ePub 版


now deter any Government from sent to be contemptible for fear of making use of the instrument being called tyrannical; or will which Parliament has placed in they exert that authority which their hands. “ Old times is vested in all Governments for changed, old manners gone.” An their own protection, and throw entirely new mode of opposition themselves on the support of the has superseded the system known public, who desire nothing more to Peel, Russell, and Tiernay. than to see an end to vacillation To meet the new method of and indecision in the conduct of attack we must employ a new public affairs, and are ripe for method of defence. The tactics of almost any measures which may Frederick the Great were found have the desired effect. useless against Napoleon. The Seasons may arise when the declosure, as we said last year, must parture from those maxims and now be accepted as one of the reg. principles which guide our conduct ular organs of parliamentary pro. on ordinary occasions becomes a cedure. We sympathise with the sacred duty, in obedience to a reluctance of Conservatives to have higher law. Such a situation recourse to a system so little con- creates grave responsibilities, from sistent with their own principles which, however, no statesman, no and traditions. But they need honest and courageous citizen, neither be ashamed nor afraid of ought to shrink.

At the present exercising a power which has now moment every man is bound to become absolutely essential to free- consider by what means the efficidom of legislation, and which their ency of the Queen's Government, opponents are certain to employ and the usefulness of the House of without any constitutional scruples Commons, can be most successfully if evertheir turn comes round again. maintained. We must not sacriMr Balfour has to choose between fice the end to the means. If, two alternatives which are both ex- owing to such changes as we have tremes. He may either let legis- just referred to, the action of the lation take its chance, thinking it party system threatens to impede enough that the people know the instead of assisting the progress of reason why; or he may secure the legislation, the maxims which held efficiency of parliamentary govern- good at a previous period may no ment by curtailing some of that longer have any claim upon us. liberty which members seem de- Freedom of debate is a privilege termined to abuse. He may either of great price. But it may be abdicate his functions, or uphold necessary to contract its limits them by main force. The great in order to preserve its life; and party which he leads must decide statesmen who recognise this truth, between these alternatives, and and have the courage to act upon let him know which they prefer, it, are the real friends of parnot only for the Education Bill, liamentary institutions, and not but for all Bills—not only for this those who would session, but for all sessions. Which cheap popularity by denying or will they have? Will they con- deriding it.


a little

Printed by William Blackwood and Sons.

[blocks in formation]

THERE could scarcely be a more of seizième édition on its titlecurious literary sensation than to page, makes the wonder still more open a book by a French roman- remarkable. Has France begun cist, bearing all the appearance of to disgust herself with her own a novel, and find in it, instead of special form of literature, and to those wearisome intrigues, enliv- learn that the obscene and impure ened more

or less by sparks of are as dull as they are loathsome wit, degraded more or less by subjects of study, and that nothnoisome details of uncleanness, to ing is more monotonous than the which we are accustomed in that record of vice in which she has kind of production, a Pilgrim's so long tried to find entertainProgress, neither less nor more, ment? We think there are signs -the struggle of a soul, disgusted to this effect even in general literwith vicious life and all its accom- ature; but so singular a work as paniments, to find an opening into the one 1 before us could not be purer air, into faith and hope. other than individual, and we canThat this should come to us under not suppose that it marks any the name of a writer whose com- common movement, or is anything mand of the varieties of circum- but the strange story of a soul stance in vice, and its favourite satiated, disgusted, sickened by a sentiments and descriptions, the life which at the same time does dreadful lore of the so-called not seem to have been any worse Realist, is well known, and cer- than that of the ordinary hero of tifies its popularity by a stamp a French novel. The effect pro

