At the age of sixteen, one evening at the opera, he had had the
honor to be stared at through opera-glasses by two beauties at the
same time--ripe and celebrated beauties then, and sung by Voltaire,
the Camargo and the Salle. Caught between two fires, he had beaten
a heroic retreat towards a little dancer, a young girl named Nahenry,
who was sixteen like himself, obscure as a cat, and with whom he was
in love. He abounded in memories. He was accustomed to exclaim:
"How pretty she was--that Guimard-Guimardini-Guimardinette, the
last time I saw her at Longchamps, her hair curled in sustained
sentiments, with her come-and-see of turquoises, her gown of the
color of persons newly arrived, and her little agitation muff!"
He had worn in his young manhood a waistcoat of Nain-Londrin,
which he was fond of talking about effusively. "I was dressed
like a Turk of the Levant Levantin," said he. Madame de Boufflers,
having seen him by chance when he was twenty, had described him as "a
charming fool." He was horrified by all the names which he saw
in politics and in power, regarding them as vulgar and bourgeois.
He read the journals, the newspapers, the gazettes as he said,
stifling outbursts of laughter the while. "Oh!" he said,
"what people these are! Corbiere! Humann! Casimir Perier!
There's a minister for you! I can imagine this in a journal:
`M. Gillenorman, minister!' that would be a farce. Well! They are so
stupid that it would pass"; he merrily called everything by its name,
whether decent or indecent, and did not restrain himself in the least
before ladies. He uttered coarse speeches, obscenities, and filth
with a certain tranquillity and lack of astonishment which was elegant.
It was in keeping with the unceremoniousness of his century.
It is to be noted that the age of periphrase in verse was the age
of crudities in prose. His god-father had predicted that he
would turn out a man of genius, and had bestowed on him these two
significant names: Luc-Esprit.