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promised to try and find me a quiet and honourable position. M.
Dupanloup[2] displayed in this matter the high and hearty appreciation
of spiritual things which constituted his superiority. I spoke very
frankly to him. The critical side of the question did not in any way
impress him, and my allusion to German criticism took him by surprise.
The labours of M. Le Hir were almost unknown to him. Scripture in his
eyes was only useful in supplying preachers with eloquent passages,
and Hebrew was of no use for that purpose. But how kind and
generous-hearted he was! I have now before me a short note from him,
in which he says: "Do you want any money? This would be natural enough
in your position. My humble purse is at your service. I should like
to be able to offer you more precious gifts. I hope that my plain
and simple offer will not offend you." I declined his kind offer with
thanks, but there was no merit in my refusal, for my sister Henriette
had sent me twelve hundred francs to tide over this crisis. I scarcely
touched this sum, but nevertheless, by relieving me of any immediate
apprehension for the morrow, it was the foundation of the independence
and of the dignity of my whole life.

Thus, on the 6th of October, 1845, I went down, never again to remount
them in priestly dress, the steps of the St. Sulpice seminary. I
crossed the courtyard as quickly as I could, and went to the hotel
which then stood at the north-west corner of the esplanade, not at
that time thrown open, as it is now.

[Footnote 1: This has reference to a post of private tutor which was at my
disposal for a time.]

[Footnote 2: M. Dupanloup was no longer superior of the Petty Seminary
of Saint Nicholas du Chardonnet.]



The name of this hotel I do not remember; it was always spoken of as
"Mademoiselle Céleste's," this being the name of the worthy person who
managed or owned it.

There was certainly no other hotel like it in Paris, for it was a kind
of annex to the seminary, the rules of which were to a great extent
in force there. Lodgers were not admitted without a letter of
introduction from one of the directors of the seminary or some other
notability in the religious world. It was here that students who
wished for a few days to themselves before entering or leaving the
seminary used to stay, while priests and superiors of convents whom
business brought to Paris found it comfortable and inexpensive. The
transition from the priestly to the ordinary dress is like the change
which occurs in a chrysalis; it needs a little shade. Assuredly,
if any one could narrate all the silent and unobtrusive romances
associated with this ancient hotel, now pulled down, we should hear
some very interesting stories. I must not, however, let my meaning be
mistaken, for, like many ecclesiastics still alive, I can testify to
the blameless course of life in Mlle. Céleste's hotel.

While I was awaiting here the completion of my metamorphosis, M.
Carbon's good offices were being busily employed upon my behalf.
He had written to Abbé Gratry, at that time director of the Collège
Stanislas, and the latter offered me a place as usher in the upper
division. M. Dupanloup advised me to accept it, remarking: "You may
rest assured that M. Gratry is a priest of the highest distinction."
I accepted, and was very kindly treated by every one, but I did not
retain the place more than a fortnight. I found that my new situation
involved my making the outward profession of clericalism, the
avoidance of which was my reason for leaving the seminary. Thus my
relations with M. Gratry were but fleeting. He was a kindhearted
man, and a rather clever writer, but there was nothing in him. His
indecision of mind did not suit me at all, M. Carbon and M. Dupanloup
had told him why I had left St. Sulpice. We had two or three
conversations, in the course of which I explained to him my doubts,
based upon an examination of the texts. He did not in the least
understand me, and with his transcendentalism he must have looked upon
my rigid attention to details as very commonplace. He knew nothing of
ecclesiastical science, whether exegesis or theology; his capabilities
not extending beyond hollow phrases, trifling applications of
mathematics, and the region of "matter of fact." I was not slow to
perceive how immensely superior the theology of St. Sulpice was to
these hollow combinations which would fain pass muster as scientific.
St. Sulpice has a knowledge at first hand of what Christianity is;
the Polytechnic School has not. But I repeat, there could be no two
opinions as to the uprightness of M. Gratry, who was a very taking and
highminded man.

