CCI. TO GEORGE SAND
Never, dear good master, have you given such a proof of your inconceivable candor! Now, seriously, you think that you have offended me! The first page is almost like excuses! It made me laugh heartily! Besides, you can always say everything to me, to me! everything! Your blows will be caresses to me.
Now let us talk again! I continually repeat my insistence on justice! Do you see how they are denying it everywhere? Has not modern criticism abandoned art for history? The intrinsic value of a book is nothing in the school of Sainte-Beuve and Taine. They take everything into consideration there except talent. Thence, in the petty journals, the abuse of personality, the biographies, the diatribes. Conclusion: lack of respect on the part of the public.
In the theatre, the same thing. They don't bother about the play, but the lesson to be preached. Our friend Dumas dreams the glory of Lacordaire, or rather of Ravignan! To prevent the tucking up of petticoats has become with him obsession. We can not have progressed very far since all morality consists for women, in not committing adultery, and for men in abstaining from theft! In short, the first injustice is practised by literature; it has no interest in esthetics, which is only a higher justice. The romantics will have a fine account to render with their immoral sentimentality. Do you recall a bit of Victor Hugo in la Legende des siecles, where a sultan is saved because he had pity on a pig? it is always the story of the penitent thief blessed because he has repented! To repent is good, but not to do evil is better. The school of rehabilitations has led us to see no difference between a rascal and an honest man. I became enraged once before witnesses, against Sainte-Beuve, while begging him to have as much indulgence for Balzac as he had for Jules Lecomte. He answered me, calling me a dolt! That is where BREADTH OF VIEW leads you.
They have so lost all sense of proportion, that the war council at Versailles treats Pipe-en-Bois more harshly than M. Courbet, Maroteau is condemned to death like Rossel! It is madness! These gentlemen, however, interest me very little. I think that they should have condemned to the galleys all the Commune, and have forced these bloody imbeciles to clear up the ruins of Paris, with a chain on their necks, like ordinary convicts. But that would have wounded HUMANITY. They are kind to the mad dogs, and not at all to the people whom the dogs have bitten.
That will not change so long as universal suffrage is what it is. Every man (as I think), no matter how low he is, has a right to ONE voice, his own, but he is not the equal of his neighbor, who may be worth a hundred times more. In an industrial enterprise (Societe anonyme), each holder votes according to the value of his contribution. It ought to be so in the government of a nation. I am worth fully twenty electors of Croisset. Money, mind, and even race ought to be reckoned, in short every resource. But up to the present I only see one! numbers! Ah! dear master, you who have so authority, you ought to take the lead. Your articles in le Temps, which have had a great success, are widely read and who knows? You would perhaps do France a great service?
Aisse keeps me very busy, or rather provokes me. I have not seen Chilly, I have had to do with Duquesnel. They are depriving me definitely of the senior Berton and proposing his son. He is very nice, but he is not at all the type conceived by the author. The Theatre Francais perhaps would ask nothing better than to take Aisse! I am very perplexed, and it is going to be necessary for me to decide. As for waiting till a literary wind arises, as it will never arise in my lifetime, it is better to risk the thing at once.
These theatrical affairs disturb me greatly, for I was in great form. For the last month I was even in an exaltation bordering on madness!
I have met the unavoidable Harrisse, a man who knows everyone, and who is a judge of everything, theatre, novels, finances, politics, etc. What a race is that of enlightened men!!! I have seen Plessy, charming and always beautiful. She asked me to send you a thousand friendly messages.
For my part, I send you a hundred thousand affectionate greetings.
Your old friend
CCII. TO GEORGE SAND 14 November, 1871
Ouf! I have just finished MY GODS, that is to say the mythological part of my Saint-Antoine, on which I have been working since the beginning of June. How I want to read it to you, dear master of the good God!
Why did you resist your good impulse? Why didn't you come this autumn? You should not stay so long without seeing Paris. I shall be there day after tomorrow, and I shall have no amusement there at all this winter, what with Aisse, a volume of verse to be printed (I should like to show you the preface), and Heaven knows what else. A lot of things that are not at all diverting.
I did not receive the second article that was announced. Your old troubadour has an aching head. My longest nights these three months have not exceeded five hours. I have been grubbing in a frantic manner. Furthermore, I think I have brought my book to a pretty degree of insanity. The idea of the foolish things that it will make the bourgeois utter sustains me, or rather I don't need to be sustained, as such a situation pleases me naturally.
The good bourgeois is becoming more and more stupid! He does not even go to vote! The brute beasts surpass him in their instinct for self-preservation. Poor France! Poor us!
What do you think I am reading now to distract myself? Bichat and Cabanis, who amuse me enormously. They knew how to write books then. Ah! how far our doctors of today are from those men!
We suffer from one thing only: Absurdity. But it is formidable and universal. When they talk of the brutishness of the plebe, they are saying an unjust, incomplete thing. Conclusion: the enlightened classes must be enlightened. Begin by the head, which is the sickest, the rest will follow.
You are not like me! You are full of compassion. There are days when I choke with wrath, I would like to drown my contemporaries in latrines, or at least deluge their cockscombs with torrents of abuse, cataracts of invectives. Why? I wonder myself.
What sort of archeology is Maurice busy with? Embrace your little girls warmly for me.
Your old friend
CCIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 23 November, 1871
I hear from Plauchut that you won't let yourself be abducted for our Christmas Eve REVELS. You say you have too much to do. That is so much the worse for us, who would have had such pleasure in seeing you.--You were at Ch. Edmond's successful play, you are well, you have a great deal to do, you still detest the silly bourgeois; and with all that, is Saint-Antoine finished and shall we read it soon?
I am giving you an easy commission to do, this is it: I have had to aid a respectable and interesting person [Footnote: Mademoiselle de Flaugergues.] to whom the Prussians have left for a bed and chair, only an old garden bench. I sent her 300 francs, she needed 600. I begged from kind souls. They sent me what was necessary, all except the Princess Mathilde, from whom I asked 200 francs. She answered me the 19th of this month: HOW SHALL I SEND THIS TO YOU?
I replied the same day; simply by mail. But I have received nothing. I do not insist, but I fear that the money may have been stolen or lost, and I am asking you to clear up the affair as quickly as possible.
With this, I embrace you, and Lolo, AURORE EMBRACES YOU TOO and all the family which loves you.
[The words 'Aurore embraces you too' were written by the little girl herself.]
CCIV. TO GEORGE SAND 1 December
Your letter which I have just found again, makes me remorseful, for I have not yet done your errand to the princess. I was several days without knowing where the princess was. She was to have come to get settled in Paris, and send me word of her arrival. Today at last I learn that she is at Saint-Gratien where I shall go on Sunday evening probably. Anyway your commission shall be done next week.
You must forgive me, for I have not had for the last two weeks ten minutes of freedom. The revival of Ruy Blas which was going to be put ahead of Aisse had to be PUT OFF (it was a hard job). Well, the rehearsals are to begin on Monday next. I read the play to the actors today, and the roles are to be verified tomorrow. I think it will go well. I have had Bouilhet's volume of verse printed, the preface of which I re-wrote. In short I am worn out! and sad! sad enough to croak. When I have to get into action I throw myself into it head first. But my heart is breaking in disgust. That is the truth.
I have seen none of our friends except Tourgueneff, whom I have found more charming than ever. Give a good kiss to Aurore for her sweet message, and let her kiss you for me.
Your old friend
CCV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 7 December, 1871
The money was stolen, I did not receive it, and it can not be claimed, for the sender would be liable to a suit. Thank the princess just the same for me, and for poor Mademoiselle de Flaugergues whom by the way, the minister is aiding with 200 francs. Her pension is 800.
You are in the midst of rehearsals, I pity you, and yet I imagine that in working for a friend one puts more heart in it, more confidence and much more patience. Patience, there is everything in that, and that is acquired.
I love you and I embrace you, how I would like to have you at Christmas! You can not, so much the worse for us. We shall drink you a toast and many speaches [sic].
CCVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 4 January, 1872
I want to embrace you at the first of the year and tell you that I love my old troubadour now and always, but I don't want you to answer me, you are in the thick of theatrical things, and you have not the time and the calmness to write. Here we called you at the stroke of midnight on Christmas, we called your name three times, did you hear it at all?
We are all getting on well, our little girls are growing, we speak of you often; my children embrace you also. May our affection bring you good luck!
CCVII. TO GEORGE SAND Sunday, January, 1872
At last I have a moment of quiet and I can write to you. But I have so many things to chat with you about, that I hardly know where to begin: (1) Your little letter of the 4th of January, which came the very morning of the premiere of Aisse, moved me to tears, dear well- beloved master. You are the only one who shows such delicacies of feeling.
The premiere was splendid, and then, that is all. The next night the theatre was almost empty. The press, in general, was stupid and base. They accused me of having wanted to advertise by INSERTING an incendiary tirade! I pass for a Red (sic). You see where we are!
The management of the Odeon has done nothing for the play! On the contrary. The day of the premiere it was I who brought with my own hands the properties for the first act! And on the third performance I led the supernumeraries.
Throughout the rehearsals they advertised in the papers the revival of Ruy Blas, etc., etc. They made me strangle la Baronne quite as Ruy Blas will strangle Aisse. In short, Bouilhet's heir will get very little money. Honor is saved, that is all.
I have had Dernieres Chansons printed. You will receive this volume at the same time as Aisse and a letter of mine to the Conseil municipal de Rouen. This little production seemed too violent to le Nouvelliste de Rouen, which did not dare to print it; but it will appear on Wednesday in le Temps, then at Rouen, as a pamphlet.
