LI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 14 March, 1867
Your old troubadour is again prostrate. Every moment his guitar threatens to be broken. And then he sleeps forty-eight hours and is cured--but feeble, and he can not be in Paris on the 16th as he had intended. Maurice went alone a little while ago, I shall go to join him in five or six days.
Little Aurore consoles me for this mischance. She twitters like a bird along with the birds who are twittering already as in full spring time.
The anemone Sylvia which I brought from the woods into the garden and which I had a great deal of trouble in acclimating is finally growing thousands of white and pink stars among the blue periwinkle. It is warm and damp. One can not break one's guitar in weather like this. Good-bye, dear good friend.
LII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Friday, 22 March, 1867
Your old troubadour is here, not so badly off. He will go to dine on Monday at Magny's, we shall agree on a day for both of us to dine with Maurice. He is at home at five o'clock but not before Monday.
He is running around!
He embraces you.
LIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 1867 (?)
Then Wednesday, if you wish, my dear old fellow. Whom do you want to have with us? Certainly, the dear Beuve if that is possible, and no one if you like.
We embrace you.
G. S. Maurice Saturday evening.
LIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 11 April, 1867
Here I am back again in my nest, and almost cured from a bad fever which attacked me in Paris, the day before my departure.
Really your old troubadour has had ridiculous health for six months. March and April have been such stupid months for him. It makes no difference, however, for he is recovering again, and is seeing once more the trees and the grass grow, it is always the same thing and that is why it is beautiful and good. Maurice has been touched by the friendship that you have shown him; you have seduced and ravished him, and he is not demonstrative.
He and his wife,--who is not at all an ordinary woman,--desire absolutely that you come to our house this year, I am charged to tell you so very seriously and persistently if need be And is that hateful grip gone? Maurice wanted to go to get news of you; but on seeing me so prostrated by the fever, he thought of nothing except packing me up and bringing me here like a parcel. I did nothing except sleep from Paris to Nohant and I was revived on receiving the kisses of Aurore who knows now how to give great kisses, laughing wildly all the while; she finds that very funny.
And the novel? Does it go on its way the same in Paris as in Croisset? It seems to me that everywhere you lead the same hermitlike existence. When you have the time to think of friends, remember your old comrade and send him two lines to tell him that you are well and that you don't forget him.
LV. TO GEORGE SAND
I am worried at not having news from you, dear master. What has become of you? When shall I see you?
My trip to Nohant has fallen through. The reason is this: my mother had a little stroke a week ago. There is nothing left of it, but it might come on again. She is anxious for me, and I am going to hurry back to Croisset. If she is doing well towards the month of August, and I am not worried, it is not necessary to tell you that I shall rush headlong towards your home.
As regards news, Sainte-Beuve seems to me very ill, and Bouilhet has just been appointed librarian at Rouen.
Since the rumours of war have quieted down, people seem to me a little less foolish. My nausea caused by the public cowardice is decreasing.
I went twice to the Exposition; it is amazing. There are splendid and extraordinary things there. But man is made to swallow the infinite. One would have to know all sciences and all arts in order to be interested in everything that one sees on the Champ de Mars. Never mind; someone who had three entire months to himself, and went every morning to take notes, would save himself in consequence much reading and many journeys.
One feels oneself there very far from Paris, in a new and ugly world, an enormous world which is perhaps the world of the future. The first time that I lunched there, I thought all the time of America, and I wanted to speak like a negro.
LVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Nohant, 9 May, 1867
Dear friend of my heart,
I am well, I am at work, I am finishing Cadio. It is warm, I am alive, I am calm and sad, I hardly know why. In this existence so even, so tranquil, and so gentle as I have here, I am in an element that weakens me morally while strengthening me physically; and I fall into melancholies of honey and roses which are none the less melancholy. It seems to me that all those I love forget me, and that it is justice, because I live a selfish life having nothing to do for any one of them.
I have lived with tremendous attachments which overwhelmed me, which exceeded my strength and which I often used to curse. And it happens that having nothing more to carry them on with, I am bored by being well. If the human race went on very well or very ill, one would reattach oneself to a general interest, would live with an idea, wise or foolish. But you see where we are now, you who storm so fiercely against cowards. That disappears, you say? But only to recommence! What kind of a society is it that becomes paralyzed in the midst of its expansions, because tomorrow can bring a storm? The thought of danger has never produced such demoralizations. Have we declined to such an extent that it is necessary to beg us to eat, telling us at the same time that nothing will happen to disturb our digestion? Yes, it is silly, it is shameful. Is it the result of prosperity, and does civilization involve this sickly and cowardly selfishness?
My optimism has had a rude jolt of late. I worked up a joy, a courage at the idea of seeing you here. It was like a cure that I carefully contrived, but you are worried about your dear, old mother, and certainly I can not protest.
Well, if, before your departure from Paris, I can finish Cadio, to which I am bound under pain of having nothing wherewith to pay for my tobacco and my shoes, I shall go with Maurice to embrace you. If not, I shall hope for you about the middle of the summer. My children, quite unhappy by this delay, beg to hope for you also, and we hope it so much the more because it would be a good sign for the dear mother.
Maurice has plunged again into Natural History; he wants to perfect himself in the MICROS; I learn on the rebound. When I shall have fixed in my head the name and the appearance of two or three thousand imperceptible varieties, I shall be well advanced, don't you think so? Well, these studies are veritable OCTOPUSES, which entwine about you and which open to you I don't know what infinity. You ask if it is the destiny of man to DRINK THE INFINITE; my heavens, yes, don't doubt it, it is his destiny, since it is his dream and his passion.
Inventing is absorbing also; but what fatigue afterwards! How empty and worn out intellectually one feels, when one has scribbled for weeks and months about that animal with two legs which has the only right to be represented in novels! I see Maurice quite refreshed and rejuvenated when he returns from his beasts and his pebbles, and if I aspire to come out from my misery, it is to bury myself also in studies, which in the speech of the Philistines, are not of any use. Still it is worth more than to say mass and to ring the bell for the adoration of the Creator.
Is it true what you tell me of G----? Is it possible? I can not believe it. Is there in the atmosphere which the earth engenders nowadays, a gas, laughing or otherwise, which suddenly seizes the brain, and carries it on to commit extravagances, as there was under the first revolution a maddening fluid which inspired one to commit cruelties? We have fallen from the Hell of Dante into that of Scarron.
Of what are you thinking, good head and good heart, in the midst of this bacchanal? You are wrathful, oh very well, I like that better than if you were laughing at it; but when you are calmer and when you reflect?
Must one find some fashion of accepting the honor, the duty, and the fatigue of living? As for me, I revert to the idea of an everlasting journey through worlds more amusing, but it would be necessary to go there quickly and change continually. The life that one fears so much to lose is always too long for those who understand quickly what they see. Everything repeats itself and goes over and over again in it.
I assure you that there is only one pleasure: learning what one does not know, and one happiness: loving the exceptions. Therefore I love you and I embrace you tenderly.
Your old troubadour G. Sand
I am anxious about Sainte-Beuve. What a loss that would be! I am content if Bouilhet is content. Is it really a good position?
LVII. TO GEORGE SAND Paris, Friday morning
I am returning to my mother next Monday, dear master. I have little hope of seeing you before then!
But when you are in Paris, what is to prevent you from pushing on to Croisset where everyone, including myself, adores you? Sainte-Beuve has finally consented to see a specialist and to be seriously treated. And he is better anyway. His morale is improving.
Bouilhet's position gives him four thousand francs a year and lodging. He now need not think of earning his living, which is a real luxury.
No one talks of the war any more, they don't talk of anything.
The Exposition alone is what "everybody is thinking about," and the cabmen exasperate the bourgeois.
They were beautiful (the bourgeois) during the strike of the tailors. One would have said that SOCIETY was going to pieces.
Axiom: Hatred of the bourgeois is the beginning of virtue. But I include in the word bourgeois, the bourgeois in blouses as well the bourgeois in coats.
It is we and we alone, that is to say the literary men, who are the people, or to say it better: the tradition of humanity.
Yes, I am susceptible to disinterested angers and I love you all the more for loving me for that. Stupidity and injustice make me roar,-- and I HOWL in my corner against a lot of things "that do not concern me."
How sad it is not to live together, dear master, I admired you before I knew you. From the day I saw your lovely and kind face, I loved you. There you are.--And I embrace you warmly.
I shall have the package of pamphlets about faience sent to the rue des Feuillantines. A good handshake to Maurice. A kiss on the four cheeks of Mademoiselle Aurore.
LVIII. TO GEORGE SAND
I stayed thirty-six hours in Paris at the beginning of this week, in order to be present at the Tuileries ball. Without any exaggeration, it was splendid. Paris on the whole turns to the colossal. It is becoming foolish and unrestrained. Perhaps we are returning to the ancient Orient. It seems to me that idols will come out of the earth. We are menaced with a Babylon.
Why not? The INDIVIDUAL has been so denied by democracy that he will abase himself to a complete effacement, as under the great theocratic despotisms.
The Tsar of Russia displeased me profoundly; I found him a rustic. On a parallel with Monsieur Floquet who cries without any danger: "Long live Poland!" We have chic people who have had themselves registered at the Elysee. Oh! what a fine epoch!
My novel goes piano. The further I get on the more difficulties arise. What a heavy cart of sandstone to drag along! And you pity yourself for a labor that lasts six months!
