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JANUARY 1, 1859.
ART. I.-LITERARY FOOLS.-BLUET D'ARBÈRES.
Fool is a technical as well as a conventional word. In its conventional signification it is familiarly known and widely and freely used; in its technical signification it expresses a form of mental disorder, which has been aptly considered by Feuchtersleben as in some measure the prototype of other forms; but the affinity which exists between the conventional and technical meanings of the word is invariably more or less conspicuous even in the freest usage to which it is put in the affairs of common life.
The most marked characteristic of the fool, in the technical sense of the term, is a peojuliar abnormal mobility of thought and emotion, which parallels in the mind the erratic and ludicrous movements that are observed in the muscles in choreatic affectionsmas, for example, in St. Vitus's Dance. In whatever manner the intellectual faculties and the emotions are called into play there is found a preponderance of their automatic manifestations. This is co-existent with, and it is indeed significant of a weakened volitional power, and a deficiency of co-ordination in the mental faculties. The thoughts, imperfectly controlled by the will, hasten along as in the consistent-inconsistency of dreaming, and they are reflected in the voluble tongue and restless actions ; while the emotions rapidly succeed each other, joy alternating with grief, anger with fear, upon the most trifling incitements.
In the slighter, connate forms of the disease the abnormal mobility of thought is shown in the eccentric and fantastic associations of the ideas which throng the mind. Every thought and sensation excites an anomalous sequence of ideas, which commonly present actions and events in a ludicrous light. This species
“ Études Bio-Bibliographiques sur les Fous Litteraires.” Par Octave Delopierre.--(Privately printed.)
No. XIII.--NEW SERIES.
of folly is quite consistent with considerable powers of perception and observation; but it is never dissociated with those general indications of weakened intellectual power which are summed up in the expressive word foolishness. It was for this rarer form of folly that the Court fools of the middle-ages were chiefly distinguished; and the fantastic nimbleness of fancy which characterizes it have been fixed indelibly in language, by Shakspeare, in the characters of the Fool in "King Lear," the Clown in “Twelfth Night, or What You Will," and Touchstone, in “All's Well that Ends Well.”
In the more highly-developed forms of folly disconnected ideas course in rapid succession through the mind, crowding one upon the other in a confused and tumultuous manner, and the emotions change with, and as rapidly as, the conceptions. Hence, in fools of this class, a general craziness of thought is observed, an overwhelming, senseless loquacity, and a motiveless bustling activity. They are forgetful, volatile, inconsiderate, and incapable of reasoning; and their passions are easily excited, readily calmed, and rarely terminate in violence.
There are many modifications of folly, and it is connected by insensible gradations with idiocy on the one hand and mania on the other. Hallucinations are present in nearly every form of the disease, and delusions are probably of more frequent occurrence than is commonly supposed.
The technical, rather than the conventional meaning of the term, is most applicable to the word “fool" as it is used in the Essay which forms the subject of this article. Bluet d'Arbères, to an account of whose life and writings the Essay is devoted, was a fool of some little note in his day. The most marked phase of his folly was exhibited in certain strange literary productions, the chief value of which, at the present time, arises from the curious psychological study they afford, and from the little flecks of light they cast upon the social economy of France and Savoy during the five last lustres of the sixteenth, and first lustre of the seventeenth centuries. The records of Bluet d'Arbères' acts and doings have been disentombed and reduced into a reasonable compass by M. Delepierre, with a delightful pseudo-serious unction ; and bibliographer, historian, and psychologist, will dwell with rapture upon the daintily-set gem of literature which he has presented to them.
This, with a few additions, is M. Delepierre's story :- In the year of Grace, 1566, there was born, of poor parents, in the village of Arbères, near Divonre, in the territory of Gex, Switzerland, one Bernard de Bluet. As a lad he tended flocks, and very early in life he believed that Providence destined him to play an important part in the world. He tells us himself, in his curious autobiography, that the village of his birth was situated in the lowlands, and that towards the sun-setting there were grand ranges of mountains where rocks and sweet-smelling herbs alone could be seen; and that towards the sun-rising there were but swamps. He tells us also that he remembered all that he had done and said even from the cradle. When an infant he was held in the arms by one of the great men of the village, and as soon as he could walk he began to climb upon the great coffers of the peasants, and sing in a loud voice to the Lord. It was a custom of the peasants who had sown millet to place images of Christ in the fields, in order to scare the birds. These images Bluet was in the habit of stealing from the great desire that he had to know God. When he began to tend sheep a wolf attacked them, but he cried to God and the ravenous beast fled. Even a companion who had played him a foul trick, while he slept, was constrained to confess the fault, and forthwith the offender died. These events happened in the first lustre of Bluet's life.
So great was the influence of his childish prayers, that, so long as he had charge of sheep, they were safe from the wolf, but if his father took charge of them they were at once attacked. Moreover, he recounts, that being cold in the month of March, he prayed that the clouds which hid the face of the sun might be removed, and God in answer to his prayer dispersed them. His mind was filled with the desire to become a preacher from the respect in which learned men were held, and from a wish sin a great measure prompted by vanity) to teach his companions, and he prayed constantly to God that he might have knowledge and science. The gifts and graces of David and Moses made a great impression upon his childiski mind; but, alas! there steals out of his account, at every turn, the painful fact that his solitary musings and vague desires were determined in no small degree from his being scouted and laughed at by children of his own age for his simplicity and foolishness.
Before the termination of his second lustre his father wished him to take charge of a herd of cows. To this Bluet objected, as he conceived that the cow was not so worthy a beast as a sheep, that being the most worthy of all animals except the dove. Compelled, however, by necessity he began to tend kine, and he naïvely tells us that he found it a less devotional duty than that of tending sheep, as the cows were never attacked by the wolf, and hence there was not so great an inducement to devotion. His mind, therefore, being less pre-occupied by holy thoughts, he was persecuted by his feelings to love unchastely the peasant girls. He was an enemy to all other vices, but he found that this was the most pleasant vice. Before his twelfth year he prophesied that the country about