assumed a form which is not to be named.” He cites Plutarch as his authority.
This mistake is pardonable only in a wit like Montesquieu, always led away by the rapidity of his ideas, which are often very indistinct. Plutarch, in his chapter on love, introduces many interlocutors; and he himself, in the character of Daphneus, refutes, with great animation, the arguments of Protagenes in favor of the commerce alluded to.
It is in the same dialogue that he goes so far as to say, that in the love of woman there is something divine; which love he compares to the sun, that animates nature. He places the highest happiness in conjugal love, and concludes by an eloquent eulogium on the virtue of Epponina. This memorable adventure passed before the eyes of Plutarch, who lived some time in the house of Vespasian. The above heroine, learning that her husband Sabinus, vanquished by the troops of the emperor, was concealed in a deep cavern between Franche-Comté and Champagne, shut herself up with him, attended on him for many years, and bore children in that situation. Being at length taken with her husband, and brought before Vespasian, who was astonished at her greatness of soul, she said to him: “I have lived more happily under ground than thou in the light of the sun, and in the enjoyment of power.” Plutarch therefore asserts directly the contrary to that which is attributed to him by Montesquieu, and declares in favor of woman with an enthusiasm which is even affecting.
It is not astonishing, that in every country man has rendered himself the master of woman, dominion being founded on strength. He has ordinarily, too, a superiority both in body and mind. Very learned women are to be found in the same manner as female warriors, but they are seldom or ever inventors.
A social and agreeable spirit usually falls to their lot; and, generally speaking, they are adapted to soften the manners of men. In no republic have they ever been allowed to take the least part in government; they have never reigned in monarchies purely elective; but they may reign in almost all the hereditary kingdoms of Europe—in Spain, Naples, and England, in many states of the North, and in many grand fiefs which are called “feminines.”
Custom, entitled the Salic law, has excluded them from the crown of France; but it is not, as Mézeray remarks, in consequence of their unfitness for governing, since they are almost always intrusted with the regency.
It is pretended, that Cardinal Mazarin confessed that many women were worthy of governing a kingdom; but he added, that it was always to be feared they would allow themselves to be subdued by lovers who were not capable of governing a dozen pullets. Isabella in Castile, Elizabeth in England, and Maria Theresa in Hungary, have, however, proved the falsity of this pretended bon-mot, attributed to Cardinal Mazarin; and at this moment we behold a legislatrix in the North as much respected as the sovereign of Greece, of Asia Minor, of Syria, and of Egypt, is disesteemed.
It has been for a long time ignorantly assumed, that women are slaves during life among the Mahometans; and that, after their death, they do not enter paradise. These are two great errors, of a kind which popes are continually repeating in regard to Mahometanism. Married women are not at all slaves; and the Sura, or fourth chapter of the Koran, assigns them a dowry. A girl is entitled to inherit one-half as much as her brother; and if there are girls only, they divide among them two-thirds of the inheritance; and the remainder belongs to the relations of the deceased, whose mother also is entitled to a certain share. So little are married women slaves, they are entitled to demand a divorce, which is granted when their complaints are deemed lawful.
A Mahometan is not allowed to marry his sister-in-law, his niece, his foster-sister, or his daughter-in-law brought up under the care of his wife. Neither is he permitted to marry two sisters; in which particular the Mahometan law is more rigid than the Christian, as people are every day purchasing from the court of Rome the right of contracting such marriages, which they might as well contract gratis.
Mahomet has limited the number of wives to four; but as a man must be rich in order to maintain four wives, according to his condition, few except great lords avail themselves of this privilege. Therefore, a plurality of wives produces not so much injury to the Mahometan states as we are in the habit of supposing; nor does it produce the depopulation which so many books, written at random, are in the habit of asserting.
The Jews, agreeable to an ancient usage, established, according to their books, ever since the age of Lameth, have always been allowed several wives at a time. David had eighteen; and it is from his time that they allow that number to kings; although it is said that Solomon had as many as seven hundred.
The Mahometans will not publicly allow the Jews to have more than one wife; they do not deem them worthy of that advantage; but money, which is always more powerful than law, procures to rich Jews, in Asia and Africa, that permission which the law refuses.
It is seriously related, that Lelius Cinna, tribune of the people, proclaimed, after the death of Cæsar, that the dictator had intended to promulgate a law allowing women to take as many husbands as they pleased. What sensible man can doubt, that this was a popular story invented to render Cæsar odious? It resembles another story, which states that a senator in full senate formally professed to give Cæsar permission to cohabit with any woman he pleased. Such silly tales dishonor history, and injure the minds of those who credit them. It is a sad thing, that Montesquieu should give credit to this fable.
It is not, however, a fable that the emperor Valentinian, calling himself a Christian, married Justinian during the life of Severa, his first wife, mother of the emperor Gratian; but he was rich enough to support many wives.
Among the first race of the kings of the Franks, Gontran, Cherebert, Sigebert, and Chilperic, had several wives at a time. Gontran had within his palace Venerande, Mercatrude, and Ostregilda, acknowledged for legitimate wives; Cherebert had Merflida, Marcovesa, and Theodogilda.
It is difficult to conceive how the ex-Jesuit Nonnotte has been able, in his ignorance, to push his boldness so far as to deny these facts, and to say that the kings of the first race were not polygamists, and thereby, in a libel in two volumes, throw discredit on more than a hundred historical truths, with the confidence of a pedant who dictates lessons in a college. Books of this kind still continue to be sold in the provinces, where the Jesuits have yet a party, and seduce and mislead uneducated people.
Father Daniel, more learned and judicious, confesses the polygamy of the French kings without difficulty. He denies not the three wives of Dagobert I., and asserts expressly that Theodoret espoused Deutery, although she had a husband, and himself another wife called Visigalde. He adds, that in this he imitated his uncle Clothaire, who espoused the widow of Cleodomir, his brother, although he had three wives already.
All historians admit the same thing; why, therefore, after so many testimonies, allow an ignorant writer to speak like a dictator, and say, while uttering a thousand follies, that it is in defence of religion? as if our sacred and venerable religion had anything to do with an historical point, although made serviceable by miserable calumniators to their stupid impostures.
Of the Polygamy Allowed by Certain Popes and Reformers.
The Abbé Fleury, author of the “Ecclesiastical History,” pays more respect to truth in all which concerns the laws and usages of the Church. He avows that Boniface, confessor of Lower Germany, having consulted Pope Gregory, in the year 726, in order to know in what cases a husband might be allowed to have two wives, Gregory replied to him, on the 22nd of November, of the same year, in these words: “If a wife be attacked by a malady which renders her unfit for conjugal intercourse, the husband may marry another; but in that case he must allow his sick wife all necessary support and assistance.” This decision appears conformable to reason and policy; and favors population, which is the object of marriage.
