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disappointed his friends, who expected authority of genius, - moments of irresistible much from his acquirements, talents, and intuition in which a man feels himself great as vivacity; and that his fame rests upon two the universe and calm like God!..: What volumes of extracts from many thousand hours, what memories ! pages of a private journal, “ Journal In
And now for Obermann's turn, Obertime," extending over more than thirty mann by the Lake of Bienne. years, from 1848 to 1881, which he left behind him at his death. This journal My path lay beside the green waters of the explains his sterility; and displays in Thiele. Feeling inclined to muse, and findexplaining it, say his critics, such sincerity, ing the night so warm that there was no hard. with such gifts of expression and elo- ship in being all night out of doors, I took the quence, of profound analysis and specula- road to Saint Blaise. I descended a steep tive intuition, as to make it most surely bank, and got upon the shore of the lake one of those books which will not die."
where its ripple came up and expired. The
air was calm; every one was at rest; I reThe sincerity is unquestionable. As to mained there for hours. Towards morning, the gifts of eloquence and expression, the moon shed over the earth and waters the what are we to say? M. Scherer speaks ineffable melancholy of her last gleams. Naof an “ever new eloquence " pouring itself ture seems unspeakably grand, when, plunged in the pages of the journal ; M. Paul Bour- in a long reverie, one hears the rippling of the get, of “marvellous pages "where the feel. waters upon a solitary strand, in the calm of a ing for nature finds an expression worthy night still enkindled and luminous with the of Shelley, or Wordsworth; Mrs. Hum-setting moon. phry Ward, of “magic of style,” of “glow torment of our vain years; vast consciousness
Sensibility beyond utterance, charm and and splendor of expression," of the “poet of a nature everywhere greater than we are, and artist " who fascinates us in Amiel's and everywhere impenetrable; all-embracing prose. I cannot quite agree. Obermann passion, ripened wisdom, delicious self-abanhas been mentioned; it seems to me that donment - everything that a mortal heart can we have only to place a passage from Sé- contain of life-weariness and yearning, I felt nancour beside a passage from Amiel, to it all, I experienced it all, in this memorable perceive the difference between a feeling night. I have made a grave step towards the for nature which gives magic to style and age of decline, I have swallowed up ten years one which does not. Here and through of life at once. Happy the simple, whose
heart is always young! out I am to use as far as possible Mrs. Humphry Ward's translation, at once No translation can render adequately, spirited and faithful, of Amiel's journal. I the cadence of diction, the “dying fall will take a passage where Amiel has evi- of reveries like those of Sénancour or dently some reminiscence of Sénancour Rousseau. But even in a translation we (whose work he knew well), is inspired by must surely perceive that the magic of Sénancour a passage which has been style is with Sénancour's feeling for naextolled by M. Paul Bourget.
ture, not Amiel's; and in the original this Shall I ever enjoy again those marvellous is far more manifest still. reveries of past days, - as for instance, once, Magic of style is creative; its pos. when I was still quite a youth in the early sessor himself creates, and he inspires and dawn sitting amongst the ruins of the castle of enables his reader in some sort to create Faucigny; another time in the mountains after him. And creation gives the sense above Lancy, under the midday sun, lying of life and joy ; hence its extraordinary under a tree and visited by three butterflies; value. But eloquence may exist without and again another night on the sandy shore of the North Sea, stretched full length upon the magic of style, and this eloquence, accombeach, my eyes wandering over the Milky panying thoughts of rare worth and depth, Way? Will they ever return to me, those may heighten their effect greatly. And grandiose, immortal, cosmogonic dreams in M. Scherer says that Amiel's speculative which one seems to carry the world in one's philosophy is on a far other scale of breast, to touch the stars, to possess the infi- vastness "than Sénancour's, and therefore nite ? Divine moments, hours of ecstasy, he gives the preference to the eloquence when thought flies from world to world, pene- of Amiel, which clothes and conveys this trates the great enigma, breathes with a respi. vaster philosophy. Amiel was no doubt ration large, tranquil, and profound like that of the ocean, and hovers serene and boundless greatly Sénancoúr's superior in culture like the blue heaven! Visits from the Muse and instruction generally; in philosophUrania, who traces around the foreheads of ical reading and what is called philosophthose she loves the phosphorescent nimbus of ical thought he was immensely his contemplative power, and who pours into their superior. My sense for philosophy, I hearts the tranquil'intoxication, if not the I know, is as far from satisfying Mr. Fred
eric Harrison as my sense for Hugo's | did practically rule, in a great degree, poetry is from satisfying Mr. Swinburne. Amiel's life, which he often develops not But I am too old to change and too hard only with great subtlety, but also with ened to hide what I think; and when I force, clearness, and eloquence, making it am presented with philosophical specula- both easy and interesting to us to follow tions and told that they are “on a high him. But still, when we have the ideas scale of vastness," I persist in looking present before us, I shall ask what is closely at them and in honestly asking their value, what does Amiel obtain in myself what I find to be their positive them for the service of either himself or value. And we get from Amiel's powers other people? of “speculative intuition " things like
Let us take first what, adopting his own
phrase, we may call his “bedazzlement Created spirits in the accomplishment of with the infinite," his thirst for “ totality.” their destinies tend, so to speak, to form con: has the gift and the bent for making his
Omnis determinatio est negatio. Amiel stellations and milky ways within the empyrean of the divinity; in becoming gods, they soul “ the capacity for all form, not a soul surround the throne of the sovereign with a but the soul.” He finds it easier and sparkling court.
