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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction by Pierre Dareutiere de Bâcourt (1869–1924)

By Maurice Barrès (1862–1923)

MAURICE BARRÈS was born at Charmes-sur-Moselle of a mother of pure Lorraine race and of a father whose remoter family origin could be traced to Auvergne. His grandfather, a captain in the light infantry of the Guard, was one of the “grognards” (grumblers) of the Great Emperor. During the Franco-German war of 1870 the old soldier, taken as a hostage by the invaders of Lorraine, died of maltreatment in some unknown corner of the desolated province. The scenes of slaughter and devastation, of which the child was the terrified eye-witness at that time, made an indelible impression upon his mind. Brought up in a region rent and ruined by a crushing defeat, he grew up in an atmosphere of sadness. He first studied at the Malgrange College in the suburbs of Nancy and later in the lycée of the same town. A frail and oversensitive child, he suffered from and resented the roughness of his schoolmates; besides, the dry or formal teaching he received was not suited to such an independent and inquisitive mind, so that his college memories were tainted with bitterness.

His family wished him to become a magistrate. In 1880 he began to study law, but Flaubert, Montesquieu, d’Aubigné, and many other thinkers attracted him a great deal more than the civil or the penal code. He contributed irregularly to La Jeune France. M. Allenet, director of that periodical, showed some of the young man’s manuscripts to Anatole France and to Leconte de Lisle, who advised him to come to Paris. His essays not being always accepted by the editors, as he thought they should have been, he began in 1884 to publish himself ‘Les Taches d’Encre’ (The Ink Blots), which lasted little more than a year, but helped him to gain admission to the leading dailies and periodicals. In 1884, in collaboration with Charles Le Goffic, he started another review, ‘Les Chroniques,’ which was also shortlived. This time it was not to help the printing of his own prose but the verse of another, Jules Tellier, the charming symbolist poet, who died too soon to give the real measure of his talent. Late in 1887 his first book, ‘Sous l’Œil des Barbares,’ was published, and in the early days of 1888 a remarkable article by Paul Bourget in Le Journal des Débats forced it upon the attention of the élite. At his first attempt Maurice Barrès had attained fame. With ‘L’Homme Libre’ (1889) and ‘Le Jardin de Bérénice’ (1891) this book forms a trilogy—’Le Culte du Moi’—the cult of self or the cult of the ego.

To analyze these works is, to say the least, difficult; they have no plot, few episodes, and although the connection between the various parts is, on the whole, quite logical, the thread is difficult to follow. The ‘Culte du Moi’ is a series of essays on the philosophical doctrine of the author and on his interpretation of life; he has himself called the series one of metaphysical novels. If the qualifying adjective “metaphysical” is justified, the same cannot be said of the substantive—for these books are not novels. Psychology plays an important part in them but it is neither Taine’s nor Bourget’s; there is little analysis and much description.

Philip, the hero and practically the only character, has finished his studies in a provincial college. In the mind of this twenty-year-old boy the influences of literary Romanticism and Kantian philosophy are easily discernible. In him, religion, ethics, sentiment of nationality have been destroyed, and the teachings of his masters have been powerless to reconstruct any rule of life, so that he is content to hold to the only reality that, in his eyes, indubitably exists: his ego. Self-knowledge, self-culture, will be the ultimate goal of his efforts. But disturbing influences hinder him in his studies; he shuts like Vigny the door of his “tour d’ivoire” against the Barbarians of the external world and tries to avoid all contact with them. This proves to be a hard task, for life in society is made up of intercourse with others. Although he shrinks back from the touch of unsympathetic beings he soon realizes that the reaction causes new feelings, which he analyzes when he returns into his inner world: “Pleasure begins only with the melancholy of remembrances … to offer any sweetness an act must be transmuted into thinking matter.” The external is only important in so far as it is modified by his thoughts; “it is he himself who creates the universe; he is the universe.” This theory is akin to the transcendental idealism of Fichte. On the other hand, in reading of exploits of prowess, Philip yearns for action; he wants to rule and also to serve; but what torture “after having embraced in thought all the degrees of human development, to begin life from the lowest step of the ladder.” He is thus induced to limit his inner world. Philip will continue to dream with the utmost energy, but will not attempt to transport his dreams into real life. “Like scientists who handle deadly substances and disturbing hypotheses, the makers of rare feelings must not attempt their experiments among men. Their over-developed souls have hardly any place in our world. They must keep what is most different in them to adorn their dreams.”

