« PreviousContinue »
SELECTED AND EDITED
F. M. WARREN
PROFESSOR OF ROMANCE LANGUAGES IN ADELBERT COLLEGE
OF WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY
BOSTON, U. S. A.
The authors who appear in these selections are Descartes, Pascal, La Rochefoucauld, Bossuet and La Bruyère. Descartes is represented by the first four chapters of the Discours de la méthode — the text after Victor Cousin's edition of Descartes' works (@uvres, Paris, 1824-1826, 11 vols., 8vo); Pascal by the first, fourth and thirteenth of his Lettres provinciales — the text being with slight variations the text of the edition of 1659, the last published during Pascal's life (see Prosper Faugère : les Provinciales, Paris, 1886-1895, 2 vols., 8vo; variants to the text), — and by selections from the Pensées, after the edition of Ernest Havet (third edition, Paris, 1880, 2 vols., 8vo); La Rochefoucauld by selections from the Maximes after D. L. Gilbert's edition in the series of " Les Grands Écrivains” (Paris, 1868, vol. I, 8vo); Bossuet by the funeral orations on Madame and the Prince de Condé (text after Albert Cahen's Oraisons funèbres, Paris, 1884, 12mo); and La Bruyère by extracts from his Caractères after Gustave Servois' edition in “ Les Grands Écrivains " series (Paris, 1865, vols. I-II, 8vo).
These editions have also furnished the main body of the notes. Other aids which should be mentioned are the school editions of Descartes' Discours de la méthode by H. Joly, Pascal's Provinciales (the three given here) by F. Brunetière, Bossuet's Oraisons funèbres by A. Gazier and La Bruyère's Caractères by G. Servois and A. Rébelliau.
The literature of the seventeenth century is so constant a theme with the best critics of France that it did not seem advisable to repeat their views here. Accordingly the Introduction is limited to summaries of the lives and writings of the five authors in question and a statement of the ideas which actuated them. Additional details may be found in the Notes, in the remarks under the heads of chapters and sections. These remarks are not always indicated by note numbers in the text.
F. M. WARREN. CLEVELAND, August 16, 1899.
FRENCH prose of the seventeenth century, like French poetry and drama of the same epoch, is the offspring of the Renaissance. In the prose of society, such as fiction and letters, which take much of their matter from abroad, the parentage is evident. It is not so clear in the more philosophical lines, which we are to consider, where the material is quite original and indigenous. Yet the latter as well as the former are plainly actuated by the same purpose and prompted by the same spirit. The spirit is the one which inspired the revival of learning, the spirit of interest in humanity. In France, Rabelais, who was of the transition, old in form, new in thought, is the first, perhaps, to reveal its workings, while Calvin, his contemporary and counterpart, combats its results without escaping its influence. Montaigne, of the next generation, is its confessed exponent.
The traditions which embarrassed the monk are gone. The dogmatism which was formulated by the theologian has passed by. A sceptic on all other subjects, Montaigne's only creed is man, expressed either in himself, his neighbors of France or Europe or Asia, or in the records bequeathed to posterity by the authors of ancient Greece and Rome. Montaigne's Essais are the embodiment of this principle of the Renaissance, and as such were ever present before the minds of the prose writers who succeeded him for three generations. He set the theme for literature from Descartes to La Bruyère. And this theme was mankind.
Descartes,' to be sure, is apparently oblivious of Montaigne. But he also does not seem to be aware of those other undisputed
1 René Descartes, born March 31, 1596, at La Haye (Indre-et-Loire), south of Tours. Sent to the Jesuit school of La Flêche (Sarthe) at age of