Bouvard and Pecuchet by Gustave Flaubert
ROMANCE AND THE
REVOLT OF THE
CHAPTER I. KINDRED SOULS.
As there were thirty-three degrees of heat the Boulevard Bourdon was
Farther down, the Canal St. Martin, confined by two locks, showed in
a straight line its water black as ink. In the middle of it was a boat,
filled with timber, and on the bank were two rows of casks.
Beyond the canal, between the houses which separated the
timber-yards, the great pure sky was cut up into plates of ultramarine;
and under the reverberating light of the sun, the white façades, the
slate roofs, and the granite wharves glowed dazzlingly. In the distance
arose a confused noise in the warm atmosphere; and the idleness of
Sunday, as well as the melancholy engendered by the summer heat, seemed
to shed around a universal languor.
Two men made their appearance.
One came from the direction of the Bastille; the other from that of
the Jardin des Plantes. The taller of the pair, arrayed in linen cloth,
walked with his hat back, his waistcoat unbuttoned, and his cravat in
his hand. The smaller, whose form was covered with a maroon frock-coat,
wore a cap with a pointed peak.
As soon as they reached the middle of the boulevard, they sat down,
at the same moment, on the same seat.
In order to wipe their foreheads they took off their headgear, each
placing his beside himself; and the little man saw Bouvard written in
his neighbour's hat, while the latter easily traced Pécuchet in the
cap of the person who wore the frock-coat.
Look here! he said; we have both had the same ideato write our
names in our head-coverings!
Yes, faith, for they might carry off mine from my desk.
'Tis the same way with me. I am an employé.
Then they gazed at each other. Bouvard's agreeable visage quite
His blue eyes, always half-closed, smiled in his fresh-coloured
face. His trousers, with big flaps, which creased at the end over
beaver shoes, took the shape of his stomach, and made his shirt bulge
out at the waist; and his fair hair, which of its own accord grew in
tiny curls, gave him a somewhat childish look.
He kept whistling continually with the tips of his lips.
Bouvard was struck by the serious air of Pécuchet. One would have
thought that he wore a wig, so flat and black were the locks which
adorned his high skull. His face seemed entirely in profile, on account
of his nose, which descended very low. His legs, confined in tight
wrappings of lasting, were entirely out of proportion with the length
of his bust. His voice was loud and hollow.
This exclamation escaped him:
How pleasant it would be in the country!
But, according to Bouvard, the suburbs were unendurable on account
of the noise of the public-houses outside the city. Pécuchet was of the
same opinion. Nevertheless, he was beginning to feel tired of the
capital, and so was Bouvard.
And their eyes wandered over heaps of stones for building, over the
hideous water in which a truss of straw was floating, over a factory
chimney rising towards the horizon. Sewers sent forth their poisonous
exhalations. They turned to the opposite side; and they had in front of
them the walls of the Public Granary.
Decidedly (and Pécuchet was surprised at the fact), it was still
warmer in the street than in his own house. Bouvard persuaded him to
put down his overcoat. As for him, he laughed at what people might say
Suddenly, a drunken man staggered along the footpath; and the pair
began a political discussion on the subject of working-men. Their
opinions were similar, though perhaps Bouvard was rather more liberal
in his views.
A noise of wheels sounded on the pavement amid a whirlpool of dust.
It turned out to be three hired carriages which were going towards
Bercy, carrying a bride with her bouquet, citizens in white cravats,
ladies with their petticoats huddled up so as almost to touch their
armpits, two or three little girls, and a student.
The sight of this wedding-party led Bouvard and Pécuchet to talk
about women, whom they declared to be frivolous, waspish, obstinate. In
spite of this, they were often better than men; but at other times they
were worse. In short, it was better to live without them. For his part,
Pécuchet was a bachelor.
As for me, I'm a widower, said Bouvard, and I have no children.
Perhaps you are lucky there. But, in the long run, solitude is very
Then, on the edge of the wharf, appeared a girl of the town with a
soldier,sallow, with black hair, and marked with smallpox. She leaned
on the soldier's arm, dragging her feet along, and swaying on her hips.
When she was a short distance from them, Bouvard indulged in a
coarse remark. Pécuchet became very red in the face, and, no doubt to
avoid answering, gave him a look to indicate the fact that a priest was
coming in their direction.
The ecclesiastic slowly descended the avenue, along which lean elm
trees were placed as landmarks, and Bouvard, when he no longer saw the
priest's three-cornered head-piece, expressed his relief; for he hated
Jesuits. Pécuchet, without absolving them from blame, exhibited some
respect for religion.
Meanwhile, the twilight was falling, and the window-blinds in front
of them were raised. The passers-by became more numerous. Seven o'clock
Their words rushed on in an inexhaustible stream; remarks succeeding
to anecdotes, philosophic views to individual considerations. They
disparaged the management of the bridges and causeways, the tobacco
administration, the theatres, our marine, and the entire human race,
like people who had undergone great mortifications. In listening to
each other both found again some ideas which had long since slipped out
of their minds; and though they had passed the age of simple emotions,
they experienced a new pleasure, a kind of expansion, the tender charm
associated with their first appearance on life's stage.
Twenty times they had risen and sat down again, and had proceeded
along the boulevard from the upper to the lower lock, each time
intending to take their departure, but not having the strength to do
so, held back by a kind of fascination.
However, they came to parting at last, and they had clasped each
other's hands, when Bouvard said all of a sudden:
Faith! what do you say to our dining together?
I had the very same idea in my own head, returned Pécuchet, but I
hadn't the courage to propose it to you.
And he allowed himself to be led towards a little restaurant facing
the Hôtel de Ville, where they would be comfortable.
Bouvard called for the menu. Pécuchet was afraid of spices,
as they might inflame his blood. This led to a medical discussion. Then
they glorified the utility of science: how many things could be
learned, how many researches one could make, if one had only time!
Alas! earning one's bread took up all one's time; and they raised their
arms in astonishment, and were near embracing each other over the table
on discovering that they were both copyists, Bouvard in a commercial
establishment, and Pécuchet in the Admiralty, which did not, however,
prevent him from devoting a few spare moments each evening to study. He
had noted faults in M. Thiers's work, and he spoke with the utmost
respect of a certain professor named Dumouchel.
Bouvard had the advantage of him in other ways. His hair
watch-chain, and his manner of whipping-up the mustard-sauce, revealed
the greybeard, full of experience; and he ate with the corners of his
napkin under his armpits, giving utterance to things which made
Pécuchet laugh. It was a peculiar laugh, one very low note, always the
same, emitted at long intervals. Bouvard's laugh was explosive,
sonorous, uncovering his teeth, shaking his shoulders, and making the
customers at the door turn round to stare at him.
When they had dined they went to take coffee in another
establishment. Pécuchet, on contemplating the gas-burners, groaned over
the spreading torrent of luxury; then, with an imperious movement, he
flung aside the newspapers. Bouvard was more indulgent on this point.
He liked all authors indiscriminately, having been disposed in his
youth to go on the stage.
He had a fancy for trying balancing feats with a billiard-cue and
two ivory balls, such as Barberou, one of his friends, had performed.
They invariably fell, and, rolling along the floor between people's
legs, got lost in some distant corner. The waiter, who had to rise
every time to search for them on all-fours under the benches, ended by
making complaints. Pécuchet picked a quarrel with him; the coffee-house
keeper came on the scene, but Pécuchet would listen to no excuses, and
even cavilled over the amount consumed.
He then proposed to finish the evening quietly at his own abode,
which was quite near, in the Rue St. Martin. As soon as they had
entered he put on a kind of cotton nightgown, and did the honours of
A deal desk, placed exactly in the centre of the room caused
inconvenience by its sharp corners; and all around, on the boards, on
the three chairs, on the old armchair, and in the corners, were
scattered pell-mell a number of volumes of the Roret Encyclopædia,
The Magnetiser's Manual, a Fénelon, and other old books, with heaps
of waste paper, two cocoa-nuts, various medals, a Turkish cap, and
shells brought back from Havre by Dumouchel. A layer of dust velveted
the walls, which otherwise had been painted yellow. The shoe-brush was
lying at the side of the bed, the coverings of which hung down. On the
ceiling could be seen a big black stain, produced by the smoke of the
Bouvard, on account of the smell no doubt, asked permission to open
The papers will fly away! cried Pécuchet, who was more afraid of
the currents of air.
However, he panted for breath in this little room, heated since
morning by the slates of the roof.
Bouvard said to him: If I were in your place, I would remove my
What! And Pécuchet cast down his head, frightened at the idea of
no longer having his healthful flannel waistcoat.
Let me take the business in hand, resumed Bouvard; the air from
outside will refresh you.
At last Pécuchet put on his boots again, muttering, Upon my honour,
you are bewitching me. And, notwithstanding the distance, he
accompanied Bouvard as far as the latter's house at the corner of the
Rue de Béthune, opposite the Pont de la Tournelle.
Bouvard's room, the floor of which was well waxed, and which had
curtains of cotton cambric and mahogany furniture, had the advantage of
a balcony overlooking the river. The two principal ornaments were a
liqueur-frame in the middle of the chest of drawers, and, in a row
beside the glass, daguerreotypes representing his friends. An oil
painting occupied the alcove.
My uncle! said Bouvard. And the taper which he held in his hand
shed its light on the portrait of a gentleman.
Red whiskers enlarged his visage, which was surmounted by a forelock
curling at its ends. His huge cravat, with the triple collar of his
shirt, and his velvet waistcoat and black coat, appeared to cramp him.
You would have imagined there were diamonds on his shirt-frill. His
eyes seemed fastened to his cheekbones, and he smiled with a cunning
Pécuchet could not keep from saying, One would rather take him for
He is my godfather, replied Bouvard carelessly, adding that his
baptismal name was François-Denys-Bartholemée.
Pécuchet's baptismal name was Juste-Romain-Cyrille, and their ages
were identicalforty-seven years. This coincidence caused them
satisfaction, but surprised them, each having thought the other much
older. They next vented their admiration for Providence, whose
combinations are sometimes marvellous.
For, in fact, if we had not gone out a while ago to take a walk we
might have died before knowing each other.
And having given each other their employers' addresses, they
exchanged a cordial good night.
Don't go to see the women! cried Bouvard on the stairs.
Pécuchet descended the steps without answering this coarse jest.
Next day, in the space in front of the establishment of MM.
Descambos Brothers, manufacturers of Alsatian tissues, 92, Rue
Hautefeuille, a voice called out:
Bouvard! Monsieur Bouvard!
The latter glanced through the window-panes and recognised Pécuchet,
who articulated more loudly:
I am not ill! I have remained away!
This! said Pécuchet, pointing at his breast.
All the talk of the day before, together with the temperature of the
apartment and the labours of digestion, had prevented him from
sleeping, so much so that, unable to stand it any longer, he had flung
off his flannel waistcoat. In the morning he recalled his action, which
fortunately had no serious consequences, and he came to inform Bouvard
about it, showing him in this way that he had placed him very high in
He was a small shopkeeper's son, and had no recollection of his
mother, who died while he was very young. At fifteen he had been taken
away from a boarding-school to be sent into the employment of a
process-server. The gendarmes invaded his employer's residence one day,
and that worthy was sent off to the galleysa stern history which
still caused him a thrill of terror. Then he had attempted many
callingsapothecary's apprentice, usher, book-keeper in a packet-boat
on the Upper Seine. At length, a head of a department in the Admiralty,
smitten by his handwriting, had employed him as a copying-clerk; but
the consciousness of a defective education, with the intellectual needs
engendered by it, irritated his temper, and so he lived altogether
alone, without relatives, without a mistress. His only distraction was
to go out on Sunday to inspect public works.
The earliest recollections of Bouvard carried him back across the
banks of the Loire into a farmyard. A man who was his uncle had brought
him to Paris to teach him commerce. At his majority, he got a few
thousand francs. Then he took a wife, and opened a confectioner's shop.
Six months later his wife disappeared, carrying off the cash-box.
Friends, good cheer, and above all, idleness, had speedily accomplished
his ruin. But he was inspired by the notion of utilising his beautiful
chirography, and for the past twelve years he had clung to the same
post in the establishment of MM. Descambos Brothers, manufacturers of
tissues, 92, Rue Hautefeuille. As for his uncle, who formerly had sent
him the celebrated portrait as a memento, Bouvard did not even know his
residence, and expected nothing more from him. Fifteen hundred francs a
year and his salary as copying-clerk enabled him every evening to take
a nap at a coffee-house. Thus their meeting had the importance of an
adventure. They were at once drawn together by secret fibres. Besides,
how can we explain sympathies? Why does a certain peculiarity, a
certain imperfection, indifferent or hateful in one person, prove a
fascination in another? That which we call the thunderbolt is true as
regards all the passions.
Before the month was over they thou'd and thee'd each other.
Frequently they came to see each other at their respective offices.
As soon as one made his appearance, the other shut up his writing-desk,
and they went off together into the streets. Bouvard walked with long
strides, whilst Pécuchet, taking innumerable steps, with his frock-coat
flapping at his heels, seemed to slip along on rollers. In the same
way, their peculiar tastes were in harmony. Bouvard smoked his pipe,
loved cheese, regularly took his half-glass of brandy. Pécuchet
snuffed, at dessert ate only preserves, and soaked a piece of sugar in
his coffee. One was self-confident, flighty, generous; the other
prudent, thoughtful, and thrifty.
In order to please him, Bouvard desired to introduce Pécuchet to
Barberou. He was an ex-commercial traveller, and now a purse-makera
good fellow, a patriot, a ladies' man, and one who affected the
language of the faubourgs. Pécuchet did not care for him, and he
brought Bouvard to the residence of Dumouchel. This author (for he had
published a little work on mnemonics) gave lessons in literature at a
young ladies' boarding-school, and had orthodox opinions and a grave
deportment. He bored Bouvard.
Neither of the two friends concealed his opinion from the other.
Each recognised the correctness of the other's view. They altered their
habits, they quitting their humdrum lodgings, and ended by dining
together every day.
They made observations on the plays at the theatre, on the
government, the dearness of living, and the frauds of commerce. From
time to time, the history of Collier or the trial of Fualdès turned up
in their conversations; and then they sought for the causes of the
They lounged along by the old curiosity shops. They visited the
School of Arts and Crafts, St. Denis, the Gobelins, the Invalides, and
all the public collections.
When they were asked for their passports, they made pretence of
having lost them, passing themselves off as two strangers, two
In the galleries of the Museum, they viewed the stuffed quadrupeds
with amazement, the butterflies with delight, and the metals with
indifference; the fossils made them dream; the conchological specimens
bored them. They examined the hot-houses through the glass, and groaned
at the thought that all these leaves distilled poisons. What they
admired about the cedar was that it had been brought over in a hat.
At the Louvre they tried to get enthusiastic about Raphael. At the
great library they desired to know the exact number of volumes.
On one occasion they attended at a lecture on Arabic at the College
of France, and the professor was astonished to see these two unknown
persons attempting to take notes. Thanks to Barberou, they penetrated
into the green-room of a little theatre. Dumouchel got them tickets for
a sitting at the Academy. They inquired about discoveries, read the
prospectuses, and this curiosity developed their intelligence. At the
end of a horizon, growing every day more remote, they perceived things
at the same time confused and marvellous.
When they admired an old piece of furniture they regretted that they
had not lived at the period when it was used, though they were
absolutely ignorant of what period it was. In accordance with certain
names, they imagined countries only the more beautiful in proportion to
their utter lack of definite information about them. The works of which
the titles were to them unintelligible, appeared to their minds to
contain some mysterious knowledge.
And the more ideas they had, the more they suffered. When a
mail-coach crossed them in the street, they felt the need of going off
with it. The Quay of Flowers made them sigh for the country.
One Sunday they started for a walking tour early in the morning,
and, passing through Meudon, Bellevue, Suresnes, and Auteuil, they
wandered about all day amongst the vineyards, tore up wild poppies by
the sides of fields, slept on the grass, drank milk, ate under the
acacias in the gardens of country inns, and got home very latedusty,
worn-out, and enchanted.
They often renewed these walks. They felt so sad next day that they
ended by depriving themselves of them.
The monotony of the desk became odious to them. Always the eraser
and the sandarac, the same inkstand, the same pens, and the same
companions. Looking on the latter as stupid fellows, they talked to
them less and less. This cost them some annoyances. They came after the
regular hour every day, and received reprimands.
Formerly they had been almost happy, but their occupation humiliated
them since they had begun to set a higher value on themselves, and
their disgust increased while they were mutually glorifying and
spoiling each other. Pécuchet contracted Bouvard's bluntness, and
Bouvard assumed a little of Pécuchet's moroseness.
I have a mind to become a mountebank in the streets! said one to
As well to be a rag-picker! exclaimed his friend.
What an abominable situation! And no way out of it. Not even the
hope of it!
One afternoon (it was the 20th of January, 1839) Bouvard, while at
his desk, received a letter left by the postman.
He lifted up both hands; then his head slowly fell back, and he sank
on the floor in a swoon.
The clerks rushed forward; they took off his cravat; they sent for a
physician. He re-opened his eyes; then, in answer to the questions they
put to him:
Ah! the fact isthe fact isA little air will relieve me. No;
let me alone. Kindly give me leave to go out.
And, in spite of his corpulence, he rushed, all breathless, to the
Admiralty office, and asked for Pécuchet.
My uncle is dead! I am his heir!
It isn't possible!
Bouvard showed him the following lines:
OFFICE OF MAÎTRE TARDIVEL, NOTARY.
Savigny-en-Septaine, 14th January, 1839.
SIR,I beg of you to call at my office in order to take
notice there of the will of your natural father, M.
François-Denys-Bartholomée Bouvard, ex-merchant in the town
of Nantes, who died in this parish on the 10th of the
present month. This will contains a very important
disposition in your favour.
Pécuchet was obliged to sit down on a boundary-stone in the
courtyard outside the office.
Then he returned the paper, saying slowly:
Provided that this is notsome practical joke.
You think it is a farce! replied Bouvard, in a stifled voice like
the rattling in the throat of a dying man.
But the postmark, the name of the notary's office in printed
characters, the notary's own signature, all proved the genuineness of
the news; and they regarded each other with a trembling at the corners
of their mouths and tears in their staring eyes.
They wanted space to breathe freely. They went to the Arc de
Triomphe, came back by the water's edge, and passed beyond Nôtre Dame.
Bouvard was very flushed. He gave Pécuchet blows with his fist in the
back, and for five minutes talked utter nonsense.
They chuckled in spite of themselves. This inheritance, surely,
ought to mount up?
Ah! that would be too much of a good thing. Let's talk no more
They did talk again about it. There was nothing to prevent them from
immediately demanding explanations. Bouvard wrote to the notary with
The notary sent a copy of the will, which ended thus:
Consequently, I give to François-Denys-Bartholemée
Bouvard, my recognised natural son, the portion of my
property disposable by law.
The old fellow had got this son in his youthful days, but he had
carefully kept it dark, making him pass for a nephew; and the nephew
had always called him my uncle, though he had his own idea on the
matter. When he was about forty, M. Bouvard married; then he was left a
widower. His two legitimate sons having gone against his wishes,
remorse took possession of him for the desertion of his other child
during a long period of years. He would have even sent for the lad but
for the influence of his female cook. She left him, thanks to the
manoeuvres of the family, and in his isolation, when death drew nigh,
he wished to repair the wrongs he had done by bequeathing to the fruit
of his early love all that he could of his fortune. It ran up to half a
million francs, thus giving the copying-clerk two hundred and fifty
thousand francs. The eldest of the brothers, M. Étienne, had announced
that he would respect the will.
Bouvard fell into a kind of stupefied condition. He kept repeating
in a low tone, smiling with the peaceful smile of drunkards: An income
of fifteen thousand livres!and Pécuchet, whose head, however, was
stronger, was not able to get over it.
They were rudely shaken by a letter from Tardivel. The other son, M.
Alexandre, declared his intention to have the entire matter decided by
law, and even to question the legacy, if he could, requiring, first of
all, to have everything sealed, and to have an inventory taken and a
sequestrator appointed, etc. Bouvard got a bilious attack in
consequence. Scarcely had he recovered when he started for Savigny,
from which place he returned without having brought the matter nearer
to a settlement, and he could only grumble about having gone to the
expense of a journey for nothing. Then followed sleepless nights,
alternations of rage and hope, of exaltation and despondency. Finally,
after the lapse of six months, his lordship Alexandre was appeased, and
Bouvard entered into possession of his inheritance.
His first exclamation was: We will retire into the country! And
this phrase, which bound up his friend with his good fortune, Pécuchet
had found quite natural. For the union of these two men was absolute
and profound. But, as he did not wish to live at Bouvard's expense, he
would not go before he got his retiring pension. Two years more; no
matter! He remained inflexible, and the thing was decided.
In order to know where to settle down, they passed in review all the
provinces. The north was fertile, but too cold; the south delightful,
so far as the climate was concerned, but inconvenient because of the
mosquitoes; and the middle portion of the country, in truth, had
nothing about it to excite curiosity. Brittany would have suited them,
were it not for the bigoted tendency of its inhabitants. As for the
regions of the east, on account of the Germanic patois they
could not dream of it. But there were other places. For instance, what
about Forez, Bugey, and Rumois? The maps said nothing about them.
Besides, whether their house happened to be in one place or in another,
the important thing was to have one. Already they saw themselves in
their shirt-sleeves, at the edge of a plat-band, pruning rose trees,
and digging, dressing, settling the ground, growing tulips in pots.
They would awaken at the singing of the lark to follow the plough; they
would go with baskets to gather apples, would look on at butter-making,
the thrashing of corn, sheep-shearing, bee-culture, and would feel
delight in the lowing of cows and in the scent of new-mown hay. No more
writing! No more heads of departments! No more even quarters' rent to
pay! For they had a dwelling-house of their own! And they would eat the
hens of their own poultry-yard, the vegetables of their own garden, and
would dine without taking off their wooden shoes! We'll do whatever we
like! We'll let our beards grow!
They would purchase horticultural implements, then a heap of things
that might perhaps be useful, such as a tool-chest (there was always
need of one in a house), next, scales, a land-surveyor's chain, a
bathing-tub in case they got ill, a thermometer, and even a barometer,
on the Gay-Lussac system, for physical experiences, if they took a
fancy that way. It would not be a bad thing either (for a person cannot
always be working out of doors), to have some good literary works; and
they looked out for them, very embarrassed sometimes to know if such a
book was really a library book.
Bouvard settled the question. Oh! we shall not want a library.
Besides, I have my own.
They prepared their plans beforehand. Bouvard would bring his
furniture, Pécuchet his big black table; they would turn the curtains
to account; and, with a few kitchen utensils, this would be quite
sufficient. They swore to keep silent about all this, but their faces
spoke volumes. So their colleagues thought them funny. Bouvard, who
wrote spread over his desk, with his elbows out, in order the better to
round his letters, gave vent to a kind of whistle while half-closing
his heavy eyelids with a waggish air. Pécuchet, squatted on a big straw
foot-stool, was always carefully forming the pot-hooks of his large
handwriting, but all the while swelling his nostrils and pressing his
lips together, as if he were afraid of letting his secret slip.
After eighteen months of inquiries, they had discovered nothing.
They made journeys in all the outskirts of Paris, both from Amiens to
Evreux, and from Fontainebleau to Havre. They wanted a country place
which would be a thorough country place, without exactly insisting on a
picturesque site; but a limited horizon saddened them.
They fled from the vicinity of habitations, and only redoubled their
Sometimes they made up their minds; then, fearing they would repent
later, they changed their opinion, the place having appeared unhealthy,
or exposed to the sea-breeze, or too close to a factory, or difficult
Barberou came to their rescue. He knew what their dream was, and one
fine day he called on them to let them know that he had been told about
an estate at Chavignolles, between Caen and Falaise. This comprised a
farm of thirty-eight hectares, with a kind of château, and a garden
in a very productive state.
They proceeded to Calvados, and were quite enraptured. For the farm,
together with the house (one would not be sold without the other), only
a hundred and forty-three thousand francs were asked. Bouvard did not
want to give more than a hundred and twenty thousand.
Pécuchet combated his obstinacy, begged of him to give way, and
finally declared that he would make up the surplus himself. This was
his entire fortune, coming from his mother's patrimony and his own
savings. Never had he breathed a word, reserving this capital for a
The entire amount was paid up about the end of 1840, six months
before his retirement.
Bouvard was no longer a copying-clerk. At first he had continued his
functions through distrust of the future; but he had resigned once he
was certain of his inheritance. However, he willingly went back to MM.
Descambos; and the night before his departure he stood drinks to all
Pécuchet, on the contrary, was morose towards his colleagues, and
went off, on the last day, roughly clapping the door behind him.
He had to look after the packing, to do a heap of commissions, then
to make purchases, and to take leave of Dumouchel.
The professor proposed to him an epistolary interchange between
them, of which he would make use to keep Pécuchet well up in
literature; and, after fresh felicitations, wished him good health.
Barberou exhibited more sensibility in taking leave of Bouvard. He
expressly gave up a domino-party, promised to go to see him over
there, ordered two aniseed cordials, and embraced him.
Bouvard, when he got home, inhaled over the balcony a deep breath of
air, saying to himself, At last! The lights along the quays quivered
in the water, the rolling of omnibuses in the distance gradually
ceased. He recalled happy days spent in this great city, supper-parties
at restaurants, evenings at the theatre, gossips with his portress, all
his habitual associations; and he experienced a sinking of the heart, a
sadness which he dared not acknowledge even to himself.
Pécuchet was walking in his room up to two o'clock in the morning.
He would come back there no more: so much the better! And yet, in order
to leave behind something of himself, he printed his name on the
plaster over the chimney-piece.
The larger portion of the baggage was gone since the night before.
The garden implements, the bedsteads, the mattresses, the tables, the
chairs, a cooking apparatus, and three casks of Burgundy would go by
the Seine, as far as Havre, and would be despatched thence to Caen,
where Bouvard, who would wait for them, would have them brought on to
But his father's portrait, the armchairs the liqueur-case, the old
books, the time-piece, all the precious objects were put into a
furniture waggon, which would proceed through Nonancourt, Verneuil, and
Falaise. Pécuchet was to accompany it.
He installed himself beside the conductor, upon a seat, and, wrapped
up in his oldest frock-coat, with a comforter, mittens, and his office
foot-warmer, on Sunday, the 20th of March, at daybreak, he set forth
from the capital.
The movement and the novelty of the journey occupied his attention
during the first few hours. Then the horses slackened their pace, which
led to disputes between the conductor and the driver. They selected
execrable inns, and, though they were accountable for everything,
Pécuchet, through excess of prudence, slept in the same lodgings.
Next day they started again, at dawn, and the road, always the same,
stretched out, uphill, to the verge of the horizon. Yards of stones
came after each other; the ditches were full of water; the country
showed itself in wide tracts of green, monotonous and cold; clouds
scudded through the sky. From time to time there was a fall of rain. On
the third day squalls arose. The awning of the waggon, badly fastened
on, went clapping with the wind, like the sails of a ship. Pécuchet
lowered his face under his cap, and every time he opened his snuff-box
it was necessary for him, in order to protect his eyes, to turn round
During the joltings he heard all his baggage swinging behind him,
and shouted out a lot of directions. Seeing that they were useless, he
changed his tactics. He assumed an air of good-fellowship, and made a
display of civilities; in the troublesome ascents he assisted the men
in pushing on the wheels: he even went so far as to pay for the coffee
and brandy after the meals. From that time they went on more slowly; so
much so that, in the neighbourhood of Gauburge, the axletree broke, and
the waggon remained tilted over. Pécuchet immediately went to inspect
the inside of it: the sets of porcelain lay in bits. He raised his
arms, while he gnashed his teeth, and cursed these two idiots; and the
following day was lost owing to the waggon-driver getting tipsy: but he
had not the energy to complain, the cup of bitterness being full.
Bouvard had quitted Paris only on the third day, as he had to dine
once more with Barberou. He arrived in the coach-yard at the last
moment; then he woke up before the cathedral of Rouen: he had mistaken
In the evening, all the places for Caen were booked. Not knowing
what to do, he went to the Theatre of Arts, and he smiled at his
neighbours, telling them he had retired from business, and had lately
purchased an estate in the neighbourhood. When he started on Friday for
Caen, his packages were not there. He received them on Sunday, and
despatched them in a cart, having given notice to the farmer who was
working the land that he would follow in the course of a few hours.
At Falaise, on the ninth day of his journey, Pécuchet took a fresh
horse, and even till sunset they kept steadily on. Beyond Bretteville,
having left the high-road, he got off into a cross-road, fancying that
every moment he could see the gable-ends of Chavignolles. However, the
ruts hid them from view; they vanished, and then the party found
themselves in the midst of ploughed fields. The night was falling. What
was to become of them? At last Pécuchet left the waggon behind, and,
splashing in the mire, advanced in front of it to reconnoitre. When he
drew near farm-houses, the dogs barked. He called out as loudly as ever
he could, asking what was the right road. There was no answer. He was
afraid, and got back to the open ground. Suddenly two lanterns flashed.
He perceived a cabriolet, and rushed forward to meet it. Bouvard was
But where could the furniture waggon be? For an hour they called out
to it through the darkness. At length it was found, and they arrived at
A great fire of brushwood and pine-apples was blazing in the
dining-room. Two covers were placed there. The furniture, which had
come by the cart, was piled up near the vestibule. Nothing was wanting.
They sat down to table.
Onion soup had been prepared for them, also a chicken, bacon, and
hard-boiled eggs. The old woman who cooked came from time to time to
inquire about their tastes. They replied, Oh! very good, very good!
and the big loaf, hard to cut, the cream, the nuts, all delighted them.
There were holes in the flooring, and the damp was oozing through the
walls. However, they cast around them a glance of satisfaction, while
eating on the little table on which a candle was burning. Their faces
were reddened by the strong air. They stretched out their stomachs;
they leaned on the backs of their chairs, which made a cracking sound
in consequence, and they kept repeating: Here we are in the place,
then! What happiness! It seems to me that it is a dream!
Although it was midnight, Pécuchet conceived the idea of taking a
turn round the garden. Bouvard made no objection. They took up the
candle, and, screening it with an old newspaper, walked along the
paths. They found pleasure in mentioning aloud the names of the
Look herecarrots! Ah!cabbages!
Next, they inspected the espaliers. Pécuchet tried to discover the
buds. Sometimes a spider would scamper suddenly over the wall, and the
two shadows of their bodies appeared magnified, repeating their
gestures. The ends of the grass let the dew trickle out. The night was
perfectly black, and everything remained motionless in a profound
silence, an infinite sweetness. In the distance a cock was crowing.
Their two rooms had between them a little door, which was hidden by
the papering of the wall. By knocking a chest of drawers up against it,
nails were shaken out; and they found the place gaping open. This was a
When they had undressed and got into bed, they kept babbling for
some time. Then they went asleepBouvard on his back, with his mouth
open, his head bare; Pécuchet on his right side, his knees in his
stomach, his head muffled in a cotton night-cap; and the pair snored
under the moonlight which made its way in through the windows.
CHAPTER II. EXPERIMENTS IN
How happy they felt when they awoke next morning! Bouvard smoked a
pipe, and Pécuchet took a pinch of snuff, which they declared to be the
best they had ever had in their whole lives. Then they went to the
window to observe the landscape.
In front of them lay the fields, with a barn and the church-bell at
the right and a screen of poplars at the left.
Two principal walks, forming a cross, divided the garden into four
parts. The vegetables were contained in wide beds, where, at different
spots, arose dwarf cypresses and trees cut in distaff fashion. On one
side, an arbour just touched an artificial hillock; while, on the
other, the espaliers were supported against a wall; and at the end, a
railed opening gave a glimpse of the country outside. Beyond the wall
there was an orchard, and, next to a hedge of elm trees, a thicket; and
behind the railed opening there was a narrow road.
They were gazing on this spectacle together, when a man, with hair
turning grey, and wearing a black overcoat, appeared walking along the
pathway, striking with his cane all the bars of the railed fence. The
old servant informed them that this was M. Vaucorbeil, a doctor of some
reputation in the district. She mentioned that the other people of note
were the Comte de Faverges, formerly a deputy, and an extensive owner
of land and cattle; M. Foureau, who sold wood, plaster, all sorts of
things; M. Marescot, the notary; the Abbé Jeufroy; and the widow
Bordin, who lived on her private income. The old woman added that, as
for herself, they called her Germaine, on account of the late Germain,
her husband. She used to go out as a charwoman, but would be very glad
to enter into the gentlemen's service. They accepted her offer, and
then went out to take a look at their farm, which was situated over a
thousand yards away.
When they entered the farmyard, Maître Gouy, the farmer, was
shouting at a servant-boy, while his wife, on a stool, kept pressed
between her legs a turkey-hen, which she was stuffing with balls of
The man had a low forehead, a thin nose, a downward look, and broad
shoulders. The woman was very fair-haired, with her cheek-bones
speckled with bran, and that air of simplicity which may be seen in the
faces of peasants on the windows of churches.
In the kitchen, bundles of hemp hung from the ceiling. Three old
guns stood in a row over the upper part of the chimney-piece. A dresser
loaded with flowered crockery occupied the space in the middle of the
wall; and the window-panes with their green bottle-glass threw over the
tin and copper utensils a sickly lustre.
The two Parisians wished to inspect the property, which they had
seen only onceand that a mere passing glance. Maître Gouy and his
wife escorted them, and then began a litany of complaints.
All the appointments, from the carthouse to the boilery, stood in
need of repair. It would be necessary to erect an additional store for
the cheese, to put fresh iron on the railings, to raise the boundaries,
to deepen the ponds, and to plant anew a considerable number of apple
trees in the three enclosures.
Then they went to look at the lands under cultivation. Maître Gouy
ran them down, saying that they ate up too much manure; cartage was
expensive; it was impossible to get rid of stones; and the bad grass
poisoned the meadows. This depreciation of his land lessened the
pleasure experienced by Bouvard in walking over it.
They came back by the hollow path under an avenue of beech trees. On
this side the house revealed its front and its courtyard. It was
painted white, with a coating of yellow. The carthouse and the
storehouse, the bakehouse and the woodshed, made, by means of a return,
two lower wings. The kitchen communicated with a little hall. Next came
the vestibule, a second hall larger than the other, and the
drawing-room. The four rooms on the first floor opened on the corridor
facing the courtyard. Pécuchet selected one of them for his
collections. The last was to be the library; and, on opening some of
the presses, they found a few ancient volumes, but they had no fancy
for reading the titles of them. The most urgent matter was the garden.
Bouvard, while passing close to the row of elm trees, discovered
under their branches a plaster figure of a woman. With two fingers she
held wide her petticoat, with her knees bent and her head over her
shoulder, as if she were afraid of being surprised.
I beg your pardon! Don't inconvenience yourself!and this
pleasantry amused them so much that they kept repeating it twenty times
a day for three months.
Meanwhile, the people of Chavignolles were desirous to make their
acquaintance. Persons came to look at them through the railed fence.
They stopped up the openings with boards. This thwarted the
inhabitants. To protect himself from the sun Bouvard wore on his head a
handkerchief, fastened so as to look like a turban. Pécuchet wore his
cap, and he had a big apron with a pocket in front, in which a pair of
pruning-shears, his silk handkerchief, and his snuff-box jostled
against one another. Bare-armed, side by side, they dug, weeded, and
pruned, imposing tasks on each other, and eating their meals as quickly
as ever they could, taking care, however, to drink their coffee on the
hillock, in order to enjoy the view.
If they happened to come across a snail, they pounced on it and
crushed it, making grimaces with the corners of their mouths, as if
they were cracking nuts. They never went out without their grafting
implements, and they used to cut the worms in two with such force that
the iron of the implement would sink three inches deep. To get rid of
caterpillars, they struck the trees furiously with switches.
Bouvard planted a peony in the middle of the grass plot, and
tomatoes so that they would hang down like chandeliers under the arch
of the arbour.
Pécuchet had a large pit dug in front of the kitchen, and divided it
into three parts, where he could manufacture composts which would grow
a heap of things, whose detritus would again bring other crops,
providing in this way other manures to a limitless extent; and he fell
into reveries on the edge of the pit, seeing in the future mountains of
fruits, floods of flowers, and avalanches of vegetables. But the
horse-dung, so necessary for the beds, was not to be had, inasmuch as
the farmers did not sell it, and the innkeepers refused to supply it.
At last, after many searches, in spite of the entreaties of Bouvard,
and flinging aside all shamefacedness, he made up his mind to go for
the dung himself.
It was in the midst of this occupation that Madame Bordin accosted
him one day on the high-road. When she had complimented him, she
inquired about his friend. This woman's black eyes, very small and very
brilliant, her high complexion, and her assurance (she even had a
little moustache) intimidated Pécuchet. He replied curtly, and turned
his back on heran impoliteness of which Bouvard disapproved.
Then the bad weather came on, with frost and snow. They installed
themselves in the kitchen, and went in for trellis-work, or else kept
going from one room to another, chatted by the chimney corner, or
watched the rain coming down.
Since the middle of Lent they had awaited the approach of spring,
and each morning repeated: Everything is starting out! But the season
was late, and they consoled their impatience by saying: Everything is
going to start out!
At length they were able to gather the green peas. The asparagus
gave a good crop; and the vine was promising.
Since they were able to work together at gardening, they must needs
succeed at agriculture; and they were seized with an ambition to
cultivate the farm. With common sense and study of the subject, they
would get through it beyond a doubt.
But they should first see how others carried on operations, and so
they drew up a letter in which they begged of M. de Faverges to do them
the honour of allowing them to visit the lands which he cultivated.
The count made an appointment immediately to meet them.
After an hour's walking, they reached the side of a hill overlooking
the valley of the Orne. The river wound its way to the bottom of the
valley. Blocks of red sandstone stood here and there, and in the
distance larger masses of stone formed, as it were, a cliff overhanging
fields of ripe corn. On the opposite hill the verdure was so abundant
that it hid the house from view. Trees divided it into unequal squares,
outlining themselves amid the grass by more sombre lines.
Suddenly the entire estate came into view. The tiled roofs showed
where the farm stood. To the right rose the château with its white
façade, and beyond it was a wood. A lawn descended to the river, into
which a row of plane trees cast their shadows.
The two friends entered a field of lucern, which people were
spreading. Women wearing straw hats, with cotton handkerchiefs round
their heads, and paper shades, were lifting with rakes the hay which
lay on the ground, while at the end of the plain, near the stacks,
bundles were being rapidly flung into a long cart, yoked to three
The count advanced, followed by his manager. He was dressed in
dimity; and his stiff figure and mutton-chop whiskers gave him at the
same time the air of a magistrate and a dandy. Even when he was
speaking, his features did not appear to move.
As soon as they had exchanged some opening courtesies, he explained
his system with regard to fodder: the swathes should be turned without
scattering them; the ricks should be conical, and the bundles made
immediately on the spot, and then piled together by tens. As for the
English rake, the meadow was too uneven for such an implement.
A little girl, with her stockingless feet in old shoes, and showing
her skin through the rents in her dress, was supplying the women with
cider, which she poured out of a jug supported against her hip. The
count asked where this child came from, but nobody could tell. The
women who were making the hay had picked her up to wait on them during
the harvesting. He shrugged his shoulders, and just as he was moving
away from the spot, he gave vent to some complaints as to the
immorality of our country districts.
Bouvard eulogised his lucern field.
It was fairly good, in spite of the ravages of the cuscute.
The future agriculturists opened their eyes wide at the word
On account of the number of his cattle, he resorted to artificial
meadowing; besides, it went well before the other cropsa thing that
did not always happen in the case of fodder.
This at least appears to me incontestable.
Oh! incontestable, replied Bouvard and Pécuchet in one breath.
They were on the borders of a field which had been carefully thinned. A
horse, which was being led by hand, was dragging along a large box,
mounted on three wheels. Seven ploughshares below were opening in
parallel lines small furrows, in which the grain fell through pipes
descending to the ground.
Here, said the count, I sow turnips. The turnip is the basis of
my quadrennial system of cultivation.
And he was proceeding to deliver a lecture on the drill-plough when
a servant came to look for him, and told him that he was wanted at the
His manager took his placea man with a forbidding countenance and
He conducted these gentlemen to another field, where fourteen
harvesters, with bare breasts and legs apart, were cutting down rye.
The steels whistled in the chaff, which came pouring straight down.
Each of them described in front of him a large semicircle, and, all in
a line, they advanced at the same time. The two Parisians admired their
arms, and felt smitten with an almost religious veneration for the
opulence of the soil. Then they proceeded to inspect some of the
ploughed lands. The twilight was falling, and the crows swooped down
into the ridges.
As they proceeded they met a flock of sheep pasturing here and
there, and they could hear their continual browsing. The shepherd,
seated on the stump of a tree, was knitting a woollen stocking, with
his dog beside him.
The manager assisted Bouvard and Pécuchet to jump over a wooden
fence, and they passed close to two orchards, where cows were
ruminating under the apple trees.
All the farm-buildings were contiguous and occupied the three sides
of the yard. Work was carried on there mechanically by means of a
turbine moved by a stream which had been turned aside for the purpose.
Leathern bands stretched from one roof to the other, and in the midst
of dung an iron pump performed its operations.
The manager drew their attention to little openings in the
sheepfolds nearly on a level with the floor, and ingenious doors in the
pigsties which could shut of their own accord.
The barn was vaulted like a cathedral, with brick arches resting on
In order to amuse the gentlemen, a servant-girl threw a handful of
oats before the hens. The shaft of the press appeared to them
enormously big. Next they went up to the pigeon-house. The dairy
especially astonished them. By turning cocks in the corners, you could
get enough water to flood the flagstones, and, as you entered, a sense
of grateful coolness came upon you as a surprise. Brown jars, ranged
close to the barred opening in the wall, were full to the brim of milk,
while the cream was contained in earthen pans of less depth. Then came
rolls of butter, like fragments of a column of copper, and froth
overflowed from the tin pails which had just been placed on the ground.
But the gem of the farm was the ox-stall. It was divided into two
sections by wooden bars standing upright their full length, one portion
being reserved for the cattle, and the other for persons who attended
on them. You could scarcely see there, as all the loopholes were closed
up. The oxen were eating, with little chains attached to them, and
their bodies exhaled a heat which was kept down by the low ceiling. But
someone let in the light, and suddenly a thin stream of water flowed
into the little channel which was beside the racks. Lowings were heard,
and the horns of the cattle made a rattling noise like sticks. All the
oxen thrust their muzzles between the bars, and proceeded to drink
The big teams made their way into the farmyard, and the foals began
to neigh. On the ground floor two or three lanterns flashed and then
disappeared. The workpeople were passing, dragging their wooden shoes
over the pebbles, and the bell was ringing for supper.
The two visitors took their departure.
All they had seen delighted them, and their resolution was taken.
After that evening, they took out of their library the four volumes of
La Maison Rustique, went through Gasperin's course of lectures, and
subscribed to an agricultural journal.
In order to be able to attend the fairs more conveniently, they
purchased a car, which Bouvard used to drive.
Dressed in blue blouses, with large-brimmed hats, gaiters up to
their knees, and horse-dealers' cudgels in their hands, they prowled
around cattle, asked questions of labourers, and did not fail to attend
at all the agricultural gatherings.
Soon they wearied Maître Gouy with their advice, and especially by
their depreciation of his system of fallowing. But the farmer stuck to
his routine. He asked to be allowed a quarter, putting forward as a
reason the heavy falls of hail. As for the farm-dues, he never
furnished any of them. His wife raised an outcry at even the most
legitimate claims. At length Bouvard declared his intention not to
renew the lease.
Thenceforth Maître Gouy economised the manures, allowed weeds to
grow up, ruined the soil; and he took himself off with a fierce air,
which showed that he was meditating some scheme of revenge.
Bouvard had calculated that 20,000 francs, that is to say, more than
four times the rent of the farm, would be enough to start with. His
notary sent the amount from Paris.
The property which they had undertaken to cultivate comprised
fifteen hectares of grounds and meadows, twenty-three of arable
land, and five of waste land, situated on a hillock covered with
stones, and known by the name of La Butte.
They procured all the indispensable requirements for the purpose:
four horses, a dozen cows, six hogs, one hundred and sixty sheep, and
for the household two carters, two women, a shepherd, and in addition a
In order to get cash at once, they sold their fodder. The price was
paid to them directly, and the gold napoleons counted over a chest of
oats appeared to them more glittering than any others, more rare and
In the month of November they brewed cider. It was Bouvard that
whipped the horse, while Pécuchet on the trough shovelled off the
They panted while pressing the screw, drew the juice off into the
vat, looked after the bung-holes, with heavy wooden shoes on their
feet; and in all this they found a huge diversion.
Starting with the principle that you cannot have too much corn, they
got rid of about half of their artificial meadows; and, as they had not
rich pasturing, they made use of oil-cakes, which they put into the
ground without pounding, with the result that the crop was a wretched
The following year they sowed the ground very thickly. Storms broke
out, and the ears of corn were scattered.
Nevertheless, they set their hearts on the cheese, and undertook to
clear away the stones from La Butte. A hamper carried away the stones.
The whole year, from morn to eve, in sunshine or in rain, the
everlasting hamper was seen, with the same man and the same horse,
toiling up the hill, coming down, and going up again. Sometimes Bouvard
walked in the rear, making a halt half-way up the hill to dry the sweat
off his forehead.
As they had confidence in nobody, they treated the animals
themselves, giving them purgatives and clysters.
Serious irregularities occurred in the household. The girl in the
poultry-yard became enceinte. Then they took married servants;
but the place soon swarmed with children, cousins, male and female,
uncles, and sisters-in-law. A horde of people lived at their expense;
and they resolved to sleep in the farm-house successively.
