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confine myself to generalities, he listens, he answers, he says the most sensible things in the world; as soon as I seem to be approaching himself,-behold! he comes straight up to me, but in order to talk to me of something totally different. He compliments me upon my works; he thanks me for the care I devote to his son ;-how am I to go on !"
"It is difficult, truly; but-"
"But it is my duty, you are going to say. I know it; may God help me to remember it! Yes, I promise you; I will try; I will try again. And when you write to Monsieur Arnauld—” "His majesty sends for Monsieur de Condom. His majesty awaits him."
One of the pages thus spoke; and he had not finished, when the king himself appeared at the end of the avenue.
Our two speakers looked at one another. And as Bossuet prepared to follow the page; "Au revoir, Monsieur de Condom," said the marquis; then in a low voice; "The king, there;-God above! and to-morrow I write to Monsieur Arnauld."
THE KING AND THE PHILOSOPHERS. THE ORIGINAL GROUNDS OF BOSSUET'S HIGH REPUTATION.-CHANGE IN THIS RESPECT DURING THE SUCCEEDING CENTURY.
A MOMENT afterwards, the king and the prelate directed their steps towards the château, but without exchanging a word. The king had only answered Bossuet's salutation by a slight movement of his head, and then walked on before.
We shall soon rejoin them;-let us first finish with our council.
The discussion had continued. As Bossuet had gone on with his conversation with M. de Fénélon,—the preeminence had in fact devolved upon the youngest of the remaining members. The Abbé de Fénélon conversed too well, not to be the first wherever Bossuet was not present.
There was a profound silence when the king appeared. They glanced at one another without a word. Not that they feared being overheard, for he was at the distance of twenty or thirty paces, and only remained, moreover, for a few moments ;—but, besides the fact that his presence never failed to produce a certain impression even upon those who saw him daily,—it was very rarely that he was seen in this part of the park. That same admirable tact, which enabled him to converse well on so many subjects which he had not studied, prevented him from touching upon those to which he was decidedly a stranger. Accordingly, he liked our philosophers, but only at a distance; since this ave
nue had become their domain, he had never set his foot in it. This was well known, and some malicious wits commented upon it in whispers. "The king is afraid of the geniuses," they said, as Bussy did. But it might have been answered, that he was afraid of them, as a good general is afraid of the enemy. It is not cowardice but prudence to avoid an encounter, when one is not sure of having superior or at least equal forces. It requires much learning (esprit) to be afraid of genius (esprit)* as Louis XIV. was afraid of it. Moreover, there were not wanting bishops, whom the philosophers' avenue inspired with equal awe, and who would have found themselves quite as much out of place there as he. "What is the meaning of Nycticorax in domicilio ?"the one day asked the Bishop of Orleans, these words in one of the Psalms having caught his attention. "Sire," answered the learned prelate, "it was one of the kings of Israel, who was very fond of solitude." Imagine this man making comments on Isaiah !
When the Marquis de Fénélon rejoined the company, he said, "I brought misfortune with me, gentlemen. I commenced by interrupting your conversation, and now, you see your master is carried off from you. After all, I lose more by it than you do, for you will see him again, I shall not. And yet I should much like to hear you resume your conversation upon Isaiah." "Well, return to-morrow," said one.
"You permit me to do so? To-morrow then, I shall not fail.” "Have you remarked," said the Abbé Fleury," with what determination Monsieur de Condom avoids expressing his opinion. of Father Bourdaloue? I have several times endeavored to lead him to speak upon the subject; he always expresses admiration,
* Esprit at that time designated learning, as well as wit in the strict acceptation of the word.
† The owl in his home-Vulgate. Psalın ci. 7.
but in a few words. Have any of you been more fortunate? In any other man, one would be apt to believe that jealousy had something to do with it, but in him,-with such a reputation, with such elevated sentiments-"
"Perhaps it is on that very account," said the Abbé de la Broue, "that he is so sparing of his praises. No matter how much we may admire Father Bourdaloue,―Monsieur de Condom knows very well that we admire him much more,-that we place him much higher. Thence his embarrassment. Public opinion acknowledging none his equals, he feels that he cannot praise any one without indirectly exalting himself. Thus, he says a few words in order to be just, and stops there, in order to remain humble."
"That is it!" was the general acclamation.
Was it really this? We shall not decide. Who knows whether Bossuet himself would have been able to do so? There is often but a hair's-breadth between modesty and pride; from pride to jealousy the distance is still shorter.
It is true, that Bourdaloue was not, strictly speaking, a rival for Bossuet. It is too common to consider the latter as an orator only. In certain respects this was correct, and his reputation for oratory is well founded, but in a historical point of view it is a mistake. In 1675, six or seven years after he had ceased to preach regularly,-Bossuet the orator, was considered far behind Bossuet the controversialist, the savant, the advocate of Gallicanism, Father of the church, as he was called at the time of the famous assembly of '82, and as La Bruyère did not in '95 scruple to call him to his face in the Academy.* It is one of those facts, in history, which escape your attention,
* In his discourse upon the occasion of Bossuet's reception. "Let us anticipate the language of posterity, and call him a Father of the Church." Upon which Maury observes, that he might have said he hief
unless it be particularly directed to them, but to prove which, comes a crowd of evidence, as soon as you think of looking for it. From the moment that Bossuet ceased preaching, the eloquence of the pulpit was considered, if not beneath him, at least beneath the position which he occupied in the church of France. Even his funeral orations, the most beautiful of which belong to a later period than this, were, in the eyes of the public, scarcely more than incidental productions. They were highly praised, it is true, but no one appeared to think that anything more was expected,—and it was far from entering the minds of any that his reputation was ever, in any way, to depend upon these discourses. And as he kept but too faithfully during the last nineteen years of his life, his resolution,-expressed in 1685, in the funeral oration of the Prince de Condé,-"no more to solemnize the death of others,"—this opinion had time to become universal. Three years after his death, the Abbé (afterwards Cardinal) de Polignac,* succeeded him in the Academy, and in the ostentatious discourse, in which it was the custom for each one to set forth, with so much pomp, the smallest merits of his predecessor, he says but a few words of the oratorical triumphs of the illustrious deceased. The Abbé de Clérambault, director of the Academy, is still more brief; he contents himself with saying, that Bossuet "had allowed his rivals to obtain that supreme rank in sacred eloquence, which he was fully able to have secured." Seven years later, in the funeral oration of the Dauphin, Massillon describes Bossuet as a man "of great and felicitous genius,—the ornament of the episcopacy,—a bishop in the midst of a court, - a man possessing every talent, and cognizant of every science,
of the Fathers, since he was the chief in eloquence. But La Bruyère was not alluding to eloquence at this time;-the whole of the passage proves this.
*The author of "Anti-Lucretius."