Mlle. Prud’homme’s Book by Eugene Field

Story type: Literature


M. LE REDACTEUR: D’apres votre article dans la “New-York Tribune,” copie du “Chicago News,” je me figure que les habitants de Chicago ayant grand besoin d’un systeme de prononciation francaise, je prends la liberte de vous envoyer par la malle-poste le No. 2 d’un ouvrage que je viens de publier; si vous desirez les autres numeros, je me ferai un plaisir de vous les envoyer aussi. Les emballeurs de porc ayant peu de temps a consacrer a l’etude, vu l’ omnipotent dollar, seront je crois enchantes et reconnaissants d’un systeme par lequel ils pourront apprendre et comprendre la langue de la fine Sara, au bout de trente lecons, si surtout Monsieur le redacteur veut bien au bout de sa plume spirituelle leur en indiquer le chemin. Sur ce l’auteur du systeme a bien l’honneur de le saluer.


This is a copy of a pleasant letter we have received from a distinguished Washington lady; we do not print the accentuations, because the Chicago patwor admits of none. A literal rendering of the letter into English is as follows: “From after your article in ‘The New York Tribune,’ copied from ‘The Chicago News,’ I to myself have figured that the inhabitants of Chicago having great want of a system of pronunciation French, I take the liberty to you to send by the mail-post the number two of a work which I come from to publish; if you desire the other numbers, I to myself will make the pleasure of to you them to send also. The packers of porkers, having little of time to consecrate to the study (owing to the omnipotent dollar), will be, I believe, enchanted and grateful of a system by the which they may learn and understand the language of the clever Sara, at the end of thirty lessons, especially if Mister the editor will at the end of his pen witty to them thereof indicate the road. Whereupon the author of the system has much the honor of him to salute,” etc.

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We have not given Mdlle. Prud’homme’s oovray that conscientious study and that careful research which we shall devote to it just as soon as the tremendous spring rush in local literature eases up a little. The recent opening up of the Straits of Mackinaw, and the prospect of a new railroad-line into the very heart of the dialectic region of Indiana, have given Chicago literature so vast an impetus, that we find our review-table groaning under the weight of oovrays that demand our scholarly consideration. Mdlle. Prud’homme must understand (for she appears to be exceedingly amiable) that the oovrays of local litterateurs have to be reviewed before the oovrays of outside litterateurs can be taken up. This may seem hard, but it cannot be helped.

Still, we will say that we appreciate, and are grateful for, the uncommon interest which Mdlle. Prud’homme seems to take in the advancement of the French language and French literature in the midst of us. We have heard many of our leading savants and scholiasts frequently express poignant regret that they were unable to read “La Fem de Fu,” “Mamzel Zheero Mar Fem,” and other noble old French classics whose fame has reached this modern Athens. With the romances of Alexandre Dumas, our public is thoroughly acquainted, having seen the talented James O’Neill in Monty Cristo, and the beautiful and accomplished Grace Hawthorne (“Only an American Girl”) in Cameel; yet our more enterprising citizens are keenly aware that there are other French works worthy of perusal–intensely interesting works, too, if the steel engravings therein are to be accepted as a criterion.

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We doubt not that Mdlle. Prud’homme is desirous of doing Chicago a distinct good; and why, we ask in all seriousness, should this gifted and amiable French scholar not entertain for Chicago somewhat more than a friendly spirit, merely? The first settlers of Chicago were Frenchmen; and, likely as not, some of Mdlle. Prud’homme’s ancestors were of the number of those Spartan voyageurs who first sailed down Chicago River, pitched their tents on the spot where Kirk’s soap-factory now stands, and captured and brought into the refining influences of civilization Long John Wentworth, who at that remote period was frisking about on our prairies, a crude, callow boy, only ten years old, and only seven feet tall.

Chicago was founded by Jeanne Pierre Renaud, one of the original two orphans immortalized by Claxton and Halevy’s play in thirteen acts of the same name. At that distant date it was anything but promising; and its prominent industries were Indians, musk-rats, and scenery. The only crops harvested were those of malaria, twice per annum,–in October and in April,–but the yield was sufficient to keep the community well provided all the year round.

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