19 JULY 1919, Page 12



Sin,—Renan could guess well sometimes, but he was not a prophet. In La Reforme intellectuelle et morale, which he published immediately after the war of 1871, passages occur Lore and there to remind the reader that the greatest literary genius of the nineteenth century was not infallible. Of three instances of this sort that I have noted it will be remarked that two relate to matters of religion, and this is natural, for here more than anywhere a man is likely to be led astray by his wishes or his prejudices. Thus we have:- " No pupil of the Jesuits will ever become an officer fit to be compared with a Prussian of the same rank" (p. 97)- a prophecy that has been falsified by the career of Marshal Foch. But this is a mere nothing compared with the fantastic picture which Renan draws of the state of religion in Europe that was to result from the realization of Italian unity :- " It seems to be almost inevitable that we shall have two Popes, if not three, for the French, the Italians, and the Germans can never have the same religion. The doctrine of nationalities must in the long run prove fatal to the Papacy. . Schisms, like that of Avignon . . . are certain. There will be two Popes, one in Italy, one outside, and the result will be the dissolution of Catholicism " (p. 110).

And finally we have a political prophecy, which Renan has worked out in another place at considerable length " When the danger threatening Germany from France disappears, German unity will disappear " (p. 161).

It may be questioned whether the gift of prophecy is given to people with the temperament and intellectual gifts of Renan. It comes, if it comes at all, to the simple, to the ascetic, not to members of the little hand of heroic men, who have drained to the lees the brimming chalice of the learning of the past. It springs. not from accumulated wisdom, but from intuition. The Maid of Kent and Savonarola were neither of them dis- tinguished for a highly cultivated intellect; the one was a village girl, the other had little taste for learning—witness his bonfires, in which even the works of Petrarch perished. Edu- cation, too much vaunted nowadays perhaps, is often fatal to mother-wit, and things are divined by the simple and un- lettered that are hidden from the sage.—I am, Sir, Sic.,