The critics and parodies of Moncrif’s History of Cats include:


François-Augustin Paradis de Moncrif (Attributed to Maurice Quentin de La Tour)



[Note : The title has been translated by some as Letters of a Churchgoing Rat ("Rat Calobris" rather than "Rat Calotin") . . .]

Price 8 sols.
From Ratopolis
At Maturin Lunard, printer and bookseller of the Regiment de la Calotte.

With Approbation and Favour of the Regimental General Staff.

A Rat of the Order of the Calotte
To Citron, Barbet,
On the Subject of "The History of Cats"

As Table Companion at the House where you live when you are Burgess of Paris, I take the liberty, dear Citron, to disturb the rest you enjoy in your master’s Castle in the Country. When you know the attack committed against Dogs, your most worthy Confreres, you will not be surprised that I address my complaint to the most sensible and faithful of the Barbets. Even though I once was one of the most reported Rats of the Calotte Regiment, do not believe that the observations you will read are less accurate. I am a Rat Philosopher, who has several lodgings in Paris, who sometimes rests at the Cafe de Marion, and from there I go to the very good houses, where I learn to reason and debate. I even go three times a week to the Âcadémie Françoise to learn in detail the news of the Court and the City, and from time to time to the Opera, and to the other Spectacles, where I have a frank entrance; All this formed my tastes and made me a rather charming Rat.

You must know, dear Citron, that a History of Cats has just been printed at Paris, in which Dogs are extremely badly treated. The author is far from having the due impartiality required by history; he is a Panegirist rather than a Historien nothing: he gives himself the title of the Livy of Cats, when he is only the Pliny. As for me, dear Citron, do not imagine that my pen is driven by passion, and that I follow in my reflections only the constant antipathy which has reigned between Rats and Cats since their stay in Noah’s Ark. No, only my interest in the truth animates me. Perhaps the gallant Historiographer will blush at having made himself a little censor of my kind. It must not be forgotten, however, that the most respectable writers of antiquity sometimes had to deal with Antagonists whom audacity alone, rather than equality, made them rivals. Whatever it is, to a good Cat a good Rat.
Do not expect me to load this letter with European and Asian quotations; it is not that I could not very well do so and, like our historian, borrow from science, and feast on Hebrew notes and pieces of Algebra, at the expense of whom it belonged to. What would that do? I would bore you, I would knock you out and you would not believe me any more. Perhaps even, by giving you a sample of my Arithmetic, I may be wrong in my calculation. [*]

[* 1. Lett. p. 28. note. 1. where we find a missed calculation.]

I was walking yesterday in the library of a lady of the neighborhood, who prides herself on having only learned books. A smell of new morocco attracted me and I wanted to see what it was. I found a neatly bound History of the Cats, its pages were stuck together, testifying that it had not yet been read[1], although it was a present from the Author. I opened the book - its title struck me. I had the courage to go through the Work, and I was very scandalized to meet a thousand learned quotations in a Modernist work, which clearly proved by its style, that the Author strongly esteems that of progressiveness [Neologue], and that he has the greatest taste for it. There is the lightness and the naturalness of the new Fables; but one can only look at it as an ignorant-scientific Phenomenon, tatters of Latin and Greek confused with Dissertations modeled on the designs of this glorious Reviser of Homer.

[1] Book pages were folded concertina style, not with cut pages, and it was up to the purchaser to slice apart the pages.

In truth, dear Citron, I cannot condemn too greatly the project of an Author who chooses a subject as uninteresting as Cats to entertain the public. It is true that this author cites the example of Lucien; perhaps he has his playfulness. He further cited the Poem on the War of the Rats and Frogs; perhaps he also has the sublime talent of Homer. This can be verified from the very first page of the first Letter.

I will not amuse myself, like the Author, in quoting a hundred volumes which I have never read, to answer those who are induced to aid the glory of the Cats. I will content myself with one verse of la Fontaine, which perfectly characterizes these accursed animals; it is in the Fable of the Monkey and the Cat, where it envelops them in the same definition, and says in speaking of these two domestic rascals, who were preparing to draw Chestnuts from the fire:

They saw in this the chance for double profit,
Firstly their own good, and then the harm to others,

I may pile up here a few verses of new Fables which treat them no better: but I want to quote only from books I know and have read, except that of the History of the Cats which I cannot help quoting extracts sometimes, to make my observations more palpable.

The so-called Historian thinks nothing of exalting the Pussycat Nation, when there are Dogs in the world. Has he forgotten the youth and the lightness of the Greyhounds, the sagacity of the Pointers, the kindness of the Spaniels, the goodness of the Danes, the courage of the Dogues, and finally, the fidelity and constancy of the Barbets? We could collect such illustrious and interesting facts if we considered composing the Annals of Dogs! The merit of the Dogs does not resemble that of the Cats; he shines in places other than attics. Go and see the most august Monuments, the Tombs of Kings and Heroes and you will see the Statues of the Dogs, symbols of the most pleasing virtues. The Cats with their cunning tricks and dangerous claws could only decently appear at the Mausoleum of a Procurator or Clerk

Yet their Panegirist thinks he has established their excellence, by reviving the ridiculous worship which was affected to them by the Egyptians; but he has so much desire to display his erudition, that he displaces it, and it goes against his intentions. He degrades his idols in trying to raise them up. Does it really do honour to the Cat God to the God Cat, to mention him at the same time as Pet, the God of Farts?

It is not only by looking for titles in Antiquity that the Author makes contradictory reports. He falls into such a trap by quoting a single Modernist; it is Monsieur de F. . ., whose praise is judiciously mingled with that of the Cats. We read in the first letter with which he commences his History [Lett. 1, Pag. 7], that Monsieur de F... "Confessed that he was raised to believe, that on the eve of St. John there was not a single Cat in the Cities, because they went on that day to a general Sabbat;[2] what a glory for them!" (the ingenious Flatterer adds) "And how satisfying it is for us, to think that one of M. de F. . .'s first steps in the path of Philosophy was to rid himself of a false prejudice against Cats and to cherish them!

[2] Cats were burned on that day.

In the seventh letter he stated that Monfieur de F. . ., "said a few days ago, that as a child he had a Cat, which amused him greatly.” Here is the consequence of this confession; a consequence that you will not guess, though it seems very natural in the eyes of the Author, "It is that in childhood the taste for cats can be regarded as presaging higher merits," (p. 102.) So when we speak to you about a celebrated Captain, a profound Politician, or rather when we speak to you about a triple Academician, Poet, Erudite and Algebrist, we boldly conclude that he loved the Cats from the time he wore a bib; and when you see a child having this noble inclination, we say there is nothing to fear, he will one day make at least an elegant Clerk of the Mathematical Tribunal.

Let us return to the Author and what he has to say of Monsieur de F... because we still have in this narration an omen of his rare talents, which have been forgotten; "in the other games that Monsieur de F. . . invented as a child, he pretended to make speeches which he composed on the spot." This parenthetically invincibly demonstrates that he must one day become a great speaker, and speak regularly in the Academies; this is the forgotten omen that I promised you, an omen that has been all too well justified by the playful collection of fueneral Oraisons printed by Brunet. "Not getting the attention of the other children who had to listen to him, and unwilling to do without an audience, he took his cat and placed it in an armchair, and made it a Spectator, etc." [The Author no doubt meant Listener, but perhaps he meant some ingenious malice in the term Spectator?] But the Cat ran away etc. In truth, that was a bad omen, and if M. de F. . . had been at all superstitious, he would never have become mixed up in anything other than compiling observations on Physics.

I am skipping over the rest of this, although it is serious and conclusive for the Cats. What I propose is enough to form a very embarrassing question. I am very sorry to know how Monsieur de F. . ., who had been raised to believe the Cats were invited to the Sabbat, was able to choose them to be the Spectators of his eloquence, which would one day celebrate so nicely the Algebrists and Physicians [Physicists]. In what time did this graceful Philosopher take his first steps on the path of Philosophy? How did he become acquainted with those Actors of the Sabbat and how could he have done this without undoing the prejudice, instilled in him while he was still in short trousers, and, although a child, be unsophisticated enough to lecture his Cat? The author will no doubt explain this difficulty in his second edition; for though his work does not take a rigorous approach, it does not prevent it from being reviewed and corrected. For the rest we are very obliged to him for the anecdotes of the Life of the Illustrious Monsieur of F ... May he give us others along those lines. We do not doubt that, if they anything like that one, they were unlikely to restore his glory. It is apparently for this reason that he consented to be so well celebrated in the History of Cats, for I suppose that the name of such a great man, an intimate friend of the Author, was not there without his consent. People with a more delicate decorum were a little scandalized. For me, I rejoiced, consequently at the eulogy of our Harlequin Signor Tomasini, deemed worthy by the Author to be the Priest of the Cat God.

The consequences that the Author derives from the Divinity of Egyptian Cats are also contradicted by himself. He reports that in the time of the Gods’ stay on the banks of the Nile, where they all changed their shapes to avoid the anger of the Giants, chaste Diana took the figure of a cute She-cat. [Lett. 1. Pag. 12] "Are we not very reasonable," says the author "to find a relationship between Diana and her metamorphosis, and to conclude that the Egyptians had only imagined it because they knew She-cats had decent qualities appropriate to the priests of this Goddess?”

This is what he gallantly presented in the first Letter, in which he sets up all the She-cats in as many Lucreces, but in the fifth Letter he quoted the words of Aristotle, who did not expect the honourable mention made of him in a most Modern Work. Listen to the dethroned prince of Philosophers when he says [Lett. 5. Pag. 82] "She-cats, being more temperamental than Toms, far from having the strength to hold their austerity any longer, are eternal flirts – shameless, incautious, immodest, to the point of violence, if the Tom’s ardour seems to be failing." Does not this passage, which has been invoked in the case of rebuttal, seem very favourable to our Dianas of the drainpipes, and isn’t the author a man of substance?

With regard to drainpipes, the dogmatic Author proposes they be substituted for Colleges and Academies; that's where he claims that [Lett. 6. Pag. 86] "it is on the roof-gutters that we would do well to go for education; it is there that we should find admirable examples of activity, of modesty, of noble emulation, and a hatred for sloth. When Hannibal, not allowing himself to rest, incessantly watched Scipio in order to find a favourable chance to conquer him, what model had he before his eyes? He was watching his enemy like a Cat watches a Mouse." What nobility, pleasure and justice brought together this admirable comparison! Isn’t Hannibal well represented by a big Rominagrobis [Tomcat], and Scipio, the great Scipio, that wise and brave Roman General, the terror of the Carthaginians, isn’t he a hundred times better represented by a little trembling runaway Mouse?

What the Author does well is his desire to be pleasant does not detract from his soundness. He is by no means the same, and his sadly bantering style almost never dies. With what force of logic does he prove the admirable superiority of Cats over men in the way in which they envision mutilation [castration]? A generous Tomcat, deprived of the hope of perpetuating his race, keenly feels the affront he has received, and for the rest of his life he resigns himself to a profound sadness: an Italian castrato singer, on the other hand, proudly survives his disgrace and far from blushing at his fate, he cuts out the importance of the fop, and he even boldly plays that part of a man lucky with women.

But since we are talking about Musicians, it would not be out of place to teach you that the Author is quite entertaining in the Chapter about Musical Cats. He equates these charming Tomcats with Nightingales: "the Egyptians admitted Cats to feasts where they delighted everyone present with their charming voices." They were the Thévenards and the Mureres. The Lullis and the Campras[3] of that time did not compose Music which approached that of the Cats. What a misfortune that their songs are nowadays no more flattering than those of the Swans so improperly boasted about by ancient Poets! But can’t we find something of their songs in our Cantatas, and don’t some of the new Composers of Operas seem to have been led by their Cats in their recitative?

[3: Gabriel-Vincent Thévenard - a French operatic baritone; Madame Murere – French theatrical singer; Giovanni Battista Lulli/Jean-Baptiste Lully – Italian-born French composer; André Campra was a French composer and conductor. Swans, which generally honk, were supposed to sing beautifully before they died.]

It is said that such a music was worthy of Scanderberg, in an Opera which was being prepared, but which has lately been rejected, and of which we may say in advance, as in the modern Iliad:

Die, your Name is your Judgment.

I will not dwell further on the contrariness of facts and reasonings which is found in the History of Cats; I will not remind you either of all the Proverbs inferred therein. If this Book is so rare in your Province in Paris, you can look for these Proverbs in the Dictionary compiled by Richelet, and that of the Academy, where they are placed in the same order and with the same grace. In spite of these defects, the History of the Cats has five or six Adherents in the world. The famous Poûmons have brazenly advocated it in the Cafes, and even I know that in good Company it has been praised twice; the first was in the spirit of contradiction, and the second, by acknowledgment. For myself, who thinks like the Public, and who is not celebrated in the Work, I cannot praise the learned Apologist of Kitties; I cannot suffer insipid trifles, frivolous banter, and fictions that lack allusion, that lack morals, and lack salt.

If, among the Cats, he has found himself a Marlamain, worthy of amusing an illustrious Princess, this does not authorize a writer to indiscriminately praise all the cats of the universe, and to drive his pen to the Indies [write at such length]. A Cat made to be loved, is a Phoenix that proves nothing in favour of other Cats. I flatter myself, dear Citron, that some lover of the Canine People will respond to the immoderate praises of the Cat Republic. But if this just Defender of your illustrious species wants to be heard, he must wait until the History of Cats charges a little, for I don’t know how it has been done, but so far I am assured that the small number of copies that have been read have cost the public nothing. May the ignorance of the century flare up well on this occasion! Can we so strongly neglect a work stuffed with science, one where erudition is sown with so much prodigality, that we could say it flows from its source, and that the Author has expended it. I strongly believe that our very illustrious Calotte Regiment, which honours merits independent of vulgar prejudices, will liberally reward the Author, and his zeal and shining eloquence, by pleading the cause of the Cats, and will incessantly register next to Pantalon-Phoebus in the Tableau illuminating the Lawyers of Paradoxical Causes, until he is judged worthy to be the brother of Messire Christophie Mathanasius, a new member of a body as illustrious as heterogeneous .

I will finish by telling the story of what I heard these days say, passing by a learned Misanthrope in a loft, where I occasionally make selfless visits to him.

"Is it not a pitiful thing," said he, "to see a man of good intellect, capable of good studies, lose five or six years in compiling, from Greek and Latin authors, all that could have been said good and bad; of true and fake, about Cats?

"If the prodigious erudition scattered in the book in question is not borrowed, it must have cost him at least a considerable time. For the sake of his honour, I still prefer to say that he worked on collections and on a jumble, that some Pedant communicated to him. It is his desire to make a Book, and not just a simple Brochure, on this miserable subject that has led him to insert in his Work so much childishness on the account of Monsieur de Fontenelle; the base, flat and gross scene of Sieur Hotereau; the foolish and extravagant tale of Patripatan (which, however, a learned and judicious character of this time has told him) the silly and impertinent relationship of the Pigs' concert: that host of low Proverbs that he gives us for beautiful Sentences; those rude details of a lascivious banter about what is going on in the roof-gutters between She-cats and Tomcats all mixed with a pretty pedantry which is not at all original, and which appears to have been stolen from the working men’s Hero of the Alleys. It is obvious at least that it is this mad desire to publish a book of nothing, which has made him gather together in his work so many Pieces known to everyone, such as the delicate Verses of Monsieur de Fontenelle about Brunettes, and all the Pieces of Madame des Houllieres, about Grisette and Tata that makes up a good part of the Book.

"If the author were a scholar like myself, he might be forgiven for two or three dozen barbarisms and Solecisms against the French language, in which he seems too little versed to get involved in writing, but without going into each detail of these solecisms, I ask him what it wants to say at playing with such frights, that’s to say, to pretend to be afraid. What German, or what impertinent noblewoman has ever spoken so? Won’t you stop bombarding us with jargon, and wanting to set yourself up as a great wit with your bizarre and senseless language?”

Decide for yourself, dear Barbet, if I were happy with this hypercritical speech? What will become of me, and all the other Rats who love books, (we call ourselves Rat Bibliophiles) if the Booksellers did not care to supply us from time to time with the Books of this genre? Because you know that it is for us that these Books are printed, and for our subsistence that they decay in Booksellers’ shops, or in the Cabinets of the fools that buy them. I hope that the History of Cats, which was at first as expensive as Bread in 1725, and which has now become very cheap thanks to the goodwill of the public, will always give me an excellent meal. What a pleasure for a Rat to eat "Cats"! Farewell, dear Barbet, I have other ridiculous news to impart to you, but I dare not write it to you and I beg you not to publish my Letter. The Community of Cats, which has credit with those in Power, and which is cunning and vindictive, would make a cruel war against me.

It is said that a Publisher at the Quai des Augustins, prints the History of the Monkeys and Guenons, that a young bookseller of the Rue S. Jacques prints that of the Cockerels, another prints that of the Asses, and yet another that of the Owls. I want to compose that of the Rats


Moncrif's reception speech as delivered by a cat. - was written under the pseudonym Sgr. Raminagrobis by Pierre-Charles Roy (1683 – 1764)
A very learned and sublime harangue meowed by Sgr. Raminagrobis December 29, 1733, day of his reception at the French Academy, in the place of M ...
At Chatou, at Minet's, at the cat who writes.

Letter from M. le chevalier De ... to Madame la Marquise De ...

Finally, Madame, the serious author of The Cats was received last week at the French Academy; he had ruined this honour last year, and he must remember a couplet of which I remember only these verses:

" [Who at home must have their tread
They have rats,] they have rats,
They need someone to catch them;
They will choose the author of the Cats. "

But, O prodigy of gratitude! On the day of his installation, and a moment before he began his speech of thanks, a tomcat, no doubt a deputy of the Cat people, who had stuffed himself into a lantern where the ladies are placed, repeatedly applauded the glory of his panegyrist, by meowing and rolling, which made the whole assembly laugh.

I have the honor, etc.


I will come out of here carrying the cat, that is to say, without speaking, and without thanking you for the unexpected honour I receive today, if an old custom established among you does not loosen my tongue, and did not force me to drink like all my predecessors in the long river of Ennui, a truly academic river, and swelled with praises accumulated for nearly a century. But what shall I say, gentlemen, I ask you of yourselves? I could speak in verse or prose, you admit it is true I do both; but the choice is embarrassing: a cat who, on one side, sees in its propriety a mouse, and on the other a piece of something soft, is a hundred times less perplexed than me; we must, however, decide, this introduction is already too long: let us enter into the matter at random.

What have I done, gentlemen, to deserve the place you have elevated me to today? A cantor like me, whose Parnassus is the roof-gutter; a poor Egyptian priest: the Homer of cats, in a word, should he have expected that? No, no doubt, gentlemen; and it is a literary phenomenon that can hardly be explained. I believe, however, to discover the secret springs which have moved you in my favour; and I can say without vanity that I discern the views you have; in granting me so distinguished a grace, you intend to teach me; I will enter into these views, I doubt it not, Gentlemen. And since you want to initiate me to your mysteries, I will not miss one of your scientists’ sabbats. Under cats like you, subtle, alert, clear seeing, supple and dainty, I will make a charming novitiate. Like an obedient Barbet [hound], I will follow you everywhere on the highest roofs, and in the deepest cellars of philosophy; in the most well-stocked larder of literature, and finally in the kitchens of the fattest literary letters; for these are your houses of pleasure, where you treat with little expense all those who have the happiness to be admitted there. I will do more. Gentlemen, I will learn under you how to bare the greatest fangs, and at the same time garnish them with pretty fugitive pieces, and fine neologies, and to make my profit according to the custom established among the modern Grippiminis.

Are you praised enough, gentlemen, it is up to you to say, you who know so well the proper measure of praise, and who keep the precious standard in the rich treasure of your harangues? You are blushing! I see that the dose of incense is quite strong, and that you are almost happy with your praise: let us pass then to that of our illustrious founder.

What a Cat, Gentlemen, what a master cat is this great Cardinal! A Cat terrible to the rats of the state, that is to say, to our enemies; a sweet and beneficent cat towards tame mice, that is to say for scientists; a cat finer than a fox, more clear-seeing than a lynx, more vigilant than a cock, more cautious than a snake, and more active than a squirrel. A Cat, who, far from lending his paw to draw the chestnuts from the fire – to be made a cat’s paw - , was adroitly shooting them at so many others; cat who has never been awakened with impunity; a cat who, with a stroke of his claw, made more surprising things than Master Aymard with his wand; a cat who, to get to the cheese, never ran over foreign roofs, and always shut up in his paternal gutter; cat to say everything at last who did not fear the water. We have lost this wonderful cat, gentlemen, we have lost it, too soon for its own utility, for ours in particular, and for that of all France in general; the grief of his loss could only be softened by the rare qualities of the great man who succeeded him.

This cat, gentlemen, stuffed, not with malice, but with candour, fairness, and knowledge, was, I dare say, at the stove and at the pen, constantly on the watch in the avenues of the park of Themis; he strangled mercilessly all the destructive rats, intruding into this sacred wood, by injustice or chicanery. The laws beneath him were nothing but spider webs, the largest flies caught themselves like the smallest gnats. Very different from this idle emperor who was making a vain amusement of catching these inconvenient insects, this sensible cat was watching for them, taking them, eating them. But why, please, Gentlemen, to deliver us from their importunity, and so that everyone could eat his jams in peace, that is to say his good? Magistrate as grave in public, when he played the part of Minos, as in private, when, retired in his cabinet, he became familiar with the scholars and joked with them like a cat plays with his little ones. Who would have believed it, gentlemen, that by the death of so great a personage, and of such a powerful protector, we could have found a new glory and a new credit? But that's what happened when the hero I'm going to talk about wanted to be his successor . . .

What delicate brush could paint this king of cats? What pencil is light enough to draw this cat of kings? What pen is elegant enough to give us a fair idea of this incomparable tomcat? There is none, I think, and the thing is more difficult than nurturing a cat in the water and teaching him how to swim. I am obliged to talk about it. How do you, gentlemen, help me by charity to throw some flowers on his tomb. If we consider this Phoenix of cats at peace, what marvels do we not have to publish! Innovative rats destroyed and scattered; rat duellists disarmed; monopolist rats degreased; quibbling rats disoriented; hypocritical rats unmasked; poisoner rats bundled up. Excited, animated manufacturing cats; artistic cats protected and rewarded artists, finally cats scientists bribed; an army of ratters established and built up at great expense; spiritual mousers built and paid for in the same way; a royal cat flap in a word built with so much care and expense, eternal monuments of his goodness, his piety, his magnificence and his good taste. If we consider it in the war, what prodigies do we not yet have? Warmongering cats, invincible cats, formed under his eyes and by his example, it is you that I attest. How many times with a handful of cats has he defeated countless legions of rat gangs? How many times has he relaunched his attack on them, even among the cheeses of Holland, where they had confined themselves? Much like the Roman heroes, this great cat, gentlemen, only scratched his obstinate and obstinate enemies, and generously lent a velvet paw to those who submitted. To accustom cats to water, to make them swim a swift and swollen river: posterity, can you believe it? This is the immortal work of this inimitable cat. Great during his lifetime, a life that he filled with obscure facts, and greater in his death which he regarded with as much indifference as a cat watches a jar of mustard. But what am I saying, gentlemen, where shall I commit myself? Do not awake the cat who gives, and draw the curtain on the fatal necessity which crowned the work of our indefatigable Rodillard ..

From the precious ashes of this incomparable cat, we have seen the rebirth of the one who gives us today such sweet laws. The virtues of this young cat, whose effects we feel every day, are familiar enough to you, gentlemen, that I need not remind you of them. You know that from the cradle, so to speak, he has, like another Hercules, tamed the monsters of the forests. That still having his milk-teeth, his baby-fur and his soft claws, he gave the hosts of the woods a hunt as keen as an adult cat could have done, a favourable augury of what he would soon do against the magnificent bird that threatens us, and against the envious bat that dared unfurl the wings of that bird. What will he not do? Gentlemen, helped by the wise counsel of the respectable cat, who was so successful throughout his childhood? What will he not do, led by the divine genius of this cat mentor, who, although raised in the nest of the magpie, is as humble as a village cat, as good as a cat of Chartreux, as private as an actress's cat, as affectionate and as flattering as the cat of a coquette or a devotee. It will be your claws, gentlemen, that will trace and transmit to our nephews the incredible deeds which we are entitled to expect from a cat of such good breeding; and if I do not have enough talents to assist you in this noble design, I will at least have the advantage of sharing with you the glory that such a sublime personage will have on your whole body. But what shall I say, gentlemen, of the venerable cat to whom I have the honour of succeeding, this holy man of truly pious cats, not a chatemite, who, far from vilifying poor Flemish cats, like his good colleagues, mewed after them with so much sweetness and unction, that he immediately recalled them from the furthest roofs, and made them in an instant cats of Spain?

