(_underscores_ denote italics)
I. TO GEORGE SAND 1863
I am not grateful to you for having performed what you call a duty. The goodness of your heart has touched me and your sympathy has made me proud. That is the whole of it.
Your letter which I have just received gives added value to your article [Footnote: Letter about Salammbo, January, 1863, Questions d'art et de litterature.] and goes on still further, and I do not know what to say to you unless it be that _I_ QUITE FRANKLY LIKE YOU.
It was certainly not I who sent you in September, a little flower in an envelope. But, strange to say, at the same time, I received in the same manner, a leaf of a tree.
As for your very cordial invitation, I am not answering yes or no, in true Norman fashion. Perhaps some day this summer I shall surprise you. For I have a great desire to see you and to talk with you.
It would be very delightful to have your portrait to hang on the wall in my study in the country where I often spend long months entirely alone. Is the request indiscreet? If not, a thousand thanks in advance. Take them with the others which I reiterate.
II. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 15 March, 1864
I don't know whether you lent me or gave me M. Taine's beautiful book. In the uncertainty I am returning it to you. Here I have had only the time to read a part of it, and at Nohant, I shall have only the time to scribble for Buloz; but when I return, in two months, I shall ask you again for this admirable work of which the scope is so lofty, so noble.
I am sorry not to have said adieu to you; but as I return soon, I hope that you will not have forgotten me and that you will let me read something of your own also.
You were so good and so sympathetic to me at the first performance of Villemer that I no longer admire only your admirable talent, I love you with all my heart.
III. TO GEORGE SAND Paris, 1866
Why of course I am counting on your visit at my own house. As for the hindrances which the fair sex can oppose to it, you will not notice them (be sure of it) any more than did the others. My little stories of the heart or of the senses are not displayed on the counter. But as it is far from my quarter to yours and as you might make a useless trip, when you arrive in Paris, give me a rendezvous. And at that we shall make another to dine informally tete-a-tete.
I sent your affectionate little greeting to Bouilhet.
At the present time I am disheartened by the populace which rushes by under my windows in pursuit of the fatted calf. And they say that intelligence is to be found in the street!
IV. To M. Flobert (Justave) M. of Letters Boulevard du Temple, 42, Paris Paris, 10 May, 1866
[The postage stamp bears the mark Palaiseau 9 May, '66.]
M. Flobaire, You must be a truly dirty oaf to have taken my name and written a letter with it to a lady who had some favors for me which you doubtless received in my place and inherited my hat in place of which I have received yours which you left there. It is the lowness of that lady's conduct and of yours that make me think that she lacks education entirely and all those sentiments which she ought to understand. If you are content to have written Fanie and Salkenpeau I am content not to have read them. You mustn't get excited about that, I saw in the papers that there were outrages against the Religion in whose bosom I have entered again after the troubles I had with that lady when she made me come to my senses and repent of my sins with her and, in consequence if I meet you with her whom I care for no longer you shall have my sword at your throat. That will be the Reparation of my sins and the punishment of your infamy at the same time. That is what I tell you and I salute you.
At Palaiseau with the Monks
They told me that I was well punished for associating with the girls from the theatre and with aristocrats.
V. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 1866
After the most scrupulous combined searches I found at last the body of my beloved brother. You are in belles-lettres and you would have been struck by the splendor of that scene. The corpse which was a Brother extended nonchalantly on the edge of a foul ditch. I forgot my sorrow a moment to contemplate he was good this young man whom the matches killed, but the real guilty one was that woman whom passions have separated in this disordered current in which our unhappy country is at the moment when it is more to be pitied than blamed for there are still men who have a heart. You who express yourself so well tell that siren that she has destroyed a great citizen. I don't need to tell you that we count on you to dig his noble tomb. Tell Silvanit also that she can come notwithstanding for education obliges me to offer her a glass of wine. I have the honor to salute you.
I also have the honor to salute Silvanit for whom I am a brother much to be pitied.
Goulard the elder
Have the goodness to transmit to Silvanit the last wishes of my poor Theodore. [Footnote: Letter written by Eugene Lambert.]
VI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Palaiseau 14 May, 1866
This is not a letter from Goulard. He is dead! The false Goulard killed him by surpassing him in the real and the comic. But this false Goulard also does not deny himself anything, the rascal!
Dear friend, I must tell you that I want to dedicate to you my novel which is just coming out. But as every one has his own ideas on the subject--as Goulard would say--I would like to know if you permit me to put at the head of my title page simply: to my friend Gustave Flaubert. I have formed the habit of putting my novels under the patronage of a beloved name. I dedicated the last to Fromentin.
I am waiting until it is good weather to ask you to come to dine at Palaiseau with Goulard's Sirenne, and some other Goulards of your kind and of mine. Up to now it has been frightfully cold and it is not worth the trouble to come to the country to catch a cold.
I have finished my novel, and you?
I kiss the two great diamonds which adorn your face.
The elder Goulard is my little Lambert, it seems to me that he is quite literary in that way.
VII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Palaiseau, Wednesday, 16 May, 1866
Well, my dear friend, since you are going away, and as in a fortnight, I am going to Berry for two or three months, do try to find time to come tomorrow Thursday. You will dine with dear and interesting Marguerite Thuillier who is also going away.
Do come to see my hermitage and Sylvester's. By leaving Paris, gare de Sceaux, at I o'clock, you will be at my house at 2 o'clock, or by leaving at 5, you will be there at 6, and in the evening you could leave with my strolling players at 9 or 10. Bring the copy. [Footnote: This refers to Monsieur Sylveitre, which had just appeared.] Put in it all the criticisms which occur to you. That will be very good for me. People ought to do that for each other as Balzac and I used to do. That doesn't make one person alter the other; quite the contrary, for in general, one gets more determined in one's moi, one completes it, explains it better, entirely develops it, and that is why friendship is good, even in literature, where the first condition of any worth is to be one's self.
If you can not come--I shall have a thousand regrets, but then I am depending upon you Monday before dinner. Au revoir and thank you for the fraternal permission of dedication.
VIII. TO GEORGE SAND Paris, 17 or 18 May, 1866
Don't expect me at your house on Monday. I am obliged to go to Versailles on that day. But I shall be at Magny's.
A thousand fond greetings from your
IX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 31 July, 1866
My good dear comrade,
Will you really be in Paris these next few days as you led me to hope? I leave here the 2nd. What good luck if I found you at dinner on the following Monday. And besides, they are putting on a play [Footnote: Les Don Juan de village.] by my son and me, on the 10th. Could I possibly get along without you on that day? I shall feel some EMOTION this time because of my dear collaborator. Be a good friend and try to come! I embrace you with all my heart in that hope.
The late Goulard, G. Sand.
X. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 4 Aug., 1866
Dear friend, as I'm always out, I don't want you to come and find the door shut and me far away. Come at six o'clock and dine with me and my children whom I expect tomorrow. We dine at Magny's always at 6 o'clock promptly. You will give us 'a sensible pleasure' as used to say, as would have said, alas, the unhappy Goulard. You are an exceedingly kind brother to promise to be at Don Juan. For that I kiss you twice more.
XI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT
It is next THURSDAY,
I wrote you last night, and our letters must have crossed.
Yours from the heart,
Sunday, 5 August, 1866.
XII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, Wednesday evening, 22 August, 1866
My good comrade and friend, I am going to see Alexandre at Saint- Valery Saturday evening. I shall stay there Sunday and Monday, I shall return Tuesday to Rouen and go to see you. Tell me how that strikes you. I shall spend the day with you if you like, returning to spend the night in Rouen, if I inconvenience you as you are situated, and I shall leave Wednesday morning or evening for Paris. A word in response at once, by telegraph if you think that your answer would not reach me by post before Saturday at 4 o'clock.
I think that I shall be all right but I have a horrid cold. If it grows too bad, I shall telegraph that I can not stir; but I have hopes, I am already better.
I embrace you.
XIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Saint-Valery, 26 August, 1866 Monday, 1 A.M.
Dear friend, I shall be in Rouen on Tuesday at 1 o'clock, I shall plan accordingly. Let me explore Rouen which I don't know, or show it to me if you have the time. I embrace you. Tell your mother how much I appreciate and am touched, by the kind little line which she wrote to me.
XIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Paris, 31 August, 1866
First of all, embrace your good mother and your charming niece for me. I am really touched by the kind welcome I received in your clerical setting, where a stray animal of my species is an anomaly that one might find constraining. Instead of that, they received me as if I were one of the family and I saw that all that great politeness came from the heart. Remember me to all the very kind friends. I was truly exceedingly happy with you. And then, you, you are a dear kind boy, big man that you are, and I love you with all my heart. My head is full of Rouen, of monuments and queer houses. All of that seen with you strikes me doubly. But your house, your garden, your CITADEL, it is like a dream and it seems to me that I am still there.
I found Paris very small yesterday, when crossing the bridges.
I want to start back again. I did not see you enough, you and your surroundings; but I must rush off to the children, who are calling and threatening me. I embrace you and I bless you all.
On going home yesterday, I found Couture to whom I said on your behalf that HIS portrait of me was, according to you, the best that anyone had made. He was not a little flattered. I am going to hunt up an especially good copy to send you.
I forgot to get three leaves from the tulip tree, you must send them to me in a letter, it is for something cabalistic.
XV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 2 September, 1866
Send me back the lace shawl. My faithful porter will forward it to me wherever I am. I don't know yet. If my children want to go with me into Brittany, I shall go to fetch them, if not I shall go on alone wherever chance leads me. In travelling, I fear only distractions. But I take a good deal on myself and I shall end by improving myself. You write me a good dear letter which I kiss. Don't forget the three leaves from the tulip tree. They are asking me at the Odeon to let them perform a fairy play: la Nuit de Noel from the Theatre de Nohant, I don't want to, it's too small a thing. But since they have that idea, why wouldn't they try your fairy play? Do you want me to ask them? I have a notion that this would be the right theatre for a thing of that type. The management, Chilly and Duquesnel, wants to have scenery and MACHINERY and yet keep it literary. Let us discuss this when I return here.