more natural “to be man than a man." Or this :
His permanent instinct is to be " a subtle
and fugitive spirit which no base can abIs not mind the universal virtuality, the uni- sorb or fix entirely.” It costs him an verse latent? If so, its zero would be the effort to affirm his own personality; " the germ of the infinite, which is expressed math-infinite draws me to it, the henosis of ematically by the double zero (00).
Plotinus intoxicates me like a philtre." Or, to let our philosopher develop him. It intoxicates him until the thought of self at more length, let us take this return absorption and extinction, the nirvana to the zero, which Mrs. Humphry Ward of Buddhism, becomes his thought of prefers here to render by nothingness : - refuge. This psychological reinvolution is an antici
The individual life is a nothing ignorant of pation of death; it represents the life beyond itself
, and as soon as this nothing knows itself the grave, the return to Scheol, the soul individual life is abolished in principle. For fading into the world of ghosts or descending
as soon as the illusion vanishes, nothingness into the region of die Mütler; it implies the resumes its eternal sway, the suffering of life
is simplification of the individual who, allowing
over, error has disappeared, time and form all the accidents of personality to evaporate, have for this enfranchised individuality ceased exists henceforward only in the invisible state, to be; the colored air-bubble has burst in the the state of point, of potentiality, of pregnant sunk to rest in the changeless repose of all
infinite space, and the misery of thought has nothingness. Is,not this the true definition of mind ? is not: mind, dissociated from space
embracing nothing. and time, just this? Its development, past or With this bedazement with the infinite future, is contained in it just as a curve is con- and this drift towards Buddhism comes tained in its algebraical formula. This nothing is an all. This punctum without dimen- the impatience with all production, with sions is a punctum saliens.
oetry and art themselves, because
of their necessary limits and imperfection. French critics throw up their hands in dismay at the violence which the German
Composition demands a concentration, deized Amiel, propounding his speculative I cannot fuse together materials and ideas.
