Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Occasional Papers.
be wanting without injuring the effect of the whole.  It is the very ideal of the education of the Rousseau school—­a child of nature, developing, amid the simplest and humblest circumstances of life, the finest gifts and most delicate graces of faith and reverence and purity—­brought up by sages whose wisdom he could not in time help outrunning, but whose piety, sweetness, disinterestedness, and devoted labour left on his mind impressions which nothing could wear out; and at length, when the time came, passing naturally, and without passion or bitterness, from out of their faithful but too narrow discipline into a wider and ampler air, and becoming, as was fit, master and guide to himself, with light which they could not bear, and views of truth greater and deeper than they could conceive.  But every stage of the progress, through the virtues of the teachers, and the felicitous disposition of the pupil, exhibits both in exactly the due relations in which each ought to be with the other, with none of the friction of rebellious and refractory temper on one side, or of unintelligent harshness on the other.  He has nothing to regret in the schools through which he passed, in the preparations which he made there for the future, in the way in which they shaped his life.  He lays down the maxim, “On ne doit jamais ecrire que de ce qu’on aime.”  There is a serene satisfaction diffused through the book, which scarcely anything intervenes to break or disturb; he sees so much poetry in his life, so much content, so much signal and unlooked-for success, that he has little to tell except what is delightful and admirable.  And then he is so certain that he is right:  he can look down with so much good-humoured superiority on past and present, alike on what he calls “l’effroyable aventure du moyen age,” and on the march of modern society to the dead level of “Americanism.”  It need not be said that the story is told with all M. Renan’s consummate charm of storytelling.  All that it wants is depth of real feeling and seriousness—­some sense of the greatness of what he has had to give up, not merely of its poetic beauty and tender associations.  It hardly seems to occur to him that something more than his easy cheerfulness and his vivid historical imagination is wanted to solve for him the problems of the world, and that his gradual transition from the Catholicism of the seminary to the absolute rejection of the supernatural in religion does not, as he describes it, throw much light on the question of the hopes and destiny of mankind.

The outline of his story is soon told.  It is in general like that of many more who in France have broken away from religion.  A clever studious boy, a true son of old Brittany—­the most melancholy, the most tender, the most ardent, the most devout, not only of all French provinces, but of all regions in Europe—­is passed on from the teaching of good, simple, hard-working country priests to the central seminaries, where the leaders

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Occasional Papers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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