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VOL. 11.




All rights resc-med

First printed \1,'i>(i
Reprinted iS88.







The influence of Pascal 1

Vauvenargues holds the balance between him and the

votaries of Perfectibility 4

Birth, education, and hard life of Vauvenargues . . 4

Life in Paris, and friendship ■with Voltaire ... 10

His religious sentiment ....... 12

His delicacy, reserve, and psychagogic qualitj'- . . 15

Certain inability to appreciate marked originality . , 17

Criticisms on Moliere, Racine, and Corneille ... 19

Comparison with English aphoristic writers and moralists 20

Character the key to his theory of greatness ... 25
His exaltation of spontaneous feeling, a protest against

Rochefoucauld and Pascal . . . . 26

His plea for a normal sense of human relation, the same . 28
His doctrine of the "Will connected with his doctrine of

Character 29

Antipathy to ascetic restrictions ..... 33
Two ways of examining character : that followed by

Vauvenargues ........ 34

Examples of his stjde ....... 36

Tlie beauty of his nature to be read in his face . . 40




])irth and family descent 41

His 3'outh at tlie Sorbonnc 47

Intellectual training ••..... 52

His college friends : Morellet, and Lomenie de Briennc . 54

Turgot refused to become an ecclesiastic .... 56

His revolt against dominant sopliisms of the time . . GO

Letter to Buffon 51

Precocity of his intellect 65

Letter to Madame de Graffigny 65

Hlustrates the influence of Locke 69

Views on marriage ........ 72

On the controversy opened by Rousseau .... 72

Turgot's power of grave suspense 76


First Discourse at the Sorbonne 78

Analysis of its contents 80

Criticisms upon it 86

It is one-sided 87

And not truly historic 88

Fails to distinguish doctrine from organisation . . 89

Omits the Christianity of the East 90

And economic conditions ...... 92

The contemporary position of the Church in Europe . 93


Second Discourse at the Sorbonnc 96

Its pregnant thesis of social causation .... 97



Compared, with the thesis of Bossuet .... 99

And of Montesquieu ....... 100

Analysis of the Second Discourse . . . . .102

Cliaracteristic of Turgot's idea of Progress . . . 106
Its limitation . . . . . . . . .108

Great merit of the Discourse, that it recognises ordered

succession ........ 110


Turgot appointed Intendant of the Limousin . . .111
Functions of an Intendant ...... 112

Account of the Limousin 114

Turgot's passion for good government . . . .118

He attempts to deal with the Taille . . . .119

The road Corvee ........ 121

Turgot's endeavours to enlighten opinion . . . 126

Military service 129

,, transport ........ 131

The collection of taxes 132

Turgot's private benevolence ...... 133

Introduces the potato . . • . . . .134

Founds an academy .135

Encourages manufacturing industiy .... 136

Enlightened views on Usury . . . . . .137

Has to deal with a scarcity ...... 138

His plans 139

Instructive facts connected with this famine . . .142
Turgot's Reflections on the Formation and Distribution

of Wealth 149

Turgot made Controller-General
His reforms ....



Their rccpption

His unpopularity .

Difficulties with the king

His dismissal .

His pursuits in retirement





Condorcet's peculiar position and characteristics

Birth, instruction, and early sensibility .

Friendship with Voltaire and with Turgot . .17

Compared with these two great men

Currents of French opinion and circumstance in 1771

Condorcet's principles drawn from two sources .

His view of the two English Revolutions

His life up to the convocation of the States-General

Energetic interest in the elections ....

Want of prevision

His participation in political activity down to the end of


Chosen one of the secretaries of the Legislative Assembly

Elected to the Convention

Resistance to the Jacobins, proscription, and death .

Condorcet's tenacious interest in human welfare

Two currents of thought in France at the middle of tin

eighteenth century

Quesnay and the Physiocrats

Montesquieu .....•••
Turgot completed Montesciuicu's historical conception
Kant's idea of a Universal or Cosmo-Political History


0, 171





Conclorcet fuses the conceptions of the two previous sets

thinkers .....
Account of his Tableau des Progres .
Omits to consider history of moral improvement
And misinterprets tlie religious element
His view of Mahometanism
Of Protestantism ....
And of philosophic propagandism .
Various acute remarks in his sketch
His boundless hopes for the future .
Three directions which our anticipations may take :-
(!) International equality .

