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Flaubert's TentationRemapping Nineteenth-Century French Histories of Religion and Science$

Mary Orr

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199258581

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199258581.001.0001

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A Comédie (sur)humaine

A Comédie (sur)humaine

(p.159) 5 A Comédie (sur)humaine
Flaubert's Tentation

Mary Orr (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The crucial defamiliarization of 19th‐century French science set up via the Alexandrian Schools in Part Two allows Hilarion to return as intermediary/antagonist once more, this time as commentator‐double of Étienne Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire as Starr has argued. This chapter however fills crucial gaps in Starr's arguments by elucidating previously unacknowledged 19th‐century intertexts and their importance for tableau five. Its parades of Nature gods (from India to the more familiar Rome and Gaul) turn myth language into 19th‐century scientific ‘story‐telling’ in deep time—geology and palaeontology—to describe creation. Saint‐Hilaire's growing discord with Cuvier is set in place for tableau seven and provides a solution for the knotty problem of Hilarion's departure and the arrival of the Devil (incredibly as Science) at the end of the tableau.

Keywords:   Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire, Indian gods, Greek and Roman pantheons, comparative religion, myths of creation, geology, palaeontology

After the exhausting disorientation of Antoine's confrontation with Gnosis in all its Eastern religious and abstract forms in tableau four as a remapping of the many schools of knowledge and wisdom in Alexandria in the fourth century AD, the fifth tableau appears to return to more familiar ground for educated nineteenth‐century French readers of the Tentation. Not only would schooling in Greek and Latin classics have been part of their secondary‐school curriculum (if they were boys), the pantheon of Egyptian gods would have had equal cultural currency thanks to major displays (such as the Exposition Universelle of 1867) of over half a century of French Egyptology in the aftermath of Napoleon's Expédition. Educated women writers such as Louise Colet or George Sand also exploited classical and other mythology in their poetry and fiction. Although not its primary aim, Seznec's identification of the many mythological intertexts Flaubert drew from Creuzer and the classics for the details of the ‘gods’ in the 1849 Tentation therefore also pinpoints the mythological resource bases familiar to well‐educated nineteenth‐century French readers:1 Plutarch, Theocritus, Ovid, Apuleius, Pliny, Catullus, Suetonius sit alongside immense interest in comparative religion spearheaded by more specialist compendia by Guigniaut, or studies on specific non‐Western religions and mythologies such as Burnouf.2 Apart from Carmody, Seznec's work on the gods and their orders in the first Tentation has not been challenged or applied to the final version, even among critics post‐Seznec well versed in the classics.3 The problem of the ‘voice of God’, and why it should return to conclude tableau five's troupe of gods with largely material and anthropomorphic forms has also not been tackled.4 Thus the importance of nineteenth‐century study of world mythologies and comparative religion as established by Seznec with reference to Guigniaut has been used by recent critics of the Tentation to support a relativist reading of this tableau, and thence a (p.160) reading of the finale as ‘pantheistic’ and syncretistic.5 As well as failing Antoine's innate status as saint, tableau five is where Antoine recites the Nicene Creed even if this is ‘the stupidest of responses’ as Starr contests.6 Moreover, the epiphany which brings the text to its climax when Antoine is confronted with raw matter needs to fit with more than some ‘comparatively religious’ overall logic, even if it is read with heavy irony. This set piece is clearly framed by natural history and informed by a ‘scientific’ vision of nature rather than by religious (Christian or comparative) contexts, to show the saint's fundamentally unchanged belief system (including a view of creation) embodied in Antoine's undramatic return to the work of prayer and contemplation as his last act in the text.

if the last three tableaux are then a remapping of the history of scientific ideas of nineteenth‐century France through the religious eyes of a fourth‐century saint, tableau five clearly sits in a strategic position as the operator of this transformational turn from Gnosis to Science with or without Hilarion. The alienated reader of tableau four also needs to be brought back to more familiar ground for good reason. And this reason is to defamiliarize familiar mythologies, especially the heritage of Greece and Rome, for science and not just comparative religious ends. If Egypt has a central role to play here, so too does Hilarion as he transforms his functions of tableau three into those of tableau five by the ‘magic’ of his name and the major topics he coordinates. Given that these concern questions of life and death and encompass gods and civilizations as much as the life cycle of lesser mortals, his own necessary departure (like his arrival) also reveals its logic. Why is this not a final, pyrotechnic or nihilistic end (like the Gymnosophist) but as the huge ‘angel’ of Science?

Matching the fearful, cataleptic disorientations of the East in tableau four, defamiliarization of the ‘Greek’ West in tableau five will prove a theatre of alienation techniques for specific purposes to be worked out in subsequent tableaux. As partly a measure of light(er) relief for the reader, these techniques include the ludicrous and laughable to set the tone for tableau five as a fantastical series of metamorphoses of disintegrating gods, broken idols, and comically unnatural or earthy forms such as the scatological Crepitus. Remarkably little critical attention has been paid to the farcical but also dark humour of tableau five, let alone to the grotesque deities whose numerous body parts and monstrous (p.161) couplings defy any but mythological belief.7 If light relief or the comical have not been critical watchwords for the Tentation, why does Flaubert then stretch reader credulity almost to the limits through the grimly farcical at this late stage in his preposterous text? Could this scene be Flaubert's (mocking) answer to Balzac's ‘Comédie humaine’ with a ‘comédie (sur)humaine’ which is also sur(naturelle)?


In contrast to the broad church setting in tableau four of abstract ideas and mystery religions of the East, tableau five opens specifically within ‘real’, ‘contemporary’ Egyptian contexts and settings. Antoine's initial reconnection of the previous scene to the figures of the second tableau is not some forced, ‘biblical’ flag to prepare the ‘voice of God’ dying away at the tableau's end, but a reorientation of the powers of the East to their very similar Western counterparts. The geographical mediating point between the two is Egypt, but ancient rather then modern (fourth century or nineteenth century), a religious and ‘scientific’ civilization and culture of unequalled importance prior to the rise of the great Babylonian, Persian, Greek, or Roman empires on which France's own is belatedly sited. If St Anthony the Great spent a vital initiatory phase living in the ancient tombs, Flaubert's Antoine now elaborates this part of his curriculum vitae (mentioned in tableau one) to describe what he has seen on their walls, and specifically the tombs of Heliopolis. This ancient site was originally where Atum (god of the rising and setting sun on the earth's horizon) was worshipped before this god was subsumed (transformed) as the solar deity Re, or Horus of the two horizons. As falcon‐headed man and god of the sky (overarching sun and moon), Horus was allegedly the son of Osiris and Isis. Horus' phoenix‐like return from the dead is among the main themes that Hilarion will pursue. Prior to the establishment of the Alexandrian schools at the end of the fourth century BC, Heliopolis was also an important centre of cultivation, notably grain growing on the fertile Nile alluvium (the ‘breadbasket’ of ancient Egypt), and the most famous ancient seat of learning in philosophy and astronomy. Fourth‐century AD Christianity will see the destruction of remaining ‘pagan’ temples to Horus, Isis, or imported gods (before Julian the Apostate briefly reinstates polytheism (p.162) after the death of Anthony the Great). In the history of nineteenth‐century Egyptology, the well‐preserved hieroglyphics of the Heliopolis site further enabled Champollion to extend his knowledge of deciphering ancient Egyptian papyri and their pictograms. So while it appears that Antoine is describing ‘monstrous’ animals (demons in disguise in Athanasius' version) to comply with the vraisemblance of his early Christian experience (note the use of the past tenses), his description is also (and ironically) ‘scientific’. It is as if Antoine were reading the script from the Expédition d'égypte about the principal half‐human/half‐animal gods of Egypt, or looking at the images of Pharaonic gods with their inscrutable painted eyes:

Quand j'habitais le temple d'Héliopolis, j'ai souvent considéré tout ce qu'il y a sur les murailles: vautours portant des sceptres, crocodiles pinçant des lyres, figures d'hommes avec des corps de serpent, femmes à tête de vache prosternées devant des dieux ithyphalliques; et leurs formes surnaturelles m'entraînaient vers d'autres mondes. J'aurais voulu savoir ce que regardent ces yeux tranquilles.

Pour que de la matière ait tant de pouvoir, il faut qu'elle contienne un esprit. L'âme des Dieux est attachée à ses images…

Ceux qui ont la beauté des apparences peuvent séduire. Mais les autres… qui sont abjects ou terribles, commenty croire? …

Et il voit passer à ras du sol des feuilles, des pierres, des coquilles, des branches d'arbres, de vagues représentations d'animaux, puis des espèces de nains hytropiques; ce sont des Dieux. Il éclate de rire. (Tent, 160–1)

This opening passage to tableau five must surely be the clue and cue for reading the final (in)famous ‘être la matière’ epiphany, since the themes, imagery, vocabulary, and tense structure around that vital ‘j'aurais voulu’ are its mirror image. Antoine's hilarity (a rare occurrence in the Tentation) at this first parade then neatly summons Hilarion, who, we recall, initially came to Antoine on the back of the mocking laughter of the Queen of Sheba. The main ‘parade of the gods’ then opens from this naturalistic ensemble of the vegetable, mineral, animal, monstrous, and supernatural ‘gods’ as a huge joke about the strange things that humans believe in and worship. Antoine's shared laughter with Hilarion—comedy only works in communitas and with distance from the butt of the joke—by implication states his position regarding religions with idols (paganism, polytheism, Hinduism, Buddhism). As Christian inheritor of Jewish taboos on representing God in any (p.163) form,8 Antoine eschews worship of humanoid or animal gods, natural forces, or planets understood as gods. Hilarion will further blur over‐neat categories (animism, anthropomorphism) by laughing mockery of comparative religious glosses on the ludicrous forms passing before Antoine's and our eyes:

Alors défilent devant eux, des idoles de toutes les nations et de tous les âges, en bois, en métal, en granit, en plumes, en peaux cousues.

