More questionings—Conference of Notre Dame — Home recollections — Ama Marduet — Political opinions.
FREDERIC after this returned to Paris to his various studies and good works. He was not free from many questionings of heart, as the following letter to his cousin, Ernest Falconnet, shows.
To M. ERNEST FALCONNET.
Paris, January 7th, 1834.
MY’ DEAR ERNEST,
Thou sayest that thy future is dark, and thou believest that the purest sun enlightens mine. Oh, how thou deccivest thyself! I feel at this moment one of, perhaps, the greatest troubles in life—the uncertainty of vocation. This may be a secret between us; but such is, at the same time, the flexibility and the softness of my nature, that there is not a study, not any kind of labour which has not charms for me, and in which I could not well enough succeed; and yet there is not one capable of absorbing all my faculties, and concentrating all my strength. I cannot occupy myself with one thing without thinking of a thousand others; and nevertheless, thou knowest no labour can be great if it is not one. Ignorant as I was, I formerly believed that I could be at the same time a learned man and an advocate, and lead two lives at once. Now that I approach the end of my law studies, I must choose between these two ways. I must put my hand into the urn. Shall I draw from it black or white? I am surrounded, in some respects, with seductions. On every hand they solicit me; they put me forward—they push me into a career foreign to my studies. Because God and education have endowed me with some extent of ideas, some largeness of tolerance, they would make of me a sort of chief of the Catholic youth of these parts. A number of young people, full of merit, give me an esteem, of which I feel very unworthy; and men of ripe age make advances to me. I must be at the head of every movement, and, when there is anything difficult to do, I must bear the burden of it. Impossible that there should be a reunion, a conference of law or of literature, unless I preside at it. Five or six magazines or journals ask me for articles. In a word, a crowd of circumstances, independent of my will, besiege me, pursue me, and draw me out of the line that I traced for myself.
I do not tell thee this by self-love. For, on the contrary, I feel my weakness so much, I, who am not twenty-one years old, that compliments and praises rather humiliate me, and I almost feel the desire to laugh at my own importance; but it is no laughing matter, and, on the contrary, I suffer incredible annoyance when I feel that all these fumes rise to my head, intoxicate me, and may make me wanting in that which, until now, has seemed to me to be my career—that to which the desire of my parents called me—that to which I felt myself sufficiently well disposed. Nevertheless, this concourse of exterior circumstances may it not be a sign of the will of God? I know not; and in my uncertainty I do not go before, I do not run after; but I let things come—I resist—and if the attraction is too strong, I allow myself to follow.
While waiting, I do what I can for my law; and although, perhaps, I consecrate too much time to science and literature, I only consider them as secondary occupations until some new order. Thus, once passed my examination for license, I know nothing of my future —all is for me darkness, uncertainty; but what matters it? Provided that I know what I ought to do to-morrow, to what end serves it that I should know what will be my duties six months hence? Is it necessary that the traveller see the end opened, and does it not suffice him to avoid obstacles, to see always ten paces before him? 0 my friend, I have written all this for thee, for thyself who hast yet three long years of studies to pass through before taking a position.
Have a little circle of chosen friends; connect thyself rather with a few good comrades than with societies of the world. Some hours passed together around the fire, conversing with open heart, will do more good and give more repose than an entire week of soirees, where there must be of two things one; we must hold ourselves restrained and dressed out in the forms of a foolish and cold politeness, or else abandon ourselves to giddy pleasures which are not without peril. Thou knowest it, the world is an iron file, which uses up many young lives: do not give it thine. If thou believest in nothing suffer thyself to say: Short and sweet, and coronemus nos rosis anteqzianz marcescant. But Christian, and believing in God, in humanity, in the fatherland, in the family, remind thyself that to them and not to thyself belongs thy existence, and that it is a thousand times better to languish during a half century, giving to others the example of resignation and doing a little good, than to be intoxicated for a few months in a brilliant enjoyment, and to die in the delirium.
But no, thou wilt never languish; the fountain is too gushing to dry up; thy intelligence is too nervous to remain powerless. Thou wilt succeed, thou wilt do good greatly, whatever be the career traced out for thee. Thou wilt not slip on the blood of the bull, as Euryalus; if the one whom thou callest Nisus appears to thee in advance, it is because he set out before thee; perhaps also he will reach the end sooner. But thou also, thou wilt reach it one day. Perhaps also, like these two friends, some common sacrifice awaits us: but sacrifice for him who believes, is it not the shortest way to arrive at the true term, immortality?
