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The Paris Sketch Book by William Makepeace Thackeray

Part 5 out of 7

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excellent wine; and vowed that the bread was the most delicious
mutton ever tasted. The little man was delighted.

"Ah!" said he, "these fellows are prettily punished for their
rascally backbiting of me!"

"Gentlemen," said the host, "I shall now give you some celebrated
champagne," and he poured out to each a glass of water.

"Good heavens!" said one, spitting it out, with the most horrible
grimace, "where did you get this detestable claret?"

"Ah, faugh!" said a second, "I never tasted such vile corked
burgundy in all my days!" and he threw the glass of water into
Poinsinet's face, as did half a dozen of the other guests,
drenching the poor wretch to the skin. To complete this pleasant
illusion, two of the guests fell to boxing across Poinsinet, who
received a number of the blows, and received them with the patience
of a fakir, feeling himself more flattered by the precious
privilege of beholding this scene invisible, than hurt by the blows
and buffets which the mad company bestowed upon him.

The fame of this adventure spread quickly over Paris, and all the
world longed to have at their houses the representation of
Poinsinet the Invisible. The servants and the whole company used
to be put up to the trick; and Poinsinet, who believed in his
invisibility as much as he did in his existence, went about with
his friend and protector the magician. People, of course, never
pretended to see him, and would very often not talk of him at all
for some time, but hold sober conversation about anything else in
the world. When dinner was served, of course there was no cover
laid for Poinsinet, who carried about a little stool, on which he
sat by the side of the magician, and always ate off his plate.
Everybody was astonished at the magician's appetite and at the
quantity of wine he drank; as for little Poinsinet, he never once
suspected any trick, and had such a confidence in his magician,
that, I do believe, if the latter had told him to fling himself out
of window, he would have done so, without the slightest trepidation.

Among other mystifications in which the Portuguese enchanter
plunged him, was one which used to afford always a good deal of
amusement. He informed Poinsinet, with great mystery, that HE WAS
NOT HIMSELF; he was not, that is to say, that ugly, deformed little
monster, called Poinsinet; but that his birth was most illustrious,
and his real name Polycarte. He was, in fact, the son of a
celebrated magician; but other magicians, enemies of his father,
had changed him in his cradle, altering his features into their
present hideous shape, in order that a silly old fellow, called
Poinsinet, might take him to be his own son, which little monster
the magician had likewise spirited away.

The poor wretch was sadly cast down at this; for he tried to fancy
that his person was agreeable to the ladies, of whom he was one of
the warmest little admirers possible; and to console him somewhat,
the magician told him that his real shape was exquisitely
beautiful, and as soon as he should appear in it, all the beauties
in Paris would be at his feet. But how to regain it? "Oh, for one
minute of that beauty!" cried the little man; "what would he not
give to appear under that enchanting form!" The magician hereupon
waved his stick over his head, pronounced some awful magical words,
and twisted him round three times; at the third twist, the men in
company seemed struck with astonishment and envy, the ladies
clasped their hands, and some of them kissed his. Everybody
declared his beauty to be supernatural.

Poinsinet, enchanted, rushed to a glass. "Fool!" said the
magician; "do you suppose that YOU can see the change? My power to
render you invisible, beautiful, or ten times more hideous even
than you are, extends only to others, not to you. You may look a
thousand times in the glass, and you will only see those deformed
limbs and disgusting features with which devilish malice has
disguised you." Poor little Poinsinet looked, and came back in
tears. "But," resumed the magician,--"ha, ha, ha!--I know a way in
which to disappoint the machinations of these fiendish magi."

"Oh, my benefactor!--my great master!--for heaven's sake tell it!"
gasped Poinsinet.

"Look you--it is this. A prey to enchantment and demoniac art all
your life long, you have lived until your present age perfectly
satisfied; nay, absolutely vain of a person the most singularly
hideous that ever walked the earth!"

"IS it?" whispered Poinsinet. "Indeed and indeed I didn't think it
so bad!"

"He acknowledges it! he acknowledges it!" roared the magician.
"Wretch, dotard, owl, mole, miserable buzzard! I have no reason to
tell thee now that thy form is monstrous, that children cry, that
cowards turn pale, that teeming matrons shudder to behold it. It
is not thy fault that thou art thus ungainly: but wherefore so
blind? wherefore so conceited of thyself! I tell thee, Poinsinet,
that over every fresh instance of thy vanity the hostile enchanters
rejoice and triumph. As long as thou art blindly satisfied with
thyself; as long as thou pretendest, in thy present odious shape,
to win the love of aught above a negress; nay, further still, until
thou hast learned to regard that face, as others do, with the most
intolerable horror and disgust, to abuse it when thou seest it, to
despise it, in short, and treat that miserable disguise in which
the enchanters have wrapped thee with the strongest, hatred and
scorn, so long art thou destined to wear it."

Such speeches as these, continually repeated, caused Poinsinet to
be fully convinced of his ugliness; he used to go about in
companies, and take every opportunity of inveighing against
himself; he made verses and epigrams against himself; he talked
about "that dwarf, Poinsinet;" "that buffoon, Poinsinet;" "that
conceited, hump-backed Poinsinet;" and he would spend hours before
the glass, abusing his own face as he saw it reflected there, and
vowing that he grew handsomer at every fresh epithet that he

Of course the wags, from time to time, used to give him every
possible encouragement, and declared that since this exercise, his
person was amazingly improved. The ladies, too, began to be so
excessively fond of him, that the little fellow was obliged to
caution them at last--for the good, as he said, of society; he
recommended them to draw lots, for he could not gratify them all;
but promised when his metamorphosis was complete, that the one
chosen should become the happy Mrs. Poinsinet; or, to speak more
correctly, Mrs. Polycarte.

I am sorry to say, however, that, on the score of gallantry,
Poinsinet was never quite convinced of the hideousness of his
appearance. He had a number of adventures, accordingly, with the
ladies, but strange to say, the husbands or fathers were always
interrupting him. On one occasion he was made to pass the night in
a slipper-bath full of water; where, although he had all his
clothes on, he declared that he nearly caught his death of cold.
Another night, in revenge, the poor fellow

--"dans le simple appareil
D'une beauté, qu'on vient d'arracher au sommeil,"

spent a number of hours contemplating the beauty of the moon on the
tiles. These adventures are pretty numerous in the memoirs of M.
Poinsinet; but the fact is, that people in France were a great deal
more philosophical in those days than the English are now, so that
Poinsinet's loves must be passed over, as not being to our taste.
His magician was a great diver, and told Poinsinet the most
wonderful tales of his two minutes' absence under water. These two
minutes, he said, lasted through a year, at least, which he spent
in the company of a naiad, more beautiful than Venus, in a palace
more splendid than even Versailles. Fired by the description,
Poinsinet used to dip, and dip, but he never was known to make any
mermaid acquaintances, although he fully believed that one day he
should find such.

The invisible joke was brought to an end by Poinsinet's too great
reliance on it; for being, as we have said, of a very tender and
sanguine disposition, he one day fell in love with a lady in whose
company he dined, and whom he actually proposed to embrace; but the
fair lady, in the hurry of the moment, forgot to act up to the
joke; and instead of receiving Poinsinet's salute with calmness,
grew indignant, called him an impudent little scoundrel, and lent
him a sound box on the ear. With this slap the invisibility of
Poinsinet disappeared, the gnomes and genii left him, and he
settled down into common life again, and was hoaxed only by vulgar

A vast number of pages might be filled with narratives of the
tricks that were played upon him; but they resemble each other a
good deal, as may be imagined, and the chief point remarkable about
them is the wondrous faith of Poinsinet. After being introduced to
the Prussian ambassador at the Tuileries, he was presented to the
Turkish envoy at the Place Vendôme, who received him in state,
surrounded by the officers of his establishment, all dressed in the
smartest dresses that the wardrobe of the Opéra Comique could

As the greatest honor that could be done to him, Poinsinet was
invited to eat, and a tray was produced, on which was a delicate
dish prepared in the Turkish manner. This consisted of a
reasonable quantity of mustard, salt, cinnamon and ginger, nutmegs
and cloves, with a couple of tablespoonfuls of cayenne pepper, to
give the whole a flavor; and Poinsinet's countenance may be
imagined when he introduced into his mouth a quantity of this
exquisite compound.

"The best of the joke was," says the author who records so many of
the pitiless tricks practised upon poor Poinsinet, "that the little
man used to laugh at them afterwards himself with perfect good
humor; and lived in the daily hope that, from being the sufferer,
he should become the agent in these hoaxes, and do to others as he
had been done by." Passing, therefore, one day, on the Pont Neuf,
with a friend, who had been one of the greatest performers, the
latter said to him, "Poinsinet, my good fellow, thou hast suffered
enough, and thy sufferings have made thee so wise and cunning, that
thou art worthy of entering among the initiated, and hoaxing in thy
turn." Poinsinet was charmed; he asked when he should be
initiated, and how? It was told him that a moment would suffice,
and that the ceremony might be performed on the spot. At this
news, and according to order, Poinsinet flung himself straightway
on his knees in the kennel; and the other, drawing his sword,
solemnly initiated him into the sacred order of jokers. From that
day the little man believed himself received into the society; and
to this having brought him, let us bid him a respectful adieu.


It was the hour of the night when there be none stirring save
churchyard ghosts--when all doors are closed except the gates of
graves, and all eyes shut but the eyes of wicked men.

When there is no sound on the earth except the ticking of the
grasshopper, or the croaking of obscene frogs in the poole.

And no light except that of the blinking starres, and the wicked
and devilish wills-o'-the-wisp, as they gambol among the marshes,
and lead good men astraye.

When there is nothing moving in heaven except the owle, as he
flappeth along lazily; or the magician, as he rides on his infernal
broomsticke, whistling through the aire like the arrowes of a
Yorkshire archere.

It was at this hour (namely, at twelve o'clock of the night,) that
two beings went winging through the black clouds, and holding
converse with each other.

Now the first was Mercurius, the messenger, not of gods (as the
heathens feigned), but of daemons; and the second, with whom he held
company, was the soul of Sir Roger de Rollo, the brave knight. Sir
Roger was Count of Chauchigny, in Champagne; Seigneur of Santerre,
Villacerf and aultre lieux. But the great die as well as the
humble; and nothing remained of brave Rodger now, but his coffin
and his deathless soul.

And Mercurius, in order to keep fast the soul, his companion, had
bound him round the neck with his tail; which, when the soul was
stubborn, he would draw so tight as to strangle him wellnigh,
sticking into him the barbed point thereof; whereat the poor soul,
Sir Rollo, would groan and roar lustily.

Now they two had come together from the gates of purgatorie, being
bound to those regions of fire and flame where poor sinners fry and
roast in saecula saeculorum.

"It is hard," said the poor Sir Rollo, as they went gliding through
the clouds, "that I should thus be condemned for ever, and all for
want of a single ave."

"How, Sir Soul?" said the daemon. "You were on earth so wicked,
that not one, or a million of aves, could suffice to keep from
hell-flame a creature like thee; but cheer up and be merry; thou
wilt be but a subject of our lord the Devil, as am I; and, perhaps,
thou wilt be advanced to posts of honor, as am I also:" and to show
his authoritie, he lashed with his tail the ribbes of the wretched

"Nevertheless, sinner as I am, one more ave would have saved me;
for my sister, who was Abbess of St. Mary of Chauchigny, did so
prevail, by her prayer and good works, for my lost and wretched
soul, that every day I felt the pains of purgatory decrease; the
pitchforks which, on my first entry, had never ceased to vex and
torment my poor carcass, were now not applied above once a week;
the roasting had ceased, the boiling had discontinued; only a
certain warmth was kept up, to remind me of my situation."