cision, and pliancy which I no longer possess. philosophy, often does to the French lan. If we are to give anything a form we must, so guage. My objection is rather that such to speak, be the tyrants of it. We must treat speculative philosophy as that of which I our subject brutally and not be always tremhave been quoting specimens has no bling lest we should be doing it a wrong. We value, is perfectly futile. And Amiel's must be able to transmute and absorb it into journal contains far too much of it. our own substance. This sort of confident
What is futile we may throw aside ; but effrontery is beyond me; my whole nature when Amiel tells us of his “protean na
tends to that impersonality which respects and ture essentially metamorphosable, polaris- truth which holds me back from concluding
subordinates itself to the object; it is love of able, and virtual,” when he tells us of his
and deciding. longing for “totality,” we must listen, although these phrases may in France, as The desire for the all, the impatience M. Paul Bourget says, “ raise a shudder with what is partial and limited, the fasci. in a humanist trained on Livy and Pascal.” | nation of the infinite, are the topics of But these phrases stood for ideas which page after page in the journal. It is a
prosaic mind which has never been in your natural tendency,” he says to himself, contact with ideas of this sort, never felt "you arrive at disgust with life, despair, their charm. They lend themselves well pessimism." And again : “Melancholy to poetry, but what are we to say of their outlook on all sides. Disgust with myvalue as ideas to be lived with, dilated on, self.” And again: “I cannot deceive made the governing ideas of life? Ex- myself as to the fate in store for me : incept for use in passing, and with the creasing isolation, inward disappointment, power to dismiss them again, they are un- enduring regrets, a melancholy neither to profitable. Shelley's
be consoled nor confessed, a mournful old Life like a dome of many-colored glass
age, a slow agony, a death in the desert.” Stains the white radiance of eternity
And all this misery by his own fault, his Until death tramples it to fragments
own mistakes. “To live is to conquer
incessantly; one must have the courage has value as a splendid image nobly in, to be happy. I turn in a vicious circle; I troduced in a beautiful and impassioned have never had clear sight of my true poem. But Amiel's “colored air-bubble,” | vocation.” as a positive piece of "speculative intui- I cannot therefore fall in with that partion, has no value whatever. Nay, the ticular line of admiration which critics, thoughts which have positive truth and praising Amiel's journal, have commonly value, the thoughts to be lived with and followed. I cannot join in celebrating his dwelt upon, the thoughts which are a real prodigies of speculative intuition, the glow acquisition for our minds, are precisely and splendor of his beatific vision of absothoughts which counteract the "vague as-lute knowledge, the marvellous pages in piration and indeterminate desire ” pos- which his deep and vast philosophic sessing Amiel and filling his journal; they thought is laid bare, the secret of his subare thoughts insisting on the need of limit
, lime malady is expressed. I hesitate to the feasibility of performance. Goethe admit that all this part of the journal has says admirably:
even a very profound psychological interWer grosses will muss sich zusammenraffen: est; its interest is rather pathological. In In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meis- reading it we are not so much pursuing a
study of psychology as a study of morbid “He who will do great things must pull pathology. himself together: it is in working within
But the journal reveals a side in Amiel limits that the master comes out.” Buf- which his critics, so far as I have seen, have fon says not less admirably :
hardly noticed, a side of real power, origi
nality, and value. He says himself that he Tout sujet est un; et quelque vaste qu'il never had clear sight of his true vocation; soit, il peut être renfermé dans un seul dis. well, his true vocation, it seems to me, was
that of a literary critic. Here he is admiraEvery subject is one; and however vast able ; M. Scherer was a true friend when it may be, is capable of being contained he offered to introduce him to an editor, in a single discourse.” The ideas to live and suggested an article on Uhland. There with, the ideas of sterling value to us, are, is hardly a literary criticism in these two I repeat, ideas of this kind; ideas volumes which is not masterly, and which staunchly counteracting and reducing the does not make one desire more of the power of the infinite and indeterminate, same kind. And not Amiel's literary critnot paralyzing us with it.
icism only, but his criticism of society, And indeed we have not to go beyond politics, national character, religion, is in Amiel himself for proof of this. Amiel general well-informed, just, and penetratwas paralyzed by living in these ideas of ing in an eminent degree. Any one single “vague aspiration and indeterminate de- page of this criticism is worth, in my sire,” of “confounding his personal life opinion, a hundred of Amiel's pages about in the general life,” by feeding on these the infinite illusion and the great wheel. ideas, treating them as august and pre. It is to this side in Amiel that I desire cious, and filling hundreds of pages of now to draw attention. I would have journal with them. He was paralyzed by abstained from writing about him if I had it, he became impotent and miserable. only to disparage and to find fault, only to And he knew it, and tells us of it himself say that he had been overpraised, and that with a power of analysis and with a sad his dealings with Maïa seemed to me eloquence which to me are much more profitable neither for himself nor for othinteresting and valuable than his philos-ers. ophy of Maïa and the great wheel. “By Let me first take Amniel as a critic of
literature, and of the literature which he fortune that the most powerful poet of France naturally knew best, French literature. should not have better understood his rôle, Hear him as critic on that best of critics, and that, unlike the Hebrew prophets who Sainte-Beuve, of whose death (1869) he chastised because they loved, he fatters his had just heard.
fellow-citizens from system and from pride.
