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fact, was "a recruiting- sergeant of thought," if I may
be permitted that expression. He rarely failed to per-
ceive the possibilities of making robust soldiers for his
cause out of apparently very unpromising material by
dint of good feeding and judicious training. That prob-
ably was the secret underlying the charm of his conver-
sation, and by his conversation I do not necessarily
mean his familiar talk at home with his friends, or his
brilliant gossip at the dinner-table ; I include his official
discourses, and, if it were possible to classify them as
causeries, a good many of his meetings. Unlike Cole-
ridge, he never preached, not even in his most solemn
moments, though truth compels one to state that appar-
ently these were few and far between. At the first blush,
in fact, it was difficult to determine whether to Renan
life meant "a great bundle of small things, or a small
bundle of great things ;' ' but at the first blush only.
The attentive listener soon became convinced that to
Renan life meant a great bundle of great things — so
great a bundle and so great the things as to demand the
constant exertions and labours of generations upon gen-
erations of intellectual workers to gather them into one
congruous, harmonious, and sightly whole ; of genera-
tions upon generations of workers who should refuse to be
discouraged by the unfulfilled purposes of their predeces-
sors, who should endeavour to hide the disappointment



My Paris Note-Book. hi

begotten from their abortive attempts from their succes-
sors. * ' Every man worthy of the name, ' ' he said one day
in my hearing, ' ' should be Hke that piper lad who, amidst
the good and evil fortunes of a long battle under Freder-
ick the Great, kept on piping from sunrise till sunset."
For Renan was very fond of introducing children into
his metaphors, and yet the sight and the mere mention
of them had a curious effect upon him. He who was
rarely serious with grown-up people was apt to become
grave in the presence of little ones, the reverse in that
respect of the late Emile Perrin of the Com^die-Fran-
9aise, who rarely unbent with youngsters. I happened
to have some business with Perrin one Sunday in the
summer of the year before his death. I was accompa-
nied by a little girl of six, the daughter of an English
lady then residing in Paris. I did not care to leave her
in the victoria by herself, and took her up with me.
At the sight of the child an instantaneous change came
over the whole man. Though the question between us
could have been settled in a few minutes, it took me an
hour to get an answer to it, the porter being meanwhile
despatched for sweets. Perrin had neither eyes nor ears
but for the child, who left loaded with two large picture-
books, which would be worth a small fortune to any cos-
tumier, and a bag of bonboyis^ * ' which, ' ' as her mother
said afterwards, * ' no man in his senses would have
dreamt of buying." The day being fine, we took a
short drive, and on our way homeward I saw Renan
strolling along the Quai Malaquais. I stopped the
victoria, and got out to pay my respects to him. He
noticed the little girl, and went up to her, but did not
say a word, merely stroking her fair hair and kissing
her on the cheek. His eyes became positively filled
with tears. I could not help saying — " How is it, M.



112 My Paris Note-Book.

Renan, that you, who are so cheerful with every one,
are so grave with children ?' ' for I had noticed the same
thing on former occasions. For a moment or so he was
silent, and then I told him of the little one's interview
with Perrin, mainly, I confess, with the object of draw-
ing him out. ' ' I can quite understand it, ' ' he said at
last ; * ' to Perrin a pretty child is a picture ; to me a
child, whether ugly or pretty, is a problem. This one
is very beautiful, but she is as likely to become the
mother of so many Calibans and Sycoraxes as of so
many Apollos and Dianas. In the latter end of the
nineteenth century the former possibility ought to have
been already guarded against by law. We have socie-
ties for the prevention of cruelty to animals, to women
and children. Do not you think that it is cruel to chil-
dren to endow them from their birth with hereditary
ugliness ? I do, et Dieu sait, je parle en coitnaissance
de cause. ' ' The latter words were spoken with an em-
phasis difficult to produce. I feel personally certain,
though I have no more direct evidence than the protest
just quoted, that Renan' s ''want of good looks," to
use the mildest term, was probably the only drawback to
his thorough enjoyment of life. " As a young man," '
he says in his ''Souvenirs," "j'entrevoyaisquelabeaute
est un don tellement superieur, que le talent, le genie, la
vertu meme ne sont rien aupres d'elle, en sorte que la
femme vraiment belle a le droit de tout dedaigner, puis-
qu'elle assemble dans sa personne m^me, comme un vase
myrrhin, tout ce que le genie esquisse peniblement en
traits aflfaiblis, au moyen d'une fatiguante reflexion."
Some would-be critics have construed these lines into

^ I have purposely put the first words of the quotation in English,
because it has been asserted several times that these lines were ad-
dressed to an imaginary young man, which is not the case.



