Opening lecture of the course of Commercial Law – Notes of the course by M. Foisset – Wedding poem – M. Cousin’s desire – Society of St. Vincent de Paul – Literary contest and success- Entrance into the Sorbonne – His friends’ efforts for his marriage – His own thoughts on it – Amélie Soulacroix – Visits Germany.
FREDERIC OZANAM’S filial piety had at least this result: it had caused him to fix the cords of his tabernacle so strongly, that when in his perplexity as to his vocation lie looked round for providential indications, he found them first in the existence of engagements which he had no right to break. He had been courted from different quarters. Above all, there was the Chair of Law, which he could scarcely throw up now after all his own endeavours and his friends’ to procure it. It would, as he felt, be a failure in his duties to others, which only the sternest persuasion that God called him to a ” religious life,” as it is called, would excuse. This persuasion he never had, although temperament, and sorrow, and Lacordaire’s influence, all formed for him at this time attractions to it. ” Nothing,” says his brother, ” detaches us more from temporal interests than the loss of our kindred.” Frederic must have felt this doubly in the loneliness he endured, and the complete absence of domestic endearments and duties. He resolved, however, to wait, and not to preoccupy himself with the question of state of life till after a certain time. ” I owe certainly,” he says, “to the memory of my poor mother a year of mourning.” On the 16th day of December, 1839, he pronounced the opening ‘discourse in his chair. It was printed immediately, and may be found in his complete works.
FREDERIC OZANAM TO M. HENRI PESSONNEAUX.
Lyons, January 15th, 184o.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
It is very late for a New Year visit, but Parisian etiquette, if I am not mistaken, gives the entire month, and thou wilt permit me to take advantage of it. Nevertheless, be persuaded that I should not have let a reply to thy kind letter wait so long, if my professorial debuts had not exacted all my cares till now, leaving me hardly sufficient leisure for the official duties which one must fulfil at the time of New Year. Excuse me then, and—let us embrace.
As to me, I walk a day at a time by the ways that Providence indicates to me, without allowing me to see the end. The course of Commercial Law seems to succeed. An immense crowd assisted at the opening discourse; they broke doors and window-panes; and thy dear cousin Louis, to say it in passing, was one of those who committed the misdeed. Since then, the hall has not ceased to be filled, although it contains more than two hundred and fifty people. Nevertheless, I have allowed myself all the digressions—philosophic, historic—that these matters would allow of. I have not even shrunk from severe truths; but no more have I refused an occasion to call up a smile to the lips of the auditors. And, as says de Maistre, the needle makes way for the thread to pass. The Rector, delighted with the success, presses on strongly for my nomination for Quinet’s place. . . . The marriage of M– is an accomplished fact. He has passed the line—” this fine young man who would make so good a husband,” according to thy happy expression. The fetes have been magnificent. This joy, solemn and gentle, which presides at the union of two Christian families, has something singularly touching. No dances; verses, music, animated conversations; tears of emotion in the eyes of the two papas, and the heroes of the ceremony perfectly decorous. Only the bride had the air of being a little learned, and, what is worse, of knowing it. The expression of her face is that of a will a little manly; but she will find to whom she speaks, we need have no fear.
The eve of this brilliant wedding we saw poor Alfred Rieussec die. What contrasts and what reflections on the vanity of human previsions! And thou, my dear friend, what art thou doing? Will the days newly rising upon thee be better for thee? Do thy projects appear likely to be realized; and does the newly acquired acquaintance of Ampere continue to be useful to thee? Write to me—write to me at length; it is a consolation which becomes more necessary to me than ever. My brother, who has not yet lost his throat affection, leaves after to-morrow for Italy, where the doctors’ sentence exiles him for three months. Many would envy the favour of such a banishment, but he is sad at leaving me alone. But I shall not be alone; the affection of so many excellent young men has formed around me as a new family. Absence even does not break the bonds; it only renders more pleasant the memory of moments passed together.
He taught in the Chair for the school year of 1840. The course reckoned forty-seven lessons. The notes which remain were published by the care of M. Foisset, Counsellor at the Court of Appeal at Dijon. He says:
“Ozanam is not known altogether if he is not known as jurist.[…]
“The Law for him was not only that which is practised at the palace1; it was not only the application of judicial texts to the affairs of every day. The law was, before all, a branch of philosophy; it was a portion of history; it was even a side of literature.
“When in 1839 a Municipal Chair of Commercial Law was created in favour of Ozanam in his native town, he came into this Chair at twenty-six years, prepared on all sides on the philosophy as on the history, and on the positive theory of the portion of the science which it was his duty to teach.
“Deeply penetrated with the true mission of the Professor, he did not endeavour to accumulate in his course judicial problems. He never lost himself in exhaukless discussions of particular controverted cases. He loved better to teach principles than doubts, to inculcate the rules of law, and to point out wisdom from them, than to initiate his auditors—these are his terms –‘ into the double scandal of the obscurity of the laws and of the contrariety of judgments.’
“But he was ready on the jurisprudence of decrees as on all the rest. One may judge by the notes he had prepared for the first half of this course, too soon interrupted.
“We publish them with confidence. They are only notes, excepting short and rare fragments, which detach themselves, as M. Ampere has so well said, as figures finished before the rest in the sketch of a master. They are only notes, and, nevertheless, what breadth! what light! There are only the great lines of the subject, but they are all there. And the more naked they are, the better they discover the scope and the principal divisions of the vast horizon which they embrace. Thus, apart from all accessory, they define and bring out the outlines with a clearness of delineation full of relief and vigour.[…]
“I would dare to say that we here find Ozanam entire, his erudition so trustworthy, his spirit so broadly open, and so penetrating, his heart so upright, and even some flashes of his eloquence.”—Foisset, Preface to the ” Notes of a Course of Commercial Law,” Ozanam’s Complete Works, vol. viii.
By historical and economical considerations Ozanam put life into the teaching, which would seem so dry, of a code of laws, and his mode of teaching appears to have been very attractive. ” It was wonderful,” says his brother, ” to see a young man of twenty-six years inspiring merchants, for the most part much older than himself, with the love and respect of their profession, and consequently the observance of the duties which it imposed, and obtaining their applause, notwithstanding the sometimes severe truths which he believed himself obliged to address to them.”
To M. LALLIER.
