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Title: Mademoiselle de Maupin, Volume 1 (of 2)
Author: Gautier, Théophile
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.

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[Illustration: Mlle. de Maupin]














This celebrated novel, the celebrity of which has not been lessened by
the very numerous editions that have been published, had a very modest
beginning which in no way foreshadowed the great success which it was
to obtain later.

The title: _Mademoiselle de Maupin--Double Love_ appeared, we believe,
for the first time in Renduel's catalogue in connection with _The Life
of Hoffman_, by Lœve-Weimars, which appeared in October, 1833,
announcing the new work of Théophile Gautier as being in press. Renduel
had made the acquaintance of the author at Victor Hugo's; he had
published in August, 1833, his first volume of prose, _Young France_,
and now it was a question of launching a work in two volumes, a truly
daring undertaking for a publisher of that day; especially in the case
of the work of an author but little known and only twenty-two years

_Mademoiselle de Maupin_ was not, however, destined to see the light so
soon. For two years Théophile Gautier, more enamored of freedom than of
work, or preferring the task of making two harmonious rhymes to all the
beauties of his learned and rhythmic prose, incessantly abandoned and
resumed the promised work. A tradition preserved in the family of the
poet tells how his father often shut him up in his room at that time,
forbidding him to leave it until he had completed a certain number of
pages of the _Grotesques_ or of _Mademoiselle de Maupin._ When the
maternal kindness did not come to his aid, the frolicsome author, who
then lived with his parents on Place Royale, often found the means
of getting away by the window and so escaping a paternal task. Such
escapades being frequently renewed, it may well be believed that the
novel made but little progress; 1834 was drawing to a close; only the
first of the two volumes was finished; the publisher complained, and
the author tried to pacify him by notes similar to the following:

"I have just discovered at a bric-à-brac dealer's a charming picture of
Boucher in a splendid state of preservation; it is an opportunity that
I do not wish to miss, and not having money enough, I take the liberty
of asking you for my balance.[1] You will confer on me a real pleasure
in sending it to me.

"I am harnessed to _La Maupin_, and that prevents me from prowling
about and calling on you.

"With cordial wishes, I am, yours,


Finally, in 1835, the second volume was written in six weeks on Rue du
Doyenné, where the poet, having left the paternal nest, had installed
himself; the manuscript was delivered to Renduel and we read the
following note in _Le Monde Dramatique_, of September 20th, concerning
the biography of the strange person who really bore the name of Maupin,
a biography signed by Rochefort and published in that number under the
title: _Mademoiselle d'Aubigny-Maupin_: "One of our collaborators,
Monsieur Théophile Gautier, has been busy for a long time on a romance
entitled: _Mademoiselle (de) Maupin._"

The work was now soon to appear; it was issued in November, 1835,
in two octavo volumes, printed by Madame Poussin under the title:
_Mademoiselle de Maupin--Double Love._ The first volume bears the date
1835, the second 1836, while the preface is dated May, 1834.

The work produced no very great sensation. A few journals spoke of
it, but publicity was not then systematized as it is to-day, and
except by some few literary men and the small romantic group of the
author's friends, _Mademoiselle de Maupin_ was soon forgotten. Let
us remark, nevertheless, that immediately the book appeared, Honoré
de Balzac wrote Renduel a note, asking for a copy, this note we
have seen ourselves; from this moment dates the admiration that he
always professed thereafter for Théophile Gautier. We learn from
Monsieur Arsène Houssaye, the old and faithful friend of the poet,
that owing to the failure to sell the work, Renduel determined not
to publish anything more for his author; _La Comédie de la Mort_,
already announced upon the covers of the work (as well as _Capitaine
Fracasse)_, was, in fact, returned to the author, and only appeared in
1838, when it was published by Desessart, at that time one of Arsène
Houssaye's publishers; it was the author of _La Couronne de Bleuets_,
who introduced his friend to him and secured a favorable consideration
for his collection of verses.

How strange to us and unlikely, even, all this seems, when one recalls
the exorbitant prices obtained for some years past for rare, stitched
copies in good condition of the first edition of the work that we are
now considering. Many have realized one thousand five hundred francs,
that is to say, the total sums received by the author as royalty on
the first issue of his work. This sum is verified by his receipts to
Renduel, which are in our hands.

A curious incident occurred as to _Mademoiselle de Maupin._ After
its appearance, all the opening of the eleventh chapter was inserted
in _Le Monde Dramatique_ of January 4, 1836, without mentioning its
source, under the title of: _La Comédie Romanesque._ Since that time,
those pages have been frequently reprinted, but not a single one of
these reproductions gives any indication of their origin. It must be
admitted that Théophile Gautier himself gave rise to this error in _La
Presse_ of December 17, 1838, in again quoting these lines, inserted
in an unpublished commentary, as an isolated article which had come
under his notice by chance. He had forgotten this extract, and believed
in good faith to have found in _La Monde Dramatique_ only a newspaper
improvisation. This first mistake was the starting-point of all that
succeeded, the most striking of which is the insertion in 1858 of this
fragment from _Mademoiselle de Maupin_ in the first volume of Théophile
Gautier's work: _Histoire de l'Art Dramatique in France._ It is useless
to add that no one noticed this fact.

