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Yet we have still higher authority in favor of the use of occasional severity. For when the Temple of Solomon was profaned by dove-barterers &c., and they turned it into 'a den of thieves,' they were driven out under the lash, by the very Author of Christianity.
Then would not a Publicist, of this age and country, be justified in mingling some caustic with his ink, to burn the Legion of mental depravity out of the Temple of Humanity? for the Body of the People is the Temple of Humanity, where these imps are bartering the soul, and desecrating the heart.
Thou! Ruling Spirit of domestic scandal, of lay malignity, of political slander – Begone! Go! and haunt thy poor deluded human victim no longer. Go! and hang thyself like Judas if thou wilt. Or as thou hast an Selective-affinity' for swine, cast thy legion into them if thou preferest, and perish with them, if thou wilt in the water. Yet we do not condemn thee! But be still! For if thou openest thy mouth in defence, thou wilt only condemn thyself. Therefore we advise thee: Go! Hide thyself for shame;
"0! Envy hide thy bosom! hide it deep :
Nest there, and hiss, and feed thro' all thy heart." Let this wild region of the heart be cleared up, grubbed, ploughed and harrowed, and let the good seed of truth and love be sown and cultivated; for as private morality is the great basis of the soul's happy immortality, the constitution of all Churches being built on the moral laws,) so public morality must be the great political platform of the happy immortality of ‘Our Union.'
BY THE JUNIOR EDITOR.
On the verge of a snowy breast,
Rude man, you are bound to tell us.
From the French of M. Viscount de Chateaubriand
TRANSLATED BY THE JUNIOR EDITOR.
Towards evening we conveyed her precious remains to the entrance of the cave which opened towards the north. The hermit had wound them in a piece of European linen, spun by his mother: it was the only memorial he retained of his Country, and a long time previous he destined it to his own tomb. Atala was couched on a green turf of the sensitive plants of the mountains; her feet, her head, her shoulders and a portion of her bosom were uncovered.
Her beautiful eyes were closed, her modest feet joined and her hands of alabaster pressed upon her heart a crucifix of ebony. ***
She seemed enchanted by the angel of melancholy, and by the two-fold sleep of innocence and death!') *
One may see by the preceding letter) what occasioned the publication of Alala before my work on the Genius of Christianity, of which it formed a part. It is necessary only that I should give an account of the circumstances attending the composition of this legend.
I was then very young when I conceived the idea of making a poem on the man of nature, or to paint the manners of Savages, in connection with some known event. After the discovery of America I saw no subject more interesting, especially for the French, than the massacre of the colony of the Natchez at Louisiana, in 1727. All the Indian tribes conspiring, after two ages of oppression, to give liberty to the New World, appeared to ofter me & subject almost as happy as the conquest of Mexico. I threr some fragments of this work on paper; but I soon perceived that I was in want of the true colors, and that if I wished to make a faithful picture, it was necessary for me to follow the example of Homer and visit the people I wished to portray.
1) See engraving from a painting in the possession of B. Pratte Esq. of a scene in the forth-coming March No. of the Western Journal and Civilian.
2) The letter he alludes to here had been published in the Journal of Debates and in the Publicist (1800); here it is : Citizens! — In my work on the Genius of Christianity, or the
Beauties of the Christian Religion, a part will be found entirely devoted to the Poetry of Christianity. This part is divided into four books: poesy, fine arts, literature, harmony of religion with the scenes of nature and the passions of the human heart. In this book I examine many subjects which could not be introduced into those preceding, such as the effects of gothic ruins compared with other kinds of ruins, sites of convents in solitude, &c." This book ends with a private memoir extracted from my Voyages en Amerique, and written within the very huts of the Savages; it is entitled Atala &c. Some portions of this little legend being considered wild, I am obliged to publish a part, before my large work, to prevent an accident which would cause me extreme injury.
If, citizens, you will please publish my letter, you will render me an important service. I have the honor to be &c.
In 1789 I imparted to M. de Malesherbes the design I entertained of travelling in America. But desiring at the same time to make my voyage tend towards some useful object, I formed the design of discovering by land the passage so much sought for, and on which even Cook had left doubts. I started, I saw the American solitudes, and I returned with plans for a second journey, which should have been of nine years "duration. I proposed to myself to traverse the whole continent of North America, then to
scend along the coast, north of California and to return by Hudson's Bay, passing around the pole.) M. de Malesherbes charged himself with the presentation of my plans to the government, and it was then that he heard the first fragments of the little work which I now give to the public. The revolution put an end to all my projects. Covered with the blood of my only brother, of my sister in law, of him, the illustrious old man, their father; having seen my mother and another sister of brilliant talents dying on account of the treatment they had experienced in the dungeons, I have wandered over foreign lands, where the only friend I had was my poniard in my hand.)
Of all my manuscripts on America, I have saved only a few fragments, Atala in particular, which in itself was only an episode of the Natchez') Atala was written in the desert, and within the huts of the savages. I know not whether the public taste will be pleased with this legend, which differs from all known styles, and which presents a nature and manners altogether foreign to Europe. There is no adventure in Atala. It is a kind of poem”) half descriptive, half dramatic: all consists in the painting of the two lovers, who talk together while marching through the wilderness, and in the representation of the trials of love, amid the calm repose of the deserts. I have endeavored to form this after the most antique models; it is divided into prologue, recital and epilogue. The principal parties of the recital receive a denomination, as the hunters, the laborers &.c.; and it was thus that, in the first ages of Greece, the rhapsodists sang, under different titles, fragments of the Iliad and of the Odyssey.
