had no friend to comfort him, no enemy to give tone to his
life. Compelled to live in himself alone, having no one to
share his subtle raptures, he may have hoped to solve the
problem of his destiny by a life of ecstasy, adopting an
almost vegetative attitude, like an anchorite of the early
Church, and abdicating the empire of the intellectual world.
This letter seems to hint at such a scheme, which is a
temptation to all lofty souls at periods of social reform.
But is not this purpose, in some cases, the result of a voca-
tion? Do not some of them endeavor to concentrate their
powers by long silence, so as to emerge fully capable of gov-
erning the world by word or by deed ? Louis must, assuredly,
have found much bitterness in his intercourse with men, or
have striven hard with Society in terrible irony, without ex-
tracting anything from it, before uttering so strident a cry,
and expressing, poor fellow, the desire which satiety of
LOUIS LAMBERT 207
power and of all earthly things has led even monarchs to
And perhaps, too, he went back to solitude to carry out
some great work that was floating inchoate in his, brain. We
would gladly believe it as we read this fragment of his
thoughts, betraying the struggle of his soul at the time when
youth was ending and the terrible power of production was
coming into being, to which we might have owed the works of
This letter connects itself with the adventure at the theatre.
The incident and the letter throw light on each other, body
and soul were tuned to the same pitch. This tempest of
doubts and asseverations, of clouds and of lightnings that
flash before the thunder, ending by a starved yearning for
heavenly illumination, throws such a light on the third phase
of his education as enables us to understand it perfectly. As
we read these lines, written at chance moments, taken up
when the vicissitudes of life in Paris allowed, may we not
fancy that we see an oak at that stage of its growth when
its inner expansion bursts the tender green bark, cover-
ing it with wrinkles and cracks, when its majestic stature
is in preparation — if indeed the lightnings of heaven and
the axe of man shall spare it?
This letter, then, will close, alike for the poet and the
philosopher, this portentous childhood and unappreciated
youth. It finishes off the outline of this nature in its germ.
Philosophers will regret the foliage frost-nipped in the bud;
but they will, perhaps, find the flowers expanding in regions
far above the highest places of the earth.
" Paris, September-October 1819.
"Dear Uncle, — I shall soon be leaving this part of the
world, where I could never bear tq live. I find no one here
who likes what I like, who works at my work, or is amazed
at what amazes me. Thrown back on myself, I eat my heart
out in misery. My long and patient study of Society here
has brought me to melancholy conclusions, in which doubt
208 LOUIS LAMBERT
"Here, money is the mainspring of everything. Money
is indispensable, even for going without money. But though
that dross is necessary to any one who wishes to think in
peace, I have not courage enough to make it the sole motive
power of my thoughts. To make a fortune, I must take up
a profession ; in two words, I must, by acquiring some privi-
lege of position or of self-advertisement, either legal or in-
geniously contrived, purchase the right of taking day by day
out of somebody else's purse a certain sum which, by the
end of the year, would amount to a small capital; and this,
in twenty years, would hardly secure an income of four or
five thousand francs to a man who deals honestly. An advo-
cate, a notary, a merchant, any recognized professional, has
earned a living for his later days in the course of fifteen or
sixteen years after ending his apprenticeship.
"But I have never felt fit for work of this kind. I prefer
thought to action, an idea to a transaction, contemplation to
activity. I am absolutely devoid of the constant attention
indispensable to the making of a fortune. Any mercantile
venture, any need for using other people's money would bring
me to grief, and I should be ruined. Though I have nothing,
at least at the moment, I owe nothing. The man who gives
his life to the achievement of great things in the sphere of
intellect, needs very little; still, though twenty sous a day
would be enough, I do not possess that small income for my
laborious idleness. When I wish to cogitate, want drives me
out of the sanctuary where my mind has its being. What is
to become of me?
