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Mourets





L I B R.AFLY

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OF ILLINOIS

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NOVELS BY EMILE ZOLA.

Crown Svo. cloth extra, 3-r. 6</. each.

VOLUMES OF THE 'ROUGON-MACQUART' SERIES.

THE FAT AND THE THIN (LE VENTRE DE PARIS').
Translated by ERNEST ALFRED VIZETELLY.

' A very satisfactory rendering, which has preserved the passion, the humour, and the
terrible insight of the original. Zola has never drawn a picture more pitilessly faithful
to the lower side of our common humanity than this is. ... A drama which reads like a
page torn out of the book of life itself.' SPEAKER.

' The characters arc drawn with a master hand, and the two rival beauties will
bear comparison with any of the portraits in the author's literary gallery.' GLASGOW
HERALD.

THE DRAM-SHOP ('L'AssoMMOiR'). With a Preface by
E. A. VIZETELLY.

'After reading "L'Assommoir" and Zola's other books, it seems as if in the work of
all other novelists there were a veil between the reader and the things described ; and
there is present to our minds the same difference as exists between a human face as
represented on canvas and the same face as reflected in a mirror. It is like finding truth
for the first time.' SIGNOR EDMONDO DE AMICIS.

MONEY (' L' ARGENT '). Translated by E. A. VIZETELLY.

1 No one will be able to read " Money" without a deep sense of its absolute truth.
. . . Everything in the novel is on a grand scale. ... A vast panorama of national
viciousness. . . . An overpowering presentation of the disasters wrought by the unbridled
race for wealth.' MORNING LEADER.

1 Suffice it to say of this book, one of Zola's masterpieces, that never has his brilliant
pen been used with such realistic, life-like force. . . . The figure of Sacard is a terrible,
fascinating creation. His love of money, his love of women (an altogether secondary
impulse), nis fixed hatred of the Jews, become more real than reality itself.' VANITY
FAIR.

HIS EXCELLENCY ('SON EXCELLENCE EUGENE ROUGON').

With a Preface by E. A. VIZETELLY.

' The book is one of the most remarkable of the monumental series which its author
built up to depict the social history of a family under the Second Empire. It follows
the career of an adventurous statesman who rose_to power under Napoleon III., and
whose ambitious and unscrupulous nature, whose intrigues at Court, whose fortunes in
affairs of the heart, and whose following of varied hangers-on, ambitious like himself,
are all depicted as from the life. The book itself warrants its fidelity to fact by compelling
belief instinctively.' SCOTSMAN.

THE DREAM ('Ls REVE'). Translated by ELIZA E.
CHASE. With 8 Full-page Illustrations by GEORGES JEANNIOT.

1 M. Zola has soi'ght in this charming story to prove to the world that he too,can
write for the virgin, and that he can paint the better side of human nature in colours as
tender and true as those employed by any of his contemporaries. ... It is a beautiful
story admirably told.' SPEAKER.

THE FORTUNE OF THE ROUGONS. Edited by
E. A. VIZETELLY.

' Full of a rather sombre humour, rich satire, and unsparing social analysis. To the
reader who takes an interest in the personality of Zola, " The Fortune of the Rougons "
has a unique value, for in its pages the author has drawn upon the recollections of his
youth. . . . Should you be consumed with a desire to pluck the heart out of Zola's
" Roueon-Macquart " volumes, it will be necessary to read the first and the last of the
series, "The Fortune of the Rougons" and " Dr. Pascal."' MORNING LEADER.



NOVELS BY EMILE ZOLA.



THE CONQUEST OF PLASSANS. Edited by E. A

VlZETELLY.

A prelude to ' Abbd Mouret's Trangression,' and a striking story of priestly influence
in a French household. [SJiortly.

ABBE MOURET'S TRANSGRESSION. Edited by E. A.

VlZETELLY.

' Perhaps the most powerful and poetic of all M. Zola's tales. . . . There are few
things in literature more excellently wrought." ANDREW LANG in the FORTNIGHTLY
REVIEW.

THE DOWNFALL (' LA DEBACLE '). Translated by E. A.
VIZETELLY. With 2 Plans of the Battle of Sedan.

' Taken as a whole, " La Debacle " is the most wonderfully faithful reproduction of
an historical drama ever committed to writing.' SPECTATOR.

' It is only when you have come to the end of " The Downfall " that you appreciate
the feverish hurry in which you have read page after page, and that you know the
splendid art with which M. Zola has concealed the fervour, the pity, the agony, and the
inspiration with which he has told the tale.' SUNDAY SUN.

