“Shall I relate to you the history of that particular louis, — all the adventures it has met with, and to how many uses it has been applied?”
The writings of Madame Guizot are highly celebrated in France, and though something of this celebrity may be due to her position as the wife of an illustrious statesman and historian, it must also be remembered, that this very position was calculated to draw forth a severer criticism than would usually be passed on one less favourably circumstanced. But the works themselves have merits of far too decided an order not to command attention in any case, and they especially deserve the notice of English parents, from their entire freedom from the exaggeration of sentiment and love of effect, so often justly complained of in a certain portion of the Literature of France.
In her Tales, it has been the aim of Madame Guizot to secure the attention of her youthful readers by an attractive narrative, in which the chief personages are children like themselves, and the events and situations such as might occur in their own experience, and then to lead their minds to important conclusions by the natural course of the story, and without the repulsive intervention of mere lecturing or argumentation; and we think it will be admitted, that in the present series, she has been eminently successful. These Tales are so simple and natural, that they may be understood by even younger children than they are actually intended for, while at the same time they are so full of good sense, and touch so vividly those springs of action which influence alike both the young and the old, that many of them will be read with as much interest, and sometimes even with as much advantage, by the parent as by the child. Though perfectly unpretending in structure and language, the most fastidious taste will acknowledge them to be the productions of a highly refined and cultivated mind, while they equally display all the charms of an affectionate and parental disposition, conjoined with a lofty, though a gentle and rational morality.
It is only necessary to observe, in conclusion, that the Translator has endeavoured to preserve throughout the simplicity of style which distinguishes the original, and to convey its meaning with all the fidelity which the difference of the two idioms would permit. A few unimportant expressions have been modified or omitted as unsuitable to English taste, or likely to convey, in translation, a different impression from that actually intended, but beyond this no liberty has been taken with the text.
Ernestine was passing with her mother through the arcades of the Palais Royal, stopping at every shop, longing for all she saw, now and then sighing heavily, and at each moment making the happiness of life consist in the possession of some attractive object, the remembrance of which was effaced the moment after by some other, destined in like manner to be as speedily forgotten. She was, however, more especially interested by a toy-shop; not that Ernestine had any wish for dolls, little carts, or bureaus, in which she could not even have put her thimble, the drawers were so small: she was, indeed, too old for that, for she was already eleven; but the sight of a moving picture, in which were to be seen two men fighting, a dog turning a spit, a laundress, a paviour, and a stonecutter, inspired her with a fancy, which appeared to her much more reasonable. She stopped her mamma in order to examine it more leisurely, and her mother was kind enough to indulge her; but the picture was then motionless. Ernestine thought it would be delightful to see all those figures in action, especially the dog turning the spit, and asked if it would not be possible to beg of the shopkeeper to wind it up.
“Certainly not,” replied Madame de Cideville, “he did not place it there for the amusement of the passers-by; he would think I wished to purchase it.”
“It would surely be very dear?” said Ernestine.
“One louis,” replied the shopkeeper, who had overheard her.
“Oh! mamma,” whispered Ernestine, “how cheap!” for she had imagined that a thing so beautiful, and so ingenious, must have cost an enormous sum. “How delightful it would be,” she continued, “to obtain that for one louis!”
“There are,” said her mother, “many better ways of employing it;” and she passed on, to the great vexation of Ernestine, who wondered to herself how it could happen that her parents, who were so rich, did not think it proper to spend a louis on so charming a thing as a moving picture, in which a dog was to be seen turning a spit: for Ernestine, like all children, and upon this point she was more than usually inconsiderate even for her age, thought her parents much richer than they really were; besides, she was not aware that there is no fortune, however large, which justifies unnecessary expense. On reaching home, she spoke to her father about the picture.
“Only fancy, papa, it might have been had for one louis. Oh! how happy I should have been if I had had a louis of my own!”
“You would not surely have spent it upon that?” replied her father.
“Oh! papa, how could I have spent it on anything more delightful?”
“Doubtless,” replied M. de Cideville, “it would have been quite impossible to have found anything more delightful; but you might have found something more useful.”