The Memoirs of Isaac Mathieu Crommelin
(1730 - 1815)

PART 2: 1764 - 1782

(Transcribed from pages digitally photographed at the Saint Quentin Public Library, France by Maryse Trannois and (roughly) translated by Milfred Crommelin, Canada with the aid of computer-translating programs, May-December 2002).



01 - Stormy Beginnings in Autun
02 - Mandrin, the Marauding Bandit
03 - Decline in the Culture of Autun
04 - Contribution to Local Antiquities
05 - Incident at Bourbon-Lancy
06 - The Temple of Janus
07 - Bell Tower of Autun Cathedral
08 - A Genealogical Project
09 - Louis XV's Rising Ceremony
10 - A Cheerful Party Turns Ugly
11 - Learning Mechanical Gadgetry

12 - My Natural History Collection
13 - The Feet of Saint Nicholas
14 - My Success as a Copy Artist
15 - The Villainous Valet
16 - My Music Teacher
17 - My Attempt at Sculpture
18 - A Regional Gun Tournament
19 - My Involvement in Freemasonry
20 - A Sleepwalking Abbott
21 - Counselling a Troubled Nun
22 - A Precocious Actor


When one has many desires, one lacks many things. We are truly happy only when a thrifty God gives us precisely what is enough. According to Horace, Od. XI, Liv III

Autun, late 1700's

Stormy Beginnings in Autun

The position which the company gave me was located in Autun in Burgundy. It was a pleasantly situated city with big vineyards nearby and full of antique monuments.

To spend one thousand ecus there, by leading an excellent bachelor's life, I would have had to throw twenty-five louis out the window. A cord of wood cost only eight francs; the wine usually sold for two sols per bottle; a nicely furnished flat was less than fifty ecus to rent; lunches and dinners, always together, cost only thirty-six francs per month; and the admission to plays by the best companies was only a liard per ticket. I considered myself living in the land of plenty.

I did not propose that my wife come with me, though, because her mother, in frail health, and an old aunt needed her care. Therefore I moved without fear of being denied. Although I've had to make considerable sacrifices such as this in the course of my life, our friendship never wavered and I was amply rewarded in return.

My beginning in Autun was quite unpleasant. It was my misfortune to replace an old man who was under the threat of suspension for a long time because his office went badly. It wasn't his fault, however. The old chap cried when I showed him my commission. - "Does anybody, sir, have outstanding accounts with you, and can you get us


the money that's missing?" - "I believe I can." - "Very well, then act now and write down the circumstances thereby allowing me to wait one month. Use this time productively. In the meantime, I shall acquaint myself with the district. If you succeed, you will benefit from my observations." The fact is, I wanted a posting nearer to my home and family.

The steps taken by the old man were fruitless. Then I asked him to do an accounting with me. His elder son, a policeman of the guard, bothered me a lot and since I could solve nothing with him around, I begged him not to interfere. "Sir, you are speaking to one who is not used to receiving orders." - "Sir," I replied, "if anyone had a reason to complain, it certainly wouldn't be you. I hope that your father is satisfied with my methods. Not wishing him to miss the opportunity to continue in this job, I asked him to accept the courtesy of a delay so that he could manage on my behalf." It isn't my fault if he wasn't of more help to him. This gentleman then had the indiscretion to go and say amidst a large gathering that he would cut off both my ears, and more indiscreetly still, a very important man to whom I was recommended, was the one who conveyed to me this comment. I had to respond. Here was my reply.

"Because you, sir, are such a good bearer of news, I request that you go this evening to the same gathering and say:
1. that I have knowledge of the threat;
2. that I play all the games;
3. that I am in the habit of strolling at the marble arch of the old circus grounds where there are very pleasant places to explain further."

My intentions having been conveyed, the policeman, a local hothead, expressed his fury. - "You are wrong," said three cavaliers of Saint-Louis to him. "It is the foreigner who behaved nobly with your father. You bothered him incessantly and then provoked his response. His reply is


energetic and it has nuances which shows the mettle of the man. In whatever manner you choose to turn, he will be applauded and you will be blamed. In general the public opinion is just. Besides, we are your friends while we don't even know him." - "What should I do?" - "Do nothing. If he attacks you, he will be in the wrong. But it will not happen because he has done only what he must. You threatened him. Obviously he isn't afraid of you, but on the other hand you are trained for this kind of fight. So why not just leave things as they are."

There was in the neighborhood an officer who was a loud-mouth. Consequently he would often have a quarrel with the truth. He advanced something which came to my attention that was obviously wrong. Questioned by a lawyer of my friends about the matter, I clarified the issue and returned the thing such as it was. "Ah, you lied," said his present wife to me in a motvendeau dialect. - "Madam," I answered, "one can lie without meaning to do so. I merely observed that his religion was a surprise to me." Then this naive but meddlesome lady met an officer, an old comrade of her husband, and mentioned something about he also having lied. - "Lied?!" - "Yes, this Crommelin had said so." The husband, however, realized that his wife spoke in a dialect that was foreign to me, and that when I said that he had 'surprised me by his religion', she said it as though he had 'lied to me about his religion'. This had been a question of 'surprise', and not 'lie'. - "I shall confront him and fight him if I have to!" - "You shall not intimidate him; I forbid it. Besides, I have ten deniers for you if you find that my wife has been compromised through a falsehood."

So the officer comes to find me with his hat on a rakish angle; I took mine too and composed it on my head. - "I am told, sir, that you hold to certain views." - "Perhaps, but I try to hold them only out of honesty, and to put others in their rightful place." - "Madam said that you take me for a liar." - "Oh really. Let's go over to see her, sir, and let her husband be a witness." He believed that I was afraid. - "It will not go well for you!" - "Ah! Ah! I recall that we spoke about such things and that you were lied to by his religion." - "Lied! Yes if this Crommelin is as you said


was one who professed propriety." - "Now, take the matter any way you want." - "If, however, you did not make the comment..." - "Eh! Why do you look to me for a quarrel, before having clarified the problem? Besides, I gave you the liberty to consider whether it's true, and I have the honor to observe to you that every man who is afraid of another is a coward." - "Thus you did not make the comment which came back to me?!" - "Certainly not; your manner is a proof of that." - Well then, everything is settled." - "Yes, but if you boast at my expense, I warn you that I shall speak out." - "I shall say nothing." - "And I too shall keep silent." In the course of eighteen years, I had only a single duel, details of which I shall give in due time.

