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in 2010 with funding from

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign






Author of ' Curious Myths of the Middle Ages,'
' Origi7i and Development of Religious Belief ' The Silver Store,' &c., &C.















There Is a side to the History of the French
Revolution which Is too generally overlooked — Its
ecclesiastical side.

Under the ancien regime, the disadvantages
of an Establishment produced a strong party of
liberal Catholics prepared for a radical change
In the relations between Church and State.

It was this party which organised that remark-
able Constitutional Church, at once Republican
and Catholic, which sustained Religion through
the Reign of Terror, and which Pope Pius VII
and Napoleon I combined to overthrow.

My object in writing this story is to Illustrate
the currents of feeling In the State and Church
of France in 1 789, currents not altogether unlike
those now circulating in our own. It was my
good fortune, during a recent visit to Normandy,


to collect materials for a history of a repre-
sentative character of that eventful period, — one
Thomas Lindet, parish priest of Bernay. In
writing his story, I do not present him to the
reader as a model. He had great faults ; but
one can forgive much on account of his enthu-
siastic love of justice, and faith in his cause.

That my story may be taken to convey a
moral, is possible. But let me disclaim any in-
tention of preaching a lesson to the aristocracy ;
I believe that they do not need it. In France,
the crown supported the nobility ; in England,
the nobility support the crown. The French
aristocracy was a privileged class, exempt from
the burden of taxation. In England, the hea-
viest burden falls on the holders of landed
property. With us, the privileged class is that
of the manufacturer and trader. The French
nobility never made common cause with the
people against the encroachments of the royal
prerogative. The English barons wrung Magna
Charta from reluctant John. Henry VIII would
never have been able to consolidate the power in
his despotic hands, had not the civil wars of the
Roses broken the strength of the aristocracy.


Since then the nobiHty have made the cause
of right and Hberty their own, and a Hmited
monarchy is the result.

The moral, if moral there must be, is this :
In times when the relations between Church
and State are precarious, coercive measures are
certain to force on a rupture.

Of late, repression has been employed freely
on a portion of the community, and this has
suddenly created a liberation party which three
years ago scarcely existed within the Church
and the ranks of the clergy.

The English curate is as much at the mercy
of the bishop as was, and is still, the French
cure ; and this he has been made painfully
aware of

In the Wesleyan revival, a body of earnest
men who moved for a relaxation of the icy
bonds of Establishmentarianism were thrust forth
into schism. The first Tractarians were driven
to Rome by the hardness of their spiritual rulers.
At present, a party, peculiarly narrow, and
rapidly dying, by means of a packed Privy
Council, are engaged in hunting out and re-
pressing the most active section of the Church.


Worship Is the language of conviction. To a
large and rapidly increasing body of Anglicans,
Christ is not, as He is to Protestants, a mere
historical personage, the founder of Christianity,
but is the centre of a religious system, the ever-
present object of adoration for His people. A
passionate love of Christ has floreated into
splendour of worship. To curtail liberty of
worship is to touch the rights of conscience ;
and to interfere with them has ever led to
disastrous consequences — such is the verdict of

A feverish eagerness to dissever Church and
State has broken out among clergy and laity,
and a schism would be the result, were the chain
uniting Church and State indissoluble ; but, as
events of late years have made it clear, that with
a little concerted energy the old rust-eaten links
can be snapped, there will be no schism, but an
united effort will be made by a body of resolute
spirits within the Church to tear asunder crown
and mitre. The disestablishment of the English
Church will present a feature absent from that of
the Irish Church. In the latter case, there was
an unanimous opposition to the measure by all


within it ; but, in the event of the severance of
the union in England, it will take place amid
the joyous acclamations of no inconsiderable
section of its best and truest sons.

If, from the following pages, it appears that
my sympathies are with the National Assembly,
and those who upset the aricien regi77te, it does
not follow that they are with the Revolution in
its excesses. The true principles of the Revo-
lution are embodied in the famous Declaration
of the Rights of Man. ' Write at the head of
that Declaration the name of God,' said Gregoire ;
' or you establish rights without duties, which is
but another thing for proclaiming Force to be
supreme.' The Assembly refused. Gregoire
was right.

