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Delsarte System of Oratory
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Delsarte, as we have seen, rarely left his audience without winning the sympathy of every member of it. At the meeting of which I speak, he vastly amused his hearers by an anecdote. He doubtless wished to clear away the clouds caused by that part of his discourse which, by his own confession, had a good deal of the sermon about it.

I will repeat the tale, a little exaggerated perhaps, but still very piquant, which doubtless won his pardon for those parts of his speech which might have been for various reasons blamed, misunderstood or but half understood!

The story was of four professors who, having examined him, had each, in turn, he said, administered upon his [Delsarte's] cheeks smart slaps to the colleagues by whose advice he had profited in previous lessons.

The following lines were the subject of the lesson:

"Nor gold nor greatness make us blest; Those two divinities to our prayers can grant But goods uncertain and a pleasure insecure."

"The first teacher to whom I turned declared there was but one way to recite them properly, and this single method, you of course perceive, gentlemen, could be only his own.

"'Those lines,' said he, 'must be recited with breadth, with dignity, with nobleness. Listen!' Upon which my instructor began to declaim in his most sonorous, most magisterial tones. He raised his eyes to heaven, rounded his gestures and struck a heroic attitude.

"'Show yourself,' he resumed (after this demonstration), 'by the elevation of your manners, worthy of the lessons I have given you.'

"'Ah!' I exclaimed, 'at last I possess the noble manner of rendering these fine lines.'

"Next day, having practiced the noble manner to the utmost of my ability, I went to my second professor, fully persuaded that I should hear nothing but congratulations. Well!... I had hardly ended the second line, when a shrug of the shoulders accompanied by a terrible burst of laughter, very mortifying to my noble manner, closed my mouth abruptly.

"'What do you mean by that emphatic tone? What is all this bombastic sermon about? What manners are these? My friend, you are grotesque. Those lines should be repeated simply, naturally and with the utmost artlessness. Remember that it is the good La Fontaine who speaks! [accenting each syllable] the-good-La-Fon-taine—do you hear? There is but one way possible to render the lines faithfully. Listen to me.'

"Here the professor tapped his snuff-box,—compressed his lips, dropped the corners of his mouth in an ironical fashion, slightly contracting his eyes, lifting his eyebrows, moving his head five or six times from right to left, and began the lines in a firm and somewhat nasal tone.

"Ah!" I cried, amazed, 'there is no other way ... what wonderful artlessness, simplicity and truth to nature!'

"So I set to work upon a new basis, saying to myself: 'Now, at last, I have got the natural style which fits the spirit of this charming work. I am very curious to know the impression which I shall make to-morrow on my third teacher.'

"The moment came. I struck an attitude into which I introduced the elliptic expressions shown to me the day before, and with the confidence inspired in me by a sense of the naturalness with which I was pervaded, I began:

"'Nor gold nor great....'

"'Wretch!' cried my third professor. 'What do you mean by that senile manner, that tart voice! What a Cassandra-like tone! You disgrace those beautiful lines, miserable fellow!'

'"But, sir....'

"'But, but, but. I will drop you from the list of my pupils, if you dare to utter a remark! You can do very well when you wish! But every now and then you are subject to certain eccentric flights. You sometimes imitate X—— well enough to be mistaken for him; then you are detestable, for you change your nature, and I will not permit it. Besides, it is a vulgar type. Stay, you looked like him just then, and it was hideous.

"'Now, listen, and bear my lesson well in mind: there is but one proper way of reciting those lines, do you hear? There is but one way, and this is it.'

"Here, my professor took a pensive attitude: then, as if crushed by the weight of some melancholy memory, he cast slowly around him a look in which the bitterness of a deep disappointment was painted. He heaved a sigh, raised his eyes to heaven, still keeping his head bent, and began in a grave, muffled and sustained voice:

"'Nor gold nor greatness....'

"'See,' said my master, 'with what art I manage to create a pathetic situation out of those lines! That is what you should imitate!'

"'Ah! my dear master, you are right; that is the only reading worthy of that masterpiece. Heavens, how beautiful!' I said to myself; 'decidedly, my noble teacher and my natural teacher understood nothing about this work. What an effect I shall make to-morrow at my fourth professor's class!'

"Alas! a fresh disappointment awaited me at the hands of my fourth master. He was, perhaps, even more pitiless than the others to all the meanings that I strove to express.

"'Why, my poor boy,' said he, 'where the deuce did you hunt up such meanings?' What a sepulchral tone! What is the meaning of that cavernous voice? And why that mournful dumb show? Heaven forgive me! it is melodrama that you offer us! you have done no great thing. You have completely crippled poor La Fontaine.'

"'Alas! alas!' said I to myself, 'is my dramatic teacher as absurd as the other two?'"

After the three preceding imitations, just as the audience had reached the height of merriment, the story-teller stopped.

"I will excuse you, gentlemen, from the reasonings of my fourth professor, for I do not wish to prolong my discourse indefinitely."

If this retreat was an orator's artifice—which may well be,—it was a complete success.

There was a shout: "The fourth! the fourth!"

"Well, gentlemen, the fourth, like the other three, claimed that his was the only correct style: I made no distinction between verse and prose, thus following the false method recently established by the Theatre-Francais. To his mind the cadence of the verse and the euphonic charm should outweigh every other interest. The pauses which I made destroyed its measure. I had no idea of caesura, my gestures destroyed its harmony, etc., etc. His pedagogic manner had nothing in common with that of his brethren."

This episode was not a mere witticism on Delsarte's part; he intended it to prove his constant assertion—and with persistent right,—that previous to his discovery, art, destitute of law and of science, had had none but chance successes.

Delsarte closed this session by a summary of the law and the science which I have set forth in this book; but I must say it was at this moment especially that he seemed anxious that his religious convictions should profit by his artistic wealth; all outside the sphere of rational demonstration is treated from a lofty standpoint, it is true, and is freed from the commonplaceness of the letter, but we can recognize none but a poetic and literary merit in it.

It is to this latter period of his existence that many will doubtless try to fasten the synthesis of this great personality; but if any one wishes to gain an idea of Francois Delsarte, of his ability, the extent of his views, the power of his reason, the graces of his mind, his artistic perfection, it is in his law, in his science, in the memories which his lectures and his concerts left in the press of the time, that such an one must seek to understand him.



Chapter XIX.

Delsarte's Last Years.



Before concluding these essays, my homage to the innovating spirit, the matchless art, the sympathetic and generous nature of Francois Delsarte, I make a final appeal to my memory, and, first, I invoke afresh the testimony of others.

La Patrie, June 18, 1857, says in an enthusiastic and lengthy article:

"His deep knowledge, his incessant labors, his long and fatiguing studies, have not allowed his life to pass unnoted; but although great renown, attached in a short space to his name, has sufficed for the legitimate demands of his pride, it has done nothing, it must be owned, to provide for the wants which the negligences of genius do not always foresee."

Then, apropos of Gluck and other unappreciated composers of genius, the author of the article, Franck Marie, goes on:

"With the confidence to which I recently referred, Delsarte has undertaken the reform. Sure of the success which shall crown his bold undertaking, he began almost unaided, a movement which was no less than a revolution. Between two snatches from Romagnesi or Blangini, the majestic pages of Gluck appeared to the surprise of the auditor. The heroes of the great master took the place of Thyrcis and Colin, the songs of Pergolese and Handel, coming from the inspired mouth of the virtuoso, at once aroused unknown sensations. Lully and Rameau, rejuvenated in their turn, surprised by beauties hitherto unsuspected."

Earlier still (in the Presse for December 6, 1840) in an article signed Viscount Charles Delaunay are these lines:

"We are, to-night, to hear an admirable singer (Delsarte). He is said to be the Talma of music; he makes the most of Gluck's songs, as Talma made the most of Racine's verses. We must hasten, for his enthusiastic admirers would never pardon us if we arrived in the middle of the air from 'Alcestis;' and if all we hear be true, we could never be consoled ourselves, for having missed half of it."

March 14, 1860, we read in the L'Independance Beige:

"Among the many concerts announced there is one which is privileged to attract the notice of the dilettanti. We refer to that announced, almost naively, by the two lines: Concert by Francois Delsarte, Tuesday, April 4.—Nothing more! These two lines tell everything! Why give a program? Who is there in the enlightened world who would not be anxious to be present at a concert given by Delsarte? For, at his concert, he will sing—he who never sings anywhere, at any price. Observe what I say: never anywhere, at any price, and I do not exaggerate."

This assertion, which shows the indifference of Delsarte to the speculative side of art, is not without a certain analogy to the fact which follows. At one of his concerts he was to be aided by one of the great celebrities of the time; Rachel was to recite a scene from some play.

The actress failed to appear. Some few outcries were heard. Delsarte considered this a protest: "I beg those who are only here to hear Mademoiselle Rachel," said he, "to step to the box-office. The price of their tickets will be returned." Applause followed these words, and the artist sang in a way to leave no room for regret.

I quote the following lines from an article published by the "Journal des Villes et des Campagnes" in reference to a lecture given in the great amphitheatre of the Medical School, March 11, 1867:

"Should I say lecture? It was rather a chat—simple, and wholly free from academic forms. In somewhat odd, perhaps, but picturesque and original form, M. Delsarte told us healthy and strengthening truths:—'The misery of luxury devours us, but the truth makes no display; it is modestly bare.'.... 'Art may convince by deceit; then it blinds. When it carries conviction by contemplating truth, it enlightens. Art may persuade by evil; then it hardens. When it persuades by goodness, it perfects.' These are noble words. Orator, poet, metaphysician, artist, M. Delsarte offers new horizons to the soul."