Les plus vieilles, antérieures au Déluge, disparaissent sous des goémons qui pendent comme des crinières. Quelques‐unes, trop longues pour leur base, craquent dans leurs jointures et se cassent les reins en marchant. D'autres laissent couler du sable par les trous de leurs ventres. (Tent, 161)

Nineteenth‐century archaeology will have in fact discovered such gods of Egypt now toppled from their commanding positions and lying in fragmented pieces at Heliopolis, for example, sand trickling from real holes in their stomachs as Maxime Du Camp's photographic record of his mission to Egypt accompanied by Flaubert amply attests.9 Similarly, discovery of mummies of the Pharaohs and their temple animals (crocodiles, ibises, vultures) will reveal bodies preserved beneath their ‘peaux cousues’. Our laughter with Antoine and Hilarion from the urbane rationality of the modern scientific imagination is precisely where (and how) Flaubert can then operate the all‐important inversion of the ludicrous as the deadly serious, and the farcical as the most intensely ‘real’ and scientific of this tableau. The laughable ‘old gods’ will prove everywhere to be about modern idols which will presumably fall from their perches also, since this is the order of things.

Although open‐ended and seemingly slight, Antoine's commentary quoted above has similar weight to his Bible exegeses in tableau one as key to remapping the ideas to come. With incredible economy, what Antoine pinpoints is the rationale of the human religious spirit. The power perceived in matter (Nature) by humans caused them from time immemorial to worship, and thereby to attempt to control, greater forces beyond their understanding dressed as a pantheon of gods. ‘L'âme des Dieux est attachée à ses images’ neatly but ambiguously covers the whole range of human idolatries, monstrous representations, and graven images in both Eastern and Western religions, Indian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Graeco‐Roman, and among the Druids and Gauls. Only through the logic of human desire to harness the powers of these (p.164) gods, whether by official orders of worship or the more clandestine dark arts of magic and sorcery, can bowing down to the ‘abjects ou terribles’ as well as to benign, beautiful gods be explained. This tiny phrase again subsumes worship as placation, of those terrifying and un‐representational forces such as the thunderous ‘voice of God’ of Moses and the Old Testament, or the dreadful Moloch (Tent, 162, and note 85). At the same time, Antoine's gloss also focuses on mythological time behind even antiquity in precisely vague terms—‘Les plus vieilles, antérieures au Déluge’—as the starting point for the transformations of ‘gods’, and the civilizations established around them that are the visible substance of the tableau. This detail will prove pivotal for tableau seven.

Un‐suppressible laughter at gods which are sheep and half‐animal rapidly discloses the ‘powers of horror’ when idols and gods ‘se rap‐prochent du type humain’ (also implying Christ), and where religious rite and human sacrifice become a quintessential force of ‘civilization’.10 Antoine's response to deities such as Moloch is exactly the same as his reaction to the many systems of Gnosticism, the single word, ‘Horreur!’ (Tent, 162). Such tacit reconnection with the previous tableau releases the comparative religious anti‐apologium of Christianity by default in the remainder of the tableau, skilfully put in the mouth of Hilar‐ion. Seemingly very different alternative ‘gods’ who initially also lack ‘form’—Buddha, Oannès, the Babylonian sky gods (as planets)—then generate a pantheon of deities or demigods who have shape, form, and specific characteristics (like the Gnostic Eons). Unlike Christianity, however, all the ‘gods’ pertain to mythological time before ancient history, and have more interesting and varied shape, transformations, and numbers of body parts than the God of Moses as ultimately but a ‘voix’. Where Hilarion was a mocking double of a Renan of the Vie de Jésus in tableau three to spearhead the ‘Arian’ and other heresies of tableau four surrounding the person of Christ, he repeats the process by upholding biblical perspectives in the teeth of other world religions, their principal gods and ‘creation’ stories. His script is not Creuzer‐Guigniaut, however, since the order of the parade of gods neither follows its geographical exploration east, nor concentrates on a particular pantheon before moving comparatively to another. Tableau five starts with Buddha and India, moves to Egypt with Oannès, travels to Babylon (land of the magi, Nebuchadnezzar, and neighbour to Sheba), re‐traverses the territory of the gods of Persia (and Manicheism), before (p.165) returning to the Mediterranean from Ephesus to Egypt, and thereby to its imported gods from Greece and Rome. Focus on gods of the cosmos (in various pantheons) give way to goddesses of nature (Diana of Ephesus, Cybele, Isis), which in turn yield to more anthropomorphic deities (the gods of Egypt morph into the gods of Greece who segue into those of Rome) endowed with ‘human’ virtues and vices, and powers over generation and destruction. The ‘household’ gods of Rome (the Manes and Lares) and the ‘Rabelaisian’ Crepitus bring an anticlimactic grand finale (and scatological humour) to this parade of the death of the gods in all shapes and sizes.11 Ironically, the silencing of wind in another form, the invisible ‘voix de Dieu’, marks out absence of the supernatural in this twilight of the gods.

The repeated death of gods as principal subject of tableau five nonetheless reveals a striking contradiction in terms since to be a god in the first place implies immortality. Like earthly potentates, empires, and all forms in the natural world, however, the law of death makes way for the law of new birth for gods also, whether the end is violent (persecution, cataclysm, invasion by another power, rapid killing) or a gradual decline (ageing, illness, decay, slow ebbing of vitality). By way of humour as quintessentially human response to the surety of mortality of all things, Flaubert presents both kinds of end allotted to the various gods in this ‘comédie surnaturelle’. Oannès jumps into the Nile and is gone in a flash (Tent, 171); the pantheons of Indian deities encompassing Brahman, Buddhist, and Hindu gods disappear in black comic forms (in a continuous present) of self‐immolation:

Alors un vertige prend les Dieux. Ils chancellent, tombent en convulsions, et vomissent leurs existences. Leurs couronnes éclatent, leurs étendards s'envolent. Ils arrachent leurs attributs, leurs sexes, lancent par dessus l'épaule les coupes où ils buvent l'immortalité, s'étranglent avec leurs serpents, s'évanouissent en fumée. (Tent, 170, emphasis added)

and Diana of Ephesus is comically depersonified as she undergoes nature's natural processes:

Qu'ai‐je donc… moi l'incorruptible, voilà qu'une défaillance me prend!

Ses fleurs se fanent. Ses fruits trop mûrs se détachent. Les lions, les taureaux penchent leur cou; les cerfs bavent épuisés; les abeilles, en bourdonnant, meurent par terre.


Elle presse, l'une après l'autre, ses mamelles. Toutes sont vides! Mais sous un effort désespéré sa gaine éclate. Elle la saisit par le bas, comme le pan d'une robe, y jette ses animaux, ses floraisons,—puis rentre dans l'obscurité.

(Tent, 176, emphasis added)

The first movement of the tableau closes with the words ‘Tout s'évanouit’ (Tent, 182) to allow humour to turn to tears, and for the Egyptian deities of death (as rebirth) to reground Antoine in his native context which then turns into the Greek Mount Olympus, whose familiar gods are one by one disempowered, overpowered, or made impotent. Minerva, ‘frappée au front, tombe par terre à la renverse’ (Tent, 192); Hercules ‘est écrasé sous les décombres’ (Tent, 193); Neptune ‘s'évanouit dans l'azur’ (Tent, 193, emphasis added). By the time the various gods of Rome arrive, readers (like Antoine) are fatigued by the endless panoply of lesser and lesser gods. Boredom is itself a contributory factor in the death of gods, for without worshippers they slowly but surely die, replaced by newer deities who have stolen their attributes and followers. The more terrible the gods, the more final is their overthrow. The fatiguing parades however show the same patterns of the limited human imagination to invent truly new gods from the rubble and broken pieces of older deities, a key point to which the concluding remarks for this tableau will return. Something significant, though, is at stake. Instead of going back to the birth of religions in mythic time (and every tableau in the Tentation has progressed retrospectively to this point), the parade's chronological sequence moves forwards to the conflicting pantheons of the (fourth‐century AD) ‘present’ (and their ruins) under Constantine. What is the reason for the new reversal of order towards the future, and what is the point of this exaggerated and almost bowdlerized version of comparative religious exposition? Has Hilarion been given a fourth‐century and nineteenth‐century role that underpins the science of this tableau to match his mouthing of Renan's ‘scientific’ version of a historical Jesus in tableau three?

