The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters

CCCV. To George Sand Wednesday, 9th March, 1876

COMPLETE SUCCESS, dear master. The actors were recalled after each act, and warmly applauded. The public was pleased and from time to time cries of approval were heard. All your friends who had come at your summons were sorry that you were not there.

The roles of Antoine and Victorine were especially well played. Little Baretta is a real treasure.

How were you able to make Victorine from le Philosophe sans le savoir? That is beyond me. Your play charmed me and made me weep like an idiot, while the other bored me to death, absolutely bored me to death; I longed to get to the end. What language! the good Tourgueneff and Madame Viardot made saucer-eyes, comical to behold. In your work, what produced the greatest effect is the scene in the last act between Antoine and his daughter. Maubant is too majestic, and the actor who plays Fulgence is inadequate. But everything went very well, and this revival will have a long life.

The gigantic Harrisse told me that he was going to write to you immediately. Therefore his letter will arrive before mine. I should have started this morning for Pont-l’Eveque and Honfleur to see a bit of the country that I have forgotten, but the floods stopped me.

Read, I beg of you, the new novel by Zola, Son Excellence Rougon: I am very anxious to know what you think of it.

No, I do not SCORN Sedaine, because I do not scorn what I do not understand. He is to me, like Pindar, and Milton, who are absolutely closed to me; however, I quite understand that the citizen Sedaine is not exactly of their calibre.

The public of last Tuesday shared my error, and Victorine, independently of its real worth, gained by contrast. Madame Viardot, who has naturally good taste, said to me yesterday, in speaking of you: “How was she able to make one from the other?” That is exactly what I think.

You distress me a bit, dear master, by attributing esthetic opinions to me which are not mine. I believe that the rounding of the phrase is nothing. But that WRITING WELL is everything, because “writing well is at the same time perceiving well, thinking well and saying well” (Buffon). The last term is then dependent on the other two, since one has to feel strongly, so as to think, and to think, so as to express.

All the bourgeois can have a great deal of heart and delicacy, be full of the best sentiments and the greatest virtues, without becoming for all that, artists. In short, I believe that the form and the matter are two subtleties, two entities, neither of which can exist without the other.

This anxiety for external beauty which you reproach me with is for me a METHOD. When I discover a bad assonance or a repetition in one of my phrases, I am sure that I am floundering in error; by dint of searching, I find the exact expression which was the only one and is, at the same time, the harmonious one. The word is never lacking when one possesses the idea.

Note (to return to the good Sedaine) that I share all his opinions and I approve his tendencies. From the archeological point of view, he is curious and from the humanitarian point of view very praiseworthy, I agree. But what difference does it make to us today? Is it eternal art? I ask you that.

Other writers of his period have formulated useful principles also, but in an imperishable style, in a more concrete and at the same time more general manner.

In short, the persistence of the Comedie Francais in exhibiting that to us as “a masterpiece” had so exasperated me that, having gone home in order to get rid of the taste of this milk-food, I read before going to bed the Medea of Euripides, as I had no other classic handy, and Aurora surprised Cruchard in this occupation.

I have written to Zola to send you his book. I shall tell Daudet also to send you his Jack, as I am very curious to have your opinion on these two books, which are very different in composition and temperament, but quite remarkable, both of them.

The fright which the elections caused to the bourgeois has been diverting.

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