My Paris Note-Book. 113

a tacit licence for every beautiful woman to tread under
foot the dictates of honour, virtue, and decency. I doubt
whether Renan meant this ; nay, I feel almost convinced
that, theoretically, he meant nothing like it. I feel
equally convinced, though, that to a beautiful woman
he would have forgiven much, for he, perhaps better
than any one, felt that —

" L'ame et le corps toujours s'en iront a deux,
Tant que le monde ira, pas ^ pas, cote a cote ;
Comme s'en vont les vers classiques et les boeufs,
L'un disant : ' Tu fais mal !' et I'autre : * C'est ta faute.' "

To understand how intensely he felt this, one must
have seen him, as I have, seated at dinner between two
handsome women, more or less decolletees ; " le chaste
vieillard entre deux Suzanne," as one of the guests put
it. Only those who have seen him thus will or can
imagine the mental genesis of " I'Abbesse de Jouarre ;"
for that romantic production is simply the despairing cry
of another Faust for his vanished youth and manhood.
And as in real life there is no Mephistopheles at hand to
respond to the cry, and as men of Renan' s stamp remain
worthy of themselves and of their art and calling, in
spite of the temptations of the flesh and the craving of
the heart and the senses for more passionate endear-
ments than ' ' hallowed love' ' affords ; their imagination
becomes unbridled, the sensuous worship of woman,
the idolatrous love of love itself, pervades their every
thought ; their study, which they leave less than ever,
lest temptation should assail them on its threshold,
finally reeks with the odor di femina, which henceforth
exudes from the historical treatise as well as from the
religious essay. They are no more conscious of this
than was Beaumarchais' cherubin, or M. Cousin himself
k 10*



114 My Paris Note-Book.

when he wrote his book on the Duchesse de Longue-
ville. Was it Goethe who said that, ' ' When a great
man has a dark corner in him, it is terribly dark?"
Whosoever said it gave the key to the enigma of the
many mesalliances — legaHsed or the reverse — contracted
by men of genius. Renan's dark corner, like that of
Michelet and others, especially Frenchmen, contained
the radiant image of some physically perfect, albeit
wholly imaginary woman, or perhaps of that playmate
of his infancy, of that Noemi after whom he named his
daughter, and who became more and more beautiful
as she grew up, until at twenty-two she was a miracle
of loveliness, '* of that Noemi, qui mourut vierge, qui
mourut d' ^tre trop belle. ' ' Most of us remember the
words of Don Gomez to Dona Sol in Hernani: —

" On n'est pas maitre
De soi-meme, amoureux comme je suis de toi.

Derision, que cet amour boiteux,
Qui nous remet au coeur tant d'ivresse et de flamme,
Ait oublie le corps en rajeunissant Vdme T*

Personally, we can hear Renan address the lines to'
some beauteous creature of his own imagination, and
the only error in his literary and philosophical career is
explained to us. ** II desir vivo, e la speranza e morta,"
sighs Petrarch.

More pleasant is it to turn to the Renan of our daily
observation — to the Renan with the dark corner as yet
undiscovered by his most intimate friends, with the dark
corner as yet unsuspected by himself; to Renan the
wizard, who, though cursed with nearly every physical
disadvantage, cast an irresistible spell over every one
with whom he came in contact ; to the Renan who flung
pearls of philosophy into your wine as you sat opposite



My Paris Note-Book. 115

to him at table, who never said a harsh word, even about
his most persistent detractors. "Je respecte tout le
monde, meme Challamel-Lacour, comme je respecte ma
goutte."