Mandrin, the Marauding Bandit

On my arrival to Autun, this canton was in a continual quandry because Mandrin and his lieutenant 'Iron Arms' was riding roughshod through the countryside. This bandit came into this city and here is a sample of the tactics he used.

On the road of Châlons he met about thirty seminarians who were on their way to take their orders. Having stopped them, he placed one seminarian between two of his comrades, brought them to a women's convent called St-Andoche, and gave the order in public to shoot them at the first signal.

Next he went down to the administrator's office of the man who collected salt taxes demanding his money. This administrator proved by his books that he had just made a general receipt. Then he ordered the administrator to accompany him between two of his soldiers. I shall not mention why this man did not think of taking me also. Somebody then said to Iron Arms that the Jesuits had a lot of money so he went over to their college. Father Colignon (who was the first one to have the idea of fixing measures to a fraction of the longitude meridian) took the horse of the bandit by the reins and said to him: "You will not enter as long as I am alive. Go ahead and kill me. I am 50 years old and you will only be removing from me a few


days. I shall die gladly, a martyr of my calling!" Iron Arms smiled, admiring the resoluteness of the old man, and he respected him. However, I believe that having examined the premises with its iron gate, he was afraid of being taken in a sort of fort at the college of the Jesuits. This bandit then went to the main hotel where a large number of ladies talked very familiarly with him. He opened a very wide snuffbox and offered the ladies some tobacco. All took it or made the appearance of doing so.

A cavalier of St-Louis named a monsieur Lacolonge looked at Iron Arms with a sardonic smile and said to him: "This is a farce which you are giving here." - "No, monsieur, it is a tragedy, and you are going to be playing the lead role in it for being cheeky." Another cavalier of Saint Louis named monsieur d'Orienne then took Iron Arms aside and presented him before the armed riflemen and in a cheeky way said to him, "Will you kill a gallant man because of a word he uttered which means nothing?" - "No, but I will not be insulted. Put down your weapons!"

This leader of thieves then asked for some wine for his troops. A wine casket was brought up and emptied into fire buckets. I was in the crowd, to see what would become of all this. Somebody suggested poisoning the troop and I was approached for my opinion on this strategy. I had around me a circle of honest people. I replied that the idea seemed preposterous to me from all points of view. "First of all, one hundred and fifty decent citizens could not stop and destroy this band of outlaws. Furthermore, all manner of self defence is permissible, but poison is never allowed in the rules of warfare (witness Fabricius and Pyrrus). Besides, there are thirty seminarians at St-Andoche who would inevitably die and put the city in mourning." My opinion was approved and the one who proposed poisoning the band of brigands was held in contempt.

Iron Arms did not capture anyone in Autun but he traversed Beaune proclaiming that he wished


to harm nobody. However, he killed out of hand a drunk man who had shouted to him, "Thief!" He came across a monsieur Gagnerot who was out hunting and asked him if there were any Lamorlières (troopers sent to track down Mandrin) in the area. The answer was negative. One minute later monsieur Gagnerot blew a whistle to call his dog and Iron Arms, believing this to be a whistle to alert the possee, sent seven or eight men to shoot the whistler. He dashed madly into the yard of a brick factory and there received several gunshot wounds. I saw the balls pulled out of monsieur Gagnerot's body and I attended the extraction of the last one which had flattened itself against a bone. The wounded individual recovered and was not crippled by the ordeal.

Decline in the Culture of Autun

To give an idea of the gentleness which reigned then in Autun, here is a sample of the tone of good company. In one of my first visits I found three or four housewives with five or six young ladies, their daughters, from fifteen to twenty years old. I was asked whether I would like to be part of a beach party down by the river of Aroux. I accepted and we left: father, mother, aunts, brothers, sisters, etc. So we went to the banks of the river and I waited impatiently for what was to come. We joked and laughed, and the ladies removed some hairpins and began preparing their hair for swimming. Finally one mother says: "Gentlemen, go now to your area." The separation was a mound of earth, and there was a small lagoon into which the men could plunge without being seen. When the ladies wrapped in bathrobes called, we approached at a discreet distance to talk, laugh and sing. And when they wanted to withdraw, the men were sent away again to their area. Never was there any indecency. A young man who would have dared to contravene the prescribed boundaries would have been expelled from any such gatherings.

I knew the lawyer, who, in this canton was the first to wear a jacket of velvet and silk stockings.


There was a general outcry against this extravagant kind of luxury. Formerly the housewives spun in the evening their red or black wool; servants worked with the hemp, and every year a roomful of material was created which served for dressing the father, the mother, and the children of both sexes. In the evenings young people danced, flirted and played innocent games while the mothers plucked their turkey or goose and stuffed the feathers in a linen bag, all of which we now view as ridiculous. In the beautiful days of summer, several neighbours would gather together for a supper in the street and call passers-by over to have a drink with them.

But one year was sufficient to put an end to those days of good times and pleasant living. Here is what led to this cultural revolution. The prince de Conde was dissatisfied with the city of Dijon as a venue for holding the Etats of Burgundy, and since Autun was found to be the most suitable city, they were held there at a church of the Jesuits.

Accommodations were splendidly furnished with lavish conveniences and magnificent meals. When the Etats were over, the Lords (seignieurs) returned to their castles but the taste for luxury remained. The women of the rich caused the greatest change. Little-by-little they were imitated by the general population in the use of braids, embroidery and lace which succeeded the former simplicity. Now people wanted plate; incomes became insufficient and people sold their capital. Then, a multitude of citizens who lived uninhibitedly began to embrace mediocrity. I note this fact to illustrate how a single event can change the tone of a society. Indeed, foodstuffs became more expensive, the rich assumed an air of dignity and noble persons, already proud, increased their haughtiness. The gentleness of the times simply disappeared.

