Why should I not begin the year of 1869 in wishing to you and to yours “Happy New Year and many of them”? It is rococo, but it pleases me. Now, let us talk.
No, I don’t get into a heat, for I have never been better. They thought me, in Paris, “fresh as a young girl,” and those people who don’t know my life attributed that appearance of health to the air of the country. That is what conventional ideas are. Every one has his system. For my part, when I am not hungry, the only thing I can eat is dry bread. And the most indigestible food, such as apples in sour cider, and bacon, are what cure me of the stomach-ache. And so on. A man who has no common sense ought not to try to live according to common-sense rules.
As for my frenzy for work, I will compare it to an attack of herpes. I scratch myself while I cry. It is both a pleasure and a torture at the same time. And I am doing nothing that I want to! For one does not choose one’s subjects, they force themselves on one. Shall I ever find mine? Will an idea fall from Heaven suitable to my temperament? Can I write a book to which I shall give myself heart and soul? It seems to me in my moments of vanity, that I am beginning to catch a glimpse of what a novel ought to be. But I still have three or four of them to write before that one (which is, moreover, very vague), and at the rate I am going, if I write these three or four, that will be the most I can do. I am like M. Prudhomme, who thinks that the most beautiful church would be one which had at the same time the spire of Strasbourg, the colonnade of Saint Peter’s, the portico of the Parthenon, etc. I have contradictory ideals. Thence embarrassment, hesitation, impotence.
As to whether the “claustration” to which I condemn myself may be a “state of joy,” no. But what can I do? To get drunk with ink is more worth while than to get drunk with brandy. The muse, cross-grained as she is, gives less trouble than a woman. I cannot harmonize the one with the other. I must choose. My choice was made a long time ago. There remains the matter of the senses. They have always been my servants. Even at the time of my earliest youth, I did exactly as I wanted with them. I have reached my fiftieth year, and it is not their ardor that troubles me.
This regime is not amusing, I agree to that. There are moments of empty and horrible boredom. But they become more and more rare in proportion as one grows older. In short, LIVING seems to me a business for which I was not made, and yet . . .!
I stayed in Paris for three days, which I made use of in hunting up information, and in doing errands about my book. I was so worn out last Friday, that I went to bed at seven o’clock in the evening. Such are my mad orgies at the capital.
I found the Goncourts in a frenzied (sic) admiration over a book entitled Histoire de ma vie by George Sand. Which proves more good taste than learning on their part. They even wanted to write to you to express all their admiration. (In return I found —— stupid. He compares Feydeau to Chateaubriand, admires very much the Lepreux de la cite d’Aoste, finds Don Quichotte tedious, etc.).
Do you notice how rare literary sense is? The knowledge of language, archeology, history, etc., all that should be useful however! Well! well! not at all! The so-called enlightened people are becoming more and more incompetent in the matter of art. Even what art means escapes them. The glosses for them are more important than the text. They pay more attention to the crutches than to the legs themselves.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:50