I was sorry to part company with him; but there was no help for it.
I had left the first seminary in the world for one in every respect
inferior to it. The leg had been badly set; I had the courage to break
it a second time. On the 2nd or 3rd of November, I passed from out the
last threshold appertaining to the Church, and I obtained a place
as "assistant master _au pair_" - to employ the phrase used in the
Quartier Latin of those days - without salary, in a school of the
St. Jacques district attached to the Lycée Henri IV. I had a small
bedroom, and took my meals with the scholars, and as my time was not
occupied for more than two hours a day, I was able to do a good deal
of work upon my own account. This was just what I wanted.



Constituted as I am to find my own company quite sufficient, the
humble dwelling in the Rue des Deux Eglises (now the Rue de l'Abbé
de l'Épée) would have been a paradise for me had it not been for
the terrible crisis which my conscience was passing through, and the
altered direction which I was compelled to give to my existence. The
fish in Lake Baïkal have, it is said, taken thousands of years in
their transformation from salt to fresh water fish. I had to effect
my transition in a few weeks. Catholicism, like a fairy circle, casts
such a powerful spell upon one's whole life, that when one is deprived
of it everything seems aimless and gloomy. I felt terribly out of
my element. The whole universe seemed to me like an arid and chilly
desert. With Christianity untrue, everything else appeared to me
indifferent, frivolous, and undeserving of interest. The shattering of
my career left me with a sense of aching void, like what may be felt
by one who has had an attack of fever or a blighted affection. The
struggle which had engrossed my whole soul had been so ardent that
all the rest appeared to me petty and frivolous. The world discovered
itself to me as mean and deficient in virtue. I seemed to have lost
caste, and to have fallen upon a nest of pigmies.

My sorrow was much increased by the grief which I had been compelled
to inflict upon my mother. I resorted, perhaps wrongly, to certain
artifices with the view, as I hoped, of sparing her pain. Her letters
went to my heart. She supposed my position to be even more painful
than it was in reality, and as she had, despite our poverty, rather
spoilt me, she thought that I should never be able to withstand any
hardship. "When I remember how a poor little mouse kept you from
sleeping, I am at a loss to know how you will get on," she wrote to
me. She passed her time singing the Marseilles hymns,[1] of which she
was so fond, especially the hymn of Joseph, beginning -

"O Joseph, ô mon aimable
Fils affable."

When she wrote to me in this strain, my heart was fit to break. As a
child, I was in the habit of asking her ten times over in the course
of the day - "Mother, have I been good?" The idea of a rupture between
us was most cruel. I accordingly resorted to various devices in order
to prove to her that I was still the same tender son that I had been
in the past. In time the wound healed, and when she saw that I was as
tender and loving towards her as ever, she readily agreed that there
might be more than one way of being a priest, and that nothing was
changed in me except the dress, which was the literal truth.

My ignorance of the world was thorough-paced. I knew nothing except
of literary matters, and as my only real knowledge was that which I
gained at St. Sulpice, I have always been like a child in all worldly
matters. I did not therefore make any effort to render my material
position as good as the circumstances admitted. The one object of life
seemed to me to be thought. The educational profession being the one
which comes nearest to the clerical one, I selected it almost without
reflection. It was hard, no doubt, after having reached the maximum
of intellectual culture, and having held a post of some honour,
to descend to the lowest rank. I was better versed than any living
Frenchman, with the exception of M. Le Hir, in the comparative theory
of the Semitic languages, and my position was no better than that of
an under-master; I was a savant, and I had not taken a degree. But
the inward contentment of my own conscience was enough for me. I
never felt a shadow of regret at the decision which I had come to in
October, 1845.

