« VorigeDoorgaan »
"The idea that the emotion of the orator was not sincere."
"Yes, but what else?"
"The idea that he knew his discourse by heart."
"Precisely, but does this idea often come into your "Never, that is unless the speaker has the air of reciting a lesson, or unless he runs after his words. Even in this case, so soon as he begins to go on well again, I begin again to give myself up to him."
"Well, that is the illusion of which I spoke. You ask nothing better than to receive this discourse,-which you know to be written and learned by heart,-which you have perhaps already heard, as if it sprung at the very instant from the heart of him who addresses you. Far from struggling against your natural inclination to forget the circumstances, the remembrance of which would spoil all, you struggle, on the contrary, against all that could remind you of them. Admirable instinct, for which we cannot be too grateful to Providence, and without which we would be forced to resign all the delights as well as all the advantages of literature, eloquence and the arts! Where would be the charm of the most beautiful verses, if we were condemned to recall what they had cost, to feel the shackles which the rhyme and the rhythm have imposed upon the thoughts! Where would be the charm of painting, if we were not able to abstract the mind from the wooden frame, which interrupts the perspective, and from the time, labor and retouching which the picture has required! From this springs a rule-to return to preaching—too often disregarded, which, however, should regulate all that is human and exterior in pulpit art; it is, that all which tends to indicate that the preacher is not extemporizing, should be carefully avoided. "Naturalize art,” said Montaigne, "rather than artialize nature." Now the multiplication of divisions, and the too blunt announcement of them, will recall
that to the hearer, which cannot be present to his mind without destroying the effect of the discourse; it is like showing the bellows of the organ to those who would prefer much to be ignorant of its mechanism, in order to concentrate all their attention and all their soul upon the sounds which it produces. Not being able to avoid wishing for the energy and naturalness of extemporization in every discourse, we undertake to endow it with this. Only save appearances, and our hearts, our imaginations will do the rest. But if the audience receive nothing for their expenditure of good-will; if the reality be so palpable as to render illusion impossible, their vexation increases in proportion to all the attempts they have made. We only ask to be deceived; so much the worse then for the orator if he undeceive us, and despoil himself of the crown which we wish to place upon his head. Unhappily it is upon ourselves also, that the consequences of his fault falls, for, this illusion once destroyed, it is scarcely possible that the sermon can edify us.* We may get some ideas from it, if it contain any, but as for deep and edi fying impressions, they are not to be dreamed of. A sermon perfect in this respect, is one in which labor and art are imperceptible to those who are not thinking of looking for them; that in which I find a plan when I seek one, but where nothing forces me to see it when I am not looking for it, and when the understanding of the head is willing to give place to that of the heart."
* "If the audience be affected by the dread of seeing you stop short, it can be affected by nothing you say."-LA BRUYERE.
BOSSUET AND THE MARQUIS DE FENELON. CHARACTER AND GENIUS OF THE ABBE DE FENELON.-DELINEATION OF PORTRAITS DANGEROUS FROM THE PULPIT.PERSONAL APPLICATION OF THE TRUTH DIFFICULT.-ARNAULD.-DUTY OF BOSSUET TO THE KING.-SUDDEN SUMMONS FROM THE KING.
ALTHOUGH the Abbé de Fénélon had not finished what he had to say, for we have already seen that he did not wish the appearance only, of improvisation, but improvisation itself,-he would not probably have ventured to speak so long, nor so earnestly in his uncle's, and more particularly in Bossuet's presence; but some moments previous, the prelate and the marquis had begun to converse together, at first on the same subject, and afterwards on others; and they had finished by gradually withdrawing themselves from the rest of the group. However the voice of Fénélon still reached them.
"My nephew does not seem at all constrained," said the marquis.
"Your nephew will distinguish himself," replied Bossuet; but he will never make an orator."
"I have told him so twenty times."
"And what is his reply?"
"That he is glad of it; that he does not wish to be one." "That is a pity, for he could become one."
"You think so?"
Certainly; but he disdains art too much. Because others make a bad use of it, he will not hear of it. 'He does not wish to be an orator' he has told you. That is just like him, with his romantic ideas; for there is always a little romance in his ideas, and I am afraid it may some day extend into his religion. You see, because the word orator is sometimes used to designate a preacher without piety, he rejects this title which so many great men glory in, and which the ancients set above everything else. With this exception, I am of his opinion with regard to all that he was saying just now. His ideas are in general good-but they need that a severe taste should be exercised in the application of them."
"Is it then in taste that he is wanting?"
"I did not say taste, but a severe taste. He has the taste of sentiment more developed than any one I know; but that of the reason, he has in a much smaller degree, and he appears not to wish to acquire it. He will be a theoretical man, loving extremes; obstinate in reality, but so gentle and charitable in his manner, that the public will pass over all the rest. Defeated, he will still carry off the honors of the battle."
"Well, there is his horoscope, complete."
"I know him even better than I seem to. Wait until he writes and will see."
Although many years were yet to elapse before the famous quarrels which put Bossuet and Fénélon at swords' point, the
* Two discourses of Fénélon, the only ones, it is said, which he ever wrote and committed to memory, are worthy of Bossuet. One is a sermon on Missions; the other was preached in 1708, at the consecration of the Archbishop of Cologne. Maury relates, that struck with the beauties of the first, and perceiving that no one was acquainted with it, although it had been published for more than a century, he read it to some friends as an unedited discourse of Bossuet. Great admiration was expressed and none suspected the trick.-Criticisms and Portraits, MAURY.
latter was of too frank and impetuous a character, for the Bishop of Condom,-who during the last two or three years saw him daily, not to have had the opportunity to study him in every aspect; thus the history of Fénélon appears tolerably accordant with what the marquis had called his horoscope. It was impossible to deny that he was good, gentle and amiable; but also impossible not to admit that he was what we would at the present time, call an opposition man. What is to be understood by this? Is a man an opposition man from the mere fact that he has often been obliged to combat, to oppose? Some men have battled all their lives without any one having dreamed of applying this term to them. The opposition man, is he who has, even while attacking, the art of appearing the attacked party,-of summoning to his side an interest foreign to the real matter in question, of regaining on the ground of sympathy, what he loses in a logical point of view,—of being defeated, in fine, as Bossuet had said, yet carrying off the honors of the battle. Is not this Fénélon? Are we not still under the charm of that interest, with which he knew how to invest himself even in the eyes of those who had little or no sympathy with his ideas? Do you think for instance that the almost mystical author of the Maxims of the Saints would have been so loudly praised by Voltaire and Diderot, unless there had existed between them that sort of relationship, which the spirit of opposition often establishes between men who have absolutely nothing else in common?
"He will be a theoretical man, loving extremes," Bossuet had said. This was also the opinion of Louis XIV. One day, after a long conversation with Fénélon he said, "I have just been talking with the man, who has the finest, yet most fanciful mind in my kingdom." Without agreeing entirely with this judgment, for among those ideas which Louis XIV. called fanciful, there were probably some which we would have found good and