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A FASHIONABLE POEM. FRERE RICHART. 163
[a work which he conceives will be more saleable and a greater Chap. favourite with the public, in which he intends ironically to x% l' combat the doctrine of the Trinity, by gravely resembling it to the Deity taking snuff between two looking glasses, so that when" he sneezes, two resemblances of him are seen to sneeze also, and yet that there are not three sneezers, but one sneezer.
"Some other outlines of this work were imparted to me at Paris, but the pen turns with disgust and detestation, from such low and nauseous profanation. I have only condescended to mention the composition, and the last anecdote, to show how much the world is deluded, by the received opinion that the french are become a new race of exemplary devotees. The recoil from atheism to enthusiasm, is not unusual, but the french in general have not, as yet, experienced this change. That they are susceptible of extraordinary transitions, their history and revolution have sufficiently manifested. In the Journal de Paris, written in the reigns of Charles VI and VII, is preserved rather a curious account of the velocity with which religious zeal has, in former periods, been excited. "On the "4th day of April, 1429," says the journal, " the duke of "Burgundy came to Paris, with a very fine body of knights "and esquires; and eight days afterwards there came to Paris, "a cordelier, by name Frere Richart, a man of great prudence, "very knowing in prayer, a giver of good doctrine to edify "his neighbour, and was so successful, that he who had not "seen him, was bursting with envy against those who had. "He was but one day in Paris, without preaching. He began
y 2 "his
FRERE RICHART. RELIGION.
"his sermon about five o'clock in the morning, and con"tinued preaching till ten or eleven o'clock, and there "were always between five and six thousand persons to hear "him preach. This cordelier preached on St. Mark's Day, "attended by the like number of persons, and on their "return from his sermon, the people of Paris were so turned, "and moved to devotion, that in three or four hours time, "there were more than one hundred fires lighted, in which "they burnt their chess boards, their back gammon tables, and "their packs of cards."
To this sort of fanaticism, the parisians are unquestionably not arrived. A more eloquent man than the Frere Richart, must appear amongst them, before such meliorations as are recorded in the Paris journal, can be effected in the dissolute and uncontrolled habits of that gay and voluptuous city. I do not mean, from any previous remark which I have made, to infer that there are not many good and very pious people in France, and it has been a favourable circumstance to the ancient religion of France, that the revolution never attempted any reform in it, or to substitute another mode of worship. That great political change in the ebullition of its fury, prostrated the altars of the old church, without raising others of a new, or improved construction. It presented a hideous rebellion against the glorious author of all good4 and declared an indiscriminate war of extermination against his ministers and followers, and every principle of the Gospel and morality. Every form of faith, every mode of adoration, fell indiscriminately under the proscriptions of its unsparing wrath.
The RELIGHON. 165
The towering abbey and humble oratory, were alike swept Chap. away in the general tornado, and mingled their ruins toge- * thcr. But the race of tbe good were not all expelled from this scene of havoc and outrage. The voice of piety still found a passage to her God. The silent prayer pierced through the compact covering of the dungeon, and ascended to Heaven. Within the embowering unsearchable recesses of the soul, far beyond the reach of revolutionary persecution, the pure unappalled spirit of devotion erected her viewless temple, in secret magnificence, sublime, and unassailable!
The child who had never heard the bell of the sabbath sound, who had never beheld the solemn ceremonies of authorized adoration, was told that those awful and splendid piles, which filled his eyes with wonder, and his mind with instinctive reverence, were raised for other purposes than those of becoming auxiliary to the ferocity of war. That genius and taste, and toil and cost, had not thus expended their unrivalled powers, and lavished their munificent resources, in erecting gothic magazines of gunpowder, and saxon sheds for the accommodation of atheistic fabricators of revolutionary cannon balls.
The young observer in private, and by stealth imbibed, from parental precept or example, the sentiment of a national religion, suppressed, not extinguished, or in the gloomy absence of all indications of it, remained unsolicited by any rival mode of worship to bestow his apostacy upon an alien creed. Thus the minds of the rising generation, who were engaged in favour of the catholic persuasion, during the
166 MONSIEUR CHARLES.
Chap. frightful period of its long denunciation, by stolen, secluded
XVI • * •
'and unfinished displays of its spirit and form, contemplated its return with animated elation, or beheld its approach, unimpressed with those doubts or prejudices which religious, as well as secular competitions, very frequently excite; in that auspicious hour, when the policy, if not the piety of a powerful government, restored it to the French people. The subject is highly interesting; but I must resign it to abler pens for more ample discussion.
I was much gratified by being presented to the celebrated
philosopher Mons. Charles, by Madame S . He has a suite
of noble apartments in the Louvre, which have been bestowed upon him by the government, as a grateful reward for his having presented to the nation his magnificent collection of philosophical apparatus. He has also, in consideration of his ability and experience, been constituted the principal lecturer on philosophy. In these rooms his valuable and costly donation is arranged. In the centre of the dome of the first apartment, called the Hall of Electricity, is suspended the car of the first balloon which was inflated with inflammable air, in which he, and his brother ascended in the afternoon of the 1st of December, 1783, in which they continued hi the air for an hour and
three quarters; and after they had descended, Mons. C
rose alone to the astonishing height of 10,500 feet. In the same room are immense electrical machines and batteries, some of which had been presented to him by Madame S .
In this room, amongst many other fanciful figures, which are used for the purpose of enlivening the solemnity of a philosophical OPTICAL ILLUSION. 167
sophical lecture by exciting sentiments of innocent gayety, was Chap. a little Cupid. The tiny god, with his arrow in his hand, XVI' was insulated upon a throne of glass, and was charged with that electric fluid which not a little resembles the subtle spirit of
his nature. The youngest daughter of Madame S , who
accompanied us, was requested to touch it. In a moment it discharged its penetrating spark—" Oh! how that little god "has alarmed me!" said the recoiling fair one, whose youthful countenance surprise had imbued with new beauties; " but yet," said she, recovering herself, " he does, not hurt." This little sally may be considered as a specimen of that playful sprightliness which is so much the characteristic of the french female.
In the'centre of another room, dedicated to optics, as we entered, we saw a beautiful nosegay in a vase, which appeared to be composed of the rarest flowers. I approached it with an intention of inhaling its fragrance, when, lo! my hand passed through it. It was an exquisite optical, illusion. "Ah!"
said my elegant and moralising companion,. Madame. S ,
sm'ding, "of such flowers has Happiness- composed her wreath: it is thus she gladdens with it the eye of Hope; but the hand of Expectation can never grasp it."
The graceful moral deserves a more lasting record than it will find in these few and perishable pages.
In the other rooms are all sorts of apparatus for trying experiments in the various branches of that department of science, over which Mons. C so ably presides.
The merit of Mons. C has no rival but in hUv modesty.