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Title: Bouvard and Pécuchet, part 2 - A Tragi-comic Novel of Bougeois Life, vol. X
Author: Flaubert, Gustave
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bouvard and Pécuchet, part 2 - A Tragi-comic Novel of Bougeois Life, vol. X" ***

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[Illustration: frontispiece]

                         BOUVARD AND PÉCUCHET

                        _A TRAGI-COMIC NOVEL OF
                            BOURGEOIS LIFE_

                           GUSTAVE FLAUBERT

                              _VOLUME X._

                            SIMON P. MAGEE
                             CHICAGO, ILL.

                          COPYRIGHT, 1904, BY

                            M. WALTER DUNNE

                 _Entered at Stationers' Hall, London_




CHAPTER IX.                                    PAGE

SONS OF THE CHURCH                                1


LESSONS IN ART AND SCIENCE                       50


THE CONCLUSION OF THE WORK.]                     94

THE DANCE OF DEATH                             1-14

RABELAIS                                       1-12

Poems_) OF LOUIS BOUILHET                      1-22




CORRESPONDENCE                               43-135



WHICH TO CAST THYSELF." (See page 6, _The
Dance of Death_)                      _Frontispiece_




DEATH: DIE, THEN!          }                      7




Marcel reappeared next day at three o'clock, his face green, his eyes
bloodshot, a lump on his forehead, his breeches torn, his breath tainted
with a strong smell of brandy, and his person covered with dirt.

He had been, according to an annual custom of his, six leagues away at
Iqueville to enjoy a midnight repast with a friend; and, stuttering more
than ever, crying, wishing to beat himself, he begged of them for
pardon, as if he had committed a crime. His masters granted it to him. A
singular feeling of serenity rendered them indulgent.

The snow had suddenly melted, and they walked about the garden, inhaling
the genial air, delighted merely with living.

Was it only chance that had kept them from death? Bouvard felt deeply
affected. Pécuchet recalled his first commission, and, full of
gratitude to the Force, the Cause, on which they depended, the idea took
possession of them to read pious works.

The Gospel dilated their souls, dazzled them like a sun. They perceived
Jesus standing on a mountain, with one arm raised, while below the
multitude listened to Him; or else on the margin of a lake in the midst
of the apostles, while they drew in their nets; next on the ass, in the
clamour of the "alleluias," His hair fanned by the quivering palms;
finally, lifted high upon the Cross, bending down His head, from which
eternally falls a dew of blood upon the world. What won them, what
ravished them, was His tenderness for the humble, His defence of the
poor, His exaltation of the oppressed; and they found in that Book,
wherein Heaven unfolds itself, nothing theological in the midst of so
many precepts, no dogma, no requirement, save purity of heart.

As for the miracles, their reason was not astonished by them. They had
been acquainted with them from their childhood. The loftiness of St.
John enchanted Pécuchet, and better disposed him to appreciate the

Here were no more parables, flowers, birds, but lamentations--a
compression of the soul into itself.

Bouvard grew sad as he turned over these pages, which seemed to have
been written in foggy weather, in the depths of a cloister, between a
belfry and a tomb. Our mortal life appeared there so wretched that one
must needs forget it and return to God. And the two poor men, after all
their disappointments, experienced that need of simple natures--to love
something, to find rest for their souls.

They studied _Ecclesiastes_, _Isaiah_, _Jeremiah_.

But the Bible dismayed them with its lion-voiced prophets, the crashing
of thunder in the skies, all the sobbings of Gehenna, and its God
scattering empires as the wind scatters clouds.

They read it on Sunday at the hour of vespers, while the bell was

One day they went to mass, and then came back. It was a kind of
recreation at the end of the week. The Count and Countess de Faverges
bowed to them from the distance, a circumstance which was remarked. The
justice of the peace said to them with blinking eyes:

"Excellent! You have my approval."

All the village dames now sent them consecrated bread. The Abbé Jeufroy
paid them a visit; they returned it; friendly intercourse followed; and
the priest avoided talking about religion.

They were astonished at this reserve, so much so that Pécuchet, with an
assumption of indifference, asked him what was the way to set about
obtaining faith.

"Practise first of all."

They began to practise, the one with hope, the other with defiance,
Bouvard being convinced that he would never be a devotee. For a month he
regularly followed all the services; but, unlike Pécuchet, he did not
wish to subject himself to Lenten fare.

Was this a hygienic measure? We know what hygiene is worth. A matter of
the proprieties? Down with the proprieties! A mark of submission towards
the Church? He laughed at it just as much; in short, he declared the
rule absurd, pharisaical, and contrary to the spirit of the Gospel.

On Good Friday in other years they used to eat whatever Germaine served
up to them. But on this occasion Bouvard ordered a beefsteak. He sat
down and cut up the meat, and Marcel, scandalised, kept staring at him,
while Pécuchet gravely took the skin off his slice of codfish.

Bouvard remained with his fork in one hand, his knife in the other. At
length, making up his mind, he raised a mouthful to his lips. All at
once his hands began to tremble, his heavy countenance grew pale, his
head fell back.

"Are you ill?"

"No. But----" And he made an avowal. In consequence of his education (it
was stronger than himself), he could not eat meat on this day for fear
of dying.

Pécuchet, without misusing his victory, took advantage of it to live in
his own fashion. One evening he returned home with a look of sober joy
imprinted on his face, and, letting the word escape, said that he had
just been at confession.

Thereupon they argued about the importance of confession.

Bouvard acknowledged that of the early Christians, which was made
publicly: the modern is too easy. However, he did not deny that this
examination concerning ourselves might be an element of progress, a
leaven of morality.

Pécuchet, desirous of perfection, searched for his vices: for some time
past the puffings of pride were gone. His taste for work freed him from
idleness; as for gluttony, nobody was more moderate. Sometimes he was
carried away by anger.

He made a vow that he would be so no more.

In the next place, it would be necessary to acquire the virtues: first
of all, humility, that is to say, to believe yourself incapable of any
merit, unworthy of the least recompense, to immolate your spirit, and
to place yourself so low that people may trample you under their feet
like the mud of the roads. He was far as yet from these dispositions.

Another virtue was wanting in him--chastity. For inwardly he regretted
Mélie, and the pastel of the lady in the Louis XV. dress disturbed him
by her ample display of bosom. He shut it up in a cupboard, and
redoubled his modesty, so much so that he feared to cast glances at his
own person.

In order to mortify himself, Pécuchet gave up his little glass after
meals, confined himself to four pinches of snuff in the day, and even in
the coldest weather he did not any longer put on his cap.

One day, Bouvard, who was fastening up the vine, placed a ladder against
the wall of the terrace near the house, and, without intending it, found
himself landed in Pécuchet's room.

His friend, naked up to the middle, first gently smacked his shoulders
with the cat-o'-nine-tails without quite undressing; then, getting
animated, pulled off his shirt, lashed his back, and sank breathless on
a chair.

Bouvard was troubled, as if at the unveiling of a mystery on which he
should not have gazed.

For some time he had noticed a greater cleanliness about the floor,
fewer holes in the napkins, and an improvement in the diet--changes
which were due to the intervention of Reine, the curé's housekeeper.
Mixing up the affairs of the Church with those of her kitchen, strong as
a ploughman, and devoted though disrespectful, she gained admittance
into households, gave advice, and became mistress in them. Pécuchet
placed implicit confidence in her experience.

On one occasion she brought to him a corpulent man with narrow eyes like
a Chinaman, and a nose like a vulture's beak. This was M. Gouttman, a
dealer in pious articles. He unpacked some of them shut up in boxes
under the cart-shed: a cross, medals, and beads of all sizes; candelabra
for oratories, portable altars, tinsel bouquets, and sacred hearts of
blue pasteboard, St. Josephs with red beards, and porcelain crucifixes.
The price alone stood in his way.

Gouttman did not ask for money. He preferred barterings; and, having
gone up to the museum, he offered a number of his wares for their
collection of old iron and lead.

They appeared hideous to Bouvard. But Pécuchet's glance, the persistency
of Reine, and the bluster of the dealer were effectual in making him

Gouttman, seeing him so accommodating, wanted the halberd in addition;
Bouvard, tired of having exhibited its working, surrendered it. The
entire valuation was made. "These gentlemen still owed a hundred
francs." It was settled by three bills payable at three months; and they
congratulated themselves on a good bargain.

Their acquisitions were distributed through the various rooms. A crib
filled with hay and a cork cathedral decorated the museum.

On Pécuchet's chimney-piece there was a St. John the Baptist in wax;
along the corridor were ranged the portraits of episcopal dignitaries;
and at the bottom of the staircase, under a chained lamp, stood a
Blessed Virgin in an azure mantle and a crown of stars. Marcel cleaned
up those splendours, unable to imagine anything more beautiful in

What a pity that the St. Peter was broken, and how nicely it would have
done in the vestibule!

Pécuchet stopped sometimes before the old pit for composts, where he
discovered the tiara, one sandal, and the tip of an ear; allowed sighs
to escape him, then went on gardening, for now he combined manual labour
with religious exercises, and dug the soil attired in the monk's habit,
comparing himself to Bruno. This disguise might be a sacrilege. He gave
it up.

But he assumed the ecclesiastical style, no doubt owing to his intimacy
with the curé. He had the same smile, the same tone of voice, and, like
the priest too, he slipped both hands with a chilly air into his sleeves
up to the wrists. A day came when he was pestered by the crowing of the
cock and disgusted with the roses; he no longer went out, or only cast
sullen glances over the fields.

Bouvard suffered himself to be led to the May devotions. The children
singing hymns, the gorgeous display of lilacs, the festoons of verdure,
had imparted to him, so to speak, a feeling of imperishable youth. God
manifested Himself to his heart through the fashioning of nests, the
transparency of fountains, the bounty of the sun; and his friend's
devotion appeared to him extravagant, fastidious.

"Why do you groan during mealtime?"

"We ought to eat with groans," returned Pécuchet, "for it was in that
way that man lost his innocence"--a phrase which he had read in the
_Seminarist's Manual_, two duodecimo volumes he had borrowed from M.
Jeufroy: and he drank some of the water of La Salette, gave himself up
with closed doors to ejaculatory prayers, and aspired to join the
confraternity of St. Francis.

In order to obtain the gift of perseverance, he resolved to make a
pilgrimage in honour of the Blessed Virgin. He was perplexed as to the
choice of a locality. Should it be Nôtre Dame de Fourviers, de Chartres,
d'Embrun, de Marseille, or d'Auray? Nôtre Dame de la Délivrande was
nearer, and it suited just as well.

"You will accompany me?"

"I should look like a greenhorn," said Bouvard.

After all, he might come back a believer; he did not object to being
one; and so he yielded through complaisance.

Pilgrimages ought to be made on foot. But forty-three kilometers would
be trying; and the public conveyances not being adapted for meditation,
they hired an old cabriolet, which, after a twelve hours' journey, set
them down before the inn.

They got an apartment with two beds and two chests of drawers,
supporting two water-jugs in little oval basins; and "mine host"
informed them that this was "the chamber of the Capuchins" under the
Terror. There La Dame de la Délivrande had been concealed with so much
precaution that the good fathers said mass there clandestinely.

This gave Pécuchet pleasure, and he read aloud a sketch of the history
of the chapel, which had been taken downstairs into the kitchen.

It had been founded in the beginning of the second century by St.
Régnobert, first bishop of Lisieux, or by St. Ragnebert, who lived in
the seventh, or by Robert the Magnificent in the middle of the eleventh.

The Danes, the Normans, and, above all, the Protestants, had burnt and
ravaged it at various epochs. About 1112, the original statue was
discovered by a sheep, which indicated the place where it was by tapping
with its foot in a field of grass; and on this spot Count Baudouin
erected a sanctuary.

"'Her miracles are innumerable. A merchant of Bayeux, taken captive by
the Saracens, invoked her: his fetters fell off, and he escaped. A miser
found a nest of rats in his corn loft, appealed to her aid, and the rats
went away. The touch of a medal, which had been rubbed over her effigy,
caused an old materialist from Versailles to repent on his death-bed.
She gave back speech to Sieur Adeline, who lost it for having
blasphemed; and by her protection, M. and Madame de Becqueville had
sufficient strength to live chastely in the married state.

"'Amongst those whom she cured of irremediable diseases are mentioned
Mademoiselle de Palfresne, Anne Lirieux, Marie Duchemin, François Dufai,
and Madame de Jumillac _née_ d'Osseville.

"'Persons of high rank have visited her: Louis XI., Louis XIII., two
daughters of Gaston of Orléans, Cardinal Wiseman, Samirrhi, patriarch of
Antioch, Monseigneur Véroles, vicar apostolic of Manchuria; and the
Archbishop of Quelen came to return thanks to her for the conversion of
Prince Talleyrand.'"

"She might," said Pécuchet, "convert you also!"

Bouvard, already in bed, gave vent to a species of grunt, and presently
was fast asleep.

Next morning at six o'clock they entered the chapel.

Another was in course of construction. Canvas and boards blocked up the
nave; and the monument, in a rococo style, displeased Bouvard, above
all, the altar of red marble with its Corinthian pilasters.

The miraculous statue, in a niche at the left of the choir, was
enveloped in a spangled robe. The beadle came up with a wax taper for
each of them. He fixed it in a kind of candlestick overlooking the
balustrade, asked for three francs, made a bow, and disappeared.

Then they surveyed the votive offerings. Inscriptions on slabs bore
testimony to the gratitude of the faithful. They admired two swords in
the form of a cross presented by a pupil of the Polytechnic School,
brides' bouquets, military medals, silver hearts, and in the corner,
along the floor, a forest of crutches.

A priest passed out of the sacristy carrying the holy pyx.

When he had remained for a few minutes at the bottom of the altar, he
ascended the three steps, said the _Oremus_, the _Introit_, and the
_Kyrie_, which the boy who served mass recited all in one breath on
bended knees.

The number present was small--a dozen or fifteen old women. The rattling
of their beads could be heard accompanying the noise of a hammer driving
in stones. Pécuchet bent over his prie-dieu and responded to the
"Amens." During the elevation, he implored Our Lady to send him a
constant and indestructible faith. Bouvard, in a chair beside him, took
up his Euchology, and stopped at the litany of the Blessed Virgin.

"Most pure, most chaste, most venerable, most amiable, most
powerful--Tower of ivory--House of gold--Gate of the morning."

These words of adoration, these hyperboles drew him towards the being
who has been the object of so much reverence. He dreamed of her as she
is represented in church paintings, above a mass of clouds, cherubims at
her feet, the Infant Jesus on her breast--Mother of tendernesses, upon
whom all the sorrows of the earth have a claim--ideal of woman carried
up to heaven; for man exalts that love arising out of the depths of the
soul, and his highest aspiration is to rest upon her heart.

The mass was finished. They passed along by the dealers' sheds which
lined the walls in front of the church. They saw there images,
holy-water basins, urns with fillets of gold, Jesus Christs made of
cocoanuts, and ivory chaplets; and the sun brought into prominence the
rudeness of the paintings, the hideousness of the drawings. Bouvard, who
had some abominable specimens at his own residence, was indulgent
towards these. He bought a little Virgin of blue paste. Pécuchet
contented himself with a rosary as a memento.

The dealers called out: "Come on! come on! For five francs, for three
francs, for sixty centimes, for two sous, don't refuse Our Lady!"

The two pilgrims sauntered about without making any selections from the
proffered wares. Uncomplimentary remarks were made about them.

"What is it they want, these creatures?"

"Perhaps they are Turks."

"Protestants, rather."

A big girl dragged Pécuchet by the frock-coat; an old man in spectacles
placed a hand on his shoulder; all were bawling at the same time; and a
number of them left their sheds, and, surrounding the pair, redoubled
their solicitations and effronteries.

Bouvard could not stand this any longer.

"Let us alone, for God's sake!"

The crowd dispersed. But one fat woman followed them for some distance,
and exclaimed that they would repent of it.

When they got back to the inn they found Gouttman in the café. His
business called him to these quarters, and he was talking to a man who
was examining accounts at a table.

This person had a leather cap, a very wide pair of trousers, a red
complexion, and a good figure in spite of his white hair: he had the
appearance at the same time of a retired officer and an old strolling

From time to time he rapped out an oath; then, when Gouttman replied in
a mild tone, he calmed down at once and passed to another part of the

Bouvard who had been closely watching him, at the end of a quarter of an
hour came up to his side.

"Barberou, I believe?"

"Bouvard!" exclaimed the man in the cap, and they embraced each other.

Barberou had in the course of twenty years experienced many changes of
fortune. He had been editor of a newspaper, an insurance agent, and
manager of an oyster-bed.

"I will tell you all about it," he said.

At last, having returned to his original calling, he was travelling for
a Bordeaux house, and Gouttman, who took care of the diocese, disposed
of wines for him to the ecclesiastics. "But," he hurriedly added, "you
must pardon me one minute; then I shall be at your service."

He was proceeding with the examination of the accounts, and all of a
sudden he jumped up excitedly.

"What! two thousand?"


"Ha! it's wrong, that's what it is!"

"What do you say?"

"I say that I've seen Hérambert myself," replied Barberou in a passion.
"The invoice makes it four thousand. No humbug!"

The dealer was not put out of countenance.

"Well, it discharges you--what next?"

Barberou, as he stood there with his face at first pale and then purple,
impressed Bouvard and Pécuchet with the apprehension that he was about
to strangle Gouttman.

He sat down, folded his arms, and said:

"You are a vile rascal, you must admit."

"No insults, Monsieur Barberou. There are witnesses. Be careful!"

"I'll bring an action against you!"

"Ta! ta! ta!" Then having fastened together his books, Gouttman lifted
the brim of his hat: "I wish you luck on't!" With these words he went

Barberou explained the facts: For a credit of a thousand francs doubled
by a succession of renewals with interest, he had delivered to Gouttman
three thousand francs' worth of wines. This would pay his debt with a
profit of a thousand francs; but, on the contrary, he owed three
thousand on the transaction! His employers might dismiss him; they might
even prosecute him!

"Blackguard! robber! dirty Jew! And this fellow dines at priests'
houses! Besides, everything that touches the clerical headpiece----"

And he went on railing against the priests, and he struck the table with
such violence that the little statue was near falling.

"Gently!" said Bouvard.

"Hold on! What's this here?" And Barberou having removed the covering of
the little Virgin: "A pilgrimage bauble! Yours?"

"'Tis mine," said Pécuchet.

"You grieve me," returned Barberou; "but I'll give you a wrinkle on that
point. Don't be afraid." And as one must be a philosopher, and as there
is no use in fretting, he invited them to come and lunch with him.

The three sat down together at table.

Barberou was agreeable, recalled old times, took hold of the
maid-servant's waist, and wished to measure the breadth of Bouvard's
stomach. He would soon see them again, and would bring them a droll

The idea of his visit was rather pleasant to them. They chatted about it
in the omnibus for an hour, while the horse was trotting. Then Pécuchet
shut his eyes. Bouvard also relapsed into silence. Internally he felt an
inclination towards religion.

"M. Marescot had the day before called to make an important
communication"--Marcel knew no more about it.

They did not see the notary till three days after; and at once he
explained the matter.

Madame Bordin offered to buy the farm from M. Bouvard, and to pay him
seven thousand five hundred francs a year.

She had been casting sheep's eyes on it since her youth, knew the
boundaries and lands all around it, its defects and its advantages; and
this desire consumed her like a cancer.

For the good lady, like a true Norman, cherished above everything landed
estate, less for the security of the capital than for the happiness of
treading on soil that belonged to herself. In that hope she had devoted
herself to inquiries and inspections from day to day, and had practised
prolonged economies; and she waited with impatience for Bouvard's

He was perplexed, not desiring that Pécuchet one day should be
fortuneless; but it was necessary to seize the opportunity--which was
the result of the pilgrimage, for the second time Providence had shown
itself favourable to them. They proposed the following conditions: An
annual payment, not of seven thousand five hundred francs, but of six
thousand francs, provided it should pass to the survivor.

Marescot made the point that one of them was in delicate health. The
constitution of the other gave him an apoplectic tendency. Madame
Bordin, carried away by her ruling passion, signed the contract.

Bouvard got into a melancholy frame of mind about it. Somebody might
desire his death; and this reflection inspired him with serious
thoughts, ideas about God and eternity.

Three days after, M. Jeufroy invited them to the annual dinner which it
was his custom to give to his colleagues. The dinner began at two
o'clock in the afternoon, and was to finish at eleven at night.

Perry was used at it as a beverage, and puns were circulated. The Abbé
Pruneau, before they broke up, composed an acrostic; M. Bougon performed
card-tricks; and Cerpet, a young curate, sang a little ballad which
bordered on gallantry.

The curé frequently came to see them. He presented religion under
graceful colours. And, after all, what risk would they run? So Bouvard
expressed his willingness to approach the holy table shortly, and
Pécuchet was to participate in the sacrament on the same occasion.

The great day arrived. The church, on account of the first communions,
was thronged with worshippers. The village shopkeepers and their
womenfolk were crowded close together in their seats, and the common
people either remained standing up behind or occupied the gallery over
the church door.

What was about to take place was inexplicable--so Bouvard reflected; but
reason does not suffice for the comprehension of certain things. Great
men have admitted that. Let him do as much as they had done; and so, in
a kind of torpor, he contemplated the altar, the censer, the tapers,
with his head a little light, for he had eaten nothing, and experienced
a singular weakness.

Pécuchet, by meditating on the Passion of Jesus Christ, excited himself
to outbursts of love. He would have liked to offer his soul up to Him as
well as the souls of others--and the ecstasies, the transports, the
illumination of the saints, all beings, the entire universe. Though he
prayed with fervour, the different parts of the mass seemed to him a
little long.

At length the little boys knelt down on the first step of the altar,
forming with their coats a black band, above which rose light or dark
heads of hair at unequal elevations. Then the little girls took their
places, with their veils falling from beneath their wreaths. From a
distance they resembled a row of white clouds at the end of the choir.

Then it was the turn of the great personages.

The first on the gospel-side was Pécuchet; but, too much moved, no
doubt, he kept swaying his head right and left. The curé found
difficulty in putting the host into his mouth, and as he received it he
turned up the whites of his eyes.

Bouvard, on the contrary, opened his jaws so widely, that his tongue
hung over his lip like a streamer. On rising he jostled against Madame
Bordin. Their eyes met. She smiled; without knowing the reason why, he

After Madame Bordin, Mademoiselle de Faverges, the countess, their lady
companion, and a gentleman who was not known at Chavignolles approached
the altar in a body.

The last two were Placquevent and Petit, the schoolmaster, and then, all
of a sudden, Gorju made his appearance. He had got rid of the tuft on
his chin; and, as he went back to his place, he had his arms crossed
over his breast in a very edifying fashion.

The curé harangued the little boys. Let them take care later on in life
not to act like Judas, who betrayed his God, but to preserve always
their robe of innocence.

Pécuchet was regretting his when there was a sudden moving of the seats:
the mothers were impatient to embrace their children.

The parishioners, on their way out, exchanged felicitations. Some shed
tears. Madame de Faverges, while waiting for her carriage, turned round
towards Bouvard and Pécuchet, and presented her future son-in-law:
"Baron de Mahurot, engineer." The count was sorry not to have the
pleasure of their company. He would return the following week. "Pray
bear it in mind."

The carriage having now come up, the ladies of the château departed, and
the throng dispersed.

They found a parcel inside their own grounds in the middle of the grass.
The postman, as the house had been shut up, had thrown it over the wall.
It was the work which Barberou had promised to send, _Examination of
Christianity_, by Louis Hervieu, a former pupil of the Normal School.
Pécuchet would have nothing to say to it, and Bouvard had no desire to
make himself acquainted with it.

He had been repeatedly told that the sacrament would transform him. For
several days he awaited its blossomings in his conscience. He remained
the same as ever, and a painful astonishment took possession of him.

What! The Flesh of God mingles with our flesh, and it produces no effect
there! The Thought which governs the world does not illuminate our
spirits! The Supreme Power abandons us to impotence!

M. Jeufroy, while reassuring him, prescribed for him the catechism of
the Abbé Gaume.

On the other hand, Pécuchet's devotion had become developed. He would
have liked to communicate under two species, kept singing psalms as he
walked along the corridor, and stopped the people of Chavignolles to
argue with, and to convert them. Vaucorbeil laughed in his face; Girbal
shrugged his shoulders; and the captain called him "Tartuffe."

It was now thought that they were going too far.

It is an excellent custom to consider things as so many symbols. If the
thunder rumbles, imagine to yourself the Last Judgment; at sight of a
cloudless sky, think of the abode of the blessed; say to yourself in
your walks that every step brings you nearer to death. Pécuchet observed
this method. When he took hold of his clothes, he thought of the carnal
envelope in which the Second Person of the Trinity was clad; the ticking
of the clock recalled to him the beatings of His heart, and the prick of
a pin the nails of the Cross. But in vain did he remain on his knees for
hours and multiply his fasts and strain his imagination. He did not
succeed in getting detached from self; it was impossible to attain to
perfect contemplation.

He had recourse to mystic authors: St. Theresa, John of the Cross, Louis
of Granada, Simpoli, and, of the more modern, Monseigneur Chaillot.
Instead of the sublimities which he expected, he encountered only
platitudes, a very disjointed style, frigid imagery, and many
comparisons drawn from lapidaries' shops.

He learned, however, that there is an active purgation and a passive
purgation, an internal vision and an external vision, four kinds of
prayers, nine excellencies in love, six degrees in humility, and that
the wounding of the soul is not very different from spiritual theft.

Some points embarrassed him.

"Since the flesh is accursed, how is it that we are bound to thank God
for the boon of existence?" "What proportion must be observed between
the fear indispensable to the salvation and the hope which is no less
so?" "Where is the sign of grace?" etc.

M. Jeufroy's answers were simple.

"Don't worry yourself. By desiring to sift everything we rush along a
perilous slope."

The _Catechism of Perseverance_, by Gaume, had disgusted Pécuchet so
much that he took up Louis Hervieu's book. It was a summary of modern
exegesis, prohibited by the government. Barberou, as a republican, had
bought the book.

It awakened doubts in Bouvard's mind, and, first of all, on original
sin. "If God had created man peccable, He ought not to punish him; and
evil is anterior to the Fall, since there were already volcanoes and
wild beasts. In short, this dogma upsets my notions of justice."

"What would you have?" said the curé. "It is one of those truths about
which everybody is agreed, without being able to furnish proofs of it;
and we ourselves make the crimes of their fathers rebound on the
children. Thus morality and law justify this decree of Providence, since
we find it in nature."

Bouvard shook his head. He had also doubts about hell.

"For every punishment should look to the amelioration of the guilty
person, which is impossible where the penalty is eternal; and how many
are enduring it? Just think! All the ancients, the Jews, the Mussulmans,
the idolaters, the heretics, and the children who have died without
baptism--those children created by God, and for what end?--for the
purpose of being punished for a sin which they did not commit!"

"Such is St. Augustine's opinion," added the curé; "and St. Fulgentius
involves even the unborn child in damnation. The Church, it is true, has
come to no decision on this matter. One remark, however. It is not God,
but the sinner who damns himself; and the offence being infinite, since
God is infinite, the punishment must be infinite. Is that all, sir?"

"Explain the Trinity to me," said Bouvard.

"With pleasure. Let us take a comparison: the three sides of a triangle,
or rather our soul, which contains being, knowing, and willing; what we
call faculty in the case of man is person in God. There is the mystery."

"But the three sides of the triangle are not each the triangle; these
three faculties of the soul do not make three souls, and your persons of
the Trinity are three Gods."


"So then there is only one person, one God, one substance affected in
three ways!"

"Let us adore without understanding," said the curé.

"Be it so," said Bouvard. He was afraid of being taken for an atheist,
and getting into bad odour at the château.

They now visited there three times a week, about five o'clock in winter,
and the cup of tea warmed them. The count's manners recalled the ease of
the ancient court; the countess, placid and plump, exhibited much
discernment about everything. Mademoiselle Yolande, their daughter, was
the type of the young person, the angel of "keepsakes"; and Madame de
Noares, their lady companion, resembled Pécuchet in having a pointed
nose like him.

The first time they entered the drawing-room she was defending somebody.

"I assure you he is changed. His gift is a proof of it."

This somebody was Gorju. He had made the betrothed couple an offer of a
Gothic prie-dieu. It was brought. The arms of the two houses appeared
on it in coloured relief. M. de Mahurot seemed satisfied with it, and
Madame de Noares said to him:

"You will remember my _protégés_?"

Then she brought in two children, a boy of a dozen years and his sister,
who was perhaps ten. Through the holes in their rags could be seen their
limbs, reddened with cold. The one was shod in old slippers, the other
wore only one wooden shoe. Their foreheads disappeared under their hair,
and they stared around them with burning eyeballs like famished wolves.

Madame de Noares told how she had met them that morning on the
high-road. Placquevent could not give any information about them.

They were asked their names.


"Where was their father?'

"In jail."

"And what was he doing before that?"


"Their country?"

"St. Pierre."

"But which St. Pierre?"

The two little ones for sole response, said, snivelling:

"Don't know--don't know."

Their mother was dead, and they were begging.

Madame de Noares explained how dangerous it would be to abandon them;
she moved the countess, piqued the count's sense of honour, was backed
up by mademoiselle, pressed the matter--succeeded.

The gamekeeper's wife would take charge of them. Later, work would be
found for them, and, as they did not know how to read or write, Madame
de Noares gave them lessons herself, with a view to preparing them for

When M. Jeufroy used to come to the château, the two youngsters would be
sent for; he would question them, and then deliver a lecture, into which
he would import a certain amount of display on account of his audience.

On one occasion, when the abbé had discoursed about the patriarchs,
Bouvard, on the way home with him and Pécuchet, disparaged them very

"Jacob is notorious for his thieveries, David for his murders, Solomon
for his debaucheries."

The abbé replied that we should look further into the matter. Abraham's
sacrifice is a prefigurement of the Passion; Jacob is another type of
the Messiah, just like Joseph, like the Brazen Serpent, like Moses.

"Do you believe," said Bouvard, "that he composed the 'Pentateuch'?"

"Yes, no doubt."

"And yet his death is recorded in it; the same observation applies to
Joshua; and, as for the Judges, the author informs us that, at the
period whose history he was writing, Israel had not yet kings. The work
was, therefore, written under the Kings. The Prophets, too, astonish

"He's going to deny the Prophets now!"

"Not at all! but their overheated imagination saw Jehovah under
different forms--that of a fire, of a bush, of an old man, of a dove;
and they were not certain of revelation since they are always asking for
a sign."

"Ha! and where have you found out these nice things?"

"In Spinoza."

At this word, the curé jumped.

"Have you read him?"

"God forbid!"

"Nevertheless, sir, science----"

"Sir, no one can be a scholar without being a Christian."

Science furnished a subject for sarcasms on his part:

"Will it make an ear of corn sprout, this science of yours? What do we
know?" he said.

But he did know that the world was created for us; he did know that
archangels are above the angels; he did know that the human body will
rise again such as it was about the age of thirty.

His ecclesiastical self-complacency provoked Bouvard, who, through want
of confidence in Louis Hervieu, had written to Varlot; and Pécuchet,
better informed, asked M. Jeufroy for explanations of Scripture.

The six days of Genesis mean six great epochs. The pillage of the
precious vessels made by the Jews from the Egyptians must be interpreted
to mean intellectual riches, the arts of which they had stolen the
secret. Isaiah did not strip himself completely, _nudus_ in Latin
signifying "up to the hips": thus Virgil advises people to go naked in
order to plough, and that writer would not have given a precept opposed
to decency. Ezekiel devouring a book has nothing extraordinary in it; do
we not speak of devouring a pamphlet, a newspaper?

"But if we see metaphors everywhere, what will become of the facts?"

The abbé maintained, nevertheless, that they were realities.

This way of understanding them appeared disloyal to Pécuchet. He pushed
his investigations further, and brought a note on the contradictions of
the Bible.

"Exodus teaches us that for forty years they offered up sacrifices in
the desert; according to Amos and Jeremiah they offered up none.
Paralipomenon and the book of Esdras are not in agreement as to the
enumeration of the people. In Deuteronomy, Moses saw the Lord face to
face; according to Exodus, he could not see Him. Where, then, is the

"An additional ground for admitting it," replied M. Jeufroy smiling.
"Impostors have need of connivance; the sincere take no such
precautions. In perplexity, have recourse to the Church. She is always

"On whom does her infallibility depend?"

"The Councils of Basle and of Constance attribute it to the councils.
But often the councils are at variance--witness that which decided in
favour of Athanasius and of Arius; those of Florence and Lateran award
it to the Pope."

"But Adrian VI. declares that the Pope may be mistaken, like any other

"Quibbles! All that does not affect the permanence of dogma."

"Louis Hervieu's work points out the variations: baptism was formerly
reserved for adults, extreme unction was not a sacrament till the ninth
century, the Real Presence was decreed in the eighth, purgatory
recognised in the fifteenth, the Immaculate Conception is a thing of

And so it came to pass that Pécuchet did not know what to think of
Jesus. Three Evangelists make him out to be a man. In one passage of St.
John he appears to be equal to God; in another, all the same, to
acknowledge himself His inferior.

The abbé rejoined by citing the letter of King Abgar, the acts of
Pilate, and the testimony of the sibyls, "the foundation of which is
genuine." He found the Virgin again amongst the Gauls, the announcement
of a Redeemer in China, the Trinity everywhere, the Cross on the cap of
the Grand Lama, and in Egypt in the closed hands of the gods; and he
even exhibited an engraving representing a nilometer, which, according
to Pécuchet, was a phallus.

M. Jeufroy secretly consulted his friend Pruneau, who searched for
proofs for him in the authors. A conflict of erudition was waged, and,
lashed by conceit, Pécuchet became abstruse, mythological. He compared
the Virgin to Isis, the Eucharist to the Homa of the Persians, Bacchus
to Moses, Noah's ark to the ship of Xithurus. These analogies
demonstrated to his satisfaction the identity of religions.

But there cannot be several religions, since there is only one God. And
when he was at the end of his arguments, the man in the cassock
exclaimed: "It is a mystery!"

"What is the meaning of that word? Want of knowledge: very good. But if
it denotes a thing the mere statement of which involves contradiction,
it is a piece of stupidity."

And now Pécuchet would never let M. Jeufroy alone. He would surprise him
in the garden, wait for him in the confessional, and take up the
argument again in the sacristy.

The priest had to invent plans in order to escape from him.

One day, after he had started for Sassetot on a sick call, Pécuchet
proceeded along the road in front of him in such a way as to render
conversation inevitable.

It was an evening about the end of August. The red sky began to darken,
and a large cloud lowered above them, regular at the base and forming
volutes at the top.

Pécuchet at first talked about indifferent subjects, then, having
slipped out the word "martyr":

"How many do you think there were of them?"

"A score of millions at least."

"Their number is not so great, according to Origen."

"Origen, you know, is open to suspicion."

A big gust of wind swept past, violently shaking the grass beside the
ditches and the two rows of young elm trees that stretched towards the
end of the horizon.

Pécuchet went on:

"Amongst the martyrs we include many Gaulish bishops killed while
resisting the barbarians, which is no longer the question at issue."

"Do you wish to defend the emperors?"

According to Pécuchet, they had been calumniated.

"The history of the Theban legion is a fable. I also question Symphorosa
and her seven sons, Felicitas and her seven daughters, and the seven
virgins of Ancyra condemned to violation, though septuagenarians, and
the eleven thousand virgins of St. Ursula, of whom one companion was
called _Undecemilla_, a name taken for a figure; still more, the ten
martyrs of Alexandria!"

"And yet--and yet they are found in authors worthy of credit."

Raindrops fell, and the curé unrolled his umbrella; and Pécuchet, when
he was under it, went so far as to maintain that the Catholics had made
more martyrs than the Jews, the Mussulmans, the Protestants, and the
Freethinkers--than all those of Rome in former days.

The priest exclaimed:

"But we find ten persecutions from the reign of Nero to that of Cæsar

"Well! and the massacres of the Albigenses? and St. Bartholomew? and the
revocation of the Edict of Nantes?"

"Deplorable excesses, no doubt; but you do not mean to compare these
people to St. Étienne, St. Lawrence, Cyprian, Polycarp, a crowd of

"Excuse me! I will remind you of Hypatia, Jerome of Prague, John Huss,
Bruno, Vanini, Anne Dubourg!"

The rain increased, and its drops dashed down with such force that they
rebounded from the ground like little white rockets.

Pécuchet and M. Jeufroy walked on slowly, pressed close to one another,
and the curé said:

"After abominable tortures they were flung into vessels of boiling

"The Inquisition made use of the same kind of torture, and it burned
very well for you."

"Illustrious ladies were exhibited to the public gaze in the

"Do you believe Louis XIV.'s dragoons regarded decency?"

"And mark well that the Christians had done nothing against the State."

"No more had the Huguenots."

The wind swept the rain into the air. It clattered on the leaves,
trickled at the side of the road; and the mud-coloured sky intermingled
with the fields, which lay bare after the close of harvest. Not a root
was to be seen. Only, in the distance, a shepherd's hut.

Pécuchet's thin overcoat had no longer a dry thread in it. The water ran
along his spine, got into his boots, into his ears, into his eyes, in
spite of the Amoros headpiece. The curé, while lifting up with one hand
the tail of his cassock, uncovered his legs; and the points of his
three-cornered hat sputtered the water over his shoulders, like the
gargoyles of a cathedral.

They had to stop, and, turning their backs to the storm, they remained
face to face, belly to belly, holding with their four hands the swaying

M. Jeufroy had not interrupted his vindication of the Catholics.

"Did they crucify your Protestants, as was done to St. Simeon; or get a
man devoured by two tigers, as happened to St. Ignatius?"

"But make some allowance for the number of women separated from their
husbands, children snatched from their mothers, and the exile of the
poor across the snow, in the midst of precipices. They huddled them
together in prisons; just when they were at the point of death they were
dragged along on the hurdle."

The abbé sneered. "You will allow me not to believe a word of it. And
our martyrs are less doubtful. St. Blandina was delivered over naked in
a net to a furious cow. St. Julia was beaten to death. St. Taracus, St.
Probus, and St. Andronicus had their teeth broken with a hammer, their
sides torn with iron combs, their hands pierced with reddened nails, and
their scalps carried off."

"You are exaggerating," said Pécuchet. "The death of the martyrs was at
that time an amplification of rhetoric."

"What! of rhetoric?"

"Why, yes; whilst what I relate to you, sir, is history. The Catholics
in Ireland disembowelled pregnant women in order to take their


"---- and give them to the pigs."

"Come now!"

"In Belgium they buried women alive."

"What nonsense!"

"We have their names."

"And even so," objected the priest, angrily shaking his umbrella, "they
cannot be called martyrs. There are no martyrs outside the Church."

"One word. If the value of a martyr depends on the doctrine, how could
he serve to demonstrate its existence?"

The rain ceased; they did not speak again till they reached the village.
But, on the threshold of the presbytery, the curé said:

"I pity you! really, I pity you!"

Pécuchet immediately told Bouvard about the wrangle. It had filled him
with an antipathy to religion, and, an hour later, seated before a
brushwood fire, they both read the _Curé Meslier_. These dull negations
disgusted Pécuchet; then, reproaching himself for perhaps having
misunderstood heroes, he ran through the history of the most illustrious
martyrs in the Biography.

What a clamour from the populace when they entered the arena! and, if
the lions and the jaguars were too quiet, the people urged them to come
forward by their gestures and their cries. The victims could be seen
covered with gore, smiling where they stood, with their gaze towards
heaven. St. Perpetua bound up her hair in order that she might not look

Pécuchet began to reflect. The window was open, the night tranquil; many
stars were shining. There must have passed through these martyrs' souls
things of which we have no idea--a joy, a divine spasm! And Pécuchet, by
dwelling on the subject, believed that he understood this emotion, and
that he would have done the same himself.



"No fudge! Do you believe--yes or no?"

"I don't know."

He lighted a candle; then, his eyes falling on the crucifix in the

"How many wretches have sought help from that!"

And, after a brief silence:

"They have denaturalised Him. It is the fault of Rome--the policy of the

But Bouvard admired the Church for her magnificence, and would have
brought back the Middle Ages provided he might be a cardinal.

"You must admit I should have looked well in the purple."

Pécuchet's headpiece, placed in front of the fire, was not yet dry.
While stretching it out he felt something in the lining, and out tumbled
a medal of St. Joseph.

Madame de Noares wished to ascertain from Pécuchet whether he had not
experienced some kind of change, bringing him happiness, and betrayed
herself by her questions. On one occasion, whilst he was playing
billiards, she had sewn the medal in his cap.

Evidently she was in love with him: they might marry; she was a widow,
and he had had no suspicion of this attachment, which might have brought
about his life's happiness.

Though he exhibited a more religious tendency than M. Bouvard, she had
dedicated him to St. Joseph, whose succour is favourable to conversions.

No one knew so well as she all the beads and the indulgences which they
procure, the effect of relics, the privileges of blessed waters. Her
watch was attached to a chain that had touched the bonds of St. Peter.
Amongst her trinkets glittered a pearl of gold, in imitation of the one
in the church of Allouagne containing a tear of Our Lord; a ring on her
little finger enclosed some of the hair of the curé of Ars, and, as she
was in the habit of collecting simples for the sick, her apartment was
like a sacristy combined with an apothecary's laboratory.

Her time was passed in writing letters, in visiting the poor, in
dissolving irregular connections, and in distributing photographs of the
Sacred Heart. A gentleman had promised to send her some "martyr's
paste," a mixture of paschal wax and human dust taken from the
Catacombs, and used in desperate cases in the shape of fly-blisters and
pills. She promised some of it to Pécuchet.

He appeared shocked at such materialism.

In the evening a footman from the château brought him a basketful of
little books relating pious phrases of the great Napoleon, witticisms of
clergymen at inns, frightful deaths that had happened to atheists. All
those things Madame de Noares knew by heart, along with an infinite
number of miracles. She related several stupid ones--miracles without an
object, as if God had performed them to excite the wonder of the world.
Her own grandmother had locked up in a cupboard some prunes covered with
a piece of linen, and when the cupboard was opened a year later they saw
thirteen of them on the cloth forming a cross.

"Explain this to me."

This was the phrase she used after her marvellous tales, which she
declared to be true, with the obstinacy of a mule. Apart from this she
was a harmless woman of lively disposition.

On one occasion, however, she deviated from her character.

Bouvard was disputing with her about the miracle of Pezilla: this was a
fruit-dish in which wafers had been hidden during the Revolution and
which had become gilded of itself.

"Perhaps there was at the bottom a little yellow colour caused by

"Not at all! I repeat it, there was not! The cause of the gilding was
the contact with the Eucharist."

By way of proof she relied on the attestations of bishops.

"It is, they say, like a buckler, a--a palladium over the diocese of
Perpignan. Ask Monsieur Jeufroy, then!"

Bouvard could not stand this kind of talk any longer; and, after he had
looked over his Louis Hervieu, he took Pécuchet off with them.

The clergyman was finishing his dinner. Reine offered them chairs, and,
at a gesture from her master, she went to fetch two little glasses,
which she filled with Rosolio.

After this Bouvard explained what had brought him there.

The abbé did not reply candidly.

"Everything is possible to God, and the miracles are a proof of

"However, there are laws of nature--"

"That makes no difference to Him. He sets them aside in order to
instruct, to correct."

"How do you know whether He sets them aside?" returned Bouvard. "So long
as Nature follows her routine we never bestow a thought on it, but in an
extraordinary phenomenon we believe we see the hand of God."

"It may be there," replied the ecclesiastic; "and when an occurrence has
been certified by witnesses----"

"The witnesses swallow everything, for there are spurious miracles."

The priest grew red.

"Undoubtedly; sometimes."

"How can we distinguish them from the genuine ones? If the genuine ones,
given as proofs, have themselves need of proofs, why perform them?"

Reine interposed, and, preaching like her master, said it was necessary
to obey.

"Life is a passage, but death is eternal."

"In short," suggested Bouvard, guzzling the Rosolio, "the miracles of
former times are not better demonstrated than the miracles of to-day;
analogous reasonings uphold those of Christians and Pagans."

The curé flung down his fork on the table.

"Again I tell you those miracles were spurious! There are no miracles
outside of the Church."

"Stop!" said Pécuchet, "that is the same argument you used regarding the
martyrs: the doctrine rests on the facts and the facts on the doctrine."

