CROSSING the Pont de la Tournelle, one leaves the Paris of the twentieth century for a city of past ages. Here is the Ile de la Cité, on which stood the Paris conquered by the Romans in 53 B. C., and described by Caesar in his Commentaries. To this part walked the martyred preacher, Saint Denis, from the heights of Mont-martre, carrying his severed hand in his hands, if one may accept the narrative of tradition. Here were grouped the forces that created Paris. The saunterer in these haunts cannot but recall the words : ” Except the Lord keep the city the watchman waketh in vain,” for here he comes into vivid realization of the actual life of that woman seen through the dim centuries, the patron saint of Paris, Sainte Geneviève.
The visitor may study the wonderful series of decorative paintings by Puvis de Chavannes in the Panthéon, illustrating her life, with little recognition beyond that of their artistic beauty ; but deeper than the interest of art or of history is that of their profound religious significance, of the spiritual lessons that they suggest.
” If a soul is, by divine grace, given wholly to God, it is impossible for us to say to what heights it may attain, or what good, in every region of human effort, it may do,” writes Canon Knox Little. The soul united with the divine Life becomes the channel of the most infinitely potent forces, and in no pages of history is this truth more impressively revealed than in the story of the traditional patron saint of Paris.
The visitor may regard M. de Chavannes’s pictures as hardly more real in any relation to actual life than might be the imaginative progress of a goddess of mythology. But the Sainte Geneviève legend is an authoritative feature of history, and is one that appeals to serious consideration. Some authorities place the year at 512 A. D., and others a century earlier, when, at Nanterre, in France, a child was born to peasant parents, who were known as Severous and Geronitia. When the little girl was some six years of age Saint Germain, Bishop l’Auxerrois, made a pilgrimage to Britain to oppose the heresy of Pelagius. He stopped at Nanterre, where all the populace went out to receive his benedictions. Among the children, Saint Germain especially observed Geneviève, and, calling her to him, he said to her parents : ” Happy are ye in having so blessed a child. She will be great before God, and, moved by her example, many will decline from evil and incline to that which is good, and will obtain remission of their sins and the record of life from Christ, the Lord.” Then turning to the little girl, Bishop l’Auxerrois said : ” My daughter, Geneviève.” ” Thy little maiden listens,” she replied. ” Do not fear,” he continued, ” to tell me whether it be thy desire to dedicate thyself to Christ as His bride.” ” Blessed be thou, father,” the child returned, ” for thou hast spoken the desire of my heart. I pray God earnestly that He will grant it me.” ” Have confidence, my daughter,” said the bishop ; ” be of good courage, and what thou believest in thy heart and confesseth with thy lips, per-form in work and God will give to thee the virtue of fortitude.”
The bishop said mass in the church, and during the office laid his hand on the child’s head. The next morning he confirmed her in this promise, when suddenly, at his feet lay a brass coin with a cross on it, which he picked up and bade her wear. When Geneviève was fifteen, she was consecrated by the Bishop of Paris to the religious life, and soon after she entered the city. When Attila, King of the Huns, threatened Paris, she persuaded the people to remain. She gave herself to fasting and prayer and intercession with God for the safety of Paris. Her prayers preserved the city from the destruction of Attila and his armies. At one time, outside the gates, which were barred, Childeric was about to execute numbers of citizens, when, at a touch from the hand of Geneviève, the gates opened and the people were saved. When famine threatened Paris, Geneviève went to Arcis and safely conducted back boats filled with food. Every Saturday night she passed entirely in prayer for the city. It is recorded that Geneviève converted Clovis and his wife to Christianity. Legend, or myth, or story, the life of Sainte Geneviève is felt again through all these fourteen hundred years, with the divine forces she undoubtedly touched and set in motion, and whose influence has persisted.
The last picture of the decorative series by Puvis de Chavannes represents Saint Geneviève as an aged woman who is standing on the outskirts of Paris under brilliant moonlight, watching over the city. One loves to remember this, and to feel that the special consecration of any life, as that of Saint Francis d’Assisi, Sainte Catherine of Siena, or Sainte Geneviève of Paris initiates holy influences that never cease to be perpetuated over the lives of successive generations.
This series of pictures portray Geneviève from the scene in which the bishop lays his hand in benediction on the child, through all her subsequent girlhood and womanhood. As a white-robed child, she is seen kneeling in the woods. She is seen as taking the fleet up the Seine during the siege of Paris by Childeric, keeping the storms in abeyance by her prayers, and bringing back the boats laden with food; as preaching to the multitude ; as ministering to the sick and helpless ; as on her death-bed ; and last, as has been noted, as an aged woman,a tall, thin figure, with a white shawl over her head, standing in the moonlight on a terrace among great vases of flowers, watching over Paris, which is seen in the distance, the city lights shining through the darkness.