I had my reward, moreover, the day after I entered the humble school
in which I was to occupy for three years and a-half such a lowly
position. Among the pupils was one who, owing to his successes and
rapid progress, held a place of his own in the school. He was eighteen
years old, and even at that early age the philosophical spirit, the
concentrated ardour, the passionate love of truth, and the inventive
sagacity which have since made his name celebrated were apparent to
those who knew him. I refer to M. Berthelot, whose room was next to
mine. From the day that we knew each other, we became fast friends.
Our eagerness to learn was equally great, and we had both had very
different kinds of culture. We accordingly threw all that we knew
into the same seething cauldron which served to boil joints of very
different kinds. Berthelot taught me what was not to be learnt in the
seminary, while I taught him theology and Hebrew. Berthelot purchased
a Hebrew Bible, which, I believe, is still in his library with its
leaves uncut. He did not get much beyond the _Shevas_, the counter
attractions of the laboratory being too great. Our mutual honesty and
straightforwardness brought us closer together. Berthelot introduced
me to his father, one of those gifted doctors such as may be found in
Paris. The father was a Galilean of the old school, and very advanced
in his political views. He was the first Republican I had ever seen,
and it took me some time to familiarize myself with the idea. But
he was something more than that: he was a model of charity and
self-devotion. He assured the scientific career of his son by enabling
him to devote himself up to the age of thirty to his speculative
researches without having to obtain any remunerative post which would
have interfered with his studies. In politics, Berthelot remained true
to the principles of his father. This is the only point upon which
we have not always been agreed. For my part I should willingly resign
myself, if the opportunity arose (I must say that it seems to grow
more distant every day), to serve, for the greater good of
humanity now so sadly out of gear, a tyrant who was philanthropic,
well-instructed, intelligent, and liberal.

Our discussions were interminable, and we were always resuming the
same subject. We passed part of the night in searching out together
the topics upon which we were engaged. After some little time, M.
Berthelot, having completed his special mathematical studies at the
Lycée Henri IV., went back to his father, who lived at the foot of
the Tour Saint Jacques de la Boucherie. When he came to see me in the
evening at the Rue de l'Abbé de l'Épée, we used to converse for hours,
and then I used to walk back with him to the Tour Saint Jacques. But
as our conversation was rarely concluded when we got back to his
door, he returned with me, and then I went back with him, this game
of battledore and shuttlecock being renewed several times. Social and
philosophical questions must be very hard to solve, seeing that we
could not with all our energy settle them. The crisis of 1848 had a
very great effect upon us. This fateful year was not more successful
than we had been in solving the problems which it had set itself, but
it demonstrated the fragility of many things which were supposed to be
solid, and to young and active minds it seemed like the lowering of a
curtain of clouds upon the horizon.

The profound affection which thus bound M. Berthelot and myself
together was unquestionably of a very rare and singular kind. It
so happened that we were both of an essentially objective nature; a
nature, that is to say, perfectly free from the narrow whirlwind which
converts most consciences into an egotistical gulf like the conical
cavity of the formica-leo. Accustomed each to pay very little
attention to himself, we paid very little attention to one another.
Our friendship consisted in what we mutually learnt, in a sort of
common fermentation which a remarkable conformity of intellectual
organization produced in us in regard to the same objects. Anything
which we had both seen in the same light seemed to us a certainty.
When we first became acquainted, I still retained a tender attachment
for Christianity. Berthelot also inherited from his father a remnant
of Christian belief. A few months sufficed to relegate these vestiges
of faith to that part of our souls reserved for memory. The statement
that everything in the world is of the same colour, that there is no
special supernatural or momentary revelation, impressed itself upon
our minds as unanswerable. The scientific purview of a universe in
which there is no appreciable trace of any free will superior to that
of man became, from the first months of 1846, the immovable anchor
from which we never shifted. We shall never move from this position
until we shall have encountered in nature some one specially
intentional fact having its cause outside the free will of man or the
spontaneous action of the animal.

Thus our friendship was somewhat analogous to that of two eyes when
they look steadily at the same object, and when from two images the
brain receives one and the same perception. Our intellectual growth
was like the phenomenon which occurs through a sort of action due
to close contact and to passive complicity. M. Berthelot looked as
favourably upon what I did as myself; I liked his ways as much as
he could have done himself. There was never so much as a trivial
vulgarity - I will not say a moral slackening of affection - between us.
We were invariably upon the same terms with each other that people are
with a woman for whom they feel respect. When I want to typify what an
unexampled pair of friends we were, I always represent two priests
in their surplices walking arm in arm. This dress does not debar them
from discussing elevated subjects; but it would never occur to them
in such a dress to smoke a cigar, to talk about trifles, or to satisfy
the most legitimate requirements of the body. Flaubert, the novelist,
could never understand that, as Sainte-Beuve relates, the recluses of
Port Royal lived for years in the same house and addressed each other
as Monsieur to the day of their death. The fact of the matter is that
Flaubert had no sort of idea as to what abstract natures are. Not only
did nothing approaching to a familiarity ever pass between us, but
we should have hesitated to ask each other for help, or almost for
advice. To ask a service would, in our view, be an act of corruption,
an injustice towards the rest of the human race; it would, at all
events, be tantamount to acknowledging that there was something to
which we attached a value. But we are so well aware that the temporal
order of things is vain, empty, hollow, and frivolous, that we
hesitate at giving a tangible shape even to friendship. We have too
much regard for each other to be guilty of a weakness towards each
other. Both alike convinced of the insignificance of human affairs,
and possessed of the same aspirations for what is eternal, we could
not bring ourselves to admit having of a set purpose concentrated our
thoughts upon what is casual and accidental. For there can be no doubt
that ordinary friendship presupposes the conviction that all things
are not vain and empty.

Later in life an intimacy of this kind may at times cease to be felt
as a necessity. It recovers all its force whenever the globe of this
world, which is ever changing, brings round some new aspect with
regard to which we want to consult each other. Whichever of us dies
first will leave a great void in the existence of the other. Our
friendship reminds me of that of François de Sales and President
Favre: "They pass away these years of time, my brother, their months
are reduced to weeks, their weeks to days, their days to hours, and
their hours to moments, which latter alone we possess, and these only
as they fleet." The conviction of the existence of an eternal object
embraced in youth, gives a peculiar stability to life. All this is
anything but human or natural, you may say! No doubt, but strength is
only manifested by running counter to nature. The natural tree does
not bear good fruit. The fruit is not good until the tree is trained;
that is to say, until it has ceased to be a tree.

[Footnote 1: A collection of hymns of the sixteenth century, touching
in their simplicity. I have my mother's old copy; I may perhaps write
something about them hereafter.]



The friendship of M. Berthelot, and the approbation of my sister,
were my two chief consolations during this painful period, when the
sentiment of an abstract duty towards truth compelled me at the age
of three and twenty to alter the course of a career already fairly
entered upon. The change was, in reality, only one of domicile, and of
outward surroundings. At bottom I remained the same; the moral course
of my life was scarcely affected by this trial; the craving for truth,
which was the mainspring of my existence, knew no diminution. My
habits and ways were but very little modified.

St. Sulpice, in truth, had left its impress so deeply upon me, that
for years I remained a St. Sulpice man, not in regard to faith but in
habit. The excellent education imparted there, which had exhibited
to me the perfection of politeness in M. Gosselin, the perfection of
kindness in M. Carbon, the perfection of virtue in M. Pinault, M.
Le Hir and M. Gottofrey, made an indelible impression upon my docile
nature. My studies, prosecuted without interruption after I had left
the seminary, so completely confirmed me in my presumptions against
orthodox theology, that at the end of a twelvemonth, I could scarcely
understand how I had formerly been able to believe. But when faith has
disappeared, morality remains; for a long time, my programme was to
abandon as little as possible of Christianity, and to hold on to all
that could be maintained without belief in the supernatural. I sorted,
so to speak, the virtues of the St. Sulpice student, discarding those
which appertain to a positive belief, and retaining those of which
a philosopher can approve. Such is the force of habit. The void
sometimes has the same effect as its opposite. _Est pro corde locus_.
The fowl whose brain has been removed, will nevertheless, under the
influence of certain stimulants, continue to scratch its beak.