View of the Place du Campo Mars, Autun, late 1700's

My Contribution to Local Antiquities

The antiquities of Autun occupied me a great deal. I dare say that my research was not useless to the historians of Burgundy. The Academy of Dijon asked me to verify some graves


and I proved that they were Gallic (ie. from Gaul). The characteristic mark on the graves of this nation is an instrument named the 'ascia' which was engraved in one of the two ends. This instrument looks much like a roofer's hammer. The Gauls, as did the Chinese, dug graves for themselves or presided over their fabrication. In the heart of the stone was a square hole, and around it nine lines made by the family, with the ascia. Next was engraved the hammer and below the ascia some more writing. The graves of the men were under roofs while those of the women were in vaults. Gallic divinities were found and I saw some of them, but the owner of the property did not want to open the graves for just anybody. I offered some money to the workers if they would open one that I pointed out to them. "No, not this one," they said to me, "but that one is O.K." I concluded from it that the gods, seen on medallions and lead figures, were in the form of people. In the grave that we opened I found the well-preserved skeleton of a woman, and in the heart of the grave there was a red earth which resembled crushed brick. This I removed and found it to generate effervescence when acids were applied. I sent this matter to monsieur Buffon who is certain that this earth had gone into the composition of the woman. I also recall that Pline of France had said with authority as a great observer, that calcium stones are the residues of animals. Autun was formerly Bibracte, in spite of the claims of the city of Laon. Auguste gave it the name of Augustodinum. The walls of ancient Bibracte are not those of Autun today. The latter, obviously being more modern, are filled with Gallic debris. There is also the appearance that the current city was a suburb. There is still the famous field of March where Vergobret, the Gallic magistrate, crossed for a review every year. This is the origin of the military holiday which takes place each year where the Vierg, (mayor abbreviated from Ver-gobret)


presides. As the druids had a college at Bibracte, and as they exercised considerable authority, these chapters were brought into this holiday. The Canons in their big coats form a cavalcade and over a period of three days they exercise the right of justice. Usually this moment is awaited to end any frivolous lawsuits. This holiday is called St-Ladre, (St-Lazare). There is a big animal fair, and games of chance are allowed in cafes. For several days this fair attracts many visitors and the last holiday of this sort which I saw in Autun was under the auspices of madam the princess de Chimay, daughter of madam d'Aligre, to whose castle I often went in Monjeu.

This excellent lady forgot nothing of what was said. When she wanted to retain something, she would ring a bell on her table to call for her secretary to take a memo. Ring. Ring. Ring. "Write," she said to him, "what monsieur has just said." Even in vague conversation this sort of thing took place five or six times. I spoke accidentally about a painting by Rubens in the billiard room which was in bad company. Ring. Ring. "Write that monsieur Crommelin says that my 'St. Sebastien' by Rubens and the 'monsieur de St Pargeau' (his son-in-law) should be placed more advantageously."

Incident at Bourbon-Lancy

An unusual event occurred to me at the door of a gaming house at the time of St. Ladre. This anecdote requires some explanation after which I shall return to where I have left off.


A sword scratch on my left arm caused me to go to Bourbon-Lancy for the baths and a treatment using leeches to cleanse the wound. My pleasure consisted in reading the life of the Saints to my hostesses, excellent people, and I captivated them by the unction I put into this instructive reading. I had a room with two beds which was very convenient. A marchioness (marquise) arrived with her daughter whose thighs were paralyzed.


I offered her my apartment and there we got to know each other. It was necessary to have the leeches applied to my shoulder. The marquise came to find me and says to me: "You are a man. You will suffer with courage. I ask that you allow my daughter to see the operation. She does not want to hear about it, but I believe that your strength will be a means of helping her endure the treatment." - "I agree, madam, and you will be satisfied with me." I sang a duet with the young lady while my wound was prepared to receive eight leeches. The young lady also took her medicine but she did not sing, and named me the 'wooden man'.

Bourbon-Lancy has no resources for travelers, so when I had to leave there wasn't a single horse there. However I learned there was one to be had at the Capuchin friars (Capuchins). I was to find the guardian father, hand him a louis, say masses on behalf of the souls in purgatory, and then tell him my embarrassing story. At the proper moment the guardian father offered me his horse and a Capuchin friar to conduct me in the cart of the monastery.

Between Bourbon-Lancy and Luzy there is a distance of some nine leagues. I took this road and was assumed to be a criminal who was being taken out to be hung. A tired traveler on foot also got into the cart and he had the advantage of looking like the executioner. So here I was back in Autun at the door of the gaming house. Having gotten acquainted with the priest at Bourbon-Lancy, I saw a man who looked much like him coming down from the terrace. So I shouted to him, "Ah, hello monsieur priest!" and I approached him in a most cheerful manner. Well, it turned out that he was not the priest I knew, but a well-to-do Lord in mourning who had just lost all his money in the gaming house, and since the word 'priest' in Autun is a derogatory term, my cheerful expression shocked him to the core. He believed I was making fun of his misfortune and charged at me so angrily I was obliged to defend myself. Bystanders ran over and a notary served us by putting himself between the two of us. - "What's the problem here?" - "I mistook this gentleman for the priest of Bourbon-Lancy. Here is everything..."


Then one chap testifies that I had just made fun of the man by calling him a 'priest'. The crowd burst out laughing when they learned my mistake. - "How," says the notary, "could Crommelin have joked about your loss? He wasn't even in the gaming house!" - "I was wrong, I apologize and am at your mercy." - "There's no point in taking this any further since I find it sufficient that you have recognized your error!" Then I crossed the road and went on my way.

Roman Ruins and the Temple of Janus

The walls of ancient Bibracte have a remarkable peculiarity; they are not made of bricks but of absolutely similar masonry which suggests they were made in moulds. Probably the Gauls knew about cement, the stuff that binds sand to form masonry. These walls, from the time of Caesar, were "caries vesustatis invalides", and that is the state in which they are now.

There exists in Autun the fragments of a great pyramid that is believed to be the grave of Brennus. I proved that it was at the crossroads of four big roads used by Gauls and taken by Agrippa, son-in-law of Auguste. The bottom of these roads still exists. Some of the stones are granite which is no longer found in the country.

In the vicinity of the city are two mountains. the one Mont Dru (Mons Druidarum) the other, Mount Jeu (Mons Jovis) where one finds faceted stones. The cirque drawn by Mount Faucon is remarkable for its extent and elegance. Near the river are two sides of Janus's temple which formerly was square.

Temple of Janus

There were four doors which led to Janus, a god with four faces. This temple was very dark inside because daylight would have entered only through cellar windows. There is no information on the antiquity of this monument, but I estimate it to pre-date the foundation of Rome. However, I found in its walls a piece of perfectly preserved oak wood. I sent to the Academy of Dijon drawings of


two porticoes and plans of all the ancient monuments, things I considered valuable in an academician's patent. I had an exact copy of it and some other rather precious medallions collected on my walks.