Lyons, February 15111, 1840.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
What has become of you? And, in the first place, ought we not to salute you seriously with this title of Father, which was formerly bestowed upon you as a happy surname? Has God granted you the ineffable consolation of seeing your youth renewed in the features of childhood in the person of a son? Happy the first-born of an early marriage! He will enjoy his parents in their spring-time; he will not see them whiten until the time when he himself shall have ripened, and the adieu of the tomb will be for a nearer rendezvous. And you also, you will have the leisure to contemplate your accomplished work. After the education of youth, you will accompany your child to the laborious beginnings of manhood, and in the social career which he will enter before you have left it, he will find still recent and recognisable the trace which you have left. If the responsibility of paternal obligations frightens you, the moment is still far off when they will present any difficulty, and until then it is not a burden which God gives you; it is a little angel, whose presence sanctifies your house, renders virtue more amiable to you, and life happier.
For life, with its actual necessities, with its conventional proprieties, with the unholy friction of men and things, must often be burdensome to you; above all, your functions constantly bring before your eyes the lea”t attractive side of humanity. You probably have united the odiousness of the criminal and the wearisomeness of the civil causes; and, if I mistake not, you alternate between the virtuous indignation of the public prosecutor and the incorruptible impartiality of the judge.
On the other side, we seek to keep up the sacred fire of Christian fraternity which you formerly lighted with us. The little Society of St. Vincent de Paul subsists and develops; the extraordinary wants of this winter have roused the activity of our alms. We make progress in the art of plundering the rich for the profit of the poor. Many among ours have offered their services for the patronage of young liberes, and the excellent la Perriere is occupied with founding a preventive patronage. But how little is all this, my friend, in presence of a population of sixty thousand workpeople, demoralized by want, and by the propagation of bad doctrines! Freemasonry and Republicanism take advantage of the troubles and the passions of this suffering multitude, and God knows what future awaits us if Catholic charity does not interpose to arrest the slave-war which is at our doors!
Unhappily, more than one void is made in our ranks several departures, one death. This death, you know without doubt, and you are associated in our mourning: it is that of Alfred Rieussec. His talent, rapidly developed in the struggles of the Bar, promised him the honours of a great public speaker, at the same time that his fortune opened to him a probable access to high political functions. In the midst of such flattering hopes, and among the seductions of a world which always courts rising greatness, he had preserved his simplicity, his goodness a little too calm, his faith, and his habits of religious regularity. He belonged to us, by an assistance still frequent, by the generosity of his offerings, and by the frankness of his affections. A malady which seemed to disappear for a moment before striking the last blow came to snatch him from us in his bloom, and the tears which accompanied him to his last resting-place told sufficiently how we felt his loss. Pray for him!
While this poor friend took the road to eternity, another attached himself to the earth by casting in the gilded anchor of a good and rich marriage. You understand that I speak of Chaurand. God has recompensed him for many virtues by granting him at once all which makes happiness here below. This wedding, celebrated between two respectable and really Christian families, has been very touching. Nothing of the tumultuous joy of a worldly feast, but sweet feeling, and, as it were, a memory of Isaac and of Tobias, a picture of Cana. Myself, in the midst of my troubles, found myself so strongly impressed, that it became possible for me to translate into verse an idea which a long time ago came to me at the marriage of my friends, and which by turns I would fain have expressed for Dufieux, for Arthaud, and for you. It is a symbol common to all pious unions; it is your history as theirs, and this is why I cannot resist the desire to send you the piece here enclosed. And then, these verses are the last outcome of my defunct poetism, and I have for them something of the weakness which accompanies the fatherhood of old men. However incorrect the form may be, the thought pleases me; and, not wishing to profane it by a publicity, which, besides, it would not hear, I reserve it for communications of the closest friendship.
By the same post you will receive the opening discourse of my course. As you will see, it is less a work of art than a business. For the rest, the prospectus has not succeeded badly, to judge by the result. Now that the influx of amateurs and curious have retired, there is left to me a serious auditory of about a hundred and sixty persons, who completely fill the lecture-hall, and sufficiently crowd the lobbies to give a semblance of overflow.
You see me from below, arrayed in the ordinary costume of professors of law (so the Academy has desired), haranguing with a self-possession which astonishes me, and beginning to think I dream, when I remember that yesterday I was still upon the benches. I am endeavouring to put life into the teaching of the letter of the Codes, by their spirit, by historic and economic considerations. I encroach even upon social economy, your old domain. I endeavour to inspire my auditors with the love and respect of their profession,!and consequently the observance of the duties which it imposes. I tell them severe truths, and their benevolence willingly gives me the right to do so. Many take notes; I have letters addressed to me; there is zeal and labour. Thus God, who “tempers the wind to the shorn sheep,” seems to open a better perspective to my temporal future. Why is it that those whose solicitude prepared it can no more enjoy it?
Would it not be possible for you to find an evening of leisure, and to write me four or five of your good pages? You would do me in that a kindness so much the greater that the visits of friends are not too many now. While my little brother remains this year at school, only leaving it twice in ten months, my eldest brother, on the day I write to you, is, without doubt, at Naples. I begin to know the disorder which you have known so well, ennui. Ask for me from the Sovereign Guardian of souls that He would save me from the dangers of isolation—that he would give me light to know His designs upon me, energy to accomplish them. May His will be done on earth as in heaven; that is to say, with faith, with love!
Adieu, my dear friend. Count always on my lively and fraternal affection, and preserve me yours, in order that the hour in which we knew each other may not be an hour lost among those of our life, and that it may be reckoned in the number of those which will be remembered even unto death.
THE TWO GUARDIAN ANGELS.
It was a festal day, the heavens all bright with glory shone,
As kneeling veiled with ivory wings near the eternal throne
Two guardian Angels bended low before the God of grace,
Their voice the only voice whose sound spoke in that holy place.
“Thou knowest, Lord, this multitude of angel forms among
Who sing Thy praises in a hymn of sweet eternal song;
We by a special holy love were first together drawn;
And Thou didst mark with gracious smile in one harmonious tone
Our voices indivisible together sweetly thrown;
And the same ministries we shared where’er for thee we strove,
Living for long beneath thine eyes as brothers in our love.
“When in these later hours we both found ministry on earth;
The gracious task was given to us, through sorrow and through mirth,
To guide among Thy chosen ones two souls whose separate way
Should in our happy hands unite on one auspicious day.
“Thou knowest, Lord, Thou knowest all the things that since befell,
How in our task we needs must part, who loved each other well.
For one in shelter of her home beside a maiden fair
Took up a place, and watched the flower with guardian earnest care;
Far from the path where restless men pursue a heedless race,
She bloomed and gave her perfume sweet of virtue and of grace.
