תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

engaged in considering a project for the “Reorganization of European Society,” by the institution of a Parliament of Europe to arbitrate in all international disputes. Of Saint Simon's disciples Comte was the latest and the most favoured—the Benjamin of the patriarch of socialism among the other members of whose disciple. family were Thierry, Bailly (De Blois), Halévy, Enfantin, Buchet, Carnot, Chevalier, Duvergier, Leroux, Reynaud, Périère, &c. To Saint Simon, Comte held the threefold character of assistant, pupil, and friend. He was thus brought to engage in the criticism of thought, and in discussions regarding the faith and practice of mankind-a most important era in the education of one who is reported, like Bacon, Descartes, and Locke, to have planned while a youth at college, “an entire renovation of philosophy,"—more even than that, “a social renovation based on a mental revolution." From 1818 to 1820 the influence of Saint Simon was powerful upon him. In 1819 M. Comte composed an article on “The General Separation between Opinions and Desires," intended for insertion in Le Censeur. It was not published in that journal, but it appears as an appendix to vol. iv. of his “ Cours de Pbilosophie Positive," to be afterwards noticed; and in 1820 he produced a “ Brief Estimate of the Entirety of the Modern Past," which was inserted in L'Organizateur, the journal of the Saint Simonians, and that in which M. Comte's philosophical ideas were first laid before the public. He also published some articles with his signature attached to them in the Encyclopædic Review, Benjamin Constant accused bim of advocating in these articles an industrial Papacy.

The era of M. Comte's earliest insight into the problems of social existence, and of the true solutions of them, is very marked. In his twenty-fifth year-in 1822–he fell into an ecstasy of medi. tation, in which he continued for eighty consecutive hours, and in the course of which the bases of all his subsequent philosophy Were laid by the envisionment, if not the revelation, of the great sociological laws of which all his subsequent investigations are but elucidation, and by regard to which all his future inquiries were influenced.

The third volume of the important manifesto of the sect of the Saint Simonians—" Industry; or, Discussions Political, Moral, and Philosophical”-was the work of the youngest and most enthusiastic of the disciples of the pupil of D'Alembert. In 1822 Saint Simon had prepared a work on “The Social Contract," to which Comte supplied a section entitled “ A Scheme of the Labours requisite for the Reorganization of Society;" but the impression was limited to a hundred proof presentation copies. In December, 1823, Saint Simon, in his “ Catéchisme des Industriels," promised a work which he had confided to his pupil Auguste Comte upon "Scientific Method and the Method of Education;" but when the time for its publication arrived, in 1824, he could not get the sort of treatise he wanted from his pupil, who had by this time formed a theory of his own, and he was compelled to issue in its place a work-written in 1822, and then published anonymously-entitled “ A System of Positive Politics, by A. Comte, formerly a student of the Polytechnic School, pupil of Henri Saint Simon." The book appeared with a double preface-one by the editor and another by the author-clearly indicating that a moment bad arrived when each must henceforth take his own way, and that the bonds of unity had been snapped.

[graphic]

This rupture was announced by M. Comte to a former pupil of his in mathematics and philosophy, M. G. D'Eichthal, as “ complete and irrevocable,” in a long letter detailing the cause and course of the quarrel, bearing date 1st May, 1824. This event proved to be the birth-throe of the positive philosophy, which is used as a phrase only, and nothing more, in the work which originated, or was the immediate cause of this quarrel. On 5th August, Comte communicated its elements to M. D'Eichthal, and in November, 1825, and March, 1826, he furnished papers entitled “ Philosophic Considerations on the Sciences and Scientific Men," and “The New Spiritual Power,” which appeared respectively in Nos. 5, 7, 8, 10, and in 13, 20, and 21 of Le Producteur, a journal edited by his friend M. Cerclet; and his scheme appeared in some respects fully developed in his programme of a course of “ Positive Philosophy," in seventy-two lectures, from 1st April, 1826, to 1st April, 1827, which was as follows:

( 1st. Explanation of the General Preliminaries . . 2 Lectures.

) Aim of the Course.
, 2nd. Explanation of the

Plan of the Course.

Calculus, Mathematics . . . . 16

Geometry,

Mechanics.
Sciences of
(Astronomy 10

Geometrical & Mechanical. Inorganic Bodies.