M. Jeufroy, having swallowed a glass of water, replied:

"Even while denying them you believe in them. The world which twelve
fishermen converted--look at that! it seems to me a fine miracle."

"Not at all!"

Pécuchet gave a different account of the matter: "Monotheism comes from
the Hebrews; the Trinity from the Indians; the Logos belongs to Plato,
and the Virgin Mother to Asia."

No matter! M. Jeufroy clung to the supernatural and did not desire that
Christianity should have humanly the least reason for its existence,
though he saw amongst all peoples foreshadowings or deformations of it.
The scoffing impiety of the eighteenth century he would have tolerated,
but modern criticism, with its politeness, exasperated him.

"I prefer the atheist who blasphemes to the sceptic who cavils."

Then he looked at them with an air of bravado, as if to dismiss them.

Pécuchet returned home in a melancholy frame of mind. He had hoped for a
reconciliation between faith and reason.

Bouvard made him read this passage from Louis Hervieu:

"In order to know the abyss which separates them, oppose their axioms.

"Reason says to you: 'The whole comprehends the part,' and faith replies
to you: 'By substantiation, Jesus, while communicating with the
apostles, had His body in His hand and His head in His mouth.'

"Reason says to you: 'No one is responsible for the crime of another,'
and faith replies to you: 'By original sin.'

"Reason says to you: 'Three make three,' and faith declares that 'Three
make one.'"

They no longer associated with the abbé.

It was the period of the war with Italy. The respectable people were
trembling for the Pope. They were thundering against Victor Emmanuel.
Madame de Noares went so far as to wish for his death. Bouvard and
Pécuchet alone protested timidly.

When the door of the drawing-room flew open in front of them and they
looked at themselves in the lofty mirrors, as they passed, whilst
through the windows they caught a glimpse of the walks where glared
above the grass the red waistcoat of a man-servant, they felt a
sensation of delight; and the luxuriousness of their surroundings
rendered them indulgent to the words that were uttered there.

The count lent them all the works of M. de Maistre. He expounded the
principles contained in them before a circle of intimate friends--Hurel,
the curé, the justice of the peace, the notary, and the baron, his
future son-in-law, who used to come from time to time for twenty-four
hours to the château.

"What is abominable," said the count, "is the spirit of 'eighty-nine.
First of all they question the existence of God; then they dispute about
government; then comes liberty--liberty for insults, for revolt, for
enjoyments, or rather for plunder, so that religion and authority ought
to proscribe the independents, the heretics. No doubt they will protest
against what they call persecution, as if the executioners persecuted
the criminals. Let me resume: No State without God! the law being unable
to command respect unless it comes from on high, and, in fact, it is not
a question of the Italians, but of determining which shall have the best
of it, the Revolution or the Pope, Satan or Jesus Christ."

M. Jeufroy expressed his approval by monosyllables, Hurel by means of a
smile, and the justice of the peace by nodding his head. Bouvard and
Pécuchet kept their eyes fixed on the ceiling; Madame de Noares, the
countess, and Yolande were making clothes for the poor, and M. de
Mahurot, beside his betrothed, was turning over the leaves of a book.

Then came intervals of silence, during which everyone seemed to be
absorbed in the investigation of a problem. Napoleon III. was no longer
a saviour, and he had even given a deplorable example by allowing the
masons at the Tuileries to work on Sunday.

"It ought not to be permitted," was the ordinary phrase of the count.

Social economy, fine arts, literature, history, scientific doctrines--on
all he decided in his quality of Christian and father of a family; and
would to God that the government, in this respect, exercised the same
severity that he exhibited in his household! Authority alone is the
judge of the dangers of science: spread too extensively, it inspires
fatal ambitions in the breasts of the people. They were happier, these
poor people, when the nobles and the bishops tempered the absolutism of
the king. The manufacturers now make use of them. They are on the point
of sinking into slavery.

And all looked back with regret to the old _régime_, Hurel through
meanness, Coulon through ignorance, Marescot as a man of artistic

Bouvard, when he found himself at home once more, fortified his mind
with a course of Lamettrie, Holbach, and others; whilst Pécuchet forsook
a religion which had become a medium of government.

M. de Mahurot had communicated in order the better to charm the ladies,
and, if he adopted it as a practice, it was in the interests of the

A mathematician and _dilettante_, who played waltzes on the piano and
admired Topffer, he was distinguished by a tasteful scepticism. What was
said about feudal abuses, the Inquisition, and the Jesuits, was the
result of prejudice. He extolled progress, though he despised everyone
who was not a gentleman, or who had not come from the Polytechnic

M. Jeufroy likewise displeased the two friends. He believed in sorcery,
made jokes about idolatry, declared that all idioms are derived from the
Hebrew. His rhetoric lacked the element of novelty: it was invariably
the stag at bay, honey and absinthe, gold and lead, perfumes, urns, and
the comparison of the Christian soul to the soldier who ought to say in
the face of sin: "Thou shalt not pass!"

In order to avoid his discourses they used to come to the château at as
late an hour as possible.

One day, however, they encountered him there. He had been an hour
awaiting his two pupils. Suddenly Madame de Noares entered.

"The little girl has disappeared. I am bringing Victor in. Ah! the

She had found in his pocket a silver thimble which she had lost three
days ago. Then, stifled with sobs:

"That is not all! While I was giving him a scolding, he turned his back
on me!"

And, ere the count and countess could have said a word:

"However, it is my own fault: pardon me!"

She had concealed from them the fact that the two orphans were the
children of Touache, who was now in prison.

What was to be done?

If the count sent them away they would be lost, and his act of charity
would be taken for a caprice.

M. Jeufroy was not surprised. Since man is corrupt, our natural duty is
to punish him in order to improve him.

Bouvard protested. Leniency was better. But the count once more
expatiated on the iron hand indispensable for children as well as for
the people. These two children were full of vices--the little girl was
untruthful, the boy brutish. This theft, after all, might have been
excused, the impertinence never. Education should be the school of

Therefore Sorel, the gamekeeper, would immediately administer to the
youngster a good flogging.

M. de Mahurot, who had something to say to him, undertook the
commission. He went to the anteroom for a gun, and called Victor, who
had remained in the centre of the courtyard with downcast head.

"Follow me," said the baron. As the way to the gamekeeper's lodge turned
off a little from Chavignolles, M. Jeufroy, Bouvard, and Pécuchet
accompanied him.

At a hundred paces from the château, he begged them not to speak any
more while he was walking along the wood.

The ground sloped down to the river's edge, where rose great blocks of
stone. At sunset they looked like slabs of gold. On the opposite side
the green hillocks were wrapped in shadow. A keen wind was blowing.
Rabbits came out of their burrows, and began browsing on the grass.

A shot went off; a second; a third: and the rabbits jumped up, then
rolled over. Victor flung himself on them to seize hold of them, and
panted, soaking with perspiration.

"You have your clothes in nice condition!" said the baron.

There was blood on his ragged blouse.

Bouvard shrank from the sight of blood. He would not admit that it ever
should be shed.

M. Jeufroy returned:

"Circumstances sometimes make it necessary. If the guilty person does
not give his own, there is need of another's--a truth which the
Redemption teaches us."

According to Bouvard, it had been of hardly any use, since nearly all
mankind would be damned, in spite of the sacrifice of Our Lord.

"But every day He renews it in the Eucharist."

"And whatever be the unworthiness of the priest," said Pécuchet, "the
miracle takes place at the words."

"There is the mystery, sir."

Meanwhile Victor had riveted his eyes on the gun, and he even tried to
touch it.

"Down with your paws!" And M. de Mahurot took a long path through the

The clergyman had placed Pécuchet on one side of him and Bouvard at the
other, and said to the latter:

"Attention, you know. _Debetur pueris._"

Bouvard assured him that he humbled himself in the presence of the
Creator, but was indignant at their having made Him a man. We fear His
vengeance; we work for His glory. He has every virtue: an arm, an eye, a
policy, a habitation.

"'Our Father, who art in heaven,' what does that mean?"

And Pécuchet added: "The universe has become enlarged; the earth is no
longer its central point. It revolves amongst an infinite multitude of
other worlds. Many of them surpass it in grandeur, and this belittlement
of our globe shows a more sublime ideal of God.

"So, then, religion must change. Paradise is something infantile, with
its blessed always in a state of contemplation, always chanting hymns,
and looking from on high at the tortures of the damned. When one
reflects that Christianity had for its basis an apple!"

The curé was annoyed. "Deny revelation; that would be simpler."

"How do you make out that God spoke?" said Bouvard.

"Prove that he did not speak!" said M. Jeufroy.

"Once again, who affirms it?"

"The Church."

"Nice testimony!"

This discussion bored M. de Mahurot, and, as he walked along: "Pray
listen to the curé. He knows more than you."

Bouvard and Pécuchet made signs to indicate that they were taking
another road; then, at Croix-Verte:

"A very good evening."

"Your servant," said the baron.

All this would be told to M. de Faverges, and perhaps a rupture would
result. So much the worse. They felt that they were despised by those
people of rank. They were never asked to dinner, and they were tired of
Madame de Noares, with her continual remonstrances.

They could not, however, keep the De Maistre; and a fortnight after they
returned to the château, not expecting to be welcomed, but they were.
All the family were in the boudoir, and amongst those present were Hurel
and, strangely enough, Foureau.

Correction had failed to correct Victor. He refused to learn his
catechism; and Victorine gave utterance to vulgar words. In short, the
boy should go to a reformatory, and the girl to a nunnery. Foureau was
charged with carrying out the measure, and he was about to go when the
countess called him back.

They were waiting for M. Jeufroy to fix the date of the marriage, which
was to take place at the


mayor's office before being celebrated in the church, in order to show
that they looked on civil marriage with contempt.

Foureau tried to defend it. The count and Hurel attacked it. What was a
municipal function beside a priesthood?--and the baron would not have
believed himself to be really wedded if he had been married only in the
presence of a tri-coloured scarf.

"Bravo!" said M. Jeufroy, who had just come in. "Marriage having been
established by Jesus Christ----"

Pécuchet stopped him: "In which Gospel? In the Apostolic times they
respected it so little that Tertullian compares it to adultery."

"Oh! upon my word!"

"Yes, certainly! and it is not a sacrament. A sign is necessary for a
sacrament. Show me the sign in marriage."

In vain did the curé reply that it represented the union of God with the

"You do not understand Christianity either! And the law----"

"The law preserves the stamp of Christianity," said M. de Faverges.
"Without that, it would permit polygamy."

A voice rejoined: "Where would be the harm?"

It was Bouvard, half hidden by a curtain.

"You might have many wives, like the Patriarchs, the Mormons, the
Mussulmans, and nevertheless be an honest man."

"Never!" exclaimed the priest; "honesty consists in rendering what is
due. We owe homage to God. So he who is not a Christian is not honest."

"Just as much as others," said Bouvard.

The count, believing that he saw in this rejoinder an attack on
religion, extolled it. It had set free the slaves.

Bouvard referred to authorities to prove the contrary:

"St. Paul recommends them to obey their masters as they would obey
Jesus. St. Ambrose calls servitude a gift of God. Leviticus, Exodus, and
the Councils have sanctioned it. Bossuet treats it as a part of the law
of nations. And Monseigneur Bouvier approves of it."

The count objected that, none the less, Christianity had developed

"Ay, and idleness, by making a virtue of poverty."

"However, sir, the morality of the Gospel?"

"Ha! ha! not so moral! Those who labour only during the last hour are
paid as much as those who labour from the first hour. To him who hath is
given, and from him who hath not is taken away. As for the precept of
receiving blows without returning them and of letting yourself be
robbed, it encourages the audacious, the cowardly, and the dissolute."

They were doubly scandalised when Pécuchet declared that he liked
Buddhism as well.

The priest burst out laughing.

"Ha! ha! ha! Buddhism!"

Madame de Noares lifted up her hands: "Buddhism!"

"What! Buddhism!" repeated the count.

"Do you understand it?" said Pécuchet to M. Jeufroy, who had become
confused. "Well, then, learn something about it. Better than
Christianity, and before it, it has recognised the nothingness of
earthly things. Its practices are austere, its faithful more numerous
than the entire body of Christians; and, as for incarnation, Vishnu had
not merely one, but nine of them. So judge."

"Travellers' lies!" said Madame de Noares.

"Backed up by the Freemasons!" added the curé.

And all talking at the same time:

"Come, then, go on!"

"Very pretty!"

"For my part, I think it funny!"

"Not possible!"

Finally, Pécuchet, exasperated, declared that he would become a

"You are insulting Christian ladies," said the baron.

Madame de Noares sank into an armchair. The countess and Yolande
remained silent. The count kept rolling his eyes; Hurel was waiting for
his orders. The abbé, to contain himself, read his breviary.

This sight calmed M. de Faverges; and, looking at the two worthies:

"Before you find fault with the Gospel, and that when there may be
stains on your own lives, there is some reparation----"


"For stains?"

"Enough! gentlemen. You don't understand me." Then, addressing Foureau:
"Sorel is informed about it. Go to him."

Bouvard and Pécuchet withdrew without bowing.

At the end of the avenue they all three gave vent to their indignation.

"They treated me as if I were a servant," grumbled Foureau; and, as his
companions agreed with him, in spite of their recollection of the affair
of the hemorrhoids, he exhibited towards them a kind of sympathy.

Road-menders were working in the neighbourhood. The man who was over
them drew near: it was Gorju. They began to chat.

He was overseeing the macadamisation of the road, voted in 1848, and he
owed this post to M. de Mahurot, the engineer. "The one that's going to
marry Mademoiselle de Faverges. I suppose 'tis from the house below you
were just coming?"

"For the last time," said Pécuchet gruffly.

Gorju assumed an innocent air. "A quarrel! Come, come!"

And if they could have seen his countenance when they had turned on
their heels, they might have observed that he had scented the cause of

A little further on, they stopped before a trellised enclosure, inside
which there were kennels, and also a red-tiled cottage.

Victorine was on the threshold. They heard dogs barking. The
gamekeeper's wife came out. Knowing the object of the mayor's visit, she
called to Victor. Everything was ready beforehand, and their outfit was
contained in two pocket-handkerchiefs fastened together with pins.

"A pleasant journey," said the woman to the children, too glad to have
no more to do with such vermin.

Was it their fault if they owed their birth to a convict father? On the
contrary, they seemed very quiet, and did not even betray any alarm as
to the place to which they were being conveyed.

Bouvard and Pécuchet watched them as they walked in front of them.

Victorine muttered some unintelligible words, with her little bundle
over her arm, like a milliner carrying a bandbox.

Every now and then she would turn round, and Pécuchet, at the sight of
her fair curls and her pretty figure, regretted that he had not such a
child. Brought up under different conditions, she would be charming
later. What happiness only to see her growing tall, to hear day after
day her bird-like warbling, to kiss her when the fancy seized him!--and
a feeling of tenderness, rising from his heart to his lips, made his
eyes grow moist and somewhat oppressed his spirit.

Victor, like a soldier, had slung his baggage over his shoulder. He
whistled, threw stones at the crows in the furrows, and went to cut
switches off the trees.

Foureau called him back; and Bouvard, holding him by the hand, was
delighted at feeling within his own those fingers of a robust and
vigorous lad. The poor little wretch asked for nothing but to grow
freely, like a flower in the open air! and he would rot between closed
walls with tasks, punishment, a heap of tomfooleries! Bouvard was seized
with pity, springing from a sense of revolt, a feeling of indignation
against Fate, one of those fits of rage in which one longs to destroy
government altogether.

"Jump about!" he said, "amuse yourself! Have a bit of fun as long as you

The youngster scampered off.

His sister and he were to sleep at the inn, and at daybreak the
messenger from Falaise would take Victor and set him down at the
reformatory of Beaubourg; while a nun belonging to the orphanage of
Grand-Camp would come to fetch Victorine.

Foureau having gone into these details, was once more lost in his own
thoughts. But Bouvard wished to know how much the maintenance of the
youngsters would cost.

"Bah! a matter perhaps of three hundred francs. The count has given me
twenty-five for the first disbursements. What a stingy fellow!"

And, stung to the heart by the contempt shown towards his scarf, Foureau
quickened his pace in silence.

Bouvard murmured: "They make me feel sad. I will take the charge of

"And so will I," said Pécuchet, the same idea having occurred to both of

No doubt there were impediments?

"None," returned Foureau. Besides, he had the right as mayor to entrust
deserted children to whomsoever he thought fit. And, after a prolonged

"Well, yes; take them! That will annoy _him_."

Bouvard and Pécuchet carried them off.

When they returned to their abode they found at the end of the
staircase, under the Madonna, Marcel upon his knees praying with
fervour. With his head thrown back, his eyes half closed, and his
hare-lip gaping, he had the appearance of a fakir in ecstasy.

"What a brute!" said Bouvard.

"Why? He is perhaps attending to things that would make you envy him if
you could only see them. Are there not two worlds entirely distinct?
The aim of a process of reasoning is of less consequence than the manner
of reasoning. What does the form of belief matter? The great thing is to

Such were the objections of Pécuchet to Bouvard's observation.

[Illustration: decoration]



They procured a number of works relating to education, and resolved to
adopt a system of their own. It was necessary to banish every
metaphysical idea, and, in accordance with the experimental method, to
follow in the lines of natural development. There was no haste, for the
two pupils might forget what they had learned.

Though they had strong constitutions, Pécuchet wished, like a Spartan,
to make them more hardy, to accustom them to hunger, thirst, and severe
weather, and even insisted on having their feet badly shod in order that
they might be prepared for colds. Bouvard was opposed to this.

The dark closet at the end of the corridor was used as their sleeping
apartment. Its furniture consisted of two folding beds, two couches, and
a jug. Above their heads the top window was open, and spiders crawled
along the plaster. Often the children recalled to mind the interior of a
cabin where they used to wrangle. One night their father came home with
blood on his hands. Some time afterwards the gendarmes arrived. After
that they lived in a wood. Men who made wooden shoes used to kiss their
mother. She died, and was carried off in a cart. They used to get severe
beatings; they got lost. Then they could see once more Madame de Noares
and Sorel; and, without asking themselves the reason why they were in
this house, they felt happy there. But they were disagreeably surprised
when at the end of eight months the lessons began again. Bouvard took
charge of the little girl, and Pécuchet of the boy.

Victor was able to distinguish letters, but did not succeed in forming
syllables. He stammered over them, then stopped suddenly, and looked
like an idiot. Victorine put questions. How was it that "ch" in
"orchestra" had the sound of a "q," and that of a "k" in "archæology."
We must sometimes join two vowels and at other times separate them. All
this did not seem to her right. She grew indignant at it.

The teachers gave instruction at the same hour in their respective
apartments, and, as the partition was thin, these four voices, one soft,
one deep, and two sharp, made a hideous concert. To finish the business
and to stimulate the youngsters by means of emulation, they conceived
the idea of making them work together in the museum; and they proceeded
to teach them writing. The two pupils, one at each end of the table,
copied written words that were set for them; but the position of their
bodies was awkward. It was necessary to straighten them; their copybooks
fell down; their pens broke, and their ink bottles were turned upside

Victorine, on certain days, went on capitally for about three minutes,
then she would begin to scrawl, and, seized with discouragement, she
would sit with her eyes fixed on the ceiling. Victor was not long before
he fell asleep, lying over his desk.

Perhaps they were distressed by it? Too great a strain was bad for young

"Let us stop," said Bouvard.

There is nothing so stupid as to make children learn by heart; yet, if
the memory is not exercised, it will go to waste, and so they taught the
youngsters to recite like parrots the first fables of La Fontaine. The
children expressed their approval of the ant that heaped up treasure, of
the wolf that devoured the lamb, and of the lion that took everyone's

When they had become more audacious, they spoiled the garden. But what
amusement could be provided for them?

Jean Jacques Rousseau in _Emile_ advises the teacher to get the pupil to
make his own playthings. Bouvard could not contrive to make a hoop or
Pécuchet to sew up a ball. They passed on to toys that were instructive,
such as cut-paper work. Pécuchet showed them his microscope. When the
candle was lighted, Bouvard would sketch with the shadow of his finger
on the wall the profile of a hare or a pig. But the pupils grew tired of

Writers have gone into raptures about the delightfulness of an open-air
luncheon or a boating excursion. Was it possible for them really to have
such recreations? Fénelon recommends from time to time "an innocent
conversation." They could not invent one. So they had to come back to
the lessons--the multiplying bowls, the erasures of their scrawlings,
and the process of teaching them how to read by copying printed
characters. All had proved failures, when suddenly a bright idea struck

As Victor was prone to gluttony, they showed him the name of a dish: he
soon ran through _Le Cuisinier Français_ with ease. Victorine, being a
coquette, was promised a new dress if she wrote to the dressmaker for
it: in less than three weeks she accomplished this feat. This was
playing on their vices--a pernicious method, no doubt; but it had

Now that they had learned to read and write, what should they be taught?
Another puzzle.

Girls have no need of learning, as in the case of boys. All the same,
they are usually brought up like mere animals, their sole intellectual
baggage being confined to mystical follies.

Is it expedient to teach them languages? "Spanish and Italian," the Swan
of Cambray lays down, "scarcely serve any purpose save to enable people
to read dangerous books."

Such a motive appeared silly to them. However, Victorine would have to
do only with these languages; whereas English is more widely used.
Pécuchet proceeded to study the rules of the language. He seriously
demonstrated the mode of expressing the "th"--"like this, now, _the_,
_the_, _the_."

But before instructing a child we must be acquainted with its aptitudes.
They may be divined by phrenology. They plunged into it, then sought to
verify its assertions by experiments on their own persons. Bouvard
exhibited the bumps of benevolence, imagination, veneration, and amorous
energy--_vulgo_, eroticism. On Pécuchet's temples were found philosophy
and enthusiasm allied with a crafty disposition. Such, in fact, were
their characters. What surprised them more was to recognise in the one
as well as in the other a propensity towards friendship, and, charmed
with the discovery, they embraced each other with emotion.

They next made an examination of Marcel. His greatest fault, of which
they were not ignorant, was an excessive appetite. Nevertheless Bouvard
and Pécuchet were dismayed to find above the top of the ear, on a level
with the eye, the organ of alimentivity. With advancing years their
servant would perhaps become like the woman in the Salpêtrière, who
every day ate eight pounds of bread, swallowed at one time fourteen
different soups, and at another sixty bowls of coffee. They might not
have enough to keep him.

The heads of their pupils presented no curious characteristics. No doubt
they had gone the wrong way to work with them. A very simple expedient
enabled them to develop their experience.

On market days they insinuated themselves among groups of country people
on the green, amid the sacks of oats, the baskets of cheese, the calves
and the horses, indifferent to the jostlings; and whenever they found a
young fellow with his father, they asked leave to feel his skull for a
scientific purpose. The majority vouchsafed no reply; others, fancying
it was pomatum for ringworm of the scalp, refused testily. A few,
through indifference, allowed themselves to be led towards the porch of
the church, where they would be undisturbed.

One morning, just as Bouvard and Pécuchet were beginning operations, the
curé suddenly presented himself, and seeing what they were about,
denounced phrenology as leading to materialism and to fatalism. The
thief, the assassin, the adulterer, have henceforth only to cast the
blame of their crimes on their bumps.

Bouvard retorted that the organ predisposes towards the act without
forcing one to do it. From the fact that a man has in him the germ of a
vice, there is nothing to show that he will be vicious.

"However, I wonder at the orthodox, for, while upholding innate ideas,
they reject propensities. What a contradiction!"

But phrenology, according to M. Jeufroy, denied Divine Omnipotence, and
it was unseemly to practise under the shadow of the holy place, in the
very face of the altar.

"Take yourselves off! No!--take yourselves off!"

They established themselves in the shop of Ganot, the hairdresser.
Bouvard and Pécuchet went so far as to treat their subjects' relations
to a shave or a clip. One afternoon the doctor came to get his hair cut.
While seating himself in the armchair he saw in the glass the reflection
of the two phrenologists passing their fingers over a child's pate.

"So you are at these fooleries?" he said.

"Why foolery?"

Vaucorbeil smiled contemptuously, then declared that there were not
several organs in the brain. Thus one man can digest food which another
cannot digest. Are we to assume that there are as many stomachs in the
stomach as there are varieties of taste?

They pointed out that one kind of work is a relaxation after another; an
intellectual effort does not strain all the faculties at the same time;
each has its distinct seat.

"The anatomists have not discovered it," said Vaucorbeil.

"That's because they have dissected badly," replied Pécuchet.


"Oh, yes! they cut off slices without regard to the connection of the
parts"--a phrase out of a book which recurred to his mind.

"What a piece of nonsense!" exclaimed the physician. "The cranium is not
moulded over the brain, the exterior over the interior. Gall is
mistaken, and I defy you to justify his doctrine by taking at random
three persons in the shop."

The first was a country woman, with big blue eyes.

Pécuchet, looking at her, said:

"She has a good memory."

Her husband attested the fact, and offered himself for examination.

"Oh! you, my worthy fellow, it is hard to lead you."

According to the others, there was not in the world such a headstrong

The third experiment was made on a boy who was accompanied by his

Pécuchet observed that he must be fond of music.

"I assure you it is so," said the good woman. "Show these gentlemen,
that they may see for themselves."

He drew a Jew's-harp from under his blouse and began blowing into it.

There was a crashing sound--it was the violent slamming of the door by
the doctor as he went out.

They were no longer in doubt about themselves, and summoning their two
pupils, they resumed the analysis of their skull-bones.

That of Victorine was even all around, a sign of ponderation; but her
brother had an unfortunate cranium--a very large protuberance in the
mastoid angle of the parietal bones indicated the organ of
destructiveness, of murder; and a swelling farther down was the sign of
covetousness, of theft. Bouvard and Pécuchet remained dejected for eight

But it was necessary to comprehend the exact sense of words: what we
call combativeness implies contempt for death. If it causes homicides,
it may, likewise bring about the saving of lives. Acquisitiveness
includes the tact of pickpockets and the ardour of merchants.
Irreverence has its parallel in the spirit of criticism, craft in
circumspection. An instinct always resolves itself into two parts, a bad
one and a good one. The one may be destroyed by cultivating the other,
and by this system a daring child, far from being a vagabond, may become
a general. The sluggish man will have only prudence; the penurious,
economy; the extravagant, generosity.

A magnificent dream filled their minds. If they carried to a successful
end the education of their pupils, they would later found an
establishment having for its object to correct the intellect, to subdue
tempers, and to ennoble the heart. Already they talked about
subscriptions and about the building.

Their triumph in Ganot's shop had made them famous, and people came to
consult them in order that they might tell them their chances of good

All sorts of skulls were examined for this purpose--bowl-shaped,
pear-shaped, those rising like sugar loaves, square heads, high heads,
contracted skulls and flat skulls, with bulls' jaws, birds' faces, and
eyes like pigs'; but such a crowd of people disturbed the hairdresser in
his work. Their elbows rubbed against the glass cupboard that contained
the perfumery, they put the combs out of order, the wash-hand stand was
broken; so he turned out all the idlers, begging of Bouvard and Pécuchet
to follow them, an ultimatum which they unmurmuringly accepted, being a
little worn out with cranioscopy.

Next day, as they were passing before the little garden of the captain,
they saw, chatting with him, Girbal, Coulon, the keeper, and his younger
son, Zephyrin, dressed as an altar-boy. His robe was quite new, and he
was walking below before returning to the sacristy, and they were
complimenting him.

Curious to know what they thought of him, Placquevent asked "these
gentlemen" to feel his young man's head.

The skin of his forehead looked tightly drawn; his nose, thin and very
gristly at the tip, drooped slantwise over his pinched lips; his chin
was pointed, his expression evasive, and his right shoulder was too

"Take off your cap," said his father to him.

Bouvard slipped his hands through his straw-coloured hair; then it was
Pécuchet's turn, and they communicated to each other their observations
in low tones:

"Evident _love of books_! Ha! ha! _approbativeness_! _Conscientiousness_
wanting! No _amativeness_!"

"Well?" said the keeper.

Pécuchet opened his snuff-box, and took a pinch.

"Faith!" replied Bouvard, "this is scarcely a genius."

Placquevent reddened with humiliation.

"All the same, he will do my bidding."

"Oho! Oho!"

"But I am his father, by God! and I have certainly the right----"

"Within certain limits," observed Pécuchet.

Girbal interposed. "The paternal authority is indispensable."

"But if the father is an idiot?"

"No matter," said the captain; "his power is none the less absolute."

"In the interests of the children," added Coulon.

According to Bouvard and Pécuchet, they owed nothing to the authors of
their being; and the parents, on the other hand, owed them food,
education, forethought--in fact, everything.

Their good neighbours protested against this opinion as immoral.
Placquevent was hurt by it as if it were an insult.

"For all that, they are a nice lot that you collect on the high-roads.
They will go far. Take care!"

"Care of what?" said Pécuchet sourly.

"Oh! I am not afraid of you."

"Nor I of you either."

Coulon here used his influence to restrain the keeper and induce him to
go away quietly.

For some minutes there was silence. Then there was some talk about the
dahlias of the captain, who would not let his friends depart till he had
exhibited every one of them.

Bouvard and Pécuchet were returning homeward when, a hundred paces in
front of them, they noticed Placquevent; and close beside him Zephyrin
was lifting up his elbow, like a shield, to save his ear from being

What they had just heard expressed, in another form, were the opinions
of the count; but the example of their pupils proved how much liberty
had the advantage over coercion. However, a little discipline was

Pécuchet nailed up a blackboard in the museum for the purpose of
demonstrations. They each resolved to keep a journal wherein the things
done by the pupil, noted down every evening, could be read next morning,
and, to regulate the work by ringing the bell when it should be
finished. Like Dupont de Nemours, they would, at first, make use of the
paternal injunction, then of the military injunction, and familiarity in
addressing them would be forbidden.

Bouvard tried to teach Victorine ciphering. Sometimes he would make
mistakes, and both of them would laugh. Then she would kiss him on the
part of his neck which was smoothest and ask leave to go, and he would
give his permission.

Pécuchet at the hour for lessons in vain rang the bell and shouted out
the military injunction through the window. The brat did not come. His
socks were always hanging over his ankles; even at table he thrust his
fingers into his nostrils, and did not even keep in his wind. Broussais
objects to reprimands on this point on the ground that "it is necessary
to obey the promptings of a conservative instinct."

Victorine and he made use of frightful language, saying, _mé itou_
instead of _moi aussi_, _bère_ instead of _boire_, _al_ instead of
_elle_, and _deventiau_ with the _iau_; but, as grammar cannot be
understood by children, and as they would learn the use of language by
hearing others speak correctly, the two worthy men watched their own
words till they found it quite distressing.

They held different views about the way to teach geography. Bouvard
thought it more logical to begin with the commune, Pécuchet with the
entire world.

With a watering-pot and some sand he sought to demonstrate what was
meant by a river, an island, a gulf, and even sacrificed three
flower-beds to explain three continents; but the cardinal points could
not be got into Victor's head.

On a night in January Pécuchet carried him off in the open country.
While they walked along he held forth on astronomy: mariners find it
useful on their voyages; without it Christopher Columbus would not have
made his discovery. We owe a debt of gratitude to Copernicus, to
Galileo, and to Newton.

It was freezing hard, and in the dark blue sky countless stars were
scintillating. Pécuchet raised his eyes.

"What! No Ursa Major!"

The last time he had seen it, it was turned to the other side. At length
he recognised it, then pointed out the polar star, which is always
turned towards the north, and by means of which travellers can find out
their exact situation.

Next day he placed an armchair in the middle of the room and began to
waltz round it.

"Imagine that this armchair is the sun and that I am the earth; it moves
like this."

Victor stared at him, filled with astonishment.

After this he took an orange, passed through it a piece of stick to
indicate the poles, then drew a circle across it with charcoal to mark
the equator. He next moved the orange round a wax candle, drawing
attention to the fact that the various points on the surface were not
illuminated at the same time--which causes the difference of climates;
and for that of the seasons he sloped the orange, inasmuch as the earth
does not stand up straight--which brings about the equinoxes and the

Victor did not understand a bit of it. He believed that the earth turns
around in a long needle, and that the equator is a ring pressing its

By means of an atlas Pécuchet exhibited Europe to him; but, dazzled by
so many lines and colours, he could no longer distinguish the names of
different places. The bays and the mountains did not harmonise with the
respective nations; the political order confused the physical order. All
this, perhaps, might be cleared up by studying history.

It would have been more practical to begin with the village, and go on
next to the arrondissement, the department, and the province; but, as
Chavignolles had no annals, it was absolutely necessary to stick to
universal history. It was rendered embarrassing by such a variety of
details that one ought only to select its beautiful features. For Greek
history there are: "We shall fight in the shade," the banishment of
Aristides by the envious, and the confidence of Alexander in his
physician. For Roman, the geese of the Capitol, the tripod of Scævola,
the barrel of Regulus. The bed of roses of Guatimozin is noteworthy for
America. As for France, it supplies the vase of Soissons, the oak of St.
Louis, the death of Joan of Arc, the boiled hen of Bearnais--you have
only too extensive a field to select from, not to speak of _À moi
d'Auvergne!_ and the shipwreck of the _Vengeur_.

Victor confused the men, the centuries, and the countries. Pécuchet,
however, was not going to plunge him into subtle considerations, and the
mass of facts is a veritable labyrinth. He confined himself to the names
of the kings of France. Victor forgot them through not knowing the
dates. But, if Dumouchel's system of mnemonics had been insufficient for
themselves, what would it be for him! Conclusion: history can be learned
only by reading a great deal. He would do this.

Drawing is useful where there are numerous details; and Pécuchet was
courageous enough to try to learn it himself from Nature by working at
the landscape forthwith. A bookseller at Bayeux sent him paper,
india-rubber, pasteboard, pencils, and fixtures, with a view to the
works, which, framed and glazed, would adorn the museum.

Out of bed at dawn, they started each with a piece of bread in his
pocket, and much time was lost in finding a suitable scene. Pécuchet
wished to reproduce what he found under his feet, the extreme horizon,
and the clouds, all at the same time; but the backgrounds always got the
better of the foregrounds; the river tumbled down from the sky; the
shepherd walked over his flock; and a dog asleep looked as if he were
hunting. For his part, he gave it up, remembering that he had read this

"Drawing is composed of three things: line, grain, and fine graining,
and, furthermore, the powerful touch. But it is only the master who can
give the powerful touch."

He rectified the line, assisted in the graining process, watched over
the fine graining, and waited for the opportunity of giving the powerful
touch. It never arrived, so incomprehensible was the pupil's landscape.

Victorine, who was very lazy, used to yawn over the multiplication
table. Mademoiselle Reine showed her how to stitch, and when she was
marking linen she lifted her fingers so nicely that Bouvard afterwards
had not the heart to torment her with his lesson in ciphering. One of
these days they would resume it. No doubt arithmetic and sewing are
necessary in a household; but it is cruel, Pécuchet urged, to bring up
girls merely with an eye to the husbands they might marry. Not all of
them are destined for wedlock; if we wish them later to do without men,
we ought to teach them many things.

The sciences can be taught in connection with the commonest objects; for
instance, by telling what wine is made of; and when the explanation was
given, Victor and Victorine had to repeat it. It was the same with
groceries, furniture, illumination; but for them light meant the lamp,
and it had nothing in common with the spark of a flint, the flame of a
candle, the radiance of the moon.

One day Victorine asked, "How is it that wood burns?" Her masters looked
at each other in confusion. The theory of combustion was beyond them.

Another time Bouvard, from the soup to the cheese, kept talking of
nutritious elements, and dazed the two youngsters with fibrine, caseine,
fat and gluten.

After this, Pécuchet desired to explain to them how the blood is
renewed, and he became puzzled over the explanation of circulation.

The dilemma is not an easy one; if you start with facts, the simplest
require proofs that are too involved, and by laying down principles
first, you begin with the absolute--faith.

How is it to be solved? By combining the two methods of teaching, the
rational and the empirical; but a double means towards a single end is
the reverse of method. Ah! so much the worse, then.

To initiate them in natural history, they tried some scientific

"You see," said they, pointing towards an ass, a horse, an ox, "beasts
with four feet--they are called quadrupeds. As a rule, birds have
feathers, reptiles scales, and butterflies belong to the insect class."

They had a net to catch them with, and Pécuchet, holding the insect up
daintily, made them take notice of the four wings, the six claws, the
two feelers, and of its bony proboscis, which drinks in the nectar of

He gathered herbs behind the ditches, mentioned their names, and, when
he did not know them, invented them, in order to keep up his prestige.
Besides, nomenclature is the least important thing in botany.

He wrote this axiom on the blackboard: "Every plant has leaves, a calyx,
and a corolla enclosing an ovary or pericarp, which contains the seed."
Then he ordered his pupils to go looking for plants through the fields,
and to collect the first that came to hand.

Victor brought him buttercups; Victorine a bunch of strawberries. He
searched vainly for the pericarp.

Bouvard, who distrusted his own knowledge, rummaged in the library, and
discovered in _Le Redouté des Dames_ a sketch of an iris in which the
ovaries were not situated in the corolla, but beneath the petals in the
stem. In their garden were some scratchweeds and lilies-of-the-valley in
flower. These rubiaceæ had no calyx; therefore the principle laid down
on the blackboard was false.

"It is an exception," said Pécuchet.

But chance led to the discovery of a field-madder in the grass, and it
had a calyx.

"Goodness gracious! If the exceptions themselves are not true, what are
we to put any reliance on?"

One day, in one of these excursions, they heard the cries of peacocks,
glanced over the wall, and at first did not recognise their own farm.
The barn had a slate roof; the railings were new; the pathways had been

Père Gouy made his appearance.

"'Tisn't possible! Is it you?"

How many sad stories he had to tell of the past three years, amongst
others the death of his wife! As for himself, he had always been as
strong as an oak.

"Come in a minute."

It was early in April, and in the three fruit-gardens rows of apple
trees in full blossom showed their white and red clusters; the sky,
which was like blue satin, was perfectly cloudless. Table-cloths,
sheets, and napkins hung down, vertically attached to tightly-drawn
ropes by wooden pins. Père Gouy lifted them as they passed; and suddenly
they came face to face with Madame Bordin, bareheaded, in a
dressing-gown, and Marianne offering her armfuls of linen.

"Your servant, gentlemen. Make yourselves at home. As for me, I shall
sit down; I am worn out."

The farmer offered to get some refreshment for the entire party.

"Not now," said she; "I am too hot."

Pécuchet consented, and disappeared into the cellar with Père Gouy,
Marianne and Victor.

Bouvard sat down on the grass beside Madame Bordin.

He received the annual payment punctually; he had nothing to complain
of; and he wished for nothing more.

The bright sunshine lighted up her profile. One of her black head-bands
had come loose, and the little curls behind her neck clung to her brown
skin, moistened with perspiration. With each breath her bosom heaved.
The smell of the grass mingled with the odour of her solid flesh, and
Bouvard felt a revival of his attachment, which filled him with joy.
Then he complimented her about her property.

She was greatly charmed with it; and she told him about her plans. In
order to enlarge the farmyard, she intended to take down the upper bank.

Victorine was at that moment climbing up the slopes, and gathering
primroses, hyacinths, and violets, without being afraid of an old horse
that was browsing on the grass at her feet.

"Isn't she pretty?" said Bouvard.

"Yes, she is pretty, for a little girl."

And the widow heaved a sigh, which seemed charged with life-long regret.

"You might have had one yourself."

She hung down her head.

"That depended on you."


He gave her such a look that she grew purple, as if at the sensation of
a rough caress; but, immediately fanning herself with her

"You have let the opportunity slip, my dear."

"I don't quite understand." And without rising he drew closer to her.

She remained looking down at him for some time; then smiling, with moist

"It is your fault."

The sheets, hanging around them, hemmed them in, like the curtains of a

He leaned forward on his elbow, so that his face touched her knees.


And as she remained silent, while he was in a condition in which words
cost nothing, he tried to justify himself; accused himself of folly, of

"Forgive me! Let everything be as it was before. Do you wish it?" And he
caught her hand, which she allowed to remain in his.

A sudden gust of wind blew up the sheets, and they saw two peacocks, a
male and a female. The female stood motionless, with her tail in the
air. The male marched around her, erected his tail into a fan and
bridled up, making a clucking noise.

Bouvard was clasping the hand of Madame Bordin. She very quickly loosed
herself. Before them, open-mouthed and, as it were, petrified, was young
Victor staring at them; a short distance away Victorine, stretched on
her back, in the full light of day, was inhaling all the flowers which
she had gathered.

The old horse, frightened by the peacocks, broke one of the lines with a
kick, got his legs entangled in it, and, galloping through the
farmyard, dragged the washed linen after him.

At Madame Bordin's wild screams Marianne rushed up. Pére Gouy abused his
horse: "Fool of a beast! Old bag of bones! Infernal thief of a
horse!"--kicked him in the belly, and lashed his ears with the handle of
a whip.

Bouvard was shocked at seeing the animal maltreated.

The countryman, in answer to his protest, said:

"I've a right to do it; he's my own."

This was no justification. And Pécuchet, coming on the scene, added that
animals too have their rights, for they have souls like ourselves--if
indeed ours have any existence.

"You are an impious man!" exclaimed Madame Bordin.

Three things excited her anger: the necessity for beginning the washing
over again, the outrage on her faith, and the fear of having been seen
just now in a compromising attitude.

"I thought you were more liberal," said Bouvard.

She replied, in a magisterial manner, "I don't like scamps."

And Gouy laid the blame on them for having injured his horse, whose
nostrils were bleeding. He growled in a smothered voice:

"Damned unlucky people! I was going to put him away when they turned

The two worthies took themselves off, shrugging their shoulders.

Victor asked them why they had been vexed with Gouy.

"He abuses his strength, which is wrong."

"Why is it wrong?"

Could it be that the children had no idea of justice? Perhaps so.

And the same evening, Pécuchet, with Bouvard sitting at his right, and
facing the two pupils with some notes in his hand, began a course of
lectures on morality.

"This science teaches us to exercise control over our actions.

"They have two motives--pleasure and interest, and a third, more

"Duties are divided into two classes: first, duties towards ourselves,
which consist in taking care of our bodies, protecting ourselves against
all injury." (They understood this perfectly.) "Secondly, duties towards
others; that is to say, to be always loyal, good-natured, and even
fraternal, the human race being only one single family. A thing often
pleases us which is injurious to our fellows; interest is a different
thing from good, for good is in itself irreducible." (The children did
not comprehend.) He put off the sanction of duties until the next

In the entire lecture, according to Bouvard, he had not defined "good."

"Why do you wish to define it? We feel it."

So, then, the lessons of morality would suit only moral people--and
Pécuchet's course did not go further.

They made their pupils read little tales tending to inspire them with
the love of virtue. They plagued Victor to death.

In order to strike his imagination, Pécuchet suspended from the walls of
his apartment representations of the lives of the good person and the
bad person respectively. The first, Adolphe, embraced his mother,
studied German, assisted a blind man, and was admitted into the
Polytechnic School. The bad person, Eugène, began by disobeying his
father, had a quarrel in a café, beat his wife, fell down dead drunk,
smashed a cupboard--and a final picture represented him in jail, where a
gentleman, accompanied by a young lad, pointed him out, saying, "You
see, my son, the dangers of misconduct."

But for the children, the future had no existence. In vain were their
minds saturated with the maxim that "work is honourable," and that "the
rich are sometimes unhappy." They had known workmen in no way honoured,
and had recollections of the château, where life seemed good. The pangs
of remorse were depicted for them with so much exaggeration that they
smelled humbug, and after that became distrustful. Attempts were then
made to govern their conduct by a sense of honour, the idea of public
opinion, and the sentiment of glory, by holding up to their admiration
great men; above all, men who made themselves useful, like Belzunce,
Franklin, and Jacquard. Victor displayed no longing to resemble them.

One day, when he had done a sum in addition without a mistake, Bouvard
sewed to his jacket a ribbon to symbolise the Cross. He strutted about
with it; but, when he forgot about the death of Henry IV., Pécuchet put
an ass's cap on his head. Victor began to bray with so much violence and
for so long a time, that it was found necessary to take off his
pasteboard ears.

Like him, his sister showed herself vain of praise, and indifferent to

In order to make them more sensitive, a black cat was given to them,
that they might take care of it; and two or three coppers were presented
to them, so that they might bestow alms. They thought the requirement
unjust; this money belonged to them.

In compliance with the wish of the pedagogues, they called Bouvard "my
uncle," and Pécuchet "good friend;" but they "thee'd" and "thou'd" them,
and half the lessons were usually lost in disputes.

