Page images

THIS concluding volume, as its predecessor, has occupied in the writing six months of uninterrupted work (January 29-July 25, 1854).

The material difficulties in the way of its publication have been met by one of my best disciples, nobly following the generous initiative of patronage taken in regard to the first volume. As a consequence of the general industrial pressure due to the Russian war, my printer felt bound in prudence, though with unimpaired confidence, not to advance the money required for printing the present volume till the cost of the preceding had been fully covered. That volume, however, had been too recently published for its sale to be sufficient to meet this fair condition, rendered imperative by the force of circumstances; I was obliged, therefore, to apply directly for exceptional aid. Once aware of the need, M. Audiffrent lost no time in completely meeting it, so that the printing of the present volume has proceeded so rapidly that it will appear a few weeks after its writing. At first my young patron's touching modesty led him to forbid my giving his conduct the publicity it deserves; ultimately, however, by appealing to Positivist principles, I obtained the proper authorisation. The first and last volumes, then, of my principal work must be honourably connected with the names of Messrs. Lonchampt and Audiffrent, without ever forgetting the generous anony

[ocr errors]

mous supporters who, in 1848, enabled me to publish separately the General View. This list of efforts should hand down to memory also two similar offers made me during the other phases of my long work, rendered unnecessary though they were by the confidence of M. Thunot.

Thus, beyond my hopes, I see realised the legitimate consequences of the resolution, which I adopted and proclaimed in 1850, to devote, viz., for the future the returns of all my writings to meeting the cost of printing, taking nothing for personal use. Such anticipation of the habits of the future may not have determined the noble advances I have mentioned above, but without it I could not have accepted them, uniting as it does my patrons with the worthy printer whose confidence in me is the main basis on which I rest for the free expression of my thoughts.

Again, this same rule led me finally to a modification of my refusal (see the 1st Circular), a refusal warranted by my principles, to accept a proposal made to me, as admirable as it was exceptional. That Circular adequately expresses the value I justly attach to the unparalleled condensation of my fundamental work, the Positive Philosophy, by Miss Martineau. So settled is my opinion on this point that, in the last revision of the Positivist Library given in this volume, I have definitively substituted her work for the original, the study of the original for the future being suited only to the theorician properly so-called. Without further insisting on this final estimate, which merely gives my sanction to the general judgment, I must explain my view of the proposal to which the publication alluded to gave rise last year. The prevailing literary morality is such as to enhance the merit of the scrupulous delicacy which decided my noble colleague to assign me the third of the net profits of the work; its printing expenses had been advanced by a liberal patron; of the remaining two-thirds she gave one to the publisher, the other she kept for herself.

At first I felt bound to decline the proposal, as, in its original shape, involving a breach of my practice of renouncing

all profit for myself from my books. In the end, however, I was able, without infringing this obligation, to meet the cordial wish of Miss Martineau, by devoting the money she offered to the more rapid clearance of the cost of printing the treatise now concluded. My rule thus gains in completeness, as all my books are brought, as it were, into one common interest, a condition indispensably required and acted on by me already, instinctively, in reference to the volumes of the present work.

Over and above its direct object, this explanation, as those which have gone before it, is calculated to illustrate the character of the synthesis which presents itself to-day, claiming the general direction of this world. In it the conduct of true Positivists contrasts, as markedly as their belief contrasts, with that of the ill-regulated milieu, the government of which devolves on them-its spiritual government in the first instance, then its temporal-as the issue of the whole course of man's destiny. For completeness' sake, I must include a reference to the posthumous patronage of Wallace and of Lombe, with which my readers and those of Miss Martineau must be familiar, as also to the protection which M. Vieillard, to his honour, procures for the doctrine judged by him the only one capable of saving the West.

The mental indiscipline now prevalent precludes the hope that this volume will be always read in its due order, after a sufficient study of those which precede it. In itself more attractive and more directly practical in bearing, it will bring me fresh readers, several of whom will perhaps begin with the last chapter, where religion passes into politics. But it is also the most systematic; and so its study will lead to the speedy recognition, not merely of the inseparability of its five chapters in themselves, but also of their regular connection with the whole of my statical and dynamical theories; it will therefore revive rather than lessen the attention paid to the other three volumes. I am even inclined to believe that there are students of ability waiting (I should do so in their place) for the com

pletion of a construction which is indivisible before they betake themselves to its full examination under all its aspects. They were warned of what was coming by the separate publication in 1848 of the General View. Be this as it may, I do not regret the pressure which obliged me to publish each volume separately, and I count on the speedy correction of the imperfect or hasty judgments which must often have resulted from an undisciplined eagerness.

As to the style and composition of the work, I must here add for completeness something to the explanations on the point given in the preface to the first volume. The adverse criticisms called forth by the Positive Philosophy, as a literary production, had been anticipated by myself; I was quite aware of its defects, though I have never felt otherwise than glad that I overcame my scruples on the subject, on grounds the justice of which is now indisputable. But, as the necessity for haste was past, I exerted myself when entering on the present work, to improve the expression, still adhering, however, to my practice of re-writing nothing. As yet the most fastidious judges have been satisfied with the increasing success attained by this care, and I hope that the last volume will strengthen them in their judgment. The literateur has only to clothe the thoughts of others, he may concentrate his faculties therefore on perfecting his language. He naturally is led by this habit to judge too harshly the writer who, compelled to work out new conceptions in the old language, can hardly avoid defects in composition, as he balances between diffuseness and obscurity. Deeper meditation, and such requires a first expression as its condition, connects the particular creations of the writer with their germs in the thought of mankind as represented in its language; then the defects drop off of themselves, not to speak of more preparation on the part of the public.

To turn to the best account my literary effort, it is desirable to state clearly the several rules which in the course of it I have imposed on myself, principally in the second half of my religious construction, and most especially in the con

cluding volume. To avoid too long sentences I have never let any exceed two manuscript or five printed lines. The eye and the mind require pauses; this is secured by making seven sentences the maximum of a paragraph, nor are these paragraphs determined simply by typographical considerations. Prose cannot, it is true, aspire to the musical perfection of poetry, yet I have exerted myself to approach it by not allowing myself any hiatus between even two sentences or two paragraphs. Further, I have avoided the repetition of any word whatever, not merely in the same sentence but even in two consecutive sentences though in different paragraphs; allowing always for the auxiliary monosyllables.

Whilst practising these self-imposed obligations, I have always felt the importance of applying in all cases Descartes' rule scrupulously to observe the institutions we create, which he rightly likens to laws of nature, however indifferent they may seem at first sight. The discipline to which we thus submit is as wholesome for the intellect as for the heart, and rests upon a true knowledge of the constitution of man, in regard to which improvement depends principally on submission. The literary value of this discipline is fully seen in the superiority of poetic diction, though more fettered than common language. When habit made the new yoke easy I found it a constant source of unlooked-for improvements, not merely in style, but even in thought. Literary defects are easiest to discover and most open to modification, to correct them then is a greater victory over the natural inertia of our intelligence, and in correcting them we are led to perfect our conceptions as we reflect on their expression.

Taking the volume as a whole, the religious construction has become at once more systematic, more moral, and more practical, by definitively placing the worship before the doctrine. I regret that this correction is subsequent to the composition of the Positivist Catechism, as it would have increased the

'This correction has been introduced in the second French Edition and in the English Translation.—ED.

« PreviousContinue »