But when evening came they felt depressed, for the filthiness of the
room was offensive to them; and besides, Germaine, who brought in the
meals, grumbled at every journey. They were preyed upon in all sorts of
ways. The threshers in the barn stuffed corn into the pitchers out of
which they drank. Pécuchet caught one of them in the act, and
exclaimed, while pushing him out by the shoulders:
Wretch! You are a disgrace to the village that gave you birth!
His presence inspired no respect. Moreover, he was plagued with the
garden. All his time would not have sufficed to keep it in order.
Bouvard was occupied with the farm. They took counsel and decided on
The first point was to have good hotbeds. Pécuchet got one made of
brick. He painted the frames himself; and, being afraid of too much
sunlight, he smeared over all the bell-glasses with chalk. He took care
to cut off the tops of the leaves for slips. Next he devoted attention
to the layers. He attempted many sorts of graftingflute-graft,
crown-graft, shield-graft, herbaceous grafting, and whip-grafting. With
what care he adjusted the two libers! how he tightened the ligatures!
and what a heap of ointment it took to cover them again!
Twice a day he took his watering-pot and swung it over the plants as
if he would have shed incense over them. In proportion as they became
green under the water, which fell in a thin shower, it seemed to him as
if he were quenching his own thirst and reviving along with them. Then,
yielding to a feeling of intoxication, he snatched off the rose of the
watering-pot, and poured out the liquid copiously from the open neck.
At the end of the elm hedge, near the female figure in plaster,
stood a kind of log hut. Pécuchet locked up his implements there, and
spent delightful hours there picking the berries, writing labels, and
putting his little pots in order. He sat down to rest himself on a box
at the door of the hut, and then planned fresh improvements.
He had put two clumps of geraniums at the end of the front steps.
Between the cypresses and the distaff-shaped trees he had planted
sunflowers; and as the plots were covered with buttercups, and all the
walks with fresh sand, the garden was quite dazzling in its abundance
of yellow hues.
But the bed swarmed with larvæ. In spite of the dead leaves placed
there to heat the plants, under the painted frames and the whitened
bell-glasses, only a stunted crop made its appearance. He failed with
the broccoli, the mad-apples, the turnips, and the watercress, which he
had tried to raise in a tub. After the thaw all the artichokes were
ruined. The cabbages gave him some consolation. One of them especially
excited his hopes. It expanded and shut up quickly, but ended by
becoming prodigious and absolutely uneatable. No matterPécuchet was
content with being the possessor of a monstrosity!
Then he tried his hand at what he regarded as the summum of
artthe growing of melons.
He sowed many varieties of seed in plates filled with vegetable
mould, which he deposited in the soil of the bed. Then he raised
another bed, and when it had put forth its virgin buddings he
transplanted the best of them, putting bell-glasses over them. He made
all the cuttings in accordance with the precepts of The Good
Gardener. He treated the flowers tenderly; he let the fruits grow
in a tangle, and then selected one on either arm, removed the others,
and, as soon as they were as large as nuts, he slipped a little board
around their rind to prevent them from rotting by contact with dung. He
heated them, gave them air, swept off the mist from the bell-glasses
with his pocket-handkerchief, and, if he saw lowering clouds, he
quickly brought out straw mattings to protect them.
He did not sleep at night on account of them. Many times he even got
up out of bed, and, putting on his boots without stockings, shivering
in his shirt, he traversed the entire garden to throw his own
counterpane over his hotbed frames.
The melons ripened. Bouvard grinned when he saw the first of them.
The second was no better; neither was the third. For each of them
Pécuchet found a fresh excuse, down to the very last, which he threw
out of the window, declaring that he could not understand it at all.
The fact was, he had planted some things beside others of a
different species; and so the sweet melons got mixed up with the
kitchen-garden melons, the big Portugal with the Grand Mogul variety;
and this anarchy was completed by the proximity of the tomatoesthe
result being abominable hybrids that had the taste of pumpkins.
Then Pécuchet devoted his attention to the flowers. He wrote to
Dumouchel to get shrubs with seeds for him, purchased a stock of heath
soil, and set to work resolutely.
But he planted passion-flowers in the shade and pansies in the sun,
covered the hyacinths with dung, watered the lilies near their
blossoms, tried to stimulate the fuchsias with glue, and actually
roasted a pomegranate by exposing it to the heat of the kitchen fire.
When the weather got cold, he screened the eglantines under domes of
strong paper which had been lubricated with a candle. They looked like
sugarloaves held up by sticks.
The dahlias had enormous props; and between these straight lines
could be seen the winding branches of a Sophora Japonica, which
remained motionless, without either perishing or growing.
However, since even the rarest trees flourish in the gardens of the
capital, they must needs grow successfully at Chavignolles; and
Pécuchet provided himself with the Indian lilac, the Chinese rose, and
the eucalyptus, then in the beginning of its fame. But all his
experiments failed; and at each successive failure he was vastly
Bouvard, like him, met with obstacles. They held many consultations,
opened a book, then passed on to another, and did not know what to
resolve upon when there was so much divergence of opinion.
Thus, Puvis recommends marl, while the Roret Manual is opposed to
it. As for plaster, in spite of the example of Franklin, Riefel and M.
Rigaud did not appear to be in raptures about it.
According to Bouvard, fallow lands were a Gothic prejudice. However,
Leclerc has noted cases in which they are almost indispensable.
Gasparin mentions a native of Lyons who cultivated cereals in the same
field for half a century: this upsets the theory as to the variation of
crops. Tull extols tillage to the prejudice of rich pasture; and there
is Major Beetson, who by means of tillage would abolish pasture
In order to understand the indications of the weather, they studied
the clouds according to the classification of Luke Howard. They
contemplated those which spread out like manes, those which resemble
islands, and those which might be taken for mountains of snowtrying
to distinguish the nimbus from the cirrus and the stratus from the
cumulus. The shapes had altered even before they had discovered the
The barometer deceived them; the thermometer taught them nothing;
and they had recourse to the device invented in the time of Louis XIV.
by a priest from Touraine. A leech in a glass bottle was to rise up in
the event of rain, to stick to the bottom in settled weather, and to
move about if a storm were threatening. But nearly always the
atmosphere contradicted the leech. Three others were put in along with
it. The entire four behaved differently.
After many reflections, Bouvard realised that he had made a mistake.
His property required cultivation on a large scale, the concentrated
system, and he risked all the disposable capital that he had
leftthirty thousand francs.
Stimulated by Pécuchet, he began to rave about pasture. In the pit
for composts were heaped up branches of trees, blood, guts,
featherseverything that he could find. He used Belgian cordial, Swiss
wash, lye, red herrings, wrack, rags; sent for guano, tried to
manufacture it himself; and, pushing his principles to the farthest
point, he would not suffer even urine or other refuse to be lost. Into
his farmyard were carried carcasses of animals, with which he manured
his lands. Their cut-up carrion strewed the fields. Bouvard smiled in
the midst of this stench. A pump fixed to a dung-cart spattered the
liquid manure over the crops. To those who assumed an air of disgust,
he used to say, But 'tis gold! 'tis gold! And he was sorry that he
had not still more manures. Happy the land where natural grottoes are
found full of the excrements of birds!
The colza was thin; the oats only middling; and the corn sold very
badly on account of its smell. A curious circumstance was that La
Butte, with the stones cleared away from it at last, yielded less than
He deemed it advisable to renew his material. He bought a Guillaume
scarifier, a Valcourt weeder, an English drill-machine, and the great
swing-plough of Mathieu de Dombasle, but the ploughboy disparaged it.
Do you learn to use it!
Well, do you show me!
He made an attempt to show, but blundered, and the peasants sneered.
He could never make them obey the command of the bell. He was
incessantly bawling after them, rushing from one place to another,
taking down observations in a note-book, making appointments and
forgetting all about themand his head was boiling over with
He got the notion into his head of cultivating the poppy for the
purpose of getting opium from it, and above all the milk-vetch, which
he intended to sell under the name of family coffee.
Finally, in order to fatten his oxen the more quickly, he blooded
them for an entire fortnight.
He killed none of his pigs, and gorged them with salted oats. The
pigsty soon became too narrow. The animals obstructed the farmyard,
broke down the fences, and went gnawing at everything.
In the hot weather twenty-five sheep began to get spoiled, and
shortly afterwards died. The same week three bulls perished owing to
In order to destroy the maggots, he thought of shutting up the fowls
in a hencoop on rollers, which two men had to push along behind the
plougha thing which had only the effect of breaking the claws of the
He manufactured beer with germander-leaves, and gave it to the
harvesters as cider. The children cried, the women moaned, and the men
raged. They all threatened to go, and Bouvard gave way to them.
However, to convince them of the harmlessness of his beverage, he
swallowed several bottles of it in their presence; then he got cramps,
but concealed his pains under a playful exterior. He even got the
mixture sent to his own residence. He drank some of it with Pécuchet in
the evening, and both of them tried to persuade themselves that it was
good. Besides, it was necessary not to let it go to waste. Bouvard's
colic having got worse, Germaine went for the doctor.
He was a grave-looking man, with a round forehead, and he began by
frightening his patient. He thought the gentleman's attack of cholerine
must be connected with the beer which people were talking about in the
country. He desired to know what it was composed of, and found fault
with it in scientific terms with shruggings of the shoulders. Pécuchet,
who had supplied the recipe for it, was mortified.
In spite of pernicious limings, stinted redressings, and
unseasonable weedings, Bouvard had in front of him, in the following
year, a splendid crop of wheat. He thought of drying it by
fermentation, in the Dutch fashion, on the Clap-Meyer system: that is
to say, he got it thrown down all of a heap and piled up in stacks,
which would be overturned as soon as the damp escaped from them, and
then exposed to the open airafter which Bouvard went off without the
Next day, while they were at dinner, they heard under the beech
trees the beating of a drum. Germaine ran out to know what was the
matter, but the man was by this time some distance away. Almost at the
same moment the church-bell rang violently.
Bouvard and Pécuchet felt alarmed, and, impatient to learn what had
happened, they rushed bareheaded along the Chavignolles road.
An old woman passed them. She knew nothing about it. They stopped a
little boy, who replied:
I believe it's a fire!
And the drum continued beating and the bell ringing more loudly than
before. At length they reached the nearest houses in the village. The
grocer, some yards away, exclaimed:
The fire is at your place!
Pécuchet stepped out in double-quick time; and he said to Bouvard,
who trotted by his side with equal speed:
One, two! one, two!counting his steps regularly, like the
chasseurs of Vincennes.
The road which they took was a continuously uphill one; the sloping
ground hid the horizon from their view. They reached a height close to
La Butte, and at a single glance the disaster was revealed to them.
All the stacks, here and there, were flaming like volcanoes in the
midst of the plain, stripped bare in the evening stillness. Around the
biggest of them there were about three hundred persons, perhaps; and
under the command of M. Foureau, the mayor, in a tricoloured scarf,
youngsters, with poles and crooks, were dragging down the straw from
the top in order to save the rest of it.
Bouvard, in his eagerness, was near knocking down Madame Bordin, who
happened to be there. Then, seeing one of his servant-boys, he loaded
him with insults for not having given him warning. The servant-boy, on
the contrary, through excess of zeal, had at first rushed to the house,
then to the church, next to where Monsieur himself was staying, and had
returned by the other road.
Bouvard lost his head. His entire household gathered round him, all
talking together, and he forbade them to knock down the stacks, begged
of them to give him some help, called for water, and asked where were
We've got to get them first! exclaimed the mayor.
That's your fault! replied Bouvard.
He flew into a passion, and made use of improper language, and
everyone wondered at the patience of M. Foureau, who, all the same, was
a surly individual, as might be seen from his big lips and bulldog jaw.
The heat of the stacks became so great that nobody could come close
to them any longer. Under the devouring flames the straw writhed with a
crackling sound, and the grains of corn lashed one's face as if they
were buckshot. Then the stack fell in a huge burning pile to the
ground, and a shower of sparks flew out of it, while fiery waves
floated above the red mass, which presented in its alternations of
colour parts rosy as vermilion and others like clotted blood. The night
had come, the wind was swelling; from time to time, a flake of fire
passed across the black sky.
Bouvard viewed the conflagration with tears in his eyes, which were
veiled by his moist lids, and his whole face was swollen with grief.
Madame Bordin, while playing with the fringes of her green shawl,
called him Poor Monsieur! and tried to console him. Since nothing
could be done, he ought to do himself justice.
Pécuchet did not weep. Very pale, or rather livid, with open mouth,
and hair stuck together with cold sweat, he stood apart, brooding. But
the curé who had suddenly arrived on the scene, murmured, in a
Ah! really, what a misfortune! It is very annoying. Be sure that I
enter into your feelings.
The others did not affect any regret. They chatted and smiled, with
hands spread out before the flame. An old man picked out burning straws
to light his pipe with; and one blackguard cried out that it was very
Yes, 'tis nice fun! retorted Bouvard, who had just overheard him.
The fire abated, the burning piles subsided, and an hour later only
ashes remained, making round, black marks on the plain. Then all
Madame Bordin and the Abbé Jeufroy led MM. Bouvard and Pécuchet back
to their abode.
On the way the widow addressed very polite reproaches to her
neighbour on his unsociableness, and the ecclesiastic expressed his
great surprise at not having up to the present known such a
distinguished parishioner of his.
When they were alone together, they inquired into the cause of the
conflagration, and, in place of recognising, like the rest of the
world, that the moist straw had taken fire of its own accord, they
suspected that it was a case of revenge. It proceeded, no doubt, from
Maître Gouy, or perhaps from the mole-catcher. Six months before
Bouvard had refused to accept his services, and even maintained, before
a circle of listeners, that his trade was a baneful one, and that the
government ought to prohibit it. Since that time the man prowled about
the locality. He wore his beard full-grown, and appeared to them
frightful-looking, especially in the evening, when he presented himself
outside the farmyard, shaking his long pole garnished with hanging
The damage done was considerable, and in order to know their exact
position, Pécuchet for eight days worked at Bouvard's books, which he
pronounced to be a veritable labyrinth. After he had compared the
day-book, the correspondence, and the ledger covered with pencil-notes
and discharges, he realised the truth: no goods to sell, no funds to
get in, and in the cash-box zero. The capital showed a deficit of
thirty-three thousand francs.
Bouvard would not believe it, and more than twenty times they went
over the accounts. They always arrived at the same conclusion. Two
years more of such farming, and their fortune would be spent on it! The
only remedy was to sell out.
To do that, it was necessary to consult a notary. The step was a
disagreeable one: Pécuchet took it on himself.
In M. Marescot's opinion, it was better not to put up any posters.
He would speak about the farm to respectable clients, and would let
them make proposals.
Very well, said Bouvard, we have time before us. He intended to
get a tenant; then they would see. We shall not be more unlucky than
before; only now we are forced to practise economy!
Pécuchet was disgusted with gardening, and a few days later he
We ought to give ourselves up exclusively to tree culturenot for
pleasure, but as a speculation. A pear which is the product of three
soils is sometimes sold in the capital for five or six francs.
Gardeners make out of apricots twenty-five thousand livres in the year!
At St. Petersburg, during the winter, grapes are sold at a napoleon per
grape. It is a beautiful industry, you must admit! And what does it
cost? Attention, manuring, and a fresh touch of the pruning-knife.
It excited Bouvard's imagination so much that they sought
immediately in their books for a nomenclature for purchasable plants,
and, having selected names which appeared to them wonderful, they
applied to a nurseryman from Falaise, who busied himself in supplying
them with three hundred stalks for which he had not found a sale. They
got a lock-smith for the props, an iron-worker for the fasteners, and a
carpenter for the rests. The forms of the trees were designed
beforehand. Pieces of lath on the wall represented candelabra. Two
posts at the ends of the plat-bands supported steel threads in a
horizontal position; and in the orchard, hoops indicated the structure
of vases, cone-shaped switches that of pyramids, so well that, in
arriving in the midst of them, you imagined you saw pieces of some
unknown machinery or the framework of a pyrotechnic apparatus.
The holes having been dug, they cut the ends of all the roots, good
or bad, and buried them in a compost. Six months later the plants were
dead. Fresh orders to the nurseryman, and fresh plantings in still
deeper holes. But the rain softening the soil, the grafts buried
themselves in the ground of their own accord, and the trees sprouted
When spring had come, Pécuchet set about the pruning of pear trees.
He did not cut down the shoots, spared the superfluous side branches,
and, persisting in trying to lay the duchesses out in a square when
they ought to go in a string on one side, he broke them or tore them
down invariably. As for the peach trees, he got mixed up with
over-mother branches, under-mother branches, and second-under-mother
branches. The empty and the full always presented themselves when they
were not wanted, and it was impossible to obtain on an espalier a
perfect rectangle, with six branches to the right and six to the left,
not including the two principal ones, the whole forming a fine bit of
Bouvard tried to manage the apricot trees, but they rebelled. He
lowered their stems nearly to a level with the ground; none of them
shot up again. The cherry trees, in which he had made notches, produced
At first, they cut very long, which destroyed the principal buds,
and then very short, which led to excessive branching; and they often
hesitated, not knowing how to distinguish between buds of trees and
buds of flowers. They were delighted to have flowers, but when they
recognised their mistake, they tore off three fourths of them to
strengthen the remainder.
Incessantly they kept talking about sap and cambium, paling
up, breaking down, and blinding of an eye. In the middle of their
dining-room they had in a frame the list of their young growths, as if
they were pupils, with a number which was repeated in the garden on a
little piece of wood, at the foot of the tree. Out of bed at dawn, they
kept working till nightfall with their twigs carried in their belts. In
the cold mornings of spring, Bouvard wore his knitted vest under his
blouse, and Pécuchet his old frock-coat under his packcloth wrapper;
and the people passing by the open fence heard them coughing in the
Sometimes Pécuchet drew forth his manual from his pocket, and he
studied a paragraph of it standing up with his grafting-tool near him
in the attitude of the gardener who decorated the frontispiece of the
book. This resemblance flattered him exceedingly, and made him
entertain more esteem for the author.
Bouvard was continually perched on a high ladder before the
pyramids. One day he was seized with dizziness, and, not daring to come
down farther, he called on Pécuchet to come to his aid.
At length pears made their appearance, and there were plums in the
orchard. Then they made use of all the devices which had been
recommended to them against the birds. But the bits of glass made
dazzling reflections, the clapper of the wind-mill woke them during the
night, and the sparrows perched on the lay figure. They made a second,
and even a third, varying the dress, but without any useful result.
However, they could hope for some fruit. Pécuchet had just given an
intimation of the fact to Bouvard, when suddenly the thunder resounded
and the rain fella heavy and violent downpour. The wind at intervals
shook the entire surface of the espalier. The props gave way one after
the other, and the unfortunate distaff-shaped trees, while swaying
under the storm, dashed their pears against one another.
Pécuchet, surprised by the shower, had taken refuge in the hut.
Bouvard stuck to the kitchen. They saw splinters of wood, branches, and
slates whirling in front of them; and the sailors' wives who, on the
sea-shore ten leagues away, were gazing out at the sea, had not eyes
more wistful or hearts more anxious. Then, suddenly, the supports and
wooden bars of espaliers facing one another, together with the
rail-work, toppled down into the garden beds.
What a picture when they went to inspect the scene! The cherries and
plums covered the grass, amid the dissolving hailstones. The Passe
Colmars were destroyed, as well as the Besi des Vétérans and the
Triomphes de Jordoigne. There was barely left amongst the apples even a
few Bon Papas; and a dozen Tetons de Venus, the entire crop of peaches,
rolled into the pools of water by the side of the box trees, which had
been torn up by the roots.
After dinner, at which they ate very little, Pécuchet said softly:
We should do well to see after the farm, lest anything has happened
Bah! only to find fresh causes of sadness.
Perhaps so; for we are not exactly lucky.
And they made complaints against Providence and against nature.
Bouvard, with his elbows on the table, spoke in little whispers; and
as all their troubles began to subside, their former agricultural
projects came back to their recollection, especially the starch
manufacture and the invention of a new sort of cheese.
Pécuchet drew a loud breath; and while he crammed several pinches of
snuff into his nostrils, he reflected that, if fate had so willed it,
he might now be a member of an agricultural society, might be
delivering brilliant lectures, and might be referred to as an authority
in the newspapers.
Bouvard cast a gloomy look around him.
Faith! I'm anxious to get rid of all this, in order that we may
settle down somewhere else!
Just as you like, said Pécuchet; and the next moment: The authors
recommend us to suppress every direct passage. In this way the sap is
counteracted, and the tree necessarily suffers thereby. In order to be
in good health, it would be necessary for it to have no fruit! However,
those which we prune and which we never manure produce them not so big,
it is true, but more luscious. I require them to give me a reason for
this! And not only each kind demands its particular attentions, but
still more each individual tree, according to climate, temperature, and
a heap of things! Where, then, is the rule? and what hope have we of
any success or profit?
Bouvard replied to him, You will see in Gasparin that the profit
cannot exceed the tenth of the capital. Therefore, we should be doing
better by investing this capital in a banking-house. At the end of
fifteen years, by the accumulation of interest, we'd have it doubled,
without having our constitutions ground down.
Pécuchet hung down his head.
Arboriculture may be a humbug!
Like agriculture! replied Bouvard.
Then they blamed themselves for having been too ambitious, and they
resolved to husband thenceforth their labour and their money. An
occasional pruning would suffice for the orchard. The counter-espaliers
were forbidden, and dead or fallen trees should not be replaced; but he
was going to do a nasty jobnothing less than to destroy all the
others which remained standing. How was he to set about the work?
Pécuchet made several diagrams, while using his mathematical case.
Bouvard gave him advice. They arrived at no satisfactory result.
Fortunately, they discovered amongst their collection of books
Boitard's work entitled L'Architecte des Jardins.
The author divides them into a great number of styles. First there
is the melancholy and romantic style, which is distinguished by
immortelles, ruins, tombs, and a votive offering to the Virgin,
indicating the place where a lord has fallen under the blade of an
assassin. The terrible style is composed of overhanging rocks,
shattered trees, burning huts; the exotic style, by planting Peruvian
torch-thistles, in order to arouse memories in a colonist or a
traveller. The grave style should, like Ermenonville, offer a temple
to philosophy. The majestic style is characterised by obelisks and
triumphal arches; the mysterious style by moss and by grottoes; while a
lake is appropriate to the dreamy style. There is even the fantastic
style, of which the most beautiful specimen might have been lately seen
in a garden at Würtembergfor there might have been met successively a
wild boar, a hermit, several sepulchres, and a barque detaching itself
from the shore of its own accord, in order to lead you into a boudoir
where water-spouts lave you when you are settling yourself down upon a
Before this horizon of marvels, Bouvard and Pécuchet experienced a
kind of bedazzlement. The fantastic style appeared to them reserved for
princes. The temple to philosophy would be cumbersome. The votive
offering of the Madonna would have no signification, having regard to
the lack of assassins, andso much the worse for the colonists and the
travellersthe American plants would cost too much. But the rocks were
possible, as well as the shattered trees, the immortelles, and the
moss; and in their enthusiasm for new ideas, after many experiments,
with the assistance of a single man-servant, and for a trifling sum,
they made for themselves a residence which had no analogy to it in the
The elm hedge, open here and there, allowed the light of day to fall
on the thicket, which was full of winding paths in the fashion of a
labyrinth. They had conceived the idea of making in the espalier wall
an archway, through which the prospect could be seen. As the arch could
not remain suspended, the result was an enormous breach and a fall of
wreckage to the ground.
They had sacrificed the asparagus in order to build on the spot an
Etruscan tomb, that is to say, a quadrilateral figure in dark plaster,
six feet in height, and looking like a dog-hole. Four little pine trees
at the corners flanked the monument, which was to be surmounted by an
urn and enriched by an inscription.
In the other part of the kitchen garden, a kind of Rialto projected
over a basin, presenting on its margin encrusted shells of mussels. The
soil drank up the waterno matter! they would contrive a glass bottom
which would keep it back.
The hut had been transformed into a rustic summer-house with the aid
of coloured glass.
At the top of the hillock, six trees, cut square, supported a tin
head-piece with the edges turned up, and the whole was meant to signify
a Chinese pagoda.
They had gone to the banks of the Orne to select granite, and had
broken it, marked the pieces with numbers, and carried them back
themselves in a cart, then had joined the fragments together with
cement, placing them one above the other in a mass; and in the middle
of the grass arose a rock resembling a gigantic potato.
Something further was needed to complete the harmony. They pulled
down the largest linden tree they had (however, it was three quarters
dead), and laid it down the entire length of the garden, in such a way
that one would imagine it had been carried thither by a torrent or
levelled to the ground by a thunderstorm.
The task finished, Bouvard, who was on the steps, cried from a
Here! you can see best!See best! was repeated in the air.
I am going there!Going there!
Hold on! 'Tis an echo!Echo!
The linden tree had hitherto prevented it from being produced, and
it was assisted by the pagoda, as it faced the barn, whose gables rose
above the row of trees.
In order to try the effect of the echo, they amused themselves by
giving vent to comical phrases: Bouvard yelled out language of a
He had been several times at Falaise, under the pretence of going
there to receive money, and he always came back with little parcels,
which he locked up in the chest of drawers. Pécuchet started one
morning to repair to Bretteville, and returned very late with a basket,
which he hid under his bed. Next day, when he awoke, Bouvard was
surprised. The first two yew trees of the principal walk, which the day
before were still spherical, had the appearance of peacocks, and a horn
with two porcelain knobs represented the beak and the eyes. Pécuchet
had risen at dawn, and trembling lest he should be discovered, he had
cut the two trees according to the measurement given in the written
instructions sent him by Dumouchel.
For six months the others behind the two above mentioned assumed the
forms of pyramids, cubes, cylinders, stags, or armchairs; but there was
nothing equal to the peacocks. Bouvard acknowledged it with many
Under pretext of having forgotten his spade, he drew his comrade
into the labyrinth, for he had profited by Pécuchet's absence to do,
himself too, something sublime.
The gate leading into the fields was covered over with a coating of
plaster, under which were ranged in beautiful order five or six bowls
of pipes, representing Abd-el-Kader, negroes, naked women, horses'
feet, and death's-heads.
Do you understand my impatience?
I rather think so!
And in their emotion they embraced each other.
Like all artists, they felt the need of being applauded, and Bouvard
thought of giving a great dinner.
Take care! said Pécuchet, you are going to plunge into
entertainments. It is a whirlpool!
The matter, however, was decided. Since they had come to live in the
country, they had kept themselves isolated. Everybody, through
eagerness to make their acquaintance, accepted their invitation, except
the Count de Faverges, who had been summoned to the capital by
business. They fell back on M. Hurel, his factotum.
Beljambe, the innkeeper, formerly a chef at Lisieux, was to
cook certain dishes; Germaine had engaged the services of the
poultry-wench; and Marianne, Madame Bordin's servant-girl, would also
come. Since four o'clock the range was wide open; and the two
proprietors, full of impatience, awaited their guests.
Hurel stopped under the beech row to adjust his frock-coat. Then the
curé stepped forward, arrayed in a new cassock, and, a second later, M.
Foureau, in a velvet waistcoat. The doctor gave his arm to his wife,
who walked with some difficulty, assisting herself with her parasol. A
stream of red ribbons fluttered behind themit was the cap of Madame
Bordin, who was dressed in a lovely robe of shot silk. The gold chain
of her watch dangled over her breast, and rings glittered on both her
hands, which were partly covered with black mittens. Finally appeared
the notary, with a Panama hat on his head, and an eyeglassfor the
professional practitioner had not stifled in him the man of the world.
The drawing-room floor was waxed so that one could not stand upright
there. The eight Utrecht armchairs had their backs to the wall; a round
table in the centre supported the liqueur case; and above the
mantelpiece could be seen the portrait of Père Bouvard. The shades,
reappearing in the imperfect light, made the mouth grin and the eyes
squint, and a slight mouldiness on the cheek-bones seemed to produce
the illusion of real whiskers. The guests traced a resemblance between
him and his son, and Madame Bordin added, glancing at Bouvard, that he
must have been a very fine man.
After an hour's waiting, Pécuchet announced that they might pass
into the dining-room.
The white calico curtains with red borders were, like those of the
drawing-room, completely drawn before the windows, and the sun's rays
passing across them, flung a brilliant light on the wainscotings, the
only ornament of which was a barometer.
Bouvard placed the two ladies beside him, while Pécuchet had the
mayor on his left and the curé on his right.
They began with the oysters. They had the taste of mud. Bouvard was
annoyed, and was prodigal of excuses, and Pécuchet got up in order to
go into the kitchen and make a scene with Beljambe.
During the whole of the first course, which consisted of a brill
with a vol-au-vent and stewed pigeons, the conversation turned on the
mode of manufacturing cider; after which they discussed what meats were
digestible or indigestible. Naturally, the doctor was consulted. He
looked at matters sceptically, like a man who had dived into the depths
of science, and yet did not brook the slightest contradiction.
At the same time, with the sirloin of beef, Burgundy was supplied.
It was muddy. Bouvard, attributing this accident to the rinsing of the
bottles, got them to try three others without more success; then he
poured out some St. Julien, manifestly not long enough in bottle, and
all the guests were mute. Hurel smiled without discontinuing; the heavy
steps of the waiters resounded over the flooring.
Madame Vaucorbeil, who was dumpy and waddling in her gait (she was
near her confinement), had maintained absolute silence. Bouvard, not
knowing what to talk to her about, spoke of the theatre at Caen.
My wife never goes to the play, interposed the doctor.
M. Marescot observed that, when he lived in Paris, he used to go
only to the Italian operas.
For my part, said Bouvard, I used to pay for a seat in the pit
sometimes at the Vaudeville to hear farces.
Foureau asked Madame Bordin whether she liked farces.
That depends on what kind they are, she said.
The mayor rallied her. She made sharp rejoinders to his
pleasantries. Then she mentioned a recipe for preparing gherkins.
However, her talents for housekeeping were well known, and she had a
little farm, which was admirably looked after.
Foureau asked Bouvard, Is it your intention to sell yours?
Upon my word, up to this I don't know what to do exactly.
What! not even the Escalles piece? interposed the notary. That
would suit you, Madame Bordin.
The widow replied in an affected manner:
The demands of M. Bouvard would be too high.
Perhaps someone could soften him.
I will not try.
Bah! if you embraced him?
Let us try, all the same, said Bouvard.
And he kissed her on both cheeks, amid the plaudits of the guests.
Almost immediately after this incident, they uncorked the champagne,
whose detonations caused an additional sense of enjoyment. Pécuchet
made a sign; the curtains opened, and the garden showed itself.
In the twilight it looked dreadful. The rockery, like a mountain,
covered the entire grass plot; the tomb formed a cube in the midst of
spinaches, the Venetian bridge a circumflex accent over the
kidney-beans, and the summer-house beyond a big black spot, for they
had burned its straw roof to make it more poetic. The yew trees, shaped
like stags or armchairs, succeeded to the tree that seemed
thunder-stricken, extending transversely from the elm row to the
arbour, where tomatoes hung like stalactites. Here and there a
sunflower showed its yellow disk. The Chinese pagoda, painted red,
seemed a lighthouse on the hillock. The peacocks' beaks, struck by the
sun, reflected back the rays, and behind the railed gate, now freed
from its boards, a perfectly flat landscape bounded the horizon.
In the face of their guests' astonishment Bouvard and Pécuchet
experienced a veritable delight.
Madame Bordin admired the peacocks above all; but the tomb was not
appreciated, nor the cot in flames, nor the wall in ruins. Then each in
turn passed over the bridge. In order to fill the basin, Bouvard and
Pécuchet had been carrying water in carts all the morning. It had
escaped between the foundation stones, which were imperfectly joined
together, and covered them over again with lime.
While they were walking about, the guests indulged in criticism.
In your place that's what I'd have done.The green peas are
late.Candidly, this corner is not all right.With such pruning
you'll never get fruit.
Bouvard was obliged to answer that he did not care a jot for fruit.
As they walked past the hedge of trees, he said with a sly air:
Ah! here's a lady that puts us out of countenance: a thousand
It was a well-seasoned joke; everyone knew the lady in plaster.
Finally, after many turns in the labyrinth, they arrived in front of
the gate with the pipes. Looks of amazement were exchanged. Bouvard
observed the faces of his guests, and, impatient to learn what was
their opinion, asked:
What do you say to it?
Madame Bordin burst out laughing. All the others followed her
example, after their respective waysthe curé giving a sort of cluck
like a hen, Hurel coughing, the doctor mourning over it, while his wife
had a nervous spasm, and Foureau, an unceremonious type of man,
breaking an Abd-el-Kader and putting it into his pocket as a souvenir.
When they had left the tree-hedge, Bouvard, to astonish the company
with the echo, exclaimed with all his strength:
Nothing! No echo. This was owing to the repairs made in the barn,
the gable and the roof having been demolished.
The coffee was served on the hillock; and the gentlemen were about
to begin a game of ball, when they saw in front of them, behind the
railed fence, a man staring at them.
He was lean and sunburnt, with a pair of red trousers in rags, a
blue waistcoat, no shirt, his black beard cut like a brush. He
articulated, in a hoarse voice:
Give me a glass of wine!
The mayor and the Abbé Jeufroy had at once recognised him. He had
formerly been a joiner at Chavignolles.
Come, Gorju! take yourself off, said M. Foureau. You ought not to
be asking for alms.
I! Alms! cried the exasperated man. I served seven years in the
wars in Africa. I've only just got up out of a hospital. Good God! must
I turn cutthroat?
His anger subsided of its own accord, and, with his two fists on his
hips, he surveyed the assembled guests with a melancholy and defiant
air. The fatigue of bivouacs, absinthe, and fever, an entire existence
of wretchedness and debauchery, stood revealed in his dull eyes. His
white lips quivered, exposing the gums. The vast sky, empurpled,
enveloped him in a blood-red light; and his obstinacy in remaining
there caused a species of terror.
Bouvard, to have done with him, went to look for the remnants of a
bottle. The vagabond swallowed the wine greedily, then disappeared
amongst the oats, gesticulating as he went.
After this, blame was attached by those present to Bouvard. Such
kindnesses encouraged disorder. But Bouvard, irritated at the
ill-success of his garden, took up the defence of the people. They all
began talking at the same time.
Foureau extolled the government. Hurel saw nothing in the world but
landed property. The Abbé Jeufroy complained of the fact that it did
not protect religion. Pécuchet attacked the taxes. Madame Bordin
exclaimed at intervals, As for me, I detest the Republic. And the
doctor declared himself in favour of progress: For, indeed, gentlemen,
we have need of reforms.
Possibly, said Foureau; but all these ideas are injurious to
I laugh at business! cried Pécuchet.
Vaucorbeil went on: At least let us make allowance for abilities.
Bouvard would not go so far.
That is your opinion, replied the doctor; there's an end of you,
then! Good evening. And I wish you a deluge in order to sail in your
And I, too, am going, said M. Foureau the next moment; and,
pointing to the pocket where the Abd-el-Kader was, If I feel the want
of another, I'll come back.
The curé, before departing, timidly confided to Pécuchet that he did
not think this imitation of a tomb in the midst of vegetables quite
decorous. Hurel, as he withdrew, made a low bow to the company. M.
Marescot had disappeared after dessert. Madame Bordin again went over
her recipe for gherkins, promised a second for plums with brandy, and
made three turns in the large walk; but, passing close to the linden
tree, the end of her dress got caught, and they heard her murmuring:
My God! what a piece of idiocy this tree is!
At midnight the two hosts, beneath the arbour, gave vent to their
No doubt one might find fault with two or three little details here
and there in the dinner; and yet the guests had gorged themselves like
ogres, showing that it was not so bad. But, as for the garden, so much
depreciation sprang from the blackest jealousy. And both of them,
lashing themselves into a rage, went on:
Ha! water is needed in the basin, is it? Patience! they may see
even a swan and fishes in it!
They scarcely noticed the pagoda.
To pretend that the ruins are not proper is an imbecile's view.
And the tomb objectionable! Why objectionable? Hasn't a man the
right to erect one in his own demesne? I even intend to be buried in
Don't talk like that! said Pécuchet.
Then they passed the guests in review.
The doctor seems to me a nice snob!
Did you notice the sneer of M. Marescot before the portrait?
What a low fellow the mayor is! When you dine in a house, hang it!
you should show some respect towards the curios.
Madame Bordin! said Bouvard.
Ah! that one's a schemer. Don't annoy me by talking about her.
Disgusted with society, they resolved to see nobody any more, but
live exclusively by themselves and for themselves.
And they spent days in the wine-cellar, picking the tartar off the
bottles, re-varnished all the furniture, enamelled the rooms; and each
evening, as they watched the wood burning, they discussed the best
system of fuel.
Through economy they tried to smoke hams, and attempted to do the
washing themselves. Germaine, whom they inconvenienced, used to shrug
her shoulders. When the time came for making preserves she got angry,
and they took up their station in the bakehouse. It was a disused
wash-house, where there was, under the faggots, a big, old-fashioned
tub, excellently fitted for their projects, the ambition having seized
them to manufacture preserves.
Fourteen glass bottles were filled with tomatoes and green peas.
They coated the stoppers with quicklime and cheese, attached to the
rims silk cords, and then plunged them into boiling water. It
evaporated; they poured in cold water; the difference of temperature
caused the bowls to burst. Only three of them were saved. Then they
procured old sardine boxes, put veal cutlets into them, and plunged
them into a vessel of boiling water. They came out as round as
balloons. The cold flattened them out afterwards. To continue their
experiments, they shut up in other boxes eggs, chiccory, lobsters, a
hotchpotch of fish, and a soup!and they applauded themselves like M.
Appert, on having fixed the seasons. Such discoveries, according to
Pécuchet, carried him beyond the exploits of conquerors.
They improved upon Madame Bordin's pickles by spicing the vinegar
with pepper; and their brandy plums were very much superior. By the
process of steeping ratafia, they obtained raspberry and absinthe. With
honey and angelica in a cask of Bagnolles, they tried to make Malaga
wine; and they likewise undertook the manufacture of champagne! The
bottles of Châblis diluted with water must burst of themselves. Then he
no longer was doubtful of success.
Their studies widening, they came to suspect frauds in all articles
of food. They cavilled with the baker on the colour of his bread; they
made the grocer their enemy by maintaining that he adulterated his
chocolate. They went to Falaise for a jujube, and, even under the
apothecary's own eyes, they submitted his paste to the test of water.
It assumed the appearance of a piece of bacon, which indicated
After this triumph, their pride rose to a high pitch. They bought up
the stock of a bankrupt distiller, and soon there arrived in the house
sieves, barrels, funnels, skimmers, filters, and scales, without
counting a bowl of wood with a ball attached and a Moreshead still,
which required a reflecting-furnace with a basket funnel. They learned
how sugar is clarified, and the different kinds of boilings, the large
and the small system of boiling twice over, the blowing system, the
methods of making up in balls, the reduction of sugar to a viscous
state, and the making of burnt sugar. But they longed to use the still;
and they broached the fine liqueurs, beginning with the aniseed
cordial. The liquid nearly always drew away the materials with it, or
rather they stuck together at the bottom; at other times they were
mistaken as to the amount of the ingredients. Around them shone great
copper pans; egg-shaped vessels projected their narrow openings;
saucepans hung from the walls. Frequently one of them culled herbs on
the table, while the other made the ball swing in the suspended bowl.
They stirred the ladles; they tasted the mashes.
Bouvard, always in a perspiration, had no garment on save his shirt
and his trousers, drawn up to the pit of his stomach by his short
braces; but, giddy as a bird, he would forget the opening in the centre
of the cucurbit, or would make the fire too strong.
Pécuchet kept muttering calculations, motionless in his long blouse,
a kind of child's smock-frock with sleeves; and they looked upon
themselves as very serious people engaged in very useful occupations.
At length they dreamed of a cream which would surpass all others.
They would put into it coriander as in Kummel, kirsch as in Maraschino,
hyssop as in Chartreuse, amber-seed as in Vespetro cordial, and sweet
calamus as in Krambambuly; and it would be coloured red with
sandalwood. But under what name should they introduce it for commercial
purposes?for they would want a name easy to retain and yet fanciful.
Having turned the matter over a long time, they determined that it
should be called Bouvarine.
About the end of autumn stains appeared in the three glass bowls
containing the preserves. The tomatoes and green peas were rotten. That
must have been due to the way they had stopped up the vessels. Then the
problem of stoppage tormented them. In order to try the new methods,
they required money; and the farm had eaten up their resources.
Many times tenants had offered themselves; but Bouvard would not
have them. His principal farm-servant carried on the cultivation
according to his directions, with a risky economy, to such an extent
that the crops diminished and everything was imperilled; and they were
talking about their embarrassments when Maître Gouy entered the
laboratory, escorted by his wife, who remained timidly in the
Thanks to all the dressings they had got, the lands were improved,
and he had come to take up the farm again. He ran it down. In spite of
all their toils, the profits were uncertain; in short, if he wanted it,
that was because of his love for the country, and his regret for such
They dismissed him coldly. He came back the same evening.
Pécuchet had preached at Bouvard; they were on the point of giving
way. Gouy asked for a reduction of rent; and when the others protested,
he began to bellow rather than speak, invoking the name of God,
enumerating his labours, and extolling his merits. When they called on
him to state his terms, he hung down his head instead of answering.
Then his wife, seated near the door, with a big basket on her knees,
made similar protestations, screeching in a sharp voice, like a hen
that has been hurt.
At last the lease was agreed on, the rent being fixed at three
thousand francs a yeara third less than it had been formerly.
Before they had separated, Maître Gouy offered to buy up the stock,
and the bargaining was renewed.
The valuation of the chattels occupied fifteen days. Bouvard was
dying of fatigue. He let everything go for a sum so contemptible that
Gouy at first opened his eyes wide, and exclaiming, Agreed! slapped
After which the proprietors, following the old custom, proposed that
they should take a nip at the house, and Pécuchet opened a bottle of
his Malaga, less through generosity than in the hope of eliciting
eulogies on the wine.
But the husbandman said, with a sour look, It's like liquorice
syrup. And his wife, in order to get rid of the taste, asked for a
glass of brandy.
A graver matter engaged their attention. All the ingredients of the
Bouvarine were now collected. They heaped them together in the
cucurbit, with the alcohol, lighted the fire, and waited. However,
Pécuchet, annoyed by the misadventure about the Malaga, took the tin
boxes out of the cupboard and pulled the lid off the first, then off
the second, and then off the third. He angrily flung them down, and
called out to Bouvard. The latter had fastened the cock of the worm in
order to try the effect on the preserves.
The disillusion was complete. The slices of veal were like boiled
boot-soles; a muddy fluid had taken the place of the lobster; the
fish-stew was unrecognisable; mushroom growths had sprouted over the
soup, and an intolerable smell tainted the laboratory.
Suddenly, with the noise of a bombshell, the still burst into twenty
pieces, which jumped up to the ceiling, smashing the pots, flattening
out the skimmers and shattering the glasses. The coal was scattered
about, the furnace was demolished, and next day Germaine found a
spatula in the yard.
The force of the steam had broken the instrument to such an extent
that the cucurbit was pinned to the head of the still.
Pécuchet immediately found himself squatted behind the vat, and
Bouvard lay like one who had fallen over a stool. For ten minutes they
remained in this posture, not daring to venture on a single movement,
pale with terror, in the midst of broken glass. When they were able to
recover the power of speech, they asked themselves what was the cause
of so many misfortunes, and of the last above all? And they could
understand nothing about the matter except that they were near being
killed. Pécuchet finished with these words:
It is, perhaps, because we do not know chemistry!
CHAPTER III. AMATEUR CHEMISTS.
In order to understand chemistry they procured Regnault's course of
lectures, and were, in the first place, informed that simple bodies
are perhaps compound. They are divided into metalloids and metalsa
difference in which, the author observes, there is nothing absolute.
So with acids and bases, a body being able to behave in the manner of
acids or of bases, according to circumstances.
The notation appeared to them irregular. The multiple proportions
Since one molecule of a, I suppose, is combined with several
particles of b, it seems to me that this molecule ought to be
divided into as many particles; but, if it is divided, it ceases to be
unity, the primordial molecule. In short, I do not understand.
No more do I, said Bouvard.
And they had recourse to a work less difficult, that of Girardin,
from which they acquired the certainty that ten litres of air weigh a
hundred grammes, that lead does not go into pencils, and that the
diamond is only carbon.
What amazed them above all is that the earth, as an element, does
They grasped the working of straw, gold, silver, the lye-washing of
linen, the tinning of saucepans; then, without the least scruple,
Bouvard and Pécuchet launched into organic chemistry.
What a marvel to find again in living beings the same substances of
which the minerals are composed! Nevertheless they experienced a sort
of humiliation at the idea that their own personality contained
phosphorus, like matches; albumen, like the whites of eggs; and
hydrogen gas, like street-lamps.
After colours and oily substances came the turn of fermentation.
This brought them to acidsand the law of equivalents once more
confused them. They tried to elucidate it by means of the atomic
theory, which fairly swamped them.
In Bouvard's opinion instruments would have been necessary to
understand all this. The expense was very great, and they had incurred
too much already. But, no doubt, Dr. Vaucorbeil could enlighten them.
They presented themselves during his consultation hours.
I hear you, gentlemen. What is your ailment?
Pécuchet replied that they were not patients, and, having stated the
object of their visit:
We want to understand, in the first place, the higher atomicity.
