Page:Florian - The Fables, 1888.djvu/12
ment to letters seems to have acquired the ascendency over his military tastes. He became a prolific and popular writer; but among all his works probably his Fables will longest retain a hold of public appreciation. They have been translated into many languages, and have run through more than one hundred editions.
Though he had exercised the office of gentleman-in-ordinary and almoner to the Duke de Penthièvre, and had in that capacity administered relief to the poor with great delicacy and benevolence, yet when the revolution broke out he was accused of writing verses in honor of the queen, and hurried off to prison. He lived for a time in momentary expectation of death; for his prison, that of La Bourbe, had come to be noted as the inevitable first step towards the scaffold. The death of Robespierre, however, restored him to liberty; but his imprisonment seemed to have left a melancholy shade upon his spirit that time never fully removed. He died on the 17th of September, 1794, in the thirty-ninth year of his age.
There is perhaps no especial value in the present translation over those which may have gone before it; but its interest is heightened by preserving the illustrations of J. J. Grandville, which are fine specimens of French art as it existed some half a century ago. While they are hardly inferior to the best of such productions of the present day, from any school of art, it is believed that they will prove to be highly entertaining to the reader. It must be admitted that the artist has done his author full justice, although the fables are so highly esteemed by some that they have been favorably compared with, and even equalled, to those of La Fontaine. The world will hardly assent to that opinion, perhaps, but still Florian's fables will ever be found interesting and instructive, and for this reason these selections from them are now offered to the American public.