I have enough more for two years, at least (OF MINE). How the devil do you find the connection between your ideas? It is that that delays me. Moreover this book demands tiresome researches. For instance on Monday; I was at the Jockey Club, at the Cafe Anglais, and at a lawyer's in turn. Do you like Victor Hugo's preface to the Paris-Guide? Not very much, do you? Hugo's philosophy seems to me always vague.
I was carried away with delight, a week ago, at an encampment of Gypsies who had established at Rouen. This is the third time that I have seen them and always with a new pleasure. The great thing is that they excite the hatred of the bourgeois, although they are as inoffensive as sheep.
I appeared very badly before the crowd because I gave them a few sous, and I heard some fine words a la Prudhomme. That hatred springs from something very profound and complex. One finds it among all orderly people.
It is the hatred that one feels for the bedouin, for the heretic, the philosopher, the solitary, the poet; and there is a fear in that hate. I, who am always for the minority, am exasperated by it. It is true that many things exasperate me. On the day that I am no longer outraged, I shall fall flat as the marionette from which one withdraws the support of the stick.
Thus, THE STAKE that has supported me this winter, is the indignation that I had against our great national historian, M. Thiers, who had reached the condition of a demi-god, and the pamphlet Trochu, and the everlasting Changarnier coming back over the water. God be thanked that the Exposition has delivered us momentarily from these GREAT MEN.
LIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Nohant, 30 May, 1867
Here you are at home, old friend of my heart, and I and Maurice must go to embrace you. If you are still buried in work, we shall only come and go. It is so near to Paris, that you must not hesitate to tell us. I have finished Cadio, hurray! I have only to POLISH it a little. It is like an illness, carrying this great affair for so long in one's HEAD. I have been so interrupted by real illnesses that I have had great trouble in setting to work again at it. But I am wonderfully well since the fine weather and I am going to take a bath of botany.
Maurice will take one of entomology. He walks three leagues with a friend of like energy in order to hunt in a great plain for an animal which has to be looked at with a magnifying glass. That is happiness! That is being really infatuated. My gloom has disappeared in making Cadio; at present I am only fifteen years old, and everything to me appears for the best in the best possible of worlds. That will last as long as it can. These are the intervals of innocence in which forgetfulness of evil compensates for the inexperience of the golden age.
How is your dear mother? She is fortunate to have you again near her! And the novel? Good heavens! it must get on! Are you walking a little? Are you more reasonable?
The other day, some people not at all stupid were here who spoke highly of Madame Bovary, but with less zest of Salammbo. Lina got into a white heat, not being willing that those wretches should make the slightest objection to it; Maurice had to calm her, and moreover he criticised the work very well, as an artist and as a scholar; so well that the recalcitrants laid down their arms. I should like to have written what he said. He speaks little and often badly; but that time he succeeded extraordinarily well.
I shall then not say adieu, but au revoir, as soon as possible. I love you much, much, my dear old fellow, you know it. My ideal would be to live a long life with a good and great heart like yours. But then, one would want never to die, and when one is really OLD, like me, one must hold oneself ready for anything.
I embrace you tenderly, so does Maurice. Aurore is the sweetest and the most ridiculous person. Her father makes her drink while he says: Dominus vobiscum! then she drinks and answers: Amen! How she is getting on! What a marvel is the development of a little child! No one has ever written about that. Followed day by day, it would be precious in every respect. It is one of those things that we all see without noticing.
Adieu again; think of your old troubadour who thinks unceasingly of you.
LX. TO Gustave Flaubert Nohant, 14 June, 1867
Dear friend of my heart, I leave with my son and his wife the 20th of the month to stay two weeks in Paris, perhaps more if the revival of Villemer delays me longer. Therefore your dear good mother, whom I do not want to miss, has all the time she needs to go to see her daughters. I shall wait in Paris until you tell me if she has returned, or rather, if I make you a real visit, you shall tell me the time that suits you best.
My intention, for the moment, was quite simply to go to pass an hour with you, and Lina was tempted to accompany me; I should have shown her Rouen, and then we should have embraced you in time to return in the evening to Paris; for the dear little one has always her ear and her heart listening when she is away from Aurore, and her holidays are marked by a continual uneasiness which I quite understand. Aurore is a treasure of gentleness which absorbs us all. If it can be arranged, we shall then go on the run to grasp your hands. If it can not, I shall go alone later when your heart says so, and, if you are going south, I shall put it off until everything can be arranged without disturbing whatever may be the plans of your mother or yourself. I am very free. So, don't disturb yourself, and arrange your summer without bothering about me.
I have thirty-six plans also, but I don't incline to any one; what amuses me is what seizes me and takes me off suddenly. It is with a journey as with a novel: those who travel are those who command. Only when one is in Paris, Rouen is not a journey, and I shall always be ready when I am there, to respond to your call. I am a little remorseful to take whole days from your work, I who am never bored with loafing, and whom you could leave for whole hours under a tree, or before two lighted logs, with the assurance that I should find there something interesting. I know so well how to live OUTSIDE OF MYSELF! It hasn't always been like that. I also was young and subject to indignations. It is over!
Since I have dipped into real nature, I have found there an order, a system, a calmness of cycles which is lacking in mankind, but which man can, up to a certain point, assimilate when he is not too directly at odds with the difficulties of his own life. When these difficulties return he must endeavor to avoid them; but if he has drunk the cup of the eternally true, he does not get too excited for or against the ephemeral and relative truth.
But why do I say this to you? Because it comes to my pen-point; for in considering it carefully, your state of overexcitement is probably truer, or at least more fertile and more human than my SENILE tranquillity. I would not like to make you as I am, even if by a magical operation I could. I should not be interested in myself if I had the honor to meet myself. I should say that one troubadour is enough to manage and I should send the other to Chaillot.
A propos of gypsies, do you know that there are gypsies of the sea? I discovered in the outskirts of Tamaris, among the furthest rocks, great boats well sheltered, with women and children, a coast settlement, very restricted, very tanned; fishing for food without trading; speaking a language that the people of the country do not understand; living only in these great boats stranded on the sand, when the storms troubled them in their rocky coves; intermarrying, inoffensive and sombre, timid or savage; not answering when any one speaks to them. I don't even know what to call them. The name that I have been told has escaped me but I could get some one to tell me again. Naturally the country people hate them and that they have no religion; if that is so they ought to be superior to us. I ventured all alone among them. "Good day, sirs." Response, a slight bend of the head. I looked at their encampment, no one moved. It seemed as if they did not see me. I asked them if my curiosity annoyed them. A shrug of the shoulders as if to say, "What do we care?" I spoke to a young man who was mending the meshes in a net very cleverly; I showed him a piece of five francs in gold. He looked the other way. I showed him one in silver. He deigned to look at it. "Do you want it?" He bent his head on his work. I put it near him, he did not move. I went away, he followed me with his eyes. When he thought that I could not see him any longer, he took the piece and went to talk with a group. I don't know what happened. I fancy that they put it in the common exchequer. I began botanizing at some distance within sight to see if they would come to ask me something or to thank me. No one moved. I returned as if by chance towards them; the same silence, the same indifference. An hour later, was at the top of the cliff, and I asked the coast-guard who those people were who spoke neither French, nor Italian, nor patois. He told me their name, which I have not remembered.
He thought that they were Moors, left on the coast since the time of the great invasions from Provence, and perhaps he is not mistaken. He told me that he had seen me among them from his watch tower, and that I was wrong, for they were a people capable of anything; but when I asked him what harm they did he confessed to me that they had done none. They lived by their fishing and above all on the things cast up by the sea which they knew how to gather up before the most alert. They were an object of perfect scorn. Why? Always the same story. He who does not do as all the world does can only do evil.
If you go into the country, you might perhaps meet them at the end of the Brusq. But they are birds of passage, and there are years when they do not appear at all. I have not even seen the Paris Guide. They owe me a copy, however; for I gave something to it without receiving payment. It is because of that no doubt that they have forgotten me.
To conclude, I shall be in Paris from the 20th of June to the 5th of July. Send me a word always to 97 rue des Feuillantines. I shall stay perhaps longer, but I don't know. I embrace you tenderly, my splendid old fellow. Walk a little, I beg of you. I don't fear anything for the novel; but I fear for the nervous system taking too much the place of the muscular system. I am very well, except for thunder bolts, when I fall on my bed for forty-eight hours and don't want any one to speak to me. But it is rare and if I do not relent so that they can nurse me, I get up perfectly cured.
Maurice's love. Entomology has taken possession of him this year; he discovers marvels. Embrace your mother for me, and take good care of her. I love you with all my heart.
LXI. To GUSTAVE FLATUBERT Nohant, 24 July, 1867
Dear good friend, I spent three weeks in Paris with my children, hoping to see you arriving or to receive a line from you which would tell me to come and embrace you. But you were HEAD OVER HEELS and I respect these crises of work; I know them! Here am I back again in old Nohant, and Maurice at Nerac terminating by a compromise the law-suit which keeps him from his inheritance. His agreeable father stole about three hundred thousand francs from his children in order to please his cook; happily, although Monsieur used to lead this edifying life, I used to work and did not cut into my capital. I have nothing, but I shall leave the daily bread assured.
They write me that Villemer goes well. Little Aurore is as pretty as anything and does a thousand gracious tricks. My daughter Lina is always my real daughter The OTHER is well and is beautiful, that is all that I ask of her.