What a foolish life I have been leading for two and a half months! How is it that I have not croaked with it? My longest nights have not been over five hours. What running about! What letters! and what anger!--repressed--unfortunately! At last, for three days I have slept all I wanted to, and I am stupefied by it.
I was present with Dumas at the premiere of Roi Carotte. You can not imagine such rot! It is sillier and emptier than the worst of the fairy plays of Clairville. The public agreed with me absolutely.
The good Offenbach has had another failure at the Opera-Comique with Fantasio. Shall one ever get to hating piffle? That would be a fine step on the right path.
Tourgueneff has been in Paris since the first of December. Every week we have an engagement to read Saint-Antoine and to dine together. But something always prevents and we never meet. I am harassed more than ever by life and am disgusted with everything, which does not prevent me from being in better health than ever. Explain that to me.
CCVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 18 January, 1872
You must not be sick, you must not be a grumbler, my dear old troubadour. You must cough, blow your nose, get well, say that France is mad, humanity silly, and that we are crude animals; and you must love yourself, your kind, and your friends above all. I have some very sad hours. I look at MY FLOWERS, these two little ones who are always smiling, their charming mother and my wise hardworking son whom the end of the world will find hunting, cataloguing, doing his daily task, and gay withal AS PUNCH, in the RARE moments when he is resting.
He said to me this morning: "Tell Flaubert to come, I will take a vacation at once. I will play the marionettes for him, I will make him laugh."
Life in a crowd forbids reflection. You are too much alone. Come quickly to our house and let us love you.
CCIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Friday, 19 January, 1872
I did not know about all that affair at Rouen and I now understand your anger. But you are too angry, that is to say too good, and too good for them. With a BITTER and vindictive man these louts would be less spiteful and less bold. You have always called them brutes, you and Bouilhet, now they are avenging themselves on the dead and on the living. Ah! well, it is indeed that and nothing else.
Yesterday I was preaching the calmness of disdain to you. I see that this is not the moment, but you are not wicked, strong men are not cruel! With a bad mob at their heels, these fine men of Rouen would not have dared what they have dared!
I have the Chansons, tomorrow I shall read your preface, from beginning to end.
I embrace you.
CCX. TO GEORGE SAND
You will receive very soon: Dernieres Chansons, Aisse and my Lettre au Conseil municipal de Rouen, which is to appear tomorrow in le Temps before appearing as a pamphlet.
I have forgotten to tell you something, dear master. I have used your name. I have COMPROMISED you in citing you among the illustrious people who have subscribed to the monument for Bouilhet. I found that it looked well in the sentence. An effect of style being a sacred thing with me, don't disavow it.
Today I am starting again my metaphysical readings for Saint- Antoine. Next Saturday, I shall read a hundred and thirty pages of it, all that is finished, to Tourgueneff. Why won't you be there!
I embrace you.
Your old friend
CCXI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 25 January, 1872
You were quite right to put me down and I want to CONTRIBUTE too. Put me down for the sum you would like and tell me so that I may have it sent to you.
I have read your preface in le Temps: the end of it is very beautiful and touching. But I see that this poor friend was, like you, one who DID NOT GET OVER HIS ANGER, and at your age I should like to see you less irritated, less worried with the folly of others. For me, it is lost time, like complaining about being bored with the rain and the flies. The public which is accused often of being silly, gets angry and only becomes sillier; for angry or irritated, one becomes sublime if one is intelligent, idiotic if one is silly.
After all, perhaps this chronic indignation is a need of your constitution; it would kill me. I have a great need to be calm so as to reflect and to think things over. At this moment I am doing THE USEFUL at the risk of your anathemas. I am trying to simplify a child's approach to culture, being persuaded that the first study makes its impression on all the others and that pedagogy teaches us to look for knots in bulrushes. In short, I am working over A PRIMER, do not EAT ME ALIVE.
I have ONLY ONE regret about Paris: it is not to be a third with Tourgueneff when you read your Saint-Antoine. For all the rest, Paris does not call me at all; my heart has affections there that I do not wish to hurt, by disagreement with their ideas. It is impossible not to be tired of this spirit of party or of sect which makes people no longer French, nor men, nor themselves. They have no country, they belong to a church. They do what they disapprove of, so as not to disobey the discipline of the school. I prefer to keep silent. They would find me cold or stupid; one might as well stay at home.
You don't tell me of your mother; is she in Paris with her grandchild? I hope that your silence means that they are well. Everything has gone wonderfully here this winter; the children are excellent and give us nothing but joy. After the dismal winter of '70 to '71, one ought to complain of nothing.
Can one live peaceably, you say, when the human race is so absurd? I submit, while saying to myself that perhaps I am as absurd as every one else and that it is time to turn my mind to correcting myself.
I embrace you for myself and for all mine.
CCXII. TO GEORGE SAND
No! dear master! it is not true. Bouilhet never injured the bourgeois of Rouen; no one was gentler to them, I add even more cowardly, to tell the truth. As for me, I kept apart from them, that is all my crime.
I find by chance just today in Nadar's Memoirs du Geant, a paragraph on me and the people of Rouen which is absolutely exact. Since you own this book, look at page 100.
If I had kept silent they would have accused me of being a coward. I protested naively, that is to say brutally. And I did well.
I think that one ought never begin the attack; but when one answers, one must try to kill cleanly one's enemy. Such is my system. Frankness is part of loyalty; why should it be less perfect in blame than in praise?
We are perishing from indulgence, from clemency, from COWISHNESS and (I return to my eternal refrain) from lack of JUSTICE!
Besides, I have never insulted any one, I have kept to generalities,--as for M. Decorde, my intentions are for open warfare;--but enough of that! I spent yesterday, a fine day, with Tourgueneff to whom I read the hundred and fifteen pages of Saint- Antoine that are finished. After which, I read to him almost half of the Dernieres Chansons. What a listener! What a critic! He dazzled me by the depth and the clearness of his judgment. Ah! if all those who attempt to judge books had been able to hear, what a lesson! Nothing escapes him. At the end of a passage of a hundred lines, he remembers a weak epithet! he gave me two or three suggestions of exquisite detail for Saint-Antoine.
Do you think me very silly since you believe I am going to blame you for your primer? I have enough philosophic spirit to know that such a thing is very serious work.
Method is the highest thing in criticism, since it gives the means of creating.
CCXIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 28 January, 1872
Your preface is splendid and the book [Footnote: Dernieres Chansons, by Louis Bouilhet.] is divine! Mercy! I have made a line of poetry without realizing it, God forgive me. Yes, you are right, he was not second rank, and ranks are not given by decree, above all in an age when criticism undoes everything and does nothing. All your heart is in this simple and discreet tale of his life. I see very well now, why he died so young; he died from having lived too extensively in the mind. I beg of you not to absorb yourself so much in literature and learning. Change your home, move about, have mistresses or wives, whichever you like, and during these phases, must change the end that one lights. At my advanced age I throw myself into torrents of far niente; the most infantile amusements, the silliest, are enough for me and I return more lucid from my attacks of imbecility.
It was a great loss to art, that premature death. In ten years there will not be one single poet. Your preface is beautiful and well done. Some pages are models, and it is very true that the bourgeois will read that and find nothing remarkable in it. Ah! if one did not have the little sanctuary, the interior little shrine, where, without saying anything to anyone, one takes refuge to contemplate and to dream the beautiful and the true, one would have to say: "What is the use?"
I embrace you warmly.
Your old troubadour.
CCXIV. TO GEORGE SAND
Dear good master,
Can you, for le Temps, write on Dernieres Chansons? It would oblige me greatly. Now you have it.
I was ill all last week. My throat was in a frightful state. But I have slept a great deal and I am again afloat. I have begun anew my reading for Saint-Antoine.
It seems to me that Dernieres Chansons could lend itself to a beautiful article, to a funeral oration on poetry. Poetry will not perish, but its eclipse will be long and we are entering into the shades.
Consider if you have a mind for it and answer by a line.
CCXV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, in Paris Nohant, 17 February
My troubadour, I am thinking of what you asked me to do and I will do it; but this week I must rest. I played the fool too much at the carnival with my grandchildren and my great-nephews.
I embrace you for myself and for all my brood.
CCXVI. TO GEORGE SAND
What a long time it is since I have written to you, dear master. I have so many things to say to you that I don't know where to begin. Oh! how horrid it is to live so separated when we love each other.
Have you given Paris an eternal adieu? Am I never to see you again there? Are you coming to Croisset this summer to hear Saint-Antoine?
As for me, I can not go to Nohant, because my time, considering my straitened purse, is all counted; but I have still I a full month of readings and researches in Paris. After that I am going away with my mother: we are in search of a companion for her. It is not easy to find one. Then, towards Easter I shall be back at Croisset, and shall start to work again at the manuscript. I am beginning to want to write.
Just now, I am reading in the evening, Kant's Critique de la raison pure, translated by Barni, and I am freshening up my Spinoza. During the day I amuse myself by looking over bestiaries of the middle ages; looking up in the "authorities" all the most baroque animals. I am in the midst of fantastic monsters.
When I have almost exhausted the material I shall go to the Museum to muse before real monsters, and then the researches for the good Saint-Antoine will be finished.
In your letter before the last one you showed anxiety about my health; reassure yourself! I have never been more convinced that it was robust. The life that I have led this winter was enough to kill three rhinoceroses, but nevertheless I am well. The scabbard must be solid, for the blade is well sharpened; but everything is converted into sadness! Any action whatever disgusts me with life! I have followed your counsels, I have sought distractions! But that amuses me very little. Decidedly nothing but sacrosanct literature interests me.
