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But what was their surprise and chagrin on finding that the paper turned out to be a downright infidel concern, gotten up in the true Tom Paine style, and intended chiefly to unmask Presbyterian “priestcraft!” They found out their error when it was too late to remedy it; and their acquaintances laughed heartily at their expense.
We know not who the translator of Michelet is, nor do we much care ; though he should not have been ashamed to append his name, that the world might know to whom we are indebted for the appearance amongst us of this charming work in an English dress. He does not, at any rate, appear to have been much conversant with the French, and he was often sadly puzzled to get at the meaning of his author, as we may have occasion to show in the sequel. But whoever he may be, if he be a Christian at all, he should blush to have aided in palming such a work on a Christian community. He must have known and felt that Michelet was an infidel, whose work could do nothing but harm. That he had, at least, some misgivings on the subject, appears from his preface, in which he is compelled to give us, what we take to be an apology for the French infidels :
* The book written by a Frenchman, for Frenchmen, in language and thought is most thoroughly and remarkably French. The reader may be startled at the freedom with which the author approaches subjects and themes which we are accustomed to speak of only with the deepest reverence. We do not doubt his reverence; but the strange forms of expression which he uses to express equally strange turns of thought, sometimes grate more than a little harshly on our ears. The reader is to bear the history of the book in mind at all times, and nearly upon every page."
A little farther on, speaking of the French infidels, he thus shows his sympathy for them :
“ Their minds revolted at the character of priestly traditions, the empty quibbles with which priests smothered the truth, the sophistry with which they belied it, and the carnal affections which led to their materialism. In a word, the brilliant French infidels could not be idola. ters. In discarding what was manifestly monstrous, they threw all away; and even this was not done entirely of their own impulse. They retreated but a little way at first; they were driven to extremes by anathemas. If we see, then, an occasional indifference to Christianity in Michelet, we know to what to impute it,”' &c.
Again, who is Michelet? A man who is forever prating about the dignity of human nature, yet understands not in what its true dignity consists ; a man who would fain persuade others that our nature is sound and amply competent of itself for its own guidance, and yet, when it suits his purpose, paints man as a beast and woman as a demon! His theory would seem to be, that, without religion, man and woman can live uprightly and properly, and become the ornament and support of the family and of society; but that, with religion, the very fountains of their otherwise stainless nature are polluted, and they become pestilent members of the social circle, and totally unfit to sustain the family relation ! With all his cant about the elevation and progress of man, he really places a lower estimate upon the nature of man and of woman, than the disciple of Mohammed himself. It will not do to say, that he confines his view to Frenchmen and French women, as the translator would seek to persuade his readers ;' he speaks of man and of woman in general. It might have been, perhaps, a better explanation of his theory in regard to human nature, to have said that he judged of others by himself.
1 Preface, pp 6, 6 In his History of France, b. i, ch 3. and b. iv, ch. 4, Michelet makes a hero of Pelagius, the heresiarch of the fifth century, and what, think you, is the chief title of Pelagias to our author's praire ? Hear him: “ Pelagius, by denying original sin, RENDERED REDEMPTION USELESA, and ANNULLED CARISTIANITY!"
What are we to think, for instance, of his portrait of woman, in the following passage ?
“ Woman, the part of the world eminently worldly, surrenders her family and her fire-side — her most precious possessions. Eve still betrays Adam ; the woman betrays man, her husband, her son! Thus each sells her deity. Rome sells Christianity, woman her domestic religion.
The feeble souls of women, incurably spoiled by the great corruption of the sixteenth century (!), full of passions and of fear, and of bad desires crossed by remorse, eagerly seized this means of sinning with a quiet conscience, and of expiation without amendment, amelioration, or return towards God.
They were happy to receive at the confessional a political order, or the direction of an intrigue as works of penance. They carried into this singular mode of expiation the same guilty passions which they were laboring to expiate, and to atone for remaining in sin, were often guilty of crime. The female mind, inconstant in all things else, was in this sustained by the manly firmness of the mysterious hand concealed behind her.” ?
Ile seems to be fully impressed with the thoroughly Mohammedan notion, that man and woman cannot be brought together, even in the holiest relation, whether of society or of religion, without being carried away by sinful thoughts. His principal reasoning - if reasoning it may be called — against the confessional, is based upon this corrupt view. It pervades his entire work, and upon almost every page manifests itself in passages, which it may suit the purposes of our Reverend slanderers to reproduce, and to spread out before the community for the perusal of the young and innocent, but which are much too gross for our pages. Upon those whose minds and hearts are already thoroughly rotten, like his own, such impassioned tirades may produce a strong and dangerous impression ; the pure-minded will turn from their perusal with disgust unutterable.
