Front Page Titles (by Subject) VOLTAIRE A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY Vol. V — Part I - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. V (Philosophical Dictionary Part 3)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
VOLTAIRE A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY Vol. V — Part I - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. V (Philosophical Dictionary Part 3) 
The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version. A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901). In 21 vols. Vol. V.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The WORKS of VOLTAIRE
“Between two servants of Humanity, who appeared eighteen hundred years apart, there is a mysterious relation. * * * * Let us say it with a sentiment of profound respect: JESUS WEPT: VOLTAIRE SMILED. Of that divine tear and of that human smile is composed the sweetness of the present civilization.”
A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY.
Fanaticism is the effect of a false conscience, which makes religion subservient to the caprices of the imagination, and the excesses of the passions.
It arises, in general, from legislators entertaining too narrow views, or from their extending their regulations beyond the limits within which alone they were intended to operate. Their laws are made merely for a select society. When extended by zeal to a whole people, and transferred by ambition from one climate to another, some changes of institution should take place, some accommodation to persons, places, and circumstances. But what, in fact, has been the case? Certain minds, constituted in a great degree like those of the small original flock, have received a system with equal ardor, and become its apostles, and even its martyrs, rather than abate a single iota of its demands. Others, on the contrary, less ardent, or more attached to their prejudices of education, have struggled with energy against the new yoke, and consented to receive it only after considerable softenings and mitigations; hence the schism between rigorists and moderates, by which all are urged on to vehemence and madness—the one party for servitude and the other for freedom.
Let us imagine an immense rotunda, a pantheon, with innumerable altars placed under its dome. Let us figure to ourselves a devotee of every sect, whether at present existing or extinct, at the feet of that divinity which he worships in his own peculiar way, under all the extravagant forms which human imagination has been able to invent. On the right we perceive one stretched on his back upon a mat, absorbed in contemplation, and awaiting the moment when the divine light shall come forth to inform his soul. On the left is a prostrate energumen striking his forehead against the ground, with a view to obtain from it an abundant produce. Here we see a man with the air and manner of a mountebank, dancing over the grave of him whom he invokes. There we observe a penitent, motionless and mute as the statue before which he has bent himself in humiliation. One, on the principle that God will not blush at his own resemblance, displays openly what modesty universally conceals; another, as if the artist would shudder at the sight of his own work, covers with an impenetrable veil his whole person and countenance; another turns his back upon the south, because from that quarter blows the devil’s tempest. Another stretches out his arms towards the east, because there God first shows His radiant face. Young women, suffused with tears, bruise and gash their lovely persons under the idea of assuaging the demon of desire, although by means tending in fact rather to strengthen his influence; others again, in opposite attitudes, solicit the approaches of the Divinity. One young man, in order to mortify the most urgent of his feelings, attaches to particular parts of his frame large iron rings, as heavy as he can bear; another checks still more effectually the tempter’s violence by inhuman amputation, and suspends the bleeding sacrifice upon the altar.
Let us observe them quite the temple, and, full of the inspiration of their respective deities, spread the terror and delusion over the face of the earth. They divide the world between them; and the four extremities of it are almost instantly in flames: nations obey them, and kings tremble before them. That almost despotic power which the enthusiasm of a single person exercises over a multitude who see or hear him; the ardor communicated to each other by assembled minds; numberless strong and agitating influences acting in such circumstances, augmented by each individual’s personal anxiety and distress, require but a short time to operate, in order to produce universal delirium. Only let a single people be thus fascinated and agitated under the guidance of a few impostors, the seduction will spread with the speed of wild-fire, prodigies will be multiplied beyond calculation, and whole communities be led astray forever. When the human mind has once quitted the luminous track pointed out by nature, it returns to it no more; it wanders round the truth, but never obtains of it more than a few faint glimmerings, which, mingling with the false lights of surrounding superstition, leave it, in fact, in complete and palpable obscurity.
It is dreadful to observe how the opinion that the wrath of heaven might be appeased by human massacre spread, after being once started, through almost every religion; and what various reasons have been given for the sacrifice, as though, in order to preclude, if possible, the escape of any one from extirpation. Sometimes they are enemies who must be immolated to Mars the exterminator. The Scythians slay upon the altars of this deity a hundredth part of their prisoners of war; and from this usage attending victory, we may form some judgment of the justice of war: accordingly, among other nations it was engaged in solely to supply these human sacrifices, so that, having first been instituted, as it would seem, to expiate the horrors of war, they at length came to serve as a justification of them.
Sometimes a barbarous deity requires victims from among the just and good. The Getæ eagerly dispute the honor of personally conveying to Zamolxis the vows and devotions of their country. He whose good fortune has destined him to be the sacrifice is thrown with the greatest violence upon a range of spears, fixed for the purpose. If on falling he receives a mortal wound, it augurs well as to the success of the negotiation and the merit of the envoy; but if he survives the wound, he is a wretch with whom the god would not condescend to hold any communication.
Sometimes children are demanded, and the respective divinities recall the life they had but just imparted: “Justice,” says Montaigne, “thirsting for the blood of innocence!” Sometimes the call is for the dearest and nearest blood: the Carthaginians sacrificed their own sons to Saturn, as if Time did not devour them with sufficient speed. Sometimes the demand was for the blood of the most beautiful. That Amestris, who had buried twelve men alive in order to obtain from Pluto, in return for so revolting an offering, a somewhat longer life—that same Amestris further sacrifices to that insatiable divinity twelve daughters of the highest personages in Persia; as the sacrificing priests have always taught men that they ought to offer on the altar the most valuable of their possessions. It is upon this principle that among some nations the first-born were immolated, and that among others they were redeemed by offerings more valuable to the ministers of sacrifice. This it is, unquestionably, which introduced into Europe the practice prevalent for centuries of devoting children to celibacy at the early age of five years, and shutting up in a cloister the brothers of an hereditary prince, just as in Asia the practice is to murder them.
Sometimes it is the purest blood that is demanded. We read of certain Indians, if I recollect rightly, who hospitably entertain all who visit them and make a merit of killing every sensible and virtuous stranger who enters their country, that his talents and virtues may remain with them. Sometimes the blood required is that which is most sacred. With the majority of idolaters, priests perform the office of executioner at the altar; and among the Siberians, it is the practice to kill the priests in order to despatch them to pray in the other world for the fulfilment of the wishes of the people.
But let us turn our attention to other frenzies and other spectacles. All Europe passes into Asia by a road inundated with the blood of Jews, who commit suicide to avoid falling into the hands of their enemies. This epidemic depopulates one-half of the inhabited world: kings, pontiffs, women, the young and the aged, all yield to the influence of the holy madness which, for a series of two hundred years, instigated the slaughter of innumerable nations at the tomb of a god of peace. Then were to be seen lying oracles, and military hermits, monarchs in pulpits, and prelates in camps. All the different states constitute one delirious populace; barriers of mountains and seas are surmounted; legitimate possessions are abandoned to enable their owners to fly to conquests which were no longer, in point of fertility, the land of promise; manners become corrupted under foreign skies; princes, after having exhausted their respective kingdoms to redeem a country which had never been theirs, complete the ruin of them for their personal ransom; thousands of soldiers, wandering under the banners of many chieftains, acknowledge the authority of none and hasten their defeat by their desertion; and the disease terminates only to be succeeded by a contagion still more horrible and desolating.
The same spirit of fanaticism cherished the rage for distant conquests: scarcely had Europe repaired its losses when the discovery of a new world hastened the ruin of our own. At that terrible injunction, “Go and conquer,” America was desolated and its inhabitants exterminated; Africa and Europe were exhausted in vain to repeople it; the poison of money and of pleasure having enervated the species, the world became nearly a desert and appeared likely every day to advance nearer to desolation by the continual wars which were kindled on our continent, from the ambition of extending its power to foreign lands.
Let us now compute the immense number of slaves which fanaticism has made, whether in Asia, where uncircumcision was a mark of infamy, or in Africa, where the Christian name was a crime, or in America, where the pretext of baptism absolutely extinguished the feelings of humanity. Let us compute the thousands who have been seen to perish either on scaffolds in the ages of persecution, or in civil wars by the hands of their fellow citizens, or by their own hands through excessive austerities, and maceration. Let us survey the surface of the earth, and glance at the various standards unfurled and blazing in the name of religion; in Spain against the Moors, in France against the Turks, in Hungary against the Tartars; at the numerous military orders, founded for converting infidels by the point of the sword, and slaughtering one another at the foot of the altar they had come to defend. Let us then look down from the appalling tribunal thus raised on the bodies of the innocent and miserable, in order to judge the living, as God, with a balance widely different, will judge the dead.
In a word, let us contemplate the horrors of fifteen centuries, all frequently renewed in the course of a single one; unarmed men slain at the feet of altars; kings destroyed by the dagger or by poison; a large state reduced to half its extent by the fury of its own citizens; the nation at once the most warlike and the most pacific on the face of the globe, divided in fierce hostility against itself; the sword unsheathed between the sons and the father; usurpers, tyrants, executioners, sacrilegious robbers, and bloodstained parricides violating, under the impulse of religion, every convention divine or human—such is the deadly picture of fanaticism.
If this term has at present any connection with its original meaning it is exceedingly slight.
“Fanaticus” was an honorable designation. It signified the minister or benefactor of a temple. According to the dictionary of Trévoux some antiquaries have discovered inscriptions in which Roman citizens of considerable consequence assumed the title of “fanaticus.”
In Cicero’s oration “pro domo sua,” a passage occurs in which the word “fanaticus” appears to me of difficult explanation. The seditious and libertine Clodius, who had brought about the banishment of Cicero for having saved the republic, had not only plundered and demolished the houses of that great man, but in order that Cicero might never be able to return to his city residence he procured the consecration of the land on which it stood; and the priests had erected there a temple to liberty, or rather to slavery, in which Cæsar, Pompey, Crassus, and Clodius then held the republic. Thus in all ages has religion been employed as an instrument in the persecution of great men. When at length, in a happier period, Cicero was recalled, he pleaded before the people in order to obtain the restoration of the ground on which his house had stood, and the rebuilding of the house at the expense of the Roman people. He thus expresses himself in the speech against Clodius (Oratio pro Domo sua, chap. xl): “Adspicite, adspicite, pontifices, hominem religiosum . . . . monete eum, modum quemdam esse religionis; nimium esse superstitiosum non oportere. Quid tibi necesse fuit anili superstitione, homo fanatice, sacrificium, quod aliænæ domi fieret invisere?”
Does the word “fanaticus,” as used above, mean senseless, pitiless, abominable fanatic, according to the present acceptation, or does it rather imply the pious, religious man, the frequenter and consecrator of temples? Is it used here in the meaning of decided censure or ironical praise? I do not feel myself competent to determine, but will give a translation of the passage:
“Behold, reverend pontiffs, behold the pious man . . . . suggest to him that even religion itself has its limits, that a man ought not to be so over-scrupulous. What occasion was there for a sacred person, a fanatic like yourself, to have recourse to the superstition of an old woman, in order to assist at a sacrifice performed in another person’s house?”
Cicero alludes here to the mysteries of the Bona Dea, which had been profaned by Clodius, who, in the disguise of a female, and accompanied by an old woman, had obtained an introduction to them, with a view to an assignation with Cæsar’s wife. The passage is, in consequence, evidently ironical.
Cicero calls Clodius a religious man, and the irony requires to be kept up through the whole passage. He employs terms of honorable meaning, more clearly to exhibit Clodius’s infamy. It appears to me, therefore, that he uses the word in question, “fanaticus,” in its respectable sense, as a word conveying the idea of a sacrificer, a pious man, a zealous minister of temple.
The term might be afterwards applied to those who believed themselves inspired by the gods, who bestowed a somewhat curious gift on the interpreters of their will, by ordaining that, in order to be a prophet, the loss of reason is indispensable.
The same dictionary of Trévoux informs us that the old chronicles of France call Clovis fanatic and pagan. The reader would have been pleased to have had the particular chronicles specified. I have not found this epithet applied to Clovis in any of the few books I possess at my house near Mount Krapak, where I now write.
We understand by fanaticism at present a religious madness, gloomy and cruel. It is a malady of the mind, which is taken in the same way as smallpox. Books communicate it much less than meetings and discourses. We seldom get heated while reading in solitude, for our minds are then tranquil and sedate. But when an ardent man of strong imagination addresses himself to weak imaginations, his eyes dart fire, and that fire rapidly spreads; his tones, his gestures, absolutely convulse the nerves of his auditors. He exclaims, “The eye of God is at this moment upon you; sacrifice every mere human possession and feeling; fight the battles of the Lord”—and they rush to the fight.
Fanaticism is, in reference to superstition, what delirium is to fever, or rage to anger. He who is involved in ecstasies and visions, who takes dreams for realities, and his own imaginations for prophecies, is a fanatical novice of great hope and promise, and will probably soon advance to the highest form, and kill man for the love of God.
Bartholomew Diaz was a fanatical monk. He had a brother at Nuremberg called John Diaz, who was an enthusiastic adherent to the doctrines of Luther, and completely convinced that the pope was Antichrist, and had the sign of the beast. Bartholomew, still more ardently convinced that the pope was god upon earth, quits Rome, determined either to convert or murder his brother; he accordingly murdered him! Here is a perfect case of fanaticism. We have noticed and done justice to this Diaz elsewhere.
Polyeuctes, who went to the temple on a day of solemn festival, to throw down and destroy the statues and ornaments, was a fanatic less horrible than Diaz, but not less foolish. The assassins of Francis, duke of Guise, of William, prince of Orange, of King Henry III., of King Henry IV., and various others, were equally possessed, equally laboring under morbid fury, with Diaz.
The most striking example of fanaticism is that exhibited on the night of St. Bartholomew, when the people of Paris rushed from house to house to stab, slaughter, throw out of the window, and tear in pieces their fellow citizens not attending mass. Guyon, Patouillet, Chaudon, Nonnotte, and the ex-Jesuit Paulian, are merely fanatics in a corner—contemptible beings whom we do not think of guarding against. They would, however, on a day of St. Bartholomew, perform wonders.
There are some cold-blooded fanatics; such as those judges who sentence men to death for no other crime than that of thinking differently from themselves, and these are so much the more guilty and deserving of the execration of mankind, as, not laboring under madness like the Clements, Châtels, Ravaillacs, and Damiens, they might be deemed capable of listening to reason.
There is no other remedy for this epidemical malady than that spirit of philosophy, which, extending itself from one to another, at length civilizes and softens the manners of men and prevents the access of the disease. For when the disorder has made any progress, we should, without loss of time, fly from the seat of it, and wait till the air has become purified from contagion. Law and religion are not completely efficient against the spiritual pestilence. Religion, indeed, so far from affording proper nutriment to the minds of patients laboring under this infectious and infernal distemper, is converted, by the diseased process of their minds, into poison. These malignant devotees have incessantly before their eyes the example of Ehud, who assassinated the king of Eglon; of Judith, who cut off the head of Holofernes while in bed with him; of Samuel, hewing in pieces King Agag; of Jehoiada the priest, who murdered his queen at the horse-gate. They do not perceive that these instances, which are respectable in antiquity, are in the present day abominable. They derive their fury from religion, decidedly as religion condemns it.
Laws are yet more powerless against these paroxysms of rage. To oppose laws to cases of such a description would be like reading a decree of council to a man in a frenzy. The persons in question are fully convinced that the Holy Spirit which animates and fills them is above all laws; that their own enthusiasm is, in fact, the only law which they are bound to obey.
What can be said in answer to a man who says he will rather obey God than men, and who consequently feels certain of meriting heaven by cutting your throat?
When once fanaticism has gangrened the brain of any man the disease may be regarded as nearly incurable. I have seen Convulsionaries who, while speaking of the miracles of St. Paris, gradually worked themselves up to higher and more vehement degrees of agitation till their eyes became inflamed, their whole frames shook, their countenances became distorted by rage, and had any man contradicted them he would inevitably have been murdered.
Yes, I have seen these wretched Convulsionaries writhing their limbs and foaming at their mouths. They were exclaiming, “We must have blood.” They effected the assassination of their king by a lackey, and ended with exclaiming against philosophers.
Fanatics are nearly always under the direction of knaves, who place the dagger in their hands. These knaves resemble Montaigne’s “Old Man of the Mountain,” who, it is said, made weak persons imagine, under his treatment of them, that they really had experienced the joys of paradise, and promised them a whole eternity of such delights if they would go and assassinate such as he should point out to them. There has been only one religion in the world which has not been polluted by fanaticism and that is the religion of the learned in China. The different sects of ancient philosophers were not merely exempt from this pest of human society, but they were antidotes to it: for the effect of philosophy is to render the soul tranquil, and fanaticism and tranquillity are totally incompatible. That our own holy religion has been so frequently polluted by this infernal fury must be imputed to the folly and madness of mankind. Thus Icarus abused the wings which he received for his benefit. They were given him for his salvation and they insured his destruction:
Fanatics do not always fight the battles of the Lord. They do not always assassinate kings and princes. There are tigers among them, but there are more foxes.
What a tissue of frauds, calumnies, and robberies has been woven by fanatics of the court of Rome against fanatics of the court of Calvin, by Jesuits against Jansenists, and vice versa! And if you go farther back you will find ecclesiastical history, which is the school of virtues, to be that of atrocities and abominations, which have been employed by every sect against the others. They all have the same bandage over their eyes whether marching out to burn down the cities and towns of their adversaries, to slaughter the inhabitants, or condemn them to judicial execution; or when merely engaged in the comparatively calm occupation of deceiving and defrauding, of acquiring wealth and exercising domination. The same fanaticism blinds them; they think that they are doing good. Every fanatic is a conscientious knave, but a sincere and honest murderer for the good cause.
Read, if you are able, the five or six thousand volumes in which, for a hundred years together, the Jansenists and Molinists have dealt out against each other their reproaches and revilings, their mutual exposures of fraud and knavery, and then judge whether Scapin or Trevelin can be compared with them.
One of the most curious theological knaveries ever practised is, in my opinion, that of a small bishop—the narrative asserts that he was a Biscayan bishop; however, we shall certainly, at some future period find out both his name and his bishopric—whose diocese was partly in Biscay and partly in France.
In the French division of his diocese there was a parish which had formerly been inhabited by some Moors. The lord of the parish or manor was no Mahometan; he was perfectly catholic, as the whole universe should be, for the meaning of catholic is universal. My lord the bishop had some suspicions concerning this unfortunate seigneur, whose whole occupation consisted in doing good, and conceived that in his heart he entertained bad thoughts and sentiments savoring not a little of heresy. He even accused him of having said, in the way of pleasantry, that there were good people in Morocco as well as in Biscay, and that an honest inhabitant of Morocco might absolutely not be a mortal enemy of the Supreme Being, who is the father of all mankind.
The fanatic, upon this, wrote a long letter to the king of France, the paramount sovereign of our little manorial lord. In this letter he entreated his majesty to transfer the manor of this stray and unbelieving sheep either to Lower Brittany or Lower Normandy, according to his good pleasure, that he might be no longer able to diffuse the contagion of heresy among his Biscayan neighbors, by his abominable jests. The king of France and his council smiled, as may naturally be supposed, at the extravagance and folly of the demand.
Our Biscayan pastor learning, some time afterwards, that his French sheep was sick, ordered public notices to be fixed up at the church gates of the canton, prohibiting any one from administering the communion to him, unless he should previously give in a bill of confession, from which it might appear that he was not circumcised; that he condemned with his whole heart the heresy of Mahomet, and every other heresy of the like kind—as, for example, Calvinism and Jansenism; and that in every point he thought like him, the said Biscayan bishop.
Bills of confession were at that time much in fashion. The sick man sent for his parish priest, who was a simple and sottish man, and threatened to have him hanged by the parliament of Bordeaux if he did not instantly administer the viaticum to him. The priest was alarmed, and accordingly celebrated the sacred ordinance, as desired by the patient; who, after the ceremony, declared aloud, before witnesses, that the Biscayan pastor had falsely accused him before the king of being tained with the Mussulman religion; that he was a sincere Christian, and that the Biscayan was a calumniator. He signed this, after it had been written down, in presence of a notary, and every form required by law was complied with. He soon after became better, and rest and a good conscience speedily completed his recovery.
The Biscayan, quite exasperated that the old patient should have thus exposed and disappointed him, resolved to have his revenge, and thus he set about it.
He procured, fifteen days after the event just mentioned, the fabrication, in his own language or patois, of a profession of faith which the priest pretended to have heard and received. It was signed by the priest and three or four peasants, who had not been present at the ceremony; and the forged instrument was then passed through the necessary and solemn form of verification and registry, as if this form could give it authenticity.
An instrument not signed by the party alone interested, signed by persons unknown, fifteen days after the event, an instrument disavowed by the real and credible witnesses of that event, involved evidently the crime of forgery; and, as the subject of the forgery was a matter of faith, the crime clearly rendered both the priest and the witnesses liable to the galleys in this world, and to hell in the other.
Our lord of the manor, however, who loved a joke, but had no gall or malice in his heart, took compassion both upon the bodies and souls of these conspirators. He declined delivering them over to human justice, and contented himself with giving them up to ridicule. But he declared that after the death of the Biscayan he would, if he survived, have the pleasure of printing an account of all his proceedings and manœuvres on this business, together with the documents and evidences, just to amuse the small number of readers who might like anecdotes of that description; and not, as is often pompously announced, with a view to the instruction of the universe. There are so many authors who address themselves to the universe, who really imagine they attract, and perhaps absorb, the attention of the universe, that he conceived he might not have a dozen readers out of the whole who would attend for a moment to himself. But let us return to fanaticism.
It is this rage for making proselytes, this intensely mad desire which men feel to bring others over to partake of their own peculiar cup or communion, that induced the Jesuit Châtel and the Jesuit Routh to rush with eagerness to the deathbed of the celebrated Montesquieu. These two devoted zealots desired nothing better than to be able to boast that they had persuaded him of the merits of contrition and of sufficing grace. We wrought his conversion, they said. He was, in the main, a worthy soul: he was much attached to the society of Jesus. We had some little difficulty in inducing him to admit certain fundamental truths; but as in these circumstances, in the crisis of life and death, the mind is always most clear and acute, we soon convinced him.
This fanatical eagerness for converting men is so ardent, that the most debauched monk in his convent would even quit his mistress, and walk to the very extremity of the city, for the sake of making a single convert.
We have all seen Father Poisson, a Cordelier of Paris, who impoverished his convent to pay his mistresses, and who was imprisoned in consequence of the depravity of his manners. He was one of the most popular preachers at Paris, and one of the most determined and zealous of converters.
Such also was the celebrated preacher Fantin, at Versailles. The list might be easily enlarged; but it is unnecessary, if not also dangerous, to expose the freaks and freedoms of constituted authorities. You know what happened to Ham for having revealed his father’s shame. He became as black as a coal.
Let us merely pray to God, whether rising or lying down, that he would deliver us from fanatics, as the pilgrims of Mecca pray that they may meet with no sour faces on the road.
Ludlow, who was rather an enthusiast for liberty than a fanatic in religion—that brave man, who hated Cromwell more than he did Charles I., relates that the parliamentary forces were always defeated by the royal army in the beginning of the civil war; just as the regiment of porters (portes-cochères) were unable to stand the shock of conflict, in the time of the Fronde against the great Condé. Cromwell said to General Fairfax: “How can you possibly expect a rabble of London porters and apprentices to resist a nobility urged on by the principle, or rather the phantom, of honor? Let us actuate them by a more powerful phantom—fanaticism! Our enemies are fighting only for their king; let us persuade our troops they are fighting for their God.
“Give me a commission, and I will raise a regiment of brother murderers, whom I will pledge myself soon to make invincible fanatics!”
He was as good as his word; he composed his regiment of red-coated brothers, of gloomy religionists, whom he made obedient tigers. Mahomet himself was never better served by soldiers.
But in order to inspire this fanaticism, you must be seconded and supported by the spirit of the times. A French parliament at the present day would attempt in vain to raise a regiment of such porters as we have mentioned; it could, with all its efforts, merely rouse into frenzy a few women of the fishmarket.
Only the ablest men have the power to make and to guide fanatics. It is not, however, sufficient to possess the profoundest dissimulation and the most determined intrepidity; everything depends, after these previous requisites are secured, on coming into the world at a proper time.
Geometry then, it seems, is not always connected with clearness and correctness of understanding. Over what precipices do not men fall, notwithstanding their boasted leading-strings of reason! A celebrated Protestant, who was esteemed one of the first mathematicians of the age, and who followed in the train of the Newtons, the Leibnitzes, and Bernouillis, at the beginning of the present century, struck out some very singular corollaries. It is said that with a grain of faith a man may remove mountains; and this man of science, following up the method of pure geometrical analysis, reasoned thus with himself: I have many grains of faith, and can, therefore, remove many mountains. This was the man who made his appearance at London in 1707; and, associating himself with certain men of learning and science, some of whom, moreover, were not deficient in sagacity, they publicly announced that they would raise to life a dead person in any cemetery that might be fixed upon. Their reasoning was uniformly synthetical. They said, genuine disciples must have the power of performing miracles; we are genuine disciples, we therefore shall be able to perform as many as we please. The mere unscientific saints of the Romish church have resuscitated many worthy persons; therefore, a fortiori, we, the reformers of the reformed themselves, shall resuscitate as many as we may desire.
These arguments are irrefragable, being constructed according to the most correct form possible. Here we have at a glance the explanation why all antiquity was inundated with prodigies; why the temples of Æsculapius at Epidaurus, and in other cities, were completely filled with ex-votos; the roofs adorned with thighs straightened, arms restored, and silver infants: all was miracle.
In short, the famous Protestant geometrician whom I speak of appeared so perfectly sincere; he asserted so confidently that he would raise the dead, and his proposition was put forward with so much plausibility and strenuousness, that the people entertained a very strong impression on the subject, and Queen Anne was advised to appoint a day, an hour, and a cemetery, such as he should himself select, in which he might have the opportunity of performing his miracle legally, and under the inspection of justice. The holy geometrician chose St. Paul’s cathedral for the scene of his exertion: the people ranged themselves in two rows; soldiers were stationed to preserve order both among the living and the dead; the magistrates took their seats; the register procured his record; it was impossible that the new miracles could be verified too completely. A dead body was disinterred agreeably to the holy man’s choice and direction; he then prayed, he fell upon his knees, and made the most pious and devout contortions possible; his companions imitated him; the dead body exhibited no sign of animation; it was again deposited in its grave, and the professed resuscitator and his adherents were slightly punished. I afterwards saw one of these misled creatures; he declared to me that one of the party was at the time under the stain of a venial sin, for which the dead person suffered, and but for which the resurrection would have been infallible.
Were it allowable for us to reveal the disgrace of those to whom we owe the sincerest respect, I should observe here, that Newton, the great Newton himself, discovered in the “Apocalypse” that the pope was Antichrist, and made many other similar discoveries. I should also observe that he was a decided Arian. I am aware that this deviation of Newton, compared to that of the other geometrician, is as unity to infinity. But if the exalted Newton imagined that he found the modern history of Europe in the “Apocalypse,” we may say: Alas, poor human beings!
It seems as if superstition were an epidemic disease, from which the strongest minds are not always exempt. There are in Turkey persons of great and strong sense, who would undergo empalement for the sake of certain opinions of Abubeker. These principles being once admitted, they reason with great consistency; and the Navaricians, the Radarists, and the Jabarites mutually consign each other to damnation in conformity to very shrewd and subtle argument. They all draw plausible consequences, but they never dare to examine principles.
A report is publicly spread abroad by some person, that there exists a giant seventy feet high; the learned soon after begin to discuss and dispute about the color of his hair, the thickness of his thumb, the measurement of his nails; they exclaim, cabal, and even fight upon the subject. Those who maintain that the little finger of the giant is only fifteen lines in diameter burn those who assert that it is a foot thick. “But, gentlemen,” modestly observes a stranger passing by, “does the giant you are disputing about really exist?” “What a horrible doubt!” all the disputants cry out together. “What blasphemy! What absurdity!” A short truce is then brought about to give time for stoning the poor stranger; and, after having duly performed that murderous ceremony, they resume fighting upon the everlasting subject of the nails and little finger.
Fancy formerly signified imagination, and the term was used simply to express that faculty of the soul which receives sensible objects.
Descartes and Gassendi, and all the philosophers of their day, say that “the form or images of things are painted in the fancy.” But the greater part of abstract terms are, in the course of time, received in a sense different from their original one, like tools which industry applies to new purposes.
Fancy, at present, means “a particular desire, a transient taste”; he has a fancy for going to China; his fancy for gaming and dancing has passed away. An artist paints a fancy portrait, a portrait not taken from any model. To have fancies is to have extraordinary tastes, but of brief duration. Fancy, in this sense, falls a little short of oddity (bizarrerie) and caprice.
Caprice may express “a sudden and unreasonable disgust.” He had a fancy for music, and capriciously became disgusted with it. Whimsicality gives an idea of inconsistency and bad taste, which fancy does not; he had a fancy for building, but he constructed his house in a whimsical taste.
There are shades of distinction between having fancies and being fantastic; the fantastic is much nearer to the capricious and the whimsical. The word “fantastic” expresses a character unequal and abrupt. The idea of charming or pleasant is excluded from it; whereas there are agreeable fancies.
We sometimes hear used in conversation “odd fancies” (des fantasies musquées); but the expression was never understood to mean what the “Dictionary of Trévoux” supposes—“The whims of men of superior rank which one must not venture to condemn;” on the contrary, that expression is used for the very object and purpose of condemning them; and musquée, in this connection, is an expletive adding force to the term “fancies,” as we say, Sottise pommée, folie fieffée, to express nonsense and folly.
The Latin word “fasti” signifies festivals, and it is in this sense that Ovid treats of it in his poem entitled “The Fasti.”
Godeau has composed the Fasti of the church on this model, but with less success. The religion of the Roman Pagans was more calculated for poetry than that of the Christians; to which it may be added, that Ovid was a better poet than Godeau.
The consular fasti were only the list of consuls.
The fasti of the magistrates were the days in which they were permitted to plead; and those on which they did not plead were called nefasti, because then they could not plead for justice.
The word “nefastus” in this sense does not signify unfortunate; on the contrary, nefastus and nefandus were the attributes of unfortunate days in another sense, signifying days in which people must not plead; days worthy only to be forgotten; “ille nefasto te posuit die.”
Besides other fasti, the Romans had their fasti urbis, fasti rustici, which were calendars of the particular usages, and ceremonies of the city and the country.
On these days of solemnity, every one sought to astonish by the grandeur of his dress, his equipage, or his banquet. This pomp, invisible on other days, was called fastus. It expresses magnificence in those who by their station can afford it, but vanity in others.
Though the word “fastus” may not be always injurious, the word “pompous” is invariably so. A devotee who makes a parade of his virtue renders humility itself pompous.
The “Encyclopædia” has been much exclaimed against in France; because it was produced in France, and has done France honor. In other countries, people have not cried out; on the contrary, they have eagerly set about pirating or spoiling it, because money was to be gained thereby.
But we, who do not, like the encyclopædists of Paris, labor for glory; we, who are not, like them, exposed to envy; we, whose little society lies unnoticed in Hesse, in Würtemberg, in Switzerland, among the Grisons, or at Mount Krapak; and have, therefore, no apprehension of having to dispute with the doctor of the Comédie Italienne, or with a doctor of the Sorbonne; we, who sell not our sheets to a bookseller, but are free beings, and lay not black on white until we have examined, to the utmost of our ability, whether the said black may be of service to mankind; we, in short, who love virtue, shall boldly declare what we think.
“Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long—” I would venture to say, “Honor thy father and thy mother, though this day shall be thy last.”
Tenderly love and joyfully serve the mother who bore you in her womb, fed you at her breast, and patiently endured all that was disgusting in your infancy. Discharge the same duties to your father, who brought you up.
What will future ages say of a Frank, named Louis the Thirteenth, who, at the age of sixteen, began the exercise of his authority with having the door of his mother’s apartment walled up, and sending her into exile, without giving the smallest reason for so doing, and solely because it was his favorite’s wish?
“But, sir, I must tell you in confidence that my father is a drunkard, who begot me one day by chance, not caring a jot about me; and gave me no education but that of beating me every day when he came home intoxicated. My mother was a coquette, whose only occupation was love-making. But for my nurse, who had taken a liking to me, and who, after the death of her son, received me into her house for charity, I should have died of want.”
“Well, then, honor your nurse; and bow to your father and mother when you meet them. It is said in the Vulgate, ‘Honora patrem tuum et matrem tuam’—not dilige.”
“Very well, sir, I shall love my father and my mother if they do me good; I shall honor them if they do me ill. I have thought so ever since I began to think, and you confirm me in my maxims.”
“Fare you well, my child, I see you will prosper, for you have a grain of philosophy in your composition.”
“One word more, sir. If my father were to call himself Abraham, and me Isaac, and were to say to me, ‘My son, you are tall and strong; carry these fagots to the top of that hill, to burn you with after I have cut off your head; for God ordered me to do so when He came to see me this morning,’—what would you advise me to do in such critical circumstances?”
“Critical, indeed! But what would you do of yourself? for you seem to be no blockhead.”
“I own, sir, that I should ask him to produce a written order, and that from regard for himself, I should say to him—‘Father, you are among strangers, who do not allow a man to assassinate his son without an express condition from God, duly signed, sealed and delivered. See what happened to poor Calas, in the half French, half Spanish town of Toulouse. He was broken on the wheel; and the procureur-général Riquet decided on having Madame Calas, the mother, burned—all on the bare and very ill-conceived suspicion, that they had hung up their son, Mark Antony Calas, for the love of God. I should fear that his conclusions would be equally prejudicial to the well-being of yourself and your sister or niece, Madame Sarah, my mother. Once more I say, show me a lettre de cachet for cutting my throat, signed by God’s own hand, and countersigned by Raphael, Michael, or Beelzebub. If not, father—your most obedient: I will go to Pharaoh of Egypt, or to the king of the desert of Gerar, who both have been in love with my mother, and will certainly be kind to me. Cut my brother Ishmael’s throat, if you like; but rely upon it, you shall not cut mine.’ ”
“Good; this is arguing like a true sage. The ‘Encyclopædia’ itself could not have reasoned better. I tell you, you will do great things. I admire you for not having said an ill word to your father Abraham—for not having been tempted to beat him. And tell me: had you been that Cram, whom his father, the Frankish King Clothaire, had burned in a barn; a Don Carlos, son of that fox, Philip the Second; a poor Alexis, son of that Czar Peter, half hero, half tiger—”
“Ah, sir, say no more of those horrors; you will make me detest human nature.”
Favor, from the Latin word “favor,” rather signifies a benefit than a recompense.
We earnestly beg a favor; we merit and loudly demand a recompense. The god Favor, according to the Roman mythologists, was the son of Beauty and Fortune. All favor conveys the idea of something gratuitous; he has done me the favor of introducing me, of presenting me, of recommending my friend, of correcting my work. The favor of princes is the effect of their fancy, and of assiduous complaisance. The favor of the people sometimes implies merit, but is more often attributable to lucky accident.
Favor differs much from kindness. That man is in favor with the king, but he has not yet received any kindnesses from him. We say that he has been received into the good graces of a person, not he has been received into favor; though we say to be in favor, because favor is supposed to be an habitual taste; while to receive into grace is to pardon, or, at least, is less than to bestow a favor.
To obtain grace is the effect of a moment; to obtain favor is a work of time. Nevertheless, we say indifferently, do me the kindness and do me the favor, to recommend my friend.
Letters of recommendation were formerly called letters of favor. Severus says, in the tragedy of Polyeuctes:
We have the favor and good-will, not the kindness of the prince and the public. We may obtain the favor of our audience by modesty, but it will not be gracious if we are tedious.
This expression “favor,” signifies a gratuitous good-will, which we seek to obtain from the prince or the public. Gallantry has extended it to the complaisance of the ladies; and though we do not say that we have the favors of the king, we say that we have the favors of a lady.
The equivalent to this expression is unknown in Asia, where the women possess less influence. Formerly, ribbons, gloves, buckles, and sword-knots given by a lady, were called favors. The earl of Essex wore a glove of Queen Elizabeth’s in his hat, which he called the queen’s favor.
This word has sometimes a bounded and sometimes an extended sense. “Favorite” sometimes conveys the idea of power; and sometimes it only signifies a man who pleases his master.
Henry III. had favorites who were only playthings, and he had those who governed the state, as the dukes of Joyeuse and Épernon. A favorite may be compared to a piece of gold, which is valued at whatever the prince pleases.
An ancient writer has asked, “Who ought to be the king’s favorite?—the people!” Good poets are called the favorites of the muses, as prosperous men are called the favorites of fortune, because both are supposed to receive these gifts without laboring for them. It is thus, that a fertile and well-situated land is called the favorite of nature.
The woman who pleases the sultan most is called the favorite sultana. Somebody has written the history of favorites; that is to say, the mistresses of the greatest princes.
Several princes in Germany have country houses which they call favorites.
A lady’s favorite is now only to be found in romances and stories of the last century.
A poor gentleman of the province of Hagenau, cultivated his small estate, and St. Ragonda, or Radegonda, was the patron of his parish.
Now it happened, on the feast of St. Ragonda, that it was necessary to do something to this poor gentleman’s field, without which great loss would be incurred. The master, with all his family, after having devoutly assisted at mass, went to cultivate his land, on which depended the subsistence of his family, while the rector and the other parishioners went to tipple as usual.
The rector, while enjoying his glass, was informed of the enormous offence committed in his parish by this profane laborer, and went, burning with wine and anger, to seek the cultivator. “Sir, you are very insolent and very impious to dare to cultivate your field, instead of going to the tavern like other people.” “I agree, sir,” replied the gentleman, “that it is necessary to drink to the honor of the saint; but it is also necessary to eat, and my family would die of hunger if I did not labor.” “Drink and die, then,” said the vicar. “In what law, in what book is it so written?” said the laborer. “In Ovid,” replied the vicar. “I think you are mistaken,” said the gentleman; “in what part of Ovid have you read that I should go to the tavern rather than cultivate my field on St. Ragonda’s day?”
It should be remarked that both the gentleman and the pastor were well educated men. “Read the metamorphoses of the daughters of Minyas,” said the vicar. “I have read it,” replied the other, “and I maintain that they have no relation to my plough.” “How, impious man! do you not remember that the daughters of Minyas were changed into bats for having spun on a feast day?” “The case is very different,” replied the gentleman, “these ladies had not rendered any homage to Bacchus. I have been at the mass of St. Ragonda, you can have nothing to say to me; you cannot change me into a bat.” “I will do worse,” said the priest, “I will fine you.” He did so. The poor gentleman was ruined: he quitted the country with his family—went into a strange one—became a Lutheran—and his ground remained uncultivated for several years.
This affair was related to a magistrate of good sense and much piety. These are the reflections which he made upon it:
“They were no doubt innkeepers,” said he, “that invented this prodigious number of feasts; the religion of peasants and artisans consists in getting tipsy on the day of a saint, whom they only know by this kind of worship. It is on these days of idleness and debauchery that all crimes are committed; it is these feasts which fill the prisons, and which support the police officers, registers, lieutenants of police, and hangmen; the only excuse for feast-days among us. From this cause Catholic countries are scarcely cultivated at all; whilst heretics, by daily cultivating their lands, produce abundant crops.”
It is all very well that the shoemakers should go in the morning to mass on St. Crispin’s day, because crepido signifies the upper leather of a shoe; that the brush-makers should honor St. Barbara their patron; that those who have weak eyes should hear the mass of St. Clara: that St. — should be celebrated in many provinces; but after having paid their devoirs to the saints they should become serviceable to men, they should go from the altar to the plough; it is the excess of barbarity, and insupportable slavery, to consecrate our days to idleness and vice. Priests, command, if it be necessary that the saints Roche, Eustace, and Fiacre, be prayed to in the morning; but, magistrates, order your fields to be cultivated as usual. It is labor that is necessary; the greater the industry the more the day is sanctified.
Letter from a Weaver of Lyons to the Gentlemen of the Commission established at Paris, for the Reformation of Religious Orders, printed in the public papers in 1768.
“I am a silk-weaver, and have worked at Lyons for nineteen years. My wages have increased insensibly; at present I get thirty-five sous per day. My wife, who makes lace, would get fifteen more, if it were possible for her to devote her time to it; but as the cares of the house, illness, or other things, continually hinder her, I reduce her profit to ten sous, which makes forty-five sous daily. If from the year we deduct eighty-two Sundays, or holidays, we shall have two hundred and eighty-four profitable days, which at forty-five sous make six hundred and thirty-nine livres. That is my revenue; the following are my expenses:
“I have eight living children, and my wife is on the point of being confined with the eleventh; for I have lost two. I have been married fifteen years: so that I annually reckon twenty-four livres for the expenses of her confinements and baptisms, one hundred and eight livres for two nurses, having generally two children out at nurse, and sometimes even three. I pay fifty-seven livres rent and fourteen taxes.
“My income is then reduced to four hundred and thirty-six livres, or twenty-five sous three deniers a day, with which I have to clothe and furnish my family, buy wood and candles, and support my wife and six children.
“I look forward to holidays with dismay. I confess that I often almost curse their institution. They could only have been instituted by usurers and innkeepers.
“My father made me study hard in my youth, and wished me to become a monk, showing me in that state a sure asylum against want; but I always thought that every man owes his tribute to society, and that monks are useless drones who live upon the labor of the bees. Notwithstanding, I acknowledge that when I see John C—, with whom I studied, and who was the most idle boy in the college, possessing the first place among the prémontrés, I cannot help regretting that I did not listen to my father’s advice.
“This is the third holiday in Christmas, I have pawned the little furniture I had, I am in a week’s debt with my tradesman, and I want bread—how are we to get over the fourth? This is not all; I have the prospect of four more next week. Great God! Eight holidays in ten days; you cannot have commanded it!
“One year I hoped that rents would diminish by the suppression of one of the monasteries of the Capuchins and Cordeliers. What useless houses in the centre of Lyons are those of the Jacobins, nuns of St. Peter, etc. Why not establish them in the suburbs if they are thought necessary? How many more useful inhabitants would supply their places!
“All these reflections, gentlemen, have induced me to address myself to you who have been chosen by the king for the task of rectifying abuses. I am not the only one who thinks thus. How many laborers in Lyons and other places, how many laborers in the kingdom are reduced to the same extremities as myself? It is evident that every holiday costs the state several millions (livres). These considerations will lead you to take more to heart the interests of the people, which are rather too little attended to.
“I have the honor to be, etc.,
This request, which was really presented, will not be misplaced in a work like the present.
The feast given to the Roman people by Julius Cæsar and the emperors who succeeded him are well known. The feast of twenty-two thousand tables served by twenty-two thousand purveyors; the naval fights on artificial lakes, etc., have not, however, been imitated by the Herulian, Lombard, and Frankish chieftains, who would have their festivity equally celebrated.
What we have to say of Ferrara has no relation to literature, but it has a very great one to justice, which is much more necessary than the belles-lettres, and much less cultivated, at least in Italy.
Ferrara was constantly a fief of the empire, like Parma and Placentia. Pope Clement VIII. robbed Cæsar d’Este of it by force of arms, in 1597. The pretext for this tyranny was a very singular one for a man who called himself the humble vicar of Jesus Christ.
Alphonso d’Este, the first of the name, sovereign of Ferrara, Modena, Este, Carpio, and Rovigno, espoused a simple gentlewoman of Ferrara, named Laura Eustochia, by whom he had three children before marriage. These children he solemnly acknowledged in the face of the Church. None of the formalities prescribed by the laws were wanting at this recognition. His successor, Alphonso d’Este, was acknowledged duke of Ferrara; he espoused Julia d’Urbino, the daughter of Francis, duke d’Urbino, by whom he had the unfortunate Cæsar d’Este, the incontestable heir of all the property of all the family, and declared so by the last duke, who died October 27, 1597. Pope Clement VIII., surnamed Aldobrandino, and originally of the family of a merchant of Florence, dared to pretend that the grandmother of Cæsar d’Este was not sufficiently noble, and that the children that she had brought into the world ought to be considered bastards. The first reason is ridiculous and scandalous in a bishop, the second is unwarrantable in every tribunal in Europe. If the duke was not legitimate, he ought to have lost Modena and his other states also; and if there was no flaw in his title, he ought to have kept Ferrara as well as Modena.
