Page images
PDF
EPUB

and minutes, and reduces the whole universe, the Deity himself included, to a simple subtraction from nothing.

Every writer who refuses to believe in one only God, the author of the universe and the judge of

man, whose immortal soul he created, banishes infinity from his works. He restrains his ideas to a circle of mud from which he cannot free himself; every thing operates with him by the impure means of corruption and regeneration. The vast abyss is but a little bituminous water, mountains are only petty protuberances of calcareous or vitrescible stone. Those two admirable luminaries of heaven the one of which is extinguished when the other is lighted, for the purpose of illuminating our labours and our watchings, these are only two ponderous masses formed by chance, by I know not what fortuitous combina. tion of matter. Thus all is disenchanted, all is laid open by incredulity. These people would even tell you

that they know what man is, and if you would believe them they would explain to you whence comes thought, and what makes the heart palpitate at hearing the recital of a noble action ; so easily do they comprehend what never could be comprehended by the greatest geniuses. But draw near and see in what these mighty lights of their philosophy consist. Look to the bottom of the tomb, contemplate that inhumed corps, that statue of annihilation, veiled by a shroud--this is the whole man of the Atheist.

You have here a very long letter, my dear friend, yet I have not said half what I could say upon the subject. I shall be called a capuchin, but you know that Diderot loved the capuchins very much. For

in racter of poet, why should you be friglatened at a grey beard ; Homer long ago reconciled the Muses to it. ' Be this at it may, it is time to think of drawing the epistle to a conclusion. But since you know that we papists

you,

your cha.

have a strong passion for making converts, I will own to you, in confidence, that I would give much to see Madam de Staël range herself under the banners of religion. This is what I would venture to say to her had I the honour of knowing her.

“ You are, Madam, undoubtedly a woman of very superior talents, you have a strong understanding, your imagination is sometimes full of charms, as witness what you say of Erminia, disguised as a warrior; and your turns of expression are often at the same time brilliant and elevated. But notwithstanding these advantages your work is far from being all that it might have been made. The style is monotonous, it wants rapidity and it is too much mingled with metaphysical expressions. The sophism of the ideas is repulsive, the erudition does not satisfy, and the heart is too much sacrificed to the thoughts. Whence arise these defects ?--from your philosophy. Eloquence is the quality in which your work fails the most essentially, and there is no eloquence without religion. Man has so much need of an eternity of hope, that you have been obliged to form one to yourself upon the earth, in your system of perfectibility, to replace that infinite hope which you refuse to see in heaven. If you be sensible to fame return to religious ideas. I am convinced that you have within you the germ of a much siner work than any you have hitherto given us. Your talents are not above half developed ; philosophy stifles them, and if you'remain in your opinions you will not arrive at the height you might attain by following the route which conducted Pascal, Bossuet, and Racine, to immortality.”

- Thus would I address Madame de Staël, as far as glory is concerned. In adverting to the subject of happiness that my sermon might be the less repulsive, I would vary my manner; I would borrow the language of

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the forests, as I may well be permitted to do in my quality of a savage, and would say to my neophite.

“You appear not to be happy, you often complain in your work of wanting hearts that can understand you. Know that there are certain souls who seek in vain in na. ture souls forined to assimilate with their own, who are condemned by the supreme mind to a sort of eternal widowhood. If this be your misfortune, it is by religion alone that it can be cured. The word philosophy in the language of Europe, appears to me synonimous with the word solitude, in the idiom of savages. How then can philosophy fill up the void of your days ?--can the void of the desert be filled up by a desert.

“ There was once a woman in the Apalachean moun. tains, who said : There are no such things as good genii for I am unhappy, and all the inhabitants of our huts are unhappy. I have not met with a man, whatever was the air of happiness which he wore, that was not suffering under some concealed wound. The heart, the most serene to appearance resembled the natural well of the Savannah of Alachua; the surface appears calm and pure, but when you look to the bosom of this tranquil bason you perceive a large crocodile which the well cherishes in its waters.'

“ The woman went to consult a fortuneteller of the desert of Scambra, whether there were such things as good genii. The Sage answered her : Reed of the river who would support thee if there were not good genii; thou oughtest to believe in them for the reason alone that thou art unhappy. What wouldest thou do with life if being without happiness, thou wert also without hope. Occupy thyself, fill up in secret the solitude of thy days by acts of beneficence; be the polar star of the unfortuz. nate, spread out thy modest lustre in the shade, be witness to the tears that flow in silence, and let all that are misera

C.

[ocr errors]

а

ble turn their eyes to thee without being dazzled by it. These are the sole means of finding the happiness you want. The Great Mind has only struck thee to render thee sensible to the woes of thy brethren, and that thou mayest seek to soothe them. If thy heart be like to the well of the crocodile, it is also like those trees which only yield their balm to heal the wounds of others when wounded themselves by the steel.' Thus spoke the fortunetel. ler of the desert of Scambra, to the woman of the Apalachean mountains, and retired again into his cavern in the rock.”

Adieu, my dear friend, I embrace you, and love you with all my heart.

203

ON THE POET GILBERT.*

WHEN we see M. Gilbert poor and without a name, attack the powerful faction of men of letters, who in the last century dispensed fame and fortune ;--when we see him in this unequal contest struggle almost alone against the opinions most in fashion, and the highest reputations, we cannot but acknowledge in his success the prodigious empire of talent.

A collection of Heroics, of translations, and fugitive pieces, under the title of the Literary Debut, announced M. Gilbert to the world of letters. A young man who seeks his own talent, is very liable to mistake it; the Juvenal of the eighteenth century deceived himself with respect to his. The espistle from Eloisa to Abelard, had revived a species of poetry which had been almost forgotten since the days of Ovid. The Heroide, a poem, partly historic, partly elegiac, has this strong objection that it rests on declamation and common place expressions of love. The poet, making his hero speak for himself, can neither elevate his language to the proper inspired mark, suited to the lyre, nor descend to the familiar tone of a letter. The subject of Eloisa alone permitted at once all the naivete of passion, and all the art of the Muse, be. cause religion lends a pomp to language without depriv

* He died in the year 1780. See the remarkable account of his death in the Historical and Literary Memoirs and Anecdotes by Baron de Grimm, English translation, anno. 1780.

« PreviousContinue »