CI. TO GEORGE SAND Saint Sylvester's night, one o'clock, 1869
Why should I not begin the year of 1869 in wishing to you and to yours "Happy New Year and many of them"? It is rococo, but it pleases me. Now, let us talk.
No, I don't get into a heat, for I have never been better. They thought me, in Paris, "fresh as a young girl," and those people who don't know my life attributed that appearance of health to the air of the country. That is what conventional ideas are. Every one has his system. For my part, when I am not hungry, the only thing I can eat is dry bread. And the most indigestible food, such as apples in sour cider, and bacon, are what cure me of the stomach-ache. And so on. A man who has no common sense ought not to try to live according to common-sense rules.
As for my frenzy for work, I will compare it to an attack of herpes. I scratch myself while I cry. It is both a pleasure and a torture at the same time. And I am doing nothing that I want to! For one does not choose one's subjects, they force themselves on one. Shall I ever find mine? Will an idea fall from Heaven suitable to my temperament? Can I write a book to which I shall give myself heart and soul? It seems to me in my moments of vanity, that I am beginning to catch a glimpse of what a novel ought to be. But I still have three or four of them to write before that one (which is, moreover, very vague), and at the rate I am going, if I write these three or four, that will be the most I can do. I am like M. Prudhomme, who thinks that the most beautiful church would be one which had at the same time the spire of Strasbourg, the colonnade of Saint Peter's, the portico of the Parthenon, etc. I have contradictory ideals. Thence embarrassment, hesitation, impotence.
As to whether the "claustration" to which I condemn myself may be a "state of joy," no. But what can I do? To get drunk with ink is more worth while than to get drunk with brandy. The muse, cross-grained as she is, gives less trouble than a woman. I cannot harmonize the one with the other. I must choose. My choice was made a long time ago. There remains the matter of the senses. They have always been my servants. Even at the time of my earliest youth, I did exactly as I wanted with them. I have reached my fiftieth year, and it is not their ardor that troubles me.
This regime is not amusing, I agree to that. There are moments of empty and horrible boredom. But they become more and more rare in proportion as one grows older. In short, LIVING seems to me a business for which I was not made, and yet...!
I stayed in Paris for three days, which I made use of in hunting up information, and in doing errands about my book. I was so worn out last Friday, that I went to bed at seven o'clock in the evening. Such are my mad orgies at the capital.
I found the Goncourts in a frenzied (sic) admiration over a book entitled Histoire de ma vie by George Sand. Which proves more good taste than learning on their part. They even wanted to write to you to express all their admiration. (In return I found ***** stupid. He compares Feydeau to Chateaubriand, admires very much the Lepreux de la cite d'Aoste, finds Don Quichotte tedious, etc.).
Do you notice how rare literary sense is? The knowledge of language, archeology, history, etc., all that should be useful however! Well! well! not at all! The so-called enlightened people are becoming more and more incompetent in the matter of art. Even what art means escapes them. The glosses for them are more important than the text. They pay more attention to the crutches than to the legs themselves.
CII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 1st January, 1869
It is one o'clock, I have just embraced my children. I am tired from having spent the night in making a complete costume for a large doll for Aurore; but I don't want to turn in without embracing you also, my great friend, and my dear, big child. May '69 be easy for you, and may it see the end of your novel. May you keep well and be always yourself! I don't know anything better, and I love you.
I have not the address of the Goncourts. Will you put the enclosed answer in the mail?
CIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Nohant, 17 January, 1869
The individual named George Sand is well: he is enjoying the marvelous winter which reigns in Berry, gathering flowers, noting interesting botanical anomalies, making dresses and mantles for his daughter-in-law, costumes for the marionettes, cutting out scenery, dressing dolls, reading music, but above all spending hours with the little Aurore who is a marvelous child. There is not a more tranquil or a happier individual in his domestic life than this old troubadour retired from business, who sings from time to time his little song to the moon, without caring much whether he sings well or ill, provided he sings the motif that runs in his head, and who, the rest of the time, idles deliciously. It has not always been as nice as this. He had the folly to be young; but as he did no evil nor knew evil passions, nor lived for vanity, he is happy enough to be peaceful and to amuse himself with everything.
This pale character has the great pleasure of loving you with all his heart, and of not passing a day without thinking of the other old troubadour, confined in his solitude of a frenzied artist, disdainful of all the pleasures of this world, enemy of the magnifying glass and of its attractions. We are, I think, the two most different workers that exist; but since we like each other that way, it is all right. The reason each of us thinks of the other at the same hour, is because each of us has a need of his opposite; we complete ourselves, in identifying ourselves at times with what is not ourselves.
I told you, I think, that I had written a play on returning from Paris. They liked it; but I don't want them to play it in the spring, and the end of the winter is filled up, unless the play they are rehearsing fails. As I do not know how to WISH my colleagues ill luck, I am in no hurry and my manuscript is on the shelf. I have the time. I am writing my little annual novel, when I have one or two hours a day to get to work on it; I am not sorry to be prevented from thinking of it. That develops it. Always before going to sleep, I have an agreeable quarter of an hour to continue it in my head; there you have it.
I know nothing, nothing at all of the Sainte-Beuve incident. I get a dozen newspapers, whose wrappers I respect to such an extent that without Lina, who tells me the chief news from time to time, I would not know if Isidore were still among us.
Sainte-Beuve is very high tempered, and, as regards opinions, so perfectly skeptical, that I should never be astonished at anything he did, in one sense or the other. He was not always like that, at least not so much so. I have known him to be more credulous and more republican than I was then. He was thin and pale, and gentle; how people change! His talent, his knowledge, his mind have increased enormously, but I used to like his character better. Just the same, there is still much good in him. There is still love and reverence for letters--and he will be the last of the critics. Criticism rightly so-called, will disappear. Perhaps there is no longer any reason for its existence. What do you think about it?
It appears that you are studying the boor (pignouf). As for me, I avoid him. I know him too well. I love the Berrichon peasant who is not, who never is, a boor, even when he is of no great account; the word pignouf has its depths; it was created exclusively for the bourgeois, wasn't it? Ninety out of a hundred provincial middle- class women are boorish (pignouf lardes) to a high degree, even with pretty faces that ought to give evidence of delicate instincts. One is surprised to find a basis of gross self-sufficiency in these false ladies. Where is the woman now? She is becoming a freak in society.
Good night, my troubadour: I love you, and I embrace you warmly; Maurice also.
CIV. TO GEORGE SAND Croisset, Tuesday, 2 February, 1869
My dear master,
You see in your troubadour a worn-out man. I have spent a week in Paris, looking up wearisome information (from seven to nine hours in fiacres every day, which is a fine way to make money out of literature). Oh, well!