The sources whence I draw are not exhausted, but I must pause.

Thus all have hailed him with applause! Save for some few interested critics, without distinction of opinions, political, religious or philosophical, all differences were silenced by this admirable harmony of the highest aesthetic faculties: the spirit of justice conquered party spirit.

But whatever may have been said—and whatever may still be said,—those who never heard Delsarte can never be made to comprehend him: in him, feeling, intellect, physical beauty and beauty of expression formed a magnificent assemblage of natural gifts and of acquired faculties. In this distinguished personality nature became art, to prove to us that outside her limits, as outside the limits of science, arbitrary agreement and the caprices of imagination can create nothing noble and great, persuasive and touching.

With this artist there was never anything to betray the artificiality of a situation; interpreted by him, the creation, the invention, became real. 'From his lips a cry never seemed a studied effect. It was the rending of a bosom. A tear seemed to come straight from the heart; his gesture was conscious of what it had to teach us; in all these applications "of the sign to the thing," there was never an error, never a mistake. It was truth adorned by beauty. In his singing, roulades became true bursts of laughter or true sobs.

Yes, all these things surpass description.

But what any and every mind may appreciate, is the lovable, loving and generous nature which invested these transcendant qualities with simplicity, with charm and with life. Delsarte had a wealth of sentiment which overflowed upon the humble and the outcast, as well as upon those favored by nature and by fortune. Without the riches which he knew not how to gain, disdainful as he was of petty and sinuous ways, he was benevolent in spite of his moderate means.

He gave, perhaps, oftener than he accepted payment for them, his time, his knowledge and his advice to all who needed them. He admitted to his classes pupils whose beautiful voices were their only wealth, and who could pay him only in hope.

We may say of Francois Delsarte, that so sympathetic a nature is rarely seen in this world of ours, where still prevail—tyrants to be destroyed—so much antagonism, jealousy and rivalry. If some few of the weaknesses natural to poor humanity may be laid to his charge, no one had a greater right to redemption than he.

He once distressed a fashionable woman by speaking severely to her of one of her friends. She was much troubled, but out of respect, dared not complain. Delsarte saw tears in her eyes. He instantly confessed his fault, and acknowledged, with the utmost frankness, that he spoke from hearsay, and very lightly. He added that this mistake should be a lesson to him, and that he would think twice before becoming the echo of evil report.

If, touching his science and his art, this master often made assertions which might seem conceited, aside from those convictions which, to his mind, had the character of orthodoxy, he used forms of speech of which judges without authority would never have dreamed. I have heard him say:

"I cannot be much of a connoisseur in regard to pianists, for I only like to hear Chopin."

He was always ready to praise the amateurs who came to him for a hearing, even if they were the pupils of other masters, finding out among all their faults, the little acquirements or talent which he could from their performance; sure, it is true, to correct them if he afterward became their instructor.

Honors and fortune seemed within his grasp when he neared his end. America offered him immense advantages, with a yearly salary of $20,000, to found a conservatory in one of her cities. A street in Solesmes was named for him. The King of Hanover sent him, as an artist, the Guelph Cross, and, as a friend, a photograph of himself and family; it was to this prince, the patron of art, that Delsarte wrote regarding his "Episodes of a Revelator:"

"I am at this moment meditating a book singular for more than one reason, which will be no less novel in form than in idea.... I know not what fate is in store for this work, or if I shall succeed in seeing it in print during my lifetime."

He did not realize this dream.

It was at about this same time that Jenny Lind took a long journey to hear him and to consult him about her art.

At the period of the war of 1870-1871, Delsarte took refuge at Solesmes, his native place. He left Paris, with his family, Sept. 10, 1870. Already ill, he lived there sad, and crushed by the misfortunes of his country. Nevertheless, during this stay, he developed various points in his method, and there his two daughters wrote at his dictation the manuscript, "Episodes of a Revelator;" his intellect had lost none of its vigor, but his nature was shadowed.

Francois Delsarte returned to Paris March 10, 1871, after his voluntary exile. He soon yielded to a painful disease, doubtless regretting that he had not finished his work, but courageous and submissive.

As far as it lay in my power, my task is done. I have furnished documents for the history of the arts; I have aroused and tried to fix attention upon that luminous point which was threatened with oblivion.

Now I call for the aid of all, that the work of memory may be accomplished.

There are still among us many admirers of Francois Delsarte, many hearts that loved him; a sort of silent freemasonry has been established between them; when they meet in society, at the theatre, at concerts, they recognize each other by mutual signs of regret or disappointment. His name is pronounced, a few words are interchanged.

"Oh! those were happy days. Will his like ever be seen again?"

To these I say: Let us unite to assure him his place in the annals which assert the glories of the artist and the man of science! Why should we not combine soon to raise a statue on the modest grave where he lies? Why should we not do for the innovator in the arts what the country daily does for mechanical inventors and soldiers?



Part Fifth.

The Literary Remains of Francois Delsarte.

Translated by Abby L. Alger.



Publisher's Note.



Part Fifth contains Francois Delsarte's own words.

The manuscripts were purchased of Mme. Delsarte with the understanding that they were all she had of the literary remains of her illustrious husband. They are published by her authorisation.

The reader will probably notice that at times Delsarte talks as if addressing an audience. This he really did, and some of the manuscripts are headings or draughts of his lectures before learned societies or of talks at his own private sessions.

These writings are given to the public in the same fragmentary condition that Delsarte left them in. They were written upon sheets of paper, scraps of paper, doors, chairs, window casements and other objects. A literal translation has been made, without a word of comment, and without any attempt at editing them. The aim has been to let Delsarte speak for himself, believing that the reader would rather have Delsarte's own words even in this disjointed, incomplete form—mere rough notes—than to have them supplemented, annotated, interpreted and very likely perverted by another person.

Edgar S. Werner.



Extract from the Last Letter to the King of Hanover



I am at this moment meditating a book, singular for more than one reason, whose form will be no less novel than its contents. Your majesty will read it, I hope, with interest.

The title of this book is to be: "My Revelatory Episodes, or the History of an Idea Pursued for Forty Years."

It will be my task to connect and condense into a single narrative all the circumstances of my life which had as logical consequences the numerous discoveries which it has been granted me to follow up, discoveries which my daily occupations left me neither time nor ability to set forth as a whole.

I know not what fate is reserved for this book. I know not whether I shall succeed in seeing it in print during my lifetime. The minds of men are, in these evil days, so little disposed to serious ideas, that it seems to me difficult to find a publisher disposed to publish things so far removed from the productions of the century.

But, however it may be, if I succeed in getting at least some part of my work printed, I crave, sire, your majesty's permission to offer the dedication to you. This favor I entreat not only as an honor, but also as an opportunity to pay public homage to all the kindnesses which your majesty has never ceased to lavish upon me.

Francois Delsarte.



Episode I.



The subject in question was a scene in the play of the Maris-Garcons. The young officer, whose part I was studying, met his former landlord after an absence of several years, and as he owed him some money, he desired to show himself cordial.

"Ah! how are you, papa Dugrand?" he says, on encountering him. This apostrophe is, therefore, a mixture of surprise, soldierly bluntness and joviality.

At the first words I was stopped short by an almost insurmountable difficulty. This difficulty was all in my gesture. Do what I would, my manner of accosting papa Dugrand was grotesque; and all the lessons that were given me on that scene, all the pains I took to profit by those lessons, effected no change. I paced to and fro, saying and resaying the words: "How are you, papa Dugrand?" Another scholar in my place would have gone on; but the greater the difficulty seemed to me, the higher my ardor rose. However, I had my labor for my pains.

"That's not it," said my instructors. Good heavens! I knew that as well as they did; but what I did not know was why that was not it. It seems that my professors were equally ignorant, since they could not tell me exactly in what my way differed from theirs.

The specification of that difference would have enlightened me, but all remained, with them as with me, subject to the uncertain views of a vague instinct.

"Do as I do," they said to me, one after the other.

Zounds! the thing was easier said than done.

"Put more enthusiasm into your greeting to papa Dugrand!"

The greater my enthusiasm, the more laughable was my awkwardness.

"See here; watch my movements carefully!"

"I do watch, but I don't know how to go to work to imitate you; I don't seize the details of your gesture." (It varied with every repetition.) "I don't understand why your examples, with which I am satisfied, lead to nothing in me."

"You don't understand! You don't understand! It's very simple! Really, your wits must have gone wool-gathering, my poor boy, if you are unable to do what I have shown you so many times. Watch closely now!"

"I am watching, sir, with all my eyes."

"You certainly see that the first thing is to stretch out your arms to your papa Dugrand, since you are so pleased to see him again!"

I stretched out my arms to their utmost extent; but my body, not following the movement, still wanted poise, and recoiled into a grotesque attitude. My teacher, for lack of basic principles to guide him, was unable to correct my awkwardness; and, vexed at his inability which he wished to conceal, fell back on blaming my unlucky intellect.

"Fool," said he finally, "you are hopelessly stupid! Why are you so embarrassed? Are my examples, then, worthless?"

"Indeed, sir, your examples are perfect."

"Well, then, imitate them, imbecile!"

"I will try, sir."

In this, as in all preceding lessons, I could give only a blind imitation, which had not the small merit of being twice alike, even in my own eyes, for every time I reproduced them I observed marked variations which the master did not perceive.

I went to my room, as I had done many times before, with tears in my eyes and despair in my heart, to renew my useless efforts, vainly turning and returning in all lights my unfortunate papa Dugrand.

This cruel ordeal lasted five months without the least progress to lessen its bitterness.

