I recall another anecdote concerning the young son of the Emperor, which was related to me by his Majesty himself one evening when I was undressing him as usual, and at which the Emperor laughed most heartily. “You would not believe,” said he, “the singular reward my son desired of his governess for being good. Would she not allow him to go and wade in the mud?” This was, true, and proves, it seems to me, that the greatness which surrounds the cradle of princes cannot eradicate from their minds the singular caprices of childhood.
All the world is familiar with the name of the Abbe Geoffroy of satirical memory, who drove the most popular actors and authors of the time to desperation. This pitiless Aristarchus must have been most ardently enamored of this disagreeable profession; for he sometimes endangered thereby, not his life, which many persons would have desired earnestly perhaps, but at any rate his health and his repose. It is well, doubtless, to attack those who can reply with the pen, as then the consequences of the encounter do not reach beyond the ridicule which is often the portion of both adversaries. But Abbe Geoffroy fulfilled only one of the two conditions by virtue of which one can criticise,—he had much bitterness in his pen, but he was not a man of the sword; and every one knows that there are persons whom it is necessary to attack with both these weapons.
An actor whom Geoffroy had not exactly flattered in his criticisms decided to avenge himself in a piquant style, and one at which he could laugh long and loud. One evening, foreseeing what would appear in the journal of the next day, he could think of nothing better than to carry off Geoffroy as he was returning from the theater, and conduct him with bandaged eyes to a house where a schoolboy’s punishment would be inflicted on this man who considered himself a master in the art of writing.
This plan was carried out. Just as the abbe regained his lodging, rubbing his hands perhaps as he thought of some fine point for tomorrow’s paper, three or four vigorous fellows seized him, and conveyed him without a word to the place of punishment; and some time later that evening, the abbe, well flogged, opened his eyes in the middle of the street, to find himself alone far from his dwelling. The Emperor, when told of this ludicrous affair, was not at all amused, but, on the contrary, became very angry, and said that if he knew the authors of this outrage, he would have them punished. “When a man attacks with the pen,” he added, “he should be answered with the same weapon.” The truth is also that the Emperor was much attached to M. Geoffroy, whose writings he did not wish submitted to censure like those of other journalist. It was said in Paris that this predilection of a great man for a caustic critic came from the fact that these contributions to the Journal of the Empire, which attracted much attention at this period, were a useful diversion to the minds of the capital. I know nothing positively in regard to this; but when I reflect on the character of the Emperor, who wished no one to occupy themselves with his political affairs, these opinions seem to me not devoid of foundation.