Victorine ill-treated Marcel, mounted on his back, dragged him by the
hair. In order to make game of his hare-lip, she spoke through her nose
like him; and the poor fellow did not venture to complain, so fond was
he of the little girl. One evening his hoarse voice was unusually
raised. Bouvard and Pécuchet went down to the kitchen. The two pupils
were staring at the chimneypiece, and Marcel, with clasped hands, was
crying out:

"Take him away! It's too much--it's too much!"

The lid of the pot flew off like the bursting of a shell. A greyish mass
bounded towards the ceiling, then wriggled about frantically, emitting
fearful howls.

They recognised the cat, quite emaciated, with its hair gone, its tail
like a piece of string, and its dilated eyes starting out of its head.
They were as white as milk, vacant, so to speak, and yet glaring.

The hideous animal continued its howling till it flung itself into the
fireplace, disappeared, then rolled back in the middle of the cinders

It was Victor who had perpetrated this atrocity; and the two worthy men
recoiled, pale with stupefaction and horror. To the reproaches which
they addressed to him, he replied, as the keeper had done with reference
to his son and the farmer with reference to his horse: "Well! since it's
my own," without ceremony and with an air of innocence, in the placidity
of a satiated instinct.

The boiling water from the pot was scattered over the floor, and
saucepans, tongs, and candlesticks lay everywhere thrown about.

Marcel was some time cleaning up the kitchen, and his masters and he
buried the poor cat in the garden under the pagoda.

After this Bouvard and Pécuchet had a long chat about Victor. The
paternal blood was showing itself. What were they to do? To give him
back to M. de Faverges or to entrust him to others would be an admission
of impotence. Perhaps he would reform.

No matter! It was a doubtful hope; and they no longer felt any
tenderness towards him. What a pleasure it would have been, however, to
have near them a youth interested in their ideas, whose progress they
could watch, who would by and by have become a brother to them! But
Victor lacked intellect, and heart still more. And Pécuchet sighed, with
his hands clasped over his bent knee.

"The sister is not much better," said Bouvard.

He pictured to himself a girl of nearly fifteen years, with a refined
nature, a playful humour, adorning the house with the elegant tastes of
a young lady; and, as if he had been her father and she had just died,
the poor man began to weep.

Then, seeking an excuse for Victor, he quoted Rousseau's opinion: "The
child has no responsibility, and cannot be moral or immoral."

Pécuchet's view was that these children had reached the age of
discretion, and that they should study some method whereby they could be
corrected. Bentham lays down that a punishment, in order to be
effectual, should be in proportion to the offence--its natural
consequence. The child has broken a pane of glass--a new one will not be
put in: let him suffer from cold. If, not being hungry any longer, he
asks to be served again, give way to him: a fit of indigestion will
quickly make him repent. Suppose he is lazy--let him remain without
work: boredom of itself will make him go back to it.

But Victor would not endure cold; his constitution could stand excesses;
and doing nothing would agree with him.

They adopted the reverse system: medicinal punishment. Impositions were
given to him; he only became more idle. They deprived him of sweet
things; his greediness for them redoubled. Perhaps irony might have
success with him? On one occasion, when he came to breakfast with dirty
hands, Bouvard jeered at him, calling him a "gay cavalier," a "dandy,"
"yellow gloves." Victor listened with lowering brow, suddenly turned
pale, and flung his plate at Bouvard's head; then, wild at having missed
him, made a rush at him. It took three men to hold him. He rolled
himself on the floor, trying to bite. Pécuchet, at some distance,
sprinkled water over him out of a carafe: he immediately calmed down;
but for two days he was hoarse. The method had not proved of any use.

They adopted another. At the least symptom of anger, treating him as if
he were ill, they put him to bed. Victor was quite contented there, and
showed it by singing.

One day he took out of its place in the library an old cocoanut, and was
beginning to split it open, when Pécuchet came up:

"My cocoanut!"

It was a memento of Dumouchel! He had brought it from Paris to
Chavignolles. He raised his arms in indignation. Victor burst out
laughing. "Good friend" could not stand it any longer, and with one good
box sent him rolling to the end of the room, then, quivering with
emotion, went to complain to Bouvard.

Bouvard rebuked him.

"Are you crazy with your cocoanut? Blows only brutalise; terror
enervates. You are disgracing yourself!"

Pécuchet returned that corporal chastisements were sometimes
indispensable. Pestalozzi made use of them; and the celebrated
Melancthon confesses that without them he would have learned nothing.

His friend observed that cruel punishments, on the other hand, had
driven children to suicide. He had in his reading found examples of it.

Victor had barricaded himself in his room.

Bouvard parleyed with him outside the door, and, to make him open it,
promised him a plum tart.

From that time he grew worse.

There remained a method extolled by Monseigneur Dupanloup: "the severe
look." They tried to impress on their countenances a dreadful
expression, and they produced no effect.

"We have no longer any resource but to try religion."

Pécuchet protested. They had banished it from their programme.

But reasoning does not satisfy every want. The heart and the imagination
desire something else. The supernatural is for many souls indispensable.
So they resolved to send the children to catechism.

Reine offered to conduct them there. She again came to the house, and
knew how to make herself liked by her caressing ways.

Victorine suddenly changed, became shy, honey-tongued, knelt down before
the Madonna, admired the sacrifice of Abraham, and sneered disdainfully
at the name of Protestant.

She said that fasting had been enjoined upon her. They made inquiries:
it was not true. On the feast of Corpus Christi some damask violets
disappeared from one of the flower-beds to decorate the processional
altar: she impudently denied having cut them. At another time she took
from Bouvard twenty sous, which she placed at vesper-time in the
sacristan's collecting-plate.

They drew from this the conclusion that morality is distinguishable from
religion; when it has not another basis, its importance is secondary.

One evening, while they were dining, M. Marescot entered. Victor fled

The notary, having declined to sit down, told what had brought him

Young Touache had beaten--all but killed--his son. As Victor's origin
was known, and as he was unpopular, the other brats called him
"Convict," and not long since he had given Master Arnold Marescot a
drubbing, which was an insult. "Dear Arnold" bore the marks of it on his

"His mother is in despair, his clothes are in rags, his health is
imperilled. What are we coming to?"

The notary insisted on severe chastisement, and, amongst other things,
on Victor being henceforth kept away from catechism, to prevent fresh

Bouvard and Pécuchet, although wounded by his haughty tone, promised
everything he wished--yielded.

Had Victor obeyed a sentiment of honour or of revenge? In any case, he
was no coward.

But his brutality frightened them. Music softens manners. Pécuchet
conceived the notion of teaching him the solfeggio.

Victor had much difficulty in reading the notes readily and not
confounding the terms _adagio_, _presto_, and _sforzando_. His master
strove to explain to him the gamut, perfect harmony, the diatonic, the
chromatic, and the two kinds of intervals called major and minor.

He made him stand up straight, with his chest advanced, his shoulders
thrown back, his mouth wide open, and, in order to teach by example,
gave out intonations in a voice that was out of tune. Victor's voice
came forth painfully from his larynx, so contracted was it. When the bar
began with a crotchet rest, he started either too soon or too late.

Nevertheless Pécuchet took up an air in two parts. He used a rod as a
substitute for a fiddle-stick, and moved his arm like a conductor, as if
he had an orchestra behind him; but, engaged as he was in two tasks, he
sometimes made a mistake; his blunder led to others on the part of the
pupil; and, knitting their brows, straining the muscles of their necks,
they went on at random down to the end of the page.

At length Pécuchet said to Victor:

"You're not likely to shine in a choral society."

And he abandoned the teaching of music.

Besides, perhaps Locke is right: "Music is associated with so much
profligate company that it is better to occupy oneself with something

Without desiring to make an author of him, it would be convenient for
Victor to know how to despatch a letter. A reflection stopped them: the
epistolary style cannot be acquired, for it belongs exclusively to

They next thought of cramming his memory with literary fragments, and,
perplexed about making selections, consulted Madame Campan's work. She
recommends the scene of Eliakim, the choruses in _Esther_, and the
entire works of Jean Baptiste Rousseau.

These are a little old-fashioned. As for romances, she prohibits them,
as depicting the world under too favourable colours. However, she
permits _Clarissa Harlowe_ and _The Father of a Family_, by Mrs.
Opie.[A] Who is this Mrs. Opie?

 [A] This is possibly a reference to that once celebrated specimen of
 English didactic fiction, _Fathers and Daughters_, by Mrs. Amelia

They did not find her name in the Biographie of Michaud.

There remained fairy tales. "They would be expecting palaces of
diamonds," said Pécuchet. Literature develops the intellect, but excites
the passions.

Victorine was sent away from catechism on account of her conduct. She
had been caught kissing the notary's son, and Reine made no joke of it:
her face looked grave under her cap with its big frills.

After such a scandal, why keep a young girl so corrupted?

Bouvard and Pécuchet called the curé an old fool. His housekeeper
defended him, muttering:

"We know you!--we know you!"

They made a sharp rejoinder, and she went off rolling her eyes in a
fearful manner.

Victorine was, in fact, smitten with a fancy for Arnold, so nice did she
think him, with his embroidered collar, his velvet jacket, and his
well-scented hair; and she had been bringing bouquets to him up to the
time when Zephyrin told about her.

What foolishness was exhibited regarding this adventure, the two
children being perfectly innocent!

The two guardians thought Victor required a stirring amusement like
hunting; this would lead to the expense of a gun, of a dog. They thought
it better to fatigue him, in order to tame the exuberance of his animal
spirits, and went in for coursing in the fields.

The young fellow escaped from them, although they relieved each other.
They could do nothing more; and in the evening they had not the strength
to hold up the newspaper.

Whilst they were waiting for Victor they talked to the passers-by, and
through the sheer necessity of playing the pedagogue, they tried to
teach them hygiene, deplored the injuries from floods and the waste of
manures, thundered against such superstitions as leaving the skeleton of
a blackbird in a barn, putting consecrated wood at the end of a stable
and a bag of worms on the big toes of people suffering from fever.

They next took to inspecting wet nurses, and were incensed at their
management of babies: some soaked them in gruel, causing them to die of
exhaustion; others stuffed them with meat before they were six months
old, and so they fell victims to indigestion; several cleaned them with
their own spittle; all managed them barbarously.

When they saw over a door an owl that had been crucified, they went into
the farmhouse and said:

"You are wrong; these animals live on rats and field-mice. There has
been found in a screech-owl's stomach a quantity of caterpillars'

The country-folk knew them from having seen them, in the first place, as
physicians, then searching for old furniture, and afterwards looking for
stones; and they replied:

"Come, now, you pair of play-actors! don't try to teach us."

Their conviction was shaken, for the sparrows cleanse the
kitchen-gardens, but eat up the cherries. The owls devour insects, and
at the same time bats, which are useful; and, if the moles eat the
slugs, they upset the soil. There was one thing of which they were
certain: that all game should be destroyed as fatal to agriculture.

One evening, as they were passing along by the wood of Faverges, they
found themselves in front of Sorel's house, at the side of the road.
Sorel was gesticulating in the presence of three persons. The first was
a certain Dauphin, a cobbler, small, thin, and with a sly expression of
countenance; the second, Père Aubain, a village porter, wore an old
yellow frock-coat, with a pair of coarse blue linen trousers; the
third, Eugène, a man-servant employed by M. Marescot, was distinguished
by his beard cut like that of a magistrate.

Sorel was showing them a noose in copper wire attached to a silk thread,
which was held by a clamp--what is called a snare--and he had discovered
the cobbler in the act of setting it.

"You are witnesses, are you not?"

Eugène lowered his chin by way of assent, and Père Aubain replied:

"Once you say so."

What enraged Sorel was that anyone should have the audacity to set up a
snare at the entrance of his lodge, the rascal imagining that one would
have no idea of suspecting it in such a place.

Dauphin adopted the blubbering system:

"I was walking over it; I even tried to break it." They were always
accusing him. They had a grudge against him; he was most unlucky.

Sorel, without answering him, had drawn out of his pocket a note-book
and a pen and ink, in order to make out an official report.

"Oh, no!" said Pécuchet.

Bouvard added: "Let him go. He is a decent fellow."

"He--a poacher!"

"Well, such things will happen."

And they proceeded to defend poaching: "We know, to start with, that the
rabbits nibble at the young sprouts, and that the hares destroy the corn
crops--except, perhaps, the woodcock----"

"Let me alone, now." And the gamekeeper went on writing with clenched

"What obstinacy!" murmured Bouvard.

"Another word, and I shall send for the gendarmes!

"You are an ill-mannered fellow!" said Pécuchet.

"You are no great things!" retorted Sorel.

Bouvard, forgetting himself, referred to him as a blockhead, a bully;
and Eugène kept repeating, "Peace! peace! let us respect the law"; while
Père Aubain was groaning three paces away from them on a heap of

Disturbed by these voices, all the dogs of the pack rushed out of their
kennels. Through the railings their black snouts could be seen, and,
rushing hither and thither they kept barking loudly.

"Don't plague me further," cried their master, "or I'll make them go for
your breeches!"

The two friends departed, satisfied, however, with having upheld
progress and civilisation.

Next day a summons was served on them to appear at the police court for
offering insults to the gamekeeper, and to pay a hundred francs'
compensation, "reserving an appeal to the public administration, having
regard to the contraventions committed by them. Costs: 6 francs 75
centimes.--TIERCELIN, Summoner."

Wherefore a public administration? Their heads became giddy; then,
becoming calm, they set about preparing their defence.

On the day named, Bouvard and Pécuchet repaired to the court-house an
hour too early. No one was there; chairs and three cushioned seats
surrounded an oval table covered with a cloth; a niche had been made in
the wall for the purpose of placing a stove there; and the Emperor's
bust, which was on a pedestal, overlooked the scene.

They strolled up to the top room of the building, where there was a
fire-engine, a number of flags, and in a corner, on the floor, other
plaster busts--the great Napoleon without a diadem; Louis XVIII. with
epaulets on a dress-coat; Charles X., recognisable by his hanging lip;
Louis Philippe, with arched eyebrows and hair dressed in pyramid
fashion, the slope of the roof grazing the nape of his neck; and all
these objects were befouled by flies and dust. This spectacle had a
demoralising effect on Bouvard and Pécuchet. Governing powers excited
their pity as they made their way back to the main hall.

There they found Sorel and the field-keeper, the one wearing his badge
on his arm, and the other his military cap.

A dozen persons were talking, having been summoned for not having swept
in front of their houses, or for having let their dogs go at large, or
neglecting to attach lanterns to their carts, or for keeping a
public-house open during mass-time.

At length Coulon presented himself, wrapped in a robe of black serge and
wearing a round cap with velvet edgings. His clerk sat down at his left,
the mayor, scarfed, at his right; and shortly afterwards the case of
Sorel against Bouvard and Pécuchet was called.

Louis-Martial-Eugène Lenepveur, valet at Chavignolles (Calvados),
availed himself of his character as a witness to unburden himself of all
he knew about a great many things that were foreign to the issue.

Nicolas-Juste Aubain, day-labourer, was afraid both of displeasing Sorel
and of injuring "these gentlemen." He had heard abusive words, and yet
he had his doubts about it. He pleaded that he was deaf.

The justice of the peace made him sit down; then, addressing himself to
the gamekeeper: "Do you persist in your declarations?"


Coulon then asked the two defendants what they had to say.

Bouvard maintained that he had not insulted Sorel, but that in taking
the poacher's part he had vindicated the rights of the peasantry. He
recalled the abuses of feudal times and the ruinous huntings of the

"No matter! The contravention----"

"Allow me to stop you," exclaimed Pécuchet.

The words "contravention," "crime," and "delict" were of no value. To
seek in this way to class punishable acts was to take an arbitrary
basis. As much as to say to citizens: "Don't bother yourself as to the
value of your actions; that is determined by the punishment inflicted by
authority." However, the penal code appeared to him an absurd production
devoid of principles.

"That may be," replied Coulon; and he proceeded to pronounce his

But here Foureau, who represented the public administration, arose. They
had outraged the gamekeeper in the exercise of his functions. If no
regard were shown for propriety, everything would be destroyed.

"In short, may it please Monsieur the Justice of the Peace to apply the
maximum penalty."

This was ten francs, in the form of damages to Sorel.

"Bravo!" exclaimed Bouvard.

Coulon had not finished.

"Impose on them, in addition, a fine of five francs for having been
guilty of the contravention mentioned by the public administration."

Pécuchet turned around to the audience:

"The fine is a trifle to the rich man, but a disaster to the poor man.
As for myself, it matters nothing to me."

And he presented the appearance of defying the court.

"Really," said Coulon, "I am astonished that people of intelligence----"

"The law dispenses you from the possession of it," retorted Pécuchet.
"The justice of the peace occupies his post indefinitely, while the
judge of the supreme court is reputed capable up to seventy-five years,
and the judge of first instance is no longer so at seventy."

But, at a gesture from Foureau, Placquevent advanced.

They protested.

"Ah! if you were appointed by competition!"

"Or by the General Council!"

"Or a committee of experts, and according to a proper list!"

Placquevent moved them on, and they went out while the other defendants'
names were being called, believing that they had made a good show in the
course of these vile proceedings.

To give vent to their indignation they went that evening to Beljambe's
hostelry. His café was empty, the principal customers being in the habit
of leaving about ten o'clock. The lamp had been lowered; the walls and
the counter seemed shrouded in a fog. A female attendant came on the
scene. It was Mélie. She did not appear agitated, and, smiling, she
poured them out two bocks. Pécuchet, ill at ease, quickly left the

Bouvard came back there alone, entertained some of the villagers with
sarcasms at the mayor's expense, and after that went into the

Six months later Dauphin was acquitted for want of evidence. What a
shame! These very witnesses who had been believed when testifying
against them were now regarded with suspicion. And their anger knew no
bounds when the registrar gave them notice to pay the fine. Bouvard
attacked the registry as injurious to property.

"You are mistaken," said the collector. "Why, it bears a third of the
public expenditure!"

"I would have proceedings with regard to taxes less vexatious, a better
system of land registration, alterations in the law as to mortgages, and
would abolish the Bank of France, which has the privilege of usury."

Girbal, not being strong on the subject, let the argument fall to the
ground, and departed. However, Bouvard made himself agreeable to the
innkeeper; he would attract a crowd around him; and, while he was
waiting for the guests, he chatted familiarly with the barmaid.

He gave utterance to odd ideas on primary education. On leaving school,
pupils ought to be capable of nursing the sick, understanding scientific
discoveries, and taking an interest in the arts. The requirements of his
programme made him fall out with Petit; and he offended the captain by
maintaining that soldiers, instead of losing their time with drilling,
would be better occupied in growing vegetables.

When the question of free trade turned up he brought Pécuchet along with
him, and the whole winter there were in the café angry looks,
contemptuous attitudes, insults and vociferations, with blows of fists
on the table that made the beer-glasses jump.

Langlois and the other merchants defended national commerce; Oudot,
owner of a spinning factory, and Mathieu, a goldsmith, national
industry; the landowners and the farmers, national agriculture: everyone
claiming privileges for himself to the detriment of the public at large.

The observations of Bouvard and Pécuchet had an alarming effect.

As they were accused of ignoring the practical side of life, of having a
tendency towards levelling, and of immorality, they developed these
three ideas: to replace the family name by a registered number; to
arrange the French people in a hierarchy, and in such a way that, in
order to preserve his grade, it would be necessary for one to submit
from time to time to an examination; no more punishments, no more
rewards, but in every village an individual chronicle of all persons
living there, which would pass on to posterity.

Their system was treated with disdain. They wrote an article about it
for the Bayeux daily paper, drew up a note to the prefect, a petition to
the Chambers, and a memorial to the Emperor.

The newspaper did not publish their article.

The prefect did not condescend to reply.

The Chambers were silent; and they waited a long time for a
communication from the Tuileries.

What, then, was the Emperor occupying his time with?

With women, no doubt.

Foureau, on the part of the sub-prefect, suggested the desirability of
more reserve.

They laughed at the sub-prefect, the prefect, the councillors of the
prefecture, even the council of state. Administrative justice was a
monstrosity, for the administration by means of favours and threats
unjustly controls its functionaries. In short, they came to be regarded
as a nuisance, and the leading men of the place gave injunctions to
Beljambe not to entertain two such fellows.

At this period, Bouvard and Pécuchet were burning to signalise
themselves by a work which would dazzle their neighbours; and they saw
nothing better than plans for the embellishment of Chavignolles.

Three fourths of the houses should be demolished. They would construct
in the centre of the village a monumental square, on the way to Falaise
a hospital, slaughter-houses on the way to Caen, and at the "Cows' Pass"
a Roman church of many colours.

Pécuchet manufactured a colouring mixture with Indian ink, and did not
forget in preparing his plans to give a yellow tint to the woods, a red
to the buildings, and a green to the meadows, for the pictures of an
ideal Chavignolles pursued him in his daydreams, and he came back to
them as he lay on his mattress.

Bouvard was awakened by him one night.

"Are you unwell?"

Pécuchet stammered, "Haussmann prevents me from going to sleep."

About this time he received a letter from Dumouchel to know the cost of
sea-baths on the Norman coast.

"Let him go about his business with his baths! Have we any time to

And, when they had procured a land-surveyor's chain, a semicircle, a
water-level, and a compass, they began at other studies.

They encroached on private properties. The inhabitants were frequently
surprised to see the pair fixing stakes in the ground for surveying
purposes. Bouvard and Pécuchet announced their plans, and what would be
the outcome of them, with the utmost self-complacency. The people became
uneasy, for, perchance, authority might at length fall in with these
men's views! Sometimes they rudely drove them away.

Victor scaled the walls and crept up to the roof to hang up signals
there; he exhibited good-will, and even a degree of enthusiasm.

They were also better satisfied with Victorine.

When she was ironing the linen she hummed in a sweet voice as she moved
her smoothing-iron over the board, interested herself in looking after
the household, and made a cap for Bouvard, with a well-pointed peak that
won compliments for her from Romiche.

This man was one of those tailors who go about mending clothes in
farmhouses. He was taken into the house for a fortnight.

Hunchbacked, with bloodshot eyes, he made up for his bodily defects by a
facetious disposition. While the masters were out, he used to amuse
Marcel and Victorine by telling them funny stories. He would put out his
tongue as far as his chin, imitate the cuckoo, or give exhibitions of
ventriloquism; and at night, saving the cost of an inn, he went to sleep
in the bakehouse.

Now, one morning, at a very early hour, Bouvard, being cold, happened to
go there to get chips to light his fire.

What he saw petrified him. Behind the remains of the chest, upon a straw
mattress, Romiche and Victorine lay asleep together.

He had passed his arm around her waist, and his other hand, long as that
of an ape, clutched one of her knees. She was smiling, stretched on her
back. Her fair hair hung loose, and the whiteness of the dawn threw its
pale light upon the pair.

Bouvard for a moment felt as if he had received a blow in the chest;
then a sense of shame prevented him from making a single movement. He
was oppressed by painful reflections.

"So young! Lost! lost!" He then went to awaken Pécuchet, and briefly
told him everything.

"Ah! the wretch!"

"We cannot help it. Be calm!" And for some time they remained sighing,
one after the other--Bouvard, with his coat off and his arms folded;
Pécuchet, at the side of his bed, sitting barefooted in a cotton

Romiche should leave that very day, when his work was finished. They
would pay him in a haughty fashion, and in silence.

But Providence had some spite against them.

Marcel, a short time afterwards, led them to Victor's room and showed
them at the bottom of his chest of drawers a twenty-franc piece. The
youngster had asked him to get the change of it.

Where did it come from? No doubt it was got by a theft committed while
they were going about as engineers. But in order to restore it they
would require to know the person; and if some one came to claim it they
would look like accomplices.

At length, having sent for Victor, they ordered him to open his drawer:
the napoleon was no longer there. He pretended not to understand. A
short time before, however, they had seen it, this very coin, and Marcel
was incapable of lying. This affair had revolutionised Pécuchet so much
that he had, since morning, kept in his pocket a letter for Bouvard:

"Sir,--Fearing lest M. Pécuchet may be ill, I have recourse to your

"Whose is the signature, then?"

"Olympe Dumouchel, _née_ Charpeau."

She and her husband were anxious to know in which
bathing-place--Courseulles, Langrune, or Lucques--the best society was
to be found, which was least noisy, and as to the means of transport,
the cost of washing, etc.

This importunity made them angry with Dumouchel; then weariness plunged
them into deeper despondency.

They went over all the pains that they had taken--so many lessons,
precautions, torments!

"And to think that we intended at one time to make Victorine a teacher,
and Victor an overseer of works!"

"Ah! how deceived we were in her!"

"If she is vicious, it is not the fault of the lessons she got."

"For my part, to make her virtuous, I would have learned Cartouche's

"Perhaps they needed family life--the care of a mother?"

"I was like one to them," protested Bouvard.

"Alas!" replied Pécuchet. "But there are natures bereft of moral sense;
and education in that case can do nothing."

"Ah! yes, 'tis a fine thing, education!"

As the orphans had not learned any trade, they would seek two situations
for them as servants; and then, with the help of God, they would have
nothing more to do with them.

And henceforth "My uncle" and "Good friend" made them take their meals
in the kitchen.

But soon they grew restless, their minds feeling the need of work, their
existence of an aim.

Besides, what does one failure prove? What had proved abortive in the
case of children might be more successful with men. And they conceived
the idea of preparing a course of lectures for adults.

In order to explain their views, a conference would be necessary. The
great hall of the inn would be perfectly suitable for this purpose.

Beljambe, as deputy mayor, was afraid to compromise himself, refused at
first, then, thinking that he might make something out of it, changed
his mind, and sent word to that effect by his servant-maid.

Bouvard, in the excess of his joy, kissed her on both cheeks.

The mayor was absent. The other deputy, M. Marescot, entirely taken up
with his office, would pay little attention to the conference. So it was
to take place; and, to the beating of the drum, the hour was announced
as three o'clock on the following Sunday.

It was only on the day before that they thought about their costumes.
Pécuchet, thank Heaven, had preserved an old ceremonial coat with a
velvet collar, two white cravats, and black gloves. Bouvard put on his
blue frock-coat, a nankeen waistcoat and beaver shoes; and they were
strongly moved when they had passed through the village and arrived at
the hostelry of the Golden Cross.

[_Here Gustave Flaubert's manuscript breaks off._]

[Illustration: decoration]



The inn of the Golden Cross--two wooden galleries at the sides on the
first floor, with projecting balcony; main building at the bottom; café
on the ground floor, dining-room, billiard-room; the doors and the
windows are open.

Crowd: people of rank, ordinary folk.

Bouvard: "The first thing to do is to demonstrate the utility of our
project; our studies entitle us to pronounce an opinion."

       *       *       *       *       *

Discourse by Pécuchet of a pedantic description.

Follies of the government and of the administration. Too much taxation.
Two economies to be practised: the suppression of the religious and of
the military budget.

He is accused of atheism.

"Quite the contrary; but there is need of a religious renovation."

Foureau appears on the scene, and insists on dissolving the meeting.

Bouvard excites a laugh at the mayor's expense by recalling his idiotic
bounties for owls. Objection to this.

"If it is necessary to destroy animals that injure plants, it would
likewise be necessary to destroy the cattle that devour the grass."

Foureau withdraws.

       *       *       *       *       *

Discourse by Bouvard--in a familiar style.

Prejudices: celibacy of priests, futility of adultery, emancipation of

"Her earrings are the symbol of her former servitude."

Studs of men.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bouvard and Pécuchet are reproached with the misconduct of their pupils.
Also, why did they adopt the children of a convict?

Theory of rehabilitation. They would dine with Touache.

Foureau, having returned, reads, with a view to having revenge on
Bouvard, a petition from him to the municipal council, in which he asks
for the establishment of a brothel at Chavignolles. (Contemptuous

The meeting is brought to a close amid the utmost confusion.

       *       *       *       *       *

On their return to their own residence, Bouvard and Pécuchet perceive
Foureau's man-servant galloping along the road from Falaise at full

They go to bed, quite jaded, without suspecting how many plots are
fermenting against them.--Explain the motives for ill-will towards them
actuating the curé, the physician, the mayor, Marescot, the people,

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day, at breakfast, they talk about the conference.

Pécuchet sees the future of humanity in dark colours.

The modern man is lessened, and has become a machine.

Final anarchy of the human race. (Buchner, I., II.)

Impossibility of peace. (_Id._) Savagery traceable to the excess of
individualism and the frenzy of science.

Three hypotheses--first: pantheistic radicalism will break every tie
with the past, and an inhuman despotism will result; second: if theistic
absolutism triumphs, the liberalism with which humanity has been
penetrated since the era of reform succumbs--all is thrown back; third:
if the convulsions which have been going on since '89 continue, without
an end between the two issues, these oscillations will carry us away by
their own force. There will be no longer ideal, religion, morality.

The United States will have conquered the earth.

Future of literature.

Universal greed. There will be no longer anything but a debauch of

End of the world through the cessation of caloric.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bouvard sees the future of humanity in a bright light. The modern man is

Europe will be regenerated by Asia. The historic law that civilisation
travels from East to West--the part to be played by China--the two
humanities will at length be fused.

Future inventions: modes of travelling. Balloons. Submarine barges with
glass windows, in an unchanging calm, the sea's agitation being only on
the surface. Passing travellers shall see the fishes and the landscapes
in the ocean's depths. Animals tamed. All forms of cultivation.

Future of literature (opposite of industrial literature). Future
sciences.--How to regulate the force of magnetism.

Paris will become a winter-garden; fruit will be grown on the
boulevards; the Seine filtered and heated; abundance of precious stones
artificially made; prodigality as to gilding; lighting of houses--light
will be stored up, for there are bodies which possess this property,
such as sugar, the flesh of certain molluscs, and the phosphorus of
Bologna. People will be ordered to cover the fronts of the houses with a
phosphorescent substance, and the radiations from them will illuminate
the streets.

Disappearance of evil by the disappearance of want. Philosophy will be a

Communion of all peoples. Public fêtes.

People will travel to the heavenly bodies; and when the earth is used
up, humanity will set up housekeeping in the stars.

       *       *       *       *       *

He has hardly finished when the gendarmes make their appearance. Entry
of the gendarmes.

At the sight of them the children are terror-stricken, owing to vague

Marcel's desolation.

Anxiety on the part of Bouvard and Pécuchet. Do they mean to arrest

The gendarmes exhibit an order to take them into custody.

It is the conference that brought it on. They are accused of having made
attempts on religion, on order, having roused people to revolt, etc.

Sudden arrival of M. and Madame Dumouchel with their baggage; they have
come to take sea-baths. Dumouchel is not changed; Madame wears
spectacles and composes fables. Their perplexity.

The mayor, knowing that the gendarmes are with Bouvard and Pécuchet,
arrives, encouraged by their presence.

Gorju, seeing that authority and public opinion are against them, has
thought of profiting by it, and escorts Foureau. Assuming Bouvard to be
the richer of the pair, he accuses him of having formerly debauched

"I? Never!"

Bouvard breaks into a loud exclamation.

"Let him at least make allowance for the child that is about to be born,
for she is pregnant."

This second accusation is based on the liberties taken with her by
Bouvard at the café.

The public gradually overrun the house.

Barberou, called into the country by a matter connected with his own
business, has just learned at the inn what is going on, and comes on the

He believes Bouvard to be guilty, takes him aside, and makes him promise
to yield and give the allowance.

Next comes the doctor, the count, Reine, Madame Bordin, Madame
Marescot, under her umbrella, and other persons of rank.

The village brats, outside the railing, scream out and fling stones into
the garden. (It is now well kept, and this makes the inhabitants

Foureau wishes to drag Bouvard and Pécuchet to prison.

Barberou interposes, and Marescot, the doctor, and the count likewise
interpose with insolent pity.

Explain the order for the arrest. The sub-prefect, on receiving
Foureau's letter, has despatched an order to take them into custody, in
order to frighten them, together with a letter to Marescot and Faverges,
saying that they might be let alone if they exhibited repentance.

Vaucorbeil seeks likewise to defend them.

"'Tis rather to a madhouse that they ought to be sent; they are
lunatics. I'll write to the prefect."

Everything is settled. Bouvard will make an allowance for Mélie.

The custody of the children cannot be left to them. They refuse to give
them up; but as they have not adopted the orphans according to the forms
of law, the mayor takes them back.

They display a revolting insensibility. Bouvard and Pécuchet shed tears
at it.

M. and Madame Dumouchel go away.

       *       *       *       *       *

So everything has gone to pieces in their hands.

They no longer have any interest in life.

A good idea cherished secretly by each of them. They conceal it from
each other. From time to time they smile when it comes into their heads;
then at last communicate it to each other:

_To copy as in former times._

Designing of a bureau with a double desk. (For this purpose they seek
the services of a joiner. Gorju, who has heard about their invention,
proposes to make it. Recall the trunk incident.)

Purchase of books, writing materials, sandaracs, erasers, etc.

They sit down to write.



    "Many words for few things!"
    "Death ends all; judgment comes to all."

     [This work may be called a prose poem. It is impregnated with the
     spirit of romanticism, which at the time of writing had a temporary
     but powerful hold on the mind of Gustave Flaubert.]


[Illustration: A]At night, in winter, when the snowflakes fall slowly
from heaven like great white tears, I raise my voice; its resonance
thrills the cypress trees and makes them bud anew.

I pause an instant in my swift course over earth; throw myself down
among cold tombs; and, while dark-plumaged birds rise suddenly in terror
from my side, while the dead slumber peacefully, while cypress branches
droop low o'er my head, while all around me weeps or lies in deep
repose, my burning eyes rest on the great white clouds, gigantic
winding-sheets, unrolling their slow length across the face of heaven.

How many nights, and years, and ages have I journeyed thus! A witness of
the universal birth and of a like decay! Innumerable are the
generations I have garnered with my scythe. Like God, I am eternal! The
nurse of Earth, I cradle it each night upon a bed both soft and warm.
The same recurring feasts; the same unending toil! Each morning I
depart, each evening I return, bearing within my mantle's ample folds
all that my scythe has gathered. And then I scatter them to the four
winds of Heaven!

       *       *       *       *       *

When high the billows run, when the heavens weep, and shrieking winds
lash ocean into madness, then in the turmoil and the tumult do I fling
myself upon the surging waves, and lo! the tempest softly cradles me, as
in her hammock sways a queen. The foaming waters cool my weary feet,
burning from bathing in the falling tears of countless generations that
have clung to them in vain endeavour to arrest my steps.

Then, when the storm has ceased, after its roar has calmed me like a
lullaby, I bow my head: the hurricane, raging in fury but a moment
earlier dies instantly. No longer does it live, but neither do the men,
the ships, the navies that lately sailed upon the bosom of the waters.

'Mid all that I have seen and known,--peoples and thrones, loves,
glories, sorrows, virtues--what have I ever loved? Nothing--except the
mantling shroud that covers me!

       *       *       *       *       *

My horse! ah, yes! my horse! I love thee too! How thou rushest o'er the
world! thy hoofs of steel resounding on the heads bruised by thy
speeding feet.

Thy tail is straight and crisp, thine eyes dart flames, the mane upon
thy neck flies in the wind, as on we dash upon our maddened course.
Never art thou weary! Never do we rest! Never do we sleep! Thy neighing
portends war; thy smoking nostrils spread a pestilence that, mist-like,
hovers over earth. Where'er my arrows fly, thou overturnest pyramids and
empires, trampling crowns beneath thy hoofs! All men respect thee; nay,
adore thee! To invoke thy favour, popes offer thee their triple crowns,
and kings their sceptres; peoples, their secret sorrows; poets, their
renown. All cringe and kneel before thee, yet thou rushest on over their
prostrate forms.

Ah, noble steed! Sole gift from heaven! Thy tendons are of iron, thy
head is of bronze. Thou canst pursue thy course for centuries as swiftly
as if borne up by eagle's wings; and when, once in a thousand years,
resistless hunger comes, thy food is human flesh, thy drink, men's
tears. My steed! I love thee as Pale Death alone can love!

       *       *       *       *       *

Ah! I have lived so long! How many things I know! How many mysteries of
the universe are shut within my breast!

Sometimes, after I have hurled a myriad of darts, and, after coursing
o'er the world on my pale horse, have gathered many lives, a weariness
assails me, and I long to rest.

But on my work must go; my path I must pursue; it leads through infinite
space and all the worlds. I sweep away men's plans together with their
triumphs, their loves together with their crimes, their very all.

I rend my winding-sheet; a frightful craving tortures me incessantly, as
if some serpent stung continually within.

I throw a backward glance, and see the smoke of fiery ruins left behind;
the darkness of the night; the agony of the world. I see the graves that
are the work of these, my hands; I see the background of the past--'tis
nothingness! My weary body, heavy head, and tired feet, sink, seeking
rest. My eyes turn towards a glowing horizon, boundless, immense,
seeming to grow increasingly in height and depth. I shall devour it, as
I have devoured all else.

When, O God! shall I sleep in my turn? When wilt Thou cease creating?
When may I, digging my own grave, stretch myself out within my tomb,
and, swinging thus upon the world, list the last breath, the death-gasp,
of expiring nature?

When that time comes, away my darts and shroud I'll hurl. Then shall I
free my horse, and he shall graze upon the grass that grows upon the
Pyramids, sleep in the palaces of emperors, drink the last drop of water
from the sea, and snuff the odour of the last slow drop of blood! By
day, by night, through the countless ages, he shall roam through fields
eternal as the fancy takes him; shall leap with one great bound from
Atlas to the Himalayas; shall course, in his insolent pride, from heaven
to earth; disport himself by caracoling in the dust of crumbled empires;
shall speed across the beds of dried-up oceans; shall bound o'er ruins
of enormous cities; inhale the void with swelling chest, and roll and
stretch at ease.

Then haply, faithful one, weary as I, thou finally shalt seek some
precipice from which to cast thyself; shalt halt, panting before the
mysterious ocean of infinity; and then, with foaming mouth, dilated
nostrils, and extended neck turned towards the horizon, thou shalt, as
I, pray for eternal sleep; for repose for thy


fiery feet; for a bed of green leaves, whereon reclining thou canst
close thy burning eyes forever. There, waiting motionless upon the
brink, thou shalt desire a power stronger than thyself to kill thee at a
single blow--shalt pray for union with the dying storm, the faded
flower, the shrunken corpse. Thou shalt seek sleep, because eternal life
is torture, and the tomb is peace.

Why are we here? What hurricane has hurled us into this abyss? What
tempest soon shall bear us away towards the forgotten planets whence we

Till then, my glorious steed, thou shalt run thy course; thou mayst
please thine ear with the crunching of the heads crushed under thy feet.
Thy course is long, but courage! Long time hast thou carried me: but
longer time still must elapse, and yet we shall not age.

Stars may be quenched, the mountains crumble, the earth finally wear
away its diamond axis; but we two, we alone are immortal, for the
impalpable lives forever!

But to-day thou canst lie at my feet, and polish thy teeth against the
moss-grown tombs, for Satan has abandoned me, and a power unknown
compels me to obey his will. Lo! the dead seek to rise from their

       *       *       *       *       *

Satan, I love thee! Thou alone canst comprehend my joys and my
deliriums. But, more fortunate than I, thou wilt some day, when earth
shall be no more, recline and sleep within the realms of space.

But I, who have lived so long, have worked so ceaselessly, with only
virtuous loves and solemn thoughts,--I must endure immortality. Man has
his tomb, and glory its oblivion; the day dies into night, but I--!

And I am doomed to lasting solitude upon my way, strewn with the bones
of men and marked by ruins. Angels have fellow-angels; demons their
companions of darkness; but I hear only sounds of a clanking scythe, my
whistling arrows, and my speeding horse. Always the echo of the surging
billows that sweep over and engulf mankind!


Dost thou complain,--thou, the most fortunate creature under heaven? The
only, splendid, great, unchangeable, eternal one--like God, who is the
only Being that equals thee! Dost thou repine, who some day in thy turn
shalt disappear forever, after thou hast crushed the universe beneath
thy horse's feet?

When God's work of creating has ceased; when the heavens have
disappeared and the stars are quenched; when spirits rise from their
retreats and wander in the depths with sighs and groans; then, what
unpicturable delight for thee! Then shalt thou sit on the eternal
thrones of heaven and of hell--shalt overthrow the planets, stars, and
worlds--shalt loose thy steed in fields of emeralds and diamonds--shalt
make his litter of the wings torn from the angels,--shalt cover him with
the robe of righteousness! Thy saddle shall be broidered with the stars
of the empyrean,--and then thou wilt destroy it! After thou hast
annihilated everything,--when naught remains but empty space,--thy
coffin shattered and thine arrows broken, then make thyself a crown of
stone from heaven's highest mount, and cast thyself into the abyss of
oblivion. Thy fall may last a million æons, but thou shalt die at last.
Because the world must end; all, all must die,--except Satan! Immortal
more than God! I live to bring chaos into other worlds!


But thou hast not, as I, this vista of eternal nothingness before thee;
thou dost not suffer with this death-like cold, as I.


Nay, but I quiver under fierce and unrelaxing heats of molten lava,
which burn the doomed and which e'en I cannot escape.

For thou, at least, hast only to destroy. But I bring birth and I give
life. I direct empires and govern the affairs of States and of hearts.

I must be everywhere. The precious metals flow, the diamonds glitter,
and men's names resound at my command. I whisper in the ears of women,
of poets, and of statesmen, words of love, of glory, of ambition. With
Messalina and Nero, at Paris and at Babylon, within the self-same moment
do I dwell. Let a new island be discovered, I fly to it ere man can set
foot there; though it be but a rock encircled by the sea, I am there in
advance of men who will dispute for its possession. I lounge, at the
same instant, on a courtesan's couch and on the perfumed beds of
emperors. Hatred and envy, pride and wrath, pour from my lips in
simultaneous utterance. By night and day I work. While men are burning
Christians, I luxuriate voluptuously in baths perfumed with roses; I
race in chariots; yield to deep despair; or boast aloud in pride.

At times I have believed that I embodied the whole world, and all that I
have seen took place, in verity, within my being.

Sometimes I weary, lose my reason, and indulge in such mad follies that
the most worthless of my minions ridicule me while they pity me.

No creature cares for me; nowhere am I loved,--neither in heaven, of
which I am a son, nor yet in hell, where I am lord, nor upon earth,
where men deem me a god. Naught do I see but paroxysms of rage, rivers
of blood, or maddened frenzy. Ne'er shall my eyelids close in slumber,
never my spirit find repose, whilst thou, at least, canst rest thy head
upon the cool, green freshness of the grave. Yea, I must ever dwell amid
the glare of palaces, must listen to the curses of the starving, or
inhale the stench of crimes that cry aloud to heaven.

God, whom I hate, has punished me indeed! But my soul is greater even
than His wrath; in one deep sigh I could the whole world draw into my
breast, where it would burn eternally, even as I.

When, Lord, shall thy great trumpet sound? Then a great harmony shall
hover over sea and hill. Ah! would that I could suffer with humanity;
their cries and sobs should drown the sound of mine!

[_Innumerable skeletons, riding in chariots, advance at a rapid pace,
with cries of joy and triumph. They drag broken branches and crowns of
laurel, from which the dried and yellow leaves fall continually in the
wind and the dust._]

Lo, a triumphal throng from Rome, the Eternal City! Her Coliseum and her
Capitol are now two grains of sand that served once as a pedestal; but
Death has swung his scythe: the monuments have fallen. Behold! At their
head comes Nero, pride of my heart, the greatest poet earth has known!

[_Nero advances in a chariot drawn by twelve skeleton horses. With the
sceptre in his hand, he strikes the bony backs of his steeds. He stands
erect, his shroud flapping behind him in billowy folds. He turns, as if
upon a race-course; his eyes are flaming and he cries loudly_:]


Quick! Quick! And faster still, until your feet dash fire from the
flinty stones and your nostrils fleck your breasts with foam. What! do
not the wheels smoke yet? Hear ye the fanfares, whose sound reached even
to Ostia; the clapping of the hands, the cries of joy? See how the
populace shower saffron on my head! See how my pathway is already damp
with sprayed perfume! My chariot whirls on; the pace is swifter than the
wind as I shake the golden reins! Faster and faster! The dust clouds
rise; my mantle floats upon the breeze, which in my ears sings "Triumph!
triumph!" Faster and faster! Hearken to the shouts of joy, list to the
stamping feet and the plaudits of the multitude. Jupiter himself looks
down on us from heaven. Faster! yea, faster still!

