The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters

CCXLIII. To George Sand

Dear master,

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.

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