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Rabelais had already been dead three hundred years when in 1857 M. Rathery made the first attempt to write a life which should be based on evidence; and when the unauthenticated tales had once been swept away the remaining data were found to be astonishingly meagre. A very little has since come to light, through the efforts of the French Rabelais Society, which founded in 1903 the Revue des Etudes Rabelaisiennes. Among these contributions, one of the most important has been that of the president of this society on the Voyages of Pantagruel. All this later work is thoroughly familiar to Mr. Tilley, and he begins his present volume well equipped by his previous studies in the sixteenth century.
Mr. Tilley is not a brilliant writer. He is scholarly, conscientious, exact, erudite, and is deservedly recognized as the best-informed English authority on this period of French literary history. Yet for all his gleaning, the gathered facts make but a very slender sheaf in which much is straw. The positive information which in the present state of our knowledge can be given amounts but to this: We do not know when he was born, nor yet do we know exactly where, whether at Chinon or La Devinière; in any case, it was in this neighborhood, in Balzac's country, that fertile "garden of France" to which the Pantagruelist returns so fondly in his work, and which to him remained ever the ideal land, "more pleasant and temperate than Tempe in Thessaly, scented, smiling, and pleasant as is the country of Touraine." It is here, therefore, that in all likelihood he spent a youth about which it is safest to say that we know practically nothing. He became a Franciscan; was transferred to the Benedictines; and after leaving the University of Montpellier, where he completed the medical studies which he had presumably begun at Paris, we catch at intervals only fleeting glimpses of him, at Lyons, Rome, Paris, Chinon, Aigues Mortes, Turin, and Metz, as he goes vagabonding through his century. Aside from the really treasurable note to Erasmus, very few of his letters have survived, and these show signs of having been tampered with. Most interesting and characteristic is the one written from Metz to Du Bellay, whose physician he had been. It is given in full by Mr. Tilley and we quote but a few sentences:
Indeed, my lord, unless you take pity on me I know not what I am to do, unless in the extremity of despair I take service with some one about here to the detriment and evident loss of my studies. It is not possible to live more frugally than I do, and you cannot make me so small a gift from the abundance of goods that God has placed in your hands [he enjoyed the revenues of five sees and fourteen abbeys] but that I can manage, by living from hand to mouth, to
maintain myself honorably, as I have done up to the present, for the honor of the house from which I came on my departure from France.
One wonders just exactly what the author of Gargantua means by frugally. It was an age of sumptuousness and excess. Rabelais's correspondent, this same Jean Du Bellay, when already on the eve of his departure from Rome, had thought best to have a hundred tuns of Italian wine brought to his cellars; and not many years before, as we learn from Symonds, Leo X. and his cardinals had banqueted with Agostino Chigi, supping on ragouts of parrots' tongues and fishes from Byzantium, tossing when they had finished the golden platters through the opened windows into the Tiber. We are quite certain that Rabelais was no ascetic; so much is plain from his works. The vine has never had a devouter worshipper; the solution of the great questions of philosophy lies in the cup, and it is his famous bottle that contains all the mysteries. How much of this was imaginative, and how much the reflection of personal experience, we cannot tell. It does not seem probable, however, that this learned guest of popes and kings had spent any large portion of his years at tavern tables. La Bruyère, that student of character, has recorded the conviction of many a later investigator when he repeated in despair, "He will remain an enigma," and it seems now as if he had spoken for all time.
If the facts are, therefore, few, Mr. Tilley's narrative is unnecessarily diffuse and clogged with irrelevant erudition. We are given, for instance, a paragraph on "Ludovico Ricchieri, better known as Cœlius Rhodiginus, a native of Rovigo (Rhodigium), who resided some years in France in the reign of Charles VIII.," etc. The result is what a Frenchman has called peri-biography; he is occasionally writing around rather than about his subject, and the life of Rabelais at his hands becomes dull, dry, and heavy. The strictly biographical portion, however, thus comes to occupy a fairly large bulk in his volume. It is followed by long detailed synopses of Gargantua and Pantagruel, which will interest primarily students unfamiliar with the works, and the book concludes with two chapters on Rabelais's Art and Rabelais's Philosophy.
Ste. Beuve has said that the majority of readers go through their Rabelais with long strides, like one who crosses a square covered with mud. Mr. Tilley is not one of these. His study has been thorough, as we might have expected from the author of the French Literature of the Renaissance, and he writes with some sympathy. Readers of French will miss in this volume, however, the grasp, the insight, and the charm of style that mark that excellent work of Stapfer's, Rabelais, Sa Personne, Son Génie, Son Euvre. This book has evidently been of much service to
Mr. Tilley, and it is strange that he should have made no mention of this fact either in his preliminary discussion of his sources or in the body of his work.