An Englishman named Spencer, curious about antiquities, asked me to entrust to him my whole collection. Well, the next day he left and forgot about returning it. I could have pursued him for this neglect, but I did not take the opportunity. Some days after the departure of this Englishman, I received a pâté consisting of two turkey hens in truffles at my address. "Great!" I said, "The Englishman didn't forget me after all." Not at all. The pâté was sent to Arnay-le-Duc without an address so a friend of mine gave my address and had it put on the pâté. Then the Benedictines came around to retrieve it. I told them that it was already eaten, but could I repay them with port? I knew the prior very well and he found the incident quite amusing.

Cathedral of Autun

The Bell Tower of Autun Cathedral

The cathedral of Autun is very old and I made there an observation which baffled all the architects. The bell tower, without a framework, has at most four thumbs of thickness. Inside, the surface looks like a mirror. I asked, "How was it possible to pile up the stones used in construction at an oblique angle?" Oblique scaffolds cannot be built without running great risks. They can only be made perpendicular. The hand of the worker would not have been able to reach the work. It seems that the Goths, so light in their construction (I dare say through stupidity), had a means of construction which we do not possess any more. Here is my theory regarding the simplicity of the Goths in their architecture.

Originally they built everything with wood. Their openings were made with branches. That's why their doors, their crossings and their arches form angles with respect to the vertical. When they emigrated to countries where there were only stones to build with, for lack of imagination they followed their former routine


and made with stones what they formerly made with interlaced branches. From that construction technique comes these beautiful wheels (in their churches) in stone, which required extraordinary means and patience.

A Genealogical Project

At Autun I enjoyed a good reputaton and proved that one could be practical even if one didn't have any particular aptitude in fiscal matters. Through fines I had the sentinels punished who spat tobacco from the tops of the walls and swore. [At present the superintendent who does the same thing would be badly regarded. This Fermier-General (tax collecor) likes to treat all people with equality.]

I was believed to have considerable talent in the art of deciphering ancient writings, but all I had was the necessary strategy to find a way. Mont Faucon has the key to the writings of many centuries. One should only compare alphabets which match in some way. The truth is that my reputation as an antiquarian, which I didn't deserve, got me some very nice rewards. Here is an example where the science attributed to me proved most beneficial.

Messieur C..., Bishop of..., was engaged in a frivolous lawsuit with a councillor of the court ('parlement'). Having the same name, the councillor wanted to use arms on his family crest that had been given to the family by Pope Calix II. The councillor, obviously standing to gain by this distinction, proved that he was of a legitimate branch of the family, and not an illegitimate one. He won his lawsuit and wanted, in turn, that the monseigneur give up the keys on his coat-of-arms. The loss of this lawsuit had consequences in that the sisters of C... were refused entry into the chapter of Metz, a desireable position.

In order to clarify his ancestry, monseigneur had asked me to draw all the graves of his ancestors, several ceilings of chapels, and even four pieces of tapestry bearing his family crest which had been given to his family by Emperor Maximilien. I made the required drawings with exactness. Monsieur Chérin,


the genealogist, perused my work which was now of considerable value. Monseigneur offered me some money, and then I showed him my travel expenses which itself had risen to three louis. Then a lawyer who worked for monsieur Chérin at the archives of monasteries came to ask me which piece of silverware would please me. He also spoke about the necessities of hygiene, a shaving basin, and all these related accessories. Well, I didn't like any of these presents and replied that if monseigneur had no more need of my work, I would take it back. Monseigneur of Marbeul, bishop of Amiens, settled this affair by urging me to accept a complete set of Buffon's works on natural history. This I accepted and gave to a library in Saint Quentin.

Observing Louis XV's Rising Ceremony

My acquaintance with the Bishop of ..., priest to the king, gave rise to a rather amusing incident at Compiègne [a vacation retreat of the king near Saint Quentin.] where King Louis XV was visiting. In a room at Compiègne I met one of my relatives, a handsome boy, brash, fearless, self-assured, and offering his protection to everybody. - "What are you doing here?" - "I am waiting for the moment when I shall attend the king's morning rising ceremony ['lever du roi'] Follow me; do as I do, and don't be shy. I shall admit you too."

So I followed him, walking a little behind, and he knocks on the door. An officer opens the door, sees me - an unknown figure, pushes him away rather vigorously, and closes the door. - "Fortunately," I said to him, "I did not do as you just did. He reacted that way because he did not recognize me." So he knocks a second time and this time the officer glares at him saying, "Beware if you try knocking a third time - one does not knock here!" And then he closed the door in his face. At that moment, monsieur Bishop of ..., who was being of service inside, came out and noticed me standing there. "Ah! There you are, my dear Crommelin! Could I have the pleasure of doing something for you here?" - "Yes, return with us to attend the rising of the king." - "Nothing could be simpler." He knocks on the door, "Monseigneur," he says to the flustered officer. "I ask that you admit two of my best friends." Then, finding my young companion entering and brazenly going in first, I stopped him


and said to my advantage, "Do only as I do, and don't be shy..."

A Cheerful Party Turns Ugly

My reputation as a genealogist, acquired so easily, spread to castles where I was called to rather often, and I was happy when I could be of some service. Nobody is more candid than a seignieur (Lord) when he is alone with you, but if a marquess or count should enter the room, then all conversation suddenly turns to the districts of nobility and one is forced to change the subject or go away.

I lived grandly in Autun with a charming young man who had variously been a Fermier-General, a treasurer of France, and a brigadier in the guards. He was at most thirty-six years old. Every day one of us would invite two guests for dinner and the supplement to pay for such entertainment was a mere pittance per month. As good friends we were inseparable, and undoubtedly some envious people tried to divide us.

We entertained mostly at home, and sometimes at a local inn because our abode was somewhat isolated. Nobody attended our dinner parties without an invitation, and one day we invited a vicar general to dinner. He accepted our invitation but expressed great displeasure at our situation, calling my friend a hypocritical dean of the chapter. From that moment on, events conspired which eventually led to us parting company.

One of my friends from Châlons-sur-le Saône, came to spend a few days with me. I arranged a small party for him at Montjeu, the castle which belonged to madam d'Aligre, the grandmother of the Pelletiers of St-Fargran whose children I saw and whose horoscope I had cast. The role which they played in the French revolution is well known.

