FRENCH Protestantism in the sixteenth century, according to SainteBeuve, was the work of the aristocracy, or at least of the gentry. Port Royal was the religious expression of the best part of the middle classes in France.
In 1599, the last year of the sixteenth century, little Jacqueline Arnauld, a child of seven, was appointed coadjutrix to the lady-abbess of Port Royal, while her sister Jeanne, two years younger, was made abbess of the neighboring convent of Saint Cyr. Antoine Arnauld, father of these childen, and of a numerous progeny besides, was an eminent lawyer of Huguenot descent; and their grandfather, M. Marion, advocategeneral of Henry IV., was a favorite of that monarch, who was not very strict, as we know, in his ideas about abbeys and sacraments. He probably considered this a legitimate and honorable method of providing for the younger daughters of his friends. The Pope’s bull, however, confirming these appointments was not forthcoming. Antoine Arnauld had made a great reputation by a famous plea against the Jesuits, instrumental in procuring their recent expulsion. His courageous eloquence had won from the University of France an official expression of everlasting gratitude, but it had also secured to him the undying hatred of the " Order,” and of its friends at court. Everything went on as if the confirmation had been issued in due form. Little Jeanne went to Saint Cyr to perform her duties by proxy, and Jacqueline was sent away from home to a convent, to be trained for her new responsibilities, and to be initiated into her religious life. The choice of abode was a strange one, for she was sent to Maubuisson.
Midway between Creil and Paris, on the Chemin du fer du Nord, near the station of Saint-Ouen-L’ Aumône, where you change cars for Dieppe, rise the ruins of this stately abbey, founded by Blanche, mother of Saint Louis. Here Jacqueline dwelt for two years, under the care and guidance of Madame Angélique d’Estrées, Abbess of Maubuisson and Bertaumont, the unworthy sister of the far-famed Gabrielle. At first, Madame d’Estrées had only presided over the Abbey of Bertaumont, near Amiens, where Henry IV. was a frequent visitor. It is said that Gabrielle complained of being banished so far from Paris, and begged her royal lover to give her sister charge of some other convent not so remote. So the abbess of Maubuisson was notified that another would be appointed in her stead, and the king signified his wishes, convoked the chapter in person, and installed Madame Angélique and her fair sister in their new domain. Thus, in the shadow of the royal amours, and under the influence of such a woman, Jacqueline passed two years of her childhood and received her first impressions of convent life. Once, during this period, she accompanied the abbess on a visit to Maubuisson, was confirmed there, and took Madame d’Estrées’ own name, Angélique. The old abbess of Port Royal had just died, and a new nomination was to be sent to Rome, no longer of Jacqueline Arnauld, as coadjutrix, but of Angélique Arnauld, as abbess, and her age was stated as seventeen, when, in fact, she was hardly nine years old. Even then, difficulties were made, and, only after a great deal of adroit diplomacy in support of the falsehood, the Pope’s consent was obtained, and the bull issued, investing Angélique with the dignity of the abbess of the monastery of Port Royal, where she now took up her abode, after being regularly installed in presence of an august assemblage.
The abbey of Port Royal des Champs, about eighteen miles to the west of Paris, lies in a narrow valley, completely shut in by wooded hills. It was founded in the year 1204, by Eudes de Sully, Bishop of Paris, and Mathilde de Garlande, who had made a vow for the salvation and safe return of her husband, a crusader with Foulques de Neuilly. The name is said to come from the low Latin word borra or porra, signifying a hole full of brambles and stagnant water, only too descriptive of the original state of the valley. Twelve years after its foundation it was called “ Portu - Regio,” thus sanctioning the legend of Philip-Augustus, who, having lost his way in the chase, took refuge in a little chapel dedicated to Saint Laurence on this spot, and founded the abbey in grateful recognition of the shelter afforded, thence called Port Royal. So says tradition, but historical records do not confirm the story.
The convent belonged to the Order of Saint Bernard; but some of the first nuns were Benedictines, and they were under the supervision of the monks of Citeaux, at the neighboring convent of Vaux de Cernai, now a picturesque and imposing ruin, belonging to Madame Nathaniel Rothschild. Vaux de Cernai was founded in 1128, by Simon de Montfort, also a patron and benefactor of Port Royal. Thibaut, grandson of Mathilde de Garlande, became the abbot of Vaux de Cernai, and evidently regarded with great favor the convent near by, founded by his grandmother. During the visits he made to Port Royal as superior, he inhabited a small, detached building near the porter’s lodge that ever after went by his name.
Four hundred years had passed away since Mathilde de Garlande kept her pious vow, when the child abbess came into possession of her new domain, no longer a stagnant fen, but a fair and fertile valley, embosoming a goodly convent. The rule had been very much relaxed, as was generally the case at that period, and more or less disorder prevailed, though the epitaph of the old abbess, who had lately died, recorded that “ she had not neglected her convent, and had fed her nuns well.” At the time of the accession of Mère Angélique, the confessor was an ignorant old monk, who did not understand his “ Pater,” could not say one word of the catechism, and never opened a book but his breviary. There had been no preaching at Port Royal for the last thirty years, except on the rare occasions when a nun took the veil. They went to communion once a month and on high feast days, always excepting that of the purification, that came in carnival time when all the house was in confusion, and the confessor and the nuns had as much as they could do to prepare for masquerades. The sisters followed the fashion of wearing masks and gloves to preserve their complexions. There were only thirteen nuns in all, and the eldest, thirty-three years old, was soon sent away by Madame Arnauld for unseemly conduct. The young abbess led a regular life and conducted all the services, beginning with the matins at four o’clock. The rest of the time she played or rambled about the place, attending particularly to one of the regulations that directed the lady abbess to take the community to walk after vespers. Rainy days she read romances, or the history of Rome, by way of recreation. The prioress attended to all the material wants of the house. There was not much luxury, for they were not rich and the servants were wasteful, but there was a great deal of liberty in private expenditure, and some of the nuns had their own furniture and silver service. The Arnauld family exercised a vigilant oversight, Madame Arnauld, especially, often arriving from Paris unexpectedly ; but all was quiet and orderly, and the general of the Order, on his annual visit of inspection, pronounced everything satisfactory, and increased the number of nuns to sixteen. One day Henry IV., hunting in the neighborhood, called at the abbey to see Antoine Arnauld, Angélique’s father, then on a visit to the convent, during the parliamentary recess. The youthful abbess went out in great state at the head of all her nuns, to meet the king. She was mounted for the occasion on highheeled overshoes, and the king complimented her on being tall for her age. He promised to come back and dine the next day, but the hunt taking him in another direction, he sent his excuses in due form, and then shouted as he passed close under the walls, on horseback: “ The king kisses the hands of the lady abbess.” This was his first and last visit to Port Royal ; little else occurred to break the monotony, and after five long years Angélique grew weary of a life that began to inspire her with disgust. She confided in no one, however, and when people suggested that she was not bound by vows made when she was a minor, she never appeared to entertain the idea, and discouraged such remarks. She began, however, to make and receive visits, proceedings that interfered with the regularity of convent life, and displeased her mother, who did not spare remonstrances and exhortations. Angélique saw at last that she must submit to the rule, or else afflict her parents and do discredit to her position. She gave up her excursions and tried for a time to console herself by reading Plutarch’s Lives, and other profane books ; but, in spite of this diversion, her life grew so intolerable that she meditated escape, dreamed of marriage, and seriously planned taking refuge with her Huguenot aunts at La Rochelle. On the eve of carrying out this design, she fell ill, probably from nervous excitement, and was taken home on a litter. She was tenderly cared for in her father’s house in Paris, and, on her recovery, the affectionate child had lost the courage to distress those who loved her by such a scandal. It is possible that in her delirium she may have betrayed her secret; at all events, one day, soon after her recovery, her father surprised her by suddenly presenting an illegibly written page, laying it before her, and saying in a peremptory tone: “ Sign this, my daughter, there, in that place,” pointing out the spot for the signature. One glance convinced her that it was a confirmation of her vows, but she did not dare to resist, and wrote her name, “ ready to die with shame and anger,” as she said afterwards. Disheartened and humiliated by this trick, still feeble from severe and prolonged illness, she returned disconsolately to Port Royal and the hated convent-life ; but the glad welcome of the nuns, who had feared to lose her, made her a little more reconciled to what she began to regard as an inevitable fate. During the following Lent, wanting a book to read, and afraid to ask for profane literature, she took up a volume of meditations, left by a Capuchin monk at the convent, thought it beautiful, and found it consoling.