Heaven knows with what ardor I cultivated my papa Dugrand! I thought of him by day, and I dreamed of him by night. I clung to him with all the frenzy of despair, for I was determined not to be beaten. I was bound to triumph at any cost, for it was life or death to me. I resolved not to give up papa Dugrand, even though he should resist me ten years!

My unceasing repetitions of (to them abominable) papa Dugrand caused my comrades to call me a bore. In short, I became disagreeable to all around me. Alas! all this study, all these efforts, could not overcome the stubborn resistance of papa Dugrand. My teachers were at their wits' end, and finally refused to give me another lesson on the subject. But nothing could daunt the ardor of my zeal.

One day I was measuring the court-yard of the Conservatory, as usual, in company with papa Dugrand, and repeating my "how are you?" in every variety of tone, when, all at once, having got as far as: "How are you, pa—," I stopped short without finishing my phrase. It was interrupted by the sight of a cousin of mine, whose visit was most unexpected.

"Ah! how are you?" I said; "how are you, dear cou—"

Here my words were again interrupted by a surprise; but this surprise was far greater than that caused by the appearance of my cousin. Struck by the analogy between this greeting and the unstudied attitude which I had assumed under the action of a genuine emotion, I cried in a transport of joy which bewildered my innocent cousin: "Leave me—don't disturb me—I've got it—wait for me—stay where you are—I've got it."

"But what is it that you've got?"

"The dickens, papa Dugrand!"

Thereupon I vanished like a flash, to run to my mirror and reproduce to my sight papa Dugrand, Judge of my astonishment: not only my gesture, until now so persistently awkward, seemed suddenly metamorphosed and became harmonious and natural; but, stranger yet, it did not correspond in the least to what had been prescribed. However, it was nature herself that had revealed this to me. Then, the movements of my body, but a moment before so discordant in my eyes, had acquired, under the influence of this gesture inspired from above, an ease and a grace that filled me with surprise. Without doubt, I now possessed the truth. An emotion, spontaneously produced and so deeply felt, could not result in an error.

This is what had happened under the action of a natural surprise:

My hands were not extended toward the object of my surprise—not the least in the world. By an anterior extension of the arms, they were raised high above my head, which, far from being uplifted with the exultation which I had hitherto simulated, was lowered to my breast; and my body, stranger yet, instead of bending toward the attractive object, bent suddenly backward.

What a blow nature had given to my masters! What an overthrowal of all conjectures! My reason, before this sovereign decision, was humbled and dumbfounded. What arguments could my instructors invoke in the face of truth itself?

"What," thought I, "are my masters absolutely ignorant of the laws of nature?"

"What, does their reason, as well as mine, know nothing of all this? How is it that this much-praised reason has inspired me with effects precisely opposite to those that were prescribed? What is reason? Is it, then, a blind faculty?"

Let us first see what these strange phenomena, whose importance I cannot deny without denying nature herself, signify.

I was in the midst of these reflections when the recollection of my cousin came into my mind.

"Good heavens," thought I; "I had forgotten all about my poor cousin; what will he think? I will hurry down, and, lest my precious ideas take flight, send him away, and return to my reflections.

"Wretch that I am; I think only how to get rid of him, when he has so enriched me! This is a lesson to me. Poor boy! What opinion will he have of me? Ah, that is he whom I see stretched out on that stone bench. He has been patient, indeed. I believe that he is asleep!"

"No, I am not asleep," said he, rising; "I am furious! Explain, if you are not too insane to be rational, the extraordinary manner in which you received me. Do you know that I have been waiting here for you more than an hour?"

"Ah, my dear cousin," said I, embracing him warmly, "you do not know what a service you have rendered me. I embrace you now, my good friend, for the wonderful lesson you have given me. Without you I should never have found it out, and, rest assured, I shall never forget it."

"What? Who? What is it?"

"Zounds, papa Dugrand! I freely acknowledge that I have learned more from you in one second than from all my masters during four years."

"Are you in your right senses?"

The matter was finally explained. My cousin then told me about my home and my family; but I must confess that I paid little attention to the good news that he brought me, so excited and preoeccupied was my mind. Even then I could not help thinking of the fragility of the heart in its affections. We soon separated, and I hurried to my room, which seemed to me on this day-paradise itself.

I gave myself up to my interrupted course of reflections.

I had proved the impotence of my own reason, and also that of my masters. Now, as it was not probable that all my teachers and myself were more stupid than the rest of mankind—the common herd—I concluded that reason is blind in the matter of principles, and that all her instructions would be powerless to guide me in my researches. But, from another side, it was evident to me that without this reason I could not utilize a principle. What is human reason, that faculty at once of so little avail and yet so precious? What role does it play in art? I feel that this is most important for me to know.

The answer to this question must spring from the study of the phenomena of instinct. Let us examine, then, what nature offers us freely.

If these phenomena are directed by a physiological or a spiritual necessity, a necessity on which instinct is based, I am forced to admit, here, a reason that is not my reason; a superior, infallible reason in the disposition of things; a reason that laughs at my reason, which, in spite of itself, must submit under pain of falling into absurdity. I feel that it is only by this absolute submission of my reason that it can rise to the reason of things, since, of itself, it would know nothing. [See definition of reason.]

Let us seek, then, without prejudice, the reason of the things that interested me, in order that my own reason may be raised to a higher plane. And when it shall be illumined with the light that must break upon it from the superior reason, I feel that my reason can generalize instruction, and will be all-powerful in arranging the conclusions that it may deduce. I am aware, from the utter impotence of my reason, that all principles must be accepted humbly, in order to understand the deductions. My reason does not know how to lead me to principles of which it is ignorant; but it knows how to guide me back. In other words, it is a blind person a priori, it is a luminary a posteriori. Though it may not know at first, once shown, it readily recognizes; though it may not divine, it learns by study; though it may not seize, it retains, masters and generalizes.

Reason, then, is a reflex power, and as such, if, in a matter of principle, it recognizes itself as impotent and even absurd a priori, it knows that once in possession of the principle, it borrows from its light and becomes identified with it—an incomparable power of generalization.

Let the reason of the attitudes that I had observed be once shown me, and my individual reason would possess the Archimedean lever with which I might open unknown worlds.

My reason! Ah! I will identify it with the reason of things! Henceforward this shall be my method, this shall be my law.

But the reason of things—who will give it to me? Is it not my reason itself? Oh, mystery! I will follow thee to the depths of thy abyss. Thou shalt have no more secrets from me, for God has said that He hides only from the wise and prudent man, but reveals Himself to the simple and to children. Yes, these things shall be given to me through my reason, if it will bow itself and be attentive and humble; if it will patiently await the teachings of a mute and persevering observation; if it will subordinate itself to the intuitive lights that constitute genius; and, finally, if it knows how to estimate things other than itself.

Thus my reason, established, inflamed, consumed by the charm of its contemplation, will be transfigured in order to be more closely united to the sovereign reason toward which it ever reaches out.

The first fruit of my observation consists in making me recognize, in the facts examined, the proof of a superior and infallible reason, and then to arm against my individual reason and all its errors. Another thing yet more strange, but easily comprehended on reflection, is that to this defiance, this contempt of self, I owe the boldness and the power of my investigations.

Let us see, now, from which observations the preceding thoughts are the direct result.

In the phrase, "How are you, etc.," my reason dictated this triple, parallel movement: Advancing the head, and the arms, with the torso on the fore-leg. Now, the similar phrase, "How are you, dear cousin," although uttered in a situation identical with that of papa Dugrand, produced phenomena diametrically opposed to those that my reason had said were the only ones admissible. Is it not reasonable to suppose that the sight of an agreeable or loved object will excite in us a genuine feeling that before we had vainly striven to simulate? Does it not seem natural to extend the hand to a friend when, with affectionate surprise, we exclaim: "How are you, dear friend?" And should we ever think of drawing the body away from the object that attracts us? Finally, does it not seem that the head should be raised, the better to see that which charms us?

Ah, no! All these things, apparently so true and so perfectly clear, are radically false. Facts prove this beyond a doubt, and with facts there can be on discussion, no argument. We must admit them a priori or renounce the truth. Here, as in all questions of principle, the greatest act of reason consists in an act of faith. This is absolutely undeniable.

In the phrase, "How are you, papa Dugrand," the arms should be raised, the head lowered and the torso thrown back, supporting itself on the back leg. This was indeed a blow to the presumption of my poor reason, but should it complain? No, for it has gained even from its confusion most fruitful instruction.

Let us see. In questioning the effects and the analogy, we shall doubtless explain their reason of being. Why should the head become lowered? I do not see all at first sight; but let us generalize the question and probably it will specify itself.

When does a man bow his head before the object which strikes his eye?

When he considers or examines it.

Does he never consider things with head raised?

Yes, when he considers them with a feeling of pride. It is thus that he rules them or exalts them; and also when he questions them with his glance; in fine, when what he sees astonishes or surprises him.

This last statement contradicts the example in question, and seems to condemn it. Not the least in the world. How is this? Thus: when the astonishment or the surprise is not intense enough to shake the frame, the head wherein all the surprise is concentrated, is lifted and exalted. But so soon as that surprise is great enough to raise the shoulders and the arms, as by a galvanic shock, the head takes an inverse direction, it sinks and seems anxious to become solid to offer more resistance to that which might attack it, for the first instinctive movement in such a case is to guard against any unpleasant event; then if the head is lifted to look at that which surprises it, it is because it has no great interest in the recognition of that which it considers; but as soon as that interest commands it to examine, to recognize, it is instantly lowered and placed in the state of expectation.