[chatemite – a hypocrite who deceives by affecting a sweet, humble and flattering air.
A cat living like a devout hermit,
A cat making a humble face,
A holy man of cats, well furred, large and fat.
An expert referee on all cases. - (Jean de La Fontaine, The cat, the weasel and the little rabbit)]

By the wise precepts and by the edifying example of this virtuous cat, the cats of his conclave have finally become (against the ordinary rule) tidy, modest, sober and pious like him. After a feature so beautiful and worthy of the gods of Memphis, what could I add to the praise of this Clerk? Nothing, no doubt, gentlemen. I would be crazy to undertake it, and you would be fools to assume that you will find in me the shadow of such a distinguished member, and the least of his academic talents. Yes, too easy and indulgent Agonothetes, you have, as it must be said, paid off.

Cat in pocket [buying a cat in a sack], choosing me to replace such a great subject, and following the practice of the time, you gave in to my strong solicitations, rather than to the evidence of my merit, which is not yet decided, without to fear that you would be thrown to the cat's legs.

[Jeter le chat aux jambes – the throw the cat at a person’s legs – to cause them embarrassment or difficulties]

It is therefore up to you, gentlemen, to justify your choice, to give me the means of not dishonouring him by communicating to me your piercing lights, and by illuminating me as well as the eyes of a cat during the night. I flatter myself unreservedly of getting this favour [I don’t have the rest of the text]


Presented at the theater of the Hotel de Bourgogne, by the ordinary Italian comedians of the King, on September 24, 1727.

By Messrs Dominique et Romagnesi, Comediens du Roi.

At Louis-Denis Delatour, Printer of the Court of the Aydes, in the house of the widow Muguet, Rue de la Harpe, at the Three Kings.
M. DCC. XXVII. (1727)



The Stage is The Isle of Madness.



The Theatre represents the Isle of Madness.


I am most obliged to you, Lord Inhabitant, without you, poor Gulliver would have died of hunger on this barren rock. Thankfully your Isle came to my aid.

Listen, frankly, you were a pathetic figure and it seemed time I extricated you from obvious danger.

So here I am once more in the realm of imagination, but to what do I owe this favour?

Chance brought you here. The great minds of this country saw you by means of a telescope and there was a very lively argument between them; some took you for a Lilliputian, the others for a Brobdingnagian man.

I don’t resemble either one or the other, but am a fugitive from the English nation. The great minds of your Isle are subject to terrible misunderstandings, but that’s not really surprising as you can’t judge things from so far away.

What are you saying! You are insulting them – their minds are so discerning that they can decide without appeal things they can barely glimpse.

Indeed – you’ve given me convincing proof of it.

Otherwise you would not have had the happiness of being seen.

And why’s that, please?

About twenty years ago they assembled at the summit of this Isle; it was their Parnassus. At the time they did not consider what was below them, but since some of the most enlightened minds were excluded from their society, they have changed the place of their rendezvous several times, and have come down so much since that time that they are now at the barrier where the Isle ends, and that’s how they saw you.

I am blessed to find myself within reach of them, but Lord Inhabitant, deign to teach me the behaviour and character of your Islanders, so that I may conduct myself among them according to their character.

It will be very easy for you, because as long as you are predisposed to madness, you will find you will fit in perfectly here.

How so? Where am I?

You are on the Isle of Madness.

On the Isle of Madness! I didn’t need to make this trip! Why are you producing a third volume for the public? Oh well, this country must be funny, and I doubt I’ll have time to get bored.

[Note: This refers to “Gulliver’s Travels” being published in Two Volumes]

There’s not an inhabitant here who doesn’t have an extravagant system.

That doesn’t bother me; in all my journeys, the men I’ve seen have some sort of madness.

As you’ll soon see, I can justifiably boast that in all the Isle I am the only sensible person.

My congratulations again, it’s quite something to find a sensible man among so many fools. Why, there are many great cities that can’t say as much! What is the madness of these people?

It’s the madness of thinking oneself reasonable, and of trying to prove by Metaphysical reasons that everyone else is ridiculous.

Oh, if that’s all then I’m in a country of knowledge.

Here the miser slings mud at the prodigal, the coward mocks the foolhardy, the hypocrite decries against the debaucher, the false prude pinches the coquette, the dandy mocks the Philosopher, the jealous husband taunts the practical husband, the upstart does not know any better, and the Poet finds nothing good in anything except his own works.

There’s nothing extraordinary in any of that; what you’re calling madness on this Island, is considered wisdom on dry land.

How, then, can’t you see that the knowledge that these unfortunates have about the faults of others can’t open their eyes to their own faults? I don’t know of any situation more cruel - I pity them!

You make fun of them, Lord Islander, they would be more pitiable if they knew this for themselves.

Can you imagine such an idea, you yourself fall into the greater trap. Return from this abuse, and far from applauding such fanciful ideas, unite with me to vigorously revolt against the failings of our Islanders and cure them of their errors.

What are you proposing, Lord Islander, I didn’t come here to rule the little Houses.

Nevertheless, it is the correction of morals which is my principal object, and it is a system of mine.

That you profess to reform abuse?


GULLIVER [an aside]
In faith, this must be the greatest fool of the Isle.

Yes, yes, I will prevail, it’s not that difficult to correct people.

You're right, it's just a trifle.

In order to achieve this, it’s necessary to extinguish in their hearts their thirst for riches, to uproot their pride, to banish them from false prejudice, mischief, betrayal, and to substitute for these things candour, docility, wisdom and the reason.

(the Islander leaves.)

If that’s the most reasonable person on the Island then it’s easy to judge the others. In faith, I’ll have some fun in this country; but whoever wants that fool there ... he seems to me very circumspect in his approach.




BALANCE (doing several balancing gestures.)
Center of gravity, fixed point, line of direction! without you what would become of the Universe?

This is a good start! I would like to know what sort of madness this one has. Excuse me, Sir, if I dare to disturb you in your reflections; please satisfy my curiosity and tell me who you are.

You couldn’t guess it when you saw me?

How on earth would I guess? Appearances are always deceptive.

I am the axis of this region, its compass, its base, its substance; in a word, I am the balance of this Island.

You are many things at once, you have fine responsibilities, and you must be very necessary to the State.

I tell you, my care preserves its happy harmony. Don’t you know that today, without balance, everything goes wrong, and that it is through balance that the most important affairs are settled?

Oh ! Oh ! here is a fool who speaks reason.

It is by continual study, and a long succession of years, that I have finally gained perfect knowledge of this difficult science. You know that with time one can overcomes everything - time is the universal architect of nature, the stumbling block of fortunes that appeared most solid, and the linchpin of the most surprising catastrophes.

What you’re saying is very true.

It is time that, in his early adolescence, brought Justice from heaven to earth for the consolation of poor mortals, and it is time that has banished it.

Oh! A point of morality, of graciousness. Let's go back to your job, tell me how you practice it.

I will explain. When a woman, for example, seems to be hovering over a lover who is eagerly soliciting her, I also restrain her by the bridle of modesty.

And is this bridle strong enough to hold it in equilibrium for long?

When an envious Courtier desires to openly destroy the fortune of one of his Rivals, I first oppose him with his own interests, keeping him in equilibrium so that it is only acts against his rival in underhand ways.

This one is a very subtle balance.

When a coquette is obsessed by a rich old man, and by a teenager, and who has only appetites for any income, I hold her in such a balance, that she uses equally the money of one and the caresses of the other.

I admire your flexibility !

When a Prosecutor is engaged at the same time by the Plaintiff and the Defendant, I keep him so suspended by the presents he receives from both Parties, that at the end, the lawsuit is paid, and it remains in equilibrium.

Oh! this trick is not new; it's been around for a long time.

If I did not restrain the parasite by the brake of shame, we would see it freeloading from the same table every day.

You are mistaken, sir, he would not change it if he was received there. But on the subject of parasites, are you here with the Gascons?

Where don’t they go? What can I tell you - in short, it is by my happy talents that the ordinance of all things is so well distributed. It is also because of me that Spectacles flourish, and are in noble rivalry; I set the Berger d’Amphrise against the married Philosopher, and set the Amours des Dieux against the little Men.

[Note: Berger d’Amphrise – a French comedy in three acts. Amours des Dieux – a heroic ballet.]

In faith, the balance is not fair; and if you often do the same, you run the risk of breaking your neck.

It is I who sets against the natural graces of an illustrious Dancer, a new imitator who divides the fickle public with entrechats, leaps and antics.

[Note: entrechat – a dance with vertical jumps where the feet are repeatedly crossed]

Oh! I understand the tastes of this century - you will see that the jumper will tip the scales.

(In saying that, Gulliver has made a mistake.)

Ah! Sir, what are you doing here? Don’t imagine you are going to sway the Isle.

Come, come, sir, I believe she would have fallen a long time ago, if all of these false steps were able to produce some upset.

Farewell, I’m leaving now. I’m going to return to the eagerness of an innumerable crowd of people who will come to admire me.

This man is not so crazy, because he is in vogue.



[Note : In this scene the authors poke fun at Moncrif’s History of Cats.]



The MUSICIAN enters humming, and walk onto the Stage Theater.

This one apparently composes some new Opera.

MUSICIAN (fredonnant toujours).
Wonderful . . . la, la, la. It is harmonious.

Sir, may I ask you ....

Silence ... don’t interrupt me ... La, la, la, la ... Oh! for the moment, I am done - speak now, I give you an audience.

You do me honor; as a Foreigner; I think I am entitled to learn from everything that happens on this Isle. Please, who are you?

I have the advantage of being both a Poet and a Musician.

A Poet and a Musician; two wonderful qualities to predominate in this country..

I have just finished a work that will immortalize me; the Iliad, the Aeneid, the Maid of Orleans – they have nothing to compare with the ingenious production which my verve has just created.

It must be fine since you say so.

I answer you this - since we I have been embroiled in the composer’s art, I have never produced anything approaching it. It is the effort of the most lively imagination.

But still, can you tell me what it is?

It is a magnificent Cantata to the honour and glory of Cats.

GULLIVER (laughing)
A Cantata on Cats? Good grief! It must be quite harmonious and interesting.

What? you laugh at my project? That makes me unhappy! Will I always have to fight minds that are prejudiced against such respectable animals, made divine in Egypt, honoured by Statues and by a mystery cult? You do not know then, being ignorant, that in centuries past Cats have held a glorious rank at the Temple of Memory.

I have never read the history of cats and, in all innocence, I will confess to you that I am very ignorant of the Chronicles of Monsieur le Cat.

[Note: Monsieur le Cat – Moncrif]

The Nightingales, so praised for the sweetness of their trilling throat, the Linnets and Serins of the Canary Islands – can they approach the graceful melancholy of my Heroes? Is there anything more touching, more enjoyable than the Music of Cats?

Yes, you're right, I don’t know anything that scratches the ears the same way.

The variety of their tones expresses so well the different passions that occupy them.

Yes, it is very evocative.

Listen to the Cantata I made to confound the poor taste of their opponents.

(He sings the following cantata.)

A Pussycat Goddess was in Egypt adored,
I’ll try to sing of her wondrous charms,
With offerings rich, and tributes so vibrant
This divine feline deity was formerly honoured
And not even fair Citheree in Paphos
Provoked so much incense be burnt.
Always indulgent,
Her passions so tender,
In that form so pleasant,
Isis reigned over Hearts.
And Permesse’s most famous inhabitants celebrated,
And extolled in their Verses
The charms, the allures, the manifold graces,
Of the miaowing Goddess.

The Coquettes of this Country
So seasoned in love,
Like the Puss-cats of Memphis
They just wish to be cherished,
But above all, when you love,
Make velvet paws and play softly.

(He goes away.)

It must be admitted that there is much learning in his Cantata ... But let's look at this next one a little.




(ISLAND WOMAN enters, singing)

(To the tune “Let us charm”.)

The sweetest pleasures,
Fill our desires,
In these places our loves
Have only beautiful days,
Always gay, always happy,
We are passing our time
In frolics and singing,
Dancing, jumping,
Nothing bores us
In life when
We know how to enjoy it,
At my age,
The sagest
Mustn’t resist
Let everything count.
The sweetest pleasures,
Fill our desires, etc.

Insipid reason,
From whose cool lesson
We prescribe austere maxims.
You prefer
The pipe dreams
To destiny’s charms
Of a certain happiness;
Of sweetest pleasures,

Here is a friendly madwoman who would make me go mad.

Apparently Sir, are you the newcomer we are talking about in our Isle?

Yes, Mademoiselle .... This young person is rather to my liking.

ISLAND WOMAN (still singing)
Come, sir, be joyful, amuse yourself.

In truth, Mademoiselle, you charm me; you are in a very pleasant mood.

Indeed, I have my topic, and when one gets married, it is a crime in this country to indulge in melancholy.

She is going to get married, and I envy the happiness of the one who will possess so many charms, and this adorable person, the fortunate mortal who ...

In faith, sir, I don’t know anything about it. All I can say to you is that today is my wedding day.

I don’t understand anything.

As you are a stranger, it is not surprising that you do not know our customs.

It would please me to learn.

You need to know that as soon as a girl reaches a certain age in this country, she is obliged to marry; thanks to Heaven, I am marriageable, and I do not wish to lose my chance.

Good grief, you would be very wrong to lose them, and you do very well to avail yourself of the privilege .... [aside] This is a good opportunity for me .... So you are not yet decided on whom ... [aside] How sweet she is!

No, but I will soon find out.

I'm sure of it, and if you wanted ....

Ah! I saw this coming - you're probably going to propose .... Come on, silly.

But in truth this is charming ... I do not have the time to join you in wishing, let me have the happiness of pleasing you.

No .... But no matter, that is not necessary.

You're right, it's pretty much like home.

Mister Foreigner, let's not waste time.

But still, you are not joking?

Whatare you saying? Are you joining about marriage?

No, honestly, and though it is a most serious affair, I consent with all my heart to marry you.

Well, here is a husband for my day, I am still curious to know who I will get engaged to tonight.

What does that mean? When you get married to someone here, you also get engaged to another?

Of course! We get married here each day.

We get married every day! but really these people are not as mad as I thought.

Do you disagree with this method?

But it depends, with you for example, it does not please me at all, you are too pretty, to make one wish so swift widowhood, and I would like at least to have the whole week.

The week? Spend eight days together? What are you saying we would die of boredom! Ah, Sir, please, do not try to change our habits. All the inhabitants of our Isle would run riot loose against you.

Oh! I’ll look after myself, but may I ask why this custom to marry for only one day has become established - why is this?

For many reasons. Firstly, to not have any unpleasantness the next day.

That’s not such a bad invention.

For not being stuck with a dupe if you choose badly.

Marvellous. But suppose that you find yourself well provided, it must be sad for you to separate so soon from a good husband.

Separate from a good husband, you make me laugh, and can one be so for more than a day.

This is extraordinary. In this country a barely marriageable girl has as much experience as two widows. But during that beautiful day, are women at least faithful?

Oh! without doubt, the husbands will not leave them at all during the day.

In this case, they may be sure of the fidelity of their wives for a whole day, I do not find them so unhappy. There are many women in Europe who do not scrupulously observe the twenty-four hour rule.

A day passes quickly, and a woman may well make the effort.

It is not the greatest effort, but, changing husbands so often do not run the risk of marrying the same one many times?

Oh not at all! Hymen puts things in good order, and even if the Law does not forbid it, our happy nature will prevent us from falling into such a trap. Goodbye, I have been amusing myself too long, I must think of finding a fiance for tonight, and I will order the preparations for our marriage.

[Hymen – the God of marriage]

How is it I must look for a fiancé myself? I must go, any time is good, there is at least more decency to supply a wife with a husband than with a lover.

ISLAND WOMAN (sings, to the tune, Here he comes in person)
Here, as soon as we’re of age
Under Hymen’s laws we are engaged,
We do not do much more;
Than this advantage to enjoy -
To take a husband at any stage,
If the first one lets us down,
We have recourse to the second;
And if he’s worth nothing but regrets,
His successor compensates,
For we would have great misfortune
If we never ever found a good one.

(She leaves.)

How amusing! Goodness, it’s a pity that the divorce follows so soon after the marriage ... I almost wanted to break the law! But who do I see now? Although he appears to me as crazy as the others, he doesn’t look like an inhabitant of this Island Isle.




At your service, my dear. . . Aren’t you the newly arrived Stranger?

I render you my most humble services.

What the hell are you doing here? This sojourn is extremely boring, and for myself I don’t want to suffer it any longer. I only waited for some company for leaving here. I think you’re right, let's go quickly, let's go to England together.

I’m not refusing your proposition, but first give me the grace of telling me who you are.

Who I am? Don’t you see from my bearing and my manners that I’m a French Gentleman?

Seeing as you are French, sir, excuse me not wishing to travel with you.

Eh ! And why’s that please?

It's because I saw a Frenchman in London who was not worth much.

You mock! I have heard of him speak very favorably; he made a devilish sound, and was well attended. It seems to me that you have been warned against the French Nation, so just who are you then to make this exchange?

I am English, my name is Gulliver.

What, you are Gulliver the much vaunted Caustic wit? In tht case I’m not surprised to find you so scathing. A Frenchman will not find favor with a man who does not even spare his own compatriots.

I spoke of men in general, and I did well to tweak them a little. I would not have been so much in vogue if I had said nice things about them them.

Indeed, Monsieur de Gulliver, a new satirical trait against human nature; but let’s give it a rest and talk about something else as I’d like to be your friend and your traveling companion. Believe me, you should leave this country, its customs are not pleasing to me.

You don’t like its customs? I didn’t expect that complaint from you. You surprise me. Is this really a Frenchman I’m talking with? What, you haven’t learnt that one marries here every day.

It is precisely this harsh necessity that disgusts me. Is there a more dismal ceremony than marriage? In truth, the method of changing women is very pretty, but in the end there is always this issue of getting married.

You are right. That obligation greatly detracts from the sweetness of the Law.

I will even tell you that, when I arrived on this Island, I married women so kind, that the necessity of separating from them made me want to be faithful to them.

I can well believe it . . .

Indeed, what is the pleasure of changing, when we don’t procure it for ourselves.

The French are never content.

Oh well my friend, when do we leave ?

Whenever you please, I will return with you to England, but on condition that you do me a little favor.

What is it? Speak freely.

First, tell me if you have given your word to get married tomorrow;

Yes, I just gave my promise.

Too bad, I would have asked you to marry my wife, but as you are engaged elsewhere, I find her another fiancé instead.

What do you say, my dear? Go no further - I will marry her.

Okay, you gave your word.

It is precisely because of that ... Ah! I can breathe freely . . . I will at least have the pleasure of tasting all the charms of infidelity.

What a pickle ... But what do I see – here’s my wife herself.




Joyous Lord Gulliver, we are going to get married soon, some of the inhabitants of the Isle will come here to dance and sing at my wedding ... But regarding the wedding, did you find me a husband for tomorrow?

GULLIVER (showing the Frenchman)
I do not know if you will be happy with the one I’ve chosen for you.

Well then, you have the wonderful taste, you have chosen much better than me .. He is well made! He’s so good looking!

What a kind woman! She has such charms!

The pretty cavalier! Why did I not see him first?

It's done, we must whisper it to our Englishman.

Let’s lose no time, give me your hand.

Wait; you are too much of a hurry.

What are you saying ? You were much more impatient earlier.

(The Frenchman moves to the woamn’s side and speaks into her ear.)

Everything is fine, Monsieur Frenchman, it’s not just for you that we’re having this party.

Yes, a charming woman, I adore you, and if I do not marry you right this minute you’ll see me expire from grief at your feet.

He says it so tenderly. . . he makes me pity him.

What have you now? You’ve said nothing to me ...

Leave me, I have nothing more to say to you.

Oh well! What did I expect?

I don’t know .... but I don’t want you to die.

My fate depends on you.

You're doing the forbidden.

I can do no less. . . this gentleman says that he adores me and that he will die if I do not marry him on the spot.

Don’t believe it, he’s French.

Would there be no way of accommodating this affair?

By what means?

Like this – You don’t marry me until tomorrow, and I will take Monsieur Frenchman for today.

After all, it's pretty much the same thing.

Don’t you agree with that.

Hurry up and reach a decision, time is passing.

Ah! I can see that the comical man seduced her from me. Whatever made me choose him?

I don’t want to lose this one like the others. . . My dear, I marry you; and as I can never resolve to leave you, you must come to France with me and I swear that I will always be faithful to you.

Don’t be fooled, so soon as he has breathes the air of his own country, he’ll send you back here. . . Well, that's my marriage broken.

(The Frenchman and Island Woman leave.)




How, then, does this Stranger observe neither the benefits nor knowledge of life. Doesn’t he know that I am the Sovereign of this Isle? In truth, I believed I was owed a compliment.

GULLIVER (aside)
The Sovereign of this Isle is madness itself; what compliment does she want me to make to her?

Let us know, sir, whether it is out of pride or timidity that you refuse to pay me the tribute which you should have paid me on arriving here.

Madam, it is out of respect, and besides I know how difficult it is to approach people of your rank.

Difficult, eh! All the world approaches me without difficulty, I adapt myself to the human needs of all kinds of people. But I forgive you for your error, you are not the first to have a meeting with me, without knowing who he was dealing with.

I did not know, Madam, that I had such an honour.

I'll talk with you. Who are you?

My name is Gulliver.

Gulliver, kiss me, my most zealous follower.

Me, madame, your disciple, it would please me!

The Fairy Tales and the Thousand and One Nights haven’t entertained me so much as your travels. Your misanthropy over everything makes me happy, one cannot do more, and the flow of your Book has acquainted me with my dominion over an infinity of mortals, whom I would never have thought to have counted among my subjects.

You flatter me, Madam.

No, it is not my fault; Such invention! Such a singularity of genius! ah! ah! ah!

I do not see, Madam, that the thing is so laughable; it has been admired universally, and my ingenious fictions have been of use. ...

To arms, Madam, to arms, you are lost.

MADNESS (laughing)
Ah! ah! ah! ah! What would it be?

It is Reason, madam, we have just found Reason in your Isle.

Reason! But how can she be here too? Wouldn’t this be another like myself? Let’s deal with her with great civility. Let’s receive her! You’ll be my Squire, my dear Favorite.

You do me far too much honour.




Ah! here, no doubt, come, my dear sister, let me embrace you.

Your sister? I do not think we have the same parentage.

Well, look at this Madame, who wants to outdo me because she believes she is my senior, and she speaks more slowly than me, that she does not say things to make you laugh, and that she Calls herself Reason: frivolous advantages all of these - I love being the youngest, talking fast, laughing all the time, and calling myself Madness.

(She sings.)
This is the century where we must be
Always amused and never bored,
And where you may make sport,
For men are fed up with morality;
And when I gladden them, I do believe
That all the earth belongs to me
That all the earth belongs to me.

What short-sightedness! I'm sorry for you.

Why complain? I believe I’m happy, my happiness is in your imagination then I will forgive you your sense of compassionate, but as it only consists in mine, it is extravagant for you to complain of an evil that I do not feel.

In faith, I think Madness is right.

My dear, you do not feel this evil, because it disturbs your mind in a way that doesn’t leave it any of its other functions; those who have never seen the day seem to make nothing of the state of light, but what pleasure wouldn’t they enjoy if, like us, they could see the light of the sun?

Songs, and I like to see no other taste here.

Perhaps you are pleased in the shadows.

Yes, Yes.

(She sings.)

Oh that I hate the day’s bright light,
I find it more beautiful in the night!

Oh well, let's know what brings you here.

I came to ask you a favour, and that I implore you not to refuse me.

Reason comes to ask me for a favour, but you know that I only distribute Briefs from the Company of the Calotte.

Madame may want to be incorporated in the company.

I was told that Gulliver was in your State, and I came here expressly to ....

Here he is, what do you want from him?

What, it's you, wise Gulliver? Come, come to Isle of Reason, it's your Sphere.

What! You came here to poach him from me? Please, no. He amuses me, and it is fair that I have his preference.

He amuses you? You are not very respectful here. You would enjoy a different fate in my realm, and you would find your allegories reduced in systems there.

