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The last rare is that which excites admiration. We never admire that which is common; we enjoy it.
A virtuoso is preferred to other poor mortals, when he
possesses in his cabinet a rare medal which is good for nothing, a rare book which no one has the courage to read, and an old engraving of Albert Durer, badly designed and executed: and he triumphs if he has in his garden a stunted tree brought from America. This virtuoso has no taste; he has merely vanity. He has heard say that the beautiful is rare; but he ought to know that all which is rare is not beautiful.
Excellence is rare in all the works of nature and of art.
Though much evil has been said of women, I maintain that it is more rare to find women perfectly beautiful than passably good.
In the provinces, you will meet with ten thousand women, attached to their household affairs, sober and laborious, nourishing, rearing, and instructing their children; and you can scarcely find one whom you could exhibit at the spectacles of Paris, London, Naples, or in the public gardens, or who can be regarded as a beauty.
The same in works of art-you have ten thousand daubs for one masterpiece.
If everything was beautiful and good, it is clear that we should no longer admire anything; we should possess it; but should we have pleasure in possessing it? that is the great question.
Why have the fine passages of the Cid, of the Horatii, and of Cinna, had such prodigious success? It is, that, in the profound obscurity in which we plunged, we suddenly saw a new light shine which we expected not; it is, that excellence is the rarest thing in the world. The
groves of Versailles were at that time of unique beauty in the world, as were certain passages of Corneille. St. Peter's of Rome is unique, and people go from the end of the world in extacy to behold it.
But suppose all the churches of Europe equalled St. Peter's at Rome, that all statues were like that of
I still say
the Venus de Medicis, that all tragedies were as fine as Racine's Iphigenia, all poetic works as well written as the Art Poetique of Boilieau, all comedies as good as Le Tartuffe, and thus with all things,-should we then have pleasure in possessing the same masterpieces become common, which we so much relished when they were rare?, I say boldly no; and I therefore believe that the old school is right, which it is so rarely. ‘Ab assuetis non fit passio'-custom makes not liking.
But, my dear reader, would it be the same with works of nature? Should you be disgusted if all the girls were Helens; and you, ladies, if all the boys were Parises ? Suppose that all wines were excellent, should you have the less inclination to drink? if partridges, pheasants, and woodcocks were common at all times, would you have less appetite? boldly, no, notwithstanding the school maxim— custom makes not liking;' and the reason you know is, that all the pleasures which nature gives us are continually renewed wants, necessary enjoyments, and that the pleasures of the arts are not necessary. It is not necessary for man to have groves in which water spouts up an hundred feet from the mouth of a marble figure, or to go from these groves to see a fine tragedy. But the two sexes are always necessary to one another. The table and the bed are necessary.
The custom of being alternately upon these two thrones will never disgust
us. When the little savoyards were shown for the first time, the rarity!—the curiosity! was exclaimed, and nothing was really more rare. It was a masterpiece of optics, invented it is said by Kercher; but it was not necessary, and there are no more fortunes to be made in this great art.
In Paris, we should admire a rhinoceros for some years. In a province, if there were ten thousand rhinoceroses, we should run after them only to kill them; but if there were an hundred thousand fine women, we should always run after them to-honour them.
I KNEW in my infancy a canon of Peronne of the age of ninety-two years, who had been educated by one of the most furious burghers of the League_he always used to say, the late M. de Ravaillac. This canon had preserved many curious manuscripts of the apostolic times, although they did little honour to his party. The following is one of them which he bequeathed to my uncle : Dialogue of a Page of the Duke of Sully, and of Master
Filesac, Doctor of the Sorbonne, one of the two Confessors of Ravaillac.
God be thanked, my dear page, Ravaillac has died like a saint. I heard his confession; he repented of his sin, and determined no more to fall into it. He wished to receive the holy sacrament, but is not the custom here as at Rome; his penitence will serve in lieu of it, and it is certain that he is in paradise. He in paradise, in the garden of Eden, the monster!
MASTER FILESAC. Yes, my fine lad, in that garden, or heaven, it is the same thing.
PAGE. I believe so; but he has taken a bad road to arrive there.
MASTER FILESAC. You talk like a young huguenot. Learn that what I say to you partakes of faith. He possessed attrition, and attrition joined to the sacrament of confession, infallibly works out the salvation which conducts straightway to paradise, where he is now praying to
God for you.
I have no wish that he should address God on my
account. Let him go to the devil with his prayers and his attrition.
MASTER FILESAC. At the bottom, he was a good soul; his zeal led him to commit evil, but it was not with a bad intention. In all his interrogatories, he replied, that he assassinated the king only because he was about to make war on the pope, and that he did so to serve God. His sentiments were very christian-like. · He is saved, I tell you; he was bound and I have unbound him.
In good faith, the more I listen to you the more I regard you as a man bound yourself. You excite horror in me.
MASTER FILESAC. It is because that you are not yet in the right way; but you will be one day. I have always said that you were not far from the kingdom of heaven; but your time is not yet come.
And the time will never come in which I shall be made to believe that you have sent Ravaillac to the kingdom of heaven.
As soon as you shall be converted, which I hope will be the case, you will believe as I do; but in the mean time, be assured that you and the duke of Sully, your master, will be damned to all eternity with Judas Iscariot and the wicked rich man Dives, whilst Ravaillac will repose in the bosom of Abraham.
MASTER FILESAC. No abuse, my little son. It is forbidden to call our brother“ Raca” under the penalty of the gehenna or hell fire. Permit me to instruct without enraging you.
Go on; thou appearest to me so be angry no more.
raca," that I will
MASTER FILES AC.
I therefore say to you, that agreeably to faith you
will be damned, as unhappily our dear Henry IV. is already, as the Sorbonne always foresaw. .
My dear master damned! Listen to the wicked wretch! -A cane, a cane!
MASTER FILESAC. Be patient, good young man; you promised to listen to me quietly. Is it not true that the great Henry died without confession? Is it not true that he died in the commission of mortal sin, being still amorous of the princess of Condé, and that he had not time to receive The sacrament of repentance, God having allowed him to be stabbed in the left ventricle of the heart, in consequence of which he was instantly suffocated with his own blood? You will absolutely find no good catholic who will not say the same as I do.
Hold thy tongue, master madman; if I thought that thy doctors taught a doctrine so abominable, I would burn them in their lodgings.
Once again, be calm; you have promised to be so. His lordship the marquis of Conchini, who is a good catholic, will know how to prevent you from being guilty of the sacrilege of injuring my colleagues.
But conscientiously, master Filesac, does thy party really think in this manner?
PAGE. Listen; for I must confess to thee, that one of thy sorbonnists almost seduced me last year. He induced me to hope for a pension or a benefice. Since the king, he observed, has heard mass in Latin, you who are only a petty gentleman may also attend it without derogation. God takes care of his elect, giving them mitres, crosses, and prodigious sums of money, while you of the reformed doctrine go on foot, and can do nothing but write. I own I was staggered; but after what thou hast just said to me, I would rather a thousand times be a mahometan than of thy creed.