The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters

XXI. To Gustave Flaubert, at Croisset Nohant, Monday evening, 1 October, 1866

Dear friend,

Your letter was forwarded to me from Paris. It isn’t lost. I think too much of them to let any be lost. You don’t speak to me of the floods, therefore I think that the Seine did not commit any follies at your place and that the tulip tree did not get its roots wet. I feared lest you were anxious and wondered if your bank was high enough to protect you. Here we have nothing of that sort to be afraid of; our streams are very wicked, but we are far from them.

You are happy in having such clear memories of other existences. Much imagination and learning — those are your memories; but if one does not recall anything distinct, one has a very lively feeling of one’s own renewal in eternity. I have a very amusing brother who often used to say “at the time when I was a dog. . . . ” He thought that he had become man very recently. I think that I was vegetable or mineral. I am not always very sure of completely existing, and sometimes I think I feel a great fatigue accumulated from having lived too much. Anyhow, I do not know, and I could not, like you, say, “I possess the past.”

But then you believe that one does not really die, since one LIVES AGAIN? If you dare to say that to the Smart Set, you have courage and that is good. I have the courage which makes me pass for an imbecile, but I don’t risk anything; I am imbecile under so many other counts.

I shall be enchanted to have your written impression of Brittany, I did not see enough to talk about. But I sought a general impression and that has served me for reconstructing one or two pictures which I need. I shall read you that also, but it is still an unformed mass.

Why did your trip remain unpublished? You are very coy. You don’t find what you do worth being described. That is a mistake. All that issues from a master is instructive, and one should not fear to show one’s sketches and drawings. They are still far above the reader, and so many things are brought down to his level that the poor devil remains common. One ought to love common people more than oneself, are they not the real unfortunates of the world? Isn’t it the people without taste and without ideals who get bored, don’t enjoy anything and are useless? One has to allow oneself to be abused, laughed at, and misunderstood by them, that is inevitable. But don’t abandon them, and always throw them good bread, whether or not they prefer filth; when they are sated with dirt they will eat the bread; but if there is none, they will eat filth in secula seculorum.

I have heard you say, “I write for ten or twelve people only.” One says in conversation, many things which are the result of the impression of the moment; but you are not alone in saying that. It was the opinion of the Lundi or the thesis of that day. I protested inwardly. The twelve persons for whom you write, who appreciate you, are as good as you are or surpass you. You never had any need of reading the eleven others to be yourself. But, one writes for all the world, for all who need to be initiated; when one is not understood, one is resigned and recommences. When one is understood, one rejoices and continues. There lies the whole secret of our persevering labors and of our love of art. What is art without the hearts and minds on which one pours it? A sun which would not project rays and would give life to no one.

After reflecting on it, isn’t that your opinion? If you are convinced of that, you will never know disgust and lassitude, and if the present is sterile and ungrateful, if one loses all influence, all hold on the public, even in serving it to the best of one’s ability, there yet remains recourse to the future, which supports courage and effaces all the wounds of pride. A hundred times in life, the good that one does seems not to serve any immediate use; but it keeps up just the same the tradition of wishing well and doing well, without which all would perish.

Is it only since ’89 that people have been floundering? Didn’t they have to flounder in order to arrive at ’48 when they floundered much more, but so as to arrive at what should be? You must tell me how you mean that and I will read Turgot to please you. I don’t promise to go as far as Holbach, ALTHOUGH HE HAS SOME GOOD POINTS, THE RUFFIAN!

Summon me at the time of Bouilhet’s play. I shall be here, working hard, but ready to run, and loving you with all my heart. Now that I am no longer a woman, if the good God was just, I should become a man; I should have the physical strength and would say to you: “Come let’s go to Carthage or elsewhere.” But there, one who has neither sex nor strength, progresses towards childhood, and it is quite otherwhere that one is renewed; WHERE? I shall know that before you do, and, if I can, I shall come back in a dream to tell you.

Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:50