Curiosities of Literature, by Isaac Disraeli

The Absent Man.

The character of Bruyère’s “Absent Man” has been translated in the Spectator, and exhibited on the theatre. It is supposed to be a fictitious character, or one highly coloured. It was well known, however, to his contemporaries, to be the Count de Brancas. The present anecdotes concerning the same person were unknown to, or forgotten by, Bruyère; and are to the full as extraordinary as those which characterise Menalcas, or the Absent Man.

The count was reading by the fireside, but Heaven knows with what degree of attention, when the nurse brought him his infant child. He throws down the book; he takes the child in his arms. He was playing with her, when an important visitor was announced. Having forgot he had quitted his book, and that it was his child he held in his hands, he hastily flung the squalling innocent on the table.

The count was walking in the street, and the Duke de la Rochefoucault crossed the way to speak to him. —“God bless thee, poor man!” exclaimed the count. Rochefoucault smiled, and was beginning to address him:—“Is it not enough,” cried the count, interrupting him, and somewhat in a passion; “is it not enough that I have said, at first, I have nothing for you? Such lazy vagrants as you hinder a gentleman from walking the streets.” Rochefoucault burst into a loud laugh, and awakening the absent man from his lethargy, he was not a little surprised, himself, that he should have taken his friend for an importunate mendicant! La Fontaine is recorded to have been one of the most absent men; and Furetière relates a most singular instance of this absence of mind. La Fontaine attended the burial of one of his friends, and some time afterwards he called to visit him. At first he was shocked at the information of his death; but recovering from his surprise, observed —“True! true! I recollect I went to his funeral.”

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37