My dear friend, here are plenty of counsels; I do not wish, nevertheless, to appear to be giving thee a lesson; we are fellow-disciples, we arc brothers. Neither do I take advantage of my right of eldership; and if I have spoken to thee in this manner, it is simply to tell thee what I have in my heart. It is because between us I think that vague sentimental digressions are sufficiently useless, and that it is better to make some positive applications. I beg thee then to do the like for me, and to tell me in this renewing of the year what reforms thou wouldst wish in my character as a whole, in my labours, in my moral direction; thy advice will not be without weight in the balance, because, united from the earliest age, thou oughtest to know me.
I have spoken of thee to these gentlemen of the Revue Europeenne, who have told me to engage thee to send them something; thou wouldst there find the advantage of connecting thyself with honourable men. My article on China has appeared. I have just written two on India; one is printed in the December number, the other will be in the number following.
Lallier and Chaurand are here, who are chattering in such a fashion that I must finish, under pain of writing by fits and starts. They send thee a thousand regards; the one because he knows thee, the other because he would like to know thee.
I embrace thee with all my heart.
Here comes in suitably the interesting account of the first beginnings of the Conferences of Notre Dame, the earliest seed of which had been sown the preceding January by Frederic himself, in conjunction with his young companions—he being the leader. In the early part of 1833 a petition, with a hundred names appended, had been presented to the Archbishop of Paris by Frederic and two of his companions. The Archbishop received them with great kindness, did not reproach them for their bold attempt, promised to consider what they asked for, talked with them long, and gave them his blessing in departing, saying, “I embrace in your person all the Catholic youth.” The purport of this petition was, in view of the sceptical state of society, in view of the needs of the young of the day, to ask earnestly for a more popular style of preaching—a series of conferences in fact—a preaching that should animate the souls of those who possessed faith, and which should attract the wavering and sceptical. They wished for a teaching which should leave the ordinary tone of sermons, in which the questions which then pre-occupied youth should be treated, in which religion should be presented in its relations with society, and which should reply, at least indirectly, to the antagonistic publications of France and Germany, and to the rationalistic Professors at the University whom the courageous young men had already confronted on their own account. The Archbishop, although he was doubtless a gentleman, a man of benevolence, and a Christian, was nevertheless a man of the past generation in thought and feeling—in short, a fine representative of the old noblesse, one who, it is said, had never visited at the Court of Louis Philippe—and he and his young visitors found some difficulty in coming to a conclusion. They presented a second petition at the beginning of this year to urge the demand, this time followed by two hundred signatures.
PETITION ADDRESSED TO MONSEIGNEUR DE QUELEN IN THE NAME OF THE CATHOLIC STUDENTS.
When, last year, some young Catholics manifested to your Eminence the desire to hear from the pulpit of truth a special preaching, destined to encourage the faith of those who still believe, and to re-animate it in those who believe no longer, you deigned to receive them with a paternal goodness. Your heart comprehended them, and they brought back to those from whom they were sent words of consolation and hope.
Until now this hope has not been able to realize its fulfilment, and nevertheless the same needs exist to-day, rendered more sensible by a long waiting.
In pursuing for a year longer the studies through which Providence wills that we pass, more than ever we have felt how dry they are for the heart, and barren for the intelligence when the religious spirit comes not to animate them. More than ever we have felt the necessity of a Christian teaching which sanctifies Science for us, and shows it to us as the sister of Faith. The eagerness, general to-day, of young minds for serious studies, has not found the nourishment which it seeks in the vain systems which every day sees changing, and which Reason, left to herself, raises up and pulls down. Religion alone, with her unchangeable wisdom, can fill this void. Already we have experienced a very sweet satisfaction in seeing several of our fellow-students returning to this light, from which they were only alienated because they knew it not. Oh 1 if we could see this example followed by all this youth of the schools, to whom it is only necessary in order to love Christianity that they should know its beauty; this youth, Monseigneur, that you desired to bless altogether on that day when you blessed some among us who came to speak to you on its behalf!