The acquisition of Ferrara was too fine a thing for the pope not to procure all the decretals and decisions of those brave theologians, who declare that the pope can render just that which is unjust. Consequently he first excommunicated Cæsar d’Este, and as excommunication necessarily deprives a man of all his property, the common father of the faithful raised his troops against the excommunicated, to rob him of his inheritance in the name of the Church. These troops were defeated, but the duke of Modena soon saw his finances exhausted, and his friends become cool.
To make his case still more deplorable, the king of France, Henry IV., believed himself obliged to take the side of the pope, in order to balance the credit of Philip II. at the court of Rome; in the same manner that good King Louis XII. less excusably dishonored himself by uniting with that monster Alexander VI., and his execrable bastard, the duke of Borgia. The duke was obliged to return, and the pope caused Ferrara to be invaded by Cardinal Aldobrandino, who entered this flourishing city at the head of a thousand horse and five thousand foot soldiers.
It is a great pity that such a man as Henry IV. descended to this unworthiness which is called politic. The Catos, Metelluses, Scipios, and Fabriciuses would not thus have betrayed justice to please a priest—and such a priest!
From this time Ferrara became a desert; its uncultivated soil was covered with standing marshes. This province, under the house of Este, had been one of the finest in Italy; the people always regretted their ancient masters. It is true that the duke was indemnified; he was nominated to a bishopric and a benefice; he was even furnished with some measures of salt from the mines of Servia. But it is no less true that the house of Modena has incontestable and imprescriptable rights to the duchy of Ferrara, of which it was thus shamefully despoiled.
Now, my dear reader, let us suppose that this scene took place at the time in which Jesus Christ appeared to his apostles after his resurrection, and that Simon Barjonas, surnamed Peter, wished to possess himself of the states of this poor duke of Ferrara. Imagine the duke coming to Bethany to demand justice of the Lord Jesus. Our Lord sends immediately for Peter and says to him, “Simon, son of Jonas, I have given thee the keys of heaven, but I have not given thee those of the earth. Because thou hast been told that the heavens surround the globe, and that the contained is in the containing, dost thou imagine that kingdoms here below belong to thee, and that thou hast only to possess thyself of whatever thou likest? I have already forbidden thee to draw the sword. Thou appearest to me a very strange compound; at one time cutting off the ear of Malchus, and at another even denying me. Be more lenient and decorous, and take neither the property nor the ears of any one for fear of thine own.”
It is not as a physician, but as a patient, that I wish to say a word or two on fever. We cannot help now and then speaking of our enemies; and this one has been attacking me for more than twenty years; not Fréron himself has been more implacable.
I ask pardon of Sydenham, who defined fever to be “an effort of nature, laboring with all its power to expel the peccant matter.” We might thus define smallpox, measles, diarrhœa, vomitings, cutaneous eruptions, and twenty other diseases. But, if this physician defined ill, he practised well. He cured, because he had experience, and he knew how to wait.
Boerhaave says, in his “Aphorisms”: “A more frequent opposition, and an increased resistance about the capillary vessels, give an absolute idea of an acute fever. These are the words of a great master; but he sets out with acknowledging that the nature of fever is profoundly hidden.
He does not tell us what that secret principle is which develops itself at regular periods in intermittent fever—what that internal poison is, which, after the lapse of a day, is renewed—where that flame is, which dies and revives at stated moments.
We know fairly well that we are liable to fever after excess, or in unseasonable weather. We know that quinine, judiciously administered, will cure it. This is quite enough; the how we do not know.
Every animal that does not perish suddenly dies by fever. The fever seems to be the inevitable effect of the fluids that compose the blood, or that which is in the place of blood. The structure of every animal proves to natural philosophers that it must, at all times, have enjoyed a very short life.
Theologians have held, as have promulgated other opinions. It is not for us to examine this question. The philosophers and physicians have been right in sensu humano, and the theologians, in sensu divino. It is said in Deuteronomy, xxviii, 22, that if the Jews do not serve the law they shall be smitten “with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning.” It is only in Deuteronomy, and in Molière’s “Physician in Spite of Himself,” that people have been threatened with fever.
It seems impossible that fever should not be an accident natural to an animate body, in which so many fluids circulate; just as it is impossible for an animate body not to be crushed by the falling of a rock.
Blood makes life; it furnishes the viscera, the limbs, the skin, the very extremities of the hairs and nails with the fluids, the humors proper for them.
This blood, by which the animal has life, is formed by the chyle. During pregnancy this chyle is transmitted from the uterus to the child, and, after the child is born, the milk of the nurse produces this same chyle. The greater diversity of aliments it afterwards receives, the more the chyle is liable to be soured. This alone forming the blood, and this blood, composed of so many different humors so subject to corruption, circulating through the whole human body more than five hundred and fifty times in twenty-four hours, with the rapidity of a torrent, it is not only astonishing that fever is not more frequent, it is astonishing that man lives. In every articulation, in every gland, in every passage, there is danger of death; but there are also as many succors as there are dangers. Almost every membrane extends or contracts as occasion requires. All the veins have sluices which open and shut, giving passage to the blood and preventing a return, by which the machine would be destroyed. The blood, rushing through all these canals, purifies itself. It is a river that carries with it a thousand impurities; it discharges itself by perspiration, by transpiration, by all the secretions. Fever is itself a succor; it is a rectification when it does not kill.
Man, by his reason, accelerates the cure by administering bitters, and, above all, by regimen. This reason is an oar with which he may row for some time on the sea of the world when disease does not swallow him up.
It is asked: How is it that nature has abandoned the animals, her work, to so many horrible diseases, almost always accompanied by fever? How and why is it that so many disorders exist with so much order, formation, and destruction everywhere, side by side? This is a difficulty that often gives me a fever, but I beg you will read the letters of Memmius. Then, perhaps, you will be inclined to suspect that the incomprehensible artificer of vegetables, animals, and worlds, having made all for the best, could not have made anything better.
Is not a fiction, which teaches new and interesting truths, a fine thing? Do you not admire the Arabian story of the sultan who would not believe that a little time could appear long, and who disputed with his dervish on the nature of duration? The latter to convince him of it, begged him only to plunge his head for a moment into the basin in which he was washing. Immediately the sultan finds himself transported into a frightful desert; he is obliged to labor to get a livelihood; he marries, and has children who grow up and ill treat him; finally he returns to his country and his palace and he there finds the dervish who has caused him to suffer so many evils for five and twenty years. He is about to kill him, and is only appeased when he is assured that all passed in the moment in which, with his eyes shut, he put his head into the water.
You still more admire the fiction of the loves of Dido and Æneas, which caused the mortal hatred between Carthage and Rome, as also that which exhibits in Elysium the destinies of the great men of the Roman Empire.
You also like that of Alcina, in Ariosto, who possesses the dignity of Minerva with the beauty of Venus, who is so charming to the eyes of her lovers, who intoxicates them with voluptuous delights, and unites all the loves and graces, but who, when she is at last reduced to her true self and the enchantment has passed away, is nothing more than a little shrivelled, disgusting, old woman.
As to fictions which represent nothing, teach nothing, and from which nothing results, are they anything more than falsities? And if they are incoherent and heaped together without choice, are they anything better than dreams?
You will possibly tell me that there are ancient fictions which are very incoherent, without ingenuity, and even absurd, which are still admired; but is it not rather owing to the fine images which are scattered over these fictions than to the inventions which introduce them? I will not dispute the point, but if you would be hissed at by all Europe, and afterwards forgotten forever, write fictions similar to those which you admire.
Fierté is one of those expressions, which, having been originally employed in an offensive sense, are afterwards used in a favorable one. It is censure when this word signifies high-flown, proud, haughty, and disdainful. It is almost praise when it means the loftiness of a noble mind.
It is a just eulogium on a general who marches towards the enemy with fierté. Writers have praised the fierté of the gait of Louis XIV.; they should have contented themselves with remarking its nobleness.
Fierté, without dignity, is a merit incompatible with modesty. It is only fierté in air and manners which offends; it then displeases, even in kings.
Fierté of manner in society is the expression of pride; fierté of soul is greatness. The distinctions are so nice that a proud spirit is deemed blamable, while a proud soul is a theme of praise. By the former is understood one who thinks advantageously of himself while the latter denotes one who entertains elevated sentiments.
Fierté, announced by the exterior, is so great a fault that the weak, who abjectly praise it in the great are obliged to soften it, or rather to extol it, by speaking of “this noble fierté.” It is not simply vanity, which consists in setting a value upon little things; it is not presumption, which believes itself capable of great ones; it is not disdain, which adds contempt of others to a great opinion of self; but it is intimately allied to all these faults.
This word is used in romances, poetry, and above all, in operas, to express the severity of female modesty. We meet with vain fierté, vigorous fierté, etc. Poets are, perhaps, more in the right than they imagine. The fierté of a woman is not only rigid modesty and love of duty, but the high value which she sets upon her beauty. The fierté of the pencil is sometimes spoken of to signify free and fearless touches.
Every one desirous of instruction should read with attention all the articles in the “Dictionnaire Encyclopédique,” under the head “Figure,” viz.:
“Figure of the Earth,” by M. d’Alembert—a work both clear and profound, in which we find all that can be known on the subject.
“Figure of Rhetoric,” by César Dumarsais—a piece of instruction which teaches at once to think and to write; and, like many other articles, make us regret that young people in general have not a convenient opportunity of reading things so useful.
“Human Figure,” as relating to painting and sculpture—an excellent lesson given to every artist, by M. Watelet.
“Figure,” in physiology—a very ingenious article, by M. de Caberoles.
“Figure,” in arithmetic and in algebra—by M. Mallet.
“Figure,” in logic, in metaphysics, and in polite literature, by M. le Chevalier de Jaucourt—a man superior to the philosophers of antiquity, inasmuch as he has preferred retirement, real philosophy, and indefatigable labor, to all the advantages that his birth might have procured him, in a country where birth is set above all beside, excepting money.
Figure or Form of the Earth.
Plato, Aristotle, Eratosthenes, Posidonius, and all the geometricians of Asia, of Egypt, and of Greece, having acknowledged the sphericity of our globe, how did it happen that we, for so long a time, imagined that the earth was a third longer than it was broad, and thence derived the terms “longitude” and “latitude,” which continually bear testimony to our ancient ignorance?
The reverence due to the “Bible,” which teaches us so many truths more necessary and more sublime, was the cause of this, our almost universal error. It had been found, in Pslam ciii, that God had stretched the heavens over the earth like a skin; and as a skin is commonly longer than it is wide, the same was concluded of the earth.
St. Athanasius expresses himself as warmly against good astronomers as against the partisans of Arius and Eusebius. “Let us,” says he, “stop the mouths of those barbarians, who, speaking without proof, dare to assert that the heavens also extend under the earth.” The fathers considered the earth as a great ship, surrounded by water, with the prow to the east, and the stern to the west. We still find, in “Cosmos,” a work of the fourth century, a sort of geographical chart, in which the earth has this figure.
Tortato, bishop of Avila, near the close of the fifteenth century, declares in his commentary on Genesis, that the Christian faith is shaken, if the earth is believed to be round. Columbus, Vespucius, and Magellan, not having the fear of excommunication by this learned bishop before their eyes, the earth resumed its rotundity in spite of him.
Then man went from one extreme to the other, and the earth was regarded as a perfect sphere. But the error of the perfect sphere was the mistake of philosophers, while that of a long, flat earth was the blunder of idiots.
When once it began to be clearly known that our globe revolves on its own axis every twenty-four hours, it might have been inferred from that alone that its form could not be absolutely round. Not only does the centrifugal zone considerably raise the waters in the region of the equator, by the motion of the diurnal rotation, but they are moreover elevated about twenty-five feet, twice a day, by the tides; the lands about the equator must then be perfectly inundated. But they are not so; therefore the region of the equator is much more elevated, in proportion, than the rest of the earth: then the earth is a spheroid elevated at the equator, and cannot be a perfect sphere. This proof, simple as it is, had escaped the greatest geniuses: because a universal prejudice rarely permits investigation.
We know that, in 1762, in a voyage to Cayenne, near the line, undertaken by order of Louis XIV., under the auspices of Colbert, the patron of all the arts, Richer, among many other observations, found that the oscillations or vibrations of his timepiece did not continue so frequent as in the latitude of Paris, and that it was absolutely necessary to shorten the pendulum one line and something more than a quarter. Physics and geometry were at that time not nearly so much cultivated as they now are; what man would have believed that an observation so trivial in appearance, a line more or less, could lead to the knowledge of the greatest physical truths? It was first of all discovered that the weight must necessarily be less on the equator than in our latitudes, since weight alone causes the oscillation of a pendulum. Consequently, the weight of bodies being the less the farther they are from the centre of the earth, it was inferred that the region of the equator must be much more elevated than our own—much more remote from the centre; so the earth could not be an exact sphere.
Many philosophers acted, on the occasion of these discoveries, as all men act when an opinion is to be changed—they disputed on Richer’s experiment; they pretended that our pendulums made their vibrations more slowly about the equator only because the metal was lengthened by the heat; but it was seen that the heat of the most burning summer lengthens it but one line in thirty feet; and here was an elongation of a line and a quarter, a line and a half, or even two lines, in an iron rod, only three feet and eight lines long.
Some years after MM. Varin, Deshayes, Feuillée, and Couplet, repeated the same experiment on the pendulum, near the equator; and it was always found necessary to shorten it, although the heat was very often less on the line than fifteen or twenty degrees from it. This experiment was again confirmed by the academicians whom Louis XV. sent to Peru; and who were obliged, on the mountains about Quito, where it froze, to shorten the second pendulum about two lines.
About the same time, the academicians who went to measure an arc of the meridian in the north, found that at Pello, within the Polar circle, it was necessary to lengthen the pendulum, in order to have the same oscillations as at Paris: consequently weight is greater at the polar circle than in the latitude of France, as it is greater in our latitude than at the equator. Weight being greater in the north, the north was therefore nearer the centre of the earth than the equator; therefore the earth was flattened at the poles.
Never did reasoning and experiment so fully concur to establish a truth. The celebrated Huygens, by calculating centrifugal forces, had proved that the consequent diminution of weight on the surface of a sphere was not great enough to explain the phenomena, and that therefore the earth must be a spheroid flattened at the poles. Newton, by the principles of attraction, had found nearly the same relations: only it must be observed, that Huygens believed this force inherent in bodies determining them towards the centre of the globe, to be everywhere the same. He had not yet seen the discoveries of Newton; so that he considered the diminution of weight by the theory of centrifugal forces only. The effect of centrifugal forces diminishes the primitive gravity on the equator. The smaller the circles in which this centrifugal force is exercised become, the more it yields to the force of gravity; thus, at the pole itself the centrifugal force being null, must leave the primitive gravity in full action. But this principle of a gravity always equal, falls to nothing before the discovery made by Newton, that a body transported, for instance, to the distance of ten diameters from the centre of the earth, would weigh one hundred times less than at the distance of one diameter.
It is then by the laws of gravitation, combined with those of the centrifugal force, that the real form of the earth must be shown. Newton and Gregory had such confidence in this theory that they did not hesitate to advance that experiments on weight were a surer means of knowing the form of the earth than any geographical measurement.
Louis XIV. had signalized his reign by that meridian which was drawn through France: the illustrious Dominico Cassini had begun it with his son; and had, in 1701, drawn from the feet of the Pyrenees to the observatory a line as straight as it could be drawn, considering the almost insurmountable obstacles which the height of mountains, the changes of refraction in the air, and the altering of instruments were constantly opposing to the execution of so vast and delicate an undertaking; he had, in 1701, measured six degrees eighteen minutes of that meridian. But, from whatever cause the error might proceed, he had found the degrees towards Paris, that is towards the north, shorter than those towards the Pyrenees and the south. This measurement gave the lie both to the theory of Norwood and to the new theory of the earth flattened at the poles. Yet this new theory was beginning to be so generally received that the academy’s secretary did not hesitate, in his history of 1701, to say that the new measurements made in France proved the earth to be a spheroid flattened at the poles. The truth was, that Dominico Cassini’s measurement led to a conclusion directly opposite; but, as the figure of the earth had not yet become a question in France, no one at that time was at the trouble of combating this false conclusion. The degrees of the meridian from Collioure to Paris were believed to be exactly measured; and the pole, which from that measurement must necessarily be elongated, was believed to be flattened.
An engineer, named M. de Roubais, astonished at this conclusion, demonstrated that, by the measurements taken in France, the earth must be an oblate spheroid, of which the meridian passing through the poles must be longer than the equator, the poles being elongated. But of all the natural philosophers to whom he addressed his dissertation, not one would have it printed; because it seemed that the academy had pronounced it as too bold in an individual to raise his voice. Some time after the error of 1701 was acknowledged, that which had been said was unsaid; and the earth was lengthened by a just conclusion drawn from a false principle. The meridian was continued in the same principle from Paris to Dunkirk; and the degrees were still found to grow shorter as they approached the north. People were still mistaken respecting the figure of the earth, as they had been concerning the nature of light. About the same time, some mathematicians who were performing the same operations in China were astonished to find a difference among their degrees, which they had expected to find alike; and to discover, after many verifications, that they were shorter towards the north than towards the south. This accordance of the mathematicians of France with those of China was another powerful reason for believing in the oblate spheroid. In France they did still more; they measured parallels to the equator. It is easily understood that on an oblate spheroid our degrees of longitude must be shorter than on a sphere. M. de Cassini found the parallel which passes through St. Malo to be shorter by one thousand and thirty-seven toises than it would have been on a spherical earth.
All these measurements proved that the degrees had been found as it was wished to find them. They overturned, for a time, in France, the demonstrations of Newton and Huygens; and it was no longer doubted that the poles were of a form precisely contrary to that which had at first been attributed to them. In short, nothing at all was known about the matter.
At length, other academicians, who had visited the polar circle in 1736, having found, by new measurements, that the degree was longer there than in France, people doubted between them and the Cassinis. But these doubts were soon after removed: for these same astronomers, returning from the pole, examined afresh the degree to the north of Paris, measured by Picard, in 1677, and found it to be a hundred and twenty-three toises longer than it was according to Picard’s measurement. If, then, Picard, with all his precautions, had made his degree one hundred and twenty-three toises too short, it was not at all unlikely that the degrees towards the south had in like manner been found too long. Thus the first error of Picard, having furnished the foundations for the measurements of the meridian, also furnished an excuse for the almost inevitable errors which very good astronomers might have committed in the course of these operations.
Unfortunately, other men of science found that, at the Cape of Good Hope, the degrees of the meridian did not agree with ours. Other measurements, taken in Italy, likewise contradicted those of France, and all were falsified by those of China. People again began to doubt, and to suspect, in my opinion quite reasonably, that the earth had protuberances. As for the English, though they are fond of travelling, they spared themselves the fatigue, and held fast their theory.
The difference between one diameter and the other is not more than five or six of our leagues—a difference immense in the eyes of a disputant, but almost imperceptible to those who consider the measurement of the globe only in reference to the purposes of utility which it may serve. A geographer could scarcely make this difference perceptible on a map; nor would a pilot be able to discover whether he was steering on a spheroid or on a sphere. Yet there have been men bold enough to assert that the lives of navigators depended on this question. Oh quackery! will you spare no degrees—not even those of the meridian?
We say, a truth “figured” by a fable, by a parable; the church “figured” by the young spouse in Solomon’s Song; ancient Rome “figured” by Babylon. A figurative style is constituted by metaphorical expressions, figuring the things spoken of—and disfiguring them when the metaphors are not correct.
Ardent imagination, passion, desire—frequently deceived—produce the figurative style. We do not admit it into history, for too many metaphors are hurtful, not only to perspicuity, but also to truth, by saying more or less than the thing itself.
In didactic works, this style should be rejected. It is much more out of place in a sermon than in a funeral oration, because the sermon is a piece of instruction in which the truth is to be announced; while the funeral oration is a declaration in which it is to be exaggerated.
The poetry of enthusiasm, as the epopee and the ode, is that to which this style is best adapted. It is less admissible in tragedy, where the dialogue should be natural as well as elevated; and still less in comedy, where the style must be more simple.
The limits to be set to the figurative style, in each kind, are determined by taste. Baltasar Gracian says, that “our thoughts depart from the vast shores of memory, embark on the sea of imagination, arrive in the harbor of intelligence, and are entered at the custom house of the understanding.”
This is precisely the style of Harlequin. He says to his master, “The ball of your commands has rebounded from the racquet of my obedience.” Must it not be owned that such is frequently that oriental style which people try to admire? Another fault of the figurative style is the accumulating of incoherent figures. A poet, speaking of some philosophers, has called them:
When philosophers are to be written against, it should be done better. How do ambitious pygmies, reared on their hind legs on mountains of arguments, continue escalades? What a false and ridiculous image! What elaborate dulness!
In an allegory by the same author, entitled the “Liturgy of Cytherea,” we find these lines:
Here we have harvests of hearts thrown on the ground like small hail; and among these hearts palpitating on the ground, are gods bound to the car of the unknown; while love, sent by Venus, ruminates in his seraglio in heaven, what he shall do to bring back to the fold this lost mutton surrounded by scattered hearts. All this forms a figure at once so false, so puerile, and so incoherent—so disgusting, so extravagant, so stupidly expressed, that we are astonished that a man, who made good verses of another kind, and was not devoid of taste, could write anything so miserably bad.
Figures, metaphors, are not necessary in an allegory; what has been invented with imagination may be told with simplicity. Plato has more allegories than figures; he often expresses them elegantly and without ostentation.
Nearly all the maxims of the ancient orientals and of the Greeks were in the figurative style. All those sentences are metaphors, or short allegories; and in them the figurative style has great effect in rousing the imagination and impressing the memory.
We know that Pythagoras said, “In the tempest adore the echo,” that is, during civil broils retire to the country; and “Stir not the fire with the sword,” meaning, do not irritate minds already inflamed. In every language, there are many common proverbs which are in the figurative style.
FIGURE IN THEOLOGY.
It is quite certain, and is agreed by the most pious men, that figures and allegories have been carried too far. Some of the fathers of the church regard the piece of red cloth, placed by the courtesan Rahab at her window, for a signal to Joshua’s spies, as a figure of the blood of Jesus Christ. This is an error of an order of mind which would find mystery in everything.
Nor can it be denied that St. Ambrose made very bad use of his taste for allegory, when he says, in his book of “Noah and the Ark,” that the back door of the ark was a figure of our hinder parts.
All men of sense have asked how it can be proved that these Hebrew words, “maher, salas-has-bas,” (take quick the spoils) are a figure of Jesus Christ? How is Judah, tying his ass to a vine, and washing his cloak in the wine, also a figure of Him. How can Ruth, slipping into bed to Boaz, figure the church, how are Sarah and Rachel the church, and Hagar and Leah the synagogue? How do the kisses of the Shunamite typify the marriage of the church? A volume might be made of these enigmas, which, to the best theologians of later times, have appeared to be rather far-fetched than edifying.
The danger of this abuse is fully admitted by Abbé Fleury, the author of the “Ecclesiastical History.” It is a vestige of rabbinism; a fault into which the learned St. Jerome never fell. It is like oneiromancy, or the explanation of dreams. If a girl sees muddy water, when dreaming, she will be ill-married; if she sees clear water, she will have a good husband; a spider denotes money, etc. In short, will enlightened posterity believe it? The understanding of dreams has, for more than four thousand years, been made a serious study.
All nations have made use of them, as we have said in the article “emblem.” But who began? Was it the Egyptians? It is not likely. We think we have already more than once proved that Egypt is a country quite new, and that many ages were requisite to save the country from inundations, and render it habitable. It is impossible that the Egyptians should have invented the signs of the zodiac, since the figures denoting our seed-time and harvest cannot coincide with theirs. When we cut our corn, their land is covered with water; and when we sow, their reaping time is approaching. Thus the bull of our zodiac and the girl bearing ears of corn cannot have come from Egypt.
Here is also an evident proof of the falsity of the new paradox, that the Chinese are an Egyptian colony. The characters are not the same. The Chinese mark the course of the sun by twenty-eight constellations; and the Egyptians, after the Chaldæans, reckoned only twelve, like ourselves.
The figures that denote the planets are in China and in India all different from those of Egypt and of Europe; so are the signs of the metals; so is the method of guiding the hand in writing. Nothing could have been more chimerical than to send the Egyptians to people China.
All these fabulous foundations, laid in fabulous times, have caused an irreparable loss of time to a prodigious multitude of the learned, who have all been bewildered in their laborious researches, which might have been serviceable to mankind if directed to arts of real utility.
Pluche, in his History, or rather his fable, of the Heavens, assures us that Ham, son of Noah, went and reigned in Egypt, where there was nobody to reign over; that his son Menes was the greatest of legislators, and that Thoth was his prime minister.
According to him and his authorities, this Thoth, or somebody else, instituted feasts in honor of the deluge; and the joyful cry of “Io Bacche,” so famous among the Greeks, was, among the Egyptians, a lamentation. “Bacche” came from the Hebrew “beke,” signifying sobs, and that at a time when the Hebrew people did not exist. According to this explanation, “joy” means “sorrow,” and “to sing” signifies “to weep.”
The Iroquois have more sense. They do not take the trouble to inquire what passed on the shores of Lake Ontario some thousand years ago: instead of making systems, they go hunting.
The same authors affirm that the sphinxes, with which Egypt was adorned, signified superabundance, because some interpreters have asserted that the Hebrew word “spang” meant an “excess”; as if the Egyptians had taken lessons from the Hebrew tongue, which is, in great part, derived from the Phœnician: besides, what relation has a sphinx to an abundance of water? Future schoolmen will maintain, with greater appearance of reason, that the masks which decorate the keystones of our windows are emblems of our masquerades; and that these fantastic ornaments announced that balls were given in every house to which they were affixed.
Figure, Figurative, Allegorical, Mystical, Tropological, Typical, etc.
This is often the art of finding in books everything but what they really contain. For instance, Romulus killing his brother Remus shall signify the death of the duke of Berry, brother of Louis XI.; Regulus, imprisoned at Carthage, shall typify St. Louis captive at Mansurah.
It is very justly remarked in the “Encyclopædia,” that many fathers of the church have, perhaps, carried this taste for allegorical figures a little too far; but they are to be reverenced, even in their wanderings. If the holy fathers used and then abused this method, their little excesses of imagination may be pardoned, in consideration of their holy zeal.
The antiquity of the usage may also be pleaded in justification, since it was practised by the earliest philosophers. But it is true that the symbolical figures employed by the fathers are in a different taste.
For example: When St. Augustine wishes to make it appear that the forty-two generations of the genealogy of Jesus are announced by St. Matthew, who gives only forty-one, he says that Jechonias must be counted twice, because Jechonias is a corner-stone belonging to two walls; that these two walls figure the old and the new law; and that Jechonias, being thus the corner-stone, figures Jesus Christ, who is the real corner-stone.
The same saint, in the same sermon, says that the number forty must prevail; and at once abandons Jechonias and his corner-stone, counted as two. The number forty, he says, signifies life; ten, which is perfect beatitude, being multiplied by four, which, being the number of the seasons, figures time.
Again, in the same sermon, he explains why St. Luke gives Jesus Christ seventy-seven ancestors: fifty-six up to the patriarch Abraham, and twenty-one from Abraham up to God himself. It is true that, according to the Hebrew text, there would be but seventy-six; for the Hebrew does not reckon a Cainan, who is interpolated in the Greek translation called “The Septuagint.”
Thus said Augustine: “The number seventy-seven figures the abolition of all sins by baptism . . . . the number ten signifies justice and beatitude, resulting from the creature, which makes seven with the Trinity, which is three: therefore it is that God’s commandments are ten in number. The number eleven denotes sin, because it transgresses ten. . . . This number seventy-seven is the product of eleven, figuring sin, multiplied by seven, and not by ten, for seven is the symbol of the creature. Three represents the soul, which is in some sort an image of the Divinity; and four represents the body, on account of its four qualities.” In these explanations, we find some trace of the cabalistic mysteries and the quaternary of Pythagoras. This taste was very long in vogue.
St. Augustine goes much further, concerning the dimensions of matter. Breadth is the dilatation of the heart, which performs good works; length is perseverance; depth is the hope of reward. He carries the allegory very far, applying it to the cross, and drawing great consequences therefrom. The use of these figures had passed from the Jews to the Christians long before St. Augustine’s time. It is not for us to know within what bounds it was right to stop.
The examples of this fault are innumerable. No one who has studied to advantage will hazard the introduction of such figures, either in the pulpit or in the school. We find no such instances among the Romans or the Greeks, not even in their poets.
In Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” themselves, we find only ingenious deductions drawn from fables which are given as fables. Deucalion and Pyrrha threw stones behind them between their legs, and men were produced therefrom. Ovid says:
Apollo loves Daphne, but Daphne does not love Apollo. This is because love has two kinds of arrows; the one golden and piercing, the other leaden and blunt. Apollo has received in his heart a golden arrow, Daphne a leaden one.
These figures are all ingenious, and deceive no one.
That Venus, the goddess of beauty, should not go unattended by the Graces, is a charming truth. These fables, which were in the mouths of all—these allegories, so natural and attractive—had so much sway over the minds of men, that perhaps the first Christians imitated while they opposed them.
They took up the weapons of mythology to destroy it, but they could not wield them with the same address. They did not reflect that the sacred austerity of our holy religion placed these resources out of their power, and that a Christian hand would have dealt but awkwardly with the lyre of Apollo.
However, the taste for these typical and prophetic figures was so firmly rooted that every prince, every statesman, every pope, every founder of an order, had allegories or allusions taken from the Holy Scriptures applied to him. Satire and flattery rivalled each other in drawing from this source.
When Pope Innocent III. made a bloody crusade against the court of Toulouse, he was told, “Innocens eris a maledictione.” When the order of the Minimes was established, it appeared that their founder had been foretold in Genesis: “Minimus cum patre nostro.”
The preacher who preached before John of Austria after the celebrated battle of Lepanto, took for his text, “Fuit homo missus a Deo, cui nomen erat Johannes;” A man sent from God, whose name was John; and this allusion was very fine, if all the rest were ridiculous. It is said to have been repeated for John Sobieski, after the deliverance of Vienna; but this latter preacher was nothing more than a plagiarist.
In short, so constant has been this custom that no preacher of the present day has ever failed to take an allegory for his text. One of the most happy instances is the text of the funeral oration over the duke of Candale, delivered before his sister, who was considered a pattern of virtue: “Dic, quia soror mea es, ut mihi bene eveniat propter te.”—“Say, I pray thee, that thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake.”’
It is not to be wondered at that the Cordeliers carried these figures rather too far in favor of St. Francis of Assisi, in the famous but little-known book, entitled, “Conformities of St. Francis of Assisi with Jesus Christ.” We find in it sixty-four predictions of the coming of St. Francis, some in the Old Testament, others in the New; and each prediction contains three figures, which signify the founding of the Cordeliers. So that these fathers find themselves foretold in the Bible a hundred and ninety-two times.
From Adam down to St. Paul, everything prefigured the blessed Francis of Assisi. The Scriptures were given to announce to the universe the sermons of Francis to the quadrupeds, the fishes, and the birds, the sport he had with a woman of snow, his frolics with the devil, his adventures with brother Elias and brother Pacificus.
These pious reveries, which amounted even to blasphemy, have been condemned. But the Order of St. Francis has not suffered by them, having renounced these extravagancies so common to the barbarous ages.
Virgil says (“Æneid,” book vi. 727):
Virgil said well: and Benedict Spinoza, who has not the brilliancy of Virgil, nor his merit, is compelled to acknowledge an intelligence presiding over all. Had he denied this, I should have said to him: Benedict, you are a fool; you possess intelligence, and you deny it, and to whom do you deny it?
In the year 1770, there appeared a man, in some respects far superior to Spinoza, as eloquent as the Jewish Hollander is dry, less methodical, but infinitely more perspicuous; perhaps equal to him in mathematical science; but without the ridiculous affectation of applying mathematical reasonings to metaphysical and moral subjects. The man I mean is the author of the “System of Nature.” He assumed the name of Mirabaud, the secretary of the French Academy. Alas! the worthy secretary was incapable of writing a single page of the book of our formidable opponent. I would recommend all you who are disposed to avail yourselves of your reason and acquire instruction, to read the following eloquent though dangerous passage from the “System of Nature.” (Part II. v. 153.)
It is contended that animals furnish us with a convincing evidence that there is some powerful cause of their existence; the admirable adaptation of their different parts, mutually receiving and conferring aid towards accomplishing their functions, and maintaining in health and vigor the entire being, announce to us an artificer uniting power to wisdom. Of the power of nature, it is impossible for us to doubt; she produces all the animals that we see by the help of combinations of that matter, which is in incessant action; the adaptation of the parts of these animals is the result of the necessary laws of their nature, and of their combination. When the adaptation ceases, the animal is necessarily destroyed. What then becomes of the wisdom, the intelligence, or the goodness of that alleged cause, to which was ascribed all the honor of this boasted adaptation? Those animals of so wonderful a structure as to be pronounced the works of an immutable God, do not they undergo incessant changes; and do not they end in decay and destruction? Where is the wisdom, the goodness, the foresight, the immutability of an artificer, whose sole object appears to be to derange and destroy the springs of those machines which are proclaimed to be masterpieces of his power and skill? If this God cannot act otherwise than thus, he is neither free nor omnipotent. If his will changes, he is not immutable. If he permits machines, which he has endowed with sensibility, to experience pain, he is deficient in goodness. If he has been unable to render his productions solid and durable, he is deficient in skill. Perceiving as we do the decay and ruin not only of all animals, but of all the other works of deity, we cannot but inevitably conclude, either that everything performed in the course of nature is absolutely necessary—the unavoidable result of its imperative and insuperable laws, or that the artificer who impels her various operations is destitute of plan, of power, of constancy, of skill, and of goodness.
“Man, who considers himself the master-work of the Divinity, supplies us more readily and completely than any other production, with evidence of the incapacity or malignity of his pretended author. In this being, possessed of feeling, intuition, and reason, which considers itself as the perpetual object of divine partiality, and forms its God on the model of itself, we see a machine more changeable, more frail, more liable to derangement from its extraordinary complication, than that of the coarsest and grossest beings. Beasts, which are destitute of our mental powers and acquirements; plants, which merely vegetate; stones, which are unendowed with sensation, are, in many respects, beings far more favored than man. They are, at least, exempt from distress of mind, from the tortures of thought, and corrosions of care, to which the latter is a victim. Who would not prefer being a mere unintelligent animal, or a senseless stone, when his thoughts revert to the irreparable loss of an object dearly beloved? Would it not be infinitely more desirable to be an inanimate mass, than the gloomy votary and victim of superstition, trembling under the present yoke of his diabolical deity, and anticipating infinite torments in a future existence? Beings destitute of sensation, life, memory, and thought experience no affliction from the idea of what is past, present, or to come; they do not believe there is any danger of incurring eternal torture for inaccurate reasoning; which is believed, however, by many of those favored beings who maintain that the great architect of the world has created the universe for themselves.
“Let us not be told that we have no idea of a work without having that of the artificer distinguished from the work. Nature is not a work. She has always existed of herself. Every process takes place in her bosom. She is an immense manufactory, provided with materials, and she forms the instruments by which she acts; all her works are effects of her own energy, and of agents or causes which she frames, contains, and impels. Eternal, uncreated elements—elements indestructible, ever in motion, and combining in exquisite and endless diversity, originate all the beings and all the phenomena that we behold; all the effects, good or evil, that we feel; the order or disorder which we distinguish, merely by different modes in which they affect ourselves; and, in a word, all those wonders which excite our meditation and confound our reasoning. These elements, in order to effect objects thus comprehensive and important, require nothing beyond their own properties, individual or combined, and the motion essential to their very existence; and thus preclude the necessity of recurring to an unknown artificer, in order to arrange, mould, combine, preserve, and dissolve them.
“But, even admitting for a moment, that it is impossible to conceive of the universe without an artificer who formed it, and who preserves and watches over his work, where shall we place that artificer? Shall he be within or without the universe? Is he matter or motion? Or is he mere space, nothingness, vacuity? In each of these cases, he will either be nothing, or he will be comprehended in nature, and subjected to her laws. If he is in nature, I think I see in her only matter in motion, and cannot but thence conclude that the agent impelling her is corporeal and material, and that he is consequently liable to dissolution. If this agent is out of nature, then I have no idea of what place he can occupy, nor of an immaterial being, nor of the manner in which a spirit, without extension, can operate upon the matter from which it is separated. Those unknown tracts of space which imagination has placed beyond the visible world may be considered as having no existence for a being who can scarcely see to the distance of his own feet; the ideal power which inhabits them can never be represented to my mind, unless when my imagination combines at random the fantastic colors which it is always forced to employ in the world on which I am. In this case, I shall merely reproduce in idea what my senses have previously actually perceived; and that God, which I, as it were, compel myself to distinguish from nature, and to place beyond her circuit, will ever, in opposition to all my efforts, necessarily withdraw within it.
“It will be observed and insisted upon by some that if a statue or a watch were shown to a savage who had never seen them, he would inevitably acknowledge that they were the productions of some intelligent agent, more powerful and ingenious than himself; and hence it will be inferred that we are equally bound to acknowledge that the machine of the universe, that man, that the phenomena of nature, are the productions of an agent, whose intelligence and power are far superior to our own.
“I answer, in the first place, that we cannot possibly doubt either the great power or the great skill of nature; we admire her skill as often as we are surprised by the extended, varied and complicated effects which we find in those of her works that we take the pains to investigate; she is not, however, either more or less skilful in any one of her works than in the rest. We no more comprehend how she could produce a stone or a piece of metal than how she could produce a head organized like that of Newton. We call that man skilful who can perform things which we are unable to perform ourselves. Nature can perform everything; and when anything exists, it is a proof that she was able to make it. Thus, it is only in relation to ourselves that we ever judge nature to be skilful; we compare it in those cases with ourselves; and, as we possess a quality which we call intelligence, by the aid of which we produce works, in which we display our skill, we thence conclude that the works of nature, which must excite our astonishment and admiration, are not in fact hers, but the productions of an artificer, intelligent like ourselves, and whose intelligence we proportion, in our minds, to the degree of astonishment excited in us by his works; that is, in fact, to our own weakness and ignorance.”
See the reply to these arguments under the articles on “Atheism” and “God,” and in the following section, written long before the “System of Nature.”
If a clock is not made in order to tell the time of the day, I will then admit that final causes are nothing but chimeras, and be content to go by the name of a final-cause-finder—in plain language, fool—to the end of my life.
All the parts, however, of that great machine, the world, seem made for one another. Some philosophers affect to deride final causes, which were rejected, they tell us, by Epicurus and Lucretius. But it seems to me that Epicurus and Lucretius rather merit the derision. They tell you that the eye is not made to see; but that, since it was found out that eyes were capable of being used for that purpose, to that purpose they have been applied. According to them, the mouth is not formed to speak and eat, nor the stomach to digest, nor the heart to receive the blood from the veins and impel it through the arteries, nor the feet to walk, nor the ears to hear. Yet, at the same time, these very shrewd and consistent persons admitted that tailors made garments to clothe them, and masons built houses to lodge them; and thus ventured to deny nature—the great existence, the universal intelligence—what they conceded to the most insignificant artificers employed by themselves.
The doctrine of final causes ought certainly to be preserved from being abused. We have already remarked that M. le Prieur, in the “Spectator of Nature,” contends in vain that the tides were attached to the ocean to enable ships to enter more easily into their ports, and to preserve the water from corruption; he might just as probably and successfully have urged that legs were made to wear boots, and noses to bear spectacles.
In order to satisfy ourselves of the truth of a final cause, in any particular instance, it is necessary that the effect produced should be uniform and invariably in time and place. Ships have not existed in all times and upon all seas; accordingly, it cannot be said that the ocean was made for ships. It is impossible not to perceive how ridiculous it would be to maintain that nature had toiled on from the very beginning of time to adjust herself to the inventions of our fortuitous and arbitrary arts, all of which are of so late a date in their discovery; but it is perfectly clear that if noses were not made for spectacles, they were made for smelling, and there have been noses ever since there were men. In the same manner, hands, instead of being bestowed for the sake of gloves, are visibly destined for all those uses to which the metacarpus, the phalanges of the fingers, and the movements of the circular muscle of the wrist, render them applicable by us. Cicero, who doubted everything else, had no doubt about final causes.
It appears particularly difficult to suppose that those parts of the human frame by which the perpetuation of the species is conducted should not, in fact, have been intended and destined for that purpose, from their mechanism so truly admirable, and the sensation which nature has connected with it more admirable still. Epicurus would be at least obliged to admit that pleasure is divine, and that that pleasure is a final cause, in consequence of which beings, endowed with sensibility, but who could never have communicated it to themselves, have been incessantly introduced into the world as others have passed away from it.
This philosopher, Epicurus, was a great man for the age in which he lived. He saw that Descartes denied what Gassendi affirmed and what Newton demonstrated—that motion cannot exist without a vacuum. He conceived the necessity of atoms to serve as constituent parts of invariable species. These are philosophical ideas. Nothing, however, was more respectable than the morality of genuine Epicureans; it consisted in sequestration from public affairs, which are incompatible with wisdom, and in friendship, without which life is but a burden. But as to the rest of the philosophy of Epicurus, it appears not to be more admissible than the grooved or tubular matter of Descartes. It is, as it appears to me, wilfully to shut the eyes and the understanding, and to maintain that there is no design in nature; and if there is design, there is an intelligent cause—there exists a God.
Some point us to the irregularities of our globe, the volcanoes, the plains of moving sand, some small mountains swallowed up in the ocean, others raised by earthquakes, etc. But does it follow from the naves of your chariot wheel taking fire, that your chariot was not made expressly for the purpose of conveying you from one place to another?
The chains of mountains which crown both hemispheres, and more than six hundred rivers which flow from the foot of these rocks towards the sea; the various streams that swell these rivers in their courses, after fertilizing the fields through which they pass; the innumerable fountains which spring from the same source, which supply necessary refreshment, and growth, and beauty to animal and vegetable life; all this appears no more to result from a fortuitous concourse and an obliquity of atoms, than the retina which receives the rays of light, or the crystalline humor which refracts it, or the drum of the ear which admits sound, or the circulation of the blood in our veins, the systole and diastole of the heart, the regulating principle of the machine of life.
It would appear that a man must be supposed to have lost his senses before he can deny that stomachs are made for digestion, eyes to see, and ears to hear.
On the other hand, a man must have a singular partiality for final causes, to assert that stone was made for building houses, and that silkworms are produced in China that we may wear satins in Europe.
But, it is urged, if God has evidently done one thing by design, he has then done all things by design. It is ridiculous to admit Providence in the one case and to deny it in the others. Everything that is done was foreseen, was arranged. There is no arrangement without an object, no effect without a cause; all, therefore, is equally the result, the product of the final cause; it is, therefore, as correct to say that noses were made to bear spectacles, and fingers to be adorned with rings, as to say that the ears were formed to hear sounds, the eyes to receive light.
All that this objection amounts to, in my opinion, is that everything is the result, nearer or more remote, of a general final cause; that everything is the consequence of eternal laws. When the effects are invariably the same in all times and places, and when these uniform effects are independent of the beings to which they attach, then there is visibly a final cause.
All animals have eyes and see; all have ears and hear; all have mouths with which they eat; stomachs, or something similar, by which they digest their food; all have suitable means for expelling the fæces; all have the organs requisite for the continuation of their species; and these natural gifts perform their regular course and process without any application or intermixture of art. Here are final causes clearly established; and to deny a truth so universal would be a perversion of the faculty of reason.