1 En Route. By J. P. Huysmans. VOL. CLXI. —NO. DCCCCLXXVIII.


duced by a jeunesse orageuse upon is to listen to the music for which a man in the maturity of forty, it is famous, yet where he has wanattracted by better things, but dered in his forlorn and painful unable to drag himself out of the search after some influence which evil habits which cling to him like can save him from himself and the the limbs of Victor Hugo's devil- world. The reader will at once fish-haunted by horrible imagina- perceive that this personage, so tions, even more when alone than much unlike the many other memwhen in the worst company, yet bers of his class whom we have all the while straining and strug- known, must have been introduced gling to escape from the dreadful first in some preliminary work: impasse in which he finds himself, but we do not advise him to search —makes a very strange and novel for M. Durtal's antecedents in the picture, almost too sombre and book entitled La-bas, which repterrible for the common eye. It resents him as still in the midst is perhaps fortunate that such a of the usual adventures which are struggle could scarcely ever find supposed to be the commonplace of utterance in the natural reticence a young Frenchman's life, although of English speech, and we do not already moved by the disgust with know how the translator (for the vice which is about to throw him book has been translated into Eng- into the arms of the Church as the lish) can have managed to adapt only possible way of deliverance. it for ordinary reading; but the This disgust is in full possession of history of the recovery and con- his being; but his case is not one version of Durtal is very novel to be reached by the ordinary and remarkable, and, as coming means, by the sermon which he out of the centre of Parisian life hears going on in the distance of and realistic literature, the most the great scarcely lighted church astonishing and impossible thing, while he takes his seat in the darkthough with every sign of truth, ness behind the altar to await the even fact, that could be conceived. music. He hears the ordinary "Oh wretched man that I am, but indistinguishable voice of the who shall deliver me from the preacher, which he recognises, “å body of this death ?” would be a la vaseline de son débit, à la graisse more appropriate motto than the de son accent,” to be that of “un sentence from St Bonaventura prêtre solidement nourri,” giving which appears on the title-page; forth the usual commonplaces of but it need scarcely be said that “ces gargotiers d'ames” to his among the crowd of saints quoted little congregation. Our sick and in the book St Paul has no place, sorry sinner has nothing to do with and that the methods adopted for these habitual discourses. He has the saving of the sinful soul are been more or less interested in the scarcely his.

mysteries of occultism, and even It is, however, of this subject in the mysteries deeper still of that the book is full. Durtal, the some foul travesty of religion hero, a man of letters and of the known as “Satanism,” in which an world, is suddenly presented to us apostate priest, with a small secret in the last place in which we number of depraved followers, should expect to find the type of carries on awful rites, to the great the cultured and unmoral Parisian, curiosity at least, if no more, of in the Church of Saint Sulpice, in Durtal and his friends. Indeed, which, indeed, his primary object in La - bas Durtal himself is drawn into a particularly loath- pensionnat of girls, and a dim some intrigue in order to pene background of other women, himtrate the secret of this horrible self the only man visible. sect, and succeeds in being present at a Messe Noire in honour of the “The atmosphere became extraorDevil, which, however, the writer dinary ; this furnace of souls warmed

the ice of the little building. These has failed to invest with


were no longer the wealthy vespers lectual horrors, so that we are left of St Sulpice ; they were the veswholly unmoved, except by disgust, pers of the poor, the vespers of a by the narrative with which he family, in the plain-song of the fields, evidently hoped to shock and

to shock and followed by the faithful worshipstun us.

pers with a prodigious fervour, in an The occult and the Satanic have, abstraction of inconceivable silence. however, both failed in exercising the depths of a village, of a convent;

Durtal felt himself transported into any influence over Durtal, and he his heart melted, his soul rocked as is now obliged to confess that only in a cradle by the monotonous breadth in the Church can be find relief. of the singing. He felt a real impulse, The difficulty with which a highly a dumb necessity, to pray also tó educated Frenchman of his class the Incomprehensible: surrounded by acknowledges this conclusion, half

these breathings, penetrated by the in despair, half in shame, is, how- found himself, it seemed to him that

influences of the place in which he ever, very powerfully shown. The his being dissolved, that he could first point is made by the music

even participate far off in the tender which he loves, and we have a unity of these simple souls. He tried lengthened but brilliant descrip- to remember a prayer, but recalled tion of the effect of the “De Pro- only that which St Paphnucius taught fundis” and the “ Dies Iræ" sung art not worthy to name God, thou.

to Thais when he said to her, “Thou by the choir of Saint Sulpice : and

canst only pray thus : Qui plasmasti afterwards amid the strange mys- me, miserere mei. Thou who hast tic old-world charm of the little created me, have mercy upon me.' ancient church of Saint Severin,