She built a church in honor of Saint Denis, and one night, when she and her maidens were proceeding to a service of prayer through the darkness and storm, their lantern was extinguished and they could not see the way ; but as they went forward through the rain, it miraculously lighted itself. Sainte Geneviève lived to be eighty-nine years of age.
Like Sainte Catherine of Siena, she was conscious of the perpetual companionship of those invisible to others. She walked and talked with angelic visitants. It is an impressive fact that Paris has those two marvellous women, Sainte Geneviève and Jeanne d’Arc, as her patron saints ; the one conquering by prayer, the other by both prayer and force. May it not be more than a fancy that the luminous air of Paris is pervaded to-day by this mingled consecration of love and strength guiding the noble destiny of France ?
All this Mont Ste. Geneviève, the highest point in Paris, is an impressive region in which to linger.
From the broad thoroughfare of the Boulevard Saint-Michel, the Rue Soufflot, a short street, runs up the hill to the mount of Sainte Geneviève, which is crowned by the Panthéon, which is built on the site of her tomb. The first chapel in the spot was succeeded by a church which fell into ruins and the sarcophagus was then removed to the Church of St. Étienne du Mont, just back of the Panthéon and within a few minutes’ walk. On the façade is the inscription :
Église Saint Étienne du Mont, Commencée soin Francois I., Terminée soin Louis XIII.
Marguérite de Valois laid the first stone of this edifice (in 1619) and two sculptured angels above the rose windows bear her arms. Over the portal is a relief, picturing the stoning of St. Étienne ; and his statue and that of Ste. Geneviève are placed on either side. The interior is very rich in old carvings and pictured glass, and is of the most curious and involved architecture. Racine and Pascal are entombed in this church, side by side, and there, to the author of the world-famed ” Pensées,” a long epitaph in Latin is on a tablet placed in the wall. Eustache Leseur, whose series of paintings from the life of Bruno form one of the attractions of the Louvre, is also entombed in this church, as is Jacques-Bénigre Winslow, the great anatomist and member of the Académie des Sciences, who was converted from heresy under the powerful preaching of Bossuet. But the chief glory of the church is the tomb of Sainte Geneviève. Gothic in form, of bronze and gold, it rises more than six feet from the floor, and around it candles are perpetually burning, and always around it are people kneeling in prayer. It is believed that the saint constantly works miracles for those who appeal to her. On the wall opposite the tomb are numerous inscriptions testifying to her aid. These are all in French. One of them reads (in translation), ” I have greatly suffered. She pursued me from heaven, and I prayed with faith and am renewed. M. M. 1st May, 1869.” Another inscription reads (in translation), Geneviève protected Emilie, Marie, and Adèle from many troubles, Mr. 9, 1862.” There are numbers of these inscriptions on small marble tablets imbedded in the wall. The tomb, with its lights perpetual and the constantly renewed throng of kneeling petitioners, reminds one of the altar-lights in St. Peter’s, forever burning, perpetual as faith itself, a constant witness of the presence of divine realities.
In one of the Chapels of St. Etienne is placed the reliquary, made of gold encrusted with gems, in gothic form, some three feet long and almost as high, standing on a pedestal, which contains the relics of Sainte Geneviève. One of the rich pictured windows shows the funeral procession in which with true French disregard for chronology this reliquary (which is probably of comparatively recent fabrication) is seen borne aloft in the long cortège. The windows in this church are wonderful in design and color, only surpassed in Paris by the Eglise l’Auxerrois. There is a Holy Sepulchre in one chapel the dead Christ surrounded by seven figures sitting, bending over His body, a strange and almost ghastly creation. This same sculpture is also seen in the old church of St. Germain-des-Prés, in whose crypt the body of Saint Germain, Bishop l’Auxerrois, is said to be entombed.
The Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève, which was built by H. Labrouste in 1850, has its walls inscribed with the names of celebrated authors of all nations and ages. In 1624, Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld founded a collection of books for the abbey of the patron saint of Paris, and in 1710 Cardinal Le Tellier, the Archbishop of Rheims, contributed to it his own library. The collection now includes over thirty-five thousand manuscripts of the eleventh to the seventeenth century, many of which are illuminated with miniatures and beautiful scenes.
