Le Figaro 10 février 1924 (Michelet 01)

This enthusiasm, this illumination of the spirit, this openness depicted by Augustin Thierry recounting his first reading of the warlike episodes of the Martyrs of Chateaubriand, how many writers have not felt them, stronger, more prolonged, more vibrant, at the first reading of Michelet's History of France.
By not having multiplied the references at the bottom of the pages, or the appendices at the end of the volumes, Michelet seemed to some more brilliant than solid. “A historian certainly, it has been said, a poet above all! » Politics had something to do with this play of opinions. Talon! because Michelet played politics. Illusion too! Michelet is one of those who brought history back to the study of sources. But he is a resurrector. His imagination evoked all the relief and picturesqueness of the past. This section head at the Archives, in this cemetery of documents, awakened the dead. He modeled their statures and their masks with precision, The tone of his style had the copper accents of the angel's trumpet in the valley of Jehoshaphat. Scientific minds honored the safety of his methods. When the dry Guizot needed to be replaced at the Collège de France, it was Michelet he chose (1834).
The analysis of Michelet's archives is enormous! Mr. Aulard showed the extent of it. This documentation provided for works that he did not have time to write.
A scholar, Michelet is also a great romantic. He is one of those who introduced into our literature, rhythm, image, overview, plastic life, the correct setting of passions, the perception of communities. Sensitive soul, sonorous bell, reflection of everything, Aeolian harp! But also a condenser, a thinker, a philosopher! Most of the objections addressed to him stem from the fact that he everywhere substituted lyricism for verbalism, and for technical vocabulary the evocation of the rhythmic phrase, almost the ode. After he had brought to life the History of France and summarized the Bibles of Humanity, he took a microscope and studied the infinitely small. He brought the same fever there.
This ardor, this strength of image and this gift of synthesis alarmed more classical minds. We know Mérimée’s words. Guizot enters the Institute library. There he found Mérimée drawing bold drawings. “What the hell are you doing here, dear friend? », and Mérimée replied: “I am illustrating the course of your substitute. »
Michelet's lesson focused on the symbolism of dolmens, obelisks, and also caverns and grottoes, seats of religious ceremonies in primitive times; he had described its mystical and human meaning and spoke of the cult of birth and love in sentences that Guizöt would not have countersigned.
These Michelet lessons which fanaticized the youth of his time, he delivered slowly and in a cantilena tone. This is the expression of one of his listeners, Jules Levallois, who drew a silhouette of Michelet at this moment of efflorescence of genius: “Strongly marked bones of the cheeks and jaws, serious demeanor and a bit coquettish, half professor, half man of the old regime, expressing himself in conversation with this rhythmic and singing pace of his public speech. A fatigue in his chest forced him to chant his sentence. Despite the fact that he wrote beautiful pages on joy, we never saw him laugh. For others, his mask is a little reminiscent of Houdon's Voltaire. This mask is mobile, streaked with early wrinkles. His hair turned white when he was barely thirty years old, which provides a singular contrast with the youthfulness of his eyes, which have a beautiful black shine. The portrait of Chenavard which was with Michelet on rue d'Enfer, represents him frail and emaciated, but he was resistant and robust.
We praise his courtesy, his order, his accuracy. He has friends and the most loyal ones. The affection between him and Quinet is fraternal. It began when Michelet was twenty-seven years old. No cloud has passed over their confidence and their dilection. He doesn't just have long-time friends. He is infinitely welcoming and this sometimes has surprises and inconveniences in store for him.
He is in Switzerland. He prepares the Mountain. It was at the time when he became passionate about science and abandoned charters and historical chronicles for the microscope. Anyone who deals with natural sciences becomes dear to him. By chance he met a gentle, affable man who loved entomology. People from the country are surprised: “Do you know who you are entertaining?” “But an interesting man!” “He’s the executioner from Lucerne…”.
“We received him at our home, we invited him to sit at our table. Better than that: to share our microscope! He was the executioner of the canton! » exclaims Michelet painfully. His conversation abounds in formulaic formulas. He imposes the memory on his students as evocative memory aids. What is Greece? Greece is a star! it has the shape and the radiance! It was, I believe, Jules Claretie who quoted the following statement from him: True writing is French writing. Notice that the O forms precisely the circle that the earth describes around the sun.