My preface to the Dernieres Chansons has aroused in Madame Colet a pindaric fury. I have received an anonymous letter from her, in verse, in which she represents me as a charlatan who beats the drum on the tomb of his friend, a vulgar wretch who debases himself before criticism, after having "flattered Caesar"! "Sad example of the passions," as Prudhomme would say.
A propos of Caesar, I can not believe, no matter what they say, in his near return. In spite of my pessimism, we have not come to that! However, if one consulted the God called Universal Suffrage, who knows?...Ah! we are very low, very low!
I saw Ruy Blas badly played except for Sarah. Melingue is a sleep- walking drain-man, and the others are as tiresome. As Victor Hugo had complained in a friendly way that I had not paid him a call, I thought I ought to do so and I found him ...charming! I repeat the word, not at all "the great man," not at all a pontiff! This discovery greatly surprised me and did me worlds of good. For I have the bump of veneration and I like to love what I admire. That is a personal allusion to you, dear, kind master.
I have met Madame Viardot whom I found a very curious temperament. It was Tourgueneff who took me to her house.
CCXVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Nohant, from the 28 to the 29 February 1872. Night of Wednesday to Thursday, three o'clock in the morning.
Ah! my dear old friend, what a dreadful twelve days I have spent! Maurice has been very ill. Continually these terrible sore throats, which in the beginning seem nothing, but which are complicated with abscesses and tend to become membranous. He has not been in danger, but always IN DANGER OF DANGER, and he has had cruel suffering, loss of voice, he could not swallow; every anguish attached to the violent sore throat that you know well, since you have just had one. With him, this trouble continually tends to get worse, and his mucous membrane has been so often the seat of the same illness that it lacks energy to react. With that, little or no fever, almost always on his feet, and the moral depression of a man used to continual exercise of body and mind, whom the mind and body forbids to exercise. We have looked after him so well that he is now, I think, out of the woods, although, this morning, I was afraid again and sent for Doctor Favre, our USUAL savior.
Throughout the day I have been talking to him, to distract him, about your researches on monsters; he had his papers brought so as to hunt among them for what might be useful you; but he has found only the pure fantasies of his own invention. I found them so original and so funny that I have encouraged him to send them to you. They will be of no use to you except to make you burst out laughing in your hours recreation.
I hope that we are going to come to life again without new relapses. He is the soul and the life of the house. When he is depressed we are dead; mother, wife, and children. Aurore says that she would like to be very ill in her father's place We love each other passionately, we five, and the SACROSANCT LITERATURE as you call it, is only secondary in my life. I have always loved some one more than it and my family more than that some one.
Pray why is your poor little mother so irritable and desperate, in the very midst of an old age that when I last saw her was still so green and so gracious? Is her deafness sudden? Did she entirely lack philosophy and patience before these infirmities? I suffer with you because I understand what you are suffering.
Another old age which is worse, since it is becoming malicious, is that of Madame Colet. I used to think that all her hatred was directed against me, and that seemed to me a bit of madness; for I had never done or said anything against her, even after that vile book in which she poured out all her fury WITHOUT cause. What has she against you now that passion has become ancient history? Strange! strange! And, a propos of Bouilhet, she hated him then, him too this poor poet? She is mad.
You may well think that I was not able to write an iota for these twelve days. I am going, I hope, to start at work as soon as I have finished my novel which has remained with one foot in the air at the last pages. It is on the point of being published but has not yet been finished. I am up every night till dawn; but I have not had a sufficiently tranquil mind to be distracted from my patient.
Good night, dear good friend of my heart.
Heavens! don't work nor sit up too much, as you also have sore throats. They are terrible and treacherous illnesses. We all love you, and we embrace you. Aurore is charming; she learns all that we want her to, we don't know how, without seeming to notice it.
What kind of a woman do you want as a companion for your mother? Perhaps I know of such a one. Must she converse and read aloud? It seems to me that the deafness is a barrier to that. Isn't it a question of material care and continual diligence? What are the stipulations and what is the compensation?
Tell me how and why father Hugo did not have one single visit after Ruy Blas? Did Gautier, Saint-Victor, his faithful ones, neglect him? Have they quarreled about politics?
CCXVIII. TO GEORGE SAND March, 1872
I have received the fantastic drawings, which have diverted me. Is there perhaps profound symbolism hidden in Maurice's work? But I did not find it. ... Revery!
There are two very pretty monsters: (1) an embryo in the form of a balloon on four feet; (2) a death's head emanating from an intestinal worm.
We have not found a companion yet. It seems difficult to me, we must have someone who can read aloud and who is very gentle; we should also give her some charge of the household. She would not have much bodily care to give, as my mother would keep her maid.
We must have someone who is kind above all, and perfectly honest. Religious principles are not objected to! The rest is left to your perspicacity, dear master! That is all.
I am uneasy about Theo. I think that he is getting strangely old. He must be very ill, doubtless with heart trouble, don't you think so? Still another who is preparing to leave me.
No! literature is not what I love most in the world, I explained myself badly (in my last letter). I spoke to you of distractions and of nothing more. I am not such a pedant as to prefer phrases to living beings. The further I go the more my sensibility is exasperated. But the basis is solid and the thing goes on. And then, after the Prussian war there is no further great annoyance possible.
And the Critique de la raison pure of the previously mentioned Kant, translated by Barni, is heavier reading than the Vie Parisienne of Marcelin; never mind! I shall end by understanding it.
I have almost finished the scenario of the last part of Saint Antoine. I am in a hurry to start writing. It is too long since I have written. I am bored with style!
And tell me more about you, dear master! Give me at once news of Maurice, and tell me if you think that the lady you know would suit us.
And thereupon I embrace you with both arms.
Your old troubadour always agitated, always as wrathful as Saint Polycarp.
CCXIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 17 March, 1872
No, dear friend, Maurice is almost well again but I have been tired, worn out with URGENT work: finishing my novel, and correcting a mass of proof from the beginning. And then unanswered letters, business, no time to breathe! That is why I have not been able to write the article on Bouilhet, and as Nanon has begun, as they are publishing five numbers a week in le Temps, I don't see where I shall publish that article very soon.
In the Revue des Deux Mondes, they don't want me to write criticism; whoever is not, or was not of their circle, has no talent, and they do not give me the right to say the contrary.
There is, to be sure, a new review wide open to me, which is published by very fine people, but it is more widely read in other countries than in France, and you will find perhaps that an article in that would not excite comment. It is the Revue universelle directed by Amedee Marteau. Discuss that with Charles Edmond. Ask him if, in spite of the fact that Nanon is being published, he could find me a little corner in the body of the paper.
As for the companion, you may rest assured that I am looking for her. The one whom I had in view is not suitable, for she could not read aloud, and I am not sure enough of the others to propose them. I thought that your poor mother was too deaf to listen to reading, and to converse, and that it would be enough for her to have some one very gentle, and charming, to care for her, and to stay with her.
That is all, my dear old friend, it is not my fault, I embrace you with all my heart. For the moment that is the only thing that is functioning. My brain is too stupefied.
CCXX. TO GEORGE SAND Croisset
Here I am, back again here, dear master, and not very happy; my mother worries me. Her decline increases from day to day, and almost from hour to hour. She wanted me to come home although the painters have not finished their work, and we are very inconveniently housed. At the end of next week, she will have a companion who will relieve me in this foolish business of housekeeping.
As for me, I have quite decided not to make the presses groan for many years, solely not to have "business" to look after, to avoid all connection with publishers, editors and papers, and above all not to hear of money.
My incapacity, in that direction, has developed to frightful proportions. Why should the sight of a bill put me in a rage? It verges on madness. Aisse has not made money. Dernieres Chansons has almost gotten me into a lawsuit. The story of la Fontaine is not ended. I am tired, profoundly tired, of everything.
If only I do not make a failure also of Saint-Antoine. I am going to start working on it again in a week, when I have finished with Kant and Hegel. These two great men are helping to stupefy me, and when I leave them I fall with eagerness upon my old and thrice great Spinoza. What genius, how fine a work the Ethics is!
CCXXI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset 9 April, 1872
I am with you all day and all night, and at every instant, my poor dear friend. I am thinking of all the sorrow that you are in the midst of. I would like to be near you. The misfortune of being tied here distresses me. I would like a word so as to know if you have the courage that you need. The end of that noble and dear life has been sad and long; for from the day that she became feeble, she declined and you could not distract her and console her. Now, alas! the incessant and cruel task is ended, as the things of this world end, anguish after struggle! What a bitter achievement of rest! and you are going to miss this anxiety, I am sure of that. I know the sort of dismay that follows the combat with death.
In short, my poor child, I can only open a maternal heart to you which will replace nothing, but which is suffering with yours, and very keenly in each one of your troubles.
CCXXII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 14 April, 1872
My daughter-in-law has been staying several days with our friends, at Nimes, to stop a bad case of WHOOPING-COUGH that Gabrielle was suffering with, to separate her from Aurore, from fear of contagion, and to recuperate, for she has not been well for some time. As for me, I am well again. That little illness and this departure suddenly resolved upon and accomplished, have upset my plans somewhat. I had to look after Aurore so that she might be reconciled to it, and I have not had a moment to answer you. I am wondering too if you don't like it better to be left to yourself these first few days. But I beguile the need I feel of being near you at this sad time, by telling you over and over again, my poor, dear friend, how much I love you. Perhaps, too, your family has taken you to Rouen or to Dieppe, so as not to let you go back at once into that sad house. I don't know anything about your plans, in case those which you made to absorb yourself in work are changed. If you have any inclination to travel, and the sinews of war are lacking, I have ready for you a few sous that I have just earned, and I put them at your disposal. Don't feel constrained with me any more than I would with you, dear child. They are going to pay me for my novel in five or six days at the office of le Temps; you need only to write me a line and I shall see that you get it in Paris. A word when you can, I embrace you, and so does Maurice, very tenderly.