There is also a very large collection of engravings and bibelots ; a portrait of Queen Mary Stuart, and over three hundred thousand books. The reading-room of this library is open to the public, and accommodates over four hundred readers at a time. All the important French magazines and newspapers are to be found here. In the vestibule are busts of noted French authors, and there are tapestries, bronzes, and other objects of interest or of decoration in the salons. There are not wanting various legends that the influence of Sainte Geneviève is felt today by those who haunt these quiet rooms and appeal to her for guidance. Instances are told which would tax the credulity to regard as merely chance coincidences, and if many of her own faith believe that their aid and guidance is sometimes a special indication of the reality of the care of Sainte Geneviève over her city, who could refuse to admit the possibility of the continued relation ?
Evidently, Geneviève was one in the succession of mystics. She had attained the absolute poise that is achieved in the inner life by the identification of the individual will with the divine will. The history of the world has too many pages recording the mystery of this life, whose counsels to perfection and mysterious sanctity and power mark it as outside ordinary experience, to allow any doubt of its reality. Man does not live by bread alone, but by his faiths, his larger comprehensions, his sympathy with all forms of excellence. ” All ages of belief have been great ; all of unbelief have been mean,” asserts Emerson. ” The Orientals believe in Fate. That which shall befall them is written on the iron leaf ; they will not turn on their heel to avoid famine, plague, or the sword of the enemy. That is great, and gives a great air to the people. We in America are charged with a great deficiency in worship ; reverence does not belong to our character ; our institutions, our politics, and our trade, have fostered a self-reliance which is small, Lilliputian, full of fuss and bustle; we look at and will bear nothing above us in the state, and do exceedingly applaud and admire ourselves, and believe in our senses and understandings, while our imagination and our moral sentiment are desolated. In religion, too, we want objects above; we are fast losing or have already lost our old reverence; new views of inspiration, of miracles, of the saints, have supplanted the old opinions, and it is vain to bring them again. Revolutions never go backward, and in all churches a certain decay of ancient piety is lamented, and all threatens to lapse into apathy and indifferentism. It becomes us to consider whether we cannot have a real faith and real objects in lieu of these false ones. The human mind, when it is trusted, is never false to itself. If there be sincerity and good meaning if there be really in us the wish to seek for our superiors, for that which is lawfully above us, we shall not long look in vain.”
The saints of all ages still speak to humanity. Saint Benedict, entombed under the high altar of the monastery of Monte Cassino, on the mountain crest near Naples ; Saint Francis, from the lovely hill crest of Assisi ; Sainte Catherine from picturesque Siena, Saint Augustine, as well as modern mystics, Fenélon, Mme. Guyon, and others, have their message for the life of to-day.
No personality, either ancient or modern, has more signally influenced the religious life of centuries than has Sainte Geneviève, and one of the most interesting haunts in Paris is this Mont du Ste. Geneviève. The colossal Panthéon is in the form of a Greek cross, sur-mounted by an imposing dome, and it is all enclosed by a Corinthian colonnade, which contains groups of sculpture. The interior is decorated with several views of mural paintings by Galland, Bonnat, Laurens, Delaunay, and Puvis de Chavannes.
The church dedicated by Clovis to the Holy Apostles stood on this site, which was succeeded by the abbey of Sainte Geneviève. Louis XV was one who believed implicitly in the power of the saint, and in a dangerous illness, in 1754, he offered up his vows that ” if, through the intercession of the Most Blessed Sainte Geneviève, he should be restored to health, he would raise a new and sumptuous temple to her honor.” He recovered, and in September of 1764 he laid the corner-stone of the Panthéon. The Rue Souffiot commemorates the name of the architect, a man who had passed a large part of his life in Rome, and had thus brought with him the memories of the Panthéon in the Eternal City. Soon after, he died, a grim tragedy, indeed, for he threw himself from the dome of his vast structure, in a moment of despair, feeling that the architectural proportions of the building to whose creation he had given all his powers were a failure, in that the dome was not of sufficiently imposing height. The building progressed slowly until, with the death of Mira-beau on April 2, 1791, the demand to entomb his body in this structure hastened its completion. Popular enthusiasm paid its honors to Mirabeau, and a funeral procession, four miles in length, bore his body to the vault of the old church, to be laid beside that of Descartes, until the Panthéon should be prepared for its reception.
Soufflot had, unconsciously, created a temple which was to serve as the Westminster Abbey of Paris.
Of this period Quinet writes that in a ” civic transport ” the Constituent Assembly baptized with the name of Panthéon a monument ” which now, for the first time, seemed to receive a soul. The church soon became a temple of renown,” he continues ; ” a place where the people gather to pronounce their judgment on the dead. This is why that colonnade bears its splendors so high aloft; why the cupola lifts itself up as though it were a crown on the head of Paris. Here occurs the apotheosis, not of a shepherdess, Sainte Geneviève, that is to say, but of France, of the country, in the form of illustrious men who have gone to breathe the air of another shore. What had been criticized as superfluous luxury for the prophetess of Nanterre was assuredly necessary for the glorification of her glorious men. How could the columns be high enough, the capitals proud enough, the wreaths rich enough to celebrate those to whom their terrestrial country owed terrestrial honors ? The defects which had been found in the church became so many beauties in the Panthéon.”
