|Misplaced Tenderness ||Articles and Essays
|Plutarch, in his life of Solo, remarks that much the greater number of people whose hearts are either by nature or artifice shut to the tender feelings inspired by affection of any kind have been observed to bestow their feelings on objects absolutely unworthy and despicable. This theory can aptly be illustrated and confirmed by the doters on animals who have seldom earned reputation as philanthropes; and though this be but a light subject of speculation, still it affords so many examples that it should not pass unnoticed in a work professing to treat not so much of serious matters as of light matters seriously.
Lord Lytton,1 quoting M. Georges Duval, tells us that fondness to animals was a distinguishing trait of the bloody heroes of the French Revolution. Couthon, we hear, was greatly attached to a spaniel which he invariably carried in his bosom even to the Convention; Chaunette devoted his leisure to an aviary; Fournier bore on his shoulders a little squirrel attached by a silver chain; «Panis showed the utmost tenderness to two gold pheasants; and Marat, who would not abate one of the three hundred thousand heads he demanded, reared doves». Billaud, Lord Macaulay says,2 diverted the lonely hours of his later days by teaching parrots to talk.
«A propos of the spaniel of Couthon, Duval gives us an amusing anecdote of Sergent, not one of the least relentless agents of the massacre of September. A lady came to implore his protection for one of her relations confined in the Abbaye. He scarcely deigned to speak to her. As she retired in despair, she trod by accident on the paw of the favourite spaniel. Sergent, turning round, enraged and furious, exclaimed, “Madame, have you no humanity?”»3
Inhumanity to humankind and humanity to animals in a feminine heart (in which these contradictory feelings are very often met) is described in the following style by Mme de Rieux: «There are certain women who have a heart solely for beasts. The monkey of the Marquise de** bit the arm of one of her maids so dangerously that fears were entertained even for her life. Although the Marquise scolded her monkey and defended him to bite another time so hard, the maid, none the less, had her arm cut. Some days after her cure the Marquise seeing that she could no more render the same services as formerly dismissed her promising that she would take care of her. Being reproached for the inhumanity of this act, she answered ill-humouredly “But what would you have me do with that maid? She had only one arm”».
Some lines from Juvenal may serve as a «pendant» to this story:
«An animal ever occupies the first place in the heart of a woman who loves neither her lover, nor her husband. And the life of these would be worth very little if its being sacrified would save the existence of her dog, her cat, or her bird».
2. Biographical Essays.
|Κ.Π. Καβάφης, Τα πεζά (1882;-1931), Φιλολογική επιμέλεια Mιχάλης Πιερής, Ίκαρος Εκδοτική Εταιρία, 2003 |