François Fénelon: Wikis

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François Fénelon.

François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon, more commonly known as François Fénelon (6 August 1651 – 7 January 1715), was a French Roman Catholic theologian, poet and writer. He today is remembered mostly as one of the main advocates of quietism and as the author of The adventures of Telemachus, a thinly veiled attack on the French monarchy, first published in 1699.

Contents

Childhood and Education, 1651-75

Fénelon was born on 6 August 1651 at the Château de Fénelon, in Sainte-Mondane, Périgord, Aquitaine, the second of the three children of Pons de Salignac, Comte de La Mothe-Fénelon by his wife Louise de La Cropte. Being born into a noble family, many of Fénelon's ancestors had been active in politics, and for several generations his relatives had served as bishops of Sarlat.

Fénelon's early education was provided in the Château de Fénelon by a private tutor which provided Fénelon with a thorough grounding in the Greek language and classics. In 1667, at age 12, he was sent to the University of Cahors, where he studied rhetoric and philosophy. When the young man expressed interest in a career in the church, his uncle, the Marquis Antoine de Fénelon (a friend of Jean-Jacques Olier and Vincent de Paul) arranged for him to study at the Collège du Plessis, whose theology students followed the same curriculum as the theology students at the Sorbonne. While there, he became friends with Antoine de Noailles, who later became a cardinal and the Archbishop of Paris. Fénelon demonstrated so much talent at the Collège du Plessis that at age 15, he was asked to give a public sermon.

About 1672 (i.e. around the time he was 21 years old), Fénelon's uncle managed to get him enrolled in the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice, the Sulpician seminary in Paris.

Early years as a priest, 1675-85

In about 1675, (when he would have been 24), he was ordained as a priest. He initially thought of becoming a missionary to the East, but ultimately decided to join the Sulpician order.

In 1678, Hardouin de Péréfixe de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, selected Fénelon to head the house of Nouvelles-Catholiques, a community for Protestant converts about to enter the Church of Rome.

Missionary to the Huguenots, 1686-87

During this period, Fénelon had become friends with his future rival Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet. When Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the Church began a campaign to send the greatest orators in the country into the regions of France with the greatest concentration of Huguenots to persuade them of the errors of Protestantism. Upon Bossuet's suggestion, Fénelon was included in this group, alongside such oratorical greats as Louis Bourdaloue and Esprit Fléchier.

He consequently spent the next three years in the Saintonge region of France preaching to Protestants. He persuaded the king to remove troops from the region and tried to avoid outright displays of religious oppression, though, in the end, he was willing to resort to force to make Protestants listen to his message. He believed that "to be obliged to do good is always an advantage and that heretics and schismatics, when forced to apply their minds to the consideration of truth, eventually lay aside their erroneous beliefs, whereas they would never have examined these matters had not authority constrained them."

Important friends, 1687-89

During this period, Fénelon assisted Bossuet during his lectures on the Bible at Versailles. It was probably at Bossuet's urging that he now composed his Réfutation du système de Malebranche sur la nature et sur la grâce, a work in which he attacked Nicolas Malebranche's views on optimism, the creation, and the Incarnation. This work was not published until 1820, long after Fénelon's death

Fénelon also became friendly with the Duc de Beauvilliers and the Duc de Chevreuse, who were married to the daughters of Louix XIV's minister of finance Jean-Baptiste Colbert. The Duchesse de Beauvilliers, who was the mother of eight daughters, asked Fénelon his advice on raising children; as a result, he wrote his Traité de l'education des filles. This work is often seen as being somewhat ahead of its time, as it insists that girls should receive a thorough education, particularly in theological matters, so that they will be able to recognize and refute heresies. He also wrote a Treatise on the Existence of God.

In 1688, Fénelon first met Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Motte Guyon, usually known simply as "Mme. Guyon", who was being well-received in the social circle of the Beauvilliers and Chevreuses. He was deeply impressed by her piety and would later become a devotee and defender of her brand of Quietism.