In the two parts of ‘Sous l’Œil des Barbares,’ called respectively “with the books” and “at Paris,” after having examined and discussed the effects of study and culture on his soul as well as the reaction produced on it by contact with the outside world, Philip attains certitude. His ego does exist; it is the only thing of which he possesses a full and unquestionable consciousness. Consequently it is this ego that he must develop and improve.

Philip, having retired to the heart of Lorraine with his friend Simon, continues in ‘L’Homme Libre’ his experiments. After having submitted themselves to medical tests in order to ascertain that they are bodily sound, for physical disorder in their eyes would be as bad as being afflicted with “Victor Hugo mental twist,” they decide upon a rule and select that of St. Ignace de Loyola, an astonishing choice in a man who from the start decides that neither morality nor religion any longer exists. And then they commune with Sainte-Beuve, Benjamin Constant, Marie Bashkirtseff, and other egotists.

Philip travels through Lorraine; he visits Bar-le-Duc the ancient ducal town, Sion the religious shrine. In thinking of the fate of his province, “once the most populous in Europe, which gave promise of a high civilization and produced many heroes and has now lost the memory of her destroyed greatness and of her effaced genius,” Philip trembles for himself. Will he fail?

During this pilgrimage Philip clarifies the conception of his ego and learns to master his own soul. There, in the tender and melancholy description of the scenery of his native land, so full of historical and sentimental associations, we foresee the awakening of his worship for his country.

Like many of his ancestors of Northern strain, the ancient Latin culture of Italy attracts him. In Milan, in Venice, he continues to dream, to feel, to study. The Queen of the Adriatic inspires him with some of his most brilliant pages. There he found a “psychic life that mingled with the depths of his subconsciousness in one vast reservoir of delight. And with such acuteness did he follow his most confused sentiments that in them he was able to discern the future in process of formation. His life was decided at Venice, and it was from Venice that he wished to date his future works.” In Italy, Philip clears his conception of the Barbarians, of the non ego, and he learns how to assimilate what is most conducive in their works to his own development. From his experience he evolves the following rule of life:

  • “To-day I am living in a dream, made of moral delicacy and self-contemplation. Vulgarity cannot even reach me; for, sitting away down in the depths of my lucid palace, I cover up the aimless whisperings that come down to me from the others, by airs and variations, which my soul is ever ready to provide for me.
  • “I have given up solitude; I have decided to build my house in the very centre of the century, because there are a certain number of appetites that can only be satisfied in active life. When I am alone, they beset me like lusty old soldiers eager for a fresh battle. The lower side of my nature, dissatisfied with its own inactivity, oftentimes used to disturb the better part in me. But now I have found it some playthings amongst men, so that it may leave me in peace.
  • “It was God’s dark hour of affliction when He saw His angels, emanations of His own Self, desert His paradise and love the daughters of men. I have found a way which makes it possible for me to tolerate those parts of myself that are inclined towards vulgar things. I have parceled myself out into a great number of souls. Not one of them is a suspicious soul; they all give themselves up to any feeling that may pass through them. Some go to Church, others to bad places. I do not abhor it if some parts of myself degrade themselves occasionally: there is a certain mystical pleasure in contemplating, from the bottom of humiliation, that virtue to which we are worthy to attain; and besides, a truly beautiful mind should not distract its attention from its preoccupations, by weighing and measuring the villainies it commits at the same moment. I have, moreover, taken the precaution that my various souls do not know each other except within myself, so that having no other point of contact but my self-contemplation, which created them, they cannot cabal together. Should it happen that one of them compromises the security of the whole group, and attempts to entice the sum of my souls by its excesses, then they all rush upon the refractory one. After a short struggle they soon subdue it.
  • “Really, when I was very young, under the eye of the Barbarians, I went to excess in my distrust of the outer world. The world is repulsive, but almost inoffensive. One can easily govern men by getting hold of their vanities, as one would catch a wild ass by getting hold of its muzzle. With a little alcohol, and plenty of well-cooked dishes on your table, and with money in your pocket, you can stand almost any shock. A much more serious danger, in the inner world, is barrenness, and running riot. To-day it is my one great preoccupation to avoid the one as well as the other of these outcomes of clumsiness.
  • “My method is well known; I hold my soul well in hand, so that it shall not stumble, like an aged horse that slumbers as it keeps trotting onward; and I use my imagination to procure new thrills for it each day. Everyone will agree that I excel in the art of bringing it back as soon as it tries to steal away. Sometimes I interrupt myself in this occupation, and give expression to the following prayer addressed to myself:
  • “‘O Thou, who art Myself, Universe of which I gain each day a clearer vision, People that obey me at the sign of my finger, or a glance from my eye, think not that I forsake Thee if I cease henceforward to record the observations with which Thy development inspires me; but the interesting part is to create the method and to verify it in its first applications. Thou ever increasing sum of fiery and methodical souls, I shall no longer describe Thy efforts. I shall content myself with making known a few of the most elegant dreams of happiness dreamed by Thee. Let us, however, continue to embellish and increase our inner life, while our days shall go rolling onward through the bustle of the world outside us. Let us be convinced that actions are of no importance, for they by no means express the soul which has brought them about, and they have value only through the interpretation which the soul chooses to give them.’”
  • In ‘Le Jardin de Beéreénice,’ “a garden where bloom emotions soon uprooted,” Philip comes willingly in contact with men. He enters politics and is elected deputy. He completes the education of his ego in studying the soul of humanity. His opponents have no special reason to rejoice at his entering the lists, for he is a hardy champion and does not spare them. As his opponent, Charles Martin, expresses some surprise at so much harshness in a philosopher, Philip answers:

  • “In taking for granted the wickedness and the bad faith of my opponents (and that is the usual theme of every controversy) I make an extremely convenient hypothesis…. The vices of my adversaries, even though fictitious, permit me to connect together without so many psychological subtleties a very large number of their discreditable actions. It is a conception which explains in a most happy manner the disapproval and the animosity they must inspire, although for reasons a great deal more complicated. In fighting their imaginary vices you triumph over their real faults.”
  • Beéreénice plays a small part; she is a purely instinctive agent. Is she a girl, the people’s soul, or the Unconscious? asks Barrès himself. She participates in some way with the friendly animals, the hairy dog and others, which roam in her garden,—nay, she is little more than an accident of evolution. Sweet and fair, she is for the author a pretext for charming descriptions but neither her character nor her opinions are significant.

    This book, abounding in admirable pages, is too subtle in its theories, in which we discern the influence of the philosophy of Hartmann and that of Schopenhauer; towards the end the author seems inclined to abandon the task of following the ego in its bewildering evolutions, and for the first time we find a trace of the nationalistic tendencies which are to play such a preponderant part in Barrès’ after life.

    Barrès, having decided that the proper place for the ego was in the world, among men, was led to study sociological conditions. As the ego is paramount, not a single individual must be oppressed even for the sake of the community. With this truism as a starting point, André Malterre, the hero of ‘L’Ennemi des Lois’ (1893), examines how society can be organized. It goes without saying that he is an anarchist from every point of view, political, moral, and intellectual.

    Two women play a part in the book. Claire is all mind and has “a passion for professors”; Marina, a Russian princess, artless and sensual, is quite the reverse. Malterre is at first the lover of Marina, later on the husband of Claire, and finally they compromise by living all three together. Quite an immoral solution, had not the writer from the beginning explained that it was merely an allegory.

    With Claire, Malterre visits Germany and analyzes the effect of German socialism upon German sensibility. For an intellectual like Barrès it is a shock to realize that economic revolution is their only aim, that their socialism appeals exclusively “to the belly.” “Give something that will change the heart of man,” exclaims Andreé: “it is a state of mind and not laws that the world demands—a moral and not a material reform.”

    The ‘Roman de l’Énergie nationale’ is composed of three novels or rather three volumes, the first, ‘Les Déracinés,’ being the only one that can be accurately called by that name. It is of special interest because of its presentation of Barrès’ doctrine of “regionalism.” ‘Les Déracinés’ (The uprooted) are seven young Lorrainers of different temperament and station in life but substantially of the same formation. Having studied the system of Kant with Professor Bouteillier (whose characteristics are strangely similar to those of the late Professor Burdeau), they have retained only of his teachings the critical sense; he has given them “no prop either in their race or in their land.” They go to Paris, and, severed from all former connections, are an easy prey to the onslaught of their passions. Three of these young men, Sturel, Roemerspacher, and St.-Phlin, have means; the first two represent the leisurely and intellectual middle class and the last the conservative county families. Bouteillier is the type of the educator who branches off into politics and attempts to transport into life the dry theories of the classroom. Suret-Lefort is the climbing and unscrupulous newspaper man. Mouchefrin and Racadot, two penniless but ambitious youths, might have been worthy citizens had they remained in their native province, surrounded and supported by old friends and associations, but blinded by the intense life of the capital, insufficiently prepared, they launch a newspaper; they are driven to the wall, and in order to extricate themselves, resort to robbery and murder. Racadot is executed and Mouchefrin, his accomplice, escapes through the weakness of Sturel, who, though having knowledge of inculpating facts, keeps silent.