He prided himself upon having never contradicted
any one, except on one occasion, when he was a young
man. He loved to tell this story, and no one, perhaps,
was fonder of hearing it told than M. Jules Simon, the
very victim of that only instance of contradiction on
Renan's part. It happened long ago, when Jules
Simon — whose real name is Suisse — was canvassing the
Arrondissement of Lannion. The candidate for Par-
hamentary honours held a meeting at the Mairie of Tre-
guier, and among the audience there was a student of
theology from the Petit Seminaire, who kept persistently
* ' heckling' ' the speaker without, however, disconcerting
him in the least. Unfortunately, the rege^it of the col-
lege, who happened to be a Liberal, was present also.
When the young seminaristey rather elated with his
doings, entered the class-room after the meeting, his
tutor stopped his further progress, and flung, as was
the custom in those days, a Latin distich at his head —
" 'Culpa trahit culpam, post culpam culpa revertit, Et
post tot culpas cogeris ire foras !' " he exclaimed ; then
added, ** You'll copy the original text and translation
twenty times before you go to bed to-night." "And
the answer, too, if you wish," said the young fellow,
without a moment's hesitation. *' Pinta trahit pintam,
post pintam pinta revertit, Et post tot pintas nascitur
ebrietas." Jules Simon lost his election, and Renan
won his pensum. When the latter had become famous,
and the former one degree less than famous, they hap-
pened to be at the same time at Tr6guier. Simon paid
a visit to the Seminary, and came upon Renan in the



ii6 My Paris Note-Book.

very same class-room where he had sat as a lad. Simon
kept bending over the forms, evidently examining them
carefully.

' ' What are you looking for ?' ' asked Renan.

' ' I am looking for your name on the forms, ' ' was the
answer. ^

'*Mon cher ami," remarked Renan, **je n'ai jamais
6gratign6 un banc, ni un camarade. Qo. n' entre pas dans
mons temperament, de donner des coups de canif."

But between * ' slashing' ' a friend and innocently
mimicking his peculiarities of speech, manner, and gait,
there was a wide difference in Renan' s opinion. These
imitations were never premeditated, they were the ac-
companiment to some story, told in such a way as to
breed the connection that Heine was right when he
said, ' ' All Frenchmen are actors ; the worst are often
on the stage." I have frequently heard and seen
Fusier, who, with all due deference to MM. Coquelin
ai7te and cadet, towers a head and shoulders above both
as an ''entertainer," or to use the French expression,
''^ diseury I have never met with his equal except
once, and that was when I saw Mr. Corney Grain.
Well, in spite of the structural and facial disabilities
under which he laboured, Renan, as a raconteur^ was
as good as either of these. I have already said that
those Imitations were never premeditated, but the ac-
companiment to some story. To most Englishmen
and Americans, even to travelled Englishmen and
Americans, the name of Emile Egger conveys little or
nothing, though Egger was a great man in his way.
To get at a true estimate of his value, we should have
to go to Oxford and consult Professor Max Miiller ; for
my present purpose it is sufficient to state that Emile
Egger was one of Renan' s dearest friends, an eminent



My Paris Note-Book. 117

philologist, and the man to whom Renan by preference
entrusted his MSS. to read before he confided them to
the printer. Utterly unlike Renan physically, intellectu-
ally, and morally, the only trait these two had in com-
mon was their unvarying kindness to the poor and
lowly, their readiness to make smooth the thorny path
of the serious student. Egger, in spite of his great
abilities, was very retiring, almost shy, consequently
not fond of society, moreover, very simple in his do-
mestic arrangements. In the heyday of the Second
Empire he received an invitation to Compiegne. I
have given elsewhere a lengthy sketch of the festivities
at Compiegne, so I need not repeat it here. His
friends had. told the savant that, though everything was
most lavishly provided, and the attendance perfect, it
was the custom to take a servant of one's own, as much
for the sake of appearance as to lighten the burden of
the Imperia.] perso7zne I, which was often driven out of
their wits by the plethora of guests. We may be cer-
tain that the second reason had more weight with the
simple-minded gentleman than the first, and finally in-
duced him to engage a temporary man-servant on the
recommendation of one of his neighbours, for it need
scarcely be said that he had none of his own. Egger
was poor all his life, and but for the windfall of a thou-
sand pounds, left to him by a fellow-student whom he
nursed for many years and till the day of his (the
friend's) death, he would not have been able to marry ;
though he was in utter ignorance of his friend's re-
sources, being under the impression that his parents
made him a small allowance.

On the day appointed, a magnificent young fellow,
with jet black hair and eyes like carbuncles, presents
himself, and Egger, struck by his appearance, engages



ii8 My Paris Note-Book.

him there and then, congratulating himself on having
found so prepossessing a personal attendant, ''who,"
he says mentally, "will compare favourably with any
one of the domestic staff at Court." But as there is
no accommodation in the servants' modest home for
the new-comer, it is arranged that he shall enter upon
his duties the next day only, the day on which Egger is
to start for Compiegne.