But that which appears opposed at once to reason, policy, and nature, is the law which ordains that a woman, separated from her husband both in person and estate, cannot take another husband, nor the husband another wife. It is evident that a race is thereby lost; and if the separated parties are both of a certain temperament, they are necessarily exposed and rendered liable to sins for which the legislators ought to be responsible to God, if—
The decretals of the popes have not always had in view what was suitable to the good of estates, and of individuals. This same decretal of Pope Gregory II., which permits bigamy in certain cases, denies conjugal rights forever to the boys and girls, whom their parents have devoted to the Church in their infancy. This law seems as barbarous as it is unjust; at once annihilating posterity, and forcing the will of men before they even possess a will. It is rendering the children the slaves of a vow which they never made; it is to destroy natural liberty, and to offend God and mankind.
The polygamy of Philip, landgrave of Hesse, in the Lutheran community, in 1539, is well known. I knew a sovereign in Germany, who, after having married a Lutheran, had permission from the pope to marry a Catholic, and retained both his wives.
It is well known in England, that the chancellor Cowper married two wives, who lived together in the same house in a state of concord which did honor to all three. Many of the curious still possess the little book which he composed in favor of polygamy.
We must distrust authors who relate, that in certain countries women are allowed several husbands. Those who make laws everywhere are born with too much self-love, are too jealous of their authority, and generally possess a temperament too ardent in comparison with that of women, to have instituted a jurisprudence of this nature. That which is opposed to the general course of nature is very rarely true; but it is very common for the more early travellers to mistake an abuse for a law.
The author of the “Spirit of Laws” asserts, that in the caste of Nairs, on the coast of Malabar, a man can have only one wife, while a woman may have several husbands. He cites doubtful authors, and above all Picard; but it is impossible to speak of strange customs without having long witnessed them; and if they are mentioned, it ought to be doubtingly; but what lively spirit knows how to doubt?
“The lubricity of women,” he observes, “is so great at Patan, the men are constrained to adopt certain garniture, in order to be safe against their amorous enterprises.”
The president Montesquieu was never at Patan. Is not the remark of M. Linguet judicious, who observes, that this story has been told by travellers who were either deceived themselves, or who wished to laugh at their readers? Let us be just, love truth, and judge by facts, not by names.
End of the Reflections on Polygamy.
It appears that power, rather than agreement, makes laws everywhere, but especially in the East. We there beheld the first slaves, the first eunuchs, and the treasury of the prince directly composed of that which is taken from the people.
He who can clothe, support, and amuse a number of women, shuts them up in a menagerie, and commands them despotically. Ben Aboul Kiba, in his “Mirror of the Faithful,” relates that one of the viziers of the great Solyman addressed the following discourse to an agent of Charles V.:
“Dog of a Christian!—for whom, however, I have a particular esteem—canst thou reproach me with possessing four wives, according to our holy laws, whilst thou emptiest a dozen barrels a year, and I drink not a single glass of wine? What good dost thou effect by passing more hours at table than I do in bed? I may get four children a year for the service of my august master, whilst thou canst scarcely produce one, and that only the child of a drunkard, whose brain will be obscured by the vapors of the wine which has been drunk by his father. What, moreover, wouldst thou have me do, when two of my wives are in child-bed? Must I not attend to the other two, as my law commands me? What becomes of them? what part dost thou perform, in the latter months of the pregnancy of thy only wife, and during her lyings-in and sexual maladies? Thou either remainest idle, or thou repairest to another woman. Behold thyself between two mortal sins, which will infallibly cause thee to fall headlong from the narrow bridge into the pit of hell.
“I will suppose, that in our wars against the dogs of Christians we lose a hundred thousand soldiers; behold a hundred thousand girls to provide for. Is it not for the wealthy to take care of them? Evil betide every Mussulman so cold-hearted as not to give shelter to four pretty girls, in the character of legitimate wives, or to treat them according to their merits!
“What is done in thy country by the trumpeter of day, which thou callest the cock; the honest ram, the leader of the flock; the bull, sovereign of the heifers; has not every one of them his seraglio? It becomes thee, truly, to reproach me with my four wives, whilst our great prophet had eighteen, the Jew David, as many, and the Jew Solomon, seven hundred, all told, with three hundred concubines! Thou perceivest that I am modest. Cease, then, to reproach a sage with luxury, who is content with so moderate a repast. I permit thee to drink; allow me to love. Thou changest thy wines; permit me to change my females. Let every one suffer others to live according to the customs of their country. Thy hat was not made to give laws to my turban; thy ruff and thy curtailed doublets are not to command my doliman. Make an end of thy coffee, and go and caress thy German spouse, since thou art allowed to have no other.”
Reply of the German.
“Dog of a Mussulman! for whom I retain a profound veneration; before I finish my coffee I will confute all thy arguments. He who possesses four wives, possesses four harpies, always ready to calumniate, to annoy, and to fight one another. Thy house is the den of discord, and none of them can love thee. Each has only a quarter of thy person, and in return can bestow only a quarter of her heart. None of them can serve to render thy life agreeable; they are prisoners who, never having seen anything, have nothing to say; and, knowing only thee, are in consequence thy enemies. Thou art their absolute master; they therefore hate thee. Thou art obliged to guard them with eunuchs, who whip them when they are too happy. Thou pretendest to compare thyself to a cock, but a cock never has his pullets whipped by a capon. Take animals for thy examples, and copy them as much as thou pleasest; for my part, I love like a man; I would give all my heart, and receive an entire heart in return. I will give an account of this conversation to my wife to-night, and I hope she will be satisfied. As to the wine with which thou reproachest me, if it is an evil to drink it in Arabia, it is a very praiseworthy habit in Germany.—Adieu!”
Bayle has made the article “Xenophanes” a pretext for making a panegyric on the devil; as Simonides, formerly, seized the occasion of a wrestler winning the prize of boxing in the Olympic games, to form a fine ode in praise of Castor and Pollux. But, at the bottom, of what consequence to us are the reveries of Xenophanes? What do we gain by knowing that he regarded nature as an infinite being, immovable, composed of an infinite number of small corpuscles, soft little mounds, and small organic molecules? That he, moreover, thought pretty nearly as Spinoza has since thought? or rather endeavored to think, for he contradicts himself frequently—a thing very common to ancient philosophers.
If Anaximenes taught that the atmosphere was God; if Thales attributed to water the foundation of all things, because Egypt was rendered fertile by inundation; if Pherecides and Heraclitus give to fire all which Thales attributes to water—to what purpose return to these chimerical reveries?
I wish that Pythagoras had expressed, by numbers, certain relations, very insufficiently understood, by which he infers, that the world was built by the rules of arithmetic. I allow, that Ocellus Lucanus and Empedocles have arranged everything by moving antagonist forces, but what shall I gather from it? What clear notion will it convey to my feeble mind?