CCXXIII. TO GEORGE SAND Tuesday, 16 April, 1872
Dear good master,
I should have answered at once your first, very kind letter. But I was too sad. I lacked physical strength.
At last, today, I am beginning to hear the birds singing and to see the leaves growing green. The sun irritates me no longer, which is a good sign. If I could feel like working again I should be all right.
Your second letter (that of yesterday) moved me to tears! You are so good! What a splendid creature you are! I do not need money now, thank you. But if I did need any, I should certainly ask you for it.
My mother has left Croisset to Caroline with the condition that I should keep my apartments there. So, until the estate is completely settled, I stay here. Before deciding on the future, I must know what I have to live on, after that we shall see.
Shall I have the strength to live absolutely alone in solitude? I doubt it, I am growing old. Caroline cannot live here now. She has two dwellings already, and the house at Croisset is expensive. I think I shall give up my Paris lodging. Nothing calls me to Paris any longer. All my friends are dead, and the last one, poor Theo, is not for long, I fear. Ah! it is hard to grow a new skin at fifty years of age!
I realized, during the last two weeks, that my poor dear, good mother was the being that I have loved the most! It is as if someone had torn out a part of my vitals.
CCXXIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 28 April, 1872
I hold my poor Aurore, who has a terrible case of whooping-cough, day and night in my arms. I have an important piece of work that I must finish, and which I shall finish in spite of everything. If I have not already done the article on Bouilhet, rest assured it is because it is IMPOSSIBLE. I shall do it at the same time as that on l'Annee terrible. I shall go to Paris between the 20th and 25th of May, at the latest. Perhaps sooner, if Maurice takes Aurore to Nimes where Lina and the littlest one are. I shall write to you, you must come to see me in Paris, or I will go to see you.
I thirst too to embrace you, to console you--no, but to tell you that your sorrows are mine. Good-bye till then, a line to tell me if your affairs are getting settled, and if you are coming out on top.
Your old G. Sand
CCXXV. TO GEORGE SAND
What good news, dear master! In a month and even before a month, I shall see you at last!
Try not to be too hurried in Paris, so that we may have the time to talk. What would be very nice, would be, if you came back here with me to spend several days. We should be quieter than there; "my poor old mother" loved you very much, would be sweet to see you in her house, when she has been gone only such a short time.
I have started work again, for existence is only tolerable when one forgets one's miserable self.
It will be a long time before I know what I have to live on. For all the fortune that is left to us is in meadowland, and in order to divide it, we have to sell it all.
Whatever happens, I shall keep my apartments at Croisset. That will be my refuge, and perhaps even my only habitation. Paris hardly attracts me any longer. In a little while I shall have no more friends there. The human being (the eternal feminine included) amuses me less and less.
Do you know that my poor Theo is very ill? He is dying from boredom and misery. No one speaks his language anymore! We are like fossils who subsist astray in a new world.
CCXXVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 18 May, 1872
Dear friend of my heart, your inability does not disturb me at all, on the contrary. I have the grippe and the prostration that follows it. I cannot go to Paris for a week yet, and shall be there during the first part of June. My little ones are both in the sheepfold. I have taken good care of and cured the eldest, who is strong. The other is very tired, and the trip did not prevent the whooping- cough. For my part, I have worked very hard in caring for my dear one, and as soon as my task was over, as soon as I saw my dear world reunited and well again, I collapsed. It will be nothing, but I have not the strength to write. I embrace you, and I count on seeing you soon.
CCXXVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, Monday, 3 June, 1872, Rue Gay Lussac, 5
I am in Paris, and for all this week, in the horror of personal business. But next week will you come? I should like to go to see you in Croisset, but I do not know if I can. I have taken Aurore's whooping-cough, and, at my age, it is severe. I am, however, better, but hardly able to go about. Write me a line, so I can reserve the hours that you can give me. I embrace you, as I love you, with a full heart.
CCXXVIII. TO GEORGE SAND 1872
The hours that I could give you, dear Master! Why, all the hours, now, by and by, and forever.
I am planning to go to Paris at the end of next week, the 14th or the 16th. Shall you be there still? If not, I shall go earlier.
But I should like it much better if you came here. We should be quieter, without callers or intruders! More than ever, I should like to have you now in my poor Croisset.
It seems to me that we have enough to talk about without stopping for twenty-four hours. Then I would read you Saint-Antoine, which lacks only about fifteen pages of being finished. However, don't come if your cough continues. I should be afraid that the dampness would hurt you.
The mayor of Vendome has asked me "to honor with my presence" the dedication of the statue of Ronsard, which occurs the 23rd of this month: I shall go. And I should even like to deliver an address there which would be a protest against the universal modern flap- doodle. The occasion is good. But for the production of a really appropriate little gem, I lack the snap and vivacity.
Hoping to see you soon, dear master, your old troubadour who embraces you.
CCXXIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 7 June, 1872
Your old troubadour has such a bad cough that a little bit more would be the last straw. On the other hand, they cannot get on without me at our house, and I cannot stay longer than next week, that is to say, the 15th or the 16th. If you could come next Thursday, the 13th, I should reserve the 13th, the 14th, even the 15th, to be with you at my house for the day for dinner, for the evening, in short, just as if we were in the country, where we could read and converse. I would be supposed to have gone away.
A word at once, I embrace you as I love you.
CCXXX. TO GEORGE SAND
Have you promised your support to the candidacy of Duquesnel? if not, I should like to beg you to use to the utmost your influence to support my friend, Raymond Deslandes, as if he were
Your old troubadour,
Thursday, three o'clock, 13 June, 1872.
Answer me categorically, so that we may know what you will do.
CCXXXI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset ..Nohant, 5 July, 1872
I must write to you today. Sixty-eight years old. Perfect health in spite of the cough, which lets me sleep now that I am plunging daily in a furious little torrent, cold as ice. It boils around the stones, the flowers, the great grasses in a delicious shade. It is an ideal place to bathe.
We have had some terrible storms: lightning struck in our garden; and our stream, the Indre, has become like a torrent in the Pyrenees. It is not unpleasant. What a fine summer! The grain is seven feet high, the wheat fields are sheets of flowers. The peasant thinks that there are too many; but I let him talk, it is so lovely! I go on foot to the stream, I jump, all boiling hot, into the icy water. The doctor says that is madness. I let him talk, too; I am curing myself while his patients look after themselves and croak. I am like the grass of the fields: water and sun, that is all I need.
Are you off for the Pyrenees? Ah! I envy you, I love them so! I have taken frantic trips there; but I don't know Luchon. Is it lovely, too? You won't go there without seeing the Cirque of Gavarnie, and the road that leads there, will you? And Cauterets and the lake of Gaube? And the route of Saint-Sauveur? Heavens! How lucky one is to travel and to see the mountains, the flowers, the cliffs! Does all that bore you?
Do you remember the editors, the theatrical managers, the readers and the public when you are running about the country! As for me, I forget everything as I do when Pauline Viardot is singing.
The other day we discovered, about three leagues from here, a wilderness, an absolute wilderness of woods in a great expanse of country, where not one hut could be seen, not a human being, not a sheep, not a fowl, nothing but flowers, butterflies and birds all day. But where will my letter find you? I shall wait to send it to you till you give me an address!
CCXXXII. TO GEORGE SAND Bagneres de Luchon, 12th July, 1872
I have been here since Sunday evening, dear master, and no happier than at Croisset, even a little less so, for I am very idle. They make so much noise in the house where we are that it is impossible to work. Moreover, the sight of the bourgeois who surround us is unendurable. I am not made for travelling. The least inconvenience disturbs me. Your old troubadour is very old, decidedly! Doctor Lambron, the physician of this place, attributes my nervous tendencies to the excessive use of tobacco. To be agreeable I am going to smoke less; but I doubt very much if my virtue will cure me!
I have just read Dickens's Pickwick. Do you know that? There are superb passages in it; but what defective composition! All English writers are the same; Walter Scott excepted, all lack a plot. That is unendurable for us Latins.
Mister ***** is certainly nominated, as it seems. All the people who have had to do with the Odeon, beginning with you, dear master, will repent of the support that they have given him. As for me, who, thank Heaven, have no more connection with that establishment, I don't give a whoop.
As I am going to begin a book which will exact much reading, and since I don't want to ruin myself in books, do you know of any dealer in Paris who would rent me all the books that I designated?
What are you doing now? We saw each other so little and so inconveniently the last time.
This letter is stupid. But they are making such a noise over my head that it is not clear (my head).
In the midst of my bewilderment, I embrace you and yours also. Your old blockhead who loves you.
CCXXXIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 19 July, 1872
Dear old troubadour,
We too are going away, but without knowing yet where we are going; it doesn't make any difference to me. I wanted to take my brood to Switzerland; they would rather go in the opposite direction, to the Ocean; the Ocean will do! If only we travel and bathe, I shall be out of my mind with joy. Decidedly our two old troubadourships are two opposites. What bores you, amuses me; I love movement and noise, and even the tiresome things about travelling find favor in my eyes, provided they are a part of travelling. I am much more sensible to what disturbs the calm of sedentary life, than to that which is a normal and necessary disturbance in the life of motion.