(2) Internal equality .

(3) Substantial perfecting of nature and society
Natural view of the formation of character
Central idea of all his aspirations







The Catholic reaction in France at the beginning of the
century .......

De Maistre the best type of the movement

Birth, instruction, and early life

Invasion of Savoy, and De Maistre's flight

At Lausanne, Venice, and Cagliari .

Sent in 1802 as minister to St. Petersburg

Hardships of his life there from 1802 to 1817 .

Circumstances of his return home, and his death

De ]\Iaistre's view of the eighteenth century .

And of the French Revolution

The great problem forced upon the Catholics by it




Do Maistre's way of dealing with the question of the divine

method of government ...... 293

Nature of divine responsibility for evil .... 29-1

On Physical Science 298

Significance of such ideas in a mind like Do Maistre's . 299
Two theories tenable by social thinkers after the Revolu-
tion 303

De JIaistre's appreciation of the beneficent work of tlie

Papacy in the past 307

Insists on the revival of the papal power as the essential

condition of a restored Euroj^ean order . . . 313

Views Christianity from the statesman's point of view . 314
His consequent hatred of the purely speculative temper of

the Greeks ........ 316

His object was social or political . . . . .318

Hence his grounds for defending the doctrine of Infalli-
bility 319

The analogy which lay at the bottom of his Ultramontane

doctrine 320

His hostility to the authority of General Councils . . 323

His view of the obligation of the canons on the Pope . 325

His appeal to European statesmen 326

Comte and De Maistre ....... 329

His strictures on Protestantism .... 331

Futility of his aspirations 335


One of the most important phases of French thought
in the great century of its iUumination is only
thoroughly intelligible, on condition that in studying
it we keep constantly in mind the eloquence, force,
and genius of Pascal. He was the greatest and most
influential representative of that way of viewing
human nature and its circumstances, which it was
one of the characteristic glories of the eighteenth
century to have rebelled against and rejected. More
than a hundred years after the publication of the
Pens^es, Condorcet thought it worth while to prepare
a new edition of them, with annotations, protesting,
not without a certain imwonted deference of tone,
against Pascal's doctrine of the base and desperate
estate of man. Voltaire also had them reprinted
with notes of his own, written in the same spirit of
vivacious deprecation, which we may be sure would
have been even more vivacious, if Voltaire had not
remembered that he was speaking of the mightiest
of all the enemies of the Jesuits. Apart from formal
and specific dissents like these, all the writers who
had drunk most deeply of the spirit of the eighteenth
VOL. ir. & B


century, lived in a constant fernicnt of revolt against
the clcar-witted and vigorous thinker of the century
before, who had clothed mere theological mysteries
with the force and importance of strongly entrenched
propositions in a consistent philosophy.

The resplendent fervour of Bossuet's declamations
upon the nothingness of kings, the pitifulness of
mortal aims, the crushing ever-ready grip of the hand
of God upon the purpose and faculty of man, rather
filled the mind with exaltation than really depressed
or humiliated it. From Bossuet to Pascal is to pass
from the solemn splendour of the church to the chill
of the crypt. Besides, Bossuet's attitude Avas profes-
sional, in the first place, and it was purely theological,
in the second ; so the main stream of thought flowed
away and aside from him. To Pascal it was felt
necessary that there should be reply and vindication,
whether in the shape of deliberate and published
formulas, or in the reasoned convictions of the
individual intelligence working privately. A syllabus
of the radical articles of the French creed of the
eighteenth century would consist largely of the
contradictions of the main propositions of Pascal.
The old theological idea of the fall was hard to
endure, but the idea of the fall was clenched by such
general laws of human nature as this, — that 'men
are so necessarily mad, that it would be to be mad
by a new form of madness not to be mad;' — that
man is nothing but masquerading, lying, and hypoc-
risy, both in what concerns himself and in respect of


