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of the thirteenth, or beginning of the fourteenth century, the prizes were rendered still more valuable by the bequest of Clemence Isaure, a lady of Toulouse, of whom little more is known, than that, by her will, she appropriated a certain portion of her property to defray the expense of three flowers for the academy every year, each to be worth at least fifteen pistoles. These flowers were to be of silver gilt, a cubit in height, and fixed on a pedestal of the same metal, with the arms of the city engraved on it.
Of the festival and all its ceremonies, as observed in the middle of the eighteenth century, we cannot better convey an idea to our youthful readers, than by relating the following adventure of Marmontel.
This writer was himself one of those flowers of genius which are sometimes seen springing up in the bosom of obscurity. Born in a remote village in the south of France, the child of poor but virtuous parents, Marmontel had many difficulties to contend with in the pursuit of his studies. The most valuable part of his education was obtained at a college of Jesuits, where he met with such kindness and encouragement from one of the teachers, a certain father Mollasse, as made a lasting impression on his heart.
· He was afterwards removed to the university of Toulouse; and while there, a sight of some of the prize poems of the academy inspired him with a sudden ambition to become a poet, and enter the lists with the Toulousan writers. To this, however, he seems to have been led, in the first place, by filial affection, rather than by any motive of selfish vanity. He was most tenderly attached to his mother, who, on her part, took the warmest interest in every thing connected with this her darling child, and he knew how much she would be delighted to receive from his hands a bouquet of the golden flowers of Toulouse.
Thus stimulated, he applied himself to poetical composition, and was many times a successful candidate. The last time he contested the prize he sent in five pieces; an ode, two poems, and two idyls. The only three prizes which the academy distributed that year were assigned to him. As the people of Toulouse had no idea of any literary success more brilliant than that which was obtained at the Academy of Floral Games, the public assembly for the distribution of the prizes had all the splendour and crowded attendance usual at a great solemnity. Three deputies from parliament pre. sided, and the chief magistrates and the corporation of the city were present in their robes. The hall, in the form of an amphitheatre, was filled with people of fashion, and the young students of the university occupied the pit around the academic circle. The hall itself, large and lofty, was adorned with festoons of flowers and laurel; and the moment a prize was announced, the city trumpet sent forth the notes of victory. The appointment of the prizes is decided by the judges, before they enter the hall to announce the result of their deliberations.
In the present instance, Marmontel was aware of his good fortune, and he repaired to the assembly with transports of vanity, such as he declares he never afterwards could remember without shame and confusion. The judges entered, and silence was imposed throughout the hall. Then followed the panegyric on Clemence Isaure, pronounced every year at the foot of her statue, which stood in the hall, crowned with a wreath of flowers, and decorated with a girdle of the same. When all due honours had been paid to the memory of the lady patroness, the distribution of prizes commenced. It was first announced that the prize for the ode was withheld; and, as it was known that Marmontel had offered an ode to the academy, and that he was likewise the author of an unsuccessful idyl, every body pitied the young poet for his twofold disappointment.
Then the poem which had gained the prize was proclaimed; and when the words, “ Let the author 'come forward,” were pronounced, Marmontel arose and received the prize. The usual applauses succeeded, and he heard those around him say, “He has missed twice, but he did not fail a third time: he has more than one string and one arrow to his bow.” He returned to his seat, and presently the second poem was named, on which the academy had thought it right to bestow the prize of eloquence, rather than to withhold that prize altogether.
The author was called upon, and again Marmontel arose; and the applauses redoubled when he was seen a second time victorious. He had again returned to his seat, when the successful idyl was announced, and the author invited to come forward and receive the prize. Marmontel arose for the third time; and then, had he composed some of the most celebrated chefsd'æuvre of genius, he could not have been more loudly applauded. The assembly was raised to the highest pitch of enthusiasm. The men carried him through the crowd in their arms, the women embraced him. But, in a scene so Aattering to the vanity of a youthful mind, there occurred one circumstance which touched his
heart more sensibly than all the admiration by which he was surrounded. Amid the noise and confusion of the people, he suddenly perceived two long arms extended towards him. They were those of the good father Molasse, whom he had not seen for eight years. Marmontel rushed forwards, forced his way through the crowd, and throwing himself into his tutor's arms, held out his prizes, exclaiming, “ Take them, my father; they are yours : to you I owe them all.” The worthy Jesuit was unable to speak, but his uplifted eyes, filled with tears, testified his emotion; and the successful candidate felt, that the pleasure of giving joy to the heart of his venerable instructor, was a far richer reward than the applause of the multitude, and all the honours of his floral triumph. “ Ah! my children,” exclaims Marmontel, addressing to them his narrative," that which interests the heart is always sweet, and affords pleasure through the whole course of our lives; while that which merely flatters the pride of genius is recalled only as a vain dream, which we blush to recollect was once so fondly cherished.”