I am working again; but I am not strong. I am paying for my energy and activity in Paris. That does not make any difference, I am not angry against life, I love you with all my heart. I see, when I am gloomy, your kind face, and I feel the radiant power of your goodness. You are a charm in the Indian summer of my sweet and pure friendships, without egoisms, and without deceptions in consequence.
Think of me sometimes, work well and call me when you are ready to loaf. If you are not ready, never mind. If your heart told you to come here, there would be feasting and joy in the family. I saw Sainte-Beuve, I am content and proud of him.
Good night, friend of my heart. I embrace you as well as your mother.
LXII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Paris Nohant, 6 August, 1867
When I see how hard my old friend has to work in order to write a novel, it discourages my facility, and I tell myself that I write BOTCHED literature. I have finished Cadio; it has been in Buloz' hands a long time. I am writing another thing,[Footnote: Mademoiselle Merquem.] but I don't see it yet very clearly; what can one do without sun and without heat? I ought to be in Paris now, to see the Exposition again at my leisure, and to take your mother to walk with you; but I really must work, since I have only that to live on. And then the children; that Aurore is a wonder. You really must see her, perhaps I shall not see her long, If I don't think I am destined to grow very old; I must lose no time in loving!
Yes, you are right, it is that that sustains me. This hypocritical fit has a rough disillusionment in store for it, and one will lose nothing by waiting. On the contrary, one will gain. You will see that, you who are old though still quite young. You are my son's age. You will laugh together when you see this heap of rubbish collapse.
You must not be a Norman, you must come and see us for several days, you will make us happy; and it will restore the blood in my veins and the joy in my heart.
Love your old troubadour always and talk to him of Paris; a few words when you have the time.
Outline a scene for Nohant with four or five characters, we shall enjoy it. We embrace you and summon you.
LXIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Nohant, 18 August, 1867
Where are you, my dear old fellow? If by chance you should be in Paris, during the first few days of September, let us try to see each other. I shall stay there three days and I shall return here. But I do not hope to meet you there. You ought to be in some lovely country, far from Paris and from its dust. I do not know even if my letter will reach you. Never mind, if you can give news of yourself, do so. I am in despair. I have lost suddenly, without even knowing that he was ill, my poor dear, old friend, Rollinat, an angel of goodness, of courage, of devotion. It is a heavy blow for me. If you were here you would give me courage; but my poor children are as overwhelmed as I am. We adored him, all the countryside adored him.
Keep well, and think sometimes of your absent friends. We embrace you affectionately. The little one is very well, she is charming.
LXIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Paris Nohant, August, 1867
I bless you, my dear old fellow, for the kind thought that you had of coming; but you were right not to travel while you were ill. Ah! my God, I dream of nothing but illness and unhappiness: take care of yourself, my old comrade. I shall go to see you if I can pull myself together; for, since this new dagger-thrust, I am feeble and crushed and I have a sort of fever. I shall write you a line from Paris. If you are prevented, you must answer me by telegram. You know that with me there is no need of explanation: I know every hindrance in life and I never blame the hearts that I know.--I wish that, right away, if you have a moment to write, you would tell me where I should go for three days to see the coast of Normandy without striking the neighborhood where "THE WORLD" goes. In order to go on with my novel, I must see a countryside near the Channel, that all the world has not talked about, and where there are real natives at home, peasants, fisherfolk, a real village in a corner of the rocks. If you are in the mood we will go there together. If not, don't bother about me. I go everywhere and I am not disturbed by anything. You told me that the population of the coasts was the best in the country, and that there were real dyed-in-the-wool simple-hearted men there. It would be good to see their faces, their clothes, their houses, and their horizons. That is enough for what I want to do, I need only accessories; I hardly want to describe; SEEING it is enough in order not to make a false stroke. How is your mother? Have you been able to take her to walk and to distract her a little? Embrace her for me as I embrace you.
Maurice embraces you; I shall go to Paris without him: he is drawn on the jury for the 2 September till...no one knows. It is a tiresome task. Aurore is very cunning with her arms, she offers them to you to kiss; her hands are marvels and they are incredibly clever for her age.
Au revoir, then, if I can only pull myself out of the state I am now in. Insomnia is the devil; in the daytime one makes a lot of effort not to sadden others. At night one falls back on oneself.
LXV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Nohant, 10 September, 1867
Dear old fellow,
I am worried at not having news of you since that illness of which you spoke. Are you well again? Yes, we shall go to see the rollers and the beaches next month if you like, if your heart prompts you. The novel goes on apace; but I shall besprinkle it with local color afterwards.
While waiting, I am still here, stuck up to my chin in the river every day, and regaining my strength entirely in this cold and shady stream which I adore, and where I have passed so many hours of my life reviving myself after too long sessions in company with my ink- well. I go definitely to Paris, the 16th; the 17th at one o'clock, I leave for Rouen and Jumieges, where my friend Madame Lebarbier de Tinan awaits me at the house of M. Lepel-Cointet, the landowner; I shall stay there the 18th so as to return to Paris the 19th. Will it be inconvenient if I come to see you? I am sick with longing to do so; but I am so absolutely forced to spend the evening of the 19th in Paris that I do not know if I shall have the time. You must tell me. I can get a word from you the 16th in Paris, 97 rue des Feuillantines. I shall not be alone; I have as a travelling companion a charming young literary woman, Juliette Lamber. If you were lovely, lovely, you would walk to Jumieges the 19th. We would return together so that I could be in Paris at six o'clock in the evening at the latest. But if you are even a little bit ill still, or are PLUNGED in ink, pretend that I have said nothing, and prepare to see us next month. As for the WINTER walk on the Norman coast, that gives me a cold in my back, I who plan to go to the Gulf of Juan at that time.
I have been sick over the death of my friend Rollinat. My body is cured, but my soul! I should have to stay a week with you to refresh myself in your affectionate strength; for cold and purely philosophical courage to me, is like cauterizing a wooden leg.
I embrace you and I love you (also your mother). Maurice also, what French! One is happy to forget it, it is a tiresome thing.
LXVI. TO GEORGE SAND
What, no news?
But you will answer me since I ask you a service. I read this in my notes: "National of 1841. Bad treatments inflicted on Barbes, kicks on his breast, dragged by the beard and hair in order to put him in an in-pace. Consultation of lawyers signed: E. Arago, Favre, Berryer, to complain of these abominations."
Find out from him if all that is true; I shall be obliged.
LXVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Paris, Tuesday, 1st October, 1867
Dear friend, you shall have your information. I asked Peyrat last evening, I am writing today to Barbes who will answer directly to you.
Where do you think I have come from? From Normandy. A charming opportunity took me there six days ago. I had been enchanted with Jumieges. This time I saw Etretat, Yport, the prettiest of all the villages, Fecamp, Saint-Valery, which I knew, and Dieppe, which dazzled me; the environs, the chateau d'Arques, Limes, what a country! And I went back and forth twice within two steps of Croisset and I sent you some big kisses; always ready to return with you to the seaside or to talk with you at your house when you are free. If I had been alone, I should have bought an old guitar and should have sung a ballad under your mother's window. But I could not take a large family to you.
I am returning to Nohant and I embrace you with all my heart.
I think that the Bois-Dore is going well, but I don't know anything about it. I have a way of my own of being in Paris, namely, being at the seaside, which does not keep me informed of what is going on. But I gathered gentians in the long grass of the immense Roman fort of Limes where I had quite a STUNNING view of the sea. I walked out like an old horse, but I am returning quite frisky.
LXVIII. TO GEORGE SAND
At last, at last, I have news of you, dear master, and good news, which is doubly agreeable.
I am planning to return to my home in the country with Madame Sand, and my mother hopes that will be the case. What do you say? For, with all that goes on, we never see each other, confound it!
As for my moving, it is not that I lack the desire of being free to move about. But I should be lost if I stirred before I finish my novel. Your friend is a man of wax; everything gets imprinted on him, is encrusted on him, penetrates him. If I should visit you, I should think of nothing but you and yours, your house, your country, the appearance of the people I had met, etc. I require great efforts to gather myself together; I always tend to scatter myself. That is why, dear adored master, I deprive myself of going to sit down to dream aloud in your house. But, in the summer or autumn of 1869, you shall see what a fine commercial traveller I am, once let loose to the open air. I am abject, I warn you.
As to news, there is a quiet once more since the Kerveguen incident has died its beautiful death. Was it not a farce? and silly?
Sainte-Beuve is preparing a lecture on the press law. He is better, decidedly. I dined Tuesday with Renan. He was marvellously witty and eloquent, and artistic! as I have never seen him. Have you read his new book? His preface causes talk. My poor Theo worries me. I do not think him strong.
LXIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Paris Nohant, 12 October, 1867
I have sent your letter to Barbes; it is fine and splendid, as you are. I know that the worthy man will be glad of it. But as for me, I want to throw myself out of the window; for my children are unwilling to hear of my leaving so soon. Yes, it is horrid to have seen your house four times without going to see you. But I am cautious to the point of fear. To be sure the idea of summoning you to Rouen for twenty minutes did occur to me. But you are not, as I am, on tiptoe, all ready to start off. You live in your dressing gown, the great enemy of liberty and activity. To force you to dress, to go out, perhaps in the middle of an absorbing chapter, and only to see someone who does not know how to say anything quickly, and who, the more he is content, the stupider he is,--I did not dare to. Here I am obliged to finish something which drags along, and before the final touch I shall probably go to Normandy. I should like to go by the Seine to Honfleur. It will be next month, if the cold does not make me ill, and I shall try this time to carry you away in passing. If not, I shall see you at least, and then I shall go to Provence.
