Gustave Doré

But all children have a vivid imagination, and the chief problem of modern education is how to conserve and direct it. As yet no scheme or plan or method has been devised that shows results, and the men of imagination seem to be those who have succeeded in spite of school. In Gustave Doré we have the curious spectacle of nature keeping bright and fresh in the man all those strange conceptions of the child, and multiplying them by a man’s strength.

Illustration by G. Doré for the Adventures of Baron von Münchhausen
Illustration by G. Doré for The Adventures of Baron von Münchhausen.
The wild imaginings of Gustave only served his father and mother with food for laughter; and his erratic absurdities in making pictures supplied the neighbors’ fun.
But actions that are funny in a child become disturbing in a man; he’s cute when little, but “sassy” when older. Gustave did not put away childish things.

When he had reached the age of indiscretion—was fourteen, and had a frog in his throat, and was conscious of being barefoot, he still imagined things and made pictures of them. His father was distressed and sought by bribes to get him to quit scrawling with pencil and turn his attention to logarithms and other useful things; but with only partial success.

When fifteen he accompanied his father and older brother to Paris where the older boy was to be installed in the École Polytechnique. It was the hope of the father that, once in Paris, Gustave would consent to remain with his brother, and thus, by a change of base, a reform in his tastes would come about and he would leave the Rhine with its foolish old-woman tales and cease the detestable habit of picturing them.

It was the first time Gustave had ever been to Paris—the first time he had ever visited a large city. He was fascinated, captivated, enthralled. Paris was fairy-land and paradise. He announced to his father and brother that he would not return to Alsace, neither would he go to the Polytechnique. They told him he must do either one or the other; and as the father was going back home in two days Gustave could have just forty-eight hours in which to decide his destiny.