The physician got very red, then blamed them for being desirous to
I am not denying its importance, you may be sure; but really they
are shoving it in everywhere! It exercises a deplorable influence on
And the authority of his language was strengthened by the appearance
of his surroundings. Over the chimney-piece trailed some diachylum and
strips for binding. In the middle of the desk stood the surgical case.
A basin in a corner was full of probes, and close to the wall there was
a representation of a human figure deprived of the skin.
Pécuchet complimented the doctor on it.
It must be a lovely study, anatomy.
M. Vaucorbeil expatiated on the fascination he had formerly found in
dissections; and Bouvard inquired what were the analogies between the
interior of a woman and that of a man.
In order to satisfy him, the doctor fetched from his library a
collection of anatomical plates.
Take them with you! You can look at them more at your ease in your
The skeleton astonished them by the prominence of the jawbone, the
holes for the eyes, and the frightful length of the hands.
They stood in need of an explanatory work. They returned to M.
Vaucorbeil's residence, and, thanks to the manual of Alexander Lauth,
they learned the divisions of the frame, wondering at the backbone,
sixteen times stronger, it is said, than if the Creator had made it
straight (why sixteen times exactly?). The metacarpals drove Bouvard
crazy; and Pécuchet, who was in a desperate state over the cranium,
lost courage before the sphenoid, although it resembles a Turkish or
As for the articulations, they were hidden under too many ligaments;
so they attacked the muscles. But the insertions were not easily
discovered; and when they came to the vertebral grooves they gave it up
Then Pécuchet said:
If we took up chemistry again, would not this be only utilising the
Bouvard protested, and he thought he had a recollection of
artificial corpses being manufactured according to the custom of hot
Barberou, with whom he communicated, gave him some information about
the matter. For ten francs a month they could have one of the manikins
of M. Auzoux; and the following week the carrier from Falaise deposited
before their gate an oblong box.
Full of emotion, they carried it into the bakehouse. When the boards
were unfastened, the straw fell down, the silver paper slipped off, and
the anatomical figure made its appearance.
It was brick-coloured, without hair or skin, and variegated with
innumerable strings, red, blue, and white. It did not look like a
corpse, but rather like a kind of plaything, very ugly, very clean, and
smelling of varnish.
They next took off the thorax; and they perceived the two lungs,
like a pair of sponges, the heart like a big egg, slightly sidewise
behind the diaphragm, the kidneys, the entire bundle of entrails.
To work! said Pécuchet. The day and the evening were spent at it.
They had put blouses on, just as medical students do in the
dissecting-rooms; and, by the light of three candles, they were working
at their pieces of pasteboard, when a fist knocked at the door.
It was M. Foureau, followed by the keeper.
Germaine's masters were pleased to show him the manikin. She had
rushed immediately to the grocer's shop to tell the thing, and the
whole village now imagined that they had a real corpse concealed in
their house. Foureau, yielding to the public clamour, had come to make
sure about the fact. A number of persons, anxious for information,
stood outside the porch.
When he entered, the manikin was lying on its side, and the muscles
of the face, having been loosened, caused a monstrous protrusion, and
What brings you here? said Pécuchet.
Foureau stammered: Nothing, nothing at all. And, taking up one of
the pieces from the table, What is this?
The buccinator, replied Bouvard.
Foureau said nothing, but smiled in a sly fashion, jealous of their
having an amusement which he could not afford.
The two anatomists pretended to be pursuing their investigations.
The people outside, getting bored with waiting, made their way into the
bakehouse, and, as they began pushing one another a little, the table
Ah! this is too annoying, exclaimed Pécuchet. Let us be rid of
The keeper made the busybodies take themselves off.
Very well, said Bouvard; we don't want anyone.
Foureau understood the allusion, and put it to them whether, not
being medical men, they had the right to keep such an object in their
possession. However, he was going to write to the prefect.
What a country district it was! There could be nothing more foolish,
barbarous, and retrograde. The comparison which they instituted between
themselves and the others consoled themthey felt a longing to suffer
in the cause of science.
The doctor, too, came to see them. He disparaged the model as too
far removed from nature, but took advantage of the occasion to give
them a lecture.
Bouvard and Pécuchet were delighted; and at their request M.
Vaucorbeil lent them several volumes out of his library, declaring at
the same time that they would not reach the end of them. They took note
of the cases of childbirth, longevity, obesity, and extraordinary
constipation given in the Dictionary of Medical Sciences. Would
that they had known the famous Canadian, De Beaumont, the polyphagi,
Tarare and Bijou, the dropsical woman from the department of Eure, the
Piedmontese who went every twenty days to the water-closet, Simon de
Mirepoix, who was ossified at the time of his death, and that ancient
mayor of Angoulême whose nose weighed three pounds!
The brain inspired them with philosophic reflections. They easily
distinguished in the interior of it the septum lucidum, composed
of two lamellæ, and the pineal gland, which is like a little red pea.
But there were peduncles and ventricles, arches, columns, strata,
ganglions, and fibres of all kinds, and the foramen of Pacchioni and
the body of Paccini; in short, an inextricable mass of details,
enough to wear their lives out.
Sometimes, in a fit of dizziness, they would take the figure
completely to pieces, then would get perplexed about putting back each
part in its proper place. This was troublesome work, especially after
breakfast, and it was not long before they were both asleep, Bouvard
with drooping chin and protruding stomach, and Pécuchet with his hands
over his head and both elbows on the table.
Often at that moment M. Vaucorbeil, having finished his morning
rounds, would open the door.
Well, comrades, how goes anatomy?
Splendidly, they would answer.
Then he would put questions to them, for the pleasure of confusing
When they were tired of one organ they went on to another, in this
way taking up and then throwing aside the heart, the stomach, the ear,
the intestines; for the pasteboard manikin bored them to death, despite
their efforts to become interested in him. At last the doctor came on
them suddenly, just as they were nailing him up again in his box.
Bravo! I expected that.
At their age they could not undertake such studies; and the smile
that accompanied these words wounded them deeply.
What right had he to consider them incapable? Did science belong to
this gentleman, as if he were himself a very superior personage? Then,
accepting his challenge, they went all the way to Bayeux to purchase
books there. What they required was physiology, and a second-hand
bookseller procured for them the treatises of Richerand and Adelon,
celebrated at the period.
All the commonplaces as to ages, sexes, and temperaments appeared to
them of the highest importance. They were much pleased to learn that
there are in the tartar of the teeth three kinds of animalcules, that
the seat of taste is in the tongue, and the sensation of hunger in the
In order to grasp its functions better, they regretted that they had
not the faculty of ruminating, as Montègre, M. Gosse, and the brother
of Gerard had; and they masticated slowly, reduced the food to pulp,
and insalivated it, accompanying in thought the alimentary mass passing
into their intestines, and following it with methodical scrupulosity
and an almost religious attention to its final consequences.
In order to produce digestion artificially, they piled up meat in a
bottle, in which was the gastric juice of a duck, and they carried it
under their armpits for a fortnight, without any other result save
making their persons smell unpleasantly. You might have seen them
running along the high-road in wet clothes under a burning sun. This
was for the purpose of determining whether thirst is quenched by the
application of water to the epidermis. They came back out of breath,
both of them having caught cold.
Experiments in hearing, speech, and vision were then made in a
lively fashion; but Bouvard made a show-off on the subject of
Pécuchet's reserve with regard to this question had always surprised
him. His friend's ignorance appeared to him so complete that Bouvard
pressed him for an explanation, and Pécuchet, colouring, ended by
making an avowal.
Some rascals had on one occasion dragged him into a house of
ill-fame, from which he made his escape, preserving himself for the
woman whom he might fall in love with some day. A fortunate opportunity
had never come to him, so that, what with bashfulness, limited means,
obstinacy, the force of custom, at fifty-two years, and in spite of his
residence in the capital, he still possessed his virginity.
Bouvard found difficulty in believing it; then he laughed hugely,
but stopped on perceiving tears in Pécuchet's eyesfor he had not been
without attachments, having by turns been smitten by a rope-dancer, the
sister-in-law of an architect, a bar-maid, and a young washerwoman; and
the marriage had even been arranged when he had discovered that she was
enceinte by another man.
Bouvard said to him:
There is always a way to make up for lost time. Comeno sadness! I
will take it on myself, if you like.
Pécuchet answered, with a sigh, that he need not think any more
about it; and they went on with their physiology.
Is it true that the surfaces of our bodies are always letting out a
subtle vapour? The proof of it is that the weight of a man is
decreasing every minute. If each day what is wanting is added and what
is excessive subtracted, the health would be kept in perfect
equilibrium. Sanctorius, the discoverer of this law, spent half a
century weighing his food every day together with its excretions, and
took the weights himself, giving himself no rest, save for the purpose
of writing down his computations.
They tried to imitate Sanctorius; but, as their scales could not
bear the weight of both of them, it was Pécuchet who began.
He took his clothes off, in order not to impede the perspiration,
and he stood on the platform of the scales perfectly naked, exposing to
view, in spite of his modesty, his unusually long torso, resembling a
cylinder, together with his short legs and his brown skin. Beside him,
on his chair, his friend read for him:
'Learned men maintain that animal heat is developed by the
contractions of the muscles, and that it is possible by moving the
thorax and the pelvic regions to raise the temperature of a warm
Bouvard went to look for their bathing-tub, and, when everything was
ready, plunged into it, provided with a thermometer. The wreckage of
the distillery, swept towards the end of the room, presented in the
shadow the indistinct outlines of a hillock. Every now and then they
could hear the mice nibbling; there was a stale odour of aromatic
plants, and finding it rather agreeable, they chatted serenely.
However, Bouvard felt a little cool.
Move your members about! said Pécuchet.
He moved them, without at all changing with the thermometer. 'Tis
I am not hot either, returned Pécuchet, himself seized with a fit
of shivering. But move about your pelvic regionsmove them about!
Bouvard spread open his thighs, wriggled his sides, balanced his
stomach, puffed like a whale, then looked at the thermometer, which was
I don't understand this at all! Anyhow, I am stirring myself!
And he continued his gymnastics.
This had gone on for three hours when once more he grasped the tube.
What! twelve degrees! Oh, good-night! I'm off to bed!
A dog came in, half mastiff, half hound, mangy, with yellowish hair
and lolling tongue.
What were they to do? There was no bell, and their housekeeper was
deaf. They were quaking, but did not venture to budge, for fear of
Pécuchet thought it a good idea to hurl threats at him, and at the
same time to roll his eyes about.
Then the dog began to bark; and he jumped about the scales, in which
Pécuchet, by clinging on to the cords and bending his knees, tried to
raise himself up as high as ever he could.
You're getting your death of cold up there! said Bouvard; and he
began making smiling faces at the dog, while pretending to give him
The dog, no doubt, understood these advances. Bouvard went so far as
to caress him, stuck the animal's paws on his shoulders, and rubbed
them with his finger-nails.
Hollo! look here! there, he's off with my breeches!
The dog cuddled himself upon them, and lay quiet.
At last, with the utmost precautions, they ventured the one to come
down from the platform of the scales, and the other to get out of the
bathing-tub; and when Pécuchet had got his clothes on again, he gave
vent to this exclamation:
You, my good fellow, will be of use for our experiments.
What experiments? They might inject phosphorus into him, and then
shut him up in a cellar, in order to see whether he would emit fire
through the nostrils.
But how were they to inject it? and furthermore, they could not get
anyone to sell them phosphorus.
They thought of putting him under a pneumatic bell, of making him
inhale gas, and of giving him poison to drink. All this, perhaps, would
not be funny! Eventually, they thought the best thing they could do was
to apply a steel magnet to his spinal marrow.
Bouvard, repressing his emotion, handed some needles on a plate to
Pécuchet, who fixed them against the vertebræ. They broke, slipped, and
fell on the ground. He took others, and quickly applied them at random.
The dog burst his bonds, passed like a cannon-ball through the window,
ran across the yard to the vestibule, and presented himself in the
Germaine screamed when she saw him soaked with blood, and with twine
round his paws.
Her masters, who had followed him, came in at the same moment. He
made one spring and disappeared.
The old servant turned on them.
This is another of your tomfooleries, I'm sure! And my kitchen,
too! It's nice! This perhaps will drive him mad! People are in jail who
are not as bad as you!
They got back to the laboratory in order to examine the magnetic
Not one of them had the least particle of the filings drawn off.
Then Germaine's assumption made them uneasy. He might get rabies,
come back unawares, and make a dash at them.
Next day they went making inquiries everywhere, and for many years
they turned up a by-path whenever they saw in the open country a dog at
all resembling this one.
Their other experiments were unsuccessful. Contrary to the
statements in the text-books, the pigeons which they bled, whether
their stomachs were full or empty, died in the same space of time.
Kittens sunk under water perished at the end of five minutes; and a
goose, which they had stuffed with madder, presented periostea that
were perfectly white.
The question of nutrition puzzled them.
How did it happen that the same juice is produced by bones, blood,
lymph, and excrementitious materials? But one cannot follow the
metamorphoses of an article of food. The man who uses only one of them
is chemically equal to him who absorbs several. Vauquelin, having made
a calculation of all the lime contained in the oats given as food to a
hen, found a greater quantity of it in the shells of her eggs. So,
then, a creation of substance takes place. In what way? Nothing is
known about it.
It is not even known what is the strength of the heart. Borelli says
it is what is necessary for lifting a weight of one hundred and eighty
thousand pounds, while Kiell estimates it at about eight ounces; and
from this they drew the conclusion that physiology isas a well-worn
phrase expresses itthe romance of medicine. As they were unable to
understand it, they did not believe in it.
A month slipped away in doing nothing. Then they thought of their
garden. The dead tree, displayed in the middle of it, was annoying, and
accordingly, they squared it. This exercise fatigued them. Bouvard very
often found it necessary to get the blacksmith to put his tools in
One day, as he was making his way to the forge, he was accosted by a
man carrying a canvas bag on his back, who offered to sell him
almanacs, pious books, holy medals, and lastly, the Health Manual
of François Raspail.
This little book pleased him so much that he wrote to Barberou to
send him the large work. Barberou sent it on, and in his letter
mentioned an apothecary's shop for the prescriptions given in the work.
The simplicity of the doctrine charmed them. All diseases proceed
from worms. They spoil the teeth, make the lungs hollow, enlarge the
liver, ravage the intestines, and cause noises therein. The best thing
for getting rid of them is camphor. Bouvard and Pécuchet adopted it.
They took it in snuff, they chewed it and distributed it in cigarettes,
in bottles of sedative water and pills of aloes. They even undertook
the care of a hunchback. It was a child whom they had come across one
fair-day. His mother, a beggar woman, brought him to them every
morning. They rubbed his hump with camphorated grease, placed there for
twenty minutes a mustard poultice, then covered it over with diachylum,
and, in order to make sure of his coming back, gave him his breakfast.
As his mind was fixed on intestinal worms, Pécuchet noticed a
singular spot on Madame Bordin's cheek. The doctor had for a long time
been treating it with bitters. Round at first as a twenty-sou piece,
this spot had enlarged and formed a red circle. They offered to cure it
for her. She consented, but made it a condition that the ointment
should be applied by Bouvard. She took a seat before the window,
unfastened the upper portion of her corset, and remained with her cheek
turned up, looking at him with a glance of her eye which would have
been dangerous were it not for Pécuchet's presence. In the prescribed
doses, and in spite of the horror felt with regard to mercury, they
administered calomel. One month afterwards Madame Bordin was cured. She
became a propagandist in their behalf, and the tax-collector, the
mayor's secretary, the mayor himself, and everybody in Chavignolles
sucked camphor by the aid of quills.
However, the hunchback did not get straight; the collector gave up
his cigarette; it stopped up his chest twice as much. Foureau made
complaints that the pills of aloes gave him hemorrhoids. Bouvard got a
stomachache, and Pécuchet fearful headaches. They lost confidence in
Raspail, but took care to say nothing about it, fearing that they might
lessen their own importance.
They now exhibited great zeal about vaccine, learned how to bleed
people over cabbage leaves, and even purchased a pair of lancets.
They accompanied the doctor to the houses of the poor, and then
consulted their books. The symptoms noticed by the writers were not
those which they had just observed. As for the names of diseases, they
were Latin, Greek, Frencha medley of every language. They are to be
counted by thousands; and Linnæus's system of classification, with its
genera and its species, is exceedingly convenient; but how was the
species to be fixed? Then they got lost in the philosophy of medicine.
They raved about the life-principle of Van Helmont, vitalism, Brownism,
organicism, inquired of the doctor whence comes the germ of scrofula,
towards what point the infectious miasma inclines, and the means in all
cases of disease to distinguish the cause from its effects.
The cause and the effect are entangled in one another, replied
His want of logic disgusted themand they went by themselves to
visit the sick, making their way into the houses on the pretext of
philanthropy. At the further end of rooms, on dirty mattresses, lay
persons with faces hanging on one side, others who had them swollen or
scarlet, or lemon-coloured, or very violet-hued, with pinched nostrils,
trembling mouths, rattlings in the throat, hiccoughs, perspirations,
and emissions like leather or stale cheese.
They read the prescriptions of their physicians, and were surprised
at the fact that anodynes are sometimes excitants, and emetics
purgatives, that the same remedy suits different ailments, and that a
malady may disappear under opposite systems of treatment.
Nevertheless, they gave advice, got on the moral hobby again, and
had the assurance to auscultate. Their imagination began to ferment.
They wrote to the king, in order that there might be established in
Calvados an institute of nurses for the sick, of which they would be
They would go to the apothecary at Bayeux (the one at Falaise had
always a grudge against them on account of the jujube affair), and they
gave him directions to manufacture, like the ancients, pila
purgatoria, that is to say, medicaments in the shape of pellets,
which, by dint of handling, become absorbed in the individual.
In accordance with the theory that by diminishing the heat we impede
the watery humours, they suspended in her armchair to the beams of the
ceiling a woman suffering from meningitis, and they were swinging her
with all their force when the husband, coming on the scene, kicked them
out. Finally, they scandalised the curé thoroughly by introducing the
new fashion of thermometers in the rectum.
Typhoid fever broke out in the neighbourhood. Bouvard declared that
he would not have anything to do with it. But the wife of Gouy, their
farmer, came groaning to them. Her man was a fortnight sick, and M.
Vaucorbeil was neglecting him. Pécuchet devoted himself to the case.
Lenticular spots on the chest, pains in the joints, stomach
distended, tongue red, these were all symptoms of dothienenteritis.
Recalling the statement of Raspail that by taking away the regulation
of diet the fever may be suppressed, he ordered broth and a little
The doctor suddenly made his appearance. His patient was on the
point of eating, with two pillows behind his back, between his wife and
Pécuchet, who were sustaining him. He drew near the bed, and flung the
plate out through the window, exclaiming:
This is a veritable murder!
You perforate the intestine, since typhoid fever is an alteration
of its follicular membrane.
And a dispute ensued as to the nature of fevers. Pécuchet believed
that they were essential in themselves; Vaucorbeil made them dependent
on our bodily organs.
Therefore, I remove everything that might excite them excessively.
But regimen weakens the vital principle.
What twaddle are you talking with your vital principle? What is it?
Who has seen it?
Pécuchet got confused.
Besides, said the physician, Gouy does not want food.
The patient made a gesture of assent under his cotton nightcap.
No matter, he requires it!
Not a bit! his pulse is at ninety-eight!
What matters about his pulse? And Pécuchet proceeded to give
Let systems alone! said the doctor.
Pécuchet folded his arms. So then, you are an empiric?
By no means; but by observing
But if one observes badly?
Vaucorbeil took this phrase for an allusion to Madame Bordin's skin
eruptiona story about which the widow had made a great outcry, and
the recollection of which irritated him.
To start with, it is necessary to have practised.
Those who revolutionised the science did not practiseVan Helmont,
Boerhaave, Broussais himself.
Without replying, Vaucorbeil stooped towards Gouy, and raising his
Which of us two do you select as your doctor?
[Illustration: MUTUALLY BECOMING AFFLICTED, THEY LOOKED AT THEIR
The patient, who was falling asleep, perceived angry faces, and
began to blubber. His wife did not know either what answer to make, for
the one was clever, but the other had perhaps a secret.
Very well, said Vaucorbeil, since you hesitate between a man
furnished with a diploma
Why do you laugh?
Because a diploma is not always an argument.
The doctor saw himself attacked in his means of livelihood, in his
prerogative, in his social importance. His wrath gave itself full vent.
We shall see that when you are brought up before the courts for
illegally practising medicine! Then, turning round to the farmer's
wife, Get him killed by this gentleman at your ease, and I'm hanged if
ever I come back to your house!
And he dashed past the beech trees, shaking his walking-stick as he
When Pécuchet returned, Bouvard was himself in a very excited state.
He had just had a visit from Foureau, who was exasperated about his
hemorrhoids. Vainly had he contended that they were a safeguard against
every disease. Foureau, who would listen to nothing, had threatened him
with an action for damages. He lost his head over it.
Pécuchet told him the other story, which he considered more serious,
and was a little shocked at Bouvard's indifference.
Gouy, next day, had a pain in his abdomen. This might be due to the
ingestion of the food. Perhaps Vaucorbeil was not mistaken. A
physician, after all, ought to have some knowledge of this! And a
feeling of remorse took possession of Pécuchet! He was afraid lest he
might turn out a homicide.
For prudence' sake they sent the hunchback away. But his mother
cried a great deal at his losing the breakfast, not to speak of the
infliction of having made them come every day from Barneval to
Foureau calmed down, and Gouy recovered his strength. At the present
moment the cure was certain. A success like this emboldened Pécuchet.
If we studied obstetrics with the aid of one of these manikins
Enough of manikins!
There are half-bodies made with skin invented for the use of
students of midwifery. It seems to me that I could turn over the
But Bouvard was tired of medicine.
The springs of life are hidden from us, the ailments too numerous,
the remedies problematical. No reasonable definitions are to be found
in the authors of health, disease, diathesis, or even pus.
However, all this reading had disturbed their brains.
Bouvard, whenever he caught a cold, imagined he was getting
inflammation of the lungs. When leeches did not abate a stitch in the
side, he had recourse to a blister, whose action affected the kidneys.
Then he fancied he had an attack of stone.
Pécuchet caught lumbago while lopping the elm trees, and vomited
after his dinnera circumstance which frightened him very much. Then,
noticing that his colour was rather yellow, suspected a liver
complaint, and asked himself, Have I pains? and ended by having them.
Mutually becoming afflicted, they looked at their tongues, felt each
other's pulses, made a change as to the use of mineral waters, purged
themselvesand dreaded cold, heat, wind, rain, flies, and principally
currents of air.
Pécuchet imagined that taking snuff was fatal. Besides, sneezing
sometimes causes the rupture of an aneurism; and so he gave up the
snuff-box altogether. From force of habit he would thrust his fingers
into it, then suddenly become conscious of his imprudence.
As black coffee shakes the nerves, Bouvard wished to give up his
half cup; but he used to fall asleep after his meals, and was afraid
when he woke up, for prolonged sleep is a foreboding of apoplexy.
Their ideal was Cornaro, that Venetian gentleman who by the
regulation of his diet attained to an extreme old age. Without actually
imitating him, they might take the same precautions; and Pécuchet took
down from his bookshelves a Manual of Hygiene by Doctor Morin.
How had they managed to live till now?
Their favourite dishes were there prohibited. Germaine, in a state
of perplexity, did not know any longer what to serve up to them.
Every kind of meat had its inconveniences. Puddings and sausages,
red herrings, lobsters, and game are refractory. The bigger a fish
is, the more gelatine it contains, and consequently the heavier it is.
Vegetables cause acidity, macaroni makes people dream; cheeses,
considered generally, are difficult of digestion. A glass of water in
the morning is dangerous. Everything you eat or drink being
accompanied by a similar warning, or rather by these words: Bad!
Beware of the abuse of it! Does not suit everyone! Why bad? Wherein
is the abuse of it? How are you to know whether a thing like this suits
What a problem was that of breakfast! They gave up coffee and milk
on account of its detestable reputation, and, after that, chocolate,
for it is a mass of indigestible substances. There remained, then,
tea. But nervous persons ought to forbid themselves the use of it
completely. Yet Decker, in the seventeenth century, prescribed twenty
decalitres of it a day, in order to cleanse the spongy parts of the
This direction shook Morin in their estimation, the more so as he
condemns every kind of head-dress, hats, women's caps, and men's
capsa requirement which was revolting to Pécuchet.
Then they purchased Becquerel's treatise, in which they saw that
pork is in itself a good aliment, tobacco perfectly harmless in its
character, and coffee indispensable to military men.
Up to that time they had believed in the unhealthiness of damp
places. Not at all! Casper declares them less deadly than others. One
does not bathe in the sea without refreshing one's skin. Bégin advises
people to cast themselves into it while they are perspiring freely.
Wine taken neat after soup is considered excellent for the stomach;
Levy lays the blame on it of impairing the teeth. Lastly, the flannel
waistcoatthat safeguard, that preserver of health, that palladium
cherished by Bouvard and inherent to Pécuchet, without any evasions or
fear of the opinions of othersis considered unsuitable by some
authors for men of a plethoric and sanguine temperament!
What, then, is hygiene? Truth on this side of the Pyrenees, error
on the other side, M. Levy asserts; and Becquerel adds that it is not
So then they ordered for their dinner oysters, a duck, pork and
cabbage, cream, a Pont l'Evêque cheese, and a bottle of Burgundy. It
was an enfranchisement, almost a revenge; and they laughed at Cornaro!
It was only an imbecile that could be tyrannised over as he had been!
What vileness to be always thinking about prolonging one's existence!
Life is good only on the condition that it is enjoyed.
Yes, I will.
So will I.
And let us laugh at the rest of the world.
They became elated. Bouvard announced that he wanted three cups of
coffee, though he was not a military man. Pécuchet, with his cap over
his ears, took pinch after pinch, and sneezed without fear; and,
feeling the need of a little champagne, they ordered Germaine to go at
once to the wine-shop to buy a bottle of it. The village was too far
away; she refused. Pécuchet got indignant:
I command youunderstand!I command you to hurry off there.
She obeyed, but, grumbling, resolved soon to have done with her
masters; they were so incomprehensible and fantastic.
Then, as in former days, they went to drink their coffee and brandy
on the hillock.
The harvest was just over, and the stacks in the middle of the
fields rose in dark heaps against the tender blue of a calm night.
Nothing was astir about the farms. Even the crickets were no longer
heard. The fields were all wrapped in sleep.
The pair digested while they inhaled the breeze which blew
refreshingly against their cheeks.
Above, the sky was covered with stars; some shone in clusters,
others in a row, or rather alone, at certain distances from each other.
A zone of luminous dust, extending from north to south, bifurcated
above their heads. Amid these splendours there were vast empty spaces,
and the firmament seemed a sea of azure with archipelagoes and islets.
What a quantity! exclaimed Bouvard.
We do not see all, replied Pécuchet. Behind the Milky Way are the
nebulæ, and behind the nebulæ, stars still; the most distant is
separated from us by three millions of myriamètres.
He had often looked into the telescope of the Place Vendôme, and he
recalled the figures.
The sun is a million times bigger than the earth; Sirius is twelve
times the size of the sun; comets measure thirty-four millions of
'Tis enough to make one crazy! said Bouvard.
He lamented his ignorance, and even regretted that he had not been
in his youth at the Polytechnic School.
Then Pécuchet, turning him in the direction of the Great Bear,
showed him the polar star; then Cassiopeia, whose constellation forms a
Y; Vega, of the Lyra constellationall scintillating; and at the lower
part of the horizon, the red Aldebaran.
Bouvard, with his head thrown back, followed with difficulty the
angles, quadrilaterals, and pentagons, which it is necessary to imagine
in order to make yourself at home in the sky.
Pécuchet went on:
The swiftness of light is eighty thousand leagues a second; one ray
of the Milky Way takes six centuries to reach us; so that a star at the
moment we observe it may have disappeared. Several are intermittent;
others never come back; and they change positions. Every one of them is
in motion; every one of them is passing on.
However, the sun is motionless.
It was believed to be so formerly. But to-day men of science
declare that it rushes towards the constellation of Hercules!
This put Bouvard's ideas out of orderand, after a minute's
Science is constructed according to the data furnished by a corner
of space. Perhaps it does not agree with all the rest that we are
ignorant of, which is much vaster, and which we cannot discover.
So they talked, standing on the hillock, in the light of the stars;
and their conversation was interrupted by long intervals of silence.
At last they asked one another whether there were men in the stars.
Why not? And as creation is harmonious, the inhabitants of Sirius ought
to be gigantic, those of Mars of middle stature, those of Venus very
small. Unless it should be everywhere the same thing. There are
merchants up there, and gendarmes; they trade there; they fight there;
they dethrone kings there.
Some shooting stars slipped suddenly, describing on the sky, as it
were, the parabola of an enormous rocket.
Stop! said Bouvard; here are vanishing worlds.
If ours, in its turn, kicks the bucket, the citizens of the stars
will not be more moved than we are now. Ideas like this may pull down
What is the object of all this?
Perhaps it has no object.
However And Pécuchet repeated two or three times however,
without finding anything more to say.
No matter. I should very much like to know how the universe is
That should be in Buffon, returned Bouvard, whose eyes were
I am not equal to any more of it. I am going to bed.
The Epoques de la Nature informed them that a comet by
knocking against the sun had detached one portion of it, which became
the earth. First, the poles had cooled; all the waters had enveloped
the globe; they subsided into the caverns; then the continents
separated from each other, and the beasts and man appeared.
The majesty of creation engendered in them an amazement infinite as
itself. Their heads got enlarged. They were proud of reflecting on such
The minerals ere long proved wearisome to them, and for distraction
they sought refuge in the Harmonies of Bernardin de
Vegetable and terrestrial harmonies, aërial, aquatic, human,
fraternal, and even conjugalevery one of them is here dealt with, not
omitting the invocations to Venus, to the Zephyrs, and to the Loves.
They exhibited astonishment at fishes having fins, birds wings, seeds
an envelope; full of that philosophy which discovers virtuous
intentions in Nature, and regards her as a kind of St. Vincent de Paul,
always occupied in performing acts of benevolence.
Then they wondered at her prodigies, the water-spouts, the
volcanoes, the virgin forests; and they bought M. Depping's work on the
Marvels and Beauties of Nature in France. Cantal possesses three of
them, Hérault five, Burgundy twono more, while Dauphiné reckons for
itself alone up to fifteen marvels. But soon we shall find no more of
them. The grottoes with stalactites are stopped up; the burning
mountains are extinguished; the natural ice-houses have become heated;
and the old trees in which they said mass are falling under the
leveller's axe, or are on the point of dying.
Their curiosity next turned towards the beasts.
They re-opened their Buffon, and got into ecstasies over the strange
tastes of certain animals.
But all the books are not worth one personal observation. They
hurried out into the farmyard, and asked the labourers whether they had
seen bulls consorting with mares, hogs seeking after cows, and the
males of partridges doing strange things among themselves.
Never in their lives. They thought such questions even a little
queer for gentlemen of their age.
They took a fancy to try abnormal unions. The least difficult is
that of the he-goat and the ewe. Their farmer had not a he-goat in his
possession; a neighbour lent his, and, as it was the period of rutting,
they shut the two beasts up in the press, concealing themselves behind
the casks in order that the event might be quietly accomplished.
Each first ate a little heap of hay; then they ruminated; the ewe
lay down, and she bleated continuously, while the he-goat, standing
erect on his crooked legs, with his big beard and his drooping ears,
fixed on her his eyes, which glittered in the shade.
At length, on the evening of the third day, they deemed it advisable
to assist nature, but the goat, turning round on Pécuchet, hit him in
the lower part of the stomach with his horns. The ewe, seized with
fear, began turning about in the press as if in a riding-school.
Bouvard ran after her, threw himself on top of her to hold her, and
fell on the ground with both hands full of wool.
They renewed their experiments on hens and a drake, on a mastiff and
a sow, in the hope that monsters might be the result, not understanding
anything about the question of species.
This word denotes a group of individuals whose descendants reproduce
themselves, but animals classed as of different species may possess the
power of reproduction, while others comprised in the same species have
lost the capacity. They flattered themselves that they would obtain
clear ideas on this subject by studying the development of germs; and
Pécuchet wrote to Dumouchel in order to get a microscope.
By turns they put on the glass surface hairs, tobacco, finger-nails,
and a fly's claw, but they forgot the drop of water which is
indispensable; at other times it was the little lamel, and they pushed
each other forward, and put the instrument out of order; then, when
they saw only a haze, they blamed the optician. They went so far as to
have doubts about the microscope. Perhaps the discoveries that have
been attributed to it are not so certain?
Dumouchel, in sending on the invoice to them, begged of them to
collect on his account some serpent-stones and sea-urchins, of which he
had always been an admirer, and which were commonly found in country
districts. In order to interest them in geology he sent them the
Lettres of Bertrand with the Discours of Cuvier on the
revolutions of the globe.
After the perusal of these two works they imagined the following
state of things:
First, an immense sheet of water, from which emerged promontories
speckled with lichens, and not one human being, not one sound. It was a
world silent, motionless, and bare; there long plants swayed to and fro
in a fog that resembled the vapour of a sweating-room. A red sun
overheated the humid atmosphere. Then volcanoes burst forth; the
igneous rocks sent up mountains of liquid flame, and the paste of the
streaming porphyry and basalt began to congeal. Third picture: in
shallow seas have sprung up isles of madrepore; a cluster of palm trees
overhangs them here and there. There are shells like carriage wheels,
tortoises three metres in length, lizards of sixty feet; amphibians
stretch out amid the reeds their ostrich necks and crocodile jaws;
winged serpents fly about. Finally, on the large continents, huge
mammifers make their appearance, their limbs misshapen, like pieces of
wood badly squared, their hides thicker than plates of bronze, or else
shaggy, thick-lipped, with manes and crooked fangs. Flocks of mammoths
browsed on the plains where, since, the Atlantic has been; the
paleotherium, half horse, half tapir, overturned with his tumbling the
ant-hills of Montmartre; and the cervus giganteus trembled under
the chestnut trees at the growls of the bears of the caverns, who made
the dog of Beaugency, three times as big as a wolf, yelp in his den.
All these periods had been separated from one another by cataclysms,
of which the latest is our Deluge. It was like a drama of fairyland in
several acts, with man for apotheosis.
They were astounded when they learned that there existed on stones
imprints of dragon-flies and birds' claws; and, having run through one
of the Roret manuals, they looked out for fossils.
One afternoon, as they were turning over some flints in the middle
of the high-road, the curé passed, and, accosting them in a wheedling
These gentlemen are busying themselves with geology. Very good.
For he held this science in esteem. It confirmed the authority of
the Scriptures by proving the fact of the Deluge.
Bouvard talked about coprolites, which are animals' excrements in a
The Abbé Jeufroy appeared surprised at the matter. After all, if it
were so, it was a reason the more for wondering at Providence.
Pécuchet confessed that, up to the present, their inquiries had not
been fruitful; and yet the environs of Falaise, like all Jurassic
soils, should abound in remains of animals.
I have been told, replied the Abbé Jeufroy, that the jawbone of
an elephant was at one time found at Villers.
However, one of his friends, M. Larsoneur, advocate, member of the
bar at Lisieux, and archæologist, would probably supply them with
information about it. He had written a history of Port-en-Bessin, in
which the discovery of an alligator was noticed.
Bouvard and Pécuchet exchanged glances: the same hope took
possession of both; and, in spite of the heat, they remained standing a
long time questioning the ecclesiastic, who sheltered himself from the
sun under a blue cotton umbrella. The lower part of his face was rather
heavy, and his nose was pointed. He was perpetually smiling, or bent
his head while he closed his eyelids.
The church-bell rang the Angelus.
A very good evening, gentlemen! You will allow me, will you not?
At his suggestion they waited three weeks for Larsoneur's reply. At
length it arrived.
The name of the man who had dug up the tooth of the mastodon was
Louis Bloche. Details were wanting. As to his history, it was comprised
in one of the volumes of the Lisieux Academy, and he could not lend his
own copy, as he was afraid of spoiling the collection. With regard to
the alligator, it had been discovered in the month of November, 1825,
under the cliff of the Hachettes of Sainte-Honorine, near
Port-en-Bessin, in the arrondissement of Bayeux. His compliments
The obscurity that enshrouded the mastodon provoked in Pécuchet's
mind a longing to search for it. He would fain have gone to Villers
Bouvard objected that, to save themselves a possibly useless and
certainly expensive journey, it would be desirable to make inquiries.
So they wrote a letter to the mayor of the district, in which they
asked him what had become of one Louis Bloche. On the assumption of his
death, his descendants or collateral relations might be able to
enlighten them as to his precious discovery, when he made it, and in
what public place in the township this testimony of primitive times was
deposited? Were there any prospects of finding similar ones? What was
the cost of a man and a car for a day?
And vainly did they make application to the deputy-mayor, and then
to the first municipal councillor. They received no news from Villers.
No doubt the inhabitants were jealous about their fossilsunless they
had sold them to the English. The journey to the Hachettes was
Bouvard and Pécuchet took the public conveyance from Falaise to
Caen. Then a covered car brought them from Caen to Bayeux; from Bayeux,
they walked to Port-en-Bessin.
They had not been deceived. There were curious stones alongside the
Hachettes; and, assisted by the directions of the innkeeper, they
succeeded in reaching the strand.
The tide was low. It exposed to view all its shingles, with a
prairie of sea-wrack as far as the edge of the waves. Grassy slopes cut
the cliff, which was composed of soft brown earth that had hardened and
become in its lower strata a rampart of greyish stone. Tiny streams of
water kept flowing down incessantly, while in the distance the sea
rumbled. It seemed sometimes to suspend its throbbing, and then the
only sound heard was the murmur of the little springs.
They staggered over the sticky soil, or rather they had to jump over
Bouvard sat down on a mound overlooking the sea and contemplated the
waves, thinking of nothing, fascinated, inert. Pécuchet brought him
over to the side of the cliff to show him a serpent-stone incrusted in
the rock, like a diamond in its gangue. It broke their nails; they
would require instruments; besides, night was coming on. The sky was
empurpled towards the west, and the entire sea-shore was wrapped in
shadow. In the midst of the blackish wrack the pools of water were
growing wider. The sea was coming towards them. It was time to go back.
Next day, at dawn, with a mattock and a pick, they made an attack on
their fossil, whose covering cracked. It was an ammonite nodosus,
corroded at the ends but weighing quite six pounds; and in his
enthusiasm Pécuchet exclaimed:
We cannot do less than present it to Dumouchel!
They next chanced upon sponges, lampshells, orksbut no alligator.
In default of it, they were hoping to get the backbone of a
hippopotamus or an ichthyosaurus, the bones of any animals whatever
that were contemporaneous with the Deluge, when they discovered against
the cliff, at a man's height, outlines which assumed the form of a
They deliberated as to the means by which they could get possession
of it. Bouvard would extricate it at the top, while Pécuchet beneath
would demolish the rock in order to make it descend gently without
Just as they were taking breath they saw above their heads a
custom-house officer in a cloak, who was gesticulating with a
Well! What! Let us alone! And they went on with their work,
Bouvard on the tips of his toes, trapping with his mattock, Pécuchet,
with his back bent, digging with his pick.
But the custom-house officer reappeared farther down, in an open
space between the rocks, making repeated signals. They treated him with
contempt. An oval body bulged out under the thinned soil, and sloped
down, was on the point of slipping.
Suddenly another individual, with a sabre, presented himself.
It was the field-guard on his rounds, and, at the same instant, the
man from the custom-house came up, having hastened through a ravine.
Take them into custody for me, Père Morin, or the cliff will fall
It is for a scientific object, replied Pécuchet.
Then a mass of stone fell, grazing them all four so closely that a
little more and they were dead men.
When the dust was scattered, they recognised the mast of a ship,
which crumbled under the custom-house officer's boot.
Bouvard said with a sigh, We did no great harm!
One should not do anything within the fortification limits,
returned the guard.
In the first place, who are you, in order that I may take out a
summons against you?
Pécuchet refused to give his name, cried out against such injustice.
Don't argue! follow me!
As soon as they reached the port a crowd of ragamuffins ran after
them. Bouvard, red as a poppy, put on an air of dignity; Pécuchet,
exceedingly pale, darted furious looks around; and these two strangers,
carrying stones in their pocket-handkerchiefs, did not present a good
appearance. Provisionally, they put them up at the inn, whose master on
the threshold guarded the entrance. Then the mason came to demand back
his tools. They were paying him for them, and still there were
incidental expenses!and the field-guard did not come back! Wherefore?
At last, a gentleman, who wore the cross of the Legion of Honour, set
them free, and they went away, after giving their Christian names,
surnames, and their domicile, with an undertaking on their part to be
more circumspect in future.
Besides a passport, they were in need of many things, and before
undertaking fresh explorations they consulted the Geological
Traveller's Guide, by Boné. It was necessary to have, in the first
place, a good soldier's knapsack, then a surveyor's chain, a file, a
pair of nippers, a compass, and three hammers, passed into a belt,
which is hidden under the frock-coat, and thus preserves you from that
original appearance which one ought to avoid on a journey. As for the
stick, Pécuchet freely adopted the tourist's stick, six feet high, with
a long iron point. Bouvard preferred the walking-stick umbrella, or
many-branched umbrella, the knob of which is removed in order to clasp
on the silk, which is kept separately in a little bag. They did not
forget strong shoes with gaiters, two pairs of braces each on
account of perspiration, and, although one cannot present himself
everywhere in a cap, they shrank from the expense of one of those
folding hats, which bear the name of 'Gibus,' their inventor.
The same work gives precepts for conduct: To know the language of
the part of the country you visit: they knew it. To preserve a modest
deportment: this was their custom. Not to have too much money about
you: nothing simpler. Finally, in order to spare yourself
embarrassments of all descriptions, it is a good thing to adopt the
description of engineer.
Well, we will adopt it.
Thus prepared, they began their excursions; were sometimes eight
days away, and passed their lives in the open air.
Sometimes they saw, on the banks of the Orne, in a rent, pieces of
rock raising their slanting surfaces between some poplar trees and
heather; or else they were grieved by meeting, for the entire length of
the road, nothing but layers of clay. In the presence of a landscape
they admired neither the series of perspectives nor the depth of the
backgrounds, nor the undulations of the green surfaces; but that which
was not visible to them, the underpart, the earth: and for them every
hill was only a fresh proof of the Deluge.
To the Deluge mania succeeded that of erratic blocks. The big stones
alone in the fields must come from vanished glaciers, and they searched
for moraines and faluns.
They were several times taken for pedlars on account of their
equipage; and when they had answered that they were engineers, a
dread seized themthe usurpation of such a title might entail
At the end of each day they panted beneath the weight of their
specimens; but they dauntlessly carried them off home with them. They
were deposited on the doorsteps, on the stairs, in the bedrooms, in the
dining-room, and in the kitchen; and Germaine used to make a hubbub
about the quantity of dust. It was no slight task, before pasting on
the labels, to know the names of the rocks; the variety of colours and
of grain made them confuse argil and marl, granite and gneiss, quartz
And the nomenclature plagued them. Why Devonian, Cambrian,
Jurassicas if the portions of the earth designated by these names
were not in other places as well as in Devonshire, near Cambridge, and
in the Jura? It was impossible to know where you are there. That which
is a system for one is for another a stratum, for a third a mere layer.
The plates of the layers get intermingled and entangled in one another;
but Omalius d'Halloy warns you not to believe in geological divisions.
This statement was a relief to them; and when they had seen coral
limestones in the plain of Caen, phillades at Balleroy, kaolin at St.
Blaise, and oolite everywhere, and searched for coal at Cartigny and
for mercury at Chapelle-en-Juger, near St. Lô, they decided on a longer
excursion: a journey to Havre, to study the fire-resisting quartz and
the clay of Kimmeridge.
As soon as they had stepped out of the packet-boat they asked what
road led under the lighthouses.
Landslips blocked up the way; it was dangerous to venture along it.
A man who let out vehicles accosted them, and offered them drives
around the neighbourhoodIngouville, Octeville, Fécamp, Lillebonne,
Rome, if it was necessary.
His charges were preposterous, but the name of Falaise had struck
them. By turning off the main road a little, they could see Étretat,
and they took the coach that started from Fécamp to go to the farthest
In the vehicle Bouvard and Pécuchet had a conversation with three
peasants, two old women, and a seminarist, and did not hesitate to
style themselves engineers.
They stopped in front of the bay. They gained the cliff, and five
minutes after, rubbed up against it to avoid a big pool of water which
was advancing like a gulf stream in the middle of the sea-shore. Then
they saw an archway which opened above a deep grotto; it was sonorous
and very bright, like a church, with descending columns and a carpet of
sea-wrack all along its stone flooring.
This work of nature astonished them, and as they went on their way
collecting shells, they started considerations as to the origin of the
Bouvard inclined towards Neptunism; Pécuchet, on the contrary, was a
The central fire had broken the crust of the globe, heaved up the
masses of earth, and made fissures. It is, as it were, an interior sea,
which has its flow and ebb, its tempests; a thin film separates us from
it. We could not sleep if we thought of all that is under our heels.
However, the central fire diminishes, and the sun grows more feeble, so
much so that one day the earth will perish of refrigeration. It will
become sterile; all the wood and all the coal will be converted into
carbonic acid, and no life can subsist there.
We haven't come to that yet, said Bouvard.
Let us expect it, returned Pécuchet.
No matter, this end of the world, far away as it might be, made them
gloomy; and, side by side, they walked in silence over the shingles.