"A gentle stewe," said the daemon.

"Yea, truly, I was but in a stew, and all from the effects of the
prayers of my blessed sister. But yesterday, he who watched me in
purgatory told me, that yet another prayer from my sister, and my
bonds should be unloosed, and I, who am now a devil, should have
been a blessed angel."

"And the other ave?" said the daemon.

"She died, sir--my sister died--death choked her in the middle of
the prayer." And hereat the wretched spirit began to weepe and
whine piteously; his salt tears falling over his beard, and
scalding the tail of Mercurius the devil.

"It is, in truth, a hard case," said the daemon; "but I know of no
remedy save patience, and for that you will have an excellent
opportunity in your lodgings below."

"But I have relations," said the Earl; "my kinsman Randal, who has
inherited my lands, will he not say a prayer for his uncle?"

"Thou didst hate and oppress him when living."

"It is true; but an ave is not much; his sister, my niece, Matilda--"

"You shut her in a convent, and hanged her lover."

"Had I not reason? besides, has she not others?"

"A dozen, without doubt."

"And my brother, the prior?"

"A liege subject of my lord the Devil: he never opens his mouth,
except to utter an oath, or to swallow a cup of wine."

"And yet, if but one of these would but say an ave for me, I should
be saved."

"Aves with them are rarae aves," replied Mercurius, wagging his tail
right waggishly; "and, what is more, I will lay thee any wager that
not one of these will say a prayer to save thee."

"I would wager willingly," responded he of Chauchigny; "but what
has a poor soul like me to stake?"

"Every evening, after the day's roasting, my lord Satan giveth a
cup of cold water to his servants; I will bet thee thy water for a
year, that none of the three will pray for thee."

"Done!" said Rollo.

"Done!" said the daemon; "and here, if I mistake not, is thy castle
of Chauchigny."

Indeed, it was true. The soul, on looking down, perceived the tall
towers, the courts, the stables, and the fair gardens of the
castle. Although it was past midnight, there was a blaze of light
in the banqueting-hall, and a lamp burning in the open window of
the Lady Matilda.

"With whom shall we begin?" said the daemon: "with the baron or the

"With the lady, if you will."

"Be it so; her window is open, let us enter."

So they descended, and entered silently into Matilda's chamber.

The young lady's eyes were fixed so intently on a little clock,
that it was no wonder that she did not perceive the entrance of her
two visitors. Her fair cheek rested on her white arm, and her
white arm on the cushion of a great chair in which she sat,
pleasantly supported by sweet thoughts and swan's down; a lute was
at her side, and a book of prayers lay under the table (for piety
is always modest). Like the amorous Alexander, she sighed and
looked (at the clock)--and sighed for ten minutes or more, when she
softly breathed the word "Edward!"

At this the soul of the Baron was wroth. "The jade is at her old
pranks," said he to the devil; and then addressing Matilda: "I pray
thee, sweet niece, turn thy thoughts for a moment from that
villanous page, Edward, and give them to thine affectionate uncle."

When she heard the voice, and saw the awful apparition of her uncle
(for a year's sojourn in purgatory had not increased the comeliness
of his appearance), she started, screamed, and of course fainted.

But the devil Mercurius soon restored her to herself. "What's
o'clock?" said she, as soon as she had recovered from her fit: "is
he come?"

"Not thy lover, Maude, but thine uncle--that is, his soul. For the
love of heaven, listen to me: I have been frying in purgatory for a
year past, and should have been in heaven but for the want of a
single ave."

"I will say it for thee to-morrow, uncle."

"To-night, or never."

"Well, to-night be it:" and she requested the devil Mercurius to
give her the prayer-book from under the table; but he had no sooner
touched the holy book than he dropped it with a shriek and a yell.
"It was hotter," he said, "than his master Sir Lucifer's own
particular pitchfork." And the lady was forced to begin her ave
without the aid of her missal.

At the commencement of her devotions the daemon retired, and carried
with him the anxious soul of poor Sir Roger de Rollo.

The lady knelt down--she sighed deeply; she looked again at the
clock, and began--

"Ave Maria."

When a lute was heard under the window, and a sweet voice singing--

"Hark!" said Matilda.

"Now the toils of day are over,
And the sun hath sunk to rest,
Seeking, like a fiery lover,
The bosom of the blushing west--

"The faithful night keeps watch and ward,
Raising the moon, her silver shield,
And summoning the stars to guard
The slumbers of my fair Mathilde!"

"For mercy's sake!" said Sir Rollo, "the ave first, and next the

So Matilda again dutifully betook her to her devotions, and began--

"Ave Maria gratiâ plena!" but the music began again, and the prayer
ceased of course.

"The faithful night! Now all things lie
Hid by her mantle dark and dim,
In pious hope I hither hie,
And humbly chant mine ev'ning hymn.

"Thou art my prayer, my saint, my shrine!
(For never holy pilgrim kneel'd,
Or wept at feet more pure than thine),
My virgin love, my sweet Mathilde!"

"Virgin love!" said the Baron. "Upon my soul, this is too bad!"
and he thought of the lady's lover whom he had caused to be hanged.

But SHE only thought of him who stood singing at her window.

"Niece Matilda!" cried Sir Roger, agonizedly, "wilt thou listen to
the lies of an impudent page, whilst thine uncle is waiting but a
dozen words to make him happy?"

At this Matilda grew angry: "Edward is neither impudent nor a liar,
Sir Uncle, and I will listen to the end of the song."

"Come away," said Mercurius; "he hath yet got wield, field, sealed,
congealed, and a dozen other rhymes beside; and after the song will
come the supper."

So the poor soul was obliged to go; while the lady listened, and
the page sung away till morning.

"My virtues have been my ruin," said poor Sir Rollo, as he and
Mercurius slunk silently out of the window. "Had I hanged that
knave Edward, as I did the page his predecessor, my niece would
have sung mine ave, and I should have been by this time an angel in

"He is reserved for wiser purposes," responded the devil: "he will
assassinate your successor, the lady Mathilde's brother; and, in
consequence, will be hanged. In the love of the lady he will be
succeeded by a gardener, who will be replaced by a monk, who will
give way to an ostler, who will be deposed by a Jew pedler, who
shall, finally, yield to a noble earl, the future husband of the
fair Mathilde. So that, you see, instead of having one poor soul
a-frying, we may now look forward to a goodly harvest for our lord
the Devil."

The soul of the Baron began to think that his companion knew too
much for one who would make fair bets; but there was no help for
it; he would not, and he could not, cry off: and he prayed inwardly
that the brother might be found more pious than the sister.

But there seemed little chance of this. As they crossed the court,
lackeys, with smoking dishes and, full jugs, passed and repassed
continually, although it was long past midnight. On entering the
hall, they found Sir Randal at the head of a vast table, surrounded
by a fiercer and more motley collection of individuals than had
congregated there even in the time of Sir Rollo. The lord of the
castle had signified that "it was his royal pleasure to be drunk,"
and the gentlemen of his train had obsequiously followed their
master. Mercurius was delighted with the scene, and relaxed his
usually rigid countenance into a bland and benevolent smile, which
became him wonderfully.

The entrance of Sir Roger, who had been dead about a year, and a
person with hoofs, horns, and a tail, rather disturbed the hilarity
of the company. Sir Randal dropped his cup of wine; and Father
Peter, the confessor, incontinently paused in the midst of a
profane song, with which he was amusing the society.

"Holy Mother!" cried he, "it is Sir Roger."

"Alive!" screamed Sir Randal.

"No, my lord," Mercurius said; "Sir Roger is dead, but cometh on a
matter of business; and I have the honor to act as his counsellor
and attendant."

"Nephew," said Sir Roger, "the daemon saith justly; I am come on a
trifling affair, in which thy service is essential."

"I will do anything, uncle, in my power."

"Thou canst give me life, if thou wilt?" But Sir Randal looked
very blank at this proposition. "I mean life spiritual, Randal,"
said Sir Roger; and thereupon he explained to him the nature of the

Whilst he was telling his story, his companion Mercurius was
playing all sorts of antics in the hall; and, by his wit and fun,
became so popular with this godless crew, that they lost all the
fear which his first appearance had given them. The friar was
wonderfully taken with him, and used his utmost eloquence and
endeavors to convert the devil; the knights stopped drinking to
listen to the argument; the men-at-arms forbore brawling; and the
wicked little pages crowded round the two strange disputants, to
hear their edifying discourse. The ghostly man, however, had
little chance in the controversy, and certainly little learning to
carry it on. Sir Randal interrupted him. "Father Peter," said he,
"our kinsman is condemned for ever, for want of a single ave: wilt
thou say it for him?" "Willingly, my lord," said the monk, "with
my book;" and accordingly he produced his missal to read, without
which aid it appeared that the holy father could not manage the
desired prayer. But the crafty Mercurius had, by his devilish art,
inserted a song in the place of the ave, so that Father Peter,
instead of chanting an hymn, sang the following irreverent ditty--

"Some love the matin-chimes, which toll
The hour of prayer to sinner:
But better far's the mid-day bell,
Which speaks the hour of dinner;
For when I see a smoking fish,
Or capon drown'd in gravy,
Or noble haunch on silver dish,
Full glad I sing mine ave.

"My pulpit is an ale-house bench,
Whereon I sit so jolly;
A smiling rosy country wench
My saint and patron holy.
I kiss her cheek so red and sleek,
I press her ringlets wavy;
And in her willing ear I speak
A most religious ave.

"And if I'm blind, yet heaven is kind,
And holy saints forgiving;
For sure he leads a right good life
Who thus admires good living.
Above, they say, our flesh is air,
Our blood celestial ichor:
Oh, grant! mid all the changes there,
They may not change our liquor!"

And with this pious wish the holy confessor tumbled under the table
in an agony of devout drunkenness; whilst the knights, the men-at-
arms, and the wicked little pages, rang out the last verse with a
most melodious and emphatic glee. "I am sorry, fair uncle,"
hiccupped Sir Randal, "that, in the matter of the ave, we could not
oblige thee in a more orthodox manner; but the holy father has
failed, and there is not another man in the hall who hath an idea
of a prayer."

"It is my own fault," said Sir Rollo; "for I hanged the last
confessor." And he wished his nephew a surly good-night, as he
prepared to quit the room.

"Au revoir, gentlemen," said the devil Mercurius; and once more
fixed his tail round the neck of his disappointed companion.

The spirit of poor Rollo was sadly cast down; the devil, on the
contrary, was in high good humor. He wagged his tail with the most
satisfied air in the world, and cut a hundred jokes at the expense
of his poor associate. On they sped, cleaving swiftly through the
cold night winds, frightening the birds that were roosting in the
woods, and the owls that were watching in the towers.

In the twinkling of an eye, as it is known, devils can fly hundreds
of miles: so that almost the same beat of the clock which left
these two in Champagne, found them hovering over Paris. They
dropped into the court of the Lazarist Convent, and winded their
way, through passage and cloister, until they reached the door of
the prior's cell.

