"This was done," adds Pascal's niece simply.
** The success it had is well known, and the work
"The success it had," — it and its seventeen succes-
sors — was imminse. Perhaps no literary success was
262 Sister anU Saint,
ever more im-nediate — and probably no series of
eighteen letters ever more completely reversed the
public sentiment of a nation. Jansenism and Jes-
uitism, as they had been known in these interminable
theological debates, for so many years, were matters
of indifference to a large proportion of the population.
But these letters ! — everybody wanted to read them.
The court ladies laughed over their satires. The keen,
clear-headed French middle classes enjoyed their sharp,
unerring truthfulness. Thinking people were con-
vinced by their arguments. Unthinking people were
carried away by their eloquence. " By his inimitable
pleasantry, Pascal succeeded in making even the dullest
matters of scholastic theology and Jesuitical casuistry
as attractive to the people as a comedy ; and, by his
little volume, did more to render this formidable So-
ciety the contempt of Europe than was ever done by
all its other enemies put together."*
"They killed the Jesuits," says Sainte-Beuve. "I
say killed deliberately. I know the Jesuits still live,
and, in some respects, prosper. But I maintain that
they are slain in the sense that they are forever fallen
from the center of action which they occupied, and
have lost the access to the government of the world."
" It was a shaft from a bow doubly strung," says an-
' Henry Rogers, ay hor of " The Eclipse of Faith."
The Masterpiece arid the Miracle. 263
other writer,* — "strung with genius and piety, and
his enemies could not recover."
The Chancellor of the Jesuit College was so en-
raged at the effect of the letters that his physicians
ordered him to be bled seven times. And far off in
the provinces ecclesiastical councils which had met
to censure Arnauld changed their minds and censured
the Jesuits instead.
Margaret Perier gives us a glimpse of her uncle's
life while he was writing these immortal letters :
" He went to an inn, where he was not known, and
remained there at work under the name of M. de
Mons." (The old home at Clermont and the Piiy du
Dome were not forgotten). " M. Perier, his brother-
in-law, took lodgings in the same inn as a stranger
from the country, not letting the relationship be
One day they were very near discovery. Father
Defretal, a Jesuit, a friend and relative of M. Perier's,
called on the latter to give him a friendly warning.
" He said that the Society of Jesuits were firmly
persuaded that M. Pascal, his brother-in-law, was the
author of those * little letters ' which were having such
a run in Paris, and that M. Perier would do well to
warn him and advise him to stop writing them or he
might find himself in trouble."
* Essay in the North British Peview,
264 Sister afkl Saint.
After a long call, " the Jesuit went away, repeating
that M. Pascal ought to be warned and to beware.
M. Perier was greatly relieved at his departure, foi
at that very moment there were spread out upon his
bed to dry a score of copies of the seventh or eighth
letter. A Jesuit brother, who had accompanied
Father Defretal, sat very near the bed, but luckily
the curtains were drawn and the papers were not dis-
covered. M. Perier at once ran up-stairs to tell M
Pascal, whose room was overhead, though the Jesuits
had no idea of his being so near them."
Neither had the Jesuits any idea where these let-
ters were printed, though they tried hard to find out,
for, with equal boldness and sagacity, Pascal had them
printed under the very shadow of the Jesuit college.
Some of the Port Royal gentlemen, who, though
scattered, were in frequent communication, had doubts
as to the propriety of using these carnal weapons of
ivit and satire in defense of the truth. Good Abb6
Singlin, in particular, thought that " merriment was
out of place when applied to religious subjects."
As for Pascah himself, ascetic and sufferer that he
was, it was probable the sure instinct of genius
rather than any personal delight in mirth that led
n.'m to unsheathe this shining blade. " When we
regard his life, so afflicted, sad, and short," says Vil-
lemain, " we can scarcely understand that super-
abundance of humor with which this man floods the
The Masterpiece and the Miracle. 265
arid fields of scholasticism." Yet we can not help
thinking that he must have thoroughly and heartily-
enjoyed himself for once, as he gave free play to all
those varied powers he had been trying so long to
cramp and kill.