While this comforting impression was still vivid, a Capuchin presented himself one night at the convent-gate, asking permission to preach. They had just returned from the walk after vespers, and Mère Angélique at first refused on account of the lateness of the hour, but finally consented, and the sisters gathered in the church to hear the sermon. Any change was a welcome relief from the wretched preaching of the students from Citeaux, who usually officiated at Port Royal, and this service at the close of day was a variety. The monk took for his subject the humility of the Son of God and his birth in the manger. Mère Angélique never remembered distinctly what he said ; but during the sermon her heart was touched so that all at once her condition seemed as glorious as it had till then appeared grievous, and she rejoiced, instead of sorrowing, at the irrevocable nature of her vows. This hour of her life was the first gleam that broadened later into the perfect day. It would have seemed a natural impulse to confide in the man whose sermon had been the occasion of this miraculous change; but with characteristic dignity the girl of fifteen sent one of the sisters to thank the monk and to speed him on his way. Afterwards it was known that he was a most disreputable character, who had been already a cause of scandal in several communities. An older man, the austere Père Bernard, was taken into her confidence and consulted in regard to the various reforms that she now began to feel it her bounden duty to make. This Capuchin was very injudicious, however, and aroused at once the violent opposition of the best and most religious of the nuns, who felt aggrieved by his wholesale denunciations of their quiet lives. He drew up a set of new regulations in strict conformity with the old Benedictine rule, and submitted them to the prior of Citeaux, in spite of the urgent remonstrance of Mère Angélique, who knew the prior well, and was sure that he would disapprove and complain to her father. The laxity of this dignitary may be inferred from the fact that he had recently been present at a theatrical entertainment given by " Les Dames de Saint Antoine.” The play was the Cleopatra of Garnier, and the nuns were dressed in men’s clothes for the male parts. Other distinguished ecclesiastics were also present, and the abbess was no less a person than Mademoiselle de Thou, sister of the president and aunt of the historian of that name. In spite of this array of respectable laxity, reform was counseled by the Capuchin advisers of Mère Angélique. One monk, Père Pacifique, sympathized with her ardent desire to go away, no longer into the world to get married, but as a lay sister to some other convent of stricter rule. Père Bernard, however, insisted that she should stay where she was and reform Port Royal. A whole year went by, troubled by interior and exterior conflict. At times God seemed to veil his face again, and there was a constant struggle with the nuns, who thought their young abbess unreasonable and extravagant, and who strenuously opposed all her plans. She had recourse in secret to the greatest austerities, deprived herself of food and rest, dropped burning wax upon her bare arms, and committed other follies that she was the first to blame in after years ; but, as she said, “ I tried everything, then.” Madame Juneauville, one of the nuns, employed by her mother to watch her, slept in her cell for that purpose, but when it was dark Mère Angélique would often creep softly away into a garret and spend the night in prayer. Warned, as she had foreseen, by the prior, M. Arnauld arrived one day unexpectedly, drove away all the Capuchin advisers with expressions of contempt and dislike, and carried his daughter off to his château of Andilly to enjoy the season of vintage. But home was no longer charming to her ; her father condemned all her plans of reform, and she returned to Port Royal as soon as he would allow her to do so, ill with intermittent fever and very unhappy. One day a student from Citeaux preached on the text, Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. After the sermon one of the girls employed as a domestic in the convent said to her, “ Madame, if you chose, you might be one of those blessed ones.” Mère Angélique rebuked the girl for her boldness, but the words sank into her heart. Not long after, she took occasion to renew her vows publicly, and made a solemn declaration of her resolve to lead in future a truly religious life. Some of the sisters followed her example; but she saw no way of accomplishing her reforms, and despondently recurred at times to her plan of going, as a lay sister, to another convent. One day the prioress sought an interview and inquired the cause of her great melancholy ; learning the reason that she no doubt divined, she told her that the sisters wished her to say that they preferred to accede to her wishes to seeing her so ill and depressed, and that they would oppose her no longer. Unspeakably rejoiced, she at once appointed a day, convoked the chapter, and proposed community of goods in accordance with the first vow of poverty. The sisters at once agreed and brought all their possessions, even their clothing, to swell the common fund. One, however, could not give up her little garden. The next step was to enforce the sanctity of the cloister, to shut the world out from the convent. Mère Angélique felt that she herself must set the example, and determined to allow no exceptions, not even in the persons of her immediate family. At Easter one of the nuns took the veil, and for the first time the numerous visitors were excluded from the interior of the convent. This caused great dissatisfaction, and some of the sisters said, “ Wait and see when M. Arnauld comes ; his daughter will not dare to keep him out.” They had not long to wait. Mère Angélique wrote to her family to prepare her father for the change in the arrangements; but either they did not dare to tell him, or he did not choose to believe them. On the 25th of September, 1609, word came to Port Royal that Monsieur and Madame Arnauld, with three of their children, the eldest brother and two sisters of the abbess, might be expected in the course of the morning. The keys were taken from the custody of the portresses and intrusted to sisters who, by watching and prayer with Mère Angélique, had been nerved to resist the assault. While the community was at dinner, between ten and eleven o’clock, the sound of carriage-wheels was heard, and those who were in the confidence of the abbess repaired to their posts. Mère Angélique, who had been for some time at prayer in the church, hastened to the main entrance, at which her father was already knocking. She opened the wicket. M. Arnauld demanded instant admission without listening to his daughter, who entreated him to go to the parlor and hear what she had to say. But he only knocked the louder and clamored for admittance, ending by overwhelming Mère Angélique with abuse. The mother, standing near by, added her vehement reproaches, calling her an unnatural child. The brother, just twenty-one, accused her of being nothing less than a monster and a parricide, and shouted to the nuns “ to come and interfere and not allow a man like his father, and a family like theirs, to be thus outraged and insulted.” One old sister, the same who had held to her garden, responded from within, and declared that it was shameful not to open the door for M. Arnauld, while the domestics, assembled in an inner court, murmured loudly at the ingratitude of the lady abbess. M. Arnauld, meanwhile, perceiving that all this noise was useless, bethought him of a stratagem, and demanded his little daughters, Agnès and Marie - Claire, then on a visit to their sister, thinking no doubt to rush in as they opened the door. But Mère Angélique, hastily intrusting to a faithful sister the key of a little door communicating with the church, sent them out by that way. The brother continued his abuse of Mère Angélique before these little girls, but was interrupted by Agnès, who exclaimed, looking as grave and dignified as a Spanish Infanta, “ My sister is only doing as she is commanded by the Council of Trent.” “ Listen to her,” cried the brother. “ Here is another one talking to us of canons and councils.” During all this scene, the two sisters who had come in the carriage stood apart, sad and silent, aghast at their father’s rage, and distressed by the knowledge of what Mèere Angélique was suffering. M. Arnauld ordered that the horses should be instantly reharnessed to the carriage ; but on the reiterated supplications of his daughter, he consented to go first into the parlor for a moment. There he changed his tactics, and when she drew back the curtain from the grating their eyes met for the first time that day, and she saw the pale, excited face of her offended father. He spoke to her tenderly, and adjured her by the memories of the past, by their love for one another, not to treat him so ignominiously, saying at last, as he saw she remained inflexible, “ Since it is all over, then, and we shall never meet again, remember my last words : Do not injure yourself, my child, by indiscreet austerities.”These tender accents were too much for her to bear ; she fell fainting to the floor. He tried in vain to open the grating and called loudly for help. The nuns, not knowing what had happened, were afraid to show themselves ; but the family came to the rescue and thundered at the convent gate till they made themselves understood. All the sisters rushed to the parlor and after some time Mère Angélique was restored to consciousness. Turning her eyes at once towards the grating, she saw her father anxiously watching her, and feebly murmured : “ If he will only grant me this, not to go away to-day ! ” He could not refuse. The abbess was carried to her room, but she soon insisted on being brought back to a bed placed close to the grating, where she could talk to her family. The conversation became gentle and affectionate. That day and the next she reasoned with her father, and at last persuaded him to consent to his exclusion from the interior of the convent. The agreement was afterward modified so that he could give orders in regard to the buildings and the gardens ; but he never again set foot in the cloister. The 25th of September, la journée du guichet, as it is called, was ever after celebrated in the annals of Port Royal, and after this coup d’état Mère Angélique had no more difficulty in carrying out the reforms she desired in her own convent. Even when she thought best to dispense with the pecuniary aid hitherto derived from her father, she was cheerfully seconded by the nuns, who had begun to regard her as a saint, and her whole family treated her with affectionate reverence. Jeanne, now Mère Agnès, became her prioress; Marie-Claire, as well as a remarkable younger sister, Marie Eugénie, entered the convent. In time to come we shall see her mother, also, a nun at Port Royal, as well as her sister, Madame Le Maître, who had made an unhappy marriage, and whose live sons subsequently swelled the ranks of the Solitaires.
