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Auguste Comte
by [?]

In writing to friends at this time, Comte praises Saint-Simon as the greatest man who ever lived–“a model of patience, generosity, learning and love–my spiritual father!” There was fifty years’ difference in their ages, but they studied, read and rambled the realm of books together, with mutual pleasure and profit.

The central idea of the “Positive Philosophy” is that of the three stages through which man passes in his evolution. This was gotten from Saint-Simon, and together they worked out much of the thought that Comte afterward carried further and incorporated in his book.

But about this time, Saint-Simon, in one of his lectures, afterward printed, made use of some of the thoughts that Comte had expressed, as if they were his own–and possibly they were. There is no copyright on an idea, no caveat can be filed on feeling, and at the last there is no such thing as originality, except as a matter of form.

Young Comte now proved his humanity by accusing his teacher of stealing his radium. A quarrel followed, in which Comte was so violent that Saint-Simon had to put the youth out of his house.

The wrangles of Grub Street would fill volumes: both sides are always right, or wrong–it matters little, and is simply a point of view. But the rancor of it all, if seen from heaven, must serve finely to dispel the monotony of the place–a panacea for paradisiacal ennui.

From lavish praise, Comte swung over to words of bitterness and accusation. Having sat at the man’s table and partaken of his hospitality for several years, he was now guilty of the unpardonable offense of ridiculing and berating him.

He speaks of the Saint as a “depraved quack,” and says that the time he spent with him was worse than wasted. If Saint-Simon was the rogue and pretender that Comte avers, it is no certificate of Comte’s insight that it took him four years to find it out.

* * * * *

In Eighteen Hundred Twenty-five Comte married. The ceremony was performed civilly, on a sudden impulse of what Schopenhauer would call “the genius of the genus.” The lady was young, agreeable; and having no opinions of her own, was quite willing to accept his. Comte congratulated himself that here was virgin soil, and he laid the flattering unction to his soul that he could mold the lady’s mind to match his own. She would be his helpmeet. Comte had not read Ouida, who once wrote that when God said, “I will make a helpmeet for him,” He was speaking ironically.

Comte had associated but very little with women–he had theories about them. Small men, with midget minds, know femininity much better than do the great ones. Traveling salesmen, with checkered vests, gauge women as Herbert Spencer never could.

Comte’s wife was pretty and she was astute–as most pretty women are. John Fiske, in his lecture on “Communal Life,” says that astute persons add nothing of value to the community in which they live–their mission being to be the admired glass of fashion for the non-cogitabund. The value of astuteness is that it protects us from the astute.

Samuel Johnson and his wife had their first quarrel on the way from the church, and Auguste Comte and his wife tiffed going down the steps from the notary’s. Comte had no use for ecclesiastical forms, and the lady agreed with him until after the notary had earned his fee. Then she suddenly had qualms, like those peculiar ladies told of by Robert Louis Stevenson, who turn the Madonna’s face to the wall.

The couple went to Montpelier on their wedding-tour, to visit Comte’s parents. The new wife agreed with the old folks on but one point–the marriage should be solemnized by a priest. Having won them on this point, they stood a solid phalanx against the husband; but the lady took exceptions to Montpelier on all other grounds–she hated it thoroughly and said so.