Not all of these lessons have been printed, many of which were warm and eloquent improvisations. Listeners have retained fond memories of some of these evocations. A dialogue, during a lesson which lasted seven quarters of an hour, features Scipio Africanus and Terence. To Scipio sad and desolate, complaining that Rome is no longer Rome, that the old Romans welcome, among themselves, to their rights, to public life, strangers, neighbors, Terence responds by saluting the universe which enters the walls of Rome to grow, humanity expanding the clan. The famous remark: Homo sum et nihil humani me alienum puto, takes on, in Michelet's commentary, a great political and historical meaning. At the same time Michelet establishes the beginnings of a vast historical evolution and specifies the date further than other historians had thought. It is happy to note a moment of racial reconciliation. Did he not say that he had already written the reconciliations of gods and men, of man with himself, the reconciliation of man with woman in love and that he would say the reconciliation of man with man with God.
This love of humanity, this desire for fraternity of beings and peoples, this social and familiar lyricism suffered, at a certain moment, some disfavor. The men of 48 were mocked and their generous illusions seemed naive, even though they were a magnificent imploration for a better future.
Michelet, who recognized the gift of tears, had that of communicative emotion. He appears a being of goodness, and it is a sign to his glory to have become such after having begun in suffering and embarrassment: We know that his father, a printer, had been ruined by a decree of Napoleon I which did not wanted more than sixty printers in France. Michelet's father was among those suppressed. It was necessary, even to pay only the debts of a company stopped in full activity, to work at low prices for printers authorized to maintain their firms. The Michelet printing house was low and obscure. A cellar, he said. The father was busy with outside errands, the sick mother, having improvised as a stitcher, cut and folded; the exhausted grandfather was busy with the press. Michelet as a child, composed. His youth was tough. He could have contracted habits of caustic observation and resentments there: he flourished in solidarity. It was his qualities of enthusiasm that saved him. They always did him a favor. He said that Victor Cousin, then very powerful, wanted to take care of his future, and, not lacking in finesse, had uncovered some selfishness in Cousin's proposals who invited him to produce an edition of Saint Bernard which would have took about ten years. But, honors were at the end. He would have had to give up, at least postpone, realizing his dreams of historical evocation. He refused. He had the honors all the same. He even had the honors of the Court, having been responsible for teaching history to the princesses, daughters of Louis-Philippe. He had not yet taken on his full political and republican stature. Ardent, he is not sectarian. His famous fight against the Jesuits includes humorous stops.
He had lived on rue des Postes. The accommodation had a garden. The day his daughter was born, he planted a cherry tree there. He left the rue des Postes, where his enemies came to settle. “They have my cherry tree,” he growled, smiling.
Did he fully fulfill his dream? He would have wanted to be a man of action, to play a more practical role. He said before the revolution of 1848: “I see France disappearing like Atlantis! While we are here quarreling, the country is sinking! » Obviously he would have liked to be able to remedy this. He would have liked to be a hero. His total admiration was devoted to Garibaldi. He would have liked to match their warlike wanderings, to bring freedom to all corners of the world! He lamented, like Baudelaire, that action is not the sister of dreams. From this failure of his ambitions, we have gained some beautiful books.
Its influence on the writers of our time is not easy to determine, because it is general and diffuse. But it is easy to grasp it in Maurice Barrès (the participation of the dead in cerebral life), in Paul Adam whose first beautiful book, Being, takes its sources from The Witch and who was able to think of him, while writing his masterpiece, the Unknown City, in his search for the reasons for the heroism of the race.
It is hardly possible to remember Michelet without thinking of Quinet, of their conversations in the land of exile, where Quinet had settled quite widely, conversations punctuated by the cries of the starling who was taught to proclaim: “Down with the Emperor!”, to their intellectual communion, toa this admirable poem by Edgar Quinet, Ahasvérus which, in our literary history, provides the link in the chain between the Martyrs and the Temptation of Saint Anthony.
Michelet and Quinet are fraternal and powerful figures. If one day a historian, imitating Michelet, begins a lesson or a chapter by saying or writing “The Grand Siècle... I mean the 19th!” he will associate Michelet with Quinet, with Hugo, Delacroix, Balzac or Stendhal.
Gustave Kahn.