The history of the times shows that the Assembly carried the following resolutions :
” The new edifice of Sainte Geneviève shall be used for the reception of the ashes of the great men belonging to the period of French liberty.
” The legislative body shall alone decide to whom this honor is to be accorded.
” Honoré de Riquetti Mirabeau is judged worthy to receive such an honor.
” The legislature shall not, in the future, have power to decree this honor to any of its members who may die ; that is a question which shall be decided by the succeeding magistracy.
” Any exceptions in favor of great men who died before the Revolution shall be decided only by the legislative body.
” The directory of the department of the Seine shall, with promptitude, put the edifice of Sainte Geneviève into a condition to fulfil its new functions, and shall cause to be engraved over the pediment these words, ` To the great men of a grateful country.’ Until the new Church of Sainte Geneviève is finished, the body of Mirabeau shall repose beside the ashes of Descartes, in the vault of the old church.”
Soon after the entombment of the body of Mirabeau in the Panthéon, that of Voltaire followed, attended by all that pomp and magnificence dear to the heart of the Parisian. The sarcophagus was drawn by twelve white horses ; a gilded car, carrying a colossal statue of Liberty attended by eight women costumed in white robes, formed part of the cortége, and, in a blaze of torches, the procession drew up before the bronze portals of the Panthéon.
Immediately a great number of poets, artists and scholars demanded the same honors for Rousseau, but his native city of Montmorency opposed this petition. In October of 1794, however, the urn containing the ashes of Rousseau was placed in the Panthéon with ceremonial honors, the cortége headed by Beau-marchais.
It is recorded that on Voltaire’s death (May 30, 1778) . . . ” his last words, as he remembered what the Church had meant to him, and what it might mean for him, were: ` I don’t want to be thrown into the roadway like that poor Lecouvreur.’ 1 That fate was spared his wasted frame by the quickness of his nephew, the Abbé Mignot. Here, at the entrance-gate in Rue de Beaune, this honest man placed his uncle’s body, hardly cold, in his travelling carriage, and with it drove hastily, and with no needless stops, to Scellières in Champagne. There he gave out the laudable lie of a death on the journey, and procured immediate interment in the nave of his church, under all due rites. The grave was hardly covered before orders from the Bishop of Troyes arrived, for-bidding the burial. The trick would have tickled the adroit old man. His body was allowed to rest for thirteen years, and then it was brought back in honor to Paris. A great concourse had assembled, only two weeks earlier, at the place where the Bastille had been, hoping to hoot at the royal family haled back from Varennes. Now, on July 11, 1791, a greater concourse was stationed here, to look with silent reverence on this cortége, headed by Beaumarchais, all the famous men of France carrying the pall or joining in the procession. They entered by the Vincennes road, passed along the boulevards, crossed Pont Royal to stop before this mansion, and went thence to the Panthéon. There his remains lay once more in peace, until the Bourbons ` de-Panthéonized ‘ both Voltaire and Rousseau.”
The Mont du Sainte Geneviève has always been the ” scholar’s quarter ” of Paris. It is asserted and denied that Charlemagne founded the University of Paris; but it is true that at the opening of the thirteenth century there was but one university in the world, that of Paris. From all over Europe young men applied for entrance. Students trooped up the steep slope of Mont du Sainte Geneviève, and camped out on the plain. There was an ardent enthusiasm for the philosophy of Aristotle; celebrated masters delivered free lectures on the hillside, and Paris become the intellectual capital of the world.
Among the students were Albertus Magnus from Germany, Roger Bacon from England, Dante from Italy, Lulli from Spain. A bronze statue of Dante is placed on the terrace of the Collège de France, to commemorate his sojourn in Paris. The date of his visit is supposed to be somewhere between 1302 and 1310, and the fact is recorded by Boccaccio, in his biography of Dante. ” In Balzac’s pretty fragment of romance,” 1 says a writer on Paris, ” in which the great Frenchman makes so vivid the presence of the great Italian, the home of the latter is in one of the small houses on the extreme eastern end of the City Island such as the modest dwelling in which died Boileau-Despréaux, four centuries later. From there, Balzac has Dante ferried over to Quai de la Tournelle, and so stroll to his lectures. But Dante’s home was really in that same street of straw, to which he had come from his quarters away south on the banks of the Bièvre, too far away from the schools. He had taken up his abode in that rural suburb, on first coming to Paris, as did many men of letters, of that time and of later times, who were drawn to the pleasant, quiet country without the walls.