In this view we come to renew to your Eminence the request which we submitted to you.
It is an age when man, returned from his earliest enchantments and some of his earliest errors, feels the need of a sure doctrine, which on one side strengthens his intelligence, arranges and gives life to his earlier studies in connecting them with a superior order of ideas, and on another side prepares his virtue by tracing out to him the rules of that social life in which he is to take a definitive position. Religion alone can give him the manliness of soul necessary to accomplish his mission. This is why we desired conferences in which one would not be confined to entering into the detail of the proofs of fact of Christianity, to demonstrating the authenticity of its titles, to refuting vulgar objections already fallen into contempt, but in which it should have been developed in all its grandeur, in its harmony with the aptitudes and the needs of the individual and of society. There would have found a place, a philosophy of the sciences and of the arts which should discover to us in Catholicism the source of all which is true and of all which is beautiful, in order that at this source each of us may come to draw according to his necessity and his vocation; in a word, a philosophy of life, which, sounding the problems of human existence, should explain to man his origin, should direct his progress, and should cause him to contemplate his end. We desired that this teaching should fall from the priestly chair, because on the lips of the priest is found a grace which strengthens and converts. To all the door should be open, and those who are in error, and those who believe, drawn together in the same place, simple hearers, should gather in silence the sacred Word, a germ which would grow in their hearts, fertilized by meditation. Perhaps, in the midst of these young people gathered round the same altars, would be born a fraternal love which should draw them together at first, and which, overflowing afterwards, would go to seek for the indigent without, and carry them succour. Then from all these souls, reassured by faith, or consoled by charity, would arise a concert of praises to God, of filial gratitude to the Church, and of blessing for him who would have been the author of so much good—for you, Monseigneur.
Then follow the conclusion and signatures.
Ozanam and two of his friends were deputed to carry this petition, as Ozanam and two others had done the first.
In response to this petition the Archbishop instituted a series of conferences, which were very far from answering the young applicants’ desires. Yet it was a step in the right direction. But, notwithstanding ” the incontestable talent of the seven preachers “—the Archbishop himself opening the conferences—the people’s hearts were going out to another preacher, who was delivering a series of discourses in the College Stanislas. This preacher was Henri Lacordaire, then thirty-three years of age, who was speaking as a young man to young men; as one of this age who was familiar with its allurements, to those of this age who were in the midst of those allurements. The next year the Archbishop yielded to the influence which was setting so strongly, and Lacordaire ” took possession of the chair of Notre Dame for the greater glory of God.” “The work of the Conferences of Notre Dame was definitely founded.” It was carried on and extended in following years. The crowds that gathered and filled the metropolitan cathedral are matters of history, and the waves of powerful impression which passed over the people’s hearts and minds cannot but have left a lasting work behind. Frederic Ozanam was yet a young man of twenty-two. The three great works of his life were already begun, the one which was most distinctively his own yet growing in secret. He loved literature with a devoted love for its own sake, but he subordinated alike his loves and his dislikes to one aim.
To M. ERNEST FALCONNET.
Paris, April 11th, 1834.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
Thou art uneasy about thy future; in truth, this is the malady of the greater part of young men. Ambition of good, proselytism, charity, personal interest, self-love—all this mingles in the mind, and brings there the impatience of doing some great thing. Impatience wishes to go before the time, and to divine that which is not yet come: one would fain be able to be admired beforehand for the great works which one projects. I know that, dear friend, because there is much of that in a heart which thou knowest, but which I know still better—in mine.
How many times have I not desired to build in advance the edifice of my existence, gathering up that which to me seemed the most proper to make it great and beautiful since my childhood as scholar, when I dreamed of poems in Latin verse, up to the present time, when I dream of so many other things. Dost thou recall those conversations when we were walking, where we spoke of what we would do one day? We loved to open out the road by which we should pass together; we found two phantoms which we called our two lives, and which we embellished at pleasure; we made them as much alike as possible, like two brothers who love to dress alike. We proposed to ourselves common studies, labours animated by the same spirit, tending to the same end. Well, of all these dreams, has one been realized? Do we not find ourselves now divided by place, by taste, by kind of study, and, I fear much, even upon ideas the most important? Would we desire even that our castles in the air of that time were now standing? For myself, I protest that I would not.
