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ART. VI.-Les Provinciales ; et leur Réfutation. Par M. l'Abbé

MAYNARD, Chanoine Honoraire de Poitiers. Ouvrage dédié à Mons. de Vesins, Evêque d'Agen. Paris: 1851. 2 vols. 8vo.

This is a curious book. Pascal's famous Letters elicited, at the time of their publication, a vigorous defence on the part of the great order whom they had attacked so unceremoniously ; but of that fierce and eventful controversy they are now almost the sole memorials. It may be supposed that the able and shrewd men against whom they were directed, had something to say to them. As a company, the Jesuits possessed more available talent, more concentrated resources, more discipline, than any public body in Europe. They sifted and contradicted the · Provincial Letters;' they explained with ingenuity, and even with wit. They made out, with much plausibility, that they had said nothing but what other people had said. But it is very

bard now to get a sight of their books. We may look in vain in some of our most famous libraries : they seem all to have disappeared—the Jesuit books which Pascal attacked, and the Jesuit books which attacked Pascal; the Pères Bauny, and Binet, and Garasse, and Le Moype, his victims, and their defenders, Pères Annat and Nouet, and Pirot and Pinthereau, and even the polite P. Daniel. This want, however, has been supplied by the work before us, an edition of the Provincial Letters,' with their refutation by the Abbé Maynard, a French ecclesiastic of some literary pretensions, who may stand very well for the Baunys and Daniels, now so seldom met with.

In noticing this book, we wish one thing distinctly to be understood. "It is not that we are opening afresh these bygone scandals. It is M. Maynard who has brought them before us, to show us how he could dispose of them, by an elaborate and ostentatious refutation. And what we propose to consider, is not so much Pascal and his charges, as the way in which M. Maynard deals with them, and the light which his statements, whether in attack or defence, throw on the practical system and feelings of those in whose behalf he speaks. We notice the book the more, because it is a characteristic specimen of the style and spirit which mark the school of Joseph de Maistre—of the line of argument which they adopt-of the self-complacent contempt of facts, the extravagance of misrepresentation and even calumny, which seem to sit so lightly on the consciences, and are expressed so glibly by the pens, of the disciples of that

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master of brilliant and insolent theory, who bids fair to become the acknowledged exponent of the principles of modern Romanism.

The book is what we might call in England a 'Family Pascal.' Pascal's Provincial Letters,' says the Abbé Maynard, have done more harm to the cause of religion and the Church in France, than perhaps any other book in the French language. They are the most hypocritical and lying production of the most hypocritical sect of heretics, that ever assailed Christianity. Yet they are so clever, that it is hopeless to expect that Frenchmen will ever cease to read them; and equally hopeless, that they will read the solid refutations which the Jesuits wrote of thein. The effect of answers, he says, has only been like that of Père Daniel's book on James the Second's courtiers at S. Germains, who were so delighted with the extracts that he gave from Pascal, in order to refute them, that they sent off at once to Paris for a copy of the Provinciales, and thought no more of Père Daniel. What is to be done in this case ? says M. Maynard. Doubtless, the best would be, that the Provinciales should be forgotten, at any sacrifice to literature. But as this is past praying for, M. Maynard has taken the next best

He has published, on the favourable opinion of the highest ecclesiastical authority eristing in France,' a new edition of the Provinciales, with all the attractions of Firmin Didot's elegant typography, and a collated text, accompanied with a running and popular refutation in the introductions and notes. The method is convenient, but it has its disadvantages. There is something ungracious in editing a great writer, avowedly to pick him to pieces. But in Pascal's case, it is also rather a perilous method; for we are apt to compare the note-maker with his victim; and a hostile editor of Pascal had need be a considerable person, to venture to place his remarks in proximity with their text, without running the risk of looking very like a lacquey, soliciting our attention to the faults of his master.