    The episodes are too numerous to be related in detail, but the book, of an extremely diversified and keen psychology, has a deep moral and social meaning: we must remain faithful to our native province or region. If a race wants to survive it must above all consider itself as the heir of the dead buried in its soil and must cherish all the customs accumulated through centuries. Every man who wants to reach his highest development must remain attached to the land of his ancestors. “Regionalism” has had, ever since, considerable influence on French politics and literature.

    ‘Les Amitiés Françaises’ (1905) explains the genesis of Barrès’ nationalism. The following quotations sum up clearly the purport of the book:

  • “Centuries have accumulated in our subconsciousness extremely remote moral forces. To educate a young man, one must give him above all a clear idea and a full possession of these latent forces, one must arouse in him the love of his native land, the memory of his forefathers.
  • “A little child whom you teach to differentiate and revere hereditary emotions, whose mind you fill all through his life with images of family and national life, will possess in his inner self a soundness, proof against dialectics, a solid ground to stand upon against all infractions, a creed, that is to say, moral health.
  • “At twenty, one is convinced that famous cities are young women; one hastens, heart a flutter, to love-trysts: the shrine is empty, nothing but stone….
  • “Grandeur of soul, beauty, passion, sacrifice, we first enshrine you in legendary cities, for we see only too well that you do not belong to the past of our native town; but upon returning from a long journey among material things of life, when one has seen nothing but arid sand or worse still, exasperating fevers, if one has husbanded enough strength to master disillusion, one expects nothing except from this inner chant which our dead have transmitted to us in their blood.”
  • In ‘Au Service de l’Allemagne’ (1905) Barrès studies the Alsatian problem: Does its solution lie in the abandonment of the soil to the conqueror, or must the young men stay in spite of all? Barrès in the person of his hero decides for the latter. Better to wear the German uniform when the age of military service comes than to give up the struggle (evidently the author had not foreseen the actual War). The Alsatians must remain faithful to their ancient province, humiliated as she is, prostrated as they are, and fight to the bitter end to prevent the eradication of Latin culture.

    ‘Colette Baudoche’ (1909) forms with ‘Les Amitiés Françaises’ and ‘Au Service de l’Allemagne’ a trilogy called ‘Les Bastions de l’Est.’ It is really a novel; we find there a hero, Dr. Frederic Asmus, a young Pomeranian professor, who represents the German soul and nature, and Colette Baudoche, a young girl from Metz, who is evidently the impersonation of French culture. Asmus, appointed to the lycée of Metz, former capital of annexed Lorraine, finds lodgings in the house of Mme. Baudoche, a worthy widow full of common sense. Her heart still beats for France, but she is poor, the young instructor appears thoroughly respectable, and, after all, they must live. Asmus, who wants to perfect his French, makes himself as agreeable as he can to his landlady’s daughter. He is influenced, conquered, by the polite and dignified ways of these two women; through their influence his views as well as his ways change a great deal more than he realizes himself. He appears so French that his colleagues become suspicious. He goes so far that he dares to blame the harshness and awkwardness of the German masters towards their pupils. He dreams of a new Lorraine where the Teutons would come to perfect their education by intercourse with a more pleasant form of civilization. He forgets his German fiancée and asks for the hand of the young Frenchwoman. Colette hesitates, though she feels a good deal of sympathy for the young man, so anxious to please her and so kindly inclined towards her own people; but he is a German! She has a deeply rooted feeling of what she owes to her forbears, to those who have given their lives in vain for the independence of Lorraine. At the conclusion of a ceremony for soldiers of the war of 1870, these glorious dead inspire the young girl with a full conviction of her duty; she must not marry Asmus. She tells him so, and returns to her sad and colorless life without a regret.