Poor creatures that we are! we know not if to-morrow we shall be in life, and we would fain know what we shall do in twenty years hence! We are ignorant what are our faculties, what perhaps is for our happiness, and we would trace for ourselves an inflexible route for the development of faculties of which we are not sure, to attain a happiness which is for us a mystery! Besides, consider this. Of what use is it to know what one would do, if not to do good? Of what use to know our destination, if not to accomplish it? Of what good to see the road, if not to walk in it? Now, provided that the traveller sees ten paces before him, will he not reach the end as well as if he had all the rest in perspective? Provided that the workman knows each hour of the day the task which is imposed upon him for the following hour, will he not as surely reach the end of the work as if he had under his eyes the plan of the architect? And does it not suffice to us to know our duty and our destiny for the nearest moment of the future, without wishing to extend our regards to the Infinite? If we know what God wishes to do with us to-morrow, is it not enough?—and what need have we to concern ourselves about what He will command us in ten years, since between now and then He may call us to repose? I do not say for this that we should be heedless and careless in following a vocation indicated; but I say that we must be content to know a part and follow it with energy and calm, without disquieting ourselves about that which is still hidden.
The thought of the uncertainty of human things should not destroy our courage and extinguish our activity: it ought, on the contrary, to attach us more strongly to present duty, in convincing us of ignorance of the future. Thou wouldst find sufficient peace and contentment if thou canst penetrate thyself with these ideas: That we are here below only to accomplish the will of Providence; that this will is accomplished day by day, and that he who dies leaving his task unfinished is as much advanced in the eyes of the Supreme Justice as he who has the leisure to finish it entirely; that man is no more able to create his moral being than his physical being; that he never makes himself orator, philosopher, artist, man of genius, but that he is made so little by little, and insensibly, by the conduct of God. The greatest men are those who have never made beforehand the plan of their destiny, but who have let themselves be led by the hand. A little confidence in the heavenly Father, without whose will a hair falls not from a human head!
Alas! I hesitate to write thee this. Perhaps already thou no longer understandest me, as I, on one side, begin no more to understand thee. But I am excusable for my unintelligence, for these ideas of thine are new to me; while the language that I use is a language that thou art accustomed to hear, and which, perhaps, because of that, appears to thee antiquated, ascetic—what know I? But, be convinced of it, my dear friend, notwithstanding the coldnesses and the negligences of which thou hast had the right to accuse me, I love thee always. Among my friends thou art always the one on whom my affections rest with the most complaisance, and . I know not how to bear the idea that, so near the point of departure, our two roads may diverge for ever. I love thee; and as, with my world of ideas and habits, I am happy, and as thou, on the contrary, thou findest thyself unhappy, I would impart to thy soul a little of that tranquillity which generally reigns in mine.
For some time past, above all since I have seen some young people die, life has taken for me another aspect. I have felt that until now, although I had never abandoned religious practices, I had not kept sufficiently foremost in my heart the thought of the invisible world, of the real world. I have thought that I had not paid sufficient attention to two companions who always walk with us, even without our perceiving them—God and Death. I have found that Christianity had been for me, until now, a sphere of ideas, a sphere of worship, but not sufficiently a sphere of morality, of intentions, of actions. The reading of the works of Pellico, above all, has penetrated me with this idea; and the more I attach myself to it, the more I feel in myself of disinterestedness, of kindliness, and of calm. It seems to me also that I understand the things of life better, and that I shall have more courage to support them; it seems to me that I have a little less pride. However, do not believe that I am become a saint or a hermit. I have the misfortune to be far distant from the one, and I have no vocation for the other. While thinking as I have just told thee, I am a sufficiently good fellow, not asking for better than joy; occupying myself, perhaps, too much with literature, history, and philosophy, doing a little law, and losing always, according to my custom, a considerable time.
Although thou mayest reproach me for this tone of sermon which reigns in my letters, I have yet on my mind something which I must say to thee. For a long time, my dear friend, I have perceived that thou hast wanted a little frankness with me on one point, because thou hast feared, without doubt, to open to me thy soul. I want to speak of faith! I am very sure that in this matter there have passed in thy mind revolutions of which thou hast never spoken to me, and in which nevertheless I should have been anxious to intervene; not, certainly, to teach thee—I am not able—but to share a little thy disquietudes and to give thee some consolations. I do not think that thou hast renounced entirely the beliefs of thy youth, but thou art become indifferent with regard to them; or rather thou hast relegated them to the domain of philosophic opinions, and thou hast accepted Christianity as a noble and holy doctrine, but in modifying it according to thy own ideas. Nevertheless, religious ideas can have no value if they have not a practical and positive value. Religion serves less to think than to act; and if it teaches to live, it is in order to teach to die.
