Alphonse Daudet.

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JUNJ9 1973 J2J2/Ci>

uf- U S- C ^ Paria

"Little What's-His-Name is going to drink
some toasts."

AND 31 E 31 O I E S OF





Copyright, 1809,
]U' Little, Brown, and Company.

All rights reserved.

(SlnibErsilD ^9rtss:

JoiiM Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A.


Little Whaf s 'His-Name {Le Petit Chose') Daudet's
first published, though not his first written, novel,
appeared in 1868, but had been begun in Provence
shortly after the death of the Due de Morny in
1865 had released him from his slight political ties.
The first and better part was composed in that
Southern France it describes so charmingly; the
second part was completed in Paris, The whole
book seems to bear the impress of the circum-
stances under which it was written. It ends with a
happy marriage, and Daudet had just found a
nobly sympathetic helpmeet. It is full of the milk
of human kindness, and its author had had little but
generous treatment since the favor of the Empress
Eugenie had secured him his political sinecure.
Its first chapters form one of the most touching of
autobiographies, and his recent residence in Prov-
ence had freshened Daudet's recollections of his
childhood. Finally Daudet, although then turning
his attention to the drama, had not left his poetry
far behind and was doing admirable work in short
stories; hence it is not surprising to find that Le
Petit Chose is steeped in a poetic atmosphere

viii Jntroduction,

and is obviously the work of a writer not yet used
to elaborating his materials. He afterwards ex-
pressed the wish that he had not made such early
use of his youthful experiences, on the ground
that something very good could have been made
of them ; but it is questionable whether his in-
creased skill as a writer would have compensated
for that blurring of the memory from which not
even great novelists are surely exempt.

However this may be, it is quite clear that
when he wrote Le Petit Chose in his early man-
hood, he succeeded in producing one of the most
delightfully idyllic of his works, one that will
probably continue to be read as long as any of
the more powerful novels of his prime. It is
much to his credit as a man and a writer that
the misfortunes France underwent in 1 870-1871
should have turned Little What's- His-Name into
a great novelist; but it will perhaps seem to some
people more to his credit that his youthful vicissi-
tudes and his precarious health should have left
his exquisite nature as untouched as it appears
to be in the first half of his poetical autobiog-
raphy. Hence it seems unlikely that the Daudet
of the Nabab will ever inflict upon the Daudet
of Le Petit Chose the fate that the Daudet of
the early poems has already undergone.

But what introduction does such a simple, idyllic
story need besides the easily followed injunction —
Read and enjoy! Scarcely any, unless we wish to

Introduction. ix

enjoy it as we do a good old comedy ; in which
case we should be somewhat at a loss if we did
not encounter an encomiastic prologue written by
an admirer of the dramatist. In those days, how-
ever, the prologue was in verse and the comedy
generally in prose ; with Le Petit Chose the
homely prose will be found inevitably in the in-
troduction, not in the charming book itself.

Yet perhaps there is after all something that
must be said to the English reader. Daudet's
story has two parts, and it would be a great mis-
take to suppose that the second by itself merits
the praise that has just been given. It is a pretty,
sentimental romance that ought to suit the good
people who can still cry over the pathetic scenes
of Daudet's English counterpart, Dickens; but it
is surely little more. The motherly care of the
elder brother for the younger, the perfect and at
times stupid selfishness of the latter, the rustic
kindness and simplicity of Pierrotte, — these are
not new or strong elements of fiction, although
they are by no means so despicable as some thor-
ough-going realists would have us believe. There
is sentiment as well as sentimentality in Dickens
and in the Daudet of the second part of Z^ Petit
Chose ; but it is also true that both writers were
capable of much higher work. The yielding to
the impulse to sentimentalize, however much
temporary popularity it may secure, rarely helps
a novelist to live. If Goldsmith had not been able

X Introduction.

to depict a noble character, it is very doubtful
whether The Vicar of Wakefield would now be
included among the English classics read in
schools. Then, too, the writer who sentimen-
talizes, time and again loses his opportunity to do
really effective work on subjects of the greatest
interest. For example, Daudet has to tell in his
second part of the struggles of an idealistic young
poet in the selfish, devouring whirlpool of Paris.
How does he do it? Would any competent critic
set his descriptions beside any of the correspond-
ing pictures Balzac has painted ? Or, to descend
to a minute detail, will any one contend that the
excellent Abb6 Germane, so strongly outlined in
the first part of Le Petit Chose, is not blurred
when he is momentarily introduced in the second?
And finally does not Le Petit Chose himself cease
to interest us in a manner that cannot be ac-
counted for entirely by his highly developed
selfishness — a selfishness, by the way, not suffi-
ciently brought into play perhaps, in the first
part? But to what are these defects due — should
the reader admit them to be defects — if not to
Daudet's access of sentimentalism, when he turned
aside from his own experiences and began to
weave a romance?