"I am not frightened at poverty. If it were not that beg-
gars are imprisoned, branded, scorned, I would beg, to enable
me to solve at my leisure the problems tliat haunt me. Still,
this sublime resignation, by which I might emancipate my
mind, through abstracting it from the body, would not serve
my end. I should still need money to devote myself to certain
experiments. But for that, I would accept the outward in-
digence of a sage possessed of both heaven and earth. A man
Deed only never stoop, to remain lofty in poverty. He who
LOUIS LAMBERT 209
struggles and endures, while marching on to a glorious end,
presents a noble spectacle; but who can have the strength to
fight here ? We can climb cliffs, but it is unendurable to re-
main for ever tramping the mud. Everything here checks
the flight of a spirit that strives towards the future.
"I should not be afraid of myself in a desert cave; I am
afraid of myself here. In the desert I should be alone with
myself, undisturbed; here man has a thousand wants which
drag him down. You go out walking, absorbed in dreams;
the voice of the beggar asking an alms brings you back to
this world of hunger and thirst. You need money only to
take a walk. Your organs of sense, perpetually wearied by
trifles, never get any rest. The poet's sensitive nerves are
perpetually shocked, and what ought to be his glory becomes
his torment; his imagination is his crudest enemy. The
injured workman, the poor mother in childbed, the prostitute
who has fallen ill, the foundling, the infirm and aged — even
vice and crime here find a refuge and charity; but the world
is merciless to the inventor, to the man who thinks. Here
everything must show an immediate and practical result.
Fruitless attempts are mocked at, though they may lead to the
greatest discoveries; the deep and untiring study that de-
mands long concentration of every faculty is not valued here.
The State might pay talent as it pays the bayonet; but it
is afraid of being taken in by mere cleverness, as if genius
could be counterfeited for any length of time.
. "Ah, my dear uncle, when monastic solitude was destroyed,
uprooted from its home at the foot of mountains, under green
and silent shade, asylums ought to have been provided for
those suffering souls who, by an idea, promote the progress
of nations or prepare some new and fruitful development of
" September 20th.
"The love of study brought me hither, as you know. I
have met really learned ]iien, amazing for the most part ; but
the lack of unity in scientific work almost nullifies their
210 LOUIS LAMBERT
offorts. There is no Head of instruction or of scientific re-
sea-rch. At the Museum a professor argues to prove that
another in the Rue Saint-Jacques talks nonsense. The lec-
turer at the College of Medicine abuses him of the College
de France. When I first arrived, I went to hear an old
Academician who taught five hundred youths that Corneille
was a haughty and powerful genius; Eacine, elegiac and
graceful; Moliere, inimitable; Voltaire, supremely witty;
Bossuet and Pascal, incomparable in argument. A professor
of philosophy may make a name by explaining how Plato
is Platonic. Another discourses on the history of words,
without troubling himself about ideas. One explains
^.schylus, another tells you that communes were communes,
and neither more nor less. These original and brilliant dis-
coveries, diluted to last several hours, constitute the higher
education which is to lead to giant strides in human knowl-
"If the Government could have an idea, I shoulc. suspect
it of being afraid of any real superiority, which, once roused,
might bring Society under the yoke of an intelligent rule.
Then nations would go too far and too fast; so professors
are appointed to produce simpletons. How else can we ac-
count for a scheme devoid of method or any notion of the
"The Institut might be the central government of the moral
and intellectual world; but it has been ruined lately by its
subdivision into separate academies. So human science
marches on, without a guide, without a system, and floats
haphazard with no road traced out.
"This vagueness and uncertainty prevails in politics as
well as in science. In the order of nature means are simple,
the end is grand and marvelous; here in science, as in gov-
ernment, the means are stupendous, the end is mean. The
force which in nature proceeds at an equal pace, and of which
the sum is constantly being added to itself — the A-|-A from
which everything is produced — is destructive in society.
Politics^ at the present time, place human forces in antago-
LOUIS LAMBERT 211
nism to neutralize each other, instead of combining them to
promote their action to some definite end.
"Looking at Europe alone, from Csesar to Constantine,
from the puny Constantine to the great Attila, from the
Huns to Charlemagne, from Charlemagne to Leo X., from
Leo X. to Philip II., from Philip II. to Louis XIV.; from
Venice to England, from England to Napoleon, from Napo-
leon to England, I see no fixed purpose in politics; its con-,
stant agitation has led to no progress. (
"Nations leave witnesses to their greatness in monuments,
and to their happiness in the welfare of individuals. Are
modern monuments as fine as those of the ancients ? I doubt
it. The arts, which are the direct outcome of the individual,
the products of genius or of handicraft, have not advanced
much. The pleasures of Lucullus were as good as those of
Samuel Bernard, of Beaujon, or of the King of Bavaria.
