RENAN’S “SOUVENIRS D’ENFANCE"
Souvenirs d’Enfance et de Jeunesse. Par Ernest Renan. Guardian,
18th July 1883.
The sketches which M. Renan gives us of his early life are what we should have looked for from the writer of the Vie de Jesus. The story of the disintegration of a faith is supposed commonly to have something tragic about it. We expect it to be a story of heart-breaking disenchantments, of painful struggles, of fierce recoils against ancient beliefs and the teachers who bolstered them up; of indignation at having been so long deceived; of lamentation over years wasted in the service of falsehood. The confessions of St. Augustine, the biography of Blanco White, the letters of Lamennais, at least agree in the witness which they bear to the bitter pangs and anxieties amid which, in their case, the eventful change came about. Even Cardinal Newman’s Apologia, self-restrained and severely controlled as it is, shows no doubtful traces of the conflicts and sorrows out of which he believed himself to have emerged to a calmer and surer light. But M. Renan’s story is an idyl, not a tragedy. It is sunny, placid, contented. He calls his life the “charmante promenade” which the “cause of all good,” whatever that may be, has granted him through the realities of existence. There are in it no storms of passion, no cruelties of circumstances, no deplorable mistakes, no complaints, no recriminations. His life flows on smoothly, peacefully, happily, with little of rapids and broken waters, gradually and in the most natural and inevitable way enlarging itself, moving in new and wider channels and with increased volume and force, but never detaching itself and breaking off from its beginnings. It is a spectacle which M. Renan, who has lived this life, takes a gentle pleasure in contemplating. He looks back on it with thankfulness, and also with amusement It makes a charming and complete picture. No part could