Ah! Madame, what a glory for me, that I may have attracted such an equal favour, my systems are to be followed in the Isle of Reason.

You might only have thought them proper for my Realm, isn’t that true? Then let’s see the advantage that you might derive from it, but above all explain it intelligibly.

Those who skim-read, and who can taste things only superficially, resemble those Peoples who had abundant gold, and who used it only for base uses, through not knowing its precious value.

Oh! Here we are with the comparisons.

I am sure that in Gulliver, the little men and the great men have amused you by the peculiarity of the idea, but have not made you think, in a beneficial way, of the difference which exists between certain men and others. How better to make it palpable than by their size, which gives our eyes their grandeur or their pettiness?

What reasoning! Ah, my sister, how petty you are!

In my Isle I have taken this marvellous idea further, and my power I have made men appear larger or smaller, according to whether they have more or less merit and probity.

This is called a most metaphorical system.

If I were allowed to make serious reflections, I would say that, instead of making my Heroes larger or smaller, I would have only made them respected or despised, according to their virtues or their vices, without any regard for either their birth or their fortune, and I would not have grasped an idea which will make you pass for my Mother Goose.

Can we make such a bad use of the best things, and take them so literally.

Ah! How pleased I would be to live in an Isle where men grow and shrink at a glance. Sometimes I would see them as Giants, but as they do not always follow the right maxims, a moment later they would appear to me as Pigmies, and then a remorseful conscience would raise them up again. What a pleasure it would be to find oneself in a country like yours.

(She sings.)
From a fool you make a wise man,
Ah! what a happy alteration;
And you give him a portion
Of intellect and reason,
In such a charming country,
If one travels just a little,
From smallness one becomes large.

Ah! ah! Isn’t this facetious; this system seems to me to be as well figured out as that of women, who at your home would be obliged to romance the men. How I like to see very scrupulous men blush with a declaration that they ought to warn themselves; a woman on the knees of a man presents a pretty picture. Hey! this is mocking him; reason must not overthrow nature, and it will always be up to men to make advances with us.

Haven’t I justified this law? I have the strongest attacked by the weakest, so that the former might resist.

This is against all the rules! It is always necessary that the strongest attack .... but, after all, I do not really agree with this pretended superiority of the men, and these gentlemen give us too much proof of their weakness when we attack them. Go ahead, they do not defend themselves better than us.

I am not surprised that Madness disregards the advantages of Isle of Reason.

Ah, madam! I have come to announce some terrible news to you!

What is it?

Do not expect to return to your Realm, you are considered a usurper; a Lady who calls herself True Reason has seduced all your Subjects and taken your throne.

What is this I hear! What will become of me!

I am delighted to have this opportunity to be of service to you. Remain here, my dear Sister. Here there are, in truth, only little houses, but as you have even vague imagination, they will appear to you large, large.

Me stay with you? Stay with my most cruel enemy? No, I will take back possession of my Isle.

I do not advise you to do that. There you are so repellent for your morality and your proverbs that you will not find any faithful subjects there.

We must therefore resort to force. Let’s go, Lord Gulliver, raise the Troops, I put you in charge of the matter of Recruits.

My dear Sister, your Troops are ready to take the road; you have only the service of my Regiment, Gulliver will command it.

Me? No! I assure you, I don’t wish to go up against Giants.

Fear not, they are now so small, so very small, that you will have no trouble at all defeating them.

All things considered, I prefer to stay on the Isle of Madness, Madam Reason. I do not wish to go to a country whose sovereign is so little respected.

Yes, yes, stay with me, I will take care to inspire you with new ideas. But here are my dear favorites who have come to pay homage to me – do take part in the feast.



(Enter Madness and the Inhabitants of the Isle, then dance. A Islander sings the following Air.)

Madness has decided to stay here,
And Wisdom is banished forever.
We’re occupied with each other in turns
Unceasing our frolics and laughter,
We’ll not be embarrassed by unfortunate futures,
But limit our wishes to enjoying the now.

(They dance, then the same Islander sings.)

Severe Reason does not engage us -
It proscribes the sweetest of pleasures,
It forbids our wild morals -
We’ve no use for restraint,
For among us the craziest
Are always the wisest.

(They dance several Dances of Character, and end with a Vaudeville.)

[Note: A Dance of Character is a theatrical dance that appeared mid-eighteenth century.]

When we form our desires,
We indulge in the pleasures;
For us this is the supreme good,
To use all our moments
In varied amusements,
Enjoying good times as we would -
That's our system.

The young beauties of Paris,
Guard too strongly their husbands,
And we pity your extreme mistake,
Far more loosely we guard them,
Exchanging our Bridegrooms,
We always have lovers at home,
That's our system.

For a kind Frenchman,
Our laws I’ve just broken,
And may he do the same thing for me;
Because if he tries to change me,
I will get my vengeance,
And to get compensation,
I’ll go back to our system.

On the Island of Reason,
Nothing good can we find,
This cannot be said of things here;
Everything good has come to us,
Both the wise and the foolish:
So now everybody can
Follow our system.

Dare we flatter ourselves
That we’d give you contentment,
It would be a great privilege;
The wisest of grounds,
We don’t limit our wishes
That’s why you, too, like our Games,
And our system.




Perlege Moeonto cantatos carmine Mures,
Et frontem nugis solver disce meis.

Read the story of the mice sung as told by Homer
And learn to smooth your brow with my more trifling verse.



Since Authors amuse or annoy their readers, we have never had the right to censor their choice of subject. Each one can follow his taste, talent and even his whim, with impunity without being accountable to the Public for anything other than the execution alone of his chosen project. I am very persuaded that we are born to serve society, and I infinitely honour all the wise men who have worked to enlighten men, and especially to improve them. But as, unfortunately, I lack their talents, I am careful not to presume too much of my path in the sciences, so I have taken the liberty of giving a favourable interpretation to this principle. I agree that there is a need to contribute to the common good, but I think that an Author can charge a small fee for this narrow obligation.

Indeed, the more I reflect on the different interests of society, the more it seems to me that fun, pleasure and trivia are essential parts of public utility, the more necessary I find most of the things we call useless and, especially in the literary world, there is nothing that rejuvenate the imagination at the expense of the mind, which diffuses boredom, which I do not find contemptible because we are made to rejoice as well as to reason.

These truths do not need proof, they carry with them a conviction that we have never felt better than today. We love futility, we pursue trivia; they are the divinities of the time that every author who wants to be read must ignite. Their rule may not be eternal, but it is preferably by its greatest brilliance that the public is entirely subjugated, since two or three great wits have given them the tone of light works, small amusing pieces, pleasant novels that were mistaken for books of character. They avidly devour all that is branded the same, and the gentlemen authors are skilful people who profit from fashion; they are raining their brochures in all the genres that do not require any more trouble to compose them than to read them. Everyone makes Anecdotes, Tales, Fleeting Poesies, and the Muses become Epicurean, unable to see that they are insulted or even totally abandoned, singing only of laziness, softness, and voluptuousness.

Even persons of distinguished merit let themselves be carried away by this torrent, and sacrifice their talents to such trifles rather than using them for greater things. The critics may say that it is unfortunate that such an author has so much wit, but it is used badly or only incidentally. The author, far from being ashamed of criticism, takes this for an authentic confession that the critic is jealous of his merits.

If I were seriously asked what I think of this century’s tastes, I would say nothing, I do not care to judge the public, the public is my Judge. I only know that public taste agrees perfectly with pleasure, and that I must conform to this. Thus I have chosen, from a thousand, a pleasant subject. If I have fulfilled it badly, one must really take into account the intention, and must pardon my complacency for my fellow citizens, whom I wanted to be be useful to, as well as amusing them.

This is a great preamble to conclude that I am allowed to write the History of the Rats, or even that of the Cockchafers, or the Flies, had I wished. Basically, I believe my evidence is very good but at the same time I much doubt that there is respect. Forewords are not read for fear of their inevitable boredom; and to reserve the full power to criticize without remonstrance, and to find defects in the work, defects which a maker of sentences knows how to skilfully counteract or excuse as inevitable; for all the Prefaces are merely apologetic memoires, and this is no different.

I must add that the “History of Cats” gave me the idea for the History of the Rats, and the courage to undertake it. They have so much in common with each other, that the latter seemed to me to deserve the same honour as their enemies. The Book of Cats, therefore, served me as an example. I would even have used it as a template, except for fear of falling into the larcenies of imitation in spite of myself, and had several other reasons had not prevented it. Each must deliver himself according to his character, and mine is by no means worn for praise, I do not like to separate inseparable qualities, nor to disregard bad ones in order to present others in a seductive light, this is always unpardonable except for funeral Orations.

I could also have done it by imitating the authors who made the famous praises of Fever, the Ass, Just Because, Nothing, Something, Nobody, etc. to employ them to lend “Rats” some brilliant Paradoxes, but it is necessary for fecundity and flexibility of imagination that Nature has absolutely refused me; I reason, but can’t imagine except with difficulty.

What, then, is the history of the Rats, if I do not affect a tone of praise or border on burlesque? I would be hard put to give a good idea of it. It is a work of marquetry, it is the Juvenelia of a Military man in his forties, and moreover, if you will, a Literary, Critical, Moral, Political, Physical Science, Natural, Military, and almost universal History. I have moved away from the modesty that is affected in most prefaces, I announce myself in a magnificent manner, instead of affecting that humble and submissive air suited to an author who will expose himself to the thanks of his readers. I am wrong, no doubt, however you really will find a little of all of these things in my Work.

Rats provide, in the historical genre, the most beautiful subject in the world as they relate to everything, and everything is related to them. In a word, I found the material so vast that my greatest problem was to make a little book, for I could, without shaming myself, acquire the honour of producing a folio, but I generously renounced this in a condescending manner because of the delicacy of my contemporaries who fall asleep at the mere sight of a somewhat considerable work. The Greeks said that a great book was a great evil; today we have gone yet further and think that the smallest book is the best, so we could still reduce mine to a simple brochure, despite what it cost me to to abbreviate it, but I see in it a good accommodation. One can look at each of my Letters as separate brochures and, to avoid the boredom of a continuous reading, could read only one per month. Thus the Histories of Jacob, Marianne, Jannette, and so many other periodical brochures published in parts, sustain the public appetite.

I also foresee that my greatest crime will be a learnedness that will be considered immense only in order to make fun of it. If it is a crime to be a scholar, I can well protest innocence against that accusation, although in the absence of genius, which I lack, it could do me honour, but it would be bad faith to take advantage of it. I have never had the slightest fear of losing the freedom of thinking for myself due to acquiring the knowledge of others; don’t imagine that I spent years collecting materials from this work. This collection, in truth, didn’t cost sop much as eight days of research; a book indicates ten days, and as most modern books are compilations of all the others, one becomes a bargain author. That is why, if my history is bad, at least I won’t have to repent losing too much time in collecting the material. If it is merely passable, I don’t want it to be seen as the fruit of laborious compilation, or even of learnedness acquired by a long study.

I apologize to my Confreres in Apollo, for revealing in this way the deep mysteries of great Literature, and to teach how to easy it is to create very large and learned Books, but I owe this indiscretion to the public who usually appreciate the the works of Compilers more is deserved, and sometimes appreciate them more than the productions of pure genius.

For the rest, I don’t pretend that every Learned Book is easy to create. To build the Basilica of Rome, it was not enough to simply collect the stone and marble, it was also necessary to cut them, and put them in place to form together a superb Building according to the rules and the proportions of Architecture. The same is true of works of mind, great art consists in Architecture, and few people appreciate this. I don’t have the vanity to number myself among that few, and I even confess that I am totally ignorant of the rules of this ingenious arrangement on which the destiny of my Work depends.

I would still be most obliged to my readers if they were generous enough to excuse my frequent digressions: I confess that I often deviate from my subject to run right and left on foreign lands; but without these excursions, how could I defend myself from the boredom of a uniform march? I am even uneven in everything, Sometimes I seriously think I want to joke, sometimes I imitate a pompous style, then return to a natural one. Finally, my pen always follows my present mood rather than the nature of the subject, and I can’t imagine that it is possible to maintain the same style and character from the Preface to the Acknowledgments at the end.

What displeases me even more is that I make too many moral reflections, it really feels that the pedant in me wants to dogmatize, and this is not my real character, however, it consoles me to believe that I will please many honest people who love deep things.

I can at least protest that I write in episodes by chance, or without reason, if you will, rather than as a display of science and literature. If the latter was my intention I would be foolish because I do not think that many of my readers would let themselves be dazzled by a false air of “Encyclopedia,” so how should I do this? We live in a happy age where all science is digested, so to speak, we do not grow pale over books, we do not know anything, yet we know everything, and in that respect I can, without vanity, say that I'm almost fashionable.

I have not conserved the quotations and the facts, because history is not just composed of other things, and it here my work may have some merit. When you melt gold braid, you always retrieve the metal; you only lose the style. I confess willingly to put my History in the crucible and if I am in like fashion you will at least find some curious features and interesting facts, and finally some precious material which might take a better form in the hands of a clever Worker.

Nevertheless, I perceive that I am pushing ahead in this Preface which I feel is already heavy enough. I think I have foreseen a lot of objections, but I leave even more behind. Firstly because I do not know the answers, and secondly because it unforgiveable to lengthen a Preface in the same way one pulls a gold bar. Besides, my first Letter is already a strong Preface which, perhaps, should have excuse me from writing this one. Indeed, I thought I could get away with it when I wrote the Letter, but I recognized it as necessary, and I cannot now erase what is written.

Nevertheless, whatever may happen, I must say two words about the fight of the Rats and Frogs. If I have commented on it and analyzed it, as I have done, I thought this was an act of gallantry to the ladies, being convinced also that those readers who do not know the Gree made me obliged me to explain the jokes of the divine Homere, and the taste of antiquity. Besides, this Poem still justifies the enterprise of my History, one can hazard anything on an example from Homer.

Do I again worry that you won’t read this Foreword, and supposing that you do read it, will it erase any impressions already made by the title of this Book? I seems to see the Frontispiece pencilled by my readers in sharp lines differently turned, but all expressing wholesale “you must have Rats to make history.” The point is all the more spiritual in that it has a natural presence; I am fired by its strength.

Nevertheless it is necessary to take my part. One is not an author with impunity, and it is right to sacrifice something for the vanity of being printed. After all, those who once disputed at Lyons the price of Eloquence before the Altar of Augustus, were still more reckless than I; and no doubt they would gladly have exchanged the fear of being plunged into the Rhone, and the shame of cleaning their rooms with their tongues, for all the epigrammatic wounds that I must endure.

For Service to Universal History


Telluris sobolem cantabo, genusque superbum.
Earth’s children shall sing the glory of my family.

You know, sir, that a few years ago someone gave the public a book on cats. On was charmed to more in particular about those ancient gods of Egypt, and those who love them found, in the Author’s praises, strong reasons to love them even more. That book left nothing to be desired by naturalists as well, except to see it followed by the History of Rats, written with as much elegance and wisdom, but until now no one has undertaken this task, although it seemed that one must dispute the honour of doing so.

In fact, if the reciprocal hatred of the Romans and the Cartaginians, if the bloody wars and the revolutions of those two powerful Republics, wish us to know them both equally; if we forever regret that the Romans had a Livy on their side and the Cartaginians did not, why would we be be curious about one, but indifferent towards the other of these two warring nations who disputed our home from the beginning of civilization?

My comparison is not burlesque, since in a rather serious work [History of Cats, page 87], Cats are compared to that great Cartaginian Captain who often made Rome tremble, and Rats are compared to that Roman General who destroyed Carthage. "When Annibal," says the Author, "not letting himself rest, constantly watched Scipio in order to find a favourable opportunity to conquer him, what model did he have in front of him? He watched his enemy, like a Cat watches a Mouse." But to a good Cat, a good Rat[*]; Scipio on his side apparently had as an example some clever Rat, and he used its ruses to oppose those of Hannibal. This trait alone can, sir, forewarns you in favour of the Rats, or at least gives you a glimpse of what one can gain by knowing them.
[* "à bon chat, bon rat" (to a good cat, a good rat) - an attacker and an attackee grow stronger from finding new ways to outwit each other.]

It is said that animals were our first teachers in all things, and that if we surpassed them in something, it was by dint of copying them. It is probable that the Triangle formed by flying flocks of wild ducks and geese, first gave the idea for Aelian’s triangle[**], and the Pig’s Head which the ancients sometimes used in their battle tactics. Who invented the Military Toise, if not the Tortoise itself, which was imitated by soldiers covering themselves with shields? Storks, when they move in flocks, have sentinels, advanced guards and sentinels. Beavers especially have the talent to secure their works by an invariable discernment to distribute vigilant sentinels who know when to sound the retreat on occasions [1]; Horses attacked by Wolves form a type of battalion or squadron, as one might call it, squeezing in a straight line that they sometimes form into a circle to surround a solitary Wolf, or to form a circle facing outwards on all sides if there are several Wolves. The Porcupine launches with infinite dexterity a strong volley of the darts which cover him; finally the Foxes, Badgers and Rabbits who must pass for the inventors of tunnels and counter-tunnels.
[**Aelianus Tacticus was a Greek military writer of the 2nd century, who lived in Rome. The Pig’s Head was a wedge-shaped formation that quickly bludgeoned through enemy lines, dispersing the opponents to each side. Though not infallible, this tactic aimed to create inlets into the opposing army, allowing the ranks behind the head to attack the broken enemy lines. ]
[1 – Their tail is covered with scales and is flat like that of a Fish; it is said that they beat their tails on the water and the blows can be heard half a league away.]

As long as I am devoted to big books, I can make you quite confident regarding the arts of war drawn from animals; with observations you cannot find in all the wise commentators of Polibe, without exception. How many volumes could we easily furnish on all those Quadrupeds, Birds, Insects, Reptiles to whom we are indebted for the discovery of the Arts, perhaps even the Sciences, and especially Morals?

The Government of Bees is a perfect model of Monarchy; Democracy constitutes the form Ants government; and that of the Beavers, passes for and example of Aristocracy [2]: it is perhaps on these large models that we have established the three species of government that divide the Universe.
[2 - In Poland one distinguishes nobles and commoners among the Beavers; the first have richer robes and command the others. Now this, we can say, proves that nobility is something real.]

Moreover the stilt-houses of the Beavers, and the cells of of the Bees were the first pieces of Architecture which gave the men the idea of ??building houses. The foresight of the hardworking Ants has given rise to very sensible Moral Fables, and we have learned how to make stores [3]. The work of the Silkworm made men look for ways of spinning wool, linen, tree bark, and the spider's web gave us the art of making cloth. Without impiety it may be conjectured that the good Ceres showed men how to plough the earth, having seen it stirred by the animals whom the Sorceress Circe had made from the companions of Ulysses. Apollo, who passes for the The inventor of Music enjoys an honour stolen from the Nightingales. Don’t tender and constant hearts follow the example of the Turtledoves, and doesn’t the fluttering Butterfly help unfortunate lovers to break their bothersome? Our songs give these credence.
[3 - Unfortunately a clever Physician has discovered that the Ants don’t actually make stores, and that they simply don’t eat during winter. M. de Reaumur has wronged us in taking from us such a fine subject of morality. [René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur, French entomologist and writer]]

At first I might be allowed to conclude that the story of a small insect may be that of a great empire. Cleverness, prudence, foresight, wisdom, courage, frugality, generosity, gratitude, talents, virtues, everything is at last found in animals, it is only a question of looking for it. You would doubtless take me for an Enthusiast, if I lacked good guarantors for all that I put forward here. They are the divine Plato, and the famous Mr. Despreaux, follower of Horace and Juvenal. [4]: The first is one of the benefits of the golden age (which, as an aside, never existed), that age of happiness when fortunate mortals lived in good intelligence with animals, and learned from them. Our French Poet has felt, like the Greek philosopher, how much we need the lessons of the animals he believes are less stupid than us men; he thus begins in a satire which is, as we say, is one of his finest.
[4 - Plato on the happiness of the golden age. See Montagne’s Essays.]

Of all the animals that fly through the air,
Who walk on land, or swim in the seas,
From Paris to Peru, from Rome to Japan,
The most stupid creature, in my opinion, is man.
[Despreaux, Satire on Man [Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, French poet and critic]]

The opinion of M. Despreaux must be that of everyone, because of his reputation, and because his impartiality is beyond suspicion when he judges against his own interests, as if he did not hold to human nature. The rest of the piece responds perfectly to the beginning, it sends us to the School of Wisdom among the Ants [5], the Wolves [6], the Bears [7], the Vultures [8], the Lions [9] and the beautiful pictures he makes of their manners are decisive in favour of my cause; they prove all that you could have challenged me on.
[5. The ant crosses the farmlands every year,
Filling his stores with the treasures of Ceres,
And as soon as the North Wind brings back the cold winter
And its breath and black frosts cast a gloom over nature,
This little animal, hunkered down in the darkness,
Spends winter enjoying its summertime prizes .
. . . . .
But man, never pausing his senseless race,
Leaps from one thought to another without a break.]

[6. We call Wolves brigands, but unlike uncivilized men,
Wolves don’t rob each other as they travel the highways.]

[7. Do bears war upon Bears in the woods ?]
[8. Does the Vulture in the air swoop on its brethren ? ]
[9. Does one see Lions on the African plains,
Tearing their republic apart, again and again,
Lions against Lions, parent against parent,
Fighting madly for their choice of tyrant?
The proudest of animal birthed by nature
In another of his kind respects his own figure,
And though enraged, he moderates his outbursts,
Lives without disturbance or debate, without trial or quarrel. - Boileau, Satire on Man.

M. Despreaux (Boileau) has copied Horace, Juvenal and Pliny.
This was never the custom with wolves nor lions,
Unless against a different animal. - Horat. Epod. 7.

But nowadays there is more agreement among snakes (than among men). A wild beast spares others of the same kind – when did a stronger lion deprive another of life? In what forest did a wild boar expire at the teeth of another? The Indian tigress lives in perpetual peace with other wild tigresses, and the savage bears agree among themselves. But man . . . etc. - Juvenal. Sat. 15. v. 150.

For other animals live at peace with those of their their own kind. They gather themselves in troops, and unite against the common enemy. The ferocious lion does not fight against his species: the poisonous serpent is harmless to his own kind: the monsters of the sea prey only on those fishes that differ from them. In nature, only man out of all the animals is foe to his own kind! . - Pliny. Hist. Nat. Liv. VII.

Today the animals are well changed, O tempora! O mores! The wolves in our forests tear each other apart; the dogs in the streets throttle each other; oxen, horses, even sheep kill their own kind, and even the timid doves fight each other. Finallt, we do not see animals on the earth, in the water, or in the air, that don’t make war on each other like men in the cause of love, hunger, or some other interest.]

However each province, and each city has its history [10], even Chaillot has its own history; it would take a great deal of wit to write of the tricks and cheatings of the miserable Guzman of Alpharache, or sing of the illustrious felonies of a Cartouche, or transmit to posterity with great precision, the joyous lives of lame virgins of Greece and France. We will not end up by giving ourselves false Memoirs, imaginary incidents or boring and irrelevant anecdotes while we neglect to understand and learn a thousand good things from animals. Proud indifference! We believe them made for us, and we despise them too much to bother studying them. Our curiosity goes no further than the name and shape of those who can harm us, or that can serve us in everyday life, and generally the best known are those who appear on our dinner-tables.

[10. A village half a league from Paris. This History is a fine and pleasant criticism of the bad erudition of antiquaries.]

Above all since the Disciples of Descartes, bolder than their Master, dared to decide that animals were pure machines, we became accustomed to seeing their actions as only the effects of a mechanism, though we agree at the same time that we can not explain the first principles. It is almost more glorious to hope for a naturalist to make all the moral discoveries he can; he can not count on the praise of an indifferent public for all that is not Physical Science.

I confess to you, Sir, that these reflections initially discouraged me; but, finally I have thought, like Horace, [11] and other great Greeks and Latins, that it is not necessary to write for the biggest audience, and that a work is good if it please those readers for which it is written [its target audience].

[11. Labour not for the admiration of the crowd, but be content with a few choice readers, etc, . - Horat. Serm. Lib, I. Sat. 10.]

If in this work, sir, you find only an ordinary style, no new constructions, none of those ingeniously created terms with which our language has been enriched in the last few years with so much success, then I flatter myself that at least that you recognize a friend of truth. Far from the partiality with which Pliny to Quint-Curce, and Velleius Paterculus to almost all the ancient and modern historians are reproached, I shall not bore you with the Eulogy to Rats.

