FROM Molière to Bossuet is less of a jump than Bossuet for one might have wished to admit. In their totally opposite ways, they were both dealing with very much the same problem: that of making contemporary society see the truth about itself and profit thereby. To this end Molière used entertainment, Bossuet high seriousness, but each in his own way was equally concerned to instruct. Bossuet's ultimate aim was, of course, to bring men to God, but he belongs to the present series of studies because he devoted a good deal of time to dealing with the various obstacles put up by individuals and society against true religion, and particularly because not the least influential part of his teaching concerns relationships in this world. Alone of all the authors to be considered here Bossuet was a full member of the seventeenthcentury Establishment. Retz and La Rochefoucauld, who were qualified by birth, were debarred through political adventure, and those who were accepted at Court, Corneille and Molière, were there only in a capacity limited by class and profession. The Church continued as always to offer a career genuinely open to all talents. Bossuet's position was in some ways an anomalous one; he was probably eclipsed as an orator by Bourdaloue, he was certainly not the leading historian or theologian of his age, episcopal preferment never carried him farther than the geographically convenient, but hierarchically inferior, see of Meaux, he was not confessor to either King or Queen, though for eleven years tutor to their son, and yet he acted on several occasions as spokesman for the Church in France and for much of his life enjoyed an influence unsurpassed by his ecclesiastical superiors. Perhaps most anomalous is the deep gulf between his private spiritual leanings and the public utterances to which his position committed him.
His significance in the picture of Louis XIV's reign derives from the uniquely privileged position he occupied for so many years at Court. Though his criticism of Court life was unsparing,
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Publication information: Book title: Studies in Self-Interest: From Descartes to La Bruyere. Contributors: A. J. Krailsheimer - Author. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1962. Page number: 173.