Two youngsters once asked Fontenelle whether it was more correct to say, donnez-nous à boire, (give us to drink), or apportez-nous à boire, (bring us drink). The academician replied, "That both were unappropriate in their mouths; and that the proper term for such fellows as they was menez-nous à boire, lead us to drink."
Fontenelle was once staying with his nephew, M. Aube, and had the misfortune to let a spark fall upon his clothes, which set fire to the bed, and eventually to the room. M. Aube was extremely angry with his uncle, and shewed him what precautions he ought to have taken to prevent such an accident. "My dear nephew," replied Fontenelle, calmly, "when I set fire to your house again, depend upon it I will act differently."
Fontenelle, being praised for the clearness of his style on the deepest subjects, said, "If I have any merit, it is that I have always endeavoured to understand myself."
The conversation turning one day, in the presence of Fontenelle, on the marks of originality in the works of Father Castel, well known to the scientific world for his "Vrai Systeme de Physique generale de Newton;" some person observed, "but he is mad." "I know it," returned Fontenelle, "and I am very sorry for it, for it is a great pity. But I like him better for being original and a little mad, than I should if he were in his senses without being original."