And then human longevity has diminished.
"Thus, to those who will be candid, man is still the same;
might is his only law, and success his only wisdom.
"Jesus Christ, Mahomet, and Luther only lent a different
hue to the arena in which youthful nations disport them-
"No development of politics has hindered civilization, with
its riches, its manners, its alliance of the strong against the
weak, its ideas, and its delights, from moving from Memphis
to Tyre, from Tyre to Baalbek, from Tadmor to Carthage,
from Carthage to Rome, from Rome to Constantinople, from
Constantinople to Venice, from Venice to Spain, from Spain
to England — while no trace is left of Memphis, of Tyre, of
Carthage, of Rome, of Venice, or Madrid. The soul of those
great bodies has fled. Not one of them has preserved itself
from destruction, nor formulated this axiom : When the effect
produced ceases to be in a ratio to its cause, disorganization
"The most subtle genius can discover no common bond
between great social facts. No political theory has ever lasted.
Governments pass away, as men do, without handing down
212 LOUIS LAMBEJlT
any lesson, and no system gives birth to a system better than
that which came before it. What can we say about politics
when a Government directly referred to God perished in
India and Eg}'pt ; when the rule of the Sword and of the
Tiara are past ; when Monarchy is dying ; when the Govern-
ment of the People has never been alive; when no scheme
of intellectual power as applied to material interests has ever
proved durable, and everything at this day remains to be done
all over again, as it has been at every period when man
has turned to cry out, 'I am in torment !'
"The code, which is considered Napoleon's greatest achieve-
ment, is the most Draconian work I know of. Territorial
subdivision carried out to the uttermost, and its principle
confirmed by the equal division of property generally, must
result in the degeneracy of the nation and the death of the
Arts and Sciences. The land, too much broken up, is culti-
vated only with cereals and small crops; the forests, and
consequently the rivers, are disappearing; oxen and horses
are no longer bred. Means are In eking both for attack and
for resistance. If we should be invaded, the people must
be crushed; it has lost its mainspring — its leaders. This is
the historv' of deserts !
"Thus the science of politics has no definite principles,
and it can have no fixity; it is the spirit of the hour, the
perpetual application of strength proportioned to the neces-
sities of the moment. The man who should foresee two cen-
turies ahead would die on the place of execution, loaded with
the imprecations of the mob, or else — which seems worse — •
would be lashed with the myriad whips of ridicule. Nations
are but individuals, neither wiser nor stronger than man, and
their destinies are identical. If we reflect on man, is not
that to consider mankind ?
"By studying the spectacle of society perpetually storm-
tossed in its foundations as well as in its results, in its causes
as well as in its actions, while philanthropy is but a splendid
mistake, and progress is vanity, I have been confirmed in
this truth: Ijife is within and not without ns; to rise above
LOUIS LAMBERT 213
men, to govern them, is only the part of an aggrandized school-
master; and those men who are capable of rising to the level
whence they can enjoy a view of the world should not look at
their own feet.
" November 4th.
"I am no donbt ocenpied with weighty thoughts, I am on
the way to certain discoveries, an invincible power bears me
toward a luminary which shone at an early age on the dark-
ness of my moral life ; but what name can I give to the power
that ties my hands and shuts my mouth, and drags me in a
direction opposite to my vocation? I must leave Paris, bid
farewell to the books in the libraries, those noble centres of
illumination, those kindly and always accessible sages, and
the younger geniuses with whom I sympathize. Who is it
that drives me away? Chance or Providence?
"The two ideas represented by those words are irrecon-
cilable. If Chance does not exist, we must admit fatalism,
that is to say, the compulsory co-ordination of things under
the rule of a general plan. Why then do we rebel ? If man
is not free, what becomes of the scaffolding of his moral
sense? Or, if he can control his destin}^, if by his own free-
will he can interfere with the execution of the general plan,
what becomes of God ?