Time, however, rolled on, and the renown of the poet continued to
increase; his appearance in _La Presse_ in 1836, and his critical
work, had made a circle of new readers. Then, _Fortunio, La Comédie de
la Mort, Une Larme du Diable, Tra Los Montès, Les Grotesques_, etc.,
etc., had considerably increased his literary _impedimenta._ So, when
Monsieur Charpentier, the father of the present publisher of Théophile
Gautier's complete works, had founded the collection to which he gave
his name, he soon thought of reprinting our author's principal works.
Monsieur Charpentier, who succeeded in grouping in his catalogue the
most select of the remarkable works of his age, was of refined literary
taste and held among the publishers of his day a place similar to that
then held by Monsieur Buloz in his capacity of director of _La Revue
des Deux Mondes_: it was difficult to obtain an interview with either,
and to appear in print in their collections was regarded as a kind of

It was in 1845 when four of Théophile Gautier's volumes appeared in the
Charpentier catalogue; they were _Poésies Complètes, Nouvelles, Voyage
en Espagne_, and _Mademoiselle de Maupin._ For this reprint, the first
since the original edition[2], the author modified, but very slightly,
some phrases of his work, the text of which, from that time, has never
been changed.

Here ends, in reality, the history of this work. Since 1845, the
number of editions has continued to increase; we will only quote two
that appeared in 1878: one in two volumes, 24mo, illustrated with four
designs by Eugèn Giraud, and another in a large 12mo volume, upon
Holland paper, embellished with a portrait of the heroine by Théophile
Gautier himself, the portrait dated 1834. Finally, in 1880, there was
added to a reprint of this edition, a reproduction of the medallion of
the author by David d'Anger; this reproduction is erroneously dated
1834, instead of 1835, which is the actual year of its execution.

Is it possible, as has often been asserted, that this work, whose
incomparable style should have warranted the opening of the doors of
the Académie Française to the author, was in part the cause of their
remaining stubbornly closed against him?--We do not know; but from
another tradition preserved in the poet's family, it would appear that
the father himself, when he knew of the completion of the work (only
the first volume, as we have seen, was written under his eyes), could
not have been without apprehension as to the part which the book would
play in the life of his son, and, notwithstanding his admiration for
the style of the work, he would often have expressed the fear that the
second volume would at times influence the future of the author.

In any case, the renown of Théophile Gautier, like that of his
illustrious friend, Honoré de Balzac, who, likewise, was never a member
of the Académie, has only increased since his death, and the names of
these two rare talents are in truth missed among those of the members
of that illustrious body. For Théophile Gautier at least, the Académie
itself expressed one day, by the mouth of one of its members, its
regret at not having received him. On October 25, 1872, at its public
session and at the very hour of the obsequies of the great writer,
Monsieur Camille Doucet pronounced the following words which do honor
to their author, and we are happy to reproduce them here: "Permit me to
digress a moment. When I speak of the fraternity of Letters, I should
fail, messieurs, if I appeared longer to forget that at this very
hour, upon the threshold of a tomb, which I have left only with regret
to come here to fulfil another duty, Letters mourning, weep for a true
poet dear to all, a brilliant writer whose wit was thoroughly French
and whose heart was still more French. Very many votes have proved to
him that his place was indicated among us, and so we deplore the more
the sudden stroke to which Théophile Gautier succumbs."

We will add nothing to these touching lines and will close this notice
by saying a few words as to the present edition of _Mademoiselle de
Maupin._ It is the first reprint, absolutely conforming to the original
text. The work appears in two volumes, divided like those of 1835,
and the publishers have exerted every effort to satisfy bibliophiles
desirous of possessing as perfect an edition as possible, both as
regards the exactness of the text and the technical execution of the

Finally, let us say that the designs of E. Toudouze, made especially
for this work, will render this edition still more complete. It will
rank, we hope, among the most treasured editions of the book.



[Footnote 1: Of his royalties as author of _Young France._]

[Footnote 2: _Figaro_, of May 26, 1837, and some other journals,
announced the sale, at Renduel's, of a second edition of this book. It
was only the first edition that the publisher was trying to get rid of
by this means.]


One of the most burlesque incidents of the glorious epoch in which
we have the good fortune to live side by side with Deutz and General
Bugeaud, is, beyond question, the rehabilitation of virtue undertaken
by all the newspapers, of whatever color they may be, red, green, or

Virtue is most assuredly a very respectable thing, and we have no
wish to fail in our devotion to the excellent, worthy creature--God
forbid!--We consider that her eyes shine with sufficient brilliancy
through her spectacles, that her stockings are reasonably well put on,
that she takes snuff from her gold snuff-box with all imaginable grace,
that her little dog courtesies like a dancing-master.--We agree to all
that.--We are even willing to admit that her figure is not bad for her
age, and that she carries her years as well as any one could. She is
a very agreeable grandmother, but she is a grandmother. It seems to
me to be natural to prefer to her, especially when one is twenty years
old, some little immorality, very pert, very coquettish, very wanton,
with the hair a little out of curl, the skirt rather short than long,
the foot and eye alluring, the cheek slightly flushed, a smile on the
lips and the heart in the hand.--The most horribly virtuous journalists
can hardly be of a different opinion; and, if they say the contrary,
it is very probable that they do not think it. To think one thing and
write another is something that happens every day, especially among
virtuous folk.