Mr. Lucien Refort, who kindly wrote the article we are about to read for Le Figaro, is the author of a considerable and highly acclaimed work which has just been published by the Champion bookstore. Studying the Art of Michelet in his historical work, and relying on a repertoire of quotations chosen from this work, Mr. Lucien Refort has reconstructed the way in which Michelet saw and noted reality, being an observer and a poet; and he analyzed the syntactic mold and rhythm of the great writer,

Jules Michelet did not have, like Chateaubriand, like Hugo, like others still, the happiness of living for a long time in the memory of men. This is the lot of those from whom their sincerity, pushed to the point of ingenuity, hid calculations and skills for too long. Michelet, in the innocence of the heart, which always remained his master quality, never had the skill to maintain his popularity. His eyes, too accustomed, no doubt, to the darkness of the past, did not know how to pierce the darkness of the future.
Michelet was forgotten, too quickly forgotten. Historians have erased him from their frameworks, poets hesitate to recognize him as a colleague. Between the indifference of some and the prudence of others, there is room for the hatred of those who, forgetting or ignoring the gifts of the artist, have only remembered the blunders of the pamphleteer. And what's worse is that some, like others, jealously locked in their overly particularistic point of view, are often right...
From the contempt of historians Michelet would undoubtedly have taken his side. Did this man who only wrote History really want to be a historian? Which, if we understand by history the study of life, of passions, of ideas, of everything. So much so that no spectacle, no manifestation of universal life ever left him indifferent, and he could not have said himself whether he found more interest in examining a king of France or a hummingbird. .
One of its volumes is called: Bible of Humanity. Why wouldn't this title apply to others? Does not his entire work appear as a series of dogmas, the objectivity or falsity of which it is not up to us to judge here, but whose deep and loyal conviction we are never allowed to doubt? It can be very beautiful, it risks remaining perfectly vain, but it can never be ordinary. In any case, this hardly resembles the story. Whether we call the story an integral resurrection, or whether we conceive it as a picturesque narration, it remains above all an examination of facts and an investigation in which sensitivity has no part.
However, with Michelet, sensitivity is everything. It invades the work, conditions it, deviates from its goal, dictates the means and corrects the judgments; Michelet is much more reminiscent of the apostle than of the chronicler. From the apostle he had the ardent conviction, and the gift of vibrating, as well as the blind self-confidence, thanks to which we avoid knowing what seems foreign or hostile to what we intend to teach . The apostolate is fraught with risks, the least of which is remaining misunderstood. This is what Michelet seems to have been the victim of. If only he had been lucky enough not to be followed, the most compromising adventure happened to him for those whose pretension is to show a way: they go quickly, towards a goal that only they see, and so quickly , that those who followed them, losing their trace, abandon the broad path and wander into the side paths.
Moreover, as paradoxical as it may seem, it is not on the basis of his work that Michelet should be judged. Because this writer had a fault (very serious for a historian): his critical sense always remained insufficient, and sometimes you even have to have the courage to admit to a sense of ridicule. This is how, driven by a sort of pantheistic mirage, he focused on subjects whose fantasy and easy poeticization belie the title to which they would like to claim. Michelet played, to his misfortune, too many Ingres violins; the only discipline in which he never applied himself is perhaps the one in which he would have succeeded best. Let us not be afraid to repeat it, because it is not a small claim to fame, he remains one of our greatest romantic poets, one of the most profound lyricists in prose, alongside Victor Hugo. The dream was the source from which his passionate imagination was nourished; noble and comforting chimeras were the materials on which this disinterested and convinced man worked.
The dream was, for him, in a latent state, endemic, one could say. It seems that the full development of his faculties had, as an indispensable condition, the presence of a beautiful dream that he created for himself, and which he jealously entertained, always keeping a means of escaping platitudes. or the contradictions of life. Just reading his diary, his youthful impressions, is significant: his passion, platonic, for a seriously ill woman, whom he knew was doomed, his loves as a young man, of such elevated delicacy, the enthusiastic dream that what he did at the birth of Yves-Lazare, this child who lived for two months, this denotes a nature marvelously capable of splitting itself, and that Michelet always needed, alongside material life, a second existence, all spiritual,
Since the day when, as a child, cold and pale, fighting against sleep, while he was assembling his letters in front of his printer's case, he saw, through his cellar window, a small patch of sky, Michelet understood that, in life too, sometimes you had to look through the window. Later, as a schoolboy at Charlemagne, he dreamed of the future, in the class of Mr. Andrieux d'Alba; he was dreaming of the museum of French monuments, when, in the half-darkness of these late visits, he trembled to see the great shadows of the Middle Ages suddenly rise and come and whisper mysterious words to him.
