Teilhard de Chardin Pierre - Letters to Léontine Zanta


Author : Teilhard de Chardin Pierre
Title : Letters to Léontine Zanta
Year : 1969

Link download : Teilhard_de_Chardin_Pierre_-_Letters_to_Leontine_Zanta.zip

Pêre Teilhard and Mademoiselle Zanta. BY ROBERT GARRIC. 'So come and have lunch on Wednesday. You'll meet three priests who will not fail to interest you.' It was on this invitation from Mademoiselle Zanta that I set out for Neuilly on a fine Spring day in 1925-my curiosity somewhat aroused. I had no idea of the deep significance the meeting would have for me. Three priests were duly there. One was the famous Abbé Bremond. The second was also weil known, Abbé Mugnier. The third was my surprise of the day ... Abbé Bremond was no disappointment for anyone reasonably familiar with his books: his Literary History of Religious Thought in France had started com.ing out, revealing to French readers innumerable hitherto unknown mystics whom he expounded in his beautiful, poetic style. Abbé Bremond was thin and immensely tall; he looked down on you with lively mischievous eyes; subtle, sparkling remarks feil from his thin, tight lips, and he led the conversation. When I recalled how people had begun referring to him as a new SainteBeuve, I couldn't help feeling rather intimidated. Abbé Mugnier seemed by contrast tiny, full of good nature and with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. His sparkling wit and the playful good-nature ofhis conversation were fascinating. His legend followed him: he bad been Huysmans' confidant and had introduced him to the cathedral, 1 and was the friend and spiritual director of many artists and poets. Though made to listen, and to lift up suffering sotÙs, he was love for poetry and the arts incarnate. He liked the romantics, held Combourg1 and its master in reverence, and his eyes misted with whimsical emotion if one talked to him about his close literary friends or sorne book he appreciated. He had just discovered Marie Noël and proclaimed her a great poet; Abbé Bremond, too, was urging and encouraging her to persevere in her vocation. The third priest stood out from the rest of the company. He was tall too, and slim, but spoke little; his fine deep-set eyes had a far-away look and seemed to be following sorne private train of thought. He joined in the conversation with much reserve, but what he said was weighty and incisive. He had dash and restraint. And both his silence and his quick interjections made an impression. Y ou felt you were in the presence of someone with a powerftÙ personality, and for whom you immediately felt enormous warmth. He had the lofty bearing of a gentleman in religious orders, and the lively gait of a champion runner. His face was lit with an inner life and lined by asceticism. That day 1 mark~d him out for ever and said so to our hostess at whose home 1 was to meet him again later on. He was Père Teilhard de Chardin, just back from his fust journey to China. What was this friendly place where so many artists and philosophees gathered? And who was its mistress? Mademoiselle Zanta's name and work were already weil known. During the last ten years or so she had shown herself to have one of the most distinguished minds of her tim.e, and her dazzling career had brought her a number of admirers. As a young Alsatian girl, the daughter of a teacher in humanities, she had forced her parents to let her study philosophy, sit for her baccalautéat at a tim.e when girls rardy sat for it, and move to Paris so asto attend courses at the Sorbonne. Before preparing for her licence she stayed in Egypt, in Ismaïlia, with the family of a Monsieur Le Masson, chief engineer for the Suez Canal, and was responsible for a few months for the education of his three children. On her return to Paris she taught and did coaching work, hdping her father with his pupils while reading for her own examinations. She was the only woman philosophy student in the Faculty. She fdl under the spell ofher beloved philosophees, Plato filled her with admiration, and she devdoped a secret liking for Epictetus' 'Manual'-at one time she almost knew it by heart. She attended the lectures of Brochard, Émile Boutroux and Gabriel Séailles. Then she got to know that superb master, Henri Bergson, who was to have a deep influence over her ideas. In r898 she passed her licence in philosophy with :flying colours and threw hersdf enthusiastically into teachingher natural vocation. Vivid, sprightly, persuasive, speaking with warmth and precision, she never lost her appeal to student audiences ofboth sexes. She taught at the Mutualité Maintenon, an institute ofhigher studies recently created by Madame Paris, and in practice a non-State teachers' training college. There she met Samuel Rocheblave who became a lifelong friend, Paul Doumer, then Governor-General of Indo-China, and honorary president of the establishment, and the historian and critic, Alfred Mézières. But with ali this activity she never forgot her real and lasting vocation. She was encouraged by Bergson, Séailles and Strowski to take for her thesis in philosophy a subject then little explored, 'The Revival of Stoicism in the Sixteenth Century.' When she was not teaching or tutoring her many pupils, she spent her time in the Bibliothèque Nationale, and she also stole hours from the night to write her fust major work. Those around her admired her cheerful persistence and her rare talent for overcoming obstacles as if they were mere trilles. When she becam.e a Doctor ofPhilosophy on May 19, 1914, it was a red-letter day for French feminism, for she was the fust Frenchwoman to face the ordeal. That year also brought the war, and as an Alsatian Mademoiselle Zanta followed its progress with intense emotion. During those years she taught philosophy at the lycée Buffon for boys, and was elected President of the Mutualité Maintenon. Her influence quickly spread. Almost against her will she came to play a leading part in the French feminist movement. lncreasingly in demand to speak at a succession of conferences and congresses, she soon becam.e quite fam.ous. She did not share the violent passions about politics and political rights expressed by some of her women colleagues in the 1iterary and journalistic world: ber main concem was that women should have the right to take up professional careers. It was during those years of intensive work and early renown that she wrote her Psychologie du féminisme, to which Paul Bourget contributed the preface. This brought her new friends and collaborators- among them Colette Yver. By now she was defending women' s professional rights in the daily Press, and before long becam.e a regular journalist of great ability with leading articles in the main newspapers. Soon she widened her field of interest, and tackled ali sorts of educational and social problems. Her method was to expound the situation, give her own point of view, and then make a warm appeal for the cause she upheld. She tackled such questions as women factoryworkers and non-State schools. Her distress over the divisions in her country caused her to write one day, with heartfelt stoicism: '1 am sitting at my desk trying to brace myself against the misfortunes of the times by re-reading the noble and melancholy thoughts of Marcus Aurelius.' From now on her correspondence became enormous. Readers wrote to her with their thoughts and their problems, and this went on till the end ofher life. She became involved in a vital dialogue with her country. With her increasing fame also as a lecturer, Mademoiselle Zanta received invitations from abroad. The fust foreign country she visited was Bolland. In 1919 we find her in Rotterdam, speaking alternately in the large drawing-room of the woman-president of the Alliance .française, and in the Notaries' Hall. There she embarked on her great theme: modern woman and the social problems of the twentieth century. Next she went to Belgium and her own beloved provinces of eastern France, where she was delighted to return. Her gifts came out best in debate, argument produced her liveliest answers, and she could always win confidence and a warm response from a roomful of listeners. ...

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