He defends himself for the use of satire and for his
entire mode of attack, in this passage of the sixteenth
" I was asked if I repented having written ' Les
Provinciales.' I reply that, far from having repented,
if I had to write them now, I would write even more
strongly. I was asked why I have given the names
of the authors from whom I have taken all the abon;
inable propositions I have cited. I answer, that if 1
lived in a city where there were a dozen fountains,
and if I certainly knew that one of them was poisoned,
I should be obliged to warn everybody to draw no
water from that fountain ; and, as they might think
it pure imagination on my part, I should be obliged
to name him who had poisoned it, rather than ex-
pose all the city to the danger of being poisoned by
it. I was asked why I had employed a pleasant,
jocose, and diverting style. I reply that if I had
written in a dogmatical style, it would have been
only the learned who would have read, and they
would have had no necessity to do it, being, art: least,
as well acquainted with the subject as myself : thus,
I thought it a duty to write so as to be comprehended
266 Sister and Saint.
by women and men of the world, that they might
know the danger of those maxims and propositions
which were then universally propagated, and of which
they allowed themselves to be so easily persuaded.
" I was asked, lastly, if I had myself read all the
books I have cited. I answer. No ; for in that case
it would have been necessary to have passed my life
in reading very bad books ; but I have read through
the whole of ' Escobar '* twice, and, for the others,
I caused them to be read by my friends. But I have
never used a single passage without having myself
read it in the book cited, or without having examined
the subject on which it is adduced, or without having
read both what precedes and what follows it, in order
that I might not run the risk of quoting what was, in
fact, an objection to a reply to it, which would have
been censurable and unjust."
One of the strongest proofs of the genius of these
letters is the fact that, notwithstanding the difference
in time, in country, in belief, in habits of thought,
they are interesting reading to us to-day,
M. Louis de Montalte, the supposed writer (again
we have a hint of Clermont in the nom de plume), is
an honest provincial gentleman, of much ignorance
and great naivete, who sets out for Paris to gain infor-
mation in regard to the theological disputes of the
age, and particularly the doctrines of the Jesuits.
* A celebrated Spanish Jesuit authority.
The Masterpiece and the Miracle. 267
He addresses himself to a worthy Jesuit father,
who, in his boundless admiration for his own order,
and in the hope of gaining a convert, details without
hesitation — indeed, with triumph — all the arts of
" The arch simplicity with which the provincial
involves the worthy father in the most perplexing
dilemmas — the expressions of unsophisticated aston-
ishment wjiich but prompt his stolid guide eagerly
to make good every assertion by a proper array of
authorities — a device which, as Pascal has used it,
converts what would have been in other hands only
a dull catalogue of citations, into a source of perpetual
amusement — the droll consequences which, with in-
finite affectation of simplicity, he draws from the
Jesuit's doctrines — the logical exigencies into which
the latter is thrown in the attempt to obviate them, —
all these things, managed as only Pascal could have
managed them, render the book as entertaining as
any novel. The form of letters enables him at the
same time to intersperse the most eloquent and glow-
ing invectives against the doctrines he exposes."*
This book of Pascal's is an acknowledged French
classic. Voltaire declared it to be the first work of
genius in French prose. Before Pascal the language
had been heavy, involved. Latinized. Pascal " threw
* Kenry Rogers, author of " Eclipse of Faith."
268 Sister a7id Sai7it,
off the yoke " of Latinism, '' and formed the clear,
exact French." "As Corneille is the father and
founder of French poetry, so is Pascal of French
prose," says Cousin. And Voltaire again remarks
that " Moliere does not excel these letters in wit,
nor Bossuet in sublimity."
A wonderful transparency is the chief character-
istic of Pascal's style. " We see," says Faugere,
" Thought herself arrayed in her own chaste nudity
like an antique statue."
His wit is as delicate as it is keen. " Probably no
one ever knew so well when to stay his hand."*
" The remarkable simplicity which characterizes
Pascal's style is owing to the great labor he bestowed
on his writings."! Nicole says that he often spent
twenty days on a single letter, and some of them
were written seven times over before they satisfied
him. " This letter is a very long one," he once
apologizes, " simply because I had not time to make
The second remarkable event which delayed the
persecution was the wonderful cure ascribed to the
agency of the Holy Thorn.