At first I protest (and you will easily believe me) that I have never loved Rats, but have only a necessary and very involuntary commerce with them; besides, I have neither a Mistress nor Patron whose odd tastes I could flatter with the Eulogy to Rats. In a word, like everyone else I see them as very inconvenient animals, domestic pests; but it is good to understand them since we are often obliged to live with them. However, I must not hide their good qualities, nor conceal things that may give them some consideration among the Beasts, otherwise in fleeing the partiality that I rebuked, I would go too far in the opposite direction, what is called in scholarly style, running up against Charybdis, whiole trying to avoid Sylla.

Besides, after the individual study I have been doing for a long time into the mentality and manners of the Rat tribe, we can count on the accuracy of my observations: As for the authors who have served me, their name for the most part are their Eulogies, such as Homer, Herodotus, Aristotle, ancient and venerable characters. I will also make use of Traveller’s Tales, but with the necessary precautions. I will sometimes even need the fables of M. de la Fontaine, because these fictions contain some truths of character, and they depict Rats in much the same way as tNovels depict men.

After these precautions which answer me almost to the success of my Work, you must confess, Sir, that my little vanity still triumphs quite appreciably, I am wildly tempted to appropriate the words of Horace, [12] in saying: "I already feel the coming of wings to fly to immortality. "
[12. Already rough skin grows on my legs and I am changed into a white bird, and above them smooth feathers are growing between my fingers and shoulders.. – Hor. Lib. 2. Ode ultima.]

Please do not treat me as a visionary, Sir. Weigh well what I am about to say to you, and you will perhaps agree that my folly, if it is folly, is more reasonable than that of the Latin Poet. Of so many millons of books composed by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and the other learned nations, few have escaped the assault of Rats, who have surely devoured more books than were consumed by the flames in the burning of the famous Library of Alexandria.

Juvenal [13] ironically complained of a contemporary named Codrus, that the ignorant Rats were limited to the Latin tongue and had the cruelty to eat the beautiful Greek Verses; he added that the Verses were all the wealth of Codrus, and that in losing them he lost everything and nothing. How many other books of admirable works have suffered the sad fate of Codrus's verses? Most of those from the last century have already been eaten away, and the next century will certainly not see all of the intermittent Brochures, all the parts of serialised Novels, all the Polemic writings that inundate us. Rats will remove many of these, leaving only disfigured fragments will be saved as a result of extracts and newspapers. But if certain journals themselves also fall prey to Rats, as we expect, how many productions of the mind will return to the horror of nothingness, along with the names of their authors: Must I not fear the same fate? and the little tribe of Bibliophages [book-eaters], dare they touch their history? No; they will respect the Archives that illustrate them, and the interests of glory will always oppose those of greed.
[13. “. . .divine opuses gnawed by mice -
Codrus had nothing [valuable], who can deny it? And yet
Codrus lost all of that nothing."- Juven, Sat. 3.

How many authors would want to have nothing to fear from Rats! But this Privilege belongs only to their Historiographer; I know the price. What satisfaction, what a delight that I am assured of transmitting my name to posterity! The certainty of this happiness, though it is imaginary, becomes a real happiness. Perhaps, Sir, I give myself too much to the impetuous motions of my joy, but is it possible to have so much glory without a little vanity?
I have the honoour to be, etc

A mighty spirit is born of this poor body. - Virgil.

In letters, Sir, which are only written conversations, one is not subject to any rule, disorder is permitted, and is often even agreeable, and what we put in the beginning, could equally well be placed at the end. Wherever anything is put, it is always in its place, but in spite of the privileges of the epistolary style, I am subject to the weight and method of the historical genre and I do not see how I could dispense with beginning my History with some etymological research into the name of the Rat.

In the end, the science of Etymology is not so contemptible, although some philosophers say that it is divination by which we reestablish or happily compose genealogies, by unravelling the origins and migration of a People we give favourable meanings to a text, in case a Wise Man who knows several languages compares them together, explains one by the other and finds the proper meaning of, for example, an Arabic word in the Celtic Language, or a Hebrew word in the tongue of Gascony, as he sees fit. Many famous commentators have done this with great honour.

Without the extraordinary luminaries of this same science, would it ever have been discovered that the Gods of Paganism were taken from the family of the Patriarchs? That Heaven [1] or Coelus is Terah; Saturn is Abraham; Bacchus is Esau? However, nothing is better demonstrated by the ingenious analysis of the names of the Patriarchs, supported by the particular circumstances of their lives.

[1. Coelus, Ciel, Ouranos in Greek, as we would say Ouranian, that is an inhabitant of Our, City of Chaldea, fatherland of Terah; therefore Terah is Coelus.
Saturnus, Saturn, Chronos in Greek, that is to say Charanien, or an of Charan, the other town where Abraham rested a long time having left Our in his fatherland, therefore Abraham is Chronos or Saturn.
The names of the other Patriarchs, over all those of their wives, do not square so well with Mythology, yet M. Fourmont draws them very close together. See the Critical History of Phoenicians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, etc.]

Besides, most names are significant, and designate their subject by some specific location; for example, if one equate femme [woman] to fama, which means noise, renown, one is soon enlightened by an interesting discovery. Cicero himself, deploying all the forces of his eloquence against the Questor Verres in the middle of the Senate, thought to finish with a striking line portraying the manners of his adversary, showing infamy in even his name; [2] and no doubt this point was admired in the Senate, as it still is in our Colleges.

[2. Est adhuc id quid vos omnes admirari video, non Verres, sed Q. Mucius. Quid enim facere potuit elegantius ad hominum existimationem . . . Summe haec omnia mihi videntur esse laudanda : sed repente e vestigio ex homine tanquam aliquo Circaeo poculo factus est verres : redit ad se et ad mores suos. – Cicero. Orationese. 1 contr Verr.
Now, and I see you are astonished by it, he is not Verres, but Q. Mucius. For what can a man do who was held in the high opinion of all men. . . These to me seem all worthy of high praise. But immediately on the spot, as though he had tasted Circe’s enchanted cup he sinks from Mucius into Verres. He returns to his natural disposition. (i.e. the untainted public figure of the senator vs the tainted private individual.)
Until then, gentlemen, is Q. Mucius still worthy of your esteem and admiration. When the character of Verres has been declared, all of a sudden it is no longer that of a man, he has tasted the enchanted brew of Circe, and here Verres is changing into Verrat [a Boar], he has his manners as well as the name, etc. A Boar [Verrat] is a male pig.]

Profound Etymologists haven’t failed to also find, in the Rat’s name, their most annoying quality, by equating their name to [3] gnaw [ronger]. Others claim, rather, that Rat is shaved (raser) or scours (ratisser); either because this animal has short hair [poil ras], and it can be shaved, or because it scours, that is to say it lives by gnawing things away. In fact, these last two words are very analogous to his nature and his name.
[3 According to Covarruvias, Rat a Rodendo (A Darting Rat) which author deliberately links to “ronger” (to gnaw).]

We still derive Rat from the Latin Mus, [4] although these two words are not alike; lastly, from the Lower Breton Ract, or from the German Ratz: and perhaps, if you wished to look further, you would find other languages from which the Bretons and the Germans drew those names, until you go back to the old jargon of the Tower of Babel.
[4. Perion and one of the famous households, and moreover of the (Italian) Academy of Crusca. We will decline (i.e. Latin declension) with these gentlemen Mus, Muris, Muri, Murem, Mure, meaning Rat. It would be very difficult not to taste this beautiful analogy.]

It's up to you, sir, to choose between these different etymologies; do not ask me which one I prefer; as I don’t really know anything about it. You must still excuse me from giving you a definition of Rat. To define things is often only to confuse them, to obscure them, and moreover, I can boldly assume that there are none of my readers who don’t know these animals well.

In this letter, I will only discuss the domestic Rat, and those of the fields; they affect us more closely by the interests we have to untangle from them; as did the King of the Abyssinians or of the Congo, not wishing to displease all those who are interested in the glory of these Princes.

Intellectuals who have examined the nature and character of Rats, have found in them our inclinations, our passions, our vices, our virtues, and we have sometimes proposed they should instruct us, or perhaps correct us. M. de la Fontaine, especially, knew them perfectly, also, with some close reflections, I will just gather from him, adding only my comments.

Nature, by giving Rats their great whiskers, which they seem as proud of as our fathers were of theirs a hundred years ago, gave them a certain air of determination which does not please everyone. In their eyes and their whole face there is something ferocious, which even the most intrepid Cats sometimes find imposing.

Mice, which may be called a small species of Rat, are very different. They have a sweet, funny physiognomy that is completely charming. Their little eyes sparkle without any harshness. It is a real pleasure to see them come and go, to play, to leap into a room where they think they are alone; always ready to flee at the slightest sound, and to return when it is quiet. They attack one another, avoid each other, pursue each other, and perform a thousand turns of skill and agility. Imagine seeing in a Girls' Convent, a troop of Novices frolicking in a secluded dormitory, and having the double pleasure of breaking the Rule, and braving the vigilance of the senior Mothers. It’s with good reason that we say of lively and petulant children that they are as sleepless as a nest of mice; never was a comparison more just.

I consulted the Dictionaries of Richelet, Furetiere, the Academy, Trevoux, etc. to learn the origin of the famous proverb, "to have Rats” [avoir des Rats dans la tête: to have Rats in the head]. You know, sir, that these modern books contain, in alphabetical order, universal science in abbreviated form, and that without further study one can learn everything, and without further help, one can make admirable works; but the books have not made me any more knowledgeable of that proverb. I have quite understood that it applies to spirits who are lively, capricious, distracted, giddy-headed and inconstant, but I would have liked to know what gave rise to this expression, how and why Rats merited becoming symbols of madness, how they came to be included in the Arms of the Calotte Regiment, and finally, why a thousand songs accuse them of lodging in the brains, and disarranging them, just like we always unjustly – in my opinion - accuse the moon of doing this.

It must suffice, therefore, to believe that our ancients had good reasons for accrediting such similar ideas. Indeed, it’s a simple and very material way of explaining the quirks and inequalities of a man, to suppose that his head is full of Rats walking around, whose different movements determine his thoughts and his will? Without offending the Cartesians, we say these walking Rats are well worth their pineal gland in which souls have never been housed. But we’ll leave it to Descartes to study the Rats in La Fontaine.

Among their good qualities we count their tender sensibility to the misfortunes of others, an attachment which is not limited to shedding tears, nor to spreading useless complaints; but in seeking the most effective expedients to help those in adversity. Recognition and generosity, virtues that are rather rare among men, are common among Rats: a lion held in a trap from which his strength could not free him, did well to spare some time before a Rat.

Sir Rat ran up, and did so much with his teeth,
That a gnawed stitch made the whole work fall apart.
[La Fontaine’s Fables , Edit. de Paris 1729. Tome 1, Book 2, Fable 11, page 43.]

A Gazelle that was a friend of a Rat received the same service as the Lion:
Ronge-maille (the Rat had a good right to his name)
Cut the knots of the snare. We can think of the joy.
[La Fontaine’ Fables, Tome 2, Book 12, Fable 15, starting at page 209.]
[Ronge-maille = Net-Gnawer]

Unfortunately the Huntsman met a Tortoise that was a companion of the Gazelle and the Rat, and put it in his sack; this would make up for the loss of the pay for the Gazelle, had not the Rat rescued it. The intelligent Gazelle that was accompanying the Rat presented itself in front of the Hunter, feigning lameness. The Hunter threw down his sack to pursue the Gazelle and during that time
Worked and gnawed around the sack,
And he released the other sister
That the Hunter planned to eat for supper.
[La Fontaine, ibidem]

Delivering captive friends - that's pure heroism. Theseus could not have done as much for Pirithous, and great Hercules had scarcely managed to rescue Theseus. However, Ronge-Maille carried the virtues still further. To the shame of all the Philosophy of the Greeks and Romans, he knew how to render a service to his most cruel enemies; for it was the same without doubt, who was touched by the prayers of a Cat caught in a net and had the generosity to free it.

I don’t believe that this action can be attributed to a principle of interest or false glory: What did he gain, or rather than risk, in saving the life of an irreconcilable enemy? What honour could he have hope for from his fellow Rats, who would surely have blamed him for freeing this enemy? And what gratitude would he get from Cats who do not know how to appreciate such a generous act?

Above all, Rats shine due to their prudence and their ability to avoid the pitfalls of Cats: [5] they always have several communicating holes, so that if one hole is blocked, they let their enemy languish by that hole while they escape by others. If Cats are full of finesse, then Rats come second with counter-ruses; witness who it was that braved flour-covered Rodilard. Can’t we say that he spoke from inspiration? He was undoubtedly the Nestor of the Rat nation.

[5. Sed tamen cogitato mus pusillus quam sit sapiens bestia, aetatem qui uni cubili nunquam commisit suam: quia, si unum [ostium] obsideatur, aliud iam perfugium elegerit. – Palutus in Truculento
All the same, consider the little mouse and what a wise creature he is. He never trusts his welfare to a single hole, but has another refuge all picked and ready, in case one is blocked. – Plato in Truculento]

An ancient veteran of the trail, experienced in war ;
For in some earlier battle he had lost his tail :
Cried “That lump of flour is a trick to no avail,”
Called from afar to the General of the Feline Nation* :
“I suspect that it is hiding some new machination ;
Nothing can make you look like flour, you hear?
Were you a whole sack of it, still I’d not come near.”
[* Rodilard]
[La Fontaine Tome 1. Book. 3. Fable, 18, pag. 79 and 80]

This Rat’s mistrust is testimony to his ability, and gives us a beautiful lesson. Troy was taken by a wooden horse stupidly taken inside its walls; a large city [Amiens] was surprised, with a sack of spilled nuts; and every day even cruder stratagems impose upon us. It is true that not all Rats have the same perception or experience. For instance, one who was afraid of a Cockerel and friendly with of a Cat because of its sweet manners, was very young so his mother made him well aware of the danger he had run, and gave him good instructions not to expose himself to that danger.

"My son," said mother Mouse, “that sweet one is a cat,
Sworn enemy to rats, he wears the mask of a hypocrite,
Behind his smile malice drives him to wage war
Upon you and I and all our mousy relatives.
The other creature on the contrary
Is one that does not do us any ill,
One day, perhaps he’ll even be our meal.
As for the Cat, it’s on our flesh he bases his cuisine,
So be on guard as long as you may live
And don’t judge people simply by their mien.
[La Fontaine Tome. 1. Book. 6. Fable 5. p. 143]

Could the seven Sages of Greece have pronounced a more beautiful concise saying?

Mousetraps and all the other machines deadly to Rats, are mostly put down against their greed; however, most of them like good food, not so much from gluttony, as from taste for grandeur and good company. They like to give food, and they receive their guests very well.

The other day the town Rat
Invited the Field Rat
In a very civil way,
To leftovers of Ortolans:
On a Turkish carpet
He found the cover set.
[La Fontaine Tome 1. Book. 1, Fab, 9. Page. 12]

I am sure that he did the honours of the meal very well; there are even magnificent Rats that push things to the point of profligacy; they have nothing to their names, and are charmed by seeing themselves gnawing among the Rats of the world. Such a Rat was holding table in this story preserved by a Fabulist.

In a vast attic storehouse, full of Ceres’ rich treasures,
A Rat living nearby came and went at his leisure,
Through a hole he had gnawed in the wall of the warehouse.
He declared himself owner and all Rats from roundabouts,
Suffering shortages, were quickly attracted
To his open table and profligate actions.
And, like a Lord, he basked in their praise
In exchange for the dinners they made of the grain.
Numerous friends at his table were sated,
And the Lord Rat was well celebrated,
And hundreds of times his guests swore their friendship.
But would they be friends when his bounty was ended?
When the real storehouse master came to make a survey
Of his attic warehouse, he saw to his dismay,
That the Rats were reducing his store day by day
And his only recourse was to move it away.
So, overnight, the attic was emptied,
And Lord Rat now had nothing where once he’d had plenty.

Never mind, thought the Rat, who was sure that his friends,
Who’d dined with him often when he’d treasure to spend,
Would open their tables to Lord Rat in turn,
But at each door he tried he was rapidly spurned,
For none of those fair-fortune friends let him in,
All but one of his guests slammed the door shut on him.
And Lord Rat understood what he hadn’t before -
That their friendship was bought by the size of his store.
But one Rat, a good neighbour, as he found out only then,
Welcomed him warmly to his threadbare poor den:
“I despised all your luxury, I despised all your treasure,
I despised the false friends who dined at your leisure,
But for your misery I have great respect,
And your time of need I cannot neglect.
Come in, be my guest, my small store will suffice,
I don’t ask for false praise, for that comes at a price,
I don’t scrounge for others, I trust to my temperance.”
An abundance of wealth will bring friends in abundance.
[Fable of Sir de la Mothe]

In this moral story I am not looking at these false friends who abandoned the Rat, nor at the poor but generous neighbor who opened his door to him; I only concern myself with the noble and magnificent character which made him hold open table as Lord. All the Rats in this quarter are sufficiently alike, one would say that their property is in common, and that they ignore yours and mine.

I admit, moreover, that it is impossible to completely excuse the gluttony of Rats, yet one finds at least one example of frugality among them; he is perhaps unique, no matter, he is more curious.

A certain famous beggar, wandering through the world without house or hearth, was maintained by his spirit of independence and gave up everything in order to be happy. This Cynic, Diogenes, detached from the world, from the height of his misery insulted the whole human race. Diogenes finally lived on public charity during his pilgrimages, and even knew how to do without charity: the leaves of the trees, the roots, the grass, everything was good to him [Aelian Book 13]. One day, when he was eating leaves at the edge of a bush, he noticed that a Rat was taking advantage of his leftovers. Diogenes admired the animal’s frugality, which took after his own example, so he took it in his turn as a model, and it encouraged him to despise the delicate meals of the Athenians. The Rat, for his part, thought he might be happy to live like that great man, whose disciple he probably wanted to be.

After all, a Rat Philosopher would not be a prodigy: Their tribe in general has a great taste for books: they live in the most famous libraries of the world, some devour manuscripts and antiquities, others make compilations of all kinds of literature, concentrating on the Romans, while the greatest number of them have a taste for the Commentators and the large folio of Scholastic Theology - God knows how ardently they work on these beautiful works that men are beginning to neglect! An Academician [6] of merit knew two such literary Rats who had read prodigiously, but their immense reading resulted in a frightful chaos of badly arranged erudition in their heads which turned them into pedants. This was because they did not study methodically, and instead of consulting nature and reason, they went blindly into everything from antiquity, for moreover, they had very beautiful dispositions, and generally their fellows are capable of everything.

[6. Sir Billet de Faniere of the Academy of Literature, in his Fable of the two Rats, included in the Poetry Françoise of Sir de Chalons.]

Haven’t we seen one distinguished in the Republic of Letters about ten years ago? We only talked about the Rat C ***. In fact, we seldom find more salt, more cheerfulness, more lightness, more grace of style and solidity in reasoning: we see that he possessed all the talents of the Critic and, above all, that he had exquisite taste. People have tried to make him look like a dangerous Satirist, but reasonable people who know the necessity of Criticism, and who do not confuse it with Satire, will never give it that odious name.

Allow me, sir, to take a breath. What I have just told you about the Rats is almost all to their advantage. In my first Letter I will paint them with very different colors.
I have the honour to be, etc.

A number of us are born to consume the fruits . . . loafers
Nos numerus sumus, et fruges consamere nati . . . Nebulones. Horat.

Sir, Rats are just like men, there is nothing so different as one Rat as from another Rat: the stupidity of one astonishes you as much as the prudence and reason of another charms you. The superficial mind contrasts with that of the Savant. If there are generous hearts among them, there are also hard and insensitive souls; and for each sensible brain, there are ten dandies. This last characteristic is quite common among them; it is impossible to carry impertinence farther than the one who dared to mock an Elephant.

A certain Rat was astonished that men
Were touched to see its heavy mass,
As if by occupying more or less space,
We become, he said, more or less important,
But what do you admire in him, you men,
Is it his great body that scares children?
We do not take ourselves, as small as we are;
A grain less important than Elephants.
[Fables of la Fontaine, Paris Edition 1729. Tome 2. Fable 16. page 64]

A frog had once burst from inflating himself to be as big as a Bull; our Rat was no less vain indeed, but his pride was better calculated to cherish his pettiness, and to despise the grandeur of the Elephant. One could be unhappy without the resources of self-love! A Dwarf tries to persuade himself that he is worth a Giant, an enslaved Epictetus* preaches patience and constancy. A miserable philosopher declaims against wealth. An old man rails against the pleasures of youth. An ugly person declaims against the fragility of beauty. An old coquette finally displays the sign of devotion. More often than not, all these honest people honour themselves with the necessary virtues they affect, or they have only the advantage they find in having them. Our dandy paid dearly for his mockery.
[*Epictetus - a Greek Stoic philosopher who was born a slave.]

He would have said more to support his case,
But a Cat coming out of the Elephant’s cage
Made him see, in less than a moment,
That despite his words, a Rat is not an Elephant.
[Fables of la Fontaine, Paris Edition 1729. Tome 2. Fable 16. page 64]

Another Rat of about the same character had no better fate, and he got what he deserved. His father, at the point of death, was obliged to give up an abundant store which he had accumulated by long economy, made him his heir, and exhorted him with all his remaining strength to enjoy it calmly and not be tempted by the insidious bait in mousetraps. What did those wise and pitiable exhortations produce? They produced what dying please usually produce: they are listened to, only to be neglected, or the impression they make lasts no longer than the grief.

The young master of goods that were held in reserve
By dear deceased papa, at first, fattened himself;
But soon after he found the price too bourgeois;
And he finally tired of cheese and nuts.
So now my gentleman ignores these and encounters
All around his surroundings,
Crunchy pieces of bacon which he found to his taste.
Grief, he said to himself, my father was a good man
But his leftovers make rather poor fare, so I say -
Long live war and bacon!
[Poetry of P. du Cerceau, page 349 and following pages]

However, our braggart, who thought himself a very important personage in the little war, would foolishly succumb to a mousetrap, attracted by the odour of a lardon.

After many tries our poor soul approached it,
And sniffing up close finally brought his teeth near:
The counterbalance was tripped,
And the falling door traps him within.

It was then that he cursed the war and the bacon, and he repented bitterly for having insulted the spirit of his good father, and for having scorned his father’s frugality; but it was too late, a cruel death put an end to his reflections and his captivity.

These disastrous lardons are the usual pitfall against which the prudence of the Rats echoes. Their experience is too weak compared to the voracity that carries them away, and the strength of a passion that always comes back. [1]
[1. You can drive out passion with a pitchfork, but it always returns. Horatio
Naturam expellas surca licet, usque recurret. Horat.
You can chase nature out, but it returns at a gallop – Destouches.
Chassez le naturel il revient au galop. Destouches]

Would you like to hear about a Rat who combines the bad graces of a dandy with the ignorance of a fool who thinks he is wise? A Rat who wearied of the boring tranquility of country life; left his country manor to travel, and at length gloriously ended his path between the shells of an oyster.

There are countries where the love of the homeland is so greatly supported by a fear of danger that the People would not stray for moe than ten leagues from the steeple of their Parish church. Children inherit from their fathers this attachment to their ancestral home, and seldom do we meet brave ones who dare violate these family laws. Other townships, on the contrary, send travelers to the rest of the world: These men are strangers in their own home and seek their homeland everywhere, finding it everywhere. Some go to thousands of places to collect precious pieces of jugs and vases, which they call sacred, and to unearth idols disfigured by time, sepulchre lamps, and similar antiquities that prove only a fairly modern antiquity of the world . Others, led by a spirit of superstition or debauchery, abandon their Household Gods to carry their vows and offerings to foreign gods who can, however, heaar them from far and near, if their powers are not limited by rivers and mountains. Some travel for education, a few to become wiser, but the greater number travel for its own sake.

Our Rat, I believe, had no other plan. So here he goes and walks into adventures right ahead of him.

As soon as he was out of the houses,
That the world, he says, is great and spacious!
There are the Apennines, and here is the Caucasus,
For the smalles molehill comes up to his eyes.
[La Fontaine, Tome 2. Fable 9. Page 52, L. 8]

It appears, from these great words, that he had read only a little and that he did not know his Topography at all.