“A ruder task the other had committed to his hand,
He by a Christian stood amid an ardent studious band,
Where Reason, with a thoughtless hand, hath unaware let fall
In Learning’s pure and generous cup a poison drop of gall:
Where often from the giddy round the thoughtless youth arise,
And find their homes again to draw hot tears from mother’s eyes:
Him with grave thoughts he fenced around, and nourished in his heart
The faith which keeps the spirit pure, from error’s winds apart.
Ardent, and still in virtue true, he carried home his soul,
A lamp whose steady light no wind of tempest could control.
“And now, Lord, if Thy hand once more, Thy kindly leading will,
Hath brought us both with ready feet to this same city back,
It is that Thou for us to-day shouldst in Thy love fulfil
Thy promise made so long ago—in one bright steady track,
Unite these paths that we so long in hope and faith have guarded,
And, our fond care and love at last with all success rewarded,
Shouldst join that no man may divide
These virtuous souls in one sweet band;
O’er them our brother wings spread wide,
And each in clasp of other’s hand
Shall strive new virtues to unfold,
Shall strew, with more than gems or gold,
The path they tread,—the poor shall bless
And still—of growing happiness
Their children, good as we, and fair
Among all men the seeds shall bear.”
They ceased, and God pronounced the word,
” I bless you, well-beloved; your prayer is heard!”2
To M. HENRI PESSONNEAUX.
Lyons, April 13th, 184o.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
Pardon me if thy last letter has remained three weeks without reply. In seeing thy brother again, in prolonging friendly conversations with him, I found myself in some sort in thy company. I forgot the weariness of separation, and the privations of absence. I felt no longer so much, as in the past, the need of the incomplete effusions which fatigue the pen without being able to suffice the overflow of the heart. And also the extreme goodness of my relations and friends, who have sought to enliven my solitude in inviting me to their family fetes, has thrown a little disorder into the employ of my days. Repasts and soirees carry away many hours from work, and do not even permit the mind to recollect itself as seriously as its custom is, when one returns to the silence of the study. Although the circle of these pleasures, a little worldly, is limited for me to a small number of intimate friendships, the only ones which it would suit me to frequent: nevertheless I am not sorry to see it close up, and give place to the strict habits of Lent. My duties are better filled in this way, and better filled my leisures. To my distant comrades I shall devote a little of the time that I should lose with present friends. Writing is not a profane enjoyment; and our correspondence may refresh itself during the pious quarantine without infringing its claims.
And first, I am eager to satisfy a desire which I feel in a very lively manner, by telling thee how much I have found Mark like himself, that is to say, like thee—that is to say, still a serious Christian, an excellent friend, artist by his tastes, ripened nevertheless by trouble which has not cast him down. His conversation pleases me much; and I intend to have the pleasure of it often, and to tighten our bonds, at least if circumstances will allow it; thou canst not be ignorant that the future is for him filled with uncertainty; and we know not yet to which side this breath of God, which we call vocation, will impel him. If it fix him here, it would be, perhaps, one reason more to bring thee back here from time to time. In this we should find an account in a double manner. We, for I have the very pleasant habit of identifying myself with my friends, of making myself through them a second family, of surrounding myself with them to fill the voids which misfortune has made in my path. In proportion as the generation which preceded us, and which so to speak covered us, begins to fall, and leaves us face to face with the enemy, new men, we have need to draw our ranks together; seeing ourselves strongly supported by each other, we shall attack in front with more courage the obstacles and the perils of life. This is felt in so lively a manner, in the difficult days in which we are, that the ordinary engagements of marriage and of fatherhood are no longer sufficient for souls of a little generosity; and outside of the domestic sanctuary, where they gather together for enjoyment and prayer, they continue to seek in associations of another nature the strength to combat. Thus we see with pleasure Arthaud, Chaurand, and yet others, persevering in their old affections: they are not lost; neither for us, nor for the poor, nor for the great work of the regeneration of French society.
As for me, I observe without any concealed thought, resolute as I am not to occupy myself with the question of condition before the end of the approaching vacation. I owe certainly to the memory of my poor mother a year of mourning.
At the same time I begin to prepare for the examination for the fellowship, of which the long and difficult subjects often discourage me. However it may be, I am very glad to be obliged to resume, once for all, my literary studies, and to gather into a complete framework knowledge hitherto gathered by chance in handfuls. It is for me a little the fable of the labourer and his children: if strength fails me, and I am not able to present myself at the competition, or if I fail completely there, at least the study will remain with me; the treasure will not be found, but the field will be stirred up. It is trying that the time given is so short. If it were not for this, what pleasure to see, one after the other, all these fine and good geniuses from Homer and Plato, to Dante and Tasso, Calderon and Shakespeare, Racine and Schiller! Unfortunately haste is required, and all these grand figures pass so rapidly before me that they have the effect of a round of phantoms, and it seems to me I hear, always applying it to these illustrious dead, the refrain of the German ballad, ” The dead pass quickly! the dead pass quickly!”
The Abbe Maret’s book reached me a few days ago; I have read it with a lively satisfaction. This work has the rare merit of treating a subject which is at the same time present and eternal, of seizing the everliving point of religious polemics, that by which they interest contemporaneous minds, at the same time that it touches all the wanderings of humanity. Pantheism is the intellectual temptation of all ages, and of all civilizations; it is this which under idolatrous forms rallies in the East a hundred millions of Buddhists, resists for three centuries all the efforts of Christian proselytism, and bathes in their blood the missions of Tonquin and Cochin China, as it formerly stifled in the flames of an immense funeral pile the infant churches of Japan. It is this also which, taking the mask of philosophy, threatens Europe to bring her back, in the name of progress, to the doctrines of Alexandria or of Elea.
A learning which is never pedantic, a dialectic which is never insolent, a style gently animated, not at all pretentious, renders the work of M. Maret accessible and acceptable to all intelligent minds who have some thought of the grand problems on which depend the salvation of man and the future of nations. One might desire more energy and a little of that oratorical power which twenty years ago made the prodigious success of the Essai sur [Indifference. A thousand thanks on my part to the author, and protestation of my efforts to propagate his excellent writings3.
We have here Mgr. Dupuch, Bishop of Algiers; he will come this evening to an assembly of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Without doubt he will there speak to us some of those burning words of charity which can set on fire the souls even of unbelievers. Yesterday in a short audience with which he honoured us, la Perriere and me, he spoke to us much of Claw:, whom he infinitely loves. Give me news of this dear traveller, and let me know when I may offer him the bed and table of hospitality.
Adieu then, my good Henri; for a week I have been suffering a little. Do not be surprised then if more than one passage of this letter betrays the absence of common-sense. Nevertheless, I continue my course, which, to my great consolation, continues to bring together a very suitable auditory.