The cliff, perpendicular, a mass of white, striped with black here
and there by lines of flint, stretched towards the horizon like the
curve of a rampart five leagues wide. An east wind, bitter and cold,
was blowing; the sky was grey; the sea greenish and, as it were,
swollen. From the highest points of rocks birds took wing, wheeled
round, and speedily re-entered their hiding places. Sometimes a stone,
getting loosened, would rebound from one place to another before
Pécuchet continued his reflections aloud:
Unless the earth should be destroyed by a cataclysm! We do not know
the length of our period. The central fire has only to overflow.
However, it is diminishing.
That does not prevent its explosions from having produced the Julia
Island, Monte Nuovo, and many others.
Bouvard remembered having read these details in Bertrand.
But such catastrophes do not happen in Europe.
A thousand pardons! Witness that of Lisbon. As for our own
countries, the coal-mines and the firestone useful for war are
numerous, and may very well, when decomposing, form the mouths of
volcanoes. Moreover, the volcanoes always burst near the sea.
Bouvard cast his eyes over the waves, and fancied he could
distinguish in the distance a volume of smoke ascending to the sky.
Since the Julia Island, returned Pécuchet, has disappeared, the
fragments of the earth formed by the same cause will perhaps have the
same fate. An islet in the Archipelago is as important as Normandy and
even as Europe.
Bouvard imagined Europe swallowed up in an abyss.
Admit, said Pécuchet, that an earthquake takes place under the
British Channel: the waters rush into the Atlantic; the coasts of
France and England, tottering on their bases, bend forward and
reuniteand there you are! The entire space between is wiped out.
Instead of answering, Bouvard began walking so quickly that he was
soon a hundred paces away from Pécuchet. Being alone, the idea of a
cataclysm disturbed him. He had eaten nothing since morning; his
temples were throbbing. All at once the soil appeared to him to be
shaking, and the cliff over his head to be bending forward at its
summit. At that moment a shower of gravel rolled down from the top of
it. Pécuchet observed him scampering off wildly, understood his fright,
and cried from a distance:
Stop! stop! The period is not completed!
And in order to overtake him he made enormous bounds with the aid of
his tourist's stick, all the while shouting out:
The period is not completed! The period is not completed!
Bouvard, in a mad state, kept running without stopping. The
many-branched umbrella fell down, the skirts of his coat were flying,
the knapsack was tossing on his back. He was like a tortoise with wings
about to gallop amongst the rocks. One bigger than the rest concealed
him from view.
Pécuchet reached the spot out of breath, saw nobody, then returned
in order to gain the fields through a defile, which Bouvard, no doubt,
This narrow ascent was cut by four great steps in the cliff, as
lofty as the heights of two men, and glittering like polished
At an elevation of fifty feet Pécuchet wished to descend; but as the
sea was dashing against him in front, he set about clambering up
further. At the second turning, when he beheld the empty space, terror
froze him. As he approached the third, his legs were becoming weak.
Volumes of air vibrated around him, a cramp gripped his epigastrium; he
sat down on the ground, with eyes closed, no longer having
consciousness of aught save the beatings of his own heart, which were
suffocating him; then he flung his tourist's stick on the ground, and
on his hands and knees resumed his ascent. But the three hammers
attached to his belt began to press against his stomach; the stones
with which he had crammed his pockets knocked against his sides; the
peak of his cap blinded him; the wind increased in violence. At length
he reached the upper ground, and there found Bouvard, who had ascended
higher through a less difficult defile. A cart picked them up. They
forgot all about Étretat.
The next evening, at Havre, while waiting for the packet-boat, they
saw at the tail-end of a newspaper, a short scientific essay headed,
On the Teaching of Geology. This article, full of facts, explained
the subject as it was understood at the period.
There has never been a complete cataclysm of the globe, but
the same space has not always the same duration, and is
exhausted more quickly in one place than in another. Lands
of the same age contain different fossils, just as
depositaries very far distant from each other enclose
similar ones. The ferns of former times are identical with
the ferns of to-day. Many contemporary zoophytes are found
again in the most ancient layers. To sum up, actual
modifications explain former convulsions. The same causes
are always in operation; Nature does not proceed by leaps;
and the periods, Brogniart asserts, are, after all, only
Cuvier's work up to this time had appeared to them surrounded with
the glory of an aureola at the summit of an incontestable science. It
was sapped. Creation had no longer the same discipline, and their
respect for this great man diminished.
From biographies and extracts they learned something of the
doctrines of Lamarck and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.
All that was contrary to accepted ideas, the authority of the
Bouvard experienced relief as if from a broken yoke. I should like
to see now what answer Citizen Jeufroy would make to me about the
They found him in his little garden, where he was awaiting the
members of the vestry, who were to meet presently with a view to the
purchase of a chasuble.
These gentlemen wish for?
An explanation, if you please.
And Bouvard began, What means, in Genesis, 'The abyss which was
broken up,' and 'The cataracts of heaven?' For an abyss does not get
broken up, and heaven has no cataracts.
The abbé closed his eyelids, then replied that it was always
necessary to distinguish between the sense and the letter. Things which
shock you at first, turn out right when they are sifted.
Very well, but how do you explain the rain which passed over the
highest mountainsthose that are two leagues in height. Just think of
it! Two leagues!a depth of water that makes two leagues!
And the mayor, coming up, added:
Bless my soul! What a bath!
Admit, said Bouvard, that Moses exaggerates like the devil.
The curé had read Bonald, and answered:
I am ignorant of his motives; it was, no doubt, to inspire a
salutary fear in the people of whom he was the leader.
Finally, this mass of waterwhere did it come from?
How do I know? The air was changed into water, just as happens
Through the garden gate they saw M. Girbal, superintendent of taxes,
making his way in, together with Captain Heurtaux, a landowner; and
Beljambe, the innkeeper, appeared, assisting with his arm Langlois, the
grocer, who walked with difficulty on account of his catarrh.
Pécuchet, without bestowing a thought on them, took up the argument:
Excuse me, M. Jeufroy. The weight of the atmosphere, science
demonstrates to us, is equal to that of a mass of water which would
make a covering of ten metres around the globe. Consequently, if all
the air that had been condensed fell down in a liquid state, it would
augment very little the mass of existing waters.
The vestrymen opened their eyes wide, and listened.
The curé lost patience. Will you deny that shells have been found
on the mountains? What put them there, if not the Deluge? They are not
accustomed, I believe, to grow out of the ground of themselves alone,
like carrots! And this joke having made the assembly laugh, he added,
pressing his lips together: Unless this be another discovery of
Bouvard was pleased to reply by referring to the rising of
mountains, the theory of Elie de Beaumont.
Don't know him, returned the abbé.
Foureau hastened to explain: He is from Caen. I have seen him at
But if your Deluge, Bouvard broke in again, had sent shells
drifting, they would be found broken on the surface, and not at depths
of three hundred metres sometimes.
The priest fell back on the truth of the Scriptures, the tradition
of the human race, and the animals discovered in the ice in Siberia.
That does not prove that man existed at the time they did.
The earth, in Pécuchet's view, was much older. The delta of the
Mississippi goes back to tens of thousands of years. The actual epoch
is a hundred thousand, at least. The lists of Manetho
The Count de Faverges appeared on the scene. They were all silent at
Go on, pray. What were you talking about?
These gentlemen are wrangling with me, replied the abbé.
About Holy Writ, M. le Comte.
Bouvard immediately pleaded that they had a right, as geologists, to
Take care, said the count; you know the phrase, my dear sir, 'A
little science takes us away from it, a great deal leads us back to
it'? And in a tone at the same time haughty and paternal: Believe me,
you will come back to it! you will come back to it!
Perhaps so. But what were we to think of a book in which it is
pretended that the light was created before the sun? as if the sun were
not the sole cause of light!
You forget the light which we call boreal, said the ecclesiastic.
Bouvard, without answering this point, strongly denied that light
could be on one side and darkness on the other, that evening and
morning could have existed when there were no stars, or that the
animals made their appearance suddenly, instead of being formed by
As the walks were too narrow, while gesticulating, they trod on the
flower-borders. Langlois took a fit of coughing.
The captain exclaimed: You are revolutionaries!
Girbal: Peace! peace!
The priest: What materialism!
Foureau: Let us rather occupy ourselves with our chasuble!
No! let me speak! And Bouvard, growing more heated, went on to say
that man was descended from the ape!
All the vestrymen looked at each other, much amazed, and as if to
assure themselves that they were not apes.
Bouvard went on: By comparing the foetus of a woman, of a bitch, of
a bird, of a frog
For my part, I go farther! cried Pécuchet. Man is descended from
There was a burst of laughter. But without being disturbed:
The Telliamedan Arab book
Come, gentlemen, let us hold our meeting.
And they entered the sacristy.
The two comrades had not given the Abbé Jeufroy such a fall as they
expected; therefore, Pécuchet found in him the stamp of Jesuitism.
His boreal light, however, caused them uneasiness. They searched for
it in Orbigny's manual.
This is a hypothesis to explain why the vegetable fossils of
Baffin's Bay resemble the Equatorial plants. We suppose, in place of
the sun, a great luminous source of heat which has now disappeared, and
of which the Aurora Borealis is but perhaps a vestige.
Then a doubt came to them as to what proceeds from man, and, in
their perplexity, they thought of Vaucorbeil.
He had not followed up his threats. As of yore, he passed every
morning before their grating, striking all the bars with his
walking-stick one after the other.
Bouvard watched him, and, having stopped him, said he wanted to
submit to him a curious point in anthropology.
Do you believe that the human race is descended from fishes?
From apes ratherisn't that so?
Directly, that is impossible!
On whom could they depend? For, in fact, the doctor was not a
They continued their studies, but without enthusiasm, being weary of
eocene and miocene, of Mount Jurillo, of the Julia Island, of the
mammoths of Siberia and of the fossils, invariably compared in all the
authors to medals which are authentic testimonies, so much so that
one day Bouvard threw his knapsack on the ground, declaring that he
would not go any farther.
Geology is too defective. Some parts of Europe are hardly known. As
for the rest, together with the foundation of the oceans, we shall
always be in a state of ignorance on the subject.
Finally, Pécuchet having pronounced the word mineral kingdom:
I don't believe in it, this mineral kingdom, since organic
substances have taken part in the formation of flint, of chalk, and
perhaps of gold. Hasn't the diamond been charcoal; coal a collection of
vegetables? and by heating it to I know not how many degrees, we get
the sawdust of wood, so that everything passes, everything goes to
ruin, and everything is transformed. Creation is carried out in an
undulating and fugitive fashion. Much better to occupy ourselves with
He stretched himself on his back and went to sleep, while Pécuchet,
with his head down and one knee between his hands, gave himself up to
his own reflections.
A border of moss stood on the edge of a hollow path overhung by ash
trees, whose slender tops quivered; angelica, mint, and lavender
exhaled warm, pungent odours. The atmosphere was drowsy, and Pécuchet,
in a kind of stupor, dreamed of the innumerable existences scattered
around himof the insects that buzzed, the springs hidden beneath the
grass, the sap of plants, the birds in their nests, the wind, the
cloudsof all Nature, without seeking to unveil her mysteries,
enchanted by her power, lost in her grandeur.
I'm thirsty! said Bouvard, waking up.
So am I. I should be glad to drink something.
That's easy, answered a man who was passing by in his
shirt-sleeves with a plank on his shoulder. And they recognised that
vagabond to whom, on a former occasion, Bouvard had given a glass of
wine. He seemed ten years younger, wore his hair foppishly curled, his
moustache well waxed, and twisted his figure about in quite a Parisian
fashion. After walking about a hundred paces, he opened the gateway of
a farmyard, threw down his plank against the wall, and led them into a
Mélie! are you there, Mélie?
A young girl appeared. At a word from him she drew some liquor and
came back to the table to serve the gentlemen.
Her wheat-coloured head-bands fell over a cap of grey linen. Her
worn dress of poor material fell down her entire body without a crease,
and, with her straight nose and blue eyes, she had about her something
dainty, rustic, and ingenuous.
She's nice, eh? said the joiner, while she was bringing them the
glasses. You might take her for a lady dressed up as a peasant-girl,
and yet able to do rough work! Poor little heart, come! When I'm rich
I'll marry you!
You are always talking nonsense, Monsieur Gorju, she
replied, in a soft voice, with a slightly drawling accent.
A stable boy came in to get some oats out of an old chest, and let
the lid fall down so awkwardly that it made splinters of wood fly
Gorju declaimed against the clumsiness of all these country
fellows, then, on his knees in front of the article of furniture, he
tried to put the piece in its place. Pécuchet, while offering to assist
him, traced beneath the dust faces of notable characters.
It was a chest of the Renaissance period, with a twisted fringe
below, vine branches in the corner, and little columns dividing its
front into five portions. In the centre might be seen Venus-Anadyomene
standing on a shell, then Hercules and Omphale, Samson and Delilah,
Circe and her swine, the daughters of Lot making their father drunk;
and all this in a state of complete decay, the chest being worm-eaten,
and even its right panel wanting.
Gorju took a candle, in order to give Pécuchet a better view of the
left one, which exhibited Adam and Eve under a tree in Paradise in an
Bouvard equally admired the chest.
If you keep it they'll give it to you cheap.
They hesitated, thinking of the necessary repairs.
Gorju might do them, cabinet-making being a branch of his trade.
Let us go. Come on.
And he dragged Pécuchet towards the fruit-garden, where Madame
Castillon, the mistress, was spreading linen.
Mélie, when she had washed her hands, took from where it lay beside
the window her lace-frame, sat down in the broad daylight and worked.
The lintel of the door enclosed her like a picture-frame. The
bobbins disentangled themselves under her fingers with a sound like the
clicking of castanets. Her profile remained bent.
Bouvard asked her questions as to her family, the part of the
country she came from, and the wages she got.
She was from Ouistreham, had no relations alive, and earned
seventeen shillings a month; in short, she pleased him so much that he
wished to take her into his service to assist old Germaine.
Pécuchet reappeared with the mistress of the farm-house, and, while
they went on with their bargaining, Bouvard asked Gorju in a very low
tone whether the girl would consent to become their servant.
However, said Bouvard, I must consult my friend.
The bargain had just been concluded, the price fixed for the chest
being thirty-five francs. They were to come to an understanding about
They had scarcely got out into the yard when Bouvard spoke of his
intentions with regard to Mélie.
Pécuchet stopped (in order the better to reflect), opened his
snuff-box, took a pinch, and, wiping the snuff off his nose:
Indeed, it is a good idea. Good heavens! yes! why not? Besides, you
are the master.
Ten minutes afterwards, Gorju showed himself on the top of a ditch,
and questioning them: When do you want me to bring you the chest?
And about the other question, have you both made up your minds?
It's all right, replied Pécuchet.
CHAPTER IV. RESEARCHES IN ARCHÆOLOGY.
Six months later they had become archæologists, and their house was
like a museum.
In the vestibule stood an old wooden beam. The staircase was
encumbered with the geological specimens, and an enormous chain was
stretched on the ground all along the corridor. They had taken off its
hinges the door between the two rooms in which they did not sleep, and
had condemned the outer door of the second in order to convert both
into a single apartment.
As soon as you crossed the threshold, you came in contact with a
stone trough (a Gallo-Roman sarcophagus); the ironwork next attracted
your attention. Fixed to the opposite wall, a warming-pan looked down
on two andirons and a hearthplate representing a monk caressing a
shepherdess. On the boards all around, you saw torches, locks, bolts,
and nuts of screws. The floor was rendered invisible beneath fragments
of red tiles. A table in the centre exhibited curiosities of the rarest
description: the shell of a Cauchoise cap, two argil urns, medals, and
a phial of opaline glass. An upholstered armchair had at its back a
triangle worked with guipure. A piece of a coat of mail adorned the
partition to the right, and on the other side sharp spikes sustained in
a horizontal position a unique specimen of a halberd.
The second room, into which two steps led down, contained the old
books which they had brought with them from Paris, and those which, on
their arrival, they had found in a press. The leaves of the
folding-doors had been removed hither. They called it the library.
The back of the door was entirely covered by the genealogical tree
of the Croixmare family. In the panelling on the return side, a pastel
of a lady in the dress of the period of Louis XV. made a companion
picture to the portrait of Père Bouvard. The casing of the glass was
decorated with a sombrero of black felt, and a monstrous galoche filled
with leaves, the remains of a nest.
Two cocoanuts (which had belonged to Pécuchet since his younger
days) flanked on the chimney-piece an earthenware cask on which a
peasant sat astride. Close by, in a straw basket, was a little coin
brought up by a duck.
In front of the bookcase stood a shell chest of drawers trimmed with
plush. The cover of it supported a cat with a mouse in its moutha
petrifaction from St. Allyre; a work-box, also of shell work, and on
this box a decanter of brandy contained a Bon Chrétien pear.
But the finest thing was a statue of St. Peter in the embrasure of
the window. His right hand, covered with a glove of apple-green colour,
was pressing the key of Paradise. His chasuble, ornamented with
fleurs-de-luce, was azure blue, and his tiara very yellow, pointed like
a pagoda. He had flabby cheeks, big round eyes, a gaping mouth, and a
crooked nose shaped like a trumpet. Above him hung a canopy made of an
old carpet in which you could distinguish two Cupids in a circle of
roses, and at his feet, like a pillar, rose a butter-pot bearing these
words in white letters on a chocolate ground: Executed in the presence
of H.R.H. the Duke of Angoulême at Noron, 3rd of October, 1847.
Pécuchet, from his bed, saw all these things in a row, and sometimes
he went as far as Bouvard's room to lengthen the perspective.
One spot remained empty, exactly opposite to the coat of arms, that
intended for the Renaissance chest. It was not finished; Gorju was
still working at it, jointing the panels in the bakehouse, squaring
them or undoing them.
At eleven o'clock he took his breakfast, chatted after that with
Mélie, and often did not make his appearance again for the rest of the
In order to have pieces of furniture in good style, Bouvard and
Pécuchet went scouring the country. What they brought back was not
suitable; but they had come across a heap of curious things. Their
first passion was a taste for articles of virtù; then came the
love of the Middle Ages.
To begin with, they visited cathedrals; and the lofty naves
mirroring themselves in the holy-water fonts, the glass ornaments
dazzling as hangings of precious stones, the tombs in the recesses of
the chapels, the uncertain light of cryptseverything, even to the
coolness of the walls, thrilled them with a shudder of joy, a religious
They were soon able to distinguish the epochs, and, disdainful of
sacristans, they would say: Ha! a Romanesque apsis! That's of the
twelfth century! Here we are falling back again into the flamboyant!
They strove to interpret the sculptured symbols on the capitals,
such as the two griffins of Marigny pecking at a tree in blossom;
Pécuchet read a satire in the singers with grotesque jaws which
terminate the mouldings at Feugerolles; and as for the exuberance of
the man that covers one of the mullions at Hérouville, that was a
proof, according to Bouvard, of our ancestors' love of broad jokes.
They ended by not tolerating the least symptom of decadence. All was
decadence, and they deplored vandalism, and thundered against badigeon.
But the style of a monument does not always agree with its supposed
date. The semicircular arch of the thirteenth century still holds sway
in Provence. The ogive is, perhaps, very ancient; and authors dispute
as to the anteriority of the Romanesque to the Gothic. This want of
certainty disappointed them.
After the churches they studied fortressesthose of Domfront and
Falaise. They admired under the gate the grooves of the portcullis,
and, having reached the top, they first saw all the country around
them, then the roofs of the houses in the town, the streets
intersecting one another, the carts on the square, the women at the
washhouse. The wall descended perpendicularly as far as the palisade;
and they grew pale as they thought that men had mounted there, hanging
to ladders. They would have ventured into the subterranean passages but
that Bouvard found an obstacle in his stomach and Pécuchet in his
horror of vipers.
They desired to make the acquaintance of the old
manor-housesCurcy, Bully, Fontenay, Lemarmion, Argonge. Sometimes a
Carlovingian tower would show itself at the corner of some
farm-buildings behind a heap of manure. The kitchen, garnished with
stone benches, made them dream of feudal junketings. Others had a
forbiddingly fierce aspect with their three enceintes still visible,
their loopholes under the staircase, and their high turrets with
pointed sides. Then they came to an apartment in which a window of the
Valois period, chased so as to resemble ivory, let in the sun, which
heated the grains of colza that strewed the floor. Abbeys were used as
barns. The inscriptions on tombstones were effaced. In the midst of
fields a gable-end remained standing, clad from top to bottom in ivy
which trembled in the wind.
A number of things excited in their breasts a longing to possess
thema tin pot, a paste buckle, printed calicoes with large
flowerings. The shortness of money restrained them.
By a happy chance, they unearthed at Balleroy in a tinman's house a
Gothic church window, and it was big enough to cover, near the
armchair, the right side of the casement up to the second pane. The
steeple of Chavignolles displayed itself in the distance, producing a
magnificent effect. With the lower part of a cupboard Gorju
manufactured a prie-dieu to put under the Gothic window, for he
humoured their hobby. So pronounced was it that they regretted
monuments about which nothing at all is knownsuch as the villa
residence of the bishops of Séez.
Bayeux, says M. de Caumont, must have possessed a theatre. They
searched for the site of it without success.
The village of Montrecy contained a meadow celebrated for the number
of medals which chanced formerly to have been found there. They
calculated on making a fine harvest in this place. The caretaker
refused to admit them.
They were not more fortunate as to the connection which existed
between a cistern at Falaise and the faubourg of Caen. Ducks which had
been put in there reappeared at Vaucelles, quacking, Can, can,
canwhence is derived the name of the town!
No step, no sacrifice, was too great for them.
At the inn of Mesnil-Villement, in 1816, M. Galeron got a breakfast
for the sum of four sous. They took the same meal there, and
ascertained with surprise that things were altered!
Who was the founder of the abbey of St. Anne? Is there any
relationship between Marin Onfroy, who, in the twelfth century,
imported a new kind of potato, and Onfroy, governor of Hastings at the
period of the Conquest? How were they to procure L'Astucieuse
Pythonisse, a comedy in verse by one Dutrezor, produced at Bayeux,
and just now exceedingly rare? Under Louis XIV., Hérambert Dupaty, or
Dupastis Hérambert, composed a work which has never appeared, full of
anecdotes about Argentan: the question was how to recover these
anecdotes. What have become of the autograph memoirs of Madame Dubois
de la Pierre, consulted for the unpublished history of L'Aigle by Louis
Dasprès, curate of St. Martin? So many problems, so many curious
points, to clear up.
But a slight mark often puts one on the track of an invaluable
Accordingly, they put on their blouses, in order not to put people
on their guard, and, in the guise of hawkers, they presented themselves
at houses, where they expressed a desire to buy up old papers. They
obtained heaps of them. These included school copybooks, invoices,
newspapers that were out of datenothing of any value.
At last Bouvard and Pécuchet addressed themselves to Larsoneur.
He was absorbed in Celtic studies, and while summarily replying to
their questions put others to them.
Had they observed in their rounds any traces of dog-worship, such as
are seen at Montargis, or any special circumstances with regard to the
fires on St. John's night, marriages, popular sayings, etc.? He even
begged of them to collect for him some of those flint axes, then called
celtæ, which the Druids used in their criminal holocausts.
They procured a dozen of them through Gorju, sent him the smallest
of them, and with the others enriched the museum. There they walked
with delight, swept the place themselves, and talked about it to all
One afternoon Madame Bordin and M. Marescot came to see it.
Bouvard welcomed them, and began the demonstration in the porch.
The beam was nothing less than the old gibbet of Falaise, according
to the joiner who had sold it, and who had got this information from
The big chain in the corridor came from the subterranean cells of
the keep of Torteval. In the notary's opinion it resembled the boundary
chains in front of the entrance-courts of manor-houses. Bouvard was
convinced that it had been used in former times to bind the captives.
He opened the door of the first chamber.
What are all these tiles for? exclaimed Madame Bordin.
To heat the stoves. But let us be a little regular, if you please.
This is a tomb discovered in an inn where they made use of it as a
After this, Bouvard took up the two urns filled with a substance
which consisted of human dust, and he drew the phials up to his eyes,
for the purpose of showing the way the Romans used to shed tears in it.
But one sees only dismal things at your house!
Indeed it was a rather grave subject for a lady. So he next drew out
of a case several copper coins, together with a silver denarius.
Madame Bordin asked the notary what sum this would be worth at the
The coat of mail which he was examining slipped out of his fingers;
some of the links snapped.
Bouvard stifled his annoyance. He had even the politeness to
unfasten the halberd, and, bending forward, raising his arms and
stamping with his heels, he made a show of hamstringing a horse,
stabbing as if with a bayonet and overpowering an enemy.
The widow inwardly voted him a rough person.
She went into raptures over the shell chest of drawers.
The cat of St. Allyre much astonished her, the pear in the decanter
not quite so much; then, when she came to the chimney-piece: Ha!
here's a hat that would need mending!
Three holes, marks of bullets, pierced its brims.
It was the head-piece of a robber chief under the Directory, David
de la Bazoque, caught in the act of treason, and immediately put to
So much the better! They did right, said Madame Bordin.
Marescot smiled disdainfully as he gazed at the different objects.
He did not understand this galoche having been the sign of a hosier,
nor the purport of the earthenware caska common cider-kegand, to be
candid, the St. Peter was lamentable with his drunkard's physiognomy.
Madame Bordin made this observation:
All the same, it must have cost you a good deal?
Oh! not too much, not too much.
A slater had given it to him for fifteen francs.
After this, she found fault on the score of propriety with the low
dress of the lady in the powdered wig.
Where is the harm, replied Bouvard, when one possesses something
beautiful? And he added in a lower tone: Just as you are yourself,
(The notary turned his back on them, and studied the branches of the
She made no response but began to play with her long gold chain. Her
bosom swelled out the black taffeta of her corsage, and, with her
eyelashes slightly drawn together, she lowered her chin like a
turtle-dove bridling up; then, with an ingenuous air:
What is this lady's name?
It is unknown; she was one of the Regent's mistresses, you know; he
who played so many pranks.
I believe you; the memoirs of the time
And the notary, without giving her time to finish the sentence,
deplored this example of a prince carried away by his passions.
But you are all like that!
The two gentlemen protested, and then followed a dialogue on women
and on love. Marescot declared that there were many happy unions;
sometimes even, without suspecting it, we have close beside us what we
require for our happiness.
The allusion was direct. The widow's cheeks flushed scarlet; but,
recovering her composure almost the next moment:
We are past the age for folly, are we not, M. Bouvard?
Ha! ha! For my part, I don't admit that.
And he offered his arm to lead her towards the adjoining room.
Be careful about the steps. All right? Now observe the church
They traced on its surface a scarlet cloak and two angels' wings.
All the rest was lost under the leads which held in equilibrium the
numerous breakages in the glass. The day was declining; the shadows
were lengthening; Madame Bordin had become grave.
Bouvard withdrew, and presently reappeared muffled up in a woollen
wrapper, then knelt down at the prie-dieu with his elbows out, his face
in his hands, the light of the sun falling on his bald patch; and he
was conscious of this effect, for he said:
Don't I look like a monk of the Middle Ages?
Then he raised his forehead on one side, with swimming eyes, and
trying to give a mystical expression to his face. The solemn voice of
Pécuchet was heard in the corridor:
Don't be afraid. It is I. And he entered, his head covered with a
helmetan iron pot with pointed ear-pieces.
Bouvard did not quit the prie-dieu. The two others remained
standing. A minute slipped away in glances of amazement.
Madame Bordin appeared rather cold to Pécuchet. However he wished to
know whether everything had been shown to them.
It seems to me so. And pointing towards the wall: Ah! pray excuse
us; there is an object which we may restore in a moment.
The widow and Marescot thereupon took their leave. The two friends
conceived the idea of counterfeiting a competition. They set out on a
race after each other; one giving the other the start. Pécuchet won the
Bouvard congratulated him upon it, and received praises from his
friend on the subject of the wrapper.
Mélie arranged it with cords, in the fashion of a gown. They took
turns about in receiving visits.
They had visits from Girbal, Foureau, and Captain Heurtaux, and then
from inferior personsLanglois, Beljambe, their husbandmen, and even
the servant-girls of their neighbours; and, on each occasion, they went
over the same explanations, showed the place where the chest would be,
affected a tone of modesty, and claimed indulgence for the obstruction.
Pécuchet on these days wore the Zouave's cap which he had formerly
in Paris, considering it more in harmony with an artistic environment.
At a particular moment, he would put the helmet on his head, and
incline it over the back of his neck, in order to have his face free.
Bouvard did not forget the movement with the halberd; finally, with one
glance, they would ask each other whether the visitor was worthy of
having the monk of the Middle Ages represented.
What a thrill they felt when M. de Faverges' carriage drew up before
the garden gate! He had only a word to say to them. This was the
occasion of his visit:
Hurel, his man of business, had informed him that, while searching
everywhere for documents, they had bought up old papers at the farm of
That was perfectly true.
Had they not discovered some letters of Baron de Gonneval, a former
aide-de-camp of the Duke of Angoulême, who had stayed at Aubrye? He
wished to have this correspondence for family reasons.
They had not got it in the house, but they had in their possession
something that would interest him if he would be good enough to follow
them into their library.
Never before had such well-polished boots creaked in the corridor.
They knocked against the sarcophagus. He even went near smashing
several tiles, moved an armchair about, descended two steps; and, when
they reached the second chamber, they showed him under the canopy, in
front of the St. Peter, the butter-pot made at Noron.
Bouvard and Pécuchet thought that the date might some time be of
use. Through politeness, the nobleman inspected their museum. He kept
repeating, Charming! very nice! all the time giving his mouth little
taps with the handle of his switch; and said that, for his part, he
thanked them for having rescued those remains of the Middle Ages, an
epoch of religious faith and chivalrous devotion. He loved progress,
and would have given himself up like them to these interesting studies,
but that politics, the General Council, agriculture, a veritable
whirlwind, drove him away from them.
After you, however, one would have merely gleanings, for soon you
will have captured all the curiosities of the department.
Without vanity, we think so, said Pécuchet.
However, one might still discover some at Chavignolles; for example,
there was, close to the cemetery wall in the lane, a holy-water basin
buried under the grass from time immemorial.
They were pleased with the information, then exchanged a significant
glanceIs it worth the trouble?but already the Count was opening
Mélie, who was behind it, fled abruptly.
As he passed out of the house into the grounds, he observed Gorju
smoking his pipe with folded arms.
You employ this fellow? I would not put much confidence in him in a
time of disturbance.
And M. de Faverges sprang lightly into his tilbury.
Why did their servant-maid seem to be afraid of him?
They questioned her, and she told them she had been employed on his
farm. She was that little girl who poured out drink for the harvesters
when they came there two years before. They had taken her on as a help
at the château, and dismissed her in consequence of false reports.
As for Gorju, how could they find fault with him? He was very handy,
and showed the utmost consideration for them.
Next day, at dawn, they repaired to the cemetery. Bouvard felt with
his walking-stick at the spot indicated. They heard the sound of a hard
substance. They pulled up some nettles, and discovered a stone basin, a
baptismal font, out of which plants were sprouting. It is not usual,
however, to bury baptismal fonts outside churches.
Pécuchet made a sketch of it; Bouvard wrote out a description of it;
and they sent both to Larsoneur. His reply came immediately.
Victory, my dear associates! Unquestionably, it is a druidical
However, let them be careful about the matter. The axe was doubtful;
and as much for his sake as for their own, he pointed out a series of
works to be consulted.
In a postscript, Larsoneur confessed his longing to have a look at
this bowl, which opportunity would be afforded him in a few days, when
he would be starting on a trip from Brittany.
Then Bouvard and Pécuchet plunged into Celtic archæology.
According to this science, the ancient Gauls, our ancestors, adored
Kirk and Kron, Taranis Esus, Nelalemnia, Heaven and Earth, the Wind,
the Waters, and, above all, the great Teutates, who is the Saturn of
the Pagans; for Saturn, when he reigned in Phoenicia, wedded a nymph
named Anobret, by whom he had a child called Jeüd. And Anobret presents
the same traits as Sara; Jeüd was sacrificed (or near being so), like
Isaac; therefore, Saturn is Abraham; whence the conclusion must be
drawn that the religion of the Gauls had the same principles as that of
Their society was very well organised. The first class of persons
amongst them included the people, the nobility, and the king; the
second, the jurisconsults; and in the third, the highest, were ranged,
according to Taillepied, the various kinds of philosophers, that is
to say, the Druids or Saronides, themselves divided into Eubages,
Bards, and Vates.
One section of them prophesied, another sang, while a third gave
instruction in botany, medicine, history, and literature, in short, all
the arts of their time.
Pythagoras and Plato were their pupils. They taught metaphysics to
the Greeks, sorcery to the Persians, aruspicy to the Etruscans, and to
the Romans the plating of copper and the traffic in hams.
But of this people, who ruled the ancient world, there remain only
stones either isolated or in groups of three, or placed together so as
to resemble a rude chamber, or forming enclosures.
Bouvard and Pécuchet, filled with enthusiasm, studied in succession
the stone on the Post-farm at Ussy, the Coupled Stone at Quest, the
Standing Stone near L'Aigle, and others besides.
All these blocks, of equal insignificance, speedily bored them; and
one day, when they had just seen the menhir at Passais, they were about
to return from it when their guide led them into a beech wood, which
was blocked up with masses of granite, like pedestals or monstrous
tortoises. The most remarkable of them is hollowed like a basin. One of
its sides rises, and at the further end two channels run down to the
ground; this must have been for the flowing of bloodimpossible to
doubt it! Chance does not make these things.
The roots of the trees were intertwined with these rugged pedestals.
In the distance rose columns of fog like huge phantoms. It was easy to
imagine under the leaves the priests in golden tiaras and white robes,
and their human victims with arms bound behind their backs, and at the
side of the bowl the Druidess watching the red stream, whilst around
her the multitude yelled, to the accompaniment of cymbals and of
trumpets made from the horns of the wild bull.
Immediately they decided on their plan. And one night, by the light
of the moon, they took the road to the cemetery, stealing in like
thieves, in the shadows of the houses. The shutters were fastened, and
quiet reigned around every dwelling-place; not a dog barked.
Gorju accompanied them. They set to work. All that could be heard
was the noise of stones knocking against the spade as it dug through
The vicinity of the dead was disagreeable to them. The church clock
struck with a rattling sound, and the rosework on its tympanum looked
like an eye espying a sacrilege. At last they carried off the bowl.
They came next morning to the cemetery to see the traces of the
The abbé, who was taking the air at his door, begged of them to do
him the honour of a visit, and, having introduced them into his
breakfast-parlour, he gazed at them in a singular fashion.
In the middle of the sideboard, between the plates, was a
soup-tureen decorated with yellow bouquets.
Pécuchet praised it, at a loss for something to say.
It is old Rouen, returned the curé; an heirloom. Amateurs set a
high value on itM. Marescot especially. As for him, thank God, he
had no love of curiosities; and, as they appeared not to understand, he
declared that he had seen them himself stealing the baptismal font.
The two archæologists were quite abashed. The article in question
was not in actual use.
No matter! they should give it back.
No doubt! But, at least, let them be permitted to get a painter to
make a drawing of it.
Be it so, gentlemen.
Between ourselves, is it not? said Bouvard, under the seal of
The ecclesiastic, smiling, reassured them with a gesture.
It was not he whom they feared, but rather Larsoneur. When he would
be passing through Chavignolles, he would feel a hankering after the
bowl; and his chatterings might reach the ears of the Government. Out
of prudence they kept it hidden in the bakehouse, then in the arbour,
in the trunk, in a cupboard. Gorju was tired of dragging it about.
The possession of such a rare piece of furniture bound them the
closer to the Celticism of Normandy.
Its sources were Egyptian. Séez, in the department of the Orne, is
sometimes written Saïs, like the city of the Delta. The Gauls swore by
the bull, an idea derived from the bull Apis. The Latin name of
Bellocastes, which was that of the people of Bayeux, comes from Beli
Casa, dwelling, sanctuary of BelusBelus and Osiris, the same
There is nothing, says Mangou de la Londe, opposed to the idea
that druidical monuments existed near Bayeux. This country, adds M.
Roussel, is like the country in which the Egyptians built the temple
of Jupiter Ammon.
So then there was a temple in which riches were shut up. All the
Celtic monuments contain them.
In 1715, relates Dom Martin, one Sieur Heribel exhumed in the
vicinity of Bayeux, several argil vases full of bones, and concluded
(in accordance with tradition and authorities which had disappeared)
that this place, a necropolis, was the Mount Faunus in which the Golden
Calf is buried.
In the first place, where is Mount Faunus? The authors do not point
it out. The natives know nothing about it. It would be necessary to
devote themselves to excavations, and with that view they forwarded a
petition to the prefect, to which they got no response.
Perhaps Mount Faunus had disappeared, and was not a hill but a
Several of them contain skeletons that have the position of the
foetus in the mother's womb. This meant that for them the tomb was, as
it were, a second gestation, preparing them for another life. Therefore
the barrow symbolises the female organ, just as the raised stone is the
In fact, where menhirs are found, an obscene creed has persisted.
Witness what took place at Guerande, at Chichebouche, at Croissic, at
Livarot. In former times the towers, the pyramids, the wax tapers, the
boundaries of roads, and even the trees had a phallic meaning. Bouvard
and Pécuchet collected whipple-trees of carriages, legs of armchairs,
bolts of cellars, apothecaries' pestles. When people came to see them
they would ask, What do you think that is like? and then they would
confide the secret. And, if anyone uttered an exclamation, they would
shrug their shoulders in pity.
One evening as they were dreaming about the dogmas of the Druids,
the abbé cautiously stole in.
Immediately they showed the museum, beginning with the church
window; but they longed to reach the new compartmentthat of the
phallus. The ecclesiastic stopped them, considering the exhibition
indecent. He came to demand back his baptismal font.
Bouvard and Pécuchet begged for another fortnight, the time
necessary for taking a moulding of it.
The sooner the better, said the abbé.
Then he chatted on general topics.
Pécuchet, who had left the room a minute, on coming back slipped a
napoleon into his hand.
The priest made a backward movement.
Oh! for your poor!
And, colouring, M. Jeufroy crammed the gold piece into his cassock.
To give back the bowl, the bowl for sacrifices! Never, while they
lived! They were even anxious to learn Hebrew, which is the
mother-tongue of Celtic, unless indeed the former language be derived
from it! And they had planned a journey into Brittany, commencing with
Rennes, where they had an appointment with Larsoneur, with a view of
studying that urn mentioned in the Memorials of the Celtic Academy,
which appeared to have contained the ashes of Queen Artimesia, when the
mayor entered unceremoniously with his hat on, like the boorish
individual he was.
All this won't do, my fine fellows! You must give it up!
Rogues! I know well you are concealing it!
Someone had betrayed them.
They replied that they had the curé's permission to keep it.
We'll soon see that!
Foureau went away. An hour later he came back.
They were obstinate.
In the first place, this holy-water basin was not wanted, as it
really was not a holy-water basin at all. They would prove this by a
vast number of scientific reasons. Next, they offered to acknowledge in
their will that it belonged to the parish. They even proposed to buy
And, besides, it is my property, Pécuchet asseverated.
The twenty francs accepted by M. Jeufroy furnished a proof of the
contract, and if he compelled them to go before a justice of the peace,
so much the worse: he would be taking a false oath!
During these disputes he had again seen the soup-tureen many times,
and in his soul had sprung up the desire, the thirst for possession of
this piece of earthenware. If the curé was willing to give it to him,
he would restore the bowl, otherwise not.
Through weariness or fear of scandal, M. Jeufroy yielded it up. It
was placed amongst their collection near the Cauchoise cap. The bowl
decorated the church porch; and they consoled themselves for the loss
of it with the reflection that the people of Chavignolles were ignorant
of its value.
But the soup-tureen inspired them with a taste for earthenwarea
new subject for study and for explorations through the country.
It was the period when persons of good position were looking out for
old Rouen dishes. The notary possessed a few of them, and derived from
the fact, as it were, an artistic reputation which was prejudicial to
his profession, but for which he made up by the serious side of his
When he learned that Bouvard and Pécuchet had got the soup-tureen,
he came to propose to them an exchange.
Pécuchet would not consent to this.
Let us say no more about it! and Marescot proceeded to examine
their ceramic collection.
All the specimens hung up along the wall were blue on a background
of dirty white, and some showed their horn of plenty in green or
reddish tones. There were shaving-dishes, plates and saucers, objects
long sought for, and brought back in the recesses of one's frock-coat
close to one's heart.
Marescot praised them, and then talked about other kinds of faïence,
the Hispano-Arabian, the Dutch, the English, and the Italian, and
having dazzled them with his erudition:
Might I see your soup-tureen again?
He made it ring by rapping on it with his fingers, then he
contemplated the two S's painted on the lid.
The mark of Rouen! said Pécuchet.
Ho! ho! Rouen, properly speaking, would not have any mark. When
Moutiers was unknown, all the French faïence came from Nevers. So with
Rouen to-day. Besides, they imitate it to perfection at El-boeuf.
It isn't possible!
Majolica is cleverly imitated. Your specimen is of no value; and as
for me, I was about to do a downright foolish thing.
When the notary had gone, Pécuchet sank into an armchair in a state
of nervous prostration.
We shouldn't have given back the bowl, said Bouvard; but you get
excited, and always lose your head.
Yes, I do lose my head; and Pécuchet, snatching up the
soup-tureen, flung it some distance away from him against the
Bouvard, more self-possessed, picked up the broken pieces one by
one; and some time afterwards this idea occurred to him: Marescot,
through jealousy, might have been making fools of us!
There's nothing to show me that the soup-tureen was not genuine!
Whereas the other specimens which he pretended to admire are perhaps
And so the day closed with uncertainties and regrets.
This was no reason for abandoning their tour into Brittany.
They even purposed to take Gorju along with them to assist them in
For some time past, he had slept at the house, in order to finish
the more quickly the repairing of the chest.
The prospect of a change of place annoyed him, and when they talked
about menhirs and barrows which they calculated on seeing: I know
better ones, said he to them; in Algeria, in the South, near the
sources of Bou-Mursoug, you meet quantities of them. He then gave a
description of a tomb which chanced to be open right in front of him,
and which contained a skeleton squatting like an ape with its two arms
around its legs.
Larsoneur, when they informed him of the circumstance, would not
believe a word of it.
Bouvard sifted the matter, and started the question again.
How does it happen that the monuments of the Gauls are shapeless,
whereas these same Gauls were civilised in the time of Julius Cæsar? No
doubt they were traceable to a more ancient people.
Such a hypothesis, in Larsoneur's opinion, betrayed a lack of
No matter; there is nothing to show that these monuments are the
work of Gauls. Show us a text!
The Academician was displeased, and made no reply; and they were
very glad of it, so much had the Druids bored them.
If they did not know what conclusion to arrive at as to earthenware
and as to Celticism, it was because they were ignorant of history,
especially the history of France.
The work of Anquetil was in their library; but the series of
do-nothing kings amused them very little. The villainy of the mayors
of the Palace did not excite their indignation, and they gave Anquetil
up, repelled by the ineptitude of his reflections.
Then they asked Dumouchel, What is the best history of France?
Dumouchel subscribed, in their names, to a circulating library, and
forwarded to them the work of Augustin Thierry, together with two
volumes of M. de Genoude.
According to Genoude, royalty, religion, and the national
assemblieshere are the principles of the French nation, which go
back to the Merovingians. The Carlovingians fell away from them. The
Capetians, being in accord with the people, made an effort to maintain
them. Absolute power was established under Louis XIII., in order to
conquer Protestantism, the final effort of feudalism; and '89 is a
return to the constitution of our ancestors.
Pécuchet admired his ideas. They excited Bouvard's pity, as he had
read Augustin Thierry first: What trash you talk with your French
nation, seeing that France did not exist! nor the national assemblies!
and the Carlovingians usurped nothing at all! and the kings did not set
free the communes! Read for yourself.
Pécuchet gave way before the evidence, and surpassed him in
scientific strictness. He would have considered himself dishonoured if
he had said Charlemagne and not Karl the Great, Clovis in place
Nevertheless he was beguiled by Genoude, deeming it a clever thing
to join together both ends of French history, so that the middle period
becomes rubbish; and, in order to ease their minds about it, they took
up the collection of Buchez and Roux.
But the fustian of the preface, that medley of Socialism and
Catholicism, disgusted them; and the excessive accumulation of details
prevented them from grasping the whole.
They had recourse to M. Thiers.
It was during the summer of 1845, in the garden beneath the arbour.
Pécuchet, his feet resting on a small chair, read aloud in his
cavernous voice, without feeling tired, stopping to plunge his fingers
into his snuff-box. Bouvard listened, his pipe in his mouth, his legs
wide apart, and the upper part of his trousers unbuttoned.
Old men had spoken to them of '93, and recollections that were
almost personal gave life to the prosy descriptions of the author. At
that time the high-roads were covered with soldiers singing the
Marseillaise. At the thresholds of doors women sat sewing canvas to
make tents. Sometimes came a wave of men in red caps, bending forward a
pike, at the end of which could be seen a discoloured head with the
hair hanging down. The lofty tribune of the Convention looked down upon
a cloud of dust, amid which wild faces were yelling cries Death!
Anyone who passed, at midday, close to the basin of the Tuileries could
hear each blow of the guillotine, as if they were cutting up sheep.
And the breeze moved the vine-leaves of the arbour; the ripe barley
swayed at intervals; a blackbird was singing. And, casting glances
around them, they relished this tranquil scene.
What a pity that from the beginning they had failed to understand
one another! For if the royalists had reflected like the patriots, if
the court had exhibited more candour, and its adversaries less
violence, many of the calamities would not have happened.
