Page images

remonstrance force into resignation-he was unshaken alike by royal caprice, by aristocratic rivalry, by popular discontent.

Throughout the same period the Jesuits, if they did not possess a monopoly, had the largest share in public education. Inheriting the sagacity which had induced their great founders to throw off all needless incumbrance of older monastic habits and rules, and accommodating themselves with the same consummate skill to the circumstances of the age, they had endeavoured to seize upon, to pre-occupy, the mind of the rising generation. Their strength was in their well-organized technical plan of instruction—in their manuals; but above all in their activity, in their watchfulness, their unity of purpose. They had attempted, it has been well said, to stereotype the mind of Europe. They had been the only schoolmaster abroad; they had cast every branch of learning, every science in their mould ; they had watched every dawning genius, and pressed it into their service; they possessed everywhere large establishments, enormous wealth, emissaries as secret and subtle as unseen spirits, working to this one end, moving with one impulse.

This dominion lasted, with greater or less interruption in different countries, for about two centuries; and all this time these royal races were gradually becoming worn out and effete. How far physical infirmities, from perpetual intermarriages, may have contributed to this result, it is beyond us to decide ; but, with rare exceptions, the mental growth appears to have been stunted and dwarfed. With all the fears, but without the noble aspirations of the salutary restraints of religion, they were at once inflexibly orthodox-orthodox to the persecution of all dissentients-punctilious in all the outward formalities of Catholicism, and unblushingly, indescribably profligate. In some cases, especially in Spain, secluded as much as Oriental despots from all intercourse even with the nobility, they forgot or seemed unconscious of their divine mission, the welfare of their kingdom.

The affairs of state were abandoned to an upstart minister or an imperious mistress. Their most harmless occupation was in the sports of the field or costly pomps

and ceremonies : disgraceful intrigues and orgies had ceased by degrees to shock the public morals. M. Crétineau Joly has described in Joseph of Portugal the character of his class :“Ce prince, comme la plû part des monarques de son siècle, était soupconneux, timide, faible, voluptueux, toujours prêt a accorder sa confiance au moins digne et au plus courtisan.' But who had been chiefly concerned in the training-under whose influence, if not direct spiritual guidance, had grown up, or rather had dwindled down, this race of sovereigns ?

At the close of this period what was the general state of the Continent ? Religion had become a form, a habit, a conventional discipline. The morals of the higher orders were fearfully corrupt--the ignorance of the lower preparing them for the wildest excesses when the tocsin of revolution should sound. In most countries—in Italy, Spain, Portugal—the intellect of man might seem dead; the creative fires of genius in arts and letters wavered, expired. Here and there, perhaps, some bold effort was made. An eccentric philosopher, like Vico, uttered his oracles, prudently, or at least fortunately, wrapped in darkness and ambiguity-not only not comprehended, but utterly disregarded in his own day. In France, the one intellectual nation, the great and ubiquitous bodyguard of the Papacy must succumb, as to their bolder ultramontane theories, before the pride and power of Louis XIV. The Great Monarch and the Great Nation reject the vulgar, abject subordination to the supremacy of Rome; they will remain Catholics, but will not be without some special and distinctive prerogative. The Gallican Church, according to the happy phrase of Gioberti, set itself up as a permanent Anti-pope. In France, therefore, the Jesuits must content themselves with sharing with the mistress wife, Le Tellier with Madame de Maintenon, the compensatory satisfaction of persecuting the Protestants, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the Dragonnades.

• M. St. Priest, in his preface, has described with perfect truth their rulo over Louis XIV. 'Le plus fier des hommes, le plus indépendant des rois, ne connut

But while some of the loftier minds, like Bossuet, were absorbed in building up their system and asserting the immemorial, traditional, and exceptional independence of the Gallican Church-while gentler spirits, like Fénélon, were losing themselves in mysticism-the more profound religion of France broke at once with the cold formalism, the prudent expediency, the casuistic morality, the unawakening theology of Jesuitism. Jansenism arose. Protestant in the groundwork of its doctrine, in its naked Augustinianism ; Protestant in its inflexible firmness, in the conscious superiority of its higher spirituality; most humbly Catholic in its language to the see of Rome; Catholic in its rigid asceticism; Catholic, or rather mediæval, in all its monastic discipline and in its belief in miracles—it declared war against Jesuitism, which accepted the challenge to internecine battle. Pascal sent out the Provincial Letters:' Jesuitism staggered; rallied, but never recovered the fatal blow. No book was ever so well-timed, or so happily adapted to its time. Independent of its moral power, which appealed with such irresistible force to the unquenchable sentiment of right in the heart of man, that which resists all tampering with the first sacred principles of integrity and truth, the very office and function of casuistry—at a period when the French language had nearly attained, or was striving to attain, that exquisite vividness, distinctness, objectivity of style, which is its great characteristic, appeared the most admirable model of all these qualifications. At a period when high aristocratic