Margaret Perier, from whose " Memoirs " of her
uncle and aunt we have more than once quoted, was
at this time a child of ten years, a member of the
* Rogers. f Villemain.
The Masterpiece and t'he Miracle. 269
school of Port Royal de Paris. She had been af-
flicted for three years and a half with what was sup-
posed to be fistula lacJirynialis of the left eye. The
bones of the nose were said to be diseased, and the
whole case was a most malignant one, distressing
even to read about. The physicians had made up
their minds to cautery as a last resort, and M. Perier,
who had been absent in Auvergne for a time, was
hastening back to be present at the operation.
Jacqueline tells the story of the cure in a letter to
Madame Perier, dated March 29, 1656:
" Last Friday, M. de la Potherie " (an assiduous
collector of relics) " sent hither a very handsome
reliquary to our Mothers, having within it a splinter
from the sacred crown of thorns, set in a little sun of
gilded silver, in order that the whole community
might enjoy the sight. Before returning it, they had
it placed on a little altar in the choir, and when an
anthem had been chanted in its honor, each sister
went up and kissed it on her knees, and so did the
children, one by one.
" Sister Flavie, their governess, made a sign to Mar-
garet as she drew near, to touch her eye with the
relic, and herself took it up and laid it on the spot,
hardly thinking what she was doing. When all had
retired, it was sent back to M. de la Potherie.
" That same evening. Sister Flavie, who had forgot-
ten the circumstance, heard Margaret say to one of
270 Sister and Saint.
the little girls, ' My eye is cured ; it does not pain me
at all now.' Not a little surprised, she went to the
child, and found that the swelling in the corner of
her eye, which in the morning was as thick as her
fing-er-tip, and very long arid hard, had quite gone
down, and the eye itself appeared as healthy as the
other, and looked precisely like it."
The sisterhood proceeded with their usual calm-
ness and good sense in the matter. Mother Agnes
(Angelique was at des Champs) was informed at once,
and the next day she told Jacqueline Pascal.
They then waited a week, saying nothing about it,
and at the end of that time Jacqueline wrote to the
child's mother; ** It really needs far more faith for any
one who did not see her in her former state to be-
lieve that the eye was diseased than it does for those
who did see her to believe the cure was produced by
The doctor came to see her now, and the child was
brought to him without a word being said. He began
to press, and probe, and examine. " Don't you re-
member what a bad eye I had?" said the little girl.
" That is just what I am trying to find," said the
doctor, " but I see no traces of it."
Thereupon Sister Flavie told him what had hap-
pened. He asked if the cure was instantaneous.
The child confirmed her statement that it. was, upon
which he said he was wilh'ng to declare upon oath
The Masterpiece and the Miracle. 271
that such a cure could not have taken place without
Waiting two weeks longer, seven physicians and
surgeons examined the case and made a report to the
M. Perier, in his great joy, spoke freely about the
matter, and all Paris was soon ringing with the story.
Anne of Austria was at first skeptical, but after send-
ing M. Felix, the king's first surgeon, to make an
examination, she was obliged to accept the universal
verdict. Then the Grand Vicar of the Archbishop of
Paris inquires, approves, and verifies, and the miracle
is publicly sanctioned by the Church,
The Provincial letters had convinced one class of
minds. The miracle convinced another class. Port
Royal all at once became fashionable again. The
church was so crowded at the weekly Friday services
that seats had to be secured months beforehand. The
ladies of the court begged the privilege of making re-
treats at both convents. There were almost daily
conversions to Jansenism. The Queen of Poland, the
Princess Guemenee, the Marquis de Sevigne, and a
long list of dukes and duchesses were among those
who frequently sought retirement in the cloisters,
and, according to Mrs. Schimmelpenninck, " edified
the world by an upright and godly conversation."
The most remarkable conversion was that of the
Duchesse de Longueville, sister of the great Conde.
