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The philosophy of the movement is seen at its best in Montaigne. Inquisitive rather than enthusiastic, averse from dogmatism, orthodox or otherwise, penetrated by the sense of relativity, without illusions, something of a fatalist, the strong common sense which, while deficient, it may seem to a foreigner, in the French as a nation, is, curiously enough, characteristic of individual Frenchmen, runs through him; his element is the mean. The temper of the Renaissance, indeed, was in no sense revolutionary. It emancipated the individual from the iron pressure of his environment, but neither in the Church nor in the commonwealth did it lean to extreme courses. In the latter, indeed, its tendency was to strengthen central at the expense of local authority ; one ruler, it was thought, was more likely to be amenable to reason than many, and unity of government was a source of strength to the State. Nor in religion was there any wish to break away from the established order; bowing in the house of Rimmon was tolerated perhaps to excess. The attitude of such men as Erasmus or Montaigne to the Church differed little from that of the more moderate scbool of Catholics to-day. Stress was laid rather on the rational than on the miraculous in religion; there was a desire to reform abuses, to return to evangelical standards, to fall back from historical Christianity on the teaching and Person of Christ. But all this was within the limits of Catholicism : strange as it may appear, the antagonism between the Renaissance and the Reformation was marked. For Protestantism did not spring panoplied into existence, as did Athene from the head of Zeus : * it was as dogmatic in its original form as Catholicism, and its doctrines were narrower; as tyrannical, and its tyranny, being new, threatened to be more oppressive than the old. The aim of Calvin was to establish a theocracy of which the preachers were to be the governing body; had it been successful, the little finger of King Stork at Geneva would have been thicker than the loins of King Log at Rome. Individualism in religion-witness the Anabaptists in Germany and the harmless Quakers in England and America—was repressed as ruthlessly by Protestant as by Papist; to tolerate error, it was believed, was to betray truth. That the Reformation bore religious liberty in its womb is true; but it had not strength to bring forth its offspring : it developed its fundamental ideas—and their
to evulanity on the limits of ween the
antagonized. For. Prathene from Catholicispits
importance cannot be over-estimated-within the limits of the text of Scripture interpreted by the necessarily inadequate exegesis of the time. Hence, as its name implies, the movement aimed rather at the correction of abuses than at an enlargement of the spiritual horizon. Of Calvin M. Faguet says with truth, ‘il a l'esprit théologique et un cour qui n'a pas le goût du divin; '* the orthodoxy of Wittenberg became in the second generation as lifeless as that of Trent. For the time being liberty and learning suffered ; a controverted text of St. Paul, misunderstood by both disputants, was of more account than a dialogue of Plato; petty questions of Church organisation outweighed the larger and more lasting interests of mind. Nor was this loss to intelligence compensated by gain to religion, which does not flourish most when most in evidence: piety is a tender plant, and loves the shade. It is probable that those are most truly religious who are so unconsciously : introspection, material or spiritual, is a morbid symptom; it is unhealthy to be for ever thinking about one's health. The treachery and bloodshed which characterise the religious conflicts of the sixteenth century are doubtful proofs of religion; it is possible to make the Gospel of less account than party—to be a sectary, Protestant or Catholic, without being a follower of Christ. What is vital in religion is that which good men hold in common, not that which separates them from one another; to lay stress on the latter is to take husks for corn.
The temper of the seventeenth century differed from that of the sixteenth. Weary of the theological labyrinth in which they had lost themselves, men turned from religious controversy to the more useful task of self-improvement, and set to work to make the best of the elements of well-being which they found to hand. Nor were these inconsiderable : learning, taste, and refinement flourished; in Corneille, Racine, and Molière the drama reached its climax ; in Descartes modern philosophy began. With lower aims, the success of the age was greater; if it did not reform the Church or solve the riddles of the world, at least it did not deafen the one with discordant clamour or deluge the other with blood. With the notable exception of Pascal, which admits of a pathological explanation, the representative men of the time were not greatly troubled about their souls. Of the two great prelates of the age Bossuet was a churchman
* Seizième Siècle, p. 195,
rather than a religionist, un conseiller d'Etat,' Rémusat describes him; 'homme de gouvernement de la tête aux * pieds. Fénelon, indeed, with all his reputed gentleness, was as intolerant of independent thinking in religion as his great rival; he was the scourge of the Jansenists, and when engaged in the conversion of Protestants in Aunis and Saintonge did not scruple to call in a regiment of dragoons to co-operate in the pious work. But the orthodoxy which it was sought to enforce by these rough methods was political rather than religious; the mind of the age was set on other than religious things. It was the Augustan period—courtly, dignified, classical in the sense in which classicism is native to French literature : movements, Parnassian, naturalist, symbolic, and the rest, come and go; this remains.
"Les Français sont très sensibles à cet ascendant. . . . Ce culte fait partie de notre patrimoine classique. Il est parmi nos sacra. Notre xvie siècle l'a mis en honneur, notre xviie siècle l'a soutenu. Au commencement du xviiie on en perdait le sens ; mais vers la fin il revivait avec une force singulière, avait son contrecoup, et ridicule, et terrible aussi, sur les meurs et sur l'histoire.' (Dix-huitième Siècle, p. 147.)