There are many such people
Who would take Vaugirard for Rome,
And who prattle vigourously,
Talking about everything when they’ve seen nothing.
[La Fontaine, Tome 1. Book 4. Fable 7. Page 96.]

After all, M. de Scudery [in his illustrated novel Bassa] boldly passes vessels of the Caspian Sea into the Black Sea, although there is no communicating route across the land between them except for the winds which would not be practical ecept to the Winged Ships of the Fairies.

The divine Virgil, [2] and the Historian Florus [3] make only the one battlefield of the plains of Philippi in Macedonia, where Brutus and Cassius were defeated by Augustus, and those of Pharsale in Thessaly, where Cesar defeated Pompey and subjugated his country. However, it is about a hundred leagues between Philippi and Pharsale and this distance deserves to be talked about.

[2. Therefore Philippi twice saw the Romans
Engage each other with equal weapons. - Virgil
Ergo inter se se paribus concurrere telis
Romanas acies iterum videre Philippi. Virg. Georg 1:
The Philippi Campaigns thus saw for the second time
Romans against Romans, parents against parents,
Fighting madly for the choice of Tyrants.
And for the second time Virgil hears the battle of Augustus against Brutus and Cassius.]

[3. Illi comparatis ingentibus copiis eamdem illam quae fatalis Cneio Pompeio fuit arenam insederant. Florus Hist. lib. 4. cap. 7.
Brutus and Cassius with the great Troops they had gathered, had camped in the same place where Pompey had already found his undoing.]

Sandoval, a Spanish historian, who has written the life of the Emperor Charles V, counts only ten leagues from Paris to Luxembourg, and takes Coron, city of the Morea, for Cheronea, city of Beotia. I quote these faults of Geography, because they present themselves in the moment to my mind. Well, our Rat, by joining the Appennines to the Caucasus, increases the mistakes of these great Men, and this is natural, a Rat is not obliged to know Geography like Authors.

He did not stop at this blunder; but the diary of his journey has not passed onto us and this loss, to tell the truth, is not irreparable. We have so many others which contain, among the List of Cabaret Signs, the History of Rain and the fair weather, Calm, and Tempests so faithfully, that one could resort to it to know what the weather was on the fifteenth of July, 1698.

Besides, I will tell you, but under the seal of secrecy, please, thatthere will very soon appear a work of this kind, it’s most curious. I have read the Manuscript, the title of which is entitled The Long and Painful Travels of a Christian Philosopher. The most considerable part is from Paris to Saint-Cloud, by water; the author makes a quite entertaining poetic account. He embarked during a favourable wind, to shouts of joy from the Sailors, accompanied by more than two hundred men of every age, sex, and condition. This pompous detail is followed by a description of the Galiotte, and its manoeuvres, and this description is frequently interrupted by moral digressions on the perfidy of the Wet Element, taken from the Ode of Horace to Virgil: Sic te diva potens Cypri, etc. [“Thus the powerful goddess of Cyprus” Horace, Ode 1.3]

But the piece that pleased me more is the painting of a tempest he suffered in the middle of his travel. What beautiful reflections on the winds, the waves, the dangers of navigation, on life and death! He escaped with no injury but fright, the storm appeased, the joy returned to the vessel and there was pleasure in the heart of all the Nymphs there, some even daring to make advances to him and to challenge his virtue, but he defended himself vigorously, and triumphed over their artifices. Finally, he happily saw the Port of St. Cloud, having escaped by miraculous protection from the fury of the waters, and from the dangerous caresses of the shameless Nymphs of the Seine. Thus did Ulysses, saved from the reefs and storms, and the hands of the Cyclops by the help of Minerva, could not be intoxicated by the beverages of Cyreus, nor seduced by the perfidious song of the Syrenes, and returned after many failures to his dear Itaque.

The second voyage of my Philosopher is from Paris to Saint-Denis on foot, and the account he made of it may pass for a scholarly collectionl of economic observations on the "Phenomeneon of Kitchen Gardens" of the plain. You can judge his other travels by those. He has never lost sight of the towers of Notre Dame; however, he has had some adventures that no-one was thought to have had, and he has noticed things which have always escaped the perceptions of the most curious.

Sir, accustom yourself to my digressions, for without the freedom to digress I would abandon my Work. I will return to our Rat:

After a few days the traveler arrived
In a certain township hence Thétis,
A myriad oysters lay there on the shore,
And our Rat first took them for high-sided ships.
[La Fontaine Tome 2. Book 8. Fable 9. page 52]

Then charmed with this pretended discovery, he promised himself new ones, and soon flattered himself that he could be immortalized, like Robinson, by the true history of his adventures; from that moment on, his Father, and all the home-loving Rats were honoured with all his contempt.

Certainly, he says, my father was a poor sire,
Fearful to the last, he did not dare to travel;
For me, I have already seen the Maritime Empire,
I have passed through the deserts, etc.
[La Fontaine Tome 2. Book 8. Fable 9. page 52]

However, he reasons on his high-sided ships, and his consulted appetite told him that they could only be a fleet intended to carry ammunition.

Master Rat full of beautiful hope
Approached the shell and stretched out his neck;
And was trapped like the lakes*, because all of a sudden,
The Oyster snapped shut, and that's what ignorance does.
[La Fontaine Tome 2. Book 8. Fable 9, page 53]
[* Lakes are trapped between mountains]

This same ignorance also thought to play a trick on certain mouseling without experience. This young Rat did not know anything and on meeting a Cockerel and a Cat; the latter seemed to him amiable, the other frightened him, he saves huimself and goes to tell his adventure to his mother.

Without him (the Cockerel) I would have got to know
That animal that seemed so sweet,
He is velvet-furred like us, he has a patterned coat,
A long tail, a humble countenance looks so meek,
He has a modest gaze, and yet a glittering eye,
He has ears like ours and overall this makes me think
He must be very sympathetic to us Rats.
[La Fontaine, Tome 1, Book 6. Fable 5. Page 143]

What do you say, sir, don’t you recognize these traits in ourselves - our prejudices, the lightness of our attachments? Among us all prettily marked and velvety animal are easily thought our friends. Such an animal’s value, splendour and luxuriousness attract all sorts of attention. If we wished to analyse men on this point, some would admit that they follow only their interest, and the others would at least suspect they are blinded by a stupid vanity. More often than not we form attachments without being able to justify them; maybe it is the shape, the face, the size, the demeanour or the gait that determines this. We yield to these unknown relationships, which we call sympathy, and at last we usually judge in the same way as the mouse and are similarly deceived.

All the examples I have just quoted are even less harmful to Rats than a certain public deliberation against the famous Rodilard because the faults of a few individuals do not make them the faults of a whole body, and because the faults of a body are those of all individuals in that body.

Old Rodilard, a wily cat,
Such havoc of the rats had made,
’Twas difficult to find a rat
[La Fontaine Tome 1. Book 2. Fable 1. page 32]

That is to say, that it was quickly necessary to prevent the complete ruin of the Rat State. The Rats’ legislative body Rats assembled, the preliminaries did not bother with useless ceremonies or in boring speeches to demonstrate misfortunes that were felt only too well.

Their dean, a prudent rat,
Thought best, and better soon than late,
To bell the fatal cat;
That, when he took his hunting-round,
The rats, well cautioned by the sound,
Might hide in safety underground.
Indeed, he knew no other means.
And all the rest
At once confessed
Their minds were with the dean’s.
No better plan, they all believed,
Could possibly have been conceived.
[La Fontaine Tome 2. Book 8. Fable 9. page 52]

The opinion was fine, the commission honourable, the execution perilous, and everyone apologized as best he could that he not accept such a job. It should not be difficult to find good, brave people in these wandering crowds of idle men, impotent old men, little geniuses eager for facts, dogmatists on nothingness, those who put the State to right from the shade of trees in public gardens, those making war in these houses where uselessness brought them together every day. What beautifully childish projects! What admirable opinions expressed by the Deans, and confirmed by the wise assembly! If it were necessary to fasten the bell, no one would be found to do it.

It’s the Solitary Rats who dishonour their nation the most. Retired from life, just like the Turkish Dervishes, they have no more charity than those, according to M. de la Fontaine. These solitary Rats leave nothing when they leave a world where they would have lived miserably and without consideration, but their hermitages are full of goods where they fatten themselves at leisure, and on top of that they pass in their nation for Saints. However it is a title which limits their ambition and amply compensates them for all that they could have claimed. They thus devote themselves to rest, by devoting themselves to their retirement, and their vocation is merely the result of their insurmountable aversion for work, or their absolute incapacity for anything else.

However, they believe they are in a state of perfection. Above all they scorn the world and (even more extraordinary) they are accustomed to their contempt. Useless to the state where they are merely lodgers, the needs, dangers and misfortunes of the Republic do not touch them. Worldly needs disturb their devotion of being occupied only with themselves. Insensitive to all the rest of the world, they have reached an excess of harshness which takes them to their natural feelings that one cannot, without being a hermit, refuse to their fellows. Thus all the Rats whom they call secular or worldly are, in their eyes, merely a profane multitude which the sainted Anchorites would watch perish without assisting them, and perhaps without even pitying them. Thus are those solitaries, at least if they resemble, as one might think, this Levantine Rat.

Who weary of the cares of this world,
In a cheese from Holland,
He withdrew from the hassle.
[La Fontaine Tome 2. Liv. 7. Fab.3. page 9]

While this blessed and useless hermit, fat, quiet, and peaceable, lived peacefully with a great reputation for sanctity, his country was in urgent danger; Ratopolis was blockaded, and the besieged were sent to beg for assistance from their allies. The ambassadors thought that the Sainr would help them with something – how badly they knew those devotees badly!

Mes amis, dit le solitaire,
The things of this world concern me no more:
How can a poor recluse assist, what can he do
Except pray that Heaven helps you and takes care of your woes?
His strong wrods said, the new Saint’s door slammed closed.
[La Fontaine Tome 2. Book 7. Fable 3. page 10]

As you know, Sir, his prayers did not lift the blockade of Ratopolis. However, there were perhaps twenty thousand Rats retired in Carthusian monasteries whose roots or cheese could have lifted the siege had they wished to march there and succour the city in person and not through useless prayer.

It is too long to tell you stories, I will finish with this one that I was given under the following title.


A gouty and decrepit Rat with plenty of spirit left
Wanted to make a final trip before he met his death.
This Traveller soon packed his bags and bid his neighbours goodbye,
And left early in the morning, not foreseeing his sad destiny.
Already the Dawn in the distance covered the sky with roses
And the darkness of the night plunged into the distant seas,
And the Universe was reborn,
The earth was dressed with a thousand flowers nodding in the breeze,
That bright and cheerful morn.

Our trotting friend was most surprised Rominagrobis to encounter,
What could he do in this situation? Our Rat was without a mount,
On his trembling knees, unable to run, he began form an image
Of how despite his gout and years he could avoid the rage
Of the new Rodilard, the scourge of Rats, who’d surely have his head,
He humbly bowed before the Cat and to the Cat he said:
Where go you, your Excellence?
The cruel cat at the moment raised a threatening claw instead
At this strange self-defence.

Lord Cat, Sir Cat, continued the Rat, what are you going to do?
Do you take me for an ordinary Rat whose flesh you wish to chew?
If you kill me you’ll cause great loss to the entire state,
For I’m the finest Rat Philosopher, of that make no mistake!
I have digested all the finest stuff and I would have you know,
That I’ve consumed all of Zeno and that I know all of Plato?
You will scarce believe,
As a mere child I chewed on Descartes, and if this Rat is swallowed
The State will be sorely grieved.

I swear by my whiskers grey, and by my learned pencils;
That such a murderous act, Lord Cat, it would be criminal.
And a crime to to not cultivate your natural happiness,
Because I see your aptness for philosophical genius
Won’t you condescend to hear the words I have to say?
And like a grave schoolmaster, the Rat started to talk away:
Every Body is solid or fluid, and the World’s composed of atoms.
I know where to push an “ergo”,
And something else I know from Axioms -
Is where to place a “distinguo”.

By nature, everything is full: the Universe knows no emptiness,
It was on the wrapper of a ham that the Rat had read this lesson
All is full? The cat says to itself, by hunger sorely pressed,
What a devil of a system – for my belly’s not full yet.
The reflection made, he sprang and tore the rat to pieces,
But old Rat taught the cat one lesson when he had been killed,
(Though he knew his bacon better than his logic)
He made the Cat believe more easily that everything was filled.
And thus from his teacher profited.

I think you are now quite well instructed, sir, on the different characters of the Rats. You would done very well to have passed over my digressions and for that I beg your pardon. If you read any, please read the unfortunate destiny of the philosopher Rat, to whom it was useless to know Plato, Zeno, and Descartes. I am sorry for the honour of Philosophy.

I have to honour to be, etc.

Non forma est omnibus una,
Nec diversa tamen. – Ovid.
Not all alike, nor yet unlike - Ovid

The Rats whose characters I have known are, without contradiction, those which interest us the most, but there are still many other species which also have some right to inclusion in our history, and without which it would not be complete. We know of no animal whose race is more extensive or diverse than that of the Rats; we can say that they fill the world, and to use Boileau's terms:

They fly in the air, the walk on the ground, they swim in the sea.
[Despreaux, Satyre sur l’homme]

In fact, the earth is covered with rats, the water has its own, the air is full of bats, and so their dominion is universal.

The Bats, which are flying Rats, have the head and the body of a mouse, and instead of wings have two large and fine membranes to which are attached several small clawed arms. These are, I confess, very ugly birds, if we can give them that name. There are some that are completely white in the north, which are less frightful. Generally they have no tails, except for those which dwell in the great Pyramid of Egypt (Aldovrandus lib., of Avibus), which carry by privilege very large ones, composed much like their wings, and extended in a fan like those birds.

In Madagascar, Brazil, the Maldives, there are Bats as big as Ravens; [Dictionary of the Academy and de Trévoux ] we see even more monstrous ones in China, and the Chinese find their flesh delicious; those of Arabia must be very terrible, since in certain townships they prevent the inhabitants from picking the Cassia; [Aldovrandus lib, de Avibus], those of the Isles Caribes are no less formidable and in addition their bite is venomous, [Dictionnaire de Trévoux ] it is said that they choose one out of a hundred men, that they always bite at the same place; and the Caribbean people greatly fear them, and bizarrely they honour them because they fear them. They like toconsider them as good Angels, night-time guardians of their huts, and those who kill them are considered sacrilegious among them.

Water Rats are the ame in appearance as Domestic Rats. They are seen all over France : in the Brooks, Rivers, and Canals. They are amphibious and live on small fishes; that is why they follow the condition in the kitchen of some Coenobites devoted to austerity, who, to soften the austerity of their order, have naturalized fish, and a certain number of birds and aquatic quadrupeds. It would doubtless be bad taste to dispute with them regarding water Rats; generally we do not want them for a culinary treat yet there are cities where people eats them without repugnance and even regard them as delicacies, and this is not so incredible in the judgment of two foreign naturalists [Gesner and Jonst.,, but people elsewhere are incredulous. It is true that formerly the sages of the Zoroaster considered rats an abomination and made it their religious duty to destroy them as effects of an evil principle. This, in my opinion, does not prove the wisdom of such vaunted Mages [1].
[1. Plutarc. Simposiacorum , 4th quaest. Ult.]

Icheumons deserve to be counted among the Amphibious Rats; [2] they are otherwise called Egyptian Rats or Pharaoh’s Rats. Their hair is very rough, and a mixture of yellow and gray. They are common on the Nile, and fight against the Dogs, attack the Horses and the Camels. You can judge for yourself whether Cats would have a good time with them. They feed on Snakes, Lizards and Frogs, and wage a continual war against Asps and Crocodiles; but they fight the latter only by cleverness. Here is what a previously quoted historian says about them.
[2. Jonsthon "The Quadrupeds". After Aelian, Aristote, Oppien, etc.]

"The Icheumon, a kind of amphibious Rat, [3] prevents the race of Crocodiles from multiplying. This little beast renders this service to Egypt in two ways. 1. Sit watches for the times that the Crocodile is away, and she breaks their eggs without eating them. 2. When the Crocodile is sleeping on the shore with his mouth open, this little animal, which has been hidden in the mud, suddenly jumps into its mouth, penetrates into its entrails, which it gnaws, then makes an exit by piercing its belly, where the skin is very tender, and leaves with impunity, conquering the strength of such a terrible animal through cleverness. "
[3. M. Rollin, Histoire ancienne, Tome 1.]

Thus the Egyptians can be somewhat excused for adoring Icheumon through gratitude. Such a useful animal must be a God for them more justifiably than the Crocodile, the Serpens, and a thousand other pest animals.

Now we come to the Rats of the earth. But what species shall I start with? Sir, let chance decide. Among the species commonly seen in France, there are only the Shrew [Musaraigne -Mus-Araneus] and the Musk Rat [Musavelaine - Mus-Avellanarum], that deserve attention. The first of these is very small, and is slender like a weasel; he has the long, pointed snout, ash-coloured hair, and his eyes are so small that many authors believed he had none and therefore called him a Blind Rat. [Aldovrandus]. This is also why the Egyptians, who believed darkness to be older than light, particularly honoured this species of Rat; and when they found dead Shrews they carried them honourably to one of their cities, destined for the burial site specific to these animals. They are venomous in hot countries, but in temperate climates, they are only dangerous to the Cats, who do eat them with impunity; the older cats have learned this from experience and are content to simply kill them. In addtion, while this Rat is venomous like the Spider, he similarly agile, and could walk, it is said, like a spider on a stretched thread. Now it is much disputed which of these two qualities tht he has in common with the Spider [Araignée], has given him the name of Shrew and, if you please, we will leave this challenge to the Etymologists. [This facetiously refers to the similarity between the name Araignée (spider) and Musaraigne (Shrew)]

The Musk Rat takes its name from the species of nut tree that it inhabits [Avellanarum – “of the hazel tree”], and in which it makes its nest in the shape of a bird’s nest. Its hair is similar to that of the Marten, and its smell is pleasant since the Dandies and Coquettes of the time of Saint Jerome, [4] prefer it to all other perfumes. It is necessary to see how this Saint criticises this sensuality in his Letter to the Lady Demetriad, where he preaches against the vanities of his century.
[4. Juvenes comam nutrientes et suavem odorem spirantes, cincinnatulos, et olentes pelliculam muris peregrini indigitabat (id est Avellanarum) Epist ad Demetriadem]
[Young men use sweet-smelling hair treatments, have curled and scented hair, and go about smelling of this mouse’s skin.]

All the other Rats of which I am about to describe are foreign and usually bear the names of the countries where they live. The nearest to us and the best known are the Alpine Rats, otherwise called Dormouse, Glis, Marmot, because these three names belong to the same species. I will recount the wonders of the wise government, their industry in building houses underground, and of closing them up throughout the winter; we praise their providence in making food stores and their singular skill in transporting them. The Apologist of the Beasts cites them as animals that do honour to animal-kind, and proves that they are not pure automatons. I am going, sir, to transcribe his Apology.

The proud Alpine mountains
Whose brows reach the heavens
Feed on their slope around Coire
The capital of Marmots,
Unbelieveable Rats
Who at harvest-time ingeniously make stores.
These Rats are a rather fine species
Almost the size of weasels,
They know in the summer to prepare for the cold
When grass is green they make hay,
And here is their way -
Each of them, in turn, has his role.
One lies on his back,
And by his comrades is dragged
Loaded with hay like a cart
He embraces his load
By his tail he is towed,
To the storeroom in some burrow, dark.
This diligent work makes them sore,
Each mountina Rat’s back is rubbed raw;
This subtle manoeuvre’s no joke,
If we think about it, we know easily
That it's not instinct, but reasoning
That arranges these Rats into crews.
Instinct and need are their masters
And influence these Rats harshly
To store the supplies they will need,
But it’s their soul that I’ll mention -
And which drove clever invention
To ensure they’ll have plenty of feed.
[Apologist for Animals by M. de Beaumont p. 131.]

Let's skip the Apologist and his very bad poetry. His story at least proves a great deal of industry in the Rats, but whether they have a thinking mind is a matter for another thesis and will be decided only when the nature of the soul is sufficiently well known. We are not yet close to this discovery, to judge from the pain and useless research which it has already caused to men ever since they began to reason about themselves.

It is still said that Marmots sleep all winter without eating, but if that were the case, they would be doing a lot of unnecessary exertion in harvesting provisions in the summer, and their skill in carrying them would be a complete waste. It is only necessary to know that they remain underground in their burrows all winter, and this is very wise. As for the rest [of these species], they are easily tamed, and the tricks performed by these little wretches, which derive a tribute from popular curiosity, are proof of their docility, but their main merit is that they are very good to eat. In ancient Rome they were kept in menageries called Gliraria, they were delicacies on the best-estables, and this long-lasting taste would have survived longer, if the Magistrates, through peculiar interest, had not abolished those menageries. [Jonsthon de Quadrupedibus]. Marcus Scaurus, the son-in-law of Sylla, by his mother Metella, that voluptuous man of exquisite taste, that magnificent Magistrate who had raised the famous three-storeyed Theatre supported on three hundred and sixty columns, thirty-eight feet high; this man, finally introduced to Rome by his example, splendour and delicacy in place of ancient severity, and he was the first who taught his citizens what the Dormice were worth. [Ibidem]. Scaurus’s time as Magistrate, during which time Dormice reigned over the most delicate tables, did more harm to the Republic, in the judgment of Pliny, [4] and a modern historian, [M. Rollin, Ancient History, Volume II] than the bloody proscriptions of his father-in-law, Sylla. Thus the Casuists, who are convinced that luxury and voluptuousness caused the fall of the Romans by making them soft, will be able to count Marmot [Dormice] among this great Empire’s decadence.
[4. Cujus (M. Scauri) nescio an Aedilitas maxime prostraverit mores civiles. Pliny. Book 36. Chapter 15.]
[Roughly - I don’t know whether a great magistrate crushed more civilised manners that Scaurus.]

In the Indies there are Rats as large and hairy as Marmots, except that they are more silvery. They sometimes walk on their hind legs, and are so dangerous when hungry that it is not safe to sleep with them around. In the Isle du Pin, near Cuba, one sees Rats almost as large, with red fur, that are very good to eat. [Historical Journal of M. de la Salle page 30. Volume 1.]

In Egypt one commonly enogh finds fairly large Rats whose hair is almost as spiny as that of a Hedgehog. In Nuremberg they are as big as Weasels and the colour of Hares; in Hungary they pull up worms and somewhat resemble Weasels, without being bigger than our mice. [Trevoux's dictionary.]

In Virginia there are many white rats, which the natives of that country formerly used in a peculiar way. When they had one hung from each ear, they thought themselves as well dressed as do our ladies with the most beautiful pearls of the Orient. They were, as you well know, dead Rats simply filled with straw if they naturally had some good odour, or perfumes to correct the bad that they could have spread. [Universal Library, Book 6, Page 267.]

This fashion might appear rather less ridiculous than the fashion of panniers* were the Virginians not savages because, in the end, it is not absurd to use Rats as ornaments. The veil of Proserpine, the queen of the largest of all Empires, was decorated with Rats embroidered very artistically, and in Pluto’s eyes this veil perhaps her the same graces as the belt of Venus gave Juno in a matter of honour. [Euseb. Aput Gesnerum, p 826.] [*Panniers or side hoops are 17th and 18th Century women's undergarments that accentuate hip width by extending the width of the skirts at each side, while leaving the front and back relatively flat.]

We do not need to go to Virginia and the Underworld to find examples: the Petit-Gris and the Ermine, haven’t these been used here at home, for making beautiful ornaments and to distinguish and dignify title and rank for a long time? But the Petit-Gris is the skin of the Lassic Rat [Canadian grey squirrel], and the Ermine, according to most Naturalists, is the same thing as the Pontic Rat*. It is difficult to imagine how complacently a Canon, a Graduate or a Doctor, wear these respectable skins. It has been said maliciously that skins are often talking weapons; they at least reply that a man who deserved to be donned at a University has studied according to the Ordinance.
[*Latin: The Stoat, known as Ermine when wearing its white winter coat, was called Mus armenius (Armenian Rat) because Europeans believed it came from Armenia. Pliny called it Mus pontica (Rat of Pontus). It comes from more northerly latitudes and it is possible that its fur was traded via the ancient Baltic-Black Sea river trade route, hence the name.]