Physics . 10 Mc Doules. ( Chemistry. 10 Science of Physiology . 10 Organic Bodies. Social Physics 14

This course was commenced in Comte's house, 13, Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, on Sabbath, 2nd of April, at noon, before an auditory of the celebrities of the day, among whom we may note Humboldt, the cosmist; Blainville, the zoologist and anatomist; Poinsot, the mathematician of mechanics; Dunoyer, the economist, among the elder; while among the younger hearers were Allier, Carnot, Cerelet, D'Eichthal, Goudinet, Mellet, Mongery, Montebello, &c. Only three lectures of this course, however, were delivered, when that "cerebral crisis” occurred of which he has given such a singular account in his “ Philosophie Positive," and to which three circumstances largely contributed,-household anxieties acting upon a digestion already weakened by study and privation, extreme tension of mind in the production of his new philosophy in systematic lectures, and his controversy with some of the Saint

Simonians, whom he accused of plagiarizing his ideas without acknowledgment.

To explain his domestic anxieties we must return to 1824, in which year he had been introduced by M. Cerclet to Caroline Massin, who had been in business as å bookseller for about two years. On 19th February, 1825, Comte, after some difficulty on the part of his family, and some hesitancy on the part of Miss Massin, because M. Comte would not agree to any religious ceremo. nial, married her by civil contract, which constitutes a validly legal matrimonial connection in France. His household establishment was set up in the Rue de l'Oratoire, opposite the church, and there, as a means of subsistence, Comte proposed to take pupils at home, and to give private lessons to pupils at their own houses. He had then only one home pupil, C. L. L. J. de Lamoricière, afterwards a statesman and warrior, then a pupil in the Polytechnic School ; but in this strait his wife was able to place a small sum at his disposal, and he was induced hopefully to apply to M. de Villèle, then Minister of the Interior, to get something to do. From him he got a polite reply, but no help; and he also failed to gain a position as professor of physics and chemistry at Sorèze, for which he was an applicant. The conductor of the Atheneum asked him to compose a series of papers during the winter on the philosophy of history as he conceived it, but this he was inclined to refuse, as requiring too much condensation, and as being likely to impair the interest of the course he was meditating. At this time M. de Narbonne offered to place his son under M. Comte's care as a pupil and boarder, and with this as a beginning he hoped to be able to extend his connection among the families of the upper classes. He took and furnished a house for this purpose at the corner of the Rue St. Lazare, in the Rue de l'Arcade, but the scheme failed. He sent young Narbonne home, and set out with his wife on a trip to Montpellier. On their return to Paris he rented the lodging in the Faubourg-Montmartre in which the positive philosophy was first expounded, and here it was that insanity geized him. For nearly a month he had been irritable and passionate, and at last he suddenly left the house and Parig. Madame Comte set out in search of him, and found him at Montmorency. She called the local physi. cian, who visited him frequently, and she also sent a letter to M. de Blainville. By and by M. Comte appeared less excited, and proposed a walk, to which Madame Comte consented. The path taken led them to the Lake d'Enghien, and when they reached the banks M. Comte made a rush into the water, attempting to drag his wife in along with him. She struggled, resisted, and, holding by the roots of the bushes on the margin, saved both. She went to the mayor of Montmorency, and besought him to procure two wardens, whom she would pay, while she set out to Paris to see De Blainville, who had not come. Nearly at midnight she called on him, and besought him to come. He promised to follow in the morning. She returned, and he reached Montmorency next day at nine o'clock, where