The child's dream continued into the man's dream, and gave us the admirable Middle Ages. A dream too, the Revolution, but singularly harsher, and bordering on a nightmare. The apparition that whispered in his ear changed. The thin, soft shadow of Jeanne has given way to the serious silhouette of Jacques, standing in her furrow.
It is nothing other than symbolism. Michelet's work is not only a symbolist interpretation, it is the Symbol itself. She leaves there, she ends there. Now, the Symbol is Art, and with Michelet, the artist is far above the thinker. The secret of this art can be found in its quivering sensitivity, in an incomparable aptitude for feeling external emotions exquisitely or terribly, and then exteriorizing these deep sensations in interpretations of which very few writers have given the meaning. equivalent.
The abuse of symbolism was blamed. In fact, the symbolist, in order not to risk monotony or banality, needs a depth of sensation, or an originality of vision that only the very greatest geniuses achieve. Did Hugo not repeat himself? It's inevitable. However, as we have indicated elsewhere, the symbols of Hugo and Michelet do not have the same starting point. The first, in a grandiose and complacent vision, interprets reality as a painter, with lines and colors; the second, vibrating in contact with this reality, translates it, develops it due to the deep sensation he interprets it as a psychologist, with ideas and according to moral relationships. Visual symbolism in the poet, psychological symbolism in the historian. Hugo saw the rose window of Notre-Dame flaming, red as a cyclops' eye; Michelet sees the Gothic window opening, the “eye” of the cathedral, like a gaze heavy with hope or suppressed pain. From Notre-Dame again, Hugo especially saw the architectural proportions and the harmony of the lines; Michelet saw the spirit: Notre-Dame is a book which tells the history of France. Michelet's work had to be the symbol, since it had to be the integral life. Thanks to the symbol, the feeling of life broadens, penetrates everything; the various domains overlap, the whole of nature is associated and combined in an immense and splendid synthesis. In this respect it would be possible to find a secret link (fragile, no doubt) between the various works of Michelet. Everything, for this historian, offers material capable of symbolization. Let us say right away that he pushed this mania for giving everything a psychological interpretation to the point of excess, almost to the point of ridicule.
His works of “natural history” where we no longer recognize the historian. Let the naturalist not be pressed, there remain, as a result, fantasies that are more curious than instructive; artificial at least, with a somewhat artificial flight, eloquence even more than enthusiasm. Many passages in these works bring to mind this rhetoric. Just one example among a thousand, the chapter of “Aile” in L’Oiseau. The wing is the symbol of everything that rises, is great, that which allows one to escape the rampant prosaism of the earth, it is the ideal and the sky. So man must be excluded from this superiority! Once again, Michelet reveals himself to be a false prophet. Progress and the future have proven him wrong, and the pages he devotes to the first aviation tests seem quite tasty to us today.
However, the criticism of procedure can hardly be addressed, as far as historical writings are concerned, except to the last volumes (volumes XI-XVII of the History of France) which are not the best. In general, his personality, so demanding, kept him from indiscreet influences. At least he didn't pastiche anyone, and if, on occasion, we encounter analogies in his style, they do not come from a desire to imitate. The reading of sacred texts, the practice of the Ancients or the classics, the romantic taste have undoubtedly left deep imprints on his mind, but his passion dominates everything and remains his great, his only inspiration, as it provides him with the only rule to follow. to which he has ever consented to submit. In this regard, he was once again treated badly. Purists have criticized it for its rebellious syntax and its overly welcoming vocabulary. Nothing is more justified than these criticisms, and we cannot fail to express them. But we cannot hold a grudge against a writer who had the skill to provide us with his excuse in advance (“the words come from the fullness of the heart”). His greatest power, Taine said, was the ability to be moved. And that makes you forget a lot of things.

Lucien Refort.
Michelet's most beautiful sentences
Mrs. the Countess of Noailles
As with Barrès, Michelet's thought and erudition are focused on such constant orchestration that it would be easy to compose a volume of the most beautiful sentences of this great lyric, but not to cite a single one, Chez ce magnificent poet in prose, equal in genius to Victor Hugo himself, verses abound. At the end of a chapter on the polar spring, where he describes the gigantic struggle between the blue and the ice, he tells us, with this august familiarity bathed in paternal love, the union of the formidable mammals. And, retracing the difficulty that whales have in coming together, amid the hostility of nature, he writes:
“In such a big agreement, it seems like a fight!”