I have just reread my outline. All that I have still to write horrifies me, or rather disgusts me, so that I want to vomit. It is always so, when I get to work. It is then that I am bored, bored, bored! But this time exceeds all others. That is why I dread so much interruptions in the daily grind. I could not do otherwise, however. I dragged about at funerals at Pere-Lachaise, in the valley of Montmorency, through shops of religious objects, etc.
In short, I have enough material for four or five months now. What a big "Hooray" I shall utter, when it is finished, and when I am not in the midst of remaking the bourgeois! It is high time that I enjoyed life.
I saw Sainte-Beuve and the Princess Mathilde, and I know thoroughly the story of their break, which seems to me irrevocable. Sainte- Beuve was outraged against Dalloz and has gone to le Temps. The princess begged him not to do anything about it. He did not listen to her. That is all. My opinion on it, if you wish to know it, is this. The first wrong was done by the princess, who was hasty; but the second and the worst was by pere Beuve, who did not behave as a courteous man. If one has a friend, a rather good fellow, and that friend has given one thirty thousand francs a year income, one owes him some consideration. It seems to me that in Sainte-Beuve's place I should have said, "That displeases you, let us talk no more about it." He lacked manners and poise. What disgusted me a little, between ourselves, was the way he praised the emperor to me! yes, he praised Badinguet, to me!--And we were alone!
The princess had taken the thing too seriously from the beginning. I wrote to her, saying that Sainte-Beuve was right; he, I am sure, found me rather cold. It was then, in order to justify himself to me, that he made these protestations of isidorian love, which humiliated me a little; for it was as if he took me for a complete imbecile.
I think that he is preparing for a funeral like Beranger's, and that Hugo's popularity makes him jealous. Why write for the papers, when one can make books, and when one is not perishing of hunger? He's no sage, Sainte-Beuve. Not like you!
Your strength charms me and amazes me. I mean the strength of your entire being, not only that of your brain.
You speak of criticism in your last letter to me, telling me that it will soon disappear. I think, on the contrary, that it is, at most, only at its dawning. They are on a different tack from before, but nothing more. At the time of La Harpe, they were grammarians; at the time of Sainte-Beuve and of Taine, they are historians. When will they be artists, only artists, but really artists? Where do you know a criticism? Who is there who is anxious about the work in itself, in an intense way? They analyze very keenly the setting in which it was written, and the causes that produced it; but the UNCONSCIOUS poetic expression? Where it comes from? its composition, its style? the point of view of the author? Never.
That criticism would require great imagination and great sympathy. I mean a faculty of enthusiasm that is always ready, and then TASTE, a rare quality, even among the best, so much so that one does not talk about it any longer.
What irritates me every day, is to see a master-piece and a disgrace put on the same level. They exalt the little, and they lower the great, nothing is more imbecile nor more immoral.
At Pere-Lachaise I was seized with a profound and sorrowful disgust for humanity. You can not imagine the fetichism of the tombs. The real Parisian is more of an idolater than a negro is! It made me long to lie down in one of the graves.
And the PROGRESSIVES think that there is nothing better than to rehabilitate Robespierre! Note Hamel's book! If the Republic returned they would bless the liberty poles out of policy and believing that measure strong.
When shall I see you? I plan to be in Paris from Easter to the end of May, This spring I shall go to see you at Nohant, I swear it.
CV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 11 February, 1869
While you are running around to get material for your novel, I am inventing all sorts of pretexts not to write mine. I let myself be distracted by guilty fancies, something I am reading fascinates me and I set myself to scribbling on paper that will be left in my desk and bring me no return. That has amused me, or rather that has compelled me, for it would be in vain for me to struggle against these caprices; they interrupt me and force me...you see that I have not the strength of mind that you think.
As for our masculine friend, he is ungrateful, while our feminine friend is too exacting. You were right; they are both wrong and it is not their fault, it is the social machinery which insists on it. The kind of recognition, that is to say, submission that she exacts, depends on a tradition that the present time still profits by (there lies the evil); but does not accept any longer as a duty. The notions of the obliged are changed, those of the obliger ought to change also. It must be said that one does not buy moral liberty by any kindness,--and as for him, he should have foreseen that he would be considered enchained. The simplest thing would have been not to care about having thirty thousand francs a year. It is so easy to do without it. Let him extricate himself. They won't entangle us in it: we aren't so foolish!
You say very good things about criticism. But in order to do as you say, there must be artists, and the artist is too much occupied with his own work, to forget himself in estimating that of others.
Heavens, what fine weather! Don't you enjoy it, at least from your window? I'll wager that the tulip tree is in bud. Here, the peaches and the apricots are in flower. It is said that they will be ruined; that does not stop them from being pretty and not tormenting themselves about it.
We have had our family carnival: my niece, my grandchildren, etc. We all put on fancy dress; it is not difficult here, one only has to go to the wardrobe and one comes down again as Cassandra, Scapin, Mezzetin, Figaro, Basile, etc., all that is very pretty. The pearl was Lolo as a little Louis XIII in crimson satin, trimmed with white satin fringed and laced with silver. I spent three days in making this costume, which was very chic; it was so pretty and so funny on that little girl of three years, that we were all amazed in looking at her.
Then we played charades, had supper, and frolicked till daylight. You see that banished to a desert, we keep up a good deal of vitality. And that I delay all I can, the trip to Paris and the chapter of business. If you were there, I would not need to be urged. But you are going there the end of March if and I can not afford to wait till then. To conclude, you swear to come this summer and we count on it absolutely. Sooner than not have you come I shall go to drag you here by the hair. I embrace you most warmly on this good hope.
CVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Nohant, 24 February, 1869
I am all alone at Nohant as you are all alone at Croisset. Maurice and Lina have gone to Milan, to see Calamatta who is dangerously ill. Should they have the misfortune to lose him, they will have to go to Rome to settle his estate, an irksome task added to a sorrow, it is always like that. That sudden separation was sad, my poor Lina weeping at leaving her daughters and weeping at not being with her father. They left me the care of the children whom I rarely leave and who only let me work when they sleep; but I am happier at having this care on my shoulders to console me. I have, every day, in two hours news from Milan by telegram. The patient is better; my children are only as far as Turin today and do not know yet what I know. How this telegraph changes one's idea of life, and when the formalities and formulas are still more simplified, how full existence will be of facts and how free from uncertainties.
Aurore, who lives on adorations in the lap of her father and mother and who weeps every day when I am away, has not asked a single time where they are. She plays and laughs, then she stops; her great eyes stare, she says: MY FATHER? another time she says: MAMMA? I distract her, she thinks no more of it, and then she begins again. They are very mysterious, children! They think without understanding. Only one sad word is needed to bring out their sorrow. She carries it unconsciously. She looks in my eyes to see if I am sad or anxious; I laugh and she laughs, I think that we must keep her sensitiveness asleep as long as possible, and that she never would weep for me if they did not speak of me.