But ah ! that wonderful first part ! Does it not
reproach us for the hard things we are saying
about the second? Not only is it precious to
every lover of Daudet because of the invaluable

Introduction. xi

light it throws upon his early years ; but it is one
of the most perfect representations in literature of
childhood's hopes and fears and of youth's aspi-
rations and defeats. It is perfect because it is
real. The little Robinson Crusoe of the unused
silk factory at Nimes with his red-headed Friday,
Rouget, and his parrot ; the ever-weeping Jacques ;
the cockroaches that swarmed in the wretched
apartments at Lyons ; the scene of the broken
pitcher, with M. Eyssette's unending refrain,
"Jacques, tu es un ane ! " — these things will never
fade from the reader's mind because the author
has seen them, heard them, lived them. They
are the things that Jacques and Daniel laughed
over when they lay in bed that first night in the
attic near Saint Germain-des-Pres, and tried in
vain to close their eyes ; they are the things that
still keep a reader from laying the book down.
Mr. Walter Pater's admirers grow eloquent over
his subtle delineation of the ways of childhood in
The Child in the House ; but the lover of Daudet
will neither argue nor declaim in behalf of his
favorite — will only re-read with increased delight
the first pages of Le Petit Chose. Perhaps he
would do the same thing if one praised in his
presence Dickens's semi-autobiographic David

Nor is it different when Le Petit Chose leaves
the fast breaking up home at Lyons and begins
life as an usher in the school at Alais. The suffer-

xli hitroduction.

ings of the poor pion are our sufferings far more
than the miseries of the disappointed poet and low
comedian are our miseries. We too stand some-
what in dread of M. Viot and his keys, we too
wonder what Little Black Eyes makes of life, we
too have confidence in the rugged, uncouth Abb6
Germane. We should have liked to sit with the
tiny scholars in order to hear Le Petit Chose tell
them stories ; we are glad to find him repentant
toward Bamban ; we take his part in the famous
" Affaire Boucoyran." Finally we sympathize
much more with him when he has his first attack
of typhoid fever than when he has his second ;
and we are surprised to find how much we also are
affected by the sight of the swinging ring with the
loop-knot attached made of a violet necktie. Yet
after all there is no reason to be surprised, for the
writer of these fascinating pages had obeyed to the
letter the precept of Sir Philip Sidney's muse, he
had looked in his heart and written.

If now the practical reader should ask, " Has
Daudet's description of his life as an usher at
Alais produced the good effects upon French
schools that Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby is held
to have produced on English boarding schools?"
one would probably be forced to answer in the
negative, in spite of the recent discontent with
their schools that has been manifested by some
distinguished Frenchmen. The French are too
great slaves to system, to be as easily affected as

Introduction, xiii

the English by a book; and, in any case, Daudet
was hardly in 1868 the author to stir them deeply.
He is much more of an idyllist than Dickens ever
was, and if we wish to find a counterpart in his
works to the Dotheboys Hall of Dickens, we must
turn to the powerful pages in which the " QEuvre
de Bethldem" (the Orphanage of Bethlehem) is
described in the eighth chapter of the Nabab or
to the still more powerful description of the Mon-
roval School in Jack. In the earlier work Le
Petit Chose, though a great sufferer, is also a
dreamer, yet by no means such a dreamer as
Balzac described in his own autobiographic Louis
Lambert. It is just as well that Daudet was him-
self, not Dickens or Balzac, for he was thus enabled
to give us as pathetic a school idyl as can be
found in literature.