But stones, in all times and places, do not constitute the materials of buildings. All noses do not bear spectacles; all fingers do not carry a ring; all legs are not covered with silk stockings. A silkworm, therefore, is not made to cover my legs, exactly as your mouth is made for eating, and another part of your person for the “garderobe.” There are, therefore, we see, immediate effects produced from final causes, and effects of a very numerous description, which are remote productions from those causes.
Everything belonging to nature is uniform, immutable, and the immediate work of its author. It is he who has established the laws by which the moon contributes three-fourths to the cause of the flux and reflux of the ocean, and the sun the remaining fourth. It is he who has given a rotatory motion to the sun, in consequence of which that orb communicates its rays of light in the short space of seven minutes and a half to the eyes of men, crocodiles, and cats.
But if, after a course of ages, we started the inventions of shears and spits, to clip the wool of sheep with the one, and with the other to roast in order to eat them, what else can be inferred from such circumstances, but that God formed us in such a manner that, at some time or other, we could not avoid becoming ingenious and carnivorous?
Sheep, undoubtedly, were not made expressly to be roasted and eaten, since many nations abstain from such food with horror. Mankind are not created essentially to massacre one another, since the Brahmins, and the respectable primitives called Quakers, kill no one. But the clay out of which we are kneaded frequently produces massacres, as it produces calumnies, vanities, persecutions, and impertinences. It is not precisely that the formation of man is the final cause of our madnesses and follies, for a final cause is universal, and invariable in every age and place; but the horrors and absurdities of the human race are not at all the less included in the eternal order of things. When we thresh our corn, the flail is the final cause of the separation of the grain. But if that flail, while threshing my grain, crushes to death a thousand insects, that occurs not by an express and determinate act of my will, nor, on the other hand, is it by mere chance; the insects were, on this occasion, actually under my flail, and could not but be there.
It is a consequence of the nature of things that a man should be ambitious; that he should enroll and discipline a number of other men; that he should be a conqueror, or that he should be defeated; but it can never be said that the man was created by God to be killed in war.
The organs with which nature has supplied us cannot always be final causes in action. The eyes which are bestowed for seeing are not constantly open. Every sense has its season for repose. There are some senses that are even made no use of. An imbecile and wretched female, for example, shut up in a cloister at the age of fourteen years, mars one of the final causes of her existence; but the cause, nevertheless, equally exists, and whenever it is free it will operate.
FINESSE, FINENESS, ETC.
Fineness either in its proper or its figurative sense does not signify either light, slender, fine, or of a rare thin texture; this word expresses something delicate and finished. Light cloth, soft linen, thin lace, or slender galloon, are not always fine.
This word has a relation to the verb “to finish,” whence come the finishings of art; thus, we say, the finishings of Vanderwerff’s pencil or of Mieris; we say, a fine horse, fine gold, a fine diamond. A fine horse is opposed to a clumsy one; the fine diamond to a false one; fine or refined gold to gold mixed with alloy.
Fineness is generally applied to delicate things and lightness of manufacture. Although we say a fine horse, we seldom say, “the fineness of a horse.” We speak of the fineness of hair, lace, or stuff. When by this word we should express the fault or wrong use of anything, we add the adverb “too”; as—This thread is broken, it was too fine; this stuff is too fine for the season.
Fineness or finesse, in a figurative sense, applies to conduct, speech, and works of mind. In conduct, finesse always expresses, as in the arts, something delicate or subtile; it may sometimes exist without ability, but it is very rarely unaccompanied by a little deception; politics admit it, and society reproves it.
Finesse is not exactly subtlety; we draw a person into a snare with finesse; we escape from it with subtlety. We act with finesse, and we play a subtle trick. Distrust is inspired by an unsparing use of finesse; yet we almost always deceive ourselves if we too generally suspect it.
Finesse, in works of wit, as in conversation, consists in the art of not expressing a thought clearly, but leaving it so as to be easily perceived. It is an enigma to which people of sense readily find the solution.
A chancellor one day offering his protection to parliament, the first president turning towards the assembly, said: “Gentlemen, thank the chancellor; he has given us more than we demanded of him”—a very witty reproof.
Finesse, in conversation and writing, differs from delicacy; the first applies equally to piquant and agreeable things, even to blame and praise; and still more to indecencies, over which a veil is drawn, through which we cannot penetrate without a blush. Bold things may be said with finesse.
Delicacy expresses soft and agreeable sentiments and ingenious praise; thus finesse belongs more to epigram, and delicacy to madrigal. It is delicacy which enters into a lover’s jealousies, and not finesse.
The praises given to Louis XIV. by Despréaux are not always equally delicate; satires are not always sufficiently ingenious in the way of finesse. When Iphigenia, in Racine, has received from her father the order never to see Achilles more, she cries: “Dieux plus doux, vous n’aviez demandé que ma vie!”—“More gentle gods, you only ask my life!” The true character of this partakes rather of delicacy than of finesse.
Is fire anything more than an element which lights, warms, and burns us? Is not light always fire, though fire is not always light? And is not Boerhaave in the right?
Is not the purest fire extracted from our combustibles, always gross, and partaking of the bodies consumed, and very different from elementary fire? How is fire distributed throughout nature, of which it is the soul?
Why did Newton, in speaking of rays of light, always say, “De natura radiorum lucis, utrum corpora sint necne non disputamus”; without examining whether they were bodies or not?
Did he only speak geometrically? In that case, this doubt was useless. It is evident that he doubted of the nature of elementary fire, and doubted with reason.
Is elementary fire a body like others, as earth and water? If it was a body of this kind, would it not gravitate like all other matter? Would it escape from the luminous body in the right line? Would it have a uniform progression? And why does light never move out of a right line when it is unimpeded in its rapid course?
May not elementary fire have properties of matter little known to us, and properties of substance entirely so? May it not be a medium between matter and substances of another kind? And who can say that there are not a million of these substances? I do not say that there are, but I say it is not proved that there may not be.
It was very difficult to believe about a hundred years ago that bodies acted upon one another, not only without touching, and without emission, but at great distances; it is, however, found to be true, and is no longer doubted. At present, it is difficult to believe that the rays of the sun are penetrable by each other, but who knows what may happen to prove it?
However that may be, I wish, for the novelty of the thing, that this incomprehensible penetrability could be admitted. Light has something so divine that we should endeavor to make it a step to the discovery of substances still more pure.
Come to my aid, Empedocles and Democritus; come and admire the wonders of electricity; see if the sparks which traverse a thousand bodies in the twinkling of an eye are of ordinary matter; judge if elementary fire does not contract the heart, and communicate that warmth which gives life! Judge if this element is not the source of all sensation, and if sensation is not the origin of thought; though ignorant and insolent pedants have condemned the proposition, as one which should be persecuted.
Tell me, if the Supreme Being, who presides over all nature, cannot forever preserve these elementary atoms which he has so rarely endowed? “Igneus est ollis vigor et cœlestis origo.”
The celebrated Le Cat calls this vivifying fluid “an amphibious being, endowed by its author with a superior refinement which links it to immaterial beings, and thereby ennobles and elevates it into that medium nature which we recognize, and which is the source of all its properties.”
You are of the opinion of Le Cat? I would be so too if I could; but there are so many fools and villains that I dare not. I can only think quietly in my own way at Mount Krapak. Let others think as well as they are allowed to think, whether at Salamanca or Bergamo.
Fire, particularly in poetry, often signifies love, and is employed more elegantly in the plural than in the singular. Corneille often says “un beau feu” for a virtuous and noble love. A man has fire in his conversation; that does not mean that he has brilliant and enlightened ideas, but lively expressions animated by action.
Fire in writing does not necessarily imply lightness and beauty, but vivacity, multiplied figures, and spontaneous ideas. Fire is a merit in speech and writing only when it is well managed. It is said that poets are animated with a divine fire when they are sublime; genius cannot exist without fire, but fire may be possessed without genius.
Firmness comes from firm, and has a different signification from solidity and hardness; a squeezed cloth, a beaten negro, have firmness without being hard or solid.
It must always be remembered that modifications of the soul can only be expressed by physical images; we say firmness of soul, and of mind, which does not signify that they are harder or more solid than usual.
Firmness is the exercise of mental courage; it means a decided resolution; while obstinacy, on the contrary, signifies blindness. Those who praise the firmness of Tacitus are not so much in the wrong as P. Bouhours pretends; it is an accidental ill-chosen term, which expresses energy and strength of thought and of style. It may be said that La Bruyère has a firm style, and that many other writers have only a hard one.
I find not one monument of flattery in remote antiquity; there is no flattery in Hesiod—none in Homer. Their stories are not addressed to a Greek, elevated to some dignity, nor to his lady; as each canto of Thomson’s “Seasons” is dedicated to some person of rank, or as so many forgotten epistles in verse have been dedicated, in England, to gentlemen or ladies of quality, with a brief eulogy, and the arms of the patron or patroness placed at the head of the work.
Nor is there any flattery in Demosthenes. This way of asking alms harmoniously began, if I mistake not, with Pindar. No hand can be stretched out more emphatically.
It appears to me that among the Romans great flattery is to be dated from the time of Augustus. Julius Cæsar had scarcely time to be flattered. There is not, extant, any dedicatory epistle to Sulla, Marius, or Carbo, nor to their wives, or their mistresses. I can well believe that very bad verses were presented to Lucullus and Pompey; but, thank God, we do not have them.
It is a great spectacle to behold Cicero equal in dignity to Cæsar, speaking before him as advocate for a king of Bithynia and Lesser Armenia, named Deiotarus, accused of laying ambuscades for him, and even designing to assassinate him. Cicero begins with acknowledging that he is disconcerted in his presence. He calls him the vanquisher of the world—“victorem orbis terrarum.” He flatters him; but this adulation does not yet amount to baseness; some sense of shame still remains.
But with Augustus there are no longer any bounds; the senate decrees his apotheosis during his lifetime. Under the succeeding emperors this flattery becomes the ordinary tribute, and is no longer anything more than a style. It is impossible to flatter any one, when the most extravagant adulation has become the ordinary currency.
In Europe, we have had no great monuments of flattery before Louis XIV. His father, Louis XIII., had very little incense offered him. We find no mention of him, except in one or two of Malherbe’s odes. There, indeed, according to custom, he is called “thou greatest of kings”—as the Spanish poets say to the king of Spain, and the English poets (laureate) to the king of England; but the better part of the poet’s praises is bestowed on Cardinal Richelieu, whose soul is great and fearless; who practises so well the healing art of government, and who knows how to cure all our evils:
Upon Louis XIV. flattery came in a deluge. But he was not like the man said to have been smothered by the rose leaves heaped upon him; on the contrary, he thrived the more.
Flattery, when it has some plausible pretext, may not be so pernicious as it has been thought; it sometimes encourages to great acts; but its excess is vicious, like the excess of satire. La Fontaine says, and pretends to say it after Æsop:
Honest Æsop said no such thing; nor do we find that he flattered any king, or any concubine. It must not be thought that kings are in reality flattered by all the flatteries that are heaped upon them; for the greater number never reach them.
One common folly of orators is that of exhausting themselves in praising some prince who will never hear of their praises. But what is most lamentable of all is that Ovid should have praised Augustus even while he was dating “de Ponto.”
The perfection of the ridiculous might be found in the compliments which preachers address to kings, when they have the happiness of exhibiting before their majesties. “To the reverend Father Gaillard, preacher to the king.” Ah! most reverend father, do you preach only for the king? Are you like the monkey at the fair, which leaps “only for the king?”
What is “force?” Where does it reside? Whence does it come? Does it perish? Or is it ever the same?
It has pleased us to denominate “force” that weight which one body exercises upon another. Here is a ball of two hundred pounds’ weight on this floor; it presses the floor, you say, with a force of two hundred pounds, And this you call a “dead force.” But are not these words “dead” and “force” a little contradictory? Might we not as well say “dead alive”—yes and no at once?
This ball “weighs.” Whence comes this “weight?” and is this weight a “force?” If the ball were not impeded, would it go directly to the centre of the earth? Whence has it this incomprehensible property?
It is supported by my floor; and you freely give to my floor the “vis inertiæ”—“inertiæ” signifying “inactivity,” “impotence.” Now is it not singular that “impotence” should be denominated “force?”
What is the living force which acts in your arm and your leg? What is the source of it? How can it be supposed that this force exists when you are dead? Does it go and take up its abode elsewhere, as a man goes to another house when his own is in ruins?
How can it have been said that there is always the same force in nature? There must, then, have been always the same number of men, or of active beings equivalent to men. Why does a body in motion communicate its force to another body with which it comes in contact?
These are questions which neither geometry, nor mechanics, nor metaphysics can answer. Would you arrive at the first principle of the force of bodies, and of motion, you must ascend to a still superior principle. Why is there “anything?”
These words have been transplanted from simple to figurative speech. They are applied to all the parts of the body that are in motion, in action—the force of the heart, which some have made four hundred pounds, and some three ounces; the force of the viscera, the lungs, the voice; the force of the arm.
The metaphor which has transported these words into morals has made them express a cardinal virtue. Strength, in this sense, is the courage to support adversity, and to undertake virtuous and difficult actions; it is the “animi fortitudo.”
The strength of the mind is penetration and depth—“ingenii vis.” Nature gives it as she gives that of the body; moderate labor increases and excessive labor diminishes it.
The force of an argument consists in a clear exposition of clearly-exhibited proofs, and a just conclusion: with mathematical theorems it has nothing to do; because the evidence of a demonstration can be made neither more nor less; only it may be arrived at by a longer or a shorter path—a simpler or more complicated method. It is in doubtful questions that the force of reasoning is truly applicable.
The force of eloquence is not merely a train of just and vigorous reasoning, which is not incompatible with dryness; this force requires floridity, striking images, and energetic expressions. Thus it has been said, that the sermons of Bourdaloue have force, those of Massillon more elegance. Verses may have strength, and want every other beauty. The strength of a line in our language consists principally in saying something in each hemistich.
Strength in painting is the expression of the muscles, which, by feeling touches, are made to appear under the flesh that covers them. There is too much strength when the muscles are too strongly articulated. The attitudes of the combatants have great strength in the battles of Constantine, drawn by Raphael and Julio Romano; and in those of Cæsar, painted by Lebrun. Inordinate strength is harsh in painting and bombastic in poetry.
Some philosophers have asserted that force is a property inherent in matter; that each invisible particle, or rather monad, is endowed with an active force; but it would be as difficult to demonstrate this assertion as it would be to prove that whiteness is a quality inherent in matter, as the Trevoux dictionary says in the article “Inherent.”
The strength of every animal has arrived at the highest when the animal has attained its full growth. It decreases when the muscles no longer receive the same quantity of nourishment: and this quantity ceases to be the same when the animal spirits no longer communicate to the muscles their accustomed motion. It is probable that the animal spirits are of fire, inasmuch as old men want motion and strength in proportion as they want warmth.
A word which always gives an idea of liberty in whatever sense it is taken; a word derived from the Franks, who were always free. It is so ancient, that when the Cid besieged and took Toledo, in the eleventh century, franchies or franchises were given to all the French who went on this expedition, and who established themselves at Toledo. All walled cities had franchises, liberties, and privileges, even in the greatest anarchy of feudal power. In all countries possessing assemblies or states, the sovereign swore, on his accession, to guard their liberties.
This name, which has been given generally to the rights of the people, to immunities, and to sanctuaries or asylums, has been more particularly applied to the quarters of the ambassadors of the court of Rome. It was a plot of ground around their palaces, which was larger or smaller according to the will of the ambassador. The ground was an asylum for criminals, who could not be there pursued. This franchise was restricted, under Innocent XI. to the inside of their palaces. Churches and convents had the same privileges in Italy, but not in other states. There are in Paris several places of sanctuary, in which debtors cannot be seized for their debts by common justice, and where mechanics can pursue their trades without being freemen. Mechanics have this privilege in the Faubourg St. Antoine, but it is not an asylum like the Temple.
The word “franchise,” which usually expresses the liberties of a nation, city, or person, is sometimes used to signify liberty of speech, of counsel, or of a law proceeding; but there is a great difference between speaking with frankness and speaking with liberty. In a speech to a superior, liberty is a studied or excessive boldness—frankness outstepping its just bounds. To speak with liberty is to speak without fear; to speak with frankness is to conduct yourself openly and nobly. To speak with too much liberty is to become audacious; to speak with too much frankness is to be too open-hearted.
It would not be amiss to know something true concerning the celebrated Francis Xavero, whom we call Xavier, surnamed the Apostle of the Indies. Many people still imagine that he established Christianty along the whole southern coast of India, in a score of islands, and above all in Japan. But thirty years ago, even a doubt on the subject was hardly to be tolerated in Europe. The Jesuits have not hesitated to compare him to St. Paul. His travels and miracles had been written in part by Tursellinus and Orlandini, by Levena, and by Partoli, all Jesuits, but very little known in France; and the less people were acquainted with the details the greater was his reputation.
When the Jesuit Bouhours composed his history, he (Bouhours) was considered as a man of very englightened mind, and was living in the best company in Paris; I do not mean the company of Jesus, but that of men of the world the most distinguished for intellect and knowledge. No one wrote in a purer or more unaffected style; it was even proposed in the French Academy that it should trespass against the rules of its institution, by receiving Father Bouhours into its body. He had another great advantage in the influence of his order, which then, by an almost inconceivable illusion, governed all Catholic princes.
Sound criticism was, it is true, beginning to rear its head; but its progress was slow: men were, in general, more anxious to write ably than to write what was true.
Bouhours wrote the lives of St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier almost without encountering a single objection. Even his comparison of St. Ignatius to Cæsar, and Xavier to Alexander, passed without animadversion; it was tolerated as a flower of rhetoric.
I have seen in the Jesuit’s college, Rue St. Jacques, a picture twelve feet long and twelve high, representing Ignatius and Xavier ascending to heaven, each in a magnificent chariot drawn by four milkwhite horses; and above, the Eternal Father, adorned with a fine white beard descending to His waist, with Jesus and the Virgin beside him; the Holy Ghost beneath them, in the form of a dove; and angels joining their hands, and bending down to receive Father Ignatius and Father Xavier.
Had anyone publicly made a jest of this picture, the reverend Father La Chaise, confessor to the king, would infallibly have had the sacrilegious scoffer honored with a lettre de cachet.
It cannot be denied that Francis Xavier is comparable to Alexander, inasmuch as they both went to India—so is Ignatius to Cæsar, both having been in Gaul. But Xavier, the vanquisher of the devil, went far beyond Alexander, the conqueror of Darius. How gratifying it is to see him going, in the capacity of a volunteer converter, from Spain into France, from France to Rome, from Rome to Lisbon, and from Lisbon to Mozambique, after making the tour of Africa. He stays a long time at Mozambique, where he receives from God the gift of prophecy: he then proceeds to Melinda, where he disputes on the Koran with the Mahometans, who doubtless understand his religion as well as he understands theirs, and where he even finds caciques, although they are to be found nowhere but in America. The Portuguese vessel arrives at the island of Zocotora, which is unquestionably that of the Amazons: there he converts all the islanders, and builds a church. Thence he reaches Goa, where he finds a pillar on which St. Thomas had engraved, that one day St. Xavier should come and re-establish the Christian religion, which had flourished of old in India. Xavier has no difficulty whatever in perusing the ancient characters, whether Indian or Hebrew, in which this prophecy is expressed. He forthwith takes up a hand-bell, assembles all the little boys around him, explains to them the creed, and baptizes them—but his great delight was to marry the Indians to their mistresses.
From Goa he speeds to Cape Comorin, to the fishing coast, to the kingdom of Travancore. His greatest anxiety, on arriving in any country, is to quit it. He embarks in the first Portuguese ship he finds, whithersoever it is bound, it matters not to Xavier; provided only that he is travelling somewhere, he is content. He is received through charity, and returns two or three times to Goa, to Cochin, to Cori, to Negapatam, to Meliapour. A vessel is departing for Malacca, and Xavier accordingly takes his passage for Malacca, in great despair that he has not yet had an opportunity of seeing Siam, Pegu, and Tonquin. We find him in the island of Sumatra, at Borneo, at Macassar, in the Moluccas, and especially at Ternate and Amboyna. The king of Ternate had, in his immense seraglio, a hundred women in the capacity of wives, and seven or eight hundred in that of concubines. The first thing Xavier does is to turn them all out. Please to observe that the island of Ternate is two leagues across.
Thence finding another Portugese vessel bound for Ceylon, he returns to Ceylon, where he makes various excursions to Goa and to Cochin. The Portuguese were already trading to Japan. A ship sails for that country: Xavier takes care to embark in it, and visits all the Japan islands. In short (says the Jesuit Bouhours), the whole length of Xavier’s routes, joined together, would reach several times around the globe.
Be it observed, that he set out on his travels in 1542, and died in 1552. If he had time to learn the languages of all the nations he visited, it was no trifling miracle: if he had the gift of tongues, it was a greater miracle still. But unfortunately, in several of his letters, he says that he is obliged to employ an interpreter; and in others he acknowledges that he finds extreme difficulty in learning the Japanese language, which he cannot pronounce.
The Jesuit Bouhours, in giving some of his letters, has no doubt that “St. Francis Xavier had the gift of tongues”; but he acknowledges that “he had it not always.” “He had it,” says he, “on several occasions; for, without having learned the Chinese tongue, he preached to the Chinese every morning at Amanguchi, which is the capital of a province in Japan.”
He must have been perfectly acquainted with all the languages of the East; for he made songs in them of the Paternoster, Ave-Maria, and Credo, for the instruction of the little boys and girls.
But the best of all is, that this man, who had occasion for a dragoman, spoke every tongue at once, like the apostles; and when he spoke Portuguese, in which language Bouhours acknowledges that the saint explained himself very ill, the Indians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the inhabitants of Ceylon and of Sumatra, all understood him perfectly.
One day in particular, when he was preaching on the immateriality of the soul, the motion of the planets, the eclipses of the sun and moon, the rainbow, sin and grace, paradise and purgatory, he made himself understood to twenty persons of different nations.
Is it asked how such a man could make so many converts in Japan? The simple answer is that he did not make any; but other Jesuits, who staid a long time in the country, by favor of the treaties between the kings of Portugal and the emperors of Japan, converted so many people, that a civil war ensued, which is said to have cost the lives of nearly four hundred thousand men. This is the most noted prodigy that the missionaries have worked in Japan.
But those of Francis Xavier are not without their merit. Among his host of miracles, we find no fewer than eight children raised from the dead. “Xavier’s greatest miracle,” says the Jesuit Bouhours, “was not his raising so many of the dead to life, but his not himself dying of fatigue.”
But the pleasantest of his miracles is, that having dropped his crucifix into the sea, near the island of Baranura, which I am inclined to think was the island of Barataria, a crab came, four-and-twenty hours after, bringing the cane between its claws.
The most brilliant of all, and after which no other deserves to be related, is that in a storm which lasted three days, he was constantly in two ships, a hundred and fifty leagues apart, and served one of them as a pilot. The truth of this miracle was attested by all the passengers, who could neither deceive nor be deceived.
Yet all this was written seriously and with success in the age of Louis XIV., in the age of the “Provincial Letters,” of Racine’s tragedies, of “Bayle’s Dictionary,” and of so many other learned works.
It would appear to be a sort of miracle that a man of sense, like Bouhours, should have committed such a mass of extravagance to the press, if we did not know to what excesses men can be carried by the corporate spirit in general, and the monachal spirit in particular. We have more than two hundred volumes entirely in this taste, compiled by monks; but what is most to be lamented is, that the enemies of the monks also compile. They compile more agreeably, and are read. It is most deplorable that, in nineteen-twentieths of Europe, there is no longer that profound respect and just veneration for the monks which is still felt for them in some of the villages of Aragon and Calabria.
The miracles of St. Francis Xavier, the achievements of Don Quixote, the Comic Romance, and the convulsionaries of St. Medard, have an equal claim on our admiration and reverence.
After speaking of Francis Xavier it would be useless to discuss the history of the other Francises. If you would be instructed thoroughly, consult the conformities of St. Francis of Assisi.
Since the fine history of St. Francis Xavier by the Jesuit Bouhours, we have had the history of St. Francis Régis by the Jesuit Daubenton, confessor to Philip V. of Spain: but this is small-beer after brandy. In the history of the blessed Régis, there is not even a single resuscitation.
Italy has always preserved its name, notwithstanding the pretended establishment of Æneas, which should have left some traces of the language, characters, and manners of Phrygia, if he ever came with Achates and so many others, into the province of Rome, then almost a desert. The Goths, Lombards, Franks, Allemani or Germans, who have by turns invaded Italy, have at least left it its name.
The Tyrians, Africans, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, and Saracens, have, one after the other, been masters of Spain, yet the name of Spain exists. Germany has also always preserved its own name; it has merely joined that of Allemagne to it, which appellation it did not receive from any conqueror.
The Gauls are almost the only people in the west who have lost their name. This name was originally Walch or Welsh; the Romans always substituted a G for the W, which is barbarous: of “Welsh” they made Galli, Gallia. They distinguished the Celtic, the Belgic, and the Aquitanic Gaul, each of which spoke a different jargon.
Who were, and whence came these Franks, who in such small numbers and little time possessed themselves of all the Gauls, which in ten years Cæsar could not entirely reduce? I am reading an author who commences by these words: “The Franks from whom we descend.” . . . . Ha! my friend, who has told you that you descend in a right line from a Frank? Clovodic, whom we call Clovis, probably had not more than twenty thousand men, badly clothed and armed, when he subjugated about eight or ten millions of Welsh or Gauls, held in servitude by three or four Roman legions. We have not a single family in France which can furnish, I do not say the least proof, but the least probability, that it had its origin from a Frank.
When the pirates of the Baltic Sea came, to the number of seven or eight thousand, to give Normandy in fief, and Brittany in arrière fief, did they leave any archives by which it may be seen whether they were the fathers of all the Normans of the present day?
It has been a long time believed that the Franks came from the Trojans. Ammianus Marcellinus, who lived in the fourth century, says: “According to several ancient writers, troops of fugitive Trojans established themselves on the borders of the Rhine, then a desert.” As to Æneas, he might easily have sought an asylum at the extremity of the Mediterranean, but Francus, the son of Hector, had too far to travel to go towards Düsseldorf, Worms, Solm, Ehrenbreitstein.
Fredegarius doubts not that the Franks at first retired into Macedonia, and carried arms under Alexander, after having fought under Priam; on which alleged facts the monk Otfried compliments the emperor, Louis the German.
The geographer of Ravenna, less fabulous, assigns the first habitation of the horde of Franks among the Cimbrians, beyond the Elbe, towards the Baltic Sea. These Franks might well be some remains of these barbarian Cimbri defeated by Marius; and the learned Leibnitz is of this opinion.
It is very certain that, in the time of Constantine, beyond the Rhine, there were hordes of Franks or Sicambri, who lived by pillage. They assembled under bandit captains, chiefs whom historians have had the folly to call kings. Constantine himself pursued them to their haunts, caused several to be hanged, and others to be delivered to wild beasts, in the amphitheatre of Trier, for his amusement. Two of their pretended kings perished in this manner, at which the panegyrists of Constantine are in ecstasies.
The Salic law, written, it is said, by these barbarians, is one of the absurd chimeras with which we have always been pestered. It would be very strange if the Franks had written such a considerable code in their marshes, and the French had not any written usages until the close of the reign of Charles VII. It might as well be said that the Algonquins and Chicachas had written laws. Men are never governed by authentic laws, consigned to public records, until they have been assembled into cities, and have a regular police, archives, and all that characterizes a civilized nation. When you find a code in a nation which was barbarous at the time it was written, who lived upon rapine and pillage, and which had not a walled town, you may be sure that this code is a pretended one, which has been made in much later times. Fallacies and suppositions never obliterate this truth from the minds of the wise.
What is more ridiculous still, this Salic law has been given to us in Latin; as if savages, wandering beyond the Rhine, had learnt the Latin language. It is supposed to have been first digested by Clovis, and it ran thus: “While the illustrious nation of the Franks was still considered barbarous, the heads of this nation dictated the Salic law. They chose among themselves four chiefs, Visogast, Bodogast, Sologast, Vindogast”—taking, according to La Fontaine’s fable, the names of places for those of men:
These names are those of some Frank cantons in the province of Worms. Whatever may be the epoch in which the customs denominated the Salic law were constructed on an ancient tradition, it is very clear that the Franks were not great legislators.
What is the original meaning of the word “Frank?” That is a question of which we know nothing, and which above a hundred authors have endeavored to find out. What is the meaning of Hun, Alan, Goth, Welsh, Picard? And what do these words signify?
Were the armies of Clovis all composed of Franks? It does not appear so. Childeric the Frank had made inroads as far as Tournay. It is said that Clovis was the son of Childeric, and Queen Bazine, the wife of King Bazin. Now Bazin and Bazine are assuredly not German names, and we have never seen the least proof that Clovis was their son. All the German cantons elected their chiefs, and the province of Franks had no doubt elected Clovis as they had done his father. He made his expedition against the Gauls, as all the other barbarians had undertaken theirs against the Roman Empire.
Do you really and truly believe that the Herulian Odo, surnamed Acer by the Romans, and known to us by the name of Odoacer, had only Herulians in his train, and that Genseric conducted Vandals alone into Africa? All the wretches without talent or profession, who have nothing to lose, do they not always join the first captain of robbers who raises the standard of destruction?
As soon as Clovis had the least success, his troops were no doubt joined by all the Belgians who panted for booty; and this army is nevertheless called the army of Franks. The expedition is very easy. The Visigoths had already invaded one-third of Gaul, and the Burgundians another. The rest submitted to Clovis. The Franks divided the land of the vanquished, and the Welsh cultivated it.
The word “Frank” originally signified a free possessor, while the others were slaves. Hence come the words “franchise,” and “to enfranchise”—“I make you a Frank,” “I render you a free man.” Hence, francalenus, holding freely; frank aleu, frank dad, frank chamen, and so many other terms half Latin and half barbarian, which have so long composed the miserable patois spoken in France.
Hence, also, a franc in gold or silver to express the money of the king of the Franks, which did not appear until a long time after, but which reminds us of the origin of the monarchy. We still say twenty francs, twenty livres, which signifies nothing in itself; it gives no idea of the weight or value of the money, being only a vague expression, by which ignorant people have been continually deceived, not knowing really how much they receive or how much they pay.
Charlemagne did not consider himself as a Frank; he was born in Austrasia, and spoke the German language. He was of the family of Arnold, bishop of Metz, preceptor to Dagobert. Now it is not probable that a man chosen for a preceptor was a Frank. He made the greatest glory of the most profound ignorance, and was acquainted only with the profession of arms. But what gives most weight to the opinion that Charlemagne regarded the Franks as strangers to him is the fourth article of one of his capitularies on his farms. “If the Franks,” said he, “commit any ravages on our possessions, let them be judged according to their laws.”
The Carlovingian race always passed for German: Pope Adrian IV., in his letter to the archbishops of Mentz, Cologne, and Trier, expresses himself in these remarkable terms: “The emperor was transferred from the Greeks to the Germans. Their king was not emperor until after he had been crowned by the pope . . . . all that the emperor possessed he held from us. And as Zacharius gave the Greek Empire to the Germans, we can give that of the Germans to the Greeks.”
However, France having been divided into eastern and western, and the eastern being Austrasia, this name of France prevailed so far, that even in the time of the Saxon emperors, the court of Constantinople always called them pretended Frank emperors, as may be seen in the letters of Bishop Luitprand, sent from Rome to Constantinople.
Of the French Nation.
When the Franks established themselves in the country of the first Welsh, which the Romans called Gallia, the nation was composed of ancient Celts or Gauls, subjugated by Cæsar, Roman families who were established there, Germans who had already emigrated there, and finally of the Franks, who had rendered themselves masters of the country under their chief Clovis. While the monarchy existed, which united Gaul and Germany, all the people, from the source of the Weser to the seas of Gaul, bore the name of Franks. But when at the congress of Verdun, in 843, under Charles the Bald, Germany and Gaul were separated, the name of Franks remained to the people of western France, which alone retained the name of France.
The name of French was scarcely known until towards the tenth century. The foundation of the nation is of Gallic families, and traces of the character of the ancient Gauls have always existed.
Indeed, every people has its character, as well as every man; and this character is generally formed of all the resemblances caused by nature and custom among the inhabitants of the varieties which distinguish them. Thus French character, genius, and wit, result from that which has been common to the different provinces in the kingdom. The people of Guienne and those of Normandy differ much; there is, however, found in them the French genius, which forms a nation of these different provinces, and distinguishes them from the Indians and Germans. Climate and soil evidently imprint unchangeable marks on men, as well as on animals and plants. Those which depend on government, religion, and education are different. That is the knot which explains how people have lost one part of their ancient character and preserved the other. A people who formerly conquered half the world are no longer recognized under sacerdotal government, but the seeds of their ancient greatness of soul still exist, though hidden beneath weakness.
In the same manner the barbarous government of the Turks has enervated the Egyptians and the Greeks, without having been able to destroy the original character or temper of their minds.
The present character of the French is the same as Cæsar ascribed to the Gauls—prompt to resolve, ardent to combat, impetuous in attack, and easily discouraged. Cæsar, Agatius, and others say, that of all the barbarians the Gauls were the most polished. They are still in the most civilized times the model of politeness to all their neighbors, though they occasionally discover the remains of their levity, petulance, and barbarity.
The inhabitants of the coasts of France were always good seamen; the people of Guienne always compose the best infantry; “those who inhabit the provinces of Blois and Tours are not,” says Tasso, “robust and indefatigable, but bland and gentle, like the land which they inhabit.”
But how can we reconcile the character of the Parisians of our day with that which the Emperor Julian, the first of princes and men after Marcus Aurelius, gave to the Parisians of his time?—“I love this people,” says he in his “Misopogon,” “because they are serious and severe like myself.” This seriousness, which seems at present banished from an immense city become the centre of pleasure, then reigned in a little town destitute of amusements: in this respect the spirit of the Parisians has changed notwithstanding the climate.
The affluence, opulence, and idleness of the people who may occupy themselves with pleasures and the arts, and not with the government, have given a new turn of mind to a whole nation.
Further, how is it to be explained by what degrees this people have passed from the fierceness which characterized them in the time of King John, Charles VI., Charles IX., Henry III., and Henry IV., to the soft facility of manners for which they are now the admiration of Europe? It is that the storms of government and religion forced constitutional vivacity into paroxysms of faction and fanaticism; and that this same vivacity, which always will exist, has at present no object but the pleasures of society. The Parisian is impetuous in his pleasures as he formerly was in his fierceness. The original character which is caused by the climate is always the same. If at present he cultivates the arts, of which he was so long deprived, it is not that he has another mind, since he has not other organs; but it is that he has more relief, and this relief has not been created by himself, as by the Greeks and Florentines, among whom the arts flourished like the natural fruits of their soil. The Frenchman has only received them, but having happily cultivated and adopted these exotics, he has almost perfected them.
The French government was originally that of all the northern nations—of all those whose policy was regulated in general assemblies of the nation. Kings were the chief of these assemblies; and this was almost the only administration of the French in the first two generations, before Charles the Simple.
When the monarchy was dismembered, in the decline of the Carlovingian race, when the kingdom of Arles arose, and the provinces were occupied by vassals little dependent on the crown, the name of French was more restricted. Under Hugh Capet, Henry, and Philip, the people on this side the Loire only, were called French. There was then seen a great diversity of manners and of laws in the provinces held from the crown of France. The particular lords who became the masters of these provinces introduced new customs into their new states. A Breton and a Fleming have at present some conformity, notwithstanding the difference of their character, which they hold from the sun and the climate, but originally there was not the least similitude between them.
It is only since the time of Francis I. that there has been any uniformity in manners and customs. The court, at this time, first began to serve for a model to the United Provinces; but in general, impetuosity in war, and a lax discipline, always formed the predominant character of the nation.
Gallantry and politeness began to distinguish the French under Francis I. Manners became odious after the death of Francis II. However, in the midst of their horrors, there was always a politeness at court which the Germans and English endeavored to imitate. The rest of Europe, in aiming to resemble the French, were already jealous of them. A character in one of Shakespeare’s comedies says that it is difficult to be polite without having been at the court of France.
Though the nation has been taxed with frivolity by Cæsar, and by all neighboring nations, yet this kingdom, so long dismembered, and so often ready to sink, is united and sustained principally by the wisdom of its negotiations, address, and patience; but above all, by the divisions of Germany and England. Brittany alone has been united to the kingdom by a marriage; Burgundy by right of fee, and by the ability of Louis XI.; Dauphiny by a donation, which was the fruit of policy; the county of Toulouse by a grant, maintained by an army; Provence by money. One treaty of peace has given Alsace, another Lorraine. The English have been driven from France, notwithstanding the most signal victories, because the kings of France have known how to temporize, and profit on all favorable occasions;—all which proves, that if the French youth are frivolous, the men of riper age, who govern it, have always been wise. Even at present the magistracy are severe in manners, as in the time of the Emperor Julian. If the first successes in Italy, in the time of Charles VIII., were owing to the warlike impetuosity of the nation, the disgraces which followed them were caused by the blindness of a court which was composed of young men alone. Francis I. was only unfortunate in his youth, when all was governed by favorites of his own age, and he rendered his kingdom more flourishing at a more advanced age.
The French have always used the same arms as their neighbors, and have nearly the same discipline in war, but were the first who discarded the lance and pike. The battle of Ivry discouraged the use of lances, which were soon abolished, and under Louis XIV. pikes were also discontinued. They wore tunics and robes until the sixteenth century. Under Louis the Young they left off the custom of letting the beards grow, and retook to it under Francis I. Only under Louis XIV. did they begin to shave the entire face. Their dress is continually changing, and at the end of each century the French might take the portraits of their grandfathers for those of foreigners.
Once upon a time the fakir Bambabef met one of the disciples of Confutzee (whom we call Confucius), and this disciple was named Whang. Bambabef maintained that the people require to be deceived, and Whang asserted that we should never deceive any one. Here is a sketch of their dispute:
—We must imitate the Supreme Being, who does not show us things as they are. He makes us see the sun with a diameter of two or three feet, although it is a million of times larger than the earth. He makes us see the moon and the stars affixed to one and the same blue surface, while they are at different elevations; he chooses that a square tower should appear round to us at a distance; he chooses that fire should appear to us to be hot, although it is neither hot nor cold; in short, he surrounds us with errors, suitable to our nature.
—What you call error is not so. The sun, such as it is, placed at millions of millions of lis from our globe, is not that which we see, that which we really perceive: we perceive only the sun which is painted on our retina, at a determinate angle. Our eyes were not given us to know sizes and distances: to know these, other aids and other operations are necessary.
Bambabef seemed much astonished at this position. Whang, being very patient, explained to him the theory of optics; and Bambabef, having some conception, was convinced by the demonstrations of the disciple of Confucius. He then resumed in these terms:
—If God does not, as I thought, deceive us by the ministry of our senses, you will at least acknowledge that our physicians are constantly deceiving children for their good. They tell them that they are giving them sugar, when in reality they are giving them rhubarb. I, a fakir, may then deceive the people, who are as ignorant as children.
—I have two sons; I have never deceived them. When they have been sick, I have said to them: “Here is a nauseous medicine; you must have the courage to take it; if it were pleasant, it would injure you.” I have never suffered their nurses and tutors to make them afraid of ghosts, goblins, and witches. I have thereby made them wise and courageous citizens.
—The people are not born so happily as your family.
—Men all nearly resemble one another; they are born with the same dispositions. Their nature ought not to be corrupted.
—We teach them errors, I own; but it is for their good. We make them believe that if they do not buy our blessed nails, if they do not expiate their sins by giving us money, they will, in another life, become post-horses, dogs, or lizards. This intimidates them, and they become good people.
—Do you not see that you are perverting these poor folks? There are among them many more than you think there are who reason, who make a jest of your miracles and your superstitions; who see very clearly that they will not be turned into lizards, nor into post-horses. What is the consequence? They have good sense enough to perceive that you talk to them very impertinently; but they have not enough to elevate themselves to a religion pure and untrammelled by superstition like ours. Their passions make them think there is no religion, because the only one that is taught them is ridiculous: thus you become guilty of all the vices into which they plunge.
—Not at all, for we teach them none but good morals.
—The people would stone you if you taught impure morals. Men are so constituted that they like very well to do evil, but they will not have it preached to them. But a wise morality should not be mixed up with absurd fables: for by these impostures, which you might do without, you weaken that morality which you are forced to teach.
—What! do you think that truth can be taught to the people without the aid of fables?
—I firmly believe it. Our literati are made of the same stuff as our tailors, our weavers, and our laborers. They worship a creating, rewarding, and avenging God. They do not sully their worship by absurd systems, nor by extravagant ceremonies. There are much fewer crimes among the lettered than among the people; why should we not condescend to instruct our working classes as we do our literati?
—That would be great folly; as well might you wish them to have the same politeness, or to be all jurisconsults. It is neither possible nor desirable. There must be white bread for the master, and brown for the servant.
—I own that men should not all have the same science; but there are things necessary to all. It is necessary that each one should be just; and the surest way of inspiring all men with justice is to inspire them with religion without superstition.
—That is a fine project, but it is impracticable. Do you think it is sufficient for men to believe in a being that rewards and punishes? You have told me that the more acute among the people often revolt against fables. They will, in like manner, revolt against truth. They will say: Who shall assure me that God rewards and punishes? Where is the proof? What mission have you? What miracle have you worked that I should believe in you? They will laugh at you much more than at me.
—Your error is this: You imagine that men will spurn an idea that is honest, likely, and useful to every one; an idea which accords with human reason, because they reject things which are dishonest, absurd, useless, dangerous, and shocking to good sense.
The people are much disposed to believe their magistrates; and when their magistrates propose to them only a rational belief, they embrace it willingly. There is no need of prodigies to believe in a just God, who reads the heart of man: this is an idea too natural, too necessary, to be combated. It is not necessary to know precisely how God rewards and punishes: to believe in His justice is enough. I assure you that I have seen whole towns with scarcely any other tenet; and that in them I have seen the most virtue.
—Take heed what you say. You will find philosophers in these times, who will deny both pains and rewards.
—But you will acknowledge that these philosophers will much more strongly deny your inventions; so you will gain nothing by that. Supposing that there are philosophers who do not agree with my principles, they are not the less honest men; they do not the less cultivate virtue, which should be embraced through love, and not through fear. Moreover, I maintain that no philosopher can ever be assured that Providence does not reserve pains for the wicked, and rewards for the good. For, if they ask me who has told me that God punishes, I shall ask them who has told them that God does not punish. In short, I maintain that the philosophers, far from contradicting, will aid me. Will you be a philosopher?
—With all my heart. But do not tell the fakirs. And let us, above all, remember that if a philosopher would be of service to human society, he must announce a God.
From the commencement of the time in which men began to reason, philosophers have agitated this question, which theologians have rendered unintelligible by their absurd subtleties upon grace. Locke is perhaps the first who, without having the arrogance of announcing a general principle, has examined human nature by analysis. It has been disputed for three thousand years, whether the will is free or not; Locke shows that the question is absurd, and that liberty cannot belong to the will any more than color and motion.
What is meant by the expression to be free? It signifies power, or rather it has no sense at all. To say that the will can, is in itself as ridiculous as if we said that it is yellow, or blue, round, or square.
Will is will, and liberty is power. Let us gradually examine the chain of what passes within us, without confusing our minds with any scholastic terms, or antecedent principle.
It is proposed to you to ride on horseback; it is absolutely necessary for you to make a choice, for it is very clear that you must either go or not; there is no medium, you must absolutely do the one or the other. So far it is demonstrated that the will is not free. You will get on horseback; why? Because I will to do so, an ignoramus will say. This reply is an absurdity; nothing can be done without reason or cause. Your will then is caused by what? The agreeable idea which is presented to your brain; the predominant, or determined idea; but, you will say, cannot I resist an idea which predominates over me? No, for what would be the cause of your resistance? An idea by which your will is swayed still more despotically.
You receive your ideas, and, therefore, receive your will. You will then necessarily; consequently, the word “liberty” belongs not to will in any sense.