I am absolutely like my grandchildren, who are intoxicated beforehand without knowing why. But it is curious to see how children, while loving the change, want to take with them their surroundings, their accustomed playthings, when they go out into the world. Aurore is packing her dolls' trunk, and Gabrielle, who likes animals better, intends to take her rabbits, her little dog, and a little pig that she is taking care of until she eats it. SUCH IS LIFE [sic].
I believe that, in spite of your bad temper, this trip will do you good. It will make you rest your brain, and if you have to smoke less, so much the better! Health above all. I hope that your niece will make you move around a bit; she is your child; she ought to have some authority over you, or the world would be turned upside down.
I cannot refer you to the bookshop that you need for borrowing books. I send for such things to Mario Proth, and I don't know where he finds them. When you get back to Paris, tell him from me to inform you. He is a devoted fellow, as obliging as possible. He lives at 2 rue Visconti. It occurs to me that Charles Edmond, too, might give you very good information; Troubat, [Footnote: Sainte- Beuve's secretary.] also.
You are surprised that spoken words are not contracts; you are very simple; in business nothing holds except written documents. We are Don Quixotes, my old troubadour; we must resign ourselves to being trimmed by the innkeepers. Life is like that, and he who does not want to be deceived must go to live in a desert. It is not living to keep away from all the evil of this nether-world. One must swallow the bitter with the sweet.
As to your Saint-Antoine, if you let me, I shall see about finding you a publisher or a review on my next trip to Paris, but we ought to talk about it together and you ought to read it to me. Why shouldn't you come to us in September? I shall be at home until winter.
You ask me what I am doing now: I have done, since I left Paris, an article on Mademoiselle de Flaugergues, which will appear in l'Opinion nationale with a work by her; an article for le Temps on Victor Hugo, Bouilhet, Leconte de Lisle and Pauline Viardot. I hope that you will be pleased with what I said about your friend; I have done a second fantastic tale for the Revue des Deux Mondes, a tale for children. I have written about a hundred letters, for the most part to make up for the folly or to soften the misery of imbeciles of my acquaintance. Idleness is the plague of this age, and life is passed in working for those who do not work. I do not complain. I am well! every day I plunge into the Indre and into its icy cascades, my sixty-eight years and my whooping-cough. When I am no longer useful nor agreeable to others, I want to go away quietly without saying OUF! or at least, not saying anything except that against poor mankind, which is not worth much, but of which I am part, not being worth perhaps very much myself.
I love you and I embrace you. My family does too, Plauchut included. He is going to travel with us.
When we are SOMEWHERE FOR SEVERAL DAYS I shall write to you for news.
CCXXXIV. TO GEORGE SAND Croisset, Thursday
In the letter I received from you at Luchon a month ago, you told me that you were packing up, and then that was all. No more news! I have permitted myself to assume, as the good Brantome would say, that you were at Cabourg! When do you return? Where do you go then? To Paris or to Nohant? A question.
As for me, I am not leaving Croisset. From the 1st to the 20th or 25th of September I shall have to go about a bit on business. I shall go to Paris. Write then to rue Murillo.
I should like very much to see you: (1) to see you; (2) to read you Saint-Antoine, then to talk to you about another more important book, etc., and to talk about a hundred other things privately.
CCXXXV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 31 August, 1872
My old troubadour,
Here we are back again at home, after a month passed, just as you said, at Cabourg, where chance more than intention placed us. We all took wonderful sea baths, Plauchut, too. We often talked of you with Madame Pasca who was our neighbor at table, and had the room next us. We have returned in splendid health, and we are glad to see our old Nohant again, after having been glad to leave it for a little change of air.
I have resumed my usual work, and I continue my river baths, but no one will accompany me, it is too cold. As for me, I found fault with the sea for being too warm. Who would think that, with my appearance and my tranquil old age, I would still love EXCESS? My dominant passion on the whole is my Aurore. My life depends on hers. She was so lovely on the trip, so gay, so appreciative of the amusements that we gave her, so attentive to what she saw, and curious about everything with so much intelligence, that she is real and sympathetic company at every hour. Ah! how UNLITERARY I am! Scorn me but still love me.
I don't know if I shall find you in Paris when I go there for my play. I have not arranged with the Odeon for the date of its performance. I am waiting for Duquesnel for the final reading.--And then I expect Pauline Viardot about the 20th of September, and I hope Tourgueneff too, won't you come also? it would be so nice and so complete!
In this hope which I will not give up, I love you and I embrace you with all my soul, and my children join me in loving you and summoning you.
CCXXXVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Paris Nohant, 25 October, 1872
Your letters fall on me like a rain that refreshes, and develops at once all that is germinating in the soil; they make me want to answer your reasons, because your reasons are powerful and inspire a reply.
I do not assume that my replies will be strong too; they are sincere, they issue from the roots of my being, like the plants aforesaid. That is why I have just written a paper on the subject that you raise, addressing myself this time TO A WOMAN FRIEND, who has written me also in your vein, but less well than you, of course, and a little from an aristocratically intellectual point of view, to which she has not ALL THE RIGHTS SHE DESIRES.
My roots, one can't extirpate them, and I am astonished that you ask me to make tulips come from them when they can answer you by producing only potatoes. Since the beginning of my intellectual blooming, when, studying quite alone at the bedside of my paralyzed grandmother, or in the fields at the times when I entrusted her to Deschartres, I asked myself the most elementary questions about society; I was no more advanced at seventeen than a child of six, not as much! thanks to Deschartres, my father's teacher, who was a contradiction from his head to his feet, much learning and little sense; thanks to the convent, into which they stuck me, God knows why, as they believed in nothing; thanks also to a purely Restoration surrounding in which my grandmother, a philosopher, but dying, breathed her last without resisting further the monarchical current.
Then I read Chateaubriand, and Rousseau; I passed from the Gospels to the Contrat social. I read the history of the Revolution written by the pious, the history of France, written by philosophers; and, one fine day, I made all that agree like light proceeding from two lamps, and I had PRINCIPLES. Don't laugh, very candid, childish principles which have remained with me through all, through Lelia and the romantic epoch, through love and doubt, enthusiasm and disenchantments. To love, to make sacrifices, only to reconsider when the sacrifice is harmful to those who are the object of it, and to sacrifice oneself again in the hope of serving a real cause, love.
I am not speaking here of personal passion, but of love of race, of the widening sentiment of self-love, of the horror of THE ISOLATED MOI. And that ideal of JUSTICE of which you speak, I have never seen it apart from love, since the first law on which the existence of a natural society depends, is that we shall serve each other mutually, like the bees and the ants. This concurrence of all to the same end, we have agreed to call instinct among beasts, and it does not matter, but among men, the instinct is love; he who withdraws himself from love, withdraws himself from truth, from justice.
I have experienced revolutions, and I have seen the principal actors near to; I have seen the depth of their souls, I should say the bottom of their bag: NO PRINCIPLES! and no real intelligence, no force, nor endurance. Nothing but means and a personal end. Only one had principles, not all of them good, but in comparison with their integrity, he counted his personality for nothing: Barbes.
Among artists and literary men, I have found no depth. You are the only one with whom I have been able to exchange other ideas than those of the profession. I don't know if you were at Magny's one day when I said to them that they were all GENTLEMEN. They said that one should not write for ignoramuses. They spurned me because I wanted to write only for them, as they are the only ones who need anything. The masters are provided for, are rich, satisfied. Imbeciles lack everything, I am sorry for them. Loving and pitying are not to be separated. And there you have the uncomplicated mechanism of my thought.
I have the passion for goodness and not at all for prejudiced sentimentality. I spit with all my might upon him who pretends to hold my principles and acts contrary to them. I do not pity the incendiary and the assassin who fall under the hand of the law; I do pity profoundly the class which a brutal, degenerate life without upward trend and without aid, brings to the point of producing such monsters. I pity humanity, I wish it were good, because I cannot separate myself from it; because it is myself; because the evil it does strikes me to the heart; because its shame makes me blush; because its crimes gnaw at my vitals, because I cannot understand paradise in heaven nor on earth for myself alone.
You ought to understand me, you who are goodness from head to foot.
Are you still in Paris? It has been such fine weather that I have been tempted to go there to embrace you, but I don't dare to spend the money, however little it may be, when there is so much poverty. I am miserly because I know that I am extravagant when I forget, and I continually forget. And then I have so much to do!...I don't know anything and I don't learn anything, for I am always forced to learn it over again. I do very much need, however, to see you again, for a little bit; it is a part of myself which I miss.
My Aurore keeps me very busy. She understands too quickly and we have to take her at a hard gallop. To understand fascinates her, to know repels her. She is as lazy as monsieur, her father, was. He has gotten over it so well that I am not impatient. She promises me to write you a letter soon. You see that she does not forget you. Titite's Punch has lost his head, literally, because he has been so embraced and caressed. He is loved as much without his head; what an example of fidelity in misfortune! His stomach has become a receptacle where playthings are put.
Maurice is deep in his archeological studies, Lina is always adorable, and all goes well except that the maids are not clean. What a road the creatures have still to travel who do not keep themselves clean!
I embrace you. Tell me how you are getting on with Aisse, the Odeon and all that stuff you are busy about. I love you; that is the end of all my discourses.
