Romain Rolland: The Man and His Work

Produced by Chuck Greif, University of Michigan Libraries
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
http://www.pgdp.net


ROMAIN ROLLAND

Romain Rolland after a drawing by Granié (1909) Romain Rolland after a drawing by Granié (1909)

ROMAIN ROLLAND
THE MAN AND HIS WORK

BY
STEFAN ZWEIG

TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT
BY

EDEN and CEDAR PAUL

colophon

NEW YORK
THOMAS SELTZER
1921

Copyright, 1921, by
THOMAS SELTZER, Inc.
All rights reserved
PRINTED IN U. S. A.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Dedication PAGE
PART ONE: BIOGRAPHICAL
I.Introductory1
II.Early Childhood3
III.School Days8
IV.The Normal School12
V.A Message From Afar18
VI.Rome23
VII.The Consecration29
VIII.Years of Apprenticeship32
IX.Years of Struggle37
X.A Decade of Seclusion43
XI.A Portrait45
XII.Renown48
XIII.Rolland As the Embodiment of the European Spirit52
PART TWO: EARLY WORK AS A DRAMATIST
I.The Work and the Epoch57
II.The Will To Greatness63
III.The Creative Cycles67
IV.The Unknown Dramatic Cycle71
V.The Tragedies of Faith. Saint Louis, Aërt, 1895-189876
VI.Saint Louis. 189480
VII.Aërt, 189883
VIII.Attempt To Regenerate the French Stage86
IX.An Appeal to the People90
X.The Program94
XI.The Creative Artist98
XII.The Drama of the Revolution, 1898-1902100
XIII.The Fourteenth of July, 1902103
XIV.Danton, 1900106
XV.The Triumph of Reason, 1899110
XVI.The Wolves, 1898113
XVII.The Call Lost in the Void117
XVIII.A Day Will Come, 1902119
XIX.The Playwright123
PART THREE: THE HEROIC BIOGRAPHIES
I.De Profundis133
II.The Heroes of Suffering137
III.Beethoven140
IV.Michelangelo144
V.Tolstoi147
VI.The Unwritten Biographies150
PART FOUR: JEAN CHRISTOPHE
I.Sanctus Christophorus157
II.Resurrection160
III.The Origin of the Work162
IV.The Work without a Formula166
V.Key to the Characters172
VI.A Heroic Symphony177
VII.The Enigma of Creative Work181
VIII.Jean Christophe188
IX.Olivier195
X.Grazia200
XI.Jean Christophe and his Fellow Men203
XII.Jean Christophe and the Nations207
XIII.The Picture of France211
XIV.The Picture of Germany217
XV.The Picture of Italy221
XVI.The Jews224
XVII.The Generations229
XVIII.Departure235
PART FIVE: INTERMEZZO SCHERZO (COLAS BREUGNON)
I.Taken Unawares241
II.The Burgundian Brother244
III.Gauloiseries249
IV.A Frustrate Message252
PART SIX: THE CONSCIENCE OF EUROPE
I.The Warden of the Inheritance257
II.Forearmed260
III.The Place of Refuge264
IV.The Service of Man268
V.The Tribunal of the Spirit271
VI.The Controversy with Gerhardt Hauptmann277
VII.The Correspondence with Verhaeren281
VIII.The European Conscience285
IX.The Manifestoes289
X.Above the Battle293
XI.The Campaign against Hatred297
XII.Opponents304
XIII.Friends311
XIV.The Letters317
XV.The Counselor320
XVI.The Solitary324
XVII.The Diary327
XVIII.The Forerunners and Empedocles329
XIX.Liluli335
XX.Clerambault339
XXI.The Last Appeal348
XXII.Declaration of the Independence of the Mind351
XXIII.Envoy355
Bibliography357
Index371

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

[Click on any image to view it enlarged. (note from the etext producer.)]

Romain Rolland after a drawing by Granié (1909)Frontispiece
FACING
PAGE
Romain Rolland at the Normal School12
Leo Tolstoi’s Letter20
Rolland’s Transcript of Francesco Provenzale’s Aria from Lo Schiavo di sua Moglie34
Rolland’s Transcript of a Melody by Paul Dupin, L’Oncle Gottfried35
Romain Rolland at the Time of Writing Beethoven142
Romain Rolland at the Time of Writing Jean Christophe162
Romain Rolland at the Time of Writing Above the Battle294
Rolland’s Mother324
Original Manuscript of The Declaration of the Independence of the Mind352

PART ONE
BIOGRAPHICAL

ROMAIN ROLLAND

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY

THE first fifty years of Romain Rolland’s life were passed in inconspicuous and almost solitary labors. Thenceforward, his name was to become a storm center of European discussion. Until shortly before the apocalyptic year, hardly an artist of our days worked in such complete retirement, or received so little recognition.

Since that year, no artist has been the subject of so much controversy. His fundamental ideas were not destined to make themselves generally known until there was a world in arms bent upon destroying them.

Envious fate works ever thus, interweaving the lives of the great with tragical threads. She tries her powers to the uttermost upon the strong, sending events to run counter to their plans, permeating their lives with strange allegories, imposing obstacles in their path—that they may be guided more unmistakably in the right course. Fate plays with them, plays a game with a sublime issue, for all experience is precious. Think of the greatest among our contemporaries; think of Wagner, Nietzsche, Dostoievsky, Tolstoi, Strindberg; in the case of each of them, destiny has superadded to the creations of the artist’s mind, the drama of personal experience.