Thou wouldst know that which thou shalt do in ten years hence, that which thou shalt do during the short space of life; but what shalt thou be in eighty years hence and during all the ages after? This is what depends on thee to determine. The value of Christianity is in this, and not in the attraction which its dogmas may present to men of imagination or of mind. I conjure thee, then, to open thyself to me on thy moral condition, for I am convinced that there all melancholies have their source.
Another time, my dear friend, I will write thee a letter a little more cheerful and more varied, for fear that thou shouldst imagine that I pass my day with death’s-heads, and that I am preparing to enter the seminary, which certainly is very far from my thoughts and my desires. But, besides my need to give vent to a little of the uneasiness which weighs on my mind with regard to thee, I had my ears filled with sad tidings which they give me of the events at Lyons, which are quite sufficient to make me speak a little more harshly and reflectively than I am accustomed.
My affectionate respects to thy father, and do not doubt that I shall always love thee with all the power of an old and fraternal friendship.
To M. HOMMAY.
Paris, May 7th, 1834.
MY DEAR HOMMAY,
You are very kind to have thought of me, and to have written to me in replying to Lallier. Here is a correspondence too well begun not to last…
I must, my dear Hommay, draw from you twenty sous and your signature for the business which I mention. You know without doubt that the bishops of Belgium have founded a Catholic university. This university is kept up by shareholders. Each share is a franc, payable during five years, or five francs once paid. As such an institution ought to find a great success in a country as religious as Belgium, impiety is moved, and some bands of students from the ordinary university of Louvain have vociferated insults under the windows of the two bishops, and have joined to that invectives in a journal. We have believed we ought to reply in the name of the Catholic youth of the University of France, and we have drawn up a protestation which has been inserted in the Gazette de France, the Univers Religieux, and three Belgian journals. In a word, all our common friends have signed and subscribed, and there are yet lists open for future adhesions and subscriptions. There is the object for which I ask your permission to dispose of your signature and your purse. Be sure that this will compromise neither the honour of the one nor the stoutness of the other.
All the talk about us is of the new work of the Abbe de la Mennais. M. Lacordaire judges it very severely; he sees in it almost the manifesto of a war against the Church, and he expects a rebellion declared in the next work that M. de la Mennais publishes. For the rest, the journals have judged it very superficially. La Quotidienne has made a pompous eulogy on it, without knowing what it said. But the intimate disciples of the great writer, MM. Gerbet, de Coux, Montalembert, who know where this tends, break with,him from this day, so that he is all alone. May God have pity on him, and may He pardon those who, by disheartening affronts, have pushed, little by little, this superb genius into a path of wrath and error!
Adieu, my good friend! Let us all love each other. There are great feasts approaching: let us find ourselves again at least before God, since we cannot find ourselves united before men. Since we cannot talk together, let us pray for each other; that will be worth still more.
To HIS MOTHER.
Friday, May 16th, 1534.
. . . You complain, poor mamma, that your son abandons you; that he has no more with you those cordial conversations, those openings of the heart of former times; that he speaks to you no longer of what he does nor of what he feels; you are reduced to figure to yourself that you have a son, and you have no other proof of his existence than the money which must be paid for him every month.
I assure you, nevertheless, that if it had only depended on him to give you better proofs of his existence a month ago, at the time of the affairs of Lyons, he would certainly have done it well, and that he would have caressed you so much, embraced you so much, that you would have been well convinced that you have a son Frederic. But this has not been permitted me. On another side, if nearly all my last letters have been addressed to papa, it is because they were on business. I had commissions to fulfil, money to ask for, and I know that, on these occasions, it is to the father’s side that one must turn. It is true, at the same time, that it is very long since I relieved my heart to you. It is that really this year I do not comprehend at all my manner of being: on one part, examinations, wearinesses, disquietudes, have dried up my soul; and, on another part, all my habits of last year, my conferences, my studies, my researches, have been so turned upside down, that I cannot find myself again. No more of these warm discussions that we had last year at our literary society; no more of these works of time which occupied our minds; no more of these improvisations which warmed our ideas. All our little reunions are disorganized; I am become idle, and except a few miserable articles in the periodical collections and some good lectures, I have done nothing besides my law. I believe, in sum, that if I have gained some white balls on one part, I have lost much on another—or, at least, I have not advanced; so that I am not greatly content with my mental condition.
