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CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS TO HIS SON.
I had with him, I had the best right to superiority, for it was upon philology and literature.”
It was well remarked how extraordinary a thing it was that a man who loved his son so entirely should do all he could to make him a rascal. And Foote even contemplated bringing on the stage a father who had thus tutored his son; and intended to show the son an honest man in every thing else, but practicing his father's maxims upon him, and cheating him.
“ It should be so contrived,” Johnson remarked, referring to Foote's plan, “that the father should be the only sufferer by the son's villainy, and thus there would be poetical justice.” “Take out the immorality,” he added, on another occasion, “and the book (Chesterfield's Letters to his Son) should be put into the hands of every young gentleman."
We are inclined to differ, and to confess to a moral taint throughout the whole of the Letters; and even had the immorality been expunged, the false motives, the deep, invariable advocacy of principles of expediency would have poisoned what otherwise might be of effectual benefit to the minor virtues of polite society.
THE ABBÉ SCARRON.
THERE is an Indian or Chinese legend, I forget which, from which Mrs. Shelley may have taken her hideous idea of Frankenstein. We are told in this allegory that, after fashioning some thousands of men after the most approved model, endowing them with all that is noble, generous, admirable, and lovable in man or woman, the eastern Prometheus grew weary in his work, stretched his hand for the beer-can, and draining it too deeply, lapsed presently into a state of what Germans call “other-man-ness." There is a simpler Anglo-Saxon term for this condition, but I spare you. The eastern Prometheus went on seriously with his work, and still produced the same perfect models, faultless alike in brain and leg. But when it came to the delicate finish, when the last touches were to be made, his hand shook a little, and the more delicate members went awry. It was thus that instead of the power of seeing every color properly, one man came out with a pair of optics which turned every thing to green, and this verdancy probably transmitted itself to the intelligence. Another, to continue the allegory, whose tympanum had slipped a little under the unsteady fingers of the man-maker, heard every thing in a wrong sense, and his life was miserable, because, if you sang his praises, he believed you were ridiculing him, and if you heaped abuse upon him, he thought you were telling lies of him.
But as Prometheus Orientalis grew more jovial, it seems to have come into his head to make mistakes on purpose. have a friend to laugh with," quoth he; and when warned by an attendant Yaksha, or demon, that men who laughed one hour often wept the next, he swore a lusty oath, struck his thumb heavily on a certain bump in the skull he was completing, and holding up his little dols, cried, “ Here is one who will laugh at every thing !"
I must now add what the legend neglects to tell. The model laugher succeeded well enough in his own reign, but he could not beget a large family. The laughers who never weep, the real clowns of life, who do not, when the curtain drops, retire, after an infinitesimal allowance of “ cordial,” to a halfstarved, complaining family, with brats that cling round his parti-colored stockings, and cry to him—not for jokes—but for
bread, these laughers, I say, are few and far between. You should, therefore, be doubly grateful to me for introducing to you now one of the most famous of them; one who, with all right and title to be lugubrious, was the merriest man of his age.
On Shrove Tuesday, in the year 1638, the good city of Mans was in a state of great excitement: the carnival was at its height, and every body was gone mad for one day before turning pious for the long, dull forty days of Lent. The marketplace was filled with maskers in quaint costumes, each wilder and more extravagant than the last. Here were magicians with high peaked hats covered with cabalistic signs, here Eastern sultans of the medieval model, with very fierce looks and very large cimeters: here Amadis de Gaul with a wagging plume a yard high, here Pantagruel, here harlequins, here Huguenots ten times more lugubrious than the despised sectaries they mocked, here Cæsar and Pompey in trunk hose and Roman helmets, and a mass of other notabilities who were great favorites in that day, appeared.
But who comes here? What is the meaning of these roars of laughter that greet the last mask who runs into the market-place? Why do all the women and children hurry together, calling up one another, and shouting with delight? What is this thing? Is it some new species of bird thus covered with feathers and down? In a few minutes the little figure is surrounded by a crowd of boys and women, who begin to pluck him of his borrowed plumes, while he chatters to them like a magpie, whistles like a song-bird, croaks like a raven, or in his natural character showers a mass of funny nonsense on them, till their laughter makes their sides ache. The little wretch is literally covered with small feathers from head to foot, and even his face is not to be recognized. The women pluck him behind and before; he dances round and tries to evade their fingers. This is impossible; he breaks away, runs down the market pursued by a shouting crowd, is again surrounded, and again subjected to a plucking process. The bird must be stripped; he must be discovered. Little by little his back is bared, and little by little is seen a black jerk in, black stockings, and, wonder upon wonder! the bands of a canon. Now they have cleared his face of its plumage, and a cry of disgust and shame hails the disclosure. Yes, this curious masker is no other than a reverend abbé, a young canon of the cathedral of Mans ! “ This is too much-it is scandalous—it is disgraceful. The church must be respected, the sacred order must not descend to such frivolities. The people, lately laughing, are now furious at the shameless abbé, and not his liveliest wit can save him; they threaten and cry
A MAD FREAK AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.
shame on him, and in terror of his life, he beats his way through the crowd, and takes to his heels. The mob follows hooting and savage. The little man is nimble; those wellshaped legs-qui ont si bien dansé-stand him in good stead. Down the streets, and out of the town go hare and hounds. The pursuers gain on him-a bridge, a stream filled with tall reeds, and delightfully miry, are all the hope of refuge he sees before him. He leaps gallantly from the bridge in among the osiers, and has the joy of listening to the disappointed curses of the mob, when reaching the stream their quarry is nowhere to be seen. The reeds conceal him, and there he lingers till nightfall, when he can issue from his lurking-place and escape
from the town. Such was the mad freak which deprived the Abbé Scarron of the use of his limbs for life. His health was already ruined when he indulged in this caprice; the damp of the river brought on a violent attack, which closed with palsy, and the gay young abbé had to pay dearly for the pleasure of astonishing the citizens of Mans. The disguise was easily accounted for—he had smeared himself with honey, ripped open a feather-bed, and rolled himself in it.
This little incident gives a good idea of what Scarron was in his younger days—ready at any time for any wild caprice.
Paul Scarron was the son of a Conseiller du Parlement of good family, resident in Paris. IIe was born in 1610, and his early days would have been wretched enough, if his elastic spirits had allowed him to give way to misery. His father was a good-natured, weak-minded man, who on the death of his first wife married a second, who, as one hen will peck at another's chicks, would not, as a stepmother, leave the little Paul in peace. She was continually putting her own children forward, and ill treating the late "anointed” son. The father gave in too readily, and young Paul was glad enough to be set free from his unhappy home. There may be some excuse in this for the licentious living to which he now gave himself up. He was heir to a decent fortune, and of course thought himself justified in spending it beforehand. Then, in spite of his quaint little figure, he had something attractive about him, for his merry face was good-looking, if not positively handsome. If we add to this, spirits as buoyant as an Irishman's -a mind that not only saw the ridiculous wherever it existed, but could turn the most solemn and awful themes to laughter, a vast deal of good-nature, and not a little assurance—we can understand that the young Scarron was a favorite with both men and women, and among the reckless pleasure-seekers of the day soon became one of the wildest. In short, he was a fast young