Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

for him, which goes so far as to suffer him to break your china, provided he will condescend to eat out of your hand, to render you unjust towards us. Where is the proof that we have ever eaten any of his children? or do we and his species ever approach each other? Always keeping upon the roofs of the houses at a distance from us, do they not manifest a distrust of us, at which we have just reason to be offended? Let the whole wood-yard be examined next spring, and if any traces of murder be discovered, we will be among the most forward in endeavouring to detect the malefactors, and give them up to justice. But the pigeons are not like us poor humble cats, confined to the soil where we were born; they can fly in the air to another country; those whom you miss, jealous no doubt of the preference shown by you to some over the rest, have taken their flight in search of equality, to some republican dove-cote, rather than drag on a painful existence under the insolent tyranny of your favorite Coco. The accusation brought against us with regard to the canarybirds, you must see yourselfis wholly absurd, and a gross imposture. The intervals in the lattice of your aviary are so narrow, that when sometimes we have in sport endeavoured to thrust a paw through them, it was not without the utmost difficulty that we could withdraw it again. It is true, that we sometimes amuse ourselves with watching the little innocent sports of these pretty creatures, but we cannot reproach ourselves with having ever shed a drop of their blood. We shall not endeavour to defend ourselves equally from devouring as many sparrows, blackbirds, and thrushes, as we can possibly catch. But here we have to plead in extenuation, that our most cruel enemies, your Abbés themselves, are incessantly complaining of the ravages made by these birds among the cherries and other fruit. The Sieur Abbé Morellet, in particular, is always thundering the most violent anathemas against the blackbirds and thrushes, for plundering your vines, which they do with as little mercy as he himself. To us, however, most illustrious Lady, it appears that the grapes may just as well be eaten by blackbirds as by Abbés, and that our warfare against the winged plunderers will be fruitless, if you encourage other biped and featherless pilferers, who make ten times more havoc. We know that we are also accused of eating nightingales, who never plunder, and sing, as they say, most enchantingly. It is indeed possible that we may now and then have gratified our palates with a delicious morsel in this way, but we can assure you that it was in utter ignorance of your affection for the species; and that, resembling sparrows in their plumage, we, who make no pretensions to being connoisseurs in music, could not distinguish the song of the one from that of the other, and therefore supposed ourselves regaling only on sparrows. A cat belonging to M. Piccini" has assured us, that they who only know how to mew, cannot be any judges of the art of singing; and on this we rest for our justification. However, we will henceforward exert our utmost endeavours to distinguish the Gluckists, f who are, as we are informed, the sparrows, from the Piccinists, who are the nightingales. We only intreat of you to pardon the inadvertence into which we may possibly fall, if, in roving after nests, we may sometimes fall upon a brood of Piccinists, who, being then destitute of plumage, and not having learnt to sing, will have no mark by which to distinguish them. The last imputation we are called upon to repel, most illustrious Lady, is that of suffering your house to be infested with such a quantity of mice. They make terrible havoc, it is said, with your sugar and sweetmeats; they gnaw the books of your savans, and even nibble the slippers of Mademoiselle Luillier, f as she is walking. It is urged, that cats, being created by Providence (who watches with equal goodness over all his creatures) for no other purpose but to eat mice, deserve nothing better when they fail in the object of their vocation, than to be drowned. Certainly, most illustrious Lady, it is easy to discover in this language, the influence of personal interest in the mouths of our accusers. The Sieur Cabanis, who makes an enormous consumption of sweetmeats in your house, and who is always ready to steal a lump of sugar when he thinks he can do it unobserved, has certainly very good reasons for making you consider the gourmandise of a few mice, who nibble a loaf of sugar, or begin eating a pot of jelly before him, as a capital crime; but he shows a mind still more atrocious than interested, when he would condemn us as meriting death because we do not prevent the little animals availing themselves, to the best of their power, of a system of spoliations which he himself, great as he is, practises every day without discretion and without remorse, Could he carry his barbarity towards us further, if we were, like the mice and himself, sugarivorous and sweetmeativorous animals? Is it not manifest, that gourmandise alone inspires him

* An Italian composer.
# The admirers of Gluck, a German composer.
t An old waiting-maid of Madame Helvetius.
§ A friend of Madame Helvetius, who lived in her house.

