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hundred years, but an elaborate analytical study by one desired end and bringing in the millennium was to of the foremost French novelists, of the successive steps reverse the process, and to begin on the outside. taken by a soul in its pilgrimage from the City of “For instance,” she exclaimed with much vivacity, Destruction to the Promised Land.
“I am prepared to maintain that, if the worst man THE SUPREME INTEREST OF THE STORY.
in the world will but allow me to absolutely conMr. Kegan Paul, who translates and publishes the trol the muscles of his face and the movements of book, hardly seems to realise its true spiritual signifi- his limbs, I will, within a certified period, convert him cance, for he says :
into a perfect saint. The body reacts upon the The true interest in the book is its defence of the Monastic mind, and builds up a character within that conforms Orders, and the description of such a life as seen from very to its appearance without. It is impossible for you near. Here is, as it appears to us, the extraordinary value of to perpetually adjust your face so as to produce a smile, the book for English readers..
and to retain bitterness or sourness in your heart. It is quite true that thero is much in the book that is The muscles of your countenance will irresistibly very interesting and instructive about monastic orders; transform the fceling of the heart." but that is a matter of
THE DELSARTEISM OF purely literary or intellec
ROME. Anal interest. Very few of
There is a great deal of as will have an opportu- A R RA
Delsarteism in the Church nity of coming into per
of Rome. Throughout the sonal touch with those who lead the monastic life;
whole of Huysmans' story but all of us have souls to
there is a perpetual operabe saved and lives to be re-,
tion from without designed deemed from the ever
to produco a corresponding encroaching grasp of the
change within. Whether forces of evil within and
all this paraphernalia of without. The monastic
ceremony and ritual is part of the story is inte
the shortest way or not to resting only as indicating
the human heart, it cannot one of the methods by
be denied that it is by which Durtal was able to
this road that millions of win his battle and discom.
the saints of God have fit Apollyon; but the
found peace and joy in supreme interest in the
believing. It is not, therestory is the description
fore, for us to speak lightly which it gives of the way
of the Delsartean element in which a soul convinced
in the Roman Church. It of sin is won by the para
has its uses, and although phernalia of the Church of
it is possible that it may Rome, is helped to attain
sometimes seem to approxithat mastery over itself,
mate very nearly to the which is rightly described
whirling prayer-mills of as salvation,
the good Thibetans, let us WORKING FROM WITHOUT
remember also that even TO WITHIN.
prayer-mills themselves There is only one other
may not be without some observation which I shall
efficacy, and certainly make before summarising
would never have come the story of Durtal's pil
into such extended use if grimage for my readers.
they had not at some time To most Englishmen,
MR. C. KEGAN PAUL.
or other, in some way Especially those who have
hidden to us, ministered to been reared in the spiritual environment more or some of the imperious needs of the human heart. less approximating to the austere simplicity of the Society of Friends, the chief impression which the book
1.- DURTAL'S AWAKENING. will leave upon the mind is one of sorrow, not to say When Christian in Bunyan's “Pilgrim's Progress" disgust, at the extent to which the soul is taught to rely makes his first appearance, he is clothed in rags, standing upon external agencies for the attainment of internal in a certain place with his face from his own house, a peace. Over and over again in reading “En Route” book in his hand and a great burden upon his back. He was I reminded of a charming zealous missionary of opened the book and read therein, and as he read he Delsarteism whom I had the pleasure of meeting many wept and trembled, and not being able longer to restrain years ago in the room of an acquaintance who has this it, broke out with a lamentable, cry, saying, “ What shall year held with distinction one of the most important I do?” posts in what may be called the subterranean world of Somewhat similar to this, although different in detail, Imperial politics. She assured me that the regeneration is the story which Huysmans gives of the awakening of of the world had been sadly impeded because people Durtal, the pilgrim of “En Route." Durtal was indeed would persist in attempting to regenerate mankind from clothed in filthy rags, morally speaking, and although within outward, whereas the true way of achieving the his cry,“ What shall I do?” was prompted by no reading