[_Nero's chariot now seems to be drawn by demons; a black cloud of dust
and smoke envelops him; in his erratic course he crashes into tombs,
and the re-awakened corpses are crushed under the wheels of the chariot,
which now turns, comes forward, and stops._]


Now let six hundred of my women dance the Grecian Dances silently before
me, the while I lave myself with roses in a bath of porphyry. Then let
them circle me, with interlacing arms, that I may see on all sides
alabaster forms in graceful evolution, swaying like tall reeds bending
over an amorous pool.

And I will give the empire and the sea, the Senate, and Olympus, the
Capitol, to her who shall embrace me the most ardently; to her whose
heart shall throb beneath my own; to her who shall enmesh me in her
flowing hair, smile on me sweetest, and enfold me in the warmest clasp;
to her who soothing me with songs of love shall waken me to joy and
heights of rapture!

Rome shall be still this night; no barque shall cleave the waters of the
Tiber, since 'tis my wish to see the mirrored moon on its untroubled
face and hear the voice of woman floating over it. Let perfumed breezes
pass through all my draperies! Ah, I would die, voluptuously

Then, while I eat of some rare meat, that only I may taste, let some one
sing, while damsels, lightly draped, serve me from plates of gold and
watch my rest. One slave shall cut her sister's throat, because it is my
pleasure--a favourite with the gods--to mingle the perfume of blood with
that of food, and cries of victims soothe my nerves.

This night I shall burn Rome. The flames shall light up heaven, and
Tiber shall roll in waves of fire!

Then, I shall build of aloes wood a stage to float upon the Italian sea,
and the Roman populace shall throng thereto chanting my praise. Its
draperies shall be of purple, and on it I shall have a bed of eagles'
plumage. There I shall sit, and at my side shall be the loveliest woman
in the empire, while all the universe applauds the achievements of a
god! And though the tempest roar around me, its rage shall be
extinguished 'neath my feet, and sounds of music shall o'ercome the
clamor of the waves!

       *       *       *       *       *

What didst thou say? Vindex revolts, my legions fly, my women flee in
terror? Silence and tears alone remain, and I hear naught but the
rolling of thunder. Must I die, now?




Must I give up my days of feasting and delight, my spectacles, my
triumphs, my chariots and the applause of multitudes?


All! All!


Haste, Master of the World! One comes--One who will put thee to the
sword. An emperor knows how to die!


Die! I have scarce begun to live! Oh, what great deeds I should
accomplish--deeds that should make Olympus tremble! I would fill up the
bed of hoary ocean and speed across it in a triumphal car. I would still
live--would see the sun once more, the Tiber, the Campagna, the Circus
on the golden sands. Ah! let me live!


I will give thee a mantle for the tomb, and an eternal bed that shall be
softer and more peaceful than the Imperial couch.


Yet, I am loth to die.


Die, then!

[_He gathers up the shroud, lying beside him on the ground, and bears
away Nero, wrapped in its folds._]


 [B] The manuscript of this essay, unlike all other early manuscripts
 of Gustave Flaubert, bears no date. It belongs to the earliest of his
 writing, a time when there was a far from unanimous opinion among the
 literary _cognoscenti_ regarding the work of Rabelais.

[Illustration: N]No name in literature has been more generally cited
than that of Rabelais; and never, perhaps, has one been cited with so
much ignorance and injustice. Thus, to some minds he is merely a
drunken, cynical old monk, with a mind disordered and fantastic, as
obscene as it is ingenious, dangerous in its ideas and revolting in
their expression. To others he is a practical philosopher, gentle and
moderate; sceptical, certainly, but, after all, an honest man of
reputable life. He has been alternately loved and despised,
misunderstood and rehabilitated; and ever since his prodigious genius
first launched at the world his biting and all-embracing satire, in the
form of the colossal mocking glee of giants, creatures of his
imagination, each century has puzzled over his meaning, and has
interpreted in a thousand fashions this long enigma, apparently so
trivial, gross and merry, but in reality profound and true.

Rabelais' work is a historical achievement, in itself so important that
it belongs to and illumines the thought of each age. Thus, at the
beginning of the sixteenth century, when first given to the world, it
was in reality an open revolt, a moral pamphlet. It had the importance
of actuality and the controlling power of a revolution. Rabelais may be
regarded as a Luther in his own way. His sphere was that of laughter,
but his power over men was such that with titanic mockery he demolished
more of evil than the good man of Wittenberg, with all his anger. He
managed everything so well--wielded so cleverly the sharp chisel of
satire--that his laughter became a terror. His work is the embodiment of
the grotesque; it is as eternal as the world.

Rabelais was the father of the frank and naïve literature of the
seventeenth century--of Molière and La Fontaine,--all were immortals,
geniuses, in spirit the most essentially French of Gallic writers. All
three regarded poor human nature with a smile at once good-natured and
cynical; all were frank, free and easy in their language, men in every
sense of the word: careless of philosophers, of sects, of religions,
they were of the religion of mankind itself, and well they understood
it. They turned it over, analysed and dissected it; one in a strange
story full of gross obscenities, bursting with laughter and blasphemy;
the second, on the stage, in deftly constructed dialogue, full of truth
and wisdom and a naïveté almost sublime--more of a philosopher in the
simple laughter of his Mascarille, in the good sense of Philinte, or in
the bilious spleen of Alceste, than any other philosopher that ever
lived; and the third, in fables for children with morals for men, in
verses full of good-nature and kindly humour, in words and phrases,
wherein rests something of sublimity; in crystalline sonnets, in all the
poetic gems that deck his name with splendid ornaments.

But Rabelais is to-day a subject of serious study, the favourite author
of those rare minds that rise superior to the ordinary limitations of
intelligence. Besides those men whose names we cite, La Bruyère studied
and appreciated his work with the utmost impartiality. The great
romancer was not sufficiently correct to please the scrupulous taste of
Boileau, or to accord with the reserve and purity of Racine. That
prudish age, governed by Madame de Maintenon, so well typified in the
flat and angular garden at Versailles, was ashamed of literature at once
so frank and open, nude and picturesque. This giant made them fear. They
seemed instinctively to feel that they were placed between two terrible
epochs: the sixteenth century, which produced a Luther and a Rabelais,
and the Revolution, which was to give a Mirabeau, a Robespierre. First
the demolishers of faith, then the demolishers of life: two abysses,
'twixt which they stood firm in the adoration of themselves!

In the eighteenth century things were still worse. Philosophers then
were of a high moral tone, and would have none of Rabelais. The poor
curate of Meudon would have found himself much out of place in the
salons of the witty and beautiful _marquises_, or in the intellectual
society of Madame du Deffand or Madame Geoffrin. Never would they have
comprehended the flashing darts of wit, the bubbling spirits, the
whirlwind, the poetic mind, throbbing with adventures, inventions,
travel, and extravagances. The petty and affected tastes, the cold and
formal manners of the age, were horrified at aught that might be called
licentiousness of mind. The "Precieuses" probably preferred to have it
in their manners! Voltaire, for instance, could pardon Rabelais because
he ridiculed the Church; but of his style, of his meaning, Voltaire had
scarce an idea, although he claimed to have a key to the great work,
which he summed up in vicious epigram: "A mass of the grossest refuse
ever vomited by a drunken monk."

It is quite natural that this should have been his opinion. The glory
and value of Rabelais, as in the case of all great men, all illustrious
names, have long been vigorously disputed. His genius is unique,
exceptional; its product stands alone among the histories of the
literatures of the world. Where is his rival to be found?

To go back to antiquity, shall we cite Petronius or Apuleius, with their
studied and premeditated art, their classic style, their scholarly

Passing to the Middle Ages, shall we compare the epics of the twelfth
century, the comic and the morality plays? No, certainly not; and
although much of the comic material in the work of Rabelais is
characteristic of the grotesque humour and manners of the Middle Ages,
we do not find its predecessor in any literary document.

Coming down to modern times, his closest imitator, Béroald of Verville,
author of _L'Art de Parvenir_, is so far removed from his model in style
and power that it is scarcely worth while to make a comparison. Sterne
attempted to reproduce the style of Rabelais, but his affectation and
over-refined sensibility destroyed the parallel.

No, Rabelais is unique because he himself expresses the traits and
characteristics of an entire century. His work possesses the highest
significance in literature, politics, morals and religion. Certain
geniuses appear from time to time, to create new literatures, or to
resuscitate old ones; they deliver their message to the world, express
the sentiment of their own generation, and we hear from them no more.

Homer sang the glories of the martial life, of the valiant and warlike
youth of the world, the vernal season when the trees put forth new
sprouts. In Virgil's day civilisation was already old; we find him full
of tears, of shadows, sentiment and delicacy. Dante is sombre and
radiant at the same time; he was the Christian poet, the bard of death
and of hell, full of melancholy and of hope also. In olden times, if
satiety overtook a people, if doubt entered into all hearts, if all
beautiful dreams, all illusions, all Utopian yearnings fell, one by one,
destroyed by stern realities, by science, reason, and analysis, what did
the poet do? He retired within himself; he had sublime flights of pride
and enthusiasm, and moments of poignant despair. He sang the agonies of
the heart and the vagaries of fancy. Then, all the griefs that compassed
him, the sobs that rang in his ears, the maledictions that he heard on
every side, resounded in his soul--which God had made great, responsive,
all-embracing--and issued thence through the voice of genius, to mark
forever in history an epoch in a nation's life, to record its sorrows,
and carve indelibly the names of its unfortunates. In our own day Lord
Byron has done this. For this reason, the true poet is more accurate
than the historian, and indeed most poets are more strictly truthful
than historians. Great writers, then, may be compared, in the realms of
thought, to the capitals of kingdoms. They absorb the brains of every
province and every individuality; mingling those qualities of each that
are distinctively personal and original, they amalgamate them, arrange
them, and after a time the result is seen in the form of art.

Rabelais was born in 1483, the year that Louis XI. died. Luther had just
become known. The king had overthrown the ancient feudalism; the monks
were about to attack the Papacy: this situation describes the history of
the Middle Ages--a period divided between the wars of Nations and of the
Church. But the people, weary of both, would have no more of either.
They realised that the men of arms devoured their substance and ruined
them; they knew the priests made use of them for their own selfish
purposes, besides deceiving them. For some time the people contented
themselves with inscribing satires and scurrilities on the stones of the
cathedrals, with making songs against the seigneurs, or publishing,
broadcast, biting criticisms of the ruling power or of the nobility, as
in the _Romance of the Rose_. But something more was wanted: a revolt, a
reform. Symbols were old, and so were mystery plays and poems; and there
was a general feeling that an entirely new form of attack was desirable.
Science was needed, even in poetry and philosophy.

In 1473, a caricature representing the Church, with the body of a woman,
the legs of a chicken, the claws of a vulture, and the tail of a
serpent, was circulated throughout Europe. It was the epoch of Comines,
of Machiavelli, of Arétin. The Papacy had lately had Alexander VI.; now
it had Leo X., who was no better. An intellectual orgy had set in,
destined to be long, and to end with blood. During the eighteenth
century this was repeated, and the termination was the same.

In the chaotic conditions belonging to this epoch lived Rabelais. We are
not surprised that, in the midst of this society, corrupt from its
debaucheries and tottering on its foundations, and being witness to such
ruin and devastation, the genius of this wonderful man prompted him to
reveal, by means of withering sarcasm, the frightful past of the Middle
Ages, the effects of which were still felt in his own century, which
looked back upon that past with horror.

In my opinion, those who have claimed to possess a key to Rabelais, to
be able to understand his allegories, and to translate each jest into
its real significance, do not understand him in the least. His satire is
general and universal, not at all personal or local. A careful reading
of his work should prove the fallacy of such pretensions.

Shall I cite all that was done in this respect in the sixteenth century,
and tell of all the abuse poured by that century upon the Middle Ages,
of which it was the outcome? For instance, without saying anything of
Ariosto, are not Falstaff, Sancho Panza, and Gargantua a grotesque
trilogy forming a bitter satire on the old society?

Falstaff belongs wholly to England; he is John Bull bloated with beer
and pork; fat, sensual, running away from the dead, eternally drawing
from his pocket a flask of old Spanish wine. He possesses none of the
terrible grotesqueness of Iago, or of the deliberate immorality of
Schiller's Hassan, the Moor. His greatest passion was self-love; he
carried it to the highest degree; it was even sublime. He was egotism
personified, with a certain facility in analysis and a strain of
ridicule, by which he managed to turn everything to his own advantage.

As for peaceful Sancho Panza, mounted on his lazy, tawny ass, snoring
all night and sleeping all day, a poltroon, not able to understand the
meaning of heroism, full of proverbs, the prosaic man _par
excellence_,--is not his base blood the crying reason why he endeavours
with all his power to stop Don Quixote from tilting at the windmills,
which the worthy knight takes for giants? The man of gentle birth
attacks them, nevertheless, but he breaks his arm and wounds his head.
His helmet is a barber's basin, his horse, Rosinante, and a labourer's
donkey brays at the sight of his coat-of-arms.

Placed between these two figures, that of Gargantua is vaguer, less
precise. His characterisation is ampler, freer, and grander. Gargantua
is less gluttonous, less sensual than Falstaff, and not so lazy as
Sancho Panza; but he is a greater drinker, a heartier laugher, and makes
a louder clamour. He is terrible and monstrous in his gaiety.

One more reflection: the satire of Rabelais does not apply to his own
day only. He denounces, for all time, all abuses, crimes, and everything
that is ridiculous. Perhaps he was able to foresee a better state of the
body politic and a society whose moral laws should be purified. Existing
conditions aroused his pity, and, to employ a trivial expression, all
the world was a farce. And he made himself a part of the farce.

Since his time, what has been done? Everything has changed. Reform has
come, with independence of thought. We have had the Revolution. We
possess material independence. And what besides all this?

Thousands of questions have been discussed,--sciences, arts,
philosophies, theories,--how many questions even during the last twenty
years! What a whirlwind of thoughts and ideas! Where will they lead us?

Let us see. Where are we? Are we in the twilight or in full dawn? We
have no more Christianity. What have we? I ask. Railways, factories,
chemists, mathematicians. To be sure, our bodies are better off, we
suffer less in the flesh, but the heart still bleeds! Do you not feel
the perturbation of your soul, although its outward covering seems calm
and happy? It is plunged in the abyss of universal scepticism; it is
overcome by that deadly ennui that seizes upon our race even in the
cradle. Meanwhile, politicians babble, poets have scarcely time to rhyme
their fancies and scribble them hastily on ephemeral sheets of paper;
and the suicidal bullet is heard in every garret and every palace where
dwell misery, pride, or satiety!

Material questions have been settled. But others--have they also been
solved? Answer me that! And the longer you delay in filling this yawning
chasm in the soul of mankind, the more I mock at your efforts to be
happy, and laugh at your miserable sciences, that are worth no more than
a blade of grass.

Now is the time for another genius like Rabelais to arise. Let him be
without anger, without hatred, without grief. What could he laugh at?
Not at kings--there are no more; nor at God, because although we may
have lost our faith, yet a certain fear remains; nor at the Jesuits, for
they are an old story.

What could he laugh at, then? The material world has improved, or at
least it is on the road to improvement.

But the other? He would have fine sport with that. And if such a poet
could conceal his tears and laugh instead, I assure you his book would
be the most terrible and the most sublime that ever has been written!

Preface to the Last Songs




[Illustration: I]It would perhaps make criticism easier, if, before
giving our opinion, we should make known our preferences. To omit this
preliminary distinction is a great injustice, as every book contains a
peculiarity pertaining to the writer himself, which, independently of
the execution, will charm or irritate us according to our preferences.
We are never completely charmed unless a book appeals to our feelings
and our intellect at the same time.

First, let us discuss the object of the book. "Why this novel, this
drama? Of what use is it? etc." Instead of following the author's idea,
instead of pointing out to him where he failed of his aim, and how he
should have gone about to attain it, we bicker with him on a thousand
things outside of his subject, always declaring the contrary of what he
meant to express. If a critic's sphere extends beyond the author's
province, he should first of all look to the æsthetics and the moral.

It is impossible for me to warrant either of these concerning the poet
in questions. As for writing his life, it has been linked so closely
with mine, that I shall be brief on this subject; individual memoirs
belong only to great men. Besides, has not research been exhausted?
History will soon absorb all literature. In studying too closely what
makes up the author's atmosphere, we fail to give the originality of his
genius due consideration. In La Harpe's time, when a masterpiece
appeared, we were convinced,--thanks to certain rules!--that it was
under no obligation whatsoever; whereas now, after we have examined
everything about it, we still wish to discover its right to exist.

I have another scruple. I do not wish to betray the modesty that my
friend constantly maintained. At an epoch when insignificant mediocrity
aspired to fame, when typography was the medium of all affectations, and
the rivalry of the most insipid personalities became a public pest, he
was proud of being modest. His photograph was never displayed on the
boulevards. No article, no letter, not a single line from him, was ever
published in the papers. He did not even belong to the academy of his
province. Yet no life is more deserving of praise than his. He lived
nobly and labouriously. Though poor, he remained free. He was as strong
as a blacksmith, mild as a child, intellectual without being
paradoxical, noble without affectation; and those who knew him well will
say that I have not praised him enough.

Louis Hyacinthe Bouilhet was born at Cany (Seine Inférieure), the 27th
day of May, 1822. His father, chief of ambulances in the campaign of
1812, swam the Bérésina, carrying on his head the regiment's chest, and
died quite young from wounds received. His maternal grandfather, Pierre
Hourcastremé, dabbled in legislation, poetry, and geometry, received
congratulations from Voltaire, corresponded with Turgot and Condorcet,
spent nearly all his money buying shells, produced _Les Aventures de
Messire Anselme_, an _Essai sur la Faculté de Penser_, _Les Etrennes de
Mnémosyne_, etc., and after being a lawyer in Pau, a journalist in
Paris, administrator of the navy at Havre, and a schoolmaster at
Montvilliers, died almost a centenarian, bequeathing to his grandson the
memory of a strange but charming old man, who powdered his hair, wore
knee-breeches and cultivated tulips.

The child was sent to Ingouville, to a boarding-school on a high cliff,
and went to the college of Rouen at twelve, where he was usually at the
head of his class. He was not a model pupil, however; this term applies
to mediocre natures and a calmness of spirit which was rare in those

I do not know what students admire nowadays, but our dreams were wildly
imaginative. The most enthusiastic dreamt of violent courtships, with
gondolas, and fainting ladies carried away in stagecoaches by masked
ruffians. Some, more gloomily disposed (admirers of Armand Carrel, a
countryman), preferred the clash of the press and the court-room, or the
glory of conspiracy. A rhetorician wrote an _Apologie de Robespierre_,
which reached a certain gentleman and so scandalised him that it brought
on an exchange of notes, followed by a challenge to a duel, in which the
said gentleman did not play a very creditable part. One good-natured
fellow always wore a red cap; another swore to live as a Mohican; one
of my intimate friends aspired to the honour of serving under
Abd-el-Kader. Apart from being troubadours, insurgents and Orientals, we
were, above all, artists. After studies, we wrote, and read novels till
late in the night. Bar ..., declaring he was tired of life, shot
himself; and And ... hanged himself with his cravat. We certainly
deserved little praise for our follies; but we hated platitudes; our
minds soared towards noble things. How we revered the masters! How we
admired Victor Hugo!

Among this group was Bouilhet, the elegist, the poet of moonlight and
ruins. When he was nearly twenty, this affectation disappeared, to give
place to a virulent democracy, so genuine that he was about to join a
secret society.

He received his bachelor's degree, and was told to choose a profession.
He chose medicine, settled his small income on his mother, and taught
for a living. His life became painfully labourious; he combined the
duties of poet, tutor and saw-bones. Two years later, he was appointed
interne at l'Hôtel Dieu in Rouen, under my father's orders. As he could
not attend during the day, his turn came oftener than others for night
watch. He did not mind it, however, as he had no other time in which to
write. All his poems of love, flowers and birds were written in those
winter nights, amidst the sick and suffering, or on Sundays in summer,
while the patients walked under his window. Those years of sadness were
not useless; the contemplation of suffering humanity, the dressing of
wounds, the dissecting-table, gave him a better knowledge of mankind.
Some would have given way under the strain, the disgust, the torture of
having to follow a vocation unsuited to him; but, thanks to his physical
and mental health, he stood it cheerfully. Some still remember meeting
in the streets of his native city, this handsome though somewhat timid
youth, with flowing blond hair, who always carried a note-book, in which
he wrote his verses as they came to him; sometimes while teaching, at a
friend's house, in a café, during an operation, anywhere. Poor in
worldly wealth, but rich in hope, he gave them away. He was a real poet
in the classical sense of the word.

When we met again after four years' separation, he read to me three of
his plays. The first, entitled _Le Déluge_, described a lover clinging
to his beloved, while he watched with anguish the ruins of the fast
disappearing world: "Hark to the crashing of the palm-trees on the
heights, and to the agonizing cries of Earth!" It was somewhat prolix,
and too emphatic, but was replete with force and passion. The second, a
satire against the Jesuits, was more resolute and in an entirely
different style: "Smile, priests of the boudoir and gather poor feminine
souls in your golden nets!" "Charming ministers in the confessional,
inflicting penance with love-words on their lips! Heroes of the Gospel,
impleading the Lord with flowery language, and treading each day, holy
martyrs! on soft carpets the _via crucis_!" "These merchants, at the
foot of the cross, casting lots and dividing, piece by piece, O Lord,
Thy robe and Thy cloak! These fakirs of holy relics, selling, oh,
wonder! Thy heart as amulets, and phials of Thy blood."

We must not forget the disturbances of the times, and must remember that
the author was only twenty-two. The play was dated 1844.

The third was an invective to "An author who sold his poems":

    Why seek a famished passion to revive?
    After thy rustic love through green fields strive
    On flowery banks beside the rosy stream
    Archangel, drink to drunkenness the sunny beam,
    Under the willows chant etotic dreams,
    Though Brutus' sins upon thy shoulders weigh
    Doubtless thy simple soul and heart inveigh
    Against the Destiny that took from thee.

"'Tis the greedy Plutus, with his purse full, who quotes smiling, human

"Destiny is the bag full of gold into which we plunge our greedy hands
with rapture! It is corruption which flaunts before our eyes its
alluring breast! It is fear, the silent spectre that disturbs the coward
in the hour of danger!"

"Your prudent Apollo, no doubt, passed through the stock exchange to
reach the Parnassus? We often see, in the political sky, the morning sun
die out before night. Look through your telescope, do you not see Guizot
waning and Thiers coming to light? Do you base your changeable faith and
your flexible probity on the mobility of the weather?"

"Avaunt! Greek, whose servile words lauded Xerxes the night before
Thermopylæ!" He continued in the same rough tone against the
administration. He sent his play to the _Reforme_, hoping they would
print it; but they refused peremptorily, not wishing to expose
themselves to a law suit--for mere literature.

It was near the end of 1845, when my father died, that Bouilhet gave up
the practice of medicine. But he continued to teach, and, with the aid
of a partner, obtained bachelorships for their pupils. The events of
1848 disturbed his republican faith. He now became a confirmed
_littérateur_, fond of metaphors and comparisons, but indifferent to all

His thorough knowledge of Latin (he wrote as fluently in Latin as in
French) inspired the few Roman sketches, as in _Festons et Astragales_
and the poem _Meloenis_, published in the _Revue de Paris_, on the eve
of a political crisis. The moment was badly chosen. The public's fancy
and courage were considerably cooled, and it was not disposed, neither
were the powers, to accept independent genius; besides, individual style
always seems insurrectionary to governments and immoral to commoners.
The exaltation of vulgarism, the banishment of poetry, became more than
ever the rage. Wishing to show good judgment, they rushed headlong into
stupidity; anything above the ordinary bored them.

As a protest, he took refuge in forgotten places and in the far East;
and thence came the _Fossiles_ and different Chinese plays.

However, the provincial atmosphere stifled him; he needed a vaster
field; and severing his connections, he came to Paris; but at a certain
age one can no longer acquire the Parisian judgment; the things that
seem simple to a native of the boulevards, are impracticable to a man of
thirty-three arriving in the great city, having few acquaintances and no
income, and unaccustomed to solitude. Then his bad days began.

His first book, _Madame de Montarcy_, received on approval at the
Théâtre Français, and refused at the second reading, lingered for two
years and was only accepted at the Odéon in November, 1856. The first
performance was a rousing success. The applause often interrupted the
action of the play; a whiff of youth permeated the atmosphere; it was a
reminiscence of 1830. That night he became known; his success was
assured. He could have collaborated, and made money with his name; but
he preferred the quietness of Mantes, and went to live in a little house
near an old tower, at the turn of the bridge, where his friends visited
him on Sundays.

As soon as his plays were written, he took them to Paris; but the whims
and fancies of the managers, the critics, the belated appointments, and
the loss of time, caused him much weariness. He did not know that art,
in a question of art, held such a trifling place! When he joined a
committee against the unfair dealings at the Théâtre Français, he was
the only member that did not complain of the rates of authors'

With what pleasure he returned to his daily distraction, the study of
Chinese! He pursued it ten years, merely as a study of the race,
intending to write a grand poem on the Celestial Empire. Days when his
heart was too full, he relieved himself by writing lyrical verses on the
restrictions of the stage. His luck had turned, but with the
_Conjuration d'Ambroise_ it returned, and it lasted all winter.

Six months later he was appointed conservator of the municipal library
of Rouen; and his old dream of leisure and fortune was realized at last!
But soon afterward a dullness seized him--the exhaustion from too long a
struggle. To counteract this he resumed the Greek tragic style and
rapidly composed his last play, _Mademoiselle Aïssé_, which he never
corrected. An incurable disease, long neglected, was the cause of his
death, which took place on the 18th of July, 1869. He passed away
without pain, in the presence of a friend of his youth and her child,
whom he loved as if he were his own son. Their affection had increased
towards the last, but two other persons marred their happiness. It seems
that in a poet's family there are always bitter disappointments.
Annoying quarrels, honeyed sarcasms, direct insults to art, the million
and one things that make your heart bleed,--nothing was spared him while
he lived, and these things followed him to his death-bed.

His fellow-countrymen flocked to his funeral as if he had been a public
man; even the less educated knowing full well that a superior intellect
had passed away. The whole Parisian press joined in this universal
sorrow; even the most hostile expressed their regrets; a Catholic writer
alone spoke disparagingly. No doubt the connoisseurs in verse deplore
the loss of such a poetical spirit; but those in whom he confided, who
knew his powerful spirit, who benefited by his advice, they alone know
to what height he might have risen.

He left, besides _Aïssé_, three comedies in prose, a fairy-scene, and
the first act of _Pélerinage de Saint-Jacques_, a drama in verse, in ten
tableaux. He had outlined two short poems: _Le Boeuf_, depicting the
rustic life of Latium; and _Le Dernier Banquet_, describing the Roman
patricians poisoning themselves at a banquet the night the soldiers of
Alaric are entering Rome. He wished also to write a novel on the heathen
of the fifth century, the counterpart of the _Martyrs_; but above all,
he desired to write his Chinese tale, the scenes of which are completely
laid out. It was his supreme ambition to recapitulate modern science, to
write the _De natura rerum_ of our age!

Who has the right to classify the talents of his contemporaries, and,
thinking himself superior to all, say: "This one comes first, that one
second, and this other third"? Fame's sudden changes are numerous. There
are irretrievable failures; some long, obscure periods, and some
triumphant reappearances. Was not Ronsard forgotten before Sainte-Beuve?
In days gone by, Saint-Amant was considered inferior as a poet to
Jacques Delille. _Don Quixote_, _Gil Blas_, _Manon Lescaut_, _La Cousine
Bette_ and other masterpieces, have never had the success of _Uncle
Tom_. In my youth, I heard comparisons made between Casimir Delavigne
and Victor Hugo, and it seems that "our great national poet" was
declining. Let us then be careful, or posterity will misjudge
us--perhaps laugh at our bitterness--still more, perhaps, at our
adulations; for the fame of an author does not spring from public
approbation, but from the verdict of a few intellects, who, in the
course of time, impose it upon the public.

Some will say that I have given my friend too high a place; but they
know not, no more do I, what place he will retain. Because his first
book is written in stanzas of six lines each, with triple rhymes, like
_Naouma_, and begins like this: "Of all the men that ever walked through
Rome, in Grecian buskins and linen toga, from Suburra to the Capitoline
hill, the handsomest was Paulus," somewhat similar to this: "Of all the
libertines in Paris, the first, oldest and most prolific in vice, where
debauchery is so easily found, the lewdest of all was Jacques Rolla,"
without more ado, and ignoring the dissimilarity of execution, poetry,
and nature, it was declared that the author of _Meloenis_ imitated
Alfred de Musset! He was condemned on the spot; a farce--it is so easy
to label a thing so as to be able to put it aside.

I do not wish to be unfair; but where has Musset, in any part of his
works, harmonized description, dialogue, and intrigue in more than two
thousand consecutive rhymes, with such results of composition, such
choice of language, in short, where is there a work of such magnitude?
What wonderful ability was needed to reproduce Roman society, without
affectation, yet keeping within the narrow confines of a dramatic fable!

If you look for the primitive idea, the general element in Louis
Bouilhet's poems, you will find a kind of naturalism that reminds you of
the Renaissance. His hatred of commonplace saved him from platitudes;
his inclination towards the heroic was tempered by his wit--he was very
witty. This part of his talent was almost unknown; he kept it somewhat
in the shadow, thinking it of no consequence; but now nothing hinders me
from acknowledging that he excelled in epigrams, sonnets, rondeaux and
other jests, written for distraction or pastime, and also through sheer
good-nature. I discovered some official speeches for functionaries,
New-Year verses for a little girl, some stanzas for a barber, for the
christening of a bell, for the visit of a king. He dedicated to one of
our friends, wounded in 1848, an ode on the patron of _The Taking of
Namur_, where emphasis reached the pinnacle of dullness. To another who
killed a viper with his whip he sent a piece entitled: _The struggle of
a monster and a genius_, which contained enough imperfect metaphors and
ridiculous periphrasis to serve as a model or as a scarecrow. But his
best was a masterpiece, in Béranger's style, entitled _The Nightcap!_
His intimate friends will always remember it. It praised glory, the
ladies, and philosophy so highly,--it was enough to make all the members
of the Caveau burst with the desire of emulating him.

He had the gift of being entertaining--a rare thing for a poet. Compare
his Chinese with his Roman plays, _Neera_ with _Lied Norman_, _Pastel_
with _Clair de Lune_, _Chronique de Printemps_ with _Sombre Eglogue_,
_Le Navire_ with _Une Soirée_, and you will see how productive and
ingenious he was.

He has dramatised all human passions; he has written about the mummies,
the triumphs of the unknown, the sadness of the stones, has unearthed
worlds, described barbaric peoples and biblical scenes, and written
lullabies. The scope of his imagination is sufficiently proven in _Les
Fossiles_, which Théophile Gautier called "the most difficult subject
ever attempted by any poet!" I may add that it is the only scientific
poem in all French literature that is really poetical. The stanzas at
the end, on the future man, show how well he understood the most
transcendent utopias. Among religious works, his _Colombe_ will perhaps
live as the declaration of faith of the nineteenth century. His
individuality manifests itself plainly in _Dernière Nuit_, _A Une
Femme_, _Quand vous m'avez quitté_, _Boudeuse_, etc., where he is by
turns dismal and ironical; whereas in _La fleur rouge_ it bursts out in
a singularly sharp and almost savage manner.

He does not look for effect; follows no school but his own individual
style, which is versatile, fluent, violent, full of imagination and
always musical. He possesses all the secrets of poetry; that is the
reason that his works abound with good lines, good all the way through,
as in _Le Lutrin_ and _Les Châtiments_. Take, for instance: "Is long
like a crocodile, with bird-like extremities." "A big, brown bear,
wearing a golden helmet." "He was a muleteer from Capua." "The sky was
as blue as a calm sea." "The thousand things one sees when mingling with
a crowd."

And this one of the Virgin Mary: "Forever pale from carrying her God."

In one sense of the word, he is classical. His _l'Oncle Million_ is
written in the most excellent French. "A poem! Make rhymes! It is
insanity! I have seen saner men put into a padded cell! Zounds! Who
speaks in rhymes? What a farce! Am I imaginative? Do I make verses? Do
you know, my boy, what I have had to endure to give you the extreme
pleasure of watching, lyre in hand, which way the winds blow? Wisely
considered, these frivolities are well enough at odd moments. I myself
knew a clerk that wrote verses."

Then further: "I say Léon is not even a poet! He a poet, come! You are
joking. Why, I saw him when he was no higher than that! What has he out
of the ordinary? He is a rattle-brained, stupid fool, and I warrant you
he will be a business man, or I will know the reason why!"

This style goes straight to the point. The meaning comes out so clearly
that the words are forgotten; that is, while clinging to it, they do not
impede or alter its purport.

But you will say these accomplishments are of no use for the stage; that
he was not a successful playwright. The sixty-eight performances of
_Montarcy_, ninety of _Hélène Peyron_, and five hundred of _La
Conjuration d'Ambroise_, prove the contrary. One must really know what
is suitable for the stage, and, above all things, acknowledge that the
dominant question is spontaneous and lucrative success. The most
experienced are at sea, not being able to follow the vagaries of public
taste. In olden times, one went to the theatre to hear beautiful
thoughts put into beautiful language. In 1830, furious and roaring
passion was the rage; later, such rapidity of action, that the heroes
had not time to speak; then, thesis; after that, witty sallies; and now
the reproduction of stupid vulgarism appears to monopolize the public

Bouilhet cared nothing for thesis; he hated insipid phrases, and
considered what is called "realism" a monstrosity. Stunning effects not
being acquired by mild colouring, he preferred bold descriptions,
violent situations--that is what made his poems really tragic. His plots
weakened sometimes towards the middle, but, for a play in verse, were it
more concise, it would crowd out all poetry. _La Conjuration d'Ambroise_
and _Mademoiselle Aïssé_ show some progress in this respect; but I am
not blind; I censure his Louis XIV. in _Madame de Montarcy_ as too
unreal; in _l'Oncle Million_ the feigned illness of the notary; in
_Hélène Peyron_ the too prolix scene in the fourth act, and in _Dolorès_
the lack of harmony between vagueness and precision. In short, his
personages are too poetical. He knew how to bring out sensational
effects, however. For instance, the reappearance of Marcelline at
Dubret's, the entrance cf Dom Pedro in the third act of _Dolorès_, the
Countess of Brissot in the dungeon, the commander in the last act of
_Aïssé_, and the ghostly reappearance of Cassius before the Empress
Faustine. This book was unjustly criticised; nor was the atticism
understood in _l'Oncle Million_, it being perhaps the best written of
all his plays, as _Faustine_ is the most labouriously contrived. They
are all very pathetic at the end, filled with exquisite things and real
passion. How well suited to the voice his poems are! How virile his
words, which make one shiver! Their impulsion resembles the flap of a
great bird's wings!

The heroic style of his dramas secured them an enthusiastic reception;
but his triumphs did not turn his head, as he knew that the best part of
a work is not always understood, and he might owe his success to the
weaker. If he had written the same plays in prose, perhaps his dramatic
talent would have been extolled; but, unfortunately, he used a medium
that is generally disliked. "No comedy in verse!" was the first cry, and
later, "No verses on the stage!" Why not confess that we desire none at

He never wrote prose; rhymes were his natural dialect. He thought in
rhymes, and he loved them so that he read all sorts with equal
attention. When we love a thing we love every part of it. Play-goers
love the green-room; gourmands love to smell cooking; mothers love to
bathe their children. Disillusion is a sign of weakness. Beware of the
fastidious, for they are usually powerless!

Art, he thought, was a serious thing, its aim being to create a vague
exaltation; that alone being its morality. From a memorandum I take the
following notes:

     "In poetry, one need not consider whether the morals are good, but
     whether they adapt themselves to the person described; thus will it
     describe with equal indifference good and bad actions, without
     suggesting the latter as an example."--PIERRE CORNEILLE.

     "Art, in its creations, must strive to please only those who have
     the right to judge it; otherwise it will follow the wrong

     "All the intellectual beauties and details of a tale (if it is well
     written) are so many useful facts, and are perhaps more precious to
     the public mind than the main points that make up the

Therefore art, being its own motive, must not be considered an
expedient. No matter how much genius we might use in the development of
a story used as an example, another might prove the contrary. A climax
is not a conclusion. We must not infer generalities from one particular
case; those who think themselves progressive in doing so are working
against modern science, which demands that we gather all the facts
before proclaiming a law.

Bouilhet did not like that moralising art which teaches and corrects; he
liked still less the frivolous art, which strives to divert the mind or
stir the feelings; he did not follow democratic art, being convinced
that, to be accessible to all, it must descend to the lowest level; as,
at this civilised period, when we try to be artless we become silly. As
to official art, he refused all its advantages, not wishing to defend
causes that are so short-lived.

He avoided paradoxes, oddities, and all deviations; he followed a
straight road; that is, the generous feelings, the immutable side of the
human soul. As "thoughts are the foundation of language," he tried to
think well so as to write well. Although he wrote emotional dramas, he
never said: "If Margot wept, the melodrama is good," as he did not
believe in replacing emotion by trickery. He hated the new maxim that
says, "One must write as one speaks." It is true, the old way of
wasting time in making researches, the trouble taken when bringing out a
book, would seem ridiculous nowadays; we are above all those things, we
overflow with fluency and genius!

Not that he lacked genius, however; he often made corrections while a
rehearsal was in progress. Inspiration, he held, cannot be made, but
must come naturally. He followed Buffon's advice, expressing each
thought by an image, and made his conceptions as vivid as possible; but
the _bourgeois_ declared that "atmosphere" was too material a thing to
express sentiment; and fearing their sound French judgment might be
disturbed and carried beyond its limits, they exclaimed "too much
metaphor"!--as if they had any to spare!

Few authors take such pains in choosing their words, in phrasing. He did
not give the title of author to those who possess only certain elements
of style. Many of the most praised would have been unable to combine
analysis, description, and dialogue!

He loved rhythm, in verse as well as in prose. He considered that
language without rhythm was tedious, and unfit to stand the test of
being read aloud. He was very liberal; Shakespeare and Boileau were
equally admired by him; he read Rabelais continually, loved Corneille
and La Fontaine, and, although very romantic, he praised Voltaire. In
Greek literature, he preferred first of all the Odyssey, then
Aristophanes; in Latin, Tacitus and Juvenal. He had also studied
Apuleius a great deal.

He despised public speeches, whether addressed to God or to the people;
the bigot's style, as that of the labourer; all things that reek of the
sewer or of cheap perfume. Many things were unknown to him; such as the
fanaticism of the seventeenth century, the infatuation for Calvin, the
continuous lamentations on the decline of the arts. He cared little for
M. de Maistre, nor did Prudhon dazzle him. In his estimation, sober
minds were nothing else than inferior minds; he hated affected good
taste, thinking it more execrable than bad; and all discussions on the
arts, the gossip of the critics. He would rather have died than write a
preface. The following page, taken from a note-book and entitled _Notes
et Projets_, will give a better idea: "This century is essentially
pedagogic. There is no scribbler, no book, be they never so paltry, that
does not press itself upon the public; as to form, it is outlawed. If
you happen to write well, you are accused of lacking ideas. Heavens! One
must be stupid indeed to want for ideas at the price they bring! By
simply using these three words future, progress, society, no matter who
you are, you are a poet. How easy to encourage the fools and console the
envious! Mediocre, profitable poetry, school-room literature, æsthetic
prattle, economical refuse, scrofulous products of an exhausted nation,
oh! how I detest you all from the bottom of my heart! You are not
gangrene, you are putrescence!"

The day after his death Théophile Gautier wrote: "He carried with pride
the old tattered banner, which had seen so many battles; we can make a
shroud of it, the valiant followers of Hernani are no more." How true!
He devoted his entire life to ideals, loving literature for itself; as
the last fanatic loves a religion nearly or quite extinct.

"Second-rate genius," you will say; but fourth-rate ones are not so
plentiful now! We are getting wide of the mark. We are so engrossed in
stupidity and vulgarism that we shun delicacy and loftiness of mind; we
think it a bore to show respect to great men. Perhaps we shall lose,
with literary tradition, that ethereal element which represented life as
more sublime than it really is; but if we wish our works to live after
us, we must not sneer at fame. By cultivating the mind we acquire some
wit. Witnessing beautiful actions makes us more noble.

If there should be somewhere two young men who spend their Sundays
reading poetry together, telling each other what they have written and
what they would like to write, and, while indifferent to all else,
conceal this passion from all eyes--if so, my advice to them is this:

Go side by side, through the woods, reciting poetry; mingle your souls
with the sap of the trees and the eternity of God's creations; abandon
yourselves to reverie and the torpors of sublimity! Give up your youth
to the Muse; it will replace all other loves. When you have experienced
the world's miseries; when everything, including your own existence,
seems to point towards one purpose; when you are ready for any
sacrifice, any test,--then, publish your works. After that, no matter
what happens, you will look on the wretchedness of your rivals without
indignation, and on their success without envy. As the less favoured
will be consoled by the other's success, the one with a stouter heart
will encourage the weaker one; each will contribute his particular gift;
this mutual help will avert pride and delay declination.

When one of you dies--as we must all die--let the other treasure his
memory; let him use it as a bulwark against weakness, or, better, as a
private altar where he can open his heart and pour out his grief. Many
times, in the stillness of night, will he look vainly for his friend's
shadow, ready to question him: "Am I doing right? What must I do? Answer
me!"--and if this memory be a constant reminder of his sorrow, it will
at least be a companion in his solitude.



[Illustration: B]By a majority of two votes--thirteen votes against
eleven (including that of the mayor and his six clerks)--you refused the
offer I made you to erect _free of cost_, at any place you might choose
in your city, a small fountain ornamented with the bust of Louis

As I am spokesman for the persons who contributed their money for this
purpose, I must protest in their name against this decision--that is, I
must reply to the objections uttered in your meeting of the 8th of
December last, an account of which appeared in the newspapers of Rouen
on the 18th of the same month.

The four principal objections were:

1.--That the subscription committee changed the destination of the

2.--That the municipal budget would be imperilled;

3.--That Bouilhet was not born in Rouen;

4.--That his literary talent is inadequate.

First objection (I use the words as they were printed): "Can the
committee modify the intention and substitute a fountain for a
tombstone? Will all the subscribers accept the substitution?"

We have modified nothing, gentlemen! the monument (a vague expression,
not precisely designating a tombstone) was suggested by M. Ernest Leroy,
ex-prefect of the "Seine-Inférieure," on the day of Bouilhet's funeral.

I immediately started a subscription, on which figured the names of an
imperial highness, George Sand, Alexandre Dumas, the great Russian
author Tourgeneff, Harrisse, a New York journalist, etc. Some
subscribers from the _Comédie Française_ are: Mmes. Plessy, Favart,
Brohan and M. Bressant; from the Opéra, M. Fauré and Mlle. Nilsson; in
short, after six months, we had about 14,000 francs at our disposal;
besides this, the marble was to be given to us by the _Beaux-Arts_
administration, and the sculptor chosen by us refused to accept any

Surely, all those people, known or unknown, did not give their time,
talent, or money, for the erection in a cemetery (which very few would
ever visit) of so costly a tombstone; one of those grotesque
constructions that are adverse to all religious feeling, to all
philosophies, whose derisive pride insults eternity!

No, gentlemen, what they desired was something less useful--and more
moral: that when passing Bouilhet's statue each one could say: "There
was a man who, in this avaricious century, devoted his whole life to the
worship of literature. This mark of respect is but justice to him, and I
have contributed my share to this reparation." This was their idea;
nothing else. Besides, how do you know? Who asked you to defend them?

The municipal council say: "As we understand it to be a tombstone, we
will give ten metres of ground and subscribe 500 francs." As this
decision implies a recrimination, let them keep their 500 francs! As to
the ground, we are willing to buy it. What is your price? But enough on
your first objection.

The second is dictated by excessive caution: "If the subscription
committee have made a mistake in their estimate, the city could not
leave it (the monument) unfinished; and we must even now foresee that,
if need be, we should have to make up the deficit."

Our estimate was submitted to your architect; as to our funds, if they
had been insufficient, rest assured the committee would have made an
appeal to the subscribers, or rather, would have supplied them out of
their own pockets. Thank heaven! we are rich enough to keep our word!
Your excessive anxiety seems somewhat rude.

