Then Saturday morning you shall have word from your old comrade.
CXIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 30 April, 1869
No way of going out today. This slavery to one's profession is horrid, isn't it? Between now and Friday I shall write to you so that we can again settle on a day. I embrace you, my old beloved troubadour.
CXV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 3 May, 1869
They are encroaching upon my time more and more. All my days are full until and including next Sunday.—Tell me quickly if you want me Monday, a week from today—or if it is another day. Let us fix it for it is a fact that I don't really know whom to listen to.
Your troubadour who does not want THIS STATE OF AFFAIRS to continue!
CXVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 4 May, 1869
On Monday then, and if I have an hour free I shall try to embrace my troubadour before that. But don't disturb yourself, I know very well that one does nothing here that one would like to do. Anyway, on Monday between three and four, clear out your windpipe so as to read me a part before dinner.
CXVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Sunday, 9 May, 1869
Tomorrow, your reverence, I shall go to dine at your house. I shall be at home every day at five o'clock, but you might meet some guys whom you dislike. You would much better come to Magny's where you would find me alone, or with Plauchut, or with friends who are also yours.
I embrace you. I received today the letter which you wrote to me at Nohant.
CXVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 18 May, 1869
I saw Levy today, I tested him at first; I saw that he would not give up his contract at any price. I then said to him many good things about the book and made the remark that he had gotten it very cheap. But he said to me, if the book is in two volumes, it will be 20,000 francs, that is agreed. So I suppose that you will have two volumes, won't you?
However, I persisted and he said to me: If the book is a success, I shall not begrudge two or three thousand francs more. I said that you would not demand anything, that it was not your way of acting, but that for MY PART, I should insist for you without your knowledge, and he left me saying: Be easy, I don't say no. Should the book succeed I will make the author profit by it.
That is all that I have been able to do now, but I will take it up again at the proper time and place. Leave that to me, I will return your contract. What day next week will you dine with me at Magny's? I am a little weary.
You would be very kind to come to read at my house, we should be alone and one evening will be enough for the rest. Set the day, and AT SIX THIRTY if that does not bother you. My stomach is beginning to suffer a little from Paris habits. Your troubadour who loves you,
The rest of the week will finish up Palaiseau, but Sunday if you like, I am free. Answer if you want Sunday at Magny's at half past six.
CXIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT
Then Monday, I count on you, at half past six; but as I am going to Palaiseau, I may be a few minutes late or early. The first one at Magny's must wait for the other. I am looking forward with pleasure to hearing THE REST. Don't forget the manuscript.
Your troubadour Thursday evening, 20 May, 1869.
CXX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 29 May, 1869
Yes, Monday, my dear good friend, I count on you and I embrace you.
I am off for Palaiseau AND IT IS TEN O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING!
CXXI. TO GEORGE SAND
My prophecy is fulfilled; My friend X——has gained only ridicule with his candidacy. That serves him right. When a man of style debases himself to practical life, he loses caste and should be punished. And then, is it a question of politics, now! The citizens who are excited for or against the Empire or the Republic seem to me as useful as those who discuss efficacious or efficient grace. Politics are as dead as theology! They have had three hundred years of existence, that is quite enough.
Just now I am lost in the Church Fathers. As for my novel l'Education sentimentale, I am paying no more attention to it, God be thanked! It is recopied. Other hands have gone over it. So, the thing is no longer mine. It does not exist any longer, good night. I have taken up again my old hobby of Saint Antoine. I have reread my notes, I am making another new plan and I am devouring the ecclesiastical memoirs of the Nain de Tillemont. I hope to succeed in finding a logical connection (and therefore a dramatic interest) between the different hallucinations of the Saint. This extravagant setting pleases me and I am absorbed in it, there you are!
My poor Bouilhet bothers me. He is in such a nervous state that they have advised him to take a little trip to the south of France. He is overwhelmed by an unconquerable melancholy. Isn't it queer! He who was so gay, formerly!
My Heavens! What a beautiful and farcical thing is the life of the desert Fathers! But without doubt they were all Buddhists. That is a stylish problem to work at, and its solution would be more important than the election of an academician. Oh! ye men of little faith! Long live Saint Polycarp!
Fangeat, who has reappeared recently, is the citizen who, on the 25th day of February, 1848, demanded the death of Louis-Philippe "without a trial." That is the way one serves the cause of progress.
CXXII. TO GEORGE SAND
What a good and charming letter was yours, adored master! There is no one but you! upon my word of honor! I am ending by believing it. A wind of stupidity and folly is now blowing over the world. Those who stand up firm and straight against it are rare.
This is what I meant when I wrote that the times of politics were over. In the 18th century the chief business was diplomacy. "The secrecy of the cabinets" really existed. The peoples still were sufficiently amenable to be separated and to be combined. That order of things seems to me to have said its last word in 1815. Since then, one has hardly done anything except dispute about the external form that it is fitting to give the fantastic and odious being called the State.
Experience proves (it seems to me) that no form contains the best in itself; orleanism, republic, empire do not mean anything anymore, since the most contradictory ideas can enter into each one of these pigeon holes. All the flags have been so soiled with blood and with filth that it is time not to have any at all. Down with words! No more symbols nor fetiches! The great moral of this reign will be to prove that universal suffrage is as senseless as the divine right although a little less odions!
The question is then out of place. One is concerned no longer with dreaming of the best form of government, since all are equal, but with making science prevail. That is the most important. The rest will follow inevitably. Purely intellectual men have rendered more service to the human race than all the Saint Vincent de Pauls in the world! And politics will be an everlasting folly so long as it is not subordinate to science. The government of a country ought to be a section of the Institute, and the last section of all.
Before concerning yourself with relief funds, and even with agriculture, send to all the villages in France, Robert Houdins to work miracles! The greatest crime of Isidore is the wretched condition in which he leaves our beautiful country. Dixi. I admire Maurice's occupations and his healthy life. But I am not capable of imitating him. Nature, far from fortifying me, drains my strength. When I lie on the grass I feel as if I am already under the earth and that the roots of green things are beginning to grow in my belly. Your troubadour is naturally an unhealthy man. I do not like the country except when travelling, because then the independence of my individuality causes me to rise above the knowledge of my nothingness.
CXXIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 6 August, 1869
Well, dear good friend, here it is August, and you have promised to come. We don't forget it, we count on it, we dream of it, and we talk of it every day. You were to take a trip to the seashore first if I am not mistaken. You must need to shake up your gloom. That does not dispel it, but it does force it to live with us and not be too oppressive. I have thought a great deal about you lately, I would have hastened to see you if I had not thought I should find you surrounded by older and better friends than I am. I wrote you at the same time that you wrote me, our letters crossed.
Come to see us, my dear old friend, I shall not go to Paris this month, I do not want to miss you. My children will be happy to spoil you and to try to distract you. We all love you, and I love you PASSIONATELY, as you know.
CXXIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 14 August, 1869
Your change of plans distresses us, dear friend, but we do not dare to complain in the face of your anxieties and sorrows. We ought to wish you to do what would distract you the most, and take the least out of you. I am in hopes of finding you in Paris, as you are staying there some time and I always have business there. But it is so hard to see friends in Paris and one is so overwhelmed by so many tedious duties! Well, it is a real sorrow to me not to have to expect you any more at our house, where each one of us would have tried to love you better than the others and where you would have been at home; sad when you wanted to be, busy if you liked. I resign myself on condition that you will be better off somewhere else and that you will make it good to us when you can.
Have you at least arranged your affairs with Levy? Is he paying you for two volumes? I would like you to have something on which to live independently and as master of your time. Here there is repose for the mind in the midst of the exuberant activities of Maurice, and of his brave little wife who sets herself to love all he loves and to help him eagerly in all he undertakes. As for me, I have the appearance of incarnate idleness in the midst of this hard work. I botanize and I bathe in a little icy torrent. I teach my servant to read, I correct proof and I am well. That is my life and nothing bores me in this world where I think that AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED all is for the best. But I am afraid of becoming more of a bore than I used to be. People don't like such as I am very much. We are too inoffensive. However, love me still a little, for I feel by the disappointment of not seeing you, that it would have gone hard with me if you had meant to break your word.
And I embrace you tenderly, dear old friend.
CXXV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Thursday
I know nothing either of Chilly or la petite Fadette. In a few days I am going to make a tour of Normandy. I shall go through Paris. If you want to come around with me,—oh! but no, you don't travel about; well, we shall see each other in passing. I have certainly earned a little holiday. I have worked like a beast of burden. I need too to see some blue, but the blue of the sea will do, and you would like the blue of the artistic and literary firmament over our heads. Bah! that doesn't exist. Everything is prose, flat prose in the environment in which mankind has settled itself. It is only in isolating oneself a little that one can find in oneself the normal being again.
I am resuming my letter interrupted for two days by my wounded hand which inconveniences me a good deal. I am not going to Normandy at all, my Lamberts whom I was going to see in Yport came back to Paris and my business calls me there too. I shall then see you next week probably, and I shall embrace you as if you were my dear big child. Why can't I put the rosy, tanned face of Aurore in the place of mine! She is not what you would call pretty, but she is adorable and so quick in comprehending that we all are astonished. She is as amusing in her chatter as a person,—who might be amusing. So I am going to be forced to start thinking about my business! It is the one thing of which I have a horror and which really troubles my serenity. You must console me by joking with me a little when you have the time.