” There was one among these men to whose home, tradition tells us, Dante was fond of finding his way, after he had come to live in the narrow town street. The grave figure goes sedately up Rue Saint-Jacques, always the great southern thoroughfare, passing the ancient chapel of the martyrs, Saint-Benoît-le-Bétourné, and the home and shelter for poor students in theology, started by the earnest confessor of Saint Louis, Robert de Sorbon. The foundations of his little chapel, built in 1276, were unearthed in 1899 during the digging for the new Sorbonne ; and its walls are outlined in white stone in the gray pavement of the new court. Not a stone remains of the old Sorbonne, not a stone of the rebuilt Sorbonne of Richelieu, except his chapel and his tomb ; well worth a visit for the exquisite beauty of its detail. But the soul of the historic foundation lives on, younger than ever to-day, in its seventh century of youth. Through Porte Saint-Jacques, Dante passes to the dwelling, just beyond, of Jean de Meung, its site now marked by a tablet in the wall of the house No. 218 Rue Saint-Jacques. No doubt it was a sufficiently grand mansion in its own grounds, for it was the home of the well-to-do parents of the poet, whose lameness gave him the popular nickname of ` Clopinel,’ preferred by him to the name by which he is best known, which came from his natal town. In this home, a few years earlier, he had finished his completion of ` Le Roman de la Rose,’ one of the earliest of French poems, a biting satire on women and priests, begun by Guillaume de Lorris. ` Clopinel’ carried on the unfinished work to such perfection, that he is commonly looked on as the sole author. Dante admired the work as fully as did Chaucer, who has left a translation into English of a portion : so admirable a version that it moved Eustace Deschamps to enthusiasm in his ballad to ` le grand translateur, noble Geoffroi Chaucer.’ And Dante liked the workman as well, his equal in genius, many of their contemporaries believed ; and we shall not aggrieve history, if we insist on seeing the grim-visaged Florentine and the light-hearted Gaul over a bottle of petit vin de Vouvray or de Chinon for the vine-yards of this southern slope of Paris had been rooted up by the builder early in the twelfth century in the low-browed living-room, discussing poetry and politics, the schism in the Church, the quarrel between the French King and his spiritual father of Rome.”
When stone benches for the students to sit upon were proposed by a cardinal of that time, the innovation was violently opposed on the ground of encouraging Sybaritism.
To Robert de Sorbon, chaplain and confessor to Louis IX, is due the founding of the Sorbonne (in 1253) for the benefit of poor students who could not otherwise enjoy opportunities for study. He was the John Harvard of his day. The apostolic succession of these noble men is in perpetual evidence. He had been himself forced to seek aid in acquiring an education, and he was deeply in sympathy with others who confronted poverty’s limitations. At first the Sorbonne was connected with the University, but it soon became. the centre of all the theological instruction. In 1629 Cardinal Richelieu built and endowed a new structure, and again, within the past quarter of a century, this edifice has been practically rebuilt. The façade in the Rue des Ecoles is adorned with sculptures by Chapu, Mercié, Cordonnier, Marqueste, Longepied, and Lefeuvre, – statues representing Philosophy, Physics, Mathematics, Archæology, Letters and Chemistry. There are also statues of Homer and of Archimedes, the latter by Falguière. The vestibule is adorned with decorative paintings representing the ” Founding of the Sorbonne ; ” ” Abelard and His School ; ” ” Bernard Palissy Teaching Mineralogy ; ” figure-paintings of Cuvier, Arago, Pascal, Descartes and Laënnec, the inventor of the stethoscope. One corridor is enriched by a large decorative painting from Puvis de Chavannes, and others by Raphael Collin, Benjamin Constant, Lerolle, Cazin, Galland and Lhermitte.
The Sorbonne, even in its earliest days, became invested with much of that peculiar prestige it has always continued to hold. Its theses were regarded as documents of authority, and were held to embody the ideal of the theological essays and disquisitions. Curiously, it was the Sorbonne that condemned Jeanne d’Arc, Vanini, Ramus and Descartes, and though its decrees were not the final word, it influenced the civil power.
