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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/45

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THE COMPRACHICOS.

streets; the jester at the Louvre. The first is called a Clown; the other, a Fool. The efforts of man to provide himself with amusement are at times worthy of the attention of the philosopher.

What are we sketching in these few preliminary pages? A chapter in the most terrible of books,—a book which might be entitled, "The Farming of the Unhappy by the Happy."


II.

A child destined to be a plaything for men,—such a thing has existed; such a thing exists even now. In simple and savage times such a thing constituted a special trade. The seventeenth century, called the great century, was of those times. It was a century very Byzantine in tone. It combined corrupt simplicity with delicate ferocity,—a curious variety of civilization; a tiger with a simper. Madame de Sévigné minces on the subject of the fagot and the wheel. That century traded a good deal in children. Flattering historians have concealed the sore, but have divulged the remedy,—Vincent de Paul.

In order that a human toy should prove a success, he must be taken in hand early. The dwarf must be fashioned when young. We play with childhood. But a well-formed child is not very amusing; a hunchback is better fun.

Hence grew an art. There were trainers who took a man and made him an abortion; they took a face and made a muzzle; they stunted growth; they distorted the features. The artificial production of teratological cases had its rules. It was quite a science; what one can imagine as the antithesis of orthopedy. Where God had