O, now it becomes clear.

Now, how does surprise cause us to lift our arms?

The shoulder, in every man who is agitated or moved, rises in exact proportion to the intensity of his emotion.

It thus becomes the thermometer of the emotions. Now, the commotion that imprints a strong impression, communicates to the arms an ascending motion which may lift them high above the head.

But why do not the arms, in an agreeable surprise, tend toward the object of that surprise?

The arm should move gently toward the object that it wishes to caress. Under the rapid action of surprise, therefore, it could only injure or repel that object.

This it does in affright.

But instinct—that marvelous agent of divine reason—in that case turns the arms away from the object which they might injure by the rapidity of their sudden extension, and directs them toward heaven, leads them to rise as if expressing thanks for an unexpected joy, so true it is that everything is turned to use and is modified under the empire of our instinct. Certainly, there is no similarity between this and the superfluous action, the inconsequent movements determined by the working of a rule without a reason. And this is so because in all that instinct suggests, it is the Supreme Artist himself who disposes of us and acts in us, while whatever is suggested by a reason insufficiently inspired by the contemplation of the divine handiwork is fatally incoherent, for we thus pretend to substitute ourselves for God, and God thenceforth leaving us to ourselves, surrenders us to all the discordant effects of an inconsequential and vain conception.

It remains to find the justificatory reason for this retroactive movement of the body, which seems illogical at first sight.

Let us inquire in what case and under the action of what emotions a man may shrink from the object which he is considering.

In the first place, he shrinks back whenever it inspires him with a feeling of repulsion. He shrinks from it particularly when it inspires him with fright. This is a matter of course and self-evident.

In what case does the body take an inverse direction to the object which attracts it? This we must know before we can explain the phenomenon in question.

We move away from the thing which we contemplate to prove to it, doubtless, the respect and veneration that it inspires. In fact, it seems a lack of respect to that which we love to approach it too closely; we move away that we may not profane it by a contact which it seems might injure its purity.

Thus the retrograde movement may be the sign of reverence and salutation, and moreover a token that the object before which it is produced is more eminent and more worthy of veneration.

A salutation without moving shows but little reverence, and should only occur in the case of an equal or an inferior.

In justification of the actual fact, let me give another observation of quite another importance.

When a painter examines his work, he moves away from it perceptibly. He moves away in proportion to the degree of his admiration of it, so that the retroactive movement of his body is in equal ratio to the interest that he feels in contemplating his work, whence it follows that the painter who examines his work in any other way, reveals his indifference to it.

The picture-dealer usually proceeds in quite another manner. He examines it closely and with a magnifying-glass in hand. Why is this? Because it is less the picture which he examines than the handiwork of the painter, the actual work which is the chief object of his survey.

But why does the artist move away from the work which he contemplates? The better to seize the total impression. For instance: if it be a full length portrait and the artist studies it too closely he sees, I will suppose, the nose of his portrait and nothing more. If he moves a little farther off he sees a little more, he sees the head; still farther and he sees both the head and the torso which supports it. Finally, moving still farther away, he gets a view of the whole and thus seizes its harmonious relations. This inspection may be called synthetic vision, and in opposition to this, direct vision, which I assumed before instinct taught me better, is but short and limited.

To sum up: If instinct did not lead us to retroact, to examine an object unexpectedly offered to our gaze, each surprise would expose us to error.

Now we must retroact to see an object as a whole and not expose ourselves to error, and then, too, does not the love which a creature inspires within us naturally extend to the medium which surrounds him, and in this way does it not seem as if all that touched him partook of his life and thus acquired some title to our contemplation?

Thus my mind, tortured by one preoccupying thought, had, thanks to the fixed idea which swayed it, found wondrous lessons in the simple incident of my cousin's return, otherwise so devoid of interest; and I may truly say that the lesson learned from meeting my cousin taught me more than all those I had received in the space of three years. In short, I had learned how vain is advice dictated by the caprice of a master without a system! I had learned the inanity of individual reason in a matter of experience. I knew that certain laws existed, that those laws proceeded from a Supreme Reason, an immense centre of light, of which each man's reason is but a single ray. I knew without a doubt how ignorant my masters were of those laws to the study of which I meant to devote my life. I possessed facts which I saw could be applied in countless ways, luminous doctrines radiating from the application.

Thenceforth I had the nucleus of the science I had so vainly asked of my masters, and I did not despair of formulating it.

Judge of my joy! The facts I then found myself the possessor of, seemed to me more valuable than all the treasures of the world.



Episode II.



Some time later, I again saw my worthy cousin, the innocent cause of all my joys. He was a medical student, and came to propose a visit to the dissecting-room. I did not hesitate to accept; the proposal harmonized with my desire.

I did not go, as so many go to the morgue, merely to see dead bodies. No; the curiosity that impelled me, and the avidity with which I pursued the object of my study, was not to be so easily satisfied.

Dead bodies only attracted me when they were—if not dissected—at least flayed. Children break their dolls to see what there is inside; so I, too, wanted to see what there was in a corpse. It seemed to me that under the mutilations which the scalpel had inflicted on the body, I should find the answer to more than one enigma—might solve some of the secrets of life.

The prospect of this visit had the charm of a pleasure party to me. I made it a holiday and awaited the hour with impatience.

But, on arriving, when I found myself in that place chill and gloomy as the tomb; when I felt choked by the mephitic gases that arose from this seat of infection; when I found myself in the presence of a heap of corpses mutilated by the scalpel, disfigured by putrefaction and partially devoured by rats and worms; when, beneath tables laden with these horrible remains, I saw mean tubs filled with human entrails mingled with limbs and heads severed from their trunks; when I felt fragments of flesh reduced to the state of filthy mud, clinging to my feet, my heart throbbed violently, and I was overcome by an indescribable sense of repulsion.

"What," I said to myself, "those shapeless and putrifying masses have lived! They have thought, they have loved! And, who would believe it from the horror and disgust that they inspire, they have been loved, cherished, perhaps adored! Ah! if, as some think, the soul is not immortal, if so many aspirations, so many schemes, so many hopes are to end here—what is man?"

But yet more lamentable food for thought was reserved for me: the spectacle of a ruin yet more profound than those which my eyes could scarce endure, was to appear before me in all its hideousness.

In fact, there reigns in these gloomy halls where no tear has ever fallen, no prayer has ever been heard and no ray of hope has ever pierced—there reigns something yet colder than death, something more unwholesome, more nauseous, more deleterious than the putrid miasmas that infect the air, something more sad to see than the nameless fragments of extinct life, something more loathsome than those filthy and disgusting remnants, something more repulsive than those noses eaten by worms and those empty eyeballs devoured by rats. I mean the cynicism of the dwellers in that place; I mean their insensibility, their indifference and calm heedlessness in the presence of such grave subjects for thought. I mean that lack of perception, that spirit of negation and revolt of which those wretched men make a boast and which they obstinately oppose to all religious sentiment, all principle of tradition or revealed authority. I mean the atheism and ceaseless mockery with which they invariably meet any generous impulse aroused in an honest soul by a healthy faith.

This struck me even more sensibly than the spectacle of death and dissolution which I have striven to describe. Thus the apparently living men who haunt this spot are more truly dead than the corpses upon which they exercise their pretended science. They seemed to me ruins far more terrible than those of the body, ruins which repelled all hope, being born of doubt and leading to negation.

If the mutilated and half-devoured bodies that lay before me, filled me with horror and disgust, they, at least, left within me a faint lingering hope surviving death; but the state of blindness of those souls who have lost consciousness of their being and even the feeling of their existence, the shadowy abyss into which they allow themselves complaisantly to glide, the nullity which they adorn with the title of science,—all this filled me with fright, for I felt the doubt and despair into which contact with it would inevitably have plunged me, if, by a special favor, the tone and mimetics, alike self-sufficient and mocking, of these free-thinkers, as they are now styled, had not, from the first, inspired me with aversion for them and a salutary hatred of their doctrine.

And yet, amidst so many repulsive objects, the faculty of observation to which I already owed such fruitful remarks was not dormant in me: I had already asked myself by what evident sign one could recognize a recent corpse.

From this point of view, I made a rapid exploration, and I questioned the various corpses left almost intact; I sought in some portion of the body, common to all, a form or a sign invariably found in all.

The hand furnished me that sign and responded fully to my question.

I noticed, in fact, that in all these corpses the thumb exhibited a singular attitude—that of adduction or attraction inward, which I had never noted either in persons waking or sleeping.

This was a flash of light to me. To be yet more sure of my discovery, I examined a number of arms severed from the trunk; they showed the same tendency. I even saw hands severed from the forearm; and, in spite of this severing of the flexor muscles, the thumb still revealed this same sign. Such persistence in the same fact could not allow of the shadow of a doubt: I possessed the sign-language of death, the semeiotics of the dead.

I rejoiced, foreseeing the service which this discovery would render upon a battle-field, for instance, where more than one man risks being buried alive. I divined, moreover, something of its artistic importance.

I then questioned my cousin and the other students present in regard to the symptomatics of death, and I saw with surprise that, not only had the expression of this phenomenon escaped them hitherto, but that they had no exact and precise knowledge concerning this grave and important question.

There remained, in order to complete my discovery and to deduce useful results from it, to verify the symptom on the dying man. It was important for me to know in what degree it might become manifest on the approach of death.

My wishes were gratified as if by magic, for I was led from the school of anatomy to that of clinical medicine. There a house-student, a friend of my cousin, placed me beside a dying patient, and I examined with the utmost attention the hands of the unhappy man struggling against the clutches of inevitable death.

