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Art. I.-Reuchlin, Geschichte von Port-Royal. Der Kampf des
Reformirten und des Jesuistischen Katholicismus. Iter Band: bis zum tode Angelica Arnauld.—(Reuchlin, History of PortRoyal. The Struggle of the Reformed and the Jesuitical Catholicism. 1st vol.: to the death of Angelique Arnauld.) 8vo. Leipsic: 1839.
of unearthly mould; self-conquerors ; sublime even in their errors; not altogether hateful in their very crimes. If a man would understand the dormant powers of his own nature, let him read the Acta Sanctorum. Or, if “too high this price of know
ledge,' let him at least acquaint himself with the legends of the later heroes of the Gallican Church. Of all ascetics they were the least repulsive. They waged war on dulness with the ardour of Dangeau and St Simon, and with still better success. While macerating their bodies in the cloisters of Port-Royal, they did not cease to be French men and French women of the Augus
While practising the monastic virtue of silence, their social spirit escaped this unwelcome restraint, in a body of Memoirs as copious as those which record the splendour and the miseries of Versailles. In a series of volumes, of which the above is the first, the author is about to tell their story in the language (vernacular and erudite) of his country and his times. A rapid sketch of it may be of use in directing the attention of our readers to one of the most remarkable episodes in ecclesiastical history,
VOL. LXXIII. NO. CXLVIII.
He whose journey lies from Versailles to Chevreuse, will soon find himself at the brow of a steep cleft or hollow, intersecting the monotonous plain across which he has been passing. The brook which winds through the verdant meadows beneath him, stagnates into a large pool, reflecting the solitary Gothic arch, the water-mill, and the dovecot, which rise from its banks; with the farm-house, the decayed towers, the forest-trees, and innumerable shrubs and creepers which clothe the slopes of the valley. France has many a lovelier prospect, though this is not without its beauty; and many a field of more heart-stirring interest, though this, too, has been ennobled by heroic daring ; but through the length and breadth of that land of chivalry and of song, the traveller will in vain seek a spot so sacred to genius, to piety, and to virtue. That arch is all which remains of the once crowded monastery of Port-Royal. In those woods Racine first learned the language-the universal language-of poetry. Under the roof of that humble farm-house, Pascal, Arnauld, Nicole, De Saci, and Tillemont, meditated those works, which, as long as civilization and Christianity survive, will retain their hold on the gratitude and reverence of mankind. There were given innumerable proofs of the graceful good-humour of Henry the Fourth. To this seclusion retired the heroine of the Fronde, Ann Genevieve, Duchess of Longueville, to seek the peace which the world could not give. Madame de Sevigné discovered here a place tout propre à inspirer le désir de faire son şalut.' From the Petit Trianon and Marly, there came hither to worship God, many a courtier and many a beauty, heart-broken or jaded with the very vanity of vanities—the idolatry of their fellow mortals. Survey French society in the seventeenth century from what aspect you will, it matters not, at Port-Royal will be found the most illustrious examples of whatever imparted to that motley assemblage any real dignity or permanent regard. Even to the mere antiquarian, it was not without a lively interest.
At the eve of his departure to the conquest of the Holy Sepulchre, the good knight, Matthieu de Marli, cast a wistful gaze over the broad lands of his ancestors, and entrusted to his spouse, Mathilde de Garlande, the care of executing some work of piety by which to propitiate the Divine favour, and to insure his safe return. A Benedictine monastery, for the reception of twelve ladies of the Cistertian order, was accordingly erected, in imitation of the cathedral at Amiens, and by the same architect. Four centuries witnessed the gradual increase of the wealth and dignity of the foundation. Prelates of the houses of Sully and Nemours enlarged its privileges. Pope Honorius the III. authorized the celebration of the sacred office within its walls, even though the whole country should be lying under a papal interdict; and of the host consecrated on the profession of a nun, seven fragments might be solemnly confided to her own keeping, that, for as many successive days, she might administer to herself the holy sacrament. Yet how arrest by spiritual immunities the earthward tendency of all sublunary things ?. At the close of the reign of Henry IV., the religious ladies of Port-Royal had learned to adjust their robes à grandes manches' to the best advantage. Promenades by the margin of the lake relieved the tedium of monastic life. Gayer strains of music than those of the choir, might be heard from the adjacent woods; and if a cavalier from Paris or Chevreuse had chanced to pursue his game that way, the fair musicians were not absolutely concealed nor inexorably silent. So lightly sat the burden of their vows on those amiable recluses, that the gayest courtier might well covet for his portionless daughter the rank of their lady abbess.