others, wishing not to have the truth told to himself,
and shrinking from telling it to anybody else;^ that
the will, the imagination, the disorders of the body,
the thousand concealed infirmities of the intelligence,
conspire to reduce our discovery of justice and truth
to a process of haphazard, in which we more often
miss the mark than hit.^ Pleasure, ambition, industry,
are only means of distracting men from the otherwise
unavoidable contemplation of their own misery. How
speak of the dignity of the race and its history, when
we know that a grain of sand in Cromwell's bladder
altered the destinies of a kingdom, and that if
Cleopatra's nose had been shorter the whole surface
of the earth would be different 1 Imagine, in a word,
' a number of men in chains, and all condemned to
death ; some of them each day butchered in the sight
of the others, while those who remain watch their
own condition in that of their fellows, and eyeing
one another in anguish and hopelessness, wait their
turn ; such is the situation of man.'^

It was hardly possible to push the tragical side of
the verities of life beyond this, and there was soon
an instinctive reaction towards realities. The sensa-
tions with their conditions of pleasure no less than of
pain ; the intelligence with its energetic aptitudes for
the discovery of protective and fruitful knowledge;
the affections with their large capacities for giving
and receiving delight ; the spontaneous inner impulse

^ Pensfics, i. v. 8. ^ lb. i. vi. 16.

^ lb. i. vii. 6.


towards action and endurance in the face of outward
circumstances — all these things reassured men, and
restored in theory to them with ample interest what
in practice they had never lost — a rational faith and
exultation in their own faculties, both of finding out
truth and of feeling a very substantial degree of
happiness. On this side too, as on the other,
speculation went to its extreme limit. The hapless
and despairing wretches of Pascal were transformed
by the votaries of perfectibility into bright beings
not any lower than the angels. Between the two
extremes there was one fine moralist who knew how
to hold a just balance, perceiving that language is
the expression of relations and proportions, that when
we speak of virtue and genius we mean qualities that
compared with those of mediocre souls deserve these
high names, that greatness and happiness are com-
parative terms, and that there is nothing to be said
of the estate of man except relatively. This moralist
was Vauvenargues.

Vauvenargues was born of a good Provencal stock
at Aix, in the year 1715. He had scarcely any of
that kind of education which is usually performed in
school-classes, and he was never able to read either
Latin or Greek. Such slight knowledge as he ever
got of the famous -writers among the ancients was in
translations. Of English literature, though its influ-
ence and that of our institutions were then becoming
paramount in France, and though he had a particular
esteem for the English character, he knew only the


writings of Locke and Pope, and the Paradise Lost}
Vauvenargues must be added to the list of thinkers
and writers whose personal history shows, what men
of letters sometimes appear to be in a consj)iracy to
make us forget, that for sober, healthy, and robust
judgment on human nature and life, active and
sympathetic contact with men in the transaction of
the many aflairs of their daily life is a better
preparation than any amount of wholly meditative
seclusion. He is also one of the many who show
that a weakly constitution of body is not incompatible
with fine and energetic qualities of mind, even if it
be not actually friendly to them. Nor was feeble
health any disqualification for the profession of arms.
As Arms and the Church Avere the only alternatives
for persons of noble birth, Vaiivenargues, choosing
the former, became a subaltern in the King's Own
Regiment at the age of twenty (1735). Here in time
he saw active service; for in 1740 the death of
Charles vi. threw all Europe into confusion, and the
French Government, falling in with the prodigious
designs of the Marshal Belle-Isle and his brother,
took sides against Maria Theresa, and supported the
. claims of the unhappy Elector of Bavaria who after-
wards became the Emperor Charles vii. The disasters
which fell upon France in consequence are well
known. The forces despatched to Bavaria and
Bohemia, after the brief triumph of the capture of

^ M. Gilbort'.s edition of the Works and Correspondence of
Vauvenargues (2 vols. Paris : Furne, 1857), ii. 133.


Prague, were gradually overwhelmed without a single
great battle, and it was considered a signal piece of
good fortune when in the winter of 1742-43 Bcllc-Isle
succeeded, with a loss of half his force, in leading by
a long circuit, in the view of the enemy, and amid
the horrors of famine and intense frost, some thirteen
thousand men away from Prague. The King's
Regiment took part in the Bohemian campaign, and
in this frightful march which closed it ; Vauvenargues
with the rest.