In the prologue to his Gargantua, Rabelais had already compared his book to the bone, which the dog, if he would suck its marrow, must break, and the question of its interpretation has been an open one from that day to this. His was an age of diverse tendencies and startling contradictions. That king's sister, Margaret of Navarre, to whom one of the books of Pantagruel is dedicated, was at once the priestess of Platonic love and the compiler of libidinous tales as gross as Boccaccio's worst and not often redeemed by his art. It was the century of Leo X., of Cellini, of Francis I., Mary Stuart, Brantôme, and Henry III. In Rabelais the mediæval mind of France had escaped from the cloister, from its centuries of bondage, had looked about upon the earth and the body, and found them good; to him, monk and doctor, there was nothing in the spiritual or physical world either forbidden or obscene. He must know the savor of everything; like Ulysses, would drink life to the lees. He was unconscious as nature, and his was the enormous laughter of great waters. He climbed the Apennines for the inaccessible flower, and he lusted for the hidden truth as his friends the humanists for the manuscript unseen. He had followed in imagination that truth over the seas and to the wonderful islands of Pantagruel, and now and then he had glimpsed her o'er the flood or in the copse. His work is the record of that search, jumbled, unspeakably monstrous and uncouth often, and again clear, calm, with an epic grandeur and simplicity. Those who have been repelled by his unabashed glorification of the body have turned away like M. Faguet to tell us that there is nothing here. This lover of the purée septembrale is a mocker and a mystagogue. Common sense only is his portion; he has no philosophy either original or profound, or even very useful. Mr. Tilley, with other lovers of Rabelais, has looked deeper and has found wisdom. We believe he is right; for one does not spend many years in exile, and loving one's life so immensely, yet live in peril of the stake, for the mere fun, buffoon though one might be, of telling empty, hilarious tales. He was the earth-spirit, and tried as he dared and could to reveal the huge, compelling truth; but that spirit is hampered by its medium, and Rabelais, that radical of the Renaissance, that arch-individualist, was bound and gagged by those conservative forces of his time, and of every time, the Church and the State.
Certain readers will feel, however, that Mr. Tilley has given us a rather too orthodox Rabelais. So frank a questioner could not in that age freely speak his mind and his silence must not always, therefore, be
taken as a mark of acquiescence, for had he been any more explicit than he is in Gargantua he would never have lived to write Pantagruel. It will be remembered that the rule of his delightful Abbaye of Thelema was: "Do as you please, Fay ce que vouldras."
RECENT BOOKS ON ECONOMICS
IN the following fortuitous group of books on history and social science are found excellent types of the literature that makes up the rather dry annual grist in this department of human knowledge. There is-rarest of all-the book of an enthusiast and a scholar, so clearly and interestingly written as to be attractive to all; the careful, intensive study of a limited but important subject, which will unfortunately find but few readers outside the ranks of specialists; a more popular and discursive treatment of a broader subject by a college professor; a loose and rambling series of lectures by a practical man on the subject he is supposed to know best; a couple of volumes containing what purports to be the result of a thorough investigation by a man with a thesis to prove and determined to make the facts prove it; and finally an admirable, wellbalanced piece of historical writing by a well-equipped scholar. Most of the books are exceedingly timely and deal with problems of to-day; judged by this test, complaint cannot be made that the American student is an unpractical recluse. They are of unequal merit, some indeed with but little, but they probably represent fairly the character of work done in these fields to-day.
That the story of successful accomplishment in science is as interesting as that of achievement in exploration, or war, or art, is abundantly proved by Professor Duncan's book. A veritable fairy tale of science is unfolded as the author describes the triumphs of chemistry in the field of industry. The Chemistry of Commerce contains an account of the more recent discoveries in industrial chemistry, and has for its double purpose the popularization of this knowledge and to convince the American manufacturer of the applicability of science to manufactures. It will doubtless surprise, and perhaps shock, the average American business man to learn how slow to appreciate and appropriate the discoveries of science he has been and how far behind other nations he has fallen in the struggle for industrial supremacy in those lines in which science
'The Chemistry of Commerce. By Robert Kennedy Duncan. New York: Harper and Brothers.
can be made the servant of manufactures. As a striking instance of this may be cited the manufacture of glass, which, according to Professor Duncan, is "conducted on a basis of crass ignorance" and "is a story of confusion and waste" to such an extent that "it is a fine relief to turn from this chaos of American manufacture to the scientific, orderly practice of the glass manufacture 'across the water."" On the mechanical side of production, on the other hand, the author accords American manufacturers the highest praise; here they "need acknowledge no peer." The account of the actual achievements of science in industry reads like the story of Aladdin's lamp-only in this case it is true. Of especial interest to the lay reader will be the author's account of the fixation of the free nitrogen in the air for use as a fertilizer in agriculture and in the arts. The making also of artificial indigo and other dyes, of nonbreaking incandescent lamps and Welsbach mantles, of artificial rubies, of "thermit," the marvellous welder of broken steel and iron parts, of glass lenses, the production of alcohol and its application to industrial uses, of artificial perfumes, of patent medicines, the use of cellulose in the manufacture of paper, artificial silk, cotton fabrics, flax, and jute— these are some of the wonderfully interesting subjects that are described, so untechnically and simply that they can be understood by one who has had no training whatever in chemistry or physical science. Professor Duncan has been eminently successful in popularizing the secrets of the laboratory, and has been aided by the command of an easy style that carries the reader successfully over a few unavoidable chemical formulas and technical descriptions. The book should have great practical influence as well as popular appreciation.
Investigations have been made in various places of the standards and cost of living, notably by Mr. Charles Booth in London and Mr. Rowntree in York, but none more careful or interesting that that by Mrs. More.1 She chose for the scene of her investigation that part of New York City known of old as Greenwich Village, and there made an intensive study of two hundred wage-earners' families with whom she was brought into friendly contact by her residence at a social settlement. The results of this study form an extremely interesting "human document," and while statistics abound, they are far from being dry. One sees the constant struggle to meet the unceasing demands upon purse and strength, the thrift and economy, the endeavor to maintain a decent standard of living, and the not infrequent failures as a result of death, lack of employment, or bad habits. And yet the picture is by no means a dreary one. The 'Wage-earners' Budgets. By Louise Bolard More. New York: Henry Holt and Company.