The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters

CCXXXIX. To George Sand Monday night, 28 October, 1872

You have guessed rightly, dear master, that I had an increase of sorrow, and you have written me a very tender, good letter, thanks; I embrace you even more warmly than usual.

Although expected, the death of poor Theo has distressed me. He is the last of my intimates to go. He closes the list. Whom shall I see now when I go to Paris? With whom shall I talk of what interests me? I know some thinkers (at least people who are called so), but an artist, where is there any? For my part, I tell you he died from the “putrescence of modern times.” That is his word, and he repeated it to me this winter several times: “I am dying of the Commune,” etc.

The 4th of September has inaugurated an order of things in which people like him have nothing more in the world to do. One must not demand apples of orange trees. Artisans in luxury are useless in a society dominated by plebeians. How I regret him! He and Bouilhet have left an absolute void in me, and nothing can take their place. Besides he was always so good, and no matter what they say, so simple. People will recognize later (if they ever return seriously to literature), that he was a great poet. Meanwhile he is an absolutely unknown author. So indeed is Pierre Corneille.

He hated two things: the hate of the Philistines in his youth, that gave him his talent; the hate of the blackguards in his riper years, this last killed him. He died of suppressed fury, of wrath at not being able to say what he thought. He was OPPRESSED by Girardin, by Fould, by Dalloz, and by the first Republic. I tell you that, because I HAVE SEEN abominable things and I am the only man perhaps to whom he made absolute confidences. He lacked what was the most important thing in life for him and for others: CHARACTER. That he failed of the Academy was to him a dreadful chagrin. What weakness! and how little he must have esteemed himself! To seek an honor no matter what, seems to me, besides, an act of incomprehensible modesty.

I was not at his funeral owing to the mistake of Catulle Mendes, who sent me a telegram too late. There was a crowd. A lot of scoundrels and buffoons came to advertise themselves as usual, and today, Monday, the day of the theatrical paper, there must be bits in the bulletins, THAT WILL MAKE COPY. To resume, I do not pity him, I ENVY HIM. For, frankly, life is not amusing.

No, I don’t think that HAPPINESS IS POSSIBLE, but certainly tranquillity. That is why I get away from what irritates me. A trip to Paris is for me now, a great business. As soon as I shake the vessel, the dregs mount and permeate all. The least conversation with anyone at all exasperates me because I find everyone idiotic. My feeling of justice is continually revolted. They talk ONLY of politics and in what a fashion! Where is there a sign of an idea? What can one get hold of? What shall one get excited about?

I don’t think, however, that I am a monster of egoism. My Moi scatters itself in books so that I pass whole days without noticing it. I have bad moments, it is true, but I pull myself together by this reflection: “No one at least bothers me.” After that, I regain my balance. So I think that I am going on in my natural path; am I right?

As for living with a woman, marrying as you advise me to do that is a prospect that I find fantastic. Why? I don’t know. But it is so. Explain the riddle. The feminine being has never been included in my life; and then, I am not rich enough, and then, and then — . . . I am too old, and too decent to inflict forever my person on another. There is in me an element of the ecclesiastical that people don’t know. We shall talk about that better than we can write of it.

I shall see you in Paris in December, but in Paris one is disturbed by others. I wish you three hundred performances for Mademoiselle La Quintinie. But you will have a lot of bother with the Odeon. It is an institution where I suffered horribly last winter. Every time that I attempted to do anything they dished me. So, enough! enough! “Hide thy life,” maxim of Epictetus. My whole ambition now is to flee from bother, and I am sure by that means never to cause any to others, that is much.

I am working like a madman, I am reading medicine, metaphysics, politics, everything. For I have undertaken a work of great scope, which will require a lot of time, a prospect that pleases me.

Ever since a month ago, I have been expecting Tourgueneff from week to week. The gout is delaying him still.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54