2 Pages 41-2. In another passage, Michelet pretty clearly advocates the execrable doctrine of universal concubinage! He defends it on the ground, that matrimony imposes a slavish restraint on the freedom of love! He does not, indeed, come out openly, but his principles seem to lead this way. He says that the ouly generous and proper love is, " to love in liberty, free to love or not,”: (P. 200.) He adds, that the lover should furnish the beloved with “arms even against himself. This is love, and this is faith. It is the belief that, sooner or later, the EMANCIPATED being must retura to the most worthy." (P. 201.) That is, according to this beautiful theory, love should be wholly untrammeled, and should be bestowed, and will be bestowed, whenever the unfortunate victim of it shall be emancipated, on the most worthy; that is, according to Michelet. "on him who would be freely lored." (Ibid.) Have not the preachers consulted well for the morality of the country, when they gave circulation to this infamous book ?
What loathing, for instance, is not produced in the upright soul by reading the following passage, in which he illustrates the "excitement” awakened in the confessional, by the following flattering allusion to religious meetings in our own country !
" And why should not this excitement happen in such an interview ? It is enough for persons of different sexes to pray together in the same room, to induce intoxication and burn the brain. This happens in the assemblies of excited Protestants in the United States and elsewhere. Read the witty and judicious trifle of Swift's Fragment on the Mechanical Operations of the Spirit,' especially towards the close of it"!
And yet this man, forsooth, meant to speak only of French women, of French priests, and of the Catholic religion in France ! Similar in spirit is the following passage, which still farther illustrates his theory of human nature :
“The confessor of a young woman can boldly define himself to be envious of the husband, and his secret enemy. If there is one who is an exception to this (and I wish I could believe it), he is a hero, a saint, a martyr, a man above a man." 2
The following elegant extract proves that what we have said above, concerning the low estimate he places on woman, is not at all exaggerated :
“ There is a great difference between the hardness of a man and the cruelty of a woman. What is, in your opinion, the most faithful incarnation of the devil in this world ? This inquisitor, or that Jesuit? No; it is a female Jesuit; a great lady converted, who believes herself born to rule ; who, among this flock of trembling females (in a convent), assumes the part of a Bonaparte, and who, more absolute than the most absolute tyrants, uses the fury of illy conquered passions in tormenting the unfortunate, defenseless ones. Far from being opposed here to the confessor, my wishes are for him. Priest, monk, Jesuit, behold me op his side. I pray him to interfere, if he can. He is still in this hell (of the convent) into which the law does not penetrate ; the only person who can say a word in the cause of humanity. ... I know very well that this interference will create the strongest, the most dangerous attachment, The heart of the poor creature is given in advance to him who will defend her." 3
We humbly suggest that the world has witnessed far more “ faithful incarnations of the devil” than the female Jesuit” of Michelet. The French revolution, brought about and consummated in blood by precisely such men as Michelet, startled the world with a hideous array of many much “more faithful incarnations.” Danton, Marat, Robespierre, Barêre, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and many more such worthies might well claim relationship, if not consanguinity, with the foul fiend himself. And if Michelet, and his worthy compeers, Quinet, Sue, and others of the same stamp, have not already proved their claims to the same high honor; if they have not yet made France run again with blood and stand paralysed again with horror, it is surely not from any want of the will to accomplish this result. The fearful lessons of the French revolution are wholly lost on such men ; they would recklessly remove the only barrier to such 1 P. 187 note.
2 P. 141.
8 P. 159.
another awful catastrophe —of fierce human passions rioting in blood and terror; and they seem prepared to look the consequences that may ensue calmly in the face. Alas for human nature, when unchecked by the influence of a heavenly religion !
Agair we ask, who is Michelet, that he should be entitled to credit on religious subjects ? He is not only a pantheist, or outright deist, but he is also an obscure and grandiloquent transcendentalist; a man who often involves his meaning in such obscurity as to be wholly unintelligible, in or out of France; a man who walks shrouded in mystery, and who retreats, when pressed, from the clear light of truth behind a cloud of unmeaning words. Out of many illustrations of this, we select, almost at random, the following passage, which the reader may understand, if he can.