Now the prior, Rollo's brother, was a wicked and malignant
sorcerer; his time was spent in conjuring devils and doing wicked
deeds, instead of fasting, scourging, and singing holy psalms: this
Mercurius knew; and he, therefore, was fully at ease as to the
final result of his wager with poor Sir Roger.

"You seem to be well acquainted with the road," said the knight.

"I have reason," answered Mercurius, "having, for a long period,
had the acquaintance of his reverence, your brother; but you have
little chance with him."

"And why?" said Sir Rollo.

"He is under a bond to my master, never to say a prayer, or else
his soul and his body are forfeited at once."

"Why, thou false and traitorous devil!" said the enraged knight;
"and thou knewest this when we made our wager?"

"Undoubtedly: do you suppose I would have done so had there been
any chance of losing?"

And with this they arrived at Father Ignatius's door.

"Thy cursed presence threw a spell on my niece, and stopped the
tongue of my nephew's chaplain; I do believe that had I seen either
of them alone, my wager had been won."

"Certainly; therefore, I took good care to go with thee: however,
thou mayest see the prior alone, if thou wilt; and lo! his door is
open. I will stand without for five minutes, when it will be time
to commence our journey."

It was the poor Baron's last chance: and he entered his brother's
room more for the five minutes' respite than from any hope of

Father Ignatius, the prior, was absorbed in magic calculations: he
stood in the middle of a circle of skulls, with no garment except
his long white beard, which reached to his knees; he was waving a
silver rod, and muttering imprecations in some horrible tongue.

But Sir Rollo came forward and interrupted his incantation. "I
am," said he, "the shade of thy brother Roger de Rollo; and have
come, from pure brotherly love, to warn thee of thy fate."

"Whence camest thou?"

"From the abode of the blessed in Paradise," replied Sir Roger, who
was inspired with a sudden thought; "it was but five minutes ago
that the Patron Saint of thy church told me of thy danger, and of
thy wicked compact with the fiend. 'Go,' said he, 'to thy
miserable brother, and tell him there is but one way by which he
may escape from paying the awful forfeit of his bond.'"

"And how may that be?" said the prior; "the false fiend hath
deceived me; I have given him my soul, but have received no worldly
benefit in return. Brother! dear brother! how may I escape?"

"I will tell thee. As soon as I heard the voice of blessed St.
Mary Lazarus" (the worthy Earl had, at a pinch, coined the name of
a saint), "I left the clouds, where, with other angels, I was
seated, and sped hither to save thee. 'Thy brother,' said the
Saint, 'hath but one day more to live, when he will become for all
eternity the subject of Satan; if he would escape, he must boldly
break his bond, by saying an ave.'"

"It is the express condition of the agreement," said the unhappy
monk, "I must say no prayer, or that instant I become Satan's, body
and soul."

"It is the express condition of the Saint," answered Roger,
fiercely; "pray, brother, pray, or thou art lost for ever."

So the foolish monk knelt down, and devoutly sung out an ave.
"Amen!" said Sir Roger, devoutly.

"Amen!" said Mercurius, as, suddenly, coming behind, he seized
Ignatius by his long beard, and flew up with him to the top of the

The monk roared, and screamed, and swore against his brother; but
it was of no avail: Sir Roger smiled kindly on him, and said, "Do
not fret, brother; it must have come to this in a year or two."

And he flew alongside of Mercurius to the steeple-top: BUT THIS
off thy bet," said he to the daemon; for he could afford, now, to be

"I believe, my lord," said the daemon, politely, "that our ways
separate here." Sir Roger sailed gayly upwards: while Mercurius
having bound the miserable monk faster than ever, he sunk downwards
to earth, and perhaps lower. Ignatius was heard roaring and
screaming as the devil dashed him against the iron spikes and
buttresses of the church.

The moral of this story will be given in the second edition.


I don't know an impression more curious than that which is formed
in a foreigner's mind, who has been absent from this place for two
or three years, returns to it, and beholds the change which has
taken place, in the meantime, in French fashions and ways of
thinking. Two years ago, for instance, when I left the capital, I
left the young gentlemen of France with their hair brushed en
toupet in front, and the toes of their boots round; now the boot-
toes are pointed, and the hair combed flat, and, parted in the
middle, falls in ringlets on the fashionable shoulders; and, in
like manner, with books as with boots, the fashion has changed
considerably, and it is not a little curious to contrast the old
modes with the new. Absurd as was the literary dandyism of those
days, it is not a whit less absurd now: only the manner is changed,
and our versatile Frenchmen have passed from one caricature to

The revolution may be called a caricature of freedom, as the empire
was of glory; and what they borrow from foreigners undergoes the
same process. They take top-boots and mackintoshes from across the
water, and caricature our fashions; they read a little, very
little, Shakespeare, and caricature our poetry: and while in
David's time art and religion were only a caricature of Heathenism,
now, on the contrary, these two commodities are imported from
Germany; and distorted caricatures originally, are still farther
distorted on passing the frontier.

I trust in heaven that German art and religion will take no hold in
our country (where there is a fund of roast-beef that will expel
any such humbug in the end); but these sprightly Frenchmen have
relished the mystical doctrines mightily; and having watched the
Germans, with their sanctified looks, and quaint imitations of the
old times, and mysterious transcendental talk, are aping many of
their fashions; as well and solemnly as they can: not very
solemnly, God wot; for I think one should always prepare to grin
when a Frenchman looks particularly grave, being sure that there
is something false and ridiculous lurking under the owl-like

When last in Paris, we were in the midst of what was called a
Catholic reaction. Artists talked of faith in poems and pictures;
churches were built here and there; old missals were copied and
purchased; and numberless portraits of saints, with as much gilding
about them as ever was used in the fifteenth century, appeared in
churches, ladies' boudoirs, and picture-shops. One or two
fashionable preachers rose, and were eagerly followed; the very
youth of the schools gave up their pipes and billiards for some
time, and flocked in crowds to Notre Dame, to sit under the feet of
Lacordaire. I went to visit the Church of Notre Dame de Lorette
yesterday, which was finished in the heat of this Catholic rage,
and was not a little struck by the similarity of the place to the
worship celebrated in it, and the admirable manner in which the
architect has caused his work to express the public feeling of the
moment. It is a pretty little bijou of a church: it is supported
by sham marble pillars; it has a gaudy ceiling of blue and gold,
which will look very well for some time; and is filled with gaudy
pictures and carvings, in the very pink of the mode. The
congregation did not offer a bad illustration of the present state
of Catholic reaction. Two or three stray people were at prayers;
there was no service; a few countrymen and idlers were staring
about at the pictures; and the Swiss, the paid guardian of the
place, was comfortably and appropriately asleep on his bench at the
door. I am inclined to think the famous reaction is over: the
students have taken to their Sunday pipes and billiards again; and
one or two cafés have been established, within the last year, that
are ten times handsomer than Notre Dame de Lorette.

However, if the immortal Görres and the German mystics have had
their day, there is the immortal Göthe, and the Pantheists; and I
incline to think that the fashion has set very strongly in their
favor. Voltaire and the Encyclopaedians are voted, now, barbares,
and there is no term of reprobation strong enough for heartless
Humes and Helvetiuses, who lived but to destroy, and who only
thought to doubt. Wretched as Voltaire's sneers and puns are, I
think there is something more manly and earnest even in them, than
in the present muddy French transcendentalism. Pantheism is the
word now; one and all have begun to éprouver the besoin of a
religious sentiment; and we are deluged with a host of gods
accordingly. Monsieur de Balzac feels himself to be inspired;
Victor Hugo is a god; Madame Sand is a god; that tawdry man of
genius, Jules Janin, who writes theatrical reviews for the Débats,
has divine intimations; and there is scarce a beggarly, beardless
scribbler of poems and prose, but tells you, in his preface, of the
sainteté of the sacerdoce littéraire; or a dirty student, sucking
tobacco and beer, and reeling home with a grisette from the
chaumière, who is not convinced of the necessity of a new
"Messianism," and will hiccup, to such as will listen, chapters of
his own drunken Apocalypse. Surely, the negatives of the old days
were far less dangerous than the assertions of the present; and you
may fancy what a religion that must be, which has such high

There is no reason to trouble the reader with details of the lives
of many of these prophets and expounders of new revelations.
Madame Sand, for instance, I do not know personally, and can only
speak of her from report. True or false, the history, at any rate,
is not very edifying; and so may be passed over: but, as a certain
great philosopher told us, in very humble and simple words, that we
are not to expect to gather grapes from thorns, or figs from
thistles, we may, at least, demand, in all persons assuming the
character of moralist or philosopher--order, soberness, and
regularity of life; for we are apt to distrust the intellect that
we fancy can be swayed by circumstance or passion; and we know how
circumstance and passion WILL sway the intellect: how mortified
vanity will form excuses for itself; and how temper turns angrily
upon conscience, that reproves it. How often have we called our
judge our enemy, because he has given sentence against us!--How
often have we called the right wrong, because the right condemns
us! And in the lives of many of the bitter foes of the Christian
doctrine, can we find no personal reason for their hostility? The
men in Athens said it was out of regard for religion that they
murdered Socrates; but we have had time, since then, to reconsider
the verdict; and Socrates' character is pretty pure now, in spite
of the sentence and the jury of those days.

The Parisian philosophers will attempt to explain to you the
changes through which Madame Sand's mind has passed,--the
initiatory trials, labors, and sufferings which she has had to go
through,--before she reached her present happy state of mental
illumination. She teaches her wisdom in parables, that are,
mostly, a couple of volumes long; and began, first, by an eloquent
attack on marriage, in the charming novel of "Indiana." "Pity,"
cried she, "for the poor woman who, united to a being whose brute
force makes him her superior, should venture to break the bondage
which is imposed on her, and allow her heart to be free."

In support of this claim of pity, she writes two volumes of the
most exquisite prose. What a tender, suffering creature is
Indiana; how little her husband appreciates that gentleness which
he is crushing by his tyranny and brutal scorn; how natural it is
that, in the absence of his sympathy, she, poor clinging confiding
creature, should seek elsewhere for shelter; how cautious should we
be, to call criminal--to visit with too heavy a censure--an act
which is one of the natural impulses of a tender heart, that seeks
but for a worthy object of love. But why attempt to tell the tale
of beautiful Indiana? Madame Sand has written it so well, that not
the hardest-hearted husband in Christendom can fail to be touched
by her sorrows, though he may refuse to listen to her argument.
Let us grant, for argument's sake, that the laws of marriage,
especially the French laws of marriage, press very cruelly upon
unfortunate women.

But if one wants to have a question of this, or any nature,
honestly argued, it is, better, surely, to apply to an indifferent
person for an umpire. For instance, the stealing of pocket-
handkerchiefs or snuff-boxes may or may not be vicious; but if we,
who have not the wit, or will not take the trouble to decide the
question ourselves, want to hear the real rights of the matter, we
should not, surely, apply to a pickpocket to know what he thought
on the point. It might naturally be presumed that he would be
rather a prejudiced person--particularly as his reasoning, if
successful, might get him OUT OF GAOL. This is a homely
illustration, no doubt; all we would urge by it is, that Madame
Sand having, according to the French newspapers, had a stern
husband, and also having, according to the newspapers, sought
"sympathy" elsewhere, her arguments may be considered to be
somewhat partial, and received with some little caution.