Robespierre, Danton, and his clique made force
supreme — as supreme as in the days of the
Monarchy, and trampled on the rights, to protect
which they had been raised into power.

A Republic is one thing : the despotism of
an Autocracy or of a Democracy is another

I propose following up this historical romance
by a life of the Abbe Gregoire, which will illus-


trate the position of the Constitutional Church,
of which he was the soul.

I have chosen the form of fiction for this
sketch, as it best enables me to exhibit the state
of feeling in France in 1788, 1789. That is no
fiction ; the incidents related and the characters
introduced are, for the most part, true to History.

S. B-G.

Dalton, Thirsk,
March 25M, 1870.



The forests that at the present day cover such a considerable
portion of the department of Eure, and which supply the great
manufacturing cities on the Seine with fuel, were of much
greater extent in the eighteenth century. The fragments of
forest which now extend from jMontfort to Breteuil were then
united, and stretched in one almost unbroken green zone from
the Seine to the Arve, following the course of the little river
Rille. A spur struck off at Serquigny, and traced the confluent
Charentonne upwards as far as Broglie.

The little town of Bernay is no longer hemmed in by woods.
The heights and the valley of the Charentonne are still well
timbered, and green with copse and grove; the landscape is
park-like ; here and there a fine old oak with rugged bark and
expanded arms proclaims itself a relic of the ancien regime ;
but the upstart poplars whitening in the wind along the river
course spire above these venerable trees. The roads lie be-
tween wheat and potato fields, and the names of hamlets, such



as Bosc, Le Taillis, Le Buisson, Bocage, La Couture, &c., alone
proclaim that once they lay embedded in forest foliage.

On the eve of the Great French Revolution, Bernay was a
manufacturing town, that had gradually sprung up during the
middle ages, around the walls of the great Benedictine Abbey
which the Duchess Judith of Brittany had founded in 1013,
and endowed with nearly all the surrounding forest. The town
was unhealthy. It lay in a hollow, and the monks had
dammed up the little stream Cogney, which there met the
Charentonne, to turn their mill-wheel, and had converted a
portion of the valley into a marsh, in which the frogs croaked
loudly and incessantly.

When the abbot was resident, the townsfolk were required to
beat the rushes and silence the noisy reptiles every summer
night ; but now that the Superior resided at Dax, this require-
ment was not pressed.

After a heavy downfall of rain, the rivulet was wont to swell
into a torrent, overflow the dam, and flood the streets of
Bernay, carrying with it such an amount of peat that every
house into which the water penetrated was left, after its retreat,
plastered with black soil, and, in spring, smeared with frog-

The mill was privileged. No other was permitted in the
neighbourhood. When M. Chauvin erected a windmill on the
hill of Bouff"ey, the monks brought an action against him, and


made him dismantle it. All the corn that grew within five
miles was ground at the Abbey mill, and every tenth bag was
taken by the Fathers in payment for grinding the corn indiffer-
ently and at their leisure. At certain seasons, more wheat was
brought to the mill than the mill could grind, because the water
had run short, or the stones were out of repair, consequently
many thousands of hungry people had to wait in patience till
the Cogney filled, or till the mill-stones had been re-picked,
whilst the gutted windmill of ]M. Chauvin stood in compulsory

The great and little tithes of Bernay went to the Abbey ; and
out of them the monks defrayed the expense of a curate for
the parish church of S. Cross. This church had been built by
the town in 1372, by permission of the Abbey, on condition
that the parish should bear the charge of its erection, and the
abbot should appoint the curate ; that the parish should be
responsible for the repair of the fabric and the conduct of
divine service, and that the Abbey should pay to the incumbent
the portion congriie of the tithes. The incumbent of Bernay
was, throughout the middle ages and down to the suppression
of the monastery, a salaried curate only, without independent
position, and receiving from the Abbey a sum which amounts
in modern English money to about fifty pounds, and out of
this he was required to pay at least two curates or vicaires.
This sorry pittance would have been miserable enough, had

B 2


the cure been provided with a parsonage-house rent free ; but
with this the Abbey did not furnish him, and he was obliged
to lodge where he could, and live as best he could on the
crumbs that fell from the abbot's table.

