In the year 1716 or 1717, an Italian nobleman arrived in Nimes. He was on his way home from Spain, where he had served under the banner of Philip V. He did not continue his journey to Italy, remaining instead for unknown reasons in Nimes. This officer, who apparently had neither parents nor possessions at home, was called Antoine-Roch Rivarol. He was born on August 16th, 1685, in Vinsali near Novara. In Nimes he married a commoner, Jeanne Bonnet, the daughter of a tailor. The marriage was blessed with five children. One of them, born in 1727, was named Jean. He settled in Bagnols and also married a commoner, Catherine Avon, in 1752. From the birth papers of his children we learn that he was a ‘silk maker’, then an innkeeper, and finally an official, to wit, a ‘customs collector’. During the Revolution he helped supply the army in the eastern Pyrenees. Long after his famous son, an unwavering supporter of the monarchy, had evaded the pressure of the Revolution by emigrating, and was working against the republicans in power from abroad, Jean was made responsible for raising the standard of health and for the general improvement of the communities of the canton. He tried his hand at poetry, knew Latin, and was sufficiently fluent in the language of his fathers to translate some of the songs of the Gerusa-lemmeliberata into French. On June 26th, 1753, nine months to the day after the marriage of his parents, Antoine, the first of sixteen children, saw the light of day.1 He was precocious, of above average intelligence and endowed with an exceptional gift for language. Lioult de Chenedolle, a friend of his Hamburg days, to whom we are indebted for some important biographical information concerning Rivarol, remarks that Ger-maine de Staël ‘did not have a more elegant, quick, brilliant or varied command of words than Rivarol’. His eloquence completely enraptured his friends. ‘In his company there was no thought of eating, the senses were all ear, the heart was in ecstasy, the spirit was in raptures.’ In twelve months Antoine mastered material for which three years are usually necessary. When he lacked the funds for lodgings at the academy and was in danger of having to break off his education, he explained his situation to the Bishop of Cavaillon. Impressed by the intellectual capabilities of the young man, the Bishop assumed the costs of his training. His intellectual talents were matched by his striking appearance. Rivarol was big and handsome. ‘There goes the handsome abbe from the Sainte-Garde seminary’ whispered the ladies to each other when Rivarol and his colleagues strolled along the walls of Avignon. The best portrait we have of Rivarol was painted by Melchior Jacob Wyrsch, an artist from Unterwald, who spent many years in Besançon. It was painted in 1784, when Rivarol’s position in society and in the intellectual life of Paris had become firmly established. A high, handsomely arched forehead rises above firm eyebrows. The eyes, directed clearly and examiningly at the viewer, complete the impression of self-confident superiority. The well-formed, slightly arched nose betrays in the powerful formation of the nostrils, genuine sensibility. Full, sharply drawn lips hint at the tendency towards maliciousness and sensuality, so that, although the bright intellectuality which dominates the eyes and forehead is not disturbed, his more human traits — physical and spiritual — are evident.