Come, divine Plato! with your archetypal ideas, your androgynes, and your word; establish all these fine things in poetical prose, in your new republic, in which I no more aspire to have a house, than in the Salentum of Telemachus; but in lieu of becoming one of your citizens, I will send you an order to build your town with all the subtle manner of Descartes, all his globular and diffusive matter; and they shall be brought to you by Cyrano de Bergerac.
Bayle, however, has exercised all the sagacity of his logic on these ancient fancies; but it is always by rendering them ridiculous that he instructs and entertains.
O philosophers! Physical experiments, ably conducted, arts and handicraft—these are the true philosophy. My sage is the conductor of my windmill, which dexterously catches the wind, and receives my corn, deposits it in the hopper, and grinds it equally, for the nourishment of myself and family. My sage is he who, with his shuttle, covers my walls with pictures of linen or of silk, brilliant with the finest colors; or he who puts into my pocket a chronometer of silver or of gold. My sage is the investigator of natural history. We learn more from the single experiments of the Abbé Nollet than from all the philosophical works of antiquity.
If Xenophon had no other merit than that of being the friend of the martyr Socrates, he would be interesting; but he was a warrior, philosopher, poet, historian, agriculturist, and amiable in society. There were many Greeks who united these qualities.
But why had this free man a Greek company in the pay of the young Chosroes, named Cyrus by the Greeks? This Cyrus was the younger brother and subject of the emperor of Persia, Artaxerxes Mnemon, of whom it was said that he never forgot anything but injuries. Cyrus had already attempted to assassinate his brother, even in the temple in which the ceremony of his consecration took place—for the kings of Persia were the first who were consecrated. Artaxerxes had not only the clemency to pardon this villain, but he had the weakness to allow him the absolute government of a great part of Asia Minor, which he held from their father, and of which he at least deserved to be despoiled.
As a return for such surprising mercy, as soon as he could excite his satrapy to revolt against his brother, Cyrus added this second crime to the first. He declared by a manifesto, “that he was more worthy of the throne of Persian than his brother, because he was a better magus, and drank more wine.” I do not believe that these were the reasons which gained him the Greeks as allies. He took thirteen thousand into his pay, among whom was the young Xenophon, who was then only an adventurer. Each soldier had a daric a month for pay. The daric is equal to about a guinea or a louis d’or of our time, as the Chevalier de Jaucourt very well observes, and not ten francs, as Rollin says.
When Cyrus proposed to march them with his other troops to fight his brother towards the Euphrates, they demanded a daric and a half, which he was obliged to grant them. This was thirty-six livres a month, and consequently the highest pay which was ever given. The soldiers of Cæsar and Pompey had but twenty sous per day in the civil wars. Besides this exorbitant pay, of which they obliged him to pay four months in advance, Cyrus furnished them four hundred chariots, laden with wine and meal.
The Greeks were then precisely what the Swiss are at present, who hire their service and courage to neighboring princes, but for a pay three times less than was that of the Greeks. It is evident, though they say the contrary, that they did not inform themselves whether the cause for which they fought was just; it was sufficient that Cyrus paid well.
The greatest part of these troops was composed of Lacedæmonians, by which they violated their solemn treaties with the king of Persia. What was become of the ancient aversion of the Spartans for gold and silver? Where was their sincerity in treaties? Where was their high and incorruptible virtue? Clearchus, a Spartan, commanded the principal body of these brave mercenaries.
I understand not the military manœuvres of Artaxerxes and Cyrus; I see not why Artaxerxes, who came to his enemy with twelve hundred thousand soldiers, should begin by causing lines of twelve leagues in extent to be drawn between Cyrus and himself; and I comprehend nothing of the order of battle. I understand still less how Cyrus, followed only by six hundred horse, broke into the midst of six thousand horse-guards of the emperor, followed by an innumerable army. Finally, he was killed by the hand of Artaxerxes, who, having apparently drunk less wine than the rebel, fought with more coolness and address than this drunkard. It is clear that he completely gained the battle, notwithstanding the valor and resistance of thirteen thousand Greeks—since Greek vanity is obliged to confess that Artaxerxes told them to put down their arms. They replied that they would do nothing of the kind; but that if the emperor would pay them they would enter his service. It was very indifferent to them for whom they fought, so long as they were paid; in fact, they were only hired murderers.
Besides the Swiss, there are some provinces of Germany which follow this custom. It signifies not to these good Christians whether they are paid to kill English, French, or Dutch, or to be killed by them. You see them say their prayers, and go to the carnage like laborers to their workshop. As to myself, I confess I would rather observe those who go into Pennsylvania, to cultivate the land with the simple and equitable Quakers, and form colonies in the retreat of peace and industry. There is no great skill in killing and being killed for six sous per day, but there is much in causing the republic of Dunkers to flourish—these new Therapeutæ on the frontier of a country the most savage.
Artaxerxes regarded the Greeks only as accomplices in the revolt of his brother, and indeed they were nothing else. He betrayed himself to be betrayed by them, and he betrayed them, as Xenophon pretends; for after one of his captains had sworn in his name to allow them a free retreat, and to furnish them with food, after Clearchus and five other commanders of the Greeks were put into his hands, to regulate the march, he caused their heads to be cut off, and slew all the Greeks who accompanied them in this interview, if we may trust Xenophon’s account.
This royal act shows us that Machiavellism is not new; but is it true that Artaxerxes promised not to make an example of the chief mercenaries who sold themselves to his brother? Was it not permitted him to punish those whom he thought so guilty? It is here that the famous retreat of the ten thousand commences. If I comprehend nothing of the battle, I understand no more of the retreat.
The emperor, before he cut off the heads of six Greek generals and their suite, had sworn to allow the little army, reduced to ten thousand men, to return to Greece. The battle was fought on the road to the Euphrates; he must therefore have caused the Greeks to return by Western Mesopotamia, Syria, Asia Minor, and Ionia. Not at all; they were made to pass by the East; they were obliged to traverse the Tigris in boats which were furnished to them; they returned afterwards by the Armenian roads, while their commanders were punished. If any person comprehends this march, in which they turn their backs on Greece, they will oblige me much by explaining it to me.
One of two things: either the Greeks chose their route themselves—and in this case they neither knew where they went, or what they wished—or Artaxerxes made them march against their will—which is much more probable—and in this case, why did he not exterminate them?
We may extricate ourselves from these difficulties, by supposing that the Persian emperor only half revenged himself; that he contented himself with punishing the principal mercenary chiefs who sold the Greek troops to Cyrus; that having made a treaty with the fugitive troops, he would not descend to the meanness of violating it; that being sure that a third of these wandering Greeks would perish on the road, he abandoned them to their fate. I see no other manner of enlightening the mind of the reader on the obscurities of this march.
