Page images

Tartar warrior with the drooping Rouge" we are afforded a glimpse of graces of an Eastern beauty. Here, the furious hatreds and the hurricanes sleep, in a library protected by your of jealousy that subsist but too often military virtues, sleep, my Hamilcar, in the relations between scholars of a with the luxury

a sultana Sleep, world-wide celebrity. Schmoll, the heroic and voluptuous Hamilcar, and great latinist, and "after Mommsen the wait for the hour when the mice will first epigraphist in the world," has redance in the moonlight before the 'Acta proached his colleague at the Institut, Sanctorum' of the learned Bollandists." M. Marmet, the great Etruscan scholar,

The antiquary was not insensible to with combining a suspicious fluency the rebuff implied to learning by the in Etruscan with a dangerous ignorance fact that Hamilcar was more impressed of Latin. Mounting the stairway at by the lightest word of the housekeeper the Institut one day, in company with than by all his honeyed compliments. Renan and Oppert, Schmoll met MarThe knowledge made him inclined to be met and offered him his hand. Marmet apologetic. In his excitement one day ignored the proffered courtesy, and at the discovery of a manuscript, he said, "I don't know you." “What!" knocked a volume of the ponderous retorted Schmoll, "do you take me for Moréri over noisily with his elbow. a Latin inscription ?” “Hamilcar, who was washing himself, The bigoted self-absorption of the suddenly stopped and looked angrily at typical specialist is depicted with an me. Was this the tumultuous existence exquisite raillery, and with a seeming he must expect under my roof? 'My extravagance that is yet very little poor, dear comrade,' I made answer, removed from the perfect truth in the “I am the victim of a violent passion,' highly condensed portrait of M. Pigonand he proceeded to expatiate at con- neau. "I have consecrated my entire siderable length to his cat upon the

life, as is well known, to the study of theory of the passions.

Egyptian archæology, nor have my The ordinary lack of sympathy be- labors been sterile. I can say without tween successive generations of self-flattery, that my “Memoir upon the perts in matters of erudition is illus- handle of an Egyptian mirror in the trated in Bonnard with a rare power Louvre Museum' may still be consulted of insight into such topics, but upon with advantage, though it was one of the whole, as will already have ap- my earliest productions. . . . Encourpeared, it is the favorable side of the aged by the flattering reception acscholarly life that is turned to us al- corded to my studies by colleagues at most exclusively in this delightful book; the Institut, I was tempted for a mothe reader maintains a steadily opti- ment to embark upon a work of a very mistic frame of mind, and with diffi- much wider scope-no less than a broad culty (if at all) restrains a sentimental survey of the weights and measures in tear when Bonnard finds the long-de- use at Alexandria under the reign of sired manuscript or laments the prema- Ptolemy Auletes (80-52 B.C.). But I ture death of his little godson.

recognized very soon that a subject so M. France has retained a predilection general and so vast is not in any way for the type of the antiquary and the adapted for treatment by a genuine scholar, but since he wrote "Le Crime man of science, and that serious scholde Sylvestre Bonnard" he has discov- arship could undertake it only at the ered a very different kind of model, risk of finding itself compromised amid and he has mixed his colors upon a all kinds of adventures. I felt that in very different plan. In "Le Lys considering several subjects at one and


