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Louis Lambert by Honore de Balzac

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Gracefully formed, elegant in his attitudes, delicate in hue, never
shivering after his bath, perhaps because he avoided the shade and
always ran into the sunshine, Louis was like one of those cautious
blossoms that close their petals to the blast and refuse to open
unless to a clear sky. He ate little, and drank water only; either by
instinct or by choice he was averse to any exertion that made a demand
on his strength; his movements were few and simple, like those of
Orientals or of savages, with whom gravity seems a condition of

As a rule, he disliked everything that resembled any special care for
his person. He commonly sat with his head a little inclined to the
left, and so constantly rested his elbows on the table, that the
sleeves of his coats were soon in holes.

To this slight picture of the outer man I must add a sketch of his
moral qualities, for I believe I can now judge him impartially.

Though naturally religious, Louis did not accept the minute practices
of the Roman ritual; his ideas were more intimately in sympathy with
Saint Theresa and Fenelon, and several Fathers and certain Saints,
who, in our day, would be regarded as heresiarchs or atheists. He was
rigidly calm during the services. His own prayers went up in gusts, in
aspirations, without any regular formality; in all things he gave
himself up to nature, and would not pray, any more than he would
think, at any fixed hour. In chapel he was equally apt to think of God
or to meditate on some problem of philosophy.

To him Jesus Christ was the most perfect type of his system. /Et
Verbum caro factum est/ seemed a sublime statement intended to express
the traditional formula of the Will, the Word, and the Act made
visible. Christ's unconsciousness of His Death--having so perfected
His inner Being by divine works, that one day the invisible form of it
appeared to His disciples--and the other Mysteries of the Gospels, the
magnetic cures wrought by Christ, and the gift of tongues, all to him
confirmed his doctrine. I remember once hearing him say on this
subject, that the greatest work that could be written nowadays was a
History of the Primitive Church. And he never rose to such poetic
heights as when, in the evening, as we conversed, he would enter on an
inquiry into miracles, worked by the power of Will during that great
age of faith. He discerned the strongest evidence of his theory in
most of the martyrdoms endured during the first century of our era,
which he spoke of as /the great era of the Mind/.

"Do not the phenomena observed in almost every instance of the
torments so heroically endured by the early Christians for the
establishment of the faith, amply prove that Material force will never
prevail against the force of Ideas or the Will of man?" he would say.
"From this effect, produced by the Will of all, each man may draw
conclusions in favor of his own."

I need say nothing of his views on poetry or history, nor of his
judgment on the masterpieces of our language. There would be little
interest in the record of opinions now almost universally held, though
at that time, from the lips of a boy, they might seem remarkable.
Louis was capable of the highest flights. To give a notion of his
talents in a few words, he could have written /Zadig/ as wittily as
Voltaire; he could have thought out the dialogue between Sylla and
Eucrates as powerfully as Montesquieu. His rectitude of character made
him desire above all else in a work that it should bear the stamp of
utility; at the same time, his refined taste demanded novelty of
thought as well as of form. One of his most remarkable literary
observations, which will serve as a clue to all the others, and show
the lucidity of his judgment, is this, which has ever dwelt in my
memory, "The Apocalypse is written ecstasy." He regarded the Bible as
a part of the traditional history of the antediluvian nations which
had taken for its share the new humanity. He thought that the
mythology of the Greeks was borrowed both from the Hebrew Scriptures
and from the sacred Books of India, adapted after their own fashion by
the beauty-loving Hellenes.

"It is impossible," said he, "to doubt the priority of the Asiatic
Scriptures; they are earlier than our sacred books. The man who is
candid enough to admit this historical fact sees the whole world
expand before him. Was it not on the Asiatic highland that the few men
took refuge who were able to escape the catastrophe that ruined our
globe--if, indeed men had existed before that cataclysm or shock? A
serious query, the answer to which lies at the bottom of the sea. The
anthropogony of the Bible is merely a genealogy of a swarm escaping
from the human hive which settled on the mountainous slopes of Thibet
between the summits of the Himalaya and the Caucasus.

"The character of the primitive ideas of that horde called by its
lawgiver the people of God, no doubt to secure its unity, and perhaps
also to induce it to maintain his laws and his system of government--
for the Books of Moses are a religious, political, and civil code--
that character bears the authority of terror; convulsions of nature
are interpreted with stupendous power as a vengeance from on high. In
fact, since this wandering tribe knew none of the ease enjoyed by a
community settled in a patriarchal home, their sorrows as pilgrims
inspired them with none but gloomy poems, majestic but blood-stained.
In the Hindoos, on the contrary, the spectacle of the rapid recoveries
of the natural world, and the prodigious effects of sunshine, which
they were the first to recognize, gave rise to happy images of
blissful love, to the worship of Fire and of the endless
personifications of reproductive force. These fine fancies are lacking
in the Book of the Hebrews. A constant need of self-preservation amid
all the dangers and the lands they traversed to reach the Promised
Land engendered their exclusive race-feeling and their hatred of all
other nations.

"These three Scriptures are the archives of an engulfed world. Therein
lies the secret of the extraordinary splendor of those languages and
their myths. A grand human history lies beneath those names of men and
places, and those fables which charm us so irresistibly, we know not
why. Perhaps it is because we find in them the native air of renewed

Thus, to him, this threefold literature included all the thoughts of
man. Not a book could be written, in his opinion, of which the subject
might not there be discerned in its germ. This view shows how
learnedly he had pursued his early studies of the Bible, and how far
they had led him. Hovering, as it were, over the heads of society, and
knowing it solely from books, he could judge it coldly.

"The law," said he, "never puts a check on the enterprises of the rich
and great, but crushes the poor, who, on the contrary, need

His kind heart did not therefore allow him to sympathize in political
ideas; his system led rather to the passive obedience of which Jesus
set the example. During the last hours of my life at Vendome, Louis
had ceased to feel the spur to glory; he had, in a way, had an
abstract enjoyment of fame; and having opened it, as the ancient
priests of sacrifice sought to read the future in the hearts of men,
he had found nothing in the entrails of his chimera. Scorning a
sentiment so wholly personal: "Glory," said he, "is but beatified

Here, perhaps, before taking leave of this exceptional boyhood, I may
pronounce judgment on it by a rapid glance.

A short time before our separation, Lambert said to me:

"Apart from the general laws which I have formulated--and this,
perhaps, will be my glory--laws which must be those of the human
organism, the life of man is Movement determined in each individual by
the pressure of some inscrutable influence--by the brain, the heart,
or the sinews. All the innumerable modes of human existence result
from the proportions in which these three generating forces are more
or less intimately combined with the substances they assimilate in the
environment they live in."

He stopped short, struck his forehead, and exclaimed: "How strange! In
every great man whose portrait I have remarked, the neck is short.
Perhaps nature requires that in them the heart should be nearer to the

Then he went on:

"From that, a sum-total of action takes its rise which constitutes
social life. The man of sinew contributes action or strength; the man
of brain, genius; the man of heart, faith. But," he added sadly,
"faith sees only the clouds of the sanctuary; the Angel alone has

So, according to his own definitions, Lambert was all brain and all
heart. It seems to me that his intellectual life was divided into
three marked phases.

Under the impulsion, from his earliest years, of a precocious
activity, due, no doubt, to some malady--or to some special perfection
--of organism, his powers were concentrated on the functions of the
inner senses and a superabundant flow of nerve- fluid. As a man of
ideas, he craved to satisfy the thirst of his brain, to assimilate
every idea. Hence his reading; and from his reading, the reflections
that gave him the power of reducing things to their simplest
expression, and of absorbing them to study them in their essence.
Thus, the advantages of this splendid stage, acquired by other men
only after long study, were achieved by Lambert during his bodily
childhood: a happy childhood, colored by the studious joys of a born

The point which most thinkers reach at last was to him the starting-
point, whence his brain was to set out one day in search of new worlds
of knowledge. Though as yet he knew it not, he had made for himself
the most exacting life possible, and the most insatiably greedy.
Merely to live, was he not compelled to be perpetually casting
nutriment into the gulf he had opened in himself? Like some beings who
dwell in the grosser world, might not he die of inanition for want of
feeding abnormal and disappointed cravings? Was not this a sort of
debauchery of the intellect which might lead to spontaneous
combustion, like that of bodies saturated with alcohol?

I had seen nothing of this first phase of his brain-development; it is
only now, at a later day, that I can thus give an account of its
prodigious fruit and results. Lambert was now thirteen.

I was so fortunate as to witness the first stage of the second period.
Lambert was cast into all the miseries of school-life--and that,
perhaps, was his salvation--it absorbed the superabundance of his
thoughts. After passing from concrete ideas to their purest
expression, from words to their ideal import, and from that import to
principles, after reducing everything to the abstract, to enable him
to live he yearned for yet other intellectual creations. Quelled by
the woes of school and the critical development of his physical
constitution, he became thoughtful, dreamed of feeling, and caught a
glimpse of new sciences--positively masses of ideas. Checked in his
career, and not yet strong enough to contemplate the higher spheres,
he contemplated his inmost self. I then perceived in him the struggle
of the Mind reacting on itself, and trying to detect the secrets of
its own nature, like a physician who watches the course of his own

At this stage of weakness and strength, of childish grace and
superhuman powers, Louis Lambert is the creature who, more than any
other, gave me a poetical and truthful image of the being we call an
angel, always excepting one woman whose name, whose features, whose
identity, and whose life I would fain hide from all the world, so as
to be sole master of the secret of her existence, and to bury it in
the depths of my heart.

The third phase I was not destined to see. It began when Lambert and I
were parted, for he did not leave college till he was eighteen, in the
summer of 1815. He had at that time lost his father and mother about
six months before. Finding no member of his family with whom his soul
could sympathize, expansive still, but, since our parting, thrown back
on himself, he made his home with his uncle, who was also his
guardian, and who, having been turned out of his benefice as a priest
who had taken the oaths, had come to settle at Blois. There Louis
lived for some time; but consumed ere long by the desire to finish his
incomplete studies, he came to Paris to see Madame de Stael, and to
drink of science at its highest fount. The old priest, being very fond
of his nephew, left Louis free to spend his whole little inheritance
in his three years' stay in Paris, though he lived very poorly. This
fortune consisted of but a few thousand francs.

Lambert returned to Blois at the beginning of 1820, driven from Paris
by the sufferings to which the impecunious are exposed there. He must
often have been a victim to the secret storms, the terrible rage of
mind by which artists are tossed to judge from the only fact his uncle
recollected, and the only letter he preserved of all those which Louis
Lambert wrote to him at that time, perhaps because it was the last and
the longest.