And tell us who have been the social reformers?--the haters, that
is, of the present system, according to which we live, love, marry,
have children, educate them, and endow them--ARE THEY PURE
THEMSELVES? I do believe not one; and directly a man begins to
quarrel with the world and its ways, and to lift up, as he calls
it, the voice of his despair, and preach passionately to mankind
about this tyranny of faith, customs, laws; if we examine what the
personal character of the preacher is, we begin pretty clearly to
understand the value of the doctrine. Any one can see why Rousseau
should be such a whimpering reformer, and Byron such a free and
easy misanthropist, and why our accomplished Madame Sand, who has a
genius and eloquence inferior to neither, should take the present
condition of mankind (French-kind) so much to heart, and labor so
hotly to set it right.

After "Indiana" (which, we presume, contains the lady's notions
upon wives and husbands) came "Valentine," which may be said to
exhibit her doctrine, in regard of young men and maidens, to whom
the author would accord, as we fancy, the same tender license.
"Valentine" was followed by "Lelia," a wonderful book indeed,
gorgeous in eloquence, and rich in magnificent poetry: a regular
topsyturvyfication of morality, a thieves' and prostitutes'
apotheosis. This book has received some late enlargements and
emendations by the writer; it contains her notions on morals,
which, as we have said, are so peculiar, that, alas! they only can
be mentioned here, not particularized: but of "Spiridion" we may
write a few pages, as it is her religious manifesto.

In this work, the lady asserts her pantheistical doctrine, and
openly attacks the received Christian creed. She declares it to be
useless now, and unfitted to the exigencies and the degree of
culture of the actual world; and, though it would be hardly worth
while to combat her opinions in due form, it is, at least, worth
while to notice them, not merely from the extraordinary eloquence
and genius of the woman herself, but because they express the
opinions of a great number of people besides: for she not only
produces her own thoughts, but imitates those of others very
eagerly; and one finds in her writings so much similarity with
others, or, in others, so much resemblance to her, that the book
before us may pass for the expression of the sentiments of a
certain French party.

"Dieu est mort," says another writer of the same class, and of
great genius too.--"Dieu est mort," writes Mr. Henry Heine,
speaking of the Christian God; and he adds, in a daring figure of
speech;--"N'entendez-vous pas sonner la Clochette?--on porte les
sacremens à un Dieu qui se meurt!" Another of the pantheist
poetical philosophers, Mr. Edgar Quinet, has a poem, in which
Christ and the Virgin Mary are made to die similarly, and the
former is classed with Prometheus. This book of "Spiridion" is a
continuation of the theme, and perhaps you will listen to some of
the author's expositions of it.

It must be confessed that the controversialists of the present day
have an eminent advantage over their predecessors in the days of
folios; it required some learning then to write a book, and some
time, at least--for the very labor of writing out a thousand such
vast pages would demand a considerable period. But now, in the age
of duodecimos, the system is reformed altogether: a male or female
controversialist draws upon his imagination, and not his learning;
makes a story instead of an argument, and, in the course of 150
pages (where the preacher has it all his own way) will prove or
disprove you anything. And, to our shame be it said, we
Protestants have set the example of this kind of proselytism--those
detestable mixtures of truth, lies, false sentiment, false
reasoning, bad grammar, correct and genuine philanthropy and piety--
I mean our religious tracts, which any woman or man, be he ever so
silly, can take upon himself to write, and sell for a penny, as if
religious instruction were the easiest thing in the world. We, I
say, have set the example in this kind of composition, and all the
sects of the earth will, doubtless, speedily follow it. I can
point you out blasphemies in famous pious tracts that are as
dreadful as those above mentioned; but this is no place for such
discussions, and we had better return to Madame Sand. As Mrs.
Sherwood expounds, by means of many touching histories and
anecdotes of little boys and girls, her notions of church history,
church catechism, church doctrine;--as the author of "Father
Clement, a Roman Catholic Story," demolishes the stately structure
of eighteen centuries, the mighty and beautiful Roman Catholic
faith, in whose bosom repose so many saints and sages,--by the
means of a three-and-sixpenny duodecimo volume, which tumbles over
the vast fabric, as David's pebble-stone did Goliath;--as, again,
the Roman Catholic author of "Geraldine" falls foul of Luther and
Calvin, and drowns the awful echoes of their tremendous protest by
the sounds of her little half-crown trumpet: in like manner, by
means of pretty sentimental tales, and cheap apologues, Mrs. Sand
proclaims HER truth--that we need a new Messiah, and that the
Christian religion is no more! O awful, awful name of God! Light
unbearable! Mystery unfathomable! Vastness immeasurable!--Who are
these who come forward to explain the mystery, and gaze unblinking
into the depths of the light, and measure the immeasurable vastness
to a hair? O name, that God's people of old did fear to utter! O
light, that God's prophet would have perished had he seen! Who are
these that are now so familiar with it?--Women, truly; for the most
part weak women--weak in intellect, weak mayhap in spelling and
grammar, but marvellously strong in faith:--women, who step down to
the people with stately step and voice of authority, and deliver
their twopenny tablets, as if there were some Divine authority for
the wretched nonsense recorded there!

With regard to the spelling and grammar, our Parisian Pythoness
stands, in the goodly fellowship, remarkable. Her style is a
noble, and, as far as a foreigner can judge, a strange tongue,
beautifully rich and pure. She has a very exuberant imagination,
and, with it, a very chaste style of expression. She never
scarcely indulges in declamation, as other modern prophets do, and
yet her sentences are exquisitely melodious and full. She seldom
runs a thought to death (after the manner of some prophets, who,
when they catch a little one, toy with it until they kill it), but
she leaves you at the end of one of her brief, rich, melancholy
sentences, with plenty of food for future cogitation. I can't
express to you the charm of them; they seem to me like the sound of
country bells--provoking I don't know what vein of musing and
meditation, and falling sweetly and sadly on the ear.

This wonderful power of language must have been felt by most people
who read Madame Sand's first books, "Valentine" and "Indiana": in
"Spiridion" it is greater, I think, than ever; and for those who
are not afraid of the matter of the novel, the manner will be found
most delightful. The author's intention, I presume, is to
describe, in a parable, her notions of the downfall of the Catholic
church; and, indeed, of the whole Christian scheme: she places her
hero in a monastery in Italy, where, among the characters about
him, and the events which occur, the particular tenets of Madame
Dudevant's doctrine are not inaptly laid down. Innocent, faithful,
tender-hearted, a young monk, by name Angel, finds himself, when he
has pronounced his vows, an object of aversion and hatred to the
godly men whose lives he so much respects, and whose love he would
make any sacrifice to win. After enduring much, he flings himself
at the feet of his confessor, and begs for his sympathy and
counsel; but the confessor spurns him away, and accuses him,
fiercely, of some unknown and terrible crime--bids him never return
to the confessional until contrition has touched his heart, and the
stains which sully his spirit are, by sincere repentance, washed

"Thus speaking," says Angel, "Father Hegesippus tore away his robe,
which I was holding in my supplicating hands. In a sort of
wildness I still grasped it tighter; he pushed me fiercely from
him, and I fell with my face towards the ground. He quitted me,
closing violently after him the door of the sacristy, in which this
scene had passed. I was left alone in the darkness. Either from
the violence of my fall, or the excess of my grief, a vein had
burst in my throat, and a haemorrhage ensued. I had not the force
to rise; I felt my senses rapidly sinking, and, presently, I lay
stretched on the pavement, unconscious, and bathed in my blood."

[Now the wonderful part of the story begins.]

"I know not how much time I passed in this way. As I came to
myself I felt an agreeable coolness. It seemed as if some
harmonious air was playing round about me, stirring gently in my
hair, and drying the drops of perspiration on my brow. It seemed
to approach, and then again to withdraw, breathing now softly and
sweetly in the distance, and now returning, as if to give me
strength and courage to rise.

"I would not, however, do so as yet; for I felt myself, as I lay,
under the influence of a pleasure quite new to me; and listened, in
a kind of peaceful aberration, to the gentle murmurs of the summer
wind, as it breathed on me through the closed window-blinds above
me. Then I fancied I heard a voice that spoke to me from the end
of the sacristy: it whispered so low that I could not catch the
words. I remained motionless, and gave it my whole attention. At
last I heard, distinctly, the following sentence:--'Spirit of
Truth, raise up these victims of ignorance and imposture.' 'Father
Hegesippus,' said I, in a weak voice, 'is that you who are
returning to me?' But no one answered. I lifted myself on my
hands and knees, I listened again, but I heard nothing. I got up
completely, and looked about me: I had fallen so near to the only
door in this little room, that none, after the departure of the
confessor, could have entered it without passing over me; besides,
the door was shut, and only opened from the inside by a strong lock
of the ancient shape. I touched it, and assured myself that it was
closed. I was seized with terror, and, for some moments, did not
dare to move. Leaning against the door, I looked round, and
endeavored to see into the gloom in which the angles of the room
were enveloped. A pale light, which came from an upper window,
half closed, was seen to be trembling in the midst of the
apartment. The wind beat the shutter to and fro, and enlarged or
diminished the space through which the light issued. The objects
which were in this half light--the praying-desk, surmounted by its
skull--a few books lying on the benches--a surplice hanging against
the wall--seemed to move with the shadow of the foliage that the
air agitated behind the window. When I thought I was alone, I felt
ashamed of my former timidity; I made the sign of the cross, and
was about to move forward in order to open the shutter altogether,
but a deep sigh came from the praying-desk, and kept me nailed to
my place. And yet I saw the desk distinctly enough to be sure that
no person was near it. Then I had an idea which gave me courage.
Some person, I thought, is behind the shutter, and has been saying
his prayers outside without thinking of me. But who would be so
bold as to express such wishes and utter such a prayer as I had
just heard?

"Curiosity, the only passion and amusement permitted in a cloister,
now entirely possessed me, and I advanced towards the window. But
I had not made a step when a black shadow, as it seemed to me,
detaching itself from the praying-desk, traversed the room,
directing itself towards the window, and passed swiftly by me. The
movement was so rapid that I had not time to avoid what seemed a
body advancing towards me, and my fright was so great that I
thought I should faint a second time. But I felt nothing, and, as
if the shadow had passed through me, I saw it suddenly disappear to
my left.

"I rushed to the window, I pushed back the blind with precipitation,
and looked round the sacristy: I was there, entirely alone. I
looked into the garden--it was deserted, and the mid-day wind was
wandering among the flowers. I took courage, I examined all the
corners of the room; I looked behind the praying-desk, which was
very large, and I shook all the sacerdotal vestments which were
hanging on the walls, everything was in its natural condition, and
could give me no explanation of what had just occurred. The sight
of all the blood I had lost led me to fancy that my brain had,
probably, been weakened by the haemorrhage, and that I had been a
prey to some delusion. I retired to my cell, and remained shut up
there until the next day."

I don't know whether the reader has been as much struck with the
above mysterious scene as the writer has; but the fancy of it
strikes me as very fine; and the natural SUPERNATURALNESS is kept
up in the best style. The shutter swaying to and fro, the fitful
LIGHT APPEARING over the furniture of the room, and giving it an
air of strange motion--the awful shadow which passed through the
body of the timid young novice--are surely very finely painted. "I
rushed to the shutter, and flung it back: there was no one in the
sacristy. I looked into the garden; it was deserted, and the mid-
day wind was roaming among the flowers." The dreariness is
wonderfully described: only the poor pale boy looking eagerly out
from the window of the sacristy, and the hot mid-day wind walking
in the solitary garden. How skilfully is each of these little
strokes dashed in, and how well do all together combine to make a
picture! But we must have a little more about Spiridion's
wonderful visitant.

