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vinced that the weakness, or the inaccuracy of the Translation, can alone prevent a generous Public from receiving them favourably.
In the Tranflation, he has endeavoured, as much as in him lay, to convey the meaning and fentiments of his Original; in doing of which, he may perhaps be thought fometimes too literal; but if the meaning be conveyed, furely the error is on the fafeft fide; for many of our translations, may with much more propriety be called paraphrafes than translations; and, (at least in the Tranflator's opinion), it is much better to err, in keeping rather too closely to the text, than by ftudiously avoiding the appearance of literality, to render the fenfe both obfcure and unintelligible. If the Tranflator be mistaken, it is an error which in future may easily be corrected; and this being his first publication, he trufts that a generous Public will not cafhier a fubaltern, because he may not as yet be capable of dif charging the duty of a general officer,
The Tranflator takes this opportunity of returning his acknowledgments to his friends above mentioned, from whofe advice he has reaped many advantages.
(Extracted from the Difcourfe of Monfieur Le Marquis D'Alembert, on his admiffion into the Royal Academy of Paris.)
JEAN-BAPTISTE MASSILLON was born in Provence in the
year 1663. His father was a poor attorney of that inconfiderable place. The obfcurity of his birth, which gives fo much luftre to the splendour of his personal merit, fhould make a chief feature in his panegyric; and it may be faid of him, as was faid of the illustrious Roman, who owed nothing to his ancestors, Videtur ex fe natus: He feemed to have produced himself.
He entered the Oratory at feventeen: The fuperiors of Maffillon foon faw the fame which he would bring to their congregation. They deftined him to the pulpit; but, it was from a principle of obedience alone, that he confented to fecond their views: He was the only one who did not foresee that future celebrity, by which his humility and his modefty were to be rewarded.
The young Maffillon did every thing in his power to avoid that fame. He had already, while in the country, by order of his fuperiors, pronounced the funeral orations of
of two Archbishops. These difcourfes, which were indeed nothing but the attempts of a youth, but of a youth, who fhewed what he would one day be, had the most brilliant fuccefs. The humble orator, alarmed at his growing reputation, and dreading, as he said, the dæmon of pride, refolved to escape him for ever, by fecluding himself in the most obscure retreat. He repaired to the Abbey of Septfons, where the fame difcipline is observed as at La Trappe; and there he took the habit.
During his noviciate, the Cardinal de Noailles addreffed to the Abbè of Septfons, whofe virtue he refpected, a charge which he had just published. The Abbè, more religious than eloquent, but preserving still at least for those of his communion fome remains of self-love, wifhed to return an answer to the Cardinal, worthy of the charge he had received. This office he entrusted to Maffillon, who performed it with as much readiness as fuccefs. The Cardinal, astonished at receiving from that quarter, a piece fo well written, was not afraid of wounding the vanity of the Abbé of Septfons, by asking, who was the author of it; when, the Abbè's mentioning Maffillon, the prelate immediately replied, that fuch talents were not in the language of Scripture, to remain hid under a bufhel. He obliged the novice to quit the habit, and resume that of the Oratory. He placed him in the feminary of St. Magloire in Paris, exhorting him to cultivate the eloquence of the pulpit, and promising to make his fortune, which the young orator confined to that of an apostle, that is, to the mere neceffaries of life, accompanied with the most exemplary fimplicity.
His firft Sermons produced the effect, which his superiors, and the Cardinal de Noailles, had foreseen. Scarcely
had he fhewn himfelf in the churches of Paris, than he eclipsed almost all those who had fhone in the fame sphere. He had declared that he would not preach like them; not from any presumptuous fentiment of fuperiority, but from the juft and rational idea he had formed of Christian eloquence. He was perfuaded, that if a minifter of the gofpel degrades himself by circulating known truths in vulgar language, he fails, on the other hand, in thinking to reclaim, by profound argumentation, a multitude of hearers, who are by no means able to comprehend him; that though all who hear him may not have the advantage of education, yet all of them have a heart, at which the preacher should aim; that in the pulpit, man fhould be exhibited to himself, not to frighten him by the horror of the picture, but to afflict him by its resemblance; and that if it is fometimes useful to terrify and alarm him, it is oftener profitable to draw forth those extatic tears, that are more efficacious than those of despair.
Such was the plan that Maffillon proposed to follow, and which he executed like a man who had conceived it, that is, like a man of genius. He excells in that property of an orator, which can alone supply all the reft; in that eloquence, which goes directly to the foul, which agitates, without convulfing; which alarms, without appalling; which penetrates, without rending the heart. He fearches out the hidden folds, in which the paffions lie enveloped; there fecret fophifms, which blind and feduce. To combat and to destroy these sophisms, he has in general only to unfold them: This he does with an unction fo affectionate and fo tender, that he allures us rather than compels; and even when he shews us the picture of our vices, he interefts and delights us.the moft. His diction, always fmooth and elegant, and pure, is every where marked with that VOL. I.
noble fimplicity, without which, there is neither good tafle nor true eloquence; a fimplicity, which being united in Maflillon, with the sweetest and most bewitching harmony, borrowed from this latter additional graces; but what com. pleats the charm of this enchanting ftyle, is our conviction, that fo many beauties fpring from an exuberant source, and are produced without effort or pain. It fometimes happen, indeed, that a few inaccuracies escape him, either in the expreffion, in the term of the phrase, or in the affecting melody of his style; fuch inaccuracies, how. ever, my be called happy ones, for they completely prevent us from suspecting the leaft degree of labour in his compofition. It was by this happy negligence, that Massillon gained as many friends as auditors: He knew, that the more an orator is intent upon gaining admiration, the less those who hear him are disposed to grant it: and that this ambition is the rock on which so many preachers have split, who being entrusted, if one dare thus to exprefs it, with the interests of the Deity, wish to mingle with them the infignificant interefts of their own vanity. He compared the ftudied eloquence of learned preachers to those flowers, which grow fo luxuriantly amongst the corn, that are lovely to the view, but noxious to the corn.
Maffillon reaped another advantage from that heart-affecting eloquence, which he made fo happy an use of. As he fpoke the language of all conditions, because he fpoke to the heart, all descriptions of men flocked to his fermons; even unbelievers were eager to hear him; they often found inftruction, when they expected only amuse. ment, and returned sometimes converted, when they thought they were only bestowing or with-holding their praife. Maffillon could defcend to the language, which alone they would liften to, that of a philosophy, apparently human,