I return to my story. Our host was an excellent cook and one would have taken him, at one's peril, to be a candid and decent chap. But when the vapor of coal entered the man's head, one could not predict the extreme irritableness which overcame him. A quarrel quickly arose over the loading of a saddle that would be used the next day for our return journey. This man


became enraged and went out of control. We told him to calm down and then tore from his hands a knife which he meant to use on us. Then to prevent him from grabbing another knife, we restrained him without actually striking him. We also tried to reason with him. This fanatic then consulted a Dean and Canon who is known as 'the Captain who kills everything'. His advice was to press criminal charges against us for having endangered his life. It seems ludicrous, but he actually found witnesses to support his case. First there was the cook who accused us of stealing his silver watch. We laughed at him saying that nobody could write such a monstrous testimony. Then he brought out a cotton hat with a gash on the top of it, but his head showed no wound, not even a single bruise. Then another witness testified that I had thrown him eight feet onto a high oven. He claimed that the officer of the guards had pulled out his hunting knife with intent to kill him, and that the treasurer of France had held him while the brigadier of the guards punched him!

Our judge happened to be the famous Serpillion, and it was only a fortnight before that I had designed the frontispiece of the criminal code at an engraver's shop. I looked him up and we spoke amiably about the affair. "From the bottom of my heart," he says to me, "I am convinced that your adversary is a madman stimulated by bad counsel, and that his witnesses are paid scoundrels, but as judge I shall listen to their testimonies." I pulled a handkerchief of batiste out of my pocket. There was a glass tumbler sitting on the fireplace and I made a saw of my knife by striking it against the fine cloth stretched over the mouth of the glass. The cloth did not split. "You can at least see the impossibility of slashing a hat perched on the head of a man. - "It may be true in physics, but not in criminal justice," he says to me. "And I advise you, as a friend, to settle this messy affair." It was settled, but a countess having cast envious eyes on my position with the company, wrote a nasty letter about me to the firm. The resulting indignation was such that the municipality,


the bailliage, the chancellery, the nobility, the lawyers and the notables all gave me a fine character reference in which my customs, behaviour, and the consideration which I enjoyed were drawn up in a most elaborate way. I regret not having kept a copy of this testimonial from a whole city. As a result, madam countess was scoffed by her society; rebuffed by the company; and I begged her to say to a certain businessman that I wished to see him so as to convey a few choice words to him. She got the message. After this debacle our dinner company divided, and each lived separately thereafter.

Learning Mechanical Gadgetry

The life which I led at Autun over a period of 18 years developed all my tastes, and particular circumstances gave birth to a new interest, namely mechanics. Here is what introduced me to this science.

Madam marchioness of Ménessaire had a small moving tableaux (animated pictures), which her son, a chamberlain of King Stanislas, had sent her from Lunéville. It was one of the first such works of art that used sand as the motive power. I asked her to allow me to see the inside of it. - "No. You occupy yourself with what you do best, and I will enjoy my own kind of work."

This refusal stimulated my curiosity and resolve even more. - "Well! Madam, within a fortnight you will see one of my own design and construction." I kept my word. I had seen a hopper in operation, and the idea of a rigid wheel naturally came to mind with round risers or cams on an axle which activated control levers, and these levers moved the arms, legs and heads of little mannikins. Having been born skillful, I made moving figures which were quite pleasing. There were two sawyers cutting wood, a blacksmith at his forge and a work horse that refused to be shoed. These formed the scene which I executed. So I carried my masterpiece to madam marchioness and, in spite of the spirit of propriety, she conceded that she liked mine better because there was a perspective in the figures and buildings which hers did not have.

Later I went to Lunéville after the unfortunate death


of king Stanislas - this prince who liked the moving tableaux so much that he had a garden set up with these automated figures, some of which were life size. So there I was alone when curiosity got the better of me and I crossed under a barrier. The king was no longer there, so everything seemed quiet and abandoned. Looking for the mechanism that drove this large tableaux, I discovered a water wheel and examined the control levers, their interactions, and I drew some in pencil. Satisfied with my observations, I was about to withdraw through a sort of breach in the wall when, to my surprise, two grenadiers marching in tandem made me tremble. I crouched down, crept along the ground, and slipped noiselessly under the barrier. After a dash of about 100 paces I encountered a man who was walking along carrying a book in his hand. - "Sir!" I said to him, "Tell me why there are sentinels guarding an abandoned playground while there isn't a single serviceman on the palace grounds!" - "Oh, the sentinels you saw, sir, are just mechanical figures which march, cross themselves and turn around when the machine is in operation. All visitors are deceived just as you were!"

It is from Lunéville that I got the idea to make moving tableux using weights, and I believe that I made a fair imitation of the gardens of Lunéville in a room of mechanical figures which I offered to madam Thélusson. I made a second one, a little more complicated, which was on display at Guise, Saint Quentin, and in St. Germain. It was no small difficulty for a student of mechanics to place on a flight of steps, drawn in bas relief, a poor urchin ringing a bell; having a door open to bring out an old woman who makes a sign with her hand that she has nothing; and to open a window to show a drunkard drinking straight from a crock. Well, I made it using an indented wheel! I always believed that with enough patience and tenancity, ideas can be brought to perfection. With good taste and imagination we can make whatever we want come true. A thousand people born with


genius ability may produce nothing because they are not enterprising or persistent. "Begin!" I say to young people, "Having determination and a willingness to experiment will give you the means to do things which you didn't think yourself capable of."

My Natural History Collection

An old painter who had been a pupil of Oudry was a close friend of mine in Autun. I liked art very much and even made some successful attempts at painting, but it was my friend Charton who established my interest in this area. Under his guidance I copied four of his best paintings, two of which were good enough to adorn the dining room of monsieur Necker, France's popular Minister of Finance. Two others were of value to my brother since they were turned into many pounds worth of pension which he enjoyed for 5 years. Here are the circumstances of this particular event.

One of my friends had several boxes filled with artifacts to build an exhibit of natural history. "Give me," he says to me, "the two pictures you painted, and I will give you my entire collection. You have the time to arrange it into an exhibit, but I don't." I took him up on his offer and the exchange was made in the field.

I knew the prior of the Carthusian monks of Beaune very well, a man who had a magnificent collection of natural history. He had good relations with all the Carthusian monks who mentioned to him about my good fortune. So he said to me, "I shall give you many artifacts and even some very beautiful ones, if you will undertake to build me a moving tableaux. I am often alone and at least this kind of company is permitted!" Immediately I had the idea to build him a church scene. "You will command the exercise of vespers with your hand; I shall imitate the genuflections; a Carthusian monk will sound bells..." - "Why not!" - "May I include women?" - "Yes, farming folk." - "Great! I promise you a water mill, a miller's house, washerwomen, a cow being milked, and a small threshing machine behind the door of the miller." - "Excellentissime!" A while later I brought him my miniature mechanical creation. - "Now it's my turn," he says. "Do you have an inventory of your natural history artifacts?" - "Yes,


here it is." - "That's fine! You will not get anything that's worthless." Then with inventory in hand he carefully began filling a barrel with madrepores, stalactites, fongites, corals, shells, ores, animal skeletons, exotic plants, etc. - "You can now boast that you have a very fine collection!" I made a present of this collection to my brother who, in turn, sold it to an abbey at Prémontrés for 400 pounds of pension which would be paid to him regularly with a deduction of one third going to the government. I saw my friend Charton every day and we eventually took lodgings together, but his untimely death ended that arrangement.

