Page images

a series of arguments intended to prove-that christianity is in very excellent taste.*

This may be true, or not true; but to a person seriously occupied with his eternal salvation it would seem rather ridiculous to tell

him that he was sure to be saved by his doctrine because it was favorable to the arts. The French, I mean that part of the French to whom M. de Châteaubriand addressed himself were not seriously occupied with their eternal salvation; they were sick of the cant and the cruelties of infidelity; they had witnessed amidst severe trials, the comforts of religious consolation; and without feeling absolutely convinced of the truth of the divine law, they wished for an excuse to believe it.

Such was the moment at which the young poet, returning from his travels, introduced piety into Paris under the mask of a muse. He wore his opinions with the grace with which Madame Récamier folded her handkerchief:† and the christianity of the one and the coiffure of the other soon became equally à la mode.

* See Appendix.

↑ Madame Récamier invented, about this time, a head dress that went by her name.


Disappearance of the Impiety of the Republic-Religion re-established by Bonaparte-Doctrine of the Royalists at the Restoration-Ambition of the "parti prétre”— The Jesuits.

AND now all the impiety of the republic, all that bigoted and furious hatred of the church and its priests had disappeared.


"Je dois dire," says M. de Montlozier,

que je ne trouvai alors nulle part l'esprit irréligieux systématique que j'avais vu avant 1789; je trouvai encore moins l'esprit irréligieux, haineux, incendiaire, qui s'était produit depuis, et qui avait particulièrement dominé l'âge de la révolution. Un petit nombre de prêtres sauvés, comme à la nage, des dernières tempêtes, d'autres récemment revenus des contrées étrangères, tout cela obtenait, non seulement l'estime mais le respect; il n'y avait pas jusqu'à l'impiété elle-même qui, honteuse de

ses excès passés, ne supportât franchement les prêtres ou même ne les accueillît.”*

the ca

But if the catholic church arose- 66 tholic priest had no civil existence-no worldly importance."

Bonaparte, in re-establishing religion, gave no power to the ministers of religion. Here was the great difference between the empire and the restoration.

The one said, a holy creed is not to be prescribed by the drunken folly of demagogues; the other said a great nation ought to be governed by the monkish policy of priests. Napoleon was for maintaining a great moral and political institution useful to government in general. The Bourbons were for maintaining a set of tried partisans, and faithful adherents, as useful to their government in particular: this was the doctrine of the royalists in 1814 and 1815; and lo! the church which, as bodies perish from excess of blood, fell, under the old

*I ought to say that I nowhere found the systematic irreligious spirit which I had seen in 1789. Still less did I find that irreligious, hateful, and incendiary spirit which has since appeared and which ruled the age of the revolution. A small number of priests, saved from the last storms, others newly returned from foreign countriesthese obtained not only esteem but respect. Even impiety itself, ashamed of its past excesses, supported frankly the priesthood and received it.

régime, a victim to its wealth and its possessions-which invigorated by the persecutions of the republic, maintained itself with dignity during the decent protection of the empire— was again prostrated by the favoritism of the restoration.

In order to understand the violent change in opinion which a few years so suddenly produced, in order to understand why the church which had been gradually growing into vogue during the empire, became so thoroughly and bitterly detested during the restoration, it is necessary to have these facts before our minds.

During the empire, religion sought to raise itself by flattering the prevailing tastes of the French people; during the restoration it sought the same distinction by destroying those tastes.

During the empire, religion was attached to the state, but its ministers were kept wholly attached to religion; during the restoration, religion and the ministers of religion were confounded, and as the one was thought necessary to the people, so the other was consulted by the government.

To change the nature, to contradict the habits, to annihilate the recollections of the French people-such was the gentle ambition of the "parti prétre"-who in prohibiting the dance, and the festival, frowning on the aca

demy, excommunicating the theatre, interfering with the exchange,* deemed it possible to subvert the character, and thwart all the ideas

of an epoch.

There was one feeling in common to the partizans of the divine right of kings, and the party who contended with quite as much reason that their rights were the only rights divine-viz: a deep dissatisfaction at the existing state of things. The parti prétre then and the parti (soi-disant) royaliste united-the one taking the church as an instrument to restore the golden days of the crown;-the other making the crown a pretext to aid the designs of the church. The aim of this confederation was to maintain to the clergy an influence, which, as their doctrines became every day more notoriously unpopular, they every day more notoriously lost.

There were only two ways left to do this: for the time when it could have been done by the pulpit and the confessional was past: there were only two ways left to do this-to bring up a new generation in the thoughts which it was impossible to give the existing one; and to lend the priest an authority, as civil servant

* The clergy even forbade the receiving of interest for money lent.

« PreviousContinue »