France is the world, Paris is France, Hugo is The fact is, Sainte-Beuve leaves a greater Paris. Bow down and worship, ye nations! void behind him than either Béranger or Lamartine; their greatness was already dis
Finally, we will hear iel on a contant, historical; he was still helping us to summate and supreme French classic, as think. The true critic supplies all the world perfect as Hugo is flawed, La Fontaine. with a basis. He represents the public judgment, that is to say, the public reason, the and remarked his oñissions.
Went through my La Fontaine yesterday,
He has not touchstone, the scales, the crucible, which an echo of chivalry haunting him. His French tests the value of each man and the merit of history dates from Louis XIV. His geogeach work. Infallibility of judgment is per: raphy extends in reality but a few.square haps rarer than anything else, so fine a bal- miles, and reaches neither the Rhine nor the ance of qualities does it demand — qualities Loire, neither the mountains nor the sea. He both natural and acquired, qualities of both mind and heart. What years of labor, what takes them ready-made from elsewhere.
never invents his subjects, but indolently
But study and comparison, are needed to bring the with all this, what adorable writer, what a critical judgment to maturity! Like Plato's painter, what an observer, what a master of sage, it is only at fifty that the critic is risen the comic and the satirical, what a teller of a to the true height of his literary priesthood, or, to put it less pompously, of his social story!, I am never tired of him, though I
In the matter function. Not till then has he compassed all of vocabulary, turns of expression, tones:
know half his fables by heart. modes of being, and made every shade of ap; idioms, his language is perhaps the richest of preciation his own. And Sainte-Beuve joined the great period, for it combines skilfully the to this infinitely refined culture a prodigious archaic with the classical, the Gaulish element memory and an incredible multitude of facts with what is French. Variety, finesse, sly and anecdotes stored up for the service of his fun, sensibility, rapidity, conciseness, suavity, thought.
grace, gaiety when necessary, nobleness, The criticism is so sound, so admirably seriousness, grandeur- you find everything put, and so charming that one wishes in our fabulist. And the happy epithets, and Sainte-Beuve could have read it himself.
the telling proverbs, and the sketches dashed Try Amiel next on the touchstone af- off, and the unexpected audacities, and the
One cannot say forded by that "half genius, half charla- what he has not, so many diverse aptitudes
point driven well home! tan,” Victor Hugo.
he has. I have been again looking through Victor Compare his “Woodcutter and Death " Hugo's “Paris ” (1867). For ten years event with Boileau's, and you can measure the proafter event has given the lie to the prophet, but digious difference between the artist and the the confidence of the prophet in his own imag- critic who wanted to teach him better. La inings is not therefore a whit diminished. Hu- Fontaine brings visibly before you the poor mility and common sense are only fit for Lilli- peasant under the monarchy, Boileau but putians. Victor Hugo superbly ignores every exhibits a drudge sweating under his load. thing which he has not foreseen. He does The first is a historic witness, the second a not know that pride limits the mind, and that school-versifier. La Fontaine enables you to a limitless pride is littleness of soul. If reconstruct the whole society of his age; the he could but learn to rank himself with pleasant old soul from Champagne, with his other men and France with other nations, he animals, turns out to be the one and only would see things more truly, and would Homer of France. not fall into his insane exaggerations, his His weak side is his epicureanism, with its extravagant oracles. But proportion and tinge of grossness. This, no doubt, was what justness his chords will never know. He is made Lamartine dislike him. The religious vowed to the Titanic; his gold is always mixed string is wanting to his lyre, he has nothing with lead, his insight with childishness, his which shows him to have known either Chris. reason with madness. He cannot be simple; tianity or the high tragedies of the soul. like the blaze of a house on fire, his light is Kind Nature is his goddess, Horace his blinding: In short, he astonishes but pro prophet, and Montaigne his gospel. In other vokes, he stirs but annoys. His note is words, his horizon is that of the Renascence. always half or two-thirds false, and that is This islet of paganism in the midst of a Cathwhy he perpetually makes us feel uncomfort-olic society is very curious; the paganism is able. The great poet in him cannot get clear perfectly simple and frank. of the charlatan. A few pricks of Voltaire's irony would have made the inflation of this
These are but notes, jottings in his genius collapse, and rendered him stronger journal, and Amiel passed from them to by rendering him saner. It is a public mis- / broodings over the infinite, and personal