To begin with the story. Louis one evening was at the Theatre-
Francais, seated on a bench in the upper gallery, near to one of the
pillars which, in those days, divided off the third row of boxes. On
rising between the acts, he saw a young woman who had just come into
the box next him. The sight of this lady, who was young, pretty, well
dressed, in a low bodice no doubt, and escorted by a man for whom her
face beamed with all the charms of love, produced such a terrible
effect on Lambert's soul and senses, that he was obliged to leave the
theatre. If he had not been controlled by some remaining glimmer of
reason, which was not wholly extinguished by this first fever of
burning passion, he might perhaps have yielded to the most
irresistible desire that came over him to kill the young man on whom
the lady's looks beamed. Was not this a reversion, in the heart of the
Paris world, to the savage passion that regards women as its prey, an
effect of animal instinct combining with the almost luminous flashes
of a soul crushed under the weight of thought? In short, was it not
the prick of the penknife so vividly imagined by the boy, felt by the
man as the thunderbolt of his most vital craving--for love?

And now, here is the letter that depicts the state of his mind as it
was struck by the spectacle of Parisian civilization. His feelings,
perpetually wounded no doubt in that whirlpool of self-interest, must
always have suffered there; he probably had no friend to comfort him,
no enemy to give tone to this life. Compelled to live in himself
alone, having no one to share his subtle raptures, he may have hoped
to solve the problem of his destiny by a life of ecstasy, adopting an
almost vegetative attitude, like an anchorite of the early Church, and
abdicating the empire of the intellectual world.

This letter seems to hint at such a scheme, which is a temptation to
all lofty souls at periods of social reform. But is not this purpose,
in some cases, the result of a vocation? Do not some of them endeavor
to concentrate their powers by long silence, so as to emerge fully
capable of governing the world by word or by deed? Louis must,
assuredly, have found much bitterness in his intercourse with men, or
have striven hard with Society in terrible irony, without extracting
anything from it, before uttering so strident a cry, and expressing,
poor fellow, the desire which satiety of power and of all earthly
things has led even monarchs to indulge!

And perhaps, too, he went back to solitude to carry out some great
work that was floating inchoate in his brain. We would gladly believe
it as we read this fragment of his thoughts, betraying the struggle of
his soul at the time when youth was ending and the terrible power of
production was coming into being, to which we might have owed the
works of the man.

This letter connects itself with the adventure at the theatre. The
incident and the letter throw light on each other, body and soul were
tuned to the same pitch. This tempest of doubts and asseverations, of
clouds and of lightnings that flash before the thunder, ending by a
starved yearning for heavenly illumination, throws such a light on the
third phase of his education as enables us to understand it perfectly.
As we read these lines, written at chance moments, taken up when the
vicissitudes of life in Paris allowed, may we not fancy that we see an
oak at that stage of its growth when its inner expansion bursts the
tender green bark, covering it with wrinkles and cracks, when its
majestic stature is in preparation--if indeed the lightnings of heaven
and the axe of man shall spare it?

This letter, then, will close, alike for the poet and the philosopher,
this portentous childhood and unappreciated youth. It finishes off the
outline of this nature in its germ. Philosophers will regret the
foliage frost-nipped in the bud; but they will, perhaps, find the
flowers expanding in regions far above the highest places of the

"PARIS, September-October 1819.

"DEAR UNCLE,--I shall soon be leaving this part of the world,
where I could never bear to live. I find no one here who likes
what I like, who works at my work, or is amazed at what amazes me.
Thrown back on myself, I eat my heart out in misery. My long and
patient study of Society here has brought me to melancholy
conclusions, in which doubt predominates.

"Here, money is the mainspring of everything. Money is
indispensable, even for going without money. But though that dross
is necessary to any one who wishes to think in peace, I have not
courage enough to make it the sole motive power of my thoughts. To
make a fortune, I must take up a profession; in two words, I must,
by acquiring some privilege of position or of self-advertisement,
either legal or ingeniously contrived, purchase the right of
taking day by day out of somebody else's purse a certain sum
which, by the end of the year, would amount to a small capital;
and this, in twenty years, would hardly secure an income of four
or five thousand francs to a man who deals honestly. An advocate,
a notary, a merchant, any recognized professional, has earned a
living for his later days in the course of fifteen or sixteen
years after ending his apprenticeship.

"But I have never felt fit for work of this kind. I prefer thought
to action, an idea to a transaction, contemplation to activity. I
am absolutely devoid of the constant attention indispensable to
the making of a fortune. Any mercantile venture, any need for
using other people's money would bring me to grief, and I should
be ruined. Though I have nothing, at least at the moment, I owe
nothing. The man who gives his life to the achievement of great
things in the sphere of intellect, needs very little; still,
though twenty sous a day would be enough, I do not possess that
small income for my laborious idleness. When I wish to cogitate,
want drives me out of the sanctuary where my mind has its being.
What is to become of me?

"I am not frightened at poverty. If it were not that beggars are
imprisoned, branded, scorned, I would beg, to enable me to solve
at my leisure the problems that haunt me. Still, this sublime
resignation, by which I might emancipate my mind, through
abstracting it from the body, would not serve my end. I should
still need money to devote myself to certain experiments. But for
that, I would accept the outward indigence of a sage possessed of
both heaven and heart. A man need only never stoop, to remain
lofty in poverty. He who struggles and endures, while marching on
to a glorious end, presents a noble spectacle; but who can have
the strength to fight here? We can climb cliffs, but it is
unendurable to remain for ever tramping the mud. Everything here
checks the flight of the spirit that strives towards the future.

"I should not be afraid of myself in a desert cave; I am afraid of
myself here. In the desert I should be alone with myself,
undisturbed; here man has a thousand wants which drag him down.
You go out walking, absorbed in dreams; the voice of the beggar
asking an alms brings you back to this world of hunger and thirst.
You need money only to take a walk. Your organs of sense,
perpetually wearied by trifles, never get any rest. The poet's
sensitive nerves are perpetually shocked, and what ought to be his
glory becomes his torment; his imagination is his cruelest enemy.
The injured workman, the poor mother in childbed, the prostitute
who has fallen ill, the foundling, the infirm and aged--even vice
and crime here find a refuge and charity; but the world is
merciless to the inventor, to the man who thinks. Here everything
must show an immediate and practical result. Fruitless attempts
are mocked at, though they may lead to the greatest discoveries;
the deep and untiring study that demands long concentrations of
every faculty is not valued here. The State might pay talent as it
pays the bayonet; but it is afraid of being taken in by mere
cleverness, as if genius could be counterfeited for any length of

"Ah, my dear uncle, when monastic solitude was destroyed, uprooted
from its home at the foot of mountains, under green and silent
shade, asylums ought to have been provided for those suffering
souls who, by an idea, promote the progress of nations or prepare
some new and fruitful development of science.

"September 20th.

"The love of study brought me hither, as you know. I have met
really learned men, amazing for the most part; but the lack of
unity in scientific work almost nullifies their efforts. There is
no Head of instruction or of scientific research. At the Museum a
professor argues to prove that another in the Rue Saint-Jacques
talks nonsense. The lecturer at the College of Medicine abuses him
of the College de France. When I first arrived, I went to hear an
old Academician who taught five hundred youths that Corneille was
a haughty and powerful genius; Racine, elegiac and graceful;
Moliere, inimitable; Voltaire, supremely witty; Bossuet and
Pascal, incomparable in argument. A professor of philosophy may
make a name by explaining how Plato is Platonic. Another
discourses on the history of words, without troubling himself
about ideas. One explains Aeschylus, another tells you that
communes were communes, and neither more nor less. These original
and brilliant discoveries, diluted to last several hours,
constitute the higher education which is to lead to giant strides
in human knowledge.

"If the Government could have an idea, I should suspect it of
being afraid of any real superiority, which, once roused, might
bring Society under the yoke of an intelligent rule. Then nations
would go too far and too fast; so professors are appointed to
produce simpletons. How else can we account for a scheme devoid of
method or any notion of the future?

"The /Institut/ might be the central government of the moral and
intellectual world; but it has been ruined lately by its
subdivision into separate academies. So human science marches on,
without a guide, without a system, and floats haphazard with no
road traced out.

"This vagueness and uncertainty prevails in politics as well as in
science. In the order of nature means are simple, the end is grand
and marvelous; here in science as in government, the means are
stupendous, the end is mean. The force which in nature proceeds at
an equal pace, and of which the sum is constantly being added to
itself--the A + A from which everything is produced--is
destructive in society. Politics, at the present time, place human
forces in antagonism to neutralize each other, instead of
combining them to promote their action to some definite end.

"Looking at Europe alone, from Caesar to Constantine, from the
puny Constantine to the great Attila, from the Huns to
Charlemagne, from Charlemagne to Leo X., from Leo X., to Philip
II., from Philip II. to Louis XIV.; from Venice to England, from
England to Napoleon, from Napoleon to England, I see no fixed
purpose in politics; its constant agitation has led to no

"Nations leave witnesses to their greatness in monuments, and to
their happiness in the welfare of individuals. Are modern
monuments as fine as those of the ancients? I doubt it. The arts,
which are the direct outcome of the individual, the products of
genius or of handicraft, have not advanced much. The pleasures of
Lucullus were as good as those of Samuel Bernard, of Beaujon, or
of the King of Bavaria. And then human longevity has diminished.

"Thus, to those who will be candid, man is still the same; might
is his only law, and success his only wisdom.

"Jesus Christ, Mahomet, and Luther only lent a different hue to
the arena in which youthful nations disport themselves.

"No development of politics has hindered civilization, with its
riches, its manners, its alliance of the strong against the weak,
its ideas, and its delights, from moving from Memphis to Tyre,
from Tyre to Baalbek, from Tadmor to Carthage, from Carthage to
Rome, from Rome to Constantinople, from Constantinople to Venice,
from Venice to Spain, from Spain to England--while no trace is
left of Memphis, of Tyre, of Carthage, of Rome, of Venice, or
Madrid. The soul of those great bodies has fled. Not one of them
has preserved itself from destruction, nor formulated this axiom:
When the effect produced ceases to be in a ratio to its cause,
disorganization follows.

"The most subtle genius can discover no common bond between great
social facts. No political theory has ever lasted. Governments
pass away, as men do, without handing down any lesson, and no
system gives birth to a system better than that which came before
it. What can we say about politics when a Government directly
referred to God perished in India and Egypt; when the rule of the
Sword and of the Tiara are past; when Monarchy is dying; when the
Government of the People has never been alive; when no scheme of
intellectual power as applied to material interests has ever
proved durable, and everything at this day remains to be done all
over again, as it has been at every period when man has turned to
cry out, 'I am in torment!'

"The code, which is considered Napoleon's greatest achievement, is
the most Draconian work I know of. Territorial subdivision carried
out to the uttermost, and its principle confirmed by the equal
division of property generally, must result in the degeneracy of
the nation and the death of the Arts and Sciences. The land, too
much broken up, is cultivated only with cereals and small crops;
the forests, and consequently the rivers, are disappearing; oxen
and horses are no longer bred. Means are lacking both for attack
and for resistance. If we should be invaded, the people must be
crushed; it has lost its mainspring-- its leaders. This is the
history of deserts!