The Abbé Maynard, however, fully sensible, as he professes to be, of Pascal's genius, cannot be said to have any fear of this contrast. We might have expected that M. Maynard would have confined himself to careful rectifications of quotations or facts, and to comprehensive expositions of principles or systems. But the lively Abbé is not satisfied with the resources of theology and history, He adds to them the perilous ones of pleasantry. Over and above his heavier artillery, a running fire of sharp little sayings at the bottom of the page, makes answer to the rapid and deadly hits which succeed one another in the text. Besides carefully recording his opinion of the probability of everything that the Jesuits said or insinuated


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against Pascal and his friends, as that Jansenius swindled for the benefit of his friend's nephew,' M. Maynard has enriched his edition, and thought to damage Pascal, by a vast quantity of brief notes, such as impatient readers scribble with pencil on the margin of irritating books—such, as we are sorry to find, have considerably damaged our own copy of his elegantly printed volumes. They are very commonly in the second person direct addresses to the offending writer, or his Jesuit interlocutor. Now it is a brisk dialogue in which he pushes Pascal to the wall; now indignant interpellations, such as we used to see reported in the French Chamber; now ironical answers to Pascal's ironical questions; now apostrophes by single words, brief and emphatic:—Mensonge!'Calomnie!'Pourquoi falsifier toujours ?' -Non, non! c'est pas vrai!'Courage, bon père, (to the Jesuit speaker,) 'vous avez droit dans le fonds, quoique Pascal vous donne tort dans la forme.'—'Voilà ce qui est plaisant !'Mon Dieu! quel entêtement!'-'C'est le comble de l'impudence!' C'est une infamie !''Eh, misérables Gallicans, soyez donc conséquents avec vous-mêmes.' 'Allons! voilà Gros-Jean qui en remontre à son curé, quelques docteurs pédants qui font la leçon aux Papes !' Pascal observes that the Jesuits called him

! impie, bouffon, ignorant, farceur, imposteur, calomniateur, fourbe, * hérétique Calviniste déguisé, disciple de Du Moulin, possédé d'une légion de diables, et tout ce qui vous plaît:' the measured annotation says, Il y avait bien un peu de tout cela dans l'auteur des 'Lettres, moins peut-être la légion de diables.' These sarcastic interjections are varied by others of candour or compassion. At the end of some merciless paragraph of Pascal's, we find his editor only laughing at the joke, ' Nous rions de tout notre cæur ;' or we have little bursts of " Charmant !'- Charmante satire du pédantisme de l'école !' showing that he can appreciate the beauty which he deems so fatal. At the end of the ninth Provinciale, about the devotional novelties of Pères Bauny and Binet, Pascal adds a postscript to tell his correspondent that since he had written the letter, he had himself seen the books

ce sont des pièces dignes d'être vues.' We used to think that this was part of the joke. But we were, it seems, mistaken. M. Maynard is both indignant and grieved :

- Quoi ! i vous avez écrit une lettre sur des ouvrages que vous ne connaissiez pas, et que vous n'avez lus qu'ensuite ! L'aveu est naif, et se

conçoit difficilement d'un homme ordinairement si habile; men* tita est iniquitas sibi."-Preuve nouvelle,' he adds, with a sympathetic allowance for genius, que le pauvre Pascal était * victime de ses amis, acceptait aveuglement leurs mémoires, et se

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! Vol. ii. p. 233.

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faisait l'écho docile de leurs erreurs et de leurs passions.'-Vol. i. p. 441.

These little explosive protests, in which he bandies irony with Pascal, are a curious method of turning the edge of the

Provincial Letters.' His way of meeting their direct charges is equally remarkable.