After some years, Port Royal came to be considered as leaven for other communities, and sisters from that convent were in great demand to inaugurate reform elsewhere. Mère Anugélique herself was sent to Maubuisson, where, since the death of Henry IV., disorders of all sorts were still rife, no longer shielded by the name and presence of the king. Louis XIII. himself gave the order for investigation and reform in this instance. Several ecclesiastics, sent there to report, had been shamefully maltreated, however, and the last royal commissioner had been seized with his suite, shut up in one of the towers of the abbey, and kept there for four days on bread and water, the commissioner himself receiving lashes every morning by the express command of the lady abbess herself. Such high-handed defiance could not be allowed to remain unpunished. With the consent of the Maréchal d’Estrées, her brother, and that of other members of the culprit’s family, it was decided to proceed at once to extremities, and the abbot of Citeaux presented himself at Maubuisson, as though in his ordinary official capacity. Madame d’Estrées refused to appear, however, and the abbot was forced to depart without seeing her. Arrest and imprisonment were the only resource. After a long delay, the requisite order was obtained from Parliament, and the following year the abbot left Paris once more for Maubuisson, this time with a provost and archers to do his bidding. The escort was left at Pontoise and the abbot presented himself alone at the convent gate. During two days he tried peaceful negotiations in vain, Madame d’Estrées remained invisible, said she was ill, and laughed to scorn the threat of arrest. Finally, one morning the provost and archers were admitted at an early hour by the abbot to the outer part of the convent where he had been lodged. Under his orders, they broke open the doors, escaladed the walls, and gained access to the interior. The abbess was not to be found, however, and only at nightfall was her hiding-place discovered. She stood at bay, and made such desperate resistance that they were forced to carry her, half undressed, on a mattress to the carriage they had in waiting, and, in this state, she was taken to a Magdalen asylum, where orders were given that she should be kept in close confinement. Mère Angélique was appointed to the vacant place and, accompanied by her sister Marie-Claire and two or three other nuns, she arrived at Maubuisson a fortnight after the capture of Madame d’Estrées. She found in the abbey about twenty nuns, almost all sent there against their will, and shamefully ignorant of the first rudiments of a religious education. They spent a great deal of time in preparing for dramatic entertainments that took place in the presence of large companies of invited guests. There were all kinds of amusements besides. Summer days, after hurrying through vespers and complins, the prioress took the nuns to row on the ponds near the highway to Paris, and the monks of Saint Martin de Pontoise, near by, often came of an evening to dance with the sisters. Mère Angélique and her nuns must have seemed to these people like beings of another world. She tried at first to win the old inmates, whom she had known during the two years she passed at Maubuisson, and after a time, a certain amount of decency and outward conformity was secured ; but to create a different atmosphere, she made the experiment of receiving at once into the convent thirty young girls, with whom she labored night and day more hopefully and not in vain, as it proved. All at once Madame d’Estrées escaped from durance vile and burst upon them at the abbey. The following account is from the lips of Mère Angélique, taken down by her nephew, M. Le Maître.
“In the month of September, 1619, Madame d’Estrées appeared unexpectedly at Maubuisson, accompanied by the Comte de Sanzai and several gentlemen. She obtained access to the convent by means of a false key, procured for her by one of the sisters, a worthless person. As we were entering the choir she approached me, and said : I have come, madame, to thank you for the care you have taken of my convent, and to beg you to return at once to your own, and to leave Maubuisson to me.’ I answered, ‘ Madame, I would certainly do so if I could ; but I am not here, as you know, by my own will, but by that of the abbot of Citeaux, our superior. I came by his order, and I can only go away at his command.’ She replied that she was the abbess, and that she intended to take her rightful place. I said, ‘ Madame, you are no longer the abbess, since you have been deposed.’ She answered : ‘ I have appealed from that decision.’ I said, ‘The decree holds good, as the sentence of deposition has not been annulled ; and I must consider you as deposed, since I am established in this house by the abbot of Citeaux, with the authority of the king; therefore do not take it ill that I seat myself in the abbess’ place,’ and thereupon I sat down. Supported by the newly received sisters, I then addressed the community and recommended them to partake of the sacrament during mass, and to invoke the Divine aid in the storm that was impending. Most of them were already prepared for the communion, since it was a festival of our Order. I felt sure that she would turn me out; but great was my astonishment after dinner, when the coufessor came to tell me that I must retire and yield to force. I answered that I should not do so, that it was against my conscience. But I was still more surprised later, when I saw him enter the church in company with Madame d’Estrées, the Comte de Sanzai, and four gentlemen with their swords drawn, and exhort me to yield, to avert the consequences of resistance. One of the gentlemen presently fired off a pistol, thinking doubtless to terrify me. But I answered, composedly, that I would not leave, unless forcibly compelled to do so; for only thus could I be excused in the sight of God. My nuns all crowded round me, putting their hands in my girdle, so that I could hardly breathe. Madame d’Estrées became very angry and abusive, and reaching out her hand, she touched or pulled my veil a little, as if she would pull it from my head. Whereupon the sisters changed from lambs to lions, not suffering that I should be harmed. One of them, Anne de Sainte-Thècle, a tall girl of noble birth, took a step towards Madame d’Estrées, and said : ‘ Wretched creature! are you so bold as to touch the veil of madame of Port Royal ? I know you well; I know what you are! ’ and so saying, in presence of these men with drawn swords, she snatched the veil off her head and threw it far from her. Then Madame d’Estrées, seeing me resolved not to go, ordered the gentlemen to take me out by force, which they did, holding me by the arms. I did not resist, for I was glad to go away with my nuns from a place where there were such men, from whom I had everything to fear for the nuns and for me. But it did not suit Madame d’Estrées that they should go too, and she called to the gentlemen to put me all alone in a coach that was in waiting. As soon as I was seated, however, nine or ten of the nuns jumped in, three mounted on the box beside the coachman, and three got up behind like footmen; the rest all clung to the wheels.