"As I entered into the garden, I stepped a little on one side, to
make way for a person whom I saw before me. He was a young man of
surprising beauty, and attired in a foreign costume. Although
dressed in the large black robe which the superiors of our order
wear, he had, underneath, a short jacket of fine cloth, fastened
round the waist by a leathern belt, and a buckle of silver, after
the manner of the old German students. Like them, he wore, instead
of the sandals of our monks, short tight boots; and over the collar
of his shirt, which fell on his shoulders, and was as white as
snow, hung, in rich golden curls, the most beautiful hair I ever
saw. He was tall, and his elegant posture seemed to reveal to me
that he was in the habit of commanding. With much respect, and yet
uncertain, I half saluted him. He did not return my salute; but he
smiled on me with so benevolent an air, and at the same time, his
eyes severe and blue, looked towards me with an expression of such
compassionate tenderness, that his features have never since then
passed away from my recollection. I stopped, hoping he would speak
to me, and persuading myself, from the majesty of his aspect, that
he had the power to protect me; but the monk, who was walking
behind me, and who did not seem to remark him in the least, forced
him brutally to step aside from the walk, and pushed me so rudely
as almost to cause me to fall. Not wishing to engage in a quarrel
with this coarse monk, I moved away; but, after having taken a few
steps in the garden, I looked back, and saw the unknown still
gazing on me with looks of the tenderest solicitude. The sun shone
full upon him, and made his hair look radiant. He sighed, and
lifted his fine eyes to heaven, as if to invoke its justice in my
favor, and to call it to bear witness to my misery; he turned
slowly towards the sanctuary, entered into the quire, and was lost,
presently, in the shade. I longed to return, spite of the monk, to
follow this noble stranger, and to tell him my afflictions; but who
was he, that I imagined he would listen to them, and cause them to
cease? I felt, even while his softness drew me towards him, that
he still inspired me with a kind of fear; for I saw in his
physiognomy as much austerity as sweetness."

Who was he?--we shall see that. He was somebody very mysterious
indeed; but our author has taken care, after the manner of her sex,
to make a very pretty fellow of him, and to dress him in the most
becoming costumes possible.

The individual in tight boots and a rolling collar, with the
copious golden locks, and the solemn blue eyes, who had just gazed
on Spiridion, and inspired him with such a feeling of tender awe,
is a much more important personage than the reader might suppose at
first sight. This beautiful, mysterious, dandy ghost, whose
costume, with a true woman's coquetry, Madame Dudevant has so
rejoiced to describe--is her religious type, a mystical
representation of Faith struggling up towards Truth, through
superstition, doubt, fear, reason,--in tight inexpressibles, with
"a belt such as is worn by the old German students." You will
pardon me for treating such an awful person as this somewhat
lightly; but there is always, I think, such a dash of the
ridiculous in the French sublime, that the critic should try and do
justice to both, or he may fail in giving a fair account of either.
This character of Hebronius, the type of Mrs. Sand's convictions--
if convictions they may be called--or, at least, the allegory under
which her doubts are represented, is, in parts, very finely drawn;
contains many passages of truth, very deep and touching, by the
side of others so entirely absurd and unreasonable, that the
reader's feelings are continually swaying between admiration and
something very like contempt--always in a kind of wonder at the
strange mixture before him. But let us hear Madame Sand:--

"Peter Hebronius," says our author, "was not originally so named.
His real name was Samuel. He was a Jew, and born in a little
village in the neighborhood of Innsprück. His family, which
possessed a considerable fortune, left him, in his early youth,
completely free to his own pursuits. From infancy he had shown
that these were serious. He loved to be alone and passed his days,
and sometimes his nights, wandering among the mountains and valleys
in the neighborhood of his birthplace. He would often sit by the
brink of torrents, listening to the voice of their waters, and
endeavoring to penetrate the meaning which Nature had hidden in
those sounds. As he advanced in years, his inquiries became more
curious and more grave. It was necessary that he should receive a
solid education, and his parents sent him to study in the German
universities. Luther had been dead only a century, and his words
and his memory still lived in the enthusiasm of his disciples.
The new faith was strengthening the conquests it had made; the
Reformers were as ardent as in the first days, but their ardor was
more enlightened and more measured. Proselytism was still carried
on with zeal, and new converts were made every day. In listening
to the morality and to the dogmas which Lutheranism had taken from
Catholicism, Samuel was filled with admiration. His bold and
sincere spirit instantly compared the doctrines which were now
submitted to him, with those in the belief of which he had been
bred; and, enlightened by the comparison, was not slow to
acknowledge the inferiority of Judaism. He said to himself, that a
religion made for a single people, to the exclusion of all others,--
which only offered a barbarous justice for rule of conduct,--which
neither rendered the present intelligible nor satisfactory, and
left the future uncertain,--could not be that of noble souls and
lofty intellects; and that he could not be the God of truth who had
dictated, in the midst of thunder, his vacillating will, and had
called to the performance of his narrow wishes the slaves of a
vulgar terror. Always conversant with himself, Samuel, who had
spoken what he thought, now performed what he had spoken; and, a
year after his arrival in Germany, solemnly abjured Judaism, and
entered into the bosom of the Reformed Church. As he did not wish
to do things by halves, and desired as much as was in him to put
off the old man and lead a new life, he changed his name of Samuel
to that of Peter. Some time passed, during which he strengthened
and instructed himself in his new religion. Very soon he arrived
at the point of searching for objections to refute, and adversaries
to overthrow. Bold and enterprising, he went at once to the
strongest, and Bossuet was the first Catholic author that he set
himself to read. He commenced with a kind of disdain; believing
that the faith which he had just embraced contained the pure truth.
He despised all the attacks which could be made against it, and
laughed already at the irresistible arguments which he was to find
in the works of the Eagle of Meaux. But his mistrust and irony
soon gave place to wonder first, and then to admiration: he thought
that the cause pleaded by such an advocate must, at least, be
respectable; and, by a natural transition, came to think that great
geniuses would only devote themselves to that which was great. He
then studied Catholicism with the same ardor and impartiality which
he had bestowed on Lutheranism. He went into France to gain
instruction from the professors of the Mother Church, as he had
from the Doctors of the reformed creed in Germany. He saw Arnauld
Fénélon, that second Gregory of Nazianzen, and Bossuet himself.
Guided by these masters, whose virtues made him appreciate their
talents the more, he rapidly penetrated to the depth of the
mysteries of the Catholic doctrine and morality. He found, in this
religion, all that had for him constituted the grandeur and beauty
of Protestantism,--the dogmas of the Unity and Eternity of God,
which the two religions had borrowed from Judaism; and, what seemed
the natural consequence of the last doctrine--a doctrine, however,
to which the Jews had not arrived--the doctrine of the immortality
of the soul; free will in this life; in the next, recompense for
the good, and punishment for the evil. He found, more pure,
perhaps, and more elevated in Catholicism than in Protestantism,
that sublime morality which preaches equality to man, fraternity,
love, charity, renouncement of self, devotion to your neighbor;
Catholicism, in a word, seemed to possess that vast formula, and
that vigorous unity, which Lutheranism wanted. The latter had,
indeed, in its favor, the liberty of inquiry, which is also a want
of the human mind; and had proclaimed the authority of individual
reason: but it had so lost that which is the necessary basis and
vital condition of all revealed religion--the principle of
infallibility; because nothing can live except in virtue of the
laws that presided at its birth; and, in consequence, one
revelation cannot be continued and confirmed without another. Now,
infallibility is nothing but revelation continued by God, or the
Word, in the person of his vicars.

"At last, after much reflection, Hebronius acknowledged himself
entirely and sincerely convinced, and received baptism from the
hands of Bossuet. He added the name of Spiridion to that of Peter,
to signify that he had been twice enlightened by the Spirit.
Resolved thenceforward to consecrate his life to the worship of the
new God who had called him to Him, and to the study of His
doctrines, he passed into Italy, and, with the aid of a large
fortune, which one of his uncles, a Catholic like himself, had left
to him, he built this convent where we now are."

A friend of mine, who has just come from Italy, says that he has
there left Messrs. Sp--r, P--l, and W. Dr--d, who were the lights
of the great church in Newman Street, who were themselves apostles,
and declared and believed that every word of nonsense which fell
from their lips was a direct spiritual intervention. These
gentlemen have become Puseyites already, and are, my friend states,
in the high way to Catholicism. Madame Sand herself was a Catholic
some time since: having been converted to that faith along with M.
N--, of the Academy of Music; Mr. L--, the pianoforte player; and
one or two other chosen individuals, by the famous Abbé de la M--.
Abbé de la M-- (so told me in the Diligence, a priest, who read his
breviary and gossiped alternately very curiously and pleasantly) is
himself an âme perdue: the man spoke of his brother clergyman with
actual horror; and it certainly appears that the Abbé's works of
conversion have not prospered; for Madame Sand, having brought her
hero (and herself, as we may presume) to the point of Catholicism,
proceeds directly to dispose of that as she has done of Judaism and
Protestantism, and will not leave, of the whole fabric of
Christianity, a single stone standing.

I think the fate of our English Newman Street apostles, and of M.
de la M--, the mad priest, and his congregation of mad converts,
should be a warning to such of us as are inclined to dabble in
religious speculations; for, in them, as in all others, our flighty
brains soon lose themselves, and we find our reason speedily lying
prostrated at the mercy of our passions; and I think that Madame
Sand's novel of Spiridion may do a vast deal of good, and bears a
good moral with it; though not such an one, perhaps, as our fair
philosopher intended. For anything he learned, Samuel-Peter-
Spiridion-Hebronius might have remained a Jew from the beginning to
the end. Wherefore be in such a hurry to set up new faiths?
Wherefore, Madame Sand, try and be so preternaturally wise?
Wherefore be so eager to jump out of one religion, for the purpose
of jumping into another? See what good this philosophical
friskiness has done you, and on what sort of ground you are come at
last. You are so wonderfully sagacious, that you flounder in mud
at every step; so amazingly clear-sighted, that your eyes cannot
see an inch before you, having put out, with that extinguishing
genius of yours, every one of the lights that are sufficient for
the conduct of common men. And for what? Let our friend Spiridion
speak for himself. After setting up his convent, and filling it
with monks, who entertain an immense respect for his wealth and
genius, Father Hebronius, unanimously elected prior, gives himself
up to further studies, and leaves his monks to themselves.
Industrious and sober as they were, originally, they grow quickly
intemperate and idle; and Hebronius, who does not appear among his
flock until he has freed himself of the Catholic religion, as he
has of the Jewish and the Protestant, sees, with dismay, the evil
condition of his disciples, and regrets, too late, the precipitancy
by which he renounced, then and for ever, Christianity. "But, as
he had no new religion to adopt in its place, and as, grown more
prudent and calm, he did not wish to accuse himself unnecessarily,
once more, of inconstancy and apostasy, he still maintained all the
exterior forms of the worship which inwardly he had abjured. But
it was not enough for him to have quitted error, it was necessary
to discover truth. But Hebronius had well looked round to discover
it; he could not find anything that resembled it. Then commenced
for him a series of sufferings, unknown and terrible. Placed face
to face with doubt, this sincere and religious spirit was
frightened at its own solitude; and as it had no other desire nor
aim on earth than truth, and nothing else here below interested it,
he lived absorbed in his own sad contemplations, looked ceaselessly
into the vague that surrounded him like an ocean without bounds,
and seeing the horizon retreat and retreat as ever he wished to
near it. Lost in this immense uncertainty, he felt as if attacked
by vertigo, and his thoughts whirled within his brain. Then,
fatigued with his vain toils and hopeless endeavors, he would sink
down depressed, unmanned, life-wearied, only living in the sensation
of that silent grief which he felt and could not comprehend."

