Excerpt from The Dial, 1896
Durtal, with his history of the Marechal Gilles de Rais, Durtal, who goes the length of digging up the Satanism of the Middle Age from modern cloaques of revolting depravity, whose vanity it would have been to be the last possible recipient of grace, is the object of an attouchement divin. This is the spiritual crisis well known to what is called Mysticism, the science which, for want of a name, has taken this most misleading of all names. The germ once planted grows with irresistible force, so assumes the direction, so absorbs the attention, of Durtal, that suddenly he is aware only of the fact that he believes, as he says, with not a trace in his memory of any step by which he has passed from the lethargy of decay to the anxieties of a living growth.
Then it is a ravenous pursuit of all the spiritual writings the Romance languages hold, from Saint Denys the Areopagite to Father Faber (a reservation later), a restless pilgrimage through all the churches of Paris. The torment ensues; the struggle of habit with the inexorable, unknown impulse; till agony drives Durtal to an earlier acquaintance, the abbe Gevresin. Follow the conferences of the two men, the one deeply skilled in the malady, the other ﬂoundering in all the helplessness such a patient can exhibit. The great stage is reached when, through means of the abbe's monitions, Durtal, at length pushed by a power he feels has taken possession of his very will, goes into a retreat with the Trappistes, makes his confession, is absolved and communicates. The ten days passed at La Trappe occupy half the book.
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