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to the light, without making some fresh swerve obliquely towards old darkness. The great effusion of natural sentiment was in the air before the New Heloïsa appeared, to condense and turn it into definite channels. One beautiful character, Vauven argues (1715 - 1747), had begun to teach the culture of emotional instinct in some sayings of exquisite sweetness and moderation, as that “Great thoughts come from the heart." But he came too soon, and, alas for us all, he died young, and he made no mark. Moderation never can make a mark in the epochs when men are beginning to feel the urgent spirit of a new time. Diderot strove with more powerful efforts, in the midst of all his herculean labours for the acquisition and ordering of knowledge, in the same direction towards the great outer world of nature, and towards the great inner world of nature in the human breast. His criticisms on the paintings of each year, mediocre as the paintings were, are admirable even now for their richness and freshness. If Diderot had been endowed with emotional tenacity, as he was with tenacity of understanding and of purpose, the student of the eighteenth century would probably have been spared the not perfectly agreeable task of threading a way along the sinuosities of the character and work of Rousseau. But Rousseau had what Diderot lacked--sustained ecstatic moods, and fervid trances; his literary gesture was so commanding, his apparel so glistening, his voice so rich in long-drawn notes of plangent vibration. His words
are the words of a prophet; a prophet, it is understood, who had lived in Paris, and belonged to the eighteenth century, and wrote in French instead of Hebrew. The mischief of his work lay in this, that he raised feeling, now passionate, now quietest, into the supreme place which it was to occupy alone, and not on an equal throne and in equal alliance with understanding. Instead of supplementing reason, he placed emotion as its substitute. And he made this evil doctrine come from the lips of a fictitious character, who stimulated fancy and fascinated imagination. Voltaire laughed at the baisers acres of Madame de Wolmar, and declared that a criticism of the Marquis of Ximénès had crushed the wretched romance. 1 But Madame de Wolmar was so far from crushed, that she turned the flood of feeling which her own charms, passion, remorse, and conversion had raised, in a direction that Voltaire abhorred, and abhorred in vain.
It is after the marriage of Julie to Wolmar that the action of the story takes the turn which sensible men like Voltaire found laughable. Saint Preux is absent with Admiral Anson for some years. On his return to Europe he is speedily invited by the sage Wolmar, who knows his past history perfectly well, to pay them a visit. They all meet with leapings on
Corr., March 3, and March 19, 1761. The criticisms of Ximénès, a thoroughly mediocre person in all respects, were entirely literary, and were directed against the too strained and highly coloured quality of the phrases—“ baisers âcres "—among them.
the neck and hearty kisses, the unprejudiced Wolmar preserving an open, serene, and smiling air. He takes his young friend to a chamber, which is to be reserved for him and for him only. In a few days he takes an opportunity of visiting some distant property, leaving his wife and Saint Preux together, with the sublime of magnanimity. At the same time he confides to Claire his intention of entrusting to Saint Preux the education of his children. perfectly well, and the household presents a picture of contentment, prosperity, moderation, affection, and evenly diffused happiness, which in spite of the disagreeableness of the situation is even now extremely charming. There is only one cloud. Julie is devoured by a source of hidden chagrin. Her husband, "so sage, so reasonable, so far from every kind of vice, so little under the influence of human passions, is without the only belief that makes virtue precious, and in the innocence of an irreproachable life he carries at the bottom of his heart the frightful peace of the wicked.”] He is an atheist. Julie is now a pietest, locking herself for hours in her chambers, spending days in self-examination and prayer, constantly reading the pages of the good Fénelon. “I fear," she writes to Saint Preux, “ that you do not gain all you might from religion in the conduct of your life, and that philosophic pride disdains the simplicity of the Christian. You believe prayers to be of scanty service. That is not, you know, the doctrine of Saint · Nouv. Hél., V. v. 115
2 VI. vii.
Paul, nor what our Church professes. We are free, it is true, but we are ignorant, feeble, prone to ill. And whence should light and force come, if not from him who is their very well-spring? . . . Let us be humble, to be sage ; let us see our weakness, and we shall be strong." This was the opening of the deistical reaction ; it was thus, associated with everything that struck imagination and moved the sentiment of his readers, that Rousseau brought back those sophistical conclusions which Pascal had drawn from premisses of dark profound truth, and that enervating displacement of reason by celestial contemplation, which Fénelon had once made beautiful by the persuasion of virtuous example. He was justified in saying, as he afterwards did, that there was nothing in the Savoyard Vicar's Profession of Faith which was not to be found in the letters of Julie. These were the effective preparations for that more famous manifesto ; they surrounded belief with all the attractions of an interesting and sympathetic preacher, and set it to a harmony of circumstance that touched softer fibres.
For, curiously enough, while the first half of the romance is a scene of disorderly passion, the second is the glorification of the family. A modern writer of genius has inveighed with whimsical bitterness against the character of Wolmar, -supposed, we may notice in passing, to be partially drawn from D'Holbach, -a man performing so long an experiment on these
1 VI. vi.
two souls, with the terrible curiosity of a surgeon engaged in vivisection. It was, however, much less difficult for contemporaries than it is for us to accept so unwholesome and prurient a situation. They forgot all the evil that was in it, in the charm of the account of Wolmar's active, peaceful, frugal, sunny household. The influence of this was immense.2 It may be that the overstrained scene where Saint Preux waits for Julie in her room, suggested the far lovelier passage of Faust in the chamber of the hapless Margaret. But we may, at least, be sure that Werther (1774) would not have found Charlotte cutting bread and butter, if Saint Preux had not gone to see Julie take cream and cakes with her children and her female servants. And perhaps the other and nobler Charlotte of the Wahlverwandtschaften (1809) would not have detained us so long with her moss hut, her terrace, her park prospect, if Julie had not had her elysium, where the sweet freshness of the air, the cool shadows, the shining verdure, flowers diffusing fragrance and colour, water running with soft whisper, and the song of a thousand birds, reminded the returned traveller of Tinian and Juan Fernandez. There is an animation, a variety, an accuracy, a realistic brightness in this picture, which will always make it enchanting, even to those who cannot make their way through any other letter in the New Heloisa.? Such qualities place it as an idyllic piece far above such pieces in
1 Michelet's Louis XV. et Louis XVI., p. 58. 9 See Hettner's Literaturgeschichte, ii. 486. 3 IV. xi.