"Why did I come here? If I examine myself, I find the
answer: I find in myself axioms that need developing. But
why then have I such vast faculties without being suffered
to use them? If my suffering could serve as an example, I
could understand it ; but no, I suffer unknown.
"This is perhaps as much the act of Providence as the
fate of the flower that dies unseen in the heart of the virgin
forest, where no one can enjoy its perfume or admire its
splendor. Just as that blossom vainly sheds its fragrance
to the solitude, so do I, here in a garret, give birth to ideas
that no one can grasp.
"Yesterday evening I sat eating bread and grapes in front
of my window with a young doctor named Meyraux. We
214 LOUIS LAMBERT
talked as men do whom misfortune has joined in brotherhood,
and I said to him :
"'I am going away; you are staying. Take up my ideas
and develop them.'
" 'I cannot !' said he, with bitter regret ; '^my feeble health
cannot stand so much work, and I shall die young of my
struggle with penury.'
"We looked up at the sky and grasped hands. We first
met at the Comparative Anatomy course, and in the galleries
of the Museum, attracted thither by the same study — the
unity of geological structure. In him this was the presenti-
ment of genius sent to open a new path in the fallows of in-
tellect ; in me it was a deduction from a general system.
"My point is to ascertain the real relation that may exist
between God and man. Is not this a need of the age ? With-
out the highest assurance, it is impossible to put bit and bridle
on the social factions that have been let loose by the spirit of
scepticism and discussion, and which are now crying aloud :
'Show us a way in which we may walk and find no pitfalls
in our way !'
"You will wonder what comparative anatomy has to do
with a question of such importance to the future of society.
Must we not attain to the conviction that man is the end of
all earthly means before we ask whether he too is not the
means to some end? If man is bound up with everything,
is there not something above him with which he again is
bound up ? If he is the end-all of the unexplained transmuta-
tions that lead up to him, must he not be also the link between
the visible and invisible creations?
"The activity of the universe is not absurd; it must tend
to an end, and that end is surely not a social body constituted
as ours is'! There is a fearful gulf between us and heaven.;
In our present existence we can neither be always happy nor\
always in torment; must there not be some tremendous
change to bring about Paradise and Hell, two images without
which God cannot exist to the mind of the vulgar? I know
that a compromise was made by the invention of the Soul;
LOUIS LAMBERT 215
but it is repugnant to me to make God answerable for human
baseness, for our disenehantments, our aversions, our de-
"Again, how can we recognize as divine the principle within
us which can be overthrown by a few glasses of rum ? How
conceive of immaterial faculties which matter can conquer,
and whose exercise is suspended by a grain of opium? How
imagine that we shall be able to feel when we are bereft of
the vehicles of sensation? Why must God perish if matter-
can be proved to think? Is the vitality of matter in its in-
numerable manifestations — the effect of its instincts — at all
more explicable than the effects of the mind? Is not the
motion given to the worlds enough to prove God's existence,
without our plunging into absurd speculations suggested
by pride? And if we pass, after our trials, from a perish-
able state of being to a higher existence, is not that enough
for a creature that is distinguished from other creatures only
by more perfect instincts? If in moral philosophy there
is not a single principle which does not lead to the absurd,
or cannot be disproved by evidence, is it not high time that
we should set to work to seek such dogmas as are written in
the innermost nature of things ? Must we not reverse philo-
"We trouble ourselves very little about the supposed void
that mnst have pre-existed for us, and we try to fathom the
supposed void that lies before us. We make God responsible
for the future, but we do not expect Him to account for the
past. And yet it is quite as desirable to know whether we
have any roots in the past as to discover whether we are in-
separable from the future.
"We have been Deists or Atheists in one direction only.
"Is the world eternal? Was the world created? We can
conceive of no middle term between these two propositions;
one, then, is. true and the other false! Take your choice.
Whichever it may be, God, as our reason depicts Him, must
be deposed, and that amounts to denial. The world is
eternal: then, beyond question, God has had it forced upon
216 LOUIS LAMBERT
Him. The world was created: then God is an impossibility.
How could He have subsisted through an eternity, not know-
ing that He would presently want to create the world ? How
could He have failed to foresee all the results ?