VOL. II. 28 S

with sentiments so cruel, and can you give them admission into your bosom 1 With regard to the books of the Abbé de la Roche, and that other savant," whose speech at the Academy we just now read as it wrapped up a calf's lights which you had the goodness to give us; with regard to their books, we ask, where is the great harm if they are sometimes gnawed a little by the mice? Of what use to them is all their reading ! Since they have lived with you, must they not be fully convinced of the inutility of all knowledge? They see you good without the assistance of Treatises upon Morals; charming in your manners without having read our historiographer Moncrief’s Art of Pleasing; and happy without being acquainted with the Treatise on Happiness, by the unfortunate Maupertuis. While they are the daily witnesses of your profound ignorance, they, who know so many things, are wholly unacquainted with the art you know so well,—of being able to dispense with knowing anything. Your orthography is not much better than ours, and your writing is very like the scratching of a cat's paw. You totally mistake the way to spell happiness, but you enjoy the thing without knowing how it should be written; that happiness, in short, which they cannot draw from their books, you shed around them from the eminence of your ignorance. The mice cannot, therefore, as we have proved, do them any great injury. As to the slippers of Mademoiselle Luillier, if she would only creep on at a somewhat less drawling pace, the mice would not be able to get at them; and it is strange that you would condemn us to death because your waiting-maid moves only a snail’s pace. But these reasons, strong as they are, are not the only ones which may excuse us towards you for the spoliations committed in your house by the mice. Ah! most illustrious Lady, with what conscience can we be reproached for not catching them, when you have constantly about you two large dogs thirsting for our blood, who will not permit us to approach your beloved person, as duty and gratitude would lead us to do? Two dogs! this is saying enough; they are animals brought up in the utmost hatred of our species; their barking always fills us with terror. How can any one be so unjust as to reproach us with keeping at a distance from places where animals thus ferocious, whom nature has inspired with such aversion to us, and such power to destroy us, reign uncontrolled? Nay, farther, if the question were only of French dogs, there might be hopes that their hatred would not be so active, that their ferocity would not be

* The Abbé Morellet.

so alarming; but you must needs take into your service (in contempt of the wise decrees of the comptroller-general) a bull-dog which you have imported from England, who hates us doubly; in the first place, as cats, and still more ardently as French cats. We see daily before our eyes the cruel effects of his rage in the shortened tail of our brother Le Noir. Our zeal to serve you, united with the natural taste we have for mice, would lead us to form hunting-parties in your apartments, if we were not banished by these formidable enemies, whom you have made masters of them. Let us no longer, therefore, be reproached with the disorders committed against you by the mice, since we are deprived of the possibility of repressing them.

Alas! those happy times are no more, when that illustrious cat Pompon reigned in these places, slept in your lap, and reposed upon your couch! when that Zemira,* who now so eagerly endeavours to procure our downfall, humbly paid his court to the favorite whose situation he now occupies. Then could we parade about the house with our tails in the air; the late M. Pompon would sometimes condescend to share with us the rabbits graciously sent him by His Majesty from his shooting-parties; and under the protection of this illustrious favorite we enjoyed peace and happiness. Those happy times, we must repeat, are, alas! no more; we live under the reign of a dog; sunk in deep and lasting regrets for the cat, beneath whose empire such enjoyments were ours, while our only consolation is to go every night, and water with our tears the cypress which shadows his tomb!

Ah, most illustrious Lady! let the memory of the cat you so much loved, inspire you at least with some compassion towards us. We are not indeed of his race, since he was devoted to chastity from his youth; but we are of his species. His manes, still wandering about this spot, call upon you to revoke the sanguinary order which menaces our days; and all those which you preserve to us shall be consecrated to mewing forth our lasting gratitude, while the beneficent act shall be handed down by us to our children's children. +

• A little dog.

| In this article, and in the others under the head of BAGATELLES, both the French and the translations are printed as they stand in W. T. Franklin's edition. - EDITOR.

À MONSIEUR L'ABBÉ DE LA ROCHE, À AUTEUIL.

J'ai parcouru, mon cher ami, le petit livre de poésies de M. Helvétius, dont vous m'avez fait cadeau. Le poëme sur le Bonheur m'a donné beaucoup de plaisir, et m'a fait ressouvenir d'une petite chanson à boire, que j'ai faite il y a quarante ans sur le même sujet, et qui avoit à-peu-près le même plan, et plusieurs des mêmes pensées, mais bien densement exprimées. La voici.

Singer.
Fair Venus calls; her voice obey,
In beauty's arms spend night and day..
The joys of love all joys excel,
And loving 's certainly doing well.

Chorus

Oh! no!
Not so!
For honest souls know,
Friends and a bottle still bear the bell.

Singer.
Then let us get money, like bees lay up honey ;
We'll build us new hives, and store each cell.
The sight of our treasure shall yield us great pleasure;
We'll count it, and chink it, and jingle it well.

Chorus.

Oh! no !
Not so !
For honest souls know,
Friends and a bottle still bear the bell.

Singer. If this does not fit ye, let 's govern the city, In power is pleasure no tongue can tell ; By crowds though you 're teased, your pride shall be pleased, And this can make Lucifer happy in hell!

« ZurückWeiter »