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Louise de Coligny, to which I called attention in a former
chapter, he advises that her son should learn from Tacitus to
compress (serrer) his words and sentences 2 . But the writer of

1 Contre les Athees, Epicuriens, Payens, /uifs, Mahumedistcs, et autres
Infideles: par Philippes de Mornay, Sieur du Plessis Marly. Antwerp, 1581; 2nd
ed. id. 1582 and two other editions of the same year; 1583 ; 1585. Mornay's
friend, Sir Philip Sidney, began an English translation, which was completed by
Arthur Golding and published in 1587, and a Latin translation by the author
himself appeared in the same year. There are some good remarks on the work in
Sayous II. 192 ff. (2nd ed. 1881).

2 Ante, p. 164, n. 5. Mornay's letters, state-papers, and other short writings
are collected in Memoires de P. de Mornay, I. and II., La Forest (his own
chateau) 1624-5, in. and IV., Amsterdam, 1651-2, and in Memoires el cor-
respondance, 12 vols., edd. Vaudore and Auguis, 1824-5 (full of mistakes and
incomplete). The Histoire de la vie de P. de Mornay, Leyden, 1647, was
written by David de Licques, a gentleman of his household. It was based,
down to 1606, on M me de Mornay's manuscript. Licques himself died in
1616 and the work was completed by another hand (Haag, La France Pro-
testante). There is a modern French life by Joachim Ambert, a cavalry
officer, 1847, and an English one by the Rev. R. B. Hone, 1834. Some of


state-papers for the King of Navarre must also have had an
excellent practical training in the art of writing clearly and
in the fewest possible terms. But neither by the style nor
by the substance of his writings, and still less bv the'date of
their publication, can Mornay be said to be a representative
of the period of transition. He comes in here rather as a link-
between Du Perron and Charron, whose first work was in part
a somewhat belated answer to Mornay 's Traiti de VEglise
published in 1578.

It appeared in 1593, when the writer 1 was over fifty, under
the title of Les trois vcrith. Only the third Truth or Book
is an answer to Du Plessis-Mornay, but it is considerably the
longest, forming two-thirds of the whole treatise. It appeared
at an opportune moment and may well have had its share in
persuading the subjects of Henry IV to follow his example
in abjuring Protestantism. For Charron puts the case for
Roman Catholicism clearly and effectively, dwelling on its
advantages in point of antiquity, continuity, and unit}-, and on
the superiority of the Church to the Scriptures as a final court
of appeal. The first and second Truths treat respectivelv of
religion and Christianity, but only in an abridged and summary
fashion, and it is difficult to imagine anything less convincing;.
Religion, according to Charron, is a safe, comfortable, and
useful thing, a line of argument which might commend itself to
canons and other church dignitaries, but which was hardly
calculated to bring conviction to honest doubters-'.

The whole treatise is a close reflexion of its author, of his
love of system and order, his oratorical training, his clear but
shallow intellect, his impressionable and impulsive tempi
ment, his lack of humour and imagination, his blundering
rashness. Blue-eyed, red-faced, with white hair and beard,
short and stout, one can easily picture the man. The son "t

Mornay's letters are given in Crepet's Le trisor tpistolairt dc la France ; l><
well and forcibly, but he has neither the natural gift for expression which mal
good letter writer nor the acquired art which serves a- its substitute.

1 Pierre Charron, b. 1 541 — d. 1603.

- For a fuller and more appreciative account of Les

Skeptics of the French Renaissance, pp. = 7 i — 5 7 .= -




a Paris bookseller, one of twenty-five brothers and sisters, he
had first adopted the law as a profession. But changing his
mind he took orders, and acquired an enormous reputation as
a preacher. About the year 1 585 he made the acquaintance of
Montaigne, and before long became an enthusiastic admirer of
both the man and the Essays. At the close of 1588 he was
suddenly seized with a desire to become a monk, but being
refused admittance first by the Carthusians and then by the
Celestines he fell back on the society of Montaigne and the
delights of authorship. The only one of his books which
retained its popularity for any length of time was La Sagesse.
It was written at Cahors, where he held the post of theological
lecturer to the chapter, during the years 1597 and 1598, and
was published in the summer of 1601 by Simon Millanges,
the well-known Bordeaux printer. Charron had by this time
moved to Condom, that obscure Gascon see which is associated
with the name of Bossuet. He had for some time held the
post of precentor, and the chapter now conferred on him the
theological lectureship with a canonry attached. He bought
a house, rebuilt it and furnished it handsomely, intending to
live phis joyeusement et gaillardement.