But he has given us something more, not merely
in his first part but in his entire story. He has
given us a reply that ought to be final, but seem-
ingly has, not been — to the very silly but often
repeated statement that French home life is in-
ferior in point of tender intimacy to English — a
statement which is nearly always based upon a
philological argument drawn from the use of
" chez soi" and " foyer" as synonyms for " home."
It may be safely contended on the other hand that
if tender domesticity exists anywhere in the world,
it is in France, and that the novels of Daudet, Bal-
zac and others bear out the contention. The

xiv Introductio7i.

observations of intelligent travellers also bear it
out; but Le Petit Chose shall suffice for us.
Where in English or American literature will one
find a story that is fuller of the sentiment that
"there's no place like home?" It is the dream
of the brave Jacques's heart to gather the scattered
family again under one roof. Inspired by this
holy purpose, he ceases to weep, stops breaking
pitchers and justifying his father in his oppro-
brious refrain, goes to Paris, works day and night,
and lays by a large portion of his scanty salary —
" pour reconstruire le foyer." Would he have
been any braver, nobler, or truer a lad had he been
named James and had he said to himself, "I'll
buy the old home back?" And even the selfish
Petit Chose feels the flame of this sacred duty
kindle within his heart. When he sees his mother
condemned to be a dependant upon the bounty of
silly old Uncle Baptiste, he too swears " two or
three times very solemnly to conduct himself
henceforward like a man and no longer to think of
anything but re-establishing ihe foyer^ Poor Petit
Chose! His resolutions are not carried out; but
doubtless they were strong enough to make him
forget for a while that he had nothing better with
which to pace the streets of Paris than a pair of
gum-shoes ! And even after his selfishness has
hastened the death of the good Jacques, his joy at
awaking out of his fever in Pierrotte's house with
Blue Eyes near by, is tenfold enhanced by the

Introduction. xv

discovery that the blind mother has escaped from
Uncle Baptiste's and will become the most honored
inmate of the foyer that will soon be inaugurated.
No ideas of home ! why the little idyl fairly
breathes them on almost every page ; even if it
does close without making proper provision for
the return from his peregrinations of " that Wan-
dering Jew of Viniculture," that unfortunate com-
mercial traveller, M. Eyssette, the father.

But not only is Le Petit Chose an idyl of
hearth and home even though its scene is often
laid in a garret ; it is also as pure a story as one
can well find in any literature. Daudet shows in
it that it is perfectly possible to write even of
Bohemian Paris without laying exclusive stress on
its seamy side. If throughout his work he had
shut his eyes to this side he would have fallen, of
course, into many of the banalities of his English
contemporaries; but there was time enough be-
fore him for Jack and Sapho, and it is a source
of profit to himself and his readers that he should
have felt the inclination to give his idyl a perfectly
pure, clean setting. He could succeed well enough
in his purpose of deterring ambitious young pro-
vincials from coming to Paris to publish poems on
blue butterflies, without becoming a Virgil to con-
duct them through the Inferno of the great capital.
Yet it must not be forgotten that he accomplished
all this at the loss, as we have seen, of not a little
strength and force, even if his story remains almost

xvi hitroduciion,

without a blot save the unkind and unnecessary
slur upon one of the truest and greatest of modern
poets, Leconte de Lisle, author of that Bhagavat
at which Little What's-His-Name made merry, not
perhaps without an appreciable touch of jealousy.
But it is time to conclude, although it is difficult
to forbear calling attention to many a delightful
feature of the story and of Daudet's way of writing
it. Certainly as a specimen of what one may per-
haps call intimate, confidential prose, it can have
few rivals. Some of the touches simply demand
quotation — as for example the description of the
fate of the old family servant Annou who sickened
in the foggy air of Lyons and had to be forcibly sent
home to her beloved Midi, where "elle s'y maria
de desespoir." Or, again, what more touching than
the account of how the little Daniel, having tarried
after school to play a game of prisoner's base
{barres) returned home to find his mother gone to
the bedside of his brother the Abb6, how Petit
Chose in his despair kept exclaiming to himself —
" Never, no never will I play any more prisoner's
base when I get out of school." There are dozens
of such passages and scenes, and the man who
could write them was certain to do powerful work
when once his spirit should be awakened by the
strenuous events of life. In Le Petit Chose, it is
necessary to repeat, we have the idyllic element ever
present, even \t^hen Daudet is holding most closely
to the facts of his sad early experience. But the