of the book which Bunyan saw in the hands of Christian, This disgust which he felt at the life which he was it may be said to have been due to his study of that leading was aggravated by his solitude and his idleness, darger Scripture that is written in the world in which he for since he had finished the history of Gilles de Rais he lived. But whereas Bunyan is content to describe the had no other book on hand. In place of religion or of awakening of his pilgrim's conscience, Huysmans proceeds any moral sentiment, he had a great passion for art, to discuss and analyse the causes which led to the especially for music and the plain chant of the Church awakening. His analysis and his discussion do not how service. “More even than his disgust for life, art had ever, we must admit, advance us much further on the been the irresistible magnet that drew him to Gol." road. As Mr. Kegan Paul says, “ The awakening of One day, partly out of curiosity and partly from a wish the soul is a mystery not to be explained in precise to kill time which lay heavy on his hands, he had enterei terms":
a church after many years in which he had never The exact process is as little explicable as the quickening of
darkened the sacred portals. As he heard the vesper3 life in the womb. The soul awakes and says, " I believe,” it for the dead “fall heavily, psalm after psalm, in antihas come about by the sudden irruption of Grace, and not by phonal chant as the singers threw up as from ditches any statement of syllogisms, any admission of premisses, any their shovels full of verse,” his soul had been shaken to conscious drawing of conclusions.
its depths. The work thus begun was continued by the Durtal himself is equally unable to account for his ceremonies and music of Holy Week. Day after day he sudden awakening to the higher life. Durtal is a dissolute visited the churches which, filled with great crowds, and decadent man of letters who has just finished his
seemed themselves to become enormous crosses, living, history of Gilles de Rais, the abominable profligate and not crawling, silent and sombre. He kept on day after black magician who fought in the train of Jeanne d'Arc. day until at last on the Thursday at nightfall, when the When the story opens he is/ alone in the world; he “Stabat Mater” was sung, all temptations to unbelief filed. had only two friends and they had both died; he Durtal left the church worn out with long services, but had never married, but had wasted his manhood in he had no further doubt. The eloquent splendour of every kind of excess. In his own words, “My heart is the litanies and the dim sorrow of the voices appealed hardened and smoke-dried by dissipation, I am good for to him. He had begun the new life but half conscious nothing."
of the change which had taken place in him. Neither Yet upon this hardened heart there had shone a light did he by any means abandon his vices, but he went which convicted him of sin and made him ask, although frequently to the Church of St. Severin, especially 10 in different phraseology from that of Bunyan's pilgrim, high mass, where the singing of the plain chant deepenei “What shall I do to be saved ?” Durtal finds himself, his conviction as to the truth of the Catholic creed." It without knowing it, converted to faith—that is to say, is impossible,” he would say, “that the alluvial deposits from being a rank unbeliever he has come to recognise of faith which have created this mystical certainty ar the importance of his relations with the Infinite. How false." this came about, he says frankly, he does not know. No He ended by being moved to the very marrow, choked by doubt the work had been prepared beforehand, but of the nervous tears, and all the bitterness of his life came up before process himself he was unconscious.
him; full of vague fears, of confused prayers which stiflel I know not in what this consists; it is something analogous
him, and found no words, he cursed the ignominy of his life to digestion in a stomach, which works though we do not feel
and swore to master his carnal affections. it. There has been no road to Damascus, no events to bring
In fact, to sum up all, he might believe that St. Severin by about a crisis; nothing has happened, we awake some fino
its scent, and the delightful art of its old nave, St. Sulpice by morning, and, without knowing how or why, the thing is done.
its ceremonies and its chanting, had brought him back towards No doubt I can distinguish here and there some landmarks on
Christian art, which in its turn had directed him to God. the road I have travelled : love of art, heredity, weariness of
Ah! the true proof of Catholicism was that art which it life; I can even recall some of the forgotten sensations of
had founded, an art which_has never been surpassed; in childhood, the subterranean workings of ideas excited by my
painting and sculpture the Early Masters, mystics in poetry visits to the churches : but I am unable to gather these threads
and in prose, in music plain chant, in architecture the Romantogether, and group them in a skein, I cannot understand the esque and Gothic styles. sudden and silent explosion of light which took place in me.