Ah! if I could only take you there! And if you could, if you would, during the second week in October when you are going to be free, come to see me here! You promised, and my children would be so happy if you would! But you don't love us enough for that, scoundrel that you are! You think that you have a lot of better friends: you are very much mistaken; it is always one's best friends whom one neglects or ignores.
Come, a little courage; you can leave Paris at a quarter past nine in the morning, and get to Chateauroux at four, there you would find my carriage and be here at six for dinner. It is not bad, and once here, we all laugh together like good-natured bears; no one dresses; there is no ceremony, and we all love one another very much. Say yes!
I embrace you. And I too have been bored at not seeing you, FOR A YEAR.
Your old troubadour
LXX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Nohant, 27 October, 1867
I have just made a resume in a few pages of my impressions as a landscape painter, gathered in Normandy: it has not much importance, but I was able to quote three lines from Salammbo, which seemed to me to depict the country better than all my phrases, and which had always struck me as a stroke from a master brush. In turning over the pages to find these lines, I naturally reread almost all, and I remain convinced that it is one of the most beautiful books that have been made since they began to make books.
I am well, and I am working quickly and much, so as to live on my INCOME this winter in the South. But what will be the delights of Cannes and where will be the heart to engage in them? My spirits are in mourning while thinking that at this hour people arc fighting for the pope. Ah! ISIDORE! [Footnote: Name applied to Napoleon III.]
I have tried in vain this month to go again to see ma Normandie, that is to say, my great, dear heart's friend. My children have threatened me with death if I leave them so soon. Just at present friends are coming. You are the only one who does not talk of coming on. Yet, that would be so fine! Next month I shall move heaven and earth to find you wherever you are, and meanwhile I love you tremendously. And you. Your work? your mother's health? I am worried at not having news of you.
LXXI. TO GEORGE SAND 1st November, 1867
I was as much ashamed as touched, last evening, when I received your "very nice" letter. I am a wretch not to have answered the first one. How did that happen? For I am usually prompt.
My work does not go very well. I hope that I shall finish my second part in February. But in order to have it all finished in two years, I must not budge from my arm-chair till then. That is why I am not going to Nohant. A week of recreation means three months of revery for me. I should do nothing but think of you, of yours in Berry, of all that I saw. My unfortunate spirit would navigate in strange waters. I have so little resistance.
I do not hide the pleasure that your little word about SALAMMBO gives me. That old book needs to be relieved from a few inversions, there are too many repetitions of ALORS, MAIS and ET. The labor is too evident.
As for the one I am doing, I am afraid that the idea is defective, an irremediable fault; will such weak characters be interesting? Great effects are reached only through simple means, through positive passions. But I don't see simplicity anywhere in the modern world.
A sad world! How deplorable and how lamentably grotesque are affairs in Italy! All these orders, counter-orders of counter-orders of the counter-orders! The earth is a very inferior planet, decidedly.
You did not tell me if you were satisfied with the revivals at the Odeon. When shall you go south? And where shall you go in the south?
A week from today, that is to say, from the 7th to the 10th of November, I shall be in Paris, because I have to go sauntering in Auteuil in order to discover certain little nooks. What would be nice would be for us to come back to Croisset together. You know very well that I am very angry at you for your two last trips in Normandy.
Then, I shall see you soon? No joking? I embrace you as I love you, dear master, that is to say, very tenderly.
Here is a bit that I send to your dear son, a lover of this sort of fluff:
"One evening, expected by Hortense, Having his eyes fixed on the clock, And feeling his heart beat with eager throbs, Young Alfred dried up with impatience." (Memoires de l'Academie de Saint-Quentin.)
LXXII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 5 December, 1867
Your old troubadour is no good, I admit it. He has been working like an ox to have the money to go away with this winter to the gulf of Juan, and at the moment of leaving he would like to stay behind. He is worried at leaving his children and the little Aurore, but he suffers with the cold, he fears anemia, and he thinks he is doing his duty in going to find a land which the snow does not render impracticable, and a sky under which one can breathe without having dagger-thrusts in one's lungs.
So you see.
He has thought of you, probably much more than you think of him; for he has stupid and easy work, and his thoughts run elsewhere very far from him, and from his task, when his hand is weary of writing. As for you, you work for truth, and you become absorbed, and you have not heard my spirit, which more than once has TAPPED at your study door to say to you: "It is I." Or else you have said: "It is a spirit tapping let him go to the devil!"
Aren't you coming to Paris? I am going there between the 15th and the 20th. I shall stay there only a few days, and then flee to Cannes. Will you be there? God grant it! On the whole I am pretty well; I am furious with you for not wanting to come to Nohant; I won't reproach you for I don't know how. I have scribbled a lot; my children are always good and kind to me in every sense of the word. Aurore is a love.
We have RAVED politically; now we try not to think of it any more and to have patience. We often speak of you and we love you. Your old troubadour especially who embraces you with all his heart, and begs to be remembered to your good mother.
LXXIII. TO GEORGE SAND Wednesday night
Dear master, dear friend of the good God, "let us talk a little of Dozenval," let us roar at M. Thiers! Can a more triumphant imbecile, a more abject dabster, a more stercoraceous bourgeois be found! No, nothing can give the idea of the puking with which this old diplomatic idiot inspires me in piling up his stupidity on the dung- hill of bourgeoisie! Is it possible to treat philosophy, religion, peoples, liberty, the past and future, history, and natural history, everything and more yet, with an incoherence more inept and more childish! He seems to me as everlasting as mediocrity! He overwhelms me!
But the fine thing is the brave national guards whom he stuffed in 1848, who are beginning to applaud him again! What infinite madness! That proves that everything consists of temperament. Prostitutes,-- like France,--always have a weakness for old buffoons.
Furthermore, I shall try in the third part of my novel (when I reach the reaction that followed the days of June) to insert a panegyric about him a propos of his book: De la propriete, and I hope that he will be pleased with me.
What form should one take to express occasionally one's opinion on the things of this world, without the risk of passing later for an imbecile? It is a tough problem. It seems to me that the best thing is simply to depict the things which exasperate one. To dissect is to take vengeance. Well! it is not he with whom I am angry, nor with the others but with OURS.
If they had paid more attention to the education of the SUPERIOR classes, delaying till later the agricultural meetings; in short, if the head had been put above the stomach, should we have been likely to be where we are now?
I have just read, this week, Buchez' Preface to his Histoire parlementaire. Many inanities which burden us today come from that among other things.
And now, it is not good of you to say that I do not think of "my old Troubadour"; of whom then, do I think? perhaps of my wretched book? but that is more difficult and less agreeable.
How long do you stay at Cannes?
After Cannes shan't you return to Paris? I shall be their towards the end of January.
In order to finish my book in the spring of 1869, I must not give myself a week of holiday; that is why I do not go to Nohant. It is always the story of the Amazons. In order to draw the bow better they crushed their breast. It is a fine method after all.
Adieu, dear master, write to me, won't you?
I embrace you tenderly.
LXXIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Nohant, 31 December, 1867
I don't agree with you at all that it is necessary to destroy the breast to draw a bow. I have quite a contrary belief which I follow, and I think that it is good for many others, probably for the majority. I have just developed my idea on that subject in a novel which has been sent to the Revue and will appear after About's. I think that the artist ought to live according to his nature as much as possible. To him who loves struggle, warfare; to him who loves women, love; to an old fellow like me who loves nature, travel and flowers, rocks, fine landscapes, children also, the family, all that stirs the emotions, that combats moral anemia.
I think that art always needs a palette overflowing with soft or striking colors according to the subject of the picture; the artist is an instrument on which everything ought to play before he plays on others; but all that is perhaps not applicable to a mind like yours which has acquired much and now has only to digest. I shall insist on one point only, that the physical being is necessary to the moral being and that I fear for you some day a deterioration of health which will force you to suspend your work and let it grow cold.
Well, you are coming to Paris the beginning of January and we shall see each other; for I shall not go until after the New Year. My children have made me promise to spend that day with them, and I could not resist, in spite of the great necessity of moving. They are so sweet! Maurice has an inexhaustible gaiety and invention. He has made for his marionette theatre, marvelous scenery, properties, and machinery and the plays which they give in that ravishing box are incredibly fantastic.
The last one was called 1870. One sees in it, Isidore with Antonelli commanding the brigands of Calabria, trying to regain his throne and to re-establish the papacy. Everything is in the future; at the end the widow Euphemia marries the Grand Turk, the only remaining sovereign. It is true that he is a former DEMOCRAT and is recognized as none other than the great tumbler Coquenbois when unmasked. These plays last till two o'clock in the morning and we are crazy on coming out of them. We sup till five o'clock. There is a performance twice a week, and the rest of the time they make the properties, and the play continues with the same characters, going through the most incredible adventures.
The public is composed of eight or ten young people, my three great nephews, and sons of my old friends. They get excited to the point of yelling. Aurore is not admitted; the plays are not suited to her age. As for me, I am so amused that I become exhausted. I am sure that you would be madly amused by it also; for there is a splendid fire and abandon in these improvisations; and the characters done by Maurice have the appearance of living beings, of a burlesque life that is real and impossible at the same time; it seems like a dream. That is how I have been living for the ten days that I have not been working.
