NOTE: In the three following dissertations the spirit develops each of the three characters outlined in his first communication (see the January 1861 issue)
“Here in this inferior world of yours self-serving interest, selfishness and pride stifle generosity, charity and simplicity. Self-serving interest and egotism are the two bad characteristics of the investor and the new-rich; pride is the vice of those who have knowledge and is especially true for those who have power. When a heart that truly thinks examines these three horrible vices, it suffers; rest assured that anyone who gives serious thoughts to the nothingness and the evilness in this world is generally someone endowed by kind and charitable instincts. And as you very well know, the kind ones are unhappy, as La Fontaine said and that I forgot to place side by side with Molière. The gentle ones are unhappy because they feel. Hamlet is the personification of that unfortunate part of humanity, that is always crying and suffering, avenging God and the moral. Hamlet had to punish shameful sins in his family: pride and lust that is egotism. That subtle, melancholic and truth seeking soul was clouded by the world’s breath, like a mirror that can no longer reflect what is good and fair. And that pure soul shed his mother’s blood, avenging his honor. Hamlet is the powerless intelligence, a profound thought fighting the stupid pride and maternal perversion. A thoughtful man that avenges a sin on Earth, whatever it may be, is guilty before men’s laws but he is frequently not before God. You must not think that I want to fantasize despair! I have been punished a lot, but there is a lot of fog before the eyes of the world!”
Note: The spirit was then asked to give his opinion about La Fontaine, who he had just mentioned, then responding:
“La Fontaine is not more renowned than Corneille and Racine. You don’t know much about your scholars while the Germans know both Shakespeare and Goethe. Returning to the subject, La Fontaine is the Frenchman by excellence who hides his originality and sensibility under the name Aesop, a happy thinker. But make no mistake; La Fontaine was a kind person as I said before. Once he noticed that he was not understood, he introduced that simplicity that you say is false. In your days he would be enlisted among the pseudo-modest. True intelligence is not false, but we often have to howl with the wolves and that is exactly what had lost La Fontaine in the opinion of a large number of people. I don’t speak about his genius: it is equal, if not superior to Molière’s.
Returning to our very familiar little course of literature, Don Juan is, as I already had the honor of telling you, the best representation of a kind, corrupted and blasphemous man. Molière elevated him to a dramatic event because in reality his punishment should not be of a human kind, but divine. It is through the unexpected strikes of the celestial vengeance that knocks down heads of pride. The more unexpected it is, the more dramatic the effect becomes. I said that Don Juan was a character but in reality a rare character because there are a few men only of that kind, since almost all of them are cowards. I refer to the class of indifferent and corrupt. Many say blasphemy but I assure you that only a few dare to do so without fear. Their conscience is an echo that reflects their blasphemies and they listen shivering with fear, but laughing before the world. These are the ones you call the braggers of vice these days. This kind of libertine person counts in large numbers today but they are far from being the children of Voltaire. And back to the subject, Molière as a wiser and more profound observer not only condemned the vices that attack humanity but also those who dared to address God.
We have seen two characters so far: one generous and unhappy, another one happy to the world but miserable before God. We still miss the uglier, more ignoble, more repulsive one. I refer to Tartuffe.
The mask of virtue was already hideous in antiquity because paganism, not yet purified by Christian morality, also had their wise men and virtues. However, that mask is even uglier before the altar of Christ, since it is plentiful of selfishness and hypocrisy. Paganism may perhaps have had less Tartuffe’s than Christianity. Exploiting the heart of a wise and good man; praising all of their actions; deceiving trustful people through an apparent piety; carrying profanation until the Eucharist is received with pride and blasphemy in their hearts, that is what Tartuffe does, what he did and will always do.
Oh! You, imperfect and mundane people who condemn a divine principle and a super human moral, because you want to abuse it! You are blind when you confuse people with that God like principle with humanity. Tartuffe is horrible and disgusting because he hides his wickedness under a sacred cloak. Curse on him because he cursed when he was forgiven and plotted treason while preaching charity.”
Gérard de Nerval