I shall see you soon, have courage in the sickening work of proof- reading. As for me I hurry over it quickly and badly, but you must not do as I do.
My children send you their love and your troubadour loves you.
I have just received news from the Odeon. They are at work putting on my play and do not speak of anything else.
CXXVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 6 September, 1869
They wrote me yesterday to come because they wanted me at the Opera- Comique. Here I am rue Gay-Lussac. When shall we meet? Tell me. All my days, are still free.
I embrace you.
CXXVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 8 September, 1869
I send you back your handkerchief which you left in the carriage. It is surely tomorrow THURSDAY that we dine together? I have written to the big Marchal to come to Magny's too.
CXXVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, Tuesday, 5 October, 1869
Where are you now, my dear troubadour? I am still writing to you at the boulevard du Temple, but perhaps you have taken possession of your delightful lodgings. I don't know the address although I have seen the house, the situation and the view.—I have been twice in the Ardennes and in a week or ten days, if Lina or Maurice does not come to Paris, as they have a slight desire to do, I shall leave again for Nohant.
We must then meet and see each other. Here am I a little sfogata (eased) from my need for travel, and enchanted with what I have seen. Tell me what day except tomorrow, Wednesday, you can give me for dinner at Magny's or elsewhere with or without Plauchut, with whomever you wish provided I see you and embrace you.
Your old comrade who loves you.
CXXIX. TO GEORGE SAND
Dear good adored master,
I have wanted for several days to write you a long letter in which I should tell you all that I have felt for a month. It is funny. I have passed through different and strange states. But I have neither the time nor the repose of mind to gather myself together enough.
Don't be disturbed about your troubadour. He will always have "his independence and his liberty" because he will always do as he has always done. He has left everything rather than submit to any obligation whatsoever, and then, with age, one's needs lessen. I suffer no longer from not living in the Alhambra.
What would do me good now, would be to throw myself furiously into Saint-Antoine, but I have not even the time to read.
Listen to this: in the very beginning, your play was to come after Aisse; then it was agreed that it should come BEFORE. Now Chilly and Duquesnel want it to come after, simply and solely "to profit by the occasion," to profit by my poor Bouilhet's death. They will give you a "sort of compensation." Well, I am the owner and the master of Aisse just as if I were the author, and I do not want that. You understand, I do not want you to inconvenience yourself in anything.
You think that I am as sweet as a lamb! Undeceive yourself, and act as if Aisse had never existed; and above all no sensitiveness? That would offend me. Between simple friends, one needs manners and politenesses; but between you and me, that would not seem at all suitable; we do not owe each other anything at all except to love each other.
I think that the directors of the Odeon will regret Bouilhet in every way. I shall be less easy than he was at rehearsals. I should very much like to read Aisse to you so as to talk a little about it; some of the actors whom they propose are, to my way of thinking, impossible. It is hard to have to do with uneducated people.
CXXX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Wednesday evening, 13 October, 1869
Our poor friend is not to be buried till the day after tomorrow, they will let me know where and when we ought to be there, I shall tell you by telegram.
I have seen the directors twice. It was agreed this morning with Duquesnel that they should make an attempt with de la T(our) Saint- Y(bars). I yielded my turn to Aisse. I was not to come till March. I went back there this evening, Chilly IS UNWILLING, and Duquesnel, better informed than this morning, regards the step as useless and harmful. I then quoted my contract, my right. What a fine thing, the theatre! M. Saint-Ybars' contract antedates mine. They had thought le Batard would last two weeks and it will last forty days longer. Then La Tour Saint-Ybars precedes us [Footnote: This refers to l'Affranchi.] and I can not give up my turn to Aisse without being postponed till next year, which I'll do if you want me to; but it would do me a good deal of harm, for I have gotten into debt with the Revue and I must refill my purse.—Are directors rascals in all that? No, but incompetents who are always afraid of not having enough plays, and accept too many, foreseeing that they will have failures.—When they are successful, if the authors contracted for are ANGRY they have to go to court. I have no taste for disputes and the scandals of the side-scenes and the newspapers; and neither have you. What would be the result? Inadequate compensation and a deal of uproar for nothing. One needs patience in any event, I have it, and I tell you again if you are really upset at this delay, I am ready to sacrifice myself.
With this I embrace you and I love you.
CXXXI. TO GEORGE SAND 14 October, 1869
No! no sacrifices! so much the worse! If I did not look at Bouilhet's affairs as mine absolutely, I should have at once accepted your proposition. But: (1) it is my affair, (2) the dead must not hurt the living.
But I am angry at these gentlemen, I do not hide it from you, for not having said anything to us about Latour Saint-Ybars. For the aforesaid Latour was engaged a long time ago. Why did we not know anything about him?
In short, let Chilly write me the letter on which we agreed Wednesday, and let there be no more discussion about it.
It seems to me that your play can be given the 15th of December, if l'Affranchi begins about the 20th of November. Two and a half months are about fifty performances; if you go beyond that, Aisse will not be presented till next year.
Then, it is agreed, since we can not suppress Latour Saint-Ybars; you shall go after him and Aisse next, if I think it suitable.
We shall meet Saturday at poor Sainte-Beuve's funeral. How the little band diminishes! How the few survivors of the Medusa's raft are disappearing!
A thousand affectionate greetings.
CXXXII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 20 or 21 October, 1869
Impossible, dear old beloved. Brebant is too far, I have so little time. And then I have made an engagement with Marchal and Berton at Magny's to say farewell. If you can come, I shall be very happy and on the other hand if it is going to make you ill, don't come, I know very well that you love me and shall not be angry with you about anything.
CXXXIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Nohant, 15 Nov., 1869
What has become of you, my dear old beloved troubadour? are you correcting proof like a galley slave, up to the last minute? For the last two days they have been announcing your book FOR TOMORROW. I am looking for it with impatience, for you are not going to forget me, are you? You will be praised and condemned; you expect that. You are too truly superior not to arouse envy and you don't care, do you? Nor I either for you. You have the strength to be stimulated by what discourages others. There will certainly be a rumpus; your subject will be quite opportune in this time of REVOLUTIONISTS. The good progressives, the true democrats will approve of you. The idiots will be furious, and you will say: "Come weal, come woe!" I am also correcting proof of Pierre qui roule and I have half finished a new novel which will not make much of a stir; that is all that I ask for at the moment. I work alternately on MY novel, the one that I like, and on the one that the Revue does not dislike as much, but which I like very little. It is arranged that way; I don't know if I am making a mistake. Perhaps those which I like are the worst. But I have stopped worrying about myself, so far as I have ever done so. Life has always taken me out of myself, and so it will to the end. My heart is always affected to the detriment of my head. At present it is my little children who devour all my intellect; Aurore is a jewel, a nature before which I bow in admiration; will it last like that?
You are going to spend the winter in Paris, and I, I don't know when I shall go. The success of le Batard continues; but I am not impatient, you have promised to come as soon as you are free, at Christmas at the very latest, to keep revel with us. I think only of that, and if you break your word we shall be in despair here. With this I embrace you with a full heart as I love you.
CXXXIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Paris Nohant, 30 November, 1869
Dear friend of my heart, I wanted to reread your book [Footnote: l'Education sentimentale.]; my daughter-in-law has read it too, and some of my young people, all readers in earnest and of the first rank and not stupid at all. We are all of the same opinion, that it is a beautiful book, equal in strength to the best ones of Balzac and truer, that is to say more faithful to the truth from one end to the other.
One needs the great art, the exquisite form and the severity of your work to do without flowers of fancy. However, you throw poetry with a full hand on your picture, whether your characters understand it or not. Rosanette at Fontainebleau does not know on what grass she walks and nevertheless she is poetic.
All that issues from a master's hand, and your place is well won for always. Live then as calmly as possible in order to last a long time and to produce a great deal.
I have seen two short articles which did not seem to me to rebel against your success; but I hardly know what is going on, politics seems to me to absorb everything.
Keep me posted. If they did not do justice to you I should be angry and should say what I think. It is my right.
I don't know exactly when, but during the month, I shall go without doubt to embrace you and to get you, if I can pry you loose from Paris. My children still count on it, and all of us send you our praises and our affectionate greetings.
Yours, your old troubadour
CXXXV. TO GEORGE SAND
Dear good master,
Your old troubadour is vehemently slandered by the papers. Read the Constitutionnel of last Monday, the Gaulois of this morning, it is blunt and plain. They call me idiotic and common. Barbey d'Aurevilly's article (Constitutionnel) is a model of this character, and the good Sarcey's, although less violent, is in no way behind it. These gentlemen object in the name of morality and the Ideal! I have also been annihilated in le Figaro and in Paris, by Cesana and Duranty. I most profoundly don't care a fig! but that does not make me any the less astonished by so much hatred and bad faith.