Pascal's book, it appears, must be dealt with in a sweeping manner. The safe, and we should imagine, the old answer would be, that the Jesuits were not the Church; and that the relaxed and extravagant opinions which he attacked, were those of individuals, or, at worst, of an order, for which the Church was not responsible. It might be further observed, that lists of propositions, many of them the very ones which Pascal had quoted, were formally condemned shortly after by the Popes; and finally that the Church at length disclaimed the general policy of the Jesuits, showed that even their zeal and services could not excuse their errors, and publicly separated her cause from theirs, by formally dissolving the order. This is one line of defence. There are others also; as that Pascal hit a weak point, but exaggerated it; that he and his friends went as dangerously in one direction as the Jesuits did in the other; that it was really a dispute about speculative and open points, in which both parties lost their temper and their way. But these answers are too tame, have not enough of principle’ in them, for the dashing philosophy of the disciple of De Maistre.

The Abbé Maynard is one of those eager combatants who disdain to do things by halves. The battle seems to him not worth gaining, unless he can gain one of those heroic ones in which every man of the enemy is killed on the spot, and not one of his own. He accepts the whole weight of the Jesuit case. One side was right without any wrong, and that was the Jesuits; the other wrong without any right, and that was the Jansenists. This is the simple issue, according to M. Maynard,

. of the quarrel wbich distracted the great Church of France, in its palmiest days, for a century and a half.

At the same time, M. Maynard is far from giving up the charge against Pascal of gross falsehood and wilful misrepresentation in nearly every text that he cites. But the substance of the refutation is that in all the points which Pascal singled out for attack, whether doctrine, or morality, or discipline, he attacked in the Jesuits what is now universally accepted by the Church. The Abbé's ambition aims at a triumph short of nothing less than the brilliant one of putting Pascal out of court for ever, as being, after every allowance made for genius and bad company, a convicted and notorious liar, hypocrite, impostor, slanderer, and heretic.


After M. Maynard's book, it is to be supposed that no one can any longer entertain a doubt on the subject. He, and—if it will take his advice—the rest of the world, will leave Pascal in peace, and his Letters also. The following peroration shows how M. Maynard considers that he has accomplished his task, and is suggestive of the spirit in which he has worked :

• We are at the end of this long controversy; what is there wanting to complete wbat we have said in the course of the discussion? For the first time for two centuries, all the documents relating to the cause have been submitted at once to the examination of the public. Well : without any presumption, it seems to us, that no man of fairness will hesitate to pronounce, that the Provincial Letters are the most notoriously calumnious charge ever framed by passion and hatred. As to Pascal bimself, divided between our profound sympathy for his person, and our still greater love of Catholic truth, we feel, when we wish to judge him, that our thoughts become confused, and that our words die away on our lips. At the risk of scandalising many men of our days, we will say, nevertheless, that we would gladly tear a page out of his life, even if the provincial letters must go with it. But,-severe for a doctrine, and for a work which have been so fatal to religion in France, we have nothing but indulgence and compassion for the unhappy writer whose genius was made a tool of. Contrary to the majority of our contemporaries, we condemn the work and absolve the man; the reason is, that the work has been judged by the highest authority which exists in this world, and that no one has the right to disturb the ashes of the man, and to cite before his own tribunal his intentions and his memory.

• Son cercueil est fermé; Dieu l'a jugé; silence.'' Le vrai malheur des Jesuites au dix-septième siècle,' he says, • a été de n'avoir pas en un Pascal.'

But from M. Maynard himself we must go on to his statements. We propose to notice the ground which he takes against Pascal, first, historically; next, as disclosing the principles which he represents as established in his own communion. It is mainly for this latter purpose that we have given so much space to the subject. It may be as well, however, at starting, though we are not dealing with the controversy in itself, to say a few words on the alleged unfairness of Pascal.

We certainly do think that his charges, on the whole, are very serious, both in their matter and evidence; and also, that they reach beyond the Jesuits. But we certainly cannot defend Pascal as M. Maynard does the Jesuits. Few persons read him without more or less of misgiving as to his perfect fairness. Indeed, it is not unnatural that after such a sweeping victory of human wit, there should come a reaction; the mind feels disposed to be sceptical whether in reality the triumph could have been as complete as it appears. It seems to violate likelihood—to be more

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