Introduction. xvii

idyllic and the tragic do not often mix well, and yet
the great complex life of modern times requires in
part the tragic treatment, Daudet was not able to
give this on any considerable scale in 1868; hence
the description of the fate of the struggling young
poet who sold only one copy of his poems — not
an exaggerated incident, by the way, for there is
a similar English case well authenticated — would
be almost amusing but for the sentimental, not
tragic interest given to the unselfish death of la
mere Jacques. But while some of us may amuse
ourselves by wondering what sort of a story Dau-
det would have made, had he told it himself, in-
stead of using Daniel as a spokesman, and ended it
with a real suicide in the old gymnasium at Alais,
the majority of readers will do well not to be
hypercritical about sentimentalism or any other
faults to be found in this work of a writer not yet
thirty, and to enjoy to the full one of the purest
and most exquisite stories of youthful experience
to be found in French or in any other literature.




Introduction vii

i^art ©ne.

I. The Factory i

II. The Cockroaches 13

III. He is Dead: Pray for Him! 24

IV. The Red Copybook 31

V. Earning a Living 46

VI. The Juniors 60

VII. The Under-Master 72

VIII. The Black Eyes ' . 84

IX. The Boucoyran Affair 97

X. Evil Days 109

XI. My Good Friend the Fencing-Master ... 114

XII. The Iron Ring 126

XIII. M. Viot's Keys 141

XIV. My Uncle Baptiste 147

Part STfajo.

I. My India-Rubbers 151

II. Sent by the Cur6 of Saint-Nizier 157

III. Mother Jacques 169

IV. The Discussion of the Budget 173

V. The White Cuckoo and the Lady of the First

Floor 185

VI. The Romance of Pierrotte 195

VII. The Red Rose and the Black Eyes .... 212

XX Contents.


"VIII. A Reading at the Passage du Saumon . . . 225

IX. You Must Sell China 244

X. Irma Borel 259

XL The Sugar Heart 270

XII. Tolocototignan '. 285

XIII. The Escape 297

XIV. The Dream 310

XV. The Dream 323

XVI. The End of the Dream . 334


Prom Drawings by H. Laurent-Desrousseaux.

" ' Little-What's-his-Name is going to drink some

toasts ' " Frontispiece

'• In the Arbor" 128

" Irma Borel and ' Little-What s-his-Name ' " ... 287




I WAS born on the 13th of May, 18 — , in a town of
Languedoc, where, as in all Southern towns, there
is a great deal of sunshine, not a little dust, a Cap
melite convent, and a few Roman remains.

My father, M. Eyssette, who was at this time
engaged in the silk industry, had, at the gates of
the city, a large factory, in a part of which he had
built himself a commodious dwelling-house shaded
by plane-trees, and separated from the work-rooms
by a large garden. It was there that I came into
the world, and passed the first, the only happy
years of my life. So it is that my grateful memory
has kept an imperishable remembrance of the gar-
den, the factory and the plane-trees; and when,
after the ruin of my parents, it became necessary
to leave these things, I really regretted them as if
they had been human beings.

I must say, in the first place, that my birth
brought no good luck to the Eyssette household.

2 Little What 's- His- Name.

Old Annou, our cook, has often told me since, how
my father, then on a journey, received simultane-
ously the news of my appearance in this world,
and that of the disappearance of one of his cus-
tomers from Marseilles, who had gone off with
more than forty thousand francs of his : so that M,
Eyssette, pleased and pained at the same time, was
naturally in doubt whether to weep over the dis-
appearance of the customer from Marseilles, or to
smile at the happy arrival of little Daniel. — You
should have wept my dear M, Eyssette, you should
have wept doubly.

It is true that I was my parents' unlucky star.
From the very day of my birth, incredible misfor-
tunes assailed them from all quarters. First, there
was the customer from Marseilles, then two fires
in one year, then the strike among the warpers,
then our quarrel with my Uncle Baptiste, next a
very costly lawsuit with our color-merchants, and,
finally, the Revolution of i8 — , which gave us the
finishing stroke.

From this moment the factory was crippled ;
little by little the work-rooms became deserted ;
every week one more loom put by, every month
one stamping-table the less. It was sad to see the
life leaving our house, as if it were a sick body,
slowly, a little day by day. At one time we
stopped using the second story, and at another
the back courtyard was given up. This lasted for
two years ; for two years the factory was dying.
At last, one day, the workmen did not come ; the
factory bell did not ring, the wheel of the well

The Factory. 3

stopped squeaking, the water of the large pool in
which the fabrics were washed remained motion-
less, and soon in the whole factory there were
left only M. and Mme. Eyssette, old Annou, my
brother Jacques and I ; and away in the farther
corner, the porter Colombe who remained to take
care of the work-rooms, and his son little Rouget.