By force of chattering in this way they roused themselves into a
state of excitement. Bouvard, being liberal-minded and of a sensitive
nature, was a Constitutionalist, a Girondist, a Thermidorian; Pécuchet,
being of a bilious temperament and a lover of authority, declared
himself a sans-culotte, and even a Robespierrist. He expressed
approval of the condemnation of the King, the most violent decrees, the
worship of the Supreme Being. Bouvard preferred that of Nature. He
would have saluted with pleasure the image of a big woman pouring out
from her breasts to her adorers not water but Chambertin.
In order to have more facts for the support of their arguments they
procured other works: Montgaillard, Prudhomme, Gallois, Lacretelle,
etc.; and the contradictions of these books in no way embarrassed them.
Each took from them what might vindicate the cause that he espoused.
Thus Bouvard had no doubt that Danton accepted a hundred thousand
crowns to bring forward motions that would destroy the Republic; while
in Pécuchet's opinion Vergniaud would have asked for six thousand
francs a month.
Never! Explain to me, rather, why Robespierre's sister had a
pension from Louis XVIII.
Not at all! It was from Bonaparte. And, since you take it that way,
who is the person that a few months before Égalité's death had a secret
conference with him? I wish they would reinsert in the Memoirs of La
Campan the suppressed paragraphs. The death of the Dauphin appears
to me equivocal. The powder magazine at Grenelle by exploding killed
two thousand persons. The cause was unknown, they tell us: what
nonsense! For Pécuchet was not far from understanding it, and threw
the blame for every crime on the manoeuvres of the aristocrats, gold,
and the foreigner.
In the mind of Bouvard there could be no dispute as to the use of
the words, Ascend to heaven, son of St. Louis, as to the incident
about the virgins of Verdun, or as to the culottes clothed in
human skin. He accepted Prudhomme's lists, a million of victims,
But the Loire, red with gore from Saumur to Nantes, in a line of
eighteen leagues, made him wonder. Pécuchet in the same degree
entertained doubts, and they began to distrust the historians.
For some the Revolution is a Satanic event; others declare it to be
a sublime exception. The vanquished on each side naturally play the
part of martyrs.
Thierry demonstrates, with reference to the Barbarians, that it is
foolish to institute an inquiry as to whether such a prince was good or
was bad. Why not follow this method in the examination of more recent
epochs? But history must needs avenge morality: we feel grateful to
Tacitus for having lacerated Tiberius. After all, whether the Queen had
lovers; whether Dumouriez, since Valmy, intended to betray her; whether
in Prairial it was the Mountain or the Girondist party that began, and
in Thermidor the Jacobins or the Plain; what matters it to the
development of the Revolution, of which the causes were far to seek and
the results incalculable?
Therefore it was bound to accomplish itself, to be what it was; but,
suppose the flight of the King without impediment, Robespierre escaping
or Bonaparte assassinatedchances which depended upon an innkeeper
proving less scrupulous, a door being left open, or a sentinel falling
asleepand the progress of the world would have taken a different
They had no longer on the men and the events of that period a single
well-balanced idea. In order to form an impartial judgment upon it, it
would have been necessary to have read all the histories, all the
memoirs, all the newspapers, and all the manuscript productions, for
through the least omission might arise an error, which might lead to
others without limit.
They abandoned the subject. But the taste for history had come to
them, the need of truth for its own sake.
Perhaps it is easier to find it in more ancient epochs? The authors,
being far removed from the events, ought to speak of them without
passion. And they began the good Rollin.
What a heap of rubbish! exclaimed Bouvard, after the first
Wait a bit, said Pécuchet, rummaging at the end of their library,
where lay heaped up the books of the last proprietor, an old lawyer, an
accomplished man with a mania for literature; and, having put out of
their places a number of novels and plays, together with an edition of
Montesquieu and translations of Horace, he obtained what he was looking
forBeaufort's work on Roman History.
Titus Livius attributes the foundation of Rome to Romulus; Sallust
gives the credit of it to the Trojans under Æneas. Coriolanus died in
exile, according to Fabius Pictor; through the stratagems of Attius
Tullius, if we may believe Dionysius. Seneca states that Horatius
Cocles came back victorious; and Dionysius that he was wounded in the
leg. And La Mothe le Vayer gives expression to similar doubts with
reference to other nations.
There is no agreement as to the antiquity of the Chaldeans, the age
of Homer, the existence of Zoroaster, the two empires of Assyria.
Quintus Curtius has manufactured fables. Plutarch gives the lie to
Herodotus. We should have a different idea of Cæsar if Vercingetorix
had written his Commentaries.
Ancient history is obscure through want of documents. There is an
abundance of them in modern history; and Bouvard and Pécuchet came back
to France, and began Sismondi.
The succession of so many men filled them with a desire to
understand them more thoroughly, to enter into their lives. They wanted
to read the originalsGregory of Tours, Monstrelet, Commines, all
those whose names were odd or agreeable. But the events got confused
through want of knowledge of the dates.
Fortunately they possessed Dumouchel's work on mnemonics, a
duodecimo in boards with this epigraph: To instruct while amusing.
It combined the three systems of Allevy, of Pâris, and of Fenaigle.
Allevy transforms numbers into external objects, the number 1 being
expressed by a tower, 2 by a bird, 3 by a camel, and so on. Pâris
strikes the imagination by means of rebuses: an armchair garnished with
clincher-nails will give Clou, visClovis; and, as the sound of
frying makes ric, ric, whitings in a stove will recall Chilperic.
Fenaigle divides the universe into houses, which contain rooms, each
having four walls with nine panels, and each panel bearing an emblem. A
pharos on a mountain will tell the name of Phar-a-mond in Pâris's
system; and, according to Allevy's directions, by placing above a
mirror, which signifies 4, a bird 2, and a hoop 0, we shall obtain 420,
the date of that prince's accession.
For greater clearness, they took as their mnemotechnic basis their
own house, their domicile, associating a distinct fact with each part
of it; and the courtyard, the garden, the outskirts, the entire
country, had for them no meaning any longer except as objects for
facilitating memory. The boundaries in the fields defined certain
epochs; the apple trees were genealogical stems, the bushes battles;
everything became symbolic. They sought for quantities of absent things
on their walls, ended by seeing them, but lost the recollection of what
dates they represented.
Besides the dates are not always authentic. They learned out of a
manual for colleges that the birth of Jesus ought to be carried back
five years earlier than the date usually assigned for it; that there
were amongst the Greeks three ways of counting the Olympiads, and eight
amongst the Latin of making the year begin. So many opportunities for
mistakes outside of those which result from the zodiacs, from the
epochs, and from the different calendars!
And from carelessness as to dates they passed to contempt for facts.
What is important is the philosophy of history!
Bouvard could not finish the celebrated discourse of Bossuet.
The eagle of Meaux is a farce-actor! He forgets China, the Indies,
and America; but is careful to let us know that Theodosius was 'the joy
of the universe,' that Abraham 'treated kings as his equals,' and that
the philosophy of the Greeks has come down from the Hebrews. His
preoccupation with the Hebrews provokes me.
Pécuchet shared this opinion, and wished to make him read Vico.
Why admit, objected Bouvard, that fables are more true than the
truths of historians?
Pécuchet tried to explain myths, and got lost in the Scienza
Will you deny the design of Providence?
I don't know it! said Bouvard. And they decided to refer to
The professor confessed that he was now at sea on the subject of
It is changing every day. There is a controversy as to the kings of
Rome and the journeys of Pythagoras. Doubts have been thrown on
Belisarius, William Tell, and even on the Cid, who has become, thanks
to the latest discoveries, a common robber. It is desirable that no
more discoveries should be made, and the Institute ought even to lay
down a kind of canon prescribing what it is necessary to believe!
In a postscript he sent them some rules of criticism taken from
Daunou's course of lectures:
To cite by way of proof the testimony of multitudes is a bad method
of proof; they are not there to reply.
To reject impossible things. Pausanias was shown the stone
swallowed by Saturn.
Architecture may lie: instance, the arch of the Forum, in which
Titus is called the first conqueror of Jerusalem, which had been
conquered before him by Pompey.
Medals sometimes deceive. Under Charles IX. money was minted from
the coinage of Henry II.
Take into account the skill of forgers and the interestedness of
apologists and calumniators.
Few historians have worked in accordance with these rules, but all
in view of one special cause, of one religion, of one nation, of one
party, of one system, in order to curb kings, to advise the people, or
to offer moral examples.
The others, who pretend merely to narrate, are no better; for
everything cannot be toldsome selection must be made. But in the
selection of documents some special predilection will have the upper
hand, and, as this varies according to the conditions under which the
writer views the matter, history will never be fixed.
It is sad, was their reflection. However, one might take a
subject, exhaust the sources of information concerning it, make a good
analysis of them, then condense it into a narrative, which would be, as
it were, an epitome of the facts reflecting the entire truth.
Do you wish that we should attempt to compose a history?
I ask for nothing better. But of what?
Suppose we write the life of the Duke of Angoulême?
But he was an idiot! returned Bouvard.
What matter? Personages of an inferior mould have sometimes an
enormous influence, and he may have controlled the machinery of public
The books would furnish them with information; and M. de Faverges,
no doubt, would have them himself, or could procure them from some
elderly gentleman of his acquaintance.
They thought over this project, discussed it, and finally determined
to spend a fortnight at the municipal library at Caen in making
The librarian placed at their disposal some general histories and
some pamphlets with a coloured lithograph portrait representing at
three-quarters' length Monseigneur the Duke of Angoulême.
The blue cloth of his uniform disappeared under the epaulets, the
stars, and the large red ribbon of the Legion of Honour; a very high
collar surrounded his long neck; his pear-shaped head was framed by the
curls of his hair and by his scanty whiskers and heavy eyelashes; and a
very big nose and thick lips gave his face an expression of commonplace
When they had taken notes, they drew up a programme:
Birth and childhood but slightly interesting. One of his tutors is
the Abbé Guénée, Voltaire's enemy. At Turin he is made to cast a
cannon; and he studies the campaigns of Charles VIII. Also he is
nominated, despite his youth, colonel of a regiment of noble guards.
1814.The English take possession of Bordeaux. He runs up behind
them and shows his person to the inhabitants. Description of the
1815.Bonaparte surprises him. Immediately he appeals to the King
of Spain; and Toulon, were it not for Masséna, would have been
surrendered to England.
Operations in the South. He is beaten, but released under the
promise to restore the crown diamonds carried off at full gallop by the
King, his uncle.
After the Hundred Days he returns with his parents and lives in
peace. Several years glide away.
War with Spain. Once he has crossed the Pyrenees, victories
everywhere follow the grandson of Henry IV. He takes the Trocadéro,
reaches the pillars of Hercules, crushes the factions, embraces
Ferdinand, and returns.
Triumphal arches; flowers presented by young girls; dinners at the
Prefecture; 'Te Deum' in the cathedrals. The Parisians are at the
height of intoxication. The city offers him a banquet. Songs containing
allusions to the hero are sung at the theatre.
The enthusiasm diminishes; for in 1827 a ball organised by
subscription proves a failure.
As he is High Admiral of France, he inspects the fleet, which is
going to start for Algiers.
July 1830.Marmont informs him of the state of affairs. Then he
gets into such a rage that he wounds himself in the hand with the
general's sword. The King entrusts him with the command of all the
He meets detachments of the line in the Bois de Boulogne, and has
not a word to say to them.
From St. Cloud he flies to the bridge of Sèvres. Coldness of the
troops. That does not shake him. The Royal family leave Trianon. He
sits down at the foot of an oak, unrolls a map, meditates, remounts his
horse, passes in front of St. Cyr, and sends to the students words of
At Rambouillet the bodyguards bid him good-bye. He embarks, and
during the entire passage is ill. End of his career.
The importance possessed by the bridges ought here to be noticed.
First, he exposes himself needlessly on the bridge of the Inn; he
carries the bridge St. Esprit and the bridge of Lauriol; at Lyons the
two bridges are fatal to him, and his fortune dies before the bridge of
List of his virtues. Needless to praise his courage, to which he
joined a far-seeing policy. For he offered every soldier sixty francs
to desert the Emperor, and in Spain he tried to corrupt the
Constitutionalists with ready money.
His reserve was so profound that he consented to the marriage
arranged between his father and the Queen of Etruria, to the formation
of a new cabinet after the Ordinances, to the abdication in favour of
Chambordto everything that they asked him.
Firmness, however, was not wanting in him. At Angers, he cashiered
the infantry of the National Guard, who, jealous of the cavalry, had
succeeded by means of a stratagem in forming his escort, so that his
Highness found himself jammed into the ranks at the cost of having his
knees squeezed. But he censured the cavalry, the cause of the disorder,
and pardoned the infantrya veritable judgment of Solomon.
His piety manifested itself by numerous devotions, and his clemency
by obtaining the pardon of General Debelle, who had borne arms against
Intimate details; characteristics of the Prince:
At the château of Beauregard, in his childhood, he took pleasure in
deepening, along with his brother, a sheet of water, which may still be
seen. On one occasion, he visited the barracks of the chasseurs, called
for a glass of wine, and drank the King's health.
While walking, in order to mark the step, he used to keep repeating
to himself: 'One, twoone, twoone, two!'
Some of his sayings have been preserved:
To a deputation from Bordeaux:
'What consoles me for not being at Bordeaux is to find myself
To the Protestants of Nismes:
'I am a good Catholic, but I shall never forget that my
distinguished ancestor was a Protestant.'
To the pupils of St. Cyr, when all was lost:
'Right, my friends! The news is good! This is rightall right!'
After Charles X.'s abdication:
'Since they don't want me, let them settle it themselves.'
And in 1814, at every turn, in the smallest village:
'No more war; no more conscription; no more united rights.'
His style was as good as his utterance. His proclamations surpassed
The first, of the Count of Artois, began thus:
'Frenchmen, your King's brother has arrived!'
That of the prince:
'I come. I am the son of your kings. You are Frenchmen!'
Order of the day, dated from Bayonne:
'Soldiers, I come!'
Another, in the midst of disaffection:
'Continue to sustain with the vigour which befits the French
soldier the struggle which you have begun. France expects it of you.'
Lastly, at Rambouillet:
'The King has entered into an arrangement with the government
established at Paris, and everything brings us to believe that this
arrangement is on the point of being concluded.'
'Everything brings us to believe' was sublime.
One thing vexed me, said Bouvard, that there is no mention of his
love affairs! And they made a marginal note: To search for the
At the moment when they were taking their leave, the librarian,
bethinking himself of it, showed them another portrait of the Duke of
In this one he appeared as a colonel of cuirassiers, on a
vaulting-horse, his eyes still smaller, his mouth open, and his hair
How were they to reconcile the two portraits? Had he straight hair,
or rather crispedunless he carried affectation so far as to get it
A grave question, from Pécuchet's point of view, for the mode of
wearing the hair indicates the temperament, and the temperament the
Bouvard considered that we know nothing of a man as long as we are
ignorant of his passions; and in order to clear up these two points,
they presented themselves at the château of Faverges. The count was not
there; this retarded their work. They returned home annoyed.
The door of the house was wide open; there was nobody in the
kitchen. They went upstairs, and who should they see in the middle of
Bouvard's room but Madame Bordin, looking about her right and left!
Excuse me, she said, with a forced laugh, I have for the last
hour been searching for your cook, whom I wanted for my preserves.
They found her in the wood-house on a chair fast asleep. They shook
her. She opened her eyes.
What is it now? You are always prodding at me with your questions!
It was clear that Madame Bordin had been putting some to her in
Germaine got out of her torpor, and complained of indigestion.
I am remaining to take care of you, said the widow.
Then they perceived in the courtyard a big cap, the lappets of which
were fluttering. It was Madame Castillon, proprietress of a
neighbouring farm. She was calling out: Gorju! Gorju!
And from the corn-loft the voice of their little servant-maid
He is not there!
At the end of five minutes she came down, with her cheeks flushed
and looking excited. Bouvard and Pécuchet reprimanded her for having
been so slow. She unfastened their gaiters without a murmur.
Then they went to look at the chest. The bakehouse was covered with
its scattered fragments; the carvings were damaged, the leaves broken.
At this sight, in the face of this fresh disaster, Bouvard had to
keep back his tears, and Pécuchet got a fit of nervous shivering.
Gorju, making his appearance almost immediately, explained the
matter. He had just put the chest outside in order to varnish it, when
a wandering cow knocked it down on the ground.
Whose cow? said Pécuchet.
I don't know.
Ah! you left the door open, as you did some time ago. It is your
At any rate, they would have nothing more to do with him. He had
been trifling with them too long, and they wanted no more of him or his
These gentlemen were wrong. The damage was not so great. It would
be all settled before three weeks. And Gorju accompanied them into the
kitchen, where Germaine was seen dragging herself along to see after
They noticed on the table a bottle of Calvados, three quarters
By you, no doubt, said Pécuchet to Gorju.
By me! never!
Bouvard met his protest by observing:
You are the only man in the house.
Well, and what about the women? rejoined the workman, with a side
Germaine caught him up:
You'd better say 'twas I!
Certainly it was you.
And perhaps 'twas I smashed the press?
Gorju danced about.
Don't you see that she's drunk?
Then they squabbled violently with each other, he with a pale face
and a biting manner, she purple with rage, tearing tufts of grey hair
from under her cotton cap. Madame Bordin took Germaine's part, while
Mélie took Gorju's.
The old woman burst out:
Isn't it an abomination that you two should be spending days
together in the grove, not to speak of the nights?a sort of Parisian,
eating up honest women, who comes to our master's house to play tricks
Bouvard opened his eyes wide.
I tell you he's making fools of you!
Nobody can make a fool of me! exclaimed Pécuchet, and, indignant
at her insolence, exasperated by the mortification inflicted on him, he
dismissed her, telling her to go and pack. Bouvard did not oppose this
decision, and they went out, leaving Germaine in sobs over her
misfortune, while Madame Bordin was trying to console her.
In the course of the evening, as they grew calmer, they went over
these occurrences, asked themselves who had drunk the Calvados, how the
chest got broken, what Madame Castillon wanted when she was calling
Gorju, and whether he had dishonoured Mélie.
We are not able to tell, said Bouvard, what is happening in our
own household, and we lay claim to discover all about the hair and the
love affairs of the Duke of Angoulême.
Pécuchet added: How many questions there are in other respects
important and still more difficult!
Whence they concluded that external facts are not everything. It is
necessary to complete them by means of psychology. Without imagination,
history is defective.
Let us send for some historical romances!
CHAPTER V. ROMANCE AND THE DRAMA.
They first read Walter Scott.
It was like the surprise of a new world.
The men of the past who had for them been only phantoms or names,
became living beings, kings, princes, wizards, footmen, gamekeepers,
monks, gipsies, merchants, and soldiers, who deliberate, fight, travel,
trade, eat and drink, sing and pray, in the armouries of castles, on
the blackened benches of inns, in the winding streets of cities, under
the sloping roofs of booths, in the cloisters of monasteries.
Landscapes artistically arranged formed backgrounds for the narratives,
like the scenery of a theatre. You follow with your eyes a horseman
galloping along the strand; you breathe amid the heather the freshness
of the wind; the moon shines on the lake, over which a boat is
skimming; the sun glitters on the breast-plates; the rain falls over
leafy huts. Without having any knowledge of the models, they thought
these pictures lifelike and the illusion was complete.
And so the winter was spent.
When they had breakfasted, they would instal themselves in the
little room, one at each side of the chimney-piece, and, facing each
other, book in hand, they would begin to read in silence. When the day
wore apace, they would go out for a walk along the road, then, having
snatched a hurried dinner, they would resume their reading far into the
night. In order to protect himself from the lamp, Bouvard wore blue
spectacles, while Pécuchet kept the peak of his cap drawn over his
Germaine had not gone, and Gorju now and again came to dig in the
garden; for they had yielded through indifference, forgetful of
After Walter Scott, Alexandre Dumas diverted them after the fashion
of a magic-lantern. His personages, active as apes, strong as bulls,
gay as chaffinches, enter on the scene and talk abruptly, jump off
roofs to the pavement, receive frightful wounds from which they
recover, are believed to be dead, and yet reappear. There are
trap-doors under the boards, antidotes, disguises; and all things get
entangled, hurry along, and are finally unravelled without a minute for
reflection. Love observes the proprieties, fanaticism is cheerful, and
massacres excite a smile.
Rendered hard to please by these two masters, they could not
tolerate the balderdash of the Belisaraire, the foolery of the
Numa Pompilius, of Marchangy, and Vicomte d'Arlincourt. The
colouring of Frédéric Soulié (like that of the book-lover Jacob)
appeared to them insufficient; and M. Villemain scandalised them by
showing at page 85 of his Lascaris, a Spaniard smoking a pipea
long Arab pipein the middle of the fifteenth century.
Pécuchet consulted the Biographie Universelle, and undertook
to revise Dumas from the point of view of science.
The author in Les Deux Dianes makes a mistake with regard to
dates. The marriage of the Dauphin, Francis, took place on the 15th of
October, 1548, and not on the 20th of May, 1549. How does he know (see
Le Page du Duc de Savoie) that Catherine de Medicis, after her
husband's death, wished to resume the war? It is not very probable that
the Duke of Anjou was crowned at night in a church, an episode which
adorns La Dame de Montsoreau. La Reine Margot especially
swarms with errors. The Duke of Nevers was not absent. He gave his
opinion at the council before the feast of St. Bartholomew, and Henry
of Navarre did not follow the procession four days after. Henry III.
did not come back from Poland so quickly. Besides, how many flimsy
devices! The miracle of the hawthorn, the balcony of Charles IX., the
poisoned glass of Jeanne d'AlbretPécuchet no longer had any
confidence in Dumas.
He even lost all respect for Walter Scott on account of the
oversights in his Quentin Durward. The murder of the Archbishop
of Liège is anticipated by fifteen years. The wife of Robert de Lamarck
was Jeanne d'Arschel and not Hameline de Croy. Far from being killed by
a soldier, he was put to death by Maximilian; and the face of
Temeraire, when his corpse was found, did not express any menace,
inasmuch as the wolves had half devoured it.
None the less, Bouvard went on with Walter Scott, but ended by
getting weary of the repetition of the same effects. The heroine
usually lives in the country with her father, and the lover, a
plundered heir, is re-established in his rights and triumphs over his
rivals. There are always a mendicant philosopher, a morose nobleman,
pure young girls, facetious retainers, and interminable dialogues,
stupid prudishness, and an utter absence of depth.
In his dislike to bric-à-brac, Bouvard took up George Sand.
He went into raptures over the beautiful adulteresses and noble
lovers, would have liked to be Jacques, Simon, Lélio, and to have lived
in Venice. He uttered sighs, did not know what was the matter with him,
and felt himself changed.
Pécuchet, who was working up historical literature studied plays. He
swallowed two Pharamonds, three Clovises, four
Charlemagnes, several Philip Augustuses, a crowd of Joan
of Arcs, many Marquises de Pompadours, and some
Conspiracies of Cellamare.
Nearly all of them appeared still more stupid than the romances. For
there exists for the stage a conventional history which nothing can
destroy. Louis XI. will not fail to kneel before the little images in
his hat; Henry IV. will be constantly jovial, Mary Stuart tearful,
Richelieu cruel; in short, all the characters seem taken from a single
block, from love of simplicity and regard for ignorance, so that the
playwright, far from elevating, lowers, and, instead of instructing,
As Bouvard had spoken eulogistically to him about George Sand,
Pécuchet proceeded to read Consuelo, Horace, and
Mauprat, was beguiled by the author's vindication of the oppressed,
the socialistic and republican aspect of her works, and the discussions
contained in them.
According to Bouvard, however, these elements spoiled the story, and
he asked for love-tales at the circulating library.
They read aloud, one after the other, La Nouvelle Héloïse,
Delphine, Adolphe, and Ourika. But the listener's
yawns proved contagious, for the book slipped out of the reader's hand
to the floor.
They found fault with the last-mentioned works for making no
reference to the environment, the period, the costume of the various
personages. The heart alone is the themenothing but sentiment! as if
there were nothing else in the world.
They next went in for novels of the humorous order, such as the
Voyage autour de ma Chambre, by Xavier de Maistre, and Sous les
Tilleuls, by Alphonse Karr. In books of this description the author
must interrupt the narrative in order to talk about his dog, his
slippers, or his mistress.
A style so free from formality charmed them at first, then appeared
stupid to them, for the author effaces his work while displaying in it
his personal surroundings.
Through need of the dramatic element, they plunged into romances of
adventure. The more entangled, extraordinary, and impossible the plot
was, the more it interested them. They did their best to foresee the
dénouement, became very excited over it, and tired themselves out
with a piece of child's play unworthy of serious minds.
The work of Balzac amazed them like a Babylon, and at the same time
like grains of dust under the microscope.
In the most commonplace things arise new aspects. They never
suspected that there were such depths in modern life.
What an observer! exclaimed Bouvard.
For my part I consider him chimerical, Pécuchet ended by
declaring. He believes in the occult sciences, in monarchy, in rank;
is dazzled by rascals; turns up millions for you like centimes; and
middle-class people are not with him middle-class people at all, but
giants. Why inflate what is unimportant, and waste description on silly
things? He wrote one novel on chemistry, another on banking, another on
printing-machines, just as one Ricard produced The Cabman,
The Water-Carrier and The Cocoa-Nut Seller. We should soon
have books on every trade and on every province; then on every town and
on the different stories of every house, and on every individualwhich
would be no longer literature but statistics or ethnography.
The process was of little consequence in Bouvard's estimation. He
wanted to get informationto acquire a deeper knowledge of human
nature. He read Paul de Kock again, and ran through the Old Hermits
of the Chaussée d'Antin.
Why lose one's time with such absurdities? said Pécuchet.
But they might be very interesting as a series of documents.
Go away with your documents! I want something to lift me up, and
take me away from the miseries of this world.
And Pécuchet, craving for the ideal, led Bouvard unconsciously
The far-off times in which the action takes place, the interests
with which it is concerned, and the high station of its leading
personages impressed them with a certain sense of grandeur.
One day Bouvard took up Athalie, and recited the dream so
well that Pécuchet wished to attempt it in his turn. From the opening
sentence his voice got lost in a sort of humming sound. It was
monotonous and, though strong, indistinct.
Bouvard, full of experience, advised him, in order to render it
well-modulated, to roll it out from the lowest tone to the highest, and
to draw it back by making use of an ascending and descending scale; and
he himself went through this exercise every morning in bed, according
to the precept of the Greeks. Pécuchet, at the time mentioned, worked
in the same fashion: each had his door closed, and they went on bawling
The features that pleased them in tragedy were the emphasis, the
political declamations, and the maxims on the perversity of things.
They learned by heart the most celebrated dialogues of Racine and
Voltaire, and they used to declaim them in the corridor. Bouvard, as if
he were at the Théâtre Français, strutted, with his hand on Pécuchet's
shoulder, stopping at intervals; and, with rolling eyes, he would open
wide his arms, and accuse the Fates. He would give forth fine bursts of
grief from the Philoctète of La Harpe, a nice death-rattle from
Gabrielle de Vergy, and, when he played Dionysius, tyrant of
Syracuse, the way in which he represented that personage gazing at his
son while exclaiming, Monster, worthy of me! was indeed terrible.
Pécuchet forgot his part in it. The ability, and not the will, was what
On one occasion, in the Cléopâtre of Marmontel, he fancied
that he could reproduce the hissing of the asp, just as the automaton
invented for the purpose by Vaucanson might have done it. The abortive
effort made them laugh all the evening. The tragedy sank in their
Bouvard was the first to grow tired of it, and, dealing frankly with
the subject, demonstrated how artificial and limping it was, the
silliness of its incidents, and the absurdity of the disclosures made
They then went in for comedy, which is the school for fine shading.
Every sentence must be dislocated, every word must be underlined, and
every syllable must be weighed. Pécuchet could not manage it, and got
quite stranded in Celimène. Moreover, he thought the lovers very
cold, the disputes a bore, and the valets intolerableClitandre and
Sganarelle as unreal as Ægistheus and Agamemnon.
There remained the serious comedy or tragedy of everyday life, where
we see fathers of families afflicted, servants saving their masters,
rich men offering others their fortunes, innocent seamstresses and
villainous corrupters, a species which extends from Diderot to
Pixérécourt. All these plays preaching about virtue disgusted them by
The drama of 1830 fascinated them by its movement, its colouring,
its youthfulness. They made scarcely any distinction between Victor
Hugo, Dumas, or Bouchardy, and the diction was no longer to be pompous
or fine, but lyrical, extravagant.
One day, as Bouvard was trying to make Pécuchet understand Frédéric
Lemaître's acting, Madame Bordin suddenly presented herself in a green
shawl, carrying with her a volume of Pigault-Lebrun, the two gentlemen
being so polite as to lend her novels now and then.
But go on! for she had been a minute there already, and had
listened to them with pleasure.
They hoped she would excuse them. She insisted.
Faith! said Bouvard, there's nothing to prevent
Pécuchet, through bashfulness, remarked that he could not act
unprepared and without costume.
To do it effectively, we should need to disguise ourselves!
And Bouvard looked about for something to put on, but found only the
Greek cap, which he snatched up.
As the corridor was not big enough, they went down to the
drawing-room. Spiders crawled along the walls, and the geological
specimens that encumbered the floor had whitened with their dust the
velvet of the armchairs. On the chair which had least dirt on it they
spread a cover, so that Madame Bordin might sit down.
It was necessary to give her something good.
Bouvard was in favour of the Tour de Nesle. But Pécuchet was
afraid of parts which called for too much action.
She would prefer some classical piece! Phèdre, for
Be it so.
Bouvard set forth the theme: It is about a queen whose husband has
a son by another wife. She has fallen madly in love with the young man.
Are we there? Start!
'Yes, prince! for Theseus I grow faint, I burn
I love him!'
And, addressing Pécuchet's side-face, he gushed out admiration of
his port, his visage, that charming head; grieved at not having met
him with the Greek fleet; would have gladly been lost with him in the
The border of the red cap bent forward amorously, and his trembling
voice and his appealing face begged of the cruel one to take pity on a
Pécuchet, turning aside, breathed hard to emphasise his emotion.
Madame Bordin, without moving, kept her eyes wide open, as if gazing
at people whirling round; Mélie was listening behind the door; Gorju,
in his shirt-sleeves, was staring at them through the window. Bouvard
made a dash into the second part. His acting gave expression to the
delirium of the senses, remorse, despair; and he flung himself on the
imaginary sword of Pécuchet with such violence that, slipping over some
of the stone specimens, he was near tumbling on the ground.
Pay no attention! Then Theseus arrives, and she poisons herself.
Poor woman! said Madame Bordin.
After this they begged of her to choose a piece for them.
She felt perplexed about making a selection. She had seen only three
pieces: Robert le Diable in the capital, Le Jeune Mari at
Rouen, and another at Falaise which was very funny, and which was
called La Brouette du Vinaigrier.
Finally, Bouvard suggested to her the great scene of Tartuffe in the
Pécuchet thought an explanation was desirable:
You must know that Tartuffe
Madame Bordin interrupted him: We know what a Tartuffe is.
Bouvard had wished for a robe for a certain passage.
I see only the monk's habit, said Pécuchet.
No matter; bring it here.
He reappeared with it and a copy of Molière.
The opening was tame, but at the place where Tartuffe caresses
Elmire's knees, Pécuchet assumed the tone of a gendarme:
What is your hand doing there?
Bouvard instantly replied in a sugary voice:
I am feeling your dress; the stuff of it is marrowy.
And he shot forth glances from his eyes, bent forward his mouth,
sniffed with an exceedingly lecherous air, and ended by even addressing
himself to Madame Bordin.
His impassioned gaze embarrassed her, and when he stopped, humble
and palpitating, she almost sought for something to say in reply.
Pécuchet took refuge in the book: The declaration is quite
Ha! yes, cried she; he is a bold wheedler.
Is it not so? returned Bouvard confidently. But here's another
with a more modern touch about it. And, having opened his coat, he
squatted over a piece of ashlar, and, with his head thrown back, burst
Your eyes' bright flame my vision floods with joy.
Sing me some song like those, in bygone years,
You sang at eve, your dark eye filled with tears.
That is like me, she thought.
Drink and be merry! let the wine-cup flow:
Give me this hour, and all the rest may go!
How droll you are! And she laughed with a little laugh, which made
her throat rise up, and exposed her teeth.
Ah! say, is it not sweet
To love and see your lover at your feet?
He knelt down.
'Oh! let me sleep and dream upon thy breast,
My beauty, Doña Sol, my love!'
Here the bells are heard, and they are disturbed by a mountaineer.
Fortunately; for, but for that And Madame Bordin smiled, in
place of finishing the sentence.
It was getting dark. She arose.
It had been raining a short time before, and the path through the
beech grove not being dry enough, it was more convenient to return
across the fields. Bouvard accompanied her into the garden, in order to
open the gate for her.
At first they walked past the trees cut like distaffs, without a
word being spoken on either side. He was still moved by his
declamation, and she, at the bottom of her heart, felt a certain kind
of fascination, a charm which was generated by the influence of
literature. There are occasions when art excites commonplace natures;
and worlds may be unveiled by the clumsiest interpreters.
The sun had reappeared, making the leaves glisten, and casting
luminous spots here and there amongst the brakes. Three sparrows with
little chirpings hopped on the trunk of an old linden tree which had
fallen to the ground. A hawthorn in blossom exhibited its pink sheath;
lilacs drooped, borne down by their foliage.
Ah! that does one good! said Bouvard, inhaling the air till it
filled his lungs.
You are so painstaking.
It is not that I have talent; but as for fire, I possess some of
One can see, she returned, pausing between the words, that
youwere in lovein your early days.
Only in my early days, you believe?
She stopped. I know nothing about it.
What does she mean? And Bouvard felt his heart beating.
A little pool in the middle of the gravel obliging them to step
aside, they got up on the hedgerow.
Then they chatted about the recital.
What is the name of your last piece?
It is taken from Hernani, a drama.
Ha! then slowly and as if in soliloquy, it must be nice to have a
gentleman say such things to youin downright earnest.
I am at your service, replied Bouvard.
What a joke!
Not the least in the world!
And, having cast a look about him, he caught her from behind round
the waist and kissed the nape of her neck vigorously.
She became very pale as if she were going to faint, and leaned one
hand against a tree, then opened her eyes and shook her head.
It is past.
He looked at her in amazement.
The grating being open, she got up on the threshold of the little
There was a water-channel at the opposite side. She gathered up all
the folds of her petticoat and stood on the brink hesitatingly.
Do you want my assistance?
Ha! you are too dangerous! And as she jumped down, he could see
her white stocking.
Bouvard blamed himself for having wasted an opportunity. Bah! he
should have one againand then not all women are alike. With some of
them you must be blunt, while audacity destroys you with others. In
short, he was satisfied with himselfand he did not confide his hope
to Pécuchet; this was through fear of the remarks that would be passed,
and not at all through delicacy.
From that time forth they used to recite in the presence of Mélie
and Gorju, all the time regretting that they had not a private theatre.
The little servant-girl was amused without understanding a bit of
it, wondering at the language, charmed at the roll of the verses. Gorju
applauded the philosophic passages in the tragedies, and everything in
the people's favour in the melodramas, so that, delighted at his good
taste, they thought of giving him lessons, with a view to making an
actor of him subsequently. This prospect dazzled the workman.
Their performances by this time became the subject of general
gossip. Vaucorbeil spoke to them about the matter in a sly fashion.
Most people regarded their acting with contempt.
They only prided themselves the more upon it. They crowned
themselves artists. Pécuchet wore moustaches, and Bouvard thought he
could not do anything better, with his round face and his bald patch,
than to give himself a head à la Béranger. Finally, they
determined to write a play.
The subject was the difficulty. They searched for it while they were
at breakfast, and drank coffee, a stimulant indispensable for the
brain, then two or three little glasses. They would next take a nap on
their beds, after which they would make their way down to the fruit
garden and take a turn there; and at length they would leave the house
to find inspiration outside, and, after walking side by side, they
would come back quite worn out.
Or else they would shut themselves up together. Bouvard would sweep
the table, lay down paper in front of him, dip his pen, and remain with
his eyes on the ceiling; whilst Pécuchet, in the armchair, would be
plunged in meditation, with his legs stretched out and his head down.
Sometimes they felt a shivering sensation, and, as it were, the
passing breath of an idea, but at the very moment when they were
seizing it, it had vanished.
But methods exist for discovering subjects. You take a title at
random, and a fact trickles out of it. You develop a proverb; you
combine a number of adventures so as to form only one. None of these
devices came to anything. In vain they ran through collections of
anecdotes, several volumes of celebrated trials, and a heap of
And they dreamed of being acted at the Odéon, had their thoughts
fixed on theatrical performances, and sighed for Paris.
I was born to be an author instead of being buried in the country!
And I likewise, chimed in Pécuchet.
Then came an illumination to their minds. If they had so much
trouble about it, the reason was their ignorance of the rules.
They studied them in the Pratique du Théâtre, by D'Aubignac,
and in some works not quite so old-fashioned.
Important questions are discussed in them: Whether comedy can be
written in verse; whether tragedy does not go outside its limits by
taking its subject from modern history; whether the heroes ought to be
virtuous; what kinds of villains it allows; up to what point horrors
are permissible in it; that the details should verge towards a single
end; that the interest should increase; that the conclusion should
harmonise with the openingthese were unquestionable propositions.
Invent resorts that can take hold of me,
says Boileau. By what means were they to invent resorts?
So that in all your speeches passion's dart
May penetrate, and warm, and move the heart.
How were they to warm the heart?
Rules, therefore, were not sufficient; there was need, in addition,
for genius. And genius is not sufficient either. Corneille, according
to the French Academy, understands nothing about the stage; Geoffroy
disparaged Voltaire; Souligny scoffed at Racine; La Harpe blushed at
Becoming disgusted with the old criticism, they wished to make
acquaintance with the new, and sent for the notices of plays in the
What assurance! What obstinacy! What dishonesty! Outrages on
masterpieces; respect shown for platitudes; the gross ignorance of
those who pass for scholars, and the stupidity of others whom they
describe as witty.
Perhaps it is to the public that one must appeal.
But works that have been applauded sometimes displeased them, and
amongst plays that were hissed there were some that they admired.
Thus the opinions of persons of taste are unreliable, while the
judgment of the multitude is incomprehensible.
Bouvard submitted the problem to Barberou. Pécuchet, on his side,
wrote to Dumouchel.
The ex-commercial traveller was astonished at the effeminacy
engendered by provincial life. His old Bouvard was turning into a
blockhead; in short, he was no longer in it at all.
The theatre is an article of consumption like any other. It is
advertised in the newspapers. We go to the theatre to be amused. The
good thing is the thing that amuses.
But, idiot, exclaimed Pécuchet, what amuses you is not what
amuses me; and the others, as well as yourself, will be weary of it by
and by. If plays are written expressly to be acted, how is it that the
best of them can be always read?
And he awaited Dumouchel's reply. According to the professor, the
immediate fate of a play proved nothing. The Misanthrope and
Athalie are dying out. Zaïre is no longer understood. Who
speaks to-day of Ducange or of Picard? And he recalled all the great
contemporary successes from Fanchon la Vielleuse to Gaspardo
le Pêcheur, and deplored the decline of our stage. The cause of it
is the contempt for literature, or rather for style; and, with the aid
of certain authors mentioned by Dumouchel, they learned the secret of
the various styles; how we get the majestic, the temperate, the
ingenuous, the touches that are noble and the expressions that are low.
Dogs may be heightened by devouring; to vomit is to be used only
figuratively; fever is applied to the passions; valiance is
beautiful in verse.
Suppose we made verses? said Pécuchet.
Yes, later. Let us occupy ourselves with prose first.
A strict recommendation is given to choose a classic in order to
mould yourself upon it; but all of them have their dangers, and not
only have they sinned in point of style, but still more in point of
This assertion disconcerted Bouvard and Pécuchet, and they set about
Has the French language, in its idiomatic structure definite
articles and indefinite, as in Latin? Some think that it has, others
that it has not. They did not venture to decide.
The subject is always in agreement with the verb, save on the
occasions when the subject is not in agreement with it.
There was formerly no distinction between the verbal adjective and
the present participle; but the Academy lays down one not very easy to
They were much pleased to learn that the pronoun leur is used
for persons, but also for things, while où and en are
used for things and sometimes for persons.
Ought we to say Cette femme a l'air bon or l'air bonne
?une bûche de bois sec, or de bois sèche?ne pas
laisser de, or que de?une troupe de voleurs survint, or survinrent?
Other difficulties: Autour and à l'entour of which
Racine and Boileau did not see the difference; imposer, or en
imposer, synonyms with Massillon and Voltaire; croasser and
coasser, confounded by La Fontaine, who knew, however, how to
distinguish a crow from a frog.
The grammarians, it is true, are at variance. Some see a beauty
where others discover a fault. They admit principles of which they
reject the consequences, announce consequences of which they repudiate
the principles, lean on tradition, throw over the masters, and adopt
Ménage, instead of lentilles and cassonade, approves
of nentilles and castonade; Bonhours, jérarchie
and not hiérarchie and M. Chapsal speaks of les oeils de la
Pécuchet was amazed above all at Jénin. What! z'annetons
would be better than hannetons, z'aricots than
haricots! and, under Louis XIV., the pronunciation was Roume
and Monsieur de Lioune, instead of Rome and Monsieur
Littré gave them the finishing stroke by declaring that there never
had been, and never could be positive orthography. They concluded that
syntax is a whim and grammar an illusion.
At this period, moreover, a new school of rhetoric declared that we
should write as we speak, and that all would be well so long as we felt
As they had felt and believed that they had observed, they
considered themselves qualified to write. A play is troublesome on
account of the narrowness of its framework, but the novel has more
freedom. In order to write one they searched among their personal
Pécuchet recalled to mind one of the head-clerks in his own office,
a very nasty customer, and he felt a longing to take revenge on him by
means of a book.
Bouvard had, at the smoking saloon, made the acquaintance of an old
writing-master, who was a miserable drunkard. Nothing could be so
ludicrous as this character.
At the end of the week, they imagined that they could fuse these two
subjects into one. They left off there, and passed on to the following:
a woman who causes the unhappiness of a family; a wife, her husband,
and her lover; a woman who would be virtuous through a defect in her
conformation; an ambitious man; a bad priest. They tried to bind
together with these vague conceptions things supplied by their memory,
and then made abridgments or additions.
Pécuchet was for sentiment and ideality, Bouvard for imagery and
colouring; and they began to understand each other no longer, each
wondering that the other should be so shallow.
The science which is known as æsthetics would perhaps settle their
differences. A friend of Dumouchel, a professor of philosophy, sent
them a list of works on the subject. They worked separately and
communicated their ideas to one another.
In the first place, what is the Beautiful?
For Schelling, it is the infinite expressing itself through the
finite; for Reid, an occult quality; for Jouffroy, an indecomposable
fact; for De Maistre, that which is pleasing to virtue; for P. André,
that which agrees with reason.
And there are many kinds of beauty: a beauty in the
sciencesgeometry is beautiful; a beauty in moralsit cannot be
denied that the death of Socrates was beautiful; a beauty in the animal
kingdomthe beauty of the dog consists in his sense of smell. A pig
could not be beautiful, having regard to his dirty habits; no more
could a serpent, for it awakens in us ideas of vileness. The flowers,
the butterflies, the birds may be beautiful. Finally, the first
condition of beauty is unity in variety: there is the principle.
Yet, said Bouvard, two squint eyes are more varied than two
straight eyes, and produce an effect which is not so goodas a rule.
They entered upon the question of the Sublime.
Certain objects are sublime in themselves: the noise of a torrent,
profound darkness, a tree flung down by the storm. A character is
beautiful when it triumphs, and sublime when it struggles.
I understand, said Bouvard; the Beautiful is the beautiful, and
the Sublime the very beautiful.
But how were they to be distinguished?
By means of tact, answered Pécuchet.
And tactwhere does that come from?
What is taste?
It is defined as a special discernment, a rapid judgment, the power
of distinguishing certain relationships.
In short, taste is taste; but all that does not tell the way to
It is necessary to observe the proprieties. But the proprieties
vary; and, let a work be ever so beautiful, it will not be always
irreproachable. There is, however, a beauty which is indestructible,
and of whose laws we are ignorant, for its genesis is mysterious.
Since an idea cannot be interpreted in every form, we ought to
recognise limits amongst the arts, and in each of the arts many forms;
but combinations arise in which the style of one will enter into
another without the ill result of deviating from the endof not being
The too rigid application of truth is hurtful to beauty, and
preoccupation with beauty impedes truth. However, without an ideal
there is no truth; this is why types are of a more continuous reality
than portraits. Art, besides, only aims at verisimilitude; but
verisimilitude depends on the observer, and is a relative and
So they got lost in discussions. Bouvard believed less and less in
If it is not a humbug, its correctness will be demonstrated by
examples. Now listen.
And he read a note which had called for much research on his part:
'Bouhours accuses Tacitus of not having the simplicity which
history demands. M. Droz, a professor, blames Shakespeare for his
mixture of the serious and the comic. Nisard, another professor, thinks
that André Chénier is, as a poet, beneath the seventeenth century.
Blair, an Englishman, finds fault with the picture of the harpies in
Virgil. Marmontel groans over the liberties taken by Homer. Lamotte
does not admit the immortality of his heroes. Vida is indignant at his
similes. In short, all the makers of rhetorics, poetics, and æsthetics,
appear to me idiots.
You are exaggerating, said Pécuchet.
He was disturbed by doubts; for, if (as Longinus observes) ordinary
minds are incapable of faults, the faults must be associated with the
masters, and we are bound to admire them. This is going too far.