DOCTOR PASCAL. Translated by E. A. VIZETELLY. With
an Etched Portrait of the Author.

'This book, the crown and conclusion of the Rougon-Macquart volumes, strikes us
as being in some respects the most powerful, dramatic, and pathetic.' TIMES.

'Dr. Pascal Rougon, the skilled physician, here sits in judgment upon his relatives
and compatriots, and explains the causes of their moral decline and falL . . . Artistically
blended with the controversial matter is an absorbing; love-story, the scene of which is
laid under the burning sky of Provence, which fires the human heart with passion and
maddens it to crime.' ECHO.

THE < THREE CITIES ' SERIES.
LOURDES. Translated by E. A. VIZETELLY.

' A great and notable book. . . . The glory of the book is the inexhaustible, over-
flowing human sympathy which transfuses it from end to end. ... As you read, the heart is
set beating. . . . Instead of a mere name, " Lourdes" will always be something of a
reality to every reader of Zola's admirable pages. ... In almost every respect a signal
triumph a book to be read and to be thankful for.' NATIONAL OBSERVER.

ROME. Translated by E. A. VIZETELLY.

' A very great book. . . We judge it as a work of art, and as such we must accord it
very high praise. Every part, great or small, fits perfectly into the whole . . . The Pope,
the Cardinals, and all the lesser dignitaries of the Church against which the writer brings
his great indictment, are so painted that neither such greatness as is in themselves, nor
the greatness of the cause which they represent, shall be forgotten in the littleness of some
of the methods to which they stoop.' GUARDIAN.

PARIS. Translated by E. A. VIZETELLY.

' These pictures of Parisian life are worthy of M. Zola at his best. The author's
passionate love of the poor, his intolerance of their sufferings, his intense hatred of all
social wrongs, and longing for reform have never been declared with more sincerity,
more eloquence, and more ability. " Paris " will bring him new admirers and new
friends, for it shows him to be not only a great writer but a man of noble aspirations and
splendid courage.' PALL MALL GAZETTE.

FRUITFULNESS. {In preparation.

London : CHATTO & WINDUS, in St. Martin's Lane, W.C.



ABBE MOURET'S TRANSGRESSION



PRINTED BY

SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
LONDON



ABBE MOURET'S

TRANSGRESSION



BY

EMILE ZOLA



EDITED WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
ERNEST ALFRED VIZETELLY




LONDON
CHATTO & WINDUS

1900



INTRODUCTION



1 LA FAUTE DE I/AEBE MOURET ' was, with respect to the
date of publication, the fourth volume of M. Zola's ' Eougon-
Macquart ' series ; but in the amended and final scheme of
that great literary undertaking, it occupies the ninth place.
It proceeds from the sixth volume of the series, ' The Conquest
of Plassans ; ,' which is followed by the two works that deal
with the career of Octave Mouret, Abbe Serge Mouret's elder
brother. In ' The Conquest of Plassans,' Serge and his half-
witted sister, Desiree, are seen in childhood at their home in
Plassans, which is wrecked by the doings of a certain Abbe
Faujas and his relatives. Serge Mouret grows up, is called by
an instinctive vocation to the priesthood, and becomes parish
priest of Les Artaud, a well-nigh pagan hamlet in one of those
bare, burning stretches of country with which Provence
abounds. And here it is that ' La Faute de 1'Abbe" Mouret '
opens in the old ruinous church, perched upon a hillock in
full view of the squalid village, the arid fields, and the great
belts of rock which shut in the landscape all around.

There are two elements in this remarkable story, which,
from the standpoint of literary style, has never been excelled
by anything that M. Zola has since written ; and one may
glance at it therefore from two points of view. Taking it
under its sociological and religious aspect, it will be found to
be an indirect indictment of the celibacy of the priesthood ;
that celibacy, contrary to Nature's fundamental law, which
assuredly has largely influenced the destinies of the Roman



vi ABB& MOURET S TRANSGRESSION

Catholic Church. To that celibacy, and to all the evils that
have sprung from it, may be ascribed much of the irreligion
current in France to-day. The periodical reports on criminality
issued by the French Ministers of Justice since the foundation
of the Republic in 1871, supply materials for a most formi-
dable indictment of that vow of perpetual chastity which Rome
exacts from her clergy. Nowadays it is undoubtedly too late
for Rome to go back upon that vow and thereby transform
the whole of her sacerdotal organisation ; but, perhaps, had
she done so in past times, before the spirit of inquiry and
free examination came into being, she might have assured
herself many more centuries of supremacy than have fallen to
her lot. But she has ever sought to dissociate the law of the
Divinity from the law of Nature, as though indeed the latter
were but the invention of the Fiend.