Royal tutor, 1689-97

In 1689, Louis XIV named Fénelon's friend the Duc de Beauvilliers as governor of the royal grandchildren. Upon Beauvilliers' recommendation, Fénelon was named the tutor of the Dauphin's eldest son, the 7-year-old Duke of Burgundy, who was second in line for the throne.

As tutor, Fénelon was charged with guiding the character formation of a future King of France. He wrote several important works specifically to guide his young charge. These include his Fables and his Dialogues des Morts.

But by far the most lasting of his works that he composed for the duke was his Les Aventures de Télémaque (English The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses), written in 1693-94. On its surface, The Adventures of Telemachus was a novel about Ulysses' son Telemachus, but in reality, it was a biting attack on the divine right absolute monarchy which was the dominant ideology of Louis XIV's France. In sharp contrast to Bossuet, who, when tutor to the Dauphin had written Politique tirée de l'Écriture sainte which affirmed the divine foundations of absolute monarchy while at the same exercising the future king to use restraint and wisdom in exercising his absolute power, in Telemachus, Fénelon went so far as to write "Good kings are rare and the generality of monarchs bad" (p. 254).

The French literary historian Jean-Claude Bonnet calls Télémaque “the true key to the museum of the eighteenth century imagination.” [1] One of the most popular works of the century, it was an immediate best seller both in France and abroad, going through many editions and translated into every European language and even Latin verse (first in Berlin in 1743, then in Paris by Étienne Viel [1737-87]). It inspired numerous imitations (such as the Abbé Jean Terrasson's novel Sethos (1731), [2]It also supplied the plot for Mozart's opera, Idomeneo (1781).

It was the general opinion that Fénelon's tutorship resulted in a dramatic improvement in the young duke's behaviour. Even the memoirist Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon, who generally disliked Fénelon, admitted that when Fénelon became tutor, the duke was a spoiled, violent child; when Fénelon left him, the duke had learned the lessons of self-control and had been thoroughly impressed with a sense of his future duties. Telemachus is therefore widely seen as the most thorough exposition of the brand of reformism in the Beauvilliers-Chevreuse circle, which hoped that following Louis XIV's death, his brand of autocracy could be replaced by a monarchy less centralized and less absolute, and with a greater role for aristocrats such as Beauvilliers and Chevreuse.

In 1693, Fénelon was elected to Seat 34 of the French Academy.

In 1694, the king named Fénelon Abbot of Saint-Valéry, a lucrative post worth 14,000 livres a year.

The early- to mid-1690s are significant since it was during this period that Mme de Maintenon (quasi-morganatic wife of Louis XIV since roughly 1684) began to regularly consult Fénelon on matters of conscience. Also, since he had a reputation as an expert on the education of girls, she sought his advice on the house of Saint-Cyr which she was founding for girls.

In February 1696, the king nominated Fénelon to become the Archbishop of Cambrai while at the same time asking him to remain in his position as tutor to the duke of Burgundy. Fénelon accepted, and he was consecrated by his old friend Bossuet in August.

The Quietist controversy, 1697-99

As already noted, Fénelon had met Mme Guyon in 1688 and had subsequently become an admirer of her work.

In 1697, following a visit by Mme Guyon to Mme de Maintenon's school at Saint-Cyr, Paul Godet des Marais, Bishop of Chartres (Saint-Cyr was located within his diocese) expressed concerns about Mme Guyon's orthodoxy to Mme de Maintenon. He was concerned that Mme Guyon's opinions bore striking similarities to Miguel de Molinos' Quietism, condemned by Pope Innocent XI in 1687. As a result, Mme de Maintenon asked for an ecclesiastical commission to exam Mme Guyon's orthodoxy: the commission consisted of two of Fénelon's old friends, Bossuet and de Noailles, as well as the head of the Sulpician order of which Fénelon was a member. The commission sat at Issy and, after six months of deliberations, delivered its opinion in the Articles d'Issy, 34 articles which briefly condemned certain of Mme Guyon's opinions and set forth a brief exposition of the Catholic view of prayer. These articles were signed by Fénelon and the Bishop of Chartres, as well as by all three members of the commission. Mme Guyon immediately submitted to the decision of the commission.