CCXXXVII. TO GEORGE SAND
In your last letter, among the nice things that you say to me, you praise me for not being "haughty"; one is not haughty with what is high. Therefore, in this aspect, you cannot know me. I object.
Although I consider myself a good man, I am not always an agreeable gentleman, witness what happened to me Thursday last. After having lunched with a lady whom I had called "imbecile," I went to call on another whom I had said was "ninny"; such is my ancient French gallantry. The first one had bored me to death with her spiritualistic discourses and her pretensions to ideality; the second outraged me by telling me that Renan was a rascal. Observe that she confessed to me that she had not read his books. There are some subjects about which I lose patience, and, when a friend is slandered before my very face, the savage in my blood returns, I see red. Nothing more foolish! for it serves no purpose and hurts me frightfully.
This vice, by the way, BETRAYING ONE'S FRIENDS IN PUBLIC, seems to me to be taking gigantic proportions!
CCXXXVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 26 October, 1872
Here is another chagrin for you; a sorrow foreseen, but none the less distressing. Poor Theo! I pity him deeply, not because he is dead, but because he has not been really living for twenty years; and if he had consented to live, to exist, to act, to forget a bit his intellectual personality so as to conserve his material personality, he could have lived a long time yet, and have renewed his resources which he was too much inclined to make a sterile treasure. They say that he suffered greatly from hardship during the siege. I understand it, but afterward? why and how?
I am worried at not having had news from you for a long time. Are you at Croisset? You must have been in Paris for the funeral of this poor friend. What cruel and repeated separations! I am angry with you for becoming savage and discontented with life. It seems to me that you regard happiness too much as a possible thing, and that the absence of happiness which is our chronic state, angers you and astonishes you too much. You shun friends, you plunge into work, and reckon ass lost the time you might employ in loving or in being loved. Why didn't you come to us with Madame Viardot and Tourgueneff? You like them, you admire them, you know that you are adored here, and you run away to be alone. Well, how about getting married? Being alone is odious, it is deadly, and it is cruel also for those who love you. All your letters are unhappy and grip my heart. Haven't you any woman whom you love or by whom you would be loved with pleasure? Take her to live with you. Isn't there anywhere a little urchin whose father you can believe you are? Bring him up. Make yourself his slave, forget yourself in him.
What do I know? To live in oneself is bad. There is intellectual pleasure only in the possibility of returning to it when one has been out for a long time; but to live always in this Moi which is the most tyrannical, the most exacting, the most fantastic of companions, no, one must not.--I beg you, listen to me! You are shutting up an exuberant nature in a jail, you are making out of a tender and indulgent heart, a deliberate misanthrope,--and you will not make a success of it. In short, I am worried about you, and I am saying perhaps some foolishness to you; but we live in cruel times and we must not undergo them with curses. We must rise above them with pity. That's it! I love you, write to me.
I shall not go to Paris until after a month's time to put on Mademoiselle La Quintinie. Where shall you be?
CCXXXIX. TO GEORGE SAND Monday night, 28 October, 1872
You have guessed rightly, dear master, that I had an increase of sorrow, and you have written me a very tender, good letter, thanks; I embrace you even more warmly than usual.
Although expected, the death of poor Theo has distressed me. He is the last of my intimates to go. He closes the list. Whom shall I see now when I go to Paris? With whom shall I talk of what interests me? I know some thinkers (at least people who are called so), but an artist, where is there any? For my part, I tell you he died from the "putrescence of modern times." That is his word, and he repeated it to me this winter several times: "I am dying of the Commune," etc.
The 4th of September has inaugurated an order of things in which people like him have nothing more in the world to do. One must not demand apples of orange trees. Artisans in luxury are useless in a society dominated by plebeians. How I regret him! He and Bouilhet have left an absolute void in me, and nothing can take their place. Besides he was always so good, and no matter what they say, so simple. People will recognize later (if they ever return seriously to literature), that he was a great poet. Meanwhile he is an absolutely unknown author. So indeed is Pierre Corneille.
He hated two things: the hate of the Philistines in his youth, that gave him his talent; the hate of the blackguards in his riper years, this last killed him. He died of suppressed fury, of wrath at not being able to say what he thought. He was OPPRESSED by Girardin, by Fould, by Dalloz, and by the first Republic. I tell you that, because _I_ HAVE SEEN abominable things and I am the only man perhaps to whom he made absolute confidences. He lacked what was the most important thing in life for him and for others: CHARACTER. That he failed of the Academy was to him a dreadful chagrin. What weakness! and how little he must have esteemed himself! To seek an honor no matter what, seems to me, besides, an act of incomprehensible modesty.
I was not at his funeral owing to the mistake of Catulle Mendes, who sent me a telegram too late. There was a crowd. A lot of scoundrels and buffoons came to advertise themselves as usual, and today, Monday, the day of the theatrical paper, there must be bits in the bulletins, THAT WILL MAKE COPY. To resume, I do not pity him, I ENVY HIM. For, frankly, life is not amusing.
No, I don't think that HAPPINESS IS POSSIBLE, but certainly tranquillity. That is why I get away from what irritates me. A trip to Paris is for me now, a great business. As soon as I shake the vessel, the dregs mount and permeate all. The least conversation with anyone at all exasperates me because I find everyone idiotic. My feeling of justice is continually revolted. They talk ONLY of politics and in what a fashion! Where is there a sign of an idea? What can one get hold of? What shall one get excited about?
I don't think, however, that I am a monster of egoism. My Moi scatters itself in books so that I pass whole days without noticing it. I have bad moments, it is true, but I pull myself together by this reflection: "No one at least bothers me." After that, I regain my balance. So I think that I am going on in my natural path; am I right?
As for living with a woman, marrying as you advise me to do that is a prospect that I find fantastic. Why? I don't know. But it is so. Explain the riddle. The feminine being has never been included in my life; and then, I am not rich enough, and then, and then--...I am too old, and too decent to inflict forever my person on another. There is in me an element of the ecclesiastical that people don't know. We shall talk about that better than we can write of it.
I shall see you in Paris in December, but in Paris one is disturbed by others. I wish you three hundred performances for Mademoiselle La Quintinie. But you will have a lot of bother with the Odeon. It is an institution where I suffered horribly last winter. Every time that I attempted to do anything they dished me. So, enough! enough! "Hide thy life," maxim of Epictetus. My whole ambition now is to flee from bother, and I am sure by that means never to cause any to others, that is much.
I am working like a madman, I am reading medicine, metaphysics, politics, everything. For I have undertaken a work of great scope, which will require a lot of time, a prospect that pleases me.
Ever since a month ago, I have been expecting Tourgueneff from week to week. The gout is delaying him still.
CCXL. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Nohant, 22 November, 1872
I don't think that I shall go to Paris before February. My play is postponed on account of the difficulty of finding the chief actor. I am content about it, for the idea of leaving Nohant, my occupations, and the walks that are so lovely in this weather, didn't look good to me at all; what a warm autumn and how good for old people! Two hours distant from here, we have a real wilderness, where, the next day after a rain, it is as dry as in a room, and where there are still flowers for me, and insects for Maurice. The little children run like rabbits in the heather which is higher than they are. Heavens! how good it is to be alive when all one loves is living and scurrying around one. You are the only BLACK SPOT in my heart-life, because you are sad and don't want to look at the sun. As for those about whom I don't care, I don't care either about the evils or the follies they can commit against me or against themselves. They will pass as the rain passes. The eternal thing is the feeling of beauty in a good heart. You have both, confound it! you have no right not to be happy.--Perhaps you ought to have had in your life the INCLUSION OF THE FEMININE SENTIMENT which you say you have defied.-- I know that the feminine is worth nothing; but, perhaps, in order to be happy, one must have been unhappy.
I have been, and I know enough about it; but I forget so well. Well, sad or gay, I love you and I am still waiting for you, although you never speak of coming to see us, and you cast aside the opportunity emphatically; we love you here just the same, we are not literary enough for you here, I know that, but we love, and that gives life occupation.
Is Saint-Antoine finished, that you are talking of a work of great scope? or is it Saint-Antoine that is going to spread its wings over the entire universe? It could, the subject is immense. I embrace you, shall I say again, my old troubadour, since you have resolved to turn into an old Benedictine? I shall remain a troubadour, naturally.
I am sending you two novels for your collection of my writings: you are not OBLIGED to read them immediately, if you are deep in serious things.
CCXLI. TO GEORGE SAND Monday evening, eleven o'clock, 25 November, 1872
The postman just now, at five o'clock, has brought your two volumes to me. I am going to begin Nanon at once, for I am very curious about it.
Don't worry any more about your old troubadour (who is becoming a silly animal, frankly), but I hope to recover. I have gone through, several times, melancholy periods, and I have come out all right. Everything wears out, boredom with the rest.
I expressed myself badly: I did not mean that I scorned "the feminine sentiment." But that woman, materially speaking, had never been one of my habits, which is quite different. I have LOVED more than anyone, a presumptuous phrase which means "quite like others," and perhaps even more than average person. Every affection is known to me, "the storms of the heart" have "poured out their rain" on me. And then chance, force of circumstances, causes solitude to increase little by little around me, and now I am alone, absolutely alone.
I have not sufficient income to take unto myself a wife, nor even to live in Paris for six months of the year: so it is impossible for me to change my way of living.
Do you mean to say that I did not tell you that Saint-Antoine had been finished since last June? What I am dreaming of just now, is something of greater scope, which will aim to be comic. It would take too long to explain to you with a pen. We shall talk of it when we meet.
Adieu, dear good, adorable master, yours with his best affection,
Your old friend.