The parishioners of Bernay had made several attempts to
free their church from its dependence, but in vain. The monks
refused to cede their rights, and every lawsuit in ^yhich the
town engaged with them terminated disastrously for the
citizens. The people of Bernay were severely taxed. Beside
the intolerable burdens imposed on them by the State, they
paid tithes on all they possessed to the monks, who assessed
them as they thought proper, and against whose assessment
there was no appeal, as the abbot of Bernay exercised legal
jurisdiction in the place, and every question affecting eccle-
siastical dues was heard in his own court. The corn was
tithed in the field, and tithed again at the mill. The Abbey
had rights of corve\\ that is, of claiming so many days'
work from every man in the place, and on its farms, free of
expense. The townsfolk, who were above the rank of day
labourers, escaped the humiliation only by paying men out
of their own pockets, to take their places and work for the

It was hard for the citizens, after having been thus taxed by
the Church, to have to expend additional money to provide
themselves with religious privileges. Bernay might have been


a far more prosperous town but for the Abbey., which, like
a huge tumour, ate up the strength and resources of the place,
and gave nothing in return.

The Abbey was also en commende; in other words, it was a
donative of the Crown. Whom he would, the king made
superior of the monks of S. Benedict at Bernay, — superior
only in name, and for the purpose of drawing its revenues,
for he was not a monk, nor indeed was he in other than minor
orders. Louis XV, whose eye for beauty was satisfied with
a Du Barry, having been fascinated by the plump charms of
Madame Poudens, wife of a rich jeweller at Versailles, at-
tefcipted to seduce her. The lady estimated her virtue at a
rich abbey, and finally parted with it for that of Bernay, which
was made over iri commendam to a son, whether by Poudens
or Louis was not clearly known, but who, at the age of seven,
in defiance of the concordat of Francis I with the Pope, was
made, abbe of Bernay, father superior of Benedictine monks,
and entitled to draw an income of fifty-seven thousand livres
per annum, left by Duchess Judith to God and the poor. The
case was by no means uncommon, Charles of Valois, bastard
of Charles IX and Marie Fouchet, at the age of thirteen was
invested with the revenues of Chaise-Dieu, and Henry IV
bartered an abbey for a mistress.

Thomas Lindet was cure of S. Cross.

The introduction of the power-loom from England had


produced much want and discontent in Normandy, and in
Bernay many hands were thrown out of work. The sickness
and famine which had periodically afflicted that town of late
years became permanent, and the poor priest was condemned
to minister in the presence of want and disease, without the
power of alleviating either, whilst the revenues of the Church
were drained to fill the purse of the non-resident abbe, and
by him to be squandered on luxuries and vanities.

Lindet had more than once expressed his opinion upon the
abuses regnant in the Church. In 1781, in a discourse ad-
dressed by him to the general assembly of his parish, he had
said : — ' We desire that justice should be brought to bear upon
these abuses, which outrage common sense and common right,
at once. But is there any hope in the future of an accom-
pHshment of our desires ? At present, all is dark ; but never
let us despair. We groan under oppression. But be sure
of this, — wrong-doing revenges itself in the long run. We
wish to abolish the intolerable privileges which burden some,
that others may trip lightly through life. Alas ! the privileged
classes are jealous of our jealousy of them. They scarce
permit us to pray the advent of a rectification of abuses, which
will prove as glorious to religion as it will prove beneficial
to society. Who will put salt upon the leeches, and make
them disgorge the blood of the poor 1 '

For having used this language the cure had been severely


reprimanded by his bishop ; for bishops were then, as they
are frequently now, the champions of abuses.