At first I observed something strange in regard to myself, namely that the emotion which such a sight would have caused me under any other circumstances, was absolutely null at this moment; close attention dulled all feeling in me. I then understood the courage which may inspire the surgeon in the discharge of his duty; and I drew from this observation deductions of great artistic interest.

Now I proved that the thumbs of the dying man contracted at first in almost imperceptible degree; but as the last struggle drew near, and in the supreme efforts made by the patient to hold fast to the life which was slipping from him, I saw all his fingers convulsively directed toward the palm of the hand, thus hiding the thumbs which had previously approached that centre of convergence. Death speedily followed this crisis and soon restored to the fingers a more normal position; but the contraction of the thumb persistently conformed to my previous observations. The presence and progress of this phenomenon in the dying was invariably confirmed by numerous tests which I afterward tried.

Thus, I had acquired the proof that, not only does the total adduction of the thumb characterize death, but that this phenomenon indicates the approach of death in proportion to its intensity. I, therefore, possessed the fundamental principle of a system of semeiotics hitherto unknown to physiologists; but this principle, already so full of interest, must be made profitable to art.

A multitude of pictures, which in former times I had admired at the museum, passed before my mind's eye. I recalled battle-scenes where the dying and the dead are represented; descents from the cross where Christ is necessarily represented as dead. The idea struck me that I would go and verify the action of the thumb in these various representations which the painter's fancy has given us of death.

It was on a Sunday. The Louvre was on my way to the Conservatory, where, as is well known, I lived as pensioner.

I had often traversed the galleries of the Louvre; but now I was armed with a criterion that would give my criticisms indisputable authority.

The ignorance of the fact I sought, even among artists of renown, was not long in being made apparent: all those hands, where they thought they had depicted death, afforded me nothing but the characteristics of a more or less peaceful sleep. The correctness of my criticism may be verified anywhere.

Thus, the mere discovery of a law sufficed to elevate a poor boy of fifteen years, destitute of all science and deploring the deep ignorance in which he had hitherto been left, to the height of an infallible critic in whom the greatest artists found no mercy. I then understood all the power, all the fertility given by an acquaintance with the laws that regulate the nature of man, and in how much even genius itself may be rendered sterile by ignorance of those laws which simple observation would make them acquainted with. But, I thought, my discovery is not complete, for if, thanks to it, I have succeeded in proving that all these pictures of death are false, true only as representing sleep, it is, on the other hand, impossible for me to prove in how far those figures live, in which the painter aims to represent life. I must, therefore, seek the sign of life to complete my standard of criticism.

Suddenly, struck with amazement by the dazzling rays of unexpected light, I asked myself whether the criterion of death would not reveal to me, by the law of contraries, the thermometer of life. It should a priori—it does!

Still I felt that it was not here that I might be permitted to contemplate the vital phenomena attached to the thumb: since death was so badly rendered here, I had strong reasons for thinking that life was no better treated.

I left the museum, then, where I had nothing more to learn; and, to observe living mimetics of the thumb, I went out on the promenade of the Tuileries thronged by aristocratic people. I carefully examined the hands of this crowd, but I was not long in discovering that these elegant idlers had nothing good to offer. "This class," I said to myself, "is false from head to foot. They live an artificial, unnatural life. I see in them only artifice, or an art dishonored by using it to mask their insincerity and artificiality."

The happy idea came to me to mingle with mothers, children and nurses.

"Ah," said I, "in the midst of this throng, laughing and crying at the same time—singing, shouting, gesticulating, jumping, dancing—here is life! If the contemplation of this turbulent and affectionate little world does not instruct me, where shall I find the solution I seek?"

I did not have to wait long for this solution.

I noticed nurses who were distracted and indifferent to the children under their charge; in these the thumb was invariably drawn toward the fingers, thus offering some resemblance to the adduction which it manifests in death. With other nurses, more affectionate, the fingers of the hand that held the child were visibly parted, displaying a thumb bent outward; but this eccentration rose to still more startling proportion in those mothers whom I saw each carrying her own child; there the thumb was bent violently outward, as if to embrace and clasp a beloved being.

Thus I was not slow to recognize that the contraction of the thumb is inversely proportionate, its extension directly proportionate to the affectional exaltation of the life. "No doubt," I said to myself, "the thumb is the thermometer of life in its extending progression as it is of death in its contracting progression."

Countless examples have confirmed this. I could even, on the spot, form an idea of the degree of affection felt for the children entrusted to their care, by the women who passed before my eyes.

Sometimes I would say: "There is a servile creature whose heart is dead to that poor child whom she carries like an inert mass; the position of the thumb drawn toward the fingers renders that indifference evident," Again it was a woman in whom the sources of life swelled high at the contact with the dear treasure which she clasped; that woman was surely the mother of the child she carried, the excessive opening of her thumb left no room for doubt.

Thus my diagnostics were invariably confirmed by exact information, and I could see to what extent the remarks which I had recorded, were justified. I drew from them most interesting applications for my special course of study.

Thus, suppose I had asked the same service from three men, and that each had answered me with the single word yes, accompanied by a gesture of the hand. If one of them had let his thumb approach the forefinger, it is plain to me that he would deceive me, for his thumb thus placed tells me that he is dead to my proposition.

If I observe in the second a slight abduction of the thumb, I must believe that he, although indisposed to oblige me, will still do so from submission.

But if the third abducts his thumb forcibly from the other fingers, oh! I can count on him, he will not deceive me! The abduction of his thumb tells me more in regard to his loyalty than all the assurances which he might give me.

Behold, then, an intuition whose correctness the experience of forty years has not contradicted.

It is hard to imagine the joy I felt at my discovery produced and verified in a single day by so many examples, differing so greatly one from another and of such diverse interest.

All the emotions of this extraordinary and fertile day had so over-excited my imagination that I had great difficulty in calming my poor brain, and far from being able to enjoy the rest which I so much needed, I was a prey to wakefulness in which the turmoil of my ideas at one time made me fear that I was going mad. I then felt for the first time the frailty of the instrument of thought in regard to the faculty which rules and governs it.

In brief, I was—thanks to my double discovery—in possession of a law whose deductions ought to touch the loftiest questions of science and art,—and I was enabled thenceforth to affirm upon strong and irrefragable proof that the thumb, in its double sphere of action, is the thermometer of life as well as of death.



Episode III.



The day after that which had been so fruitful both in emotions and discoveries, a thousand recollections tumultuously besieged my mind and still disturbed me. I saw that if I could not contrive to classify them in strict order of succession, I should never be able to derive any practical value from them. I therefore took up link by link the chain of events of the previous day, but in inverse order. That is, I began my course where I left off the day before, and thus proceeded toward the Tuileries to end at the Medical School.

At the retrospective sight of all that merry, noisy little world, of all those fat, cheerful nurses, careless and laughing as they were, of those mothers each so tenderly expansive in contemplation of her child, so happy in its health and strength, so joyous and so proud of its small progress, the recollection of a phenomenon which I had not at first observed struck me with all the force of a vivid actuality.

I should say, by the way, that it is much more to the strength of my memory than to the present observation of facts, that I owe these remarks. Stability is the sine qua non of the things one proposes to examine, and the memory must possess the singular power of communicating fixity to fugitive things, permanence to instantaneousness, and actuality to the past.

Now, the phenomena of life occurring with the rapidity of lightning can only be studied retrospectively; that is to say, in the domain of memory, except to be verified if the attention, free from all other preoeccupation, allows us to seize them on the wing once more. The remark suggested to me by memory seemed all the more interesting because it formed in a new order of facts a flagrant opposition to the opinion formulated by my masters under the title of theory. Thus nature once more proved to me that the only point in which I had found them to agree, rested upon a fundamental error. I have since recognized that it is thus in the majority of cases, so that one may almost certainly pronounce erroneous any statement in regard to which all the masters of art agree.

This proposition at first seems inexplicable, but its reason is readily understood by those who know the sway of falsehood over a society perverted in its opinions as in its tastes; to those who know the deplorable facility with which error is spread and the tenacity with which it clings to our poor mind. Error, moreover, owes to our abasement which it flatters and crushes, the privilege of freedom from contradiction, and it is only in regard to truth that the minds of men are divided and contend.

On retracing in my memory the walks I had taken in the Tuileries, I was struck by an important fact amidst the phenomena called up: the voice of the nurse or mother, when she caressed her child, invariably assumed the double character of tenuity and acuteness. It was in a voice equally sweet and high-pitched that she uttered such words as these: "How lovely he is!" ... "Smile a little bit for mamma!" Now this caressing intonation, impressed by nature upon the upper notes of all these voices, forms a strange contrast to the direction which all singing-teachers agree in formulating; a direction which consists in augmenting the intensity of the sound in direct ratio to its acuteness. Thus, to them, strange to say, the entire law of vocal shades would consist in augmenting progressively the sound of the ascending phrase or scale, and diminishing in the same proportion for a descending scale. Now, nature, by a thousand irrefutable examples, directs us to do the contrary, that is, she prescribes a decrease of intensity (in music, decrescendo) proportionate to the ascensional force of the sounds.

Another blow, I thought, for my masters, or rather I receive it for them, for they, poor fellows, do not feel it. But how can these phenomena of nature have escaped them, and by what indescribable aberration can they direct, under the name of law, a process absolutely contrary to that so plainly followed by those same phenomena? However, I added, every supreme error under penalty of being self-evident, must, to endure, necessarily rest upon some truth or other. Now, on what truth do so many masters claim to base so manifest an error? This is what we must discover.