"Thus the science of politics has no definite principles, and it
can have no fixity; it is the spirit of the hour, the perpetual
application of strength proportioned to the necessities of the
moment. The man who should foresee two centuries ahead would die
on the place of execution, loaded with the imprecations of the
mob, or else--which seems worse--would be lashed with the myriad
whips of ridicule. Nations are but individuals, neither wiser nor
stronger than man, and their destinies are identical. If we
reflect on man, is not that to consider mankind?

"By studying the spectacle of society perpetually storm-tossed in
its foundations as well as in its results, in its causes as well
as in its actions, while philanthropy is but a splendid mistake,
and progress is vanity, I have been confirmed in this truth: Life
is within and not without us; to rise above men, to govern them,
is only the part of an aggrandized school-master; and those men
who are capable of rising to the level whence they can enjoy a
view of the world should not look at their own feet.

"November 4th.

"I am no doubt occupied with weighty thoughts, I am on the way to
certain discoveries, an invincible power bears me toward a
luminary which shone at an early age on the darkness of my moral
life; but what name can I give to the power that ties my hands and
shuts my mouth, and drags me in a direction opposite to my
vocation? I must leave Paris, bid farewell to the books in the
libraries, those noble centres of illumination, those kindly and
always accessible sages, and the younger geniuses with whom I
sympathize. Who is it that drives me away? Chance or Providence?

"The two ideas represented by those words are irreconcilable. If
Chance does not exist, we must admit fatalism, that is to say, the
compulsory co-ordination of things under the rule of a general
plan. Why then do we rebel? If man is not free, what becomes of
the scaffolding of his moral sense? Or, if he can control his
destiny, if by his own freewill he can interfere with the
execution of the general plan, what becomes of God?

"Why did I come here? If I examine myself, I find the answer: I
find in myself axioms that need developing. But why then have I
such vast faculties without being suffered to use them? If my
suffering could serve as an example, I could understand it; but
no, I suffer unknown.

"This is perhaps as much the act of Providence as the fate of the
flower that dies unseen in the heart of the virgin forest, where
no one can enjoy its perfume or admire its splendor. Just as that
blossom vainly sheds its fragrance to the solitude, so do I, here
in the garret, give birth to ideas that no one can grasp.

"Yesterday evening I sat eating bread and grapes in front of my
window with a young doctor named Meyraux. We talked as men do whom
misfortune has joined in brotherhood, and I said to him:

" 'I am going away; you are staying. Take up my ideas and develop

" 'I cannot!' said he, with bitter regret: 'my feeble health
cannot stand so much work, and I shall die young of my struggle
with penury.'

"We looked up at the sky and grasped hands. We first met at the
Comparative Anatomy course, and in the galleries of the Museum,
attracted thither by the same study--the unity of geological
structure. In him this was the presentiment of genius sent to open
a new path in the fallows of intellect; in me it was a deduction
from a general system.

"My point is to ascertain the real relation that may exist between
God and man. Is not this a need of the age? Without the highest
assurance, it is impossible to put bit and bridle on the social
factions that have been let loose by the spirit of scepticism and
discussion, and which are now crying aloud: 'Show us a way in
which we may walk and find no pitfalls in our way!'

"You will wonder what comparative anatomy has to do with a
question of such importance to the future of society. Must we not
attain to the conviction that man is the end of all earthly means
before we ask whether he too is not the means to some end? If man
is bound up with everything, is there not something above him with
which he again is bound up? If he is the end-all of the explained
transmutations that lead up to him, must he not be also the link
between the visible and invisible creations?

"The activity of the universe is not absurd; it must tend to an
end, and that end is surely not a social body constituted as ours
is! There is a fearful gulf between us and heaven. In our present
existence we can neither be always happy nor always in torment;
must there not be some tremendous change to bring about Paradise
and Hell, two images without which God cannot exist to the mind of
the vulgar? I know that a compromise was made by the invention of
the Soul; but it is repugnant to me to make God answerable for
human baseness, for our disenchantments, our aversions, our

"Again, how can we recognize as divine the principle within us
which can be overthrown by a few glasses of rum? How conceive of
immaterial faculties which matter can conquer, and whose exercise
is suspended by a grain of opium? How imagine that we shall be
able to feel when we are bereft of the vehicles of sensation? Why
must God perish if matter can be proved to think? Is the vitality
of matter in its innumerable manifestations--the effect of its
instincts--at all more explicable than the effects of the mind? Is
not the motion given to the worlds enough to prove God's
existence, without our plunging into absurd speculations suggested
by pride? And if we pass, after our trials, from a perishable
state of being to a higher existence, is not that enough for a
creature that is distinguished from other creatures only by more
perfect instincts? If in moral philosophy there is not a single
principle which does not lead to the absurd, or cannot be
disproved by evidence, is it not high time that we should set to
work to seek such dogmas as are written in the innermost nature of
things? Must we not reverse philosophical science?

"We trouble ourselves very little about the supposed void that
must have pre-existed for us, and we try to fathom the supposed
void that lies before us. We make God responsible for the future,
but we do not expect Him to account for the past. And yet it is
quite as desirable to know whether we have any roots in the past
as to discover whether we are inseparable from the future.

"We have been Deists or Atheists in one direction only.

"Is the world eternal? Was the world created? We can conceive of
no middle term between these two propositions; one, then, is true
and the other false! Take your choice. Whichever it may be, God,
as our reason depicts Him, must be deposed, and that amounts to
denial. The world is eternal: then, beyond question, God has had
it forced upon Him. The world was created: then God is an
impossibility. How could He have subsisted through an eternity,
not knowing that He would presently want to create the world? How
could He have failed to foresee all the results?

"Whence did He derive the essence of creation? Evidently from
Himself. If, then, the world proceeds from God, how can you
account for evil? That Evil should proceed from Good is absurd. If
evil does not exist, what do you make of social life and its laws?
On all hands we find a precipice! On every side a gulf in which
reason is lost! Then social science must be altogether

"Listen to me, uncle; until some splendid genius shall have taken
account of the obvious inequality of intellects and the general
sense of humanity, the word God will be constantly arraigned, and
Society will rest on shifting sands. The secret of the various
moral zones through which man passes will be discovered by the
analysis of the animal type as a whole. That animal type has
hitherto been studied with reference only to its differences, not
to its similitudes; in its organic manifestations, not in its
faculties. Animal faculties are perfected in direct transmission,
in obedience to laws which remain to be discovered. These
faculties correspond to the forces which express them, and those
forces are essentially material and divisible.

"Material faculties! Reflect on this juxtaposition of words. Is
not this a problem as insoluble as that of the first communication
of motion to matter--an unsounded gulf of which the difficulties
were transposed rather than removed by Newton's system? Again, the
universal assimilation of light by everything that exists on earth
demands a new study of our globe. The same animal differs in the
tropics of India and in the North. Under the angular or the
vertical incidence of the sun's rays nature is developed the same,
but not the same; identical in its principles, but totally
dissimilar in its outcome. The phenomenon that amazes our eyes in
the zoological world when we compare the butterflies of Brazil
with those of Europe, is even more startling in the world of Mind.
A particular facial angle, a certain amount of brain convolutions,
are indispensable to produce Columbus, Raphael, Napoleon, Laplace,
or Beethoven; the sunless valley produces the cretin--draw your
own conclusions. Why such differences, due to the more or less
ample diffusion of light to men? The masses of suffering humanity,
more or less active, fed, and enlightened, are a difficulty to be
accounted for, crying out against God.

"Why in great joy do we always want to quit the earth? whence
comes the longing to rise which every creature has known or will
know? Motion is a great soul, and its alliance with matter is just
as difficult to account for as the origin of thought in man. In
these days science is one; it is impossible to touch politics
independent of moral questions, and these are bound up with
scientific questions. It seems to me that we are on the eve of a
great human struggle; the forces are there; only I do not see the

"November 25.

"Believe me, dear uncle, it is hard to give up the life that is in
us without a pang. I am returning to Blois with a heavy grip at my
heart; I shall die then, taking with me some useful truths. No
personal interest debases my regrets. Is earthly fame a guerdon to
those who believe that they will mount to a higher sphere?

"I am by no means in love with the two syllables /Lam/ and /bert/;
whether spoken with respect or with contempt over my grave, they
can make no change in my ultimate destiny. I feel myself strong
and energetic; I might become a power; I feel in myself a life so
luminous that it might enlighten a world, and yet I am shut up in
a sort of mineral, as perhaps indeed are the colors you admire on
the neck of an Indian bird. I should need to embrace the whole
world, to clasp and re-create it; but those who have done this,
who have thus embraced and remoulded it began--did they not?--by
being a wheel in the machine. I can only be crushed. Mahomet had
the sword; Jesus had the cross; I shall die unknown. I shall be at
Blois for a day, and then in my coffin.

"Do you know why I have come back to Swedenborg after vast studies
of all religions, and after proving to myself, by reading all the
works published within the last sixty years by the patient
English, by Germany, and by France, how deeply true were my
youthful views about the Bible? Swedenborg undoubtedly epitomizes
all the religions--or rather the one religion--of humanity. Though
forms of worship are infinitely various, neither their true
meaning nor their metaphysical interpretation has ever varied. In
short, man has, and has had, but one religion.

"Sivaism, Vishnuism, and Brahmanism, the three primitive creeds,
originating as they did in Thibet, in the valley of the Indus, and
on the vast plains of the Ganges, ended their warfare some
thousand years before the birth of Christ by adopting the Hindoo
Trimourti. The Trimourti is our Trinity. From this dogma Magianism
arose in Persia; in Egypt, the African beliefs and the Mosaic law;
the worship of the Cabiri, and the polytheism of Greece and Rome.
While by this ramification of the Trimourti the Asiatic myths
became adapted to the imaginations of various races in the lands
they reached by the agency of certain sages whom men elevated to
be demi-gods--Mithra, Bacchus, Hermes, Hercules, and the rest--
Buddha, the great reformer of the three primeval religions, lived
in India, and founded his Church there, a sect which still numbers
two hundred millions more believers than Christianity can show,
while it certainly influenced the powerful Will both of Jesus and
of Confucius.

"Then Christianity raised her standard. Subsequently Mahomet fused
Judaism and Christianity, the Bible and the Gospel, in one book,
the Koran, adapting them to the apprehension of the Arab race.
Finally, Swedenborg borrowed from Magianism, Brahmanism, Buddhism,
and Christian mysticism all the truth and divine beauty that those
four great religious books hold in common, and added to them a
doctrine, a basis of reasoning, that may be termed mathematical.