The clue to resolving these questions and to finding some missing link between them resides with Hilarion's ‘master’ Antoine in his opening gloss to tableau five, what I described as ‘the rationale of the human religious spirit’. The bid to control greater forces by setting them up as gods is of course homologous with the rationale for the human scientific spirit, the bid to manipulate nature and hence become like the gods. (p.167) The ‘power’ that links both religion and science, but at the same time detaches humans from the powers of the gods or Nature, is magic. Heliopolis, Antoine's tomb of the Pharaohs, is also the city dedicated to the first of ancient Egypt's sciences, alchemy (from which metallurgy and modern chemistry derive). It is not without enormous irony that Napoleon attempted to blind Muslim dignitaries with the marvels of French nineteenth‐century science epitomized by Berthollet's chemistry experiments at the Institut d'Égypte in Cairo, and as ‘revenge’ for the visit of bogus fortune tellers. Napoleon's private secretary, Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, recorded the reactions of the Muslim guests with interesting use of comparative analogy:

[Bonaparte] neglected no opportunity of showing off to the Egyptians the superiority of France in Arts and Sciences … Some days after the visit of the pretended fortune‐teller he wished, if I may so express myself, to oppose conjuror to conjuror. …The General expected to be much amused at their astonishment; but the miracles of the transformation of liquids, electrical commotions, and galvanism, did not elicit from them any symptom of surprise…. When they were ended, the sheik El Bekri desired the interpreter to tell M. Berthollet that it was all very fine; ‘but’, said he, ‘ask him whether he can make me be in Morocco and here at one and the same moment’. M. Berthollet replied in the negative … ‘Oh, then’, said the sheik, ‘he is not half a sorcerer.’12

Magic is then the taboo double of both religion and science. In the Old Testament, sorcerers and magicians are anathema; in the New Testament, the dark arts of Simon Magus, like the practices of the Great Prostitute of Revelation, are utterly condemned. The strategic place of magic in the theological discussions of tableau four (its last third embodied in Apollonius) and tableau two (the longer ‘Queen of Sheba’ section) can now be rediscovered as having a ‘scientific’ import. In fourth‐century Alexandria, the ongoing practice of magic—horoscopes, chiromancy (which was also allegedly birthed in Thebes in ancient Egyptian times), amulets, and charms—as well as development of demonological systems within the Neoplatonic schools which threatened ‘serious’ work in science, philosophy, and religion, caused writers such as Origen to outlaw it. Indeed Constantine saw magic as so closely bound up with pagan and polytheistic worship (which he sought completely to eradicate) that he passed two laws in 319 with the severest penalties for any who practised ‘lfart divinatoire et l'aruspicine privée’.13 Although not (p.168) in the overt time strata of the Tentation, the medieval and Renaissance Church took a similar line against necromancers and alchemists who were often both major figures in the sciences and professing believers in Christianity. Sir Isaac Newton is another famous case in point. Moreover in nineteenth‐century France, the great mythographer ‘scientists’ of comparative religion, Guigniaut, Baudry, and Maury, include in their ranks a ‘scientific’ historian of magic. In place of Renan's Vie de Jésus in the mouth of Hilarion to argue comparative New Testament religion, Flaubert inserts Maury's La Magie et l'astrologie dans l'antiquité et au moyen âge: étude sur les superstitions païennes qui se sont perpétuées jusqu'à nos jours as counterpoint to Old Testament (comparative) religions and their sciences in tableau five.14 Antoine's gloss in tableau one of the ‘Queen of Sheba’ biblical intertext (Tent, 59) now makes perfect sense: Solomon's sublime science is his ‘science de magicien’.15 It is time that Maury's intertext was put on the critical map for Flaubert's Tentation,16 not only to enhance our rereading of it, but also as a way to rediscover the science—religion debates central to the works of other nineteenth‐century novelists, poets, and historians such as Michelet (of La Sorcière of 1862). For tableau five, Maury's Magie works innumerable ‘tours’ in the overall logic of Hilarion's tripartite role (tableaux three to five). It also provides us with some answers to the intrinsic logic of tableau five as springboard for tableaux six and seven, and Hilarion's replacement as Science by the Devil.

No intertext, as Seznec's magisterial source work for the Tentation amply demonstrates, is ever a decoding machine with direct equivalences. However Maury's Magie (like the Rosetta Stone's three versions of its text) is a code‐breaking work for tableau five and its ramifications for the remaining tableaux on three levels. The first is structural and provides a clear answer to why Flaubert orders his ‘gods’ as he does, where the ‘voix de Dieu’ comes from, and why it culminates the parade. The second level pertains to the many densely allusive details which Flaubert replicates from Maury throughout tableau five. The third is configurative of the ideological stances and critiques that the Tentation reworks in the fictional dialogue of this tableau. Maury's introductory paragraph sums these up:

Les sciences physiques n'étaient à l'origine qu'un amas de superstitions et de procédés empiriques qui constituaient ce que nous appelons la magie. … Cette (p.169) science avait pour but d'enchaîner à l'homme les forces de la nature et de mettre en notre pouvoir l'œuvre de Dieu.… (Magie, 1)

Maury's history of the science of magic is in two parts. The first maps the civilized world from its earliest ‘peuples sauvages’ and cultic practices based on fetishism (chapter 1) through a major second chapter (‘la magie et l'astrologie des Chaldéens, des Perses et des Égyptiens’) introducing astrology as central to magic, religion, and science. The following three chapters now look very déjà vu from the viewpoint of tableau five in the Tentation: Chapter 3 tackles magic and astrology for the Greeks, Chapter 4 investigates magic in Rome and the Roman Empire, and Chapter 5, ‘La Magie dans l'école néoplatonicienne’, neatly brings us to the Alexandria of the life and times of St Anthony.17 The next chapter then discusses Christianity's crusade against magic and astrology rooted in Old Testament laws against it (Genesis, Leviticus, 1 Kings), finding in the Old Testament Satan (of Job) ‘l'Ahriman juif’ (Magie, 97), and concluding with Constantine's outlawing of public and private magic practices. Chapter 7 focuses on medieval Christendom's reconfiguration of pagan gods and heroes in the form of the Virgin and the saints.18 It ends with a direct connection between Rome and the superstitions of France:

En France, les fées, les Fata ou Fatales de l'antiquité, confondues avec les druidesses, dont le souvenir ne s'était pas totalement effacé, les génies ou Lares familiers, devenus les luitons ou lutins, des follets, des esprits servants, les anciens druides et les bardes transformés en enchanteurs … (Magie, 188)

The fitting place of the ‘Archi‐galle’ as a Gallic cousin german of Cybele cults (Tent, 178) can now be explained. The final two chapters of part I discuss ‘la magie orientale’ (including Buddhist inheritance from Shiv‐aism, and disciples of Sakya‐Mouni drawing their demonology from Brahmanism) and ‘magie et astrologie depuis la Renaissance jusqu'à nos jours’. The second part then translates the configurations of power inherent in magic and astrology into nineteenth‐century terms to qualify the opening statement that, ‘Si la magie eût exclusivement reposé sur la crédulité et le mensonge, son règne n'aurait pas été de si longue durée, et l'avènement des sciences y eût mis certainement fin’ (Magie, 225). Physiological and psychic phenomena (treated extensively from psychological and medical scientific angles elsewhere in Maury's work19) (p.170) such as dream, hallucination, hypnotism, somnambulism, catalepsy, and the hearing and seeing of supernatural beings are all highlighted in a first chapter. A second maps a history of fear of demon possession (Christian and Hindu, among the fourth‐century Messalian sect and among the desert fathers). Chapter 3, with its subtitle of ‘les mystiques rapprochés des sorciers’, enlarges on the role of the imagination with regard to visions and apparitions. Maury notes and quotes a ‘curious’ passage in St Basil which is surely the absolute giveaway that La Magie is Flaubert's compositional and expository source for tableau five:

Que sera‐ce donc, écrit‐il, que la voix du Seigneur? Faut‐il entendre aussi par là une percussion imprimée à l'air par des organes vocaux, un ébranlement de l'atmosphère qui vient apporter le type des idées jusqu'à l'oreille de celui à qui la parole s'adresse? N'est‐il pas au contraire bien plus vraisemblable que ce n'est ni l'un ni l'autre, et que la voix de Dieu est quelque chose de tout particulier, un je ne sais quoi, une image vive, une vision claire et sensible qui s'imprime dans l'esprit des hommes auxquels Dieu veut communiquer sa pensée; une vision qui doit présenter quelque analogie avec celles qui s'impriment dans notre imagination lorsque nous avons un songe en dormant? Personne n'ignore en effet qu'il n'y a réellement aucune percussion, aucun ébranlement de l'air, lorsqu'en rêve nous croyons entendre certains bruits, certaines paroles qui ne sont assurément pas apportées d'une manière physique à notre oreille et que nous percevons seulement dans notre esprit, où elles viennent s'imprimer. C'est à peu près de la même manière qu'il faut admettre que la voix de Dieu se fait entendre dans l'âme des prophètes. (Magie, 339–40)

The disembodied ‘voix de Dieu’ in the Tentation is also as beautifully double‐edged as in this quotation, for it ironically tests the very ‘reality’ of all of Antoine's ‘visions’, ‘temptations’, ‘hallucinations’, or ‘imaginations’ that make up the contents of this and every tableau. Are the visions real because he is a saint and therefore a party to the voice of God like the prophets of old? Are the visions false, the work of demons as experienced by ascetics in all the world religions? Or in the frame of nineteenth‐century psychology as part of the medical sciences, are such phenomena ‘ordinary’ functions of the subconscious which can be scientifically stimulated and controlled (Maury's final chapter examines the use of narcotics)? Like Renan, Maury concludes with the rational, scientific view of his subject and, like Renan, discounts miracles (such as stigmata): ‘L'esprit scientifique est précisément l'opposé de cette disposition au merveilleux entretenue par l'ignorance des lois physiologiques’ (p.171) (Magie, 445). Unlike Renan, however, Maury's final remarks discount the miraculous by replacing it with science's greater wonders: ‘Aucun miracle, aucun prodige n'égale assurément en grandeur le spectacle des lois générales de la création; aucune apparition, aucune vision ne prouve, plus que la révélation de l'univers, l'existence de l'Être infini qui engendre, entretient et résume toutes choses’ (Magie, 446).

if Antoine will indeed view these ‘lois générales’ in tableaux six and seven, his epiphany at the end of the Tentation now has Maury's conclusion as its (scientific) precedent. In tableau five the mortality of the gods, when examined as a class, demonstrates a remarkably similar (and human) morphology. The emphasis added in the quotations from the Tentation above now reveals the nineteenth‐century ‘scientific’ gloss on the various ends of the gods in Flaubert's remodelling of them to the letter and spirit of Maury's Magie. Their ‘vertiges’, ‘défaillances’, and ‘épanouissements’ are not supernatural, but rather natural and physiological phenomena. The gods are now dead not just to Christianity in the fourth century, but also to science in the nineteenth, which can explain them in psychological instead of comparative religious guise.