Third objection: "Bouilhet was not born in Rouen!" Yet, M. Decorde says
in his report: "He is one of us"; and after the first performance of _La
Conjuration d'Ambroise_, M. Verdrel, ex-Mayor of Rouen, at a banquet
given in honor of Bouilhet, complimented him in the most flattering
terms; calling him "one of the geniuses of Rouen." For some years, it
was quite a fad of the smaller Parisian publications to ridicule the
enthusiasm of the people of Rouen for Bouilhet. In the _Charivari_, a
caricature represented the people of Rouen offering their respects to
_Hélène Peyron_ in the shape of bonbons and cakes; in another, I was
represented dragging the "Rouenese float."

But no matter. According to you, gentlemen, if an illustrious man is
born in a village consisting of thirty shanties, the monument must be
erected in that village, and not in the county seat? Then why not erect
it in the street, house, or even room where he was born? Suppose his
birthplace were unknown (history is not always decisive on this
point),--what would you do? Nothing. Am I right?

Fourth objection:--"His literary merit!"

I find in the report many big words on this subject: "Propriety";
"principles." "It must be risky." "It would be a great distinction; an
extreme honour; a supreme homage; which must be granted only with
extreme caution"; lastly, "Rouen is too large a pedestal for his
genius!" Really, such praise was not bestowed even upon the excellent M.
Pottier, "whose services to the city library were more conspicuous" (no
doubt, because it was your library). Nor, secondly, on Hyacinthe
Langlois! I knew him, gentlemen, better than all of you. Do not revive
this painful recollection! Never speak of this noble man! His life was a
disgrace to his countrymen! You call him "a great Norman celebrity,"
and, dispensing fame in fantastic manner, you quote among the
celebrities of which our city can boast (you can, but do not always)
Pierre Corneille! Corneille a celebrity? Really, you are severe! Then,
in the same breath, you mention Boieldieu, Lemonnier, Fontenelle, and,
gentlemen, you forget Gericault, the dean of modern painting;
Saint-Amant, the great poet; Boisgilbert, the first economist of France;
De La Salle, who discovered the mouth of the Mississippi; Louis Poterat,
inventor of porcelain in Europe,--and others!

That your predecessors should have forgotten to pay high, immoderate,
sufficient tribute, or even no tribute at all, to these "celebrities"
(Samuel Bochart, for instance, whose name adorns one of the streets of
Caen) is an indisputable fact! But does a previous injustice authorise
subsequent wrongs?

It is true, nothing has been erected to the memory of Rabelais,
Montaigne, Ronsard, Pascal, La Bruyère, Le Sage, Diderot, Vauvenargues,
Lamennais, Alexandre Dumas, and Balzac, in their native cities. On the
other hand, there is a statue of General de Saint-Pol at
Nogent-le-Rotrou; one of General Blanmont at Gisors; one of General
Leclerc at Pontoise; one of General Valhubert at Avranches; one of M.
Vaisse at Lyons; one of M. Billault at Nantes; one of M. de Morny at
Deauville; one of Ancelot at Havre; one of Ponsard at Valence; in a
public park at Vire, an enormous bust of Chênedollé; at Séez, in front
of the cathedral, a magnificent statue of Conté, etc.

This is all well enough, if the public purse has not suffered. Let those
who desire fame pay for it; let those who wish to pay tributes to
others, do so at their own cost. This is exactly what we wished to do.

So long as you were subject to no financial risks, your duty was to
demand of us a guaranty of execution. Besides the right to choose the
spot for our fountain, you had that of rejecting our sculptor and
choosing one yourselves. But you are too engrossed in the hypothetical
success of _Mademoiselle Aïssé_! "If this drama is not a success, might
not the erection of a public monument to his literary talent
[Bouilhet's] be looked upon with disfavour?"

M. Nion (who has special charge of the fine arts) thinks that if by
chance this drama should be a failure, the adoption of the proposed plan
would be "rashness" on the part of the municipal council. So, it would
seem that the bone of contention is the financial success of the piece!
If it is a success, Bouilhet is a great man; if a failure, he is not!
What a noble theory! The immediate success of a drama has nothing to do
with its literary value. There are numerous examples: Molière's
_L'Avare_ ran four nights; Racine's _Athalie_ and Rossini's _Barbier de
Seville_ were hooted. But rest easy, _Mademoiselle Aïssé_ was a great
success. It does not seem to matter to M. Decorde, your reporter, who
says: 'Bouilhet's talent is not proof against criticism'; and: 'His
reputation is not sufficiently established.' M. Nion says: 'His method
is more remarkable than his scenic conceptions! He is not original, not
a first-class author!' M. Decorde calls him 'an imitator of Alfred de
Musset, who was sometimes successful'! Really, my dear sir, you are not
as indulgent as you should be towards a contemporary,--you who, artfully
scoffing at this very city of Rouen, whose literary morals you defend so
well, have stigmatized Saint-Tard as 'a progressive borough.'[C] A nice
little place, where, "Despite the city toll, against which they grumble,
liquor-shops and cafés flourish."

 [C] Read at a public meeting of the Academy of Rouen, Aug. 7th, 1867.

If you had been asked for money, I should have understood your

"Here is another thing; we are continually taxed for the least reason."
'Tis true the bourgeois of Saint-Tard are not much given to generosity!

We expected better of you after your treatment of modern slang in your
epistle _Des importations Anglaises_[D] in which are these lines: "I
read in a paper that at Boulogne-sur-Mer a fashionable cricket-club had
arranged a match. And having so poorly aped fashion, can lay claim to
admiration." Attractive lines, but these are better: "I have read
somewhere that a miser of Rennes, knowing no better way to avoid giving
presents, had died on the New Year."

 [D] Read at the Academy of Rouen, at a public meeting, Aug. 7th, 1865.
 (See analytical summary of the works of the Academy of Rouen.)

You are really versatile--whether you praise photograph collections: "It
is a pleasant pastime, and everyone has a large collection," or
Saint-Ouen Park: "Your fate is that of the great stream once so sought
after, and you in your turn are deserted."[E] Or dancing: "As everything
must follow the fashion, Terpsichore has submitted to the law of
exchange. Ignoring prohibition, the Lancers have already reached us from
Albion."[F] Or dinners in town: "You must not expect me to divulge what
the menu consists of; but from the beginning the dessert adorns the
table. Alas! those pleasures are not had for nothing; a winter in the
city is more costly than one thinks!"[G] Or the marvels of modern
industry: "And now, thanks to special trains, we can visit Belgium or
Switzerland in eight days, and at much less cost. And when De Lesseps
has at last made a passage through the Suez Canal, the tourist can take
a pleasure trip to India or the extreme Orient as easily as travelling
through France."[H]

 [E] Letter of condolence to Saint-Ouen park.--Meeting of June 2, 1865.
 (See analytical summary of the Academy of Rouen.)

 [F] Winter in the city. (Letter.--Meeting of Aug. 6th, 1863.)

 [G] Winter in the city. (Letter.--Meeting Aug. 6th, 1863.)

 [H] Vacations. (Familiar letter.--Meeting of Aug. 6th, 1861.)

Do not stop, by any means! Write dramas even, you who have such a keen
conception of dramatic form! And rest assured, honourable sir, that if
your "reputation were sufficiently established," and although like Louis
Bouilhet's, your "talent" is not "proof against criticism," you are not
"original" not "a first-class author," you will never be called "an
imitator," even "sometimes successful," of Alfred de Musset!

Besides, your memory is at fault on this point. Did not one of your
colleagues of the Academy of Rouen, at the meeting of Aug. 7th, 1862,
praise Louis Bouilhet in flattering terms? He praised him so highly as a
dramatic author, and denied so energetically that he was an imitator of
Alfred de Musset, that when I wrote the preface to _Dernières Chansons_,
I simply copied the words of my old friend, Alfred Nion, brother of M.
Emile Nion, the gentleman that lacked boldness!

What was the gentleman "who has special charge of the fine arts" afraid
of? Of obstructing your public by-ways? Poets like this one (begging
your pardon) are not precisely innumerable. Since you have refused to
accept his statue, _notwithstanding_ our gift of a fountain, you have
lost one of your colleagues, M. Thubeuf. I do not wish to speak
unbecomingly, or to insult a sorrowful family I have not the honour of
knowing, but it seems to me that Nicholas-Louis-Juste Thubeuf is at the
present moment as forgotten as if he never had existed, while Bouilhet's
name is known over all Europe. _Aïssé_ is being played in St.
Petersburg and London. His plays and verses will be printed in six,
twenty, even a hundred years hence, and perhaps beyond that. A man is
seldom remembered unless he has been amusing or serviceable. You are not
able to be the former; grant us the latter. Instead of devoting your
time to literary criticism, a pastime that is beyond your powers, attend
to more serious things such as: the construction of a bridge; the
construction of a bonded-warehouse; the widening of the Rue du
Grand-Pont; the opening of a street, running from the Court-House to the
docks; the much delayed completion of the spire of the cathedral, etc.
Queer collection, indeed! It might be called "Museum of deferred

You are so afraid of compromising yourselves, so afraid to act, that
each outgoing administration hands its caution down to its successor.
You think caution such a virtue that it would be a crime for you to act.
Mediocrity is not detrimental, you think, but one must avoid being
enterprising. When the public clamours, a committee is at once
appointed; and from that time nothing is done. "We can do absolutely
nothing; we await the committee's decision." Invincible argument to
soothe public impatience!

Sometimes, however, you are bold enough to act; but it almost creates a
scandal: as when the ex-Rue de l'Impératrice, now the Rue Jeanne-Darc,
and the Square Solferino were opened in Rouen. Still: "Public parks are
the style now, and Rouen must have one!"[I]

 [I] M. Decorde's poetry. (Letter of condolence to Saint-Ouen Park,
 already cited.)

But the most important, though the most neglected, of all your projects
is the distribution of water throughout the city. Take Saint-Sever, for
example, where there is great need of it. What we proposed was, to
erect, at any street corner, a small fountain adorned with a statue.
Several of you had formally promised that our fountain should be
erected; we were therefore greatly surprised at your decision, inasmuch
as you are sometimes generous in these matters. The statue to Napoleon
I. on the Place Saint-Ouen is an instance. You gave, for the erection of
this masterpiece, which had cost 160,000 francs or thereabouts, the
small sum of 30,000 francs! The council had appropriated the first time
10,000 francs; the second time, 8,000; and the third time, 5,000, as
indemnity to the sculptor, because his _maquette_ had casually been
overthrown by the committee--always the committee! What aptitude for
art! For the statue of Pierre Corneille, proposed in 1805 and erected
twenty-nine years later, 1834, you spent 7,037.38 francs--not a cent
more. True, he was a great poet, and you are so considerate that you
prefer to deprive yourselves of a necessity, rather than honour a
second-rate poet!

Permit me to ask two questions: If this fountain, this useful public
monument which we offered, had represented anything but Louis Bouilhet's
bust, would you have refused it? If it had been intended for one of the
capitalists of our district, whose fortune runs into the millions, would
you have refused it? I doubt it.

Be careful, or you will be accused of despising those who cannot boast
of a fortune! For such cautious men, who consider success the main
object, you have sadly erred, gentlemen! The _Moniteur Universel_,
_l'Ordre_, the _Paris-Journal_, the _Bien Public_, the _XIXème Siècle_,
_l'Opinion Nationale_, the _Constitutionnel_, the _Gaulois_, the
_Figaro_, in fact, nearly all the papers, were against you. To convince
you, we will simply quote a few lines from the dean of modern critics,
Jules Janin:

"When the time came for definitive compensation, the last hope of Louis
Bouilhet's friends was dashed to the ground; they encountered all sorts
of obstacles. His statue was refused a place in a city that his fame had
made illustrious! His friends proposed in vain to erect a much needed
fountain, so that the statue ornamenting it might not be thought the
main object of this good deed. But how can unjust men understand the
cruelty of such a refusal? They might erect a statue to war, but to a
poet, never!"

Of the twenty-four composing the committee, eleven sided with us; and
Messrs. Vaucquier du Traversin, F. Deschamps and Raoul Duval spoke
eloquently in our favour. This affair is trifling in itself, but it may
be noted as a characteristic feature of the century--of your class.

"I address myself to you no longer, gentlemen, but to all the
_bourgeoisie_. Therefore I say: Conservators who conserve nothing, it is
time to follow a different path. You speak of decentralizing,
regenerating,--if so, rouse yourselves. Be active! Originate! French
nobles lost their prestige for having had, during two centuries, the
feelings of menials. The end of the _bourgeois_ is at hand, because
their feelings are those of the rabble. I do not see that they read
different papers, or hear different music, or that their pleasures are
more refined. In one as in the other, it is the same love of money; the
same wish to destroy idols; the same hatred of superior minds; the same
meanness; the same crass ignorance."

Of the seven hundred members of l'Assemblée Nationale, how many are
there who could name six kings of France, who know the first rudiments
of political economy, who have even read Bastiat? The whole municipality
of Rouen, who disowned a poet's talent, no doubt are ignorant of the
rules of versification. They do not need to know them, so long as they
do not meddle with poetry.

To be respected by those beneath us, we must respect those above us!
Before educating the rabble, educate yourselves! Enlightened people,
enlighten yourselves! Because of your disdain for superiority, you think
you have abundant good sense, you are positive, you are practical. One
is never really practical unless he carries it a little farther.... You
would not enjoy the benefits of industry if your ancestors of the
eighteenth century had had other ideals than common usefulness. How we
scoffed at Germany--at her dreamers, her ideologists, her ethereal
poets! Our milliards compensated her for the time well employed in
perfecting plans. It seems to me, it was the dreamer Fichte who
reorganized the Prussian army after Jena; and that the poet Koërner sent
a few Uhlans against us about 1813!

You practical? Come! You cannot even hold a pen or a gun! You let
convicts rob, imprison, and slaughter you! You have lost even the
brute's instinct of defence; and when not only your life, but your purse
(which ought to be dearer to you), is in danger, you lack the energy to
drop a ballot into a box! With all your capital, all your wisdom, you
never can form an association equal to _l'Internationale_! All your
intellectual efforts consist of trembling for the future. Think! Hasten!
or France, between a hideous demagogy and a stupid _bourgeoisie_, will
sink lower and lower!















_Entered at Stationers' Hall, London_





[Illustration: T]These pages are not a biography of Gustave Flaubert,
they are simply recollections; my own and those I have collected.

My uncle's life was passed entirely in the intimacy of the family,
between his mother and me; to relate the story of this life is to make
him better known, more loved and esteemed; in this way I believe that I
am fulfilling a pious duty towards his memory.

Before Gustave Flaubert's birth, my grandparents had had three children.
The eldest, Achilles, was nine years older than Gustave, and the two
other little ones were dead. Then came Gustave and another boy who died
in a few months; and finally my mother, Caroline, the last child.

She and her younger brother loved each other with a peculiar tenderness.
With but three years difference in their ages, the two little ones were
scarcely ever separated from each other. Gustave repeated everything he
learned to his sister; she was his pupil, and one of his greatest
pleasures was initiating her into literary composition. Later, when he
was in Paris, it was to her he wrote; through her was the daily news
transmitted to their parents, because that sweet communion had not been

I should say that the greater part of the facts relative to my uncle's
infancy have been told me by the old nurse who brought him up and who
died three years after him, in 1883. The familiarity permitted with a
child was followed in her case by a respect and worship for her master.
She was "full of him," recalling his least action, his least word. When
she said "Monsieur Gustave," she believed that she was speaking of an
extraordinary being. Those who knew him will appreciate the verity
contained in the admiration of this old servant.

Gustave Flaubert was four years old when Julie came to Rouen into my
grand-parents' service, in 1825. She came from the village of
Fleury-on-the-Andelle, situated in that pretty, smiling valley which
extends from Pont-Saint-Pierre to the great market-town of
Lyons-la-Forêt. The coast of the "Two Lovers" protected its entrance;
here and there was a château, sometimes surrounded by water and having
its drawbridge, again the superb estate of Radepont, the ruins of an old
abbey and the woods of the surrounding hills.

This charming country is fertile in old stories of love and of ghosts.
Julie knew them all. She was a skilful story-teller, this simple girl of
the people, and endowed with a naturally fine and agreeable mind. Her
ancestors, from father to son, had been postilions, rather bad fellows,
and hard drinkers.

While Gustave was small he would sit beside her for whole days. In order
to amuse him, Julie would join together all the legends she had heard
around the fire with those she had read, and, having been kept in bed a
year with a bad knee, she had read more than most women of her class.

The child was of a tranquil nature, meditative, possessing an
ingenuousness of which he retained traces during his whole life. My
grandmother has told me that he would remain for hours with a finger in
his mouth, absorbed, and with an almost stupid appearance. When he was
six years old an old domestic, called Pierre, used to amuse himself with
that innocence; he would say to little Gustave, if he teased for
anything, "Go now and look at the end of the garden, or in the kitchen
and see whether I am there." And the child would go and say to the cook:
"Pierre sent me to see whether he were here." He could not comprehend
that they were deceiving him, and while they laughed, would stand
thinking, trying to see through the mystery.

My grandmother had taught her oldest son to read, and, wishing to do as
much for the second, put herself to the task. The little Caroline,
beside Gustave, learned by degrees that she could not keep up with him,
and he, being forced to understand this from signs of which no one said
anything to him, began to weep large tears. He was, however, eager for
knowledge, and his brain worked continually.

Opposite the hospital, in a modest little house in the Rue de Lecat,
lived two old people, Father and Mother Mignot. They had an extreme
tenderness for their little neighbour. Times without number, the child
would open the heavy door of the Hôtel-Dieu, and run across to Father
Mignot's knee, upon a signal from him. And it was not the good woman's
strawberries that tempted him, but the stories the old man told him. He
knew a great many pretty tales of one kind and another, and with what
patience he related them! From this time Julie was supplanted. The child
was not difficult to please, but had insistent preferences; those that
he liked must be told him over and over again.

Father Mignot also read to him. _Don Quixote_ especially pleased my
uncle; he would never let it be taken from him. And he retained for
Cervantes the same admiration all his life.

In the scenes brought about by the difficulty of learning to read, the
last irrefutable argument with him was: "Why should I learn, since Papa
Mignot can read to me?"

But the age for entering school arrived. He must know once for all that
his old friend could not follow him there. Gustave put himself
resolutely to work, and at the end of a few months had caught up with
the children of his age. He entered the eighth class.

He was not what one would call a brilliant pupil. Continually failing to
observe some rule, and not troubling himself to understand his
professors, punishments abounded, and the first prize escaped him,
except in history, in which he was always first. In philosophy he
distinguished himself, but he never comprehended mathematics.

Generous and full of exuberance, he had some warm friends whom he amused
extremely by his unquenchable enthusiasm and good humour. His melancholy
times, for he had them even then, he passed in a region of his mind
accessible to himself alone, and not yet did he show them in his
exterior life. He had a great memory, forgetting nothing, neither
benevolences nor vexation of which he was the subject. Thus, he
preserved for his professor in history, Cheruel, a profound remembrance,
and hated a certain usher who had hindered him from reading his
favourite book during the study hour.

But his years at the college were miserable; he never could become
accustomed to things there, having a horror of discipline, and of
everything that savoured of militarism. The custom of announcing the
change of exercises by the beating of drums irritated him, and that of
filing the pupils in rank when they passed from one class to another
exasperated him. Constraint in his movements was a punishment, and his
walk with the procession every Thursday was never a pleasure; not that
he was feeble, but he had a natural antipathy for all that seemed to him
useless motion. His antipathy for walking lasted his whole life. Of all
exercises for the body, swimming alone pleased him; he was a very good

The dull, labourious days of school life were enlivened by outings on
Thursdays and Sundays. Then he saw his beloved family and his little
sister, which was a joy unequalled.

In the dormitory during the week, thanks to some hidden pieces of
candle, he read some of Victor Hugo's dramas, and his passion for the
theatre was kept warm. From the age of ten, Gustave composed tragedies.
These pieces, of which he was scarcely able to write the lines, were
played by him and his comrades. A great billiard hall opening from the
salon was given up to them. The billiard table, pushed to one end of
the room, served as a stage, which they mounted by means of a crock from
the garden. Caroline had charge of the decorations and costumes. His
mother's wardrobe was plundered for old shawls, which made excellent
peplums. He wrote to one of his principal actors, Ernest Chevalier:
"Victory! victory! victory! victory! You will come, and Amédée, Edmond,
Madame Chevalier, Mamma, two servants and perhaps some pupils, will be
here to see us play. We shall give four pieces that you do not know. But
you will soon learn them. The tickets of the first, second, and third
classes are made. There will be some armchairs. There will also be
scenery and decorations; the curtain is arranged. Perhaps there will be
ten or twelve persons. So we must have courage and not fear," etc.

Alfred Le Poittevin, some years older than Gustave, and his sister
Laura, were also a part of these representations. The family of
Poittevin was bound to that of Flaubert through the two mothers, who had
known each other from nine years of age at the _pension_. Alfred Le
Poittevin had a very great influence upon my uncle in his youth,
contributing to his literary development. He was endowed with a
brilliant mind, full of life and eccentricity. He died young, which was
a great grief. My uncle speaks of him in his preface to the _Last

       *       *       *       *       *

A few words about my grandparents and upon the moral and intellectual
development of my uncle.

My grandfather, whose traits have been sketched in _Madame Bovary_,
under those of Doctor Larivière, called in consultation to the bed of
the dying Emma, was the son of a veterinary of Nogent-on-the-Seine. The
situation of the family was modest: nevertheless, by denying themselves,
they sent their son to Paris to study medicine. He took the first prize
in the great competition and by this success was received as a doctor
free of further cost. Scarcely had he passed his examinations when he
was sent from Dupuytren, where he was house physician, to Rouen to
Doctor Laumonier, who was then surgeon of the hospital. This sojourn was
supposed to be only temporary, to restore his health, which had become
enfeebled from overwork and a life of privation. But, instead of
remaining for a few months, the young physician spent all his life
there. The frequent appeals of his numerous friends, or the hope of
arriving at a high place in the medical profession in Paris, which his
successful beginning had justified, never decided him to leave his
hospital and a people to whom he became profoundly attached.

But in the beginning, it was love which extended this sojourn,--love for
a young girl, a child of thirteen years, a goddaughter of Madame
Laumonier, an orphan in a boarding-school, who came each week to visit
her godmother.

Anne-Justine-Caroline Fleuriot was born in 1794 at Pont-l'Evêque in
Calvados. Through her mother she was allied to the oldest families in
Lower Normandy. "A great noise is made," said Charlotte Corday in one of
her letters, "about an unequal marriage between Charlotte Cambremer de
Croixmare and Jean-Baptiste Francois-Prosper Fleuriot, a doctor without
reputation." At thirty years of age Mademoiselle de Croixmare had been
sent back to the convent. But the obstacles were finally conquered, the
walls of the convent broken and the marriage took place. One year later
a daughter was born, and the mother died in giving her birth.

The child, left in the arms of its father, became for him an object of
tenderness and worship. At sixteen, my grandmother still remembered with
emotion her father's kisses. "He would undress me each evening," she
said, "and put me in my bed, wishing to take my mother's place." These
paternal cares soon ceased. Doctor Fleuriot, seeing that he was about to
die, gave his daughter in charge of two old ladies of Saint-Cyr who had
a little school at Honfleur. These ladies promised to keep her until her
marriage, but they, too, soon disappeared. Then her tutor, Monsieur
Thouret, sent the young girl to Madame Laumonier, sister of
Jacques-Guillaume Thouret, Deputy from Rouen to the States-General and
President of that Assembly. She came at the same time as my grandfather,
when they happened to see each other. Some months later they avowed
their love and promised themselves to each another.

The Laumonier household, like many others of that epoch, tolerated,
under a spiritual and gracious exterior, a certain lightness of morals.
The eminently serious nature of my grandmother and her love preserved
her from the dangers of such surroundings. Besides, my grandfather, more
far-seeing than she could be, wished her to remain in the
boarding-school until she was married. She was eighteen and he
twenty-seven at the time of their marriage. Their purse was slender, but
their hearts had little fear. My grandfather's portion was in his
future; my grandmother had a little farm which brought her a revenue of
four thousand francs.

The household was established in the Rue du Petit-Salut, near the Rue
Grand-Pont, a little street of narrow houses, touching one another,
where the sun could never penetrate. In my childhood my grandmother
would often take me through there, and, looking at the windows, would
say in a grave voice, almost religious: "Look, my child, the best years
of my life were passed there."

Descended from a Champenois and a Norman, Gustave Flaubert had the
characteristic signs of both races; his temperament was very expansive
and, at the same time, it was enveloped in the vague melancholy of the
people of the north. He was of even temper and gay, sometimes with a
touch of buffoonery; but ever at the bottom of his nature was an
undefined sadness, a kind of disquiet. He was physically robust,
enjoying full, strong pleasures; but his soul, aspiring to an
unattainable ideal, suffered without ceasing in not finding it. This
applied to the smallest things; because, as a seeker after the
exquisite, he had found that the most frequently recurring sentiment was
nearly always one of grief. This without doubt added to the sensibility
of his nervous system, which the violent commotions of a certain malady
(to the paroxysms of which he had had many relapses, especially in his
youth) had refined to an extreme point. That came also from his great
love of the ideal. This nervous malady threw a veil over his whole life;
it was a permanent fear obscuring even his happiest days. However, it
had no influence upon his robust health, and the incessant and vigorous
work of his brain continued without interruption.

Gustave Flaubert was something of a fanatic; he had taken art for his
god, and like a devotee, he knew all the tortures and all the
intoxications of the love to which he had sacrificed himself. After
hours passed in communion with abstract form, the mystic became man
again, was a _bon vivant_, laughed with a frank laugh, put a charming
gaiety into the recital of a story, or some pleasant personal
remembrance. One of his greatest pleasures was to amuse those about him.
What would he not do to raise my spirits when I was sad or ill?

It was easy to feel the honesty of his characteristics. From his father
he had received his tendency to experiment, that minute observation of
things which caused him to spend infinite time in accounting to himself
for the smallest detail, and that taste for all knowledge which made him
a scholar as well as an artist. His mother transmitted to him his
impressionability and that almost feminine tenderness which often made
his great heart overflow and his eyes grow moist at the sight of a
child. His taste for travel, he often said, came to him from one of his
ancestors who took part in the conquest of Canada. He was very proud of
counting up the brave ones among his own people, any one who had brains
and was not _bourgeois_; for he had a hatred of the _bourgeois_, and
continually employed that term as a synonym for mediocrity and envy, the
living only with the appearance of virtue and insulting all grandeur and

At the death of Laumonier, my grandfather succeeded him as
surgeon-in-chief of the Hospital. It was in this vast building that
Gustave Flaubert was born.

The Hospital at Rouen, of the construction of the last century, is not
wanting in a certain kind of character; the straight lines of its
architecture present something of chasteness and something of the
accepted modern types. It was situated at the end of Rue de Crosne, and
as one came from the centre of the town he found himself face to face
with the great arch of the iron gate, all black, behind which was a
court-yard with willows planted in rows: at the end and built around the
sides was the edifice.

The part occupied by my grandparents formed a wing, approached by a
private entrance. At the left of the central gate, a high door opened
upon a court where grass grew among the old paving stones. On the other
side of the pavilion was a garden forming an angle with the street,
bordered at the left by a wall covered with ivy and hemmed in at the
right by the hospital buildings. These are high grey walls, punctured
with little glazed holes to which meagre faces are glued, their heads
bound in white linen cloths. These ghastly silhouettes with hollow eyes
show great suffering and have a profound sadness about them.

Gustave's room was on the side of the entrance, in the second story. The
view was upon the hospital gardens overlooking the trees, under whose
verdure the patients sat on stone seats, when the weather was pleasant.
From time to time the white wing of a great bonnet of one of the sisters
could be seen rapidly crossing the courtyard, and sometimes there were
visitors, the parents of the invalids, or the friends of the attendants,
but never any noise or anything unexpected.

This severe and melancholy place could not have been without influence
upon Gustave Flaubert. He ever retained an exquisite compassion for all
human suffering, and also a high morality, which would scarcely be
suspected by those who are scandalised by his paradoxes.

No one was less like what is usually called an artist than my uncle.
Among the peculiarities of his character, the contrasts have always
astonished me. This man, so preoccupied with beauty in style and giving
form so high a place, even the highest, paid little attention to the
beauty that surrounded him; his own furniture was of heavy contour, not
the least delicate, and he had no taste for objects of art (bric-à-brac)
so much in vogue at that time.

He loved order with a passion, carrying it to a mania, and would never
work until his books were arranged in a certain fashion. He preserved
carefully all letters addressed to him. I have large boxes full of them.
Did he think there would be as much interest taken in them as there was
later in his own? Did he foresee that great interest in his
correspondence (which reveals the man in a light so different from that
revealed by his works), that he imposed upon me the task of collecting
and publishing it? No one can say.

He always observed extreme regularity in his work each day. He yoked
himself to it as an ox is yoked to a cart, without waiting for that
inspiration which expectation renders fruitless, as he said. His energy
of will for all that concerned his art was prodigious, and his patience
was tireless. Some years before his death, he would amuse himself by
saying: "I am the last of the Fathers of the Church," and, in fact, with
his long, maroon-coloured wrapper and a little black silk cap on the top
of his head, he was something like a recluse of Port-Royal.

I can see him now running over the terrace at Croisset, absorbed in
thought, stopping suddenly, his arms crossed, raising his head and
remaining for some moments with his eyes fixed on the space above, and
then resuming his walk again.

Life at the Hospital was regular, free, and good. My grandfather, who
had attained a high reputation, medically, gave his children all that
ease and tenderness could add to the happiness of youth. He had bought a
house in the country, at Deville near Rouen, which he disposed of one
year before his death, a railroad having cut through the garden only a
few metres from the house. It was then that he bought Croisset, on the
banks of the Seine.

Each year the entire family went to Nogent-on-the-Seine to the home of
the Flaubert parents. It was quite a journey, which we made in a
post-chaise, a veritable journey of the good old times. The thought of
them brought many an amusing remembrance to my uncle; but those which
were most charming to him were his vacations passed at Trouville, then
but a simple fishing village.

He met there some English people, the family of Admiral Collier, all of
whom were beautiful and intelligent. The oldest daughters, Gertrude and
Henrietta, soon became the intimate friends of my uncle and my mother.
Gertrude, now Madame Tennant, lately wrote me some pages about her
youth. I translate the following lines:--

     "Gustave Flaubert was then like a young Greek. In full adolescence,
     he was tall and thin, supple and graceful as an athlete,
     unconscious of the gifts that he possessed, physically and morally,
     caring little for the impression he produced and entirely
     indifferent to accepted form. His dress consisted of a red flannel
     shirt, great trousers of blue cloth, a scarf of the same color
     around his waist and a cap put on no matter how, or often
     bare-headed. When I spoke to him of fame, or of influence, as
     desirable things that I esteemed, he listened, smiled, and seemed
     superbly indifferent. He admired what was beautiful in nature, art
     and literature and lived for that, as he said, without any thought
     of the personal. He cared neither for glory nor for gain. Was it
     not enough that a thing was true and beautiful? His great joy was
     in finding something that he judged worthy of admiration. The charm
     of his society was in his enthusiasm for all that was noble; and
     the charm of his mind was its intense individuality. He hated all
     hypocrisy. What was lacking in his nature, was an interest in
     exterior and useful things. If any one happened to say that
     religion, politics, or business had as great an interest for them
     as literature or art, he would open his eyes in astonishment and
     pity. To be literary, an artist, that alone was worth living for."

It was at Trouville also that he met the musical editor, Maurice
Schlesinger and his wife. Many faces remained engraved on his memory of
his sojourns by the sea, among others that of an old sailor, Captain
Barbet and his little daughter, Barbette, a little humpback always
crying out to her dolls. Then there was Doctor Billard, and Father
Couillère, mayor of the commune, at whose house they had repasts that
lasted for six hours. He recalled these years in writing _A Simple
Soul_. Madame Aubin, her two children, the house where she lived, and
all the details so true, so appreciative, in this simple history, are of
striking exactness. Madame was an aunt to my grandmother; Félicité and
her parrot once lived.

In his last years, my uncle had an extreme desire to revive his youth.
He wrote _A Simple Soul_, after his mother's death, to try to accomplish
this. In painting the town where she was born, the hearth before which
she had played, his cousins, the companions of his childhood, he found
satisfaction, and that pleasure has brought from his pen his most
touching pages, those perhaps where he allows us to divine most clearly
the man under the writer. Recall that scene where Madame Aubin and her
servant are arranging the trifling possessions that had belonged to
Virginia. A large hat of black straw which my grandmother had worn awoke
in my uncle a similar emotion. He would take that relic from the nail,
look at it in silence, with eyes moistening, and then respectfully
replace it.

Finally, the happy time of leaving college arrived, but the terrible
question of choosing a profession, or taking up some career poisoned his
joy. As a vocation, he cared only for literature, and "literature" is
not a career; it leads to no "position." My grandfather wished his son
to be a savant and a law practitioner. To devote himself to the unique
and exclusive research for beauty of literary form, seemed to him almost
folly. A man of character, eminently strong, and of very active habits,
he comprehended with difficulty the nervous and somewhat feminine side
which characterises all artistic organisations. With his mother my uncle
found more encouragement, but she held to the point that he should obey
his father, and he was resolved that Gustave should make his way in
Paris. He set out, sad at leaving his own people, his sister especially.

At Paris he lived in the Rue de l'Est in a little bachelor apartment
where he found himself badly installed. The noisy, free and easy
pleasures of his comrades seemed to him stupid, so that he scarcely ever
participated in them. He would remain alone, open one of his law books,
which he would immediately put away, then extending himself upon his
bed, he would smoke and dream for hours. He became very weary of this
life, and grew sombre.

Pradier's studio alone put warmth in him again; he saw there all the
artists of the day, and in contact with them he felt his instincts grow.
One day he met Victor Hugo there. Some women visited the studio; it was
there he met Louise Colet. He often went to see the pretty English girls
of Trouville, to the salon of the editor, Maurice Schlesinger, and to
the hospitable house of his father's friend, Doctor Jules Cloquet, who
led him away one summer to the Pyrenees and to Corsica. The _Education
Sentimental_ was composed in remembrance of this epoch.

But in spite of friendship,--doubtless in spite of love,--a weariness
without bounds invaded him. His work, which was contrary to his taste,
became intolerable to him, his health was seriously affected and he
returned to Rouen.

My mother's marriage, her death the year following, and a little later
that of my grandfather, left my grandmother in such grief that she was
happy to keep her son near her. Paris and the Law School were abandoned.
It was then that, in company with Maxime Ducamp, he made the journey
through Brittany and they wrote together the book: _Over Strand and
Field_. (_A travers les Champs et les Grèves._)

Upon his return, he began his _Saint Antoine_, his first great work. It
had been preceded by many, of which fragments have been published since
his death. The _Saint Antoine_ composed then, was not the first known to
the public. This work was undertaken at three different times before it
was finally finished.

In 1849 Gustave Flaubert took a second journey with Maxime Ducamp. This
time the two friends directed their steps towards the Orient, which had
for so long been their dream!


My personal reminiscences date from his return. He came back at evening;
I was in bed, but they awakened me. He came to my little bed, raised me
suddenly and found me very droll in my long nightgown; I remember that
it extended far below my feet. He began to laugh very hard and then to
imprint great kisses on my cheeks which made me cry; I felt the cold of
his moustache, humid with dew, and was very glad when he put me down
again. I was then five years old and we were at the grandparents' house
at Nogent. Three months later I saw him again in England, as I still
remember distinctly. It was at the time of the first Exposition at
London. They took me there and the crowd frightened me; my uncle took me
on his shoulder, and I traversed the galleries overlooking everybody,
this time happy to be in his arms. They chose me a governess and we
returned to Croisset.

My uncle wished to begin my education immediately. The governess was to
teach me only English; my grandmother would teach me to read and write,
and for him was reserved history and geography. He believed it useless
to study grammar, holding that it taught itself in reading, and that it
was bad to charge the memory of a young child with abstractions, which
one begins where often they ought to finish.

Then began some years when we were all together.

Croisset, where we lived, is the first village on the bank of the Seine
in going from Rouen to Havre. The house, long and low in shape, all
white, must have been built about two hundred years. It had belonged to
the monks of the Abbey of Saint-Ouen whom it served for a country house,
and it pleased my uncle to think that Prévost had composed _Manon
Lescaut_ here.

In the interior court, where still remained the pointed roof and the
guillotine-shaped windows of the seventeenth century, the construction
was interesting, but the façade was ugly. It had undergone one of those
remodellings in bad taste that were seen so often in the first Empire
and the reign of Louis Philippe, at the beginning of the century. Above
the entrance, after the fashion of bas-reliefs, were some villainous
casts,--the seasons of Bouchardon--and the mantelpiece in the salon had
on each side a representation of a mummy in white marble, a souvenir of
the Egyptian country.

The rooms were few, but sufficiently large. The spacious dining-room,
which occupied the centre of the house on the ground floor, opened upon
the garden by a glass door flanked by two windows in full view of the
river. It was pleasing and gay.

On the next story, at the right, a long corridor separated the chambers,
and on the left was my uncle's study, or work-room. It was a large
apartment, with a very low ceiling, but very light, because of five
windows, of which three looked upon the whole length of the garden, the
other two being in the front of the house. There was a pretty view of
the turf, the beds full of flowers, the trees on the long terrace, and
the Seine enframed in the foliage of a splendid tulip tree.

The ways of the house were subordinated to the taste of my uncle, my
grandmother having, so to speak, no longer any personal life; she lived
for the happiness of others. Her tenderness was in alarm at the
slightest symptom of suffering which she thought she detected in her
son, and she sought to envelop him in a calm atmosphere. In the morning
she was on the defence against the least noise; towards ten o'clock the
violent ringing of a bell would be heard, and some one would go to my
uncle's room; not until then did every one awake. The domestic carried
him his letters and newspapers, deposited on the night table a glass of
fresh water and a well-filled pipe; then he opened the shutters, and the
light streamed in. My uncle would seize his letters, run over the
addresses, but rarely did he open one before taking a few whiffs from
his pipe; then, having read them all, he would tap the neighbouring wall
to call his mother, who would run in immediately and seat herself near
his bed until he was ready to rise.

He made his toilet slowly, sometimes interrupting himself to go to the
table and re-read some passage with which he was preoccupied. Although
little complicated, his dress was not lacking in care, and his neatness
expressed his refinement.

At eleven he came down to breakfast, where my grandmother, uncle Parain,
the governess and I, were already assembled. We all loved uncle Parain
infinitely. He had married my grandfather's sister and passed a great
part of the year with us. At this time my uncle ate little, especially
in the morning, finding that too much nourishment made him heavy and
unfit for work. Almost never did he eat meat; only eggs, vegetables, a
piece of cheese, fruit and a cup of cold chocolate. At dessert, he would
relight his pipe--a little gray pipe--get up and go into the garden,
where we followed. His favourite walk was the terrace walled in and
bordered on one side by old willows cut straight across like a gigantic
wall. This led to a little pavilion in the style of Louis XV., whose
windows looked out upon the Seine. Very often on summer evenings we
would all seat ourselves here under the balcony of graceful fretwork and
remain for some calm hours, chatting together; the night would come,
little by little, the last passers disappear; in the water opposite we
could just distinguish the silhouette of a horse drawing a boat which
glided along without noise; then the moon would begin to shine with a
thousand sparkling rays, like a fine diamond powder, scintillating at
our feet, while a light tug and two or three barques would slip from
their moorings and invade the river. These belonged to the eel fishers
who were starting at this time to set their nets.

My grandmother, who was very delicate, would cough, and my uncle would
say: "It is time to return to the Bovary." The Bovary? What was that? I
knew not. But I respected the name, those two words, as I respected
everything that came from my uncle, and believed vaguely that it was a
synonym for work, and work was writing, as was well understood. In fact,
it was during these years, from 1852 to 1856 that he composed this

We were rarely in the pavilion after breakfast. Fleeing from the midday
sun, we mounted to a spot called "The Mercury," because of a statue of
that god which formerly ornamented it. It was a second avenue situated
above the terrace, which led to a charming shady footpath; some old
yew-trees came out of the rocks in queer shapes, showing their bare
roots and jagged trunks; they appeared to be suspended, holding only to
the crumbling wall at the side by their roots. Above the alley was a
kind of roundpoint, a circular bench concealed under some huge
chestnut-trees. Through the branches one could see the tranquil waters
and above them a large expanse of sky.

From time to time, a cloud would rapidly go by and vanish. It was the
smoke of a steamboat; and immediately would appear between the
interlaced branches the pointed masts of ships which were being towed to
Rouen. Sometimes there would be seven, or nine. Nothing is more majestic
and beautiful than the pomp of these floating houses, which suggest a
far-off country. About one o'clock could be heard a sharp whistle; it
was "the steamer," as they say in the country. Three times a day this
boat crossed between Rouen and Bouille. The whistle was the signal of

"Come," my uncle would say, "come to your lesson, my Caro;" and dragging
me along, we would both go into his large study, where the shutters were
carefully closed to keep out the heat. It was pleasant there; one
breathed an odour of Oriental joss-sticks mingled with that of tobacco,
also with perfumes that were wafted in through the door of his
dressing-room. With a bound I would throw myself upon the great white
bear-skin, which I adored, and cover his great head with kisses. My
uncle, meantime, would be putting his pipe on the chimney-piece; and,
selecting another, would fill it, light it, and seat himself in his
leather armchair at the end of the room; he would cross one leg over the
other, turn his back, take a file and begin to polish his nails, saying:
"Let us see, where were you? Now, what do you remember from yesterday?"

"Oh! I know the history of Pelopidas and Epaminondas very well."

"Relate it, then."

I began, but naturally I became confused or I had forgotten.

"I am going to tell it to you once more," he would finally say.

Then I would approach and sit facing him on a long chair or upon the
divan. I listened with a palpitating interest to the recitals that he
made so amusing to me.

It was thus I learned all my ancient history, coming to the facts one
after another, making reflections within my power, but remaining truly
and profoundly observant; mature minds would have been able to listen
without finding anything puerile in his teaching.

Sometimes I would stop him and ask: "Was he good?" And this question,
applied to such men as Cambyses, Alexander or Alcibiades, was somewhat
embarrassing for him to answer.

"Good?" he would say, "Yes ... these were not very proper gentlemen, but
... that is not the point."

But I was not satisfied, and I found that "my old boy," as I called him,
knew even the smallest details of the people we were studying about.

The history lesson finished, we passed on to geography. He never wished
me to study from a book. "Images, as many as possible," he said, "are
the best means of learning in childhood." We had charts, spheres, games
of patience which we could make and unmake together; then, to explain
the difference between islands, peninsulas, bays, gulfs and promontories
he would take a shovel and a pail of water and, in a little walk in the
garden, make models of these in nature.

As I grew older, the lessons became longer and more serious. He
continued them up to my seventeenth year, until my marriage. When I was
ten years old, he obliged me to take notes while he was speaking, and
when my mind was capable of comprehending it, he began to make me notice
the artistic side of things, especially in my reading.

He considered no book dangerous that was well written; he held this
opinion because of his intimate union of foundation and form: anything
well written could not be badly thought out or basely conceived. It was
not the crude detail, the raw fact that was pernicious or harmful, or
likely to soil the intelligence; all that is in nature. There is nothing
moral or immoral but the soul of him who represents nature, rendering it
grand, beautiful, serene, small, ignoble, or tormenting. Such a thing as
an obscene book well written could not exist, according to him.

Certainly he was very liberal in the reading he recommended to me, yet
he was decided in allowing me nothing for amusement alone, and never
would permit me to leave a book unfinished. "Continue to read the
history of the Conquest," he wrote me, "and do not allow yourself to
begin books and then leave them for some time. When one undertakes to
read a book, it should be finished at a single blow. It is the only way
of seeing it as a whole and of deriving any profit from it. Accustom
yourself to following this idea. Since you are my pupil, I do not wish
you to have that disconnected way of thinking, a mind unable to follow
out anything, which is the attribute of persons of your sex."

He held to this intellectual discipline, judging it to be very useful.
His teaching sought to impress itself upon my mind in the strongest
manner possible. So easy in some ways, he was very rigorous on certain
points; thus, he wished that the virtue of a woman consisted not alone
of purity of morals, but that she might add that to what is exacted in
an honest man.