I am little more satisfied with my moral state. In the first place, weariness and uneasiness have somewhat deranged it; and, again, the sadness of passing things beats down courage; the obscurity of the future disconcerts the best resolutions; in proportion as one becomes older, and sees the world nearer, one finds it hostile to all the ideas, to all the sentiments to which one is attached; the more one comes into contact with men, the more one meets of immorality and egoism, pride among learned men, conceitedness among men of the world, intemperance among the people. At the sight of all this, when one has been brought up in the midst of a generous and pure family, one’s heart is seized with disgust and indignation, and one would fain murmur and curse. Nevertheless, the Gospel forbids it; it makes it a duty to you to devote yourself entirely to the service of that society which repulses and despises you.
All this is felt profoundly at my age, and these sad truths, which disenchant all my illusions, leave me sombre and grave as a man of forty years. I feel that my duty is to fill a place, and this place, I see it not. Ambitions are so numerous, capacities so multiplied, that it is singularly difficult to pierce through. How would you that a poor ear of wheat should be able to put forth at its ease, when enormous tufts of darnel cross at its left and right? And then, even when I see my place clearly marked, energy fails me to fill it. You know that this is the perpetual object of my complaint —irresolution and weakness! Impossible to me to say in the evening, ” I will do this,” and to do it the next day. Perhaps, also, I am too young, and I am wrong to disturb myself with all this, and to wish to be a grown man when I hold yet to childhood by more than one point; but I cannot forget that this year my education finishes, and that in the month of August I may, if I will, be an advocate. Me advocate!—can you figure that to yourself? After all, an advocate is no great thing.
One circumstance which contributes not a little to leave my inner self in this condition of perplexity is that the only intimate counsellor that I have here—the only one whose wisdom and goodness can at the same time take the place to me of father and mother, M. Marduel—has taken a long journey to Lyons. He was to return this evening, and I expect to see him tomorrow; but he has been away since Easter, so that, as I am a little jealous of making new acquaintances, I have been all this time abandoned to my humour and to the caprices of my imagination. In truth, if there are among the Protestants some young people of good faith, enlightened and religious, I pity them much to want a succour of which my youth has so much need, and without which I should either be completely ruined or consumed with melancholy. The other friends are a slender resource—the ones, those of my age, are as inexperienced, as irresolute, as myself; the others are confined to M. D—, who, since he is married, is no longer a young man, and no longer comprehends anything about the young men of to-day.
All that I have just written has nothing very lively, and it is for this reason that I have not conversed with you on it sooner.
We lead here a life so singular and ‘so monotonous; we have so few distractions and communications without, that we are obliged to fall back upon ourselves. We are placed between dry studies imposed on us by duty—and which we must accept—and seductive studies whose charm attracts us, and of which we must be diffident. We are surrounded by political parties, who, because we begin to wear a beard, would fain draw us into their tracks. Even in religion we hear only controversies, we see disputes in which charity is wanting and scandal abounds. No literary reunion which would not be observed by the spies of the Government, or by certain journals self-styled religious. Taxed as bigots by our irreligious comrades, as Liberals and as rash individuals by older people; questioned at each moment on what we think and on what we do; submitted to the arbitrary power of our university professors, having to fear sometimes for ourselves at the time of outbreaks, and above all, for our relations at a distance from us: it is an existence very strange and very tedious, to which, if it were only a question of my own welfare, I should prefer a hundred times never to have left my hole; but of which I do not complain when I think that I learn here to know the world such as it is, and that, perhaps, Providence proves me here in order that I may be more useful afterwards.
