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but, whether he had wanted time, or whether he had not felt in the vein, he had decided to repeat an old peroration. And the more praises this should contain, the more certain it was that the king would not complain of having already heard it.
And now, how was this scene to terminate? It was no longer Bossuet only, who felt himself de-trop; the others also began earnestly to wish themselves away, and Bourdaloue, in the midst of his distress, was perhaps the least embarrassed of any.
A happy accident relieved them all. A servant appeared; the king sent for Bossuet.
Bossuet rising, the others hastened to follow his example and take leave.
"Monsieur," said the marquis, "I am enchanted-"
"To have had the honor to receive you," added the other. Alas! they were neither of them enchanted or delighted, save at one thing,—the one to go away, and the other to remain alone.
THE LIGHT IN WHICH PREACHERS WERE REGARDED.-CHARACTER OF LOUIS XIV.-INFLUENCE WITH THE POPE, AND WITH THE GALLICAN CHURCH.
A LITTLE fact in Tallemant's memoirs, appears to us to contain a curious enough revelation in regard to the manner in which preaching was generally regarded about the middle of the seventeenth century.
It is in the story of Le Maistre.* "He intended setting to work to preach," says the author, "but he became religious by the way, and gave it up."
Exactly as if it should be said, "He intended at first to become a comedian, but seeing that he could not do this without being lost, he changed his mind."
The preacher was at that time but a sort of comedian; let us however, observe, that this singular idea had not then exactly the same meaning which would be attached to it at the present day. In the first place, it was only applied to preachers by profession, those who are called at the present time in France, and improperly enough, missionaries; an ecclesiastic who had a stationary post, was not considered as belonging to the class of preachers, properly speaking. On the other hand, the word comedian, which we have used, does not imply that preachers were regarded in general as going against their conscience, and teaching things which they themselves did not believe; and yet Sacy or Saci, is a
Sacy, of Port-Royal, translator of the Bible.
pseudonym, anagram of Isaac, his first name.
they were very far from being regarded as actually following a vocation, and having sought above everything, the advantage of religion and of the church. Preaching was a trade; a trade, doubtless, from which honesty and zeal were no more excluded than from any other, but a trade, notwithstanding. The profession of preacher was not only distinct from that of priest, it was considered, in some degree, as without the pale of piety, as incompatible with piety, so to speak, as soon as the latter had acquired a certain depth" He became religious by the way, and” -went to preaching, probably? No; "he gave up preaching."
If then, it was not entirely a comedy, neither was it a perfectly serious thing. It was with preaching as with poetry; it was looked upon as an art, and an art only. It was the art of sermonizing, just as poetry was the art of versifying; it was not yet comprehended that it could be or ought to be otherwise. Hence the criticisms and even pleasantries which society permitted itself to put forth against preachers, without seeming to imagine that religion could suffer from it. In our day, the boldest infidelity would scarcely venture upon that which Boileau dared to say against Cotin, without ceasing to be a religious man, and to be regarded generally as such. It was considered no more harm to deride a bad preacher, than to laugh at a bad poet.
Poetry perfected itself, but without ceasing to be an art; it became more regular, without advancing in truth; more noble, without having more soul, more profound, without being more.
Now, in spite of appearances to the contrary, we do not hesitate to say that it was the same with preaching. The business was ennobled, but it remained a business; the sermons became more regular, as well as more Christian, but they did not cease to be composed, preached and criticised rather as literary pro ductions, than as discourses for edification.
Whose fault was this,-that of the preacher or of the public? -A delicate question, upon which much might be said, but which we like better to 1efer to the consciences of both; for it is not so peculiar to the seventeenth century, that we are able to regard it as a simple matter of history.
However this may be,—when preaching had once entered the dominion of literature, and consequently had left that higher sphere to which it belonged from its nature and its object, it found itself subjected, like everything else, to the influence of the man who was destined to impress so profoundly upon all the productions of the century, the signet of his character and his manners. Whether from his great ability or his great good fortune, Louis XIV. absorbed everything; and in the same manner as all the poets came at last to glory in being poets only by him and for him, so there was at length no orator,-that is to say, no preacher, since the pulpit alone was open to eloquence,—who did not stoop beneath the same dominion, and gladly wear its livery.
And this, it may be said by the way, is one of the best proofs that Louis XIV. was no common man. Let the legitimacy and morality of this influence be discussed at pleasure; let all the bases upon which it rested, be made to totter one after the other, (and we acknowledge that it can be done,) yet the fact will still remain, that this influence was immense, and that it lasted fifty years. That circumstances prepared the way for it, is undeniable; that it was in some measure a homage to Louis XIV. himself, is also true; but, even if he had had nothing to do in order to acquire it, still it was a great deal to preserve it, and to preserve it for half a century. Put a Louis XIII. or a Louis XVI. in his place, and see if it would have lasted.
At the death of Louis XIV., there was such a burst of contempt and sarcasm against his flatterers, that for a moment it
might have beer believed that flattery was interred with him; but under Louis XV. it revived with more eagerness, more meanness than ever, and it was so much the baser, because it shamelessly attired itself in the most beautiful garb of candor and philosophy. "Our king is superior to glory itself," wrote Duclos in 1752. "Feeling, worthy and capable of friendship, at once king and citizen, he loves his subjects as much as he is loved by them."
Superior to glory itself,-feeling, king, and citizen,—all the politico-sentimental phraseology of the epoch. Nothing is wanting in it, as can be perceived; nothing except the truth; for it is scarcely necessary to mention, that every one of these expressions is false, save perhaps the last, "he loves his subjects as much as they love him;" for as to the letter of it, it was true; between himself and them, a touching interchange of hatred and defiance began to establish itself. In truth, when one remembers what the flatterers of Louis XV. could say and do, one feels no longer the power to attack those of Louis XIV.
And, if it is permitted to the author of these reflections, to say once for all, what he thinks of this man, whose name recurs so often to the pen even of those who profess to despise him,-here it is.
And, in the first place, he does not like him. It can be seen from the preceding pages, and will be seen still more plainly in those which follow, whether he is inclined to prostrate himself before his memory. But, at the moment when he is most disposed to be severe, he stops, he reflects, he fears to be unjust.* Having already several times altered his opinion of Louis XIV., he does not wish to venture again, save in good earnest; so much
* "I do not like men who set aside their country's laws; but I should find it difficult to believe that Cæsar and Cromwell were little-minded men. I do not like conquerors; but no one can persuade me that Alex ander and Gengiskan, were commonplace men."-MONTESQUIEU.