JEANNOT AND COLIN
Many persons, worthy of credit, have seen Jeannot
and Colin at school in the town of Issoire, in
Auvergne, France, -- a town famous all over the
world for its college and its caldrons.
Jeannot was the son of a dealer in mules of great
reputation; and Colin owed his birth to a good
substantial farmer in the neighborhood, who
cultivated the land with four mules; and who,
after he had paid all taxes and duties at the
rate of a sol per pound, was not very rich at the
Jeannot and Colin were very handsome, considering
they were natives of Auvergne: they dearly loved
each other. They had many enjoyments in common,
and certain little adventures of such a nature
as men always recollect with pleasure when they
afterwards meet in the world.
Their studies were nearly finished, when a tailor
brought Jeannot a velvet suit of three colors,
with a waistcoat from Lyons, which was extremely
well fancied. With these came a letter addressed
to Monsieur de la Jeannotiere.
Colin admired the coat, and was not at all jealous;
but Jeannot assumed an air of superiority, which
gave Colin some uneasiness. From that moment
Jeannot abandoned his studies; he contemplated
himself in a glass, and despised all mankind.
Soon after, a valet-de-chambre arrived post-haste,
and brought a second letter to the Marquis de la
Jeannotiere; it was an order from his father, who
desired the young marquis to repair immediately
to Paris. Jeannot got into his chaise, giving his
hand to Colin with a smile, which denoted the
superiority of a patron. Colin felt his littleness,
and wept. Jeannot departed in all the pomp of
Such readers as take a pleasure in being instructed
should be informed that Monsieur Jeannot the father,
had, with great rapidity, acquired an immense
fortune by business. You will ask how such great
fortunes are made? My answer is, by luck. Monsieur
Jeannot had a good person, so had his wife; and
she had still some freshness remaining. They went
to Paris on account of a law-suit, which ruined
them; when fortune, which raises and depresses
men at her pleasure, presented them to the wife
of an undertaker belonging to one of the hospitals
for the army. This undertaker, a man of great
talents, might make it his boast, that he had
buried more soldiers in a year than cannons
destroy in ten. Jeannot pleased the wife; the
wife of Jeannot interested the undertaker.
Jeannot was employed in the undertaker's business;
this introduced him to other business. When our
boat runs with wind and stream, we have nothing
to do but let it sail on. We then make an immense
fortune with ease. The poor creatures who from
the shore see you pursue your voyage with full
sail, stare with astonishment; they cannot
conceive to what you owe your success; they envy
you instinctively, and write pamphlets against
you which you never read.
This is just what happened to Jeannot the father,
who soon became Monsieur de la Jeannotiere; and
who having purchased a marquisate in six months
time, took the young marquis, his son, from school,
in order to introduce him to the polite world at
Colin, whose heart was replete with tenderness,
wrote a letter of compliments to his old companion,
and congratulated him on his good fortune. The
little marquis did not reply. Colin was so much
affected at this neglect that he was taken ill.
The father and mother immediately consigned the
young marquis to the care of a governor. This
governor, who was a man of fashion, and who
knew nothing, was not able to teach his pupil
The marquis would have had his son learn Latin;
this his lady opposed. They then referred the
matter to the judgment of an author, who had
at that time acquired great reputation by his
entertaining writings. This author was invited
to dinner. The master of the house immediately
addressed him thus:
"Sir, as you understand Latin, and are a man
acquainted with the court, -- "
"I understand Latin! I don't know one word of
it," answered the wit, "and I think myself the
better for being unacquainted with it. It is
very evident that a man speaks his own language
in greater perfection when he does not divide
his application between it and foreign languages.
Only consider our ladies; they have a much
more agreeable turn of wit than the men; their
letters are written with a hundred times the
grace of ours. This superiority they owe to
nothing else but their not understanding Latin."
"Well, was I not in the right?" said the lady.
"I would have my son prove a notable man, I
would have him succeed in the world; and you
see that if he was to understand Latin he would
be ruined. Pray, are plays and operas performed
in Latin? Do lawyers plead in Latin? Do men
court a mistress in Latin?"
The marquis, dazzled by these reasons, gave up
the point, and it was resolved, that the young
marquis should not misspend his time in endeavoring
to become acquainted with Cicero, Horace and
"Then," said the father, "what shall he learn?
