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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Two Views of Money
By Alexandre Dumas, Jr. (1824–1895)
 
        
From ‘The Money Question’: Translation of Edward Irenæus Prime-Stevenson
  
  [The following passage occurs in the first act of Dumas’s play. The characters include the young parvenu Jean Giraud, the aristocratic M. De Cayolle, and several others, all guests in the drawing-room of the country-house of Madame Durieu. In course of the conversation Giraud refers to his father, at one time a gardener on the estate of M. De Charzay.]

JEAN GIRAUD—Oh, yes, yes, I have got along in the world, as people say. There are people who blush for their fathers; I make a brag of mine—that’s the difference.  1
  René de Charzay—And what is Father Giraud nowadays? Oh, I beg your pardon—  2
  Jean—Don’t be embarrassed—we keep on calling him Father Giraud all the same. He is a gardener still, only he gardens on his own account. He owns the house that your father was obliged to sell a while ago. My father has never had but one idea,—our Father Giraud,—and that is to be a land-owner; I bought that piece of property for him, and so he is as happy as a fish in the water. If you like, we will go and take breakfast with him to-morrow morning. He will be delighted to see you. How things change, eh? There, where a while ago we were the servants, now we are the masters; though we are not so very proud, for all that.  3
  Countess Savelli  [aside]—He has passed the Rubicon of parvenus! He has confessed his father! Now nothing can stop his way!  4
  Jean  [to De Charzay]—I have wanted to see you for a long time, but I have not been sure how you would meet me.  5
  René—I would have met you with pleasure, as my uncle would have met you. One cannot utter reproaches to a man who has made his own fortune, except when he has made it by dishonest means; a man who owes it to his intelligence and his probity, who uses it worthily, everybody is ready to meet kindly, as you are met here.  6
  Jean—Sir, it is not necessary that a man should use his fortune nobly, provided it is made—that is the main thing!  7
  Madame Durieu—Oh, oh, M. Giraud! there you spoil everything that you have said.  8
  Jean—I don’t say that of my own case, madam, but I say just what I say,—money is money, whatever may be the kind of hands where it sticks. It is the sole power that one never disputes. You may dispute virtue, beauty, courage, genius; but you can’t dispute money. There is not one civilized being, rising in the morning, who does not recognize the sovereignty of money, without which he would have neither the roof which shelters him, nor the bed in which he sleeps, nor the bread that he eats. Whither are bound these masses of people crowding in the streets?—from the employé sweating under his too heavy burden, to the millionaire hurrying down to the Bourse behind his two trotters? The one is running after fifteen sous, the other after one hundred thousand francs. Why do we all have these shops, these railroads, these factories, these theatres, these museums, these lawsuits between brothers and sisters, between fathers and sons, these revelations, these divisions in families, these murders? All for pieces, more or less numerous, of that white or yellow metal which people call silver or gold. And pray who will be the most thought of at the end of this grand race after money? The man who brings back the most of it. Ah, nowadays a man has no business to have more than one object in life—and that is to become as rich as possible! For my part, that has always been my idea; I have carried it out: I congratulate myself on it. Once upon a time everybody found me homely, stupid, a bore; to-day everybody finds me handsome, witty, amiable,—and the Lord knows if I am witty, amiable, handsome! On the day when I might be stupid enough to let myself be ruined, to become plain “Jean” as before, there would not be enough stones in the Montmartre quarries to throw at my head. But there, that day is a good way off, and meantime many of my business acquaintances have been ruined for the sake of keeping me from ruin. The last word, too, the greatest praise that I could give to wealth, certainly is, that such a circle as I find myself in at present has had the patience to listen so long to the son of a gardener, who has no other right to their attention than the poor little millions that he has made.  9
  Durieu  [aside]—It is all absolutely true, every word that he has been saying—gardener’s son that he is! He sees our epoch just as it really is.  10
  Madame Durieu—Come now, my dear M. De Cayolle, what do you think of what M. Giraud has been telling us?  11
  Cayolle—I think, madam, that the theories of M. Giraud are sound, but sound only as to that society in which M. Giraud has lived until now: a world of speculation, whose one object naturally ought to be to make money. As to wealth itself, it brings about infamous things, but it also brings about great and noble things. In that respect it is like human speech: a bad thing for some people, a good thing for others, according to the use they make of it. This obligation of our state of society that makes a man wake up each morning with taking thought of the necessary sum for his personal wants, lest he take what does not belong to him, has created the finest intelligence of all the ages! It is simply to this need of money every day that we owe Franklin, who began the world by being a printer’s apprentice; Shakespeare, who used to hold horses at the door of the theatre which later he was going to immortalize; Machiavelli, who was secretary to the Florentine republic at fifteen crowns a month; Raphael, the son of a mere dauber; Jean Jacques Rousseau, a notary’s clerk and an engraver,—one who did not have a dinner every day; Fulton, once upon a time a mechanic, who gave us steam: and so many others. Had these same people been born with an income of half a million livres apiece, there would have been a good many chances that not one of them would ever have become what he did become.  [To M. Giraud.]  This race after wealth, of which you speak, M. Giraud, has good in it: even if it enriches some silly people or some rascals, if it procures for them the consideration of those in a humble station of life,—of the lower classes, of those who have cash relations with society, on the other hand there is a great deal of good in the spur given to faculties which would otherwise remain stationary; enough good to pardon some errors in the distribution of wealth. Just in proportion as you enter into the true world of society—a world which is almost unknown to you, M. Giraud—you will find that a man who is received there is received only in proportion to his personal value. Look around here where we are, without taking the trouble to go any further, and you will see that money has not the influence you ascribe to it. For proof, here is Countess Savelli, with half a million francs income, who in place of dining out with millionaires besieging her house every day, comes quietly here to dine with our friends the Durieus, people without title, poor people measured by her fortune; and she comes here for the pleasure of meeting M. De Charzay, who has not more than a thousand crowns income, but who, for all the millionaires in the world, would never do a thing a man ought not to do; and she meets here M. De Roncourt, who has a business of fifteen hundred francs because he gave up his fortune to creditors who were not his own creditors. There is Mademoiselle De Roncourt, who sacrificed her dowry to the same sentiment of honor; yonder is Mademoiselle Durieu, who would never be willing to become the wife of any other than an honest man, even if he had for his rivals all the Crœsuses present and to come; and last of all, one meets me here,—a man who has for money (in the acceptation that you give the word) the most profound contempt. Now, M. Giraud, if we listened to you for so long a time, it is because we are well-bred people, and besides, you talk very well; but there has been no flattery for your millions in our attention, and the proof is that everybody has been listening to me a longer time than to you,—listening to me, who have not like you a thousand-franc note to put along with every one of my phrases!  12
  Jean—Who is that gentleman who has just been speaking?  13
  Durieu—That is M. De Cayolle.  14
  Jean—The railway director?  15
  Durieu—Yes.  16
  Jean  [going to M. De Cayolle]—M. De Cayolle, I hope you will believe that I am very glad to meet you.  17
  Cayolle—I dare say you are, monsieur.  [M. De Cayolle as he utters the words turns his back upon Giraud and steps aside.]  18
 
 
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