The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters

CCC. To Gustave Flaubert, in Paris Nohant, 18th and 19th December, 1875

At last I discover my old troubadour who was a subject of chagrin and serious worry to me. Here you are yourself again, trusting in the very natural luck of external events, and discovering in yourself the strength to control them, whatever they may be, by effort. What is it that you call some one in HIGH FINANCE? For my part, I don’t know; I am in relations with Victor Borie. He will do me a favor if he sees it to his interest. Must I write him?

Then you are going to start grubbing again? So am I; for since Flamarande I have done nothing but mark time, while waiting for something better. I was so ill all summer! but my strange and excellent friend Favre has cured me wonderfully, and I am taking a new lease on life.

What’s our next move? For you, of course, DESOLATION, and, for me, consolation. I do not know on what our destinies depend; you see them pass, you criticise them, you abstain from a literary appreciation of them, you limit yourself to depicting them, with deliberate meticulous concealment of your personal feelings. However, one sees them very clearly through your narrative, and you make the people sadder who read you. As for me, I should like to make them less sad. I cannot forget that my personal victory over despair was the work of my will and of a new way of understanding which is entirely opposed to what I had before.

I know that you criticise the intervention of the personal doctrine in literature. Are you right? Isn’t it rather a lack of conviction than a principle of esthetics? One cannot have a philosophy in one’s soul without its appearing. I have no literary advice to give you, I have no judgment to formulate on the author friends of whom you speak. I, myself have told the Goncourts all my thought; as for the others, I firmly believe that they have more education and more talent than I have. Only I think that they, and you especially, lack a definite and extended vision of life. Art is not merely painting. True painting, moreover, is full of the soul that wields the brush. Art is not merely criticism and satire: criticism and satire depict only one side of the truth.

I want to see a man as he is, he is not good or bad, he is good and bad. But he is something more . . . nuance. Nuance which is for me the purpose of art, being good and bad, he has an internal force which leads him to be very bad and slightly good — or very good and slightly bad.

I think that your school is not concerned with the substance, and that it dwells too much on the surface. By virtue of seeking the form, it makes the substance too cheap! it addresses itself to the men of letters. But there are no men of letters, properly speaking. Before everything, one is a man. One wants to find man at the basis of every story and every deed. That was the defect of l’Education sentimentale, about which I have so often reflected since, asking myself why there was so general a dislike of a work that was so well done and so solid. This defect was the absence of ACTION of the characters on themselves. They submitted to the event and never mastered it. Well, I think that the chief interest in a story is what you did not want to do. If I were you, I would try the opposite; you are feeding on Shakespeare just now, and you are doing well! He is the author who puts men at grips with events; observe that by them, whether for good or for ill, the event is always conquered. In his works, it is crushed underfoot.

Politics is a comedy just now. We have had tragedy, shall we end with the opera or with the operetta? I read my paper conscientiously every morning; but aside from that moment, it is impossible for me to think of it or to be interested in it. All of it is absolutely void of any ideal whatsoever, and therefore I cannot get up any interest in any of the persons concerned in that scullery. All of them are slaves of fact because they have been born slaves of themselves.

My dear little girls are well. Aurore is a well-set-up girl, a beautiful upright soul in a strong body. The other one is grace and sweetness. I am always an assiduous and a patient teacher, and very little time is left to me to write PROFESSIONALLY, seeing that I cannot keep awake after midnight and that I want to spend all my evening with my family; but this lack of time stimulates me and makes me find a true pleasure in digging away; it is like a forbidden fruit that I taste in secret.

All my dear world embraces you and rejoices to hear that you are better. Did I send you Flamarande and the pictures of my little girls? If not, send me a line, and I send you both.

Your old troubadour who loves you,

G. Sand

Embrace your charming niece for me. What a good and lovely letter she wrote me! Tell her that I beg her to take care of herself and to please get well quickly.

What do you mean! Littre a senator? It is impossible to believe it when one knows what the Chamber is. All the same it must be congratulated for this attempt at self-respect.

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