Now I am vexed at having talked to you so long of this, because you will torment yourself for me. Do nothing of the sort, my good mother, I entreat you. For first, is it not right that I should be put to proof? I am of age to fast; and to-morrow I fast with the Church. Am I not of age also to suffer a little, and to combat as she does? And also these thoughts are not so anchored in my soul that they do not leave place to many others —consoling and joyous. Sometimes there are memories: I love much to recall to myself all that I know of my life since my childhood. Often we speak of these times with Chaurand. The college makes an amusing episode in it, and the first communion—a touching scene, all whose most minute traits are profoundly imprinted in my memory. Then there are the first joys of study—the uncertainties, the researches, the healthy and strengthening philosophy of the Abbe Noirot; and in the midst of all this many friendships commenced on the benches of classes, and which yet continueBallofet, Falconnet, Henri; all our plays, from Noah’s Ark and the soldiers to our sentimental promenades and serious parties at chess. Afterwards, the study of the clerk, the tediousness of the copy, the eternal conversations with the first clerk, the pamphlet against the Saint-Simonians and the pleasure of being printed. And afterwards, as background of all the picture, the family life, your caresses and your spoilings, your gentle words when I worked at the table beside you; consulting you on my themes when I was in the sixth, and reading you my French dicourses when I was in rhetoric; the counsels, and sometimes the benevolent fault-findings of papa; the long excursions made with him; his histories, to which I listened with so much pleasure; this eldest brother, whom we only saw from time to time, and about whom we were so uneasy; this little brother, whom I had seen born and grow; the good relations of Florence, who came one after the other to show us how amiable and excellent they were. Finally, a nearer memory, our delicious journey, the stay in Rome—so calculated to overawe the soul—the stay . in Florence, so dear to the heart. So much for the past. The future has also its part, and hope makes it for me. I imagine to myself that, with the help of God, a day will come when I shall pay you in filial piety and in satisfaction a little of what you have expended on me in solicitude, strength, and health. These enjoyments are not the only ones. I read beautiful and good books, and sufficiently varied. Dante, Manzoni, Walter Scott, Lamartine, Titus Livius, Pascal—to this company of illustrious dead I join the society of good and pleasant living friends. I have very dear friends—Henri, Lallier, Chaurand and others, with whom I am on intimate terms. I have estimable persons who receive me well, as M. Ampere. I hear good speakers in the public courses, and eloquent preachers in the Christian pulpits. I satisfy my curiosity in the museums, and exercise my limbs in the fields. I do not dine badly—my room is pretty; money, thanks to you, is not wanting; I have a library very well chosen; and, whatever may be my weakness, whatever may be my defects, I preserve the hope of not being too unworthy of my parents—of being one day a zealous Christian, a steady citizen, and a virtuous man. In sum, I assure you that I do not find myself unhappy, and that, all reckoning made, I find up to the present time, in the greater part of my days, more of well-being than of evil. Thus, I repeat to you, my good mother, do not be uneasy for me.
Meanwhile, here is my letter filled, and in an hour and a half of conversation I have covered four pages. Adieu, my good mother. This time I have conversed with you a very long time. Oh, have no fear that I will desert you.
The Abbe Marduel referred to in this letter to his mother was Lyonnese, and at first settled in Lyons. Having been later fixed in Paris, Frederic’s elder brother had found him so useful and kind a friend that he believed he could not do better than recommend Frederic to him likewise. He was certainly worthy of the respect and love which were showed him, and during the whole time of Frederic’s first stay in the metropolis he was his ” guide, philosopher and friend.” And when he returned and brought a wife there, he not only recurred to the good old man himself, but took his wife with him, and the relation was not dissolved till the Abbe’s death. It is not straying from Frederic’s life to say a few words of a man to whom he must have owed much, setting entirely aside the exercise of any priestly function. ” Hardly,” says the Abbe Ozanam, “had we exchanged a few words with him than we found ourselves at ease with him as with the best of fathers. Although much occupied, he never had the air of being pressed. He listened to you, and spoke to you as if he had nothing else to do.” Affable and kindly to an extreme, he yet waged continual war—making known his sentiments especially in blessing marriages—with the familiar habit which had lately taken root, the tutoiement of parents by their children. His house was furnished with chance articles, but he had a large and rich library in which were some curious and rare books. Unfortunately, his charity was not tempered with prudence; he got himself into trouble by having endorsed a cheque for another, who not being able to pay, it returned to him; and he was not only obliged to sell some of his goods to have means to honour his signature, but also to withdraw at an advanced age into comparative retirement, on account of the noise the affair made. After a time, however, he returned to Paris, and there, it would appear, died.