Such at least was the judgment of M. Marion. He was advocate-general to Henry IV., and maternal grandfather of Jaqueline Marie Angelique and of Agnes Arnauld. Of the arts to the invention of which the moderns may lay claim, that of jobbing is not one. M. Marion obtained from the father of his
people’ the coadjuterie of the abbey of Port-Royal for the high-spirited Jaqueline, then in her eighth year; and that of St Cyr for the more gentle Agnes, over whom not more than five summers had passed. The
ladies renounced at once the nursery and the world. A single step conducted them from the leading strings to the veil. Before the completion of her first decade, Angelique, on the death of her immediate predecessor, found herself, in plenary right, the abbess and ruler of her monastery; and, in attestation of her spiritual espousals, assumed the title and the name of the Mère Angelique, by which she has since been celebrated in the annals of the church.
To the church, however, must not be imputed this breach of ecclesiastical discipline. In the ardour of his parental affections, the learned advocate-general was hurried into acts for which he would have consigned a criminal of lower degree to the galleys. He obtained the requisite bulls from Rome by forged certificates of his granddaughter's age; and to this treason against the holy see, Henry himself was at least an accessary after the fact. Hunting in the valley of Port-Royal, the gay monarch trespassed on the precincts of the sacred enclosure. To repel the royal intrader, a child, bearing in her hand the crosier, which bespoke her high conventual'rank, issued from the gates of the abbey at the head of a solemn procession of nuns, and rebuked her sovereign with all the majesty of an infant Ambrose. Henry laughed and obeyed. Marion's detected fraud would seem to have passed for a good practical joke, and for nothing more.
In the result, however, no occurrence ever contributed less to the comedy of life, or formed the commencement of a series of events more grave or touching. It would be difficult or impossible to discover, in the history of the church, the name of any woman who has left so deep an impress of her character on the thoughts and the conduct of the Christian commonwealth.
The family of Arnauld held a conspicuous station among the noblesse of Provence, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In a later age, a member of that house enjoyed the singular honour of at once serving Catharine de Medicis as her procureur-general, and of defeating, sword in hand, at the head of his
servants, the force sent to assassinate him on the day of St Bartholomew. Returning to the bosom of the church, which had thus roughly wooed him, he transmitted his fortune and his office to his son, Antoine Arnauld, the husband of Catharine Marion. They were the happy parents of no less than twenty children. Of these the youngest was the great writer who has imparted to the name of Arnauld an imperishable lustre. Five of the daughters of the same house assumed the veil, in the abbey of Port-Royal. Their mother, Catharine Marion, was admitted in her widowhood into that society. Pomponne, the minister of Louis XIV.; Le Maitre, unrivalled among the masters of forensic eloquence in France; and De Saci, the author of the best version of The Holy Scriptures into the French language, were three of her grandsons. Before her death, the venerable matron had seen herself surrounded, in the monastery and the adjoining hermitages, by eighteen of her descendants in the first and second generations ; nor until the final dispersion of the sisterhood, in the beginning of the seventeenth century, had the posterity of Antoine and Catharine Arnauld ceased to rule in the house of which the Mère Angelique had, seventy years before, been the renowned reformer.
To those who believe that the psychological distinction of the sexes may be traced to physical causes, and that, where they neither marry nor are given in marriage, those distinctions will for ever disappear, the character of Angelique is less perplexing than to the advocates of the opposite theory. Her understanding, her spirit, and her resolves, were all essentially masculine. She was endued with the various faculties by which man either extorts or wins dominion over his fellow-men ;-—with address, courage, fortitude, self-reliance, and an unfaltering gaze fixed on objects at once too vast to be measured, and too remote to be discerned but by the all-searching eye of faith. Among the