Always as indignant as Saint Polycarp.
Do you know, in all history, including that of the Botocudos, anything more imbecile than the Right of the National Assembly? These gentlemen who do not want the simple and frivolous word Republic, who find Thiers too advanced!!! O profoundness! problem, revery!
CCXLII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 27 November, 1872
Maurice is quite happy and very proud of the letter you wrote him; there is no one who could give him as much pleasure and whose encouragement counts more with him. I thank you too, for my part; for I agree with him.
What! you have finished Saint-Antoine? Well, should I find a publisher, since you are not doing so? You cannot keep it in your portfolio. You don't like Levy, but there are others; say the word, and I will act as if it were for myself.
You promise me to get well later, but in the mean time you don't want to do anything to jolt yourself. Come, then, to read Saint- Antoine to me, and we will talk of publishing it. What is coming here from Croisset, for a man? If you won't come when we are gay and having a holiday, come while it is quiet an I am alone. All the family embraces you.
Your old troubadour
CCXLIII. TO GEORGE SAND
Here it is a night and a day that I have spent with you. I had finished Nanon at four o'clock in the morning, and Francia at three o'clock in the afternoon. All of it is still dancing around in my head. I am going to try to gather my ideas together to talk about these excellent books to you. They have done me good. So thank you, dear, good master. Yes, they were like a great whiff of air, and, after having been moved, I feel refreshed.
In Nanon, in the first place I was charmed with the style, with a thousand simple and strong things which are included in the web of the work, and which make it what it is; for instance: "as the burden seemed to me enormous, the beast seemed to me beautiful." But I did not pay any attention to any thing, I was carried away, like the commonest reader. (I don't think that the common reader could admire it as much as I do.) The life of the monks, the first relations between Emilien and Nanon, the fear caused by the brigands and the imprisonment of Pere Fructueux which could be commonplace and which it is not at all. What a fine page is 113! and how difficult it was to stay within bounds! "Beginning with this day, I felt happiness in everything, and, as it were, a joy to be in the world."
La Roche aux Fades is an exquisite idyll. One would like to share the life of those three fine people.
I think that the interest slackens a little when Nanon gets the idea of becoming rich. She becomes too strongminded, too intelligent! I don't like the episode of the robbers either. The reappearance of Emilien with his arm cut off, stirred me again, and I shed a tear at the last page over the portrait of the Marquise de Francqueville in her old age.
I submit to you the following queries: Emilien seems to me very much up in political philosophy; at that period did people see as far ahead as he? The same objection applies to the prior, whom I think otherwise charming, in the middle of the book especially. But how well all that is brought in, how well sustained, how fascinating, how charming! What a creature you are! What power you have!
I give you on your two cheeks, two little nurse's kisses, and I pass to Francia! Quite another style, but none the less good. And in the first place I admire enormously your Dodore. This is the first time that anyone has made a Paris gamin real; he is not too generous, nor too intemperate, nor too much of a vaudevillist. The dialogue with his sister, when he consents to her becoming a kept woman, is a feat. Your Madame de Thievre, with her shawl which she slips up and down over her fat shoulders, isn't she decidedly of the Restoration! And the uncle who wants to confiscate his nephew's grisette! And Antoine, the good fat tinsmith so polite at the theatre! The Russian is a simple-minded, natural man, a character that is not easy to do.
When I saw Francia plunge the poignard into his heart, I frowned first, fearing that it might be a classic vengeance that would spoil the charming character of that good girl. But not at all! I was mistaken, that unconscious murder completed your heroine.
What strikes me the most in the book is that it is very intelligent and exact. One is completely in the period.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this twofold reading. It has relaxed me. Everything then is not dead. There is still something beautiful and good in the world.
CCXLIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 29 November, 1872
You spoil me! I did not dare to send you the novels, which were wrapped up addressed to you for a week. I was afraid of interrupting your train of thought and of boring you. You stopped everything to read Maurice first, and then me. We should be remorseful if we were not egoists, very happy to have a reader who is worth ten thousand others! That helps a great deal; for Maurice and I work in a desert, never knowing, except from each other, if a thing is a success or a mess, exchanging our criticisms, and never having relations with accredited JUDGES.
Michel never tells us until after a year or two if a book has SOLD. As for Buloz, if it is with him we have to do, he tells us invariably that the thing is bad or poor. It is only Charles Edmond who encourages us by asking us for copy. We write without consideration for the public; that is perhaps not a bad idea, but we carry it too far. And praise from you gives us the courage which does not depart from us, but which is often a sad courage, while you make it sparkling and gay, and healthful for us to breathe.
I was right then in not throwing Nanon into the fire, as I was ready to do, when Charles Edmond came to tell me that it was very well done, and that he wanted it for his paper. I thank you then, and I send you back your good kisses, for Francia especially, which Buloz only put in with a sour face and for lack of something better: you see that I am not spoiled, but I never get angry at all that and I don't talk about it. That is how it is, and it is very simple. As soon as literature is a merchandise, the salesman who exploits it, appreciates only the client who buys it, and if the client depreciates the object, the salesman declares to the author that his merchandise is not pleasing. The republic of letters is only a market in which one sells books. Not making concession to the publisher is our only virtue; let us keep that and let us live in peace, even with him when he is peevish, and let us recognize, too, that he is not the guilty one. He would have taste if the public had it.
Now I've emptied my bag, and don't let us talk of it again except to advise about Saint-Antoine, meanwhile telling ourselves that the editors will be brutes. Levy, however, is not, but you are angry with him. I should like to talk of all that with you; will you come? or wait until my trip to Paris? But when shall I go? I don't know.
I am a little afraid of bronchitis in the winter, and I do not leave home unless I absolutely have to for business reasons.
I don't think that they will play Mademoiselle La Quintinie. The censors have declared that it is a MASTERPIECE OF THE MOST ELEVATED AND HEALTHIEST MORALITY, but that they could not TAKE UPON THEMSELVES to authorize the performance. IT WILL HAVE TO BE TAKEN TO HIGHER AUTHORITIES, that is to say, to the minister who will send it to General Ladmirault; it is enough to make you die laughing. But I don't agree to all that, and I prefer to keep quiet till the new administration. If the NEW administration is the clerical monarchy, we shall see strange things. As for me, I don't care if they stand in my way, but how about the future of our generation?...
CCXLV. TO GEORGE SAND Wednesday, 4th December, 1872
I notice a phrase in your last letter: "The publisher would have taste if the public had it...or if the public forced him to have it." But that is asking the impossible. They have LITERARY IDEAS, rest assured, and so have messieurs the managers of the theatre. Both insist that they are JUDGES IN THAT RESPECT, and their estheticism mingling with their commercialism makes a pretty result.
According to the publishers, one's last book is always inferior to the preceding one. May I be hung if that is not true. Why does Levy admire Ponsard and Octave Feuillet more than father Dumas and you? Levy is academic. I have made more money for him than Cuvillier- Fleury has, haven't I? Well, draw a parallel between us two, and you will see how you will be received. You know that he did not want to sell more than 1200 copies of the Dernieres Chansons, and the 800 which were left over, are in my niece's garret, rue de Clichy! That is very narrow of me, I agree to that; but I confess that the proceeding has simply enraged me. It seems to me that my prose might have been more respected by a man for whom I have turned a penny or two.
Why publish, in these abominable times? Is it to get money? What mockery! As if money were the recompense for work, or could be! That will be when one has destroyed speculation, till then, no! And then how measure work, how estimate the effort? The commercial value of the work remains. For that one would be obliged to suppress all intermediaries between the producer and the purchaser, and even then, that question in itself permits of no solution. For I write (I speak of an author who respects himself) not for the reader of today, but for all the readers who can present themselves as long as the language lives. My merchandise, therefore, cannot be consumed, for it is not made exclusively for my contemporaries. My service remains therefore indefinite, and in consequence, unpayable.
Why publish then? Is it to be understood, applauded? But yourself, YOU, great George Sand, you confess your solitude. Is there at this time, I don't say, admiration or sympathy, but the appearance of a little attention to works of art? Who is the critic who reads the book that he has to criticise? In ten years they won't know, perhaps, how to make a pair of shoes, they are becoming so frightfully stupid! All that is to tell you that, until better times (in which I do not believe), I shall keep Saint-Antoine in the bottom of a closet.
If I publish it, I would rather that it should be at the same time as another entirely different book. I am working now on one which will go with it. Conclusion: the wisest thing is to keep calm.
Why does not Duquesnel go to find General Ladmirault, Jules Simon, Thiers? I think that the proceeding concerns him. What a fine thing the censorship is! Let us be reassured, it will always exist, for it always has! Our friend Alexandre Dumas fils, to make an agreeable paradox, has boasted of its advantages in the preface to the Dame aux Camelias, hasn't he?
And you want me not to be sad! I think that we shall soon see abominable things, thanks to the inept stubbornness of the Right. The good Normans, who are the most conservative people in the world, incline towards the Left very strongly.
If they consulted the bourgeoisie now, it would make father Thiers king of France. If Thiers were taken away, it would throw itself in the arms of Gambetta, and I am afraid it will do that soon! I console myself by thinking that Thursday next I shall be fifty-one years old.
If you are not to come to Paris in February, I shall go to see you at the end of January, before going back to the Pan Monceau; I promise.
The princess has written me to ask if you were at Nohant. She wants to write to you.
My niece Caroline, to whom I have just given Nanon to read, is enchanted with it. What struck her was the "youth" of the book. The criticism seems true to me. It is a real BOOK while Francia, although more simple, is perhaps more finished; more irreproachable as a work.