The sceptical character of La Sagesse aroused a good deal
of opposition. Thereupon Charron, wishing to procure the
formal approbation of the Sorbonne for his book, made certain
corrections and additions, and wrote a new preface explaining
his position. In the autumn of 1603 he went to Paris, where,
on the 1 6th of November, he was seized with an apoplectic
fit in the street, and died on the spot. He died, as Montaigne
is said to have done, in an attitude of prayer. The revised
edition of La Sagesse appeared in the following year (1604)
with the permission of the Privy Council 1 . Though certain
objectionable passages were removed or modified the general
character of the book remained the same.

In his preface to the original edition Charron makes a
statement which it is well to bear in mind at the outset. " I
here add two or three words of good faith, one that I have

1 The third edition (1607) returned to the original text, as also did the four
Elzevir editions, and a Paris edition of 1663.



gone begging in all directions {que jay queste par cy par Id)
and have taken the greater part of the materials for this work
from the best authors who have treated this subject of morals
and politics, which is the true science of man, as well ancient,
especially the great doctors Seneca and Plutarch, as modern.
I have collected here part of my studies : the form and the
order are my own. ...What I have borrowed from others I have
put in their own words, not being able to express it better."
These words are literally true. Charron has taken his political
philosophy from Bodin and Lipsius, his psychology and his
moral philosophy from Seneca and Du Vair, and above all his
scepticism from Montaigne ; and in the case of the French
writers he often copies them almost word for word 1 . It must
be remembered that the posthumous edition of the Essays
had been published only two years before he began to write
his book, and that doubtless, as a close friend of Montaigne,
he had re-read the Essays in their amplified form with renewed
admiration. This would account in a man of his impulsive
and uncritical temperament for the deep impression which
Montaigne's views appear to have now made on him compared
with the comparatively few traces of their influence that we
find in Les trois Verites.

The object of La Sagesse is to teach man to se bien
connaitre, bien vivre et bien mourir, which according to
Montaigne is the aim of all education and instruction-'. The
First book 3 accordingly begins with what is meant to be a
complete physiological and psychological account of man, of
which the most important part, the psychology, is mainly
borrowed, often word for word, from Du Vair's La philosophic
morale des Stoiques*. This is followed by a more general
consideration of man, firstly in comparison with other animals,
secondly in his life, and thirdly in his morals, the whole ol this

1 See A. Delboulle, Charron plagiaire de Montaigne in Rev. (Thist. litt. VII.

(1900), pp. 184 ff.
- Essais, I. xxv.

3 Le premier livre enseigne a se cognoistre et Vhumain
fondement de Sagesse.

4 cc. 18—33 : CC. 15 and 16 are from Du Vair's Trait,


part being a rechauffe of Montaigne's tirades on the vanity of
human nature in a highly dogmatic and exaggerated form 1 .
Man emerges from Charron's hands lower than the beasts ;
vain, inconstant, incapable of attaining either to virtue or to
truth, steeped in misery, and, worst of all, with a presumptuous
belief in himself as the centre of the universe. Never was the
vanity of human nature proclaimed in such tones of arrogant
and uncompromising assertion as by this professor of scepti-
cism. The rest of the First book is occupied with an
account of man as a social and political being, for which
Charron is largely indebted to Bodin.

It will thus be seen that the words of the preface, quoted
above, are in strict accordance with the facts. The only
original feature of the first book is " the form and the order,"
and for this Charron is entitled to some credit. If M.
Bonnefon's remark that " he has an instinct for psychology "
is too favourable, since his psychology is mostly borrowed, it
may be said with perfect truth that he has an instinct for
classification. He revels in divisions and subdivisions and
tabulated statements-, which is all the more remarkable in an
ardent admirer of Montaigne, and in one who grew up to
manhood in an age when method and order were the last
things with which writers concerned themselves.