the same time I was abandoning the understand the subtle pleasure that fundamental principle of an archæole certain minds derive from detecting ogist. If to-day I confess my error, if their own foibles in the character of a I avow the inconceivable enthusiasm great "exemplar vitæ morumque.” We which launched me upon a project so must never for a moment, he insists, extravagant, I do it in the interest of regret that disgraceful denial of St. the young student, who will learn from Peter's. Think of the prophecies that my example to subdue his imagination. had to be fulfilled. “Et si ce Pierre ou It is likely to be his most cruel enemy; Céphas n'avait pas fait, cette nuit-là, for the scholar who has not succeeded la dernière des infamies, il ne serait in stilling the imagination within him pas aujourd'hui le plus grand saint du is forever lost to science. I shudder paradis et la pierre angulaire de notre still when I think of the chasms over sainte Eglise, pour la confusion des which I was dangled in my adventu- honnêtes gens selon le monde qui voient rous spirit in this (happily) transitory les clefs de leur félicité éternelle tenues ardor for general ideas. I was within par un lâche coquin. Osalutaire exan ace of what is called History! What emple qui, tirant l'homme hors des falan abysm! I was upon the point of lacieuses inspirations de l'honneur hufalling into Art. For History is really main, le conduit dans les voies du salut! no more, or, at best, only a specious O savante économie de la religion! O and false science. Is it not a matter sagesse divine, qui exalte les humbles of common knowledge to-uay, that the et les misérables pour abaisser les suhistorian bas preceded the archæologist, perbes! O Merveille! O Mystère! A just as the astrologer has preceded the la honte éternelle des pharisiens et des astronomer, the alchemist the chemist- gens de justice, un grossier marinier nay, as the ape has preceded the man? du lac de Tibériade, devenu par sa But, thank heaven! I got off with a lâcheté épaisse la risée des filles de fright."

: cuisine qui se chauffaient avec lui dans Another stage in the evolution of the la cour du grana prêtre, un rustre et un erudite mind as conceived by Anatole couard qui renonça son maître et sa foi France is marked by the character of devant des maritornes bien moins jolies, M. Jérôme Coignard, a theological sans doute, que la femme de chambre student of the greatest punctilio in re- de madame la baillive de Séez, porte gard to all matters of ritualistic tradi- au front la triple couronne, au doigt tion and doctrinal accuracy, but l'anneau pontifical, est établi au-dessus thoroughgoing sensualist and a liber- des princes-évêques, des rois, et de tine, not only in action, but also in his l'empereur, est investi du droit de lier whole philosophy of life. For an ex- et de délier; le plus respectable homme, ample of his ethical doctrine, as ap- la plus honnête dame n'entreront au plied to the subject of feminine pride, ciel que s'il leur en donne l'accès." we may refer the reader to the story Full of these racy, semi-blasphemous of St. Mary the Egyptian, as inter- tirades, we have in Coignard a rich preted by Coignard to his scholar, type of the clerical mendicant of a Jacques Tournebroche, in “La Rôtis- former age, in whom familiarity with serie de la Reine Pédauque.” A scarce- theological mysteries had bred a wellly less fascinating example of the soph- nigh atheistical contempt for sacred istries of this silver-tongued old scoun- subjects and inspired texts. drel may be found in his unflattering Peace upon earth, it is Coignard's portrait of the father of his Church. conclusion, can only be attained by The example of Boswell will help us to mutual contempt between




man. If men only despised them- bishop, an elderly man of an extreme selves and each other sincerely, they finesse and an unctuously affectionate would no longer do evil, and would manner, but perfectly insincere and inlive together in an amiable tranquillity. different to everything but his own All the evils of polite society are de- dignity and freedom of action; and rived from the fact that the citizens Worms-Clavelin, the prefect, a coarse thereof think too highly of themselves, man, who “listened with his mouth" raising honor, like a monster, upon an and whose face betrayed a mind wholly altar of misery, both mental and cor- impervious to moral delicacy. At the poreal. Of all the things that I detest, country house which he honors with his I hate worst this spirit which renders presence he is brutally anticlerical and men proud and cruel, this pride which cynically vulgar in his familiarities requires them to honor themselves and with the fair but frail Mme. de Groto honor their neighbors. As if any mance. His wife, like himself, bas one of the race of Adam could be much of the Teuton and the Semite in worthy of honor! What a detestable her composition, but she sends ber idolatry! No, no! To assure to human daughter to a convent school, and is a beings an existence which may have connoisseur of church ornaments and something pleasant about it, it is embroidery. As her agent in procuring absolutely necessary to recall them to these rarities she employs the astute their native humility.

