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Joseph Joubert (1754–1824). Joubert: A Selection from His Thoughts. 1899.

Chapter XXIII.

Literary Judgments. II. Religious Writers

[1]ST. THOMAS and St. Augustine are the Aristotle and the Plato of theology. But St. Thomas is more Aristotelian than St. Augustine is Platonic.

[2]Pascal speaks the language of a Christian misanthropy that is at once strong and gentle. As there are few who have the feeling, so are there few who have had the style. He had a power of strong conception, but he invented nothing; that is to say, he discovered nothing new in metaphysics.

[3]The greater number of Pascal’s thoughts on law, habits, customs, are only the thoughts of Montaigne that he has recast. Behind the thought of Pascal you see the attitude of that firm and passionless mind: it is this, above all, which makes it so imposing.

[4]In Bossuet’s style a Gallic frankness and good temper make themselves felt, and yet with dignity. He is stately and sublime—popular, and almost naïf.

[5]Voltaire is clear like water, and Bossuet clear like wine: but it is enough; he nourishes and fortifies.

[6]Bossuet employs all our idioms, as Homer employed all the dialects. The language of kings, of statesmen, and of warriors; the language of the people and of the student, of the country and of the schools, of the sanctuary and of the courts of law; the old and the new, the trivial and the stately, the quiet and the resounding—he turns all to his use; and out of all this he makes a style, simple, grave, majestic. His ideas are like his words, varied—common and sublime together. Times and doctrines in all their multitude were ever before it. He is not so much a man as a human nature, with the temperance of a saint, the justice of a bishop, the prudence of a doctor, and the might of a great spirit.[M.A.]

[7]Fénelon knows how to plead, but not how to teach. As a philosopher he is almost divine; as a theologian almost ignorant.

[8]Fénelon had that happy type of mind, talent, and character which never fails to give everybody the impression of being better than it is. In the same way we attribute to Racine what belongs only to Virgil, and always expect to find in Raphael beauties which are perhaps more often to be met with in the works of two or three other painters than in his own.