The Boy Was Well Enough Brought Up, But Without More
Than The Attention That His Birth Gave Him The Right To Expect; He
Divided The Years Of His Boyhood Between Caen, Where His Father's
Town-House Stood, And The College Du Mont, Where The Jesuits Gave
Him His Education.
A letter dated 1785 and addressed to his children
tells us all that we know of his school-days; though it is said,
too, that he distinguished himself in mathematics.
"If you only
knew," the reminiscent father of a family exclaims in this letter,
"in what shabby lodging, in what a dark and chilly closet, I was
mewed up at your age; with what severity I was treated; how I was
fed and dressed!" Already his powers of observation, that were so to
distinguish him, were quickened by his old-world milieu.
"From my earliest youth," he wrote in 1803, "I had a passion for
taking in all the antiques that I met with: moth-eaten furniture,
tapestries, family portraits, Gothic manuscripts (that I had learned
how to decipher), had for me an indefinable charm. A little later
on, I loved to walk in the solitude of cemeteries; to examine the
tombs and to trace out their mossy epitaphs. I knew most of the
churches of the canton, the date of their foundation, and what they
contained of interest in the way of pictures and sculptures."
The boy's gift of accurate and keen observation was to be tested
soon by a very different class of objects:
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