Then when once urged on this way, he had pursued it, had When I seek to explain to myself how one evening an
left architecture and music, to wander in the mystic terriunbeliever, I became, without knowing it, on one night a
tories of the other arts, and his long visits to the Louvre, bis believer, I can discover nothing, for the divine action has
researches into the breviaries, into the books of Ruysbrück, vanished and left no trace.
Angela da Foligno, Saint Teresa, Saint Catherine of Genoa,
Saint Magdalen of Pezzi, had confirmed him in his belief. The first note of distinction between Durtal and Bunyan's Christian is that Durtal was not in the least With Durtal, as with most Frenchmen, there are only moved at first by any remorse for sin. His recoil from
two alternatives: unbelief or Catholicism. Recoiling from his evil doing was an after-effect of his acceptance of the
unbelief, he at once sought refuge in the Church :truth of the Christian religion, to which he was attracted Once I despised her, because I had a staff on which to lean by its externals far more than by any direct spiritual
when the great winds of weariness blew; I believed in my appeal which its message made to his conscience.
novels, I worked at my history, I had my art. I have come to
recognise its absolute inadequacy, its complete incapacity to Indeed, at first, although he was, as Mr. Kegan Paul
afford happiness. Then I understood that Pessimism was, at says, converted to faith, he was very far from having
most, good to console those who had no real need of comfort; reformed his life. He recoiled from the thought of
I understood that its theories, alluring when we are young, prayer; but, he lamented :
and rich, and well, become singularly weak and lamentably I am haunted by Catholicism, intoxicated by its atmosphere false, when age advances, when infirmities declare themselves, of incense and wax, I prowl about it, moved even to tears by when all around is crumbling. its prayers
touched even to the marrow by its psalms and I went to the church, that hospital for souls. There, at chants. I am thoroughly disgusted with my life, very tired least, they take you in, put you to bed and nurse you, they of myself; but it is a far cry from that to leading a different do not merely turn their backs on you as in the wards of existence!
Pessimism, and tell you the name of your disease.
II.-DURTAL'S EVANGELIST. In "Pilgrim's Progress," when Christian, after a period of much misery, was walking in the fields reading his book, looking this way and that way as if he would run, yet standing still because he perceived he could not tell which way to go, he looked up and saw a man named Evangelist coming to him, who asked him, “ Wherefore dost thou cry?” The part played by the Evangelist in Huysmans' book is taken by an excellent and admirable old priest, a true mystic, the Abbé Gévresin. But whereas Evangelist points Bunyan's pilgrim to Christ as the wicket-gate, the abbé deals in much subtler fashion with Durtal. And herein lies the second broad distinction between the “ Pilgrim's Progress" of the seventeenth century and this “Pilgrim's Progress” at the end of the nineteenth. Bunyan pointed the awakened sinner directly to the wicket-gate, whereas Huysmans, believing that the road lies through the sacrainents of the Church, sets himself diligently to mancuvre Durtal by a kind of sanctified strategy into the way of salvation. One of the most remarkable passages in a book which contains many notable chapters, is that in which Huysmans boldly asserts the efficacy of forms and ceremonies, even when they are performed in the most mechanical spirit. The occasion is one in which he describes a funeral service in the Madeleine over the bier of a rich man. The singing of the “ Dies Iræ” profoundly impresses him, although he is compelled to admit that from bottom to top the performers of the service put no heart into their task. He says:
The tenors and basses are careful of their effects, and admire themselves in the more or less rippled water of their voices; the choir boys dream of their scampers after mass ; and, moreover, not one of them at all understands a word of the Latin they sing and abridge, as for instance the “ Dies Iræ," of which they suppress a part of the stanzas. In its turn beadledom calculates the sumn the dead man brings in, and even the priest, wearied with the prayers of which he has read so many, and needing his breakfast, prays mechanically from the lips outward, while the assistants are in a hurry that the mass to which they have not listened should come to an end, that they may shake hands with the relations, and leave the dead.
