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as I offended, I went too far: let this passage then be considered effaced. Moreover when one possesses the brilliant life and talents of Madame de Stael, one ought easily to forget the slight wounds which we experience from a solitary person, and that, a man as ignorant as I am.
I will say a last word about Atala: the subject is not altogether of my invention; it is certain that there was a Savage at the galleys and at the court of Louis XIV.; it is certain that a French missionary has done things which I have related, it is certain that I found Savages in the forests of America carrying the bones of their ancestors, and a young mother exposing the body of her infant on the branches of a tree. Some other circumstances are also true ; but as they are not of general interest, I am excused from speaking of them.
ON THE THIRD EDITION OF ATALA. I have taken advantage of all the criticisms which have been made, to render 'this little work more worthy of the success which it has obtained. I have enjoyed the happiness of discovering that true philosophy and true religion are the same thing; for certain very distinguished persons who do not think, as I, upon the subject of Christianity, have been the first to make the fortune of Atala. That alone is an answer to those who would make us believe that the vogue of this Indian legend is an affair of party. However I have been bitterly, not to say grossly censured ; an attempt has been made to turn into ridicule that apostrophe to the Indians.')
Unfortunate Indians, whom I have seen wandering in the deserts of the New World with the, ashes of your ancestors, ye who have given me hospitality, in spite of your misery! I can offer you nothing to day, for I wander even as you at the mercy of men; and less happy in my exile I have not brought with me the bones of my fathers. The ashes of my family mingled with those of M. de Malesherbes, six years of exile and misfortunes, have then appeared as a subject only for pleasantry! May the critic never be placed in the position to regret the tombs of his fathers !
Besides it is easy to reconcile the different judgments which have been passed upon Atala: They, who have blamed me, have only dreamed of my talents ; they, who have praised me, have only thought of my misfortunes.
9) Philosophical Decade, No. 22, in a note.
The indulgence with which my works have been received, has imposed the obligation upon me to obey the public taste, and to yield to the counsel of criticism.
As to the first, I have bestowed every care to give it satisfaction. Certain persons charged with the instruction of youth have desired an edition of the Genius of Christianity stript of that part of the apology which was intended only for the men of the world : in spite of the natural repugnance I feel at mutilating my work, and considering only public utility, I have published the abridgment which has been expected from me.
An other class of readers demanded a separate edition of the episode of the work: to-day I give that edition.
I would now say what I have done relatively to criticism.
I have confined myself, as far as the Genius of Christianity is concerned, to ideas different from those which I have adopted in this episode.
It seemed to me at first, that out of regard for persons who have bought the first editions, I ought not to make, at least at present, any remarkable change in a book which sells at such a high price as the Genius of Christianity. Self-love and interest have not appeared to me as sufficiently good reasons, even in this age, for a failure of delicacy.
In the second place, sufficient time has not passed away since the publication of the Genius of Christianity to make me perfectly enlightened about the defects of a work of that extent. Where would I find the truth amidst a crowd of conflicting opinions? One extols my subject at the expense of my style ; another approves my style and disapproves my subject. If on the one side some assure me that the Genius of Christianity is a monument ever memorable for the hand that raised it, and for the commencement of the nineteenth century; on the other side, other persons have taken care to notify me a month or two after the publication of the work, that the critics came too late, since the work was already forgotten.
I know that a self-love stronger than mine would perhaps find some motives for hope to reassure one against this last assertion. The editions of the Genius of Christianity are multiplied in spite of the circumstances which have removed from the cause which I have defended, the powerful interest of misfortune. The work, if I do not deceive myself, appears indeed to grow in the estimation of public opinion in proportion with its age, and it seems that people begin to see in it something else than a work of pure imagination. May it please God that I do not pretend to persuade those of my feeble merit, who have without doubt good
reason for disbelieving in it. Excepting religion and honor, the things of this world are so small in my estimation that I willingly yield to the suggestions of the inost rigorous criticism. I am so little blinded by a partial success, and so far from regarding certain eulogiums as a definitive judgment in my favor, that I havo not yet thought it to be my duty to put the finishing touches on my work. I therefore wait in order to allow time for prejudices to grow calm, for party spirit to become extinguished ; then the opinion which will be formed on my book; will doubtless be the genuine opinion: I will know what it will be necessary to change in the Genius of Christianity, to render it such as I desire to leave it when I die, if it survive me.'). But if I have resisted the censure directed against the entire work by reasons which I have just deduced ; as far as regards Atala, taken separately, I have pursued a system altogether different. I have not allowed myself to be restrained in the corrections, neither by the consideration of the price of the book, nor by that of the length of the work. A few years have been more than sufficient to make me acquainted with the weak or faulty points of this episode, capable of being taught in that respect by criticism, to such an extent as to make me reproach myself for my excessive facility, I have proved, to those who attacked me, that I am never voluntarily in error, and that, at all times and upon all subjects, I am ready to yield to intellects superior to my own. Atala has been reprinted eleven times ; five times separately, and six times in the Genius of Christianity ; if these eleven editions were compared, it would be difficult to find two altogether alike.
