**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Gustave Dore
by [?]

Surely you can not dispose of a man like this with a “bon mot”!

Comets may be good or ill, but wise men nevertheless make note of them, and the fact that they once flashed their blinding light upon us must live in the history of things that were.

* * * * *

An Alsatian by birth, and a Parisian by environment, Dore is spoken of as of the French School, but if ever an artist belonged to no “school” it was Gustave Dore.

His early years were spent in Strassburg, within the shadow of the cathedral. His father was a civil engineer–methodical, calculating, prosperous. The lad was the second of three sons: strong, bright, intelligent boys.

In his travels up and down the Rhine the father often took little Gustave with him, and the lad came to know each wild crag, and crowning fortress, and bend in the river where strong men with spears and bows and arrows used to lie in wait. In imagination Gustave repeopled the ruins and filled the weird forests with curious, haunting shapes. The Rhine reeks with history that merges off into misty song and fable; and this folklore of the storied river filled the day-dreams and night-dreams of this curious boy.

But all children have a vivid imagination, and the chief problem of modern education is how to conserve and direct it. As yet no scheme or plan or method has been devised that shows results, and the men of imagination seem to be those who have succeeded in spite of school. In Gustave Dore we have the curious spectacle of Nature keeping bright and fresh in the man all those strange conceptions of the child, and multiplying them by a man’s strength.

The wild imaginings of Gustave only served his father and mother with food for laughter; and his erratic absurdities in making pictures supplied the neighbors’ fun.

But actions that are funny in a child become disturbing in a man; he’s cute when little, but “sassy” when older.

Gustave, however, did not put away childish things. When he had reached the age of indiscretion–was fourteen, and had a frog in his throat, and was conscious of being barefoot–he still imagined things and made pictures of them. His father was distressed, and sought by bribes to get him to quit scrawling with pencil and turn his attention to logarithms and other useful things; but with only partial success.

When fifteen he accompanied his father and older brother to Paris, where the older boy was to be installed in the Ecole Polytechnique. It was the hope of the father that, once in Paris, Gustave would consent to remain with his brother, and thus, by a change of base, a reform in his tastes would come about and he would leave the Rhine with its foolish old-woman tales and cease the detestable habit of picturing them.

It was the first time Gustave had ever been to Paris–the first time he had ever visited a large city. He was fascinated, captivated, enthralled. Paris was fairyland and paradise. He announced to his father and brother that he would not return to Alsace, neither would he go to the Polytechnique. They told him he must do either one or the other; and as the father was going back home in two days, Gustave could have just forty-eight hours in which to decide his destiny.

Passing by the office of the “Journal pour Rire,” the father and son gaping in all the windows like true rustics, they saw announced an illustrated edition of “The Labors of Hercules.” Some of the illustrations were shown in the window with the hope of tempting possible buyers. Gustave looked upon these illustrations with critical eye, and his face flushed scarlet–but he said nothing.

He knew the book; aye, every tale in it, with all its possible variations, had long been to him a bit of true history. To him Hercules lived yesterday, and, confusing hearsay with memory, he was almost ready to swear that he was present and used a shovel when the strong man cleaned the Augean stables.