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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/594

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

intrigue and mystification. From his childhood he had been educated in strictly Roman Catholic schools, and everything was done by his pious parents and teachers to render him sound in the faith. Long before arriving at man's estate he had thrown off these influences and cast in his lot with unbelievers, although he continued to go to mass, confession, and communion. While a pupil in the Catholic College of St. Louis, at Marseilles, he was strongly attracted to the political views of the radical party as set forth in Rochefort's Lanterne, and soon began to write for the press; in 1871 he joined the editorial staff of Egalité, and published for two years a humoristic journal—La Marotte (Fool's Bauble). It is not necessary to give a detailed sketch of this man's life. Suffice it to say that he was violently anticlerical, and was repeatedly fined and imprisoned for articles insulting to the Church and to ecclesiastical dignitaries. On December 29, 1881, at Montpellier, he was condemned to pay a fine of sixty-five thousand francs for publishing a book entitled The Secret Amours of Pius IX. He appealed from this decision, and, after repeated efforts, succeeded in having the indictment quashed. A new edition appeared in 1885, and was announced by large placards, in the center of which was a medallion of the Pope's head, encircled with the heads of a bevy of beautiful women, forming, according to the author, a fitting halo for his Holiness. We may add that the sensational revelations contained in this book, as well as in the Scandalous History of the Orleans and similar works, are for the most part mere figments of the imagination recorded as facts, for the purpose of mystifying credulous public. In 1880 he founded a "Society of Freethinkers," which, with its numerous branches, numbered in a few years about seventeen thousand members. The remarkable success of this movement was due in a great measure to the energy with which he advocated it in the columns of the République Anti-Clericale, of which he was the editor.

Perhaps the most comical episode in his strange career is his pretended repentance, resulting in the return of this black sheep to the fold of the Catholic Church. In his Confessions the arrant renegade relates how, on April 3, 1885 (April 1st would have been a more appropriate date), while engaged in writing a book on Joan of Arc designed to excite animosity against the clergy, his fell purpose was suddenly shaken by strong compunctions, and soon a fearful agitation convulsed his whole being. His description of his contrition and self-reproaches is quite sensational and thrilling, and shows rare talent as an actor, if we only bear in mind that the whole thing was a farce. "I burst into sobs. 'Pardon me, God!' I cried out in a voice choked with tears. 'Pardon