My lesson finished, my uncle would seat himself at his table in his
high-back, oak armchair and there remain until seven o'clock, allowing
himself only a moment from time to time, to go to his window and breathe
large whiffs of air. Then we dined, and chatted together awhile, as
after breakfast. At nine o'clock, or ten at the latest, he would again
take up his work with zeal, prolonging it far into the night. He was
never more in the spirit of it than in these solitary hours when no
sound could come to trouble him.

He remained thus many months in succession, seeing no one but Louis
Bouilhet, his intimate friend, who came each Sunday, staying until
Monday morning. A part of the night was passed in reading the work of
the week. What delightful hours of expansion! There were loud cries of
exclamation without end, some controversy over rejecting or keeping some
epithet, or some reciprocal enthusiasm!

Three or four times a year, my uncle would go to Paris to pass some days
at the house of the Helder's. All his distractions were limited to short
absences. However, in 1856, having decided to publish _Madame Bovary_,
he went to live at No. 42 Boulevard du Temple, in a house belonging to
M. Mourier, director of the theatre of the _Délassements-Comiques_.
Bouilhet was presenting his first piece, _Madame de Montarcy_, at the
Odéon that year. He had already preceded his friend, left Rouen and his
profession as tutor to live entirely by letters. My grandmother was not
long in joining them; she spent some of the winter months in a furnished
apartment, and two years later installed herself in the same house with
her son, on the story above.

Although living so near, we were very independent. My uncle had taken
into his service a valet named Narcisse, the queerest individual
possible; he had been a domestic in my grandfather's house, and his
drollery as well as his zeal prompted my uncle to engage him. Narcisse,
an established farmer, married, and the father of six children, had left
his wife and family with the greatest eagerness to follow the son of his
old master for whom he had a respect amounting to fanaticism, but joined
to that the greatest forgetfulness of difference in station. One day he
returned completely drunk; my uncle perceived this and seated, or rather
tumbled him into a chair in the kitchen. He aided him to reach his room,
and to stretch himself out on the bed. Then Narcisse, in a supplicating
air, said: "Ah! sir! complete your goodness by pulling off my boots."
And this was done by the too indulgent master!

Our friends amused themselves with the reflections of this servant and
his repartee; certain of them sent him their books. He was often found
sitting in the study, or before a bookcase, with a feather duster under
one arm and a book in his hand; he read in a high voice, imitating his
master. But these artistic endeavours, joined to the abuse of small
glasses, completely disordered the brain of the poor devil; and he was
obliged to return to the fields.

During these winter months, I regretted the summer days because the
great success of _Madame Bovary_ followed by a famous lawsuit had given
to my uncle a celebrity that made him sought after. He went out much and
I saw less of him.

The apartment of the Boulevard du Temple blossomed on certain days. It
was a pleasure to give little repasts there to our intimate friends; I
remember those in which I took part and which had around the table
Sainte-Beuve, Monsieur and Madame Sandeau, Monsieur and Madame Cornu,
these last brought by Jules Duplan, the faithful friend of Gustave
Flaubert; then Charles d'Osmoy, and Théophile Gautier came very often,
and on Sundays the door was open wide and friends were numerous.

This epoch was for my uncle the beginning of relations which lasted
until his death. He assiduously frequented the _salon_ of the Princess
Mathilde. He found gathered there scholars, artists, and some of his
intimate friends; he relished strongly this intellectual and worldly
life. He went also to the Tuileries and was invited to Compiègne; from
his sojourn at the castle there came to him the thought of a great
romance which should bring out the French and the Turkish

Then he also had dinners at Magny which, in the beginning, numbered only
half a score of people: Sainte-Beuve, Théophile Gautier, the two De
Goncourts, Garvarni, Renan, Taine, the Marquis of Chennevières, Bouilhet
and my uncle. Their conversations abounded in the highest interest.

Finally, the month of May arrived and we returned to the tranquil life
at Croisset.

Beginning in 1860 to write _Salammbô_, my uncle soon perceived that a
voyage to the site of what was once Carthage was necessary to him, and
he set out for Tunis. On his return he accompanied his mother to Vichy.
We went there the two years following.

My grandmother's health not permitting her to go out with me, my uncle
took her place; he accompanied me in my walks and on Sunday even took me
to church, in spite of the independence of his beliefs, or rather
because of that independence. We often went when it was pleasant, and
seated ourselves under the little white-leaved poplars along the main
walk; he would read while I sketched, and interrupting his reading, he
would speak to me of what it suggested to him, or begin to recite verse,
or entire pages of prose which he knew by heart. What he most often
recited was Montesquieu and Chateaubriand. His memory disclosed itself
equally in dates or in historic facts. But let him recall some literary
remembrance and he was truly surprising; in a volume read twenty years
before he could name the page and the spot on the page which had pleased
him; and, going straight to his library and opening the book, he would
say: "Here it is," with a certain satisfaction which made the light
shine in his eyes.

At Vichy he returned to old acquaintances: Doctor Villemain whom he met
in Egypt, and Lambert Bey, one of the adepts of the _Père Enfantin_.

My marriage came in 1864, changing all our life. I lived a great part of
the year at Neuville near Dieppe, going no oftener to Croisset than
twice a year, in the spring and in the autumn. My uncle made only short
visits at my house; any change of place troubling him extraordinarily
and disturbing his work. It was necessary for him to work at an extreme
tension, and it was impossible for him to find himself in this state
elsewhere than at his great round table in his study, where he was sure
that nothing would distract him. This love of tranquillity, which he
carried later to an excess, had begun already to exercise a tyranny upon
his least action. At the end of a few days, I could see that he was
nervous and I felt that he was desirous of returning to his beloved

For ten years our lives were less mingled, save for the month of April
in 1871. When I returned from England where I had passed some months, I
found him much changed. The war had made a profound impression upon him;
his "old Latin blood" had revolted at this return to barbarity. Obliged
to flee from his house,--for he would not for anything in the world be
under the necessity of speaking to a Prussian,--he took refuge in Rouen
in a little lodging near the Havre quay where he was badly housed. This
seemed to be a bereavement; my grandmother, now aged, no longer occupied
herself with the management of the household, and instead of
transporting their furniture and necessary objects from the country to
the town (and that would have been easy to do), they left all at
Croisset, where a score of men, officers and soldiers, had established

The fatal lack of employment that a disturbed life brings, the thought
of his study, his books, his home soiled by the presence of the enemy,
brought to my uncle's heart and mind frightful anxiety and grief. The
arts appeared to him dead. Why? Was it possible? Could it be that an
intelligent country would cause these billows of blood? But there were
scholars who were holding Paris in siege, and hurling projectiles
against the monuments!

He thought that he should return to his house to find nothing there. He
was deceived; save some trifling objects without value, such as cards, a
penknife, or a paper-cutter, they had respected absolutely all that
belonged to him. One thing only about the return was suffocating,--the
odour of the Prussian, as the French call it, an odour of greased boots.
The walls were impregnated with it, through their stay there of three
long months, and it was necessary to paint and redecorate the rooms in
order to get rid of it.

Six months passed without my uncle being able to write, and finally, he
was at my house at Neuville when, yielding to my supplications, he began
again, this time finishing _The Temptation of Saint Antony_.

There was in Gustave Flaubert's nature a sort of impossibility of being
happy, and a tendency continually to turn back in order to compare and
analyse. Even at the age of the most absolute joys, he dissected them so
that he saw nothing in them but the skeleton of pleasure.

When, on descending the Nile, he wrote the pages entitled: _Au bord de
la Cange_, he regretted his home on the banks of the Seine. The
landscape under his eye never seemed to captivate him; it was later that
he recalled it with pleasure, while man, with his foolishness, and his
conversation, was intensely interesting to him. "Foolishness," he would
say, "enters my pores." And when he was reproached for not going out
more, or for remaining so much in the country, he would say indignantly:
"But nature devours me! If I remain extended on the grass for a long
time, I believe that I can feel the plants growing under my body"; and
he would add: "You don't know what trouble confusion and change make

As to himself, in the most grievous events of his life he wrote down his
sensations, seeking, scrutinising the most remote corners of his nature,
however veiled or intimate. A fact in a newspaper, a droll story of
people he knew, stupidities written by authoritative pens, the
manifestation of their self-conceit or their greed, were to him so much
subjects of experience that he recorded them and slipped them into his
portfolio; he could not comprehend the art that sought only gain;
according to him, mere money could not reward the artist; and between
the five hundred francs which the editor Michael Levy sent him for his
five years' work on _Madame Bovary_, and the ten thousand francs which
he received some years later for _Salammbô_, he saw very little

In his note-books of travel in the Pyrenees at seventeen years of age,
he pointed out the silliness of the reflections of travelers about Lake
Gaube and the inn near Gavarnie. Even here is the beginning of the
_Dictionary of Accepted Ideas by Bouvard and Pécuchet_. This strong
sense of the comic was useful in opposition to his love for the ideal,
as his love for farce corrected his inborn melancholy.


In 1875, the loss of a considerable sum of money changed our
circumstances. My husband saw all that he had disappear in commercial
transactions. Married under the dowry laws so common in Normandy, I
could dispose of only a part of my property in his favour. My uncle made
up the deficit with an entirely spontaneous generosity, giving all that
he possessed to save our position. Nothing remained for him to live on
except the interest that we had engaged to pay him, and the very
mediocre revenue from his books. To sell Croisset was the thought which
first presented itself to our minds; this property had been given me by
my grandmother, with the expressed wish that her son Gustave should
continue to live there. This consideration, added to my uncle's
repugnance to separating himself from it, decided us in the resolution
to keep it. Loneliness weighed upon his tender nature, and an
arrangement of a life in common was agreeable to him. He passed the
greater part of the time in the country; and, in Paris, having taken his
apartment again in the Rue Murillo, we took one on the same landing, on
the fifth floor of a house situated at the angle of the Rue du
Faubourg-Saint-Honoré and the Avenue de la Reine-Hortense.

We were then together as formerly, and our confidential talks were more
frequent, deeper and more intimate than those of my childhood's days. In
the retired life that we led, my uncle spoke to me as to a friend; we
talked on all subjects, but preferably those of literature, religion and
philosophy, which we discussed without any anger or disagreeable
results, although we were often of a different opinion.

It is easy to see that a man who could write _Saint Antoine_ must be
superabundantly occupied with religious thought as found in humanity,
and its manifold manifestations. The old theogonies interested him
extremely, and the excessive in all people had an infinite attraction
for him. The anchorite, the recluse at the Thebans, provoked his
admiration, and he felt towards them as towards the Bouddha on the bank
of the Ganges. He often re-read his Bible. That verse of Isaiah: "How
beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good
tidings!" he thought sublime. "Reflect, sift the thing to the bottom,"
he would say to me enthusiastically.

A pagan on his artistic side, he was, through the needs of his soul,
pantheistic. Spinoza, whom he much admired, did not fail to leave his
imprint upon him. Besides, no belief of his mind, save his belief in
beauty, was so fixed that it was not capable of listening to the other
side, and admitting even, up to a certain point, the obverse. He loved
to repeat with Montaigne, what was perhaps the last word of his
philosophy, that it is necessary to sleep upon the pillow of doubt.

But let us return to the work of the day. Here he is happy in reading to
me the freshly hatched phrase that he has just finished; I assist, as a
motionless witness, the slow creation of these pages so labouriously
elaborated. In the evening, the same lamp lights us, I, seated beside
the large table, where I am employed with my needlework, or in reading;
he, struggling with his work. Bent forward, he writes feverishly, then
turns his back upon his work, strikes his arms upon those of his chair
and utters a groan, for a moment almost like a rattle in the throat; but
suddenly his voice modulates sweetly, swelling proudly: he has found the
desired expression and is repeating the phrase to himself. Then he gets
up and walks around his study with long steps, scanning the syllables as
he goes and is content; it is a moment of triumph after exhausting

Having arrived at the end of a chapter, he would often give himself a
day of rest in order to read over at his ease what he had written, to
see the "effect." He read in a unique fashion, chanting and emphasising
so much that at first it seemed exaggerated, but ending in a way that
was very agreeable. It was not only his own works that he read in this
way; from time to time he would give real literary sessions, becoming
impassioned with the beauty that he found; and his enthusiasm was
communicative, so that it was impossible to remain cold, or keep from
vibrating with him.

Among the ancients, Homer and Æschylus were his gods. Aristophanes gave
him more pleasure than Sophocles, Plautus than Horace, whose merit he
thought over-praised. How many times have I heard him say that he would
prefer above all things to be a comic poet!

Shakespeare, Byron, and Victor Hugo he profoundly admired, but he never
comprehended Milton. He said: "Virgil has created the amorous woman,
Shakespeare the amorous young girl; all others are more or less
far-removed copies of Dido or Juliette."

In French prose he read again and again Rabelais and Montaigne,
recommending them to all who wished to meddle with writing.

Literary enthusiasms had always existed in him; one that he loved to
recall was that he experienced on his first reading of _Faust_. He read
it on the eve of Easter as he was leaving college; instead of returning
to his father's house, he found himself, not knowing how, in a spot
called "Queen's walk." It is a beautiful promenade planted with high
trees upon the left bank of the Seine, a little removed from the town.
He was seated upon the steep bank; the clocks in the churches across the
river resounded in the air and mingled with the poetry of Goethe.
"Christ had arisen, peace and joy were complete. Announce then, deep
bells, the beginning of the Easter day, celestial sounds, powerful and
sweet! Why seek you me in the dust?" His head was turned and he came
back like one lost in revery, scarcely realising things of earth.

How could this man, so great an admirer of the beautiful, find so much
happiness in uncovering human turpitude, especially that found outside
the realm of virtue? Must it not be from his worship of the true? His
revelations seemed to be the confirmation of his philosophy and he
rejoiced in them through love of that truth which he believed he was

Numerous projects of work occupied his mind. He mentioned especially a
story of the people of Thermopylæ that he intended to begin. He found
that he had lost too much time in the preparatory research for his works
and wished to employ the rest of his life in art, pure art. His belief
in form would cross his mind; this caused him one day to cry out in his
whimsical spontaneity: "I attach myself to the Ideal!" Then immediately
laughing at our applause, he said: "Not bad, that! Poetry, isn't it? I
begin to comprehend art."

A true artist, for him, never could be wicked, for an artist is before
all an observer; the first quality for an observer is to possess good
eyes. If they are blurred with passion, or personal interest, things
escape them; a good heart makes a good mind!

His worship of the beautiful led him to say: "The moral is not only a
part of the æsthetic, but its condition foundationally."

Two kinds of men were especially displeasing to him and were ever a
subject for his disgust: the critic who never produced anything, but
judges all things (to whom he preferred a candle merchant), and the
educated gentleman who believes himself an artist, who has imagined
Venice different from what it is, and has had disillusions. When he met
a person of this kind, there was an explosion of scorn which showed
itself, perhaps through cutting answers (he would pretend that he had no
imagination, never fancied anything nor knew anything) or through a
silence still more haughty.

Up to the time of his death, I had the advantage of continuing that
serious, calm life from which my feminine mind had so much to gain. Many
of my uncle's best friends were dead: Louis Bouilhet, Jules Duplan,
Ernest Lemarié, Théophile Gautier, Jules de Goncourt, Ernest Feydeau,
and Sainte-Beuve, while others were far away. His meetings with Maxime
Ducamp were only rare; from 1852 the two friends no longer followed the
same routes, as their correspondence witnesses.

In friendship my uncle was perfect; of a devotion absolutely faithful,
without envy, happier in the success of a friend than in his own; but he
brought into his friendly relations some exactions that those who were
the object of them found it difficult to support. The heart that was
bound to him by a common love of art (and all his deep attachments were
upon this basis) should belong to him without reserve.

Wherefore, five years before his death, he received this short note in
response to a package containing his _Three Stories_:--

     "MY DEAR FRIEND: I thank you for your volume. I have not read any
     of it, for I am absolutely besotted by the finishing of a work of
     mine. I should have it done in eight or ten days and I shall then
     reward myself by reading you. Yours,


His heart suffered and recoiled on itself bitterly. Where now was the
ardent desire of knowing quickly the thought that springs from the brain
of a friend? Where were those beautiful years of youth? where was the
faith in each other?

Nevertheless, there were still some natures that he loved much. Among
the young, in the first rank, was the nephew of Alfred Le Poittevin, Guy
de Maupassant, his "disciple," as he loved to call him. Then, his
friendship with George Sand was for his mind no less than for his heart,
a great comfort. But of his own generation, he often said that only
Edmond de Goncourt and Ivan Tourgenief remained; with them he tasted
the full joy of æsthetic conversation. Alas! they became more and more
rare, these hours of intimate talks, because, for this overflow of soul
it was necessary to find minds taken up with the same things, and the
sojourns in Paris became farther and farther apart. His solitude, always
terrible, became unbearable when I was not there, and often, to escape
it, he would call on the old nurse of his childhood. At her fireside his
heart would become warm again. In a letter to me he said: "To-day I have
had an exquisite conversation with 'Mademoiselle Julie.' In speaking of
the old times, she brought before me a crowd of portraits and images
which expanded my heart. It was like a whiff of fresh air. She has (in
language) an expression of which I shall make use. It was in speaking of
a lady, 'She was very fragile,' she said, 'thundering so!' _Thundering_
after _fragile_ is full of depth! Then we spoke of Marmontel and of the
_New Heloise_, something that could not be done among ladies nor
scarcely among gentlemen."

When he was much alone, he would sometimes take up his love of nature,
which would relieve him from his work for a moment. "Yesterday," he
wrote, "in order to refresh my poor noddle, I took a walk to Canteleu.
After travelling for two solid hours, Monsieur took a chop at Pasquet's,
where they were making ready for New Year's Day. Pasquet showed a great
joy at seeing me, because I recalled to him 'that poor Monsieur
Bouilhet'; and he sighed many times. The weather was so beautiful, the
moon so bright in the evening that I went out to walk again at ten
o'clock in the garden, 'under the glimmer of the stars of night.' You
cannot imagine what a lover of nature I have become; I look at the sky,
the trees and the verdure with a pleasure I never knew before. I could
wish to be a cow that I might eat grass."

But he would seat himself again at his table and let many months slip by
without being seized with the same desire.

At the beginning of the year 1874, he began _Bouvard and Pécuchet_, a
subject which had interested him for thirty years. He intended it at
first to be very short--a novel of about forty pages. Here is how the
idea came to him: Seated with Bouilhet on a bench of the Boulevard at
Rouen, opposite the asylum for the aged, they amused themselves by
dreaming of what they should be some day; and, having begun gaily the
supposed romance of their existence, suddenly they cried: "And who
knows? we may finish, perhaps, like these old decrepits in this asylum."
Then they began to imagine the friendship of two clerks, their life,
their retiring from business, etc., etc., in order finally to finish
their days in misery. These two clerks became "Bouvard and Pécuchet."
This romance, so difficult of execution, discouraged my uncle at more
than one undertaking. He was even obliged to lay it aside and go to
Concarneau to join his friend George Pouchet, the naturalist.

Down there, on the Brittany strand, he began the legend of _Saint Julian
the Hospitaller_, which was immediately followed by _A Simple Soul_ and
_Hérodias_. He wrote these three stories rapidly and then took up
_Bouvard and Pécuchet_ again, a heavy care, under which he must die.

Few existences bear witness to unity so complete as his: his letters
show that at nine years of age he was preoccupied with art as if he
were fifty. His life, as has been stated by all those who have spoken
about him, was, from the awakening of his intelligence to the day of his
death, the long development of the same passion--Literature. He
sacrificed all to that; his love and tenderness were never separated
from his art. Did he regret in the last years of his life that he had
not followed the common route? Some words which came from his lips one
day when we were walking beside the Seine made me think so: we had just
visited one of my friends whom we had found among her charming children.
"They are in the right," he said to me, alluding to that household of
the honest and good family; "Yes," he repeated to himself, gravely,
"they are in the right." I did not trouble his thoughts, but remained
silent by his side. This walk was one of our last.

Death took him in full health. It was at evening, and his letter was all
good cheer, expressing the joy he felt at seeing himself confirmed in a
conjecture that he had made regarding a plant. He had written me these
interesting lines upon his work, of which only a few pages remained: "I
am right! I have the assurance of the Professor of Botany in the _Jardin
des Plantes_, and I was right; because the æsthetic is true, and to a
certain intellectual degree (when one has some method) one is not
deceived; the reality does not yield to the ideal, but confirms it. It
has been necessary for me to make three journeys into different regions
for _Bouvard and Pécuchet_ before finding their setting, that best fit
for action. Ah! ha! I have triumphed! I flatter myself it is a success!"

He had made arrangements to set out for Paris to join me again. It was
the day of his departure, he was coming from the bath and mounting to
his study; the cook was going up to serve his breakfast, when she heard
him call and hastened to him. Already his tense fingers could not loosen
a bottle of salts which he held in his hand. He tried to utter some
words that were unintelligible in which she could distinguish:
"Eylau--go--bring--avenue--I know him--"

A letter received from me that morning had told him that Victor Hugo was
going to live in the Avenue d'Eylau; it was without doubt a remembrance
of this news that he had in mind, as well as an appeal for help. He was
cared for by his neighbor and friend, Doctor Fortin.

The last glimmer of his thought evoked the great poet who had caused his
whole nature to vibrate. Immediately he fell into unconsciousness. Some
moments later they found that he no longer breathed. Apoplexy had been
the thunderbolt.


PARIS, _December, 1886_.



_Monday Night, June, 1853_.

[Illustration: F]Feeling myself in a grand humor of style this morning,
after giving my niece her lesson in geography, I seized upon my
_Bovary_, sketching three pages in the afternoon which I have just
rewritten this evening. Its movement is furious and full, and I shall
doubtless discover a thousand repetitions which it will be necessary to
strike out as soon as I come to look it over a little. What a miracle it
would be for me to write even two pages in a day, when heretofore I have
scarcely been able to write three in a week! With the _Saint Antony_
that was, indeed, the way I worked, but I can no longer content myself
with that. I wish _Bovary_ to be at the same time heavier and more
flowing. I believe that this week will see me well advanced, and that in
about a fortnight I shall be able to read Bouilhet the whole of the
beginning (a hundred and twenty pages), which, if it goes well, would be
a great encouragement, and I shall have passed if not the most difficult
part at least the most annoying. But there are so many delays! I am not
yet at the point where I can credit our last interview at Mantes. What
foolish and severe vexation you must have passed through that week, my
poor friend! About cases like M----, who throw themselves at your feet,
the best thing to do is to pass the sponge over them immediately; but if
you would care the least bit in the world for the elder Lacroix or the
great Sainte-Beuve to receive something on the face or elsewhere, you
have only to tell me and it is a commission of which I shall acquit
myself with despatch on my next visit to Paris, in the old-time manner
between two journeys; but could you not show Lacroix the door with a
single word? What good is there in discussing, replying to, and angering
him? This is all very easy to say in cold blood, is it not? It is always
this accursed passion element which causes us all our annoyances. How
true is Larochefoucauld's remark: "The virtuous man is he who allows
himself to be concerned with nothing." Yes, it is necessary to bridle
the heart, to hold it in leash like an enraged bulldog, and then let it
loose at a bound at the opportune moment. Run, run, my old fellow, bark
loudly and go at top speed; what these rogues have that is superior to
us is patience. So in this story, Lacroix by his cowardly tenacity
wearies De Lisle, who ends by becoming vexed and leaving the game and
_Le Jeune irrité_ (the whole of Sainte-Beuve is in these words) will not
have had finally either a sword in his paunch or a foot to his
coat-tails, and will privately begin his machinations anew, as Homais
would say.

You are astonished to find yourself the butt of so much calumny,
opposition, indifference and ill-will. You will be more so and have
more of it; it is the reward of the good and the beautiful: one may
calculate the value of a man from the number of his enemies and the
importance of a work by the evil said of it. Critics are like fleas
which always jump upon white linen and adore lace. That reproach sent by
Sainte-Beuve to the _Paysanne_ establishes my belief in the _Paysanne_
more firmly than Victor Hugo's praise of it; we give our praise to
everybody, but our blame, no! Who is there that has not made a parody on
the mediocre?

In regard to Hugo, I do not believe that it is time to write to him; you
gave him a month for an answer, and it is not more than two weeks since
our packet left; so it is necessary to wait at least as long as that,
provided it has not been seized. Every precaution was taken, my mother
addressing the letter herself.

What can this phrase in your letter this morning mean in speaking of De
Lisle? "I believe that I was deceived in my impression of yesterday."
The words of the _bourgeois_ at Préault are good. Have I told you what a
curate of Trouville said one day after I had dined with him? When I
refused champagne (I had already eaten and drunk enough to make me fall
under the table), my curate was astonished and turned on me an eye! such
an eye! an eye expressing envy, admiration, and disdain together, and
said to me, shrugging his shoulders: "Come, now! all you young people
from Paris who _gulp down champagne_ with your fine suppers, make very
little mouths when you come to the provinces!" And it was so easy to
understand that between the words "fine suppers" and "gulp" he meant to
say "with the actresses!" What horizons! and to know that I excited
this brave man! In this connection I am going to allow myself a
quotation: "Come now!" said the chemist, shrugging his shoulders, "do
you know about these fine parties at the house of the traitor! the
masked balls! the champagne? All this goes on, I assure you."

"I do not believe that it injures him," objected Bovary.

"Nor I either," quickly replied M. Homais, "and it may be necessary for
him to keep them up or be taken for a Jesuit. But if you only knew what
lives those fellows lead, in the Latin Quarter with their actresses!
Generally speaking, students are well looked upon in Paris. For the
little attractiveness that they have, they are received into the best
society, and there are even ladies of the Faubourg Saint-Germain who
fall in love with them and, in consequence sometimes give them
opportunities of making fine marriages." In two pages I believe I have
collected all the stupidity that one hears in the provinces about
Paris,--student life, actresses, the pickpockets you encounter in the
public gardens, and the cooking at the restaurants, "always more
unwholesome than provincial cooking."

That stiffness of which Préault accuses me is astonishing; it appears
that when I have on a black coat, I am not the same man. And it is
certain that I am then wearing a kind of disguise which my face and
manners ought to resent, so much effect has the exterior upon the
interior. It is the cap that moulds the head, and all troopers have
about them the imbecile stiffness of hard lines. Bouilhet pretends that,
out in the world, I have the air of a drilled, _bourgeois_ officer. Is
it on this account that the illustrious Turgan calls me "the major?" He
also maintains that I have a military air, and one could pay me no
compliment that would be less agreeable. If Préault knew me, he would,
on the contrary, find that I have a too bare-breasted air like the good
captain; but how beautiful Ferrat must have been with his "good southern
fury;" I can see him there now gasconading; it is tremendous. And,
speaking of the grotesque, I was overwhelmed at the funeral of Madame
Pouchet; decidedly, the good God is romantic, for he continually mingles
the two kinds together. Nevertheless, while I was looking at the poor
Pouchet, who was in torture, shaking like a reed in the wind, do you
know what came up before me? A gentleman who asked me, on my voyage:
"What kind of museums have they in Egypt? _What is the condition of
their public libraries?_" And when I demolished his illusions, he was
desolate. "Is it possible!" said he. "What an unfortunate country! What
a civilization!" etc....

The burial was Protestant, the priest speaking in French beside the
grave; Monsieur would prefer it so ... "since Catholicism is denuded of
the flowers of rhetoric." O humans! O mortals! and to think we are
always duped, that we have the vanity to believe ourselves imaginative,
when the reality crushes us! I went to that ceremony with the intention
of elevating my mind to the point of penetration; to try to discover a
few pebbles; and then--these blocks fell upon my head! The grotesque
deafened my ears, and the pathetic was in convulsions before my eyes.
Whence I draw (or rather withdraw) this conclusion: _It is never
necessary to fear exaggerating_; all the great ones have done it:
Michael-Angelo, Rabelais, Shakespeare and Molière. It is a question of
making a man take an injection when he has no syringe; well, we must
fill the theatre with apothecaries' syringes; that is clearly the way to
reach genius in its true centre, which is very ridiculous. But to
suppress exaggeration, there must be continuity, proportion, and harmony
in itself. If your good men have a hundred feet, your mountains should
be twenty miles high; and what is the ideal if it is not a magnifying?

Adieu; work well, see only friends, mount to the ivory tower, and let
come what may.


CROISSET, _Saturday night_.

Finally I have finished my first part (of the second part); that is, I
am at the point where I had intended to be at our last interview at
Mantes; you see how great a delay this is! I shall pass still another
week in re-reading all this and copying it, and a week from to-morrow I
shall spout it to my lord Bouilhet. If this goes, a great anxiety will
be removed, at least, and one good thing I can be sure of, that the
foundation is well established; but I think however, that this book will
have one great fault: that is, the fault of material proportion. I have
already two hundred and sixty pages which contain only the preparation
for action, some expositions, more or less disguised, of character (it
is true that they are graduated), and of landscapes and places. My
conclusion, which will be the recital of the death of my little woman,
her funeral, and the sorrow of the husband, will follow with sixty pages
at least. There remains, then, for the body of the action one hundred
and twenty, or one hundred and sixty pages at the most. Is this not a
great defect? What reassures me (in a slight degree), however, is that
this book is a biography rather than a gradual development. The drama is
a small part of it, so the dramatic element is well drowned in the
general tone of the book; perhaps it will not be noticed that there is a
want of harmony between the different phases so much as in their
development; and then, it seems to me that life itself is a little like
this. Our passions are like volcanoes; they grumble continually, but the
eruption is only intermittent.

Unfortunately, the French mind has such a rage for amusement, it is
necessary for it always to be seeing things! It cares so little for that
which is poetry for me, or for knowing the _exposition_, that perhaps,
as one may strike it picturesquely through tableaux, or morally through
psychological analysis, it may serve exceedingly well that I wear a
blouse, or have the appearance of doing so.

This is not the only day that I have suffered from writing in this
language and thinking in it! At bottom I am German! The force of study
has rubbed off all my southern mists. I wish to make books where only
phrases are written (if one may so put it), as one lives by breathing
only air; what vexes me is the trickery of the plan, the combinations
for effect, and all the calculations which are the art of it, and upon
which the effect of style depends exclusively.

And you, good muse, dear colleague in all (colleague comes from
_colligere_, to bind together), have you worked well this week? I am
curious to see that second recital. I have to recommend only two things:
First, follow your metaphors closely; second, no details outside the
subject; work in a straight line. _Parbleu!_ We shall make some
arabesques when we wish to, and better than anybody's. We must show the
classicists that we are more classic than they, and make the
romanticists turn pale with rage by surpassing their attempts. I believe
the thing feasible, although of no importance. When a verse is good, it
loses its school. A good verse by Boileau resembles a good verse by
Hugo. Perfection has everywhere the same character, which is precision
and justness.

If the book I am writing with so much trouble comes to any good, I shall
have established two truths by its execution alone, which are for me
axioms of knowledge: first, that poesy is purely subjective, that there
are not in literature beautiful art subjects, and that Yvetot is worth
as much as Constantinople; consequently, one may write one thing as well
as another, it matters not what. The artist must raise all; he is like a
pump, having in him a great duct which descends to the entrails of
things, to the deepest stratum, and makes leap into the light, in giant
jets, what was under the earth and seen by no one but himself.

Shall I have a letter from you on awakening? Your letters have not been
numerous this week, my friend! But I suppose it is work which has kept
you. What an admirable face Father Babinet, member of the reading
committee of the Odéon, will have! I can see now his _facies_, as my
chemist would say, listening to the pieces as they are read.

There is taking place here an interesting case. A judge of the court of
assizes, a brave man, is accused of killing his wife and then, having
sewed her in a sack, of throwing her into the water. This poor woman had
many lovers, and some one discovered at her house (it was a workman of
the lowest class) a portrait and a letter from a gentleman, a chevalier
of the Legion of Honor, a rallying Legitimist, Member of the General
Council, of the Building Associations, etc., ... of all the
Associations, well known among the vestry, member of the Society of
Saint-Vincent de Paul, of the Society of Saint-Regis, of the Children's
Society, and all the humbugs possible; highly placed in fine society of
the right kind, one of those persons who are an honour to a country and
of whom it is said: "We are happy to possess such a gentleman"; and
here, at a blow, it is discovered that this merry fellow has been
carrying on relations (this is the phrase) with this merry
lass--relations of the most disgusting kind, yes, Madame! Ah! great
Heavens! I jeer like a beggar when I see all those fine people in the
hands of the law; the humiliations these good gentlemen receive (they
who find honours everywhere) seem to me to be the just punishment of
their false pride. It is a disgrace to be always wishing to shine; it is
debasing to mount to the heights and then sink into the mire with the
mob! One should keep his level. And while there is not in my make-up
much liking for democracy, I nevertheless love what is common, even
ignoble, when it is sincere. But that which lies, which poses, which
affects a condemnation of passion and assumes a grimace of virtue,
revolts me beyond all limits. I feel now for my kind a serene hatred, or
an inactive pity which is akin to it. I have made great progress in two
years, and the political state of things has confirmed my old theories à
_priori_, upon the biped without feathers, whom all in all I consider a
turkey and a vulture.

Adieu, dear dove.


CROISSET, _Tuesday, 1 A.M._

I AM overwhelmed; my brain is dancing in my head. I have been since six
o'clock this evening until now recopying seventy-seven successive pages,
and now they make but fifty-three. It is torture. The ramifications of
my vertebræ to the neck, as M. Enault remarks, are broken from having
bent my head so long. What with the repetition of words, the _alls_, the
_buts_, the _fors_ and the _howevers_ I had to strike out, there is
never any end to it, which is the way with this diabolical prose. There
are, nevertheless, good pages, and I believe that, as a whole, it moves
along; but I doubt if I shall be ready to read it all to Bouilhet on
Sunday. Just think! since the end of February, I have written
fifty-three pages! What a charming profession! It is like whipping cream
when one would like to be rolling marbles.

I am very tired, but have, however, many things to say. I have just
written four lines to Ducamp, not for you; that would have been a
reason for his showing you more malevolence--I know the man. This is the
reason why I wrote him: to-day I received the last package of his
photographs, of which I had never spoken to him, and the note was to
thank him for it. That was all; I said nothing further. If, in the
article on the philosophers, on Wednesday, he uses your name accompanied
with any harmful allusions, I will do what you wish; but for my part, I
should propose to break off squarely in a pretty, well-defined letter.
However, do not let us torment ourselves, since the thing will doubtless
not take place. It is Bouilhet's opinion (my note to-day is from a
contrary hypothesis) that it is best to be on good terms when the
rupture comes and be able to say to him: here is still another time that
you are disobliging to me; good evening and good-bye. Do you understand?

As for Enault's article, it seems to me, good Muse, as if you had
exaggerated it. It is stupid and foolish and all that, with its
_feminosities_, "sensible woman," "younger woman," etc.--which have
evidently come from Madame ----, who is jealous of you from all reports,
and on that I would bet my head. It is our opinion, both Bouilhet's and
mine, that he labours hard over his little monthly billets without ever
saying anything. Bouilhet is profoundly indignant and proposes not even
going to see him when he next goes to Paris; but what difference does it
make to us, the opinion of my lord Enault, either written or spoken? As
Ducamp said to Ferrat: Can you expect, in the midst of the whirlwind in
which he lives, with his fascinating personality, his officer's badge,
his receptions at the house of M. de Persigny, etc., that he could
preserve enough perspicacity to feel a new, original, or novel thing?
Besides, in this arrangement, there may be something agreed upon. We
never can turn a negro white and we never can hinder the mediocre from
being mediocre. I assure you that if he were to say to me "I have had
curvature of the spine or softening of the brain," it would make me
laugh. Do you know what I found out to-day from his photographs? The
only one he did not publish was the one representing our hotel at Cairo
and the garden before our windows where I stood in Nubian costume; it is
a bit of malice on his part. He wishes that I did not exist; I have
weighed him, as have you and every body else. The work is dedicated to
Cormenin, with a dedicatory epigraph in Latin, and in the text is an
epigraph taken from Homer, all in Greek. The good Maxime does not know a
declension, but that does not matter. He has had the German work of
Leipsius translated and has pillaged it impudently (in the text that I
looked over) without quoting it once. I heard that from a friend of his
that I met on the train; you know I said he must have pillaged it, for
there were all sorts of inscriptions that he never would have valued,
which are not in the books that we meet in our travels, but which he
reports as having been appreciated by him; it is like all the rest of
his work. As for the _Paysanne_, the eulogy which Bouilhet wrote him
about it (at the same time he wrote to De Lisle, a letter which has met
with no response) is the cause, you may be sure, of his remark to
Ferrat. Finally, all that is of very little importance. Still, we have
been very much vexed all Sunday afternoon from it, these stories
demoralising lord Bouilhet a little, in which respect I find him weak,
and me also, for I am caught in it. Frankly now, it is stupid to permit
these fellows to trouble us so. In fact, I find that in injuries,
stupidities, foolishness, etc., it is necessary to be angry only when
something is said to one's face. Make grimaces at my back as much as you
wish, my breeches alone contemplate you.

I love you so much when I see you calm and know that you are working
well, and still more, perhaps, when I know that you are suffering, for
then you write me such superb letters, so full of fire. But, poor dear
soul, take care of thyself, and tax only in moderation thy southern
fury, as you called it in speaking of Ferrat.

The advice of De Lisle relative to the _Acropole_ is good. First, send
the manuscript to Villemain as you sent it to Jersey (I have received no
letter about it, which seems strange, and my mother will write some day
to Madame Farmer if I receive nothing); you could even make some
corrections if you find it necessary although it seems good to me,
except about the Barbarians, which I persist in finding much the
weakest; second, try to have it appear in the _Press_; third, we shall
find some plan, you may be sure. Bouilhet will be there this winter and
he will aid you. His last fossil, the third piece, "Springtime," is
superb; there is in it a pecking of birds around gigantic nests which is
gigantic in itself. But he gets too sad, my poor Bouilhet; it is
necessary to straighten up and em ... humanity which em ... us! Oh! I
shall be avenged! In fifteen years from now I shall have undertaken a
great modern romance where they shall all pass in review. I think that
_Gil Blas_ has perhaps done this, and Balzac remotely, but the fault of
his style is that his work is rather more curious than beautiful and
stronger than it is brilliant. These are projects of which I should not
speak, as all my books are only the preparation for two, which I will
finish if God lends me life. I mean this one and the Oriental story.

You must see the story of the journey that Enault has published on his
return from Italy! He is a wag and a droll fellow, who will make an
article in that cavalier fashion upon one with whom he has dined without
first asking his permission. As for the article, it is simply stupid,
and that one he wrote upon Bouilhet was no stronger. He underlines
_bosom_ and _rags_, exclaims "Eight children! O, Poesy!" paints the
school where he thinks it probable there are a certain number of
children that will be known to literature! No, if one does not keep
himself from all this, _I say it in all seriousness_, there is danger of
his becoming an idiot.

My father said repeatedly that he never would wish to be a doctor in a
hospital for the insane, because if one dealt seriously with madness, he
ended by becoming mad himself. It is the same in this case; from
becoming too much disturbed by these imbeciles, there is danger of
becoming such ourselves. Heavens! what a headache I have! I must go to
bed! my thumb is hollowed by my pen and my neck is twisted.

I find Musset's observation of Hamlet that of a profound _bourgeois_,
and this is the reason why: he reproaches the inconsistency of Hamlet, a
sceptic, seeing with his eyes the soul of his father. But first, it was
not the soul that he saw, but a phantom, a shadow, a thing, a materially
living shadow, which has no connection either in popular or in poetic
ideas with the abstract idea of the soul. It is we, metaphysicians and
modern people, who speak this language; and then, Hamlet did not
_question_ at all the philosophic sense, he was _dreaming_. I believe
this observation of Musset's is not his own but Mallefille's; in the
preface of his _Don Juan_, he is superficial, to my mind. A peasant in
our day could see a phantom perfectly and, the next day in broad
daylight, reflect in cold blood upon life and death, but not upon flesh
and the soul. Hamlet was not reflecting upon the subtleties of some
school, but upon human thoughts. On the contrary, it is this state of
perpetual fluctuation in Hamlet, this vagueness in which he holds
himself, this want of decision in will and solution in thought, which
makes him sublime.

But _people of mind_ will have their characters all of a piece and
_consistent_ (since they can have them so only in books). There is not
an aim of the human soul which is not reflected in this conception.
Ulysses is perhaps the strongest type in all ancient literature, and
Hamlet of all modern.

If I were not so weary, I should express my thought at greater length;
it is so easy to prattle about the beautiful; but to say in proper style
"Shut the door," or "He has a desire to sleep," requires more genius
than to make all the Courses of Literature in the world.

Criticism is the lowest round on the ladder of literature, nearly always
in form and in moral value; incontestably it comes after the end-rhyme
and the acrostic, which demand at least the work of some invention.

Now, adieu.


TROUVILLE, _Aug. 23, 1853_.

WHAT a confounded rain! How it falls! Everything is imbedded in water!
From my window I can see bonnets passing shielded by red umbrellas;
barques are putting out to sea; I hear the chains of the anchors which
they are raising with general imprecations addressed to the bad weather.
If it lasts three or four days more, which seems to me probable, we
shall pack up and return home.

Admire here one of the polite ways of Providence which would be hard to
believe: in whose house have I lodgings? In the house of a chemist! And
of whom is he the pupil? Of Dupré! Like him, he deals in Seltzer water!
"I am the only one in Trouville who manufactures Seltzer water" he says.
In fact, at eight o'clock in the morning I am often awakened by the
noise of corks which go off unexpectedly. Pif! paf! The kitchen is the
laboratory as well as kitchen; a monstrous still stands humbly among the

     The frightful length of its copper smoking,

and often they cannot put on the dinner-pot because of pharmaceutical
preparations. In order to go into the yard, it is necessary to pass over
baskets filled with bottles. There creaks a pump which wets your legs;
two boys are rinsing decanters; a parrot repeats from morning till
night: "Have you breakfasted, Jacko?" and finally, a brat about ten
years old, the son of the house and the hope of the pharmacy, exercises
in all sorts of athletics, such as raising himself from the ground by
his teeth.

This journey to Trouville has brought the whole inner story of my life
before me. I have dreamed much in this theatre of my passions. I now
take leave of them forever, I hope; in the part of life that remains,
there is time to say adieu to youthful sadness. I cannot conceal,
however, that it has come back to me in waves, during the last three
weeks. I have had two or three good afternoons in full sunlight, all
alone upon the sand, where I found again some other sad things beside
broken shells! But I have finished with it now, God be thanked! We shall
now cultivate our garden and no more raise our head at the cry of the

How I long to finish _Bovary_, _Anubis_, and my three prefaces, in order
to enter a new period and give myself up to the "purely beautiful!" The
idleness in which I have lived for some time gives me the cutting desire
to transform through art all that is "myself," all that I have felt. I
feel no need of writing my memoirs; my personality even repels me, and
immediate objects seem hideous or stupid. I go back to former ideas. I
arrange the barques into old-time ships. I undress the sailors who pass,
to make savages of them walking naked upon the silver shores; I think of
India, of China, of my Oriental story (of which fragments are coming to
me), and I feel like undertaking gigantic epics.

But life is so short! I never can write as I wish, nor the quarter part
of what I dream. All that force that we feel and that stifles us must
die with us without being allowed to overflow!

I revisited yesterday a village two hours' journey from here, where I
went with that good Orlowski when I was eleven years old. Nothing was
changed about the houses, the cliff, or the fishing-boats. The women at
the wash-house were sewing in the same position, the same number were
beating their soiled linen in the same blue water, and it rained a
little as in former times. It seemed, at certain moments that the
universe had become immovable, that everything had become a statue, and
that we alone were living. And how insolent nature is! What waggishness
on her impudent visage! One tortures his mind trying to comprehend the
abyss that separates him from her, but something comes up more farcical
still, that is, the abyss that separates us from ourselves. When I think
that here, in this place, on looking at this white wall off-setting the
green, I had some heart throbs, and that I was full of "poesy," I am
amazed, lost in a vertigo, as if I had suddenly discovered myself on the
peak of a wall two thousand feet high.

This little work that I am doing, I shall complete this winter, when you
are no longer there, poor old man! to arrange, burn, and, classify all
my scribblings. With the _Bovary_ finished, the age of reason will
begin. And then, why encumber ourselves with so many souvenirs? The past
eats up too much and we are never in the present, which alone is
important in life. How I philosophise! I have need to, since you are
there! It is difficult to write; words are wanting, and I should prefer
being extended on my bear-skin, near you, discoursing "melancholically"

Do you know that in the last number of the _Review_ our friend Leconte
was very badly treated? They are definitely low rascals; and "the
phalanx" is a dog-kennel. All the animals there are much more stupid
than ferocious. You who love the word "paltry," be assured that is what
it is.