You still have the time to write to me. I shall not leave for three days yet. Love to your family.
I forgot! Levy promises to send you my complete works, they are endless. You must stick them on a shelf in a corner and dig into them when your heart prompts you.
XVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Nohant, 21 September, 1866
I have just returned from a twelve days trip with my children, and on getting home I find your two letters. That fact, added to the joy of seeing Mademoiselle Aurore again, fresh and pretty, makes me quite happy. And you my Benedictine, you are quite alone in your ravishing monastery, working and never going out? That is what it means TO HAVE ALREADY gone out too much. Monsieur craves Syrias, deserts, dead seas, dangers and fatigues! But nevertheless he can make Bovarys in which every little cranny of life is studied and painted with mastery. What an odd person who can also compose the fight between the Sphinx and the Chimaera! You are a being quite apart, very mysterious, gentle as a lamb with it all. I have had a great desire to question you, but a too great respect for you has prevented me; for I know how to make light only of my own calamities, while those which a great mind has had to undergo so as to be in a condition to produce, seem to me like sacred things which should not be touched roughly nor thoughtlessly.
Sainte-Beuve, who loves you all the same, claims that you are horribly vicious. But perhaps he may see with somewhat unclean eyes, like this learned botanist who asserts that the germander is of DIRTY yellow color. The observation was so false, that I could not refrain from writing on the margin of his book: IT IS BECAUSE YOU HAVE DIRTY EYES.
I suppose that a man of intelligence may have great curiosity. I have not had it, lacking the courage. I have preferred to leave my mind incomplete, that is my affair, and every one is free to embark either on a great ship in full sail, or on a fisherman's vessel. The artist is an explorer whom nothing ought to stop, and who does neither good nor ill when turning to the right or to the left. His end justifies all.
It is for him to know after a little experience, what are the conditions of his soul's health. As for me, I think that yours is in a good condition of grace, since you love to work and to be alone in spite of the rain.
Do you know that, while there has been a deluge everywhere, we have had, except a few downpours, fine sunshine in Brittany? A horrible wind on the shore, but how beautiful the high surf! and since the botany of the coast carried me away, and Maurice and his wife have a passion for shellfish, we endured it all gaily. But on the whole, Brittany is a famous see-saw.
However, we are a little fed up with dolmens and menhirs and we have fallen on fetes and have seen costumes which they said had been suppressed but which the old people still wear. Well! These men of the past are ugly with their home-spun trousers, their long hair, their jackets with pockets under the arms, their sottish air, half drunkard, half saint. And the Celtic relics, uncontestably curious for the archaeologist, have naught for the artist, they are badly set, badly composed, Carnac and Erdeven have no physiognomy. In short, Brittany shall not have my bones! I prefer a thousand times your rich Normandy, or, in the days when one has dramas in his HEAD, a real country of horror and despair. There is nothing in a country where priests rule and where Catholic vandalism has passed, razing monuments of the ancient world and sowing the plagues of the future.
You say US a propos of the fairy play. I don't know with whom you have written it, but I still fancy that it ought to succeed at the Odeon under its present management. If I was acquainted with it, I should know how to accomplish for you what one never knows how to do for one's self, namely, to interest the directors. Anything of yours is bound to be too original to be understood by that coarse Dumaine. Do have a copy at your house, and next month I shall spend a day with you in order to have you read it to me. Le Croisset is so near to Palaiseau!--and I am in a phase of tranquil activity, in which I should love to see your great river flow, and to keep dreaming in your orchard, tranquil itself, quite on top of the cliff. But I am joking, and you are working. You must forgive the abnormal intemperance of one who has just been seeing only stones and has not perceived even a pen for twelve days.
You are my first visit to the living on coming out from the complete entombment of my poor Moi. Live! There is my oremus and my benediction and I embrace you with all my heart.
XVII. TO GEORGE SAND Croisset, 1866
I a mysterious being, dear master, nonsense! I think that I am sickeningly platitudinous, and I am sometimes exceedingly bored with the bourgeois which I have under my skin. Sainte-Beuve, between ourselves, does not know me at all, no matter what he says. I even swear to you (by the smile of your grandchild) that I know few men less vicious than I am. I have dreamed much and have done very little. What deceives the superficial observer is the lack of harmony between my sentiments and my ideas. If you want my confession, I shall make it freely to you. The sense of the grotesque has restrained me from an inclination towards a disorderly life. I maintain that cynicism borders on chastity. We shall have much to say about it to each other (if your heart prompts you) the first time we see each other.
Here is the program that I propose to you. My house will be full and uncomfortable for a month. But towards the end of October or the beginning of November (after Bouilhet's play) nothing will prevent you, I hope, from returning here with me, not for a day, as you say, but for a week at least. You shall have "your little table and everything necessary for writing." Is it agreed?
As for the fairy play, thanks for your kind offers of service. I shall get hold of the thing for you (it was done in collaboration with Bouilhet). But I think it is a trifle weak and I am torn between the desire of gaining a few piasters and the shame of showing such a piece of folly.
I think that you are a little severe towards Brittany, not towards the Bretons who seem to me repulsive animals. A propos of Celtic archaeology, I published in L'Artiste in 1858, a rather good hoax on the shaking stones, but I have not the number here and I don't remember the month.
I read, straight through, the 10 volumes of Histoire de ma vie, of which I knew about two thirds but only fragmentarily. What struck me most was the life in the convent. I have a quantity of observations to make to you which occurred to me.
XVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 28 September, 1866
It is agreed, dear comrade and good friend. I shall do my best to be in Paris for the performance of your friend's play, and I shall do my fraternal duty there as usual; after which we shall go to your house and I shall stay there a week, but on condition that you will not put yourself out of your room. To be an inconvenience distresses me and I don't need so much bother in order to sleep. I sleep everywhere, in the ashes, or under a kitchen bench, like a stable dog. Everything shines with spotlessness at your house, so one is comfortable everywhere. I shall pick a quarrel with your mother and we shall laugh and joke, you and I, much and more yet. If it's good weather, I shall make you go out walking, if it rains continually, we shall roast our bones before the fire while telling our heart pangs. The great river will run black or grey under the window saying always, QUICK! QUICK! and carrying away our thoughts, and our days, and our nights, without stopping to notice such small things.
I have packed and sent by EXPRESS a good proof of Couture's picture, signed by the engraver, my poor friend, Manceau. It is the best that I have and I have only just found it. I have sent with it a photograph of a drawing by Marchal which was also like me; but one changes from year to year. Age gives unceasingly another character to the face of people who think and study, that is why their portraits do not look like one another nor like them for long. I dream so much and I live so little, that sometimes I am only three years old. But, the next day I am three hundred, if the dream has been sombre. Isn't it the same with you? Doesn't it seem at moments, that you are beginning life without even knowing what it is, and at other times don't you feel over you the weight of several thousand centuries, of which you have a vague remembrance and a sorrowful impression? Whence do we come and whither do we go? All is possible since all is unknown.
Embrace your beautiful, good mother for me. I shall give myself a treat, being with you two. Now try to find that hoax on the Celtic stones; that would interest me very much. When you saw them, had they opened the galgal of Lockmariaker and cleared away the ground near Plouharnel?
Those people used to write, because there are stones covered with hieroglyphics, and they used to work in gold very well, because very beautifully made torques [Footnote: Gallic necklaces.] have been found.
My children, who are, like myself, great admirers of you, send you their compliments, and I kiss your forehead, since Sainte-Beuve lied.
Have you any sun today? Here it is stifling. The country is lovely. When will you come here?
XIX. TO GEORGE SAND Croisset, Saturday evening, ... 1866
Good, I have it, that beautiful, dear and famous face! I am going to have a large frame made and hang it on my wall, being able to say, as did M. de Talleyrand to Louis Philippe: "It is the greatest honor that my house has received"; a poor phrase, for we two are worth more than those two amiable men.
Of the two portraits, I like that of Couture's the better. As for Marchal's he saw in you only "the good woman," but I who am an old Romantic, find in the other, "the head of the author" who made me dream so much in my youth.
XX. TO GEORGE SAND Croisset, Saturday evening, 1866
Your sending the package of the two portraits made me think that you were in Paris, dear master, and I wrote you a letter which is waiting for you at rue des Feuillantines.
I have not found my article on the dolmens. But I have my manuscript (entire) of my trip in Brittany among my "unpublished works." We shall have to gabble when you are here. Have courage.
I don't experience, as you do, this feeling of a life which is beginning, the stupefaction of a newly commenced existence. It seems to me, on the contrary, that I have always lived! And I possess memories which go back to the Pharaohs. I see myself very clearly at different ages of history, practising different professions and in many sorts of fortune. My present personality is the result of my lost personalities. I have been a boatman on the Nile, a leno in Rome at the time of the Punic wars, then a Greek rhetorician in Subura where I was devoured by insects. I died during the Crusade from having eaten too many grapes on the Syrian shores, I have been a pirate, monk, mountebank and coachman. Perhaps also even emperor of the East?
Many things would be explained if we could know our real genealogy. For, since the elements which make a man are limited, should not the same combinations reproduce themselves? Thus heredity is a just principle which has been badly applied.
There is something in that word as in many others. Each one takes it by one end and no one understands the other. The science of psychology will remain where it lies, that is to say in shadows and folly, as long as it has no exact nomenclature, so long as it is allowed to use the same expression to signify the most diverse ideas. When they confuse categories, adieu, morale!
