I have received your volume this morning, dear master. I have two or three others that have been loaned to me for a long time; I shall send them off, and I shall read yours at the end of the week, during a little two-days’ trip that I am forced to take to Pont-l’Eveque and to Honfleur for my Histoire d’un coeur simple, a trifle now “on the stocks,” as M. Prudhomme would say.
I am very glad that Jack has pleased you. It is a charming book, isn’t it? If you knew the author you would like him even better than his book. I have told him to send you Risler and Tartarin. I am sure in advance that you would thank me for the opportunity of reading these two books.
I do not share in Tourgueneff’s severity as regards Jack, nor in the immensity of his admiration for Rougon. The one has charm, the other force. But neither one is concerned ABOVE ALL else with what is for me the end of art, namely, beauty. I remember having felt my heart beat violently, having felt a fierce pleasure in contemplating a wall of the Acropolis, a perfectly bare wall (the one on the left as you go up to the Propylaea). Well! I wonder if a book independently of what it says, cannot produce the same effect! In the exactness of its assembling, the rarity of its elements, the polish of its surface, the harmony of its ensemble, is there not an intrinsic virtue, a sort of divine force, something eternal as a principle? (I speak as a Platonist.) Thus, why is a relation necessary between the exact word and the musical word? Why does it happen that one always makes a verse when one restrains his thought too much? Does the law of numbers govern then the feelings and the images, and is what seems to be the exterior quite simply inside it? If I should continue a long time in this vein, I should blind myself entirely, for on the other side art has to be a good fellow; or rather art is what one can make it, we are not free. Each one follows his path, in spite of his own desire. In short, your Cruchard no longer knows where he stands.
But how difficult it is to understand one another! There are two men whom I admire a great deal and whom I consider real artists, Tourgueneff and Zola. Yet they do not admire the prose of Chateaubriand at all, and even less that of Gautier. Phrases which ravish me seem hollow to them. Who is wrong? And how please the public when one’s nearest friends are so remote? All that saddens me very much. Do not laugh.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:50