"Any man who plunges into these religious waters, of which the
sources are not all known, will find proofs that Zoroaster, Moses,
Buddha, Confucius, Jesus Christ, and Swedenborg had identical
principles and aimed at identical ends.

"The last of them all, Swedenborg, will perhaps be the Buddha of
the North. Obscure and diffuse as his writings are, we find in
them the elements of a magnificent conception of society. His
Theocracy is sublime, and his creed is the only acceptable one to
superior souls. He alone brings man into immediate communion with
God, he gives a thirst for God, he has freed the majesty of God
from the trappings in which other human dogmas have disguised Him.
He left Him where He is, making His myriad creations and creatures
gravitate towards Him through successive transformations which
promise a more immediate and more natural future than the Catholic
idea of Eternity. Swedenborg has absolved God from the reproach
attaching to Him in the estimation of tender souls for the
perpetuity of revenge to punish the sin of a moment--a system of
injustice and cruelty.

"Each man may know for himself what hope he has of life eternal,
and whether this world has any rational sense. I mean to make the
attempt. And this attempt may save the world, just as much as the
cross at Jerusalem or the sword at Mecca. These were both the
offspring of the desert. Of the thirty-three years of Christ's
life, we only know the history of nine; His life of seclusion
prepared Him for His life of glory. And I too crave for the

Notwithstanding the difficulties of the task, I have felt it my duty
to depict Lambert's boyhood, the unknown life to which I owe the only
happy hours, the only pleasant memories, of my early days. Excepting
during those two years I had nothing but annoyances and weariness.
Though some happiness was mine at a later time, it was always

I have been diffuse, I know; but in default of entering into the whole
wide heart and brain of Louis Lambert--two words which inadequately
express the infinite aspects of his inner life--it would be almost
impossible to make the second part of his intellectual history
intelligible--a phase that was unknown to the world and to me, but of
which the mystical outcome was made evident to my eyes in the course
of a few hours. Those who have not already dropped this volume, will,
I hope, understand the events I still have to tell, forming as they do
a sort of second existence lived by this creature--may I not say this
creation?--in whom everything was to be so extraordinary, even his

When Louis returned to Blois, his uncle was eager to procure him some
amusement; but the poor priest was regarded as a perfect leper in that
godly-minded town. No one would have anything to say to a
revolutionary who had taken the oaths. His society, therefore,
consisted of a few individuals of what were then called liberal or
patriotic, or constitutional opinions, on whom he would call for a
rubber of whist or of boston.

At the first house where he was introduced by his uncle, Louis met a
young lady, whose circumstances obliged her to remain in this circle,
so contemned by those of the fashionable world, though her fortune was
such as to make it probable that she might by and by marry into the
highest aristocracy of the province. Mademoiselle Pauline de Villenoix
was sole heiress to the wealth amassed by her grandfather, a Jew named
Salomon, who, contrary to the customs of his nation, had, in his old
age, married a Christian and a Catholic. He had only one son, who was
brought up in his mother's faith. At his father's death young Salomon
purchased what was known at that time as a /savonnette a vilain/
(literally /a cake of soap for a serf/), a small estate called
Villenoix, which he contrived to get registered with a baronial title,
and took its name. He died unmarried, but he left a natural daughter,
to whom he bequeathed the greater part of his fortune, including the
lands of Villenoix. He appointed one of his uncles, Monsieur Joseph
Salomon, to be the girl's guardian. The old Jew was so devoted to his
ward that he seemed willing to make great sacrifices for the sake of
marrying her well. But Mademoiselle de Villenoix's birth, and the
cherished prejudice against Jews that prevails in the provinces, would
not allow of her being received in the very exclusive circle which,
rightly or wrongly, considers itself noble, notwithstanding her own
large fortune and her guardian's.

Monsieur Joseph Salomon was resolved that if she could not secure a
country squire, his niece should go to Paris and make choice of a
husband among the peers of France, liberal or monarchical; as to
happiness, that he believed he could secure her by the terms of the
marriage contract.

Mademoiselle de Villenoix was now twenty. Her remarkable beauty and
gifts of mind were surer guarantees of happiness than those offered by
money. Her features were of the purest type of Jewish beauty; the oval
lines, so noble and maidenly, have an indescribable stamp of the
ideal, and seem to speak of the joys of the East, its unchangeably
blue sky, the glories of its lands, and the fabulous riches of life
there. She had fine eyes, shaded by deep eyelids, fringed with thick,
curled lashes. Biblical innocence sat on her brow. Her complexion was
of the pure whiteness of the Levite's robe. She was habitually silent
and thoughtful, but her movements and gestures betrayed a quiet grace,
as her speech bore witness to a woman's sweet and loving nature. She
had not, indeed, the rosy freshness, the fruit-like bloom which blush
on a girl's cheek during her careless years. Darker shadows, with here
and there a redder vein, took the place of color, symptomatic of an
energetic temper and nervous irritability, such as many men do not
like to meet with in a wife, while to others they are an indication of
the most sensitive chastity and passion mingled with pride.

As soon as Louis saw Mademoiselle de Villenoix, he discerned the angel
within. The richest powers of his soul, and his tendency to ecstatic
reverie, every faculty within him was at once concentrated in
boundless love, the first love of a young man, a passion which is
strong indeed in all, but which in him was raised to incalculable
power by the perennial ardor of his senses, the character of his
ideas, and the manner in which he lived. This passion became a gulf,
into which the hapless fellow threw everything; a gulf whither the
mind dare not venture, since his, flexible and firm as it was, was
lost there. There all was mysterious, for everything went on in that
moral world, closed to most men, whose laws were revealed to him--
perhaps to his sorrow.

When an accident threw me in the way of his uncle, the good man showed
me into the room which Lambert had at that time lived in. I wanted to
find some vestiges of his writings, if he should have left any. There
among his papers, untouched by the old man from that fine instinct of
grief that characterized the aged, I found a number of letters, too
illegible ever to have been sent to Mademoiselle de Villenoix. My
familiarity with Lambert's writing enabled me in time to decipher the
hieroglyphics of this shorthand, the result of impatience and a frenzy
of passion. Carried away by his feelings, he had written without being
conscious of the irregularity of words too slow to express his
thoughts. He must have been compelled to copy these chaotic attempts,
for the lines often ran into each other; but he was also afraid
perhaps of not having sufficiently disguised his feelings, and at
first, at any rate, he had probably written his love-letters twice

It required all the fervency of my devotion to his memory, and the
sort of fanaticism which comes of such a task, to enable me to divine
and restore the meaning of the five letters that here follow. These
documents, preserved by me with pious care, are the only material
evidence of his overmastering passion. Mademoiselle de Villenoix had
no doubt destroyed the real letters that she received, eloquent
witnesses to the delirium she inspired.

The first of these papers, evidently a rough sketch, betrays by its
style and by its length the many emendations, the heartfelt alarms,
the innumerable terrors caused by a desire to please; the changes of
expression and the hesitation between the whirl of ideas that beset a
man as he indites his first love-letter--a letter he never will
forget, each line the result of a reverie, each word the subject of
long cogitation, while the most unbridled passion known to man feels
the necessity of the most reserved utterance, and like a giant
stooping to enter a hovel, speaks humbly and low, so as not to alarm a
girl's soul.

No antiquary ever handled his palimpsests with greater respect than I
showed in reconstructing these mutilated documents of such joy and
suffering as must always be sacred to those who have known similar joy
and grief.


"Mademoiselle, when you have read this letter, if you ever should
read it, my life will be in your hands, for I love you; and to me,
the hope of being loved is life. Others, perhaps, ere now, have,
in speaking of themselves, misused the words I must employ to
depict the state of my soul; yet, I beseech you to believe in the
truth of my expressions; though weak, they are sincere. Perhaps I
ought not thus to proclaim my love. Indeed, my heart counseled me
to wait in silence till my passion should touch you, that I might
the better conceal it if its silent demonstrations should
displease you; or till I could express it even more delicately
than in words if I found favor in your eyes. However, after having
listened for long to the coy fears that fill a youthful heart with
alarms, I write in obedience to the instinct which drags useless
lamentations from the dying.

"It has needed all my courage to silence the pride of poverty, and
to overleap the barriers which prejudice erects between you and
me. I have had to smother many reflections to love you in spite of
your wealth; and as I write to you, am I not in danger of the
scorn which women often reserve for profession of love, which they
accept only as one more tribute of flattery? But we cannot help
rushing with all our might towards happiness, or being attracted
to the life of love as a plant is to the light; we must have been
very unhappy before we can conquer the torment, the anguish of
those secret deliberations when reason proves to us by a thousand
arguments how barren our yearning must be if it remains buried in
our hearts, and when hopes bid us dare everything.

"I was happy when I admired you in silence; I was so lost in the
contemplation of your beautiful soul, that only to see you left me
hardly anything further to imagine. And I should not now have
dared to address you if I had not heard that you were leaving.
What misery has that one word brought upon me! Indeed, it is my
despair that has shown me the extent of my attachment--it is
unbounded. Mademoiselle, you will never know--at least, I hope you
may never know--the anguish of dreading lest you should lose the
only happiness that has dawned on you on earth, the only thing
that has thrown a gleam of light in the darkness of misery. I
understood yesterday that my life was no more in myself, but in
you. There is but one woman in the world for me, as there is but
one thought in my soul. I dare not tell you to what a state I am
reduced by my love for you. I would have you only as a gift from
yourself; I must therefore avoid showing myself to you in all the
attractiveness of dejection--for is it not often more impressive
to a noble soul than that of good fortune? There are many things I
may not tell you. Indeed, I have too lofty a notion of love to
taint it with ideas that are alien to its nature. If my soul is
worthy of yours, and my life pure, your heart will have a
sympathetic insight, and you will understand me!

"It is the fate of man to offer himself to the woman who can make
him believe in happiness; but it is your prerogative to reject the
truest passion if it is not in harmony with the vague voices in
your heart--that I know. If my lot, as decided by you, must be
adverse to my hopes, mademoiselle, let me appeal to the delicacy
of your maiden soul and the ingenuous compassion of a woman to
burn my letter. On my knees I beseech you to forget all! Do not
mock at a feeling that is wholly respectful, and that is too
deeply graven on my heart ever to be effaced. Break my heart, but
do not rend it! Let the expression of my first love, a pure and
youthful love, be lost in your pure and youthful heart! Let it die
there as a prayer rises up to die in the bosom of God!

"I owe you much gratitude: I have spent delicious hours occupied
in watching you, and giving myself up to the faint dreams of my
life; do not crush these long but transient joys by some girlish
irony. Be satisfied not to answer me. I shall know how to
interpret your silence; you will see me no more. If I must be
condemned to know for ever what happiness means, and to be for
ever bereft of it; if, like a banished angel, I am to cherish the
sense of celestial joys while bound for ever to a world of sorrow
--well, I can keep the secret of my love as well as that of my
griefs.--And farewell!