What is your advice, you who have brought up an intelligent and charming niece? Is it wise to make them loving and affectionate early? I thought so formerly: I was afraid when I saw Maurice too impressionable and Solange too much the opposite, and resisting affection. I would like little ones to be shown only the sweet and the good of life, until the time when reason can help them to accept or to fight the bad. What do you say?
I embrace you and ask you to tell me when you are going to Paris, my trip is delayed as my children may be absent a month; I shall be able, perhaps, to meet you in Paris.
Your old solitary,
What an admirable definition I rediscover with surprise in the fatalist Pascal!
"Nature acts progressively, itus et reditus. It goes on and returns, then it goes still further, then half as far, then further than ever." [Footnote: George Sand had copied this and fastened it over her work table at Nohant.]
What a way of speaking, eh? How the language turns, is twisted, made supple, is condensed under this grandiose "hand."
CVII. TO GEORGE SAND Tuesday night
What do I say about it, dear master? Should one excite or repress the sensitiveness of children? It seems to me that one should not have any set rule about it. It is according as they have a tendency to too much or too little. Moreover, the basis isn't changed. There are tender natures and hard natures, irremediably so. And then the same sight, the same lesson can produce opposite effects. Could anything have hardened me more than having been brought up in a hospital and having played, as a child, in a dissecting amphitheatre? But no one is more sensitive than I am to physical suffering. It is true that I am the son of an extremely humane man, sensitive in the true meaning of the word. The sight of a suffering dog made tears come to his eyes. He did his surgical operations none the less well, and he invented some dreadful ones.
"Show little ones only the sweet and the good of life until the time when reason can help them to accept or to fight the bad." Such is not my opinion. For then something terrible, an infinite disenchantment is bound to be produced in their hearts. And then, how could reason form itself, if it does not apply itself (or if one does not apply it daily) to distinguish good from evil? Life ought to be a continual education; one must learn everything--from talking to dying.
You tell me very true things about the unconsciousness of children. He who could read clearly in these little brains would grasp in them the roots of the human race, the origin of the gods, the sap which produces actions later on, etc. A negro who talks to his idol, and a child who talks to her doll seem to me close together.
The child and the savage (the primitive) do not distinguish the real from the fantastic. I remember very clearly that at five or six years of age I wanted to "send my heart" to a little girl with whom I was in love (I mean my material heart). I could see it in the middle of straw, in a basket, an oyster basket.
But no one has been so far as you in these analyses. There are some infinitely profound pages about it in the Histoire de ma vie. What I say is true, since minds quite opposite to yours have been amazed at them. For instance, the Goncourts.
The good Tourgueneff ought to be in Paris at the end of March. What would be fine, would be for us all three to dine together.
I am thinking again of Sainte-Beuve. Without doubt one can get along without thirty thousand francs a year. But there is something easier yet: that is, when one has them, not to launch into abuse, every week, in the papers. Why doesn't he write books, since he is rich and has talent?
I am just now reading Don Quichotte again. What a tremendous old book! Is there any more beautiful?
CVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 7 March, 1869
Still alone with my grandchildren; my nephews and friends come to spend two out of every three days with me, but I miss Maurice and Lina. Poor Calamatta is at the last gasp.
Give me the address of the Goncourts, you have never given it to me. Shall I never know it? My letter is still waiting there for them.
I love you and embrace you. I love you much, much, and I embrace you very warmly.
CIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 12 March, 1869
Poor Calamatta died the 9th, my children are coming back. My Lina must be distressed. I have news from them only by telegraph. From Milan here in an hour and a half. But there are no details, and I am anxious. I embrace you tenderly,
Thank you for the address.
CX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Nohant, 2 April, 1869
Dear friend of my heart, here we are once more calm again. My children returned to me very exhausted. Aurore has been a little ill. Lina's mother has come to get into touch with her about their affairs. She is a loyal and excellent woman, very artistic, and very amiable. I too have had a bad cold, but everything is getting better now, and our charming little girls console their little mother. If it were less bad weather, and I had a less bad cold, I would go at once to Paris, for I want to see you there. How long do you stay there? Tell me quickly.
I shall be very glad to renew my acquaintance with Tourgueneff, whom I knew a little without having read him, and whom I have since read with a whole-hearted admiration. You seem to me to love him a great deal; then I love him too, and I wish when your novel is finished, that you would bring him to our house. Maurice also knows him and appreciates him greatly, he who likes whatever does not resemble anything else.
I am working at my novel about TRAVELING ACTORS [Footnote: Pierre qui roule.] like a convict. I am trying to have it amusing and to explain art; it is a new form for me and amuses me. Perhaps it will not have any success. The taste of the day is for marquises and courtesans; but what difference does that make?--You must find me a title, which is a resume of that idea: THE MODERN ROMAN COMIQUE.
My children send you affectionate greetings; your old troubadour embraces his old troubadour.
Answer quickly how long you expect to stay in Paris. You say that you are paying bills and that you are vexed. If you have need of quibus, I have at the moment a few sous I can lend you. You know that you offered once to lend me some. If I had been in a hole I would have accepted. Give all my regards to Maxime Du Camp and thank him for not forgetting me.
CXI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 17 April, 1869
I am well, I am finishing (today, I hope) my modern Roman comique which will be called I don't know what. I am a little tired, for I have done a lot of other things. But I am going to Paris in eight or ten days to rest, to embrace you, to talk of you, of your work, to forget mine, God be thanked! and to love you as always very much and very tenderly.
Regards from Maurice and his wife.
CXII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Monday, 26 April, 1869
I arrived last night, I am running around like a rat, but every day at 6 o'clock one is sure of finding me at Magny's, and the first day that you are free, come to dine with your old troubadour who loves you and embraces you.
Send word ahead to me, however, so that by an exceptional chance, I do not have the ill luck to miss you.
CXIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Thursday evening, 29 April, 1869
I am back from Palaiseau and I find your letter. Saturday I am not sure of being free; I have to read my play with Chilly on account of some objections of detail, and I had told you so. But I see him tomorrow evening, and I shall try to get him to give me another day. I shall write you then, tomorrow evening, Friday, and if he frees me, I shall go to your house about three o'clock on Saturday so that we can read before and after dinner; I dine on a little fish, a chicken wing, an ice and a cup of coffee, never anything else, by which means my stomach keeps well. If I am kept by Chilly, we shall postpone till next week after Friday.
I sold Palaiseau today to a master shoemaker who has a LEATHER plaster on his right eye, and who calls the sumachs of the garden, the schumakre.
Then Saturday morning you shall have word from your old comrade.
CXIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 30 April, 1869
No way of going out today. This slavery to one's profession is horrid, isn't it? Between now and Friday I shall write to you so that we can again settle on a day. I embrace you, my old beloved troubadour.