The Feet of Saint Nicholas

Here is an incident I witnessed that occurred to him involving the kind of stupidity which was unique to his trade. A farmer from Morvand came to Charton to order a picture of a saint for his parish. - "Do you want the saint with feet or only half?" - "What is the difference?" - "With feet, the painting will cost you double; half, the head will be larger." - "In that case, monsieur, paint half." So he made the half picture using only half as much paint. The farmer then returned at the appointed time, sees the painting, seems satisfied, and then says, "When will it be finished? The saint has no feet. I asked you to put feet on him." - "It's ready the way it is, my friend. Take it with you." - "But it's not finished. There are no feet. I asked you to put feet on the saint." - "Nonsense. The figure is only half because that's what you ordered!" - "Monsieur, Saint Nicholas had feet, and it's entirely up to you to make sure that he has them!" Then I knocked down a table and put myself behind it. - "My friend, I too have feet but they are hidden behind this table." - "But those of Saint Nicholas are next to a wall!" - "O.K., monsieur, kindly make some feet for the gentleman and I will pay for the alterations." Charton then took his palette and rapidly made some adjustments. When he was finished the saint was wearing bishop's slippers. - "Here are your feet, my friend." - "Ah, I knew that you could do it, monsieur."


The farmer paid generously and left happy because St. Nicholas now had feet.

"Well!" Charton says to me, "What do you think of a painter's life? This kind of thing happens to me every day. Yesterday a beautiful woman wanted me to paint her all in white, in a pink colour with no shadows... You laugh... You are right, but how can I laugh when my livelihood depends on satisfying such ignorance??"

My Success as a Copy Artist

My successes in painting gave me a certain reputation. Finding myself in Dijon on a Good Friday, Monsieur Devorges, professor of the academy of painting, invited me to arrange a model who would pose as Christ. This model was a former soldier whose body and members were in perfect proportion. - "Do you want him dead or alive?" - "Dead." Then I had him stretch out his arms and drop his head. My arrangement, thought to be good and well considered, was copied by the pupils. I had brought along a "Léda and the Swan", made for Monsieur Maret, secretary of the academy. Professor Devosges thought it was very good. I know that it still exists and I dare say it occupies a distinguished place.

I copied paintings with a precision that wage-earning copyists could not have done without the risk of starving to death. Whereas theirs was only a facsimile, I wanted to create a likeness so much like the original that it would deceive at least the greater number of connoisseurs because their true aptitude is rare. Here is an example which illustrates the exactness of my copies.

A man named Duplessis, formerly an art dealer, arrived at Autun claiming to be a painter. I invited him to have dinner with my friend Charton, who handed him a beautiful golden snuffbox with a picture of a church engraved on it. He suggested that he use it as a model to make a painting. This he did, making a signboard for beer of the most pathetic sort. The truth is, not knowing how to either draw or paint, he was a critic who understood the style more than the touch of the great masters, and in that he was good.


Maurice Quentin de Latour

The head of the court (parlement) of Dijon, monsieur J … had been painted by the famous Maurice Quentin de Latour. One of his married daughters in Autun wished to have a copy of this portrait. I was asked to make the copy and I lent myself to the task with as much zeal as pleasure - a portrait of Latour in pastel! Having access to the original was a treasure for me. At first, I broke all the rules by tracing the outlines, but this precaution was done out of respect because it enabled me to get everything in its proper place. My copy surpassed my expectations; indeed I did not stop working on an area without having compared it ten times with the original from far, close and half distances.

The lady for whom I worked had a brother who was an officer of the guards. He came to ask me if I would be willing to make a second copy. - "I am," he says to me, "in the neighborhood of Chambertin." - "That neighbourhood, sir, could damage one's desire; I suggest that you get away from there." He understood me.

So as not to put the original portrait by Latour out in the open, I worked from my copy and returned to the original only in the last session to add the final touches of expression and effects.

I was near my window when I saw coming at a distance my 'painter' with the young friend from whom I had received my natural history collection. The idea came to me to place the original portrait by Quentin Latour on my easel, and my copy in the frame. When they arrived, I pretended to be working on the wig and velvet costume without, however, actually touching it. - "Greetings, master artist!" says the painter. "Here is the Latour! I find that you copy it very well, but not knowing the grounds that Latour used, you will have difficulty in painting the same is the magic of his painting." - "Sir, I'm not boasting (showing him 'my work'), but I believe I can do it as well as he did." - "Ha! Ha! Ha! In that case, sir, your fortune is assured. Why not leave now and paint the potentates of Europe?" - "Sir, a good copyist


is not a man of genius. Copying from nature and copying a picture is not the same thing. Here the effects have already been worked out, and I don't have to imagine anything. But on the other hand, you happen to be a bad judge. The picture on which I pretended to be working is in fact the work of Latour while the one you thought was my model is mine." The painter suddenly got furious and railed at me. I ushered him out the door and he went on to Beaune and Dijon where he spread the word that I was the bane of all artists. My notoriety did not prevent my little test from being published there, however, and many were the gleeful people who sided with me.

(Note: A contemporary of de la Tour was the excellent Swiss pastel artist, Jean-Etienne Liotard, whose son (also named Jean-Etienne) happened to marry the grand-daughter of Wigbold Crommelin, Governor-General of Surinam.)

The Villainous Valet

About this time messrs de Lagacherie and Charrette de Lacolmière, members of the court of Rennes, were exiled to Autun. I saw them very often. Monsieur de Lagacherie was an educated and kind individual. When the weather was nice he would come looking for me to go, he said, 'and inhale the air of the Phoenicians who left Marseille, the Gauls, and the Romans', and he always took notes.

