Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/860

This page has been validated.
838
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

—the habitual attitude of his nature—was that of a Stoic, a Stoic without haughtiness and without rigidity, and with no idea of proposing himself as a model for others. His optimism was not the beatified self-satisfaction of a frivolous mind, but the chosen and cultivated optimism of the man of action, who feels that, in order to act, one must believe that life is worth living, and that some things are worth doing. Never was there a man more deeply benevolent, serviceable, and kind than Ernest Renan, however he accused himself of coldness in the service of his friends. Never was there a more scrupulous devotee of duty, public and private, faithful to the verge of heroism to every undertaking to which he had committed himself, accepting no office of which he could not fulfill all the obligations, and defying, toward the end of his life, the sharpest sufferings, in order to discharge to the last his professional duties. This apparently light-hearted man was subject for many years to attacks of a most painful illness; but he never allowed them to interfere with the integrity of his thought, or to hinder the, accomplishment of the tasks which he had set himself. The last months of his life bore witness to the reality of his stoicism. He had often expressed the wish that he might die without pain and without any enfeebling of the mind. He had, indeed, the happiness of retaining his faculties to the last; but pain was not spared him. He dreaded it beforehand, as depressing and degrading; when it came, he did not allow himself to be depressed or degraded by it. From the month of January he knew that there was no hope; he told his friends so; and he asked nothing more but time and strength to finish his lectures and complete the works already in hand. He wished once more to visit his beloved Brittany; then, feeling himself grow worse, he insisted on returning to Paris, to die at his post as head of the College de France. His death took place there on the 2d of October.[1] During these eight months he suffered incessant pain, sometimes so severe that he could not speak; but he was still gentle and affectionate to those around him, trying to cheer them, and telling them that he was happy. The very day of his death he found strength to dictate a page or two on Arabic architecture to his wife. He congratulated himself on having attained his seventieth year—"the normal life of man, according to the Scriptures." One of his last utterances was: "Let us submit ourselves to these laws of Nature, of which we ourselves are one of the manifestations. The heavens and the earth remain."

To those who have known him, he leaves an ineffaceable memory. There was nothing in his personal appearance to suggest that irresistible charm. Short of stature, with an enormous head


  1. 1892.