At the age of nineteen he left Geneva for Paris, to study law, and his poverty was such that he was obliged to seek employment. M. Stopper, an old minister of the Helvetic confederation, took him as a tutor for his children. His pride rebelled against his situation, for the children of the minister were spoiled, and whenever he went into the street they made him stop before every confectioner’s shop to satisfy their depraved appetites. This he refused to do, and the children made loud complaints, the result of which was, that Guizot left his place, declaring that it was not his mission to buy candies for the minister’s children! In endeavoring to teach these children the grammar of their language, M. Guizot made a Dictionary of Synonymes, which he sold to a bookseller for a reasonable price. This was his first attempt at authorship. He made the acquaintance of M. Luard, who was the chief censor of new books, before whom his little dictionary came. M. Luard discovering in the young Guizot great talents and capacity, prevailed upon him to give up writing of synonymes, and devote himself to more honorable and lucrative labors.
Recommended by his friend, he wrote for nearly all the public journals in turn, giving them specimens of his cold, unimpassioned style, which was never after changed. He wrote himself upon his paper, and like himself was his style—cold and dignified. But his style had admirers, though not many readers. He was accorded genius and an exalted intellect, but he was not loved. His first books were the Annals of Education, Lives of the French Poets of the Age of Louis XIV., and a translation of Gibbon’s Fall of the Roman Empire. These volumes were noticed in a flattering manner by all scholars and critics, and the young author very soon occupied a high position in Paris. After this he did not seem to succeed, and he wrote a couple of pamphlets upon the condition of French literature and fine arts. He failed as a critic, and was appointed to the chair of modern history in the university. His political fortunes now commenced. His manners, his dress, which was severe in style, and his pale face, all combined to make him for the time a lion, and he drew crowds to his lectures. This was in 1812. M. Guizot was one of the first to foresee and prepare for the restoration.
M. Guizot met in society a Mademoiselle Meulan, a literary woman of note, and fancied her. She was utterly poor, and during a severe fit of illness he wrote articles which she signed, and thus earned enough for her support. When she had recovered, she gave him her heart and hand in marriage, though she had not a sou of dowry. She was older than he, but was a woman of many virtues. Madame Guizot was an intimate friend of the Abbe Montesquieu, who was the principal secret agent of Louis XVIII. As soon as Guizot was married, he was let into these secrets, and became private secretary to the abbe.