Don't you really think that since '89 they wander from the point? Instead of continuing along the highroad which was broad and beautiful, like a triumphal way, they stray off by little sidepaths and flounder in mud holes. Perhaps it would be wise for a little while to return to Holbach. Before admiring Proudhon, supposing one knew Turgot? But le Chic, that modern religion, what would become of it!
Opinions chic (or chiques): namely being pro-Catholicism (without believing a word of it) being pro-Slavery, being pro-the House of Austria, wearing mourning for Queen Amelie, admiring Orphee aux Enfers, being occupied with Agricultural Fairs, talking Sport, acting indifferent, being a fool up to the point of regretting the treaties of 1815. That is all that is the very newest.
Oh! You think that because I pass my life trying to make harmonious phrases, in avoiding assonances, that I too have not my little judgments on the things of this world? Alas! Yes! and moreover I shall burst, enraged at not expressing them.
But a truce to joking, I should finally bore you.
The Bouilhet play will open the first part of November. Then in a month we shall see each other.
I embrace you very warmly, dear master.
XXI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Nohant, Monday evening, 1 October, 1866
Your letter was forwarded to me from Paris. It isn't lost. I think too much of them to let any be lost. You don't speak to me of the floods, therefore I think that the Seine did not commit any follies at your place and that the tulip tree did not get its roots wet. I feared lest you were anxious and wondered if your bank was high enough to protect you. Here we have nothing of that sort to be afraid of; our streams are very wicked, but we are far from them.
You are happy in having such clear memories of other existences. Much imagination and learning--those are your memories; but if one does not recall anything distinct, one has a very lively feeling of one's own renewal in eternity. I have a very amusing brother who often used to say "at the time when I was a dog. ..." He thought that he had become man very recently. I think that I was vegetable or mineral. I am not always very sure of completely existing, and sometimes I think I feel a great fatigue accumulated from having lived too much. Anyhow, I do not know, and I could not, like you, say, "I possess the past."
But then you believe that one does not really die, since one LIVES AGAIN? If you dare to say that to the Smart Set, you have courage and that is good. I have the courage which makes me pass for an imbecile, but I don't risk anything; I am imbecile under so many other counts.
I shall be enchanted to have your written impression of Brittany, I did not see enough to talk about. But I sought a general impression and that has served me for reconstructing one or two pictures which I need. I shall read you that also, but it is still an unformed mass.
Why did your trip remain unpublished? You are very coy. You don't find what you do worth being described. That is a mistake. All that issues from a master is instructive, and one should not fear to show one's sketches and drawings. They are still far above the reader, and so many things are brought down to his level that the poor devil remains common. One ought to love common people more than oneself, are they not the real unfortunates of the world? Isn't it the people without taste and without ideals who get bored, don't enjoy anything and are useless? One has to allow oneself to be abused, laughed at, and misunderstood by them, that is inevitable. But don't abandon them, and always throw them good bread, whether or not they prefer filth; when they are sated with dirt they will eat the bread; but if there is none, they will eat filth in secula seculorum.
I have heard you say, "I write for ten or twelve people only." One says in conversation, many things which are the result of the impression of the moment; but you are not alone in saying that. It was the opinion of the Lundi or the thesis of that day. I protested inwardly. The twelve persons for whom you write, who appreciate you, are as good as you are or surpass you. You never had any need of reading the eleven others to be yourself. But, one writes for all the world, for all who need to be initiated; when one is not understood, one is resigned and recommences. When one is understood, one rejoices and continues. There lies the whole secret of our persevering labors and of our love of art. What is art without the hearts and minds on which one pours it? A sun which would not project rays and would give life to no one.
After reflecting on it, isn't that your opinion? If you are convinced of that, you will never know disgust and lassitude, and if the present is sterile and ungrateful, if one loses all influence, all hold on the public, even in serving it to the best of one's ability, there yet remains recourse to the future, which supports courage and effaces all the wounds of pride. A hundred times in life, the good that one does seems not to serve any immediate use; but it keeps up just the same the tradition of wishing well and doing well, without which all would perish.
Is it only since '89 that people have been floundering? Didn't they have to flounder in order to arrive at '48 when they floundered much more, but so as to arrive at what should be? You must tell me how you mean that and I will read Turgot to please you. I don't promise to go as far as Holbach, ALTHOUGH HE HAS SOME GOOD POINTS, THE RUFFIAN!
Summon me at the time of Bouilhet's play. I shall be here, working hard, but ready to run, and loving you with all my heart. Now that I am no longer a woman, if the good God was just, I should become a man; I should have the physical strength and would say to you: "Come let's go to Carthage or elsewhere." But there, one who has neither sex nor strength, progresses towards childhood, and it is quite otherwhere that one is renewed; WHERE? I shall know that before you do, and, if I can, I shall come back in a dream to tell you.
XXII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 19 October
Dear friend, they write me from the Odeon that Bouilhet's play is on the 27th. I must be in Paris the 26th. Business calls me in any event. I shall dine at Magny's on that day, and the next, and the day after that. Now you know where to find me, for I think that you will come for the first performance. Yours always, with a full heart,
XXIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 23 October, 1866
Dear friend, since the play is on the 29th I shall give two more days to my children and I leave here the 28th. You have not told me if you will dine with me and your friend on the 29th informally, at Magny's at whatever hour you wish. Let me find a line at 97 rue des Feuillantines, on the 28th.
Then we shall go to your house, the day you wish. My chief talk with you will be to listen to you and to love you with all my heart. I shall bring what I have "ON THE STOCKS." That will GIVE ME COURAGE, as they say here, to read to you my EMBRYO. If I could only carry the sun from Nohant. It is glorious.
I embrace and bless you.
XXIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 10 November, 1866
On reaching Paris I learn sad news. Last evening, while we were talking--and I think that we spoke of him day before yesterday--my friend Charles Duveyrier died, a most tender heart and a most naive spirit. He is to be buried tomorrow. He was one year older than I am. My generation is passing bit by bit. Shall I survive it? I don't ardently desire to, above all on these days of mourning and farewell. It is as God wills, provided He lets me always love in this world and in the next.
I keep a lively affection for the dead. But one loves the living differently. I give you the part of my heart that he had. That joined to what you have already, makes a large share. It seems to me that it consoles me to make that gift to you. From a literary point of view he was not a man of the first rank, one loved him for his goodness and spontaneity. Less occupied with affairs and philosophy, he would have had a charming talent. He left a pretty play, Michel Perrin.
I travelled half the way alone, thinking of you and your mother at Croisset and looking at the Seine, which thanks to you has become a friendly GODDESS. After that I had the society of an individual with two women, as ordinary, all of them, as the music at the pantomime the other day. Example: "I looked, the sun left an impression like two points in my eyes." HUSBAND: "That is called luminous points," and so on for an hour without stopping.
I shall do all sorts of errands for the house, for I belong to it, do I not? I am going to sleep, quite worn out; I wept unrestrainedly all the evening, and I embrace you so much the more, dear friend. Love me MORE than before, because I am sad.
Have you a friend among the Rouen magistrates? If you have, write him a line to watch for the NAME Amedee Despruneaux. It is a civil case which will come up at Rouen in a few days. Tell him that this Despruneaux is the most honest man in the world; you can answer for him as for me. In doing this, if the thing is feasible, you will do me a personal favor. I will do the same for any friend of yours.
XXV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 11 November, 1866
I send you my friend Despruneaux in person. If you know a judge or two,--or if your brother could give him a word of support, do arrange it, I kiss you three times on each eye.
Five minutes' interview and that's all the inconvenience. Paris, Sunday
XXVI. TO GEORGE SAND Monday night
You are sad, poor friend and dear master; it was you of whom I thought on learning of Duveyrier's death. Since you loved him, I am sorry for you. That loss is added to others. How we keep these dead souls in our hearts. Each one of us carries within himself his necropolis.
I am entirely UNDONE since your departure; it seems to me as if I had not seen you for ten years. My one subject of conversation with my mother is you, everyone here loves you. Under what star were you born, pray, to unite in your person such diverse qualities, so numerous and so rare?
I don't know what sort of feeling I have for you, but I have a particular tenderness for you, and one I have never felt for anyone, up to now. We understood each other, didn't we, that was good.
I especially missed you last evening at ten o'clock. There was a fire at my wood-seller's. The sky was rose color and the Seine the color of gooseberry sirup. I worked at the engine for three hours and I came home as worn out as the Turk with the giraffe.
A newspaper in Rouen, le Nouvelliste, told of your visit to Rouen, so that Saturday after leaving you I met several bourgeois indignant at me for not exhibiting you. The best thing was said to me by a former sub-prefect: "Ah! if we had known that she was here ... we would have ... we would have ..." he hunted five minutes for the word; "we would have smiled for her." That would have been very little, would it not?
To "love you more" is hard for me--but I embrace you tenderly. Your letter of this morning, so melancholy, reached the BOTTOM of my heart. We separated at the moment when many things were on the point of coming to our lips. All the doors between us two are not yet open. You inspire me with a great respect and I do not dare to question you.
XXVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Paris, 13 November, 1866 Night from Tuesday to Wednesday
I have not yet read my play. I have still something to do over. Nothing pressing. Bouilhet's play goes admirably well, and they told me that my little friend Cadol's [Footnote: Edward Cadol, a dramatic author and a friend of Maurice Sand.] play would come next. And, for nothing in the world, do I want to step on the body of that child. That puts me quite a distance off and does not annoy me--NOR INJURE ME AT ALL. What style! Luckily I am not writing for Buloz.
I saw your friend last evening in the foyer at the Odeon. I shook hands with him. He had a happy look. And then I talked with Duquesnel about the fairy play. He wants very much to know it. You have only to present yourself when ever you wish to busy yourself with it. You will be received with open arms.