A thousand things to all ours; to thyself above all the inviolable affection of thy cousin.
TO M. LE COMTE DE MONTALEMBERT.
Lyons, August 27th, 1839, and May, 184o.
MONSIEUR LE COMTE,
My hasty departure from Paris has left me the regret of not being able according to my desire to see you again, and to express to you how deeply your welcome touched me. It is only given to our Divine cause thus to bring together the most unequal destinies, and to efface all the distance between them to form one only family, where faith and charity take place of rank. It is, above all, when the sweet surrounding which Nature had given us begins to fall, breach by breach, under the blows of death; it is then that we feel happy to be able to take refuge in this second enclosure which Christian friendship prepares for us. Thus I have never appreciated its consolations in a more lively manner than during this too short passage among our friends. I went out of it refreshed, strengthened, reanimated, comprehending better than before this word of the Saviour, which is sometimes accomplished by the ministry of His true disciples—Ego reficiam vos. According to the energy of this common expression, I believe myself truly re-made and freed for a long time from the hesitations of my character, and the discouraging influences of provincial life I shall follow with my eyes the scientific movement of which the term, already near, should be the complete restoration of Catholicism in the convictions; whilst the moral tendencies, each day more powerful, would bring back its influence on the manners. Thus, when a pen which is known to us makes St. Bernard live again; when a loud voice recalls among us the days of St. Dominic, I shall be among the first to hear and to bless God for having reserved to our age, so often decried, so much honour and so much joy, For the rest, the reconciliation of the past and the future, the separation of the religious principle from amongst the political ideas with which it is involved, the work, in a word, to which you have consecrated such generous efforts, begins to be accomplished even in our city, where it might meet more than in any other part with an obstinate resistance.
I am happy to have this occasion to express to you my profound attachment for your person, and the hopes which my young Catholic friends place, as I do, in the elevation of a character crowned with such rare talents.
To M. LALLIER.
Lyons, Tuesday, June 21st, 184o.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
The good fêtes, at the same time that they make us think more seriously of God, make us also remember men more efficaciously. In approaching the holy altar, it is natural to put this privileged hour to profit for one’s self, and those whom one loves. To the friend of whom we have made special memory in our morning prayers, we scarcely refrain from writing at night. Thus, although it be very late, I will not lie down without having written a few lines which will come to tell you that you are not forgotten, and which will ask from you as much in return. For this very happy interview of Sens and of Paris is already like a dream for me. Your delightful hospitality of twenty-four hours, of which I would willingly have made twenty-four days to your detriment—your kind visit come so suitably before my departure—all this, to my mind, is no more than a history already told. The time seems very long to me to know what has happened to you since the two months whence dates our last separation. Since, unhappily, Providence does not allow us to walk in the same road, at least, at the distance where we are, let us follow with the eye, and put ourselves in the same step. For me, I should fail in this duty if I did not communicate to you a happy event which will not be without influence on my social position, nor consequently without interest for your friendship. One moment! Think not that it is a question of marriage. In this respect, I enjoy still the most entire liberty, a liberty sometimes inconvenient in the sense that it is exposed to the matrimonial speculations of others, and that one finds one’s self compromised without knowing it, by the most embarrassing advances. Such is not, then, the question. Nevertheless, one may say that it affects a point which is not foreign to it, and a subsidiary point, for it is a question of subsidy. The Chamber of Commerce at Lyons, on the request of M. le Recteur, has in effect voted me additional fees. I receive four thousand francs in all—salary of a Faculty Professor. This decision, interesting from the point of sight of the pot an fen, has also its price from the point of sight of public consideration, in a city where the merit of offices and of men is measured above all by pecuniary profit. The course of Commercial Law will in this find a sort of solemn sanction, not without need, in the midst of a desertion of auditors sufficiently considerable, which has afflicted me for some weeks, and which I have the modesty to attribute to the excessive heats, to the country, to journeys, etc.
Also, wishing to secure a double plank under my feet, and in addition to comply with the new instances of M. Cousin, from whom I have received a letter here, I continue to prepare myself for the literary competition, with the perspective of cumulating (does not the word already scandalize you?)—of cumulating, I say, two Chairs, if the chest and the head can support it. Grave personages urge me on, and I devour a notable quantity of Greek and Latin without prejudice to the habitual rations of Commercial Code and of Commentators. This is enough to tell you how my hours are disputed, and what a risk I run of losing common-sense, if God comes not to my aid. At the same time, the Propagation of the Faith could not be neglected, and in the number for July you will find a long piece, often detestable in form, but important at bottom, which I felt called to make to establish as much as it was possible, after certain information, a Statisque gene’rale des Missions. I point it out to you as document.
And, since we have returned to religious matters, you will know that Lyons is in all the odour of sanctity these days. We have made our processions, which have been magnificent, and, above all, very well received by the people. We shall re-commence this day week, In the interval, our new archbishop, M. de Bonald, will arrive. It is time, for I cannot tell with what impatience he is expected. They hope much from him for the new institutions, and we in particular for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Until then we continue our labours obscurely, through many obstacles. The propagation of good books among the soldiery, and the preventive patronage of the young apprentices, prosper well.
For the rest, with the exception of Rieussec and of Frenet, whom God has called to Himself, the nucleus of the Society is composed of those who are known to you. You have not ceased to be dear to them. I have had difficulty in satisfying the questions of la Perriere, of Arthaud, of Chaurand; all would willingly have been of the excursion. They amuse themselves greatly with your son; they represent him already clothed with paternal gravity. They compliment you on him by my mouth.
Kindly join my wishes for happiness to all those with which I am charged for you, and, excusing the brusqueness of the close which the already advanced hour of the night presses, present my respects to Madame Lallier, and receive once more the assurance of a friendship of which you do not doubt.
At this time M. Quinet was Professor of French Literature at the Faculty of Letters at Lyons. He was about to leave his Chair vacant, and Frederic thought he might possibly obtain it and unite it to his own of Law. The Rector of the Academy of Lyons was of this opinion. He had had frequent relations with Frederic in his endeavours after the Chair of Law, and had formed, as will be seen presently, a very high opinion of him. He was delighted with his success in his present course of lectures, and he lent all his influence to his nomination to the desired post. Frederic therefore left for Paris, and visited M. Cousin, then Minister of Public Instruction, who received him in a manner answering to his former intercourse with him. He made him breakfast at his table, conversed freely with him, and announced his intention to nominate him the following year. But M. Cousin made a condition which led to one of Ozanam’s greatest successes, and proved the turning-point and settlement in his life. This was that he should come to Paris to compete in a literary tournament which was to be held some months later for the first time. The question was the gaining of a fellowship in the Sorbonne. ” Not, indeed,” added the Minister, “that you could hope to be named, for you have redoubtable competitors who have been preparing for more than a year, and you have only five or six months to put yourself into condition for it;” but he desired this first occasion to be a brilliant one, and to bring together men of incontestable talent for the contest.
