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

Théophile Gautier (1811–1872)


From “Her Ladyship’s Lap-Dog”

TO write in praise of this marvelous lap-dog, one should pluck a quill from the wing of Love himself; the hands of the Graces alone would be light enough to trace his picture; nor would the touch of Latour be too soft.

His name was Fanfreluche, a pretty name for a dog, and one that he bore with honor.

Fanfreluche was no larger than his mistress’s hand, and it is well known that the marquise has the smallest hand in the world; and yet he seemed larger to the eye, assuming almost the proportions of a small sheep, for he had silky hair a foot in length, and so fine and soft and lustrous that the tresses of Minette were a mere mop by contrast. When he presented his paw, and one pressed it a little, one was astonished to feel nothing at all. Fanfreluche was rather a ball of silk, from which two beautiful brown eyes and a little red nose glittered, than an actual dog. Such a dog could only have belonged to the mother of Love, who lost him in Cytherea, where the marquise, on one of her occasional visits, found him. Look for a moment at this fascinatingly exquisite face. Would not Roxalana herself have been jealous of that delicately tipped-up nose, divided in the middle by a little furrow just like Anne of Austria’s?

What vivacity in that quick eye! And that double row of white teeth, no larger than grains of rice, which, at the least emotion, sparkled in all their brilliance—what duchess would not envy them? And this charming Fanfreluche, apart from his physical attractions, possessed a thousand social graces: he danced the minuet with exquisite grace, knew how to give his paw and tell the hour, capered before the queen and great ladies of France, and distinguished his right paw from his left. And Fanfreluche was learned, and knew more than the members of the Academy. If he was not a member of that body it was because he did not desire it, thinking, no doubt, to shine rather by his absence. The abbé declared that he was as strong as a Turk in the dead languages, and that, if he did not talk, it was from pure malice and to vex his mistress.

Then, too, Fanfreluche had not the vivacity of common dogs. He was very dainty, and very hard to please. He absolutely refused to eat anything but little pies of calves’ brains made especially for him; he would drink nothing but cream from a little Japanese saucer. Only when his mistress dined in town would he consent to nibble at the wing of a chicken, and to take sweets for dessert; but he did not grant this favor to every one, and one had to have an excellent cook to gain it. Fanfreluche had only one little fault. But who is perfect in this world? He loved cherries in brandy and Spanish snuff, of which he took a little pinch from time to time. But the latter is a weakness he shared with the Prince of Condé.

When he heard the cover of the general’s golden snuff-box click, it was a treat to see him sit up on his little hind legs and brush the carpet with his silken tail; and, if the marquise was engrossed in the pleasures of whist, and did not watch him closely, he would jump on the abbé’s lap, who fed him with brandied cherries. And Fanfreluche, whose head was not strong, would become as tipsy as a Swiss guard and two choristers, would perform the queerest little tricks on the carpet, and become extraordinarily ferocious on the subject of the calves of the chevalier, who, to preserve what little was left of them, would draw up his legs on his chair. Then Fanfreluche was no longer a little dog, but a little lion, and the marquise alone could manage him. His picture would not be complete without mentioning the droll little naughtinesses that he was guilty of before being stowed away into his muff, and put to bed in his niche of rosewood, padded with white satin and edged with blue silk cord.