I endeavoured, therefore, on leaving St. Sulpice to remain as much of
a St. Sulpice man as possible. The studies which I had begun at the
seminary had so engrossed me, that my one desire was to resume them.
One only occupation seemed worthy to absorb my life, and that was the
pursuit of my critical researches upon Christianity by the much larger
means which lay science offered me. I also imagined myself to be
in the company of my teachers, discussing objections with them, and
proving to them that whole pages of ecclesiastical teaching require

For some little time, I kept up my relations with them, notably with
M. Le Hir, but I gradually came to feel that relations of this kind,
between the believer and the unbeliever, grow strained, and I broke
off an intimacy which could be profitable and pleasant to myself

In respect to matters of critique, I also held my ground as closely as
I possibly could, and thus it comes that, while being unrestrictedly
rationalist, I have none the less seemed a thorough conservative in
the discussions relating to the age and authenticity of Holy Writ. The
first edition of my _Histoire Générale des Langues Sémitiques_, for
instance, contains so far as regards the book of Ecclesiastes and the
Song of Solomon, several concessions to traditional opinions which
I have since eliminated one after the other. In my _Origines du
Christianisme_, upon the other hand, this reserved attitude has stood
me in good stead, for in writing this essay, I had to face a very
exaggerated school - that of the Tübingen Protestants - composed of men
devoid of literary tact and moderation, by whom, through the fault of
the Catholics, researches as to Jesus and the apostolic age have been
almost entirely monopolised. When a reaction sets in against this
school, it will be recognised perhaps that my critique, Catholic in
its origin, and by degrees freed from the shackles of tradition, has
enabled me to see many things in their true light, and has preserved
me from more than one mistake.

But it is in regard to my temperament, more especially, that I have
remained in reality the pupil of my old masters. My life, when I pass
it in review, has been one long application of their good qualities
and their defects; with this difference, that these qualities and
defects, having been transferred to the world's stage, have brought
out inconsistencies more strongly marked. All's well that ends well,
and as my existence has, upon the whole, been a pleasant one, I often
amuse myself, like Marcus Aurelius, by calculating how much I owe to
the various influences which have traversed my life, and woven the
tissue of it. In these calculations, St. Sulpice always comes out
as the principal factor. I can venture to speak very freely on this
point, for little of the credit is due to me. I was well trained, and
that is the secret of the whole matter. My amiability, which is in
many cases the result of indifference; my indulgency, which is sincere
enough, and is due to the fact that I see clearly how unjust men
are to one another; my conscientious habits, which afford me real
pleasure, and my infinite capacity for enduring ennui, attributable
perhaps to my having been so well inoculated by ennui during my youth
that it has never taken since, are all to be explained by the circle
in which I lived, and the profound impressions which I received. Since
I left St. Sulpice, I have been constantly losing ground, and yet,
with only a quarter the virtues of a St. Sulpice man, I have, I think,
been far above the average.

I should like to explain in detail and show how the paradoxical
resolve to hold fast to the clerical virtues, without the faith upon
which they are based, and in a world for which they are not designed,
produced so far as I was concerned, the most amusing encounters. I
should like to relate all the adventures which my Sulpician habits
brought about, and the singular tricks which they played me. After
leading a serious life for sixty years, mirth is no offence, and what
source of merriment can be more abundant, more harmless, and more
ready to hand than oneself? If a comedy writer should ever be inclined
to amuse the public by depicting my foibles I would readily give my
assent if he agreed to let me join him in the work, as I could relate
things far more amusing than any which he could invent. But I find
that I am transgressing the first rule which my excellent masters laid
down, viz., never to speak of oneself. I will therefore treat this
latter part of my subject very briefly.



The moral teaching inculcated by the pious masters who watched over me
so tenderly up to the age of three-and-twenty may be summed up in the
four virtues of disinterestedness or poverty, modesty, politeness,
and strict morality. I propose to analyse my conduct under these four
heads, not in any way with the intention of advertising my own merits,
but in order to give those who profess the philosophy of good-natured

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