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that purpose? This is a query which naturally suggests itself to the mind; but to which the mere statement of the fact will never be deemed a satisfactory answer.
There are few who have not heard of Madame de Maintenon, in every sense the mistress of Louis XIV. Possessed of the most unbounded influence over the French monarch, she flattered herself with the hope of being one day raised from an infamous and criminal intercourse, to the summit of her wishes, the throne of France. Provided she gained the consent of Louis, she gave her. self no concern about that of the church, which, though necessary, she deemed secure. Her discernment, however, pointed out Fenelon as one exception. She endeavoured to gain upon him by indirect methods; and it was while this project was on foot, that he was created archbishop of Cambray. She succeeded in gaining the conditional consent of Louis. Father la Chaise, the king's confessor, would be glad, she thought, of such an opportunity of ingratiating himself with her.
He told the king, however, that it was too nice a point for him to decide, and referred him to M. Cambray, as a more able casuist, promising, at the same time, to observe the most profound silence. La Chaise disclosed the affair to Cambray: “ What have I done, father,” replied the archbishop, “ that you should ruin me?-But no matter: let us go to the king." No sooner had Fenelon enter, ed the king's presence, than he threw himself at his feet, imploring his Majesty not to sacrifice him. The king promised that he would not. Suffice it to say, Fenelon acted with probity. The hopes of Madame de Maintenon were blasted; and the ruin of the prelate was meditated; and we have already seen the methods by which it was effected.*
In 1697 he was banished,t and his friends in office deprived.
Here we behold this great man the sacrifice of virtue, because the enemy of vice. But Fenelon was one of the few, who have reached that sublimity of character, which proves, that to be virtuous is to be happy; and that integrity is a good, for the sacrifice of which, the whole universe cannot furnish an equivalent.
Justum et tenacem propositi virum,
Mente quatit solidá.
Impavidum ferient ruina.
Fenelon bore his persecution with the most composed submission." I renounce,” said he, “ my own judgment, to conform to
* For a more particular account of Madame de Maintenon, and of this whole affair, vid. Guardian, Vol. I. Nos. 46, 47, 48.
+ To banish a bishop, means to confine him to his diocese. Vid. Eloge de Fenelon, par. M. D'Alembert.
that of our holy father the Pope."* On hearing such a sentiment from Fenelon, we cannot but regret, that so much weakness should have been blended with so much greatness; but we must still admire the integrity of the philosopher, and the patience of the Christian. Fenelon believed himself to be a Catholick. The ine fallibility of the church, as lodged in Popes, councils, or the universal consent of her members, (for there is great uncertainty among Catholicks on this point- they know that they have such a commodity as infallibility, but they know not where,) is a radio cal article.
Freedom of inquiry is denied. For, to inquire, say they, is to doubt; to doubt is not to believe; and not to believe, is to be in a state of damnation. It is easy to conceive how powerfully these crude dogmas may operate on the tender mind, when urged with the pretence of divine authority, and with the influence of parental endearment. From the reception of this tenet in early youth, and undeviating adherence to it in maturer years, proceeded Fenelon's acquiescence in the decision of the Pope. That he was sincere, Ramsay renders indubitable: but how it is reconcileable with that liberality, which shines so conspicuously through his writings, and was so fully displayed in his general conduct, I pretend not to determine. Of that liberality, however, there cannot remain a doubt. His “ Telemachus,” and “ Dialogues of the Dead,” are in the hands of every one. Instead of quoting from these, there. fore, I shall produce part of an advice, given to a young prince, who, in 1709, spent some time at his palace:"Liberty of thought, said he, “ is an impregnable fortress, which no human power can force. Violence can never convince; it only makes hypocrites. When kings take upon them to direct in matters of religion, instead of protecting, they bring it into bondage. You ought, therefore, to grant all men a legal toleration; not as approving every thing indifferently, but suffering, with patience, what God permits, and endeavouring to reconcile the misled, by soft and gentle per. suasion.”+
Of Fra Paoli Sarpi, the celebrated historian of the council of Trent, Bossuet said, that 6 he was a Protestant, and a Calvinist under a friar's frock.” Of Fenelon, we may, with perhaps more justice, say, that he was a Protestant in the church of Rome; and that, though charity be incompatible with her principles, it may sometimes be found in her members.
