Two youngsters once asked Fontenelle whether it was more
correct to say, _donnez-nous a boire_, (give us to drink), or
_apportez-nous a boire_, (bring us drink). The academician replied, "That
both were unappropriate in their mouths; and that the proper term for such
fellows as they was _menez-nous a boire_, lead us to drink."
Fontenelle was once staying with his nephew, M. Aube, and had the
une to let a spark fall upon his clothes, which set fire to the bed,
and eventually to the room. M. Aube was extremely angry with his uncle, and
shewed him what precautions he ought to have taken to prevent such an
accident. "My dear nephew," replied Fontenelle, calmly, "when I set fire to
your house again, depend upon it I will act differently."
Fontenelle, being praised for the clearness of his style on the deepest
subjects, said, "If I have any merit, it is that I have always endeavoured
to understand myself."
The conversation turning one day, in the presence of Fontenelle, on the
marks of originality in the works of Father Castel, well known to the
scientific world for his "Vrai Systeme de Physique generale de Newton;"
some person observed, "but he is mad." "I know it," returned Fontenelle,
"and I am very sorry for it, for it is a great pity. But I like him better
for being original and a little mad, than I should if he were in his senses
without being original."
Triboulet, the fool of Francis the First, was threatened with death by a
man in power, of whom he had been speaking disrespectfully; and he applied
to the king for protection. "Be satisfied," said the king: "if any man
should put you to death, I will order him to be hanged a quarter of an hour
after." "Ah, sir!" replied Triboulet, "I should be much obliged if your
majesty would order him to be hanged a quarter of an hour before!"
Dr. Gregory, professor of the practice of physic at Edinburgh, was one of
the first to enrol himself in the Royal Edinburgh Volunteers, when that
corps was raised. So anxious was he to make himself master of military
tactics, that he not only paid the most punctual attendance on all the
regimental field-days, but studied at home for several hours a day, under
the serjeant-major of the regiment. On one of these occasions the serjeant,
out of all temper at the awkwardness of his learned pupil, exclaimed in a
rage, "Why, sir, I would rather teach ten fools than one philosopher."
James I. gave all manner of liberty and encouragement to the exercise of
buffoonery, and took great delight in it himself. Happening once to bear
somewhat hard on one of his Scotch courtiers, "By my saul," returns the
peer, "he that made your majesty a king, spoiled the best fool in