"Whence did He derive the essence of creation ? Evidently
from Himself. If, then, the world proceeds from God, how
can you account for evil? That Evil should proceed from
Good is absurd. If evil does not exist, what do you make of
social life and its laws ? On all hands we find a precipice !
On every side a gulf in which reason is lost ! Then social
science must be altogether reconstructed.
"Listen to me, uncle ; until some splendid genius shall have
taken account of the obvious inequality of intellects and the
general sense of humanity, the word God will be constantly
arraigned, and Society will rest on shifting sands. The
secret of the various moral zones through which man passes
will be discovered by the analysis of the animal type as a
whole. That animal type has hitherto been studied with
reference only to its differences, not to its similitudes; in its
organic manifestations, not in its faculties. Animal faculties
are perfected in direct transmission, in obedience to laws
which remain to be discovered. These faculties correspond
to the forces which express them, and those forces are essen-
tially material and divisible.
"Material faculties ! Reflect on this juxtaposition of words.
Is not this a problem as insoluble as that of the first com-
munication of motion to matter — an unsounded gulf of which
the difficulties were transposed rather than removed by New-
ton's system? Again, the universal assimilation of light by
everything that exists on earth demands a new study of our
globe. The same animal differs in the tropics of India and in
the North. Under the angular or the vertical incidence of
the sun's rays nature is developed the same, but not the same;
identical in its principles, but totally dissimilar in its out-
come. The phenomenon that amazes our eyes in the zoolog-
ical world when we compare the butterflies of Brazil with
those of Europe, is even more startling in the world of Mind.
LOUIS LAMBERT 21?
A pai'ticular facial angle, a certain amount of brain convolu-
tions, are indispensable to produce Columbus, Raphael, Napo-
leon, Tiaplace, or Beetiioven; the sunless valley produces the
cretin — draw your own conclusions. Why such differences,
due to the more or less ample diffusion of light to men? The
masses of suffering humanity, more or less active, fed, and en-
lightened, are a difficulty to be accounted for, crying out
"Why in great joy do we always want to quit the earth?
whence comes the longing to rise which every creature has
known or will know ? Motion is a great soul, and its alliance
with matter is just as difficult to account for as the origin of
thought in man. In these days science is one; it is impossible
to touch politics independent of moral questions, and these
are bound up with scientific questions. It seems to me that
we are on the eve of a great human struggle; the forces are
there; only I do not see the General.
"Believe me, dear uncle, it is hard to give up the life that is
in us without a pang. I am returning to Blois with a heavy
grip at my heart ; I shall die then, taking with me some useful
truths. iSTo personal interest debases my regrets. Is earthly
fame a guerdon to those who believe that they will mount
to a higher sphere?
"I am by no means in love with the two syllables Lam
and he7-t; whether spoken with respect or with contempt over
my grave, they can make no change in my ultimate destiny.
I feel myself strong and energetic ; I might become a power ;
I feel in myself a life so luminous that it might enlighten a
world, and yet I am shut up in a sort of mineral, as perhaps
indeed are the colors you admire on the neck of an Indian
bird. I should need to embrace the whole world, to clasp
and re-create it ; but those who have done this, who have thus
embraced and remoulded it began — did they not? — by being
a wheel in the machine. I can only be crushed. Mahomet
had the sword; Jesus had the cross; I shall die unknown. 1
shall be at Blois for a day, and then in my coffm.
218 LOUIS LAMBEKT
"Do you know why I have come back to Swedenborg after
vast studies of all religions, and after proving to myself, by
reading all the works published within the last sixty years
by the patient English, by Germany, and by France, how
deeply true were my youthful views about the Bible?
Swedenborg undoubtedly epitomizes all the religions — or
rather the one religion — of humanity. Though forms of
worship are infinitely various, neither their true meaning noi
their metaphysical interpretation has ever varied. In short.,
man has, and has had, but one religion.
"Sivaism, Vishnuism,aud Brahmanism,the three primitive
creeds, originating as they did in Thibet, in the valley of the
Indus, and on the vast plains of the Ganges, ended their war-
fare some thousand years before the birth of Christ by adopt-