The Second book of La Sagesse is at once the shortest and
the most interesting. Having shewn what man is, Charron
now proceeds to guide him on the path to Wisdom. He must
first free himself from all vices and passions, from all popular
errors and prejudices, and thus acquire complete liberty both
of judgment and will. He will then be ready, like a clean
sheet of paper, to receive the impressions of Wisdom. Now
the principal and essential part of Wisdom is prucThomie or
probity, and true flnid'/tomie consists in following nature,
which is the first and fundamental law of God. " Men are
naturally good." But Charron has already told us at great
length that men are naturally bad, and that they are incapable
of virtue or knowledge. How does he reconcile this glaring

1 cc. 34—40.

2 Des divisions de Cliarron qui attristent et ennuient. Pascal. Pen


contradiction ? As we have seen, the same contradiction is
practically to be found in Montaigne, who writes with equal
eloquence on the vanity of man and on the excellence of
nature and reason. But Montaigne never dreamt of giving
to the world a complete system of philosophy and did
not in the least mind being inconsistent. He wrote as
his fancy prompted him, now as a sceptic, now as an
admirer of Stoic morality. But when his " vagabond : '
thoughts are arranged and classified, when they are repeated
with the exaggeration of a rhetorician and the dogmatism of
a preacher, then the inconsistencies assume a different aspect.
Had Charron contented himself with constructing on
lines a system of positive morality independent of revealed
religion he might have deserved all the praise which some
writers bestow on him. But before proceeding to build
he carefully undermined his foundations, and the result is
an edifice, of fair proportions indeed, but tottering to its

The Third book treats of the four cardinal virtues, and a
good deal of it is mere repetition of what has gone befi ire.
One of the chapters deals with education but is little more
than an orderly arrangement of Montaigne's fruitful but
somewhat disconnected ideas. It is characteristic of the
distorted and exaggerated form that Charron gives to his
master's utterances that he says, that learning and wisdom are
as a rule incompatible, and that with very few exceptions a
learned man is never wise and a wise man never learned 1 .
Charron's style is clear, logical, and fairly expressive. Hut it
is emphatically the style of a trained rhetorician, verbose and
diffuse, somewhat monotonous, and with little or no charm.

It has been not unnaturally asked whether this dignitary
of the Church and successful preacher, who published in the
same year as De la Sagessc a volume of sermons entitled
Discoitrs chrestiens, was a traitor within the Christian camp or
a blunderer who did not comprehend the drift of hi- own

1 III. c. xiv. § 14. Another characteristic of the differ """<

and his master is the inscription which he put
Condom— Je ne scay, instead of Que scay-jc?


book. I believe the latter to be the true explanation. In
spite of the reckless and all-embracing scepticism of De la
Sagesse, there are passages in it which shew that Charron was at
heart an orthodox Christian 1 . Though in writing his book he
was partly prompted by a foolish ambition to pose as an
esprit fort, he had also another motive, which in itself was
most praiseworthy. This was to provide a system of moral
conduct for those persons who either disbelieved in revealed
religion altogether, or regarded it as having no concern with
conduct and morality. For the divorce between religion and
morality was, as Charron saw, the crying evil of the day, the
very root of the rottenness and moral decay which were eating
out the heart of France. Probity without religion, and religion
without probity, are, he declared, alike insufficient. But his
proposed remedy is characteristic of his want of real insight.
Instead of pointing out that the Christian religion is concerned
with conduct, and that the true Christian must necessarily be
an honest man and a good citizen, he maintains that piety and
probity, religion and prudlwmie belong to wholly different
spheres, and that, though these must be united, they must
not be confused 2 . First acquire probity and then add to this
the grace of piety. First become a honest man and then
become a Christian. Moreover this attempt to construct a
moral code on Stoic lines independently of revealed religion
and of the rewards and punishments of a future life was,
however praiseworthy, not original, for it had been already
made by Du Vair.

It was the sceptical side of Charron's book which gave it
popularity, and made it as great a favourite as the Essays
with the sceptics of the next generation, with La Mothe le
Vayer and Gassendi, with Saint-Evremond and Ninon de
Lenclos. But the era of orthodoxy which began with the
personal government of Louis XIV was fatal to Charron's
reputation, and no edition of De la Sagesse was published
between 1663 and 1769 2 . In England his fame was of longer

1 As for instance liv. n. c. iii. §§ 21, 22, where he treats of repentance in a
much more Christian spirit than Montaigne.
- II. c. v. §§ 25—28.


duration, and he found favour alike with orthodox and sceptic.
A future Dean of Canterbury, George Stanhope, translated
De la Sagesse 1 ; Bolingbroke often refers to him ; while Pope,
doubtless on the authority of Bolingbroke, couples in his verse
Montaigne with " more sage Charron." It was however left
to Buckle in the nineteenth century to proclaim in sober prose
that " on the most important subjects Charron was a bolder
and deeper thinker than Montaigne-.'"