One day a masked ball took place. I dressed as a gentleman of good adventure and paid my due respect to the ladies. Here is a verse I crafted about monsieur de Lagacherie who came to mind when I had to think of a serious affair:

There was an enlightened magistrate, and an unfortunate citizen
One who had the interest of the people at heart, and an innocent victim,
By an abuse of justice the man was found guilty of a crime.
Now to clear up the anguish in your soul,
Your dead man deserves pity;
Benefactor of your homeland,
Justice is rendered by your virtue
And one finds in you the soul of law.

Fortunately, I was masked and the criminal lieutenant wasn't able to discover who wrote it.

As the same caterer served both of us, monsieur de Lagacherie and me, his valet named St-Martin often brought me my dinner. In doing so, he eventually came to know that I had the management of a considerable amount of money. This man got a chambermaid pregnant, got married, and decided not to follow his boss to Rennes when his exile had been lifted.


Now this man definitely wanted to serve me instead. He had become very friendly, and his dress and mannerisms were proper. A fortunate coincidence then occurred which required that I obtain leave to go and spend some months with my wife in Saint Quentin. - "St-Martin," I said to him, "now is not a good time to take you into my service, but I intend to find a place for you." Indeed, with my recommendation he entered the household of monsieur d'Alinvilliers, brother-in-law of monsieur de Marbeuf, bishop of Autun.

This monsieur d'Alinvilliers (if I'm not mistaken) lived in St-Germain, and this city was thrown into an uproar when St-Martin murdered the cook of the house for a mere thirty francs. The execution of this murder was diabolical. The monster had attached a razor to his comb to secure it. Then, having put it in one sleeve, he slashed the throat of the cook with a swipe of his arm while his victim was having a drink. Originally the man's intention was to enter into my service and murder me in my sleep. He would then rob me and flee to the mountains of Switzerland by way of Franche-Comte. This incident and ten others like it discouraged me from ever taking in servants during those dangerous days when they were definitely not our best friends. Of twenty victims in the French revolution, nineteen had been informed upon by their domestic help.

My Music Teacher, Rameau's Brother

The music master of the cathedral, a very skillful composer, had a charming wife who was full of kindness, but everything she did was amusing. One day he came to offer me lessons in music composition if I in turn would give his wife some lessons in natural history and philosophy since she had a great interest in philosophers. I thought this was a splendid idea, but seeing that she was already much stronger and more advanced than I was in natural history, I gave up my title as a private tutor and became simply the pupil of her husband. Eventually I played the violin, the bass, guitar, clarinet, and I sang well, but I was not a musician, because


music is a science based on calculations quite as exacting as those of mathematics, something which artists and performers generally ignore.

The organist at Autun was the brother of the famous Rameau. Nature had endowed the younger Rameau richly but also had not completely neglected his elder brother. He had a lot of talent and understood the theory of harmony very well. The melodies are his, but the brilliant emphases by the bass below the melody line are those of his brother.

This Rameau taught me first that sound is a simple thing. It consists of harmonics in which their uniqueness are not in the quinte and tierce, but in the twelfth and seventeenth diminutive. On the organ he showed me the subtle differences in sound caused by the middle, the seventeenth, ground, and twelfth and he also had me distinguish these same harmonics on a contra-bassoon.

I have seen people who didn't give it any consideration. I have also known people for whom harmony is nothing but noise, but my observation is that these people generally have very big ears.

This theory of sound led me to those who wrote on the subject and I began to understand it clearly. When Rameau died, my new instructor in composition was sent back by his chapter and I lost sight of this genre. I did, however, compose a contata and several other pieces which I am not ashamed of because the faults were corrected.

My Attempt at Sculpture

Having been born active and industrious, I needed another outlet for my creativity and fate presented it to me when I was prompted by my friends to create a miniature bust of myself. On the appointed day, the instructor made a mass representing the shoulders, breast, and a cut-out for the neck. Above this he placed a ball on which he marked the places of the forehead, the eyes, nose, mouth and chin. All put together this became an imperfect preliminary sketch.


One could see what it was to become, but no detail had been added. The next day the modeller fell ill and when he recovered I happened to be absent. In short, he left and I was left with a mass of clay which even broke at times because I lacked a white binder.

One day while looking at myself in a mirror, it occurred to me that I could indeed model my own head, so why not give it a try. The clay was dry so I made it moldable with wet strokes. I then set to work in a place where nobody could surprise me. The modeller had left me his tools which were only pieces of flat, sharp, and rounded-off wood. When I dug too deeply I would simply replace some of the clay, and when I missed the parallel lines, I retraced my steps.

After a week of experimentation, I succeeded in making the forehead and hair of the bust. I used a compass to ensure that my proportions were accurate. Twenty times I spoiled the eyes and twenty times I began them again, always placing them a shade lower than the time before. Each time I noticed the error only when they were finished. I was about to give up on my enterprise when the idea came to me to take a plaster model of my face and to copy my eyes by using a compass to correct my facial proportions.

And so I finished my forehead and my eyes. As for the nose I made myself into a duck and snub-nosed, etc. From tucked-up, I passed to acquiline, and from acquiline to a sharp nose depending on how much or how little clay I applied. I laughed like a fool at my results and only laughter can be of help in times of despair. Finally I was satisfied with my nose and the rest was done with the same kind of patience. I succeeded in connecting the flat areas and muscles with a wet paintbrush. This work lasted more than six months, but I was totally engrossed in the project and I admit that my audacity amazes me every day. - "You are a sculptor, then?" one says to me. - "No. An artist does not grope or hesitate as I do. He has developed a means of execution which enables him to achieve the desired result by the shortest route possible." - "Oh, you are multi-talented!" - "Not at all. Before starting on this project I knew absolutely nothing about it." - "But this


is your work..." - "It is simply a labour of patience. Here is my portrait; it is a good likeness and I recognize it, but I had to redo it a hundred times. If I were an artist, I would be able to get at the truth right off and not have to agonize over how to fix it." The fact is, there is a middle ground of knowledge which exists somewhere between knowing too much about something and knowing nothing at all about it.

I rather believe that if fate had placed me on a big theater, or if I had amassed a large fortune, some influential people would have curbed my roaming imagination or caused me to focus on one particular talent. That would be a mistake, but perhaps if I had become more specialized I would not have remained in a mediocre class. Some say I had the right attitude. Still, criticism is cheap, and the one who accuses me of mediocrity perhaps has ten times more talent without ever having produced anything.

A Regional Gun Tournament

At Autun I was a major in a company of well-respected arquebusiers. One could not be admitted without exhibiting an honest and free manner. The one who brought down (shot) the bird, enjoyed the privileges of nobility during the year, and anyone who had shot the bird in three successive years held these same privileges for life, and his widow after him. This individual was also called an 'emperor'. We had three such 'emperors' in our company.