Mario Proth will give me tomorrow or next day the exact date on the transformation of the journal. Tomorrow I shall go out and buy your dear mother's shoes. Next week I am going to Palaiseau and I shall hunt up my book on faience. If I forget anything, remind me of it.
I have been ill for two days. I am cured. Your letter does my heart good. I shall answer all the questions quite nicely, as you have answered mine. One is happy, don't you think so, to be able to relate one's whole life? It is much less complicated than the bourgeois think, and the mysteries that one can reveal to a friend are always the contrary of what indifferent ones suppose.
I was very happy that week with you: no care, a good nesting-place a lovely country, affectionate hearts and your beautiful and frank face which has a somewhat paternal air. Age has nothing to do with it. One feels in you the protection of infinite goodness, and one evening when you called your mother "MY DAUGHTER," two tears came in my eyes. It was hard to go away, but I hindered your work, and then,--and then,--a malady of my old age is, not being able to keep still. I am afraid of getting too attached and of wearying others. The old ought to be extremely discreet. From a distance I can tell you how much I love you without the fear of repetition. You are one of the RARE BEINGS remaining impressionable, sincere, loving art, not corrupted by ambition, not drunk with success. In short you will always be twenty-five years of age because of all sorts of ideas which have become old-fashioned according to the senile young men of today. With them, I think it is decidedly a pose, but it is so stupid! If it is a weakness, it is still worse. They are MEN OF LETTERS and not MEN. Good luck to the novel! It is exquisite; but oddly enough there is one entire side of you which does not betray itself in what you do, something that you probably are ignorant of. That will come later, I am sure of it.
I embrace you tenderly, and your mother too, and the charming niece! [Footnote: Madame Caroline Commanville.] Ah! I forgot, I saw Couture this evening; he told me that in order to be nice to you, he would make your portrait in crayon like mine for whatever price you wish to arrange. You see I am a good commissioner, use me.
XXVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 16 November, 1866
Thanks, dear friend of my heart, for all the trouble that I gave you with my Berrichon Despruneaux. They are friends from the old country, a whole adorable family of fine people, fathers, children, wives, nephews, all in the close circle at Nohant. He must have been MOVED at seeing you. He looked forward to it, all personal interest aside. And I who am not practical, forgot to tell you that the judgment would not be given for a fortnight. That in consequence any preceding within the next two weeks would be extremely useful. If he gains his suit relative to the constructions at Yport, he will settle there and I shall realize the plan formed long since of going every year to his house; he has a delicious wife and they have loved me a long time. You then are threatened with seeing me often scratching at your gate in passing, giving you a kiss on the forehead, crying courage for your labor and running on. I am still awaiting our information on the journal. It seems that it is a little difficult to be exact for '42. I have asked for the most scrupulous exactitude.
For two days I have been taking out to walk my Cascaret, [Footnote: Francis Laur.] the little engineer of whom I told you. He has become very good looking, the ladies lift their lorgnons at him, and it depends only on him to attain the dignity of a negro "giraffier," but he loves, he is engaged, he has four years to wait, to work to make himself a position, and he has made a vow. You would tell him that he is stupid, I preach to him, on the contrary, my old troubadour doctrine.
Morality aside, I don't think that the children of this day have sufficient force to manage at the same time, science and dissipation, cocottes and engagements. The proof is that nothing comes from young Bohemia any longer. Good night, friend, work well, sleep well. Walk a little for the love of God and of me. Tell your judges who promised me a smile, to smile on my Berrichon.
XXIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 16 November, 1866
Don't take any further steps. Contrary to all anticipations, Despruneaux has gained his suit during the session.
Whether you have done it or not, he is none the less grateful about it and charges me to thank you with all his good and honest heart.
Bouilhet goes from better to better. I have just seen the directors who are delighted.
I love you and embrace you.
Think sometimes of your old troubadour. Friday
XXX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 18 November (?), 1866
I think that I shall give you pleasure and joy when I tell you that La Conjuration d'Ambroise, thus says my porter, is announced as a real money-maker. There was a line this evening as at Villemer, and Magny which is also a barometer, shows fair weather.
So be content, if that keeps up, Bouilhet is a success. Sunday
XXXI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Palaiseau, 22 November, 1866
I think that it will bring me luck to say good evening to my dear comrade before starting to work.
I am QUITE ALONE in my little house. The gardener and his family live in the pavilion in the garden and we are the last house at the end of the village, quite isolated in the country, which is a ravishing oasis. Fields, woods, appletrees as in Normandy; not a great river with its steam whistles and infernal chain; a little stream which runs silently under the willows; a silence ... ah! it seems to me that I am in the depths of the virgin forest: nothing speaks except the little jet of the spring which ceaselessly piles up diamonds in the moonlight. The flies sleeping in the corners of my room, awaken at the warmth of my fire. They had installed themselves there to die, they come near the lamp, they are seized with a mad gaiety, they buzz, they jump, they laugh, they even have faint inclinations towards love, but it is the hour of death and paf! in the midst of the dance, they fall stiff. It is over, farewell to dancing!
I am sad here just the same. This absolute solitude, which has always been vacation and recreation for me, is shared now by a dead soul [Footnote: Alexandre Manceau, the engraver, a friend of Maurice Sand.] who has ended here, like a lamp which is going out, yet which is here still. I do not consider him unhappy in the region where he is dwelling; but the image that he has left near me, which is nothing more than a reflection, seems to complain because of being unable to speak to me any more.
Never mind! Sadness is not unhealthy. It prevents us from drying up. And you dear friend, what are you doing at this hour? Grubbing also, alone also; for your mother must be in Rouen. Tonight must be beautiful down there too. Do you sometimes think of the "old troubadour of the Inn clock, who still sings and will continue to sing perfect love?" Well! yes, to be sure! You do not believe in chastity, sir, that's your affair. But as for me, I say that SHE HAS SOME GOOD POINTS, THE JADE!
And with this, I embrace you with all my heart, and I am going to, if I can, make people talk who love each other in the old way.
You don't have to write to me when you don't feel like it. No real friendship without ABSOLUTE liberty.
In Paris next week, and then again to Palaiseau, and after that to Nohant. I saw Bouilhet at the Monday performance. I am CRAZY about it. But some of us will applaud at Magny's. I had a cold sweat there, I who am so steady, and I saw everything quite blue.
XXXII. TO GEORGE SAND Croisset, Tuesday
You are alone and sad down there, I am the same here.
Whence come these attacks of melancholy that overwhelm one at times? They rise like a tide, one feels drowned, one has to flee. I lie prostrate. I do nothing and the tide passes.
My novel is going very badly for the moment. That fact added to the deaths of which I have heard; of Cormenin (a friend of twenty-five years' standing), of Gavarni, and then all the rest, but that will pass. You don't know what it is to stay a whole day with your head in your hands trying to squeeze your unfortunate brain so as to find a word. Ideas come very easily with you, incessantly, like a stream. With me it is a tiny thread of water. Hard labor at art is necessary for me before obtaining a waterfall. Ah! I certainly know THE AGONIES OF STYLE.
In short I pass my life in wearing away my heart and brain, that is the real TRUTH about your friend.
You ask him if he sometimes thinks of his "old troubadour of the clock," most certainly! and he mourns for him. Our nocturnal talks were very precious (there were moments when I restrained myself in order not to KISS you like a big child).
Your ears ought to have burned last night. I dined at my brother's with all his family. There was hardly any conversation except about you, and every one sang your praises, unless perhaps myself, I slandered you as much as possible, dearly beloved master.
I have reread, a propos of your last letter (and by a very natural connection of ideas), that chapter of father Montaigne's entitled "some lines from Virgil." What he said of chastity is precisely what I believe. It is the effort that is fine and not the abstinence in itself. Otherwise shouldn't one curse the flesh like the Catholics? God knows whither that would lead. Now at the risk of repetition and of being a Prudhomme, I insist that your young man is wrong. [Footnote: Refers to Francis Laur.] If he is temperate at twenty years old, he will be a cowardly roue at fifty. Everything has its compensations. The great natures which are good, are above everything generous and don't begrudge the giving of themselves. One must laugh and weep, love, work, enjoy and suffer, in short vibrate as much as possible in all his being.
That is, I think, the real human existence.
XXXIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Palaiseau, 29 November, 1866
One need not be spiritualist nor materialist, you say, but one should be a naturalist. That is a great question.
My Cascaret, that is what I call the little engineer, will decide it as he thinks best. He is not stupid and he will have many ideas, deductions and emotions before realizing the prophecy that you make. I do not catechise him without reserve, for he is stronger than I am on many points, and it is not Catholic spiritualism that stifles him. But the question by itself is very serious, and hovers above our art, above us troubadours, more or less clock-bearing or clockshaped.
Treat it in an entirely impersonal way; for what is good for one might be quite the reverse for another. Let us ask ourselves in making an abstract of our tendencies or of our experiences, if the human being can receive and seek its own full physical development without intellectual suffering. Yes, in an ideal and rational society that would be so. But, in that in which we live and with which we must be content, do not enjoyment and excess go hand in hand, and can one separate them or limit them, unless one is a sage of the first class? And if one is a sage, farewell temptation which is the father of real joys.
The question for us artists, is to know if abstinence strengthens us or if it exalts us too much, which state would degenerate into weakness,--You will say, "There is time for everything and power enough for every dissipation of strength." Then you make a distinction and you place limits, there is no way of doing otherwise. Nature, you think, places them herself and prevents us from abusing her. Ah! but no, she is not wiser than we who are also nature.
Our excesses of work, as our excesses of pleasure, kill us certainly, and the more we are great natures, the more we pass beyond bounds and extend the limits of our powers.