You ask me how thought and will are formed within you? I answer that I know nothing about it. I no more know how ideas are created than I know how the world was formed. We are only allowed to grope in the dark in reference to all that inspires our incomprehensible machine.
Will, then, is not a faculty which can be called free. “Free-will” is a word absolutely devoid of sense, and that which scholars have called “indifference,” that is to say, will without cause, is a chimera unworthy to be combated.
In what then consists liberty? In the power of doing what we will? I would go into my cabinet; the door is open, I am free to enter. But, say you, if the door is shut and I remain where I am, I remain freely. Let us explain ourselves—you then exercise the power that you possess of remaining; you possess this power, but not the power of going out.
Liberty, then, on which so many volumes have been written, reduced to its proper sense, is only the power of acting.
In what sense must the expression “this man is free” be spoken? In the same sense in which we use the words “health,” “strength,” and “happiness.” Man is not always strong, healthy, or happy. A great passion, a great obstacle, may deprive him of his liberty, or power of action.
The words “liberty” and “free-will” are, then, abstractions, general terms, like beauty, goodness, justice. These terms do not signify that all men are always handsome, good, and just, neither are they always free.
Further, liberty being only the power of acting, what is this power? It is the effect of the constitution, and the actual state of our organs. Leibnitz would solve a problem of geometry, but falls into an apoplexy; he certainly has not the liberty to solve his problem. A vigorous young man, passionately in love, who holds his willing mistress in his arms, is he free to subdue his passion? Doubtless not. He has the power of enjoying, and has not the power to abstain. Locke then is very right in calling liberty, power. When can this young man abstain, notwithstanding the violence of his passion? When a stronger idea shall determine the springs of his soul and body to the contrary.
But how? Have other animals the same liberty, the same power? Why not? They have sense, memory, sentiment, and perceptions like ourselves; they act spontaneously as we do. They must, also, like us, have the power of acting by virtue of their perception, and of the play of their organs.
We exclaim: If it be thus, all things are machines merely; everything in the universe is subjected to the eternal laws. Well, would you have everything rendered subject to a million of blind caprices? Either all is the consequence of the nature of things, or all is the effect of the eternal order of an absolute master; in both cases, we are only wheels to the machine of the world.
It is a foolish, common-place expression that without this pretended freedom of will, rewards and punishments are useless. Reason, and you will conclude quite the contrary.
If, when a robber is executed, his accomplice, who sees him suffer, has the liberty of not being frightened at the punishment; if his will determines of itself, he will go from the foot of the scaffold to assassinate on the high road; if struck with horror, he experiences an insurmountable terror, he will no longer thieve. The punishment of his companion will become useful to him, and moreover prove to society that his will is not free.
Liberty, then, is not and cannot be anything but the power of doing what we will. That is what philosophy teaches us. But, if we consider liberty in the theological sense, it is so sublime a matter that profane eyes may not be raised so high.
The French language did not begin to assume a regular form until the tenth century; it sprang from the remains of the Latin and the Celtic, mixed with a few Teutonic words. This language was, in the first instance, the provincial Roman, and the Teutonic was the language of the courts, until the time of Charles the Bald. The Teutonic remained the only language in Germany, after the grand epoch of the division in 433. The rustic Roman prevailed in Western France; the inhabitants of the Pays de Vaud, of the Valois, of the valley of Engadine, and some other cantons, still preserve some manifest vestiges of this idiom.
At the commencement of the eleventh century, French began to be written; but this French retained more of Romance or rustic Roman than of the language of the present day. The romance of Philomena, written in the tenth century, is not very different in language from that of the laws of the Normans. We cannot yet trace the original Celtic, Latin, and German. The words which signify the members of the human body, or things in daily use, which have no relation to the Latin or German, are of ancient Gallic or Celtic, as tête, jambe, sabre, point, aller, parler, écouter, regarder, crier, cotume, ensemble, and many more of the same kind. The greater number of the warlike phrases were French or German, as marche, halte, maréchal, bivouac, lansquenet. Almost all the rest are Latin, and the Latin words have been all abridged, according to the usage and genius of the nations of the north.
In the twelfth century, some terms were borrowed from the philosophy of Aristotle; and toward the sixteenth century, Greek names were found for the parts of the human body, and for its maladies and their remedies. Although the language was then enriched with Greek, and aided from the time of Charles VIII. with considerable accessions from the Italian, already arrived at perfection, it did not acquire a regular form. Francis I. abolished the custom of pleading and of judging in Latin, which proved the barbarism of a language which could not be used in public proceedings—a pernicious custom to the natives, whose fortunes were regulated in a language which they could not understand. It then became necessary to cultivate the French, but the language was neither noble nor regular, and its syntax was altogether capricious. The genius of its conversation being turned towards pleasantry, the language became fertile in smart and lively expressions, but exceedingly barren in dignified and harmonious phrases; whence it arises that in the dictionaries of rhymes, twenty suitable words are found for comic poetry for one of poetry of a more elevated nature. This was the cause that Marot never succeeded in the serious style, and that Amyot was unable to give a version of the elegant simplicity of Plutarch.
The French tongue acquired strength from the pen of Montaigne, but still wanted elevation and harmony. Ronsard injured the language by introducing into French poetry the Greek compounds, derivable from the physicians. Malherbe partly repaired the fault of Ronsard. It became more lofty and harmonious by the establishment of the French Academy, and finally in the age of Louis XIV. acquired the perfection by which it is now distinguished.
The genius of the French language—for every language has its genius—is clearness and order. This genius consists in the facility which a language possesses of expressing itself more or less happily, and of employing or rejecting the familiar terms of other languages. The French tongue having no declensions, and being aided by articles, cannot adopt the inversions of the Greek and the Latin; the words are necessarily arranged agreeably to the course of the ideas. We can only say in one way, “Plancus a pris soin des affaires de Cæsar”; but this phrase in Latin, “Res Cæsaris, Plancus diligenter curavit,” may be arranged in a hundred and twenty different forms without injuring the sense or rules of the language. The auxiliary verbs, which lengthen and weaken phrases in the modern tongues, render that of France still less adapted to the lapidary style. Its auxiliary verbs, its pronouns, its articles, its deficiency of declinable participles, and, lastly, its uniformity of position, preclude the exhibition of much enthusiasm in poetry; it possesses fewer capabilities of this nature than the Italian and the English; but this constraint and slavery render it more proper for tragedy and comedy than any language in Europe. The natural order in which the French people are obliged to express their thoughts and construct their phrases, infuses into their speech a facility and amenity which please everybody; and the genius of the nation suiting with the genius of the language, has produced a greater number of books agreeably written than are to be found among any other people.
Social freedom and politeness having been for a long time established in France, the language has acquired a delicacy of expression, and a natural refinement which are seldom to be found out of it. This refinement has occasionally been carried too far; but men of taste have always known how to reduce it within due bounds.
Many persons have maintained that the French language has been impoverished since the days of Montaigne and Amyot, because expressions abound in these authors which are no longer employed; but these are for the most part terms for which equivalents have been found. It has been enriched with a number of noble and energetic expressions, and, without adverting to the eloquence of matter, has certainly that of speech. It was during the reign of Louis XIV., as already observed, that the language was fixed. Whatever changes time and caprice may have in store, the good authors of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries will always serve for models.
Circumstances created no right to expect that France would be distinguished in philosophy. A Gothic government extinguished all kind of illumination during more than twelve centuries; and professors of error, paid for brutalizing human nature, more increased the darkness. Nevertheless, there is more philosophy in Paris than in any town on earth, and possibly than in all the towns put together, excepting London. The spirit of reason has even penetrated into the provinces. In a word, the French genius is probably at present equal to that of England in philosophy; while for the last four-score years France has been superior to all other nations in literature; and has undeniably taken the lead in the courtesies of society, and in that easy and natural politeness, which is improperly termed urbanity.
The temple of friendship has long been known by name, but it is well known that it has been very little frequented; as the following verses pleasantly observe, Orestes, Pylades, Pirithous, Achates, and the tender Nisus, were all genuine friends and great heroes; but, alas, existent only in fable:
Friendship commands more than love and esteem. Love your neighbor signifies assist your neighbor, but not—enjoy his conversation with pleasure, if he be tiresome; confide to him your secrets, if he be a tattler; or lend him your money, if he be a spendthrift.
Friendship is the marriage of the soul, and this marriage is liable to divorce. It is a tacit contract between two sensible and virtuous persons. I say sensible, for a monk or a hermit cannot be so, who lives without knowing friendship. I say virtuous, for the wicked only have accomplices—the voluptuous, companions—the interested, associates; politicians assemble factions—the generality of idle men have connections—princes, courtiers. Virtuous men alone possess friends.
Cethegus was the accomplice of Catiline, and Mæcenas the courtier of Octavius; but Cicero was the friend of Atticus.
What is caused by this contract between two tender, honest minds? Its obligations are stronger or weaker according to the degrees of sensibility, and the number of services rendered.
The enthusiasm of friendship has been stronger among the Greeks and Arabs than among us. The tales that these people have imagined on the subject of friendship are admirable; we have none to compare to them. We are rather dry and reserved in everything. I see no great trait of friendship in our histories, romances, or theatre.
The only friendship spoken of among the Jews, was that which existed between Jonathan and David. It is said that David loved him with a love stronger than that of women; but it is also said that David, after the death of his friend, dispossessed Mephibosheth, his son, and caused him to be put to death.
Friendship was a point of religion and legislation among the Greeks. The Thebans had a regiment of lovers—a fine regiment; some have taken it for a regiment of nonconformists. They are deceived; it is taking a shameful accident for a noble principle. Friendship, among the Greeks, was prescribed by the laws and religion. Manners countenanced abuses, but the laws did not.
What persuades me still more of the existence of Providence, said the profound author of “Bacha Billeboquet,” is that to console us for our innumerable miseries, nature has made us frivolous. We are sometimes ruminating oxen, overcome by the weight of our yoke; sometimes dispersed doves, tremblingly endeavoring to avoid the claws of the vulture, stained with the blood of our companions; foxes, pursued by dogs; and tigers, who devour one another. Then we suddenly become butterflies; and forget, in our volatile winnowings, all the horrors that we have experienced.
If we were not frivolous, what man without shuddering, could live in a town in which the wife of a marshal of France, a lady of honor to the queen, was burned, under the pretext that she had killed a white cock by moonlight; or in the same town in which Marshal Marillac was assassinated according to form, pursuant to a sentence passed by judicial murderers appointed by a priest in his own country house, in which he embraced Marion de Lorme while these robed wretches executed his sanguinary wishes?
Could a man say to himself, without trembling in every nerve, and having his heart frozen with horror: “Here I am, in the very place which, it is said, was strewed with the dead and dying bodies of two thousand young gentlemen, murdered near the Faubourg St. Antoine, because one man in a red cassock displeased some others in black ones!”
Who could pass the Rue de la Féronerie without shedding tears and falling into paroxysms of rage against the holy and abominable principles which plunged the sword into the heart of the best of men, and of the greatest of kings?
We could not walk a step in the streets of Paris on St. Bartholomew’s day, without saying: “It was here that one of my ancestors was murdered for the love of God; it was here that one of my mother’s family was dragged bleeding and mangled; it was here that one-half of my countrymen murdered the other.”
Happily, men are so light, so frivolous, so struck with the present and so insensible to the past, that in ten thousand there are not above two or three who make these reflections.
How many boon companions have I seen, who, after the loss of children, wives, mistresses, fortune, and even health itself, have eagerly resorted to a party to retail a piece of scandal, or to a supper to tell humorous stories. Solidity consists chiefly in a uniformity of ideas. It has been said that a man of sense should invariably think in the same way; reduced to such an alternative, it would be better not to have been born. The ancients never invented a finer fable than that which bestowed a cup of the water of Lethe on all who entered the Elysian fields.
If you would tolerate life, mortals, forget yourselves, and enjoy it.
This word is derived from “gal,” the original signification of which was gayety and rejoicing, as may be seen in Alain Chartier, and in Froissart. Even in the “Romance of the Rose” we meet with the word “galandé” in the sense of ornamented, adorned.
It is probable that the gala of the Italians, and the galan of the Spaniards, are derived from the word “gal,” which seems to be originally Celtic; hence, was insensibly formed gallant, which signifies a man forward, or eager to please. The term received an improved and more noble signification in the times of chivalry, when the desire to please manifested itself in feats of arms, and personal conflict. To conduct himself gallantly, to extricate himself from an affair gallantly, implies, even at present, a man’s conducting himself conformably to principle and honor. A gallant man among the English, signifies a man of courage; in France it means more—a man of noble general demeanor. A gallant (un homme galant) is totally different from a gallant man (un galant homme); the latter means a man of respectable and honorable feeling—the former, something nearer the character of a petit maître, a man successfully addicted to intrigue. Being gallant (être galant) in general implies an assiduity to please by studious attentions, and flattering deference. “He was exceedingly gallant to those ladies,” means merely, he behaved more than politely to them; but being the gallant of a lady is an expression of stronger meaning; it signifies being her lover; the word is scarcely any longer in use in this sense, except in low or familiar poetry. A gallant is not merely a man devoted to and successful in intrigue, but the term implies, moreover, somewhat of impudence and effrontery, in which sense Fontaine uses it in the following: “Mais un ‘galant,’ chercheur des pucelages.”
Thus are various meanings attached to the same word. The case is similar with the term “gallantry,” which sometimes signifies a disposition to coquetry, and a habit of flattery; sometimes a present of some elegant toy, or piece of jewelry; sometimes intrigue, with one woman or with many; and, latterly, it has even been applied to signify ironically the favors of Venus; thus, to talk gallantries, to give gallantries, to have gallantries, to contract a gallantry, express very different meanings. Nearly all the terms which occur frequently in conversation acquire, in the same manner, various shades of meaning, which it is difficult to discriminate; the meaning of terms of art is more precise and less arbitrary.
If ever a reputation was fixed on a solid basis, it is that of Gargantua. Yet in the present age of philosophy and criticism, some rash and daring minds have started forward, who have ventured to deny the prodigies believed respecting this extraordinary man—persons who have carried their skepticism so far as even to doubt his very existence.
How is it possible, they ask, that there should have existed in the sixteenth century a distinguished hero, never mentioned by a single contemporary, by St. Ignatius, Cardinal Capitan, Galileo, or Guicciardini, and respecting whom the registers of the Sorbonne do not contain the slightest notice?
Investigate the histories of France, of Germany, of England, Spain, and other countries, and you find not a single word about Gargantua. His whole life, from his birth to his death, is a tissue of inconceivable prodigies.
His mother, Gargamelle, was delivered of him from the left ear. Almost at the instant of his birth he called out for a drink, with a voice that was heard even in the districts of Beauce and Vivarais. Sixteen ells of cloth were required to make him breeches, and a hundred hides of brown cows were used in his shoes. He had not attained the age of twelve years before he gained a great battle, and founded the abbey of Thélême. Madame Badebec was given to him in marriage, and Badebec is proved to be a Syrian name.
He is represented to have devoured six pilgrims in a mere salad, and the river Seine is stated to have flowed entirely from his person, so that the Parisians are indebted for their beautiful river to him alone.
All this is considered contrary to nature by our carping philosophers, who scruple to admit even what is probable, unless it is well supported by evidence.
They observe, that if the Parisians have always believed in Gargantua, that is no reason why other nations should believe in him; that if Gargantua had really performed one single prodigy out of the many attributed to him, the whole world would have resounded with it, all records would have noticed it, and a hundred monuments would have attested it. In short, they very unceremoniously treat the Parisians who believe in Gargantua as ignorant simpletons and superstitious idiots, with whom are intermixed a few hypocrites, who pretend to believe in Gargantua, in order to obtain some convenient priorship in the abbey of Thélême.
The reverend Father Viret, a Cordelier of fullsleeved dignity, a confessor of ladies, and a preacher to the king, has replied to our Pyrrhonean philosophers in a manner decisive and invincible. He very learnedly proves that if no writer, with the exception of Rabelais, has mentioned the prodigies of Gargantua, at least, no historian has contradicted them; that the sage de Thou, who was a believer in witchcraft, divination, and astrology, never denied the miracles of Gargantua. They were not even called in question by La Mothe le Vayer. Mézeray treated them with such respect as not to say a word against them, or indeed about them. These prodigies were performed before the eyes of all the world. Rabelais was a witness of them. It was impossible that he could be deceived, or that he would deceive. Had he deviated even in the smallest degree from the truth, all the nations of Europe would have been roused against him in indignation; all the gazetteers and journalists of the day would have exclaimed with one voice against the fraud and imposture.
In vain do the philosophers reply—for they reply to everything—that, at the period in question, gazettes and journals were not in existence. It is said in return that there existed what was equivalent to them, and that is sufficient. Everything is impossible in the history of Gargantua, and from this circumstance itself may be inferred its incontestable truth. For if it were not true, no person could possibly have ventured to imagine it, and its incredibility constitutes the great proof that it ought to be believed.
Open all the “Mercuries,” all the “Journals de Trevoux”; those immortal works which teem with instruction to the race of man, and you will not find a single line which throws a doubt on the history of Gargantua. It was reserved for our own unfortunate age to produce monsters, who would establish a frightful Pyrrhonism, under the pretence of requiring evidence as nearly approaching to mathematical as the case will admit, and of a devotion to reason, truth, and justice. What a pity! Oh, for a single argument to confound them!
Gargantua founded the abbey of Thélême. The title deeds, it is true, were never found; it never had any; but it exists, and produces an income of ten thousand pieces of gold a year. The river Seine exists, and is an eternal monument of the prodigious fountain from which Gargantua supplied so noble a stream. Moreover, what will it cost you to believe in him? Should you not take the safest side? Gargantua can procure for you wealth, honors, and influence. Philosophy can only bestow on you internal tranquillity and satisfaction, which you will of course estimate as a trifle. Believe, then, I again repeat, in Gargantua; if you possess the slightest portion of avarice, ambition, or knavery, it is the wisest part you can adopt.
A narrative of public affairs. It was at the beginning of the seventeenth century that this useful practice was suggested and established at Venice, at the time when Italy still continued the centre of European negotiations, and Venice was the unfailing asylum of liberty. The leaves or sheets containing this narrative, which were published once a week, were called “Gazettes,” from the word “gazetta,” the name of a small coin, amounting nearly to one of our demi-sous, then current at Venice. The example was afterwards followed in all the great cities of Europe.
Journals of this description have been established in China from time immemorial. The “Imperial Gazette” is published there every day by order of the court. Admitting this gazette to be true, we may easily believe it does not contain all that is true; neither in fact should it do so.
Théophraste Renaudot, a physician, published the first gazettes in France in 1601, and he had an exclusive privilege for the publication, which continued for a long time a patrimony to his family. The like privilege became an object of importance at Amsterdam, and the greater part of the gazettes of the United Provinces are still a source of revenue to many of the families of magistrates, who pay writers for furnishing materials for them. The city of London alone publishes more than twelve gazettes in the course of a week. They can be printed only upon stamped paper, and produce no inconsiderable income to the State.
The gazettes of China relate solely to that empire; those of the different states of Europe embrace the affairs of all countries. Although they frequently abound in false intelligence, they may nevertheless be considered as supplying good material for history; because, in general, the errors of each particular gazette are corrected by subsequent ones, and because they contain authentic copies of almost all state papers, which indeed are published in them by order of the sovereigns or governments themselves. The French gazettes have always been revised by the ministry. It is on this account that the writers of them have always adhered to certain forms and designations, with a strictness apparently somewhat inconsistent with the courtesies of polished society, bestowing the title of monsieur only on some particular descriptions of persons, and that of sieur upon others; the authors having forgotten that they were not speaking in the name of their king. These public journals, it must be added, to their praise, have never been debased by calumny, and have always been written with considerable correctness.
The case is very different with respect to foreign gazettes; those of London, with the exception of the court gazette, abound frequently in that coarseness and licentiousness of observation which the national liberty allows. The French gazettes established in that country have been seldom written with purity, and have sometimes been not a little instrumental in corrupting the language. One of the greatest faults which has found a way into them arises from the authors having concluded that the ancient forms of expression used in public proclamations and in judicial and political proceedings and documents in France, and with which they were particularly conversant, were analogous to the regular syntax of our language, and from their having accordingly imitated that style in their narrative. This is like a Roman historian’s using the style of the law of the twelve tables.
In imitation of the political gazettes, literary ones began to be published in France in 1665; for the first journals were, in fact, simply advertisements of the works recently printed in Europe; to this mere announcement of publication was soon added a critical examination or review. Many authors were offended at it, notwithstanding its great moderation.
We shall here speak only of those literary gazettes with which the public, who were previously in possession of various journals from every country in Europe in which the sciences were cultivated, were completely overwhelmed. These gazettes appeared at Paris about the year 1723, under many different names, as “The Parnassian Intelligencer,” “Observations on New Books,” etc. The greater number of them were written for the single purpose of making money; and as money is not to be made by praising authors, these productions consisted generally of satire and abuse. They often contained the most odious personalities, and for a time sold in proportion to the virulence of their malignity; but reason and good taste, which are always sure to prevail at last, consigned them eventually to contempt and oblivion.
Many volumes have been written by learned divines in order to reconcile St. Matthew with St. Luke on the subject of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The former enumerates only twenty-seven generations from David through Solomon, while Luke gives forty-two, and traces the descent through Nathan. The following is the method in which the learned Calmet solves a difficulty relating to Melchizedek: The Orientals and the Greeks, ever abounding in fable and invention, fabricated a genealogy for him, in which they give us the names of his ancestors. But, adds this judicious Benedictine, as falsehood always betrays itself, some state his genealogy according to one series, and others according to another. There are some who maintain that he descended from a race obscure and degraded, and there are some who are disposed to represent him as illegitimate.
This passage naturally applies to Jesus, of whom, according to the apostle, Melchizedek was the type or figure. In fact, the gospel of Nicomedes expressly states that the Jews, in the presence of Pilate, reproached Jesus with being born of fornication; upon which the learned Fabricius remarks, that it does not appear from any clear and credible testimony that the Jews directed to Jesus Christ during His life, or even to His apostles, that calumny respecting His birth which they so assiduously and virulently circulated afterwards. The Acts of the Apostles, however, inform us that the Jews of Antioch opposed themselves, blaspheming against what Paul spoke to them concerning Jesus; and Origen maintains that the passage in St. John’s gospel “We are not born of fornication, we have never been in subjection unto any man” was an indirect reproach thrown out by the Jews against Jesus on the subject of His birth. For, as this father informs us, they pretended that Jesus was originally from a small hamlet of Judæa, and His mother nothing more than a poor villager subsisting by her labor, who, having been found guilty of adultery with a soldier of the name of Panther, was turned away by her husband, whose occupation was that of a carpenter; that, after this disgraceful expulsion, she wandered about miserably from one place to another, and was privately delivered of Jesus, who, pressed by the necessity of His circumstances, was compelled to go and hire Himself as a servant in Egypt, where He acquired some of those secrets which the Egyptians turn to so good an account, and then returned to His own country, in which, full of the miracles He was enabled to perform, He proclaimed Himself to be God.
According to a very old tradition, the name of Panther, which gave occasion to the mistake of the Jews, was, as we are informed by St. Epiphanius, the surname of Joseph’s father, or rather, as is asserted by St. John Damascene, the proper name of Mary’s grandfather.
As to the situation of servant, with which Jesus was reproached, He declares Himself that He came not to be served, but to serve. Zoroaster, according to the Arabians, had in like manner been the servant of Esdras. Epictetus was even born in servitude. Accordingly, St. Cyril of Jerusalem justly observed that it is no disgrace to any man.
On the subject of the miracles, we learn indeed from Pliny that the Egyptians had the secret of dyeing with different colors, stuffs which were dipped in the very same furnace, and this is one of the miracles which the gospel of the Infancy attributes to Jesus. But, according to St. Chrysostom, Jesus performed no miracle before His baptism, and those stated to have been wrought by Him before are absolute fabrications. The reason assigned by this father for such an arrangement is, that the wisdom of God determined against Christ’s performing any miracles in His childhood, lest they should have been regarded as impostures.
Epiphanius in vain alleges that to deny the miracles ascribed by some to Jesus during His infancy, would furnish heretics with a specious pretext for saying that He became Son of God only in consequence of the effusion of the Holy Spirit, which descended upon Him at His baptism; we are contending here, not against heretics, but against Jews.
Mr. Wagenseil has presented us with a Latin translation of a Jewish work entitled “Toldos Jeschu,” in which it is related that Jeschu, being at Bethlehem in Judah, the place of his birth, cried out aloud, “Who are the wicked men that pretend I am a bastard, and spring from an impure origin? They are themselves bastards, themselves exceedingly impure! Was I not born of a virgin mother? And I entered through the crown of her head!”
This testimony appeared of such importance to M. Bergier, that that learned divine felt no scruple about employing it without quoting his authority. The following are his words, in the twenty-third page of the “Certainty of the Proofs of Christianity”: “Jesus was born of a virgin by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself frequently assured us of this with His own mouth; and to the same purpose is the recital of the apostles.” It is certain that these words are only to be found in the “Toldos Jeschu”; and the certainty of that proof, among those adduced by M. Bergier, subsists, although St. Matthew applies to Jesus the passage of “Isaiah”: “He shall not dispute, he shall not cry aloud, and no one shall hear his voice in the streets.”
According to St. Jerome, there was in like manner an ancient tradition among the Gymnosophists of India, that Buddha, the author of their creed, was born of a virgin, who was delivered of him from her side. In the same manner was born Julius Cæsar, Scipio Africanus, Manlius, Edward VI. of England, and others, by means of an operation called by surgeons the Cæsarian operation, because it consists in abstracting the child from the womb by an incision in the abdomen of the mother. Simon, surnamed the Magician, and Manès both pretended to have been born of virgins. This might, however, merely mean, that their mothers were virgins at the time of conceiving them. But in order to be convinced of the uncertainty attending the marks and evidences of virginity, it will be perfectly sufficient to read the commentary of M. de Pompignan, the celebrated bishop of Puy en Velai, on the following passage in the Book of Proverbs: “There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not. The way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon a rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man in his youth.” In order to give a literal translation of the passage, according to this prelate (in the third chapter of the second part of his work entitled “Infidelity Convinced by the Prophecies”), it would have been necessary to say, Viam viri in virgine adolescentula”—The way of a man with a maid. The translation of our Vulgate, says he, substitutes another meaning, exact indeed and true, but less conformable to the original text. In short, he corroborates his curious interpretation by the analogy between this verse and the following one: “Such is the life of the adulterous woman, who, after having eaten, wipeth her mouth and saith, I have done no wickedness.”
However this may be, the virginity of Mary was not generally admitted, even at the beginning of the third century. “Many have entertained the opinion and do still,” said St. Clement of Alexandria, “that Mary was delivered of a son without that delivery producing any change in her person; for some say that a midwife who visited her after the birth found her to retain all the marks of virginity.” It is clear that St. Clement refers here to the gospel of the conception of Mary, in which the angel Gabriel says to her, “Without intercourse with man, thou, a virgin, shalt conceive, thou, a virgin, shalt be delivered of a child, thou, a virgin, shalt give suck”; and also to the first gospel of James, in which the midwife exclaims, “What an unheard-of wonder! Mary has just brought a son into the world, and yet retains all the evidences of virginity.” These two gospels were, nevertheless, subsequently rejected as apocryphal, although on this point they were conformable to the opinion adopted by the church; the scaffolding was removed after the building was completed.
What is added by Jeschu—“I entered by the crown of the head”—was likewise the opinion held by the church. The Breviary of the Maronites represents the word of the Father as having entered by the ear of the blessed woman. St. Augustine and Pope Felix say expressly that the virgin became pregnant through the ear. St. Ephrem says the same in a hymn, and Voisin, his translator, observes that the idea came originally from Gregory of Neocæsarea, surnamed Thaumaturgos. Agobar relates that in his time the church sang in the time of public service: “The Word entered through the ear of the virgin, and came out at the golden gate.” Eutychius speaks also of Elian, who attended at the Council of Nice, and who said that the Word entered by the ear of the virgin, and came out in the way of childbirth. This Elian was a rural bishop, whose name occurs in Selden’s published Arabic List of Fathers who attended the Council of Nice.
It is well known that the Jesuit Sanchez gravely discussed the question whether the Virgin Mary contributed seminally in the incarnation of Christ, and that, like other divines before him, he concluded in the affirmative. But these extravagances of a prurient and depraved imagination should be classed with the opinion of Aretin, who introduces the Holy Spirit on this occasion effecting his purpose under the figure of a dove; as mythology describes Jupiter to have succeeded with Leda in the form of a swan, or as the most eminent authors of the church—St. Austin, Athenagoras, Tertullian, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Cyprian, Lactantius, St. Ambrose—and others believed, after Philo and Josephus, the historian, who were Jews, that angels had associated with the daughters of men, and engaged in sexual connection with them. St. Augustine goes so far as to charge the Manichæans with teaching, as a part of their religious persuasion, that beautiful young persons appeared in a state of nature before the princes of darkness, or evil angels, and deprived them of the vital substance which that father calls the nature of God. Herodius is still more explicit, and says that the divine majesty escaped through the productive organs of demons.
It is true that all these fathers believed angels to be corporeal. But, after the works of Plato had established the idea of their spirituality, the ancient opinion of a corporeal union between angels and women was explained by the supposition that the same angel who, in a woman’s form, had received the embraces of a man, in turn held communication with a woman, in the character of a man. Divines, by the terms “incubus” and “succubus,” designate the different parts thus performed by angels. Those who are curious on the subject of these offensive and revolting reveries may see further details in “Various Readings of the Book of Genesis,” by Otho Gualter; “Magical Disquisitions,” by Delvis, and the “Discourses on Witchcraft,” by Henry Boguet.
No genealogy, even although reprinted in Moréri, approaches that of Mahomet or Mahommed, the son of Abdallah, the son of Abd’all Montaleb, the son of Ashem; which Mahomet was, in his younger days, groom of the widow Khadijah, then her factor, then her husband, then a prophet of God, then condemned to be hanged, then conqueror and king of Arabia; and who finally died an enviable death, satiated with glory and with love.
The German barons do not trace back their origin beyond Witikind; and our modern French marquises can scarcely any of them show deeds and patents of an earlier date than Charlemagne. But the race of Mahomet, or Mohammed, which still exists, has always exhibited a genealogical tree, of which the trunk is Adam, and of which the branches reach from Ishmael down to the nobility and gentry who at the present day bear the high title of cousins of Mahomet.
There is no difficulty about this genealogy, no dispute among the learned, no false calculations to be rectified, no contradictions to palliate, no impossibilities to be made possible.
Your pride cavils against the authenticity of these titles. You tell me that you are descended from Adam as well as the greatest prophet, if Adam was the common father of our race; but that this same Adam was never known by any person, not even by the ancient Arabs themselves; that the name has never been cited except in the books of the Jews; and that, consequently, you take the liberty of writing down false against the high and noble claims of Mahomet, or Mohammed.
You add that, in any case, if there has been a first man, whatever his name might be, you are a descendant from him as decidedly as Khadijah’s illustrious groom; and that, if there has been no first man, if the human race always existed, as so many of the learned pretend, then you are clearly a gentleman from all eternity.
In answer to this you are told that you are a plebeian (roturier)from all eternity, unless you can produce a regular and complete set of parchments.
You reply that men are equal; that one race cannot be more ancient than another; that parchments, with bits of wax dangling to them, are a recent invention; that there is no reason that compels you to yield to the family of Mahomet, or to that of Confucius; or to that of the emperors of Japan; or to the royal secretaries of the grand college. Nor can I oppose your opinion by arguments, physical, metaphysical, or moral. You think yourself equal to the dairo of Japan, and I entirely agree with you. All that I would advise you is, that if ever you meet with him, you take good care to be the stronger.
The sacred writer having conformed himself to the ideas generally received, and being indeed obliged not to deviate from them, as without such condescension to the weakness and ignorance of those whom he addressed, he would not have been understood, it only remains for us to make some observations on the natural philosophy prevailing in those early periods; for, with respect to theology, we reverence it, we believe in it, and never either dispute or discuss it.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Thus has the original passage been translated, but the translation is not correct. There is no one, however slightly informed upon the subject, who is not aware that the real meaning of the word is, “In the beginning the gods made (firent or fit) the heaven and the earth.” This reading, moreover, perfectly corresponds with the ancient idea of the Phœnicians, who imagined that, in reducing the chaos (chautereb) into order, God employed the agency of inferior deities.
The Phœnicians had been long a powerful people, having a theogony of their own, before the Hebrews became possessed of a few cantons of land near their territory. It is extremely natural to suppose that when the Hebrews had at length formed a small establishment near Phœnicia, they began to acquire its language. At that time their writers might, and probably did, borrow the ancient philosophy of their masters. Such is the regular march of the human mind.
At the time in which Moses is supposed to have lived, were the Phœnician philosophers sufficiently enlightened to regard the earth as a mere point in the compass with the infinite orbs placed by God in the immensity of space, commonly called heaven? The idea so very ancient, and at the same time so utterly false, that heaven was made for earth, almost always prevailed in the minds of the great mass of the people. It would certainly be just as correct and judicious for any person to suppose, if told that God created all the mountains and a single grain of sand, that the mountains were created for that grain of sand. It is scarcely possible that the Phœnicians, who were such excellent navigators, should not have had some good astronomers; but the old prejudices generally prevailed, and those old prejudices were very properly spared and indulged by the author of the Book of Genesis, who wrote to instruct men in the ways of God, and not in natural philosophy.
“The earth was without form (tohu bohu) and void; darkness rested upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of God moved upon the surface of the waters.”
Tohu bohu means precisely chaos, disorder. It is one of those imitative words which are to be found in all languages; as, for example, in the French we have sens dessus dessous, tintamarre, trictrac, tonnerre, bombe. The earth was not as yet formed in its present state; the matter existed, but the divine power had not yet arranged it. The spirit of God means literally the breath, the wind, which agitated the waters. The same idea occurs in the “Fragments” of the Phœnician author Sanchoniathon. The Phœnicians, like every other people, believed matter to be eternal. There is not a single author of antiquity who ever represented something to have been produced from nothing. Even throughout the whole Bible, no passage is to be found in which matter is said to have been created out of nothing. Not, however, that we mean to controvert the truth of such creation. It was, nevertheless, a truth not known by the carnal Jews.
On the question of the eternity of the world, mankind has always been divided, but never on that of the eternity of matter. From nothing, nothing can proceed, nor into nothing can aught existent return. “De nihilo nihilum, et in nihilum nil posse gigni reverti.” (Persius, Sat. iii.) Such was the opinion of all antiquity.
“God said let there be light, and there was light; and he saw that the light was good, and he divided the light from the darkness; and he called the light day, and the darkness night; and the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said also, let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. . . . . And he saw that it was good.”
We begin with examining whether Huet, bishop of Avranches, Leclerc, and some other commentators, are not in the right in opposing the idea of those who consider this passage as exhibiting the most sublime eloquence.
Eloquence is not aimed at in any history written by the Jews. The style of the passage in question, like that of all the rest of the work, possesses the most perfect simplicity. If an orator, intending to give some idea of the power of God, employed for that purpose the short and simple expression we are considering, “He said, let there be light, and there was light,” it would then be sublime. Exactly similar is the passage in one of the Psalms, “Dixit, et facta sunt”—“He spake, and they were made.” It is a trait which, being unique in this place, and introduced purposely in order to create a majestic image, elevates and transports the mind. But, in the instance under examination, the narrative is of the most simple character. The Jewish writer is speaking of light just in the same unambitious manner as of other objects of creation; he expresses himself equally and regularly after every article, “and God saw that it was good.” Everything is sublime in the course or act of creation, unquestionably, but the creation of light is no more so than that of the herbs of the field; the sublime is something which soars far from the rest, whereas all is equal throughout the chapter.
But further, it was another very ancient opinion that light did not proceed from the sun. It was seen diffused throughout the atmosphere, before the rising and after the setting of that star; the sun was supposed merely to give it greater strength and clearness; accordingly the author of Genesis accommodates himself to this popular error, and even states the creation of the sun and moon not to have taken place until four days after the existence of light. It was impossible that there could be a morning and evening before the existence of a sun. The inspired writer deigned, in this instance, to condescend to the gross and wild ideas of the nation. The object of God was not to teach the Jews philosophy. He might have raised their minds to the truth, but he preferred descending to their error. This solution can never be too frequently repeated.
The separation of the light from the darkness is a part of the same system of philosophy. It would seem that night and day were mixed up together, as grains of different species which are easily separable from each other. It is sufficiently known that darkness is nothing but the absence of light, and that there is in fact no light when our eyes receive no sensation of it; but at that period these truths were far from being known.
The idea of a firmament, again, is of the very highest antiquity. The heavens are imagined to be a solid mass, because they always exhibited the same phenomena. They rolled over our heads, they were therefore constituted of the most solid materials. Who could suppose that the exhalations from the land and sea supplied the water descending from the clouds, or compute their corresponding quantities? No Halley then lived to make so curious a calculation. The heavens therefore were conceived to contain reservoirs. These reservoirs could be supported only on a strong arch, and as this arch of heaven was actually transparent, it must necessarily have been made of crystal. In order that the waters above might descend from it upon the earth, sluices, cataracts, and floodgates were necessary, which might be opened and shut as circumstances required. Such was the astronomy of the day; and, as the author wrote for Jews, it was incumbent upon him to adopt their gross ideas, borrowed from other people somewhat less gross than themselves.
“God also made two great lights, one to rule the day, the other the night; He also made the stars.”
It must be admitted that we perceive throughout the same ignorance of nature. The Jews did not know that the moon shone only with a reflected light. The author here speaks of stars as of mere luminous points, such as they appear, although they are in fact so many suns, having each of them worlds revolving round it. The Holy Spirit, then, accommodated Himself to the spirit of the times. If He had said that the sun was a million times larger than the earth, and the moon fifty times smaller, no one would have comprehended Him. They appear to us two stars of nearly equal size.
“God said, also, let us make man in our own image, and let him have dominion over the fishes.”
What meaning did the Jews attach to the expression, “let us make man in our own image?” The same as all antiquity attached to it: “Finxit in effigiem moderantum cuncta deorum.” (Ovid, Metam. i. 82.)
No images are made but of bodies. No nation ever imagined a God without body, and it is impossible to represent Him otherwise. We may indeed say that God is nothing that we are acquainted with, but we can have no idea of what He is. The Jews invariably conceived God to be corporeal, as well as every other people. All the first fathers of the Church, also, entertained the same belief till they had embraced the ideas of Plato, or rather until the light of Christianity became more pure.
“He created them male and female.” If God, or the secondary or inferior gods, created mankind, male and female, after their own likeness, it would seem in that case, as if the Jews believed that God and the gods who so formed them were male and female. It has been a subject of discussion, whether the author means to say that man had originally two sexes, or merely that God made Adam and Eve on the same day. The most natural meaning is that God formed Adam and Eve at the same time; but this interpretation involves an absolute contradiction to the statement of the woman’s being made out of the rib of man after the seven days were concluded.
“And he rested on the seventh day.” The Phœnicians, Chaldæans, and Indians, represented God as having made the world in six periods, which the ancient Zoroaster calls the six “Gahanbars,” so celebrated among the Persians.
It is beyond all question that these nations possessed a theology before the Jews inhabited the deserts of Horeb and Sinai, and before they could possibly have had any writers. Many writers have considered it probable that the allegory of six days was imitated from that of the six periods. God may have permitted the idea to have prevailed in large and populous empires before he inspired the Jewish people with it. He had undoubtedly permitted other people to invent the arts before the Jews were in possession of any one of them.
“From this pleasant place a river went out which watered the garden, and thence it was divided into four rivers. One was called Pison, which compassed the whole land of Havilah, whence cometh gold . . . . the second was called Gihon and surrounds Ethiopia . . . . the third is the Tigris, and the fourth the Euphrates.”
According to this version, the earthly paradise would have contained nearly a third part of Asia and of Africa. The sources of the Euphrates and the Tigris are sixty leagues distant from each other, in frightful mountains, bearing no possible resemblance to a garden. The river which borders Ethiopia, and which can be no other than the Nile, commences its course at the distance of more than a thousand leagues from the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates; and, if the Pison means the Phasis, it is not a little surprising that the source of a Scythian river and that of an African one should be situated on the same spot. We must therefore look for some other explanation, and for other rivers. Every commentator has got up a paradise of his own.
It has been said that the Garden of Eden resembles the gardens of Eden at Saana in Arabia Felix, celebrated throughout all antiquity; that the Hebrews, a very recent people, might be an Arabian horde, and assume to themselves the honor of the most beautiful spot in the finest district of Arabia; and that they have always converted to their own purposes the ancient traditions of the vast and powerful nations in the midst of whom they were in bondage. They were not, however, on this account, the less under the divine protection and guidance.
“The Lord then took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden that he might cultivate it.” It is very respectable and pleasant for a man to “cultivate his garden,” but it must have been somewhat difficult for Adam to have dressed and kept in order a garden of a thousand leagues in length, even although he had been supplied with some assistants. Commentators on this subject, therefore, we again observe, are completely at a loss, and must be content to exercise their ingenuity in conjecture. Accordingly, these four rivers have been described as flowing through numberless different territories.
“Eat not of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” It is not easy to conceive that there ever existed a tree which could teach good and evil, as there are trees that bear pears and apricots. And besides the question is asked, why is God unwilling that man should know good and evil? Would not his free access to this knowledge, on the contrary, appear—if we may venture to use such language—more worthy of God, and far more necessary to man? To our weak reason it would seem more natural and proper for God to command him to eat largely of such fruit; but we must bring our reason under subjection, and acquiesce with humility and simplicity in the conclusion that God is to be obeyed.
“If thou shalt eat thereof, thou shalt die.” Nevertheless, Adam ate of it and did not die; on the contrary, he is stated to have lived on for nine hundred and thirty years. Many of the fathers considered the whole matter as an allegory. In fact, it might be said that all other animals have no knowledge that they shall die, but that man, by means of his reason, has such knowledge. This reason is the tree of knowledge which enables him to foresee his end. This, perhaps, is the most rational interpretation that can be given. We venture not to decide positively.
“The Lord said, also, it is not good for man to be alone; let us make him a helpmeet for him.” We naturally expect that the Lord is about to bestow on him a wife; but first he conducts before him all the various tribes of animals. Perhaps the copyist may have committed here an error of transposition.
“And the name which Adam gave to every animal is its true name.” What we should naturally understand by the true name of an animal, would be a name describing all, or at least, the principal properties of its species. But this is not the case in any language. In each there are some imitative words, as “coq” and “cocu” in the Celtic, which bear some slight similarity to the notes of the cock and the cuckoo; tintamarre, trictrac, in French; alali, in Greek; lupus, in Latin, etc. But these imitative words are exceedingly few. Moreover, if Adam had thus thoroughly known the properties of various animals, he must either have previously eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, or it would apparently have answered no end for God to have interdicted him from it. He must have already known more than the Royal Society of London, and the Academy of the Sciences.
It may be remarked that this is the first time the name of Adam occurs in the Book of Genesis. The first man, according to the ancient Brahmins, who were prodigiously anterior to the Jews, was called Adimo, a son of the earth, and his wife, Procris, life. This is recorded in the Vedas, in the history of the second formation of the world. Adam and Eve expressed perfectly the same meanings in the Phœnician language—a new evidence of the Holy Spirit’s conforming Himself to commonly received ideas.
“When Adam was asleep God took one of his ribs and put flesh instead thereof; and of the rib which he had taken from Adam he formed a woman, and he brought the woman to Adam.”
In the previous chapter the Lord had already created the male and the female; why, therefore, remove a rib from the man to form out of it a woman who was already in being? It is answered that the author barely announces in the one case what he explains in another. It is answered further that this allegory places the wife in subjection to her husband, and expresses their intimate union. Many persons have been led to imagine from this verse that men have one rib less than women; but this is a heresy, and anatomy informs us that a wife has no more ribs than her husband.
