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warfare, not from the barren plain of free-thinking indifferentism, but from the fortress of religious consistency. He, too, saw through all this hypocrisy to its backbone. “Un dévot,” he said, “est celui qui
un Roi athée seroit athée. The symptoms of the transformation, indeed, were not far to seek even while the Grand Monarque's reign still dragged on; and eventually the Regency and Louis XV. afforded full confirmation of the dictum. To this we shall presently have to recur.
La Bruyère's celebrated character of Onuphre, the pretended "dévot," first appeared in the edition of the Caractères published in 1691. It has often been compared with that of Molière's Tartuffe. Tartuffe was in some respects a less perilous venture, inasmuch as though he encountered the anger of the Jesuits and their partisans, the King and Court were, at the time of his appearance, inclined to laugh with the author. Onuphre satirised habits now cherished in the highest places. But, on the other hand, it should perhaps be taken into account that the applause bestowed on Tartuffe when the public representation of the character was at last sanctioned, had ratified the claim of the religious impostor to be treated as a conventional subject of satire. It would seem that nothing in the whole apparatus of the falsetto religion now in vogue so much stirred La Bruyère's indignation as the pretensions of the directors of conscience, the superstitious frivolities of their slaves, and the depreciation of the real duties of life which was the consequence of their system. Hear his complaint of the “inexhaustible pepper-box of directors," whom fashion had set in motion: “in whom,” he says,
everything diametrically opposed to enlightened intellect, good sense, experience of the world's affairs, knowledge of mankind, and the science of morals and religion." It is inconceivable to him, he adds, how such persons C can presume that God should renew in our days the marvel of the Apostolate, and perform a miracle in their persons by rendering them, ignorant and narrowminded as they are, capable of the ministry of souls,the ministry, of all others, the most delicate and sublime; still more inconceivable should they imagine that they do indeed possess the gifts for such an office, and are fulfilling their natural vocation when exercising it."
Turn again to his companion-picture, the subject on whom these quack physicians of souls were especially wont to exercise their skill, the “femme qu'on dirige." “Qu'est ce qu'une femme qu'on dirige?" asks the censor; (a woman that is, who confides the management of her consciense to a spiritual director). "Is she a woman more complaisant to her husband, more gentle to her servants, more attentive to her family and her affairs, more ardent and sincere towards her friends? a woman who is less the slave of her caprices than others, less guided by self-interest, less solicitous for the comforts of life? .... No, you say, she is none of these things. I persist, and ask again, qu'est ce qu'une femme qu'on dirige? I hear you; it is a woman who has a director.” This description, by the way, it is worth remarking, was evidently copied by Boileau, in his tenth satire, published in 1693. The passage is as follows:
Sur cent pieux devoirs aux Saints elle est égale.
Va pour les malheureux quêter dans les maisons,
La Bruyère was a many-sided man: Louis the XIV.'s was a many-sided reign: and circumstances arose, which, notwithstanding other points of difference, brought our moralist towards the close of his life into certain sympathetic relations with the court and its adherents. It should be remembered that, although in virtue of his connection with the Condés he belonged to a social centre which was in some sort a rival centre to that of Versailles, yet at no time did this emulation extend to a complete separation of persons and interests. The Condés claimed their own distinguished place of honour, when the Sovereign's relatives assembled round him in the purple chambers of royalty, and many of their satellites were satellites of Louis likewise.
If this was the case during the great Condé's lifetime, still more was it so after his grandson's marriage with the King's daughter had drawn the family ties closer. But the special circumstances referred to arose in this wise. It came to pass that as "young France began to tire of the grooves in which custom's wheels had for some time been running, a new style of opposition spirit gathered head at Paris, a spirit which assumed the garb of free-thinking libertinism in religion, and of depreciation of the genius and example of the ancient classics in literature. The capital, slighted by the King and true to its inherited frondeur impulses, was the natural strong. hold of the audacious wits who thus held up to derision l'antiquaille, i. e. the whole bundle of old-fashioned prejudices by which the world of yesterday, as they considered it, was governed. The literary Coryphæus of the go-ahead party was Fontenelle; their organ in the appeal to public opinion was the Mercure Galant; and Pierre Corneille, whose brother edited that journal, was the poetical star, whose merits they especially cried up, as against the favourite court dramatist, Racine. In the later portion of Louis's reign, the opposition between Paris and Versailles became more and more decided. Courtiers who went to lodge in the capital were considered as committing themselves both to contempt of the old King, and also to the free-thinking fashion which was to be the badge of the expected new reign, and which became the more pronounced, the more devotion grew into favour at court. Sometimes, indeed, a clever aspirant would contrive to keep an interest in both shops ; playing the atheist among the lively wits of the capital, and the devotee among the sombre zealots of Versailles. The tone which characterized this modern opposition was totally opposed to the convictions of La Bruyère, who now found himself on the Conservative side, as it were, and sympathizing, to a certain extent, with the creeds and fashions patronized at court. The “quarrel of the ancients and moderns," a famous controversy of the day, rather literary than religious, afforded the most notable occasion of rapprochement.
And here the shadow of a great name connects itself again with La Bruyère's personality. Not one of his friendships seems to have been more lasting
and sincere than that which subsisted between him and Bossuet; and this in spite of some marked differences of opinion and original training. Bossuet hated the old Leaguers, was no friend to the Oratory, and thoroughly distrusted mental progress.
But he honoured in La Bruyère a spirit of independence which was allied with staunch religious orthodoxy, and for this was content to pardon him his love of intellectual research, his passionate admiration of the heathen classics, his uncompromising defence of the theatre, and his partiality for the writings of the sceptical Montaigne. What La Bruyère felt for the Bishop of Meaux may be best understood from the lofty allusion to Trophime (afterwards altered to Bénigne) in the Caractères, and from the eulogium introduced in his Discours de Réception, the last sentence of which—“Nommez, Messieurs, une vertue qui ne soit pas la sienne!”—may, perhaps, have suggested to Pope the line on his beloved prelate,
To Berkeley every virtue under Heaven! It was through his intercourse with Bossuet and with that prelate's theological coterie, familiarly called “Le Petit Concile,” that La Bruyère became a member of an affiliated literary society which survived the Petit Concile itself, and was known as that of Les Pères Laïques.” Racine and Boileau belonged to this society also, and the study of the ancient writers of Greece and Rome was affixed as their special enthusiasm. Though Bossuet, a theologian in grain, had no sympathy with this direction of their literary taste, it was natural that their original connection with his Petit Concile should bring them within the influences of the world of Versailles, in which the great prelate shone