To M. ERNEST FALCONNET.
Paris, July 21st, 1834.
MY DEAR ERNEST,
I have received lately two visits, which have given me great pleasure. The first, that of thy excellent father; the second is thine. It is thy packet of good letters, friendly and sincere talks as I desired them. It is the opening of thy heart, the history of thyself—a history for which I was so anxious, an opening for which I longed. For see, my friend, when one has put between him and his friends two hundred leagues, one fears always to lose sight of them; one dreads, on returning, to find them no longer the same; one fears, on seeing them again, no longer to comprehend them. And that is why I have, in some sort, submitted thee to question. That is why I have knocked at the door of thy most intimate feelings. I have desired to make the most sacred cord of thy heart vibrate, to see if it still uttered the same sound as mine.
And now I rejoice myself in this experience, because I see that we are still as near the one to the other, still brothers by thought as we are by blood. I am happy to see that after having suffered what I have suffered, sought as I have sought, thou believest as I believe. Thus, without seeing each other—youthful pilgrims—we are arrived by the same route at the threshold of the same temple.
Only—but this is not the place to explain my idea—I consider Catholicism in a more absolute manner. I see in it the necessary formula of Christianity, as Christianity seems to me the necessary formula of humanity. I believe in worship as profession of faith, as symbol of hope, as terrestrial realization of the love of God. Because of this, I practise my religion according to my strength and according to the habits which have been given me from childhood; and I find in prayer, in the sacraments, the indispensable support of my moral life in the midst of the temptations of a devouring imagination and of a deceitful world.
As for political opinions, there also we agree—that is to say that, like thyself, I desire the destruction of the political spirit for the profit of the social spirit. I have, without contradiction, for old royalism all the respect one owes to a glorious invalid; but I would not lean myself on him, because with his wooden leg he knows not how to walk at the pace of the new generations. I deny not, I repulse not any governmental combination. But I only accept them as instruments to make men happier and better. If thou desirest formulas, here they are:
I believe in authority as means, in liberty as means, in charity as end.
There are two principal kinds of governments, and these two kinds of governments can be animated by two opposing principles.
Either there is the use of all for the benefit of one alone; and this is the monarchy of Nero—a monarchy that I abhor.
Or there is the sacrifice of one for the benefit of all; and this is the monarchy of St. Louis, which I revere with love.
Or it is the use of all for the benefit of each; and this is the Republic Of the Terror—and this Republic I anathematize.
Or it is the sacrifice of each for the benefit of all, and this is the Christian republic of the primitive Church of Jerusalem; it is, perhaps, also that of the end of time, the highest condition to which humanity can rise.
Every government, it seems to me, is to be respected in this, that it represents the divine principle of authority: in this sense I understand the °Innis potestas a Deo of St. Paul. But I think that in face of the power, there must also be the place of the sacred principle of liberty. I think that one must energetically claim this place. I think that one must warn with a voice courageous and severe the power which uses others for its own benefit, instead of sacrificing itself. The word is made to be the barrier which one opposes to force; it is the grain of sand where the sea comes to break itself.
Opposition is a thing useful and praiseworthy, but not insurrection. Active obedience, passive resistance, les Prisons of Silvio Pellico, and not les Paroles d’un Croy-ant.
Now, we others, we are too young to intervene in the social strife. Shall we then remain inert in the suffering and sighing world? No; there is a preparatory way open to us; before doing public good, we can endeavour to do good to some individuals; before regenerating France, we can solace some individuals amongst her poor. Thus I desire that all young people of mind and heart would unite for some charitable work, and that they would form through all the country a vast generous association for the comfort of the popular classes.
I have done very little this year, except my law, at which I have laboured more than usual. At this moment I am struggling with the subjects of the fourth examination, which are very extensive, and leave me no leisure. I write thee in haste; it is one o’clock in the morning. I must end this letter, too short as conversation, too long and too desultory as letter of ceremony; thou wilt excuse the one and the other, wilt thou not? And also, in less than a month, we shall speak at our ease of all those things which the pen renders so badly.