No, I have no theories. I spend my life in asking questions and in hearing them answered in one way or another without any victoriously conclusive reply ever being given me. I await the brilliance of a new state of my intellect and of my organs in a new life; for, in this one, whosoever reflects, embraces up to their last consequences, the limits of pro and con. It is Monsieur Plato, I think, who asked for and thought he held the bond. He had it no more than we. However, this bond exists, since the universe subsists without the pro and con, which constitute it, reciprocally destroying each other. What shall one call it in material nature? EQUILIBRIUM, that will do, and for spiritual nature? MODERATION, relative chastity, abstinence from excess, whatever you want, but that is translated by EQUILIBRIUM; am I wrong, my master?
Consider it, for in our novels, what our characters do or do not do, rests only on that. Will they or will they not possess the object of their ardent desires? Whether it is love or glory, fortune or pleasure, ever since they existed, they have aspired to one end. If we have a philosophy in us, they walk right according to us; if we have not, they walk by chance, and are too much dominated by the events which we put in the way of their legs. Imbued by our own ideas and ruled by fatality, they do not always appear logical. Should we put much or little of ourselves in them? Shouldn't we put what society puts in each one of us?
For my part, I follow my old inclination, I put myself in the skin of my good people. People scold me for it, that makes no difference. You, I don't really know if by method or by instinct, take another course. What you do, you succeed in; that is why I ask you if we differ on the question of internal struggles, if the hero ought to have any or if he ought not to know them.
You always astonish me with your painstaking work; is it a coquetry? It does not seem labored. What I find difficult is to choose out of the thousand combinations of scenic action which can vary infinitely, the clear and striking situation which is not brutal nor forced. As for style, I attach less importance to it than you do.
The wind plays my old harp as it lists. It has its HIGH NOTES, its LOW NOTES, its heavy notes--and its faltering notes, in the end it is all the same to me provided the emotion comes, but I can find nothing in myself. It is THE OTHER who sings as he likes, well or ill, and when I try to think about it, I am afraid and tell myself that I am nothing, nothing at all. But a great wisdom saves us; we know how to say to ourselves, "Well, even if we are absolutely nothing but instruments, it is still a charming state and like no other, this feeling oneself vibrate."
Now, let the wind blow a little over your strings. I think that you take more trouble than you need, and that you ought to let THE OTHER do it oftener. That would go just as well and with less fatigue.
The instrument might sound weak at certain moments, but the breeze in continuing would increase its strength. You would do afterwards what I don't do, what I should do. You would raise the tone of the whole picture and would cut out what is too uniformly in the light.
Vale et me ama.
XXXIV. TO GEORGE SAND Saturday morning
Don't bother yourself about the information relative to the journals. That will occupy little space in my book and I have time to wait. But when you have nothing else to do, jot down on paper whatever you can recall of '48. Then you can develop it in talking. I don't ask you for copy of course, but to collect a little of your personal memories.
Do you know an actress at the Odeon who plays Macduff in Macbeth? Dugueret? She would like to have the role of Nathalie in Mont- reveche. She will be recommended to you by Girardin, Dumas and me. I saw her yesterday in Faustine, in which she showed talent. My opinion is that she has intelligence and that one could profit by her.
If your little engineer has made a VOW, and if that vow does not cost him anything, he is right to keep it; if not, it is pure folly, between you and me. Where should liberty exist if not in passion?
Well! no, IN MY DAY we didn't take such vows and we loved! and swaggeringly. But all participated in a great eclecticism and when one strayed FROM LADIES it was from pride, in defiance of one's self, and for effect. In short, we were Red Romantics, perfectly ridiculous to be sure, but in full bloom. The little good which remains to me comes from that epoch.
XXXV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Palaiseau, 30 November, 1866
There would be a good deal to say on all that, my comrade. My Cascaret, that is to say, the fiance in question, keeps himself for his fiancee. She said to him, "Let us wait till you have accomplished certain definite work," and he works. She said to him, "Let us keep ourselves pure for each other," and he keeps himself pure. It is not that he is choked by Catholic spiritualism; but he has a high ideal of love, and why counsel him to go and lose it when his conscience and his honor depend on keeping it?
There is an equilibrium which Nature, our ruler, herself puts in our instincts, and she sets the limit to our appetites. Great natures are not the most robust. We are not developed in all our senses by a very logical education. We are compressed in every way, and we thrust out our roots and branches when and how we can. Great artists are often weak also, and many are impotent. Some too strong in desire are quickly exhausted. In general I think that we have too intense joys and sorrows, we who work with our brains. The laborer who works his land and his wife hard by day and night is not a forceful nature. His brain is very feeble. You say to develop one's self in every direction? Come, not all at the same time, not without rest.
Those who brag of that, are bluffing a bit, or IF THEY DO everything, do everything ill. If love for them is a little bread- and-butter and art a little pot-boiler, all right; but if their pleasure is great, verging on the infinite, and their work eager, verging on enthusiasm, they do not alternate these as in sleeping and waking.
As for me, I don't believe in these Don Juans who are Byrons at the same time. Don Juan did not make poems and Byron made, so they say, very poor love. He must have had sometimes--one can count such emotions in one's life--a complete ecstasy of heart, mind and senses. He knew enough about them to be one of the poets of love. Nothing else is necessary for the instrument of our vibration. The continual wind of little appetites breaks them.
Try some day to write a novel in which the artist (the real artist) is the hero, you will see what great, but delicate and restrained, vigor is in it, how he will see everything with an attentive eye, curious and tranquil, and how his infatuations with the things he examines and delves into, will be rare and serious. You will see also how he fears himself, how he knows that he can not surrender himself without exhaustion, and how a profound modesty in regard to the treasures of his soul prevents him from scattering and wasting them.
The artist is such a fine type to do, that I have never dared really to do him. I do not consider myself worthy to touch that beautiful and very complicated figure; that is aiming too high for a mere woman. But if it could certainly tempt you some day, it would be worth while.
Where is the model? I don't know, I have never REALLY known any one who did not show some spot in the sunlight, I mean some side where the artist verged on the Philistine. Perhaps you have not that spot; you ought to paint yourself. As for me I have it. I love classifications, I verge on the pedagogue. I love to sew and to care for children, I verge on the servant. I am easily distracted and verge on the idiot. And then I should not like perfection; I feel it but I shouldn't know how to show it.
But one could give him some faults in his nature. What ones? We shall hunt for them some day. That is not really what you are working on now and I ought not to distract you from it.
Be less cruel to yourself. Go ahead and when the afflatus shall have produced everything you must elevate the general tone and cut out what ought not to come down front stage. Can't that be done? It seems to me that it can. What you do appears so easy, so abundant! It is a perpetual overflow, I do not understand your anguish. Good night, dear brother, my love to all yours. I have returned to my solitude at Palaiseau, I love it. I leave it for Paris, Monday. I embrace you warmly. Good luck to your work.
XXXVI. Monsieur Gustave Flobert at Croisset, Rouen [The postage stamp bears the mark, Paris, 4, December, 1866]
Sir the noise that you make in literature by your distinguished talent I also made in my day in the manner that my means permitted me I began in 1804 under the auspices of the celebrated Madame Saqui and bore off palms and left memories in the annals of the tight-rope and coregrafie balancer in all countries where I have been there appreciated by generals and other officers of the Empire by whom I have been solicited up to an advanced age so that wives of prefects and ministers could not have been complimented about it I have read your distinguished works notably Madame Bovarie of which I think I am capable of being a model to you when she breaks the chains of her feet to go where her heart calls her. I am well preserved for my advanced age and if you have a repugnance for an artist in misfortune, I should be content with your ideal sentiments. You can then count on my heart not being able to dispose of my person being married to a man of light character who squandered my wax cabinet wherein were all figures of celebrities, kings, emperors, ancient and modern and celebrated crimes, which if I had had your permission about it you would have been placed in the number I had then a place in the railroad substation to have charge of the cabinets which the jealousy of my rival made me lose, it is in these sentiments that I write you if you deign to write the history of my unhappy life you alone would be worthy of it and would see in it things of which you would be worthy of appreciating I shall present myself at your house in Rouen whose address I had from M. Bouilhet who knows me well having come to see me in his youth he will tell you that I have the phthisic still agreeably and always faithful to all who knew me whether in the civil or in the military and in these sentiments for life your affectionate
called Marengo Lirondelle widow Dodin Rue Lanion, 47, Belleville.
XXXVII. TO GEORGE SAND Wednesday night, 5th December, 1866
Oh! how lovely the letter of Marengo the Swallow is! Seriously, I think it a masterpiece, not a word which is not a word of genius. I have laughed aloud many times. I thank you very dear master, you are as good as can be.
You never tell me what you are doing. How far has the play gone?
I am not at all surprised that you don't understand my literary agonies. I don't understand them myself. But they exist nevertheless, and violent ones.
I don't in the least know how to set to work to write, and I begin by expressing only the hundredth part of my ideas after infinite gropings. Not one who seizes the first impulse, your friend, no! not at all! Thus for entire days I have polished and re-polished a paragraph without accomplishing anything. I feel like weeping at times. You ought to pity me!
As for our subject under discussion (a propos of your young man), what you write me in your last letter is so my way of thinking, that I have not only practised it but preached it. Ask Theo. However, let us understand one another. Artists (who are priests) risk nothing in being chaste; on the contrary. But the bourgeois, what is the use in it for them? Of course there must be certain ones among humanity who stick to chastity. Happy indeed those who don't depart from it.
I don't agree with you that there is anything worth while to be done with the character of the IDEAL ARTIST; he would be a monster. Art is not made to paint the exceptions, and I feel an unconquerable repugnance to putting on paper something from out of my heart. I even think that a novelist HASN'T THE RIGHT TO EXPRESS HIS OPINION on any subject whatsoever. Has the good God ever uttered it, his opinion? That is why there are not a few things that choke me which I should like to spit out, but which I swallow. Why say them, in fact! The first comer is more interesting than Monsieur Gustave Flaubert, because he is more GENERAL and therefore more typical.