Madame d’Estrées ordered the coachman to whip up his horses ; but he answered that he dared not do it for fear of killing some of the nuns. Then I threw myself out of the coach, and was followed by all the sisters. I bade them get some cordials, because the pestilence was at Pontoise, whither we went, the thirty nuns walking two and two in procession along the road. The lieutenant of Pontoise, a friend of Madame d’Estrées, passed on horseback, and laughed to see us. No doubt the poor man thought she was safely reestablished. The people of Pontoise came out to receive us with blessings, saying, as we passed: ‘ There are the good nuns of the abbess of Port Royal. They have left the devil behind at Maubuisson.’ We entered the first church on our way. It was the Jesuits’, and they came forward to greet us very courteously; but after we had said our prayers, we left, and outside I met M. Du Val of the Sorbonne, whom I knew very well. He said that all the religious houses of Pontoise would be open to receive us ; but I preferred to go somewhere by ourselves, and the prior offered me his own house, which I accepted. Meantime an express had been sent to Paris to alarm the family. My father was away, but my brother made complaint and obtained an order for the arrest of Madame d’Estrées, who, with the Comte de Sanzai, fled so precipitately on the approach of the military, that she left her casket behind her. The soldiers went on to Pontoise, and brought us back at ten o’clock at night, in procession, as we went, escorted by a troop of one hundred and fifty archers on horseback, each bearing a lighted torch in his hand.”
For some time it was necessary to keep a mounted patrol, day and night, at the abbey, to guard against surprise. Louis XIII. finally appointed as abbess Madame de Soissons, sister of the Duchess de Longueville, hoping that her high rank would put an end to the plots of the friends of Madame d’Estrées. Mère Angélique was requested by the king to remain, however, at Maubuisson, till the Pope’s bull should arrive, confirming the appointment of Madame de Soissons. The double rule was not a success. Mère Angélique was thought too austere, and there was much dissatisfaction expressed that she had burdened the convent with her thirty new nuns, many without portions, and some of humble birth. Before going back to Port Royal, she wrote to ask if the community would consent to share their poverty with these thirty women, who had proved so faithful. A glad answer came promptly, signed by all the nuns, declaring that so far from regarding their coming as a burden, they should consider it a benediction. The income of Port Royal was twelve hundred dollars a year, one fifth that of Maubuisson. Mère Angéelique sent the letter to the general of the Order, obtained his approval, and then wrote to her mother, asking her to send coaches enough to transport the thirty nuns from Maubuisson to Port Royal. They were sent at once, with an attendant for each carriage. Mère Angéelique accompanied them only as far as Paris, where it was necessary for her to remain a few days. Before taking leave of the sisters, she charged them, as soon as they caught sight of the hills that shut in the valley, and espied the steeple of the church above the tops of the trees, to repeat all together, “ Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth ; keep the door of my lips,” and from that moment to keep silence, till she herself should arrive and let loose their tongues. “ This was done,” says the chronicler, “lest the excitement and disturbance of their arrival should be an occasion of much idle talk and great waste of time.” But as it was necessary that they should be known apart, she told each one to pin on her sleeve her name, written on a piece of paper. On the arrival of these timid mutes, who felt, as Racine says, as if they were bringing starvation to Port Royal, Mère Agnès and all the sisters came forth to meet them, singing the Te Deum. Like a quantity of wood thrown on a blazing fire, this large accession of numbers, far from depressing, increased the fervor of the community.
While at Maubuisson, Mère Angélique made the acquaintance and enjoyed the friendship of Saint Francis de Sales, and through him knew Madame de Chantal, with whom she became intimate. He went first to Maubuisson, at her request, to confirm one of that neglected sisterhood, then returned several times, once staying nine days. Mère Angélique sent him to Port Royal to see her sister, Mère Agnès. He was enchanted with the spot. “ Truly a port-royal,” he writes, and he ever after spoke of the place as “his dear delight.” All the Arnauld family shared his friendship. Mère Agnès always wore on her person one of his precious letters to Madame Le Maître, who made at his knees a vow of perpetual chastity, before her husband’s death allowed her to take the veil. The youngest son, afterwards the great doctor, received his blessing, and the eldest, M. d’Andilly, followed him about like his shadow.
Mère Angélique, feeling that “ God was visibly with this man,” begged him to be her spiritual director, and complained that hitherto she had been obliged to seek counsel here and there as seemed best at the time. “ Like a bee gathering honey from different flowers,” added Saint Francis. “A comparison,” says Sainte-Beuve, “ savoring less of Calvary than of Hymettus.” He rallied her also on her passion for austerities, of which he disapproved, and tried to convince her that it was unreasonable to expect the best service from a human being, any more than from a dumb animal, when they were deprived of proper rest and food. He writes : “ Dearly beloved daughter, sleep well. By degrees you may restrict yourself, since you wish to do so, to six hours, but believe me, to eat little, to labor hard, to have great anxieties, and to deprive the body of sleep is to drive a tired, unfed horse to death.” He said that her great activity of mind ran away with her, and that she was in too much of a hurry to attain spiritual perfection. “ Why not,” he continues, “catch small fish ottener, instead of such large ones once in a while,” and he reminds her that the finest trees are of the slowest growth. At that time he was certainly in sympathy with Port Royal, of which Saint-Cyran had not yet taken possession. Later, Saint - Beuve thinks, he would have disapproved with Fénelon.
After her return from Maubuisson, Mère Angélique received a letter approving her action in taking the thirty sisters to Port Royal. It came from a remarkable man, who made the community his stronghold, stamping it ineffaceably as Jansenist, Augustinian, or, as he would have said, as Christian. This man was Jean du Vergier de Hauramie, Abbé de Saint - Cyran. Of a good family of Bayonne, he studied first at a Jesuit college, and was then sent to Louvain at the same time with the celebrated Jansenius. They met afterwards in Paris, both eagerly seeking the pure Christian doctrine, and determined to go back to the earliest authorities in their search for truth. De Hauranne, recalled to Bayonne on his father’s death, carried his friend home with him, and there at Champré, an estate on the seashore, near Bayonne, belonging to the family, they remained five years absorbed in the study of the Scriptures and the Fathers, especially Saint Augustine. In after years, Saint-Cyran liked to show his friends a large old armchair with a desk attached. In it Jansenius studied, one may say lived ; for he rarely went to bed at night. No wonder that Madame de Hauranne used to say to her son, " Take care, Jean, or you will kill that good Fleming, making him study so hard.” All their exercise at Champré consisted in games of “ battledore and shuttlecock,” in which they became fabulously adroit. At the end of these five years, sure of what they had only surmised in the beginning, that the church had lapsed into Pelagianism, they espoused the cause of God and Saint Augustine, declaring that if man can save himself, the logical inference must be that the intervention of the Redeemer becomes unnecessary, and that thus to exalt the Father at the expense of the Son virtually does away with Jesus Christ. Their belief that man has sinned, that for this deep-seated disease there is but one Healer, is Protestant-Calvinistic doctrine ; but Saint-Cyran and his disciples accepted the “ Real Presence ” and the sacraments, and had no idea of leaving the church, though Saint-Cyran said boldly that for six hundred years the church could hardly be said to have existed, so great had been the corruption ; that the bed of the river had remained, but that the water had ceased to flow; and he stigmatized the Council of Trent as a mere political assembly. Both Jansenius and he wrote ponderous Latin folios in support of these doctrines, dividing the name of Augustine between them for the titles, Petrus Aurelius and Petrus Augustinus ; but while Jansenius confined himself to the doctrine, Saint-Cyran applied it to life, and Port Royal became the nursery of his seedlings. “ What is the knowledge of a truth that is never put in practice?” he used to say. The Frequent Communion, written in French by the great Arnauld, and translations of Saint Augustine, by d’Andilly and others, helped to disseminate their teachings far and wide in France, among the laity and in religious communities.