He faltered this humble phrase, prayneglected and beautiful, where he ing not for love or for contrition, but attends the Sunday Mags, taking in disgust of himself, in the powerrefuge in a dark corner, hiding him

lessness of getting free of himself, in self and his strange emotions—for he thought of saying the Pater, but

regret that he could not love. Then the fear of being taken for a fool stopped short in the idea that this was still strong upon him; "the prayer was the most difficult of all idea of being seen on his knees in when the weight of its words is fully a church filled him with horror; considered. Do not we declare to

God in fact that we have forgiven the thought, if ever he communi

the sins of our neighbour? But cated, of rising, meeting every among those who address these words body's gaze as he went forward to

to God, how many have pardoned their the altar, was intolerable to him.”

neighbours ?" Strange adventures, however, befell him as he roamed from one From this strange mixture of church to another, always envel- sentiments Durtal is roused by oped in his own thoughts. Once seeing the priest and the beadle he found himself by hazard in the looking at him, and presently the chapel of a convent buried in latter approaches him, as he supthe depths of shabby streets, a poses with the intention of bidshabby little chapel full of nuns ding him leave the church, as the in their long veils, of a whole only man in such an assemblage


of women,

But the official's mis- violent convulsion of the soul, a sion is of a very different kind. thunder-stroke, or else of the Faith It is to inform Durtal that it is making at the end an explosion in the custom in the procession of ground already carefully mined.

is very evident that conversions can the Sacrament, which is about to

be brought about either in one or the take place, that the men present other of these ways, for God acts should take the lead, walking at according to His pleasure ; but there the head of the women. Startled, must be a third way, which is no not able to escape, the astonished doubt the most ordinary, that which flâneur finds himself with a candle

the Saviour has employed with me. in his hands, which he can ill There has been no road to Damascus,

no events leading to a great crisis ; all manage, circling round the little

that has happened is that, waking chapel with all the white com

one fine morning, without knowing munity behind him ! not beautiful how or why, the thing is done.” nuns of romance but working Sisters of the Poor, with homely But this conviction, which has weather - beaten faces, and hands come upon him so suddenly, is as rough and red with labour. No- yet of little potency to heal the thing could have been easier than

troubles of his soul. to turn such a scene into ridicule. But though we see the puzzled to himself before his conversion, 'If

“Like all unbelievers he had said confusion of the fine gentleman, I once believed that Jesus was God, his fastidious disgust at those and that eternal life was not an illuhomely figures, his horror at hission, I should not hesitate to change own position, even the difficulty all my habits, to follow as much as of kneeling, when he is placed, still possible the rules of religion, to make more to his horror, on the steps my life at all events chaste. And he of the altar while the service is

wondered much that people whom he

had known, under the same conditions brought to a conclusion-il n'avait

as himself, should not hold an attipas l'habitude de cette postureyet tude superior to his. He who had we are by this time too much for long been so indulgent to himself interested in Durtal's difficulties became singularly intolerant as soon to be tempted even to a smile.

as a believer was in question. He reviews these difficulties, going of his judgments, and began to under

“He perceived now the ignorance on with a continual reverie which, stand the abyss which lay between however, never loses its interest belief and action ; and though he had through all the impossibilities as no desire to discuss this question with they appear to him of reconciling himself, yet it returned upon him and his new-born faith with his life. overcame him, notwithstanding his How, he asks himself, has he be- reluctance, obliging him to confess come once more a Catholic-how

the folly of his arguments and the has he reached to that point ?

contemptible nature of his resistance.

He was frank enough to say to him“ And Durtal replied to himself. self, “I am no longer a child ; if I 'I know not; all that I know is that believe, if I admit the Catholic faith, after having been for years an un- I cannot conceive it as lukewarm believer, now I believe. Let us see, and floating, continually renewed by however [he added to himself), the

the fumes of a false zeal. I desire reason of it, if in the obscurity of neither compromises nor truce, alsuch a subject good sense may still ternations of debauch and of holy hold its place.

communion, now libertine and now “My surprise arises from precon- pious. No, all or nothing : a change ceived ideas on the subject of conver- from the foundation, or no change sions. People talk of a sudden and at all.'

« 上一頁繼續 »