We are astonished at the retreat of the ten thousand; but we should be much more so, if Artaxerxes, a conqueror, at the head of a hundred thousand men—at least it is said so—had allowed ten thousand fugitives to travel in the north of his vast states, whom he could crush in every village, every bridge, every defile, or whom he could have made perish with hunger and misery.
However, they were furnished, as we have seen, with twenty-seven great boats, to enable them to pass the Tigris, as if they were conducted to the Indies. Thence they were escorted towards the North for several days, into the desert in which Bagdad is now situated. They further passed the river Zabata, and it was there that the emperor sent his orders to punish the chiefs. It is clear that they could have exterminated the army as easily as they inflicted punishment on the generals. It is therefore very likely that they did not choose to do so. We should, therefore, rather regard the Greek wanderers in these savage countries as wayward travellers, whom the bounty of the emperor allowed to finish their journey as they could.
We may make another observation, which appears not very honorable to the Persian government. It was impossible for the Greeks not to have continual quarrels for food with the people whom they met. Pillages, desolations, and murders, were the inevitable consequence of these disorders; and that is so true, that in a road of six hundred leagues, during which the Greeks always marched irregularly, being neither escorted nor pursued by any great body of Persian troops, they lost four thousand men, either killed by peasants or by sickness. How did it happen, therefore, that Artaxerxes did not cause them to be escorted from their passage of the river Zabata, as he had done from the field of battle to the river?
How could so wise and good a sovereign commit so great a fault? Perhaps he did command the escort; perhaps Xenophon, who exaggerates a little elsewhere, passes it over in silence, not to diminish the wonder of the “retreat of the ten thousand”; perhaps the escort was always obliged to march at a great distance from the Greek troop, on account of the difficulty of procuring provisions. However it might be, it appears certain that Artaxerxes used extreme indulgence, and that the Greeks owed their lives to him, since they were not exterminated.
In the article on “Retreat,” in the “Encyclopædical Dictionary,” it is said that the retreat of the ten thousand took place under the command of Xenophon. This is a mistake; he never commanded; he was merely at the head of a division of fourteen hundred men, at the end of the march.
I see that these heroes scarcely arrived, after so many fatigues, on the borders of the Pontus Euxinus, before they indifferently pillaged friends and enemies to re-establish themselves. Xenophon embarked his little troop at Heraclea, and went to make a new bargain with a king of Thrace, to whom he was a stranger. This Athenian, instead of succoring his country, then overcome by the Spartans, sold himself once more to a petty foreign despot. He was ill paid, I confess, which is another reason why we may conclude that he would have done better in assisting his country.
The sum of all this, we have already remarked, is that the Athenian Xenophon, being only a young volunteer, enlisted himself under a Lacedæmonian captain, one of the tyrants of Athens, in the service of a rebel and an assassin; and that, becoming chief of fourteen hundred men, he put himself into the pay of a barbarian.
What is worse, necessity did not constrain him to this servitude. He says himself that he deposited a great part of the gold gained in the service of Cyrus in the temple of the famous Diana of Ephesus.
Let us remark, that in receiving the pay of a king, he exposed himself to be condemned to death, if the foreigner was not contented with him, which happened to Major-General Doxat, a man born free. He sold himself to the emperor Charles VI., who commanded his head to be cut off, for having given up to the Turks a place which he could not defend.
Rollin, in speaking of the return of the ten thousand, says, “that this fortunate retreat filled the people of Greece with contempt for Artaxerxes, by showing them that gold, silver, delicacies, luxury, and a numerous seraglio, composed all the merit of a great king.”
Rollin should consider that the Greeks ought not to despise a sovereign who had gained a complete battle; who, having pardoned as a brother, conquered as a hero; who, having the power of exterminating ten thousand Greeks, suffered them to live and to return to their country; and who, being able to have them in his pay, disdained to make use of them. Add, that this prince afterwards conquered the Lacedæmonians and their allies, and imposed on them humiliating laws; add also that in a war with the Scythians, called Caducians, towards the Caspian Sea, he supported all fatigues and dangers like the lowest soldier. He lived and died full of glory; it is true that he had a seraglio, but his courage was only the more estimable. We must be careful of college declamations.
If I dared to attack prejudice I would venture to prefer the retreat of Marshal Belle-Isle to that of the ten thousand. He was blocked up in Prague by sixty thousand men, when he had not thirteen thousand. He took his measures with so much ability that he got out of Prague, in the most severe cold, with his army, provisions, baggage, and thirty pieces of cannon, without the besiegers having the least idea of it. He gained two days’ march without their perceiving it. An army of thirteen thousand men pursued him for the space of thirty leagues. He faced them everywhere—he was never cast down; but sick as he was, he braved the season, scarcity and his enemies. He only lost those soldiers who could not resist the extreme rigor of the season. What more was wanting? A longer course and Grecian exaggeration.
This is the name of a town in France, six leagues from Rouen, in Normandy, which, according to Robert Gaguin, a historian of the sixteenth century, has long been entitled a kingdom.
This writer relates that Gautier, or Vautier, lord of Yvetot, and grand chamberlain to King Clotaire I., having lost the favor of his master by calumny, in which courtiers deal rather liberally, went into voluntary exile, and visited distant countries, where, for ten years, he fought against the enemies of the faith; that at the expiration of this term, flattering himself that the king’s anger would be appeased, he went back to France; that he passed through Rome, where he saw Pope Agapetus, from whom he obtained a letter of recommendation to the king, who was then at Soissons, the capital of his dominions. The lord of Yvetot repaired thither one Good Friday, and chose the time when Clotaire was at church, to fall at his feet, and implore his forgiveness through the merits of Him who, on that day, had shed His blood for the salvation of men; but Clotaire, ferocious and cruel, having recognized him, ran him through the body.
Gaguin adds that Pope Agapetus, being informed of this disgraceful act, threatened the king with the thunders of the Church, if he did not make reparation for his offence; and that Clotaire, justly intimidated, and in satisfaction for the murder of his subject, erected the lordship of Yvetot into a kingdom, in favor of Gautier’s heirs and successors; that he despatched letters to that effect signed by himself, and sealed with his seal; that ever since then the lords of Yvetot have borne the title of kings; and—continues Gaguin—I find from established and indisputable authority, that this extraordinary event happened in the year of grace 539.
On this story of Gaguin’s we have the same remark to make that we have already made on what he says of the establishment of the Paris university—that not one of the contemporary historians makes any mention of the singular event, which, as he tells us, caused the lordship of Yvetot to be erected into a kingdom; and, as Claude Malingre and the abbé Vertot have well observed, Clotaire I., who is here supposed to have been sovereign of the town of Yvetot, did not reign over that part of the country; fiefs were not then hereditary; acts were not, as Robert Gaguin relates, dated from the year of grace; and lastly, Pope Agapetus was then dead; to this it may be added that the right of erecting a fief into a kingdom belonged exclusively to the emperor.
