Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/279

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267
PASCAL

ness of his aim; his heartless search for distractions; his hopeless enslavement to the illusions of the imagination; his substitution of custom for reason—all the futile speculations and windy ways of men—are described with a keen insight which reveals to us the countryman of Rochefoucauld and the student of Montaigne. The name of Montaigne is especially significant. Pascal's own experience of the actual world had been brief, though a brief experience was much to so penetrating a mind. He had been behind the scenes of ecclesiastical intrigues, and had looked on at the Fronde in France and at the Civil War in England. Politics seemed to him a vast game played for mere personal ends and decided by accident. Cromwell would have ravaged all Christendom but for a grain of sand in his passages; and, if Cleopatra's nose had been shorter the whole face of the earth would have been changed. In this sphere of meditation, however, Montaigne had been Pascal's great teacher. A conversation in which he gave his opinion of Montaigne and Epictetus is of singular significance; and many sentences of Montaigne have passed almost without alteration into his own pages. Of Montaigne, certainly one of the most delightful of all writers