At Issy, the commission had decided that Bossuet should follow up the Articles with an exposition of them, so Bossuet now proceeded to write that exposition in a work he entitled Instructions sur les états d'oraison. Bossuet submitted this work to the members of the commission, as well as to the Bishop of Chartres and Fénelon, to ask for their signatures prior to its publication. Fénelon refused to sign, arguing that Mme Guyon had already admitted her mistakes and there was no point in further condemning her. Furthermore, Fénelon disagreed with Bossuet's interpretation of the Articles d'Issy, so in response Fénelon wrote Explication des Maximes des Saints (a work often regarded as his masterpiece - English: Maxims of the Saints), in which he provided his own interpretation of the Articles d'Issy, interpreting them in a way much more sympathetic to the Quietist viewpoint than Bossuet's interpretation.

Louis XIV, shocked that his grandson's tutors held such views, removed Fénelon from his post as royal tutor and ordered Fénelon to remain within the boundaries of the archdiocese of Cambrai. The king chastised Bossuet for not warning him earlier of Fénelon's opinions and ordered Bossuet, de Noailles, and the Bishop of Chartres to respond to the Maximes des Saints.

This unleashed two years of pamphlet warfare as the two sides traded opinions. This continued until 12 March 1699, when the Inquisition formally condemned the Maximes des Saints, with Pope Innocent XII listing 23 specific propositions as unorthodox.

Fénelon immediately declared that he submitted to the pope's authority in the matter and set aside his own opinion in the matter. With this, the matter dropped.

In 1699, The Adventures of Telemachus was published and Louis XIV was enraged by this work, which appeared to question the very foundations of his regime. As a result, even after Fénelon abjured his Quietist views, the king refused to revoke his order forbidding Fénelon from leaving his archdiocese.

Later years

As Archbishop of Cambrai, Fénelon spent most of his time in the archiepiscopal palace in Cambrai, but also devoted several months of each year to visitation of his archdiocese. He preached in his cathedral on festival days, and took an especial interest in seminary training and in examining candidates for the priesthood prior to their ordination.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, Spanish troops encamped in his archdiocese (an area only recently gained by France from Spain), but the troops never interfered with Fénelon in the exercise of his archiepiscopal duties. During the war, Fénelon opened his palace to refugees from around the archdiocese who had fled in the face of Spanish troops.

During these latter years, Fénelon wrote a series of anti-Jansenist works. The impetus for this was the publication of the Cas de Conscience, which revived the old Jansenist distinction between questions of law and questions of fact, and arguing that though the church had the right to condemn certain opinions as heretical, it did not have the right to oblige one to believe that these opinions were actually contained in Cornelius Jansen's Augustinus. In response to this, Fénelon wrote treatises, sermons, and pastoral letters which occupy seven volumes in his collected works. Fénelon particularly condemned Pasquier Quesnel's Réflexions morales sur le Nouveau Testament, and his writings were part of the build-up to Pope Clement XI's 1713 bull Unigenitus, condemning Quesnel's opinions.

Although confined to the archdiocese to Cambrai, in his later years, Fénelon continued to act as a spiritual director for Mme de Maintenon, the ducs de de Chevreuse and de Beauvilliers, the duke of Burgundy, and a number of other prominent individuals.

Fénelon's later years were saddened by the deaths of many of his close friends. Shortly before his death, he asked Louis XIV to replace him with a man opposed to Jansenism and loyal to the Sulpician order. He died on 7 January 1715.

Fénelon as Reformer and Defender of Human Rights

Paul Hazard remarks on the bitterness of the questions Fénelon has his fictional hero Telemachus put to Idomeneus, King of Salente: "those same questions, in the same sorrowing tone, Fénelon puts to to his pupil, the Duc de Bourgogne, against the day, when he will have to take over the royal power: Do you understand the constitution of kingship? Have you acquainted yourself with the moral obligations of Kings? Have you sought means of bringing comfort to the people? The evils that are engendered by absolute power, by incompetent administration, by war, how will you shield your subjects from them? And when in 1711, the same Duc de Bourgogne became Dauphin of France, it was a whole string of reforms that Fénelon submitted to him in preparation for his accession".[3] Finally, to complete the credit items of Fénelon’s account, we must put his defense of Human Rights. Thus he speaks:

A people is no less a member of the human race, which is society as a whole, than a family is a member of a particular nation. Each individual owes incomparably more to the human race, which is the great fatherland, than to the particular country in which he was born. As a family is to the nation, so is the nation to the universal commonweal; wherefore it is infinitely more harmful for nation to wrong nation, than for family to wrong family. To abandon the sentiment of humanity is not merely to renounce civilization and to relapse into barbarism, it is to share in the blindness of the most brutish brigands and savages; it is not be a man no longer, but a cannibal.” [4]

Notes

  1. ^ La Naissance du Pantheon: Essai sur le culte des grands homes (Paris Fayard, 1998).
  2. ^ itself the inspiration Mozart's Magic Flute.
  3. ^ Paul Hazard, The European Mind, 1680-1715, translated by J. Lewis May (Cleveland Ohio: Meridian Books [1935] [1963], 1967) pp. 282.
  4. ^ Fénelon, Dialogue des Morts, "Socrate et Alcibiade" (1718), quoted in Paul Hazard, The European Mind, 1680-1715 (1967), pp. 282–83.

See also

Works

Sources

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Paul Pellisson
Seat 34
Académie française

1693–1715
Succeeded by
Claude Gros de Boze
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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

All men are brothers, and ought to love each other as such.

François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon, Archbishop of Cambrai (1651-08-061715-01-07) was a French educationalist, critic, poet, and political and religious philosopher.

Contents

Sourced

  • D'ordinaire, ceux qui gouvernent les enfants ne leur pardonnent rien, et se pardonnent tout à eux-mêmes.
    • In general, those who govern children forgive nothing in them, but everything in themselves.
    • Traité de l'éducation des filles, ch. 5, cited from De l'éducation des filles, dialogues des morts et opuscules divers (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1857) p. 15; translation from Selections from the Writings of Fénelon (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little and Wilkins, 1829) p. 137. (1687)
  • Remarquez un grand défaut des éducations ordinaires: on met tout le plaisir d'un côté , et tout l'ennui de l'autre; tout l'ennui dans l'étude, tout le plaisir dans les divertissements.
    • The greatest defect of common education is, that we are in the habit of putting pleasure all on one side, and weariness on the other; all weariness in study, all pleasure in idleness.
    • De l'éducation des filles, ch. 5, cited from De l’éducation des filles, dialogues des morts et opuscules divers (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1857) p. 21; translation from Selections from the Writings of Fénelon (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little and Wilkins, 1829) p. 72.
  • Les traités de paix ne couvrent rien, lorsque vous êtes le plus fort, & que vous réduisez vos voisins à signer le traité pour éviter de plus grands maux: alors il signe comme un particulier donne sa bourse à un voleur qui lui tient le pistolet sur la gorge.
    • Peace treaties signed by the vanquished are not freely signed. Men sign with a knife at their throat, they sign in spite of themselves, in order to avoid still greater losses; they sign as men surrender their purse when it is a case of your money or your life.
    • Directions pour la conscience d'un roi (Paris: Estienne, 1775) p. 60; translation by A. Lentin, cited from Margaret Lucille Kekewich (ed.) Princes and Peoples: France and the British Isles, 1620-1714 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994) p. 226. (c. 1694)
  • Toutes les guerres sont civiles; car c'est toujours l'homme contre l'homme qui répand son propre sang, qui déchire ses propres entrailles.
    • All wars are civil ones; for it is still man spilling his own blood, tearing out his own bowels.
    • Dialogues des morts, ch. 17, cited from De l'éducation des filles, Dialogues des morts et opuscules divers (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1857) p. 149; translation from Mr. Elphingston (trans.) Dialogues of the Dead, Together with Some Fable Composed for the Education of a Prince (Glasgow: Robert and Andrew Foulis, 1754) vol. 1, p. 87. (1700)
  • Je proteste que personne n'admire Cicéron plus que je fais: il embellit tout ce qu’il touche.
    • I protest that no one admires Cicero more than I do. He enriches all that he touches.
    • Lettre sur les Occupations de l'Académie Française, sect. 4, cited from Œuvres de Fénelon (Paris: Lefèvre, 1835) vol. 3, p. 227; translation from Paul Bertie Bull Preaching and Sermon Construction (New York: Macmillan, 1922) p. 256. (1714)
    • Cf. Dr. Johnson's epitaph for Oliver Goldsmith: "…qui nullum fere scribendi genus non tetigit, nullum quod tetigit non ornavit," ("…who left no species of writing untouched by his pen, and touched none that he did not adorn").
  • Le bon historien n'est d'aucun temps ni d'aucun pays: quoiqu'il aime sa patrie, il ne la flatte jamais en rien.
    • The good historian is not for any time or any country: while he loves his fatherland, he never flatters it in anything.
    • Lettre sur les Occupations de l'Académie Française, sect. 8, cited from Œuvres de Fénelon (Paris: Lefèvre, 1835) vol. 3, p. 240; translation by Patrick Riley, from Hans Blom et al. (eds.) Monarchisms in the Age of Enlightenment (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007) p. 86.
  • Nous verrons à sa lumière, dans l'éternité, que ce que nous désirions nous eût été funeste, et que ce que nous voulions éviter était essentiel à notre bonheur.
    • In the light of eternity we shall see that what we desired would have been fatal to us, and that what we would have avoided was essential to our well-being.
    • Instructions et avis sur divers points de la morale et de la perfection chrétienne, ch. 18, cited from Œuvres de Fénelon (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1845) vol. 1, p. 325; translation from Selections from the Writings of Fénelon (Boston: Samuel G. Simpkins, 1844) p. 82.
  • Ne vous laissez point des ensorceler par les attraits diaboliques de la géométrie.
    • Do not allow yourself to be bewitched by the diabolical attractions of geometry.
    • Lettres Spirituelles, no. 59, cited from Correspondance de Fénelon, archevêque de Cambrai (Paris: Ferra Jeune, 1827) vol. 5, p. 514; translation from Georges Duby and Michelle Perrot (eds.) A History of Women in the West (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1994) vol. 3, p. 405.