"Yes, I resign you to God, to whom I will pray for you, beseeching
Him to grant you a happy life; for even if I am driven from your
heart, into which I have crept by stealth, still I shall ever be
near you. Otherwise, of what value would the sacred words be of
this letter, my first and perhaps my last entreaty? If I should
ever cease to think of you, to love you whether in happiness or in
woe, should I not deserve my punishment?"


"You are not going away! And I am loved! I, a poor, insignificant
creature! My beloved Pauline, you do not yourself know the power
of the look I believe in, the look you gave me to tell me that you
had chosen me--you so young and lovely, with the world at your

"To enable you to understand my happiness, I should have to give
you a history of my life. If you had rejected me, all was over for
me. I have suffered too much. Yes, my love for you, my comforting
and stupendous love, was a last effort of yearning for the
happiness my soul strove to reach--a soul crushed by fruitless
labor, consumed by fears that make me doubt myself, eaten into by
despair which has often urged me to die. No one in the world can
conceive of the terrors my fateful imagination inflicts on me. It
often bears me up to the sky, and suddenly flings me to earth
again from prodigious heights. Deep-seated rushes of power, or
some rare and subtle instance of peculiar lucidity, assure me now
and then that I am capable of great things. Then I embrace the
universe in my mind, I knead, shape it, inform it, I comprehend it
--or fancy that I do; then suddenly I awake--alone, sunk in
blackest night, helpless and weak; I forget the light I saw but
now, I find no succor; above all, there is no heart where I may
take refuge.

"This distress of my inner life affects my physical existence. The
nature of my character gives me over to the raptures of happiness
as defenceless as when the fearful light of reflection comes to
analyze and demolish them. Gifted as I am with the melancholy
faculty of seeing obstacles and success with equal clearness,
according to the mood of the moment, I am happy or miserable by

"Thus, when I first met you, I felt the presence of an angelic
nature, I breathed an air that was sweet to my burning breast, I
heard in my soul the voice that never can be false, telling me
that here was happiness; but perceiving all the barriers that
divided us, I understood the vastness of their pettiness, and
these difficulties terrified me more than the prospect of
happiness could delight me. At once I felt the awful reaction
which casts my expansive soul back on itself; the smile you had
brought to my lips suddenly turned to a bitter grimace, and I
could only strive to keep calm, while my soul was boiling with the
turmoil of contradictory emotions. In short, I experienced that
gnawing pang to which twenty-three years of suppressed sighs and
betrayed affections have not inured me.

"Well, Pauline, the look by which you promised that I should be
happy suddenly warmed my vitality, and turned all my sorrows into
joy. Now, I could wish that I had suffered more. My love is
suddenly full-grown. My soul was a wide territory that lacked the
blessing of sunshine, and your eyes have shed light on it. Beloved
providence! you will be all in all to me, orphan as I am, without
a relation but my uncle. You will be my whole family, as you are
my whole wealth, nay, the whole world to me. Have you not bestowed
on me every gladness man can desire in that chaste--lavish--timid

"You have given me incredible self-confidence and audacity. I can
dare all things now. I came back to Blois in deep dejection. Five
years of study in the heart of Paris had made me look on the world
as a prison. I had conceived of vast schemes, and dared not speak
of them. Fame seemed to me a prize for charlatans, to which a
really noble spirit should not stoop. Thus, my ideas could only
make their way by the assistance of a man bold enough to mount the
platform of the press, and to harangue loudly the simpletons he
scorns. This kind of courage I have not. I ploughed my way on,
crushed by the verdict of the crowd, in despair at never making it
hear me. I was at once too humble and too lofty! I swallowed my
thoughts as other men swallow humiliations. I had even come to
despise knowledge, blaming it for yielding no real happiness.

"But since yesterday I am wholly changed. For your sake I now
covet every palm of glory, every triumph of success. When I lay my
head on your knees, I could wish to attract to you the eyes of the
whole world, just as I long to concentrate in my love every idea,
every power that is in me. The most splendid celebrity is a
possession that genius alone can create. Well, I can, at my will,
make for you a bed of laurels. And if the silent ovation paid to
science is not all you desire, I have within me the sword of the
Word; I could run in the path of honor and ambition where others
only crawl.

"Command me, Pauline; I will be whatever you will. My iron will
can do anything--I am loved! Armed with that thought, ought not a
man to sweep everything before him? The man who wants all can do
all. If you are the prize of success, I enter the lists to-morrow.
To win such a look as that you bestowed on me, I would leap the
deepest abyss. Through you I understand the fabulous achievements
of chivalry and the most fantastic tales of the /Arabian Nights/.
I can believe now in the most fantastic excesses of love, and in
the success of a prisoner's wildest attempt to recover his
liberty. You have aroused the thousand virtues that lay dormant
within me--patience, resignation, all the powers of my heart, all
the strength of my soul. I live by you and--heavenly thought!--for
you. Everything now has a meaning for me in life. I understand
everything, even the vanities of wealth.

"I find myself shedding all the pearls of the Indies at your feet;
I fancy you reclining either on the rarest flowers, or on the
softest tissues, and all the splendor of the world seems hardly
worthy of you, for whom I would I could command the harmony and
the light that are given out by the harps of seraphs and the stars
of heaven! Alas! a poor, studious poet, I offer you in words
treasures I cannot bestow; I can only give you my heart, in which
you reign for ever. I have nothing else. But are there no
treasures in eternal gratitude, in a smile whose expressions will
perpetually vary with perennial happiness, under the constant
eagerness of my devotion to guess the wishes of your loving soul?
Has not one celestial glance given us assurance of always
understanding each other?

"I have a prayer now to be said to God every night--a prayer full
of you: 'Let my Pauline be happy!' And will you fill all my days
as you now fill my heart?

"Farewell, I can but trust you to God alone!"


"Pauline! tell me if I can in any way have displeased you
yesterday? Throw off the pride of heart which inflicts on me the
secret tortures that can be caused by one we love. Scold me if you
will! Since yesterday, a vague, unutterable dread of having
offended you pours grief on the life of feeling which you had made
so sweet and so rich. The lightest veil that comes between two
souls sometimes grows to be a brazen wall. There are no venial
crimes in love! If you have the very spirit of that noble
sentiment, you must feel all its pangs, and we must be unceasingly
careful not to fret each other by some heedless word.

"No doubt, my beloved treasure, if there is any fault, it is in
me. I cannot pride myself in the belief that I understand a
woman's heart, in all the expansion of its tenderness, all the
grace of its devotedness; but I will always endeavor to appreciate
the value of what you vouchsafe to show me of the secrets of

"Speak to me! Answer me soon! The melancholy into which we are
thrown by the idea of a wrong done is frightful; it casts a shroud
over life, and doubts on everything.

"I spent this morning sitting on the bank by the sunken road,
gazing at the turrets of Villenoix, not daring to go to our hedge.
If you could imagine all I saw in my soul! What gloomy visions
passed before me under the gray sky, whose cold sheen added to my
dreary mood! I had dark presentiments! I was terrified lest I
should fail to make you happy.

"I must tell you everything, my dear Pauline. There are moments
when the spirit of vitality seems to abandon me. I feel bereft of
all strength. Everything is a burden to me; every fibre of my body
is inert, every sense is flaccid, my sight grows dim, my tongue is
paralyzed, my imagination is extinct, desire is dead--nothing
survives but my mere human vitality. At such times, though you
were in all the splendor of your beauty, though you should lavish
on me your subtlest smiles and tenderest words, an evil influence
would blind me, and distort the most ravishing melody into
discordant sounds. At those times--as I believe--some
argumentative demon stands before me, showing me the void beneath
the most real possessions. This pitiless demon mows down every
flower, and mocks at the sweetest feelings, saying: 'Well--and
then?' He mars the fairest work by showing me its skeleton, and
reveals the mechanism of things while hiding the beautiful

"At those terrible moments, when the evil spirit takes possession
of me, when the divine light is darkened in my soul without my
knowing the cause, I sit in grief and anguish, I wish myself deaf
and dumb, I long for death to give me rest. These hours of doubt
and uneasiness are perhaps inevitable; at any rate, they teach me
not to be proud after the flights which have borne me to the skies
where I have gathered a full harvest of thoughts; for it is always
after some long excursion in the vast fields of the intellect, and
after the most luminous speculations, that I tumble, broken and
weary, into this limbo. At such a moment, my angel, a wife would
double my love for her--at any rate, she might. If she were
capricious, ailing, or depressed, she would need the comforting
overflow of ingenious affection, and I should not have a glance to
bestow on her. It is my shame, Pauline, to have to tell you that
at times I could weep with you, but that nothing could make me

"A woman can always conceal her troubles; for her child, or for
the man she loves, she can laugh in the midst of suffering. And
could not I, for you, Pauline, imitate the exquisite reserve of a
woman? Since yesterday I have doubted my own power. If I could
displease you once, if I failed once to understand you, I dread
lest I should often be carried out of our happy circle by my evil
demon. Supposing I were to have many of those dreadful moods, or
that my unbounded love could not make up for the dark hours of my
life--that I were doomed to remain such as I am?--Fatal doubts!

"Power is indeed a fatal possession if what I feel within me is
power. Pauline, go! Leave me, desert me! Sooner would I endure
every ill in life than endure the misery of knowing that you were
unhappy through me.

"But, perhaps, the demon has had such empire over me only because
I have had no gentle, white hands about me to drive him off. No
woman has ever shed on me the balm of her affection; and I know
not whether, if love should wave his pinions over my head in these
moments of exhaustion, new strength might not be given to my
spirit. This terrible melancholy is perhaps a result of my
isolation, one of the torments of a lonely soul which pays for its
hidden treasures with groans and unknown suffering. Those who
enjoy little shall suffer little; immense happiness entails
unutterable anguish!

"How terrible a doom! If it be so, must we not shudder for
ourselves, we who are superhumanly happy? If nature sells us
everything at its true value, into what pit are we not fated to
fall? Ah! the most fortunate lovers are those who die together in
the midst of their youth and love! How sad it all is! Does my soul
foresee evil in the future? I examine myself, wondering whether
there is anything in me that can cause you a moment's anxiety. I
love you too selfishly perhaps? I shall be laying on your beloved
head a burden heavy out of all proportion to the joy my love can
bring to your heart. If there dwells in me some inexorable power
which I must obey--if I am compelled to curse when you pray, if
some dark thought coerces me when I would fain kneel at your feet
and play as a child, will you not be jealous of that wayward and
tricky spirit?

"You understand, dearest heart, that what I dread is not being
wholly yours; that I would gladly forego all the sceptres and the
palms of the world to enshrine you in one eternal thought, to see
a perfect life and an exquisite poem in our rapturous love; to
throw my soul into it, drown my powers, and wring from each hour
the joys it has to give!