It is not, however, to be said that the thunders of the Church were not already made use of, in the time of Agapetus. We know that St. Paul excommunicated the incestuous man of Corinth. We also find in the letters of St. Basil, some instances of general censure in the fourth century. One of these letters is against a ravisher. The holy prelate there orders the young woman to be restored to her parents, the ravisher to be excluded from prayers, and declared to be excommunicated, together with his accomplices and all his household, for three years; he also orders that all the people of the village where the ravished person was received, shall be excommunicated.
Auxilius, a young bishop, excommunicated the whole family of Clacitien; although St. Augustine disapproved of this conduct, and Pope St. Leo laid down the same maxims as Augustine, in one of his letters to the bishop of the province of Vienne—yet, confining ourselves here to France—Pretextatus, bishop of Rouen, having been assassinated in the year 586 in his own church, Leudovalde, bishop of Bayeux, did not fail to lay all the churches in Rouen under an interdict, forbidding divine service to be celebrated in them until the author of the crime should be discovered.
In 1141, Louis the Young having refused his consent to the election of Peter de la Châtre, whom the pope caused to be appointed in the room of Alberic, archbishop of Bourges, who had died the year preceding, Innocent II. laid all France under interdict.
In the year 1200, Peter of Capua, commissioned to compel Philip Augustus to put away Agnes, and take back Ingeburga, and not succeeding, published the sentence of interdict on the whole kingdom, which had been pronounced by Pope Innocent III. This interdict was observed with extreme rigor. The English chronicle, quoted by the Benedictine Martenne, says that every Christian act, excepting the baptism of infants, was interdicted in France; the churches were closed, and Christians driven out of them like dogs; there was no more divine office, no more sacrifice of the mass, no ecclesiastical sepulture for the deceased; the dead bodies, left to chance, spread the most frightful infections, and filled the survivors with horror.
The chronicle of Tours gives the same description, adding only one remarkable particular, confirmed by the abbé Fleury and the abbé de Vertot—that the holy viaticum was excepted, like the baptism of infants, from the privation of holy things. The kingdom was in this situation for nine months; it was some time before Innocent III. permitted the preaching of sermons and the sacrament of confirmation. The king was so much enraged that he drove the bishops and all the other ecclesiastics from their abodes, and confiscated their property.
But it is singular that the bishops were sometimes solicited by sovereigns themselves to pronounce an interdict upon lands of their vassals. By letters dated February, 1356, confirming those of Guy, count of Nevers, and his wife Matilda, in favor of the citizens of Nevers, Charles V., regent of the kingdom, prays the archbishops of Lyons, Bourges, and Sens, and the bishops of Autun, Langres, Auxerre, and Nevers, to pronounce an excommunication against the count of Nevers, and an interdict upon his lands, if he does not fulfil the agreement he has made with the inhabitants. We also find in the collection of the ordinances of the third line of kings, many letters like that of King John, authorizing the bishops to put under interdict those places whose privileges their lords would seek to infringe.
And to conclude, though it appears incredible, the Jesuit Daniel relates that, in the year 998, King Robert was excommunicated by Gregory V., for having married his kinswoman in the fourth degree. All the bishops who had assisted at this marriage were interdicted from the communion, until they had been to Rome, and rendered satisfaction to the holy see. The people, and even the court, separated from the king; he had only two domestics left, who purified by fire whatever he had touched. Cardinal Damien and Romualde also add, that Robert being gone one morning, as was his custom, to say his prayers at the door of St. Bartholomew’s church, for he dared not enter it, Abbon, abbot of Fleury, followed by two women of the palace, carrying a large gilt dish covered with a napkin, accosted him, announced that Bertha was just brought to bed; and uncovering the dish, said: “Behold the effects of your disobedience to the decrees of the Church, and the seal of anathema on the fruit of your love!” Robert looked, and saw a monster with the head and neck of a duck! Bertha was repudiated; and the excommunication was at last taken off.
Urban II., on the contrary, excommunicated Robert’s grandson, Philip I., for having put away his kinswoman. This pope pronounced the sentence of excommunication in the king’s own dominions, at Clermont, in Auvergne, where his holiness was come to seek an asylum, in the same council in which the crusade was preached, and in which, for the first time, the name of pope (papa) was given to the bishop of Rome, to the exclusion of the other bishops, who had formerly taken it.
It will be seen that these canonical pains were medicinal rather than mortal; but Gregory VII. and some of his successors ventured to assert, that an excommunicated sovereign was deprived of his dominions, and that his subjects were not obliged to obey him. However, supposing that a king can be excommunicated in certain serious cases, excommunication, being a penalty purely spiritual, cannot dispense with the obedience which his subjects owe to him, as holding his authority from God Himself. This was constantly acknowledged by the parliaments, and also by the clergy of France, in the excommunications pronounced by Boniface VII., against Philip the Fair; by Julius II., against Louis XII.; by Sixtus V., against Henry III.; by Gregory XIII., against Henry IV.; and it is likewise the doctrine of the celebrated assembly of the clergy in 1682.
This, in religion, is a pure and enlightened attachment to the maintenance and progress of the worship which is due to the Divinity; but when this zeal is persecuting, blind, and false, it becomes the greatest scourge of humanity.
See what the emperor Julian says of the Christians of his time: “The Galileans,” he observes, “have suffered exile and imprisonment under my predecessor; those who are by turns called heretics, have been mutually massacred. I have recalled the banished, liberated the prisoners; I have restored their property to the proscribed; I have forced them to live in peace; but such is the restless rage of the Galileans, that they complain of being no longer able to devour each other.”
This picture will not appear extravagant if we attend to the atrocious calumnies with which the Christians reciprocally blackened each other. For instance, St. Augustine accuses the Manichæans of forcing their elect to receive the eucharist, after having obscenely polluted it. After him, St. Cyril of Jerusalem has accused them of the same infamy in these terms: “I dare not mention in what these sacrilegious wretches wet their ischas, which they give to their unhappy votaries, and exhibit in the midst of their altar, and with which the Manichæan soils his mouth and tongue. Let the men call to mind what they are accustomed to experience in dreaming, and the women in their periodical affections.” Pope St. Leo, in one of his sermons, also calls the sacrifice of the Manichæans the same turpitude. Finally, Suidas and Cedrenus have still further improved on the calumny, in asserting that the Manichæans held nocturnal assemblies, in which, after extinguishing the flambeaux, they committed the most enormous indecencies.