Behold the two fairly settled in the apartment allotted
to them in the Imperial chateau, Egger somewhat un-
comfortable in his new character of a master who has
not the slightest use for a valet, and, moreover, wonder-
ing uneasily at the accent of the latter, which, in the
hurry of the previous day's interview, he had mistaken
for that of a Provencal. At last, unable to hold out
any longer, he begins questioning the young fellow.

' ' Tell me, my lad, ' ' he says benevolently, ' ' are you
a Frenchman ?' '

' ' No, monsieur, I am not a Frenchman, ' ' is the answer.

' ' What nationality are you ?' '

'' I am an Italian, monsieur,"

'' I forgot to mention," said Renan, when he told us,
or rather enacted the story— for it really amounted to
that — " I forgot to mention that this happened in 1858,
consequently but a few months after the attempt on the
Emperor's life in the Rue Le Pelletier, so you may
imagine Egger' s terror," and forthwith, and without
the least effort, we had an imitation of the great Greek
scholar, which those who knew him well voted perfect.
** ' Great God !' says Egger to himself,' " — I am quoting
Renan textually—" ' Great God, what have I done?
Here am I, a member of the Institute, a member of the
Legion of Honour, a professor at one of the State col-
leges, an honoured guest of the sovereign— here am I



My Paris Note-Book. 119

introducing an Italian into the palace, an Italian against
whose appearance not a word can be said, but who may
be, for all I know, a second Orsini or Pianori, who en-
tered my service in order to carry out his fell designs
upon Napoleon.' "

The upshot of all this was that Egger did not get a
wink of sleep during the whole of his stay at the chateau,
lest his valet should murder the Emperor. The savant
lay trembling in his bed, listening for every sound, and
every now and then rising to take a peep along the
corridors, going as far as the Italian's room in his dress-
ing-room, opening the door softly, taking a peep at him
by the light of the flickering candle, and then softly
stealing to his bed, but not to rest.

No words of mine could, however, convey the scene
as enacted by Renan. It was a treat for which his
friends clamoured on all occasions, and which was rarely
refused, for I honestly believe that Renan was prouder
of his mimic talents than of all his philological attain-
ments put together. One evening he got more than
usually excited over the scene, and in his excitement
snatched the cruet frame from the table in order to rep-
resent Egger carrying a dark lantern, though there was
not the slightest evidence that Egger had such an article
at hand.

It was upon the whole a great performance — I cannot
give it another name — and according to those who
knew Egger better than I did — I only saw him twice in
my life — a masterly reproduction of all his peculiarities
of diction, of accent, of gait, &c. , &c. And, I repeat,
there was a wonderful difference physically between
Egger and Renan, though not so great as the contrast
between Renan and Labiche, whom I saw him imitate
on another occasion. The play-wright was tall, with a



120 My Paris Note-Book.

face the skin of which seemed drawn so tight over the
bones as to make people wonder at his being able to
shut his eyes and mouth at the same time ; the philoso-
pher was short, squat, with a gait which reminded one
unconsciously of the hippopotamus, or, to put it mildly,
of a bear, and a face the angles of which were concealed
beneath layers of flesh, while the nose looked, not like an
integral part of the whole, but like an excrescence on it ;
"a contemptuously lavish afterthought of nature," as
some one said. And yet I have heard Renan imitate
the author of Le Chapeau de Paille d' Italie (A Wed-
ding-March) and Les Petits Oiseaux (a Pair of Specta-
cles) to such perfection that with one's eyes shut one
could not have told the one from the other. Labiche,
as is well known, was elected to the chair left vacant at
the Acad6mie by Silvestre de Sacy, also a friend of
Renan. The eulogy of such a predecessor, of a writer
of whom Thiers said, ''C'est lui qui 6crit le mieux,"
must have been a difficult task to a man who, as a boy,
was dismissed from the Lycee Bourbon as "hopelessly
incapable ; ' ' who, by his own confession, was not une
bHe a concours (literally " a prize-competing animal") ;
whose master, in order to keep him quiet, repeated
constantly — '' Monsieur Labiche, ne faites pas de bruit,
et Ton ne vous demandera ni devoirs, ni legons."