"Ah, my memories of love are crowding back upon me, the clouds of
despair will lift. Farewell. I leave you now to be more entirely
yours. My beloved soul, I look for a line, a word that may restore
my peace of mind. Let me know whether I really grieved my Pauline,
or whether some uncertain expression of her countenance misled me.
I could not bear to have to reproach myself after a whole life of
happiness, for ever having met you without a smile of love, a
honeyed word. To grieve the woman I love--Pauline, I should count
it a crime. Tell me the truth, do not put me off with some
magnanimous subterfuge, but forgive me without cruelty."


"Is so perfect an attachment happiness? Yes, for years of
suffering would not pay for an hour of love.

"Yesterday, your sadness, as I suppose, passed into my soul as
swiftly as a shadow falls. Were you sad or suffering? I was
wretched. Whence came my distress? Write to me at once. Why did I
not know it? We are not yet completely one in mind. At two
leagues' distance or at a thousand I ought to feel your pain and
sorrows. I shall not believe that I love you till my life is so
bound up with yours that our life is one, till our hearts, our
thoughts are one. I must be where you are, see what you feel, feel
what you feel, be with you in thought. Did not I know, at once,
that your carriage had been overthrown and you were bruised? But
on that day I had been with you, I had never left you, I could see
you. When my uncle asked me what made me turn so pale, I answered
at once, 'Mademoiselle de Villenoix had has a fall.'

"Why, then, yesterday, did I fail to read your soul? Did you wish
to hide the cause of your grief? However, I fancied I could feel
that you were arguing in my favor, though in vain, with that
dreadful Salomon, who freezes my blood. That man is not of our

"Why do you insist that our happiness, which has no resemblance to
that of other people, should conform to the laws of the world? And
yet I delight too much in your bashfulness, your religion, your
superstitions, not to obey your lightest whim. What you do must be
right; nothing can be purer than your mind, as nothing is lovelier
than your face, which reflects your divine soul.

"I shall wait for a letter before going along the lanes to meet
the sweet hour you grant me. Oh! if you could know how the sight
of those turrets makes my heart throb when I see them edged with
light by the moon, our only confidante."


"Farewell to glory, farewell to the future, to the life I had
dreamed of! Now, my well-beloved, my glory is that I am yours, and
worthy of you; my future lies entirely in the hope of seeing you;
and is not my life summed up in sitting at your feet, in lying
under your eyes, in drawing deep breaths in the heaven you have
created for me? All my powers, all my thoughts must be yours,
since you could speak those thrilling words, 'Your sufferings must
be mine!' Should I not be stealing some joys from love, some
moments from happiness, some experiences from your divine spirit,
if I gave my hours to study--ideas to the world and poems to the
poets? Nay, nay, my very life, I will treasure everything for you;
I will bring to you every flower of my soul. Is there anything
fine enough, splendid enough, in all the resources of the world,
or of intellect, to do honor to a heart so rich, so pure as yours
--the heart to which I dare now and again to unite my own? Yes,
now and again, I dare believe that I can love as much as you do.

"And yet, no; you are the angel-woman; there will always be a
greater charm in the expression of your feelings, more harmony in
your voice, more grace in your smile, more purity in your looks
than in mine. Let me feel that you are the creature of a higher
sphere than that I live in; it will be your pride to have
descended from it; mine, that I should have deserved you; and you
will not perhaps have fallen too far by coming down to me in my
poverty and misery. Nay, if a woman's most glorious refuge is in a
heart that is wholly her own, you will always reign supreme in
mine. Not a thought, not a deed, shall ever pollute this heart,
this glorious sanctuary, so long as you vouchsafe to dwell in it--
and will you not dwell in it for ever? Did you not enchant me by
the words, 'Now and for ever?' /Nunc et semper/! And I have
written these words of our ritual below your portrait--words
worthy of you, as they are of God. He is /nunc et semper/, as my
love is.

"Never, no, never, can I exhaust that which is immense, infinite,
unbounded--and such is the feeling I have for you; I have imagined
its immeasurable extent, as we measure space by the dimensions of
one of its parts. I have had ineffable joys, whole hours filled
with delicious meditation, as I have recalled a single gesture or
the tone of a word of yours. Thus there will be memories of which
the magnitude will overpower me, if the reminiscence of a sweet
and friendly interview is enough to make me shed tears of joy, to
move and thrill my soul, and to be an inexhaustible wellspring of
gladness. Love is the life of angels!

"I can never, I believe, exhaust my joy in seeing you. This
rapture, the least fervid of any, though it never can last long
enough, has made me apprehend the eternal contemplation in which
seraphs and spirits abide in the presence of God; nothing can be
more natural, if from His essence there emanates a light as
fruitful of new emotions as that of your eyes is, of your imposing
brow, and your beautiful countenance--the image of your soul.
Then, the soul, our second self, whose pure form can never perish,
makes our love immortal. I would there were some other language
than that I use to express to you the ever-new ecstasy of my love;
but since there is one of our own creating, since our looks are
living speech, must we not meet face to face to read in each
other's eyes those questions and answers from the heart, that are
so living, so penetrating, that one evening you could say to me,
'Be silent!' when I was not speaking. Do you remember it, dear

"When I am away from you in the darkness of absence, am I not
reduced to use human words, too feeble to express heavenly
feelings? But words at any rate represent the marks these feelings
leave in my soul, just as the word /God/ imperfectly sums up the
notions we form of that mysterious First Cause. But, in spite of
the subtleties and infinite variety of language, I have no words
that can express to you the exquisite union by which my life is
merged into yours whenever I think of you.

"And with what word can I conclude when I cease writing to you,
and yet do not part from you? What can /farewell/ mean, unless in
death? But is death a farewell? Would not my spirit be then more
closely one with yours? Ah! my first and last thought; formerly I
offered you my heart and life on my knees; now what fresh blossoms
of feelings can I discover in my soul that I have not already
given you? It would be a gift of a part of what is wholly yours.

"Are you my future? How deeply I regret the past! I would I could
have back all the years that are ours no more, and give them to
you to reign over, as you do over my present life. What indeed was
that time when I knew you not? It would be a void but that I was
so wretched."


"Beloved angel, how delightful last evening was! How full of
riches your dear heart is! And is your love endless, like mine?
Each word brought me fresh joy, and each look made it deeper. The
placid expression of your countenance gave our thoughts a
limitless horizon. It was all as infinite as the sky, and as bland
as its blue. The refinement of your adored features repeated
itself by some inexplicable magic in your pretty movements and
your least gestures. I knew that you were all graciousness, all
love, but I did not know how variously graceful you could be.
Everything combined to urge me to tender solicitation, to make me
ask the first kiss that a woman always refuses, no doubt that it
may be snatched from her. You, dear soul of my life, will never
guess beforehand what you may grant to my love, and will yield
perhaps without knowing it! You are utterly true, and obey your
heart alone.

"The sweet tones of your voice blended with the tender harmonies
that filled the quiet air, the cloudless sky. Not a bird piped,
not a breeze whispered--solitude, you, and I. The motionless
leaves did not quiver in the beautiful sunset hues which are both
light and shadow. You felt that heavenly poetry--you who
experienced so many various emotions, and who so often raised your
eyes to heaven to avoid answering me. You who are proud and saucy,
humble and masterful, who give yourself to me so completely in
spirit and in thought, and evade the most bashful caress. Dear
witcheries of the heart! They ring in my ears; they sound and play
there still. Sweet words but half spoken, like a child's speech,
neither promise nor confession, but allowing love to cherish its
fairest hopes without fear or torment! How pure a memory for life!
What a free blossoming of all the flowers that spring from the
soul, which a mere trifle can blight, but which, at that moment,
everything warmed and expanded.

"And it will always be so, will it not, my beloved? As I recall,
this morning, the fresh and living delights revealed to me in that
hour, I am conscious of a joy which makes me conceive of true love
as an ocean of everlasting and ever-new experiences, into which we
may plunge with increasing delight. Every day, every word, every
kiss, every glance, must increase it by its tribute of past
happiness. Hearts that are large enough never to forget must live
every moment in their past joys as much as in those promised by
the future. This was my dream of old, and now it is no longer a
dream! Have I not met on this earth with an angel who had made me
know all its happiness, as a reward, perhaps, for having endured
all its torments? Angel of heaven, I salute thee with a kiss.

"I shall send you this hymn of thanksgiving from my heart, I owe
it to you; but it can hardly express my gratitude or the morning
worship my heart offers up day by day to her who epitomized the
whole gospel of the heart in this divine word: 'Believe.' "


"What! no further difficulties, dearest heart! We shall be free to
belong to each other every day, every hour, every minute, and for
ever! We may be as happy for all the days of our life as we now
are by stealth, at rare intervals! Our pure, deep feelings will
assume the expression of the thousand fond acts I have dreamed of.
For me your little foot will be bared, you will be wholly mine!
Such happiness kills me; it is too much for me. My head is too
weak, it will burst with the vehemence of my ideas. I cry and I
laugh--I am possessed! Every joy is an arrow of flame; it pierces
and burns me. In fancy you rise before my eyes, ravished and
dazzled by numberless and capricious images of delight.

"In short, our whole future life is before me--its torrents, its
still places, its joys; it seethes, it flows on, it lies sleeping;
then again it awakes fresh and young. I see myself and you side by
side, walking with equal pace, living in the same thought; each
dwelling in each other's heart, understanding each other,
responding to each other as an echo catches and repeats a sound
across wide distances.

"Can life be long when it is thus consumed hour by hour? Shall we
not die in a first embrace? What if our souls have already met in
that sweet evening kiss which almost overpowered us--a feeling
kiss, but the crown of my hopes, the ineffectual expression of all
the prayers I breathe while we are apart, hidden in my soul like

"I, who would creep back and hide in the hedge only to hear your
footsteps as you went homewards--I may henceforth admire you at my
leisure, see you busy, moving, smiling, prattling! An endless joy!
You cannot imagine all the gladness it is to me to see you going
and coming; only a man can know that deep delight. Your least
movement gives me greater pleasure than a mother even can feel as
she sees her child asleep or at play. I love you with every kind
of love in one. The grace of your least gesture is always new to
me. I fancy I could spend whole nights breathing your breath; I
would I could steal into every detail of your life, be the very
substance of your thoughts--be your very self.

"Well, we shall, at any rate, never part again! No human alloy
shall ever disturb our love, infinite in its phases and as pure as
all things are which are One--our love, vast as the sea, vast as
the sky! You are mine! all mine! I may look into the depths of
your eyes to read the sweet soul that alternately hides and shines
there, to anticipate your wishes.