It is a pity that this hapless Spiridion, so eager in his passage
from one creed to another, and so loud in his profession of the
truth, wherever he fancied that he had found it, had not waited a
little, before he avowed himself either Catholic or Protestant, and
implicated others in errors and follies which might, at least, have
been confined to his own bosom, and there have lain comparatively
harmless. In what a pretty state, for instance, will Messrs. Dr--d
and P--l have left their Newman Street congregation, who are still
plunged in their old superstitions, from which their spiritual
pastors and masters have been set free! In what a state, too, do
Mrs. Sand and her brother and sister philosophers, Templars, Saint
Simonians, Fourierites, Lerouxites, or whatever the sect may be,
leave the unfortunate people who have listened to their doctrines,
and who have not the opportunity, or the fiery versatility of
belief, which carries their teachers from one creed to another,
leaving only exploded lies and useless recantations behind them! I
wish the state would make a law that one individual should not be
allowed to preach more than one doctrine in his life, or, at any
rate, should be soundly corrected for every change of creed. How
many charlatans would have been silenced,--how much conceit would
have been kept within bounds,--how many fools, who are dazzled by
fine sentences, and made drunk by declamation, would have remained,
quiet and sober, in that quiet and sober way of faith which their
fathers held before them. However, the reader will be glad to
learn that, after all his doubts and sorrows, Spiridion does
discover the truth (THE truth, what a wise Spiridion!) and some
discretion with it; for, having found among his monks, who are
dissolute, superstitious--and all hate him--one only being,
Fulgentius, who is loving, candid, and pious, he says to him, "If
you were like myself, if the first want of your nature were, like
mine, to know, I would, without hesitation, lay bare to you my
entire thoughts. I would make you drink the cup of truth, which I
myself have filled with so many tears, at the risk of intoxicating
you with the draught. But it is not so, alas! you are made to love
rather than to know, and your heart is stronger than your
intellect. You are attached to Catholicism,--I believe so, at
least,--by bonds of sentiment which you could not break without
pain, and which, if you were to break, the truth which I could lay
bare to you in return would not repay you for what you had
sacrificed. Instead of exalting, it would crush you, very likely.
It is a food too strong for ordinary men, and which, when it does
not revivify, smothers. I will not, then, reveal to you this
doctrine, which is the triumph of my life, and the consolation of
my last days; because it might, perhaps, be for you only a cause of
mourning and despair. . . . . Of all the works which my long
studies have produced, there is one alone which I have not given to
the flames; for it alone is complete. In that you will find me
entire, and there LIES THE TRUTH. And, as the sage has said you
must not bury your treasures in a well, I will not confide mine to
the brutal stupidity of these monks. But as this volume should
only pass into hands worthy to touch it, and be laid open for eyes
that are capable of comprehending its mysteries, I shall exact from
the reader one condition, which, at the same time, shall be a
proof: I shall carry it with me to the tomb, in order that he who
one day shall read it, may have courage enough to brave the vain
terrors of the grave, in searching for it amid the dust of my
sepulchre. As soon as I am dead, therefore, place this writing on
my breast. . . . . Ah! when the time comes for reading it, I think
my withered heart will spring up again, as the frozen grass at the
return of the sun, and that, from the midst of its infinite
transformations, my spirit will enter into immediate communication
with thine!"

Does not the reader long to be at this precious manuscript, which
contains THE TRUTH; and ought he not to be very much obliged to
Mrs. Sand, for being so good as to print it for him? We leave all
the story aside: how Fulgentius had not the spirit to read the
manuscript, but left the secret to Alexis; how Alexis, a stern old
philosophical unbelieving monk as ever was, tried in vain to lift
up the gravestone, but was taken with fever, and obliged to forego
the discovery; and how, finally, Angel, his disciple, a youth
amiable and innocent as his name, was the destined person who
brought the long-buried treasure to light. Trembling and
delighted, the pair read this tremendous MANUSCRIPT OF SPIRIDION.

Will it be believed, that of all the dull, vague, windy documents
that mortal ever set eyes on, this is the dullest? If this be
absolute truth, à quoi bon search for it, since we have long, long
had the jewel in our possession, or since, at least, it has been
held up as such by every sham philosopher who has had a mind to
pass off his wares on the public? Hear Spiridion:--

"How much have I wept, how much have I suffered, how much have I
prayed, how much have I labored, before I understood the cause and
the aim of my passage on this earth! After many incertitudes,
after much remorse, after many scruples, I HAVE COMPREHENDED THAT I
WAS A MARTYR!--But why my martyrdom? said I; what crimne did I
commit before I was born, thus to be condemned to labor and
groaning, from the hour when I first saw the day up to that when I
am about to enter into the night of the tomb?

"At last, by dint of imploring God--by dint of inquiry into the
history of man, a ray of the truth has descended on my brow, and
the shadows of the past have melted from before my eyes. I have
lifted a corner of the curtain: I have seen enough to know that my
life, like that of the rest of the human race, has been a series of
necessary errors, yet, to speak more correctly, of incomplete
truths, conducting, more or less slowly and directly, to absolute
truth and ideal perfection. But when will they rise on the face of
the earth--when will they issue from the bosom of the Divinity--
those generations who shall salute the august countenance of Truth,
and proclaim the reign of the ideal on earth? I see well how
humanity marches, but I neither can see its cradle nor its
apotheosis. Man seems to me a transitory race, between the beast
and the angel; but I know not how many centuries have been
required, that he might pass from the state of brute to the state
of man, and I cannot tell how many ages are necessary that he may
pass from the state of man to the state of angel!

"Yet I hope, and I feel within me, at the approach of death, that
which warns me that great destinies await humanity. In this life
all is over for me. Much have I striven, to advance but little: I
have labored without ceasing, and have done almost nothing. Yet,
after pains immeasurable, I die content, for I know that I have
done all I could, and am sure that the little I have done will not
be lost.

"What, then, have I done? this wilt thou demand of me, man of a
future age, who will seek for truth in the testaments of the past.
Thou who wilt be no more Catholic--no more Christian, thou wilt ask
of the poor monk, lying in the dust, an account of his life and
death. Thou wouldst know wherefore were his vows, why his
austerities, his labors, his retreat, his prayers?

"You who turn back to me, in order that I may guide you on your
road, and that you may arrive more quickly at the goal which it has
not been my lot to attain, pause, yet, for a moment, and look upon
the past history of humanity. You will see that its fate has been
ever to choose between the least of two evils, and ever to commit
great faults in order to avoid others still greater. You will
see . . . . on one side, the heathen mythology, that debased the
spirit, in its efforts to deify the flesh; on the other, the
austere Christian principle, that debased the flesh too much, in
order to raise the worship of the spirit. You will see, afterwards,
how the religion of Christ embodies itself in a church, and raises
itself a generous democratic power against the tyranny of princes.
Later still, you will see how that power has attained its end, and
passed beyond it. You will see it, having chained and conquered
princes, league itself with them, in order to oppress the people,
and seize on temporal power. Schism, then, raises up against it the
standard of revolt, and preaches the bold and legitimate principle
of liberty of conscience: but, also, you will see how this liberty
of conscience brings religious anarchy in its train; or, worse
still, religious indifference and disgust. And if your soul,
shattered in the tempestuous changes which you behold humanity
undergoing, would strike out for itself a passage through the rocks,
amidst which, like a frail bark, lies tossing trembling truth, you
will be embarrassed to choose between the new philosophers--who, in
preaching tolerance, destroy religious and social unity--and the
last Christians, who, to preserve society, that is, religion and
philosophy, are obliged to brave the principle of toleration. Man
of truth! to whom I address, at once, my instruction and my
justification, at the time when you shall live, the science of truth
no doubt will have advanced a step. Think, then, of all your fathers
have suffered, as, bending beneath the weight of their ignorance and
uncertainty, they have traversed the desert across which, with so
much pain, they have conducted thee! And if the pride of thy young
learning shall make thee contemplate the petty strifes in which our
life has been consumed, pause and tremble, as you think of that
which is still unknown to yourself, and of the judgment that your
descendants will pass on you. Think of this, and learn to respect
all those who, seeking their way in all sincerity, have wandered
from the path, frightened by the storm, and sorely tried by the
severe hand of the All-Powerful. Think of this, and prostrate
yourself; for all these, even the most mistaken among them, are
saints and martyrs.

"Without their conquests and their defeats, thou wert in darkness
still. Yes, their failures, their errors even, have a right to
your respect; for man is weak. . . . . Weep then, for us obscure
travellers--unknown victims, who, by our mortal sufferings and
unheard-of labors, have prepared the way before you. Pity me, who
have passionately loved justice, and perseveringly sought for
truth, only opened my eyes to shut them again for ever, and saw
that I had been in vain endeavoring to support a ruin, to take
refuge in a vault of which the foundations were worn away." . . . .

The rest of the book of Spiridion is made up of a history of the
rise, progress, and (what our philosopher is pleased to call) decay
of Christianity--of an assertion, that the "doctrine of Christ is
incomplete;" that "Christ may, nevertheless, take his place in the
Pantheon of divine men!" and of a long, disgusting, absurd, and
impious vision, in which the Saviour, Moses, David, and Elijah are
represented, and in which Christ is made to say--"WE ARE ALL
MESSIAHS, when we wish to bring the reign of truth upon earth; we
are all Christs, when we suffer for it!"

And this is the ultimatum, the supreme secret, the absolute truth!
and it has been published by Mrs. Sand, for so many napoleons per
sheet, in the Revue des Deux Mondes: and the Deux Mondes are to
abide by it for the future. After having attained it, are we a
whit wiser? "Man is between an angel and a beast: I don't know how
long it is since he was a brute--I can't say how long it will be
before he is an angel." Think of people living by their wits, and
living by such a wit as this! Think of the state of mental debauch
and disease which must have been passed through, ere such words
could be written, and could be popular!

When a man leaves our dismal, smoky London atmosphere, and
breathes, instead of coal-smoke and yellow fog, this bright, clear,
French air, he is quite intoxicated by it at first, and feels a
glow in his blood, and a joy in his spirits, which scarcely thrice
a year, and then only at a distance from London, he can attain in
England. Is the intoxication, I wonder, permanent among the
natives? and may we not account for the ten thousand frantic freaks
of these people by the peculiar influence of French air and sun?
The philosophers are from night to morning drunk, the politicians
are drunk, the literary men reel and stagger from one absurdity to
another, and how shall we understand their vagaries? Let us
suppose, charitably, that Madame Sand had inhaled a more than
ordinary quantity of this laughing gas when she wrote for us this
precious manuscript of Spiridion. That great destinies are in
prospect for the human race we may fancy, without her ladyship's
word for it: but more liberal than she, and having a little
retrospective charity, as well as that easy prospective benevolence
which Mrs. Sand adopts, let us try and think there is some hope for
our fathers (who were nearer brutality than ourselves, according to
the Sandean creed), or else there is a very poor chance for us,
who, great philosophers as we are, are yet, alas! far removed from
that angelic consummation which all must wish for so devoutly. She
cannot say--is it not extraordinary?--how many centuries have been
necessary before man could pass from the brutal state to his
present condition, or how many ages will be required ere we may
pass from the state of man to the state of angels? What the deuce
is the use of chronology or philosophy? We were beasts, and we
can't tell when our tails dropped off: we shall be angels; but when
our wings are to begin to sprout, who knows? In the meantime, O
man of genius, follow our counsel: lead an easy life, don't stick
at trifles; never mind about DUTY, it is only made for slaves; if
the world reproach you, reproach the world in return, you have a
good loud tongue in your head: if your straight-laced morals injure
your mental respiration, fling off the old-fashioned stays, and
leave your free limbs to rise and fall as Nature pleases; and when
you have grown pretty sick of your liberty, and yet unfit to return
to restraint, curse the world, and scorn it, and be miserable, like
my Lord Byron and other philosophers of his kidney; or else mount a
step higher, and, with conceit still more monstrous, and mental
vision still more wretchedly debauched and weak, begin suddenly to
find yourself afflicted with a maudlin compassion for the human
race, and a desire to set them right after your own fashion. There
is the quarrelsome stage of drunkenness, when a man can as yet walk
and speak, when he can call names, and fling plates and wine-
glasses at his neighbor's head with a pretty good aim; after this
comes the pathetic stage, when the patient becomes wondrous
philanthropic, and weeps wildly, as he lies in the gutter, and
fancies he is at home in bed--where he ought to be; but this is an

I don't wish to carry this any farther, or to say a word in defence
of the doctrine which Mrs. Dudevant has found "incomplete";--here,
at least, is not the place for discussing its merits, any more than
Mrs. Sand's book was the place for exposing, forsooth, its errors:
our business is only with the day and the new novels, and the
clever or silly people who write them. Oh! if they but knew their
places, and would keep to them, and drop their absurd philosophical
jargon! Not all the big words in the world can make Mrs. Sand talk
like a philosopher: when will she go back to her old trade, of
which she was the very ablest practitioner in France?

I should have been glad to give some extracts from the dramatic and
descriptive parts of the novel, that cannot, in point of style and
beauty, be praised too highly. One must suffice,--it is the
descent of Alexis to seek that unlucky manuscript, Spiridion.

"It seemed to me," he begins, "that the descent was eternal; and
that I was burying myself in the depths of Erebus: at last, I
reached a level place,--and I heard a mournful voice deliver these
words, as it were, to the secret centre of the earth--'He will
mount that ascent no more!'--Immediately I heard arise towards me,
from the depth of invisible abysses, a myriad of formidable voices
united in a strange chant--'Let us destroy him! Let him be
destroyed! What does he here among the dead? Let him be delivered
back to torture! Let him be given again to life!'

"Then a feeble light began to pierce the darkness, and I perceived
that I stood on the lowest step of a staircase, vast as the foot of
a mountain. Behind me were thousands of steps of lurid iron;
before me, nothing but a void--an abyss, and ether; the blue gloom
of midnight beneath my feet, as above my head. I became delirious,
and quitting that staircase, which methought it was impossible for
me to reascend, I sprung forth into the void with an execration.
But, immediately, when I had uttered the curse, the void began to
be filled with forms and colors, and I presently perceived that I
was in a vast gallery, along which I advanced, trembling. There
was still darkness round me; but the hollows of the vaults gleamed
with a red light, and showed me the strange and hideous forms of
their building. . . . . I did not distinguish the nearest objects;
but those towards which I advanced assumed an appearance more and
more ominous, and my terror increased with every step I took. The
enormous pillars which supported the vault, and the tracery thereof
itself, were figures of men, of supernatural stature, delivered to
tortures without a name. Some hung by their feet, and, locked in
the coils of monstrous serpents, clenched their teeth in the marble
of the pavement; others, fastened by their waists, were dragged
upwards, these by their feet, those by their heads, towards
capitals, where other figures stooped towards them, eager to
torment them. Other pillars, again, represented a struggling mass
of figures devouring one another; each of which only offered a
trunk severed to the knees or to the shoulders, the fierce heads
whereof retained life enough to seize and devour that which was
near them. There were some who, half hanging down, agonized
themselves by attempting, with their upper limbs, to flay the lower
moiety of their bodies, which drooped from the columns, or were
attached to the pedestals; and others, who, in their fight with
each other, were dragged along by morsels of flesh,--grasping
which, they clung to each other with a countenance of unspeakable
hate and agony. Along, or rather in place of, the frieze, there
were on either side a range of unclean beings, wearing the human
form, but of a loathsome ugliness, busied in tearing human corpses
to pieces--in feasting upon their limbs and entrails. From the
vault, instead of bosses and pendants, hung the crushed and wounded
forms of children; as if to escape these eaters of man's flesh,
they would throw themselves downwards, and be dashed to pieces on
the pavement. . . . . The silence and motionlessness of the whole
added to its awfulness. I became so faint with terror, that I
stopped, and would fain have returned. But at that moment I heard,
from the depths of the gloom through which I had passed, confused
noises, like those of a multitude on its march. And the sounds
soon became more distinct, and the clamor fiercer, and the steps
came hurrying on tumultuously--at every new burst nearer, more
violent, more threatening. I thought that I was pursued by this
disorderly crowd; and I strove to advance, hurrying into the midst
of those dismal sculptures. Then it seemed as if those figures
began to heave,--and to sweat blood,--and their beady eyes to move
in their sockets. At once I beheld that they were all looking upon
me, that they were all leaning towards me,--some with frightful
derision, others with furious aversion. Every arm was raised
against me, and they made as though they would crush me with the
quivering limbs they had torn one from the other." . . . .

It is, indeed, a pity that the poor fellow gave himself the trouble
to go down into damp, unwholesome graves, for the purpose of
fetching up a few trumpery sheets of manuscript; and if the public
has been rather tired with their contents, and is disposed to ask
why Mrs. Sand's religious or irreligious notions are to be brought
forward to people who are quite satisfied with their own, we can
only say that this lady is the representative of a vast class of
her countrymen, whom the wits and philosophers of the eighteenth
century have brought to this condition. The leaves of the Diderot
and Rousseau tree have produced this goodly fruit: here it is,
ripe, bursting, and ready to fall;--and how to fall? Heaven send
that it may drop easily, for all can see that the time is come.



PARIS, November, 1839.

MY DEAR BRIEFLESS,--Two months since, when the act of accusation
first appeared, containing the sum of the charges against Sebastian
Peytel, all Paris was in a fervor on the subject. The man's trial
speedily followed, and kept for three days the public interest
wound up to a painful point. He was found guilty of double murder
at the beginning of September; and, since that time, what with
Maroto's disaffection and Turkish news, we have had leisure to
forget Monsieur Peytel, and to occupy ourselves with [Greek text
omitted]. Perhaps Monsieur de Balzac helped to smother what little
sparks of interest might still have remained for the murderous
notary. Balzac put forward a letter in his favor, so very long, so
very dull, so very pompous, promising so much, and performing so
little, that the Parisian public gave up Peytel and his case
altogether; nor was it until to-day that some small feeling was
raised concerning him, when the newspapers brought the account how
Peytel's head had been cut off at Bourg.

He had gone through the usual miserable ceremonies and delays which
attend what is called, in this country, the march of justice. He
had made his appeal to the Court of Cassation, which had taken time
to consider the verdict of the Provincial Court, and had confirmed
it. He had made his appeal for mercy; his poor sister coming up
all the way from Bourg (a sad journey, poor thing!) to have an
interview with the King, who had refused to see her. Last Monday
morning, at nine o'clock, an hour before Peytel's breakfast, the
Greffier of Assize Court, in company with the Curé of Bourg, waited
on him, and informed him that he had only three hours to live. At
twelve o'clock, Peytel's head was off his body: an executioner from
Lyons had come over the night before, to assist the professional
throat-cutter of Bourg.

I am not going to entertain you with any sentimental lamentations
for this scoundrel's fate, or to declare my belief in his
innocence, as Monsieur de Balzac has done. As far as moral
conviction can go, the man's guilt is pretty clearly brought home
to him. But any man who has read the "Causes Célèbres," knows that
men have been convicted and executed upon evidence ten times more
powerful than that which was brought against Peytel. His own
account of his horrible case may be true; there is nothing adduced
in the evidence which is strong enough to overthrow it. It is a
serious privilege, God knows, that society takes upon itself, at
any time, to deprive one of God's creatures of existence. But when
the slightest doubt remains, what a tremendous risk does it incur!
In England, thank heaven, the law is more wise and more merciful:
an English jury would never have taken a man's blood upon such
testimony: an English judge and Crown advocate would never have
acted as these Frenchmen have done; the latter inflaming the public
mind by exaggerated appeals to their passions: the former seeking,
in every way, to draw confessions from the prisoner, to perplex and
confound him, to do away, by fierce cross-questioning and bitter
remarks from the bench, with any effect that his testimony might
have on the jury. I don't mean to say that judges and lawyers have
been more violent and inquisitorial against the unhappy Peytel than
against any one else; it is the fashion of the country: a man is
guilty until he proves himself to be innocent; and to batter down
his defence, if he have any, there are the lawyers, with all their
horrible ingenuity, and their captivating passionate eloquence. It
is hard thus to set the skilful and tried champions of the law
against men unused to this kind of combat; nay, give a man all the
legal aid that he can purchase or procure, still, by this plan, you
take him at a cruel, unmanly disadvantage; he has to fight against
the law, clogged with the dreadful weight of his presupposed guilt.
Thank God that, in England, things are not managed so.

However, I am not about to entertain you with ignorant disquisitions
about the law. Peytel's case may, nevertheless, interest you; for
the tale is a very stirring and mysterious one; and you may see how
easy a thing it is for a man's life to be talked away in France, if
ever he should happen to fall under the suspicion of a crime. The
French "Acte d'accusation" begins in the following manner:--

"Of all the events which, in these latter times, have afflicted the
department of the Ain, there is none which has caused a more
profound and lively sensation than the tragical death of the lady,
Félicité Alcazar, wife of Sebastian Benedict Peytel, notary, at
Belley. At the end of October, 1838, Madame Peytel quitted that
town, with her husband, and their servant Louis Rey, in order to
pass a few days at Macon: at midnight, the inhabitants of Belley
were suddenly awakened by the arrival of Monsieur Peytel, by his
cries, and by the signs which he exhibited of the most lively
agitation: he implored the succors of all the physicians in the
town; knocked violently at their doors; rung at the bells of their
houses with a sort of frenzy, and announced that his wife,
stretched out, and dying, in his carriage, had just been shot, on
the Lyons road, by his domestic, whose life Peytel himself had

"At this recital a number of persons assembled, and what a
spectacle was presented to their eyes.

