The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters

CCLXXIII. To George Sand Wednesday, April, 1874

Thank you for your long letter about le Candidat. Now here are the criticisms that I add to yours: we ought to have: (1) lowered the curtain after the electoral meeting and put the entire half of the third act into the beginning of the fourth; (2) cut out the anonymous letter, which is unnecessary, since Arabelle informs Rousselin that his wife has a lover; (3) inverted the order of the scenes in the fourth act, that is to say, beginning with the announcement of the tryst between Madame Rousselin and Julien and, making Rousselin a little more jealous. The anxieties of his election turn him aside from his desire to go to entrap his wife. Not enough is made of the exploiters. There should be ten instead of three. Then, he gives his daughter. The end was there, and at the instant that he notices the blackguardism, he is elected. Then his dream is accomplished, but he feels no joy over it. In that manner there would have been moral progress.

I think, whatever you say about it, that the subject was good, but that I have spoiled it. Not one of the critics has shown me in what. But I know, and that consoles me. What do you think of La Rounat, who in his page implores me, “in the name of our old friendship,” not to have my play printed, he thinks it so “silly and badly written”! A parallel between me and Gondinet follows.

The theatrical mystery is one of the funniest things of this age. One would say that the art of the theatre goes beyond the limits of human intelligence, and that it is a secret reserved for those who write like cab drivers. The QUESTION OF IMMEDIATE SUCCESS leads all others. It is the school of demoralization. If my play had been sustained by the management, it could have made money like another. Would it have been the better for that?

The Tentation is not doing badly. The first edition of two thousand copies is exhausted. Tomorrow the second will be published. I have been torn in pieces by the petty journals and praised highly by two or three persons. On the whole nothing serious has appeared yet, nor will appear, I think. Renan does not write any more (he says) in the Debats, and Taine is busy getting settled at Annecy.

I have been EXECRATED by the Messrs. Villemessant and Buloz, who will do all they can to be disagreeable to me. Villemessant reproaches me for not “having been killed by the Prussians.” All that is nauseous!

And you beg me not to notice human folly, and to deprive myself of the pleasure of depicting it! But the comic is the only consolation of virtue. There is, moreover, a manner of taking it which is elevated; that is what I am aiming at with two good people. Don’t fear that they are too realistic! I am afraid, on the contrary, that it may seem beyond the bounds of possibility, for I shall push the idea to the limit. This little work that I shall start in six weeks will keep me busy for four or five years!

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