Maurice gives me this recreation in my intervals of repose that coincide with his. He brings to it as much ardor and passion as to his science. He has a truly charming nature and one never gets bored with him. His wife is also charming, quite large just now, always moving, busying herself with everything, lying down on the sofa twenty times a day, getting up to run after her child, her cook, her husband, who demands a lot of things for his theatre, coming back to lie down again; crying out that she feels ill and bursting into shrieks of laughter at a fly that circles about; sewing layettes, reading the papers with fervor, reading novels which make her weep; weeping also at the marionettes when there is a little sentiment, for there is some of that too. In short a personality and a type: she sings ravishingly, she gets angry, she gets tender, she makes succulent dainties TO SURPRISE US WITH, and every day of our vacation there is a little fete which she organizes.
Little Aurore promises to be very sweet and calm, understanding in a marvelous manner what is said to her and YIELDING TO REASON at two years of age. It is very extraordinary and I have never seen it before. It would be disquieting if one did not feel a great serenity in that little brain.
But how I am gossiping with you! Does all this amuse you? I should like this chatty letter to substitute for one of those suppers of ours which I too regret, and which would be so good here with you, if you were not a stick-in-the-mud, who won't let yourself be dragged away to LIFE FOR LIFE'S SAKE. Ah! when one is on a vacation, how work, logic, reason seem strange CONTRASTS! One asks whether one can ever return to that ball and chain.
I tenderly embrace you, my dear old fellow, and Maurice thinks your letter so fine that he is going to put the phrases and words at once in the mouth of his first philosopher. He bids me embrace you for him.
Madame Juliette Lambert [Footnote: Afterwards, Madame Edmond Adam.] is really charming; you would like her a great deal, and then you have it 18 degrees above zero down there, and here we are in the snow. It is severe; moreover, I rarely go out, and my dog himself doesn't want to go out. He is not the least amazing member of society. When he is called Badinguet, he lies on the ground ashamed and despairing, and sulks all the evening.
LXXV. TO GEORGE SAND 1st January, 1868
It is unkind to sadden me with the recital of the amusements at Nohant, since I cannot share them. I need so much time to do so little that I have not a minute to lose (or gain), if I want to finish my dull old book by the summer of 1869.
I did not say it was necessary to suppress the heart, but to restrain it, alas! As for the regime that I follow which is contrary to the laws of hygiene, I did not begin yesterday. I am accustomed to it. I have, nevertheless, a fairly seasoned sense of fatigue, and it is time that my second part was finished, after which I shall go to Paris. That will be about the end of the month. You don't tell me when you return from Cannes.
My rage against M. Thiers is not yet calmed, on the contrary! It idealizes itself and increases.
LXXVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 12 January, 1868
No, it is not silly to embrace each other on New Year's day: on the contrary, it is good and it is nice. I thank you for having thought of it and I kiss you on your beautiful big eyes. Maurice embraces you also. I am housed here by the snow and the cold, and my trip is postponed. We amuse ourselves madly at home so as to forget that we are prisoners, and I am prolonging my holidays in a ridiculous fashion. Not an iota of work from morning till night. What luck if you could say as much!--But what a fine winter, don't you think so? Isn't it lovely, the moonlight on the trees covered with snow? Do you look at that at night while you are working?--If you are going to Paris the end of the month, I shall still have a chance to meet you.
From far, or from near, dear old fellow, I think of you and I love you from the depth of my old heart which does not know the flight of years.
My love to your mother always. I imagine that she is in Rouen during this severe cold.
LXXVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 10 May, 1868
Yes, friend of my heart, am I not in the midst of terrible things; that poor little Madame Lambert [Footnote: Madame Eugene Lambert, the wife of the artist] is severely threatened.
I saw M. Depaul today. One must be prepared for anything!--If the crisis is passed or delayed, for there is question of bringing on the event, I shall be happy to spend two days with my old troubadour, whom I love tenderly.
LXXVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 11 May, 1868
If you were to be at home Wednesday evening, I should go to chat an hour alone with you after dinner in your quarters. I despair somewhat of going to Croisset; it is tomorrow that that they decide the fate of my poor friend.
A word of response, and above all do not change any plan. Whether I see you or not, I know that two old troubadours love each other devotedly!
G. Sand Monday evening.
LXXIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 17 May, 1868
I have a little respite, since they are not going to bring on the confinement. I hope to go to spend two days at that dear Croisset. But then don't go on Thursday, I am giving a dinner for the prince [Footnote: Prince Jerome Napoleon.] at Magny's and I told him that I would detain you by force. Say yes, at once. I embrace you and I love you.
LXXX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT
I shall not go with you to Croisset, for you must sleep, and we talk too much. But on Sunday or Monday if you still wish it; only I forbid you to inconvenience yourself. I know Rouen, I know that there are carriages at the railway station and that one goes straight to your house without any trouble.
I shall probably go in the evening.
Embrace your dear mamma for me, I shall be happy to her again.
If those days do not suit you, a word, and I shall communicate with you again. Have the kindness to put the address on the ENCLOSED letter and to put it in the mail.
LXXXI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 21 Thursday--May, 1868
I see that the day trains are very slow, I shall make a great effort and shall leave at eight o'clock Sunday, so as to lunch with you; if it is too late don't wait for me, I lunch on two eggs made into an omelet or shirred, and a cup of coffee. Or dine on a little chicken or some veal and vegetables.
In giving up trying to eat REAL MEAT, I have found again a strong stomach. I drink cider with enthusiasm, no more champagne! At Nohant, I live on sour wine and galette, and since I am not trying any more to THOROUGHLY NOURISH myself, no more anemia; believe then in the logic of physicians!
In short you must not bother any more about me than about the cat and not even so much. Tell your little mother, just that. Then I shall see you at last, all I want to for two days. Do you know that you are INACCESSIBLE in Paris? Poor old fellow, did you finally sleep like a dormouse in your cabin? I would like to give you a little of my sleep that nothing, not even a cannon, can disturb.
But I have had bad dreams for two weeks about my poor Esther, and now at last, here are Depaul, Tarnier, Gueniaux and Nelaton who told us yesterday that she will deliver easily and very well, and that the child has every reason to be superb. I breathe again, I am born anew, and I am going to embrace you so hard that you will be scandalised. I shall see you on Sunday then, and don't inconvenience yourself.
LXXXII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 26 May, 1868
Arrived while dozing. Dined with your delightful and charming friend Du Camp. We talked of you, only of you and your mother, and we said a hundred times that we loved you. I am going to sleep so as to be ready to move tomorrow morning.
I am charmingly located on the Luxembourg garden.
I embrace you, mother and son, with all my heart which is entirely yours.
G. Sand Tuesday evening, rue Gay-Lussac, 5.
LXXXIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 28 May, 1868
My little friend gave birth this morning after two hours of labor, to a boy who seemed dead but whom they handled so well that he is very much alive and very lovely this evening. The mother is very well, what luck!
But what a sight! It was something to see. I am very tired, but very content and tell you so because you love me.
Thursday evening. I leave Tuesday for Nohant.
LXXXIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Nohant, 21 June, 1868
Here I am again, BOTHERING you for M. Du Camp's address which you never gave me, although you forwarded a letter for me to him, and from WHOM I never thought of asking for it when I dined with him in Paris. I have just read his Forces Perdues; I promised to tell him my opinion and I am keeping my word. Write the address, then give it to the postman and thank you.
There you are alone at odds with the sun in your charming villa!
Why am I not the...river which cradles you with its sweet MURMURING and which brings you freshness in your den! I would chat discreetly with you between two pages of your novel, and I would make that fantastic grating of the chain [Footnote: The chain of the tug-boat going up or coming down the Seine.] which you detest, but whose oddity does not displease me, keep still. I love everything that makes up a milieu, the rolling of the carriages and the noise of the workmen in Paris, the cries of a thousand birds in the country, the movement of the ships on the waters; I love also absolute, profound silence, and in short, I love everything that is around me, no matter where I am; it is AUDITORY IDIOCY, a new variety. It is true that I choose my milieu and don't go to the Senate nor to other disagreeable places.
Everything is going on well at our house, my troubadour. The children are beautiful, we adore them; it is warm, I adore that. It is always the same old story that I have to tell you and I love you as the best of friends and comrades. You see that is not new. I have a good and strong impression of what you read to me; it seemed to me so beautiful that it must be good. As for me, I am not sticking to anything. Idling is my dominant passion. That will pass, what does not pass, is my friendship for you.
Our affectionate regards.
LXXXV. TO GEORGE SAND Croisset, Sunday, 5 July, 1868
I have sawed wood hard for six weeks. The patriots won't forgive me for this book, nor the reactionaries either! What do I care! I write things as I feel them, that is to say, as I think they are. Is it foolish of me? But it seems to me that our unhappiness comes exclusively from people of our class. I find an enormous amount of Christianity in Socialism. There are two notes which are now on my table.
"This system (his) is not a system of disorder, for it has its source in the Gospels, and from this divine source, hatred, warfare, the clashing of every interest, CAN NOT PROCEED! for the doctrine formulated from the Gospel, is a doctrine of peace, union and love." (L. Blanc).
"I shall even dare to advance the statement that together with the respect for the Sabbath, the last spark of poetic fire has been extinguished in the soul of our rhymesters. It has been said that without religion, there is no poetry!" (Proudhon).