272 Sister and Saint.
She seems to have become, indeed, a changed wom-
an, and the same is true of her brother and sister, the
Prince and Princess of Conti. " Their houses, reti-
nue, and equipage became marked with strict econ-
omy. Their princely revenues were poured into the
bosom of those whose fortune had been injured by
the late civil war. They did not refuse to make the
most humiliating and public acknowledgments of
their guilt. Nor did they ever afterward spend more
than was absolutely necessary on themselves ; till,
after a lapse of many years, all the provinces injured
by the war had been fully indemnified by their
It is quite beyond the scope of this little book to
discuss the miracle of the " Holy Thorn." Indeed,
we think with Sir James Stephen that " time must
be at some discount with any one who should em-
ploy it in adjusting the balance of improbabilities " in
We know that, as Sainte-Beuve says, " it would have
been impossible for either Blaise or Jacqueline Pascal
to lend themselves to anything like deception," and
it is evident from their letters that they were both
humble believers in the miracle.
Neither could any of the Arnaulds have been
parties to the deception, if deception there were.
It was much against Angelique's taste to have the
matter talked about, and she said that if she had
The Masterpiece and the Miracle. 273
prayed for a miracle she should have asked that one
might be performed upon the soul rather than upon
After this great event, the bann of silence was re-
moved from Jacqueline Pascal's muse, and by order
of her superiors, she wrote a long poem in honor of
the miracle. Cousin tries to find in it some echo of
Corneille, but we are inclined to agree with Sainte-
Beuve in thinking it " parfaitement detestable." In
the awakening of nobler powers that little gift of
versifying had been lost.
]T is pleasant to think of the next three or four
years — years of peace and plenty — when the
nuns returned to their unmolested worship, when
the recluses gathered again at their beloved farm-
house, and this whole little community of the Lord's
faithful ones rejoiced in what seemed to them His
visible smile and blessing.
These were busy years for Jacqueline. She was
promoted to the post of Sub-Prioress of Port Royal
des Champs, and left Paris never to return. Her let-
ters are few and brief, but cheerful. Whatever her
attainments in self-mortification, it is impossible that
she should not have felt a noble pleasure in her
brother's great success. The nuns were not allowed
secular reading, but, for once, they had access to the
choicest that French literature could give them, in
chese " Provincial letters." Jacqueline refers to them
once or twice, always in that tone of unsurprised and
giyS Sister and Saint.
assured calm which is so beautiful to see in the " sis-
ters of genius." The world, to be sure, may be going
mad over this remarkable performance, but the> ? —
they are not astonished — they have known all the
time that their hearts' beloved could do this thing !
Whatever complacency the author himself may
have felt in his work so splendidly done, he was care-
ful to check it at once, as he did every feeling of
pleasure. Madame Perier tells us : '' He wore an
iron girdle lined with points, next his naked flesh,
and whenever there came to him any feeling of satis-
faction in having assisted or advised another, or when
he took pleasure in the place where he was, or in any
circumstance whatever, he gave himself a blow with
his elbow, to redouble the violence of the co'.i5-tant
pain and make him remember his duty. Thir, prac-
tice appeared to him so useful that he continued it
through his increasing feebleness till the close of his
life His great maxim was to renounce all
pleasure and all superfluity, and he labored without
ceasing for mortification."
In February, 1660, Jacqueline writes a letter to her
nieces, Margaret and Jacqueline Perier, who are both
now at Port Royal de Paris. This is the only speci-
men of her handwriting now extant — a "beautiful
handwriting and orthography," Cousin tells us.
" My very dear nieces," she begins, " yov have so
much reason to complain of me that I cSii not find
Sorrowful Days. 279
any excuse for myself. It will, therefore, be a shorter
way to ask the forgiveness which I doubt not you
will grant ; for if I were to bring forward some excuse
that is not exactly true I should both injure myself
and set you a very bad example I can assure
you, my dear sisters, it seems to me as if I could for-
get myself ere I forget you, and the less I testify my
love, the more I feel it."
We may judge of the busy life of the Sub-Prioress
by this letter to her brother, of November, 1660:
" Good-morning, and a happy New Year to you,
my dearest brother. You will not doubt my having
wished you this most cordially when the year began,
though I could not tell you so till its close. I dare
say you wonder at my mentioning it at all, but it is
right you should know that my complete dedication
of this year to God has not robbed you of anything
you had reason to expect from me, for I have prayed
for you continually. Oh, when I think how peace-
fully this season of separation, which we naturally
expected would prove so painful, has passed away,
and how swiftly this year has fled, time seems of such
small importance that I can not help longing for
eternity. But I am not going on with so extensive a
train of thought, which, indeed, I began unintention-
ally." .... After various salutations to friends, she
concludes : '' To yourself I say nothing ; you can
judge of my love by your own, and you kiow that I
28o Sister and Saint.
am entirely yours in Him who has united us more
closely in the bonds of grace than in those of nature."