However, the masters are the masters. He would have liked to make the
doctrines harmonise with the works, the critics with the poets, to
grasp the essence of the Beautiful; and these questions exercised him
so much that his bile was stirred up. He got a jaundice from it.
It was at its crisis when Marianne, Madame Bordin's cook, came with
a request from her mistress for an interview with Bouvard.
The widow had not made her appearance since the dramatic
performance. Was this an advance? But why should she employ Marianne as
an intermediary? And all night Bouvard's imagination wandered.
Next day, about two o'clock, he was walking in the corridor, and
glancing out through the window from time to time. The door-bell rang.
It was the notary.
He crossed the threshold, ascended the staircase, and seated himself
in the armchair, and, after a preliminary exchange of courtesies, said
that, tired of waiting for Madame Bordin, he had started before her.
She wished to buy the Ecalles from him.
Bouvard experienced a kind of chilling sensation, and he hurried
towards Pécuchet's room.
Pécuchet did not know what reply to make. He was in an anxious frame
of mind, as M. Vaucorbeil was to be there presently.
At length Madame Bordin arrived. The delay was explained by the
manifest attention she had given to her toilette, which consisted of a
cashmere frock, a hat, and fine kid glovesa costume befitting a
After much frivolous preliminary talk she asked whether a thousand
crown-pieces would not be sufficient.
One acre! A thousand crown-pieces! Never!
She half closed her eyes. Oh! for me!
And all three remained silent.
M. de Faverges entered. He had a morocco case under his arm, like a
solicitor; and, depositing it on the table, said:
These are pamphlets! They deal with reforma burning question; but
here is a thing which no doubt belongs to you.
And he handed Bouvard the second volume of the Mémoires du Diable.
Mélie, just now, had been reading it in the kitchen; and, as one
ought to watch over the morals of persons of that class, he thought he
was doing the right thing in confiscating the book.
Bouvard had lent it to his servant-maid. They chatted about novels.
Madame Bordin liked them when they were not dismal.
Writers, said M. de Faverges, paint life in colours that are too
It is necessary to paint, urged Bouvard.
Then nothing can be done save to follow the example.
It is not a question of example.
At least, you will admit that they might fall into the hands of a
young daughter. I have one.
And a charming one! said the notary, with the expression of
countenance he wore on the days of marriage contracts.
Well, for her sake, or rather for that of the persons that surround
her, I prohibit them in my house, for the people, my dear sir
What have the people done? said Vaucorbeil, appearing suddenly at
Pécuchet, who had recognised his voice, came to mingle with the
I maintain, returned the count, that it is necessary to prevent
them from reading certain books.
Vaucorbeil observed: Then you are not in favour of education?
Yes, certainly. Allow me
When every day, said Marescot, an attack is made on the
Where's the harm?
And the nobleman and the physician proceeded to disparage Louis
Philippe, recalling the Pritchard case, and the September laws against
the liberty of the press:
And that of the stage, added Pécuchet.
Marescot could stand this no longer.
It goes too far, this stage of yours!
That I grant you, said the countplays that glorify suicide.
Suicide is a fine thing! Witness Cato, protested Pécuchet.
Without replying to the argument, M. de Faverges stigmatised those
works in which the holiest things are scoffed at: the family, property,
Well, and Molière? said Bouvard.
Marescot, a man of literary taste, retorted that Molière would not
pass muster any longer, and was, furthermore, a little overrated.
Finally, said the count, Victor Hugo has been pitilessyes,
pitilesstowards Marie Antoinette, by dragging over the hurdle the
type of the Queen in the character of Mary Tudor.
What! exclaimed Bouvard, I, an author, I have no right
No, sir, you have no right to show us crime without putting beside
it a correctivewithout presenting to us a lesson.
Vaucorbeil thought also that art ought to have an objectto aim at
the improvement of the masses. Let us chant science, our discoveries,
patriotism, and he broke into admiration of Casimir Delavigne.
Madame Bordin praised the Marquis de Foudras.
The notary replied: But the languageare you thinking of that?
The language? How?
He refers to the style, said Pécuchet. Do you consider his works
No doubt, exceedingly interesting.
He shrugged his shoulders, and she blushed at the impertinence.
Madame Bordin had several times attempted to come back to her own
business transaction. It was too late to conclude it. She went off on
The count distributed his pamphlets, requesting them to hand them
round to other people.
Vaucorbeil was leaving, when Pécuchet stopped him.
You are forgetting me, doctor.
His yellow physiognomy was pitiable, with his moustaches and his
black hair, which was hanging down under a silk handkerchief badly
Purge yourself, said the doctor. And, giving him two little slaps
as if to a child: Too much nerves, too much artist!
They summed up what they had just heard. The morality of art is
contained for every person in that which flatters that person's
interests. No one has any love for literature.
After this they turned over the count's pamphlets.
They found in all of a demand for universal suffrage.
It seems to me, said Pécuchet, that we shall soon have some
For he saw everything in dark colours, perhaps on account of his
CHAPTER VI. REVOLT OF THE PEOPLE.
On the morning of the 25th of February, 1848, the news was brought
to Chavignolles, by a person who had come from Falaise, that Paris was
covered with barricades, and the next day the proclamation of the
Republic was posted up outside the mayor's office.
This great event astonished the inhabitants.
But when they learned that the Court of Cassation, the Court of
Appeal, the Court of Exchequer, the Chamber of Notaries, the order of
advocates, the Council of State, the University, the generals, and M.
de la Roche-Jacquelein himself had given promise of their adherence to
the provisional government, their breasts began to expand; and, as
trees of liberty were planted at Paris, the municipal council decided
that they ought to have them at Chavignolles.
Bouvard made an offer of one, his patriotism exulting in the triumph
of the people; as for Pécuchet, the fall of royalty confirmed his
anticipations so exactly that he must needs be satisfied.
Gorju, obeying them with zeal, removed one of the poplar trees that
skirted the meadow above La Butte, and transported it to the Cows'
Pass, at the entrance of the village, the place appointed for the
Before the hour for the ceremony, all three awaited the procession.
They heard a drum beating, and then beheld a silver cross. After this
appeared two torches borne by the chanters, then the curé, with stole,
surplice, cope, and biretta. Four altar-boys escorted him, a fifth
carried the holy-water basin, and in the rear came the sacristan. He
got up on the raised edge of the hole in which stood the poplar tree,
adorned with tri-coloured ribbons. On the opposite side could be seen
the mayor and his two deputies, Beljambe and Marescot; then the
principal personages of the district, M. de Faverges, Vaucorbeil,
Coulon, the justice of the peace, an old fogy with a sleepy face.
Heurtaux wore a foraging-cap, and Alexandre Petit, the new
schoolmaster, had put on his frock-coat, a threadbare green
garmenthis Sunday coat. The firemen, whom Girbal commanded, sword in
hand, stood in single file. On the other side shone the white plates of
some old shakos of the time of Lafayettefive or six, no morethe
National Guard having fallen into desuetude at Chavignolles. Peasants
and their wives, workmen from neighbouring factories, and village
brats, crowded together in the background; and Placquevent, the keeper,
five feet eight inches in height, kept them in check with a look as he
walked to and fro with folded arms.
The curé's speech was like that of other priests in similar
circumstances. After thundering against kings, he glorified the
Republic. Do we not say 'the republic of letters,' 'the Christian
republic'? What more innocent than the one, more beautiful than the
other? Jesus Christ formulated our sublime device: the tree of the
people was the tree of the Cross. In order that religion may give her
fruits, she has need of charity. And, in the name of charity, the
ecclesiastic implored his brethren not to commit any disorder; to
return home peaceably.
Then he sprinkled the tree while he invoked the blessing of God.
May it grow, and may it recall to us our enfranchisement from all
servitude, and that fraternity more bountiful than the shade of its
Some voices repeated Amen; and, after an interval of drum-beating,
the clergy, chanting a Te Deum, returned along the road to the
Their intervention had produced an excellent effect. The simple saw
in it a promise of happiness, the patriotic a mark of deference, a sort
of homage rendered to their principles.
Bouvard and Pécuchet thought they should have been thanked for their
present, or at least that an allusion should have been made to it; and
they unbosomed themselves on the subject to Faverges and the doctor.
What mattered wretched considerations of that sort? Vaucorbeil was
delighted with the Revolution; so was the count. He execrated the
Orléans family. They would never see them any more! Good-bye to them!
All for the people henceforth! And followed by Hurel, his factotum, he
went to meet the curé.
Foureau was walking with his head down, between the notary and the
innkeeper, irritated by the ceremony, as he was apprehensive of a riot;
and instinctively he turned round towards Placquevent, who, together
with the captain, gave vent to loud regrets at Girbal's
unsatisfactoriness and the sorry appearance of his men.
Some workmen passed along the road singing the Marseillaise, with
Gorju among them brandishing a stick; Petit was escorting them, with
fire in his eyes.
I don't like that! said Marescot. They are making a great outcry,
and getting too excited.
Oh, bless my soul! replied Coulon; young people must amuse
Foureau heaved a sigh. Queer amusement! and then the guillotine at
the end of it! He had visions of the scaffold, and was anticipating
Chavignolles felt the rebound of the agitation in Paris. The
villagers subscribed to the newspapers. Every morning people crowded to
the post-office, and the postmistress would not have been able to get
herself free from them had it not been for the captain, who sometimes
assisted her. Then would follow a chat on the green.
The first violent discussion was on the subject of Poland.
Heurtaux and Bouvard called for its liberation.
M. de Faverges took a different view.
What right have we to go there? That would be to let loose Europe
against us. No imprudence!
And everybody approving of this, the two Poles held their tongues.
On another occasion, Vaucorbeil spoke in favour of Ledru-Rollin's
Foureau retorted with a reference to the forty-five centimes.
But the government, said Pécuchet, has suppressed slavery.
What does slavery matter to me?
Well, what about the abolition of the death-penalty in political
Faith, replied Foureau, they would like to abolish everything.
However, who knows? the tenants are already showing themselves very
So much the better! The proprietors, according to Pécuchet, had
been too much favoured. He that owns an estate
Foureau and Marescot interrupted him, exclaiming that he was a
And all kept talking at the same time. When Pécuchet proposed to
establish a club, Foureau had the hardihood to reply that they would
never see such a thing at Chavignolles.
After this, Gorju demanded guns for the National Guard, the general
opinion having fixed on him as instructor. The only guns in the place
were those of the firemen. Girbal had possession of them. Foureau did
not care to deliver them up.
Gorju looked at him.
You will find, however, that I know how to use them.
For he added to his other occupations that of poaching, and the
innkeeper often bought from him a hare or a rabbit.
Faith! take them! said Foureau.
The same evening they began drilling. It was under the lawn, in
front of the church. Gorju, in a blue smock-frock, with a neckcloth
around his loins, went through the movements in an automatic fashion.
When he gave the orders, his voice was gruff.
Draw in your bellies!
And immediately, Bouvard, keeping back his breath, drew in his
stomach, and stretched out his buttocks.
Good God! you're not told to make an arch.
Pécuchet confused the ranks and the files, half-turns to the right
and half-turns to the left; but the most pitiable sight was the
schoolmaster: weak and of a slim figure, with a ring of fair beard
around his neck, he staggered under the weight of his gun, the bayonet
of which incommoded his neighbours.
They wore trousers of every colour, dirty shoulder-belts, old
regimentals that were too short, leaving their shirts visible over
their flanks; and each of them pretended that he had not the means of
doing otherwise. A subscription was started to clothe the poorest of
them. Foureau was niggardly, while women made themselves conspicuous.
Madame Bordin gave five francs, in spite of her hatred of the Republic.
M. de Faverges equipped a dozen men, and was not missing at the drill.
Then he took up his quarters at the grocer's, and gave those who came
in first a drink.
The powerful then began fawning on the lower class. Everyone went
after the working-men. People intrigued for the favour of being
associated with them. They became nobles.
Those of the canton were, for the most part, weavers; others worked
in the cotton mills or at a paper factory lately established.
Gorju fascinated them by his bluster, taught them the shoe
trick, and brought those whom he treated as chums to Madame
Castillon's house for a drink.
But the peasants were more numerous, and on market days M. de
Faverges would walk about the green, make inquiries as to their wants,
and try to convert them to his own ideas. They listened without
answering, like Père Gouy, ready to accept any government so long as it
reduced the taxes.
By dint of babbling, Gorju was making a name for himself. Perhaps
they might send him into the Assembly!
M. de Faverges also was thinking of it, while seeking not to
The Conservatives oscillated between Foureau and Marescot, but, as
the notary stuck to his office, Foureau was chosena boor, an idiot.
The doctor waxed indignant. Rejected in the competition, he regretted
Paris, and the consciousness of his wasted life gave him a morose air.
A more distinguished career was about to open for himwhat a revenge!
He drew up a profession of faith, and went to read it to MM. Bouvard
They congratulated him upon it. Their opinions were identical with
his. However, they wrote better, had a knowledge of history, and could
cut as good a figure as he in the Chamber. Why not? But which of them
ought to offer himself? And they entered upon a contest of delicacy.
Pécuchet preferred that it should be his friend rather than himself.
No, it suits you better! you have a better deportment!
Perhaps so, returned Bouvard, but you have a better tuft of
hair! And, without solving the difficulty, they arranged their plans
This vertigo of deputyship had seized on others. The captain dreamed
of it under his foraging-cap while puffing at his pipe, and the
schoolmaster too in his school, and the curé also between two prayers,
so that he sometimes surprised himself with his eyes towards heaven, in
the act of saying, Grant, O my God, that I may be a deputy!
The doctor having received some encouragement, repaired to the house
of Heurtaux, and explained to him what his chances were. The captain
did not stand on ceremony about it. Vaucorbeil was known, undoubtedly,
but little liked by his professional brethren, especially in the case
of chemists. Everyone would bark at him; the people did not want a
gentleman; his best patients would leave him. And, when he weighed
these arguments, the physician regretted his weakness.
As soon as he had gone, Heurtaux went to see Placquevent. Between
old soldiers there should be mutual courtesy, but the rural guard,
devoted though he was to Foureau, flatly refused to help him.
The curé demonstrated to M. de Faverges that the hour had not come.
It was necessary to give the Republic time to get used up.
Bouvard and Pécuchet represented to Gorju that he would never be
strong enough to overcome the coalition of the peasants and the village
shop-keepers, filled him with uncertainty, and deprived him of all
Petit, through pride, had allowed his ambition to be seen. Beljambe
warned him that, if he failed, his dismissal was certain.
Finally, the curé got orders from the bishop to keep quiet.
Then, only Foureau remained.
Bouvard and Pécuchet opposed him, bringing up against him his
unfriendly attitude about the guns, his opposition to the club, his
reactionary views, his avarice; and even persuaded Gouy that he wished
to bring back the old régime. Vague as was the meaning of this
word to the peasant's mind, he execrated it with a hatred that had
accumulated in the souls of his forefathers throughout ten centuries;
and he turned all his relatives, and those of his wife,
brothers-in-law, cousins, grand-nephews (a horde of them), against
Gorju, Vaucorbeil, and Petit kept working for the overthrow of the
mayor; and, the ground being thus cleared, Bouvard and Pécuchet,
without any doubt, were likely to succeed.
They drew lots to know which would present himself. The drawing
decided nothing, and they went to consult the doctor on the subject.
He had news for them: Flacardoux, editor of Le Calvados, had
announced his candidature. The two friends had a keen sense of having
been deceived. Each felt the other's disappointment more than his own.
But politics had an exciting influence on them. When the election-day
arrived they went to inspect the urns. Flacardoux had carried it!
M. de Faverges had fallen back on the National Guard, without
obtaining the epaulet of commander. The people of Chavignolles
contrived to get Beljambe nominated.
This favouritism on the part of the public, so whimsical and
unforeseen, dismayed Heurtaux. He had neglected his duties, confining
himself to inspecting the military operations now and then, and giving
utterance to a few remarks. No matter! He considered it a monstrous
thing that an innkeeper should be preferred to one who had been
formerly a captain in the Imperial service, and he said, after the
invasion of the Chamber on the 15th of May: If the military grades
give themselves away like that in the capital, I shall be no longer
astonished at what may happen.
The reaction began.
People believed in Louis Blanc's pineapple soup, in Flocon's bed of
gold, and Ledru-Rollin's royal orgies; and as the province pretends to
know everything that happens in Paris, the inhabitants of Chavignolles
had no doubt about these inventions, and gave credence to the most
M. de Faverges one evening came to look for the curé, in order to
tell him that the Count de Chambord had arrived in Normandy.
Joinville, according to Foureau, had made preparations with his
sailors to put down these socialists of yours. Heurtaux declared that
Louis Napoleon would shortly be consul.
The factories had stopped. Poor people wandered in large groups
about the country.
One Sunday (it was in the early days of June) a gendarme suddenly
started in the direction of Falaise. The workmen of Acqueville,
Liffard, Pierre-Pont, and Saint-Rémy were marching on Chavignolles. The
sheds were shut up. The municipal council assembled and passed a
resolution, to prevent catastrophes, that no resistance should be
offered. The gendarmes were kept in, and orders were given to them not
to show themselves. Soon was heard, as it were, the rumbling of a
storm. Then the song of the Girondists shook the windows, and men, arm
in arm, passed along the road from Caen, dusty, sweating, in rags. They
filled up the entire space in front of the council chamber, and a great
Gorju and two of his comrades entered the chamber. One of them was
lean and wretched-looking, with a knitted waistcoat, the ribbons of
which were hanging down; the other, black as coala machinist, no
doubtwith hair like a brush, thick eyebrows, and old list shoes.
Gorju, like a hussar, wore his waistcoat slung over his shoulder.
All three remained standing, and the councillors, seated round the
table, which was covered with a blue cloth, gazed at their faces, pale
Citizens! said Gorju, we want work.
The mayor trembled. He could not find his voice.
Marescot replied from the place where he sat that the council would
consider the matter directly; and when the comrades had gone out they
discussed several suggestions.
The first was to have stones drawn.
In order to utilise the stones, Girbal proposed a road from
Angleville to Tournebu.
That from Bayeux had positively rendered the same service.
They could clear out the pond! This was not sufficient as a public
work. Or rather, dig a second pond! But in what place?
Langlois' advice was to construct an embankment along the Mortins as
a protection against an inundation. It would be better, Beljambe
thought, to clear away the heather.
It was impossible to arrive at any conclusion. To appease the crowd,
Coulon went down over the peristyle and announced that they were
preparing charity workshops.
Charity! Thanks! cried Gorju. Down with the aristocrats! We want
the right to work!
It was the question of the time. He made use of it as a source of
popularity. He was applauded.
In turning round he elbowed Bouvard, whom Pécuchet had dragged to
the spot, and they entered into conversation. Nothing could keep them
back; the municipal building was surrounded; the council could not
Where shall you get money? said Bouvard.
In the rich people's houses. Besides, the government will give
orders for public works.
And if works are not wanted?
They will have them made in advance.
But wages will fall, urged Pécuchet. When work happens to be
lacking, it is because there are too many products; and you demand to
have them increased!
Gorju bit his moustache. However, with the organisation of
Then the government will be the master!
Some of those around murmured:
No, no! no more masters!
Gorju got angry. No matter! Workers should be supplied with
capital, or rather credit should be established.
In what way?
Ah! I don't know; but credit ought to be established.
We've had enough of that, said the machinist. They are only
plaguing us, these farce-actors!
And he climbed up the steps, declaring that he would break open the
There he was met by Placquevent, with his right knee bent and his
Advance one inch further!
The machinist recoiled. The shouting of the mob reached the chamber.
All arose with the desire to run away. The help from Falaise had not
arrived. They bewailed the count's absence. Marescot kept twisting a
pen; Père Coulon groaned; Heurtaux lashed himself into a fury to make
them send for the gendarmes.
Command them to come! said Foureau.
I have no authority.
The noise, however, redoubled. The whole green was covered with
people, and they were all staring at the first story of the building
when, at the window in the middle, under the clock, Pécuchet made his
He had ingeniously gone up by the back-stairs, and, wishing to be
like Lamartine, he began a harangue to the populace:
But his cap, his nose, his frock-coat, his entire personality lacked
The man in the knitted waistcoat asked him:
Are you a workman?
A master, then?
Nor that either.
Well, take yourself off, then.
Why? returned Pécuchet, haughtily.
And the next moment he disappeared, in the machinist's clutch, into
the recess of the window.
Gorju came to his assistance. Let him alone! He's a decent fellow.
The door flew open, and Marescot, on the threshold, announced the
decision of the council. Hurel had suggested his doing so.
The road from Tournebu would have a branch road in the direction of
Angleville and leading towards the château of Faverges.
It was a sacrifice which the commune took upon itself in the
interest of the working-men.
When Bouvard and Pécuchet re-entered their house, women's voices
fell upon their ears. The servants and Madame Bordin were breaking into
exclamations, the widow's screams being the loudest; and at sight of
them she cried:
Ha! this is very fortunate! I have been waiting for you for the
last three hours! My poor garden has not a single tulip left! Filth
everywhere on the grass! No way of getting rid of him!
Who is it?
He had come with a cartload of manure, and had scattered it
pell-mell over the grass.
He is now digging it up. Hurry on and make him stop.
I am going with you, said Bouvard.
At the bottom of the steps outside, a horse in the shafts of a
dung-cart was gnawing at a bunch of oleanders. The wheels, in grazing
the flower borders, had bruised the box trees, broken a rhododendron,
knocked down the dahlias; and clods of black muck, like molehills,
embossed the green sward. Gouy was vigorously digging it up.
One day Madame Bordin had carelessly said to him that she would like
to have it turned up. He set about the job, and, in spite of her orders
to desist, went on with it. This was the way that he interpreted the
right to work, Gorju's talk having turned his brain.
He went away only after violent threats from Bouvard.
Madame Bordin, by way of compensation, did not pay for the manual
labour, and kept the manure. She was wise: the doctor's wife, and even
the notary's, though of higher social position, respected her for it.
The charity workshops lasted a week. No trouble occurred. Gorju left
Meanwhile, the National Guard was always on foot: on Sunday, a
review; military promenades, occasionally; and, every night, patrols.
They disturbed the village. They rang the bells of houses for fun; they
made their way into the bedrooms where married couples were snoring on
the same bolster; then they uttered broad jokes, and the husband,
rising, would go and get them a glass each. Afterwards, they would
return to the guard-house to play a hundred of dominoes, would consume
a quantity of cider there, and eat cheese, while the sentinel, worn
out, would keep opening the door every other minute. There was a
prevailing absence of discipline, owing to Beljambe's laxity.
When the days of June came, everyone was in favour of flying to the
relief of Paris; but Foureau could not leave the mayoral premises,
Marescot his office, the doctor his patients, or Girbal his firemen. M.
de Faverges was at Cherbourg. Beljambe kept his bed. The captain
grumbled: They did not want me; so much the worse!and Bouvard had
the wisdom to put restraint on Pécuchet.
The patrols throughout the country were extended farther. They were
panic-stricken by the shadow of a haystack, or by the forms of
branches. On one occasion the entire National Guard turned and ran. In
the moonlight they had observed, under an apple tree, a man with a gun,
taking aim at them. At another time, on a dark night, the patrol
halting under the beech trees, heard some one close at hand.
Who is there?
They allowed the person to pursue his course, following him at a
distance, for he might have a pistol or a tomahawk; but when they were
in the village, within reach of help, the dozen men of the company
rushed together upon him, exclaiming:
Your papers! They pulled him about and overwhelmed him with
insults. The men at the guard-house had gone out. They dragged him
there; and by the light of the candle that was burning on top of the
stove they at last recognised Gorju.
A wretched greatcoat of lasting was flapping over his shoulders. His
toes could be seen through the holes in his boots. Scratches and
bruises stained his face with blood. He was fearfully emaciated, and
rolled his eyes about like a wolf.
Foureau, coming up speedily, questioned him as to how he chanced to
be under the beech trees, what his object was in coming back to
Chavignolles, and also as to the employment of his time for the past
That is no business of yours. I have my liberty.
Placquevent searched him to find out whether he had cartridges about
They were about to imprison him provisionally.
No use, replied the mayor; we know your opinions.
Ha! be careful; I give you warning. Be careful.
Bouvard persisted no further.
Gorju then turned towards Pécuchet: And you, master, have you not a
word to say for me?
Pécuchet hung down his head, as if he had a suspicion against his
The poor wretch smiled bitterly.
I protected you, all the same.
At daybreak, two gendarmes took him to Falaise.
He was not tried before a court-martial, but was sentenced by the
civil tribunal to three months' imprisonment for the misdemeanour of
language tending towards the destruction of society. From Falaise he
wrote to his former employers to send him soon a certificate of good
life and morals, and as their signature required to be legalised by the
mayor or the deputy, they preferred to ask Marescot to do this little
service for them.
They were introduced into a dining-room, decorated with dishes of
fine old earthenware; a Boule clock occupied the narrowest shelf. On
the mahogany table, without a cloth, were two napkins, a teapot and
finger-glasses. Madame Marescot crossed the room in a dressing-gown of
blue cashmere. She was a Parisian who was bored with the country. Then
the notary came in, with his cap in one hand, a newspaper in the other;
and at once, in the most polite fashion, he affixed his seal, although
their protégé was a dangerous man.
Really, said Bouvard, for a few words
But words lead to crimes, my dear sir, give me leave to say.
And yet, said Pécuchet, what line of demarcation can you lay down
between innocent and guilty phrases? The thing that just now is
prohibited may be subsequently applauded. And he censured the
harshness with which the insurgents had been treated.
Marescot naturally rested his case on the necessity of protecting
society, the public safetythe supreme law.
Pardon me! said Pécuchet, the right of a single individual is as
much entitled to respect as those of all, and you have nothing to
oppose to him but force if he turns your axiom upon yourself.
Instead of replying, Marescot lifted his brows disdainfully.
Provided that he continued to draw up legal documents, and to live
among his plates, in his comfortable little home, injustices of every
kind might present themselves without affecting him. Business called
him away. He excused himself.
His theory of public safety excited their indignation. The
Conservatives now talked like Robespierre.
Another matter for astonishment: Cavaignac was flagging; the Garde
Mobile was exposing itself to suspicion. Ledru-Rollin had ruined
himself even in Vaucorbeil's estimation. The debates on the
Constitution interested nobody, and on the 10th of December all the
inhabitants of Chavignolles voted for Bonaparte. The six millions of
votes made Pécuchet grow cold with regard to the people, and Bouvard
and he proceeded to study the question of universal suffrage.
As it belongs to everybody, it cannot possess intelligence. One
ambitious man will always be the leader; the others will follow him
like a flock of sheep, the electors not being compelled even to know
how to read. This was the reason, in Bouvard's opinion, that there were
so many frauds at presidential elections.
None, replied Bouvard; I believe rather in the gullibility of the
people. Think of all who buy the patent health-restorer, the Dupuytren
pomatum, the Châtelaine's water, etc. Those boobies constitute the
majority of the electorate, and we submit to their will. Why cannot an
income of three thousand francs be made out of rabbits? Because the
overcrowding of them is a cause of death. In the same way, through the
mere fact of its being a multitude, the germs of stupidity contained in
it are developed, and thence result consequences that are
Your scepticism frightens me, said Pécuchet.
At a later period, in the spring, they met M. de Faverges, who
apprised them of the expedition to Rome. We should not attack the
Italians, but we should require guaranties. Otherwise our influence
would be destroyed. Nothing would be more legitimate than this
Bouvard opened his eyes wide. On the subject of Poland, you
expressed a contrary opinion.
It is no longer the same thing. It was now a question of the Pope.
And M. de Faverges, when he said, We wish, We shall do, We
calculate clearly, represented a group.
Bouvard and Pécuchet were disgusted with the minority quite as much
as with the majority. The common people, in short, were just the same
as the aristocracy.
The right of intervention appeared dubious to them. They sought for
its principles in Calvo, Martens, Vattel; and Bouvard's conclusion was
There may be intervention to restore a prince to the throne, to
emancipate a people, or, for the sake of precaution, in view of a
public danger. In other cases it is an outrage on the rights of others,
an abuse of force, a piece of hypocritical violence.
And yet, said Pécuchet, peoples have a solidarity as well as
Perhaps so. And Bouvard sank into a reverie.
The expedition to Rome soon began.
At home, through hatred of revolutionary ideas, the leaders of the
Parisian middle class got two printing-offices sacked. The great party
of order was formed.
It had for its chiefs in the arrondissement the count, Foureau,
Marescot, and the curé. Every day, about four o'clock, they walked from
one end of the green to the other, and talked over the events of the
day. The principal business was the distribution of pamphlets. The
titles did not lack attractiveness: God will be pleased with it; The
sharing; Let us get out of the mess; Where are we going? The
finest things among them were the dialogues in the style of villagers,
with oaths and bad French, to elevate the mental faculties of the
peasants. By a new law, the hawking of pamphlets would be in the hands
of the prefects; and they had just crammed Proudhon into St.
The trees of liberty were generally torn down. Chavignolles obeyed
orders. Bouvard saw with his own eyes the fragments of his poplar on a
wheelbarrow. They helped to warm the gendarmes, and the stump was
offered to the curé, who had blessed it. What a mockery!
The schoolmaster did not hide his way of thinking.
Bouvard and Pécuchet congratulated him on it one day as they were
passing in front of his door. Next day he presented himself at their
At the end of the week they returned his visit.
The day was declining. The brats had just gone home, and the
schoolmaster, in half-sleeves, was sweeping the yard. His wife, with a
neckerchief tied round her head, was suckling a baby. A little girl was
hiding herself behind her petticoat; a hideous-looking child was
playing on the ground at her feet. The water from the washing she had
been doing in the kitchen was flowing to the lower end of the house.
You see, said the schoolmaster, how the government treats us.
And forthwith he began finding fault with capital as an infamous
thing. It was necessary to democratise it, to enfranchise matter.
I ask for nothing better, said Pécuchet.
At least, they ought to have recognised the right to assistance.
One more right! said Bouvard.
No matter! The provisional government had acted in a flabby fashion
by not ordaining fraternity.
Then try to establish it.
As there was no longer daylight, Petit rudely ordered his wife to
carry a candle to his study.
The lithograph portraits of the orators of the Left were fastened
with pins to the plaster walls. A bookshelf stood above a deal
writing-desk. There were a chair, stool, and an old soap-box for
persons to sit down upon. He made a show of laughing. But want had laid
its traces on his cheeks, and his narrow temples indicated the
stubbornness of a ram, an intractable pride. He never would yield.
Besides, see what sustains me!
It was a pile of newspapers on a shelf, and in feverish phrases he
explained the articles of his faith: disarmament of troops, abolition
of the magistracy, equality of salaries, a levelling process by which
the golden age was to be brought about under the form of the Republic,
with a dictator at its heada fellow that would carry this out for us
Then he reached for a bottle of aniseed cordial and three glasses,
in order to propose the toast of the hero, the immortal victim, the
On the threshold appeared the black cassock of the priest. Having
saluted those present in an animated fashion, he addressed the
schoolmaster, speaking almost in a whisper:
Our business about St. Joseph, what stage is it at?
They have given nothing, replied the schoolmaster.
That is your fault!
I have done what I could.
Bouvard and Pécuchet discreetly rose. Petit made them sit down
again, and addressing the curé:
Is that all?
The Abbé Jeufroy hesitated. Then, with a smile which tempered his
It is supposed that you are rather negligent about sacred history.
Oh, sacred history! interrupted Bouvard.
What fault have you to find with it, sir?
Inone. Only there are perhaps more useful things to be learned
than the anecdote of Jonas and the story of the kings of Israel.
You are free to do as you please, replied the priest drily.
And without regard for the strangers, or on account of their
The catechism hour is too short.
Petit shrugged his shoulders.
Mind! You will lose your boarders!
The ten francs a month for these pupils formed the best part of his
remuneration. But the cassock exasperated him.
So much the worse; take your revenge!
A man of my character does not revenge himself, said the priest,
without being moved. Only I would remind you that the law of the
fifteenth of March assigns us to the superintendence of primary
Ah! I know that well, cried the schoolmaster. It is given even to
colonels of gendarmes. Why not to the rural guard? That would complete
And he sank upon the stool, biting his fingers, repressing his rage,
stifled by the feeling of his own powerlessness.
The priest touched him lightly on the shoulder.
I did not intend to annoy you, my friend. Keep yourself quiet. Be a
little reasonable. Here is Easter close at hand; I hope you will show
an example by going to communion along with the others.
That is too much! II submit to such absurdities!
At this blasphemy the curé turned pale, his eyeballs gleamed, his
Silence, unhappy man! silence! And it is his wife who looks after
the church linen!
Well, what then? What has she done to you?
She always stays away from mass. Like yourself, for that matter!
Oh! a schoolmaster is not sent away for a thing of that kind!
He can be removed.
The priest said no more.
He was at the end of the room, in the shadow.
Petit was thinking, with his head resting on his chest.
They would arrive at the other end of France, their last sou eaten
up by the journey, and they would again find down there, under
different names, the same curé, the same superintendent, the same
prefectall, even to the minister, were like links in a chain dragging
him down. He had already had one warningothers would follow. After
that?and in a kind of hallucination he saw himself walking along a
high-road, a bag on his back, those whom he loved by his side, and his
hand held out towards a post-chaise.
At that moment his wife was seized with a fit of coughing in the
kitchen, the new-born infant began to squeal, and the boy was crying.
Poor children! said the priest in a softened voice.
The father thereupon broke into sobs:
Yes, yes! whatever you require!
I count upon it, replied the curé.
And, having made the customary bow:
Well, good evening to you, gentlemen.
The schoolmaster remained with his face in his hands.
He pushed away Bouvard. No! let me alone. I feel as if I'd like to
die. I am an unfortunate man.
The two friends, when they reached their own house, congratulated
themselves on their independence. The power of the clergy terrified
It was now employed for the purpose of strengthening public order.
The Republic was about to disappear.
Three millions of electors found themselves excluded from universal
suffrage. The security required from newspapers was raised; the press
censorship was re-established. It was even suggested that it should be
put in force against the fiction columns. Classical philosophy was
considered dangerous. The commercial classes preached the dogma of
material interests; and the populace seemed satisfied.
The country-people came back to their old masters.
M. de Faverges, who had estates in Eure, was declared a member of
the Legislative Assembly, and his re-election for the general council
of Calvados was certain beforehand.
He thought proper to invite the leading personages in the district
to a luncheon.
The vestibule in which three servants were waiting to take their
overcoats, the billiard-room and the pair of drawing-rooms, the plants
in china vases, the bronzes on the mantel-shelves, the gold wands on
the panelled walls, the heavy curtains, the wide armchairsthis
display of luxury struck them at once as a mark of courtesy towards
them; and, when they entered the dining-room, at the sight of the table
laden with meats in silver dishes, together with the row of glasses
before each plate, the side-dishes here and there, and a salmon in the
middle, every face brightened up.
The party numbered seventeen, including two sturdy agriculturists,
the sub-prefect of Bayeux and one person from Cherbourg. M. de Faverges
begged his guests to excuse the countess, who was absent owing to a
headache; and, after some commendations of the pears and grapes, which
filled four baskets at the corners, he asked about the great newsthe
project of a descent on England by Changarnier.
Heurtaux desired it as a soldier, the curé through hatred of the
Protestants, and Foureau in the interests of commerce.
You are giving expression, said Pécuchet, to the sentiments of
the Middle Ages.
The Middle Ages had their good side, returned Marescot. For
instance, our cathedrals.
However, sir, the abuses
No matterthe Revolution would not have come.
Ha! the Revolutionthere's the misfortune, said the ecclesiastic
with a sigh.
But everyone contributed towards it, and (excuse me, Monsieur le
Comte) the nobles themselves by their alliance with the philosophers.
What is it you want? Louis XVIII. legalised spoliation. Since that
time the parliamentary system is sapping the foundations.
A joint of roast beef made its appearance, and for some minutes
nothing was heard save the sounds made by forks and moving jaws, and by
the servants crossing the floor with the two words on their lips, which
they repeated continually:
The conversation was resumed by the gentleman from Cherbourg:
How were they to stop on the slope of an abyss?
Amongst the Athenians, said Marescotamongst the Athenians,
towards whom we bear certain resemblances, Solon checkmated the
democrats by raising the electoral census.
It would be better, said Hurel, to suppress the Chamber: every
disorder comes from Paris.
Let us decentralise, said the notary.
On a large scale, added the count.
In Foureau's opinion, the communal authorities should have absolute
control, even to the extent of prohibiting travellers from using their
roads, if they thought fit.
And whilst the dishes followed one anotherfowl with gravy,
lobsters, mushrooms, salads, roast larksmany topics were handled: the
best system of taxation, the advantages of the large system of land
cultivation, the abolition of the death penalty. The sub-prefect did
not forget to cite that charming witticism of a clever man: Let
Messieurs the Assassins begin!
Bouvard was astonished at the contrast between the surroundings and
the remarks that reached his ears; for one would think that the
language used should always harmonise with the environment, and that
lofty ceilings should be made for great thoughts. Nevertheless, he was
flushed at dessert, and saw the fruit-dishes as if through a fog.
Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Malaga were amongst the wines sent round. M. de
Faverges, who knew the people he had to deal with, made the champagne
flow. The guests, touching glasses, drank to his success at the
election; and more than three hours elapsed before they passed out into
the smoking-room, where coffee was served.
A caricature from Charivari was trailing on the floor between
some copies of the Univers. It represented a citizen the skirts
of whose frock-coat allowed a tail to be seen with an eye at the end of
it. Marescot explained it amid much laughter.
They swallowed their liqueurs, and the ashes of their cigars fell on
the paddings of the furniture.
The abbé, desirous to convince Girbal, began an attack on Voltaire.
Coulon fell asleep. M. de Faverges avowed his devotion to Chambord.
The bees furnish an argument for monarchy.
But the ants for the Republic. However, the doctor adhered to it
You are right, said the sub-prefect; the form of government
With liberty, suggested Pécuchet.
An honest man has no need of it, replied Foureau. I make no
speeches, for my part. I am not a journalist. And I tell you that
France requires to be governed with a rod of iron.
All called for a deliverer. As they were going out, Bouvard and
Pécuchet heard M. de Faverges saying to the Abbé Jeufroy:
We must re-establish obedience. Authority perishes if it be made
the subject of discussion. The Divine Rightthere is nothing but
Exactly, Monsieur le Comte.
The pale rays of an October sun were lengthening out behind the
woods. A moist wind was blowing, and as they walked over the dead
leaves they breathed like men who had just been set free.
All that they had not found the opportunity of saying escaped from
them in exclamations:
How is it possible to imagine such obstinacy!
In the first place, what is the meaning of the Divine Right?
Dumouchel's friend, that professor who had supplied them with
instruction on the subject of æsthetics, replied to their inquiries in
a learned letter.
The theory of Divine Right was formulated in the reign of Charles
II. by the Englishman Filmer. Here it is:
'The Creator gave the first man dominion over the world. It was
transmitted to his descendants, and the power of the king emanates from
'He is His image,' writes Bossuet. 'The paternal empire accustoms
us to the domination of one alone. Kings have been made after the model
Locke refuted this doctrine: 'The paternal power is distinguished
from the monarchic, every subject having the same right over his
children that the monarch has over his own. Royalty exists only through
the popular choice; and even the election was recalled at the ceremony
of coronation, in which two bishops, pointing towards the king, asked
both nobles and peasants whether they accepted him as such.'
Therefore, authority comes from the people.
'They have the right to do what they like,' says Helvetius; to
'change their constitution,' says Vattel; to 'revolt against
injustice,' according to the contention of Glafey, Hotman, Mably, and
others; and St. Thomas Aquinas authorises them to 'deliver themselves
from a tyrant.' 'They are even,' says Jurieu, 'dispensed from being
Astonished at the axiom, they took up Rousseau's Contrat Social. Pécuchet went through to the end. Then closing his eyes, and throwing
back his head, he made an analysis of it.
A convention is assumed whereby the individual gives up his
The people at the same time undertook to protect him against the
inequalities of nature, and made him owner of the things he had in his
Where is the proof of the contract?
Nowhere! And the community does not offer any guaranty. The
citizens occupy themselves exclusively with politics. But as callings
are necessary, Rousseau is in favour of slavery. 'The sciences have
destroyed the human race. The theatre is corrupting, money fatal, and
the state ought to impose a religion under the penalty of death.'
What! said they, here is the pontiff of democracy.
All the champions of reform had copied him; and they procured the
Examen du Socialisme, by Morant.
The first chapter explained the doctrine of Saint-Simon.
At the top the Father, at the same time Pope and Emperor. Abolition
of inheritance; all property movable and immovable forming a social
fund, which should be worked on a hierarchical basis. The manufacturers
are to govern the public fortune. But there is nothing to be afraid of;
they will have as a leader the one who loves the most.
One thing is lacking: woman. On the advent of woman depends the
salvation of the world.
I do not understand.
And they turned to Fourierism:
'All misfortunes come from constraint. Let the attraction be free,
and harmony will be established.
'In our souls are shut up a dozen leading passions: five
egoistical, four animistic, and three distributive. The first class
have reference to individuals, the second to groups, the last to groups
of groups, or series, of which the whole forms a phalanx, a society of
eighteen hundred persons dwelling in a palace. Every morning carriages
convey the workers into the country, and bring them back in the
evening. Standards are carried, festivities are held, cakes are eaten.
Every woman, if she desires it, can have three menthe husband, the
lover, and the procreator. For celibates, the Bayadère system is
That fits me! said Bouvard. And he lost himself in dreams of the
'By the restoration of climatures, the earth will become more
beautiful; by the crossing of races, human life will become longer. The
clouds will be guided as the thunderbolt is now: it will rain at night
in the cities so that they will be clean. Ships will cross the polar
seas, thawed beneath the Aurora Borealis. For everything is produced by
the conjunction of two fluids, male and female, gushing out from the
poles, and the northern lights are a symptom of the blending of the
planetsa prolific emission.'
This is beyond me! said Pécuchet.
After Saint-Simon and Fourier the problem resolves itself into
questions of wages.
Louis Blanc, in the interests of the working class, wishes to
abolish external commerce; Lafarelle to tax machinery; another to take
off the drink duties, to restore trade wardenships, or to distribute
Proudhon conceives the idea of a uniform tariff, and claims for the
state the monopoly of sugar.
These socialists, said Bouvard, always call for tyranny.
You are absurd!
Well, I am shocked at you!
They sent for the works of which they had only summaries. Bouvard
noted a number of passages, and, pointing them out, said:
Read for yourself. They offer as examples to us the Essenes, the
Moravian Brethren, the Jesuits of Paraguay, and even the government of
'Amongst the Icarians breakfast was over in twenty minutes; women
were delivered at the hospitals. As for books, it was forbidden to
print them without the authorisation of the Republic.'
But Cabet is an idiot.
Here, now, we have from Saint-Simon: 'The publicists should submit
their works to a committee of manufacturers.'
And from Pierre Leroux: 'The law will compel the citizens to listen
to an orator.'
And from Auguste Comte: 'The priests will educate the youth, will
exercise supervision over literary works, and will reserve to
themselves the power of regulating procreation.'
These quotations troubled Pécuchet. In the evening, at dinner, he
I admit that there are absurdities in the works of the inventors of
Utopias; nevertheless they deserve our sympathy. The hideousness of the
world tormented them, and, in order to make it beautiful, they endured
everything. Recall to mind More decapitated, Campanella put seven times
to the torture, Buonarotti with a chain round his neck, Saint-Simon
dying of want; many others. They might have lived in peace; but no!
they marched on their way with their heads towards the sky, like
Do you believe, said Bouvard, that the world will change, thanks
to the theories of some particular gentleman?
What does it matter? said Pécuchet; it is time to cease
stagnating in selfishness. Let us look out for the best system.
Then you expect to find it?
And, in the fit of laughter with which Bouvard was seized, his
shoulders and stomach kept shaking in harmony. Redder than the jams
before them, with his napkin under his armpits, he kept repeating, Ha!
ha! ha! in an irritating fashion.
Pécuchet left the room, slamming the door after him.
Germaine went all over the house to call him, and he was found at
the end of his own apartment in an easy chair, without fire or candle,
his cap drawn over his eyes. He was not unwell, but had given himself
up to his own broodings.
When the quarrel was over they recognised that a foundation was
needed for their studiespolitical economy.
They inquired into supply and demand, capital and rent, importation
One night Pécuchet was awakened by the creaking of a boot in the
corridor. The evening before, according to custom, he had himself drawn
all the bolts; and he called out to Bouvard, who was fast asleep.
They remained motionless under the coverlets. The noise was not
The servants, on being questioned, said they had heard nothing.
But, while walking through the garden, they remarked in the middle
of a flower-bed, near the gateway, the imprint of a boot-sole, and two
of the sticks used as supports for the trees were broken. Evidently
some one had climbed over.
It was necessary to give notice of it to the rural guard.
As he was not at the municipal building, Pécuchet thought of going
to the grocer's shop.
Who should they see in the back shop, beside Placquevent, in the
midst of the topers, but GorjuGorju, rigged out like a well-to-do
citizen, entertaining the company!
This meeting was taken as a matter of course.
So on they lapsed into a discussion about progress.
Bouvard had no doubt it existed in the domain of science. But in
that of literature it was not so manifest; and if comfort increases,
the poetic side of life disappears.
Pécuchet, in order to bring home conviction on the point, took a
piece of paper: I trace across here an undulating line. Those who
happen to travel over it, whenever it sinks, can no longer see the
horizon. It rises again nevertheless, and, in spite of its windings,
they reach the top. This is an image of progress.
Madame Bordin entered at this point.