Let us first observe that the primitive Christians were themselves accused of the same horrors which they afterwards imputed to the Manichæans; and that the justification of these equally applies to the others. “In order to have pretexts for persecuting us,” said Athenagoras, in his “Apology for the Christians,” “they accuse us of making detestable banquets, and of committing incest in our assemblies. It is an old trick, which has been employed from all time to extinguish virtue. Thus was Pythagoras burned, with three hundred of his disciples; Heraclitus expelled by the Ephesians; Democritus by the Abderitans; and Socrates condemned by the Athenians.”
Athenagoras subsequently points out that the principles and manners of the Christians were sufficient of themselves to destroy the calumnies spread against them. The same reasons apply in favor of the Manichæans. Why else is St. Augustine, who is positive in his book on heresies, reduced in that on the morals of the Manichæans, when speaking of the horrible ceremony in question, to say simply: “They are suspected of—the world has this opinion of them—if they do not commit what is imputed to them—rumor proclaims much ill of them; but they maintain that it is false?”
Why not sustain openly this accusation in his dispute with Fortunatus, who publicly challenged him in these terms: “We are accused of false crimes, and as Augustine has assisted in our worship, I beg him to declare before the whole people, whether these crimes are true or not.” St. Augustine replied: “It is true that I have assisted in your worship; but the question of faith is one thing, the question of morals another; and it is that of faith which I brought forward. However, if the persons present prefer that we should discuss that of your morals, I shall not oppose myself to them.”
Fortunatus, addressing the assembly, said: “I wish, above all things, to be justified in the minds of those who believe us guilty; and that Augustine should now testify before you, and one day before the tribunal of Jesus Christ, if he has ever seen, or if he knows, in any way whatever, that the things imputed have been committed by us?” St. Augustine still replies: “You depart from the question; what I have advanced turns upon faith, not upon morals.” At length, Fortunatus continuing to press St. Augustine to explain himself, he does so in these terms: “I acknowledge that in the prayer at which I assisted I did not see you commit anything impure.”
The same St. Augustine, in his work on the “Utility of Faith,” still justifies the Manichæans. “At this time,” he says, to his friend Honoratus, “when I was occupied with Manichæism, I was yet full of the desire and the hope of marrying a handsome woman, and of acquiring riches; of attaining honors, and of enjoying the other pernicious pleasures of life. For when I listened with attention to the Manichæan doctors, I had not renounced the desire and hope of all these things. I do not attribute that to their doctrine; for I am bound to render this testimony—that they sedulously exhorted men to preserve themselves from those things. That is, indeed, what hindered me from attaching myself altogether to the sect, and kept me in the rank of those who are called auditors. I did not wish to renounce secular hopes and affairs.” And in the last chapter of this book, where he represents the Manichæan doctors as proud men, who had as gross minds as they had meagre and skinny bodies, he does not say a word of their pretended infamies.
But on what proofs were these imputations founded? The first which Augustine alleges is, that these indecencies were a consequence of the Manichæan system, regarding the means which God makes use of to wrest from the prince of darkness the portion of his substance. We have spoken of this in the article on “Genealogy,” and these are horrors which one may dispense with repeating. It is enough to say here, that the passage from the seventh book of the “Treasure of Manes,” which Augustine cites in many places, is evidently falsified. The arch heretic says, if we can believe it, that these celestial virtues, which are transformed sometimes into beautiful boys, and sometimes into beautiful girls, are God the Father Himself. This is false; Manes has never confounded the celestial virtues with God the Father. St. Augustine, not having understood the Syriac phrase of a “virgin of light” to mean a virgin light, supposes that God shows a beautiful maiden to the princes of darkness, in order to excite their brutal lust; there is nothing of all this talked of in ancient authors; the question concerns the cause of rain.
“The great prince,” says Tirbon, cited by St. Epiphanius, “sends out for himself, in his passion, black clouds, which darken all the world; he chafes, worries himself, throws himself into a perspiration, and that it is which makes the rain, which is no other than the sweat of the great prince.” St. Augustine must have been deceived by a mistranslation, or rather by a garbled, unfaithful extract from the “Treasure of Manes,” from which he only cites two or three passages. The Manichæan Secundinus also reproaches him with comprehending nothing of the mysteries of Manichæism, and with attacking them only by mere paralogisms. “How, otherwise,” says the learned M. de Beausobre — whom we here abridge — “would St. Augustine have been able to live so many years among a sect in which such abominations were publicly taught? And how would he have had the face to defend it against the Catholics?”
From this proof by reasoning, let us pass to the proofs of fact and evidence alleged by St. Augustine, and see if they are more substantial. “It is said,” proceeds this father, “that some of them have confessed this fact in public pleadings, not only in Paphlagonia, but also in the Gauls, as I have heard said at Rome by a certain Catholic.”
Such hearsay deserves so little attention that St. Augustine dared not make use of it in his conference with Fortunatus, although it was seven or eight years after he had quitted Rome; he seems even to have forgotten the name of the Catholic from whom he learned them. It is true, that in his book of “Heresies,” he speaks of the confessions of two girls, the one named Margaret, the other Eusebia, and of some Manichæans who, having been discovered at Carthage, and taken to the church, avowed, it is said, the horrible fact in question.
He adds that a certain Viator declared that they who committed these scandals were called Catharistes, or purgators; and that, when interrogated on what scripture they founded this frightful practice, they produced the passage from the “Treasure of Manes,” the falsehood of which has been demonstrated. But our heretics, far from availing themselves of it, have openly disavowed it, as the work of some impostor who wished to ruin them. That alone casts suspicion on all these acts of Carthage, which “Quod-vult-Deus” had sent to St. Augustine; and these wretches who were discovered and taken to the church, have very much the air of persons suborned to confess all they were wanted to confess.
In the 47th chapter on the “Nature of Good,” St. Augustine admits that when our heretics were reproached with the crimes in question, they replied that one of their elect, a seceder from the sect, and become their enemy, had introduced this enormity. Without inquiring whether this was a real sect whom Viator calls Catharistes, it is sufficient to observe here, that the first Christians likewise imputed to the Gnostics the horrible mysteries of which they were themselves accused by the Jews and Pagans; and if this defence is good on their behalf, why should it not be so on that of the Manichæans?
It is, however, these vulgar rumors which M. de Tillemont, who piques himself on his exactness and fidelity, ventures to convert into positive facts. He asserts that the Manichæans had been made to confess these disgraceful doings in public judgments, in Paphlagonia, in the Gauls, and several times at Carthage.
Let us also weigh the testimony of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, whose narrative is altogether different from that of St. Augustine; and let us consider that the fact is so incredible and so absurd that it could scarcely be credited, even if attested by five or six witnesses who had seen and would affirm it on oath. St. Cyril stands alone; he had never seen it; he advances it in a popular declamation, wherein he gives himself a licence to put into the mouth of Manes, in the conference of Cascar, a discourse, not one word of which is in the “Acts of Archælaus,” as M. Zaccagni is obliged to allow; and it cannot be alleged in defence of St. Cyril that he has taken only the sense of Archælaus, and not the words; for neither the sense nor the words can be found there. Besides, the style which this father adopts is that of a historian who cites the actual words of his author.