For he must know something. Might not one teach
him a little geography?"
"Of what use will that be?" answered the governor.
"When the marquis goes to his estate, won't the
postillion know the roads? They certainly will
not carry him out of his way. There is no occasion
for a quadrant to travel thither; and one can
go very commodiously from Paris to Auvergne without
knowing what latitude one is in."
"You are in the right," replied the father; "but
I have heard of a science, called astronomy, if
I am not mistaken."
"Bless me!" said the governor, "do people regulate
their conduct by the influence of the stars in this
world? And must the young gentleman perplex himself
with the calculation of an eclipse, when he finds
it ready calculated to his hand in an almanac, which,
at the same time, shows him the movable feasts, the
age of the moon, and also that of all the princesses
The lady agreed perfectly with the governor; the
little marquis was transported with joy; the father
remained undetermined. "What then is my son to
learn?" said he.
"To become amiable," answered the friend who was
consulted, "and if he knows how to please, he will
know all that need be known. This art he will learn
in the company of his mother, without either he or
she being at any trouble."
The lady, upon hearing this, embraced the ignorant
flatterer, and said: "It is easy to see, sir, that
you are the wisest man in the world. My son will be
entirely indebted to you for his education. I think,
however, it would not be amiss if he was to know
something of history."
"Alas, madam, what is that good for," answered he;
"there certainly is no useful or entertaining history
but the history of the day; all ancient histories,
as one of our wits has observed, are only fables
that men have agreed to admit as true. With regard
to modern history, it is a mere chaos, a confusion
which it is impossible to make anything of. Of
what consequence is it to the young marquis, your
son, to know that Charlemagne instituted the twelve
peers of France, and that his successor stammered?"
"Admirably said," cried the governor; "the genius
of young persons is smothered under a heap of useless
knowledge; but of all sciences, the most absurd,
and that which, in my opinion, is most calculated
to stifle genius of every kind, is geometry. The
objects about which this ridiculous science is
conversant, are surfaces, lines, and points, that
have no existence in nature. By the force of
imagination, the geometrician makes a hundred
thousand curved lines pass between a circle and
a right line that touches it, when, in reality,
there is not room for a straw to pass there.
Geometry, if we consider it in its true light, is
a mere jest, and nothing more."
The marquis and his lady did not well understand
the governor's meaning, yet they were entirely of
"A man of quality, like the young marquis,"
continued he, "should not rack his brains with
useless sciences. If he should ever have occasion
for a plan of the lands of his estate, he may
have them correctly surveyed without studying
geometry. If he has a mind to trace the antiquity
of his noble family, which leads the inquirer
back to the most remote ages, he will send for
a Benedictine. It will be the same thing with
regard to all other wants. A young man of quality,
endowed with a happy genius, is neither a painter,
a musician, an architect, nor a graver; but he
makes all these arts flourish by generously
encouraging them. It is, doubtless, better to
patronize than to practice them. It is enough for
the young marquis to have a taste; it is the
business of artists to exert themselves for him;
and it is in this sense that it is said very justly
of people of quality, (I mean those who are very
rich), that they know all things without having
learnt anything; for they, in fact, come at last
to know how to judge concerning whatever they
order or pay for."
The ignorant man of fashion then spoke to this
"You have very justly observed, madam, that the
grand end which a man should have in view is to
succeed in the world. Can it possibly be said
that this success is to be obtained by cultivating
the sciences? Did anybody ever so much as think
of talking of geometry in good company? Does
anyone ever inquire of a man of the world, what
star rises with the sun? Who enquires at supper,
whether the long-haired Clodio passed the Rhine?"
"No, doubtless," cried the marchioness, whom her
charms had in some measure initiated into the
customs of the polite world; "and my son should
not extinguish his genius by the study of all this
stuff. But what is he, after all, to learn? for
it is proper that a young person of quality should
know how to shine upon an occasion, as my husband
observes. I remember to have heard a cleric say,
that the most delightful of all the sciences, is
something that begins with a B."
"With a B, madam? Is it not botany you mean?"
"No, it was not botany he spoke of; the name of
the science he mentioned began with B, and ended with on."