    In this book, full of charming descriptions and subtle analysis, we are in real life. Asmus and Colette are neither heroes nor symbols; they are plain everyday people. Asmus lacks delicacy, but he is upright and generous. Barrès has not tried to turn him into ridicule; he is lovable, so the girl loves him. Colette is young, honest, and keen of perception; she is the result, but not the highest product, of centuries of French civilization. There is probably less lyricism in this novel than in any other written by Barrès. Nevertheless, seldom has he shown to better advantage and under a more cleverly diversified style his power of description. We give below a translation of the first pages of the book, a picture of Metz, which is a good example of his descriptive power:—

  • “There is hardly a town that appeals more to our affections than Metz. If you recall to a Frenchman from Metz the Cathedral, the Esplanade, the narrow streets with the familiar names, the Moselle at the foot of the Ramparts, and the villages lying scattered over the hills, he will grow sad. Yet these people from Metz belong to an old civilization; they are moderate, well-balanced, and anxious to hide their capacity for enthusiasm. A chance passerby cannot understand this emotion on behalf of a city famous chiefly through wars, where he has seen nothing remarkable save perhaps, by a pleasant river, a fine cathedral and some eighteenth-century remains. But one must understand that Metz does not aim at appealing to the senses; she seduces in a more subtle manner; she is a city for the soul, for the old French military and rural soul.
  • “The statues of Fabert and Ney, which have now those of William II. and Frederic-Charles close by, used to be surrounded by that prestige which is accorded to sacred monuments.
  • “People would point out to each other the heroes of the great wars, on the same squares on which to-day the German officers drill their recruits. The municipal buildings still retain the stamp put upon them by the engineers of our Army; straightness and simplicity everywhere, neatness in the carvings of the pediments, rectilinear appearance on the whole. From one side of the Place Royale to the other, the Courts of Law join hands with the Barracks of the Corps of Engineers; even the private houses seem to fall into line, and under the Arcades of the Place Saint-Louis there seems to float a spirit of discipline. This impression spreads over the soft valley of the Moselle. From the Esplanade, one can just distinguish, under a cloudy sky, twelve wine-growing villages, bathed or mirrored in the Moselle, and which, like the river, endear themselves to our imagination by the very liquid softness of their names: Scy, providing the first of our wines; Rozerieulles, where each house has its own vineyard; Woippy, home of strawberries; Lorry, made rich by its yellow plums; all of them abundantly surrounded by fruit trees that seem to shelter and love them. But the hills on which they are ranged are leveled on the summit; for they have become the forts of Plappeville, Saint-Quentin, Saint-Blaise, and Sommy.
  • “The Metzians of the time before the War, soldiers or relatives of soldiers, all of them, lived in daily touch with the agricultural region. People of independent means had their farms out there, tradesmen their customers, and down to the most unpretending family they all dreamed of one day possessing a country house, where they would go each fall to superintend the grape-gathering.
  • “All this made up an atmosphere which was very appropriate for the preservation of the old French type. Those who have not known this city and meditated upon it, are perhaps not aware of the value of a civilization grown out of the habits and customs of agriculture and of war. The emigrants from Lorraine do not yearn only for landscapes and lost customs, or for their scattered fellow-countrymen; it seems to them as if they had left behind something indispensable to their moral health.
  • “I never pass the threshold of this city, whose tradition has been forced from its beaten path, without being conscious of the break in our destinies. Metz is the place where can best be measured the depression in our strength. Here, people have toiled for a Glory, a Country, a Civilization, which all three are lying low to-day. A group of women alone protects them still. By instinct I turn my steps towards the Isle of Chambières and sit down near the monument which the “Ladies of Metz” have erected in memory of the soldiers whom they had nursed. This is one of our sacred stones, an Altar, and a place of refuge, the last of our Menhirs.
  • “All around this high place, the Teuton flood rises unceasingly and threatens to submerge all. The immigrants, twenty-four thousand in number (without counting the Garrison), are dominating in the elections the twenty thousand natives. Will the old French edifice be carried away by the force of this onrush? A traveler arriving in Metz will, from the outset, judge the worth of this town as if it had been entirely reconstructed along German lines and to suit the needs of the Conquerors.
  • “The new Railway Station, where you arrive, proclaims the firm endeavor to create a style of the Empire, the Colossal style, as they call it, putting the accent on the last syllable. This station evokes our wonderment by its Romanesque style and by a steeple which, so they say, William II. himself designed; but there is no soaring upwards, everything is held in, crouching, pressed down by a prodigious, spinage-green lid. You find in it the traces of an ambition that would be worthy of a cathedral, but the result is only a tart, or a huge meat pie. Pretension and lack of taste are still more clearly seen in the details. The worthy architect has strained his imagination, in order to show the destination of the building in every ornamental motive. We loyal Germans, truth-speaking artists that we are, and kindly condescending to amuse our serious population when they come to buy their tickets, we shall show them, as chapters of our pillars, the heads of soldiers wearing spiked helmets, faces of employees with stylish moustaches, engines, customs officers examining a traveler’s suit case, finally, an old gentleman in a top hat, shedding tears while bidding farewell to his grandson. This series of platitudes is doubtlessly the product of a philosophical conception, and might at a stretch be defended by force of reasoning; but no person of taste will ever excuse them, if he has seen them in all their dismal reality.
