From the Journal des Débats
In the previous issue of The Spiritist Review the readers could see our
personal letter to Mr. Deschanel with our thoughts about his article.
The very short letter was aimed at the rectification of a serious error by
Mr. Deschanel and we sought his agreement to have our response inserted
in that periodical. He presented the Spiritist Doctrine as if based on the
grossest materialism that was a total distortion of its true nature since the
Doctrine tends, on the contrary, to destroy the foundations of materialism.
His article had many other mistakes that could be pointed out but
the latter was too important to let go without an answer; it was really serious
because it did a disservice to the so many followers of Spiritism. Mr.
Deschanel decided not to accept our request and below is his answer to us:
I had the honor of receiving your letter dated February 25th.
Your editor, Mr. Didier, was kind enough to assign me with the
task of explaining to you that I had given in to his reiterated requests
to give a review about your The Spirits’ Book, allowing me
to criticize it as much as I wanted. That was the agreement. I thank you for your understanding that the use of your right of
replica would be strictly legal but certainly not as kind as the
abstention with which you agreed, according to what I was informed
this morning by Mr. Didier.
The letter above is inaccurate in several points. It is true that Mr. Didier
sent a volume of The Spirits’ Book to Mr. Deschanel, as done from an editor
to a journalist but it is inaccurate to say that Mr. Didier agreed not to
let us know about his reiterated requests to have the work appreciated and
if Mr. Deschanel decided to dedicate 24 columns of the newspaper with
mockery he must allow us to suppose that he did so neither out of tolerance
nor respect towards Mr. Didier. In fact, as we said, that is not why
we are sorry for the fact. He is in his own right to criticize and since he
does not share our point of view he had the freedom of assessing our work
from his standpoint, as it usually happens all the time. Some have it in the
highest regard, others show total disbelief but none goes without an appeal.
The ultimate judge is the public, particularly the future public that
is away from the current passions and intrigues. The exaggerated praise
from little groups does not prevent us from burying from good what is
really bad and what is really good survives, despite the diatribes originated
from jealousy and envy.
• This striking proof two fables now shall prove;
• Matter enough is here your faith to move
La Fontaine would have said; we will not quote two fables but
two facts. When Racine’s Phèdre appeared it had the opposition
of the Court and the people of Paris and was ridiculed. The bashing
was such that at the age of only 38 years old, he completely
gave up writing for the theater. . Pradon’s Phèdre, on the contrary,
was praised to the extreme. What is today the situation of both works? A more modern book, Paul et Virginie, was declared
dead at birth by the renowned Buffon that found it boring and
insipid; however, it is a fact that no book has ever been so popular.
Our objective with these two examples is to demonstrate that
the opinion of a critic, whatever their merit, is always a personal
opinion, not always ratified by posterity. Let us move back from
Buffon to Mr. Deschanel, without comparison since Buffon was
totally mistaken while Mr. Deschanel believed, no doubt, that
the same will not happen to him. In his letter he acknowledges
the fact that our right to contest would be strictly legal but he
finds it more polite that we don’t exercise that right. He is also
bluntly wrong when he says that we agreed with the abstention,
leading to believe that we agreed with a request and even that
Mr. Didier was in charge of informing him about that. There is
nothing further from the truth. We don’t believe that we must demand
the publication of our counter argument. He has the freedom
of finding our Doctrine bad, disgusting, absurd, of shouting
it out loud from the roof tops, but we expected his loyalty with
the publication of our letter whose intent was the rectification of
a false allegation that could damage our reputation, when he accuses
us of professing and propagating the very doctrines that we
fight against, since we see them as subversive of the social order
and public moral. We did not ask for a disclaimer that would be
refused by his ego, but only the publication of our protest, convinced
that we were not abusing our own right of response, particularly
considering that we were offering 30 or 40 lines against
his 24 columns in the publication. Our readers will understand
the extent of his denial. If he wanted to see kindness in our procedure
we cannot say the same about his attitude.
When Father Chesnel published his article about Spiritism in
the Univers in 1858, he also gave a false idea about the Parisian
Society of Spiritist Studies, presenting it as a religious sect with
cults and priests. Such allegations completely denatured its objectives and its true foundations and could deceive public opinion.
It was completely mistaken given the fact that the Society’s
bylaws preclude it from dealing with religious matters. As a matter
of fact, a religious Society that could not deal with religious
matters is unthinkable. We then protest against such statement
and not by means of a few lines by through a whole article that
the periodical Univers acknowledged our right to publish as a
result of a simple request from our side. We are sorry that Mr.
Deschanel from the Journal des Débats believes to be less morally
obliged to reestablish the truth than those gentlemen from the
Univers. If it were not a question of legal right it will always be of
loyalty. Pretending to have the right of attacking without providing
an opportunity for defense is an easy way of convincing his
readers that he is right.