This engagement entailed an immense amount of study on Frederic, for whom perhaps it would have been better if his successes had come more slowly. He made an immense effort, not so much to succeed, perhaps, in the main point, although that must have been in his mind, but to make a creditable appearance. He told his brother later on that he had taken literally M. Cousin’s words, and thought that in no case had he any chance of being named; adding that he believed it had been fortunate for him. Convinced that he had nothing to risk, he had spoken more boldly, consequently with more originality, more especially so far as his religious opinions were concerned, in which he had rather pleased than given offence.
To M. VELAY.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
We are entering on a period of which no one can foresee the vicissitudes, but of which it is impossible not to perceive the coming. Nevertheless, it is of happy augury for it that it has commenced by a justice rendered to the past. Filial piety brings happiness. In re-attaching ourselves by the traditional bond to the eternal verities of religion, to the laborious conquests of human experience, we shall follow henceforward with less peril the progressive instinct which should enrich and not repudiate this glorious heritage. The sciences will advance with more rapid step when the ground of first principles is not disputed with them; and talent will no more be squandered by bringing into question, in the nineteenth century of our era, problems of which Christianity had given the definitive solution, after they had vainly exhausted all the forces of genius during four thousand years of ignorance and of doubt.
I have spoken of the Univers, and I should probably disappoint thy expectation if I told thee not, what more intimate relations have caused me to think of the worth and the destiny of this journal. All the editors are known to me, and they have introduced me during my journey into the situation and resources of their work—a work, and not an enterprise. For a long time the journal was only kept up by the sacrifices of a few generous men, who saw in it the only acceptable organ of our doctrines. Without contradiction, there is still much to desire, and a little to regret, in the foundation and in the form of this journal; but at least it seems to me to offer a general whole the most satisfactory possible for the actual condition of spirits.
The Society of St. Vincent dc Paul has not been one of the least subjects of joy and of hope that I have found during my last stay at Paris. The time of one of its solemnities, the second Sunday of Easter, permitted me to see it reunited, and in all the extent of its rapid growth. I have seen gathered together in the amphitheatre of its sittings more than six hundred members, who did not form the whole of those belonging to it at Paris; the mass composed of poor students, but relieved in some sort by the accession of the highest social positions. I have elbowed there a peer of France, a deputy, a councillor of State, several generals, distinguished writers. I have reckoned there twenty-five pupils of the Normal School (of seventy-five that it contains), ten of the Polytechnic School, one or two of the School d’Etat Major. In the morning, more than a hundred and fifty associates approached together to the holy table, at the foot of the shrine of the holy patron. Letters were received from more than fifteen towns of France which have already flourishing conferences. A number nearly equal are organized this year. We are nearly two thousand young men engaged in this peaceful crusade of Catholic charity.
We must hope that the strength of association, so unhappily powerful to ruin the faith of our fathers, will know how to do something to raise it up amongst us and our children; and also, in this stormy age in which we are, it is pleasant to see formed, outside of all the political and philosophical systems, a compact group of men determined to use all their rights as citizens, all their influence as men of information, all their professional studies, to honour Catholicism in time of peace, and to defend it in case of strife.
Lastly, when the wave of pauperism finds itself furious and desperate in presence of a moneyed aristocracy whose hearts are hardened, it will be good to have mediators who may be able to prevent a collision of which the horrible disasters cannot be imagined; who may make themselves heard in both camps; who may carry to the one the words of resignation, to the other counsels of mercy; everywhere the word of order, reconciliation and love.
That is what we should do, if we were worthy of it. But how far we are from such a beautiful vocation! What cowardly habits to conquer; what narrow ideas to abdicate; what elevation and what purity of character to acquire, to merit to become the instruments of Providence in the execution of its most admirable designs!
But I forgot the news announced in the beginning of my letter, that which ought, nevertheless, to serve me for excuse to thee. Arrived in the capital—style of the provincial—I could not fail to pay my respects to my most honoured patron, M. the Minister of Public Instruction. I received from him the most affable and the most cordial welcome. After having made me breakfast at his Ministerial table, he was pleased to inform himself of my position and of my views; and he expressed to me his intention of allowing me to fill the place of Quinet the next year. But he has put this favour at a price of which he was naturally the master: he has asked that I should come to compete at Paris in the month of September for the Literary Fellowship, a new institution, to the success of which he holds with the affection of an author. He has caused his invitation to be repeated by several friends, then by the Rector, and lastly by a formal letter, in such a manner that it is impossible to withdraw myself from it. And yet the difficulty of the programme, bristling with the most thorny Greek texts, has already several times almost made me despair; and with the occupations which my course gives me, have infinite trouble to find the time rigorously indispensable for the most superficial preparation.
Thence, complete disarray in my correspondence, my relations, and even in my business; thence, again, no more hope of being able to realize the pretty journey projected for this autumn, and of which one of the most agreeable episodes would be to meet thee on the shore of the Lake of Geneva. Instead of departing joyously, staff in hand, knapsack on back, light of foot, head in the air, to pass swiftly along these pretty roads of Switzerland, through beautiful green valleys which crown at prodigious heights the tops of the glaciers; instead of going to salute Fribourg, Berne, Thun, Schwitz, Einsiedeln, Constance—of going to visit those marvels of new-born Catholic art which make the honour of Munich, and of descending again afterwards, by the picturesque passages of the Tyrol, to Venice, to Padua, to Verona, to Milan; of realizing at last this fairy pilgrim age dreamed of for six months—there must be an excursion of another nature, through the asperities of Greek literature, among the innumerable creations of Latin, French, foreign letters—an intellectual journey, which would not be without charm if it could be made at leisure, halting at the finest points of view, pausing at the flowering bushes on the route long enough to detach the fresh bud without tearing it from the thorns. But no; one must pass as one goes by all these admirable things; one must gather with a hasty hand, and at the risk of blighting and injuring them, so many poetic beauties; one must make, instead of a crown, a heavy packet, and after must submit them to the profane elaborations of literary chemistry; infuse them, analyze them, pulverize them to the taste of a pedantic criticism; swallow down as a draught the greatest possible quantity of memories, and arrive all saturated with Greek, Latin, German, before the learned University, with a view there to make proof of a knowledge almost universal.
