The man into whose care Emile was given, was a harsh man, and gave the youth no rest from his severe discipline. He allowed him none of the pastimes of other children, and under this regime he suffered. At fourteen he had bad health, and a bilious color overspread his face, which never left it. Seeing that his health was suffering, the master sent him, under the care of his brother, into Normandy. This brother was a kind old soul, and gave the boy pleasant words, and a healthy, homely fare. In the country Emile enjoyed himself heartily. He wandered among the fields, played among the animals, and slept at night upon a litter of straw, and grew well again. In his ramblings he was oftenest alone, and pondered over his wretched fortunes. At eighteen he left the country for Paris. His first care was to visit his old nurse, and try to discover the condition of his parents. She could only give him a clew, but there had been such great changes since he left Paris, that she had no idea where his father dwelt, if he was alive. Emile then went to see the old man who first had care of him—his guardian—and plied him with questions. But he was impenetrable, and would reveal nothing. More than this—he read the law respecting illegitimate children, to Emile. It was a heavy blow upon his hopes. His guardian showed him proof of his birth, and a paper which gave to him, at twenty-one, the command of a small sum of money, the interest of which had heretofore supported him. In his anger he tore up the proof of his birth. Perhaps naturally, he at once took up against the laws of marriage, and became a bitter reformer. He frequented a reading-room, where he met several literary men who were in the habit of speaking of their books with pride. Emile was excited to try his own capabilities, and soon presented to his friends the manuscript of Emile, a story, the principal parts of which were true records of his own life. The literary friends were at variance in their criticisms upon the manuscript. Some declared it worthless, and advised him to get a style, while others praised the effort. Finding no publisher, our hero learned from a court directory the secret he had struggled after so long—the address of his father—and sent to him his story, written in a manner calculated to move the paternal heart. He received no direct reply, but eight days after, he was presented with an excellent situation with the secretary of Louis XVIII. Undoubtedly he was indebted to his father’s recommendation for the place. So his story—afterward published—though it did not appear as he had intended when he wrote it, was not without its effect.
His time not being wholly occupied in the bureau, Girardin employed his spare moments in writing one or two novels, which appeared some time afterward. He has not been a voluminous author, Emile being his principal book. But his career has been that of a journalist, and though he has been everything by turns, yet he has had fame and influence.