It was the 3rd of December, 1851. She had the newspaper in her hand.
They read very quickly, side by side, the news of the appeal to the
people, the dissolution of the Chamber, and the imprisonment of the
Pécuchet turned pale. Bouvard gazed at the widow.
What! have you nothing to say?
What do you wish me to do here? (They had forgotten to offer her a
seat.) I came here simply out of courtesy towards you, and you are
scarcely civil to-day.
And out she went, disgusted at their want of politeness.
The astonishing news had struck them dumb. Then they went about the
village venting their indignation.
Marescot, whom they found surrounded by a pile of deeds, took a
different view. The babbling of the Chamber was at an end, thank
Heaven! Henceforth they would have a business policy.
Beljambe knew nothing about the occurrences, and, furthermore, he
laughed at them.
In the market-place they stopped Vaucorbeil.
The physician had got over all that. You are very foolish to bother
Foureau passed them by, remarking with a sly air, The democrats are
And the captain, with Girbal's arm in his, exclaimed from a
distance, Long live the Emperor!
But Petit would be sure to understand them, and Bouvard having
tapped at a window-pane, the schoolmaster quitted his class.
He thought it a good joke to have Thiers in prison. This would
avenge the people.
Ha! ha! my gentlemen deputies, your turn now!
The volley of musketry on the boulevards met with the approval of
the people of Chavignolles. No mercy for the vanquished, no pity for
the victims! Once you revolt, you are a scoundrel!
Let us be grateful to Providence, said the curé, and under
Providence to Louis Bonaparte. He gathers around him the most
distinguished men. The Count de Faverges will be made a senator.
Next day they had a visit from Placquevent.
These gentlemen had talked a great deal. He required a promise
from them to hold their tongues.
Do you wish to know my opinion? said Pécuchet. Since the middle
class is ferocious and the working-men jealous-minded, whilst the
people, after all, accept every tyrant, so long as they are allowed to
keep their snouts in the mess, Napoleon has done right. Let him gag
them, the rabble, and exterminate themthis will never be too much for
their hatred of right, their cowardice, their incapacity, and their
Bouvard mused: Hey! progress! what humbug! He added: And
politics, a nice heap of dirt!
It is not a science, returned Pécuchet. The military art is
better: you can tell what will happenwe ought to turn our hands to
Oh, thanks, was Bouvard's answer. I am disgusted with everything.
Better for us to sell our barrack, and go in the name of God's thunder
amongst the savages.
Just as you like.
Mélie was drawing water out in the yard.
The wooden pump had a long lever. In order to make it work, she bent
her back, so that her blue stockings could be seen as high as the calf
of her legs. Then, with a rapid movement, she raised her right arm,
while she turned her head a little to one side; and Pécuchet, as he
gazed at her, felt quite a new sensation, a charm, a thrill of intense
CHAPTER VII. UNLUCKY IN LOVE.
And now the days began to be sad. They studied no longer, fearing
lest they might be disillusioned. The inhabitants of Chavignolles
avoided them. The newspapers they tolerated gave them no information;
and so their solitude was unbroken, their time completely unoccupied.
Sometimes they would open a book, and then shut it againwhat was
the use of it? On other days they would be seized with the idea of
cleaning up the garden: at the end of a quarter of an hour they would
be fatigued; or they would set out to have a look at the farm, and come
back disenchanted; or they tried to interest themselves in household
affairs, with the result of making Germaine break out into
lamentations. They gave it up.
Bouvard wanted to draw up a catalogue for the museum, and declared
their curios stupid.
Pécuchet borrowed Langlois' duck-gun to shoot larks with; the weapon
burst at the first shot, and was near killing him.
Then they lived in the midst of that rural solitude so depressing
when the grey sky covers in its monotony a heart without hope. The step
of a man in wooden shoes is heard as he steals along by the wall, or
perchance it is the rain dripping from the roof to the ground. From
time to time a dead leaf just grazes one of the windows, then whirls
about and flies away. The indistinct echoes of some funeral bell are
borne to the ear by the wind. From a corner of the stable comes the
lowing of a cow. They yawned in each other's faces, consulted the
almanac, looked at the clock, waited for meal-time; and the horizon was
ever the samefields in front, the church to the right, a screen of
poplars to the left, their tops swaying incessantly in the hazy
atmosphere with a melancholy air.
Habits which they formerly tolerated now gave them annoyance.
Pécuchet became quite a bore from his mania for putting his
handkerchief on the tablecloth. Bouvard never gave up his pipe, and
would keep twisting himself about while he was talking. They started
disputes about the dishes, or about the quality of the butter; and
while they were chatting face to face each was thinking of different
A certain occurrence had upset Pécuchet's mind.
Two days after the riot at Chavignolles, while he was airing his
political grievance, he had reached a road covered with tufted elms,
and heard behind his back a voice exclaiming, Stop!
It was Madame Castillon. She was rushing across from the opposite
side without perceiving him.
A man who was walking along in front of her turned round. It was
Gorju; and they met some six feet away from Pécuchet, the row of trees
separating them from him.
Is it true, said she, you are going to fight?
Pécuchet slipped behind the ditch to listen.
Well, yes, replied Gorju; I am going to fight. What has that to
do with you?
He asks me such a question! cried she, flinging her arms
about him. But, if you are killed, my love! Oh! remain!
And her blue eyes appealed to him, still more than her words.
Let me alone. I have to go.
There was an angry sneer on her face.
The other has permitted it, eh?
Don't speak of her.
He raised his fist.
No, dear; no. I don't say anything. And big tears trickled down
her cheeks as far as the frilling of her collarette.
It was midday. The sun shone down upon the fields covered with
yellow grain. Far in the distance carriage-wheels softly slipped along
the road. There was a torpor in the airnot a bird's cry, not an
insect's hum. Gorju cut himself a switch and scraped off the bark.
Madame Castillon did not raise her head again. She, poor woman, was
thinking of her vain sacrifices for him, the debts she had paid for
him, her future liabilities, and her lost reputation. Instead of
complaining, she recalled for him the first days of their love, when
she used to go every night to meet him in the barn, so that her husband
on one occasion, fancying it was a thief, fired a pistol-shot through
the window. The bullet was in the wall still. From the moment I first
knew you, you seemed to me as handsome as a prince. I love your eyes,
your voice, your walk, your smell, and in a lower tone she added: and
as for your person, I am fairly crazy about it.
He listened with a smile of gratified vanity.
She clasped him with both hands round the waist, her head bent as if
My dear heart! my dear love! my soul! my life! Come! speak! What is
it you want? Is it money? We'll get it. I was in the wrong. I annoyed
you. Forgive me; and order clothes from the tailor, drink
champagneenjoy yourself. I will allow everythingeverything.
She murmured with a supreme effort, Even heras long as you come
back to me.
He just touched her lips with his, drawing one arm around her to
prevent her from falling; and she kept murmuring, Dear heart! dear
love! how handsome you are! My God! how handsome you are!
Pécuchet, without moving an inch, his chin just touching the top of
the ditch, stared at them in breathless astonishment.
Come, no swooning, said Gorju. You'll only have me missing the
coach. A glorious bit of devilment is getting ready, and I'm in the
swim; so just give me ten sous to stand the conductor a drink.
She took five francs out of her purse. You will soon give them back
to me. Have a little patience. He has been a good while paralysed.
Think of that! And, if you liked, we could go to the chapel of
Croix-Janval, and there, my love, I would swear before the Blessed
Virgin to marry you as soon as he is dead.
Ah! he'll never diethat husband of yours.
Gorju had turned on his heel. She caught hold of him again, and
clinging to his shoulders:
Let me go with you. I will be your servant. You want some one. But
don't go away! don't leave me! Death rather! Kill me!
She crawled towards him on her knees, trying to seize his hands in
order to kiss them. Her cap fell off, then her comb, and her hair got
dishevelled. It was turning white around her ears, and, as she looked
up at him, sobbing bitterly, with red eyes and swollen lips, he got
quite exasperated, and pushed her back.
Be off, old woman! Good evening.
When she had got up, she tore off the gold cross that hung round her
neck, and flinging it at him, cried:
There, you ruffian!
Gorju went off, lashing the leaves of the trees with his switch.
Madame Castillon ceased weeping. With fallen jaw and tear-dimmed
eyes she stood motionless, petrified with despair; no longer a being,
but a thing in ruins.
What he had just chanced upon was for Pécuchet like the discovery of
a new worlda world in which there were dazzling splendours, wild
blossomings, oceans, tempests, treasures, and abysses of infinite
depth. There was something about it that excited terror; but what of
that? He dreamed of love, desired to feel it as she felt it, to inspire
it as he inspired it.
However, he execrated Gorju, and could hardly keep from giving
information about him at the guard-house.
Pécuchet was mortified by the slim waist, the regular curls, and the
smooth beard of Madame Castillon's lover, as well as by the air of a
conquering hero which the fellow assumed, while his own hair was pasted
to his skull like a soaked wig, his torso wrapped in a greatcoat
resembled a bolster, two of his front teeth were out, and his
physiognomy had a harsh expression. He thought that Heaven had dealt
unkindly with him, and felt that he was one of the disinherited;
moreover, his friend no longer cared for him.
Bouvard deserted him every evening. Since his wife was dead, there
was nothing to prevent him from taking another, who, by this time,
might be coddling him up and looking after his house. And now he was
getting too old to think of it.
But Bouvard examined himself in the glass. His cheeks had kept their
colour; his hair curled just the same as of yore; not a tooth was
loose; and, at the idea that he had still the power to please, he felt
a return of youthfulness. Madame Bordin rose in his memory. She had
made advances to him, first on the occasion of the burning of the
stacks, next at the dinner which they gave, then in the museum at the
recital, and lastly, without resenting any want of attention on his
part, she had called three Sundays in succession. He paid her a return
visit, and repeated it, making up his mind to woo and win her.
Since the day when Pécuchet had watched the little servant-maid
drawing water, he had frequently talked to her, and whether she was
sweeping the corridor or spreading out the linen, or taking up the
saucepans, he could never grow tired of looking at hersurprised
himself at his emotions, as in the days of adolescence. He had fevers
and languors on account of her, and he was stung by the picture left in
his memory of Madame Castillon straining Gorju to her breast.
[Illustration: HE WAS ABOUT TO CLASP HER IN HIS ARMS]
He questioned Bouvard as to the way libertines set about seducing
They make them presents; they bring them to restaurants for
Very good. But after that?
Some of them pretend to faint, in order that you may carry them
over to a sofa; others let their handkerchiefs fall on the ground. The
best of them plainly make an appointment with you. And Bouvard
launched forth into descriptions which inflamed Pécuchet's imagination,
like engravings of voluptuous scenes.
The first rule is not to believe what they say. I have known those
who, under the appearance of saints, were regular Messalinas. Above
all, you must be bold.
But boldness cannot be had to order.
From day to day Pécuchet put off his determination, and besides he
was intimidated by the presence of Germaine.
Hoping that she would ask to have her wages paid, he exacted
additional work from her, took notice every time she got tipsy,
referred in a loud voice to her want of cleanliness, her
quarrelsomeness, and did it all so effectively that she had to go.
Then Pécuchet was free! With what impatience he waited for Bouvard
to go out! What a throbbing of the heart he felt as soon as the door
Mélie was working at a round table near the window by the light of a
candle; from time to time she broke the threads with her teeth, then
she half-closed her eyes while adjusting it in the slit of the needle.
At first he asked her what kind of men she liked. Was it, for instance,
Oh, no. She preferred thin men.
He ventured to ask her if she ever had had any lovers.
Then, drawing closer to her, he surveyed her piquant nose, her small
mouth, her charmingly-rounded figure. He paid her some compliments, and
exhorted her to prudence.
In bending over her he got a glimpse, under her corsage, of her
white skin, from which emanated a warm odour that made his cheeks
tingle. One evening he touched with his lips the wanton hairs at the
back of her neck, and he felt shaken even to the marrow of his bones.
Another time he kissed her on the chin, and had to restrain himself
from putting his teeth in her flesh, so savoury was it. She returned
his kiss. The apartment whirled round; he no longer saw anything.
He made her a present of a pair of lady's boots, and often treated
her to a glass of aniseed cordial.
To save her trouble he rose early, chopped up the wood, lighted the
fire, and was so attentive as to clean Bouvard's shoes.
Mélie did not faint or let her handkerchief fall, and Pécuchet did
not know what to do, his passion increasing through the fear of
Bouvard was assiduously paying his addresses to Madame Bordin. She
used to receive him rather cramped in her gown of shot silk, which
creaked like a horse's harness, all the while fingering her long gold
chain to keep herself in countenance.
Their conversations turned on the people of Chavignolles or on the
dear departed, who had been an usher at Livarot.
Then she inquired about Bouvard's past, curious to know something of
his youthful freaks, the way in which he had fallen heir to his
fortune, and the interests by which he was bound to Pécuchet.
He admired the appearance of her house, and when he came to dinner
there was struck by the neatness with which it was served and the
excellent fare placed on the table. A succession of dishes of the most
savoury description, which intermingled at regular intervals with a
bottle of old Pomard, brought them to the dessert, at which they
remained a long time sipping their coffee; and, with dilating nostrils,
Madame Bordin dipped into her saucer her thick lip, lightly shaded with
a black down.
One day she appeared in a low dress. Her shoulders fascinated
Bouvard. As he sat in a little chair before her, he began to pass his
hands along her arms. The widow seemed offended. He did not repeat this
attention, but he pictured to himself those ample curves, so
marvellously smooth and fine.
Any evening when he felt dissatisfied with Mélie's cooking, it gave
him pleasure to enter Madame Bordin's drawing-room. It was there he
should have lived.
The globe of the lamp, covered with a red shade, shed a tranquil
light. She was seated close to the fire, and his foot touched the hem
of her skirt.
After a few opening words the conversation flagged.
However, she kept gazing at him, with half-closed lids, in a languid
fashion, but unbending withal.
Bouvard could not stand it any longer, and, sinking on his knees to
the floor, he stammered:
I love you! Marry me!
Madame Bordin drew a strong breath; then, with an ingenuous air,
said he was jesting; no doubt he was trying to have a laugh at her
expenseit was not fair. This declaration stunned her.
Bouvard returned that she did not require anyone's consent. What's
to hinder you? Is it the trousseau? Our linen has the same mark, a
Bwe'll unite our capital letters!
The idea caught her fancy. But a more important matter prevented her
from arriving at a decision before the end of the month. And Bouvard
She had the politeness to accompany him to the gate, escorted by
Marianne, who carried a lantern.
The two friends kept their love affairs hidden from each other.
Pécuchet counted on always cloaking his intrigue with the
servant-maid. If Bouvard made any opposition to it, he could carry her
off to other places, even though it were to Algeria, where living is
not so dear. But he rarely indulged in such speculations, full as he
was of his passion, without thinking of the consequences.
Bouvard conceived the idea of converting the museum into the bridal
chamber, unless Pécuchet objected, in which case he might take up his
residence at his wife's house.
One afternoon in the following weekit was in her garden; the buds
were just opening, and between the clouds there were great blue
spacesshe stopped to gather some violets, and said as she offered
them to him:
Salute Madame Bouvard!
What! Is it true?
He was about to clasp her in his arms. She kept him back. What a
man! Then, growing serious, she warned him that she would shortly be
asking him for a favour.
They fixed the following Thursday for the formality of signing the
Nobody should know anything about it up to the last moment.
And off he went, looking up towards the sky, nimble as a roebuck.
Pécuchet on the morning of the same day said in his own mind that he
would die if he did not obtain the favours of his little maid, and he
followed her into the cellar, hoping the darkness would give him
She tried to go away several times, but he detained her in order to
count the bottles, to choose laths, or to look into the bottoms of
casksand this occupied a considerable time.
She stood facing him under the light that penetrated through an
air-hole, with her eyes cast down, and the corner of her mouth slightly
Do you love me? said Pécuchet abruptly.
Yes, I do love you.
Well, then prove it to me.
And throwing his left arm around her, he embraced her with ardour.
You're going to do me some harm.
No, my little angel. Don't be afraid.
If Monsieur Bouvard
I'll tell him nothing. Make your mind easy.
There was a heap of faggots behind them. She sank upon them, and hid
her face under one arm;and another man would have understood that she
was no novice.
Bouvard arrived soon for dinner.
The meal passed in silence, each of them being afraid of betraying
himself, while Mélie attended them with her usual impassiveness.
Pécuchet turned away his eyes to avoid hers; and Bouvard, his gaze
resting on the walls, pondered meanwhile on his projected improvements.
Eight days after he came back in a towering rage.
The damned traitress!
And he related how he had been so infatuated as to offer to make her
his wife, but all had come to an end a quarter of an hour since at
Marescot's office. She wished to have for her marriage portion the
Ecalles meadow, which he could not dispose of, having partly retained
it, like the farm, with the money of another person.
Exactly, said Pécuchet.
I had had the folly to promise her any favour she askedand this
was what she was after! I attribute her obstinacy to this; for if she
loved me she would have given way to me.
The widow, on the contrary, had attacked him in insulting language,
and referred disparagingly to his physique, his big paunch.
My paunch! Just imagine for a moment!
Meanwhile Pécuchet had risen several times, and seemed to be in
Bouvard asked him what was the matter, and thereupon Pécuchet,
having first taken the precaution to shut the door, explained in a
hesitating manner that he was affected with a certain disease.
Oh, my poor fellow! And who is the cause of this?
Pécuchet became redder than before, and said in a still lower tone:
It can be only Mélie.
Bouvard remained stupefied.
The first thing to do was to send the young woman away.
She protested with an air of candour.
Pécuchet's case was, however, serious; but he was ashamed to consult
Bouvard thought of applying to Barberou.
They gave him particulars about the matter, in order that he might
communicate with a doctor who would deal with the case by
Barberou set to work with zeal, believing it was Bouvard's own case,
and calling him an old dotard, even though he congratulated him about
At my age! said Pécuchet. Is it not a melancholy thing? But why
did she do this?
You pleased her.
She ought to have given me warning.
Does passion reason? And Bouvard renewed his complaints about
Often had he surprised her before the Ecalles, in Marescot's
company, having a gossip with Germaine. So many manoeuvres for a little
bit of land!
She is avaricious! That's the explanation.
So they ruminated over their disappointments by the fireside in the
breakfast parlour, Pécuchet swallowing his medicines and Bouvard
puffing at his pipe; and they began a discussion about women.
Strange want!or is it a want? They drive men to crimeto
heroism as well as to brutishness. Hell under a petticoat, paradise
in a kiss, the turtle's warbling, the serpent's windings, the
cat's claws, the sea's treachery, the moon's changeableness. They
repeated all the commonplaces that have been uttered about the sex.
It was the desire for women that had suspended their friendship. A
feeling of remorse took possession of them. No more women. Is not that
so? Let us live without them! And they embraced each other tenderly.
There should be a reaction; and Bouvard, when Pécuchet was better,
considered that a course of hydropathic treatment would be beneficial.
Germaine, who had come back since the other servant's departure,
carried the bathing-tub each morning into the corridor.
The two worthies, naked as savages, poured over themselves big
buckets of water; they then rushed back to their rooms. They were seen
through the garden fence, and people were scandalised.
CHAPTER VIII. NEW DIVERSIONS.
Satisfied with their regimen, they desired to improve their
constitutions by gymnastics; and taking up the Manual of Amoros,
they went through its atlas. All those young lads squatting, lying
back, standing, bending their legs, lifting weights, riding on beams,
climbing ladders, cutting capers on trapezessuch a display of
strength and agility excited their envy.
However, they were saddened by the splendour of the gymnasium
described in the preface; for they would never be able to get a
vestibule for the equipages, a hippodrome for the races, a sweep of
water for the swimming, or a mountain of gloryan artificial hillock
over one hundred feet in height.
A wooden vaulting-horse with the stuffing would have been expensive:
they abandoned the idea. The linden tree, thrown down in the garden,
might have been used as a horizontal pole; and, when they were skilful
enough to go over it from one end to the other, in order to have a
vertical one, they set up a beam of counter-espaliers. Pécuchet
clambered to the top; Bouvard slipped off, always fell back, finally
gave it up.
The orthosomatic sticks pleased him better; that is to say, two
broomsticks bound by two cords, the first of which passes under the
armpits, and the second over the wrists; and for hours he would remain
in this apparatus, with his chin raised, his chest extended, and his
elbows close to his sides.
For want of dumbbells, the wheelwright turned out four pieces of ash
resembling sugar-loaves with necks of bottles at the ends. These should
be carried to the right and to the left, to the front and to the back;
but being too heavy they fell out of their hands, at the risk of
bruising their legs. No matter! They set their hearts on Persian clubs,
and even fearing lest they might break, they rubbed them every evening
with wax and a piece of cloth.
Then they looked out for ditches. When they found one suitable for
their purpose, they rested a long pole in the centre, sprang forward on
the left foot, reached the opposite side, and then repeated the
performance. The country being flat, they could be seen at a distance;
and the villagers asked one another what were these extraordinary
things skipping towards the horizon.
When autumn arrived they went in for chamber gymnastics, which
completely bored them. Why had they not the indoor apparatus or
post-armchair invented in Louis XIV.'s time by the Abbé of St. Pierre?
How was it made? Where could they get the information?
Dumouchel did not deign to answer their letter on the subject.
Then they erected in the bakehouse a brachial weighing-machine. Over
two pulleys attached to the ceiling a rope was passed, holding a
crossbeam at each end. As soon as they had caught hold of it one pushed
against the ground with his toes, while the other lowered his arms to a
level with the floor; the first by his weight would draw towards him
the second, who, slackening his rope a little, would ascend in his
turn. In less than five minutes their limbs were dripping with
In order to follow the prescriptions of the Manual, they tried to
make themselves ambidextrous, even to the extent of depriving
themselves for a time of the use of their right hands. They did more:
Amoros points out certain snatches of verse which ought to be sung
during the manoeuvres, and Bouvard and Pécuchet, as they proceeded,
kept repeating the hymn No. 9: A king, a just king is a blessing on
When they beat their breast-bones: Friends, the crown and the
At the various steps of the race:
Let us catch the beast that cowers!
Soon the swift stag shall be ours!
Yes! the race shall soon be won,
Come, run! come, run! come, run!
And, panting more than hounds, they cheered each other on with the
sounds of their voices.
One side of gymnastics excited their enthusiasmits employment as a
means of saving life. But they would have required children in order to
learn how to carry them in sacks, and they begged the schoolmaster to
furnish them with some. Petit objected that their families would be
annoyed at it. They fell back on the succour of the wounded. One
pretended to have swooned: the other rolled him away in a wheelbarrow
with the utmost precaution.
As for military escalades, the author extols the ladder of
Bois-Rosé, so called from the captain who surprised Fécamp in former
days by climbing up the cliff.
In accordance with the engraving in the book, they trimmed a rope
with little sticks and fixed it under the cart-shed. As soon as the
first stick is bestridden and the third grasped, the limbs are thrown
out in order that the second, which a moment before was against the
chest, might be directly under the thighs. The climber then springs up
and grasps the fourth, and so goes on.
In spite of prodigious strainings of the hips, they found it
impossible to reach the second step. Perhaps there is less trouble in
hanging on to stones with your hands, just as Bonaparte's soldiers did
at the attack of Fort Chambray? and to make one capable of such an
action, Amoros has a tower in his establishment.
The wall in ruins might do as a substitute for it. They attempted
the assault with it. But Bouvard, having withdrawn his foot too quickly
from a hole, got frightened, and was seized with dizziness.
Pécuchet blamed their method for it. They had neglected that which
relates to the phalanxes, so that they should go back to first
His exhortations were fruitless; and then, in his pride and
presumption, he went in for stilts.
Nature seemed to have destined him for them, for he immediately made
use of the great model with flat boards four feet from the ground, and,
balanced thereon, he stalked over the garden like a gigantic stork
Bouvard, at the window, saw him stagger and then flop down all of a
heap over the kidney-beans, whose props, giving way as he descended,
broke his fall.
He was picked up covered with mould, his nostrils bleedinglivid;
and he fancied that he had strained himself.
Decidedly, gymnastics did not agree with men of their age. They
abandoned them, did not venture to move about any longer for fear of
accidents, and they remained the whole day sitting in the museum
dreaming of other occupations.
This change of habits had an influence on Bouvard's health. He
became very heavy, puffed like a whale after his meals, tried to make
himself thin, ate less, and began to grow weak.
Pécuchet, in like manner, felt himself undermined, had itchings in
his skin and lumps in his throat.
This won't do, said they; this won't do.
Bouvard thought of going to select at the inn some bottles of
Spanish wine in order to put his bodily machinery in order.
As he was going out, Marescot's clerk and three men brought from
Beljambe a large walnut table. Monsieur was much obliged to him for
it. It had been conveyed in perfect order.
Bouvard in this way learned about the new fashion of table-turning.
He joked about it with the clerk.
However, all over Europe, America, Australia and the Indies,
millions of mortals passed their lives in making tables turn; and they
discovered the way to make prophets of canaries, to give concerts
without instruments, and to correspond by means of snails. The press,
seriously offering these impostures to the public, increased its
The spirit-rappers had alighted at the château of Faverges, and
thence had spread through the village; and the notary questioned them
Shocked at Bouvard's scepticism, he invited the two friends to an
evening party at table-turning.
Was this a trap? Madame Bordin was to be there. Pécuchet went alone.
There were present as spectators the mayor, the tax-collector, the
captain, other residents and their wives, Madame Vaucorbeil, Madame
Bordin, of course, besides Mademoiselle Laverrière, Madame Marescot's
former schoolmistress, a rather squint-eyed lady with her hair falling
over her shoulders in the corkscrew fashion of 1830. In an armchair sat
a cousin from Paris, attired in a blue coat and wearing an air of
The two bronze lamps, the whatnot containing a number of
curiosities, ballads embellished with vignettes on the piano, and small
water-colours in huge frames, had always excited astonishment in
Chavignolles. But this evening all eyes were directed towards the
mahogany table. They would test it by and by, and it had the importance
of things which contain a mystery. A dozen guests took their places
around it with outstretched hands and their little fingers touching one
another. Only the ticking of the clock could be heard. The faces
indicated profound attention. At the end of ten minutes several
complained of tinglings in the arms.
Pécuchet was incommoded.
You are pushing! said the captain to Foureau.
Not at all.
Yes, you are!
The notary made them keep quiet.
By dint of straining their ears they thought they could distinguish
cracklings of wood.
An illusion! Nothing had budged.
The other day when the Aubert and Lorraine families had come from
Lisieux and they had expressly borrowed Beljambe's table for the
occasion, everything had gone on so well. But this to-day exhibited a
certain obstinacy. Why?
The carpet undoubtedly counteracted it, and they changed to the
The round table, which was on rollers, glided towards the right-hand
side. The operators, without displacing their fingers, followed its
movements, and of its own accord it made two turns. They were
Then M. Alfred articulated in a loud voice:
Spirit, how do you find my cousin?
The table, slowly oscillating, struck nine raps. According to a slip
of paper, in which the number of raps were translated by letters, this
A number of voices exclaimed Bravo!
Then Marescot, to tease Madame Bordin, called on the spirit to
declare her exact age.
The foot of the table came down with five taps.
What? five years! cried Girbal.
The tens don't count, replied Foureau.
The widow smiled, though she was inwardly annoyed.
The replies to the other questions were missing, so complicated was
Much better was the plane tablean expeditious medium of which
Mademoiselle Laverrière had made use for the purpose of noting down in
an album the direct communications of Louis XII., Clémence Isaure,
Franklin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and others. These mechanical
contrivances are sold in the Rue d'Aumale. M. Alfred promised one of
them; then addressing the schoolmistress: But for a quarter of an hour
we should have a little music; don't you think so? A mazurka!
Two metal chords vibrated. He took his cousin by the waist,
disappeared with her, and came back again.
The sweep of her dress, which just brushed the doors as they passed,
cooled their faces. She flung back her head; he curved his arms. The
gracefulness of the one, the playful air of the other, excited general
admiration; and, without waiting for the rout cakes, Pécuchet took
himself off, amazed at the evening's exhibition.
In vain did he repeat: But I have seen it! I have seen it!
Bouvard denied the facts, but nevertheless consented to make an
For a fortnight they spent every afternoon facing each other, with
their hands over a table, then over a hat, over a basket, and over
plates. All these remained motionless.
The phenomenon of table-turning is none the less certain. The common
herd attribute it to spirits; Faraday to prolonged nervous action;
Chevreuil to unconscious efforts; or perhaps, as Segouin admits, there
is evolved from the assembly of persons an impulse, a magnetic current.
This hypothesis made Pécuchet reflect. He took into his library the
Magnetiser's Guide, by Montacabère, read it over attentively, and
initiated Bouvard in the theory: All animated bodies receive and
communicate the influence of the starsa property analogous to the
virtue of the loadstone. By directing this force we may cure the sick;
there is the principle. Science has developed since Mesmer; but it is
always an important thing to pour out the fluid and to make passes,
which, in the first place, must have the effect of inducing sleep.
Well! send me to sleep, said Bouvard.
Impossible! replied Pécuchet: in order to be subject to the
magnetic action, and to transmit it, faith is indispensable.
Then, gazing at Bouvard: Ah! what a pity!
Yes, if you wished, with a little practice, there would not be a
magnetiser anywhere like you.
For he possessed everything that was needed: easiness of access, a
robust constitution, and a solid mind.
The discovery just made of such a faculty in himself was flattering
to Bouvard. He took a plunge into Montacabère's book on the sly.
Then, as Germaine used to feel buzzings in her ears that deafened
her, he said to her one evening in a careless tone:
Suppose we try magnetism?
She did not make any objection to it. He sat down in front of her,
took her two thumbs in his hands, and looked fixedly at her, as if he
had not done anything else all his life.
The old dame, with her feet on a footwarmer, began by bending her
neck; her eyes closed, and quite gently she began to snore. At the end
of an hour, during which they had been staring at her, Pécuchet said in
a low tone:
What do you feel?
Later, no doubt, would come lucidity.
This success emboldened them, and, resuming with self-confidence,
the practice of medicine, they nursed Chamberlan, the beadle, for pains
in his ribs; Migraine the mason, who had a nervous affection of the
stomach; Mère Varin, whose encephaloid under the collar-bone required,
in order to nourish her, plasters of meat; a gouty patient, Père
Lemoine, who used to crawl by the side of taverns; a consumptive; a
person afflicted with hemiplegia, and many others. They also treated
corns and chilblains.
After an investigation into the disease, they cast questioning
glances at each other to determine what passes to use, whether the
currents should be large or small, ascending or descending,
longitudinal, transversal, bidigital, tridigital, or even quindigital.
When the one had had too much of it, the other replaced him. Then,
when they had come back to their own house, they noted down their
observation in their diary of treatment.
Their suave manners captivated everyone. However, Bouvard was liked
better, and his reputation spread as far as Falaise, where he had cured
La Barbée, the daughter of Père Barbée, a retired captain of long
She had felt something like a nail in the back of her head, spoke in
a hoarse voice, often remained several days without eating, and then
would devour plaster or coal. Her nervous crises, beginning with sobs,
ended in floods of tears; and every kind of remedy, from diet-drinks to
moxas, had been employed, so that, through sheer weariness, she
accepted Bouvard's offer to cure her.
When he had dismissed the servant-maid and bolted the door, he began
rubbing her abdomen, while leaning over the seat of the ovaries. A
sense of relief manifested itself by sighs and yawns. He placed his
finger between her eyebrows and the top of her nose: all at once she
became inert. If one lifted her arms, they fell down again. Her head
remained in whatever attitude he wished, and her lids, half closed,
vibrating with a spasmodic movement, allowed her eyeballs to be seen
rolling slowly about; they riveted themselves on the corners
Bouvard asked her if she were in pain. She replied that she was not.
Then he inquired what she felt now. She indicated the inside of her
What do you see there?
What is necessary in order to kill it?
She wrinkled her brow. I am looking forI am not able! I am not
At the second sitting she prescribed for herself nettle-broth; at
the third, catnip. The crises became mitigated, then disappeared. It
was truly a miracle. The nasal addigitation did not succeed with the
others, and, in order to bring on somnambulism, they projected the
construction of a mesmeric tub. Pécuchet already had even collected the
filings and cleaned a score of bottles, when a scruple made him
Amongst the patients there would be persons of the other sex.
And what are we to do if this should give rise to an outburst of
This would not have proved any impediment to Bouvard; but for fear
of impostures and attempts to extort hush-money, it was better to put
aside the project. They contented themselves with a collection of
musical glasses, which they carried about with them to the different
houses, so as to delight the children.
One day, when Migraine was worse, they had recourse to the musical
glasses. The crystalline sounds exasperated him; but Deleuze enjoins
that one should not be frightened by complaints; and so they went on
with the music.
Enough! enough! he cried.
A little patience! Bouvard kept repeating.
Pécuchet tapped more quickly on the glass plates, and the instrument
was vibrating in the midst of the poor man's cries when the doctor
appeared, attracted by the hubbub.
What! you again? he exclaimed, enraged at finding them always with
They explained their magnetic method of curing. Then he declaimed
against magnetisma heap of juggleries, whose effects came only from
However, animals are magnetised. Montacabère so states, and M.
Fontaine succeeded in magnetising a lion. They had not a lion, but
chance had offered them another animal.
For on the following day a ploughboy came to inform them that they
were wanted up at the farm for a cow in a hopeless condition.
They hurried thither. The apple trees were in bloom, and the herbage
in the farmyard was steaming under the rays of the rising sun.
At the side of a pond, half covered with a cloth, a cow was lowing,
while she shivered under the pails of water that were being emptied
over her body, and, enormously swollen, she looked like a hippopotamus.
Without doubt she had got venom while grazing amid the clover.
Père Gouy and his wife were afflicted because the veterinary surgeon
was not able to come, and the wheelwright who had a charm against
swelling did not choose to put himself out of his way; but these
gentlemen, whose library was famous, must know the secret.
Having tucked up their sleeves, they placed themselves one in front
of the horns, the other at the rump, and, with great internal efforts
and frantic gesticulations, they spread wide their fingers in order to
scatter streams of fluid over the animal, while the farmer, his wife,
their son, and the neighbours regarded them almost with terror.
The rumblings which were heard in the cow's belly caused borborygms
in the interior of her bowels. She emitted wind.
Pécuchet thereupon said: This is an opening door for hopean
The outlet produced its effect: the hope gushed forth in a bundle of
yellow stuff, bursting with the force of a shell. The hide got loose;
the cow got rid of her swelling. An hour later there was no longer any
sign of it.
This was certainly not the result of imagination. Therefore the
fluid contained some special virtue. It lets itself be shut up in the
objects to whom it is given without being impaired. Such an expedient
saves displacements. They adopted it; and they sent their clients
magnetised tokens, magnetised handkerchiefs, magnetised water, and
Then, continuing their studies, they abandoned the passes for the
system of Puységur, which replaces the magnetiser by means of an old
tree, about the trunk of which a cord is rolled.
A pear tree in their fruit garden seemed made expressly for the
purpose. They prepared it by vigorously encircling it with many
pressures. A bench was placed underneath. Their clients sat in a row,
and the results obtained there were so marvellous that, in order to get
the better of Vaucorbeil, they invited him to a séance along
with the leading personages of the locality.
Not one failed to attend. Germaine received them in the
breakfast-room, making excuses on behalf of her masters, who would join
From time to time they heard the bell ringing. It was the patients
whom she was bringing in by another way. The guests nudged one another,
drawing attention to the windows covered with dust, the stains on the
panels, the frayed pictures; and the garden, too, was in a wretched
state. Dead wood everywhere! The orchard was barricaded with two sticks
thrust into a gap in the wall.
Pécuchet made his appearance. At your service, gentlemen.
And they saw at the end of the garden, under the Edouïn pear tree, a
number of persons seated.
Chamberlan, clean-shaven like a priest, in a short cassock of
lasting, with a leathern cap, gave himself up to the shivering
sensations engendered by the pains in his ribs. Migraine, whose stomach
was always tormenting him, made wry faces close beside him. Mère Varin,
to hide her tumour, wore a shawl with many folds. Père Lemoine, his
feet stockingless in his old shoes, had his crutches under his knees;
and La Barbée, who wore her Sunday clothes, looked exceedingly pale.
At the opposite side of the tree were other persons. A woman with an
albino type of countenance was sponging the suppurating glands of her
neck; a little girl's face half disappeared under her blue glasses; an
old man, whose spine was deformed by a contraction, with his
involuntary movements knocked against Marcel, a sort of idiot clad in a
tattered blouse and a patched pair of trousers. His hare-lip, badly
stitched, allowed his incisors to be seen, and his jaw, which was
swollen by an enormous inflammation, was muffled up in linen.
They were all holding in their hands pieces of twine that hung down
from the tree. The birds were singing, and the air was impregnated with
the refreshing smell of grass. The sun played with the branches, and
the ground was smooth as moss.
Meanwhile, instead of going to sleep, the subjects of the experiment
were straining their eyes.
Up to the present, said Foureau, it is not funny. Begin. I am
going away for a minute.
And he came back smoking an Abd-el-Kader, the last that was left
from the gate with the pipes.
Pécuchet recalled to mind an admirable method of magnetising. He put
into his mouth the noses of all the patients in succession, and inhaled
their breath, in order to attract the electricity to himself; and at
the same time Bouvard clasped the tree, with the object of augmenting
The mason interrupted his hiccoughs; the beadle was agitated; the
man with the contraction moved no more. It was possible now to approach
them, and make them submit to all the tests.
The doctor, with his lancet, pricked Chamberlan's ear, which
trembled a little. Sensibility in the case of the others was manifest.
The gouty man uttered a cry. As for La Barbée, she smiled, as if in a
dream, and a stream of blood trickled under her jaw.
Foureau, in order to make the experiment himself, would fain have
seized the lancet, but the doctor having refused, he vigorously pinched
The captain tickled her nostrils with a feather; the tax-collector
plunged a pin under her skin.
Let her alone now, said Vaucorbeil; it is nothing astonishing,
after all. Simply a hysterical female! The devil will have his pains
That one there, said Pécuchet, pointing towards Victoire, the
scrofulous woman, is a physician. She recognises diseases, and
indicates the remedies.
Langlois burned to consult her about his catarrh; but Coulon, more
courageous, asked her for something for his rheumatism.
Pécuchet placed his right hand in Victoire's left, and, with her
lids closed uninterruptedly, her cheeks a little red, her lips
quivering, the somnambulist, after some rambling utterances, ordered
She had assisted in an apothecary's shop at Bayeux. Vaucorbeil drew
the inference that what she wanted to say was album Græcum a
term which is to be found in pharmacy.
Then they accosted Père Lemoine, who, according to Bouvard, could
see objects through opaque bodies. He was an ex-schoolmaster, who had
sunk into debauchery. White hairs were scattered about his face, and,
with his back against the tree and his palms open, he was sleeping in
the broad sunlight in a majestic fashion.
The physician drew over his eyes a double neckcloth; and Bouvard,
extending a newspaper towards him, said imperiously:
He lowered his brow, moved the muscles of his face, then threw back
his head, and ended by spelling out:
But with skill the muffler could be slipped off!
These denials by the physician roused Pécuchet's indignation. He
even ventured to pretend that La Barbée could describe what was
actually taking place in his own house.
May be so, returned the doctor.
Then, taking out his watch:
What is my wife occupying herself with?
For a long time La Barbée hesitated; then with a sullen air:
Hey! what? I am there! She is sewing ribbons on a straw hat.
Vaucorbeil snatched a leaf from his note-book and wrote a few lines
on it, which Marescot's clerk hastened to deliver.
The séance was over. The patients went away.
Bouvard and Pécuchet, on the whole, had not succeeded. Was this due
to the temperature, or to the smell of tobacco, or to the Abbé
Jeufroy's umbrella, which had a lining of copper, a metal unfavourable
to the emission of the fluid?
Vaucorbeil shrugged his shoulders. However, he could not deny the
honesty of MM. Deleuze, Bertrand, Morin, Jules Cloquet. Now these
masters lay down that somnambulists have predicted events, and
submitted without pain to cruel operations.
The abbé related stories more astonishing. A missionary had seen
Brahmins rushing, heads down, through a street; the Grand Lama of
Thibet rips open his bowels in order to deliver oracles.
Are you joking? said the physician.
By no means.
Come, now, what tomfoolery that is!
And the question being dropped, each of them furnished an anecdote.
As for me, said the grocer, I had a dog who was always sick when
the month began on a Friday.
We were fourteen children, observed the justice of the peace. I
was born on the 14th, my marriage took place on the 14th, and my
saint's-day falls on the 14th. Explain this to me.
Beljambe had often reckoned in a dream the number of travellers he
would have next day at his inn; and Petit told about the supper of
The curé then made this reflection:
Why do we not see into it quite easily?
The demonsis that what you say? asked Vaucorbeil.
Instead of again opening his lips, the abbé nodded his head.
Marescot spoke of the Pythia of Delphi.
Beyond all question, miasmas.
Oh! miasmas now!
As for me, I admit the existence of a fluid, remarked Bouvard.
Nervoso-siderial, added Pécuchet.
But prove it, show it, this fluid of yours! Besides, fluids are out
of fashion. Listen to me.
Vaucorbeil moved further up to get into the shade. The others
If you say to a child, 'I am a wolf; I am going to eat you,' he
imagines that you are a wolf, and he is frightened. Therefore, this is
a vision conjured up by words. In the same way the somnambulist accepts
any fancies that you desire him to accept. He recollects instead of
imagining, and has merely sensations when he believes that he is
thinking. In this manner it is possible for crimes to be suggested, and
virtuous people may see themselves ferocious beasts, and involuntarily
Glances were cast towards Bouvard and Pécuchet. Their scientific
pursuits were fraught with dangers to society.
Marescot's clerk reappeared in the garden flourishing a letter from
The doctor tore it open, turned pale, and finally read these words:
I am sewing ribbons on a straw hat.
Amazement prevented them from bursting into a laugh.
A mere coincidence, deuce take it! It proves nothing.
And as the two magnetisers wore looks of triumph, he turned round at
the door to say to them:
Don't go further. These are risky amusements.
The curé, while leading away his beadle, reproved them sternly:
Are you mad? Without my permission! Practices forbidden by the
They had all just taken their leave; Bouvard and Pécuchet were
talking to the schoolmaster on the hillock, when Marcel rushed from the
orchard, the bandage of his chin undone, and stuttered:
Cured! cured! good gentlemen.
All right! enough! Let us alone.
Petit, a man of advanced ideas, thought the doctor's explanation
commonplace and unenlightened. Science is a monopoly in the hands of
the rich. She excludes the people. To the old-fashioned analysis of the
Middle Ages it is time that a large and ready-witted synthesis should
succeed. Truth should be arrived at through the heart. And, declaring
himself a spiritualist, he pointed out several works, no doubt
imperfect, but the heralds of a new dawn.
They sent for them.
Spiritualism lays down as a dogma the fated amelioration of our
species. Earth will one day become Heaven. And this is the reason why
the doctrine fascinated the schoolmaster. Without being Catholic, it
was known to St. Augustine and St. Louis. Allan Kardec even has
published some fragments dictated by them which are in accordance with
contemporary opinions. It is practical as well as benevolent, and
reveals to us, like the telescope, the supernal worlds.
Spirits, after death and in a state of ecstasy, are transported
thither. But sometimes they descend upon our globe, where they make
furniture creak, mingle in our amusements, taste the beauties of
Nature, and the pleasures of the arts.
Nevertheless, there are amongst us many who possess an astral
trunkthat is to say, behind the ear a long tube which ascends from
the hair to the planets, and permits us to converse with the spirits of
Saturn. Intangible things are not less real, and from the earth to the
stars, from the stars to the earth, a see-saw motion takes place, a
transmission, a continual change of place.
Then Pécuchet's heart swelled with extravagant aspirations, and when
night had come Bouvard surprised him at the window contemplating those
luminous spaces which are peopled with spirits.
Swedenborg made rapid journeys to them. For in less than a year he
explored Venus, Mars, Saturn, and, twenty-three times, Jupiter.
Moreover, he saw Jesus Christ in London; he saw St. Paul; he saw St.
John; he saw Moses; and in 1736 he saw the Last Judgment.
He has also given us descriptions of Heaven.
Flowers, palaces, market-places, and churches are found there, just
as with us. The angels, who were formerly human beings, lay their
thoughts upon leaves, chat about domestic affairs or else on spiritual
matters; and the ecclesiastical posts are assigned to those who, in
their earthly career, cultivated the Holy Scripture.
As for Hell, it is filled with a nauseous smell, with hovels, heaps
of filth, quagmires, and ill-clad persons.
And Pécuchet racked his brain in order to comprehend what was
beautiful in these revelations. To Bouvard they seemed the delirium of
an imbecile. All such matters transcend the bounds of Nature. Who,
however, can know anything about them? And they surrendered themselves
to the following reflections:
Jugglers can cause illusions amongst a crowd; a man with violent
passions can excite other people by them; but how can the will alone
act upon inert matter? A Bavarian, it is said, was able to ripen
grapes; M. Gervais revived a heliotrope; one with greater power
scattered the clouds at Toulouse.
It is necessary to admit an intermediary substance between the
universe and ourselves? The od, a new imponderable, a sort of
electricity, is perhaps nothing else. Its emissions explain the light
that those who have been magnetised believe they see: the wandering
flames in cemeteries, the forms of phantoms.
These images would not, therefore, be illusions, and the
extraordinary gifts of persons who are possessed, like those of
clairvoyants, would have a physical cause.
