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by [?]

Scarron, as a burlesque poet, but no other comparison exists, had his merit, but is now little read; for the uniformity of the burlesque style is as intolerable as the uniformity of the serious. From various sources we may collect some uncommon anecdotes, although he was a mere author.

His father, a counsellor, having married a second wife, the lively Scarron became the object of her hatred.

He studied, and travelled, and took the clerical tonsure; but discovered dispositions more suitable to the pleasures of his age than to the gravity of his profession. He formed an acquaintance with the wits of the times; and in the carnival of 1638 committed a youthful extravagance, for which his remaining days formed a continual punishment. He disguised himself as a savage; the singularity of a naked man attracted crowds. After having been hunted by the mob, he was forced to escape from his pursuers; and concealed himself in a marsh. A freezing cold seized him, and threw him, at the age of twenty-seven years, into a kind of palsy; a cruel disorder which tormented him all his life. “It was thus,” he says, “that pleasure deprived me suddenly of legs which had danced with elegance, and of hands, which could manage the pencil and the lute.”

Goujet, without stating this anecdote, describes his disorder as an acrid humour, distilling itself on his nerves, and baffling the skill of his physicians; the sciatica, rheumatism, in a word, a complication of maladies attacked him, sometimes successively, sometimes together, and made of our poor Abbe a sad spectacle. He thus describes himself in one of his letters; and who could be in better humour?

“I have lived to thirty: if I reach forty, I shall only add many miseries to those which I have endured these last eight or nine years. My person was well made, though short; my disorder has shortened it still more by a foot. My head is a little broad for my shape; my face is full enough for my body to appear very meagre; I have hair enough to render a wig unnecessary; I have got many white hairs, in spite of the proverb. My teeth, formerly square pearls, are now of the colour of wood, and will soon be of slate. My legs and thighs first formed an obtuse angle, afterwards an equilateral angle, and at length, an acute one. My thighs and body form another; and my head, always dropping on my breast, makes me not ill represent a Z. I have got my arms shortened as well as my legs, and my fingers as well as my arms. In a word, I am an abridgment of human miseries.”

He had the free use of nothing but his tongue and his hands; and he wrote on a portfolio placed on his knees.

Balzac said of Scarron, that he had gone further in insensibility than the Stoics, who were satisfied in appearing insensible to pain; but Scarron was gay, and amused all the world with his sufferings.

He pourtrays himself thus humorously in his address to the queen:–

Je ne regard plus qu’en bas,
Je suis torticolis, j’ai la tete penchante;
Ma mine devient si plaisante
Que quand on en riroit, je ne m’en plaindrois pas.

“I can only see under me; I am wry-necked; my head hangs down; my
appearance is so droll, that if people laugh, I shall not

He says elsewhere,
Parmi les torticolis
Je passe pour un des plus jolis.

“Among your wry-necked people I pass for one of the handsomest.”

After having suffered this distortion of shape, and these acute pains for four years, he quitted his usual residence, the quarter du Marais, for the baths of the Fauxbourg Saint Germain. He took leave of his friends, by addressing some verses to them, entitled, Adieu aux Marais; in which he describes several celebrated persons. When he was brought into the street in a chair, the pleasure of seeing himself there once more overcame the pains which the motion occasioned, and he has celebrated the transport by an ode, which has for title, “The Way from le Marais to the Fauxbourg Saint Germain.”