Coming from persons in whom I felt unbounded confidence, these absurdities carried conviction to my very soul, and even now, after fifty years’ hard experience of the world the impression has not quite worn off. The comparison between women and firearms made me very cautious, and not until age began to creep over me did I see that this also was vanity, and that the Preacher was right when he said: “Go thy way, eat thy bread joyfully ... with the woman whom thou lovest.” My ideas upon this head outlived my ideas upon religion, and this is why I have enjoyed immunity from the opprobrium which I should not unreasonably have been subjected to if it could have been said that I left the seminary for other reasons than those derived from philology. The commonplace interrogation, “Where is the woman?” in which laymen invariably look for an explanation of all such cases cannot but seem a paltry attempt at humour to those who see things as they really are. My early days were passed in this high school of faith and of respect. The liberty in which so many giddy youths find themselves suddenly landed was in my case acquired very gradually; and I did not attain the degree of emancipation which so many Parisians reach without any effort of their own, until I had gone through the German exegesis. It took me six years of meditation and hard study to discover that my teachers were not infallible. What caused me more grief than anything else when I entered upon this new path was the thought of distressing my revered masters; but I am absolutely certain that I was right, and that the sorrow which they felt was the consequence of their narrow views as to the economy of the universe.
[Footnote 1: This passage was written at Ischia in 1875.]