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JACQUES BENIGNE ROSSUET.

Photogravure after the Portrait by H. Dupont.

JACQUES BÉNIGNE BOSSUET

(1627–1704)

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O MONG the funeral orations of Bossuet, who is sometimes ranked A with Mirabeau at the head of the list of French orators, two

are most admired—that over the great Prince of Condé, and that which he delivered on the death of Henrietta of England. «As the orator advances,” says one of his critics, speaking of the former oration, “he gathers strength by the force of his movements; his thoughts bound and leap like the quick, impetuous sallies of the warrior whom he describes; his language glows and sparkles, rushes and rejoices like a free and bounding river, sweeping in beauty through the open champaign, gathering volume and strength from tributary streams, glancing through green meadows and dark woodlands, rushing through forests and mountains, and finally plunging with resistless force and majesty into the open sea.”

It does not seem that oratory worthy to inspire so magnificent an eulogy as this could have higher merits than those thus marshalled and brought to climax. But the compliment, high as it is, fails to do justice to that which is greatest in Bossuet - to that which can follow him into every language into which he is translated, and so make him a model for the writers as well as for the speakers of every country. This supreme merit is his delicacy. «All great art is delicate art," writes John Ruskin, and Bossuet illustrates the meaning of this profound law of effectiveness in saying of the Prince of Condé: «When a favor was asked of him, it was he that appeared obliged.” It is easy enough for one who has mastered the first secrets of language to imitate the Ciceronian array of clauses in which one phalanx of words after another moves forward to complete an already assured conquest. It is not wholly impossible even for one who is not great to attain something of the style by virtue of which Taine commands words with the same perfect mastery of rank on rank, corps on corps, which Napoleon showed in the handling of men. And this is art. But it is not the greatest art. We may be awed by the storm into fear and contempt of self; but after the hurricane is stilled, after the clouds have passed, after the night has grown silent - it is then that the sublimity of the stars can appeal to us to recognize in ourselves our kinship with all that is best and highest in the universe. And it is to this highest quality in us that Bossuet

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