La Tribune, le Pays and l'Opinion nationale on the other hand have highly praised me...As for the friends, the persons who received a copy adorned by my hand, they have been afraid of compromising themselves and have talked to me of other things. The brave are few. The book is selling very well nevertheless, in spite of politics, and Levy appears satisfied.
I know that the bourgeois of Rouen are furious with me "because of pere Roque and the cancan at the Tuileries." They think that one ought to prevent the publication of books like that (textual), that I lend a hand to the Reds, that I am capable of inflaming revolutionary passions, etc., etc. In short, I have received very few laurels, up to now, and no rose leaf hurts me.
I told you, didn't I, that I was working over the fairy play? I am doing now a description of the races and I have cut out all that seemed to me hackneyed. Raphael Felix didn't seem to me eager to become acquainted with it. Problem!
All the papers cite as a proof of my depravity, the episode of the Turkish woman, which they misrepresent, naturally; and Sarcey compares me to Marquis de Sade, whom he confesses he has not read!
All that does not upset me at all. But I wonder what use there is in printing my book?
CXXXVI. TO GEORGE SAND Tuesday, 4 o'clock, 7 December, 1869
Your old troubadour is being jumped on in an unheard of manner. Those people who have read my novel are afraid to talk to me of it lest they compromise themselves or out of pity for me. The more indulgent declare I have made only pictures and that both composition and plan are quite lacking.
Saint-Victor, who puffs the books of Arsene Houssaye, won't write articles on mine, finding it too bad. There you are. Theo is away, and no one, absolutely no one takes my defense.
Another story: yesterday Raphael and Michel Levy listened to the reading of the fairy play. Applause, enthusiasm. I saw the moment during the reading in which the contract was going to be signed. Raphael so well understood the play that he gave me two or three EXCELLENT criticisms. I found him in other ways a charming boy. He asked me until Saturday to give me a definite answer. Then a little while ago, a letter (very polite) from the aforesaid Raphael in which he declares that the fairy play would entail expenses that would be too much for him.
Ditched again. I must look elsewhere. Nothing new at the Odeon.
Sarcey has published a second article against me.
Barbey d'Aurevilly claims that I dirty a stream by washing myself in it (sic). All that does not bother me at all.
CXXXVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Thursday, two o'clock in the morning, December 9, 1869
My comrade, it is finished, the article shall go tomorrow. I address it to whom? Answer by telegram. I have a mind to send it to Girardin. But perhaps you have a better idea, I really don't know the importance and the credit of the various papers. Send me a suitable name and ADDRESS by telegram; I have Girardin's.
I am not content with my prose, I have had the fever and a sort of sprain for two days. But we must make haste. I embrace you.
CXXXVIII. TO GEORGE SAND 10 December, Friday, 10 o'clock in the evening, 1869
Dear master, good as good bread,
I have just sent you by telegraph this message: "To Girardin." La Liberte will publish your article, at once. What do you think of my friend Saint-Victor, who has refused to write an article about it because he finds "the book bad"? you have not such a conscience as that, have you?
I continue to be rolled in the mud. La Gironde calls me Prudhomme. That seems new to me.
How shall I thank you? I feel the need of saying affectionate things to you. I have so many in my heart that not one comes to the tips of my fingers. What a splendid woman you are and what a splendid man! To say nothing of all the other things!
CXXXIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, Friday to Saturday during the night, 10 to 11 December, 1869
I have rewritten my article [Footnote: The article, Sur l'Education sentimentale, de Flaubert, was printed in the Questions d'art et de litterature, Calmann-Levy, p. 415.] today and this evening, I am better, it is clearer. I am expecting your telegram tomorrow. If you do not put your veto on it, I shall send the article to Ulbach, who begins his paper the 15th of this month; he wrote to me this morning to beg me urgently for any article I would send him. I think this first number will be widely read, and it would be good publicity. Michel Levy would be a better judge than we as to what is the best to do: consult him.
You seem astonished at the ill will. You are too simple. You do not know how original your book is, and how many personal feelings must be offended by the force it contains. You think you are doing things that will pass as a letter in the mail; ah! well, yes!
I have insisted on the PLAN of your book; that is what they understand the least and it is what is the most important. I tried to show the ordinary people how they should read; for it is the ordinary people who make successes. The clever ones don't like the successes of others. I don't pay attention to the malicious; it would honor them too much.
My mother has your telegram and is sending her manuscript to Girardin.
4 o'clock in the afternoon.
CXL. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, in Paris Nohant, 14 December, 1869
I do not see my article coming out, but others are appearing which are bad and unjust. One's enemies are always better served than one's friends. And then, when one frog begins to croak, all the others follow suit. After a certain reverence has been violated every one tries to see who can best jump on the shoulders of the statue; it is always like that. You are undergoing the disadvantages of having a style that is not yet familiar through repetition, and all are making idiots of themselves so as not to see it.
ABSOLUTE IMPERSONALITY is debatable, and I do not accept it ABSOLUTELY; but I wonder that Saint-Victor who has preached it so much and has criticised my plays because they were not IMPERSONAL, should abandon you instead of defending you. Criticism is in a sad way; too much theory!
Don't be troubled by all that and keep straight on. Don't attempt a system, obey your inspiration.
What fine weather, at least with us, and we are getting ready for our Christmas festivals with the family at home. I told Plauchut to try to carry you off; we are expecting him. If you can't come with him, come at least for the Christmas Eve revels and to escape from Paris on New Year's day; it is so boring there then!
Lina charges me to say to you that you are authorized to wear your wrapper and slippers continually. There are no ladies, no strangers. In short you will make us very happy and you have promised for a long time.
I embrace you and I am still more angry than you at these attacks, but I am not overcome, and if I had you here we should stimulate each other so well that you would start off again at once on the other leg to write a new novel.
I embrace you.
Your old troubadour,
CXLI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, in Paris Nohant, 17 December, 1869
Plauchut writes us that YOU PROMISE to come the 24th. Do come the 23d in the evening, so as to be rested for the night of the 24th to the 25th and join in our Christmas Eve revels. Otherwise you will arrive from Paris tired and sleepy and our follies will not amuse you. You are coming to the house of children, I warn you, and as you are kind and affectionate, you love children. Did Plauchut tell you to bring a wrapper and slippers, for we do not want to sentence you to dressing up? I add that I am counting on your bringing some manuscript. The FAIRY PLAY re-done, Saint-Antoine, whatever you have finished. I hope indeed that you are in the mood for work. Critics are a challenge that stimulates.
Poor Saint-Rene Taillandier is as asininely pedantic as the Revue. Aren't they prudish in that set? I am in a pet with Girardin. I know very well that I am not strong in letters; I am not sufficiently cultivated for these gentlemen; but the good public reads me and listens to me all the same.
If you did not come, we should be unhappy and you would be a big ingrate. Do you want me to send a carriage for you to Chateauroux on the 23d at four o'clock? I am afraid that you may be uncomfortable in that stage-coach which makes the run, and it is so easy to spare you two and a half hours of discomfort!
We embrace you full of hope. I am working like an ox so as to have my novel finished and not to have to think of it a minute when you are here.
CXLII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 19 December, 1869
So women are in it too? Come, forget that persecution here, at a hundred thousand leagues from Parisian and literary life, or rather come be glad of it, for these great slatings are the sure proof of great worth. Tell yourself indeed that those who have not gone through that are GOOD FOR THE ACADEMY.
Our letters crossed. I begged you and I beg you again not to come Christmas Eve, but the night before so as to join in the revels the next night, the Eve, that is to say, the 24th. This is the program: we dine promptly at six o'clock, we have the Christmas tree and the marionettes for the children, so, that they can go to bed at nine o'clock. After that we chatter, and sup at midnight. But the diligence gets here at the earliest at half past six, and we should not dine till seven o'clock, which would make impossible the great joy of our little ones who would be kept up too late. So you must start Thursday 23d at nine o'clock in the morning, so that everyone may be perfectly comfortable, so that everyone may have time to embrace everyone else, and so that no one may be interrupted in the joy of your arrival on account of the imperious and silly darlings.
You must stay with us a very long time, a very long time, we shall have some more follies for New Year's day, and for Twelfth Night. This is a crazy happy house and it is the time of holiday after work. I am finishing tonight my year's task. Seeing you, dear old well-beloved friend, would be my recompense: do not refuse me.
Plauchut is hunting today with the prince, and perhaps will not return till Tuesday. I am writing him to wait for you till Thursday, you will be less bored on the way. I have just written to Girardin to complain.
CXLIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT 31 December, 1869
We hoped to have a word from you this morning. This sudden cold is so severe, I dreaded it for your trip. We know you got to Chateauroux all right. But did you find a compartment, and didn't you suffer on the way? Reassure us.
We were so happy to have you with us that we should be distressed if you had to suffer for this WINTER escapade. All goes well here and all of us adore one another. It is New Year's Eve. We send your share of the kisses that we are giving one another.
CXLIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Nohant, 9 January, 1870
I have had so much proof to correct that I am stupefied with it. I needed that to console me for your departure, troubadour of my heart, and for another departure also, that of my drudge of a Plauchmar—and still another departure, that of my grand-nephew Edme, my favorite, the one who played the marionettes with Maurice. He has passed his examinations for collector and goes to Pithiviers- -unless by pull, we could get him as substitute at La Chatre.