Notwithstanding all this, notwithstanding the unworthiness of the celibrants, a virtue remains indestructible in the music itself. He says:
There is absolute inattention, profound weariness; but by the external sound of the words, without the aid of contemplation, without even the help of thought, the Church aets. There it is, the miracle of her liturgy, the power of her word, the constantly renewed prodigy of phrases created by revolving time, of prayers arranged by ages which are dead. All has passed, nothing exists that was raised up in those bygone times. Yet those sequences remain intact, cried aloud by indifferent voices and cast out from empty hearts, plead, groan, and implore even with efficacy, by their virtual power, their talismanic might, their inalienable beauty by the almighty confidence of their faith. The Middle Ages have left us these to help us to save, if it may be, the soul of the modern and dead fine gentleman.
This, it may be objected, is very much like the belief of the Hindus in the muttering of magical mantrams, & faith which Theosopbists have done something to render thinkable to us Westerns. Huysmans' reply would probably be that it is true, and that both in the muttering of the mantrams and in the intoning of the Liturgy there is a recognition of the same law. At any rate, it was by these means that he was convinced at the bottom of his soul of the certitude of true faith. The more ho argued against it, the more he was convinced that all
the excuses he made for his unworthy life were odiously inadequate :
How doubt the truth of dogmas, how deny the divine power of the Church, for she commands assent?
First she has her superhuman art and her mysticism, then she is most wonderful in the persistent folly of conquered heresies. All since the world began have had the flesh as their springboard. Logically and humanly speaking they should have triuinphed, for they allowed man and woman to satisfy their passions, saying to themselves there was no sin in these.
All have suffered shipwreck. The Church, unbending in this matter, has remained upright and entire. She orders the body to be silent, and the soul to suffer, and contrary to all probability, humanity listens to her, and sweeps away like a dung-heap the seductive joys proposed to her.
Again, the vitality of the Church is decision, which preserves her in spite of the unfathomable stupidity of her
She has resisted the disquieting folly of the clergy, and has not even been broken up by the awkwardness and lack of ability in her defenders, a very strong point.
“ No, the more I think of her," he cried, “ the more I think her prodigious, unique, the more I am convinced that she alone holds the truth, that outside her are only weaknesses of mind, impostures, scandals. The Church is the divine breeding ground, the heavenly dispensary of souls; she gives them suck, nourishes them, and heals them ; she bids them understand, when the hour of sorrow comes, that true life begins, not at birth, but at death. The Church is indefectible, before all things admirable, she is great
“Yes, but then we must follow her directions and practise the sacraments she orders !”
From this obedience Durtal recoiled-he had the sovereign contempt of the French freethinker for the clericals. Priests and devotees alike he regarded with supreme disdain. When his conscience told him if he recognised the authority of the Church he must do as she told him, he replied :
No indeed—for then I must bind myself to a heap of observances, bend to a series of rules, assist at mass on Sunday, abstain on Friday, live like a bigot, and look like
Nothing can more contemptuous than the way in which he speaks of “the pious geese” who thronged the churches, and the wretchedly commonplace priests who were so lukewarm, and who never could rise above what he called their middle class ideal of a God. • They will try,” he said, “ to convince me that art is dangerous, will sermonise me with imbecile talk, and pour over me their flowing bowls of pious veal broth. Yet,” said he, “I cannot approach the altar without the aid of an interpreter, without the bulwark of a priest.” He had been converted, or rather awakened, without the help of anyone ; now a priest was indispensable. The more he contemplated the possibility of kneeling in church before the altar, or of communicating, the more he recoiled from it. “Even if I decide to jump the ditch, to confess and communicate, I must determine to fly the lusts of the flesh and accept perpetual abstinence. I could never attain to that.” The more near he drew to the Church, the more his unclean desires became frequent and persistent. Never had he been so tormented as since his conversion. That, the inner voice said to him, was because he prowled about the precincts instead of entering the sanctuary, and he was reluctantly compelled to admit that he did not practise his religion because he yielded to his baser instincts, and yielded to those instincts because he did not practise his religion. Distressed and weary of heart, he began to ask himself whether it was not possible to find a priest with whom he could
communicate without being repelled by commonplace
Perhaps the secular clergy are only the leavings, for the contemplative orders and the missionary army carry away every year the pick of the spiritual basket; the mystics, priests athirst for sorrows, drunk with sacrifice, bury themselves in cloisters or exile themselves among savages whom they teach.