Most of the cities of Burgundy had the same kind of establishments and it was always an august ceremony when these companies competed for a general prize put up alternately by different cities. For a long time only Beaunne was in charge of this spectacle which profited nicely by this annual event. Here is an idea of what took place there.

After a mandatory convocation, the day for the meeting was decided upon. The men of Beaunne then erected huge tents along the roads. These tents were stuffed with cold meats, fruits and refreshments in great profusion. Every company had its own stopping place and the hospitality there was exercised with utmost kindness and friendship.

Two guides conducted new-comers to


their designated places according to their number, and immediately two baskets each containing one hundred bottles of the best wine were presented by the municipality and their colleagues along with an appeal to come back for re-stocking should there not be enough. The day following the arrival was dedicated to rest.

The next day an assembly took place in the room of Arquebuse where there was deliberation on the rank of the thirty or forty companies present there. Then the assembly left for mass at St. Esprit. The streets were jammed and each corps had the music of a regiment at its head. (We had that of the dragoons of Beaufremont, and it was excellent.) The weather was beautiful, all the intersections were filled with beautiful ladies, and we held the point of our swords low to salute them. After the mass we mutually invited one another to have dinner. One barracks was set aside for the main officials who presided and handed out the honors.

The first shot, named 'the shot of honor', was fired by the young prince of Montbarré whose father was a Minister of War. Although the ball had not struck the target, the scorekeeper marked him down as having hit on the black, which was only right, because the prince was a generous man.

The prizes consisted of pieces of money. Macon won the first one by a bull's eye which was considered a lucky shot. My company won the second and several others. The next day the prizes were handed out and it was another holiday.

My Involvement in Freemasonry

The Freemasons of Beaune wanted to welcome their arquebusier brothers, and on this day the investiture of the young prince of Montbarry into the masonic order was also held. I shall omit why I was asked to make the speeches and similarly an explanation of the masonic symbols. I always regarded masonry as a sublime thing but not something for one of limited vision.

[Isaac's participation in Freemasonry]

While most people see only three lines in a triangle, I see a general lesson there. All that exists


is divisible by three. Space has only three dimensions; time has three connections; in morality there are three kinds of love. All the arts are subordinated to this number: music has only three agreements; in painting there are three primary colours and three things to be observed, etc. etc. Consider the triangle of Platon to which he relates all things. Even in making a speech one needs an introduction, a body of information and a closing summary. Meanwhile the ideas of an architect working on the plan of a building is guided by its usage, its construction, and its ornamentation. If you want to arrange an exhibit of natural history, there are only three kingdoms [animal, mineral, vegetable]. I shall not give further examples, but one could make a career in reflecting about this sort of thing. These examples strike me personally and I mention them only to say that hieroglyphs can speak to the heart as clearly as sentences. This gathering was of value to me in the making of pleasant new acquaintances.

The assembly was majestic. Everyone was allowed to see us at table and the throng of spectators was great. I admit that our apparel and ornaments, some of which were very ornate, gave us a very impressive air.

[Note: On the internet some useful critiques of freemasonry may be found at:
Probe Ministries and C.R.I.]

The expense made by the city of Beaune was recovered by the grantings of circumstance; by the money which the visitors left behind, and by a considerable number of commissions. This little city was made popular by Colbert's famous tournaments of Louis XIV.

A Sleepwalking Abbott

I was then delegated to go to Lyon for things of interest to my company. Here is a very peculiar incident which occurred to me on this journey in which diligence played an important part. A young, kind-hearted abbot was to return to Lyon, and to make the journey more pleasant we decided to travel together. Upon arriving at Macon he suggested that we take a double room. I agreed to that, but around midnight I heard a shout in the room crying "Murder! Thief!". I sprang from my bed, seized my sword, and was immediately choked by a man wearing


pyjamas. I called for help and people came from everywhere carrying lamps. They beheld two men (one with a sword in hand) being throttled by another. Suddenly my companion woke up, hesitates, and says, "What's going on? Where am I? ... Oh my God! I dreamt that I was being attacked by thieves!" - "My goodness," I said to him, "Monsieur, you are very lucky. I came so close to drilling you with my sword when you grabbed me by the throat!" - "It is you, sir," said two officers to me, "who had the greater escape because at first glance your sword gave us the impression that you were the culprit!" Then they spoke gravely to the young abbott saying that if he was in the habit of sleepwalking, he'd better take a single room in the future!

Counselling a Troubled Nun

A little while later another extraordinary event happened to me. I happened to meet two very pleasant nuns whose convent was some distance away. One day I received a secretive letter from them which started me on a journey to meet with them. I arrived at the designated location at the appointed hour (which was around midnight) for some very important business. I had to organize my time carefully because I had to travel more than ten leagues to make this rendezvous. So I arrive, a door opens, and I see three nun's habits. - "So what is the problem, ladies?" - There was a long pause which caused me to get angry. Then when I turned around as though I was about to return home again, one spoke. "Well!" says a nun whom I recognized. "Here we have our friend who has been thinking only of committing suicide all week. We spoke to her about you and we are counting on the advice of an educated and sensitive man. Please talk to her." From her I learned that she had obtained permission to go home to her family where, in a moment of weakness, a military cousin took her and got her pregnant. - "Well! I can put her in the care of a midwife or..." - "That's not the problem. It is worse!" - "I think I understand. The monster had you perform an atrocity (abortion)!" - "Yes." - "Be calm, madam. Write down your situation in a letter without omitting anything and seal it. I shall be the intermediary of a correspondence which you shall have with


a saintly man, while remaining incognito." The matter took place and took less than a month to resolve. I count this deed as one of my most heartwarming actions.

A Precocious Actor

I made a journey to Châlons-sur-Saône at the time of a horse fair which attracted a lot of people. I was admitted on behalf of a comedy company. A kind man had a charming and precocious nine-year-old son. The ladies there having tired of his questions finally asked the boy to perform a little comedy sketch for them. So the child marches to the back of the theatre and comes out dressed like a devil. Walking to the front of the stage, he turns around, blows a fart and walks off again. Horrified, the father obliges him to go out and apologize to the ladies. - "Ladies, is the devil an actor?" - "Yes." - "Is the devil allowed to fart once in a while?" - "Yes, yes." - "Didn't I play the devil just now?" - "Yes." - "Then please tell my father that I played my role very well."