Do you know M. Roy, the head of the management of the domains? If by chance the princess knew him and would be willing to say a word to him in favor of young Simonnet? I should be happy to owe her this joy for his family and this economy for his mother who is poor. It appears that it is very easy to obtain and that no rule opposes it. But one must HAVE PULL; a word to the princess, a line from M. Roy and our tears would change to joy.
That child is very dear to me. He is so loving and so good! They had hard work to bring him up, he was always ill, always dandled on the knees and always gentle and sweet. He has a great deal of intelligence and he works well at La Chatre, where his chief the collector adores him and mourns for him also. Well, do what you can, if you can do anything at all.
They continue to damn your book. That doesn't prevent it from being a fine and good book. Justice will come later, JUSTICE IS ALWAYS DONE. Apparently it did not come at the right moment, or rather it came too soon. It has demonstrated too well the disorder that reigns in people's minds. It has rubbed the open wound, people recognize themselves too well in it.
Everyone adores you here and our consciences are too pure to be upset at the truth: we talk of you every day. Yesterday, Lina said to me that she admired very much all you do, but that she preferred Salammbo to your modern descriptions. If you had been in a corner, this is what you would have heard from her, from me, and from THE OTHERS:
"He is taller and larger than the average person. His mind is like him, beyond ordinary proportions. In that he is like Victor Hugo, at least as much as like Balzac, but he has the taste and discernment that Hugo lacks, and he is an artist which Balzac was not.—Is he then more than both? Chi lo sa?—He hasn't let himself out yet. The enormous volume of his brain troubles him. He doesn't know if he is a poet or a realist; and the fact that he is both, hinders him.—He must get straightened out in his different lines of effort. He sees everything and wants to grasp everything at once.—He is not the cut of the public that wants to eat in little mouthfuls, whom large pieces choke. But the public will go to him, just the same, when it understands.—It will even go rather quickly if the author CONDESCENDS to be willing to be quite understood.—For that, perhaps there will have to be asked some concessions to the indolence of its mind. One ought to reflect before daring to give this advice."
That sums up what we said. It is not useless to know the opinion of good people and of young people. The youngest say that l'Education sentimentale made them sad. They did not come across themselves in it, they who have not yet lived; but they have illusions and they say: "Why does this man, so good, so kind, so gay, so simple, so sympathetic, wish to discourage us from living?" What they say is poorly reasoned out, but as it is instinctive, perhaps it ought to be taken into account.
Aurore talks of you and still cradles her baby in her lap; Gabrielle calls Punch, HER LITTLE ONE, and will not eat her dinner unless he is opposite her. They are our continual idols, these brats.
Yesterday, I received, after your letter of the day before, a letter from Berton, who thinks that they will not play l'Affranchi longer than the 18th or the 20th. Wait for me, since you can delay your departure a little. It is too bad weather to go to Croisset; it is always an effort for me to leave my dear nest to go to attend to my miserable profession; but the effort is less when I hope to find you in Paris.
I embrace you for myself and for all my brood.
CXLV. TO GEORGE SAND Wednesday afternoon.
Your commission was done yesterday at one o'clock. The princess in my presence took some notes on what you wanted, in order to look after it at once. She seemed to me very glad to do you a service.
People talk of nothing but the death of Noir! The general sentiment is fear, nothing else!
Into what miserable ways we are plunged! There is so much imbecility in the air that one gets ferocious. I am less indignant than disgusted! What do you think of these gentlemen who come to confer armed with pistols and sword canes! And of this person, of this prince, who lives in the midst of an arsenal and makes use of it? Pretty! Pretty!
What a sweet letter you wrote me day before yesterday! But your friendship blinds you, dear good master. I do not belong to the tribe you mention. I am acquainted with myself, I know what I lack! And I am enormously lacking.
In losing my poor Bouilhet, I lost my midwife, it was he who saw into my thought more clearly than I did myself. His death has left a void that I notice more each day. What is the use of making concessions? Why force oneself? I am quite resolved, on the contrary, to write in future for my personal satisfaction, and without any constraint. Come what may!
CXLVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 15 January, 1870
L'Affranchi is for Tuesday. I am working hurriedly to finish my corrections and I leave Tuesday morning. Come to dine with me at Magny's at six o'clock. Can you? If not, am I to keep a seat for you in my box? A word during the day of Tuesday, to my lodgings. You won't be forced to swallow down the entire performance if it bores you.
I love you and I embrace you for myself and for my brood. Thank you for Edme.
CXLVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 19 January, 1870
Dear friend of my heart, I did not see you in the theatre. The play applauded and hissed, more applauded than hissed. Barton very beautiful, Sarah very pretty, but no interest in the characters and too many second-rate actors, not good.—I do not think that it is a success.
I am better. Yet I am not bold enough to go to your house Saturday and to return from such a distance in this severe cold. I saw Theo this evening, I told him to come to dine with us both on Saturday at Magny's. Do say yes, it is I who invite you, and we shall have a quiet private room. After that we will smoke at my place.
Plauchut would not be able to go to you. He was invited to the prince's.
A word if it is NO. Nothing if it is yes. So I don't want you to write to me. I saw Tourgueneff and I told him all that I think of him. He was as surprised as a child. We spoke ill of you.
CXLVIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT The 5th or the 6th February, 1870
(On the back of a letter from Edme Simonnet)
I don't see you, you come to the Odeon and when they tell me that you are there, I hurry and don't find you. Do set a day then when you will come to eat a chop with me. Your old exhausted troubadour who loves you.
CXLIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 15 February, 1870
My troubadour, we are two old rattle traps. As for me, I have had a bad attack of bronchitis and I am just out of bed. Now I am recovered but not yet out of my room. I hope to resume my work at the Odeon in a couple of days.
Do get well, don't go out, at least unless the thaw is not very bad. My play is for the 22d. [Footnote: This refers to L'Autre.] I hope very much to see you on that day. And meanwhile, I kiss you and I love you,
CL. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Sunday evening, 20th February, 1870
I went out today for the first time, I am better without being well. I am anxious at not having news about that reading of the fairy play. Are you satisfied? Did they understand? L'Autre will take place on Thursday, or Friday at the latest.
Will your nephew and niece go to the gallery or the balcony seats? Impossible to have a box. If yes, a word and I will send these seats out of my allotment—which, as usual, will not be grand.
Your old troubadour.
CLI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, February, 1870
It is for Friday. Then I am disposing of the two seats that I intended for your niece.
If you have a moment free, and come to the Odeon that night, you will find me in the manager's box, proscenium, ground floor. I am heavy-hearted about all you tell me. Here you are again in gloom, sorrow and chagrin. Poor dear friend! Let us continue to hope that you will save your patient, but you are ill too, and I am very anxious about you, I was quite overwhelmed by it this evening, when I got your note, and I have no more heart for anything.
A word when you can, to give me news.
CLII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Paris, 2d March, 1870
Poor dear friend, your troubles distress me, you have too many blows in quick succession, and I am going away Saturday morning leaving you in the midst of all these sorrows! Do you want to come to Nohant with me, for a change of air, even if only for two or three days? I have a compartment, we should be alone and my carriage is waiting for me at Chateauroux. You could be sad without constraint at our house, we also have mourning in the family. A change of lodging, of faces, of habits, sometimes does physical good. One does not forget one's sorrow, but one forces one's body to endure it.
I embrace you with all my soul. A word and I expect you. Wednesday evening.
CLIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 11 March, 1870
How are you, my poor child? I am glad to be here in the midst of my darling family, but I am unhappy all the same at having left you melancholy, ill and upset. Send me news, a word at least, and be assured that we all are unhappy over your troubles and sufferings.
CLIV. TO GEORGE SAND 17 March, 1870
I received a telegram yesterday evening from Madame Cornu containing these words: "Come to me, urgent business." I therefore hurried to her today, and here is the story.
The Empress maintains that you made some very unkind allusions to her in the last number of the Revue! "What about me, whom all the world is attacking now! I should not have believed that! and I wanted to have her nominated for the Academy! But what have I done to her? etc., etc." In short, she is distressed, and the Emperor too! He is not indignant but prostrated (sic). [Footnote: Malgre tout, Calmann-Levy, 1870.]
Madame Cornu explained to her that she was mistaken and that you had not intended to make any allusion to her.
Hereupon a theory of the manner in which novels are written.
—Oh well, then, let her write in the papers that she did not intend to wound me.
—But she will not do that, I answered.
—Write to her to tell you so.
—I will not allow myself to take that step.
—But I would like to know the truth, however! Do you know someone who...then Madame Cornu mentioned me.
—Oh, don't say that I spoke to you of it!
Such is the dialogue that Madame Cornu reported to me.
She wants you to write me a letter in which you tell me that the Empress was not used by you as a model. I shall send that letter to Madame Cornu who will have it given to the Empress.
I think that story stupid and those people are very sensitive! Much worse things than that are told to us.
Now dear master of the good God, you must do exactly what you please.