  • “On leaving the station, one falls straight into an entirely new quarter, where hundreds of houses allure us first by their color of coffee, chocolate, or tea, revealing, so it seems, a predilection for eatables on the part of German architects. I see nowhere a wide, open, and beautiful avenue leading into the city, but the same craze for the enormous seems to have built huge apartment houses and private villas encumbered with cheap and blustering carvings. There are house fronts with many colored woodwork, Alsatian fashion, flanked by turrets that rise up in so sharp a point that no one can enter them. Then there are houses in the style of Louis Seize, but built in red brick, decorated with cast-iron vases and crowned by tinplate garrets. Here copies of Augsburg Gothic, there a few samples of that Romanesque which has always seemed mysteriously to excite Prussian sensibility. Lastly, a thousand goblins, elfs, and sprites, bent under invisible burdens.
  • “I have no feeling of power before this frontage, made of unsquared stones that are only a thin veneering over brick. And I do not any more enjoy a feeling of happy imagination, on seeing a mason taking out of his bag, at random, an infinite assortment of architectural motives. These constructors possess extensive erudition, and moreover, a Frenchman can well see that they have copied some excellent pieces at Versailles, some very good bull’s eyes, pilasters, obelisks; but all these motives are placed one beside the other, haphazard; they are neither reduced to their just proportions nor executed in the proper materials. The whole of this new quarter, which aims at a show of power and wealth, is but a falsehood and a sign of disorder and poverty of genius. It is, in fact, inconceivable, except as the frenzied work of overdriven students, or the taunting tomfoolery of a painter’s ’prentices making game of their master. You could almost imagine seeing before you, congealed in lard, the foolish tricks of some students of Architecture straight from Auerbach’s Cellar. In a corner of this huge nightmare, away underneath a rubbish heap of old baskets and dented pails, is that not the ancient gate of Saint Thiébaud? Ah, let them demolish it, let them give the finishing stroke to that martyr!
  • “I tread more firmly again and breathe more freely, as soon as I have crossed the line of the old Ramparts. I would not say that these small and much-used houses, with their convenient shutters and here and there a wrought-iron balcony, are beautiful, but they do not excite laughter. Simple people have constructed these dwellings after their own image, and, peacefully wishing to live life as it is lived in Metz, they have not taken the trouble to look for models in all the centuries and under all climates. See how harmonious and pleasing are those suitable buildings of the old gunpowder factory, shaded by fine old trees and washed by the Moselle, at the foot of the Esplanade. So much moderation and calm seems poor to German Æsthetes. This country was drained, clarified, I should like to say, spiritualized; they disturb, overburden, encumber it; they pour in their dregs. The roofs of the houses still remain French, but gradually the ground floor, the shops, become Germanized. At any moment one can see the front of a house being scraped and taken down, and the poor, ripped-up building is then clad in iron armor, with great big windows, where at night the electric lights will shed their blinding splendor over mountains of cigars. Teuton dullness begins to possess Metz, and worse than dullness, that degrading odor of Railway Refreshment-Rooms, of sour beer, wet woolen garments, and stale tobacco smoke.
  • “Certain quarters, however, remain intact: Mozelle, the Sainte-Croix Heights, and the Quays, where one can find those aspects of Metz that will last forever. The peasants still come to bring the grain from the Seille and from up country to the old mills. The women, in their goffered bonnets, are pushing along their carts laden with butter, eggs, and poultry. The Hotel de Lyon is still overflowing on Saturdays with countryfolk come to the pig market, which is held on the Cathedral Square, and the Côte-de-Delme Inn remains the meeting-place of amateurs when the horse-dealers, on the Place Mazelle, show off the big plough-horses that have a twist of straw braided in with their tails.
  • “Am I the dupe of an illusion, a dream of my forewarned heart? In the network of these narrow streets, where the old names over the shops give me a thrill of pleasure, I seem to feel the simplicity of former courteous manners, and those virtues of humility and dignity which, in our fathers, were in tune with each other. I taste the wholesome coldness of one-time discipline, tempered by humor, and so different from Prussian constraint. Emotion gains our hearts in these old parts of Metz, where to-day women and children predominate. They brighten our gift of spirituality. They lead us back towards France, and France on her knees is the most frequent synonym of the Ideal. Those who remain faithful to her, place a sentiment above their positive interests. If a few disown her, it is because they are enslaved by utilitarian principles, and because they sacrifice their share of moral life.”
  • ‘Greco ou le Secret de Tolède’ is a psychological study of the work of the great Spanish painter and of the peculiarities of the strange, noble, and beautiful city of Toledo. “The genius of Greco lies in the fact that his thought is thoroughly, absolutely Spanish. His paintings placed in the very heart of Spain give us an intuition of the motives of that nation in her classical period. Every one of his extraordinary personages bears in his inner self the same principle of hope, of ardor, of unconcern.”