At the present date, Lindet was again in trouble with his
diocesan. For three days in succession the sanctuary lamp
in his church had remained unlighted. The reason was, that
the cure's cruse of oil was empty; and not the cruse only,
but his purse as well. He had neither oil by him, nor money
wherewith to buy any; the lamp therefore remained dark.
Lindet hoped that some of his parishioners would come for-
ward, and furnish the sacramental light with a supply of oil,
and this eventually took place ; but, in the meantime, three
days and nights of violation of the rubric had elapsed. The
officiel or inquisitor of the bishop heard of this, and called on
Thomas Lindet, the day before the opening of this tale, to
inform him that it was at his option to pay down twenty-five
livres for the misdemeanour, or to be thrown into the eccle-
siastical court.

Under the ancien regime, a large portion of a bishop's
revenues was derived from ecclesiastical fines imposed by his
court, and into this court cases of immorality, heresy and
sacrilege among the laity, and of infringement of rubrical
exactness, and breach of discipline among the clergy, were
brought. As the prosecutor was also virtually the judge, it
may be supposed that judgment was usually given against
the defendant, who might appeal to the archbishop, or from


him to the pope, — all interested judges, but \Yho \vas debarred
from carrying his wrong before a secular tribunal.

The sun was declining behind the pines, and was painting
with saffron the boles of the trees, and striping with orange
and purple the forest paths, as Thomas Lindet prepared to
part from his friend Jean Lebertre, cure of the pilgrimage
shrine of Notre Dame de la Couture, at the brow of the hill
where the path to the Couture forked off from the main road
to Bernay. At this point the trees fell away towards the valley,
and the shrine was visible, lit in the last lights of evening which
turned the grey stone walls into walls of gold.

La Couture is a singularly picturesque church, with lofty
choir rising high above the nave roof, and with numerous
chapels clustered about the chancel apse. The spire of lead
with pinnacled turrets, in that setting glare, seemed a pyramid
of flames.

The priest of Bernay was a tall thin man of forty-five, with
colourless face, sunken cheeks, and restless, very brilliant eyes.
His face, though far from handsome, was interesting and
attractive. It beamed with intelligence and earnestness. His
long hair, flowing to his shoulders, was grizzled with care
rather than with age, — the care inseparable from poverty,
and that arising from the responsibilities attending on the
charge of a number of souls. His brow w^as slightly retreating
and wanted breadth, his cheek-bones were high. The nose


and mouth were well moulded, the latter was peculiarly delicate
and flexible. The thin lips WTre full of expression, and
trembled with every emotion of the heart.

Lindet's hands were also singularly beautiful — they were
narrow and small ; a lady would have envied the taper fingers
and well-shaped nails. INIalicious people declared that the
priest was conscious of the perfection of his hands, and that
he took pains to exhibit it; but this was most untrue. No
man was more free from vanity, and had a greater contempt
for it, than Thomas Lindet. He had contracted 2^ habit of
using his right hand whilst speaking, in giving force to his
words by gesture, and whilst thinking, in plucking at the
cassock-buttons on his breast, but this trick was symptomatic
of a highly-strung nervous temperament, and was in no
degree attributable to personal vanity.

Lebertre was somewhat of a contrast to Lindet. lie was
a middle-sized, well-built man, with a face of an olive hue, hazel
eyes, large, as earnest as those of his friend, but not like them
in their restlessness ; they were deep, calm wells, which seemed
incapable of being ruffled by anger, or clouded with envy.
His black hair was flowing and glossy, without a speck in
it of grey. ' I would not do so,' said he, holding Lindet's
arm ; ' you should bear meekly, and suffer patiently.'

' Bear and suffer ! ' repeated the cure of S. Cross, his eyes
hghtening and his lips quivering; 'True. "Suffering is the


badge of all our tribe." What the English poet puts into the
mouth of a Jew is a motto meet for a French cure. But, my
brother, tell me — are not wrongs and sufferings crushing us,
destroying our self-reliance, ruining our independence, and
obliterating our self-respect? How can a priest be respected
by his flock when he does not respect himself; and how can
he respect himself when he is trodden like dirt under the feet
of his spiritual superiors?'