The Empress has always been very kind to me and I should not be sorry to do her a favor. I have read the famous passage. I see nothing in it to hurt her. But women's brains are so queer!
I am very tired in mine (my brain) or rather it is very low for the moment! However hard I work, it doesn't go! Everything irritates me and hurts me; and since I restrain myself before people, I give way from time to time to floods of tears when it seems to me as if I should burst. At last I am experiencing an entirely new sensation: the approach of old age. The shadow invades me, as Victor Hugo would say.
Madame Cornu has spoken to me enthusiastically of a letter you wrote her on a method of teaching.
CLV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Nohant, 17 March, 1870
I won't have it, you are not getting old. Not in the crabbed and MISANTHROPIC sense. On the contrary, when one is good, one becomes better, and, as you are already better than most others, you ought to become exquisite.
You are boasting, moreover, when you undertake to be angry against everyone and everything. You could not. You are weak before sorrow, like all affectionate people. The strong are those who do not love. You will never be strong, and that is so much the better. You must not live alone any more; when strength returns you must really live and not shut it up for yourself alone.
For my part, I am hoping that you will be reborn with the springtime. Today we have rain which relaxes, tomorrow we shall have the animating sun. We are all just getting over illnesses, our children had very bad colds, Maurice quite upset by lameness with a cold, I taken again by chills and anemia: I am very patient and I prevent the others as much as I can from being impatient, there is everything in that; impatience with evil always doubles the evil. When shall we be WISE as the ancients understood it? That, in substance, meant being PATIENT, nothing else. Come, dear troubadour, you must be a little patient, to begin with, and then you can get accustomed to it; if we do not work on ourselves, how can we hope to be always in shape to work on others?
Well, in the midst of all that, don't forget that we love you and that the hurt you give yourself hurts us too.
I shall go to see you and to shake you as soon as I have regained my feet and my will, which are both backward; I am waiting, I know that they will return.
Affectionate greetings from all our invalids. Punch has lost only his fiddle and he is still smiling and well gilded. Lolo's baby has had misfortunes, but its clothes dress other dolls. As for me, I can flap only one wing, but I kiss you and I love you.
CLVI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, in Paris Nohant, 19 March, 1870
I know, my friend, that you are very devoted to her. I know that she [Footnote: Letter written about the rumour current, that George Sand had meant to depict the Empress in one of the chief characters of her novel, Malgre tout; the letter was sent by Flaubert to Madame Cornu, god-child of Queen Hortense, and foster-sister of Napoleon III.] is very kind to unfortunates who have been recommended to her; that is all that I know of her private life. I have never had any revelation nor document about her, NOT A WORD, NOT A DEED, which would authorize me to depict her. So I have drawn only a figure of fancy, I swear it, and those who pretended to recognize her in a satire would be, in any case, bad servants and bad friends.
But I don't write satires: I am ignorant even of the meaning of the word. I don't write PORTRAITS either; it is not my style. I invent. The public, who does not know in what invention consists, thinks it sees everywhere models. It is mistaken and it degrades art.
This is my SINCERE answer, I have only enough time to mail it.
CLVII. To MADAME HORTENSE CORNU
Your devotion was alarmed wrongly, dear madame, I was sure of it! Here is the answer that came to me by return mail.
People in society, I reiterate, see allusions where there are none. When I did Madame Bovary I was asked many times: "Is it Madame X. whom you meant to depict?" and I received letters from perfectly unknown people, among others one from a gentleman in Rheims who congratulated me on HAVING AVENGED HIM! (against a faithless one).
Every pharmacist in Seine-Inferieure recognizing himself in Homais, wanted to come to my house to box my ears. But the best (I discovered it five years later) is that there was then in Africa the wife of an army doctor named Madame Bovaries who was like Madame Bovary, a name I had invented by altering that of Bouvaret.
The first sentence of our friend Maury in talking to me about l'Education sentimentale was this: "Did you know X, an Italian, a professor of mathematics? Your Senecal is his physical and moral portrait! Everything is exact even to the cut of his hair!"
Others assert that I meant to depict in Arnoux, Bernard Latte (the former editor), whom I have never seen, etc., etc.
All that is to tell you, dear madame, that the public is mistaken in attributing to us intentions which we do not have.
I was very sure that Madame Sand had not intended to make any portrait; (1) because of her loftiness of mind, her taste, her reverence for art, and (2) because of her character, her feeling for the conventions—and also FOR JUSTICE. I even think, between ourselves, that this accusation has hurt her a little. The papers roll us in the dirt every day without our ever answering them, we whose business it is, however, to wield the pen, and they think that in order to MAKE AN EFFECT, to be applauded, we are going to attack such and such a one.
Oh! no! not so humble! our ambition is higher, and our courtesy greater.—When one thinks highly of one's mind one does not choose the necessary means to please the crowd. You understand me, don't you?
But enough of this. I shall come to see you one of these days. Looking forward to that with pleasure, dear madame, I kiss your hands and am entirely yours,
CLVIII. TO GEORGE SAND March, 1870
I have just sent your letter (for which I thank you) to Madame Cornu, enclosing it in a letter from your troubadour, in which I permitted myself to give bluntly my conception of things.
The two letters will be placed under the eyes of the LADY and will teach her a little about aesthetics.
I saw l'Autre last evening, and I wept several times. It did me good, really! How tender and exalting it is! What a charming work and how they love the author! I missed you. I wanted to give you a kiss like a little child. My oppressed heart is easier, thank you. I think that it will get better! There were a lot of people there. Berton and his son were recalled twice.
CLIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 3 April, 1870
Your old troubadour has passed through cruel anguish, Maurice has been seriously, dangerously ill.[Footnote: With diptheria.] Favre, MY OWN doctor, the only one in whom I have confidence, hastened to us in time. After that Lolo had violent attacks of fever, other terrors! At last our savior went off this morning leaving us almost tranquil and our invalids went out to walk in the garden for the first time.—But they still want a great deal of care and oversight, and I shall not leave them for two or three weeks. If then you are awaiting me in Paris, and the sun calls you elsewhere, have no regret about it. I shall try to go to see you in Croisset from Paris between the dawn and the dusk sometime.
At least tell me how you are, what you are doing, if you are on your feet in every way.
My invalids and my well ones send you their affectionate regards, and I kiss you as I love you; it is not little.
My friend Favre has quite a FANCY for you and wants to know you. He is not a physician who seeks practice, he only practices for his friends, and he is offended if they want to pay him. YOUR PERSONALITY interests him, that is all, and I have promised to present him to you, if you are willing. He is something more than a physician, I don't know what exactly, A SEEKER—after what?— EVERYTHING. He is amusing, original and interesting to the utmost degree. You must tell me if you want to see him, otherwise I shall manage for him not to think of it any more. Answer about this matter.
CLX. TO GEORGE SAND Monday morning, 11 o'clock
I felt that something unpleasant had happened to you, because I had just written to you for news when your letter was brought to me this morning. I fished mine back from the porter; here is a second one.
Poor dear master! How uneasy you must have been and Madame Maurice also. You do not tell me what he had (Maurice). In a few days before the end of the week, write to confirm to me that everything has turned out well. The trouble lies, I think, with the abominable winter from which we are emerging! One hears of nothing but illnesses and funerals! My poor servant is still at the Dubois hospital, and I am distressed when I go to see him. For two months now he has been confined to his bed suffering horribly.
As for me, I am better. I have read prodigiously. I have overworked, but now I am almost on my feet again. The mass of gloom that I have in the depths of my heart is a little larger, that is all. But, in a little while, I hope that it will not be noticed. I spend my days in the library of the Institute. The Arsenal library lends me books that I read in the evening, and I begin again the next day. I shall return home to Croisset the first of May. But I shall see you before then. Everything will get right again with the sun.
The lovely lady in question made to me, for you, the most proper excuses, asserting to me that "she never had any intention of insulting genius."
Certainly, I shall be glad to meet M. Favre; since he is a friend of yours I shall like him.
CLXI. TO GEORGE SAND Tuesday morning
It is not staying in Paris that wears me out, but the series of misfortunes that I have had during the last eight months! I am not working too much, for what would become of me without work? However, it is very hard for me to be reasonable. I am overwhelmed by a black melancholy, which returns a propos of everything and nothing, many times a day. Then, it passes and it begins again. Perhaps it is because it is too long since I have written anything. Nervous reservoirs are exhausted. As soon as I am at Croisset, I shall begin the article about my poor Bouilhet, a painful and sad task which I am in a hurry to finish, so as to set to work at Saint- Antoine. As that is an extravagant subject, I hope it will divert me.
I have seen your physician, M. Favre, who seemed to me very strange and a little mad, between ourselves. He ought to like me for I let him talk all the time. There are high lights in his talk, things which sparkle for a moment, then one sees not a ray.
CLXII. TO GEORGE SAND Paris, Thursday
M. X.——sent me news of you on Saturday: so now I know that everything is going well with you, and that you have no more uneasiness, dear master. But you, personally, how are you? The two weeks are almost up, and I do not see you coming.
