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

Moritz Gottlieb Saphir (1795–1858)

Love at First Sight

From “My Memoirs”

AS my eyes were wandering about, I noticed a young woman who was gazing at me intently. “Aha, she’s in love with me!” thought I. “I’ve certainly made a conquest there.” It is well known that love is the work of a moment. How does love come, and how does it go? The sight of me came to this girl’s eyes, passed thence to her heart, and now she might seek in vain to drive me from eye or heart.

From that moment on I was happy. I was beloved. I circled about the grove of the festive park in which she sat, circled about it like a restive ghost. She looked at me again, and yet again. I’m almost sorry that I am so attractive. Poor thing! I went aside into another path to consider how I might save her from despair.

Here, in this momentary place of refuge, I overheard a conversation that took place within me. I recognized the speakers by their voices. The conversation is worth recording. Self-Love, a healthy, buxom creature, with a penetrating voice, said:

“There is nothing so very surprising about all this. You have a fine figure, and a fine figure is the most important consideration in a man—next to money, of course. You have a very intellectual face and a certain charm which makes conquests easy.”

An amiable person, this Self-Love. One could listen to her for hours. But a deep bass voice interrupted her. It was Reason, a strange fellow, for whom I have never had any great affection. He said:

“Surely you are not so stupid as to suppose that a young woman will fall in love with you at first sight? Have you never used a mirror?”

I could have killed the meddlesome fellow. But Self-Love was not so easily to be silenced:

“And why not? To be sure, your nose is not exactly Roman, but it is not so bad, for all that. And have you not a mouth that can speak for you, and that has about it an expression which is amiable and good-natured and piquant at once? Have you not a bold brow and a noble gait?”

I agreed with her entirely. A person of sense, evidently. But suddenly I heard yet another voice; it was penetrating, like that of an elderly woman. This was Experience:

“But have you not made an ass of yourself quite often enough? Will you never learn by what has happened in the past? Are you quite determined to be an ass again?”

“Just like an old woman,” thought I; “nothing risked in love, nothing gained. It’s mere envy that makes her talk that way.”

Then came a voice like blended lutes and flutes, the most melodious of all voices. It was the voice of Vanity, and it said:

“Don’t be taken aback. Have you not been successful often enough, and is it not possible that the young lady was also dazzled by your fame? Are you not a celebrity? Women have a passion for celebrities, just as they have for Brussels lace.”

“Ah,” said I to myself, when I heard this voice, “there is one soul that possesses true insight and comprehension.”

But still another voice came, thin and fearsome. It was Prudence:

“Take care! Take care! You will not only make yourself ridiculous, but also land yourself in all manner of difficulties.”

“What spoil-sports there are in this world!” I was on the point of remarking, when a resonant and cheerful voice sounded within me. It was Humor, saying:

“Fiddlesticks! Take time by the forelock, and stop philosophizing. Adventures are good. And if in the end you have been made a fool of, what does it matter? You will have amused yourself for a couple of hours. Have not entire nations amused themselves for a few hours, and realized their folly later? Did they die of it?”

A splendid fellow is Humor, an old stager, tried and not found wanting. Thus Self-Love, Vanity, and Humor carried the day.

At that moment my charming young lady came up with her friend. She touched the latter’s arm as I came in sight, in order to draw her attention to me. I noticed it, and grew more assured as to my first impression. I followed the two young girls at a distance into the refreshment-room.

On the way I met my friend H——, the editor. I took his arm. “Old fellow,” said I, “I’ve made a conquest, and you must help me.”

“How, when, of whom?”

“Ah, if only I knew! But come, I will point her out. Perhaps you will know. In that case you can introduce me. She is a beauty.”

We entered the hall, and soon I saw my young lady. She was sitting at a table with her friend and an older lady. When she saw me she whispered something to the older lady, who regarded me attentively.

“Do you see?” I said to H——. “There can be no doubt about it.”

H—— looked at the little group, and replied:

“I know them quite well. She is Julia, the daughter of the well-known merchant, N——. The lady is Julia’s grandmother. I’ll introduce you to them.”

How happy I was! We approached the table. I now saw Julia from close quarters. She was exquisite! Her eyes were black as sloes, her lips like apple-blossoms. Dark locks fell upon her gleaming shoulders. We sat down. My friend H—— introduced me:

“Permit me to present to you Herr Saphir, of whom you must have heard.”

“No, I have not had that pleasure.” This from her!

“There you are!” said Reason to Vanity; “you said that she loves him because he is famous.”

Self-Love fortunately came to my assistance:

“So much the more flattering is the whole affair. It is your personality alone that attracts her.”

We started a conversation. My friend entertained the old lady, and I had Julia to myself. I told her that she had entranced me during the whole evening.

“I have been watching you too,” she said.

I was overwhelmed with delight. “And how,” I stammered, “how have I merited your attention?”

Her beautiful eyes looked at me ever so innocently, while she answered:

“Oh, you remind me so very much of my dead grandfather!”

I scrutinized the young thing more critically. She was not even moderately good-looking. First impressions are so deceptive!