If to these urgent and precipitate studies thou wilt join the preparations of my lessons in Commercial Law; if thou wilt also add the small but numerous exigences of business and of social life, from which nevertheless I am constrained to escape as much as it is possible—thou wilt nearly comprehend, my dear friend, the discomfort, and, if I may say it, the distress of the time in which I find myself.
It needs nothing less than this to call for thy indulgence, not alone for the long delay, but also for the incredible disorder of this letter, written in part during the ordinary time of sleep. I see that I omitted to tell thee that my brother has returned from Rome, bringing me, with a budget of interesting news, a letter from the Abbe Lacordaire…
That which you tell me of the Franche-Comtoises does not astonish me. The inhabitants of this province were always recommended by their morality and their religion. As for instruction, it would be difficult not to find as much as here.
If the thought of absent friends who keep faith with thee; if the union of heart with those who, drawn together by age, the past, sentiments, beliefs, are far from thee only by the distance of leagues; if these sweet images of a fraternal and Christian affection can sometimes animate and distract thy isolation, deliver thyself without hesitation to these good thoughts—they will not be illusions; for it is indeed true that in our memories, in our conversations, we are often with thee: we ask of thee the same place in thy memory and also in thy prayers.
Meanwhile, while he, in the midst of polyglots and loneliness, was straining himself, another matter was being settled for him in a manner as unexpected as this one. His friends in the time of his solitude rallied round him, and urged him to marry. We have seen occasionally in his letters his ideas and feelings on this point. Nevertheless, he could not entirely prevent his thoughts from answering to his friends’ suggestions; and his brother says he sought to prepare himself in case “Providence called him to marriage,” and that it was in great part with that idea that he had asked for M. Ouinet’s Chair. His attempts in this direction had rendered his relations with M. Soulacroix, the Rector of the Academy, more frequent than before. M. Soulacroix had a daughter seven years younger than Frederic—lovely and accomplished, fitted, as it afterwards proved, to make his ideal of a wife a reality. How much or how little Frederic knew of her does not appear, for at this point the Abbe Noirot, who had proved himself so good a friend before, intervened, and, on his own responsibility, proceeded to speak to M. Soulacroix and to suggest a possible marriage between his daughter and Frederic Ozanam. This overture was so well received that the Abbe next proceeded to speak to Frederic himself, who it is said, “was altogether astonished at this overture, which he was far from expecting.” ” However,” proceeds his brother, “believing he saw a mark of the Will of God in this manifestation, which he had not provoked in any manner, he went from that time occasionally to see M. Soulacroix, under divers pretexts, in the hope of having at least a glimpse of her who had been proposed to him as perhaps one day to partake his destiny. By the continued benevolent intervention of his friend, matters were at length satisfactorily arranged. For a man of Frederic’s temperament—self-distrustful, nervous, and undecided—this mode of ” arranging” a marriage was probably an excellent one; anyhow, it had the happiest results. Meanwhile, however, by day and by night for months, he laboured in preparation for the concourse and when, at length, his brother accompanied him to the conveyance which was to take him to Paris, he was in such a state of excessive agitation from labour and watching, and a conviction that he should not succeed that he might be said to be almost in a fever. However, the excitement of the contest soon began; and while this would rouse and keep up his spirits, the triumphant close served to calm him. The account is given in his own letters. The immediate result was that M. Fauriel, Professor of Foreign Literature at the Sorbonne, asked, and obtained that Frederic should supply in his Chair from the opening of the course, on account of his age and infirmities. The journey which he thereupon felt it his duty to take is described in his letters; and it also would help very much in restoring the needed tone, mental and physical, although, for various reasons, he did not regard it exactly as an excursion of pleasure.
To M. LALI.IER.
Paris, Saturday morning, October 30th, 1840.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
I would not leave you to learn by the newspaper the good success which has just come to me. After the long tests in which your friendship has been interested for me, I have been named the first in the competition. In consequence, I am offered immediate entry to the Sorbonne, with supply for M. Fauriel.
These events, which have overpassed all my hopes, still embarrass me a little, for I am in the alternative, either of neglecting a future providentially opened, or of breaking with habits and affections very deep founded. I pray God that He will enlighten me. Join yourself to me, and be sure that, on my side, in communicating to-morrow, I will not forget in my feeble prayers to fulfil your friendly intentions.
I use so much in regard to you of friendly want of ceremony as to tell you that, on Tuesday in next week (l’autre semaine), I shall again profit twenty-four hours by your hospitality, to talk heart to heart as I have need. Then, better than at present, I shall be able to tell you how I have been touched by the solicitude you have showed towards me; and in thinking of our friends, of our common hopes, and of our duties, we will gather up a little courage for the arduous matters which the present situation of the country and of the Church imposes upon the weakest of their children.
It will be interesting for the reader to find here an extract of the report addressed to the Minister of Public Instruction by M. Victor le Clerc, Dean of the Faculty of Letters, and president of the competition for the fellowship:
“October 3rd, 184o.
” MONSIEUR LE MINISTRE,
” Three competitors have appeared to take from the first, in these various tests, a superiority which has been sometimes keenly disputed, but which they have, nevertheless, almost always preserved.
“M. Ozanam, already known, as his two rivals whose names follow, by the most honourable proofs before our Faculty, has seemed to the judges to merit the first rank, less by his classical knowledge—very extensive no doubt, but equal, perhaps, among the others—than by his large and firm manner of conceiving an author or a subject, by the breadth of his comments and his surveys, by his bold and just views, and by a language which, joining originality to reason, and imagination to gravity, appears to be eminently suitable for public teaching. Alone of the candidates, he has made proof a grammatical and literary study of the four foreign languages indicated in the programme—Italian, Spanish; German and English.
” M. Egger—whom a prize gained at the Academy of Inscriptions and of Belles-Lettres, and distinguished services in the Colleges of Paris, had pointed out more clearly to our attention–is, before all, a very learned and a very clever philologist; but the rapidity of his thought, the vivacity of his speech, and the immense advantage which he has obtained in French composition, which has made a part of this contest, prove that he is called to join to the merit of great knowledge the talent of being listened to.
” M. Berger, a mind more calm and dispassionate, as incapable of committing a fault in taste as of being deceived in the interpretation of a difficult text, carries to a singular degree purity and precision of language. It is impossible to apply to letters, with more art and elegance, the rigour of philosophic studies.
” It is thus that the contest which has begun under your auspices a new era for the Faculties, will not, perhaps, be surpassed for long.”