“But the serpent was more subtle than all animals on the earth; he said to the woman,” etc. Throughout the whole of this article there is no mention made of the devil. Everything in it relates to the usual course of nature. The serpent was considered by all oriental nations, not only as the most cunning of all animals, but likewise as immortal. The Chaldæans had a fable concerning a quarrel between God and the serpent, and this fable had been preserved by Pherecydes. Origen cites it in his sixth book against Celsus. A serpent was borne in procession at the feasts of Bacchus. The Egyptians, according to the statement of Eusebius in the first book of the tenth chapter of his “Evangelical Preparation,” attached a sort of divinity to the serpent. In Arabia, India, and even China, the serpent was regarded as a symbol of life; and hence it was that the emperors of China, long before the time of Moses, always bore upon their breast the image of a serpent.
Eve expresses no astonishment at the serpent’s speaking to her. In all ancient histories, animals have spoken; hence Pilpay and Lokman excited no surprise by their introduction of animals conversing and disputing.
The whole of this affair appears so clearly to have been supposed in the natural course of events, and so unconnected with anything allegorical, that the narrative assigns a reason why the serpent, from that time, has moved creeping on its belly, why we always are eager to crush it under our feet, and why it always attempts—at least according to the popular belief—to bite and wound us. Precisely as, with respect to presumed changes affecting certain animals recorded in ancient fable, reasons were stated why the crow which originally had been white is at the present day black; why the owl quits his gloomy retreat only by night; why the wolf is devoted to carnage. The fathers, however, believed the affair to be an allegory at once clear and venerable. The safest way is to believe like them.
“I will multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children. Thou shalt be under the power of the man, and he shall rule over thee.” Why, it is asked, should the multiplication of conception be a punishment? It was, on the contrary, says the objector, esteemed a superior blessing, particularly among the Jews. The pains of childbirth are inconsiderable, in all except very weak or delicate women. Those accustomed to labor are delivered, particularly in warm climates, with great ease. Brutes frequently experience greater suffering from this process of nature: some even die under it. And with respect to the superiority or dominion of the man over the woman, it is merely in the natural course of events; it is the effect of strength of body, and even of strength of mind. Men, generally speaking, possess organs more capable of continued attention than women, and are better fitted by nature for labors both of the head and arm. But when a woman possesses both a hand and a mind more powerful than her husband’s, she everywhere possesses the dominion over him; it is then the husband that is under subjection to the wife. There is certainly truth in these remarks; but it might, nevertheless, very easily be the fact that, before the commission of the original sin, neither subjection nor sorrow existed.
“The Lord made for them coats of skins.” This passage decidedly proves that the Jews believed God to be corporeal. A rabbi, of the name of Eliezer, stated in his works that God clothed Adam and Eve with the skin of the very serpent who had tempted them; and Origen maintains that this coat of skins was a new flesh, a new body, which God conferred on man. It is far better to adhere respectfully to the literal texts.
“And the Lord said; Lo! Adam is become like one of us.” It seems as if the Jews admitted, originally, many gods. It is somewhat more difficult to determine what they meant by the word “God,” Elohïm. Some commentators have contended that the expression “one of us” signifies the Trinity. But certainly there is nothing relating to the Trinity throughout the Bible. The Trinity is not a compound of many or several Gods: it is one and the same god threefold; and the Jews never heard the slightest mention of one god in three persons. By the words “like us,” or “as one of us,” it is probable that the Jews understood the angels, Elohïm. It is this passage which has induced many learned men very rashly to conclude that this book was not written until that people had adopted the belief of those inferior gods. But this opinion has been condemned.
“The Lord sent him forth from the garden of Eden to cultivate the ground.” But,” it is remarked by some, “the Lord had placed him in the garden of Eden to cultivate that garden.” If Adam, instead of being a gardener, merely becomes a laborer, his situation, they observe, is not made very much worse by the change. A good laborer is well worth a good gardener. These remarks must be regarded as too light and frivolous. It appears more judicious to say that God punished disobedience by banishing the offender from the place of his nativity.
The whole of this history, generally speaking—according to the opinion of liberal, not to say licentious, commentators—proceeds upon the idea which has prevailed in every past age, and still exists, that the first times were better and happier than those which followed. Men have always complained of the present and extolled the past. Pressed down by the labors of life, they have imagined happiness to consist in inactivity, not considering that the most unhappy of all states is that of a man who has nothing to do. They felt themselves frequently miserable, and framed in their imaginations an ideal period in which all the world had been happy; although it might be just as naturally and truly supposed that there had existed times in which no tree decayed and perished, in which no beast was weak, diseased, or devoured by another, and in which spiders did not prey upon flies. Hence the idea of the golden age; of the egg pierced by Arimanes; of the serpent who stole from the ass the recipe for obtaining a happy and immortal life, which the man had placed upon his pack-saddle; of the conflict between Typhon and Osiris, and between Opheneus and the gods; of the famous box of Pandora; and of all those ancient tales, of which some are ingenious, but none instructive. But we are bound to believe that the fables of other nations are imitations of the Hebrew history, since we possess the ancient history of the Hebrews, and the early books of other nations are nearly all destroyed. Besides the testimonies in favor of the Book of Genesis are irrefragable.
“And He placed before the garden of Eden a cherub with a flaming sword, which turned all round to guard the way to the tree of life.” The word “kerub” signifies ox. An ox armed with a flaming sword is rather a singular exhibition, it is said, before a portal. But the Jews afterwards represented angels under the form of oxen and hawks although they were forbidden to make any images. They evidently derived these emblems of oxen and hawks from the Egyptians, whom they imitated in so many other things. The Egyptians first venerated the ox as the emblem of agriculture, and the hawk as that of the winds; but they never converted the ox into a sentinel. It is probably an allegory; and the Jews by “kerub” understood nature. It was a symbol formed of the head of an ox, the head and body of a man, and the wings of a hawk.
“And the Lord set a mark upon Cain.” What Lord? says the infidel. He accepts the offering of Abel, and rejects that of his elder brother, without the least reason being assigned for the distinction. By this proceeding the Lord was the cause of animosity between the two brothers. We are presented in this piece of history, it is true, with a moral, however humiliating, lesson; a lesson to be derived from all the fables of antiquity, that scarcely had the race of man commenced the career of existence, before one brother assassinates another. But what the sages of this world consider contrary to everything moral, to everything just, to all the principles of common sense, is that God, who inflicted eternal damnation on the race of man, and useless crucifixion on His own son, on account merely of the eating of an apple, should absolutely pardon a fratricide! nay, that He should more than pardon, that He should take the offender under His peculiar protection! He declares that whoever shall avenge the murder of Abel shall experience sevenfold the punishment that Cain might have suffered. He puts a mark upon him as a safeguard. Here, continue these vile blasphemers, here is a fable as execrable as it is absurd. It is the raving of some wretched Jew, who wrote those infamous and revolting fooleries, in imitation of the tales so greedily swallowed by the neighboring population in Syria. This senseless Jew attributes these atrocious reveries to Moses, at a time when nothing was so rare as books. That fatality, which affects and disposes of everything, has handed down this contemptible production to our own times. Knaves have extolled it, and fools have believed it. Such is the language of a tribe of theists, who, while they adore a God, dare to condemn the God of Israel; and who judge of the conduct of the eternal Deity by the rules of our own imperfect morality, and erroneous justice. They admit a God, to subject Him to our laws. Let us guard against such rashness; and, once again it must be repeated, let us revere what we cannot comprehend. Let us cry out, O Altitudo! O the height and depth! with all our strength.
“The gods Elohïm, seeing the daughters of men that they were fair, took for wives those whom they chose.” This imagination, again, may be traced in the history of every people. No nation has ever existed, unless perhaps we may except China, in which some god is not described as having had offspring from women. These corporeal gods frequently descended to visit their dominions upon earth; they saw the daughters of our race, and attached themselves to those who were most interesting and beautiful: the issue of this connection between gods and mortals must of course have been superior to other men; accordingly, Genesis informs us that from the association it mentions, of the gods with women, sprang a race of giants.
“I will bring a deluge of waters upon the earth.” I will merely observe here that St. Augustine, in his “City of God,” No. 8, says, “Maximum illud diluvium Græca nec Latina novit historia”—neither Greek nor Latin history knows anything about the great deluge. In fact, none had ever been known in Greece but those of Deucalion and Ogyges. They are regarded as universal in the fables collected by Ovid, but are wholly unknown in eastern Asia. St. Augustine, therefore, is not mistaken, in saying that history makes no mention of this event.
“God said to Noah, I will make a covenant with you, and with your seed after you, and with all living creatures.” God make a covenant with beasts! What sort of a covenant? Such is the outcry of infidels. But if He makes a covenant with man, why not with the beast? It has feeling, and there is something as divine in feeling as in the most metaphysical meditation. Besides, beasts feel more correctly than the greater part of men think. It is clearly in virtue of this treaty that Francis d’Assisi, the founder of the Seraphic order, said to the grasshoppers and the hares, “Pray sing, my dear sister grasshopper; pray browse, my dear brother hare.” But what were the conditions of the treaty? That all animals should devour one another; that they should feed upon our flesh, and we upon theirs; that, after having eaten them, we should proceed with wrath and fury to the extermination of our own race—nothing being then wanting to crown the horrid series of butchery and cruelty, but devouring our fellow-men, after having thus remorselessly destroyed them. Had there been actually such a treaty as this it could have been entered into only with the devil.
Probably the meaning of the whole passage is neither more nor less than that God is equally the absolute master of everything that breathes. This pact can be nothing more than an order, and the word “covenant” is used merely as more emphatic and impressive; we should not therefore be startled and offended at the words, but adore the spirit, and direct our minds back to the period in which this book was written—a book of scandal to the weak, but of edification to the strong.
“And I will put my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of my covenant.” Observe that the author does not say, I have put my bow in the clouds; he says, I will put: this clearly implies it to have been the prevailing opinion that there had not always been a rainbow. This phenomenon is necessarily produced by rain; yet in this place it is represented as something supernatural, exhibited in order to announce and prove that the earth should no more be inundated. It is singular to choose the certain sign of rain, in order to assure men against their being drowned. But it may also be replied that in any danger of inundation, we have the cheering security of the rainbow.
“But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of Adam had built, and he said, ‘Behold a people which have but one language. They have begun to do this, and they will not desist until they have completed it. Come, then, let us go and confound their language, that no one may understand his neighbor.’ ” Observe here, that the sacred writer always continues to conform to the popular opinions. He always speaks of God as of a man who endeavors to inform himself of what is passing, who is desirous of seeing with his own eyes what is going on in his dominions, who calls together his council in order to deliberate with them.
“And Abraham having divided his men—who were three hundred and eighteen in number—fell upon the five kings, and pursued them unto Hoba, on the left hand of Damascus.” From the south bank of the lake of Sodom to Damascus was a distance of eighty leagues, not to mention crossing the mountains Libanus and Anti-Libanus. Infidels smile and triumph at such exaggeration. But as the Lord favored Abraham, nothing was in fact exaggerated.
“And two angels arrived at Sodom at even.” The whole history of these two angels, whom the inhabitants of Sodom wished to violate, is perhaps the most extraordinary in the records of all antiquity. But it must be considered that almost all Asia believed in the existence of the demoniacal incubus and succubus; and moreover, that these two angels were creatures more perfect than mankind, and must have possessed more beauty to stimulate their execrable tendencies. It is possible that the passage may be only meant as a rhetorical figure to express the atrocious depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is not without the greatest diffidence that we suggest to the learned this solution.
As to Lot, who proposes to the people of Sodom the substitution of his two daughters in the room of the angels; and his wife, who was changed into a statue of salt, and all the rest of that history, what shall we venture to say? The old Arabian tale of Kinyras and Myrrha has some resemblance to the incest of Lot with his daughters; and the adventure of Philemon and Baucis is somewhat similar to the case of the two angels who appeared to Lot and his wife. With respect to the statue of salt, we know not where to find any resemblance; perhaps in the history of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Many ingenious men are of opinion, with the great Newton and the learned Leclerc that the Pentateuch was written by Samuel when the Jews had a little knowledge of reading and writing, and that all these histories are imitations of Syrian fables.
But it is enough that all this is in the Holy Scripture to induce us to reverence it, without attempting to find out in this book anything besides what is written by the Holy Spirit. Let us always recollect that those times were not like our times; and let us not fail to repeat, after so many great men, that the Old Testament is a true history; and that all that has been written differing from it by the rest of the world is fabulous.
Some critics have contended that all the incredible passages in the canonical books, which scandalize weak minds, ought to be suppressed; but it has been observed in answer that those critics had bad hearts, and ought to be burned at the stake; and that it is impossible to be a good man without believing that the people of Sodom wanted to violate two angels. Such is the reasoning of a species of monsters who wish to lord it over the understandings of mankind.
It is true that many eminent fathers of the Church have had the prudence to turn all these histories into allegories, after the example of the Jews, and particularly of Philo. The popes, more discreet, have endeavored to prevent the translation of these books into the vulgar tongue, lest some men should in consequence be led to think and judge, about what was proposed to them only to adore.
We are certainly justified in concluding hence, that those who thoroughly understand this book should tolerate those who do not understand it at all; for if the latter understand nothing of it, it is not their own fault: on the other hand, those who comprehend nothing that it contains should tolerate those who comprehend everything in it.
Learned and ingenious men, full of their own talents and acquirements, have maintained that it is impossible that Moses could have written the Book of Genesis. One of their principal reasons is that in the history of Abraham that patriarch is stated to have paid for a cave which he purchased for the interment of his wife, in silver coin, and the king of Gerar is said to have given Sarah a thousand pieces of silver when he restored her, after having carried her off for her beauty at the age of seventy-five. They inform us that they have consulted all the ancient authors, and that it appears very certain that at the period mentioned silver money was not in existence. But these are evidently mere cavils, as the Church has always firmly believed Moses to have been the author of the Pentateuch. They strengthen all the doubts suggested by Aben-Ezra, and Baruch Spinoza. The physician Astruc, father-in-law of the comptroller-general Silhouette, in his book—now become very scarce—called “Conjectures on the Book of Genesis,” adds some objections, inexplicable undoubtedly to human learning, but not so to a humble and submissive piety. The learned, many of them, contradict every line, but the devout consider every line sacred. Let us dread falling into the misfortune of believing and trusting to our reason; but let us bring ourselves into subjection in understanding as well as in heart.
“And Abraham said that Sarah was his sister, and the king of Gerar took her for himself.” We admit, as we have said under the article on “Abraham,” that Sarah was at this time ninety years of age, that she had been already carried away by a king of Egypt, and that a king of this same horrid wilderness of Gerar, likewise, many years afterwards, carried away the wife of Isaac, Abraham’s son. We have also spoken of his servant, Hagar, who bore him a son, and of the manner in which the patriarch sent her and her son away. It is well known how infidels triumph on the subject of all these histories, with what a disdainful smile they speak of them, and that they place the story of one Abimelech falling in love with Sarah whom Abraham had passed off as his sister, and of another Abimelech falling in love with Rebecca, whom Isaac also passes as his sister, even beneath the thousand and one nights of the Arabian fables. We cannot too often remark that the great error of all these learned critics is their wishing to try everything by the test of our feeble reason, and to judge of the ancient Arabs as they judge of the courts of France or of England.
“And the soul of Shechem, King Hamor’s son, was bound up with the soul of Dinah, and he soothed her grief by his tender caresses, and he went to Hamor his father, and said to him, give me that woman to be my wife.”
Here our critics exclaim in terms of stronger disgust than ever. “What!” say they; “the son of a king is desirous to marry a vagabond girl;” the marriage is celebrated; Jacob the father, and Dinah the daughter, are loaded with presents; the king of Shechem deigns to receive those wandering robbers called patriarchs within his city; he has the incredible politeness or kindness to undergo, with his son, his court, and his people, the rite of circumcision, thus condescending to the superstition of a petty horde that could not call half a league of territory their own! And in return for this astonishing hospitality and goodness, how do our holy patriarchs act? They wait for the day when the process of circumcision generally induces fever, when Simeon and Levi run through the whole city with poniards in their hands and massacre the king, the prince his son, and all the inhabitants. We are precluded from the horror appropriate to this infernal counterpart of the tragedy of St. Bartholomew, only by a sense of its absolute impossibility. It is an abominable romance; but it is evidently a ridiculous romance. It is impossible that two men could have slaughtered in quiet the whole population of a city. The people might suffer in a slight degree from the operation which had preceded, but notwithstanding this, they would have risen in self-defence against two diabolical miscreants; they would have instantly assembled, would have surrounded them, and destroyed them with the summary and complete vengeance merited by their atrocity.
But there is a still more palpable impossibility. It is, that according to the accurate computation of time, Dinah, this daughter of Jacob, could be only three years old; and that, even by forcing up chronology as far as possible in favor of the narrative, she could at the very most be only five. It is here, then, that we are assailed with bursts of indignant exclamation! “What!” it is said, “what! is it this book, the book of a rejected and reprobate people; a book so long unknown to all the world; a book in which sound reason and decent manners are outraged in every page, that is held up to us as irrefragable, holy, and dictated by God Himself? Is it not even impious to believe it? or could anything less than the fury of cannibals urge to the persecution of sensible and modest men for not believing it?”
To this we reply: “The Church declares its belief in it. The copyists may have mixed up some revolting absurdities with respectable and genuine histories. It belongs to the holy church only to decide. The profane ought to be guided by her. Those absurdities, those alleged horrors do not affect the substance of our faith. How lamentable would be the fate of mankind, if religion and virtue depended upon what formerly happened to Shechem and to little Dinah!”
“These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before the children of Israel had a king.” This is the celebrated passage which has proved one of the great stumbling stones. This it was which decided the great Newton, the pious and acute Samuel Clarke, the profound and philosophic Bolingbroke, the learned Leclerc, the ingenious Fréret, and a host of other enlightened men, to maintain that it was impossible Moses could have been the author of Genesis.
We admit that in fact these words could not have been written until after the time that the Jews had kings.
It is principally this verse that determined Astruc to give up the inspired authority of the whole Book of Genesis, and suppose the author had derived his materials from existing memoirs and records. His work is ingenious and accurate, but it is rash, not to say audacious. Even a council would scarcely have ventured on such an enterprise. And to what purpose has it served Astruc’s thankless and dangerous labor—to double the darkness he wished to enlighten? Here is the fruit of the tree of knowledge, of which we are all so desirous of eating. Why must it be, that the fruit of the tree of ignorance should be more nourishing and more digestible?
But of what consequence can it be to us, after all, whether any particular verse or chapter was written by Moses, or Samuel, or the priest (sacrificateur) who came to Samaria, or Esdras, or any other person? In what respect can our government, our laws, our fortunes, our morals, our well-being, be bound up with the unknown chiefs of a wretched and barbarous country called Edom or Idumæa, always inhabited by robbers? Alas! those poor Arabs, who have not shirts to their backs, neither know nor care whether or not we are in existence! They go on steadily plundering caravans, and eating barley bread, while we are perplexing and tormenting ourselves to know whether any petty kings flourished in a particular canton of Arabia Petræa, before they existed in a particular canton adjoining the west of the lake of Sodom!
The doctrines of judicial astrology and magic have spread all over the world. Look back to the ancient Zoroaster, and you will find that of the genii long established. All antiquity abounds in astrologers and magicians; such ideas were therefore very natural. At present, we smile at the number who entertained them; if we were in their situation, if like them we were only beginning to cultivate the sciences, we should perhaps believe just the same. Let us suppose ourselves intelligent people, beginning to reason on our own existence, and to observe the stars. The earth, we might say, is no doubt immovable in the midst of the world; the sun and planets only revolve in her service, and the stars are only made for us; man, therefore, is the great object of all nature. What is the intention of all these globes, and of the immensity of heaven thus destined for our use? It is very likely that all space and these globes are peopled with substances, and since we are the favorites of nature, placed in the centre of the universe, and all is made for man, these substances are evidently destined to watch over man.
The first man who believed the thing at all possible would soon find disciples persuaded that it existed. We might then commence by saying, genii perhaps exist, and nobody could affirm the contrary; for where is the impossibility of the air and planets being peopled? We might afterwards say there are genii, and certainly no one could prove that there are not. Soon after, some sages might see these genii, and we should have no right to say to them: “You have not seen them”; as these persons might be honorable, and altogether worthy of credit. One might see the genius of the empire or of his own city; another that of Mars or Saturn; the genii of the four elements might be manifested to several philosophers; more than one sage might see his own genius; all at first might be little more than dreaming, but dreams are the symbols of truth.
It was soon known exactly how these genii were formed. To visit our globe, they must necessarily have wings; they therefore had wings. We know only of bodies; they therefore had bodies, but bodies much finer than ours, since they were genii, and much lighter, because they came from so great a distance. The sages who had the privilege of conversing with the genii inspired others with the hope of enjoying the same happiness. A skeptic would have been ill received, if he had said to them: “I have seen no genius, therefore there are none.” They would have replied: “You reason ill; it does not follow that a thing exists not, which is unknown to you. There is no contradiction in the doctrine which inculcates these ethereal powers; no impossibility that they may visit us; they show themselves to our sages, they manifest themselves to us; you are not worthy of seeing genii.”
Everything on earth is composed of good and evil; there are therefore incontestably good and bad genii. The Persians had their peris and dives; the Greeks, their demons and cacodæmons; the Latins, bonos et malos genios. The good genii are white, and the bad black, except among the negroes, where it is necessarily the reverse. Plato without difficulty admits of a good and evil genius for every individual. The evil genius of Brutus appeared to him, and announced to him his death before the battle of Philippi. Have not grave historians said so? And would not Plutarch have been very injudicious to have assured us of this fact, if it were not true?
Further, consider what a source of feasts, amusements, good tales, and bon mots, originated in the belief of genii!
There were male and female genii. The genii of the ladies were called by the Romans little Junos. They also had the pleasure of seeing their genii grow up. In infancy, they were a kind of Cupid with wings, and when they protected old age, they wore long beards, and even sometimes the forms of serpents. At Rome, there is preserved a marble, on which is represented a serpent under a palm tree, to which are attached two crowns with this inscription: “To the genius of the Augusti”; it was the emblem of immortality.
What demonstrative proof have we at present, that the genii, so universally admitted by so many enlightened nations, are only phantoms of the imagination? All that can be said is reduced to this: “I have never seen a genius, and no one of my acquaintance has ever seen one; Brutus has not written that his genius appeared to him before the battle of Philippi; neither Newton, Locke, nor even Descartes, who gave the reins to his imagination; neither kings nor ministers of state have ever been suspected of communing with their genii; therefore I do not believe a thing of which there is not the least truth. I confess their existence is not impossible; but the possibility is not a proof of the reality. It is possible that there may be satyrs, with little turned-up tails and goats’ feet; but I must see several to believe in them; for if I saw but one, I should still doubt their existence.”
Of genius or demon, we have already spoken in the article on “angel.” It is not easy to know precisely whether the peris of the Persians were invented before the demons of the Greeks, but it is very probable that they were. It may be, that the souls of the dead, called shades, manes, etc., passed for demons. Hesiod makes Hercules say that a demon dictated his labors.
The demon of Socrates had so great a reputation, that Apuleius, the author of the “Golden Ass,” who was himself a magician of good repute, says in his “Treatise on the Genius of Socrates,” that a man must be without religion who denies it. You see that Apuleius reasons precisely like brothers Garasse and Bertier: “You do not believe that which I believe; you are therefore without religion.” And the Jansenists have said as much of brother Bertier, as well as of all the world except themselves. “These demons,” says the very religious and filthy Apuleius, “are intermediate powers between ether and our lower region. They live in our atmosphere, and bear our prayers and merits to the gods. They treat of succors and benefits, as interpreters and ambassadors. Plato says, that it is by their ministry that revelations, presages, and the miracles of magicians, are effected.”—Cæterum sunt quædam divinæ mediæ potestates, inter summum æthera, et infimas terras, in isto intersitæ æris spatio, per quas et desideria nostra et merita ad deos commeant. Hos Græco nomine demonias nuncupant. Inter terricolas cœli colasque victores, hinc pecum, inde donorum: qui ultro citroque portant, hinc petitiones, inde suppetias: ceu quidam utriusque interpretes, et salutigeri. Per hos eosdem, ut Plato in symposio autumat, cuncta denuntiata; et majorum varia miracula, omnesque præsagium species reguntur.”
St. Augustine has condescended to refute Apuleius in these words:
“It is impossible for us to say that demons are neither mortal nor eternal, for all that has life, either lives eternally, or loses the breath of life by death; and Apuleius has said, that as to time, the demons are eternal. What then remains, but that demons hold a medium situation, and have one quality higher and another lower than mankind; and as, of these two things, eternity is the only higher thing which they exclusively possess, to complete the allotted medium, what must be the lower, if not misery?” This is powerful reasoning!
As I have never seen any genii, demons, peris, or hobgoblins, whether beneficent or mischievous, I cannot speak of them from knowledge. I only relate what has been said by people who have seen them.
Among the Romans, the word “genius” was not used to express a rare talent, as with us: the term for that quality was ingenium. We use the word “genius” indifferently in speaking of the tutelar demon of a town of antiquity, or an artist, or a musician. The term “genius” seems to have been intended to designate not great talents generally, but those into which invention enters. Invention, above everything, appeared a gift from the gods—this ingenium, quasi ingenitum, a kind of divine inspiration. Now an artist, however perfect he may be in his profession, if he have no invention, if he be not original, is not considered a genius. He is only inspired by the artists his predecessors, even when he surpasses them.
It is very probable that many people now play at chess better than the inventor of the game, and that they might gain the prize of corn promised him by the Indian king. But this inventor was a genius, and those who might now gain the prize would be no such thing. Poussin, who was a great painter before he had seen any good pictures, had a genius for painting. Lulli, who never heard any good musician in France, had a genius for music.
Which is the more desirable to possess, a genius without a master, or the attainment of perfection by imitating and surpassing the masters which precede us?
If you put this question to artists, they will perhaps be divided; if you put it to the public, it will not hesitate. Do you like a beautiful Gobelin tapestry better than one made in Flanders at the commencement of the arts? Do you prefer modern masterpieces of engraving to the first wood-cuts? the music of the present day to the first airs, which resembled the Gregorian chant? the makers of the artillery of our time to the genius which invented the first cannon? everybody will answer, “yes.” All purchasers will say: “I own that the inventor of the shuttle had more genius than the manufacturer who made my cloth, but my cloth is worth more than that of the inventor.
In short, every one in conscience will confess, that we respect the geniuses who invented the arts, but that the minds which perfect them are of more present benefit.
The article on “Genius” has been treated in the “Encyclopædia” by men who possess it. We shall hazard very little after them.
Every town, every man possessed a genius. It was imagined that those who performed extraordinary things were inspired by their genius. The nine muses were nine genii, whom it was necessary to invoke; therefore Ovid says: “Et Deus in nobis, agitante calescimus illo”—“The God within us, He the mind inspires.
But, properly speaking, is genius anything but capability? What is capability but a disposition to succeed in an art? Why do we say the genius of a language? It is, that every language, by its terminations, articles, participles, and shorter or longer words, will necessarily have exclusive properties of its own.
By the genius of a nation is meant the character, manners, talents, and even vices, which distinguish one people from another. It is sufficient to see the French, English, and Spanish people, to feel this difference.
We have said that the particular genius of a man for an art is a different thing from his general talent; but this name is given only to a very superior ability. How many people have talent for poetry, music, and painting; yet it would be ridiculous to call them geniuses.
Genius, conducted by taste, will never commit a gross fault. Racine, since his “Andromache,” “Le Poussin,” and “Rameau,” has never committed one. Genius, without taste, will often commit enormous errors; and, what is worse, it will not be sensible of them.
Geography is one of those sciences which will always require to be perfected. Notwithstanding the pains that have been taken, it has hitherto been impossible to have an exact description of the earth. For this great work, it would be necessary that all sovereigns should come to an understanding, and lend mutual assistance. But they have ever taken more pains to ravage the world than they have to measure it.
No one has yet been able to make an exact map of upper Egypt, nor of the regions bordering on the Red Sea, nor of the vast country of Arabia. Of Africa we know only the coasts; all the interior is no more known than it was in the times of Atlas and Hercules. There is not a single well-detailed map of all the Grand Turk’s possessions in Asia; all is placed at random, excepting some few large towns, the crumbling remains of which are still existing. In the states of the Great Mogul something is known of the relative positions of Agra and Delhi; but thence to the kingdom of Golconda everything is laid down at a venture.
It is known that Japan extends from about the thirtieth to the fortieth degree of north latitude; there cannot be an error of more than two degrees, which is about fifty leagues; so that, relying on one of our best maps, a pilot would be in danger of losing his track or his life.
As for the longitude, the first maps of the Jesuits determined it between the one hundred and fifty-seventh and the one hundred and seventy-fifth degree; whereas, it is now determined between the one hundred and forty-sixth and the one hundred and sixtieth.
China is the only Asiatic country of which we have an exact measurement; because the emperor Kam-hi employed some Jesuit astronomers to draw exact maps, which is the best thing the Jesuits have done. Had they been content with measuring the earth, they would never have been proscribed.
In our western world, Italy, France, Russia, England, and the principal towns of the other states, have been measured by the same method as was employed in China; but it was not until a very few years ago, that in France it was undertaken to form an entire topography. A company taken from the Academy of Sciences despatched engineers or surveyors into every corner of the kingdom, to lay down even the meanest hamlet, the smallest rivulet, the hills, the woods, in their true places. Before that time, so confused was the topography, that on the eve of the battle of Fontenoy, the maps of the country being all examined, every one of them was found entirely defective.
If a positive order had been sent from Versailles to an inexperienced general to give battle, and post himself as appeared most advisable from the maps, as sometimes happened in the time of the minister Chamillar, the battle would infallibly have been lost.
A general who should carry on a war in the country of the Morlachians, or the Montenegrins, with no knowledge of places but from the maps, would be at as great a loss as if he were in the heart of Africa.
Happily, that which has often been traced by geographers, according to their own fancy, in their closets, is rectified on the spot. In geography, as in morals, it is very difficult to know the world without going from home.
It is not with this department of knowledge, as with the arts of poetry, music, and painting. The last works of these kinds are often the worst. But in the sciences, which require exactness rather than genius, the last are always the best, provided they are done with some degree of care.
One of the greatest advantages of geography, in my opinion, is this: your fool of a neighbor, and his wife almost as stupid, are incessantly reproaching you with not thinking as they think in Rue St. Jacques. “See,” say they, “what a multitude of great men have been of our opinion, from Peter the Lombard down to the Abbé Petit-pied. The whole universe has received our truths; they reign in the Faubourg St. Honoré, at Chaillot and at Étampes, at Rome and among the Uscoques.” Take a map of the world; show them all Africa, the empires of Japan, China, India, Turkey, Persia, and that of Russia, more extensive than was the Roman Empire; make them pass their finger over all Scandinavia, all the north of Germany, the three kingdoms of Great Britain, the greater part of the Low Countries, and of Helvetia; in short make them observe, in the four great divisions of the earth, and in the fifth, which is as little known as it is great in extent, the prodigious number of races, who either never heard of those opinions, or have combated them, or have held them in abhorrence, and you will thus oppose the whole universe to Rue St. Jacques.
You will tell them that Julius Cæsar, who extended his power much farther than that street, did not know a word of all which they think so universal; and that our ancestors, on whom Julius Cæsar bestowed the lash, knew no more of them than he did.
They will then, perhaps, feel somewhat ashamed at having believed that the organ of St. Severin’s church gave the tone to the rest of the world.
Glory is reputation joined with esteem, and is complete when admiration is superadded. It always supposes that which is brilliant in action, in virtue, or in talent, and the surmounting of great difficulties. Cæsar and Alexander had glory. The same can hardly be said of Socrates. He claims esteem, reverence, pity, indignation against his enemies; but the term “glory” applied to him would be improper; his memory is venerable rather than glorious. Attila had much brilliancy, but he has no glory; for history, which may be mistaken, attributes to him no virtues: Charles XII. still has glory; for his valor, his disinterestedness, his liberality, were extreme. Success is sufficient for reputation, but not for glory. The glory of Henry IV. is every day increasing; for time has brought to light all his virtues, which were incomparably greater than his defects.
Glory is also the portion of inventors in the fine arts; imitators have only applause. It is granted, too, to great talents, but in sublime arts only. We may well say, the glory of Virgil, or Cicero, but not of Martial, nor of Aulus Gellius.
Men have dared to say, the glory of God: God created this world for His glory; not that the Supreme Being can have glory; but that men, having no expressions suitable to Him, use for Him those by which they are themselves most flattered.
Vainglory is that petty ambition which is contented with appearances, which is exhibited in pompous display, and never elevates itself to greater things. Sovereigns, having real glory, have been known to be nevertheless fond of vainglory—seeking too eagerly after praise, and being too much attached to the trappings of ostentation.
False glory often verges towards vanity; but it often leads to excesses, while vainglory is more confined to splendid littlenesses. A prince who should look for honor in revenge, would seek a false glory rather than a vain one.
To give glory signifies to acknowledge, to bear witness. Give glory to truth, means acknowledging truth—Give glory to the God whom you serve—Bear witness to the God whom you serve.
Glory is taken for heaven—He dwells in glory; but this is the case in no religion but ours. It is not allowable to say that Bacchus or Hercules was received into glory, when speaking of their apotheosis. The saints and angels have sometimes been called the glorious, as dwelling in the abode of glory.
Gloriously is always taken in the good sense; he reigned gloriously; he extricated himself gloriously from great danger or embarrassment.
To glory in, is sometimes taken in the good, sometimes in the bad, sense, according to the nature of the object in question. He glories in a disgrace which is the fruit of his talents and the effect of envy. We say of the martyrs, that they glorified God—that is, that their constancy made the God whom they attested revered by men.
That Cicero should love glory, after having stifled Catiline’s conspiracy, may be pardoned him. That the king of Prussia, Frederick the Great, should have the same feelings after Rosbach and Lissa, and after being the legislator, the historian, the poet, and the philosopher of his country—that he should be passionately fond of glory, and at the same time, have self-command enough to be modestly so—he will, on that account, be the more glorified.
That the empress Catherine II. should have been forced by the brutish insolence of a Turkish sultan to display all her genius; that from the far north she should have sent four squadrons which spread terror in the Dardanelles and in Asia Minor; and that, in 1770, she took four provinces from those Turks who made Europe tremble—with this sort of glory she will not be reproached, but will be admired for speaking of her successes with that air of indifference and superiority which shows that they were merited.
In short, glory befits geniuses of this sort, though belonging to the very mean race of mortals.
But if, at the extremity of the west, a townsman of a place called Paris thinks he has glory in being harangued by a teacher of the university, who says to him: “Monseigneur, the glory you have acquired in the exercise of your office, your illustrious labors with which the universe resounds,” etc., then I ask if there are mouths enough in that universe to celebrate, with their hisses, the glory of our citizen, and the eloquence of the pedant who attends to bray out this harangue at monseigneur’s hotel? We are such fools that we have made God glorious like ourselves.
That worthy chief of the dervishes, Ben-al-betif, said to his brethren one day: “My brethren, it is good that you should frequently use that sacred formula of our Koran, ‘In the name of the most merciful God’; because God uses mercy, and you learn to do so too, by oft repeating the words that recommend virtue, without which there would be few men left upon the earth. But, my brethren, beware of imitating those rash ones who boast, on every occasion, of laboring for the glory of God.
“If a young simpleton maintains a thesis on the categories, an ignoramus in furs presiding, he is sure to write in large characters, at the head of his thesis, ‘Ek alha abron doxa.’—‘Ad majorem Dei gloriam.’—To the greater glory of God. If a good Mussulman has had his house whitewashed, he cuts this foolish inscription in the door. A saka carries water for the greater glory of God. It is an impious usage, piously used. What would you say of a little chiaoux, who, while emptying our sultan’s close-stool, should exclaim: “To the greater glory of our invincible monarch?” There is certainly a greater distance between God and the sultan than between the sultan and the little chiaoux.
“Ye miserable earth-worms, called men, what have you resembling the glory of the Supreme Being? Can He love glory? Can He receive it from you? Can He enjoy it? How long, ye two-legged animals without feathers, will you make God after your own image? What! because you are vain, because you love glory, you would have God love it also? If there were several Gods, perhaps each one would seek to gain the good opinion of his fellows. That might be glory to God. Such a God, if infinite greatness may be compared with extreme lowliness, would be like King Alexander or Iscander, who would enter the lists with none but kings. But you, poor creatures! what glory can you give to God? Cease to profane the sacred name. An emperor, named Octavius Augustus, forbade his being praised in the schools of Rome, lest his name should be brought into contempt. You can bring the name of the Supreme Being neither into contempt, nor into honor. Humble yourselves in the dust; adore, and be silent.”
Thus spake Ben-al-betif; and the dervishes cried out: “Glory to God! Ben-al-betif has said well.”
In 1723, there was in Holland a Chinese: this Chinese was a man of letters and a merchant; which two professions ought not to be incompatible, but which have become so amongst us, thanks to the extreme regard which is paid to money, and the little consideration which mankind have ever shown, and will ever show, for merit.
This Chinese, who spoke a little Dutch, was once in a bookseller’s shop with some men of learning. He asked for a book, and “Bossuet’s Universal History,” badly translated, was proposed to him. “Ah!” said he, “how fortunate! I shall now see what is said of our great empire—of our nation, which has existed as a national body for more than fifty thousand years—of that succession of emperors who have governed us for so many ages. I shall now see what is thought of the religion of the men of letters—of that simple worship which we render to the Supreme Being. How pleasing to see what is said in Europe of our arts, many of which are more ancient amongst us than any European kingdom. I guess the author will have made many mistakes in the history of the war which we had twenty-two thousand five hundred and fifty-two years ago, with the warlike nations of Tonquin and Japan, and of that solemn embassy which the mighty emperor of the Moguls sent to ask laws from us, in the year of the world 500,000,000,000,079,123,450,000.” “Alas!” said one of the learned men to him, “you are not even mentioned in that book; you are too inconsiderable; it is almost all about the first nation in the world—the only nation, the great Jewish people!”
“The Jewish people!” exclaimed the Chinese. “Are they, then, masters of at least three-quarters of the earth?” “They flatter themselves that they shall one day be so,” was the answer; “until which time they have the honor of being our old-clothesmen, and, now and then, clippers of our coin.”—“You jest,” said the Chinese; “had these people ever a vast empire?” “They had as their own for some years,” said I, “a small country; but it is not by the extent of their states that a people are to be judged; as it is not by his riches that we are to estimate a man.”
“But is no other people spoken of in this book?” asked the man of letters. “Undoubtedly,” returned a learned man who stood next me, and who instantly replied, “there is a deal said in it of a small country sixty leagues broad, called Egypt, where it is asserted that there was a lake a hundred and fifty leagues round, cut by the hands of men.”—“Zounds!” said the Chinese; “a lake a hundred and fifty leagues round in a country only sixty broad! That is fine, indeed!”—“Everybody was wise in that country,” added the doctor. “Oh! what fine times they must have been,” said the Chinese. “But is that all?”—“No,” replied the European; “he also treats of that celebrated people, the Greeks.” “Who are these Greeks?” asked the man of letters. “Ah!” continued the other, “they inhabited a province about a two-hundredth part as large as China, but which has been famous throughout the world.” “I have never heard speak of these people, neither in Mogul nor in Japan, nor in Great Tartary,” said the Chinese, with an ingenuous look.
“Oh, ignorant, barbarous man!” politely exclaimed our scholar. “Know you not, then, the Theban Epaminondas; nor the harbor of Piræus; nor the name of the two horses of Achilles; nor that of Silenus’s ass? Have you not heard of Jupiter, nor of Diogenes, nor of Lais, nor of Cybele, nor—”
“I am much arraid,” replied the man of letters, “that you know nothing at all of the ever memorable adventure of the celebrated Xixofou Concochigramki, nor of the mysteries of the great Fi Psi Hi Hi. But pray, what are the other unknown things of which this universal history treats?” The scholar then spoke for a quarter of an hour on the Roman commonwealth: but when he came to Julius Cæsar, the Chinese interrupted him, saying, “As for him, I think I know him: was he not a Turk?”
“What!” said the scholar, somewhat warm, “do you not at least know the difference between Pagans, Christians, and Mussulmans? Do you not know Constantine, and the history of the popes?” “We have indistinctly heard,” answered the Asiatic, “of one Mahomet.”
“It is impossible,” returned the other, “that you should not, at least, be acquainted with Luther, Zuinglius, Bellarmin, Œcolampadius.” “I shall never remember those names,” said the Chinese. He then went away to sell a considerable parcel of tea and fine grogram, with which he bought two fine girls and a ship-boy, whom he took back to his own country, adoring Tien, and commending himself to Confucius.
For myself, who was present at this conversation, I clearly saw what glory is; and I said: Since Cæsar and Jupiter are unknown in the finest, the most ancient, the most extensive, the most populous and well-regulated kingdom upon earth; it beseems you, ye governors of some little country, ye preachers in some little parish, or some little town—ye doctors of Salamanca and of Bourges, ye flimsy authors, and ye ponderous commentators—it beseems you to make pretensions to renown!
The honors of every kind which antiquity paid to goats would be very astonishing, if anything could astonish those who have grown a little familiar with the world, ancient and modern. The Egyptians and the Jews often designated the kings and the chiefs of the people by the word “goat.” We find in Zachariah:
“Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats; for the Lord of Hosts hath visited his flock, the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.”
“Remove out of the midst of Babylon,” says Jeremiah to the chiefs of the people; “go forth out of the land of the Chaldæans, and be as the he-goats before the flocks.”
Isaiah, in chapters x. and xiv., uses the term “goat,” which has been translated “prince.” The Egyptians went much farther than calling their kings goats; they consecrated a goat in Mendes, and it is even said that they adored him. The truth very likely was, that the people took an emblem for a divinity, as is but too often the case.
It is not likely that the Egyptian shoën or shotim, i. e., priests, immolated goats and worshipped them at the same time. We know that they had their goat Hazazel, which they adorned and crowned with flowers, and threw down headlong, as an expiation for the people; and that the Jews took from them, not only this ceremony, but even the very name of Hazazel, as they adopted many other rites from Egypt.
But goats received another, and yet more singular honor. It is beyond a doubt that in Egypt many women set the same example with goats, as Pasiphae did with her bull.
The Jews but too faithfully imitated these abominations. Jeroboam instituted priests for the service of his calves and his goats.
The worship of the goat was established in Egypt, and in the lands of a part of Palestine. Enchantments were believed to be operated by means of goats, and other monsters, which were always represented with a goat’s head.
Magic, sorcery, soon passed from the East into the West, and extended itself throughout the earth. The sort of sorcery that came from the Jews was called Sabbatum by the Romans, who thus confounded their sacred day with their secret abominations. Thence it was, that in the neighboring nations, to be a sorcerer and to go to the sabbath, meant the same thing.
Wretched village women, deceived by knaves, and still more by the weakness of their own imaginations, believed that after pronouncing the word “abraxa,” and rubbing themselves with an ointment mixed with cow-dung and goat’s hair, they went to the sabbath on a broom-stick in their sleep, that there they adored a goat, and that he enjoyed them.
This opinion was universal. All the doctors asserted that it was the devil, who metamorphosed himself into a goat. This may be seen in Del Rio’s “Disquisitions,” and in a hundred other authors. The theologian Grillandus, a great promoter of the Inquisition, quoted by Del Rio, says that sorcerers call the goat Martinet. He assures us that a woman who was attached to Martinet, mounted on his back, and was carried in an instant through the air to a place called the Nut of Benevento.
There were books in which the mysteries of the sorcerers were written. I have seen one of them, at the head of which was a figure of a goat very badly drawn, with a woman on her knees behind him. In France, these books were called “grimoires”; and in other countries “the devil’s alphabet.” That which I saw contained only four leaves, in almost illegible characters, much like those of the “Shepherd’s Almanac.”
