The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters

XLIV. To Gustave Flaubert at Croissset Nohant, 15 January, 1867

Here I am at home, fairly strong except for several hours during the evening. Yet, THAT WILL PASS. THE EVIL OR HE WHO ENDURES IT, my old cure used to say, CAN NOT LAST. I received your letter this morning, dear friend of my heart. Why do I love you more than most of the others, even more than old and well-tried friends? I am asking, for my condition at this hour, is that of being


Yes, intellectual fortune, LIGHT! Oh well, here it is: one gets, being old, at the sunset of life — which is the most beautiful hour of tones and reflections — a new idea of everything and of affection above all.

In the age of power and of personality, one tests one’s friends as one tests the earth, from the point of view of reciprocity. One feels oneself solid, one wants to find that which bears one or leads one, solid. But, when one feels the intensity of the moi fleeing, one loves persons and things for what they are in themselves, for what they represent in the eyes of one’s soul, and not at all for what they add further to one’s destiny. It is like the picture or the statue which one would like to own, when one dreams at the same time of a beautiful house of one’s own in which to put it.

But one has passed through green Bohemia without gathering anything there; one has remained poor, sentimental and troubadourish. One knows very well that it will always be the same, and that one will die without a hearth or a home. Then one thinks of the statue, of the picture which one would not know what to do with and which one would not know where to place with due honor, if one owned it. One is content to know that they are in some temple not profaned by cold analysis, a little far from the eye, and one loves them so much the more. One says: I will go again to the country where they are. I shall see again and I shall love always that which has made me love and understand them. The contact of my personality will not have changed them, it will not be myself that I shall love in them.

And it is thus, truly, that the ideal which one does not dream of grasping, fixes itself in one because it remains ITSELF. That is all the secret of the beautiful, of the only truth, of love, friendship, of art, of enthusiasm, and of faith. Consider it, you will see.

That solitude in which you live would be delicious to me in fine weather. In winter I find it stoical, and am forced to recall to myself that you have not the moral need of locomotion AS A HABIT. I used to think that was another expenditure of strength during this season of being shut in; — well, it is very fine, but it must not continue indefinitely; if the novel has to last longer, you must interrupt it, or vary it with distractions. Really, my dear friend, think of the life of the body, which gets upset and nervous when you subdue it too much. When I was ill in Paris, I saw a physician, very mad, but very intelligent, who said very true things on that subject. He said that I SPIRITUALIZED myself in a disquieting manner, and when I told him, exactly, a propos of you, that one could abstract oneself from everything except work, and have more rather than less strength, he answered that the danger was as great in accumulating as in losing, and a propos of this, many excellent things which I wish I could repeat to you.

Besides, you know them, but you never pay any attention to them. Then this work which you abuse so in words, is a passion, and a great one! Now, I shall tell you what you tell me. For our sake and for the sake of your old troubadour, do SPARE yourself a little.

Consuelo, La Comtesse de Rudolstadt, what are they? Are they mine? I don’t recall a single word in them. You are reading that, you? Are you really amused? Then I shall read them one of these days and I shall love myself if you love me.

What is being hysterical? I have perhaps been that also, I am perhaps; but I don’t know anything about it, never having profoundly studied the thing, and having heard of it without having studied it. Isn’t it an uneasiness, an anguish caused by the desire of an impossible SOMETHING OR OTHER? In that case, we are all attacked by it, by this strange illness, when we have imagination; and why should such a malady have a sex?

And still further, there is this for those strong in anatomy: THERE IS ONLY ONE SEX. A man and a woman are so entirely the same thing, that one hardly understands the mass of distinctions and of subtle reasons with which society is nourished concerning this subject. I have observed the infancy and the development of my son and my daughter. My son was myself, therefore much more woman, than my daughter, who was an imperfect man.

I embrace you. Maurice and Lina who have tasted your cheese, send you their regards, and Mademoiselle Aurore cries to you, WAIT, WAIT, WAIT! That is all that she knows how to say while laughing like a crazy person; for, at heart she is serious, attentive, clever with her hands as a monkey and amusing herself better with games she invents, than with those one suggests to her. I think that she will have a mind of her own.

If I do not get cured here, I shall go to Cannes, where some friends are urging me to come. But I can not yet mention it to my children. When I am with them it is not easy to move. There is passion and jealousy. And all my life has been like that, never my own! Pity yourself then, you who belong to yourself!

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