The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters

XL. To George Sand Croisset, Saturday night

I have seen Citizen Bouilhet, who had a real ovation in his own country. His compatriots who had absolutely ignored him up to then, from the moment that Paris applauded him, screamed with enthusiasm. — He will return here Saturday next, for a banquet that they are giving him — 80 covers, at least.

As for Marengo the Swallow, he kept your secret so well, that he read the letter in question with an astonishment which duped me.

Poor Marengo! she is a figure! and one that you ought to put in a book. I wonder what her memoirs would be, written in that style? — Mine (my style) continues to give me no small annoyance. I hope, however, in a month, to have crossed the most barren tract. But at the moment I am lost in a desert; well, by the grace of God, so much the worse for me! How gladly I shall abandon this sort of thing, never to return to it to my dying day! Depicting the modern French bourgeois is a stench in my nostrils! And then won’t it be time perhaps to enjoy oneself a bit in life, and to choose subjects pleasant to the author?

I expressed myself badly when I said to you that “one should not write from the heart.” I meant to say: not put one’s personality into the picture. I think that great art is scientific and impersonal. One should, by an effort of mind, put oneself into one’s characters and not create them after oneself. That is the method at least; a method which amounts to this: try to have a great deal of talent and even of genius if you can. How vain are all the poetic theories and criticisms! — and the nerve of the gentlemen who compose them sickens me. Oh! nothing restrains them, those boneheads!

Have you noticed that there is sometimes in the air a current of common ideas? For instance, I have just read my friend Du Camp’s new novel: Forces Perdues. It is very like what I am doing, in many ways. His book is very naive and gives an accurate idea of the men of our generation having become real fossils to the young men of today. The reaction of ’48 opened a deep chasm between the two Frances.

Bouilhet told me that you had been seriously ill at one of the recent Magny’s, although you do pretend to be a “woman of wood.” Oh! no you are not of wood, dear good great heart! “Beloved old troubadour,” would it not perhaps be opportune to rehabilitate him at the Theatre Almanzor? I can see him with his toque and his guitar and his apricot tunic howling at the black-gowned students from the top of a rock. The talk would be fine. Now, good night; I kiss you on both cheeks tenderly.

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