Abbe Mouret, M. Zola's hero, finds himself placed between
the law of the Divinity and the law of Nature : and the
struggle waged within him by those two forces is a terrible
one. That which training has implanted in his mind proves
the stronger, and, so far as the canons of the Church can
warrant it, he saves his soul. But the problem is not quite
frankly put by M. Zola ; for if Abbe Mouret transgresses he
does so unwittingly, at a time when he is unconscious of his
priesthood and has no memory of any vow. When the truth
flashes upon him he is horrified with himself, and forthwith
returns to the Church. A further struggle between the con-
tending forces then certainly ensues, and ends in the final
victory of the Church. But it must at least be said that in
the lapses which occur in real life among the Roman priest-
hood, the circumstances are altogether different from those
which M. Zola has selected for his story.

The truth is that in ' La Faute de l'Abb6 Mouret,' betwixt
lifelike glimpses of French rural life, the author transports
us to a realm of poesy and imagination. This is, indeed, so
true that he has introduced into his work all the ideas on
which he had based an early unfinished poem called ' Genesis.'
He carries us to an enchanted garden, the Paradou a name



INTRODUCTION vii

which one need hardly say is Prove^al for Paradise l and
there Serge Mouret, on recovering from brain fever, becomes,
as it were, a new Adam by the side of a new Eve, the fair
and winsome Albine. All this part of the book, then, is
poetry in prose. The author has remembered the ties which
link Rousseau to the realistic school of fiction, and, as in the
pages of Jean-Jacques, trees, springs, mountains, rocks, and
flowers become animated beings and claim their place in the
world's mechanism. One may indeed go back far beyond
Eousseau, even to Lucretius himself; for more than once
we are irresistibly reminded of Lucretian scenes, above which
through M. Zola's pages there seems to hover the pronounce-
ment of Sophocles :

No ordinance of man shall override

The settled laws of Nature and of God ;

Not written these in pages of a book,

Nor were they framed to-day, nor yesterday ;

We know not whence they are ; but this we know,

That they from all eternity have been,

And shall to all eternity endure.

And if we pass to the young pair whose duo of love is
sung amidst the varied voices of creation, we are irresistibly
reminded of the Paul and Virginia of St. Pierre, and the
Daphnis and Chloe of Longus. Beside them, in their
marvellous garden, lingers a memory too of Manon and Des
Grieux, with a suggestion of Lauzun and a glimpse of the
art of Fragonard. All combine, all contribute from the
great classics to the eighteenth century petits maitres to
build up a story of love's rise in the human breast in answer
to Nature's promptings.

M. Zola wrote ' La Faute de 1'Abbe Mouret ' one summer
under the trees of his garden, mindful the while of gardens
that he had known in childhood : the flowery expanse which
had stretched before his grandmother's home at Pont-au-

1 There ia a village called Paradou in Provence, between Leg Bavtx
and Aries.

a



viii ABBE MOURETS TRANSGRESSION

Beraud and the wild estate of Galice, between Eoquefavour and
Aix-en-Provence, through which he had roamed as a lad with
friends then hoys like himself : Professor Bailie and Cezanne,
the painter. And into his description of the wondrous
Paradou he has put all his remembrance of the gardens and
woods of Provence, where many a plant and flower thrive
with a luxuriance unknown to England. True, in order to
refresh his memory and avoid mistakes, he consulted various
horticultural manuals whilst he was writing; of which
circumstance captious critics have readily laid hold, to pro-
claim that the description of the Paradou is a mere florist's
catalogue.

But it is nothing of the kind. The florist who might dare
to offer such a catalogue to the public would be speedily
assailed by all the horticultural journalists of England and
ail the customers of villadom. For M. Zola avails himself
of a poet's license to crowd marvel upon marvel, to exaggerate
nature's forces, to transform the tiniest blooms into giant
examples of efflorescence, and to mingle even the seasons one
with the other. But all this was premeditated ; there was a
picture before his mind's eye, and that picture he sought to
trace with his pen, regardless of all possible objections. It is
the poet's privilege to do this and even to be admired for it.
It would be easy for some learned botanist, some expert
zoologist, to demolish Milton from the standpoint of their
respective sciences, but it would be absurd to do so. We ask
of the poet the flowers of his imagination, and the further he
carries us from the sordid realities, the limited possibilities
of life, the more are we grateful to him.