"My best-beloved, listen to some things I have never yet dared to
tell you, but which I may confess to you now. I felt a certain
bashfulness of soul which hindered the full expression of my
feelings, so I strove to shroud them under the garbs of thoughts.
But now I long to lay my heart bare before you, to tell you of the
ardor of my dreams, to reveal the boiling demands of my senses,
excited, no doubt, by the solitude in which I have lived,
perpetually fired by conceptions of happiness, and aroused by you,
so fair in form, so attractive in manner. How can I express to you
my thirst for the unknown rapture of possessing an adored wife, a
rapture to which the union of two souls by love must give frenzied
intensity. Yes, my Pauline, I have sat for hours in a sort of
stupor caused by the violence of my passionate yearning, lost in
the dream of a caress as though in a bottomless abyss. At such
moments my whole vitality, my thoughts and powers, are merged and
united in what I must call desire, for lack of a word to express
that nameless delirium.

"And I may confess to you now that one day, when I would not take
your hand when you offered it so sweetly--an act of melancholy
prudence that made you doubt my love--I was in one of those fits
of madness when a man could commit a murder to possess a woman.
Yes, if I had felt the exquisite pressure you offered me as
vividly as I heard your voice in my heart, I know not to what
lengths my passion might not have carried me. But I can be silent,
and suffer a great deal. Why speak of this anguish when my visions
are to become realities? It will be in my power now to make life
one long love-making!

"Dearest love, there is a certain effect of light on your black
hair which could rivet me for hours, my eyes full of tears, as I
gazed at your sweet person, were it not that you turn away and
say, 'For shame; you make me quite shy!'

"To-morrow, then, our love is to be made known! Oh, Pauline! the
eyes of others, the curiosity of strangers, weigh on my soul. Let
us go to Villenoix, and stay there far from every one. I should
like no creature in human form to intrude into the sanctuary where
you are to be mine; I could even wish that, when we are dead, it
should cease to exist--should be destroyed. Yes, I would fain hide
from all nature a happiness which we alone can understand, alone
can feel, which is so stupendous that I throw myself into it only
to die--it is a gulf!

"Do not be alarmed by the tears that have wetted this page; they
are tears of joy. My only blessing, we need never part again!"

In 1823 I traveled from Paris to Touraine by /diligence/. At Mer we
took up a passenger for Blois. As the guard put him into that part of
the coach where I had my seat, he said jestingly:

"You will not be crowded, Monsieur Lefebvre!"--I was, in fact, alone.

On hearing this name, and seeing a white-haired old man, who looked
eighty at least, I naturally thought of Lambert's uncle. After a few
ingenious questions, I discovered that I was not mistaken. The good
man had been looking after his vintage at Mer, and was returning to
Blois. I then asked for some news of my old "chum." At the first word,
the old priest's face, as grave and stern already as that of a soldier
who has gone through many hardships, became more sad and dark; the
lines on his forehead were slightly knit, he set his lips, and said,
with a suspicious glance:

"Then you have never seen him since you left the College?"

"Indeed, I have not," said I. "But we are equally to blame for our
forgetfulness. Young men, as you know, lead such an adventurous and
storm-tossed life when they leave their school-forms, that it is only
by meeting that they can be sure of an enduring affection. However, a
reminiscence of youth sometimes comes as a reminder, and it is
impossible to forget entirely, especially when two lads have been such
friends as we were. We went by the name of the Poet-and-Pythagoras."

I told him my name; when he heard it, the worthy man grew gloomier
than ever.

"Then you have not heard his story?" said he. "My poor nephew was to
be married to the richest heiress in Blois; but the day before his
wedding he went mad."

"Lambert! Mad!" cried I in dismay. "But from what cause? He had the
finest memory, the most strongly-constituted brain, the soundest
judgment, I ever met with. Really a great genius--with too great a
passion for mysticism perhaps; but the kindest heart in the world.
Something most extraordinary must have happened?"

"I see you knew him well," said the priest.

From Mer, till we reached Blois, we talked only of my poor friend,
with long digressions, by which I learned the facts I have already
related in the order of their interest. I confessed to his uncle the
character of our studies and of his nephew's predominant ideas; then
the old man told me of the events that had come into Lambert's life
since our parting. From Monsieur Lefebvre's account, Lambert had
betrayed some symptoms of madness before his marriage; but they were
such as are common to men who love passionately, and seemed to me less
startling when I knew how vehement his love had been and when I saw
Mademoiselle de Villenoix. In the country, where ideas are scarce, a
man overflowing with original thought and devoted to a system, as
Louis was, might well be regarded as eccentric, to say the least. His
language would, no doubt, seem the stranger because he so rarely
spoke. He would say, "That man does not dwell in heaven," where any
one else would have said, "We are not made on the same pattern." Every
clever man has his own quirks of speech. The broader his genius, the
more conspicuous are the singularities which constitute the various
degrees of eccentricity. In the country an eccentric man is at once
set down as half mad.

Hence Monsieur Lefebvre's first sentences left me doubtful of my
schoolmate's insanity. I listened to the old man, but I criticised his

The most serious symptom had supervened a day or two before the
marriage. Louis had had some well-marked attacks of catalepsy. He had
once remained motionless for fifty-nine hours, his eyes staring,
neither speaking nor eating; a purely nervous affection, to which
persons under the influence of violent passion are liable; a rare
malady, but perfectly well known to the medical faculty. What was
really extraordinary was that Louis should not have had several
previous attacks, since his habits of rapt thought and the character
of his mind would predispose him to them. But his temperament,
physical and mental, was so admirably balanced, that it had no doubt
been able to resist the demands on his strength. The excitement to
which he had been wound up by the anticipation of acute physical
enjoyment, enhanced by a chaste life and a highly-strung soul, had no
doubt led to these attacks, of which the results are as little known
as the cause.

The letters that have by chance escaped destruction show very plainly
a transition from pure idealism to the most intense sensualism.

Time was when Lambert and I had admired this phenomenon of the human
mind, in which he saw the fortuitous separation of our two natures,
and the signs of a total removal of the inner man, using its unknown
faculties under the operation of an unknown cause. This disorder, a
mystery as deep as that of sleep, was connected with the scheme of
evidence which Lambert had set forth in his /Treatise on the Will/.
And when Monsieur Lefebvre spoke to me of Louis' first attack, I
suddenly remembered a conversation we had had on the subject after
reading a medical book.

"Deep meditation and rapt ecstasy are perhaps the undeveloped germs of
catalepsy," he said in conclusion.

On the occasion when he so concisely formulated this idea, he had been
trying to link mental phenomena together by a series of results,
following the processes of the intellect step by step, from their
beginnings as those simple, purely animal impulses of instinct, which
are all-sufficient to many human beings, particularly to those men
whose energies are wholly spent in mere mechanical labor; then, going
on to the aggregation of ideas and rising to comparison, reflection,
meditation, and finally ecstasy and catalepsy. Lambert, of course, in
the artlessness of youth, imagined that he had laid down the lines of
a great work when he thus built up a scale of the various degrees of
man's mental powers.

I remember that, by one of those chances which seems like
predestination, we got hold of a great Martyrology, in which the most
curious narratives are given of the total abeyance of physical life
which a man can attain to under the paroxysms of the inner life. By
reflecting on the effects of fanaticism, Lambert was led to believe
that the collected ideas to which we give the name of feelings may
very possibly be the material outcome of some fluid which is generated
in all men, more or less abundantly, according to the way in which
their organs absorb, from the medium in which they live, the
elementary atoms that produce it. We went crazy over catalepsy; and
with the eagerness that boys throw into every pursuit, we endeavored
to endure pain by thinking of something else. We exhausted ourselves
by making experiments not unlike those of the epileptic fanatics of
the last century, a religious mania which will some day be of service
to the science of humanity. I would stand on Lambert's chest,
remaining there for several minutes without giving him the slightest
pain; but notwithstanding these crazy attempts, we did not achieve an
attack of catalepsy.

This digression seemed necessary to account for my first doubts, which
were, however, completely dispelled by Monsieur Lefebvre.

"When this attack had passed off," said he, "my nephew sank into a
state of extreme terror, a dejection that nothing could overcome. He
thought himself unfit for marriage. I watched him with the care of a
mother for her child, and found him preparing to perform on himself
the operation to which Origen believed he owed his talents. I at once
carried him off to Paris, and placed him under the care of Monsieur
Esquirol. All through our journey Louis sat sunk in almost unbroken
torpor, and did not recognize me. The Paris physicians pronounced him
incurable, and unanimously advised his being left in perfect solitude,
with nothing to break the silence that was needful for his very
improbable recovery, and that he should live always in a cool room
with a subdued light.--Mademoiselle de Villenoix, whom I had been
careful not to apprise of Louis' state," he went on, blinking his
eyes, "but who was supposed to have broken off the match, went to
Paris and heard what the doctors had pronounced. She immediately
begged to see my nephew, who hardly recognized her; then, like the
noble soul she is, she insisted on devoting herself to giving him such
care as might tend to his recovery. She would have been obliged to do
so if he had been her husband, she said, and could she do less for him
as her lover?

"She removed Louis to Villenoix, where they have been living for two

So, instead of continuing my journey, I stopped at Blois to go to see
Louis. Good Monsieur Lefebvre would not hear of my lodging anywhere
but at his house, where he showed me his nephew's room with the books
and all else that had belonged to him. At every turn the old man could
not suppress some mournful exclamation, showing what hopes Louis'
precocious genius had raised, and the terrible grief into which this
irreparable ruin had plunged him.

"That young fellow knew everything, my dear sir!" said he, laying on
the table a volume containing Spinoza's works. "How could so well
organized a brain go astray?"

"Indeed, monsieur," said I, "was it not perhaps the result of its
being so highly organized? If he really is a victim to the malady as
yet unstudied in all its aspects, which is known simply as madness, I
am inclined to attribute it to his passion. His studies and his mode
of life had strung his powers and faculties to a degree of energy
beyond which the least further strain was too much for nature; Love
was enough to crack them, or to raise them to a new form of expression
which we are maligning perhaps, by ticketing it without due knowledge.
In fact, he may perhaps have regarded the joys of marriage as an
obstacle to the perfection of his inner man and his flight towards
spiritual spheres."

"My dear sir," said the old man, after listening to me with attention,
"your reasoning is, no doubt, very sound; but even if I could follow
it, would this melancholy logic comfort me for the loss of my nephew?"

Lambert's uncle was one of those men who live only by their

I went to Villenoix on the following day. The kind old man accompanied
me to the gates of Blois. When we were out on the road to Villenoix,
he stopped me and said:

"As you may suppose, I do not go there. But do not forget what I have
said; and in Mademoiselle de Villenoix's presence affect not to
perceive that Louis is mad."

He remained standing on the spot where I left him, watching me till I
was out of sight.

