Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > Italian & Spanish
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vol. XIII: Italian—Spanish
 
Don Candido Buenafé’s Ambitious Son
By Mariano José de Larra (1809–1837)
 
From “The Essays”

DON CANDIDO BUENAFÉ is an excellent fellow, but one of those men of whom one is accustomed to speak as unlucky. He has been employed all his life in an obscure branch of the civil service, and knows just about enough to read the Gazette, and compose, with bad syntax and worse orthography, official correspondence of a routine sort, or make extracts from legal documents. But, in spite of his lack of learning, he is ambitious that his son Tomas should grow up wiser than himself, to which end, by the way, no extraordinary efforts or sacrifices would be necessary. “I would cheerfully give,” he has said many a time, newspaper in hand, “half of my salary to be able to write a political article as good as this. What a clever man the author of this must be, and how he convinces one with his arguments! Yes, I would give half of my life, and the other half, too, if my son Tomas might some day do as well.”
  1
  Imbued with this idea, he had the boy taught Latin, and later sent him to a French master, “because,” as he said, “if you know French you know all that need be known”; and he would add, “There are plenty of learned pundits in the country who know nothing else.” In two months the little angel, who was fourteen years old at the time, learned to translate badly and read defectively, “Calypso se trouvait inconsolable du départ d’Ulysse,” and then it was that he and his papa made me a visit, the interesting details of which I here set forth for the entertainment of my readers.  2
  “Mr. Figaro,” said Don Candido, greeting me cordially, “let me present to you my son Tomas, who knows Latin. You may not be ignorant of the fact that I am training him for a literary career, in order that he may rescue the family name from obscurity. Ah, Mr. Figaro, when I see him famous, I shall die happy.”  3
  Tomas then made so awkward a bow that I could do no less than found great hopes on his literary prowess. But his appearance and speech differed not at all from those of other young men of the day. He told me that it was true that he was only fourteen years old, but that he knew the world and the human heart comme ma poche, that all women were alike, that he was very blasé, and that he was deceived by none; that Voltaire was a great man, and that no one had laughed more than he at Compère Mathieu, since his papa, desirous of his attaining knowledge, had allowed him to read any book that might fall into his hands. Touching politics, he added, “I and Chateaubriand agree”; and, in conclusion, he chattered about nations and revolutions as he might have recounted the doings of his school friends.  4
  “The boys of the nineteenth century,” said I to myself, “seem to reach old age before they have been young.”  5
  My two friends, the ancient youth and the youthful old man, then seated themselves, and Don Candido took from his pocket a thick package.  6
  “My visit has two objects,” he said. “As for the first, Tomas having made great strides in French, I have told him to translate a comedy. He has done so, and here it is.”  7
  “What!”  8
  “Yes, sir. Certain passages have been left in blank, since he had no other dictionary than Sobrino’s, and——”  9
  “Yes?”  10
  “You will undoubtedly be kind enough to alter anything that seems to you incorrect; and as you are familiar with the steps necessary to take in order to put it on the stage, and the——”  11
  “Ah! you wish to have it produced?”  12
  “Most certainly. You see, the royalties will be for him.”  13
  “Yes, sir,” interrupted the boy, “and papa has promised me a dress suit as soon as the tragedy on which I am now working is finished.”  14
  “Tragedy?”  15
  “Yes, sir, in eleven scenes. You know, in Paris they no longer construct these works in acts, but in scenes. It is a romantic tragedy. Classicism is the death of genius, as of course you know. Do you think there is any chance of its being given?”  16
  “Well, why not?”  17
  “Let me tell you,” put in Don Candido, “he has already written a descriptive comedy.”  18
  “I beg your pardon,” added Tomas, “when I wrote it, I had not read Victor Hugo, nor had I the experience that I now possess.”  19
  “Indeed!”  20
  “Yes, my son wrote the comedy, and we sent it to a man who makes a specialty of reading plays. He said that it was all right, and that he would send it to the censor. So I suppose he sent it.”  21
  “Excuse me, papa, but it was lost, you remember.”  22
  “Oh, yes, certainly, it was lost; and as we could not find it anywhere, we had to make another copy, and sent it to the censor.”  23
  “Papa, you are mistaken; first we sent it to the civil bureau.”  24
  “So we did, and from there it went to the ecclesiastical censor, was then returned to the civil bureau, and finally got to the political censor. In a word, in six months it came back to us prohibited.”  25
  “Prohibited!”  26
  “Yes, sir; and why, I don’t know, because my comedy——”  27
  “It may be that they did well, Mr. Figaro. My son always writes with a purpose! But is it not enough to say that his mother nearly died of laughing when she read it, and that I wept with joy?”  28
  “The second object that brings us here,” Don Candido presently resumed, “is that you may give my Tomas some good advice, for I have already told him that he should not restrict himself to plays; that the field of literature is very vast, and that the temple of fame has many doors.”  29
  “You are right, friend Candido. But allow me to tell your son the best way to become famous. Do not write anything for a long time. Silence is literary aristocracy, and I say to you that if you follow my advice there will come a day when the words will be on everybody’s lips, ‘Don Tomas, yes, Don Tomas is a wise man.’ After that you will be able with perfect confidence to deluge the public with comedies, essays, and commentaries. Everything will then be read with avidity, if only it be from the hand of Don Tomas. If you have no desire for fame, and wish to take the short road to publicity, you must act quite otherwise. Steep yourself in comic writers; have a correspondent in Paris, and send for a new comedy of Scribe every week; worm yourself into the columns of the newspapers, and write that everything is as it should be, and that we are all saints. Make arrangements with some publisher, who will give you four or five pesos a volume for translations of Walter Scott, which you can do at odd moments. That they may be badly translated matters not at all, for neither the publisher nor any other Christian will understand them. That’s the way to become famous, Don Tomas.”  30
  At this point Don Candido fell into my arms, and, taking Tomas by the hand, said:  31
  “See, my son, how wisely the gentleman speaks. Now give thanks to your protector. I suspected it all: you need know no more than you know already. How fortunate, Mr. Figaro! My son’s career is made. Essays, comedies, novels, translations! And all through knowing French! Oh, French! French! Ah! and magazines? Did you not also mention magazines, Mr. Figaro?”  32
  “Yes, my friend, and magazines too,” I concluded, conducting the pair to the door, and bidding them farewell. “Only I warn you not to put too much faith in them, as they may not always be in existence. But remember the rest of my advice, for that is the road to fame.”  33
 
 
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