Yet it is not only thanks to the structure and topics of Maury's Magie that tableau five becomes such a virtuoso comedy of transformations turning the supernatural into the natural in scientific imitation of mythology's (and Ovid's) metamorphoses. Many of the authenticating details of the tableau are also taken directly from it. Only two of the most strategic will be examined for the purpose of answering the hard questions posed above, since space does not permit an in‐depth study after the manner of Seznec's Les Sources de l'épisode des dieux. The details Flaubert reworks all come from chapters in the first part of Maury's text, and determine the logic of tableau five with its subsequent others.

In Chapter 2, ‘La Magie et l'astrologie des Chaldéens, des Perses et des Égyptiens’, there is a description of the famous tower of Babel, ‘monument consacré aux sept planètes’, Babylonian temples (like that at ancient Heliopolis) serving the dual purpose of being ‘véritables observatoires’ (Magie, 23):

Une longue suite d'observations mirent les Chaldéens en possession d'une astronomie théologique reposant sur une théorie plus ou moins chimérique de l'influence des corps célestes appliquée aux événements et aux individus. Cette (p.172) science, appelée par les Grecs astrologie ou apotèlesmatique, fut, dans l'antiquité le titre de gloire des Chaldéens. (Magie, 23–4)20

Flaubert reworks this description by whisking Antoine to just such a ziggurat observatory, so that Hilarion can explain Babylonian renown in astronomy (and astrology) in general, and exact observation in particular:

Des sept planètes, deux sont bienfaisants, deux mauvaises, trois ambiguës; tout dépend, dans le monde, de ses feux éternels. D'après leur position et leur mouvement on peut tirer des présages;—et tu foules l'endroit le plus respectable de la terre. Pythagore et Zoroastre s'y sont rencontrés. Voilà douze mille ans que ces hommes observant le ciel, pour mieux connaître les Dieux.


Les astres ne sont pas Dieux.


Oui! disent‐ils; car les choses passent autour de nous; le ciel, comme l'éternité,reste immuable!


Il a un maître, pourtant.

HILARION montrant la colonne:

Celui‐là, Bélus, le premier rayon, le Soleil, le Mâle!—L'Autre, qu'il féconde, est sous lui! (Tent, 172–3)

The proper names here, their rather confused connections or significance, are taken directly from this chapter in Maury. If the priests of Babylon formed colleges (for religion and science like the magi of Persia),

[l]es Perses honoraient comme leur grand prophète Zoroastre, Zarathoustra ou Zerduscht. … Zoroastre devient donc … pour Grèce et pour Rome l'inventeur de la magie, le patron des mages persans confondus avec les Chaldéens de Babylone. (Magie, 34–5)

La connaissance des phénomènes célestes faisait en Égypte, comme en Chaldée, partie intégrante de la théologie. Les Égyptiens avaient des collèges de prêtres spécifiquement attachés à l'étude des astres, et où Pythagore, Platon, Eudoxe, avaient été s'instruire [sic] … On trouve encore aujourd'hui la preuve de cette vieille science sacerdotale dans les zodiaques sculptés au plafond de quelques temples, et dans des inscriptions hiéroglyphiques mentionnant des phénomènes célestes. (Magie, 43–4)


Entre ces planètes, Saturne, ou comme les Assyriens paraissent l'avoir appelé, Bel l'ancien … astre le plus élevé … le révélateur. (Magie, 27)

Not only are magic and astrology linked to religion and the science of astronomy, Flaubert also manages through Hilarion's rewording of Maury to transform one set of high priests of magic and science into another, to elide the worship of stars with the exact science or astronomy on the one hand and comparative religion on the other. Many of the planets in our solar system are indeed named after ‘gods’ whose attractions or repulsions were thought to describe eclipses or other astral patterns. Flaubert thus borrows from Maury's translation of the Babylonian Planispherium into ‘Greek/Latin’ and classification of their stars (gods) into three male and two female, ‘Bel (Jupiter) Merodach (Mars) Nebo (Mercure) Sin (Lune) Mylitta ou Baalthis (Vénus)’ (Magie, 27), to reconnect the cosmic, generative (sexual), and ‘scientific’ aspects of the ‘gods’.

Flaubert's most wicked humour, dressed up in Hilarion's final two explanations, will not however become fully apparent until the next tableau. Belus as Saturn is indeed the seventh star, the furthest known to astronomers in the solar system until the nineteenth century, and proved revelatory for the discovery of Neptune and Pluto.21 For the purposes of the logic of tableau five, Maury's intertext makes very clear that Hilar‐ion's mocking of theogonies and theosophy (or the nineteenth‐century ‘science’ of comparative religion in other words22) is the magic conjuring trick that turns cosmogony and astrology into cosmology and astronomy. Hilarion's discussion of ‘magi’ thus reconnects him to the source of his own appearance at the end of tableau two in the train of the ‘Queen of Sheba’, and re‐emergence from tableau four's ending on Apollonius as Pythagorean. Like the magus herald of the macrocosmic visions of the heavens in tableau six, the logic of tableau five for chapter 6 is now established. Why Hilarion must cede his place to the Devil will be addressed below.

Naming is a clue to the most important interleaving of time frames in the Tentation as the above quotations exemplify. Flaubert's most bizarre terminologies (as the final tableau of the ‘monsters’ will also demonstrate) are also his most researched. A second set of details from Maury for tableau five, this time for the ‘familiar’ and most domesticated gods of the Romans, the Lares (and their popularization throughout the (p.174) Roman Empire in Gaul as ‘lutrins’), helps to unpack the contemporary ‘scientific’ significance of what seems a rather pointless list of minor gods with too many accoutrements:

Et il lui montre, sous des cyprès et des rosiers, Une autre Femme — vêtue de gaze. Elle sourit, ayant autour d'elle des pioches, des brancards, des tentures noires, tous les ustensiles des funérailles. Ses diamants brillent de loin sous les toiles d'araignées. Les Larves comme des squelettes montrent leurs os entre les branches, et les Lémures, qui sont des fantômes, étendent leurs ailes de chauve‐souris. … Les Dieux rustiques131 s'en éloignent en pleurant, Sartor, Sarrator, Vervactor, Collina, Vallona, Hostilinus,—tous couverts de petits man‐teaux à capuchon, et chacun portant, soit un hoyau, une fourche, une claie, un épieu.


C'est leur âme qui faisait prospérer la villa …


… vêtus de peaux de chien …

Qu'ils étaient doux les repas de famille … Dans la tendresse pour les morts, toutes les discordes s'apaisaient; et on s'embrassait en buvant aux gloires du passé et aux espérances de l'avenir.

Mais les aïeux de cire peinte, enfermés derrière nous, se couvrent lentement de moisissure. Les races nouvelles, pour nous punir de leurs déceptions, nous ont brisé la mâchoire; sous la dent des rats nos corps de bois s'émiettent.

(Tent, 201–3)

If Gothot‐Merch's note 131 refers to manuscript evidence that Flaubert sought Maury's expertise for this part of the Tentation through the intermediary of Frédéric Baudry, Maury's La Magie has never previously been identified as the source. In Chapter 4 (‘Magie à Rome et dans l'Empire romain’) there is the following:

La conjuration des lémures ou fantômes, envoyés par les morts, le culte des mânes et des lares étaient associés à diverses pratiques d'un caractère tout magique. La déesse Mana‐Geneta, à laquelle, comme à Hécate, on sacrifiait des chiens, avait beaucoup d'analogie avec cette divinité des nuits … Pour détourner les mauvais génies, les larves ou spectres, on recourait à des sacrifices expiatoires accompagnés d'exorcismes. (Magie, 70)

In all civilizations and religions with extensive rituals for the dead (Egypt, Rome) the soul's intermediate and intermediary status (rather (p.175) than its transmigration or metempsychosis into other life forms as in the East) is a source of fear:

Les démons ayant été, dans l'origine, pour les Grecs les âmes des morts assim‐ilées à des divinités, ainsi qu'on le voit par Hésiode, ce nom s'appliqua bientôt aux divinités intermédiaires entre Dieu et l'homme, reconnues par presque tous les philosophes grecs … Ils [les démons] furent confondus avec les mânes, les lares, les génies latins.

(Magie, 87, in Chapter 5, ‘La Magie dans l'école néoplatonicienne’)

Again Flaubert's wicked sense of humour is at work in the relevance of these comparative religious ‘facts’ as strikingly pertinent to nineteenth‐century scientific ‘cults’ of the dead with all their necessary tools. Instead of burying preserved bodies, palaeontology and Egyptology were digging up ancient body fragments, animal and human, to carry away the remains for further examination or reconstruction. Many of the discoveries, for example of fossil crocodiles, were taking place around Honfleur and Caen; the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle in Rouen, for example, boasted extensive collections of both Egyptian and local palaeontology.23 Like the Lares represented as ‘cire peinte’ in domestic niches, museums similarly ‘housed’ and displayed real remains, but also wax models.24 If religion's intermediaries between man and the gods, humans and animals, are centred in the ‘soul’, the most major debates in French nineteenth‐century natural science, namely fixity of ‘règnes’ versus their ‘transformisme’, depended on finding intermediate types. The lemur, like the Egyptian bichir ‘discovered’ for French ichthyology by Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire, is an important case in point. As with the Bel detail as prefiguration of discoveries in the macrocosm (nineteenth‐century astronomy) in the sixth tableau of the Tentation, the ‘lémures’ augur discoveries in the seventh tableau's ‘microcosm’ of Nature and nineteenth‐century natural sciences. Hilarion's mocking of the science of comparative religion is also the magic conjuring trick that turns polytheistic religions into natural science and zoology. For the logic of Flaubert's Tentation from tableau five also to tableau seven, Maury's Magie has once more provided the missing links.

Intermediaries are therefore essential to understanding any hierarchy or classification of (super)natural realms, and to effecting metamorphoses (translations) between levels of the similar, or from one end of a scale to another. Maury's Magie thus has a configurative function for (p.176) tableau five, beyond offering a key (the term ‘magie’) to its temporal sequence and structure of the ‘gods’ or the details of specific pantheons. The nub is the way that ‘magic’ and the magus (scientist) can be at once religious and scientific and, more importantly for a fictional work on belief(s), draw equally on superstition and empirical reason. To recall Maury's introductory sentence: ‘Les sciences physiques n'étaient à l'origine qu'un amas de superstitions et de procédés empiriques…. Cette science avait pour but d'enchaîner à l'homme les forces de la nature et de mettre en notre pouvoir l'œuvre de Dieu.’ Tableaux six and seven will indeed look at this ‘œuvre’, macro‐and microcosmically and, following Maury's conclusions, will reserve judgement as to its provenance by not referring to the God of Genesis. Within the context of the death of all the naturalistic, astrological, and anthropomorphic ‘gods’, and the ‘voix du Seigneur’ of the Old Testament, Maury leaves psychology as the site of the new versions of these antique and antiquated psychic phenomena. It seems to me that Flaubert rejects this narrowing into science, albeit a modern version of Gnosis or of the goddess Psyche, because his Tentation must for the purposes of avoiding anachronism hold on to fourth‐century religious world views. However, his trickery of palming off modern science through Hilarion's mock‐Christianizing gloss of comparative religions borrows its central configurative turn directly from Maury. A bigger intermediary than Antoine's familiar other and fellow creature is necessary to hold in tension all the mythological, religious, and also scientific worlds of magic. Who better to take forward the magic of tableau five into both six and seven than the ‘Ahri‐man juif’ in the form of Satan or ‘le Diable’? While the Devil is not an evil god in either the Greek or the Roman pantheons, equivalent supernatural personifications of evil and destruction are found in Indian, Babylonian, Persian, Egyptian, and Druidic religions and importantly hold (almost) equal power with the chief god of their respective systems. By ending the fifth tableau with classical culture in its ‘French’ and modern forms, defamiliarization of this same toppled empire (in religious, but not scientific terms) can occur only by its most preposterous opposite, the Devil Scientist arriving with dramatic irony after the dying voice of God. Magus of magi, Flaubert's ‘Diable’ (like Goethe's Mephistopheles) is not so much interested in questions of evil and good, but in superstition, reason, and disbelief as the stuff of science as much as religion. Magic and modern science can thus head out together into (p.177) the sixth tableau in the completely ludicrous, but eminently logical, form of the Devil as winged ‘god’ (like Jupiter), monster ‘Lémure’ (‘qui sont des fantômes, étendent leurs ailes de chauve‐souris’), the Prince of Darkness (astronomy and outer space are next on the agenda), and anti‐classical (and anti‐Enlightenment) ‘vehicle’ to take Antoine, but not Hilarion, with him. In Flaubert's ‘comédie surnaturelle’, it is the supreme devilment of the Devil who has the last laugh at the reader's credulity or pat ideas that superstition and ‘gods’ (or devils), whether in anthropomorphic form (like Hilarion) or disembodied voice, are dead.


However close are Hilarion's roles as tempter and deceiver of Antoine to those of the Devil, Hilarion as Science is not however the Devil himself. We have suggested why for reasons of the Tentation 's overar‐ching structure above. Flaubert's careful elision of Hilarion with paradigmatic human figures in history as we saw in Chapter 3 also tempers his innately mythological functions as Trickster or mediatory figure between natural and supernatural realms.25 While he himself swells to superhuman proportions at the same time as he choreographs metamorphoses and transformations across tableaux three to five, why he must leave the work where and how he does so needs to be addressed. As cynical interlocutor and cross‐questioner of all of Antoine's beliefs about heaven and earth by scientific method (culled as we saw from Renan in tableau three and from Maury in tableau five), Hilarion's zenith is aptly the tableau where he is powerfully the purveyor and manipulator of the science of nineteenth‐century comparative religion (the Vie de Jésus and La Magie), and its authority. Mocking the ‘normal’ basis and direction of comparative religious analogies—from Western Christendom to its others, or that Christianity is but another version of more ancient others—he inverts religions' comparative orders by pressing hard on their inherent bid for superiority over rival systems (astrology/sciences). By such turning upside down of the surety of their value systems (such as a chronology of ‘before’ and ‘after’, a scale of simple to complex forms), Hilarion challenges neat hierarchical orders, whatever their larger classification by geographical, historical, theological, cultural, or scientific sophistication. Whether in the realm of the (p.178) abstract (the strictly Egyptian Gnostic section of tableau four) or in the realm of the material and multiform (polytheistic representations in their entire plethora in tableau five), his authority as polymath comes from his razor‐sharp reason, mockery, irony, and rhetorical mise en question of fixed structures and classifications of belief. Hence, we have his (mocking) claim to fame in his own mouth: ‘On m'appelle la Science’ (Tent, 206), whereas his stance proves everywhere always Janus‐like, one face to religion, the other to science. Having established Hilarion's religious substitutions in Chapter 3, his final transformation into a figure that could also be called ‘Science’ (in enormous guise to boot) yet not the Devil needs to be established. This link is what is missing from Peter Starr's persuasive argument for the wonderfully punning double for Hilarion as the nineteenth‐century natural scientist Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire (1984, 1074). Beyond the latter's ‘transformiste’ theories, Starr's equation between them is moreover problematic and reductive, because anachronistic. If ‘Hilarion has profited from the nineteenth‐century's continued interest in comparative religion, historical anthropology and … natural history’ (1073),26 Starr's modern delineation paradoxically makes it more difficult to account for the following. Why does the Devil take Hilarion's place? How does Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire's ‘science’ link to tableau six in subject matter (astronomy), and to both six and seven when ‘Hilarion’ is absent from the text? How does the Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire incarnation graft onto a religious Hilar‐ion, let alone a fourth‐century one? Despite flagging Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire's ‘“unity of organic composition” (the “theory of analogues” [to which] Flaubert's letter of July 7–8, 1853 implicitly refers)’ (1075), Starr's wonderfully provocative article inherently points to answers to these questions, but rushes too quickly to its conclusions by ignoring the evidence of the Tentation as everywhere a series of analogical and inductive steps. For analogues and analogies to work on the level that Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire and Flaubert's Tentation in fact demand, multiple contexts and delineated constants are all, as Flaubert's original letter to Louise Colet quoted only very partially by Starr implies:

Les matérialistes et les spiritualistes empêchent également de connaître la matière et l'esprit, parce qu'ils scindent l'un de l'autre. Les uns font de l'homme un ange et les autres un porc. Mais avant d'en arriver à ces sciences‐là (qui seront des sciences), avant d'étudier bien l'homme, n'y a‐t‐il pas à étudier ses produits, (p.179) à connaître les effets pour remonter à la cause? Qui est‐ce qui a, jusqu'à présent, fait de l'histoire en naturaliste? A‐t‐on classé les instincts de l'humanité et vu comment, sous telle latitude, ils se sont développés et doivent se développer? Qui est‐ce qui a établi scientifiquement comment, pour tel besoin de l'esprit, telle forme doit apparaître, et suivi cette forme partout, dans les divers règnes humains? Qui est‐ce qui a généralisé les religions? Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire a dit: le crâne est une vertèbre aplatie. Qui est‐ce qui a prouvé, par exemple, que la religion est une philosophie devenue art, et que la cervelle qui bat dedans, à savoir la superstition, le sentiment religieux en soi, est de même matière partout, malgré ses différences extérieures, correspond aux mêmes besoins, répond aux mêmes fibres, meurt par les mêmes accidents etc.? Si bien qu'un Cuvier de la Pensée n'aurait qu'à retrouver plus tard un vers ou une paire de bottes pour reconstituer toute une société et que, les lois en étant données, on pourrait prédire à jour fixe, à heure fixe, comme on fait pour les planètes, le retour des mêmes apparitions. (Corr, ii. 378, emphasis in the original)

Failure to account for any of the multiple comparisons here, let alone their remapping or morphologies, will cause Starr's stimulating hypothesis—Hilarion as Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire is nineteenth‐century science—to disintegrate, as the ‘gods’ of tableau five everywhere demonstrate. Reading Hilarion as a very definite double of Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire is however possible if this analogy is read against the many others in Flaubert's dense and scientifically well‐informed letter. This is therefore a blueprint methodology for our remapping of nineteenth‐century French science in the Tentation, particularly tableaux five to seven. A satisfactory explanation for Hilarion's many transformations, then, needs on the one hand to adhere to the internal logic of his (changing but also similar) role in the three central tableaux of the Tentation as summed up in his ever increasing physical form from ‘un nain … sa tête prodigieusement grosse’ (Tent, 86) to colossus of enlightenment, ‘transfiguré, beau comme un archange, lumineux comme un soleil,—et tellement grand, que pour le voir ANTOINE se reverse la tête’ (Tent, 205). On the other hand, Hilarion's transformations need to hold in tension the equivocations between fourth‐century Alexandria and nineteenth‐century France without dispensing with or overplaying the one or the other.

The all‐important missing link is again provided by Maury's Magie, in a passage immediately issuing from the discussion (quoted above) of the advanced astronomical and astrological knowledge of Egyptian (p.180) priests, exemplified by the zodiacs sculpted on temple ceilings. The zodiac discovered at Dendera, illustrated and described in the Description d'Égypte and widely circulated, would have been immediately identifiable by Maury's French reading public. Flaubert's reuse of Maury is evident in Isis's speech about the ‘Dendera’ zodiac in tableau five (Tent, 184), already prepared by ‘Sheba's’ dress and footwear in tableau two. From zodiacs, Maury's attention turns to the sacred books of the Egyptians

dont on faisait remonter la rédaction au dieu Thoth ou Tat … l'inventeur de l'écriture, et identifié plus tard par les Grecs à leur Hermès. Ces livres d'Hermès égyptien surnommé Trismégiste, c'est‐à‐dire très‐grand, comprenaient des traités de toutes les sciences dont l'étude était réservée à la caste sacerdotale. Les égyptologues en ont retrouvé des fragments écrits sur papyrus, en caractères hiératiques. A l'époque alexandrine, on les traduisait en grec, en y introduisant sans doute de nombreuses interpolations et leur faisant subir un remaniement sous l'influence des idées platoniciennes. (Magie, 44–5)

Hilarion we recall was born of pagan Egyptian parents and was educated in the Alexandrian Neoplatonic schools before converting to Christianity and eventually becoming St Anthony's disciple. As Egyptian and Greek, he grows visibly greater in knowledge, authority, and stature in the Tentation —it is part of the black comedy of tableau five—but this is because he literalizes the stature of his model. As new Thoth or Hermes Trismégiste, Hilarion's roles as Egyptian priest and scientist versed in all the mysteries (Gnosis) and sciences of the ancient (and fourth‐century) Egyptian worlds are now in place. Indeed his ‘rouleau’ in tableau three may also be a proleptic signpost to his Hermes persona in tableau five.27 In line with the densely comparative analogy at work in Hilarion's religious metamorphoses across fourth‐and nineteenth‐century Egyptian and French contexts in tableau three, there only remains to be found a specifically nineteenth‐century Egyptian scientific link between Hilarion as Thoth/Hermes and Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire. This missing piece which Starr nowhere mentions is Étienne Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire's pivotal place as natural scientist on Napoleon's Expédition d'Égypte, and his many contributions to empirical science at the Institut d'Égypte in Cairo.

Starr's omission is readily excusable insofar as historians of nineteenth‐century French science and biographers of Étienne Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire have largely glossed over his early Egyptian career.28 At (p.181) best this is mentioned briefly in an initial chapter to preface the ‘important’ synthetic work to come (the theory of the unity of composition) and once Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire had returned to Paris permanently as established Muséum, not field‐based, scientist.29 What remain crucial and critical for these studies are the increasingly acrimonious differences thereafter between Cuvier and Saint‐Hilaire culminating in the famous ‘querelle des analogues’ of 1830 to which we will return in Chapter 7. A notable exception to such histories of science is Théophile Cahn's more pedantically chronological biography of Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire of 1962 which devotes a whole chapter (5) to the Expédition d'Égypte. Quoting extensively from Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire's correspondence to various scientific colleagues back at the Jardin des Plantes, but especially Cuvier, Cahn understands Geoffroy Saint‐Hiliare's richly varied scientific work undertaken in Egypt as pivotal in shaping all his subsequent thinking and ideas. The rich collections of Egyptian fauna (contemporary and mummified) that Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire brought back added significantly to the material and scientific importance of the collections at the Jardin des Plantes, as Cuvier himself warmly attested in his role as perpetual Secretary. Recent republication of Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire's Lettres d'Égypte allows fascinating insights into his intense, vital, and necessary dialogue with Cuvier regarding discoveries of various species in Egypt. While germs of the later quarrel are indeed to be found here, suffice it to say for tableau five of the Tentation that it is the Hilarion—Antoine, master—disciple relationship of profoundly differing similarities that Flaubert aligns with their nineteenth‐century scientific but also arguably religious successors, Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire and Cuvier.30 Hilarion is not therefore a Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire of nineteenth‐century science or devil's advocate for it. He is however the ‘très‐ grand’ Egyptian magus figure to orchestrate its many parts in tableau five by comparative religious analogy and parallelism. As the final part of the chapter will demonstrate, it is thanks to Hilarion that ancient zoology and natural science may metamorphose into recognizably nineteenth‐century forms. How this process operates lies in remapping his guided tour of comparative religions on display in tableau five as so many cabinets of pertinent artefacts in a museum of ideas. For the larger ‘unités de composition’ to become manifest in each display case (the sections of the tableau), the ‘collection’ as a whole, and for the rest of the Tentation from which Hilarion the guide is absent, his very appearance and disappearance need (p.182) explanation. Their structural symmetry and perfect logic in the work (at the end of tableaux two and five) encapsulate his powerfully double‐faced persona—as Janus‐like manipulator of religious and scientific analogy and as figure of deceptive likeness.

Hilarion the dwarf‐to‐become‐angel‐of‐Science emerges in the text from the extraordinary train of possessions of the ‘Queen of Sheba’ which rival any of the mighty collections of the (biblical) kings, including Solomon's, as encapsulated in Antoine's readings in tableau one. Amid the incredible list (the Queen's ‘j'ai… , j'ai… , j'ai…’) is a veritable menagerie, but introduced, importantly, by intermediaries in the human, animal, and monstrous worlds:

J'ai des … eunuques de quoi faire une armée. J'ai des armées, j'ai des peuples! J'ai dans mon vestibule une garde de nains portant sur le dos des trompes d'ivoire. … J'ai des attelages de gazelles, des quadriges d'éléphants, des couples de chameaux par centaines, et des cavales à crinière si longue que leurs pieds y entrent quand elles galopent, et des troupeaux à cornes si larges que l'on abat les bois devant eux quand ils pâturent. J'ai des girafes qui se promènent dans mes jardins, et qui avancent leur tête sur le bord de mon toit … Assise dans une coquille, et traînée par les dauphins, je me promène dans les grottes écoutant tomber l'eau des stalactites. Je vais au pays des diamants, où les magiciens mes amis me laissent choisir les plus beaux; puis je remonte sur la terre, et je rentre chez moi. (Tent, 82–3, emphasis added)

At this point the mythical Simorg‐Anka also returns to the Queen to disrupt her list of past possessions for the conquest of Antoine as her latest one. While all critics have read the ‘Je suis un monde’ as sexual (we have argued why in Chapter 2), her person and menagerie is extremely evocative and prefigurative of the pan‐creational goddess figures of tableau five—Diana of Ephesus, Cybele, Isis—who all embody nature's diversity of life forms. Against Sheba's overwhelming spirit of ‘prostitution’ and generation, theirs is however a litany of degeneration and casting off of (sexual) parts and monstrous coupling. Sheba's phoenix‐like Simorg‐Anka (of Egyptian name and whose attributes the god Horus borrows) is not the only exotic, ‘Egyptian’ creature in her menagerie. The giraffe(s) ‘qui se promènent dans mes jardins’ surely signal a specifically nineteenth‐century wink to the fantastic as real. Until the arrival in 1827 of a giraffe, the gift of the Egyptian Pasha (which both Cuvier and Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire officially received into (p.183) the menagerie of the Jardin des Plantes), no French person had ever seen a living one. Similarly, where a monkey lifted the hem of ‘Sheba's’ skirts in tableau two, we meet ‘Isis’ in tableau five in a pose not only redolent of a Virgin lactans, but also accompanied by ‘un grand singe’. This is her pet Cynocephalus, who squats, sphinx‐like, beside her, and by analogy with medieval iconography like a unicorn beside a Virgin Mary. Both these ‘mythical’ animals will appear again in the final tableau in the so‐called parade of the monsters. Like the other gods and goddesses above, however, the Cynocephalus ‘s'est évanoui’ (Tent, 185, emphasis added) in prefiguration of the death of her son Harpocratus (or Horus the child).31 Monstrous births and arrivals (divine, incestuous, natural) do indeed shake the orders (‘règnes’) of the animal/(super)human world as we will discover in Chapter 7. But like the intermediary creatures in Sheba's train, those in Isis's speech also replicate the abstract creations (anti‐trinities) of tableau four by giving them more recognizable, comparative, and hybrid forms: ‘triades particulières des Nomes, éperviers dans l'azur, sphinx au bord des temples, ibis debout entre les cornes des bœufs, planètes, constellations, rivages, murmures du vent, reflets de la lumière’ (Tent, 182). What we have here is a ‘creation story’ told as an Egyptian version of the biblical Flood to mesh ancient Egypt via Hilar‐ion with its ‘Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire’ face. If he visited the Nileometer in Napoleon's party, and participated in the annual festival to release the Nile flood water onto the land to irrigate and render it fertile, ‘Isis’ only describes this ‘real’ event in more mythological language: ‘Autrefois, quand revenait l'été, l'inondation chassait vers le désert les bêtes impures. Les digues s'ouvraient, les barques s'entrechoquaient, la terre haletante buvait le fleuve avec ivresse’ (Tent, 183). Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire would find no species of Nile fish that were not like their fossil relatives, only some that provided evidence that the Mediterranean and the Red Sea had once been connected.32 He would discover in his dissections of Egypt's common silurid species of fish (including the catfish) his missing link between ‘l'organisation des quadrupèdes et de la seiche’.33 Isis's description of this ‘regular’ flood is however a comparative (and distorting) mirror of the altogether ‘unique’ event in which Noah famously saves animal species in his floating menagerie. The flood, singular or annual, therefore humorously marks the distinction in tableau five of ‘gods’ ante‐and post‐Deluge with which it began. In scientific terms it is the watershed between natural scientists who (p.184) are ‘transformistes’ like Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire, or believers like Cuvier in cataclysm, Neptunism, and the extinction of certain monstrous creatures who belonged to the fantastic yet very real worlds of palaeontology of which the nineteenth‐century French father was Cuvier.

After the disappearance of Isis, Hilarion's role is to blur the lines of equally dogmatic truths revealed in comparative religions, as in science, to show monster gods (Titans) and monster ‘caravans’ of gods with their centaurs, empusas, Stymphalian birds (Tent, 198) who all disappear because ‘[u]ne ravale de givre les enveloppe’ (Tent, 199). Even if this may at a structural level enable linkage to the Latin and hence ‘northern’ gods culminating in Crepitus, this peculiar end for hot Mediterranean pantheons forces an end to Hilarion's chameleon ‘Egyptian’ personae in their transformations and ‘transformismes’. This comparative religious and scientific scene brings Hilarion face to face with his master Antoine (as saint and Cuvier figure in his creationist beliefs) in ways similar to the ‘sexual’ confrontation with Sheba at the end of tableau two.34 When Antoine refuses to bow down to this new ‘god’ of comparative or Egyptian natural sciences, just as Cuvier adamantly defended his position in the ‘querelle des analogues’ against Geoffroy's unity of composition, the impasse is the raising of the stakes to bigger (meta)physical propositions and beliefs. If the Devil was resting as giant caricature against Antoine's ‘cabane’ (at the beginning of tableau two), his moment to reveal his positions has now come. Hilarion, superlative human monster of oversized brain, needs replacement by something even more supernaturally cerebral, the Devil as mastermind of a religion without any necessity of God. Flaubert is then also able to rework the new natural scientific debates (embodied in those of Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire) that challenge older scientific beliefs (Cuvier's catastrophism) because tableau five has set them up allegorically in ‘myth’ language (Isis's ‘flood’, Buddha's birth). For the wider issues of the Étienne Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire—Georges Cuvier quarrel to continue unabated in tableau seven through Antoine's ironic and scientific discovery of an ‘Origin of Species’, Hilarion has to depart because his nineteenth‐century alter ego is only one of the French ‘Egyptian’ magician scientists that Flaubert employs in the final two tableaux of the Tentation.

The jokes which Antoine and Hilarion share at the beginning of tableau five are ultimately then at the expense of what readers ‘see’ and will believe. Degeneration and regeneration are indeed inextricably (p.185) linked in the ‘creation’ stories of both comparative religion (world mythology) and comparative anatomy (palaeontology) interpreting the same old primary matter of life and death. Much can in fact be reconstructed from the most insalubrious of remains from old gods such as ‘Crepitus’ in the scientific study of coprolites (fossil faeces of extinct species). The final substructure that tableau five remaps as fantastic comparative anatomy of myth is the story of the new ‘gods’ of geology as modern science of prehistory.


In the series of exhibits of myths of (re)creation in world religions of tableau five, what is comparable between pantheons is inflected by what is significant by its absence. If the disembodied ‘voix de Dieu’ is the destructive and jealous God of wrath in the Old Testament, his claims to fame are Sodom and Gomorrah, the Flood, the drowning of Pharaoh's armies (and the might of Egyptian civilization including its magicians). His creation claims are however limited to writing (like Hermes) on the stone tablets of the Law (Tent, 204). The Lord God (‘le Seigneur, le Seigneur Dieu’) is therefore not the Creator God of Genesis 1–2 walking in the Garden or discovering Adam hiding his new‐found nakedness because of eating from the Tree (of knowledge). Creation stories frame the tableau, however, in the ‘cycles’ (or ‘révolutions du globe’ in Cuvier's terms) of creation and destruction behind the time of civilizations. It seems hugely important that the opening of the tableau specifically dates the period of ‘earliest gods’ as ‘antérieures au Déluge’ (Tent, 161), the first being Indian ‘gods’ in a valley which becomes ‘une mer de lait, immobile et sans bornes’ (Tent, 163), and out of which the ‘dualité primordial des Brachmanes’ emerges, and from the navel of its god sprouts a lotus. While Antoine's response—‘quelle invention!’— presents this story of creation as pure myth, geological discoveries of the earliest visible life forms—fossil plants and small crustaceans— belong to epochs where warm, shallow (milky) seas covered vast tracts of the earth, and which were transformed into limestones and chalks by pressures and cataclysms in the earth's crust. Comparative philology and comparative religions were also discovering India (beyond the (p.186) Himalayas) as the ‘birthplace’ of civilizations. Oannès, similarly, is the challenging contemporary of these antediluvian geological events, those earliest creatures which inhabited the waters, in what is now called ‘primordial soup’:

J'ai habité le monde informe où sommeillaient des bêtes hermaphrodites, sous le poids d'une atmosphère opaque, dans la profondeur des ondes ténébreuses,— quand les doigts, les nageoires et les ailes étaient confondus, et que des yeux sans tête flottaient comme des mollusques, parmi des taureaux à face humaine et des serpents à pattes de chien … j'ai surgi de l'abîme pour durcir la matière, pour régler les formes; et j'ai appris aux humains la pêche, les semailles, l'écriture et l'histoire des Dieux.

Depuis lors, je vis dans les étangs qui restent du Déluge … —et je meurs sur ma couche de limon regardant les étoiles à travers l'eau. J'y retourne.

(Tent, 171, emphasis added)

As a geological remapping of ancient forms in mythological time, Oan‐nès's account ceases to be fantastical and becomes strikingly accurate in its emphasis on ancient and modern science by analogy (and the ‘querelle des analogues’): Pliny's observations about birds' wings and fins, fingers, and feet as all serving the same function transform into the more sophisticated comparative anatomy of a Buffon or a Cuvier, and thence return via Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire's idea of the unity of composition to a law (‘règlement’) of formal development. It was also in reading the scientific ‘tablets of stone’, rock strata, that Cuvier and Brogniart in France and Lyell in England were able to ascertain which species existed or became extinct prior to the appearance of humans on the earth. Nature's generations, de‐, and regenerations at a more profound level than climate zones with their specific flora or fauna are in play here, so that the striking ‘rafale de givre’ quoted above now takes on a wonderfully geological meaning. The transformation of the earth's waters into ice and hence a Cuvieresque suggestion of the planet's dark pre‐human epochs through which many species failed to survive is picture language for Ice Ages. Degeneration in fact becomes extinction in other words, whether through natural cold or darkness (Hilarion's identification of the seemingly redundant Nortia, Kastur and Pulutuk, Summanus and Vesta (Tent, 199–200) ), prefiguring the passage already discussed about the ‘Lémures’ and the ‘Larves’ of intermediary species, bringing the reader to the contemporary ‘home’ gods (Lares), and the (p.187) Manes of scientific ‘civilization’ which one can call ‘Science’. Brach‐Manes which open and close the tableau are then one and the same in this cycle of geological remapping of the religious roots of mythology, just as the family gods (Lares) become the science of HiLARion/ HiLAiRES. Peter Starr's vital understandings of Flaubert's punning on names and the magic this works on the significance of the Tentation is thus proven by extending the range of Flaubert's wicked dressing up of the absurd human imagination as the very heart of science itself. If there is no Garden of Eden in Flaubert's Tentation, readers are left very squarely back in the Jardin des Plantes as the new Muséum of Alexandria in another guise. Sexual generation and the fantastical couplings of the ‘gods’ are but stories for the generations of hybrid and new forms of life in all its abundance, mystery, and complexity long before the advent of human forms. The geological stories of the ‘gods’ in tableau five are therefore the perfect opening up of cosmological and zoological significance in the remaining two tableaux.

The old gods, especially the Greek and Roman ones, have a perdu‐rance for modern nineteenth‐century geology, if not religious practice. Neptune and Vulcan, those gods on the destructive and dark sides of the creative pantheons, are reinvested with new ‘clothes’, nineteenth‐century debates about the fundamental chemistry and physics of the earth and its creative forces residing primarily in the power of water (Neptunism) or fire (Vulcanism).35 The old gods may be dead in one form, but this tableau adamantly supposes that their new disguise will be another way of conforming to the old stories, of conflict and jealousy between two rivals of very similar ‘religions’, the truth of which can be neither proved nor disproved to end the cycle of fundamental ideas about first causes returning to haunt the rational world of enlightened science. In terms of (in)credible theories, there is also no Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire without a Cuvier, no Darwin without a Lamarck, and no Laplace without a Pascal.36 And like the heresiarchs of tableau four, all scientists need adherents and worshippers to give their ideas credence and authority and the power to persecute opponents and ‘heretics’ pronouncing rival creeds.

Flaubert's remapping of the myths of nineteenth‐century French science as a geological farce is a virtuoso comedy of human errors in the guise of science as comparative religion. Hilarion, the enigma machine in Sheba's train, effects this huge and glittering joke thanks to his (p.188) complex Egyptian disguises; he is false Saint(‐Hilaire), pseudo‐Hermes Trismégiste, and Scientist. When Hilarion tries to step outside his humanity to become a god, Antoine necessarily refuses to worship him as he has refused to bow down to any other anthropomorphized gods. This choice in what to believe is not only a religious one. Antoine's refusal to countenance any but the Christian God is the same as his refusal to countenance one civilization or race as being superior to any other.37 If there is any ‘syncretism’ in tableau five, it is arguably Flaubert's ‘postmodern’ attitude to the new science of anthropology especially its French colonial, nineteenth‐century guises. Gobineau, Cuvier, and Renan, for example, were peddling fixed hierarchies of civilizations by colour, brain size, ability to write, and cultural prowess. With Caucasians at the top, yellow races (Semites) or red in the middle, and black peoples at the bottom, these unshakeable ‘règnes’ were enforced by climatic conditions.38 Contrariwise, Flaubert's ‘trans‐formism’ of the gods in tableau five is more cynically arguing against any (positivist) view of ‘civilization’ as progress, let alone any superiority in modern Caucasian (read Greek and Latin) cultures.39 Unlike Balzac's ‘Comédie humaine’ the Tentation does not take Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire's unity of composition as its model either. The lesson of tableau five (as also implied in Flaubert's letter to Louise Colet quoted above) is surely that it is from the most ancient (black) cultures and religions such as ancient Egypt that we still have much to rediscover when it comes to the life sciences of death, however they are couched in modern religious, mythological, or new geological fields of knowledge. Hilarion's physical enormity as Trismégiste and as near‐devouring rational spirit of empirical science when it comes to Antoine's faith embodies all the power of Egypt's counterparts to the belated wisdom of Anthony the Great of Egypt. The horror and magnitude of Hilarion's bid to make Antoine confess his own error of faith (apostasy) can now only be outstripped by the Devil, his non‐Egyptian alter ego of Omni‐science.


(1.) Seznec (1940). The standard secondary‐school curriculum for boys included Virgil, Homer, and Horace.

(2.) Creuzer (1825, 1829, and 1838) and Burnouf (1844). These gods are largely transposed into the parade in tableau five of the 1874 text.

(3.) Seznec (1993) draws hugely on his previous work on the Tentation in its first and final versions, but does not return to these questions either. For a recent classicist contributor to Flaubert studies see Laêt‐Berr (2001).

(4.) I am grateful for Lawrence Porter's reminder that Haig (1986) investigates ‘theolocutives’ (aphorisms) and hence that the ‘voice of God’ at the end of the scene can of course be read in this vein as self‐parodic. We (p.286) will discover a more precise source for Flaubert's inclusion of the voice of God below.

(5.) See Séginger (1987, 1988). Bowman (1981, 1985, 1990) has always argued against syncretism by exploring Flaubert's more properly eclectic portrayals of God and the gods based on understanding of the Tenta‐tion's Alexandrian contexts and also nineteenth‐century Eclectics such as Cousin. Although the Légende de saint Julien not the Tentation illustrates his study, Bart (1973) remains one of the best critical appraisals of Flaubert's pantheism.

(6.) Starr (1984, 1074) and by contrast to ‘Hilarion's brilliant display of erudition’. All further references to Starr below are to this article.

(7.) The work of Helein‐Koss (1991) is the exception. It is Hilarion's role to link the ‘lisible’, the ‘risible’, and the ‘visible’ that concerns her, rather than Antoine's laughter. Flaubert's exploration of the ‘grotesque rire’ emerges from the invented alter ego of his youth, le Garçon, and is redolent of the ‘Rabelaisian’ Crepitus for example.

(8.) Hence we have only the ‘voix de Dieu’ at the end of the tableau.

(9.) See Du Camp (1987).

(10.) Flaubert's Salammbô pivots around the worship of Moloch.

(11.) Among few critics to discuss Crepitus (who participates in all three versions of the Tentation) see Bem (1979a, 81–2): ‘Crépitus enfin est un dieu qui n'existe pas! et Flaubert le savait depuis 1849’ (82).

(12.) Tignor (1995, 157).

(13.) Maury (1860).

(14.) Maury's work (henceforth Magie) is referenced in the famous bibliography to the Tentation under the ‘Mythologie’ rubric. Flaubert's reliance on Maury on all manner of subjects is evident from this bibliography as I have also argued (Orr, 2005). It also goes without saying the date of Maury's study precludes its use in versions of the Tentation before the final reworking.

(15.) Solomon was also a scientist in the more modern sense. See 1 Kings 4: 20 ff.: ‘God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East and greater than the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite—wiser than Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke 3000 proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's (p.287) wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.’

(16.) See Leclerc (2001, 78) where Flaubert's copy of Maury's Magie has ‘annotations’ noted against it.

(17.) Maury in fact quotes some of the same sources that Flaubert used to authenticate this historical melting pot, namely Vacherot (1846–54).

(18.) ‘En Italie, S. Antoine a de son côté pris la place de Consus ou de Neptunus Equester, le dieu des courses de cirque; il est devenu le patron des chevaux’ (154). Flaubert's Antoine of course visits Constantine's palace in tableau two and in a very ‘odd’ passage watches the Fathers of Nicaea brushing the horses' manes, painting their hooves, or removing their droppings (Tent, 75). As replacement saint of horses for Neptunus Equester the following in the text becomes clear: ‘Antoine passe au milieu d'eux. Ils font la haie, le prie d'intercéder, lui baisent les mains.’ Maury's La Magie is therefore not confined in its reworking to tableau five.

(19.) See Maury (1848, 1857).

(20.) The word ‘apotèlesmatique’ refers to the ‘science of influences’. This Babylonian ‘observatory’ is an earlier version of tableau four's ‘basilique’.

(21.) Flaubert's ambiguous punctuation in this single sentence is semantically rich, the commas after each element suggesting both equivalence and apposition, to elide the ancient and early modern world view, Hilarion's ‘le ciel, comme lľéternité, reste immuable!’, with proven nineteenth‐century scientific observation.

(22.) It would be tempting to include the word ‘theodicy’ here—it comes originally from Leibniz's Théodicée (1710)—particularly with reference to Hilarion's role as herald of science and the Devil in tableau six, Leibnizian elements to Hilarion's science, and Flaubert's interest in Leibniz's thought. We have however been careful throughout to preclude terms that are ‘anachronistic’ to the life and times of Sts Anthony and Hilarion.

(23.) See Pouchet (1859). For discussion of this guide and the Rouen collections, see Orr (2008a).

(24.) Rouen was in fact a national centre in the nineteenth century for the production of wax models for use in anatomy lessons for trainee midwives and officiers de santé, but also for the display cases of natural history where original pieces were too fragile, or where cross‐sections were required. See Blanckaert et al. (1997).

(25.) While Hilarion's mythical, shaman‐like status and functions as intermediary between life and death are eminently behind Flaubert's reworking of him, especially here in tableau five as study of comparative (p.288) mythography, his ‘real’ ‘human’ faces are what most significantly distinguish him from the Devil.

(26.) While Starr states that he neither wishes to use reference in the Correspondance to natural historians, nor ‘Hilarion as a thinly veiled Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire’ (1075), the article in the end does the latter by flitting too lightly over its mass of ideas and connections.

(27.) Space does not permit a study of the gods Flaubert interestingly omits from tableau five, but Hermes is one of them. Mercury is inserted instead for his equivalence as part of the Greek pantheon, but only in the description of astrological clocks (Tent, 188) and somewhat humorously as a statue atop one.

(28.) See for example Guyader (1998).

(29.) After the Expédition Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire undertook a further scientific mission to Portugal to set up a national Museum of Natural Science in 1807.

(30.) Cuvier was the head of the Protestant Churches throughout his long career at the Jardin des Plantes. See Rudwick (1997). Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire never denied the need of God (as first mover or cause). This scientific aspect of the master—disciple relationship in the Tentation also further complements my own earlier study of Hilarion (Orr, 2000a).

(31.) This segment of the Tentation is larded with Flaubert's own experience of Egypt, his fainting fit in the Pyramid of Giza, his observation of the bird droppings on the ancient monuments (and link to Crepitus to come). A psycho‐biographical reading of this scene is ripe for further investigation, especially when so much of Flaubert's reflections on revisions to his first Tentation come on the back of his trip with Du Camp and stormy affair with Louise Colet.

(32.) See Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire (2000, 120). The former link was somewhere along the line chosen across the Isthmus of Suez for the Suez Canal, opened in 1871 by the Empress Eugénie. It was for this event and its new Egyptian Queen that Verdi wrote Aida.

(33.) Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire (2000, 86–92 and letter of 16 Aug. 1799 to Cuvier) puts this phrase as a rhetorical question to the master of ichthyology as if it were a monstrous suggestion. It is the real evidence of the moment when Geoffroy Saint‐Hilaire begins seriously to question Cuvier's fixity of ‘règnes’ or theories of cataclysm pre and post‐iluvium.

(34.) In his bid to possess Antoine here, Hilarion's seductions bespeak a veiled but no less homosexual force.

(35.) For a potted history of geology, see Pouchet (1868, section 3).

(36.) For a cogent study of Lamarck and the differences between Lamarckian ‘transformisme’ and Darwin's theory of evolution, see Jordanova (1984).

(37.) See Corr, iii. 131 (to Edma Roger des Genettes): ‘Vous vous étonnez de ma rage antireligieuse, en voici la raison immédiate: c'est qu'à chaque moment dans mes études, je touche à la Bible, et dans la Bible, au Dieu actuel, à celui des Catholiques, qui m'exaspère de plus en plus par son côté restreint, borné, oriental, monarchique. C'est un Louis XIV, un sultan, je ne sais quoi d'humain, qui me semble, en définitive, très piètre et dont la conception me paraît très impie.…Quand la concile de Trente a eu décidé qu'il ne fallait plus s'occuper de la question de Grâce, de ce jour‐là, le christianisme a commencé son suicide; il s'est jugé lui‐même: il a reculé devant la philosophie.’

(38.) See Gobineau (1984) and Cuvier (1864). For a recent study of nineteenth‐century French doctrines of race, see for example Taguieff (1998) and Moussa (2004).

(39.) See Bem (2006) and Ogane (2006) among few works that investigate Flaubert's ‘anthropologies’.