We now proceed to follow this venerable man along the rest of his destined journey through life; and delightful indeed is the scene presented to view. We behold the good man living in his diocese, the friend of humanity, and the patron of virtue. At a distance from the chicane of courts, and the storms of faction, he made the pang of sorrow his own; and the only limits of his munificence were the wants of indigence. Maintaining that dignity, upon which the respectability, and therefore usefulness, of his character, depended, he exhibited among the peasantry of his diocese, the most winning condescension, and engaging humility. Soothing their cares, consoling their sorrows, relieving their wants, he acquired their esteem, and secured their affection. “ He used to walk frequently alone,” says D'Alembert, “ in his diocesan visits, in the environs of Cambray: he entered the houses of the peasants, seated himself near them, solaced and comforted them. Old men, who are yet alive, and have had the happiness to see him, still speak of him with the most tender veneration. There! say they, there is the wooden chair, on which our good archbishop used to seat himself among us we shall never see him more! and they burst into tears.”
* Life of Fenelon, p. 133. * Ramasay's Life of Fenelon, p. 307. D'Alembert Eloge de Fen. p. 293..'
“ I had profited little by my books," said a great literary cha. Pacter, on seeing his house in flames, “ had I not learned to lose them!” The saying is deservedly admired; but Fenelon, on a similar occasion, said, “I am much better pleased, that my books should be burnt, than the cottage of a poor family."
In the war 1701, he kindly received the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene; and, in return, enjoyed that veneration and esteem, which he so justly deserved. The French courtiers, who served in the army of Flanders, avoided seeing him. The basest paid court to their superiours by pouring contempt upon his character; whilst virtue herself durst use no higher effort than not to blame him. The Duke of Burgundy, his pupil, was perhaps the only inhabitant of Versailles, in whose memory he was cherished. That virtue and affection, which Fenelon had inspired, seemed willing to meander around the source whence they flowed.
During the campaign in 1708, in which this prince commanded, he implored the king, his grandfather, to permit him to visit the person, to whom, of all men, he considered himself the most indebted, and to whom he had the warmest attachment. Louis re. fused. What rendered this barbarity still more pungent, was, that there were few opportunities of epistolary correspondence. In the first letter, which this amiable youth had an opportunity of sending his master, he writes as follows: “ I have suffered many afflictions since our separation; butone of the greatest has been that of not being able to give you any proof of my affection for you. Al this while,* I have had a secret indignation at all the usage you have met with; but we must submit to the divine will, and believe, that all has come to pass for our good.”
This excellent prince died in 1712, when Fenelon suffered the last pang that terrestrial revolution could inflict. In tears he vented the feelings of nature, and resigned himself to the will of
* Four years. The letter is dated, Versailles, 24th December 1701. Ram. Life ef Fen. p. 320
Heaven. “ If there needed no more," said he, “ than to move a straw to bring him to life again, contrary to the divine pleasure, I would not do it.”
On the death of the duke of Burgundy, many of Fenelon's letters were found in his cabinet. In these appeared the amiable preceptor and the tender friend. To give a specimen of the style and manner of them, I shall extract a few sentences from the only one of them which is extant. « Let it be seen," says he, “ that you have thoughts and sentiments becoming a prince. You must make yourself beloved by the good, feared by the bad, and esteemed by all. There is nothing weak, melancholy, or constrained, in truc piety. It enlarges the heart. It is simple and lovely. It becomes all things to all men, that it may gain all. The kingdom of God does not consist in a scrupulous observation of punctilios. It consists in the exercise of the virtues proper to each man's state and vocation. Be the heir of the virtues of St. Louis, before you inherit his crown. Remember that his blood flows in your veins, and that the same spirit of faith, by which he was sanctified, ought to be the life of your heart.”
