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The Port-Royal Society
by [?]

These were men whom the love of retirement had united to cultivate literature, in the midst of solitude, of peace, and of piety. Alike occupied on sacred, as on profane writers, their writings fixed the French language. The example of these solitaries shows how retirement is favourable to penetrate into the sanctuary of the Muses.

An interesting anecdote is related of Arnauld on the occasion of the dissolution of this society. The dispersion of these great men, and their young scholars, was lamented by every one but their enemies. Many persons of the highest rank participated in their sorrows. The excellent Arnauld, in that moment, was as closely pursued as if he had been a felon.

It was then the Duchess of Longueville concealed Arnauld in an obscure lodging, who assumed the dress of a layman, wearing a sword and full-bottomed wig. Arnauld was attacked by a fever, and in the course of conversation with his physician, he inquired after news. “They talk of a new book of the Port-Royal,” replied the doctor, “ascribed to Arnauld or to Sacy; but I do not believe it comes from Sacy; he does not write so well.”–“How, sir!” exclaimed the philosopher, forgetting his sword and wig; “believe me, my nephew writes better than I do.”–The physician eyed his patient with amazement–he hastened to the duchess, and told her, “The malady of the gentleman you sent me to is not very serious, provided you do not suffer him to see any one, and insist on his holding his tongue.” The duchess, alarmed, immediately had Arnauld conveyed to her palace. She concealed him in an apartment, and persisted to attend him herself.–“Ask,” she said, “what you want of the servant, but it shall be myself who shall bring it to you.”

How honourable is it to the female character, that, in many similar occurrences, their fortitude has proved to be equal to their sensibility! But the Duchess of Longueville contemplated in Arnauld a model of human fortitude which martyrs never excelled. His remarkable reply to Nicolle, when they were hunted from place to place, should never be forgotten: Arnauld wished Nicolle to assist him in a new work, when the latter observed, “We are now old, is it not time to rest?” “Rest!” returned Arnauld, “have we not all Eternity to rest in?” The whole of the Arnauld family were the most extraordinary instance of that hereditary character, which is continued through certain families: here it was a sublime, and, perhaps, singular union of learning with religion. The Arnaulds, Sacy, Pascal, Tillemont, with other illustrious names, to whom literary Europe will owe perpetual obligations, combined the life of the monastery with that of the library.


[Footnote 1: The early history of the house is not given quite clearly and correctly in the text. The old foundation of Cistercians, named Port-Royal des Champs, was situated in the valley of Chevreuse, near Versailles, and founded in 1204 by Bishop Eudes, of Paris. It was in the reign of Louis XIII. that Madame Arnauld, the mother of the then Abbess, hearing that the sisterhood suffered from the damp situation of their convent and its confined space, purchased a house as an infirmary for its sick members in the Fauxbourg St. Jacques, and called it the Port-Royal de Paris, to distinguish it from the older foundation.]