I knew a brave Graduate of the Sacred Faculty of Paris who was more jealous of his Fur, than a beggar of his wallet. More than a hundred leagues from Paris, in the depths of a Province where the Graduate’s uniform is unknown, he appeared in it in the Pulpit and in the Processions, he often put it on to receive visitors and, it is added, he sometimes took pleasure in sleeping with it, so tenderly did he love it. I believe that last claim is an exaggeration, but it is completely true that, when clothed in his fur, as well as the cone, also from Lyons, he thought himself infinitely superior to his Colleagues, who did not wear the furs. For their part, his Colleagues wholeheartedly cursed the Graduate and all the Pontian Rats that accounted for his vanity.

My Catalogue, Sir, is incomplete and I have many other Rats to list, but much more curious, peculiar in nature, and more expansive than all the species I have covered so far. We will call them, if you will, the Rats of all the countries. There are always found where there are men; invisible and made of some ghostly substance, they are discernible only by their effects, so we cannot deny their existence, at least the existence of those who don’t belong to us, because each particular which lodges in the brain leaves us in no doubt. [Rats in the Brain was a metaphor for foolishness.]

Sir, please do not demand that I make you an Anlaysus of all Species of Rats in the Brain. They participate in the nature of the souls, and each seems to form a different species, however, they may be classified according to the conditions, type, and character of the Rat-traps that compose the Society. But what to List further? I will begin a list, but I haven’t perfected the same excuse that Erasmus [5] brings to madness: to not count all the types of Fools because enumeration is impossible.

[5. Non mihi si voces centum sint, oraque centum,
Ferrea vox, omnes fatuorum evolvere formas,
Omnia stultorum percurrere omnia possim. - Erasmus, Eulogy to Folly.]
[Had I a hundred tongues, as many mouths, a voice as strong as iron
I would be not be able to run through all the types of fool, or all the names of folly,
So thickly do they swarm everywhere. – Erasmus, In Praise of Folly.]

In the first class we will therefore put the Coquette Rats; I believe that they must take precedence over all others without hurting them; unless those of the Dandies wish to argue with this, and they have some right to do so. Then it would be problematic, and in order to preserve the good understanding which reigns between them, one could, by accommodation, put them together in the same indistinct ranjk that they occupy in the world. Were it were permissible to measure immaterial beings, these two would be supposed, without any risk, to be the greatest and best nourished of all the Rats of the Brain, because nothing equals the whims of a coquette or the inconsideration of a Dandy.

The second place belongs by right to the Devout and the mystical people. It is they who produce in their hosts’ minds the pious fantasies that they follow as inspiration; it is the same who cause imprudent vows and exaggerated austerities; on one hand they are a type of fanatic, and on the other, an imbecile; they send to a Cloister those who were born to serve the State in business or at arms, and they tear a man from the bosom of his family and make him a Misantrope, an unhappy man in solitude. How often each day do these same Rats make ridiculous Testaments, in which a father of a family is overcome by sudden indifference towards his children, devoutly disinherits them in order to enrich a Hypocrite, build a Temple, or fatten a Community of idlers? In general, these Rats cause in the mind such a great disturbance, that a man always contradicts his fellows and does foolish things through very wise principles.

It is useless to protest, that I do not speak of all the Devout. I respect them sincerely, and I am persuaded that honest people filled with healthy Devotion are, out of all men, the ones who have fewest Rats in the Brain.

I’ll give, if you will, sir, the third rank to the Rats of Geniuses, of talentede men. Poets have always had their brains well furnished, and we’re not accustomed to seeing perfectly reasonable rhymers: I believe that Apollo inspires them, but it is often Apollo Sminthian, that is to say, the Rat-trapper. Mathematicians also don’t lack for Rats, and Painters, and Musicians widely partake of them. All these gentlemen generally reign in a more or less extensive Sphere, where their Rats tyrannise them a little. Fortunately their Talents excuse their oddities.


Give me grace, Sir, for the Fourth Class, or permit me to include the Rats of the whole human race indiscriminately and you will take the trouble to unravel them. Every man who has no connection in his thoughts, no continuity in his actions, no order in his plans, which often seem to happen by chance or caprice, or by clockwork rather than by reason, can be called a Ratter. At least those are ideas that I believe are attached to this term. Now what the mortal does not deserve this name? The difference, sir, is one of degree, and there are infinite degrees.

Lord Asmodeus was placed advantageously on the Tower of Sansalvador with Don Cleofas, to show him what went on in Madrid! Suppose, sir, that I was in Paris, on a similar Observatory, with a Stranger curious to know about Ratters, perhaps I could show him rather peculiar characters of the kind, supposing that by the same diabolical power all the roofs were removed and I could run my eyes inside the houses. Settle, although it is night; hence I need all these assumptions.

You see, I say to my Companion, in the depths of that College, in a room overlooking a small garden, is a man wrapped in a dirty dressing-gown. He appears frozen to the desk. He is a sort of man of letters, he sometimes makes wicked verses; and I believe that at this moment he is sharpening an Epigram against the human race; for he hates all men in general according to semester; and I know he is now in his semester of Misanthropy. At the beginning of the month he makes an alphabetical list of the tables where he must go to eat, and he thinks it would be impolite for his guests not to go there on the day marked in his notebooks. As for the rest he presents himself as a disciple of Diogenes, and still imagines himself to be very gallantly put together. The first time he meets a man, he immediately loves him and overwhelms him with politeness. The second time, he scarcely deigns to praise him. He makes himself an infinity of little rules that he performs inviolably. Fifteen days in advance, it is regulated that on such a day, at such an hour, it will be the time for verse, or for prose; that in the evening it is necessary go to such a place, or that he will not let himself be seen until such hour. Once his plan is drawn up, were it necessary to ransom his life to all his friends, he would not deviate from it, so much is he a slave to the Laws he imposes on himself.

Cast your sight, I would continue, to several streets beyond the College. Can you see on the right, in a large Hotel, that pretty woman who is getting dressed? I know her, and I know what her apparel is for. When she is well dressed, she will place herself in a niche [in a café], where she will enjoy the honours of a Divinity. They will burn incense at her feet and finally, in the middle of all the smoke and candles, she will receive at least some domestic worship.

In the next house, examine that other woman who is lying nonchalantly in a beautiful bed of gold stuff. Admire the richness of the furniture, consider the beauty of the chandeliers and the quantity of candles. See how many people there are around her! However, there is neither priest nor doctor there, so she is not sick; she has taken an aversion tto sunlight, and during the daytime suffers only the light of torches. However, her bed is her throne, and her apartment is her empire; it often changes appearance for she varies the furniture as often as one redecorates a theatre. The madness of this Lady has succeeded another, quite opposite, madness: she ran for five years the Provinces at great expense, without any purpose, now she apparently relaxes from her exertions.

Let's move on to another neighborhood, I now say to my stranger; here you can see a great world contest. A brawl has attracted this crowd; I know one of the characters, he is a singular man, full of honesty, and not lacking in merit, but he is the sworn enemy of the small hats. He saw a Cavalier hass him, who wore a hat of that type and he asked him why he only wore half a hat? The other answered him sharply, they were both stung by the remarks and finally came to blows. However, this incident will not cause the man to favour small hats; he is as brave as he is mad, and he never goes to the country without a mule loaded with blades, as though he had as many arms as the one-hundred armed Giant Briareus.

On the corner of this same square, look at that elevated dungeon lit only by the dark glow of a lamp. Can you see the thin man, dejected, armed with a terrible discipline? Would you believe that he has converted a witty and eloquent Academic Sermon: he is in his keep, like Simeon Stylite on his column; but the world will lose nothing, it will soon return there with more violent passions. This is his custom: he alternately partakes of debauchery and devotion, sometimes spending one quarter in his Cloister, and afterwars spends another with Courtesans [i.e. Courtiers].

Look to the left, I will continue. Do you see the man in the isolated house, a man who walks like a madman in a lower room? He is a very rich, wise man, against the customs of his confreres; he divided Paris into several equal parts by half-diameters which came to a center where he has his main residence, and that is the house I am showing you. But he has also rented, in each districts, a number of rooms which lie on those rays at proportional distances from the center so that, almost always being equidistant from several of his dwellings, chance decides which one he will visit. He often passes by them without stopping, just as the Sun passes through the twelve Signs of the Zodiac; and sometimes he makes Stations. Nevertheless he has servants, but he only sees them at encounters, and they are as useless to him as the moons must be to Jupiter, if that planet is uninhabited.

I will come down, Sir, from my Observatory, and finish my Portrayals fear of boring you from Cedar to Hyssop* I see in the world only Ratters, but to portray them well, I would need two things, the spirit of the Devil Asmodeus, and the pen of a Sage.
[* From the greatest to the least. In the bible this is from Kings 4:33, but Bourdon is more likely to have taken it from Moliere’s Impromptu de Versailles, Scene V (1663)]

I have the honour to be, etc.

Hinc populum latè regem belloque Superbum Venturum. - Virgil.
[From there a people of ruling widely and renowned in war would come.]

Let us return, Sir, to the Natural Rats, and finally begin the History of those of which I have only given you the characters. Why is their name always famous in the Annals of All Peoples, and also in Mythology? When the Gods, terrified by the Giants, fled prudently to Egypt in the guise of various animals, the guise of the Rat was not neglected. Mr. Scarron tells us:

Momus* became Monkey, Apollo Raven,
Bacchus a Goat, Vulcan a Calf,
Pan a Rat, etc.
[* Greek God of Satire and Mockery]

Pan was perhaps the best advised of his Confreres, as his borrowed form of a Rat made this God perfectly safe unless the Giants were transformed into Cats. It is undoubtedly after this metamorphosis that Rats were worshiped as well as Cats.

In Egypt of old each beast was a God
While men were all dull as beasts;
The animal elsewhere denied an abode
Had in Egypt both Temples and Feasts.
One day, sacrificed at the Shrine of the Cat,
Was a flawless white Rat to the feline Most High:
Next day was the turn of the mighty God Rat;
One thing alone would satisfy,
That at his Temple a feline should die, etc.
[Fables de M. de la Motte.]

It is not just in Egypt that every beast was God and Rats had altars. The fear that made the first gods of the world, forced the Phrygians to deify them [Aelian and Pliny], and it was also a case of conscience to the peoples of Balsora and Cambaye to harm these animals. [Balbus in itinerario Ind. Ori, c, 4.]

If they are Gods in Mythology, they appear in Heros in the History: it is filled with their conquests, and the brilliant actions which place them next to Alexander, Tamerlane, Genghis Khan etc; similar to the warlike nations of the North which have been seen as impetuous waves of invaders in different centuries in Europe and Asia, overthrowing all that oppose their passage, destroying empires, or making them submit to their rule. Often thousands of belligerent Rats took cities, conquered Provinces, and drove out the Peoples of those places.

As evil gods, they often made the effects of their omnipotence felt on the Phrygians who worshiped them, and drove abruptly out of their country those brave Trojans who had supported the reunited efforts of Greece for ten years. Lastly, the Simois and the Scamander, these celebrated rivers the Troad [northwest Anatolia], have sometimes seen Rats on their banks. [Bochart of facis animalibus, Pliny, Aelian, etc]. With such a conquest of the Meander; the migrations of several Ionian peoples had no cause other than the cruel necessity of yielding their lands to armies of victorious rats. [Pausanias]

Let us go on to Thrace, where we will see the Abderites, people well known through a French Comedy, driven out of their country by these same Conquerers: [Justin. Hist] This revolution came under the reign of Cassander Roy of Macedonia, one of Alexander's Successors. The Rats, no doubt reconciled by a solid peace with the Frogs since that famous battle of which Homer sang, united with them, and supported by the Amphibious Legions of these Allies, they inundated the lands of the Abderites with their troops, besieged the city of Abdere, and finally drove out the inhabitants of the whole country after having taken their capital.

The Histories differ according to the conduct of the Siege, so it is not known how the City was attacked and defended, nor whether it was swept away by the assault and plundered, or whether it surrendered by capitulation, and what the terms were. Thus the most important facts of antiquity remain obscure, for lack of the useful assistance of Gazettes, which give us (by the way) a great advantage over the ancients.

However, in spite of the dearth of Memoirs, it can be said that Abdere suffered two great sieges; the first being that I have just mentioned; the second being formed by the Abderites themselves, who wanted to return to their city. They made great efforts, and finally returned, but it was not, according to all appearance, without dreadful bloodshed, the besiegers fighting to reconquer their homes; and the besieged trying to preserve their conquests. We may further conjecture that the Rats had entered Abdere, having abandoned the Rivers, Marshes and Prairies to the Frogs, that could all be well attended by these Allies.

The inhabitants of Ceretto, a small town in the Kingdom of Naples, still remember being obliged, not fifty years ago, to dispute that ground with the Rats, as the Abderites had done. [Miffon, Voyage of Italy, Book 3, p. 360.] The earthquakes caused by the burning of Mount Vesuvius gave rise to that event. The city of Ceretto was almost completely overthrown, a good part of its inhabitants remained under the ruins, and those fortunate enough to save themselves, retired to the plain, where they established a kind of camp. But soon this was not much safer than the city. An army of rats threatened them with a sadder fate than the one they had escaped, that is to say to eat them alive. Iron and fire were used against those furious Legions, good entrenchments were dug, and several nights were spent armed for fear of surprise, never was there such a high state of alarm.

In this strange trouble, they had recourse to a Cat; it was sent against the Rats, but it was eaten by them. In a moment they sacrificed it to the spirits of their fathers eaten by Cats, or, rather, it was sacrificed as much to their hunger as to national hatred. You be the judge, sir, of the solidity of the inscription which was formerly on a door of Arras before Louis XI took that City. [1]
[1. When the rats eat the cats,
The king will be Lord of Arras;
When the sea which is great and wide,
Freezes over at St. John’s tide,
Men will see across the ice,
Those who dwell in Arras quit their place.]

The Rats have done such amazing things in Italy; they have sometimes caused campaigns and even cities to be abandoned. [Ager Frixiensium. Baronius in Annalibus.] For example, that of Cosa, nowadays Orbitello, whose stories tell us only that the inhabitants were forced to leave their Household Gods to the mercy of those furious animals. [2]
[2. Circa Italiam Murium agrestium vis ex agris emersa quosdam è patrio folo populis. Diod. Lib. 3.
Roughly: Regarding Italy, the power of the wild mouse population, on top of that of the local people, killed many.
Dicuntur cives quondam migrare coa?ti Muribus infestos deseruisse lares. Rutilius Rufus.
Roughly : The people say they were sometimes forced to desert by mouse infestations.
According to Bochart (works of sacred animals) and Julius Diodore speaking of Cosa, present day Orbitello]

On the Isle of Gyara, one of the Cyclades, Rats made an evenl more memorable expedition: Pliny, according to Strabo; and all the Naturalists according to Pliny, speak of it as the most terrible of all the wonders [3]. The Rats having planned to chase away the Islanders, ravaged their lands, cut down the harvests, the vegetables, and the stores. In a word they starved the Isle then they attacked the men and animals right into the cities. Numbers were so great that the inhabitants, when they had nothing left and feared for their lives, could not hope to kill so many millons of rats, which seemed to emerge from the ground, by themselves, even without resistance . They were obliged to obey necessity, and to take the only path left and relinquish what they could not save.
[3. Pliny according Theophrastus. See “Gesnerus de Quadrupedibus” 809. Pliny and Aelian say the Rats eat gold and silver in the Isle of Gyara to satisfy their natural inclination to steal.]

They were again obliged, on winning the Ports, to open passages with sword in hand, through the enemy battalions which harassed them to their ships. The Rats’ fury did not end there. After the Islanders embarked, the enraged rats entered the houses where they ate right down to the metal; to the iron, copper, and gold, to the money, they devoured everything.

This wonderful feature is explained differently by historians. Personally I think this prodigy should not be attributed to hunger, but rather to wise precaution. Following the example of those who had gnawed at the Bowstrings, and Shield-straps of the Assyrians, perhaps the Rats deemed it necessary to devour the Arsenals, and anything that could be made into weapons against them, in order to have an advantage in combat with any enemies that returned to the Isle, or at least to remove their enemy’s superiority of arms.

What I have just touched on, with regard to the Rats and the Assyrians, is no mere trifle. It is no less than a battle victory where Rats deserve all the honour. A great Historian today speaks long and loud after Herodotus of this beautiful action, and I can do no better than report his words.

Sethon or Sevichus, king of the Egyptians, and high priest of Vulcan, a devout prince, had irritated his troops by his avarice and ill-treatment of them. [4] "He soon felt their resentment in a sudden war against him, from which he was only saved by a miraculous protection. . . . . Sennacherib, King of the Arabs and Assyrians having entered Egypt with a large army. The Egyptian Officers and Soldiers refused to march against this army. The priest of Vulcan reduced to such extremity, fell back on his God who told him not to lose courage, and to march boldly against his enemies with the few people he could gather. He did this; a small number of Merchants, Workers, and Foreigners joined him, with this handful of people he advanced as far as Peluse, where Sennacherib had established his camp. The next night a dreadful multitude of Rats spread through the Assyrian camp, and having gnawed all their Bowstrings and Shield-straps, put them on no state to defend themselves. Thus disarmed they were forced to flee, and they withdrew after losing a large part of their troops. Sethon returned home and had a statue erected in the Temple of Vulcan, where holding a Rat in his right hand, he said in an inscription: Through me we learn to respect the Gods.”
[4. M. Rollin, Ancient History, Book 1. after Herodotus.]

To me it seems it would have been possible to add “and to fear the Rats.”

Another priest, named Crinis, was punished for his lack of devotion by the same animals that had served the devout Sethonl. [Noel le Comte, Dictionary of Fable.] He was a Pontiff of Apollo, but one of those indolent pontiffs who live voluptuously and profit from those whom they serve very poorly. His negligence in sacrifices scandalized the people. Apollo was irritated, and covered the fields of Crinis with a prodigious number of Rats and Mice. The punishment of his faults made him aware of his enormity, he mended his ways and thought to avert the anger of his God by his piety and his zeal to fulfill the duties of his ministry. He succeeded, the naturally good God made him understand that he was satisfied with his conduct, and that he had returned to his good graces. But it was not enough. It was necessary to rescue Crinis from troops who lived at discretion on his land, he got this too. It may be thought that Apollo, in order to send them away, needed only a word, or a wink, and finally the same signal which had gathered them. Not at all, fattened at the expense of the Priest, they mutinied and did not judge it proper to obey.

Then Apollo, indignant at their insolence, swore by the Styx that he would exterminate them all but, knowing what enemies he was up against, he used the same arrows with which he had defeated the Giant Titius, the Serpent Python, and the sons of proud Niobe. He did reckon in vain, they perished to the very last one, but with honour and without a single thought of escape. This victory was engraved in the temple of memory, and precisely sung on the double valley* by the chaste sisters of the victor. It is even believed, and I don’t doubt it, that it was because of this action that Apollo was called Smynthian, the Rat being named Smynthes by the Aeolians, Cretans, and Trojans, just as he had received the nickname of Pythius, after exterminating the Serpent Python.
[The sacred valley between the two humps of Parnassus; the fabled residence of the Muses.]

So the Peoples I just mentioned sacrificed to Apollo Smynthian when the Rats desolated their campaigns; he was the champion of the hour in those kinds of public calamity. In Crete, where he was chiefly celebrated under this title, there was a magnificent Temple where he was represented holding a Rat in his hand.

These two stories, sir, may not have pleased you because of the miracles upon which they are founded. Here is a more modern one that we give as being more natural [Atlas Major. From Janson Volume 1, in the description of Germany.] It is some 340 or 350 years since Rats and the Mice had so greatly multiplied at Hamelen, in the Duchy of Luneburg, that the inhabitants were no longer masters of their own homes; they saw they soon be obliged to abandon them when a Charlatan presented himself to the Magistrates, and promised to rid them of those domestic enemies, askingthem for a sum for doing so. What wouldn’t they have given him? The contracts made, the Charlatan ran through all the streets, gathering the Rats at the sound of a drum, and taking them out of the City to who knows where. Afterwards he returned triumphantly to ask for the just reward for his service, but it was already forgotten, the Magistrates went back on his promise and refused to pay him. Stung by their bad procedure, he took up his drum again, and the children attracted by his reputation, and by the noise, soon ran after him. He led them out of the City, and he never returned, nor the children return though they were searched for in vain.

The memory of that unfortunate day is still preserved at Hamelen, on the same day that the gates of the city are closed it is forbidden to beat the coffers. That man was doubtless a great enchanter and, without his magic drum, Hamelen might have become Ratopolis.

You see, Sir, that the Rats are a very warlike nation, that they are capable of the greatest feats, and despite their small size they are as formidable as Lions, Tigers, Leopards, and all the ferocious beasts that afflict Africa.
I have the honour to be, etc.

Bella, horrida bella! Virg. [Wars, awful wars!]

The most brilliant endeavour in the military history of Rats is the war they once had with the Frogs, a war that is interesting, but little-known outside the Colleges. If Cats are praised for becoming the subject of two Academic dissertations [1], what a feast of glory the Rats have, they have been sung on the Lyre, on the Trumpet of the inimitable and incomparable Homer, on the same Trumpet which celebrated the relentless wrath of Achilles [2], the fortune of Priam, and the long journeys of Penelope’s wise husband [3, 4]
[1. M. de Fontenelle sought answers from the Physician as to why Cats usually fall on their pedestals, and M. Lemery examined their eyes and their hair, which he calls natural phosphors, so we can say that Cats have been, and can be, very useful in the Academies.]
[2. Achilles in the end was just a spoiled child, a boy, a mutineer and volunteer, who for a little working class girl named Briseis, roughly split from the Confederate army.]
[3. From Itaque to Tenedos, and from Tenedos to the coasts of Sicily and Africa, still on the Mediterranean.]
[4. The sage and virtuous Ulysses, always guided in his plans and travels by Minerva, despite his fondness for Penelope also had relations with Circe, Calypso, and several other women.]

Just as happy as Achilles, and just as worthy of Alexander's envy, Rats were Homer's Heroes, [5] which was fortunate for them; especially among the wise worshipers of ancient times who believed the faultless Greek Poet and his perfect heroes! In the eyes of Madam Dacier, [6] the Rats need not be simple Rats, but Poetic Heroes. It would be easy for me to increase their glory through that work of Homer, and to argue the Batrachomyomachia* in their favour. But I have forbidden myself praise, and the strictness of history vindicates me.
[5. Atque is (Alexander) tamen cum in Sigeo ad Achillis tumulum adstitisset : O fortunate, inquit adolescens, qui tuae virtutis Homerum praeconum invenisti. Cic. Pro, Arch. N. 24.
And yet when he (Alexander) stood by the tomb of Achilles at Sigaeum he cried: O happy youth who found a Homer to vividly display your fame.]
[6. No-one has ever loved anyone like Madame Dacier loved Homer, she could never see the slightest defect in him.]
[*Batrachomyomachia - the Battle of Frogs and Mice - was a comic epic or parody of the Iliad attributed to Homer by the Romans, by Plutarch to Pigres of Halicarnassus, or to an anonymous poet of the time of Alexander the Great. The word batrachomyomachia came to mean "a silly altercation". ]

After all, it is not certain that this Poem is the work of the Chanter of Ilion [7]: Very esteemed writers cast doubt on it, others dare propose it was falsely attributed to along with the Hymns, the Margites, and some similar little pieces bearing his name. A famous writer attributes the fight of the Rats and Frogs to Pigres or Tigres of Halicarnasse, brother of the illustrious Artemise [Suidas], and the name of this Carian [Anatolian] is reads at the head of an ancient manuscript [from the King’s Library].
[7. Read Mr. Boivin's Preface on the Batrachomyomachia in Trevoux's journals for January 1718.]

Once more observe that, according to an enlightened Critique [Heinsius], most of the Poem consists of Parodies of the Iliad and Odyssey, and that these Parodies make it quite charming: Note that there are many weak, sloppy, and even vicious verses, but above all it is a piece of work written to ridicule Homer's Gods, especially the formidable Pallas who complains like a gossip that Rats have gnawed some of her woman’s trinkets, and this iss more embarrassing than if she had lost her Aegis [precious cloak or shield]. After these observations, which should not be disregarded, Pigres may well have written the Batrachomyomachia; but there’s another inconvenience: this would mean Rats lose the glory of having been sung about by Homer, and also of the divine Homere would not have invented Burlesque Verse; which would be very unfortunate, because it pleases us to consider the inventor of Epic Poetry author of this sublime burlesque which gives nobility to the smallest things, and gravity to the most ridiculous. The low burlesque which masks the Iliad and the Aeneid is a miserable genre, justly despised today, and it hardly finds admirers in the antechambers.
[8. This compound word means Battle of the Rats and Frogs.]

We must admit in good faith that the arguments of modern critics are pressing, but on the other hand, for so many centuries we have been in the position of believing Homer to be the author of the poem in question. Can we now reverse this edict? Were Martial [9] and the Sculptor Archelaus deceived along with all of Antiquity? [10] This is not credible. Finally, it is in the Rats’ best interest that this poem is the work of the Greek Poet, therefore it must be his work and it seems to me that this is quite enough to conclude it is so, at least for my cause.
[9. Perlege Moenio cantatas carmine Ranas; Et frontem nugis solvere disce meis. - Martial.
Read the frogs sung in Maeonian song, or my trifles to smooth out your brow]
[10. In the last century, a bas relief depicting Homer, with two Rats, was dug up near Rome in the ancient Gardens of the Emperor Claudius, to signify that he was the Author of the Battle of the Rats. The work is by Archelaus Sculptor of Pryenne.]

But this best interest only increases my embarrassment, the more this Poem makes of Homer, the more difficult it will be for me to speak of it in a manner which answers to the reputation of its Author. The Iliad of M. de la Motte frightens me, and tells me that the Works of the Divine Poet contain Greek beauties which vanish upon translation into French, and that his thoughts are tender flowers which must be touched with great delicacy. Besides, sir, I won’t give you a literal translation of his famous battle of the Rats, I promise only an analysis in which I will take many liberties. I begin. [12]
[12. M. Boivin of the Literary Academy has translated this poem into verse, and his translation has been well received; I thought I could do no better than to intersperse his verses with my prose.]

Ratopolis Capital of the Rats, as Ratonville would say, and Batrakopolis Capital of the Frogs, were long-time neighbors without rivalry and flourished without jealousy. It is even said that since their founding the two States, separated by natural boundaries, lived in continual and profound tranquility until the reign of King Ratapon and Emperor Bouffard, and the start of an unhappy epoch of bloody war. Then an unforeseen blow of destiny broke their constant peace, and the sins of the sovereigns threw their subjects into frightful misfortune. [Quidquid delirant Reges plectuntur. Achivi. Hor. Ferm. – Punishment for the madness of their kings.]

One day Psicarpax, son of the King of the Rats, trotted at the edge of the Marshes of Batrachopolis. Bouffard, Emperor of the Frogs saw him and inflated himself to and, from his attractive size and majestic appearance, took him for a Monarch, or at least for a wandering knight. He spoke to him as soon as possible, offered him friendship, demanded the Rat’s friendship in return, and begged him to tell him his name. Psicarpax satisfied him with the noble pride that only a high birth can give, and he proclaimed that King Ratapon was his father, Queen Trotin his mother, and his grandfather was Lampon. He was not afraid to say that he was dreaded throughtout the Universe, that he was known to gods, men, and birds. This Prince no doubt believed that modesty is only a commoner’s virtue, and besides, he visibly exaggerated, perhaps deceived by the flattery of his courtiers or by the false ideas he had about the practices of the Famous.

Every day men make the same mistake in this regard. Fame, with all its wings, often only hovers over the same places, and it is not spoken by a hundred mouths, and instead of thundering voices there are only murmurs and dull sounds that are repeated a thousand times in the same place, and which do not travel far. However, men’s passion for making a name for themselves, is a folly very useful to society, and one that wise men will never declaim against.

Let’s return to our Rat, he had things other than glory, things tht were perhaps more tangible. He did not forget these, and emphasised his wealth and the delicacy of his dining table with an air of satisfaction that Bouffard noticed. Bouffard smiled, persuaded in his turn that the table of the Emperor of the Frogs was better than that of King Ratapon, and he told the Prince that if his honour was based on eating well, he would find all he could desire at the Court of the Frogs, and at the same time he urged him to visit it.

Let's cross this Lake, he said, my back will be your boat
Soon you’ll have the pleasure of seeing my Palace:
But for fear you’ll fall into the middle of this marsh,
Hold tight, friend Prince. Then Bouffard set off.

Psicarpax was both curious to see Bouffard’s Palace and to dine lavishly there, so without further thought he gave himself up to the body of the Aquatic Monarch. Forgetting that one of his size should be attached to the shore, he embarked boldly on an Element whose danger he did not consider.

Psicarpax sprang lightly onto that proffered back,
And when he landed, clasped his arms tight around.
Sailing near the river banks elicited no fright
And the Rat’s heart was warmed by sweet delight;
But no sooner did they venture from the shore,
The troubled waves washed upon his back
His mind now troubled like the waves, he worried more.

He was doubtless right to be worried, but what could he expect from that galley? The pleasant thing is that, despite his trembling, he tried to put a good face on it, and dared not tell Bouffard what he was suffering. However, fear, always a devout passion, snatched away his greetings and it was well to admit that he no longer had any other resource.

O Europa, he cried, burden of love, wonder so vaunted!
Carried to Crete on the back of a bull,
Europa, did you too travel the waves?

He went on to address Jupiter to concern himself with his peril, by reminding him of his loves, but a terrible sight froze his senses, and he lost his voice! It was an enormous serpent (or so it seemed,) raising its head above the surface of the waters. A fateful encounter! At the sight of his mortal enemy, the Emperor instantly disappeared and sank well into the mud. But what became of the Prince, abandoned to the mercy of the waves? He swam, he sank, he reappears, he swallowed the muddy water, he wa going to perish, and he would have done so had he not had to utter the speech that runs thus: [13]
[13. The ancients were great haranguers: Homeric Heroes harangued before fighting, while fighting, after fighting, and right up to the point of death.]

Don’t hope that you can hide your crime, cruel frog
From heavens high you’re seen by the vengeful Gods,
That pernicious pitfall where, sinking, you cause by death -
You’ll not have that advantage on firm earth;
It would have been better to fight or run
Than on your deceitful back to jump,
You dragged me into this muddy swamp to lay me low;
But I'll be avenged, the Rats your crime will know!
And you yourself will become my victim,
Neither gods nor frogs will save your slippery skin.
An injurious wave cut short the things he’d say,
And cut short too, his life in its most lovely days.

I do not know if the imprecations of Psicarpax were very just; did he want Bouffard’s Imperial Majesty eaten by the Serpent? Note also that Prince Rat thought of himself what we think of ourselves - he thought he had considerable influence in the eyes of the immortals; he imagined that the interests of his little highness were those of Heaven, and that lightning was made to avenge him. Such vanity! He implored in vain the vengeful gods of the Frog’s broken hospitality, but the Gods are generally on the side of Prudence, and he had neglected that particular Divinity. [Nullum numen abest si sit prudential – divine help is not lacking if we are prudent.]


The Rats, however, soon learned of his sad destiny, just as he had predicted. His Squire, who had witnessed it all from the shore, ran back to Ratopolis to announce this misfortune, and spread his fury and consternation through the account.

At the dawn of the day Heroes clamoured,
Generals of the State assembled before the King;
The warning bells rang all over the province,
And all learnt that their high and mighty Prince,
Psicarpax, lay cold and lifeless on his back,
At the mercy of the waves, and taken from shore.

King Ratapon first mourns, before his State, the loss of his only son, and the loss of the heir to his throne, then he cleverly persuaded them that his domestic misfortune was of interest to all his faithful subjects, and that they must avenge Psicarpax. His son, he tells them, perished in an unworthy manner.

Seduced by the words of a treacherous stranger:
Dear friends, let us think of vengeance and delay no longer!
Instead of our tears, the blood of Frogs must flow,
Arm yourselves my subjects, and to battle we will go!
There was no need for them to be further stirred
To action when he spoke those words,
They armed themselves believing their cause just,
Spoiling for war, thanks to the Demon battle-lust.

At the same time a Herault is sent to Batrakopolis.

Holding a Sceptre in his hand, the Herald declared war,
Uttering these words in a thunderous voice that Herald roared:
On behalf of our State and of Ratapon, our King,
I declare war against you mud-dwellers for your perfidy,
Frogs, your Prince destroyed our Prince, the only son and heir,
We’ve seen them both upon the waves, Psicarpax lies dead there:
Whoever has courage in his heart make it appear today,
Arm yourselves, perfidious Frogs, in battle we’ll engage.

This declaration threw the alarm into the swamp empire, and they whispered in low voices against the Emperor. The Emperor needed to justify himself, but he disdained the voice of the manifestos [declarations of intent] where the truth itself is always suspect, and protested loudly in the State Assembly not only of his innocence, but also of his ignorance about the crime that was imputed to him. His short, sustained justification of the assurance he gave the Frogs of beating the Rats, produced a surprising effect. They plucked up their courage; they despised the enemy, and they wanted only to come to blows.

So, sir, the war began, and the storm was ready to break. What blood would run! What carnage would be done on both the earth and the wave! And for what, I ask you ? For the death of a single miserable little Rat! But did the Trojan war have a more serious subject? Achilles, Ajax, Ulysses, Diomédes, Nestor, and all the Greek princes had the patience to mope outside the walls of Troy for ten years to avenge the insult of Menelas, as if the honour of all Greece had been attached to the forehead of that good Prince. What had Priam done, and the Trojans to these righters of wrongs, as Achilles well knew when he sulked to have Briseis? and why should it matter to them whether the beautiful Helen was in the arms of Paris, or those of the son of Atreus? Was it wise of them to abandon their country and their wives to have Menelas restored? They deserved the same misfortune as him. Prudent Ulysses escaped him beautifully, judging by the fate of the others who did not have their own Penelopes like the King of Itacus.

Perhaps I shouldn’t mention the wars between Ministries, and the religious wars undertaken on similarly slight grounds? I read somewhere that the Arabs once waged battles to decide more absolutely than their schools, whether the attributes of God were materially or virtually distinguished. [Herbelot, Bibl. Orient.]

The indecent postures of a Roman soldier who scandalized the Jews on Easter day from the galleries of the Jerusalem Temple caused a great sedition. Then there was the war of Vespasian, finally to the destruction of the City and the whole Nation. Most of the Conquerors, from Alexander to King Charles XII of Sweden – in addition to the love of glory, did they have other motives for shedding so much blood? And that beautiful name – glory - means everything you want.

But King Ratapon and all his Subjects were too offended on behalf of the person of Prince Psicarpax to let his death go unpunished. The Gods who had once been divided between the Greeks and the Trojans, did not judge the quarrel of the Rats and Frogs unimportant for Olympus. Jupiter assembled the Gods, and made them consider the intrepid warriors in those two armies.

Boldy they march with pikes in hand,
Like Mars in the middle of the Thracian campaign,
In the time of the proud Titans,
In the time of Ixion’s disdainful children.

He then asked the celestial troupe who among them would take part in that great day.

Then suddenly addressing proud Pallas,
“My daughter, it's up to you to defend the Rats,
The Rats attend all of your sacrifices,
At the smell of your food they find delights;
They often attend your Temples and your Altars.”

That was exactly what the Goddess complained about. She replied to her father that the Rats were a sacrilegious race which frequented her temples only to gnaw its wreaths, devour its sacrifices, and drink the oil of its lamps, but she exaggerated the attempts they made on the headdresses and veils, and finally on some ornament that was her own handiwork; and, to add to her sorrow, she added, “an unhappy Worker to whom I gave it for be mended importunes me daily for his payment and I have nothing to satisfy him with.”[14]
[14. From Pallas to our own time, there have been such great revolutions in personal grooming that no one knows what to call this ornament of Pallas; it can be anything you want except for a basket, as it seems that would be bad for a Goddess of her character.]

After that, was the poor Goddess of Wisdom going to protect the Rats? However she protested that she would not favour their enemies as she also had grievances against Frogs. One day when she had lain down at the edge of a swamp, tired after a great battle, the incessant croaking of the Frogs did not allow her to close her eyes. Now, a prudent woman does not forget such a characteristic trait. She therefore concluded that it was necessary to let them fight, and she advised the Gods to not interfere in the affairs of those two ferocious peoples. She said of them:

Their audacity is so extreme,
They’d even dare attack a God,
Avoid their darts and daring strokes
And from Heaven watch them exchange blows.

The immortals still remembered the wounds received by Mars and Venus on the plains of Phrigia, and applauded Pallas’ wise words. They gathered round Jupiter’s Throne of Jupiter to watch the action with impunity. If they valued their safety, they would do well to leave all events to the valour of the combatants. If they had remained neutral at Troy, the Heroes who were reported would have been even greater : Why was it that valiant Achilles could only be hurt in the heel, while his weapons soaked in the Styx bore death and horror to everything? Ulysses and the other Heroes, assisted by a deity who was wise or brave on their behalf, merely borrowed heroism.

However, the two armies were now present. Troups as noisy as gnats sounded the charge, and Jupiter seconded it with his thunder. The Frogs had placed part of their troops on a slippery hillock, in order to have a combat advantage over the attacking Rats, and their battle corps, formed in the reeds in the middle of an almost dried-up marsh, was flanked on one side by large puddles of water, and covered steep riverbanks which had a few level, but narrow sections.

The Rats, who saw that this ground did not allow them to attack on a large front, or to march all their troops together, decided to divide their army into several corps which would simultaneously attack at different places. A detachment of Archers went to stand on a height which commanded the mound where the Frogs were lodged, and thence poured a hail of arrows down upon them, while a second corps of Rats flanked them, while others spread out in the marsh, covered by unceasing the rain of arrows from battalions of archers who bordered the steep shores. Thus the matter took place wherever the Rats were able to find openings. Even better, they threw boats on the puddles of water which the Frogs thought so well protected, and the boatds were filled with grenadiers who were upon the enemy before he knew it.

Nevertheless, as soon as the boats were assembled, the passage of such troops could hardly fell their enemies without new ones appearing in their place. With a little more vigilance, and well paid spies, the Generals would not have delivered such a blow; so I am convinced that at the time we could not fail to blame them, and to justly croak Vaudevilles on their account. What is certain is that this fault cost the Frogs dearly, and absolutely spoiled their affairs. Obliged to face on all sides thousands of rats that fell on the arms of their army, they formed a square battalion, and fought vigorously. The melee was terrible, and the fury was equal on both sides. Each defeated Hero was instantly avenged by the death of his conqueror. The earth was choked with blood, the waters were dyed red, and the action seemed destined to end only in the complete defeat of both armies.

But finally the Frogs could not withstand the efforts of the Rats. King Ratapon mortally wounded Emperor Bouffard and the misfortune weakened the resolve of his troops. Prince Meridarpax finally routed the Frogs. This formidable Rat performed prodigious acts of strength and valour. Single-handedly he overthrew entire battalions. He was greater than Achille because he was not invulnerable like him, and without the help of Mars or Pallas victory was already inclined towards the side of the Rats. Jupiter should have been neutral, but it was impossible for him, either through compassion, or his desire to demonstrate of his omnipotence, or because he feared the complete destruction of the Frog species. He felt pity for the Frogs. This is too much, he said, the fury of Meridarpax offends Heaven, and is necessary that Mars or Pallas go down there to stop the rage of that reckless man.

My father, said Mars, our efforts will be in vain,
Pallas and I would arm our hands, but nothing would we gain,
To stop the deadly valour of the Rats:
The celestial troop will hardly be enough for that.
Let us all descend together, or let us launch on them
The terrible darts and arrows,
That tamed the Titans when they rebelled,
That dropped Enceladus and his tall ladders,
And Typhoon, and Mimas, and all those great criminals,
When in their pride they declared war on us immortals.

The matter was serious; and the father of the Gods, unable to make his children obey him, was obliged to follow their advice.

Jupiter took the winds in his hand,
And he threw his thunder upon the earth below,
He shook Olympus to its foundations,
When he threw his lightning to consume
Those who suffered his inevitable blows;
[. . .]
In that dreadful moment the whole world shook,
The Rats on Earth and the Frogs in the Waves
Trembled, but then condemned their fear
Rat-kind rallied and once again was brave,
Offering no truce to the timid Frogs,
And enemy blood dyed the damp plains.

Sorrowfully great Jupiter saw his Frogs perish. It insulted him that the Rats braved his thunder which commanded respect from men themselves! He might have willingly abandoned the Marsh peoples to their fate, had he been able to do so with honour, but he had advanced too far to retreat.

To attempt is mortal, to succeed is divine. [Trag. de Childeric.]

Committed to supporting the sententious justice of this happy verse, he sent the Frogs auxiliary troops who did what he was unable to do from the summit of Olympus – these were Crayfish. These monsters, more formidable than thunder, were covered with scales and armed with sharp pincers. At first their frightful appearance astonished the Rats, but they stood firm. As soon as they felt torn and cut by these new enemies against whom courage and valour was useless, the Rats beat the retreat, and retreated in reasonably good order albeit in a great hurry.


However, this retreat, which was not actually a rout, did them as much honour as their victory would have done. Although they yielded the field of battle, they left it strewn with their enemies while their own loss was not that bad in proportion and they could claim the solid glory of having fought not only against powerful enemies, but also against a foreign element, and against even the gods.
I have the honour to be, etc..

Agmen subjestis spargere in arvis,
Crescere quod subito majus majusque videtur. - Ovid.
The troop were suddenly seen to grow, and to increase more and more in bulk.

I announce to you, sir, wonderful things about the origin, antiquity, and multiplication of the Rats. Noah, if you wish to believe Arab Doctors[1], was the restorer of the Rat species, just as Deucalion, according to the Poets, was restorer of the human race, and in such a simple way: Noah slapped a Pig which then sneezed out a Rat on the spot. This Rat was apparently female, and, moreover, was fertile on her own because the Ark was soon filled with these animals, which were gnawing day and night, and which very quickly carried off the provisions of the Patriarch and his children. He soon repented of having augmented his Menagerie with such an inconvenient animal, and resolved to correct his error. For this he needed only his miraculous slaps. He slapped the Lion and it sneezed out a Cat armed from head to toe. As soon as this new animal ran to its destination it began to attack the Rats. Since posterity it has avidly waged this terrible war.

[1. Murtady Arab author (translated into Francois by M. Vattier) of the wonders of Egypt. Read also the Persian Letters.]

You will also know, Sir, that the Pig had been sneezed out by the Elephant, to rid the Ark of all the useless and nasty-smelling stuff.

I make two reflections on these two oriental traditions. The first is that the Rat is older than the Cat, and you feel perfectly well how much I could exaggerate this advantage. The second is that the Rat can trace its origin back to the Elephant since, via the Pig, it descends in a straight line. The smallest of the quadrupeds, therefore, comes from the largest animal in nature, and no doubt that is admirable. A moralist thus added that we do not always resemble our fathers, and that we are often very small, even though we are descended from very great personages. For this morality alone, the ideas of my Authors deserve some consideration, but if I were denied their authority, I confess that I would be embarrassed.

The generation of the Rats is even more mysterious than their origin. Naturalists have always regarded it as a great problem, and have explained it by surprising marvels. It is true that the stories are full of odd facts and examples which are repeated daily, making it difficult at first to give an account that grants Rats only the principles of fertility common to all four-legged animals.

We have seen that they once desolated the fields of the Trojans and the Aelians; so I can easily believe, like AElien, that they were found in sufficient numbers to cut off the small villages of those peoples. I think this happened often [2]. Near Calene, Rats destroyed a vast field in a single night; and elsewhere in Italy [3] they ate all the fodder in a short time [4]. One year in Germany they ravaged the villages so furiously that they caused a shortage of provisions there [5]. Cantons in Palestine were entirely abandoned to the Rats, and there were others where it would be useless to farm anything if certain birds of prey didn’t devoured an infinite number of Rats. It is even claimed that swarms of Rats sometimes brought plague into countries, and this is why the Romans, [7] when waging war in Spain, sent detachments far away to chase the rats which, besides carrying the plague, would even more certainly have brought famine. Indeed, these examples almost prove the recent origins of Rats.
[2. Niphus apud Aldovrandum (Agostino in Aldovrandi ) lib. 2. p. 437.]
[3. Annals of Baronius, Tom. 13.]
[4. Hist. Allem. part. 2, Aldov. p. 437. ]
[5. Aldovrandus ibidem]
[6. Strabon Liv. 3.]
[7. Idem ibid]

They do not respect France any more than they respect foreign countries; sometimes Provinces are so inundated with them that there is little left to harvest afterwards; the earth is covered only by holes which communicate with each other, and where you can see the Rats moving about. We see these things all too often yet three months before the harvest would have been difficult to find two rats in two areas of land. At first you can’t imagine, that a few widely dispersed in a country could, in a summer, inundate it. Thus men have formed different explanations for this phenomenon.

Perhaps the simplest was to suspect that the Rats have unknown dens during the winter from which they emerge in springtime in greater numbers than one thinks. The second is that the first generation of rats is soon able to make a second generation, this second a third, the third a fourth, (as it is indeed) and perhaps beyond. Then we could calculate the product of a supposed initial number and I doubt we would be so surprised to see so many Rats.

But it was easier to confusedly imagine that Rats came out of the earth without embarrassing themselves in that way, or to believe pure and simple that the ground produced them by some generative virtue, according to the good principle of ancient Philosophy, that the decay of one thing is the generation of another or, according to the Epicurean idea, to be persuaded that wet earth heated by the sun produces by its own power the animals that inhabit it, even man himself. There is scarcely anyone of the Epicurean opinion regarding insects, to whom no other principle of their existence is given except for decay, but this is supposed to prove the thesis with regard to the Rats. It is claimed that when the Nile withdrawns, one can see thousands of half-formed Rats in the deposited silt, one part already animated, and the other still only mud ready to to receive the organism [8]. Thus one could markedly see this marvelous process, but a miracle of this type would have too great a consequence in all physics, for it to be believed simply on the testimony of Pliny.
[8. Aelian. Pline.]

It is no easier to convince oneself that it rained Rats in the Thebaid [9], or that there were females of rats who carried in their belly already pregnant females. [10]; and it must, no doubt, have taken all the faith that was formerly entertained for Aristotle’s ideas in the Colleges, to believe his claim that a female locked in a millet bushel with no male made a hundred and twenty little ones, and that in general, they can all conceive without males by licking salt, just as they have written about the Spanish mares that conceive just by turning their rumps to the south wind.
[9. Aelian. The Thebaid was a region of ancient Upper Egypt comprising the 13 southernmost districts, from Abydos to Aswan.]
[10. Idem]

It is true that once these prodigies have been verified, the fecundity of the Rats is not inconceivable; I will not refute them, and I will even be the first to believe them if I see them.

The populace has also formed theories on the multiplication of the Rats, just like the Naturalists, and you judge well, Sir, that it does not forget the marvelous. Accustomed to considering things only in relation to the interest derived from them, or to the inconvenience received from them, man confusedly accepts two principles: God and Demons. He attributes good to God, and dismisses evil as evil spirits. That is the whole physics of the weak and superstitious kind. Thus in the years when there are many Rats, they blame Sorcerers and Magicians, that is to say the blame imaginary men that they give those names. This doubtless works very well if you never see the processes of Nature.

As a consequent of this assumption, people who must be even more foolish than Peasants, because they were supposedly more enlightened, have proposed to hunt the Garden Rats and Fields by Sorcery. These Doctors have created a Talisman that they say is very effective, here it is [11]: On a paper that is attached to a stick in the field from which you want to hunt Rats, you must write these fearsome words: “Adjuro vos omnes Mures qui hic consistitis ne mihi inferatis injuriam : assigno vobis hunc agrum, in quo si vos posthac deprehendero, matrem Deorum testor, singulos vestrum in septem frusta discerpam.”
[11. Apud Aldovr. P. 438. ]

"I beseech you all, wicked Rats who are here, to do me no harm; I forbid you this field, and if after my prohibition I ever find you there, I swear by the mother of God that I will cut each of you into seven pieces.”Truly this conjuration accomplishes nothing in French; and also, perhaps the Rats who were unaccustomed to not respecting it in Latin, might read it better in this language.

It is doubtless through condescension for the ideas of the people that the clergy, in certain unenlightened centuries, allowed the custom of excommunicating the Rats to be introduced, a ceremony that is useless at best. It was observed in great exactitude in the cities of Autun, Baune, and Macon in Burgundy. It was noted in the courts, first passing before the civil Judges; two Advocates pleading for and against the Rats, then, on the judgment of the Secular Judges, those of the Church were upheld. Sir de Chassaneux, who was first President of the Parliament of Provence at the time of his death, a Legal Advisor known for his Commentaries on the Customs of Burgundy, and other Works, did not believe Rats unworthy of his eloquence and erudition. [12]
[12. The Roman Advocates also considered Rats in their laws, witness this one. Si fullo vestimenta polienda acceperit, eaque mures roserint, ex locato tenetur quia debuit ab hac re cavere. (Roughly - If the clothes washer receives clothes he is obliged to take precautions against mice ganwing them) L. Item quaeritur. si fullo ff de loc. et cond.]