A propos of that, I beg of you, dear master, to read at the end of his book on the observance of the Sabbath, a love-story entitled, I think, Marie et Maxime. One must know that to have an idea of the style of les Penseurs. It should be placed on a level with Le Voyage en Bretagne by the great Veuillot, in Ca et La. That does not prevent us from having friends who are great admirers of these two gentlemen.
When I am old, I shall write criticism; that will console me, for I often choke with suppressed opinions. No one understands better than I do, the indignation of the great Boileau against bad taste: "The senseless things which I hear at the Academy hasten my end." There was a man!
Every time now that I hear the chain of the steam-boats, I think of you, and the noise irritates me less, when I say to myself that it pleases you. What moonlight there is tonight on the river!
LXXXVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Nohant, 31 July, 1868
I am writing to you at Croisset in any case, because I doubt if you are in Paris during this Toledo-like heat; unless the shade of Fontainebleau has kept you. What a lovely forest, isn't it? but it is especially so in winter, without leaves, with its fresh moss, which has chic. Did you see the sand of Arbonne? There is a little Sahara there which ought to be lovely now.
We are very happy here. Every day a bath in a stream that is always cold and shady; in the daytime four hours of work, in the evening, recreation, and the life of Punch and Judy. A TRAVELLING THEATRICAL COMPANY came to us; it was part of a company from the Odeon, among whom were several old friends to whom we gave supper at La Chatre, two successive nights with all their friends, after the play;-- songs, laughter, with champagne frappe, till three o'clock in the morning to the great scandal of the bourgeois, who would have committed any crime to have been there. There was a very comic Norman, a real Norman, who sang real peasant songs to us, in the real language. Do you know that they have quite a Gallic wit and mischief? They contain a mine of master-pieces of genre. That made me love Normandy still more. You may know that comedian. His name is Freville. It is he who is charged in the repertory with the parts of the dull valets, and with being kicked from behind. He is detestable, impossible, but out of the theatre, he is as charming as can be. Such is fate!
We have had some delightful guests at our house, and we have had a joyous time without prejudice to the Lettres d'un Voyageur in the Revue, or to botanical excursions in some very surprising wild places. The little girls are the loveliest thing about it all. Gabrielle is a big lamb, sleeping and laughing all day; Aurore, more spiritual, with eyes of velvet and fire, talking at thirty months as others do at five years, and adorable in everything. They are keeping her back so that she shall not get ahead too fast.
You worry me when you tell me that your book will blame the patriots for everything that goes wrong. Is that really so? and then the victims! it is quite enough to be undone by one's own fault without having one's own foolishness thrown in one's teeth. Have pity! There are so many fine spirits among them just the same! Christianity has been a fad and I confess that in every age it is a lure when one sees only the tender side of it; it wins the heart. One has to consider the evil it does in order to get rid of it. But I am not surprised that a generous heart like Louis Blanc dreamed of seeing it purified and restored to his ideal. I also had that illusion; but as soon as one takes a step in this past, one sees that it can not be revived, and I am sure that now Louis Blanc smiles at his dream. One should think of that also.
One must remind oneself that all those who had intelligence have progressed tremendously during the last twenty years and that it would not be generous to reproach them with what they probably reproach themselves.
As for Proudhon, I never thought him sincere. He is a rhetorician of GENIUS, as they say. But I don't understand him. He is a specimen of perpetual antithesis, without solution. He affects one like one of the old Sophists whom Socrates made fun of.
I am trusting you for GENEROUS sentiments. One can say a word more or less without wounding, one can use the lash without hurting, if the hand is gentle in its strength. You are so kind that you cannot be cruel.
Shall I go to Croisset this autumn? I begin to fear not, and to fear that Cadio is not being rehearsed. But I shall try to escape from Paris even if only for one day.
My children send you their regards. Ah! Heavens! there was a fine quarrel about Salammbo; some one whom you do not know, went so far as not to like it, Maurice called him BOURGEOIS, and to settle the affair, little Lina, who is high tempered, declared that her husband was wrong to use such a word, for he ought to have said IMBECILE. There you are. I am well as a Turk. I love you and I embrace you.
Your old Troubadour,
LXXXVII. TO GEORGE SAND Dieppe, Monday
But indeed, dear master, I was in Paris during that tropical heat (trop picole, as the governor of the chateau of Versailles says), and I perspired greatly. I went twice to Fontainebleau, and the second time by your advice, saw the sands of Arboronne. It is so beautiful that it made me almost dizzy.
I went also to Saint-Gratien. Now I am at Dieppe, and Wednesday I shall be in Croisset, not to stir from there for a long time, the novel must progress.
Yesterday I saw Dumas: we talked of you, of course, and as I shall see him tomorrow we shall talk again of you.
I expressed myself badly if I said that my book "will blame the patriots for everything that goes wrong." I do not recognize that I have the right to blame anyone. I do not even think that the novelist ought to express his own opinion on the things of this world. He can communicate it, but I do not like him to say it. (That is a part of my art of poetry.) I limit myself, then, to declaring things as they appear to me, to expressing what seems to me to be true. And the devil take the consequences; rich or poor, victors or vanquished, I admit none of all that. I want neither love, nor hate, nor pity, nor anger. As for sympathy, that is different; one never has enough of that. The reactionaries, besides, must be less spared than the others, for they seem to be more criminal.
Is it not time to make justice a part of art? The impartiality of painting would then reach the majesty of the law,--and the precision of science!
Well, as I have absolute confidence in your great mind, when my third part is finished, I shall read it to you, and if there is in my work, something that seems MEAN to you, I will remove it.
But I am convinced beforehand that you will object to nothing.
As for allusions to individuals, there is not a shadow of them.
Prince Napoleon, whom I saw at his sister's Thursday, asked for news of you and praised Maurice. Princess Matilde told me that she thought you "charming," which made me like her better than ever.
How will the rehearsals of Cadio prevent you from coming to see your poor old friend this autumn? It is not impossible. I know Freville. He is an excellent and very cultivated man.
LXXXVIII. TO GEORGE SAND Croisset, Wednesday evening, 9 September, 1868
Is this the way to behave, dear master? Here it is nearly two months since you have written to your old troubadour! you in Paris, in Nohant, or elsewhere? They say that Cadio is now being rehearsed at the Porte Saint-Martin (so you have fallen out with Chilly?) They say that Thuillier will make her re-appearance in your play. (But I thought she was dying). And when are they to play this Cadio? Are you content? etc., etc.
I live absolutely like an oyster. My novel is the rock to which I attach myself, and I don't know anything that goes on in the world.
I do not even read, or rather I have not read La Lanterne! Rochefort bores me, between ourselves. It takes courage to venture to say even hesitatingly, that possibly he is not the first writer of the century. O Velches! Velches! as M. de Voltaire would sigh (or roar)! But a propos of the said Rochefort, have they been somewhat imbecilic? What poor people!
And Sainte-Beuve? Do you see him? As for me, I am working furiously. I have just written a description of the forest of Fontainebleau that made me want to hang myself from one of its trees. As I was interrupted for three weeks, I am having terrible trouble in getting back to work. I am like the camels, which can't be stopped when they are in motion, nor started when they are resting. It will take me a year to finish the book. After that I shall abandon the bourgeois definitely. He is too difficult and on the whole too ugly. It will be high time to do something beautiful and that I like.
What would please me well for the moment, would be to embrace you. When will that be? Till then, a thousand affectionate thoughts.
LXXXIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Paris, 10 September, 1868
Just at present, dear friend, there is a truce to my correspondence. On all sides I am reproached, WRONGLY, for not answering letters. I wrote you from Nohant about two weeks ago that I was going to Paris, on business about Cadio:--and now, I am returning to Nohant tomorrow at dawn to see my Aurore. I have written during the last week, four acts of the play, and my task is finished until the end of the rehearsals which will be looked after by my friend and collaborator, Paul Meurice. All his care does not prevent the working out of the first part from being a horrible bungle. One needs to see the putting-on of a play in order to understand that, and if one is not armed with humor and inner zest for the study of human nature in the actual individuals whom the fiction is to mask, there is much to rage about. But I don't rage any more, I laugh; I know too much of all that to get excited about it, and I shall tell you some fine stories about it when we meet.
However, as I am an optimist just the same, I look at the good side of things and people; but the truth is that everything is bad and everything is good in this world.
Poor Thuillier has not sparkling health; but she hopes to carry the burden of the work once more. She needs to earn her living, she is cruelly poor. I told you in my lost letter that Sylvanie [Footnote: Madame Arnould-Plessy.] had been several days at Nohant. She is more beautiful than ever and quite well again after a terrible illness.
Would you believe that I have not seen Sainte-Beuve? That I have had only the time here to sleep a little, and to eat in a hurry? It is just that. I have not heard anyone whatsoever talked about outside of the theatre and of the players. I have had mad desires to abandon everything and to go to surprise you for a couple of hours; but I have not been a day without being kept at FORCED LABOR.
I shall return here the end of the month, and when they play Cadio, I shall beg you to spend twenty-four hours here for me. Will you do it? Yes, you are too good a troubadour to refuse me. I embrace you with all my heart, and your mother too. I am happy that she is well.