    ‘La Colline Inspirée’ (1913) is a true story more or less romanticized. Barrès’ birthplace is not far distant from the spot where the events happened that form the basis of the book, and he most likely had many times heard of the legend. Other data were found in church papers deposited in the Nancy library. The story is of three visionary priests who at the beginning of the nineteenth century aroused a kind of religious mania among some people of that region. They wanted shortly after the Revolution to install a peculiar form of mysticism in Lorraine. Léopold Baillard, “curé” of Flavigny, with the help of his two brothers, also priests, dreamed of erecting wonderful shrines and building up immense monasteries on the hill of Sion-Vaudeémont (La Colline Inspirée). He founded a religious order which at first prospered. But his huge enterprise, financially unsound, caused anxiety to his bishop, who counseled him to be more prudent. Father Baillard, blinded with pride, refused to follow the advice. Soon he fell into debt; the order was disrupted; he was deprived of his title of superior, and relegated to the unimportant parish of Saxon. He refused to obey, and went to Normandy to see a certain Vintras who pretended to be an emanation of the Lord and to perform miracles. The man was a former house-servant, and had been several times convicted of theft, forgery, and embezzlement, but he possessed undoubtedly a great deal of personal magnetism and eloquence. He converted Baillard to his new faith and consecrated him Pontiff and prophet.

    Coming back to Lorraine the priest started his new cult with his two brothers, who became pontiffs in their turn, and they gained quite a number of followers. The new creed soon became entirely pagan in form as well as in purport, the ceremonies recalling the ancient saturnalia. The Baillards, first interdicted, then excommunicated, were attacked by the infuriated inhabitants and had to flee. Peace reigned again on the hill. Towards 1857, one after the other, the three brothers came back to their native soil. Baillard, who was married and a traveling salesman for a wine firm, was still living in daily intercourse with the occult. Father Aubry, his former adversary, converted him on his death-bed, but his last prayer was for the soul of Vintras! This strange story is treated by Barrès in his usual poetic manner. At the close of the book we find a dialogue between the meadow and the chapel which is a masterpiece of suggestive prose. The meadow is the spirit of the soil,—ancestors, liberty, inspiration; the chapel represents rule and authority; salvation lies in the union of both, conciliating thus enthusiasm with discipline, the heart with reason.

    ‘La Grande Pitié des Églises de France’ is a book of polemics. After the separation of Church and State in France, confessional associations had been charged with the upkeep of religious buildings, but the Church rejected the principle of these associations as contrary to canonical rules. The municipalities were not responsible for the maintenance of the old churches, and they could prevent the Catholics from maintaining them. This unfortunate state of affairs permitted the desecration of some monuments and the destruction of a few others. Although an agnostic, Barrès is a poet and an artist and could not remain indifferent. He delivered on this subject in the Chamber of Deputies three speeches which form the bulk of the volume. A number of the French churches are of the highest artistic and historical value. Those classified as “historical monuments” are supervised and protected by the State. The number of the churches in this list is small. Barrès proposed to include all churches built before 1800. In spite of all efforts he failed; the Chamber rejected the draft of law he had proposed. But he succeeded in arousing in the whole country a lively interest not only among the Catholics themselves but also among all those who love art, beauty, and memories of the past. The movement will probably bring about in time some compromise satisfactory both to the government and to the Church.

    During the War, Maurice Barrès has published a number of books composed for the most part of newspaper articles. They form a series, ‘L’Âme Française et la Guerre,’ (The French Soul and the War). Their titles are ‘L’Union Sacrée’ (1914), ‘Les Saints de la France’ (1914–1915), ‘La Croix de Guerre,’ and ‘L’Amitié des Tranchèes’ (1915).

    This enormous production, and we have omitted quite a number of titles, is far from representing the whole of Barrès’ work, for he is also one of the most prolific journalists in France. He has contributed—and often regularly, publishing one or two articles a week—to Le Voltaire, Le Figaro, La Revue Indépendante, Le Journal, Le Courrier de l’Est, l’Écho de Paris, Le Gaulois, La Patrie, La Revue de Paris, La Revue Bleue, and La Cocarde, which he made famous in 1894–5 when he was political editor and published daily an article in its columns.

