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PAGE 3

Auguste Comte
by [?]

He appeared, and a fusillade of books, rulers and ink-wells shot at his learned head from every quarter of the room. Other professors appeared and sought to restore order. Riot followed–seats were torn up, windows broken, and there was much loud talk and gesticulation peculiarly Gallic.

It was Ninety-three done in little.

Instead of expelling the delinquents, the National Assembly took the matter in hand and simply voted to close the school.

Auguste Comte went home a hero, proud as a Heidelberg student, with a sweeping scar on his chin and the end of his nose gone. “I have dealt the Old Education its deathblow,” he solemnly said, mistaking a cane-rush for a revolution.

Against the direct command of his parents, he went back to Paris. He had now reached the mature age of eighteen. He resolved to write out truth as it occurred to him, and incidentally he would gain a livelihood by teaching mathematics.

At Paris, the mental audacity of the youth won him recognition; he picked up a precarious living, and was a frequenter at scientific lectures and discussions, and in gatherings where great themes were up for debate, he was always present.

Benjamin Franklin was his ideal. In his notebook he wrote this: “Franklin at twenty-five resolved he would become great and wise. I now vow the same at twenty.” He had five years the start!

Franklin, calm, healthy, judicial, wise–the greatest man America has produced–worked his philosophy up into life. He did not think much beyond his ability to perform. To him, to think was to do. And he did things that to many men were miracles.

Comte once said, “I would have followed the venerable Benjamin Franklin through the street, and kissed the hem of the homespun overcoat, made by Deborah.” These men were very unlike. One was big, gentle, calm and kind; the other was small, dyspeptic, excitable and full of challenge. Yet the little man had times of insight and abstraction, when he tracked reasons further than the big, practical man could have followed them.

Franklin’s habit of life–the semi-ascetic quality of getting your gratification by doing without things–especially pleased Comte. He lived in a garret on two meals a day, and was happy in the thought that he could endure and yet think and study. The old monastic impulse was upon him, minus the religious features–or stay! why may not science become a religion? And surely science can become dogmatic, and even tyrannically build a hierarchy on a hypothesis no less than theology.

A friend, pitying young Comte’s hard lot, not knowing its sweet recompense, got him a position as tutor in the household of a nobleman; like unto the kind man who caught the sea-gulls roosting on an iceberg, and in pity, transferred them to the warm delights of a compost-pile in his barnyard.

Comte held the place for three weeks and then resigned. He went back to the garret and sweet liberty–having had his taste of luxury, but miserable in it all–wondering how a gavotte or a minuet could make a man forget that he was living in a city where thirty thousand human beings were constantly only one meal beyond the sniff of starvation.

At this time Comte came into close relationship with a man who was to have a very great influence in his life–this was Count Henri of Saint-Simon, usually spoken of as Saint-Simon.

Saint-Simon was rich, gently proud, and fondly patronizing. He was a sort of scientific Maecenas–and be it known that Maecenas was a poet and philosopher of worth, and one Horace was his pupil.

Saint-Simon was an excellent and learned man who wrote, lectured and taught on philosophic themes. He had a garden-school, modeled in degree after that of Plato. Saint-Simon became much interested in young Comte, invited him to his classes, supplied him books, clothing, and tickets to the opera. Part of the time Comte lived under Saint-Simon’s roof, and did translating and copying in partial payment for his meal-ticket. The teacher and the pupil had a fine affection for each other. What Comte needed, he took from Saint-Simon as if it were his own.