My mood continues not to be sportive. I am still given up to abominable readings, but it is time that I stopped for I am beginning to be disgusted with my subject.
Are you reading Taine's powerful book? I have gobbled it down, the first volume with infinite pleasure. In fifty years perhaps that will be the philosophy that will be taught in the colleges.
And the preface to the Idees de M. Aubray?
How I long to see you and to jabber with you!
CLXIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 16 April, 1870
What ought I to say to Levy so that he will take the first steps? Tell me again how things are, for my memory is poor. You had sold him one volume for ten thousand;—there are two, he himself told me that that would be twenty thousand. What has he paid you up to now? What words did you exchange at the time of this payment?
Answer, and I act.
Things are going better and better here, the little ones well again, Maurice recovering nicely, I tired from having watched so much and from watching yet, for he has to drink and wash out his mouth during the night, and I am the only one in the house who has the faculty of keeping awake. But I am not ill, and I work a little now and then while loafing about. As soon as I can leave, I shall go to Paris. If you are still there, it will be A PIECE OF GOOD LUCK, but I do not dare to wish you to prolong your slavery there, for I can see that you are still ill and that you are working too hard.
Croisset will cure you if you consent to take care of yourself.
I embrace you tenderly for myself and for all the family which adores you.
CLXIV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Nohant, 20 May, 1870
It is a very long time since I have had news of my old troubadour. You must be in Croisset. If it is as warm there as it is here, you must be suffering; here it is 34 degrees in the shade, and in the night, 24. Maurice has had a bad relapse of sore throat, without membranes this time, and without danger. But the inflammation was so bad that for three days he could hardly swallow even a little water and wine. Bouillon did not go down. At last this excessive heat has cured him, it suits us all here, for Lina went to Paris this morning vigorous and strong. Maurice gardens all day. The children are gay and get prettier while you look at them. As for me, I am not accomplishing anything; I have too much to do taking care of and watching my boy, and now that the little mother is away, the little children absorb me. I work, however, planning and dreaming. That will be so much done when I can scribble.
I am still ON MY FEET, as Doctor Favre says. No old age yet, or rather normal old age, the calmness ... OF VIRTUE, that thing that people ridicule, and that I mention in mockery, but that corresponds by an emphatic and silly word, to a condition of forced inoffensiveness, without merit in consequence, but agreeable and good to experience. It is a question of rendering it useful to art when one believes in that, to the family and to friendship when one cares for that; I don't dare to say how very simple and primitive I am in this respect. It is the fashion to ridicule it, but let them. I do not want to change.
There is my SPRING examination of my conscience, so as not to think all summer about anything except what is not myself.
Come, you, your health first? And this sadness, this discontent that Paris has left with you, is it forgotten? Are there no longer any painful external circumstances? You have been too much shaken also. Two of your dearest friends gone one after the other. There are periods in life when destiny is ferocious to us. You are too young to concentrate on the idea of REGAINING your affections in a better world, or in this world made better. So you must, at your age (and at mine I still try to), become more attached to what remains. You wrote that to me when I lost Rollinat, my double in this life, the veritable friend whose feeling for the differences between the sexes had never hurt our pure affection, even when we were young. He was my Bouilhet and more than that; for to my heart's intimacy was joined a religious reverence for a real type of moral courage, which had undergone all trials with a sublime SWEETNESS. I have OWED him everything that is good in me, I am trying to keep it for love of him. Is there not a heritage that our beloved dead leave us?
The despair that would make us abandon ourselves would be a treason to them and an ingratitude. Tell me that you are calm and soothed, that you are not working too much and that you are working well. I am not without some anxiety because I have not had a letter from you for a long time. I did not want to ask for one till I could tell you that Maurice was quite well again; he embraces you, and the children do not forget you. As for me, I love you.
CLXV. TO GEORGE SAND
No, dear master! I am not ill, but I have been busy with moving from Paris and with getting settled in Croisset. Then my mother has been very much indisposed. She is well now; then I have had to set in order the rest of my poor Bouilhet's papers, on whom I have begun the article. I wrote this week nearly six pages, which was very good for me; this work is very painful in every way. The difficulty is in knowing what not to say. I shall console myself a little in blurting out two or three dogmatic opinions on the art of writing. It will be an opportunity to express what I think; a sweet thing and one I am always deprived of.
You say very lovely and also good things to me to restore my courage. I have hardly any, but I am acting as if I had, which perhaps comes to the same thing.
I feel no longer the need of writing, for I used to write especially for one person alone, who is no more. That is the truth! And yet I shall continue to write. But I have no more liking for it; the fascination is gone. There are so few people who like what I like, who are anxious about what I am interested in! Do you know in this Paris, which is so large, one SINGLE house where they talk about literature? And when it happens to be touched on incidentally, it is always on its subordinate and external sides, such as the question of success, of morality, of utility, of its timeliness, etc. It seems to me that I am becoming a fossil, a being unrelated to the surrounding world.
I would not ask anything better than to cast myself on some new affection. But how? Almost all my old friends are married officials, thinking of their little business the entire year, of the hunt during vacation and of whist after dinner. I don't know one of them who would be capable of passing an afternoon with me reading a poet. They have their business; I, I have none. Observe that I am in the same social position that I was at eighteen. My niece whom I love as my daughter, does not live with me, and my poor good simple mother has become so old that all conversation with her (except about her health) is impossible. All that makes an existence which is not diverting.
As for the ladies, "my little locality" furnishes none of them, and then,—even so! I have nevver been able to put Venus an Apollo in the same coop. It is one or the other, being a man of excess, a gentleman entirely given over to what he does.
I repeat to myself the phrase of Goethe: "Go forward beyond the tombs," and I hope to get used to the emptiness, but nothing more.
The more I know you, yourself, the more I admire you; how strong you are!
Aside from a little Spinoza and Plutarch, I have read nothing since my return, as I am quite occupied by my present work. It is a task that will take me up to the end of July. I am in a hurry to be through with it, so as to abandon myself to the extravagances of the good Saint-Antoine, but I am afraid of not being SUFFICIENTLY IN THE MOOD.
That is a charming story, Mademoiselle Hauterive, isn't it? This suicide of lovers to escape misery ought to inspire fine moral phrases from Prudhomme. As for me, I understand it. What they did is not American, but how Latin and antique it is! They were not strong, but perhaps very sensitive.
CLXVI. TO GEORGE SAND Sunday, 26 June, 1870
You forget your troubadour who has just buried another friend! From the seven that we used to be at the beginning of the dinners at Magny's, we are only three now! I am gorged with coffins like an old cemetery! I am having enough of them, frankly.
And in the midst of all that I keep on working! I finished yesterday, such as it is, the article on my poor Bouilhet. I am going to see if there is not some way of reviving one of his comedies in prose. After that I shall set to work on Saint-Antoine.
And you, dear master, what is happening to you and all your family? My niece is in the Pyrenees, and I am living alone with my mother, who is becoming deafer and deafer, so that my existence lacks diversion absolutely. I should like to go to sleep on a warm beach. But for that I lack time and money. So I must push on my scratches and grub as hard as possible.
I shall go to Paris at the beginning of August. Then I shall spend all the month of October there for the rehearsals of Aisse. My vacation will be confined to a week spent in Dieppe towards the end of August. There are my plans.
It was distressing, the funeral of Jules Goncourt. Theo wept buckets full.
CLXVII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT Nohant, 27 June, 1870
Another grief for you, my poor old friend. I too have a great one, I mourn for Barbes, one of my religions, one of those beings who make one reconciled with humanity. As for you, you miss poor Jules [Footnote: De Goncourt.] and you pity the unhappy Edmond. You are perhaps in Paris, so as to try to console him. I have just written him, and I feel that you are struck again in your affections. What an age! Every one is dying, everything is dying, and the earth is dying also, eaten up by the sun and the wind. I don't know where I get the courage to keep on living in the midst of these ruins. Let us love each other to the end. You write me very little, I am worried about you.
CLXVIII. TO GEORGE SAND Saturday evening, 2 July, 1870
Dear good master,
Barbes' death has saddened me because of you. We, both of us, have our mourning. What a succession of deaths during a year! I am as dazed by them as if I had been hit on the head with a stick. What troubles me (for we refer everything to ourselves), is the terrible solitude in which I live. I have no longer anyone, I mean anyone with whom to converse, "who is interested today in eloquence and style."
Aside from you and Tourgueneff, I don't know a living being to whom to pour out my soul about those things which I have most at heart; and you live far away from me, both of you!
However, I continue to write. I have resolved to start at my Saint- Antoine tomorrow or the day after. But to begin a protracted effort I need a certain lightness which I lack just now. I hope, however, that this extravagant work is going to get hold of me. Oh! how I would like not to think any more of my poor Moi, of my miserable carcass! It is getting on very well, my carcass. I sleep tremendously! "The coffer is good," as the bourgeois say.
I have read lately some amazing theological things, which I have intermingled with a little of Plutarch and Spinoza. I have nothing more to say to you.
Poor Edmond de Goncourt is in Champagne at his relatives'. He has promised to come here the end of this month. I don't think that the hope of seeing his brother again in a better world consoles him for having lost him in this one.