The Sorbonne condemned Buff on for his natural history ; but then, did not the learning and the theology of the nineteenth century condemn Darwin for his convictions as set forth in the ” Origin of Species ? ” At that remarkable meeting of the Linnæan Society, held in Lon-don, July 1, 1908, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Darwin’s first announcement of his great discovery, Doctor Hooker said of the way in which this epoch-making work was received that ” the interest excited was intense, but the subject was too novel and too ominous for the old school to enter the lists, before armouring. After the meeting it was talked over with bated breath ; Lyell’s approval, and, perhaps, in a small way mine, as his lieutenant in the affair, rather overawed the fellows, who would other-wise have flown out against the doctrine.”
With few exceptions, the religious and even the scientific world, even in the enlightenment of the nineteenth century, denounced Darwin ; and it is not strange that Helvetius, Marmontel and Diderot came under the ban of the Sorbonne.
But the Sorbonne was always the opposer of the Jesuits ; and, during the wars between the Protestants and Catholics, it called upon all Frenchmen to defend the Catholic faith against Henri III, as menaced by him, and declared him ” degraded from his royal power.” After his assassination, it anathematized all who dared to recognize his successor in Henry of Navarre. ” No true Catholic,” proclaimed the Sorbonne, ” could recognize as king, without offending God, a prince who had lapsed into such fatal heresies, although later he might have abjured them.” All the clergy of Paris signed this decree, and it was circulated throughout France.
The transition crisis in the Sorbonne as an. institution came at the time of the Revolution. In 1821 Cardinal Richelieu established its prestige again, as the head, the centre, the final authority of all the educative work in France. A body of electors of a new order were appointed, those who represented literature and science in their modern and progressive aspects, not the dead scholasticism, the bigoted theology of the Middle Ages. These electors included such men as Poisson, Thénard, Biot, Brogniart, and Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire and were succeeded by Le Verrier, Dulong, Dumas (the chemist, not the playwright) and Butort; and later by such writers and professors as Guizot, Victor Cousin, Jules Simon, Girardin and Nisard.
The history of the Sorbonne is an epitome of the very history of progress. Even the early advancement of Oxford owed much to the influence of students from Paris. For eight hundred years the University had been a constantly increasing influence, and the mental momentum acquired has been a powerful force on later ages. Up to the eleventh century education was in the hands of the monks. It passed then to the secular clergy, but the ecclesiastical and the civil forces were frequently at war with each other. In the sixteenth century the Sorbonne rose to great prestige. Giordano Bruno disputed here, and other famous names connect themselves with this period.
The French government expended over seven million dollars between 1886 and 1900 for the Sorbonne, in the building and decorations. It is now one of the most imposing of architectural works, with its noble design and the splendor and value of its mural paintings and its sculptures. The greatest French artists of the day have been called upon to summon up from the historic past dramatic scenes of academic history. The work of Puvis de Chavannes covers more than three thousand square feet. Chartran and Flameng are splendidly represented, the latter with a figure-piece in which appear Edgar Quinet, Villemain, Guizot, Michelet, Cousin, and Renan, admirably grouped. The interior court of this new building is grandly impressive, with the charm of art and the dignity of scholarship.
President Thwing, writing on the contrast between the University methods of France and Germany, says that ” The two phrases, the University of Paris and the German University, are significant,” and continues : ” France has only one university which is outstanding ; Germany has several. The French method has, on the whole, been one of centralization ; the German, of division. Do not Leipsic and Munich and Heidelberg represent in some departments results as great and opportunities as rich as those which Berlin offers? The intellectual life of Paris has been enriched at the expense of all provincial France. But the contrast does not end with administrative elements. It continues in scholastic concerns. In scholarship the Germans are more profound, the French more facile; the Germans more learned, the French superior in the forms of the presentation of knowledge. The Germans are more progressive in scholarship, more daring in hypothesis ; the French more careful and conservative. The Germans are more willing to push forward their hypotheses without regard to the limitation of a fact ; the French more inclined to keep to the teaching and the force of a fact itself. The French are far more responsive to the force of tradition. The Germans stand for the specialist, manifesting a deeper narrowness in treating a subject; the French offer a view more comprehensive and a wider conspectus. In Germany the philosophical faculty is superior to the professional ; in France the profession has attained a place more conspicuous. Few, if any, university lectures are so clear in their articulation or so pleasing in their presentation of truths as those given in Paris ; none are more learned than those offered in Berlin. The German professor and student are greater men ; the French greater gentlemen.
” In Paris, as in the German university, the thesis plays an important part. Undoubtedly the best German theses are certainly as good as, or better than, the best written by French students ; but also undoubtedly the poorest Ger-man are poorer than the poorest French. A mediocre French student, wishing to get a doctorate, usually manages to collect enough literary stuff to make a fairly good presentation. A mediocre German student, a candidate for degrees, would be passed in certain universities who would be refused in Paris.”