Abbé Guitrel, an aboriginal of purest But it is not until we come to Ana- French blood, from whom she hopes to tole France's later work, entitled “His- derive the benefits of a pumice-stone toire Contemporaine" (the series of "to remove the stains of Germany and three volumes, appearing 1897-9, en- of Asia." Guitrel is ultimately adopted titled respectively "L'Orme du Mail," as her candidate for a vacant bishopric Le Mannequin d'Osier” and “L'An- in opposition to Bergeret's friend, neau d'Améthyste"), that we feel the Lantaigne, the great preacher of St. full force of his pessimistic philosophy. Exupère, and the only dialectician and The protagonist, M. Lucien Bergeret, man of general ideas in the place that is by far the most carefully finished he cares to measure his mind against. portrait in the gallery of scholars from Then there is General Cartier de which we have already selected some Chalmot, with an intelligence excesexamples. In him the playful irony of sively respectful of symbols, and a Bonnard is almost wholly replaced by voice that betrays, at the same moa cynicism that is full of a profound bit- ment, the timidity of the man and the terness. He is Latin professor and infallibility of the chief; and M. Ter"maître de conférences" to the faculty remondre, president of the local archof letters in a city of northern France; æological and agricultural societies, and he takes the part of a generally who got up the local statue to Joan of dispassionate and always very satirical Arc and designs the costumes for the observer of the byplay of scholastic historical cavalcades. He is a strong life, and of the numerous clerical and anti-Semite in the country among the social intrigues which make up the game preservers, but his principles are life of an important provincial town, insensibly relaxed at Paris, especially with its archbishop, its prefect and its during the financial dinner-party seageneral of division. The portraits of son. Among the minor characters are these worthies and of other local celeb- Fornerol, the skilful but unimaginative rities are all most carefully drawn. doctor; M. le Premier Président CasThere is Charlot, the cardinal arch- signol, a perfect picture of the old man hardened and withered, with his inter. not “un grand ennemi de notre reests exclusively in the past; Paillot the ligion." It is impossible, however, to discreet bookseller, who cultivates the give a brief instance of the manner in reputation of a learned and academic which the most venerated creeds and hospitality.

opinions crumble under the professor's With none of these personages has learned persiflage. Bergeret much sympathy, though we It was natural that Mme. Bergeret are continually startled by the pene- should utterly fail to understand her tration with which he divines their se- husband: “Je ne te comprends pas, cret motives and lays bare their ideas Lucien. Tu ris de ce qui n'est pas risiin all their native crudity. Nor has ble, et l'on ne sait jamais si tu plaisantes he much more fellow-feeling for any ou si tu es sérieux." She goes on to of his colleagues. In the small suc- entreat M. Roux, her husband's favor. cesses and triumphs of the pedagogic ite pupil (a young man of sanguine profession he can scarcely affect to disposition, who alleviates his term of take an interest. With the simplicity military service by systematic bribery, of the scholastic mind he delights and explains that what renders millrather to contrast the splendors of the tary life tolerable is the stupor resultrich; to the long trances of study, which ing from physical fatigue which acts have destroyed their sense of action, as a kind of cotton-wool padding), to he is fond of opposing the rapid opera- instruct Lucien in the art of conciliattion of the man of affairs; with their ing people who are likely to be of innocent and erudite senility he com- service to his career. But Bergeret's pares with malicious detail and innu- mask of irony places an insurmountable endo the significant graces of the soci- barrier between him and those of his ety lady, by whom their clumsy ad- academic chiefs with whom he was vances are repelled with such a grand most nearly allied by professional or disdain. His cynical frankness out- political sympathy. In the typical prorages the few prominent fellow-towns- vincial city of 150,000 souls, but five men whom his cleverness had, perhaps, Dreyfusards were found, among them attracted. The local patriots are scan- Bergeret and his colleague at the Facdalized by his theory that Jeanne d'Arc ulty, M. Leterrier. The latter comes was nothing more nor less than a mas- to encourage the Latin professor in his cotte. The magistrates are displeased unpopular opinions with the sentiment by his humorous tirade against their that the truth embodies a force which admirable criminal procedure, and he renders it irresistible and ensures its deeply shocks M. Terremondre by his ultimate triumph. But such a proposiremarks upon the subject of the disaster tion was hardly likely to command the at the Charité Bazar: “Un des chefs du assent of M. Bergeret. Truth, he asparti catholique dans le département, sures M. Leterrier, does not prevail; vous devez savoir que votre Dieu mon- on the contrary, it generally perishes trait jadis aux âges bibliques un godt obscurely under public contempt and assez vif pour les sacrifices humains. insult. As to the action of the mob