One juggles with empty words on this question of immortality, for the question is to know if the moi persists. The affirmative seems to me a presumption of our pride, a protest of our weakness against the eternal order. Has death perhaps no more secrets to reveal to us than life has?
What a year of evil! I feel as if I were lost in the desert, and I assure you, dear master, that I am brave, however, and that I am making prodigious efforts to be stoical. But my poor brain is enfeebled at moments. I need only one thing (and that is not given me), it is to have some kind of enthusiasm!
Your last letter but one was very sad. You also, heroic being, you feel worn out! What then will become of us!
I have just reread the conversations between Goethe and Eckermann. There was a man, that Goethe! But then he had everything on his side, that man.
CLXIX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croissset Nohant, 29 June, 1870
Our letters are always crossing, and I have now the feeling that if I write to you in the evening I shall receive a letter from you the next morning; we could say to each other:
"You appeared to me in my sleep, looking a little sad."
What preoccupies me most about poor Jules' (de Goncourt) death, is the survivor. I am sure that the dead are well off, that perhaps they are resting before living again, and that in all cases they fall back into the crucible so as to reappear with what good they previously had and more besides. Barbes only suffered all his life. There he is now, sleeping deeply. Soon he will awaken; but we, poor beasts of survivors, we see them no longer. A little while before he died, Duveyrier, who seemed to have recovered, said to me: "Which one of us will go first?" We were exactly the same age. He complained that those who went first could not let those who were left know that they were happy, and that they remembered their friends. I said, WHO KNOWS? Then we promised each other that the first one to die should appear to the survivor, and should at least try to speak to him.
He did not come, I have waited for him, he has said nothing to me. He had one of the tenderest hearts, and a sincere good will. He was not able to; it was not permitted, or perhaps, it was I; I did not hear or understand.
It is, I say, this poor Edmond who is on my mind. That life lived together, quite ended. I cannot think why the bond was broken, unless he too believes that one does not really die.
I would indeed like to go to see you; apparently you have COOL WEATHER in Croisset since you want to sleep ON A WARM BEACH. Come here, you will not have a beach, but 36 degrees in the shade and a stream cold as ice, is not to be despised. I go there to dabble in it every day after my work; for I must work, Buloz advances me too much money. Here I am DOING MY BUSINESS, as Aurore says, and not being able to budge till autumn. I was too lazy after my fatigues as sick-nurse. Little Buloz recently came to stir me up again. Now here I am hard at it.
Since you are to be in Paris in August, you must come to spend several days with us. You did laugh here anyhow; we will try to distract you and to shake you up a bit. You will see the little girls grown and prettier; the little one is beginning to talk. Aurore chatters and argues. She calls Plauchut, OLD BACHELOR. And a propos, accept the best regards of that fine and splendid boy along with all the affectionate greetings of the family.
As for me, I embrace you tenderly and beg you to keep well.
CLXX. TO GEORGE SAND Croisset, Wednesday evening...1870
What has become of you, dear master, of you and yours? As for me, I am disheartened, distressed by the folly of my compatriots. The hopeless barbarism of humanity fills me with a black melancholy. That enthusiasm which has no intelligent motive makes me want to die, so as not to see it any longer.
The good Frenchman wants to fight: (1) because he thinks he is provoked to it by Prussia; (2) because the natural condition of man is savagery; (3) because war in itself contains a mystic element which enraptures crowds.
Have we returned to the wars of races? I fear so. The terrible butchery which is being prepared has not even a pretext. It is the desire to fight for the sake of fighting.
I bewail the destroyed bridges, the staved-in tunnels, all this human labor lost, in short a negation so radical.
The Congress of Peace is wrong at present. Civilization seems to me far off. Hobbes was right: Homo homini lupus.
I have begun Saint-Antoine, and it would go perhaps rather well, if I did not think of the war. And you?
The bourgeois here cannot contain himself. He thinks Prussia was too insolent and wants to "avenge himself." Did you see that a gentleman has proposed in the Chamber the pillage of the duchy of Baden! Ah! why can't I live among the Bedouins!
CLXXI. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset Nohant, 26 July, 1870
I think this war is infamous; that authorized Marseillaise, a sacrilege. Men are ferocious and conceited brutes; we are in the HALF AS MUCH of Pascal; when will come the MORE THAN EVER!
It is between 40 and 45 degrees IN THE SHADE here. They are burning the forests; another barbarous stupidity! The wolves come and walk into our court, and we chase them away at night, Maurice with a revolver and I with a lantern. The trees are losing their leaves and perhaps their lives. Water for drinking is becoming scarce; the harvests are almost nothing; but we have war, what luck!
Farming is going to nought, famine threatens, poverty is lurking about while waiting to transform itself into Jacquerie; but we shall fight with the Prussians. Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre!
You said rightly that in order to work, a certain lightness was needed; where is it to be found in these accursed times?
Happily, we have no one ill at our house. When I see Maurice and Lina acting, Aurore and Gabrielle playing, I do not dare to complain for fear of losing all.
I love you, my dear old friend, we all love you.
CLXXII. TO GEORGE SAND Croisset, Wednesday, 3 August, 1870
What! dear master, you too are demoralized, sad? What will become of the weak souls?
As for me, my heart is oppressed in a way that astonishes me, and I wallow in a bottomless melancholy, in spite of work, in spite of the good Saint-Antoine who ought to distract me. Is it the consequence of my repeated afflictions? Perhaps. But the war is a good deal responsible for it. I think that we are getting into the dark.
Behold then, the NATURAL MAN. Make theories now! Boast the progress, the enlightenment and the good sense of the masses, and the gentleness of the French people! I assure you that anyone here who ventured to preach peace would get himself murdered. Whatever happens, we have been set back for a long time to come.
Are the wars between races perhaps going to begin again? One will see, before a century passes, several millions of men kill one another in one engagement. All the East against all Europe, the old world against the new! Why not? Great united works like the Suez Canal are, perhaps, under another form, outlines and preparations for these monstrous conflicts of which we have no idea.
Is Prussia perhaps going to have a great drubbing which entered into the schemes of Providence for reestablishing European equilibrium? That country was tending to be hypertrophied like France under Louis XIV and Napoleon. The other organs are inconvenienced by it. Thence universal trouble. Would formidable bleedings be useful?
Ah! we intellectuals! Humanity is far from our ideal! and our immense error, our fatal error, is to think it like us and to want to treat it accordingly.
The reverence, the fetichism, that they have for universal suffrage revolts me more than the infallibility of the pope (which has just delightfully missed its point, by the way). Do you think that if France, instead of being governed on the whole by the crowd, were in the power of the mandarins, we should be where we are now? If, instead of having wished to enlighten the lower classes, we had busied ourselves with instructing the higher, we should not have seen M. de Keratry proposing the pillage of the duchy of Baden, a measure that the public finds very proper!
Are you studying Prudhomme now? He is gigantic! He admires Musset's Rhin, and asks if Musset has done anything else. Here you have Musset accepted as the national poet and ousting Beranger! What immense buffoonery is...everything! But a not at all gay buffoonery.
Misery is very evident. Everyone is in want, beginning with myself! But perhaps we were too accustomed to comfort and tranquillity. We buried ourselves in material things. We must return to the great tradition, hold no longer to life, to happiness, to money nor to anything; be what our grandfathers were, light, effervescing people.
Once men passed their life in starving. The same prospect is on the horizon. What you tell me about poor Nohant is terrible. The country has suffered less here than with you.
CLXXIII. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset. Nohant, 8 August, 1870
Are you in Paris in the midst of all this torment? What a lesson the people are getting who want absolute masters! France and Prussia are cutting each other's throats for reasons that they don't understand! Here we are in the midst of great disasters, and what tears at the end of it all, even should we be the victors! One sees nothing but poor peasants mourning for their children who are leaving.
The mobilization takes away those who were left with us and how they are being treated to begin with! What disorder, what disarray in that military administration, which absorbed everything and had to swallow up everything! Is this horrible experience going to prove to the world that warfare ought to be suppressed or that civilization has to perish?
We have reached the point this evening of knowing that we are beaten. Perhaps tomorrow we shall know that we have beaten, and what will there be good or useful from one or the other?
It has rained here at last, a horrible storm which destroyed everything.
The peasant is working and ploughing his fields; digging hard always, sad or gay. He is imbecile, people say; no, he is a child in prosperity, a man in disaster, more of a man than we who complain; he says nothing, and while people are killing, he is sowing, repairing continually on one side what they are destroying from the other. We are going to try to do as he, and to hunt a bubbling spring fifty or a hundred yards below ground. The engineer is here, and Maurice is explaining to him the geology of the soil.
We are trying to dig into the bowels of the earth to forget all that is going on above it. But we cannot distract ourselves from this terror!
Write me where you are; I am sending this to you on the day agreed upon to rue Murillo. We love you, and we all embrace you.
Nohant, Sunday evening.
CLXXIV. TO GEORGE SAND. Croisset, Wednesday, 1870
I got to Paris on Monday, and I left it again on Wednesday. Now I know the Parisian to the very bottom, and I have excused in my heart those most ferocious politics of 1793. Now, I understand them! What imbecility! what ignorance! what presumption! My compatriots make me want to vomit. They are fit to be put in the same sack with Isidore!
