Philarete Chasles, indeed, holds that it is the Human Race that is your true inventor: "As if to unite all generations," he says, "and to show that man can only act efficiently by association with others, it has been ordained that each inventor shall only interpret the first word of the problem he sets himself to solve, and that every great idea shall be the RESUME of the past at the same time that it is the germ of the future."
Chasles had known personally Michelet and Guizot, the elder Dumas and Beyle, Cousin and Villemain, Musset and Balzac; he knew the Comtesse d'Agoult, for so many years the friend of Liszt, and Madame Colet, the mistress, first of Cousin, then of Musset, and finally of Flaubert, of whom my French uncle, who had met her on his travels, had drawn me a very unattractive picture.
Everyone who came to the house was charmed with her, and it was always full of guests, young students from Alsace and Provence, young negroes from Hayti, young ladies from Jerusalem, and poetesses who would have liked to read their poems aloud and would have liked still better to induce Chasles to make them known by an article.
The fabricator's imagination ran riot, and he produced a fragment in the handwriting of Pythagoras, showing that Pythagoras wrote in bad French. At last other learned men, who did not love Chasles, tried to make him understand that he had been befooled.
Chasles was able, in a few words, to conjure up very vividly the images of the persons he was describing to his listener, and his anecdotes about them were inexhaustible. He took me behind the scenes of literature and I saw the stage from all its sides.
One day after dinner, Chasles invited me to go into town with him, and when we arrived he took a carriage and drove about with me for two hours observing the prevailing mood.
Fighting with the pen was carried to a point of skill previously unattained. Grouped round the Debats the ministerial organ were Silvestre de Sacy, Saint-Marc Girardin, and Jules Janin as leaders, and John Lemoinne, Philarete Chasles, Barbey d'Aurevilly in the rank and file.
For instance, to my question as to whether Guizot had really been as austere by nature as he was in manner, he replied: "It is hard to say; when one wishes to impress, one cannot behave like a harlequin." Although I had a keen enough eye for Philarete Chasles' weaknesses, I felt exceedingly happy in his house.
Hamburg My Second Fatherland Ernest Hello Le Docteur Noir Taine Renan Marcelin Gleyre Taine's Friendship Renan at Home Philarete Chasles' Reminiscences Le Theatre Francais Coquelin Bernhardt Beginnings of Main Currents The Tuileries John Stuart Mill London Philosophical Studies London and Paris Compared Antonio Gallenga and His Wife Don Juan Prim Napoleon III London Theatres Gladstone and Disraeli in Debate Paris on the Eve of War First Reverses Flight from Paris Geneva, Switzerland Italy Pasquale Villari Vinnie Ream's Friendship Roman Fever Henrik Ibsen's Influence Scandinavians in Rome.
Chasles chatted with everyone, frequently addressing his conversation to me, talking incessantly about the very men and women that I most cared to hear about, of those still living whom I most admired, such as George Sand, and Merimee, and, in fact, of all the many celebrities he had known.