Early in the year i66i, troubles once more thick-
ened about Port Royal.
Mazarin died, and what little influence Anne of
Austria had, died with him. Louis XIV. had "placed
his conscience in the hands of the Jesuits," and they,
at once, saw their opportunity and seized it. The
"Five Propositions" were once more marshalled out,
— "those celebrated propositions which are in the
'Augustinus' but nobody has ever seen," as Pascal
said, and which, according to another gentleman who
read the whole book carefully through to find them,
" were there incognito if they were there at all." A
"New Formulary" was drawn up, running (in part)
as follows :
" I condemn, from my heart and with my mouth,
the doctrine of the five propositions of Cornelius
Jansenius, which are cojitaincd in the book entitled
' Augustinus,' which both Pope Innocent X. and
Pope Alexander VII. have condemned."
Not only ecclesiastics, but all the nuns and school-
masters were required, under very severe penalties, to
sign this paper. No exception was made in favor of
those who had never seen the "Augustinus" or who
could not read Latin !
It was, of course, impossible for the Port Royalists
to sign such a paper.
Sorroiufnl Days. 281
"Persecution," says Tregelles, *'now began in
earnest. The dungeons of the Bastile were crowded
with those v.'ho refused to violate their consciences by
subscribing what they did not beheve. The very
passages of the prison were occupied with prisoners.
" M. de Saci, the nephew of the Mere Angelique,
carried on during his imprisonment his well-known
version of the Holy Scriptures. Henri Arnauld,
Bishop of Anjou, and three other bishops, refused to
accept the formulary, let the consequences be what
they might. But it was upon Port Royal itself that
the principal fury of the tempest discharged itself."
In April, 1661, there came an order that all the
pupils in the two convents should be sent back to
their homes within three days. And the spring and
summer following are crowded full of sorrow.
The Mere Angelique was now old and suffering
from the disease of which she soon died. But the
day before that fixed upon for the dispersion, she said
good-bye forever to her beloved valley of Chevreuse,
and was carried on a litter to the Paris house.
" On her arrival she found the street thronged by
an immense concourse of people, the gates of the
convent closely guarded by sentinels, and the courts
full of armed police ; she was carried into the house
between files of archers. She found the whole com-
munity in tears and lamentations." There were
thirty-three boarders in the Paris house, not including,
282 Sister and Saint.
of course, the. novices, candidates, and nuns. Many
of these young pupils were orphans, and knew no
other home than the convent, and when the time
came for them to go, their sobs and cries resounded
through the house. It was equally hard for the nuns
to know that they were to see these children no more,
" for they were tenderly attached to them."
" The mournful scene was prolonged eight days,
for some of the parents lived in the country and could
not reach Paris sooner." The children Avould throw
themselves in a crowd upon the nun who had charge
of them, " weeping and holding fast by her dress."
Some of them entreated to be received at once as
novices that they might stay, and others begged to
be made lay-sisters, as the servants were not ordered
away. But in a few days there came another order
to expel every candidate and novice. Many touching
and thrilling scenes are given us in the '' Memoires."
Angelique and Agnes were true mothers to their
whole flock in these days of trial. They inspired,
comforted, advised, wept and prayed with their chil-
dren, as it is given to mothers to do at such times.
Agnes wrote a very beautiful letter to the King in
regard to certain novices, whose cases we need not
detail here. '' The king praised the letter," we are
told, but paid no heed to its humble request.
Angelique, from her bed of death, also wrote an
appeal to Anne of Austria, But all was useless. In
Sorrowful Days. 283
the course of a few days seventy-five young girls were
removed from Port Royal de Paris, and nearly as
many about the same time left the other house. Jac-
queline's two nieces, the Periers, were sent home to
their mother, who was then living in Paris. Their
aunt wrote to them in June — a letter full of consola-
tion and of warning. She advises them to retire as