|Detail from Greuze's L'Enfant gâté (Louvre)|
The story of Bouret and his dog has been made famous by Diderot in Rameau' s Nephew:
Rameau's nephew ("Lui") defends his reprehensible life as a social parasite on the grounds of moral determinism and cites Bouret 's innate natural ability in the art of flattery, a skill which has served him well: "Only God and a few rare geniuses can have careers that keep stretching out before them as they advance". His incident concerning the dog is one of three, ostensibly well-known, examples of Bouret's ingenuity, the others being the "Book of Felicity" and "torches lighting the way to Versailles". The first of these references is clearly to Bouret's famous book in the pavillon du roi, described in the Correspondance littéraire for March 1764. Bouret is recorded in 1759 as having stationed torchbearers at intervals along the King's progress from Versailles to La Croix-Fontaine.
According to Rameau's nephew, the Keeper of the Seals took a fancy to Bouret's little pet dog and Bouret decided to make him a present of it. He was obliged to go extraordinary lengths since he had to persuade the animal to accept the minister as his new master. The creature was extremely attached to him and frightened of the minister's bizarre clothing. Moreover Bouret was under time pressure, for he has only a week to achieve the feat. He had a mask made to disguise himself as the Keeper of the Seals, borrowed the man's wig and voluminous robe, then petted the dog and gaves it titbits to eat; reverting to his own identity, he then gave the animal a beating. By repeating the exercise from morning to night, the dog was soon persuaded to prefer the minister. Rameau's nephew professes admiration for this remorseless attention to detail - "Having a mask made to look like him! It's the mask I find so staggering". Genius of this sort is born, not made: "Who ever gave Bouret any lessons? No-one. It's nature that forms these rare men. Do you think the dog and the mask is written down anywhere?" (2014 English edition, p.52-55)