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smell of oily fish and cabbage-soup with a
hatchet, and at night you can hear the bugs
bark." (Vous entendrez aboyer les punaises.)


THE position occupied by Cyrano de
Bergerac in literary history is the reverse of
eminent. When people write about the
Gulliver's Travels of Swift, they sometimes set
down certain imaginary voyages of one
Cyrano de Bergerac as likely to have
suggested to the sarcastic dean the notion of
doing something else on a similar plan; and
this hypothesis is invariably followed by the
assertion that, if it be true, the imitation far
surpassed the original. Cyrano de Bergerac
receives about the same degree of honour
which is awarded to the falling apple that set
Sir Isaac Newton a-thinking about the theory
of gravitation. Cyrano de Bergerac set Dean
Swift a-thinking: thus he fulfilled his
mission, so there is an end of Cyrano de

Under these circumstances, if anybody
dwells on Cyrano's name long enough to
think at all about it, beyond remarking that
it is somewhat singular and imposing, he
will doubtless make up his mind that the
said Cyrano wrote an exceedingly stupid book,
destined, as a matter of course, to be excelled
by the productions of later wits. Now, it is
precisely this impression that we hope to
remove by the present article. We hope to
make some people believe that Cyrano de
Bergerac deserves a better position than one
which fluctuates between absolute oblivion
and an unhonoured post in the rank and
file of literature, and that his book is well
worthy the slight trouble of a perusal. It
is not only not stupid, but it is exceedingly
amusing and clever. The great portion of it
is marked by that tone of vraisemblance
that renders Gulliver's Tales so attractive;
the incidents are far more varied and
ingenious than in that celebrated work; the
satire against social prejudices and conventions
is equally penetrating and sometimes
equally cynical. Let us add, that Cyrano's
book possesses a charm for the intellectual
reader to which there is nothing corresponding
in Swiftnamely, a reverence for science,
manifested throughout. For the bulk of
mankind he shows, perhaps, little more
respect than Swift for the Yahoos; but with
science he plays lovingly. With the Voyage
to the Country of the Houyhnhnms, he would
probably have sympathised but not with the
Voyage to Laputa, with its comprehensive
sneer, spreading over, not only speculative
philosophy but practical science. He flourished
at an epoch when natural science was in its first
dawn, when all the thinkers of the age were
inspired by Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, and
Gassendi; and his book clearly betokens a
mind that hailed the advancing light, albeit
disposed to regard the new revelations in a
fantastic spirit. Though he constructs marvels
with the facility of a Munchausen, and
with the same regard for the relations of
cause and effect, which thus become ridiculous
from the absurdities for which they are
forced to account, he leaves no doubt in his
reader's mind that he seriously believes in
the Epicurean system, in a plurality of worlds,
and in the atomic theory, propounded in his
day by Gassendi, and that he has some crude
notions of the theory of attraction,
afterwards perfected by Newton. Indeed, it is
hard not to surmise that the diffusion of
scientific truths in an amusing form was one
of the objects of his book.

Before proceeding to the work itself, we
may as well dispose of a question, which
doubtless has been suggested to some of our
readers by the title of this articleWho was
Cyrano de Bergerac? To this question we
reply that Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac
(that's his full name) was an officer in the
French service, born at the Château de
Bergerac, in the Perigord, about the year
sixteen hundred and twenty, and
especially distinguished as a reckless duellist.
Wounded at the siege of Arras in sixteen
hundred and forty-one, he is said to have
quitted the service, and to have devoted
himself to the study of philosophy, forcing
himself by sheer intimidation into a class
taught by Gassendi. In sixteen hundred and
fifty-five, at the early age of thirty-five, he
died in consequence of an accident, leaving
behind him the reputation of a penitent
atheist. His literary celebrity during his
life-time was based upon a tragedy called
Agrippine, and a comedy entitled Le Pédant
Joué, singular as the first play in which a
provincial dialect was ever introduced upon the
Parisian stage. The Comical History of the
States and Empires of the Moon, and the
Comical History of the States and Empire
of the Sun, were published after his death by
his friend, M. Lebret. To these, which form
one continuous narrative, we now proceed
without further introduction.

The record of Cyrano's Voyage to the
Moon commences with the short report of a
discussion between himself and a party of gay
companions as to the nature of the satellite.
He is laughed to scorn, when he maintains
the opinion that the moon is inhabited; but is
confirmed in his belief by the discovery on
his table of a volume of Cardan, in which the
same doctrine is asserted in the testimony of
two mysterious old men, who paid the
philosopher a supernatural visit. Not satisfied,
however, with mere theory, he resolves to
inspect the moon in person; and to this end
he fastens round about him a number of
vials filled with dew, which, rising into the
air, under the influence of the morning-sun,
lift him high above the earth, but in a wrong
direction, for the moon appears farther off
than ever. To prevent further continuance
in the wrong path, he breaks several of the