Home  »  The World’s Wit and Humor  »  Annoyances of Paris

The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (1636–1711)

Annoyances of Paris

From “The Satires”

HEAVENS, what makes the air resound with these mournful cries? Is it to lie awake that one goes to bed in Paris? What angry demon brings the cats from all the gutters to this spot, night after night, in all eternity? It is in vain that I jump from my bed full of worry and fright; it seems as though all hell had come with them to visit me. One mews in a growling bass like a furious tiger; another rolls its voice like a screaming child. But that is not everything. To keep me awake, the rats and mice seem to have come to an understanding with the cats. More importunate are they to me, during the dark night, than ever in full day that wonderful bore, the Abbé Pure….

But if at Paris I cannot find rest in bed, it becomes a thousand times worse when I venture out of doors. Whatever place I go to, I must fight against the ceaseless, antlike swarm of importunates. One runs a plank against me until I am one large bruise—a glance shows me my hat turned inside out. Here a funeral procession advances to the church with mournful steps, and farther off quarreling lackeys make the dogs bark and the people swear. There pavers interrupt my passage; yonder I am warned away from a house that is being repaired. Workmen creeping about on the roof of a house pour down a plentiful rain of slate and tiles, while over there comes a tottering beam on a cart, threatening danger. Six horses harnessed to the heavy load can scarcely drag it over the slippery pavement. In turning round the beam becomes entangled in the wheel of a carriage, overturning it in a heap of mire, when another vehicle, passing there at the same moment, is embarrassed by the same rude embrace. Soon twenty carriages arrive in single file, followed apparently by a thousand others; and, to crown these evils, a mischievous fate brings a troop of oxen to the same place. Every one tries to get through this moil; one groans, another swears, and the mule-bells swell the uproar. But at that moment a hundred horses come into the crowd, and destroy all remnants of order. Everywhere the pedestrians form brigades, and soon you have barricades in the time of peace. One hears nothing but a clamor of confused cries, and God thunders in vain to make Himself heard. And I, who should have gone to a certain place, seeing the day decline, and weary of waiting, not knowing what saint’s protection to implore—I see myself in danger of being broken on the wheel. I jump over twenty rivers of rain, I slip through, I push on, when a physician riding on horseback knocks me down; so that, daring no longer to appear anywhere in the state in which I now am, without thinking of the way, I make off as best I can.