Nevertheless, there are days when I consider myself below imbecility. I have still a globe of goldfish and that amuses me. They keep me company while I dine. Is it stupid to be interested in such simple things? Adieu, it is late, I have an aching head.
I embrace you.
XXXVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Paris December, 1866
"Not put one's heart into what one writes?" I don't understand at all, oh! not at all! As for me, I think that one can not put anything else into it. Can one separate one's mind from one's heart? Is it something different? Can sensation itself limit itself? Can existence divide itself? In short, not to give oneself entirely to one's work, seems to me as impossible as to weep with something else than one's eyes, and to think with something else than one's brain.
What was it you meant? You must tell me when you have the time.
XXXIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 8 December, 1866
You ask me what I am doing? Your old troubadour is content this evening. He has passed the night in re-doing a second act which did not go properly and which has turned out well, so well that my directors are delighted, and I have good hopes of making the end effective--it does not please me yet, but one must pull it through. In short, I have nothing to tell you about myself which is very interesting. When one has the patience of an ox and the wrist broken from crushing stones well or badly, one has scarcely any unexpected events or emotions to recount. My poor Manceau called me the ROAD- MENDER, and there is nothing less poetic than those beings.
And you, dear friend, are you experiencing the anguish and labors of childbirth? That is splendid and youthful. Those who want them don't always get them!
When my daughter-in-law brings into the world dear little children, I abandon myself to such labor in holding her in my arms that it reacts on me, and when the infant arrives, I am sicker than she is, and even seriously so. I think that your pains now react on me, and I have a headache on account of them. But alas! I cannot assist at any birth and I almost regret the time when one believed it hastened deliverances to burn candles before an image.
I see that that rascal Bouilhet has betrayed me; he promised me to copy the Marengo letter in a feigned hand to see if you would be taken in by it. People have written to me seriously things like that. How good and kind your great friend is. He is adored at the Odeon, and this evening they told me that his play was going better and better. I went to hear it again two or three days ago and I was even more delighted with it than the first time.
Well, well, let's keep up our heart, whatever happens, and when you go to rest remember that someone loves you. Affectionate regards to your mother, brother and niece.
XL. TO GEORGE SAND Croisset, Saturday night
I have seen Citizen Bouilhet, who had a real ovation in his own country. His compatriots who had absolutely ignored him up to then, from the moment that Paris applauded him, screamed with enthusiasm.- -He will return here Saturday next, for a banquet that they are giving him,--80 covers, at least.
As for Marengo the Swallow, he kept your secret so well, that he read the letter in question with an astonishment which duped me.
Poor Marengo! she is a figure! and one that you ought to put in a book. I wonder what her memoirs would be, written in that style?-- Mine (my style) continues to give me no small annoyance. I hope, however, in a month, to have crossed the most barren tract. But at the moment I am lost in a desert; well, by the grace of God, so much the worse for me! How gladly I shall abandon this sort of thing, never to return to it to my dying day! Depicting the modern French bourgeois is a stench in my nostrils! And then won't it be time perhaps to enjoy oneself a bit in life, and to choose subjects pleasant to the author?
I expressed myself badly when I said to you that "one should not write from the heart." I meant to say: not put one's personality into the picture. I think that great art is scientific and impersonal. One should, by an effort of mind, put oneself into one's characters and not create them after oneself. That is the method at least; a method which amounts to this: try to have a great deal of talent and even of genius if you can. How vain are all the poetic theories and criticisms!--and the nerve of the gentlemen who compose them sickens me. Oh! nothing restrains them, those boneheads!
Have you noticed that there is sometimes in the air a current of common ideas? For instance, I have just read my friend Du Camp's new novel: Forces Perdues. It is very like what I am doing, in many ways. His book is very naive and gives an accurate idea of the men of our generation having become real fossils to the young men of today. The reaction of '48 opened a deep chasm between the two Frances.
Bouilhet told me that you had been seriously ill at one of the recent Magny's, although you do pretend to be a "woman of wood." Oh! no you are not of wood, dear good great heart! "Beloved old troubadour," would it not perhaps be opportune to rehabilitate him at the Theatre Almanzor? I can see him with his toque and his guitar and his apricot tunic howling at the black-gowned students from the top of a rock. The talk would be fine. Now, good night; I kiss you on both cheeks tenderly.
XLI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 7 December, 1866
Something like a week ago someone came to my house in the morning to ask me the address of the bootmaker, my maid did not want to awaken me, and it was not until noon that I read the letter; the bearer said he came from the Hotel Helder on the rue Helder. I answered at once that Simonin lived at 15 rue Richelieu, I wrote to your mother thinking that it was she who wrote to me. I see that she did not receive my note and I don't understand about it, but it is not my fault.
Your old Troubadour is sick as a dog again today, but it will not prevent him from going to Magny's this evening. He could not die in better company; although he would prefer the edge of a ditch in the spring.
Everything else goes well and I leave for Nohant on Saturday. I am trying hard to push the entomological work which Maurice is publishing. It is very fine.
I am doing for him what I have never done for myself. I am writing to the newspaper men.
I shall recommend Mademoiselle Bosquet to whom I can, but that appeals to another public, and I don't stand in as well with the literary men as I do with the scholars. But certainly Marengo the Swallow MUST BE DONE and the apricot troubadour also. All that was of the Cadios of the revolution who began to be or who wanted to be something, no matter what. I am of the last comers and you others born of us, you are between the illusions of my time and the crude deception of the new times. It is quite natural that Du Camp should go parallel with you in a series of observations and ideas, that does not mean anything. There will be no resemblance.
Oh no! I have not found a title for you, it is too serious, and then I should need to know everything. In any case I am no good today to do anything except to draw up my epitaph. Et in Arcadia ego, you know, I love you, dear friend brother, and bless you with all my heart.
G. Sand Monday.
XLII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Paris, 9 January, 1867
Your old troubadour has been tempted to bite the dust. He is still in Paris. He should have left the 25th of December; his trunk was strapped; your first letter was awaiting him every day at Nohant. At last he is all ready to leave and he goes tomorrow with his son Alexandre [Footnote: Alexandre Dumas fils.] who is anxious to accompany him.
It is stupid to be laid on one's back and to lose consciousness for three days and to get up as enfeebled as if one had done something painful and useful. It was nothing after all, except temporary impossibility of digesting anything whatever. Cold, or weakness, or work, I don't know. I don't think of it any longer. Sainte-Beuve is much more disquieting, somebody have written you about it. He is better also, but there will be serious trouble, and on account of that, accidents to look out for. I am very saddened and anxious about it.
I have not worked for two weeks; so my task has not progressed very much, and as I don't know if I am going to be in shape very soon, I have given the Odeon A VACATION. They will take me when I am ready. I think of going a little to the south when I have seen my children. The plants of the coast are running through my head. I am prodigiously uninterested in anything which is not my little ideal of peaceful work, country life, and of tender and pure friendship. I really think that I am not going to live a long time, although I am quite cured and well. I get this warning from the great calm, CONTINUALLY CALMER, which exists in my formerly agitated soul. My brain only works from synthesis to analysis, and formerly it was the contrary. Now, what presents itself to my eyes when I awaken is the planet; I have considerable trouble in finding again there the MOI which interested me formerly, and which I begin to' call YOU in the plural. It is charming, the planet, very interesting, very curious but rather backward, and as yet somewhat unpractical; I hope to pass into an oasis with better highways and possible to all. One needs so much money and resources in order to travel here! and the time lost in order to procure. these necessaries is lost to study and to contemplation. It seems to me that there is due me something less complicated, less civilized, more naturally luxurious, and more easily good than this feverish halting-place. Will you come into the land, of my dreams, if I succeed in finding the road? Ah! who can know?
And the novel, is it getting on? Your courage has not declined? Solitude does not weigh on you? I really think that it is not absolute, and that somewhere there is a sweetheart who comes and goes, or who lives near there. But there is something of the anchorite in your life just the same, and if envy your situation. As for me, I am too alone at Palaiseau, with a dead soul; not alone enough at Nohant, with the children whom I love too much to belong to myself,--and at Paris, one does not know what one is, one forgets oneself entirely for a thousand things which are not worth any more than oneself. I embrace you with all my heart, dear friend; remember me to your mother, to your dear family, and write me at Nohant, that will do me good.
The cheeses? I don't know at all, it seems to me that they spoke to me of them, but I don't remember at all. I will tell you that from down there.
XLIII. TO GEORGE SAND Croisset, Saturday night
No, dear master, you are not near your end. So much the worse for you perhaps. But you will live to be old, very old, as giants live, since you are of that race: only you MUST rest. One thing astonishes me and that is that you have not died twenty times over, having thought so much, written so much and suffered so much. Do go then, since you have the desire, to the Mediterranean. Its azure sky quiets and invigorates. There are the Countries of Youth, such as the Bay of Naples. Do they make one sadder sometimes? I do not know.
Life is not easy! What a complicated and extravagant affair! I know something about that. One must have money for everything! So that with a modest revenue and an unproductive profession one has to make up one's mind to have but little. So I do! The habit is formed, but the days that work does not go well are not amusing. Yes indeed! I would love to follow you into another planet. And a propos of money, it is that which will make our planet uninhabitable in the near future, for it will be impossible to live here, even for the rich, without looking after one's property; one will have to spend several hours a day fussing over one's INCOME. Charming! I continue to fuss over my novel, and I shall go to Paris when I reach the end of my chapter, towards the middle of next month.
And whatever you suspect, no "lovely lady" comes to see me. Lovely ladies have occupied my mind a good deal, but have taken up very little of my time. Applying the term anchorite to me is perhaps a juster comparison than you think.