Nevertheless, to save the honor and good faith of St. Cyril, M. Zaccagni, and after him M. de Tillemont, suppose, without any proof, that the translator or copyist has omitted the passage in the “Acts” quoted by this father; and the journalists of Trévoux have imagined two sorts of “Acts of Archælaus”—the authentic ones which Cyril has copied, and others invented in the fifth century by some historian. When they shall have proved this conjecture, we will examine their reasons.
Finally, let us come to the testimony of Pope Leo touching these Manichæan abominations. He says, in his sermons, that the sudden troubles in other countries had brought into Italy some Manichæans, whose mysteries were so abominable that he could not expose them to the public view without sacrificing modesty. That, in order to ascertain them, he had introduced male and female elect into an assembly composed of bishops, priests, and some lay noblemen. That these heretics had disclosed many things respecting their dogmas and the ceremonies of their feast, and had confessed a crime which could not be named, but in regard to which there could be no doubt, after the confession of the guilty parties—that is to say, of a young girl of only ten years of age; of two women who had prepared her for the horrible ceremony of the sect; of a young man who had been an accomplice; of the bishop who had ordered and presided over it. He refers those among his auditors who desire to know more, to the informations which had been taken, and which he communicated to the bishops of Italy, in his second letter.
This testimony appears more precise and more decisive than that of St. Augustine; but it is anything but conclusive in regard to a fact belied by the protestations of the accused, and by the ascertained principles of their morality. In effect, what proofs have we that the infamous persons interrogated by Leo were not bribed to depose against their sect?
It will be replied that the piety and sincerity of this pope will not permit us to believe that he has contrived such a fraud. But if—as we have said in the article on “Relics”—the same St. Leo was capable of supposing that pieces of linen and ribbons, which were put in a box, and made to descend into the tombs of some saints, shed blood when they were cut—ought this pope to make any scruple in bribing, or causing to be bribed, some abandoned women, and I know not what Manichæan bishop, who, being assured of pardon, would make confessions of crimes which might be true as regarded themselves, but not as regarded their sect, from whose seduction St. Leo wished to protect his people? At all times, bishops have considered themselves authorized to employ those pious frauds which tend to the salvation of souls. The conjectural and apocryphal scriptures are a proof of this; and the readiness with which the fathers have put faith in those bad works, shows that, if they were not accomplices in the fraud, they were not scrupulous in taking advantage of it.
In conclusion, St. Leo pretends to confirm the secret crimes of the Manichæans by an argument which destroys them. “These execrable mysteries,” he says, “which the more impure they are, the more carefully they are hid, are common to the Manichæans and to the Priscillianists. There is in all respects the same sacrilege, the same obscenity, the same turpitude. These crimes, these infamies, are the same which were formerly discovered among the Priscillianists, and of which the whole world is informed.”
The Priscillianists were never guilty of the crimes for which they were put to death. In the works of St. Augustine is contained the instructionary remarks which were transmitted to that father by Orosius, and in which this Spanish priest protests that he has plucked out all the plants of perdition which sprang up in the sect of the Priscillianists; that he had not forgotten the smallest branch or root; that he exposed to the surgeon all the diseases of the sect, in order that he might labor in their cure. Orosius does not say a word of the abominable mysteries of which Leo speaks; an unanswerable proof that he had no doubt they were pure calumnies. St. Jerome also says that Priscillian was oppressed by faction, and by the intrigues of the bishops Ithacus and Idacus. Would a man be thus spoken of who was guilty of profaning religion by the most infamous ceremonies? Nevertheless, Orosius and St. Jerome could not be ignorant of crimes of which all the world had been informed.
St. Martin of Tours, and St. Ambrosius, who were at Trier when Priscillian was sentenced, would have been equally informed of them. They, however, instantly solicited a pardon for him; and, not being able to obtain it, they refused to hold intercourse with his accusers and their faction. Sulpicius Severus relates the history of the misfortunes of Priscillian. Latronian, Euphrosyne, widow of the poet Delphidius, his daughter, and some other persons, were executed with him at Trier, by order of the tyrant Maximus, and at the instigation of Ithacus and Idacus, two wicked bishops, who, in reward for their injustice, died in excommunication, loaded with the hatred of God and man.
The Priscillianists were accused, like the Manichæans, of obscene doctrines, of religious nakedness and immodesty. How were they convicted? Priscillian and his accomplices confessed, as is said, under the torture. Three degraded persons, Tertullus, Potamius, and John, confessed without awaiting the question. But the suit instituted against the Priscillianists would have been founded on other depositions, which had been made against them in Spain. Nevertheless, these latter informations were rejected by a great number of bishops and esteemed ecclesiastics; and the good old man Higimis, bishop of Cordova, who had been the denouncer of the Priscillianists, afterwards believed them so innocent of the crimes imputed to them that he received them into his communion, and found himself involved thereby in the persecution which they endured.
These horrible calumnies, dictated by a blind zeal, would seem to justify the reflection which Ammianus Marcellinus reports of the emperor Julian. “The savage beasts,” he said, “are not more formidable to men than the Christians are to each other, when they are divided by creed and opinion.”
It is still more deplorable when zeal is false and hypocritical, examples of which are not rare. It is told of a doctor of the Sorbonne, that in departing from a sitting of the faculty, Tournély, with whom he was strictly connected, said to him: “You see that for two hours I have maintained a certain opinion with warmth; well, I assure you, there is not one word of truth in all I have said!”
The answer of a Jesuit is also known, who was employed for twenty years in the Canada missions, and who himself not believing in a God, as he confessed in the ear of a friend, had faced death twenty times for the sake of a religion which he preached to the savages. This friend representing to him the inconsistency of his zeal: “Ah!” replied the Jesuit missionary, “you have no idea of the pleasure a man enjoys in making himself heard by twenty thousand men, and in persuading them of what he does not himself believe.”
It is frightful to observe how many abuses and disorders arise from the profound ignorance in which Europe has been so long plunged. Those monarchs who are at last sensible of the importance of enlightenment, become the benefactors of mankind in favoring the progress of knowledge, which is the foundation of the tranquillity and happiness of nations, and the finest bulwark against the inroads of fanaticism.
If it is Zoroaster who first announced to mankind that fine maxim: “In the doubt whether an action be good or bad, abstain from it,” Zoroaster was the first of men after Confucius.
If this beautiful lesson of morality is found only in the hundred gates of the “Sadder,” let us bless the author of the “Sadder.” There may be very ridiculous dogmas and rites united with an excellent morality.