En ce temps-là Jéhovah ressem- which hurls abuse and stones at the blait à son rival Chamos; c'était un Dreyfusards, he points out that there être féroce, injuste et cruel. Il se mon- is much to explain, if not to excuse trait surtout friand de chair fraiche." their conduct. It needed something more after this “Reflect," he says, “that truth has than his bare assertion to convince the many evident points of inferiority as worthy virtuoso that M. Bergeret was compared with the lie, which must

[ocr errors]


eventually lead truth to disappear. The theory of a recluse that Bergeret's nilie, for instance, is multiple, and truth hilism is exhibited, for it reaches its has against it numbers. This is not its transcendent climax in connection with only defect. Truth is inert; it is not the one definite incident (apart from the susceptible to modification, it does not intrigues of the various candidates for lend itself to combinations which en- the see of Turcoing) round which the able it easily to enter either into the in- whole "Histoire Contemporaine" retelligence or into the passions of men, volves. Every lover of Anatole France The lie, on the other hand, has marvel- is familiar with the details of a scene lous resource. It is ductile, it is plas- which it were impossible, after him, to tic. More than this, it is natural and describe. It is enough to say that the even moral, insomuch as it corresponds conjugal mishap of M. Bergeret is. with the habits of man, who has based treated with an originality which exhis ideas of good and evil upon the hibits the writer's ironical powers at most holy and the most absurd of lies. their very highest. The lie, therefore, becomes the prin- The reflections with which M, Berciple of virtue and beauty in man, and geret reclaims his normal imperturbathe rejection of the lie in the search for bility of spirit afford a bird's-eye view truth can only be inspired by the cul- of his whole attitude of mind. In pable rashness of men of intellect. So words not at all dissimilar to those slow, however, is the substitution of which Jérôme Coignard might have truth for falsehood, that a few simple used, he fortifies himself with the lies will, for ages to come, continue to thought that our pride is the primary gild millions of existences." It is not cause of our miseries, that we to be expected that posterity will take dressed-up apes, who have gravely apa view essentially different or more plied ideas of honor and virtue to situenlightened than that of the present ations to which they are wholly inaphour. Posterity is impartial only when propriate, that the world (as Pope Boniit is indifferent; that which no longer face VIII rightly held) makes a great interests it, it promptly and irrevocably fuss of a very small matter, and that forgets. The discourse that follows is, Mme. Bergeret and M. Roux were in in effect, a beautifully written supple- reality as unworthy of nicely calculated ment to the pessimistic demonstration praise or blame as a couple of chimin Flaubert's "Bouvard et Pécuchet” panzees. His sense of humor was too of the extreme slenderness of the point strong for him to disguise the close reof contact between erudition or scien- lationship which existed between himtific truth and the great struggling self and this pair of primates, but mass of humanity. In his peaceable he differentiated himself as being a disdain of mankind, Bergeret attains, meditative chimpanzee, and from this perhaps, as near as possible tp the su

distinction it may not be denied that perb resignation contained in that 'he derived a considerable amount of notable sentence with which La Bruy- satisfaction. ère opens his “caractère de l'homme:" After all, he concludes, the greatest

"Ne nous emportons point contre les service that one can render one's felhommes, en voyant leur dureté, leur low-mortals is to recall to them their ingratitude, leur injustice, leur fierté, native ignominy, to humiliate them, to l'amour d'euxmêmes et l'oubli des au- show the ephemeral character of their tres. Ils sont ainsi faits, c'est leur na- work, the futile imbecility of their ture."

pride. Brought back to the true sentiIt is not merely, however, as the ment of their condition, their existence

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »