Voltaire, The Philosophical Dictionary (1764, 1901)

François-Marie Arouet (“Voltaire”) (1694-1778)  


This is part of a collection of works by Voltaire.


A 21 volume collected works of the writings of Voltaire with a biographical volume by the English Liberal MP John Morley and notes by the 18th century Scottish novelist Tobias Smollett.

The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version. A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901). In 21 vols.

The 5 volumes which make up the Philosophical Dictionary are vols. 3-7.

See also a 1878 French edition by Garnier in HTML and PDF.



Table of Contents

This edition of the i is divided into 10 parts

  • Part 1 "A" to "Apparition"
  • Part 2 "Appearance" to "Calends"
  • Part 3 "Cannibals" to "Councils"
  • Part 4 "Country" to "Falsity of Human Virtues"
  • Part 5 "Fanaticism" to "Gregory VII"
  • Part 6 "Happy" to "Job"
  • Part 7 "Judaea" to "Mision"
  • Part 8 "Money" to "Privilege"
  • Part 9 "Property" to "States General"
  • Part 10 "Style" to "Zoroaster"

Below are links to the individual entries.







A Philosophical Dictionary Part 5 (Works, Vol. IV -- Part 1)



A Philosophical Dictionary Part 7 (Works, Vol. VI Part I)




A Philosophical Dictionary Part 9 (Works, Vol. VII Part I)






The Text

Volume 1


Between two servants of Humanity, who appeared eighteen hundred years apart, there is a mysterious relation. * * * * Let us say it with a sentiment of profound respect: JESUS WEPT: VOLTAIRE SMILED. Of that divine tear and of that human smile is composed the sweetness of the present civilization.




The Dictionnaire Philosophique is Voltaire’s principal essay in philosophy, though not a sustained work. The miscellaneous articles he contributed to Diderot’s Encyclopédie which compose this Dictionary embody a mass of scholarly research, criticism, and speculation, lit up with pungent sallies at the formal and tyrannous ecclesiasticism of the period and the bases of belief on which it stood.

These short studies reflect every phase of Voltaire’s sparkling genius. Though some of the views enunciated in them are now universally held, and others have become obsolete through extended knowledge, they were startlingly new when Voltaire, at peril of freedom and reputation, spread them before the people of all civilized nations, who read them still with their first charm of style and substance.



The letter A has been accounted sacred in almost every nation, because it was the first letter. The Egyptians added this to their numberless superstitions; hence it was that the Greeks of Alexandria called it hier’alpha; and, as omega was the last of the letters, these words alpha and omega signified the beginning and the end of all things. This was the origin of the cabalistic art, and of more than one mysterious folly.

The letters served as ciphers, and to express musical notes. Judge what an infinity of useful knowledge must thus have been produced. A, b, c, d, e, f, g, were the seven heavens; the harmony of the celestial spheres was composed of the seven first letters; and an acrostic accounted for everything among the ever venerable Ancients.


Why has not the alphabet a name in any European language? Alphabet signifies nothing more than A, B, and A, B, signifies nothing, or but indicates two sounds, which two sounds have no relation to each other. Beta is not formed from alpha; one is first, the other is second, and no one knows why.

How can it have happened that terms are still wanting to express the portal of all the sciences? The knowledge of numbers, the art of numeration, is not called the one-two; yet the first rudiment of the art of expressing our thoughts has not in all Europe obtained a proper designation.

The alphabet is the first part of grammar; perhaps those who are acquainted with Arabic, of which I have not the slightest notion, can inform me whether that language, which is said to contain no fewer than eighty words to express a horse, has one which signifies the alphabet.

I protest that I know no more of Chinese than of Arabic, but I have read, in a small Chinese vocabulary, that this nation has always had two words to express the catalogue or list of the characters of its language: one is ko-tou, the other hai-pien; we have neither ko-tou nor hai-pien in our Occidental tongues. The Greeks, who were no more adroit than ourselves, also said alphabet. Seneca, the philosopher, used the Greek phrase to designate an old man who, like me, asks questions on grammar, calling him Skedon analphabetos. Now the Greeks had this same alphabet from the Phœnicians—from that people called the letter nation by the Hebrews themselves, when the latter, at so late a period, went to settle in their neighborhood.

It may well be supposed that the Phœnicians, by communicating their characters to the Greeks, rendered them a great service in delivering them from the embarrassment occasioned by the Egyptian mode of writing taught them by Cecrops. The Phœnicians, in the capacity of merchants, sought to make everything easy of comprehension; while the Egyptians, in their capacity of interpreters of the gods, strove to make everything difficult.

I can imagine I hear a Phœnician merchant landed in Achaia saying to a Greek correspondent: “Our characters are not only easy to write, and communicate the thoughts as well as the sound of the voice; they also express our respective debts. My aleph, which you choose to pronounce alpha, stands for an ounce of silver, beta for two ounces, tau for a hundred, sigma for two hundred. I owe you two hundred ounces; I pay you a tau, and still owe you another tau; thus we shall soon make our reckoning.”

It was most probably by mutual traffic which administered to their wants, that society was first established among men; and it is necessary that those between whom commerce is carried on should understand one another.

The Egyptians did not apply themselves to commerce until a very late period; they had a horror of the sea; it was their Typhon. The Tyrians, on the contrary, were navigators from time immemorial; they brought together those nations which Nature had separated, and repaired those calamities into which the revolutions of the world frequently plunged a large portion of mankind. The Greeks, in their turn, carried to other nations their commerce and their convenient alphabet, which latter was altered a little, as the Greeks had altered that of the Tyrians. When their merchants, who were afterwards made demi-gods, went to Colchis to establish a trade in sheepskins—whence we have the fable of the golden fleece—they communicated their letters to the people of the country, who still retain them with some alteration. They have not adopted the alphabet of the Turks, to whom they are at present subject, but whose yoke, thanks to the Empress of Russia, I hope they will throw off.

It is very likely (I do not say it is certain—God forbid!) that neither Tyre nor Egypt, nor any other country situated near the Mediterranean Sea, communicated its alphabet to the nations of Eastern Asia. If, for example, the Tyrians, or the Chaldæans, who dwelt near the Euphrates, had communicated their method to the Chinese, some traces of it would have remained; we should have had the signs of the twenty-two, twenty-three, or twenty-four letters, whereas they have a sign for each word in their language; and the number of their words, we are told, is eighty thousand. This method has nothing in common with that of Tyre; it is seventy-nine thousand nine hundred and seventy-six times more learned and more embarrassing than our own. Besides this prodigious difference, they write from the top to the bottom of the page; while the Tyrians and the Chaldæans wrote from right to left, and the Greeks, like ourselves, wrote from left to right.

Examine the Tartar, the Hindoo, the Siamese, the Japanese characters; you will not find the least resemblance to the Greek or the Phœnician alphabet.

Yet all these nations, and not these alone, but even the Hottentots and Kaffirs, pronounce the vowels and consonants as we do, because the larynx in them is essentially the same as in us—just as the throat of the rudest boor is made like that of the finest opera-singer, the difference, which makes of one a rough, discordant, insupportable bass, and of the other a voice sweeter than the nightingale’s, being imperceptible to the most acute anatomist; or, as the brain of a fool is for all the world like the brain of a great genius.

When we said that the Tyrian merchants taught the Greeks their A, B, C, we did not pretend that they also taught them to speak. It is probable that the Athenians already expressed themselves in a better manner than the people of Lower Syria; their throats were more flexible, and their words were a more happy assemblage of vowels, consonants, and diphthongs. The language of the Phœnician people was rude and gross, consisting of such words as Shasiroth, Ashtaroth, Shabaoth, Chotiket, Thopheth, etc.—enough to terrify a songstress from the opera of Naples. Suppose that the Romans of the present day had retained the ancient Etrurian alphabet, and some Dutch traders brought them that which they now use; the Romans would do very well to receive their characters, but it is not at all likely that they would speak the Batavian language. Just so would the people of Athens deal with the sailors of Capthor, who had come from Tyre or Baireuth; they would adopt their alphabet as being better than that of Misraim or Egypt, but would reject their speech.

Philosophically speaking, and setting aside all inferences to be drawn from the Holy Scriptures, which certainly are not here the subject of discussion, is not the primitive language a truly laughable chimera?

What would be thought of a man who should seek to discover what had been the primitive cry of all animals; and how it happens that, after a series of ages, sheep bleat, cats mew, doves coo, linnets whistle? They understand one another perfectly in their respective idioms, and much better than we do. Every species has its language; that of the Esquimaux was never that of Peru; there has no more been a primitive language or a primitive alphabet than there have been primitive oaks or primitive grass.

Several rabbis assert that the Samaritan was the original tongue; other persons say that it was that of Lower Brittany. We may surely, without offending either the people of Brittany or those of Samaria, admit no original tongue.

May we not, also, without offending any one, suppose that the alphabet originated in cries and exclamations? Infants of themselves articulate one sound when an object catches their attention, another when they laugh, and a third when they are whipped, which they ought not to be.

As for the two little boys whom the Egyptian king Psammeticus—which, by the by, is not an Egyptian word—brought up, in order to know what was the primitive language, it seems hardly possible that they should both have cried bee bee when they wanted their breakfast.

From exclamations formed by vowels as natural to children as croaking is to frogs, the transition to a complete alphabet is not so great as it may be thought. A mother must always have said to her child the equivalent of come, go, take, leave, hush! etc. These words represent nothing; they describe nothing; but a gesture makes them intelligible.

From these shapeless rudiments we have, it is true, an immense distance to travel before we arrive at syntax. It is almost terrifying to contemplate that from the simple word come, we have arrived at such sentences as the following: Mother, I should have come with pleasure, and should have obeyed your commands, which are ever dear to me, if I had not, when running towards you, fallen backwards, which caused a thorn to run into my left leg.

It appears to my astonished imagination that it must have required ages to adjust this sentence, and ages more to put it into language. Here we might tell, or endeavor to tell, the reader how such words are expressed and pronounced in every language of the earth, as father, mother, land, water, day, night, eating, drinking, etc., but we must, as much as possible, avoid appearing ridiculous.

The alphabetical characters, denoting at once the names of things, their number, and the dates of events, the ideas of men, soon became mysteries even to those who had invented the signs. The Chaldæans, the Syrians, and the Egyptians attributed something divine to the combination of the letters and the manner of pronouncing them. They believed that names had a force—a virtue—independently of the things which they represented; they went so far as to pretend that the word which signified power was powerful in itself; that which expressed an angel was angelic, and that which gave the idea of God was divine. The science of numbers naturally became a part of necromancy, and no magical operation could be performed without the letters of the alphabet.

Thus the clue to all knowledge led to every error. The magi of every country used it to conduct themselves into the labyrinth which they had constructed, and which the rest of mankind were not permitted to enter. The manner of pronouncing vowels and consonants became the most profound of mysteries, and often the most terrible. There was, among the Syrians and Egyptians, a manner of pronouncing Jehovah which would cause a man to fall dead.

St. Clement of Alexandria relates that Moses killed a king of Egypt on the spot by sounding this name in his ear, after which he brought him to life again by pronouncing the same word. St. Clement is very exact; he cites the author, the learned Artapanus. Who can impeach the testimony of Artapanus?

Nothing tended more to retard the progress of the human mind that this profound science of error which sprung up among the Asiatics with the origin of truth. The universe was brutalized by the very art that should have enlightened it. Of this we have great examples in Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, etc.

Origen, in particular, expressly says: “If, when invoking God, or swearing by him, you call him the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob you will, by these words, do things the nature and force of which are such that the evil spirits submit to those who pronounce them; but if you call him by another name as God of the roaring sea, etc., no effort will be produced. The name of Israel rendered in Greek will work nothing; but pronounce it in Hebrew with the other words required, and you will effect the conjuration.”

The same Origen had these remarkable words: “There are names which are powerful from their own nature. Such are those used by the sages of Egypt, the magi of Persia, and the Brahmins of India. What is called magic is not a vain and chimerical art, as the Stoics and Epicureans pretend. The names Sabaoth and Adonai were not made for creates beings, but belong to a mysterious theology which has reference to the creator; hence the virtue of these names when they are arranged and pronounced according to rule,” etc.

It was by pronouncing letters according to the magical method, that the moon was made to descend to the earth. Virgil must be pardoned for having faith in this nonsense, and speaking of it seriously in his eighth eclogue:

Carmina de cœlo possunt deducere lunam.

Pale Phœbe, drawn by verse, from heaven descends.

Dryden’s Virgil.

In short, the alphabet was the origin of all man’s knowledge, and of all his errors.


The word abbé, let it be remembered, signifies father. If you become one you render a service to the state; you doubtless perform the best work that a man can perform; you give birth to a thinking being: in this action there is something divine. But if you are only Monsieur l’Abbé because you have had your head shaved, wear a small collar, and a short cloak, and are waiting for a fat benefice, you do not deserve the name of abbé.

The ancient monks gave this name to the superior whom they elected; the abbé was their spiritual father. What different things do the same words signify at different times! The spiritual abbé was once a poor man at the head of others equally poor: but the poor spiritual fathers have since had incomes of two hundred or four hundred thousand livres, and there are poor spiritual fathers in Germany who have regiments of guards.

A poor man, making a vow of poverty, and in consequence becoming a sovereign? Truly, this is intolerable. The laws exclaim against such an abuse; religion is indignant at it, and the really poor, who want food and clothing, appeal to heaven against Monsieur l’Abbé.

But I hear the abbés of Italy, Germany, Flanders, and Burgundy ask: “Why are not we to accumulate wealth and honors? Why are we not to become princes? The bishops are, who were originally poor, like us; they have enriched and elevated themselves; one of them has become superior even to kings; let us imitate them as far as we are able.”

Gentlemen, you are right. Invade the land; it belongs to him whose strength or skill obtains possession of it. You have made ample use of the times of ignorance, superstition, and infatuation, to strip us of our inheritances, and trample us under your feet, that you might fatten on the substance of the unfortunate. Tremble, for fear that the day of reason will arrive!



An abbey is a religious community, governed by an abbot or an abbess.

The word abbot—abbas in Latin and Greek, abba in Chaldee and Syriac—came from the Hebrew ab, meaning father. The Jewish doctors took this title through pride; therefore Jesus said to his disciples: “Call no one your father upon the earth, for one is your Father who is in heaven.”

Although St. Jerome was much enraged against the monks of his time, who, in spite of our Lord’s command, gave or received the title of abbot, the Sixth Council of Paris decided that if abbots are spiritual fathers and beget spiritual sons for the Lord, it is with reason that they are called abbots.

According to this decree, if any one deserved this appellation it belonged most assuredly to St. Benedict, who, in the year 528, founded on Mount Cassino, in the kingdom of Naples, that society so eminent for wisdom and discretion, and so grave in its speech and in its style. These are the terms used by Pope St. Gregory, who does not fail to mention the singular privilege which it pleased God to grant to this holy founder—that all Benedictines who die on Mount Cassino are saved. It is not, then, surprising that these monks reckon sixteen thousand canonized saints of their order. The Benedictine sisters even assert that they are warned of their approaching dissolution by some nocturnal noise, which they call the knocks of St. Benedict.

It may well be supposed that this holy abbot did not forget himself when begging the salvation of his disciples. Accordingly, on the 21st of March, 543, the eve of Passion Sunday, which was the day of his death, two monks—one of them in the monastery, the other at a distance from it—had the same vision. They saw a long road covered with carpets, and lighted by an infinite number of torches, extending eastward from the monastery to heaven. A venerable personage appeared, and asked them for whom this road was made. They said they did not know. “It is that,” rejoined he, “by which Benedict, the well-beloved of God, has ascended into heaven.”

An order in which salvation was so well secured soon extended itself into other states, whose sovereigns allowed themselves to be persuaded that, to be sure of a place in Paradise, it was only necessary to make themselves a friend in it, and that by donations to the churches they might atone for the most crying injustices and the most enormous crimes.

Confining ourselves to France, we read in the “Exploits of King Dagobert” (Gestes du Roi Dagobert), the founder of the abbey of St. Denis, near Paris, that this prince, after death, was condemned by the judgment of God, and that a hermit named John, who dwelt on the coast of Italy, saw his soul chained in a boat and beaten by devils, who were taking him towards Sicily to throw him into the fiery mouth of Etna; but all at once St. Denis appeared on a luminous globe, preceded by thunder and lightning, and, having put the evil spirits to flight, and rescued the poor soul from the clutches of the most cruel, bore it to heaven in triumph.

Charles Martel, on the contrary, was damned—body and soul—for having rewarded his captains by giving them abbeys. These, though laymen, bore the title of abbot, as married women have since borne that of abbess, and had convents of females. A holy bishop of Lyons, named Eucher, being at prayer, had the following vision: He thought he was led by an angel into hell, where he saw Charles Martel, who, the angel informed him, had been condemned to ever-lasting flames by the saints whose churches he had despoiled. St. Eucher wrote an account of this revelation to Boniface, bishop of Mayence, and to Fulrad, grand chaplain to Pepin-le-bref, praying them to open the tomb of Charles Martel and see if his body were there. The tomb was opened. The interior of it bore marks of fire, but nothing was found in it except a great serpent, which issued forth with a cloud of offensive smoke.

Boniface was so kind as to write to Pepin-le-bref and to Carloman all these particulars relative to the damnation of their father; and when, in 858, Louis of Germany seized some ecclesiastical property, the bishops of the assembly of Créci reminded him, in a letter, of all the particulars of this terrible story, adding that they had them from aged men, on whose word they could rely, and who had been eye-witnesses of the whole.

St. Bernard, first abbot of Clairvaux, in 1115 had likewise had it revealed to him that all who received the monastic habit from his hand should be saved. Nevertheless, Pope Urban II., having, in a bull dated 1092, given to the abbey of Mount Cassino the title of chief of all monasteries, because from that spot the venerable religion of the monastic order had flowed from the bosom of Benedict as from a celestial spring, the Emperor Lothario continued this prerogative by a charter of the year 1137, which gave to the monastery of Mount Cassino the pre-eminence in power and glory over all the monasteries which were or might be founded throughout the world, and called upon all the abbots and monks in Christendom to honor and reverence it.

Paschal II., in a bull of the year 1113, addressed to the abbot of Mount Cassino, expresses himself thus: “We decree that you, as likewise all your successors, shall, as being superior to all abbots, be allowed to sit in every assembly of bishops or princes; and that in all judgments you shall give your opinion before any other of your order.” The abbot of Cluni having also dared to call himself the abbot of abbots, the pope’s chancellor decided, in a council held at Rome in 1112, that this distinction belonged to the abbot of Mount Cassino. He of Cluni contented himself with the title of cardinal abbot, which he afterwards obtained from Calixtus II., and which the abbot of The Trinity of Vendôme and some others have since assumed.

Pope John XX., in 1326 granted to the abbot of Mount Cassino the title of bishop, and he continued to discharge the episcopal functions until 1367; but Urban V., having then thought proper to deprive him of that dignity, he now simply entitles himself Patriarch of the Holy Religion, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Mount Cassino, Chancellor and Grand Chaplain of the Holy Roman Empire, Abbot of Abbots, Chief of the Benedictine Hierarchy, Chancellor Collateral of the Kingdom of Sicily, Count and Governor of the Campagna and of the maritime province, Prince of Peace.

He lives, with a part of his officers, at San-Germano, a little town at the foot of Mount Cassino, in a spacious house, where all passengers, from the pope down to the meanest beggar, are received, lodged, fed, and treated according to their rank. The abbot each day visits all his guests, who sometimes amount to three hundred. In 1538, St. Ignatius shared his hospitality, but he was lodged in a house on Mount Cassino, six hundred paces west of the abbey. There he composed his celebrated Institute—whence a Dominican, in a work entitled, “The Turtle-Dove of the Soul,” says: “Ignatius dwelt for twelve months on this mountain of contemplation, and, like another Moses, framed those second tables of religious laws which are inferior in nothing to the first.”

Truly, this founder of the Jesuits was not received by the Benedictines with that complaisance which St. Benedict, on his arrival at Mount Cassino, had found in St. Martin the hermit, who gave up to him the place in his possession, and retired to Mount Marsica, near Carniola. On the contrary, the Benedictine Ambrose Cajeta, in a voluminous work written for the purpose, has endeavored to trace the origin of the Jesuits to the order of St. Benedict.

The laxity of manners which has always prevailed in the world, even among the clergy, induced St. Basil, so early as the fourth century, to adopt the idea of assembling in one community the solitaries who had fled into deserts to follow the law; but, as will be elsewhere seen, even the regulars have not always been regular.

As for the secular clergy, let us see what St. Cyprian says of them, even from the third century: “Many bishops, instead of exhorting and setting an example to others, neglected the affairs of God, busied themselves with temporal concerns, quitted their pulpits, abandoned their flocks, and travelled in other provinces, in order to attend fairs and enrich themselves by traffic; they succored not their brethren who were dying of hunger; they sought only to amass heaps of money, to gain possession of lands by unjust artifices, and to make immense profits by usury.”

Charlemagne, in a digest of what he intended to propose to the parliament of 811, thus expresses himself: “We wish to know the duties of ecclesiastics, in order that we may not ask of them what they are not permitted to give, and that they may not demand of us what we ought not to grant. We beg of them to explain to us clearly what they call quitting the world, and by what those who quit it may be distinguished from those who remain in it; if it is only by their not bearing arms, and not being married in public; if that man has quitted the world who continues to add to his possessions by means of every sort, preaching Paradise and threatening with damnation; employing the name of God or of some saint to persuade the simple to strip themselves of their property, thus entailing want upon their lawful heirs, who therefore think themselves justified in committing theft and pillage; if to quit the world is to carry the passion of covetousness to such a length as to bribe false witnesses in order to obtain what belongs to another, and to seek out judges who are cruel, interested, and without the fear of God.”

To conclude: We may judge of the morals of the regular clergy from a harangue delivered in 1493, in which the Abbé Tritême said to his brethren: “You abbés, who are ignorant and hostile to the knowledge of salvation; who pass your days in shameless pleasures, in drinking and gaming; who fix your affections on the things of this life; what answer will you make to God and to your founder, St. Benedict?”

The same abbé nevertheless asserted that one-third of all the property of Christians belonged of right to the order of St. Benedict, and that if they had it not, it was because they had been robbed of it. “They are so poor at present,” added he, “that their revenues do not amount to more than a hundred millions of louis d’ors.” Tritême does not tell us to whom the other two-thirds belong, but as in his time there were only fifteen thousand abbeys of Benedictines, besides the small convents of the same order, while in the seventeenth century their number had increased to thirty-seven thousand, it is clear, by the rule of proportion, that this holy order ought now to possess five-sixths of the property in Christendom, but for the fatal progress of heresy during the latter ages.

In addition to all other misfortunes, since the Concordat was signed, in 1515, between Leo X. and Francis I., the king of France nominating to nearly all the abbeys in his kingdom, most of them have been given to seculars with shaven crowns. It was in consequence of this custom being but little known in England that Dr. Gregory said pleasantly to the Abbé Gallois, whom he took for a Benedictine: “The good father imagines that we have returned to those fabulous times when a monk was permitted to say what he pleased.”


Those who fly from the world are wise; those who devote themselves to God are to be respected. Perhaps time has corrupted so holy an institution.

To the Jewish therapeuts succeeded the Egyptian monks—idiotoi, monoi—idiot then signifying only solitary. They soon formed themselves into bodies and became the opposite of solitaries. Each society of monks elected its superior; for, in the early ages of the church, everything was done by the plurality of voices. Men sought to regain the primitive liberty of human nature by escaping through piety from the tumult and slavery inseparably attendant on great empires. Every society of monks chose its father—its abba—its abbot, although it is said in the gospel, “call no man your father.”

Neither abbots nor monks were priests in the early ages; they went in troops to hear mass at the nearest village; their numbers, in time, became considerable. It is said that there were upwards of fifty thousand monks in Egypt.

St. Basil, who was first a monk and afterwards Bishop of Cæsarea and Cappadocia, composed a code for all the monks of the fourth century. This rule of St. Basil’s was received in the East and in the West; no monks were known but those of St. Basil; they were rich, took part in all public affairs, and contributed to the revolutions of empires.

No order but this was known until, in the sixth century, St. Benedict established a new power on Mount Cassino. St. Gregory the Great assures us, in his Dialogues, that God granted him a special privilege, by which all the Benedictines who should die on Mount Cassino were to be saved. Consequently, Pope Urban II., in a bull of the year 1092, declared the abbot of Mount Cassino chief of all the abbeys in the world. Paschal II. gave him the title of Abbot of Abbots, Patriarch of the Holy Religion, Chancellor Collateral of the Kingdom of Sicily, Count and Governor of the Campagna, Prince of Peace, etc. All these titles would avail but little were they not supported by immense riches.

Not long ago I received a letter from one of my German correspondents, which began with these words: “The abbots, princes of Kempten, Elvengen, Eudestet, Musbach, Berghsgaden, Vissemburg, Prum, Stablo, and Corvey, and the other abbots who are not princes, enjoy together a revenue of about nine hundred thousand florins, or two millions and fifty thousand French livres of the present currency. Whence I conclude that Jesus Christ’s circumstances were not quite so easy as theirs.” I replied: “Sir, you must confess that the French are more pious than the Germans, in the proportion of 4 16–41 to unity; for our consistorial benefices alone, that is, those which pay annats to the Pope, produce a revenue of nine millions; and two millions fifty thousand livres are to nine millions as 1 is to 4 16–41. Whence I conclude that your abbots are not sufficiently rich, and that they ought to have ten times more. I have the honor to be,” etc. He answered me by the following short letter: “Dear Sir, I do not understand you. You doubtless feel, with me, that nine millions of your money are rather too much for those who have made a vow of poverty; yet you wish that they had ninety. I beg you will explain this enigma.” I had the honor of immediately replying: “Dear Sir, there was once a young man to whom it was proposed to marry a woman of sixty, who would leave him all her property. He answered that she was not old enough.” The German understood my enigma.

The reader must be informed that, in 1575, it was proposed in a council of Henry III., King of France, to erect all the abbeys of monks into secular commendams, and to give them to the officers of his court and his army; but this monarch, happening afterwards to be excommunicated and assassinated, the project was of course not carried into effect.

In 1750 Count d’Argenson, the minister of war, wished to raise pensions from the benefices for chevaliers of the military order of St. Louis. Nothing could be more simple, more just, more useful; but his efforts were fruitless. Yet the Princess of Conti had had an abbey under Louis XIV., and even before his reign seculars possessed benefices. The Duke de Sulli had an abbey, although he was a Huguenot.

The father of Hugh Capet was rich only by his abbeys, and was called Hugh the Abbot. Abbeys were given to queens, to furnish them with pin-money. Ogine, mother of Louis d’Outremer, left her son because he had taken from her the abbey of St. Mary of Laon, and given it to his wife, Gerberge.

Thus we have examples of everything. Each one strives to make customs, innovations, laws—whether old or new, abrogated, revived, or mitigated—charters, whether real or supposed—the past, the present and the future, alike subservient to the grand end of obtaining the good things of this world; yet it is always for the greater glory of God.


Able.—An adjective term, which, like almost all others, has different acceptations as it is differently employed.

In general it signifies more than capable, more than well-informed, whether applied to an artist, a general, a man of learning, or a judge. A man may have read all that has been written on war, and may have seen it, without being able to conduct a war. He may be capable of commanding, but to acquire the name of an able general he must command more than once with success. A judge may know all the laws, without being able to apply them. A learned man may not be able either to write or to teach. An able man, then, is he who makes a great use of what he knows. A capable man can do a thing; an able one does it. This word cannot be applied to efforts of pure genius. We do not say an able poet, an able orator; or, if we sometimes say so of an orator, it is when he has ably, dexterously treated a thorny subject.

Bossuet, for example, having, in his funeral oration over the great Condé, to treat of his civil wars, says that there is a penitence as glorious as innocence itself. He manages this point ably. Of the rest he speaks with grandeur.

We say, an able historian, meaning one who has drawn his materials from good sources, compared different relations, and judged soundly of them; one, in short, who has taken great pains. If he has, moreover, the gift of narrating with suitable eloquence, he is more than able, he is a great historian, like Titus, Livius, de Thou, etc.

The word able is applicable to those arts which exercise at once the mind and the hand, as painting and sculpture. We say of a painter or sculptor, he is an able artist, because these arts require a long novitiate; whereas a man becomes a poet nearly all at once, like Virgil or Ovid, or may even be an orator with very little study, as several preachers have been.

Why do we, nevertheless, say, an able preacher? It is because more attention is then paid to art than to eloquence, which is no great eulogium. We do not say of the sublime Bossuet, he was an able maker of funeral orations. A mere player of an instrument is able; a composer must be more than able; he must have genius. The workman executes cleverly what the man of taste has designed ably.

An able man in public affairs is well-informed, prudent and active; if he wants either of these qualifications he is not able.

The term, an able courtier, implies blame rather than praise, since it too often means an able flatterer. It may also be used to designate simply a clever man, who is neither very good nor very wicked. The fox who, when questioned by the lion respecting the odor of his palace, replied that he had taken cold, was an able courtier; the fox who, to revenge himself on the wolf, recommended to the old lion the skin of a wolf newly flayed, to keep his majesty warm, was something more than able.

We shall not here discuss those points of our subject which belong more particularly to morality, as the danger of wishing to be too able, the risks which an able woman runs when she wishes to govern the affairs of her household without advice, etc. We are afraid of swelling this dictionary with useless declamations. They who preside over this great and important work must treat at length those articles relating to the arts and sciences which interest the public, while those to whom they intrust little articles of literature must have the merit of being brief.

Ability.—This word is to capacity what able is to capable—ability in a science, in an art, in conduct.

We express an acquired quality by saying, he has ability; in action, by saying, he conducts that affair with ability.

Ably has the same acceptations; he works, he plays, he teaches ably. He has ably surmounted that difficulty.



We must say nothing of what is divine in Abraham, since the Scriptures have said all. We must not even touch, except with a respectful hand, that which belongs to the profane—that which appertains to geography, the order of time, manners, and customs; for these, being connected with sacred history, are so many streams which preserve something of the divinity of their source.

Abraham, though born near the Euphrates, makes a great epoch with the Western nations, yet makes none with the Orientals, who, nevertheless, respect him as much as we do. The Mahometans have no certain chronology before their hegira. The science of time, totally lost in those countries which were the scene of great events, has reappeared in the regions of the West, where those events were unknown. We dispute about everything that was done on the banks of the Euphrates, the Jordan, and the Nile, while they who are masters of the Nile, the Jordan and the Euphrates enjoy without disputing. Although our great epoch is that of Abraham, we differ sixty years with respect to the time of his birth. The account, according to the registers, is as follows:

“And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abraham, Nahor, and Haran. And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran. Now the Lord had said unto Abraham, get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation.”

It is sufficiently evident from the text that Terah, having had Abraham at the age of seventy, died at that of two hundred and five; and Abraham, having quitted Chaldæa immediately after the death of his father, was just one hundred and thirty-five years old when he left his country. This is nearly the opinion of St. Stephen, in his discourse to the Jews.

But the Book of Genesis also says: “And Abraham was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.”

This is the principal cause (for there are several others) of the dispute on the subject of Abraham’s age. How could he be at once a hundred and thirty-five years, and only seventy-five? St. Jerome and St. Augustine say that this difficulty is inexplicable. Father Calmet, who confesses that these two saints could not solve the problem, thinks he does it by saying that Abraham was the youngest of Terah’s sons, although the Book of Genesis names him the first, and consequently as the eldest. According to Genesis, Abraham was born in his father’s seventieth year; while, according to Calmet, he was born when his father was a hundred and thirty. Such a reconciliation has only been a new cause of controversy. Considering the uncertainty in which we are left by both text and commentary, the best we can do is to adore without disputing.

There is no epoch in those ancient times which has not produced a multitude of different opinions. According to Moréri there were in his day seventy systems of chronology founded on the history dictated by God himself. There have since appeared five new methods of reconciling the various texts of Scripture. Thus there are as many disputes about Abraham as the number of his years (according to the text) when he left Haran. And of these seventy-five systems there is not one which tells us precisely what this town or village of Haran was, or where it was situated. What thread shall guide us in this labyrinth of conjectures and contradictions from the very first verse to the very last? Resignation. The Holy Spirit did not intend to teach us chronology, metaphysics or logic; but only to inspire us with the fear of God. Since we can comprehend nothing, all that we can do is to submit.

It is equally difficult to explain satisfactorily how it was that Sarah, the wife of Abraham, was also his sister. Abraham says positively to Abimelech, king of Gerar, who had taken Sarah to himself on account of her great beauty, at the age of ninety, when she was pregnant of Isaac: “And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.” The Old Testament does not inform us how Sarah was her husband’s sister. Calmet, whose judgment and sagacity are known to every one, says that she might be his niece. With the Chaldæans it was probably no more an incest than with their neighbors, the Persians. Manners change with times and with places. It may be supposed that Abraham, the son of Terah, an idolater, was still an idolater when he married Sarah, whether Sarah was his sister or his niece.

There are several Fathers of the Church who do not think Abraham quite so excusable for having said to Sarah, in Egypt: “It shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife, and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake.” She was then only sixty-five. Since she had, twenty-five years afterwards the king of Gerar for a lover, it is not surprising that, when twenty-five years younger, she had kindled some passion in Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed, she was taken away by him in the same manner as she was afterwards taken by Abimelech, the king of Gerar, in the desert.

Abraham received presents, at the court of Pharaoh, of many “sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and she-asses, and camels.” These presents, which were considerable, prove that the Pharaohs had already become great kings; the country of Egypt must therefore have been very populous. But to make the country inhabitable, and to build towns, it must have cost immense labor. It was necessary to construct canals for the purpose of draining the waters of the Nile, which overflowed Egypt during four or five months of each year, and stagnated on the soil. It was also necessary to raise the town at least twenty feet above these canals. Works so considerable seem to have required thousands of ages.

There were only about four hundred years between the Deluge and the period at which we fix Abraham’s journey into Egypt. The Egyptians must have been very ingenious and indefatigably laborious, since, in so short a time, they invented all the arts and sciences, set bounds to the Nile, and changed the whole face of the country. Probably they had already built some of the great Pyramids, for we see that the art of embalming the dead was in a short time afterwards brought to perfection, and the Pyramids were only the tombs in which the bodies of their princes were deposited with the most august ceremonies.

This opinion of the great antiquity of the Pyramids receives additional countenance from the fact that three hundred years earlier, or but one hundred years after the Hebrew epoch of the Deluge of Noah, the Asiatics had built, in the plain of Sennaar, a tower which was to reach to heaven. St. Jerome, in his commentary on Isaiah, says that this tower was already four thousand paces high when God came down to stop the progress of the work.

Let us suppose each pace to be two feet and a half. Four thousand paces, then, are ten thousand feet; consequently the tower of Babel was twenty times as high as the Pyramids of Egypt, which are only about five hundred feet. But what a prodigious quantity of instruments must have been requisite to raise such an edifice! All the arts must have concurred in forwarding the work. Whence commentators conclude that men of those times were incomparably larger, stronger, and more industrious than those of modern nations.

So much may be remarked with respect to Abraham, as relating to the arts and sciences. With regard to his person, it is most likely that he was a man of considerable importance. The Chaldæans and the Persians each claim him as their own. The ancient religion of the magi has, from time immemorial, been called Kish Ibrahim, Milat Ibrahim, and it is agreed that the word Ibrahim is precisely the same as Abraham, nothing being more common among the Asiatics, who rarely wrote the vowels, than to change the i into a, or the a into i in pronunciation.

It has even been asserted that Abraham was the Brahma of the Indians, and that their notions were adopted by the people of the countries near the Euphrates, who traded with India from time immemorial.

The Arabs regarded him as the founder of Mecca. Mahomet, in his Koran, always viewed in him the most respectable of his predecessors. In his third sura, or chapter, he speaks of him thus: “Abraham was neither Jew nor Christian; he was an orthodox Mussulman; he was not of the number of those who imagine that God has colleagues.”

The temerity of the human understanding has even gone so far as to imagine that the Jews did not call themselves the descendants of Abraham until a very late period, when they had at last established themselves in Palestine. They were strangers, hated and despised by their neighbors. They wished, say some, to relieve themselves by passing for descendants of that Abraham who was so much reverenced in a great part of Asia. The faith which we owe to the sacred books of the Jews removes all these difficulties.

Other critics, no less hardy, start other objections relative to Abraham’s direct communication with the Almighty, his battles and his victories. The Lord appeared to him after he went out of Egypt, and said, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward, and eastward, and westward. For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever.”

The Lord, by a second oath, afterwards promised him all “from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” The critics ask, how could God promise the Jews this immense country which they have never possessed? And how could God give to them forever that small part of Palestine out of which they have so long been driven? Again, the Lord added to these promises, that Abraham’s posterity should be as numerous as the dust of the earth—“so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.”

Our critics insist there are not now on the face of the earth four hundred thousand Jews, though they have always regarded marriage as a sacred duty and made population their greatest object. To these difficulties it is replied that the church, substituted for the synagogue, is the true race of Abraham, which is therefore very numerous.

It must be admitted that they do not possess Palestine; but they may one day possess it, as they have already conquered it once, in the first crusade, in the time of Urban II. In a word, when we view the Old Testament with the eyes of faith, as a type of the New, all either is or will be accomplished, and our weak reason must bow in silence.

Fresh difficulties are raised respecting Abraham’s victory near Sodom. It is said to be inconceivable that a stranger who drove his flocks to graze in the neighborhood of Sodom should, with three hundred and eighteen keepers of sheep and oxen, beat a king of Persia, a king of Pontus, the king of Babylon, and the king of nations, and pursue them to Damascus, which is more than a hundred miles from Sodom. Yet such a victory is not impossible, for we see other similar instances in those heroic times when the arm of God was not shortened. Think of Gideon, who, with three hundred men, armed with three hundred pitchers and three hundred lamps, defeated a whole army! Think of Samson, who slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass!

Even profane history furnishes like examples. Three hundred Spartans stopped, for a moment, the whole army of Xerxes, at the pass of Thermopylæ. It is true that, with the exception of one man who fled, they were all slain, together with their king, Leonidas, whom Xerxes had the baseness to gibbet, instead of raising to his memory the monument which it deserved. It is moreover true that these three hundred Lacedæmonians, who guarded a steep passage which would scarcely admit two men abreast, were supported by an army of ten thousand Greeks, distributed in advantageous posts among the rocks of Pelion and Ossa, four thousand of whom, be it observed, were stationed behind this very passage of Thermopylæ.

These four thousand perished after a long combat. Having been placed in a situation more exposed than that of the three hundred Spartans, they may be said to have acquired more glory in defending it against the Persian army, which cut them all in pieces. Indeed, on the monument afterwards erected on the field of battle, mention was made of these four thousand victims, whereas none are spoken of now but the three hundred.

A still more memorable, though much less celebrated, action was that of fifty Swiss, who, in 1315, routed at Morgarten the whole army of the Archduke Leopold, of Austria, consisting of twenty thousand men. They destroyed the cavalry by throwing down stones from a high rock; and gave time to fourteen hundred Helvetians to come up and finish the defeat of the army. This achievement at Morgarten is more brilliant than that of Thermopylæ, inasmuch as it is a finer thing to conquer than to be conquered. The Greeks amounted to ten thousand, well armed; and it was impossible that, in a mountainous country, they could have to encounter more than a hundred thousand Persians at once; it is more than probable that there were not thirty thousand Persians engaged. But here fourteen hundred Swiss defeat an army of twenty thousand men. The diminished proportions of the less to the greater number also increases the proportion of glory. But how far has Abraham led us? These digressions amuse him who makes and sometimes him who reads them. Besides, every one is delighted to see a great army beaten by a little one.


Abraham is one of those names which were famous in Asia Minor and Arabia, as Thaut was among the Egyptians, the first Zoroaster in Persia, Hercules in Greece, Orpheus in Thrace, Odin among the northern nations, and so many others, known more by their fame than by any authentic history. I speak here of profane history only; as for that of the Jews, our masters and our enemies, whom we at once detest and believe, their history having evidently been written by the Holy Ghost, we feel toward it as we ought to feel. We have to do here only with the Arabs. They boast of having descended from Abraham through Ishmael, believing that this patriarch built Mecca and died there. The fact is, that the race of Ishmael has been infinitely more favored by God than has that of Jacob. Both races, it is true, have produced robbers; but the Arabian robbers have been prodigiously superior to the Jewish ones; the descendants of Jacob conquered only a very small country, which they have lost, whereas the descendants of Ishmael conquered parts of Asia, of Europe, and of Africa, established an empire more extensive than that of the Romans, and drove the Jews from their caverns, which they called The Land of Promise.

Judging of things only by the examples to be found in our modern histories, it would be difficult to believe that Abraham had been the father of two nations so widely different. We are told that he was born in Chaldæa, and that he was the son of a poor potter, who earned his bread by making little earthen idols. It is hardly likely that this son of a potter should have passed through impracticable deserts and founded the city of Mecca, at the distance of four hundred leagues, under a tropical sun. If he was a conqueror, he doubtless cast his eyes on the fine country of Assyria. If he was no more than a poor man, he did not found kingdoms abroad.

The Book of Genesis relates that he was seventy-five years old when he went out of the land of Haran after the death of his father, Terah the potter; but the same book also tells us that Terah, having begotten Abraham at the age of seventy years, lived to that of two hundred and five; and, afterward, that Abraham went out of Haran, which seems to signify that it was after the death of his father.

Either the author did not know how to dispose his narration, or it is clear from the Book of Genesis itself that Abraham was one hundred and thirty-five years old when he quitted Mesopotamia. He went from a country which is called idolatrous to another idolatrous country named Sichem, in Palestine. Why did he quit the fruitful banks of the Euphrates for a spot so remote, so barren, and so stony as Sichem? It was not a place of trade, and was distant a hundred leagues from Chaldæa, and deserts lay between. But God chose that Abraham should go this journey; he chose to show him the land which his descendants were to occupy several ages after him. It is with difficulty that the human understanding comprehends the reasons for such a journey.

Scarcely had he arrived in the little mountainous country of Sichem, when famine compelled him to quit it. He went into Egypt with his wife Sarah, to seek a subsistence. The distance from Sichem to Memphis is two hundred leagues. Is it natural that a man should go so far to ask for corn in a country the language of which he did not understand? Truly these were strange journeys, undertaken at the age of nearly a hundred and forty years!

He brought with him to Memphis his wife, Sarah, who was extremely young, and almost an infant when compared with himself; for she was only sixty-five. As she was very handsome, he resolved to turn her beauty to account. “Say, I pray thee, that thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake.” He should rather have said to her, “Say, I pray thee, that thou art my daughter.” The king fell in love with the young Sarah, and gave the pretended brother abundance of sheep, oxen, he-asses, she-asses, camels, men-servants and maid-servants; which proves that Egypt was then a powerful and well-regulated, and consequently an ancient kingdom, and that those were magnificently rewarded who came and offered their sisters to the kings of Memphis. The youthful Sarah was ninety years old when God promised her that, in the course of a year, she should have a child by Abraham, who was then a hundred and sixty.

Abraham, who was fond of travelling, went into the horrible desert of Kadesh with his pregnant wife, ever young and ever pretty. A king of this desert was, of course, captivated by Sarah, as the king of Egypt had been. The father of the faithful told the same lie as in Egypt, making his wife pass for his sister; which brought him more sheep, oxen, men-servants, and maid-servants. It might be said that this Abraham became rich principally by means of his wife. Commentators have written a prodigious number of volumes to justify Abraham’s conduct, and to explain away the errors in chronology. To these commentaries we must refer the reader; they are all composed by men of nice and acute perceptions, excellent metaphysicians, and by no means pedants.

For the rest, this name of Bram, or Abram, was famous in Judæa and in Persia. Several of the learned even assert that he was the same legislator whom the Greeks called Zoroaster. Others say that he was the Brahma of the Indians, which is not demonstrated. But it appears very reasonable to many that this Abraham was a Chaldæan or a Persian, from whom the Jews afterwards boasted of having descended, as the Franks did of their descent from Hector, and the Britons from Tubal. It cannot be denied that the Jewish nation were a very modern horde; that they did not establish themselves on the borders of Phœnicia until a very late period; that they were surrounded by ancient states, whose language they adopted, receiving from them even the name of Israel, which is Chaldæan, from the testimony of the Jew Flavius Josephus himself. We know that they took the names of the angels from the Babylonians, and that they called God by the names of Eloi or Eloa, Adonaï, Jehovah or Hiao, after the Phœnicians. It is probable that they knew the name of Abraham or Ibrahim only through the Babylonians; for the ancient religion of all the countries from the Euphrates to the Oxus was called Kish Ibrahim or Milat Ibrahim. This is confirmed by all the researches made on the spot by the learned Hyde.

The Jews, then, treat their history and ancient fables as their clothesmen treat their old coats—they turn them and sell them for new at as high a price as possible. It is a singular instance of human stupidity that we have so long considered the Jews as a nation which taught all others, while their historian Josephus himself confesses the contrary.

It is difficult to penetrate the shades of antiquity; but it is evident that all the kingdoms of Asia were in a very flourishing state before the wandering horde of Arabs, called Jews, had a small spot of earth which they called their own—when they had neither a town, nor laws, nor even a fixed religion. When, therefore, we see an ancient rite or an ancient opinion established in Egypt or Asia, and also among the Jews, it is very natural to suppose that this small, newly formed, ignorant, stupid people copied, as well as they were able, the ancient, flourishing, and industrious nation.

It is on this principle that we must judge of Judæa, Biscay, Cornwall, etc. Most certainly triumphant Rome did not in anything imitate Biscay or Cornwall; and he must be either very ignorant or a great knave who would say that the Jews taught anything to the Greeks.


It must not be thought that Abraham was known only to the Jews; on the contrary, he was renowned throughout Asia. This name, which signifies father of a people in more Oriental languages than one, was given to some inhabitant of Chaldæa from whom several nations have boasted of descending. The pains which the Arabs and the Jews took to establish their descent from this patriarch render it impossible for even the greatest Pyrrhoneans to doubt of there having been an Abraham.

The Hebrew Scriptures make him the son of Terah, while the Arabs say that Terah was his grandfather and Azar his father, in which they have been followed by several Christians. The interpreters are of forty-two different opinions with respect to the year in which Abraham was brought into the world, and I shall not hazard a forty-third. It also appears, by the dates, that Abraham lived sixty years longer than the text allows him; but mistakes in chronology do not destroy the truth of a fact. Supposing even that the book which speaks of Abraham had not been so sacred as was the law, it is not therefore less certain that Abraham existed. The Jews distinguished books written by inspired men from books composed by particular inspiration. How, indeed, can it be believed that God dictated false dates?

Philo, the Jew of Suidas, relates that Terah, the father or grandfather of Abraham, who dwelt at Ur in Chaldæa, was a poor man who gained a livelihood by making little idols, and that he was himself an idolater. If so, that ancient religion of the Sabeans, who had no idols, but worshipped the heavens, had not, then, perhaps, been established in Chaldæa; or, if it prevailed in one part of the country, it is very probable that idolatry was predominant in the rest. It seems that in those times each little horde had its religion, as each family had its own peculiar customs; all were tolerated, and all were peaceably confounded. Laban, the father-in-law of Jacob, had idols. Each clan was perfectly willing that the neighboring clan should have its gods, and contented itself with believing that its own were the mightiest.

The Scripture says that the God of the Jews, who intended to give them the land of Canaan, commanded Abraham to leave the fertile country of Chaldæa and go towards Palestine, promising him that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. It is for theologians to explain, by allegory and mystical sense, how all the nations of the earth were to be blessed in a seed from which they did not descend, since this much-to-be-venerated mystical sense cannot be made the object of a research purely critical. A short time after these promises Abraham’s family was afflicted by famine, and went into Egypt for corn. It is singular that the Hebrews never went into Egypt, except when pressed by hunger; for Jacob afterwards sent his children on the same errand.

Abraham, who was then very old, went this journey with his wife Sarah, aged sixty-five: she was very handsome, and Abraham feared that the Egyptians, smitten by her charms, would kill him in order to enjoy her transcendent beauties: he proposed to her that she should pass for his sister, etc. Human nature must at that time have possessed a vigor which time and luxury have since very much weakened. This was the opinion of all the ancients; it has been asserted that Helen was seventy when she was carried off by Paris. That which Abraham had foreseen came to pass; the Egyptian youth found his wife charming, notwithstanding her sixty-five years; the king himself fell in love with her, and placed her in his seraglio, though, probably, he had younger women there; but the Lord plagued the king and his seraglio with very great sores. The text does not tell us how the king came to know that this dangerous beauty was Abraham’s wife; but it seems that he did come to know it, and restored her.

Sarah’s beauty must have been unalterable; for twenty-five years afterwards, when she was ninety years old, pregnant, and travelling with her husband through the dominions of a king of Phœnicia named Abimelech, Abraham, who had not yet corrected himself, made her a second time pass for his sister. The Phœnician king was as sensible to her attractions as the king of Egypt had been; but God appeared to this Abimelech in a dream, and threatened him with death if he touched his new mistress. It must be confessed that Sarah’s conduct was as extraordinary as the lasting nature of her charms.

The singularity of these adventures was probably the reason why the Jews had not the same sort of faith in their histories as they had in their Leviticus. There was not a single iota of their law in which they did not believe; but the historical part of their Scriptures did not demand the same respect. Their conduct in regard to their ancient books may be compared to that of the English, who received the laws of St. Edward without absolutely believing that St. Edward cured the scrofula; or to that of the Romans, who, while they obeyed their primitive laws, were not obliged to believe in the miracles of the sieve filled with water, the ship drawn to the shore by a vestal’s girdle, the stone cut with a razor, and so forth. Therefore the historian Josephus, though strongly attached to his form of worship, leaves his readers at liberty to believe just so much as they choose of the ancient prodigies which he relates. For the same reason the Sadducees were permitted not to believe in the angels, although the angels are so often spoken of in the Old Testament; but these same Sadducees were not permitted to neglect the prescribed feasts, fasts, and ceremonies. This part of Abraham’s history (the journeys into Egypt and Phœnicia) proves that great kingdoms were already established, while the Jewish nation existed in a single family; that there already were laws, since without them a great kingdom cannot exist; and consequently that the law of Moses, which was posterior, was not the first law. It is not necessary for a law to be divine, that it should be the most ancient of all. God is undoubtedly the master of time. It would, it is true, seem more conformable to the faint light of reason that God, having to give a law, should have given it at the first to all mankind; but if it be proved that He proceeds in a different way, it is not for us to question Him.

The remainder of Abraham’s history is subject to great difficulties. God, who frequently appeared to and made several treaties with him, one day sent three angels to him in the valley of Mamre. The patriarch gave them bread, veal, butter, and milk to eat. The three spirits dined, and after dinner they sent for Sarah, who had baked the bread. One of the angels, whom the text calls the Lord, the Eternal, promised Sarah that, in the course of a year, she should have a son. Sarah, who was then ninety-four, while her husband was nearly a hundred, laughed at the promise—a proof that Sarah confessed her decrepitude—a proof that, according to the Scripture itself, human nature was not then very different from what it is now. Nevertheless, the following year, as we have already seen, this aged woman, after becoming pregnant, captivated King Abimelech. Certes, to consider these stories as natural, we must either have a species of understanding quite different from that which we have at present, or regard every trait in the life of Abraham as a miracle, or believe that it is only an allegory; but whichever way we turn, we cannot escape embarrassment. For instance, what are we to make of God’s promise to Abraham that he would give to him and his posterity all the land of Canaan, which no Chaldæan ever possessed? This is one of the difficulties which it is impossible to solve.

It seems astonishing that God, after causing Isaac to be born of a centenary father and a woman of ninety-five, should afterwards have ordered that father to murder the son whom he had given him contrary to every expectation. This strange order from God seems to show that, at the time when this history was written, the sacrifice of human victims was customary amongst the Jews, as it afterwards became in other nations, as witness the vow of Jephthah. But it may be said that the obedience of Abraham, who was ready to sacrifice his son to the God who had given him, is an allegory of the resignation which man owes to the orders of the Supreme Being.

There is one remark which it is particularly important to make on the history of this patriarch regarded as the father of the Jews and the Arabs. His principal children were Isaac, born of his wife by a miraculous favor of Providence, and Ishmael, born of his servant. It was in Isaac that the race of the patriarch was blessed; yet Isaac was father only of an unfortunate and contemptible people, who were for a long period slaves, and have for a still longer period been dispersed. Ishmael, on the contrary, was the father of the Arabs, who, in course of time, established the empire of the caliphs, one of the most powerful and most extensive in the world.

The Mussulmans have a great reverence for Abraham, whom they call Ibrahim. Those who believe him to have been buried at Hebron, make a pilgrimage thither, while those who think that his tomb is at Mecca, go and pay their homage to him there.

Some of the ancient Persians believed that Abraham was the same as Zoroaster. It has been with him as with most of the founders of the Eastern nations, to whom various names and various adventures have been attributed; but it appears by the Scripture text that he was one of those wandering Arabs who had no fixed habitation. We see him born at Ur in Chaldæa, going first to Haran, then into Palestine, then into Egypt, then into Phœnicia, and lastly forced to buy a grave at Hebron.

One of the most remarkable circumstances of his life was, that at the age of ninety, before he had begotten Isaac, he caused himself, his son Ishmael, and all his servants to be circumcised. It seems that he had adopted this idea from the Egyptians. It is difficult to determine the origin of such an operation; but it is most likely that it was performed in order to prevent the abuses of puberty. But why should a man undergo this operation at the age of a hundred?

On the other hand it is asserted that only the priests were anciently distinguished in Egypt by this custom. It was a usage of great antiquity in Africa and part of Asia for the most holy personages to present their virile member to be kissed by the women whom they met. The organs of generation were looked upon as something noble and sacred—as a symbol of divine power: it was customary to swear by them; and, when taking an oath to another person, to lay the hand on his testicles. It was perhaps from this ancient custom that they afterwards received their name, which signifies witnesses, because they were thus made a testimony and a pledge. When Abraham sent his servant to ask Rebecca for his son Isaac, the servant placed his hand on Abraham’s genitals, which has been translated by the word thigh.

By this we see how much the manners of remote antiquity differed from ours. In the eyes of a philosopher it is no more astonishing that men should formerly have sworn by that part than by the head; nor is it astonishing that those who wished to distinguish themselves from other men should have testified by this venerated portion of the human person.

The Book of Genesis tells us that circumcision was a covenant between God and Abraham; and expressly adds, that whosoever shall not be circumcised in his house, shall be put to death. Yet we are not told that Isaac was circumcised; nor is circumcision again spoken of until the time of Moses.

We shall conclude this article with one more observation, which is, that Abraham, after having by Sarah and Hagar two sons, who became each the father of a great nation, had six sons by Keturah, who settled in Arabia; but their posterity were not famous.


A vice attached to all the customs, to all the laws, to all the institutions of man: the detail is too vast to be contained in any library.

States are governed by abuses. Maximus ille est qui minimis urgetur. It might be said to the Chinese, to the Japanese, to the English—your government swarms with abuses, which you do not correct! The Chinese will reply: We have existed as a people for five thousand years, and at this day are perhaps the most fortunate nation on earth, because we are the most tranquil. The Japanese will say nearly the same. The English will answer: We are powerful at sea, and prosperous on land; perhaps in ten thousand years we shall bring our usages to perfection. The grand secret is, to be in a better condition than others, even with enormous abuses.


Books, like conversation, rarely give us any precise ideas: nothing is so common as to read and converse unprofitably.

We must here repeat what Locke has so strongly urged—Define your terms.

A jurisconsult, in his criminal institute, announces that the non-observance of Sundays and holidays is treason against the Divine Majesty. Treason against the Divine Majesty gives an idea of the most enormous of crimes, and the most dreadful of chastisements. But what constitutes the offence? To have missed vespers?—a thing which may happen to the best man in the world.

In all disputes on liberty, one reasoner generally understands one thing, and his adversary another. A third comes in who understands neither the one nor the other, nor is himself understood. In these disputes, one has in his head the power of acting; a second, the power of willing; a third, the desire of executing; each revolves in his own circle, and they never meet. It is the same with quarrels about grace. Who can understand its nature, its operations, the sufficiency which is not sufficient, and the efficacy which is ineffectual.

The words substantial form were pronounced for two thousand years without suggesting the least notion. For these, plastic natures have been substituted, but still without anything being gained.

A traveller, stopped on his way by a torrent, asks a villager on the opposite bank to show him the ford: “Go to the right!” shouts the countryman. He takes the right and is drowned. The other runs up crying: “Oh! how unfortunate! I did not tell him to go to his right, but to mine!

The world is full of these misunderstandings. How will a Norwegian, when reading this formula: Servant of the servants of God; discover that it is the Bishop of Bishops, and King of Kings who speaks?

At the time when the “Fragments of Petronius” made a great noise in the literary world, Meibomius, a noted learned man of Lübeck, read in the printed letter of another learned man of Bologna: “We have here an entire Petronius, which I have seen with my own eyes and admired.” Habemus hic Petronium integrum, quem vidi meis oculis non sine admiratione. He immediately set out for Italy, hastened to Bologna, went to the librarian Capponi, and asked him if it were true that they had the entire Petronius at Bologna. Capponi answered that it was a fact which had long been public. “Can I see this Petronius? Be so good as to show him to me.” “Nothing is more easy,” said Capponi. He then took him to the church in which the body of St. Petronius was laid. Meibomius ordered horses and fled.

If the Jesuit Daniel took a warlike abbot, abbatem martialem, for the abbot Martial, a hundred historians have fallen into still greater mistakes. The Jesuit d’Orleans, in his “Revolutions of England,” wrote indifferently Northampton or Southampton, only mistaking the north for the south, or vice versa.

Metaphysical terms, taken in their proper sense, have sometimes determined the opinion of twenty nations. Every one knows the metaphor of Isaiah, How hast thou fallen from heaven, thou star which rose in the morning? This discourse was imagined to have been addressed to the devil; and as the Hebrew word answering to the planet Venus was rendered in Latin by the word Lucifer, the devil has ever since been called Lucifer.

Much ridicule has been bestowed on the “Chart of the Tender Passion” by Mdlle. Cuderi. The lovers embark on the river Tendre; they dine at Tendre sur Estime, sup at Tendre sur Inclination, sleep at Tendre sur Désir, find themselves the next morning at Tendre sur Passion, and lastly at Tendre sur Tendre. These ideas may be ridiculous, especially when Clelia, Horatius Cocles, and other rude and austere Romans set out on the voyage; but this geographical chart at least shows us that love has various lodgings, and that the same word does not always signify the same thing. There is a prodigious difference between the love of Tarquin and that of Celadon—between David’s love for Jonathan, which was stronger than that of women, and the Abbé Desfontaines’ love for little chimney-sweepers.

The most singular instance of this abuse of words—these voluntary equivoques—these misunderstandings which have caused so many quarrels—is the Chinese King-tien. The missionaries having violent disputes about the meaning of this word, the Court of Rome sent a Frenchman, named Maigrot, whom they made the imaginary bishop of a province in China, to adjust the difference. Maigrot did not know a word of Chinese; but the emperor deigned to grant that he should be told what he understood by King-tien. Maigrot would not believe what was told him, but caused the emperor of China to be condemned at Rome!

The abuse of words is an inexhaustible subject. In history, in morality, in jurisprudence, in medicine, but especially in theology, beware of ambiguity.


Academies are to universities as maturity is to childhood, oratory to grammar, or politeness to the first lessons in civility. Academies, not being stipendiary, should be entirely free; such were the academies of Italy; such is the French Academy; and such, more particularly, is the Royal Society of London.

The French Academy, which formed itself, received, it is true, letters patent from Louis XIII., but without any salary, and consequently without any subjection; hence it was that the first men in the kingdom, and even princes, sought admission into this illustrious body. The Society of London has possessed the same advantage.

The celebrated Colbert, being a member of the French Academy, employed some of his brethren to compose inscriptions and devices for the public buildings. This assembly, to which Boileau and Racine afterwards belonged, soon became an academy of itself. The establishment of this Academy of Inscriptions, now called that of the Belles-Lettres, may, indeed, be dated from the year 1661, and that of the Academy of Sciences from 1666. We are indebted for both establishments to the same minister, who contributed in so many ways to the splendor of the age of Louis XIV.

After the deaths of Jean Baptiste Colbert and the Marquis de Louvois, when Count de Pontchartrain, secretary of state, had the department of Paris, he intrusted the government of the new academies to his nephew, the Abbé Bignon. Then were first devised honorary fellowships requiring no learning, and without remuneration; places with salaries disagreeably distinguished from the former; fellowships without salaries; and scholarships, a title still more disagreeable, which has since been suppressed. The Academy of the Belles-Lettres was put on the same footing; both submitted to the immediate control of the secretary of state, and to the revolting distinction of honoraries, pensionaries, and pupils.

The Abbé Bignon ventured to propose the same regulation to the French Academy, of which he was a member; but he was heard with unanimous indignation. The least opulent in the Academy were the first to reject his offers, and to prefer liberty to pensions and honors. The Abbé Bignon, who, in the laudable intention of doing good, had dealt too freely with the noble sentiments of his brethren, never again set his foot in the French Academy.

The word Academy became so celebrated that when Lulli, who was a sort of favorite, obtained the establishment of his Opera, in 1692, he had interest enough to get inserted in the patent, that it was a Royal Academy of Music, in which Ladies and Gentlemen might sing without demeaning themselves. He did not confer the same honor on the dancers; the public, however, has always continued to go to the Opera, but never to the Academy of Music.

It is known that the word Academy, borrowed from the Greeks, originally signified a society or school of philosophy at Athens, which met in a garden bequeathed to it by Academus. The Italians were the first who instituted such societies after the revival of letters; the Academy Della Crusca is of the sixteenth century. Academies were afterwards established in every town where the sciences were cultivated. The Society of London has never taken the title of Academy.

The provincial academies have been of signal advantage. They have given birth to emulation, forced youth to labor, introduced them to a course of good reading, dissipated the ignorance and prejudices of some of our towns, fostered a spirit of politeness, and, as far as it is possible, destroyed pedantry.

Scarcely anything has been written against the French Academy, except frivolous and insipid pleasantries. St. Evremond’s comedy of “The Academicians” had some reputation in its time; but a proof of the little merit it possessed is that it is now forgotten, whereas the good satires of Boileau are immortal.



So much has been said and so much written concerning Adam, his wife, the pre-Adamites, etc., and the rabbis have put forth so many idle stories respecting Adam, and it is so dull to repeat what others have said before, that I shall here hazard an idea entirely new; one, at least, which is not to be found in any ancient author, father of the church, preacher, theologian, critic, or scholar with whom I am acquainted. I mean the profound secrecy with respect to Adam which was observed throughout the habitable earth, Palestine only excepted, until the time when the Jewish books began to be known in Alexandria, and were translated into Greek under one of the Ptolemies. Still they were very little known; for large books were very rare and very dear. Besides, the Jews of Jerusalem were so incensed against those of Alexandria, loaded them with so many reproaches for having translated their Bible into a profane tongue, called them so many ill names, and cried so loudly to the Lord, that the Alexandrian Jews concealed their translation as much as possible; it was so secret that no Greek or Roman author speaks of it before the time of the Emperor Aurefian.

The historian Josephus confesses, in his answer to Appian, that the Jews had not long had any intercourse with other nations: “We inhabit,” says he, “a country distant from the sea; we do not apply ourselves to commerce, nor have we any communication with other nations. Is it to be wondered at that our people, dwelling so far from the sea, and affecting never to write, have been so little known?”

Here it will probably be asked how Josephus could say that his nation affected never to write anything, when they had twenty-two canonical books, without reckoning the “Targum” by Onkelos. But it must be considered that twenty-two small volumes were very little when compared with the multitude of books preserved in the library of Alexandria, half of which were burned in Cæsar’s war.

It is certain that the Jews had written and read very little; that they were profoundly ignorant of astronomy, geometry, geography, and physics; that they knew nothing of the history of other nations; and that in Alexandria they first began to learn. Their language was a barbarous mixture of ancient Phœnician and corrupted Chaldee; it was so poor that several moods were wanting in the conjugation of their verbs.

Moreover, as they communicated neither their books nor the titles of them to any foreigner, no one on earth except themselves had ever heard of Adam, or Eve, or Abel, or Cain, or Noah. Abraham alone was, in course of time, known to the Oriental nations; but no ancient people admitted that Abraham was the root of the Jewish nation.

Such are the secrets of Providence, that the father and mother of the human race have ever been totally unknown to their descendants; so that the names of Adam and Eve are to be found in no ancient author, either of Greece, of Rome, of Persia, or of Syria, nor even among the Arabs, until near the time of Mahomet. It was God’s pleasure that the origin of the great family of the world should be concealed from all but the smallest and most unfortunate part of that family.

How is it that Adam and Eve have been unknown to all their children? How could it be that neither in Egypt nor in Babylon was any trace—any tradition—of our first parents to be found? Why were they not mentioned by Orpheus, by Linus, or by Thamyris? For if they had said but one word of them, it would undoubtedly have been caught by Hesiod, and especially by Homer, who speak of everything except the authors of the human race. Clement of Alexandria, who collected so many ancient testimonies, would not have failed to quote any passage in which mention had been made of Adam and Eve. Eusebius, in his “Universal History,” has examined even the most doubtful testimonies, and would assuredly have made the most of the smallest allusion, or appearance of an allusion, to our first parents. It is, then, sufficiently clear that they were always utterly unknown to the nations.

We do, it is true, find among the Brahmins, in the book entitled the “Ezourveidam,” the names of Adimo and of Procriti, his wife. But though Adimo has some little resemblance to our Adam, the Indians say: “We were a great people established on the banks of the Indus and the Ganges many ages before the Hebrew horde moved towards the Jordan. The Egyptians, the Persians, and the Arabs came to us for wisdom and spices when the Jews were unknown to the rest of mankind. We cannot have taken our Adimo from their Adam; our Procriti does not in the least resemble Eve; besides, their history and ours are entirely different.

“Moreover, the ‘Veidam,’ on which the ‘Ezourveidam’ is a commentary, is believed by us to have been composed at a more remote period of antiquity than the Jewish books; and the ‘Veidam’ itself is a newer law given to the Brahmins, fifteen hundred years after their first law, called Shasta or Shastabad.”

Such, or nearly such, are the answers which the Brahmins of the present day have often made to the chaplains of merchant vessels who have talked to them of Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel, when the traders of Europe have gone, with arms in their hands, to buy their spices and lay waste their country.

The Phœnician Sanchoniathon, who certainly lived before the period at which we place Moses, and who is quoted by Eusebius as an authentic writer, gives ten generations to the human race, as does Moses, down to the time of Noah; but, in these ten generations, he mentions neither Adam nor Eve, nor any of their descendants, not even Noah himself. The names, according to the Greek translation by Philo of Biblos, are Æon, Genos, Phox, Liban, Usou, Halieus, Chrisor, Tecnites, Agrove, Amine; these are the first ten generations.

We do not see the name of Noah or of Adam in any of the ancient dynasties of Egypt: they are not to be found among the Chaldæans; in a word, the whole earth has been silent respecting them. It must be owned that such a silence is unparalleled. Every people has attributed to itself some imaginary origin, yet none has approached the true one. We cannot comprehend how the father of all nations has so long been unknown, while in the natural course of things his name should have been carried from mouth to mouth to the farthest corners of the earth.

Let us humble ourselves to the decrees of that Providence which has permitted so astonishing an oblivion. All was mysterious and concealed in the nation guided by God Himself, which prepared the way for Christianity, and was the wild olive on which the fruitful one has been grafted. That the names of the authors of mankind should be unknown to mankind is a mystery of the highest order.

I will venture to affirm that it has required a miracle thus to shut the eyes and ears of all nations—to destroy every monument, every memorial of their first father. What would Cæsar, Antony, Crassus, Pompey, Cicero, Marcellus, or Metellus have thought, if a poor Jew, while selling them balm, had said, “We all descend from one father, named Adam.” All the Roman senate would have cried, “Show us our genealogical tree.” Then the Jew would have displayed his ten generations, down to the time of Noah, and the secret of the universal deluge. The senate would have asked him how many persons were in the ark to feed all the animals for ten whole months, and during the following year in which no food would be produced? The peddler would have said, “We were eight—Noah and his wife, their three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, and their wives. All this family descended in a right line from Adam.”

Cicero, would, doubtless, have inquired for the great monuments, the indisputable testimonies which Noah and his children had left of our common father. “After the deluge,” he would have said, “the whole world would have resounded with the names of Adam and Noah, one the father, the other the restorer of every race. These names would have been in every mouth as soon as men could speak, on every parchment as soon as they could write, on the door of every house as soon as they could build, on every temple, on every statue; and have you known so great a secret, yet concealed it from us?” The Jew would have answered: “It is because we are pure and you are impure.” The Roman senate would have laughed and the Jew would have been whipped; so much are men attached to their prejudices!


The pious Madame de Bourignon was sure that Adam was an hermaphrodite, like the first men of the divine Plato. God had revealed a great secret to her; but as I have not had the same revelation, I shall say nothing of the matter.

The Jewish rabbis have read Adam’s books, and know the names of his preceptor and his second wife; but as I have not read our first parent’s books, I shall remain silent. Some acute and very learned persons are quite astonished when they read the “Veidam” of the ancient Brahmins, to find that the first man was created in India, and called Adimo, which signifies the begetter, and his wife, Procriti, signifying life. They say the sect of the Brahmins is incontestably more ancient than that of the Jews; that it was not until a late period that the Jews could write in the Canaanitish language, since it was not until late that they established themselves in the little country of Canaan. They say the Indians were always inventors, and the Jews always imitators; the Indians always ingenious, and the Jews always rude. They say it is difficult to believe that Adam, who was fair and had hair on his head, was father to the negroes, who are entirely black, and have black wool. What, indeed, do they not say? As for me, I say nothing; I leave these researches to the Reverend Father Berruyer of the Society of Jesus. He is the most perfect Innocent I have ever known; the book has been burned, as that of a man who wished to turn the Bible into ridicule; but I am quite sure he had no such wicked end in view.


The age for inquiring seriously whether or not knowledge was infused into Adam had passed by; those who so long agitated the question had no knowledge, either infused or acquired. It is as difficult to know at what time the Book of Genesis, which speaks of Adam, was written, as it is to know the date of the “Veidam,” of the “Sanskrit,” or any other of the ancient Asiatic books. It is important to remark that the Jews were not permitted to read the first chapter of Genesis before they were twenty-five years old. Many rabbis have regarded the formation of Adam and Eve and their adventure as an allegory. Every celebrated nation of antiquity has imagined some similar one; and, by a singular concurrence, which marks the weakness of our nature, all have endeavored to explain the origin of moral and physical evil by ideas nearly alike. The Chaldæans, the Indians, the Persians and the Egyptians have accounted, in similar ways, for that mixture of good and evil which seems to be a necessary appendage to our globe. The Jews, who went out of Egypt, rude as they were, had heard of the allegorical philosophy of the Egyptians. With the little knowledge thus acquired, they afterwards mixed that which they received from the Phœnicians and from the Babylonians during their long slavery. But as it is natural and very common for a rude nation to imitate rudely the conceptions of a polished people, it is not surprising that the Jews imagined a woman formed from the side of a man, the spirit of life breathed from the mouth of God on the face of Adam—the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Nile and the Oxus, having all the same source in a garden, and the forbidden fruit, which brought death into the world, as well as physical and moral evil. Full of the idea which prevailed among the ancients, that the serpent was a very cunning animal, they had no great difficulty in endowing it with understanding and speech.

This people, who then inhabited only a small corner of the earth, which they believed to be long, narrow and flat, could easily believe that all men came from Adam. They did not even know that the negroes, with a conformation different from their own, inhabited immense regions; still less could they have any idea of America.

It is, however, very strange that the Jewish people were permitted to read the books of Exodus, where there are so many miracles that shock reason, yet were not permitted to read before the age of twenty-five the first chapter of Genesis, in which all is necessarily a miracle, since the creation is the subject. Perhaps it was because God, after creating the man and woman in the first chapter, makes them again in another, and it was thought expedient to keep this appearance of contradiction from the eyes of youth. Perhaps it is because it is said that God made man in his own image, and this expression gave the Jews too corporeal an idea of God. Perhaps it was because it is said that God took a rib from Adam’s side to form the woman, and the young and inconsiderate, feeling their sides, and finding the right number of ribs, might have suspected the author of some infidelity. Perhaps it was because God, who always took a walk at noon in the garden of Eden, laughed at Adam after his fall, and this tone of ridicule might tend to give youth too great a taste for pleasantry. In short, every line of this chapter furnishes very plausible reasons for interdicting the reading of it; but such being the case, one cannot clearly see how it was that the other chapters were permitted. It is, besides, surprising that the Jews were not to read this chapter until they were twenty-five. One would think that it should first have been proposed to childhood, which receives everything without examination, rather than to youth, whose pride is to judge and to laugh. On the other hand, the Jews of twenty-five years of age, having their judgments prepared and strengthened, might be more fitted to receive this chapter than inexperienced minds. We shall say nothing here of Adam’s second wife, named Lillah, whom the ancient rabbis have given him. It must be confessed that we know very few anecdotes of our family.


Is it not a great fault in some modern languages that the same word that is used in addressing the Supreme Being is also used in addressing a mistress? We not infrequently go from hearing a sermon, in which the preacher has talked of nothing but adoring God in spirit and in truth, to the opera, where nothing is to be heard but the charming object of my adoration, etc.

The Greeks and Romans, at least, did not fall into this extravagant profanation. Horace does not say that he adores Lalage; Tibullus does not adore Delia; nor is even the term adoration to be found in Petronius. If anything can excuse this indecency, it is the frequent mention which is made in our operas and songs of the gods of ancient fable. Poets have said that their mistresses were more adorable than these false divinities; for which no one could blame them. We have insensibly become familiarized with this mode of expression, until at last, without any perception of the folly, the God of the universe is addressed in the same terms as an opera singer.

But to return to the important part of our subject: There is no civilized nation which does not render public adoration to God. It is true that neither in Asia nor in Africa is any person forced to the mosque or temple of the place; each one goes of his own accord. This custom of assembling should tend to unite the minds of men and render them more gentle in society; yet have they been seen raging against each other, even in the consecrated abode of peace. The temple of Jerusalem was deluged with blood by zealots who murdered their brethren, and our churches have more than once been defiled by carnage.

In the article on “China” it will be seen that the emperor is the chief pontiff, and that the worship is august and simple. There are other countries in which it is simple without any magnificence, as among the reformers of Europe and in British America. In others wax tapers must be lighted at noon, although in the primitive ages they were held in abomination. A convent of nuns, if deprived of their tapers, would cry out that the light of the faith was extinguished and the world would shortly be at an end. The Church of England holds a middle course between the pompous ceremonies of the Church of Rome and the plainness of the Calvinists.

Throughout the East, songs, dances and torches formed part of the ceremonies essential in all sacred feasts. No sacerdotal institution existed among the Greeks without songs and dances. The Hebrews borrowed this custom from their neighbors; for David sang and danced before the ark.

St. Matthew speaks of a canticle sung by Jesus Christ Himself and by His apostles after their Passover. This canticle, which is not admitted into the authorized books, is to be found in fragments in the 237th letter of St. Augustine to Bishop Chretius; and, whatever disputes there may have been about its authenticity, it is certain that singing was employed in all religious ceremonies. Mahomet found this a settled mode of worship among the Arabs; it is also established in India, but does not appear to be in use among the lettered men of China. The ceremonies of all places have some resemblance and some difference; but God is worshipped throughout the earth. Woe, assuredly, unto those who do not adore Him as we do! whether erring in their tenets or in their rites. They sit in the shadow of death; but the greater their misfortune the more are they to be pitied and supported.

It is indeed a great consolation for us that the Mahometans, the Indians, the Chinese, the Tartars, all adore one only God; for so far they are our kindred. Their fatal ignorance of our sacred mysteries can only inspire us with tender compassion for our wandering brethren. Far from us be all spirit of persecution which would only serve to render them irreconcilable.

One only God being adored throughout the known world, shall those who acknowledge Him as their Father never cease to present to Him the revolting spectacle of His children detesting, anathematizing, persecuting and massacring one another by way of argument?

It is hard to determine precisely what the Greeks and Romans understood by adoring, or whether they adored fauns, sylvans, dryads and naiads as they adored the twelve superior gods. It is not likely that Adrian’s minion, Antinous, was adored by the Egyptians of later times with the same worship which they paid to Serapis; and it is sufficiently proved that the ancient Egyptians did not adore onions and crocodiles as they did Isis and Osiris. Ambiguity abounds everywhere and confounds everything; we are obliged at every word to exclaim, What do you mean? we must constantly repeat—Define your terms.

Is it quite true that Simon, called the Magician, was adored among the Romans? It is not more true that he was utterly unknown to them. St. Justin in his “Apology,” which was as little known at Rome as Simon, tells us that this God had a statue erected on the Tiber, or rather near the Tiber, between the two bridges, with this inscription: Simoni deo sancto. St. Irenæus and Tertullian attest the same thing; but to whom do they attest it? To people who had never seen Rome—to Africans, to Allobroges, to Syrians, and to some of the inhabitants of Sichem. They had certainly not seen this statue, the real inscription on which was Semo sanco deo fidio, and not Simoni deo sancto. They should at least have consulted Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who gives this inscription in his fourth book. Semo sanco was an old Sabine word, signifying half god and half man; we find in Livy, Bona Semoni sanco censuerunt consecranda. This god was one of the most ancient in Roman worship, having been consecrated by Tarquin the Proud, and was considered as the god of alliances and good faith. It was the custom to sacrifice an ox to him, and to write any treaty made with a neighboring people upon the skin. He had a temple near that of Quirinus; offerings were sometimes presented to him under the name of Semo the father, and sometimes under that of Sancus fidius, whence Ovid says in his “Fasti”:

Quærebam nonas Sanco, Fidove referrem,

An tibi, Semo pater.

Such was the Roman divinity which for so many ages was taken for Simon the Magician. St. Cyril of Jerusalem had no doubts on the subject, and St. Augustine in his first book of “Heresies” tells us that Simon the Magician himself procured the erection of this statue, together with that of his Helena, by order of the emperor and senate.

This strange fable, the falsehood of which might so easily have been discovered, was constantly connected with another fable, which relates that Simon and St. Peter both appeared before Nero and challenged each other which of them should soonest bring to life the corpse of a near relative of Nero’s, and also raise himself highest in the air; that Simon caused himself to be carried up by devils in a fiery chariot; that St. Peter and St. Paul brought him down by their prayers; that he broke his legs and in consequence died, and that Nero, being enraged, put both St. Peter and St. Paul to death.

Abdias, Marcellinus and Hegisippus have each related this story, with a little difference in the details. Arnobius, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Sulpicius Severus, Philaster, St. Epiphanius, Isidorus of Damietta, Maximus of Turin, and several other authors successively gave currency to this error, and it was generally adopted, until at length there was found at Rome a statue of Semo sancus deus fidius, and the learned Father Mabillon dug up an ancient monument with the inscription Semoni sanco deo fidio.

It is nevertheless certain that there was a Simon, whom the Jews believed to be a magician, as it is certain that there was an Apollonius of Tyana. It is also true that this Simon, who was born in the little country of Samaria, gathered together some vagabonds, whom he persuaded that he was one sent by God; he baptized, indeed, as well as the apostles, and raised altar against altar.

The Jews of Samaria, always hostile to those of Jerusalem, ventured to oppose this Simon to Jesus Christ, acknowledged by the apostles and disciples, all of whom were of the tribe of Benjamin or that of Judah. He baptized like them, but to the baptism of water he added fire, saying that he had been foretold by John the Baptist in these words: “He that cometh after me is mightier than I; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”

Simon lighted a lambent flame over the baptismal font with naphtha from the Asphaltic Lake. His party was very strong, but it is very doubtful whether his disciples adored him; St. Justin is the only one who believes it.

Menander, like Simon, said he was sent by God to be the savior of men. All the false Messiahs, Barcochebas especially, called themselves sent by God; but not even Barcochebas demanded to be adored. Men are not often erected into divinities while they live, unless, indeed, they be Alexanders or Roman emperors, who expressly order their slaves so to do. But this is not, strictly speaking, adoration; it is an extraordinary homage, an anticipated apotheosis, a flattery as ridiculous as those which are lavished on Octavius by Virgil and Horace.


We are not indebted for this expression to the Greeks; they called adultery moicheia, from which came the Latin mœchus, which we have not adopted. We owe it neither to the Syriac tongue nor to the Hebrew, a jargon of the Syriac, in which adultery is called niuph. In Latin adulteratio signified alteration—adulteration, one thing put for another—a counterfeit, as false keys, false bargains, false signatures; thus he who took possession of another’s bed was called adulter.

In a similar way, by antiphrasis, the name of coccyx, a cuckoo, was given to the poor husband into whose nest a stranger intruded. Pliny, the naturalist, says: “Coccyx ova subdit in nidis alienis; ita plerique alienas uxores faciunt matres”—“the cuckoo deposits its eggs in the nest of other birds; so the Romans not unfrequently made mothers of the wives of their friends.” The comparison is not over just. Coccyx signifying a cuckoo, we have made it cuckold. What a number of things do we owe to the Romans! But as the sense of all words is subject to change, the term applied to cuckold, which, according to good grammar, should be the gallant, is appropriated to the husband. Some of the learned assert that it is to the Greeks we owe the emblem of the horns, and that they bestowed the appellation of goat upon a husband the disposition of whose wife resembled that of a female of the same species. Indeed, they used the epithet son of a goat in the same way as the modern vulgar do an appellation which is much more literal.

These vile terms are no longer made use of in good company. Even the word adultery is never pronounced. We do not now say, “Madame la Duchesse lives in adultery with Monsieur le Chevalier—Madame la Marquise has a criminal intimacy with Monsieur l’Abbé;” but we say, “Monsieur l’Abbé is this week the lover of Madame la Marquise.” When ladies talk of their adulteries to their female friends, they say, “I confess I have some inclination for him.” They used formerly to confess that they felt some esteem, but since the time when a certain citizen’s wife accused herself to her confessor of having esteem for a counsellor, and the confessor inquired as to the number of proofs of esteem afforded, ladies of quality have esteemed no one and gone but little to confession.

The women of Lacedæmon, we are told, knew neither confession nor adultery. It is true that Menelaus had experienced the intractability of Helen, but Lycurgus set all right by making the women common, when the husbands were willing to lend them and the wives consented. Every one might dispose of his own. In this case a husband had not to apprehend that he should foster in his house the offspring of a stranger; all children belonged to the republic, and not to any particular family, so that no one was injured. Adultery is an evil only inasmuch as it is a theft; but we do not steal that which is given to us. The Lacedæmonians, therefore, had good reason for saying that adultery was impossible among them. It is otherwise in our modern nations, where every law is founded on the principle of meum and tuum.

It is the greatest wrong, the greatest injury, to give a poor fellow children which do not belong to him and lay upon him a burden which he ought not to bear. Races of heroes have thus been utterly bastardized. The wives of the Astolphos and the Jocondas, through a depraved appetite, a momentary weakness, have become pregnant by some deformed dwarf—some little page, devoid alike of heart and mind, and both the bodies and souls of the offspring have borne testimony to the fact. In some countries of Europe the heirs to the greatest names are little insignificant apes, who have in their halls the portraits of their pretended fathers, six feet high, handsome, well-made, and carrying a broadsword which their successors of the present day would scarcely be able to lift. Important offices are thus held by men who have no right to them, and whose hearts, heads, and arms are unequal to the burden.

In some provinces of Europe the girls make love, without their afterwards becoming less prudent wives. In France it is quite the contrary; the girls are shut up in convents, where, hitherto, they have received a most ridiculous education. Their mothers, in order to console them, teach them to look for liberty in marriage. Scarcely have they lived a year with their husbands when they become impatient to ascertain the force of their attractions. A young wife neither sits, nor eats, nor walks, nor goes to the play, but in company with women who have each their regular intrigue. If she has not her lover like the rest, she is to be unpaired; and ashamed of being so, she is afraid to show herself.

The Orientals proceed quite in another way. Girls are brought to them and warranted virgins on the words of a Circassian. They marry them and shut them up as a measure of precaution, as we shut up our maids. No jokes there upon ladies and their husbands! no songs!—nothing resembling our quodlibets about horns and cuckoldom! We pity the great ladies of Turkey, Persia and India; but they are a thousand times happier in their seraglios than our young women in their convents.

It sometimes happens among us that a dissatisfied husband, not choosing to institute a criminal process against his wife for adultery, which would subject him to the imputation of barbarity, contents himself with obtaining a separation of person and property. And here we must insert an abstract of a memorial, drawn up by a good man who finds himself in this situation. These are his complaints; are they just or not?—

A memorial, written by a magistrate, about the year 1764.

A principal magistrate of a town in France is so unfortunate as to have a wife who was debauched by a priest before her marriage, and has since brought herself to public shame; he has, however, contented himself with a private separation. This man, who is forty years old, healthy, and of a pleasing figure, has need of woman’s society. He is too scrupulous to seek to seduce the wife of another; he even fears to contract an illicit intimacy with a maid or a widow. In this state of sorrow and perplexity he addresses the following complaints to the Church, of which he is a member:

“My wife is criminal, and I suffer the punishment. A woman is necessary to the comfort of my life—nay, even to the preservation of my virtue; yet she is refused me by the Church, which forbids me to marry an honest woman. The civil law of the present day, which is, unhappily, founded on the canon law, deprives me of the rights of humanity. The Church compels me to seek either pleasures which it reprobates, or shameful consolations which it condemns; it forces me to be criminal.

“If I look round among the nations of the earth, I see no religion except the Roman Catholic which does not recognize divorce and second marriage as a natural right. What inversion of order, then, has made it a virtue in Catholics to suffer adultery and a duty to live without wives when their wives have thus shamefully injured them? Why is a cankered tie indissoluble, notwithstanding the great maxim adopted by the code, Quicquid ligatur dissolubile est? A separation of person and property is granted me, but not a divorce. The law takes from me my wife, and leaves me the word sacrament! I no longer enjoy matrimony, but still I am married! What contradiction! What slavery!

“Nor is it less strange that this law of the Church is directly contrary to the words which it believes to have been pronounced by Jesus Christ: ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery.’

“I have no wish here to inquire whether the pontiffs of Rome have a right to violate at pleasure the law of Him whom they regard as their Master; whether when a kingdom wants an heir, it is allowable to repudiate the woman who is incapable of giving one; nor whether a turbulent wife, one attacked by lunacy, or one guilty of murder, should not be divorced as well as an adulteress; I confine myself to what concerns my own sad situation. God permits me to marry again, but the bishop of Rome forbids me.

“Divorce was customary among Catholics under all the emperors, as well as in all the disjointed members of the Roman Empire. Almost all those kings of France who are called of the first race, repudiated their wives and took fresh ones. At length came one Gregory IX., an enemy to emperors and kings, who, by a decree, made the bonds of marriage indissoluble; and his decretal became the law of Europe. Hence, when a king wished to repudiate an adulterous wife, according to the law of Jesus Christ, he could not do so without seeking some ridiculous pretext. St. Louis was obliged, in order to effect his unfortunate divorce from Eleanora of Guienne, to allege a relationship which did not exist; and Henry IV., to repudiate Margaret of Valois, brought forward a still more unfounded pretence—a want of consent. Thus a lawful divorce was to be obtained by falsehood.

“What! may a sovereign abdicate his crown, and shall he not without the pope’s permission abdicate his faithless wife? And is it possible that men, enlightened in other things, have so long submitted to this absurd and abject slavery?

“Let our priests and our monks abstain from women, if it must be so; they have my consent. It is detrimental to the progress of population and a misfortune for them; but they deserve that misfortune which they have contrived for themselves. They are the victims of the popes, who in them wish to possess slaves—soldiers without family or country, living for the Church; but I, a magistrate, who serve the state the whole day long, have occasion for a woman at night; and the Church has no right to deprive me of a possession allowed me by the Deity. The apostles were married, Joseph was married, and I wish to be married. If I, an Alsatian, am dependent on a priest who lives at Rome and has the barbarous power to deprive me of a wife, he may as well make me a eunuch to sing Miserere in his chapel.”

A Plea for Wives.

Equity requires that, after giving this memorial in favor of husbands, we should also lay before the public the plea on behalf of wives, presented to the junta of Portugal, by one Countess D’Arcira. It is in substance as follows:

“The gospel has forbidden adultery to my husband as well as to me; we shall be damned alike; nothing is more certain. Although he has been guilty of fifty infidelities—though he has given my necklace to one of my rivals, and my earrings to another, I have not called upon the judges to order his head to be shaved, himself to be shut up with monks, and his property to be given to me; yet I, for having but once imitated him—for having done that with the handsomest young man in Lisbon, which he is allowed to do every day with the homeliest and most stupid creatures of the court and the city, must be placed on a stool to answer the questions of a set of licentiates, every one of whom would be at my feet were he alone with me in my closet; must have the finest hair in the world cut from my head; be confined with nuns who have not common sense; be deprived of my portion and marriage settlement, and see my property given to my fool of a husband to assist him in seducing other women and committing fresh adulteries. I ask if the thing is just? if it is not evident that the cuckolds are the lawmakers?

“The answer to my complaint is that I am but too fortunate in not being stoned at the city gate by the canons and the people, as was the custom with the first nation of the earth—the cherished nation—the chosen people—the only one which was right when all others were wrong.

“To these barbarians I reply that when the poor woman, taken in adultery, was presented to her accusers by the Master of the Old and of the New Law, he did not order her to be stoned; on the contrary, he reproached their injustice, tracing on the sand with his finger the old Hebrew proverb: ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’ All then retired, the oldest being the first to depart, since the greater their age the more adulteries they had committed.

“The doctors of the canon law tell me that this story of the woman taken in adultery is related only in the Gospel of St. John, and that there it is nothing more than an interpolation; that Leontius and Maldonat affirm that it is to be found in but one ancient Greek copy; that not one of the first twenty-three commentators has spoken of it; that neither Origen nor St. Jerome, nor St. John Chrysostom, nor Theophylact, nor Nonnus, knew anything of it; and that it is not in the Syriac Bible, nor in the version of Ulphilas.

“Such are the arguments advanced by my husband’s advocates, who would not only shave my head, but stone me also. However, those who plead for me say that Ammonius, a writer of the third century, acknowledges the truth of this story, and that St. Jerome, while he rejects it in some passages, adopts it in others; in short, that it is now authenticated. Here I hold, and say to my husband: ‘If you are without sin shave my head, confine me, take my property; but if you have committed more sins than I have, it is I who must shave you, have you confined and seize your possessions. In both cases the justice is the same.’

“My husband replies that he is my superior and my head; that he is taller than I by more than an inch; that he is as rough as a bear; and that, consequently, I owe him everything and he owes me nothing. But I ask if Queen Anne, of England, is not the head of her husband? if the Prince of Denmark, who is her high admiral, does not owe her an entire obedience? and if she would not have him condemned by the House of Peers should the little man prove unfaithful? It is clear that, if women have not their husbands punished, it is when they are not the strongest.”

Conclusion of the Chapter on Adultery.

In order to obtain an equitable verdict in an action for adultery, the jury should be composed of twelve men and twelve women, with an hermaphrodite to give the casting vote in the event of necessity. But singular cases may exist wherein raillery is inapplicable, and of which it is not for us to judge. Such is the adventure related by St. Augustine in his sermon on Christ’s preaching on the Mount.

Septimius Acyndicus, proconsul of Syria, caused a Christian of Antioch who was unable to pay the treasury a pound of gold (the amount to which he was taxed), to be thrown into prison and threatened with death. A wealthy man promised the unfortunate prisoner’s wife to furnish her with the pound if she would consent to his desires. The wife hastened to inform her husband, who begged that she would save his life at the expense of his rights, which he was willing to give up. She obeyed, but the man who owed her the gold deceived her by giving her a sackful of earth. The husband, being still unable to pay the tax, was about to be led to the scaffold, but this infamous transaction having come to the ears of the proconsul he paid the pound of gold from his own coffers and gave to the Christian couple the estate from which the sackful of earth had been taken.

It is certain that far from injuring her husband the wife, in this instance, acted conformably to his will, not only obeying him, but also saving his life. St. Augustine does not venture to decide on the guilt or virtue of this action; he is afraid to condemn it.

It is, in my opinion, very singular that Bayle should pretend to be more severe than St. Augustine. He boldly condemns the poor woman. This would be inconceivable did we not know how much almost every writer has suffered his pen to belie his heart—with what facility his own feelings have been sacrificed to the fear of enraging some evil-disposed pedant—in a word, how inconsistent he has been with himself.

A Father’s Reflection.

A word on the contradictory education which we bestow upon our daughters. We inculcate an immoderate desire of pleasing; we dictate when nature does enough without us, and add to her lessons every refinement of art. When they are perfectly trained we punish them if they put in practice the very arts which we have been so anxious to teach! What should we think of a dancing master who, having taught a pupil for ten years, would break his leg because he had found him dancing with other people?

Might not this paragraph be added to the chapter of contradictions?


We shall not say anything of the affirmations so frequently made use of by the learned. To affirm, to decide, is permissible only in geometry. In everything else let us imitate the Doctor Metaphrastes of Molière—it may be so; the thing is feasible; it is not impossible; we shall see. Let us adopt Rabelais’ perhaps, Montaigne’s what know I? the Roman non liquet, or the doubt of the Athenian academy: but only in profane matters, be it understood, for in sacred things, we are well aware that doubting is not permitted.

The primitives, in England called Quakers, are allowed to give testimony in a court of justice on their simple affirmation, without taking an oath. The peers of the realm have the same privilege—the lay peers affirming on their honor, and the bishops laying their hands on their hearts. The Quakers obtained it in the reign of Charles II., and are the only sect in Europe so honored.

The Lord Chancellor Cowper wished to compel the Quakers to swear like other citizens. He who was then at their head said to him gravely: “Friend Chancellor, thou oughtest to know that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ hath forbidden us to affirm otherwise than by yea or nay, he hath expressly said: I forbid thee to swear by heaven, because it is the throne of God; by the earth, because it is his footstool; by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the King of kings; or by thy head, because thou canst not change the color of a single hair. This, friend, is positive, and we will not disobey God to please thee and thy parliament.” “It is impossible to argue better,” replied the Chancellor; “but be it known to thee that Jupiter one day ordered all beasts of burden to get shod: horses, mules, and even camels, instantly obeyed, the asses alone resisted; they made so many representations, and brayed so long that Jupiter, who was good-natured, at last said to them, ‘Asses, I grant your prayer; you shall not be shod; but the first slip you make you shall have a most sound cudgelling.’ ”

It must be granted that, hitherto, the Quakers have made no slips.


When a man puts away his mistress—his friend—the partner of his bed, he must either make her condition tolerably comfortable or be regarded among us as a man of bad heart.

We are told that Abraham was very rich in the desert of Gerar, although he did not possess an inch of land. However, we know with the greatest certainty that he defeated the armies of four great kings with three hundred and eighteen shepherds.

He should, then, at least have given a small flock to his mistress Agar, when he sent her away in the desert. I speak always according to worldly notions, always reverencing those incomprehensible ways which are not our ways.

I would have given my old companion Agar a few sheep, a few goats, a few suits of clothes for herself and our son Ishmael, a good she-ass for the mother and a pretty foal for the child, a camel to carry their baggage, and at least two men to attend them and prevent them from being devoured by wolves.

But when the Father of the Faithful exposed his poor mistress and her child in the desert he gave them only a loaf and a pitcher of water. Some impious persons have asserted that Abraham was not a very tender father—that he wished to make his bastard son die of hunger, and to cut his legitimate son’s throat! But again let it be remembered that these ways were not our ways.

It is said that poor Agar went away into the desert of Beer-sheba. There was no desert of Beer-sheba; this name was not known until long after; but this is a mere trifle; the foundation of the story is not the less authentic. It is true that the posterity of Agar’s son Ishmael took ample revenge on the posterity of Sarah’s son Isaac, in favor of whom he had been cast out. The Saracens, descending in a right line from Ishmael, made themselves masters of Jerusalem, which belonged by right of conquest to the posterity of Isaac. I would have made the Saracens descend from Sarah; the etymology would then have been neater.

It has been asserted that the word Saracen comes from sarac, a robber. I do not believe any people have ever called themselves robbers; nearly all have been robbers, but it is not usual for them to take the title. Saracen descending from Sarah, appears to me to sound better.


The emphatic al places the alchemist as much above the ordinary chemist as the gold which he obtains is superior to other metals. Germany still swarms with people who seek the philosopher’s stone, as the water of immortality has been sought in China, and the fountain of youth in Europe. In France some have been known to ruin themselves in this pursuit.

The number of those who have believed in transmutations is prodigious, and the number of cheats has been in proportion to that of the credulous. At Paris we have seen Signor Dammi, Marquis of Conventiglio, obtain some hundred louis from several of the nobility that he might make them gold to the amount of two or three crowns. The best trick that has ever been performed in alchemy was that of a Rosicrucian, who, in 1620, went to Henry, Duke of Bouillon, of the house of Turenne, Sovereign Prince of Sedan, and addressed him as follows:

“You have not a sovereignty proportioned to your great courage, but I will make you richer than the emperor. I cannot remain for more than two days in your states, having to go to Venice to hold the grand assembly of the brethren; I only charge you to keep the secret. Send to the first apothecary of your town for some litharge; throw into it one grain of the red powder which I will give you, put the whole into a crucible and in a quarter of an hour you will have gold.”

The prince performed the operation, and repeated it three times, in presence of the virtuoso. This man had previously bought up all the litharge from the apothecaries of Sedan and got it resold after mixing it with a few ounces of gold. The adept, on taking leave, made the Duke of Bouillon a present of all his transmuting powder.

The prince, having made three ounces of gold with three grains, doubted not that with three hundred thousand grains he should make three hundred thousand ounces, and that he should in a week possess eighteen thousand, seven hundred and fifty pounds of gold, besides what he should afterwards make. It took at least three months to make this powder. The philosopher was in haste to depart; he was without anything, having given all to the prince, and wanted some ready money in order to hold the states-general of hermetic philosophy. He was a man very moderate in his desires, and asked only twenty thousand crowns for the expenses of his journey. The duke, ashamed to give so small a sum, presented him with forty thousand. When he had consumed all the litharge in Sedan he made no more gold, nor ever more saw his philosopher or his forty thousand crowns.

All pretended alchemic transmutations have been performed nearly in the same manner. To change one natural production into another, for example, iron into silver, is a rather difficult operation, since it requires two things a little above our power—the annihilation of the iron and creation of the silver.

We must not, however, reject all discoveries of secrets and all new inventions. It is with them as with theatrical pieces, there may be one good out of a thousand.



This book governs with despotic sway the whole of northern Africa, from Mount Atlas to the desert of Barca, the whole of Egypt, the coasts of the Ethiopian Sea to the extent of six hundred leagues, Syria, Asia Minor, all the countries round the Black and the Caspian seas (excepting the kingdom of Astrakhan), the whole empire of Hindostan, all Persia, a great part of Tartary; and in Europe, Thrace, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Servia, Bosnia, Greece, Epirus, and nearly all the islands as far as the little strait of Otranto, which terminates these possessions.

In this prodigious extent of country there is not a single Mahometan who has the happiness of reading our sacred books; and very few of our literati are acquainted with the Koran, of which we always form a ridiculous idea, notwithstanding the researches of our really learned men.

The first lines of this book are as follows: “Praise to God, the sovereign of all worlds, to the God of mercy, the sovereign of the day of justice? Thee we adore! to Thee only do we look for protection. Lead us in the right way—in the way of those whom Thou hast loaded with Thy graces, and not in the way of the objects of Thy wrath—of them who have gone astray.”

Such is the introduction. Then come three letters, A, L, M, which, according to the learned Sale, are not understood, for each commentator explains them in his own way; but the most common opinion is that they signify Ali, Latif, Magid—God, Grace, Glory.

God himself then speaks to Mahomet in these words: “This book admitteth not of doubt. It is for the direction of the just, who believe in the depths of the faith, who observe the times of prayer, who distribute in alms what it has pleased Me to give them, who believe in the revelation which hath descended to thee, and was delivered to the prophets before thee. Let the faithful have a firm assurance in the life to come; let them be directed by their Lord; and they shall be happy.

“As for unbelievers, it mattereth not whether thou callest them or no: they do not believe; the seal of unbelief is on their hearts and on their ears; a terrible punishment awaiteth them. There are some who say, ‘We believe in God and in the Last Day,’ but in their hearts they are unbelievers. They think to deceive the Eternal; they deceive themselves without knowing it. Infirmity is in their hearts, and God himself increaseth this infirmity,” etc.

These words are said to have incomparably more energy in Arabic. Indeed, the Koran still passes for the most elegant and most sublime book that has been written in that language. We have imputed to the Koran a great number of foolish things which it never contained. It was chiefly against the Turks, who had become Mahometans, that our monks wrote so many books, at a time when no other opposition was of much service against the conquerors of Constantinople. Our authors, much more numerous than the janissaries, had no great difficulty in ranging our women on their side; they persuaded them that Mahomet looked upon them merely as intelligent animals; that, by the laws of the Koran, they were all slaves, having no property in this world, nor any share in the paradise of the next. The falsehood of all this is evident; yet it has all been firmly believed.

It was, however, only necessary in order to discover the deception to have read the fourth sura or chapter of the Koran, in which would have been found the following laws, translated in the same manner by Du Ryer, who resided for a long time at Constantinople; by Maracci, who never went there; and by Sale, who lived twenty-five years among the Arabs:

  • Mahomet’s Regulations with Respect to Wives.

  • 1.  Never marry idolatrous women, unless they will become believers. A Mussulman servant is better than an idolatrous woman, though of the highest rank.
  • 2. They who, having wives, wish to make a vow of chastity, shall wait four months before they decide. Wives shall conduct themselves towards their husbands as their husbands conduct themselves towards them.
  • 3.  You may separate yourself from your wife twice; but if you divorce her a third time, it must be forever; you must either keep her humanely or put her away kindly. You are not permitted to keep anything from her that you have given to her.
  • 4.  Good wives are obedient and attentive, even in the absence of their husbands. If your wife is prudent be careful not to have any quarrel with her; but if one should happen, let an arbiter be chosen from your own family, and one from hers.
  • 5.  Take one wife, or two, or three, or four, but never more. But if you doubt your ability to act equitably towards several, take only one. Give them a suitable dowry, take care of them, and speak to them always like a friend.
  • 6. You are not permitted to inherit from your wife against her will; nor to prevent her from marrying another after her divorce, in order to possess yourself of her dower, unless she has been declared guilty of some crime. When you choose to separate yourself from your wife and take another, you must not, though you have even given her a talent at your marriage, take anything from her.
  • 7.  You are permitted to marry a slave, but it is better that you should not do so.
  • 8.  A repudiated wife is obliged to suckle her child until it is two years old, during which time the father is obliged to maintain them according to his condition. If the infant is weaned at an earlier period, it must be with the consent of both father and mother. If you are obliged to entrust it to a strange nurse, you shall make her a reasonable allowance.

Here, then, is sufficient to reconcile the women to Mahomet, who has not used them so hardly as he is said to have done. We do not pretend to justify either his ignorance or his imposture; but we cannot condemn his doctrine of one only God. These words of his 122d sura, “God is one, eternal, neither begetting nor begotten; no one is like to Him;” these words had more effect than even his sword in subjugating the East.

Still his Koran is a collection of ridiculous revelations and vague and incoherent predictions, combined with laws that were very good for the country in which he lived, and all which continue to be followed, without having been changed or weakened, either by Mahometan interpreters or by new decrees. The poets of Mecca were hostile to Mahomet, but above all the doctors. These raised the magistracy against him, and a warrant was issued for his apprehension as only duly accused and convicted of having said that God must be adored, and not the stars. This, it is known, was the source of his greatness. When it was seen that he could not be put down, and that his writings were becoming popular, it was given out in the city that he was not the author of them, or that at least he was assisted in their composition by a learned Jew, and sometimes by a learned Christian—supposing that there were at that time learned Jews and learned Christians.

So, in our days, more than one prelate has been reproached with having set monks to compose his sermons and funeral orations. There was one Father Hercules (Père Hercule) who made sermons for a certain bishop, and when people went to hear him preach, they used to say, “Let us go and hear the labors of Hercules.”

To this charge Mahomet gives an answer in his 16th chapter, occasioned by a gross blunder he had made in the pulpit, about which a great deal had been said. He gets out of the scrape thus: “When thou readest the Koran, address thyself to God, that He may preserve thee from the machinations of Satan. He has power only over those who have chosen Him for their Master, and who give associates unto God.

“When I substitute one verse for another in the Koran (the reason for which changes is known to God) some unbelievers cry out, ‘Thou hast forged those verses’; but they know not how to distinguish truth from falsehood. Say rather that the Holy Spirit brought those verses of truth to me from God. Others say, still more malignantly, There is a certain man who labors with him in composing the Koran. But how can this man, to whom they attribute my works, have taught me, speaking as he does, a foreign language, while the Koran is written in the purest Arabic?”

He who, it was pretended, assisted Mahomet, was a Jew named Bensalen or Bensalon. It is not very likely that a Jew should have lent his assistance to Mahomet in writing against the Jews; yet the thing is not impossible. The monk who was said to have contributed to the Koran was by some called Bohaira, by others Sergius. There is something pleasant in this monk’s having had both a Latin and an Arabic name. As for the fine theological disputes which have arisen among the Mussulmans, I have no concern with them; I leave them to the decision of the mufti.

In “The Triumph of the Cross” (“Le Triomphe de la Croix”) the Koran is said to be Arian, Sabellian, Carpocratian, Cardonician, Manichæan, Donatistic, Origenian, Macedonian, and Ebionitish. Mahomet, however, was nothing of all this; he was rather a Jansenist, for the foundation of his doctrine is the absolute degree of gratuitous predestination.


This Mahomet, son of Abdallah, was a bold and sublime charlatan. He says in his tenth chapter, “Who but God can have composed the Koran? Mahomet, you say, has forged this book. Well; try then to write one chapter resembling it and call to your aid whomsoever you please.” In the seventeenth he exclaims, “Praise be to Him who in one night transported His servant from the sacred temple of Mecca to that of Jerusalem!”

This was a very fine journey, but nothing like that which he took the very same night from planet to planet. He pretended that it was five hundred years’ journey from one to another, and that he cleft the moon in twain. His disciples who, after his death, collected, in a solemn manner, the verses of this Koran, suppressed this celestial journey, for they dreaded raillery and philosophy. After all, they had too much delicacy; they might have trusted to the commentators, who would have found no difficulty whatever in explaining the itinerary. Mahomet’s friends should have known by experience that the marvellous is the reason of the multitude; the wise contradict in silence, which the multitude prevent them from breaking. But while the itinerary of the planets was suppressed, a few words were retained about the adventure of the moon. One cannot be always on one’s guard.

The Koran is a rhapsody, without connection, without order, and without art. This tedious book is, nevertheless, said to be a very fine production, at least by the Arabs, who assert that it is written with an elegance and purity that no later work has equalled. It is a poem, or sort of rhymed prose, consisting of three thousand verses. No poem ever advanced the fortune of its author so much as the Koran. It was disputed among the Mussulmans whether it was eternal or God had created it in order to dictate it to Mahomet. The doctors decided that it was eternal, and they were right; this eternity is a much finer opinion than the other, for with the vulgar we must always adopt that which is the most incredible.

The monks who have attacked Mahomet, and said so many silly things about him, have asserted that he could not write. But how can we imagine that a man who had been a merchant, a poet, a legislator, and a sovereign, did not know how to sign his name? If his book is bad for our times and for us, it was very good for his contemporaries, and his religion was still better. It must be acknowledged that he reclaimed nearly the whole of Asia from idolatry. He taught the unity of God, and forcibly declaimed against all those who gave him associates. He forbade usury with foreigners, and commanded the giving of alms. With him prayer was a thing of absolute necessity, and resignation to the eternal decrees the primum mobile of all. A religion so simple and so wise, taught by one who was constantly victorious, could hardly fail to subjugate a portion of the earth. Indeed the Mussulmans have made as many proselytes by their creed as by their swords; they have converted the Indians and the negroes to their religion; even the Turks, who conquered them, submitted to Islamism.

Mahomet allowed many things to remain in his law which he had found established among the Arabs—as circumcision, fasting, the pilgrimage to Mecca, which was instituted four thousand years before his time; ablutions, so necessary to health and cleanliness in a burning country, where linen was unknown; and the idea of a last judgment, which the magi had always inculcated, and which had reached the inhabitants of Arabia. It is said that on his announcing that we should rise again quite naked, his wife, Aishca, expressed her opinion that the thing would be immodest and dangerous. “Do not be alarmed, my dear,” said he, “no one will then feel any inclination to laugh.” According to the Koran, an angel will weigh both men and women in a great balance; this idea, too, is taken from the magi. He also stole from them their narrow bridge which must be passed over after death; and their elysium, where the Mussulmans elect will find baths, well-furnished apartments good beds, and houris with great black eyes. He does, it is true, say that all these pleasures of the senses, so necessary to those that are to rise again with senses, will be nothing in comparison with the pleasure of contemplating the Supreme Being. He has the humility to confess that he himself will not enter paradise through his own merits, but purely by the will of God. Through this same pure Divine will he orders that a fifth part of the spoil shall always be reserved for the prophet.

It is not true that he excludes women from paradise. It is hardly likely that so able a man should have chosen to embroil himself with that half of the human race by which the other half is led. Abulfeda relates that an old lady one day importuned him to tell her what she must do to get into paradise. “My good lady,” said he, “paradise is not for old women.” The good woman began to weep, but the prophet consoled her by saying, “There will be no old women because they will become young again.” This consolatory doctrine is confirmed in the fifty-fourth chapter of the Koran.

He forbade wine because some of his followers once went intoxicated to prayers. He permitted a plurality of wives, conforming in this point to the immemorial usage of the orientals.

In short, his civil laws are good; his doctrine is admirable in all which it has in common with ours; but his means are shocking—villainy and murder!

He is excused by some, on the first of these charges, because, say they, the Arabs had a hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets before him, and there could be no great harm in the appearance of one more; men, it is added, require to be deceived. But how are we to justify a man who says, “Believe that I have conversed with the angel Gabriel, or pay me tribute!”

How superior is Confucius—the first of mortals who have not been favored with revelations! He employs neither falsehood nor the sword, but only reason. The viceroy of a great province, he causes the laws to be observed and morality to flourish; disgraced and poor, he teaches them. He practises them alike in greatness and in humiliation; he renders virtue amiable; and has for his disciples the most ancient and wisest people on the earth.

In vain does Count de Boulainvilliers, who had some respect for Mahomet, extol the Arabs. Notwithstanding all his boastings, they were a nation of banditti. They robbed before Mahomet, when they adored the stars; they robbed under Mahomet in the name of God. They had, say you, the simplicity of the heroic ages; but what were these heroic ages?—times when men cut one another’s throats for a well or a cistern, as they now do for a province?

The first Mussulmans were animated by Mahomet with the rage of enthusiasm. Nothing is more terrible than a people who, having nothing to lose, fight in the united spirit of rapine and of religion.

It is true there was not much art in their proceedings. The contract of marriage between Mahomet and his first wife expresses that, while Cadisha loves him, and he in like manner loves Cadisha, it is thought meet to join them. But is there the same simplicity in having composed a genealogy which makes him descend in a right line from Adam, as several Spanish and Scotch families have been made to descend?

The great prophet experienced the disgrace common to so many husbands, after which no one should complain. The name of him who received the favors of his second wife was Assam. The behavior of Mahomet, on this occasion, was even more lofty than that of Cæsar, who put away his wife, saying, “The wife of Cæsar ought not to be suspected.” The prophet would not suspect his. He sent to heaven for a chapter of the Koran, affirming that his wife was faithful. This chapter, like all the others, had been written from all eternity.

He is admired for having raised himself from being a camel-driver to be a pontiff, a legislator, and a monarch; for having subdued Arabia, which had never before been subjugated; for having given the first shock to the Roman Empire in the East, and to that of the Persians; and I admire him still more for having kept peace in his house among his wives. He changed the face of part of Europe, one half of Asia, and nearly all Africa; nor was his religion unlikely, at one time, to subjugate the whole earth. On how trivial a circumstance will revolutions sometimes depend! A blow from a stone, a little harder than that which he received in his first battle, might have changed the destiny of the world!

His son-in-law Ali asserted that when the prophet was about to be inhumed, he was found in a situation not very common to the dead. The words of the Roman sovereign might be well applied in this case: “Decet imperatorem stantem mori.”

Never was the life of a man written more in detail than his; the most minute particulars were regarded as sacred. We have the name and the numbers of all that belonged to him—nine swords, three lances, three bows, seven cuirasses, three bucklers, twelve wives, one white cock, seven horses, two mules, and four camels, besides the mare Borac, on which he went to heaven. But this last he had only borrowed; it was the property of the angel Gabriel.

All his sayings have been preserved. One was that the enjoyment of women made him more fervent in prayer. Besides all his other knowledge he is said to have been a great physician; so that he wanted none of the qualifications for deceiving mankind.


It is no longer allowable to speak of Alexander, except in order to say something new of him, or to destroy the fables, historical, physical, and moral, which have disfigured the history of the only great man to be found among the conquerors of Asia.

After reflecting a little on the life of Alexander, who, amid the intoxications of pleasure and conquest, built more towns than all the other conquerors of Asia destroyed—after calling to mind that, young as he was, he turned the commerce of the world into a new channel, it appears very strange that Boileau should have spoken of him as a robber and a madman. Alexander, having been elected at Corinth captain-general of Greece, and commissioned as such to avenge the invasions of the Persians, did no more than his duty in destroying their empire; and, having always united the greatest magnanimity with the greatest courage—having respected the wife and daughters of Darius when in his power, he did not in any way deserve either to be confined as a madman or hanged as a robber.

Rollin asserts that Alexander took the famous city of Tyre only to oblige the Jews, who hated the Tyrians; it is, however, quite as likely that Alexander had other reasons; for a naval commander would not leave Tyre mistress of the sea, when he was going to attack Egypt. Alexander’s friendship and respect for Jerusalem were undoubtedly great; but it should hardly be said that the Jews set a rare example of fidelity—an example worthy of the only people who, at that time, had the knowledge of the true God, in refusing to furnish Alexander with provisions because they had sworn fidelity to Darius. It is well known that the Jews took every opportunity of revolting against their sovereigns; for a Jew was not to serve a profane king. If they imprudently refused contributions to the conqueror, it was not with a view to prove themselves the faithful slaves of Darius, since their law expressly ordered them to hold all idolatrous nations in abhorrence; their books are full of execrations pronounced against them, and of reiterated attempts to throw off their yoke. If, therefore, they at first refused the contributions, it was because their rivals, the Samaritans, had paid them without hesitation, and they believed that Darius, though vanquished, was still powerful enough to support Jerusalem against Samaria.

It is wholly false that the Jews were then the only people who had the knowledge of the true God, as Rollin tells us. The Samaritans worshipped the same God, though in another temple; they had the same Pentateuch as the Jews, and they had it in Tyrian characters, which the Jews had lost. The schism between Samaria and Jerusalem was, on a small scale, what the schism between the Greek and Latin churches is on a large one. The hatred was equal on both sides, having the same foundation—religion.

Alexander, having possessed himself of Tyre by means of that famous causeway which is still the admiration of all generals, went to punish Jerusalem, which lay not far out of his way. The Jews, headed by their high priest, came and humbled themselves before him, offering him money—for angry conquerors are not to be appeased without money. Alexander was appeased, and they remained subject to Alexander and to his successors. Such is the true, as well as the only probable, history of the affair.

Rollin repeats a story told about four hundred years after Alexander’s expedition, by that romancing, exaggerating historian, Flavius Josephus, who may be pardoned for having taken every opportunity of setting off his wretched country to the best advantage. Rollin repeats, after Josephus, that Jaddus, the high-priest, having prostrated himself before Alexander, the prince, seeing the name of Jehovah engraved on a plate of gold attached to Jaddus’ cap, and understanding Hebrew perfectly, fell prostrate in his turn, and paid homage to Jaddus. This excess of civility having astonished Parmenio, Alexander told him that he had known Jaddus a long time; that he had appeared to him, in the same habit and the same cap, ten years before, when he was meditating the conquest of Asia (a conquest which he had not then even thought of); that this same Jaddus had exhorted him to cross the Hellespont, assuring him that God would march at the head of the Greeks, and that the God of the Jews would give him the victory over the Persians. This old woman’s tale makes but a sorry figure in the history of such a man as Alexander.

An ancient history well digested was an undertaking calculated to be of great service to youth; it is to be wished that it had not been in some degree marred by the adoption of some absurdities. The story of Jaddus would be entitled to our respect—it would be beyond the reach of animadversion—were even any shadow of it to be found in the sacred writings; but as they do not make the slightest mention of it, we are quite at liberty to see that it is ridiculous.

There can be no doubt that Alexander subdued that part of India which lies on this side the Ganges and was tributary to the Persians. Mr. Holwell, who lived for thirty years among the Brahmins of Benares and the neighboring countries, and who learned not only their modern language but also their ancient sacred tongue, assures us that their annals attest the invasion by Alexander, whom they call Mahadukoit Kounha—great robber, great murderer. These peaceful people could not call him otherwise; indeed, it is hardly to be supposed that they gave any other name to the kings of Persia. The same annals say that Alexander entered by the province now called Candahar, and it is probable that there were always some fortresses on that frontier.

Alexander afterwards descended the river Zombodipo, which the Greeks called Sind. In the history of Alexander there is not a single Indian name to be found. The Greeks never called an Asiatic town or province by their own name. They dealt in the same manner with the Egyptians. They would have thought it a dishonor to the Greek tongue had they introduced into it a pronunciation which they thought barbarous; if, for instance, they had not called the city of Moph Memphis.

Mr. Holwell says that the Indians never knew either Porus or Taxiles; indeed these are not Indian words. Nevertheless, if we may believe our missionaries, there are still some Indian lords who pretend to have descended from Porus. Perhaps the missionaries have flattered them with this origin until they have adopted it. There is, at least, no country in Europe in which servility has not invented and vanity received genealogies yet more chimerical.

If Flavius Josephus has related a ridiculous fable about Alexander and a Jewish pontiff, Plutarch, who wrote long after Josephus, in his turn seems not to have been sparing in fables concerning this hero. He has even outdone Quintus Curtius. Both assert that Alexander, when marching towards India, wished to have himself adored, not only by the Persians but also by the Greeks. The question is, what did Alexander, the Persians, the Greeks, Quintus Curtius, and Plutarch understand by adoring? We must never lose sight of the great rule—Define your terms.

If by adoring he meant invoking a man as a divinity—offering to him incense and sacrifices—raising to him altars and temples, it is clear that Alexander required nothing of all this. If, being the conqueror and master of the Persians, he chose that they should salute him after the Persian manner, prostrating themselves on certain occasions, treating him, in short, like what he was, a sovereign of Persia, there is nothing in this but what is very reasonable and very common. The members of the French parliament, in their beds of justice, address the king kneeling; the third estate addresses the states-general kneeling, a cup of wine is presented kneeling, to the king of England; several European sovereigns are served kneeling at their consecration. The great mogul, the emperor of China, and the emperor of Japan are always addressed kneeling. The Chinese colaos of an inferior order bend the knee before the colaos of a superior order. We adore the pope, and kiss the toe of his right foot. None of these ceremonies have ever been regarded as adoration in the strict sense of the word, or as a worship like that due to the Divinity.

Thus, all that has been said of the pretended adoration exacted by Alexander is founded on ambiguity.

Octavius, surnamed Augustus, really caused himself to be adored in the strictest sense of the word. Temples and altars were raised to him. There were priests of Augustus. Horace positively tells him:

“Jurandisque tuum par nomen ponimus aras.”

Here was truly a sacrilegious adoration; yet we are not told that it excited discontent.

The contradictions in the character of Alexander would be more difficult to reconcile did we not know that men, especially men called heroes, are often very inconsistent with themselves, and that the life or death of the best citizens, or the fate of a province, has more than once depended on the good or bad digestion of a well or ill advised sovereign.

But how are we to reconcile improbable facts related in a contradictory manner? Some say that Callisthenes was crucified by order of Alexander for not having acknowledged him to be the son of Jupiter. But the cross was not a mode of execution among the Greeks. Others say that he died long afterwards, of too great corpulency. Athenæus assures us that he was carried, like a bird, in an iron cage until he was devoured by vermin. Among all these different stories distinguish the true one if you can. Some adventures are supposed by Quintus Curtius to have happened in one town, and by Plutarch in another, the two places being five hundred leagues apart. Alexander, armed and alone, leaped from the top of a wall into a town he was besieging; according to Plutarch near the mouth of the Indus. When he arrived on the Malabar coast, or near the Ganges—no matter which, it is only nine hundred miles from the one to the other—he gave orders to seize ten of the Indian philosophers, called by the Greeks gymnosophists, who went about as naked as apes; to those he proposed ridiculous questions, promising them very seriously that he who gave the worst answers should be hanged the first, and the rest in due order. This reminds us of Nebuchadonosor, who would absolutely put his magi to death if they did not divine one of his dreams which he had forgotten; and of the Caliph of the “Thousand and One Nights,” who was to strangle his wife as soon as she had finished her story. But it is Plutarch who relates this nonsense; therefore it must be respected, for he was a Greek.

This latter story is entitled to the same credit as that of the poisoning of Alexander by Aristotle; for Plutarch tells us that somebody had heard one Agnotemis say, that he had heard Antigonus say, that Aristotle sent a bottle of water from Nonacris, a town in Arcadia, which water was so extremely cold that they who drank it instantly died; that Antipater sent this water in a horn; that it arrived at Babylon quite fresh; that Alexander drank of it; and that, at the end of six days, he died of a continued fever.

Plutarch has, it is true, some doubts respecting this anecdote. All that we can be quite certain of is that Alexander, at the age of twenty-four, had conquered Persia by three battles; that his genius was as great as his valor; that he changed the face of Asia, Greece, and Egypt, and gave a new direction to the commerce of the world; and that Boileau should have been more sparing of his ridicule, since it is not very likely that Boileau would have done more in as short a time.


More than twenty towns have borne the name of Alexandria, all built by Alexander and his captains, who became so many kings. These towns are so many monuments of glory, far superior to the statues which servility afterwards erected to power; but the only one of them which attracted the attention of the world by its greatness and its wealth was that which became the capital of Egypt. This is now but a heap of ruins; for it is well known that one half of the city has been rebuilt on another site, near the sea. The lighthouse, formerly one of the wonders of the world, has also ceased to exist.

The city was always flourishing under the Ptolemies and the Romans. It did not decline under the Arabs, nor did the Mamelukes or the Turks, who successively conquered it, together with the rest of Egypt, suffer it to go to decay. It preserved some portion of its greatness until the passage of the Cape of Good Hope opened a new route to the Indies, and once more gave a new direction to the commerce of the world, which Alexander had previously changed, and which had been changed several times before Alexander.

The Alexandrians were remarkable, under all their successive dominations, for industry united with levity; for love of novelty, accompanied by a close application to commerce, and to all the arts that make commerce flourish; and for a contentious and quarrelsome spirit, joined to cowardice, superstition, and debauchery—all which never changed. The city was peopled with Egyptians, Jews, and Turks, all of whom, though poor at first, enriched themselves by traffic. Opulence introduced the cultivation of the fine arts, with a taste for literature, and consequently for disputation.

The Jews built a magnificent temple, and translated their books into Greek, which had become the language of the country. So great were the animosities among the native Egyptians, the Greeks, the Jews, and the Christians, that they were continually accusing one another to the governor, to the no small advantage of his revenue. There were even frequent and bloody seditions, in one of which, in the reign of Caligula, the Jews, who exaggerate everything, assert that religious and commercial jealousy, united, cost them fifty thousand men, whom the Alexandrians murdered.

Christianity, which the Origens, Clements, and others had established and rendered admirable by their lives, degenerated into a mere spirit of party. The Christians adopted the manners of the Egyptians; religion yielded to the desire of gain; and all the inhabitants, divided in everything else, were unanimous only in the love of money. This it was which produced that famous letter from the Emperor Adrian to the Consul Servianus, which Vopiscus gives us as follows:

Adriani Epistola, ex Libris Phlegontis ejus prodita.

Adrianus Augustus Serviano Cos. Vo.

Ægyptum, quam mihi laudabas, Serviane carissime, totam didici, levem, pendulam, et ad omnia famæ monumenta volitantem. Illi qui Serapin colunt Christiani sunt, et devoti sunt Serapi qui se Christi episcopus dicunt. Nemo illic Archisynagogus Judæorum, nemo Semarites, nemo Christianorum presbyter, non mathematicus, non aruspex, non aliptes. Ipse ille Patriarcha, quum Ægyptum venerit, ab aliis Serapidem adorare, ab aliis cogitur Christum. Genus hominis seditiosissimum, injuriosissimum. Civitas opulenta, dives, fecunda, in qua nemo vivat otiosus. Alii vitrum constant, ab aliis charta conficitur; omnes certe lymphiones cujuscunque artis et videntur et habentur. Podagrosi quod agant habent, cæci quod faciant; ne chiragri quidem apud cos otiosi vivunt. Unus illis deus est; hunc Christiani, hunc Judæi, hunc homnes venerantur et gentes.

Which may be rendered thus:

“My dear Servian: I have seen that Egypt of which you have spoken so highly; I know it thoroughly. It is a light, uncertain, fickle nation. The worshippers of Serapis turn Christians, and they who are at the head of the religion of Christ devote themselves to Serapis. There is no chief of the rabbis, no Samaritan, no Christian priest who is not an astrologer, a diviner, a pander. When the Greek patriarch comes into Egypt, some press him to worship Serapis, others to adore Christ. They are very seditious, very vain, and very quarrelsome. The city is commercial, opulent, and populous. No one is idle. Some make glass; others manufacture paper; they seem to be, and indeed are, of all trades; not even the gout in their feet and hands can reduce them to entire inactivity; even the blind work. Money is a god which the Christians, Jews, and all men adore alike.”

This letter of an emperor, whose discernment was as great as his valor, sufficiently proves that the Christians, as well as others, had become corrupted in this abode of luxury and controversy; but the manners of the primitive Christians had not degenerated everywhere; and although they had the misfortune to be for a long time divided into different sects, which detested and accused one another, the most violent enemies of Christianity were obliged to acknowledge that the purest and the greatest souls were to be found among its proselytes. Such is the case even at the present day in cities wherein the degree of folly and frenzy exceeds that of ancient Alexandria.


The principal object of this dictionary is philosophy. It is not, therefore, as geographers that we speak of Algiers, but for the purpose of remarking that the first design of Louis XIV., when he took the reigns of government, was to deliver Christian Europe from the continual depredations of the Barbary corsairs. This project was an indication of a great mind. He wished to pursue every road to glory. It is somewhat astonishing that, with the spirit of order which he showed in his court, in his finances, and in the conduct of state affairs, he had a sort of relish for ancient chivalry, which led him to the performance of generous and brilliant actions, even approaching the romantic. It is certain that Louis inherited from his mother a deal of that Spanish gallantry, at once noble and delicate, with much of that greatness of soul—that passion for glory—that lofty pride, so conspicuous in old romances. He talked of fighting the emperor Leopold, like a knight seeking adventures. The erection of the pyramid at Rome, the assertion of his right of precedence, and the idea of having a port near Algiers to curb the pirates, were likewise of this class. To this latter attempt he was moreover excited by Pope Alexander VII., and by Cardinal Mazarin before his death. He had for some time debated with himself whether he should go on this expedition in person, like Charles the Fifth; but he had not vessels to execute so great an enterprise, whether in person or by his generals. The attempt was therefore fruitless, and it could not be otherwise.

It was, however, of service in exercising the French marine, and prepared the world to expect some of those noble and heroic actions which are out of the ordinary line of policy, such as the disinterested aid lent to the Venetians besieged in Candia, and to the Germans pressed by the Ottoman arms at St. Gothard.

The details of the African expedition are lost in the number of successful or unsuccessful wars, waged justly or unjustly, with good or bad policy. We shall merely give the following letter, which was written some years ago on the subject of the Algerine piracies:

“It is to be lamented, sire, that the proposals of the order of Malta were not acceded to, when they offered, on consideration of a moderate subsidy from each Christian power, to free the seas from the pirates of Algiers, Morocco, and Tunis. The knights of Malta would then have been truly the defenders of Christianity. The actual force of the Algerines is but two fifty-gun ships, five of about forty, and four of thirty guns; the rest are not worth mentioning.

“It is shameful to see their little barks seizing our merchant vessels every day throughout the Mediterranean. They even cruise as far as the Canaries and the Azores.

“Their soldiery, composed of a variety of nations—ancient Mauritanians, ancient Numidians, Arabs, Turks, and even negroes, set sail, almost without provisions, in tight vessels carrying from eighteen to twenty guns, and infest all our seas like vultures seeking their prey. When they see a man of war, they fly; when they see a merchant vessel they seize it. Our friends and our relatives, men and women, are made slaves; and we must humbly supplicate the barbarians to deign to receive our money for restoring to us their captives.

“Some Christian states have had the shameful prudence to treat with them, and send them arms wherewith to attack others, bargaining with them as merchants, while they negotiate as warriors.

“Nothing would be more easy than to put down these marauders; yet it is not done. But how many other useful and easy things are entirely neglected! The necessity of reducing these pirates is acknowledged in every prince’s cabinet; yet no one undertakes their reduction. When the ministers of different courts accidently talk the matter over, they do but illustrate the fable of tying the bell round the cat’s neck.

“The order of the Redemption of Captives is the finest of all monastic institutions, but it is a sad reproach to us. The kingdoms of Fez, Algiers, and Tunis have no marabous of the Redemption of Captives; because, though they take many Christians from us, we take scarcely any Mussulmans from them.

“Nevertheless, they are more attached to their religion than we are to ours; for no Turk or Arab ever turns Christian, while they have hundreds of renegadoes among them, who even serve in their expeditions. An Italian named Pelegini, was, in 1712, captain-general of the Algerine galleys. The miramolin, the bey, the dey, all have Christian females in their seraglios, but there are only two Turkish girls who have found lovers in Paris.

“The Algerine land force consists of twelve thousand regular soldiers only; but all the rest of the men are trained to arms; and it is this that renders the conquest of the country so difficult. The Vandals, however, easily subdued it; yet we dare not attack it.”


Jupiter, Neptune, and Mercury, travelling one day in Thrace, called on a certain king named Hyreus, who entertained them very handsomely. After eating a good dinner, they asked him if they could render him any service. The good man, who was past the age at which it is usual for men to have children, told them he should be very much obliged to them if they would make him a boy. The three gods then urinated on the skin of a new flayed ox; and from these sprang Orion, who became one of the constellations known to the most remote antiquity. This constellation was named Orion by the ancient Chaldæans; it is spoken of in the Book of Job. It would be hard to discover a rational allegory in this pretty story, unless we are to infer from it that nothing was impossible to the gods.

There were in Greece two young rakes, who were told by the oracle to beware of the melampygos or sable posteriors. One day Hercules took them and tied them by the feet to the end of his club, so that they hung down his back with their heads downward, like a couple of rabbits, having a full view of his person. “Ah!” said they; “the oracle is accomplished; this is the melampygos.” Hercules fell alaughing, and let them go. Here again it would be rather difficult to divine the moral sense.

Among the fathers of mythology there were some who had only imagination; but the greater part of them possessed understandings of no mean order. Not all our academies, not all our makers of devices, not even they who compose the legends for the counters of the royal treasury, will ever invent allegories more true, more pleasing, or more ingenious, than those of the Nine Muses, of Venus, the Graces, the God of Love, and so many others, which will be the delight and instruction of all ages.

The ancients, it must be confessed, almost always spoke in allegories. The earlier fathers of the church, the greater part of whom were Platonists, imitated this method of Plato’s. They have, indeed, been reproached with having carried this taste for allegories and allusions a little too far.

St. Justin, in his “Apology,” says that the sign of the cross is marked in the limbs and features of man; that when he extends his arms there is a perfect cross; and that his nose and eyes form a cross upon his face.

According to Origen’s explanation of Leviticus, the fat of the victims signifies the Church, and the tail is a symbol of perseverance.

St. Augustine, in his sermon on the difference and agreement of the two genealogies of Christ, explains to his auditors why St. Matthew, although he reckons forty-two generations, enumerates only forty-one. It is, says he, because Jechonias must be reckoned twice, Jechonias having gone from Jerusalem to Babylon. This journey is to be considered as the corner-stone; and if the corner-stone is the first of one side of a building, it is also the first of the other side; consequently this stone must be reckoned twice; and therefore Jechonias must be reckoned twice. He adds that, in the forty-two generations, we must dwell on the number forty, because that number signifies life. The number ten denotes blessedness, and ten multiplied by four, which represents the four elements and the four seasons, produces forty.

In his fifty-third sermon, the dimensions of matter have astonishing properties. Breadth is the dilation of the heart, length is long-suffering, height is hope, and depth is faith. So that, besides the allegory, we have four dimensions of matter instead of three.

It is clear and indubitable (says he in his sermon on the 6th psalm) that the number four denotes the human body, because of the four elements, and the four qualities of hot, cold, moist, and dry; and as four relates to the body, so three relates to the soul; for we must love God with a triple love—with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds. Four also relates to the Old Testament, and three to the New. Four and three make up the number of seven days, and the eight is the day of judgment.

One cannot but feel that there is in these allegories an affectation but little compatible with true eloquence. The fathers, who sometimes made use of these figures, wrote in times and countries in which nearly all the arts were degenerating. Their learning and fine genius were warped by the imperfections of the age in which they lived. St. Augustine is not to be respected the less for having paid this tribute to the bad taste of Africa and the fourth century.

The discourses of our modern preachers are not disfigured by similar faults. Not that we dare prefer them to the fathers; but the present age is to be preferred to the ages in which they wrote. Eloquence, which became more and more corrupted, and was not revived until later times, fell, after them, into still greater extravagances; and the languages of all barbarous nations were alike ridiculous until the age of Louis XIV. Look at all the old collections of sermons; they are far below the dramatic pieces of the Passion, which used to be played at the Hôtel de Bourgogne. But the spirit of allegory, which has never been lost, may be traced throughout these barbarous discourses. The celebrated Ménot, who lived in the reign of Francis I., did more honor, perhaps, than any other to the allegorical style. “The worthy administrators of justice,” said he, “are like a cat set to take care of a cheese, lest it should be gnawed by the mice. One bite of the cat does more damage to the cheese than twenty mice can do.”

Here is another very curious passage: “The woodmen, in a forest, cut large and small branches, and bind them in faggots; just so do our ecclesiastics, with dispensations from Rome, heap together great and small benefices. The cardinal’s hat is garnished with bishoprics, the bishoprics are garnished with abbeys and priories, and the whole is garnished with devils. All these church possessions must pass through the three links of the Ave Maria; for benedicta tu stands for fat abbeys of Benedictines, in mulieribus for monsieur and madame, and fructus ventris for banquets and gormandizers.”

The sermons of Barlet and Maillard are all framed after this model, and were delivered half in bad Latin, and half in bad French. The Italian sermons were in the same taste; and the German were still worse. This monstrous medley gave birth to the macaroni style, the very climax of barbarism. The species of oratory, worthy only of the Indians on the banks of the Missouri, prevailed even so lately as the reign of Louis XIII. The Jesuit Garasse, one of the most distinguished enemies of common sense, never preached in any other style. He likened the celebrated Theophile to a calf, because Theophile’s family name was Viaud, something resembling veau (a calf). “But,” said he, “the flesh of a calf is good to roast and to boil, whereas thine is good for nothing but to burn.

All these allegories, used by our barbarians, fall infinitely short of those employed by Homer, Virgil, and Ovid, which proves that if there be still some Goths and Vandals who despise ancient fable they are not altogether in the right.


It is of little moment to know whether we have the word almanac from the ancient Saxons, who could not write, or from the Arabs, who are known to have been astronomers, and to have had some acquaintance with the courses of the planets, while the western nations were still wrapped in an ignorance as great as their barbarism. I shall here confine myself to one short observation.

Let an Indian philosopher, who has embarked at Meliapour, come to Bayonne. I shall suppose this philosopher to be a man of sense, which, you will say, is rare among the learned of India; to be divested of all scholastic prejudices—a thing that was rare everywhere not long ago—and I shall suppose him to meet with a blockhead in our part of the world—which is not quite so great a rarity.

Our blockhead, in order to make him conversant with our arts and sciences, presents him with a Liège almanac, composed by Matthew Lansberg, and the Lame Messenger (Messager boiteux) by Anthony Souci, astrologer and historian, printed every year at Basle, and sold to the number of 20,000 copies in eight days. There you behold the fine figure of a man, surrounded by the signs of the Zodiac, with certain indications most clearly demonstrating that the scales preside over the posteriors, the ram over the head, the fishes over the feet, etc.

Each day of the moon informs you when you must take Le Lievre’s balm of life, or Keiser’s pills; when you must be bled, have your nails cut, wean your children, plant, sow, go a journey, or put on a pair of new shoes. The Indian, when he hears these lessons, will do well to say to his guide that he will have none of his almanac.

So soon as our simpleton shall have shown the philosopher a few of our ceremonies, which every wise man disapproves, but which are tolerated in order to amuse the populace, through pure contempt for that populace, the traveller, seeing these mummeries, followed by a tambourine dance, will not fail to pity and take us for madmen, who are, nevertheless, very amusing and not absolutely cruel. He will write home to the president of the Grand College of Benares that we have not common sense; but that if His Paternity will send enlightened and discreet persons among us, something may, with the blessing of God, be made of us.

It was precisely in this way that our first missionaries, especially St. Francis Xavier, spoke of the people inhabiting the peninsula of India. They even fell into still grosser mistakes respecting the customs of the Indians, their sciences, their opinions, their manners, and their worship. The accounts which they sent to Europe were extremely curious. Every statue was a devil; every assembly a sabbath; every symbolical figure a talisman; every Brahmin a sorcerer; and these are made the subject of neverending lamentations. They hope that the harvest will be abundant; and add, by a rather incongruous metaphor, that they will labor effectually in the vineyard of the Lord, in a country where wine has always been unknown. Thus, or nearly thus, have every people judged, not only of distant nations, but of their neighbors.

The Chinese are said to be the most ancient almanac-makers. The finest of their emperor’s privileges is that of sending his calendar to his vassals and neighbors; their refusal of which would be considered as a bravado, and war would forthwith be made upon them, as it used to be in Europe on feudal lords who refused their homage.

If we have only twelve constellations, the Chinese have twenty-eight, the names of which have not the least affinity with ours—a sufficient proof that they have taken nothing from the Chaldæan Zodiac, that we have adopted. But though they have had a complete system of astrology for more than four thousand years, they resemble Matthew Lansberg and Anthony Souci in the fine predictions and secrets of health with which they stuff their Imperial Almanac. They divide the day into ten thousand minutes, and know, with the greatest precision, what minute is favorable or otherwise. When the Emperor Kamhi wished to employ the Jesuit missionaries in making the almanac, they are said to have excused themselves, at first, on account of the extravagant superstitions with which it must be filled. “I have much less faith than you in the superstitions,” replied the emperor; “only make me a good calendar, and leave it for my learned men to fill up the book with their foolery.”

The ingenious author of the “Plurality of Worlds” ridicules the Chinese, because, says he, they see a thousand stars fall at once into the sea. It is very likely that the Emperor Kamhi ridiculed this notion as well as Fontenelle. Some Chinese almanacmaker had, it would seem, been good-natured enough to speak of these meteors after the manner of the people, and to take them for stars. Every country has its foolish notions. All the nations of antiquity made the sun lie down in the sea, where for a long time we sent the stars. We have believed that the clouds touched the firmament, that the firmament was a hard substance, and that it supported a reservoir of water. It has not long been known in our towns that the Virgin-thread (fil de la vierge) so often found in the country, is nothing more than the thread spun by a spider. Let us not laugh at any people. Let us reflect that the Chinese had astrolabes and spheres before we could read, and that if they have made no great progress in astronomy, it is through that same respect for the ancients which we have had for Aristotle.

It is consoling to know that the Roman people, populus late rex, were, in this particular, far behind Matthew Lansberg, and the Lame Messenger, and the astrologers of China, until the period when Julius Cæsar reformed the Roman year, which we have received from him and still call by his name—the Julian Calendar, although we have no calends, and he was obliged to reform it himself.

The primitive Romans had, at first, a year of ten months, making three hundred and four days; this was neither solar nor lunar, nor anything except barbarous. The Roman year was afterwards composed of three hundred and fifty-five days—another mistake, which was corrected so imperfectly that, in Cæsar’s time, the summer festivals were held in winter. The Roman generals always triumphed, but never knew on what day they triumphed.

Cæsar reformed everything; he seemed to rule both heaven and earth. I know not through what complaisance for the Roman customs it was that he began the year at a time when it does not begin—that is, eight days after the winter solstice. All the nations composing the Roman Empire submitted to this innovation; even the Egyptians, who had until then given the law in all that related to almanacs, received it; but none of these different nations altered anything in the distribution of their feasts. The Jews, like the rest, celebrated their new moons; their phase or pascha, the fourteenth day of the moon of March, called the red-haired moon, which day often fell in April; their Pentecost, fifty days after the pascha; the feast of horns or trumpets, the first day of July; that of tabernacles on the fifteenth of the same month, and that of the great sabbath, seven days afterwards.

The first Christians followed the computations of the empire, and reckoned by calends, nones, and ides, like their masters; they likewise received the Bissextile, which we have still, although it was found necessary to correct it in the fifteenth century, and it must some day be corrected again; but they conformed to the Jewish methods in the celebration of their great feasts. They fixed their Easter for the fourteenth day of the red moon, until the Council of Nice determined that it should be the Sunday following. Those who celebrated it on the fourteenth were declared heretics; and both were mistaken in their calculation.

The feasts of the Blessed Virgin were, as far as possible, substituted for the new moons. The author of the “Roman Calendar” (Le Calendrier Romain) says the reason of this is drawn from the verse of the Canticle, pulchra ut luna, “fair as the moon”; but, by the same rule, these feasts should be held on a Sunday, for in the same verse we find electa ut sol, “chosen like the sun.” The Christians also kept the feast of Pentecost; it was fixed, like that of the Jews, precisely fifty days after Easter. The same author asserts that saint-days took the place of the feasts of tabernacles. He adds that St. John’s day was fixed for the 24th of June, only because the days then begin to shorten, and St. John had said, when speaking of Jesus Christ, “He must grow, and I must become less”—Oportet illum crescere, me autem minui. There is something very singular in the ancient ceremony of lighting a great fire on St. John’s day, in the hottest period of the year. It has been said to be a very old custom, originally designed to commemorate the ancient burning of the world, which awaited a second conflagration. The same writer assures us that the feast of the Assumption is kept on the 15th of August because the sun is then in the sign of the Virgin. He also certifies that St. Mathias’ day is in the month of February, because he was, as it were, intercalated among the twelve apostles, as a day is added to February every leap-year. There would, perhaps, be something in these astronomical imaginings to make our Indian philosopher smile; nevertheless, the author of them was mathematical master to the Dauphin, son of Louis XIV., and moreover, an engineer and a very worthy officer.


It is universally acknowledged that the first Christians had neither temples, nor altars, nor tapers, nor incense, nor holy water, nor any of those rites which the prudence of pastors afterwards instituted, in conformity with times and places, but more especially with the various wants of the faithful.

We have ample testimony in Origen, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Justin, and Tertullian, that the primitive Christians held temples and altars in abomination; and that not merely because they could not in the beginning obtain permission from the government to build temples, but because they had a real aversion for everything that seemed to apply any affinity with other religions. This abhorrence existed among them for two hundred and fifty years, as is proved by the following passage of Minutius Felix, who lived in the third century. Addressing the Romans, he says:

Putatis autem nos occultare quod colimus, si delubra et aras non habemus. Quod enim simulacrum Deo fingam, quum, si recte existimes, sit Dei homo ipse simulacrum? quod templum ei exstruam, quum totus hic mundus, ejus opere fabricatus, eum capere non possit? et quum homo latius maneam, intra unam ædiculum vim tantæ majestatis includam? nonne melius in nostra dedicandus est mente, in nostro imo consecrandus est pectore?

“You think that we conceal what we adore, because we have neither temples nor altars. But what shall we erect like to God, since man himself is God’s image? What temple shall we build for Him, when the whole world, which is the work of His hands, cannot contain Him? How shall we enclose the power of such majesty in one dwelling-place? Is it not better to consecrate a temple to Him in our minds and in our hearts?”

The Christians, then, had no temples until about the beginning of the reign of Diocletian. The Church had then become very numerous; and it was found necessary to introduce those decorations and rites which, at an earlier period, would have been useless and even dangerous to a slender flock, long despised, and considered as nothing more than a small sect of dissenting Jews.

It is manifest that, while they were confounded with the Jews, they could not obtain permission to erect temples. The Jews, who paid very dear for their synagogues, would themselves have opposed it; for they were mortal enemies to the Christians, and they were rich. We must not say, with Toland, that the Christians, who at that time made a show of despising temples and altars, were like the fox that said the grapes were sour. This comparison appears as unjust as it is impious, since all the primitive Christians in so many different countries, agreed in maintaining that there was no need of raising temples or altars to the true God.

Providence, acting by second causes, willed that they should erect a splendid temple at Nicomedia, the residence of the Emperor Diocletian, as soon as they had obtained that sovereign’s protection. They built others in other cities; but still they had a horror of tapers, lustral water, pontifical habits, etc. All this pomp and circumstance was in their eyes no other than a distinctive mark of paganism. These customs were adopted under Constantine and his successors, and have frequently changed.

Our good women of the present day, who every Sunday hear a Latin mass, at which a little boy attends, imagine that this rite has been observed from the earliest ages, that there never was any other, and that the custom in other countries of assembling to offer up prayers to God in common is diabolical and quite of recent origin. There is, undeniably, something very respectable in a mass, since it has been authorized by the Church; it is not at all an ancient usage, but is not the less entitled to our veneration.

There is not, perhaps, a single ceremony of this day which was in use in the time of the apostles. The Holy Spirit has always conformed himself to the times. He inspired the first disciples in a mean apartment; He now communicates His inspirations in St. Peter’s at Rome, which cost several millions—equally divine, however, in the wretched room, and in the superb edifice of Julius II., Leo X., Paul III., and Sixtus V.


Bold and vigorous women have been often seen to fight like men. History makes mention of such; for, without reckoning Semiramis, Tomyris, or Penthesilea—who, perhaps, existed only in fable—it is certain that there were many women in the armies of the first caliphs. In the tribe of the Homerites, especially, it was a sort of law, dictated by love and courage, that in battle wives should succor and avenge their husbands, and mothers their children.

When the famous chief Derar was fighting in Syria against the generals of the Emperor Heraclius, in the time of the caliph Abubeker, successor to Mahomet, Peter, who commanded at Damascus, took thither several women, whom he had captured, together with some booty, in one of his excursions; among the prisoners was the sister of Derar. Alvakedi’s “Arabian History,” translated by Ockley, says that she was a perfect beauty, and that Peter became enamored of her, paid great attention to her on the way, and indulged her and her fellow-prisoners with short marches. They encamped in an extensive plain, under tents, guarded by troops posted at a short distance. Caulah (so this sister of Derar’s was named) proposed to one of her companions, called Oserra, that they should endeavor to escape from captivity, and persuaded her rather to die than be a victim to the lewd desires of the Christians. The same Mahometan enthusiasm seized all the women; they armed themselves with the iron-pointed staves that supported their tents, and with a sort of dagger which they wore in their girdles; they then formed a circle, as the cows do when they present their horns to attacking wolves. Peter only laughed at first; he advanced toward the women, who gave him hard blows with the staves; after hesitating for some time, he at length resolved to use force; the sabres of his men were already drawn, when Derar arrived, put the Greeks to flight, and delivered his sister and the other captives.

Nothing can more strongly resemble those times called heroic, sung by Homer. Here are the same single combats at the head of armies, the combatants frequently holding a long conversation before they commerce fighting; and this, no doubt, justifies Homer.

Thomas, governor of Syria, Heraclius’s son-in-law, made a sally from Damascus, and attacked Sergiabil, having first prayed to Jesus Christ. “Unjust aggressor,” said he to Sergiabil, “thou canst not resist Jesus, my God, who will fight for the champions of His religion.” “Thou tellest an impious lie,” answered Sergiabil; “Jesus is not greater before God than Adam. God raised Him from the dust; He gave life to Him as to another man, and, after leaving Him for some time on earth, took Him up into heaven.” After some more verbal skirmishing the fight began. Thomas discharged an arrow, which wounded young Aban, the son of Saib, by the side of the valiant Sergiabil; Aban fell and expired; the news of his death reached his young wife, to whom he had been united but a few days before; she neither wept nor complained, but ran to the field of battle, with a quiver at her back, and a couple of arrows in her hand; with the first of these she killed the Christian standard-bearer, and the Arabs seized the trophy, crying, Allah achar! With the other she shot Thomas in the eye, and he retired, bleeding, into the town.

Arabian history is full of similar examples, but they do not tell us that these warlike women burned their right breast, that they might draw the bow better, nor that they lived without men; on the contrary, they exposed themselves in battle for their husbands or their lovers; from which very circumstance we must conclude that, so far from reproaching Ariosto and Tasso for having introduced so many enamored warriors into their poems, we should praise them for having delineated real and interesting manners.

When the crusading mania was at its height there were some Christian women who shared the fatigues and dangers of their husbands. To such a pitch, indeed, was this enthusiasm carried that the Genoese women undertook a crusade of their own, and were on the point of setting out for Palestine to form petticoat battalions; they had made a vow so to do, but were absolved from it by a pope, who was a little wiser than themselves.

Margaret of Anjou, wife of the unfortunate Henry VI. of England, evinced, in a juster war, a valor truly heroic; she fought in ten battles to deliver her husband. History affords no authenticated example of greater or more persevering courage in a woman. She had been preceded by the celebrated Countess de Montfort, in Brittany. “This princess,” says d’Argentré, “was virtuous beyond the nature of her sex, and valiant beyond all men; she mounted her horse, and managed him better than any esquire; she fought hand to hand, or charged a troop of armed men like the most valiant captain; she fought on sea and land with equal bravery,” etc. She went, sword in hand, through her states, which were invaded by her competitor, Charles de Blois. She not only sustained two assaults, armed cap-à-pie, in the breach of Hennebon, but she made a sortie with five hundred men, attacked the enemy’s camp, set fire to it, and reduced it to ashes.

The exploits of Joan of Arc, better known as the Maid of Orleans, are less astonishing than those of Margaret of Anjou and the Countess de Montfort. These two princesses having been brought up in the luxury of courts, and Joan of Arc in the rude exercises of country life, it was more singular, as well as more noble, to quit a palace for the field than a cottage.

The heroine who defended Beauvais was, perhaps, superior to her who raised the siege of Orleans, for she fought quite as well, and neither boasted of being a maid, nor of being inspired. It was in 1472, when the Burgundian army was besieging Beauvais, that Jeanne Hachette, at the head of a number of women, sustained an assault for a considerable time, wrested the standard from one of the enemy who was about to plant it on the breach, threw the bearer into the trench, and gave time for the king’s troops to arrive and relieve the town. Her descendants have been exempted from the taille (poll tax)—a mean and shameful recompense! The women and girls of Beauvais are more flattered by their walking before the men in the procession on the anniversary day. Every public mark of honor is an encouragement of merit; but the exemption from the taille is but a proof that the persons so exempted were subjected to this servitude by the misfortune of their birth.

There is hardly any nation which does not boast of having produced such heroines; the number of these, however, is not great; nature seems to have designed women for other purposes. Women have been known but rarely to exhibit themselves as soldiers. In short, every people have had their female warriors; but the kingdom of the Amazons, on the banks of the Thermodon, is, like most other ancient stories, nothing more than a poetic fiction.


For want of defining terms, and especially for want of a clear understanding, almost all laws, that should be as plain as arithmetic and geometry, are as obscure as logogriphs. The melancholy proof of this is that nearly all processes are founded on the sense of the laws, always differently understood by the pleaders, the advocates, and the judges.

The whole public law of Europe had its origin in equivocal expressions, beginning with the Salique law. She shall not inherit Salique land. But what is Salique land? And shall not a girl inherit money, or a necklace, left to her, which may be worth more than the land?

The citizens of Rome saluted Karl, son of the Austrasian Pepin le Bref, by the name of imperator. Did they understand thereby: We confer on you all the prerogatives of Octavius, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius? We give you all the country which they possessed? However, they could not give it; for so far were they from being masters of it that they were scarcely masters of their own city. There never was a more equivocal expression; and such as it was then it still is.

Did Leo III., the bishop of Rome who is said to have saluted Charlemagne emperor, comprehend the meaning of the words which he pronounced? The Germans assert that he understood by them that Charles should be his master. The Datary has asserted that he meant he should be master over Charlemagne.

Have not things the most venerable, the most sacred, the most divine, been obscured by the ambiguities of language? Ask two Christians of what religion they are. Each will answer, I am a Catholic. You think they are both of the same communion; yet one is of the Greek, the other of the Latin church; and they are irreconciable. If you seek to be further informed, you will find that by the word Catholic each of them understands universal, in which case universal signifies a part.

The soul of St. Francis is in heaven—is in paradise. One of these words signifies the air; the other means a garden. The word spirit is used alike to express extract, thought, distilled liquor, apparition. Ambiguity has been so necessary a vice in all languages, formed by what is called chance and by custom, that the author of all clearness and truth Himself condescended to speak after the manner of His people; whence is it that Elohim signifies in some places judges, at other times gods, and at others angels. “Tu es Petrus, et super hunc petrum ædificabo ecclesiam meam,” would be equivocal in a profane tongue, and on profane subject; but these words receive a divine sense from the mouth which utters them, and the subject to which they are applied.

“I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob; now God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” In the ordinary sense these words might signify: “I am the same God that was worshipped by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; as the earth, which bore Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, likewise bears their descendants; the sun which shines to-day is the sun that shone on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the law of their children was their law.” This does not, however, signify that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still living. But when the Messiah speaks, there is no longer any ambiguity; the sense is as clear as it is divine. It is evident that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not among the dead, but live in glory, since this oracle is pronounced by the Messiah; but it was necessary that He and no one else should utter it.

The discourses of the Jewish prophets might seem equivocal to men of gross intellects, who could not perceive their meaning; but they were not so to minds illumined by the light of faith.

All the oracles of antiquity were equivocal. It was foretold to Crœsus that a powerful empire was to fall; but was it to be his own? or that of Cyrus? It was also foretold to Pyrrhus that the Romans might conquer him, and that he might conquer the Romans. It was impossible that this oracle should lie.

When Septimius Severus, Pescennius Niger, and Clodius Albinus were contending for the empire, the oracle of Delphos, being consulted (notwithstanding the assertion of the Jesuit Baltus that oracles had ceased), answered that the brown was very good, the white good for nothing, and the African tolerable. It is plain that there are more ways than one of explaining such an oracle.

When Aurelian consulted the god of Palmyra (still in spite of Baltus), the god said that the doves fear the falcon. Whatever might happen, the god would not be embarrassed; the falcon would be the conqueror, and the doves the conquered.

Sovereigns, as well as gods, have sometimes made use of equivocation. Some tyrant, whose name I forget, having sworn to one of his captives that he would not kill him, ordered that he should have nothing to eat, saying that he had promised not to put him to death, but he had not promised to keep him alive.


Since framers of systems are continually conjecturing on the manner in which America can have been peopled, we will be equally consistent in saying that He who caused flies to exist in those regions caused men to exist there also. However pleasant it may be to dispute, it cannot be denied that the Supreme Being, who lives in all nature, has created, about the forty-eighth degree, two-legged animals without feathers, the color of whose skin is a mixture of white and carnation, with long beards approaching to red; about the line, in Africa and its islands, negroes without beards; and in the same latitude, other negroes with beards, some of them having wool, and some hair, on their heads; and among them other animals quite white, having neither hair nor wool, but a kind of white silk. It does not very clearly appear what should have prevented God from placing on another continent animals of the same species, of a copper color, in the same latitude in which, in Africa and Asia, they are found black; or even from making them without beards in the very same latitude in which others possess them.

To what lengths are we carried by the rage for systems joined with the tyranny of prejudice! We see these animals; it is agreed that God has had the power to place them where they are; yet it is not agreed that he has so placed them. The same persons who readily admit that the beavers of Canada are of Canadian origin, assert that the men must have come there in boats, and that Mexico must have been peopled by some of the descendants of Magog. As well might be said that if there be men in the moon they must have been taken thither by Astolpho on his hippogriff, when he went to fetch Roland’s senses, which were corked up in a bottle. If America had been discovered in his time, and there had then been men in Europe systematic enough to have advanced, with the Jesuit Lafitau, that the Caribbees descended from the inhabitants of Caria, and the Hurons from the Jews, he would have done well to have brought back the bottle containing the wits of these reasoners, which he would doubtless have found in the moon, along with those of Angelica’s lover.

The first thing done when an inhabited island is discovered in the Indian Ocean, or in the South Seas, is to inquire whence came these people? But as for the trees and the tortoises, they are, without any hesitation, pronounced to be indigenous; as if it was more difficult for Nature to make men than to make tortoises. One thing, however, which tends to countenance this system is that there is scarcely an island in the Eastern or in the Western Ocean which does not contain jugglers, quacks, knaves and fools. This, it is probable, gave rise to the opinion that these animals are of the same race with ourselves.


It is pretended that amplification is a fine figure of rhetoric; perhaps, however, it would be more reasonable to call it a defect. In saying all that we should say, we do not amplify; and if after saying this we amplify, we say too much. To place a good or bad action in every light is not to amplify; but to go farther than this is to exaggerate and become wearisome.

Prizes were formerly given in colleges for amplification. This was indeed teaching the art of being diffuse. It would, perhaps, have been better to have given the fewest words, and thus teach the art of speaking with greater force and energy. But while we avoid amplification, let us beware of dryness.

I have heard professors teach that certain passages in “Virgil” are amplifications, as, for instance, the following:

Nox erat, et placidum carpebant fessa soporem

Corpora per terras, silvæque et saeva quierunt

Æquora; quum medio volvuntur sidera lapsu;

Quum tacet omnis ager, pecudes, pietaeque volucres;

Quaeque lacus late liquidos, quaeque aspera dumis

Rura tenant, somno positae sub nocte silenti

Lenibant curas, et corda oblita laborum:

At non infelix animi Phœnissa.

’Twas dead of night, when weary bodies close

Their eyes in balmy sleep and soft repose:

The winds no longer whisper through the woods,

Nor murmuring tides disturb the gentle floods;

The stars in silent order moved around,

And peace, with downy wings, was brooding on the ground.

The flocks and herds, and parti-colored fowl,

Which haunt the woods and swim the weedy pool,

Stretched on the quiet earth securely lay,

Forgetting the past labors of the day.

All else of Nature’s common gift partake;

Unhappy Dido was alone awake.


If the long description of the reign of sleep throughout all nature did not form an admirable contrast with the cruel inquietude of Dido, these lines would be no other than a puerile amplification; it is the words At non infelix animi Phænissa—“Unhappy Dido,” etc., which give them their charm.

That beautiful ode of Sappho’s which paints all the symptoms of love, and which has been happily translated into every cultivated language, would doubtless have been less touching had Sappho been speaking of any other than herself; it might then have been considered as an amplification.

The description of the tempest in the first book of the “Æneid” is not an amplification; it is a true picture of all that happens in a tempest; there is no idea repeated, and repetition is the vice of all which is merely amplification.

The finest part on the stage in any language is that of Phèdre (Phædra). Nearly all that she says would be tiresome amplification if any other was speaking of Phædra’s passion.

Athenes me montra mon superbe ennemie;

Je le vis, je rougis, je plâis, à sa vue;

Un trouble s’éleva dans mon âme éperdue;

Mes yeux ne voyaient plus, je ne pouvais parler,

Je sentis tout mon corps et transir et brûler;

Je reconnus Venus et ses traits rédoubtables,

D’un sang qu’elle poursuit tormens inévitables.

Yes;—Athens showed me my proud enemy;

I saw him—blushed—turned pale;—

A sudden trouble came upon my soul,—

My eyes grew dim—my tongue refused its office,—

I burned—and shivered;—through my trembling frame

Venus in all her dreadful power I felt,

Shooting through every vein a separate pang.

It is quite clear that since Athens showed her her proud enemy Hippolytus, she saw Hippolytus; if she blushed and turned pale, she was doubtless troubled. It would have been a pleonasm, a redundancy, if a stranger had been made to relate the loves of Phædra; but it is Phædra, enamored and ashamed of her passion—her heart is full—everything escapes her:

Ut vidi, ut perii, ut me malus abstulit error.

Je le vis, je rougis, je pâlis, à sa vue.

I saw him—blushed—turned pale.—

What can be a better imitation of Virgil?

Mes yeux ne voyaient plus, je ne pouvais parler;

Je sentis tout mon corps et transir et brûler;

My eyes grew dim—my tongue refused its office;

I burned—and shivered;

What can be a finer imitation of Sappho?

These lines, though imitated, flow as from their first source; each word moves and penetrates the feeling heart; this is not amplification; it is the perfection of nature and of art.

The following is, in my opinion, an instance of amplification, in a modern tragedy, which nevertheless has great beauties. Tydeus is at the court of Argos; he is in love with a sister of Electra; he laments the fall of his friend Orestes and of his father; he is divided betwixt his passion for Electra and his desire of vengeance; while in this state of care and perplexity he gives one of his followers a long description of a tempest, in which he had been shipwrecked some time before.

Tu sais ce qu’en ces lieux nous venions entreprendre;

Tu sais que Palamède, avant que de s’y rendre,

Ne voulut point tenter son retour dans Argos,

Qu’il n’eût interroge l’oracle de Délos.

À de si justes soins on souscrivit sans peine;

Nous partîmes, comblés des bienfaits de Thyrrène;

Tout nous favorisait; nous voyageâmes longtems

Au gré de nos désirs, bien plus qu’au gré des vents;

Mais, signalañt bientôt toute son inconstance,

Le mer en un moment se mutine et s’élance;

L’air mugit, le jour fuit, une épaisse vapeur

Couvre d’un voile affreux les vagues en fureur;

La foudre, éclairante seule une nuit si profonde,

À sillons redoublés ouvre le ciel et l’onde,

Et comme un tourbillon, embrassant nos vaisseaux,

Semble en sources de feu bouillonner sur les eaux;

Les vagues quelquefois, nous portant sur leurs cimes,

Nous font rouler après sous de vastes abîmes,

Ou les éclairs pressés, pénétrans avec nous,

Dans des gouffres de feu semblaient nous plonger tous;

Le pilote effrayé, que la flamme environne,

Aux rochers qu’il fuyait lui-meme s’abandonne;

À travers les écueils notre vaisseau pousse,

Se brise, et nage enfin sur les eaux dispersées.

Thou knowest what purpose brought us to these shores;

Thou knowest that Palamed would not attempt

Again to set his foot within these walls

Until he’d questioned Delos’ oracle.

To his just care we readily subscribed;

We sailed, and favoring gales at first appeared

To announce a prosperous voyage;

Long time we held our course, and held it rather

As our desires than as the winds impelled;

But the inconstant ocean heaved at last

Its treacherous bosom; howling blasts arose;

The heavens were darkened; vapors black and dense

Spread o’er the furious waves a frightful veil,

Pierced only by the thunderbolts, which clove

The waters and the firmament at once,

And whirling round our ship, in horrid sport

Chased one another o’er the boiling surge;

Now rose we on some watery mountain’s summit,

Now with the lightning plunged into a gulf

That seemed to swallow all. Our pilot, struck

Powerless by terror, ceased to steer, and left us

Abandoned to those rocks we dreaded most;

Soon did our vessel dash upon their points,

And swim in scattered fragments on the billows.

In this description we see the poet wishing to surprise his readers with the relation of a shipwreck, rather than the man who seeks to avenge his father and his friend—to kill the tyrant of Argos, but who is at the same time divided between love and vengeance.

Several men of taste, and among others the author of “Telemachus,” have considered the relation of the death of Hippolytus, in Racine, as an amplification; long recitals were the fashion at that time. The vanity of actors make them wish to be listened to, and it was then the custom to indulge them in this way. The archbishop of Cambray says that Theramenes should not, after Hippolytus’ catastrophe, have strength to speak so long; that he gives too ample a description of the monster’s threatening horns, his saffron scales, etc.; that he should say in broken accents, Hippolytus is dead—a monster has destroyed him—I beheld it.

I shall not enter on a defence of the threatening horns, etc.; yet this piece of criticism, which has been so often repeated, appears to me to be unjust. You would have Theramenes say nothing more than Hippolytus is killed—I saw him die—all is over. This is precisely what he does say; Hippolyte n’est plus! (Hippolytus is no more!) His father exclaims aloud; and Theramenes, on recovering his senses, says:

J’ai vu des mortels périr le plus amiable,

I have seen the most amiable of mortals perish,

and adds this line, so necessary and so affecting yet so agonizing for Theseus:

Et j’ose dire encore, Seigneur, le moins coupable.

And, Sire, I may truly add, the most innocent.

The gradations are fully observed; each shade is accurately distinguished. The wretched father asks what God—what sudden thunder-stroke has deprived him of his son. He has not courage to proceed; he is mute with grief; he awaits the dreadful recital, and the audience awaits it also. Theramenes must answer; he is asked for particulars; he must give them.

Was it for him who had made Mentor and all the rest of his personages discourse at such length, sometimes even tediously; was it for him to shut the mouth of Theramenes? Who among the spectators would not listen to him? Who would not enjoy the melancholy pleasure of hearing the circumstance of Hippolytus’ death? Who would have so much as three lines struck out? This is no vain description of a storm unconnected with the piece; no ill-written amplification; it is the purest diction, the most affecting language; in short, it is Racine. Amplification, declamation, and exaggeration were at all times the faults of the Greeks, excepting Demosthenes and Aristotle.

There have been absurd pieces of poetry on which time has set the stamp of almost universal approbation, because they were mixed with brilliant flashes which threw a glare over their imperfections, or because the poets who came afterward did nothing better. The rude beginnings of every art acquire a greater celebrity than the art in perfection; he who first played the fiddle was looked upon as a demigod, while Rameau had only enemies. In fine, men, generally going with the stream, seldom judge for themselves, and purity of taste is almost as rare as talent.

At the present day, most of our sermons, funeral orations, set discourses, and harangues in certain ceremonies, are tedious amplifications—strings of commonplace expressions repeated again and again a thousand times. These discourses are only supportable when rarely heard. Why speak when you have nothing new to say? It is high time to put a stop to this excessive waste of words, and therefore we conclude our article.


The great cause of the ancients versus the moderns is not yet disposed of; it has been at issue ever since the silver age, which succeeded the golden one. Men have always pretended that the good old times were much better than the present. Nestor, in the “Iliad,” wishing to insinuate himself, like a wise mediator, into the good opinion of Achilles and Agamemnon, begins with saying: “I have lived with better men than you; never have I seen, nor shall I ever see again, such great personages as Dryas, Cæneus, Exadius, Polyphemus equal to the gods,” etc. Posterity has made ample amends to Achilles for Nestor’s bad compliment, so vainly admired by those who admire nothing but what is ancient. Who knows anything about Dryas? We have scarcely heard of Exadius or of Cæneus; and as for Polyphemus equal to the gods, he has no very high reputation, unless, indeed, there was something divine in his having a great eye in the middle of his forehead, and eating the raw carcasses of mankind.

Lucretius does not hesitate to say that nature has degenerated:

Ipsa dedit dulces fœtus et pabula lœta,

Quœ nunc vix nostro grandescunt aucta labore;

Conterimusque boves, et vires agricolarum, etc.

Antiquity is full of the praises of another antiquity still more remote:

Les hommes, en tout tems, ont pensé qu’ autrefois,

De longs ruisseaux de lait serpentaient dans nos bois;

La lune était plus grande, et la nuit moins obscure;

L’hiver se couronnait de fleurs et de verdure;

Se contemplait à l’aise, admirait son néant,

Et, formé pour agir, se plaisait à rien faire, etc.

Men have, in every age, believed that once

Long streams of milk ran winding through the woods;

The moon was larger and the night less dark;

Winter was crowned with flowers and trod on verdure;

Man, the world’s king, had nothing else to do

Than contemplate his utter worthlessness,

And, formed for action, took delight in sloth, etc.

Horace combats this prejudice with equal force and address in his fine epistle to Augustus. “Must our poems, then,” says he, “be like our wines, of which the oldest are always preferred?” He afterward says:

Indignor quidquam reprehendi, non quia crasse

Compositum illepideve putetur, sed quia nuper;

Nec veniam antiquis, sed honorem et præmia posci.

Ingeniis non ille favet plauditque sepultis,

Nostra sed impugnat, nos nostraque lividus odit.

I feel my honest indignation rise,

When, with affected air, a coxcomb cries:

“The work, I own, has elegance and ease,

But sure no modern should presume to please”;

Thus for his favorite ancients dares to claim,

Not pardon only, but rewards and fame.

Not to the illustrious dead his homage pays,

But envious robs the living of their praise.


On this subject the learned and ingenious Fontenelle expresses himself thus:

“The whole of the question of pre-eminence between the ancients and moderns, being once well understood, reduces itself to this: Were the trees which formerly grew in the country larger than those of the present day? If they were, Homer, Plato, and Demosthenes cannot be equalled in these latter ages; but if our trees are as large as those of former times, then can we equal Homer, Plato, and Demosthenes.

“But to clear up the paradox: If the ancients had stronger minds than ourselves, it must have been that the brains of those times were better disposed, were formed of firmer or more delicate fibres, or contained a larger portion of animal spirits. But how should the brains of those times have been better disposed? Had such been the case, the leaves would likewise have been larger and more beautiful; for if nature was then more youthful and vigorous, the trees, as well as the brains of men, would have borne testimony to that youth and vigor.”

With our illustrious academician’s leave, this is by no means the state of the question. It is not asked whether nature can at the present day produce as great geniuses, and as good works, as those of Greek and Latin antiquity, but whether we really have such. It is doubtless possible that there are oaks in the forest of Chantilly as large as those of Dodona; but supposing that the oaks of Dodona could talk, it is quite clear that they had a great advantage over ours, which, it is probable, will never talk.

La Motte, a man of wit and talent, who has merited applause in more than one kind of writing, has, in an ode full of happy lines, taken the part of the moderns. We give one of his stanzas:

Et pourquoi veut-on que j’encense

Ces prétendus Dieux dont je sors?

En moi la même intelligence

Fait mouvoir les mêmes ressorts.

Croit-on la nature bizarre,

Pour nous aujourd’hui plus avare

Que pour les Grecs et les Romains?

De nos aînés mère idolâtre,

N’est-elle plus que la marâtre

Dure et grossière des humains?

And pray, why must I bend the knee

To these pretended Gods of ours?

The same intelligence in me

Gives vigor to the self-same powers.

Think ye that nature is capricious,

Or towards us more avaricious

Than to our Greek and Roman sires—

To them an idolizing mother,

While in their children she would smother

The sparks of intellectual fires?

He might be answered thus: Esteem your ancestors, without adoring them. You have intelligence and powers of invention, as Virgil and Horace had; but perhaps it is not absolutely the same intelligence. Perhaps their talents were superior to—yours; they exercised them, too, in a language richer and more harmonious than our modern tongues, which are a mixture of corrupted Latin, with the horrible jargon of the Celts.

Nature is not capricious; but it is possible that she had given the Athenians a soil and sky better adapted than Westphalia and the Limousin to the formation of geniuses of a certain order. It is also likely that the government of Athens, seconding the favorable climate, put ideas into the head of Demosthenes which the air of Clamar and La Grenouillere combined with the government of Cardinal de Richelieu, did not put into the heads of Omer Talon and Jerome Bignon.

Some one answered La Motte’s lines by the following:

Cher la Motte, imite et revère

Ces Dieux dont tu ne descends pas;

Si tu crois qu’ Horace est ton père,

Il a fait des enfans ingrats.

La nature n’est point bizarre;

Pour Danchet elle est fort avare,

Mais Racine en fut bien traité;

Tibulle était guidé par elle,

Mais pour notre ami La Chapelle,

Hélas! qu’elle a peu de bonté!

Revere and imitate, La Motte,

Those Gods from whom thou’rt not descended;

If thou by Horace wert begot,

His children’s manners might be mended.

Nature is not at all capricious;

To Danchet she is avaricious,

But she was liberal to Racine;

She used Tibullus very well,

Though to our good friend La Chapelle,

Alas! she is extremely mean!

This dispute, then, resolves itself into a question of fact. Was antiquity more fertile in great monuments of genius of every kind, down to the time of Plutarch, than modern ages have been, from that of the house of Medicis to that of Louis XIV., inclusively?

The Chinese, more than two hundred years before our Christian era, built their great wall, which could not save them from invasion by the Tartars. The Egyptians had, four thousand years before, burdened the earth with their astonishing pyramids, the bases of which covered ninety thousand square feet. No one doubts that, if it were thought advisable to undertake such useless works at the present day, they might be accomplished by lavishing plenty of money. The great wall of China is a monument of fear; the pyramids of Egypt are monuments of vanity and superstition; both testify the great patience of the two people, but no superior genius. Neither the Chinese nor the Egyptians could have made a single statue like those formed by our living sculptors.

Sir William Temple, who made a point of degrading the moderns, asserts that they have nothing in architecture that can be compared to the temples of Greece and Rome; but, Englishman as he was, he should have admitted that St. Peter’s at Rome is incomparably more beautiful than the capitol.

There is something curious in the assurance with which he asserts that there is nothing new in our astronomy, nor in our knowledge of the human body, except, says he, it be the circulation of the blood. The love of his opinion, founded on his extreme self-love, makes him forget the discovery of Jupiter’s satellites, of Saturn’s five moons and ring, of the sun’s rotation on his axis, the calculation of the positions of three thousand stars, the development by Kepler and Newton of the law by which the heavenly bodies are governed, and the knowledge of a thousand other things of which the ancients did not even suspect the possibility. The discoveries in anatomy have been no less numerous. A new universe in miniature, discovered by the microscope, went as nothing with Sir William Temple; he closed his eyes to the wonders of his contemporaries, and opened them only to admire ancient ignorance.

He even goes so far as to regret that we have nothing left of the magic of the Indians, Chaldæans, and Egyptians. By this magic, he understands a profound knowledge of nature, which enabled them to work miracles—of which, however, he does not mention one, because the truth is that they never worked any. “What,” says he, “has become of the charms of that music which so often enchanted men and beasts, fishes, birds, and serpents, and even changed their nature?” This enemy to his own times believed implicitly in the fable of “Orpheus,” and, it should seem, had never heard of the fine music of Italy, nor even of that of France, which do not charm serpents, it is true, but which do charm the ears of the connoisseur.

It is still more strange that, having all his life cultivated the belles-lettres, he reasons no better on our good authors than on our philosophers. He considers Rabelais a great man, and speaks of “les Amours des Gaules” (“The Loves of the Gauls”), as one of his best works. He was, nevertheless, a learned man, a courtier, a man of considerable wit, and an ambassador, who had made profound reflections on all that he had seen; he possessed great knowledge; one prejudice sufficed to render all this merit unavailing.

Boileau and Racine, when writing in favor of the ancients against Perrault, showed more address than Sir William Temple. They knew better than to touch on astronomy and physical science. Boileau seeks only to vindicate Homer against Perrault, at the same time gliding adroitly over the faults of the Greek poet, and the slumber with which Horace reproaches him. He strove to turn Perrault, the enemy of Homer, into ridicule. Wherever Perrault misunderstands a passage, or renders inaccurately a passage which he understands, Boileau, seizing this little advantage, falls upon him like a redoubtable enemy, and beats him as an ignoramus—a dull writer. But it is not at all improbable that Perrault, though often mistaken, was frequently right in his remarks on the contradictions, the repetitions, the uniformity of the combats, the long harangues in the midst of them, the indecent and inconsistent conduct of the gods in the poem—in short, on all the errors into which this great poet is asserted to have fallen. In a word, Boileau ridicules Perrault much more than he justifies Homer.

Racine used the same artifice, for he was at least as malignant as Boileau. Although he did not, like the latter, make his fortune by satire, he enjoyed the pleasure of confounding his enemies on the occasion of a small and very pardonable mistake into which they had fallen respecting Euripides, and, at the same time, of feeling much superior to Euripides himself. He rallies the same Perrault and his partisans upon their critique on the Alceste of Euripides, because these gentlemen had unfortunately been deceived by a faulty edition of Euripides, and had taken some replies of Admetus for those of Alceste; but Euripides does not the less appear in all countries to have done very wrong in making Admetus use such extraordinary language to his father, whom he violently reproaches for not having died for him:

“How!” replies the king, his father; “whom, pray, are you addressing so haughtily? Some Lydian or Phrygian slave? Know you not that I am free, and a Thessalian? (Fine language, truly, for a king and a father!) You insult me as if I were the meanest of men. Where is the law which says fathers must die for their children? Each for himself here below. I have fulfilled all my obligations toward you. In what, then, do I wrong you? Do I ask you to die for me? The light is dear to you; is it less so to me? You accuse me of cowardice! Coward that you yourself are! You were not ashamed to urge your wife to save you, by dying for you. After this, does it become you to treat as cowards those who refuse to do for you what you have not the courage to do yourself? Believe me, you ought rather to be silent. You love life; others love it no less. Be assured that if you continue to abuse me, you shall have reproaches, and not false ones, in return.”

He is here interrupted by the chorus, with: “Enough! Too much on both sides! Old man, cease this ill language toward your son.”

One would think that the chorus should rather give the son a severe reprimand for speaking in so brutal a manner to his father.

All the rest of the scene is in the same style:

Pheres (to his son).

—Thou speakest against thy father, without his having injured thee.


—Oh! I am well aware that you wish to live as long as possible.


—And art thou not carrying to the tomb her who died for thee?


—Ah! most infamous of men! ‘Tis the proof of thy cowardice!


—At least, thou canst not say she died for me.


—Would to heaven that thou wert in a situation to need my assistance!


—Thou wouldst do better to think of marrying several wives, who may die that thy life may be lengthened.

After this scene a domestic comes and talks to himself about the arrival of Hercules.

“A stranger,” says he, “opens the door of his own accord; places himself without more ado at table; is angry because he is not served quick enough; fills his cup every moment with wine, and drinks long draughts of red and of white; constantly singing, or rather howling, bad songs, without giving himself any concern about the king and his wife, for whom we are mourning. He is, doubtless, some cunning rogue, some vagabond, or assassin.”

It seems somewhat strange that Hercules should be taken for a cunning rogue, and no less so that Hercules, the friend of Admetus, should be unknown to the household. It is still more extraordinary that Hercules should be ignorant of Alceste’s death, at the very time when they were carrying her to her tomb.

Tastes must not be disputed, but such scenes as these would, assuredly, not be tolerated at one of our country fairs.

Brumoy, who has given us the Théâtre des Grecs (Greek Theatre), but has not translated Euripides with scrupulous fidelity, does all he can to justify the scene of Admetus and his father: the argument he makes use of is rather singular.

First, he says, that “there was nothing offensive to the Greeks in these things which we regard as horrible and indecent, therefore it must be admitted that they were not exactly what we take them to have been, in short, ideas have changed.” To this it may be answered that the ideas of polished nations on the respect due from children to their fathers have never changed. He adds, “Who can doubt that in different ages ideas have changed relative to points of morality of still greater importance?” We answer, that there are scarcely any points of greater importance.

“A Frenchman,” continues he, “is insulted; the pretended good sense of the French obliges him to run the risk of a duel, and to kill or be killed, in order to recover his honor.” We answer, that it is not the pretended good sense of the French alone, but of all the nations of Europe without exception. He proceeds:

“The world in general cannot be fully sensible how ridiculous this maxim will appear two thousand years hence, nor how it would have been scoffed at in the time of Euripides.” This maxim is cruel and fatal, but it is not ridiculous; nor would it have been in any way scoffed at in the time of Euripides. There were many instances of duels among the Asiatics. In the very commencement of the first book of the “Iliad,” we see Achilles half unsheathing his sword, and ready to fight Agamemnon, had not Minerva taken him by the hair and made him desist.

Plutarch relates that Hephæstion and Craterus were fighting a duel, but were separated by Alexander. Quintus Curtius tells us that two other of Alexander’s officers fought a duel in the presence of Alexander, one of them armed at all points, the other, who was a wrestler, supplied only with a staff, and that the latter overcame his adversary. Besides, what has duelling to do with Admetus and his father Pheres, reproaching each other by turns, with having too great a love for life, and with being cowards?

I shall give only this one instance of the blindness of translators and commentators; for if Brumoy, the most impartial of all, has fallen into such errors, what are we to expect from others? I would, however, ask the Brumoys and the Daciers, if they find much salt in the language which Euripides puts into the mouth of Polyphemus: “I fear not the thunder of Jupiter; I know not that Jupiter is a prouder or a stronger god than myself; I care very little about him. If he sends down rain, I shut myself up in my cavern; there I eat a roasted calf or some wild animal, after which I lie down all my length, drink off a great potful of milk, and send forth a certain noise, which is as good as his thunder.”

The schoolmen cannot have very fine noses if they are not disgusted with the noise which Polyphemus makes when he has eaten heartily.

They say that the Athenian pit laughed at this pleasantry, and that the Athenians never laughed at anything stupid. So the whole populace of Athens had more wit than the court of Louis XIV., and the populace are not the same everywhere!

Nevertheless, Euripides has beauties, and Sophocles still more; but they have much greater defects. We may venture to say that the fine scenes of Corneille and the affecting tragedies of Racine are as much superior to the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides, as these two Greeks were to Thespis. Racine was quite sensible of his great superiority over Euripides, but he praised the Greek poet for the sake of humbling Perrault.

Molière, in his best pieces, is as superior to the pure but cold Terence, and to the buffoon Aristophanes, as to the merry-andrew Dancourt.

Thus there are things in which the moderns are superior to the ancients; and others, though very few, in which we are their inferiors. The whole of the dispute reduces itself to this fact.

Certain Comparisons between Celebrated Works.

Both taste and reason seem to require that we should, in an ancient as well as in a modern, discriminate between the good and the bad that are often to be found in contact with each other.

The warmest admiration must be excited by that line of Corneille’s, unequalled by any in Homer, in Sophocles, or in Euripides:

Que vouliez-vous qu’il fît contre trois?

Qu’il mourût.

What could he do against three weapons?


And, with equal justice, the line that follows will be condemned.

The man of taste, while he admires the sublime picture, the striking contrasts of character and strong coloring in the last scene of Rodogyne, will perceive how many faults, how many improbabilities, have prepared the way for this terrible situation—how much Rodogyne has belied her character, and by what crooked ways it is necessary to pass to this great and tragical catastrophe.

The same equitable judge will not fail to do justice to the fine and artful contexture of Racine’s tragedies, the only ones, perhaps, that have been well wrought from the time of Æschylus down to the age of Louis XIV. He will be touched by that continued elegance, that purity of language, that truth of character, to be found in him only; by that grandeur without bombast, that fidelity to nature which never wanders in vain declamations, sophistical disputes, false and far-fetched images, often expressed in solecisms or rhetorical pleadings, fitter for provincial schools than for a tragedy. The same person will discover weakness and uniformity in some of Racine’s characters; and in others, gallantry and sometimes even coquetry; he will find declarations of love breathing more of the idyl and the elegy, than of a great dramatic passion; and will complain that more than one well-written piece has elegance to please, but not eloquence to move him. Just so will he judge of the ancients; not by their names—not by the age in which they lived—but by their works themselves.

Suppose Timanthes the painter were at this day to come and present to us, by the side of the paintings in the Palais Royal, his picture in four colors of the “Sacrifice of Iphigenia,” telling us that men of judgment in Greece had assured him that it was an admirable artifice to veil the face of Agamemnon, lest his grief should appear to equal that of Clytemnestra, and the tears of the father dishonor the majesty of the monarch. He would find connoisseurs who would reply—it is a stroke of ingenuity, but not of painting; a veil on the head of your principal personage has a frightful effect; your art has failed you. Behold the masterpiece of Rubens, who has succeeded in expressing in the countenance of Mary of Medicis the pain attendant on childbirth—the joy, the smile, the tenderness—not with four colors, but with every tint of nature. If you wished that Agamemnon should partly conceal his face, you should have made him hide a portion of it by placing his hands over his eyes and forehead; and not with a veil, which is as disagreeable to the eye, and as unpicturesque, as it is contrary to all costume. You should then have shown some falling tears that the hero would conceal, and have expressed in his muscles the convulsions of a grief which he struggles to suppress; you should have painted in this attitude majesty and despair. You are a Greek, and Rubens is a Belgian; but the Belgian bears away the palm.

On a Passage in Homer.

A Florentine, a man of letters, of clear understanding and cultivated taste, was one day in Lord Chesterfield’s library, together with an Oxford professor and a Scotchman, who was boasting of the poem of Fingal, composed, said he, in the Gaelic tongue, which is still partly that of Lower Brittany. “Ah!” exclaimed he, “how fine is antiquity; the poem of Fingal has passed from mouth to mouth for nearly two thousand years, down to us, without any alteration. Such power has real beauty over the minds of men!” He then read to the company the commencement of Fingal:

“Cuthullin sat by Tara’s wall; by the tree of the rustling sound. His spear leaned against a rock. His shield lay on the grass by his side. Amid his thoughts of mighty Carbar, a hero slain by the chief in war, the scout of ocean comes, Moran, the son of Fithil!

“ ‘Arise,’ says the youth, ‘Cuthullin, arise! I see the ships of the north! many, chief of men, are the foe; many the heroes of the sea-born Swaran!’ ‘Moran,’ replied the blue-eyed chief, ‘thou ever tremblest, son of Fithil! thy fears have increased the foe. It is Fingal, king of deserts, with aid to green Erin of streams.’ ‘I beheld their chief,’ says Moran, ‘tall as a glittering rock. His spear is a blasted pine. His shield the rising moon! He sat on the shore, like a cloud of mist on the silent hill!’ ” etc.

“That,” said the Oxford professor, “is the true style of Homer; but what pleases me still more is that I find in it the sublime eloquence of the Hebrews. I could fancy myself to be reading passages such as these from those fine canticles:

“ ‘Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundation also of the hills moved and were shaken because he was wroth. The Lord also thundered in the heavens; and the Highest gave His voice hailstones and coals of fire. In them hath He set a tabernacle for the sun. Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber.

“ ‘Break their teeth in their mouth, O God; break the great teeth of the young lions, O Lord. Let them pass away as waters that run continually; when he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces. As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away, like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun. Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them away as in a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath.

“ ‘They return at evening; they make a noise like a dog. But Thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them; Thou shalt have all the heathen in derision. Consume them in wrath; consume them that they may not be.

“ ‘The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan, a high hill as the hill of Bashan. Why leap ye, ye high hills? The Lord said I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring up my people again from the depths of the sea; that thy feet may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same.

“ ‘Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it. O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind. As the fire burneth the wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire; so persecute them with Thy tempest and make them afraid with Thy storm.

“ ‘He shall judge among the heathen; he shall fill the places with dead bodies; He shall wound the heads over many countries. Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones,’ ” etc.

The Florentine, having listened with great attention to the verses of the canticles recited by the doctor, as well as to the first lines of Fingal bellowed forth by the Scotchman, confessed that he was not greatly moved by all these Eastern figures, and that he liked the noble simplicity of Virgil’s style much better.

At these words the Scotchman turned pale with wrath, the Oxonian shrugged his shoulders with pity, but Lord Chesterfield encouraged the Florentine by a smile of approbation.

The Florentine, becoming warm and finding himself supported, said to them: “Gentlemen, nothing is more easy than to do violence to nature; nothing more difficult than to imitate her. I know something of those whom we in Italy call improvisatori; and I could speak in this oriental style for eight hours together without the least effort, for it requires none to be bombastic in negligent verse, overloaded with epithets almost continually repeated, to heap combat upon combat, and to describe chimeras.”

“What!” said the professor, “you make an epic poem impromptu!” “Not a rational epic poem in correct verse, like Virgil,” replied the Italian, “but a poem in which I would abandon myself to the current of my ideas, and not take the trouble to arrange them.”

“I defy you to do it,” said the Scotchman and the Oxford graduate at once. “Well,” returned the Florentine, “give me a subject.” Lord Chesterfield gave him as a subject the Black Prince, the conqueror of Poictiers, granting peace after the victory.

The Italian collected himself and thus began:

“Muse of Albion, genius that presidest over heroes, come sing with me—not the idle rage of men implacable alike to friends and foes—not the deeds of heroes whom the gods have favored in turn, without any reason for so favoring them—not the siege of a town which is not taken—not the extravagant exploits of the fabulous Fingal, but the real victories of a hero modest as brave, who led kings captive and respected his vanquished enemies.

“George, the Mars of England, had descended from on high on that immortal charger before which the proudest coursers of Limousin flee as the bleating sheep and the tender lambs crowd into the fold at the sight of a terrible wolf issuing from the forest with fiery eyes, with hair erect and foaming mouth, threatening the flock and the shepherd with the fury of his murderous jaws.

“Martin, the famed protector of them who dwell in fruitful Touraine, Genevieve, the mild divinity of them who drink the waters of the Seine and the Marne, Denis, who bore his head under his arm in the sight of man and of immortals, trembled as they saw George proudly traversing the vast fields of air. On his head was a golden helmet, glittering with diamonds that once paved the squares of the heavenly Jerusalem, when it appeared to mortals during forty diurnal revolutions of the great luminary and his inconstant sister, who with her mild radiance enlightens the darkness of night.

“In his hand is the terrible and sacred lance with which, in the first days of the world, the demi-god Michael, who executes the vengeance of the Most High, overthrew the eternal enemy of the world and the Creator. The most beautiful of the plumage of the angels that stand about the throne, plucked from their immortal backs, waved over his casque; and around it hovered Terror, destroying War, unpitying Revenge, and Death, the terminator of man’s calamities. He came like a comet in its rapid course, darting through the orbits of the wondering planets, and leaving far behind its rays, pale and terrible, announcing to weak mortals the fall of kings and nations.

“He alighted on the banks of the Charente, and the sound of his immortal arms was echoed from the spheres of Jupiter and Saturn. Two strides brought him to the spot where the son of the magnanimous Edward waited for the son of the intrepid de Valois,” etc.

The Florentine continued in this strain for more than a quarter of an hour. The words fell from his lips, as Homer says, more thickly and abundantly than the snows descend in winter; but his words were not cold; they were rather like the rapid sparks escaping from the furnace when the Cyclops forge the bolts of Jove on resounding anvil.

His two antagonists were at last obliged to silence him, by acknowledging that it was easier than they had thought it was, to string together gigantic images, and call in the aid of heaven, earth and hell; but they maintained that to unite the tender and moving with the sublime was the perfection of the art.

“For example,” said the Oxonian, “can anything be more moral, and at the same time more voluptuous, than to see Jupiter reposing with his wife on Mount Ida?”

His lordship then spoke: “Gentlemen,” said he, “I ask your pardon for meddling in the dispute. Perhaps to the Greeks there was something very interesting in a god’s lying with his wife upon a mountain; for my own part, I see nothing in it refined or attractive. I will agree with you that the handkerchief, which commentators and imitators have been pleased to call the girdle of Venus, is a charming figure; but I never understood that it was a soporific, nor how Juno could receive the caresses of the master of the gods for the purpose of putting him to sleep. A queer god, truly, to fall asleep so soon! I can swear that, when I was young, I was not so drowsy. It may, for aught I know, be noble, pleasing, interesting, witty, and decorous to make Juno say to Jupiter, ‘If you are determined to embrace me, let us go to your apartment in heaven, which is the work of Vulcan, and the door of which closes so well that none of the gods can enter.’

“I am equally at a loss to understand how the god of sleep, whom Juno prays to close the eyes of Jupiter, can be so brisk a divinity. He arrives in a moment from the isles of Lemnos and Imbros; there is something fine in coming from two islands at once. He then mounts a pine and is instantly among the Greek ships; he seeks Neptune, finds him, conjures him to give the victory to the Greeks, and returns with a rapid flight to Lemnos. I know of nothing so nimble as this god of sleep.

“In short, if in an epic poem there must be amorous matters, I own that I incomparably prefer the assignations of Alcina with Rogero, and of Armida with Rinaldo. Come, my dear Florentine, read me those two admirable cantos of Ariosto and Tasso.”

The Florentine readily obeyed, and his lordship was enchanted; during which time the Scotchman reperused Fingal, the Oxford professor re-perused Homer; and every one was content. It was at last agreed that happy is he who is sensible to the merits of the ancients and the moderns, appreciates their beauties, knows their faults and pardons them.


If Suetonius could be confronted with the valets-de-chambre of the twelve Cæsars, think you that they would in every instance corroborate his testimony? And in case of dispute, who would not back the valets-de-chambre against the historian?

In our own times, how many books are founded on nothing more than the talk of the town?—just as the science of physics was founded on chimeras which have been repeated from age to age to the present time. Those who take the trouble of noting down at night what they have heard in the day, should, like St. Augustine, write a book of retractions at the end of the year.

Some one related to the grand-audiencier l’Étoile that Henry IV., hunting near Creteil, went alone into an inn where some Parisian lawyers were dining in an upper room. The king, without making himself known, sent the hostess to ask them if they would admit him at their table or sell him a part of their dinner. They sent him for answer that they had private business to talk of and had but a short dinner; they therefore begged that the stranger would excuse them.

Henry called his guards and had the guests outrageously beaten, to teach them, says de l’Étoile, to show more courtesy to gentlemen. Some authors of the present day, who have taken upon them to write the life of Henry IV., copy this anecdote from de l’Étoile without examination, and, which is worse, fail not to praise it as a fine action in Henry. The thing is, however, neither true nor likely; and were it true, Henry would have been guilty of an act at once the most ridiculous, the most cowardly, the most tyrannical, and the most imprudent.

First, it is not likely that, in 1502, Henry IV., whose physiognomy was so remarkable, and who showed himself to everybody with so much affability, was unknown at Creteil near Paris. Secondly, de l’Étoile, far from verifying his impertinent story, says he had it from a man who had it from M. de Vitri; so that it is nothing more than an idle rumor. Thirdly, it would have been cowardly and hateful to inflict a shameful punishment on citizens assembled together on business, who certainly committed no crime in refusing to share their dinner with a stranger (and, it must be admitted, with an indiscreet one) who could easily find something to eat in the same house. Fourthly, this action, so tyrannical, so unworthy not only of a king but of a man, so liable to punishment by the laws of every country, would have been as imprudent as ridiculous and criminal; it would have drawn upon Henry IV. the execrations of the whole commonalty of Paris, whose good opinion was then of so much importance to him.

History, then, should not have been disfigured by so stupid a story, nor should the character of Henry IV. have been dishonored by so impertinent an anecdote.

In a book entitled “Anecdotes Littéraires,” printed by Durand in 1752, avec privilége, there appears the following passage (vol. iii, page 183): “The Amours of Louis XIV., having been dramatized in England, that prince wished to have those of King William performed in France. The Abbé Brueys was directed by M. de Torcy to compose the piece; but though applauded, it was never played, for the subject of it died in the meantime.”

There are almost as many absurd lies as there are words in these few lines. The Amours of Louis XIV. were never played on the London stage. Louis XIV. never lowered himself so far as to order a farce to be written on the amours of King William. King William never had a mistress; no one accused him of weakness of that sort. The Marquis de Torcy never spoke to the Abbé Brueys; he was incapable of making to the abbé, or any one else, so indiscreet and childish a proposal. The Abbé Brueys never wrote the piece in question. So much for the faith to be placed in anecdotes.

The same book says that “Louis XIV. was so much pleased with the opera of Isis that he ordered a decree to be passed in council by which men of rank were permitted to sing at the opera, and receive a salary for so doing, without demeaning themselves. This decree was registered in the Parliament of Paris.”

No such declaration was ever registered in the Parliament of Paris. It is true that Lulli obtained in 1672, long before the opera of Isis was performed, letters permitting him to establish his opera, in which letters he got it inserted that “ladies and gentlemen might sing in this theatre without degradation.” But no declaration was ever registered.

Of all the anas, that which deserves to stand foremost in the ranks of printed falsehood is the Segraisiana: It was compiled by the amanuensis of Segrais, one of his domestics, and was printed long after the master’s death. The Menagiana, revised by La Monnoye, is the only one that contains anything instructive. Nothing is more common than to find in our new miscellanies old bons mots attributed to our contemporaries, or inscriptions and epigrams written on certain princes, applied to others.

We are told in the “Histoire Philosophique et Politique du Commerce dans les deux Indes” (the Philosophical and Political History of the Commerce of the two Indies), that the Dutch, having driven the Portuguese from Malacca, the Dutch captain asked the Portuguese commander when he should return; to which he replied: “When your sins are greater than ours.” This answer had before been attributed to an Englishman in the time of Charles VII. of France, and before them to a Saracen emir in Sicily; after all, it is the answer rather of a Capuchin than of a politician; it was not because the French were greater sinners than the English that the latter deprived them of Canada.

The author of this same history relates, in a serious manner, a little story invented by Steele, and inserted in the Spectator; and would make it pass for one of the real causes of war between the English and the savages. The tale which Steele opposes to the much pleasanter story of the widow of Ephesus, is as follows and is designed to prove that men are not more constant than women; but in Petronius the Ephesian matron exhibits only an amusing and pardonable weakness; while the merchant Inkle, in the Spectator, is guilty of the most frightful ingratitude: “This young traveller Inkle is on the point of being taken by the Caribbees on the continent of America, without it being said at what place or on what occasion. Yarico, a pretty Caribbee, saves his life, and at length flies with him to Barbadoes. As soon as they arrive, Inkle goes and sells his benefactress in the slave market. ‘Ungrateful and barbarous man!’ says Yarico, ‘wilt thou sell me, when I am with child by thee?’ ‘With child!’ replied the English merchant, ‘so much the better; I shall get more for thee!’ ” And this is given us as a true story and as the origin of a long war.

The speech of a woman of Boston to her judges, who condemned her to the house of correction for the fifth time for having brought to bed a fifth child, was a pleasantry of the illustrious Franklin; yet it is related in the same work as an authentic occurrence. How many tales have embellished and disfigured every history?

An author, who has thought more correctly than he has quoted, asserts that the following epitaph was made for Cromwell:

Ci-gît le destructeur d’un pouvoir légitime,

Jusqu’ à son dernier jour favorisé des cieux,

Dont les vertus méritaient mieux

Que le sceptre acquis par un crime.

Par quel destin faut-il, par quel étrange loi

Qu’ à tous ceux qui sont nés pour porter la couronne

Ce soit l’ Usurpateur qui donne

L’ exemple des vertus que doit avoir un Roi?

Here lies the man who trod on rightful power,

Favored by heaven to his latest hour;

Whose virtues merited a nobler fate

Than that of ruling criminally great.

What wondrous destiny can so ordain,

That among all whose fortune is to reign,

The usurper only to his sceptre brings

The virtues vainly sought in lawful kings.

These verses were never made for Cromwell, but for King William. They are not an epitaph, but were written under a portrait of that monarch. Instead of Ci-gît (Here lies) it was:

Tel fut le destructeur d’un pouvoir légitime.

Such was the man who trod on rightful power.

No one in France was ever so stupid as to say that Cromwell had ever set an example of virtue. It is granted that he had valor and genius; but the title of virtuous was not his due. A thousand stories—a thousand facetiæ—have been travelling about the world for the last thirty centuries. Our books are stuffed with maxims which come forth as new, but are to be found in Plutarch, in Athenæus, in Seneca, in Plautus, in all the ancients.

These are only mistakes, as innocent as they are common; but wilful falsehoods—historical lies which attack the glory of princes and the reputation of private individuals—are serious offences. Of all the books that are swelled with false anecdotes, that in which the most absurd and impudent lies are crowded together, is the pretended “Mémoires de Madame de Maintenon.” The foundation of it was true: the author had several of that lady’s letters, which had been communicated to him by a person of consequence at St. Cyr; but this small quantity of truth is lost in a romance of seven volumes.

In this work the author shows us Louis XIV. supplanted by one of his valets-de-chambre. It supposes letters from Mdlle. Mancini (afterwards Madame Colonne) to Louis XIV., in one of which he makes this niece of Cardinal Mazarin say to the king: “You obey a priest—you are unworthy of me if you submit to serve another. I love you as I love the light of heaven, but I love your glory still better.” Most certainly the author had not the original of this letter.

“Mdlle. de la Vallière,” he says, in another place, “had thrown herself on a sofa in a light dishabille, her thoughts employed on her lover. Often did the dawn of day find her still seated in a chair, her arm resting on a table, her eye fixed, her soul constantly attached to the same object, in the ecstasy of love. The king alone occupied her mind; perhaps at that moment she was inwardly complaining of the vigilance of the spies of Henriette, or the severity of the queen-mother. A slight noise aroused her from her reverie—she shrunk back with surprise and dread; Louis was at her feet—she would have fled—he stopped her; she threatened—he pacified; she wept—he wiped away her tears.” Such a description would not now be tolerated in one of our most insipid novels.

Du Haillan asserts, in one of his small works, that Charles VIII. was not the son of Louis XI. This would account for Louis having neglected his education and always keeping him at a distance. Charles VIII. did not resemble Louis XI. either in body or in mind; but dissimilarity between fathers and their children is still less a proof of illegitimacy than resemblance is a proof of the contrary. That Louis XI. hated Charles VIII. brings us to no conclusion; so bad a son might well be a bad father. Though ten Du Haillans should tell me that Charles VIII. sprung from some other than Louis XI., I should not believe him implicitly. I think a prudent reader should pronounce as the judges do—Pater est is quem nuptiæ demonstrant.

Did Charles V. intrigue with his sister Margaret, who governed the Low Countries? Was it by her that he had Don John of Austria, the intrepid brother of the prudent Philip II.? We have no more proof of this than we have of the secrets of Charlemagne’s bed, who is said to have made free with all his daughters. If the Holy Scriptures did not assure me that Lot’s daughters had children by their own father, and Tamar by her father-in-law, I should hesitate to accuse them of it; one cannot be too discreet.

It has been written that the Duchess de Montpensier bestowed her favors on the monk Jacques Clement, in order to encourage him to assassinate his sovereign. It would have been more politic to have promised them than to have given them. But a fanatical or parricide priest is not incited in this way; heaven is held out to him, and not a woman. His Prior Bourgoing had much greater power in determining him to any act than the greatest beauty upon earth. When he killed the king he had in his pocket no love-letters, but the stories of Judith and Ehud, quite dog-eared and worn out with thumbing.

Jean Châtel and Ravaillac had no accomplices; their crime was that of the age; their only accomplice was the cry of religion. It has been repeatedly asserted that Ravaillac had taken a journey to Naples and that the Jesuit Alagona had, in Naples, predicted the death of the king. The Jesuits never were prophets; had they been so, they would have foretold their own destination; but, on the contrary, they, poor men, always positively declared that they should endure to the end of time. We should never be too sure of anything.

It is in vain that the Jesuit Daniel tells me, in his very dry and very defective “History of France,” that Henry IV. was a Catholic long before his abjuration. I will rather believe Henry IV. himself than the Jesuit Daniel. His letter to La Belle Gabrielle: “C’est demain que je fais le saut périlleux” (To-morrow I take the fatal leap) proves, at least, that something different from Catholicism was still in his heart. Had his great soul been long penetrated by the efficacy of grace, he would perhaps have said to his mistress: “These bishops edify me;” but he says: “Ces genslà m’ennuient.” (These people weary me.) Are these the words of a great catechumen?

This great man’s letters to Corisande d’Andouin, Countess of Grammont, are not a matter of doubt; they still exist in the originals. The author of the “Essai sur les Mœurs et l’Esprit des Nations” (Essay on the Manners and Spirit of Nations) gives several of these interesting letters, in which there are the following curious passages: “Tous ces empoisonneurs sont tous Papistes. J’ai découvert un tueur pour moi. Les prêcheurs Romains prêchent touthaut qu’il n’y a plus qu’une mort à voir; ils admonestent tout bon Catholique de prendre exemple.—Et vous êtes de cette religion! Si je n’étais Huguenot, je me ferais Turc.” [These poisoners are all Papists. I have discovered an executioner for myself. The Roman preachers exclaim aloud that there is only one more death to be looked for; they admonish all good Catholics to profit by the example (of the poisoning of the prince of Condé).—And you are of this religion! If I were not a Huguenot, I would turn Turk.] It is difficult, after seeing these testimonials in Henry IV.’s own hand, to become firmly persuaded that he was a Catholic in his heart.

Another modern historian accuses the duke of Lerma of the murder of Henry IV. “This,” says he, “is the best established opinion.” This opinion is evidently the worst established. It has never been heard of in Spain; and in France, the continuator of de Thou is the only one who has given any credit to these vague and ridiculous suspicions. If the duke of Lerma, prime minister, employed Ravaillac, he paid him very ill; for when the unfortunate man was seized, he was almost without money. If the duke of Lerma either prompted him or caused him to be prompted to the commission of the act, by the promise of a reward proportioned to the attempt, Ravaillac would assuredly have named both him and his emissaries, if only to revenge himself. He named the Jesuit d’Aubigny, to whom he had only shown a knife—why, then, should he spare the duke of Lerma? It is very strange obstinacy not to believe what Ravaillac himself declared when put to the torture. Is a great Spanish family to be insulted without the least shadow of proof?

Et voilà justement comme on ècrit l’histoire. (Yet this is how history is written.) The Spanish nation is not accustomed to resort to shameful crimes; and the Spanish grandees have always possessed a generous pride which has prevented them from acting so basely. If Philip II. set a price on the head of the prince of Orange, he had, at least, the pretext of punishing a rebellious subject, as the Parliament of Paris had when they set fifty thousand crowns on the head of Admiral Coligni, and afterwards on that of Cardinal Mazarin. These political proscriptions partook of the horror of the civil wars; but how can it be supposed that the duke of Lerma had secret communications with a poor wretch like Ravaillac?

The same author says that Marshal D’Ancre and his wife were struck, as it were, by a thunderbolt. The truth is, that the one was struck by pistol-balls, and the other burned as a witch. An assassination and a sentence of death passed on the wife of a marshal of France, an attendant on the queen, as a reputed sorceress, do very little honor either to the chivalry or to the jurisprudence of that day. But I know not why the historian makes use of these words: “If these two wretches were not accomplices in the king’s death, they at least deserved the most rigorous chastisement; it is certain that, even during the king’s life, Concini and his wife had connections with Spain in opposition to the king’s designs.”

This is not at all certain, nor is it even likely. They were Florentines. The grand duke of Florence was the first to acknowledge Henry IV., and feared nothing so much as the power of Spain in Italy. Concini and his wife had no influence in the time of Henry IV. If they intrigued with the court of Madrid it could only be through the queen, who must, therefore, have betrayed her husband. Besides, let it once more be observed that we are not at liberty to bring forward such accusations without proofs. What! shall a writer pronounce a defamation from his garret, which the most enlightened judges in the kingdom would tremble to hear in a court of justice? Why are a marshal of France and his wife, one of the queen’s attendants, to be called two wretches? Does Marshal d’Ancre, who raised an army against the rebels at his own expense, merit an epithet suitable only to Ravaillac or Cartouche—to public robbers, or public calumniators?

It is but too true that one fanatic is sufficient for the commission of a parricide, without any accomplice. Damiens had none; he repeated four times, in the course of his interrogatory, that he committed his crime solely through a principle of religion. Having been in the way of knowing the convulsionaries, I may say that I have seen twenty of them capable of any act equally horrid, so excessive has been their infatuation. Religion, ill-understood, is a fever which the smallest occurrence raises to frenzy. It is the property of fanaticism to heat the imagination. When a few sparks from the fire that keeps their superstitious heads a-boiling, fall on some violent and wicked spirit—when some ignorant and furious man thinks he is imitating Phineas, Ehud, Judith, and other such personages, he has more accomplices than he is aware of. Many incite to murder without knowing it. Some persons drop a few indiscreet and violent words; a servant repeats them, with additions and embellishments; a Châtel, a Ravaillac, or a Damiens listens to them, while they who pronounced them little think what mischief they have done; they are involuntary accomplices, without there having been either plot or instigation. In short, he knows little of the human mind who does not know that fanaticism renders the populace capable of anything.

The author of the “Siècle de Louis XIV” (“Age of Louis the Fourteenth”) is the first who has spoken of the Man in the Iron Mask in any authentic history. He was well acquainted with this circumstance, which is the astonishment of the present age, and will be that of posterity, but which is only too true. He had been deceived respecting the time of the death of this unknown and singularly unfortunate person, who was interred at the church of St. Paul March 3, 1703, and not in 1704.

He was first confined at Pignerol, before he was sent to the Isles of Ste. Marguerite, and afterwards to the Bastille, always under the care of the same man, that St. Marc, who saw him die. Father Griffet, a Jesuit, has communicated to the public the journal of the Bastille, which certifies the dates. He had no difficulty in obtaining this journal, since he exercised the delicate office of confessor to the prisoners confined in the Bastille.

The Man in the Iron Mask is an enigma which each one attempts to solve. Some have said that he was the duke of Beaufort, but the duke of Beaufort was killed by the Turks in the defence of Candia, in 1669, and the Man in the Iron Mask was at Pignerol in 1672. Besides, how should the duke of Beaufort have been arrested in the midst of his army? How could he have been transferred to France without some one’s knowing something about it? and why should he have been imprisoned? and why masked?

Others have imagined that he was Count Vermandois, natural son to Louis XIV., who, it is well known, died of smallpox when with the army, in 1683, and was buried in the town of Arras.

It has since been supposed that the duke of Monmouth, who was publicly beheaded by order of King James, in 1685, was the Man in the Iron Mask. But either the duke must have come to life again, and afterwards changed the order of time, putting the year 1662 for the year 1685, or King James, who never pardoned any one, and therefore merited all his misfortunes, must have pardoned the duke of Monmouth, and put to death in his stead some one who perfectly resembled him. In the latter case, a person must have been found kind enough to have his head publicly cut off to save the duke of Monmouth. All England must have been deceived in the person; then King James must have begged of Louis XIV. that he would be so good as to become his jailer. Louis XIV., having granted King James this small favor, could not have refused to show the same regard for King William and Queen Anne, with whom he was at war; but would have been careful to maintain the dignity of jailer—with which King James had honored him—to the end of the chapter.

All these illusions being dissipated, it remains to be known who this constantly-masked prisoner was, at what age he died, and under what name he was buried. It is clear that, if he was not permitted to walk in the court of the Bastille, nor to see his physician—except in a mask—it was for fear that some very striking resemblance would be discovered in his features. He was permitted to show his tongue, but never his face. As for his age, he himself told the apothecary of the Bastille, a little before his death, that he believed he was about sixty. The apothecary’s son-in-law, Marsolam, surgeon to Marshal de Richelieu, and afterwards to the duke of Orleans the regent, has repeated this to me several times. To conclude: Why was an Italian name given to him? He was always called Marchiali. The writer of this article, perhaps, knows more on the subject than Father Griffet, though he will not say more.

It is true that Nicholas Fouquet, superintendent of the finances, had many friends in his disgrace, and that they persevered even until judgment was passed on him. It is true that the chancellor, who presided at that judgment, treated the illustrious captive with too much rigor. But it was not Michel Letellier, as stated in some editions of the “Siècle de Louis XIV.;” it was Pierre Seguier. This inadvertency of having placed one for the other is a fault which must be corrected.

It is very remarkable that no one knows where this celebrated minister died. Not that it is of any importance to know it, for his death not having led to any event whatever, is like all other indifferent occurrences; but this serves to prove how completely he was forgotten towards the close of life, how worthless that worldly consideration is which is so anxiously sought for, and how happy they are who have no higher ambition than to live and die unknown. This knowledge is far more useful than that of dates.

Father Griffet does his utmost to persuade us that Cardinal Richelieu wrote a bad book. Well, many statesmen have done the same. But it is very fine to see him strive so hard to prove that, according to Cardinal Richelieu, “our allies, the Spaniards,” so happily governed by a Bourbon, “are tributary to hell, and make the Indies tributary to hell!” Cardinal Richelieu’s “Political Testament” is not that of a polite man. He alleges:

That France had more good ports on the Mediterranean than the whole Spanish monarchy (this is an exaggeration); that to keep up an army of fifty thousand men it is best to raise a hundred thousand (this throws money away); that when a new tax is imposed the pay of the soldiers is increased (which has never been done either in France or elsewhere); that the parliaments and other superior courts should be made to pay the taille (an infallible means of gaining their hearts and making the magistracy respectable); that the noblesse should be forced to serve and to enroll themselves in the cavalry (the better to preserve their privileges); that Genoa was the richest city in Italy (which I wish it were); that we must be very chaste (the testator might add—like certain preachers—“Do what I say, not what I do”); that an abbey should be given to the holy chapel at Paris (a thing of great importance at the crisis in which your friend stood); that Pope Benedict XI. gave a great deal of trouble to the cordeliers, who were piqued on the subject of poverty (that is to say, the revenues of the order of St. Francis); that they were exasperated against him to such a degree that they made war upon him by their writings (more important still and more learned!—especially when John XXII. is taken for Benedict XI. and when in a “Political Testament” nothing is said of the manner in which the war against Spain and the empire was to be conducted, nor of the means of making peace, nor of present dangers, nor of resources, nor of alliances, nor of the generals and ministers who were to be employed, nor even of the dauphin, whose education was of so much importance to the State, nor, in short, of any one object of the ministry).

I consent with all my heart, since it must be so, that Cardinal Richelieu’s memory shall be reproached with this unfortunate work, full of anachronisms, ignorance, ridiculous calculations, and acknowledged falsities. Let people strive as hard as they please to persuade themselves that the greatest minister was the most ignorant and tedious, as well as the most extravagant of writers; it may afford some gratification to those who detest his tyranny. It is also a fact worth preserving in the history of the human mind that this despicable work was praised for more than thirty years, while it was believed to be that great minister’s, and quite as true that the pretended “Testament” made no noise in the world until thirty years after the Cardinal’s death; that it was not printed until forty-two years after that event; that the original, signed by him, has never been seen; that the book is very bad; and that it scarcely deserves to be mentioned.

Did Count de Moret, son of Henry IV., who was wounded in the little skirmish at Castelnaudari, live until the year 1693 under the name of the hermit Jean Baptiste? What proof have we that this hermit was the son of Henry IV.? None.

Did Jeanne d’Albret de Navarre, mother of Henry IV., after the death of Antoine, marry a gentleman named Guyon, who was killed in the massacre of St. Bartholomew? Had she a son by him, who preached at Bordeaux? These facts are detailed at great length in the “Remarks on Bayle’s Answers to the Questions of a Provincial,” folio, page 689. Was Margaret of Valois, wife to Henry IV., brought to bed of two children secretly after her marriage?

We might fill volumes with inquiries like these. But how much pains should we be taking to discover things of no use to mankind! Let us rather seek cures for the scrofula, the gout, the stone, the gravel, and a thousand other chronic or acute diseases. Let us seek remedies for the distempers of the mind, no less terrible and no less mortal. Let us labor to bring the arts to perfection, and to lessen the miseries of the human race; and let us not waste our time over the anas, the anecdotes, and curious stories of our day, the collections of pretended bons mots, etc.

I read in a book lately published that Louis XIV. exempted all new-married men from the taille for five years. I have not found this fact in any collection of edicts, nor in any memoir of that time. I read in the same book that the king of Prussia has fifty livres given to every girl with child. There is, in truth, no better way of laying out money, nor of encouraging propagation, but I do not believe that this royal munificence is true; at least I have never witnessed it.

An anecdote of greater antiquity has just fallen under my eye, and appears to me to be a very strange one. It is said in a chronological history of Italy that the great Arian, Theodoric—he who is represented to have been so wise—had amongst his ministers a Catholic, for whom he had a great liking, and who proved worthy of all his confidence. This minister thought he should rise still higher in his master’s favor by embracing Arianism; but Theodoric had him immediately beheaded, saying: “If a man is not faithful to God, how can he be faithful to me, who am but a man?” The compiler remarks that “this trait does great honor to Theodoric’s manner of thinking with respect to religion.”

I pique myself on thinking, in matters of religion, better than Ostrogoth, Theodoric, the assassin of Symmachus, and Boëtius, because I am a good Catholic, and he was an Arian. But I declare this king worthy of being confined as a madman if he were so atrociously besotted. What! he immediately cut off his minister’s head because that minister had at last come over to his own way of thinking. How was a worshipper of God, who passed from the opinion of Athanasius to that of Arius and Eusebius, unfaithful to God? He was at most unfaithful only to Athanasius and his party, at a time when the world was divided between the Athanasians and the Eusebians; but Theodoric could not regard him as a man unfaithful to God, because he had rejected the term consubstantial, after admitting it at first. To cut off his favorite’s head for such a reason could certainly be the act of none but the wickedest fool and most barbarous blockhead that ever existed. What would you say of Louis XIV. if he had beheaded the duke de la Force because the duke de la Force had quitted Calvinism for the religion of Louis XIV.?

I have just opened a history of Holland, in which I find that, in 1672, Marshal de Luxembourg harangued his troops in the following manner: “Go, my children, plunder, rob, kill, ravish; and if there be anything more abominable fail not to do it, that I may find I have not been mistaken in selecting you as the bravest of men.” This is certainly a very pretty harangue. It is as true as those given us by Livy, but it is not in his style. To complete the dishonor of typography, this fine piece is inserted in several new dictionaries, which are no other than impostures in alphabetical order.

It is a trifling error in the “Abrégé Chronologique de l’Histoire de France” (“Chronological Abridgment of the History of France”) to suppose that Louis XIV., after the Peace of Utrecht, for which he was indebted to the English, after nine years of misfortune, and after the many great victories which the English had gained, said to the English ambassador: “I have always been master at home, and sometimes abroad; do not remind me of it.” This speech would have been very ill-timed, very false as it regarded the English, and would have exposed the king to a most galling reply.

The author himself confessed to me that the Marquis de Torcy, who was present at all the earl of Stair’s audiences, had always given the lie to this anecdote. It is assuredly neither true nor likely, and has remained in the later editions of this book only because it was put in the first. This error, however, does not at all disparage this very useful work, in which all the great events, arranged in the most convenient order, are perfectly authenticated.

All these little tales, designed to embellish history, do but dishonor it, and unfortunately almost all ancient histories are little else than tales. Malebranche was right when, speaking on this subject, he said: “I think no more of history than I do of the news of my parish.”

In 1723, Father Fouquet, a Jesuit, returned to France from China, where he had passed twentyfive years. Religious disputes had embroiled him with his brethren. He had carried with him to China a gospel different from theirs, and now brought back to France memorials against them. Two Chinese literati made the voyage with him; one of them died on the way, the other came with Father Fouquet to Paris. The Jesuit was to take the Chinese to Rome secretly, as a witness of the conduct of the good fathers in China, and in the meantime Fouquet and his companion lodged at the house of the Professed, Rue St. Antoine.

The reverend fathers received advice of their reverend brother’s intentions. Fouquet was no less quickly informed of the designs of the reverend fathers. He lost not a moment, but set off the same night for Rome. The reverend fathers had interest enough to get him pursued, but the Chinese only was taken. This poor fellow did not understand a word of French. The good fathers went to Cardinal Dubois, who at that time needed their support, and told him that they had among them a young man who had gone mad, and whom it was necessary to confine. The cardinal immediately granted a lettre de cachet, than which there is sometimes nothing which a minister is more ready to grant. The lieutenant of police went to take this madman, who was pointed out to him. He found a man making reverences in a way different from the French, speaking in a singing tone, and looking quite astonished. He expressed great pity for his derangement, ordered his hands to be tied behind him, and sent him to Charenton, where, like the Abbé Desfontaines, he was flogged twice a week. The Chinese did not at all understand this method of receiving strangers. He had passed only two or three days in Paris, and had found the manners of the French very odd. He had lived two years on bread and water, amongst madmen and keepers, and believed that the French nation consisted of these two species, the one part dancing while the other flogged them.

At length, when two years had elapsed, the ministry changed and a new lieutenant of police was appointed. This magistrate commenced his administration by visiting the prisons. He also saw the lunatics at Charenton. After conversing with them he asked if there were no other persons for him to see. He was told that there was one more unfortunate man, but that he spoke a language which nobody understood. A Jesuit, who accompanied the magistrate, said it was the peculiarity of this man’s madness that he never gave an answer in French; nothing would be gotten from him, and he thought it would be better not to take the trouble of calling him. The minister insisted. The unfortunate man was brought, and threw himself at his feet. The lieutenant sent for the king’s interpreters, who spoke to him in Spanish, Latin, Greek, and English, but he constantly said Kanton, Kanton, and nothing else. The Jesuit assured them he was possessed. The magistrate, having at some time heard it said that there was a province in China called Kanton, thought this man might perhaps have come from thence. An interpreter to the foreign missions was sent for, who could murder Chinese. All was discovered. The magistrate knew not what to do, nor the Jesuit what to say. The Duke de Bourbon was then prime minister. The circumstance having been related to him, he ordered money and clothes to be given to the Chinese, and sent him back to his own country, whence it is not thought that many literati will come and see us in the future. It would have been more politic to have kept this man and treated him well, than to have sent him to give his countrymen the very worst opinion of the French.

About thirty years ago the French Jesuits sent secret missionaries to China, who enticed a child from his parents in Canton, and brought him to Paris, where they educated him in their convent of La Rue St. Antoine. This boy became a Jesuit at the age of fifteen, after which he remained ten years in France. He knows both French and Chinese perfectly, and is very learned. M. Bertin, comptroller-general, and afterwards secretary of state, sent him back to China in 1763, after the abolition of the Jesuits. He calls himself Ko, and signs himself Ko, Jesuit.

In 1772 there were fourteen Jesuits in Pekin, amongst whom was Brother Ko, who still lives in their house. The Emperor Kien-Long has kept these monks of Europe about him in the positions of painters, engravers, watch-makers, and mechanics, with an express prohibition from ever disputing on religion, or causing the least trouble in the empire.

The Jesuit Ko has sent manuscripts of his own composition from Pekin to Paris entitled: “Memoirs Relative to the History, Arts and Sciences of the Chinese by the Missionaries at Pekin.” This book is printed, and is now selling at Paris by Nyon, the bookseller. The author attacks all the philosophers of Europe. He calls a prince of the Tartar race, whom the Jesuits had seduced, and the late emperor, Yong-Chin, had banished, an illustrious martyr to Jesus Christ. This Ko boasts of making many neophytes, who are ardent spirits, capable of troubling China even more than the Jesuits formerly troubled Japan. It is said that a Russian nobleman, indignant at this Jesuitical insolence, which reaches the farthest corners of the earth even after the extinction of the order—has resolved to find some means of sending to the president of the tribunal of rites at Pekin an extract in Chinese from these memoirs, which may serve to make the aforesaid Ko, and the Jesuits who labor with him, better known.



Angels of the Indians, Persians, etc.

The author of the article “Angel” in the Encyclopædia says that all religions have admitted the existence of angels, although it is not demonstrated by natural reason.

We understand by this word, ministers of God, supernatural is beyond reason. If I mistake not it should have been several religions (and not all) have acknowledged the existence of angels. That of Numa, that of Sabaism, that of the Druids, that of the Scythians, and that of the Phœnicians and ancient Egyptians did not admit their existence.

We understand by this word, ministers of God, deputies, beings of a middle order between God and man, sent to make known to us His orders.

At the present time—in 1772—the Brahmins boast of having possessed in writing, for just four thousand eight hundred and seventy-eight years, their first sacred law, entitled the Shastah, fifteen hundred years before their second law, called Veidam, signifying the word of God. The Shastah contains five chapters; the first, of God and His attributes; the second, of the creation of the angels; the third, of the fall of the angels; the fourth, of their punishment; the fifth, of their pardon, and the creation of man.

It is good, in the first place, to observe the manner in which this book speaks of God.

First Chapter of the Shastah.

God is one; He has created all; it is a perfect sphere, without beginning or end. God conducts the whole creation by a general providence, resulting from a determined principle. Thou shalt not seek to discover the nature and essence of the Eternal, nor by what laws He governs; such an undertaking would be vain and criminal. It is enough for thee to contemplate day and night in His works, His wisdom, His power, and His goodness.

After paying to this opening of the Shastah the tribute of admiration which is due to it, let us pass to the creation of the angels.

Second Chapter of the Shastah.

The Eternal, absorbed in the contemplation of His own existence, resolved, in the fulness of time, to communicate His glory and His essence to beings capable of feeling and partaking His beatitude as well as of contributing to His glory. The Eternal willed it, and they were. He formed them partly of His own essence, capable of perfection or imperfection, according to their will.

The Eternal first created Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, then Mozazor, and all the multitude of the angels. The Eternal gave the pre-eminence to Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. Brahma was the prince of the angelic army; Vishnu and Siva were His coadjutors. The Eternal divided the angelic army into several bands, and gave to each a chief. They adored the Eternal, ranged around His throne, each in the degree assigned him. There was harmony in heaven. Mozazor, chief of the first band, led the canticle of praise and adoration to the Creator, and the song of obedience to Brahma, his first creature; and the Eternal rejoiced in His new creation.

Chapter III.—The Fall of a Part of the Angels.

From the creation of the celestial army, joy and harmony surrounded the throne of the Eternal for a thousand years multiplied by a thousand, and would have lasted until the end of time had not envy seized Mozazor and other princes of the angelic bands, among whom was Raabon, the next in dignity to Mozazor. Forgetful of the blessing of their creation, and of their duty, they rejected the power of perfection, and exercised the power of imperfection. They did evil in the sight of the Eternal; they disobeyed Him; they refused to submit to God’s lieutenant and his coadjutors Vishnu and Siva, saying: “We will govern,” and, without fearing the power and the anger of their Creator, disseminated their seditious principles in the celestial army. They seduced the angels, and persuaded a great multitude of them to rebel; and they forsook the throne of the Eternal; and sorrow came upon the faithful angelic spirits; and for the first time grief was known in heaven.

Chapter IV.—Punishment of the Guilty Angels.

The Eternal, whose omniscience, prescience, and influence extend over all things except the action of the beings whom He has created free, beheld with grief and anger the defection of Mozazor, Raabon, and the other chiefs of the angels.

Merciful in his wrath, he sent Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva to reproach them with their crime, and bring them back to their duty; but, confirmed in their spirit of independence, they persisted in their revolt. The Eternal then commanded Siva to march against them, armed with almighty power, and hurl them down from the high place to the place of darkness, into the Ondera, there to be punished for a thousand years multiplied by a thousand.

Abstract of the Fifth Chapter.

At the end of a thousand years Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva implored the clemency of the Eternal in favor of the delinquents. The Eternal vouchsafed to deliver them from the prison of the Ondera, and place them in a state of probation during a great number of solar revolutions. There were other rebellions against God during this time of penitence.

It was at one of these periods that God created the earth, where the penitent angels underwent several metempsychoses, one of the last of which was their transformation into cows. Hence it was that cows became sacred in India. Lastly, they were metamorphosed into men.

So that the Indian system of angels is precisely that of the Jesuit Bougeant, who asserts that the bodies of beasts are inhabited by sinful angels. What the Brahmins had invented seriously, Bougeant, more than four thousand years after, imagined in jest—if, indeed, this pleasantry of his was not a remnant of superstition, combined with the spirit of system-making, as is often the case.

Such is the history of the angels among the ancient Brahmins, which, after the lapse of about fifty centuries, they still continue to teach. Neither our merchants who have traded in India, nor our missionaries, have ever been informed of it; for the Brahmins, having never been edified by their science or their manners, have not communicated to them their secrets. It was left for an Englishman, named Holwell, to reside for thirty years at Benares, on the Ganges, an ancient school of the Brahmins, to learn the ancient Sanscrit tongue, in order at length to enrich our Europe with this singular knowledge; just as Mr. Sale lived a long time in Arabia to give us a faithful translation of the Koran and information relative to ancient Sabaism, which has been succeeded by the Mussulman religion; and as Dr. Hyde continued for twenty years his researches into everything concerning the religion of the Magi.

Angels of the Persians.

The Persians had thirty-one angels. The first of all, who is served by four other angels, is named Bahaman. He has the inspection of all animals except man, over whom God has reserved to himself an immediate jurisdiction.

God presides over the day on which the sun enters the Ram, and this day is a Sabbath, which proves that the feast of the Sabbath was observed among the Persians in the ancient times. The second angel presides over the seventh day, and is called Debadur. The third is Kur, which probably was afterwards converted into Cyrus. He is the angel of the sun. The fourth is called Mah, and presides over the moon. Thus each angel has his province. It was among the Persians that the doctrine of the guardian angel and the evil angel was first adopted. It is believed that Raphael was the guardian angel of the Persian Empire.

Angels of the Hebrews.

The Hebrews knew nothing of the fall of the angels until the commencement of the Christian era. This secret doctrine of the ancient Brahmins must have reached them at that time, for it was then that the book attributed to Enoch, relative to the sinful angels driven from heaven, was fabricated.

Enoch must have been a very ancient writer, since, according to the Jews, he lived in the seventh generation before the deluge. But as Seth, still more ancient than he, had left books to the Hebrews, they might boast of having some from Enoch also. According to them Enoch wrote as follows:

“It happened, after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them they became enamored of them, saying to each other: ‘Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.’ Then their leader, Samyaza, said to them: ‘I fear that you may perhaps be indisposed to the performance of this enterprise, and that I alone shall suffer for so grievous a crime.’ But they answered him and said: ‘We all swear, and bind ourselves by mutual execrations, that we will not change our intention, but execute our projected undertaking.’

“Then they swore all together, and all bound themselves by mutual execrations. Their whole number was two hundred, who descended upon Ardis, which is the top of Mount Armon. That mountain, therefore, was called Armon, because they had sworn upon it, and bound themselves by mutual execrations. These are the names of their chiefs: Samyaza, who was their leader; Urakabarameel, Akabeel, Tamiel, Ramuel, Danel, Azkeel, Sarakuyal, Asael, Armers, Batraal, Anane, Zavebe, Samsaveel, Ertael, Turel, Yomyael, Arazyal. These were the prefects of the two hundred angels, and the remainder were all with them.

“Then they took wives, each choosing for himself, whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited, teaching them sorcery, incantations, and the dividing of roots and trees. And the women, conceiving, brought forth giants, whose stature was each three hundred cubits,” etc.

The author of this fragment writes in the style which seems to belong to the primitive ages. He has the same simplicity. He does not fail to name the persons, nor does he forget the dates; here are no reflections, no maxims. It is the ancient Oriental manner.

It is evident that this story is founded on the sixth chapter of Genesis: “There were giants in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” Genesis and the Book of Enoch perfectly agree respecting the coupling of the angels with the daughters of men, and the race of giants which sprung from this union; but neither this Enoch, nor any book of the Old Testament, speaks of the war of the angels against God, or of their defeat, or of their fall into hell, or of their hatred to mankind.

Nearly all the commentators on the Old Testament unanimously say that before the Babylonian captivity, the Jews knew not the name of any angel. The one that appeared to Manoah, father of Samson, would not tell his name.

When the three angels appeared to Abraham, and he had a whole calf dressed to regale them, they did not tell him their names. One of them said: “I will come to see thee next year, if God grant me life; and Sarah thy wife shall have a son.”

Calmet discovers a great affinity between this story and the fable which Ovid relates in his “Fasti,” of Jupiter, Neptune, and Mercury, who, having supped with old Hyreus, and finding that he was afflicted with impotence, urinated upon the skin of a calf which he had served up to them, and ordered him to bury this hide watered with celestial urine in the ground, and leave it there for nine months. At the end of the nine months, Hyreus uncovered his hide, and found in it a child, which was named Orion, and is now in the heavens. Calmet moreover says that the words which the angels used to Abraham may be rendered thus: A child shall be born of your calf.

Be this as it may, the angels did not tell Abraham their names; they did not even tell them to Moses; and we find the name of Raphael only in Tobit, at the time of the captivity. The other names of angels are evidently taken from the Chaldæans and the Persians. Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel, are Persian or Babylonian. The name of Israel itself is Chaldæan, as the learned Jew Philo expressly says, in the account of his deputation to Caligula.

We shall not here repeat what has been elsewhere said of angels.

Whether the Greeks and the Romans admitted the Existence of Angels.

They had gods and demi-gods enough to dispense with all other subaltern beings. Mercury executed the commissions of Jupiter, and Iris those of Juno; nevertheless, they admitted genii and demons. The doctrine of guardian angels was versified by Hesiod, who was contemporary with Homer. In his poem of “The Works and Days” he thus explains it:

When gods alike and mortals rose to birth,

A golden race the immortals formed on earth

Of many-languaged men; they lived of old,

When Saturn reigned in heaven—an age of gold.

Like gods they lived, with calm, untroubled mind,

Free from the toil and anguish of our kind.

Nor sad, decrepit age approaching nigh,

Their limbs misshaped with swoln deformity.

Strangers to ill, they Nature’s banquet proved,

Rich in earth’s fruits, and of the blest beloved:

They sank to death, as opiate slumber stole

Soft o’er the sense, and whelmed the willing soul.

Theirs was each good: the grain-exuberant soil

Poured the full harvest, uncompelled by toil:

The virtuous many dwelt in common, blest,

And all unenvying shared what all in peace possessed.

When on this race the verdant earth had lain,

By Jove’s high will they rose a Genii train:

Earth-wandering dæmons, they their charge began,

The ministers of good and guards of man:

Veiled with a mantle of aerial night,

O’er earth’s wide space they wing their hovering flight;

Dispense the fertile treasures of the ground,

And bend their all-observant glance around;

To mark the deed unjust, the just approve,

Their kingly office, delegate from Jove.

Elton’s Translation.

The farther we search into antiquity, the more we see how modern nations have by turns explored these now almost abandoned mines. The Greeks, who so long passed for inventors, imitated Egypt, which had copied from the Chaldæans, who owed almost everything to the Indians. The doctrine of the guardian angels, so well sung by Hesiod, was afterwards sophisticated in the schools: it was all that they were capable of doing. Every man had his good and his evil genius, as each one had his particular star—

Est genius natale comes qui temperat astrum.

Socrates, we know, had his good angel; but his bad angel must have governed him. No angel but an evil one could prompt a philosopher to run from house to house, to tell people, by question and answer, that father and mother, preceptor and pupil, were all ignorant and imbecile. A guardian angel in that event will find it very difficult to save his protégé from the hemlock.

We are acquainted only with the evil angel of Marcus Brutus, which appeared to him before the battle of Philippi.


The doctrine of angels is one of the oldest in the world. It preceded that of the immortality of the soul. This is not surprising; philosophy is necessary to the belief that the soul of mortal man is immortal; but imagination and weakness are sufficient for the invention of beings superior to ourselves, protecting or persecuting us. Yet it does not appear that the ancient Egyptians had any notion of these celestial beings, clothed with an ethereal body and administering to the orders of a God. The ancient Babylonians were the first who admitted this theology. The Hebrew books employ the angels from the first book of Genesis downwards: but the Book of Genesis was not written before the Chaldæans had become a powerful nation: nor was it until the captivity of Babylon that the Jews learned the names of Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, Uriel, etc., which were given to the angels. The Jewish and Christian religions being founded on the fall of Adam, and this fall being founded on the temptation by the evil angel, the devil, it is very singular that not a word is said in the Pentateuch of the existence of the bad angels, still less of their punishment and abode in hell.

The reason of this omission is evident: the evil angels were unknown to the Jews until the Babylonian captivity; then it is that Asmodeus begins to be talked of, whom Raphael went to bind in Upper Egypt; there it is that the Jews first hear of Satan. This word Satan was Chaldæan; and the Book of Job, an inhabitant of Chaldæa, is the first that makes mention of him.

The ancient Persians said Satan was an angel or genius who had made war upon the Dives and the Peris, that is, the fairest of the East.

Thus, according to the ordinary rules of probability, those who are guided by reason alone might be permitted to think that, from this theology, the Jews and Christians at length took the idea that the evil angels had been driven out of heaven, and that their prince had tempted Eve, in the form of a serpent.

It has been pretended that Isaiah, in his fourteenth chapter, had this allegory in view when he said: “Quomodo occidisti de cœlo, Lucifer, qui mane oriebaris?” “How hast thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning?”

It was this same Latin verse, translated from Isaiah, which procured for the devil the name of Lucifer. It was forgotten that Lucifer signifies “that which sheds light.” The words of Isaiah, too, have received a little attention; he is speaking of the dethroned king of Babylon; and by a common figure of speech, he says to him: “How hast thou fallen from heaven, thou brilliant star?”

It does not at all appear that Isaiah sought, by this stroke of rhetoric, to establish the doctrine of the angels precipitated into hell. It was scarcely before the time of the primitive Christian church that the fathers and the rabbis exerted themselves to encourage this doctrine, in order to save the incredibility of the story of a serpent which seduced the mother of men, and which, condemned for this bad action to crawl on its belly, has ever since been an enemy to man, who is always striving to crush it, while it is always endeavoring to bite him. There seemed to be somewhat more of sublimity in celestial substances precipitated into the abyss, and issuing from it to persecute mankind.

It cannot be proved by any reasoning that these celestial and infernal powers exist; neither can it be proved that they do not exist. There is certainly no contradiction in acknowledging the existence of beneficent and malignant substances which are neither of the nature of God nor of the nature of man: but a thing, to be believed, must be more than possible.

The angels who, according to the Babylonians and the Jews, presided over nations, were precisely what the gods of Homer were—celestial beings, subordinate to a supreme being. The imagination which produced the one probably produced the other. The number of the inferior gods increased with the religion of Homer. Among the Christians, the number of the angels was augmented in the course of time.

The writers known by the names of Dionysius the Areopagite and Gregory I. fixed the number of angels in nine choirs, forming three hierarchies; the first consisting of the seraphim, cherubim, and thrones; the second of the dominations, virtues and powers; and the third of the principalities, archangels, and, lastly, the angels, who give their domination to all the rest. It is hardly permissible for any one but a pope thus to settle the different ranks in heaven.


Angel, in Greek, is envoy. The reader will hardly be the wiser for being told that the Persians had their peris, the Hebrews their malakim, and the Greeks their demonoi.

But it is perhaps better worth knowing that one of the first of man’s ideas has always been to place intermediate beings between the Divinity and himself; such were those demons, those genii, invented in the ages of antiquity. Man always made the gods after his own image; princes were seen to communicate their orders by messengers; therefore, the Divinity had also his couriers. Mercury, Iris, were couriers or messengers.

The Jews, the only people under the conduct of the Divinity Himself, did not at first give names to the angels whom God vouchsafed to send them; they borrowed the names given them by the Chaldæans when the Jewish nation was captive in Babylon; Michael and Gabriel are named for the first time by Daniel, a slave among those people. The Jew Tobit, who lived at Ninevah, knew the angel Raphael, who travelled with his son to assist him in recovering the money due to him from the Jew Gabaël.

In the laws of the Jews, that is, in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, not the least mention is made of the existence of the angels—much less of the worship of them. Neither did the Sadducees believe in the angels.

But in the histories of the Jews, they are much spoken of. The angels were corporeal; they had wings at their backs, as the Gentiles feigned that Mercury had at his heels; sometimes they concealed their wings under their clothing. How could they be without bodies, since they all ate and drank, and the inhabitants of Sodom wanted to commit the sin of pederasty with the angels who went to Lot’s house?

The ancient Jewish tradition, according to Ben Maimon, admits ten degrees, ten orders of angels:

1. The chaios ecodesh, pure, holy. 2. The ofamin, swift. 3. The oralim, strong. 4. The chasmalim, flames. 5. The seraphim, sparks. 6. The malakim, angels, messengers, deputies. 7. The elohim, gods or judges. 8. The ben elohim, sons of the gods. 9. The cherubim, images. 10. The ychim, animated.

The story of the fall of the angels is not to be found in the books of Moses. The first testimony respecting it is that of Isaiah, who, apostrophizing the king of Babylon, exclaims, “Where is now the exacter of tributes? The pines and the cedars rejoice in his fall. How hast thou fallen from heaven, O Hellel, star of the morning?” It has been already observed that the word Hellel has been rendered by the Latin word Lucifer; that afterwards, in an allegorical sense, the name of Lucifer was given to the prince of the angels, who made war in heaven; and that, at last, this word, signifying Phosphorus and Aurora, has become the name of the devil.

The Christian religion is founded on the fall of the angels. Those who revolted were precipitated from the spheres which they inhabited into hell, in the centre of the earth, and became devils. A devil, in the form of a serpent, tempted Eve, and damned mankind. Jesus came to redeem mankind, and to triumph over the devil, who tempts us still. Yet this fundamental tradition is to be found nowhere but in the apocryphal book of Enoch; and there it is in a form quite different from that of the received tradition.

St. Augustine, in his 109th letter, does not hesitate to give slender and agile bodies to the good and bad angels. Pope Gregory I. has reduced to nine choirs—to nine hierarchies or orders—the ten choirs of angels acknowledged by the Jews.

The Jews had in their temple two cherubs, each with two heads—the one that of an ox, the other that of an eagle, with six wings. We paint them now in the form of a flying head, with two small wings below the ears. We paint the angels and archangels in the form of young men, with two wings at the back. As for the thrones and dominations, no one has yet thought of painting them.

St. Thomas, at question cviii. article 2, says that the thrones are as near to God as the cherubim and the seraphim, because it is upon them that God sits. Scot has counted a thousand million of angels. The ancient mythology of the good and bad genii, having passed from the East to Greece and Rome, we consecrated this opinion, for admitting for each individual a good and an evil angel, of whom one assists him and the other torments him, from his birth to his death; but it is not yet known whether these good and bad angels are continually passing from one to another, or are relieved by others. On this point, consult “St. Thomas’s Dream.”

It is not known precisely where the angels dwell—whether in the air, in the void, or in the planets. It has not been God’s pleasure that we should be informed of their abode.


How many nations have long existed, and still exist, without annals. There were none in all America, that is, in one-half of our globe, excepting those of Mexico and Peru, which are not very ancient. Besides, knotted cords are a sort of books which cannot enter into very minute details. Three-fourths of Africa never had annals; and, at the present day, in the most learned nations, in those which have even used and abused the art of writing the most, ninety-nine out of a hundred persons may be regarded as not knowing anything that happened there farther back than four generations, and as ignorant almost of the names of their great-grandfathers. Such is the case with nearly all the inhabitants of towns and villages, very few families holding titles of their possessions. When a litigation arises respecting the limits of a field or a meadow, the judges decide according to the testimony of the old men; and possession constitutes the title. Some great events are transmitted from father to son, and are entirely altered in passing from mouth to mouth. They have no other annals.

Look at all the villages of our Europe, so polished, so enlightened, so full of immense libraries, and which now seem to groan under the enormous mass of books. In each village two men at most, on an average, can read and write. Society loses nothing in consequence. All works are performed—building, planting, sowing, reaping, as they were in the remotest times. The laborer has not even leisure to regret that he has not been taught to consume some hours of the day in reading. This proves that mankind had no need of historical monuments to cultivate the arts really necessary to life.

It is astonishing, not that so many tribes of people are without annals, but that three or four nations have preserved them for five thousand years or thereabouts, through so many violent revolutions which the earth has undergone. Not a line remains of the ancient Egyptian, Chaldæan, or Persian annals, nor of those of the Latins and Etruscans. The only annals that can boast of a little antiquity are the Indian, the Chinese, and the Hebrew.

We cannot give the name of annals to vague and rude fragments of history without date, order, or connection. They are riddles proposed by antiquity to posterity, who understand nothing at all of them. We venture to affirm that Sanchoniathon, who is said to have lived before the time of Moses, composed annals. He probably limited his researches to cosmogony, as Hesiod afterwards did in Greece. We advance this latter opinion only as a doubt; for we write only to be informed, and not to teach.

But what deserves the greatest attention is that Sanchoniathon quotes the books of the Egyptian Thoth, who, he tells us, lived eight hundred years before him. Now Sanchoniathon probably wrote in the age in which we place Joseph’s adventure in Egypt. We commonly place the epoch of the promotion of the Jew Joseph to the prime-ministry of Egypt at the year of the creation 2300.

If, then, the books of Thoth were written eight hundred years before, they were written in the year 1500 of the creation. Therefore, their date was a hundred and fifty-six years before the deluge. They must, then, have been engraved on stone, and preserved in the universal inundation. Another difficulty is that Sanchoniathon does not speak of the deluge, and that no Egyptian writer has ever been quoted who does speak of it. But these difficulties vanish before the Book of Genesis, inspired by the Holy Ghost.

We have no intention here to plunge into the chaos which eighty writers have sought to clear up, by inventing different chronologies; we always keep to the Old Testament. We only ask whether in the time of Thoth they wrote in hieroglyphics, or in alphabetical characters? whether stone and brick had yet been laid aside for vellum, or any other material? whether Thoth wrote annals, or only a cosmogony? whether there were some pyramids already built in the time of Thoth? whether Lower Egypt was already inhabited? whether canals had been constructed to receive the waters of the Nile? whether the Chaldæans had already taught the arts of the Egyptians, and whether the Chaldæans had received them from the Brahmins? There are persons who have resolved all these questions; which once occasioned a man of sense and wit to say of a grave doctor, “That man must be very ignorant, for he answers every question that is asked him.”


The epoch of the establishment of annats is uncertain, which is a proof that the exaction of them is a usurpation—an extortionary custom. Whatever is not founded on an authentic law is an abuse. Every abuse ought to be reformed, unless the reform is more dangerous than the abuse itself. Usurpation begins by small and successive encroachments; equity and the public interest at length exclaim and protest; then comes policy, which does its best to reconcile usurpation with equity, and the abuse remains.

In several dioceses the bishops, chapters, and archdeacons, after the example of the popes, imposed annats upon the curés. In Normandy this exaction is called droit de déport. Policy having no interest in maintaining this pillage, it was abolished in several places; it still exists in others; so true is it that money is the first object of worship!

In 1409, at the Council of Pisa, Pope Alexander V. expressly renounced annats; Charles VII. condemned them by an edict of April, 1418; the Council of Basel declared that they came under the domination of simony, and the Pragmatic Sanction abolished them again.

Francis I., by a private treaty which he made with Leo X., and which was not inserted in the concordat, allowed the pope to raise this tribute, which produced him annually, during that prince’s reign, a hundred thousand crowns of that day, according to the calculation then made by Jacques Capelle, advocate-general to the Parliament of Paris.

The parliament, the universities, the clergy, the whole nation, protested against this exaction, and Henry II., yielding at length to the cries of his people, renewed the law of Charles VII., by an edict of the 3d of September, 1551.

The paying of annats was again forbidden by Charles IX., at the States of Orleans, in 1560: “By the advice of our council, and in pursuance of the decrees of the Holy Councils, the ancient ordinances of the kings, our predecessors, and the decisions of our courts of parliament, we order that all conveying of gold and silver out of our kingdom, and paying of money under the name of annats, vacant or otherwise, shall cease, on pain of a four-fold penalty on the offenders.”

This law, promulgated in the general assembly of the nation, must have seemed irrevocable, but two years afterwards the same prince, subdued by the court of Rome, at that time powerful, re-established what the whole nation and himself had abrogated.

Henry IV., who feared no danger, but feared Rome, confirmed the annats by an edict of the 22d of January, 1596.

Three celebrated jurisconsults, Dumoulin, Lannoy, and Duaren, have written strongly against annats, which they call a real simony. If, in default of their payment the pope refuses his bulls, Duaren advises the Gallican Church to imitate that of Spain, which, in the twelfth Council of Toledo, charged the archbishop of that city, on the pope’s refusal, to provide for the prelates appointed by the king.

It is one of the most certain maxims of French law, consecrated by article fourteen of our liberties, that the bishop of Rome has no power over the temporalities of benefices, but enjoys the revenues of annats only by the king’s permission. But ought there not to be a term to this permission? What avails our enlightenment if we are always to retain our abuses?

The amount of the sums which have been and still are paid to the pope is truly frightful. The attorney-general, Jean de St. Romain, has remarked that in the time of Pius II. twenty-two bishoprics having become vacant in France in the space of three years, it was necessary to carry to Rome a hundred and twenty thousand crowns; that sixty-one abbeys having also become vacant, the like sum had been paid to the court of Rome; that about the same time there had been paid to this court for provisions for the priorships, deaneries, and other inferior dignities, a thousand crowns; that for each curate there was at least a grâce expectative, which was sold for twenty-five crowns, besides an infinite number of dispensations, amounting to two millions of crowns. St. Romain lived in the time of Louis XI. Judge then, what these sums would now amount to. Judge how much other states have given. Judge whether the Roman commonwealth in the time of Lucullus drew more gold and silver from the nations conquered by its sword than the popes, the fathers of those same nations, have drawn from them by their pens.

Supposing that St. Romain’s calculation is too high by half, which is very unlikely, does there not still remain a sum sufficiently considerable to entitle us to call the apostolical chamber to an account and demand restitution, seeing that there is nothing at all apostolical in such an amount of money?


They are said to have been a small sect of the fourth century, but they were rather the sect of every people that had painters and sculptors. As soon as they could draw a little, or shape a figure, they made an image of the Divinity. If the Egyptians consecrated cats and gnats they also sculptured Isis and Osiris. Bel was carved at Babylon, Hercules at Tyre, Brahma in India.

The Mussulmans did not paint God as a man. The Guebres had no image of the Great Being. The Sabean Arabs did not give the human figure to the stars. The Jews did not give it to God in their temple. None of these nations cultivated the art of design, and if Solomon placed figures of animals in his temple it is likely that he had them carved at Tyre; but all the Jews have spoken of God as of a man.

Although they had no images they seem to have made God a man on all occasions. He comes down into the garden; He walks there every day at noon; He talks to His creatures; He talks to the serpent; He makes Himself heard by Moses in the bush; He shows him only His back parts on the mountain; He nevertheless talks to him, face to face, like one friend to another.

In the Koran, too, God is always looked up to as a king. In the twelfth chapter, a throne is given Him above the waters. He had this Koran written by a secretary, as kings have their orders. He sent this same Koran to Mahomet by the angel Gabriel, as kings communicate their orders through the great officers of the crown. In short, although God is declared in the Koran to be neither begetting nor begotten, there is, nevertheless a morsel of anthropomorphism. In the Greek and Latin Churches, God has always been painted with a great beard.


The reading of the whole poem of the late Cardinal Polignac has confirmed me in the idea which I formed of it when he read to me the first book. I am moreover astonished that amidst the dissipations of the world and the troubles in public life, he should have been able to write a long work in verse, in a foreign language; he, who could hardly have made four good lines in his own tongue. It seems to me that he often united the strength of Lucretius and the elegance of Virgil. I admire him, above all, for that facility with which he expresses such difficult things.

Perhaps, indeed, his “Anti-Lucretius” is too diffuse, and too little diversified, but he is here to be examined as a philosopher, not as a poet. It appears to me that so fine a mind as his should have done more justice to the morals of Epicurus, who, though he was a very bad natural philosopher, was, nevertheless, a very worthy man and always taught mildness, temperance, moderation, and justice, virtues which his example inculcated still more forcibly.

In the “Anti-Lucretius,” this great man is thus apostrophized:

Si virtutis eras avidus, rectique bonique

Tam sitiens, quid relligio tibi sancta nocebat?

Aspera quippe nimis visa est. Asperrima certe

Gaudenti vitiis, sed non virtutis amanti.

Ergo perfugium culpa, solisque benignus

Perjuris ac fœdifragis, Epicure, parabas.

Solam hominum faecem poteras, devotaque fureis

Corpora, etc.

If virtue, justice, goodness, were thy care,

Why didst thou tremble at Religion’s call?—

Whose laws are harsh to vicious minds alone—

Not to the spirit that delights in virtue.

No, no—the worst of men, the worst of crimes

Has thy solicitude—thy dearest aim

To find a refuge for the guilty soul, etc.

But Epicurus might reply to the cardinal: “If I had had the happiness of knowing, like you, the true God, of being born, like you, in a pure and holy religion, I should certainly not have rejected that revealed God, whose tenets were necessarily unknown to my mind, but whose morality was in my heart. I could not admit the existence of such gods as were announced to me by paganism. I was too rational to adore divinities, made to spring from a father and a mother, like mortals, and like them, to make war upon one another. I was too great a friend to virtue not to hate a religion which now invited to crime by the example of those gods themselves, and now sold for money the remission of the most horrible enormities. I beheld, on one hand, infatuated men, stained with vices, and seeking to purify themselves before impure gods; and on the other, knaves who boasted that they could justify the most perverse by initiating them in mysteries, by dropping bullock’s blood on their heads, or by dipping them in the waters of the Ganges. I beheld the most unjust wars undertaken with perfect sanctity, so soon as a ram’s liver was found unspotted, or a woman, with hair dishevelled and rolling eyes, uttered words of which neither she nor any one else knew the meaning. In short, I beheld all the countries of the earth stained with the blood of human victims, sacrificed by barbarous pontiffs to barbarous gods. I consider that I did well to detest such religions. Mine is virtue. I exhorted my disciples not to meddle with the affairs of this world, because they were horribly governed. A true Epicurean was mild, moderate, just, amiable—a man of whom no society had to complain—one who did not pay executioners to assassinate in public those who thought differently from himself. From hence to the holy religion in which you have been bred there is but one step. I destroyed the false gods, and, had I lived in your day, I would have recognized the true ones.”

Thus might Epicurus justify himself concerning his error. He might even entitle himself to pardon respecting the dogma of the immortality of the soul, by saying: “Pity me for having combated a truth which God revealed five hundred years after my birth. I thought like all the first Pagan legislators of the world; and they were all ignorant of this truth.”

I wish, then, that Cardinal Polignac had pitied while he condemned Epicurus; it would have been no detriment to fine poetry. With regard to physics it appears to me that the author has lost much time and many verses in refuting the declination of atoms and the other absurdities which swarm in the poem of Lucretius. This is employing artillery to destroy a cottage. Besides, why remove Lucretius’ reveries to substitute those of Descartes?

Cardinal Polignac has inserted in his poem some very fine lines on the discoveries of Newton; but in these, unfortunately for himself, he combats demonstrated truths. The philosophy of Newton is not to be discussed in verse; it is scarcely to be approached in prose. Founded altogether on geometry, the genius of poetry is not fit to assail it. The surface of these truths may be decorated with fine verses but to fathom them, calculation is requisite, and not verse.



Have you not sometimes seen, in a village, Pierre Aoudri and his wife Peronelle striving to go before their neighbors in a procession? “Our grandfathers,” say they, “rung the bells before those who elbow us now had so much as a stable of their own.”

The vanity of Pierre Aoudri, his wife, and his neighbors knows no better. They grow warm. The quarrel is an important one, for honor is in question. Proofs must now be found. Some learned churchsinger discovers an old rusty iron pot, marked with an A, the initial of the brazier’s name who made the pot. Pierre Aoudri persuades himself that it was the helmet of one of his ancestors. So Cæsar descended from a hero and from the goddess Venus. Such is the history of nations; such is, very nearly, the knowledge of early antiquity.

The learned of Armenia demonstrate that the terrestrial paradise was in their country. Some profound Swedes demonstrate that it was somewhere about Lake Wenner, which exhibits visible remains of it. Some Spaniards, too, demonstrate that it was in Castile. While the Japanese, the Chinese, the Tartars, the Indians, the Africans, and the Americans, are so unfortunate as not even to know that a terrestrial paradise once existed at the sources of the Pison, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates, or, which is the same thing, at the sources of the Guadalquivir, the Guadiana, the Douro, and the Ebro. For of Pison we easily make Phæris, and of Phæris we easily make the Bætis, which is the Guadalquivir. The Gihon, it is plain, is the Guadiana, for they both begin with a G. And the Ebro, which is in Catalonia, is unquestionably the Euphrates, both beginning with an E.

But a Scotchman comes, and in his turn demonstrates that the garden of Eden was at Edinburgh, which has retained its name; and it is not unlikely that, in a few centuries, this opinion will prevail.

The whole globe was once burned, says a man conversant with ancient and modern history; for I have read in a journal that charcoal quite black has been found a hundred feet deep, among mountains covered with wood. And it is also suspected that there were charcoal-burners in this place.

Phaeton’s adventure sufficiently shows that everything has been boiled, even to the bottom of the sea. The sulphur of Mount Vesuvius incontrovertibly proves that the banks of the Rhine, the Danube, the Ganges, the Nile, and the Great Yellow River, are nothing but sulphur, nitre, and oil of guiacum, which only wait for the moment of explosion to reduce the earth to ashes, as it has already once been. The sand on which we walk is an evident proof that the universe has vitrified, and that our globe is nothing but a ball of glass—like our ideas.

But if fire has changed our globe, water has produced still more wonderful revolutions. For it is plain that the sea, the tides of which in our latitudes rise eight feet, has produced the mountains, which are sixteen to seventeen thousand feet high. This is so true that some learned men, who never were in Switzerland, found a large vessel there, with all its rigging, petrified, either on Mount St. Gothard or at the bottom of a precipice—it is not positively known which; but it is quite certain that it was there. Therefore, men were originally fishes—Q. E. D.

Coming down to antiquity less ancient let us speak of the times when most barbarous nations quitted their own countries to seek others which were not much better. It is true, if there be anything true in ancient history, that there were Gaulish robbers who went to plunder Rome in the time of Camillus. Other robbers from Gaul had, it is said, passed through Illyria to sell their services as murderers to other murderers in the neighborhood of Thrace: they bartered their blood for bread, and at length settled in Galatia. But who were these Gauls? Were they natives of Berry and Anjou? They were, doubtless, some of those Gauls whom the Romans called Cisalpine, and whom we call Transalpine—famishing mountaineers, inhabiting the Alps and the Apennines. The Gauls of the Seine and the Marne did not then know that Rome existed, and could not resolve to cross Mont Cenis, as was afterwards done by Hannibal, to steal the wardrobes of the Roman senators, whose only movables were a gown of bad grey cloth, decorated with a band, the color of bull’s blood, two small knobs of ivory, or rather dog’s bone, fixed to the arms of a wooden chair, and a piece of rancid bacon in their kitchens.

The Gauls, who were dying of hunger, finding nothing to eat at home, went to try their fortune farther off; as the Romans afterwards did when they ravaged so many countries, and as the people of the North did at a later period when they destroyed the Roman Empire.

And whence have we received our vague information respecting these emigrations? From some lines written at a venture by the Romans; for, as for the Celts, Welsh, or Gauls, whom some would have us believe to have been eloquent, neither they nor their bards could at that time read or write.

But, to infer from these that the Gauls or Celts, afterwards conquered by a few of Cæsar’s legions, then by a horde of Goths, then by a horde of Burgundians, and lastly by a horde of Sicambri, under one Clodovic, had before subjugated the whole earth, and given their names and their laws to Asia, seems to me to be inferring a great deal. The thing, however, is not mathematically impossible; and if it be demonstrated, I assent: it would be very uncivil to refuse to the Welsh what is granted to the Tartars.

On the Antiquity of Usages.

Who have been the greatest fools, and who the most ancient fools? Ourselves or the Egyptians, or the Syrians or some other people? What was signified by our misletoe? Who first consecrated a cat? It must have been he who was the most troubled with mice. In what nation did they first dance under the boughs of trees in honor of the gods? Who first made processions, and placed fools, with caps and bells, at the head of them? Who first carried a priapus through the streets, and fixed one like a knocker at the door? What Arab first took it into his head to hang his wife’s drawers out at the window, the day after his marriage?

All nations have formerly danced at the time of the new moon. Did they then give one another the word? No; no more than they did to rejoice at the birth of a son, or to mourn, or seem to mourn, at the death of a father. Every one is very glad to see the moon again, after having lost her for several nights. There are a hundred usages so natural to all men, that it cannot be said the Biscayans taught them to the Phrygians, or the Phrygians to the Biscayans.

Fire and water have been used in temples. This custom needed no introduction. A priest did not choose always to have his hands dirty. Fire was necessary to cook the immolated carcasses, and to burn slips of resinous wood and spices, in order to combat the odor of the sacerdotal shambles.

But the mysterious ceremonies which it is so difficult to understand, the usages which nature does not teach—in what place, when, where, how, why, were they invented? Who communicated them to other nations? It is not likely that it should, at the same time, have entered the head of an Arab and of an Egyptian to cut off one end of his son’s prepuce; nor that a Chinese and a Persian should, both at once, have resolved to castrate little boys.

It can never have been that two fathers, in different countries, have, at the same moment, formed the idea of cutting their sons’ throats to please God. Some nations must have communicated to others their follies, serious, ridiculous, or barbarous. In this antiquity men love to search, to discover, if possible, the first madman and the first scoundrel who perverted human nature.

But how are we to know whether Jehu, in Phœnicia, by immolating his son, was the inventor of sacrifices of human blood? How can we be assured that Lycaon was the first who ate human flesh, when we do not know who first began to eat fowls?

We seek to know the origin of ancient feasts. The most ancient and the finest is that of the emperors of China tilling and sowing the ground, together with their first mandarins. The second is that of the Thesmophoria at Athens. To celebrate at once agriculture and justice, to show men how necessary they both are, to unite the curb of law with the art which is the source of all wealth—nothing is more wise, more pious, or more useful.

There are old allegorical feasts to be found everywhere, as those of the return of the seasons. It was not necessary that one nation should come from afar off to teach another that marks of joy and friendship for one’s neighbors may be given on the first day of the year. This custom has been that of every people. The Saturnalia of the Romans are better known than those of the Allobroges and the Picts; because there are many Roman writings and monuments remaining, but there are none of the other nations of western Europe.

The feast of Saturn was the feast of Time. He had four wings; time flies quickly—his two faces evidently signifying the concluded and the commencing year. The Greeks said that he had devoured his father and that he devoured his children. No allegory is more reasonable. Time devours the past and the present, and will devour the future.

Why seek for vain and gloomy explanations of a feast so universal, so gay, and so well known? When I look well into antiquity, I do not find a single annual festival of a melancholy character; or, at least, if they begin with lamentations, they end in dancing and revelry. If tears are shed for Adoni or Adonai, whom we call Adonis, he is soon resuscitated, and rejoicing takes place. It is the same with the feasts of Isis, Osiris, and Horus. The Greeks, too, did as much for Ceres as for Prosperine. The death of the serpent Python was celebrated with gayety. A feast day and a day of joy were one and the same thing. At the feasts of Bacchus this joy was only carried too far.

I do not find one general commemoration of an unfortunate event. The institutors of the feasts would have shown themselves to be devoid of common sense if they had established at Athens a celebration of the battle lost at Chæronea, and at Rome another of the battle of Cannæ.

They perpetuated the remembrance of what might encourage men, and not of that which might fill them with cowardice or despair. This is so true that fables were invented for the purpose of instituting feasts. Castor and Pollux did not fight for the Romans near Lake Regillus; but, at the end of three or four hundred years, some priests said so, and all the people danced. Hercules did not deliver Greece from a hydra with seven heads; but Hercules and his hydra were sung.

Festivals Founded on Chimeras.

I do not know that there was, in all antiquity, a single festival founded on an established fact. It has been elsewhere remarked how extremely ridiculous those schoolmen appear who say to you, with a magisterial air: “Here is an ancient hymn in honor of Apollo, who visited Claros; therefore Apollo went to Claros; a chapel was erected to Perseus; therefore he delivered Andromeda.” Poor men! You should rather say, therefore there was no Andromeda.

But what, then, will become of that learned antiquity which preceded the olympiads? It will become what it is—an unknown time, a time lost, a time of allegories and lies, a time regarded with contempt by the wise, and profoundly discussed by blockheads, who like to float in a void, like Epicurus’ atoms.

There were everywhere days of penance, days of expiation in the temples; but these days were never called by a name answering to that of feasts. Every feast-day was sacred to diversion; so true is this that the Egyptian priests fasted on the eve in order to eat the more on the morrow—a custom which our monks have preserved. There were, no doubt, mournful ceremonies. It was not customary to dance the Greek brawl while interring or carrying to the funeral pile a son or a daughter; this was a public ceremony, but certainly not a feast.

On the Antiquity of Feasts, Which, It has been Asserted, were Always Mournful.

Men of ingenuity, profound searchers into antiquity, who would know how the earth was made a hundred thousand years ago, if genius could discover it, have asserted that mankind, reduced to a very small number in both continents, and still terrified at the innumerable revolutions which this sad globe had undergone, perpetuated the remembrance of their calamities by dismal and mournful commemorations.

“Every feast,” say they, “was a day of horror, instituted to remind men that their fathers had been destroyed by the fires of the volcanoes, by rocks falling from the mountains, by eruptions of the sea, by the teeth and claws of wild beasts, by war, pestilence and famine.”

Then we are not made as men were then. There was never so much rejoicing in London as after the plague and the burning of the whole city in the reign of Charles II. We made songs while the massacres of Bartholomew were still going on. Some pasquinades have been preserved which were made the day after the assassination of Coligni; there was printed in Paris, Passio Domini nostri Gaspardi Colignii secundum Bartholomæum.

It has a thousand times happened that the sultan who reigns in Constantinople has made his eunuchs and odalisks dance in apartments stained with the blood of his brothers and his viziers. What do the people of Paris do on the very day that they are apprised of the loss of a battle and the death of a hundred brave officers? They run to the play and the opera.

What did they when the wife of Marshal d’Ancre was given up in the Grève to the barbarity of her persecutors? When Marshal de Marillac was dragged to execution in a wagon, by virtue of a paper signed by robed lackeys in Cardinal de Richelieu’s ante-chamber? When a lieutenant-general of the army, a foreigner, who had shed his blood for the state, condemned by the cries of his infuriated enemies, was led to the scaffold in a dung-cart, with a gag in his mouth? When a young man of nineteen, full of candor, courage and modesty, but very imprudent, was carried to the most dreadful of punishments? They sang vaudevilles. Such is man, at least man on the banks of the Seine. Such has he been at all times, for the same reason that rabbits have always had hair, and larks feathers.

On the Origin of the Arts.

What! we would know the precise theology of Thoth, Zerdusht, or Sanchoniathon, although we know not who invented the shuttle. The first weaver, the first mason, the first smith were undoubtedly great geniuses; yet no account has been made of them. And why? Because not one of them invented a perfect art. He who first hollowed the trunk of an oak for the purpose of crossing a river did not build galleys; nor did they who piled up unhewn stones, and laid pieces of wood across them, dream of the pyramids. Everything is done by degrees, and the glory belongs to no one.

All was done in the dark, until philosophers, aided by geometry, taught men to proceed with accuracy and safety.

It was left for Pythagoras, on his return from his travels, to show workmen the way to make an exact square. He took three rules: one three, one four, and one five feet long, and with these he made a right-angled triangle. Moreover, it was found that the side 5 furnished a square just equal to the two squares produced by the sides 4 and 3; a method of importance in all regular works.

This is the famous theorem which he had brought from India, and which we have elsewhere said was known in China long before, according to the relation of the Emperor Cam-hi. Long before Plato, the Greeks made use of a single geometrical figure to double the square.

Archytas and Erastothenes invented a method of doubling the cube, which was impracticable by ordinary geometry, and which would have done honor to Archimedes.

This Archimedes found the method of calculating exactly the quantity of alloy mixed with gold; for gold had been worked for ages before the fraud of the workers could be discovered. Knavery existed long before mathematics. The pyramids, built with the square, and corresponding exactly with the four cardinal points, sufficiently show that geometry was known in Egypt from time immemorial; and yet it is proved that Egypt is quite a new country.

Without philosophy we should be little above the animals that dig or erect their habitations, prepare their food in them, take care of their little ones in their dwellings, and have besides the good fortune, which we have not, of being born ready clothed. Vitruvius, who had travelled in Gaul and Spain, tells us that in his time the houses were built of a sort of mortar, covered with thatch or oak shingles, and that the people did not make use of tiles. What was the time of Vitruvius? It was that of Augustus. The arts had scarcely yet reached the Spaniards, who had mines of gold and silver; or the Gauls, who had fought for ten years against Cæsar.

The same Vitruvius informs us that in the opulent and ingenious town of Marseilles, which traded with so many nations, the roofs were only of a kind of clay mixed with straw.

He says that the Phrygians dug themselves habitations in the ground; they stuck poles round the hollow, brought them together at the top, and laid earth over them. The Hurons and the Algonquins are better lodged. This gives us no very lofty idea of Troy, built by the gods, and the palace of Priam:

Apparet domus intus, et atria longa patescunt;

Apparent Priami et veterum penetralia regum.

A mighty breach is made; the rooms concealed

Appear, and all the palace is revealed—

The halls of audience, and of public state.


To be sure, the people are not lodged like kings; huts are to be seen near the Vatican and near Versailles. Besides, industry rises and falls among nations by a thousand revolutions:

Et campus ubi Troja fuit.

. . . . the plain where Troy once stood.

We have our arts, the ancients had theirs. We could not make a galley with three benches of oars, but we can build ships with a hundred pieces of cannon. We cannot raise obelisks a hundred feet high in a single piece, but our meridians are more exact. The byssus is unknown to us, but the stuffs of Lyons are more valuable. The Capitol was worthy of admiration, the church of St. Peter is larger and more beautiful. The Louvre is a masterpiece when compared with the palace of Persepolis, the situation and ruins of which do but tell of a vast monument to barbaric wealth. Rameau’s music is probably better than that of Timotheus; and there is not a picture presented at Paris in the Hall of Apollo (salon d’Apollon) which does not excel the paintings dug out of Herculaneum.


Was the ox Apis worshipped at Memphis as a god, as a symbol, or as an ox? It is likely that the fanatics regarded him as a god, the wise as merely a symbol, and that the more stupid part of the people worshipped the ox. Did Cambyses do right in killing this ox with his own hand? Why not? He showed to the imbecile that their god might be put on the spit without nature’s arming herself to avenge the sacrilege. The Egyptians have been much extolled. I have not heard of a more miserable people. There must always have been in their character, and in their government, some radical vice which has constantly made vile slaves of them. Let it be granted that in times almost unknown they conquered the earth; but in historical times they have been subjugated by all who have chosen to take the trouble—by the Assyrians, by the Greeks, by the Romans, by the Arabs, by the Mamelukes, by the Turks, by all, in short, but our crusaders, who were even more ill-advised than the Egyptians were cowardly. It was the Mameluke militia that beat the French under St. Louis. There are, perhaps, but two things tolerable in this nation; the first is, that those who worshipped an ox never sought to compel those who adored an ape to change their religion; the second, that they have always hatched chickens in ovens.

We are told of their pyramids; but they are monuments of an enslaved people. The whole nation must have been set to work on them, or those unsightly masses could never have been raised. And for what use were they? To preserve in a small chamber the mummy of some prince, or governor, or intendant, which his soul was to reanimate at the end of a thousand years. But if they looked forward to this resurrection of the body, why did they take out the brains before embalming them? Were the Egyptians to be resuscitated without brains?



Justin the Martyr, who wrote about the year 270 of the Christian era, was the first who spoke of the Apocalypse; he attributes it to the apostle John the Evangelist. In his dialogue with Tryphon, that Jew asks him if he does not believe that Jerusalem is one day to be re-established? Justin answers that he believes it, as all Christians do who think aright. “There was among us,” says he, “a certain person named John, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus; he foretold that the faithful shall pass a thousand years in Jerusalem.”

The belief in this reign of a thousand years was long prevalent among the Christians. This period was also in great credit among the Gentiles. The souls of the Egyptians returned to their bodies at the end of a thousand years; and, according to Virgil, the souls in purgatory were exorcised for the same space of time—et mille per annos. The New Jerusalem of a thousand years was to have twelve gates, in memory of the twelve apostles; its form was to be square; its length, breadth, and height were each to be a thousand stadii—i. e., five hundred leagues; so that the houses were to be five hundred leagues high. It would be rather disagreeable to live in the upper story; but we find all this in the twenty-first chapter of the Apocalypse.

If Justin was the first who attributed the Apocalypse to St. John, some persons have rejected his testimony; because in the same dialogue with the Jew Tryphon he says that, according to the relation of the apostles, Jesus Christ, when he went into the Jordan, made the water boil, which, however, is not to be found in any writing of the apostles.

The same St. Justin confidently cites the oracles of Sibyls; he moreover pretends to have seen the remains of the places in which the seventy-two interpreters were confined in the Egyptian pharos, in Herod’s time. The testimony of a man who had had the misfortune to see these places seems to indicate that he might possibly have been confined there himself.

St. Irenæus, who comes afterwards, and who also believed in the reign of a thousand years, tells us that he learned from an old man that St. John wrote the Apocalypse. But St. Irenæus is reproached with having written that there should be but four gospels, because there are but four quarters of the world, and four cardinal points, and Ezekiel saw but four animals. He calls this reasoning a demonstration. It must be confessed that Irenæus’s method of demonstrating is quite worthy of Justin’s power of sight.

Clement of Alexandria, in his “Electa,” mentions only an Apocalypse of St. Peter, to which great importance was attached. Tertullian, a great partisan of the thousand years’ reign, not only assures us that St. John foretold this resurrection and reign of a thousand years in the city of Jerusalem, but also asserts that this Jerusalem was already beginning to form itself in the air, where it had been seen by all the Christians of Palestine, and even by the Pagans, at the latter end of the night, for forty nights successively; but, unfortunately, the city always disappeared as soon as it was daylight.

Origen, in his preface to St. John’s Gospel, and in his homilies, quotes the oracles of the Apocalypse, but he likewise quotes the oracles of Sibyls. And St. Dionysius of Alexandria, who wrote about the middle of the third century, says, in one of his fragments preserved by Eusebius, that nearly all the doctors rejected the Apocalypse as a book devoid of reason, and that this book was composed, not by St. John, but by one Cerinthus, who made use of a great name to give more weight to his reveries.

The Council of Laodicea, held in 360, did not reckon the Apocalypse among the canonical books. It is very singular that Laodicea, one of the churches to which the Apocalypse was addressed, should have rejected a treasure designed for itself, and that the bishop of Ephesus, who attended the council, should also have rejected this book of St. John, who was buried at Ephesus.

It was visible to all eyes that St. John was continually turning about in his grave, causing a constant rising and falling of the earth. Yet the same persons who were sure that St. John was not quite dead were also sure that he had not written the Apocalypse. But those who were for the thousand years’ reign were unshaken in their opinion. Sulpicius Severus, in his “Sacred History,” book xi., treats as mad and impious those who did not receive the Apocalypse. At length, after numerous oppositions of council to council, the opinion of Sulpicius Severus prevailed. The matter having been thus cleared up, the Church came to the decision, from which there is no appeal, that the Apocalypse is incontestably St. John’s.

Every Christian communion has applied to itself the prophecies contained in this book. The English have found in it the revolutions of Great Britain; the Lutherans, the troubles of Germany; the French reformers, the reign of Charles IX., and the regency of Catherine de Medici, and they are all equally right. Bossuet and Newton have both commented on the Apocalypse, yet, after all, the eloquent declamations of the one, and the sublime discoveries of the other, have done them greater honor than their commentaries.


Two great men, but very different in their greatness, have commented on the Apocalypse in the seventeenth century: Newton, to whom such a study was very ill suited, and Bossuet, who was better fitted for the undertaking. Both gave additional weapons to their enemies, by their commentaries, and, as has elsewhere been said, the former consoled mankind for his superiority over them, while the latter made his enemies rejoice.

The Catholics and the Protestants have both explained the Apocalypse in their favor, and have each found in it exactly what has accorded with their interests. They have made wonderful commentaries on the great beast with seven heads and ten horns, with the hair of a leopard, the feet of a bear, the throat of a lion, the strength of a dragon, and to buy and sell it was necessary to have the character and number of the beast, which number was 666.

Bossuet finds that this beast was evidently the Emperor Diocletian, by making an acrostic of his name. Grotius believed that it was Trajan. A curate of St. Sulpice, named La Chétardie, known from some strange adventures, proves that the beast was Julian. Jurieu proves that the beast is the pope. One preacher has demonstrated that it was Louis XIV. A good Catholic has demonstrated that it was William, king of England. It is not easy to make them all agree.

There have been warm disputes concerning the stars which fell from heaven to earth, and the sun and moon, which were struck with darkness in their third parts.

There are several opinions respecting the book that the angel made the author of the Apocalypse eat, which book was sweet to the mouth and bitter to the stomach. Jurieu asserted that the books of his adversary were designated thereby, and his argument was retorted upon himself.

There have been disputes about this verse: “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder; and I heard the voice of harpers harping on their harps.”

It is quite clear that it would have been better to have respected the Apocalypse than to have commented upon it.

Camus, bishop of Bellay, printed in the last century a large book against the monks, which an unfrocked monk abridged. It was entitled “Apocalypse,” because in it he exposed the dangers and defects of the monastic life; and “Melito’s Apocalypse” (“Apocalypse de Méliton”), because Melito, bishop of Sardis, in the second century, had passed for a prophet. This bishop’s work has none of the obscurities of St. John’s Apocalypse. Nothing was ever clearer. The bishop is like a magistrate saying to an attorney, “You are a forger and a cheat—do you comprehend me?”

The bishop of Bellay computes, in his Apocalypse or Revelations, that there were in his time ninety-eight orders of monks endowed or mendicant, living at the expense of the people, without employing themselves in the smallest labor. He reckoned six hundred thousand monks in Europe. The calculation was a little strained; but it is certain that the real number of the monks was rather too large.

He assures us that the monks are enemies to the bishops, curates, and magistrates; that, among the privileges granted to the Cordeliers, the sixth privilege is the certainty of being saved, whatever horrible crime you may have committed, provided you belong to the Order of St. Francis; that the monks are like apes; the higher they climb, the plainer you see their posteriors; that the name of monk has become so infamous and execrable that it is regarded by the monks themselves as a foul reproach and the most violent insult that can be offered them.

My dear reader, whoever you are, minister or magistrate, consider attentively the following short extract from our bishop’s book:

“Figure to yourself the convent of the Escorial or of Monte Cassino, where the cœnobites have everything necessary, useful, delightful, superfluous and superabundant—since they have their yearly revenue of a hundred and fifty thousand, four hundred thousand, or five hundred thousand crowns; and judge whether Monsieur l’Abbé has wherewithal to allow himself and those under him to sleep after dinner.

“Then imagine an artisan or laborer, with no dependence except on the work of his hands, and burdened with a large family, toiling like a slave every day and at all seasons, to feed them with the bread of sorrow and the water of tears; and say, which of the two conditions is pre-eminent in poverty.”

This is a passage from the “Episcopal Apocalypse” which needs no commentary. All that is wanted is an angel to come and fill his cup with the wine of the monks, to slake the thirst of the laborers who plow, sow, and reap, for the monasteries.

But this prelate, instead of writing a useful book, only composed a satire. Consistently with his dignity, he should have stated the good as well as evil. He should have acknowledged that the Benedictines have produced many good works, and that the Jesuits have rendered great services to literature. He might have blessed the brethren of La Charité, and those of the Redemption of the Captives. Our first duty is to be just. Camus gave too much scope to his imagination. St. François de Sales advised him to write moral romances; but he abused the advice.


These are heretics who might pass for other than Christians. However, they acknowledge Jesus as Saviour and Mediator; but they dare to maintain that nothing is more contrary to right reason than what is taught among Christians concerning the Trinity of persons in one only divine essence, of whom the second is begotten by the first, and the third proceeds from the other two; that this unintelligible doctrine is not to be found in any part of Scripture; that no passage can be produced which authorizes it; or to which, without in any wise departing from the spirit of the text, a sense cannot be given more clear, more natural, or more conformable to common notions, and to primitive and immutable truths; that to maintain, as the orthodox do, that in the divine essence there are several distinct persons, and that the Eternal is not the only true God, but that the Son and the Holy Ghost must be joined with Him, is to introduce into the Church of Christ an error the most gross and dangerous, since it is openly to favor polytheism; that it implies a contradiction, to say that there is but one God, and that, nevertheless, there are three persons, each of which is truly God; that this distinction, of one in essence, and three in person, was never in Scripture; that it is manifestly false, since it is certain that there are no fewer essences than persons, nor persons than essences; that the three persons of the Trinity are either three different substances, or accidents of the divine essence, or that essence itself without distinction; that, in the first place, you make three Gods; that, in the second, God is composed of accidents; you adore accidents, and metamorphose accidents into persons; that, in the third, you unfoundedly and to no purpose divide an indivisible subject, and distinguish into three that which within itself has no distinction; that if it be said that the three personalities are neither different substances in the divine essence, nor accidents of that essence, it will be difficult to persuade ourselves that they are anything at all; that it must not be believed that the most rigid and decided Trinitarians have themselves any clear idea of the way in which the three hypostases subsist in God, without dividing His substance, and consequently without multiplying it; that St. Augustine himself, after advancing on this subject a thousand reasonings alike dark and false, was forced to confess that nothing intelligible could be said about the matter; they then repeat the passage by this father, which is, indeed, a very singular one: “When,” says he, “it is asked what are the three, the language of man fails and terms are wanting to express them.” “Three persons, has, however, been said—not for the purpose of expressing anything, but in order to say something and not remain mute.” “Dictum est tres personæ, non ut aliquid diceretur, sed ne taceretur.”—De Trinit. lib. v. cap. 9; that modern theologians have cleared up this matter no better; that, when they are asked what they understand by the word person, they explain themselves only by saying that it is a certain incomprehensible distinction by which are distinguished in one nature only, a Father, a Son, and a Holy Ghost; that the explanation which they give of the terms begetting and proceeding, is no more satisfactory, since it reduces itself to saying that these terms indicate certain incomprehensible relations existing among the three persons of the Trinity; that it may be hence gathered that the state of the question between them and the orthodox is to know whether there are in God three distinctions, of which no one has any definite idea, and among which there are certain relations of which no one has any more idea.

From all this they conclude that it would be wiser to abide by the testimony of the apostles, who never spoke of the Trinity, and to banish from religion forever all terms which are not in the scriptures—as trinity, person, essence, hypostasis, hypostatic and personal union, incarnation, generation, proceeding, and many others of the same kind; which being absolutely devoid of meaning, since they are represented by no real existence in nature, can excite in the understanding none but false, vague, obscure, and undefinable notions.

To this article let us add what Calmet says in his dissertation on the following passage of the Epistle of John the Evangelist: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one; and there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, the water and the blood; and these three are one.” Calmet acknowledges that these two verses are not in any ancient bible; indeed, it would be very strange if St. John had spoken of the Trinity in a letter, and said not a word about it in his Gospel. We find no trace of this dogma, either in the canonical or in the apocryphal gospels. All these reasons and many others might excuse the anti-trinitarians, if the councils had not decided. But as the heretics pay no regard to councils, we know not what measures to take to confound them. Let us content ourselves with believing and wishing them to believe.


It has been very well remarked that the divine writings might, at one and the same time, be sacred and apocryphal; sacred, because they had undoubtedly been dictated by God Himself; apocryphal, because they were hidden from the nations, and even from the Jewish people.

That they were hidden from the nations before the translation executed at Alexandria, under the Ptolemies, is an acknowledged truth. Josephus declares it in the answer to Appian, which he wrote after Appian’s death; and his declaration has not less strength because he seeks to strengthen it by a fable. He says in his history that the Jewish books being all-divine, no foreign historian or poet had ever dared to speak of them. And, immediately after assuring us that no one had ever dared to mention the Jewish laws, he adds that the historian Theopompus, having only intended to insert something concerning them in his history, God struck him with madness for thirty days; but that, having been informed in a dream that he was mad only because he had wished to know divine things and make them known to the profane, he asked pardon of God, who restored him to his senses.

Josephus in the same passage also relates that a poet named Theodectes, having said a few words about the Jews in his tragedies, became blind, and that God did not restore his sight until he had done penance.

As for the Jewish people, it is certain that there was a time when they could not read the divine writings; for it is said in the Second Book of Kings (chap. xxii., ver. 8, and in the Second Book of Chronicles (chap. xxxiv., ver. 14), that in the reign of Josias they were unknown, and that a single copy was accidentally found in the house of the high priest Hilkiah.

The twelve tribes which were dispersed by Shalmaneser have never re-appeared; and their books, if they had any, have been lost with them. The two tribes which were in slavery at Babylon and allowed to return at the end of seventy years, returned without their books, or at least they were very scarce and very defective, since Esdras was obliged to restore them. But although during the Babylonian captivity these books were apocryphal, that is, hidden or unknown to the people, they were constantly sacred—they bore the stamp of divinity—they were, as all the world agrees, the only monument of truth upon earth.

We now give the name of apocrypha to those books which are not worthy of belief; so subject are languages to change! Catholics and Protestants agree in regarding as apocryphal in this sense, and in rejecting, the prayer of Manasseh, king of Judah, contained in the Second Book of Kings; the Third and Fourth Books of Maccabees; the Fourth Book of Esdras; although these books were incontestably written by Jews. But it is denied that the authors were inspired by God, like the Jews.

The other books, rejected by the Protestants only, and consequently considered by them as not inspired by God Himself, are the Book of Wisdom, though it is written in the same style as the Proverbs; Ecclesiasticus, though the style is still the same; the first two books of Maccabees, though written by a Jew, But they do not believe this Jew to have been inspired by God—Tobit—although the story is edifying. The judicious and profound Calmet affirms that a part of this book was written by Tobit the father, and a part by Tobit the son; and that a third author added the conclusion of the last chapter, which says that Tobit the younger expired at the age of one hundred and twenty-seven years, and that he died rejoicing over the destruction of Nineveh.

The same Calmet, at the end of his preface, has these words: “Neither the story itself, nor the manner in which it is told, bears any fabulous or fictitious character. If all Scripture histories, containing anything of the marvellous or extraordinary, were to be rejected, where is the sacred book which is to be preserved?”

Judith is another book rejected by the Protestants, although Luther himself declares that “this book is beautiful, good, holy, useful, the language of a holy poet and a prophet animated by the Holy Spirit, that had been his instructor,” etc.

It is indeed hard to discover at what time Judith’s adventure happened, or where the town of Bethulia was. The degree of sanctity in Judith’s action has also been disputed; but the book having been declared canonical by the Council of Trent, all disputes are at an end.

Other books are Baruch, although it is written in the style of all the other prophets; Esther, of which the Protestants reject only some additions after the tenth chapter. They admit all the rest of the book; yet no one knows who King Ahasuerus was, although he is the principal person in the story; Daniel, in which the Protestants retrench Susannah’s adventure and that of the children in the furnace; but they retain Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and his grazing with the beasts.

On the Life of Moses, an Apocryphal Book of the Highest Antiquity.

The ancient book which contains the life and death of Moses seems to have been written at the time of the Babylonian captivity. It was then that the Jews began to know the names given to the angels by the Chaldæans and Persians.

Here we see the names of Zinguiel, Samael, Tsakon, Lakah, and many others of which the Jews had made no mention.

The book of the death of Moses seems to have been written later. It is known that the Jews had several very ancient lives of Moses and other books, independently of the Pentateuch. In them he was called Moni, not Moses; and it is asserted that mo signified water, and ni the particle of. He was called by the general name of Melk. He received those of Joakim, Adamosi, Thetmosi; and it has been thought that he was the same person whom Manethon calls Ozarziph.

Some of these old Hebrew manuscripts were withdrawn from their covering of dust in the cabinets of the Jews about the year 1517. The learned Gilbert Gaumin, who was a perfect master of their language, translated them into Latin about the year 1535. They were afterwards printed and dedicated to Cardinal Bérule. The copies have become extremely scarce.

Never were rabbinism, the taste for the marvellous and the imagination of the orientals displayed to greater excess.

Fragment of the Life of Moses.

A hundred and thirty years after the settling of the Jews in Egypt, and sixty years after the death of the patriarch Joseph, Pharaoh, while sleeping, had a dream. He saw an old man holding a balance; in one scale were all the inhabitants of Egypt; in the other was an infant, and this infant weighed more than all the Egyptians together. Pharaoh forthwith called together his shotim, or sages. One of the wise men said: “O king, this infant is a Jew who will one day do great evil to your kingdom. Cause all the children of the Jews to be slain; thus shalt thou save thy empire, if, indeed, the decrees of fate can be opposed.”

Pharaoh was pleased with this advice. He sent for the midwives and ordered them to strangle all the male children of which the Jewesses were delivered. There was in Egypt a man named Abraham, son of Keath, husband to Jocabed, sister to his brother. This Jocabed bore him a daughter named Mary, signifying “persecuted,” because the Egyptians, being descended from Ham, persecuted the Israelites, who were evidently descended from Shem. Jocabed afterwards brought forth Aaron, signifying “condemned to death,” because Pharaoh had condemned all the Jewish infants to death. Aaron and Mary were preserved by the angels of the Lord, who nursed them in the fields and restored them to their parents when they had reached the period of adolescence.

At length Jocabed had a third child; this was Moses, who, consequently, was fifteen years younger than his brother. He was exposed on the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter found him while bathing, had him nursed and adopted him as her son, although she was not married.

Three years after, her father, Pharaoh, took a fresh wife, on which occasion he held a great feast. His wife was at his right hand, and at his left was his daughter, with little Moses. The child, in sport, took the crown and put it on his head. Balaam, the magician, the king’s eunuch, then recalled his majesty’s dream. “Behold,” said he, “the child who is one day to do so much mischief! The spirit of God is in him. What he has just now done is a proof that he has already formed the design of dethroning you. He must instantly be put to death.” This idea pleased Pharaoh much.

They were about to kill little Moses when the Lord sent his angel Gabriel, disguised as one of Pharaoh’s officers, to say to him: “My lord, we should not put to death an innocent child, which is not yet come to years of discretion; he put on your crown only because he wants judgment. You have only to let a ruby and a burning coal be presented to him; if he choose the coal, it is clear that he is a blockhead who will never do any harm; but if he take the ruby it will be a sign that he has too much sense to burn his fingers; then let him be slain.”

A ruby and a coal were immediately brought. Moses did not fail to take the ruby; but the angel Gabriel, by a sort of legerdemain, slipped the coal into the place of the precious stone. Moses put the coal into his mouth and burned his tongue so horribly that he stammered ever after; and this was the reason that the Jewish lawgiver could never articulate.

Moses was fifteen years old and a favorite with Pharaoh. A Hebrew came to complain to him that an Egyptian had beaten him after lying with his wife. Moses killed the Egyptian. Pharaoh ordered Moses’ head to be cut off. The executioner struck him, but God instantly changed Moses’ neck into a marble column, and sent the angel Michael, who in three days conducted Moses beyond the frontiers.

The young Hebrew fled to Mecano, king of Ethiopia, who was at war with the Arabs. Mecano made him his general-in-chief; and, after Mecano’s death, Moses was chosen king and married the widow. But Moses, ashamed to have married the wife of his lord, dared not to enjoy her, but placed a sword in the bed between himself and the queen. He lived with her forty years without touching her. The angry queen at length called together the states of the kingdom of Ethiopia, complained that Moses was of no service to her, and concluded by driving him away and placing on the throne the son of the late king.

Moses fled into the country of Midian, to the priest Jethro. This priest thought his fortune would be made if he could put Moses into the hands of Pharaoh of Egypt, and began by confining him in a low cell and allowing him only bread and water. Moses grew fat in his dungeon, at which Jethro was quite astonished. He was not aware that his daughter Sephora had fallen in love with the prisoner, and every day, with her own hands, carried him partridges and quails, with excellent wine. He concluded that Moses was protected by God and did not give him up to Pharaoh.

However, Jethro the priest wished to have his daughter married. He had in his garden a tree of sapphire, on which was engraven the word Jaho or Jehovah. He caused it to be published throughout the country that he would give his daughter to him who could tear up the sapphire tree. Sephora’s lovers presented themselves, but none of them could so much as bend the tree. Moses, who was only seventy-seven years old, tore it up at once without an effort. He married Sephora, by whom he soon had a fine boy named Gerson.

As he was one day walking in a small wood, he met God (who had formerly called Himself Sadai, and then called Himself Jehovah), and God ordered him to go and work miracles at Pharaoh’s court. He set out with his wife and son. On the way they met an angel (to whom no name is given), who ordered Sephora to circumcise little Gerson with a knife made of stone. God sent Aaron on the same errand, but Aaron thought his brother had done wrong in marrying a Midianite; he called her a very coarse name, and little Gerson a bastard, and sent them the shortest way back to their own country.

Aaron and Moses then went to Pharaoh’s palace by themselves. The gate of the palace was guarded by two lions of an enormous size. Balaam, one of the king’s magicians, seeing the two brothers come, set the lions upon them; but Moses touched them with his rod, and the lions, humbly prostrating themselves, licked the feet of Aaron and Moses. The king, in astonishment, had the two pilgrims brought into the presence of all his magicians, that they might strive which could work the most miracles.

The author here relates the ten plagues of Egypt, nearly as they are related in Exodus. He only adds that Moses covered all Egypt with lice, to the depth of a cubit; and that he sent among all the Egyptians lions, wolves, bears, and tigers, which ran into all the houses, notwithstanding that the doors were bolted, and devoured all the little children.

According to this writer, it was not the Jews who fled through the Red Sea; it was Pharaoh, who fled that way with his army: the Jews ran after him; the waters separated right and left to see them fight; and all the Egyptians, except the king, were slain upon the sand. Then the king, finding that his own was the weaker side, asked pardon of God. Michael and Gabriel were sent to him and conveyed him to the city of Nineveh, where he reigned four hundred years.

The Death of Moses.

God had declared to the people of Israel that they should not go out of Egypt until they had once more found the tomb of Joseph. Moses found it and carried it on his shoulders through the Red Sea. God told him that He would bear in mind this good action and would assist him at the time of his death. When Moses had lived six score years, God came to announce to him that he must die and had but three hours more to live. The bad angel Samael was present at the conversation. As soon as the first hour had passed he began to laugh for joy that he should so soon carry off the soul of Moses; and Michael began to weep. “Be not rejoiced, thou wicked beast,” said the good to the bad angel; “Moses is going to die, but we have Joshua in his stead.”

When the three hours had elapsed God commanded Gabriel to take the dying man’s soul. Gabriel begged to be excused. Michael did the same. These two angels having refused, God addressed Himself to Zinguiel. But this angel was no more willing to obey than the others. “I,” said he, “was formerly his preceptor, and I will not kill my disciple.” Then God, being angry, said to the bad angel Samael, “Well, then, wicked one, thou must take his soul.” Samael joyfully drew his sword and ran up to Moses. The dying man rose up in wrath, his eyes sparkling with fire. “What! thou villain,” said Moses, “wouldst thou dare to kill me?—me, who when a child, put on my head the crown of a Pharaoh; who have worked miracles at the age of eighty years; who have led sixty millions of men out of Egypt; who have cut the Red Sea in two; who have conquered two kings so tall that at the time of the flood they were not kneedeep in water? Begone, you rascal; leave my presence instantly.”

This altercation lasted a few moments longer, during which time Gabriel prepared a litter to convey the soul of Moses, Michael a purple mantle, and Zinguiel a cassock. God then laid His hands on Moses’ breast and took away his soul.

It is to this history that St. Jude the apostle alludes in his epistle when he says that the archangel Michael contended with the devil for the body of Moses. As this fact is to be found only in the book which I have just quoted, it is evident that St. Jude had read it, and that he considered it as a canonical book.

The second history of the death of Moses is likewise a conversation with God. It is no less pleasant and curious than the first. A part of this dialogue is as follows:


—I pray Thee, O Lord, let me enter the land of promise, at least for two or three years.


—No; My decree expressly saith that thou shalt not enter it.


—Grant, at least, that I may be carried thither after my death.


—No; neither dead nor alive.


—Alas! but, good Lord, thou showest such clemency to Thy creatures; Thou pardonest them twice or three times; I have sinned but once, and am not to be forgiven!


—Thou knowest not what thou sayest; thou hast committed six sins. I remember to have sworn thy death, or the destruction of Israel; one of the two must be accomplished. If thou wilt live Israel must perish.


—O Lord, be not so hasty. All is in Thy hands. Let Moses perish, rather than one soul in Israel.

After several discourses of this sort, the echo of the mountain says to Moses, “Thou hast but five hours to live.” At the end of five hours God sends for Gabriel, Zinguiel and Samael. He promises Moses that he shall be buried and carries away his soul.

When we reflect that nearly the whole earth has been infatuated by similar stories, and that they have formed the education of mankind, the fables of Pilpay, Lokman, or Æsop appear quite reasonable.

Apocryphal Books of the New Law.

There were fifty gospels, all very different from one another, of which there remain only four entire—that of James, that of Nicodemus, that of the infancy of Jesus, and that of the birth of Mary. Of the rest we have nothing more than fragments and slight notices.

The traveller Tournefort, sent into Asia by Louis XIV., informs us that the Georgians have preserved the gospel of the Infancy, which was probably communicated to them by the Azmenians.

In the beginning, several of these gospels, now regarded as apocryphal, were cited as authentic, and were even the only gospels that were cited. In the Acts of the Apostles we find these words uttered by St. Paul (chap. xx., ver. 35), “And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

St. Barnabas, in his Catholic Epistle (Nos. 4 and 7), makes Jesus Christ speak thus: “Let us resist all iniquity; let us hate it. Such as would see Me enter into My kingdom must follow Me through pain and sorrow.”

St. Clement, in his second Epistle to the Corinthians, puts these words into the mouth of Jesus Christ: “If you are assembled in My bosom and do not follow My commandments, I shall reject you and say to you, ‘Depart from Me; I know you not; depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity.’ ”

He afterwards attributes to Jesus Christ these words: “Keep your flesh chaste and the seal unspotted, in order that you may receive eternal life.”

In the Apostolical Constitutions, composed in the second century, we find these words: “Jesus Christ has said, ‘Be ye honest exchange brokers.’ ”

We find many similar quotations, not one of which is taken from the four gospels recognized by the Church as the only canonical ones. They are, for the most part, taken from the gospel according to the Hebrews, a gospel which was translated by St. Jerome, and is now considered as apocryphal.

St. Clement the Roman says, in his second Epistle: “The Lord, being asked when his reign should come, answered: ‘When two shall make one, when that which is without shall be within, when the male shall be female, and when there shall be neither female nor male.’ ”

These words are taken from the gospel according to the Egyptians; and the text is repeated entire by St. Clement of Alexandria. But what could the author of the Egyptian gospels, and what could St. Clement himself be thinking of? The words which he quotes are injurious to Jesus Christ; they give us to understand that He did not believe that His reign would come at all. To say that a thing will take place when two shall make one, when the male shall be female, is to say that it will never take place. A passage like this is rabbinical, much rather than evangelical.

There were also two apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. They are quoted by St. Epiphanius. In these Acts it is related that St. Paul was the son of an idolatrous father and mother, and turned Jew in order to marry the daughter of Gamaliel; and that either being refused, or not finding her a virgin, he took part with the disciples of Jesus. This is nothing less than blasphemy against St. Paul.

The Other Apocryphal Books of the First and Second Centuries.


The Book of Enoch, the seventh man after Adam, which mentions the war of the rebellious angels, under their captain, Samasia, against the faithful angels led by Michael. The object of the war was to enjoy the daughters of men, as has been said in the article on “Angel.”


The Acts of St. Thecla and St. Paul, written by a disciple named John, attached to St. Paul. In this history Thecla escapes from her persecutors to go to St. Paul, disguised as a man. She also baptizes a lion; but this adventure was afterwards suppressed. Here, too, we have the portrait of Paul: Statura brevi, calvastrum, cruribus curvis, sorosum, superciliis junctis, naso aquilino, plenum gratia Dei.

Although this story was recommended by St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom, and others, it had no reputation among the other doctors of the Church.


The Preaching of Peter. This writing is also called the Gospel or Revelation of Peter. St. Clement of Alexandria speaks of it with great praise; but it is easy to perceive that some impostor had taken that apostle’s name.


The Acts of Peter, a work equally supposititious.


The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. It is doubted whether this book is by a Jew or a Christian of the primitive ages; for it is said in the Testament of Levi that at the end of the seventh week there shall come priests given to idolatry—bellatores, avari, scribæ iniqui, impudici, puerorum corruptores et pecorum; that there shall then be a new priesthood; that the heavens shall be opened; and that the glory of the Most High, and the spirit of intelligence and sanctification, shall descend upon this new priest; which seems to foretell Jesus Christ.


The Letter of Abgarus, a pretended king of Edessa, to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ’s answer to King Abgarus. It is, indeed, believed that, in the time of Tiberius, there was a toparch of Edessa who had passed from the service of the Persians into that of the Romans, but his epistolary correspondence has been considered by all good critics as a chimera.


The Acts of Pilate. Pilate’s letter to Tiberius on the death of Jesus Christ. The life of Procula, Pilate’s wife.


The Acts of Peter and Paul, in which is the history of St. Peter’s quarrel with Simon the magician. Abdias, Marcellus, and Hegesippus have all three written this story. St. Peter first disputed with Simon which should resuscitate one of the Emperor Nero’s relatives, who had just died; Simon half restored him, and St. Peter finished the resurrection. Simon next flew up in the air, but Peter brought him down again, and the magician broke his legs. The Emperor Nero, incensed at the death of his magician, had St. Peter crucified with his head downwards, and St. Paul decapitated, as one of St. Peter’s party.


The Acts of Blessed Paul the Apostle and Teacher of the Nations. In this book St. Paul is made to live at Rome for two years after St. Peter’s death. The author says that when St. Paul’s head was cut off there issued forth milk instead of blood, and that Lucina, a devout woman, had him buried twenty miles from Rome, on the way to Ostia, at her country house.


The Acts of the Blessed Apostle Andrew. The author relates that St. Andrew went to the city of the Myrmidons and that he baptized all the citizens. A young man named Sostratus, of the town of Amarea, which is at least better known than that of the Myrmidons, came and said to the blessed Andrew: “I am so handsome that my mother has conceived a passion for me. I abhorred so execrable a crime, and have fled. My mother, in her fury, accuses me to the proconsul of the province of having attempted to violate her. I can make no answer, for I would rather die than accuse my mother.” While he was yet speaking, the guards of the proconsul came and seized him. St. Andrew accompanied the son before the judge, and pleaded his cause. The mother, not at all disconcerted, accused St. Andrew himself of having instigated her son to the crime. The proconsul immediately ordered St. Andrew to be thrown into the river; but, the apostle having prayed to God, there came a great earthquake, and the mother was struck by a thunderbolt.

After several adventures of the same sort the author has St. Andrew crucified at Patras.


The Acts of St. James the Greater. The author has him condemned to death at Jerusalem by the pontiff, and, before his crucifixion, he baptizes the registrar.


The Acts of St. John the Evangelist. The author relates that, at Ephesus—of which place St. John was bishop—Drusilla, being converted by him, desired no more of her husband Andronicus’s company, but retired into a tomb. A young man named Callimachus, in love with her, repeatedly pressed her, even in her tomb, to consent to the gratification of his passion. Drusilla, being urged both by her husband and her lover, wished for death, and obtained it. Callimachus, when informed of her loss, was still more furious with love; he bribed one of Andronicus’s domestics, who had the keys of the tomb; he ran to it, stripped his mistress of her shroud, and exclaimed, “What thou wouldst not grant me living, thou shalt grant me dead.” A serpent instantly issued from the tomb; the young man fainted; the serpent killed him, as also the domestic who was his accomplice, and coiled itself round his body. St. John arrives with the husband, and, to their astonishment, they find Callimachus alive. St. John orders the serpent to depart, and the serpent obeys. He asks the young man how he has been resuscitated. Callimachus answered that an angel had appeared to him, saying, “It was necessary that thou shouldst die in order to revive a Christian.” He immediately asked to be baptized, and begged that John would resuscitate Drusilla. The apostle having instantly worked this miracle, Callimachus and Drusilla prayed that he would also be so good as to resuscitate the domestic. The latter, who was an obstinate pagan, being restored to life, declared that he would rather die than be a Christian, and, accordingly, he incontinently died again; on which St. John said that a bad tree always bears bad fruit.

Aristodemus, high-priest of Ephesus, though struck by such a prodigy, would not be converted; he said to St. John: “Permit me to poison you; and, if you do not die, I will be converted.” The apostle accepted the proposal; but he chose that Aristodemus should first poison two Ephesians condemned to death. Aristodemus immediately presented to them the poison, and they instantly expired. St. John took the same poison, which did him no harm. He resuscitated the two dead men, and the high-priest was converted.

St. John having attained the age of ninety-seven years, Jesus Christ appeared to him, and said, “It is time for thee to come to My table, and feast with thy brethren”; and soon after the apostle slept in peace.


The History of the Blessed James the Less, and the brothers Simon and Jude. These apostles went into Persia, and performed things as incredible as those related of St. Andrew.


The Acts of St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist. St. Matthew goes into Ethiopia, to the great town of Nadaver, where he restores to life the son of Queen Candace, and founds Christian churches.


The Acts of the Blessed Bartholomew in India. Bartholomew went first to the temple of Astaroth. This goddess delivered oracles, and cured all diseases. Bartholomew silenced her, and made sick all those whom she had cured. King Polimius disputed with him; the devil declared, before the king, that he was conquered, and St. Bartholomew consecrated King Polimius bishop of the Indies.


The Acts of the Blessed Thomas, apostle of India. St. Thomas entered India by another road, and worked more miracles than St. Bartholomew. He at last suffered martyrdom, and appeared to Xiphoro and Susani.


The Acts of the Blessed Philip. He went to preach in Scythia. They wished to make him a sacrifice to Mars, but he caused a dragon to issue from the altar and devour the children of the priests. He died at Hierapolis, at the age of eighty-seven. It is not known what town this was, for there were several of the name.

All these histories are supposed to have been written by Abdias, bishop of Babylon, and were translated by Julius Africanus.


To these abuses of the Holy Scriptures was added one less revolting—one which did not fail in respect for Christianity, like those which have just been laid before the reader, viz., the Liturgies attributed to St. James, St. Peter, and St. Mark, the falsehood of which has been shown by the learned Tillemont.


Fabricius places among the apocryphal writings the Homily (attributed to St. Augustine) on the manner in which the Symbol was formed. But he certainly does not mean to insinuate that this Symbol or Creed, which we call the Apostles’, is the less true and sacred. It is said in this Homily, in Rufinus, and afterwards in Isidorus, that ten days after the ascension, the apostles, being shut up together for fear of the Jews, Peter said, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty;” Andrew, “and in Jesus Christ, His only son;” James, “who was conceived by the Holy Ghost;” and that thus, each apostle having repeated an article, the Creed was completed.

This story not being in the Acts of the Apostles, our belief in it is dispensed with—but not our belief in the Creed, of which the apostles taught the substance. Truth must not suffer from the false ornaments in which it has been sought to array her.


The Apostolical Constitutions. The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, which were formerly supposed to have been digested by St. Clement the Roman, are now ranked among the apocryphal writings. The reading of a few chapters is sufficient to show that the apostles had no share in this work. In the eleventh chapter, women are ordered not to rise before the ninth hour. In the first chapter of the second book it is desired that bishops should be learned, but in the time of the apostles there was no hierarchy—no bishop attached to a single church. They went about teaching from town to town, from village to village; they were called apostles, not bishops; and, above all things, they did not pride themseves on being learned.

In the second chapter of the second book it is said that a bishop should have but one wife, to take great care of his household; which only goes to prove that at the close of the first and the commencement of the second century, when the hierarchy was beginning to be established, the priests were married.

Through almost the whole book the bishops are regarded as the judges of the faithful; but it is well known that the apostles had no jurisdiction.

It is said, in chapter xxi., that both parties must be heard; which supposes an established jurisdiction. In chapter xxvi. it is said, “The bishop is your prince, your king, your emperor, your God upon earth.” These expressions are somewhat at variance with the humility of the apostles.

In chapter xxviii., “At the feasts of the Agapæ, there must be given to the deacon double that which is given to an old woman, and to the priest double the gift to the deacon, because the priests are the counsellors of the bishops and the crown of the Church. The reader shall have a portion, in honor of the prophets, as also the chanter and the doorkeeper. Such of the laity as wish to receive anything shall apply to the bishop through the deacon.” The apostles never used any term answering to laity, or marking the difference between the profane and the priesthood.

In chapter xxxiv., “You must reverence the bishop as a king, honor him as a master, and give him your fruits, the works of your hands, your first fruits, your tenths, your savings, the presents that are made to you, your corn, your wine, your oil, your wool,” etc. This is a strong article.

In chapter lvii., “Let the church be long; let it look towards the East; let it resemble a ship; let the bishop’s throne be in the middle; let the reader read the books of Moses, Joshua, Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Job,” etc.

In chapter xvii. of the third book, “Baptism is administered for the death of Jesus; oil for the Holy Ghost. When we are plunged into the water, we die; when we come out of it, we revive. The Father is the God of all. Christ is the only Son of God, his beloved Son, and the Lord of glory. The Holy Spirit is the Paraclete, sent by Christ the teacher, preaching Christ Jesus.” This doctrine would now be explained in more canonical terms.

In chapter vii. of the fifth book are quoted some verses of the Sibyls on the coming of Jesus and the resurrection. This was the first time that the Christians admitted the verses of the Sibyls, which they continued to do for more than three hundred years. In chapter v. of the eighth book are these words: “O God Almighty, give to the bishop, through Christ, the participation of the Holy Spirit.” In chapter iv., “Commend yourself to God alone, through Jesus Christ”; which does not sufficiently express the divinity of our Lord. In chapter xii. is the Constitution of James, the brother of Zebedee.

In chapter xv. the deacon is to say aloud, “Incline yourselves before God through Christ.” At the present day these expressions are not very correct.


The Apostolical Canons. The sixth canon ordains that no bishop or priest shall separate himself from his wife on pretence of religion; if he do so, he is to be excommunicated, and if he persist he is to be driven away. The seventh—that no priest shall ever meddle with secular affairs. The nineteenth—that he who has married two sisters shall not be admitted into the clergy. The twenty-first and twenty-second—that eunuchs shall be admitted into the priesthood excepting such as have castrated themselves. Yet Origen was a priest, notwithstanding this law. The fifty-fifth—that if a bishop, a priest, a deacon, or a clerk eat flesh which is not clear of blood, he shall be displaced. It is quite evident that these canons could not be promulgated by the apostles.


The Confessions of St. Clement to James, brother of the Lord, in ten books, translated from Greek into Latin by Rufinus. This book commences with a doubt respecting the immortality of the soul: “Utrumne sit mihi aliqua vita post mortem, an nihil omnino postea sim futurus.” St. Clement, disturbed by this doubt and wishing to know whether the world was eternal or had been created—whether there were a Tartarus and a Phlegethon, an Ixion and a Tantalus, etc., resolved to go into Egypt to learn necromancy, but having heard of St. Bartholomew, who was preaching Christianity, he went to him in the East, at the time when Barnabas was celebrating a Jewish feast. He afterwards met St. Peter at Cæsarea, with Simon the magician and Zacchæus. They disputed together, and St. Peter related to them all that had passed since the death of Jesus. Clement turned Christian, but Simon remained a magician.

Simon fell in love with a woman named Luna, and, while waiting to marry her, he proposed to St. Peter, to Zacchæus, to Lazarus, to Nicodemus, to Dositheus, and to several others, that they should become his disciples. Dositheus answered him at once with a blow from a stick; but the stick having passed through Simon’s body as if it had been smoke, Dositheus worshipped him and became his lieutenant, after which Simon married his mistress and declared that she was Luna herself, descended from heaven to marry him.

But enough of the Confessions of St. Clement. It must, however, be remarked that in the ninth book the Chinese are spoken of under the name of Seres as the justest and wisest of mankind. After them come the Brahmins, to whom the author does the justice that was rendered them by all antiquity. He cites them as models of soberness, mildness, and justice.


St. Peter’s Letter to St. James, and St. Clement’s Letter to the same St. James, brother of the Lord, governor of the Holy Church of the Hebrews at Jerusalem, and of all churches. St. Peter’s Letter contains nothing curious, but St. Clement’s is very remarkable. He asserts that Peter declared him bishop of Rome before his death, and his coadjutor; that he laid his hands upon his head, and made him sit in the episcopal chair in the presence of all the faithful; and that he said to him, “Fail not to write to my brother James as soon as I am dead.”

This letter seems to prove that it was not then believed that St. Peter had suffered martyrdom, since it is probable that this letter, attributed to St. Clement, would have mentioned the circumstance. It also proves that Cletus and Anacletus were not reckoned among the bishops of Rome.


St. Clement’s Homilies, to the number of nineteen. He says in his first homily what he had already said in his confessions—that he went to St. Peter and St. Barnabas at Cæsarea, to know whether the soul was immortal, and the world eternal.

In the second homily, No. xxxviii., we find a much more extraordinary passage. St. Peter himself, speaking of the Old Testament, expresses himself thus: “The written law contains certain false things against the law of God, the Creator of heaven and earth; the devil has done this, for good reasons; it has also come to pass through the judgments of God, in order to discover such as would listen with pleasure to what is written against Him,” etc.

In the sixth homily St. Clement meets with Appian, the same who had written against the Jews in the time of Tiberius. He tells Appian that he is in love with an Egyptian woman and begs that he will write a letter in his name to his pretended mistress to convince her, by the example of all the gods, that love is a duty. Appian writes a letter and St. Clement answers it in the name of his pretended mistress, after which they dispute on the nature of the gods.


Two Epistles of St. Clement to the Corinthians. It hardly seems just to have ranked these epistles among the apocryphal writings. Some of the learned may have declined to recognize them because they speak of “the phœnix of Arabia, which lives five hundred years, and burns itself in Egypt in the city of Heliopolis.” But there is nothing extraordinary in St. Clement’s having believed this fable which so many others believed, nor in his having written letters to the Corinthians.

It is known that there was at that time a great dispute between the church of Corinth and that of Rome. The church of Corinth, which declared itself to have been founded first, was governed in common; there was scarcely any distinction between the priests and the seculars, still less between the priests and the bishop; all alike had a deliberative voice, so, at least, several of the learned assert. St. Clement says to the Corinthians in his first epistle: “You have laid the first foundations of sedition; be subject to your priests, correct yourselves by penance, bend the knees of your hearts, learn to obey.” It is not at all astonishing that a bishop of Rome should use these expressions.

In the second epistle we again find that answer of Jesus Christ, on being asked when His kingdom of heaven should come: “When two shall make one, when that which is without shall be within, when the male shall be female, when there shall be neither male nor female.”


Letter from St. Ignatius the martyr to the Virgin Mary, and the Virgin’s answer to St. Ignatius:

“To Mary the Mother of Christ, from her devoted Ignatius: You should console me, a neophyte, and a disciple of your John. I have heard several wonderful things of your Jesus, at which I have been much astonished. I desire with all my heart to be informed of them by you, who always lived in familiarity with Him and knew all His secrets. Fare you well. Comfort the neophytes, who are with me from you and through you. Amen.”

“The Holy Virgin’s Answer to Her Dear Disciple Ignatius:

“The Humble Servant of Jesus Christ: All the things which you have learned from John are true; believe in them; persevere in your belief; keep your vow of Christianity. I will come and see you with John, you and those who are with you. Be firm in the faith; act like a man; let not severity and persecution disturb you, but let your spirit be strengthened and exalted in God your Saviour. Amen.”

It is asserted that these letters were written in the year 116 of the Christian era, but they are not therefore the less false and absurd. They would even have been an insult to our holy religion had they not been written in a spirit of simplicity, which renders everything pardonable.


Fragments of the Apostles. We find in them this passage: “Paul, a man of short stature, with an aquiline nose and an angelic face, instructed in heaven, said to Plantilla, of Rome, before he died: ‘Adieu, Plantilla, thou little plant of eternal salvation; know thy own nobility; thou art whiter than snow; thou art registered among the soldiers of Christ; thou art an heiress to the kingdom of heaven.’” This was not worthy to be refuted.


There are eleven Apocalypses, which are attributed to the patriarchs and prophets, to St. Peter, Cerinthus, St. Thomas, St. Stephen the first martyr, two to St. John, differing from the canonical one, and three to St. Paul. All these Apocalypses have been eclipsed by that of St. John.


The Visions, Precepts, and Similitudes of Hermas. Hermas seems to have lived about the close of the first century. They who regard his book as apocryphal are nevertheless obliged to do justice to his morality. He begins by saying that his foster-father had sold a young woman at Rome. Hermas recognized this young woman after the lapse of several years, and loved her, he says, as if she had been his sister. He one day saw her bathing in the Tiber; he stretched forth his hand, drew her out of the river and said in his heart, “How happy should I be if I had a wife like her in beauty and in manners.” Immediately the heavens opened, and he all at once beheld this same wife, who made him a courtesy from above, and said, “Good morning, Hermas.” This wife was the Christian Church; she gave him much good advice.

A year after, the spirit transported him to the same place where he had seen this beauty, who nevertheless was old; but she was fresh in her age, and was old only because she had been created from the beginning of the world, and the world had been made for her.

The Book of Precepts contains fewer allegories, but that of Similitudes contains many. “One day,” says Hermas, “when I was fasting and was seated on a hill, giving thanks to God for all that he had done for me, a shepherd came, sat down beside me, and said, ‘Why have you come here so early?’ ‘Because I am going through the stations,’ answered I. ‘What is a station?’ asked the shepherd. ‘It is a fast.’ ‘And what is this fast?’ ‘It is my custom.’ ‘Ah!’ replied the shepherd, ‘you know not what it is to fast; all this is of no avail before God. I will teach you that which is true fasting and pleasing to the Divinity. Your fasting has nothing to do with justice and virtue. Serve God with a pure heart; keep His commandments; admit into your heart no guilty designs. If you have always the fear of God before your eyes—if you abstain from all evil, that will be true fasting, that will be the great fast which is acceptable to God.’ ”

This philosophical and sublime piety is one of the most singular monuments of the first century. But it is somewhat strange that, at the end of the Similitudes, the shepherd gives him very good-natured maidens—valde affabiles—to take care of his house and declares to him that he cannot fulfil God’s commandments without these maidens, who, it is plain, typify the virtues.

This list would become immense if we were to enter into every detail. We will carry it no further, but conclude with the Sibyls.


The Sibyls.—What is most apocryphal in the primitive church is the prodigious number of verses in favor of the Christian religion attributed to the ancient sibyls. Diodorus Siculus knew of only one, who was taken at Thebes by the Epigoni, and placed at Delphos before the Trojan war. Ten sibyls—that is, ten prophetesses, were soon made from this one. She of Cuma had most credit among the Romans, and the sibyl Erythrea among the Greeks.

As all oracles were delivered in verse, none of the sibyls could fail to make verses; and to give them greater authority they sometimes made them in acrostics also. Several Christians who had not a zeal according to knowledge not only misinterpreted the ancient verses supposed to have been written by the sibyls, but also made some themselves, and which is worse, in acrostics, not dreaming that this difficult artifice of acrosticizing had no resemblance whatever to the inspiration and enthusiasm of a prophetess. They resolved to support the best of causes by the most awkward fraud. They accordingly made bad Greek verses, the initials of which signified in Greek—Jesus, Christ, Son, Saviour, and these verses said that with five loaves and two fishes He should feed five thousand men in the desert and that with the fragments that remained He should fill twelve baskets.

The millennium and the New Jerusalem, which Justin had seen in the air for forty nights, were, of course, foretold by the sibyls. In the fourth century Lactantius collected almost all the verses attributed to the sibyls and considered them as convincing proofs. The opinion was so well authorized and so long held that we still sing hymns in which the testimony of the sibyls is joined with the predictions of David:

Solvet sæclum in favilla,

Teste David cum Sibylla.

This catalogue of errors and frauds has been carried quite far enough. A hundred might be repeated, so constantly has the world been composed of deceivers and of people fond of being deceived.

But let us pursue no further so dangerous a research. The elucidation of one great truth is worth more than the discovery of a thousand falsehoods. Not all these errors, not all the crowd of apocryphal books have been sufficient to injure the Christian religion, because, as we all know, it is founded upon immutable truths. These truths are supported by a church militant and triumphant, to which God has given the power of teaching and of repressing. In several countries it unites temporal with spiritual authority. Prudence, strength, wealth are its attributes, and although it is divided, and its divisions have sometimes stained it with blood, it may be compared to the Roman commonwealth—constantly torn by internal dissensions, but constantly triumphant.


It is still a question among the learned whether the Emperor Julian was really an apostate and whether he was ever truly a Christian. He was not six years old when the Emperor Constantius, still more barbarous than Constantine, had his father, his brother, and seven of his cousins murdered. He and his brother Gallus with difficulty escaped from this carnage, but he was always very harshly treated by Constantius. His life was for a long time threatened, and he soon beheld his only remaining brother assassinated by the tyrant’s order. The most barbarous of the Turkish sultans have never, I am sorry to say it, surpassed in cruelty or in villainy the Constantine family. From his tenderest years study was Julian’s only consolation. He communicated in secret with the most illustrious of the philosophers, who were of the ancient religion of Rome. It is very probable that he professed that of his uncle Constantius only to avoid assassination. Julian was obliged to conceal his mental powers, as Brutus had done under Tarquin. He was less likely to be a Christian, as his uncle had forced him to be a monk and to perform the office of reader in the church. A man is rarely of the religion of his persecutor, especially when the latter wishes to be ruler of his conscience.

Another circumstance which renders this probable is that he does not say in any of his works that he had been a Christian. He never asks pardon for it of the pontiffs of the ancient religion. He addresses them in his letters as if he had always been attached to the worship of the senate. It is not even proved that he practised the ceremonies of the Taurobolium, which might be regarded as a sort of expiation, and that he desired to wash out with bull’s blood that which he so unfortunately called the stain of his baptism. However, this was a pagan form of devotion, which is no more a proof than the assembling at the mysteries of Ceres. In short, neither his friends nor his enemies relate any fact, any words which can prove that he ever believed in Christianity, and that he passed from that sincere belief to the worship of the gods of the empire. If such be the case they who do not speak of him as an apostate appear very excusable.

Sound criticism being brought to perfection, all the world now acknowledges that the Emperor Julian was a hero and a wise man—a stoic, equal to Marcus Aurelius. His errors are condemned, but his virtues are admitted. He is now regarded, as he was by his contemporary, Prudentius, author of the hymn “Salvete flores martyrum.” He says of Julian:

Ductor fortissimus armis,

Conditor et legum celeberrimus; ore manuque

Consultor patriæ; sed non consultor habendus

Religionis; amans tercentum millia divum

Perfidus ille Deo, sed non est perfidus orbi.

Though great in arms, in virtues, and in laws,—

Though ably zealous in his country’s cause,

He spurned religion in his lofty plan,

Rejecting God while benefiting man.

His detractors are reduced to the miserable expedient of striving to make him appear ridiculous. One historian, on the authority of St. Gregory Nazianzen, reproaches him with having worn too large a beard. But, my friend, if nature gave him a long beard why should he wear it short? He used to shake his head. Carry thy own better. His step was hurried. Bear in mind that the Abbé d’Aubignac, the king’s preacher, having been hissed at the play, laughs at the air and gait of the great Corneille. Could you hope to turn Marshal de Luxembourg into ridicule because he walked ill and his figure was singular? He could march very well against the enemy. Let us leave it to the ex-Jesuit Patouillet, the ex-Jesuit Nonotte, etc., to call the Emperor Julian—the Apostate. Poor creatures! His Christian successor, Jovian, called him Divus Julianus.

Let us treat this mistaken emperor as he himself treated us. He said, “We should pity and not hate them; they are already sufficiently unfortunate in erring on the most important of questions.” Let us have the same compassion for him, since we are sure that the truth is on our side. He rendered strict justice to his subjects, let us then render it to his memory. Some Alexandrians were incensed against a bishop, who, it is true, was a wicked man, chosen by a worthless cabal. His name was George Biordos, and he was the son of a mason. His manners were lower than his birth. He united the basest perfidy with the most brutal ferocity, and superstition with every vice. A calumniator, a persecutor, and an impostor—avaricious, sanguinary, and seditious, he was detested by every party and at last the people cudgelled him to death. The following is the letter which the Emperor Julian wrote to the Alexandrians on the subject of this popular commotion. Mark how he addresses them, like a father and a judge:

“What!” said he, “instead of reserving for me the knowledge of your wrongs you have suffered yourselves to be transported with anger! You have been guilty of the same excesses with which you reproach your enemies! George deserved to be so treated, but it was not for you to be his executioners. You have laws; you should have demanded justice,” etc.

Some have dared to brand Julian with the epithets intolerant and persecuting—the man who sought to extirpate persecution and intolerance! Peruse his fifty-second letter, and respect his memory. Is he not sufficiently unfortunate in not having been a Catholic, and consequently in being burned in hell, together with the innumerable multitude of those who have not been Catholics, without our insulting him so far as to accuse him of intolerance?

On the Globes of Fire said to have issued from the Earth to prevent the rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem under the Emperor Julian.

It is very likely that when Julian resolved to carry the war into Persia he wanted money. It is also very likely that the Jews gave him some for permission to rebuild their temple, which Titus had partly destroyed, but of which there still remained the foundations, an entire wall, and the Antonine tower. But is it as likely that globes of fire burst upon the works and the workmen and caused the undertaking to be relinquished? Is there not a palpable contradiction in what the historians relate?

1. How could it be that the Jews began by destroying (as they are said to have done) the foundations of the temple which it was their wish and their duty to rebuild on the same spot? The temple was necessarily to be on Mount Moriah. There it was that Solomon had built it. There it was that Herod had rebuilt it with greater solidity and magnificence, having previously erected a fine theatre at Jerusalem, and a temple to Augustus at Cæsarea. The foundations of this temple, enlarged by Herod, were, according to Josephus, as much as twenty-five feet broad. Could the Jews, in Julian’s time, possibly be mad enough to wish to disarrange these stones which were so well prepared to receive the rest of the edifice, and upon which the Mahometans afterwards built their mosque? What man was ever foolish and stupid enough thus to deprive himself at great cost and excessive labor of the greatest advantage that could present itself to his hands and eyes? Nothing is more incredible.

2. How could eruptions of flame burst forth from the interior of these stones? There might be an earthquake in the neighborhood, for they are frequent in Syria, but that great blocks of stone should have vomited clouds of fire! Is not this story entitled to just as much credit as all those of antiquity?

3. If this prodigy, or if an earthquake, which is not a prodigy, had really happened would not the Emperor Julian have spoken of it in the letter in which he says that he had intended to rebuild this temple? Would not his testimony have been triumphantly adduced? Is it not infinitely more probable that he changed his mind? Does not this letter contain these words:

“Quid de templo suo dicent, quod, quum tertio sit eversum, nondum hodiernam usque diem instauratur? Hæc ego, non ut illis exprobarem, in medium adduxi, utpote qui templum illud tanto intervallo a ruinis excitare voluerim; sed ideo commemoravi, ut ostenderem delirasse prophetas istos, quibus cum stolidis aniculis negotium erat.”

“What will they (the Jews) say of their temple which has been destroyed for the third time and is not yet restored? I speak of this, not for the purpose of reproaching them, for I myself had intended to raise it once more from its ruins, but to show the extravagance of their prophets who had none but old women to deal with.”

Is it not evident that the emperor having paid attention to the Jewish prophecies, that the temple should be rebuilt more beautiful than ever and that all the nations of the earth should come and worship in it, thought fit to revoke the permission to raise the edifice? The historical probability, then, from the emperor’s own words, is, that unfortunately holding the Jewish books, as well as our own, in abhorrence, he at length resolved to make the Jewish prophets lie.

The Abbé de la Blétrie, the historian of the Emperor Julian, does not understand how the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed three times. He says that apparently Julian reckoned as a third destruction the catastrophe which happened during his reign. A curious destruction this! the non-removal of the stones of an old foundation. What could prevent this writer from seeing that the temple, having been built by Solomon, reconstructed by Zorobabel, entirely destroyed by Herod, rebuilt by Herod himself with so much magnificence, and at last laid in ruins by Titus, manifestly made three destructions of the temple? The reckoning is correct. Julian should surely have escaped calumny on this point.

The Abbé de la Blétrie calumniates him sufficiently by saying that all his virtues were only seeming, while all his vices were real. But Julian was not hypocritical, nor avaricious, nor fraudulent, nor lying, nor ungrateful, nor cowardly, nor drunken, nor debauched, nor idle, nor vindictive. What then were his vices?

4. Let us now examine the redoubtable argument made use of to persuade us that globes of fire issued from stones. Ammianus Marcellinus a pagan writer, free from all suspicion, has said it. Be it so: but this Ammianus has also said that when the emperor was about to sacrifice ten oxen to his gods for his first victory over the Persians, nine of them fell to the earth before they were presented to the altar. He relates a hundred predictions—a hundred prodigies. Are we to believe in them? Are we to believe in all the ridiculous miracles related by Livy?

Besides, who can say that the text of Ammianus Marcellinus has not been falsified? Would it be the only instance in which this artifice has been employed?

I wonder that no mention is made of the little fiery crosses which all the workmen found on their bodies when they went to bed. They would have made an admirable figure along with the globes.

The fact is that the temple of the Jews was not rebuilt, and it may be presumed never will be so. Here let us hold, and not seek useless prodigies. Globi flammarum—globes of fire, issue neither from stones nor from earth. Ammianus, and those who have quoted him, were not natural philosophers. Let the Abbé de la Blétrie only look at the fire on St. John’s day, and he will see that flame always ascends with a point, or in a cloud, and never in a globe. This alone is sufficient to overturn the nonsense which he comes forward to defend with injudicious criticism and revolting pride.

After all, the thing is of very little importance. There is nothing in it that affects either faith or morals; and historical truth is all that is here sought for.


Their Lives, their Wives, their Children.

After the article “Apostle” in the Encyclopædia, which is as learned as it is orthodox, very little remains to be said. But we often hear it asked—Were the apostles married? Had they any children? if they had, what became of those children? Where did the apostles live? Where did they write? Where did they die? Had they any appropriated districts? Did they exercise any civil ministry? Had they any jurisdiction over the faithful? Were they bishops? Had they a hierarchy, rites, or ceremonies?

Were the Apostles Married?

There is extant a letter attributed to St. Ignatius the Martyr, in which are these decisive words: “I call to mind your sanctity as I do that of Elias, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and the chosen disciples Timothy, Titus, Evadius, and Clement; yet I do not blame such other of the blessed as were bound in the bonds of marriage, but hope to be found worthy of God in following their footsteps in his kingdom, after the example of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Isaiah, and the other prophets—of Peter and Paul, and the apostles who were married.”

Some of the learned assert that the name of St. Paul has been interpolated in this famous letter: however, Turrian and all who have seen the letters of Ignatius in the library of the Vatican acknowledge that St. Paul’s name appears there. And Baronius does not deny that this passage is to be found in some Greek manuscripts: Non negamus in quibusdam græcis codicibus. But he asserts that these words have been added by modern Greeks.

In the old Oxford library there was a manuscript of St. Ignatius’s letters in Greek, which contained the above words; but it was, I believe, burned with many other books at the taking of Oxford by Cromwell. There is still one in Latin in the same library, in which the words Pauli et apostolorum have been effaced, but in such a manner that the old characters may be easily distinguished.

It is however certain that this passage exists in several editions of these letters. This dispute about St. Paul’s marriage is, after all, a very frivolous one. What matters it whether he was married or not, if the other apostles were married? His first Epistle to the Corinthians is quite sufficient to prove that he might be married, as well as the rest:

“Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges?”

It is clear from this passage that all the apostles were married, as well as St. Peter. And St. Clement of Alexandria positively declares that St. Paul had a wife. The Roman discipline has changed, which is no proof that the usage of the primitive ages was not different.

Children of the Apostles.

Very little is known of their families. St. Clement of Alexandria says that Peter had children, that Philip had daughters, and that he gave them in marriage. The Acts of the Apostles specify St. Philip, whose four daughters prophesied, of whom it is believed that one was married, and that this one was St. Hermione.

Eusebius relates that Nicholas, chosen by the apostles to co-operate in the sacred ministry with St. Stephen, had a very handsome wife, of whom he was jealous. The apostles having reproached him with his jealousy, he corrected himself of it, brought his wife to them and said, “I am ready to yield her up; let him marry her who will.” The apostles, however, did not accept his proposal. He had by his wife a son and several daughters.

Cleophas, according to Eusebius and St. Epiphanius, was brother to St. Joseph, and father of St. James the Less, and of St. Jude, whom he had by Mary, sister to the Blessed Virgin. So that St. Jude the apostle was first cousin to Jesus Christ.

Hegesippus, quoted by Eusebius, tells us that two grandsons of St. Jude were informed against to the Emperor Domitian as being descendants of David and having an incontestable right to the throne of Jerusalem. Domitian, fearing that they might avail themselves of this right, put questions to them himself, and they acquainted him with their genealogy. The emperor asked them what fortune they had. They answered that they had thirty-nine acres of land, which paid tribute, and that they worked for their livelihood. He then asked them when Jesus Christ’s kingdom was to come, and they told him “At the end of the world.” After which Domitian permitted them to depart in peace; which goes far to prove that he was not a persecutor. This, if I mistake not, is all that is known about the children of the apostles.

Where did the Apostles Live? Where did They Die?

According to Eusebius, James, surnamed the Just, brother to Jesus Christ, was in the beginning placed first on the episcopal throne of the city of Jerusalem; these are his own words. So that, according to him, the first bishopric was that of Jerusalem—supposing that the Jews knew even the name of bishop. It does, indeed, appear very likely that the brother of Jesus Christ should have been the first after him, and that the very city in which the miracle of our salvation was worked should have become the metropolis of the Christian world. As for the episcopal throne, that is a term which Eusebius uses by anticipation. We all know that there was then neither throne nor see.

Eusebius adds, after St. Clement, that the other apostles did not contend with St. James for this dignity. They elected him immediately after the Ascension. “Our Lord,” says he, “after His resurrection, had given to James, surnamed the Just, to John and to Peter the gift of knowledge”—very remarkable words. Eusebius mentions James first, then John, and Peter comes last. It seems but just that the brother and the beloved disciple of Jesus should come before the man who had denied Him. Nearly the whole Greek Church and all the reformers ask, Where is Peter’s primacy? The Catholics answer—If he is not placed first by the fathers of the church, he is in the Acts of the Apostles. The Greeks and the rest reply that he was not the first bishop; and the dispute will endure as long as the churches.

St. James, this first bishop of Jerusalem, always continued to observe the Mosaic law. He was a Rechabite; he walked barefoot, and never shaved; went and prostrated himself in the Jewish temple twice a day, and was surnamed by the Jews Oblia, signifying the just. They at length applied to him to know who Jesus Christ was, and having answered that Jesus was the son of man, who sat on the right hand of God, and that He should come in the clouds, he was beaten to death. This was St. James the Less.

St. James the Greater was his uncle, brother to St. John the Evangelist, and son of Zebedee and Salome. It is asserted that Agrippa, king of the Jews, had him beheaded at Jerusalem. St. John remained in Asia and governed the church of Ephesus, where, it is said, he was buried. St. Andrew, brother to St. Peter, quitted the school of St. John for that of Jesus Christ. It is not agreed whether he preached among the Tartars or in Argos; but, to get rid of the difficulty, we are told that it was in Epirus. No one knows where he suffered martyrdom, nor even whether he suffered it at all. The Acts of his martyrdom are more than suspected by the learned. Painters have always represented him on a saltier-cross, to which his name has been given. This custom has prevailed without its origin being known.

St. Peter preached to the Jews dispersed in Pontus, Bithynia, Cappadocia, at Antioch, and at Babylon. The Acts of the Apostles do not speak of his journey to Rome, nor does St. Paul himself make any mention of it in the letters which he wrote from that capital. St. Justin is the first accredited author who speaks of this journey, about which the learned are not agreed. St. Irenæus, after St. Justin, expressly says that St. Peter and St. Paul came to Rome, and that they entrusted its government to St. Linus. But here is another difficulty: if they made St. Linus inspector of the rising Christian society at Rome, it must be inferred that they themselves did not superintend it nor remain in that city.

Criticism has cast upon this matter a thousand uncertainties. The opinion that St. Peter came to Rome in Nero’s reign and filled the pontifical chair there for twenty-five years, is untenable, for Nero reigned only thirteen years. The wooden chair, so splendidly inlaid in the church at Rome, can hardly have belonged to St. Peter: wood does not last so long; nor is it likely that St. Peter delivered his lessons from this chair as in a school thoroughly formed, since it is averred that the Jews of Rome were violent enemies to the disciples of Jesus Christ.

The greatest difficulty perhaps is that St. Paul, in his epistle written to the Colossians from Rome, positively says that he was assisted only by Aristarchus, Marcus, and another bearing the name of Jesus. This objection has, to men of the greatest learning, appeared to be insurmountable.

In his letter to the Galatians he says that he obliged James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, to acknowledge himself and Barnabas as pillars also. If he placed James before Cephas, then Cephas was not the chief. Happily, these disputes affect not the foundation of our holy religion. Whether St. Peter ever was at Rome or not, Jesus Christ is no less the Son of God and the Virgin Mary; He did not the less rise again; nor did He the less recommend humility and poverty; which are neglected, it is true, but about which there is no dispute.

Callistus Nicephorus, a writer of the fourteenth century, says that “Peter was tall, straight and slender, his face long and pale, his beard and hair short, curly, and neglected—his eyes black, his nose long, and rather flat than pointed.” So Calmet translates the passage.

St. Bartholomew is a word corrupted from Bar. Ptolomaios, son of Ptolemy. The Acts of the Apostles inform us that he was a Galilean. Eusebius asserts that he went to preach in India, Arabia Felix, Persia, and Abyssinia. He is believed to have been the same as Nathanael. There is a gospel attributed to him; but all that has been said of his life and of his death is very uncertain. It has been asserted that Astyages, brother to Polemon, king of Armenia, had him flayed alive; but all good writers regard this story as fabulous.

St. Philip.—According to the apocryphal legends he lived eighty-seven years, and died in peace in the reign of Trajan.

St. Thomas Didymus.—Origen, quoted by Eusebius, says that he went and preached to the Medes, the Persians, the Caramanians, the Baskerians, and the magi—as if the magi had been a people. It is added that he baptized one of the magi, who had come to Bethlehem. The Manichæans assert that a man who had stricken Thomas was devoured by a lion. Some Portuguese writers assure us that he suffered martyrdom at Meliapour, in the peninsula of India. The Greek Church believes that he preached in India, and that from thence his body was carried to Edessa. Some monks are further induced to believe that he went to India, by the circumstance that, about the end of the fifteenth century, there were found, near the coast of Ormuz, some families of Nestorians, who had been established there by a merchant of Moussoul, named Thomas. The legend sets forth that he built a magnificent palace for an Indian king named Gondaser: but all these stories are rejected by the learned.

St. Matthias.—No particulars are known of him. His life was not found until the twelfth century by a monk of the abbey of St. Matthias of Treves. He said he had it from a Jew, who translated it for him from Hebrew into Latin.

St. Matthew.—According to Rufinus, Socrates, and Abdias, he preached and died in Ethiopia. Heracleon makes him live a long time and die a natural death. But Abdias says that Hyrtacus, king of Ethiopia, brother to Eglypus, wishing to marry his niece Iphigenia, and finding that he could not obtain St. Matthew’s permission, had his head struck off and set fire to Iphigenia’s house. He to whom we owe the most circumstantial gospel that we possess deserved a better historian than Abdias.

St. Simon the Canaanite, whose feast is commonly joined with that of St. Jude.—Of his life nothing is known. The modern Greeks say that he went to preach in Libya, and thence into England. Others make him suffer martyrdom in Persia.

St. Thaddæus or Lebbæus.—The same as St. Jude, whom the Jews in St. Matthew call brother to Jesus Christ, and who, according to Eusebius, was his first cousin. All these relations, for the most part vague and uncertain, throw no light on the lives of the apostles. But if there is little to gratify our curiosity, there is much from which we may derive instruction. Two of the four gospels, chosen from among the fifty-four composed by the first Christians, were not written by apostles.

St. Paul was not one of the twelve apostles, yet he contributed more than any other to the establishment of Christianity. He was the only man of letters among them. He had studied under Gamaliel. Festus himself, the governor of Judæa, reproaches him with being too learned; and, unable to comprehend the sublimities of his doctrine, he says to him, “Insanis, Paule, multæ te litteræ ad insaniam convertunt.” “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.”

In his first epistle to the Corinthians he calls himself sent. “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are ye not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle unto others, yet, doubtless, I am unto you,” etc.

He might, indeed, have seen Jesus while he was studying at Jerusalem under Gamaliel. Yet it may be said that this was not a reason which could authorize his apostleship. He had not been one of the disciples of Jesus; on the contrary, he had persecuted them, and had been an accomplice in the death of St. Stephen. It is astonishing that he does not rather justify his voluntary apostleship by the miracle which Jesus Christ afterwards worked in his favor—by the light from heaven which appeared to him at midday and threw him from his horse, and by his being carried up to the third heaven.

St. Epiphanius quotes Acts of the Apostles, believed to have been composed by those Christians called Ebionites, or poor, and which were rejected by the Church—acts very ancient, it is true, but full of abuse of St. Paul. In them it is said that St. Paul was born at Tarsus of idolatrous parents—utroque parente gentili procreatus—that, having come to Jerusalem, where he remained some time, he wished to marry the daughter of Gamaliel; that, with this design, he became a Jewish proselyte and got himself circumcised; but that, not obtaining this virgin (or not finding her a virgin), his vexation made him write against circumcision, against the Sabbath, and against the whole law.

“Quumque Hierosolymam accessisset, et ibidem aliquandiu mansisset, pontificis filiam ducere in animum induxisse, et eam ob rem proselytum factum, atque circumcisum esse; postea quod virginem eam non accepisset, succensuisse, et adversus circumcisionem, ac sabbathum totamque legem scripsisse.”

These injurious words show that these primitive Christians, under the name of the poor, were still attached to the Sabbath and to circumcision, resting this attachment on the circumcision of Jesus Christ and his observance of the Sabbath; and that they were enemies to St. Paul, regarding him as an intruder who sought to overturn everything. In short, they were heretics; consequently they strove to defame their enemies, an excess of which party spirit and superstition are too often guilty. St. Paul, too, calls them “false apostles, deceitful workers,” and loads them with abuse. In his letter to the Philippians he calls them dogs.

St. Jerome asserts that he was born at Gisceala, a town of Galilee, and not at Tarsus. Others dispute his having been a Roman citizen, because at that time there were no Roman citizens at Tarsus, nor at Galgala, and Tarsus was not a Roman colony until about a hundred years after. But we must believe the Acts of the Apostles, which were inspired by the Holy Ghost, and therefore outweigh the testimony of St. Jerome, learned as he might be.

Every particular relative to St. Peter and St. Paul is interesting. If Nicephorus has given us a portrait of the one, the Acts of St. Thecla, which, though not canonical, are of the first century, have furnished us with a portrait of the other. He was, say these acts, short in stature, his head was bald, his thighs were crooked, his legs thick, his nose aquiline, his eyebrows joined, and he was full of the grace of God.—Statura brevi, etc.

These Acts of St. Paul and St. Thecla were, according to Tertullian, composed by an Asiatic, one of Paul’s own disciples, who at first put them forth under the apostle’s name; for which he was called to account and displaced—that is, excluded from the assembly; for the hierarchy, not being then established, no one could, properly speaking, be displaced.

Under What Discipline Did the Apostles and Primitive Disciples Live?

It appears that they were all equal. Equality was the great principle of the Essenians, the Rechabites, the Theraputæ, the disciples of John, and especially those of Jesus Christ, who inculcated it more than once.

St. Barnabas, who was not one of the twelve apostles, gave his voice along with theirs. St. Paul, who was still less a chosen apostle during the life of Jesus, not only was equal to them, but had a sort of ascendancy; he rudely rebukes St. Peter.

When they are together we find among them no superior. There was no presiding, not even in turn. They did not at first call themselves bishops. St. Peter gives the name of bishop, or the equivalent epithet, only to Jesus Christ, whom he calls the inspector of souls. This name of inspector or bishop was afterwards given to the ancients, whom we call priests; but with no ceremony, no dignity, no distinctive mark of pre-eminence. It was the office of the ancients or elders to distribute the alms. The younger of them were chosen by a plurality of voices to serve the tables, and were seven in number; all which clearly verifies the reports in common. Of jurisdiction, of power, of command, not the least trace is to be found.

It is true that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for not giving all their money to St. Peter, but retaining a small part for their own immediate wants without confessing it—for corrupting, by a trifling falsehood, the sanctity of their gifts; but it is not St. Peter who condemns them. It is true that he divines Ananias’ fault; he reproaches him with it and tells him that he has lied to the Holy Ghost; after which Ananias falls down dead. Then comes Sapphira; and Peter, instead of warning, interrogates her, which seems to be the action of a judge. He makes her fall into the snare by saying, “Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much.” The wife made the same answer as her husband. It is astonishing that she did not, on reaching the place, learn of her husband’s death—that no one had informed her of it—that she did not observe the terror and tumult which such a death must have occasioned, and above all, the mortal fear lest the officers of justice should take cognizance of it as of a murder. It is strange that this woman should not have filled the house with her cries, but have been quietly interrogated, as in a court of justice, where silence is rigidly enforced. It is still more extraordinary that Peter should have said to her, “Behold the feet of them which have carried thy husband out at the door, and shall carry thee out”—on which the sentence was instantly executed. Nothing can more resemble a criminal hearing before a despotic judge.

But it must be considered that St. Peter is here only the organ of Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost; that it is to them that Ananias and his wife have lied, and it is they who punish them with sudden death; that, indeed, this miracle was worked for the purpose of terrifying all such as, while giving their goods to the Church, and saying that they have given all, keep something back for profane uses. The judicious Calmet shows us how the fathers and the commentators differ about the salvation of these two primitive Christians, whose sin consisted in simple though culpable reticence.

Be this as it may, it is certain that the apostles had no jurisdiction, no power, no authority, but that of persuasion, which is the first of all, and upon which every other is founded. Besides, it appears from this very story that the Christians lived in common. When two or three of them were gathered together, Jesus Christ was in the midst of them. They could all alike receive the Spirit. Jesus was their true, their only superior; He had said to them:

“Be not ye called rabbi; for one is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon earth; for one is your father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters; for one is your master, even Christ.”

In the time of the apostles there was no ritual, no liturgy; there were no fixed hours for assembling, no ceremonies. The disciples baptized the catechumens, and breathed the Holy Ghost into their mouths, as Jesus Christ had breathed on the apostles; and as, in many churches, it is still the custom to breathe into the mouth of a child when administering baptism. Such were the beginnings of Christianity. All was done by inspiration—by enthusiasm, as among the Therapeutæ and the Judaïtes, if we may for a moment be permitted to compare Jewish societies, now become reprobate, with societies conducted by Jesus Christ Himself from the highest heaven, where He sat at the right hand of His Father. Time brought necessary changes; the Church being extended, strengthened, and enriched, had occasion for new laws.


It is not at all uncommon for a person under strong emotion to see that which is not. In 1726 a woman in London, accused of being an accomplice in her husband’s murder, denied the fact; the dead man’s coat was held up and shaken before her, her terrified imagination presented the husband himself to her view; she fell at his feet and would have embraced him. She told the jury that she had seen her husband. It is not wonderful that Theodoric saw in the head of a fish, which was served up to him, that of Symmachus, whom he had assassinated—or unjustly executed; for it is precisely the same thing.

Charles IX., after the massacre of St. Bartholomew, saw dead bodies and blood; not in his dreams, but in the convulsions of a troubled mind seeking for sleep in vain. His physician and his nurse bore witness to it. Fantastic visions are very frequent in hot fevers. This is not seeing in imagination; it is seeing in reality. The phantom exists to him who has the perception of it. If the gift of reason vouchsafed to the human machine were not at hand to correct these illusions, all heated imaginations would be in an almost continual transport, and it would be impossible to cure them.

It is especially in that middle state between sleeping and waking that an inflamed brain sees imaginary objects and hears sounds which nobody utters. Fear, love, grief, remorse are the painters who trace the pictures before unsettled imaginations. The eye which sees sparks in the night, when accidentally pressed in a certain direction, is but a faint image of the disorders of the brain.

No theologian doubts that with these natural causes the Master of nature has sometimes united His divine influence. To this the Old and the New Testament bear ample testimony. Providence has deigned to employ these apparitions—these visions—in favor of the Jews, who were then its cherished people.

It may be that, in the course of time, some really pious souls, deceived by their enthusiasm, have believed that they had received from an intimate communication with God that which they owed only to their inflamed imaginations. In such cases there is need of the advice of an honest man, and especially of a good physician.

The stories of apparitions are innumerable. It is said to have been in consequence of an apparition that St. Theodore, in the beginning of the fourth century, went and set fire to the temple of Amasia and reduced it to ashes. It is very likely that God did not command this action, in itself so criminal, by which several citizens perished, and which exposed all the Christians to a just revenge.

God might permit St. Potamienne to appear to St. Basilides; for there resulted no disturbance to the state. We will not deny that Jesus Christ might appear to St. Victor. But that St. Benedict saw the soul of St. Germanus of Capua carried up to heaven by angels; and that two monks afterwards saw the soul of St. Benedict walking on a carpet extended from heaven to Mount Cassino—this is not quite so easy to believe.

It may likewise, without any offence to our august religion, be doubted whether St. Eucherius was conducted by an angel into hell, where he saw Charles Martel’s soul; and whether a holy hermit of Italy saw the soul of Dagobert chained in a boat by devils, who were flogging it without mercy; for, after all, it is rather difficult to explain satisfactorily how a soul can walk upon a carpet, how it can be chained in a boat, or how it can be flogged.

But, it may very well be that heated brains have had such visions; from age to age we have a thousand instances of them. One must be very enlightened to distinguish, in this prodigious number of visions, those which came from God Himself from those which were purely the offspring of imagination.

The illustrious Bossuet relates, in his funeral oration over the Princess Palatine, two visions which acted powerfully on that princess, and determined the whole conduct of her latter years. These heavenly visions must be believed since they are regarded as such by the discreet and learned bishop of Meaux, who penetrated into all the depths of theology and even undertook to lift the veil which covers the Apocalypse.

He says, then, that the Princess Palatine, having lent a hundred thousand francs to her sister, the queen of Poland, sold the duchy of Rételois for a million, and married her daughters advantageously. Happy according to the world, but unfortunately doubting the truths of the Christian religion, she was brought back to her conviction, and to the love of these ineffable truths by two visions. The first was a dream in which a man born blind told her that he had no idea of light, and that we must believe the word of others in things of which we cannot ourselves conceive. The second arose from a violent shock of the membranes and fibres of the brain in an attack of fever. She saw a hen running after one of her chickens, which a dog held in his mouth. The Princess Palatine snatched the chick from the dog, on which a voice cried out: “Give him back his chicken; if you deprive him of his food he will not watch as he ought.” But the princess exclaimed, “No, I will never give it back.”

The chicken was the soul of Anne of Gonzaga, Princess Palatine; the hen was the Church, and the dog was the devil. Anne of Gonzaga, who was never to give back the chicken to the dog, was efficacious grace.

Bossuet preached this funeral oration to the Carmelite nuns of the Faubourg St. Jacques, at Paris, before the whole house of Condé; he used these remarkable words: “Hearken, and be especially careful not to hear with contempt the order of the Divine warnings, and the conduct of Divine grace.”

The reader, then, must peruse this story with the same reverence with which its hearers listened to it. These extraordinary workings of Providence are like the miracles of canonized saints, which must be attested by irreproachable witnesses. And what more lawful deponent can we have to the apparitions and visions of the Princess Palatine than the man who employed his life in distinguishing truth from appearance? who combated vigorously against the nuns of Port Royal on the formulary; against Paul Ferri on the catechism; against the minister Claude on the variations of the Church; against Doctor Dupin on China; against Father Simon on the understanding of the sacred text; against Cardinal Sfondrati on predestination; against the pope on the rights of the Gallican Church; against the archbishop of Cambray on pure and disinterested love. He was not to be seduced by the names, nor the titles, nor the reputation, nor the dialectics of his adversaries. He related this fact; therefore he believed it. Let us join him in his belief, in spite of the raillery which it has occasioned. Let us adore the secrets of Providence, but let us distrust the wanderings of the imagination, which Malebranche called la folle du logis. For these two visions accorded to the Princess Palatine are not vouchsafed to every one.

Jesus Christ appeared to St. Catharine of Sienna; he espoused her and gave her a ring. This mystical apparition is to be venerated, for it is attested by Raymond of Capua, general of the Dominicans, who confessed her, as also by Pope Urban VI. But it is rejected by the learned Fleury, author of the “Ecclesiastical History.” And a young woman who should now boast of having contracted such a marriage might receive as a nuptial present a place in a lunatic asylum.

The appearance of Mother Angelica, abbess of Port Royal, to Sister Dorothy is related by a man of very great weight among the Jansenists, the Sieur Dufossé, author of the “Memoirs de Pontis.” Mother Angelica, long after her death, came and seated herself in the church of Port Royal, in her old place, with her crosier in her hand. She commanded that Sister Dorothy should be sent for and to her she told terrible secrets. But the testimony of this Dufossé is of less weight than that of Raymond of Capua, and Pope Urban VI., which, however, have not been formally received.

The writer of the above paragraphs has since read the Abbé Langlet’s four volumes on “Apparitions,” and thinks he ought not to take anything from them. He is convinced of all the apparitions verified by the Church, but he has some doubts about the others, until they are authentically recognized. The Cordeliers and the Jacobins, the Jansenists and the Molinists have all had their apparitions and their miracles. “Iliacos inter muros peccatur et extra.”




Are all appearances deceitful? Have our senses been given us only to keep us in continual delusion? Is everything error? Do we live in a dream, surrounded by shadowy chimeras? We see the sun setting when he is already below the horizon; before he has yet risen we see him appear. A square tower seems to be round. A straight stick, thrust into the water, seems to be bent.

You see your face in a mirror and the image appears to be behind the glass: it is, however, neither behind nor before it. This glass, which to the sight and the touch is so smooth and even, is no other than an unequal congregation of projections and cavities. The finest and fairest skin is a kind of bristled network, the openings of which are incomparably larger than the threads, and enclose an infinite number of minute hairs. Under this network there are liquors incessantly passing, and from it there issue continual exhalations which cover the whole surface. What we call large is to an elephant very small, and what we call small is to insects a world.

The same motion which would be rapid to a snail would be very slow in the eye of an eagle. This rock, which is impenetrable by steel, is a sieve consisting of more pores than matter, and containing a thousand avenues of prodigious width leading to its centre, in which are lodged multitudes of animals, which may, for aught we know, think themselves the masters of the universe.

Nothing is either as it appears to be, or in the place where we believe it to be. Several philosophers, tired of being constantly deceived by bodies, have in their spleen pronounced that bodies do not exist, and that there is nothing real but our minds. As well might they have concluded that, all appearances being false, and the nature of the soul being as little known as that of the matter, there is no reality in either body or soul. Perhaps it is this despair of knowing anything which has caused some Chinese philosophers to say that nothing is the beginning and the end of all things. This philosophy, so destructive to being, was well known in Molière’s time. Doctor Macphurius represents the school; when teaching Sganarelle, he says, “You must not say, ‘I am come,’ but ‘it seems to me that I am come’; for it may seem to you, without such being really the case.” But at the present day a comic scene is not an argument, though it is sometimes better than an argument; and there is often as much pleasure in seeking after truth as in laughing at philosophy.

You do not see the network, the cavities, the threads, the inequalities, the exhalations of that white and delicate skin which you idolize. Animals a thousand times less than a mite discern all these objects which escape your vision; they lodge, feed, and travel about in them, as in an extensive country, and those on the right arm are perfectly ignorant that there are creatures of their own species on the left. If you were so unfortunate as to see what they see, your charming skin would strike you with horror.

The harmony of a concert, to which you listen with delight, must have on certain classes of minute animals the effect of terrible thunder; and perhaps it kills them. We see, touch, hear, feel things only in the way in which they ought to be seen, touched, heard, or felt by ourselves.

All is in due proportion. The laws of optics, which show you an object in the water where it is not, and break a right line, are in entire accordance with those which make the sun appear to you with a diameter of two feet, although it is a million times larger than the earth. To see it in its true dimensions would require an eye collecting his rays at an angle as great as his disk, which is impossible. Our senses, then, assist much more than they deceive us.

Motion, time, hardness, softness, dimensions, distance, approximation, strength, weakness, appearances, of whatever kind, all is relative. And who has created these relations?


All great successes, of whatever kind, are founded upon things done or said apropos.

Arnold of Brescia, John Huss, and Jerome of Prague did not come quite apropos; the people were not then sufficiently enlightened; the invention of printing had not then laid the abuses complained of before the eyes of every one. But when men began to read—when the populace, who were solicitous to escape purgatory, but at the same time wished not to pay too dear for indulgences, began to open their eyes, the reformers of the sixteenth century came quite apropos, and succeeded.

It has been elsewhere observed that Cromwell under Elizabeth or Charles the Second, or Cardinal de Retz when Louis XIV. governed by himself, would have been very ordinary persons.

Had Cæsar been born in the time of Scipio Africanus he would not have subjugated the Roman commonwealth; nor would Mahomet, could he rise again at the present day, be more than sheriff of Mecca. But if Archimedes and Virgil were restored, one would still be the best mathematician, the other the best poet of his country.


If any one be desirous of obtaining a thorough knowledge of the antiquities of Arabia, it may be presumed that he will gain no more information than about those of Auvergne and Poitou. It is, however, certain, that the Arabs were of some consequence long before Mahomet. The Jews themselves say that Moses married an Arabian woman, and his father-in-law Jethro seems to have been a man of great good sense.

Mecca is considered, and not without reason, as one of the most ancient cities in the world. It is, indeed, a proof of its antiquity that nothing but superstition could occasion the building of a town on such a spot, for it is in a sandy desert, where the water is brackish, so that the people die of hunger and thirst. The country a few miles to the east is the most delightful upon earth, the best watered and the most fertile. There the Arabs should have built, and not at Mecca. But it was enough for some charlatan, some false prophet, to give out his reveries, to make of Mecca a sacred spot and the resort of neighboring nations. Thus it was that the temple of Jupiter Ammon was built in the midst of sands.

Arabia extends from northeast to southwest, from the desert of Jerusalem to Aden or Eden, about the fiftieth degree of north latitude. It is an immense country, about three times as large as Germany. It is very likely that its deserts of sand were brought thither by the waters of the ocean, and that its marine gulfs were once fertile lands.

The belief in this nation’s antiquity is favored by the circumstance that no historian speaks of its having been subjugated. It was not subdued even by Alexander, nor by any king of Syria, nor by the Romans. The Arabs, on the contrary, subjugated a hundred nations, from the Indus to the Garonne; and, having afterwards lost their conquests, they retired into their own country and did not mix with any other people.

Having never been subject to nor mixed with other nations it is more than probable that they have preserved their manners and their language. Indeed, Arabic is, in some sense, the mother tongue of all Asia as far as the Indus; or rather the prevailing tongue, for mother tongues have never existed. Their genius has never changed. They still compose their “Nights’ Entertainments,” as they did when they imagined one Bac or Bacchus, who passed through the Red Sea with three millions of men, women, and children; who stopped the sun and moon, and made streams of wine issue forth with a blow of his rod, which, when he chose, he changed into a serpent.

A nation so isolated, and whose blood remains unmixed, cannot change its character. The Arabs of the desert have always been given to robbery, and those inhabiting the towns been fond of fables, poetry, and astronomy. It is said, in the historical preface to the Koran, that when any one of their tribes had a good poet the other tribes never failed to send deputies to that one on which God had vouchsafed to bestow so great a gift.

The tribes assembled every year, by representatives, in an open place named Ocad, where verses were recited, nearly in the same way as is now done at Rome in the garden of the academy of the Arcadii, and this custom continued until the time of Mahomet. In his time, each one posted his verses on the door of the temple of Mecca. Labid, son of Rabia, was regarded as the Homer of Mecca; but, having seen the second chapter of the Koran, which Mahomet had posted, he fell on his knees before him, and said, “O Mahomet, son of Abdallah, son of Motalib, son of Achem, thou art a greater poet than I—thou art doubtless the prophet of God.”

The Arabs of Maden, Naïd, and Sanaa were no less generous than those of the desert were addicted to plunder. Among them, one friend was dishonored if he had refused his assistance to another.

In their collection of verses, entitled “Tograid,” it is related that, “one day, in the temple of Mecca, three Arabs were disputing on generosity and friendship, and could not agree as to which, among those who then set the greatest examples of these virtues, deserved the preference. Some were for Abdallah, son of Giafar, uncle to Mahomet; others for Kais, son of Saad; and others for Arabad, of the tribe of As. After a long dispute they agreed to send a friend of Abdallah to him, a friend of Kais to Kais, and a friend of Arabad to Arabad, to try them all three, and to come and make their report to the assembly.

“Then the friend of Abdallah went and said to him, ‘Son of the uncle of Mahomet, I am on a journey and am destitute of everything.’ Abdallah was mounted on his camel loaded with gold and silk; he dismounted with all speed, gave him his camel, and returned home on foot.

“The second went and made application to his friend Kais, son of Saad. Kais was still asleep, and one of his domestics asked the traveller what he wanted. The traveller answered that he was the friend of Kais, and needed his assistance. The domestic said to him, ‘I will not wake my master; but here are seven thousand pieces of gold, which are all that we at present have in the house. Take also a camel from the stable, and a slave; these will, I think, be sufficient for you until you reach your own house.’ When Kais awoke, he chid the domestic for not having given more.

“The third repaired to his friend Arabad, of the tribe of As. Arabad was blind, and was coming out of his house, leaning on two slaves, to pray to God in the temple of Mecca. As soon as he heard his friend’s voice, he said to him, ‘I possess nothing but my two slaves; I beg that you will take and sell them; I will go to the temple as well as I can, with my stick.’

“The three disputants, having returned to the assembly, faithfully related what had happened. Many praises were bestowed on Abdallah, son of Giafar—on Kais, son of Saad—and on Arabad, of the tribe of As, but the preference was given to Arabad.”

The Arabs have several tales of this kind, but our western nations have none. Our romances are not in this taste. We have, indeed, several which turn upon trick alone, as those of Boccaccio, “Guzman d’Alfarache,” “Gil Blas,” etc.

On Job, the Arab.

It is clear that the Arabs at least possessed noble and exalted ideas. Those who are most conversant with the oriental languages think that the Book of Job, which is of the highest antiquity, was composed by an Arab of Idumæa. The most clear and indubitable proof is that the Hebrew translator has left in his translation more than a hundred Arabic words, which, apparently, he did not understand.

Job, the hero of the piece, could not be a Hebrew, for he says, in the forty-second chapter, that having been restored to his former circumstances, he divided his possessions equally among his sons and daughters, which is directly contrary to the Hebrew law.

It is most likely that, if this book had been composed after the period at which we place Moses, the author—who speaks of so many things and is not sparing of examples—would have mentioned some one of the astonishing prodigies worked by Moses, which were, doubtless, known to all the nations of Asia.

In the very first chapter Satan appears before God and asks permission to tempt Job. Satan was unknown in the Pentateuch; it was a Chaldæan word; a fresh proof that the Arabian author was in the neighborhood of Chaldæa.

It has been thought that he might be a Jew because the Hebrew translator has put Jehovah instead of El, or Bel, or Sadai. But what man of the least information does not know that the word Jehovah was common to the Phœnicians, the Syrians, the Egyptians, and every people of the neighboring countries?

A yet stronger proof—one to which there is no reply—is the knowledge of astronomy which appears in the Book of Job. Mention is here made of the constellations which we call Arcturus, Orion, the Pleiades, and even of those of “the chambers of the south.” Now, the Hebrews had no knowledge of the sphere; they had not even a term to express astronomy; but the Arabs, like the Chaldæans, have always been famed for their skill in this science.

It does, then, seem to be thoroughly proved that the Book of Job cannot have been written by a Jew, and that it was anterior to all the Jewish books, Philo and Josephus were too prudent to count it among those of the Hebrew canon. It is incontestably an Arabian parable or allegory.

This is not all. We derive from it some knowledge of the customs of the ancient world, and especially of Arabia. Here we read of trading with the Indies; a commerce which the Arabs have in all ages carried on, but which the Jews never even heard of.

Here, too, we see that the art of writing was in great cultivation, and that they already made great books.

It cannot be denied that the commentator Calmet, profound as he is, violates all the rules of logic in pretending that Job announces the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body, when he says:

“For I know that my Redeemer liveth. And though after my skin—worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. But ye should say, Why persecute we him?—seeing the root of the matter is found in me. Be ye afraid of the sword; for wrath bringeth the punishment of the sword, that ye may know there is a judgment.”

Can anything be understood by those words, other than his hope of being cured? The immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the body at the last day, are truths so indubitably announced in the New Testament, and so clearly proved by the fathers and the councils, that there is no need to attribute the first knowledge of them to an Arab. These great mysteries are not explained in any passage of the Hebrew Pentateuch; how then can they be explained in a single verse of Job and that in so obscure a manner? Calmet has no better reason for seeing in the words of Job the immortality of the soul, and the general resurrection, than he would have for discovering a disgraceful disease in the malady with which he was afflicted. Neither physics nor logic take the part of this commentator.

As for this allegorical Book of Job: it being manifestly Arabian, we are at liberty to say that it has neither justness, method, nor precision. Yet it is perhaps the most ancient book that has been written, and the most valuable monument that has been found on this side the Euphrates.


This is a mountain of Armenia, on which the ark rested. The question has long been agitated, whether the deluge was universal—whether it inundated the whole earth without exception, or only the portion of the earth which was then known. Those who have thought that it extended only to the tribes then existing, have founded their opinion on the inutility of flooding unpeopled lands, which reason seems very plausible. As for us, we abide by the Scripture text, without pretending to explain it. But we shall take greater liberty with Berosus, an ancient Chaldæan writer, of whom there are fragments preserved by Abydenus, quoted by Eusebius, and repeated word for word by George Syncellus. From these fragments we find that the Orientals of the borders of the Euxine, in ancient times, made Armenia the abode of their gods. In this they were imitated by the Greeks, who placed their deities on Mount Olympus. Men have always confounded human with divine things. Princes built their citadels on mountains; therefore they were also made the dwelling place of the gods, and became sacred. The summit of Mount Ararat is concealed by mists; therefore the gods hid themselves in those mists, sometimes vouchsafing to appear to mortals in fine weather.

A god of that country, believed to have been Saturn, appeared one day to Xixuter, tenth king of Chaldæa, according to the computation of Africanus, Abydenus, and Apollodorus, and said to him:

“On the fifteenth day of the month Oesi, mankind shall be destroyed by a deluge. Shut up close all your writings in Sipara, the city of the sun, that the memory of things may not be lost. Build a vessel; enter it with your relatives and friends; take with you birds and beasts; stock it with provisions, and, when you are asked, ‘Whither are you going in that vessel?’ answer, ‘To the gods, to beg their favor for mankind.’ ”

Xixuter built his vessel, which was two stadii wide, and five long; that it, its width was two hundred and fifty geometrical paces, and its length six hundred and twenty-five. This ship, which was to go upon the Black Sea, was a slow sailer. The flood came. When it had ceased Xixuter let some of his birds fly out, but, finding nothing to eat, they returned to the vessel. A few days afterwards he again set some of his birds at liberty, and they returned with mud in their claws. At last they went and returned no more. Xixuter did likewise: he quitted his ship, which had perched upon a mountain of Armenia, and he was seen no more; the gods took him away.

There is probably something historic in this fable. The Euxine overflowed its banks, and inundated some portions of territory, and the king of Chaldæa hastened to repair the damage. We have in Rabelais tales no less ridiculous, founded on some small portion of truth. The ancient historians are, for the most part, serious Rabelais.

As for Mount Ararat, it has been asserted that it was one of the mountains of Phrygia, and that it was called by a name answering that of ark, because it was enclosed by three rivers.

There are thirty opinions respecting this mountain. How shall we distinguish the true one? That which the monks now call Ararat, was, they say, one of the limits of the terrestrial paradise—a paradise of which we find but few traces. It is a collection of rocks and precipices, covered with eternal snows. Tournefort went thither by order of Louis XIV. to seek for plants. He says that the whole neighborhood is horrible, and the mountain itself still more so; that he found snow four feet thick, and quite crystallized, and that there are perpendicular precipices on every side.

The Dutch traveller, John Struys, pretends that he went thither also. He tells us that he ascended to the very top, to cure a hermit afflicted with a rupture.

“His hermitage,” says he, “was so distant from the earth that we did not reach it until the close of the seventh day, though each day we went five leagues.” If, in this journey, he was constantly ascending, this Mount Ararat must be thirty-five leagues high. In the time of the Giants’ war, a few Ararats piled one upon another would have made the ascent to the moon quite easy. John Struys, moreover, assures us that the hermit whom he cured presented him with a cross made of the wood of Noah’s ark. Tournefort had not this advantage.


The great theological disputes, for twelve hundred years, were all Greek. What would Homer, Sophocles, Demosthenes, Archimedes, have said, had they witnessed the subtle cavillings which have cost so much blood.

Arius has, even at this day, the honor of being regarded as the inventor of his opinion, as Calvin is considered to have been the founder of Calvinism. The pride in being the head of a sect is the second of this world’s vanities; for that of conquest is said to be the first. However, it is certain that neither Arius nor Calvin is entitled to the melancholy glory of invention. The quarrel about the Trinity existed long before Arius took part in it, in the disputatious town of Alexandria, where it had been beyond the power of Euclid to make men think calmly and justly. There never was a people more frivolous than the Alexandrians; in this respect they far exceeded even the Parisians.

There must already have been warm disputes about the Trinity; since the patriarch, who composed the “Alexandrian Chronicle,” preserved at Oxford, assures us that the party embraced by Arius was supported by two thousand priests.

We will here, for the reader’s convenience, give what is said of Arius in a small book which every one may not have at hand: Here is an incomprehensible question, which, for more than sixteen hundred years, has furnished exercise for curiosity, for sophistic subtlety, for animosity, for the spirit of cabal, for the fury of dominion, for the rage of persecution, for blind and sanguinary fanaticism, for barbarous credulity, and which has produced more horrors than the ambition of princes, which ambition has occasioned very many. Is Jesus the Word? If He be the Word, did He emanate from God in time or before time? If He emanated from God, is He coeternal and consubstantial with Him, or is He of a similar substance? Is He distinct from Him, or is He not? Is He made or begotten? Can He beget in his turn? Has He paternity? or productive virtue without paternity? Is the Holy Ghost made? or begotten? or produced? or proceeding from the Father? or proceeding from the Son? or proceeding from both? Can He beget? can He produce? is His hypostasis consubstantial with the hypostasis of the Father and the Son? and how is it that, having the same nature—the same essence as the Father and the Son, He cannot do the same things done by these persons who are Himself?

These questions, so far above reason, certainly needed the decision of an infallible church. The Christians sophisticated, cavilled, hated, and excommunicated one another, for some of these dogmas inaccessible to human intellect, before the time of Arius and Athanasius. The Egyptian Greeks were remarkably clever; they would split a hair into four, but on this occasion they split it only into three. Alexandros, bishop of Alexandria, thought proper to preach that God, being necessarily individual—single—a monad in the strictest sense of the word, this monad is triune.

The priest Arius, whom we call Arius, was quite scandalized by Alexandros’s monad, and explained the thing in quite a different way. He cavilled in part like the priest Sabellius, who had cavilled like the Phrygian Praxeas, who was a great caviller. Alexandros quickly assembled a small council of those of his own opinion, and excommunicated his priest. Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, took the part of Arius. Thus the whole Church was in a flame.

The Emperor Constantine was a villain; I confess it—a parricide, who had smothered his wife in a bath, cut his son’s throat, assassinated his father-in-law, his brother-in-law, and his nephew; I cannot deny it—a man puffed up with pride and immersed in pleasure; granted—a detestable tyrant, like his children; transeat—but he was a man of sense. He would not have obtained the empire, and subdued all his rivals, had he not reasoned justly.

When he saw the flames of civil war lighted among the scholastic brains, he sent the celebrated Bishop Osius with dissuasive letters to the two belligerent parties. “You are great fools,” he expressly tells them in this letter, “to quarrel about things which you do not understand. It is unworthy the gravity of your ministry to make so much noise about so trifling a matter.”

By “so trifling a matter,” Constantine meant not what regards the Divinity, but the incomprehensible manner in which they were striving to explain the nature of the Divinity. The Arabian patriarch, who wrote the history of the Church of Alexandria, makes Osius, on presenting the emperor’s letter, speak in nearly the following words:

“My brethren, Christianity is just beginning to enjoy the blessings of peace, and you would plunge it into eternal discord. The emperor has but too much reason to tell you that you quarrel about a very trifling matter. Certainly, had the object of the dispute been essential, Jesus Christ, whom we all acknowledge as our legislator, would have mentioned it. God would not have sent His Son on earth, to return without teaching us our catechism. Whatever He has not expressly told us is the work of men and error is their portion. Jesus has commanded you to love one another, and you begin by hating one another and stirring up discord in the empire. Pride alone has given birth to these disputes, and Jesus, your Master, has commanded you to be humble. Not one among you can know whether Jesus is made or begotten. And in what does His nature concern you, provided your own is to be just and reasonable? What has the vain science of words to do with the morality which should guide your actions? You cloud our doctrines with mysteries—you, who were designed to strengthen religion by your virtues. Would you leave the Christian religion a mass of sophistry? Did Christ come for this? Cease to dispute, humble yourselves, edify one another, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and pacify the quarrels of families, instead of giving scandal to the whole empire by your dissensions.”

But Osius addressed an obstinate audience. The Council of Nice was assembled and the Roman Empire was torn by a spiritual civil war. This war brought on others and mutual persecution has continued from age to age, unto this day.

The melancholy part of the affair was that as soon as the council was ended the persecution began; but Constantine, when he opened it, did not yet know how he should act, nor upon whom the persecution should fall. He was not a Christian, though he was at the head of the Christians. Baptism alone then constituted Christianity, and he had not been baptized; he had even rebuilt the Temple of Concord at Rome. It was, doubtless, perfectly indifferent to him whether Alexander of Alexandria, or Eusebius of Nicomedia, and the priest Arius, were right or wrong; it is quite evident, from the letter given above, that he had a profound contempt for the dispute.

But there happened that which always happens and always will happen in every court. The enemies of those who were afterwards named Arians accused Eusebius of Nicomedia of having formerly taken part with Licinius against the emperor. “I have proofs of it,” said Constantine in his letter to the Church of Nicomedia, “from the priests and deacons in his train whom I have taken,” etc.

Thus, from the time of the first great council, intrigue, cabal, and persecution were established, together with the tenets of the Church, without the power to derogate from their sanctity. Constantine gave the chapels of those who did not believe in the consubstantiality to those who did believe in it; confiscated the property of the dissenters to his own profit, and used his despotic power to exile Arius and his partisans, who were not then the strongest. It has even been said that of his own private authority he condemned to death whosoever should not burn the writings of Arius; but this is not true. Constantine, prodigal as he was of human blood, did not carry his cruelty to so mad and absurd an excess as to order his executioners to assassinate the man who should keep an heretical book, while he suffered the heresiarch to live.

At court everything soon changes. Several non-consubstantial bishops, with some of the eunuchs and the women, spoke in favor of Arius, and obtained the reversal of the lettre de cachet. The same thing has repeatedly happened in our modern courts on similar occasions.

The celebrated Eusebius, bishop of Cæsarea, known by his writings, which evince no great discernment, strongly accused Eustatius, bishop of Antioch, of being a Sabellian; and Eustatius accused Eusebius of being an Arian. A council was assembled at Antioch; Eusebius gained his cause; Eustatius was displaced; and the See of Antioch was offered to Eusebius, who would not accept it; the two parties armed against each other, and this was the prelude to controversial warfare. Constantine, who had banished Arius for not believing in the consubstantial Son, now banished Eustatius for believing in Him; nor are such revolutions uncommon.

St. Athanasius was then bishop of Alexandria. He would not admit Arius, whom the emperor had sent thither, into the town, saying that “Arius was excommunicated; that an excommunicated man ought no longer to have either home or country; that he could neither eat nor sleep anywhere; and that it was better to obey God than man.” A new council was forthwith held at Tyre, and new lettres de cachet were issued. Athanasius was removed by the Tyrian fathers and banished to Treves. Thus Arius, and Athanasius, his greatest enemy, were condemned in turn by a man who was not yet a Christian.

The two factions alike employed artifice, fraud, and calumny, according to the old and eternal usage. Constantine left them to dispute and cabal, for he had other occupations. It was at that time that this good prince assassinated his son, his wife, and his nephew, the young Licinius, the hope of the empire, who was not yet twelve years old.

Under Constantine, Arius’ party was constantly victorious. The opposite party has unblushingly written that one day St. Macarius, one of the most ardent followers of Athanasius, knowing that Arius was on the way to the cathedral of Constantinople, followed by several of his brethren, prayed so ardently to God to confound this heresiarch that God could not resist the prayer; and immediately all Arius’ bowels passed through his fundament—which is impossible. But at length Arius died.

Constantine followed him a year afterwards, and it is said he died of leprosy. Julian, in his “Cæsars,” says that baptism, which this emperor received a few hours before his death, cured no one of this distemper.

As his children reigned after him the flattery of the Roman people, who had long been slaves, was carried to such an excess that those of the old religion made him a god, and those of the new made him a saint. His feast was long kept, together with that of his mother.

After his death, the troubles caused by the single word “consubstantial” agitated the empire with renewed violence. Constantius, son and successor to Constantine, imitated all his father’s cruelties, and, like him, held councils—which councils anathematized one another. Athanasius went over all Europe and Asia to support his party, but the Eusebians overwhelmed him. Banishment, imprisonment, tumult, murder, and assassination signalized the close of the reign of Constantius. Julian, the Church’s mortal enemy, did his utmost to restore peace to the Church, but was unsuccessful. Jovian, and after him Valentinian, gave entire liberty of conscience, but the two parties accepted it only as the liberty to exercise their hatred and their fury.

Theodosius declared for the Council of Nice, but the Empress Justina, who reigned in Italy, Illyria, and Africa, as guardian of the young Valentinian, proscribed the great Council of Nice; and soon after the Goths, Vandals, and Burgundians, who spread themselves over so many provinces, finding Arianism established in them, embraced it in order to govern the conquered nations by the religion of those nations.

But the Nicæan faith having been received by the Gauls, their conqueror, Clovis, followed that communion for the very same reason that the other barbarians had professed the faith of Arius.

In Italy, the great Theodoric kept peace between the two parties, and at last the Nicæan formula prevailed in the east and in the west. Arianism reappeared about the middle of the sixteenth century, favored by the religious disputes which then divided Europe; and it reappeared, armed with new strength and a still greater incredulity. Forty gentlemen of Vicenza formed an academy, in which such tenets only were established as appeared necessary to make men Christians. Jesus was acknowledged as the Word, as Saviour, and as Judge; but His divinity, His consubstantiality, and even the Trinity, were denied.

Of these dogmatizers, the principal were Lælius Socinus, Ochin, Pazuta, and Gentilis, who were joined by Servetus. The unfortunate dispute of the latter with Calvin is well known; they carried on for some time an interchange of abuse by letter. Servetus was so imprudent as to pass through Geneva, on his way to Germany. Calvin was cowardly enough to have him arrested, and barbarous enough to have him condemned to be roasted by a slow fire—the same punishment which Calvin himself had narrowly escaped in France. Nearly all the theologians of that time were by turns persecuting and persecuted, executioners and victims.

The same Calvin solicited the death of Gentilis at Geneva. He found five advocates to subscribe that Gentilis deserved to perish in the flames. Such horrors were worthy of that abominable age. Gentilis was put in prison, and was on the point of being burned like Servetus, but he was better advised than the Spaniard; he retracted, bestowed the most ridiculous praises on Calvin, and was saved. But he had afterwards the ill fortune, through not having made terms with a bailiff of the canton of Berne, to be arrested as an Arian. There were witnesses who deposed that he had said that the words trinity, essence, hypostasis were not to be found in the Scriptures, and on this deposition the judges, who were as ignorant of the meaning of hypostasis as himself, condemned him, without at all arguing the question, to lose his head.

Faustus Socinus, nephew to Lælius Socinus, and his companions were more fortunate in Germany. They penetrated into Silesia and Poland, founded churches there, wrote, preached, and were successful, but at length, their religion being divested of almost every mystery, and a philosophical and peaceful, rather than a militant sect, they were abandoned; and the Jesuits, who had more influence, persecuted and dispersed them.

The remains of this sect in Poland, Germany, and Holland keep quiet and concealed; but in England the sect has reappeared with greater strength and éclat. The great Newton and Locke embraced it. Samuel Clarke, the celebrated rector of St. James, and author of an excellent book on the existence of God, openly declared himself an Arian, and his disciples are very numerous. He would never attend his parish church on the day when the Athanasian Creed was recited. In the course of this work will be seen the subtleties which all these obstinate persons, who were not so much Christians as philosophers, opposed to the purity of the Catholic faith.

Although among the theologians of London there was a large flock of Arians, the public mind there has been more occupied by the great mathematical truths discovered by Newton, and the metaphysical wisdom of Locke. Disputes on consubstantiality appear very dull to philosophers. The same thing happened to Newton in England as to Corneille in France, whose “Pertharite,” “Théodore,” and “Récueil de Vers” were forgotten, while “Cinna” was alone thought of. Newton was looked upon as God’s interpreter, in the calculation of fluxions, the laws of gravitation, and the nature of light. On his death, his pall was borne by the peers and the chancellor of the realm, and his remains were laid near the tombs of the kings—than whom he is more revered. Servetus, who is said to have discovered the circulation of the blood, was roasted by a slow fire, in a little town of the Allobroges, ruled by a theologian of Picardy.


Shall men forever be deceived in the most indifferent as well as the most serious things? A pretended Aristeas would make us believe that he had the Old Testament translated into Greek for the use of Ptolemy Philadelphus—just as the Duke de Montausier had commentaries written on the best Latin authors for the dauphin, who made no use of them.

According to this Aristeas, Ptolemy, burning with desire to be acquainted with the Jewish books, and to know those laws which the meanest Jew in Alexandria could have translated for fifty crowns, determined to send a solemn embassy to the high-priest of the Jews of Jerusalem; to deliver a hundred and twenty thousand Jewish slaves, whom his father, Ptolemy Soter, had made prisoners in Judæa, and in order to assist them in performing the journey agreeably, to give them about forty crowns each of our money—amounting in the whole to fourteen millions four hundred thousand of our livres, or about five hundred and seventy-six thousand pounds.

Ptolemy did not content himself with this unheard-of liberality. He sent to the temple a large table of massive gold, enriched all over with precious stones, and had engraved upon it a chart of the Meander, a river of Phrygia, the course of which river was marked with rubies and emeralds. It is obvious how charming such a chart of the Meander must have been to the Jews. This table was loaded with two immense golden vases, still more richly worked. He also gave thirty other golden and an infinite number of silver vases. Never was a book so dearly paid for; the whole Vatican library might be had for a less amount.

Eleazar, the pretended high-priest of Jerusalem, sent ambassadors in his turn, who presented only a letter written upon fine vellum in characters of gold. It was an act worthy of the Jews, to give a bit of parchment for about thirty millions of livres. Ptolemy was so much delighted with Eleazar’s style that he shed tears of joy.

The ambassador dined with the king and the chief priests of Egypt. When grace was to be said, the Egyptians yielded the honor to the Jews. With these ambassadors came seventy-two interpreters, six from each of the twelve tribes, who had all learned Greek perfectly at Jerusalem. It is really a pity that of these twelve tribes ten were entirely lost, and had disappeared from the face of the earth so many ages before; but Eleazar, the highpriest, found them again, on purpose to send translators to Ptolemy.

The seventy-two interpreters were shut up in the island of Pharos. Each of them completed his translation in seventy-two days, and all the translations were found to be word for word alike. This is called the Septuagint or translation of the seventy, though it should have been called the translation of the seventy-two.

As soon as the king had received these books he worshipped them—he was so good a Jew. Each interpreter received three talents of gold, and there were sent to the high-sacrificer—in return for his parchment—ten couches of silver, a crown of gold, censers and cups of gold, a vase of thirty talents of silver—that is, of the weight of about sixty thousand crowns—with ten purple robes, and a hundred pieces of the finest linen.

Nearly all this fine story is faithfully repeated by the historian Josephus, who never exaggerates anything. St. Justin improves upon Josephus. He says that Ptolemy applied to King Herod, and not to the high-priest Eleazar. He makes Ptolemy send two ambassadors to Herod—which adds much to the marvellousness of the tale, for we know that Herod was not born until long after the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus.

It is needless to point out the profusion of anachronisms in these and all such romances, or the swarm of contradictions and enormous blunders into which the Jewish author falls in every sentence; yet this fable was regarded for ages as an incontestable truth; and, the better to exercise the credulity of the human mind, every writer who repeated it added or retrenched in his own way, so that, to believe it all, it was necessary to believe it in a hundred different ways. Some smile at these absurdities which whole nations have swallowed, while others sigh over the imposture. The infinite diversity of these falsehoods multiplies the followers of Democritus and Heraclitus.


It is not to be believed that Alexander’s preceptor, chosen by Philip, was wrong-headed and pedantic. Philip was assuredly a judge, being himself well informed, and the rival of Demosthenes in eloquence.

Aristotle’s Logic.

Aristotle’s logic—his art of reasoning—is so much the more to be esteemed as he had to deal with the Greeks, who were continually holding captious arguments, from which fault his master Plato was even less exempt than others.

Take, for example, the article by which, in the “Phædon,” Plato proves the immortality of the soul:

“Do you not say that death is the opposite of life? Yes. And that they spring from each other? Yes. What, then, is it that springs from the living? The dead. And what from the dead? The living. It is, then, from the dead that all living creatures arise. Consequently, souls exist after death in the infernal regions.”

Sure and unerring rules were wanted to unravel this extraordinary nonsense, which, through Plato’s reputation, fascinated the minds of men. It was necessary to show that Plato gave a loose meaning to all his words.

Death does not spring from life, but the living man ceases to live. The living springs not from the dead, but from a living man who subsequently dies. Consequently, the conclusion that all living things spring from dead ones is ridiculous.

From this conclusion you draw another, which is no way included in the premises, that souls are in the infernal regions after death. It should first have been proved that dead bodies are in the infernal regions, and that the souls accompany them.

There is not a correct word in your argument. You should have said—That which thinks has no parts; that which has no parts is indestructible: therefore, the thinking faculty in us, having no parts, is indestructible. Or—the body dies because it is divisible; the soul is indivisible; therefore it does not die. Then you would at least have been understood.

It is the same with all the captious reasonings of the Greeks. A master taught rhetoric to his disciple on condition that he should pay him after the first cause that he gained. The disciple intended never to pay him. He commenced an action against his master, saying: “I will never pay you anything, for, if I lose my cause I was not to pay you until I had gained it, and if I gain it my demand is that I may not pay you.”

The master retorted, saying: “If you lose you must pay; if you gain you must also pay; for our bargain is that you shall pay me after the first cause that you have gained.”

It is evident that all this turns on an ambiguity. Aristotle teaches how to remove it, by putting the necessary terms in the argument:

A sum is not due until the day appointed for its payment. The day appointed is that when a cause shall have been gained. No cause has yet been gained. Therefore the day appointed has not yet arrived. Therefore the disciple does not yet owe anything.

But not yet does not mean never. So that the disciple instituted a ridiculous action. The master, too, had no right to demand anything, since the day appointed had not arrived. He must wait until the disciple had pleaded some other cause.

Suppose a conquering people were to stipulate that they would restore to the conquered only onehalf of their ships; then, having sawed them in two, and having thus given back the exact half, were to pretend that they had fulfilled the treaty. It is evident that this would be a very criminal equivocation.

Aristotle did, then, render a great service to mankind by preventing all ambiguity; for this it is which causes all misunderstandings in philosophy, in theology, and in public affairs. The pretext for the unfortunate war of 1756 was an equivocation respecting Acadia.

It is true that natural good sense, combined with the habit of reasoning, may dispense with Aristotle’s rules. A man who has a good ear and voice may sing well without musical rules, but it is better to know them.

His Physics.

They are but little understood, but it is more than probable that Aristotle understood himself, and was understood in his own time. We are strangers to the language of the Greeks; we do not attach to the same words the same ideas.

For instance, when he says, in his seventh chapter, that the principles of bodies are matter, privation, and form, he seems to talk egregious nonsense; but such is not the case. Matter, with him, is the first principle of everything—the subject of everything—indifferent to everything. Form is essential to its becoming any certain thing. Privation is that which distinguishes any being from all those things which are not in it. Matter may, indifferently, become a rose or an apple; but, when it is an apple or a rose it is deprived of all that would make it silver or lead. Perhaps this truth was not worth the trouble of repeating; but we have nothing here but what is quite intelligible, and nothing at all impertinent.

The “act of that which is in power” also seems a ridiculous phrase, though it is no more so than the one just noticed. Matter may become whatever you will—fire, earth, water, vapor, metal, mineral, animal, tree, flower. This is all that is meant by the expression, act in power. So that there was nothing ridiculous to the Greeks in saying that motion was an act of power, since matter may be moved; and it is very likely that Aristotle understood thereby that motion was not essential to matter.

Aristotle’s physics must necessarily have been very bad in detail. This was common to all philosophers until the time when the Galileos, the Torricellis, the Guerickes, the Drebels, and the Academy del Cimento began to make experiments. Natural philosophy is a mine which cannot be explored without instruments that were unknown to the ancients. They remained on the brink of the abyss, and reasoned upon without seeing its contents.

Aristotle’s Treatise on Animals.

His researches relative to animals formed, on the contrary, the best book of antiquity, because here Aristotle made use of his eyes. Alexander furnished him with all the rare animals of Europe, Asia, and Africa. This was one fruit of his conquests. In this way that hero spent immense sums, which at this day would terrify all the guardians of the royal treasury, and which should immortalize Alexander’s glory, of which we have already spoken.

At the present day a hero, when he has the misfortune to make war, can scarcely give any encouragement to the sciences; he must borrow money of a Jew, and consult other Jews in order to make the substance of his subjects flow into his coffer of the Danaides, whence it escapes through a thousand openings. Alexander sent to Aristotle elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, lions, crocodiles, gazelles, eagles, ostriches, etc.; and we, when by chance a rare animal is brought to our fairs, go and admire it for sixpence, and it dies before we know anything about it.

Of the Eternal World.

Aristotle expressly maintains, in his book on heaven, chap. xi., that the world is eternal. This was the opinion of all antiquity, excepting the Epicureans. He admitted a God—a first mover—and defined Him to be “one, eternal, immovable, indivisible, without qualities.”

He must, therefore, have regarded the world as emanating from God, as the light emanates from the sun, and is co-existent with it. About the celestial spheres he was as ignorant as all the rest of the philosophers. Copernicus was not yet come.

His Metaphysics.

God being the first mover, He gives motion to the soul. But what is God, and what is the soul, according to him? The soul is an entelechia. “It is,” says he, “a principle and an act—a nourishing, feeling, and reasoning power.” This can only mean that we have the faculties of nourishing ourselves, of feeling, and of reasoning. The Greeks no more knew what an entelechia was than do the South Sea islanders; nor have our doctors any more knowledge of what a soul is.

His Morals.

Aristotle’s morals, like all others, are good, for there are not two systems of morality. Those of Confucius, of Zoroaster, of Pythagoras, of Aristotle, of Epictetus, of Antoninus, are absolutely the same. God has placed in every breast the knowledge of good, with some inclination for evil.

Aristotle says that to be virtuous three things are necessary—nature, reason, and habit; and nothing is more true. Without a good disposition, virtue is too difficult; reason strengthens it; and habit renders good actions as familiar as a daily exercise to which one is accustomed.

He enumerates all the virtues, and does not fail to place friendship among them. He distinguishes friendship between equals, between relatives, between guests, and between lovers. Friendship springing from the rights of hospitality is no longer known among us. That which, among the ancients, was the sacred bond of society is, with us, nothing but an innkeeper’s reckoning; and as for lovers, it is very rarely nowadays that virtue has anything to do with love. We think we owe nothing to a woman to whom we have a thousand times promised everything.

It is a melancholy reflection that our first thinkers have never ranked friendship among the virtues—have rarely recommended friendship; but, on the contrary, have often seemed to breathe enmity, like tyrants, who dread all associations.

It is, moreover, with very good reason that Aristotle places all the virtues between the two extremes. He was, perhaps, the first who assigned them this place. He expressly says that piety is the medium between atheism and superstition.

His Rhetoric.

It was probably his rules for rhetoric and poetry that Cicero and Quintilian had in view. Cicero, in his “Orator” says that “no one had more science, sagacity, invention, or judgment.” Quintilian goes so far as to praise, not only the extent of his knowledge, but also the suavity of his elocution—suavitatem eloquendi.

Aristotle would have an orator well informed respecting laws, finances, treaties, fortresses, garrisons, provisions, and merchandise. The orators in the parliaments of England, the diets of Poland, the states of Sweden, the pregadi of Venice, etc., would not find these lessons of Aristotle unprofitable; to other nations, perhaps, they would be so. He would have his orator know the passions and manners of men, and the humors of every condition.

I think there is not a single nicety of the art which has escaped him. He particularly commends the citing of instances where public affairs are spoken of; nothing has so great an effect on the minds of men.

What he says on this subject proves that he wrote his “Rhetoric” long before Alexander was appointed captain-general of the Greeks against the great king.

“If,” says he, “any one had to prove to the Greeks that it is to their interest to oppose the enterprises of the king of Persia, and to prevent him from making himself master of Egypt, he should first remind them that Darius Ochus would not attack Greece until Egypt was in his power; he should remark that Xerxes had pursued the same course; he should add that it was not to be doubted that Darius Codomannus would do the same; and that, therefore, they must not suffer him to take possession of Egypt.”

He even permits, in speeches delivered to great assemblies, the introduction of parables and fables; they always strike the multitude. He relates some ingenious ones, which are of the highest antiquity, as the horse that implored the assistance of man to avenge himself on the stag, and became a slave through having sought a protector.

It may be remarked that, in the second book, where he treats of arguing from the greater to the less, he gives an example which plainly shows what was the opinion of Greece, and probably of Asia, respecting the extent of the power of the gods.

“If,” says he, “it be true that the gods themselves, enlightened as they are, cannot know everything, much less can men.” This passage clearly proves that omniscience was not then attributed to the Divinity. It was conceived that the gods could not know what was not; the future was not, therefore it seemed impossible that they should know it. This is the opinion of the Socinians at the present day.

But to return to Aristotle’s “Rhetoric.” What I shall chiefly remark on in his book on elocution and diction is the good sense with which he condemns those who would be poets in prose. He would have pathos, but he banishes bombast, and proscribes useless epithets. Indeed, Demosthenes and Cicero, who followed his precepts, never affected the poetic style in their speeches. “The style,” says Aristotle, “must always be conformable to the subject.”

Nothing can be more misplaced than to speak of physics poetically, and lavish figure and ornament where there should be only method, clearness, and truth. It is the quackery of a man who would pass off false systems under cover of an empty noise of words. Weak minds are caught by the bait, and strong minds disdain it.

Among us the funeral oration has taken possession of the poetic style in prose; but this branch of oratory, consisting almost entirely of exaggeration, seems privileged to borrow the ornaments of poetry.

The writers of romances have sometimes taken this licence. La Calprenède was, I think, the first who thus transposed the limits of the arts, and abused this facility. The author of “Telemachus” was pardoned through consideration for Homer, whom he imitated, though he could not make verses, and still more in consideration of his morality, in which he infinitely surpasses Homer, who has none at all. But he owed his popularity chiefly to the criticism on the pride of Louis XIV. and the harshness of Louvois, which, it was thought, were discoverable in “Telemachus.”

Be this as it may, nothing can be a better proof of Aristotle’s good sense and good taste than his having assigned to everything its proper place.

Aristotle on Poetry.

Where, in our modern nations, shall we find a natural philosopher, a geometrician, a metaphysician, or even a moralist who has spoken well on the subject of poetry? They teem with the names of Homer, Virgil, Sophocles, Ariosto, Tasso, and so many others who have charmed the world by the harmonious productions of their genius, but they feel not their beauties; or if they feel them they would annihilate them.

How ridiculous is it in Pascal to say: “As we say poetical beauty, we should likewise say geometrical beauty, and medicinal beauty. Yet we do not say so, and the reason is that we well know what is the object of geometry, and what is the object of medicine, but we do not know in what the peculiar charm—which is the object of poetry—consists. We know not what that natural model is which must be imitated; and for want of this knowledge we have invented certain fantastic terms, as age of gold, wonder of the age, fatal wreath, fair star, etc. And this jargon we call poetic beauty.”

The pitifulness of this passage is sufficiently obvious. We know that there is nothing beautiful in a medicine, nor in the properties of a triangle; and that we apply the term “beautiful” only to that which raises admiration in our minds and gives pleasure to our senses. Thus reasons Aristotle; and Pascal here reasons very ill. Fatal wreath, fair star, have never been poetic beauties. If he wished to know what is poetic beauty, he had only to read.

Nicole wrote against the stage, about which he had not a single idea; and was seconded by one Dubois, who was as ignorant of the belles lettres as himself.

Even Montesquieu, in his amusing “Persian Letters,” has the petty vanity to think that Homer and Virgil are nothing in comparison with one who imitates with spirit and success Dufrénoy’s “Siamois,” and fills his book with bold assertions, without which it would not have been read. “What,” says he, “are epic poems? I know them not. I despise the lyric as much as I esteem the tragic poets.” He should not, however, have despised Pindar and Horace quite so much. Aristotle did not despise Pindar.

Descartes did, it is true, write for Queen Christina a little divertissement in verse, which was quite worthy of his matière cannelée.

Malebranche could not distinguish Corneille’s Qu’il mourût” from a line of Jodèle’s or Garnier’s.

What a man, then, was Aristotle, who traced the rules of tragedy with the same hand with which he had laid down those of dialectics, of morals, of politics, and lifted, as far as he found it possible, the great veil of nature!

To his fourth chapter on poetry Boileau is indebted for these fine lines:

Il n’est point de serpent, ni de monstre odieux

Qui, par l’art imité, ne puisse plaire aux yeux.

D’un pinceau délicat l’artifice agréable

Du plus affreux object fait un objet aimable;

Ainsi, pour nous charmer, la tragédie eut pleurs

D’Œdipe tout-sanglant fit parler les douleurs.

Each horrid shape, each object of affright,

Nice imitation teaches to delight;

So does the skilful painter’s pleasing art

Attractions to the darkest form impart;

So does the tragic Muse, dissolved in tears,

With tales of woe and sorrow charm our ears.

Aristotle says: “Imitation and harmony have produced poetry. We see terrible animals, dead or dying men, in a picture, with pleasure—objects which in nature would inspire us only with fear and sorrow. The better they are imitated the more complete is our satisfaction.”

This fourth chapter of Aristotle’s reappears almost entire in Horace and Boileau. The laws which he gives in the following chapters are at this day those of our good writers, excepting only what relates to the choruses and music. His idea that tragedy was instituted to purify the passions has been warmly combated; but if he meant, as I believe he did, that an incestuous love might be subdued by witnessing the misfortune of Phædra, or anger be repressed by beholding the melancholy example of Ajax, there is no longer any difficulty.

This philosopher expressly commands that there be always the heroic in tragedy and the ridiculous in comedy. This is a rule from which it is, perhaps, now becoming too customary to depart.


It is worthy of consideration that there have been and still are, upon the earth societies without armies. The Brahmins, who long governed nearly all the great Indian Chersonesus; the primitives, called Quakers, who governed Pennsylvania; some American tribes, some in the centre of Africa, the Samoyeds, the Laplanders, the Kamchadales, have never marched with colors flying to destroy their neighbors.

The Brahmins were the most considerable of all these pacific nations; their caste, which is so ancient, which is still existing, and compared with which all other institutions are quite recent, is a prodigy which cannot be sufficiently admired. Their religion and their policy always concurred in abstaining from the shedding of blood, even of that of the meanest animal. Where such is the régime, subjugation is easy; they have been subjugated, but have not changed.

The Pennsylvanians never had an army; they always held war in abhorrence.

Several of the American tribes did not know what an army was until the Spaniards came to exterminate them all. The people on the borders of the Icy Sea are ignorant alike of armies, of the god of armies, of battalions, and of squadrons.

Besides these populations, the priests and monks do not bear arms in any country—at least when they observe the laws of their institution.

It is only among Christians that there have been religious societies established for the purpose of fighting—as the Knights Templars, the Knights of St. John, the Knights of the Teutonic Order, the Knights Swordbearers. These religious orders were instituted in imitation of the Levites, who fought like the rest of the Jewish tribes.

Neither armies nor arms were the same in antiquity as at present. The Egyptians hardly ever had cavalry. It would have been of little use in a country intersected by canals, inundated during five months of the year, and miry during five more. The inhabitants of a great part of Asia used chariots of war.

They are mentioned in the annals of China. Confucius says that in his time each governor of a province furnished to the emperor a thousand war chariots, each drawn by four horses. The Greeks and Trojans fought in chariots drawn by two horses.

Cavalry and chariots were unknown to the Jews in a mountainous tract, where their first king, when he was elected, had nothing but she-asses. Thirty sons of Jair, princes of thirty cities, according to the text (Judges, x, 4), rode each upon an ass. Saul, afterwards king of Judah, had only she-asses; and the sons of David all fled upon mules when Absalom had slain his brother Amnon. Absalom was mounted on a mule in the battle which he fought against his father’s troops; which proves, according to the Jewish historians, either that mares were beginning to be used in Palestine, or that they were already rich enough there to buy mules from the neighboring country.

The Greeks made but little use of cavalry. It was chiefly with the Macedonian phalanx that Alexander gained the battles which laid Persia at his feet. It was the Roman infantry that subjugated the greater part of the world. At the battle of Pharsalia, Cæsar had but one thousand horsemen.

It is not known at what time the Indians and the Africans first began to march elephants at the head of their armies. We cannot read without surprise of Hannibal’s elephants crossing the Alps, which were much harder to pass then than they are now.

There have long been disputes about the disposition of the Greek and Roman armies, their arms, and their evolutions. Each one has given his plan of the battles of Zama and Pharsalia.

The commentator Calmet, a Benedictine, has printed three great volumes of his “Dictionary of the Bible,” in which, the better to explain God’s commandments, are inserted a hundred engravings, where you see plans of battles and sieges in copperplate. The God of the Jews was the God of armies, but Calmet was not His secretary; he cannot have known, but by revelation, how the armies of the Amalekites, the Moabites, the Syrians, and the Philistines were arranged on the days of general murder. These plates of carnage, designed at a venture, made his book five or six louis dearer, but made it no better.

It is a great question whether the Franks, whom the Jesuit Daniel calls French by anticipation, used bows and arrows in their armies, and whether they had helmets and cuirasses.

Supposing that they went to combat almost naked, and armed, as they are said to have been, with only a small carpenter’s ax, a sword, and a knife, we must infer that the Romans, masters of Gaul, so easily conquered by Clovis, had lost all their ancient valor, and that the Gauls were as willing to be subject to a small number of Franks as to a small number of Romans. Warlike accoutrements have since changed, as everything else changes.

In the days of knights, squires, and varlets, the armed forces of Germany, France, Italy, England, and Spain consisted almost entirely of horsemen, who, as well as their horses, were covered with steel. The infantry performed the functions rather of pioneers than of soldiers. But the English always had good archers among their foot, which contributed, in a great measure, to their gaining almost every battle.

Who would believe that armies nowadays do but make experiments in natural philosophy? A soldier would be much astonished if some learned man were to say to him:

“My friend, you are a better machinist than Archimedes. Five parts of saltpetre, one of sulphur, and one of carbo ligneus have been separately prepared. Your saltpetre dissolved, well filtered, well evaporated, well crystallized, well turned, well dried, has been incorporated with the yellow purified sulphur. These two ingredients, mixed with powdered charcoal, have, by means of a little vinegar, or solution of sal-ammoniac, or urine, formed large balls, which balls have been reduced in pulverem pyrium by a mill. The effect of this mixture is a dilatation, which is nearly as four thousand to unity; and the lead in your barrel exhibits another effect, which is the product of its bulk multiplied by its velocity.

“The first who discovered a part of this mathematical secret was a Benedictine named Roger Bacon. The invention was perfected, in Germany, in the fourteenth century, by another Benedictine named Schwartz. So that you owe to two monks the art of being an excellent murderer, when you aim well, and your powder is good.

“Du Cange has in vain pretended that, in 1338, the registers of the Chambre des Comptes, at Paris, mention a bill paid for gunpowder. Do not believe it. It was artillery which is there spoken of—a name attached to ancient as well as to modern warlike machines.

“Gunpowder entirely superseded the Greek fire, of which the Moors still made use. In fine, you are the depositary of an art, which not only imitates the thunder, but is also much more terrible.”

There is, however, nothing but truth in this speech. Two monks have, in reality, changed the face of the earth.

Before cannon were known, the northern nations had subjugated nearly the whole hemisphere, and could come again, like famishing wolves, to seize upon the lands as their ancestors had done.

In all armies, the victory, and consequently the fate of kingdoms, was decided by bodily strength and agility—a sort of sanguinary fury—a desperate struggle, man to man. Intrepid men took towns by scaling their walls. During the decline of the Roman Empire there was hardly more discipline in the armies of the North than among carnivorous beasts rushing on their prey.

Now a single frontier fortress would suffice to stop the armies of Genghis or Attila. It is not long since a victorious army of Russians were unavailably consumed before Cüstrin, which is nothing more than a little fortress in a marsh.

In battle, the weakest in body may, with well-directed artillery, prevail against the stoutest. At the battle of Fontenoy a few cannon were sufficient to compel the retreat of the whole English column, though it had been master of the field.

The combatants no longer close. The soldier has no longer that ardor, that impetuosity, which is redoubled in the heat of action, when the fight is hand to hand. Strength, skill, and even the temper of the weapons, are useless. Rarely is a charge with the bayonet made in the course of a war, though the bayonet is the most terrible of weapons.

In a plain, frequently surrounded by redoubts furnished with heavy artillery, two armies advance in silence, each division taking with it flying artillery. The first lines fire at one another and after one another: they are victims presented in turn to the bullets. Squadrons at the wings are often exposed to a cannonading while waiting for the general’s orders. They who first tire of this manœuvre, which gives no scope for the display of impetuous bravery, disperse and quit the field; and are rallied, if possible, a few miles off. The victorious enemies besiege a town, which sometimes costs them more men, money, and time than they would have lost by several battles. The progress made is rarely rapid; and at the end of five or six years, both sides, being equally exhausted, are compelled to make peace.

Thus, at all events, the invention of artillery and the new mode of warfare have established among the respective powers an equality which secures mankind from devastations like those of former times, and thereby renders war less fatal in its consequences, though it is still prodigiously so.

The Greeks in all ages, the Romans in the time of Sulla, and the other nations of the west and south, had no standing army; every citizen was a soldier, and enrolled himself in time of war. It is, at this day, precisely the same in Switzerland. Go through the whole country, and you will not find a battalion, except at the time of the reviews. If it goes to war, you all at once see eighty thousand men in arms.

Those who usurped the supreme power after Sulla always had a permanent force, paid with the money of the citizens, to keep the citizens in subjection, much more than to subjugate other nations. The bishop of Rome himself keeps a small army in his pay. Who, in the time of the apostles, would have said that the servant of the servants of God should have regiments, and have them in Rome?

Nothing is so much feared in England as a great standing army. The janissaries have raised the sultans to greatness, but they have also strangled them. The sultans would have avoided the rope, if instead of these large bodies of troops, they had established small ones.


This article may serve to show how much the most learned men may be deceived, and to develop some useful truths. In the “Dictionnaire Encyclopédique,” there is the following passage concerning Arot and Marot:

“These are the names of two angels, who, the impostor Mahomet said, had been sent from God to teach man, and to order him to abstain from murder, false judgments, and excesses of every kind. This false prophet adds that a very beautiful woman, having invited these two angels to her table, made them drink wine, with which being heated, they solicited her as lovers; that she feigned to yield to their passion, provided they would first teach her the words by pronouncing which they said it was easy to ascend to heaven; that having obtained from them what she asked, she would not keep her promise; and that she was then taken up into heaven, where, having related to God what had passed, she was changed into the morning star called Lucifer or Aurora, and the angels were severely punished. Hence it was, according to Mahomet, that God took occasion to forbid wine to men.”

It would be in vain to seek in the Koran for a single word of this absurd story and pretended reason for Mahomet’s forbidding his followers the use of wine. He forbids it only in the second and fifth chapters.

“They will question thee about wine and strong liquors: thou shalt answer, that it is a great sin. The just, who believe and do good works, must not be reproached with having drunk, and played at games of chance, before games of chance were forbidden.”

It is averred by all the Mahometans that their prophet forbade wine and liquors solely to preserve their health and prevent quarrels, in the burning climate of Arabia. The use of any fermented liquor soon affects the head, and may destroy both health and reason.

The fable of Arot and Marot descending from heaven, and wanting to lie with an Arab woman, after drinking wine with her, is not in any Mahometan author. It is to be found only among the impostures which various Christian writers, more indiscreet than enlightened, have printed against the Mussulman religion, through a zeal which is not according to knowledge. The names of Arot and Marot are in no part of the Koran. It is one Sylburgius who says, in an old book which nobody reads, that he anathematizes the angels Arot, Marot, Safah, and Merwah.

Observe, kind reader, that Safah and Merwah are two little hills near Mecca; so that our learned Sylburgius has taken two hills for two angels. Thus it was with every writer on Mahometanism among us, almost without exception, until the intelligent Reland gave us clear ideas of the Mussulman belief, and the learned Sale, after living twenty-four years in and about Arabia, at length enlightened us by his faithful translation of the Koran, and his most instructive preface.

Gagnier himself, notwithstanding his Arabic professorship at Oxford, has been pleased to put forth a few falsehoods concerning Mahomet, as if we had need of lies to maintain the truth of our religion against a false prophet. He gives us at full length Mahomet’s journey through the seven heavens on the mare Alborac, and even ventures to cite the fifty-third sura or chapter; but neither in this fifty-third sura, nor in any other, is there so much as an allusion to this pretended journey through the heavens.

This strange story is related by Abulfeda, seven hundred years after Mahomet. It is taken, he says, from ancient manuscripts which were current in Mahomet’s time. But it is evident that they were not Mahomet’s; for, after his death, Abubeker gathered together all the leaves of the Koran, in the presence of all the chiefs of tribes, and nothing was inserted in the collection that did not appear to be authentic.

Besides, the chapter concerning the journey to heaven, not only is not in the Koran, but is in a very different style, and is at least four times as long as any of the received chapters. Compare all the other chapters of the Koran with this, and you will find a prodigious difference. It begins thus:

“One night, I fell asleep between the two hills of Safah and Merwah. That night was very dark, but so still that the dogs were not heard to bark, nor the cocks to crow. All at once, the angel Gabriel appeared before me in the form in which the Most High God created him. His skin was white as snow. His fair hair, admirably disposed, fell in ringlets over his shoulders; his forehead was clear, majestic, and serene, his teeth beautiful and shining, and his legs of a saffron hue; his garments were glittering with pearls, and with thread of pure gold. On his forehead was a plate of gold, on which were written two lines, brilliant and dazzling with light; in the first were these words, ‘There is no God but God’; and in the second these, ‘Mahomet is God’s Apostle.’ On beholding this, I remained the most astonished and confused of men. I observed about him seventy thousand little boxes or bags of musk and saffron. He had five hundred pairs of wings; and the distance from one wing to another was five hundred years’ journey.

“Thus did Gabriel appear before me. He touched me, and said, ‘Arise, thou sleeper!’ I was seized with fear and trembling, and starting up, said to him, ‘Who art thou?’ He answered, ‘God have mercy upon thee! I am thy brother Gabriel.’ ‘O my dearly beloved Gabriel,’ said I, ‘I ask thy pardon; is it a revelation of something new, or is it some afflicting threat that thou bringest me?’ ‘It is something new,’ returned he; ‘rise, my dearly beloved, and tie thy mantle over thy shoulders; thou wilt have need of it, for thou must this night pay a visit to thy Lord.’ So saying, Gabriel, taking my hand, raised me from the ground, and having mounted me on the mare Alborac, led her himself by the bridle.”

In fine, it is averred by the Mussulmans that this chapter, which has no authenticity, was imagined by Abu-Horaïrah, who is said to have been contemporary with the prophet. What should we say of a Turk who should come and insult our religion by telling us that we reckon among our sacred books the letters of St. Paul to Seneca, and Seneca’s letters to St. Paul; the acts of Pilate; the life of Pilate’s wife; the letters of the pretended King Abgarus to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ’s answer to the same; the story of St. Peter’s challenge to Simon the magician; the predictions of the sibyls; the testament of the twelve patriarchs; and so many other books of the same kind?

We should answer the Turk by saying that he was very ill informed and that not one of these works was regarded as authentic. The Turk will make the same answer to us, when to confound him we reproach him with Mahomet’s journey to the seven heavens. He will tell us that this is nothing more than a pious fraud of latter times, and that this journey is not in the Koran. Assuredly I am not here comparing truth with error—Christianity with Mahometanism—the Gospel with the Koran; but false tradition with false tradition—abuse with abuse—absurdity with absurdity.

This absurdity has been carried to such a length that Grotius charges Mahomet with having said that God’s hands are cold, for he has felt them; that God is carried about in a chair; and that, in Noah’s ark, the rat was produced from the elephant’s dung, and the cat from the lion’s breath.

Grotius reproaches Mahomet with having imagined that Jesus Christ was taken up into heaven instead of suffering execution. He forgets that there were entire heretical communions of primitive Christians who spread this opinion, which was preserved in Syria and Arabia until Mahomet’s time.

How many times has it been repeated that Mahomet had accustomed a pigeon to eat grain out of his ear, and made his followers believe that this pigeon brought him messages from God?

Is it not enough for us that we are persuaded of the falseness of his sect, and invincibly convinced by faith of the truth of our own, without losing our time in calumniating the Mahometans, who have established themselves from Mount Caucasus to Mount Atlas, and from the confines of Epirus to the extremities of India? We are incessantly writing bad books against them, of which they know nothing. We cry out that their religion has been embraced by so many nations only because it flatters the senses. But where is the sensuality in ordering abstinence from the wine and liquors in which we indulge to such excess; in pronouncing to every one an indispensable command to give to the poor each year two and a half per cent. of his income, to fast with the greatest rigor, to undergo a painful operation in the earliest stage of puberty, to make, over arid sands a pilgrimage of sometimes five hundred leagues, and to pray to God five times a day, even when in the field?

But, say you, they are allowed four wives in this world, and in the next they will have celestial brides. Grotius expressly says: “It must have required a great share of stupidity to admit reveries so gross and disgusting.”

We agree with Grotius that the Mahometans have been prodigal of reveries. The man who was constantly receiving the chapters of his Koran from the angel Gabriel was worse than a visionary; he was an impostor, who supported his seductions by his courage; but certainly there is nothing either stupid or sensual in reducing to four the unlimited number of wives whom the princes, the satraps, the nabobs, and the omrahs of the East kept in their seraglios. It is said that Solomon had three hundred wives and seven hundred concubines. The Arabs, like the Jews, were at liberty to marry two sisters; Mahomet was the first who forbade these marriages. Where, then, is the grossness?

And with regard to the celestial brides, where is the impurity? Certes, there is nothing impure in marriage, which is acknowledged to have been ordained on earth, and blessed by God Himself. The incomprehensible mystery of generation is the seal of the Eternal Being. It is the clearest mark of His power that He has created pleasure, and through that very pleasure perpetuated all sensible beings.

If we consult our reason alone it will tell us that it is very likely that the Eternal Being, who does nothing in vain, will not cause us to rise again with our organs to no purpose. It will not be unworthy of the Divine Majesty to feed us with delicious fruits if he cause us to rise again with stomachs to receive them. The Holy Scriptures inform us that, in the beginning, God placed the first man and the first woman in a paradise of delights. They were then in a state of innocence and glory, incapable of experiencing disease or death. This is nearly the state in which the just will be when, after their resurrection, they shall be for all eternity what our first parents were for a few days. Those, then, must be pardoned, who have thought that, having a body, that body will be constantly satisfied. Our fathers of the Church had no other idea of the heavenly Jerusalem. St. Irenæus says, “There each vine shall bear ten thousand branches, each branch ten thousand clusters, and each cluster ten thousand grapes.”

Several fathers of the Church have, indeed, thought that the blessed in heaven would enjoy all their senses. St. Thomas says that the sense of seeing will be infinitely perfect; that the elements will be so too; that the surface of the earth will be transparent as glass, the water like crystal, the air like the heavens, and the fire like the stars. St. Augustine, in his “Christian Doctrine,” says that the sense of hearing will enjoy the pleasures of singing and of speech.

One of our great Italian theologians, named Piazza, in his “Dissertation on Paradise,” informs us that the elect will forever sing and play the guitar: “They will have,” says he, “three nobilities—three advantages, viz.: desire without excitement, caresses without wantonness, and voluptuousness without excess”—“tres nobilitates; illecebra sine titillatione, blanditia sine mollitudine, et voluptas sine exuberantia.”

St. Thomas assures us that the smell of the glorified bodies will be perfect, and will not be diminished by perspiration. “Corporibus gloriosi serit odor ultima perfectione, nullo modo per humidum repressus.” This question has been profoundly treated by a great many other doctors.

Suarez, in his “Wisdom,” thus expresses himself concerning taste: “It is not difficult for God purposely to make some rapid humor act on the organ of taste.” “Non est Deo difficile facere ut sapidus humor sit intra organum gustus, qui sensum illum intentionaliter afficere.”

And, to conclude, St. Prosper, recapitulating the whole, pronounces that the blessed shall find gratification without satiety, and enjoy health without disease. “Saturitas sine fastidio, et tota sanitas sine morbo.”

It is not then so much to be wondered at that the Mahometans have admitted the use of the five senses in their paradise. They say that the first beatitude will be the union with God; but this does not exclude the rest. Mahomet’s paradise is a fable; but once more be it observed, there is in it neither contradiction nor impurity.

Philosophy requires clear and precise ideas, which Grotius had not. He quotes a great deal, and makes a show of reasoning which will not bear a close examination. The unjust imputations cast on the Mahometans would suffice to make a very large book. They have subjugated one of the largest and most beautiful countries upon earth; to drive them from it would have been a finer exploit than to abuse them.

The empress of Russia supplies a great example. She takes from them Azov and Tangarok, Moldavia, Wallachia, and Georgia; she pushes her conquests to the ramparts of Erzerum; she sends against them fleets from the remotest parts of the Baltic, and others covering the Euxine; but she does not say in her manifestos that a pigeon whispered in Mahomet’s ear.


A man of almost universal learning—a man even of genius, who joins philosophy with imagination, uses, in his excellent article “Encyclopedia,” these remarkable words: “If we except this Perrault, and some others, whose merits the versifier Boileau was not capable of appreciating.”

This philosopher is right in doing justice to Claude Perrault, the learned translator of Vitruvius, a man useful in more arts than one, and to whom we are indebted for the fine front of the Louvre and for other great monuments; but justice should also be rendered to Boileau. Had he been only a versifier, he would scarcely have been known; he would not have been one of the few great men who will hand down the age of Louis XIV. to posterity. His tart satires, his fine epistles, and above all, his art of poetry, are masterpieces of reasoning as well as poetry—“sapere est principium et fons.” The art of versifying is, indeed, prodigiously difficult, especially in our language, where alexandrines follow one another two by two; where it is rare to avoid monotony; where it is absolutely necessary to rhyme; where noble and pleasing rhymes are too limited in number; and where a word out of its place, or a harsh syllable, is sufficient to spoil a happy thought. It is like dancing in fetters on a rope; the greatest success is of itself nothing.

Boileau’s art of poetry is to be admired, because he always says true and useful things in a pleasing manner, because he always gives both precept and example, and because he is varied, passing with perfect ease, and without ever failing in purity of language, “From grave to gay, from lively to severe.”

His reputation among men of taste is proved by the fact that his verses are known by heart; and to philosophers it must be pleasing to find that he is almost always in the right.

As we have spoken of the preference which may sometimes be given to the moderns over the ancients, we will here venture to presume that Boileau’s art of poetry is superior to that of Horace. Method is certainly a beauty in a didactic poem; and Horace has no method. We do not mention this as a reproach; for his poem is a familiar epistle to the Pisos, and not a regular work like the “Georgics”: but there is this additional merit in Boileau, a merit for which philosophers should give him credit.

The Latin art of poetry does not seem nearly so finely labored as the French. Horace expresses himself, almost throughout, in the free and familiar tone of his other epistles. He displays an extreme clearness of understanding and a refined taste, in verses which are happy and spirited, but often without connection, and sometimes destitute of harmony; he has not the elegance and correctness of Virgil. His work is good, but Boileau’s appears to be still better: and, if we except the tragedies of Racine, which have the superior merit of treating the passions and surmounting all the difficulties of the stage, Despréaux’s “Art of Poetry” is, indisputably, the poem that does most honor to the French language.

It is lamentable when philosophers are enemies to poetry. Literature should be like the house of Mæcenas—“est locus unicuique suus.” The author of the “Persian Letters”—so easy to write and among which some are very pretty, others very bold, others indifferent, and others frivolous—this author, I say, though otherwise much to be recommended, yet having never been able to make verses, although he possesses imagination and often superiority of style, makes himself amends by saying that “contempt is heaped upon poetry,” that “lyric poetry is harmonious extravagance.” Thus do men often seek to depreciate the talents which they cannot attain.

“We cannot reach it,” says Montaigne; “let us revenge ourselves by speaking ill of it.” But Montaigne, Montesquieu’s predecessor and master in imagination and philosophy, thought very differently of poetry.

Had Montesquieu been as just as he was witty, he could not but have felt that several of our fine odes and good operas are worth infinitely more than the pleasantries of Rica to Usbeck, imitated from Dufrénoy’s “Siamois,” and the details of what passed in Usbeck’s seraglio at Ispahan.

We shall speak more fully of this too frequent injustice, in the article on “Criticism.”


Sire: The small society of amateurs, a part of whom are laboring at these rhapsodies at Mount Krapak, will say nothing to your majesty on the art of war. It is heroic, or—it may be—an abominable art. If there were anything fine in it, we would tell your majesty, without fear of contradiction, that you are the finest man in Europe.

You know, sire, the four ages of the arts. Almost everything sprung up and was brought to perfection under Louis XIV.; after which many of these arts, banished from France, went to embellish and enrich the rest of Europe, at the fatal period of the destruction of the celebrated edict of Henry IV.—pronounced irrevocable, yet so easily revoked. Thus, the greatest injury which Louis XIV. could do to himself did good to other princes against his will: this is proved by what you have said in your history of Brandenburg.

If that monarch were known only from his banishment of six or seven hundred thousand useful citizens—from his irruption into Holland, whence he was soon forced to retreat—from his greatness, which stayed him at the bank, while his troops were swimming across the Rhine; if there were no other monuments of his glory than the prologues to his operas, followed by the battle of Hochstet, his person and his reign would go down to posterity with but little éclat. But the encouragement of all the fine arts by his taste and munificence; the conferring of so many benefits on the literary men of other countries; the rise of his kingdom’s commerce at his voice; the establishment of so many manufactories; the building of so many fine citadels; the construction of so many admirable ports; the union of the two seas by immense labor, etc., still oblige Europe to regard Louis XIV. and his age with respect.

And, above all, those great men, unique in every branch of art and science, whom nature then produced at one time, will render his reign eternally memorable. The age was greater than Louis XIV., but it shed its glory upon him.

Emulation in art has changed the face of the continent, from the Pyrenees to the icy sea. There is hardly a prince in Germany who has not made useful and glorious establishments.

What have the Turks done for glory? Nothing. They have ravaged three empires and twenty kingdoms; but any one city of ancient Greece will always have a greater reputation than all the Ottoman cities together.

See what has been done in the course of a few years at St. Petersburg, which was a bog at the beginning of the seventeenth century. All the arts are there assembled, while in the country of Orpheus, Linus, and Homer, they are annihilated.

That the Recent Birth of the Arts does not Prove the Recent Formation of the Globe.

All philosophers have thought matter eternal; but the arts appear to be new. Even the art of making bread is of recent origin. The first Romans ate boiled grain; those conquerors of so many nations had neither windmills nor watermills. This truth seems, at first sight, to controvert the doctrine of the antiquity of the globe as it now is, or to suppose terrible revolutions in it. Irruptions of barbarians can hardly annihilate arts which have become necessary. Suppose that an army of negroes were to come upon us, like locusts, from the mountains of southern Africa, through Monomotapa, Monoëmugi, etc., traversing Abyssinia, Nubia, Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor, and all Europe, ravaging and overturning everything in its way; there would still be a few bakers, tailors, shoemakers, and carpenters left; the necessary arts would revive; luxury alone would be annihilated. Such was the case at the fall of the Roman Empire; even the art of writing became very rare; nearly all those arts which contributed to render life agreeable were for a long time extinct. Now, we are inventing new ones every day.

From all this, no well-grounded inference can be drawn against the antiquity of the globe. For, supposing that a flood of barbarians had entirely swept away the arts of writing and making bread; supposing even that we had had bread, or pens, ink, and paper, only for ten years—the country which could exist for ten years without eating bread or writing down its thoughts could exist for an age, or a hundred thousand ages, without these helps.

It is quite clear that man and the other animals can very well subsist without bakers, without romance-writers, and without divines, as witness America, and as witness also three-fourths of our own continent. The recent birth of the arts among us does not prove the recent formation of the globe, as was pretended by Epicurus, one of our predecessors in reverie, who supposed that, by chance, the declination of atoms one day formed our earth. Pomponatius used to say: “Se il mondo non é eterno, per tutti santi é molto vecchio”—“If this world be not eternal, by all the saints, it is very old.”

Slight Inconveniences Attached to the Arts.

Those who handle lead and quicksilver are subject to dangerous colics, and very serious affections of the nerves. Those who use pen and ink are attacked by vermin, which they have continually to shake off; these vermin are some ex-Jesuits, who employ themselves in manufacturing libels. You, Sire, do not know this race of animals; they are driven from your states, as well as from those of the empress of Russia, the king of Sweden, and the king of Denmark, my other protectors. The ex-Jesuits Polian and Nonotte, who like me cultivate the fine arts, persecute me even unto Mount Krapak, crushing me under the weight of their reputation, and that of their genius, the specific gravity of which is still greater. Unless your majesty vouchsafe to assist me against these great men, I am undone.


No one at all versed in antiquity is ignorant that the Jews knew nothing of the angels but what they gleaned from the Persians and Chaldæans, during captivity. It was they, who, according to Calmet, taught them that there are seven principal angels before the throne of the Lord. They also taught them the names of the devils. He whom we call Asmodeus, was named Hashmodaï or Chammadaï. “We know,” says Calmet, “that there are various sorts of devils, some of them princes and masterdemons, the rest subalterns.”

How was it that this Hashmodaï was sufficiently powerful to twist the necks of seven young men who successively espoused the beautiful Sarah, a native of Rages, fifteen leagues from Ecbatana? The Medes must have been seven times as great as the Persians. The good principle gives a husband to this maiden; and behold! the bad principle, this king of demons, Hashmodaï, destroys the work of the beneficent principle seven times in succession.

But Sarah was a Jewess, daughter of the Jew Raguel, and a captive in the country of Ecbatana. How could a Median demon have such power over Jewish bodies? It has been thought that Asmodeus or Chammadaï was a Jew likewise; that he was the old serpent which had seduced Eve; and that he was passionately fond of women, sometimes seducing them, and sometimes killing their husbands through an excess of love and jealousy.

Indeed the Greek version of the Book of Tobit gives us to understand that Asmodeus was in love with Sarah—“oti daimonion philei autein.” It was the opinion of all the learned of antiquity that the genii, whether good or evil, had a great inclination for our virgins, and the fairies for our youths. Even the Scriptures, accommodating themselves to our weakness, and condescending to speak in the language of the vulgar, say, figuratively, that “the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.”

But the angel Raphael, the conductor of young Tobit, gives him a reason more worthy of his ministry, and better calculated to enlighten the person whom he is guiding. He tells him that Sarah’s seven husbands were given up to the cruelty of Asmodeus, only because, like horses or mules, they had married her for their pleasure alone. “Her husband,” says the angel, “must observe continence with her for three days, during which time they must pray to God together.”

This instruction would seem to have been quite sufficient to keep off Asmodeus; but Raphael adds that it is also necessary to have the heart of a fish grilled over burning coals. Why, then, was not this infallible secret afterwards resorted to in order to drive the devil from the bodies of women? Why did the apostles, who were sent on purpose to cast out devils never lay a fish’s heart upon the gridiron? Why was not this expedient made use of in the affair of Martha Brossier; that of the nuns of Loudun; that of the mistresses of Urban Gandier; that of La Cadiére; that of Father Girard; and those of a thousand other demoniacs in the times when there were demoniacs?

The Greeks and Romans, who had so many philters wherewith to make themselves beloved, had others to cure love; they employed herbs and roots. The agnus castus had great reputation. The moderns have administered it to young nuns, on whom it has had but little effect. Apollo, long ago, complained to Daphne that, physician as he was, he had never yet met with a simple that would cure love:

Heu mihi! quod nullis amor est medicabilis herbis.

What balm can heal the wounds that love has made?

The smoke of sulphur was tried; but Ovid, who was a great master, declares that this recipe was useless:

Nec fugiat viro sulphure victus amor.

Sulphur—believe me—drives not love away.

The smoke from the heart or liver of a fish was more efficacious against Asmodeus. The reverend father Calmet is consequently in great trouble, being unable to comprehend how this fumigation could act upon a pure spirit. But he might have taken courage from the recollection that all the ancients gave bodies to the angels and demons. They were very slender bodies; as light as the small particles that rise from a broiled fish; they were like smoke; and the smoke from a fried fish acted upon them by sympathy.

Not only did Asmodeus flee, but Gabriel went and chained him in Upper Egypt, where he still is. He dwells in a grotto near the city of Saata or Taata. Paul Lucas saw and spoke to him. They cut this serpent in pieces, and the pieces immediately joined again. To this fact Calmet cites the testimony of Paul Lucas, which testimony I must also cite. It is thought that Paul Lucas’s theory may be joined with that of the vampires, in the next compilation of the Abbé Guyon.


Asphaltus is a Chaldæan word, signifying a species of bitumen. There is a great deal of it in the countries watered by the Euphrates; it is also to be found in Europe, but of a bad quality. An experiment was made by covering the tops of the watch-houses on each side of one of the gates of Geneva; the covering did not last a year, and the mine has been abandoned. However, when mixed with rosin, it may be used for lining cisterns; perhaps it will some day be applied to a more useful purpose.

The real asphaltus is that which was obtained in the vicinity of Babylon, and with which it is said that the Greek fire was fed. Several lakes are full of asphaltus, or a bitumen resembling it, as others are strongly impregnated with nitre. There is a great lake of nitre in the desert of Egypt, which extends from lake Mœris to the entrance of the Delta; and it has no other name than the Nitre Lake.

The Lake Asphaltites, known by the name of Sodom, was long famed for its bitumen; but the Turks now make no use of it, either because the mine under the water is diminished, because its quality is altered, or because there is too much difficulty in drawing it from under the water. Oily particles of it, and sometimes large masses, separate and float on the surface; these are gathered together, mixed up, and sold for balm of Mecca.

Flavius Josephus, who was of that country, says that, in his time, there were no fish in the lake of Sodom, and the water was so light that the heaviest bodies would not go to the bottom. It seems that he meant to say so heavy instead of so light. It would appear that he had not made the experiment. After all, a stagnant water, impregnated with salts and compact matter, its specific matter being then greater than that of the body of a man or a beast, might force it to float. Josephus’s error consists in assigning a false cause to a phenomenon which may be perfectly true.

As for the want of fish, it is not incredible. It is, however, likely that this lake, which is fifty or sixty miles long, is not all asphaltic, and that while receiving the waters of the Jordan it also receives the fishes of that river; but perhaps the Jordan, too, is without fish, and they are to be found only in the upper lake of Tiberias.

Josephus adds, that the trees which grow on the borders of the Dead Sea bear fruits of the most beautiful appearance, but which fall into dust if you attempt to taste them. This is less probable; and disposes one to believe that Josephus either had not been on the spot, or has exaggerated according to his own and his countrymen’s custom. No soil seems more calculated to produce good as well as beautiful fruits than a salt and sulphurous one, like that of Naples, of Catania, and of Sodom.

The Holy Scriptures speak of five cities being destroyed by fire from heaven. On this occasion natural philosophy bears testimony in favor of the Old Testament, although the latter has no need of it, and they are sometimes at variance. We have instances of earthquakes, accompanied by thunder and lightning, which have destroyed much more considerable towns than Sodom and Gomorrah.

But the River Jordan necessarily discharging itself into this lake without an outlet, this Dead Sea, in the same manner as the Caspian, must have existed as long as there has been a River Jordan; therefore, these towns could never stand on the spot now occupied by the lake of Sodom. The Scripture, too, says nothing at all about this ground being changed into a lake; it says quite the contrary: “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire, from the Lord out of heaven. And Abraham got up early in the morning, and he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld; and lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.”

These five towns, Sodom, Gomorrah, Zeboin, Adamah, and Segor, must then have been situated on the borders of the Dead Sea. How, it will be asked, in a desert so uninhabitable as it now is, where there are to be found only a few hordes of plundering Arabs, could there be five cities, so opulent as to be immersed in luxury, and even in those shameful pleasures which are the last effect of the refinement of the debauchery attached to wealth? It may be answered that the country was then much better.

Other critics will say—how could five towns exist at the extremities of a lake, the water of which, before their destruction, was not potable? The Scripture itself informs us that all this land was asphaltic before the burning of Sodom: “And the vale of Sodom was full of slime-pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled and fell there.

Another objection is also stated. Isaiah and Jeremiah say that Sodom and Gomorrah shall never be rebuilt; but Stephen, the geographer, speaks of Sodom and Gomorrah on the coast of the Dead Sea; and the “History of the Councils” mentions bishops of Sodom and Segor. To this it may be answered that God filled these towns, when rebuilt, with less guilty inhabitants; for at that time there was no bishop in partibus.

But, it will be said, with what water could these new inhabitants quench their thirst? All the wells are brackish; you find asphaltus and corrosive salt on first striking a spade into the ground.

It will be answered that some Arabs still subsist there, and may be habituated to drinking very bad water; that the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Eastern Empire were wretched hamlets, and that at that time there were many bishops whose whole diocese consisted in a poor village. It may also be said that the people who colonized these villages prepared the asphaltus, and carried on a useful trade in it.

The arid and burning desert, extending from Segor to the territory of Jerusalem, produces balm and aromatic herbs for the same reason that it supplies naphtha, corrosive salt and sulphur.

It is said that petrifaction takes place in this desert with astonishing rapidity; and this, according to some natural philosophers, makes the petrifaction of Lot’s wife Edith a very plausible story.

But it is said that this woman, “having looked back, became a pillar of salt.” This, then, was not a natural petrifaction, operated by asphaltus and salt, but an evident miracle. Flavius Josephus says that he saw this pillar. St. Justin and St. Irenæus speak of it as a prodigy, which in their time was still existing.

These testimonies have been looked upon as ridiculous fables. It would, however, be very natural for some Jews to amuse themselves with cutting a heap of asphaltus into a rude figure, and calling it Lot’s wife. I have seen cisterns of asphaltus, very well made, which may last a long time. But it must be owned that St. Irenæus goes a little too far when he says that Lot’s wife remained in the country of Sodom no longer in corruptible flesh, but as a permanent statue of salt, her feminine nature still producing the ordinary effect: “Uxor remansit in Sodomis, jam non caro corruptibilis sed statua salis semper manens, et per naturalia ea quæsunt consuetudmis hominis ostendens.”

St. Irenæus does not seem to express himself with all the precision of a good naturalist when he says Lot’s wife is no longer of corruptible flesh, but stillretains her feminine nature.

In the poem of Sodom, attributed to Tertullian, this is expressed with still greater energy:

Dicitur et vivens alio sub corpore se us,

Mirifice solito dispungere sanguine menses.

This was translated by a poet of the time of Henry II., in his Gallic style:

La femme à Loth, quoique sel devenue,

Est femme encore; car elle a sa menstrue.

The land of aromatics was also the land of fables. Into the deserts of Arabia Petræa the ancient mythologists pretend that Myrrha, the granddaughter of a statue, fled after committing incest with her father, as Lot’s daughters did with theirs, and that she was metamorphosed into the tree that bears myrrh. Other profound mythologists assure us that she fled into Arabia Felix; and this opinion is as well supported as the other.

Be this as it may, not one of our travellers has yet thought fit to examine the soil of Sodom, with its asphaltus, its salt, its trees and their fruits, to weigh the water of the lake, to analyze it, to ascertain whether bodies of greater specific gravity than common water float upon its surface, and to give us a faithful account of the natural history of the country. Our pilgrims to Jerusalem do not care to go and make these researches; this desert has become infested by wandering Arabs, who range as far as Damascus, and retire into the caverns of the mountains, the authority of the pasha of Damascus having hitherto been inadequate to repress them. Thus the curious have but little information about anything concerning the Asphaltic Lake.

As to Sodom, it is a melancholy reflection for the learned that, among so many who may be deemed natives, not one has furnished us with any notion whatever of this capital city.


We will add a little to the article “Ass” in the “Encyclopædia,” concerning Lucian’s ass, which became golden in the hands of Apuleius. The pleasantest part of the adventure, however, is in Lucian: That a lady fell in love with this gentleman while he was an ass, but would have nothing more to say to him when he was but a man. These metamorphoses were very common throughout antiquity. Silenus’s ass had spoken; and the learned had thought that he explained himself in Arabic; for he was probably a man turned into an ass by the power of Bacchus, and Bacchus, we know, was an Arab.

Virgil speaks of the transformation of Mœris into a wolf, as a thing of very ordinary occurrence:

Saepe lupum fieri Mœrim, et se condere silvis.

Oft changed to wolf, he seeks the forest shade.

Was this doctrine of metamorphoses derived from the old fables of Egypt, which gave out that the gods had changed themselves into animals in the war against the giants?

The Greeks, great imitators and improvers of the Oriental fables, metamorphosed almost all the gods into men or into beasts, to make them succeed the better in their amorous designs. If the gods changed themselves into bulls, horses, swans, doves, etc., why should not men have undergone the same operation?

Several commentators, forgetting the respect due to the Holy Scriptures, have cited the example of Nebuchadnezzar changed into an ox; but this was a miracle—a divine vengeance—a thing quite out of the course of nature, which ought not to be examined with profane eyes, and cannot become an object of our researches.

Others of the learned, perhaps with equal indiscretion, avail themselves of what is related in the Gospel of the Infancy. An Egyptian maiden having entered the chamber of some women, saw there a mule with a silken cloth over his back, and an ebony pendant at his neck.

These women were in tears, kissing him and giving him to eat. The mule was their own brother. Some sorceresses had deprived him of the human figure; but the Master of Nature soon restored it.

Although this gospel is apocryphal, the very name that it bears prevents us from examining this adventure in detail; only it may serve to show how much metamorphoses were in vogue almost throughout the earth. The Christians who composed their gospel were undoubtedly honest men. They did not seek to fabricate a romance; they related with simplicity what they had heard. The church, which afterwards rejected their gospel, together with forty-nine others, did not accuse its authority of impiety and prevarication; those obscure individuals addressed the populace in language comformable with the prejudices of the age in which they lived. China was perhaps the only country exempt from these superstitions.

The adventure of the companions of Ulysses, changed into beasts by Circe, was much more ancient than the dogma of the metempsychosis, broached in Greece and Italy by Pythagoras.

On what can the assertion be founded that there is no universal error which is not the abuse of some truth; that there have been quacks only because there have been true physicians; and that false prodigies have been believed only because there have been true ones?

Were there any certain testimonies that men had become wolves, oxen, horses, or asses? This universal error had for its principle only the love of the marvellous and the natural inclination to superstition.

One erroneous opinion is enough to fill the whole world with fables. An Indian doctor sees that animals have feeling and memory. He concludes that they have a soul. Men have one likewise. What becomes of the soul of man after death? What becomes of that of the beast? They must go somewhere. They go into the nearest body that is beginning to be formed. The soul of a Brahmin takes up its abode in the body of an elephant, the soul of an ass is that of a little Brahmin. Such is the dogma of the metempsychosis, which was built upon simple deduction.

But it is a wide step from this dogma to that of metamorphosis. We have no longer a soul without a tenement, seeking a lodging; but one body changed into another, the soul remaining as before. Now, we certainly have not in nature any example of such legerdemain.

Let us then inquire into the origin of so extravagant yet so general an opinion. If some father had characterized his son, sunk in ignorance and filthy debauchery, as a hog, a horse, or an ass, and afterwards made him do penance with an ass’s cap on his head, and some servant girl of the neighborhood gave it out that this young man had been turned into an ass as a punishment for his faults, her neighbors would repeat it to other neighbors, and from mouth to mouth this story, with a thousand embellishments, would make the tour of the world. An ambiguous expression would suffice to deceive the whole earth.

Here then let us confess, with Boileau, that ambiguity has been the parent of most of our ridiculous follies. Add to this the power of magic, which has been acknowledged as indisputable in all nations, and you will no longer be astonished at anything.

One word more on asses. It is said that in Mesopotamia they are warlike and that Mervan, the twenty-first caliph, was surnamed “the Ass,” for his valor.

The patriarch Photius relates, in the extract from the Life of Isidorus, that Ammonius had an ass which had a great taste for poetry, and would leave his manger to go and hear verses. The fable of Midas is better than the tale of Photius.

Machiavelli’s Golden Ass.

Machiavelli’s ass is but little known. The dictionaries which speak of it say that it was a production of his youth; it would seem, however, that he was of mature age; for he speaks in it of the misfortunes which he had formerly and for a long time experienced. The work is a satire on his contemporaries. The author sees a number of Florentines, of whom one is changed into a cat, another into a dragon, a third into a dog that bays the moon, a fourth into a fox who does not suffer himself to be caught; each character is drawn under the name of an animal. The factions of the house of Medicis and their enemies are doubtless figured therein; and the key to this comic apocalypse would admit us to the secrets of Pope Leo and the troubles of Florence. This poem is full of morality and philosophy. It ends with the very rational reflections of a large hog, which addresses man in nearly the following terms:

Ye naked bipeds, without beaks or claws,

Hairless, and featherless, and tender-hided,

Weeping ye come into the world—because

Ye feel your evil destiny decided;

Nature has given you industrious paws;

You, like the parrots, are with speech provided;

But have ye honest hearts?—Alas! alas!

In this we swine your bipedships surpass!

Man is far worse than we—more fierce, more wild—

Coward or madman, sinning every minute;

By frenzy and by fear in turn beguiled,

He dreads the grave, yet plunges headlong in it;

If pigs fall out, they soon are reconciled;

Their quarrel’s ended ere they well begin it.

If crime with manhood always must combine,

Good Lord! let me forever be a swine.

This is the original of Boileau’s “Satire on Man,” and La Fontaine’s fable of the “Companions of Ulysses”; but it is quite likely that neither La Fontaine nor Boileau had ever heard of Machiavelli’s ass.

The Ass of Verona.

I must speak the truth, and not deceive my readers. I do not very clearly know whether the Ass of Verona still exists in all his splendor; but the travellers who saw him forty or fifty years ago agree in saying that the relics were enclosed in the body of an artificial ass made on purpose, which was in the keeping of forty monks of Our Lady of the Organ, at Verona, and was carried in procession twice a year. This was one of the most ancient relics of the town. According to the tradition, this ass, having carried our Lord in his entry into Jerusalem, did not choose to abide any longer in that city, but trotted over the sea—which for that purpose became as hard as his hoof—by way of Cyprus, Rhodes, Candia, Malta, and Sicily. There he went to sojourn at Aquilea; and at last he settled at Verona, where he lived a long while.

This fable originated in the circumstance that most asses have a sort of black cross on their backs. There possibly might be an old ass in the neighborhood of Verona, on whose back the populace remarked a finer cross than his brethren could boast of; some good old woman would be at hand to say that this was the ass on which Christ rode into Jerusalem; and the ass would be honored with a magnificent funeral. The feast established at Verona passed into other countries, and was especially celebrated in France. In the mass was sung:

Orientis partibus

Adventabit asinus,

Pulcher et fortissimus.

There was a long procession, headed by a young woman with a child in her arms, mounted on an ass, representing the Virgin Mary going into Egypt. At the end of the mass the priest, instead of saying Ite missa est, brayed three times with all his might, and the people answered in chorus.

We have books on the feast of the ass, and the feast of fools; they furnish material towards a universal history of the human mind.



A name corrupted from the word Ehissessin. Nothing is more common to those who go into a distant country than to write, repeat, and understand incorrectly in their own language what they have misunderstood in a language entirely foreign to them, and afterwards to deceive their countrymen as well as themselves. Error flies from mouth to mouth, from pen to pen, and to destroy it requires ages.

In the time of the Crusades there was a wretched little people of mountaineers inhabiting the caverns near the road to Damascus. These brigands elected a chief, whom they named Cheik Elchassissin. It is said that this honorific title of cheik originally signified old, as with us the title of seigneur comes from senior, elder, and the word graf, a count, signifies old among the Germans; for, in ancient times almost every people conferred the civil command upon the old men. Afterwards, the command having become hereditary, the title of cheik, graf, seigneur, or count has been given to children; and the Germans call a little master of four years old, the count—that is, the old gentleman.

The Crusaders named the old man of the Arabian mountains, the Old Man of the Hill, and imagined him to be a great prince, because he had caused a count of Montserrat and some other crusading nobles to be robbed and murdered on the highway. These people were called the assassins, and their cheik the king of the vast country of the assassins. This vast territory is five or six leagues long by two or three broad, being part of Anti-Libanus, a horrible country, full of rocks, like almost all Palestine, but intersected by pleasant meadow-lands, which feed numerous flocks, as is attested by all who have made the journey from Aleppo to Damascus.

The cheik or senior of these assassins could be nothing more than a chief of banditti; for there was at that time a sultan of Damascus who was very powerful.

Our romance-writers of that day, as fond of chimeras as the Crusaders, thought proper to relate that in 1236 this great prince of the assassins, fearing that Louis IX., of whom he had never heard, would put himself at the head of a crusade, and come and take from him his territory, sent two great men of his court from the caverns of Anti-Libanus to Paris to assassinate that king; but that having the next day heard how generous and amiable a prince Louis was, he immediately sent out to sea two more great men to countermand the assassination. I say out to sea, for neither the two emissaries sent to kill Louis, nor the two others sent to save him, could make the voyage without embarking at Joppa, which was then in the power of the Crusaders, which rendered the enterprise doubly marvellous. The two first must have found a Crusaders’ vessel ready to convey them in an amicable manner, and the two last must have found another.

However, a hundred authors, one after another, have related this adventure, though Joinville, a contemporary, who was on the spot, says nothing about it—“Et voilà justement comme on écrit l’ histoire.”

The Jesuit Maimbourg, the Jesuit Daniel, twenty other Jesuits, and Mézerai—though he was not a Jesuit—have repeated this absurdity. The Abbé Véli, in his history of France, tells it over again with perfect complaisance, without any discussion, without any examination, and on the word of one William of Nangis, who wrote about sixty years after this fine affair is said to have happened at a time when history was composed from nothing but town talk.

If none but true and useful things were recorded, our immense historical libraries would be reduced to a very narrow compass; but we should know more, and know it better.

For six hundred years the story has been told over and over again, of the Old Man of the Hill—le vieux de la montagne—who, in his delightful gardens, intoxicated his young elect with voluptuous pleasures, made them believe that they were in paradise, and sent them to the ends of the earth to assassinate kings in order to merit an eternal paradise.

Near the Levantine shores there dwelt of old

An aged ruler, feared in every land;

Not that he owned enormous heaps of gold,

Not that vast armies marched at his command,—

But on his people’s minds he things impressed,

Which filled with desperate courage every breast.

The boldest of his subjects first he took,

Of paradise to give them a foretaste—

The paradise his lawgiver had painted;

With every joy the lying prophet’s book

Within his falsely-pictured heaven had placed,

They thought their senses had become acquainted.

And how was this effected? ’Twas by wine—

Of this they drank till every sense gave way,

And, while in drunken lethargy they lay,

Were borne, according to their chief’s design,

To sports of pleasantness—to sunshine glades,

Delightful gardens and inviting shades.

Young tender beauties were abundant there,

In earliest bloom, and exquisitely fair;

These gayly thronged around the sleeping men,

Who, when at length they were awake again,

Wondering to see the beauteous objects round,

Believed that some way they’d already found

Those fields of bliss, in every beauty decked,

The false Mahomet promised his elect.

Acquaintance quickly made, the Turks advance;

The maidens join them in a sprightly dance;

Sweet music charms them as they trip along;

And every feathered warbler adds his song.

The joys that could for every sense suffice,

Were found within this earthly paradise.

Wine, too, was there—and its effects the same;

These people drank, till they could drink no more,

But sinking down as senseless as before,

Were carried to the place from whence they came.

And what resulted from this trickery?

These men believed that they should surely be

Again transported to that place of pleasure,

If, without fear of suffering or of death,

They showed devotion to Mahomet’s faith,

And to their prince obedience without measure.

Thus might their sovereign with reason say,

His subjects were determined to obey,

And that, now his device had made them so,

His was the mightiest empire here below. . . .

All this might be very well in one of La Fontaine’s tales—setting apart the weakness of the verse; and there are a hundred historical anecdotes which could be tolerated there only.


Assassination being, next to poisoning, the crime most cowardly and most deserving of punishment, it is not astonishing that it has found an apologist in a man whose singular reasoning is, in some things, at variance with the reason of the rest of mankind.

In a romance entitled “Emilius,” he imagines that he is the guardian of a young man, to whom he is very careful to give an education such as is received in the military school—teaching him languages, geometry, tactics, fortification, and the history of his country. He does not seek to inspire him with love for his king and his country, but contents himself with making him a joiner. He would have this gentleman-joiner, when he has received a blow or a challenge, instead of returning it and fighting, “prudently assassinate the man.” Molière does, it is true, say jestingly, in “L’Amour Peintre,” “assassination is the safest”; but the author of this romance asserts that it is the most just and reasonable. He says this very seriously, and, in the immensity of his paradoxes, this is one of the three or four things which he first says. The same spirit of wisdom and decency which makes him declare that a preceptor should often accompany his pupil to a place of prostitution, makes him decide that this disciple should be an assassin. So that the education which Jean Jacques would give to a young man consists in teaching him how to handle the plane, and in fitting him for salivation and the rope.

We doubt whether fathers of families will be eager to give such preceptors to their children. It seems to us that the romance of Emilius departs rather too much from the maxims of Mentor in “Telemachus”; but it must also be acknowledged that our age has in all things very much varied from the great age of Louis XIV.

Happily, none of these horrible infatuations are to be found in the “Encyclopædia.” It often displays a philosophy seemingly bold, but never that atrocious and extravagant babbling which two or three fools have called philosophy, and two or three ladies, eloquence.


Astrology might rest on a better foundation than magic. For if no one has seen farfadets, or lemures, or dives, or peris, or demons, or cacodemons, the predictions of astrologers have often been found true. Let two astrologers be consulted on the life of an infant, and on the weather; if one of them say that the child shall live to the age of man, the other that he shall not; if one foretell rain and the other fair weather, it is quite clear that there will be a prophet.

The great misfortune of astrologers is that the heavens have changed since the rules of the art were laid down. The sun, which at the equinox was in the Ram in the time of the Argonauts, is now in the Bull; and astrologers, most unfortunately for their art, now attribute to one house of the sun that which visibly belongs to another. Still, this is not a demonstrative argument against astrology. The masters of the art are mistaken; but it is not proved that the art cannot exist.

There would be no absurdity in saying, “Such a child was born during the moon’s increase, in a stormy season, at the rising of a certain star; its constitution was bad, and its life short and miserable, which is the ordinary lot of weak temperaments; another, on the contrary, was born when the moon was at the full, and the sun in all his power, in calm weather, at the rising of another particular star; his constitution was good, and his life long and happy.” If such observations had been frequently repeated, and found just, experience might, at the end of a few thousand centuries, have formed an art which it would have been difficult to call in question; it would have been thought, not without some appearance of truth, that men are like trees and vegetables, which must be planted only in certain seasons. It would have been of no service against the astrologers to say, “My son was born in fine weather, yet he died in his cradle.” The astrologer would have answered, “It often happens that trees planted in the proper season perish prematurely; I will answer for the stars, but not for the particular conformation which you communicated to your child; astrology operates only when there is no cause opposed to the good which they have power to work.”

Nor would astrology have suffered any more discredit from it being said: “Of two children who were born in the same minute, one became a king, the other nothing more than churchwarden of his parish;” for a defence would easily have been made by showing that the peasant made his fortune in becoming churchwarden, just as much as the prince did in becoming king.

And if it were alleged that a bandit, hung up by order of Sixtus the Fifth, was born at the same time as Sixtus, who, from being a swineherd, became pope, the astrologers would say that there was a mistake of a few seconds, and that, according to the rules, the same star could not bestow the tiara and the gallows. It was, then, only because long-accumulated experience gave the lie to the predictions that men at length perceived that the art was illusory; but their credulity was of long duration.

One of the most famous mathematicians of Europe, named Stöffler, who flourished in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, foretold a universal deluge for the year 1524. This deluge was to happen in the month of February, and nothing can be more plausible, for Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars were then in conjunction in the sign of the Fishes. Every nation in Europe, Asia, and Africa that heard of the prediction was in consternation. The whole world expected the deluge, in spite of the rainbow. Several contemporary authors relate that the inhabitants of the maritime provinces of Germany hastened to sell their lands, at any price, to such as had more money and less credulity than themselves. Each one provided himself with a boat to serve as an ark. A doctor of Toulouse, in particular, named Auriol, had an ark built for himself, his family, and friends; and the same precautions were taken in a great part of Italy. At last the month of February arrived, and not a drop of rain fell, never was a month more dry, never were the astrologers more embarrassed. However, we neither discouraged nor neglected them; almost all our princes continued to consult them.

I have not the honor to be a prince; nevertheless, the celebrated Count de Boulainvilliers and an Italian, named Colonna, who had great reputation at Paris, both foretold to me that I should assuredly die at the age of thirty-two. I have already been so malicious as to deceive them thirty years in their calculation—for which I most humbly ask their pardon.


M. Duval, who, if I mistake not, was librarian to the Emperor Francis I., gives us an account of the manner in which, in his childhood, pure instinct gave him the first ideas of astronomy. He was contemplating the moon which, as it declined towards the west, seemed to touch the trees of a wood. He doubted not that he should find it behind the trees, and, on running thither, was astonished to see it at the extremity of the horizon.

The following days his curiosity prompted him to watch the course of this luminary, and he was still more surprised to find that it rose and set at various hours. The different forms which it took from week to week, and its total disappearance for some nights, also contributed to fix his attention. All that a child could do was to observe and to admire, and this was doing much; not one in ten thousand has this curiosity and perseverance.

He studied, as he could, for three years, with no other book than the heavens, no other master than his eyes. He observed that the stars did not change their relative positions; but the brilliancy of the planet Venus having caught his attention, it seemed to him to have a particular course, like that of the moon. He watched it every night; it disappeared for a long time; and at length he saw it become the morning instead of the evening star. The course of the sun, which from month to month, rose and set in different parts of the heavens, did not escape him. He marked the solstices with two staves, without knowing what the solstices were.

It appears to me that some profit might be derived from this example, in teaching astronomy to a child of ten or twelve years of age, and with much greater facility than this extraordinary child, of whom I have spoken, taught himself its first elements.

It is a very attractive spectacle for a mind disposed to the contemplation of nature to see that the different phases of the moon are precisely the same as those of a globe round which a lighted candle is moved, showing here a quarter, here the half of its surface, and becoming invisible when an opaque body is interposed between it and the candle. In this manner it was that Galileo explained the true principles of astronomy before the doge and senators of Venice on St. Mark’s tower; he demonstrated everything to the eyes.

Indeed, not only a child, but even a man of mature age, who has seen the constellations only on maps or globes, finds it difficult to recognize them in the heavens. In a little time the child will quite well comprehend the causes of the sun’s apparent course, and the daily revolutions of the fixed stars.

He will, in particular, discover the constellations with the aid of these four Latin lines, made by an astronomer about fifty years ago, and which are not sufficiently known:

Delta Aries, Perseum Taurus, Geminique Capellam;

Nil Cancer, Plaustrum Leo, Virgo Coman, atque Bootem,

Libra Anguem, Anguiferum fert Scorpios; Antinoum Arcus;

Delphinum Caper, Amphora Equos, Cepheida Pisces.

Nothing should be said to him about the systems of Ptolemy and Tycho Brahe, because they are false; they can never be of any other service than to explain some passages in ancient authors, relating to the errors of antiquity. For instance, in the second book of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” the sun says to Phaëton:

Adde, quod assidua rapitur vertigine cœlum;

Nitor in adversum; nec me, qui cætera, vincit

Impetus; et rapido contrarius evehor orbi.

A rapid motion carries round the heavens;

But I—and I alone—resist its force,

Marching secure in my opposing path.

This idea of a first mover turning the heavens round in twenty-four hours with an impossible motion, and of the sun, though acted upon by this first motion, yet imperceptibly advancing from west to east by a motion peculiar to itself, and without a cause, would but embarrass a young beginner.

It is sufficient for him to know that, whether the earth revolves on its own axis and round the sun, or the sun completes his revolution in a year, appearances are nearly the same, and that, in astronomy, we are obliged to judge of things by our eyes before we examine them as natural philosophers.

He will soon know the cause of the eclipses of the sun and the moon, and why they do not occur every night. It will at first appear to him that, the moon being every month in opposition to and in conjunction with the sun, we should have an eclipse of the sun and one of the moon every month. But when he finds that these two luminaries are not in the same plane and are seldom in the same line with the earth, he will no longer be surprised.

He will easily be made to understand how it is that eclipses have been foretold, by knowing the exact circle in which the apparent motion of the sun and the real motion of the moon are accomplished. He will be told that observers found by experience and calculation the number of times that these two bodies are precisely in the same line with the earth in the space of nineteen years and a few hours, after which they seem to recommence the same course; so that, making the necessary allowances for the little inequalities that occurred during those nineteen years, the exact day, hour, and minute of an eclipse of the sun or moon were foretold. These first elements are soon acquired by a child of clear conceptions.

Not even the precession of the equinoxes will terrify him. It will be enough to tell him that the sun has constantly appeared to advance in his annual course, one degree in seventy-two years, towards the east; and this is what Ovid meant to express: “Contrarius evehor orbi;”—“Marching secure in my opposing path.”

Thus the Ram, which the sun formerly entered at the beginning of spring, is now in the place where the Bull was then. This change which has taken place in the heavens, and the entrance of the sun into other constellations than those which he formerly occupied, were the strongest arguments against the pretended rules of judicial astrology. It does not, however, appear that this proof was employed before the present century to destroy this universal extravagance which so long infected all mankind, and is still in great vogue in Persia.

A man born, according to the almanac, when the sun was in the sign of the Lion, was necessarily to be courageous; but, unfortunately, he was in reality born under the sign of the Virgin. So that Gauric and Michael Morin should have changed all the rules of their art.

It is indeed odd that all the laws of astrology were contrary to those of astronomy. The wretched charlatans of antiquity and their stupid disciples, who have been so well received and so well paid by all the princes of Europe, talked of nothing but Mars and Venus, stationary and retrograde. Such as had Mars stationary were always to conquer. Venus stationary made all lovers happy. Nothing was worse than to be born under Venus retrograde. But the fact is that these planets have never been either retrograde or stationary, which a very slight knowledge of optics would have sufficed to show.

How, then, can it have been that, in spite of physics and geometry, the ridiculous chimera of astrology is entertained even to this day, so that we have seen men distinguished for their general knowledge, and especially profound in history, who have all their lives been infatuated by so despicable an error? But the error was ancient, and that was enough.

The Egyptians, the Chaldæans, the Jews, foretold the future; therefore, it may be foretold now. Serpents were charmed and spirits were raised in those days; therefore, spirits may be raised and serpents charmed now. It is only necessary to know the precise formula made use of for the purpose. If predictions are at an end, it is the fault, not of the art, but of the artist. Michael Morin and his secret died together. It is thus that the alchemists speak of the philosopher’s stone; if, say they, we do not now find it, it is because we do not yet know precisely how to seek it; but it is certainly in Solomon’s collar-bone. And, with this glorious certainty, more than two hundred families in France and Germany have ruined themselves.

It is not then to be wondered at that the whole world has been duped by astrology. The wretched argument, “there are false prodigies, therefore there are true ones,” is neither that of a philosopher, nor of a man acquainted with the world. “That is false and absurd, therefore it will be believed by the multitude,” is a much truer maxim.

It is still less astonishing that so many men, raised in other things so far above the vulgar; so many princes, so many popes, whom it would have been impossible to mislead in the smallest affair of interest, have been so ridiculously seduced by this astrological nonsense. They were very proud and very ignorant. The stars were for them alone; the rest of the world a rabble, with whom the stars had nothing to do. They were like the prince who trembled at the sight of a comet, and said gravely to those who did not fear it, “You may behold it without concern; you are not princes.”

The famous German leader, Wallenstein, was one of those infatuated by this chimera; he called himself a prince, and consequently thought that the zodiac had been made on purpose for him. He never besieged a town, nor fought a battle, until he had held a council with the heavens; but, as this great man was very ignorant, he placed at the head of this council a rogue of an Italian, named Seni, keeping him a coach and six, and giving him a pension of twenty thousand livres. Seni, however, never foresaw that Wallenstein would be assassinated by order of his most gracious sovereign, and that he himself would return to Italy on foot.

It is quite evident that nothing can be known of the future, otherwise than by conjectures. These conjectures may be so well-founded as to approach certainty. You see a shark swallow a little boy; you may wager ten thousand to one that he will be devoured; but you cannot be absolutely sure of it, after the adventures of Hercules, Jonas, and Orlando Furioso, who each lived so long in a fish’s belly.

It cannot be too often repeated that Albertus Magnus and Cardinal d’Ailli both made the horoscope of Jesus Christ. It would appear that they read in the stars how many devils he would cast out of the bodies of the possessed, and what sort of death he was to die. But it was unfortunate that these learned astrologers foretold all these things so long after they happened.

We shall elsewhere see that in a sect which passes for Christian, it is believed to be impossible for the Supreme Intelligence to see the future otherwise than by supreme conjecture; for, as the future does not exist, it is, say they, a contradiction in terms to talk of seeing at the present time that which is not.


On the Comparison so Often Made between Atheism and Idolatry.

It seems to me that, in the “Dictionnaire Encyclopédique,” a more powerful refutation might have been brought against the Jesuit Richeome’s opinion concerning atheists and idolaters—an opinion formerly maintained by St. Thomas, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Cyprian, and Tertullian—an opinion which Arnobius placed in a strong light when he said to the pagans, “Do you not blush to reproach us with contempt for your gods? Is it not better to believe in no god than to impute to them infamous actions?”—an opinion long before established by Plutarch, who stated that he would rather have it said that there was no Plutarch than that there was a Plutarch, inconstant, choleric, and vindictive—an opinion, too, fortified by all the dialectical efforts of Bayle.

Such is the ground of dispute, placed in a very striking point of view by the Jesuit Richeome, and made still more specious by the way in which Bayle sets it off:

“There are two porters at the door of a house. You ask to speak to the master. He is not at home, answers one. He is at home, answers the other, but is busied in making false money, false contracts, daggers, and poisons, to destroy those who have only accomplished his designs. The atheist resembles the former of these porters, the pagan the latter. It is then evident that the pagan offends the Divinity more grievously than the atheist.

With the permission of Father Richeome, and that of Bayle himself, this is not at all the state of the question. For the first porter to be like the atheist, he must say, not “My master is not here,” but “I have no master; he who you pretend is my master does not exist. My comrade is a blockhead to tell you that the gentleman is engaged in mixing poisons and wetting poniards to assassinate those who have executed his will. There is no such being in the world.”

Richeome, therefore, has reasoned very ill; and Bayle, in his rather diffuse discourses, has so far forgotten himself as to do Richeome the honor of making a very lame comment upon him.

Plutarch seems to express himself much better, in declaring that he prefers those who say there is no Plutarch to those who assert that Plutarch is unfit for society. Indeed, of what consequence to him was its being said that he was not in the world? But it was of great consequence that his reputation should not be injured. With the Supreme Being it is otherwise.

Still Plutarch does not come to the real point in discussion. It is only asked who most offends the Supreme Being—he who denies Him, or he who disfigures Him? It is impossible to know, otherwise than by revelation, whether God is offended at the vain discourses which men hold about Him.

Philosophers almost always fall unconsciously into the ideas of the vulgar, in supposing that God is jealous of His glory, wrathful, and given to revenge, and in taking rhetorical figures for real ideas. That which interests the whole world is to know whether it is not better to admit a rewarding and avenging God, recompensing hidden good actions, and punishing secret crimes, than to admit no God at all.

Bayle exhausts himself in repeating all the infamous things imputed to the gods of antiquity. His adversaries answer him by unmeaning commonplaces. The partisans and the enemies of Bayle have almost always fought without coming to close quarters. They all agree that Jupiter was an adulterer, Venus a wanton, Mercury a rogue. But this, I conceive, ought not to be considered; the religion of the ancient Romans should be distinguished from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.” It is quite certain that neither they nor even the Greeks ever had a temple dedicated to Mercury the Rogue, Venus the Wanton, or Jupiter the Adulterer.

The god whom the Romans called “Deus optimus maximus”—most good, most great—was not believed to have encouraged Clodius to lie with Cæsar’s wife, nor Cæsar to become the minion of King Nicomedes.

Cicero does not say that Mercury incited Verres to rob Sicily, though, in the fable, Mercury had stolen Apollo’s cows. The real religion of the ancients was that Jupiter, most good and just, with the secondary divinities, punished perjury in the infernal regions. Thus, the Romans were long the most religious observers of their oaths. It was in no wise ordained that they should believe in Leda’s two eggs, in the transformation of Inachus’s daughter into a cow, or in Apollo’s love for Hyacinthus. Therefore it must not be said that the religion of Numa was dishonoring to the Divinity. So that, as but too often happens, there has been a long dispute about a chimera.

Then, it is asked, can a people of atheists exist? I consider that a distinction must be made between the people, properly so called, and a society of philosophers above the people. It is true that, in every country, the populace require the strongest curb; and that if Bayle had had but five or six hundred peasants to govern, he would not have failed to announce to them a rewarding and avenging God. But Bayle would have said nothing about them to the Epicureans, who were people of wealth, fond of quiet, cultivating all the social virtues, and friendship in particular, shunning the dangers and embarrassments of public affairs—leading, in short, a life of ease and innocence. The dispute, so far as it regards policy and society, seems to me to end here.

As for people entirely savage, they can be counted neither among the theists nor among the atheists. To ask them what is their creed would be like asking them if they are for Aristotle or Democritus. They know nothing; they are no more atheists than they are peripatetics.

But, it may be insisted, that they live in society, though they have no God, and that, therefore, society may subsist without religion.

In this case I shall reply that wolves live so; and that an assemblage of barbarous cannibals, as you suppose them to be, is not a society. And, further, I will ask you if, when you have lent your money to any one of your society, you would have neither your debtor, nor your attorney, nor your notary, nor your judge, believe in a God?


Modern Atheists.—Arguments of the Worshippers of God.

We are intelligent beings, and intelligent beings cannot have been formed by a blind, brute, insensible being; there is certainly some difference between a clod and the ideas of Newton. Newton’s intelligence, then, came from some other intelligence.

When we see a fine machine, we say there is a good machinist, and that he has an excellent understanding. The world is assuredly an admirable machine; therefore there is in the world, somewhere or other, an admirable intelligence. This argument is old, but is not therefore the worse.

All animated bodies are composed of levers and pulleys, which act according to the laws of mechanics; of liquors, which are kept in perpetual circulation by the laws of hydrostatics; and the reflection that all these beings have sentiment which has no relation to their organization, fills us with wonder.

The motions of the stars, that of our little earth round the sun—all are operated according to the laws of the profoundest mathematics. How could it be that Plato, who knew not one of these laws—the eloquent but chimerical Plato, who said that the foundation of the earth was an equilateral triangle, and that of water a right-angled triangle—the strange Plato, who said there could be but five worlds, because there were but five regular bodies—how, I say, was it that Plato, who was not even acquainted with spherical trigonometry, had nevertheless so fine a genius, so happy an instinct, as to call God the Eternal Geometrician—to feel that there exists a forming Intelligence? Spinoza himself confesses it. It is impossible to controvert this truth, which surrounds us and presses us on all sides.

Argument of the Atheists.

I have, however, known refractory individuals, who have said that there is no forming intelligence, and that motion alone has formed all that we see and all that we are. They say boldly that the combination of this universe was possible because it exists; therefore it was possible for motion of itself to arrange it. Take four planets only—Mars, Venus, Mercury, and the Earth; let us consider them solely in the situations in which they now are; and let us see how many probabilities we have that motion will bring them again to those respective places. There are but twenty-four chances in this combination; that is, it is only twenty-four to one that these planets will not be found in the same situations with respect to one another. To these four globes add that of Jupiter; and it is then only a hundred and twenty to one that Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, and our globe will not be placed in the same positions in which we now see them.

Lastly, add Saturn; and there will then be only seven hundred and twenty chances to one against putting these planets in their present arrangement, according to their given distances. It is, then, demonstrated that once, at least, in seven hundred and twenty cases, chance might place these planets in their present order.

Then take all the secondary planets, all their motions, all the beings that vegetate, live, feel, think, act, on all these globes; you have only to increase the number of chances; multiply this number to all eternity—to what our weakness calls infinity—there will still be an unit in favor of the formation of the world, such as it is, by motion alone; therefore it is possible that, in all eternity, the motion of matter alone has produced the universe as it exists. Nay, this combination must, in eternity, of necessity happen. Thus, say they, not only it is possible that the world is as it is by motion alone, but it was impossible that it should not be so after infinite combinations.


All this supposition seems to me to be prodigiously chimerical, for two reasons: the first is, that in this universe there are intelligent beings, and you cannot prove it possible for motion alone to produce understanding. The second is, that, by your own confession, the chances are infinity to unity, that an intelligent forming cause produced the universe. Standing alone against infinity, a unit makes but a poor figure.

Again Spinoza himself admits this intelligence; it is the basis of his system. You have not read him, but you must read him. Why would you go further than he, and, through a foolish pride, plunge into the abyss where Spinoza dared not to descend? Are you not aware of the extreme folly of saying that it is owing to a blind cause that the square of the revolution of one planet is always to the squares of the others as the cube of its distance is to the cubes of the distances of the others from the common centre? Either the planets are great geometricians, or the Eternal Geometrician has arranged the planets.

But where is the Eternal Geometrician? Is He in one place, or in all places, without occupying space? I know not. Has He arranged all things of His own substance? I know not. Is He immense, without quantity and without quality? I know not. All I know is, that we must adore Him and be just.

New Objection of a Modern Atheist.

Can it be said that the conformation of animals is according to their necessities? What are those necessities? Self-preservation and propagation. Now, is it astonishing that, of the infinite combinations produced by chance, those only have survived which had organs adapted for their nourishment and the continuation of their species? Must not all others necessarily have perished?


This argument, taken from Lucretius, is sufficiently refuted by the sensation given to animals and the intelligence given to man. How, as has just been said in the preceding paragraph, should combinations produced by chance produce this sensation and this intelligence? Yes, doubtless, the members of animals are made for all their necessities with an incomprehensible art, and you have not the boldness to deny it. You do not mention it. You feel that you can say nothing in answer to this great argument which Nature brings against you. The disposition of the wing of a fly, or of the feelers of a snail, is sufficient to confound you.

An Objection of Maupertuis.

The natural philosophers of modern times have done nothing more than extend these pretended arguments; this they have sometimes done even to minuteness and indecency. They have found God in the folds of a rhinoceros’s hide; they might, with equal reason, have denied His existence on account of the tortoise’s shell.


What reasoning! The tortoise and the rhinoceros, and all the different species, prove alike in their infinite varieties the same cause, the same design, the same end, which are preservation, generation, and death. Unity is found in this immense variety; the hide and the shell bear equal testimony. What! deny God, because a shell is not like a skin! And journalists have lavished upon this coxcombry praises which they have withheld from Newton and Locke, both worshippers of the Divinity from thorough examination and conviction!

Another of Maupertuis’s Objections.

Of what service are beauty and fitness in the construction of a serpent? Perhaps, you say, it has uses of which we are ignorant. Let us then, at least, be silent, and not admire an animal which we know only by the mischief it does.


Be you silent, also, since you know no more of its utility than myself; or acknowledge that, in reptiles, everything is admirably proportioned. Some of them are venomous; you have been so too. The only subject at present under consideration is the prodigious art which has formed serpents, quadrupeds, birds, fishes, and bipeds. This art is evident enough. You ask, Why is not the serpent harmless? And why have you not been harmless? Why have you been a persecutor? which, in a philosopher, is the greatest of crimes. This is quite another question; it is that of physical and moral evil. It has long been asked, Why are there so many serpents, and so many wicked men worse than serpents? If flies could reason, they would complain to God of the existence of spiders; but they would, at the same time, acknowledge what Minerva confessed to Arachne in the fable, that they arrange their webs in a wonderful manner.

We cannot, then, do otherwise than acknowledge an ineffable Intelligence, which Spinoza himself admitted. We must own that it is displayed as much in the meanest insect as in the planets. And with regard to moral and physical evil, what can be done or said? Let us console ourselves by the enjoyment of physical and moral good, and adore the Eternal Being, who has ordained the one and permitted the other.

One word more on this topic. Atheism is the vice of some intelligent men, and superstition is the vice of fools. And what is the vice of knaves?—Hypocrisy.

Unjust Accusation.—Justification of Vanini.

Formerly, whoever was possessed of a secret in any art was in danger of passing for a sorcerer; every new sect was charged with murdering infants in its mysteries; and every philosopher who departed from the jargon of the schools was accused of atheism by knaves and fanatics, and condemned by blockheads.

Anaxagorus dares to assert that the sun is not conducted by Apollo, mounted in a chariot and four; he is condemned as an atheist, and compelled to fly.

Aristotle is accused of atheism by a priest, and not being powerful enough to punish his accuser, he retires to Chalcis. But the death of Socrates is the greatest blot on the page of Grecian history.

Aristophanes—he whom commentators admire because he was a Greek, forgetting that Socrates was also a Greek—Aristophanes was the first who accustomed the Athenians to regard Socrates as an atheist.

This comic poet, who is neither comic nor poetical, would not, among us, have been permitted to exhibit his farces at the fair of St. Lawrence. He appears to me to be much lower and more despicable than Plutarch represents him. Let us see what the wise Plutarch says of this buffoon: “The language of Aristophanes bespeaks his miserable quackery; it is made up of the lowest and most disgusting puns; he is not even pleasing to the people; and to men of judgment and honor he is insupportable; his arrogance is intolerable, and all good men detest his malignity.”

This, then, is the jack-pudding whom Madame Dacier, an admirer of Socrates, ventures to admire! Such was the man who, indirectly, prepared the poison by which infamous judges put to death the most virtuous man in Greece.

The tanners, cobblers, and seamstresses of Athens applauded a farce in which Socrates was represented lifted in the air in a hamper, announcing that there was no God, and boasting of having stolen a cloak while he was teaching philosophy. A whole people, whose government sanctioned such infamous licences, well deserved what has happened to them, to become slaves to the Romans, and, subsequently, to the Turks. The Russians, whom the Greeks of old would have called barbarians, would neither have poisoned Socrates, nor have condemned Alcibiades to death.

We pass over the ages between the Roman commonwealth and our own times. The Romans, much more wise than the Greeks, never persecuted a philosopher for his opinions. Not so the barbarous nations which succeeded the Roman Empire. No sooner did the Emperor Frederick II. begin to quarrel with the popes, than he was accused of being an atheist, and being the author of the book of “The Three Impostors,” conjointly with his chancellor De Vincis.

Does our high-chancellor, de l’Hôpital, declare against persecution? He is immediately charged with atheism—“Homo doctus, sed vetus atheus.” There was a Jesuit, as much beneath Aristophanes as Aristophanes is beneath Homer—a wretch, whose name has become ridiculous even among fanatics—the Jesuit Garasse, who found atheists everywhere. He bestows the name upon all who are the objects of his virulence. He calls Theodore Beza an atheist. It was he, too, that led the public into error concerning Vanini.

The unfortunate end of Vanini does not excite our pity and indignation like that of Socrates, because Vanini was only a foreign pedant, without merit; however, Vanini was not, as was pretended, an atheist; he was quite the contrary.

He was a poor Neapolitan priest, a theologian and preacher by trade, an outrageous disputer on quiddities and universals, and “utrum chimæra bombinans in vacuo possit comedere secundas intentiones.” But there was nothing in him tending to atheism. His notion of God is that of the soundest and most approved theology: “God is the beginning and the end, the father of both, without need of either, eternal without time, in no one place, yet present everywhere. To him there is neither past nor future; he is within and without everything; he has created all, and governs all; he is immutable, infinite without parts; his power is his will.” This is not very philosophical, but it is the most approved theology.

Vanini prided himself on reviving Plato’s fine idea, adopted by Averroës, that God had created a chain of beings from the smallest to the greatest, the last link of which was attached to his eternal throne; an idea more sublime than true, but as distant from atheism as being from nothing.

He travelled to seek his fortune and to dispute; but, unfortunately, disputation leads not to fortune; a man makes himself as many irreconcilable enemies as he finds men of learning or of pedantry to argue against. Vanini’s ill-fortune had no other source. His heat and rudeness in disputation procured him the hatred of some theologians; and having quarrelled with one Franconi, this Franconi, the friend of his enemies, charged him with being an atheist and teaching atheism.

Franconi, aided by some witnesses, had the barbarity, when confronted with the accused, to maintain what he had advanced. Vanini, on the stool, being asked what he thought of the existence of a God, answered that he, with the Church, adored a God in three persons. Taking a straw from the ground, “This,” said he, “is sufficient to prove that there is a creator.” He then delivered a very fine discourse on vegetation and motion, and the necessity of a Supreme Being, without whom there could be neither motion nor vegetation.

The president Grammont, who was then at Toulouse, repeats this discourse in his history of France, now so little known; and the same Grammont, through some unaccountable prejudice, asserts that Vanini said all this “through vanity, or through fear, rather than from inward conviction.”

On what could this atrocious, rash judgment of the president be founded? It is evident, from Vanini’s answer, that he could not but be acquitted of the charge of atheism. But what followed? This unfortunate foreign priest also dabbled in medicine. There was found in his house a large live toad, which he kept in a vessel of water; he was forthwith accused of being a sorcerer. It was maintained that this toad was the god which he adored. An impious meaning was attributed to several passages of his books, a thing which is both common and easy, by taking objections for answers, giving some bad sense to a loose phrase, and perverting an innocent expression. At last, the faction which oppressed him forced from his judges the sentence which condemned him to die.

In order to justify this execution it was necessary to charge the unfortunate man with the most enormous of crimes. The grey friar—the very grey friar Marsenne, was so besotted as to publish that “Vanini set out from Naples, with twelve of his apostles, to convert the whole world to atheism.” What a pitiful tale! How should a poor priest have twelve men in his pay? How should he persuade twelve Neapolitans to travel at great expense, in order to spread this revolting doctrine at the peril of their lives? Would a king himself have it in his power to pay twelve preachers of atheism? No one before Father Marsenne had advanced so enormous an absurdity. But after him it was repeated; the journals and historical dictionaries caught it, and the world, which loves the extraordinary, has believed the fable without examination.

Even Bayle, in his miscellaneous thoughts (Pensées Diverses), speaks of Vanini as of an atheist. He cites his example in support of his paradox, that “a society of atheists might exist.” He assures us that Vanini was a man of very regular morals, and that he was a martyr to his philosophical opinions. On both these points he is equally mistaken. Vanini informs us in his “Dialogues,” written in imitation of Erasmus, that he had a mistress named Isabel. He was as free in his writings as in his conduct; but he was not an atheist.

A century after his death, the learned Lacroze, and he who took the name of Philaletes, endeavored to justify him. But as no one cares anything about the memory of an unfortunate Neapolitan, scarcely any one has read these apologies.

The Jesuit Hardouin, more learned and no less rash than Garasse, in his book entitled “Athei Detecti,” charges the Descartes, the Arnaulds, the Pascals, the Malebranches, with atheism. Happily, Vanini’s fate was not theirs.


A word on the question in morals, agitated by Bayle, “Whether a society of atheists can exist.” Here let us first observe the enormous self-contradictions of men in disputation. Those who have been most violent in opposing the opinion of Bayle, those who have denied with the greatest virulence the possibility of a society of atheists, are the very men who have since maintained with equal ardor that atheism is the religion of the Chinese government.

They have most assuredly been mistaken concerning the government of China; they had only to read the edicts of the emperors of that vast country, and they would have seen that those edicts are sermons, in which a Supreme Being—governing, avenging, and rewarding—is continually spoken of.

But, at the same time, they are no less deceived respecting the impossibility of a society of atheists; nor can I conceive how Bayle could forget a striking instance which might have rendered his cause victorious.

In what does the apparent impossibility of a society of atheists consist? In this: It is judged that men without some restraint could not live together; that laws have no power against secret crimes; and that it is necessary to have an avenging God—punishing, in this world or in the next, such as escape human justice.

The laws of Moses, it is true, did not teach the doctrine of a life to come, did not threaten with chastisements after death, nor even teach the primitive Jews the immortality of the soul; but the Jews, far from being atheists, far from believing that they could elude the divine vengeance, were the most religious of men. They believed not only in the existence of an eternal God, but that He was always present among them; they trembled lest they should be punished in themselves, their wives, their children, their posterity to the fourth generation. This was a very powerful check.

But among the Gentiles various sects had no restraint; the Skeptics doubted of everything; the Academics suspended their judgment on everything; the Epicureans were persuaded that the Divinity could not meddle in human affairs, and in their hearts admitted no Divinity. They were convinced that the soul is not a substance, but a faculty which is born and perishes with the body; consequently, they had no restraint but that of morality and honor. The Roman senators and knights were in reality atheists; for to men who neither feared nor hoped anything from them, the gods could not exist. The Roman senate, then, in the time of Cæsar and Cicero, was in fact an assembly of atheists.

That great orator, in his oration for Cluentius, says to the whole assembled senate: “What does he lose by death? We reject all the silly fables about the infernal regions. What, then, can death take from him? Nothing but the susceptibility of sorrow.”

Does not Cæsar, wishing to save the life of his friend Catiline, threatened by the same Cicero, object that to put a criminal to death is not to punish him—that death is nothing—that it is but the termination of our ills—a moment rather fortunate than calamitous? Did not Cicero and the whole senate yield to this reasoning? The conquerors and legislators of all the known world then, evidently, formed a society of men who feared nothing from the gods, but were real atheists.

Bayle next examines whether idolatry is more dangerous than atheism—whether it is a greater crime not to believe in the Divinity than to have unworthy notions of it; in this he thinks with Plutarch—that it is better to have no opinion than a bad opinion; but, without offence to Plutarch, it was infinitely better that the Greeks should fear Ceres, Neptune, and Jupiter than that they should fear nothing at all. It is clear that the sanctity of oaths is necessary; and that those are more to be trusted who think a false oath will be punished, than those who think they may take a false oath with impunity. It cannot be doubted that, in an organized society, it is better to have even a bad religion than no religion at all.

It appears then that Bayle should rather have examined whether atheism or fanaticism is the most dangerous. Fanaticism is certainly a thousand times the most to be dreaded; for atheism inspires no sanguinary passion, but fanaticism does; atheism does not oppose crime, but fanaticism prompts to its commission. Let us suppose, with the author of the “Commentarium Rerum Gallicarum,” that the High-Chancellor de l’Hôpital was an atheist; he made none but wise laws; he recommended only moderation and concord. The massacres of St. Bartholomew were committed by fanatics. Hobbes passed for an atheist; yet he led a life of innocence and quiet, while the fanatics of his time deluged England, Scotland, and Ireland with blood. Spinoza was not only an atheist—he taught atheism; but assuredly he had no part in the judicial assassination of Barneveldt; nor was it he who tore in pieces the two brothers De Witt, and ate them off the gridiron.

Atheists are, for the most part, men of learning, bold but bewildered, who reason ill and, unable to comprehend the creation, the origin of evil, and other difficulties, have recourse to the hypothesis of the eternity of things and of necessity.

The ambitious and the voluptuous have but little time to reason; they have other occupations than that of comparing Lucretius with Socrates. Such is the case with us and our time.

It was otherwise with the Roman senate, which was composed almost entirely of theoretical and practical atheists, that is, believing neither in Providence nor in a future state; this senate was an assembly of philosophers, men of pleasure, and ambitious men, who were all very dangerous, and who ruined the commonwealth. Under the emperors, Epicureanism prevailed. The atheists of the senate had been factious in the times of Sulla and of Cæsar; in those of Augustus and Tiberius, they were atheistical slaves.

I should not wish to come in the way of an atheistical prince, whose interest it should be to have me pounded in a mortar; I am quite sure that I should be so pounded. Were I a sovereign, I would not have to do with atheistical courtiers, whose interest it was to poison me; I should be under the necessity of taking an antidote every day. It is then absolutely necessary for princes and people that the idea of a Supreme Being—creating, governing, rewarding, and punishing—be profoundly engraved on their minds.

There are nations of atheists, says Bayle in his “Thoughts on Comets.” The Kaffirs, the Hottentots, and many other small populations, have no god; they neither affirm nor deny that there is one; they have never heard of Him; tell them that there is one, and they will easily believe it; tell them that all is done by the nature of things, and they will believe you just the same. To pretend that they are atheists would be like saying they are anti-Cartesians. They are neither for Descartes nor against him; they are no more than children; a child is neither atheist nor deist; he is nothing.

From all this, what conclusion is to be drawn? That atheism is a most pernicious monster in those who govern; that it is the same in the men of their cabinet, since it may extend itself from the cabinet to those in office; that, although less to be dreaded than fanaticism, it is almost always fatal to virtue. And especially, let it be added, that there are fewer atheists now than ever—since philosophers have become persuaded that there is no vegetative being without a germ, no germ without a design, etc., and that the corn in our fields does not spring from rottenness.

Unphilosophical geometricians have rejected final causes, but true philosophers admit them; and, as it is elsewhere observed, a catechist announces God to children, and Newton demonstrates Him to the wise.

If there be atheists, who are to blame? Who but the mercenary tyrants of our souls, who, while disgusting us with their knavery, urge some weak spirits to deny the God whom such monsters dishonor? How often have the people’s bloodsuckers forced overburdened citizens to revolt against the king!

Men who have fattened on our substance, cry out to us: “Be persuaded that an ass spoke; believe that a fish swallowed a man, and threw him up three days after, safe and sound, on the shore; doubt not that the God of the universe ordered one Jewish prophet to eat excrement, and another to buy two prostitutes, and have bastards by them;” such are the words put into the mouth of the God of purity and truth! Believe a hundred things either visibly abominable or mathematically impossible; otherwise the God of Mercy will burn you in hell-fire, not only for millions of millions of ages, but for all eternity, whether you have a body or have not a body.

These brutal absurdities are revolting to rash and weak minds, as well as to firm and wise ones. They say: “Our teachers represent God to us as the most insensate and barbarous of all beings; therefore, there is no God.” But they ought to say, “Our teachers represent God as furious and ridiculous, therefore God is the reverse of what they describe Him; He is as wise and good as they say He is foolish and wicked.” Thus do the wise decide. But, if a fanatic hears them, he denounces them to a magistrate—a sort of priest’s officer, which officer has them burned alive, thinking that he is therein imitating and avenging the Divine Majesty which he insults.



There were once many atheists among the Christians; they are now much fewer. It at first appears to be a paradox, but examination proves it to be a truth, that theology often threw men’s minds into atheism, until philosophy at length drew them out of it. It must indeed have been pardonable to doubt of the Divinity, when His only announcers disputed on His nature. Nearly all the first Fathers of the Church made God corporeal, and others, after them, giving Him no extent, lodged Him in a part of heaven. According to some, He had created the world in Time; while, according to others, He had created Time itself. Some gave Him a Son like to Himself; others would not grant that the Son was like to the Father. It was also disputed in what way a third person proceeded from the other two.

It was agitated whether the Son had been, while on earth, composed of two persons. So that the question undesignedly became, whether there were five persons in the Divinity—three in heaven and two for Jesus Christ upon earth; or four persons, reckoning Christ upon earth as only one; or three persons, considering Christ only as God. There were disputes about His mother, His descent into hell and into limbo; the manner in which the body of the God-man was eaten, and the blood of the God-man was drunk; on grace; on the saints, and a thousand other matters. When the confidants of the Divinity were seen so much at variance among themselves anathematizing one another from age to age, but all agreeing in an immoderate thirst for riches and grandeur—while, on the other hand, were beheld the prodigious number of crimes and miseries which afflicted the earth, and of which many were caused by the very disputes of these teachers of souls—it must be confessed that it was allowable for rational men to doubt the existence of a being so strangely announced, and for men of sense to imagine that a God, who could of His own free will make so many beings miserable, did not exist.

Suppose, for example, a natural philosopher of the fifteenth century reading these words in “St. Thomas’s Dream”: “Virtus cœli, loco spermatis, sufficit cum elementis et putrefactione ad generationem animalium imperfectorum.” “The virtue of heaven instead of seed is sufficient, with the elements and putrefaction, for the generation of imperfect animals.” Our philosopher would reason thus: “If corruption suffices with the elements to produce unformed animals, it would appear that a little more corruption, with a little more heat, would also produce animals more complete. The virtue of heaven is here no other than the virtue of nature. I shall then think, with Epicurus and St. Thomas, that men may have sprung from the slime of the earth and the rays of the sun—a noble origin, too, for beings so wretched and so wicked. Why should I admit a creating God, presented to me under so many contradictory and revolting aspects?” But at length physics arose, and with them philosophy. Then it was clearly discovered that the mud of the Nile produced not a single insect, nor a single ear of corn, and men were found to acknowledge throughout, germs, relations, means, and an astonishing correspondence among all beings. The particles of light have been followed, which go from the sun to enlighten the globe and the ring of Saturn, at the distance of three hundred millions of leagues; then, coming to the earth, form two opposite angles in the eye of the minutest insect, and paint all nature on its retina. A philosopher was given to the world who discovered the simple and sublime laws by which the celestial globes move in the immensity of space. Thus the work of the universe, now that it is better known, bespeaks a workman, and so many never-varying laws announce a law-giver. Sound philosophy, therefore, has destroyed atheism, to which obscure theology furnished weapons of defence.

But one resource was left for the small number of difficult minds, which, being more forcibly struck by the pretended injustices of a Supreme Being than by his wisdom, were obstinate in denying this first mover. Nature has existed from all eternity; everything in nature is in motion, therefore everything in it continually changes. And if everything is forever changing, all possible combinations must take place; therefore the present combinations of all things may have been the effect of this eternal motion and change alone. Take six dice, and it is 46,655 to one that you do not throw six times six. But still there is that one chance in 46,656. So, in the infinity of ages, any one of the infinite number of combinations, as that of the present arrangement of the universe, is not impossible.

Minds, otherwise rational, have been misled by these arguments; but they have not considered that there is infinity against them, and that there certainly is not infinity against the existence of God. They should, moreover, consider that if everything were changing, the smallest things could not remain unchanged, as they have so long done. They have at least no reason to advance why new species are not formed every day. On the contrary, it is very probable that a powerful hand, superior to these continual changes, keeps all species within the bounds it has prescribed them. Thus the philosopher, who acknowledges a God, has a number of probabilities on his side, while the atheist has only doubts.

It is evident that in morals it is much better to acknowledge a God than not to admit one. It is certainly to the interest of all men that there should be a Divinity to punish what human justice cannot repress; but it is also clear that it were better to acknowledge no God than to worship a barbarous one, and offer Him human victims, as so many nations have done.

We have one striking example, which places this truth beyond a doubt. The Jews, under Moses, had no idea of the immortality of the soul, nor of a future state. Their lawgiver announced to them, from God, only rewards and punishments purely temporal; they, therefore, had only this life to provide for. Moses commands the Levites to kill twenty-three thousand of their brethren for having had a golden or gilded calf. On another occasion twenty-four thousand of them are massacred for having had commerce with the young women of the country; and twelve thousand are struck dead because some few of them had wished to support the ark, which was near falling. It may, with perfect reverence for the decrees of Providence, be affirmed, humanly speaking, that it would have been much better for these fifty-nine thousand men, who believed in no future state, to have been absolute atheists and have lived, than to have been massacred in the name of the God whom they acknowledged.

It is quite certain that atheism is not taught in the schools of the learned of China, but many of those learned men are atheists, for they are indifferent philosophers. Now it would undoubtedly be better to live with them at Pekin, enjoying the mildness of their manners and their laws, than to be at Goa, liable to groan in irons, in the prisons of the inquisition, until brought out in a brimstone-colored garment, variegated with devils, to perish in the flames.

They who have maintained that a society of atheists may exist have then been right, for it is laws that form society, and these atheists, being moreover philosophers, may lead a very wise and happy life under the shade of those laws. They will certainly live in society more easily than superstitious fanatics. People one town with Epicureans such as Simonides, Protagoras, Des Barreux, Spinoza; and another with Jansenists and Molinists. In which do you think there will be the most quarrels and tumults? Atheism, considering it only with relation to this life, would be very dangerous among a ferocious people, and false ideas of the Divinity would be no less pernicious. Most of the great men of this world live as if they were atheists. Every man who has lived with his eyes open knows that the knowledge of a God, His presence, and His justice, has not the slightest influence over the wars, the treaties, the objects of ambition, interest or pleasure, in the pursuit of which they are wholly occupied. Yet we do not see that they grossly violate the rules established in society. It is much more agreeable to pass our lives among them than among the superstitious and fanatical. I do, it is true, expect more justice from one who believes in a God than from one who has no such belief; but from the superstitious I look only for bitterness and persecution. Atheism and fanaticism are two monsters which may tear society in pieces; but the atheist preserves his reason, which checks his propensity to mischief, while the fanatic is under the influence of a madness which is constantly urging him on.


In England, as everywhere else, there have been, and there still are, many atheists by principle; for there are none but young, inexperienced preachers, very ill-informed of what passes in the world, who affirm that there cannot be atheists. I have known some in France, who were quite good natural philosophers; and have, I own, been very much surprised that men who could so ably develop the secret springs of nature should obstinately refuse to acknowledge the hand which so evidently puts those springs in action.

It appears to me that one of the principles which leads them to materialism is that they believe in the plentitude and infinity of the universe, and the eternity of matter. It must be this which misleads them, for almost all the Newtonians whom I have met admit the void and the termination of matter, and consequently admit a God.

Indeed, if matter be infinite, as so many philosophers, even including Descartes, pretend, it has of itself one of the attributes of the Supreme Being: if a void be impossible, matter exists of necessity; it has existed from all eternity. With these principles, therefore, we may dispense with God, creating, modifying, and preserving matter.

I am aware that Descartes, and most of the schools which have believed in the plenum, and the infinity of matter, have nevertheless admitted a God; but this is only because men scarcely ever reason or act upon their principles.

Had men reasoned, consequently, Epicurus and his apostle Lucretius must have been the most religious assertors of the Providence which they combated; for when they admitted the void and the termination of matter, a truth of which they had only an imperfect glimpse, it necessarily followed that matter was the being of necessity, existing by itself, since it was not indefinite. They had, therefore, in their own philosophy, and in their own despite, a demonstration that there is a Supreme Being, necessary, infinite, the fabricator of the universe. Newton’s philosophy, which admits and proves the void and finite matter, also demonstratively proves the existence of a God.

Thus I regard true philosophers as the apostles of the Divinity. Each class of men requires its particular ones; a parish catechist tells children that there is a God, but Newton proves it to the wise.

In London, under Charles II. after Cromwell’s wars, as at Paris under Henry IV. after the war of the Guises, people took great pride in being atheists; having passed from the excess of cruelty to that of pleasure, and corrupted their minds successively by war and by voluptuousness, they reasoned very indifferently. Since then the more nature has been studied the better its Author has been known.

One thing I will venture to believe, which is, that of all religions, theism is the most widely spread in the world. It is the prevailing religion of China; it is that of the wise among the Mahometans; and, among Christian philosophers, eight out of ten are of the same opinion. It has penetrated even into the schools of theology, into the cloisters, into the conclave; it is a sort of sect without association, without worship, without ceremonies, without disputes, and without zeal, spread through the world without having been preached. Theism, like Judaism, is to be found amidst all religions; but it is singular that the latter, which is the extreme of superstition, abhorred by the people and contemned by the wise, is everywhere tolerated for money; while the former, which is the opposite of superstition, unknown to the people, and embraced by philosophers alone, is publicly exercised nowhere but in China. There is no country in Europe where there are more theists than in England. Some persons ask whether they have a religion or not.

There are two sorts of theists. The one sort think that God made the world without giving man rules for good and evil. It is clear that these should have no other name than that of philosophers.

The others believe that God gave to man a natural law. These, it is certain, have a religion, though they have no external worship. They are, with reference to the Christian religion, peaceful enemies, which she carries in her bosom; they renounce without any design of destroying her. All other sects desire to predominate, like political bodies, which seek to feed on the substance of others, and rise upon their ruin; theism has always lain quiet. Theists have never been found caballing in any state.

There was in London a society of theists, who for some time continued to meet together. They had a small book of their laws, in which religion, on which so many ponderous volumes have been written, occupied only two pages. Their principal axiom was this: “Morality is the same among all men; therefore it comes from God. Worship is various; therefore it is the work of man.”

The second axiom was: “Men, being all brethren, and acknowledging the same God, it is execrable that brethren should persecute brethren, because they testify their love for the common father in a different manner. Indeed,” said they, “what upright man would kill his elder brother because one of them had saluted their father after the Chinese and the other after the Dutch fashion, especially while it was undecided in what way the father wished their reverence to be made to him? Surely he who should act thus would be a bad brother rather than a good son.”

I am well aware that these maxims lead directly to “the abominable and execrable dogma of toleration”; but I do no more than simply relate the fact. I am very careful not to become a controversialist. It must, however, be admitted that if the different sects into which Christians have been divided had possessed this moderation, Christianity would have been disturbed by fewer disorders, shaken by fewer revolutions, and stained with less blood.

Let us pity the theists for combating our holy revelation. But whence comes it that so many Calvinists, Lutherans, Anabaptists, Nestorians, Arians, partisans of Rome, and enemies of Rome, have been so sanguinary, so barbarous, and so miserable, now persecuting, now persecuted? It is because they have been the multitude. Whence is it that theists, though in error, have never done harm to mankind? Because they have been philosophers. The Christian religion has cost the human species seventeen millions of men, reckoning only one million per century, who have perished either by the hands of the ordinary executioner, or by those of executioners paid and led to battle—all for the salvation of souls and the greater glory of God.

I have heard men express astonishment that a religion so moderate, and so apparently conformable to reason, as theism, has not been spread among the people. Among the great and little vulgar may be found pious herb-women, Molinist duchesses, scrupulous seamstresses who would go to the stake for anabaptism, devout hackney-coachmen, most determined in the cause of Luther or of Arius, but no theists; for theism cannot so much be called a religion as a system of philosophy, and the vulgar, whether great or little, are not philosophers.

Locke was a declared theist. I was astonished to find, in that great philosopher’s chapter on innate ideas, that men have all different ideas of justice. Were such the case, morality would no longer be the same; the voice of God would not be heard by man; natural religion would be at an end. I am willing to believe, with him, that there are nations in which men eat their fathers, and where to lie with a neighbor’s wife is to do him a friendly office; but if this be true it does not prove that the law, “Do not unto others that which you would not have others do unto you,” is not general. For if a father be eaten, it is when he has grown old, is too feeble to crawl along, and would otherwise be eaten by the enemy. And, I ask, what father would not furnish a good meal to his son rather than to the enemies of his nation? Besides, he who eats his father hopes that he in turn shall be eaten by his children.

If a service be rendered to a neighbor by lying with his wife, it is when he cannot himself have a child, and is desirous of having one; otherwise he would be very angry. In both these cases, and in all others, the natural law, “Do not to another that which you would not have another do to you,” remains unbroken. All the other rules, so different and so varied, may be referred to this. When, therefore, the wise metaphysician, Locke, says that men have no innate ideas, that they have different ideas of justice and injustice, he assuredly does not mean to assert that God has not given to all men that instinctive self-love by which they are of necessity guided.


Epicurus, equally great as a genius, and respectable in his morals; and after him Lucretius, who forced the Latin language to express philosophical ideas, and—to the great admiration of Rome—to express them in verse—Epicurus and Lucretius, I say, admitted atoms and the void. Gassendi supported this doctrine, and Newton demonstrated it. In vain did a remnant of Cartesianism still combat for the plenum; in vain did Leibnitz, who had at first adopted the rational system of Epicurus, Lucretius, Gassendi, and Newton, change his opinion respecting the void after he had embroiled himself with his master Newton. The plenum is now regarded as a chimera.

In this Epicurus and Lucretius appear to have been true philosophers, and their intermediaries, who have been so much ridiculed, were no other than the unresisting space in which Newton has demonstrated that the planets move round their orbits in times proportioned to their areas. Thus it was not Epicurus’ intermediaries, but his opponents, that were ridiculous. But when Epicurus afterwards tells us that his atoms declined in the void by chance; that this declination formed men and animals by chance; that the eyes were placed in the upper part of the head and the feet at the end of the legs by chance; that ears were not given to hear, but that the declination of atoms having fortuitously composed ears, men fortuitously made use of them to hear with—this madness, called physics, has been very justly turned into ridicule.

Sound philosophy, then, has long distinguished what is good in Epicurus and Lucretius, from their chimeras, founded on imagination and ignorance. The most submissive minds have adopted the doctrine of creation in time, and the most daring have admitted that of creation before all time. Some have received with faith a universe produced from nothing; others, unable to comprehend this doctrine in physics, have believed that all beings were emanations from the Great—the Supreme and Universal Being; but all have rejected the fortuitous concurrence of atoms; all have acknowledged that chance is a word without meaning. What we call chance can be no other than the unknown cause of a known effect. Whence comes it then, that philosophers are still accused of thinking that the stupendous and indescribable arrangement of the universe is a production of the fortuitous concurrence of atoms—an effect of chance? Neither Spinoza nor any one else has advanced this absurdity.

Yet the son of the great Racine says, in his poem on Religion:

O toi! qui follement fais ton Dieu du hasard,

Viens me développer ce nid qu’avec tant d’art,

Au même ordre toujours architecte fidèle,

À l’aide de son bec maçonne l’hirondelle;

Comment, pour élever ce hardi bâtiment,

A-t-elle en le broyant arrondi son ciment?

Oh ye, who raise Creation out of chance,

As erst Lucretius from th’ atomic dance!

Come view with me the swallow’s curious nest,

Where beauty, art, and order, shine confessed.

How could rude chance, forever dark and blind,

Preside within the little builder’s mind?

Could she, with accidents unnumbered crowned,

Its mass concentrate, and its structure round!

These lines are assuredly thrown away. No one makes chance his God; no one has said that while a swallow “tempers his clay, it takes the form of his abode by chance.” On the contrary, it is said that “he makes his nest by the laws of necessity,” which is the opposite of chance.

The only question now agitated is, whether the author of nature has formed primordial parts unsusceptible of division, or if all is continually dividing and changing into other elements. The first system seems to account for everything, and the second, hitherto at least, for nothing.

If the first elements of things were not indestructible one element might at last swallow up all the rest, and change them into its own substance. Hence, perhaps it was that Empedocles imagined that everything came from fire, and would be destroyed by fire.

This question of atoms involves another, that of the divisibility of matter ad infinitum. The word atom signifies without parts—not to be divided. You divide it in thought, for if you were to divide it in reality it would no longer be an atom.

You may divide a grain of gold into eighteen millions of visible parts; a grain of copper dissolved in spirit of sal ammoniac has exhibited upwards of twenty-two thousand parts; but when you have arrived at the last element the atom escapes the microscope, and you can divide no further except in imagination.

The infinite divisibility of atoms is like some propositions in geometry. You may pass an infinity of curves between a circle and its tangent, supposing the circle and the tangent to be lines without breadth; but there are no such lines in nature.

You likewise establish that asymptotes will approach one another without ever meeting; but it is under the supposition that they are lines having length without breadth—things which have only a speculative existence.

So, also, we represent unity by a line, and divide this line and this unity into as many fractions as you please; but this infinity of fractions will never be any other than our unity and our line.

It is not strictly demonstrated that atoms are indivisible, but it appears that they are not divided by the laws of nature.


Avarities, amor habendi—desire of having, avidity, covetousness. Properly speaking, avarice is the desire of accumulating, whether in grain, movables, money, or curiosities. There were avaricious men long before coin was invented.

We do not call a man avaricious who has four and twenty coach horses, yet will not lend one to his friend: or who, having two thousand bottles of Burgundy in his cellar, will not send you half a dozen, when he knows you to be in want of them. If he show you a hundred thousand crowns’ worth of diamonds you do not think of asking him to present you with one worth twenty livres; you consider him as a man of great magnificence, but not at all avaricious.

He who in finance, in army contracts, and great undertakings gained two millions each year, and who, when possessed of forty-three millions, besides his houses at Paris and his movables, expended fifty thousand crowns per annum for his table, and sometimes lent money to noblemen at five per cent. interest, did not pass, in the minds of the people, for an avaricious man. He had, however, all his life burned with the thirst of gain; the demon of covetousness was perpetually tormenting him; he continued to accumulate to the last day of his life. This passion, which was constantly gratified, has never been called avarice. He did not expend a tenth part of his income, yet he had the reputation of a generous man, too fond of splendor.

A father of a family who, with an income of twenty thousand livres, expends only five or six, and accumulates his savings to portion his children, has the reputation among his neighbors of being avaricious, mean, stingy, a niggard, a miser, a gripfarthing; and every abusive epithet that can be thought of is bestowed upon him.

Nevertheless this good citizen is much more to be honored than the Crœsus I have just mentioned; he expends three times as much in proportion. But the cause of the great difference between their reputations is this:

Men hate the individual whom they call avaricious only because there is nothing to be gained by him. The physician, the apothecary, the wine-merchant, the draper, the grocer, the saddler, and a few girls gain a good deal by our Crœsus, who is truly avaricious. But with our close and economical citizen there is nothing to be done. Therefore he is loaded with maledictions.

As for those among the avaricious who deprive themselves of the necessaries of life, we leave them to Plautus and Molière.


Must not a man be very thoroughly possessed by the demon of etymology to say, with Pezron and others, that the Roman word augurium came from the Celtic words au and gur? According to these learned men au must, among the Basques and Bas-Bretons, have signified the liver, because asu, which (say they) signified left, doubtless stood for the liver, which is on the right side; and gur meant man, or yellow, or red, in that Celtic tongue of which we have not one memorial. Truly this is powerful reasoning.

Absurd curiosity (for we must call things by their right names) has been carried so far as to seek Hebrew and Chaldee derivations from certain Teutonic and Celtic words. This, Bochart never fails to do. It is astonishing with what confidence these men of genius have proved that expressions used on the banks of the Tiber were borrowed from the patois of the savages of Biscay. Nay, they even assert that this patois was one of the first idioms of the primitive language—the parent of all other languages throughout the world. They have only to proceed, and say that all the various notes of birds come from the cry of the two first parrots, from which every other species of birds has been produced.

The religious folly of auguries was originally founded on very sound and natural observations. The birds of passage have always marked the progress of the seasons. We see them come in flocks in the spring, and return in the autumn. The cuckoo is heard only in fine weather, which his note seems to invite. The swallows, skimming along the ground, announce rain. Each climate has its bird, which is in effect its augury.

Among the observing part of mankind there were, no doubt, knaves who persuaded fools that there was something divine in these animals, and that their flight presaged our destinies, which were written on the wings of a sparrow just as clearly as in the stars.

The commentators on the allegorical and interesting story of Joseph sold by his brethren, and made Pharaoh’s prime minister for having explained his dreams, infer that Joseph was skilled in the science of auguries, from the circumstance that Joseph’s steward is commanded to say to his brethren, “Is not this it (the silver cup) in which my lord drinketh? and whereby indeed he divineth?” Joseph, having caused his brethren to be brought back before him, says to them: “What deed is this that ye have done? Wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?”

Judah acknowledges, in the name of his brethren, that Joseph is a great diviner, and that God has inspired him: “God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants.” At that time they took Joseph for an Egyptian lord. It is evident from the text that they believe the God of the Egyptians and of the Jews had discovered to this minister the theft of his cup.

Here, then, we have auguries or divination clearly established in the Book of Genesis; so clearly that it is afterwards forbidden in Leviticus: “Ye shall not eat anything with the blood; neither shall ye use enchantment nor observe times. Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.”

As for the superstition of seeing the future in a cup, it still exists, and is called seeing in a glass. The individual must never have known pollution; he must turn towards the east, and pronounce the words, Abraxa per dominum nostrum, after which he will see in a glass of water whatever he pleases. Children were usually chosen for this operation. They must retain their hair; a shaven head, or one wearing a wig, can see nothing in a glass. This pastime was much in vogue in France during the regency of the duke of Orleans, and still more so in the times preceding.

As for auguries, they perished with the Roman Empire. Only the bishops have retained the augurial staff, called the crosier; which was the distinctive mark of the dignity of augur; so that the symbol of falsehood has become the symbol of truth.

There were innumerable kinds of divinations, of which several have reached our latter ages. This curiosity to read the future is a malady which only philosophy can cure, for the weak minds that still practise these pretended arts of divination—even the fools who give themselves to the devil—all make religion subservient to these profanations, by which it is outraged.

It is an observation worthy of the wise, that Cicero, who was one of the college of augurs, wrote a book for the sole purpose of turning auguries into ridicule; but they have likewise remarked that Cicero, at the end of his book, says that “superstition should be destroyed, but not religion. For,” he adds, “the beauty of the universe, and the order of the heavenly bodies force us to acknowledge an eternal and powerful nature. We must maintain the religion which is joined with the knowledge of this nature, by utterly extirpating superstition, for it is a monster which pursues and presses us on every side. The meeting with a pretended diviner, a presage, an immolated victim, a bird, a Chaldæan, an aruspice, a flash of lightning, a clap of thunder, an event accidentally corresponding with what has been foretold to us, everything disturbs and makes us uneasy; sleep itself, which should make us forget all these pains and fears, serves but to redouble them by frightful images.”

Cicero thought he was addressing only a few Romans, but he was speaking to all men and all ages.

Most of the great men of Rome no more believed in auguries than Alexander VI., Julius II., and Leo X., believed in Our Lady of Loretto and the blood of St. Januarius. However, Suetonius relates that Octavius, surnamed Augustus, was so weak as to believe that a fish, which leaped from the sea upon the shore at Actium, foreboded that he should gain the battle. He adds that, having afterwards met an ass-driver, he asked him the name of his ass; and the man having answered that his ass was named Nicholas, which signifies conqueror of nations, he had no longer any doubts about the victory; and that he afterwards had brazen statues erected to the ass-driver, the ass, and the jumping fish. He further assures us that these statues were placed in the Capitol.

It is very likely that this able tyrant laughed at the superstitions of the Romans, and that his ass, the driver, and the fish, were nothing more than a joke. But it is no less likely that, while he despised all the follies of the vulgar, he had a few of his own. The barbarous and dissimulating Louis XI. had a firm faith in the cross of St. Louis. Almost all princes, excepting such as have had time to read, and read to advantage, are in some degree infected with superstition.


Augustine, a native of Tagaste, is here to be considered, not as a bishop, a doctor, a father of the Church, but simply as a man. This is a question in physics, respecting the climate of Africa.

When a youth, Augustine was a great libertine, and the spirit was no less quick in him than the flesh. He says that before he was twenty years old he had learned arithmetic, geometry and music without a master.

Does not this prove that, in Africa, which we now call Barbary, both minds and bodies advance to maturity more rapidly than among us?

These valuable advantages of St. Augustine would lead one to believe that Empedocles was not altogether in the wrong when he regarded fire as the principle of nature. It is assisted, but by subordinate agents. It is like a king governing the actions of all his subjects, and sometimes inflaming the imaginations of his people rather too much. It is not without reason that Syphax says to Juba, in the Cato of Addison, that the sun which rolls its fiery car over African heads places a deeper tinge upon the cheeks, and a fiercer flame within their hearts. That the dames of Zama are vastly superior to the pale beauties of the north:

The glowing dames of Zama’s royal court

Have faces flushed with more exalted charms;

Were you with these, my prince, you’d soon forget

The pale unripened beauties of the north.

Where shall we find in Paris, Strasburg, Ratisbon, or Vienna young men who have learned arithmetic, the mathematics and music without assistance, and who have been fathers at fourteen?

Doubtless it is no fable that Atlas, prince of Mauritania, called by the Greeks the son of heaven, was a celebrated astronomer, and constructed a celestial sphere such as the Chinese have had for so many ages. The ancients, who expressed everything in allegory, likened this prince to the mountain which bears his name, because it lifts its head above the clouds, which have been called the heavens by all mankind who have judged of things only from the testimony of their eyes.

These Moors cultivated the sciences with success, and taught Spain and Italy for five centuries. Things are greatly altered. The country of Augustine is now but a den of pirates, while England, Italy, Germany, and France, which were involved in barbarism, are greater cultivators of the arts than ever the Arabians were.

Our only object, then, in this article is to show how changeable a scene this world is. Augustine, from a debauchee, becomes an orator and a philosopher; he puts himself forward in the world; he teaches rhetoric; he turns Manichæan, and from Manichæanism passes to Christianity. He causes himself to be baptized, together with one of his bastards, named Deodatus; he becomes a bishop, and a father of the Church. His system of grace has been reverenced for eleven hundred years as an article of faith. At the end of eleven hundred years some Jesuits find means to procure an anathema against Augustine’s system, word for word, under the names of Jansenius, St. Cyril, Arnaud, and Quesnel. We ask if this revolution is not, in its kind, as great as that of Africa, and if there be anything permanent upon earth?


The Morals of Augustus.

Manners can be known only from facts, which facts must be incontestable. It is beyond doubt that this man, so immoderately praised as the restorer of morals and of laws, was long one of the most infamous debauchees in the Roman commonwealth. His epigram on Fulvia, written after the horrors of the proscriptions, proves that he was no less a despiser of decency in his language than he was a barbarian in his conduct. This abominable epigram is one of the strongest testimonies to Augustus’ infamous immorality. Sextus Pompeius also reproached him with shameful weaknesses: “Effeminatum infectatus est.” Antony, before the triumvirate, declared that Cæsar, great-uncle to Augustus, had adopted him as his son only because he had been subservient to his pleasures: “Adoptionem avunculi stupro meritum.”

Lucius Cæsar charged him with the same crime, and even asserted that he had been base enough to sell himself to Hirtius for a very considerable sum. He was so shameless as to take the wife of a consul from her husband in the midst of a supper; he took her to a neighboring closet, staid with her there for some time, and brought her back to table without himself, the woman, or her husband blushing at all at the proceeding.

We have also a letter from Antony to Augustus, couched in these terms: “Ita valeas ut hanc epistolam cum leges, non inieris Testullam, aut Terentillam, aut Russillam, aut Salviam, aut omnes. Anne refert ubi et in quam arrigas?” We are afraid to translate this licentious letter.

Nothing is better known than the scandalous feast of five of the companions of his pleasures with five of the principal women of Rome. They were dressed up as gods and goddesses, and imitated all the immodesties invented in fable—“Dum nova Divorum cœnat adulteria.” And on the stage he was publicly designated by this famous line:

Videsne ut cinaedus orbem digito temperet?

Almost every Latin author that speaks of Ovid asserts that Augustus had the insolence to banish that Roman knight, who was a much better man than himself, merely because the other had surprised him in an incest with his own daughter Julia; and that he sent his daughter into exile only through jealousy. This is the more likely, as Caligula published aloud that his mother was born from the incest of Augustus with Julia. So says Suetonius, in his life of Caligula.

We know that Augustus repudiated the mother of Julia the very day she was brought to bed of her, and on the same day took Livia from her husband when she was pregnant of Tiberius—another monster, who succeeded him. Such was the man to whom Horace said: “Res Italas armis tuteris, moribus ornes, Legibus emendes. . . . ”

It is hard to repress our indignation at reading at the commencement of the Georgics that Augustus is one of the greatest of divinities; and that it is not known what place he will one day deign to occupy in heaven; whether he will reign in the air, or become the protector of cities, or vouchsafe to accept the empire of the seas:

An Deus immensi venias maris, ac tua nauta

Numina sola celant tibi serviat ultima Thule.

Ariosto speaks with much more sense as well as grace, when he says in his fine thirty-fifth canto:

Non fu si santo ne benigno Augusto

Come la tromba di Virgilio sonna;

L’aver avuto in poesia buon gusto

La proscriptione iniqua gli perdona.

Augustus was not quite so mild and chaste

As he’s by honest Virgil represented;

But then, the tyrant had poetic taste;

With this the poet fully was contented.

The Cruelties of Augustus.

If Augustus was long abandoned to the most shameful and frantic dissipation, his cruelty was no less uniform and deliberate. His proscriptions were published in the midst of feasting and revelry; he proscribed more than three hundred senators, two thousand knights, and one hundred obscure but wealthy heads of families, whose only crime was their being rich. Antony and Octavius had them killed, solely that they might get possession of their money; in which they differed not the least from highway robbers, who are condemned to the wheel.

Octavius, immediately after the Persian war, gave his veterans all the lands belonging to the citizens of Mantua and Cremona, thus recompensing murder by depredation.

It is but too certain that the world was ravaged, from the Euphrates to the extremities of Spain, by this man without shame, without faith, honor, or probity, knavish, ungrateful, avaricious, bloodthirsty, cool in the commission of crime, who, in any well-regulated republic, would have been condemned to the greatest of punishments for the first of his offences.

Nevertheless, the government of Augustus is still admired, because under him Rome tasted peace, pleasure and abundance. Seneca says of him: “Clementiam non voco lassam crudelitatem”—“I do not call exhausted cruelty clemency.”

It is thought that Augustus became milder when crime was no longer necessary to him; and that, being absolute master, he saw that he had no other interest than to appear just. But it appears to me that he still was pitiless rather than clement; for, after the battle of Actium, he had Antony’s son murdered at the feet of Cæsar’s statue; and he was so barbarous as to have young Cæsarion, the son of Cæsar and Cleopatra, beheaded, though he had recognized him as king of Egypt.

Suspecting one day that the prætor Quintus Gallius had come to an audience with a poinard under his robe, he had him put to the torture in his presence; and, in his indignation at hearing that senator call him a tyrant, he tore out his eyes with his own hands; at least, so says Suetonius.

We know that Cæsar, his adopted father, was great enough to pardon almost all his enemies; but I do not find that Augustus pardoned one of his. I have great doubts of his pretended clemency to Cinna. This affair is mentioned neither by Suetonius nor by Tacitus. Suetonius, who speaks of all the conspiracies against Augustus, would not have failed to mention the most memorable. The singularity of giving a consulship to Cinna in return for the blackest perfidy would not have escaped every contemporary historian. Dion Cassius speaks of it only after Seneca; and this passage in Seneca has the appearance rather of declamation than of historical truth. Besides, Seneca lays the scene in Gaul, and Dion at Rome; this contradiction deprives the occurrence of all remaining verisimilitude. Not one of our Roman histories, compiled in haste and without selection, has discussed this interesting fact. Lawrence Echard’s History has appeared to enlightened men to be as faulty as it is mutilated; writers have rarely been guided by the spirit of examination.

Cinna might be suspected, or convicted, by Augustus of some infidelity; and, when the affair had been cleared up, he might honor him with the vain title of consul; but it is not at all probable that Cinna sought by a conspiracy to seize the supreme authority—he, who had never commanded an army, was supported by no party, and was a man of no consideration in the empire. It is not very likely that a mere subordinate courtier would think of succeeding a sovereign who had been twenty years firmly established on his throne, and had heirs; nor is it more likely that Augustus would make him consul immediately after the conspiracy.

If Cinna’s adventure be true, Augustus pardoned him only because he could not do otherwise, being overcome by the reasoning or the importunities of Livia, who had acquired great influence over him, and persuaded him, says Seneca, that pardon would do him more service than chastisement. It was then only through policy that he, for once, was merciful; it certainly was not through generosity.

Shall we give a robber credit for clemency, because, being enriched and secure, enjoying in peace the fruits of his rapine, he is not every day assassinating the sons and grandsons of the proscribed, while they are kneeling to and worshipping him? After being a barbarian he was a prudent politician. It is worthy of remark that posterity never gave him the title of virtuous, which was bestowed on Titus, on Trajan, and the Antonines. It even became customary in the compliments paid to emperors on their accession, to wish that they might be more fortunate than Augustus, and more virtuous than Trajan. It is now, therefore, allowable to consider Augustus as a clever and fortunate monster.

Louis Racine, son of the great Racine, and heir to a part of his talents, seems to forget himself when he says, in his “Reflections on Poetry,” that “Horace and Virgil spoiled Augustus; they exhausted their art in poisoning the mind of Augustus by their praises.” These expressions would lead one to believe that the eulogies so meanly lavished by these two great poets, corrupted this emperor’s fine disposition. But Louis Racine very well knew that Augustus was an exceedingly bad man, regarding crime and virtue with indifference, availing himself alike of the horrors of the one and the appearances of the other, attentive solely to his own interest, employing bloodshed and peace, arms and laws, religion and pleasure, only to make himself master of the earth, and sacrificing everything to himself. Louis Racine only shows us that Virgil and Horace had servile souls.

He is, unfortunately, too much in the right when he reproaches Corneille with having dedicated “Cinna” to the financier Montoron, and said to that receiver, “What you most especially have in common with Augustus is the generosity with which,” etc., for, though Augustus was the most wicked of Roman citizens, it must be confessed that the first of the emperors, the master, the pacificator, the legislator of the then known world, should not be placed absolutely on a level with a clerk to a comptroller-general in Gaul.

The same Louis Racine, in justly condemning the mean adulation of Corneille, and the baseness of the aged Horace and Virgil, marvellously lays hold of this passage in Massillon’s “Petit Carême.” “It is no less culpable to fail in truth towards monarchs than to be wanting in fidelity; the same penalty should be imposed on adulation as on revolt.”

I ask your pardon, Father Massillon; but this stroke of yours is very oratorical, very preacher-like, very exaggerated. The League and the Fronde have, if I am not deceived, done more harm than Quinault’s prologues. There is no way of condemning Quinault as a rebel. “Est modus in rebus,” Father Massillon, which is wanting in all manufacturers of sermons.


Avignon and its country are monuments of what the abuse of religion, ambition, knavery, and fanaticism united can effect. This little country, after a thousand vicissitudes, had, in the twelfth century, passed into the hands of the counts of Toulouse, descended from Charlemagne by the female side.

Raymond VI., count of Toulouse, whose forefathers had been the principal heroes in the crusades, was stripped of his states by a crusade which the pope stirred up against him. The cause of the crusade was the desire of having his spoils; the pretext was that in several of his towns the citizens thought nearly as has been thought for upwards of two hundred years in England, Sweden, Denmark, three-fourths of Switzerland, Holland, and half of Germany.

This was hardly a sufficient reason for giving, in the name of God, the states of the count of Toulouse to the first occupant, and for devoting to slaughter and fire his subjects, crucifix in hand, and white cross on shoulder. All that is related of the most savage people falls far short of the barbarities committed in this war, called holy. The ridiculous atrocity of some religious ceremonies always accompanied these horrid excesses. It is known that Raymond VI. was dragged to a church of St. Giles’s, before a legate, naked to the waist, without hose or sandals, with a rope about his neck, which was held by a deacon, while another deacon flogged him, and a third sung miserere with some monks—and all the while the legate was at dinner. Such was the origin of the right of the popes over Avignon.

Count Raymond, who had submitted to the flagellation in order to preserve his states, underwent this ignominy to no purpose whatever. He had to defend by arms what he had thought to preserve by suffering a few stripes; he saw his towns laid in ashes, and died in 1213 amid the vicissitudes of the most sanguinary war.

His son, Raymond VII., was not, like his father, suspected of heresy; but he was the son of a heretic, and was to be stripped of all his possessions, by virtue of the Decretals; such was the law. The crusade, therefore, was continued against him; he was excommunicated in the churches, on Sundays and holidays, to the sound of bells and with tapers extinguished.

A legate who was in France during the minority of St. Louis raised tenths there to maintain this war in Languedoc and Provence. Raymond defended himself with courage; but the heads of the hydra of fanaticism were incessantly reappearing to devour him.

The pope at last made peace because all his money had been expended in war. Raymond VII. came and signed the treaty before the portal of the cathedral of Paris. He was forced to pay ten thousand marks of silver to the legate, two thousand to the abbey of Citeaux, five hundred to the abbey of Clairvaux, a thousand to that of Grand-Selve, and three hundred to that of Belleperche—all for the salvation of his soul, as is specified in the treaty So it was that the Church always negotiated.

It is very remarkable that in this document the count of Toulouse constantly puts the legate before the king: “I swear and promise to the legate and to the king faithfully to observe all these things, and to cause them to be observed by my vassals and subjects,” etc.

This was not all. He ceded to Pope Gregory IX. the country of Venaissin beyond the Rhone, and the sovereignty of seventy-three castles on this side the same river. The pope adjudged this fine to himself by a particular act, desirous that, in a public instrument, the acknowledgment of having exterminated so many Christians for the purpose of seizing upon his neighbor’s goods, should not appear in so glaring a light. Besides, he demanded what Raymond could not grant, without the consent of the Emperor Frederick II. The count’s lands, on the left bank of the Rhone, were an imperial fief, and Frederick II. never sanctioned this exaction.

Alphonso, brother of St. Louis, having married this unfortunate prince’s daughter, by whom he had no children, all the states of Raymond VII. in Languedoc, devolved to the crown of France, as had been stipulated in the marriage contract.

The country of Venaissin, which is in Provence, had been magnanimously given up by the Emperor Frederick II. to the count of Toulouse. His daughter Joan, before her death, had disposed of them by will in favor of Charles of Anjou, count of Provence, and king of Naples.

Philip the Bold, son of St. Louis, being pressed by Pope Gregory IX., gave the country of Venaissin to the Roman church in 1274. It must be confessed that Philip the Bold gave what in no way belonged to him; that this cession was absolutely null and void, and that no act ever was more contrary to all law.

It is the same with the town of Avignon. Joan of France, queen of Naples, descended from the brother of St. Louis, having been, with but too great an appearance of justice, accused of causing her husband to be strangled, desired the protection of Pope Clement VI., whose see was then the town of Avignon, in Joan’s domains. She was countess of Provence. In 1347 the Provençals made her swear, on the gospel, that she would sell none of her sovereignties. She had scarcely taken this oath before she went and sold Avignon to the pope. The authentic act was not signed until June 14, 1348; the sum stipulated for was eighty thousand florins of gold. The pope declared her innocent of her husband’s murder, but never paid her. Joan’s receipt has never been produced. She protested juridically four several times against this deceitful purchase.

So that Avignon and its country were never considered to have been dismembered from Provence, otherwise than by a rapine, which was the more manifest, as it had been sought to cover it with the cloak of religion.

When Louis XI. acquired Provence he acquired it with all the rights appertaining thereto; and, as appears by a letter from John of Foix to that monarch, had in 1464 resolved to enforce them. But the intrigues of the court of Rome were always so powerful that the kings of France condescended to allow it the enjoyment of this small province. They never acknowledged in the popes a lawful possession, but only a simple enjoyment.

In the treaty of Pisa, made by Louis XIV. with Alexander VII., in 1664, it is said that, “every obstacle shall be removed, in order that the pope may enjoy Avignon as before.” The pope, then, had this province only as cardinals have pensions from the king, which pensions are discretional.

Avignon and its country were a constant source of embarrassment to the French government; they afforded a refuge to all the bankrupts and smugglers, though very little profit thence accrued to the pope.

Louis XIV. twice resumed his rights; but it was rather to chastise the pope than to reunite Avignon and its country with his crown. At length Louis XV. did justice to his dignity and to his subjects. The gross and indecent conduct of Pope Rezzonico (Clement XIII.) forced him in 1768 to revive the rights of his crown. This pope had acted as if he belonged to the fourteenth century. He was, however, with the applause of all Europe, convinced that he lived in the eighteenth.

When the officer bearing the king’s orders entered Avignon, he went straight to the legate’s apartment, without being announced, and said to him, “Sir, the king takes possession of his town.”

There is some difference between this proceeding and a count of Toulouse being flogged by a deacon, while a legate is at dinner. Things, we see, change with times.


Suppose that some chosen individuals, lovers of study, united together after a thousand catastrophes had happened to the world, and employed themselves in worshipping God and regulating the time of the year, as is said of the ancient Brahmins and Magi; all this is perfectly good and honest. They might, by their frugal life, set an example to the rest of the world; they might abstain, during the celebration of their feasts, from all intoxicating liquors, and all commerce with their wives; they might be clothed modestly and decently; if they were wise, other men consulted them; if they were just, they were loved and reverenced. But did not superstition, brawling, and vanity soon take the place of the virtues?

Was not the first madman that flogged himself publicly to appease the gods the original of the priests of the Syrian goddess, who flogged themselves in her honor; of the priests of Isis, who did the same on certain days; of the priests of Dodona, named Salii, who inflicted wounds on themselves; of the priests of Bellona, who struck themselves with sabres; of the priests of Diana, who drew blood from their backs with rods; of the priests of Cybele, who made themselves eunuchs; of the fakirs of India, who loaded themselves with chains? Has the hope of obtaining abundant alms nothing at all to do with the practice of these austerities?

Is there not some similarity between the beggars, who make their legs swell by a certain application and cover their bodies with sores, in order to force a few pence from the passengers, and the impostors of antiquity, who seated themselves upon nails, and sold the holy nails to the devout of their country?

And had vanity never any share in promoting these public mortifications, which attracted the eyes of the multitude? “I scourge myself, but it is to expiate your faults; I go naked, but it is to reproach you with the richness of your garments; I feed on herbs and snails, but it is to correct in you the vice of gluttony; I wear an iron ring to make you blush at your lewdness. Reverence me as one cherished by the gods, and who will bring down their favors upon you. When you shall be accustomed to reverence me, you will not find it hard to obey me; I will be your master, in the name of the gods; and then, if any one of you disobey my will in the smallest particular, I will have you impaled to appease the wrath of heaven.”

If the first fakirs did not pronounce these words, it is very probable that they had them engraved at the bottom of their hearts.

Human sacrifices, perhaps, had their origin in these frantic austerities. Men who drew their blood in public with rods, and mangled their arms and thighs to gain consideration, would easily make imbecile savages believe that they must sacrifice to the gods whatever was dearest to them; that to have a fair wind, they must immolate a daughter; to avert pestilence, precipitate a son from a rock; to have infallibly a good harvest, throw a daughter into the Nile.

These Asiatic superstitions gave rise to the flagellations which we have imitated from the Jews. Their devotees still flog themselves, and flog one another, as the priests of Egypt and Syria did of old. Among us the abbots flogged their monks, and the confessors their penitents—of both sexes. St. Augustine wrote to Marcellinus, the tribune, that “the Donatists must be whipped as schoolmasters whip their scholars.”

It is said that it was not until the tenth century that monks and nuns began to scourge themselves on certain days of the year. The custom of scourging sinners as a penance was so well established that St. Louis’s confessor often gave him the whip. Henry II. was flogged by the monks of Canterbury (in 1207). Raymond, count of Toulouse, with a rope round his neck, was flogged by a deacon, at the door of St. Giles’s church, as has before been said.

The chaplains to Louis VIII., king of France, were condemned by the pope’s legate to go at the four great feasts to the door of the cathedral of Paris, and present rods to the canons, that they might flog them in expiation for the crime of the king, their master, who had accepted the crown of England, which the pope had taken from him by virtue of the plenitude of his power. Indeed, the pope showed great indulgence in not having the king himself whipped, but contenting himself with commanding him, on pain of damnation, to pay to the apostolic chamber the amount of two years’ revenue.

From this custom is derived that which still exists, of arming all the grand-penitentiaries in St. Peter’s at Rome with long wands instead of rods, with which they give gentle taps to the penitents, lying all their length on the floor. In this manner it was that Henry IV., of France, had his posteriors flogged by Cardinal Ossat and Duperron. So true is it that we have scarcely yet emerged from barbarism.

At the commencement of the thirteenth century fraternities of penitents were formed at Perosia and Bologna. Young men almost naked, with a rod in one hand and a small crucifix in the other, flogged themselves in the streets; while the women peeped through the window-blinds and whipped themselves in their chambers.

These flagellators inundated Europe; there are many of them still to be found in Italy, in Spain, and even in France, at Perpignan. At the beginning of the sixteenth century it was very common for confessors to whip the posteriors of their penitents. A history of the Low Countries, composed by Meteren, relates that a cordelier named Adriacem, a great preacher at Bruges, used to whip his female penitents quite naked.

The Jesuit Edmund Auger, confessor to Henry III., persuaded that unfortunate prince to put himself at the head of the flagellators.

Flogging the posteriors is practised in various convents of monks and nuns; from which custom there have sometimes resulted strange immodesties, over which we must throw a veil, in order to spare the blushes of such as wear the sacred veil, and whose sex and profession are worthy of our highest regard.


Author is a generic term, which, like the names of all other professions, may signify author of the good, or of the bad; of the respectable, or of the ridiculous; of the useful, or the agreeable; or lastly, the producer of disgusting trash.

This name is also common to different things. We say equally the author of nature and the author of the songs of the Pont Neuf, or of the literary age. The author of a good work should beware of three things—title, dedication, and preface. Others should take care of the fourth, which is writing at all.

As to the title, if the author has the wish to put his name to it, which is often very dangerous, it should at least be under a modest form; it is not pleasant to see a pious work, full of lessons of humanity, by Sir or My Lord. The reader, who is always malicious, and who often is wearied, usually turns into ridicule a book that is announced with so much ostentation. The author of the “Imitation of Jesus Christ” did not put his name to it.

But the apostles, you will say, put their names to their works; that is not true, they were too modest. The apostle Matthew never entitled his book the Gospel of St. Matthew; it is a homage that has been paid to him since. St. Luke himself, who collected all that he had heard said, and who dedicated his book to Theophilus, did not call it the Gospel of St. Luke. St. John alone mentions himself in the Apocalypse; and it is supposed that this book was written by Cerinthus, who took the name of John to give authority to his production.

However it may have been in past ages, it appears to me very bold in authors now to put names and titles at the head of their works. The bishops never fail to do so, and the thick quartos which they give us under the title of mandaments are decorated with armorial bearings and the insignia of their station; a word, no doubt, is said about Christian humility, but this word is often followed by atrocious calumnies against those who are of another communion or party. We only speak here, however, of poor profane authors. The duke de la Rochefoucauld did not announce his thoughts as the production of Monseigneur le duc de la Rochefoucauld, pair de France. Some persons who only make compilations in which there may be fine things, will find it injudicious to announce them as the work of A. B., professor of the university of —, doctor of divinity, member of this or of that academy, and so on. So many dignities do not render the book better. It will still be wished that it was shorter, more philosophical, less filled with old stories. With respect to titles and quality, nobody cares about them.

Dedications are often only offerings from interested baseness to disdainful vanity. Who would believe that Rohaut, soi-disant physician, in his dedication to the duke of Guise, told him that his ancestors had maintained, at the expense of their blood, political truth, the fundamental laws of the state, and the rights of sovereigns? Le Balafré and the duke of Mayenne would be a little surprised if this epistle were read to them in the other world. And what would Henry IV. say? Most of the dedications in England are made for money, just as the capuchins present us with salad on condition of our giving them drink.

Men of letters in France are ignorant of this shameful abasement, and have never exhibited so much meanness, except some unfortunates, who call themselves men of letters in the same sense that sign-daubers boast of being of the profession of Raphael, and that the coachman of Vertamont was a poet.

Prefaces are another rock. “The I is hateful,” says Pascal. Speak of yourself as little as you can, for you ought to be aware that the self-love of the reader is as great as your own. He will never pardon you for wishing to oblige him to esteem you. It is for your book to speak to him, should it happen to be read among the crowd.

“The illustrious suffrages with which my piece has been honored will make me dispense with answering my adversaries—the applauses of the public.” Erase all that, sir; believe me you have had no illustrious suffrages; your piece is eternally forgotten.

“Some censors have pretended that there are too many events in the third act; and that in the fourth the princess is too late in discovering the tender sentiments of her heart for her lover. To that I answer—” Answer nothing, my friend, for nobody has spoken, or will speak of thy princess. Thy piece has fallen because it is tiresome, and written in flat and barbarous verse; thy preface is a prayer for the dead, but it will not revive them.

Others attest that all Europe has not understood their treatises on compatibility—on the Supralapsarians—on the difference which should be made between the Macedonian and Valentinian heresies, etc. Truly, I believe that nobody understands them, since nobody reads them.

We are inundated with this trash and with continual repetition; with insipid romances which copy their predecessors; with new systems founded on ancient reveries; and little histories taken from larger ones.

Do you wish to be an author? Do you wish to make a book? Recollect that it must be new and useful, or at least agreeable. Why from your provincial retreat would you assassinate me with another quarto, to teach me that a king ought to be just, and that Trajan was more virtuous than Caligula? You insist upon printing the sermons which have lulled your little obscure town to repose, and will put all our histories under contributions to extract from them the life of a prince of whom you can say nothing new.

If you have written a history of your own time, doubt not but you will find some learned chronologist, or newspaper commentator, who will relieve you as to a date, a Christian name, or a squadron which you have wrongly placed at the distance of three hundred paces from the place where it really stood. Be grateful, and correct these important errors forthwith.

If an ignoramus, or an empty fool, pretend to criticise this thing or the other, you may properly confute him; but name him rarely, for fear of soiling your writings. If you are attacked on your style, never answer; your work alone should reply.

If you are said to be sick, content yourself that you are well, without wishing to prove to the people that you are in perfect health; and, above all, remember that the world cares very little whether you are well or ill.

A hundred authors compile to get their bread, and twenty fools extract, criticise, apologize, and satirize these compilations to get bread also, because they have no profession. All these people repair on Fridays to the lieutenant of the police at Paris to demand permission to sell their drugs. They have audience immediately after the courtesans, who do not regard them, because they know that they are poor customers.

They return with a tacit permission to sell and distribute throughout the kingdom their stories; their collection of bon-mots; the life of the unfortunate Régis; the translation of a German poem; new discoveries on eels; a new copy of verses; a treatise on the origin of bells, or on the loves of the toads. A bookseller buys their productions for ten crowns; they give five of them to the journalist, on condition that he will speak well of them in his newspaper. The critic takes their money, and says all the ill he can of their books. The aggrieved parties go to complain to the Jew, who protects the wife of the journalist, and the scene closes by the critic being carried to Fort Evêque; and these are they who call themselves authors!

These poor people are divided into two or three bands, and go begging like mendicant friars; but not having taken vows their society lasts only for a few days, for they betray one another like priests who run after the same benefice, though they have no benefice to hope for. But they still call themselves authors!

The misfortune of these men is that their fathers did not make them learn a trade, which is a great defect in modern policy. Every man of the people who can bring up his son in a useful art, and does not, merits punishment. The son of a mason becomes a Jesuit at seventeen; he is chased from society at four and twenty, because the levity of his manners is too glaring. Behold him without bread! He turns journalist, he cultivates the lowest kind of literature, and becomes the contempt and horror of even the mob. And such as these, again, call themselves authors!

The only authors are they who have succeeded in a genuine art, be it epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, history, or philosophy, and who teach or delight mankind. The others, of whom we have spoken, are, among men of letters, like bats among the birds. We cite, comment, criticise, neglect, forget, and, above all, despise an author who is an author only.

Apropos of citing an author, I must amuse myself with relating a singular mistake of the reverend Father Viret, cordelier and professor of theology. He read in the “Philosophy of History” of the good Abbé Bazin that no author ever cited a passage of Moses before Longinus, who lived and died in the time of the Emperor Aurelian. Forthwith the zeal of St. Francis was kindled in him. Viret cries out that it is not true; that several writers have said that there had been a Moses, that even Josephus had spoken at length upon him, and that the Abbé Bazin is a wretch who would destroy the seven sacraments. But, dear Father Viret, you ought to inform yourself of the meaning of the word, to cite. There is a great deal of difference between mentioning an author and citing him. To speak, to make mention of an author, is to say that he has lived—that he has written in such a time; to cite is to give one of his passages—as Moses says in his Exodus—as Moses has written in his Genesis. Now the Abbé Brazin affirms that no foreign writers—that none even of the Jewish prophets have ever quoted a single passage of Moses, though he was a divine author. Truly, Father Viret, you are very malicious, but we shall know at least, by this little paragraph, that you have been an author.

The most voluminous authors that we have had in France are the comptrollers-general of the finances. Ten great volumes might be made of their declarations, since the reign of Louis XIV. Parliaments have been sometimes the critics of these works, and have found erroneous propositions and contradictions in them. But where are the good authors who have not been censured?


Miserable human beings, whether in green robes or in turbans, whether in black gowns or in surplices, or in mantles and bands, never seek to employ authority where nothing is concerned but reason, or consent to be reviled in all ages as the most impertinent of men, as well as to endure public hatred as the most unjust.

You have been told a hundred times of the insolent absurdity with which you condemned Galileo, and I speak to you of it for the hundred and first. I would have it inscribed over the door of your holy office.

Seven cardinals, assisted by certain minorite friars, threw into prison the master of thinking in Italy, at the age of seventy; and made him live upon bread and water because he instructed mankind in that of which they were ignorant.

Having passed a decree in favor of the categories of Aristotle, the above junta learnedly and equitably doomed to the penalty of the galleys whoever should dare to be of another opinion from the Stagyrite, of whom two councils had burned the books.

Further, a Faculty, which possessed very small faculties, made a decree against innate ideas, and afterwards another for them, without the said Faculty being informed, except by its beadles, of what an idea was.

In neighboring schools legal proceedings were commenced against the circulation of the blood. A process was issued against inoculation, and the parties cited by summons.

One and twenty volumes of thoughts in folio have been seized, in which it was wickedly and falsely said that triangles have always three angles; that a father was older than his son; that Rhea Silvia lost her virginity before her accouchement; and that farina differs from oak leaves.

In another year the following question was decided: “Utrum chimæra bombinans in vacuo possit comedere secundas intentiones?” and decided in the affirmative. These judges, of course, considered themselves much superior to Archimedes, Euclid, Cicero, or Pliny, and strutted about the Universities accordingly.


How is it that the axis of the earth is not perpendicular to the equator? Why is it raised toward the north and inclined towards the south pole, in a position which does not appear natural, and which seems the consequence of some derangement, or the result of a period of a prodigious number of years?

Is it true that the ecliptic continually inclines by an insensible movement towards the equator and that the angle formed by these two lines has a little diminished in two thousand years?

Is it true that the ecliptic has been formerly perpendicular to the equator, that the Egyptians have said so, and that Herodotus has related it? This motion of the ecliptic would form a period of about two millions of years. It is not that which astounds us, for the axis of the earth has an imperceptible movement in about twenty-six thousand years which occasions the precession of the equinoxes. It is as easy for nature to produce a rotation of twenty thousand as of two hundred and sixty ages.

We are deceived when we are told that the Egyptians had, according to Herodotus, a tradition that the ecliptic had been formerly perpendicular to the equator. The tradition of which Herodotus speaks has no relation to the coincidence of the equinoctial and ecliptic lines; that is quite another affair.

The pretended scholars of Egypt said that the sun in the space of eleven thousand years had set twice in the east and risen twice in the west. When the equator and the ecliptic coincided, and when the days were everywhere equal to the nights the sun did not on that account change its setting and rising, but the earth turned on its axis from west to east, as at this day. This idea of making the sun set in the east is a chimera only worthy of the brains of the priests of Egypt and shows the profound ignorance of those jugglers who have had so much reputation. The tale should be classed with those of the satyrs who sang and danced in the train of Osiris; with the little boys whom they would not feed till after they had run eight leagues, to teach them to conquer the world; with the two children who cried bec in asking for bread and who by that means discovered that the Phrygian was the original language; with King Psammeticus, who gave his daughter to a thief who had dexterously stolen his money, etc.

Ancient history, ancient astronomy, ancient physics, ancient medicine (up to Hippocrates), ancient geography, ancient metaphysics, all are nothing but ancient absurdities which ought to make us feel the happiness of being born in later times.

There is, no doubt, more truth in two pages of the French Encyclopædia in relation to physics than in all the library of Alexandria, the loss of which is so much regretted.



Babel signifies among the Orientals, God the Father, the power of God, the gate of God, according to the way in which the word is pronounced. It appears, therefore, that Babylon was the city of God, the holy city. Every capital of a state was a city of God, the sacred city. The Greeks called them all Hieropolis, and there were more than thirty of this name. The tower of Babel, then, signifies the tower of God the Father.

Josephus says truly that Babel signifies confusion; Calmet says, with others, that Bilba, in Chaldæan, signifies confounded, but all the Orientals have been of a contrary opinion. The word confusion would be a strange etymon for the capital of a vast empire. I very much like the opinion of Rabelais, who pretends that Paris was formerly called Lutetia on account of the ladies’ white legs.

Be that as it may, commentators have tormented themselves to know to what height men had raised this famous tower of Babel. St. Jerome gives it twenty thousand feet. The ancient Jewish book entitled “Jacult,” gave it eighty-one thousand. Paul Lucas has seen the remains of it and it is a fine thing to be as keen-sighted as Paul Lucas, but these dimensions are not the only difficulties which have exercised the learned.

People have wished to know how the children of Noah, after having divided among themselves the islands of the nations and established themselves in various lands, with each one his particular language, families, and people, should all find themselves in the plain of Shinaar, to build there a tower saying, “Let us make us a name lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”

The Book of Genesis speaks of the states which the sons of Noah founded. It has related how the people of Europe, Africa, and Asia, all came to Shinaar speaking one language only, and purposing the same thing.

The Vulgate places the Deluge in the year of the world 1656, and the construction of the tower of Babel 1771, that is to say, one hundred and fifteen years after the destruction of mankind, and even during the life of Noah.

Men then must have multiplied with prodigious celerity; all the arts revived in a very little time. When we reflect on the great number of trades which must have been employed to raise a tower so high we are amazed at so stupendous a work.

The patriarch Abraham was born, according to the Bible, about four hundred years after the deluge, and already we see a line of powerful kings in Egypt and in Asia. Bochart and other sages have pleasantly filled their great books with Phœnician and Chaldæan words and systems which they do not understand. They have learnedly taken Thrace for Cappadocia, Greece for Crete, and the island of Cyprus for Tyre; they sport in an ocean of ignorance which has neither bottom nor shore. It would have been shorter for them to have avowed that God, after several ages, has given us sacred books to render us better men and not to make us geographers, chronologists, or etymologists.

Babel is Babylon. It was founded, according to the Persian historians, by a prince named Tamurath. The only knowledge we have of its antiquities consists in the astronomical observations of nineteen hundred and three years, sent by Callisthenes by order of Alexander, to his preceptor Aristotle. To this certainty is joined the extreme probability that a nation which had made a series of celestial observations for nearly two thousand years had congregated and formed a considerable power several ages before the first of these observations.

It is a pity that none of the calculations of the ancient profane authors agree with our sacred ones, and that none of the names of the princes who reigned after the different epochs assigned to the Deluge have been known by either Egyptians, Syrians, Babylonians, or Greeks.

It is no less a pity that there remains not on the earth among the profane authors one vestige of the famous tower of Babel; nothing of this story of the confusion of tongues is found in any book. This memorable adventure was as unknown to the whole universe as the names of Noah, Methuselah, Cain, and Adam and Eve.

This difficulty tantalizes our curiosity. Herodotus, who travelled so much, speaks neither of Noah, or Shem, Reu, Salah, or Nimrod. The name of Nimrod is unknown to all profane antiquity; there are only a few Arabs and some modern Persians who have made mention of Nimrod in falsifying the books of the Jews.

Nothing remains to conduct us through these ancient ruins, unknown to all the nations of the universe during so many ages, but faith in the Bible, and happily that is an infallible guide.

Herodotus, who has mingled many fables with some truths, pretends that in his time, which was that of greatest power of the Persian sovereigns of Babylon, all the women of the immense city were obliged to go once in their lives to the temple of Mylitta, a goddess who was thought to be the same as Aphrodite, or Venus, in order to prostitute themselves to strangers, and that the law commanded them to receive money as a sacred tribute, which was paid over to the priesthood of the goddess.

But even this Arabian tale is more likely than that which the same author tells of Cyrus dividing the Indus into three hundred and sixty canals, which all discharged themselves into the Caspian Sea! What should we say of Mezeray if he had told us that Charlemagne divided the Rhine into three hundred and sixty canals, which fell into the Mediterranean, and that all the ladies of his court were obliged once in their lives to present themselves at the church of St. Genevieve to prostitute themselves to all comers for money?

It must be remarked that such a fable is still more absurd in relation to the time of Xerxes, in which Herodotus lived, than it would be in that of Charlemagne. The Orientals were a thousand times more jealous than the Franks and Gauls. The wives of all the great lords were carefully guarded by eunuchs. This custom existed from time immemorial. It is seen even in the Jewish history that when that little nation wished like the others to have a king, Samuel, to dissuade them from it and to retain his authority, said “that a king would tyrannize over them and that he would take the tenths of their vines and corn to give to his eunuchs.” The kings accomplished this prediction, for it is written in the First Book of Kings that King Ahab had eunuchs, and in the Second that Joram, Jehu, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah had them also.

The eunuchs of Pharaoh are spoken of a long time previously in the Book of Genesis, and it is said that Potiphar, to whom Joseph was sold, was one of the king’s eunuchs. It is clear, therefore, that there were great numbers of eunuchs at Babylon to guard the women. It was not then a duty for them to prostitute themselves to the first comer, nor was Babylon, the city of God, a vast brothel as it has been pretended.

These tales of Herodotus, as well as all others in the same taste, are now so decried by all people of sense—reason has made so great progress that even old women and children will no longer believe such extravagances—“Non est vetula quæ credat nec pueri credunt, nisi qui nondum ære lavantur.”

There is in our days only one man who, not partaking of the spirit of the age in which he lives, would justify the fable of Herodotus. The infamy appears to him a very simple affair. He would prove that the Babylonian princesses prostituted themselves through piety, to the first passengers, because it is said in the holy writings that the Ammonites made their children pass through the fire in presenting them to Moloch. But what relation has this custom of some barbarous hordes—this superstition of passing their children through the flames, or even of burning them on piles, in honor of I know not whom—of Moloch; these Iroquois horrors of a petty, infamous people to a prostitution so incredible in a nation known to be the most jealous and orderly of the East? Would what passes among the Iroquois be among us a proof of the customs of the courts of France and of Spain?

He also brings, in further proof, the Lupercal feast among the Romans during which he says the young people of quality and respectable magistrates ran naked through the city with whips in their hands, with which they struck the pregnant women of quality, who unblushingly presented themselves to them in the hope of thereby obtaining a happy deliverance.

Now, in the first place, it is not said that these Romans of quality ran quite naked, on the contrary, Plutarch expressly observes, in his remarks on the custom, that they were covered from the waist downwards.

Secondly, it seems by the manner in which this defender of infamous customs expresses himself that the Roman ladies stripped naked to receive these blows of the whip, which is absolutely false.

Thirdly, the Lupercal feast has no relation whatever to the pretended law of Babylon, which commands the wives and daughters of the king, the satraps, and the magi to sell and prostitute themselves to strangers out of pure devotion.

When an author, without knowing either the human mind or the manners of nations, has the misfortune to be obliged to compile from passages of old authors, who are almost all contradictory, he should advance his opinions with modesty and know how to doubt, and to shake off the dust of the college. Above all he should never express himself with outrageous insolence.

Herodotus, or Ctesias, or Diodorus of Sicily, relate a fact: you have read it in Greek, therefore this fact is true. This manner of reasoning, which is not that of Euclid, is surprising enough in the time in which we live; but all minds will not be instructed with equal facility; and there are always more persons who compile than people who think.

We will say nothing here of the confusion of tongues which took place during the construction of the tower of Babel. It is a miracle, related in the Holy Scriptures. We neither explain, nor even examine any miracles, and as the authors of that great work, the Encyclopædia, believed them, we also believe them with a lively and sincere faith.

We will simply affirm that the fall of the Roman Empire has produced more confusion and a greater number of new languages than that of the tower of Babel. From the reign of Augustus till the time of the Attilas, the Clovises, and the Gondiberts, during six ages, “terra erat unius labii,”—“the known earth was of one language.” They spoke the same Latin at the Euphrates as at Mount Atlas. The laws which governed a hundred nations were written in Latin and the Greek served for amusement, whilst the barbarous jargon of each province was only for the populace. They pleaded in Latin at once in the tribunals of Africa and of Rome. An inhabitant of Cornwall departed for Asia Minor sure of being understood everywhere in his route. It was at least one good effected by the rapacity of the Romans that people found themselves as well understood on the Danube as on the Guadalquiver. At the present time a Bergamask who travels into the small Swiss cantons, from which he is only separated by a mountain, has the same need of an interpreter as if he were in China. This is one of the greatest plagues of modern life.


Vanity has always raised stately monuments. It was through vanity that men built the lofty tower of Babel. “Let us go and raise a tower, the summit of which shall touch the skies, and render our name celebrated before we are scattered upon the face of the earth.” The enterprise was undertaken in the time of a patriarch named Phaleg, who counted the good man Noah for his fifth ancestor. It will be seen that architecture, and all the arts which accompany it, had made great progress in five generations. St. Jerome, the same who has seen fauns and satyrs, has not seen the tower of Babel any more than I have, but he assures us that it was twenty thousand feet high. This is a trifle. The ancient book, “Jacult,” written by one of the most learned Jews, demonstrates the height to be eighty-one thousand Jewish feet, and every one knows that the Jewish foot was nearly as long as the Greek. These dimensions are still more likely than those of Jerome. This tower remains, but it is no longer quite so high; several quite veracious travellers have seen it. I, who have not seen it, will talk as little of it as of my grandfather Adam, with whom I never had the honor of conversing. But consult the reverend father Calmet; he is a man of fine wit and a profound philosopher and will explain the thing to you. I do not know why it is said, in Genesis, that Babel signifies confusion, for, as I have already observed, ba answers to father in the eastern languages, and bel signifies God. Babel means the city of God, the holy city. But it is incontestable that Babel means confusion, possibly because the architects were confounded after having raised their work to eighty-one thousand feet, perhaps, because the languages were then confounded, as from that time the Germans no longer understood the Chinese, although, according to the learned Bochart, it is clear that the Chinese is originally the same language as the High German.


Of all the true or fabulous personages of profane antiquity Bacchus is to us the most important. I do not mean for the fine invention which is attributed to him by all the world except the Jews, but for the prodigious resemblance of his fabulous history to the true adventures of Moses.

The ancient poets have placed the birth of Bacchus in Egypt; he is exposed on the Nile and it is from that event that he is named Mises by the first Orpheus, which, in Egyptian, signifies “saved from the waters,” according to those who pretend to understand the ancient Egyptian tongue, which is no longer known. He is brought up near a mountain of Arabia called Nisa, which is believed to be Mount Sinai. It is pretended that a goddess ordered him to go and destroy a barbarous nation and that he passed through the Red Sea on foot, with a multitude of men, women, and children. Another time the river Orontes suspended its waters right and left to let him pass, and the Hydaspes did the same. He commanded the sun to stand still; two luminous rays proceeded from his head. He made a fountain of wine spout up by striking the ground with his thyrsis, and engraved his laws on two tables of marble. He wanted only to have afflicted Egypt with ten plagues, to be the perfect copy of Moses.

Vossius is, I think, the first who has extended this parallel. The bishop of Avranches, Huet, has pushed it quite as far, but he adds, in his “Evangelical Demonstrations,” that Moses is not only Bacchus, but that he is also Osiris and Typhon. He does not halt in this fine path. Moses, according to him, is Æsculapius, Amphion, Apollo, Adonis, and even Priapus. It is pleasant enough that Huet founds his proof that Moses is Adonis in their both keeping sheep: “Et formosus oves, ad flumina pavit Adonis.”

He contends that he is Priapus because Priapus is sometimes painted with an ass, and the Jews were supposed, among the Gentiles, to adore an ass. He gives another proof, not very canonical, which is that the rod of Moses might be compared to the sceptre of Priapus. “Sceptrum tribuitur Priapo, virga Mosi.” Neither is this demonstration in the manner of Euclid.

We will not here speak of the more modern Bacchuses, such as he who lived two hundred years before the Trojan war, and whom the Greeks celebrated as a son of Jupiter, shut up in his thigh. We will pause at him who was supposed to be born on the confines of Egypt and to have performed so many prodigies. Our respect for the sacred Jewish books will not permit us to doubt that the Egyptians, the Arabs, and even the Greeks, have imitated the history of Moses. The difficulty consists solely in not knowing how they could be instructed in this incontrovertible history. With respect to the Egyptians, it is very likely that they never recorded these miracles of Moses, which would have covered them with shame. If they had said a word of it the historians, Josephus and Philo, would not have failed to have taken advantage of it. Josephus, in his answer to Appion, made a point of citing all the Egyptian authors who have mentioned Moses, and he finds none who relate one of these miracles. No Jew has ever quoted any Egyptian author who has said a word of the ten plagues of Egypt, of the miraculous passage through the Red Sea, etc. It could not be among the Egyptians, therefore, that this scandalous parallel was formed between the divine Moses and the profane Bacchus.

It is very clear that if a single Egyptian author had said a word of the great miracles of Moses all the synagogue of Alexandria, all the disputatious church of that famous town would have quoted such word, and have triumphed at it, every one after his manner. Athenagorus, Clement, Origen, who have said so many useless things, would have related this important passage a thousand times and it would have been the strongest argument of all the fathers. The whole have kept a profound silence; they had, therefore, nothing to say. But how was it possible for any Egyptian to speak of the exploits of a man who caused all the first born of the families of Egypt to be killed; who turned the Nile to blood, and who drowned in the Red Sea their king and all his army?

All our historians agree that one Clodowick, a Sicambrian, subjugated Gaul with a handful of barbarians. The English are the first to say that the Saxons, the Danes, and the Normans came by turns to exterminate a part of their nation. If they had not avowed this truth all Europe would have exclaimed against its concealment. The universe should exclaim in the same manner at the amazing prodigies of Moses, of Joshua, of Gideon, Samson, and of so many leaders and prophets. The universe is silent notwithstanding. Amazing mystery! On one side it is palpable that all is true, since it is found in the holy writings, which are approved by the Church; on the other it is evident that no people have ever mentioned it. Let us worship Providence, and submit ourselves in all things.

The Arabs, who have always loved the marvellous, were probably the first authors of the fables invented of Bacchus, afterwards adopted and embellished by the Greeks. But how came the stories of the Arabs and Greeks to agree so well with those of the Jews? It is known that the Hebrews never communicated their books to any one till the time of the Ptolemies; they regarded such communication as a sacrilege, and Josephus, to justify their obstinacy in concealing the Pentateuch from the rest of the world, says that God punished all foreigners who dared to speak of the Jewish histories. If we are to believe him, the historian Theopompus, for only designing to mention them in his work, became deranged for thirty days, and the tragic poet Theodectes was struck blind for having introduced the name of the Jews into one of his tragedies. Such are the excuses that Flavius Josephus gives in his answer to Appion for the history of the Jews being so long unknown.

These books were of such prodigious scarcity that we only hear of one copy under King Josiah, and this copy had been lost for a long time and was found in the bottom of a chest on the report of Shaphan, scribe to the Pontiff Hilkiah, who carried it to the king.

This circumstance happened, according to the Second Book of Kings, six hundred and twenty-four years before our vulgar era, four hundred years after Homer, and in the most flourishing times of Greece. The Greeks then scarcely knew that there were any Hebrews in the world. The captivity of the Jews at Babylon still more augmented their ignorance of their own books. Esdras must have restored them at the end of seventy years and for already more than five hundred years the fable of Bacchus had been current among the Greeks.

If the Greeks had founded their fables on the Jewish history they would have chosen facts more interesting to mankind, such as the adventures of Abraham, those of Noah, of Methuselah, of Seth, Enoch, Cain, and Eve; of the fatal serpent and of the tree of knowledge, all which names have ever been unknown to them. There was only a slight knowledge of the Jewish people until a long time after the revolution that Alexander produced in Asia and in Europe; the historian Josephus avows it in formal terms. This is the manner in which he expresses himself in the commencement of his reply to Appion, who (by way of parenthesis) was dead when he answered him, for Appion died under the Emperor Claudius, and Josephus wrote under Vespasian.

“As the country we inhabit is distant from the sea we do not apply ourselves to commerce and have no communication with other nations. We content ourselves with cultivating our lands, which are very fertile, and we labor chiefly to bring up our children properly, because nothing appears to us so necessary as to instruct them in the knowledge of our holy laws and in true piety, which inspires them with the desire of observing them. The above reasons, added to others already mentioned, and this manner of life which is peculiar to us, show why we have had no communication with the Greeks, like the Egyptians and Phœnicians. Is it astonishing that our nation, so distant from the sea, not affecting to write anything, and living in the way which I have related, has been little known?”

After such an authentic avowal from a Jew, the most tenacious of the honor of his nation that has ever written, it will be seen that it is impossible for the ancient Greeks to have taken the fable of Bacchus from the holy books of the Hebrews, any more than the sacrifice of Iphigenia, that of the son of Idomeneus, the labors of Hercules, the adventure of Eurydice, and others. The quantity of ancient tales which resemble one another is prodigious. How is it that the Greeks have put into fables what the Hebrews have put into histories? Was it by the gift of invention; was it by a facility of imitation, or in consequence of the accordance of fine minds? To conclude: God has permitted it—a truth which ought to suffice.

Of what consequence is it that the Arabs and Greeks have said the same things as the Jews? We read the Old Testament only to prepare ourselves for the New, and in neither the one nor the other do we seek anything but lessons of benevolence, moderation, gentleness, and true charity.


It is generally thought that Roger Bacon, the famous monk of the thirteenth century, was a very great man and that he possessed true knowledge, because he was persecuted and condemned to prison by a set of ignoramuses. It is a great prejudice in his favor, I own. But does it not happen every day that quacks gravely condemn other quacks, and that fools make other fools pay the penalty of folly? This, our world, has for a long time resembled the compact edifices in which he who believes in the eternal Father anathematizes him who believes in the Holy Ghost; circumstances which are not very rare even in these days. Among the things which render Friar Bacon commendable we must first reckon his imprisonment, and then the noble boldness with which he declared that all the books of Aristotle were fit only to be burned and that at a time when the learned respected Aristotle much more than the Jansenists respect St. Augustine. Has Roger Bacon, however, done anything better than the Poetics, the Rhetoric, and the Logic of Aristotle? These three immortal works clearly prove that Aristotle was a very great and fine genius—penetrating, profound, and methodical; and that he was only a bad natural philosopher because it was impossible to penetrate into the depths of physical science without the aid of instruments.

Does Roger Bacon, in his best work, in which he treats of light and vision, express himself much more clearly than Aristotle when he says light is created by means of multiplying its luminous species, which action is called univocal and conformable to the agent? He also mentions another equivocal multiplication, by which light engenders heat and heat putrefaction.

Roger Bacon likewise tells us that life may be prolonged by means of spermaceti, aloes, and dragons’ flesh, and that the philosopher’s stone would render us immortal. It is thought that besides these fine secrets he possessed all those of judicial astrology, without exception, as he affirms very positively in his “Opus Majus,” that the head of man is subject to the influences of the ram, his neck to those of the bull, and his arms to the power of the twins. He even demonstrates these fine things from experience, and highly praises a great astrologer at Paris who says that he hindered a surgeon from putting a plaster on the leg of an invalid, because the sun was then in the sign of Aquarius, and Aquarius is fatal to legs to which plasters are applied.

It is an opinion quite generally received that Roger was the inventor of gunpowder. It is certain that it was in his time that important discovery was made, for I always remark that the spirit of invention is of all times and that the doctors, or sages, who govern both mind and body are generally profoundly ignorant, foolishly prejudiced, or at war with common sense. It is usually among obscure men that artists are found animated with a superior instinct, who invent admirable things on which the learned afterwards reason.

One thing that surprises me much is that Friar Bacon knew not the direction of the magnetic needle, which, in his time, began to be understood in Italy, but in lieu thereof he was acquainted with the secret of the hazel rod and many such things of which he treats in his “Dignity of the Experimental Art.”

Yet, notwithstanding this pitiable number of absurdities and chimeras, it must be confessed that Roger Bacon was an admirable man for his age. What age? you will ask—that of feudal government and of the schoolmen. Figure to yourself Samoyedes and Ostiacs who read Aristotle. Such were we at that time.

Roger Bacon knew a little of geometry and optics, which made him pass for a sorcerer at Rome and Paris. He was, however, really acquainted with the matter contained in the Arabian “Alhazen,” for in those days little was known except through the Arabs. They were the physicians and astrologers of all the Christian kings. The king’s fool was always a native; his doctor an Arab or a Jew.

Transport this Bacon to the times in which we live and he would be, no doubt, a great man. He was gold, encrusted with the rust of the times in which he lived, this gold would now be quickly purified. Poor creatures that we are! How many ages have passed away in acquiring a little reason!


Banishment for a term of years, or for life: a penalty inflicted on delinquents, or on individuals who are wished to be considered as such.

Not long ago it was the custom to banish from within the limits of the jurisdiction, for petty thefts, forgeries, and assaults, the result of which was that the offender became a great robber, forger, or murderer in some other jurisdiction. This is like throwing into a neighbor’s field the stones that incommode us in our own.

Those who have written on the laws of nations have tormented themselves greatly to determine whether a man who has been banished from his country can justly be said still to belong to that country. It might almost as well be asked whether a gambler, who has been driven away from the gaming-table, is still one of the players at that table.

If by the law of nature a man is permitted to choose his country, still more is the man who has lost the rights of a citizen at liberty to choose himself a new country. May he bear arms against his former fellow-citizens? Of this we have a thousand examples. How many French Protestants, naturalized in England, Holland, or Germany, have served, not only against France, but against armies in which their relatives, their own brothers, have fought? The Greeks in the armies of the king of Persia fought against the Greeks, their old fellow-countrymen. The Swiss in the service of Holland have fired upon the Swiss in the service of France. This is even worse than fighting against those who have banished you, for, after all, drawing the sword in revenge does not seem so bad as drawing it for hire.


A Greek Word, Signifying Immersion.


We do not speak of baptism as theologians; we are but poor men of letters, who shall never enter the sanctuary. The Indians plunge, and have from time immemorial plunged, into the Ganges. Mankind, always guided by their senses, easily imagined that what purified the body likewise purified the soul. In the subterranean apartments under the Egyptian temples there were large tubs for the priests and the initiated.

O nimium faciles qui tristia crimina cæal[Editor: illegible character]

Fluminea tolli posse putatis aqua!

Old Baudier, when he was eighty, made the following comic translation of these lines:

C’est une drôle de maxime,

Qu’une lessive efface un crime.

One can’t but think it somewhat droll,

Pump-water thus should cleanse a soul.

Every sign being of itself indifferent, God vouch-safed to consecrate this custom amongst the Hebrew people. All foreigners that came to settle in Palestine were baptized; they were called domiciliary proselytes.

They were not forced to receive circumcision, but only to embrace the seven precepts of the Noachides, and to sacrifice to no strange god. The proselytes of justice were circumcised and baptized; the female proselytes were also baptized, quite naked, in the presence of three men. The most devout among the Jews went and received baptism from the hands of the prophets most venerated by the people. Hence it was that they flocked to St. John, who baptized in the Jordan.

Jesus Christ Himself, who never baptized any one, deigned to receive baptism from St. John. This custom, which had long been an accessory of the Jewish religion, received new dignity, new value from our Saviour, and became the chief rite, the principal seal of Christianity. However, the first fifteen bishops of Jerusalem were Jews. The Christians of Palestine long continued to circumcise. St. John’s Christians never received baptism from Christ.

Several other Christian societies applied a cautery to the baptized, with a red-hot iron, being determined to the performance of this extraordinary operation by the words of St. John the Baptist, related by St. Luke: “I baptize you with water, but He that cometh after me shall baptize you with fire.”

This was practised by the Seleucians, the Herminians, and some others. The words, “He shall baptize you with fire,” have never been explained. There are several opinions concerning the baptism by fire which is mentioned by St. Luke and St. Matthew. Perhaps the most likely opinion is that it was an allusion to the ancient custom of the devotees to the Syrian goddess, who, after plunging into water, imprinted characters on their bodies with a hot iron. With miserable man all was superstition, but Jesus substituted for these ridiculous superstitions a sacred ceremony—a divine and efficacious symbol.

In the first ages of Christianity nothing was more common than to postpone the receiving of baptism until the last agony. Of this the example of the Emperor Constantine is a very strong proof. St. Andrew had not been baptized when he was made bishop of Milan. The custom of deferring the use of the sacred bath until the hour of death was soon abolished.

Baptism of the Dead.

The dead also were baptized. This is established by the passage of St. Paul to the Corinthians: “If we rise not again what shall they do that receive baptism from the dead?” Here is a point of fact. Either the dead themselves were baptized, or baptism was received in their names, as indulgences have since been received for the deliverance of the souls of friends and relatives out of purgatory.

St. Epiphanius and St. Chrysostom inform us that it was a custom in some Christian societies, and principally among the Marcionites, to put a living man under the dead man’s bed; he was then asked if he would be baptized; the living man answered yes, and the corpse was taken and plunged into a tub of water. This custom was soon condemned. St. Paul mentions it but he does not condemn it; on the contrary he cites it as an invincible argument to prove resurrection.

Baptism by Aspersion.

The Greeks always retained baptism by immersion. The Latins, about the close of the eighth century, having extended their religion into Gaul and Germany and seeing that immersion might be fatal to infants in cold countries, substituted simple aspersion and thus drew upon themselves frequent anathemas from the Greek Church.

St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, was asked if those were really baptized who had only had their bodies sprinkled all over. He answers, in his seventy-sixth letter, that several churches did not believe the sprinkled to be Christians; that, for his own part, he believes that they are so, but that they have infinitely less grace than those who have been thrice dipped, according to custom.

A person was initiated among the Christians as soon as he was dipped; until then he was only a catechumen. To be initiated it was necessary to have sponsors to answer to the Church for the fidelity of the new Christians and that the mysteries should not be divulged. Hence it was that in the first ages the Gentiles had, in general, as little knowledge of the Christian mysteries as the Christians had of the mysteries of Isis and the Eleusinian Ceres.

Cyril of Alexandria, in his writing against the Emperor Julian, expresses himself thus: “I would speak of baptism but that I fear my words would reach them who are not initiated.” At that time there was no worship without its mysteries, its associations, its catechumens, its initiated, and its professed. Each sect required new virtues and recommended to its penitents a new life—“initium novæ vitæ”—whence the word initiation. The initiation of Christians, whether male or female, consisted in their being plunged quite naked into a tub of cold water, to which sign was attached the remission of all their sins. But the difference between Christian baptism and the Greek, Syrian, Egyptian, and Roman ceremonies was the difference between truth and falsehood. Jesus Christ was the High Priest of the new law.

In the second century infants began to be baptized; it was natural that the Christians should desire their children, who would have been damned without this sacrament, to be provided with it. It was at length concluded that they must receive it at the expiration of eight days, because that was the period at which, among the Jews, they were circumcised. In the Greek Church this is still the custom.

Such as died in the first week were damned, according to the most rigorous fathers of the Church. But Peter Chrysologos, in the fifth century, imagined limbo, a sort of mitigated hell, or properly, the border, the outskirt of hell, whither all infants dying without baptism go and where the patriarchs remained until Jesus Christ’s descent into hell. So that the opinion that Jesus Christ descended into limbo, and not into hell, has since then prevailed.

It was agitated whether a Christian in the deserts of Arabia might be baptized with sand, this was answered in the negative. It was asked if rosewater might be used, it was decided that pure water would be necessary but that muddy water might be made use of. It is evident that all this discipline depended on the discretion of the first pastors who established it.

The Anabaptists and some other communions out of the pale have thought that no one should be baptized without a thorough knowledge of the merits of the case. You require, say they, a promise to be of the Christian society, but a child can make no engagement. You give it a sponsor, but this is an abuse of an ancient custom. The precaution was requisite in the first establishment. When strangers, adult men and women, came and presented themselves to be received into the society and share in the alms there was needed a guarantee to answer for their fidelity; it was necessary to make sure of them; they swore they would be Jews, but an infant is in a diametrically opposite case. It has often happened that a child baptized by Greeks at Constantinople has afterwards been circumcised by Turks, a Christian at eight days old and a Mussulman at thirty years, he has betrayed the oaths of his godfather.

This is one reason which the Anabaptists might allege; it would hold good in Turkey, but it has never been admitted in Christian countries where baptism insures a citizen’s condition. We must conform to the rights and laws of our country.

The Greeks re-baptize such of the Latins as pass from one of our Latin communions to the Greek communion. In the last century it was the custom for these catechumens to pronounce the following words: “I spit upon my father and my mother who had me ill baptized.” This custom still exists, and will, perhaps, long continue to exist in the provinces.

Notions of Rigid Unitarians Concerning Baptism.

It is evident to whosoever is willing to reason without prejudice that baptism is neither a mark of grace conferred nor a seal of alliance, but simply a mark of profession.

That baptism is not necessary, neither by necessity of precept, nor by necessity of means.

That it was not instituted by Christ and that it may be omitted by the Christian without his suffering any inconvenience therefrom.

That baptism should be administered neither to children, nor to adults, nor, in general, to any individual whatsoever.

That baptism might be of service in the early infancy of Christianity to those who quitted paganism in order to make their profession of faith public and give an authentic mark of it, but that now it is absolutely useless and altogether indifferent.


Baptism, immersion in water, abstersion, purification by water, is of the highest antiquity. To be cleanly was to be pure before the gods. No priest ever dared to approach the altar with a soil upon his body. The natural inclination to transfer to the soul that which appertains to the body led to the belief that lustrations and ablutions took away the stains of the soul as they removed those of the garments and that washing the body washed the soul also. Hence the ancient custom of bathing in the Ganges, the waters of which were thought to be sacred; hence the lustrations so frequent among every people. The Oriental nations, inhabiting hot countries, were the most religiously attached to these customs.

The Jews were obliged to bathe after any pollution—after touching an unclean animal, touching a corpse, and on many other occasions.

When the Jews received among them a stranger converted to their religion they baptized, after circumcising him, and if it was a woman she was simply baptized—that is, dipped in water in the presence of three witnesses. This immersion was reputed to give the persons baptized a new birth, a new life; they became at once Jewish and pure. Children born before this baptism had no share in the inheritance of their brethren, born after them of a regenerated father and mother. So that, with the Jews, to be baptized and to be born again were the same thing, and this idea has remained attached to baptism down to the present day. Thus, when John, the forerunner, began to baptize in the Jordan he did but follow an immemorial usage. The priests of the law did not call him to account for this baptizing as for anything new, but they accused him of arrogating to himself a right which belonged exclusively to them—as Roman Catholic priests would have a right to complain if a layman took upon himself to say mass. John was doing a lawful thing but was doing it unlawfully.

John wished to have disciples, and he had them. He was chief of a sect among the lower orders of the people and it cost him his life. It even appears that Jesus was at first among his disciples, since he was baptized by him in the Jordan, and John sent some of his own party to Him a short time before His death.

The historian Josephus speaks of John but not of Jesus—an incontestable proof that in his time John the Baptist had a greater reputation than He whom he baptized. A great multitude followed him, says that celebrated historian, and the Jews seemed disposed to undertake whatever he should command them.

From this passage it appears that John was not only the chief of a sect, but the chief of a party. Josephus adds that he caused Herod some uneasiness. He did indeed make himself formidable to Herod, who, at length, put him to death, but Jesus meddled with none but the Pharisees. Josephus, therefore, mentions John as a man who had stirred up the Jews against King Herod; as one whose zeal had made him a state criminal, but Jesus, not having approached the court, was unknown to the historian Josephus.

The sect of John the Baptist differed widely in discipline from that of Jesus. In the Acts of the Apostles we see that twenty years after the execution of Jesus, Apollos of Alexandria, though become a Christian, knew no baptism but that of John, nor had any idea of the Holy Ghost. Several travellers, and among others Chardin, the most accredited of all, say that in Persia there still are disciples of John, called Sabis, who baptize in his name and acknowledge Jesus as a prophet, but not as a god.

As for Jesus Christ Himself He received baptism but conferred it on no one; His apostles baptized the catechumens, or circumcised them as occasion required; this is evident from the operation of circumcision performed by Paul on his disciple Timothy.

It also appears that when the apostles baptized it was always in the name of Jesus Christ alone. The Acts of the Apostles do not mention any one baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—whence it may be concluded that the author of the Acts of the Apostles knew nothing of Matthew’s gospel, in which it is said: “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The Christian religion had not yet received its form. Even the Symbol, which was called the Symbol of the Apostles, was not made until after their time, of this no one has any doubt. In Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians we find a very singular custom which was then introduced—that of baptizing the dead, but the rising Church soon reserved baptism for the living alone; at first none were baptized but adults, and the ceremony was often deferred until the age of fifty, or the last sickness, that the individual might carry with him into the other world the unimpaired virtue of a baptism recently performed.

Now, all children are baptized: none but the Anabaptists reserve this ceremony for the mature age; they plunge their whole bodies into the water. The Quakers, who compose a very numerous society in England and in America, do not use baptism: the reason is that Jesus Christ did not baptize any of His disciples, and their aim is to be Christians only as His disciples were—which occasions a very wide difference between them and other communions.

Addition to the Article “Baptism” by Abbé Nicaise.

The Emperor Julian, the philosopher, in his immortal “Satire on the Cæsars,” puts these words into the mouth of Constantius, son of Constantine: “Whosoever feels himself guilty of rape, murder, plunder, sacrilege, and every most abominable crime, so soon as I have washed him with this water, he shall be clean and pure.”

It was, indeed, this fatal doctrine that occasioned the Christian emperors, and the great men of the empire, to defer their baptism until death. They thought they had found the secret of living criminal and dying virtuous.

How strange an idea—that a pot of water should wash away every crime! Now, all children are baptized because an idea no less absurd supposes them all criminal; they are all saved until they have the use of reason and the power to become guilty! Cut their throats, then, as quickly as possible, to insure their entrance into paradise. This is so just a consequence that there was once a devout sect that went about poisoning and killing all newly-baptized infants. These devout persons reasoned with perfect correctness, saying: “We do these little innocents the greatest possible good; we prevent them from being wicked and unhappy in this life and we give them life eternal.”


We have no intention here to inquire at what time Baruch was chief of the Jewish people; why, being chief, he allowed his army to be commanded by a woman; whether this woman, named Deborah, had married Lapidoth; whether she was the friend or relative of Baruch, or perhaps his daughter or his mother; nor on what day the battle of Tabor, in Galilee, was fought between this Deborah and Sisera, captain-general of the armies of King Jabin—which Sisera commanded in Galilee an army of three hundred thousand foot, ten thousand horse, and three thousand chariots of war, according to the historian Josephus.

We shall at present leave out of the question this Jabin, king of a village called Azor, who had more troops than the Grand Turk. We very much pity the fate of his grand-vizier Sisera, who, having lost the battle in Galilee, leaped from his chariot and four that he might fly more swiftly on foot. He went and begged the hospitality of a holy Jewish woman, who gave him some milk and drove a great cart-nail through his head while he was asleep. We are very sorry for it, but this is not the matter to be discussed. We wish to speak of chariots of war.

The battle was fought at the foot of Mount Tabor, near the river Kishon. Mount Tabor is a steep mountain, the branches of which, somewhat less in height, extend over a great part of Galilee. Between this mountain and the neighboring rocks there is a small plain, covered with great flint-stones and impracticable for cavalry. The extent of this plain is four or five hundred paces. We may venture to believe that Sisera did not here draw up his three hundred thousand men in order of battle; his three thousand chariots would have found it difficult to manœuvre on such a field.

We may believe that the Hebrews had no chariots of war in a country renowned only for asses, but the Asiatics made use of them in the great plains. Confucius, or rather Confutze, says positively that, from time immemorial, each of the viceroys of the provinces was expected to furnish to the emperor a thousand war-chariots, each drawn by four horses.

Chariots must have been in use long before the Trojan war, for Homer does not speak of them as a new invention, but these chariots were not armed like those of Babylon, neither the wheels nor the axles were furnished with steel blades.

At first this invention must have been very formidable on large plains, especially when the chariots were numerous, driven with impetuosity, and armed with long pikes and scythes, but when they became familiar it seemed so easy to avoid their shock that they fell into general disuse.

In the war of 1741 it was proposed to renew and reform this ancient invention. A minister of state had one of these chariots constructed and it was tried. It was asserted that in large plains, like that of Lützen, they might be used with advantage by concealing them behind the cavalry, the squadrons of which would open to let them pass and then follow them, but the generals judged that this manœuvre would be useless, and even dangerous, now that battles are gained by cannon only. It was replied that there would be as many cannon in the army using the chariots of war to defend them as in the enemy’s army to destroy them. It was added that these chariots would, in the first instance, be sheltered from the cannon behind the battalions or squadrons, that the latter would open and let the chariots run with impetuosity and that this unexpected attack might have a prodigious effect. The generals advanced nothing in opposition to these arguments, but they would not revive this game of the ancient Persians.


Let us observe that the arrangements, the marching, and the evolutions of battalions, nearly as they are now practised, were revived in Europe by one who was not a military man—by Machiavelli, a secretary at Florence. Battalions three, four, and five deep; battalions advancing upon the enemy; battalions in square to avoid being cut off in a rout; battalions four deep sustained by others in column; battalions flanked by cavalry—all are his. He taught Europe the art of war; it had long been practised without being known.

The grand duke would have had his secretary teach his troops their exercises according to his new method. But Machiavelli was too prudent to do so; he had no wish to see the officers and soldiers laugh at a general in a black cloak; he reserved himself for the council.

There is something singular in the qualities which he requires in a soldier. He must first have gagliardia, which signifies alert vigor; he must have a quick and sure eye—in which there must also be a little gayety; a strong neck, a wide breast, a muscular arm, round loins, but little belly, with spare legs and feet—all indicating strength and agility.

But above all the soldier must have honor, and must be led by honor alone. “War,” says he, “is but too great a corrupter of morals,” and he reminds us of the Italian proverb: War makes thieves, and peace finds them gibbets.

Machiavelli had but a poor opinion of the French infantry, and until the battle of Rocroi it must be confessed that it was very bad. A strange man this Machiavelli! He amused himself with making verses, writing plays, showing his cabinet the art of killing with regularity, and teaching princes the art of perjuring themselves, assassinating, and poisoning as occasion required—a great art which Pope Alexander VI., and his bastard Cæsar Borgia, practised in wonderful perfection without the aid of his lessons.

Be it observed that in all Machiavelli’s works on so many different subjects there is not one word which renders virtue amiable—not one word proceeding from the heart. The same remark has been made on Boileau. He does not, it is true, make virtue lovely, but he represents it as necessary.


Why has Louis Racine treated Bayle like a dangerous man, with a cruel heart, in an epistle to Jean Baptiste Rousseau, which, although printed, is but little known?

He compares Bayle, whose logical acuteness detected the errors of opposing systems, to Marius sitting upon the ruins of Carthage:

Ainsi d’un œil content Marius, dans sa fuite,

Contemplait les débris de Carthage détruite.

Thus exiled Marius, with contented gaze,

Thy ruins, Carthage, silently surveys.

Here is a simile which exhibits very little resemblance, or, as Pope says, a simile dissimilar. Marius had not destroyed reason and arguments, nor did he contentedly view its ruins, but, on the contrary, he was penetrated with an elevated sentiment of melancholy on contemplating the vicissitudes of human affairs, when he made the celebrated answer: “Say to the proconsul of Africa that thou hast seen Marius seated on the ruins of Carthage.”

We ask in what Marius resembled Bayle? Louis Racine, if he thinks fit, may apply the epithets “hardhearted” and “cruel” to Marius, to Sulla, to the triumvirs, but, in reference to Bayle the phrases “detestable pleasure,” “cruel heart,” “terrible man,” should not be put in a sentence written by Louis Racine against one who is only proved to have weighed the arguments of the Manichæans, the Paulicians, the Arians, the Eutychians, against those of their adversaries. Louis Racine proportions not the punishment to the offence. He should remember that Bayle combated Spinoza, who was too much of a philosopher, and Jurieu, who was none at all. He should respect the good manners of Bayle and learn to reason from him. But he was a Jansenist, that is to say, he knew the words of the language of Jansenism and employed them at random. You may properly call cruel and terrible a powerful man who commands his slaves, on pain of death, to go and reap corn where he has sown thistles; who gives to some of them too much food, and suffers others to die of hunger; who kills his eldest son to leave a large fortune to the younger. All that is frightful and cruel, Louis Racine! It is said that such is the god of thy Jansenists, but I do not believe it. Oh slaves of party, people attacked with the jaundice, you constantly see everything yellow!

And to whom has the unthinking heir of a father who had a hundred times more taste than he has philosophy, addressed this miserable epistle against the virtuous Bayle? To Rousseau—to a poet who thinks still less; to a man whose principal merit has consisted in epigrams which are revolting to the most indulgent reader; to a man to whom it was alike whether he sang Jesus Christ or Giton. Such was the apostle to whom Louis Racine denounced Bayle as a miscreant. What motive could the author of “Phædra” and “Iphigenia” have for falling into such a prodigious error? Simply this, that Rousseau had made verses for the Jansenists, whom he then believed to be in high credit.

Such is the rage of faction let loose upon Bayle, but you do not hear any of the dogs who have howled against him bark against Lucretius, Cicero, Seneca, Epicurus, nor against the numerous philosophers of antiquity. It is all reserved for Bayle; he is their fellow citizen—he is of their time—his glory irritates them. Bayle is read and Nicole is not read; behold the source of the Jansenist hatred! Bayle is studied, but neither the reverend Father Croiset, nor the reverend Father Caussin; hence Jesuitical denouncement!

In vain has a Parliament of France done him the greatest honor in rendering his will valid, notwithstanding the severity of the law. The madness of party knows neither honor nor justice. I have not inserted this article to make the eulogy of the best of dictionaries, which would not be becoming here, and of which Bayle is not in need; I have written it to render, if I can, the spirit of party odious and ridiculous.


We are very much puzzled to know what this Bdellium is which is found near the shores of the Pison, a river of the terrestrial paradise which turns into the country of the Havilah, where there is gold. Calmet relates that, according to several commentators, Bdellium is the carbuncle, but that it may also be crystal. Then it is the gum of an Arabian tree and afterwards we are told that capers are intended. Many others affirm that it signifies pearls. Nothing but the etymologies of Bochart can throw a light on this question. I wish that all these commentators had been upon the spot.

The excellent gold which is obtained in this country, says Calmet, shows evidently that this is the country of Colchis and the golden fleece is a proof of it. It is a pity that things have changed so much for Mingrelia; that beautiful country, so famous for the loves of Medea and Jason, now produces gold and Bdellium no more than bulls which vomit fire and flame, and dragons which guard the fleece. Everything changes in this world; and if we do not skilfully cultivate our lands, and if the state remain always in debt, we shall become a second Mingrelia.


Certain naturalists assure us that the secretion which produces the beard is the same as that which perpetuates mankind. An entire hemisphere testifies against this fraternal union. The Americans, of whatever country, color, or stature they may be, have neither beards on their chins, nor any hair on their bodies, except their eyebrows and the hair of their heads. I have legal attestations of official men who have lived, conversed, and combated with thirty nations of South America, and they attest that they have never seen a hair on their bodies; and they laugh, as they well may, at writers who, copying one another, say that the Americans are only without hair because they pull it out with pincers; as if Christopher Columbus, Fernando Cortes, and the other adventurers had loaded themselves with the little tweezers with which our ladies remove their superfluous hairs, and had distributed them in all the countries of America.

I believed for a long time that the Esquimaux were excepted from the general laws of the new world; but I am assured that they are as free from hair as the others. However, they have children in Chile, Peru, and Canada, as well as in our bearded continent. There is, then, a specific difference between these bipeds and ourselves, in the same way as their lions, which are divested of the mane, and in other respects differ from the lions of Africa.

It is to be remarked that the Orientals have never varied in their consideration for the beard. Marriage among them has always existed, and that period is still the epoch of life from which they no longer shave the beard. The long dress and the beard impose respect. The Westerns have always been changing the fashion of the chin. Mustaches were worn under Louis XIV. towards the year 1672. Under Louis XIII. a little pointed beard prevailed. In the time of Henry IV. it was square. Charles V., Julius II., and Francis I. restored the large beard to honor in their courts, which had been a long time in fashion. Gownsmen, through gravity and respect for the customs of their fathers, shaved themselves; while the courtiers, in doublets and little mantles, wore their beards as long as they could. When a king in those days sent a lawyer as an ambassador, his comrades would laugh at him if he suffered his beard to grow, besides mocking him in the chamber of accounts or of requests.—But quite enough upon beards.


What a pity and what a poverty of spirit to assert that beasts are machines deprived of knowledge and sentiment, which effect all their operations in the same manner, which learn nothing, never improve, etc.

What! this bird, who makes its nest in a semicircle when he attaches it to a wall; and in a circle on a tree—this bird does all in the same blind manner! The hound, which you have disciplined for three months, does he not know more at the end of this time than he did before? Does the canary, to which you play an air, repeat it directly? Do you not employ a considerable time in teaching it? Have you not seen that he sometimes mistakes it, and that he corrects himself?

Is it because I speak to you that you judge I have sentiment, memory, and ideas? Well, suppose I do not speak to you; you see me enter my room with an afflicted air, I seek a paper with disquietude, I open the bureau in which I recollect to have shut it, I find it and read it with joy. You pronounce that I have felt the sentiment of affliction and of joy; that I have memory and knowledge.

Extend the same judgment to the dog who has lost his master, who has sought him everywhere with grievous cries, and who enters the house agitated and restless, goes upstairs and down, from room to room, and at last finds in the closet the master whom he loves, and testifies his joy by the gentleness of his cries, by his leaps and his caresses.

Some barbarians seize this dog, who so prodigiously excels man in friendship, they nail him to a table and dissect him living to show the mesenteric veins. You discover in him the same organs of sentiment which are in yourself. Answer me, machinist, has nature arranged all the springs of sentiment in this animal that he should not feel? Has he nerves, and is he incapable of suffering? Do not suppose this impertinent contradiction in nature.

But the masters of this school ask, what is the soul of beasts? I do not understand this question. A tree has the faculty of receiving in its fibres the sap which circulates, of evolving its buds, its leaves, and its fruits. You will ask me what is the soul of this tree? It has received these gifts. The animal has received those of sentiment, memory, and a certain number of ideas. Who has bestowed these gifts; who has given these faculties? He who has made the herb of the field to grow, and who makes the earth gravitate towards the sun.

The souls of beasts are substantial forms, says Aristotle; and after Aristotle, the Arabian school; and after the Arabian school, the Angelical school; and after the Angelical school, the Sorbonne; and after the Sorbonne, every one in the world.

The souls of beasts are material, exclaim other philosophers. These have not been more fortunate than the former. They are in vain asked what is a material soul? They say that it is a matter which has sensation; but who has given it this sensation? It is a material soul, that is to say, it is composed of a matter which gives sensation to matter. They cannot get out of this circle.

Listen to one kind of beasts reasoning upon another; their soul is a spiritual being, which dies with the body; but what proof have you of it? What idea have you of this spiritual being, which has sentiment, memory, and its share of ideas and combinations, but which can never tell what made a child of six years old? On what ground do you imagine that this being, which is not corporeal, perishes with the body? The greatest beasts are those who have suggested that this soul is neither body nor spirit— an excellent system! We can only understand by spirit something unknown, which is not body. Thus the system of these gentlemen amounts to this, that the soul of beasts is a substance which is neither body, nor something which is not body. Whence can proceed so many contradictory errors? From the custom which men have of examining what a thing is before they know whether it exists. They call the speech the effect of a breath of mind, the soul of a sigh. What is the soul? It is a name which I have given to this valve which rises and falls, which lets the air in, relieves itself, and sends it through a pipe when I move the lungs.

There is not, then, a soul distinct from the machine. But what moves the lungs of animals? I have already said, the power that moves the stars. The philosopher who said, “Deus est anima brutorum,”—God is the soul of the brutes—is right; but he should have gone much further.


Since we have quoted Plato on love, why should we not quote him on “the beautiful,” since beauty causes love. It is curious to know how a Greek spoke of the beautiful more than two thousand years since.

“The man initiated into the sacred mysteries, when he sees a beautiful face accompanied by a divine form, a something more than mortal, feels a secret emotion, and I know not what respectful fear. He regards this figure as a divinity. . . . . When the influence of beauty enters into his soul by his eyes he burns; the wings of his soul are bedewed; they lose the hardness which retains their germs and liquefy themselves; these germs, swelling beneath the roots of its wings, they expand from every part of the soul (for soul had wings formerly),” etc.

I am willing to believe that nothing is finer than this discourse of the divine Plato; but it does not give us very clear ideas of the nature of the beautiful.

Ask a toad what is beauty—the great beauty To Kalon; he will answer that it is the female with two great round eyes coming out of her little head, her large flat mouth, her yellow belly, and brown back. Ask a negro of Guinea; beauty is to him a black, oily skin, sunken eyes, and a flat nose. Ask the devil; he will tell you that the beautiful consists in a pair of horns, four claws, and a tail. Then consult the philosophers; they will answer you with jargon; they must have something conformable to the archetype of the essence of the beautiful—to the To Kalon.

I was once attending a tragedy near a philosopher. “How beautiful that is,” said he. “What do you find beautiful?” asked I. “It is,” said he, “that the author has attained his object.” The next day he took his medicine, which did him some good. “It has attained its object,” cried I to him; “it is a beautiful medicine.” He comprehended that it could not be said that a medicine is beautiful, and that to apply to anything the epithet beautiful it must cause admiration and pleasure. He admitted that the tragedy had inspired him with these two sentiments, and that it was the To Kalon, the beautiful.

We made a journey to England. The same piece was played, and, although ably translated, it made all the spectators yawn. “Oh, oh!” said he, “the To Kalon is not the same with the English as with the French.” He concluded after many reflections that “the beautiful” is often merely relative, as that which is decent at Japan is indecent at Rome; and that which is the fashion at Paris is not so at Pekin; and he was thereby spared the trouble of composing a long treatise on the beautiful.

There are actions which the whole world considers fine. A challenge passed between two of Cæsar’s officers, mortal enemies, not to shed each other’s blood behind a thicket by tierce and quarte, as among us, but to decide which of them would best defend the camp of the Romans, about to be attacked by the barbarians. One of the two, after having repulsed the enemy, was near falling; the other flew to his assistance, saved his life, and gained the victory.

A friend devotes himself to death for his friend, a son for his father. The Algonquin, the French, the Chinese, will mutually say that all this is very beautiful, that such actions give them pleasure, and that they admire them.

They will say the same of great moral maxims; of that of Zoroaster: “If in doubt that an action be just, desist;” of that of Confucius: “Forget injuries; never forget benefits.”

The negro, with round eyes and flattened nose, who would not give the ladies of our court the name of beautiful, would give it without hesitation to these actions and these maxims. Even the wicked man recognizes the beauty of the virtues which he cannot imitate. The beautiful, which only strikes the senses, the imagination, and what is called the spirit, is then often uncertain; the beauty which strikes the heart is not. You will find a number of people who will tell you they have found nothing beautiful in three-fourths of the “Iliad”; but nobody will deny that the devotion of Codrus for his people was fine, supposing it was true.

Brother Attinet, a Jesuit, a native of Dijon, was employed as designer in the country house of the Emperor Camhi, at the distance of some leagues from Pekin.

“This country house,” says he, in one of his letters to M. Dupont, “is larger than the town of Dijon. It is divided into a thousand habitations on one line; each one has its courts, its parterres, its gardens, and its waters; the front of each is ornamented with gold varnish and paintings. In the vast enclosures of the park, hills have been raised by hand from twenty to sixty feet high. The valleys are watered by an infinite number of canals, which run a considerable distance to join and form lakes and seas. We float on these seas in boats varnished and gilt, from twelve to thirteen fathoms long and four wide. These barks have magnificent saloons, and the borders of the canals are covered with houses, all in different tastes. Every house has its gardens and cascades. You go from one valley to another by alleys, alternately ornamented with pavilions and grottoes. No two valleys are alike; the largest of all is surrounded by a colonnade, behind which are gilded buildings. All the apartments of these houses correspond in magnificence with the outside. All the canals have bridges at stated distances; these bridges are bordered with balustrades of white marble sculptured in basso-relievo.

“In the middle of the great sea is raised a rock, and on this rock is a square pavilion, in which are more than a hundred apartments. From this square pavilion there is a view of all the palaces, all the houses, and all the gardens of this immense enclosure, and there are more than four hundred of them.

“When the emperor gives a fête all these buildings are illuminated in an instant, and from every house there are fireworks.

“This is not all; at the end of what they call the sea is a great fair, held by the emperor’s officers. Vessels come from the great sea to arrive at this fair. The courtiers disguise themselves as merchants and artificers of all sorts; one keeps a coffee house, another a tavern; one takes the profession of a thief, another that of the officer who pursues him. The emperor and all the ladies of the court come to buy stuffs, the false merchants cheat them as much as they can; they tell them that it is shameful to dispute so much about the price, and that they are poor customers. Their majesties reply that the merchants are knaves; the latter are angry and affect to depart; they are appeased; the emperor buys all and makes lotteries of it for all his court. Farther on are spectacles of all sorts.”

When brother Attinet came from China to Versailles he found it small and dull. The Germans, who were delighted to stroll about its groves, were astonished that brother Attinet was so difficult. This is another reason which determines me not to write a treatise on the beautiful.


The bees may be regarded as superior to the human race in this, that from their own substance they produce another which is useful; while, of all our secretions, there is not one good for anything; nay, there is not one which does not render mankind disagreeable.

I have been charmed to find that the swarms which turn out of the hive are much milder than our sons when they leave college. The young bees then sting no one; or at least but rarely and in extraordinary cases. They suffer themselves to be carried quietly in the bare hand to the hive which is destined for them. But no sooner have they learned in their new habitation to know their interests than they become like us and make war. I have seen very peaceable bees go for six months to labor in a neighboring meadow covered with flowers which secreted them. When the mowers came they rushed furiously from their hive upon those who were about to steal their property and put them to flight.

We find in the Proverbs attributed to Solomon that “there are four things, the least upon earth, but which are wiser than the wise men—the ants, a little people who lay up food during the harvest; the hares, a weak people who lie on stones; the grasshoppers, who have no kings and who journey in flocks; and the lizards, which work with their hands and dwell in the palaces of kings.” I know not how Solomon forgot the bees, whose instinct seems very superior to that of hares, which do not lie on stone; or of lizards, with whose genius I am not acquainted. Moreover, I shall always prefer a bee to a grasshopper.

The bees have, in all ages, furnished the poet with descriptions, comparisons, allegories, and fables. Mandeville’s celebrated “Fable of the Bees” made a great noise in England. Here is a short sketch of it:

Once the bees, in worldly things,

Had a happy government;

And their laborers and their kings

Made them wealthy and content;

But some greedy drones at last

Found their way into their hive;

Those, in idleness to thrive,

Told the bees they ought to fast.

Sermons were their only labors;

Work they preached unto their neighbors.

In their language they would say,

“You shall surely go to heaven,

When to us you’ve freely given

Wax and honey all away.”—

Foolishly the bees believed,

Till by famine undeceived;

When their misery was complete,

All the strange delusion vanished!

Now the drones are killed or banished,

And the bees again may eat.

Mandeville goes much further; he asserts that bees cannot live at their ease in a great and powerful hive without many vices. “No kingdom, no state,” says he, “can flourish without vices. Take away the vanity of ladies of quality, and there will be no more fine manufactures of silk, no more employment for men and women in a thousand different branches; a great part of the nation will be reduced to beggary. Take away the avarice of our merchants, and the fleets of England will be annihilated. Deprive artists of envy, and emulation will cease; we shall sink back into primitive rudeness and ignorance.”

It is quite true that a well-governed society turns every vice to account; but it is not true that these vices are necessary to the well-being of the world. Very good remedies may be made from poisons, but poisons do not contribute to the support of life. By thus reducing the “Fable of the Bees” to its just value, it might be made a work of moral utility.”


Every country where begging, where mendicity, is a profession, is ill governed. Beggary, as I have elsewhere said, is a vermin that clings to opulence. Yes; but let it be shaken off; let the hospitals be for sickness and age alone, and let the shops be for the young and vigorous.

The following is an extract from a sermon composed by a preacher ten years ago for the parish of St. Leu and St. Giles, which is the parish of the beggars and the convulsionaries: “Pauperes evangelicantur”—“the gospel is preached to the poor.”

“My dear brethren the beggars, what is meant by the word gospel? It signifies good news. It is, then, good news that I come to tell you; and what is it? It is that if you are idlers you will die on a dunghill. Know that there have been idle kings, so at least we are told, and they at last had not where to lay their heads. If you work, you will be as happy as other men.

“The preachers at St. Eustache and St. Roche may deliver to the rich very fine sermons in a flowery style, which procure for the auditors a light slumber with an easy digestion, and for the orator a thousand crowns; but I address those whom hunger keeps awake. Work for your bread, I say; for the Scripture says that he who does not work deserves not to eat. Our brother in adversity, Job, who was for some time in your condition, says that man is born to labor as the bird is to fly. Look at this immense city; every one is busy; the judges rise at four in the morning to administer justice to you and send you to the galleys when your idleness has caused you to thieve rather awkwardly.

“The king works; he attends his council every day; and he has made campaigns. Perhaps you will say he is none the richer. Granted; but that is not his fault. The financiers know, better than you or I do, that not one-half his revenue ever enters his coffers. He has been obliged to sell his plate in order to defend us against our enemies. We should aid him in our turn. The Friend of Man (l’Ami des Hommes) allows him only seventy-five millions per annum. Another friend all at once gives him seven hundred and forty. But of all these Job’s comforters, not one will advance him a single crown. It is necessary to invent a thousand ingenious ways of drawing this crown from our pockets, which, before it reaches his own, is diminished by at least one-half.

“Work, then, my dear brethren; act for yourselves, for I forewarn you that if you do not take care of yourselves, no one will take care of you; you will be treated as the king has been in several grave remonstrances; people will say, ‘God help you.’

“We will go into the provinces, you will answer; we shall be fed by the lords of the land, by the farmers, by the curates. Do not flatter yourselves, my dear brethren, that you shall eat at their tables; they have for the most part enough to do to feed themselves, notwithstanding the ‘Method of Rapidly Getting Rich by Agriculture,’ and fifty other works of the same kind, published every day at Paris for the use of the people in the country, with the cultivation of which the authors never had anything to do.

“I behold among you young men of some talent, who say that they will make verses, that they will write pamphlets, like Chisiac, Nonnotte, or Patouillet; that they will work for the ‘Nouvelles Ecclésiastiques,’ that they will write sheets for Fréron, funeral orations for bishops, songs for the comic opera. Any of these would at least be an occupation. When a man is writing for the ‘Année Littéraire,’ he is not robbing on the highway, he is only robbing his creditors. But do better, my dear brethren in Jesus Christ—my dear beggars, who, by passing your lives in asking charity, run the risk of the galleys; do better; enter one of the four mendicant orders; you will then be not only rich, but honored also.”


This Balthazar Bekker, a very good man, a great enemy of the everlasting hell and the devil, and a still greater of precision, made a great deal of noise in his time by his great book, “The World Bewitched.”

One Jacques-George de Chaufepied, a pretended continuator of Bayle, assures us that Bekker learned Greek at Gascoigne. Niceron has good reasons for believing that it was at Franeker. This historical point has occasioned much doubt and trouble at court.

The fact is that in the time of Bekker, a minister of the Holy Gospel—as they say in Holland—the devil was still in prodigious credit among divines of all sorts in the middle of the seventeenth century, in spite of the good spirits which were beginning to enlighten the world. Witchcraft, possessions, and everything else attached to that fine divinity, were in vogue throughout Europe and frequently had fatal results.

A century had scarcely elapsed since King James himself—called by Henry IV. Master James—that great enemy of the Roman communion and the papal power, had published his “Demonology” (what a book for a king!) and in it had admitted sorceries, incubuses, and succubuses, and acknowledged the power of the devil, and of the pope, who, according to him, had just as good a right to drive Satan from the bodies of the possessed as any other priest. And we, miserable Frenchmen, who boast of having recovered some small part of our senses, in what a horrid sink of stupid barbarism were we then immersed! Not a parliament, not a presidential court, but was occupied in trying sorcerers; not a great jurisconsult who did not write memorials on possessions by the devil. France resounded with the cries of poor imbecile creatures whom the judges, after making them believe that they had danced round a cauldron, tortured and put to death without pity, in horrible torments. Catholics and Protestants were alike infected with this absurd and frightful superstition; the pretext being that in one of the Christian gospels it is said that disciples were sent to cast out devils. It was a sacred duty to put girls to the torture in order to make them confess that they had lain with Satan, and that they had fallen in love with him in the form of a goat. All the particulars of the meetings of the girls with this goat were detailed in the trials of the unfortunate individuals. They were burned at last, whether they confessed or denied; and France was one vast theatre of judicial carnage.

I have before me a collection of these infernal proceedings, made by a counsellor of the Parliament of Bordeaux, named De Langre, and addressed to Monseigneur Silleri, chancellor of France, without Monseigneur Silleri’s having ever thought of enlightening those infamous magistrates. But, indeed, it would have been necessary to begin by enlightening the chancellor himself. What was France at that time? A continual St. Bartholomew—from the massacre of Vassy to the assassination of Marshal d’Ancre and his innocent wife.

Will it be believed that in the time of this very Bekker, a poor girl named Magdalen Chaudron, who had been persuaded that she was a witch, was burned at Geneva?

The following is a very exact summary of the procés-verbal of this absurd and horrid act, which is not the last monument of the kind:

“Michelle, having met the devil as she was going out of the town, the devil gave her a kiss, received her homage, and imprinted on her upper lip and her right breast the mark which it is his custom to affix on all persons whom he recognizes as his favorites. This seal of the devil is a small sign-manual, which, as demonological jurisconsults affirm, renders the skin insensible.

“The devil ordered Michelle Chaudron to bewitch two girls; and she immediately obeyed her lord. The relatives of the young women judicially charged her with devilish practices, and the girls themselves were interrogated and confronted with the accused. They testified that they constantly felt a swarming of ants in certain parts of their bodies, and that they were possessed. The physicians were then called in, or at least those who then passed as physicians. They visited the girls and sought on Michelle’s body for the devil’s seal, which the procés-verbal calls the satanic marks. They thrust a large needle into the spot, and this of itself was a grievous torture. Blood flowed from the puncture; and Michelle made known by her cries that satanic marks do not produce insensibility. The judges, seeing no satisfactory evidence that Michelle Chaudron was a witch, had her put to the torture, which never fails to bring forth proofs. The unfortunate girl, yielding at length to the violence of her tortures, confessed whatever was required of her.

“The physicians again sought for the satanic mark. They found it in a small dark spot on one of her thighs. They applied the needle; but the torture had been so excessive that the poor, expiring creature scarcely felt the wound; she did not cry out; therefore the crime was satisfactorily proved. But, as manners were becoming less rude, she was not burned until she had been hanged.”

Every tribunal in Christian Europe still rings with similar condemnations; so long did this barbarous imbecility endure, that even in our own day, at Würzburg, in Franconia, there was a witch burned in 1750. And what a witch! A young woman of quality, the abbess of a convent! and in our own times, under the empire of Maria Theresa of Austria!

These horrors, by which Europe was so long filled, determined Bekker to fight against the devil. In vain was he told, in prose and verse, that he was doing wrong to attack him, seeing that he was extremely like him, being horribly ugly; nothing could stop him. He began with absolutely denying the power of Satan; and even grew so bold as to maintain that he does not exist. “If,” said he, “there were a devil, he would revenge the war which I make upon him.”

Bekker reasoned but too well in saying that if the devil existed he would punish him. His brother ministers took Satan’s part and suspended Bekker; for heretics will also excommunicate; and in the article of cursing, Geneva mimics Rome.

Bekker enters on his subject in the second volume. According to him, the serpent which seduced our first parents was not a devil, but a real serpent; as Balaam’s ass was a real ass, and as the whale that swallowed Jonah was a real whale. It was so decidedly a real serpent, that all its species, which had before walked on their feet, were condemned to crawl on their bellies. No serpent, no animal of any kind, is called Satan, or Beelzebub, or devil, in the Pentateuch. There is not so much as an allusion to Satan. The Dutch destroyer of Satan does, indeed, admit the existence of angels; but at the same time he assures us that it cannot be proved by reasoning. “And if there are any,” says he, in the eighth chapter of his second volume, “it is hard to say what they are. The Scripture tells us nothing about their nature, nor in what the nature of a spirit consists. The Bible was made, not for angels, but for men; Jesus was made a man for us, not an angel.”

If Bekker has so many scruples concerning angels, it is not to be wondered at that he has some concerning devils; and it is very amusing to see into what contortions he puts his mind in order to avail himself of such texts as appear to be in his favor and to evade such as are against him.

He does his utmost to prove that the devil had nothing to do with the afflictions of Job; and here he is even more prolix than the friends of that holy man.

There is great probability that he was condemned only through the ill-humor of his judges at having lost so much time in reading his work. If the devil himself had been forced to read Bekker’s “World Bewitched” he could never have forgiven the fault of having so prodigiously wearied him.

One of our Dutch divine’s greatest difficulties is to explain these words: “Jesus was transported by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” No text can be clearer. A divine may write against Beelzebub as much as he pleases, but he must of necessity admit his existence; he may then explain the difficult texts if he can.

Whoever desires to know precisely what the devil is may be informed by referring to the Jesuit Scott; no one has spoken of him more at length; he is much worse than Bekker.

Consulting history, where the ancient origin of the devil is to be found in the doctrine of the Persians, Ahrimanes, the bad principle, corrupts all that the good principle had made salutary. Among the Egyptians, Typhon does all the harm he can; while Oshireth, whom we call Osiris, does, together with Isheth, or Isis, all the good of which he is capable.

Before the Egyptians and Persians, Mozazor, among the Indians, had revolted against God and become the devil, but God had at last pardoned him. If Bekker and the Socinians had known this anecdote of the fall of the Indian angels and their restoration, they would have availed themselves of it to support their opinion that hell is not perpetual, and to give hopes of salvation to such of the damned as read their books.

The Jews, as has already been observed, never spoke of the fall of the angels in the Old Testament; but it is mentioned in the New.

About the period of the establishment of Christianity a book was attributed to “Enoch, the seventh man after Adam,” concerning the devil and his associates. Enoch gives us the names of the leaders of the rebellious and the faithful angels, but he does not say that war was in heaven; on the contrary, the fight was upon a mountain of the earth, and it was for the possession of young women.

St. Jude cites this book in his Epistle: “And the angels, which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day . . . . Woe unto them, for they have gone in the way of Cain. . . . And Enoch, also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these. . . . .”

St. Peter in his second Epistle alludes to the Book of Enoch when he says: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness . . . .”

Bekker must have found it difficult to resist passages so formal. However, he was even more inflexible on the subject of devils than on that of angels; he would not be subdued by the Book of Enoch, the seventh man from Adam; he maintained that there was no more a devil than there was a book of Enoch. He said that the devil was imitated from ancient mythology, that it was an old story revived, and that we are nothing more than plagiarists.

We may at the present day be asked why we call that Lucifer the evil spirit, whom the Hebrew version, and the book attributed to Enoch, named Samyaza. It is because we understand Latin better than Hebrew.

But whether Lucifer be the planet Venus, or the Samyaza of Enoch, or the Satan of the Babylonians, or the Mozazor of the Indians, or the Typhon of the Egyptians, Bekker was right in saying that so enormous a power ought not to be attributed to him as that with which, even down to our own times, he has been believed to be invested. It is too much to have immolated to him a woman of quality of Würzburg, Magdalen Chaudron, the curate of Gaupidi, the wife of Marshal d’Ancre, and more than a hundred thousand other wizards and witches, in the space of thirteen hundred years, in Christian states. Had Belthazar Bekker been content with paring the devil’s nails, he would have been very well received; but when a curate would annihilate the devil he loses his cure.


We shall see at the article “Certainty” that we ought often to be very uncertain of what we are certain of; and that we may fail in good sense when deciding according to what is called common sense. But what is it that we call believing?

A Turk comes and says to me, “I believe that the angel Gabriel often descended from the empyrean, to bring Mahomet leaves of the Koran, written on blue vellum.”

Well, Mustapha, and on what does thy shaven head found its belief of this incredible thing?

“On this: That there are the greatest probabilities that I have not been deceived in the relation of these improbable prodigies; that Abubeker, the father-in-law, Ali, the son-in-law, Aisha, or Aisse, the daughter, Omar, and Osman, certified the truth of the fact in the presence of fifty thousand men—gathered together all the leaves, read them to the faithful, and attested that not a word had been altered.

“That we have never had but one Koran, which has never been contradicted by another Koran. That God has never permitted the least alteration to be made in this book.

“That its doctrine and precepts are the perfection of reason. Its doctrine consists in the unity of God, for Whom we must live and die; in the immortality of the soul; the eternal rewards of the just and punishments of the wicked; and the mission of our great prophet Mahomet, proved by victories.

“Its precepts are: To be just and valiant; to give alms to the poor; to abstain from that enormous number of women whom the Eastern princes, and in particular the petty Jewish kings, took to themselves without scruple; to renounce the good wines of Engaddi and Tadmor, which those drunken Hebrews have so praised in their books; to pray to God five times a day, etc.

“This sublime religion has been confirmed by the miracle of all others the finest, the most constant, and best verified in the history of the world; that Mahomet, persecuted by the gross and absurd scholastic magistrates who decreed his arrest, and obliged to quit his country, returned victorious; that he made his imbecile and sanguinary enemies his footstool; that he all his life fought the battles of the Lord; that with a small number he always triumphed over the greater number; that he and his successors have converted one-half of the earth; and that, with God’s help, we shall one day convert the other half.”

Nothing can be arrayed in more dazzling colors. Yet Mustapha, while believing so firmly, always feels some small shadows of doubt arising in his soul when he hears any difficulties started respecting the visits of the angel Gabriel; the sura or chapter brought from heaven to declare that the great prophet was not a cuckold; or the mare Borak, which carried him in one night from Mecca to Jerusalem. Mustapha stammers; he makes very bad answers, at which he blushes; yet he not only tells you that he believes, but would also persuade you to believe. You press Mustapha; he still gapes and stares, and at last goes away to wash himself in honor of Allah, beginning his ablution at the elbow and ending with the forefinger.

Is Mustapha really persuaded—convinced of all that he has told us? Is he perfectly sure that Mahomet was sent by God, as he is sure that the city of Stamboul exists? as he is sure that the Empress Catherine II. sent a fleet from the remotest seas of the North to land troops in Peloponnesus—a thing as astonishing as the journey from Mecca to Jerusalem in one night—and that this fleet destroyed that of the Ottomans in the Dardanelles?

The truth is that Mustapha believes what he does not believe. He has been accustomed to pronounce, with his mollah, certain words which he takes for ideas. To believe is very often to doubt.

“Why do you believe that?” says Harpagon. “I believe it because I believe it,” answers Master Jacques; and most men might return the same answer.

Believe me fully, my dear reader, when I say one must not believe too easily. But what shall we say of those who would persuade others of what they themselves do not believe? and what of the monsters who persecute their brethren in the humble and rational doctrine of doubt and self-distrust?


Of the Fifty Thousand and Seventy Jews Struck with Sudden Death for Having Looked Upon the Ark; of the Five Golden Emeroids Paid by the Philistines; and of Dr. Kennicott’s Incredulity.

Men of the world will perhaps be astonished to find this word the subject of an article; but we here address only the learned and ask their instruction.

Bethshemesh was a village belonging to God’s people, situated, according to commentators, two miles north of Jerusalem. The Phœnicians having, in Samuel’s time, beaten the Jews, and taken from them their Ark of alliance in the battle, in which they killed thirty thousand of their men, were severely punished for it by the Lord:

“Percussit eos in secretiori parte natium, et ebullierunt villæ et agri. . . . et nati sunt mures, et facta est confusio mortis magna in civitate.” Literally: “He struck them in the most secret part of the buttocks; and the fields and the farmhouses were troubled . . . . and there sprung up mice; and there was a great confusion of death in the city.”

The prophets of the Phœnicians, or Philistines, having informed them that they could deliver themselves from the scourge only by giving to the Lord five golden mice and five golden emeroids, and sending him back the Jewish Ark, they fulfilled this order, and, according to the express command of their prophets sent back the Ark with the mice and emeroids on a wagon drawn by two cows, with each a sucking calf and without a driver.

These two cows of themselves took the Ark straight to Bethshemesh. The men of Bethshemesh approached the Ark in order to look at it, which liberty was punished yet more severely than the profanation by the Phœnicians had been. The Lord struck with sudden death seventy men of the people, and fifty thousand of the populace.

The reverend Doctor Kennicott, an Irishman, printed in 1768 a French commentary on this occurrence and dedicated it to the bishop of Oxford. At the head of this commentary he entitles himself Doctor of Divinity, member of the Royal Society of London, of the Palatine Academy, of the Academy of Göttingen, and of the Academy of Inscriptions at Paris. All that I know of the matter is that he is not of the Academy of Inscriptions at Paris. Perhaps he is one of its correspondents. His vast erudition may have deceived him, but titles are distinct from things.

He informs the public that his pamphlet is sold at Paris by Saillant and Molini, at Rome by Monaldini, at Venice by Pasquali, at Florence by Cambiagi, at Amsterdam by Marc-Michel Rey, at The Hague by Gosse, at Leyden by Jaquau, and in London by Beckett, who receives subscriptions.

In this pamphlet he pretends to prove that the Scripture text has been corrupted. Here we must be permitted to differ with him. Nearly all Bibles agree in these expressions: seventy men of the people and fifty thousand of the populace—“De populo septuaginta viros, et quinquaginta millia plebis.” The reverend Doctor Kennicott says to the right reverend the lord bishop of Oxford that formerly there were strong prejudices in favor of the Hebrew text, but that for seventeen years his lordship and himself have been freed from their prejudices, after the deliberate and attentive perusal of this chapter.

In this we differ from Dr. Kennicott, and the more we read this chapter the more we reverence the ways of the Lord, which are not our ways. It is impossible, says Kennicott, for the candid reader not to feel astonished and affected at the contemplation of fifty thousand men destroyed in one village—men, too, employed in gathering the harvest.

This does, it is true, suppose a hundred thousand persons, at least, in that village, but should the doctor forget that the Lord had promised Abraham that his posterity should be as numerous as the sands of the sea?

The Jews and the Christians, adds he, have not scrupled to express their repugnance to attach faith to this destruction of fifty thousand and seventy men.

We answer that we are Christians and have no repugnance to attach faith to whatever is in the Holy Scriptures. We answer, with the reverend Father Calmet, that “if we were to reject whatever is extraordinary and beyond the reach of our conception we must reject the whole Bible.” We are persuaded that the Jews, being under the guidance of God himself, could experience no events but such as were stamped with the seal of the Divinity and quite different from what happened to other men. We will even venture to advance that the death of these fifty thousand and seventy men is one of the least surprising things in the Old Testament.

We are struck with astonishment still more reverential when Eve’s serpent and Balaam’s ass talk; when the waters of the cataracts are swelled by rain fifteen cubits above all the mountains; when we behold the plagues of Egypt, and the six hundred and thirty thousand fighting Jews flying on foot through the divided and suspended sea; when Joshua stops the sun and moon at noonday; when Samson slays a thousand Philistines with the jaw-bone of an ass. . . . . In those divine times all was miracle, without exception, and we have the profoundest reverence for all these miracles—for that ancient world which was not our world; for that nature which was not our nature; for a divine book, in which there can be nothing human.

But we are astonished at the liberty which Dr. Kennicott takes of calling those deists and atheists, who, while they revere the Bible more than he does, differ from him in opinion. Never will it be believed that a man with such ideas is of the Academy of Medals and Inscriptions. He is, perhaps, of the Academy of Bedlam, the most ancient of all, and whose colonies extend throughout the earth.