'Bearing wrongs and suffering injustice without a murmur
is the badge of a Christian ; above all, of a priest. He who
suffers and endures uncomplainingly is certain to obtain respect
and reverence/

'A pretty world this has become,' exclaimed Lindet; 'the
poor are ground to powder, and at each turn of the wheel
we are bidden preach them Christian submission. They look
around, and see everywhere labour taxed, and idleness go
free. Toil then like a Christian, and pay, pay, pay, that the
king may make fountains for his garden, the nobles may
stake high at cards, and the bishops and canons may salary
expensive cooks. Say the little farmer has a hundred francs.
Out of this he is obliged to pay twenty-five for the taille,
sixteen for the accessories, fifteen for his capitation, eleven for
tithe. What remains to him for the support of his family,
after he has paid his rent ? Truly of this world may be said
what is said of hell: " Nullus or do, sempiternus horror inhabitat!''


Lebertre did not answer. With the steadfastness of purpose
that was his characteristic, he returned to his point, and
refused to be led into digression by his vehement and volatile
companion. 'You must not go to Evreux, as you propose/
he said.

' r shall go to the bishop,' returned Lindet ; ' and I shall
give him the money into his hand. I shall have the joy, the
satisfaction, may be, of seeing, for once in my life, a bishop's
cheek burn with shame.'

'■ Is this a Christian temper ? '

' Is it the part of a Christian bishop to consume his clergy
with exactions and with persecutions, and to torture them
with insults ? Our bishop neglects his diocese. He receives
some four hundred and fifty thousand livres per annum, and
can only visit Bernay, with five thousand souls in it, once
in three years, to confirm the young and to meet the clergy.
When he comes amongst us on these rare occasions he takes
up his abode at the Abbey, and receives us, the priests who
seek advice and assistance, at a formal interview of ten
minutes, into which we must condense our complaints ; and
then we are dismissed without sympathy and without redress.'

Lindet took a few steps along the path to La Couture. ' I
will accompany you, Jean,' he said ; ' and I will tell you how
I was treated when last I had access to Monseigneur. He
sat at a little table; on it was a newspaper and a hand-bell,


and his large gold watch. He signed to me to stand before
him ; I did so, holding my hands behind my back like a boy
who is about to be scolded. He asked me some trifling
question about my health, which I did not answer. I could
not afford to waste one out of my ten minutes thus; so I
broke out into an account pf our troubles here. I told him
there was no school for the children ; that I had no parsonage
house. God knows! I vrould teach the poor . children myself
if they could be crowded into my garret, but the good woman
with whom I lodge will not permit it. I told him of the
want and misery here, of the exactions under which the poor
are bowed. I spoke to him of the hollow-eyed hungry work-
men, and of the women hugging their starving babes to their
empty breasts.' The priest stopped, gasping for an instant,
his trembling white hand working in the air, and expressing
his agitation with mute eloquence. 'All the while I talked,
his eye was on the newspaper; I saw that he was reading,
and^ was not attending to me. What he read was an account
of a fete at Versailles, from which, alas ! he was absent.
Then he touched his bell, " Your time is up,'' he said ; and I
was bowed out.'

* You forget that the time of a prelate is precious.'
'I grant you that,' ans\yered Lindet, with quivering voice;
' too precious lo be spent amidst a crowd of lackeys in
dancing attendance on royalty ; too precious to be wasted on


fetes and dinners to all the lordlings that Monseigneur can
gather about his table in the hopes that they may shed some
lustre on his own new-fledged nobility.'

' I will not hear you, my friend/ said Lebertre, turning from
him ; ' you are too bitter, too vindictive. You would tear our
bishops from their seats, and strip them of their purple.'

* Of their purple and fine linen and sumptuous faring every
day, that Lazarus may be clothed and fed ! ' interrupted Lindet,

' You would abolish the episcopacy and convert the Church
to presbyterianism,' said the cure of La Couture with a slight
tone of sarcasm.

* Never,' answered the priest of S. Cross ; his voice instantly
becoming calm, and acquiring a depth and musical tone like
that in which he was wont to chant. ' No, Lebertre, never.
I would preserve the ancient constitution of the Church, but

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