The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters

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.

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:53