Write me an immeasurable letter as soon as you can, and embrace yourself
for me; adieu.


CROISSET, _Wednesday evening, Midnight_.

I HAVE taken up the _Bovary_ again, and since Monday have five pages
almost done; _almost_ is the word, for it is necessary to take it up
again. How difficult it is! I fear that my _comices_ (primary meetings)
may be too long; it is a hard place. I have there all the personages of
my book in action and in dialogue, mingled with one another, and beyond
them all is a great landscape which envelopes them; if I can succeed
with it, it will be very symphonic.

Bouilhet has finished the descriptive part of his _Fossils_. His
mastodon ruminating in the moonlight on a prairie is enormously full of
poesy and will be, perhaps, to the public, the most effective of all his
pieces! There only remains the philosophic part, which is the last.
About the middle of next month, he will go to Paris to select a lodging
where he can install himself the first of November. Would that I were in
his place!

Decidedly, the article by Verdun on Leconte (which I have an idea is
Jourdan's) is more stupid than hostile; I have laughed much at the
comparison they make with the _beautiful lines_ of the _Fall of an
Angel_; what bearish politeness! As for the _Indian Poems_ and the piece
about _Dies iræ_, not a word. There is a certain ingenuousness about
them, but why call the _sperchius_, _sperkhios_? That seems to me a true
_janoterie_. What has become of the good Leconte,--is he progressing
with his Celtic poem?

I have been re-reading some of Boileau, or rather all of Boileau, and
with my pencil on the margin. This seems to me truly strong; one does
not tire of what is well written, for style is life! It is the blood of
the thought! Boileau has a little river, straight, not deep, but
admirably limpid and well within its banks; and that is the reason why
the waters have not dried up; nothing is lost of what he wishes to say.
But how much art he has used and with so little effort!

Within the next two or three years, I intend to re-read attentively all
the French classics and to annotate them; this is work that will serve
me in _my prefaces_ (my work of literary critic, you know); I wish to
state there the insufficiency of schools as they are, and to declare
plainly that we make no claim to being one of them, we outsiders, nor is
it necessary to be one of them. On the contrary, we are in the line of
transmission; that seems to me strictly exact; it reassures and
encourages me. What I admire in Boileau is what I admire in Hugo; and
where one has been good, the other is excellent. There is only one
standard of beauty; it is the same everywhere, although under different
aspects, and more or less coloured by the reflections that dominate it.
Voltaire and Chateaubriand, for example, were mediocre for the same
reasons, etc. I shall try to make it seen why the æsthetic critic is so
much behind the historic and scientific critic; he has never had any
base. The knowledge that is wanting is that of the anatomy of style; to
know how a phrase is constructed, and where it should be attached. They
study manikins and translations with professors,--imbeciles incapable of
holding the instrument of the science they teach (I mean the pen), and
the result is, they lack life!

Love! Love! the secret of the good God which does not easily give itself
up,--the soul, without which nothing is understood.

When I have finished that (and the _Bovary_ and _Anubis_ first of all),
I shall without doubt, enter into a new phase, and it seems slow getting
there; I, who write so slowly, am gnawed by my plans. I wish to produce
two or three long, epic antiques--romances in a grandiose setting, where
the action may be forcefully fertile and the details rich in themselves,
and luxurious and tragic as a whole; books of grand mural painting, of
heroic size.

There was in the _Revue de France_ (a fragment by Michelet upon Danton)
a judgment of Robespierre that pleased me much; it stamped him as being
in himself a government; and it was for that reason that all Republican
governmental maniacs loved him. Mediocrity cherishes rules, but I hate
them. I feel myself against them and against all restrictions,
corporations, caste, hierarchy, levels, and droves, with an execration
that fills my soul; it is on this side, perhaps, that I comprehend the

Adieu, beautiful ex-democrat.


CROISSET, _Wednesday, Midnight_.

HAVE you still your tooth? Take steps, then, immediately to have it
removed. There is nothing in the world worse than physical pain; and it
is worse than death for a man, as Montaigne says, "to put himself under
the skin of a calf to escape it." Pain has this evil: it makes us feel
life too much; it gives us, as it were, a proof of malediction to
ourselves which weighs upon us; it humiliates us, and that is sad for
beings that are sustained solely by their pride.

Certain natures suffer not so much, and people without nerves are happy;
but of how many things are they not deprived? According as one rises in
the scale of being, the nervous faculty increases, that is, the faculty
for suffering. Are to suffer and to think the same thing, then? Is
genius, after all, only a refinement of pain, that is to say, a
meditation of the objective through the soul?

The sadness of Molière came wholly from the human stupidity which he
felt contained in himself; he suffered from the Diaforus and Tartuffes
which passed before the eyes of his brain. Do you not suppose that the
soul of a Veronese imbibes colour like a piece of stuff plunged into the
boiling vat of a dyer? All things appear to him as if magnifying glasses
were before his eyes. Michael-Angelo said that marble trembled at his
approach; what is sure is, that he himself trembled when he approached
marble. Mountains, for this man, had souls; they were of a corresponding
nature and there was a sympathy between them like that between
analogous elements. And this should establish, I know not where or how,
some kind of volcanic train that would make poor human implements

I find myself nearly half through my _comices_. I have made fifteen
pages this month, not finished them,--but whether they are good or bad,
I know not. How difficult dialogue is when one especially wishes it to
have character; to paint by dialogue, and keep it lively, precise, and
distinguished while it remains commonplace is monstrous, and I know of
no one who has done this in a book. It is necessary to write the
dialogue in comedy, while the narrative takes the epic style.

This evening I began again that accursed page about the lamps which I
have already written four times; it is enough to make one beat his head
against a wall! I am trying to paint (in one page) the gradations of the
enthusiasm of a multitude watching a good man as he places many lamps in
succession upon the outside of the mayor's residence; it is necessary to
make seen the crowd howling with astonishment and joy, and that without
any apparent motive or reflection on the part of the author.

You are astonished at some of my letters, you say; you find in them
well-written, pretty malice; well, I write what I think; but when it
comes to writing for others, and making them speak as they would have
spoken, what a difference! A moment ago, for example, I was trying to
show in a dialogue a particular man who must be at the same time
good-natured, commonplace, a little vulgar and pretentious! And beyond
all this one must make sure that the point is clear. In a word, all the
difficulties that we have in writing come from a lack of order. It is a
conviction that I now have, that if you are troubled to give the right
turn to an expression, it is sure that _you have not the idea_. A very
clear image or sentiment in the head leads to the word on paper. The one
flows from the other. "Whatever is well conceived," etc.... I have been
re-reading this in old father Boileau; or rather I have read him
entirely again (I am now on his prose works), and find him a master man
and a great writer rather than a poet. But how stupid they have made him
out! What paltry interpreters he has had! The race of college
professors, pedants of pale ink, have lived upon him and stretched him
thin, chattering over him like a cloud of locusts in a tree. He was not
dense! No matter, he was solid of root and well planted, straight and

The literary critic seems to me a thing to be made anew; those who have
meddled with it are not of the trade, and while perhaps they know the
anatomy of a phrase, they have not a drop of the physiology of style.

And about _La Servante_? Why was I afraid that it would not be long?
Because it is better to be too long than too short, although the general
defect of poets is the length, as it is of prose writers, which makes
the first wearisome and the second disgusting. Lamartine, Eugène Suë....
Verse in itself is so convenient for disguising the absence of ideas!
Analyse a beautiful passage of verse and another of prose, and you will
see which is the fuller. Prose, art aside, must needs bristle with
things to be discovered; but in verse the most trifling things appear.
Thus we may say in comparison that the most unnoticed idea in a phrase
of prose may suffice to make a whole sonnet; often, three or four plans
are necessary in a prose work; do we expect to find this in poetry?

I have at this moment a great rage for Juvenal. What style! what style!
and what a language Latin is! I also flatter myself that I begin to
understand Sophocles a little. As for Juvenal, it goes along smoothly
enough, save here and there for some hidden meaning, which I quickly
perceive. I should much like to know, and with many details, why Saulcy
refused Leconte's article; what are the motives alleged? This must be
interesting for us to know; try to get at the last word of the story.

Try to be better and to work better in Paris than in the country, for
you have all your time to yourself. I grudge this poor Leconte his
experience. In order to follow this trade as Bouilhet has for four
years, eight and ten hours a day (and he had the boarding-house keepers
at his back more than Leconte), I believe it is necessary to have the
strongest constitution and a cerebral temperament of Titanic endurance.
He will have merited glory as much as the other, but one can go to
heaven only as a martyr, mounting on high with a crown of thorns, a
pierced heart, bleeding hands and radiant face.

Adieu; a thousand kisses for thee!


CROISSET, _Wednesday, Midnight_.

MY HEAD is on fire, as I remember to have had it after passing long days
on horseback, because to-day I have rudely ridden my pen. I have
written since half-past twelve without stopping (save for five minutes
at one time and another to smoke a pipe, and about an hour for dinner).
My _comices_ were such a trial to me that I have broken loose from them,
even to the extent of calling them finished, both Greek and Latin; from
to-day, I do no more of them; it is too hard! it would be the death of
me, and I wish to go to see you.

Bouilhet pretends that it will be the most beautiful scene in the book.
What I am sure of is that it will be new and that the intention is good.
If ever the effects of a symphony were reported in a book, it will be
here. It is necessary for the roar to be heard through it all: the
bellowing of the bulls, the sighs of love, and the phrases of the
administrators at once distinguishable; and over all the sunlight and
the gusts of wind that fan the large bonnets into motion. The most
difficult passages of _Saint Antony_ were child's play in comparison. I
have come to nothing dramatic except the interlacing of the dialogue and
opposition in characters. I am now in the open; before another week, I
shall have passed the knot upon which all depends. My brain seems too
small to take in at a single glance this complex situation. I have
written ten pages at a time, skipping from one phrase to another.

I am almost sure that Gautier did not see you in the street when he did
not salute you; he is like myself, very near-sighted, and with me such
things are customary. It would have been a gratuitous insolence, which
is not his manner of behaviour; he is a great, good-natured man, very
peaceful and very p----. As for espousing the animosities of a friend,
I strongly doubt it, from the way in which he spoke to me in the first
place. The dedication, in spite of your opinion, proves nothing at all
_pro_ or _con_. The poor boy hangs to everything, tacks his name to
everything that is descending this Nile! If anyone could strengthen me
in my literary theories, it would be he. The farther off the time when
Ducamp followed my advice, the more he goes down; for, between _Galaor_
and the _Nil_ there is a frightful decadence, and in the _Livre
posthume_, which is between them, he is at his lowest, and the force of
the young Delessert is no better. Jacotot's proposition was strangely
revolting to me, and you were in the right. You try to be polite to a
scamp like that? oh! no, no, no!

What a strange creature you are, dear friend, to send me diatribes
still, as my chemist would call them. You ask me for a thing, I say
"Yes," and you still continue to mutter! Oh, well! since you conceal
nothing from me (which I approve), I will not conceal from you that this
appears to me to be a bad habit with you. You wish to establish between
relations of a different nature a bond of which I cannot see the sense
or the utility. I do not at all comprehend how the kindnesses you show
me when I am in Paris, affect my mother in any way. For three years I
have been at the Schlesingers', where she has never set foot. In the
same way, Bouilhet has been coming here every Sunday for eight years to
sleep, dine and lunch, but we have not once seen his mother, who comes
to Rouen nearly every month; and I assure you that my mother is not at
all shocked. Nevertheless, it shall be according to your wish. I promise
you, I swear it, that I will explain to her your reasons and that I
will pray her to bring it about that you may see each other. As for the
outcome, with the best will in the world, I can do nothing; perhaps you
will please each other much, perhaps you will displease each other
enormously. The good woman is not very approachable, and she has ceased
to see not only all her old acquaintances but even her friends; I know
only one of them and she does not live in the country.

I have just finished Boileau's Correspondence; he was less narrow among
his intimates than in _Apollon_. I found there many confidences that
corrected his judgments. _Télémaque_ was harshly enough judged, etc.,
and he avows that Malherbe was not a poet. But have you not noticed of
how little value is the correspondence of the great men of that time? It
is, in fact, all commonplace. Lyricism in France is a new faculty; I
believe that the education of the Jesuits has been a considerable
misfortune to letters. They have taken nature away from art. Since the
end of the sixteenth century, even to the time of Hugo, all books,
however beautiful they may be, smell of the dust of the college. I am
now going to re-read all my French and to take a long time to prepare my
history of the poetical sentiment of France. It is necessary to write
criticism as one would write a natural history, _with the absence of
moral idea_; it is not for us to declaim upon such and such a form, but
to show in what it consists, how it is attached to another and by what
it lives (æstheticism awaits its Saint-Hilaire, that great man who has
shown the legitimacy of monsters). When the human soul is treated with
the impartiality with which physical science is treated in the study of
material things, an immense step will have been taken; it is the only
means by which humanity can put itself above itself. It will then
consider itself frankly through the mirror of its works; it will be like
God and judge from on high.

Well, I believe that feasible; perhaps, as in mathematics, we have only
to find the method. Before all, it will be applicable to art and to
religion, which are the two great manifestations of the idea. Suppose
one begins thus: the first idea of God being given (the most simple
possible), the first poetic sentiment being born (the most slender that
could be), each finds at first its manifestation, and easily finds it in
the savage infant, etc.; here is, then, the first point: you have
already established relations. Now, if one were to continue, making
count of all relative contingents, climate, language, etc.; then, from
degree to degree one could come up to the art of the future, and the
hypothesis of the Beautiful, to a clear conception of its reality, to
that ideal type where all our effort should tend; but it is not for me
to charge myself with this task, for I have other pens to cut.



CROISSET, _Friday, Midnight, 1854_.

I HAVE passed a sad week, not because of my work, but on your account,
and because of my thoughts concerning you. I will tell you more
privately the personal reflections that were the result of this state of

You believe that I do not love you, my poor dear friend, and say that
you are only a secondary consideration in my life. I have hardly any
human affection for anyone greater than I feel for you, and as for
affection towards woman, I swear to you that you stand first in my
heart,--the only one; and I will affirm further: I never have felt a
similar love--so prolonged, so sweet, above all, so profound.

As to the question of my immediate installation in Paris, I must give up
the plan at once; it is _impossible_ to carry it out now, to say nothing
of the money I should have but have not. I know myself well: it would
mean the loss of the winter; and perhaps of my book. Bouilhet spoke very
easily about it, he, who is fortunate enough to be able to write
anywhere, who for twelve years worked in continual confusion. But for me
it is like beginning a new life. I am like a pan of milk--in order that
cream shall rise, I must not be disturbed! But I say to you again: if
you _wish_ that I should come, now, instantly, for a month, two months,
four months, cost what it may, I will go. If not, this is my plan: from
the present time until I finish _Bovary_, I will visit you
oftener,--eight times in two months, without missing a week, except for
that time when you will not be able to see me until the end of January.
Then we shall meet regularly through April, June, and September, and in
a year I shall be very near the end of my book.

I have talked over all this with my mother. Do not accuse her, even in
your heart, because she is on your side. I have concluded pecuniary
settlements with her, and she is about to make arrangements for the care
of my rooms, my linen, etc., for a year. I have engaged a servant whom I
shall take to Paris, so you see that my resolution is not wholly
unshakeable, and if I am not buried here under about three hundred
pages, you may see me before long installed in the capital. I shall
disturb nothing at my rooms, because I always work best there, and I
shall probably pass most of my time there, on account of my mother, who
is growing old; so reassure yourself, I shall show enough filial
affection, and be very good!

Do you know whither the sadness of all this has led me, and what I
should like to do? I should like to throw literature to the winds
forever, to do nothing more, but go and live with you! I say to myself;
Is art worth so much trouble, so much weariness for me, so many tears
for her? Of what use is all this effort, perhaps to arrive only at
mediocrity in the end? For I own to you that I am not cheerful; I have
sad doubts at times regarding myself and my work. I have just re-read
_Novembre_, from curiosity. I did the same thing eleven years ago
to-day. I had so far forgotten it that it seemed quite new to me, but it
is not good, and the effect is not satisfactory. I see no way of
re-writing it; I should be compelled to recast it entirely, because
although here and there I find a good phrase, a good comparison, there
is no homogeneity of style. Conclusion: _Novembre_ will go the same way
with _Sentimental Education_, and will remain with it indefinitely in my
portfolio. Ah, what good sense I showed in my youth not to publish! How
I should have blushed for it now!

I am about to write a monumental letter to the "Crocodile." Hasten to
send me yours, because it is several days since my mother wrote to
Madame Farmer, and she persecutes me to let her read my letter before I
send it away.

I am re-reading Montaigne. It is singular how I am filled with the
spirit of this good fellow! Is this a coincidence, or is it because when
I was eighteen years old I read only Montaigne during a whole
twelvemonth? I am really astonished, however, to find very often in his
writings the most delicate analysis of my own sentiments. He has the
same tastes, the same opinions, the same manner of living, the same
manias. There are persons I admire more than Montaigne, but there is no
one I would evoke more gladly, or with whom I could talk better.

Thine ever.


(Director of the _Revue de Paris_.)

CROISSET, _Thursday evening, 1856_.

MY DEAR FRIEND: I have just received the _Bovary_, and I feel that I
must thank you immediately (for if I am somewhat churlish, I am not an
ingrate). You have rendered me a great service in accepting this work,
such as it is, and I shall not forget it.

Confess that you have found me, and that you still find me (more than
ever, perhaps) possessed of a ridiculous amount of vehemence. I should
like to own some day that you are right; I promise that when that time
comes I will make you the most abject excuses! But understand, dear
friend, that it was only an experiment I attempted, and I hope the
workmanship is not too crude.

Will you believe me when I tell you that the ignoble realism you find in
my story, the reproduction of which disgusts you, revolts me quite as
much? If you knew me better, you would know that I hold commonplace
existence in execration. I always seclude myself from it as much as
possible. But, for æsthetic purposes, I wished this time--and only this
time--to exploit it from its very foundation. So I have undertaken the
matter in a heroic way; I listened to the minutest details; I accepted
all, said all, painted all,--an ambitious attempt.

I explain myself badly, but it is enough that you comprehend the reason
for my resistance of your criticisms, judicious as they were. You will
make another book for me! You struck at the poetic foundation whence
springs the type (as a philosopher would say) from which the work was
conceived. In short, I should have failed in what I owe to myself, and
also in what I owe to you, if I had yielded as an act of deference and
not of conviction.

Art demands neither complaisance nor politeness,--nothing but
faith--faith and liberty! And on that point we may join hands!

Under an unfruitful tree, whose branches are always green, I am

Faithfully yours.



MY GOOD FRIEND: I believe it is always considered proper to wash one's
soiled linen. Now I will wash mine immediately. You say you have been
"very much vexed" at me, and you must feel so still, if you really
suppose that I had, in company with Aubeyet, said anything against
either yourself or your works. I am writing this in all seriousness.
Such an accusation chokes me, wounds me. I am made so--I cannot help it.
Know, then, that such cowardly conduct is completely antipathetic to me.
I do not allow anyone to say, in my presence, anything about my friends
that I would not say myself to their faces. And if a stranger opens his
mouth to lie about them, I close it for him immediately. The contrary
custom is the usual thing, I know, but it is not my way. Let us have no
more discussion of this! If you do not know me better than that by this
time, all the worse for you! Let us consider less serious matters, and
give me your word of honour, for the future, never again to judge me as
if I were a stranger.

Know also, O Feydeau! that I am not a bit of a _farceur_. There is no
animal in the world more serious than I! Sometimes I laugh, but I joke
very little, and less now than ever before. I am sick, as a result of
fear; all sorts of anguish fill my being. I am about to write once more!

No, my good fellow, I'm not so stupid! I shall not show you anything of
my story of Carthage until the last line is written, because I am
already assailed with doubts enough about it without adding to them
those you would express. Your observations would make me "lose the
ball." As to the archæology, that will be "probable." And that's all!
Provided no one can prove that I have written absurdities, that is all I
ask. As to the botanical queries that may arise, I can laugh at them. I
have seen with my own eyes all the plants and all the trees that I need
for my purpose.

Besides, all this matters very little; it is quite a secondary
consideration. A book may be full of enormities and blunders, and yet be
none the less beautiful. If this doctrine were admitted, it would be
considered deplorable, of course; especially in France, where reigns the
pedantry of ignorance! But I see in the contrary tendency (which is
mine, alas!) a great danger. The study of the external makes us forget
the soul. I would give the half-ream of notes that I have written during
the past five months, and the ninety-eight books that I have read, to
be, for three seconds only, really stirred by the passion and emotion
experienced by my heroes! Let us guard against the temptation to deal
with trifles, or we shall find ourselves belonging to the coffee-cup
school of the Abbé Delille. There is at present a school of painting
which, in order to make us admire Pompeii, adopts a style more _rococo_
than that of Girodet. I believe, then, that one must love nothing, that
is, we should preserve the strictest impartiality towards all

Why do you persist in irritating my nerves by saying that a field of
cabbages is more beautiful than a desert? Permit me first to beg that
you will go and look at the desert before talking about it! And even if
there is anything as beautiful, go there just the same. But in your
expression of a preference for the _bourgeois_ vegetable, I see only an
attempt to enrage me, which has been quite successful.

You will not have from me any criticism written on _l'Été_ because,
first, it would take too much of my time; and second, I might say things
that would vex you. Yes, I am afraid of compromising myself, for I am
not sure of anything, and that which displeased me might, after all, be
the best thing I could have said. I shall wait for your brutal and
unwavering opinion regarding _l'Automne_. _Le Printemps_ pleased and
entranced me, without any restrictions. As to _l'Été_, I have made a

Now,--but I must stop, because my observations may be directed against
an affair that is already settled, which perhaps is a good thing--I do
not know. And as there is nothing in the world more tiresome or stupid
than an unjust criticism, I will withhold mine, although it might have
been good. So that is all, my dear old boy! You accused me in your mind
of a cowardly action. This time you have reason to call me cowardly, but
the cowardice is only that of prudence.

Are you amusing yourself? Do you employ your preservatives, impure man?
What a wicked fellow is my friend Feydeau, and how I envy him! As for
me, I worry myself immeasurably. I feel old, tired, withered. I am as
sombre as a tomb and as crabbed as a hedgehog.

I have just read Cohan's book from one end to the other. I know that it
is very faithful, very good, very wise, but I prefer the old _Vulgate_,
because of the Latin. How swelling it is, compared with this poor, puny,
pulmonic little Frenchman! I will show you two or three mistranslations
(or rather, embellishments) in the said _Vulgate_, which have more
beauty than the real meaning.

Go on and amuse yourself, and pray to Apollo to inspire me, for I am
sadly flattened out.

Thine ever.


CROISSET, _Sunday evening, 1858_.

WHAT has become of you? As for myself, I have passed nearly four days in
sleeping, because of extreme fatigue; then I wrote my notes of travel,
and my lord Bouilhet has come to visit me.

During the week that he has been here we have been digging ferociously.
I must tell you that the story of Carthage is to be completely changed,
or rather, to be written over again, as I have destroyed the whole of
the original! It was absurd, impossible, false!

I believe now that I have struck the right note at last. I begin to
comprehend my personages, and already feel a great interest in them. I
do not know when I shall finish this colossal work. Perhaps not before
two or three years. From now on, I shall beg everyone that meets me not
to talk to me. I should like to send out notes announcing my death!

My course of action is planned. For me, the public, outside impressions,
and time, exist no more. To work!

I have re-read _Fanny_, at a single sitting, although I already knew it
by heart. My impression has not changed, but the whole effect seems to
be more rapid in movement, which is good. Do not disturb yourself about
anything, nor think any more about this. When you come here next, I
shall allow myself to point out to you two or three insignificant

About the middle of next week, _Montarcy_ is to be played. Then, at the
beginning of next month, Bouilhet will return to Mantes, and my mother
will go to Trouville for a little visit of about a week. After that, my
dear sir, we shall expect you.

Will that be convenient and agreeable? Why have you not sent me any news
of yourself, you rascal? What are you writing? What are you doing? How
about Houssaye? etc.

As for myself, I take a river bath every day. I swim like a triton. My
health never has been better. My spirits are good, and I am full of
hope. When one is in good health he should store up a reserve of
courage, in order to meet disappointments in the future. They will come,

I believe that in the Rue Richer there is a photographer who sells views
of Algiers. If you could find me a view of Medragen (the tomb of the
Numidian kings), near Algiers, and send it to me, I should be very



I HAVE arrived, in my first chapter, at the description of my little
woman. I am polishing up her costume--a task that pleases me. It has set
me up not a little. I spread myself out, like a pig, on the stones by
which I am surrounded; I think that the words "purple" or "diamond" are
in every phrase in the chapter. And gold lace!--but I must not say any
more about it.

I shall certainly have finished my first chapter by the time you see me
again (that will not be before December), and perhaps I shall have
advanced considerably with the second, although it will be impossible to
write it in haste. This book [_Salammbô_] is above all things a grouping
of effects. My processes in beginning this romance are not good, but it
is necessary to make the surroundings _seem real_ at the very outset.
After that there will be enough of details and ornament to give the
thing a natural and simple effect.

Young Bouilhet has begun his fourth act.

Have you had a good laugh at the fast ordered by Her Majesty Queen

I think it is one of the most magisterial pieces of absurdity that I
ever have known; it is amazing! O Rabelais, where is thy vast mouth?


_December 26, 1858._

YOU may think that I have forgotten you, but I have done nothing of the
kind! My thoughts are often turned towards you, and I address myself to
the "unknown God," of whom St. Paul speaks, in prayers for the comfort
and satisfaction of your spirit. You hold in my heart a very high and
pure place; you would hardly believe me if I should tell you what a
marvellous depth of sentiment your first letters touched in me. I must
tell you of all that I feel, at some better time than this. We must meet
soon, to clasp each other's hands, that I may press a kiss upon your

This is what has happened since I wrote my last letter:

I was in Paris for ten days, where I assisted and co-operated in the
last performances of _Hélène Peyron_. This is a very beautiful play, and
it is also a great success. Making calls, reading the journals, etc.,
kept me very busy, and I returned here worn out, as usual, and as to the
moral effect, I was disgusted with all that uproar. I fell upon my
_Salammbô_ again with fury.

My mother has gone to Paris, and for a month I have been entirely alone.
I have begun my third chapter, and the story is to have twelve. You can
judge how much remains for me to do. I have thrown the preface into the
fire, although I worked two months on it this summer. But I am just
beginning, _at last_, to feel entertained by my own work. Every day I
rise at noon, and I retire at four o'clock in the morning. A white bear
is not more solitary and a god is not more calm. It was time! I think of
nothing but Carthage, and it is necessary that I should. To write a book
has always meant to me the necessity of imagining myself to be actually
living in the place described. This will explain my hesitations, my
distress of mind, and my slowness.

I shall not return to Paris until the last of February. Between now and
that time you will see in the _Revue Contemporaine_ a romance by my
friend Feydeau, which is dedicated to me, and which I hope you will

Do you keep yourself informed as to the works of Renan? They would
interest you, and so would the new book by Flourens, on the _Siège de

Can you guess what occupies me at present? The maladies of serpents
(always for my Carthage book)! I am about to write to Tunis to-day on
this subject. When one wishes to be absolutely accurate in such writing,
it costs something! All this may seem rather puerile, or even foolish.
But what is the use of living if one may not indulge in dreams?

Adieu! A thousand embraces. Write to me as often as you wish, and as
freely as you can.


CROISSET, _Thursday_.

I HAVE not forgotten you at all, my dear old boy, but I am working like
thirty niggers! I have finally finished my interminable fourth chapter
from which I have stricken out that which I liked best. Then, I have
made the plan of the fifth, written a quantity of notes, etc. The summer
has not begun badly. I believe that the work will go smoothly now, but
perhaps I delude myself. What a book! Heavens! It is difficult!

Yes, I find, contrary to D'Aurevilly, that there is now a question of
hypocrisy and nothing else. I am alarmed, amazed, scandalised at the
transcendent poltroonery that possesses the human race. Everyone fears
"being compromised." This is something new,--at least, to such a degree
as appears. The desire for success, the necessity, even, of succeeding,
_because of the profit to be made_, has so greatly demoralised
literature that one becomes stupid through timidity. The idea of failure
or of incurring censure makes the timid writer shake in his shoes.
"That's all very well for you to say, you, who collect your rents," I
think I hear you remark. A very clever response, the inference of which
is that morality is to be relegated to a place among objects of luxury!
The time is no more when writers were dragged to the Bastille. It might
be rebuilt, but no one could be found to put in it.

All this will not be lost. The deeper I plunge into antiquity, the more
I feel the necessity of reforming modern times, and I am ready to roast
a number of worthy citizens!

Do not think any more about _Daniel_. It is finished. It will be read,
be sure of that.

When you come to Croisset, before setting out for Luchon (about the
beginning of July, I suppose), bring me the detailed plan of
_Catherine_. I have several ideas on your style in general and on your
future book in particular.

You are a rascal! You compromise my name in public places! I shall
attack you in a court of justice for a theft of titles.

I have two pretty neighbours who have read _Daniel_, twice running. And
the coachmen of Rouen fall off their seats while reading _Fanny_

_À propos_ of morality, have you read that the inhabitants of Glasgow
have petitioned Parliament to suppress the models of nude women in the
schools of drawing?

Adieu, old boy; dig hard!

What news of your wife? Why is she at Versailles? It is an atrocious
place, colder than Siberia.


CROISSET, _May, 1860_.

I MUST tell you of the pleasure I had in reading your two books. I found
them charming, full of new details and having an excellent style,
showing at the same time nervous power and lofty imagination. That is
history, it seems to me, and original history.

One sees in them always the soul within the body; the abundance of
details does not stifle the psychological side. The moral is revealed
beneath the facts, without declamation or digression. It _lives_,--a
rare merit.

The portrait of Louis XV., that of Bachelier, and above all, that of
Richelieu, seem to me to be products of the most finished art.

How much you make me love Madame de Mailly! She actually excites me!
"She was one of those beauties ... like the divinities of a bacchante!"
Heavens! You certainly write like angels!

I know of nothing in the world that has interested me more than the
finale of _Madame de Châteauroux_.

Your judgment of the Pompadour will rest without appeal, I fancy. What
could anyone say after you?

That poor Du Barry! How you love her, do you not? I love her, too, I
must confess. How fortunate you are, to be able to occupy yourselves
with all that sort of thing, instead of diving into nothingness, or
working upon nothingness, as I must work.

It is altogether charming of you to send me the book, to have so much
talent, and to love me a little!

I clasp your four hands as warmly as possible, and am ever your


Friend of Franklin and of Marat; factionist, and anarchist
_of the first order_, and for twenty years a disorganiser
of despotism on two hemispheres!!!


CROISSET, _July 3, 1860_.

SINCE you appear to be interested in my _Carthage_, this is what I have
to tell you about it:

I believe that my eyes have been larger than my belly! To present the
_reality_ is almost impossible with such a subject. One's only resource
is to make the thing poetic, but there is danger of falling into the way
of employing the old, well-known tricks of speech that have been used
from _Télémaque_ to the _Martyrs_.

I say nothing of the archæological researches, the labour of gathering
which must not be evident, nor of the language and the form, which are
almost impossible to handle. If I tried to write with absolute accuracy
of detail, the work would be obscure; I should be compelled to use
abstruse terms, and to stuff the volumes with notes. And if I should
preserve the usual French literary tone, the work would become simply
banal. Problem! as Father Hugo would say.

In spite of all that, I continue, but I am devoured by anxiety and
doubts. I console myself with the thought that at least I have attempted
to do something worth while. That is all.

The standard of the Doctrine will be boldly carried this time, I assure
you! But it proves nothing, it says nothing, it is neither historic, nor
satirical, nor humorous. On the other hand, is it not stupid?

I have just begun Chapter VIII., after which seven still remain to be
written. I shall not finish the work before eighteen months have passed.

It was not a mere bit of politeness on my part when I congratulated you
on your work. I love history madly! The dead are far more agreeable to
me than the living. Whence comes this seduction of the past? Why have
you made me fall in love with the mistresses of Louis XV.? A love like
this is, now I think of it, a decided novelty in human emotion. The
historic sense dates from yesterday, and it is perhaps the best
characteristic of the nineteenth century.

What are you doing now? As for myself, I am deep in Kabbala, in Mischna,
in the military tactics of the ancients, etc. (a mass of reading that is
of no particular use to me, but which I undertook through the urgency of
my conscience, and also a little to amuse myself). I worry myself over
the assonances that I find in my prose; my life is as flat as the table
upon which I write. The days follow one another, each one appearing to
be exactly like the preceding, externally, at least. In my despair, I
sometimes dream of travel. Sad remedy!

Both of you seem to me to have the air of stultifying yourselves
virtuously in the bosom of your family, among the delights of the
country! I comprehend that sort of thing, having undergone it several

Shall you be in Paris from the first of August to the 25th?

While waiting for the joy of seeing you, I clasp your hands with true


CROISSET, _Sunday, July 20, 1860_.

I REPLY immediately to your pretty letter, received this morning, to
congratulate you, my dear sir, on the life you lead! Accept the homage
of my envy.

Since you ask me about _Salammbô_, this is how it stands. I have just
finished the ninth chapter, and am preparing the material for the tenth
and eleventh, which I intend to write this winter, living here all
alone, like a bear.

I am occupied now with a quantity of reading, which I get through with
great rapidity. For the last three days I have done nothing but swallow
Latin, following, at the same time, my studies of the early Christians.
As to the Carthaginians, I really believe I have exhausted all texts on
the subject. After my romance is finished, it would be easy for me to
write a large volume of criticisms of these books, with strong
citations. For instance, no longer ago than to-day, a passage in Cicero
led me to discover a form of Tanith of which I had had no previous

I become wise--and sad! Yes, I now lead a holy existence--I, who was
born with so many appetites! But sacred literature has become a part of
my very being.

I pass my time in putting stones on the pit of my stomach, to prevent
the feeling of hunger! This makes me fairly stupid at times.

As to my "copy" (since that is the term), frankly, I do not know what to
think. I fear I may fall into the way of making continual repetitions,
of eternally rehashing the same things. Sometimes my phrases seem to be
all cut after the same fashion, and likely to bore anyone to death. My
will does not weaken, but I find it very difficult to please myself. I
feel like _eating_ my own words.

You may judge of my agitation just now, when I tell you that I am
actually preparing a grand _coup_, the finest effect in the book. It
must be at once brutal and chaste, mystical yet realistic,--a kind of
effect that never has been produced before, yet absolutely real and

That which I predicted has come true; you are enamoured of Arabian
manners and morals! How much time you will lose, after you return,
dreaming, beside the fire, of dark eyes beneath a cloudless sky!

Send me a line as soon as you return to Paris. You said you expected to
arrive by the end of the month. That time is now here. We must not let
any longer time elapse without seeing each other. Bouilhet's play will
have its first performance about the 15th or the 20th of November.

My mother and my niece are well, and thank you for your kind
remembrance. As to my niece, I believe I shall be made a great-uncle
next April. I am becoming a veteran, a sheikh, an old man, an idiot!

May you enjoy the last days of your journey and have a good voyage home.
I embrace thee!


CROISSET, _September 8, 1860_.

I RECEIVED on Tuesday morning your letter of the first of September. It
saddened me to read the expression of your grief. Besides your private
sorrow, you are surrounded by exterior annoyances, as I understand,
since you are forced to perceive the ingratitude and selfishness of
those who are under obligations to you. I must tell you that such is
_always_ the case,--a very poor consolation, it is true! But the
conviction that rain is wet and that a rattlesnake is dangerous has its
share in helping us to support our miseries. Why is this so? But here we
attempt to encroach upon the omniscience of God!

Let us try to forget evil, and turn to the sunshine and the good we may
find in life. If a malicious person wounds you, try to remember the
kindness of some noble heart, and fill your mind with that recollection.

You tell me that you find absolutely no sympathy of ideas. That is one
reason why you should live in Paris. One always finds there some person
to whom one can talk. You were not made for provincial life. I am
convinced that among other surroundings you would have suffered less.
Each soul has its own atmosphere. You must suffer keenly, in the midst
of the folly, lies, calumnies, jealousies, and indescribable pettiness
which are almost the inevitable accompaniment of _bourgeois_ life in
small towns. Of course, that sort of thing exists in Paris also, but in
another form--less direct and less irritating.

There is still time to form a good resolution. Do not continue to live
"on foot" as you have lived heretofore. Tear yourself away! Travel! Do
you think you may die on the way? Ah, well, never mind! No, no, believe
me when I tell you that you would be better for it, physically and
morally. But you need a master, who would order you to go, and force you
to it! I know you as well as if I had lived with you twenty years. Is
this presumption on my part,--an excessive sympathy that I feel for you?

I assure you that I am very fond of you, and that I wish you to know, if
not happiness, at least tranquillity. But it is not possible to enjoy
the least serenity with your habit of delving incessantly among the
greatest mysteries. You kill both your body and your soul in trying to
conciliate two contradictory things: religion and philosophy. The
liberalism of your mind revolts against the old rubbish of dogma, and
your natural mysticism takes alarm at the extreme consequences whither
your reason leads you. Try to confine yourself to science, to pure
science; learn to love facts for themselves. Study ideas as naturalists
study insects. Such contemplation may be full of tenderness. The breasts
of the Muses are full of milk; and that liquid is the beverage of the
strong. And--once more--leave the place where your soul is stifling. Go
at once, instantly, as if the house were afire!

Think of me sometimes, and believe always in my sincere affection.



YOU must have found a letter from me at your house in Paris, as I wrote
to you the same day I received your book (last Monday), after reading it
from one end to the other without hastening.

I was enchanted with it! It has an upspringing power that never flags
for an instant. As to the analysis, it is perfect--it fairly dazzles me.
In my former letter you will find my impression given immediately after
the first reading. I should now be reading it a second time, if my
mother had not three ladies under her roof, who are regaling themselves
with it! It will certainly appeal to the fair sex, and therefore will be
a success--I believe that is the general idea. But I have found
opportunities to dip into your _Philomène_ here and there, and I know
the book perfectly. My opinion is this: You have done that which you
wished to do, and have done it with great success.

Do not have any anxiety about it. Your _réligieuse_ is not banal, thanks
to the explanation at the beginning. That was the danger, but you have
avoided it.

But that which lends the book its simplicity has perhaps restricted its
breadth a little. Beside Sister Philoméne I should have wished to see
contrasted the generality of _réligieuses_, who scarcely resemble her.
And that is the only objection I have to make. It is true that you have
not entitled your book: _Morals of a Hospital!_ This may be the cause of
some criticism.

I cannot find words to tell you how pleased I am with your work. I
notice a new effect of realism in it,--the power to describe the natural
connection of facts. Your method of doing this is excellent. Perhaps the
strongest interest of the work springs from this.

What an imbecile was Levy! But he is very amusing, all the same.

No, there are not too many "horrors" (for my personal taste, there are
not even enough!--but that is a question of temperament). You stopped
just at the very limit. There are exquisite traits,--the old man who
coughs, for instance, and the head surgeon among his pupils, etc. The
conclusion is superb--I mean the death of Barnier.

It was necessary, perhaps, for you to make your romance in six volumes,
but it must have been a wearisome piece of work. They say it is
impossible to please everyone; but I am convinced that your _Sister
Philoméne_ will have a great success, and shall not be at all surprised
at it.

I have said nothing about your style, for it has been a long time since
I first congratulated you upon that!

Romaine excites my admiration beyond bounds. "Ah! To touch, as you
touched, to cut, as you cut there yourself." Here a true and deep note
is sounded.

I am as proud of you as I am displeased with myself. Alas! My good
friends, things do not go well. It seems to me that _Salammbô_ is
stupid enough to kill one! There is too much talk of the unsettled
conditions of ancient times, always battles, always furious people. One
longs for cradling verdure and a milk diet! Berquin would seem delicious
after this. In short, I am not contented. I believe my plan is bad, but
it is too late to change it, because everything now is fully settled.

What do you intend to do next? How goes _La Jeune Bourgeoise_? Write to
me when you have nothing better to do, for I think of you very often.

Adieu! A thousand thanks, and a thousand sincere compliments! I embrace



WHAT a man was old Father Hugo! Heavens! what a poet! I have just
devoured his two volumes. I need you! I need Bouilhet! I need some
intelligent auditor! I want to bawl three thousand verses as no one else
ever has bawled them! Did I say bawl?--I meant _howl_! I do not
recognize myself--I do not know what possesses me! Ah! that has done me

I have found three superb details which are not at all historic and
which are in my _Salammbô_. I must cut them out, else some one would be
sure to accuse me of plagiarism. It is the poor that are always charged
with stealing!

My work is progressing rather better. I am now engrossed in a battle of
elephants, and I assure you that I kill men off like flies! I pour
blood in torrents!

I wished to write you a long letter, my poor old boy, about the
annoyances you suffer, which seem to me rather serious, but frankly, it
is time I went to bed. It will soon be four o'clock in the morning.
Father Hugo has turned my brain topsy-turvy!

I, too, have had for some time annoyances and anxieties that are not
slight. But--_Allah Kherim!_

You appear to me to be in good condition. You are right. As your book
will not be about Belgium (the scene, I mean), it will have a freer
colour and unity. But think seriously after that of your proposed work
on the Bourse, of which there is a crying need.



A GOOD subject for a romance is one that is embodied in one idea,
springing up like a single jet of water. It is the "mother idea," whence
come all that follow. One is by no means free to write of such or such a
thing; he does not _choose_ his subject. This is something that the
public and the critics do not comprehend, but the secret of all
masterpieces lies in the concordance between the subject and the
temperament of the author.

You are right; we must speak with respect of _Lucrece_; I can compare it
only to Byron, and Byron had not his gravity, nor his sincerity, nor his
sadness. The melancholy of the olden time seems to me more profound
than that of our day, which implies, more or less, the idea of
immortality beyond the grave. But to the ancients the grave was
infinity; their dreams were conceived and enacted against a black and
unchangeable background. No cries, no convulsions, nothing but the
fixity of a thoughtful visage! The gods no longer existed, and the
Christ had not yet come; and the ancients, from Cicero to Marcus
Aurelius, lived at a unique epoch when man alone was all-powerful. I do
not find anything like such grandeur as this; but that which renders
_Lucrece_ intolerable is its philosophy, which the author presents as
positive. It is because he does not suspect that it is weak; he wishes
to explain, to conclude! If he had resembled Epicurus only in mind and
not in system, all parts of his work would have been immortal and
radical. No matter! Our modern poets are weak and puny compared with
such a man!



TO YOU I can say everything! Well, our god has come down a peg! _Les
Misérables_ exasperates me, yet one cannot say a word against it, for
fear of being thought a _mouchard_! The position of the author is
impregnable, unassailable. I, who have passed my life in adoring him, am
actually indignant at him at present, and must burst out somehow!

I find in this book neither verity nor grandeur. As to style, it seems
to me intentionally incorrect and low, as if the story had been written
thus to flatter the popular taste. Hugo has a good word and kindly
attention for everyone: Saint Simonians, Philippists, even for
innkeepers,--all receive equal adulation, and the types are like those
found only in tragedies. Where are there any prostitutes like Fantine,
convicts like Valjean, and politicians like the stupid donkeys of the A,
B, C? Nowhere do we find the real suffering of the _soul_. These are
only manikins, sugar dolls, beginning with Monseigneur Bienvenu. In a
rage of socialism, Hugo calumniates the Church as he calumniates misery.

Where is the bishop who asks a benediction from a convention? Where is
the factory that turns away a girl because she has a child? And the
digressions! How many of these do we find! The passage about manure
should interest Pelletan!

This book was written for the low socialist class and for the
philosophical-evangelical vermin. What a pretty character is Monsieur
Marius, living for three days on a cutlet, and Monsieur Enjolras, who
never had given but two kisses in his life, poor fellow!

As to the conversations, they are good, but they are all alike. The
eternal repetitions of Père Gillenormant, the final delirium of Valjean,
the humour of Cholomiès and of Gantaise--it is all in the same strain.
Always a straining after effects, attempts at jokes, an effort at
gaiety, but nothing really comic. There are lengthy explanations of
things quite outside the subject, and a lack of details that should be
indispensable. Then there are long sermons, saying that universal
suffrage would be a very fine thing, and that it is necessary to
instruct the masses,--all of which is repeated to satiety.

