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Jean Paul Marat
by [?]

Jean Paul Marat was exactly five feet high, and his weight when at his best was one hundred twenty pounds–just the weight of Shakespeare. Jean Paul had a nose like the beak of a hawk, an eye like an eagle, a mouth that matched his nose, and a chin that argued trouble. Not only did he have red hair, but Carlyle refers to him as “red-headed.”

His parents were poor and obscure people, and his relationship with them seems a pure matter of accident. He was born at the village of Boudry, Switzerland, in Seventeen Hundred Forty-three. His childhood and boyhood were that of any other peasant boy born into a family where poverty held grim sway, and toil and hardship never relaxed their chilling grasp.

His education was of the chance kind–but education anyway depends upon yourself–colleges only supply a few opportunities, and it lies with the student whether he will improve them or not.

The ignorance of his parents and the squalor of his surroundings acted upon Jean Paul Marat as a spur, and from his fourteenth year the idea of cultivating his mental estate was strong upon him.

Switzerland has ever been the refuge of the man who dares to think. It was there John Calvin lived, demanding the right to his own belief, but occasionally denying others that precious privilege; a few miles away, at beautiful Coppet, resided Madame de Stael, the daughter of Necker; at Geneva, Rousseau wrote, and to name that beautiful little island in the Rhone after him was not necessary to make his fame endure; but a little way from Boudry lived Voltaire, pointing his bony finger at every hypocrite in Christendom.

But as in Greece, in her days of glory, the thinkers were few; so in Switzerland, the land of freedom, the many have been, and are, chained to superstition. Jean Paul Marat saw their pride was centered in a silver crucifix, “that keeps a man from harm”; their conscience committed to a priest; their labors for the rich; their days the same, from the rising of the sun to its going down. They did not love, and their hate was but a peevish dislike. They followed their dull routine and died the death, hopeful that they would get the reward in another world which was denied them in this.

And Jean Paul Marat grew to scorn the few who would thus enslave the many. For priest and publican he had only aversion.

Jean Paul Marat, the bantam, read Voltaire and steeped himself in Rousseau, and the desire grew strong upon him to do, to dare and to become.

Tourists had told him of England, and like all hopeful and childlike minds, he imagined the excellent to be far off, and the splendid at a distance: Great Britain was to him the Land of Promise.

In the countenance of young Marat was a strange mixture of the ludicrous and the terrible. This, with his insignificant size, and a bodily strength that was a miracle of surprise, won the admiration of an English gentleman; and when the tourist started back for Albion, the lusty dwarf rode on the box, duly articled, without consent of his parents, as a valet.

As a servant he was active, alert, intelligent, attentive. He might have held his position indefinitely, and been handed down to the next generation with the family plate, had he kept a civil tongue in his red head and not quoted Descartes and Jean Jacques.

He had ideas, and he expressed them. He was the central sun below stairs, and passed judgment upon the social order without stint, even occasionally to argufying economics with his master, the Baron, as he brushed his breech.

This Baron is known to history through two facts: first, that Jean Paul Marat brushed his breeches, and second, that he evolved a new breed of fices.

Now, the master was rich, with an entail of six thousand acres and an income of five thousand pounds, and very naturally he was surprised–amazed–to hear that any one should question the divine origin of the social order.