Les aventures de Télémaque (1699)

Quotations in French are cited from Œuvres de Fénelon (Paris: Lefèvre, 1835) vol. 3; quotations in English from an anonymous translation, The Adventures of Telemachus, the son of Ulysses (Philadelphia: Mathew Cary, 1806).

  • Quiconque est capable de mentir est indigne d'être compté au nombre des hommes; et quiconque ne sait pas se taire est indigne de gouverner.
    • Whoever is capable of lying, is unworthy of being reckoned in the number of men; and whoever knows not to be silent, is unworthy of ruling.
    • Bk. 3, p. 14; translation pp. 34-5.
  • Tout le genre humain n’est qu’une famille dispersée sur la face de toute la terre. Tous les peuples sont frères, et doivent s’aimer comme tels.
    • All the human kind is but one family, dispersed over the face of the whole earth; all men are brothers, and ought to love each other as such.
    • Bk. 9, p. 67; translation p. 162.
  • Les hommes sont fort à plaindre d'avoir à être gouvernés par un roi, qui n'est qu'homme semblable à eux; car il faudroit des dieux pour redresser les hommes. Mais les rois ne sont pas moins à plaindre, n'étant qu'hommes, c'est-à-dire foibles et imparfaits, d'avoir à gouverner cette multitude innombrable d'hommes corrompus et trompeurs.
    • Men are very much to be pitied in that they are to be governed by a king who is but a man like them; for it would require Gods to reform men. But kings are not less to be pitied, since being but men, that are weak and imperfect, they are to govern this innumerable multitude of corrupt and deceitful men.
    • Bk. 10, p. 72; translation p. 174.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • Jesus Christ was born in a stable; He was obliged to fly into Egypt; thirty years of His life were spent in a workshop; He suffered hunger, thirst, and weariness; He was poor, despised, and miserable; He taught the doctrines of heaven, and no one would listen. The great and the wise persecuted and took Him, subjected Him to frightful torments, treated Him as a slave, and put Him to death between two malefactors, having preferred to give liberty to a robber, rather than to suffer Him to escape. Such was the life which our Lord chose; while we are horrified at any kind of humiliation, and cannot bear the slightest appearance of contempt.
    • P. 60.
  • Let us endeavor to commence every enterprise with a pure view to the glory of God, continue it without distraction, and finish it without impatience.
    • P. 128.
  • A cross borne in simplicity, without the interference of self-love to augment it, is only half a cross. Suffering in this simplicity of love, we are not only happy in spile of the cross, but because of it; for love is pleased in suffering for the Well Beloved, and the cross which forms us into His image is a consoling bond of love.
    • P. 169.
  • We must bear our crosses; self is the greatest of them all. If we die in part every day of our lives, we shall have but little to do on the last. O how utterly will these little daily deaths destroy the power of the final dying!
    • P. 170.
  • This poor world, the object of so much insane attachment, we are about to leave; it is but misery, vanity, and folly; a phantom, — the very fashion of which "passeth away."
    • P. 206.
  • If we had strength and faith enough to trust ourselves entirely to God, and follow Him simply wherever He should lead us, we should have no need of any great effort of mind to reach perfection.
    • P. 240.