XC. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 18 September, 1868
It will be, I think, the 8th or 10th of October. The management announces it for the 26th of September. But that seems impossible to everyone. Nothing is ready; I shall be advised, I shall advise you. I have come to spend the days of respite that my very conscientious and very devoted collaborator allows me. I am taking up again a novel on the THEATRE, the first part of which I had left on my desk, and I plunge every day in a little icy torrent which tumbles me about and makes me sleep like a top. How comfortable one is here with these two little children who laugh and chatter from morning till night like birds, and how foolish it is to go to compose and to put on MADE UP THINGS when the reality is so easy and so fine! But one gets accustomed to regarding all that as a military order, and goes to the front without asking oneself if it means wounds or death. Do you think that that bothers me? No, I assure you; but it does not amuse me either. I go straight ahead, stupid as a cabbage and patient as a Berrichon. Nothing is interesting in my life except OTHER PEOPLE. Seeing you soon in Paris will be more of a pleasure than my business will be an annoyance to me. Your novel interests me more than all mine. Impersonality, a sort of idiocy which is peculiar to me, is making a noticeable progress. If I were not well, I should think that it was a malady. If my old heart did not become each day more loving, I should think it was egotism; in short, I don't know what it is, and there you are. I have had trouble recently. I told you of it in the letter which you did not receive. A person whom you know, whom I love greatly, Celimene, [Footnote: Madame Arnould-Plessy.] has become a religious enthusiast, oh! indeed, an ecstatic, mystic, molinistic religious enthusiast, I don't know what, imbecile! I have exceeded my limits. I have raged, I have said the hardest things to her, I have laughed at her. Nothing made any difference, it was all the same to her. Father Hyacinthe replaces for her every friendship, every good opinion; can you understand that? Her very noble mind, a real intelligence, a worthy character! and there you are! Thuillier is also religious, but without being changed; she does not like priests, she does not believe in the devil, she is a heretic without knowing it. Maurice and Lina are furious against THE OTHER. They don't like her at all. As for me, it gives me much sorrow not to love her any more.
We love you, we embrace you.
I thank you for coming to see Cadio.
XCI. TO GEORGE SAND
Does that astonish you, dear master? Oh well! it doesn't me! I told you so but you would not believe me.
I am sorry for you. For it is sad to see the friends one loves change. This replacement of one soul by another, in a body that remains the same as it was, is a distressing sight. One feels oneself betrayed! I have experienced it, and more than once.
But then, what idea have you of women, O, you who are of the third sex? Are they not, as Proudhon said, "the desolation of the Just"? Since when could they do without delusions? After love, devotion; it is in the natural order of things. Dorine has no more men, she takes the good God. That is all.
The people who have no need of the supernatural, are rare. Philosophy will always be the lot of the aristocrats. However much you fatten human cattle, giving them straw as high as their bellies, and even gilding their stable, they will remain brutes, no matter what one says. All the advance that one can hope for, is to make the brute a little less wicked. But as for elevating the ideas of the mass, giving it a larger and therefore a less human conception of God, I have my doubts.
I am reading now an honest book (written by one of my friends, a magistrate), on the Revolution in the Department of Eure. It is full of extracts from writings of the bourgeois of the time, simple citizens of the small towns. Indeed I assure you that there is now very little of that strength! They were literary and fine, full of good sense, of ideas, and of generosity.
Neo-catholicism on the one hand, and Socialism on the other, have stultified France. Everything moves between the Immaculate Conception and the dinner pails of the working people.
I told you that I did not flatter the democrats in my book. But I assure you that the conservatives are not spared. I am now writing three pages on the abominations of the national guard in June, 1848, which will cause me to be looked at favorably by the bourgeois. I am rubbing their noses in their own dirt as much as I can. But you don't give me any details about Cadio. Who are the actors, etc.? I mistrust your novel about the theatre. You like those people too much! Have you known any well who love their art? What a quantity of artists there are who are only bourgeois gone astray!
We shall see each other in three weeks at the latest. I shall be very glad of it and I embrace you.
And the censorship? I really hope for you that it will make some blunders. Besides, I should be distressed if it was wanting in its usual habits.
Have you read this in the paper? "Victor Hugo and Rochefort, the greatest writers of the age." If Badinguet now is not avenged, it is because he is hard to please in the matter of punishments.
XCII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT
The halcyons skim over the water and are common every where. The name is pretty and sufficiently well known.
I embrace you.
Paris, Friday evening, 28 August or 4 September, 1868. In October, yes, I will try!
XCIII. TO GEORGE SAND Saturday evening
I received your two notes, dear master. You send me "halcyon" to replace the word, "dragonfly." Georges Pouchet suggested gerre of the lakes (genus, Gerris). Well! neither the one nor the other suits me, because they do not immediately make a picture for the ignorant reader.
Must I then describe that little creature? But that would retard the movement! That would fill up all the landscape I shall put "insects with large feet" or "long insects." That would be clear and short.
Few books have gripped me more than Cadio, and I share entirely Maxime's [Footnote: Maxime Du Camp.] admiration.
I should have told you of it sooner if my mother and my niece had not taken my copy. At last, this evening, they gave it back to me; it is here on my table, and I am turning the pages as I write you.
In the first place, it seems to me as if IT OUGHT TO HAVE BEEN THE WAY IT IS! It is plain, it gets you and thrills you. How many people must be like Saint-Gueltas, like Count de Sauvieres, like Rebec! and even like Henri, although the models are rarer. As for the character of Cadio, which is more of an invention than the others, what I like best in him is his ferocious anger. In it is the special truth of the character. Humanity turned to fury, the guillotine become mystic, life only a sort of bloody dream, that is what must take place in such heads. I think you have one Shakespearean scene: that of the delegate to the Convention with his two secretaries, is of an incredible strength. It makes one cry out! There is one also which struck me very much at the first reading: the scene where Saint-Gueltas and Henri each have the pistols in their pockets: and many others. What a fine page (I open by chance) is page 161!
In the play won't you have to give a longer role to the wife of the good Saint-Gueltas? The play ought not to be very hard to cut. It is only a question of condensing and shortening it. If it is played, I'll guarantee a terrific success. But the censorship?
Well, you have written a masterpiece, that's true! and a very amusing one. My mother thinks it recalls to her stories that she heard while a child. A propos of Vendee, did you know that her paternal grandfather was, after M. Lescure, the head of the Vendee army? The aforesaid head was named M. Fleuriot d'Argentan. I am not any the prouder for that; besides the thing is doubtful, for my grandfather, a violent republican, hid his political antecedents.
My mother is going in a few days to Dieppe, to her grandchild's. I shall be alone a good part of the summer, and I plan to grub.
"I labor much and shun the world. It is not at balls that the future is founded." (Camilla Doucet.)
But my everlasting novel bores me sometimes in an incredible manner! These tiny details are stupid to bother with! Why annoy oneself about such a miserable subject?
I would write you at length about Cadio; but it is late and my eyes are smarting.
So, thank you, very kindly, my dear master.
XCIV. To M. GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Paris, end of September, 1868
It is for Saturday next, 3rd October. I am at the theatre every evening from six o'clock till two in the morning. They talk of putting mattresses behind the scenes for the actors who are not in front. As for me, as used to wakefulness as you are, I experience no fatigue; but I should be very much bored if I had not the resource that one has always, of thinking of other things. I am sufficiently accustomed to it to be writing another play while they are rehearsing, and there is something quite exciting in these great dark rooms where mysterious characters move, talking in low tones, in unexpected costumes; nothing is more like a dream, unless one imagines a conspiracy of patients escaped from Bicetre.
I don't at all know what the performance will be. If one did not know the prodigies of harmony and of vim which occur at the last moment, one would judge it all impossible, with thirty-five or forty speaking actors of whom only five or six speak well. One spends hours over the exits and entrances of the characters in blue or white blouses who are to be the soldiers or the peasants, but who, meanwhile perform incomprehensible manoeuvres. Still the dream. One has to be a madman to put on these things. And the frenzy of the actors, pale and worn out, who drag themselves to their place yawning, and suddenly start like crazy people to declaim their tirade; continually the assembling of insane people.
The censorship has left us alone as regards the manuscript; tomorrow these gentlemen will inspect the costumes, which perhaps will frighten them.
I left my dear world very quiet at Nohant. If Cadio succeeds, it will be a little DOT for Aurore; that is all my ambition. If it does not succeed, I shall have to begin over again, that is all.
I shall see you. Then, in any case, that will be a happy day. Come to see me the night before, if you arrive the night before, or even the same day. Come to dine with me the night before or the same day; I am at home from one o'clock to five. Thank you; I embrace you and I love you.
XCV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 5 October, 1868
Dear good friend, I recommend again to your good offices, my friend Despruneaux, so that you will again do what you can to be of use to him in a very just suit which has already been judged in his favor.
XCVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 15 October, 1868
Here I am "ter hum" where, after having hugged my children and my grandchildren, I slept thirty-six hours at one stretch. You must believe that I was tired and did not notice it. I am waking from that animal-hibernation and you are the first person to whom I want to write. I did not thank you enough for coming to Paris for my sake, you who go about so little: and I did not see you enough either; when I knew that you had supped with Plauchut, [Footnote: Edmond Plauchut, a writer and a friend of George Sand.] I was angry at having stayed to take care of my sickly Thuillier, to whom I was of no use, and who was not particularly pleased about it. Artists are spoiled children and the best are great egoists. You say that I like them too well; I like them as I like the woods and the fields, everything, every one that I know a little and that I study continually. I make my life in the midst of all that, and as I like my life I like all that nourishes it and renews it. They do me a lot of ill turns which I see, but which I no longer feel. I know that there are thorns in the hedges, but that does not prevent me from putting out my hands and finding flowers there. If all are not beautiful, all are interesting. The day you took me to the Abbey of Saint-Georges I found the scrofularia borealis, a very rare plant in France. I was enchanted; there was much...in the neighborhood where I gathered it. Such is life!