Good men, intellectually timid, like Saint Vincent de Paul, shuddered at these bold utterances, and used all their influence in Rome and at the court of France to silence Saint-Cyran. He excited a great deal of ecclesiastical jealousy by his potent influence as a spiritual director, and in this way had incurred the enmity and secured the illwill of the notorious Capuchin, Père Joseph. Richelieu himself was at first inclined to favor and flatter the abbé. Once passing through the antechamber, on his way to a royal audience, he said to the assembled courtiers, putting his hand on Saint-Cyran’s shoulder as he spoke, “ This is the most learned man in Europe.” But the abbé’s persistent refusal of bishoprics, his criticism of the decree annulling the marriage of the king’s brother, and his intimacy with Jansenius, who had just published Mars Gallicus, a Latin pamphlet opposing Richelieu’s policy, showed that he could not be won over, and caused him to be regarded by the great minister with suspicion and dislike. Finally, his conversion of M. Le Maître, the eminent lawyer and brilliant orator, who at once disappeared from the world, attracted general attention to the wide-spreading spiritual dominion of the man, and Richelieu determined to put him out of the way. “ This Basque,” he said, “ is more dangerous than six armies. If they had imprisoned Luther and Calvin when they began to dogmatize, it would have saved a great deal of trouble.” SaintCyran received a domiciliary visit, his papers were seized, and he was taken to Vincennes and kept there on a vague charge of heresy a whole year before he could obtain an examination. Even then he was not set at liberty, and he was only released, two years after his incarceration, at the death of Richelieu. His health had suffered from the severity of his confinement, and he did not live very long after recovering his freedom. It was a day of silence when the joyful news came to Port Royal. Mère Angélique could not keep it to herself, and told the nuns by untying her girdle before them. She had found at last her ideal director, a man of adamantine purity, immense enthusiasm, great tenderness, and a boundless devotion to truth, and she was guided by him to the end. Ampère calls him the Lycurgus of that Christian Sparta.
For some years there had been a Port Royal also in Paris, a large house in the Faubourg Saint Jacques, now the hospital of La Maternité, purchased with the aid and at the suggestion of Madame Arnauld, at a time when the valley seemed particularly malarious. Indeed, only in modern times has the drainage been complete and the lovely spot made salubrious. Here in Paris, young girls were educated ; and the same work was carried on for boys by the Solitaires, in the deserted house of Port Royal des Champs, and in neighboring châteaux belonging to noblemen friendly to the community.
When M. Le Maître retired from the world after his conversion, he lived, at first, a life of perfect seclusion in a little house built for him adjoining the convent. His brothers and nephews joined him, also under Saint-Cyran’s influence, and there gradually was formed a remarkable group of men, — physicians, men of letters, soldiers, scholars, and ecclesiastics,—resolved to lead a life of self-renunciation and consecration, and who, directed by the abbé from his prison, took for their rallying-cry, “ Thought allied with faith,” and made redemption of souls their mission. These men were the Solitaires. They took no vows; some came and went; but the majority remained at Port Royal des Champs, systematically dividing their time between religious exercises, literary pursuits, teaching, and manual labor. The nuns also carried on various industries, and they made themselves farmers, gardeners, carpenters, and shoemakers in the service of these sisters, whom they called, “ Nos dames, nos maîtresses, et nos reines.” They devised a plan of religious service to alternate with the convent hours, so that prayer and praise might rise perpetually at Port Royal. Of these men the saintly princess, Madame Elizabeth, sister of Louis XVI., writes:
Their theology apart, that I do not understand, these gentlemen of Port Royal were holy persons. What a life they led, compared to ours ! ” Their schools, called “ Les petites écodes de Port Royal,” soon acquired a great reputation. Their text-books were novelties, written by the Solitaires themselves, who anticipated in many ways modern ideas in regard to education. In learning languages they believed that a great deal of translation should precede grammar, and they gave their pupils copious draughts of literature. The list of their books is very long; but we may mention the French grammar by the great Arnauld, aided by Lancelot; methods of learning Greek, Latin, Spanish, and Italian, and the Garden of Greek Roots, in French verse, by Lancelot and De Saci. They also made translations of Phædrus, Terence, Plautus, Cicero, and Virgil. They paid less attention to Latin versification than was usual at that time ; but occasionally a subject was given to the older classes on which they were to improvise conjointly a copy of Latin verses. The work was done in class; every one was at liberty to contribute phrase or epithet, to suggest, to criticise, obtaining permission to speak by raising the hand, and the observation of parliamentary rules obviated all confusion. Greek was taught in these schools for the first time without a Latin medium, a great innovation, and when the Garden of Greek Roots is criticised it must be remembered that there was then no such thing as a Greek and French dictionary in existence. They preferred young scholars, chosen from good but not necessarily rich or noble families. People of means paid five hundred livres a year for instruction, which was gratuitous to others. They taught children to read first in French instead of in Latin, another innovation, and Pascal suggested the method they employed of pronouncing at first only the vowel sounds of the alphabet, leaving the consonants to be learned afterwards in combination with the vowels; the base, it will be seen, of the phonetic system now generally adopted in France. For writing, they were the first to use metal pens, for the purpose, they say, of “ saving the time of teachers and scholars.” Saint-Cyran agreed with Erasmus that six scholars were enough for one teacher, and when they had twenty-four pupils, they placed them in four separate rooms, with a master for each. At the Château de Chesnai a whole wing was given up to the children.
The severest punishment was to be sent home, or to see some service assigned to a servant that the pupil was accustomed to perform for his teacher. Great gentleness and indulgence were required of the teachers, who were to endeavor to make study as interesting as amusement. There were out-of-door recreations and such indoor amusements as billiards, backgammon, chess, or historical games of cards. A formal politeness was enforced, every one being addressed as Monsieur. Saint-Cyran had always wished to devote himself to children, and was very fond of teaching them. Before his imprisonment, he went every other day to Port Royal, superintended the boys’ work, more especially their themes, and gave them a commentary on Virgil. The largest of these schools were at the Château de Chesnai near Port Royal and in a cul-de-sac of the Rue Saint Dominique in Paris. These were broken up on the charge of being nests of heresy, and the teachers were obliged to disguise and hide themselves, in constant danger of arrest and imprisonment. The Hotel de Longueville and other great houses sheltered two or three at a time. De Saci, nephew of Mère Angélique, was thrown into the Bastile, where he passed two years, occupied in translating the Old Testament in French. He had already translated the New. Copies of his Bible, printed by the Elzevirs, and smuggled into Paris in produce-wagons, under convoy of some man of mark, were afterwards widely distributed.
When the nuns returned to Port Royal des Champs, the Solitaires betook themselves to Les Granges, a farm on the heights, less than a third of a mile from the abbey. They did not see much of the sisters, though in such close sympathy and working always in concert. Mère Angélique did not approve of very frequent visits, and the cloister rule was strictly observed. The uncle of Madame de Séevigné, a devoted friend of Port Royal, built a new cloister for the nuns, and after its completion sent to ask if he could be admitted only once, accompanying his request by the present of a basket of rare fruit. Mère Agnèes answered, “ I thank you humbly for the fruit. You have the privilege of giving as much as you like and of granting every favor that is asked. Both these privileges are denied us, so that you cannot see the inside of our building on account of an angel with a flaming sword at the gate, I mean the anathema of the church.” The Chevalier de Sévigné entered the promised land at last; but only after his death. He was buried in his cloister.