This people deserves to be chastised, and I fear that it will be.
It is impossible for me to read anything whatever, still more so to write anything. I spend my time like everyone else in waiting for news. Ah! if I did not have my mother, I would already be gone!
CLXXV. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset. Nohant, 15 August, 1870
I wrote to you to Paris according to your instructions the 8th. Weren't you there then? Probably so: in the midst of all this confusion, to publish Bouilhet, a poet! this is not the moment. As for me, my courage is weak. There is always a woman under the skin of the old troubadour. This human butchery tears my poor heart to pieces. I tremble too for all my children and friends, who perhaps are to be hacked to pieces.
And YET, in the midst of all that, my soul exults and has ecstasies of faith; these terrific lessons which are necessary for us to understand our imbecility, must be of use to us. We are perhaps making our last return to the ways of the old world. There are sharp and clear principles for everyone today that ought to extricate them from this torment. Nothing is useless in the material order of the universe. The moral order cannot escape the law. Bad engenders good. I tell you that we are in the HALF AS MUCH of Pascal, so as to get TO THE MORE THAN EVER! That is all the mathematics that I understand.
I have finished a novel in the midst of this torment, hurrying up so as not to be worn out before the end. I am as tired as if I had fought with our poor soldiers.
I embrace you. Tell me where you are, what you are thinking.
We all love you.
What a fine St. Napoleon we have!
CLXXVI. TO GEORGE SAND. Saturday, 1870
Here we are in the depths of the abyss! A shameful peace will perhaps not be accepted! The Prussians intend to destroy Paris! That is their dream.
I don't think the siege of Paris is very imminent. But in order to force Paris to yield, they are going to (1) terrify her by the sight of cannon, and (2) ravage the surrounding country.
We expect the visit of these gentlemen at Rouen, and as I have been (since Sunday) lieutenant of my company, I drill my men and I am going to Rouen to take lessons in military tactics.
The most deplorable thing is that opinions are divided, some for defence to the utmost, and others for peace at any price.
I AM DYING OF HUMILIATION. What a house mine is! Fourteen persons who sigh and unnerve me! I curse women! It is because of them that we perish.
I expect that Paris will have the fate of Warsaw, and you distress me, you with your enthusiasm for the Republic. At the moment when we are overcome by the plainest positivism, how can you still believe in phantoms? Whatever happens, the people who are now in power will be sacrificed, and the Republic will follow their fate. Observe that I defend that poor Republic; but I do not believe in it.
That is all that I have to say to you. Now I should have many more things to say, but my head is not clear. It is as if cataracts, floods, oceans of sadness, were breaking over me. It is not possible to suffer more. Sometimes I am afraid of going mad. The face of my mother, when I turn my eyes toward her, takes away all my strength.
This is where our passion for not wanting to see the truth has taken us! Love of pretence and of flap-doodle. We are going to become a Poland, then a Spain. Then it will be the turn of Prussia who will be devoured by Russia.
As for me, I consider myself a man whose career is ended. My brain is not going to recover. One can write no longer when one does not think well of oneself. I demand only one thing, that is to die, so to be at rest.
CLXXVII. TO GEORGE SAND Sunday evening
I am still alive, dear master, but I am hardly any better, for I am so sad! I didn't write you any sooner, for I was waiting, for news from you. I didn't know where you were.
Here it is six weeks that we have been expecting the coming of the Prussians from day to day. We strain our ears, thinking we can hear the sound of the cannon from a distance. They are surrounding Seine- Inferieure in a radius of from fourteen to twenty leagues. They are even nearer, since they are occupying Vexin, which they have completely destroyed. What horrors! It makes one blush for being a man!
If we have had a success on the Loire, their appearance will be delayed. But shall we have it? When the hope comes to me, I try to repel it, and yet, in the very depths of myself, in spite of all, I cannot keep myself from hoping a little, a very little bit.
I don't think that there is in all France a sadder man than I am! (It all depends on the sensitiveness of people.) I am dying of grief. That is the truth, and consolations irritate me. What distresses me is: (1) the ferocity of men; (2) the conviction that we are going to enter upon a stupid era. People will be utilitarian, military, American and Catholic! Very Catholic! You will see! The Prussian War ends the French Revolution and destroys it.
But supposing we were conquerors? you will say to me. That hypothesis is contrary to all historical precedents. Where did you ever see the south conquer the north, and the Catholics dominate the Protestants? The Latin race is agonizing. France is going to follow Spain and Italy, and boorishness (pignouflism) begins!
What a cataclysm! What a collapse! What misery! What abominations! Can one believe in progress and in civilization in the face of all that is going on? What use, pray, is science, since this people abounding in scholars commits abominations worthy of the Huns and worse than theirs, because they are systematic, cold-blooded, voluntary, and have for an excuse, neither passion nor hunger?
Why do they abhor us so fiercely? Don't you feel overwhelmed by the hatred of forty millions of men? This immense infernal chasm makes me giddy.
Ready-made phrases are not wanting: France will rise again! One must not despair! It is a salutary punishment! We were really too immoral! etc. Oh! eternal poppycock! No! one does not recover from such a blow! As for me, I feel myself struck to my very marrow!
If I were twenty years younger, I should perhaps not think all that, and if I were twenty years older I should be resigned.
Poor Paris! I think it is heroic. But if we do find it again, it will not be our Paris any more! All the friends that I had there are dead or have disappeared. I have no longer any center. Literature seems to me to be a vain and useless thing! Shall I ever be in a condition to write again?
Oh! if I could flee into a country where one does not see uniforms, where one does not hear the drum, where one does not talk of massacres, where one is not obliged to be a citizen! But the earth is no longer habitable for the poor mandarins.
CLXXVIII. TO GEORGE SAND Wednesday
I am sad no longer. I took up my Saint-Antoine yesterday. So much the worse, one has to get accustomed to it! One must accustom oneself to what is the natural condition of man, that is to say, to evil.
The Greeks at the time of Pericles made art without knowing if they should have anything to eat the next day. Let us be Greeks. I shall confess to you, however, dear master, that I feel rather a savage. The blood of my ancesters, the Natchez or the Hurons, boils in my educated veins, and I seriously, like a beast, like an animal, want to fight!
Explain that to me! The idea of making peace now exasperates me, and I would rather that Paris were burned (like Moscow), than see the Prussians enter it. But we have not gotten to that; I think the wind is turning.
I have read some soldiers' letters, which are models. One can't swallow up a country where people write like that. France is a resourceful jade, and will be up again.
Whatever happens, another world is going to begin, and I feel that I am very old to adapt myself to new customs.
Oh! how I miss you, how I want to see you!
We have decided here to all march on Paris if the compatriots of Hegel lay siege to it. Try to get your Berrichons to buck up. Call to them: "Come to help me prevent the enemy from drinking and eating in a country which is foreign to them!"
The war (I hope) will make a home thrust at the "authorities."
The individual, disowned, overwhelmed by the modern world, will he regain his importance? Let us hope so!
CLXXIX. TO GEORGE SAND. Tuesday, 11 October, 1870
Are you still living? Where are you, Maurice, and the others?
I don't know how it is that I am not dead, I have suffered so atrociously for six weeks.
My mother has fled to Rouen. My niece is in London. My brother is busy with town affairs, and, as for me, I am alone here, eaten up with impatience and chagrin! I assure you that I have wanted to do right; what misery! I have had at my door today two hundred and seventy-one poor people, and they were all given something. What will this winter be?
The Prussians are now twelve hours from Rouen, and we have no commands, no orders, no discipline, nothing, nothing! They hold out false hopes to us continually with the army of the Loire. Where is it? Do you know anything about it? What are they doing in the middle of France? Paris will end by being starved, and no one is taking her any aid!
The imbecilities of the Republic surpass those of the Empire. Are they playing under all this some abominable comedy? Why such inaction?
Ah! how sad I am. I feel that the world is going by.
CLXXX. TO GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, at Croisset. Le Chatre, 14 October, 1870
We are living at Le Chatre. Nohant is ravaged by smallpox with complications, horrible. We had to take our little ones into the Creuse, to friends who came to get us, and we spent three weeks there, looking in vain for quarters where a family could stay for three months. We were asked to go south and were offered hospitality; but we did not want to leave the country where, from one day to another, one can be useful, although one hardly knows yet in what way to go at it.
So we have come back to the friends who lived the nearest to our abandoned hearth; and we are awaiting events. To speak of all the peril and trouble there is in establishing the Republic in the interior of our provinces would be quite useless. There can be no illusion: everything is at stake, and the end will perhaps be ORLEANISM. But we are pushed into the unforeseen to such an extent that it seems to me puerile to have anticipations; the thing to do is to escape the next catastrophe.
Don't let's say that it is impossible; don't let's think it. Don't let's despair about France. She is going through expiation for her madness, she will be reborn no matter what happens. We shall perhaps be carried away, the rest of us. To die of pneumonia or of a bullet is dying just the same. Let's die without cursing our race!