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Gustave Dore
by [?]

The next morning, when his father and brother were ready to go to visit the Polytechnique, Gustave pleaded illness and was allowed to lie abed. But no sooner was he alone than he seized pencil and paper and began to make pictures illustrating “The Labors of Hercules.”

In two hours he had half a dozen pictures done, and fearing the return of his father he hurried with his pictures to Monsieur Philipon, director of the “Journal pour Rire.” He shouldered past the attendants, pushed his way into the office of the great man, and spreading his pictures out on the desk cried, “Look here, sir! that is the way ‘The Labors of Hercules’ should be illustrated!”

It was the action of one absorbed and lost in an idea. Had he taken thought he would have hesitated, been abashed, self-conscious–and probably been repulsed by the flunkies–before seeing Monsieur Philipon. It was all the sublime effrontery and conceit–or naturalness, if you please–of a country bumpkin who did not know his place.

Philipon glanced at the pictures and then looked at the boy. Then he looked at the pictures. He called to another man in an adjoining room and they both looked at the pictures. Then they consulted in an undertone. It was suggested that the boy draw another illustration right there and then. They wished to make sure that he himself did the work, and they wanted to see how long it took.

Gustave sat down and drew another picture.

Philipon refused to let the lad leave the office, and dispatched a messenger for his father. When the father arrived, a contract was drawn up and signed, whereby it was provided that the “infant” should remain with Philipon for three years, on a yearly salary of five thousand francs, with the proviso that the lad should attend the school, Lycee Charlemagne, for four hours every day.

Thus, while yet a child, without discipline or the friendly instruction that wisdom might have lent, he was launched on the tossing tide of commercial life.

His “Hercules” was immediately published and made a most decided hit–a palpable hit. Paris wanted more, and Philipon wished to supply the demand. The new artist’s pictures in the “Journal pour Rire” boomed the circulation, and more illustrations were in demand. Philipon suggested that the four hours a day at school was unnecessary–Gustave knew more already than the teachers.

Gustave agreed with him, and his pay was doubled. More work rushed in, and Gustave illustrated serial after serial with ease and surety, giving to every picture a wildness and weirdness and awful comicality. The work was unlike anything ever before seen in Paris: every one was saying, “What next!” and to add to the interest, Philipon, from time to time, wrote articles for various publications concerning “the child illustrator” and “the artistic prodigy of the ‘Journal pour Rire.'”

With such an entree into life, how was it possible that he should ever become a master? His advantages were his disadvantages, and all his faults sprang naturally as a result of his marvelous genius. He was the victim of facility.

Everything in this world happens because something else has happened before. Had the thing that happened first been different, the thing that followed would not be what it is.

Had Gustave Dore entered the art world of Paris in the conventional way, the master might have toned down his exuberance, taught him reserve, and gradually led him along until his tastes were formed and character developed. And then, when he had found his gait and come to know his strength, the name of Paul Gustave Dore might have stood out alone as a bright star in the firmament–the one truly great modern.

Or, on the other hand, would the ossified discipline and set rules of a school have shamed him into smirking mediocrity and reduced his native genius to neutral salts?

Who will be presumptuous enough to say what would have occurred had not this happened and that first taken place?