  • God's treasury where He keeps His children's gifts will be like many a mother's store of relics of her children, full of things of no value to others, but precious in His eyes for the love's sake that was in them.
    • P. 262.
  • As a general rule, those truths which we highly relish, and which shed a degree of practical light upon the things which we are required to give up for God, are leadings of Divine grace, which we should follow without hesitation.
    • P. 264.
  • "My Father, it is dark!" "Child, take my hand,
    Cling close to me; I'll lead thee through the land,
    Trust my all-seeing care, so shalt thou stand
    'Midst glory bright above."
    Can we be unsafe where God has placed us, and where He
    watches over us as a parent a child that he loves?
    • P. 264.
  • The kingdom of God which is within us consists in our willing whatever God wills, always, in every thing, and without reservation; and thus His kingdom comes; for His will is then done as it is in heaven, since we will nothing but what is dictated by His sovereign pleasure.
    • P. 269.
  • This is the love that does all things; that brings to pass even the evils we suffer; so shaping them that they are but instruments of preparing the good which, as yet, has not arrived.
    • P. 270.
  • We may be sure that it is the love of God only that can make us come out of self. If His powerful hand did not sustain us, we should not know how to take the first step in that direction.
    • P. 270.
  • Thou lovest like an infinite God when Thou lovest; Thou movest heaven and earth to save Thy loved ones. Thou becomest man, a babe, the vilest of men, covered with reproaches, dying with infamy and under the pangs of the cross; all this is not too much for an infinite love.
    • P. 271.
  • The presence of God calms the soul, and gives it quiet and repose.
    • P. 276.
  • God works in a mysterious way in grace as well as in nature, concealing His operations under an imperceptible succession of events, and thus keeps us always in the darkness of faith.
    • P. 280.
  • We are never less alone than when we are in the society of a single, faithful friend; never less deserted than when we are carried in tne arms of the All-Powerful.
    • P. 281.
  • God never makes us sensible of our weakness except to give us of His strength.
    • P. 283.
  • Carefully purify your conscience from daily faults; suffer no sin to dwell in your heart; small as it may seem, it obscures the light of grace, weighs down the soul, and hinders that constant communion with Jesus Christ which it should be your pleasure to cultivate.
    • P. 317.
  • True love goes ever straight forward, not in its own strength, but esteeming itself as nothing. Then indeed we are truly happy. The cross is no longer a cross when there is no self to suffer under it.
    • P. 396.
  • We sleep in peace in the arms of God when we yield ourselves up to His providence, in a delightful consciousness of His tender mercies; no more restless uncertainties, no more anxious desires, no more impatience at the place we are in, for it is God who has put us there, and who holds us in His arms. Can we be unsafe where He has placed us, and where He watches over us as a parent watches a child? This confiding repose, in which earthly care sleeps, is the true vigilance of the heart; yielding itself up to God, with no other support than Him, it thus watches while we sleep. This is the love of Him that will not sleep even in death.
    • P. 600.

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