Reasoning and better education would have sufficed in Europe for the extirpation of such an extravagance; but executions were employed instead of reasoning. The pretended sorcerers had their “grimoire,” and the judges had their sorcerer’s code. In 1599, the Jesuit Del Rio, a doctor of Louvain, published his “Magical Disquisitions.” He affirms that all heretics are magicians, and frequently recommends that they be put to the torture. He has no doubt that the devil transforms himself into a goat, and grants his favors to all women presented to him. He quotes various jurisconsults, called demonographers, who assert that Luther was the son of a woman and a goat. He assures us that at Brussels, in 1595, a woman was brought to bed of a child, of which the devil, disguised as a goat, was father, and that she was punished, but he does not inform us in what manner.
But the jurisprudence of witchcraft has been the most profoundly treated by one Boguet, “grand juge en dernier ressort” of an abbey of St. Claude in Franche-Comté. He gives an account of all the executions to which he condemned wizards and witches, and the number is very considerable. Nearly all the witches are supposed to have had commerce with the goat.
It has already been said that more than a hundred thousand sorcerers have been executed in Europe. Philosophy alone has at length cured men of this abominable delusion, and has taught judges that they should not burn the insane.
The reader cannot too carefully bear in mind that this dictionary has not been written for the purpose of repeating what so many others have said.
The knowledge of a God is not impressed upon us by the hands of nature, for then men would all have the same idea; and no idea is born with us. It does not come to us like the perception of light, of the ground, etc., which we receive as soon as our eyes and our understandings are opened. Is it a philosophical idea? No; men admitted the existence of gods before they were philosophers.
Whence, then, is this idea derived? From feeling, and from that natural logic which unfolds itself with age, even in the rudest of mankind. Astonishing effects of nature were beheld—harvests and barrenness, fair weather and storms, benefits and scourges; and the hand of a master was felt. Chiefs were necessary to govern societies; and it was needful to admit sovereigns of these new sovereigns whom human weakness had given itself—beings before whose power these men who could bear down their fellow-men might tremble. The first sovereigns in their time employed these notions to cement their power. Such were the first steps; thus every little society had its god. These notions were rude because everything was rude. It is very natural to reason by analogy. One society under a chief did not deny that the neighboring tribe should likewise have its judge, or its captain; consequently it could not deny that the other should also have its god. But as it was to the interest of each tribe that its captain should be the best, it was also interested in believing, and consequently it did believe, that its god was the mightiest. Hence those ancient fables which have so long been generally diffused, that the gods of one nation fought against the gods of another. Hence the numerous passages in the Hebrew books, which we find constantly disclosing the opinion entertained by the Jews, that the gods of their enemies existed, but that they were inferior to the God of the Jews.
Meanwhile, in the great states where the progress of society allowed to individuals the enjoyment of speculative leisure, there were priests, Magi, and philosophers.
Some of these perfected their reason so far as to acknowledge in secret one only and universal god. So, although the ancient Egyptians adored Osiri, Osiris, or rather Osireth (which signifies this land is mine); though they also adored other superior beings, yet they admitted one supreme, one only principal god, whom they called “Knef,” whose symbol was a sphere placed on the frontispiece of the temple.
After this model, the Greeks had their Zeus, their Jupiter, the master of the other gods, who were but what the angels are with the Babylonians and the Hebrews, and the saints with the Christians of the Roman communion.
It is a more thorny question than it has been considered, and one by no means profoundly examined, whether several gods, equal in power, can exist at the same time?
We have no adequate idea of the Divinity; we creep on from conjecture to conjecture, from likelihood to probability. We have very few certainties. There is something; therefore there is something eternal; for nothing is produced from nothing. Here is a certain truth on which the mind reposes. Every work which shows us means and an end, announces a workman; then this universe, composed of springs, of means, each of which has its end, discovers a most mighty, a most intelligent workman. Here is a probability approaching the greatest certainty. But is this supreme artificer infinite? Is he everywhere? Is he in one place? How are we, with our feeble intelligence and limited knowledge, to answer these questions?
My reason alone proves to me a being who has arranged the matter of this world; but my reason is unable to prove to me that he made this matter—that he brought it out of nothing. All the sages of antiquity, without exception, believed matter to be eternal, and existing by itself. All then that I can do, without the aid of superior light, is to believe that the God of this world is also eternal, and existing by Himself. God and matter exist by the nature of things. May not other gods exist, as well as other worlds? Whole nations, and very enlightened schools, have clearly admitted two gods in this world—one the source of good, the other the source of evil. They admitted an eternal war between two equal powers. Assuredly, nature can more easily suffer the existence of several independent beings in the immensity of space, than that of limited and powerless gods in this world, of whom one can do no good, and the other no harm.
If God and matter exist from all eternity, as antiquity believed, here then are two necessary beings; now, if there be two necessary beings, there may be thirty. These doubts alone, which are the germ of an infinity of reflections, serve at least to convince us of the feebleness of our understanding. We must, with Cicero, confess our ignorance of the nature of the Divinity; we shall never know any more of it than he did.
In vain do the schools tell us that God is infinite negatively and not privatively—“formaliter et non materialiter,” that He is the first act, the middle, and the last—that He is everywhere without being in any place; a hundred pages of commentaries on definitions like these cannot give us the smallest light. We have no steps whereby to arrive at such knowledge.
We feel that we are under the hand of an invisible being; this is all; we cannot advance one step farther. It is mad temerity to seek to divine what this being is—whether he is extended or not, whether he is in one place or not, how he exists, or how he operates.
I am ever apprehensive of being mistaken; but all monuments give me sufficient evidence that the polished nations of antiquity acknowledged a supreme god. There is not a book, not a medal, not a bas-relief, not an inscription, in which Juno, Minerva, Neptune, Mars, or any of the other deities, is spoken of as a forming being, the sovereign of all nature. On the contrary, the most ancient profane books that we have—those of Hesiod and Homer—represent their Zeus as the only thunderer, the only master of gods and men; he even punishes the other gods; he ties Juno with a chain, and drives Apollo out of heaven.
The ancient religion of the Brahmins—the first that admitted celestial creatures—the first which spoke of their rebellion—explains itself in sublime manner concerning the unity and power of God; as we have seen in the article on “Angel.”
The Chinese, ancient as they are, come after the Indians. They have acknowledged one only god from time immemorial; they have no subordinate gods, no mediating demons or genii between God and man; no oracles, no abstract dogmas, no theological disputes among the lettered; their emperor was always the first pontiff; their religion was always august and simple; thus it is that this vast empire, though twice subjugated, has constantly preserved its integrity, has made its conquerors receive its laws, and notwithstanding the crimes and miseries inseparable from the human race, is still the most flourishing state upon earth.
The Magi of Chaldæa, the Sabeans, acknowledged but one supreme god, whom they adored in the stars, which are his work. The Persians adored him in the sun. The sphere placed on the frontispiece of the temple of Memphis was the emblem of one only and perfect god, called “Knef” by the Egyptians.
The title of “Deus Optimus Maximus” was never given by the Romans to any but “Jupiter, hominum sator atque deorum.” This great truth, which we have elsewhere pointed out, cannot be too often repeated.
This adoration of a Supreme God, from Romulus down to the total destruction of the empire and of its religion, is confirmed. In spite of all the follies of the people, who venerated secondary and ridiculous gods, and in spite of the Epicureans, who in reality acknowledged none, it is verified that, in all times, the magistrates and the wise adored one sovereign God.
From the great number of testimonies left us to this truth, I will select first that of Maximus of Tyre, who flourished under the Antonines—those models of true piety, since they were models of humanity. These are his words, in his discourse entitled “Of God,” according to Plato. The reader who would instruct himself is requested to weigh them well:
“Men have been so weak as to give to God a human figure, because they had seen nothing superior to man; but it is ridiculous to imagine, with Homer, that Jupiter or the Supreme Divinity has black eyebrows and golden hair, which he cannot shake without making the heavens tremble.
“When men are questioned concerning the nature of the Divinity, their answers are all different. Yet, notwithstanding this prodigious variety of opinions, you will find one and the same feeling throughout the earth—viz., that there is but one God, who is the father of all. . . . . ”
After this formal avowal, after the immortal discourses of Cicero, of Antonine, of Epictetus, what becomes of the declamations which so many ignorant pedants are still repeating? What avail those eternal reproachings of base polytheism and puerile idolatry, but to convince us that the reproachers have not the slightest acquaintance with sterling antiquity? They have taken the reveries of Homer for the doctrines of the wise.
Is it necessary to have stronger or more expressive testimony? You will find it in the letter from Maximus of Madaura to St. Augustine; both were philosophers and orators; at least, they prided themselves on being so; they wrote to each other freely; they were even friends as much as a man of the old religion and one of the new could be friends. Read Maximus of Madaura’s letter, and the bishop of Hippo’s answer:
Letter from Maximus of Madaura.
“Now, that there is a sovereign God, who is without beginning, and, who, without having begotten anything like unto himself, is nevertheless the father and the former of all things, what man can be gross and stupid enough to doubt? He it is of whom, under different names, we adore the eternal power extending through every part of the world—thus honoring separately, by different sorts of worship, what may be called his several members, we adore him entirely. . . . . May those subordinate gods preserve you, under whose names, and by whom all we mortals upon earth adore the common father of gods and men, by different sorts of worship, it is true, but all according in their variety, and all tending to the same end.”
By whom was this letter written? By a Numidian—one of the country of the Algerines!
“In your public square there are two statues of Mars, the one naked, the other armed; and close by, the figure of a man who, with three fingers advanced towards Mars, holds in check that divinity, so dangerous to the whole town. With regard to what you say of such gods, being portions of the only true God, I take the liberty you give me, to warn you not to fall into such a sacrilege; for that only God, of whom you speak, is doubtless He who is acknowledged by the whole world, and concerning whom, as some of the ancients have said, the ignorant agree with the learned. Now, will you say that he whose strength, if not his cruelty, is represented by an inanimate man, is a portion of that God? I could easily push you hard on this subject; for you will clearly see how much might be said upon it; but I refrain, lest you should say that I employ against you the weapons of rhetoric rather than those of virtue.”
We know not what was signified by these two statues, of which no vestige is left us; but not all the statues with which Rome was filled—not the Pantheon and all the temples consecrated to the inferior gods, nor even those of the twelve greater gods prevented “Deus Optimus Maximus”—“God, most good, most great”—from being acknowledged throughout the empire.
The misfortune of the Romans, then, was their ignorance of the Mosaic law, and afterwards, of the law of the disciples of our Saviour Jesus Christ—their want of the faith—their mixing with the worship of a supreme God the worship of Mars, of Venus, of Minerva, of Apollo, who did not exist, and their preserving that religion until the time of the Theodosii. Happily, the Goths, the Huns, the Vandals, the Heruli, the Lombards, the Franks, who destroyed that empire, submitted to the truth, and enjoyed a blessing denied to Scipio, to Cato, to Metellus, to Emilius, to Cicero, to Varro, to Virgil, and to Horace.
None of these great men knew Jesus Christ, whom they could not know; yet they did not worship the devil, as so many pedants are every day repeating. How should they worship the devil, of whom they had never heard?
A Calumny on Cicero by Warburton, on the Subject of a Supreme God.
Warburton, like his contemporaries, has calumniated Cicero and ancient Rome. He boldly supposes that Cicero pronounced these words, in his “Oration for Flaccus”:
“It is unworthy of the majesty of the empire to adore only one God”—“Majestatem imperii non decuit ut unus tantum Deus colatur.”
It will, perhaps, hardly be believed that there is not a word of this in the “Oration for Flaccus,” nor in any of Cicero’s works. Flaccus, who had exercised the prætorship in Asia Minor, is charged with exercising some vexations. He was secretly persecuted by the Jews, who then inundated Rome; for, by their money, they had obtained privileges in Rome at the very time when Pompey, after Crassus, had taken Jerusalem, and hanged their petty king, Alexander, son of Aristobolus. Flaccus had forbidden the conveying of gold and silver specie to Jerusalem, because the money came back altered, and commerce was thereby injured; and he had seized the gold which was clandestinely carried. This gold, said Cicero, is still in the treasury. Flaccus has acted as disinterestedly as Pompey.
Cicero, then, with his wonted irony, pronounces these words: “Each country has its religion; we have ours. While Jerusalem was yet free, while the Jews were yet at peace, even then they held in abhorrence the splendor of this empire, the dignity of the Roman name, the institutions of our ancestors. Now that nation has shown more than ever, by the strength of its arms, what it should think of the Roman Empire. It has shown us, by its valor, how dear it is to the immortal gods; it has proved it to us, by its being vanquished, expatriated, and tributary.”—“Stantibus Hierosolymis, pacatisque Judais, tamen istorum religio sacrorum, a splendore hujus imperii, gravitate nominis nostri, majorum institutis, abhorrebat; nunc vero hoc magis quid illa gens, quid de imperio nostro sentiret, ostendit armis; quam cara diis immortalibus esset, docuit, quod est victa, quod elocata, quod servata.”
It is then quite false that Cicero, or any other Roman, ever said that it did not become the majesty of the empire to acknowledge a supreme God. Their Jupiter, the Zeus of the Greeks, the Jehovah of the Phœnicians, was always considered as the master of the secondary gods. This great truth cannot be too forcibly inculcated.
Did the Romans Take Their Gods from the Greeks?
Had not the Romans served gods for whom they were not indebted to the Greeks? For instance, they could not be guilty of plagiarism in adoring Cœlum, while the Greeks adored Ouranon; or in addressing themselves to Saturnus and Tellus, while the Greeks addressed themselves to Ge and Chronos. They called Ceres, her whom the Greeks named Deo and Demiter.
Their Neptune was Poseidon, their Venus was Aphrodite; their Juno was called, in Greek, Era; their Proserpine, Core; and their favorites, Mars and Bellona, were Ares and Enio. In none of these instances do the names resemble.
Did the inventive spirits of Rome and of Greece assemble? or did the one take from the other the thing, while they disguised the name? It is very natural that the Romans, without consulting the Greeks, should make to themselves gods of the heavens, of time; beings presiding over war, over generation, over harvests, without going to Greece to ask for gods, as they afterwards went there to ask for laws. When you find a name that resembles nothing else, it is but fair to believe it a native of that particular country.
But is not Jupiter, the master of all the gods, a word belonging to every nation, from the Euphrates to the Tiber? Among the first Romans, it was Jov, Jovis; among the Greeks, Zeus; among the Phœnicians, the Syrians, and the Egyptians, Jehovah.
Does not this resemblance serve to confirm the supposition that every people had the knowledge of the Supreme Being?—a knowledge confused, it is true; but what man can have it distinct?
Examination of Spinoza.
Spinoza cannot help admitting an intelligence acting in matter, and forming a whole with it.
“I must conclude,” he says, “that the absolute being is neither thought nor extent, exclusively of each other; but that extent and thought are necessary attributes of the absolute being.”
Herein he appears to differ from all the atheists of antiquity; from Ocellus, Lucanus, Heraclitus, Democritus, Leucippus, Strato, Epicurus, Pythagoras, Diagoras, Zeno of Elis, Anaximander, and so many others. He differs from them, above all, in his method, which he took entirely from the reading of Descartes, whose very style he has imitated.
The multitude of those who cry out against Spinoza, without ever having read him, will especially be astonished by his following declaration. He does not make it to dazzle mankind, nor to appease theologians, nor to obtain protectors, nor to disarm a party; he speaks as a philosopher, without naming himself, without advertising himself; and expresses himself in Latin, so as to be understood by a very small number. Here is his profession of faith.
Spinoza’s Profession of Faith.
“If I also concluded that the idea of God, comprised in that of the infinity of the universe, excused me from obedience, love, and worship, I should make a still more pernicious use of my reason; for it is evident to me that the laws which I have received, not by the relation or intervention of other men, but immediately from Him, are those which the light of nature points out to me as the true guides of rational conduct. If I failed of obedience, in this particular, I should sin, not only against the principle of my being and the society of my kind, but also against myself, in depriving myself of the most solid advantage of my existence. This obedience does, it is true, bind me only to the duties of my state, and makes me look on all besides as frivolous practices, invented in superstition to serve the purposes of their inventors.
“With regard to the love of God, so far, I conceive, is this idea from tending to weaken it, that no other is more calculated to increase it; since, through it, I know that God is intimate with my being; that He gives me existence and my every property; but He gives me them liberally, without reproach, without interest, without subjecting me to anything but my own nature. It banishes fear, uneasiness, distrust, and all the effects of a vulgar or interested love. It informs me that this is a good which I cannot lose, and which I possess the more fully, as I know and love it.”
Are these the words of the virtuous and tender Fénelon, or those of Spinoza? How is it that two men so opposed to each other, have, with such different notions of God, concurred in the idea of loving God for Himself?
It must be acknowledged that they went both to the same end—the one as a Christian, the other as a man who had the misfortune not to be so; the holy archbishop, as philosopher, convinced that God is distinct from nature; the other as a widely-erring disciple of Descartes, who imagined that God is all nature.
The former was orthodox, the latter was mistaken, I must assent; but both were honest, both estimable in their sincerity, as in their mild and simple manners; though there is no other point of resemblance between the imitator of the “Odyssey,” and a dry Cartesian fenced round with arguments; between one of the most accomplished men of the court of Louis XIV., invested with what is called a high divinity, and a poor unjudaïzed Jew, living with an income of three hundred florins, in the most profound obscurity.
If there be any similitude between them, it is that Fénelon was accused before the Sanhedrim of the new law, and the other before a synagogue without power or without reason; but the one submitted, the other rebelled.
Foundation of Spinoza’s Philosophy.
The great dialectician Bayle has refuted Spinoza. His system, therefore, is not demonstrated, like one of Euclid’s propositions; for, if it were so, it could not be combated. It is, therefore, at least obscure.
I have always had some suspicion that Spinoza, with his universal substance, his modes and accidents, had some other meaning than that in which he is understood by Bayle; and consequently, that Bayle may be right, without having confounded Spinoza. And, in particular, I have always thought that often Spinoza did not understand himself, and that this is the principal reason why he has not been understood.
It seems to me that the ramparts of Spinozism might be beaten down on a side which Bayle has neglected. Spinoza thinks that there can exist but one substance; and it appears throughout his book that he builds his theory on the mistake of Descartes, that “nature is a plenum.”
The theory of a plenum is as false as that of a void. It is now demonstrated that motion is as impossible in absolute fulness, as it is impossible that, in an equal balance, a weight of two pounds in one scale should sink a weight of two in the other.
Now, if every motion absolutely requires empty space, what becomes of Spinoza’s one and only substance? How can the substance of a star, between which and us there is a void so immense, be precisely the substance of this earth, or the substance of myself, or the substance of a fly eaten by a spider?
Perhaps I mistake, but I never have been able to conceive how Spinoza, admitting an infinite substance of which thought and matter are the two modalities—admitting the substance which he calls God, and of which all that we see is mode or accident—could nevertheless reject final causes. If this infinite, universal being thinks, must he not have design? If he has design, must he not have a will? Spinoza says, we are modes of that absolute, necessary, infinite being. I say to Spinoza, we will, and have design, we who are but modes; therefore, this infinite, necessary, absolute being cannot be deprived of them; therefore, he has will, design, power.
I am aware that various philosophers, and especially Lucretius, have denied final causes; I am also aware that Lucretius, though not very chaste, is a very great poet in his descriptions and in his morals; but in philosophy I own he appears to me to be very far behind a college porter or a parish beadle. To affirm that the eye is not made to see, nor the ear to hear, nor the stomach to digest—is not this the most enormous absurdity, the most revolting folly, that ever entered the human mind? Doubter as I am, this insanity seems to me evident, and I say so.
For my part, I see in nature, as in the arts, only final causes, and I believe that an apple tree is made to bear apples, as I believe that a watch is made to tell the hour.
I must here acquaint the readers that if Spinoza, in several passages of his works, makes a jest of final causes, he most expressly acknowledges them in the first part of his “Being, in General and in Particular.”
Here he says, “Permit me for a few moments to dwell with admiration on the wonderful dispensation of nature, which, having enriched the constitution of man with all the resources necessary to prolong to a certain term the duration of his frail existence, and to animate his knowledge of himself by that of an infinity of distant objects, seems purposely to have neglected to give him the means of well knowing what he is obliged to make a more ordinary use of—the individuals of his own species. Yet, when duly considered, this appears less the effect of a refusal than of an extreme liberality; for, if there were any intelligent being that could penetrate another against his will, he would enjoy such an advantage as would of itself exclude him from society; whereas, in the present state of things, each individual enjoying himself in full independence communicates himself so much only as he finds convenient.”
What shall I conclude from this? That Spinoza frequently contradicted himself; that he had not always clear ideas; that in the great wreck of systems, he clung sometimes to one plank, sometimes to another; that in this weakness he was like Malebranche, Arnauld, Bossuet, and Claude, who now and then contradicted themselves in their disputes; that he was like numberless metaphysicians and theologians? I shall conclude that I have additional reason for distrusting all my metaphysical notions; that I am a very feeble animal, treading on quicksands, which are continually giving way beneath me; and that there is perhaps nothing so foolish as to believe ourselves always in the right.
Baruch Spinoza, you are very confused; but are you as dangerous as you are said to be? I maintain that you are not; and my reason is, that you are confused, that you have written in bad Latin, and that there are not ten persons in Europe who read you from beginning to end, although you have been translated into French. Who is the dangerous author? He who is read by the idle at court and by the ladies.
The “System of Nature.”
The author of the “System of Nature” has had the advantage of being read by both learned and ignorant, and by women. His style, then, has merits which that of Spinoza wanted. He is often luminous, sometimes eloquent; although he may be charged, like all the rest, with repetition, declamation, and self-contradiction. But for profundity, he is very often to be distrusted both in physics and in morals. The interest of mankind is here in question; we will, therefore, examine whether his doctrine is true and useful; and will, if we can, be brief.
“Order and disorder do not exist.” What! in physics, is not a child born blind, without legs, or a monster, contrary to the nature of the species? Is it not the ordinary regularity of nature that makes order, and irregularity that constitues disorder? Is it not a great derangement, a dreadful disorder, when nature gives a child hunger and closes the œsophagus? The evacuations of every kind are necessary; yet the channels are frequently without orifices, which it is necessary to remedy. Doubtless this disorder has its cause; for there is no effect without a cause; but it is a very disordered effect.
Is not the assassination of our friend, or of our brother, a horrible disorder in morals? Are not the calumnies of a Garasse, of a Letellier, of a Doucin, against Jansenists, and those of Jansenists against Jesuits, petty disorders? Were not the massacre of St. Bartholomew, the Irish massacre, etc., execrable disorders? This crime has its cause in passion, but the effect is execrable; the cause is fatal; this disorder makes us shudder. The origin of the disorder remains to be discovered, but the disorder exists.
“Experience proves to us that the matter which we regard as inert and dead assumes action, intelligence, and life, when it is combined in a certain way.”
This is precisely the difficulty. How does a germ come to life? Of this the author and the reader are alike ignorant. Hence, are not the “System of Nature,” and all the systems in the world, so many dreams?
“It would be necessary to define the vital principle, which I deem impossible.” Is not this definition very easy, very common? Is not life organization with feeling? But that you have these two properties from the motion of matter alone, it is impossible to give any proof; and if it cannot be proved, why affirm it? Why say aloud, “I know,” while you say to yourself, “I know not”?
“It will be asked, what is man?” etc. Assuredly, this article is no clearer than the most obscure of Spinoza’s; and many readers will feel indignant at the decisive tone which is assumed without anything being explained.
“Matter is eternal and necessary; but its forms and its combinations are transitory and contingent,” etc. It is hard to comprehend, matter being, according to our author, necessary, and without freedom, how there can be anything contingent. By contingency, we understand that which may be, or may not be; but since all must be, of absolute necessity, every manner of being, which he here very erroneously calls contingent, is as absolutely of necessity as the being itself. Here again we are in a labyrinth.
When you venture to affirm that there is no God, that matter acts of itself by an eternal necessity, it must be demonstrated like a proposition in Euclid, otherwise you rest your system only on a perhaps. What a foundation for that which is most interesting to the human race!
“If man is by his nature forced to love his well-being, he is forced to love the means of that well-being. It were useless, and perhaps unjust, to ask a man to be virtuous, if he cannot be so without making himself unhappy. So soon as vice makes him happy, he must love vice.”
This maxim is yet more execrable in morals than the others are in physics. Were it true that a man could not be virtuous without suffering, he must be encouraged to suffer. Our author’s proposition would evidently be the ruin of society. Besides, how does he know that we cannot be happy without having vices? On the contrary, is it not proved by experience that the satisfaction of having subdued them is a thousand times greater than the pleasure of yielding to them?—a pleasure always empoisoned, a pleasure leading to woe. By subduing our vices, we acquire tranquillity, the consoling testimony of our conscience; by giving ourselves up to them, we lose our health, our quiet—we risk everything. Thus our author himself, in twenty passages, wishes all to be sacrificed to virtue; and he advances this proposition only to give in his system a fresh proof of the necessity of being virtuous.
“They who, with so many arguments, reject innate ideas should have perceived that this ineffable intelligence by which the world is said to be guided, and of which our senses can determine neither the existence nor the qualities, is a being of reason.”
But, truly, how does it follow from our having no innate ideas, that there is no God? Is not this consequence absurd? Is there any contradiction in saying that God gives us ideas through our senses? Is it not, on the contrary, most clearly evident, that if there is an Almighty Being from whom we have life, we owe to him our ideas and our senses as well as everything else? It should first have been proved that God does not exist, which our author has not done, which he has not even attempted to do before this page of his tenth chapter.
Fearful of wearying the reader by an examination of all these detached passages, I will come at once to the foundation of the book, and the astonishing error upon which the author has built his system.
Story of the Eels on Which the System is Founded.
About the year 1750 there was, in France, an English Jesuit called Needham, disguised as a secular, who was then serving as tutor to the nephew of M. Dillon, archbishop of Toulouse. This man made experiments in natural philosophy, and especially in chemistry.
Having put some rye meal into well-corked bottles, and some boiled mutton gravy into other bottles, he thought that his mutton gravy and his meal had given birth to eels, which again produced others; and that thus a race of eels was formed indifferently from the juice of meat, or from a grain of rye.
A natural philosopher, of some reputation, had no doubt that this Needham was a profound atheist. He concluded that, since eels could be made of rye meal, men might be made of wheat flour; that nature and chemistry produce all; and that it was demonstrated that we may very well dispense with an all-forming God.
This property of meal very easily deceived one who, unfortunately, was already wandering amidst ideas that should make us tremble for the weakness of the human mind. He wanted to dig a hole in the centre of the earth, to see the central fire; to dissect Patagonians, that he might know the nature of the soul; to cover the sick with pitch, to prevent them from perspiring; to exalt his soul, that he might foretell the future. If to these things it were added, that he had the still greater unhappiness of seeking to oppress two of his brethren, it would do no honor to atheism; it would only serve to make us look into ourselves with confusion.
It is really strange that men, while denying a creator, should have attributed to themselves the power of creating eels.
But it is yet more deplorable that natural philosophers, of better information, adopted the Jesuit Needham’s ridiculous system, and joined it to that of Maillet, who asserted that the ocean had formed the Alps and Pyrenees, and that men were originally porpoises, whose forked tails changed in the course of time into thighs and legs. Such fancies are worthy to be placed with the eels formed by meal. We were assured, not long ago, that at Brussels a hen had brought forth half a dozen young rabbits.
This transmutation of meal and gravy into eels was demonstrated to be as false and ridiculous as it really is, by M. Spallanzani, a rather better observer than Needham. But the extravagance of so palpable an illusion was evident without his observations. Needham’s eels soon followed the Brussels’ hen.
Nevertheless, in 1768, the correct, elegant, and judicious translator of Lucretius was so far led away, that he not only, in his notes to book viii. p. 361, repeats Needham’s pretended experiments, but he also does all he can to establish their validity. Here, then, we have the new foundation of the “System of Nature.”
The author, in the second chapter, thus expresses himself: “After moistening meal with water, and shutting up the mixture, it is found after a little time, with the aid of the microscope, that it has produced organized beings, of whose production the water and meal were believed to be incapable. Thus inanimate nature can pass into life, which is itself but an assemblage of motions.”
Were this unparalleled blunder true, yet, in rigorous reasoning, I do not see how it would prove there is no God; I do not see why a supreme, intelligent, and mighty being, having formed the sun and the stars, might not also deign to form animalculæ without a germ. Here is no contradiction in terms. A demonstrative proof that God has no existence must be sought elsewhere; and most assuredly no person has ever found, or will ever find, one.
Our author treats final causes with contempt, because the argument is hackneyed; but this much-contemned argument is that of Cicero and of Newton. This alone might somewhat lessen the confidence of atheists in themselves. The number is not small of the sages who, observing the course of the stars, and the prodigious art that pervades the structure of animals and vegetables, have acknowledged a powerful hand working these continual wonders.
The author asserts that matter, blind and without choice, produces intelligent animals. Produce, without intelligence, beings with intelligence! Is this conceivable? Is this system founded on the smallest verisimilitude? An opinion so contradictory requires proofs no less astonishing than itself. The author gives us none; he never proves anything; but he affirms all that he advances. What chaos! what confusion! and what temerity!
Spinoza at least acknowledged an intelligence acting in this great whole, which constituted nature: in this there was philosophy. But in the new system, I am under the necessity of saying that there is none.
Matter has extent, solidity, gravity, divisibility. I have all these as well as this stone: but was a stone ever known to feel and think? If I am extended, solid, divisible, I owe it to matter. But I have sensations and thoughts—to what do I owe them? Not to water, not to mire—most likely to something more powerful than myself. Solely to the combination of the elements, you will say. Then prove it to me. Show me plainly that my intelligence cannot have been given to me by an intelligent cause. To this are you reduced.
Our author successively combats the God of the schoolmen—a God composed of discordant qualities; a God to whom, as to those of Homer, is attributed the passions of men; a God capricious, fickle, unreasonable, absurd—but he cannot combat the God of the wise. The wise, contemplating nature, admit an intelligent and supreme power. It is perhaps impossible for human reason, destitute of divine assistance, to go a step further.
Our author asks where this being resides; and, from the impossibility that anyone, without being infinite, should tell where He resides, he concludes that He does not exist. This is not philosophical; for we are not, because we cannot tell where the cause of an effect is, to conclude that there is no cause. If you had never seen a gunner, and you saw the effects of a battery of cannon, you would not say it acts entirely by itself. Shall it, then, only be necessary for you to say there is no God, in order to be believed on your words?
Finally, his great objection is, the woes and crimes of mankind—an objection alike ancient and philosophical; an objection common, but fatal and terrible, and to which we find no answer but in the hope of a better life. Yet what is this hope? We can have no certainty in it but from reason. But I will venture to say, that when it is proved to us that a vast edifice, constructed with the greatest art, is built by an architect, whoever he may be, we ought to believe in that architect, even though the edifice should be stained with our blood, polluted by our crimes, and should crush us in its fall. I inquire not whether the architect is a good one, whether I should be satisfied with his building, whether I should quit it rather than stay in it, nor whether those who are lodged in it for a few days, like myself, are content: I only inquire if it be true that there is an architect, or if this house, containing so many fine apartments and so many wretched garrets, built itself.
The great, the interesting object, as it appears to me, is, not to argue metaphysically, but to consider whether, for the common good of us miserable and thinking animals, we should admit a rewarding and avenging God, at once our restraint and consolation, or should reject this idea, and so abandon ourselves to calamity without hope, and crime without remorse.
Hobbes says that if, in a commonwealth, in which no God should be acknowledged, any citizen were to propose one, he would have him hanged.
Apparently, he meant by this strange exaggeration, a citizen who should seek to rule in the name of a god, a charlatan who would make himself a tyrant. We understand citizens, who, feeling the weakness of human nature, its perverseness, and its misery, seek some prop to support it through the languors and horrors of this life.
From Job down to us, a great many men have cursed their existence; we have, therefore, perpetual need of consolation and hope. Of these your philosophy deprives us. The fable of Pandora was better; it left us hope—which you snatch from us! Philosophy, you say, furnishes no proof of happiness to come. No—but you have no demonstration of the contrary. There may be in us an indestructible monad which feels and thinks, without our knowing anything at all of how that monad is made. Reason is not absolutely opposed to this idea, though reason alone does not prove it. Has not this opinion a prodigious advantage over yours? Mine is useful to mankind, yours is baneful; say of it what you will, it may encourage a Nero, an Alexander VI., or a Cartouche. Mine may restrain them.
Marcus Antoninus and Epictetus believed that their monad, of whatever kind it was, would be united to the monad of the Great Being; and they were the most virtuous of men.
In the state of doubt in which we both are, I do not say to you with Pascal, “choose the safest.” There is no safety in uncertainty. We are here not to talk, but to examine; we must judge, and our judgment is not determined by our will. I do not propose to you to believe extravagant things, in order to escape embarrassment. I do not say to you, “Go to Mecca, and instruct yourself by kissing the black stone, take hold of a cow’s tail, muffle yourself in a scapulary, or be imbecile and fanatical to acquire the favor of the Being of beings.” I say to you: “Continue to cultivate virtue, to be beneficent, to regard all superstition with horror, or with pity; but adore, with me, the design which is manifested in all nature, and consequently the Author of that design—the primordial and final cause of all; hope with me that our monad, which reasons on the great eternal being, may be happy through that same great Being.” There is no contradiction in this. You can no more demonstrate its impossibility than I can demonstrate mathematically that it is so. In metaphysics we scarcely reason on anything but probabilities. We are all swimming in a sea of which we have never seen the shore. Woe be to those who fight while they swim! Land who can: but he that cries out to me, “You swim in vain, there is no land,” disheartens me, and deprives me of all my strength.
What is the object of our dispute? To console our unhappy existence. Who consoles it—you or I?
You yourself own, in some passages of your work, that the belief in a God has withheld some men on the brink of crime; for me, this acknowledgment is enough. If this opinion had prevented but ten assassinations, but ten calumnies, but ten iniquitous judgments on the earth, I hold that the whole earth ought to embrace it.
Religion, you say, has produced thousands of crimes—say, rather, superstition, which unhappily reigns over this globe; it is the most cruel enemy of the pure adoration due to the Supreme Being.
Let us detest this monster which has constantly been tearing the bosom of its mother; they who combat it are benefactors to mankind: it is a serpent enclosing religion in its folds, its head must be bruised, without wounding the parent whom it infects and devours.
You fear, “that, by adoring God, men would soon again become superstitious and fanatical.” But is it not to be feared that in denying Him, they would abandon themselves to the most atrocious passions, and the most frightful crimes? Between these two extremes is there not a very rational mean? Where is the safe track between these two rocks? It is God, and wise laws.
You affirm that it is but one step from adoration to superstition: but there is an infinity to well-constituted minds, and these are now very numerous; they are at the head of nations; they influence public manners, and, year by year, the fanaticism that overspread the earth is receding in its detestable usurpations.
I shall say a few words more in answer to what you say in page 223. “If it be presumed that there are relations between man and this incredible being, then altars must be raised and presents must be made to him, etc.; if no conception be formed of this being, then the matter must be referred to priests, who . . .” A great evil to be sure, to assemble in the harvest season, and thank God for the bread that He has given us! Who says you should make presents to God? The idea is ridiculous! But where is the harm of employing a citizen, called an “elder” or “priest,” to render thanks to the Divinity in the name of the other citizens?—provided the priest is not a Gregory VII. trampling on the heads of kings, nor an Alexander VI. polluting by incest his daughter, the offspring of a rape, and, by the aid of his bastard son, poisoning and assassinating almost all the neighboring princes: provided that, in a parish, this priest is not a knave, picking the pockets of the penitents he confesses, and using the money to seduce the girls he catechises; provided that this priest is not a Letellier, putting the whole kingdom in combustion by rogueries worthy of the pillory, nor a Warburton, violating the laws of society, making public the private papers of a member of parliament in order to ruin him, and calumniating whosoever is not of his opinion. The latter cases are rare. The sacerdotal state is a curb which forces to good behavior.
A stupid priest excites contempt; a bad priest inspires horror; a good priest, mild, pious, without superstition, charitable, tolerant, is one who ought to be cherished and revered. You dread abuses—so do I. Let us unite to prevent them; but let us not condemn the usage when it is useful to society, when it is not perverted by fanaticism, or by fraudulent wickedness.
I have one very important thing to tell you. I am persuaded that you are in a great error, but I am equally convinced that you are honest in your self-delusion. You would have men virtuous even without a God, although you have unfortunately said that “so soon as vice renders man happy, he must love vice”—a frightful proposition, which your friends should have prevailed on you to erase. Everywhere else you inspire probity. This philosophical dispute will be only between you and a few philosophers scattered over Europe; the rest of the earth will not even hear of it. The people do not read us. If some theologian were to seek to persecute us, he would be impudent as well as wicked; he would but serve to confirm you, and to make new atheists.
You are wrong: but the Greeks did not persecute Epicurus; the Romans did not persecute Lucretius. You are wrong: but your genius and your virtue must be respected, while you are refuted with all possible strength.
In my opinion, the finest homage that can be rendered to God is to stand forward in His defence without anger; as the most unworthy portrait that can be drawn of Him is to paint Him vindictive and furious. He is truth itself; and truth is without passion. To be a disciple of God is to announce Him as of a mild heart and of an unalterable mind.
I think, with you, that fanaticism is a monster a thousand times more dangerous than philosophical atheism. Spinoza did not commit a single bad action. Châtel and Ravaillac, both devotees, assassinated Henry IV.
The atheist of the closet is almost always a quiet philosopher, while the fanatic is always turbulent: but the court atheist, the atheistical prince, might be the scourge of mankind. Borgia and his like have done almost as much harm as the fanatics of Münster and of the Cévennes. I say the fanatics on both sides. The misfortune is, that atheists of the closet make atheists of the court. It was Chiron who brought up Achilles; he fed him with lion’s marrow. Achilles will one day drag Hector’s body round the walls of Troy, and immolate twelve captives to his vengeance.
God keep us from an abominable priest who should hew a king in pieces with his sacrificing knife, as also from him who, with a helmet on his head and a cuirass on his back, at the age of seventy, should dare to sign with his three bloody fingers the ridiculous excommunication of a king of France! and from . . . . and from . . . .
But also, may God preserve us from a choleric and barbarous despot, who, not believing in a God, should be his own God, who should render himself unworthy of his sacred trust by trampling on the duties which that trust imposes, who should remorselessly sacrifice to his passions, his friends, his relatives, his servants, and his people. These two tigers, the one shorn, the other crowned are equally to be feared. By what means shall we muzzle them? . . . .
If the idea of a God has made a Titus or a Trajan, an Antonine or an Aurelius, and those great Chinese emperors, whose memory is so dear to the second of the most ancient and most extensive empires in the world, these examples are sufficient for my cause—and my cause is that of all mankind.
I do not believe that there is in all Europe one statesman, one man at all versed in the affairs of the world, who has not the most profound contempt for the legends with which we have been inundated, even more than we now are with pamphlets. If religion no longer gives birth to civil wars, it is to philosophy alone that we are indebted, theological disputes beginning to be regarded in much the same manner as the quarrels of Punch and Judy at the fair. A usurpation, alike odious and ridiculous, founded upon fraud on one side and stupidity on the other, is every instant undermined by reason, which is establishing its reign. The bull “In cæna Domini”—that masterpiece of insolence and folly, no longer dares appear, even in Rome. If a regiment of monks makes the least evolution against the laws of the state, it is immediately broken. But, because the Jesuits have been expelled, must we also expel God? On the contrary, we must love Him the more.
In the reign of Arcadius, Logomachos, a theologue of Constantinople, went into Scythia and stopped at the foot of Mount Caucasus in the fruitful plains of Zephirim, on the borders of Colchis. The good old man Dondindac was in his great hall between his large sheepfold and his extensive barn; he was on his knees with his wife, his five sons and five daughters, his kinsmen and servants; and all were singing the praises of God, after a light repast. “What are you doing, idolater?” said Logomachos to him. “I am not an idolater,” said Dondindac. “You must be an idolater,” said Logomachos, “for you are not a Greek. Come, tell me what you were singing in your barbarous Scythian jargon?” “All tongues are alike to the ears of God,” answered the Scythian; “we were singing His praises.” “Very extraordinary!” returned the theologue; “a Scythian family praying to God without having been instructed by us!” He soon entered into conversation with the Scythian Dondindac; for the theologue knew a little Scythian, and the other a little Greek. This conversation has been found in a manuscript preserved in the library of Constantinople.
Let us see if you know your catechism. Why do you pray to God?
Because it is just to adore the Supreme Being, from whom we have everything.
Very fair for a barbarian. And what do you ask of him?
I thank Him for the blessings I enjoy, and even for the trials which He sends me; but I am careful to ask nothing of Him; for He knows our wants better than we do; besides, I should be afraid of asking for fair weather while my neighbor was asking for rain.
Ah! I thought he would say some nonsense or other. Let us begin farther back. Barbarian, who told you that there is a God?
All nature tells me.
That is not enough. What idea have you of God?
The idea of my Creator; my master, who will reward me if I do good, and punish me if I do evil.
Trifles! trash! Let us come to some essentials. Is God infinite secundum quid, or according to essence?
I don’t understand you.
Brute beast! Is God in one place, or in every place?
I know not . . . . just as you please.
Ignoramus! . . . . Can He cause that which has not been to have been, or that a stick shall not have two ends? Does He see the future as future, or as present? How does He draw being from nothing, and how reduce being to nothing?
I have never examined these things.
What a stupid fellow! Well, I must come nearer to your level. . . . . Tell me, friend, do you think that matter can be eternal?
What matters it to me whether it exists from all eternity or not? I do not exist from all eternity. God must still be my Master. He has given me the nature of justice; it is my duty to follow it: I seek not to be a philosopher; I wish to be a man.
One has a great deal of trouble with these blockheads. Let us proceed step by step. What is God?
My sovereign, my judge, my father.
That is not what I ask. What is His nature?
To be mighty and good.
But is He corporeal or spiritual?
How should I know that?
What; do you not know what a spirit is?
Not in the least. Of what service would that knowledge be to me? Should I be more just? Should I be a better husband, a better father, a better master, or a better citizen?
You must absolutely be taught what a spirit is. It is— it is— it is— I will say what another time.
I much fear that you will tell me rather what it is not than what it is. Permit me, in turn, to ask you one question. Some time ago, I saw one of your temples: why do you paint God with a long beard?
That is a very difficult question, and requires preliminary instruction.
Before I receive your instruction, I must relate to you a thing which one day happened to me. I had just built a closet at the end of my garden, when I heard a mole arguing thus with an ant: “Here is a fine fabric,” said the mole; “it must have been a very powerful mole that performed this work.” “You jest,” returned the ant; “the architect of this edifice is an ant of mighty genius.” From that time I resolved never to dispute.
GOOD—THE SOVEREIGN GOOD, A CHIMERA.
Happiness is an abstract idea composed of certain pleasurable sensations. Plato, who wrote better than he reasoned, conceived the notion of his world in archetype; that is, his original world—of his general ideas of the beautiful, the good, the orderly, and the just, as if there had existed eternal beings, called order, good, beauty, and justice; whence might be derived the feeble copies exhibited here below of the just, the beautiful, and the good.
It is, then, in consequence of his suggestions that philosophers have occupied themselves in seeking for the sovereign good, as chemists seek for the philosopher’s stone; but the sovereign good has no more existence than the sovereign square, or the sovereign crimson: there is the crimson color, and there are squares; but there is no general existence so denominated. This chimerical manner of reasoning was for a long time the bane of philosophy.
Animals feel pleasure in performing all the functions for which they are destined. The happiness which poetical fancy has imagined would be an uninterrupted series of pleasures; but such a series would be incompatible with our organs and our destination. There is great pleasure in eating, drinking, and connubial endearments; but it is clear that if a man were always eating, or always in the full ecstasy of enjoyment, his organs would be incapable of sustaining it: it is further evident that he would be unable to fulfil the destinies he was born to, and that, in the case supposed, the human race would absolutely perish through pleasure.