And M. Zola's Paradou is a flight of fancy, even as its
mistress, the fair, loving, guileless Albine, whose smiles and
whose tears alike go to our hearts, is the daughter of imagina-
tion. She is a flower the very flower of life's youth in the
midst of all the blossoms of her garden. She unfolds to life
and to love even as they unfold ; she loves rapturously even
as they do under the sun and the azure ; and she dies with
them when the sun's caress is gone and the chill of winter



INTROD UCTION ix

has fallen. At the thought of her, one instinctively remem-
bers Malherbe's ' Ode a Du Perrier : '

She to this earth belonged, where beauty fast

To direst fate is borne :
A rose, she lasted, as the roses last,

Only for one brief morn.

French painters have made subjects of many episodes in
M. Zola's works, but none has been more popular with them
than Albine's pathetic, perfumed death amidst the flowers.
I know several paintings of great merit which that touching
incident has inspired.

Albine, if more or less unreal, a phantasm, the spirit as it
were of Nature incarnate in womanhood, is none the less the
most delightful of M. Zola's heroines. She smiles at us like
the vision of perfect beauty and perfect love which rises
before us when our hearts are yet young and full of illusions.
She is the ideal, the very quintessence of woman.

In Serge Mouret, her lover, we find a man who, in more
than one respect, recalls M. Zola's later hero, the Abb6
Froment of 'Lourdes' and 'Rome.' He has the same
loving, yearning nature ; he is born absolutely like Abbe
Froment of an unbelieving father and a mother of mystical
mind. But unlike Froment he cannot shake off the shackles
of his priesthood. Eeborn to life after his dangerous illness,
he relapses into the religion of death, the religion which
regards life as impurity, which denies Nature's laws, and so
often wrecks human existence, as if indeed that had been the
Divine purpose in setting man upon earth. His struggles
suggest various passages in ' Lourdes ' and ' Rome.' In fact,
in writing those works, M. Zola must have had his earlier
creation in mind. There are passages in ' La Faute de
1'Abbe Mouret ' culled from the writings of the Spanish Jesuit
Fathers and the ' Imitation ' of Thomas a Kempis that recur
almost word for word in the Trilogy of the Three Cities.
Some might regard this as evidence of the limitation of
M. Zola's powers, but I think differently. I consider that
he has in both instances designedly taken the same type of



x ABB& MOURETS TRANSGRESSION

priest in order to show how he may live under varied circum-
stances ; for in the earlier instance he has led him to one
goal, and in the later one to another. And the passages of
prayer, entreaty, and spiritual conflict simply recur because
they are germane, even necessary, to the subject in both
cases.

Of the minor characters that figure in 'La Faute de
1'Abbe Mouret ' the chief thing to be said is that they are
lifelike. If Serge is almost wholly spiritual, if Albine is the
daughter of poesy, they, the others, are of the earth earthy.
As a result of their appearance on the scene, there are some
powerful contrasting passages in the book. Archangias, the
coarse and brutal Christian Brother who serves as a foil to
Abbe Mouret ; La Teuse, the priest's garrulous old house-
keeper ; Desiree, his ' innocent ' sister, a grown woman with
the mind of a child and an almost crazy affection for every
kind of bird and beast, are all admirably portrayed. Old
Bambousse, though one sees but little of him, stands out as a
genuine type of the hard-headed French peasant, who invari-
ably places pecuniary considerations before all others. And
Fortune and Eosalie, Vincent and Catherine, and their com-
panions, are equally true to nature. It need hardly be said that
there is many a village in France similar to Les Artaud.
That hamlet's shameless, purely animal life has in no wise
been over-pictured by M. Zola. Those who might doubt him
need not go as far as Provence to find such communities.
Many Norman hamlets are every whit as bad, and, in
Normandy, conditions are aggravated by a marked predilec-
tion for the bottle, which, as French social-scientists have
been pointing out for some years now, is fast hastening the
degenerescence of the peasantry, both morally and physically.
"With reference to the English version of ' La Faute de
1'Abbe" Mouret ' herewith presented, I may just say that I
have subjected it to considerable revision and have retrans-
lated all the more important passages myself.

E. A. V.
MEKTON, SUBBEY : November 1899.



ABBE MOURET'S TRANSGRESSION



BOOK I



As La Teuse entered the church she rested her broom and
feather-brush against the altar. She was late, as she had
that day begun her half-yearly wash. Limping more than
ever in her haste and hustling the benches, she went down
the church to ring the Angelus. The bare, worn bell-rope
dangled from the ceiling near the confessional, and ended
in a big knot greasy from handling. Again and again, with
regular jumps, she hung herself upon it ; and then let her
whole bulky figure go with it, whirling in her petticoats, her
cap awry, and her blood rushing to her broad face.