he found M. Comte guarded by two gendarmes, and waited upon by his wife. It was determined to place the over-excited thinker under the care of Dr. J. E. D. Esquirol, the most famous physician for the insane, at the Maison des Aliénés. There Esquirol could not accommodate him, but advised his being taken to Charenton, where there was a private asylum of which he was physician-inchief. De Blainville proposed to treat him at home, but Madame Comte, believing herself incompetent to take care of him, declined to undertake the responsibility unless aided by a physician; by De Blainville's interest, Esquirol accepted him as a patient, and he was an inmate of the lunatic asylum under his charge from 18th April to 2nd December, 1826. In the meantime, Esquirol's hope of a speedy recovery showing no signs of fulfilment, Madame Comte communicated the alarming fact to his parents, and his mother, furnished with full powers from her husband, hastened to Paris, but she did not come to her daughter-in-law. His mother endeavoured to secure a legal interdiction of the patient, and thereafter his being placed in a monastery, where, under the influence of prayer and praise, his malady might be subdued, and the patient brought back to the Church, might be restored to his sound mind. Esquirol communicated with Madame Comte, and she, claiming that the interdict was needless because there was no child to be cared for, nor any fortune to be preserved, besides showing that the interdict was asked on false pretences, defeated this scheme. It had been represented that M. Comte was unmarried, that distress originating in the conduct of his mistress had led to his malady, and that he had been found by De Blainville wandering alone in the forest of Montmorency. Madame Comte proved these assertions to be false, and her husband was permitted to remain under Esquirol's care. The mother and the daughter-in-law, with little friendship for each other, but with a common love for the patient, met frequently during the summer and autumn, often squabbling with, and sometimes scolding each other. At length De Blainville expressed his conviction to Madame Auguste Comte that her husband's “ cerebral exaltation” was increased rather than diminished by his sense of hatred to his wardens, and his dislike to the treatment to which he was subjected. This she communicated to her mother-in-law, who wrote home to a similar effect. Comte's father wrote that he must be brought to Montpellier. Esquirol thought he could not endure the voyage, and his wife proposed that she should take him home on trial for a fortnight. His mother, under religious impressions, stimulated by the Abbé de Lamentais, who was anxious to secure to the church such a notable convert as M. Comte, insisted on an ecclesiastical marriage between him and his (civilly legal) wife. The abbé procured a dispensation from the Archbishop of Paris, that M. Comte should be married at home by the curate of the parish of Saint-Laurent, in which he lived. He sent a priest, being unwilling himself to act in so serious a matter. This priest foolishly made a long oration on the occasion, and M. Comte rejoined by an anti-religious speech. The sad celebration ended at length, and when he wrote his signature in the register, M. Comte added to his name the pseudonym Brutus Bonaparte. M. Comte's recovery was slow, and his wife required to run many risks from bis baughty fierceness and regardless violence; but by address and devotion-a devotion extending to taking the same medicines and undergoing the same treatment as her husbandMadame Comte's victory over his insanity was complete in about two months. During this time his father made him a small allowance, and some of his friends raised the means by which he could get a little rest, recreation, and health in the country. Madness released him, but melancholy seized him, and so deep was his depression, in view of the impossibility of gaining a livelihood by his acquirements, that in the spring of 1827, during the necessary absence of Madame Comte, he escaped from the house, and threw himself into the Seine, from the top of the Pont des Arts. A royal guard who was passing jumped in after him, and brought him to the bank. His death was announced in La France Littéraire, but he was saved, though the name of his preserver has not transpired. In July he set out for Montpellier, in a "state of quasivegetation.” Home-affection, and a good constitution had succeeded in restoring him to sanity of mind, his native air brought him a restoration to sanity of body. He returned to his home gladly and hopefully.

At the close of 1827 he resumed his intellectual labours, and for a time found the means of subsistence in superintending the mathe. matical sections of a work which two friends of his, MM. Henri and Mellet, were engaged in translating from the English. In August he wrote a paper for the Journal of Paris (August, 1828), entitled “An Examination of the Treatise of M. Broussais upon Irritation and Madness"-a work in which the founder of the physiological school of medicine sought to establish a theory connecting all the mental and moral manifestations of which man is capable with physical causes. This exercitation in criticism brought Op before him the grand panorama of thought which had been snatched for a while out of his sight, and he was able so to arrange his ideas and to recall his purpose, that on January 4th, 1829, he recommenced his course on positive philosopby in his house, at No. 159, Rue St. Jacques, to an audience which, besides most of those who attended the inaugural discourses in 1826, comprised Fourier (the mathematician), Broussais, Esquirol, Binet, &c. The positive philosophy was now unveiled and expounded; his contemporaries had heard it, and the proper work of Comte's life was began-a work immense not only in the labour it entailed, but in the influences it was to exert on history, science, philosophy, and social existence.

The elaboration of the general course of thought to which he had devoted himself was now begun by M. Comte, and in 1830, after presenting a brief outline of his ideas on the progress of thought

« הקודםהמשך »