The letter from which these extracts are made, is the only one of Fenelon's, in this correspondence, I observed, which now remains. The rest, as we are informed by Ramsay, Louis did himself the infernal pleasure of burning with his own hand! For the one which still remains, we are indebted to Madame de Maintenon, who sent it enclosed, with an account of the fate of the rest, to the duke of Beauvilliers. - The severity of the winter of 1709 completed the desolation of Fenelon's native country, which had been ravaged by war, during the eight preceding years. This was a field for the display of his virtues. « I love my family," this was his maxim, and these his words," I love my family better than myself; I love my country better than my family; but I love mankind better than my country.” These are pretty generally the sentiments of modern philosophers, but they were the basis of Fenelon's conduct. There was at this time, in his granaries, corn to the amount of a hundred thousand francs. Refusing any compensation, he distributed, the whole to the soldiers. “The king,” said he, “ owes me nothing; and in the misfortunes, with which the people are oppressed, I ought, as, a Frenchman and a bishop, to restore to the state, what I have received from it.” It was thus that Fenelon revenged his disa grace!.
His munificence, however, was not confined to his countrymen." Englishmen, likewise, shared of his bounty; and to their honour be it recorded, they were not ungrateful. In return for that philanthropy, which the circumstance of being an enemy could not extinguish, a safe-conduct was granted to the good archbishop, whenever the voice of humanity pronounced it expedient; and it was then only that it was valued. Of the use which he made of it, we shall have a better idea, by attending to a particular instance.
It is but just to say, that on this occasion, the wretched, without
distinction, found in Fenelon a father, and in his palace a home. ! Nay, in cases where he had not sufficient accommodation at his own disposal, he hired houses, for the reception of the destitute. He became literally " the servant of all.” At the board, which he spread for the homeless and the destitute, he himself served.
He, one day, observed a peasant, dejected and melancholy, whose grief did not permit him, though hungry, to repair decaying nature. “Why,” said Fenelon, “ do you not eat?"-" Ah! Sir," replied the peasant, “I had a cow, the support of my family, which, when flying from my cottage, I had not time to take along with me! By this time she is in the hands of the enemy,and I shall never find her equal more!” Under the protection of his safe. conduct, the venerable archbishop immediately set off, accompanied with a single domestick, found the cow, and restored her to the peasant. « Unhappy those,” says D'Alembert, by whom this is related, “ to whom this affecting anecdote seems unworthy of being told before this respectable assembly!” He means the French academy, before whom the eloge was delivered.
In 1710, was introduced to Fenelon, Andrew Michael Ramsay, a Scotsman, commonly known by the name of the Chevalier Ramsay, to whom I have been chiefly indebted, in drawing up these memoirs. The elegant author of the “ Travels of Cyrus,” born in a country where liberty of conscience is not restrained by the laws of the land, and where, of consequence, the human mind discovers itself freely, in all its forms, had not the happiness to turn to advantage this best of privileges. In Scotland, where the earlier part of his life was spent, he embraced, in succession, the tenets of almost every sect of Protestants, and then turned from all. He became a deist. “ I could not, however,” says he, “ shake off my respect for the Christian religion, the morality of which is so sublime.”* Such was the state of his mind, when introduced to the archbishop of Cambray, “ who,” he says, “received him with that fatherly affection, which immediately gains the heart.” For the space of six months, religion was the subject of minute investigation, and careful discussion. It is no small honour to Fenelon's talents for communication, as well as his engaging manners, and indefatigable patience, to add, that he succeeded in persuading Ramsay to embrace the Christian religion. From this period till Fenelon's death, they lived in the closest friendship; and, in his “Life of Fenelon,” Ramsay has left on record a testimony of gratitude to him, who was the instrument of effecting what he terms “ the happiest occurrence in his life.”
The archbishop had now survived his much esteemed pupil, the duke of Burgundy, three years, and had seen himself bereaved of his most intimate friends and confidants, the dukes of Beauvilliers and Chevreuse. His meekness, submission, and inviolable
* Life of Fenelon, p. 191. .