Guillaume du Vair 3 , to whom Charron was indebted for
some of his borrowed plumes, is, at any rate from the
historical point of view, the most important writer of this
period of transition. On the one hand he touches Pasquier,
La Noue, and the Satire Menippee, on the other Malherbe,
St Francois de Sales, Balzac, and Descartes. On Malherbe
indeed, with whom he was intimate when the)- were both
living at Aix in Provence, he exercised, as M. Brunot has
shewn, an appreciable influence. He was born in 1556. aiul
having adopted, first an ecclesiastical, and then a legal career,
was appointed in 1584 a councillor of the Paris Parliament.
On the death of Henry III he was compelled to stay in Paris
by the paralytic condition of his father. Siding at first with
the moderate or national section of the Leaguers he before
long joined the party of the Politiques. As one of the
deputies for Paris at the Estates of 1593 he protested against
the proposal of the Spanish Leaguers to violate the Salic
law by conferring the crown on the Spanish Infanta, ami
a few days later the Parliament of Paris passed, <>n his
initiative, a resolution in favour of maintaining that law.
It was on this occasion that he delivered his most famous

His principal writings all belong to this dark period of

1 3 vols. 1697. Stanhope was a Fellow of Kir , Cambridg

like Charron a successful preacher. There is an older translation by -
Lennard, the friend of Sir Philip Sidney, who was with In... at the battle of

- History of Civilisation in England, l. 475 '•'■ M ■ Stopfer <!

point, out that the passage which Hackle adduces as evide. ■ « harroni

superiority is borrowed from Bodin.

a b. 1556— d. 1621.


his country's fortunes when it came near to becoming a
dependence of Spain. Thus they are all more or less inspired
by a sense of the nation's peril. His earliest treatises are
little more than attempts to find in literature and philosophy
a distraction from the public ills, but his later ones have a
definite message of hope and encouragement for his country-
men. La sainte philosophic^ belongs to the former class : the
latter may be said to open with a translation of the Enchiridion,
or manual, of Epictetus, pour affermir nos esprits en un tcl
temps que cestuy-ci. This was followed by LaplulosopJiie morale
des Stoiques, based, for the most part, on the teaching of
Epictetus, but coloured by the writer's own Christianity. In
a notable passage he exhorts his readers to patriotism, saying
that the love of country should come next to the love of God.
The same note is struck in the Exhortation a la vie civile,
a short treatise of a dozen pages addressed to a certain
M. de L. 2 , who contemplated retiring to a monastery in order
to avert his gaze from the horrors of the civil wars and to
spend the rest of his life in the service of God. From this
course Du Vair strongly dissuades him, urging the claims of
his unhappy country and the duty of not giving way to

The same topic forms the governing idea of his longest
and most important treatise, De la Constance et consolation
es calamitcz pnbliqnes. Written apparently in September or
October, 1590 3 , it consists of three dialogues which the writer
and three friends (whom he calls Musee, Orphee, and Linus)
are supposed to have held during the siege of Paris 4 . The
first dialogue contains an eloquent passage on the mutability
of human things, and on the consequent decay which inevit-
ably awaits all kingdoms and empires. Possibly, says the

1 His earliest treatise, Meditation sur sept Pseaumes, is dedicated to M. de
Breye, Bishop of Meaux, who died in 1588. This was followed by La saiute
philosophic (see prefatory epistle), dedicated to his father, who died in 1592.

2 According to M. Cougny his name was Lomenie.

3 Christophe de Thou, who died on November 1, 1582, is referred to as
having been dead nearly eight years. The treatise was not published, so far as
we know, till 1594.

