The Ancient Regime eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 548 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.
which the prevailing opinions and social decency impose on the clergy a delicate observer[29] thus specifies distinctions in rank with their proper shades of behavior:  “A plain priest, a curate, must have a little faith, otherwise he would be found a hypocrite; at the same time, he must not be too well satisfied, for he would be found intolerant.  On the contrary, the grand vicar may smile at an expression against religion, the bishop may laugh outright, and the cardinal may add something of his own to it.”  “A little while ago,” a chronicle narrates, “some one put this question to one of the most respectable curates in Paris:  Do you think that the bishops who insist so strenuously on religion have much of it themselves?  The worthy pastor replied, after a moment’s hesitation:  There may be four or five among them who still believe.”  To one who is familiar with their birth, their social relations, their habits and their tastes, this does not appear at all improbable.  “Dom Collignon, a representative of the abbey of Mettach, seignior high-justiciary and curate of Valmunster,” a fine-looking man, fine talker, and an agreeable housekeeper, avoids scandal by having his two mistresses at his table only with a select few; he is in other respects as little devout as possible, and much less so than the Savoyard vicar, “finding evil only in injustice and in a lack of charity,” and considering religion merely as a political institution and for moral ends.  I might cite many others, like M. de Grimaldi, the young and gallant bishop of Le Mans, who selects young and gallant comrades of his own station for his grand vicars, and who has a rendezvous for pretty women at his country seat at Coulans[30].  Judge of their faith by their habits.  In other cases we have no difficulty in determining.  Scepticism is notorious with the Cardinal de Rohan, withM. de Brienne, archbishop of Sens, withM. de Talleyrand, bishop of Autun, and with the Abbé Maury, defender of the clergy.  Rivarol,[31] himself a skeptic, declares that at the approach of the Revolution, “the enlightenment of the clergy equaled that of the philosophers.”  “Who would believe it, but body with the fewest prejudices,” says Mercier,[32] “is the clergy.”  And the Archbishop of Narbonne, explaining the resistance of the upper class of the clergy in I791[33] attributes it, not to faith but to a point of honor.  “We conducted ourselves at that time like true gentlemen, for, with most of us, it could not be said that it was through religious feeling.”

V. POLITICAL OPPOSITION.

Progress of political opposition. — Its origin. — The economists and the parliamentarians. — They prepare the way for the philosophers. — Political fault-finding in the drawing-rooms. — Female liberalism.

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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