"Oh, I comprehend you, madam," said the man of
fashion; "it is Blason you mean. It is indeed a
profound science; but it is no longer in fashion,
since the people of quality have ceased to cause
their arms to be painted upon the doors of their
coaches. It was once the most useful thing in the
world, in a well regulated state. Besides, this
study would be endless. Now-a-days there is hardly
a barber that has not his coat of arms; and you
know that whatever becomes common is but little
In fine, after they had examined the excellencies
and defects of all the sciences, it was determined
that the young marquis should learn to dance.
Nature, which does all, had given him a talent
that quickly displayed itself surprisingly; it
was that of singing ballads agreeably. The graces
of youth, joined to this superior gift, caused
him to be looked upon as a young man of the
brightest hopes. He was admired by the women; and
having his head full of songs, he composed some
for his mistress. He stole from the song "Bacchus
and Love" in one ballad; from that of "Night and
Day" in another; from that of "Charms and Alarms"
in a third. But as there were always in his verses
some superfluous feet, or not enough, he had them
corrected for twenty louis-d'ors a song; and in
the annals of literature he was put upon a level
with the La Fares, Chaulieus, Hamiltons, Sarrazins,
The marchioness then looked upon herself as the
mother of a wit, and gave a supper to the wits
of Paris. The young man's brain was soon turned;
he acquired the art of speaking without knowing
his own meaning, and he became perfect in the
habit of being good for nothing. When his father
found he was so eloquent, he very much regretted
that his son had not learned Latin; for he would
have bought him a lucrative place among the gentry
of the long robe. The mother, who had more elevated
sentiments, undertook to procure a regiment for
her son; and in the meantime, courtship was his
occupation. Love is sometimes more expensive than
a regiment. He was very improvident, whilst his
parents exhausted their finances still more, by
A young widow of fashion, their neighbor, who had
but a moderate fortune, had an inclination to secure
the great wealth of Monsieur and Madame de la
Jeannotiere, and appropriating it to herself, by
a marriage with the young marquis. She allured him
to visit her; she admitted his addresses; she
showed that she was not indifferent to him; she
led him on by degrees; she enchanted and captivated
him without much difficulty. Sometimes she lavished
praises upon him, sometimes she gave him advice.
She became the most intimate friend of both the
father and mother.
An elderly lady, who was their neighbor, proposed
the match. The parents, dazzled by the glory of
such an alliance, accepted the proposal with joy.
They gave their only son to their intimate friend.
The young marquis was now on the point of marrying
a woman whom he adored, and by whom he was beloved;
the friends of the family congratulated them; the
marriage articles were just going to be drawn up,
whilst wedding clothes were being made for the young
couple, and their epithalamium composed.
The young marquis was one day upon his knees before
his charming mistress, whom love, esteem, and
friendship were going to make all his own. In a
tender and spirited conversation, they enjoyed a
foretaste of their coming happiness, they concerted
measures to lead a happy life. When all on a sudden
a valet-de-chambre belonging to the old marchioness,
arrived in a great fright.
"Here is sad news," said he, "Officers have removed
the effects of my master and mistress; the creditors
have seized upon all by virtue of an execution; and
I am obliged to make the best shift I can to have my
"Let's see," said the marquis, "what is this? What
can this adventure mean?"
"Go," said the widow, "go quickly, and punish those
He runs, he arrives at the house; his father is
already in prison; all the servants have fled in
different ways, each carrying off whatever he could
lay his hands upon. His mother is alone, without
assistance, without comfort, drowned in tears. She
has nothing left but the remembrance of her fortune,
of her beauty, her faults, and her extravagant
After the son had wept a long time with his mother,
he at length said to
"Let us not give ourselves up to despair. This young
widow loves me to excess; she is more generous than
rich, I can answer for her; I will go and bring her
He returns to his mistress, and finds her in company
with a very amiable young officer.
"What, is it you, M. de la Jeannotiere," said she;
"what brings you here? Is it proper to forsake your
unhappy mother in such a crisis? Go to that poor,
unfortunate woman, and tell her that I still wish
her well. I have occasion for a chamber-maid, and
will give her the preference."
"My lad," said the officer, "you are well shaped.
Enlist in my company; you may depend on good usage."