Under the circumstances the great farce writer hit
upon the idea of consulting Renan, whose admiration
for Silvestre de Sacy was well known. The interview
must have been satisfactory to both parties, for Renan
averred afterwards that he had never enjoyed anything
so much in his life. But he was commendably silent
with regard to the details, and would not admit that he
had given Labiche any active aid in the composition of
his speech. Subsequent events, however, nay, his own



My Paris Note-Book. 121

story, went far to prove that such aid must have been
given, seeing that the discourse was voted a master-
piece by every one. If, however, reticent with regard
to the first interview with Labiche, he was perfectly
wiUing to communicate the particulars of the second, at
which the Academician elect read his speech, not only
to the suspected author of it, but to three more future
fellow-members, namely, the Due d'Aumale, M. Gaston
Boissier, and M. Henri Martin, the historian. *' I shall
never forget the faces of the Due and Martin as they
watched Labiche glibly delivering his sentences," said
Renan one evening, and forthwith we heard the encour-
aging "Tres bien" of the author of "I'Histoire du
Grand Cond6, ' ' and the more reserved ' * Pas mal ' ' of
Martin, reproduced in a way that set the whole room in
a roar. When the laughter had subsided, Renan went
on : * ' As for Labiche himself, he kept winking one eye,
as was his wont, at me, until I felt very uncomfortable,
and at last I took the bull by the horns. ' Monsieur
Labiche,' I said, * all this is positively admirable ; I was
not aware that you had devoted so much time to the
study of the higher sciences.' Thereupon there was
another wink, more significant than all the preceding ;
and he repHed, 'Monsieur, le soleil n'est jamais pale ;
quelquefois seulement il est voil6.' They were the very
words I had used once in an address to the boys at
Louis-le-Grand. Then he added, 'You remember
what that old savant Babinet said : ^ *' It happens now
and then that you go to one of the eating-houses at the
barriere and you ask for a rabbit. You feel positive
that they are going to give you cat, don't you? In
fact, you reckon upon their giving you cat. Well,

^ Jacques Babinet, who did more for the popularising of science
in France than any one before him

F 11



122 My Paris Note-Book.

they don't give you cat at all; they give you rat."
The Academie is asking me for rabbit in the matter of
this speech, and the members are positive, thoroughly
convinced that I am going to give them cat. Weil, I
am not going to give them cat at all ; I am going to
give them hare. As I have had the honour of telling
you already, the sun himself is never dim, only now and
then there is a veil across.' And Labiche triumphantly
put his MS. in his pocket, while for several minutes we
sat staring at him, amazed at his aplomb, then we simply
choked with laughter. ' ' '

It was not so much the story as the manner of telling
it which fascinated the listener, and yet, as a rule,
Renan made a very sparing use of gesture. His
favourite attitude was one of absolute repose : his two
podgy hands crossed on the abdomen, his left leg
stretched at full length, and showing between the bottom
of the trousers and the very capacious shoes the strip
of black stocking which he never seemed tired of con-
templating. Black stockings are rarely worn by French-
men so little addicted to fashion as was Renan, though,
as a matter of course, the Catholic clergy never wear
any other, which caused Renan to remark every now
and then, *'C'est tout ce qui reste du pretre." For
once, in a way, he was utterly mistaken ; for he had
remained the typical priest from head to foot, in every-
thing but the dress, much more, in fact, than the priest
who died nearly eighty years before him in the self-same
room where he breathed his last. I am referring to the
Abbe Delille, who lived for many years in London, and
about whom we ought to know a good deal, about
whom we scarcely know anything. Jacques Delille did

» I have translated Labiche's words for the better convenience
of the reader.



My Paris Note-Book. 123

not fling his cassock away as did Renan ; he put it on a
shelf until the revolutionary hurricane had subsided.
Meanwhile he selected for himself a ^ ' niece, ' ' who was
so disagreeable and ignorant as to draw forth Rivarol's
remark — " Puisque vous avez choisi votre niece, vous
auriez pu la mieux choisir." The ''niece" did not
think the "alleged blood relationship" a sufficiently
strong guarantee against the possibility of being ousted
by another ' * niece, ' ' and made Delille marry her. Then
she donned the breeches, or, what was tantamount to it,
prevented her husband wearing them until he had com-
pleted his daily task of thirty lines of verse, paid for by
Michaud, the Paris publisher, at the rate of six francs a
line, plus thirty sous for the lady. Then, and then only,
was the garment restored to the hen-pecked Abbe.
The lady, furthermore, had a habit of flinging books at
her husband's head, generally quartos. Delille' s pro-
test against that playful kind of endearment was only a
qualified one. '' Madame," he said one morning in the
presence of Chateaubriand orMalouet, " ne pourriez-vous
vous contenter d'un in-octavo ?" Well, I feel convinced
that at the appearance of ' ' Vie de Jesus' ' there were



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