The French university is hospitable to the utmost degree. American students are especially welcomed. Doctor Thwing, after pointing out some reasons for hesitancy on the part of American students, adds :
” Yet Americans are losing in their knowledge and appreciation of certain subjects in not coming to Paris. The Romance tongues can here be best studied, despite the indebtedness which the French acknowledge they owe to the Germans, and especially to the great Diez. This indebtedness covers both literature and philology, for Diez was the teacher and inspirer of Gaston de Paris, of Tobler, and of Mussaffia. It is also probably true that in general there is no better place for studying the sciences than Paris offers. One, moreover, need hardly look upon the mere list of courses in the political and social sciences without being deeply impressed with the richness of the opportunities thus presented.
” Great universities in great cities are usually better fitted to promote the discovery of truth than to train men. Small colleges placed in small towns are usually better equipped for the training of men than for the discovery of truth. But in the University of Paris both purposes prevail. I asked a distinguished savant which purpose was the stronger, and his reply was, ` They are equally strong.’ The same reply would be given by the members of the teaching staff of most American universities, but on the whole the discovery of truth seems to me to be at least as important in the University of Paris as the more immediate human purpose.
Coeducation is in Paris, as in most Continental universities, the customary method. Women come and go, work by the side of the men, and men by their side, and neither minds the other. This condition is so unlike the relation which obtains in many coeducational colleges in America, in which each does mind the other; but a lecture-room is quite a different affair from a recitation-room ; and a great university in a great metropolis is quite unlike a small college in a small college town, or a large university in a small inland city. In the Continental university, men and women listening to an academic lecture, or even working in the same botanical laboratory, have practically no more relation than they would have in seeing a play in the same theatre, or worshipping together in the same church.”
Doctor Thwing finds the high quality of teaching hr the French schools to be largely due both directly and indirectly to the University of Paris and to the Ecole Normale Supérieure, also of the capital. This is a school established like similar schools in America, as a place for the training of teachers. ” Its diploma is of great worth in securing and holding good a place on a teaching staff. It has not yet been able to pass out of a stage of ridicule and of a certain degree of dislike on the part of some scholars, although its work is of a very high character. This excellence of the work itself, however, is lifting it to a high and wide place of esteem. In the general scheme of scholastic sympathies and affiliation the relation existing between this school and the University of Paris is helpful to each. The university may present content of knowledge, and the normal school methods for making this content available as a teaching instrument. In Paris and France, as in America, the best teacher represents the liberal training of the higher education united with the professional training of the school of education.”
In France there is thus illustrated in actual practice the advantages of the close relation between the public school and the university so admirably and forcibly advocated by Doc-tor Charles W. Eliot, the great president of Harvard University, the great genius in education.
The Sorbonne has been the theatre of noted academic achievements by women, especially the lamented Mme. Sonia Kovalevsky and Mlle. Dorothea Klumpke, now Mme. Isaac Roberts, the widow of the well-known English astronomer, who made stellar photography his specialty. Mlle. Klumpke took a prize at the Sorbonne for a thesis on the composition of the rings of Saturn, and her theory has been accepted and recorded in all the leading observatories of the world. Mme. Roberts was the first woman to receive the prize of the Sorbonne since the time, nearly half a century before, when this honor had been conferred upon Mme. Kovalevsky. For several years Mme. Roberts (then Mlle. Klumpke) was attached to the staff of the Observatoire in Paris, and she holds to-day a very distinctive place in the recognition of the scientific world.
The innovation of American lectures at the Sorbonne of late years has been a felicitous feature, and one whose popularity has been almost embarrassing in its attraction of audiences in numbers far exceeding any possible accommodation for them. Especially has Professor Barrett Wendell of Harvard University left his impress on Parisian scholarship and culture and his course of lectures is regarded as one of the most notable events in all the long history of the Sorbonne. To a Boston visitor to the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris the director of this vast library of three million volumes spoke of the special privilege he had enjoyed in the acquaintance of Professor Wendell and of the profound impression that the Harvard lecturer had made on the leading French savants.
In this part of Paris so especially associated with Sainte Geneviève, the scholastic atmosphere is fairly focussed. The Collège de France and the Sorbonne are located near each other at the corner of the Rue Saint Jacques and the Rue des Écoles. Between them stands the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, formerly a Jesuit college, among whose pupils were Molière and Voltaire. In close proximity is the École Polytechnique, founded in 1794, an institution where every subject in the course is taught by an eminent specialist. And not far distant is the College of the Lombards, in which is established the Catholic Workmen’s Club of Sainte Geneviève.