Decidedly, this book, in spite of some beautiful passages, is childish.
Personal observation is a secondary quality in literature, but one
should not allow himself to paint society so falsely when he is the
contemporary of Balzac and of Dickens. It was a splendid subject, but
what calm philosophy it demanded in its treatment, and what breadth of
scientific vision! It is true that Father Hugo disdains science,--and he
proves it!

In my mind this confirms Descartes or Spinoza.

Posterity will not pardon him for attempting to be a thinker, in spite
of his nature. Where has the rage for philosophic prose conducted him?
And what kind of philosophy? That of Prudhomme, of the Bonhomme Richard,
or of Béranger. He is no more of a thinker than Racine, or La Fontaine,
whom he considers mediocre; that is, in this book he flows with the
current, even as they; he gathers all the banal ideas of his epoch, and
with such persistence that he forgets his work and his art.

This is my opinion; I keep it to myself, you understand. Anyone that
handles a pen must feel too much gratitude towards Hugo to permit
himself to criticise him; but I find that externally, at least, even the
gods grow old!

I await your reply--and your anger!



WHAT a charming article, my dear Théo, and how can I thank you for it?
If anyone had said to me, when I was twenty years old, that Théophile
Gautier, with whom my imagination was filled, would write such things
about me, I should have become delirious with pride!

Have you read the third philippic of Sainte-Beuve? But your panegyric of
Trajan avenges me.

May I expect you the day after to-morrow? Tell Toto to give me an answer
regarding this.

Your old friend.


_Monday evening, 1863._

MY OLD THÉO: Do not come Wednesday. I am invited to dine with the
Princess Mathilde that evening, and we should not have time for a chat
before dinner. Let us put it off until Saturday. Ducamp has been

My reply to my lord Froehner will appear in _l'Opinion_ next Saturday,
or perhaps Thursday. I believe that you will not be displeased with the
phrase that alludes to you.

Is it understood, then--Saturday?


CROISSET, _April 3, 1864_.

HOW goes it, dear old master? How comes on the _Fracasse_? What do you
think of _Salammbô_? Is there anything new to say about that young
person? The _Figaro-Programme_ has mentioned it again, and Verdi is in

As soon as you have finished your romance, come to my cabin and stay a
week (or more) according to your promise, and we will lay out the
scenario. I shall expect you in May. Let me know two days in advance
before you come.

I am dreaming of writing two books, without having done any actual work
upon them. I have nails in my throat--if I may so express myself.

It seems to me a very long time since I have seen your dear face.

I imagine that we shall enjoy here (far from courts and women) a great
gossip. So run hither as soon as you are free! I kiss you on both

Tenderest remembrances to all, especially to Toto.

I am a victim of the HHHHHATRED OF THE PRIESTS, having been cursed by
them in two churches--Sainte-Clotilde and Trinity!! They accuse me of
being the inventor of obscene travesties, and of wishing to restore



DEAR MADAME: I cannot tell you how much pleased I am that you fulfilled
what you called a duty. The kindness of your heart has touched me and
your sympathy has made me proud. That is all.

Your letter, which I have just received, adds to your article and even
surpasses it, and I do not know what to say to you unless I say frankly
that I love you for it!

It was not I that sent you a little flower in an envelope last
September. But it is a strange coincidence that I received at the same
time, sent in the same fashion, a leaf plucked from a tree.

As to your cordial invitation, I reply neither yes nor no, like a true
Norman. I shall surprise you, perhaps, some day this summer. I have a
great desire to see you and to talk with you.

It would be very sweet to me to have your portrait to hang upon my study
wall in the country, where I often pass long months entirely alone. Is
my request indiscreet? If not, I send you a thousand thanks in advance.
Take them in addition to my others, which I reiterate.


PARIS, 1866.

MOST certainly I count upon your visit at my private domicile. As for
the inconveniences dreaded by the fair sex, you will not perceive more
of them than have others (be sure of that). My little stories of the
heart and of the sense do not come out of a back shop. But as it is a
long distance from my home to yours, in order to save you a useless
journey, let me meet you as soon as you arrive in Paris, and we will
dine together all by ourselves with our elbows on the table!

I have sent Bouilhet your kind message.

At the present moment I am deafened by the crowd in the street under my
window following the prize ox! And they say that intellect flourishes
among the people of the street!


CROISSET, _Tuesday, 1866_.

YOU are alone and sad where you are, and I am the same here. Whence come
the black moods that sometimes sweep over us? They creep up like the
rising tide and we are suddenly overwhelmed and must flee. My method is
to lie flat on my back and do nothing, and the wave passes after a time.

My romance has been going badly for a quarter of an hour. Then, too, I
have just heard of two deaths, that of Cormenin, a friend for the past
twenty-five years, and of Gavarni. Other things have troubled me, too,
but all this will soon pass over.

You do not know what it is to sit a whole day with your head in your
hands, squeezing your unhappy brain in trying to find a word. Your ideas
flow freely, incessantly, like a river. But with me they run slowly,
like a tiny rill. I must have great works of art to occupy me in order
to obtain a cascade. Ah! I know what they are--the terrors of _style_!

In short, I pass my life gnawing my heart and my brain--that is the real
truth about your friend.

You ask whether he thinks sometimes of his old troubadour of the clock.
He does, indeed! And he regrets him. Our little nocturnal chats were
very charming. There were moments when I had to restrain myself to keep
from babbling to you like a big baby.

Your ears must have burned last night. I dined with my brother and his
family. We spoke of scarcely anyone but you, and everyone sang your
praises, dear and well-beloved master!

I re-read, _à propos_ of your last letter (and by a natural train of
ideas), Father Montaigne's chapter entitled "Some Verses of Virgil."
That which he says about chastity is precisely my own belief.

It is the effort that is difficult, and not abstinence in itself.
Otherwise, it would be a curse to the flesh. Heaven knows whither this
would lead. So, at the risk of eternal reiteration, and of being like
Prudhomme, I repeat that your young man was wrong. If he had been
virtuous up to twenty years of age, his action would be an ignoble
libertinage at fifty. Everyone gets his deserts some time! Great
natures, that are also good, are above all things generous, and do not
calculate expense. We must laugh and weep, work, play, and suffer, so
that we may feel the divine vibration throughout our being. That, I
believe, is the characteristic of true manhood.


CROISSET, _Saturday night, 1866_.

AT LAST I have it, that beautiful, dear, and illustrious face! I shall
put it in a large frame and hang it on my wall, being able to say, as M.
de Talleyrand said to Louis Philippe: "It is the greatest honour my
house ever has received." Not quite appropriate, for you and I are
better than those two worthies!

Of the two portraits, the one I like the better is the drawing by
Couture. As to Marchal's conception, he has seen in you only "the good
woman"; but I, who am an old romanticist, find in it "the head of the
author" who gave me in my youth so many beautiful dreams!



I, A MYSTERIOUS being, dear master? What an idea! I find myself a
walking platitude, and am sometimes bored to death by the _bourgeois_ I
carry about under my skin! Sainte-Beuve, between you and me, does not
know me at all, whatever he may say. I even swear to you (by the sweet
smile of your grand-daughter!) that I know few men less "vicious" than
myself. I have dreamed much, but have done little. That which is
deceptive to superficial observers is the discord between my sentiments
and my ideas. If you wish to have my confession, I will give it frankly.

My sense of the grotesque has always restrained me from yielding to any
inclination towards licentiousness. I maintain that cynicism protects
chastity. We must discuss this matter at length (that is, if you choose)
the next time we meet.

This is the programme that I propose to you. During the next month my
house will be in some disorder. But towards the end of October, or at
the beginning of November (after the production of Bouilhet's play), I
hope nothing will prevent you from returning here with me, not for a
day, as you say, but for a week at least. You shall have your room "with
a round table and everything needful for writing." Is that agreeable?

About the fairy play [_The Castle of Hearts_] I thank you for your
kindly offer of assistance. I will tell you all about the thing (I am
writing it in collaboration with Bouilhet). But I believe it is a mere
trifle, and I am divided between the desire to gain a few piastres and
shame at the idea of exhibiting such a piece of frivolity.

I find you a little severe towards Brittany, but not towards the Bretons
themselves, who appear to me a crabbed set of animals.

_À propos_ of Celtic archæology, I published, in _l'Artiste_, in 1858, a
marvellous tale about the rocking stones, but I have not a copy of the
number, and do not even remember in which month it appeared.

I have read, continuously, the ten volumes of _l'Histoire de Ma Vie_, of
which I knew about two thirds, in fragments. That which struck me most
forcibly was the account of life in the convent.

On all these matters I have stored up a quantity of observations to
submit to you when we meet.


CROISSET, _Saturday night, 1866_.

THE sending of the two portraits made me believe that you were in Paris,
dear master, and I wrote you a letter which now awaits you at the Rue
des Feuillantines.

I have not found my article on the dolmens. But I have the whole
manuscript about my trip through Brittany among my unedited works. We
shall have it to let our tongues loose upon while you are here. Take

I do not experience, as you do, that feeling as of the beginning of a
new life, the bewilderment of a fresh existence newly opening. On the
contrary, it seems to me that I have always existed, and I possess
recollections that go back to the time of the Pharaohs! I can see myself
at various epochs in history very clearly, following various
occupations, and placed in divers circumstances. The present individual
is the product of my past individualities. I have been a boatman on the
Nile; a _leno_ at Rome during the time of the Punic wars; then a Greek
rhetorician at Suburra, where I was devoured by bugs. I died, during the
crusades, from eating grapes on the coast of Syria. I have been a pirate
and a monk; a clown and a coachman. Perhaps, also, an emperor in the

Many things would explain themselves if we could only know our true
genealogy. For, the elements that go to make a man being limited, the
same combinations must reproduce themselves.

We must regard this matter as we regard many others. Each of us takes
hold of it by only one end, and never fully understands it. The
psychological sciences remain where they have always lain, in folly and
in darkness. All the more so since they possess no exact nomenclature,
and we are compelled to employ the same expression to signify the most
diverse ideas. When we mix up the categories, good-bye to the _morale_!

Do you not find that, since '89, we struggle with trifles? Instead of
continuing along the broad road, which was as wide and beautiful as a
triumphal way, we run off into narrow paths, or struggle in the mire. It
might be wiser to return temporarily to d'Holbach. Before admiring
Prudhon, we should know Turgot!

But "Chic," that modern religion, what would become of that?

"Chic" (or "Chique") opinions: to support Catholicism, without believing
a word of it; to approve of slavery; to praise the House of Austria; to
wear mourning for Queen Amélie; to admire _Orphée aux Enfers_; to occupy
oneself with agriculture; to talk "sport;" to be cold; to be idiot
enough to regret the treaties of 1815. All this is the very newest

Ah! You believe because I pass my life in trying to make harmonious
phrases and to avoid assonances, that I do not form my own little
judgments on the affairs of this world. Alas! I do, and sometimes I boil
with rage at not being able to express them.

But enough of gossip, or I shall bore you.

Bouilhet's play will appear early in November. And we shall see each
other in about a month from that time.

I embrace you tenderly, dear master!


_Monday night, 1866._

YOU are sad, my poor friend and dear master; I thought of you at once on
learning of the death of Duveyrier. Since you loved him, I pity you.
This loss is one of many. These deaths we feel in the depths of our
hearts. Each of us carries within himself his own burial ground.

I am all _unscrewed_ since your departure; it seems to me now as if ten
years have passed since last I saw you. My only topic of conversation
with my mother is yourself; we all cherish the thought of you here.

Under what constellation were you born, to have united in your person
qualities so diverse, so numerous, and so rare? I hardly know how to
characterise the sentiment I feel for you, but I bear you a _particular_
tenderness, such as I never have felt for anyone else. We understand
each other well, do we not? And that is charming!

I regretted you especially last night at ten o'clock. There was a fire
on my wood-merchant's premises. The sky was rosy, and the Seine was the
colour of gooseberry sirup. I worked at the pumps for three hours, and
came home as weak as the Turk of the giraffe.

A journal of Rouen, the _Nouvelliste_, has mentioned your visit at
Rouen, and in such terms that on Saturday, after you had gone, I met
several worthy _bourgeois_ who were indignant at me because I had not
exhibited you! The most absurd remark was made by an old
sub-prefect:--"Ah! if we had only known that she was here ... we should
have ... we should have" ... pause of five minutes, while he searched
for a word--"we should have ... _smiled_!" That would have been a great
compliment, eh?

To love you "more" is difficult, but I embrace you tenderly. Your letter
of this morning, so melancholy, has touched the depths of my heart. We
are separated just at the time when we wish to say so many things. Not
all doors have yet been opened between you and me. You inspire me with a
deep respect, and I dare not question you.


_Friday, one o'clock, 1867._

MY DEAR OLD BOYS! On arriving at Paris, the day before yesterday, I
learned of your nomination through Scholl's article. So my pleasure was
mingled with annoyance.

Then, last evening, the princess told me you were in Paris. If you were
in the habit of opening your door to the people that knock at it, I
should have presented myself at midnight, to embrace you.

How shall we meet?--for I must return this evening. It is not you,
Edmond, I wish to compliment so much as Jules, to whom the nomination
must give more pleasure than it gives to you. The fifteenth of next
August will be the date for your turn, I suppose.

Adieu, dear old fellows, I embrace you both most tenderly.

I wrote to you at Trouville, _poste restante_. Have you received my

P.S.--A sudden thought seizes me. What do you intend to do this evening?
Where shall you be at five minutes before midnight? Is it not possible
that I might dine with you? Where shall we see each other?

You know that this is worn as soon as the news is printed in the
_Moniteur_. So here is a little gift from your friend. Cut the ribbon
and wear it. Cut it in half, because there is enough for two.


_Wednesday night, 1867._

I HAVE followed your advice, dear master, and I have taken exercise!

Am I not good, eh?

Sunday evening, at eleven o'clock, there was such beautiful moonlight on
the river and across the snow, that I was seized with a wild desire to
go out and bestir myself; so I walked for two hours and a half, showing
the scenery to myself, and imagining I was travelling in Russia or in
Norway! When the waves rose and cracked the ice along the edges of the
river, it was, without joking, really superb. Then I thought of you, and
longed for your companionship.

I do not like to eat alone. I find it necessary to associate the idea of
some one to the things that give me pleasure. But the right "someone"
is extremely rare. I ask myself why I love you. Is it because you are a
great "man" or simply a charming being? I do not know. The one thing I
am sure of is that I feel for you a particular sentiment which I cannot

_A propos_ of this, do you believe (you, who are a master in psychology)
that one ever loves two persons in the same way, or that one ever
experiences two identical sensations? I do not believe it, as I maintain
that the individual changes every moment of his existence.

You write me such pretty things regarding "disinterested affection."
They are very true, but the contrary also is true. We always imagine God
in our own image. At the foundation of all our loves and all our
admirations we find--ourselves, or something resembling ourselves. But
what matters it?--if we are admirable!

My own _ego_ overwhelms me for a quarter of an hour. How heavily that
rascal weighs upon me at times. He writes too slowly, and does not
_pose_ the least in the world when he complains about his work. What a
task! And what devil possessed him to induce him to seek such a subject?
You ought to give me a recipe for writing faster; yet you complain of
having to seek fortune! You!

I have had a little note from Sainte-Beuve, reassuring me as to his
health, but rather sad in tone. He seems to be very sorry not to be able
to haunt the woods of Cyprus. He is right, after all, or at least, it
seems right to him, which amounts to the same thing. Perhaps I shall
resemble him when I reach his age, but somehow, I believe not. As I had
not the same kind of youth, my old age will probably be different.

This reminds me that I have sometimes dreamed of writing a book on Saint
Périne. Champfleury has treated this subject very badly. I see nothing
whatever in it of a comical nature; I should bring out its painful and
lamentable character. I believe that the heart never grows old; there
are people in whom it even grows stronger with age. I was drier and
harsher at twenty than I am to-day. I have become softened and feminised
by wear and tear, while others have hardened and withered, and that
almost makes me indignant. I feel that I am becoming a _cow_! A mere
nothing stirs my emotions; everything troubles and agitates me and
shakes me as a reed is shaken in the north wind.

One word of yours, which I have just recollected, made me wish to
re-read _The Fair Maid of Perth_. She was something of a coquette,
whatever they say of her. That good fellow had some imagination,

Now, adieu. Think of me! I send you my tenderest thoughts.


_Wednesday night, 1867._

DEAR MASTER, dear friend of the good God, "let us talk a little of
Dozenval," let us growl about Monsieur Thiers! Could there ever be a
more triumphant imbecile, a more abject fellow, a meaner _bourgeois_!
No, no words could ever give an idea of the nausea that overcomes me
when I contemplate that old pumpkin of a diplomat, fattening his
stupidity under the muck of the _bourgeoisie_. Would it be possible to
treat with more naïve and more inappropriate unceremoniousness, matters
of religion, the people, liberty, the past and the future, national
history and natural history, everything? He seems to me as eternal as
mediocrity itself! He prostrates me! But the finest thing of all is the
spectacle of the brave National Guards, whom he threw out in 1848, now
beginning to applaud him! What absolute lunacy! It proves that
everything depends upon temperament. Prostitutes--represented in this
case by France--are said to have always a weakness for old rascals!

I shall attempt, in the third part of my romance (when I shall have had
the reaction following the June days), to insinuate a panegyric about
him, _à propos_ of his book: _De la Propriété_, and I hope that he will
be pleased with me!

What care should one take sometimes, in expressing an opinion on things
of this world, not to risk being considered an imbecile later? It is a
rude problem. It seems to me that the best way is to describe, with the
simplest precision, those things that exasperate one. The dissection
itself is a vengeance!

Ah, well! it is not at him alone that I am enraged, nor at the
others--it is at our people in general.

However, if we had spent our time in instructing the higher classes on
the subject of agriculture; if we had thought more of our stomachs than
of our heads, probably we should resemble him!

I have just read the preface of Buchez to his _Histoire parlementaire_.
Like other similar publications, it is full of stupidities, of which we
feel the weight to this day.

It is not kind to say I do not think of my "old troubadour;" of what
else should I think? Of my little book, perhaps,--but that is more
difficult and not nearly so agreeable.

How long do you remain at Cannes? After Cannes, does not one usually
return to Paris? I shall be there towards the end of January.

In order that my book may be finished in the spring of 1869, from this
time on, I shall not allow myself even a week's holiday. This is the
reason why I do not go to Nohant. I am still on the history of the
amazons. In order to draw the bow with the best effect, they used to cut
off one breast! Was that a good way, after all?

Adieu, dear master; write to me. I embrace thee tenderly!


_Wednesday, 1868._

NO, MY dear master, I have not received your book, but I have already
read it, and am re-reading it. What a mountain is yours! Where will you

I am overwhelmed by this mass of ideas, and amazed at their profundity.

I believe I never have read anything that impressed me more deeply than
that part about the baths of Acqui. You bring the Pyrenees and the Alps
before our very eyes. But in your company one is always on the heights!

The weighty romance in which you express an interest (weighty for me,
while waiting to see what it will be for others!), will not be finished
in less than a whole year. I am full of it now, in the history of '48.
My profound conviction is that the clergy has acted amazingly.

The dangers of democratic Catholicism, pointed out by you in the preface
to your _Revolution_, are already here. Ah! we are indeed alone. But you
remain to us, you!

I clasp your hand warmly, and beg you to believe me yours, with true


CROISSET, _Wednesday evening, Sept. 9, 1868_.

IS THIS handsome conduct, dear master? Two months have passed since you
wrote last to your old troubadour! Are you in Paris, Nohant, or where?

They say that _Cadio_ is being rehearsed at the Porte Saint-Martin (are
you very sorry, you and Chilly?). They say also, that Thuillier will
make her reappearance in your play. (I thought she was dying--I mean
Thuillier, not your play.) And when will _Cadio_ be produced. Are you

I live absolutely like an oyster. My romance is the rock to which I
cling, and I know nothing of what is going on in the world. I do not
even read, or rather, I read only the _Lanterne_. Rochefort bores me,
to tell the truth. One must, however, have considerable bravery to dare
to say, even timidly, that perhaps he is not the first writer of the
century! O _Velches! Velches!_ as Monsieur de Voltaire would sigh, or
rather, roar!

And Sainte-Beuve--do you see him? I am working furiously. I have just
written a description of the forest of Fontainebleau, which has filled
me with a desire to hang myself on one of its trees! I was interrupted
for three weeks, and had a hard task to put myself in train to work
again. I have the peculiarity of a camel--I find it difficult to stop
when once I get started, and hard to start after I have been resting. I
have worked steadily for a year at a time. After which I loafed
definitely, like a _bourgeois_. It was difficult at first, and not at
all pleasant. It is time now that I should do something fine, something
that shall please me. That which would please me greatly for a quarter
of an hour would be to embrace you! When shall I be able to do so? From
now until that time, I send you a thousand sweet thoughts.


CROISSET, _July 23, 1869_.

MY GOOD OLD MAX: I feel the need of writing you a long letter. I do not
know whether I shall have strength, but I will try.

Since his return to Rouen, after receiving his nomination for the place
of librarian (August, 1867), our poor Bouilhet was convinced that he
should leave his bones there. Everyone, including myself, pitied him for
his sadness. He did not appear the man he was formerly; he was
completely changed, except for his literary intelligence, which remained
the same. In short, when I returned to Paris, in June, I found him a
lamentable figure. A journey that he made to Paris on account of his
_Mademoiselle Aïssé_, because the manager demanded that certain changes
be made in the second act, was so difficult for him that he could
scarcely drag himself to the theatre.

On visiting him at his house, the last Sunday in June, I found Dr. P----
of Paris, X---- of Rouen, Morel, the alienist, and a good chemist, one
of Bouilhet's friends, named Dupré. Bouilhet dared not ask for a
consultation with my brother, realising that he was very ill and fearing
to hear the truth.

Dr. P---- sent him to Vichy, whence Villemain hastened to despatch him
back to Rouen. On debarking at Rouen, he finally summoned my brother.
The evil was found to be irreparable, as indeed Villemain had written

During these last two weeks my mother has been at Verneuil, at the house
of the Mesdames V----, and letters have been delayed three days, so you
see what anxiety I have had. I went to see Bouilhet both days that he
was here, and observed some amelioration in his condition. His appetite
was excellent, as well as his courage, and the tumour on his leg had

His sisters came from Carny in order to speak to him of religious
matters, and were so violent that they really scandalised a worthy canon
of the cathedral. Our poor Bouilhet was superb--he sent them packing!
When I left him for the last time, on Saturday, he had a volume of
Lamettrie on his night-table, which recalled to my mind my poor friend
Alfred Le Poittevin reading Spinoza. No priest was summoned. His anger
against his sisters appeared to sustain him until Saturday, and then I
departed for Paris, in the hope that he would live a long time.

On Sunday, at five o'clock, he became delirious, and recited aloud the
scenario of a drama of the Middle Ages on the Inquisition. He called for
me, in order to show it to me, and was very enthusiastic over it. Then a
trembling seized him; he murmured, "Adieu! Adieu!" His head sank under
Léonie's chin, and he died very quietly. Monday morning my porter
awakened me with a telegram that announced the death in the usual terse
fashion of a despatch. I was alone; I packed my things, sent the news to
you, and went to tell it to Duplan, who was engaged in his business
affairs. Then I walked the streets an hour, and it was very hot near the
railway station. From Paris to Rouen in a coach filled with people.
Opposite me was a damsel that smoked cigarettes, stretched her feet out
on the seat and sang.

When I saw once more the towers of Mantes I thought I should go mad, and
I believe I was not far from it. Seeing me very pale, the damsel offered
me her _eau de Cologne_. It revived me a little, but what a thirst! That
of the desert of Sahara was nothing to it. At last I arrived at the Rue
de Bihorel; but here I will spare you details.

I never met a better fellow than little Philip; he and that good Léonie
took admirable care of Bouilhet. I approved of everything they had done.
In order to reassure Bouilhet, and to persuade him that he was not
dangerously ill, Léonie had refused to marry him, and her son encouraged
her in this resistance. This marriage was so much the fixed intention of
Bouilhet, however, that he had had all the necessary papers drawn. As
for the young man, I found that he had behaved in every way like a

D'Osmoy and I conducted the ceremonies. A great many persons came to the
funeral, two thousand at least; the prefect, the procurer-general,
etc.,--all the little dignitaries! Would you believe that even while
following his coffin, I realised keenly the grotesqueness of the
ceremony? I fancied I could hear him speaking to me; I felt that he was
there, at my side, and it seemed as if he and I were following the
corpse of some one else! The weather was very hot, threatening a storm.
I was covered with perspiration, and the walk to the cemetery finished
me. His friend Caudron had chosen the spot for the grave, near that of
Flaubert senior. I leaned against a railing to breathe. The coffin stood
on the trestles over the grave. The discourses began (there were
three!); then I fainted, and my brother and a stranger took me away.

The next day I went to my mother, at Serquigny. Yesterday I went to
Rouen, to take charge of Bouilhet's papers; to-day I have read the
letters that have been sent to me, and oh! dear Max, it was hard!

In his will he left instructions to Léonie that all his books and papers
should be given to Philip, charging the latter to consult with four
friends in order to decide what to do with the unedited works: myself,
D'Osmoy, you, and Caudron. He left a volume of excellent poems, four
plays in prose, and _Mademoiselle Aïssé_. The manager of the Odéon does
not like the second act of this play; I do not know what he will do.

It will be necessary for you and D'Osmoy to come here this winter, so
that we may decide what shall be published. My head troubles me too much
for me to continue now, and besides, what more can I say?

Adieu! I embrace you tenderly. There is only you now, only you! Do you
remember when we wrote _Solus ad solum_?

In all the letters I have received I find this phrase: "We must close up
our ranks." One gentleman, whom I do not know, has sent his card, with
these two words: _Sunt lacrymæ!_


_Sunday evening, 1870._

HOW I pity you, my poor friend! Your letter overcame me this morning.
Except for the personal confidence you made me (which you may be sure I
shall keep), it told me nothing new, or rather, I mean that I had
guessed all that you wrote me. I think of you every day and many times a
day. The memory of my lost friends leads me fatally to the thought of
you! The schedule has been well filled during the past year--your
brother, Bouilhet, Sainte-Beuve, and Duplan! My dreams are darkened by
the shadows of tombs, among which I walk.

But I dare not complain to you; for your grief must surpass all those
one could feel or imagine.

Do you wish me to speak of myself, my dear Edmond? Well, I am engrossed
in a work that gives me much pain,--it is the preface to Bouilhet's
book. I have glided over the biographical part as much as possible. I
shall write more at length after an examination of his works, and still
more upon his (or our) literary doctrines.

I have re-read all that he ever wrote. I have run through our old
letters. I have found a series of souvenirs, some of which are thirty
years old. It is not very cheerful work, as you may imagine! And
besides, here at Croisset, I am pursued by his phantom, which I find
behind every bush in the garden, on the divan in my study, and even
among my garments--in my dressing-gown, which sometimes he used to wear.

I hope to think less about him when this sad work is finished,--in about
six weeks. After that I shall try to re-write _Saint Antony_, although
my heart is not in it now. You know well that one always writes with the
thought of some particular person in view.

The particular person being, for me, no more, my courage fails me.

I live alone here with only my mother, who grows visibly older from day
to day. It has become impossible to hold any serious conversation with
her, and I have no one to whom I can talk.

I hope to go to Paris in August, and then I shall see you. But where
shall you be? Write to me about yourself sometimes, my poor Edmond! No
one pities you more than I. I embrace you warmly.


_Sunday, June 26, 1870._

SOMEONE forgets her old troubadour, who has just come from the funeral
of a friend. Of the seven friends that used to gather at the Magny
dinners, only three remain! I am stuffed with coffins, like an old
churchyard! I have had enough of it, frankly!

Yet in the midst of all this, I go on working! I finished last night the
preface to my poor Bouilhet's book. I intend to see whether some means
may not be found to produce a comedy of his in prose. After that I shall
take up _Saint Antony_ once more.

And you, dear master, what has become of you and yours? My niece is in
the Pyrenees, and I live here alone with my mother, who grows more and
more deaf, so that my existence is far from lively. I should go to some
warmer climate. But to do that I have neither time nor money. So I must
erase and re-write, and dig away as hard as possible.

I shall go to Paris early in August. I shall stay here through October,
in order to see the performance of _Aïssé_. My absence will be limited
to a week at Dieppe about the end of the month. These are my projects.

The funeral of Jules de Goncourt was very sad. Théo was there and shed
floods of tears.


_Thursday evening, 7 o'clock, 1871._

DEAR MADAME: I have had to occupy me during the last few weeks

_First_: the arrangements regarding Bouilhet's tomb;

_Second_: plans about his monument;

_Third_: looking after his volume of poems, which has just gone to

_Fourth_: finding an engraver to make his portrait;

_Fifth_: all my time for two weeks was taken up with _Aïssé_, I shall
read it to-morrow to the actors. The rehearsals will begin next
Saturday, and the play will be produced about the first of January.

I was obliged to leave Croisset so unexpectedly that my servant and my
belongings will not arrive until three days later. A detailed account of
the intrigues I have had to demolish would fill a volume.

I have engaged the actors. I have worked myself on the costumes at the
Cabinet des Estampes; in short, I have not had a moment's rest for two
weeks; and this petty life, so exasperating and so busy, will last at
this rate at least two full months.

What a world! I am not surprised that it killed my good Bouilhet!
Besides, I have re-written my preface to his books, as it displeased me
in its former state.

I beg you, for heaven's sake, to give me a little liberty for the moment
because with the best will in the world, it is impossible for me to do
everything at once. I must attend first to the most pressing affairs.
Besides, you are wrong to wish to publish _now_. What good will it do?
Where would you find readers?

I do not hide from you the fact that I find rather unjust your amiable
reproaches regarding the voyage to Mantes. Why can you not understand
that it would be very painful to me to go to Mantes? Every time I pass
before the buffet, I turn away my head! Nevertheless, I will keep my
promise. But it would be easier for me to go from Paris to Mantes than
to stop there in passing. Do not be vexed with me any longer; pity me,


_Tuesday, April 16, 1872._

DEAR GOOD MASTER: I ought to have replied at once to your first letter,
so sweet and tender. But I was too sad. The physical force to do it
failed me.

To-day, at last, I have begun to hear the birds sing and to notice the
green leaves. The sunshine no longer irritates me, which is a good sign.
If I could only follow my inclination to travel, I should be saved.

Your second letter (that of yesterday) moved me to tears. How good you
are! What a kind heart! I have no need of money just at present, thank
you. But if I were in need of it, I should certainly ask you for it.

My mother left Croisset to Caroline, on condition that I should retain
my apartments there. So until the complete liquidation of the
succession, I shall remain here. Before deciding upon the future, I
must know what I shall have to live upon; after that, we shall see.

Shall I have the courage to live absolutely alone in a solitary place? I
doubt it. I am growing old. Caroline cannot live here now. She has two
places already, and the house at Croisset is expensive to keep up.

I believe that I shall give up my lodgings in Paris. Nothing calls me
there any more. All my friends are dead, and the last, my poor Théo, is
not likely to be here long. I fear it! Ah, it is hard to make oneself
over at fifty years!

I have realised during the last two weeks that my poor good mamma was
the being I have loved most! To lose her is like tearing away a part of
my own body.



September 14 (the month
called Boédromion by the
Greeks), 1872.

I TAKE up my pen to write to you, and, shutting myself up in the silence
of my study, I permit myself, O beautiful lady, to burn at your feet
some grains of purest incense!

I say to myself: She has gone to the new Athens with the foster-sons of
Mars! Their limbs are covered with brilliant blue, while I wear a rustic
coat! Glittering swords dangle at their sides, while I carry only my
pens! Plumes ornament their heads, while I have scarcely any hair! Many
cares and much study have ravished from me that crown of youth--that
forest which the hand of Time, the destroyer, strips from our brows.

This is the reason why my breast is torn by blackest jealousy, O lovely

But your missive, thank the gods! came to me like a refreshing breeze,
like a veritable perfume of dittany.

If I could only have the certainty of seeing you, at no distant time,
amid our fields, settled near us! The rigour of the approaching blasts
of winter would be softened by your presence.

As to the political outlook, your anxieties are, perhaps, greater than
they need be. We must hope that our great national historian will close,
for a time, the era of revolutions. May we see the doors of the temple
of Janus shut forever! That is the desire of my heart, as a friend of
the arts and of innocent gaiety.

Ah, if all men, fleeing the pomp of courts and the agitations of the
Forum, would listen to the simple voice of nature, there would be only
happiness here below, the dances of shepherds, fond embraces beneath the
trees on one side and another--here, there, everywhere! But my ideas run
away with me.

Will Madame your mother devote herself always to the occupations of
Thalia? Very well! She proposes to face the public in the house of
Molière. I comprehend that, but I believe it would be better (in the
interest of her dramatic lucubration) if I myself should take this fruit
of her muse to the director of that establishment. Then, as soon as I
should arrive in the capital, I should make my toilet, call my servant
and command him to go and find a coach for me in the public square; I
should enter the vehicle, drive through the streets, arrive at the
Théâtre Française, and finish by finding our man. All this would be for
me only the affair of a moment!

In declaring myself, Madame, your unworthy slave, I depose



CROISSET, near Rouen, _June 3, 1874_.

I HAVE read it--_La Conquête de Plassans_--read it all at one breath, as
one swallows a glass of good wine; then I ruminated over it, and now, my
dear friend, I can talk sensibly about it. I feared, after the _Ventre
de Paris_, that you would bury yourself in the "system" in your
resolution. But no! You are a good fellow! And your latest book is a
fine, swaggering production!

Perhaps it fails in making prominent any special place, or having a
central scene (a thing that never happens in real life), and perhaps
also there is a little too much dialogue among the accessory characters.
There! in picking you to pieces carefully, these are the only defects I
discover. But what power of observation! what depth! what a masterly

That which struck me most forcibly in the general tone of the work was
the ferocity of passion underlying the surface of good-fellowship. That
is very strong, old friend, very strong and broad, and well sustained.

What a perfect _bourgeois_ is Mouret, with his curiosity, his avarice,
his resignation, and his flatness! The Abbé Faujas is sinister and
great--a true director! How well he manages the woman, how ably he makes
himself her master, first in taking her up through charity, and then in
brutalising her!

As to her (Marthe), I cannot express to you how much I admire her, and
the art displayed in developing her character, or rather her malady. Her
hysteric state and her final avowal are marvellous. How well you
describe the breaking-up of the household!

I forgot to mention the Tronches, who are adorable ruffians, and the
Abbé Bouvelle, who is exquisite with his fears and his sensibility.

Provincial life, the little gardens, the Paloque family, the Rastoil,
and the tennis-parties,--perfect, perfect!

Your treatment of details is excellent, and you use the happiest words
and phrases: "The tonsure like a cicatrice;" "I should like it better if
he went to see the women;" "Mouret had stuffed the stove," etc.

And the circle of youth--that was a true invention! I have noted many
other things on the margins, viz.:

The physical details which Olympe gives regarding her brother; the
strawberry; the mother of the abbé ready to become his pander; and her
old trunk.

The harshness of the priest, who waves away the handkerchief of his poor
sweetheart, because he detects thereon "an odour of woman."

The description of the sacristy, with the name of M. Delangre on the
wall--the whole phrase is a jewel.

But that which surpasses everything, that which crowns the whole work,
is the end! I know of nothing more powerful than that _dénouement_.
Marthe's visit at her uncle's house, the return of Mouret, and his
inspection of the house! One is seized by fear, as in the reading of
some fantastic tale, and one arrives at this effect by the tremendous
realism, the intensity of truth. The reader feels his head turned, in
sympathy with Mouret.

The insensibility of the _bourgeois_, who watches the fire seated in his
armchair, is charming, and you wind up with one sublime stroke: the
apparition of the _soutane_ of the Abbé Serge at the bedside of his
dying mother, as a consolation or a chastisement!

There is one bit of chicanery, however. The reader (that has no memory)
does not know by instinct what motive prompts M. Rougon and Uncle
Macquart to act as they do. Two paragraphs of explanation would have
been sufficient.

Never mind! it is what it is, and I thank you for the pleasure it has
given me.

Sleep on both ears, now your work is done!

Lay aside for me all the stupid criticisms it draws forth. That kind of
document interests me very much.


DIEPPE, _July 28, 1874_.

MY DEAR FRIEND: As Saturday is for you a kind of consecrated day, and as
I could be in Paris only one day, which was last Saturday, I shall not
be able to see you on your return from Helvetia.

Know, then, that _Le Sexe Faible_ was enthusiastically received at the
Cluny Theatre, and it will be acted there after Zola's piece, that is,
about the last of November.

Winschenk, the director of this little box of a theatre, predicts a
great pecuniary success. Amen!

It goes without saying, it is the general opinion that I lower myself in
making my appearance in an inferior theatre. But this is the story:
Among the artists engaged by Winschenk for my play was Mlle. Alice
Regnault. He feared that she would be taken by the Vaudeville Theatre,
and that the Vaudeville would not allow her to appear in my play. Will
you be kind enough to inform yourself discreetly of the state of the
case when you are in Paris?

I shall return to Croisset Friday evening, and Saturday I shall begin
_Bouvard et Pécuchet_. I tremble at the prospect, as one would the night
before embarking for a voyage around the world!

All the more reason why we should meet and embrace.


CROISSET, _Sunday, June 24, 1876_.

YOU have forestalled me, my dear Maurice! I wished to write to you, but
I waited until you should be a little more free, more alone. I thank you
for your kind thought.

Yes, there are few of us left now. And if I do not remain here long, it
is because my former friends have drawn me to them.

This has seemed to me like burying my mother a second time. Poor, dear,
great woman! What genius and what a heart! But she lacked nothing; it
is not she who calls for pity!

What shall you do now? Shall you remain at Nohant? That dear old house
must seem terribly empty to you. But you, at least, are not alone. You
have a wife--a rare woman!--and two exquisite children. While I was with
you there, I felt above all my sadness, two desires: to run away with
Aurore, and to kill Monsieur ...! That is the truth: it is useless to
try to analyse the psychology of the thing.

I received yesterday a very tender letter from the good Tourgueneff. He,
too, loved her! But who did not love her? If you had beheld the grief of
Martine in Paris! It was overwhelming.

Plauchut is still at Nohant, I suppose. Tell him I love him after seeing
him weep so bitterly.

And let your own tears flow freely, my dear friend! Do not try to
console yourself--it would be almost impossible. Some day you will find
within yourself a deep and sweet certainty that you were always a good
son, and that she knew it well. She spoke of you as a blessing.

And after you shall have joined her once more, and after the
great-grandchildren of the grandchildren of your two little daughters
also shall have rejoined her, and when for a long time people have
ceased to talk of the things and the persons that surround us at
present--in some centuries to come--there will still be hearts that will
palpitate at her words! People will read her books, will ponder over her
thoughts, will love as she loved.

But all that _does not give her back to you_! With what shall we sustain
ourselves, then, if pride fails us, and what man can feel more of that
for his mother than yourself?

Now, my dear friend, adieu! When shall we meet again? For I feel an
insatiable desire to talk of _her_!

Embrace Madame Maurice for me, as I embraced her on the stairs at
Nohant, also your little ones.

Yours, from the depths of my heart.


_Night of August 28, 1876._

YOUR letter has rejoiced me, young man! But I advise you to moderate
yourself, in the interest of literature.

Take care! all depends upon the end one wishes to attain. A man who has
accredited himself an artist has no right to live like other men.

All that which you tell me about Catulle Mendès does not surprise me at
all. He wrote to me the day before yesterday, to ask me to give him
_gratis_ the fragments of the _Château des Coeurs_, and also the
unedited stories that I had just finished. I replied that it was quite
impossible, which is true. Yesterday I wrote him a rather sharp letter,
as I was indignant at the article on Renan. It attacked him in the
grossest fashion, and there was also some humbug about Berthelot. Have
you read it, and what do you think of it? In short, I said to Catulle,
first, that I wished him to efface my name from the list of his
collaborators; and, second, not to send me his journal any more! I do
not wish to have anything in common with such fellows! It is a very bad
set, my dear friend, and I advise you to do as I have done--let them
entirely alone. Catulle will probably reply to my letter, but my
decision is taken, and that is an end of it. That which I cannot pardon
is the base democratic envy.

The tiresome article on Offenbach goes to the extremest limits about his
comic spirit. And what stupidity! I mean the joke that was invented by
Fiorantino in 1850, and is still alive to-day!

In order to make a triad, add the name of Littré, the gentleman who
pretends that we are all descended from apes; and last Friday the
butchery of Sainte-Beuve! Oh, the idiocy of it!

As to myself, I am working very hard, seeing no one, reading no
journals, and bawling away like a maniac in the seclusion of my study. I
pass the whole day, and almost the whole night, bent over my table, and
admire the sunrise with great regularity! Before my dinner (about seven
o'clock) I splash about in the _bourgeoise_ waves of the Seine.--_À
propos_ of health, you do not appear to me to look very ill. All the
better! Think no more about it!


_Wednesday night, 1880._

MY DEAR FRIEND: I do not know yet what day De Goncourt, Zola, Alphonse
Daudet and Charpentier will come here to breakfast and dine, and perhaps
to sleep. They must decide this evening, so that I may know by Friday
morning. I think they will come on Monday. If your eye will permit you
then, kindly transport your person to the dwelling of one of these
rascals, learn when they expect to leave, and come along with them.

Should they all pass Monday night at Croisset, as I have only four beds
to offer, you will take that of the _femme de chambre_--who is absent
just now.

Commentary: I have conjured up so many alarms and improbabilities
regarding your malady, that I should be glad, purely for my own
satisfaction, to have you examined by _my_ Doctor Fortin, a simple
health officer, but a man I consider very able.

Another observation: If you have not the wherewithal to make the
journey, I have a superb double louis at your service. To refuse through
mere delicacy would be a very stupid thing to do!

A last note: Jules Lemaître, to whom I have promised your protection in
regard to Graziani, will present himself at your place. He has talent
and is a true littérateur,--a _rara avis_, to whom we must give a cage
larger than Havre.

Perhaps he too will come to Croisset on Monday; and as it is my
intention to stuff you all, I have invited Doctor Fortin, so then he may
extend his services to the sick ones!

The festival would lack much in splendour if my "disciple" were not

Thy old friend.

P.S.--I received this morning an incomprehensible letter, four pages
long, signed Harry Alis. It appears that I have wounded him! How? In any
case, I shall ask his pardon. _Vive_ the young bloods!

I have re-read _Boule de Suif_, and I maintain that it is a masterpiece.
Try to write a dozen stories like that, and you will be a man! The
article by Wolff has filled me with joy! O eunuchs!

Madame Brainne has written me that she was enchanted with it. So did
Madame Lapierre!

You will remember that you promised me to make some inquiries of
D'Aurevilly. He has written this of me: "Can no one persuade M. Flaubert
not to write any more?" It might be a good time now to make certain
extracts from this gentleman's works. There is need of it!

How about the _Botanique_? How is your health? And how goes the volume
of verse?

Sarah Bernhardt seems to me gigantic! And the "fathers of families"
petition for the congregations!

Decidedly, this is a farcical epoch!


       *       *       *       *       *

Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

erected a sanctury=> erected a sanctuary {pg 9}

Pecuchet=> Pécuchet {pg 62}

two abysse's, twixt=> two abysses, 'twixt {pg 5 RABELAIS}

Le Deluge=> Le Déluge {pg 7 PREFACE TO LOST SONGS}

which Theophile Gautier called=> which Théophile Gautier called {pg 14

Comedie Française=> Comédie Française {pg 4 LETTER TO MUNICIPALITY}

M. Faure=> M. Fauré {pg 4 LETTER TO MUNICIPALITY}

Moliere's=> Molière's {pg 8 LETTER TO MUNICIPALITY}

ex-Rue de l'Imperatrice=> ex-Rue de l'Impératrice {pg 11 LETTER TO

a seeond-rate=> a second-rate {pg 12 LETTER TO MUNICIPALITY}

alalthough=> although {pg 34 LETTER TO MUNICIPALITY}

Eugene Suë=> Eugène Suë {pg 66 CORRESPONDENCE}

archælogical researches=> archæological researches {pg 86

l'Historie de Ma Vie=> l'Histoire de Ma Vie {pg 105 CORRESPONDENCE}

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bouvard and Pécuchet, part 2 - A Tragi-comic Novel of Bougeois Life, vol. X" ***

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