To pass constantly and without interruption from one pleasure to another is also a chimera. The woman who has conceived must go through childbirth, which is a pain; the man is obliged to cleave wood and hew stone, which is not a pleasure.
If the name of happiness is meant to be applied to some pleasures which are diffused over human life, there is in fact, we must admit, happiness. If the name attaches only to one pleasure always permanent, or a continued although varied range of delicious enjoyment, then happiness belongs not to this terraqueous globe. Go and seek for it elsewhere.
If we make happiness consist in any particular situation that a man may be in, as for instance, a situation of wealth, power, or fame, we are no less mistaken. There are some scavengers who are happier than some sovereigns. Ask Cromwell whether he was more happy when he was lord protector of England, than when, in his youthful days, he enjoyed himself at a tavern; he will probably tell you in answer, that the period of his usurpation was not the period most productive of pleasures. How many plain or even ugly country women are more happy than were Helen and Cleopatra.
We must here however make one short remark; that when we say such a particular man is probably happier than some other; that a young muleteer has advantages very superior to those of Charles V.; that a dressmaker has more enjoyment than a princess, we should adhere to the probability of the case. There is certainly every appearance that a muleteer, in full health, must have more pleasure than Charles the Fifth, laid up with the gout; but nevertheless it may also be, that Charles, on his crutches, revolves in his mind with such ecstasy the facts of his holding a king of France and a pope prisoners, that his lot is absolutely preferable to that of the young and vigorous muleteer.
It certainly belongs to God alone, to a being capable of seeing through all hearts, to decide which is the happiest man. There is only one case in which a person can affirm that his actual state is worse or better than that of his neighbor; this case is that of existing rivalship, and the moment that of victory.
I will suppose that Archimedes has an assignation at night with his mistress. Nomentanus has the same assignation at the same hour. Archimedes presents himself at the door, and it is shut in his face; but it is opened to his rival, who enjoys an excellent supper, which he enlivens by his repeated sallies of wit upon Archimedes, and after the conclusion of which he withdraws to still higher enjoyments, while the other remains exposed in the street to all the pelting of a pitiless storm. There can be no doubt that Nomentanus has a right to say: “I am more happy to-night than Archimedes: I have more pleasure than he”; but it is necessary, in order to admit the truth and justness of the inference of the successful competitors in his own favor, to suppose that Archimedes is thinking only about the loss of his good supper, about being despised and deceived by a beautiful woman, about being supplanted by his rival, and annoyed by the tempest; for, if the philosopher in the street should be calmly reflecting that his soul ought to be above being discomposed by a strumpet or a storm, if he should be absorbed in a profound and interesting problem, and if he should discover the proportions between the cylinder and the sphere, he may experience a pleasure a hundred times superior to that of Nomentanus.
It is only therefore in the single case of actual pleasure and actual pain, and without a reference to anything else whatever, that a comparison between any two individuals can be properly made. It is unquestionable that he who enjoys the society of his mistress is happier at the moment than his scorned rival deploring over his misfortune. A man in health, supping on a fat partridge, is undoubtedly happier at the time than another under the torment of the colic; but we cannot safely carry our inferences farther; we cannot estimate the existence of one man against that of another; we possess no accurate balance for weighing desires and sensations.
We began this article with Plato and his sovereign good; we will conclude it with Solon and the saying of his which has been so highly celebrated, that “we ought to pronounce no man happy before his death.” This maxim, when examined into, will be found nothing more than a puerile remark, just like many other apothegms consecrated by their antiquity. The moment of death has nothing in common with the lot experienced by any man in life; a man may perish by a violent and ignominious death, and yet, up to that moment, may have enjoyed all the pleasures of which human nature is susceptible. It is very possible and very common for a happy man to cease to be so; no one can doubt it; but he has not the less had his happy moments.
What, then, can Solon’s expression strictly and fairly mean? that a man happy to-day is not certain of being so to-morrow! In this case it is a truth so incontestable and trivial that, not merely is it not worthy of being elevated into a maxim, but it is not worthy delivering at all.
Well-being is a rare possession. May not the sovereign good in this world be considered as a sovereign chimera? The Greek philosophers discussed at great length, according to their usual practice, this celebrated question. The reader will, probably, compare them to just so many mendicants reasoning about the philosopher’s stone.
The sovereign good! What an expression! It might as well have been asked: What is the sovereign blue, or the sovereign ragout, or the sovereign walk, or the sovereign reading?
Every one places his good where he can, and has as much of it as he can, in his own way, and in very scanty measure. Castor loved horses; his twin brother, to try a fall—
The greatest good is that which delights us so powerfully as to render us incapable of feeling anything else; as the greatest evil is that which goes so far as to deprive us of all feeling. These are the two extremes of human nature, and these moments are short. Neither extreme delight nor extreme torture can last a whole life. The sovereign good and the sovereign evil are nothing more than chimeras.
We all know the beautiful fable of Crantor. He introduces upon the stage at the Olympic games, Wealth, Pleasure, Health, and Virtue. Each claims the apple. Wealth says, I am the sovereign good, for with me all goods are purchased. Pleasure says, the apple belongs to me, for it is only on my account that wealth is desired. Health asserts, that without her there can be no pleasure, and wealth is useless. Finally, Virtue states that she is superior to the other three, because, although possessed of gold, pleasures, and health, a man may make himself very contemptible by misconduct. The apple was conferred on Virtue.
The fable is very ingenious; it would be still more so if Crantor had said that the sovereign good consists in the combination of the four rivals, Virtue, Health, Wealth, and Pleasure; but this fable neither does, nor can, resolve the absurd question about the sovereign good. Virtue is not a good; it is a duty. It is of a different nature; of a superior order. It has nothing to do with painful or with agreeable sensations. A virtuous man, laboring under stone and gout, without aid, without friends, destitute of necessaries, persecuted, and chained down to the floor by a voluptuous tyrant who enjoys good health, is very wretched; and his insolent persecutor, caressing a new mistress on his bed of purple, is very happy. Say, if you please, that the persecuted sage is preferable to the persecuting profligate; say that you admire the one and detest the other; but confess that the sage in chains is scarcely less than mad with rage and pain; if he does not himself admit that he is so, he completely deceives you; he is a charlatan.
Of Good and Evil, Physical and Moral.
We here treat of a question of the greatest difficulty and importance. It relates to the whole of human life. It would be of much greater consequence to find a remedy for our evils; but no remedy is to be discovered, and we are reduced to the sad necessity of tracing out their origin. With respect to this origin, men have disputed ever since the days of Zoroaster, and in all probability they disputed on the same subject long before him. It was to explain the mixture of good and evil that they conceived the idea of two principles—Oromazes, the author of light, and Arimanes, the author of darkness; the box of Pandora; the two vessels of Jupiter; the apple eaten by Eve; and a variety of other systems. The first of dialecticians, although not the first of philosophers, the illustrious Bayle, has clearly shown how difficult it is for Christians who admit one only God, perfectly good and just, to reply to the objections of the Manichæans who acknowledge two Gods—one good, and the other evil.
The foundation of the system of the Manichæans, with all its antiquity, was not on that account more reasonable. Lemmas, susceptible of the most clear and rigid geometrical demonstrations, should alone have induced any men to the adoption of such a theorem as the following: “There are two necessary beings, both supreme, both infinite, both equally powerful, both in conflict with each other, yet, finally, agreeing to pour out upon this little planet—one, all the treasures of his beneficence, and the other all the stores of his malice.” It is in vain that the advocates of this hypothesis attempt to explain by it the cause of good and evil: even the fable of Prometheus explains it better. Every hypothesis which only serves to assign a reason for certain things, without being, in addition to that recommendation, established upon indisputable principles, ought invariably to be rejected.
The Christian doctors—independently of revelation, which makes everything credible—explain the origin of good and evil no better than the partnergods of Zoroaster.
When they say God is a tender father, God is a just king; when they add the idea of infinity to that of love, that kindness, that justice which they observe in the best of their own species, they soon fall into the most palpable and dreadful contradictions. How could this sovereign, who possessed in infinite fulness the principle or quality of human justice, how could this father, entertaining an infinite affection for his children; how could this being, infinitely powerful, have formed creatures in His own likeness, to have them immediately afterwards tempted by a malignant demon, to make them yield to that temptation to inflict death on those whom He had created immortal, and to overwhelm their posterity with calamities and crimes! We do not here speak of a contradiction still more revolting to our feeble reason. How could God, who ransomed the human race by the death of His only Son; or rather, how could God, who took upon Himself the nature of man, and died on the cross to save men from perdition, consign over to eternal tortures nearly the whole of that human race for whom He died? Certainly, when we consider this system merely as philosophers—without the aid of faith—we must consider it as absolutely monstrous and abominable. It makes of God either pure and unmixed malice, and that malice infinite, which created thinking beings, on purpose to devote them to eternal misery, or absolute impotence and imbecility, in not being able to foresee or to prevent the torments of his offspring.
But the eternity of misery is not the subject of this article, which relates properly only to the good and evil of the present life. None of the doctors of the numerous churches of Christianity, all of which advocate the doctrine we are here contesting, have been able to convince a single sage.
We cannot conceive how Bayle, who managed the weapons of dialectics with such admirable strength and dexterity, could content himself with introducing in a dispute a Manichæan, a Calvinist, a Molinist, and a Socinian. Why did he not introduce, as speaking, a reasonable and sensible man? Why did not Bayle speak in his own person? He would have said far better what we shall now venture to say ourselves.
A father who kills his children is a monster; a king who conducts his subjects into a snare, in order to obtain a pretext for delivering them up to punishment and torture, is an execrable tyrant. If you conceive God to possess the same kindness which you require in a father, the same justice that you require in a king, no possible resource exists by which, if we may use the expression, God can be exculpated; and by allowing Him to possess infinite wisdom and infinite goodness you, in fact, render Him infinitely odious; you excite a wish that He had no existence; you furnish arms to the atheist, who will ever be justified in triumphantly remarking to you: Better by far is it to deny a God altogether, than impute to Him such conduct as you would punish, to the extremity of the law, in men.
We begin then with observing, that it is unbecoming in us to ascribe to God human attributes. It is not for us to make God after our own likeness. Human justice, human kindness, and human wisdom can never be applied or made suitable to Him. We may extend these attributes in our imagination as far as we are able, to infinity; they will never be other than human qualities with boundaries perpetually or indefinitely removed; it would be equally rational to attribute to Him infinite solidity, infinite motion, infinite roundness, or infinite divisibility. These attributes can never be His.
Philosophy informs us that this universe must have been arranged by a Being incomprehensible, eternal, and existing by His own nature; but, once again, we must observe that philosophy gives us no information on the subject of the attributes of that nature. We know what He is not, and not what He is.
With respect to God, there is neither good nor evil, physically or morally. What is physical or natural evil? Of all evils, the greatest, undoubtedly, is death. Let us for a moment consider whether man could have been immortal.
In order that a body like ours should have been indissoluble, imperishable, it would have been necessary that it should not be composed of parts; that it should not be born; that it should have neither nourishment nor growth; that it should experience no change. Let any one examine each of these points; and let every reader extend their number according to his own suggestions, and it will be seen that the proposition of an immortal man is a contradiction.
If our organized body were immortal, that of mere animals would be so likewise; but it is evident that, in the course of a very short time, the whole globe would, in this case, be incompetent to supply nourishment to those animals; those immortal beings which exist only in consequence of renovation by food, would then perish for want of the means of such renovation. All this involves contradiction. We might make various other observations on the subject, but every reader who deserves the name of a philosopher will perceive that death was necessary to everything that is born; that death can neither be an error on the part of God, nor an evil, an injustice, nor a chastisement to man.
Man, born to die, can no more be exempt from pain than from death. To prevent an organized substance endowed with feeling from ever experiencing pain, it would be necessary that all the laws of nature should be changed; that matter should no longer be divisible; that it should neither have weight, action, nor force; that a rock might fall on an animal without crushing it; and that water should have no power to suffocate, or fire to burn it. Man, impassive, then, is as much a contradiction as man immortal.
This feeling of pain was indispensable to stimulate us to self-preservation, and to impart to us such pleasures as are consistent with those general laws by which the whole system of nature is bound and regulated.
If we never experienced pain, we should be every moment injuring ourselves without perceiving it. Without the excitement of uneasiness, without some sensation of pain, we should perform no function of life; should never communicate it, and should be destitute of all the pleasures of it. Hunger is the commencement of pain which compels us to take our required nourishment. Ennui is a pain which stimulates to exercise and occupation. Love itself is a necessity which becomes painful until it is met with corresponding attachment. In a word, every desire is a want, a necessity, a beginning of pain. Pain, therefore, is the mainspring of all the actions of animated beings. Every animal possessed of feeling must be liable to pain, if matter is divisible; and pain was as necessary as death. It is not, therefore, an error of Providence, nor a result of malignity, nor a creature of imagination. Had we seen only brutes suffer, we should, for that, never have accused nature of harshness or cruelty; had we, while ourselves were impassive, witnessed the lingering and torturing death of a dove, when a kite seized upon it with his murderous talons, and leisurely devouring its bleeding limbs, doing in that no more than we do ourselves, we should not express the slightest murmur of dissatisfaction. But what claim have we for an exemption of our own bodies from such dismemberment and torture beyond what might be urged in behalf of brutes? Is it that we possess an intellect superior to theirs? But what has intellect to do with the divisibility of matter? Can a few ideas more or less in a brain prevent fire from burning, or a rock from crushing us?
Moral evil, upon which so many volumes have been written is, in fact, nothing but natural evil. This moral evil is a sensation of pain occasioned by one organized being to another. Rapine, outrage, etc., are evil only because they produce evil. But as we certainly are unable to do any evil, or occasion any pain to God, it is evident by the light of reason—for faith is altogether a different principle—that in relation to the Supreme Being and as affecting Him, moral evil can have no existence.
As the greatest of natural evils is death, the greatest of moral evils is, unquestionably, war. All crimes follow in its train; false and calumnious declarations, perfidious violation of the treaties, pillage, devastation, pain, and death under every hideous and appalling form.
All this is physical evil in relation to man, but can no more be considered moral evil in relation to God than the rage of dogs worrying and destroying one another. It is a mere commonplace idea, and as false as it is feeble, that men are the only species that slaughter and destroy one another. Wolves, dogs, cats, cocks, quails, all war with their respective species: house spiders devour one another; the male universally fights for the female. This warfare is the result of the laws of nature, of principles in their very blood and essence; all is connected; all is necessary.
Nature has granted man about two and twenty years of life, one with another; that is, of a thousand children born in the same month, some of whom have died in their infancy, and the rest lived respectively to the age of thirty, forty, fifty, and even eighty years, or perhaps beyond, the average calculation will allow to each the above-mentioned number of twenty-two years.
How can it affect the Deity, whether a man die in battle or of a fever? War destroys fewer human beings than smallpox. The scourge of war is transient, that of smallpox reigns with paramount and permanent fatality throughout the earth, followed by a numerous train of others; and taking into consideration the combined, and nearly regular operation of the various causes which sweep mankind from the stage of life, the allowance of two and twenty years for every individual will be found in general to be tolerably correct.
Man, you say, offends God by killing his neighbor; if this be the case, the directors of nations must indeed be tremendous criminals; for, while even invoking God to their assistance, they urge on to slaughter immense multitudes of their fellow-beings, for contemptible interests which it would show infinitely more policy, as well as humanity, to abandon. But how—to reason merely as philosophers—how do they offend God? Just as much as tigers and crocodiles offend him. It is, surely, not God whom they harass and torment, but their neighbor. It is only against man that man can be guilty. A highway robber can commit no robbery on God. What can it signify to the eternal Deity, whether a few pieces of yellow metal are in the hands of Jerome, or of Bonaventure? We have necessary desires, necessary passions, and necessary laws for the restraint of both; and while on this our ant-hill, during the little day of our existence, we are engaged in eager and destructive contest about a straw, the universe moves on in its majestic course, directed by eternal and unalterable laws, which comprehend in their operation the atom that we call the earth.
It is a matter of high importance to ascertain which are the first gospels. It is a decided truth, whatever Abbadie may assert to the contrary, that none of the first fathers of the Church, down to Irenæus inclusively, have quoted any passage from the four gospels with which we are acquainted. And to this it may be added, that the Alogi, the Theodosians, constantly rejected the gospel of St. John, and always spoke of it with contempt; as we are informed by St. Epiphanius in his thirty-fourth homily. Our enemies further observe that the most ancient fathers do not merely forbear to quote anything from our gospels, but relate many passages or events which are to be found only in the apocryphal gospels rejected by the canon.
St. Clement, for example, relates that our Lord, having been questioned concerning the time when His kingdom would come, answered, “That will be when what is without shall resemble that within, and when there shall be neither male nor female.” But we must admit that this passage does not occur in either of our gospels. There are innumerable other instances to prove this truth; which may be seen in the “Critical Examination” of M. Fréret, perpetual secretary of the Academy of Belles Lettres at Paris.
The learned Fabricius took the pains to collect the ancient gospels which time has spared; that of James appears to be the first; and it is certain that it still possesses considerable authority with some of the Oriental churches. It is called “the first gospel.” There remain the passion and the resurrection, pretended to have been written by Nicodemus. This gospel of Nicodemus is quoted by St. Justin and Tertullian. It is there we find the names of our Lord’s accusers—Annas, Caiaphas, Soumas, Dathan, Gamaliel, Judas, Levi, and Napthali; the attention and particularity with which these names are given confer upon the work an appearance of truth and sincerity. Our adversaries have inferred that as so many false gospels were forged, which at first were recognized as true, those which constitute at the present day the foundation of our own faith may have been forged also. They dwell much on the circumstance of the first heretics suffering even death itself in defence of these apocryphal gospels. There have evidently been, they say, forgers, seducers, and men who have been seduced by them into error, and died in defence of that error; it is, at least, therefore, no proof of the truth of Christianity that it has had its martyrs who have died for it.
They add further, that the martyrs were never asked the question, whether they believed the gospel of John or the gospel of James. The Pagans could not put a series of interrogatories about books with which they were not at all acquainted; the magistrates punished some Christians very unjustly, as disturbers of the public peace, but they never put particular questions to them in relation to our four gospels. These books were not known to the Romans before the time of Diocletian, and even towards the close of Diocletian’s reign, they had scarcely obtained any publicity. It was deemed in a Christian a crime both abominable and unpardonable to show a gospel to any Gentile. This is so true, that you cannot find the word “gospel” in any profane author whatever.
The rigid Socinians, influenced by the above-mentioned or other difficulties, do not consider our four divine gospels in any other light than as works of clandestine introduction, fabricated about a century after the time of Jesus Christ, and carefully concealed from the Gentiles for another century beyond that; works, as they express it, of a coarse and vulgar character, written by coarse and vulgar men, who, for a long time confined their discourses and appeals to the mere populace of their party. We will not here repeat the blasphemies uttered by them. This sect, although considerably diffused and numerous, is at present as much concealed as were the first gospels. The difficulty of converting them is so much the greater, in consequence of their obstinately refusing to listen to anything but mere reason. The other Christians contend against them only with the weapons of the Holy Scripture: it is consequently impossible that, being thus always in hostility with respect to principles, they should ever unite in their conclusions.
With respect to ourselves, let us ever remain inviolably attached to our four gospels, in union with the infallible church. Let us reject the five gospels which it has rejected; let us not inquire why our Lord Jesus Christ permitted five false gospels, five false histories of his life to be written; and let us submit to our spiritual pastors and directors, who alone on earth are enlightened by the Holy Spirit.
Into what a gross error did Abbadie fall when he considered as authentic the letters so ridiculously forged, from Pilate to Tiberius, and the pretended proposal of Tiberius to place Jesus Christ in the number of the gods. If Abbadie is a bad critic and a contemptible reasoner, is the Church on that account less enlightened? are we the less bound to believe it? Shall we at all the less submit to it?
The pleasure of governing must certainly be exquisite, if we may judge from the vast numbers who are eager to be concerned in it. We have many more books on government than there are monarchs in the world. Heaven preserve me from making any attempt here to give instruction to kings and their noble ministers—their valets, confessors, or financiers. I understand nothing about the matter; I have the profoundest respect and reverence for them all. It belongs only to Mr. Wilkes, with his English balance, to weigh the merits of those who are at the head of the human race. It would, besides, be exceedingly strange if, with three or four thousand volumes on the subject of government, with Machiavelli, and Bossuet’s “Policy of the Holy Scripture,” with the “General Financier,” the “Guide to Finances,” the “Means of Enriching a State,” etc., there could possibly be a single person living who was not perfectly acquainted with the duties of kings and the science of government.
Professor Puffendorf, or, as perhaps we should rather say, Baron Puffendorf, says that King David, having sworn never to attempt the life of Shimei, his privy counsellor, did not violate his oath when, according to the Jewish history, he instructed his son Solomon to get him assassinated, “because David had only engaged that he himself would not kill Shimei.” The baron, who rebukes so sharply the mental reservations of the Jesuits, allows David, in the present instance, to entertain one which would not be particularly palatable to privy counsellors.
Let us consider the words of Bossuet in his “Policy of the Holy Scripture,” addressed to Monseigneur the Dauphin. “Thus we see royalty established according to the order of succession in the house of David and Solomon, and the throne of David is secured forever—although, by the way, that same little joint-stool called a ‘throne,’ instead of being secured forever, lasted, in fact, only a very short time.” By virtue of this law, the eldest son was to succeed, to the exclusion of his brothers, and on this account Adonijah, who was the eldest, said to Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, “Thou knowest that the kingdom was mine, and all Israel had recognized my right; but the Lord hath transferred the kingdom to my brother Solomon.” The right of Adonijah was incontestable. Bossuet expressly admits this at the close of this article. “The Lord has transferred” is only a usual phrase, which means, I have lost my property or right, I have been deprived of my right. Adonijah was the issue of a lawful wife; the birth of his younger brother was the fruit of a double crime.
“Unless, then,” says Bossuet, “something extraordinary occurred, the eldest was to succeed.” But the something extraordinary, in the present instance, which prevented it was, that Solomon, the issue of a marriage arising out of a double adultery and a murder, procured the assassination, at the foot of the altar, of his elder brother and his lawful king, whose rights were supported by the high priest Abiathar and the chief commander Joab. After this we must acknowledge that it is more difficult than some seem to imagine to take lessons on the rights of persons, and on the true system of government from the Holy Scriptures, which were first given to the Jews, and afterwards to ourselves, for purposes of a far higher nature.
“The preservation of the people is the supreme law.” Such is the fundamental maxim of nations; but in all civil wars the safety of the people is made to consist in slaughtering a number of the citizens. In all foreign wars, the safety of a people consists in killing their neighbors, and taking possession of their property! It is difficult to perceive in this a particularly salutary “right of nations,” and a government eminently favorable to liberty of thought and social happiness.
There are geometrical figures exceedingly regular and complete in their kind; arithmetic is perfect; many trades or manufactures are carried on in a manner constantly uniform and excellent; but with respect to the government of men, is it possible for any one to be good, when all are founded on passions in conflict with each other?
No convent of monks ever existed without discord; it is impossible, therefore, to exclude it from kingdoms. Every government resembles not merely a monastic institution, but a private household. There are none existing without quarrels; and quarrels between one people and another, between one prince and another, have ever been sanguinary; those between subjects and their sovereigns have been sometimes no less destructive. How is an individual to act? Must he risk joining in the conflict, or withdraw from the scene of action?
More than one people are desirous of new constitutions. The English would have no objection to a change of ministers once in every eight hours, but they have no wish to change the form of their government.
The modern Romans are proud of their church of St. Peter and their ancient Greek statues; but the people would be glad to be better fed, although they were not quite so rich in benedictions; the fathers of families would be content that the Church should have less gold, if the granaries had more corn; they regret the time when the apostles journeyed on foot, and when the citizens of Rome travelled from one palace to another in litters.
We are incessantly reminded of the admirable republics of Greece. There is no question that the Greeks would prefer the government of a Pericles and a Demosthenes to that of a pasha; but in their most prosperous and palmy times they were always complaining; discord and hatred prevailed between all the cities without, and in every separate city within. They gave laws to the old Romans, who before that time had none; but their own were so bad for themselves that they were continually changing them.
What could be said in favor of a government under which the just Aristides was banished, Phocion put to death, Socrates condemned to drink hemlock after having been exposed to banter and derision on the stage by Aristophanes; and under which the Amphyctions, with contemptible imbecility, actually delivered up Greece into the power of Philip, because the Phocians had ploughed up a field which was part of the territory of Apollo? But the government of the neighboring monarchies was worse.
Puffendorf promises us a discussion on the best form of government. He tells us, “that many pronounce in favor of monarchy, and others, on the contrary, inveigh furiously against kings; and that it does not fall within the limits of his subject to examine in detail the reasons of the latter.” If any mischievous and malicious reader expects to be told here more than he is told by Puffendorf, he will be much deceived.
A Swiss, a Hollander, a Venetian nobleman, an English peer, a cardinal, and a count of the empire, were once disputing, on a journey, about the nature of their respective governments, and which of them deserved the preference: no one knew much about the matter; each remained in his own opinion without having any very distinct idea what that opinion was; and they returned without having come to any general conclusion; every one praising his own country from vanity, and complaining of it from feeling.
What, then, is the destiny of mankind? Scarcely any great nation is governed by itself. Begin from the east, and take the circuit of the world. Japan closed its ports against foreigners from the well-founded apprehension of a dreadful revolution.
China actually experienced such a revolution; she obeys Tartars of a mixed race, half Mantchou and half Hun. India obeys Mogul Tartars. The Nile, the Orontes, Greece, and Epirus are still under the yoke of the Turks. It is not an English race that reigns in England; it is a German family which succeeded to a Dutch prince, as the latter succeeded a Scotch family which had succeeded an Angevin family, that had replaced a Norman family, which had expelled a family of usurping Saxons. Spain obeys a French family; which succeeded to an Austrasian race, that Austrasian race had succeeded families that boasted of Visigoth extraction; these Visigoths had been long driven out by the Arabs, after having succeeded to the Romans, who had expelled the Carthaginians. Gaul obeys Franks, after having obeyed Roman prefects.
The same banks of the Danube have belonged to Germans, Romans, Arabs, Slavonians, Bulgarians, and Huns, to twenty different families, and almost all foreigners.
And what greater wonder has Rome had to exhibit than so many emperors who were born in the barbarous provinces, and so many popes born in provinces no less barbarous? Let him govern who can. And when any one has succeeded in his attempts to become master, he governs as he can.
In 1769, a traveller delivered the following narrative: “I saw, in the course of my journey, a large and populous country, in which all offices and places were purchasable; I do not mean clandestinely, and in evasion of the law, but publicly, and in conformity to it. The right to judge, in the last resort, of the honor, property, and life of the citizen, was put to auction in the same manner as the right and property in a few acres of land. Some very high commissions in the army are conferred only on the highest bidder. The principal mystery of their religion is celebrated for the petty sum of three sesterces, and if the celebrator does not obtain this fee he remains idle like a porter without employment.
“Fortunes in this country are not made by agriculture, but are derived from a certain game of chance, in great practice there, in which the parties sign their names, and transfer them from hand to hand. If they lose, they withdraw into the mud and mire of their original extraction; if they win, they share in the administration of public affairs; they marry their daughters to mandarins, and their sons become a species of mandarins also.
“A considerable number of the citizens have their whole means of subsistence assigned upon a house, which possesses in fact nothing, and a hundred persons have bought for a hundred thousand crowns each the right of receiving and paying the money due to these citizens upon their assignments on this imaginary hotel; rights which they never exercise, as they in reality know nothing at all of what is thus supposed to pass through their hands.
“Sometimes a proposal is made and cried about the streets, that all who have a little money in their chest should exchange it for a slip of exquisitely manufactured paper, which will free you from all pecuniary care, and enable you to pass through life with ease and comfort. On the morrow an order is published, compelling you to change this paper for another, much better. On the following day you are deafened with the cry of a new paper, cancelling the two former ones. You are ruined! But long heads console you with the assurance, that within a fortnight the newsmen will cry up some proposal more engaging.
“You travel into one province of this empire, and purchase articles of food, drink, clothing, and lodging. If you go into another province, you are obliged to pay duties upon all those commodities, as if you had just arrived from Africa. You inquire the reason of this, but obtain no answer; or if, from extraordinary politeness, any one condescends to notice your questions, he replies that you come from a province reputed foreign, and that, consequently, you are obliged to pay for the convenience of commerce. In vain you puzzle yourself to comprehend how the province of a kingdom can be deemed foreign to that kingdom.
“On one particular occasion, while changing horses, finding myself somewhat fatigued, I requested the postmaster to favor me with a glass of wine. ‘I cannot let you have it,’ says he; ‘the superintendents of thirst, who are very considerable in number, and all of them remarkably sober, would accuse me of drinking to excess, which would absolutely be my ruin.’ ‘But drinking a single glass of wine,’ I replied, ‘to repair a man’s strength, is not drinking to excess; and what difference can it make whether that single glass of wine is taken by you or me?’
“ ‘Sir,’ replied the man, ‘our laws relating to thirst are much more excellent than you appear to think them. After our vintage is finished, physicians are appointed by the regular authorities to visit our cellars. They set aside a certain quantity of wine, such as they judge we may drink consistently with health. At the end of the year they return; and if they conceive that we have exceeded their restriction by a single bottle, they punish us with very severe fines; and if we make the slightest resistance, we are sent to Toulon to drink salt-water. Were I to give you the wine you ask, I should most certainly be charged with excessive drinking. You must see to what danger I should be exposed from the supervisors of our health.’
“I could not refrain from astonishment at the existence of such a system; but my astonishment was no less on meeting with a disconsolate and mortified pleader, who informed me that he had just then lost, a little beyond the nearest rivulet, a cause precisely similar to one he had gained on this side of it. I understood from him that, in his country, there are as many different codes of laws as there are cities. His conversation raised my curiosity. ‘Our nation,’ said he, ‘is so completely wise and enlightened, that nothing is regulated in it. Laws, customs, the rights of corporate bodies, rank, precedence, everything is arbitrary; all is left to the prudence of the nation.’
“I happened to be still in this same country when it became involved in a war with some of its neighbors. This war was nicknamed ‘The Ridicule,’ because there was much to be lost and nothing to be gained by it. I went upon my travels elsewhere, and did not return till the conclusion of peace, when the nation seemed to be in the most dreadful state of misery; it had lost its money, its soldiers, its fleets, and its commerce. I said to myself, its last hour is come; everything, alas! must pass away. Here is a nation absolutely annihilated. What a dreadful pity! for a great part of the people were amiable, industrious, and gay, after having been formerly coarse, superstitious, and barbarous.
“I was perfectly astonished, at the end of only two years, to find its capital and principal cities more opulent than ever. Luxury had increased, and an air of enjoyment prevailed everywhere. I could not comprehend this prodigy; and it was only after I had examined into the government of the neighboring nations that I could discover the cause of what appeared so unaccountable. I found that the government of all the rest was just as bad as that of this nation, and that this nation was superior to all the rest in industry.
“A provincial of the country I am speaking of was once bitterly complaining to me of all the grievances under which he labored. He was well acquainted with history. I asked him if he thought he should have been happier had he lived a hundred years before, when his country was in a comparative state of barbarism, and a citizen was liable to be hanged for having eaten flesh in Lent? He shook his head in the negative. Would you prefer the times of the civil wars, which began at the death of Francis II.; or the times of the defeats of St. Quentin and Pavia; or the long disorders attending the wars against the English; or the feudal anarchy; or the horrors of the second race of kings, or the barbarity of the first? At every successive question, he appeared to shudder more violently. The government of the Romans seemed to him the most intolerable of all. ‘Nothing can be worse,’ he said, ‘than to be under foreign masters.’ At last we came to the Druids. ‘Ah!’ he exclaimed, ‘I was quite mistaken: it is still worse to be governed by sanguinary priests.’ He admitted, at last, although with sore reluctance, that the time he lived in was, all things considered, the least intolerable and hateful.”
An eagle governed the birds of the whole country of Ornithia. He had no other right, it must be allowed, than what he derived from his beak and claws; however, after providing liberally for his own repasts and pleasures, he governed as well as any other bird of prey.
In his old age he was invaded by a flock of hungry vultures, who rushed from the depths of the North to scatter fear and desolation through his provinces. There appeared, just about this time, a certain owl, who was born in one of the most scrubby thickets of the empire, and who had long been known under the name of “luci-fugax,” or light-hater. He possessed much cunning, and associated only with bats; and, while the vultures were engaged in conflict with the eagle, our politic owl and his party entered with great adroitness, in the character of pacificators, on that department of the air which was disputed by the combatants.
The eagle and vultures, after a war of long duration, at last actually referred the cause of contention to the owl, who, with his solemn and imposing physiognomy, was well formed to deceive them both.
He persuaded the eagles and vultures to suffer their claws to be a little pared, and just the points of their beaks to be cut off, in order to bring about perfect peace and reconciliation. Before this time, the owl had always said to the birds, “Obey the eagle”; afterwards, in consequence of the invasion, he had said to them, “Obey the vultures.” He now, however, soon called out to them, “Obey me only.” The poor birds did not know to whom to listen: they were plucked by the eagle, the vultures, and the owl and bats. “Qui habet aures, audiat.”—“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
“I have in my possession a great number of catapultæ and balistæ of the ancient Romans, which are certainly rather worm-eaten, but would still do very well as specimens. I have many water-clocks, but half of them probably out of repair and broken, some sepulchral lamps, and an old copper model of a quinquereme. I have also togas, pretextas, and laticlaves in lead; and my predecessors established a society of tailors; who, after inspecting ancient monuments, can make up robes pretty awkwardly. For these reasons thereunto moving us, after hearing the report of our chief antiquary, we do hereby appoint and ordain, that all the said venerable usages should be observed and kept up forever; and every person, through the whole extent of our dominions, shall dress and think precisely as men dressed and thought in the time of Cnidus Rufillus, proprietor of the province devolved to us by right,” etc.
It is represented to an officer belonging to the department whence this edict issued, that all the engines enumerated in it are become useless; that the understandings and the inventions of mankind are every day making new advances towards perfection; and that it would be more judicious to guide and govern men by the reins in present use, than by those by which they were formerly subjected; that no person could be found to go on board the quinquereme of his most serene highness; that his tailors might make as many laticlaves as they pleased, and that not a soul would purchase one of them; and that it would be worthy of his wisdom to condescend, in some small measure, to the manner of thinking that now prevailed among the better sort of people in his own dominions.
The officer above mentioned promised to communicate this representation to a clerk, who promised to speak about it to the referendary, who promised to mention it to his most serene highness whenever an opportunity should offer.
The establishment of a government is a matter of curious and interesting investigation. I shall not speak, in this place, of the great Tamerlane, or Timerling, because I am not precisely acquainted with the mystery of the Great Mogul’s government. But we can see our way somewhat more clearly into the administration of affairs in England; and I had rather examine that than the administration of India; as England, we are informed, is inhabited by free men and not by slaves; and in India, according to the accounts we have of it, there are many slaves and but few free men.
Let us, in the first place, view a Norman bastard seating himself upon the throne of England. He had about as much right to it as St. Louis had, at a later period, to Grand Cairo. But St. Louis had the misfortune not to begin with obtaining a judicial decision in favor of his right to Egypt from the court of Rome; and William the Bastard failed not to render his cause legitimate and sacred, by obtaining in confirmation of the rightfulness of his claim, a decree of Pope Alexander II. issued without the opposite party having obtained a hearing, and simply in virtue of the words, “Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven.” His competitor, Harold, a perfectly legitimate monarch, being thus bound by a decree of heaven, William united to this virtue of the holy see another of far more powerful efficacy still, which was the victory of Hastings. He reigned, therefore, by the right of the strongest, just as Pepin and Clovis had reigned in France; the Goths and Lombards in Italy; the Visigoths, and afterwards the Arabs in Spain; the Vandals in Africa, and all the kings of the world in succession.
It must be nevertheless admitted, that our Bastard possessed as just a title as the Saxons and the Danes, whose title, again, was quite as good as that of the Romans. And the title of all these heroes in succession was precisely that of “robbers on the highway,” or, if you like it better, that of foxes and pole-cats when they commit their depredations on the farm-yard.
All these great men were so completely highway robbers, that from the time of Romulus down to the buccaneers, the only question and concern were about the “spolia opima,” the pillage and plunder, the cows and oxen carried off by the hand of violence. Mercury, in the fable, steals the cows of Apollo; and in the Old Testament, Isaiah assigns the name of robber to the son whom his wife was to bring into the world, and who was to be an important and sacred type. That name was Mahershalalhashbaz, “divide speedily the soil.” We have already observed, that the names of soldier and robber were often synonymous.
Thus then did William soon become king by divine right. William Rufus, who usurped the crown over his elder brother, was also king by divine right, without any difficulty; and the same right attached after him to Henry, the third usurper.
The Norman barons who had joined at their own expense in the invasion of England, were desirous of compensation. It was necessary to grant it, and for this purpose to make them great vassals, and great officers of the crown. They became possessed of the finest estates. It is evident that William would rather, had he dared, have kept all to himself, and made all these lords his guards and lackeys. But this would have been too dangerous an attempt. He was obliged, therefore, to divide and distribute.
With respect to the Anglo-Saxon lords, there was no very easy way of killing, or even making slaves of the whole of them. They were permitted in their own districts, to enjoy the rank and denomination of lords of the manor—seignieurs châtelans. They held of the great Norman vassals, who held of William.
By this system everything was kept in equilibrium until the breaking out of the first quarrel. And what became of the rest of the nation? The same that had become of nearly all the population of Europe. They became serfs or villeins.
At length, after the frenzy of the Crusades, the ruined princes sell liberty to the serfs of the glebe, who had obtained money by labor and commerce. Cities are made free, the commons are granted certain privileges; and the rights of men revive even out of anarchy itself.
The barons were everywhere in contention with their king, and with one another. The contention became everywhere a petty intestine war, made up out of numberless civil wars. From this abominable and gloomy chaos appeared a feeble gleam, which enlightened the commons, and considerably improved their situation.
The kings of England, being themselves great vassals of France for Normandy, and afterwards for Guienne and other provinces, easily adopted the usages of the kings from whom they held. The states of the realm were long made up, as in France, of barons and bishops.
The English court of chancery was an imitation of the council of state, of which the chancellor of France was president. The court of king’s bench was formed on the model of the parliament instituted by Philip le Bel. The common pleas were like the jurisdiction of the châtelat. The court of exchequer resembled that of the superintendents of the finances—généraux des finances—which became, in France, the court of aids.
The maxim that the king’s domain is inalienable is evidently taken from the system of French government.
The right of the king of England to call on his subjects to pay his ransom, should he become a prisoner of war; that of requiring a subsidy when he married his eldest daughter, and when he conferred the honor of knighthood on his son; all these circumstances call to recollection the ancient usages of a kingdom of which William was the chief vassal.
Scarcely had Philip le Bel summoned the commons to the states-general, before Edward, king of England, adopted the like measure, in order to balance the great power of the barons. For it was under this monarch’s reign that the commons were first clearly and distinctly summoned to parliament.
We perceive, then, that up to this epoch in the fourteenth century, the English government followed regularly in the steps of France. The two churches are entirely alike; the same subjection to the court of Rome; the same exactions which are always complained of, but, in the end, always paid to that rapacious court; the same dissensions, somewhat more or less violent; the same excommunications; the same donations to monks; the same chaos; the same mixture of holy rapine, superstition, and barbarism.
As France and England, then, were for so long a period governed by the same principles, or rather without any principle at all, and merely by usages of a perfectly similar character, how is it that, at length, the two governments have become as different as those of Morocco and Venice?
It is, perhaps, in the first place to be ascribed to the circumstance of England, or rather Great Britain, being an island, in consequence of which the king has been under no necessity of constantly keeping up a considerable standing army which might more frequently be employed against the nation itself than against foreigners.
It may be further observed, that the English appear to have in the structure of their minds something more firm, more reflective, more persevering, and, perhaps, more obstinate, than some other nations.
To this latter circumstance it may be probably attributed, that, after incessantly complaining of the court of Rome, they at length completely shook off its disgraceful yoke; while a people of more light and volatile character has continued to wear it, affecting at the same time to laugh and dance in its chains.
The insular situation of the English, by inducing the necessity of urging to the particular pursuit and practice of navigation, has probably contributed to the result we are here considering, by giving to the natives a certain sternness and ruggedness of manners.
These stern and rugged manners, which have made their island the theatre of many a bloody tragedy, have also contributed, in all probability, to inspire a generous frankness.
It is in consequence of this combination of opposite qualities that so much royal blood has been shed in the field, and on the scaffold, and yet poison, in all their long and violent domestic contentions, has never been resorted to; whereas, in other countries, under priestly domination poison has been the prevailing weapon of destruction.
The love of liberty appears to have advanced, and to have characterized the English, in proportion as they have advanced in knowledge and in wealth. All the citizens of a state cannot be equally powerful, but they may be equally free. And this high point of distinction and enjoyment the English, by their firmness and intrepidity, have at length attained.
To be free is to be dependent only on the laws. The English, therefore, have ever loved the laws, as fathers love their children, because they are, or at least think themselves, the framers of them.
A government like this could be established only at a late period; because it was necessary long to struggle with powers which commanded respect, or at least, impressed awe—the power of the pope, the most terrible of all, as it was built on prejudice and ignorance; the royal power ever tending to burst its proper boundary, and which it was requisite, however difficult, to restrain within it; the power of the barons, which was, in fact, an anarchy; the power of the bishops, who, always mixing the sacred with the profane, left no means unattempted to prevail over both barons and kings.
The house of commons gradually became the impregnable mole, which successfully repelled those serious and formidable torrents.
The house of commons is, in reality, the nation; for the king, who is the head, acts only for himself, and what is called his prerogative. The peers are a parliament only for themselves; and the bishops only for themselves, in the same manner.
But the house of commons is for the people, as every member of it is deputed by the people. The people are to the king in the proportion of about eight millions to unity. To the peers and bishops they are as eight millions to, at most, two hundred. And these eight million free citizens are represented by the lower house.
With respect to this establishment or constitution—in comparison with which the republic of Plato is merely a ridiculous reverie, and which might be thought to have been invented by Locke, or Newton, or Halley, or Archimedes—it sprang, in fact, out of abuses, of a most dreadful description, and such as are calculated to make human nature shudder. The inevitable friction of this vast machine nearly proved its destruction in the days of Fairfax and Cromwell. Senseless fanaticism broke into this noble edifice, like a devouring fire that consumes a beautiful building formed only of wood.
In the time of William the Third it was rebuilt of stone. Philosophy destroyed fanaticism, which convulses to their centres states even the most firm and powerful. We cannot easily help believing that a constitution which has regulated the rights of king, lords, and people, and in which every individual finds security, will endure as long as human institutions and concerns shall have a being.
We cannot but believe, also, that all states not established upon similar principles, will experience revolutions.
The English constitution has, in fact, arrived at that point of excellence, in consequence of which all men are restored to those natural rights, which, in nearly all monarchies, they are deprived of. These rights are, entire liberty of person and property; freedom of the press; the right of being tried in all criminal cases by a jury of independent men—the right of being tried only according to the strict letter of the law; and the right of every man to profess, unmolested, what religion he chooses, while he renounces offices, which the members of the Anglican or established church alone can hold. These are denominated privileges. And, in truth, invaluable privileges they are in comparison with the usages of most other nations of the world! To be secure on lying down that you shall rise in possession of the same property with which you retired to rest; that you shall not be torn from the arms of your wife, and from your children, in the dead of might, to be thrown into a dungeon, or buried in exile in a desert; that, when rising from the bed of sleep, you will have the power of publishing all your thoughts; and that, if you are accused of having either acted, spoken, or written wrongly, you can be tried only according to law. These privileges attach to every one who sets his foot on English ground. A foreigner enjoys perfect liberty to dispose of his property and person; and, if accused of any offence, he can demand that half the jury shall be composed of foreigners.