The One, to go back to our formula, was more prominent in it than the Many. Bossuet deliberately renounced excellence in other departments in the higher interests, as he believed them, of unity. “Aisément il eût pu être un • Pascal, un La Rochefoucauld, un Leibnitz, un Montesquieu. • Une préuve, c'est qu'il a été tour à tour l'un ou l'autre,
chemin faisant, et sans vouloir s'y tenir.'* Some allowance must be made for national sentiment; it is difficult for a Frenchman to look at the Eagle of Meaux quite dispassionately; but the criticism is substantially just. If Bossuet distrusted ideas in others—in Richard Simon, for instancehis distrust was based not on the hatred that dull men bear to intelligence, but on considerations of public policy: if he kept the understanding of others in subjection, at least he dealt the same measure to his own. Burning questions, however, are not extinguished by being shelved; the problems of the preceding age had fallen into the background mainly because at the time they concerned a class rather than the community as a whole. Under changed circumstances and in another setting they were bound to recur. These circumstances and this setting were provided by the eighteenth century; the century which produced Voltaire and Rousseau, and ended in the explosion of '93.
* Dix-septième Siècle, p. 287.
anded. It ishe patriotist the remove the limperati
M. Faguet is no admirer of the eighteenth century. "Ni chrétien ni français' is his judgement on it: it saw the extinction of the religious and the weakening of the patriotic idea. That of the former he assigns mainly to the growth of the scientific spirit, that of the latter to the cessation of anything like political life in France. Each of these causes, no doubt, acted in the direction indicated. The progress of physical science tended to direct attention to facts rather than theories, and to subordinate the supposed interests of the other world to the more tangible concerns of this; it developed the sense of evidence, and indisposed men to take assertion for proof. The highly centralised government of Louis XIV., concentrating as it did the power of the State in the hands of the Crown, and excluding the citizens as such from the conduct of affairs, was fatal to anything like public spirit; men's energies were diverted into other channels and directed to other ends. But a larger view may be taken. It is possible to question the value both of the religion and the patriotism to which the eighteenth century was fatal: to believe that the removal of the outworn husk was in each case the condition of the liberation of the genuine content of the notion; that it was imperative that the love of God and country should appear under new forms. Patriotism-and the same holds good of the loftiest human passions—is an ideal sentiment, founded on a material basis, the good of the commonwealth ; when this is cut away it falls for want of support. And the absolutism of the time had lost sight of the good of the commonwealth. Dynastic had taken the place of national considerations : wars were undertaken for no public advantage, but to gratify the ambition of a sovereign; battles were fought that a king's mistress might witness a combat, cities sacked to silence the complaints of soldiers clamouring for their pay. All this was foreign to the best traditions of the past. The French monarchy, though absolute, was not, till the reign of Louis XIV., despotic: there was a fixed, though unwritten, constitution; there were local representative bodies-Conseils Généraux and Régionaux-charged with administrative and executive functions, and possessing powers of taxation; there were independent municipalities, tribunals, parliaments, and, last of all, the States-General, representing the nation as a whole. These institutions had practically disappeared, not by process of law, but by desuetude. Far-sighted men like Fénelon urged their revival, as a means of infusing new blood into the body politic; Montesquieu, in a striking
Of God and coume holds goodded on a mat
dai comple, but not that silence this
n to the beabsolute, was fixed, thouaie
passage, pointed out the unintelligence inseparable from despotic government: l'extrême obéissance suppose de • l'ignorance dans celui qui obéit; elle en suppose même
chez celui qui commande. Il n'a point à raisonner; il n'a o que vouloir.' But thinkers were few; the influence of the court and the indifference of the natural leaders of the people were too strong for them: their words fell on deaf ears. It was not so much that the eighteenth century destroyed patriotism, as M. Faguet would have it, as that patriotism had ceased to be a virtue. The implicit sentiment of the Middle Ages was no longer possible : it had to pass over into the explicit and conscious stage as a condition of survival; and this was impossible under existing circumstances. The world had come to years of discretionnot suddenly, indeed; the process had been long and slow; but, as is usual in such cases, its recognition of its maturity was, or seemed, sudden. The question Why? had to be faced at every turn; where it could not be answered, or was answered unsatisfactorily, assent and obedience were withheld. It was not till the armies of the Directory drove back the tide of invasion from French soil, and, flushed with enthusiasm and success, overran Europe, rousing the nations to fight not for throne and altar only, but for the very existence of the national idea, that the Why? of patriotism was answered, and patriotism in the modern sense of the word born. So with religion : it had ceased to be religious ; its sufficient reason was gone. An eminent Catholic writer has attempted to account for the Reformation by the Church's virtues : men were weary of her beneficence, her prayer, ber sacraments, her hands lifted to bless. This is rhetoric, not history. Á religion perishes not of its virtues, but of its vices : had Catholicism been such as and no more than its apologists describe it, Europe would have been Catholic to-day. And what is true of the sixteenth century is true also of the eighteenth. It was the misfortune of the Church that, owing to perhaps inevitable circumstances—the survival of the medieval union between Church and State, the conservatism of human nature (especially ecclesiastical human nature), and those personal and class interests from whose bias even clergymen are not exempt-she was associated, not to say identified, with the worst and most oppressive features of the old régime. The often-quoted - Ecrasez ' l'infâme' was a cry of hatred, not of Christianity as such, still less of its Founder, but of the burden of spiritual and material terrorism, which lay on men like an incubus, crush