3) Mr. Mackenzie has since executed a part of this plan. 4) We have been five entire days without food.
While my family was thus massacred, imprisoned and banished, one of my sisters, owing her liberty to the death of her husband, found herself at Fougeres, a Isttle city of Bretagne. The royalist army arrivee, eight hundred men of the republican army are taken, ani eondemned to be shot. My sister threw herself at the feet of M. de la Rochejacquelein, and obtained pardon for the prisoners. Forthwith she flew to Rennes, presented herself at the revolutionary tribunal, with the certificates which proved that she had saved the lives of sight hundred men, and begged as a sole reward that her sisters would be placed at liberty. The president of the tribunal replied to her: You must be a jade of the royalists, and I will guillotine you, since brigands have so much regard for you. Besides, the Republic has no regard for what you have done : it hus too many defenders already, and it is in want of brews. These are the men with whom Bonaparte delivered France !
5) See the preface of the Natcher.
I will also say that my aim has not been to draw forth many tears: it seems to me that it is a dangerous error, advanced by Voltaire, and by many others, that good works are those which care se most tears. There are dramas of which no one would wish to be the author, and which lacerate the heart far otherwise than the Aeneid. He who puts the soul to torture is not a great writer. True tears are those which flow from the fountain of beautiful poetry; there should be mingled in them as much of admiration as of grief. Hear Priam saying to Achilles:
'Andros paidophonoio poti stoma cheir' oregesthai," Judge of the excess of my affliction, as I kiss the hand that killed my son.
Hear Joseph weeping aloud and saying : Ego sum Joseph, frater vester, quem vendidistis in Egyptum. I am Joseph, your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.
Such tears are the only ones that should soften the strings of the lyre. The muses are heavenly women who do not disfigure their features with grimaces ; when they weep, it is with a secret design of embellishing themselves.
Moreover I am not, as Rousseau, an Enthusiast for Savages ; and, although I have perhaps as great cause to complain of society, as that philosopher had to praise it, I do not believe that pure nature is the finest thing in the world. I have always found it very ill favored, whenever I have had occasion to see it. Very far from entertaining the opinion that the man, who thinks, is a depraved animal, I believe that it is thought which makes the man.
With this word nature, all are lost. Let us paint nature, but beautiful nature: art should not be engaged in the imitation of monsters.
The moral traits which I wished to delineate in Atala are easy to be discovered; and as they are resumed in the epilogue, I will say nothing of them here ; I will only make a slight allusion to Chactas, the lover of Atala.
6) I am obliged to note that if I here use the word poem, it is because I cannot otherwise explain myself. I am not one of those who confound prose and poetry. The poet, whatever may be said of him is always par ercellence a man, and entire volumes of descriptive prose are not worth fifty fine lines of Homer, Virgil or Racine.
This is a savage who is more than half civilized, as he understands not only the living languages, but even the dead languages of Europe. He therefore expresses himself in a mixed style, suitable to the line he pursues, between society and nature. That has given me some advantages in making him speak as a Savage while painting manners, and as European in the drama and narration. Without that it would have been necessary to renounce the work: if I were always bound by the Indian style, Atala would have been Hebrew for the reader.
As to the missionary, it is a simple priest who speaks without blushing of the cross, of the blood of his divine Master, of carnal depravity, 8:c.; in a word it is the priest such as he is. I know it is difficult to paint a character of this kind without awakening ideas of ridicule in the mind of certain readers. If I touch not affection, I will occasion laughter: of this others will judge.
One thing remains to be said, I know not by what chance a letter, which I had addressed to M. de Fontanes, has excited the attention of the public much more than I expected; I thought that some lines from an unknown author would pass without notice; however the public papers have wished to make mention of that letter;-). While reflecting upon the caprice of the public, who have regarded with interest a thing of so little value, I thought that that might be caused by the title of my large work: Genius of Christianity, &c. Perhaps it has been imagined that it was my object to excite party spirit, and that in this book I would treat the revolution and the philosophers severely. At present, under a government which does not proscribe any peaceable opinion, it is doubtless allowable to take up the defence of Christianity. There was a time when the adversaries of that religion had the sole right to speak. Now the list is open; and they who think that Christianity is poetic and moral can say so aloud, as philosophers are permitted to maintain the contrary. I dare believe that if the large work, which I have undertaken, and which will speedily make its appearance, were treated by a hand abler than mine, the question would be decided.
However that may be, I am obliged to declare that the question of the Revolution is not touched in the Genius of Christianity; in general, on that point I have kept a guard which, according to all appearances, will not be regarded by others.
They say that a celebrated lady,') whose work formed the subject of my letter, complains of a passage in that letter. I take the liberty of observing, that I was not the one who employed the first weapon with which I am reproached, and which is odious to me; I have only repelled the blow which was directed at a man whose talents I profess to admire, and whose person I tenderly love. But
7.) See that letter at the end of the Genius of Christianity. 8) Mailame de Stael.