I was now convinced that caressing, tender and gentle emotions find their normal expression in high notes. This is beyond all doubt. Thus, according to the foregoing examples, if we propose to say to a child in a caressing tone that he is a darling, it would clearly be very bad taste to bellow the words at him on the pretext that, according to singing-teachers, the intensity of the sound is augmented in direct ratio to its acuteness.

But my memory, as if to confirm this principle, and to show its contrast with the custom admitted by those gentlemen, suggests to me other instances derived from the same source. Let a mother be angry with her child and threaten him with punishment; she instantly assumes a grave tone which she strives to render powerful and intense. Here, then, on the one hand (and nature proclaims it), the voice decreases in intensity in proportion as it rises higher; and, on the other hand, it increases in proportion as it sinks. This double fact, undeniably established, constitutes an unanswerable argument against the system in question. But it is not, therefore, necessarily its radical and absolute refutation. No, doubtless, whatever may be the significance and the number of the facts opposed to the directions of those gentlemen, these facts do not seem to exclude exceptions upon which they may be founded. In fact, I find in my memory many examples favorable to those masters. Thus, I have seen many nurses lose their temper and still use the higher tones of their voice; and, on the other hand, I also remark (and the remark is important) a certain form, the appellative form, where all the characters agree without exception in producing the greatest intensity possible upon the high notes.

The professors of singing triumph, for they find in this appellative form, always and necessarily sharp and boisterous at the same time, a striking confirmation of their system. Here I seem to stray far from the solution which I thought I already grasped! Far from it; the light is breaking. Hitherto the examples evoked had only increased my obscurity by their multiplicity, and I saw nothing in all these remarks but a series of contradictions whence it seemed impossible to deduce anything but confusion, into which I found myself plunged.

But was this confusion really in the facts which I examined, or was it not rather the creation of my own mind? Now, in the matter of principle, the weakness of individual reason has been too often proved to me to allow of my attaching any other cause to the contradictions which block my path and force me to confess my ignorance. I will not, then, here cry mea culpa for myself or for others to justify that ignorance or excuse its confession. It must be acknowledged that God knows what He does, and His omnipotence is assuredly guiltless of the divagations which an impotent mind finds it convenient to attribute to it.

Now, let others in the blindness of proud reason, forget this truth, which they contest even by opposing to it the quibbles for which free-thinkers are never at a loss, and to escape the confusion which they inevitably derive from the ill-studied work of the Supreme Artist. Let them venture to attribute to it their own darkness. For my part, I shall not thereby lose my conviction that all which seems to me disordered or contradictory in the expression of the facts which I question, is only apparent and only exist in my own brain.

The profound obscurity into which light plunges us does not prevent the light from being; and the chaos of ideas which, most generally, results from our examination of things, proves nothing against the harmonies of their constitution.

The pebble virtually contains the spark, but we must know how to produce it. Thus the phenomena of nature contain luminous lessons, but we must know how to make them speak; and, what is more, understand their language. Now, I would add, the spirit of God is inherent in all things; and this spirit should, at a given moment, flash its splendors in the eyes of an intellect alike submissive, attentive, patient and suppliant.

Moreover, does not the Gospel show us the way to fertilize investigations such as those to which I have given my life? Does it not say: "Knock and it shall be opened, ask and it shall be given?" Then what must I do to find my way out of the maze in which my reason wanders? What must I do in presence of the contradictions which nevertheless must needs contain a fecund principle? Finally, what must I do in order to see light break from the very heart of those obscurities wherein light is lost?

I will seek anew, night and day, if needful; I will knock incessantly at the door of the facts which I desire to examine. I will descend into the secret depths of their organism; there I will patiently question every phenomenon, every organ, and I will entreat their Author to divulge to me their purpose, their relations and their very object.

Well! It is thus that those men, proud of their vain knowledge, were made dizzy by the splendor of that same light which they thought that they could subject to their investigations, and the blindness which has fallen upon them is the punishment which God is content to inflict upon them in this world.

Having said this, where was I in my investigations? Ah! it was here.

The memory of the high inflections invariably affected by the women whom I had seen on the previous day, caressing their infants, struck me with the more force that I had learned from my masters that law which had hitherto ruled uncontested, and now underwent a refutation which demonstrated the falsity of its applications with a clearness and minuteness which left no room for doubt.

The examples in virtue of which I saw the errors of my masters, unanimously proclaimed the tenuity of the voice to be in proportion to its acuteness.

Now this formula is, in letter as in spirit, the reverse of the prescription upon which, by a caprice whose cause I have just explained, all the masters of art agree.

I then perceived that my first affirmations were no better founded than those of the masters, whose theories I had attacked. The truth of the matter is that ascending progressions may arise from opposite shades of meaning. "Therefore," said I to myself, "it is equally inadmissible to exclude either affirmation."

The law is necessarily complex: let us bring together, that we may seize them as a whole, both the contrary expressions and the circumstances which produce them.

Vulgar and uncultured people, as well as children, seem to act in regard to an ascensional vocal progression in an inverse sense to well-educated, or, at any rate, affectionate persons, such as mothers, fond nurses, etc.

No example has, to my knowledge, contradicted this remark.

But why this difference? What are its motive causes?

"Ha!" I cried, as if struck by lightning, "I've found the law! As with the movements of the head, sensuality and tenderness, these shades of the voice may be traced back to two distinct sources: sentiment and passion. It is sentiment which I have seen revealed in mothers; it is passion which we find in uncultured persons."

Sentiment and passion, then, proceed in an inverse way. Passion strengthens the voice in proportion as it rises, and sentiment, on the contrary, softens it in due ratio to its intensity. It was the confusion of these different sources which caused a momentary obscurity in my understanding.

Let us now formulate boldly the law of vocal proportions.

Given a rising form, such as the ascending scale, there will be intensitive progression when this form should express passion (whether impulse, excitement or vehemence).

There will be, on the other hand, a diminution of intensity where this same form should express sentiment.

This law even seems regulated by a quantitative expression, the form of which appeared to me like a flash of light. This is the formula:

Under the influence of sentiment the smallest and most insignificant things that we may wish to represent proportion themselves to the degree of acuteness of the sounds, which become softened in proportion as they rise.

Under the influence of passion, on the contrary, the voice rises, with a corresponding brilliancy, in proportion to the magnitude of the thing it would express, and becomes lowered to express smallness or meanness. Thus an ascending scale being given, it must be considered as a double scale of proportion, agreeing alternately with an increasing or decreasing intensitive progression, increasing under the influence of passion and decreasing under the influence of sentiment.

Thus we would not use the same tones for the words: "Oh, what a pretty little girl!" "What a lovely little flower!" and: "See that nice, fat peasant woman!" "What a comfortable great house!"

By such formulae as these I was able to sum up, in clear and didactic form, the multifarious examples suggested by my memory, startled at first by their contradiction and then delighted at the light thrown upon them by these very formulae, due, not to my own merit, but to the favor of Him who holds in His hand the source of all truth.

Thus, I feel and readily acknowledge, that the discovery upon which I am at work is not my own work; and, therefore, I pray for it as for a signal favor. Nor can it be otherwise with any man. It is, therefore, always an impertinence for any man to attribute to his personal genius, vast as he may suppose it to be, the discovery of any law. God alone discloses His treasures, and, as I have experienced, He only reveals them to the eye of reason raised by humility to contemplation.

Man seeks that which he desires to know with attention and patience proportioned to the ardor of his desire. The attention of which his mind is capable and the constancy of will brought to bear in pursuit of his research, constitute his only mark of distinction. Herein lies all the merit to which he can lay just claim. But at a moment absolutely unforeseen, God reveals to him that which he seeks, I should say that for which he does not seek, and for his due edification it is generally the opposite of what he seeks which is revealed to him. This is not to be contested. Thus the things discovered to him cause him such surprise that he never fails to beat his brow when he sees them, as if to prove that he is not the author of their discovery, and that he was far from foreseeing anything like what has been shown to him; and that there may be no possible mistake in the interpretation of the gesture, he invariably accompanies it by the phrase: "What a fool I am!" All will admit that if a man really believed himself the author of his discovery, he takes a very inopportune time to declare his impotence and his stupidity so distinctly. But taking none too kindly his avowal which, moreover, is but the proclamation of an indisputable truth, let us rather say that this act of humility is forced from him by the greatness of his surprise.

Happy, very happy is the man whose pride does not instantly react against the humble and truthful confession of his folly.

Ever since I made these remarks I have asked myself the cause of the sterility of the learned bodies, and I do not hesitate to say to-day, that it is because scientists refuse to declare themselves fools, and it is to this lack of sincerity that they doubtless owe the punishment that paralyzes their genius.

How can these men fail to take seriously the little knowledge to which they cling and their fortune and renown; how can these wise men, to whom the world pays incessant homage, consent meekly to confess the infirmity of their reason? They feign, on the contrary, even when crushed beneath the Divine splendor, an air of great importance; and when the Omnipotent in His mercy deigns to bend to their low level, to lay open to them the treasures of His sovereign thought, do you think that in token of the sacred and respectful admiration which they owe in return for such goodness, they will prostrate themselves like the Seraphim whose knowledge assuredly equals the few notions which they adorn with that title? Ah! far from it. You little know these scientists, when you impute to them an act which they would qualify as contemptible and would declare unworthy of a free-thinker! They stand erect, on the contrary, with head held high, insolently laying claim, by virtue of I know not what conquest of the human mind, to judge the eternal and immovable light of the Divine Reason.



Episode IV.



My retrospective journey from this point of departure seemed destined to be even more full of observations than that which preceded it. My day had been so full of work, so fruitful in unexpected discoveries, that it was absolutely necessary for me to stop at this first station.

