NOTE: We must remember that when Buffon spoke about the contemporary writers he said: Look at Gérard de Nerval with his strange and colorful style, fantasizing his life as he did in his writings. Instead of arguing he spontaneously dictated the following article that he called Fantasia. The text was written in two sessions and in the interim Viscount Delaunay responded to Buffon. That is why he said that he did not know if that capricious spirit would finish the work, then offering the likely conclusion. This message was purposely left out of the chronological order to avoid interruption in the series of comments and replicas since Gérard de Nerval did not take part in the debates but by this Philosophical allegory.
• One day in one of my fantasies I was near the sea, not knowing how I ended up there by this small and unknown harbor. Never mind! I got separated from my traveling companions for a few hours so that I could indulge myself in the most turbulent Fantasia, the term used in my mental appreciations.
One must not believe, however, that every fantasy is like a crazy girl surrendered to the eccentricities of her own thoughts. It is common to see the poor little one smiling to hide her tears and dreaming to avoid her deception. Her heart is sometimes taken by love and curiosity, lost in her clouded thoughts. It might be perhaps an excess of love, lack of imagination.
Leave her alone with her love and contemplation. That is how one day I had her by my side, looking at the sea surrounded by the horizon when in our own solitude I saw this old honorable man, my word! He seemed worn out but fortunately he had had his time; his exhausted nerves and muscles replaced by the wisdom and harmony visible in his gestures; he showed a very positive attitude. He sat down and examined the terrain around, checking to make sure that he would not be stung by one of the little creatures that thrive under the sand of the sea; his walking stick with its golden handle was left aside. You can only imagine my surprise when he put his glasses on. Glasses! To see the vastness!
Fantasia stood up in astonishment, wishing to throw herself at him. I was hardly able to calm her down. I sneaked from behind a rock and listened to him saying: ‘There you are, the mirror image of our lives! The great whole, there you are! Profound truth! There you have our lives, superior and inferior, profound and petty, troubled and calm! Oh! Waves! Waves! Great universal journey!’
The little old man then murmured the words to himself only. Up until that moment Fantasia was quiet and listening respectfully, but she couldn’t help it anymore and then she laughed out loud!
All I could do was to take her in my arms and leave the man behind.
‘In reality’, said Fantasia, ‘he must be a member of some scholarly society.’ After running for some time we saw a canvas with a painting showing the tip of a rock kissed by the first waters of the ocean. We both observed it. The painter would certainly be looking around, trying to find another site. I looked at the painting and to the sea, and again to the painting and to the sea, alternatively. Fantasia wanted to tear off the painting into pieces. It was hard to hold her back. – ‘How come!’ she said. ‘It is 7 am and I see in this painting an anonymous effect!’ I understood perfectly well what Fantasia was telling me.
It does really make sense, that crazy girl, I told myself, and I wanted to get away. Alas! The hidden artist had followed every single subtlety of my facial expression; when his eyes met mine there was a terrible shock, an electrical shock. He gave me one of those looks as if saying: ‘You little worm.’ This time Fantasia was stunned by such an insolence, watching him returning to his palette. ‘You do not have one of Lorrain’s palettes’, she said with a smile on her face. She then turned to me and said: ‘We have seen the true and the beautiful. Let us now try to find the good.’
Then, climbing the rocks I saw the child of a fisherman, about thirteen or fourteen years old; he was playing with a dog, one running after the other, the dog barking, the boy laughing. All of a sudden I heard some screams that seemed to have come from the bottom of the cliff; the boy then dashed through a trail that led to the beach; Fantasia could hardly follow him, despite her energy; when I got to the bottom of the cliff I saw a terrifying scene; the boy struggling against the waves and bringing ashore a wretched man who was resisting the rescue; I tried to rush in support but the child shouted back asking me not to do that; bruised, trembling and tired, the boy successfully took the man out of the water after some time. Apparently it was a swimmer who had ventured too far, falling into and dragged by a current. I will continue another time.
Gérard de Nerval
NOTE: The communication of Viscount Delaunay given above was produced in this interval.