Notably do these considerations apply to the life of Romain Rolland. The significance of his life’s work becomes plain only when it is contemplated as a whole. It was slowly produced, for it had to encounter great dangers; it was a gradual revelation, tardily consummated. The foundations of this splendid structure were deeply dug in the firm ground of knowledge, and were laid upon the hidden masonry of years spent in isolation. Thus tempered by the ordeal of a furnace seven times heated, his work has the essential imprint of humanity. Precisely owing to the strength of its foundations, to the solidity of its moral energy, was Rolland’s thought able to stand unshaken throughout the war storms that have been ravaging Europe. While other monuments to which we had looked up with veneration, cracking and crumbling, have been leveled with the quaking earth, the monument he had builded stands firm “above the battle,” above the medley of opinions, a pillar of strength towards which all free spirits can turn for consolation amid the tumult of the world.

CHAPTER II

EARLY CHILDHOOD

ROMAIN ROLLAND was born on January 29, 1866, a year of strife, the year when Sadowa was fought. His native town was Clamecy, where another imaginative writer, Claude Tillier, author of Mon Oncle Benjamin, was likewise born. An ancient city, within the confines of old-time Burgundy, Clamecy is a quiet place, where life is easy and uneventful. The Rollands belong to a highly respected middle-class family. His father, who was a lawyer, was one of the notables of the town. His mother, a pious and serious-minded woman, devoted all her energies to the upbringing of her two children; Romain, a delicate boy, and his sister Madeleine, younger than he. As far as the environment of daily life was concerned, the atmosphere was calm and untroubled; but in the blood of the parents existed contrasts deriving from earlier days of French history, contrasts not yet fully reconciled. On the father’s side, Rolland’s ancestors were champions of the Convention, ardent partisans of the Revolution, and some of them sealed their faith with their blood. From his mother’s family he inherited the Jansenist spirit, the investigator’s temperament of Port-Royal. He was thus endowed by both parents with tendencies to fervent faith, but tendencies to faith in contradictory ideals. In France this cleavage between love for religion and passion for freedom, between faith and revolution, dates from centuries back. Its seeds were destined to blossom in the artist.

His first years of childhood were passed in the shadow of the defeat of 1870. In Antoinette, Rolland sketches the tranquil life of just such a provincial town as Clamecy. His home was an old house on the bank of a canal. Not from this narrow world were to spring the first delights of the boy who, despite his physical frailty, was so passionately sensitive to enjoyment. A mighty impulse from afar, from the unfathomable past, came to stir his pulses. Early did he discover music, the language of languages, the first great message of the soul. His mother taught him the piano. From its tones he learned to build for himself the infinite world of feeling, thus transcending the limits imposed by nationality. For while the pupil eagerly assimilated the easily understood music of French classical composers, German music at the same time enthralled his youthful soul. He has given an admirable description of the way in which this revelation came to him: “We had a number of old German music books. German? Did I know the meaning of the word? In our part of the world I believe no one had ever seen a German … I turned the leaves of the old books, spelling out the notes on the piano, … and these runnels, these streamlets of melody, which watered my heart, sank into the thirsty ground as the rain soaks into the earth. The bliss and the pain, the desires and the dreams, of Mozart and Beethoven, have become flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. I am them, and they are me…. How much do I owe them. When I was ill as a child, and death seemed near, a melody of Mozart would watch over my pillow like a lover…. Later, in crises of doubt and depression, the music of Beethoven would revive in me the sparks of eternal life…. Whenever my spirit is weary, whenever I am sick at heart, I turn to my piano and bathe in music.”

Thus early did the child enter into communion with the wordless speech of humanity; thus early had the all-embracing sympathy of the life of feeling enabled him to pass beyond the narrows of town and of province, of nation and of era. Music was his first prayer to the elemental forces of life; a prayer daily repeated in countless forms; so that now, half a century later, a week and even a day rarely elapses without his holding converse with Beethoven. The other saint of his childhood’s days, Shakespeare, likewise belonged to a foreign land. With his first loves, all unaware, the lad had already overstridden the confines of nationality. Amid the dusty lumber in a loft he discovered an edition of Shakespeare, which his grandfather (a student in Paris when Victor Hugo was a young man and Shakespeare mania was rife) had bought and forgotten. His childish interest was first awakened by a volume of faded engravings entitled Galerie des femmes de Shakespeare. His fancy was thrilled by the charming faces, by the magical names Perdita, Imogen, and Miranda. But soon, reading the plays, he became immersed in the maze of happenings and personalities. He would remain in the loft hour after hour, disturbed by nothing beyond the occasional trampling of the horses in the stable below or by the rattling of a chain on a passing barge. Forgetting everything and forgotten by all he sat in a great armchair with the beloved book, which like that of Prospero made all the spirits of the universe his servants. He was encircled by a throng of unseen auditors, by imaginary figures which formed a rampart between himself and the world of realities.

As ever happens, we see a great life opening with great dreams. His first enthusiasms were most powerfully aroused by Shakespeare and Beethoven. The youth inherited from the child, the man from the youth, this passionate admiration for greatness. One who has hearkened to such a call, cannot easily confine his energies within a narrow circle. The school in the petty provincial town had nothing more to teach this aspiring boy. The parents could not bring themselves to send their darling alone to the metropolis, so with heroic self-denial they decided to sacrifice their own peaceful existence. The father resigned his lucrative and independent position as notary, which made him a leading figure in Clamecy society, in order to become one of the numberless employees of a Parisian bank. The familiar home, the patriarchal life, were thrown aside that the Rollands might watch over their boy’s schooling and upgrowing in the great city. The whole family looked to Romain’s interest, thus teaching him early what others do not usually learn until full manhood—responsibility.

CHAPTER III

SCHOOL DAYS

Pages: 1 | 2 | Single Page