To M. LALLIER.
Paris, October loth, 184o.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
I am obliged to refuse myself a pleasure, which would have been as grateful as it was desired—that of seeing you on my journey. Charged to supply for M. Fauriel, and to make a course of German literature in the middle age, to begin by the Nibelungen and the Livre des He’ros, I have thought it necessary, for the wants of my imagination and for the satisfaction of my conscience, to see at least in a hasty visit the shores of the Rhine, theatre of all this poetry, barbaric, Germanic, Frank, to the study of which I must devote myself.
I shall return to Lyons by Strasbourg; and after five weeks of business and of work, I shall return to Paris to settle there, and to become your neighbour. In the earlier days of December I will stop at your house in passing; then I shall be able to tell you better than in this hasty moment how good and useful your little letter has been to me; how your friendly suffrage has strengthened my resolutions, which the advice of my family afterwards ratified.
This is an event very grave and solemn for me: the entrance on a new and perilous career; a life to begin anew, a vocation at length! Although I may not have to ‘make a sacrifice of the nature which you seem to suspect, there are, however, others. There are sorrowful separations, and even difficulties of business and of interests; there are dangers of all sorts which await me on my installation; in a word, there is more than needs to be to alarm a mind of mediocre energy. Happy if this feeling of weakness causes the eyes to be raised to Him who gives strength. Until now I have asked of Him light to know His will; now that He seems to have manifested it to me by signs reasonably to be known, it remains to grant me the courage to accomplish it. . . .
To M. LALLIER.
Mayence, Tuesday, October 14th, 1840.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
The journey which I am making is not for the sake of pleasure, not even for health; it is a case of literary conscience. But after having made the effort which duty exacted, of throwing myself into a carriage for Brussels, nature took the upper hand, and during more than twenty-four hours I gave myself up to an access of black melancholy in thinking of the two great enjoyments which I sacrificed, that of seeing my brothers a week sooner, and that of passing a day with you. The heart, without doubt, entered greatly into this; but perhaps also there entered a little of that loquacious instinct with which I am endowed, and which in my moments of charity towards myself I call ” a need of opening my heart.” Whatever it may be, I promised myself then to replace my day at Sens by a Tong letter, and thus to fill up one of those long evenings to which the season, already too advanced, subjects travellers. My overweening has reached even to thinking that you would bear me no malice for my indiscretion; that you would receive willingly the first-fruits of the impressions of a novice-tourist on the borders of the Rhine, and that perhaps also your friendship would be a little impatient to have the news of the competition, of which the results still seem to me like a dream.
The sixth day has hardly passed over since my departure, and here I am already more than half-way. This kind of excursion on birds’ wing has its inconveniences, without doubt, but perhaps also its advantages. If one perceives no detail, one is more struck in the mass; if one sees less near, one sees higher; the instruction is less real, the impression stronger; and, provided that one does not afterwards make a book of his impressions . . . . the thing has its value, and one obtains to some degree that renewal of the imagination and of the memory, that refreshment of the spirit, that fertility of the soul, which is always produced by the first view of a new world.
Thus nothing has seemed to me more curious, more interesting, than the little kingdom of Belgium, passed through first on my route. In four days it is traversed in every sense, with all the time necessary to visit reasonably Brussels, Antwerp, Ostend, Ghent, and Liege. I felt as if transported into the Empire of hilliput. And then this miniature of a nation is itself but the reduced portrait of three other nations: a triple copy of France, of England, and of Germany. Imitation everywhere; in the manners, in the costume, in the architecture, even in the language. The people speak Walloon and Flemish; that is to say, a patois of Romanic origin, and another of Germanic origin, but both detestable. The .official French of the Government and of the journals is worth little more. The productions of literary growth are distinguished by a taste of the soil. In everything reigns a certain awkwardness, which always accompanies imitation when it is not sure of itself. One trembles at every moment lest this poor Lion Beige should show the tip of his ear.
However, after a first good-humoured sally, very pardonable in the presence of so many pretentious and amusing contrasts, we must make room for more serious reflections. And, first, take heed that the shortness of distances, the drawing together of the frontiers, about which we jested a moment ago, was only an admirable illusion, a miracle of labour. If the kingdom is traversed in a half day, it is that in a half-day the car which the steam carries measures fifty leagues. Iron and fire trace on this fertile soil a perpetual furrow. Commerce by the rapidity of transport attains a prosperity of which we have not even an idea—we, artless admirers of the railroad from Paris to Versailles. Friday, in three-quarters of an hour, I found myself transported from Brussels to Louvain. There, in a long conversation with M. Mcelher, Professor at the Catholic University, after a detailed visit to this beautiful establishment, I began to understand what there was of excellence in the Belgic institutions and character.[…]
When I shall have seen Mayence,—where I arrive this evening,—Frankfort and Worms, the Germany of the middle age will have passed under my eyes. For… it was at Cologne and at Aix-la-Chapelle that the emperors were crowned and deposed, that the Diets were held, that the Crusades were organized, The names of Charlemagne, of Otho, of Henry, of Frederic, reappear everywhere where an historic stone is set up; and there is not a stone, not a rock, which has not its history, its tradition, or its fable.
To-day finishes for me that which is called “the tour along the Rhine;” for the picturesque or memorable sites are nearly all enclosed in the space which I have run through in two days, and never more grand images were enclosed in a richer frame. My thought, which had often visited this part, had never conceived anything approaching to the truth. A nature altogether different from France, Switzerland, or Italy; a sky where the October clouds yet suffered the rays of the sun to play, and to produce at each instant new effects of light; the stream broad, deep, clear, and yet of a beautiful sea-green. On the borders mountains, which did not form a continuous wall, but which seemed almost all to come from farther inwards, and to form themselves as the efflorescence of innumerable little chains, sometimes leaving between them magnificent openings of view over the neighbouring landscapes. Everywhere odd stratifications, colonnades of basalt, continual traces of volcanic convulsions. This bony framework covered with a mantle of verdure, in which all shades of colour are mingled, from the fresh turf to the dead leaves which are already swept by autumn. Woods of oak at every moment. A colouring oftenest sombre, but sometimes lively; deceitful perspectives; waters with the play of different colours upon them, something of a fascination which pleases and troubles you, and which seems to play with you.[…]
Our rapid course hardly permitted us to salute these interesting apparitions of the past; nevertheless, I have promised them not to forget them. These memories will go to join others which were not less precious to me, and which already begin to pass away. This is for me one of the troubles of a journey. There is not a corner on my route from Florence to Fribourg, and from Brussels here, where my affections were not for a -moment caught hold of; not an adieu which has not cost me something. I would, at least, have desired to carry away by the thought that which the looks have left; but my memory holds not the figure of places. The shadow of them floats there for some time, and often finishes by disappearing. But at least, for these scenes of the material world, there remains the power, and consequently the hope, of renewing their image in going to seek them, where we know them to be. Why is it that it should not be the same for other memories otherwise dear; that it is no more possible to return on our steps along the roads of life, and to find again those whom we have left there?