Having set her cap straight with a little pat, she came
back breathless to give a hasty sweep before the altar. Every
day the dust persistently settled between the disjoined boards
of the platform. Her broom rummaged among the corners
with an angry rumble. Then she lifted the altar cover and
was sorely vexed to find that the large upper cloth, already
darned in a score of places, was again worn through in the
very middle, so as to show the under cloth, which in its turn
was so worn and so transparent that one could see the con-
secrated stone, embedded in the painted wood of the altar.
La Teuse dusted the linen, yellow from long usage, and plied
her feather-brush along the shelf against which she set
the liturgical altar- cards. Then, climbing upon a chair, she
removed the yellow cotton covers from the crucifix and two of
the candlesticks. The brass of the latter was tarnished.



2 ABBE MOURET S TRANSGRESSION

1 Dear me ! ' she muttered, ' they really want a clean ! I
must give them a polish up ! '

Then hopping on one leg, swaying and stumping heavily
enough to drive in the flag-stones, she hastened to the sacristy
for the Missal, which she placed unopened on the lectern on
the Epistle side, with its edges turned towards the middle of the
altar. And afterwards she lighted the two candles. As she
went off with her broom, she gave a glance round her to
make sure that the ahode of the Divinity had been put in
proper order. All was still, save that the bell-rope near the
confessional still swung between roof and floor with a
sinuous sweep.

Abb6 Mouret had just come down to the sacristy, a small
and chilly apartment, which a passage separated from his
dining-room.

' Good morning, Monsieur le Cure,' said La Teuse, laying
her broom aside. ' Oh ! you have been lazy this morning !
Do you know it's a quarter past six ? ' And without allowing the
smiling young priest sufficient time to reply, she added ' I've a
scolding to give you. There's another hole in the cloth again.
There's no sense in it. We have only one other, and I've
been ruining my eyes over it these three days in trying to
mend it. You will leave our poor Lord quite bare, if you go
on like this.'

Abbe Mouret was still smiling. ' Jesus does not need so
much linen, my good Teuse,' he cheerfully replied. ' He is
always warm, always royally received by those who love Hjrq
well.'

Then stepping towards a small tap, he asked: 'Is my
sister up yet ? I have not seen her.'

' Oh, Mademoiselle Desiree has been down a long time,'
answered the servant, who was kneeling before an old kitchen
sideboard in which the sacred vestments were kept. ' She is
already with her fowls and rabbits. She was expecting some
chicks to be hatched yesterday, and it didn't come off. So
you can guess her excitement.' Then the worthy woman
broke off to inquire : ' The gold chasuble, eh ? '

The priest, who had washed his hands and stood reverently
murmuring a prayer, nodded affirmatively. The parish pos-
sessed only three chasubles : a violet one, a black one, and one in
cloth-of-gold. The last had to be used on the days when white,
reJ, or green was prescribed by the ritual, and it was therefore
an all important garment. La Teuse lifted it reverently



./ 7>7>Y MOURETS TRANSGRESSION 3

from the shelf covered with blue paper, on which she laid it
after each service ; and having placed it on the sideboard, she
cautiously removed the fine cloths which protected its
embroidery. A golden lamb slumbered on a golden cross,
surrounded by broad rays of gold. The gold tissue, frayed at
the folds, broke out in little slender tufts ; the embossed
ornaments were getting tarnished and worn. There was
perpetual anxiety, fluttering concern, at seeing it thus go off
spangle by spangle. The priest had to wear it almost every
day. And how on earth could it be replaced how would
they be able to buy the three chasubles whose place it took,
when the last gold threads should be worn out ?

Upon the chasuble La Teuse next laid out the stole, the
maniple, the girdle, alb and amice. But her tongue still
wagged while she crossed the stole with the maniple, and
wreathed the girdle so as to trace the venerated initial of
Mary's holy name.

' That girdle is not up to much now,' she muttered ; ' you
will have to make up your mind to get another, your
reverence. It wouldn't be very hard ; I could plait you one
myself if I only had some hemp.'

Abbe Mouret made no answer. He was dressing the
chalice at a small table. A large old silver-gilt chalice it was
with a bronze base, which he had just taken from the bottom
of a deal cupboard, in which the sacred vessels and linen,
the Holy Oils, the Missals, candlesticks, and crosses were
kept. Across the cup he laid a clean purificator, and on this



Online LibraryÉmile ZolaAbbé Mouret's transgression → online text (page 1 of 36)