Another note from Mère Aguès to her nephew shows that she was more indulgent than her sister in regard to visits from the Solitaires.
To M. LE MAITRE : 舒
MY VERY DEAR NEPHEW, I believe that you think I have gone back to Paris, or else that I have come here to live as if I were excommunicated, it is so long since you have asked for me; and I avail myself of the privileges of an aunt and an old woman to ask you to come to the parlor of Sainte Madeleine at noon to-day to be scolded for your conduct.
At one time Mère Angélique had been made superior of the convent of the Saint Sacrement in Paris, afterwards incorporated with Port Royal, and on this occasion, when a uniform dress was required, the sisters adopted the white scapulars of the Saint Sacrement with a large red cross in front, a very striking costume.
A new superior at Citeaux threatening to put an end to all eccentricity, meaning austerity, at Port Royal, Mère Angélique, alarmed, petitioned for a change of jurisdiction, and obtained permission from the Pope to belong to the diocese of Paris. She had no more monkish interference to apprehend ; but the archbishops of Paris were very much controlled by the court, and this influence proved, in the end, fatal to Port Royal. There had been still another important change. While Louis XIII. was besieging La Rochelle, his mother, Marie de Médicis, paid a visit to the abbey, and said to Mère Angélique, as she was going away, “ Have you nothing to ask of me ? the first time I go to a convent I always grant some favor.” Mère Angélique asked that the abbess should be in future elected every three years, instead of being chosen for life. This was done, and she immediately resigned her place together with her coadjutrix, Mère Agnès. In course of time they were both reëlected, but Mère Angélique had reason frequently to repent of her abdication.
The wars of the Fronde disturbed the industrious, peaceful seclusion of the valley. The convent was put in a state of defense, and the Solitaires manned the walls and made ready for a siege. Even M. Le Maître wore a sword by his side, or carried a musket over his shoulder. The nuns of neighboring convents flocked in to seek an asylum and were received with open arms, as well as the poor peasants, who were allowed to store their valuables in the church itself. The convent courts were full of cattle, and the monastery looked like Noah’s ark.
Port Royal had helped Cardinal Retz when, as archbishop of Paris, he was sorely in need, and he was always amiable to Mère Angélique and often friendly to the community; but no reliance could be placed upon him, and little sympathy was possible between these disciples of Saint-Cyran and that Don Juan of a prelate. As some one said, “He, a Jansenist? Impossible; to be a Jansenist, you must be a Christian.”
The Jesuits incessantly defamed Port Royal, and Jansenius’ book, Petrus Augustinus, had been condemned by a bull of Urbain VIII., confirmed more definitely by his successor, Innocent X. The Syndic of the Faculty of Theology in Paris had distinguished himself, moreover, by denouncing specifically five propositions, which he said were contained in the book. From this time the enemies of Port Royal knew where to aim. The Jesuits in Rome then sent word that if some of the French clergy would ask for the condemnation of these five propositions, the Holy Father would not be averse to granting their request. Saint Vincent de Paul eagerly headed the movement in Paris, and the petition was sent to Rome without first submitting it to the general assembly of the clergy then in session. On account of this irregularity, Innocent hesitated; but the regent, Anne of Austria, at the suggestion of Saint Vincent de Paul, signified to the Pope her wish that he would act promptly and decisively in the matter, whereupon he signed the bull.
This caused great rejoicing in the Jesuit camp ; all courtiers disclaimed the slightest Jansenistic taint, and such a horror prevailed in these circles of the Augustinian doctrine of grace that a story is told of an orthodox bishop, on a visit to an abbey of his diocese, who hearing, as he entered the refectory, these words pronounced by the reader : “ It is God who worketh in us to will and to do,” called out, “ Close that book, and bring it to me at once.” He was obeyed, and the heretical author was discovered to be Saint Paul !
Mazarin cared little for these theological disputes ; but he owed the Jansenists a grudge and was suspicious of their amicable relations with Retz. Gondi at first resisted the king’s order that the bishops should formally accept the Pope’s bull, but when Anne of Austria said cajolingly that he must not refuse the first favor she had ever asked of him, the gallant courtier gave way and that barrier was thrown down.
This was the Formulary that all priests, monks, and nuns were eventually required to sign : “ I submit in good faith to the ordinances of his Holiness, Innocent X., and I condemn in my heart and by word of mouth the five propositions of Cornelius Jansenius, contained in the book entitled Petrus Augustinus, which the Pope and the bishops have condemned, which doctrine is not that of Saint Augustine, but which the said Jansenius has perverted contrary to the meaning of the worthy doctor.”
The Parliament of Paris was in no haste to register the decree requiring these signatures, and Mazarin declared openly that the king had already done more than he ought for the Jesuits, who gave him more trouble than all the government of the realm. In the mean time the Sorbonne called to account for his doctrines the author of the Frequent Communion, the great Arnauld, youngest brother of Mère Angélique. He was publicly censured ; but it is asserted that the Sorbonne had been packed for the vote with a large number of newly made doctors, ignorant and obsequious to the regent. While the trial was going on, she remarked one day to the Princesse de Guéméné, a great friend of Port Royal, “ Your doctors talk too much.” “ That need not disturb you, madame,” retorted the princess; “you have already on the benches more mendicant monks and friars than you need.” " And there are more to come,” said the queen, haughtily. “ Do put an end to this affair,” Mazarin exclaimed one day to one of the doctors ; “ these women do nothing but talk about it, and they understand it no better than I do.” Arnauld’s defense was in Latin, and Port Royal made use of Pascal’s pen to appeal from the Sorbonne to the public. Then appeared Les Lettres Provinciales. This fierce assault, these deadly blows dealt by a skillful and unsparing hand, fairly took away the enemy’s breath. The immediate success is well known : the letters became the rage, the next issue was eagerly anticipated, and choice circles gathered to hear them read aloud in the salons of the Duchesse de Longueville, the Princesse de Conti, the Princesse de Guéméné, and Madame de Sablé. It only made it more interesting that no one knew exactly when the next letter would appear or where they were printed, and that the bookseller had made his fortune and had been thrown into the Bastile. Pascal’s relations with Port Royal had attracted very little attention, and he was known principally as a mathematician and man of fashion ; but a rumor of his being the author obliged him to hide and disguise himself. He lodged at this time under an assumed name in a small inn near the Sorbonne, directly opposite the college of the Jesuits — in the lion’s mouth as it were. His brother-in-law, M. Périr, from Auvergne, arriving in Paris for a few days, went to the same house, where he received one day a visit from an old acquaintance, one of the Fathers opposite. In the course of conversation the priest said, “ Do you know that some people suppose that your brother, M. Pascal, is the author of these letters ? ” M. Périer replied as unconcernedly as he could, while he was painfully aware that behind the halfclosed curtains of the bed near which they were seated, twenty or more copies of the next letter, fresh from the press, were spread out to dry. When the guest had gone Pascal came down from his room overhead, heard the story, and took possession of his property. There was now a lull. The Solitaires, dispersed by a royal mandate, quietly swarmed again in their old haunts, the schools revived, and everything in the community was prosperous and peaceful, when the long-gathering storm broke over Port Royal. The king issued an order to disperse boarders and scholars, novices and postulants, and furthermore commanded that none should be received in future. Mère Angélique had truly said, " Yes, we shall kill the dragon ; but he will be our death.” M. Singlin, too, the superior, was also sent away. Mère Angélique hastened to Paris to aid her sister, Mère Agnès. She took leave of her nuns as if she should never see them again. She was nearly seventy years old and very feeble. To her brother, M. d’Andilly, she said, as he was helping her into the carriage, “ Keep a brave heart.” “Trust me, my sister,” was his response ; “ I shall not be found wanting.” “My brother, my brother,” she replied, “let us be humble and remember that humility without firmness is cowardice, but that courage without humility is presumption.” In her clear vision she saw the temptation to martyrdom, and dreaded for her friends vainglory in suffering for God almost as much as faintheartedness. Deprived of her director, M. Singlin, and not choosing that her beloved nephew, De Saci, should expose himself to the danger of arrest by coming to the house on her account, she said to the sisters who expressed their sorrow for her deprivation, “ It does not trouble me ; I know that M. Singlin is praying for me. What more could I ask ? I respect him very much ; but I do not put a man in the place of God. My nephew without God’s help could do me no good, and God without him shall be all in all.” They walled up the doors, shutting them out from their own gardens ; and when some of the sisters said, “ Who knows but that they may be shutting themselves out of heaven ? ” she reproved them, saying, “ Do not speak so, my daughters, but pray to God for them and for us.” After a few days her feebleness increased, dropsical symptoms appeared, and she was confined to her bed. Troubled by the idea that the nuns would keep a record of her last words and actions as if she were a saint, she tried to speak very little and to do nothing that could excite remark. She knew that they had already done so to some extent, and she had a horror of the twaddle in the Lives of the Saints and of sentimental deathbed recitals. She summoned all her energy to write a letter to the queenmother, pleading the cause of Port Royal, defending the community from the charge of heresy, and invoking in their favor the testimony of Saint Francis de Sales and Madame Chantal. She quoted from Saint Thérèse to remind her majesty that in a court it is not always an easy matter to ascertain the truth. This duty accomplished, she laid herself down to die, saying, “ It is time for a little Sabbath rest.” Strange to say, only towards the last was this admirable woman freed from an overpowering dread. Of this terror, her brother writes : “ May it not show an ardent imagination, an unusually powerful conception of the holiness and justice of the Supreme Being, denoting a great soul? ”
The history of Port Royal has sometimes been called nothing but a quarrel between the Jesuits and the Arnauld family. As we stand by the open grave of their acknowledged head, let us pass them in review as if they gathered from far and near from the spirit land to do her reverence.