Such are, my dear friend, the meditations of this solitary, and by consequence pensive, journey. It is the first time that I have left France without my brother, having, besides, no companions on the road, surrounded by foreign conversation, in English, or in German dialects more or less corrupted, consequently placed in the most favourable circumstance to attain my end—that is, to gather up in one week the largest number of impressions possible. There is no harm in this extreme urgency which presses me on. Forced activity is a good hygiene for idle spirits; there is inspiration in constraint. May it be thus!
But at other moments, my excursion seems to me a folly—the rashness of a journalist who goes away to discover Germany; or rather a paltry satisfaction given to my scruples, a kind of subterfuge, to say to my auditors this winter: ” Gentlemen, I have seen this!” In the same way as, when I was little, I dipped the ends of my fingers in water, in order to be able to answer mamma without an untruth—” I am washed.” Lastly, and to return to great comparisons, it seems to me that I do a little as Caligula, who went as far as the Rhine, gathered pebbles, and came to Rome to receive with the honours of a triumph the name of Germanic!
Apropos of a triumph, I must really tell you something of the one which they say I obtained, now about three weeks ago, and which seems to me still a dream.–I arrived sincerely much frightened, convinced that my candidature, in losing for me the little consideration which I might have enjoyed in the mind of the professors, would play me a bad turn. At last, the day came. We were gathered seven in a hall of the Sorbonne, and there, under Key, we had before us eight hours for a Latin dissertation on ” The Causes which arrested the Development of Tragedy among the Romans.’
I found I knew the question, but, not at all accustomed to compose quickly, I was hard up when the fatal hour struck, and I was obliged to give in a fragment of a rough copy, badly written out. The same adventure the third day for the French dissertation on “The Historic Value of the Funeral Orations of Bossuet.” The auspices were not favourable, and without some encouraging indiscretions of one of the judges who gave me to understand that my compositions had succeeded, I should have retired from the competition.
There came afterwards three distinct argumentations for different days, and about three hours each, on Greek, Latin and French texts, given twenty-four hours in advance. In Greek, I had to explain a chorus of the Helen of Euripides, a fragment of the Rhetoric of Halicarnassus; little of philology, as you will think, and many phrases—Helen considered as poetic character and religious myth; history of the art of oratory at Athens and at Rome. In Latin, a fragment of Lucan, and a theological chapter of Pliny; discussion on the role of Cesar and on the revolutions of religious doctrines among the Romans. In French, Philemon and Baucis of la Fontaine, and the Dialogue of Sy’ lla and Eucrate by Montesquieu. Here, some conjectures a little bold on the causes of Sylla’s abdication, and a comparison more rash still of Montesquieu, as publicist, with St. Thomas of Aquin. This rather lively sally of Catholicism, as well as two or three others which I allowed myself on the occasion, displeased neither the auditory nor the jury; and some reminiscences of Roman law, come apropos to interpret two or three passages difficult to be understood without them, were not less favourably received. At the close of this test came the interrogation on the four foreign literatures. There, I stumbled in Dante, of whom I believed myself sure4. The Spanish, of which I had taken ten lessons, succeeded marvellously. I extricated myself from Shakespeare; and as I had the happiness to fall on one of the finest and most pious passages of Klopstock, the emotion with which I translated it had an excellent effect.
There remained two lessons on subjects different for each competitor, and chosen by lot, one twenty-four hours, the other one hour, in advance. The subject of ancient literature was for me: the history of the Scoliasts, Greek and Latin. This seemed an irony of fate; and they knew so well that I was not at all up in this philologic specialty, that the reading of the billet was received by a general malicious laugh, and perhaps a little revenge, by the numerous members of the University who composed the public. I believed myself lost, and, notwithstanding one of my rivals, M. Egger, with much generosity had passed me some excellent books, yet, after a night of watching and a day of alarm, I arrived, more dead than alive, at the moment of speaking. The despair of myself caused me to make an act of hope in God, such as I had never before made so earnestly, and never, either, had I found myself better. In brief, your friend spoke on the Scoliasts for seven quarters of an hour, with an assurance, a liberty, that astonished himself. He was able to interest, even to move, to captivate, not alone the judges, but the auditory, and he retired with all the honours of war, having put the laughers on his side.
Finally, the last sitting was easier. I had to speak of the literary criticism of the age of Louis XIV. I took then my ease, and gave myself scope on the subject of the fatal influence exercised by the Jansenist school on French poetry, and found means to signalize the success rendered to the language by St. Francis de Sales. I feared I had broken my windows, but all was taken in good part. The definitive scrutiny, made after the average of ranks obtained in the different tests, made me come out the first; and, to my extreme astonishment, in this result it was not necessary to take account of the foreign literatures.[…]
If, then, all this is not a dream, or an impertinent play of chance, one can only justify it in one manner. God gave me grace to bring into this struggle a faith which, even when it does not endeavour to produce itself outwardly, animates the thought, keeps up harmony in the intelligence, heat and life in the discourse. Thus I may say, “In hoc vici;” and this idea, which perhaps at first seems proud, is nevertheless that which humbles me, and at the same time reassures me.
A success so marvellously providential confounds me. I seem to see in it that which yourself have seen in it: an indication of a design of God upon me; a veritable vocation—that which my prayers have sought for so many years. My eldest brother is of this advice, and I am treading, with a step still very trembling, but nevertheless calmer, in the new career open before me by this singular event.
There is a limit to all, even to your patience. I finish, then, in pointing out to your friendly gratitude the constant kindness which my judges have shown to me, and, above all, MM. le Clerc, Fauriel, and Ampere: you understand how the presence of this last has been a service to me.
I shall not post this till Strasbourg. Reply to me, if you are not weary with my indiscretion, and allow me to embrace you as your devoted friend.
- Palais de Justice.
- This rough translation may, perhaps, be admitted, as, to use Ozanam’s expression, it gives the idea, whatever the form may be.
- Essai sur le Panthlisnze dans les Societe’s modernes.
- Perhaps this should rather be “flung myself into Dante, because I was sure of him;” “bronche fiour Dante” is the expression.