It is, however, at the Sorbonne that new discoveries and inventions are not infrequently first made known in the great courses of lectures. It is here that new trains of thought arise as one realizes that he is in the centre of art, of scientific activities and discoveries. It was in Paris that radium was discovered, by Mme. Curie, the leading woman scientist of France, and it is in this city, though not, of course, in the Sorbonne, that many of the most important experiments in radio-activity have been made. Doctor Gustave Le Bon found that all this radio-activity is but the step in the evolutionary progress by means of which all radio-active metals sink back into the ether from which they were originally formed, and that, in the course of this disintegration, energies, far surpassing in in-tensity any previously given forth, are Iiberated. The old hypothesis of the indestructibility of matter has given way before modern research. The discovery of cathode rays, X-rays, h-rays and others in this line led to its overthrow. The remarkable fact that matter is capable of a disassociation that divests it of all material qualities is a revolutionary discovery. ” What becomes of matter when it disassociates ? ” questions Doctor Le Bon. ” Can it be supposed that when atoms disaggregate they only divide into smaller parts and thus form a simple dust of atoms ? We shall see that nothing of the sort takes place, and that matter which disassociates dematerializes itself by passing through successive phases which gradually deprive it of its material qualities until it jointly returns to the imponderable ether whence it seems to have issued.”
Doctor Le Bon finds that matter itself ” is an enormous reservoir of energy intra-atomic energy and is far from being an inert thing only capable of giving up the energy artificially supplied to it.”
A recent lecture by Sir Oliver Lodge (given before the Faraday Society in London on Lord Kelvin’s work) may be repeated in the next annual course of lectures before the Sorbonne. Sir Oliver’s subject was ” Some Aspects of the Work of Lord Kelvin,” and he said that when a man of the first magnitude works on a single subject from twenty to eighty years of age, no critic could do him justice. Proceeding to consider Lord Kelvin’s philosophy of the kinetic theory of solidity the view that solids could be made of fluids in motion Sir Oliver notes that some years before Lord Kelvin’s death he seemed to have abandoned the views that he had previously held. He would perhaps have liked, if he had found it possible, to have adopted the idea of a connecting medium through space, but at times he seemed to be satisfied with the idea of forces acting through empty space. This, however, Sir Oliver believes might have been but a stepping-stone to a greater theory. What great generalization would be associated with his name ? The lecturer could find nothing greater than what emanated from him in 1851, when he was immersed in the doctrine of energy. The keenness and penetration of his mind at that epoch were astounding. He seized the known theories of energy, and with these in his mind he brooded over the whole world of physics, and made some wonderful discoveries, especially those connected with the development and application of the doctrine of the conservation of energy and with the theory of thermo-dynamics. Later he became more immersed in the work of the world, and his discoveries were of a practical nature. But, in the lecturer’s view, nothing since Newton has equalled in importance Lord Kelvin’s discoveries between 1846 and 1851. The whole development of the subject of thermo-dynamics received great stimulus from him. It had been supposed that the amount of heat that went away to the condenser was equal to that sup-plied to the boiler, but now it is well understood that some heat is consumed in work.
It is interesting to go back half a century and ascertain the difficulties in regard to matters that are now so well known through Lord Kelvin’s application of one law to the whole domain of physics. He has given the whole theory of electrical oscillations apart from radiation. The equation that can now be so easily written was the inspiration of half a century ago. It will be many generations, probably many centuries, before the general public will be able to fully appreciate the work of the mid-Victorian period in science. It needed much insight at that time to attribute to electricity something akin to specific heat. Lord Kelvin investigated the whole law of thermo-electricity, and he met with the good fortune that often follows those who are determined to risk everything for truth. His calculation might have proved to be untrue and based on false promises ; but the scientist, like the hero, is the one who is not afraid to take risks. As it turned out, Lord Kelvin was right in his theory.
Sir Oliver referred to the mathematical basis of Lord Kelvin’s inventions of instruments, his views on the electrical theory of matter, his investigation of atoms, and his cosmic calculations. He saw no reason to suppose either beginnings or endings of the material universe or of space, but Lord Kelvin thought otherwise. Sir Oliver’s conception of the universe is one that includes the spiritual basis of life and he is in the advance of the great leadership of thought at the present day.
It is not easy to establish any absolute dates of the great eras of activity. The key to the special development of any period lies in the larger mental consciousness acquired. From time to time there appears the lecturer whose influence on his time can only be compared with that of Pericles in Athens. The most potent and vital of these influences that have produced successive epochs has been that of scientific discovery. From Copernicus to Marconi, to Mme. Curie and to Doctor Le Bon, the train of new revelations has been made. The results have been not only wonderful in them-selves, but also in bringing to mankind the consciousness of untold forces, of new power to determine and accelerate social progress.