The Crimson Bookshelf
HARVARD ET LA FRANCE (Paris, 1936)
Unique among the gifts presented to Harvard during the past month is the modest "Harvard et is France", published by the French committee for the celebration of the Tercentenary. Although each of the fifteen contributors to this recueil detudes", or miscellany, writes on a subject touching his own interests, all the essays are in some way concerned with Harvard and all the writers have had some connection with the University as visiting lecturers, exchange professors, students, or recipients of honorary degrees.
Personal recollections of Harvard by Rene Doumic, the first Hyde lecturer in 1897, by Andre Tardiou, lecturer in 1908, and by General Panl Azan, the head of the French military mission in 1917, open the volume. The succeeding pages are devoted to scholary essays on different phases of the cultural exchanges between Harvard and France, both in the past and in the present. No attempt is made to treat the subject exhaustively or systematically. For example, the line of descent from the Mediseval University of Parls to seventeenth century Harvard is not described, nor is there any discussion of the place occupied by Calvin and the other French Reformers in the seventeenth century Harvard mind. But the essays do succeed admirably in suggesting the variety and the fruitfulness of the contacts between Harvard and French culture. Since an instrument of communication is the starting point for reciprocal knowledge, the history of the French language at Harvard, traced in considerable detail by Bernard Fay, forms an excellent background for the other essays. Professor Fay has utilized the Harvard College Archives to good advantage and tells an entertaining story of the vicissitudes of the French language as a branch of study at Harvard, from the first clandestine interest in the language spoken by Papists and arch-enemies in the early eighteenth century, down through the organization and growth of the Romance Languages department in the nineteenth century.
Running parallel to these official relations between Harvard and France, there are the perhaps more significant intellectual adventures and encounters of individuals. Emerson's lifelong study and veneration of Montaigne is touched upon by Charles Cestre; Maurice Le Breten discusses Henry Adams' tardy discovery of France by way of the Norman churches and Chartres; Jacques Chevalier analyzes the intellectual affinity between Henri Bergson and William James. Bergson himself, in a graceful comment on Chevalier's essay, records his personal memories of James, whose portrait hangs before him as he writes.
The intellectual "rayonnement" of Harvard is quite as much the concern of this volume as is Harvard's debt to French culture. A map of "Boston" drawn in 1693 by Franquelin, a French engineer, is reproduced in the opening pages. On the banks of the Charles can be distinguished a group of houses (which may be the first known view of Harvard!) with the explanation: "Cambridge, bourgade de 80 maisons. C'est une universite." This succinct comment probably represents all that was known about Harvard in the dominions of Louis XIV. How far that little candle (to quote Shakespeare and Mr. Curley) now throws its beams can be judged from a perusal of this collection of studies. We are reminded of the contributions of Professor W. M. Davis of Harvard to the study of Physiography in France, of the influence of the "case system" developed at the Law School and the School of Business Administration on teaching methods in similar French institutions, and of the precious aid brought to the study of French mediaeval archeology by Harvard scholars. Paul Hazard, in the concluding essay, summarizes some of the thrings that Harvard has given to the many French teachers and students who have so journed here, among them, "a new conception of the relationship between students and teachers, between the students and the University, between the University and life.'
The intellectual give-and-take between nations, which forms the underlying and unifying theme of this miscellany, is, according to Voltaire, like the fire on our hearth; we fetch it at our neighbor's we light it at home, we hand it on to others, and it belongs to everyone. "Harvard et la France", is in itself proof of the persistence and intensity of this flame. It is not only a fitting testimonial of respect from Joan Sorbon to John Harvard, but a substantial contribution to cultural history.