The marquis, thunderstruck, and with a heart enraged,
went in quest of his old governor, made him acquainted
with his misfortune, and asked his advice. The
governor proposed that he should become a tutor,
"Alas!" said the marquis, "I know nothing; you have
taught me nothing, and you are the first cause of
my misfortunes." He sobbed when he spoke thus.
"Write romances," said a wit who was present; "it
is an admirable resource at Paris."
The young man, in greater despair than ever, ran
to his mother's confessor. This confessor was a
Theatin of great reputation, who directed the
consciences only of women of the first rank. As
soon as he saw Jeannot, he ran up to him:
"My God, Mr. Marquis," said he, "where is your coach?
How is the good lady your mother?"
The poor unfortunate young man gave him an account
of what had befallen his family. In proportion as
he explained himself the Theatin assumed an air
more grave, more indifferent, and more defiant.
"My son," said he, "it is the will of God that
you should be reduced to this condition; riches
serve only to corrupt the heart. God, in his
great mercy, has then reduced your mother to
"Yes, sir," answered the marquis.
"So much the better," said the confessor, "her
election is the more certain."
"But father," said the marquis, "is there in
the mean time no hopes of some assistance in
"Farewell, my son," said the confessor; "a court
lady is waiting for me."
The marquis was almost ready to faint. He met with
much the same treatment from all; and acquired more
knowledge of the world in half a day than he had
previously learned in all the rest of his life.
Being quite overwhelmed with despair, he saw an
old-fashioned chaise advance, which resembled an
open wagon with leather curtains; it was followed
by four enormous carts which were loaded. In the
chaise there was a young man, dressed in the rustic
manner, whose fresh countenance was replete with
sweetness and gaiety. His wife, a little woman of
a brown complexion and an agreeable figure, though
somewhat stout, sat close by him. As the carriage
did not move on like the chaise of a petit-maitre,
the traveler had sufficient time to contemplate the
marquis, who was motionless and immersed in sorrow.
"Good God," cried he, "I think that is Jeannot."
Upon hearing this name, the marquis lifts up his
eyes, the carriage stops, and Colin cries out,
"'Tis Jeannot, 'tis Jeannot himself."
The little fat bumpkin gave but one spring from
the chaise and ran to embrace his old companion.
Jeannot recollected his friend Colin, while
his eyes were blinded with tears of shame.
"You have abandoned me," said Colin; "but, though
you are a great man, I will love you forever."
Jeannot, confused and affected, related to him
with emotion a great part of his history.
"Come to the inn where I lodge, and tell me the
rest of it," said Colin; "embrace my wife here,
and let us go and dine together." They then went
on foot, followed by their baggage.
"What is all this train," said Jeannot; "is it
"Yes," answered Colin, "it all belongs to me and
to my wife. We have just come in from the country.
I am now at the head of a large manufactory of tin
and copper. I have married the daughter of a merchant
well provided with all things necessary for the
great as well as the little. We work a great deal;
God blesses us; we have not changed our condition;
we are happy; we will assist our friend Jeannot. Be
no longer a marquis; all the grandeur in the world
is not to be compared to a good friend. You shall
return with me to the country. I will teach you the
trade; it is not very difficult; I will make you
my partner, and we will live merrily in the remote
corner where we were born."
Jeannot, quite transported, felt emotions of grief
and joy, tenderness and shame; and he said within
himself: "My fashionable friends have betrayed me,
and Colin, whom I despised, is the only one who
comes to relieve me." What instruction does not
this narrative afford!
Colin's goodness of heart caused the seeds of a
virtuous disposition, which the world had not
quite stifled in Jeannot, to revive. He was
sensible that he could not forsake his father
"We will take care of your mother," said Colin;
"and as to the good man your father, who is now
in jail, his creditors, seeing he has nothing,
will compromise matters for a trifle. I know
something of business, and will take the whole
affair upon myself."
Colin found means to procure the father's enlargement.
Jeannot returned to the country with his relatives,
who resumed their former way of life. He married a
sister of Colin, and she, being of the same temper
with her brother, made him completely happy.
Jeannot the father, Jeannote the mother, and Jeannot
the son, were thus convinced that happiness is not
the result of vanity.