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ERNEST RENAN.

offered to a new France the counsels and the warnings of a clear-sighted and devoted friend. In his writings there was no ground on which he did not venture. In the midst of his great historical and exegetical work, his translations of Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, his superintendence of the difficult undertaking of the Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum, his contributions to the literary history of France—contributions which are triumphs of minute and accurate erudition—and while drawing up, year by year, for the Asiatic Society, a survey of all the new works on Oriental subjects, he was giving to the world his views and his visions of the universe and humanity, of life and of morals, now under the severer form of the Philosophic Dialogues, now in the light and softly ironical guise of the dramatic sketches—Caliban, L'Eau de Jouvence, Le Prêtre de Némi, L'Abbesse de Jouarre; and, in addition to all this, he was working hard at the reform of the higher education, and finding time to write those exquisite fragments of autobiography which are collected under the title Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse.

In this expansion of all his faculties of thought and action, favored by the triple life of the study, the world, and the family, Renan was happy; and his joy in life and its activities gave to his philosophy a sunny optimism which might at first sight seem hardly reconcilable with the absence of all certitude, all metaphysical or religious conviction. People were surprised and a little shocked to find the author of the Moral and Critical Essays, the writer of those unforgettable pages on the dreamy melancholy of the Celtic races, the critic who poured reprehension on the frivolity of the Gaul and the bourgeois theology of Béranger, preaching at times a gospel of light-heartedness which Béranger himself would not have disavowed, and regarding life as an amusing entertainment of which we are at once the puppets and the spectators, and the wires of which are pulled by an amused but indifferent Demiurge. To many readers Renan became the mere apostle of dilettanteism, for whom religion was but an empty dream of the imagination or the heart, morality but an assemblage of conventions and conveniences, and life an illusive phantasmagoria which one must not be duped into taking seriously.

Nevertheless, those who best knew his work—and, above all, those who best knew his life—knew that this dilettanteism, this apparent epicureanism, did not really lie at the foundation of his mind and heart; that it was in part the result of the inward contradiction between his deeply religious nature and his conviction that there is no such thing as knowledge, except of phenomena, no such thing as certitude, except of finite things; and, for the rest, he was too sincere to affirm anything on subjects which could not be brought within the range of positive cognizance. His life