Antoine Arnauld, father of Mère Angélique, had twenty children, ten of whom lived to grow up. His wife took the veil after her husband’s death, and passed the last twelve years of her life in the Paris convent. The eldest son, M. Arnauld d’Andilly, who was the first to feel Saint-Cyran’s influence, was a genial person, more receptive than original, very susceptible to female charms, courtly and amiable, but upright and loyal withal — like sea-weed, waving about on the water, but firmly fastened to the rock beneath. He was more literary than any other of the family, and did Port Royal good service by his finished translations from Saint Augustine, his constant oversight and criticism, and his knowledge of the world. He refused a place offered him in the Academy, and upon this occasion Richelieu made the rule, ever since strictly observed, that no places should ever be offered and that candidates for the honor should make personal application. M. d’Andilly lived to a great age and served to the last as an usher, a sort of self-appointed master of ceremonies for the nuns in their dark days, a connecting-link between Port Royal and the world without. He was one of the Solitaires, built himself a house on the hill near Les Granges, and spent his own fortune and part of his eldest son’s also in draining and embellishing the grounds of the convent. His especial delight was in raising fine fruit, of which he presented propitiatory offerings to the queen-mother, Madame de Sablé, and Mademoiselle Montpensier. “ La grande Mademoiselle ” gives an amusing and characteristic account of a visit she paid him in “ his dear desert.” He had sent her a basket of clingstone peaches, with an injunction not to eat them till they were “dead ripe.” The fruit by the way was not meant for the consumption of the community, but was usually sold and the proceeds given to the poor.
When the final dispersion came of the House in Paris, M. d’Andilly was on the spot, affording his protection to the sisters, escorting the nuns to their carriages, and when his daughters’ turn came, first leading them into the church before the altar as if consecrate them anew in the cause of truth and to the service of God. Constant as he was to his outlawed belief and courageous in his devotion to his persecuted family and friends, he never appears to have forfeited the royal favor, and the queenmother could ask, even while urging on the enemies of Port Royal, “ Does d’Andilly love me still ? ” He was also a great favorite at the Hôtel Rambouillet, and in his youth belonged to that set. He had two daughters, Mère Angélique Saint-Jean and Sister Madeline Thérèse, both nuns at Port Royal. Of the eldest her father said to Madame de Sévigné, “ Depend upon it, I myself and all my other children are stupid in comparison with Angélique.” On her, indeed, the mantle of her aunt seemed to fall. M. d’Andilly had six sisters, who were all nuns : Madame Le Maître, Mère Angélique, Mère Agnès, Sister Anne Eugénie, Sister Marie-Claire, and Sister Madeleine Sainte Christine. Of his three brothers, the eldest was the Bishop of Angers, and the second, Simon, a young soldier, was killed at Verdun. The youngest became celebrated as “ the Great Arnauld,” eulogized by Voltaire, and for whom Boileau wrote the epitaph beginning: —
Madame Le Maître had five sons, all Solitaires: M. Le Maître, the eminent orator, and MM. de Saci, Séricourt, Saint Elme, and Valemont. The name Saci is thought to be an anagram of Isaac.
Mère Angélique was sometimes considered too austere. She was certainly less indulgent than Mère Agnès, and had little patience with the wearisome caprices of some of their fine-lady converts ; but no real grief, even of a crowned head, appealed to her in vain. Marie de Gonzagne, beloved of CinqMars, afterwards Queen of Poland, had a lodging at Port Royal des Champs, and she appeared as a mourner at SaintCyran’s funeral. After her departure for Poland, she kept up a constant correspondence with Mère Angélique, and offered the community a refuge from persecution in her kingdom when she learned that they were seriously thinking of embarking for America. When we read the description of Mère Angélique’s tenderness to Jacqueline Pascal at the time of her taking the veil, we are reminded of what the sisters used to say of her: “ If she is as terrible as an angel, she can comfort you like one.”
The community was accused by its enemies of the heinous sin of not worshiping saints, and of caring little for images, and we might think Port Royal free from superstition were it not for the famous story of the cure of Pascal’s little niece by the application of a reliquary containing one of the sacred thorns from the crown worn by Jesus to a tumor of the lachrymal gland. The cure was said to have been immediate and miraculous. Pascal himself was profoundly impressed, never seeming for a moment to doubt the authenticity of the miracle, and Mère Angélique gives Marie de Gonzagne a detailed account of the cure, appearing to believe in it devoutly. Then a daughter of Philippe de Champagne was cured at Port Royal of a chronic disease, in answer, it was said, to the prayers of the community ; an event commemorated by her father in a picture in the Louvre representing Mère Aguès and his daughter. Long after the destruction of Port Royal this idea of miracle-working revived among the so-called Jansenists, and reached its climax in the extravagances of the “ Convulsionnaires of Saint Médard.”
At the time of the departure of Mère Angélique for Paris, Jacqueline Pascal had been left in charge of Port Royal des Champs, and upon her devolved the responsibility of accepting or rejecting the Formulary when it was presented for signature. The decision was made even harder on account of a preamble written by Pascal himself at the request of some of the clergy, who did not object to leaving a loophole for the consciences of the sisterhood. But the anguish of these women was great. If the preamble was obscure, the Formulary was clear. How could they condemn the doctrine of Jansenius in which they believed, or assert that the Five Propositions were in a book that they had never read and which they could not read ? Jacqueline Pascal writes in a letter, indorsed, “ To be shown to my brother if he is well enough: ” “I know the respect I owe the bishops, but my conscience will not let me sign a statement that a thing is in a place where I have never seen it. . . . How can they cut us off from the church ? They can deprive us of the outward signs of that union, but never of the union itself so long as we have love one for another.