After a few days of rest I naturally resumed my walk, toward the garden of the Tuileries, whither I was led by an instinct full of promise. There, in fact, fresh re-appearances were not long in adding light to that with which I was still dazzled!

I remember that I had been vaguely struck by the contemplative attitude of a mother toward her child. The reason why this attitude struck me even in the midst of my absorption in search of notes relative to the thumb, was, first, because this attitude was a contrast to that assumed by most of the nurses under the action of the same feeling; and, in the next place, it seemed to deny the contemplative forms which I had deduced from my first discovery, and which rested upon such motives as the following: That a painter admires his work by throwing back his head. Hitherto it had seemed to me clearly proven that admiring contemplation entailed this retroaction. I considered this, it will be remembered, the characteristic feature of a law, and that for the reasons which I had previously given. Well! were all these reasons, plausible as they appeared, to be contradicted by a single fact still present to my memory, in spite of the observations in the midst of which it arose, and which, moreover, should have been more than enough to efface it? Strange to say, this fact vaguely noted amidst preoeccupations to which it seemed absolutely foreign, had remained persistently in my mind! Now this fact, becoming by a reflex act the object of serious thought, resulted from this observation:

That a woman, as she contemplated her child, bent her head toward it.

Searching in my memory, I found several similar instances completely confirming this principle, opposed to my observations, that contemplation tends to push the head toward the object contemplated.

And yet this example does not affect those to which I had at first paid exclusive heed. Here, as in the preceding remarks, the law is complex, and it must first be recognized that contemplation or simple admiration is produced alike by the retreat or advance of the head. This double action being admitted, it remained to decide how far they might be mingled in a single situation; that is to say, to what point these two inverse inclinations might be produced indifferently; and if, as I must a priori suppose, these inclinations recognized two distinct causes. If so, what were those reasons? The question was not easy of solution, and yet it must be decided definitely. I could enjoy no peace until I had answered it. The doubt instilled into my mind by this new contradiction was intolerable. I set boldly to work, determined not to pause until I had found a final solution. I called to mind all my memories having any bearing on this double phenomenon. These memories were far more numerous and far more striking than I had dared to hope. What a magnificent thing are those mysterious reservoirs whence, at a given moment, flow thousands of pictures which until then we knew not that we possessed? A whole world of prostrate believers adoringly turning their heads toward the object of their worship, appeared before me to support the example afforded me by the mother lovingly bending her head toward the child at which she gazed.

Among other instances, I saw a venerable master affectionately bending his head toward the being to whom he thus seemed with touching predilection to give luminous instructions.

I saw lovers gazing at their loved one with this attractive pose of the head, their tenderness seeming thus to be eloquently affirmed. But, side by side with these examples, I saw others totally opposite; thus, other lovers presented themselves to my mind's eye with very different aspect, and their number seemed far greater than that of the other. These lovers delighted to gaze at their sweetheart as painters study their work, with head thrown back. I saw mothers and many nurses gazing at children with this same retroactive movement which stamped their gaze with a certain expression of satisfied pride, generally to be noted in those who carried a nursling distinguished for its beauty or the elegance of its clothes.

Two words, as important as they are opposite in the sense that they determine, are disengaged: sensuality and tenderness.

Such are the sources to which we must refer the attitudes assumed by the head on sight of the object considered.

Between these inverse attitudes a third should naturally be placed. It was easy for me to characterize this latter: I called it colorless or indifferent.

It is entirely natural that the man who considers an object from the point of view of the mere examination which his mind makes of it, should simply look it in the face until that object had aroused the innermost movements of the soul or of the life.

Whence it invariably follows that from the incitement of these movements, the head is bent to the side of the soul or to the side of the senses.

"Which is, then, for the head, the side of the soul," you will ask me, "and which the side of the senses?"

I will reply simply, to cut short the useless description of the many drawbacks that preceded the clear demonstration that I finally established, that the side of the heart is the objective side that occupies the interlocutor, and that the side of the senses is the subjective, personal side toward which the head retroacts; that is to say, the side opposed to the object under examination. Thus, when the head moves in an inverse direction from the object that it examines, it is from a selfish standpoint; and when the examiner bends toward the object it is in contempt of self that the object is viewed.

These are the two related looks that I have named Sensuality and Tenderness, for these reasons:

The former of these glances is addressed exclusively to the form of its object; it caresses the periphery of it, and, the better to appreciate its totality, moves away from it. This is what occurs in the retroactive attitude of the head.

The other look, on the contrary, aims at the heart of things without pausing on the surface, disdaining all that is external. It strives to penetrate the object to its very essence, as if to unite itself more closely within it; it has the expression of confidence, of faith—in a word, the giving up of self.

Thus, when a man presses a woman's hand, we may affirm one of three things from the attitude which his head assumes:

1. That he does not love her, if his head remains straight or simply bent in facing her.

2. That he loves her tenderly, if he bows his head obliquely toward her.

3. Finally, that he loves her sensually—that is to say, solely for her physical qualities—if, on looking at her, he moves his head toward the shoulder which is opposite her.

Such are, in brief, the three attitudes of the head and the eyes, which I have named colorless, affectional, sensual.

Henceforth I possessed completely the law of the inclinations of the head, a law which derives from its very complexity the fertility of its applications.



Episode V.

Semeiotics of The Shoulder.



When I found myself the possessor of this law whose triple formula is of a nature to defy every objection, I sought to appropriate to myself, before the mirror, all its applications.

But there arose yet another difficulty that I had not foreseen.

I, indeed, reproduced, and at the proper time, the movements of the head already described, but they remained awkward and lifeless.

What was the cause of this awkwardness and coldness of which I was well aware, but which I could not help? I strove unceasingly to reproduce the examples that lived so vividly in my memory, but all these laborious reproductions, these efforts from memory, were futile. The stubbornness of an indomitable will, however, led only to a negative result. I was vexed at an awkwardness the reason of which I could not find.

One day, almost discouraged by the lack of success in my researches, I sorrowfully said to myself: "What shall I do? Alas! the more I labor, the less clearly I see; am I incapable of reproducing nature—is the difficulty that holds me back invincible?"

As I uttered the preceding words, I noticed that, under the sway of the grief which dictated them, my shoulders were strangely lifted up, and, as then I found myself in the attitude which I had previously tried to render natural, the unexpected movement of my shoulders, joined to that attitude, suddenly impressed it with an expression of life so just, so true, so surprising, that I was overwhelmed.

Thus I gained possession of an aesthetic fact of the first rank, and I was as amazed at my discovery as I was surprised that I had not observed sooner a self-evident movement, whose powerful and expressive character seems fundamentally connected with the actions of the head. "How stupid I am," I thought, "not to have remarked so evident an action of an agent which leads the head itself. How could I let this movement of the shoulder escape me!" And I revelled in the pleasurable triumph of reproducing and contemplating expressions which I could not have rendered previously without dishonoring them. Thenceforth I understood without a doubt all the importance of this latest discovery. But this importance, clearly proven as it was, was not yet fully explained to me.

Thus, I knew henceforth the necessity for movements of the shoulder, but I was still ignorant of their motive cause; and I was reluctant to be longer ignorant. I foresaw a concomitance of relations between this movement of the shoulder and the expression of the head.

The shoulder, then, became, in its turn, the chief object of my studies, and I gained therefrom clear and indisputable principles.

In this way I managed to form the bases of my discovery. The mothers whom I had seen bending their heads over the children on whom they gazed, thus revealed something unreserved and touching; and in my ignorance the important part which the shoulder played in the attitude had escaped me. It was indeed from the action of the shoulder, even more than from the inclination of the head, that this expression of tenderness, so touching to behold, proceeded.

The head, in such a case, accordingly receives its greatest sum of expression from the shoulder. That is a fact to be noted.

For instance, let a head—however loving we may suppose it to be intrinsically—bend toward the object of its contemplation, and let the shoulder not be lifted, that head will plainly lack an air of vitality and warm sincerity without which it cannot persuade us. It will lack that irresistible character of intensity which, in itself, supposes love; in brief, it will be lacking in love.

"Then," I said, "I have found in the shoulder the agent, the centre of the manifestations of love."

Yes, if in pressing a friend's hand I raise my shoulders, I shall thereby eloquently demonstrate all the affection with which he inspires me.

If in looking at a woman I clasp my hands and at the same time raise my shoulders, there is no longer any doubt as to the feeling that attaches me to her, and instinctively every one will say: "He loves her truly;" but if, preserving the same attitude in the same situation, the same facial expression, the same movement of the head, I happen to withhold the action of the shoulder, instantly all love will disappear from my expression and nothing will be left to that attitude but a sentiment vague and cold as falsehood.

Once more, then, the inclinations of the head whose law I have previously determined, seem, to owe to the shoulder alone the affectionate meaning that they express; but the head—as I have said,—in its double inclination, characterizes two kinds of love (or rather two sources of love) which are not to be confounded: sensuality and tenderness.

What part, then, does the shoulder play in regard to this distinction? It will be curious to determine this point. Let us see!

The part played by the shoulder is considerable in tenderness; that is not to be doubted. But its role seems to be less in sensuality. Thus the shoulder generally rises less when the head retroacts than when it advances toward the object of its contemplation. Why is this? Is it because sensuality pertains less to love than tenderness? Has it not the same title to rank as one of the aspects of love? In a word, why is less demand made upon the shoulder in one instance than in the other?

If I do not mistake, the reason is this: love gives more than it lays claim to receive, while sensuality asks continually and seeks merely the possession of its object. Love understands and loves sacrifice; it pervades the whole being; it inspires it to bestow its entire self, and that gift admits of no reserve.