And if one does not take life like that, one cannot take it in any way, and then how can one endure it? I find it amusing and interesting, and since I accept EVERYTHING, I am so much happier and more enthusiastic when I meet the beautiful and the good. If I did not have a great knowledge of the species, I should not have quickly understood you, or known you or loved you. I can have an enormous indulgence, perhaps banal, for I have had to practice it so much; but appreciation is quite another thing, and I do not think that it is entirely worn out in your old troubadour's mind.
I found my children still very good and very tender, my two little grandchildren still pretty and sweet. This morning I dreamed, and I woke up saying this strange sentence: "There is always a youthful great first part in the drama of life. First part in mine: Aurore." The fact is that it is impossible not to idolize that little one. She is so perfect in intelligence and goodness, that she seems to me like a dream.
You also, without knowing it, YOU ARE A DREAM ... like that. Plauchut saw you once, and he adored you. That proves that he is not stupid. When he left me in Paris, he told me to remember him to you.
I left Cadio in doubt between good and average receipts. The cabal against the new management relaxed after the second day. The press was half favorable, half hostile. The good weather is against it. The hateful performance of Roger is also against it. So that we don't know yet if we shall make money or not. As for me, when money comes, I say, "So much the better," without excitement, and if it does not come, I say, "So much the worse," without any chagrin. Money not being the aim, ought not to be the preoccupation. It is, moreover, not the real proof of success, since so many vapid or poor things make money.
Here I am with another play already underway, so as to keep my hand in. I have a novel also on the stocks, on the STROLLING PLAYERS. I have studied them a good deal this time without learning anything new. I already had the plot. It is not complicated and is very logical.
I embrace you tenderly as well as your little mother. Give me some sign of life. Does the novel get on?
XCVII. TO GEORGE SAND Saturday evening
I am remorseful for not having answered at length your last letter, my dear master. You told me of the "ill turns" that people did you. Did you think that I did not know it? I confess to you even (between ourselves), that I was hurt on account of them more because of my good taste, than because of my affection for you. I did not think that several of your friends were warm enough towards you. "My God! my God! how mean literary men are!" A bit out of the correspondence of the first Napoleon. What a nice bit, eh? Doesn't it seem to you that they belittle him too much?
The infinite stupidity of the masses makes me indulgent to individualities, however odious they may be. I have just gulped down the first six volumes of Buchez and Roux. The clearest thing I got out of them is an immense disgust for the French. My Heavens! Have we always been bunglers in this fair land of ours? Not a liberal idea which has not been unpopular, not a just thing that has not caused scandal, not a great man who has not been mobbed or knifed! "The history of the human mind is the history of human folly!" as says M. de Voltaire.
And I am convinced more and more of this truth: the doctrine of grace has so thoroughly permeated us that the sense of justice has disappeared. What terrified me so in the history of '48 has quite naturally its origins in the Revolution, which had not liberated itself from the middle ages, no matter what they say. I have re- discovered in Marat entire fragments of Proudhon (sic) and I wager that they would be found again in the preachers of the League.
What is the measure that the most advanced proposed after Varennes? Dictatorship and military dictatorship. They close the churches, but they raise temples, etc.
I assure you that I am becoming stupid with the Revolution. It is a gulf which draws me in.
However, I work at my novel like a lot of oxen. I hope on New Year's Day not to have over a hundred pages more to write, that is to say, still six good months of work. I shall go to Paris as late as possible. My winter is to pass in complete solitude, good way of making life run along rapidly.
XCVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, in Paris Nohant, 20 November, 1868
You say to me, "When shall we see each other?" About the 15th of December, we are baptizing here our two little girls as Protestants. It is Maurice's idea; he was married before the pastor, and does not want the persecution and influence of the Catholic church about his children. Our friend Napoleon is the godfather of Aurore, and I am the godmother. My nephew is the godfather of the other. All that takes place just among ourselves, in the family. You must come, Maurice wants you to, and if you say no, you will disappoint him greatly. You shall bring your novel, and in a free moment, you shall read it to me; it will do you good to read it to one who listens well. One gets a perspective and judges one's work better. I know that. Say yes to your old troubadour, he will be EXCEEDINGLY GRATEFUL to you for it.
I embrace you six times if you say yes.
XCIX. TO GEORGE SAND Tuesday
You cannot imagine the sorrow you give me! In spite of the longing I have, I answer "no." Yet I am distracted with my desire to say "yes." It makes me seem like a gentleman who cannot be disturbed, which is very silly. But I know myself: if I go to your house at Nohant, I shall have a month of dreaming about my trip. Real pictures will replace in my brain the fictitious pictures which I compose with great difficulty. All my house of cards will topple over.
Three weeks ago because I was foolish enough to accept an invitation to dinner at a country place nearby, I lost four days (sic). What would it be on leaving Nohant? You do not understand that, you strong Being! I think that you will be a little vexed with your old troubadour for not coming to the baptism of the two darlings of his friend Maurice? The dear master must write to me if I am wrong, and to give me the news!
Here is mine! I work immoderately and am absolutely ENCHANTED by the prospect of the end which begins to be visible.
So that it may arrive more quickly, I have made the resolution to live here all winter, probably until the end of March. Even admitting that everything goes perfectly, I shall not have finished all before the end of May. I don't know anything that goes on and I read nothing, except a little of the French Revolution, after my meals, to aid digestion. I have lost my former good habit of reading every day in Latin. Therefore I don't know a word of it any more! I shall polish it up again when I am freed from my odious bourgeois, and I am nowhere near it.
My only excitement consists in going to dine on Sundays at Rouen with my mother. I leave at six o'clock, and I am home at ten. Such is my life.
Did I tell you that I had a visit from Tourgueneff? How you would love him!
Sainte-Beuve gets along. Anyway, I shall see him next week when I am in Paris for two days, to get necessary information What is the information about? The national guard!!!
Listen to this: le Figaro not knowing with what to fill its columns, has had the idea of saying that my novel tells the life of Chancellor Pasquier. Thereupon, fear of the aforesaid family, which wrote to another part of the same family living in Rouen, which latter has been to find a lawyer from whom my brother received a visit, so that ... in short, I was very stupid not to "get some benefit from the opportunity." Isn't it a fine piece of idiocy, eh?
C. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, AT CEOISSET Nohant, 21 December, 1868
Certainly, I am cross with you and angry with you, not from unreasonableness nor from selfishness, but on the contrary, because we were joyous and HILARIOUS and you would not distract yourself and amuse yourself with us. If it was to amuse yourself elsewhere, you would be pardoned in advance; but it was to shut yourself up, to get all heated up, and besides for a work which you curse, and which-- wishing to do and being obliged to do anyhow,--you ought to be able to do at your ease and without becoming too absorbed in it.
You tell me that you are like that. There is nothing more to say; but one may well be distressed at having an adored friend, a captive in chains far away, whom one may not free. It is perhaps a little coquettish on your part, so as to make yourself pitied and loved the more. I, who have not buried myself alive in literature, have laughed and lived a great deal during these holidays, but always thinking of you and talking of you with our friend of the Palais Royal, [Footnote: Jerome Napoleon.] who would have been happy to see you and who loves you and appreciates you a great deal. Tourgueneff has been more fortunate than we, since he was able to snatch you from your ink-well. I know him personally very little, but I know his work by heart. What talent! and how original and polished! I think that the foreigners do better than we do. They do not pose, while we either put on airs or grovel: the Frenchman has no longer a social milieu, he has no longer an intellectual milieu.
I except you, you who live a life of exception, and I except myself, because of the foundation of careless unconventionally which was bestowed upon me; but I, I do not know how to be "careful" and to polish, and I love life too much, and I am amused too much by the mustard and all that is not the real "dinner," to ever be a litterateur. I have had flashes of it, but they have not lasted. Existence where one ignores completely one's "moi" is so good, and life where one does not play a role is such a pretty performance to watch and to listen to! When I have to give of myself, I live with courage and resolution, but I am no longer amused.
You, oh! fanatical troubadour, I suspect you of amusing yourself at your profession more than at anything in the world. In spite of what you say about it, art could well be your sole passion, and your shutting yourself up, at which I mourn like the silly that I am, your state of pleasure. If it is like that then, so much the better, but acknowledge it to console me.
I am going to leave you in order to dress the marionettes, for the plays and the laughter have been resumed with the bad weather, and that will keep us busy for a part of the winter, I fancy. Behold! here I am, the imbecile that you love, and that you call MASTER. A fine master who likes to amuse himself better than to work!
Scorn me profoundly, but love me still. Lina tells me to tell you that you are not much, and Maurice is furious too; but we love you in spite of ourselves and embrace you just the same. Our friend Plauchut wants to be remembered to you; he adores you too.
Yours, you huge ingrate,
I had read the hoax of le Figaro and had laughed at it. It turns out to have assumed grotesque proportions. As for me, they gave me a grandson instead of two granddaughters, and a Catholic baptism instead of a Protestant. That does not make any difference. One really has to lie a little to divert oneself.