I will venture to assert, that, were the human race solemnly assembled for the purpose of making laws, such are the laws they would make for their security. Why then are they not adopted in other countries? But would it not be equally judicious to ask, why cocoanuts, which are brought to maturity in India, do not ripen at Rome? You answer, these cocoanuts did not always, or for some time, come to maturity in England; that the trees have not been long cultivated; that Sweden, following her example, planted and nursed some of them for several years, but that they did not thrive; and that it is possible to produce such fruit in other provinces, even in Bosnia and Servia. Try and plant the tree then.
And you who bear authority over these benighted people, whether under the name of pasha, effendi, or mollah, let me advise you, although an unpromising subject for advice, not to act the stupid as well as barbarous part of riveting your nations in chains. Reflect, that the heavier you make the people’s yoke, the more completely your own children, who cannot all of them be pashas, will be slaves. Surely you would not be so contemptible a wretch as to expose your whole posterity to groan in chains, for the sake of enjoying a subaltern tyranny for a few days! Oh, how great at present is the distance between an Englishman and a Bosnian!
The mixture now existing in the government of England—this concert between the commons, the lords, and the king—did not exist always. England was long a slave. She was so to the Romans, the Saxons, Danes, and French. William the Conqueror, in particular, ruled her with a sceptre of iron. He disposed of the properties and lives of his new subjects like an Oriental despot; he prohibited them from having either fire or candle in their houses after eight o’clock at night, under pain of death: his object being either to prevent nocturnal assemblies among them, or merely, by so capricious and extravagant a prohibition, to show how far the power of some men can extend over others. It is true, that both before as well as after William the Conqueror, the English had parliaments; they made a boast of them; as if the assemblies then called parliaments, made up of tyrannical churchmen and baronial robbers, had been the guardians of public freedom and happiness.
The barbarians, who, from the shores of the Baltic poured over the rest of Europe, brought with them the usage of states or parliaments, about which a vast deal is said and very little known. The kings were not despotic, it is true; and it was precisely on this account that the people groaned in miserable slavery. The chiefs of these savages, who had ravaged France, Italy, Spain, and England, made themselves monarchs. Their captains divided among themselves the estates of the vanquished; hence, the margraves, lairds, barons, and the whole series of the subaltern tyrants, who often contested the spoils of the people with the monarchs, recently advanced to the throne and not firmly fixed on it. These were all birds of prey, battling with the eagle, in order to suck the blood of the doves. Every nation, instead of one good master, had a hundred tyrants. The priests soon took part in the contest. From time immemorial it had been the fate of the Gauls, the Germans, and the islanders of England, to be governed by their druids and the chiefs of their villages, an ancient species of barons, but less tyrannical than their successors. These druids called themselves mediators between God and men; they legislated, they excommunicated, they had the power of life and death. The bishops gradually succeeded to the authority of the druids, under the Goth and Vandal government. The popes put themselves at their head; and, with briefs, bulls, and monks, struck terror into the hearts of kings, whom they sometimes dethroned and occasionally caused to be assassinated, and drew to themselves, as nearly as they were able, all the money of Europe. The imbecile Ina, one of the tyrants of the English heptarchy, was the first who, on a pilgrimage to Rome, submitted to pay St. Peter’s penny—which was about a crown of our money—for every house within his territory. The whole island soon followed this example; England gradually became a province of the pope; and the holy father sent over his legates, from time to time, to levy upon it his exorbitant imposts. John, called Lackland, at length made a full and formal cession of his kingdom to his holiness, by whom he had been excommunicated; the barons, who did not at all find their account in this proceeding, expelled that contemptible king, and substituted in his room Louis VIII., father of St. Louis, king of France. But they soon became disgusted with the new-comer, and obliged him to recross the sea.
While the barons, bishops, and popes were thus harassing and tearing asunder England, where each of the parties strove eagerly to be the dominant one, the people, who form the most numerous, useful, and virtuous portion of a community, consisting of those who study the laws and sciences, merchants, artisans, and even peasants, who exercise at once the most important and the most despised of occupations; the people, I say, were looked down upon equally by all these combatants, as a species of beings inferior to mankind. Far, indeed, at that time, were the commons from having the slightest participation in the government: they were villeins, or serfs of the soil; both their labor and their blood belonged to their masters, who were called “nobles.” The greater number of men in Europe were what they still continue to be in many parts of the world—the serfs of a lord, a species of cattle bought and sold together with the land. It required centuries to get justice done to humanity; to produce an adequate impression of the odious and execrable nature of the system, according to which the many sow, and only the few reap; and surely it may even be considered fortunate for France that the powers of these petty robbers were extinguished there by the legitimate authority of kings, as it was in England by that of the king and nation united.
Happily, in consequence of the convulsions of empires by the contests between sovereigns and nobles, the chains of nations are more or less relaxed. The barons compelled John (Lackland) and Henry III to grant the famous charter, the great object of which, in reality, was to place the king in dependence on the lords, but in which the rest of the nation was a little favored, to induce it, when occasion might require, to range itself in the ranks of its pretended protectors. This great charter, which is regarded as the sacred origin of English liberties, itself clearly shows how very little liberty was understood. The very title proves that the king considered himself absolute by right, and that the barons and clergy compelled him to abate his claim to this absolute power only by the application of superior force. These are the words with which Magna Charta begins: “We grant, of our free will, the following privileges to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, and barons, of our kingdom,” etc. Throughout the articles of it, not a word is said of the house of commons; a proof that it did not then exist, or that it existed without power. The freemen of England are specified in it, a melancholy demonstration that there were men who were not free. We perceive, from the thirty-seventh article, that the pretended freemen owed service to their lord. Liberty of such a description had but too strong a similarity to bondage. By the twenty-first article, the king ordains that henceforward his officers shall not take away the horses and ploughs of freemen, without paying for them. This regulation was considered by the people as true liberty, because it freed them from a greater tyranny. Henry VII., a successful warrior and politician, who pretended great attachment to the barons, but who cordially hated and feared them, granted them permission to alienate their lands. In consequence of this, the villeins, who by their industry and skill accumulated property, in the course of time became purchasers of the castles of the illustrious nobles who had ruined themselves by their extravagance, and, gradually, nearly all the landed property of the kingdom changed masters.
The house of commons now advanced in power every day. The families of the old nobility became extinct in the progress of time; and, as in England, correctly speaking, peers only are nobles, there would scarcely have been any nobles in the country, if the kings had not, from time to time, created new barons, and kept up the body of peers, whom they had formerly so much dreaded, to counteract that of the commons, now become too formidable. All the new peers, who compose the upper house, receive from the king their title and nothing more, since none of them have the property of the lands of which they bear the names. One is duke of Dorset, without possessing a single foot of land in Dorsetshire; another is an earl under the name of a certain village, yet scarcely knowing where that village is situated. They have power in the parliament, and nowhere else.
You hear no mention, in this country, of the high, middle, and low courts of justice, nor of the right of chase over the lands of private citizens, who have no right to fire a gun on their own estates.
A man is not exempted from paying particular taxes because he is a noble or a clergyman. All imposts are regulated by the house of commons, which, although subordinate in rank, is superior in credit to that of the lords. The peers and bishops may reject a bill sent up to them by the commons, when the object is to raise money, but they can make no alteration in it: they must admit it or reject it, without restriction. When the bill is confirmed by the lords, and assented to by the king, then all the classes of the nation contribute. Every man pays, not according to his rank—which would be absurd—but according to his revenue. There is no arbitrary taille or capitation, but a real tax on lands. These were all valued in the reign of the celebrated King William. The tax exists still unaltered, although the rents of lands have considerably increased; thus no one is oppressed, and no one complains. The feet of the cultivator are not bruised and mutilated by wooden shoes; he eats white bread; he is well clothed. He is not afraid to increase his farming-stock, nor to roof his cottage with tiles, lest the following year should, in consequence, bring with it an increase of taxation. There are numerous farmers who have an income of about five or six hundred pounds sterling, and still disdain not to cultivate the land which has enriched them, and on which they enjoy the blessing of freedom.
The reader well knows that in Spain, near the coast of Malaga, there was discovered, in the reign of Philip II., a small community, until then unknown, concealed in the recesses of the Alpuxarras mountains. This chain of inaccessible rocks is intersected by luxuriant valleys, and these valleys are still cultivated by the descendants of the Moors, who were forced, for their own happiness, to become Christians, or at least to appear such.
Among these Moors, as I was stating, there was, in the time of Philip, a small society, inhabiting a valley to which there existed no access but through caverns. This valley is situated between Pitos and Portugos. The inhabitants of this secluded abode were almost unknown to the Moors themselves. They spoke a language that was neither Spanish nor Arabic, and which was thought to be derived from that of the ancient Carthaginians.
This society had but little increased in numbers: the reason alleged for which was that the Arabs, their neighbors, and before their time the Africans, were in the practice of coming and taking from them the young women.
These poor and humble, but nevertheless happy, people, had never heard any mention of the Christian or Jewish religions; and knew very little about that of Mahomet, not holding it in any estimation. They offered up, from time immemorial, milk and fruits to a statue of Hercules. This was the amount of their religion. As to other matters, they spent their days in indolence and innocence. They were at length discovered by a familiar of the Inquisition. The grand inquisitor had the whole of them burned. This is the sole event of their history.
The hallowed motives of their condemnation were, that they had never paid taxes, although, in fact, none had ever been demanded of them, and they were totally unacquainted with money; that they were not possessed of any Bible, although they did not understand Latin; and that no person had been at the pains of baptizing them. They were all invested with the san benito, and broiled to death with becoming ceremony.
It is evident that this is a specimen of the true system of government; nothing can so completely contribute to the content, harmony, and happiness of society.
GOURD OR CALABASH.
This fruit grows in America on the branches of a tree as high as the tallest oaks.
Thus, Matthew Garo, who is thought so wrong in Europe for finding fault with gourds creeping on the ground, would have been right in Mexico. He would have been still more in the right in India, where cocoas are very elevated. This proves that we should never hasten to conclusions. What God has made, He has made well, no doubt; and has placed his gourds on the ground in our climates, lest, in falling from on high, they should break Matthew Garo’s nose.
The calabash will only be introduced here to show that we should mistrust the idea that all was made for man. There are people who pretend that the turf is only green to refresh the sight. It would appear, however, that it is rather made for the animals who nibble it than for man, to whom dog-grass and trefoil are useless. If nature has produced the trees in favor of some species, it is difficult to say to which she has given the preference. Leaves, and even bark, nourish a prodigious multitude of insects: birds eat their fruits, and inhabit their branches, in which they build their industriously formed nests, while the flocks repose under their shades.
The author of the “Spectacle de la Nature” pretends that the sea has a flux and reflux, only to facilitate the going out and coming in of our vessels. It appears that even Matthew Garo reasoned better; the Mediterranean, on which so many vessels sail, and which only has a tide in three or four places, destroys the opinion of this philosopher.
Let us enjoy what we have, without believing ourselves the centre and object of all things.
In persons and works, grace signifies, not only that which is pleasing, but that which is attractive; so that the ancients imagined that the goddess of beauty ought never to appear without the graces. Beauty never displeases, but it may be deprived of this secret charm, which invites us to regard it, and sentimentally attracts and fills the soul. Grace in figure, carriage, action, discourse, depends on its attractive merit. A beautiful woman will have no grace, if her mouth be shut without a smile, and if her eyes display no sweetness. The serious is not always graceful, because unattractive, and approaching too near to the severe, which repels.
A well-made man whose carriage is timid or constrained, gait precipitate or heavy, and gestures awkward, has no gracefulness, because he has nothing gentle or attractive in his exterior. The voice of an orator which wants flexibility or softness is without grace.
It is the same in all the arts. Proportion and beauty may not be graceful. It cannot be said that the pyramids of Egypt are graceful; it cannot be said that the Colossus of Rhodes is as much so as the Venus of Cnidus. All that is merely strong and vigorous exhibits not the charm of grace.
It would show but small acquaintance with Michelangelo and Caravaggio to attribute to them the grace of Albano. The sixth book of the “Æneid” is sublime; the fourth has more grace. Some of the gallant odes of Horace breathe gracefulness, as some of his epistles cultivate reason.
It seems, in general, that the little and pretty of all kinds are more susceptible of grace than the large. A funeral oration, a tragedy, or a sermon, are badly praised, if they are only honored with the epithet of graceful.
It is not good for any kind of work to be opposed to grace, for its opposite is rudeness, barbarity, and dryness. The Hercules of Farnese should not have the gracefulness of the Apollo of Belvidere and of Antinous, but it is neither rude nor clumsy. The burning of Troy is not described by Virgil with the graces of an elegy of Tibullus: it pleases by stronger beauties. A work, then, may be deprived of grace, without being in the least disagreeable. The terrible, or horrible, in description, is not to be graceful, neither should it solely affect its opposite; for if an artist, whatever branch he may cultivate, expresses only frightful things, and softens them not by agreeable contrasts, he will repel.
Grace, in painting and sculpture, consists in softness of outline and harmonious expression; and painting, next to sculpture, has grace in the unison of parts, and of figures which animate one another, and which become agreeable by their attributes and their expression.
Graces of diction, whether in eloquence or poetry, depend on choice of words and harmony of phrases, and still more upon delicacy of ideas and smiling descriptions. The abuse of grace is affectation, as the abuse of the sublime is absurdity; all perfection is nearly a fault.
To have grace applies equally to persons and things. This dress, this work, or that woman, is graceful. What is called a good grace applies to manner alone. She presents herself with good grace. He has done that which was expected of him with a good grace. To possess the graces: This woman has grace in her carriage, in all that she says and does.
To obtain grace is, by a metaphor, to obtain pardon, as to grant grace is to grant pardon. We make grace of one thing by taking away all the rest. The commissioners took all his effects and made him a gift—a grace—of his money. To grant graces, to diffuse graces, is the finest privilege of the sovereignty; it is to do good by something more than justice. To have one’s good graces is usually said in relation to a superior: to have a lady’s good graces, is to be her favorite lover. To be in grace, is said of a courtier who has been in disgrace: we should not allow our happiness to depend on the one, nor our misery on the other. Graces, in Greek, are “charities”; a term which signifies amiable.
The graces, divinities of antiquity, are one of the most beautiful allegories of the Greek mythology. As this mythology always varied according either to the imagination of the poets, who were its theologians, or to the customs of the people, the number, names, and attributes of the graces often change; but it was at last agreed to fix them as three, Aglaia, Thalia, and Euphrosyne, that is to say, sparkling, blooming, mirthful. They were always near Venus. No veil should cover their charms. They preside over favors, concord, rejoicings, love, and even eloquence; they were the sensible emblem of all that can render life agreeable. They were painted dancing and holding hands; and every one who entered their temples was crowned with flowers. Those who have condemned the fabulous mythology should at least acknowledge the merit of these lively fictions, which announce truths intimately connected with the felicity of mankind.
This term, which signifies favor or privilege, is employed in this sense by theologians. They call grace a particular operation of God on mankind, intended to render them just and happy. Some have admitted universal grace, that which God gives to all men, though mankind, according to them, with the exception of a very small number, will be delivered to eternal flames: others admit grace towards Christians of their communion only; and lastly, others only for the elect of that communion.
It is evident that a general grace, which leaves the universe in vice, error, and eternal misery, is not a grace, a favor, or privilege, but a contradiction in terms.
Particular grace, according to theologians, is either in the first place “sufficing,” which if resisted, suffices not—resembling a pardon given by a king to a criminal, who is nevertheless delivered over to the punishment; or “efficacious” when it is not resisted, although it may be resisted; in this case, they just resemble famished guests to whom are presented delicious viands, of which they will surely eat, though, in general, they may be supposed at liberty not to eat; or “necessary,” that is, unavoidable, being nothing more than the chain of eternal decrees and events. We shall take care not to enter into the long and appalling details, subtleties, and sophisms, with which these questions are embarrassed. The object of this dictionary is not to be the vain echo of vain disputes.
St. Thomas calls grace a substantial form, and the Jesuit Bouhours names it a je ne sais quoi; this is perhaps the best definition which has ever been given of it.
If the theologians had wanted a subject on which to ridicule Providence, they need not have taken any other than that which they have chosen. On one side the Thomists assure us that man, in receiving efficacious grace, is not free in the compound sense, but that he is free in the divided sense; on the other, the Molinists invent the medium doctrine of God and congruity, and imagine exciting, preventing, concomitant, and co-operating grace.
Let us quit these bad but seriously constructed jokes of the theologians; let us leave their books, and each consult his common sense; when he will see that all these reasoners have sagaciously deceived themselves, because they have reasoned upon a principle evidently false. They have supposed that God acts upon particular views; now, an eternal God, without general, immutable, and eternal laws, is an imaginary being, a phantom, a god of fable.
Why, in all religions on which men pique themselves on reasoning, have theologians been forced to admit this grace which they do not comprehend? It is that they would have salvation confined to their own sect, and further, they would have this salvation divided among those who are the most submissive to themselves. These particular theologians, or chiefs of parties, divide among themselves. The Mussulman doctors entertain similar opinions and similar disputes, because they have the same interest to actuate them; but the universal theologian, that is to say, the true philosopher, sees that it is contradictory for nature to act on particular or single views; that it is ridiculous to imagine God occupying Himself in forcing one man in Europe to obey Him, while He leaves all the Asiatics intractable; to suppose Him wrestling with another man who sometimes submits, and sometimes disarms Him, and presenting to another a help, which is nevertheless useless. Such grace, considered in a true point of view, is an absurdity. The prodigious mass of books composed on this subject is often an exercise of intellect, but always the shame of reason.
All nature, all that exists, is the grace of God; He bestows on all animals the grace of form and nourishment. The grace of growing seventy feet high is granted to the fir, and refused to the reed. He gives to man the grace of thinking, speaking, and knowing him; He grants me the grace of not understanding a word of all that Tournelli, Molina, and Soto, have written on the subject of grace.
The first who has spoken of efficacious and gratuitous grace is, without contradiction, Homer. This may be astonishing to a bachelor of theology, who knows no author but St. Augustine; but, if he read the third book of the “Iliad,” he will see that Paris says to his brother Hector: “If the gods have given you valor, and me beauty, do not reproach me with the presents of the beautiful Venus; no gift of the gods is despicable—it does not depend upon man to obtain them.”
Nothing is more positive than this passage. If we further remark that Jupiter, according to his pleasure, gave the victory sometimes to the Greeks, and at others to the Trojans, we shall see a new proof that all was done by grace from on high. Sarpedon, and afterwards Patroclus, are barbarians to whom by turns grace has been wanting.
There have been philosophers who were not of the opinion of Homer. They have pretended that general Providence does not immediately interfere with the affairs of particular individuals; that it governs all by universal laws; that Thersites and Achilles were equal before it, and that neither Chalcas nor Talthybius ever had versatile or congruous graces.
According to these philosophers, the dog-grass and the oak, the mite and the elephant, man, the elements and stars, obey invariable laws, which God, as immutable, has established from all eternity.
If one were to come from the bottom of hell, to say to us on the part of the devil—Gentlemen, I must inform you that our sovereign lord has taken all mankind for his share, except a small number of people who live near the Vatican and its dependencies—we should all pray of this deputy to inscribe us on the list of the privileged; we should ask him what we must do to obtain this grace.
If he were to answer, You cannot merit it, my master has made the list from the beginning of time; he has only listened to his own pleasure, he is continually occupied in making an infinity of pots-de-chambre and some dozen gold vases; if you are pots-de-chambre so much the worse for you.
At these fine words we should use our pitchforks to send the ambassador back to his master. This is, however, what we have dared to impute to God—to the eternal and sovereignly good being!
Man has been always reproached with having made God in his own image, Homer has been condemned for having transported all the vices and follies of earth into heaven. Plato, who has thus justly reproached him, has not hesitated to call him a blasphemer; while we, a hundred times more thoughtless, hardy, and blaspheming than this Greek, who did not understand conventional language, devoutly accuse God of a thing of which we have never accused the worst of men.
It is said that the king of Morocco, Muley Ismael, had five hundred children. What would you say if a marabout of Mount Atlas related to you that the wise and good Muley Ismael, dining with his family, at the close of the repast, spoke thus:
“I am Muley Ismael, who has forgotten you for my glory, for I am very glorious. I love you very tenderly, I shelter you as a hen covers her chickens; I have decreed that one of my youngest children shall have the kingdom of Tafilet, and that another shall possess Morocco; and for my other dear children, to the number of four hundred and ninety-eight, I order that one-half shall be tortured, and the other half burned, for I am the Lord Muley Ismael.”
You would assuredly take the marabout for the greatest fool that Africa ever produced; but if three or four thousand marabouts, well entertained at your expense, were to repeat to you the same story, what would you do? Would you not be tempted to make them fast upon bread and water until they recovered their senses?
You will allege that my indignation is reasonable enough against the supralapsarians, who believe that the king of Morocco begot these five hundred children only for his glory; and that he had always the intention to torture and burn them, except two, who were destined to reign.
But I am wrong, you say, against the infralapsarians, who avow that it was not the first intention of Muley Ismael to cause his children to perish; but that, having foreseen that they would be of no use, he thought he should be acting as a good father in getting rid of them by torture and fire.
Ah, supralapsarians, infralapsarians, free-gracians, sufficers, efficacians, jansenists, and molinists—become men, and no longer trouble the earth with such absurd and abominable fooleries.
Holy advisers of modern Rome, illustrious and infallible theologians, no one has more respect for your divine decisions than I; but if Paulus Æmilius, Scipio, Cato, Cicero, Cæsar, Titus, Trajan, or Marcus Aurelius, revisited that Rome to which they formerly did such credit, you must confess that they would be a little astonished at your decisions on grace. What would they say if they heard you speak of healthful grace according to St. Thomas, and medicinal grace according to Cajetan; of exterior and interior grace, of free, sanctifying, co-operating, actual, habitual, and efficacious grace, which is sometimes inefficacious; of the sufficing which sometimes does not suffice, of the versatile and congruous—would they really comprehend it more than you and I?
What need would these poor people have of your instructions? I fancy I hear them say: “Reverend fathers, you are terrible genii; we foolishly thought that the Eternal Being never conducted Himself by particular laws like vile human beings, but by general laws, eternal like Himself. No one among us ever imagined that God was like a senseless master, who gives an estate to one slave and refuses food to another; who orders one with a broken arm to knead a loaf, and a cripple to be his courier.
All is grace on the part of God; He has given to the globe we inhabit the grace of form; to the trees the grace of making them grow; to animals that of feeding them; but will you say, because one wolf finds in his road a lamb for his supper, while another is dying with hunger, that God has given the first wolf a particular grace? Is it a preventive grace to cause one oak to grow in preference to another in which sap is wanting? If throughout nature all being is submitted to general laws, how can a single species of animals avoid conforming to them?
Why should the absolute master of all be more occupied in directing the interior of a single man than in conducting the remainder of entire nature? By what caprice would He change something in the heart of a Courlander or a Biscayan, while He changes nothing in the general laws which He has imposed upon all the stars.
What a pity to suppose that He is continually making, defacing, and renewing our sentiments! And what audacity in us to believe ourselves excepted from all beings! And further, is it not only for those who confess that these changes are imagined? A Savoyard, a Bergamask, on Monday, will have the grace to have a mass said for twelve sous; on Tuesday he will go to the tavern and have no grace; on Wednesday he will have a co-operating grace, which will conduct him to confession, but he will not have the efficacious grace of perfect contrition; on Thursday there will be a sufficing grace which will not suffice, as has been already said. God will labor in the head of this Bergamask—sometimes strongly, sometimes weakly, while the rest of the earth will no way concern Him! He will not deign to meddle with the interior of the Indians and Chinese! If you possess a grain of reason, reverend fathers, do you not find this system prodigiously ridiculous?
Poor, miserable man! behold this oak which rears its head to the clouds, and this reed which bends at its feet; you do not say that efficacious grace has been given to the oak and withheld from the reed. Raise your eyes to heaven; see the eternal Demiourgos creating millions of worlds, which gravitate towards one another by general and eternal laws. See the same light reflected from the sun to Saturn, and from Saturn to us; and in this grant of so many stars, urged onward in their rapid course; in this general obedience of all nature, dare to believe, if you can, that God is occupied in giving a versatile grace to Sister Theresa, or a concomitant one to Sister Agnes.
Atom—to which another foolish atom has said that the Eternal has particular laws for some atoms of thy neighborhood; that He gives His grace to that one and refuses it to this; that such as had not grace yesterday shall have it to-morrow—repeat not this folly. God has made the universe, and creates not new winds to remove a few straws in one corner of the universe. Theologians are like the combatants in Homer, who believed that the gods were sometimes armed for and sometimes against them. Had Homer not been considered a poet, he would be deemed a blasphemer.
It is Marcus Aurelius who speaks, and not I; for God, who inspires you, has given me grace to believe all that you say, all that you have said, and all that you will say.
Grave, in its moral meaning, always corresponds with its physical one; it expresses something of weight; thus, we say—a person, an author, or a maxim of weight, for a grave person, author, or maxim. The grave is to the serious what the lively is to the agreeable. It is one degree more of the same thing, and that degree a considerable one. A man may be serious by temperament, and even from want of ideas. He is grave, either from a sense of decorum, or from having ideas of depth and importance, which induce gravity. There is a difference between being grave and being a grave man. It is a fault to be unseasonably grave. He who is grave in society is seldom much sought for; but a grave man is one who acquires influence and authority more by his real wisdom than his external carriage.
A decorous air should be always preserved, but a grave air is becoming only in the function of some high and important office, as, for example, in council. When gravity consists, as is frequently the case, only in the exterior carriage, frivolous remarks are delivered with a pompous solemnity, exciting at once ridicule and aversion. We do not easily pardon those who wish to impose upon us by this air of consequence and self-sufficiency.
The duke de La Rochefoucauld said “Gravity is a mysteriousness of body assumed in order to conceal defects of mind.” Without investigating whether the phrase “mysteriousness of body” is natural and judicious, it is sufficient to observe that the remark is applicable to all who affect gravity, but not to those who merely exhibit a gravity suitable to the office they hold, the place where they are, or the business in which they are engaged.
A grave author is one whose opinions relate to matters obviously disputable. We never apply the term to one who has written on subjects which admit no doubt or controversy. It would be ridiculous to call Euclid and Archimedes grave authors.
Gravity is applicable to style. Livy and de Thou have written with gravity. The same observations cannot with propriety be applied to Tacitus, whose object was brevity, and who has displayed malignity; still less can it be applied to Cardinal de Retz, who sometimes infuses into his writings a misplaced gayety, and sometimes even forgets decency.
The grave style declines all sallies of wit or pleasantry; if it sometimes reaches the sublime, if on any particular occasion it is pathetic, it speedily returns to the didactic wisdom and noble simplicity which habitually characterizes it; it possesses strength without daring. Its greatest difficulty is to avoid monotony.
A grave affair (affaire), a grave case (cas), is used concerning a criminal rather than a civil process. A grave disease implies danger.
Great is one of those words which are most frequently used in a moral sense, and with the least consideration and judgment. Great man, great genius, great captain, great philosopher, great poet; we mean by this language “one who has far exceeded ordinary limits.” But, as it is difficult to define those limits, the epithet “great” is often applied to those who possess only mediocrity.
This term is less vague and doubtful when applied to material than to moral subjects. We know what is meant by a great storm, a great misfortune, a great disease, great property, great misery.
The term “large” (gros) is sometimes used with respect to subjects of the latter description, that is, material ones, as equivalent to great, but never with respect to moral subjects. We say large property for great wealth, but not a large captain for a great captain, or a large minister for a great minister. Great financier means a man eminently skilful in matters of national finance; but gros financier expresses merely a man who has become wealthy in the department of finance.
The great man is more difficult to be defined than the great artist. In an art or profession, the man who has far distanced his rivals, or who has the reputation of having done so, is called great in his art, and appears, therefore, to have required merit of only one description in order to obtain this eminence; but the great man must combine different species of merit. Gonsalvo, surnamed the Great Captain, who observed that “the web of honor was coarsely woven,” was never called a great man. It is more easy to name those to whom this high distinction should be refused than those to whom it should be granted. The denomination appears to imply some great virtues. All agree that Cromwell was the most intrepid general, the most profound statesman, the man best qualified to conduct a party, a parliament, or an army, of his day; yet no writer ever gives him the title of great man; because, although he possessed great qualities, he possessed not a single great virtue.
This title seems to fall to the lot only of the small number of men who have been distinguished at once by virtues, exertions, and success. Success is essential, because the man who is always unfortunate is supposed to be so by his own fault.
Great (grand), by itself, expresses some dignity. In Spain it is a high and most distinguishing appellative (grandee) conferred by the king on those whom he wishes to honor. The grandees are covered in the presence of the king, either before speaking to him or after having spoken to him, or while taking their seats with the rest.
Charles the Fifth conferred the privileges of grandeeship on sixteen principal noblemen. That emperor himself afterwards granted the same honors to many others. His successors, each in his turn, have added to the number. The Spanish grandees have long claimed to be considered of equal rank and dignity with the electors and the princes of Italy. At the court of France they have the same honors as peers.
The title of “great” has been always given, in France, to many of the chief officers of the crown—as great seneschal, great master, great chamberlain, great equerry, great pantler, great huntsman, great falconer. These titles were given them to distinguish their pre-eminence above the persons serving in the same departments under them. The distinction is not given to the constable, nor to the chancellor, nor to the marshals, although the constable is the chief of all the household officers, the chancellor the second person in the state, and the marshal the second officer in the army. The reason obviously is, that they had no deputies, no vice-constables, vice-marshals, vice-chancellors, but officers under another denomination who executed their orders, while the great steward, great chamberlain, and great equerry, etc., had stewards, chamberlains, and equerries under them.
Great (grand) in connection with seigneur, “great lord,” has a signification more extensive and uncertain. We give this title of “grand seigneur” (seignor) to the Turkish sultan, who assumes that of pasha, to which the expression grand seignor does not correspond. The expression “un grand,” a “great man,” is used in speaking of a man of distinguished birth, invested with dignities, but it is used only by the common people. A person of birth or consequence never applies the term to any one. As the words “great lord” (grand seigneur) are commonly applied to those who unite birth, dignity, and riches, poverty seems to deprive a man of the right to it, or at least to render it inappropriate or ridiculous. Accordingly, we say a poor gentleman, but not a poor grand seigneur.
Great (grand) is different from mighty (puissant). A man may at the same time be both one and the other, but puissant implies the possession of some office of power and consequence. “Grand” indicates more show and less reality; the “puissant” commands, the “grand” possesses honors.
There is greatness (grandeur) in mind, in sentiments, in manners, and in conduct. The expression is not used in speaking of persons in the middling classes of society, but only of those who, by their rank, are bound to show nobility and elevation. It is perfectly true that a man of the most obscure birth and connections may have more greatness of mind than a monarch. But it would be inconsistent with the usual phraseology to say, “that merchant or that farmer acted greatly” (avec grandeur); unless, indeed, in very particular circumstances, and placing certain characters in striking opposition, we should, for example, make such a remark as the following: “The celebrated merchant who entertained Charles the Fifth in his own house, and lighted a fire of cinnamon wood with that prince’s bond to him for fifty thousand ducats, displayed more greatness of soul than the emperor.”
The title of “greatness” (grandeur) was formerly given to various persons possessing stations of dignity. French clergymen, when writing to bishops, still call them “your greatness.” Those titles, which are lavished by sycophancy and caught at by vanity, are now little used.
Haughtiness is often mistaken for greatness (grandeur). He who is ostentatious of greatness displays vanity. But one becomes weary and exhausted with writing about greatness. According to the lively remark of Montaigne, “we cannot obtain it, let us therefore take our revenge by abusing it.”
It is exceedingly strange that, as Marseilles was founded by a Greek colony, scarcely any vestige of the Greek language is to be found in Provence Languedoc, or any district of France; for we cannot consider as Greek the terms which were taken, at a comparatively modern date, from the Latins, and which had been adopted by the Romans themselves from the Greeks so many centuries before. We received those only at second hand. We have no right to say that we abandoned the word Got for that of Theos, rather than that of Deus, from which, by a barbarous termination, we have made Dieu.
It is clear that the Gauls, having received the Latin language with the Roman laws, and having afterwards received from those same Romans the Christian religion, adopted from them all the terms which were connected with that religion. These same Gauls did not acquire, until a late period, the Greek terms which relate to medicine, anatomy, and surgery.
After deducting all the words originally Greek which we have derived through the Latin, and all the anatomical and medical terms which were, in comparison, so recently acquired, there is scarcely anything left; for surely, to derive “abréger” from “brakus,” rather than from “abreviare”; “acier” from “axi,” rather than from “acies”; “acre” from “agros,” rather than from “ager”; and “aile” from “ily,” rather than from “ala”—this, I say, would surely be perfectly ridiculous.
Some have even gone so far as to say that “omelette” comes from “omeilaton,” because “meli” in Greek signifies honey, and “oon” an egg. In the “Garden of Greek Roots” there is a more curious derivation still; it is pretended that “dîner” (dinner) comes from “deipnein,” which signifies supper.
As some may be desirous of possessing a list of the Greek words which the Marseilles colony may have introduced into the language of the Gauls, independently of those which came through the Romans, we present the following one:
I am astonished to find so few words remaining of a language spoken at Marseilles, in the time of Augustus, in all its purity; and I am particularly astonished to find the greater number of the Greek words preserved in Provence, signifying things of little or no utility, while those used to express things of the first necessity and importance are utterly lost. We have not a single one remaining that signifies land, sea, sky, the sun, the moon, rivers, or the principal parts of the human body; the words used for which might have been expected to be transmitted down from the beginning through every succeeding age. Perhaps we must attribute the cause of this to the Visigoths, the Burgundians, and the Franks; to the horrible barbarism of all those nations which laid waste the Roman Empire, a barbarism of which so many traces yet remain.
A guarantee is a pledge by which a person renders himself responsible to another for something, and binds himself to secure him in the enjoyment of it. The word (garant) is derived from the Celtic and Teutonic “warrant.” In all the words which we have retained from those ancient languages we have changed the w into g. Among the greater number of the nations of the North “warrant” still signifies assurance, guaranty; and in this sense it means, in English, an order of the king, as signifying the pledge of the king. When in the middle ages kings concluded treaties, they were guaranteed on both sides by a considerable number of knights, who bound themselves by oath to see that the treaty was observed, and even, when a superior education qualified them to do so, which sometimes happened, signed their names to it. When the emperor Frederick Barbarossa ceded so many rights to Pope Alexander III. at the celebrated congress of Venice, in 1117, the emperor put his seal to the instrument which the pope and cardinals signed. Twelve princes of the empire guaranteed the treaty by an oath upon the gospel; but none of them signed it. It is not said that the doge of Venice guaranteed that peace which was concluded in his palace. When Philip Augustus made peace in 1200 with King John of England, the principal barons of France and Normandy swore to the due observance of it, as cautionary or guaranteeing parties. The French swore that they would take arms against their king if he violated his word, and the Normans, in like manner, to oppose their sovereign if he did not adhere to his. One of the constables of the Montmorency family, after a negotiation with one of the earls of March, in 1227, swore to the observance of the treaty upon the soul of the king.
The practice of guaranteeing the states of a third party was of great antiquity, although under a different name. The Romans in this manner guaranteed the possessions of many of the princes of Asia and Africa, by taking them under their protection until they secured to themselves the possession of the territories thus protected. We must regard as a mutual guaranty the ancient alliance between France and Castile, of king to king, kingdom to kingdom, and man to man.
We do not find any treaty in which the guaranty of the states of a third party is expressly stipulated for before that which was concluded between Spain and the states-general in 1609, by the mediation of Henry IV. He procured from Philip III., king of Spain, the recognition of the United Provinces as free and sovereign states. He signed the guaranty of this sovereignty of the seven provinces, and obtained the signature of the same instrument from the king of Spain; and the republic acknowledged that it owed its freedom to the interference of the French monarch. It is principally within our own times that treaties of guaranty have become comparatively frequent. Unfortunately these engagements have occasionally produced ruptures and war; and it is clearly ascertained that the best of all possible guaranties is power.
Bayle himself, while admitting that Gregory was the firebrand of Europe, concedes to him the denomination of a great man. “That old Rome,” says he, “which plumed itself upon conquests and military virtue, should have brought so many other nations under its dominion, redounds, according to the general maxims of mankind, to her credit and glory; but, upon the slightest reflection, can excite little surprise. On the other hand, it is a subject of great surprise to see new Rome, which pretended to value itself only on an apostolic ministry, possessed of an authority under which the greatest monarchs have been constrained to bend. Caron may observe, with truth, that there is scarcely a single emperor who has opposed the popes without feeling bitter cause to regret his resistance. Even at the present day the conflicts of powerful princes with the court of Rome almost always terminate in their confusion.”
I am of a totally different opinion from Bayle. There will probably be many of a different one from mine. I deliver it however with freedom, and let him who is willing and able refute it.
1. The differences of the princes of Orange and the seven provinces with Rome did not terminate in their confusion; and Bayle, who, while at Amsterdam, could set Rome at defiance, was a happy illustration of the contrary.
The triumphs of Queen Elizabeth, of Gustavus Vasa in Sweden, of the kings of Denmark, of all the princes of the north of Germany, of the finest part of Helvetia, of the single and small city of Geneva—the triumphs, I say, of all these over the policy of the Roman court are perfectly satisfactory testimonies that it may be easily and successfully resisted, both in affairs of religion and government.
2. The sacking of Rome by the troops of Charles the Fifth; the pope (Clement VII.) a prisoner in the castle of St. Angelo; Louis XIV. compelling Pope Alexander VII. to ask his pardon, and erecting even in Rome itself a monument of the pope’s submission; and, within our own times, the easy subversion of that steady, and apparently most formidable support of the papal power, the society of Jesuits in Spain, in France, in Naples, in Goa, and in Paraguay—all this furnishes decisive evidence, that, when potent princes are in hostility with Rome, the quarrel is not terminated in their confusion; they may occasionally bend before the storm, but they will not eventually be overthrown.
When the popes walked on the heads of kings, when they conferred crowns by a parchment bull, it appears to me, that at this extreme height of their power and grandeur they did no more than the caliphs, who were the successors of Mahomet, did in the very period of their decline. Both of them, in the character of priests, conferred the investiture of empires, in solemn ceremony, on the most powerful of contending parties.
3. Maimbourg says: “What no pope ever did before, Gregory VIII. did, depriving Henry IV. of his dignity of emperor, and of his kingdoms of Germany and Italy.”
Maimbourg is mistaken. Pope Zachary had, long before that, placed a crown on the head of the Austrasian Pepin, who usurped the kingdom of the Franks; and Pope Leo III. had declared the son of that Pepin emperor of the West, and thereby deprived the empress Irene of the whole of that empire; and from that time, it must be admitted, there has not been a single priest of the Romish church who has not imagined that his bishop enjoyed the disposal of all crowns.
This maxim was always turned to account when it was possible to be so. It was considered as a consecrated weapon, deposited in the sacristy of St. John of Lateran, which might be drawn forth in solemn and impressive ceremony on every occasion that required it. This prerogative is so commanding; it raises to such a height the dignity of an exorcist born at Velletri or Cività Vecchia, that if Luther, Œcolampadius, John Calvin, and all the prophets of the Cévennes, had been natives of any miserable village near Rome, and undergone the tonsure there, they would have supported that church with the same rage which they actually manifested for its destruction.
4. Everything, then, depends on the time and place of a man’s birth, and the circumstances by which he is surrounded. Gregory VII. was born in an age of barbarism, ignorance, and superstition; and he had to deal with a young, debauched, inexperienced emperor, deficient in money, and whose power was contested by all the powerful lords of Germany.
We cannot believe, that, from the time of the Austrasian Charlemagne, the Roman people ever paid very willing obedience to Franks or Teutonians: they hated them as much as the genuine old Romans would have hated the Cimbri, if the Cimbri had obtained dominion in Italy. The Othos had left behind them in Rome a memory that was execrated, because they had enjoyed great power there; and, after the time of the Othos, Europe it is well known became involved in frightful anarchy.
This anarchy was not more effectually restrained under the emperors of the house of Franconia. One-half of Germany was in insurrection against Henry IV. The countess Mathilda, grand duchess, his cousin-german, more powerful than himself in Italy, was his mortal enemy. She possessed, either as fiefs of the empire, or as allodial property, the whole duchy of Tuscany, the territory of Cremona, Ferrara, Mantua, and Parma; a part of the Marches of Ancona, Reggio, Modena, Spoleto, and Verona; and she had rights, that is to say pretensions, to the two Burgundies; for the imperial chancery claimed those territories, according to its regular practice of claiming everything.
We admit, that Gregory VII. would have been little less than an idiot had he not exerted his strongest efforts to secure a complete influence over this powerful princess; and to obtain, by her means, a point of support and protection against the Germans. He became her director, and, after being her director, her heir.
I shall not, in this place, examine whether he was really her lover, or whether he only pretended to be so; or whether his enemies merely pretended it; or whether, in his idle moments, the assuming and ardent little director did not occasionally abuse the influence he possessed with his penitent, and prevail over a feeble and capricious woman. In the course of human events nothing can be more natural or common; but as usually no registers are kept of such cases; as those interesting intimacies between the directors and directed do not take place before witnesses, and as Gregory has been reproached with this imputation only by his enemies, we ought not to confound accusation with proof. It is quite enough that Gregory claimed the whole of his penitent’s property.
5. The donation which he procured to be made to himself by the countess Mathilda, in the year 1077, is more than suspected. And one proof that it is not to be relied upon is that not merely was this deed never shown, but that, in a second deed, the first is stated to have been lost. It was pretended that the donation had been made in the fortress of Canossa, and in the second act it is said to have been made at Rome. These circumstances may be considered as confirming the opinion of some antiquaries, a little too scrupulous, who maintain that out of a thousand grants made in those times—and those times were of long duration—there are more than nine hundred evidently counterfeit.
There have been two sorts of usurpers in our quarter of the world, Europe—robbers and forgers.
6. Bayle, although allowing the title of Great to Gregory, acknowledges at the same time that this turbulent man disgraced his heroism by his prophecies. He had the audacity to create an emperor, and in that he did well, as the emperor Henry IV. had made a pope. Henry deposed him, and he deposed Henry. So far there is nothing to which to object—both sides are equal. But Gregory took it into his head to turn prophet; he predicted the death of Henry IV. for the year 1080; but Henry IV. conquered, and the pretended emperor Rudolph was defeated and slain in Thuringia by the famous Godfrey of Bouillon, a man more truly great than all the other three. This proves, in my opinion, that Gregory had more enthusiasm than talent.
I subscribe with all my heart to the remark of Bayle, that “when a man undertakes to predict the future, he is provided against everything by a face of brass, and an inexhaustible magazine of equivocations.” But your enemies deride your equivocations; they also have a face of brass like yourself; and they expose you as a knave, a braggart, and a fool.
7. Our great man ended his public career with witnessing the taking of Rome by assault, in the year 1083. He was besieged in the castle, since called St. Angelo, by the same emperor Henry IV., whom he had dared to dispossess, and died in misery and contempt at Salerno, under the protection of Robert Guiscard the Norman.
I ask pardon of modern Rome, but when I read the history of the Scipios, the Catos, the Pompeys, and the Cæsars, I find a difficulty in ranking with them a factious monk who was made a pope under the name of Gregory VII.
But our Gregory has obtained even a yet finer title; he has been made a saint, at least at Rome. It was the famous cardinal Coscia who effected this canonization under Pope Benedict XIII. Even an office or service of St. Gregory VII. was printed, in which it was said, that that saint “absolved the faithful from the allegiance which they had sworn to their emperor.”
Many parliaments of the kingdom were desirous of having this legend burned by the executioner: but Bentivoglio, the nuncio—who kept one of the actresses at the opera, of the name of Constitution, as his mistress, and had by her a daughter called la Légende; a man otherwise extremely amiable, and a most interesting companion—procured from the ministry a mitigation of the threatened storm; and, after passing sentence of condemnation on the legend of St. Gregory, the hostile party were contented to suppress it and to laugh at it.