Sensuality, on the contrary, is essentially selfish; far from giving itself, it pretends to appropriate and absorb in itself the object of its desires. Sensuality is, so to speak, but a distorted, narrow and localized love; the body is the object of its contemplation, and it [sensuality] sees nothing beyond the possession of the object.

But love does not stop at the body—that would be its tomb; it crosses the limits of it, to rise to the soul in which it is utterly absorbed. Thus love transfigures the being by consuming its personality, whence it comes that he who loves, no longer lives his own life, but the life of the being whom he contemplates.

Let the vulgar continually confound these two things in their manifestations; let lovers themselves fail to distinguish accurately between tenderness and sensuality; for me this confusion is henceforth forbidden, and I can from the first glance boldly separate them, thanks to the lessons taught me by the inflections of the head.

But let us return to the shoulder. Am I not right in saying that in this agent I possess the organic criterion of love? Yes, I maintain it. But let us follow the action of this organ in its various manifestations.

One thing at first amazed me, in view of the part which I felt I must assign to the shoulder. Whence comes, if the designation of that role be in conformity with truth,—whence comes the activity so apparent, so vehement indeed, which the shoulder displays in a movement of anger or of mere impatience? Whence comes its perfect concomitance or relations with moral or physical pain? Lastly, whence comes that universal application which I just now perceived clearly and which, until now, I had confined to such narrow limits? But if the elevation of the shoulder is not the criterion of love, if, on the contrary, that movement is met with again just as correctly associated with the most contradictory impressions, what can it mean?

Here I was, once again, thrown far back from the discovery that I was so sure I possessed.

It is very fortunate that I have been neither an author nor a journalist, and I bless to-day that distrust of self which has saved me from the mania of writing. I highly congratulate myself on the spirit of prudence that has invariably made me reply to whoever pressed me to publish: "When I am old."

Age has come, and it has found me even less disposed to publicity than ever. This work owes its existence solely to the earnest and continual solicitations, the sometimes severe demands of deep friendship and devotion, which it was impossible for me to refuse. This book is not, then, a spontaneous enterprise on my part; it is the work of friendship. And if this book has any measure of success, if it accomplishes any good, it may be traced back to and acknowledged as rising from the never-failing encouragement of my old friend Brucker.

Let us return, now, to where I was in my researches.

It remains, then, for me to specify the true meaning of the shoulders in the expression of the passions. Their intervention in all forms of emotion being proven to me, it would seem that the very frequency of that intervention should exclude the possibility of assigning any particular role to this agent.

Fancy my perplexity, placed face to face with an organ infinitely expressive, but whose physiognomy is mingled promiscuously with every sentiment and every passion!

How, then, are we to characterize the shoulder? What name shall we give to its dominant role? How specify that supreme power outside of which all expression ceases to exist? Is it allowable for me to call it neutral? And if the universal application of that agent apparently authorizes that appellation up to a certain point, whence comes its importance? Whence the empire that it exerts over the aspect of its congeners? Is it admissible for a neutral agent to exert so much action upon the totality of the forces to which it is allied?

Assuredly not! The word neutral, moreover, excludes the idea of action, and even more strongly that of predominant action which belongs surpassingly to the shoulder. Truly, here was a treasure-house for me. It was, as they say, "to give speech to the dogs."

This new difficulty only increased the determination with which I had pursued my researches; and with the confidence arising from the fact that no obstacle had yet conquered me, I said to myself that the solution of this problem would be due to my perseverance. I could not, in view of the importance of its expression, consider the shoulder as a neutral agent. After spending a long time in vain study, I was on the point of giving up as insoluble the problem that I had set myself. Let us see by what simple means I obtained the solution. How much trouble and pains one will sometimes give himself in looking for spectacles that are on his nose!

The shoulder, in every man who is moved or agitated, rises sensibly, his will playing no part in the ascension; the successive developments of this involuntary act are in absolute proportion to the passional intensity whose numeric measure they form; the shoulder may, therefore, be fitly called the thermometer of the sensibility.

"Thermometer," I cried, "there is an excellent word, strikingly correct. But have I not, in pronouncing it, simply and naturally characterized the role that I am striving to define?

"Thermometer of the sensibility! Is not that the solution of the enigma? Thermometer; yes, that is it! That is the very expression to give to my researches, an expression without which nothing could be explained. That, indeed, answers to everything, and makes the difficulties against which my reason struggled disappear."

The shoulder is, in fact, precisely the thermometer of passion as well as of sensibility; it is the measure of their vehemence; it determines their degree of heat and intensity. However, it does not specify their nature, and it is certainly in an analogous sense that the instrument known by the name of thermometer marks the degrees of heat and cold without specifying the nature of the weather—a specification belonging to another instrument, the complement of the thermometer—the barometer. The parallel is absolute, perfect.

Let us examine this point:

The shoulder, in rising, is not called upon to teach us whether the source of the heat or vehemence which mark it, arise from love or hate. This specification does not lie within its province; it belongs entirely to the face, which is to the shoulder what the barometer is to the thermometer. And it is thus that the shoulder and the face enter into harmonious relations to complete the passional sense which they have to determine mutually and by distinct paths.

Now, the shoulder is limited, in its proper domain, to proving, first, that the emotion expressed by the face is or is not true. Then, afterward, to marking, with mathematical rigor, the degree of intensity to which that emotion rises.

After having finished the formulation of this principle I exultingly exclaimed:

"God be praised! I now possess the semeiotics of the shoulder, and thereby I hold the criterion of the passional or sensitive powers—a criterion outside of which no truth can be demonstrated in the sphere of sentiment or feeling."

Thus, a word suggested by chance became my Archimedean lever. The word, like a flash of light, flooded my mind with radiance which suddenly revealed to me the numerous and fertile applications of a principle hitherto unknown. Yes, I henceforth possessed an aesthetic principle of the utmost value, the consequences of which, I could readily see, were as novel as they were profound.



Episode VI.

First Objection to the Thermometric System of the Shoulder.



The innate aesthetic principle of the semeiotics of the shoulder was at last clearly demonstrated to me, and no more doubt or uncertainty upon that point seemed to me possible. I might safely formulate the following rule:

When a man says to you in interjective form: "I love, I suffer, I am delighted," etc., do not believe him if his shoulder remains in a normal attitude. Do not believe him, no matter what expression his face may assume. Do not believe him—he lies; his shoulder denies his words. That negative form betrays his thoughts; and, if he expresses ardent passion, you have merely to consult the thermometer which, all unwittingly, he himself offers to your inspection. See, it marks zero! therefore he lies; doubt it not, he lies! but his shoulder does not lie. He amiably puts it at your disposal—read, read at your ease; it bears inscribed in living letters his deceit and craft. It can never cheat you, and when the gentleman accosts you with such words as: "Dear friend! how charmed I am to see you!" say to yourself as you look at his thermometer: "Traitor, your delight as well as your friendship is below zero! You try to deceive me, but in vain; henceforth you have no secrets from me, clumsy forger! You do not see, as with one hand you proffer the false jewel which you would sell me, that the other at the same instant gives me the touch-stone which reveals your tricks; your right hand thus incessantly exposing to me the secrets of your left hand!"

What an admirable thing is this mechanism of the body working in the service of the soul! With what precision it reveals the least movements of its master! What magnificent things it lays bare! Voluntarily or involuntarily, everything leads to truth under the action of the translucid light which breaks forth in the working of each of our organs!

And yet, well founded as the preceding theory may be, solid as are the bases upon which it rests, is it free from any and all objection? May not some oppose to it, for instance, the impassibility of men and women of the world, among whom it would be difficult to find the movements of the shoulder, which such people deem so ungraceful in others as to deprive them of all desire to imitate them? Now what conclusions are we to draw from the absence of this movement in those who are known as aristocrats? Must we tax them all indiscriminately with falsehood?

Here I might, and without hesitation, answer by the affirmation, Yes, all aristocrats lie! The medium which they constitute and which is called the world is nothing but a perpetual lie. Civility itself rests upon a lie. Nay, more, it insists upon deceit as a duty. Heavens, what would become of the world if truth were a necessity! Quarter of an hour of sincerity would be intolerable; ... the inhabitants would slay each other!

In the world people display their feelings, even the most avowable, with great reserve; this prudence, which paralyzes the very springs of sensitive life, seems as if it needs must neutralize the role which I attribute to the shoulder; and yet, in spite of contrary appearances, I deny that the thermometric action of the shoulder undergoes the least alteration in the aristocratic world; I deny explicitly that this agent proves less expressive and, above all, less truthful there than in the street; and that for the following reasons:

In the first place, we cannot reasonably suppose very ardent passions in men who are enervated by the perpetual influence of an artificial society. Now, here the stationary condition of the thermometer is explained: it proves absolutely nothing against the truth of the reports; it remains at zero to mark a colorless medium totally destitute of vitality. The shoulder would violate its law if it were to rise under such circumstances. It is, therefore, perfectly in character here; it should be, a priori, impassive in a negative society.

But is the shoulder really impassive in that medium which we call society?

Yes, in the eyes of people who are not of it, and who, from that very fact, cannot understand the value of certain expressions which are almost imperceptible; no, to those who constitute that special world of relations called superior.

How many things, in fact, the shoulder reveals by those slight changes unseen by ignorant persons, and expressing particularly the delicate and exquisite charm of spiritual relations! It is the law of infinitesimal quantities, of those scarcely perceptible movements or sensations that characterize the finer relations of people of culture, of eloquence, of grace, and of refined tastes.

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