Who was this Zoroaster? The name has something of Greek in it, and it is said he was a Mede. The Parsees of the present day call him Zerdust, or Zerdast, or Zaradast, or Zarathrust. He is not reckoned to have been the first of the name. We are told of two other Zoroasters, the former of whom has an antiquity of nine thousand years—which is much for us, but may be very little for the world. We are acquainted with only the latest Zoroaster.
The French travellers, Chardin and Tavernier, have given us some information respecting this great prophet, by means of the Guebers or Parsees, who are still scattered through India and Persia, and who are excessively ignorant. Dr. Hyde, Arabic professor of Oxford, has given us a hundred times more without leaving home. Living in the west of England, he must have conjectured the language which the Persians spoke in the time of Cyrus, and must have compared it with the modern language of the worshippers of fire. It is to him, moreover, that we owe those hundred gates of the “Sadder,” which contain all the principal precepts of the pious fire-worshippers.
For my own part, I confess I have found nothing in their ancient rites more curious than the two Persian verses of Sadi, as given by Hyde; signifying that, although a person may preserve the sacred fire for a hundred years, he is burned when he falls into it.
The learned researches of Hyde kindled, a few years ago in the breast of a young Frenchman, the desire to learn for himself the dogmas of the Guebers. He traversed the Great Indies, in order to learn at Surat, among the poor modern Parsees, the language of the ancient Persians, and to read in that language the books of the so-much celebrated Zoroaster, supposing that he has in fact written any.
The Pythagorases, the Platos, the Appolloniuses of Thyana, went in former times to seek in the East wisdom that was not there; but no one has run after this hidden divinity through so many sufferings and perils as this new French translator of the books attributed to Zoroaster. Neither disease nor war, nor obstacles renewed at every step, nor poverty itself, the first and greatest of obstacles, could repel his courage.
It is glorious for Zoroaster that an Englishman wrote his life, at the end of so many centuries, and that afterwards a Frenchman wrote it in an entirely different manner. But it is still finer, that among the ancient biographers of the poet we have two principal Arabian authors, each of whom had previously written his history; and all these four histories contradict one another marvellously. This is not done by concert; and nothing is more conducive to the knowledge of the truth.
The first Arabian historian, Abu-Mohammed Mustapha, allows that the father of Zoroaster was called Espintaman; but he also says that Espintaman was not his father, but his great-great-grandfather. In regard to his mother, there are not two opinions; she was named Dogdu, or Dodo, or Dodu—that is, a very fine turkey hen; she is very well portrayed in Doctor Hyde.
Bundari, the second historian, relates that Zoroaster was a Jew, and that he had been valet to Jeremiah; that he told lies to his master; that, in order to punish him, Jeremiah gave him the leprosy; that the valet, to purify himself, went to preach a new religion in Persia, and caused the sun to be adored instead of the stars.
Attend now to what the third historian relates, and what the Englishman, Hyde, has recorded somewhat at length: The prophet Zoroaster having come from Paradise to preach his religion to the king of Persia, Gustaph, the king said to the prophet: “Give me a sign.” Upon this, the prophet caused a cedar to grow up before the gate of the palace, so large and so tall, that no cord could either go round it or reach its top. Upon the cedar he placed a fine cabinet, to which no man could ascend. Struck with this miracle, Gustaph believed in Zoroaster.
Four magi, or four sages—it is the same thing—envious and wicked persons, borrowed from the royal porter the key of the prophet’s chamber during his absence, and threw among his books the bones of dogs and cats, the nails and hair of dead bodies—such being, as is well known, the drugs with which magicians at all times have operated. Afterwards, they went and accused the prophet of being a sorcerer and a poisoner; and the king, causing the chamber to be opened by his porter, the instruments of witchcraft were found there—and behold the envoy from heaven condemned to be hanged!
Just as they are going to hang Zoroaster, the king’s finest horse falls ill; his four legs enter his body, so as to be no longer visible. Zoroaster hears of it; he promises to cure the horse, provided they will not hang him. The bargain being made, he causes one leg to issue out of the belly, and says: “Sire, I will not restore you the second leg unless you embrace my religion.” “Let it be so,” says the monarch. The prophet, after having made the second leg appear, wished the king’s children to become Zoroastrians, and they became so. The other legs made proselytes of the whole court. The four envious sages were hanged in place of the prophet, and all Persia received the faith.
The French traveller relates nearly the same miracles, supported and embellished, however, by many others. For instance, the infancy of Zoroaster could not fail to be miraculous; Zoroaster fell to laughing as soon as he was born, at least according to Pliny and Solinus. There were, in those days, as all the world knows, a great number of very powerful magicians; they were well aware that one day Zoroaster would be greater than themselves, and that he would triumph over their magic. The prince of magicians caused the infant to be brought to him, and tried to cut him in two; but his hand instantly withered. They threw him into the fire, which was turned for him into a bath of rose water. They wished to have him trampled on by the feet of wild bulls; but a still more powerful bull protected him. He was cast among the wolves; these wolves went incontinently and sought two ewes, who gave him suck all night. At last, he was restored to his mother Dogdu, or Dodo, or Dodu, a wife excellent above all wives, or a daughter above all daughters.
Such, throughout the world, have been all the histories of ancient times. It proves what we have often remarked, that Fable is the elder sister of History. I could wish that, for our amusement and instruction, all these great prophets of antiquity, the Zoroasters, the Mercurys Trismegistus, the Abarises, and even the Numas, and others, should now return to the earth, and converse with Locke, Newton, Bacon, Shaftesbury, Pascal, Arnaud, Bayle—what do I say?—even with those philosophers of our day who are the least learned, provided they are not the less rational. I ask pardon of antiquity, but I think they would cut a sorry figure.
Alas, poor charlatans! they could not sell their drugs on the Pont-neuf. In the meantime, however, their morality is still good, because morality is not a drug. How could it be that Zoroaster joined so many egregious fooleries to the fine precept of “abstaining when it is doubtful whether one is about to do right or wrong?” It is because men are always compounded of contradictions.
It is added that Zoroaster, having established his religion, became a persecutor. Alas! there is not a sexton, or a sweeper of a church, who would not persecute, if he had the power.
One cannot read two pages of the abominable trash attributed to Zoroaster, without pitying human nature. Nostradamus and the urine doctor are reasonable compared with this inspired personage; and yet he still is and will continue to be talked of.
What appears singular is, that there existed, in the time of the Zoroaster with whom we are acquainted, and probably before, prescribed formulas of public and private prayer. We are indebted to the French traveller for a translation of them. There were such formulas in India; we know of none such in the Pentateuch.
What is still stranger, the magi, as well as the Brahmins, admitted a paradise, a hell, a resurrection, and a devil. It is demonstrated that the law of the Jews knew nothing of all this; they were behindhand with everything—a truth of which we are convinced, however little the progress we have made in Oriental knowledge.