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

Vincent Voiture (1597–1648)

On Sending Some Lions of Red Wax

From “Letters”

MADEMOISELLE, this lion has been forced for reasons of state to migrate from Lybia with his whole family and a number of his friends, and I am of the opinion that there is no place in the world whither he could retire with more dignity than to your care, and that, in fact, his misfortune will in a way have been happy for him, since it gives him the opportunity of knowing so rare a person. He is descended in direct line from a famous lion who, three centuries ago, reigned on the Caucasus mountains, and one of whose grandsons is thought to have been the first lion ever brought to Europe. The honor which he will have of belonging to you makes me hope that you will show him more kindness and mercy than is your custom, and I believe that you will not consider it unworthy of yourself to become a refuge of afflicted lions. It will serve to increase your reputation in the whole of Barbary, where you are even now esteemed beyond anything else that is over-seas, and where no day passes but one hears some one praise your actions. If you would teach these lions how they may conceal themselves in human form, you would do them an especial favor, for in this way they would be able to do more evil, and to do it with greater impunity. But, should you desire to guard this secret, you would still be sufficiently kind to them by permitting them to be near you and helping them with your advice. I assure you, mademoiselle, that they are considered the most cruel and ferocious in the whole country, and I hope that you will be very happy with them. Among them are several cubs who, because of their tender age, can strangle only sheep and children; but I believe that in time they, too, will become folk of some ability and attain to the virtues of their fathers. This, at least, I know, that they will see nothing about you to soften or subdue their hearts, and that they will be as well fed as in the densest forest of Africa. With this hope, and the assurance I have of your inability to be wanting to yourself in generosity, I thank you in advance for the hospitality which you will offer them, and assure you that I am, mademoiselle, your very humble and obedient servant.