Whatever be their origin, there is an essence, a secret and
universal agent. If we could take possession of it, there would be no
need of force, of duration. That which requires ages would develop in a
minute; every miracle would be practicable, and the universe would be
at our disposal.
Magic springs from this eternal yearning of the human mind. Its
value has no doubt been exaggerated, but it is not a falsehood. Some
Orientals who are skilled in it perform prodigies. All travellers have
vouched for its existence, and at the Palais Royal M. Dupotet moves
with his finger the magnetic needle.
How to become magicians? This idea appeared to them foolish at
first, but it returned, tormented them, and they yielded to it, even
while affecting to laugh.
A course of preparation is indispensable.
In order to excite themselves the better, they kept awake at night,
fasted, and, wishing to convert Germaine into a more delicate medium,
they limited her diet. She indemnified herself by drinking, and
consumed so much brandy that she speedily ended in becoming
intoxicated. Their promenades in the corridor awakened her. She
confused the noise of their footsteps with the hummings in her ears and
the voices which she imagined she heard coming from the walls. One day,
when she had put a plaice into the pantry, she was frightened on seeing
it covered with flame; she became worse than ever after that, and ended
by believing that they had cast a spell over her.
Hoping to behold visions, they pressed the napes of each other's
necks; they made themselves little bags of belladonna; finally they
adopted the magic box, out of which rises a mushroom bristling with
nails, to be worn over the heart by means of a ribbon attached to the
breast. Everything proved unsuccessful. But they might make use of the
sphere of Dupotet!
Pécuchet, with a piece of charcoal, traced on the ground a black
shield, in order to enclose within its compass the animal spirits whose
duty it is to assist the ambient spirits, and rejoicing at having the
mastery over Bouvard, he said to him, with a pontifical air:
I defy you to cross it!
Bouvard viewed this circular space. Soon his heart began throbbing,
his eyes became clouded.
Ha! let us make an end of it! And he jumped over it, to get rid of
an inexpressible sense of unpleasantness.
Pécuchet, whose exultation was increasing, desired to make a corpse
Under the Directory a man in the Rue de l'Échiquier exhibited the
victims of the Terror. There are innumerable examples of persons coming
back from the other world. Though it may be a mere appearance, what
matter? The thing was to produce the effect.
The nearer to us we feel the phantom, the more promptly it responds
to our appeal. But he had no relic of his familyring, miniature, or
lock of hairwhile Bouvard was in a position to conjure up his father;
but, as he testified a certain repugnance on the subject, Pécuchet
What are you afraid of?
I? Oh! nothing at all! Do what you like.
They kept Chamberlan in their pay, and he supplied them by stealth
with an old death's-head. A seamster cut out for them two long black
robes with hoods attached, like monks' habits. The Falaise coach
brought them a large parcel in a wrapper. Then they set about the work,
the one interested in executing it, the other afraid to believe in it.
The museum was spread out like a catafalque. Three wax tapers burned
at the side of the table pushed against the wall beneath the portrait
of Père Bouvard, above which rose the death's-head. They had even
stuffed a candle into the interior of the skull, and rays of light shot
out through the two eyeholes.
In the centre, on a chafing-dish, incense was smoking. Bouvard kept
in the background, and Pécuchet, turning his back to him, cast handfuls
of sulphur into the fireplace.
Before invoking a corpse the consent of the demons is required. Now,
this day being a Fridaya day which is assigned to Béchetthey should
occupy themselves with Béchet first of all.
Bouvard, having bowed to the right and to the left, bent his chin,
and raised his arms, began:
In the names of Ethaniel, Anazin, Ischyros
He forgot the rest.
Pécuchet rapidly breathed forth the words, which had been jotted
down on a piece of pasteboard:
Ischyros, Athanatos, Adonaï, Sadaï, Eloy, Messiasös (the litany
was a long one), I implore thee, I look to thee, I command thee, O
Then, lowering his voice:
Where art thou, Béchet? Béchet! Béchet! Béchet!
Bouvard sank into the armchair, and he was very pleased at not
seeing Béchet, a certain instinct reproaching him with making an
experiment which was a kind of sacrilege.
Where was his father's soul? Could it hear him? What if, all at
once, it were about to appear?
The curtains slowly moved under the wind, which made its way in
through a cracked pane of glass, and the wax-tapers caused shadows to
oscillate above the corpse's skull and also above the painted face. An
earthy colour made them equally brown. The cheek-bones were consumed by
mouldiness, the eyes no longer possessed any lustre; but a flame shone
above them in the eyeholes of the empty skull. It seemed sometimes to
take the other's place, to rest on the collar of the frock-coat, to
have a beard on it; and the canvas, half unfastened, swayed and
Little by little they felt, as it were, the sensation of being
touched by a breath, the approach of an impalpable being. Drops of
sweat moistened Pécuchet's forehead, and Bouvard began to gnash his
teeth: a cramp gripped his epigastrium; the floor, like a wave, seemed
to flow under his heels; the sulphur burning in the chimney fell down
in spirals. At the same moment bats flitted about. A cry arose. Who was
And their faces under their hoods presented such a distorted aspect
that, gazing at each other, they were becoming more frightened than
before, not venturing either to move or to speak, when behind the door
they heard groans like those of a soul in torture.
At length they ran the risk. It was their old housekeeper, who,
espying them through a slit in the partition, imagined she saw the
devil, and, falling on her knees in the corridor, kept repeatedly
making the sign of the Cross.
All reasoning was futile. She left them the same evening, having no
desire to be employed by such people.
Germaine babbled. Chamberlan lost his place, and he formed against
them a secret coalition, supported by the Abbé Jeufroy, Madame Bordin,
Their way of living, so unlike that of other people, gave offence.
They became objects of suspicion, and even inspired a vague terror.
What destroyed them above all in public opinion was their choice of
a servant. For want of another, they had taken Marcel.
His hare-lip, his hideousness, and the gibberish he talked made
people avoid him. A deserted child, he had grown up, the sport of
chance, in the fields, and from his long-continued privations he became
possessed by an insatiable appetite. Animals that had died of disease,
putrid bacon, a crushed dogeverything agreed with him so long as the
piece was thick; and he was as gentle as a sheep, but utterly stupid.
Gratitude had driven him to offer himself as a servant to MM.
Bouvard and Pécuchet; and then, believing that they were wizards, he
hoped for extraordinary gains.
Soon after the first days of his employment with them, he confided
to them a secret. On the heath of Poligny a man had formerly found an
ingot of gold. The anecdote is related by the historians of Falaise;
they were ignorant of its sequel: Twelve brothers, before setting out
on a voyage, had concealed twelve similar ingots along the road from
Chavignolles to Bretteville, and Marcel begged of his masters to begin
a search for them over again. These ingots, said they to each other,
had perhaps been buried just before emigration.
This was a case for the use of the divining-rod. Its virtues are
doubtful. They studied the question, however, and learned that a
certain Pierre Garnier gives scientific reasons to vindicate its
claims: springs and metals throw out corpuscles which have an affinity
with the wood.
This is scarcely probable. Who knows, however? Let us make the
They cut themselves a forked branch from a hazel tree, and one
morning set forth to discover the treasure.
It must be given up, said Bouvard.
Oh, no! bless your soul!
After they had been three hours travelling, a thought made them draw
up: The road from Chavignolles to Bretteville!was it the old or the
new road? It must be the old!
They went back, and rushed through the neighbourhood at random, the
direction of the old road not being easy to discover.
Marcel went jumping from right to left, like a spaniel running at
field-sports. Bouvard was compelled to call him back every five
minutes. Pécuchet advanced step by step, holding the rod by the two
branches, with the point upwards. Often it seemed to him that a force
and, as it were, a cramp-iron drew it towards the ground; and Marcel
very rapidly made a notch in the neighbouring trees, in order to find
the place later.
Pécuchet, however, slackened his pace. His mouth was open; the
pupils of his eyes were contracted. Bouvard questioned him, caught hold
of his shoulders, and shook him. He did not stir, and remained inert,
exactly like La Barbée. Then he said he felt around his heart a kind of
compression, a singular experience, arising from the rod, no doubt, and
he no longer wished to touch it.
They returned next day to the place where the marks had been made on
the trees. Marcel dug holes with a spade; nothing, however, came of it,
and each time they felt exceedingly sheepish. Pécuchet sat down by the
side of a ditch, and while he mused, with his head raised, striving to
hear the voices of the spirits through his astral body, asking himself
whether he even had one, he fixed his eyes on the peak of his cap; the
ecstasy of the previous day once more took possession of him. It lasted
a long time, and became dreadful.
Above some oats in a by-path appeared a felt hat: it was that of M.
Vaucorbeil on his mare.
Bouvard and Marcel called out to him.
The crisis was drawing to an end when the physician arrived. In
order to examine Pécuchet he lifted his cap, and perceiving a forehead
covered with coppery marks:
Ha! ha! Fructus belli! Those are love-spots, my fine fellow!
Take care of yourself. The deuce! let us not trifle with love.
Pécuchet, ashamed, again put on his cap, a sort of head-piece that
swelled over a peak shaped like a half-moon, the model of which he had
taken from the Atlas of Amoros.
The doctor's words astounded him. He kept thinking of them with his
eyes staring before him, and suddenly had another seizure.
Vaucorbeil watched him, then, with a fillip, knocked off his cap.
Pécuchet recovered his faculties.
I suspected as much, said the physician; the glazed peak
hypnotises you like a mirror; and this phenomenon is not rare with
persons who look at a shining substance too attentively.
He pointed out how the experiment might be made on hens, then
mounted his nag, and slowly disappeared from their view.
Half a league further on they noticed, in a farmyard, a pyramidal
object stretched out towards the horizon. It might have been compared
to an enormous bunch of black grapes marked here and there with red
dots. It was, in fact, a long pole, garnished, according to the Norman
custom, with cross-bars, on which were perched turkeys bridling in the
Let us go in. And Pécuchet accosted the farmer, who yielded to
They traced a line with whiting in the middle of the press, tied
down the claws of a turkey-cock, then stretched him flat on his belly,
with his beak placed on the line. The fowl shut his eyes, and soon
presented the appearance of being dead. The same process was gone
through with the others. Bouvard passed them quickly across to
Pécuchet, who ranged them on the side on which they had become torpid.
The people about the farm-house exhibited uneasiness. The mistress
screamed, and a little girl began to cry.
Bouvard loosened all the turkeys. They gradually revived; but one
could not tell what might be the consequences.
At a rather tart remark of Pécuchet, the farmer grasped his
Clear out, in God's name, or I'll smash your head!
They scampered off.
No matter! the problem was solved: ecstasy is dependent on material
What, then, is matter? What is spirit? Whence comes the influence of
the one on the other, and the reciprocal exchange of influence?
In order to inform themselves on the subject, they made researches
in the works of Voltaire, Bossuet, Fénelon; and they renewed their
subscription to a circulating library.
The ancient teachers were inaccessible owing to the length of their
works, or the difficulty of the language; but Jouffroy and Damiron
initiated them into modern philosophy, and they had authors who dealt
with that of the last century.
Bouvard derived his arguments from Lamettrie, Locke, and Helvetius;
Pécuchet from M. Cousin, Thomas Reid, and Gérando. The former adhered
to experience; for the latter, the ideal was everything. The one
belonged to the school of Aristotle, the other to that of Plato; and
they proceeded to discuss the subject.
The soul is immaterial, said Pécuchet.
By no means, said his friend. Lunacy, chloroform, a bleeding will
overthrow it; and, inasmuch as it is not always thinking, it is not a
substance which does nothing but think.
Nevertheless, rejoined Pécuchet, I have in myself something
superior to my body, which sometimes confutes it.
A being in a beinghomo duplex! Look here, now! Different
tendencies disclose opposite motives. That's all!
But this something, this soul, remains identical amid all changes
from without. Therefore, it is simple, indivisible, and thus
If the soul were simple, replied Bouvard, the newly-born would
recollect, would imagine, like the adult. Thought, on the contrary,
follows the development of the brain. As to its being indivisible,
neither the perfume of a rose nor the appetite of a wolf, any more than
a volition or an affirmation, is cut in two.
That makes no difference, said Pécuchet. The soul is exempt from
the qualities of matter.
Do you admit weight? returned Bouvard. Now, if matter can fall,
it can in the same way think. Having had a beginning, the soul must
come to an end, and as it is dependent on certain organs, it must
disappear with them.
For my part, I maintain that it is immortal. God could not
But if God does not exist?
What? And Pécuchet gave utterance to the three Cartesian proofs:
'Primo: God is comprehended in the idea that we have of Him;
secundo: Existence is possible to Him; tertio: How can I, a
finite being, have an idea of the Infinite? And, since we have this
idea, it comes to us from God; therefore, God exists.'
He passed on to the testimony of conscience, the traditions of
different races, and the need of a Creator.
When I see a clock
Yes! yes! That's a well-known argument. But where is the
However, a cause is necessary.
Bouvard was doubtful about causes. From the fact that one
phenomenon succeeds another phenomenon, the conclusion is drawn that it
is caused by the first. Prove it.
But the spectacle of the universe indicates an intention and a
Why? Evil is as perfectly organised as good. The worm that works
its way into a sheep's head and causes it to die, is as valuable from
an anatomical point of view as the sheep itself. Abnormalities surpass
the normal functions. The human body could be better constructed. Three
fourths of the globe are sterile. That celestial lamp-post, the moon,
does not always show itself! Do you think the ocean was destined for
ships, and the wood of trees for fuel for our houses?
Pécuchet answered: Yet the stomach is made to digest, the leg to
walk, the eye to see, although there are dyspepsias, fractures, and
cataracts. No arrangements without an end. The effects came on at the
exact time or at a later period. Everything depends on laws; therefore,
there are final causes.
Bouvard imagined that perhaps Spinoza would furnish him with some
arguments, and he wrote to Dumouchel to get him Saisset's translation.
Dumouchel sent him a copy belonging to his friend Professor Varelot,
exiled on the 2nd of December.
Ethics terrified them with its axioms, its corollaries. They read
only the pages marked with pencil, and understood this:
'The substance is that which is of itself, by itself, without
cause, without origin. This substance is God. He alone is extension,
and extension is without bounds.'
What can it be bound with?
'But, though it be infinite, it is not the absolute infinite, for
it contains only one kind of perfection, and the Absolute contains
They frequently stopped to think it out the better. Pécuchet took
pinches of snuff, and Bouvard's face glowed with concentrated
Does this amuse you?
Yes, undoubtedly. Go on forever.
'God displays Himself in an infinite number of attributes which
express, each in its own way, the infinite character of His being. We
know only two of themextension and thought.
'From thought and extension flow innumerable modes, which contain
others. He who would at the same time embrace all extension and all
thought would see there no contingency, nothing accidental, but a
geometrical succession of terms, bound amongst themselves by necessary
Ah! that would be beautiful! exclaimed Bouvard.
'If God had a will, an end, if He acted for a cause, that would
mean that He would have some want, that He would lack some one
perfection. He would not be God.
'Thus our world is but one point in the whole of things, and the
universe, impenetrable by our knowledge, is a portion of an infinite
number of universes emitting close to ours infinite modifications.
Extension envelops our universe, but is enveloped by God, who contains
in His thought all possible universes, and His thought itself is
enveloped in His substance.'
It appeared to them that this substance was filled at night with an
icy coldness, carried away in an endless course towards a bottomless
abyss, leaving nothing around them but the Unseizable, the Immovable,
This was too much for them, and they renounced it. And wishing for
something less harsh, they bought the course of philosophy, by M.
Guesnier, for the use of classes.
The author asks himself what would be the proper method, the
ontological or the psychological.
The first suited the infancy of societies, when man directed his
attention towards the external world. But at present, when he turns it
in upon himself, we believe the second to be more scientific.
The object of psychology is to study the acts which take place in
our own breasts. We discover them by observation.
Let us observe. And for a fortnight, after breakfast, they
regularly searched their consciousness at random, hoping to make great
discoveries thereand made none, which considerably astonished them.
'One phenomenon occupies the ego, viz., the idea. What is its
nature? It has been supposed that the objects are put into the brain,
and that the brain transmits these images to our souls, which gives us
the knowledge of them.'
But if the idea is spiritual, how are we to represent matter? Thence
comes scepticism as to external perceptions. If it is material,
spiritual objects could not be represented. Thence scepticism as to the
reality of internal notions.
For another reason let us here be careful. This hypothesis will
lead us to atheism.
For an image, being a finite thing, cannot possibly represent the
Yet, argued Bouvard, when I think of a forest, of a person, of a
dog, I see this forest, this person, this dog. Therefore the ideas do
And they proceeded to deal with the origin of ideas.
According to Locke, there are two originating causessensation and
reflection; and Condillac reduces everything to sensation.
But then reflection will lack a basis. It has need of a subject, of
a sentient being; and it is powerless to furnish us with the great
fundamental truths: God, merit and demerit, the Just, the
Beautifulideas which are all innate, that is to say, anterior
to facts, and to experience, and universal.
If they were universal we should have them from our birth.
By this word is meant dispositions to have them; and Descartes
Your Descartes is muddled, for he maintains that the foetus
possesses them, and he confesses in another place that this is in an
Pécuchet was astonished. Where is this found?
In Gérando. And Bouvard tapped him lightly on the stomach.
Make an end of it, then, said Pécuchet.
Then, coming to Condillac:
'Our thoughts are not metamorphoses of sensation. It causes them,
puts them in play. In order to put them in play a motive power is
necessary, for matter of itself cannot produce movement.' And I found
that in your Voltaire, Pécuchet added, making a low bow to him.
Thus they repeated again and again the same arguments, each treating
the other's opinion with contempt, without persuading his companion
that his own was right.
But philosophy elevated them in their own estimation. They recalled
with disdain their agricultural and political preoccupations.
At present they were disgusted with the museum. They would have
asked nothing better than to sell the articles of virtù
contained in it. So they passed on to the second chapter: Faculties of
'They are three in number, no more: that of feeling, that of
knowing, and that of willing.
'In the faculty of feeling we should distinguish physical
sensibility from moral sensibility. Physical sensations are naturally
classified into five species, being transmitted through the medium of
the senses. The facts of moral sensibility, on the contrary, owe
nothing to the body. What is there in common between the pleasure of
Archimedes in discovering the laws of weight and the filthy
gratification of Apicius in devouring a wild-boar's head?
'This moral sensibility has five genera, and its second
genus, moral desires, is divided into five species, and the phenomena
of the fourth genus, affection, are subdivided into two other species,
amongst which is the love of oneselfa legitimate propensity, no
doubt, but one which, when it becomes exaggerated, takes the name of
'In the faculty of knowing we find rational perception, in which
there are two principal movements and four degrees.
'Abstraction may present perils to whimsical minds.
'Memory brings us into contact with the past, as foresight does
with the future.
'Imagination is rather a special faculty, sui generis.'
So many intricacies in order to demonstrate platitudes, the pedantic
tone of the author, and the monotony of his forms of expressionWe
are prepared to acknowledge it, Far from us be the thought, Let us
interrogate our consciousnessthe sempiternal eulogy on Dugald
Stewart; in short, all this verbiage, disgusted them so much that,
jumping over the faculty of willing, they went into logic.
It taught them the nature of analysis, synthesis, induction,
deduction, and the principal causes of our errors.
Nearly all come from the misuse of words.
The sun is going to bed. The weather is becoming brown, The
winter is drawing nearvicious modes of speech which would make us
believe in personal entities, when it is only a question of very simple
occurrences. I remember such an object, such an axiom, such a
truthillusion! These are ideas and not at all things which remain in
me; and the rigour of language requires, I remember such an act of my
mind by which I perceived that object, whereby I have deduced that
axiom, whereby I have admitted this truth.
As the term that describes an incident does not embrace it in all
its aspects, they try to employ only abstract words, so that in place
of saying, Let us make a tour, It is time to dine, I have the
colic, they give utterance to the following phrases: A promenade
would be salutary, This is the hour for absorbing aliments, I
experience a necessity for disburdenment.
Once masters of logic, they passed in review the different
criterions; first, that of common sense.
If the individual can know nothing, why should all individuals know
more? An error, were it a hundred thousand years old, does not by the
mere fact of its being old constitute truth. The multitude invariably
pursues the path of routine. It is, on the contrary, the few who are
guided by progress.
Is it better to trust to the evidence of the senses? They sometimes
deceive, and never give information save as to externals. The innermost
core escapes them.
Reason offers more safeguards, being immovable and impersonal; but
in order that it may be manifested it is necessary that it should
incarnate itself. Then, reason becomes my reason; a rule is of little
value if it is false. Nothing can show such a rule to be right.
We are recommended to control it with the senses; but they may make
the darkness thicker. From a confused sensation a defective law will be
inferred, which, later, will obstruct the clear view of things.
This would make God descend to the level of the useful, as if our
wants were the measure of the Absolute.
As for the evidencedenied by the one, affirmed by the otherit is
its own criterion. M. Cousin has demonstrated it.
I see no longer anything but revelation, said Bouvard. But, to
believe it, it is necessary to admit two preliminary cognitionsthat
of the body which has felt, and that of the intelligence which has
perceived; to admit sensation and reason. Human testimonies! and
consequently open to suspicion.
Pécuchet reflectedfolded his arms. But we are about to fall into
the frightful abyss of scepticism.
In Bouvard's opinion it frightened only weak brains.
Thank you for the compliment, returned Pécuchet. However, there
are indisputable facts. We can arrive at truth within a certain limit.
Which? Do two and two always make four? Is that which is contained
in some degree less than that which contains it? What is the meaning of
nearly true, a fraction of God, the part of an indivisible thing?
Oh, you are a mere sophist! And Pécuchet, annoyed, remained for
three days in a sulk.
They employed themselves in running through the contents of several
volumes. Bouvard smiled from time to time, and renewing the
The fact is, it is hard to avoid doubt; thus, for the existence of
God, Descartes', Kant's, and Leibnitz's proofs are not the same, and
mutually destroy one another. The creation of the world by atoms, or by
a spirit, remains inconceivable. I feel myself, at the same time,
matter and thought, while all the time I am ignorant of what one or the
other really is. Impenetrability, solidity, weight, seem to me to be
mysteries just as much as my soul, and, with much stronger reason, the
union of the soul and the body. In order to explain it, Leibnitz
invented his harmony, Malebranche premotion, Cudworth a mediator, and
Bossuet sees in it a perpetual miracle.
Exactly, said Pécuchet. And they both confessed that they were
tired of philosophy. Such a number of systems confused them.
Metaphysics is of no use: one can live without it. Besides, their
pecuniary embarrassments were increasing. They owed one bill to
Beljambe for three hogsheads of wine, another to Langlois for two stone
of sugar, a sum of one hundred francs to the tailor, and sixty to the
Their expenditures were continuous, of course, and meantime Maître
Gouy did not pay up.
They went to Marescot to ask him to raise money for them, either by
the sale of the Ecalles meadow, or by a mortgage on their farm, or by
giving up their house on the condition of getting a life annuity and
keeping the usufruct.
In Marescot's opinion this would be an impracticable course; but a
better means might be devised, and they should be informed about it.
After this they thought of their poor garden. Bouvard undertook the
pruning of the row of elms and Pécuchet the trimming of the espalier.
Marcel would have to dig the borders.
At the end of a quarter of an hour they stopped. The one closed his
pruning-knife, the other laid down his scissors, and they began to walk
to and fro quietly, Bouvard in the shade of the linden trees, with his
waistcoat off, his chest held out and his arms bare; Pécuchet close to
the wall, with his head hanging down, his arms behind his back, the
peak of his cap turned over his neck for precaution; and thus they
proceeded in parallel lines without even seeing Marcel, who was resting
at the side of the hut eating a scrap of bread.
In this reflective mood thoughts arose in their minds. They grasped
at them, fearing to lose them; and metaphysics came back againcame
back with respect to the rain and the sun, the gravel in their shoes,
the flowers on the grasswith respect to everything. When they looked
at the candle burning, they asked themselves whether the light is in
the object or in our eyes. Since stars may have disappeared by the time
their radiance has reached us, we admire, perhaps, things that have no
Having found a Raspail cigarette in the depths of a waistcoat, they
crumbled it over some water, and the camphor moved about. Here, then,
is movement in matter. One degree more of movement might bring on life!
But if matter in movement were sufficient to create beings, they
would not be so varied. For in the beginning lands, water, men, and
plants had no existence. What, then, is this primordial matter, which
we have never seen, which is no portion of created things, and which
yet has produced them all?
Sometimes they wanted a book. Dumouchel, tired of assisting them, no
longer answered their letters. They enthusiastically took up the new
question, especially Pécuchet. His need of truth became a burning
Moved by Bouvard's preachings, he gave up spiritualism, but soon
resumed it again only to abandon it once more, and, clasping his head
with his hands, he would exclaim:
Oh, doubt! doubt! I would much prefer nothingness.
Bouvard perceived the insufficiency of materialism, and tried to
stop at that, declaring, however, that he had lost his head over it.
They began with arguments on a solid basis, but the basis gave way;
and suddenly they had no longer a single ideajust as a bird takes
wing the moment we wish to catch it.
During the winter evenings they chatted in the museum at the corner
of the fire, staring at the coals. The wind, whistling in the corridor,
shook the window-panes; the black masses of trees swayed to and fro,
and the dreariness of the night intensified the seriousness of their
Bouvard from time to time walked towards the further end of the
apartment and then came back. The torches and the pans on the walls
threw slanting shadows on the ground; and the St. Peter, seen in
profile, showed on the ceiling the silhouette of his nose, resembling a
They found it hard to move about amongst the various articles, and
Bouvard, by not taking precautions, often knocked against the statue.
With its big eyes, its drooping lip, and its air of a drunkard, it also
annoyed Pécuchet. For a long time he had wished to get rid of it, but
through carelessness put it off from day to day.
One evening, in the middle of a dispute on the monad, Bouvard hit
his big toe against St. Peter's thumb, and turning on him in a rage,
He plagues me, this jackanapes! Let us toss him out!
It was difficult to do this over the staircase. They flung open the
window, and gently tried to tip St. Peter over the edge. Pécuchet, on
his knees, attempted to raise his heels, while Bouvard pressed against
his shoulders. The old codger in stone did not budge. After this they
had recourse to the halberd as a lever, and finally succeeded in
stretching him out quite straight. Then, after a see-saw motion, he
dashed into the open space, his tiara going before him. A heavy crash
reached their ears, and next day they found him broken into a dozen
pieces in the old pit for composts.
An hour afterwards the notary came in, bringing good news to them. A
lady in the neighbourhood was willing to advance a thousand
crown-pieces on the security of a mortgage of their farm, and, as they
were expressing their satisfaction at the proposal:
Pardon me. She adds, as a condition, that you should sell her the
Ecalles meadow for fifteen hundred francs. The loan will be advanced
this very day. The money is in my office.
They were both disposed to give way.
Bouvard ended by saying: Good God! be it so, then.
Agreed, said Marescot. And then he mentioned the lender's name: it
was Madame Bordin.
I suspected 'twas she! exclaimed Pécuchet.
Bouvard, who felt humiliated, had not a word to say.
She or some one elsewhat did it matter? The principal thing was to
get out of their difficulties.
When they received the money (they were to get the sum for the
Ecalles later) they immediately paid all their bills; and they were
returning to their abode when, at the corner of the market-place, they
were stopped by Farmer Gouy.
He had been on his way to their house to apprise them of a
misfortune. The wind, the night before, had blown down twenty apple
trees into the farmyard, overturned the boilery, and carried away the
roof of the barn.
They spent the remainder of the afternoon in estimating the amount
of the damage, and they continued the inquiry on the following day with
the assistance of the carpenter, the mason, and the slater. The repairs
would cost at least about eighteen hundred francs.
Then, in the evening, Gouy presented himself. Marianne herself had,
a short time before, told him all about the sale of the Ecalles
meadowa piece of land with a splendid yield, suitable in every way,
and scarcely requiring any cultivation at all, the best bit in the
whole farm!and he asked for a reduction.
The two gentlemen refused it. The matter was submitted to the
justice of the peace, who decided in favour of the farmer. The loss of
the Ecalles, which was valued at two thousand francs per acre, caused
him an annual depreciation of seventy, and he was sure to win in the
Their fortune was diminished. What were they to do? And soon the
question would be, How were they to live?
They both sat down to table full of discouragement. Marcel knew
nothing about it in the kitchen. His dinner this time was better than
The soup was like dish-water, the rabbit had a bad smell, the
kidney-beans were underdone, the plates were dirty, and at dessert
Bouvard burst into a passion and threatened to break everything on
Let us be philosophers, said Pécuchet. A little less money, the
intrigues of a woman, the clumsiness of a servantwhat is it but this?
You are too much immersed in matter.
But when it annoys me? said Bouvard.
For my part, I don't admit it, rejoined Pécuchet.
He had recently been reading an analysis of Berkeley, and added:
I deny extension, time, space, even substance! for the true
substance is the mind-perceiving qualities.
Quite so, said Bouvard; but get rid of the world, and you'll have
no proof left of God's existence.
Pécuchet uttered a cry, and a long one too, although he had a cold
in his head, caused by the iodine of potassium, and a continual
feverishness increased his excitement. Bouvard, being uneasy about him,
sent for the doctor.
Vaucorbeil ordered orange-syrup with the iodine, and for a later
stage cinnabar baths.
What's the use? replied Pécuchet. One day or another the form
will die out. The essence does not perish.
No doubt, said the physician, matter is indestructible.
Ah, no!ah, no! The indestructible thing is being. This body which
is there before meyours, doctorprevents me from knowing your real
self, and is, so to speak, only a garment, or rather a mask.
Vaucorbeil believed he was mad.
Good evening. Take care of your mask.
Pécuchet did not stop. He procured an introduction to the Hegelian
philosophy, and wished to explain it to Bouvard.
All that is rational is real. There is not even any reality save
the idea. The laws of the mind are laws of the universe; the reason of
man is identical with that of God.
Bouvard pretended to understand.
Therefore the absolute is, at the same time, the subject and the
object, the unity whereby all differences come to be settled. Thus,
things that are contradictory are reconciled. The shadow permits the
light; heat and cold intermingled produce temperature. Organism
maintains itself only by the destruction of organism; everywhere there
is a principle that disunites, a principle that connects.
They were on the hillock, and the curé was walking past the gateway
with his breviary in his hand.
Pécuchet asked him to come in, as he desired to finish the
explanation of Hegel, and to get some notion of what the curé would say
The man of the cassock sat down beside them, and Pécuchet broached
the question of Christianity.
No religion has established this truth so well: 'Nature is but a
moment of the idea.'
A moment of the idea! murmured the priest in astonishment.
Why, yes. God in taking a visible envelope showed his
consubstantial union with it.
With natureoh! oh!
By His decease He bore testimony to the essence of death;
therefore, death was in Him, made and makes part of God.
The ecclesiastic frowned.
No blasphemies! it was for the salvation of the human race that He
Error! We look at death in the case of the individual, where, no
doubt, it is a calamity; but with relation to things it is different.
Do not separate mind from matter.
However, sir, before the Creation
There was no Creation. It has always existed. Otherwise this would
be a new being adding itself to the Divine idea, which is absurd.
The priest arose; business matters called him elsewhere.
I flatter myself I've floored him! said Pécuchet. One word more.
Since the existence of the world is but a continual passage from life
to death, and from death to life, so far from everything existing,
nothing is. But everything is becomingdo you understand?
Yes; I do understandor rather I don't.
Idealism in the end exasperated Bouvard.
I don't want any more of it. The famous cogito stupefies me.
Ideas of things are taken for the things themselves. What we understand
very slightly is explained by means of words which we don't understand
at allsubstance, extension, force, matter, and soul. So much
abstraction, imagination. As for God, it is impossible to know in what
way He is, if He is at all. Formerly, He used to cause the wind, the
thunderstorms, revolutions. At present, He is diminishing. Besides, I
don't see the utility of Him.
And moralityin this state of affairs.
Ah! so much the worse.
It lacks a foundation in fact, said Pécuchet.
And he remained silent, driven into a corner by premises which he
had himself laid down. It was a surprisea crushing bit of logic.
Bouvard no longer even believed in matter.
The certainty that nothing exists (deplorable though it may be) is
none the less a certainty. Few persons are capable of possessing it.
This transcendency on their part inspired them with pride, and they
would have liked to make a display of it. An opportunity presented
One morning, while they were going to buy tobacco, they saw a crowd
in front of Langlois' door. The public conveyance from Falaise was
surrounded, and there was much excitement about a convict named
Touache, who was wandering about the country. The conductor had met him
at Croix-Verte between two gendarmes, and the people of Chavignolles
breathed a sigh of relief.
Girbal and the captain remained on the green; then the justice of
the peace made his appearance, curious to obtain information, and after
him came M. Marescot in a velvet cap and sheepskin slippers.
Langlois invited them to honour his shop with their presence; they
would be more at their ease; and in spite of the customers and the loud
ringing of the bell, the gentlemen continued their discussion as to
Goodness gracious! said Bouvard, he had bad instincts. That was
the whole of it!
They are conquered by virtue, replied the notary.
But if a person has not virtue?
And Bouvard positively denied free-will.
Yet, said the captain, I can do what I like. I am free, for
instance, to move my leg.
No, sir, for you have a motive for moving it.
The captain looked out for something to say in reply, and found
nothing. But Girbal discharged this shaft:
A Republican speaking against liberty. That is funny.
A droll story, chimed in Langlois.
Bouvard turned on him with this question:
Why don't you give all you possess to the poor?
The grocer cast an uneasy glance over his entire shop.
Look here, now, I'm not such an idiot! I keep it for myself.
If you were St. Vincent de Paul, you would act differently, since
you would have his character. You obey your own. Therefore, you are not
That's a quibble! replied the company in chorus.
Bouvard did not flinch, and said, pointing towards the scales on the
It will remain motionless so long as each scale is empty. So with
the will; and the oscillation of the scales between two weights which
seem equal represents the strain on our mind when it is hesitating
between different motives, till the moment when the more powerful
motive gets the better of it and leads it to a determination.
All that, said Girbal, makes no difference for Touache, and does
not prevent him from being a downright vicious rogue.
Pécuchet addressed the company:
Vices are properties of Nature, like floods, tempests.
The notary stopped, and raising himself on tiptoe at every word:
I consider your system one of complete immorality. It gives scope
to every kind of excess, excuses crimes, and declares the guilty
Exactly, replied Bouvard; the wretch who follows his appetites is
right from his own point of view just as much as the honest man who
listens to reason.
Do not defend monsters!
Wherefore monsters? When a person is born blind, an idiot, a
homicide, this appears to us to be opposed to order, as if order were
known to us, as if Nature were striving towards an end.
You then raise a question about Providence?
I do raise a question about it.
Look rather to history, exclaimed Pécuchet. Recall to mind the
assassinations of kings, the massacres amongst peoples, the dissensions
in families, the affliction of individuals.
And at the same time, added Bouvard, for they mutually excited
each other, this Providence takes care of little birds, and makes the
claws of crayfishes grow again. Oh! if by Providence you mean a law
which rules everything, I am of the same opinion, and even more so.
However, sir, said the notary, there are principles.
What stuff is that you're talking? A science, according to
Condillac, is so much the better the less need it has of them. They do
nothing but summarise acquired knowledge, and they bring us back to
those conceptions which are exactly the disputable ones.
Have you, like us, went on Pécuchet, scrutinised and explored the
arcana of metaphysics?
It is true, gentlemenit is true!
Then the company broke up.
But Coulon, drawing them aside, told them in a paternal tone that he
was no devotee certainly, and that he even hated the Jesuits. However,
he did not go as far as they did. Oh, no! certainly not. And at the
corner of the green they passed in front of the captain, who, as he
lighted his pipe, growled:
All the same, I do what I like, by God!
Bouvard and Pécuchet gave utterance on other occasions to their
scandalous paradoxes. They threw doubt on the honesty of men, the
chastity of women, the intelligence of government, the good sense of
the peoplein short, they sapped the foundations of everything.
Foureau was provoked by their behaviour, and threatened them with
imprisonment if they went on with such discourses.
The evidence of their own superiority caused them pain. As they
maintained immoral propositions, they must needs be immoral: calumnies
were invented about them. Then a pitiable faculty developed itself in
their minds, that of observing stupidity and no longer tolerating it.
Trifling things made them feel sad: the advertisements in the
newspapers, the profile of a shopkeeper, an idiotic remark overheard by
chance. Thinking over what was said in their own village, and on the
fact that there were even as far as the Antipodes other Coulons, other
Marescots, other Foureaus, they felt, as it were, the heaviness of all
the earth weighing down upon them.
They no longer went out of doors, and received no visitors.
One afternoon a dialogue arose, outside the front entrance, between
Marcel and a gentleman who wore dark spectacles and a hat with a large
brim. It was the academician Larsoneur. He observed a curtain
half-opening and doors being shut. This step on his part was an attempt
at reconciliation; and he went away in a rage, directing the
man-servant to tell his masters that he regarded them as a pair of
Bouvard and Pécuchet did not care about this. The world was
diminishing in importance, and they saw it as if through a cloud that
had descended from their brains over their eyes.
Is it not, moreover, an illusion, a bad dream? Perhaps, on the
whole, prosperity and misfortune are equally balanced. But the welfare
of the species does not console the individual.
And what do others matter to me? said Pécuchet.
His despair afflicted Bouvard. It was he who had brought his friend
to this pass, and the ruinous condition of their house kept their grief
fresh by daily irritations.
In order to revive their spirits they tried discussions, and
prescribed tasks for themselves, but speedily fell back into greater
sluggishness, into more profound discouragement.
At the end of each meal they would remain with their elbows on the
table groaning with a lugubrious air.
Marcel would give them a scared look, and then go back to his
kitchen, where he stuffed himself in solitude.
About the middle of midsummer they received a circular announcing
the marriage of Dumouchel with Madame Olympe-Zulma Poulet, a widow.
God bless him!
And they recalled the time when they were happy.
Why were they no longer following the harvesters? Where were the
days when they went through the different farm-houses looking
everywhere for antiquities? Nothing now gave them such hours of delight
as those which were occupied with the distillery and with literature. A
gulf lay between them and that time. It was irrevocable.
They thought of taking a walk as of yore through the fields,
wandered too far, and got lost. The sky was dotted with little fleecy
clouds, the wind was shaking the tiny bells of the oats; a stream was
purling along through a meadowand then, all at once, an infectious
odour made them halt, and they saw on the pebbles between the thorn
trees the putrid carcass of a dog.
The four limbs were dried up. The grinning jaws disclosed teeth of
ivory under the bluish lips; in place of the stomach there was a mass
of earth-coloured flesh which seemed to be palpitating with the vermin
that swarmed all over it. It writhed, with the sun's rays falling on
it, under the gnawing of so many mouths, in this intolerable stencha
stench which was fierce and, as it were, devouring.
Yet wrinkles gathered on Bouvard's forehead, and his eyes filled
Pécuchet said in a stoical fashion, One day we shall be like that.
The idea of death had taken hold of them. They talked about it on
their way back.
After all, it has no existence. We pass away into the dew, into the
breeze, into the stars. We become part of the sap of trees, the
brilliance of precious stones, the plumage of birds. We give back to
Nature what she lent to each of us, and the nothingness before us is
not a bit more frightful than the nothingness behind us.
They tried to picture it to themselves under the form of an intense
night, a bottomless pit, a continual swoon. Anything would be better
than such an existencemonotonous, absurd, and hopeless.
They enumerated their unsatisfied wants. Bouvard had always wished
for horses, equipages, a big supply of Burgundy, and lovely women ready
to accommodate him in a splendid habitation. Pécuchet's ambition was
philosophical knowledge. Now, the vastest of problems, that which
contains all others, can be solved in one minute. When would it come,
then? As well to make an end of it at once.
Just as you like, said Bouvard.
And they investigated the question of suicide.
Where is the evil of casting aside a burden which is crushing you?
and of doing an act harmful to nobody? If it offended God, should we
have this power? It is not cowardice, though people say so, and to
scoff at human pride is a fine thing, even at the price of injury to
oneselfthe thing that men regard most highly.
They deliberated as to the different kinds of death. Poison makes
you suffer. In order to cut your throat you require too much courage.
In the case of asphyxia, people often fail to effect their object.
Finally, Pécuchet carried up to the garret two ropes belonging to
their gymnastic apparatus. Then, having fastened them to the same
cross-beam of the roof, he let a slip-knot hang down from the end of
each, and drew two chairs underneath to reach the ropes.
This method was the one they selected.
They asked themselves what impression it would cause in the
district, what would become of their library, their papers, their
collections. The thought of death made them feel tenderly about
themselves. However, they did not abandon their project, and by dint of
talking about it they grew accustomed to the idea.
On the evening of the 24th of December, between ten and eleven
o'clock, they sat thinking in the museum, both differently attired.
Bouvard wore a blouse over his knitted waistcoat, and Pécuchet, through
economy, had not left off his monk's habit for the past three months.
As they were very hungry (for Marcel, having gone out at daybreak,
had not reappeared), Bouvard thought it would be a healthful thing for
him to drink a quart bottle of brandy, and for Pécuchet to take some
While he was lifting up the kettle he spilled some water on the
Awkward! exclaimed Bouvard.
Then, thinking the infusion too small, he wanted to strengthen it
with two additional spoonfuls.
This will be execrable, said Pécuchet.
Not at all.
And while each of them was trying to draw the work-box closer to
himself, the tray upset and fell down. One of the cups was smashedthe
last of their fine porcelain tea-service.
Bouvard turned pale.
Go on! Confusion! Don't put yourself about!
Truly, a great misfortune! I attribute it to my father.
Your natural father, corrected Pécuchet, with a sneer.
Ha! you insult me!
No; but I am tiring you out! I see it plainly! Confess it!
And Pécuchet was seized with anger, or rather with madness. So was
Bouvard. The pair began shrieking, the one excited by hunger, the other
by alcohol. Pécuchet's throat at length emitted no sound save a
It is infernal, a life like this. I much prefer death. Adieu!
He snatched up the candlestick and rushed out, slamming the door
Bouvard, plunged in darkness, found some difficulty in opening it.
He ran after Pécuchet, and followed him up to the garret.
The candle was on the floor, and Pécuchet was standing on one of the
chairs, with a rope in his hand. The spirit of imitation got the better
Wait for me!
And he had just got up on the other chair when, suddenly stopping:
Why, we have not made our wills!
Hold on! That's quite true!
Their breasts swelled with sobs. They leaned against the skylight to
The air was chilly and a multitude of stars glittered in a sky of
The whiteness of the snow that covered the earth was lost in the
haze of the horizon.
They perceived, close to the ground, little lights, which, as they
drew near, looked larger, all reaching up to the side of the church.
Curiosity drove them to the spot. It was the midnight mass. These
lights came from shepherds' lanterns. Some of them were shaking their
cloaks under the porch.
The serpent snorted; the incense smoked. Glasses suspended along the
nave represented three crowns of many-coloured flames; and, at the end
of the perspective at the two sides of the tabernacle, immense wax
tapers were pointed with red flames. Above the heads of the crowd and
the broad-brimmed hats of the women, beyond the chanters, the priest
could be distinguished in his chasuble of gold. To his sharp voice
responded the strong voices of the men who filled up the gallery, and
the wooden vault quivered above its stone arches. The walls were
decorated with the stations of the Cross. In the midst of the choir,
before the altar, a lamb was lying down, with its feet under its belly
and its ears erect.
The warm temperature imparted to them both a strange feeling of
comfort, and their thoughts, which had been so tempestuous only a short
time before, became peaceful, like waves when they are calmed.
They listened to the Gospel and the Credo, and watched the
movements of the priest. Meanwhile, the old, the young, the beggar
women in rags, the mothers in high caps, the strong young fellows with
tufts of fair down on their faces, were all praying, absorbed in the
same deep joy, and saw the body of the Infant Christ shining, like a
sun, upon the straw of a stable. This faith on the part of others
touched Bouvard in spite of his reason, and Pécuchet in spite of the
hardness of his heart.
There was a silence; every back was bent, and, at the tinkling of a
bell, the little lamb bleated.
The host was displayed by the priest, as high as possible between
his two hands. Then burst forth a strain of gladness inviting the whole
world to the feet of the King of Angels. Bouvard and Pécuchet
involuntarily joined in it, and they felt, as it were, a new dawn
rising in their souls.
 Roughly speaking, about 93 acres.TRANSLATOR.
 One hectare contains 2 acres 1 rood 38 perches.TRANSLATOR.
 The [Text missing in original.Transcriber.]
 Raspail, the author of the work here referred to, was called in
to attend Gustave Flaubert's sister Caroline before her death in
 A decalitre contains over two gallons.TRANSLATOR.
 A myriamètre is over six miles.TRANSLATOR.
 This would, roughly speaking, be about eleven
Oui, prince, je languis, je brûle pour Thésée
 The Vinegar Merchant's Wheelbarrow.
Des flammes de les yeux inonde ma paupière.
Chante-moi quelque chant, comme parfois, le soir,
Tu m'en chantais, avec des pleurs dans ton oeil noir.
Soyons heureux! buvons! car la coupe est remplie,
Car cette heure est à moi, et le reste est folie!
N'est-ce pas qu'il est doux
D'aimer, et savoir qu'on vous aime à genoux?
Oh! laisse-moi dormir et rêver sur ton sein,
Doña Sol, ma beauté, mon amour!
Que dans tous vos discours la passion emue
Aille chercher le coeur, l'échauffe et le remue.
 La savatea military practice of beating with an old
shoe soldiers unskilful at drill.TRANSLATOR.
A nous l'animal timide!
Atteignons le cerf rapide!
Oui! nous vaincons!
Courons! courons! courons!