ity, and totality. Probably the literary Hugo's faults; the faults of the French criticism which he did so well, and for nation at large he judges with a like severwhich he shows a true vocation, gave him ity. But what a fine and just perception nevertheless but little pleasure because does the following passage show of the he did it thus fragmentarily and by fits deficiencies of Germany, the advantage and starts. To do it thoroughly, to make which the western nations have in their his fragments into wholes, to fit them for more finished civilization ! coming before the public, composition with its toils and limits was necessary. of German society, and its inferiority to the
It is in the novel that the average vulgarity Toils and limits composition indeed has; societies of France and England are most yet all composition is a kind of creation, clearly visible. The notion of a thing's jarcreation gives, as I have already said, ring on the taste is wanting to German ästhetpleasure, and when successful and sus- ics. Their elegance knows nothing of grace; tained, more than pleasure, joy. Amiel, they have no sense of the enormous distance had he tried the experiment with literary between distinction (gentlemanly, ladylike) criticism, where lay his true vocation, and their stiff Vornehmlichkeit. Their imagwould have found it so. Sainte-Beuve, ination lacks style, training, education, and whom he so much admires, would have knowledge of the world; it is stamped with been the most miserable of men if his pro The race is practical and intelligent, but com
an ill-bred air even in its Sunday clothes. duction had been but a volume or two of
mon and ill-mannered. Ease, amiability, middling poems and a journal. But manners, wit, animation, dignity, charm, are Sainte-Beuve's motto, as Amiel himself qualities whichybelong to others. notices, was that of the emperor Severus : Will that inner freedom of soul, that pro Laboremus. “Work,” Sainte-Beuve con- found harmony of all the faculties, which I fesses to a friend, “is my sore burden, have so often observed among the best Gerbut it is also my great resource.
I eat mans, ever come to the surface? Will the my heart out when I am not•up to the conquerors of to-day ever civilize their forms neck in work; there you have the secret shall be able to judge. As soon as the Ger
of life? It is by their future novels that we of the life I lead." If M. Scherer's intro- man novel can give us quite good society, the duction to the Revue Germanique could Germans will be in the raw stage no longer. but have been used, if Amiel could but have written the article on Uhland and And this pupil of Berlin, this devourer followed it up by plenty of articles more !
of German books, this victim, say the . I have quoted largely from Amiel's lit. French critics, to the contagion of German erary criticism, because this side of him style, after three hours, one day, of a has, so far as I have observed, received so Geschichte der Æsthetik in Deutschland, little attention, and yet deserves attention breaks out: so eminently. But his more general criti- Learning and even thought are not every cism, too, shows, as I have said, the same thing. A little esprit, point, vivacity, imagihigh qualities as his criticism of authors nation, grace, would do no harm. Do these and books. I must quote one or two of pedantic books leave a single image or senhis aphorisms. L'esprit sert bien d tout, tence, a single striking or new fact, in the mais ne suffit à rien: “ Wits are of use for memory when one lays them down ? No, everything, sufficient for nothing." Une nothing but fatigue and confusion. Oh, for société vit de sa foi et se développe par la clearness, terseness, brevity!
. science :
A short article by " A society lives on its faith and, Sainte-Beuve, Scherer, Renan, Victor Cher
taire, or even Galiani! develops itself by science.” L'Etat libéral bulioz, gives one more pleasure, and makes est irréalisable avec une religion antilibé- one ponder and reflect more, than a thousand rale, et presque irréalisable avec l'absence of these German pages crammed to the marde religion: “Liberal communities are gin and showing the work itself rather than impossible with an anti-liberal religion, its result. The Germans heap the faggots and almost impossible with the absence of for the pile, the French bring the fire. Spare religion.” But epigrammatic sentences me your lucubrations, give me facts or ideas. of this sort are perhaps not so very diffi. Keep your vats, your must, your dregs, to cult to produce, in French at any rate. yourselves; I want wine fully made, wine Let us take Amiel when he has room and which will sparkle in the glass and kindle my
spirits instead of oppressing them.
deteriora ligion, national life, and character.' We sequi; he may have Germanized until he have seen what an influence his years has become capable of the verb depersonpassed in Germany had upon him ; we naliser and the noun réimplication; but have seen how severely he judges Victor | after all, his heart is in the right place;