4 April to end of August, 1590.


writer, France too is approaching the end of her term, but
she has recovered from equally severe maladies, and there is
great hope from the courage and the clemency of her lawful
king, Henry IV. The second dialogue is of a more philo-
sophical character, dealing with the difficult and still unsolved
problems of necessity and free-will, of the Divine government
of the world, of the existence of evil, and of the punishment
of the innocent for the sins of their predecessors. The third
dialogue opens with a criticism on those who make submis-
sion to providence a pretext for not attempting to stem
public calamities ; and this leads to an interesting apol
on behalf of those who while opposed to the League
and recognising Henry IV as their lawful monarch found
themselves compelled by circumstances to remain in Paris.
Finally, one of the speakers gives an account of the death of
Christophe de Thou, the First President of the Paris Parlia-
ment and the father of the historian, putting into his mouth
a remarkable discourse in which are to be found the germ of
the Cartesian doctrine of intuitive knowledge and an eloquent
demonstration of immortality based on the spiritual nature
of the soul.

Du Vair's next treatise is of a totally different character,
but it deals with a subject which his former writings shew that
he was well qualified to treat. It was entitled De {'eloquence
francoise et des raisons et pourquoy elk est demcttrcc si basse', and
must have been written either in 1592 or early in 15
Du Vair assigns two reasons for the inferiority of French
eloquence, the practice of interlarding speeches with quota-
tions from classical writers, and the want of emotion on the
part of the speakers. He recommends as essential studies
for the orator dialectic, ethics, and psychology, but he
considers the imitation of the finest speeches ol antiquity
more helpful than any manual of rhetoric. With tin's i
he has appended to his treatise translations of three famous

1 It was written after the death of President Bri 1591)1 «>d before

the conversion of Henry IV (July 1593), and was published, without
name, by Abel L'Angelier, before March 1.= , 1594 (Pasquier, 10).

The earliest known edition is of 1595'


speeches, that of Demosthenes On the Crown, that of
^Eschines Against Ctesipfion, and that of Cicero On behalf
of Milo.

Among the forensic speakers of Du Vair's own day the
highest place was generally assigned to Guy du Faur de
Pibrac 1 . But Du Vair says that his eloquence was marred
by the common fault of making a display of erudition
by long quotations from ancient authors. We learn from
Estienne Pasquier in an interesting chapter of the RecJier-
cJics de la France' 1 that the originator of this practice was
Christophe de Thou. There was no greater offender than
his successor as First President, the great Achille de Harlay,
and another offender, according to Du Vair, was Barnabe
Brisson, the unfortunate President who was hung by the

The reputation of the above-mentioned speakers was
chiefly gained on the Bench. Among those who adorned the
Bar Du Vair mentions Pierre Versoris, who was celebrated
for his speech on behalf of the Jesuits in their famous lawsuit
with the University (1565 ) :! , Jacques Faye, seigneur d'Espesse,
Claude Mangot, and his son Jacques 4 . But he says nothing
either of Versoris's more famous opponent, Estienne Pasquier 5 ,
or of Pasquier's friend, Antoine Loisel 6 , who wrote an account
of the contemporary Bar under the title of Pasquier on
Dialogue des Advocats du Parlemcnt de Paris'. Nor does
he mention Simon Marion, whose reputation stood perhaps
highest of all. Cardinal du Perron declared that he believed
him to be the greatest advocate since Cicero 8 . Another

1 See ante, pp. 43 — 45.

'-' IV. c. 27 and cf. Lettrcs, VII. 12.

:1 His real name was Le Tourneur.

4 Cf. Pasquier, Recherches, loc. at.

5 See A. Demarche, L 1 University de Paris et les Jesuites, 1888, pp. 77—88.
Pasquier's speech is printed in his Recherches, book III. c. 44 ; and that of
Versoris, though apparently only in a summary form, in the Amsterdam edition
of Pasquier's (Euvres, I. 1102 ff.

8 b. 1536— d. 161 7.

7 1652; ed. Dupin aine in Loisel's Opuscules, 1844.

8 Depuis Ciceron je crois qiCil ny a pas eu cfavocat tel qtte lui, cited by
Sainte-Beuve, Port-Royal, 6th ed. I. 61.


advocate of high repute as a speaker was Marion's son-
in-law, Antoine Arnaud, who made his reputation after
the publication of Du Vair's treatise as counsel for the
University of Paris in their second action against the Jesuits.
His speech, which someone wittily called the original sin of
the Arnaud family, is, like his pamphlet, the Anti-Espagnol\
a passionate invective 2 . It contains several passages of bad
taste, but this is a fault which Arnaud shares with nearly
every writer of his age, and with the greatest speakers of all
ages, with Demosthenes, Cicero, and Burke.

Of the two other branches of his subject, political and

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