Read CHAPTER LXXXII of Raphael Pages Of The Book Of Life At Twenty, free online book, by Alphonse de Lamartine, on

Thus passed away, without other change than that afforded by my studies, and our ever-varying impressions, the delightful months of winter. They were drawing to a close. The early splendors of spring already began to glance fitfully from the roofs upon the damp and gloomy wilderness of the streets of Paris. My friend V , recalled by his mother, was gone, and had left me alone in the little room where he had harbored me during my stay. He was to return in the autumn, and had paid for the lodging for a whole year, so that, though absent, he still extended to me his brotherly hospitality. It was with sorrow I saw him depart; none remained to whom I could speak of Julie. The burden of my feelings would now be doubly heavy, when I could no longer relieve myself by resting it on the heart of another; but it was a weight of happiness, I could still uphold it. It was soon to become a load of anguish, which I could confide to no living being, and least of all to her whom I loved.

My mother wrote me, that straightened means, caused by unexpected reverses of fortune, which had fallen on my father in quick and harsh succession, had reduced to comparative indigence our once open and hospitable paternal home, obliging my poor father to withhold the half of my allowance, to enable him to meet, and that only with much difficulty, the expense of maintaining and educating six other children. It was therefore incumbent upon me, she said, either by my own unaided efforts to maintain myself honorably in Paris, or to return home and live with resignation in the country, sharing the common pittance of all. My mother’s tenderness sought beforehand to comfort me under this sad necessity; she dwelt on the joy it would be to her to see me again, and placed before me, in most attractive colors, the prospect of the labors and simple pleasures of a rural life. On the other hand, some of the associates of my early years of gambling and dissipation, who had now fallen into poverty, having met me in Paris, reminded me of sundry trifling obligations which I had contracted towards them, and begged me to come to their assistance. They stripped me thus, by degrees, of the greater part of that little hoard which I had saved by strict economy, to enable me to live longer in Paris. My purse was well-nigh empty, and I began to think of courting fortune through fame. One morning, after a desperate struggle between timidity and love, love triumphed. I concealed beneath my coat my small manuscript, bound in green, containing my verses, my last hope; and though wavering and uncertain in my design, I turned my steps towards the house of a celebrated publisher whose name is associated with the progress of literature and typography in France, Monsieur Didot. I was first attracted to this name because M. Didot, independently of his celebrity as a publisher, enjoyed at that time some reputation as an author. He had published his own verses with all the elegance, pomp and circumstance of a poet who could himself control the approving voice of Fame.

When before M. Didot’s door in the Rue Jacob, a door all papered with illustrious names, a redoubled effort on my part was required to cross the threshold, another to ascend the stairs, another still more violent to ring at his door. But I saw the adored image of Julie encouraging me, and her hand impelled me. I dared do anything.

I was politely received by M. Didot, a middle-aged man with a precise and commercial air, whose speech was brief and plain as that of a man who knows the value of minutes. He desired to know what I had to say to him. I stammered for some time, and became embarrassed in one of those labyrinths of ambiguous phrases under which one conceals thoughts that will and will not come to the point. I thought to gain courage by gaining time; at last I unbuttoned my coat, drew out the little volume, and presented it humbly with a trembling hand to M. Didot. I told him that I had written these verses, and wished to have them published, not indeed to bring me fame (I had not that absurd delusion), but in the hope of attracting the notice and good-will of influential literary men; that my poverty would not permit of my going to the expense of printing; and, therefore, I came to submit my work to him, and request him to publish it, should he, after looking over it, deem it worthy of the indulgence or favor of cultivated minds. M. Didot nodded, smiled kindly, but somewhat ironically, took my manuscript between two fingers, which seemed accustomed to crumple paper contemptuously, and putting down my verses on the table, appointed me to return in a week for an answer as to the object of my visit. I took my leave. The next seven days appeared to me seven centuries. My future prospects, my favor, my mother’s consolation or despair, my love, in a word, my life or death, were in the hands of M. Didot. At times, I pictured him to myself reading my verses with the same rapture that had inspired me on my mountains, or on the brink of my native torrents; I fancied he saw in them the dew of my heart, the tears of my eyes, the blood of my young veins; that he called together his literary friends to listen to them, and that I heard from my alcove the sound of their applause. At others, I blushed to think I had exposed to the inspection of a stranger a work so unworthy of seeing the light; that I had discovered my weakness and my impotence in a vain hope of success, which would be changed into humiliation, instead of being converted into gold and joy within my grasp. Hope, however, as persevering as my distress, often got the upper hand in my dreams, and led me on from hour to hour until the day appointed by M. Didot.