To physical sufferings during two winters was
added the distress of losing a comrade to whom he
was deeply attached ; he perished in the spring of
'42 under the hardships of the Avar. The Eloge in
which Vauvenargues commemorates the virtues and
the pitiful fate of his friend, is too deeply marked
with the florid and declamatory style of youth to be
pleasing to a more ripened taste. ^ He complained
that nobody who had read it observed that it was
touching, not remembering that even the most tender
feeling fails to touch us, when it has found stilted
and turgid expression. Delicacy and Avarmth of
affection Avere prominent characteristics in Vauven-
argues. Perhaps if his life had been passed in less
severe circumstances, this fine susceptibility might
have become fanciful and morbid. As it was, he
loved his friends with a certain patient sweetness and
equanimity, in which there Avas never the faintest
tinge of fretfulness, caprice, exacting vanity, or any
1 Eloge de P. H. dc Seytres. CEuv. i. 141-150.


of those other vices which betray in men that
excessive consciousness of their own personahty,
which lies at the root of most of the obstacles in the
way of an even and humane life. His nature had
such depth and quality that the perpetual untoward-
ness of circumstances left no evil print upon him ;
hardship made him not sour, but patient and wise,
and there is no surer sign of noble temper.

The sufferings and bereavements of war were not
his only trials. Vauvenargues was beset throughout
the whole of his short life with the sordid and
humiHating embarrassments of narrow means. His
letters to Saint- Vincens, the most intimate of his
friends, disclose the straits to which he was driven.
The nature of these straits is an old story all over
the world, and Vauvenargues did the same things
that young men in want of money have generally
done. It cannot be said, I fear, that he passed along
those miry ways without some defilement. He
bethinks him on one occasion that a rich neighbour
has daughters. 'Why should I not imdertake to
marry one of them within two years, with a reasonable
dowry, if he would lend me the money I want and
provided I should not have repaid it by the time
fixed f^ We must make allowance for the youth of
the writer, and for a different view of marriage and
its significance from our own. Even then there
remains something to regret. Poverty, wrote Vau-
venargues, in a maxim smacking unwontedly of

^ (JEuv. ii. 233. See too p. 267.


coninioiiplace, cannot debase strong souls, any more
than riches can elevate low souls.^ That de})ends.
If poverty means pinching and fretting need of
money, it may not debase the soul in any vital sense,
but it is extremely likely to wear away a very
priceless kind of delicacy in a man's estimate of
human relations and their import.

Vauvenargues has told us what he found the life
of the camp. Luxurious and indolent living, neglected
duties, discontented sighing after the delights of
Paris, the exaltation of rank and mediocrity, an
insolent contempt for merit ; these were the charac-
teristics of the men in high military place. The
lower officers meantime were overwhelmed by an
expenditure that the luxury of their superiors
introduced and encouraged ; and they were speedily
driven to retire by the disorder of their affairs, or by
the impossibility of promotion, because men of spirit
could not long endure the sight of flagrant injustice,
and because those Avho labour for fame cannot tie
themselves to a condition where there is nothing to
be gathered but shame and humiliation. ^

To these considerations of an extravagant expendi-
ture and the absence of every chance of promotion,
there was added in the case of Vauvenargues the still
more powerful drawback of irretrievably broken
health. The winter-march from Prague to Egra had
sown fatal seed. His legs had been frost-bitten, and
before they could be cured he was stricken by

' No. 579, i. 455. - Riflcxions sur Divers Sujcts, i. 104.


small-pox, which left him disfigured and almost blind.
So after a service of nine years, he quitted military
life (1744). He vainly solicited employment as a
diplomatist. The career was not yet open to the
talents, and in the memorial which Vauvenargues
drew up he dwelt less on his conduct than on his
birth, being careful to show that he had an authentic
ancestor who was Governor of Hyeres in the early
part of the fourteenth century.^ But the only road
to employment lay through the Court. The claims
even of birth counted for nothing, unless they were
backed by favour among the ignoble creatures who
haunted Versailles. For success it was essential to
be not only high-born, but a parasite as well. ' Permit
me to assure you, sir,' Vauvenargues wrote courage-
ously to Amelot, then the minister, 'that it is this
moral impossibility for a gentleman, with only zeal to
commend him, of ever reaching the King his master,
which causes the discouragement that is observed
among the nobility of the provinces, and which
extinguishes all ambition.'" Amelot, to oblige Vol-
taire, eager as usual in good offices for his friend,
answered the letters which Vauvenargues wrote, and
promised to lay his name before the King as soon as
a favourable opportunity should present itself.^