Doesn’t this moving description, which nevertheless made people laugh, sum up, in short, all the cruelty of love?
Ms. Gérard d’Houville
Michelet's most beautiful phrase will always be for me the one that my father once uttered while laughing and placing his hand on my black hair.
“Dark as night and, like it, insecure…”
Mr. Henri de Régnier of the French Academy
Michelet's most beautiful sentence, I don't know, but I would gladly look for it in the fifty volumes which make up the admirable work of this great writer. It would be an opportunity to reread it and find it even more admirable.
Mr. Georges Goyau of the French Academy
“Let us always remember, French people, that our homeland is born from the heart. of a woman, of her tenderness and her tears, of the blood she gave for us. »
(Michelet, JOAN OF ARC. Introduction.)
Mr. Camille Jullian
In my opinion, the sentence, if not the clearest and best ordered, but the one which most reveals Michelet's deep thoughts, can be read in his 1869 preface to his Histoire de France:
“France is a race to France, and the fatal element seems secondary. She is the daughter of her freedom. In human progress, the essential part is the living force that we call man: Man is his own Prometheus.
Michelet meant by this that France, like man, can and must forge its own destinies, through moral freedom, through intensive work, through the sense of an ideal, through absolute understanding between their children. I do not know of any passage in Michelet's work richer in ideas, and where the historian, through the failures of the past, looks further into the designs of the future,
Mr. Théodore Reinach
Michelet's most beautiful sentence (and the shortest):
“Man is his own Prometheus. »
(History of France, introduction of 1869.)
Mr. Abel Hermant
Here, among a thousand phrases from Michelet that I love, is one of my favorites. (From the Bible of Humanity, chapter III, Greece.)
“Nothing hidden. All in light. No backstage, no dark crypt. Everything is done in the open air, in front of the sun, in the broad daylight of the palaestra. This beautiful genius is not greedy or jealous. The doors are open with two leaves. Come near and see. Humanity will know how humanity is made. »
Mr. Paul Souday
Michelet's most beautiful sentence? I don't really know. His work is immense: how to choose? Moreover, this great writer is worth above all for the whole, the general movement, the everywhere quivering sensitivity; he is less plastic, less condensed into vivid images or pithy formulas than Flaubert or even Renan.
If you asked me to point out his most beautiful thought, which is not absolutely the same thing, I would perhaps stop at his famous word, which contains everything:
“The great century, I mean the eighteenth…”
Mr. Fernand Gregh
I do not hesitate the most beautiful sentence of Michelel, written by the visionary and the prophet around 1853, and which is today more true than ever, it is the one which ends the admirable, the pathetic preface of his Jeanne d'Arc, a small volume extracted from his History of France, and which was in the hands of all young French people between 1870 and 1890. (I apologize for quoting it from memory, not having the volume under the hand, but the end is almost verbatim):
“If we took into account the sacrifices made by the various nations in the interest of humanity, that of France would rise to the heavens, and yours, nations, would barely reach the knees of a child. ".
Mr. Jean Ajalbert
Michelet's most beautiful sentence? I don't know among the thousands who surpass it....
But everything Michelet is in a word that he gave as an epigraph to La Montagne:
" Go back up... "
Mr. Camille Mauclair
I can't tell you what Michelet's most beautiful phrase is. All his sentences come from the irresistible impulse of a great soul, and not from literary talent. And every time I open Michelet, this momentum immediately carries me away like a symphony... and I have never been able to stop at this or that of these breathtaking, distraught, dazzling periods. For me, the magic is not in the sentence but on the page.

Mr. Saint-Georges de Bouhélier
What melancholy, what beauty in Michelet's simple sentences:
“Superhuman apparitions, to wake the dead, will come, and will be nothing. They see Joan of Arc passing by, and they say "Who is this girl?..." All of human life, summarized, there, evoked!
Michelet's most beautiful sentences
Baron Ernest Seillière
How difficult it is to choose among the innumerable beauties of form with which the immense work of the great prose poet shines! Since your cordial invitation nevertheless encourages me to make this choice, I will stop with one of the first messages of love from the fifty-year-old to the young girl who restored to him the ardor of his first passion and who became the second Mme Michelet:
Every hour, I will take the spark from your lips, from your charming words, and, received, I will return it to you in the emotions of the spirit; I will continually draw the Infinite from your eyes, and I will return it to you in eternal words! ".