I pass entire weeks without exchanging a word with a human being, and at the end of the week it is not possible for me to recall a single day nor any event whatsoever. I see my mother and my niece on Sundays, and that is all. My only company consists of a band of rats in the garret, which make an infernal racket above my head, when the water does not roar or the wind blow. The nights are black as ink, and a silence surrounds me comparable to that of the desert. Sensitiveness is increased immeasurably in such a setting. I have palpitations of the heart for nothing.
All that results from our charming profession. That is what it means to torment the soul and the body. But perhaps this torment is our proper lot here below?
I told you, didn't I, that I had reread Consuelo and the Comtesse de Rudolstadt; it took me four days. We must discuss them at length, when you are willing. Why am I in love with Siverain? Perhaps because I am of both sexes.
XLIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT at Croissset Nohant, 15 January, 1867
Here I am at home, fairly strong except for several hours during the evening. Yet, THAT WILL PASS. THE EVIL OR HE WHO ENDURES IT, my old cure used to say, CAN NOT LAST. I received your letter this morning, dear friend of my heart. Why do I love you more than most of the others, even more than old and well-tried friends? I am asking, for my condition at this hour, is that of being
THOU WHO GOEST SEEKING, AT SUNSET, FORTUNE! ...
Yes, intellectual fortune, LIGHT! Oh well, here it is: one gets, being old, at the sunset of life,--which is the most beautiful hour of tones and reflections,--a new idea of everything and of affection above all.
In the age of power and of personality, one tests one's friends as one tests the earth, from the point of view of reciprocity. One feels oneself solid, one wants to find that which bears one or leads one, solid. But, when one feels the intensity of the moi fleeing, one loves persons and things for what they are in themselves, for what they represent in the eyes of one's soul, and not at all for what they add further to one's destiny. It is like the picture or the statue which one would like to own, when one dreams at the same time of a beautiful house of one's own in which to put it.
But one has passed through green Bohemia without gathering anything there; one has remained poor, sentimental and troubadourish. One knows very well that it will always be the same, and that one will die without a hearth or a home. Then one thinks of the statue, of the picture which one would not know what to do with and which one would not know where to place with due honor, if one owned it. One is content to know that they are in some temple not profaned by cold analysis, a little far from the eye, and one loves them so much the more. One says: I will go again to the country where they are. I shall see again and I shall love always that which has made me love and understand them. The contact of my personality will not have changed them, it will not be myself that I shall love in them.
And it is thus, truly, that the ideal which one does not dream of grasping, fixes itself in one because it remains ITSELF. That is all the secret of the beautiful, of the only truth, of love, friendship, of art, of enthusiasm, and of faith. Consider it, you will see.
That solitude in which you live would be delicious to me in fine weather. In winter I find it stoical, and am forced to recall to myself that you have not the moral need of locomotion AS A HABIT. I used to think that was another expenditure of strength during this season of being shut in;--well, it is very fine, but it must not continue indefinitely; if the novel has to last longer, you must interrupt it, or vary it with distractions. Really, my dear friend, think of the life of the body, which gets upset and nervous when you subdue it too much. When I was ill in Paris, I saw a physician, very mad, but very intelligent, who said very true things on that subject. He said that I SPIRITUALIZED myself in a disquieting manner, and when I told him, exactly, a propos of you, that one could abstract oneself from everything except work, and have more rather than less strength, he answered that the danger was as great in accumulating as in losing, and a propos of this, many excellent things which I wish I could repeat to you.
Besides, you know them, but you never pay any attention to them. Then this work which you abuse so in words, is a passion, and a great one! Now, I shall tell you what you tell me. For our sake and for the sake of your old troubadour, do SPARE yourself a little.
Consuelo, La Comtesse de Rudolstadt, what are they? Are they mine? I don't recall a single word in them. You are reading that, you? Are you really amused? Then I shall read them one of these days and I shall love myself if you love me.
What is being hysterical? I have perhaps been that also, I am perhaps; but I don't know anything about it, never having profoundly studied the thing, and having heard of it without having studied it. Isn't it an uneasiness, an anguish caused by the desire of an impossible SOMETHING OR OTHER? In that case, we are all attacked by it, by this strange illness, when we have imagination; and why should such a malady have a sex?
And still further, there is this for those strong in anatomy: THERE IS ONLY ONE SEX. A man and a woman are so entirely the same thing, that one hardly understands the mass of distinctions and of subtle reasons with which society is nourished concerning this subject. I have observed the infancy and the development of my son and my daughter. My son was myself, therefore much more woman, than my daughter, who was an imperfect man.
I embrace you. Maurice and Lina who have tasted your cheese, send you their regards, and Mademoiselle Aurore cries to you, WAIT, WAIT, WAIT! That is all that she knows how to say while laughing like a crazy person; for, at heart she is serious, attentive, clever with her hands as a monkey and amusing herself better with games she invents, than with those one suggests to her. I think that she will have a mind of her own.
If I do not get cured here, I shall go to Cannes, where some friends are urging me to come. But I can not yet mention it to my children. When I am with them it is not easy to move. There is passion and jealousy. And all my life has been like that, never my own! Pity yourself then, you who belong to yourself!
XLV. TO GEORGE SAND Wednesday evening
I have followed your counsel, dear master, I have EXERCISED!!! Am I not splendid; eh?
Sunday night, at eleven o'clock, there was such lovely moonlight along the river and on the snow that I was taken with an itch for movement, and I walked for two hours and a half imagining all sorts of things, pretending that I was travelling in Russia or in Norway. When the tide came in and cracked the cakes of ice in the Seine and the thin ice which covered the stream, it was, without any exaggeration, superb. Then I thought of you and I missed you.
I don't like to eat alone. I have to associate the idea with someone with the things that please me. But this someone is rare. I too wonder why I love you. Is it because you are a great man or a charming being? I don't know. What is certain is that I experience a PARTICULAR sentiment for you and I cannot define it.
And a propos of this, do you think (you who are a master of psychology), that one can love two people in the same way and that one can experience two identical sensations about them? I don't think so, since our individuality changes at every moment of its existence.
You write me lovely things about "disinterested affection." That is true, so is the opposite! We make God always in our own image. At the bottom of all our loves and all our admirations we find ourselves again: ourselves or something approaching us. What is the difference if the OURSELVES is good!
My moi bores me for the moment. How this fool weighs on my shoulders at times! He writes too slowly and is not bluffing at all when he complains of his work. What a task! and what a devil of an idea to have sought such a subject! You should give me a recipe for going faster: and you complain of seeking a fortune! You! I have received a little note from Saint-Beuve which reassures about his health, but it is sad. He seemed to me depressed at not being able to haunt the dells of Cyprus. He is within the truth, or at least within his own truth, which amounts to the same thing. I shall be like him perhaps, when I am his age. However, I think not. Not having had the same youth, my old age will be different.
That reminds me that I once dreamed a book on Saint Perrine. Champfleury treated that subject badly. For I don't see that he is comic: I should have made him atrocious and lamentable. I think that the heart does not grow old; there are even people whose hearts grow bigger with age. I was much drier and more bitter twenty years ago than now. I am feminized and softened by wear, as others get harder, and that makes me INDIGNANT. I feel that I am becoming a COW, it takes nothing to move me; everything troubles and agitates me, everything is to me as the north wind is to the reed.
A word from you, which I remembered, has made me reread now the Fair Maid of Perth. It is a good story, whatever one says about it. That fellow decidedly had an imagination.
Well, adieu. Think of me. I send you my best love.
XLVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Nohant, 1867
Bah! zut! troulala! Well! well! I am not sick any more, or at least I am only half sick. The air of the country restores me, or patience, or THE OTHER person, the one who wants to work again and to produce. What is my illness? Nothing. Everything is all right, but I have something that they call anemia, an effect without a tangible cause, a breakdown which has been threatening for several years, and which became noticeable at Palaiseau, after my return from Croisset. An emaciation that is too rapid to be within reason, a pulse too slow, too feeble, an indolent or capricious stomach, with a sensation of stifling and a fondness for inertia. I was not able to keep a glass of water on my poor stomach for several days, and that brought me so low that I thought I was hardly curable; but, all is getting on, and I have even been working since yesterday.
You, dear, you go walking in the night, in the snow. That is something which for an exceptional excursion, is rather foolish and might indeed make you ill also. Good Heavens! It is not the moon, it is the sun that I advise; we are not owls, OBVIOUSLY! We have just had three spring days. I wager that you have not climbed up to my dear orchard which is so pretty and which I love so much. If it was only in remembrance of me, you ought to climb up every fine day at noon. Your work would flow more abundantly afterward and you would regain the time you lost and more too.
Then you are worrying about money? I don't know what that is, since I have not a sou in the world. I live by my day, work as does the proletarian; when I can no longer do my day's work, I shall be packed up for the other world, and then I shall have no more need of anything. But you must live. How can you live by your pen if you always let yourself be duped and shorn? It is not I who can teach you how to protect yourself But haven't you a friend who knows how to act for you? Alas, yes, the world is going to the devil in that respect; and I was talking of you, the other day, to a very dear friend, while I was showing him the artist, a personage become so rare, and cursing the necessity of thinking of the material side of life. I send you the last page of his letter; you will see that you have in him a friend whom you did not suspect, and whose name will surprise you.
No, I shall not go to Cannes, in spite of a strong temptation! Imagine, I received a little box filled with flowers gathered out- doors, five or six days ago; for the package followed me to Paris and to Palaiseau. Those flowers are adorably fresh, they smell sweetly, they are as pretty as anything.--Ah! to go, go at once to the country of the sun. But I have no money, and besides I have no time. My illness has delayed me and put me off. Let us stay here. Am I not well? If I can't go to Paris next month, won't you come to see me here? Certainly, it is an eight hours' journey. You can not see this ancient nook. You owe me a week, or I shall believe that I love a big ingrate who does not pay me back.