. . . How is this that we are asked to do different from offering incense to idols, and thinking that we are absolved because we have a piece of the cross hidden in our sleeves ? ” (an allusion to a passage in one of the Lettres Provinciales) ; and farther on, “ I know that it is not for women to defend the faith, but when bishops are as timorous as women, it befits women to be as brave as bishops.” Jacqueline’s rebuke sank into her brother’s heart. From that time he rejected all subterfuges and compromises, and when his sister died, not long afterwards, he only said to those who brought the tidings: “ God grant that our end may be like hers.”
When it was urged upon Mère Angélique-Saint-Jean that she should sign the Formulary as an act of submission, to avoid scandal, she replied : “ To me it seems as if a surgeon had bandaged my arm for no cause whatever, and when it had become inflamed and swollen, proposed to cut it off to avoid gangrene. Should I not be justified in saying to him : ‘ Cut off your bandage, but do not cut off my arm ’ ? ” When threatened with the papal anathema, she said : “ There is one consolation : the successors of Saint Peter are very apt to imitate his haste in drawing the sword, and they strike without awaiting their Master’s command. Then Jesus comes and heals the wound.”
These women were no respecters of persons, and it is not hard to understand how offensive their practical, uncompromising republicanism must have been to the court hard by, at Versailles. So long as they did not bow down, Louis XIV. felt as if he did not really reign. They stood steadfast, gently inflexible, bearing in mind how Mère Angélique had said : " I fear nothing that is not eter-
nal,” refusing to compound with their consciences in spite of the persuasions and entreaties of their friends, and the threatening taunts of their enemies, who wielded against them, defenseless as they were, the combined power of the king and pope. “ Pure as angels, and proud as demons,” said the archbishop of Paris.
When the king was told of their determined disobedience, he resolved that the punishment should be condign. The nuns were forcibly removed and imprisoned separately, or two or three together, in different convents. Some gave way, but most remained firm. After a long time the unrepentant sisters who still remained alive were sent back to Port Royal, where they remained imprisoned three or four years under an interdict, deprived of the sacraments, and with sentinels posted night and day outside their walls. At last, under a new Pope, the “ Peace of the Church ” was proclaimed, the stubborn bishops were pardoned, and Louis XIV., in good humor after his Peace of Aix la Chapelle, declared that he would not be more severe with the nuns than the Pope had been with the clergy.” The moment was thought propitious, the sisters made a tardy and vague submission, and the interdict was removed. Great was the rejoicing in the valley when the long silent bells rang out again. The Great Arnauld, who had just been presented at court, said the first high mass at Port Royal, and was still at the altar, when a long procession with banners and music from the parish of Magny, near by, entered the church to join in their thanksgiving services.
Ten years of prosperity ensued; but immediately after the death of the Duchesse de Longuevilie, their protectress, persecution, long smouldering, broke out afresh, and in spite of their previous submission, there was a second blockade and interdict of thirty years, ending in the forcible removal of the twenty-two surviving nuns, the youngest fifty and the eldest eighty years old. All that was asked of them was to allow a notice to be posted at the convent gate, stating that they accepted the bull of Innocent X., and submitted in all things to the papal authority ; but they refused, accepted the consequences, and went down with their flag flying. They were separated and scattered in different convents, where they remained, deprived of the sacraments even in their last hours. The church, convent, outbuildings, and adjacent houses were razed to their foundations, and all the dead removed from the cemetery, by express order of the king. The desecration of the graves was frightful, and identification was intentionally rendered impossible. At this time Racine’s remains were removed by his friends to St. Etienne du Mont, in Paris. His aunt had been one of the last abbesses of Port Royal. During the last ten years, these secluded women had probably excited envy as well as dislike ; for they had been courted by the world of fashion to some extent, as well as esteemed by many thoughtful people who did not accept their doctrine. Ladies of high rank were in the habit of going to Port Royal for short religious retreats, and the services on holy-days seemed very attractive, fourteen or fifteen ecclesiastics often being present uninvited. Not that there was any splendor of ritual, or luxury of altar-cloth or vestments : the pictures of Philippe de Champagne were the only ornaments of the church, there was no organ, and the reading and singing, though beautiful, were of the simplest kind; but the fervor of the nuns and the quiet of the place constituted a peculiar charm.
The description of Port Royal in the sixth volume of the Clélie of Mademoiselle Scudéry, is purely imaginary : but we find this account by a M. Lonail, written in 1693 : —
“ It is not a large monastery, but lodges a goodly number. The court is narrow and long, extending from east to west. The church, the parlors, and the houses of female guests are on one side, and the stables, workshops, and houses for ecclesiastics and male guests on the other. The cloister and dwellings of the nuns are apart, behind the church. The garden extends towards the east, and is intersected by a little canal. Towards the south there is a shady wood by a brook, called the Solitude. All this is shut in by high walls, defended at intervals by towers, built during the wars of the Fronde to protect the convent from soldiery.” After describing the church, the cloisters, and the procession, he continues: “At last I left a place where I would willingly have stayed all my life. I climbed the hill to the left and visited Les Granges, the farm of the Solitaires. There I saw the old schools of Port Royal, the houses of M. d’Andilly and M. Arnauld, and the Solitude of M. Pont-Château. I turned back to look once more on the abbey and the fields tilled by these pious men, and bade adieu to this blessed spot; but the memory of my visit lingers like a perpetual feast.”
The destruction has been complete. All that remains of the abbey of Port Royal is the dove-cot, a large round tower, with a funnel-shaped roof; fragments of pillars and capitals ; the Fountain of Mère Angélique ; a large walnut-tree, that goes by her name; Les Granges on the neighboring heights; and the walk called La Solitude, with its rusty, ivy-garlanded cross. The church was a fine specimen of the Cistercian architecture in the early part of the thirteenth century. A little chapel has been erected on the spot where the high altar stood, and here can be seen some interesting relics, such as portraits, engravings, and manuscript letters. Some of the tombstones, rescued from desecration, are preserved in the neighboring church of Magny, Arnauld d’Andilly’s among the number. You can wander about Port Royal at your will, perfectly undisturbed by guides or tourists, pace the Alley of the Solitaires by the side of the brook, that has learned not to murmur, and keeps in summer days their vow of silence, or throw yourself on the daisied grass by the old fountain, or in the shade of the walnut-tree of Mère Angélique. If you wish to examine the relics, you summon the guardian in the employ of the Society of Saint Antoine, to whom the property now belongs. He is a gentle old man, upwards of eighty, a schoolmaster at Asnières for more than forty years, proud and appreciative of the treasures intrusted to his keeping, and quite imbued with the spirit of the place. After speaking of his past life and his age, he added : “ I am perfectly happy. I am not afraid to die; but I sometimes think that heaven itself cannot be more peaceful than Port Royal.”
From Versailles, the distance to the abbey is about eight miles, but a pleasant excursion can be made from Paris by taking the Chemin de fer de la Bretagne at the Gare Mont Parnasse early enough to connect with the little patache that goes from La Verrière, the second station beyond Saint Cyr, to MesnilSaint-Denis. From this hamlet you go on foot. The road winds through fields for a mile and a half, skirts a wood, and the top of the “ Colombier” of Port Royal soon comes in sight. The entrance is by a little door in an old stone wall. You can return another way by Trappes, a station nearer to Paris than La Verrière, but the walk is not nearly so pleasant as from Mesnil-Saint-Denis. You pass, however, by Les Granges, the farm of the Solitaires.
People say sometimes: “ There is not much to see at Port Royal.” That is true; but the place is redolent of beautiful memories and interesting associations, and the peace has not passed away.
Maria Ellery MacKaye.