What more beautiful dream, for every artist, than this dream of youth perpetuated by genius.
M. G. Lacour-Gayet
What is, in my opinion, Michelet's most beautiful phrase?
Here is at least one, certainly very beautiful, very moving and of great historical significance; it is borrowed from the introduction to his Joan of Arc:
“Let us always remember, Frenchmen, that the Fatherland, among us, was born from the heart of a woman, from her tenderness and her tears, from the blood she gave for us. »
Mr. Claude Farrère
You ask me what is, in my opinion, Michelet's most beautiful phrase? If you had asked me what Michelet's most beautiful thought was, I would have been very embarrassed. Michelet, like Jaurès, never thought anything but empty thoughts; that is to say, never having thought at all.
You ask me what Michelet's most beautiful phrase is. All of Michelet's sentences are beautiful: because if he didn't think, he spoke, and he spoke well. This was also the misfortune of those who listened to him.
I took a volume by Michelet from my library at random. And I stuck a needle in it. The sentence that stood out to me was this:
“Her saints told her that it was a great pity to have abjured to save her life. »
This sentence is admirable. Most of Michelet's other sentences too.
Mr. Charles Diehl
Michelet's most beautiful sentence? So this is a difficult question and how much easier it would be to cite admirable pages from him, those for example on Brittany, which are among the most moving in the marvelous Tableau de la France, or those on Joan of Arc, which there remains perhaps the most living and true thing that has been written about her... But you want a sentence... Here is one, which I found in the preface to the History of France, and which, in its somewhat melancholy pride, will please, I believe, any historian:
“I missed the world, I took history for life. Here it is sold out. I regret nothing. »

M. G. Lenotre
Michelet's most beautiful sentence? It's a very embarrassing choice. During a recent reading this one struck me. I do not impose it on you as the most beautiful, but it is not lacking in topicality, although written eighty years ago:
From the destructive powers, from the violent metamorphoses where you would believe it to be damaged, escapes, elastic and smiling, the eternal irony of Nature. Like Nature, like my France... Against the most mortal trials in which nations perish, this one keeps a treasure of eternal irony. »
These lines are found at the beginning of chapter III of book XV of the History of the Revolution. The entire page should be cited.
Mr. Gustave Kahn
“Humanity continually places its soul in a common Bible. Each great people writes their verse there. » (Bible of Humanity, Preface.).
Mr. Hugues Delorme
Michelet's most beautiful sentence?... I don't dare say anything. One of the most beautiful, in any case, seems to me to be this: “O Revolution, my mother, how slow you were in coming!...”
Because it represents the soul of its author, and has the eurythmy of two eight-foot verses.
Mr. Maurice Magre
I cannot say what Michelet's most beautiful sentence is, but in my opinion the most beautiful book is the Bible of Humanity, and one of the least known.
Mr. Abel Lefranc
How to choose a single flower from so many beds with such rich colors? Since it is necessary, here is the one that I picked up, a little at random from old memories, it is the final sentence of the preface to the last volume of the History of France. It is dated October 1, 1867:
“My work was for me (more than a book) the path of the soul. She made me and made my life. »
Mr. Pierre Mille
Michelet's most beautiful sentence? There are many. Here is one
“May the new France not forget the words of the old, Only great hearts know how much glory there is in being good, Being, and remaining such, among injustices: men and the severities of Providence are not only the gift of a happy nature, but of strength and heroism. Crossing the exterior, therefore allowing it to touch this interior treasure, that is divine. »
Michelet, History of France, Volume IV (Trial of the Maid.)
Mr. Henri Duvernois
Here is :
“Have pity on the tired Earth, which, without love, would no longer have any reason to exist!”
Mr. Georges Lecomte
Michelet's most beautiful sentence is, in my opinion, the first of his work so lively and still so young
“History is a resurrection. » Short sentence which has like the quivering shine of a flag in a spring sky! It wonderfully summarizes the conception of History that the imaginative, visionary and lyrical Michelet, a master in the art of creating life from documents, had. His intoxicating work is only the magnificent realization of this thought formulated so luminously. She shows its accuracy.
