N THE FEW PAGES FOLLOWING, UPON MY FATHER ELIE Reclus AND HIS BROTHER Elisée, I Shall try to avoid repetitions of other fragments in this collection, notably the fragment which Elisé has himself written on the life of his elder brother during the few months which he survived him.
The most distant recollections I have of the Reclus families living in Paris under the same roof, relate to the reunion of friends which took place at their house once a week. Rue de la Plaine, Square de Batignolles, Rue des Feullantines, I see the same salon on the fifth story, with two windows opening upon a balcony. We, the children, were sometime admitted there during a few moments before we were sent to bed. The majority of the people were Parisian friends, those whose names are met with in the "Correspondance", and others whose faces I recognized in looking over the old albums: Grimard, Boscowitz, who survived the Reclus, Ardouin, Hickel taken off before 1870, Melville-Bloncourt, Bataillard, Kergomard, Kneip, Verdier, Mancel, the Huets, the Chabannes, the Chatés, Chassin, Prat, Mme. Champseix, all socialists, (démoc-socs, according to the patois of the moment), coöpertors, feminists, also strangers living in Paris as a result of up heavals and wars in Russia, Poland, Italy, Spain, the United States; such were Fédor Toman, Herzen, Garrido, Berti-Calura, Ostroga, Sokoloff, Mme. Chinchine. There were, finally, elements brought together by geography, explorers or voyagers. I remember, among others, a prince of the Bassoutos speaking a few words of English; I see him yet, seated upon the left of the fire-place, singing to us a lyric of his country. My recollections are a bit more precise toward 1868, I was then ten years old. The youngest of the Reclus brothers, Paul, a student of medicine, had come to live with the older ones. In the same apartment of the Rue des Feuillantines, an American student had also found a lodging, Miss Putnam, (later Dr. Putnam-Jacobi), Miss Garett (Dr. Garett-Anderson) and the twin sisters so difficult to tell apart, the Misses Pope. Here it is worth pausing to remark on the subject of the spirit which animated the habitues of this place of reunion, that very few among them became politicians under the Third Republic; Aristide Rey, Germain Casse, Alfred Naquet, were the exceptions. Later, in exile, the two brothers no longer living together, my father carried on the tradition. At Zürich the circle of friends was necessarily restricted; the widow and children of Herzen, once, at least, Bakunin, the Heim family, the Méquets, etc.; then at London, the Heaths, the Oswalds, the Cassals, Dr. Martin, Guérault, Jeanne Deroin, etc. After the amnesty, at Paris, successively at the Rue Monge and Boulevard Port-Royal the Reclus Mondays were very much attended; old exiles of 1851, come back to France after 1870, childhood friends encountered once more, mingling with the new generations, the Talandiers, the Balagués, the "old" Leblanc, the de Brugierés, etc. At Brussels the conversational soirées were held alternatively at the house of one or the other of the brothers and at the house of their sister Mme. Dumesnil.
To return to my earlier impressions of the family, I must here cite my recollection of Elisée seated at his work-table. He was continually humming, not a popular air, but a somewhat hollow modulation repeated indefinitely; it seemed to be essential to the editing of his prose, independent of his state of spirit, for the same cantilena issued from his mouth near the death-bed of his wife. I do not recall whether this mania continued at Clarens; it certainly ceased at Brussels. On his part, up to the age of 50, my father worked standing up. He made use of a sort of table which sloped down and which necessitated particular arrangement for inkwell and other utensils; a pot of paste, for example, was an essential to him, for he himself made a quantity of boarding, boxes to classify his notes and bundles of papers. Often he wrote in pencil, pasted his papers one over the other, and composed an article upon a srtip, the end of which was never seen. His composition was slow; his manual labor gave him time for meditation; he erased, recommenced the writing, threw into the waste-basket, and never was satisfied with the article which had to keep the pot a-boiling, in order to expedite it. However, the greater part of the monthly correspondence he wrote from 1862 to 1876 for a Russian review is from his pen. He took a copy to the press, and it is thus that I have more than 10,000 pages of manuscript text which have never appeared except in Russia. And yet the censor has suppressed a good part of it. He rarely signed his name; in Russia he was Jacques Lefréne, elsewhere Michel Trigant, then again, Croquenotes or Bonhomme Simplice. Altogether different from his older brother, Elisée did not correct his text much when first written. He found the written form easily enough when the idea had formed in his mind. He worked with remarkable regularity, only with great difficulty allowing himself to be diverted by the daily events;"every day its page" was his line of conduct, and he could write in pencil in, the most unlikely places, when a train stopped, in the waiting-room of a railway-station, on a corner of the table in a public-house. He had in his pocket, disposed after the manner of the cartridge-box of a Caucasian soldier, a whole paraphernalia of different pencils. His memory was prodigious; to verify a reference, he rose from his table, took the exact book from his library, opened it at the desired page, and had taken up his pen again in an instant. From the moment when the Nouvelie Géographie commenced to appear, Elisée had to be aided, but the editing. remained always and entirely in his hands. His manuscript, with but little erasures, had no need to be copied in order to go to the printer. On the other hand, at Clarens, he had to consult books ceaselessly and he became borrower at the geographical libraries of Geneva and of Neuchâtel. There was a continual going and coming of volumes. The work these exchanges necessitated, the correction of proofs, the order to he kept in the maps and the gravures, were assured by a secretary. This was the excellent friend, the "communard" Gustave Lefrançais, then when he had returned to France, it was Léon Metchnikoff, up to the latter's death in June, 1888; finally, Henri Sensine. The last weeks of Metchnikoff were a painful period; wounded by the side of Garibaldi, he had a shortened leg; the wound re-opened and our friend had a long agony, he begged Elisée to help him die, to give him the courage to commit suicide. On the other hand, for each one of his volumes, Elisée consulted with a man acquainted with the countries described. Successively, Dragomanoff for Russia, Kropotkin for Siberia, Metchnikoff for the Extreme East, read the manuscript of Elisée. However, everyone of them is thanked in the corresponding volume of the Nouvelle Géographie, as were also Charles Perren the cartographer, Slom the draughtsman ofthe greatest part of the gravures, and a great many others besides. From 1890 to 1894, during the few years which he spent in France at Severs and at the Bourg-la Reine, Elisée availed himself of the help of Mme. Kontchevsky, daughter of Metchnikoff, and that of her husband. However, the documentation of the last volumes was ready since the Clarens period. At Brussls it is his sister, Louise, widow of Dumesnil in 1894 who installed herself by his side and who from the death of Jeannie Cuisinier in 1897, occupied herself with the education of three of the grandchildren of Elisée. The preperations of the lessons he gave at the Université Nouvelle, were mingled with that of his last book, L'Homme et la Terre. In general, his morning was consecrated to his routine work; in the afternoon, he reparied to the Institute de Géographie where Patesson was his most intimate collaborator; in the evening he read. Did he feel himself growing old in 1903? He had consented to rewrite for the Maison Hachette the Introduction au Dictionnaire des Communes des France of which the first edition, that of 1869, was signed, "Elie and Elisée Reclus": the manuscript of his book L'Homme et la Terre was finished, and he found it necessary to proceed with the editorial details... In brief he asked me to come to his aid, which I did from October 1903 up to his death in July 1905.
In my childhood we lived together, in his old age we worked together, and from 1870 to 1903 rare are the years when I did not spend some days with him. I recollect a tour made with Elisée, in the neighborhood of Lugano, in the Bernese Alps and especially in 1884, I recall a voyage from Malta to Oran, including a voyage on foot (with an ass for carrying the baggage) across the mountainous mass between Tunis and Algiers and another jaunt across Great Kabylia. At this period he was an excellent walker. His daughter tells me how he enjoyed playing hide-and-seek with his children, and climbed up trees when he saw that he was being pursued. He was afraid of no physical exertion; he must have been 50 years old when he went to assist at a lesson in gymnastics which we took, his future sons-in-law Régnier and Cuisinier and myself, he saw Régnier make a perilous jump at the mark set upon the springing-board; that made him very enthusiastic and immediately, there he was, doing the same thing.
In his recollections of Elie, Elisée has described the incomparable Vascoeuil, so often mentioned in his "Correspondance". Alfred Dumesnil, son-in-law of Michelet, substitute of Edgar Quinet at the Collége de France, then secretary of Lamartine, was, on the other hand, emeritus and impassioned gardener. Widower in 1854, and seeking a governess for his growing daughters, he had met the Reclus at the house of a Parisian socialist, Fauverty, a common friend. Louise Reclus, en route between Scotland and le Bèarn, the province of France where Orthez lies and where her parents lived, was with her brothers. There was an immediate understanding and Louise departed for Vascoeuil, friendly relations, then fraternal ones, were established between Dumesnil and the Reclus brothers. As a result, the little organization, communistic so to speak, reunited them. Those of Paris, the children more often than the parents, friends as well as relations, came to the country for indefinite sojourns and payed their expenses. The abundant nature of the country, the proximity of an admirable beech-forest, the vast intelligence and great kindness of its host made of Vascoeuil a really enchanting sojourn. In the high tower, Elie has written more than one Physionomie végétale and Elisée more than one chapter of the Histoire d'un Ruisseau. No doubt the conversation with Alfred and his friends from Rouen, the Nöels, the Pouchets, the Pennetiers, had contributed to the intellectual development of the Reclus, at least as much as the Parisian, Mondays. Dumesnil and Louise were married in 1871. To these relations the Reclus brought some qualities acquired by birth or as a result of their initial environment. The mother was obviously a literary person, and all of her children were anxious to write well. Elisée, his sister Lois, his brother Paul, have written fluently a pure language without laboriousness of style. Elie and 0nésime composed more laboriously with more imagery, in a somewhat more strained style.
The influence of the father is especially perceptible, by imitation, in the formation of character, and by repulsion, in the formation of their opinions. The children could not but have a profound admiration for his sincerity, and his limitless kindness; also they could not but he repelled by the blind faith he had in the "holy Scriptures". The biblical tradition was, to him, true to the last letter; he was not ignorant of the dicoveries which at that time were made in the scientific world, and which gave a foundation to the doctrine of evolution, but he saw therein nothing but snares of the evil spirit. The eldest sons, and in there wake, all the brothers and sisters, made a very clear distinction between the actions of their father which encouraged them to act likewise, and the words he expressed against those which their understanding repelled. All the same, the Reclus father possesed an active fraternity which none of his children has been able to achieve. Here is a fact which Elisée related in 1887; at the funeral of his mother, to the pastor of Orthez, Monier, successor to Reclus, and which Molier repeated to me. The father, having ascertained that someone was stealing some potatoes in his field, dug up in turn a certain quantity of them and in the evening went to put them by the roadside "in order that those who need them should be able to take them without resorting to theft." "Very well." says Elisée, "I recognize myself in that," but he added, "My father was haunted by the biblical idea of Mine and Thine; otherwise he would have left the tubers in the earth until ready for use, rather than expose them to animals, inclemencies of weather, uncleanliness." Doublessly, but Elie and Elisée, communists though they were, have never put their theories into practice as dearly as did their father, abused as his faith may have been. By his conduct throughout his years the Reclus father was a communist in effect; by the resignation which he sent in, in 1831, of his functions of official pastor, he was an anarchist in the germ. By his entire personality he inspired confidence in every man whose heart was in the right place, whatever his opinions may have been and the Reclus children acquired the gift of spreading this peaceful atmosphere in their wake. Christians or atheists, anarchists or bourgeois, folk of that calibre make possible a society without law and without authority. The Reclus parents and sons, sisters and brothers, possessed a word which was as good as a bond, had a clairvoyant kindness which extinguished their own "rights" and only permitted their duties to their fellow-citizens to be manifest. But the family possessed its antipode, the husband of a sister of the mother residing at Sainte-Foy. Materially he was of undoubted service to all the children coming to sojourn in that village, but his advice was poisonous compared to that of his brother-in-law: the seeking after wealth and honours, admiration of the hierarchy among men. After 1851, the two eldest Reclus children meant for him "the abomination of desolation," and they struggled with all their strength against this pernicious influence upon their younger sisters and brothers. It is Elie who usually conducted a correspondence with regard to this, and more than one sister, governess in Great Britain or Germany, always recalled such a letter in which he expounded to her that which ought to he the conduct of an altruistic life. If the
But what is the influence of family compared to that of wife? The two brothers had perfectly similar ideas upon marriage, but circumstances gave a totally different character to their lives. At Geneva, in 1848, Elie was 21 years old. He loved, but saw himself refused because of his poverty. Seven years later, returning from exile, he married his first cousin, Marthe-Noémi Reclus by a civil ceremony. The couple lived for 49 years and had no history. My mother told me that her fiance had put "terrible conditions" before her. It is not hard to imagine that they bore relations first to the religious question, definitely put aside, and then to my father's desire (at that period) to preserve in his heart the memory of his Genervese love, Elie died in February 1904 and , my mother 17 months later. Four families have issued from that marriage. Elisée had a love-affair also as a young man. Tutor in the Portier family, near New Orleans, he pleased the daughter of the house, his pupil, and we were led to believe that the heart of the professor was not insensible. But his will shattered the idyll. No, he would never marry into the family of a slave-holder! And he left Louisiana for New Grenada. From that time on his letters to his brother mark his desire to marry upon returning to France. One is even inclined to think that he was already determined to marry the daughter of a subject race in the United States. From his young years at Sainte-Foy, he knew there of the existence of the family Briant (either Briand or Bryan). According to orthogrophy, this name can either be French or E nglish, but it was found that the old lady educating two young girls, her grand-children, was American, daughter of a Mr. Shock and a Miss Kennedy. One could then imagine that her son, Mr. Briant, citizen of the United States, captain of a merchant-vessel engaged in foreign trade, having two children by a Sengalese, Marie You, has chosen France in order that they should be educated there, knowing the opprobrium that would have attended them in America. In any case, my mother presented Elisée to the ladies Briant, a short time after his return to France. His marriage to the elder one, Clarisse, was decided upon, but did not take place until the following year. It may be supposed that this delay was due to the conditions laid down by Elisée on the question of religion. I know that he had once said: "We shall not have a child so long as it wont be admitted that it shall be unbaptised." The young couple, after a civil marriage, was settled in Paris in the same apartment as the Elies. I believe my mother had the management of the household. It cannot be denied that the will had a part in Elisée's choice, but Clarisse's virtues soon attached his heart. Of an imposing beauty, a majestic gait, a limitless kindness, she made a delicious mother to her two daughters. She was a wife always happy to foresee the desires of her husband. Clarisse and Elisée made a perfect couple, but their union was very brief. Clarisse died young, carried off by hasty consumption a few days after having given birth to a daughter who did not live. Through Magali Régnier and Jeannie Cuisinier, eleven fami lies have issued from the Clarisse-Elisée union. A widower at 39, with two children to raise, Elisée at first entrusted them to his sisters Marie and Ioanna, in the country. But the following year, in the spring of 1870, he turned toward Fanny Lhernier whom he had known as a child in London. Without any legal ceremony, before some relatives and friends in the large salon of Vascoeuil, Elisée and Fanny announced their intention to marry. But how short was that union! Some weeks later, war broke out; Fanny left Paris with the children and settled at Sainte-Foy. At the end of the siege the family was reunited for a few days. Hardly had they returned to Paris when the Commune started. Elisée stayed in prison for nearly one year, and in February 1872, he was escorted to the Swiss frontier and joined his family at Lugano. There Fanny died in 1874, as a result of childbirth, and the baby did not live either. Fanny was a very different type from Clarisse; the latter, all gentleness; the former all will. She did not possess a great amplitude of personal ideas, but her power for work was unimaginable, and her line of conduct inflexible. I many things Elisée and Fanny found themselves at one; she was a woman to his mind. For 20 years after her death an F is always mixed with the E in the signature of Elisée. He was 44 years old at the time of Fanny's death and he did not seek to replace her. For two years he made efforts, which were uncrowned by success, to find a house-keeper who would also take care of his young daughters. Hard at work on the beginnings of his NouvelleGégraphie,he had to receive different sorts of people, cartographers and draughtsmen, which necesitated a kind of open house. In brief, at Lugano, up to the summer of 1874, at La Tour-de Peliz, at Vevey, things went badly rather than well. Elisée had to make up his mind, and in 1876, he associated himself with an old friend of the family (see the "Correspondence", volume 1, page 219, 1862), Ermance Gonin, widow of Trigant-Beaurnont and cousin by marriage of the mother Reclus. She had come to live at Vevey and there raised a child of the age of Elisée's daughters. Ermance possessed very great qualities, notably an extraordinary manual skill, and a developed artistic feeling. Her collection of algae, butterflies, her photographs, are incomparable. Elisée married her at, Zürich at the house of Elie, before a few friends. But the word "association" is more suitable than that of marriage. Ermance was relatively rich, and in order not to be dependent on this money, Elisée and his daughters were simply boarders at the house of Ermance; it is she alone who had the house built at Clarens where the ménage remained for fifteen years. Ermance was the collaborator of Elisée by a quantity of manual works; she released him from all daily cares; she nursed him in his small maladies; she made him easy on the score of his children's education and cordially recieved all the friends her husband brought home. However, Ermance did not cast into oblivion either Clarisse or Fanny. She was almost 50 years old when she was united to Elisée; her ideas were congealed, so to speak, and formed a contrast to those of Elisée; her lack of enthusiasm assumed the form of an absolute skepticism, and little by little opposed itself to the warmest sentiments of her husband. At Brussels, among the audience at his lecture, Elisée met a new Fanny, an energetic, even passionate temperament, a will similar to his own, an ardent, initiative spirit for the good, Mme. Florence de Brouckèe, a widow who was bringing up her children. In accord with Elisée, she organized an Ecole des Petites Etudes, where the little daughters of Elisée entered at the same time with her younger son and several other children of friends. Mme. Florence helped Elisée in many a difficulty. Often Elisée went to spend some days in the country house which Mme. de Broukère possessed at Thourout, between Bruges and Ostend. It is in her house that Elisée died.
Ermance lived up to 1918; she then was 92 years of age. Elie and Elisée were vegetarians, but in different ways, as in all, other manifestations of their character. Reflection had formed the conviction of Elie but, he no more desired to raise difficulties at a dinner in the home of friends, than he desired to give too much trouble to my mother who thought that it was impossible to live without meat. He closed his eyes to the composition of the bouillons which were served him and could, on occasion, eat meat without protesting. Elisée, on the contrary, having taken a determination, held himself to it strictly and broke through all obstacles. I do not think he ate butcher's meat after the death of Clarisse; perhaps, later on, he still partook sometimes of chicken, which he found good; in any case, his daughter tells me, he had become a strict vegetarian from 1892 on. However, a very small quantity of nourishment sufficed him; in the ten last years of his life, particularly, he did not eat, daily, the fourth part of the ration of a man of his age. Three prunes constituted a repast, or a little milk-food, or some fruit; a biscuit, a piece of sugar, always on hand upon his worktable sustained him for hours. Elisée has written on vegetarianism with the proper arguments. Elie had studied all that the Ancients, all that the Moderns had written on the question. At Zürich, descending the staircase of the Stadt-Bibliotek, a stranger accosted him and asked if he found such and such a book, and then such a book in the library. "No, but undoubtedly you wish to seek information concerning the consumption of animal flesh?" "Yes." "Well, take such a book, and then such a book." And in the vestibule, my father furnished him with a complete bibliography. "But," said the other, "should you not be a vegitarian in order to know it at such lenghth?" "Yes, but I do not take the thing too seriously." "What, then, a traitor to your ideas?" Upon reentering the house, Elie was candid enough to relate the scene which had quite abashed him.
We have seen the confidence which the brothers Reclus spread about them, but there is a reverse side to the shield; exlpoiters prowl everwhere. Elie had in his wife a vigilant ally who did not allow herself to be deceived and poor as the couple was, the exactions of which they were the object, never did them much harm. But the Elisée of after 1874, had profesional relations with a great many persons; an isolated individual, adversed to suspicion, he had more than once to do with young profeitiers whose misdeeds were not apparent at first blush. At Brussels it was worse than at Clarens, because he was better known. The Société d'Edition, founded under his name, was a pitiful affair. He permitted himself to he entangled with a legal document for the signature (Elie substituted Elisée who was on a journey) where all responsibilities accumulated upon his head. Nearly twenty people had had themselves hired and not all were honest workers. Unscrupulous administrators reaped the good money that the fame of Elisée brought to the Soditi. When the coffers were empty, the profiteers vanished; no cartographic work was finished, the draughtsmen were "given notice" to seek other occupations, but not all of them wished to understand, for the legal form of the "registered letter" had been voluntarily ignored by Elisée, and their legal rights" continued to run. Revolutionary measures were necessary in order to issue from this difficulty. The young Patesson placed himself one morning at the door of the workroom, and in the position of a boxer, forbade entrance to those who persisted in presenting themselves. However, Elisée did not know until later on. In the meantime, the attorney had lent his ear to the plaintiffs. The brothers Reclus were charged with "fraudulent bankruptcy". Elisée had to ask his friends, professors of the Université Nouvelle to come to his defense, and after many a delay it was found that there was no cause for prosecution. The two brothers escaped free, but for several years after, Elisée had to pay clamorous debts, and his heart was ceaselessly lacerated at the thought that honest men who had confidence in him, had lost their few cents. I have not the least doubt that the period of anxiety which he had to undergo had shortened his life. Elisée certainly did not, in the light of his conduct, follow the advice which he gives in a letter to Roorda: "Do not squander your forces."
The geographical library which Elisée had collected at Brussels during the ten years of his activity, had become rather extensive; it comprised in particular the most important periodicals in the entire world, and was especially well organized. The catalogue was complete; the articles of the reviews were listed by subject and by author, also by books. The maps figured in the catalogue according to region and scale. From 1905 to 1914 this library continued to grow more extensive --- less rapidly, no doubt, but the catalogue was perfectly kept and comprised more than 40,000 items; there was also a very important collection of gravures. This geographic library constituted an excellent medium for work but, outside of the students of the Université Nouvelle, very few indeed was the number of people who made use of it.
Came the war. There was a complete suspension of functions, and the Université never reopened its doors; the usefulness of this library at Brussels was absolutely nil. Seeking some young organization which could make good use of it, a Japanese savant was found desirous of opening at Tokio an Institut de Géographie Elisée Reclus. The library was packed up and expedited. The cases were on the wharf at Yokohama in 1923... The earthquake and conflagration ended this generous project of Mr. Ishimoto
It is difficult to mark the precise dates in the religious evolution of the two brothers. Certainly they abandoned the paternal view points as early as prior to their 20th year, but up to we 1851, we see them make use of the peculiar style of the Scritpture in their writings. It is only through their voyage in England that they seemed to have been cured of all biblical phraseology. On their return to France they joined the socialist ranks, but they did not affiliate themselves with any party. Elie has told me how his brother and himself had frequented the Blanquist groups (toward 1860) and why they retired. Blanqui did not disdain petty means to maintain fervor among his disciples, flattering first this one, than that one; creating rivalries between both; in brief, practicing on little scale the science of government. Earning his bread as a correspondent of foreign journals, Elie was able to consecrate a part of his time to the socialist dailies, to L'Association then to Coopération. In 1866, he is manager of the Société Credit au Travail. The name of Elisée appeared less in these journals, but there is no doubt that he was active as his elder brother. I have some indications which make me believe that the two brothers made part of a clandestine revolutionary group, but I am not certain of it. I recall the day of the funeral of Victor Noir when about 100,000 Parisians demonstrated against the Empire; I see the departure of the men and the anxiety of my mother. In the meanwhile, by a letter of Elisée to Pierre Faure, we see them voting in 1869. Then came the war of the Commune, but before relating some recollections of that troubled period it seems to me better to glance backward in order to speak of the rôle of Elisée in the War of the Secession, without which some of the subsequent events would remain incomprehensible. Having lived in Louisiana, Elisée could speak with knowledge of the cause of the slavery question in the United States; he also knew the geography of the regions where the struggle developed between the Northerners and the Southerners. When the war broke out, Elisée had the Revue des Deux Mondes accept articles which had a noticeable influence. He placed all the ardor of his youth and convictions, all his descriptive talent, at the service of the abolitionists and was undoubtedly one of the elements of French opinion on this period. This press-campaign was bound to have a certain echo in the United States, for I find in the photoalbums about 50 portraits of volunteers of the Federal army, with their names and the designation of their regiment. A certain number of these photographs bear postage stamps seeming to indicate that they were sent directly by the young soldier to the Parisian writer. But the government of Washington also noticed these articles. The ambassador of the United States, at the French Empire was, at that time, if my memory does not deceive me, Washburn. He made an offer of recompense to Elisée Reclus, and upon the young man's refusal, formed a friendship for him. It is aided by Washburn, that, during the Commune, Miss Putnam could learn that Elisée was alive and in which prison he was detained. I have not the least doubt, that, in the following year, Washburn was the person who stiffed up the Anglo-American savants and manoeuvered so that Elisée should not be sent to New Caledonia.
The Franco-German war was put to an end by the armstice of 1871; elections had to take place the following month. Elisée had decided to present himself for the deputation in the Lower Pyrenees, but the letter, through which he proposed his candidature arrived too late (Nettlau). His name, says Nettlau again, is found on two posters of a polling district. Probably he was not then opposed to becoming deputy, considering, on this occasion and at this time of his life, that this mandate bore a dangerous post. My father has told me that in their district, his brother and he had had votes but that having had to ascertain the result of the ballot, as he was, he had pitilessly thrown into the waste-basket the bulletins which were not sufficiently explicit, bearing Reclus for short, or E. Reclus. It is also possible that this detail should bear relation to the elections of the Commune, at the end of March.- In any case, never in their lives were either of the two brothers elected to any office. Their young brother, Paul, at the end of his life, was counsellor general in the Lower Pyrenees. March 18, Elisée, Elie and Paul were at their soldier's post at the service of the Commune in the 119th infantry batallion, Elie wounded in the right hand, in a section of litter-bearers, Elisée fighting, Paul as doctor. Fanny and the little girls had returned to Paris with Elisée, my mother and myself arrived at Paris only on April 3; but that day, out of three men, my father was alone in the house, and we did not know what had become of the two others. The next day, toward noon, the doorbell rang; I went to open it, it was my uncle Paul who came after the battle of the Plateau de Châtillon, unable to say what fate bad overtaken Elisée. It is by mistake that my father did not participate in the battle, the recital of which is found in his work La Commune au Jour le Jour. In the night of the second and third of April the battalion was in line upon the Place Vendôme, waiting for the order to depart. At two o'clock a chief came to announce that the night would be calm and sent the stretcher-bearers home. A half hour later, the general had changed his mind and the Parisian army advanced... Elisée was taken prisoner with a great many others. Paul attended the wounded and with the convenience of the doctors of the regular army, was able to steal off to Paris. One month later, Miss Putnam, after numberless searchings among the living and the dead, ended by Finding Elisée up on one of the pontoons of the road to Brest, from where he was transferred to the fort of Quélern. He never liked to speak of the first days of his detention. There can be no doubt that these were terrible and that a number of his comrades were shot or had become mad. There was the march of the convoy of prisoners from Châtillon to Versailles, the ignoble attitude of the crowds in the streets of the town, the provisional detention in the local prisons, the journey in cattle-cars for four days up to Brest... In his work my father has related what life at Paris was during the Commune. I was 12 years old then and I retained a very clear recollection of events. I recall quite plainly the visit of Aristide Rey, secretary of Edouard Vaillant, delegate of Public Instruction. He came to ask my father to occupy the post of director of the Bibliothéque Nationale, a function which Elie Reclus exercised, in effect, from the end of April. He has not spoken of the difficulties encountered there. I only know that some officials placed themselves in opposition to him, and that one of them, at least, was dismissed. During the first days of the "Bloody Week", Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of May, my father was at his post, and took all precautions to preserve the Bibliothèque from the fire which ravaged part of the Capital. In order to complete what he tells of these lugubrious days, I will say that he slept Monday at the house of Kneip whilst the women and children of the family took shelter at the home of Thiébaut, friends disposing of a great, empty house upon the Quai de la Rapée (The other tennants of the house at the Rue des Feuillantines had given us notice that they would prefer us tp depart. My mother also was compromised by having been, during the Commune, a member of the Council of Feminine Education.) Certain scenes spoken of in my father's work are still plainly present in my memory: Paris in the light of the conflageration as seen from the Pont de Percy. (I held on to his arm and found him stationed there for a long time); the battle for the possession of the Pont d'Austerlitz; the destruction of part of the house of Quai de la Rapée by a cannonball discharged from a little vessel of the regular army 100 meters distant; the descent of the soldiers of "order" into the cave where we found ourselves to the number of 40; the morning noise of the fusillades of prisoners, in the prison of Mazas, very near our refuge...Saturday our hosts prayed my father to seek another shelter. My mother and myself went all over Paris trying to find a place; at last we were accepted by two ladies, mother and daughter, whose husbands were hidden in the outskirts. I have forgotten the names of these courageous women. Sunday evening my parents and myself entered into this house on the Rue du Temple in the twilight and we were installed on the fifth floor, in a room which the neighbors believed uninhabited. We remained there 15 days, shutters closed and without making the least noise. I alone went out for provisions and brought something to eat. Then, one day, our friend Fran¸cois Huet and his sister Adéle came to seek my parents, and the two couples, arm in arm, walked to the Rue de Pot-de-Fer-Sainte-Marcel (in the Mouffetard quarter where my parents were well-known.) Elie and Noémi sojourned several months at the house of Huet, professor of mathematics at the Collège Sainte-Barbe. As for myself, I passed a few days at the house of another friend, Schmahl, and the rest of the summer at Vascoeuil; the family of Elisée were at Sainte-Foy. In September or October, Schmahl procured for my father a ticket of an Italian emigrant returning to his country; and when from there Elie had reached Switzerland, he had us rejoin him in Lausanne. More than 20 years later Elisée also had to pass through a period in which great prudence was necessary. In 1894 he was at Brussels at the time of the assassination of President Carnot. His arrest was several times, announced, then contradicted. Undoubtedly the governamental current of opinion ran to giving the anarchist party a "knock on the head" but the international police, in Belgium as elsewhere, obeyed contradictory orders. In a letter included in the 3rd volume of the "Correspondance" (169-170), Elisée says that he kept himself snug at the seashore at Knocke, but he does not state how he got there. In reality, one day, the arrest had been decided upon, but a "sympathetic ear" heard it immediately; an instant after, a young man C-, in whom Elisée trusted, presented himself at the house: "I am going to lead you away"; and a moment later they were both in the street, before the police arrived. By the shortest cuts, C- escorted Elisée to the house of his father, who was prison director in a large city in Flanders. Elisée remained there for some days, tranquilly working; his absence at Brussels having been duly ascertained, the order for his arrest was withdrawn and Elisée thought it wise to install himself at Knocke.
Having chosen Zürich for the education of his sons, Elie Reclus found himself outside of the socialist movement there, and his works urged him more and more toward ethnology and thence toward the science of religions. His name is hardly met with any longer in the advanced Socialist press, yet for all that his ideas had not at all modified. I have a memory of him that characterized his conception of socialism toward 1885. At a Monday soirée, Rue Monge, Paris, Attila de Gérando, an excellent young man, living in comparative wealth, put this question to him: "What can I do for the solution of the Social Problern?" Elie, eluding a direct reply, said: "Have you ever been hungry without knowing where your next meal is to come from? Have you ever wandered about without knowing where to lodge?" "No." "Ah, then, you cannot possibly comprehend the social question." "But-" "No, if the remedies do not spring from your heart, it is useless for you to approach the problem." And Attila could draw nothing else from him that evening. Elisée on the shore of the Lake of Geneva from 1874 to 1890, made part of the active center of the French-speaking part of Swiss, Geneva and the Jurasian Federation. Not a week passed without his receiving visitors or making some call, without discussion, without being taxed for an article, or a lecture. Ideas are in plain evolution. The doctrine assumes successive forms. I recall the following conversation in 1876, which contains nothing communistic. Ermance says (this happened before his marriage) "And what will my nephew become in this new society? All that he can do is very little work." "Well, then he will get very little food." A bit later I heard him say: "We are not collectivists, but communists libertarians." However, beginning from 1876, I saw Elisée rarely and it is in Le Révolté that one must follow the development of the anarchist theory. It is my impression that Elisée was not the initiator, but that he gave a logical conclusion to discussions and formulated in clear terms the aspirations of his group of friends, Gross, Herzig, Kropotkin, Dumartheray, Grave, etc. His preponderant action diminished a great deal when the journal was transferred to Paris. Elie has written much less than his brother and especially published less, but his researches have extended to many more domains. He knew of the natural sciences all that had been discovered before 1850; he knew the arts better than many a critic. He penetrated to the true essence of all things and saw every one of these under all the aspects of the most diverse points of view. He descended into the souls of his fellow-citizens, as into those of primitive folk, and he realized the narrow space which separated the civilized man from the brute. If he fought political institutions, it was without hatred for his antagonists; if he extolled energetic measures, it was without blindness to the importance of the possible result. He especially believed in the power of personal reflection; through the play of subconscious transmissions, a problem solved for himself by an isolated individual becomes the appanage of the whole world. "How relieved I have been when I understood that I am nothing but a bit of the nervous system of the human species," he said to me. The evolution of the species consists in the sum of perfections imagined by individual brains; progress is the result of the unconscious struggle of intelligencies, and forms the intelligence of the race. And how well this conception was adapted to a certain natural idleness, to a need for contemplation, to a horror of success. Of what use was it to seek an editor? "Beware of success", said he, and this is, without doubt, the best résumé of his wisdom. Elisée, as Elie, was not unaware of the fragility of human virtue, but he also knew the force of the will, and for every individual in particular he hoped that the miracle had worked. Elie saw evolution in general, Elisée the particular mutations. "Time is necessary to modify humanity," says one, "A new type creates a new mentality and sweeps away all hesitations," says the other. Elisée had immediate and energetic reflexes, all of a piece; he crushed an obstacle hardly glimpsed. Elie, on his death bed reminded him of their journey from Montauban on the Mediterranean, in 1849, a result of which was their expulsion from the Faculty. "When we saw the sea (from the height of the mountain of the Clape,) you were so moved that you bit on the shoulder until the blood came." The soul of Elisée was a laboratory of boiling reactions; the elaborated matter escaped through pen, words, acts. Nothing for him, everything for the other; his motto was: "Travaillons à nous rendre inutiles."
PAUL RECLUS, SON OF ELIE