The twelfth which I publish to day, has been revised with the greatest care. I have consulted friends prompt to censure me; I have pondered over each phrase, examined each word. The style, freed from the epithets which embarrassed it, flows perhaps with more nature and simplicity. I have paid more regard to the order and connection of certain ideas, I have removed even the slightest errors of language. M. de la Harpe said to me on the subject of
Atala: "if you would spend only a few hours with me, we would have time enough to efface the blemishes, about which your censurers make so much ado.” Four years have passed since I last looked into this episode, but as it is, such it should remain. It is the only Atala which I will recognise hereafter.
However there are points on which I have not yielded to criticism. Some have pretended that certain sentiments expressed by Father Aubry include a grievous doctrine. They have, for example, been shocked by this passage: (now-a-days we have so much sensibility!) “What do I say? O vanity of vanities ! what do I speak of the power of the friendship of the world! Do you
10) This is what has been done in the edition of the complete works of the Author; Paris, 1828.
not proteo entertaine ended upon e os painful
an existence ould wish in vin exaggeratin ict of human Aubry ex
wish my dear daughter to know its extent? If a man were to return to life a few years after his death, I doubt whether he wouid be greeted with joy by those even who have shed most tears to his memory: so soon do they form other relations, so easily do they imbibe other habits, inconstancy is so natural to man, our life is such a small thing, even in the hearts of our friends!”
The question is not whether it is painful to avow this sentiment, but it is true and founded upon common experience. It would be difficult to entertain the contrary. The French particularly cannot pretend that they forget nothing. Without speaking of the dead, of which one remembers but little, how many of the living are greeted again in their families, and have found only forgetfulness, caprice and disgust! Besides what is here the object of Father Aubry? Is it not to relieve Atala from every regret for an existence which she voluntarily has just relinquished, and to which she would wish in vain to return? With that intention would not the missionary, in exaggerating even to that unfortunate, the evils of life, thereby perform an act of humanity? But it is unnecessary to recur to that explanation. Father Aubry expresses a thing unhappily too true. If it is unnecessary to slander human nature, it is also very useless to look upon it in a light better than the reality.
The same critic, M. L'abbe Morellet, has aroused himself against that other thought, as false and paradoxical.
"Believe me, my son, griefs are not eternal; they must terminate sooner or later, because the heart of man is finite. It is one of our great afflictions : indeed we are incapable of being unhappy a long time."
The critic pretends that that kind of incapacity of man for grief is on the contrary one of the great blessings of life. I will only answer him, if that reflection is true, it destroys the observation which he made upon the first passage of the discourse of Father Aubry. Indeed the position he would maintain in the first place is, that one never forgets his friends; and, in the second place that one is very happy in thinking no more about them.
I would remark only that the skillful grammarian seems to me here to confound the words. I have not said 'it is one of our great misfortunes,' that would be false without doubt; but that
it is one of our great miseries,' is very true. Ah! he, who feels only that weakness in which the heart of man nourishes a long time a sentiment, even that of grief, is the most complete proof of his sterility, of his indigence, of his misery. M. L'abbe Morellet appears to make out, with much reason, an inimitable instance of good sense, judgment, nature; but does he always follow out in practice the theory which he professes? It would be singular enough if his pretty pleasant ideas upon man and upon life gave me the right to suspect in my turn that he conveys in these sentiments the exaltation and the illusions of youth.
The novel nature and the novel manners which I have painted have drawn upon me yet another slightly considered reproach. Some believed that I invented certain extraordinary details while I related only things known to all the voyageurs. The notes added to this edition of Atala have fully justified me; but if it were necessary to place them, at all the points where each reader would desire them, they would soon surpass the length of the work. I have therefore renounced the idea of adding more notes. I will content myself by transcribing here a passage from the Defense of the Genius of Christianity. It is stated that the bears were intoxicated with grapes, the learned critics have taken this for a gayety of my imagination. After having cited respectable authorities, and the testimony of Carver. Bartram, Imley, Charlevoix, I add: "When one finds in an author a circumstance which is not in itself beautiful and which serves only to give a resemblance to the picture : if that author has in other respects shown some common sense, it would be natural enough to suppose, that he has not invented that circumstance, and that he has only related a real fact, although it may not be very generally known. Nothing hinders one from finding Atala a wicked production, but I dare say, that the American nature is painted with the most scrupulous exactitude. It is only justice which is rendered to it by all the voyageurs who have visited Louisiana and the Floridas. Two English translations of Atala have arrived in America ; the public papers have announced another, a third translation published in Philadelphia with success. If the pictures of that history had failed in truth, would they succeed among a people who could say at each step: these are not our rivers, our mountains, our forests ? Atala has returned to the desert, and it seems that her country has recognised the child of the solitude as genuine."")
France possessed many years since in North America, a vast empire which extended from Labrador even to the Floridas, and from the coasts of the Atlantic even to the most remote lakes of Upper Canada.
Four large rivers, having their sources in the same mountains, divided these immense regions : the river Saint Laurent, which is lost at the east in the Gulf which bears its name; the river of the West which carries its waters to unknown seas ; the river Bourbon which precipitates itself from the south towards the north in Hud
11) Defense of the Genius of Christianity.