"A young woman lay at the bottom of a carriage, deprived of life;
her whole body was wet, and seemed as if it had just been plunged
into the water. She appeared to be severely wounded in the face;
and her garments, which were raised up, in spite of the cold and
rainy weather, left the upper part of her knees almost entirely
exposed. At the sight of this half-naked and inanimate body, all
the spectators were affected. People said that the first duty to
pay to a dying woman was, to preserve her from the cold, to cover
her. A physician examined the body; he declared that all remedies
were useless; that Madame Peytel was dead and cold.

"The entreaties of Peytel were redoubled; he demanded fresh
succors, and, giving no heed to the fatal assurance which had just
been given him, required that all the physicians in the place
should be sent for. A scene so strange and so melancholy; the
incoherent account given by Peytel of the murder of his wife; his
extraordinary movements; and the avowal which he continued to make,
that he had despatched the murderer, Rey, with strokes of his
hammer, excited the attention of Lieutenant Wolf, commandant of
gendarmes: that officer gave orders for the immediate arrest of
Peytel; but the latter threw himself into the arms of a friend, who
interceded for him, and begged the police not immediately to seize
upon his person.

"The corpse of Madame Peytel was transported to her apartment; the
bleeding body of the domestic was likewise brought from the road,
where it lay; and Peytel, asked to explain the circumstance, did
so." . . . .

Now, as there is little reason to tell the reader, when an English
counsel has to prosecute a prisoner on the part of the Crown for a
capital offence, he produces the articles of his accusation in the
most moderate terms, and especially warns the jury to give the
accused person the benefit of every possible doubt that the
evidence may give, or may leave. See how these things are managed
in France, and how differently the French counsel for the Crown
sets about his work.

He first prepares his act of accusation, the opening of which we
have just read; it is published six days before the trial, so that
an unimpassioned, unprejudiced jury has ample time to study it, and
to form its opinions accordingly, and to go into court with a
happy, just prepossession against the prisoner.

Read the first part of the Peytel act of accusation; it is as
turgid and declamatory as a bad romance; and as inflated as a
newspaper document, by an unlimited penny-a-liner:--"The department
of the Ain is in a dreadful state of excitement; the inhabitants of
Belley come trooping from their beds,--and what a sight do they
behold;--a young woman at the bottom of a carriage, toute
ruisselante, just out of a river; her garments, in spite of the
cold and rain, raised, so as to leave the upper part of her knees
entirely exposed, at which all the beholders were affected, and
cried, that the FIRST DUTY was to cover her from the cold." This
settles the case at once; the first duty of a man is to cover the
legs of the sufferer; the second to call for help. The eloquent
"Substitut du Procureur du Roi" has prejudged the case, in the
course of a few sentences. He is putting his readers, among whom
his future jury is to be found, into a proper state of mind; he
works on them with pathetic description, just as a romance-writer
would: the rain pours in torrents; it is a dreary evening in
November; the young creature's situation is neatly described; the
distrust which entered into the breast of the keen old officer of
gendarmes strongly painted, the suspicions which might, or might
not, have been entertained by the inhabitants, eloquently argued.
How did the advocate know that the people had such? did all the
bystanders say aloud, "I suspect that this is a case of murder by
Monsieur Peytel, and that his story about the domestic is all
deception?" or did they go off to the mayor, and register their
suspicion? or was the advocate there to hear them? Not he; but he
paints you the whole scene, as though it had existed, and gives
full accounts of suspicions, as if they had been facts, positive,
patent, staring, that everybody could see and swear to.

Having thus primed his audience, and prepared them for the
testimony of the accused party, "Now," says he, with a fine show of
justice, "let us hear Monsieur Peytel;" and that worthy's narrative
is given as follows:--

"He said that he had left Macon on the 31st October, at eleven
o'clock in the morning, in order to return to Belley, with his wife
and servant. The latter drove, or led, an open car; he himself was
driving his wife in a four-wheeled carriage, drawn by one horse:
they reached Bourg at five o'clock in the evening; left it at
seven, to sleep at Pont d'Ain, where they did not arrive before
midnight. During the journey, Peytel thought he remarked that Rey
had slackened his horse's pace. When they alighted at the inn,
Peytel bade him deposit in his chamber 7,500 francs, which he
carried with him; but the domestic refused to do so, saying that
the inn gates were secure, and there was no danger. Peytel was,
therefore, obliged to carry his money up stairs himself. The next
day, the 1st November, they set out on their journey again, at nine
o'clock in the morning; Louis did not come, according to custom, to
take his master's orders. They arrived at Tenay about three,
stopped there a couple of hours to dine, and it was eight o'clock
when they reached the bourg of Rossillon, where they waited half an
hour to bait the horses.

"As they left Rossillon, the weather became bad, and the rain began
to fall: Peytel told his domestic to get a covering for the
articles in the open chariot; but Rey refused to do so, adding, in
an ironical tone, that the weather was fine. For some days past,
Peytel had remarked that his servant was gloomy, and scarcely spoke
at all.

"After they had gone about 500 paces beyond the bridge of Andert,
that crosses the river Furans, and ascended to the least steep part
of the hill of Darde, Peytel cried out to his servant, who was
seated in the car, to come down from it, and finish the ascent on

"At this moment a violent wind was blowing from the south, and the
rain was falling heavily: Peytel was seated back in the right
corner of the carriage, and his wife, who was close to him, was
asleep, with her head on his left shoulder. All of a sudden he
heard the report of a fire-arm (he had seen the light of it at some
paces' distance), and Madame Peytel cried out, 'My poor husband,
take your pistols;' the horse was frightened, and began to trot.
Peytel immediately drew the pistol, and fired, from the interior of
the carriage, upon an individual whom he saw running by the side of
the road.

"Not knowing, as yet, that his wife had been hit, he jumped out on
one side of the carriage, while Madame Peytel descended from the
other; and he fired a second pistol at his domestic, Louis Rey,
whom he had just recognized. Redoubling his pace, he came up with
Rey, and struck him, from behind, a blow with the hammer. Rey
turned at this, and raised up his arm to strike his master with the
pistol which he had just discharged at him; but Peytel, more quick
than he, gave the domestic a blow with the hammer, which felled him
to the ground (he fell his face forwards), and then Peytel,
bestriding the body, despatched him, although the brigand asked for

"He now began to think of his wife and ran back, calling out her
name repeatedly, and seeking for her, in vain, on both sides of the
road. Arrived at the bridge of Andert, he recognized his wife,
stretched in a field, covered with water, which bordered the
Furans. This horrible discovery had so much the more astonished
him, because he had no idea, until now, that his wife had been
wounded: he endeavored to draw her from the water; and it was only
after considerable exertions that he was enabled to do so, and to
place her, with her face towards the ground, on the side of the
road. Supposing that, here, she would be sheltered from any
farther danger, and believing, as yet, that she was only wounded,
he determined to ask for help at a lone house, situated on the road
towards Rossillon; and at this instant he perceived, without at all
being able to explain how, that his horse had followed him back to
the spot, having turned back of its own accord, from the road to

"The house at which he knocked was inhabited by two men, of the
name of Thannet, father and son, who opened the door to him, and
whom he entreated to come to his aid, saying that his wife had just
been assassinated by his servant. The elder Thannet approached to,
and examined the body, and told Peytel that it was quite dead; he
and his son took up the corpse, and placed it in the bottom of the
carriage, which they all mounted themselves, and pursued their
route to Belley. In order to do so, they had to pass by Rey's
body, on the road, which Peytel wished to crush under the wheels of
his carriage. It was to rob him of 7,500 francs, said Peytel, that
the attack had been made."

Our friend, the Procureur's Substitut, has dropped, here, the
eloquent and pathetic style altogether, and only gives the unlucky
prisoner's narrative in the baldest and most unimaginative style.
How is a jury to listen to such a fellow? they ought to condemn
him, if but for making such an uninteresting statement. Why not
have helped poor Peytel with some of those rhetorical graces which
have been so plentifully bestowed in the opening part of the act of
accusation? He might have said:--

"Monsieur Peytel is an eminent notary at Belley; he is a man
distinguished for his literary and scientific acquirements; he has
lived long in the best society of the capital; he had been but a
few months married to that young and unfortunate lady, whose loss
has plunged her bereaved husband into despair--almost into madness.
Some early differences had marked, it is true, the commencement of
their union; but these, which, as can be proved by evidence, were
almost all the unhappy lady's fault,--had happily ceased, to give
place to sentiments far more delightful and tender. Gentlemen,
Madame Peytel bore in her bosom a sweet pledge of future concord
between herself and her husband: in three brief months she was to
become a mother.

"In the exercise of his honorable profession,--in which, to
succeed, a man must not only have high talents, but undoubted
probity,--and, gentlemen, Monsieur Peytel DID succeed--DID inspire
respect and confidence, as you, his neighbors, well know;--in the
exercise, I say, of his high calling, Monsieur Peytel, towards the
end of October last, had occasion to make a journey in the
neighborhood, and visit some of his many clients.

"He travelled in his own carriage, his young wife beside him. Does
this look like want of affection, gentlemen? or is it not a mark of
love--of love and paternal care on his part towards the being with
whom his lot in life was linked,--the mother of his coming child,--
the young girl, who had everything to gain from the union with a
man of his attainments of intellect, his kind temper, his great
experience, and his high position? In this manner they travelled,
side by side, lovingly together. Monsieur Peytel was not a lawyer
merely, but a man of letters and varied learning; of the noble and
sublime science of geology he was, especially, an ardent devotee."

(Suppose, here, a short panegyric upon geology. Allude to the
creation of this mighty world, and then, naturally, to the Creator.
Fancy the conversations which Peytel, a religious man,* might have
with his young wife upon the subject.)

* He always went to mass; it is in the evidence.

"Monsieur Peytel had lately taken into his service a man named
Louis Rey. Rey was a foundling, and had passed many years in a
regiment--a school, gentlemen, where much besides bravery, alas! is
taught; nay, where the spirit which familiarizes one with notions
of battle and death, I fear, may familiarize one with ideas, too,
of murder. Rey, a dashing reckless fellow, from the army, had
lately entered Peytel's service, was treated by him with the most
singular kindness; accompanied him (having charge of another
vehicle) upon the journey before alluded to; and KNEW THAT HIS
Rey an enormous sum, 7,500 francs. At midnight on the 1st of
November, as Madame Peytel and her husband were returning home, an
attack was made upon their carriage. Remember, gentlemen, the hour
at which the attack was made; remember the sum of money that was in
the carriage; and remember that the Savoy frontier IS WITHIN A
LEAGUE OF THE SPOT where the desperate deed was done."

Now, my dear Briefless, ought not Monsieur Procureur, in common
justice to Peytel, after he had so eloquently proclaimed, not the
facts, but the suspicions, which weighed against that worthy, to
have given a similar florid account of the prisoner's case?
Instead of this, you will remark, that it is the advocate's
endeavor to make Peytel's statements as uninteresting in style as
possible; and then he demolishes them in the following way:--

"Scarcely was Peytel's statement known, when the common sense of
the public rose against it. Peytel had commenced his story upon
the bridge of Andert, over the cold body of his wife. On the 2nd
November he had developed it in detail, in the presence of the
physicians, in the presence of the assembled neighbors--of the
persons who, on the day previous only, were his friends. Finally,
he had completed it in his interrogatories, his conversations, his
writings, and letters to the magistrates and everywhere these
words, repeated so often, were only received with a painful
incredulity. The fact was that, besides the singular character
which Peytel's appearance, attitude, and talk had worn ever since
the event, there was in his narrative an inexplicable enigma; its

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