It was while he was in this state he bethought himself of one Abbé Gévresin, whom he had once met in a bookseller's shop, and discussed with him the life of the blessed Lidwine, a Dutch saint of the fourteenth century. Of this abbé, who plays a most important rôle in the book, we know nothing excepting that he was a good mystic, who, on account of his great age and infirmity, was incapacitated for the regular duties of the priesthood. To him Durtal went, and submitted the troubles of his soul. III.-THROUGH THE SLOUGH OF REPENTANCE.
When Christian was on his way to the wicket-gate, it will be remembered he fell into the Slough of Despond, in which he wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with dirt, and in which, no doubt, he narrowly escaped sinking because of the burden upon his back. Durtal had passed, not through the Slough of Despond, but through the mire of unclean thoughts which he had been diligently accumulating all through his past life:
His shameless senses rebelled at the contact of religious ideas. He tloated like wreckage between Licentiousness and the Church; they each threw him back in turn.
Continually his mind reverted to the images of the women with whom he had sinned, especially that of one Florence, who had in the latter years acquired singular ascendency over his morbid taste. Even in church the memory of the girl rose up before him, and the subtle fascination of the temptress overcame all his aspirations for a higher life:
“ If only the sound of my vices consents to be silent, but I feel that they rise furiously within me. Ah, that Florence and he thought of a woman to whose vagaries he was rivcted
continues to walk about in my brain. I see her behind the lowered curtain of my eyes, and when I think of her I am a terrible coward.”
He endeavoured once more to put her away, but his will was overcome at the sight of her,
He hated, despised, and even cursed her, but the madness of his illusions excited him; he left her disgusted with her and with himself; he swore he would never see her again, but did not keep his resolve.
IIe saw her now in vision extend her hand to him.
He recoiled, struggling to free himself; but his dream continued mingling her with the form of one of the sisters whose gentle profile he saw.
Suddenly he started, returned to the real world, and saw that he was at St. Sulpice, in the chapel. “It is disgusting that I should come here to soil the church with my horrible dreams; I had better go.”
So when he went to the Abbé Gévresin, he told him frankly how impossible he found it to shake off the mire of his vices. The abbé asked him if he prayed; he urged him to pray in his own house, in church, everywhere, as much as he could, but especially in the early morning and late in the evening, and also specially urged him to attend the Church Notre Dame des Victoires. Durtal loved the church on account, it would seem, that it alone among the churches of Paris was always filled with a crowd of worshippers in more or less ecstatic devotion. He says : -
Notre Dame des Victoires is worthless from the æsthetic point of view, and yet I go there from time to time, because
alone in Paris it has the irresistible attraction of true piety, it alone preserves intact the lost soul of the Time. At whatever hour one goes there people are praying there, prostrate, in absolute silence. It is full as soon as it is open, and full at its closing. There is a constant coming and going of pilgrims from all parts of Paris, arriving from the depths of the provinces, and it seems that each one, by the prayers that he brings, adds fuel to the immense brazier of Faith, whose flames break out again under the smoky arches like the thousands of tapers which constantly burn, and are renewed from morning till evening, before Our Lady.
But when the abbé urged him to attend Benediction in that church in order that he might come out cleansed and at peace, he replied :
“But, Monsieur l'Abbé, even were I to visit that sanctuary, and follow the offices in other churches, when temptations assail me, even were I to confess and draw near the Sacraments, how would that advantage me? I should meet as I came out the woman whose very sight inflames my senses, and it would be with me as after my leaving St. Severin all unnerved; the very feeling of tenderness which I had in the chapel would destroy me, and I should fall back into sin."