Vauvenargues was probably enough of a man of

the world to take fair words of this sort at their

value, and he had enough of qualities that do not

belong to the man of the world to enable him to

1 (Euv. ii. 249. ^ /j_ ^i 265. ^ lb. ii. 266.


confront the disappointment witli cheerful fortitude.
' Misfortune itself,' he had once written, ' has its
charms in great extremities; for this opposition of
fortune raises a courageous mind, and makes it collect
all the forces that before were unemployed : it is in
indolence and littleness that virtue suffers, when a
timid prudence prevents it from rising in flight and
forces it to creep along in bonds. '^ He was true to
the counsel which he had thus given years before,
and with the consciousness that death was rapidly
approaching, and that all hope of advancement in
the ordinary way was at an end, even if there were
any chance of his life, he persevered in his project of
going to Paris, there to earn the fame which he
instinctively felt that he had it in him to achieve.
Neither scantiness of means nor the vehement
protests of friends and relations — always the worst
foes to superior character on critical occasions — could
detain him in the obscurity of Provence. In 1745
he took up his quarters in Paris in a humble house
near the School of Medicine. Literature had not yet
acquired that importance in France which it was so
soon to obtain. The Encyclopaedia was still uncon-
ceived, and the momentous work which that famous
design was to accomplish, of organising the philoso-
phers and men of letters into an army with banners,
was still unexecuted. Voltaire, indeed, had risen, if
not to the full height of his reputation, yet high
enough both to command the admiration of people of
^ Conseils d un Jeune Homme, i. 124.


quality, and to be the recognised chief of the new
school of literature and thought. Voltaire had been
struck by a letter in which Vauvenargues, then
unknown to him, had sent a criticism comparing
Corneille disadvantageously with Racine. Coming
from a young officer, the member of a profession
which Voltaire frankly described as 'very noble, in
truth, but slightly barbarous,' this criticism was
peculiarly striking. A great many years afterwards
Voltaire was surprised in the same way, to find that
an officer could write such a book as the FdicitS
Puhli(]iie of the Marquis de Chastellux. To Vauven-
argues he replied with many compliments, and pointed
out with a good deal of pains the injustice which the
young critic had done to the great author of Cinna.
' It is the part of a man like you,' he said admirably,
'to have preferences, but no exclusions.''^ The corres-
pondence thus begun was kept up with ever-growing
warmth and mutual respect. ' If you had been born
a few years earlier,' Voltaire wrote to him, 'my
works would be worth all the more for it; but at
any rate, even at the close of my career, you confirm
me in the path that you pursue.'-

The personal impression was as fascinating as that
which had been conveyed by Vauvenargues' letters.
Voltaire took every opportunity of visiting his
unfortunate friend, then each day drawing nearer
to the grave. Men of humbler stature were equally
attracted. ' It was at this time,' says the light-hearted
1 LEuv. ii. 252. 2 jij_ jj, £72.


Mannontel, 'that I first saw at home tlic man who
had a charm for mc beyond all the rest of the world,
the good, the virtuous, the wise Vauvcnargues.
Cruelly used by nature in his body, he was in soul
one of her rarest masterpieces. I seemed to see in
him Fenelon weak and suffering. I could make a
good book of his conversations, if I had had a chance
of collecting them. You see some traces of it in the
selection that he has left of his thoughts and
meditations. But all eloquent and full of feeling as
he is in his writinsrs, he was even more so still in his
conversation.'^ Marmontel felt sincere grief when
Vauvenargues died, and in the Epistle to Voltaire
expressed his sorrow in some fair lines. They
contain the happy phrase applied to Vauvenargues,
'ce coeur stoiqiie et tendre.'^

In religious sentiment Vauvenargues was out of
the groove of his time. That is to say, he was not

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