The author is speaking of the spiritual death induced in the soul, according to the teaching of Molinos and the Quietists :
“Poor, naked, ugly, and dirty, she loses the taste for everything the understanding, the memory, the will. At last, beyond the loss of the will, she loses a something indescribable, which is her favorite,' and which would take the place of all, (the idea that she is a child of God.) This is properly the death to which she must arrive. No person, neither director nor any one else, can offer solace here. She must die ; she must be put into the earth, that the crowd may walk above her, that she may grow putrid, rot, and suffer the odor and fetor of a corpse, until, the rottenness becoming dust and ashes, there scarcely subsists any thing which can recall the fact that the soul ever existed.” 1
If this is not all sheer nonsense, we really know not what it is. The translator, who appears to be a bold man, and not easily discouraged, is himself sorely puzzled to understand the meaning of that wonderful ALL. He says in a note :
“Very much like nonsense ; and if the reader does not understand it in English, he may be very sure that there are abundance of people who do not comprehend it in the original.”
Rare consolation this, truly! By the way, we have a word to say to to this same translator ; who, we suppose, is a Reverend preacher. We are probably indebted to him for the beautiful fancy titles that head each page of the book; titles which are vastly tasty, pointed, and appropriate, and which afford a sort of key to the author's meaning, where it is vague and obscure, supplying the reader with many valuable hints and ideas, which he would scarcely have derived from the mere perusal of the book itself. The trickery is transparent; and if Michelet was bad enough in the original, we may be assured that he has lost nothing of his malignity in his English dress. If the author blundered much, it may, perhaps, be scme consolation to him to learn that his translator has blundered still more. He translates the French word monde — the world, instead of the people, thus: “It was placed in the sacristy of the monastery, where, at nine in the evening, the world having retired," ? &c. Whither, we would ask, did the world go, when it “retired” from the monastery? Again, I P. 32
2 P. 61.
he speaks of “ elevating a tottering Babel two stages,” whereas we suppose that Michelet only said two stories! The city of Meaux, Bousset's well known episeopal see, he very wittily translates “the Meaux” in several places.' Finally, are we indebted to him or to his author for the following exquisite — shall we call it French bull : “ several of these ladies are eminent business men!”?
But Michelet is not only an obscure transcendentalist and clumsy blun. derer; he is not only a vulgar infidel and a base reviler of woman ; but he is likewise a downright falsifier of the plainest facts. His work is made up of transparent sophistry, animated by a heartless malignity, and founded upon glaring perversion of the truth on almost every page. We cannot furnish even a catalogue of his falsehoods; they would fill a volume. We must confine ourselves to a few, as specimens. Here are two sweeping untruths in one single passage :
“Rome surrendered Christianity -- in the principle which lies at the foundation of it - salvation by Christ. Placed in the position to choose between that doctrine and its opposite, she had not the courage to decide. (How then did she decide to make the surrender referred to ?) After Christianity, the Jesuits surrendered morality," &c.
Is not morality a part of Christianity? If so, it does not appear what Rome had left to the Jesuits to surrender. So absurd and so self-contradictory is error; and yet this nonsense passes current among us for sound philosophy and acute reasoning!
In another place, Michelet utters the following falsehood, which every one at all conversant with such matters knows to be a falsehood :
“First, through the controversial works of the Jesuit Bellarmine, they (the Jesuits) stated and defended the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope as a matter of faith.”
His self-contradictions and open absurdities are, perhaps, more numerous than even his falsehoods. They run through his entire book, which is, in fact, little more than a mere tissue of them. Thus, he reasons throughout on the assumption that priests, being celibataries, are much more exposed to temptation than other men; yet, when he comes to paint the celibatary in all the horror of his condition, he represents him as a man who leads “ a dry and mutilated life,” who has the fountains of his natural sympathies dried up, and who has a heart withered, hard, and unsusceptible. And how does he escape from the manifest self-contradiction ? By the pitiful evasion, that “the heart may be dry and sense very eager!”
Again, we ask, who is Michelet ? He is a man of a heated brain, who palms off on the world his own disordered fancies and foul suspicions, as sound reasoning against celibacy and the confessional ; a mere incoherent declaimer, who thinks that other people are as bad as himself, and who paints the priests as wicked men, merely because he hates them with a fiendish hatred ; a man who defiles every thing that he touches, and will
1 P. 83, &c.
2 P. 156.
4 P. 61. The italics are his
3 P. 41