    This literary activity would have been more than sufficient to fill the life of any man; it was not so for Barrès, who, besides, has had a most strenuous public career. His speeches in the Academy, the Chamber of Deputies, and political meetings have gained for him a well-deserved reputation as orator and debater.

    In 1888, to put into practice his theories of ‘L’Homme Libre’ and probably to acquire data for ‘Le Jardin de Bérénice,’ he entered the lists and in 1889 was elected a deputy from Nancy after so savage a fight that on one occasion, at Champenoux, he was seriously wounded and his carriage broken to splinters and set on fire by the mob. He was then so youthful in appearance that frequently people thought he was campaigning for his father and were taken aback when he told them he was himself the candidate. He had joined the party of General Boulanger; that a man as clever as Barrès had chosen such an indifferent leader might surprise. The explanation lies in the fact that he was a Lorrainer, and had never given up the hope of seeing his native province restored to its former condition; Boulanger embodied for him the spirit of Revenge.

    Beaten in 1893, Barrès did not abandon his political career. He kept on fostering by all means in his power the ideas of nationalism and regionalism. Elected deputy for Paris in 1906, he has since always been re-elected. In political circles he enjoys a great deal more influence than might be supposed from his opinions; this is due to his prestige as a writer and a thinker, to a proverbial coolness under fire, and a dangerous gift for biting repartee.

    Maurice Barrès married Mademoiselle Jougne, daughter of Colonel Jougne, and has a son, Philip, who plays quite an important part in some of his books, notably ‘Les Amitiés Françaises’. He was elected to the Academy in 1906.

    A modern French critic whose opinions are a guarantee that he would not unduly praise Barrès said: “Anatole France and Maurice Barrès are nowadays the only two men in French letters worth writing about.” Paul Bourget in his turn thinks that “Of the young men who since 1880 have entered the French literary world, Monsieur Maurice Barrès is certainly the most famous.” The judgment of his fellow authors as well as his influence on a large number of young men of his generation shows clearly the importance of his work. One of the most brilliant of them, Jean de Tinan, said shortly before his untimely death, “Barrès has been our educator, our professor of energy—he has known how to be our master without diminishing in any way our initiative … for that, we shall never be thankful enough.”

    As an artist Barrès was at first a Romantic; but of a Romanticism purified from all its inferior characteristics: excessive imagery, doubtful grammar, inaccurate language. He is now a pure classic by the preponderance of the inner life, the concentration of thought, the clearness of expression, the impeccable syntax. He has contributed more than anybody else to the reversion to traditional forms of style and at the same time has assimilated all that there was of real worth and likely to live in impressionism. The tendency toward classicism is more and more noticeable in his work; he himself has said in ‘Le Voyage de Sparte’: “I was mistaken in my manner of interpreting what I admired; I was striving for a certain effect and turned around things until I had obtained it. Now I meet life in a more familiar way; I wish to see it with eyes as simple as the Greek eyes were.” Formerly the most subjective of artists, he tends now to an ever-increasing objectivity.

    Barrès has been more or less misunderstood by Anglo-Saxons, and more particularly by Americans. His reasoning is often of too abstract and metaphysical a character to be likely to appeal to nations who are above all practical. Every educated Frenchman is a philosopher and has a fondness for philosophical speculation and a training in it quite uncommon among the reading public of the great Anglo-Saxon nations. For Americans “regionalism,” Barrès most characteristic tenet, is so difficult to appreciate that it is almost impossible to state it in terms which for American readers will not involve a suggestion of absurdity. That a man should be fond or proud of his birthplace is natural enough; that he should be bound to stay there simply because it is his birthplace is to the vast majority of Americans unthinkable. Americans could better understand the supreme importance attached by Barrès to local traditions if he were a devout Catholic; when they learn that he is an agnostic they are at a loss to reconcile what appears to them inconsistency. But it is because Barrès has discarded all Christian faith that he clings to the tradition of the race.

    Barrès is himself an example of his own theory in the sense that he is a peculiarly French author, passionately admired in his own country, and little appreciated beyond its limits except by students of French literature and philosophy. For those unfamiliar with the French language and with French habits of thought he is likely to remain practically a closed book, for the charm of his style is of that evanescent quality which is most difficult to carry over in translation. He will retain his place in French letters as a thinker of a most original turn of mind and also as one of the best stylists of the twentieth century.