[Translator’s Footnote. According to “Lawyers' Merriments” by David Murray, 1912:
Between the years 1522 and 1530 rats had multiplied in the country of the Beaune to an alarming extent, and their depredations were so great that a famine seemed imminent; when, all human efforts having failed to exterminate the pest, the Beaunois prayed the Official of the diocese of Autun to excommunicate them. A formal complaint against the rats described as dirty animals in the form of rats living in holes was accordingly laid in the court of the Official. The rats were formally cited to compear, but, not having done so, they were adjudged to be in contumacia, that is, in contempt of court. The promoter of the suit then prayed for definitive sentence ; but at this stage Barthelemy Chasseneux (1480-1531), a staid and learned lawyer, was appointed counsel (patronus) for the rats. He stated the dilatory plea that the rats, being scattered throughout a great number of villages, a single citation was not sufficient to warn them all, and he accordingly obtained an order for a second citation to be made at time of sermon in each parish church. This proved no more effectual than the first; still the rats did not come. To excuse this fresh default the advocate dwelt upon the length and difficulty of the journey and on the dangers to which the rats were exposed from cats and the like, and maintained that the rats were entitled to protection on their way to the court and on their return home. The court was inclined to give effect to this plea, but the promoters of the suit were not prepared to give the necessary security. On the merits of the case the advocate's pleading was divided into five parts, very logical, but very prolix. He adduced ten arguments that the rats ought not to be excommunicated, and a dozen that they might, however, be anathematised. As the promoters failed to find security for the protection of the rats on their way to court, the proceedings ultimately collapsed.

Chasseneux gained great credit by the manner in which he conducted the case on behalf of the rats, and it was the starting-point of a most successful career at the bar an encouragement for those who now act as agents or advocates for the poor he became King's Advocate for the bailiwick of Autun, a Councillor of the Parliament of Paris, and President of Aix.

Chasseneux was at the head of the parliament of Provence when the notorious judgment of 18th November, 1540, was rendered, by which a certain number of the inhabitants of Cabrieres, Merindol, and other places were condemned to death for contumacy, that is, for non-appearance to answer to a summons, and their dwellings to be levelled with the ground, their caves and hiding-places destroyed, and the trees in their gardens cut down. These people were a remnant of the ancient Vaudois, who had become suspect on account of the new teaching of Luther. Chasseneux suspended the execution of this judgment on a petition to the King that the people should be heard, which was granted. Chasseneux died a year later at Aix. His successor, President Meinier, Baron d'Oppede, caused the judgment to be carried out in all its rigour.

Rats had another advocate in no less a person than Hieronymus Rorarius, the nuncio of Pope Clement VII., at the court of Ferdinand of Hungary, and who is famous for having maintained that the lower animals have reason, and employ it better than men.

In the Dissertatio de Pulicibus [. . .] the concluding query is, "De remedio pontificio exorcismi in specie" The author refers to the pleading of Chasseneux, and quotes the form of expulsion "Adjuro vos mures, limaces, vermes, pulices & omnia animalia immunda, alimenta hominum dissipantia & corrodentia hoc in territorio & parochia natu existentia ut a dicto territorio & parochia discedatis & ad loca accedatis in quibus nulli nocere possitis. In nomine Patris, Filii, & Spiritus Sancti, Amen. “ Zaunschliffer adds from St. Augustine, "Quisquis hodie adhuc quaerit miraculum, quaerit prodigium."]

At the beginning of the fifteenth century the Rats accused, and convicted, of having done much damage around Autun, were excommunicated by the Bishop; Sir de Chassaneux, who was then King’s Advocate in that city, took their defence and made a very fine defence in their favour, at least we presumeso, because this is unfortunately not in his works, and I have sought in vain elsewhere. If anyone finds the manuscript it would make a very precious present to the Literary Republic. The President of Thou spoke of it as a piece which had survived though he had not personally seen it, and seemed to quote it only after Chassaneux himself, who spoke of it in his Treatise on the Customs of Burgundy.

As it has been lost, historians have reasoned according to what they liked. They say [13] "that ..... Sir de Chaffaneux ...... being at Autun when some Villages of the Auxois demanded that it was the duty of the Church Judges to excommunicate the Rats who laid waste to the country, he took defence of these animals, and proved that the time given for them to appear was too short, especially since it was dangerous for them to set out on the road; all the Cats from the neighboring villages would be on the alert to stop them along the way. On this argument Chassaneux obtained a ruling that they would be cited again, but with a longer delay to answer them. "
[13. Le P. Niceron Tom. 3. The Illustrated History of Men, p. 376.]

In times when the Devil was gravely quoted in Justice, it was possible to cite Rats, who were doubtless necessarily condemned by default; however, we can not believe that a man of good sense such as Mr Chassaneux, alleged the grounds of defenc that I have just quoted. Whatever he did, he is certain in his own works that he defended the cause of the Rats, and that he decided that men had the right to excommunicate them, as well as flies, caterpillars, Grasshoppers and other infestations against which the same ceremonies were practiced. Even now there are Villages in Burgundy where the Peasants still oblige their Pastors to renew the excommuication.

A physical method of destroying the Rats infesting fields and houses which is more efficacious than Talismans and excommunications would undoubtedly be a very useful discovery worthy of research by the greatest physicists; besides, nature itself has established a certain ratio between their multiplication and their destruction, which must have provided for the problems that would result if animal species multiplied to infinity, so that they all preserve themselves in about the same quantities.

Thus the heat, grain and natural fertility of Rats, fills the country during the summer; but soon the rain, frost, hunger and floods make many of the perish; the birds of prey destroy many of them, and natural death carries off still others for they are not long-lived, which is why, in Horace, an Epicurean Rat reminds his companion that his life is very short, and exhorts him, according to the morality of Epicurus, to make it good. [Vive memor quàm sit aevi brevit, Hor. Serm.]

So there is no Rats left after winter except for as many as it takes to repopulate the country, which is as Nature orders, though is contrary to our own interests. If we sometimes see more and other times see fewer, this difference comes from the irregularity of different causes.

We must add to the principles of their destruction, the wars they wage; because they eat when they are hungry. Without this barbarism, more common in domestic Rats than in field Rats, we would be even more inconvenienced despite Arsenics, traps and Rat-catchers; but fortunately for us, like the Romans who, being invincible to all foreign nations could only be destroyed by themselves, the Rats devour each another and more perish in their civil wars than at the Claws of the Cats. It may be exaggerating, but I know the antipathy that reigns between those two species, however, since the opportunity has arisen, I will report fact which proves that this hatred is not absolutely inflexible. After this example, we should not despair of the reconciliation of J*** and M*** [Rep. des Lettres, Mars 1718]

We have seen, O force of Love! a fat Rat and a Cat love each other passionately, and come close to the species that form and antipathy seemed to have divided by an eternal barrier. From that bizarre love came a mixed race that were neither rats nor cats; their status was uncertain, and this uncertainty would produce very surprising effects. Each of the two species they were part of saw their enemy in that equivocal race; some pursued it while the other side feared it. The Rat part was afraid of Cats, but the Cat part loved Cats. Like Cats they wanted throw themselves on Rats, but at the same time the rat part wanted to love Rats. What nature! that it caused such a conflict of inclinations! They defended themselves as much as they could against Cats; but at finally they surrendered to all the fighting and the superior forces exterminated them. It must be added that their mother was cruelly persecuted by the Tomcats who were indignant that she had preferred a Rat over them, but she was constant to her passion and not at all ashamed. She never abandoned her lover, and even defended him on every occasion against rivals who had sworn to destroy him.

It seems to me that this trait would have well raised the fidelity of the Cates, and justified alone the chaste Diana, to have taken the form of one of these females.
Relax, Sir, I won’t tell you any more anecdotes about the loves of Rats. Among them there are no tender Helioses or unfortunate Abelards divided by their being; in their homes gallantry is not glamorous, and their peaceful holes do not resemble the boisterous theaters of the roof-gutters where their enemies meow their pain and pleasure with much pomp.
I have the honour to be, etc.

Si nocent, prosunt – if it hurts they help.

On the Pieces I have just produced against the Rats, are the people wrong, sir, to consider them as criminals, shouldn’t they hate them as a plague on houses and fields, and consequently view them as punishment from God like a heavenly catastrophe? Scripture itself allows this opinion by an example that is outside of natural occurrences: This is the plague which struck the Philistines after they took the Ark of the Covenant from the Jews. [1] their country was suddenly inundated with rats, the earth seemed to throw them from its breast in the thousands to ravage the countryside, and soon everything would have been consumed had the priests of the Philistines not recognized that the God of Israel demanded the return of the Ark by this punishment. They therefore recommended sending it back by the quickest method. They even melted down five gold Rats which they included as an offering of atonement. Indeed, as soon as the Ark was returned the Rats dissipated as fast as they had arrived.
[1] Aggravata est manus Domini super Azotios, et demolitus est eos; et percussit eos in secretiori parte natium . . . et ebullierunt villae et agri . . . et nati sunt mures. Cap. 5. V. 6. Lib 1. Reg.
The hand of the Lord grew heavy upon the Ashdodites, and he laid waste to them, afflicting them with tumours in secret parts (haemorrhoids) . . . and Mice ran about in the villages and fields.
Nobilis dimittere eam vacuam . . . juxta numerum provinciarum Philistinorum quinqu anos aureos facietus, et quinque mures aureos, etc. Ibid. Cap. 6. V. 3 et 5.
The nobles sent it back but not empty . . . according to the number of provinces in Philistine they placed in it five gold tumours and five gold mice (i.e. representing the return of the haemorrhoids and the mice)]

However, Philastre, bishop of Brescia,[2] who lived in the time of St. Augustine, did not approve of the present of the Golden Rats, concluding that the Philistines adored Rats [3] and assigned them an honourable place among the first Heretics, as far as this name may be suitable for Pagans. Philastre was a good priest and heresies cost him little; he found them in the days of the week, in the plurality of worlds, in the division of the earth and, finally, in everything that shocked his prejudices.
[2. City of Italy, formerly Brixia, known by these famous verses:
Brixia vestrates quae condunt carmina vates,
Non sunt nostrato tergere digna nates.]
[3. Catalog. Heret. p.7. Musitoritae suns quidam nomine qui sorices colunt, quique, etc.]

But these vengeful Rats are not just fatal to the fields, fruits and harvests. They sometimes punish the guilty in person, chastising the crime even on the throne or on the altar. The illustrious villains for whom there is no Justice, cannot escape them. Witness the Tragic Stories of Poppiel II King of Poland, and Hatton II Archbishop of Mainz [5]. Poppiel, who was nicknamed Sardanapalus [6], was devoured by an army of Rats who attacked him in his palace. It is even said that, to make the example more terrible, this frightful catastrophe took place during a great feast in the presence of the whole population of the Court who were not able to defend their King. His crime was the massacre of his uncles, from whom he had usurped the crown. He even refused them a burial place, and his excessive and and purposeless cruelty was his undoing. The Rats were formed from the rottenness of the Princes’ corpses and they, in turn, compounded their vengeance by extending it to Poppiel's wife and children according to the ancient custom of punishing all that belonged to the guilty. Thus they went beyond the limits of Justice, and perhaps beyond their mission.
[4. Misson; Travels in germany, Tom. 1. p. 68. ]
[5. Idem ibid. p. 66 et 67.]
[6. Year 823.]

The crime of Archbishop Hatton, nicknamed Bonose, was no less blatant. In a time of famine he inhumanly burned a large number of poor people in a barn [year 967] on the pretext that they were useless mouths which had to be sacrificed for the salvation of others. The Rats punished him for his political barbarism: he fell ill in his house on the banks of the Rhine, between Bacharach and Rudisheim, and the Rats came to besiege him in such numbers, that to get rid of them, he was obliged to be transported to a little Isle formed by the Rhine, opposite the house which he abandoned; but these stubborn animals swam the river and devoured his greatness in a square tower which is still known as the Tower of the Rats, and which will be a long-lasting, if not eternal, monument to the Hatton’s cruelty, the reward for his crime, and the formidable power of the Rats, those Ministers of Celestial Vengeance: They have exercised many other such acts, and I pass over in silence the story of a soldier whom they also ate, because it does not have the same brilliance as the stories of a King and an Archbishop. Besides, I beg you, Sir, whenever I speak of such prodigies, to think that I tell them without any guarantee: Equidem plura transcribo quam credo (I report more things than I believe).

All these traits still justify the Jews for hating Rats as unclean animals and unworthy to serve as Sacrifices, besides that the Tribeof Levy would not know what to do with a similar case. [7]. This Judaic aversion seems to persist today for every day I see people who are very reasonable in all other things, who can not tolerate Rats. There are some women so delicate on their account that they cannot hear the word said without shuddering, but we can easily attribute this weakness to the tender imagination of the Ladies. When I saw men of war, good officers for that matter, evading the sight of a mouse I always suspected that they did not genuinely faint because, in a campaign they would have encountered the opportunity too often. What would they have done at the head of an army? The enemy wouldonly have had to lead a battalion of Rats against them, or merely load their flags, in order to beat them as easily as the soldiers of Cambyses took Peluse by attaching Cats to their shields; Cats being worshipped by the besieged. [8] I know that One can be born with these strong and violent antipathies, but when one works to destroy them, we at least succeed in weakening them.
[7. Abominationem et Murem, Isaie cap. 66]
[8. History of Empires and Republics, etc. Tom. 1]

I grow weary, sir, of speaking ill of Rats, and I also believe that all the Memoirs I collected against them are exhausted. I have painted them as the worst race of all animals. Let us see now if they really are absolutely useless in the world. We still thought to do them a favour in treating them as a multitude, useless and voracious, according to the application made to them in a Latin verse [9]. At all the times they have served men with an infinity of uses. [10] Medicine books are full of their properties: their heads, hearts, ashes, and even their excrement, all have admirable effects, like preventing bedwetting in children, to making men powerful, women sterile, and a thousand other qualities.
[9. Nos numerus sumus, et fruges consumere nati. - Hor.lib. I epist. 2.]
[10. Aldov, lib. 2, p. 434 et 435]

The People of Calicut [11] commonly eat Rats without fearing that this food will make them lose their memory, as Rabbis have written that it does [12]. They pretended by this to explain physically why Cats are not as faithful and devoted as Dogs. These Rabinic ideas are rather pleasing, and it would we wish that they were true, because we would sometimes pay dearly for a glass of wine from Lethe [13], were it were possible to have some, and this would not be necessary if Rats had the virtue of this miraculous liquor.
[11. Aldov. lib. 2, p. 434 et 435]
[12. Buxtorf and Arnaud de Villeneuve.]
[13. Lethe, River of Forgetfulness.]

Despite the lack of faith I have in Travellers, I believe, however, the one who reports that in a Voyage to Brazil [14], when the provisions ran out, they fedthemselves on Rats alone and paid three to four crowns each for them. The price does nothing to something that must have happened more than once on the sea; and in these circumstances we surely can’t complain that Rats are inconvenient.
[14. Lierius Burgundus apud Aldov, p. 434.]

They are also a resource during a Sieges. At the Siege of Cassilin by Hannibal, [15] a Rat was sold for two hundred crowns, which was not too much for the one who bought it, for it saved his life while the person who sold it too him died rich but starving. They were not cheap in Paris, when Henri IV besieged the city, [16] who paid better for a delicate piece than a woman of quality. At the Siege of Melun under Charles VI they feasted on Rat, and they were not shunned during the Siege of Calais by Edward King of England [17]. The Jews’ great horror of them did not stand up to the extremities of hunger which compelled them to eat Rats during the famous Siege of Jerusalem, and that of Samaria. All in all, for the besieged they will always be a resource as great as it is unmissable.
[15. Cassilinum obsidente Annibale murem CC. nummis vaeniisse annales tradunt, eumque qui vendiderat fame interiisse, emptorem vixisse. Pline. ]
[16. Felix Cornejo, History of the League and the Siege of Paris.]
[17. History of the Count of Oxfort by Madame de Gomez.]

Would you believe, Sir, that these same animals formerly contributed to public entertainments in Rome? The Emperor Heliogabalus [18] collected ten thousand Rats to be included in the same Circus that was famous for the battles of the Gladiators and ferocious Beasts of all kinds. If the People of Rome were anything like those of Paris, I am sure that the Circus had never been so full; yet this spectacle was less unusual in a town where Rats hitched to small chariots were commonly seen in the streets [19] as this was an amusement as ordinary to children as making huts and riding astride a stick [hobby-horse]. I am surprised that the little Inhabitants of the Colleges who did not fail to make their Reflections on these childish Chariot, did not revive these Roman pursuits, at least to show that they had benefitted from Horace’s lectures; they could easily train them to the carriage, since they made great pets of them, especially those of the fields which they teach a thousand kindnesses despite the indocility that Pliny attributed to them [20]. These Rats, Rope Dancers [21], who have toured all over Europe not so long ago, and who have been admired everywhere, prove nothing less true than indocility, and the one who had been trained to act as a candlestick, holding a lit candle between his paws a lighted candle, sitting on his behind, did all that could be required of a Monkey [22].
[18. Lampride, quoted by Aldovrand, Book 2. p. 434]
[19. Aedificare casas, plaustello adjungere mures, ludere par imper, equitare in arundine longa. – Horace. Lib. 2. Sermon. Sat. 3 - Building clay castles, yoking mice to a cart, playing at "odd or even," riding on a long reed.]
[20. Notandum est autem hirundines è volucribus, et mures ex animalibus esse indociles. Plin. cap. de muribus. (Note that of the birds, swallows, and of the animals, mice, are intractible.)]
[21. Wars of Flanders, Spain and Italy, or Memoirs of the Marquis, etc.]
[22. Albertus.]

Sir, it is necessary to count on your indulgence, to provide some details that I did not give you because of their great importance; yet all these collected facts prove that we can gain some amusement from Rats somehow, and anything that amuses us is useful. If Rats, as Horace tells us, amused the Children of Rome, they seriously occupied the College of Augurs, and often embarrassed Priests, the Senate, and the Generals. Like Ravens and scred Chickens they were regarded as Prophet; the favourable or sinister Signs they could give were studied religiously, but were commonly interpreted in a bad way.

The sharp cry of a Rat or Mouse was enough to break and annul the auspices, when the Augurs held their Comitia. It was enough to make Fabius Maximus, [23] abdicate the dictatorship, and Caius Flaminius General of the Cavalry resign from his Charge, as if these animals had given them the express orders of Jupiter Stator, Patron of the Republic. Some time before the war of the Marses [24], the rats gnawed silver shields at Lanuvium, and it was divined that they wanted to declare a war with those foreigners, just as the insults they made to General Carbon's shoes [25] were taken as a foretelling of his death. Before his last campaign, General Marcellus [26] was more disturbed because Rats had sacrilegiously gnawed the gold at the Temple of Jupiter than by any other worrying Sign. The Rats, as you see, Sir, were of great consequence in religion; and the Romans excessively devout.
[23. Aelianus lib. 1. Varr. lib. II. apud Aldov. p. 428.]
[24. Ciceron Book 2. Divinations.]
[25. Aldov. p. 428. titulo proesagia. ]
[26. Plutarque in Life of Marcellus.]

It is true that there were strong minds in Rome, as there were everytwhere, who only believed in religion for the benefit of inventory, an who mocked the gods and divinations; consequently they were rather unscrupulous on account of the Rats: Philosophers in general even dared to make fun of it publicly, no doubt greatly scandalising more delicate consciences.

Cicero, for example, spoke of it with all the incredulity of an Academician: "We are weak and so imprudent, that if the rats come to gnaw something, even though chewing is their occupation, we take it for a portent. Before the war of the Marses, based on the fact that Rats that gnawed Shields at Lanuvium, the Auspices pronounced this to be a terrible portent, as if it were very important that Rats, who gnaw day and night, gnawed Shields or Screens; for if we give in there, it follows that if the Rats in my home gnaw the Books of the Plato’s Republic, I must fear for the Republic, or that if they came to eat Epicurus's books on voluptuousness, I should fear the costliness of food. "
[27. Ciceron, Book 2, Divinations quoted by Sir Dacier]

Cicero probably laughed at the Rats with a lot of intellect, but he had not foreseen that an Octavian, an Antony, or a Lepidus would one day overthrow that liberty; a ruination perhaps predicted by the Rats gnawing at the Books of the Plato’s Republic, and if he had been fortunate enough to be sufficiently superstitious to have faith to those portents he would not have been subsequently enshrouded in the proscriptions of the Triumvirate.

Grave Cato was also amused by omens drawn from the Rats. [28] He was consulted by People who urged him to explain the significance of Rats gnawing Boots. There is no significance, he told them, is it surprising that Rats gnaw Boots? But it would be a portent indeed if the Boots had eaten the Rats.
[28. Augustinus Niphus apud Aldov. Lib 2. P.428 et 429]

Moreover, Philosophers have never set the tone anywhere, and despite their jokes we have always given Rats an infallible presentiment of the future, there are even cases where it can be done without superstition. For example, a little before Helice was toppled by an earthquake [29], the Rats came out in crowds, and the inhabitants, not knowing why, were all buried under the ruins of their city. This was said to be portentous, and it is only natural that Rats without a spirit of divination were first to feel the earthquake and fear its consequences [30]. Rats have the wise habit of moving out of a house as soon as it is threatened by approaching ruin, and it is better to take note of them than to all the Experts of the world, because living where they do they can judge better if their lodging is holding up or if it leans, and finally the state of the beams and the whole building. In this way, when there is imminent danger they will seek more solid dwellings, thei instinct suffices. They also abandon the houses that are being demolished, ones where they can not find food, and places where there are too many cats, it is as simple as that. That is why the neighboring house is sometimes filled from the cellar to the attic and the housewife, surprised to see so many new guests on their hands, instead of conjecturing natural motives such as migration, always imagine it is the effect of spell cast against them, and to accuse anyone who had the misfortune to displease them.
[29. City of Greece; this fact is reported by AElien.]
[30. Mures ruinis imminentibus praemigrant, Plin. OnMice - When destruction looms, the mice emigrate. (Equivalent to “Rats desert a sinking ship.)]

But of all the Auspices who predicted future events on the authority of the Rats, none has done so as surely as a certain Pierius Valerianus [31]; he was a man of letters which made delights of Horace and Pindar: in Rome he unfortunately found their works eaten by Rats and boldly augured this as aportent of the decadence of good taste in Rome; in this he risked nothing. Everywhere we see the originals of the great Masters, either in Literature, Science or the Arts, abandoned to the mercy of the Rats. In good Myomancy (divination by mouse) we can make the same prediction about Valerianus. [August. Niphus lib. De Auguriis.]

What more can I say to you, Sir, about the uses that have been made of the Rats? They were given allegorical meanings in puzzles and emblems, when those sorts of mystery were in fashion: here are two examples. The Scythians sent by their Ambassadors a Rat among other things to Darius I, King of Persia, who had declared war on them. This Rat signified, according to the explanation given by General Gabrias, that the Persians, unless they hid underground like the Rats, would not escape the formidable arrows of the Scythians. [Herodotus. Liv. 4] This was a terrible brag.

The second example is of a different kind. While building the City of Argilla in Thrace, Rats wer found fighting and this portent (because it certainly was one) made it clear that the inhabitants of Argilla would one day be a bellicose and indomitable nation, just as the horse's head found when digging the foundations of the Capitol announced the future glory and greatness of the Romans. [Plin,Of Mice.] What is the relationship, would you say, between fighting Rats and the future bravery of a people that does not yet exist? I leave it to you sir, to comment on what I report simply as a Narrator. The History of Rats is so intimately linked with that of human intellect that we can find everything about ourselves there; or rather it is less a history of Rats than a history of men, their manners, their opinions, their superstitions, etc. This reflection would undoubtedly make an admirable impression in a preface, because it is entirely moral, and perhaps the conclusion of this work is not the right time for it. If my Letters, Sir, have not bored you, I will consider myself very happy; if they have amused you, I will have succeeded beyond my expectations and will never repent of having exercised my pen on a subject as bizarre as the History of Rats.
I have the honour to be, etc.,



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