CXV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 3 May, 1869
They are encroaching upon my time more and more. All my days are full until and including next Sunday.--Tell me quickly if you want me Monday, a week from today--or if it is another day. Let us fix it for it is a fact that I don't really know whom to listen to.
Your troubadour who does not want THIS STATE OF AFFAIRS to continue!
CXVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 4 May, 1869
On Monday then, and if I have an hour free I shall try to embrace my troubadour before that. But don't disturb yourself, I know very well that one does nothing here that one would like to do. Anyway, on Monday between three and four, clear out your windpipe so as to read me a part before dinner.
CXVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Sunday, 9 May, 1869
Tomorrow, your reverence, I shall go to dine at your house. I shall be at home every day at five o'clock, but you might meet some guys whom you dislike. You would much better come to Magny's where you would find me alone, or with Plauchut, or with friends who are also yours.
I embrace you. I received today the letter which you wrote to me at Nohant.
CXVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 18 May, 1869
I saw Levy today, I tested him at first; I saw that he would not give up his contract at any price. I then said to him many good things about the book and made the remark that he had gotten it very cheap. But he said to me, if the book is in two volumes, it will be 20,000 francs, that is agreed. So I suppose that you will have two volumes, won't you?
However, I persisted and he said to me: If the book is a success, I shall not begrudge two or three thousand francs more. I said that you would not demand anything, that it was not your way of acting, but that for MY PART, I should insist for you without your knowledge, and he left me saying: Be easy, I don't say no. Should the book succeed I will make the author profit by it.
That is all that I have been able to do now, but I will take it up again at the proper time and place. Leave that to me, I will return your contract. What day next week will you dine with me at Magny's? I am a little weary.
You would be very kind to come to read at my house, we should be alone and one evening will be enough for the rest. Set the day, and AT SIX THIRTY if that does not bother you. My stomach is beginning to suffer a little from Paris habits. Your troubadour who loves you,
The rest of the week will finish up Palaiseau, but Sunday if you like, I am free. Answer if you want Sunday at Magny's at half past six.
CXIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT
Then Monday, I count on you, at half past six; but as I am going to Palaiseau, I may be a few minutes late or early. The first one at Magny's must wait for the other. I am looking forward with pleasure to hearing THE REST. Don't forget the manuscript.
Your troubadour Thursday evening, 20 May, 1869.
CXX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 29 May, 1869
Yes, Monday, my dear good friend, I count on you and I embrace you.
I am off for Palaiseau AND IT IS TEN O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING!
CXXI. TO GEORGE SAND
My prophecy is fulfilled; My friend X----has gained only ridicule with his candidacy. That serves him right. When a man of style debases himself to practical life, he loses caste and should be punished. And then, is it a question of politics, now! The citizens who are excited for or against the Empire or the Republic seem to me as useful as those who discuss efficacious or efficient grace. Politics are as dead as theology! They have had three hundred years of existence, that is quite enough.
Just now I am lost in the Church Fathers. As for my novel l'Education sentimentale, I am paying no more attention to it, God be thanked! It is recopied. Other hands have gone over it. So, the thing is no longer mine. It does not exist any longer, good night. I have taken up again my old hobby of Saint Antoine. I have reread my notes, I am making another new plan and I am devouring the ecclesiastical memoirs of the Nain de Tillemont. I hope to succeed in finding a logical connection (and therefore a dramatic interest) between the different hallucinations of the Saint. This extravagant setting pleases me and I am absorbed in it, there you are!
My poor Bouilhet bothers me. He is in such a nervous state that they have advised him to take a little trip to the south of France. He is overwhelmed by an unconquerable melancholy. Isn't it queer! He who was so gay, formerly!
My Heavens! What a beautiful and farcical thing is the life of the desert Fathers! But without doubt they were all Buddhists. That is a stylish problem to work at, and its solution would be more important than the election of an academician. Oh! ye men of little faith! Long live Saint Polycarp!
Fangeat, who has reappeared recently, is the citizen who, on the 25th day of February, 1848, demanded the death of Louis-Philippe "without a trial." That is the way one serves the cause of progress.
CXXII. TO GEORGE SAND
What a good and charming letter was yours, adored master! There is no one but you! upon my word of honor! I am ending by believing it. A wind of stupidity and folly is now blowing over the world. Those who stand up firm and straight against it are rare.
This is what I meant when I wrote that the times of politics were over. In the 18th century the chief business was diplomacy. "The secrecy of the cabinets" really existed. The peoples still were sufficiently amenable to be separated and to be combined. That order of things seems to me to have said its last word in 1815. Since then, one has hardly done anything except dispute about the external form that it is fitting to give the fantastic and odious being called the State.
Experience proves (it seems to me) that no form contains the best in itself; orleanism, republic, empire do not mean anything anymore, since the most contradictory ideas can enter into each one of these pigeon holes. All the flags have been so soiled with blood and with filth that it is time not to have any at all. Down with words! No more symbols nor fetiches! The great moral of this reign will be to prove that universal suffrage is as senseless as the divine right although a little less odions!
The question is then out of place. One is concerned no longer with dreaming of the best form of government, since all are equal, but with making science prevail. That is the most important. The rest will follow inevitably. Purely intellectual men have rendered more service to the human race than all the Saint Vincent de Pauls in the world! And politics will be an everlasting folly so long as it is not subordinate to science. The government of a country ought to be a section of the Institute, and the last section of all.
Before concerning yourself with relief funds, and even with agriculture, send to all the villages in France, Robert Houdins to work miracles! The greatest crime of Isidore is the wretched condition in which he leaves our beautiful country. Dixi. I admire Maurice's occupations and his healthy life. But I am not capable of imitating him. Nature, far from fortifying me, drains my strength. When I lie on the grass I feel as if I am already under the earth and that the roots of green things are beginning to grow in my belly. Your troubadour is naturally an unhealthy man. I do not like the country except when travelling, because then the independence of my individuality causes me to rise above the knowledge of my nothingness.
CXXIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 6 August, 1869
Well, dear good friend, here it is August, and you have promised to come. We don't forget it, we count on it, we dream of it, and we talk of it every day. You were to take a trip to the seashore first if I am not mistaken. You must need to shake up your gloom. That does not dispel it, but it does force it to live with us and not be too oppressive. I have thought a great deal about you lately, I would have hastened to see you if I had not thought I should find you surrounded by older and better friends than I am. I wrote you at the same time that you wrote me, our letters crossed.
Come to see us, my dear old friend, I shall not go to Paris this month, I do not want to miss you. My children will be happy to spoil you and to try to distract you. We all love you, and I love you PASSIONATELY, as you know.
CXXIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 14 August, 1869
Your change of plans distresses us, dear friend, but we do not dare to complain in the face of your anxieties and sorrows. We ought to wish you to do what would distract you the most, and take the least out of you. I am in hopes of finding you in Paris, as you are staying there some time and I always have business there. But it is so hard to see friends in Paris and one is so overwhelmed by so many tedious duties! Well, it is a real sorrow to me not to have to expect you any more at our house, where each one of us would have tried to love you better than the others and where you would have been at home; sad when you wanted to be, busy if you liked. I resign myself on condition that you will be better off somewhere else and that you will make it good to us when you can.
Have you at least arranged your affairs with Levy? Is he paying you for two volumes? I would like you to have something on which to live independently and as master of your time. Here there is repose for the mind in the midst of the exuberant activities of Maurice, and of his brave little wife who sets herself to love all he loves and to help him eagerly in all he undertakes. As for me, I have the appearance of incarnate idleness in the midst of this hard work. I botanize and I bathe in a little icy torrent. I teach my servant to read, I correct proof and I am well. That is my life and nothing bores me in this world where I think that AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED all is for the best. But I am afraid of becoming more of a bore than I used to be. People don't like such as I am very much. We are too inoffensive. However, love me still a little, for I feel by the disappointment of not seeing you, that it would have gone hard with me if you had meant to break your word.
And I embrace you tenderly, dear old friend.
CXXV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Thursday
I know nothing either of Chilly or la petite Fadette. In a few days I am going to make a tour of Normandy. I shall go through Paris. If you want to come around with me,--oh! but no, you don't travel about; well, we shall see each other in passing. I have certainly earned a little holiday. I have worked like a beast of burden. I need too to see some blue, but the blue of the sea will do, and you would like the blue of the artistic and literary firmament over our heads. Bah! that doesn't exist. Everything is prose, flat prose in the environment in which mankind has settled itself. It is only in isolating oneself a little that one can find in oneself the normal being again.
I am resuming my letter interrupted for two days by my wounded hand which inconveniences me a good deal. I am not going to Normandy at all, my Lamberts whom I was going to see in Yport came back to Paris and my business calls me there too. I shall then see you next week probably, and I shall embrace you as if you were my dear big child. Why can't I put the rosy, tanned face of Aurore in the place of mine! She is not what you would call pretty, but she is adorable and so quick in comprehending that we all are astonished. She is as amusing in her chatter as a person,--who might be amusing. So I am going to be forced to start thinking about my business! It is the one thing of which I have a horror and which really troubles my serenity. You must console me by joking with me a little when you have the time.
I shall see you soon, have courage in the sickening work of proof- reading. As for me I hurry over it quickly and badly, but you must not do as I do.
My children send you their love and your troubadour loves you.
I have just received news from the Odeon. They are at work putting on my play and do not speak of anything else.
CXXVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 6 September, 1869
They wrote me yesterday to come because they wanted me at the Opera- Comique. Here I am rue Gay-Lussac. When shall we meet? Tell me. All my days, are still free.
I embrace you.
CXXVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 8 September, 1869
I send you back your handkerchief which you left in the carriage. It is surely tomorrow THURSDAY that we dine together? I have written to the big Marchal to come to Magny's too.
CXXVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, Tuesday, 5 October, 1869
Where are you now, my dear troubadour? I am still writing to you at the boulevard du Temple, but perhaps you have taken possession of your delightful lodgings. I don't know the address although I have seen the house, the situation and the view.--I have been twice in the Ardennes and in a week or ten days, if Lina or Maurice does not come to Paris, as they have a slight desire to do, I shall leave again for Nohant.
We must then meet and see each other. Here am I a little sfogata (eased) from my need for travel, and enchanted with what I have seen. Tell me what day except tomorrow, Wednesday, you can give me for dinner at Magny's or elsewhere with or without Plauchut, with whomever you wish provided I see you and embrace you.
Your old comrade who loves you.
CXXIX. TO GEORGE SAND
Dear good adored master,
I have wanted for several days to write you a long letter in which I should tell you all that I have felt for a month. It is funny. I have passed through different and strange states. But I have neither the time nor the repose of mind to gather myself together enough.
Don't be disturbed about your troubadour. He will always have "his independence and his liberty" because he will always do as he has always done. He has left everything rather than submit to any obligation whatsoever, and then, with age, one's needs lessen. I suffer no longer from not living in the Alhambra.
What would do me good now, would be to throw myself furiously into Saint-Antoine, but I have not even the time to read.
Listen to this: in the very beginning, your play was to come after Aisse; then it was agreed that it should come BEFORE. Now Chilly and Duquesnel want it to come after, simply and solely "to profit by the occasion," to profit by my poor Bouilhet's death. They will give you a "sort of compensation." Well, I am the owner and the master of Aisse just as if I were the author, and I do not want that. You understand, I do not want you to inconvenience yourself in anything.
You think that I am as sweet as a lamb! Undeceive yourself, and act as if Aisse had never existed; and above all no sensitiveness? That would offend me. Between simple friends, one needs manners and politenesses; but between you and me, that would not seem at all suitable; we do not owe each other anything at all except to love each other.
I think that the directors of the Odeon will regret Bouilhet in every way. I shall be less easy than he was at rehearsals. I should very much like to read Aisse to you so as to talk a little about it; some of the actors whom they propose are, to my way of thinking, impossible. It is hard to have to do with uneducated people.
CXXX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Wednesday evening, 13 October, 1869
Our poor friend is not to be buried till the day after tomorrow, they will let me know where and when we ought to be there, I shall tell you by telegram.
I have seen the directors twice. It was agreed this morning with Duquesnel that they should make an attempt with de la T(our) Saint- Y(bars). I yielded my turn to Aisse. I was not to come till March. I went back there this evening, Chilly IS UNWILLING, and Duquesnel, better informed than this morning, regards the step as useless and harmful. I then quoted my contract, my right. What a fine thing, the theatre! M. Saint-Ybars' contract antedates mine. They had thought le Batard would last two weeks and it will last forty days longer. Then La Tour Saint-Ybars precedes us [Footnote: This refers to l'Affranchi.] and I can not give up my turn to Aisse without being postponed till next year, which I'll do if you want me to; but it would do me a good deal of harm, for I have gotten into debt with the Revue and I must refill my purse.--Are directors rascals in all that? No, but incompetents who are always afraid of not having enough plays, and accept too many, foreseeing that they will have failures.--When they are successful, if the authors contracted for are ANGRY they have to go to court. I have no taste for disputes and the scandals of the side-scenes and the newspapers; and neither have you. What would be the result? Inadequate compensation and a deal of uproar for nothing. One needs patience in any event, I have it, and I tell you again if you are really upset at this delay, I am ready to sacrifice myself.
With this I embrace you and I love you.