d'autre joug que celui des Jésuites, le porta par crainte et l'imposa à son peuple, à sa cour, à sa famille. Une jeune princesse, qu'il aimait, non pas comme son enfant, ce serait trop peu dire, mais comme lui-même, osa refuser les derniers aveux à un confesseur jésuite, et n'échappa å la disgrace que par la mort. Partout leur présence se fit rudement sentir. Un Jésuite, la bulle Unigenitus à la main, devonait l'arbitre de la France et la remplit de terreur. Des évêques, dont il avait fait ses esclaves, veillaient au lit de mort du Grand Roi, et lui défendaient la réconciliation et l'oubli; plus tard ce moine rentra dans la poussière, mais son esprit lui survécut. Qui ne rappelle les billets de confession ? Des mourants, faute de s'associer aux haines des Jésuites, succombèrent sans recevoir les consolations de l'Église.'—'Their success was complete : they ruled, without contest, the consciences of the great and the education of youth. They alone were exempt from taxation to which the clergy were compelled to yield,' &c.-P. vii.

social manners and a brilliant literature had sharpened and refined to the utmost the passion and the nice and fastidious taste for wit-came forth this unique example of the finest irony, the most graceful yet biting sarcasm, this unwearying epigram in two volumes. The Jansenists even invaded the acknowledged province of their adversaries. The Port Royal books of education not merely dared to interfere with, but to surpass in the true philosophy of instruction, as well as in liveliness and popularity, the best manuals of the Jesuits. Jansenism struck at the heart of Jesuitism: but it was foiled, it was defeated ; its convents and its schools were closed; its genius too expired with the first generation of its founders; Arnauld, Pascal, Nicole, Sacy, had no legitimate successors; it became a harsh, a narrow, an unpopular sect; it retained the inflexible honesty and deep religious energy-but the original aversion had been not only retained, that sterner element had been goaded by persecution and fostered by exclusiveness into absolute and inveterate hostility to the established religion. Still professedly humble Catholics and loyal subjects, the later Jansenists were at heart Dissenters, and in training for severe Republicans. But Jansenism, both in its origin as a reassertion of high religious faith, and to its close as a separate sect, was confined within a certain circle. It had followers if not proselytes, whose history it might be worth while fully to trace out, in Italy and elsewhere: yet everywhere it was the secession, the self-seclusion of a few, who either dwelt alone with their profound religious convictions and occupations, or communicated by a timid and mysterious freemasonry with a certain circle of kindred minds. They had fallen, and they knew it, on ungenial times. Their sympathies were not with the prevailing religion : they were repelled and revolted by the growing irreligion.

• It is amusing to observe that but one of the Jesuit books of education keeps its ground, and that is the Duke of Newcastle alive to the fact ?) in daily, hourly use, especially in the greatest of our public schools. Who has suspected that every copy of sense or nonsense verses composed at Eton may be infected by Jesuitism? The Gradus is a Jesuit book. Let Dr. Hawtrey look to it.

Thus in Europe, more particularly in France, the result of the whole, the melancholy close of two centuries of Jesuit dominion, or at least dominance, over the human mind, was in the higher orders utter irreligion, or a creed without moral influence ; ignorance, and the superstition, without the restraints of religion, among the lower. With the aristocracy religion displayed itself as an usage, a form, as a constantly recurring spectacle; it lingered as a habit, perhaps with some stirrings of uneasiness at excessive vice, and was ready to offer a few years of passionate devotion as a set-off against a life of other passions. Never was that compensatory system, which is the danger, we will not aver the necessary consequence, of the Romish Confesional and Direction, so undisguised or unmitigated in its evil effects. A Lent of fasting and retirement atoned for the rest of the year, however that year might have been spent. The king parted from his mistress, he to the foot of his confessor, she perhaps to a convent; intrigues were suspended by mutual consent; the theatres were closed, religious music only was heard. Corneille and Molière gave place to Bourdaloue and Massillon; sackcloth and ashes were the court fashions. The carnival had ushered in more than a carnival celebrated the end of this redeeming, this atoning, this all absolving season. The past was wiped off, the bankrupt soul began life anew on a fresh score ; in an instant all again was wild revelry, broken schemes of seduction united again, old liaisons resumed their sway, or the zest thus acquired by brief restraint gave rise to new ones. The well-bred priest or bishop made his bow and retired; or hovered, himself not always unscathed, upon the verge of the dissipated circle. The director of the royal conscience withdrew his importunate presence, or only attended with the Feuille des Bénéfices, to grant some rich and convenient preferment to some high-born Abbé; to place at the head, nominally at least, of some monastery founded by a St. Bernard, some successful author of gay couplets, some wit whose sayings had sparkled from salon to salon; to raise to the most splendid prelacies not always

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »