FRIEND. As my wife and myself were at breakfast this morning, we came to the conclusion that you should print, as soon as possible, your Gastronomical Observations.
AUTHOR. What the wife wishes God wills. In six words that is the charta of Paris. I, though, am not subject to that law, for I am an unmarried man.
FRIEND. Bachelors, though, are as subject to the law as others are, sometimes much to our injury. Single blessedness here, however, will not save you. My wife says she has a right to order, because you began your book at her country-house.
AUTHOR. You know, dear Doctor, how I defer to the ladies; more than once you have found my submission to their orders. You also were one of those who said I would make an excellent husband. I will not, however, print my book.
FRIEND. Why not?
AUTHOR. Because being devoted, from the nature of my profession, to serious studies, I fear that those who only know the title of my book will think that I devote myself to trifles.
FRIEND. A panic terror! Thirty-six years of constant toil and labor for the public, have made you a reputation. Besides, my wife and I think every body would read you.
FRIEND. The learned will read your book to ascertain what you have to tell.
FRIEND. Women will read your book because they will see —–
AUTHOR. My dear friend, I am old, I am attacked by a fit of wisdom. Miserere mei.
FRIEND. Gourmands will read you because you do them justice, and assign them their suitable rank in society.
AUTHOR. Well, that is true. It is strange that they have so long been misunderstood; I look on the dear Gourmands with paternal affection. They are so kind and their eyes are so bright.
FRIEND. Besides, did you not tell me such a book was needed in every library.
AUTHOR. I did. It is the truth — and I would die sooner than deny it.
FRIEND: Ah! you are convinced! You will come home with me?
AUTHOR. Not so. If there be flowers in the author’s path, there are also thorns. The latter I leave to my heirs.
FRIEND. But then you disinherit your friends, acquaintances and cotemporaries. Dare you do so?
AUTHOR. My heirs! my heirs! I have heard that shades of the departed are always flattered by the praise of the living; this is a state of beatitude I wish to reserve myself for the other world.
FRIEND. But are you sure that the praise you love so, will come to the right address? Are you sure of the exactness of your heirs?
AUTHOR. I have no reason to think they will neglect a duty, in consideration of which I have excused them the neglect of so many others.
FRIEND. Will they — can they have for your book the paternal love, the author’s attention without which every work always comes awkwardly before the public?
AUTHOR. My manuscript will be corrected, written out distinctly, and in all respects prepared; they will only have to print it.
FRIEND. And the chapter of events? Alas! such circumstances have caused the loss of many precious books — among which was that of the famous Lecat, on the state of the body during sleep, the work of his whole life.
AUTHOR. This doubtless was a great loss; but I anticipate no such regrets for my book.
FRIEND. Believe me, your friends will have enough to do-to arrange matters with the church, with the law, and with the medical faculty, so that if they had the will, they would not have the time to devote them-selves to the various cares which precede, accompany, and follow the publication of a book — however small the volume may be.
AUTHOR. But, my friend, what a title! Think of the ridicule!
FRIEND. The word Gastronomy makes every ear attentive; the subject is a la mode, and those who laugh are as great votaries of the science as any others are. This should satisfy you. Do you remember too, that the greatest men have sometimes written books on very trivial subjects,–Montesquieu, for example. *
[* M. de Monjucla, known as the author of an excellent history of mathematics, made a Dictionary of Gourmand Geography; he showed me portions of it during my residence at Versailles. It is said that M. Berryat–Professor of legal practice, has written a romance in several volumes on the subject.]
AUTHOR. (Quickly.) On my word, that is true. He wrote the Temple of Gnidus, and it would not be difficult to sustain that there is more real utility in meditating on what is at once a necessity, a pleasure, and an occupation every day of our lives, than in telling what was done and said a thousand years ago by two mad people, one of whom pursued through the woods of Greece the other, who had not the least disposition to escape.
FRIEND. Ah! ha! Now you yield?
AUTHOR. Not I. The ass’s ear of the author only was shown; and this recalls to my memory a scene of English comedy, which amused me very much; it is, I think, in the play called the Natural Daughter. You shall see, however, for yourself. * The subject relates to the Quakers, that sect which uses “thee” and “thou” to everybody, which dresses simply, never go to war, never swear or act with passion, and who never get angry. The hero of this piece is a young and handsome Quaker, who appears on the scene in a brown coat, a broad-brimmed hat, and slick hair! All this, though, does not keep him from being in love.
[* The reader will observe that my friend permits me to be familiar with him, without taking advantage of it. The reason is, that the difference between our ages is that of a father and a son, and that, though now a man of great note and importance in every respect, he would be completely overcome with grief if I changed my bearing towards him.]
A fool who is his rival, emboldened by his exterior, ridicules and outrages him so that the young man gradually becoming excited, and finally made furious, gives his assailant a severe thrashing.
Having done this he at once resumes his habitual deportment and says, sadly, “Alas! the flesh is too mighty for the spirit.”
Thus say I, and after a brief hesitation resume my first opinion.
FRIEND. That is impossible. You have shown your ear; you are a prize, and I will take you to my bookseller. I will tell you who has gotten wind of your secret.
AUTHOR. Do not; for I would speak of yourself, and who knows what I would say?
FRIEND. What could you say? Do not think you can intimidate me.
AUTHOR. I will not say that our native city * is proud of having given you birth. At the age of twenty-four you published an elementary book, which from that day has become a classic. A deserved reputation has attracted confidence to you. Your skill revives invalids; your dexterity animates them; your sensibility consoles them. All know this; but I will reveal to all Paris, to all France, the sole fault of which I know you guilty.
[* Belley, capital of Bugey, where high mountains, hills, vines, limpid streams, cascades, dells, gardens of a hundred square leagues are found, and where, BEFORE the revolution, the people were able to control the other two orders.]
FRIEND. (Seriously.) What do you mean?
AUTHOR. An habitual fault which no persuasion can correct.
FRIEND. Tell me what you mean! Why torment me?
AUTHOR. You eat too quickly.
(Here, the friend takes up his hat and leaves, fancying that he has made a convert.)
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05