I read last week the Illustre Docteur Matheus, by Erckmann-Chatrian. How very boorish! There are two nuts, who have very plebeian souls.
Adieu, dear good master. Your old troubadour embraces you,
I am always thinking of Theo. I am not consoled for his loss.
CCXLVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Nohant, 8 December, 1872
Oh! well, then, if you are in the realm of the ideal about this, if you have a future book in your mind, if you are accomplishing a task of confidence and conviction, no more anger and no more sadness, let us be logical.
I myself arrived at a philosophical state of very satisfactory serenity, and I did not OVERSTATE the matter when I said to you that all the ill any one can do me, or all the indifference that any one can show me, does not affect me really any more and does not prevent me, not only from being happy outside of literature, but also from being literary with pleasure, and from working with joy.
You were pleased with my two novels? I am repaid, I think that they are SATISFACTORY, and the silence which has invaded my life (it must be said that I have sought it) is full of a good voice that talks to me and is sufficient to me. I have not mounted as high as you in my ambition. You want to write for the ages. As for me, I think that in fifty years, I shall be absolutely forgotten and perhaps unkindly ignored. Such is the law of things that are not of first rank, and I have never thought myself in the first rank. My idea has been rather to act upon my contemporaries, even if only on a few, and to share with them my ideal of sweetness and poetry. I have attained this end up to a certain point; I have at least done my best towards it, I do still, and my reward is to approach it continually a little nearer.
That is enough for myself, but, as for you, your aim is greater, I see that clearly, and success is further off. Then you ought to put yourself more in accord with yourself, by being still calmer and more content than I am. Your momentary angers are good. They are the result of a generous temperament, and, as they are neither malicious nor hateful, I like them, but your sadness, your weeks of spleen, I do not understand them, and I reproach you for them. I have believed, I do still, that there is such a thing as too great isolation, too great detachment from the bonds of life. You have powerful reasons to answer me with, so powerful that they ought to give you the victory.
Search your heart, think it over, and answer me, even if only to dispel the fears that I have often on your account; I don't want you to exhaust yourself. You are fifty years old, my son is the same or nearly. He is in the prime of his strength, in his best development, you are too, if you don't heat the oven of your ideas too hot. Why do you say often that you wish you were dead? Don't you believe then in your own work? Do let yourself be influenced then by this or that temporary thing? It is possible, we are not gods, and something in us, something weak and unimportant sometimes, disturbs our theodicy. But the victory every day becomes easier, when one is sure of loving logic and truth. It gets to the point even of forestalling, of overcoming in advance, the subject of ill humor, of contempt or of discouragement.
All that seems easy to me, when it is a question of self control: the subjects of great sadness are elsewhere, in the spectacle of the history that is unrolling around us; that eternal struggle of barbarity against civilization is a great bitterness for those who have cast off the element of barbarity and find themselves in advance of their epoch. But, in that great sorrow, in these secret angers, there is a great stimulant which rightly raises us up, by inspiring in us the need of reaction. Without that, I confess, for my part, that I would abandon everything.
I have had a good many compliments in my life, in the time when people were interested in literature. I have always dreaded them when they came to me from unknown people; they made me doubt myself too much. I have made enough money to be rich. If I am not, it is because I did not care to be; I have enough with what Levy makes for me. What I should prefer, would be to abandon myself entirely to botany, it would be for me a Paradise on earth. But it must not be, that would be useful only to myself, and, if chagrin is good for anything it is for keeping us from egoism, one must not curse nor scorn life. One must not use it up voluntarily; you are enamoured of JUSTICE, begin by being just to yourself, you owe it to yourself to conserve and to develop yourself.
Listen to me; I love you tenderly, I think of you every day and on every occasion: when working I think of you. I have gained certain intellectual benefits which you deserve more than I do, and of which you ought to make a longer use. Consider too, that my spirit is often near to yours, and that it wishes you a long life and a fertile inspiration in true joys.
You promise to come; that is a joy and a feast day for my heart, and in my family.
Your old troubadour
CCXLVII. TO GEORGE SAND 12 December 1872
Dear good master,
Don't take seriously the exaggerations about my IRE. Don't believe that I am counting "on posterity, to avenge me for the indifference of my contemporaries." I meant to say only this: if one does not address the crowd, it is right that the crowd should not pay one. It is political economy. But, I maintain that a work of art (worthy of that name and conscientiously done) is beyond appraisal, has no commercial value, cannot be paid for. Conclusion: if the artist has no income, he must starve! They think that the writer, because he no longer receives a pension from the great, is very much freer, and nobler. All his social nobility now consists in being the equal of a grocer. What progress! As for me, you say to me "Let us be logical"; but that's just the difficulty.
I am not sure at all of writing good things, nor that the book of which I am dreaming now can be well done, which does not prevent me from undertaking it. I think that the idea of it is original, nothing more. And then, as I hope to spit into it the gall that is choking me, that is to say, to emit some truths, I hope by this means to PURGE MYSELF, and to be henceforward more Olympian, a quality that I lack entirely. Ah! how I should like to admire myself!
Mourning once more: I headed the procession at the burial of father Pouchet last Monday. That gentle fellow's life was very beautiful, and I mourned him.
I enter today upon my fifty-second year, and I insist on embracing you today: I do it affectionately, since you love me so well.
CCXLVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 8 January, 1873
Yes, yes, my old friend, you must come to see me. I am not thinking of going to Paris before the end of the winter, and it is so hard to see people in Paris. Bring me Saint-Antoine. I want to hear it, I want to live in it with you. I want to embrace you with all my soul, and Maurice does too.
Lina loves you too, and our little ones have not forgotten you. I want you to see how interesting and lovely my Aurore has become. I shall not tell you anything new about myself. I live so little in myself. This will be a good reason for you to talk about what interests me more, that is to say, about yourself. Tell me ahead so that I can spare you that horrid coach from Chateauroux to Nohant. If you could bring Tourgueneff, we should be happy, and you would have the most perfect travelling companion. Have you read Peres et Enfants? How good it is!
Now, I hope for you really this time, and I think that our air will do you good. It is so lovely here!
Your old comrade who loves you,
I embrace you six times for the New Year.
CCXLIX. TO GEORGE SAND Monday evening, 3 February, 1873
Do I seem to have forgotten you and not to want to make the journey to Nohant? Not at all! But, for the last month, every time I go out, I am seized anew with the grippe which gets worse each time. I cough abominably, and I ruin innumerable pocket-handkerchiefs! When will it be over?
I have sworn not to step beyond my doorsill till I am completely well again, and I am still awaiting the good will of the members of the commission for the Bouilhet fountain! For nearly two months, I have not been able to get together in Rouen six citizens of Rouen! That is the way friends are! Everything is difficult, the least undertaking demands great efforts.
I am reading chemistry now (which I don't understand a bit), and the Raspail theory of medicine, not to mention the Potager moderne of Gressent and the Agriculture of Gasparin. In this connection, Maurice would be very kind, to compile his agronomical recollections, so that I may know what mistakes he made and why he made them.
What sorts of information don't I need, for the book that I am undertaking? I have come to Paris this winter with the idea of collecting some; but if my horrible cold continues, my stay here will be useless! Am I going to become like the canon of Poitiers, of whom Montaigne speaks, who for thirty years did not leave his room "because of his melancholic infirmity," but who, however, was very well "except for a cold which had settled on his stomach." This is to tell you that I am seeing very few people. Moreover whom could I see? The war has opened many abysses. I have not been able to get your article on Badinguet. I am planning to read it at your house.
As regards reading, I have just swallowed ALL the odious Joseph de Maistre. They have saddled us enough with this gentleman! And the modern socialists who have praised him beginning with the saint- simonians and ending with A. Comte. France is drunk with authority, no matter what they say. Here is a beautiful idea that I find in Raspail, THE PHYSICIANS OUGHT to be MAGISTRATES, so they could force, etc.
Your romantic and liberal old dunce embraces you tenderly.
CCL. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 5 February, 1873
I wrote to you yesterday to Croisset, Lina thinking that you had returned there. I asked you the little favor which you have already rendered me, namely, to ask your brother to give his patronage to my friend Despruneaux in his suit which is going to be appealed. My letter will probably be forwarded to you in Paris, and reach you as quickly as this one. It is only a question of writing a line to your brother, if that does not bother you.
Pray, what is this obstinate cough? There is only one remedy, a minimum dose, a half-centigram of acetate of morphine taken every evening after digesting your dinner, for a week at least. I do nothing else and I always get over it, I cure all my family the same way, it is so easy to do and so quickly done! At the end of two or three days one feels the good effect. I am awaiting your cure with impatience, for your sake first, and second for myself, because you will come and because I am hungry and thirsty to see you.
Maurice is at a loss to know how to answer your question. He has not made any mistake in his experiments, and knows indeed those that others make or could make; but he says that they vary infinitely and that each mistake is a special one for the conditions in which one works. When you are here and he understands really what you want, he can answer you for everything that concerns the center of France, and the general geology of the planet, if there is any opportunity to generalize. His reasoning has been this: not to make innovations, but to push to its greatest development what exists, in making use always of the method established by experience. Experience can never deceive, it may be incomplete, but never mendacious. With this I embrace you, I summon you, I await you, I hope for you, but will not however torment you.
But we love you, that is certain; and we would like to infuse in you a little of our Berrichon patience about the things in this world which are not amusing, we know that very well! But why are we in this world if it is not to learn patience.
Your obstinate troubadour who loves you.