The Lamps of Monsieur Heger
This summer a friend helped me buy a copy of The Belgian Essays, edited and translated by Sue Lonoff. I intended to write a paper about the 'Athens Saved by Poetry' devoir written by Charlotte, to be submitted for a Classics conference but I never got around to it. The book is very well arranged with the English translation followed by the original French on the facing page. The notes and corrections of Charlotte, Emily, or M.Heger are also shown. There is also a brief discussion of each devoir (essay) and some information about Heger's method of teaching.
In the course of the book the most favourite sayings of M.Heger are recalled by a former student of his from some time after Charlotte and Emily had returned home from their stay at his school. These sayings were called his 'lanterns'. Before writing, his student claims that he would begin by having them 'put off the shoes' by having a student speak the following:
Spirit of Wisdom, guide us: Spirit of Truthfulness, teach us: Spirit of Charity, invigorate us: Spirit of Prudence, preserve us: Spirit of Strength, defend us: Spirit of Justice, enlighten us: Comforting Spirit, soothe us.
The remainder of the 'lanterns' are more straightforward advice about writing. This first one is preparation for entering into a solemn act- writing. Some of them seem to require a little more explaination:
One must never employ, nor tolerate the employment of, a literary image as an argument. The purpose of a literary image if to illuminate as a vision, and to interpret as a parable. An image that does not serve both these purposes is a fault in style.
One must not fight with a difficult sentence; but take it for a walk with one; or sleep with the thought of it in one's mind; and let the difficulty arrange itself whilst one looks on.
One should not read, before sitting down to write, a great stylist with a marked manner of his own; unless this manner happens to resemble one's own.