The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters

CCLXXXII. To George Sand Saturday, 26 September, 1874

Then, after having been bored like an ass on the top of the Righi, I returned home the first of August and started my book. The beginning was not easy, it was even “direful,” and “methought” I should die of despair; but now things are going, I am all right, come what may! But one needs to be absolutely mad to undertake such a book. I fear that, by its very conception, it is radically impossible. We shall see, Ah! supposing I should carry it out well . . . what a dream.

You doubtless know that once more I am exposing myself to the storms of the footlights (pretty metaphor) and that “braving the publicity of the theatre” I shall appear upon the boards of Cluny, probably, towards the end of December. The manager of that “little theatre” is enchanted with le Sexe faible. But so was Carvalho, which did not prevent him . . . You know the rest.

Of course every one blames me for letting my play be given in such a joint. But since the others do not want that play and since I insist that it shall be presented to make a few sous for the Bouilhet heirs, I am forced to pass that over. I am keeping two or three pretty anecdotes about this to tell you when we meet. Why is the theatre such a general cause of delirium? Once one is on that ground, ordinary conditions are changed. If one has had the misfortune (slight) not to succeed, friends turn from one. They are very inconsiderate of one. They never salute one! I swear to you on my word of honor that that happened to me on account of le Candida. I do not believe in Holbachic conspiracies, but all that they have done to me since March amazes me. But, I decidedly don’t bat an optic, and the fate of le Sexe faible disturbs me less than the least of the phrases of my novel.

Public intelligence seems to me to get lower and lower! To what depth of imbecility shall we descend? Belot’s last book sold eight thousand copies in two weeks. Zola’s Conquete de Plassans, seventeen hundred in six months, and there was an article about it. All the Monday-morning idiots have just been swooning away about M. Scribe’s Une Chaine. France is ill, very ill, whatever they say; and my thoughts are more and more the color of ebony.

However, there are some pretty comic elements: (1) the Bazaine escape with the episode of the sentinel; (2) l’Histoire d’un Diamant by Paul de Musset (see the Revue des Deux Mondes for September); (3) the vestibule of the former establishment of Nadar near Old England [sic], where one can contemplate a life-size photograph of Alexander Dumas.

I am sure that you are finding me grouchy and that you are going to answer me: “What difference does all that make?” But everything makes a difference, and we are dying of humbug, of ignorance, of self-confidence, of scorn of grandeur, of love of banality, and imbecile babble.

“Europe which hates us, looks at us and laughs,” said Ruy Blas. My Heavens, she has a right to laugh.

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