Mr. André Bellessort
Michelet's most beautiful sentence? I can't decide between all the ones that come to mind. But here is one that Taine admired and which seems wonderful to me. Michelet tells us how, in 1500, the Alde Manutius, these famous Italian printers, left the scholarly format and spread the octavo:
“The octavo, father of small formats,” he said, “of books and rapid pamphlets, countless legions of invisible spirits that sped through the night, creating, before the very eyes of tyrants, the circulation of freedom. »
Mr. Edouard Schuré
There is such an abundance of original and strong thoughts in Michelet's work that one is spoiled for choice and it would be difficult to find the most beautiful. There are some paradoxical ones, but all sparkle with beauty. In my memories, I find two between which I hesitate:
« The Celts, he says in his History of France, resisted the Saxons for two hundred years with arms and a thousand years with hope. »
And this other
« A lady is worth more than an empire. » Through his dazzling intuition and his synthetic view of things, Michelet is truly a scholar, as also through his combative spiritualism. He gives reason to Vauvenargues’ words:
« The greatest thoughts come from the heart. »
Mr. Edmond Sée
Upon receiving your questionnaire, I was about to take five or six volumes of Michelet from my library and pick at random. But it really would have been too easy and a little shameful! I prefer, without citation, to tell you here my humble, pious, ardent admiration for a prodigious man, a unique writer, and whose every page almost teems with these beautiful sentences of passionate and precise intelligence, to the point that we have no that the embarrassment of choice, But I do not want to choose, and I prefer to exalt myself for the whole of such a work and not “in detail”.
Mr. Octave Uzannes
I feel powerless to choose a synthetic sentence truly expressive of Michelet's genius. You might as well choose a specific site in the Universe, a synoptic scenography of the Revolution, a symbol of the Sea, the Woman or the Bird; these three motifs of his work so impossible to symbolize, to fix or to concretize.
The author of the Mountain, the Insect, Love and the Bible of Humanity hardly offers any scope for anthology; his genius extended over all the worlds of thought, all the spectacles of nature, all beings of beauty, harmony and complexity, The flame of imagination which illuminated his visions of men and events gave to his writings had the style of a prophet, and brought, to his enthusiastic words, a vibration of incomparable colors. The deficiency of my choice of a typical phrase is immaterial. You will have a wonderful anthology. For lack of a faithful, the abbey is not idle.
Mr. Gérard Bauër
Asking to choose a sentence in Michelet is asking to choose from a treasure. We would like to cite everything. I will detach you from these few lines from the History of France, which are, in my opinion, very beautiful. They have this lyrical training, this “style” that Michelet himself called a “Tame movement.” » (These sentences report the interview granted by de Prie to d'Argenson):
“He held back, fearing his own heart, distrusting the tragic fairy. One morning, she gave him an audience and admitted him to the mysterious place of her intimate toilet, like a lover or a friend. She was then leaning towards her fall; she was at the height of her desperate struggle. Already thin, pale with a morbid fire, she was still beautiful, beautiful in her audacity, in her crisis, in her approaching death. D'Argenson was touched. Another would have benefited. He fell to his knees... And philosophy paid homage to Satan. The century, still troubled, in this angel of evil, nevertheless greeted like a spirit of storm, the volcanic foam where nature often preludes its births. »
Mr. Tancrede Martel
How many admirable phrases in Michelet's sentences, some astonishing in movement and color, others simple and calm to the point of the sublime! The most beautiful and telling of these sentences I find in the pages devoted to Joan of Arc (History of France, volume V).
“Born under the very walls of the church, lulled by the sound of bells and nourished by legends, she was a legend herself, swift and pure, from birth to death. »
Mr. de Lanzac de Laborie
You ask me what is, in my opinion, "the most beautiful phrase of Michelet", whereas with Chateaubriand it is perhaps he to whom our literature owes the most sparkling pages, while, according to the words of Sainte -Beuve, he proposed and fulfilled the challenge “to write history with a series of flashes”. After having tried in vain to fix my choice in historical works, I venture to indicate to you this sentence, borrowed from the incomparable book of the Bird:
“I have seen, among the birds, nothing so large, so imposing as our five Algerian vultures, in the Jardin des Plantes, perched together like so many Turkish pashas, stuffed with superb ties of the most delicate white down, draped in a noble, serious gray cloak, a divan of exiles, who seem to share among themselves the vicissitudes of things and the political events which put them outside their country. "