What do you know about it?" and the priest suddenly rose, and took long strides through the room.
“You have no right to speak thus, for the virtue of the Sacrament is formal, the man who has communicated is no longer alone. He is armed against others and defended against himself.
“I tell you again I believe in the preventive virtue, the formal power of the Sacraments. I quite understand the system of Père Milleriot, who obliged those persons to communicate whom he thought would afterwards fall again into sin. For their only penance he obliged them to communicate again and again, and he ended by purifying them with the Sacred Species, taken in large doses. It is a doctrine at once realistic and exalted.”
But the abbé refrained from prescribing this heroic treatment, and contented himself with pressing him to pray and to lose no opportunity of attending churches. This plan at first seemed to succeed :
The priest had evidently formed a plan; Durtal did not yet wholly understand it, but he was bound to admit that this discipline of temporizing, this constant call to thought always directed to God, by his daily visits to the churches, acted upon him at last, and little by little softened his soul. One fact proved it: that he who for so long a time had been unable to meditate in the morning, now prayed as soon as he awoke. Even in the afternoon be found himself on some days seized with the nced of speaking humbly with God, with an irresistible desire to ask His pardon and implore His help.
He found himself all the better for this conduct, in that his visits to the churches, his prayers and readings occupied his objectless life, and he was no longer wearied.
“I have at least gained peacable evenings and quiet nights,” he said to himself.
But the Evil One was not to be cast out so easily :
Suddenly, 'after so many hours spent in the chapels, there was a reaction; the flesh extinguished under the cinders of prayers took fire, and the conflagration, springing up from below, became terrible.
Florence seemed present, to Durtal's imagination, at his lodgings, in the churches, in the street, everywhere, and he was constantly on the watch against her recurrent attractions.
In his solitude, foul thoughts assailed him.
It was an obsession by thought, by vision, in all ways, and the haunting was all the more terrible that it was so special, that it never turned aside, but concentrated itself always on the same point, the face and figure of Florence.
Durtal resisted, then in distraction took to flight, tried to tire himself out by long walks, and to divert his mind by excursions, but the ignoble desire followed him in his course, sat before in the café, came between his eyes and the newspaper he strove to read, becoming ever more detinite. He
ended, after hours of struggle, by giving way and going to see this woman; he left her overwhelmed, half dead with disgust and shame, almost in tears.
Nor did he thus find any solace in his struggle, but the contrary; far from escaping it, the hateful charm took more violent and tenacious possession of him. Then Durtal thought of and accepted a strange compromise, to visit another woman he knew, and in her society to break this nervous state, to put an end to this possession, this wearisome and remorse ; and in doing so he strove to persuade himself that in thus acting he sculd be more pardonable, less sinful.
The clearest result of this attempt was to bring back the memory of Florence, and her vicious charm.
IV.-THE DOCTRINE OF SUBSTITUTION. We are now approaching a branch of Durtal's experience which differs widely from anything that Christian went through. For the Abbé Gévresin said to Durtal, “ Comfort yourself, go in peace and sin less, The greater part of your temptations will be remitted you; you can, if you choose, bear the remainder.” There are orders like the Carmelites and the poor Clares who willingly accept the transfer to themselves of the temptations which we suffer. These convents take on their backs, so to speak, the diabolical expiations of those insolvent
souls whose debts they pay to the full. The nuns choser, by Our Lord as victims of expiation, as wholesale burnt offerings, unite and coalesce in order to bear, without turning, the weight of misdeeds which try them, for in order that a soul may bear alone the assaults of Satan, which are often terrible, it must indeed be assisted by the angels and the elect of God. The good abbé was one of the directors of those nuns who make reparation in their convents, hence he assured Durtal that the saints would enter into the lists to help him. “They will take the overplus of the assaults which you cannot conquer, without even knowing your name, from their secluded province. Nunneries and Carmelites and poor Clares will pray for you on receiving a letter from me.” And, in fact, from that very day the most acute attacks