CXXXI. TO GEORGE SAND 14 October, 1869
No! no sacrifices! so much the worse! If I did not look at Bouilhet's affairs as mine absolutely, I should have at once accepted your proposition. But: (1) it is my affair, (2) the dead must not hurt the living.
But I am angry at these gentlemen, I do not hide it from you, for not having said anything to us about Latour Saint-Ybars. For the aforesaid Latour was engaged a long time ago. Why did we not know anything about him?
In short, let Chilly write me the letter on which we agreed Wednesday, and let there be no more discussion about it.
It seems to me that your play can be given the 15th of December, if l'Affranchi begins about the 20th of November. Two and a half months are about fifty performances; if you go beyond that, Aisse will not be presented till next year.
Then, it is agreed, since we can not suppress Latour Saint-Ybars; you shall go after him and Aisse next, if I think it suitable.
We shall meet Saturday at poor Sainte-Beuve's funeral. How the little band diminishes! How the few survivors of the Medusa's raft are disappearing!
A thousand affectionate greetings.
CXXXII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 20 or 21 October, 1869
Impossible, dear old beloved. Brebant is too far, I have so little time. And then I have made an engagement with Marchal and Berton at Magny's to say farewell. If you can come, I shall be very happy and on the other hand if it is going to make you ill, don't come, I know very well that you love me and shall not be angry with you about anything.
CXXXIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Nohant, 15 Nov., 1869
What has become of you, my dear old beloved troubadour? are you correcting proof like a galley slave, up to the last minute? For the last two days they have been announcing your book FOR TOMORROW. I am looking for it with impatience, for you are not going to forget me, are you? You will be praised and condemned; you expect that. You are too truly superior not to arouse envy and you don't care, do you? Nor I either for you. You have the strength to be stimulated by what discourages others. There will certainly be a rumpus; your subject will be quite opportune in this time of REVOLUTIONISTS. The good progressives, the true democrats will approve of you. The idiots will be furious, and you will say: "Come weal, come woe!" I am also correcting proof of Pierre qui roule and I have half finished a new novel which will not make much of a stir; that is all that I ask for at the moment. I work alternately on MY novel, the one that I like, and on the one that the Revue does not dislike as much, but which I like very little. It is arranged that way; I don't know if I am making a mistake. Perhaps those which I like are the worst. But I have stopped worrying about myself, so far as I have ever done so. Life has always taken me out of myself, and so it will to the end. My heart is always affected to the detriment of my head. At present it is my little children who devour all my intellect; Aurore is a jewel, a nature before which I bow in admiration; will it last like that?
You are going to spend the winter in Paris, and I, I don't know when I shall go. The success of le Batard continues; but I am not impatient, you have promised to come as soon as you are free, at Christmas at the very latest, to keep revel with us. I think only of that, and if you break your word we shall be in despair here. With this I embrace you with a full heart as I love you.
CXXXIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Paris Nohant, 30 November, 1869
Dear friend of my heart, I wanted to reread your book [Footnote: l'Education sentimentale.]; my daughter-in-law has read it too, and some of my young people, all readers in earnest and of the first rank and not stupid at all. We are all of the same opinion, that it is a beautiful book, equal in strength to the best ones of Balzac and truer, that is to say more faithful to the truth from one end to the other.
One needs the great art, the exquisite form and the severity of your work to do without flowers of fancy. However, you throw poetry with a full hand on your picture, whether your characters understand it or not. Rosanette at Fontainebleau does not know on what grass she walks and nevertheless she is poetic.
All that issues from a master's hand, and your place is well won for always. Live then as calmly as possible in order to last a long time and to produce a great deal.
I have seen two short articles which did not seem to me to rebel against your success; but I hardly know what is going on, politics seems to me to absorb everything.
Keep me posted. If they did not do justice to you I should be angry and should say what I think. It is my right.
I don't know exactly when, but during the month, I shall go without doubt to embrace you and to get you, if I can pry you loose from Paris. My children still count on it, and all of us send you our praises and our affectionate greetings.
Yours, your old troubadour
CXXXV. TO GEORGE SAND
Dear good master,
Your old troubadour is vehemently slandered by the papers. Read the Constitutionnel of last Monday, the Gaulois of this morning, it is blunt and plain. They call me idiotic and common. Barbey d'Aurevilly's article (Constitutionnel) is a model of this character, and the good Sarcey's, although less violent, is in no way behind it. These gentlemen object in the name of morality and the Ideal! I have also been annihilated in le Figaro and in Paris, by Cesana and Duranty. I most profoundly don't care a fig! but that does not make me any the less astonished by so much hatred and bad faith.
La Tribune, le Pays and l'Opinion nationale on the other hand have highly praised me...As for the friends, the persons who received a copy adorned by my hand, they have been afraid of compromising themselves and have talked to me of other things. The brave are few. The book is selling very well nevertheless, in spite of politics, and Levy appears satisfied.
I know that the bourgeois of Rouen are furious with me "because of pere Roque and the cancan at the Tuileries." They think that one ought to prevent the publication of books like that (textual), that I lend a hand to the Reds, that I am capable of inflaming revolutionary passions, etc., etc. In short, I have received very few laurels, up to now, and no rose leaf hurts me.
I told you, didn't I, that I was working over the fairy play? I am doing now a description of the races and I have cut out all that seemed to me hackneyed. Raphael Felix didn't seem to me eager to become acquainted with it. Problem!
All the papers cite as a proof of my depravity, the episode of the Turkish woman, which they misrepresent, naturally; and Sarcey compares me to Marquis de Sade, whom he confesses he has not read!
All that does not upset me at all. But I wonder what use there is in printing my book?
CXXXVI. TO GEORGE SAND Tuesday, 4 o'clock, 7 December, 1869
Your old troubadour is being jumped on in an unheard of manner. Those people who have read my novel are afraid to talk to me of it lest they compromise themselves or out of pity for me. The more indulgent declare I have made only pictures and that both composition and plan are quite lacking.
Saint-Victor, who puffs the books of Arsene Houssaye, won't write articles on mine, finding it too bad. There you are. Theo is away, and no one, absolutely no one takes my defense.
Another story: yesterday Raphael and Michel Levy listened to the reading of the fairy play. Applause, enthusiasm. I saw the moment during the reading in which the contract was going to be signed. Raphael so well understood the play that he gave me two or three EXCELLENT criticisms. I found him in other ways a charming boy. He asked me until Saturday to give me a definite answer. Then a little while ago, a letter (very polite) from the aforesaid Raphael in which he declares that the fairy play would entail expenses that would be too much for him.
Ditched again. I must look elsewhere. Nothing new at the Odeon.
Sarcey has published a second article against me.
Barbey d'Aurevilly claims that I dirty a stream by washing myself in it (sic). All that does not bother me at all.
CXXXVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Thursday, two o'clock in the morning, December 9, 1869
My comrade, it is finished, the article shall go tomorrow. I address it to whom? Answer by telegram. I have a mind to send it to Girardin. But perhaps you have a better idea, I really don't know the importance and the credit of the various papers. Send me a suitable name and ADDRESS by telegram; I have Girardin's.
I am not content with my prose, I have had the fever and a sort of sprain for two days. But we must make haste. I embrace you.
CXXXVIII. TO GEORGE SAND 10 December, Friday, 10 o'clock in the evening, 1869
Dear master, good as good bread,
I have just sent you by telegraph this message: "To Girardin." La Liberte will publish your article, at once. What do you think of my friend Saint-Victor, who has refused to write an article about it because he finds "the book bad"? you have not such a conscience as that, have you?
I continue to be rolled in the mud. La Gironde calls me Prudhomme. That seems new to me.
How shall I thank you? I feel the need of saying affectionate things to you. I have so many in my heart that not one comes to the tips of my fingers. What a splendid woman you are and what a splendid man! To say nothing of all the other things!
CXXXIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, Friday to Saturday during the night, 10 to 11 December, 1869
I have rewritten my article [Footnote: The article, Sur l'Education sentimentale, de Flaubert, was printed in the Questions d'art et de litterature, Calmann-Levy, p. 415.] today and this evening, I am better, it is clearer. I am expecting your telegram tomorrow. If you do not put your veto on it, I shall send the article to Ulbach, who begins his paper the 15th of this month; he wrote to me this morning to beg me urgently for any article I would send him. I think this first number will be widely read, and it would be good publicity. Michel Levy would be a better judge than we as to what is the best to do: consult him.
You seem astonished at the ill will. You are too simple. You do not know how original your book is, and how many personal feelings must be offended by the force it contains. You think you are doing things that will pass as a letter in the mail; ah! well, yes!
I have insisted on the PLAN of your book; that is what they understand the least and it is what is the most important. I tried to show the ordinary people how they should read; for it is the ordinary people who make successes. The clever ones don't like the successes of others. I don't pay attention to the malicious; it would honor them too much.
My mother has your telegram and is sending her manuscript to Girardin.
4 o'clock in the afternoon.
CXL. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, in Paris Nohant, 14 December, 1869
I do not see my article coming out, but others are appearing which are bad and unjust. One's enemies are always better served than one's friends. And then, when one frog begins to croak, all the others follow suit. After a certain reverence has been violated every one tries to see who can best jump on the shoulders of the statue; it is always like that. You are undergoing the disadvantages of having a style that is not yet familiar through repetition, and all are making idiots of themselves so as not to see it.
ABSOLUTE IMPERSONALITY is debatable, and I do not accept it ABSOLUTELY; but I wonder that Saint-Victor who has preached it so much and has criticised my plays because they were not IMPERSONAL, should abandon you instead of defending you. Criticism is in a sad way; too much theory!
Don't be troubled by all that and keep straight on. Don't attempt a system, obey your inspiration.
What fine weather, at least with us, and we are getting ready for our Christmas festivals with the family at home. I told Plauchut to try to carry you off; we are expecting him. If you can't come with him, come at least for the Christmas Eve revels and to escape from Paris on New Year's day; it is so boring there then!
Lina charges me to say to you that you are authorized to wear your wrapper and slippers continually. There are no ladies, no strangers. In short you will make us very happy and you have promised for a long time.
I embrace you and I am still more angry than you at these attacks, but I am not overcome, and if I had you here we should stimulate each other so well that you would start off again at once on the other leg to write a new novel.
I embrace you.
Your old troubadour,
CXLI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, in Paris Nohant, 17 December, 1869
Plauchut writes us that YOU PROMISE to come the 24th. Do come the 23d in the evening, so as to be rested for the night of the 24th to the 25th and join in our Christmas Eve revels. Otherwise you will arrive from Paris tired and sleepy and our follies will not amuse you. You are coming to the house of children, I warn you, and as you are kind and affectionate, you love children. Did Plauchut tell you to bring a wrapper and slippers, for we do not want to sentence you to dressing up? I add that I am counting on your bringing some manuscript. The FAIRY PLAY re-done, Saint-Antoine, whatever you have finished. I hope indeed that you are in the mood for work. Critics are a challenge that stimulates.
Poor Saint-Rene Taillandier is as asininely pedantic as the Revue. Aren't they prudish in that set? I am in a pet with Girardin. I know very well that I am not strong in letters; I am not sufficiently cultivated for these gentlemen; but the good public reads me and listens to me all the same.
If you did not come, we should be unhappy and you would be a big ingrate. Do you want me to send a carriage for you to Chateauroux on the 23d at four o'clock? I am afraid that you may be uncomfortable in that stage-coach which makes the run, and it is so easy to spare you two and a half hours of discomfort!
We embrace you full of hope. I am working like an ox so as to have my novel finished and not to have to think of it a minute when you are here.
CXLII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 19 December, 1869
So women are in it too? Come, forget that persecution here, at a hundred thousand leagues from Parisian and literary life, or rather come be glad of it, for these great slatings are the sure proof of great worth. Tell yourself indeed that those who have not gone through that are GOOD FOR THE ACADEMY.
Our letters crossed. I begged you and I beg you again not to come Christmas Eve, but the night before so as to join in the revels the next night, the Eve, that is to say, the 24th. This is the program: we dine promptly at six o'clock, we have the Christmas tree and the marionettes for the children, so, that they can go to bed at nine o'clock. After that we chatter, and sup at midnight. But the diligence gets here at the earliest at half past six, and we should not dine till seven o'clock, which would make impossible the great joy of our little ones who would be kept up too late. So you must start Thursday 23d at nine o'clock in the morning, so that everyone may be perfectly comfortable, so that everyone may have time to embrace everyone else, and so that no one may be interrupted in the joy of your arrival on account of the imperious and silly darlings.
You must stay with us a very long time, a very long time, we shall have some more follies for New Year's day, and for Twelfth Night. This is a crazy happy house and it is the time of holiday after work. I am finishing tonight my year's task. Seeing you, dear old well-beloved friend, would be my recompense: do not refuse me.
Plauchut is hunting today with the prince, and perhaps will not return till Tuesday. I am writing him to wait for you till Thursday, you will be less bored on the way. I have just written to Girardin to complain.
CXLIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 31 December, 1869
We hoped to have a word from you this morning. This sudden cold is so severe, I dreaded it for your trip. We know you got to Chateauroux all right. But did you find a compartment, and didn't you suffer on the way? Reassure us.
We were so happy to have you with us that we should be distressed if you had to suffer for this WINTER escapade. All goes well here and all of us adore one another. It is New Year's Eve. We send your share of the kisses that we are giving one another.
CXLIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Nohant, 9 January, 1870
I have had so much proof to correct that I am stupefied with it. I needed that to console me for your departure, troubadour of my heart, and for another departure also, that of my drudge of a Plauchmar--and still another departure, that of my grand-nephew Edme, my favorite, the one who played the marionettes with Maurice. He has passed his examinations for collector and goes to Pithiviers- -unless by pull, we could get him as substitute at La Chatre.
Do you know M. Roy, the head of the management of the domains? If by chance the princess knew him and would be willing to say a word to him in favor of young Simonnet? I should be happy to owe her this joy for his family and this economy for his mother who is poor. It appears that it is very easy to obtain and that no rule opposes it. But one must HAVE PULL; a word to the princess, a line from M. Roy and our tears would change to joy.
That child is very dear to me. He is so loving and so good! They had hard work to bring him up, he was always ill, always dandled on the knees and always gentle and sweet. He has a great deal of intelligence and he works well at La Chatre, where his chief the collector adores him and mourns for him also. Well, do what you can, if you can do anything at all.
They continue to damn your book. That doesn't prevent it from being a fine and good book. Justice will come later, JUSTICE IS ALWAYS DONE. Apparently it did not come at the right moment, or rather it came too soon. It has demonstrated too well the disorder that reigns in people's minds. It has rubbed the open wound, people recognize themselves too well in it.
Everyone adores you here and our consciences are too pure to be upset at the truth: we talk of you every day. Yesterday, Lina said to me that she admired very much all you do, but that she preferred Salammbo to your modern descriptions. If you had been in a corner, this is what you would have heard from her, from me, and from THE OTHERS:
"He is taller and larger than the average person. His mind is like him, beyond ordinary proportions. In that he is like Victor Hugo, at least as much as like Balzac, but he has the taste and discernment that Hugo lacks, and he is an artist which Balzac was not.--Is he then more than both? Chi lo sa?--He hasn't let himself out yet. The enormous volume of his brain troubles him. He doesn't know if he is a poet or a realist; and the fact that he is both, hinders him.--He must get straightened out in his different lines of effort. He sees everything and wants to grasp everything at once.--He is not the cut of the public that wants to eat in little mouthfuls, whom large pieces choke. But the public will go to him, just the same, when it understands.--It will even go rather quickly if the author CONDESCENDS to be willing to be quite understood.--For that, perhaps there will have to be asked some concessions to the indolence of its mind. One ought to reflect before daring to give this advice."
That sums up what we said. It is not useless to know the opinion of good people and of young people. The youngest say that l'Education sentimentale made them sad. They did not come across themselves in it, they who have not yet lived; but they have illusions and they say: "Why does this man, so good, so kind, so gay, so simple, so sympathetic, wish to discourage us from living?" What they say is poorly reasoned out, but as it is instinctive, perhaps it ought to be taken into account.
Aurore talks of you and still cradles her baby in her lap; Gabrielle calls Punch, HER LITTLE ONE, and will not eat her dinner unless he is opposite her. They are our continual idols, these brats.
Yesterday, I received, after your letter of the day before, a letter from Berton, who thinks that they will not play l'Affranchi longer than the 18th or the 20th. Wait for me, since you can delay your departure a little. It is too bad weather to go to Croisset; it is always an effort for me to leave my dear nest to go to attend to my miserable profession; but the effort is less when I hope to find you in Paris.
I embrace you for myself and for all my brood.
CXLV. TO GEORGE SAND Wednesday afternoon.
Your commission was done yesterday at one o'clock. The princess in my presence took some notes on what you wanted, in order to look after it at once. She seemed to me very glad to do you a service.
People talk of nothing but the death of Noir! The general sentiment is fear, nothing else!
Into what miserable ways we are plunged! There is so much imbecility in the air that one gets ferocious. I am less indignant than disgusted! What do you think of these gentlemen who come to confer armed with pistols and sword canes! And of this person, of this prince, who lives in the midst of an arsenal and makes use of it? Pretty! Pretty!
What a sweet letter you wrote me day before yesterday! But your friendship blinds you, dear good master. I do not belong to the tribe you mention. I am acquainted with myself, I know what I lack! And I am enormously lacking.
In losing my poor Bouilhet, I lost my midwife, it was he who saw into my thought more clearly than I did myself. His death has left a void that I notice more each day. What is the use of making concessions? Why force oneself? I am quite resolved, on the contrary, to write in future for my personal satisfaction, and without any constraint. Come what may!
CXLVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 15 January, 1870
L'Affranchi is for Tuesday. I am working hurriedly to finish my corrections and I leave Tuesday morning. Come to dine with me at Magny's at six o'clock. Can you? If not, am I to keep a seat for you in my box? A word during the day of Tuesday, to my lodgings. You won't be forced to swallow down the entire performance if it bores you.
I love you and I embrace you for myself and for my brood. Thank you for Edme.
CXLVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 19 January, 1870
Dear friend of my heart, I did not see you in the theatre. The play applauded and hissed, more applauded than hissed. Barton very beautiful, Sarah very pretty, but no interest in the characters and too many second-rate actors, not good.--I do not think that it is a success.
I am better. Yet I am not bold enough to go to your house Saturday and to return from such a distance in this severe cold. I saw Theo this evening, I told him to come to dine with us both on Saturday at Magny's. Do say yes, it is I who invite you, and we shall have a quiet private room. After that we will smoke at my place.
Plauchut would not be able to go to you. He was invited to the prince's.
A word if it is NO. Nothing if it is yes. So I don't want you to write to me. I saw Tourgueneff and I told him all that I think of him. He was as surprised as a child. We spoke ill of you.
CXLVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT The 5th or the 6th February, 1870
(On the back of a letter from Edme Simonnet)
I don't see you, you come to the Odeon and when they tell me that you are there, I hurry and don't find you. Do set a day then when you will come to eat a chop with me. Your old exhausted troubadour who loves you.
CXLIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 15 February, 1870
My troubadour, we are two old rattle traps. As for me, I have had a bad attack of bronchitis and I am just out of bed. Now I am recovered but not yet out of my room. I hope to resume my work at the Odeon in a couple of days.
Do get well, don't go out, at least unless the thaw is not very bad. My play is for the 22d. [Footnote: This refers to L'Autre.] I hope very much to see you on that day. And meanwhile, I kiss you and I love you,
CL. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Sunday evening, 20th February, 1870
I went out today for the first time, I am better without being well. I am anxious at not having news about that reading of the fairy play. Are you satisfied? Did they understand? L'Autre will take place on Thursday, or Friday at the latest.
Will your nephew and niece go to the gallery or the balcony seats? Impossible to have a box. If yes, a word and I will send these seats out of my allotment--which, as usual, will not be grand.
Your old troubadour.