The celebrated French poet, Racine, having one day returned from Versailles, where he had been on a visit, was waited upon by a gentleman with an invitation to dine at the Hotel de Condé.
“I cannot possibly do myself that honour,” said the poet; “it is some time since I have been with my family; they are overjoyed to see me again, and have provided a fine carp; so that I must dine with my dear wife and children.”
“But my good sir,” replied the gentleman, “several of the most distinguished characters in the kingdom expect your company, and will be anxious to see you.”
On this, Racine brought out the carp and showed it to his visitor, saying, “Here, sir, is our little meal; then say, having provided such a treat for me, what apology could I make for not dining with my poor children? Neither they nor my wife could have any pleasure in eating a bit of it without me; then pray be so obliging as to mention my excuse to the Prince of Condé and my other illustrious friends.”
The gentleman did so; and not only His Serene Highness, but all the company present, professed themselves infinitely more charmed with this proof of the poet’s affection as a husband and a father, than they possibly could have been with his delightful conversation.