Poor Sainte-Beuve! More unhappy than we, he who has never had any great disappointments and who has no longer any material worries. He bewails what is the least regrettable and the least serious in life understood as he understood it! And then very proud, having been a Jansenist, his heart has cooled in that direction. Perhaps the intelligence was developed, but that does not suffice to make us live, and does not teach us how to die. Barbes, who has expected for a long time that a stroke would carry him off, is gentle and smiling. It does not seem to him, and it does not seem to his friends, that death will separate him from us. He who quite goes away, is he who believes he ends and does not extend a hand so that anyone can follow him or rejoin him.
And good-night, dear friend of my heart. They are ringing for the performance. Maurice regales us this evening with marionettes. They are very amusing, and the theatre is so pretty! A real artist's jewel. Why aren't you here? It is horrid not to live next door to those one loves.
XLVII. TO GEORGE SAND Wednesday
I received yesterday your son's book. I shall start it when I have gotten rid of less amusing readings, probably. Meanwhile, don't thank him any the less, dear master.
First, let's talk of you; "arsenic." I am sure of it! You must drink iron, walk, and sleep, and go to the south, no matter what it costs, there! Otherwise the WOODEN WOMAN will break down. As for money, we shall find it; and as for the time, take it. You won't do anything that I advise, of course. Oh! well, you are wrong, and you hurt me.
No, I have not what you call worries about money; my revenues are very small, but they are sure. Only, as it is your friend's habit to anticipate them he finds himself short at times, and he grumbles "in the silence of his closet," but not elsewhere. Unless I have extraordinary reverses, I shall have enough to feed me and warm me until the end of my days. My heirs are or will be rich (for it is I who am the poor one of the family). Then, zut!
As for gaining money by my pen, that is an aspiration that I have never had, recognizing that I was radically incapable of it.
I have to live as a small retired countryman, which is not very amusing. But so many others who are worth more than I am not having the land, it would be unfair for me to complain. Accusing Providence is, moreover a mania so common, that one ought to refrain from it through simple good taste.
Another word about money and one that shall be quite between ourselves. I can, without being inconvenienced at all, as soon as I am in Paris, that is to say from the 20th to the 23rd of the present month, lend you a thousand francs, if you need them in order to go to Cannes. I make you this proposition bluntly, as I would to Bouilhet, or any other intimate friend. Come, don't stand on ceremony!
Between people in society, that would not be correct, I know that, but between troubadours many things are allowable.
You are very kind with your invitation to go to Nohant. I shall go, for I want very much to see your house. I am annoyed not to know it when I think of you. But I shall have to put off that pleasure till next summer. Now I have to stay some time in Paris. Three months are not too long for all I want to do there.
I send you back the page from the letter of your friend Barbes, whose real biography I know very imperfectly. All I know of him is that he is honest and heroic. Give him a hand-shake for me, to thank him for his sympathy. Is he, BETWEEN OURSELVES, as intelligent as he is good?
I feel the importance now, of getting men of that class to be rather frank with me. For I am going to start studying the Revolution of '48. You have promised me to hunt in your library at Nohant for (1) an article of yours on faience; (2) a novel by father X---, a Jesuit, on the Holy Virgin.
But what sternness for the father Beuve who is neither Jesuit nor virgin! He regrets, you say, "what is the least regrettable, understood as he understood it." Why so? Everything depends upon the intensity that one puts on the thing.
Men always find that the most serious thing of their existence is enjoyment.
Woman for us all is the highest point of the infinite. That is not noble, but that is the real depth of the male. They exaggerate that unmercifully, God be thanked, for literature and for individual happiness also.
Oh! I have missed you so much. The tides are superb, the wind groans, the river foams and overflows. It blows from the ocean, which benefits one.
XLVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Paris Nohant, 8 February, 1867
No, I am not Catholic, but I reject monstrosities. I say that the hideous old man who buys young girls does not make love and that there is in it neither death nor birth, nor infinity, nor male nor female. It is a thing against nature; for it is not desire that drives the young girl into the arms of the ugly old man, and where there is not liberty nor reciprocity there is an attack against holy nature. Therefore that which he regrets is not regrettable, unless he thinks that his little cocottes will regret his person, and I ask you if they will regret anything else than their dirty wages? That was the gangrene in this great and admirable mind, so lucid and so wise on all other subjects. One pardons everything in those one loves, when one is obliged to defend them from their enemies. But what we say between ourselves is buried, and I can tell you that vice has quite spoiled my old friend.
We must believe that we love one another a great deal, dear comrade, for we both had the same thought at the same time. You offer me a thousand francs with which to go to Cannes; you who are as hard up as I am, and, when you wrote to me that you WERE BOTHERED about money matters, I opened my letter again, to offer you half of what I have, which still amounts to about two thousand francs; it is my reserve. And then I did not dare. Why? It is quite stupid; you were better than I, you came straight to the point. Well, I thank you for that kind thought and I do not accept. But I would accept, be sure of it, if I did not have other resources. Only I tell you that if anyone ought to lend to me, it is Buloz who has bought chateaux and lands with my novels. He would not refuse me, I know. He even offers it to me. I shall take from him then, if I have to. But I am not in a condition to leave, I have had a relapse these last few days. I slept thirty-six hours together, exhausted. Now I am on my feet again, but weak. I confess to you that I have not the energy TO WISH TO LIVE. I don't care about it; moving from where I am comfortable, to seek new fatigues, working like a dog to renew a dog's life, it is a little stupid, I think, when it would be so sweet to pass away like that, still loving, still loved, at strife with no one, not discontent with oneself and dreaming of the wonders of other worlds- -this assumes that the imagination is still fresh. But I don't know why I talk to you of things considered sad, I have too much the habit of looking at them pleasantly. I forget that they appear afflicting to those who seem in the fulness of life. Don't let's talk about them any longer and let spring do the work, spring which perhaps will breathe into me the desire to take up my work again. I shall be as docile to the interior voice that tells me to walk as to that telling me to sit down.
It is not I who promised you a novel on the Holy Virgin. At least I don't think so. I can not find my article on faience. Do look and see if it was printed at the end of one of my volumes to complete the last sheet. It was entitled Giovanni Freppa ou les Maioliques.
Oh! what luck! While writing to you it has come back to me that there is a corner where I have not looked. I hasten there, I find it! I find something better than my article, and I send you three works which will make you as learned as I am. That of Passeri is charming.
Barbes has intelligence, certainly! but he is a sugar loaf. Brain on a lofty scale, head of an Indian, with gentle instincts, almost impossible to find; all for metaphysical thought which becomes an instinct and a passion that dominates everything. Add to that a character that one can only compare to Garibaldi. A creature of incredible sanctity and perfection. Immense worth without immediate application in France. The setting of another age or another country is what this hero needs. And now good-night,--O God, what a CALF I am! I leave you the title of COW, which you give yourself in your days of weariness. Never mind, tell me when you are to be in Paris. It is probable that I shall have to go there for a few days for one thing or another. We must embrace each other and then you shall come to Nohant this summer. It is agreed, it must be!
My affectionate regards to your mother and to your lovely niece.
Please acknowledge the receipt of the three pamphlets; they would be a loss.
XLIX. TO GEORGE SAND
You really ought to go to see the sun somewhere; it is foolish to be always suffering; do travel; rest; resignation is the worst of the virtues.
I have need of it in order to endure all the stupidities that I hear! You can not imagine to what a degree they have reached. France which has been sometimes taken with St. Vitus dance (as under Charles VI), seems to me now to have a paralysis of the brain. They are mad with fear. Fear of the Prussians, fear of the strikes, fear of the Exposition which does not go well, fear of everything. We have to go back to 1849 to find such a degree of imbecility.
There was at the last Magny such inane conversation that I swore to myself never to put foot inside the place again. The only subjects under discussion all the time were Bismarck and the Luxembourg. I was stuffed with it! For the rest I don't find it easy to live. Far from becoming blunted my sensibilities are sharper; a lot of insignificant things make me suffer. Pardon this weakness, you who are so strong and tolerant.
The novel does not go at all well. I am deep in reading the newspapers of '48. I have had to make several (and have not yet finished) journeys to Sevres, to Creil, etc.
Father Sainte-Beuve is preparing a discourse on free thought which he will read at the Senate a propos of the press law. He has been very shrewd, you know.
You tell your son Maurice that I love him very much, first because he is your son and secundo because he is he. I find him good, clever, cultivated, not a poseur, in short charming, and "with talent."
L. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 4 March, 1867
Dear good friend, the friend of my heart, the old troubadour is as well as ten thousand men--who are well, and he is gay as a finch, because the sun shines again and copy is progressing.
He will probably go to Paris soon for the play by his son Dumas, let us try to be there together.
Maurice is very proud to be declared COCK by an eagle. At this moment he is having a spree with veal and wine in honor of his firemen.
The AMERICAN [Footnote: Henry Harrisse.] in question is charming. He has, literally speaking, a passion for you, and he writes me that after seeing you he loves you more, that does not surprise me.
Poor Bouilhet! Give him this little note enclosed here. I share his sorrow, I knew her.
Are you amused in Paris? Are you as sedentary there as at Croisset?
In that case I shall hardly see you unless I go to see you.
Tell me the hours when you do not receive the fair sex, and when sexagenarian troubadours do not incommode you.
Cadio is entirely redone and rewritten up to the part I read to you, it is less offensive.
I am not doing Montreveche. I will tell you about that. It is quite a story. I love you and I embrace you with all my heart.
Your old George Sand
Did you receive my pamphlets on the faience? You have not acknowledged them. They were sent to Croisset the day after I got your last letter.