I made my way to the chateau of Villenoix, not without deep agitation.
My thoughts were many at each step on this road, which Louis had so
often trodden with a heart full of hopes, a soul spurred on by the
myriad darts of love. The shrubs, the trees, the turns of the winding
road where little gullies broke the banks on each side, were to me
full of strange interest. I tried to enter into the impressions and
thoughts of my unhappy friend. Those evening meetings on the edge of
the coombe, where his lady-love had been wont to find him, had, no
doubt, initiated Mademoiselle de Villenoix into the secrets of that
vast and lofty spirit, as I had learned them all some years before.

But the thing that most occupied my mind, and gave to my pilgrimage
the interest of intense curiosity, in addition to the almost pious
feelings that led me onwards, was that glorious faith of Mademoiselle
de Villenoix's which the good priest had told me of. Had she in the
course of time been infected with her lover's madness, or had she so
completely entered into his soul that she could understand all its
thoughts, even the most perplexed? I lost myself in the wonderful
problem of feeling, passing the highest inspirations of passion and
the most beautiful instances of self-sacrifice. That one should die
for the other is an almost vulgar form of devotion. To live faithful
to one love is a form of heroism that immortalized Mademoiselle
Dupuis. When the great Napoleon and Lord Byron could find successors
in the hearts of women they had loved, we may well admire
Bolingbroke's widow; but Mademoiselle Dupuis could feed on the
memories of many years of happiness, whereas Mademoiselle de
Villenoix, having known nothing of love but its first excitement,
seemed to me to typify love in its highest expression. If she were
herself almost crazy, it was splendid; but if she had understood and
entered into his madness, she combined with the beauty of a noble
heart a crowning effort of passion worthy to be studied and honored.

When I saw the tall turrets of the chateau, remembering how often poor
Lambert must have thrilled at the sight of them, my heart beat
anxiously. As I recalled the events of our boyhood, I was almost a
sharer in his present life and situation. At last I reached a wide,
deserted courtyard, and I went into the hall of the house without
meeting a soul. There the sound of my steps brought out an old woman,
to whom I gave a letter written to Mademoiselle de Villenoix by
Monsieur Lefebvre. In a few minutes this woman returned to bid me
enter, and led me to a low room, floored with black-and-white marble;
the Venetian shutters were closed, and at the end of the room I dimly
saw Louis Lambert.

"Be seated, monsieur," said a gentle voice that went to my heart.

Mademoiselle de Villenoix was at my side before I was aware of her
presence, and noiselessly brought me a chair, which at first I would
not accept. It was so dark that at first I saw Mademoiselle de
Villenoix and Lambert only as two black masses perceived against the
gloomy background. I presently sat down under the influence of the
feeling that comes over us, almost in spite of ourselves, under the
obscure vault of a church. My eyes, full of the bright sunshine,
accustomed themselves gradually to this artificial night.

"Monsieur is your old school-friend," she said to Louis.

He made no reply. At last I could see him, and it was one of those
spectacles that are stamped on the memory for ever. He was standing,
his elbows resting on the cornice of the low wainscot, which threw his
body forward, so that it seemed bowed under the weight of his bent
head. His hair was as long as a woman's, falling over his shoulders
and hanging about his face, giving him a resemblance to the busts of
the great men of the time of Louis XIV. His face was perfectly white.
He constantly rubbed one leg against the other, with a mechanical
action that nothing could have checked, and the incessant friction of
the bones made a doleful sound. Near him was a bed of moss on boards.

"He very rarely lies down," said Mademoiselle de Villenoix; "but
whenever he does, he sleeps for several days."

Louis stood, as I beheld him, day and night with a fixed gaze, never
winking his eyelids as we do. Having asked Mademoiselle de Villenoix
whether a little more light would hurt our friend, on her reply I
opened the shutters a little way, and could see the expression of
Lambert's countenance. Alas! he was wrinkled, white-headed, his eyes
dull and lifeless as those of the blind. His features seemed all drawn
upwards to the top of his head. I made several attempts to talk to
him, but he did not hear me. He was a wreck snatched from the grave, a
conquest of life from death--or of death from life!

I stayed for about an hour, sunk in unaccountable dreams, and lost in
painful thought. I listened to Mademoiselle de Villenoix, who told me
every detail of this life--that of a child in arms.

Suddenly Louis ceased rubbing his legs together, and said slowly:

"The angels are white."

I cannot express the effect produced upon me by this utterance, by the
sound of the voice I had loved, whose accents, so painfully expected,
had seemed to be lost for ever. My eyes filled with tears in spite of
every effort. An involuntary instinct warned me, making me doubt
whether Louis had really lost his reason. I was indeed well assured
that he neither saw nor heard me; but the sweetness of his tone, which
seemed to reveal heavenly happiness, gave his speech an amazing
effect. These words, the incomplete revelation of an unknown world,
rang in our souls like some glorious distant bells in the depth of a
dark night. I was no longer surprised that Mademoiselle de Villenoix
considered Lambert to be perfectly sane. The life of the soul had
perhaps subdued that of the body. His faithful companion had, no doubt
--as I had at that moment--intuitions of that melodious and beautiful
existence to which we give the name of Heaven in its highest meaning.

This woman, this angel, always was with him, seated at her embroidery
frame; and each time she drew the needle out she gazed at Lambert with
sad and tender feeling. Unable to endure this terrible sight--for I
could not, like Mademoiselle de Villenoix, read all his secrets--I
went out, and she came with me to walk for a few minutes and talk of
herself and of Lambert.

"Louis must, no doubt, appear to be mad," said she. "But he is not, if
the term mad ought only to be used in speaking of those whose brain is
for some unknown cause diseased, and who can show no reason in their
actions. Everything in my husband is perfectly balanced. Though he did
not actively recognize you, it is not that he did not see you. He has
succeeded in detaching himself from his body, and discerns us under
some other aspect--what that is, I know not. When he speaks, he utters
wondrous things. Only it often happens that he concludes in speech an
idea that had its beginning in his mind; or he may begin a sentence
and finish it in thought. To other men he seems insane; to me, living
as I do in his mind, his ideas are quite lucid. I follow the road his
spirit travels; and though I do not know every turning, I can reach
the goal with him.

"Which of us has not often known what it is to think of some futile
thing and be led on to some serious reflection through the ideas or
memories it brings in its train? Not unfrequently, after speaking
about some trifle, the simple starting-point of a rapid train of
reflections, a thinker may forget or be silent as to the abstract
connection of ideas leading to his conclusion, and speak again only to
utter the last link in the chain of his meditations.

"Inferior minds, to whom this swift mental vision is a thing unknown,
who are ignorant of the spirit's inner workings, laugh at the dreamer;
and if he is subject to this kind of obliviousness, regard him as a
madman. Louis is always in this state; he soars perpetually through
the spaces of thought, traversing them with the swiftness of a
swallow; I can follow him in his flight. This is the whole history of
his madness. Some day, perhaps, Louis will come back to the life in
which we vegetate; but if he breathes the air of heaven before the
time when we may be permitted to do so, why should we desire to have
him down among us? I am content to hear his heart beat, and all my
happiness is to be with him. Is he not wholly mine? In three years,
twice at intervals he was himself for a few days; once in Switzerland,
where we went, and once in an island off the wilds of Brittany, where
we took some sea-baths. I have twice been very happy! I can live on

"But do you write down the things he says?" I asked.

"Why should I?" said she.

I was silent; human knowledge was indeed as nothing in this woman's

"At those times, when he talked a little," she added, "I think I have
recorded some of his phrases, but I left it off; I did not understand
him then."

I asked her for them by a look; she understood me. This is what I have
been able to preserve from oblivion.


Everything here on earth is produced by an ethereal substance
which is the common element of various phenomena, known
inaccurately as electricity, heat, light, the galvanic fluid, the
magnetic fluid, and so forth. The universal distribution of this
substance, under various forms, constitutes what is commonly known
as Matter.


The brain is the alembic to which the Animal conveys what each of
its organizations, in proportion to the strength of that vessel,
can absorb of that Substance, which returns it transformed into

The Will is a fluid inherent in every creature endowed with
motion. Hence the innumerable forms assumed by the Animal, the
results of its combinations with that Substance. The Animal's
instincts are the product of the coercion of the environment in
which it develops. Hence its variety.


In Man the Will becomes a power peculiar to him, and exceeding in
intensity that of any other species.


By constant assimilation, the Will depends on the Substance it
meets with again and again in all its transmutations, pervading
them by Thought, which is a product peculiar to the human Will, in
combination with the modifications of that Substance.


The innumerable forms assumed by Thought are the result of the
greater or less perfection of the human mechanism.


The Will acts through organs commonly called the five senses,
which, in fact, are but one--the faculty of Sight. Feeling and
tasting, hearing and smelling, are Sight modified to the
transformations of the Substance which Man can absorb in two
conditions: untransformed and transformed.


Everything of which the form comes within the cognizance of the
one sense of Sight may be reduced to certain simple bodies of
which the elements exist in the air, the light, or in the elements
of air and light. Sound is a condition of the air; colors are all
conditions of light; every smell is a combination of air and
light; hence the four aspects of Matter with regard to Man--sound,
color, smell, and shape-- have the same origin, for the day is not
far off when the relationship of the phenomena of air and light
will be made clear.

Thought, which is allied to Light, is expressed in words which
depend on sound. To man, then, everything is derived from the
Substance, whose transformations vary only through Number--a
certain quantitative dissimilarity, the proportions resulting in
the individuals or objects of what are classed as Kingdoms.


When the Substance is absorbed in sufficient number (or quantity)
it makes of man an immensely powerful mechanism, in direct
communication with the very element of the Substance, and acting
on organic nature in the same way as a large stream when it
absorbs the smaller brooks. Volition sets this force in motion
independently of the Mind. By its concentration it acquires some
of the qualities of the Substance, such as the swiftness of light,
the penetrating power of electricity, and the faculty of
saturating a body; to which must be added that it apprehends what
it can do.

Still, there is in man a primordial and overruling phenomenon
which defies analysis. Man may be dissected completely; the
elements of Will and Mind may perhaps be found; but there still
will remain beyond apprehension the /x/ against which I once used
to struggle. That /x/ is the Word, the Logos, whose communication
burns and consumes those who are not prepared to receive it. The
Word is for ever generating the Substance.


Rage, like all our vehement demonstrations, is a current of the
human force that acts electrically; its turmoil when liberated
acts on persons who are present even though they be neither its
cause nor its object. Are there not certain men who by a discharge
of Volition can sublimate the essence of the feelings of the


Fanaticism and all emotions are living forces. These forces in
some beings become rivers that gather in and sweep away


Though Space /is/, certain faculties have the power of traversing
it with such rapidity that it is as though it existed not. From
your own bed to the frontiers of the universe there are but two
steps: Will and Faith.


Facts are nothing; they do not subsist; all that lives of us is

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