It was all over, we were ruined,

I was then six or seven years old. As I was
very frail and sickly, my parents had not been will-
ing to send me to school. My mother had taught
me only how to read and write, and in addition, a
few words of Spanish and two or three airs on the
guitar, by the aid of which I had acquired in my
family the reputation of a little prodigy. Thanks
to this system of education, I never went away
from home, and was a witness of the death of the
house of Eyssette in all its details. I confess I was
left unmoved by the spectacle ; I found even that
our ruin had its pleasant side, since I could frolic
all over the factory at my own sweet will, and this
I had been able to do only on Sunday when the
workmen were there. I said gravely to little

" Now the factory is mine ; they have given it to
me to play in." And little Rouget believed me.
He believed in all I told him, little fool.

At home, however, everybody did not take our
downfall so easily. All at once, M. Eyssette be-
came very ill-tempered ; his disposition was habit-
ually irritable and fiery in the extreme ; he loved
shouting, violence and fury; but at the bottom he

4 Little What 's-His-Name.

was an excellent man, except that his hand was
quick to strike, his voice loud, and that he felt an
imperious need of making all those about him
tremble. Ill fortune, instead of depressing him,
incensed him. From morning till night, he was
in a fearful rage, and, not knowing whom to attack,
found fault with everything, with the sun, the mis-
tral, Jacques, old Annou, and the Revolution, oh !
above all, the Revolution ! To hear my father,
you would have sworn that this Revolution of i8 —
which had brought us to grief, was specially di-
rected against us. So I beg you to believe that
the Revolutionists were not in the odor of sanc-
tity in the Eyssette household, God knows what
we said of those gentlemen at that time. Even
now, when old Papa Eyssette (whom God preserve
to us) feels an attack of gout coming on, he stretches
himself painfully on his sofa, and we hear him say-
ing ! " Oh ! those Revolutionists ! "

At the time I am speaking of, M, Eyssette had no
gout, and the sorrow of finding himself ruined had
made him a terrible man whom nobody dared ap-
proach. He had to be bled once a week. Every-
body about him was silent ; we were afraid of him,
and at table we asked for bread in a low voice. We
did not dare even cry in his presence ; therefore, as
soon as he had turned his back, there was but one
sob from one end of the house to the other; my
mother, old Annou, my brother Jacques, and my
eldest brother, the Abbe, when he came to see us,
all took part in it. My mother, of course, cried
because she saw M. Eyssette unhappy ; the Abb^

The Factory. 5

and old Annou cried because they saw Mme.
Eyssette cry; as to Jacques, who was still too
young to understand our misfortunes, — he was
hardly two years older than I was, — he cried out
of necessity, for the pleasure of it.

My brother Jacques was a strange child ; he
had the gift of tears. As far back as I remember,
I can see him with red eyes and streaming cheeks.
Morning, noon and night, at school, at home and
out walking, he cried without ceasing, he cried
everywhere. When anybody asked him : " What
is the matter?" he answered sobbing: "Nothing
is the matter; " and the most curious part of it is
that there was nothing the matter. He cried just
as people blow their nose, only oftener, that is all.
Sometimes M. Eyssette was exasperated, and said
to my mother: "That child is absurd; look at
him ! He is a river." Then Mme. Eyssette would
answer in her sweet voice : " What can you expect,
my dear? He will get over it as he grows up; at
his age I was like him." In the meantime Jacques
grew ; he grew a great deal even, yet he did not
get over it. On the contrary, the capacity this
singular child had for shedding torrents of tears
without any reason, increased daily, and so it was
that the wretchedness of our parents was great
good fortune to him. Once for all, he gave him-
self over to sobbing at his ease for whole days
without anybody's asking him what the matter

In short, for Jacques as well as for me, our ruin
had its pleasant side.

6 Little What 's- His- Name.

As to me, I was very happy. Nobody paid any
more attention to me and I profited by this to play
all day with Rouget in the empty work-rooms,
where our steps echoed as if in a church, and in

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