I remember the epigrams uttered before the Revolution--I refer to the
Revolution of July--against the ill-fated and virginal Vicomte Sosthène
de la Rochefoucauld, who lengthened the skirts of the dancers at the
Opéra and applied with his own patrician hands a chaste plaster around
the middle of all the statues.--Monsieur le Vicomte Sosthène de la
Rochefoucauld is far surpassed.--Modesty has been greatly perfected
since his day, and we go into refinements that he would never have

I, who am not accustomed to look at statues in certain places,
considered, as others did, the vine-leaf cut by the scissors of
Monsieur le Chargé des Beaux-Arts, the most absurd thing in the world.
It seems that I was wrong, and that the vine-leaf is one of the most
meritorious of institutions.

I have been told, but I refused to believe it, it seemed to me so
extraordinary, that there were people who, when looking at Michael
Angelo's fresco of the _Last Judgment_, had seen nothing therein but
the episode of the lewd priests, and had veiled their faces, crying out
at the abomination of desolation!

Such people know nothing of the romance of Rodrigue except the couplet
of the snake.--If there is any nudity in a book or a picture, they go
straight to it as the swine to the mire, and pay no attention to the
blooming flowers or the golden fruit that hang within reach on all

I confess that I am not virtuous enough for that. Dorine, the
brazen-faced soubrette, may display before me her swelling bosom, I
certainly will not draw my handkerchief to cover it so that it cannot
be seen.--I will look at her bosom as at her face, and if it is fair
and well-shaped I will take pleasure in it.--But I will not touch
Elmire's dress to see if it is soft, nor will I push her reverently
upon the table as that poor devil of a Tartuffe did.

This great affectation of morality that reigns to-day would be very
laughable if it were not very tiresome.--Every _feuilleton_ becomes a
pulpit; every journalist a preacher; only the tonsure and the little
neckband are wanting. The weather is rainy and homiletic; one can
defend one's self against both by going out only in a carriage and
reading Pantagruel between one's bottle and one's pipe.

Blessed Jesus! what an outcry! what a frenzy!--Who bit you? who pricked
you? what the devil's the matter with you that you cry so loud, and
what has poor vice done to you that you should bear him such a grudge,
he is such a good fellow, so easy to live with, and asks nothing except
to be allowed to amuse himself and not bore others, if such a thing
can be? Act with vice like Serre with the gendarme: embrace and have
done with it all.--Believe me, you will be the better for it.--Eh! _Mon
Dieu_! my worthy preachers, what would you do without vice? You would
be reduced to beggary to-morrow, if the world should become virtuous

The theatres would be closed to-night.--What would you take for the
subject of your _feuilleton_?--No more Opéra balls to fill your
columns,--no more novels to dissect; for balls, novels, plays, are the
real pomps of Satan, if we are to believe our holy Mother Church.--The
actress would dismiss her protector and could no longer pay you for
puffing her.--Nobody would subscribe to your newspapers; people would
read Saint Augustine, they would go to church, they would tell their
beads. That would be very praiseworthy, perhaps, but you would gain
nothing by it. If people were virtuous, what would you do with your
articles on the immorality of the age? You see plainly that vice is
good for something.

But it is the fashion nowadays to be virtuous and Christ-like, it is
an attitude people affect; they pose as Saint Jeromes just as they
used to pose as Don Juans; they are pale and wasted, they wear their
hair as the apostles did, they walk with folded hands and eyes glued
to the ground, they assume an expression sugared to perfection; they
have an open Bible on the mantel, a crucifix and consecrated box-wood
above their beds; they never swear, they smoke but little, and they
chew almost not at all.--With that they become Christians, they talk
about the sanctity of art, the lofty mission of the artist, the poesy
of Catholicism, about Monsieur de La Mennais, about the painters of
the angelic school, about the Council of Trent, about progressive
humanity, and about a thousand other fine things.--Some infuse a little
republicanism into their religion, they are not the least interesting.
They couple Robespierre and Jesus Christ in the most cheerful way and
amalgamate with praiseworthy gravity the Acts of the Apostles and the
decrees of the _Holy_ Convention--that is the sacramental title; others
add, for a final ingredient, some Saint-Simonian ideas.--These latter
are complete, they rest upon a square foundation; after them we can
look for nothing better. Human absurdity can go no farther,--_has ultra
metas_--etc. They are the Hercules Pillars of Burlesque.

Christianity is so in vogue by reason of the prevailing hypocrisy, that
even Neo-Christianity enjoys a certain amount of favor. They say that
it can boast thus far one recruit, Monsieur Drouineau included.

An extremely interesting variety of the moral journalist, properly
so-called, is the journalist with a female family.

He carries his modest sensitiveness to the point of anthropophagy, or
very nearly that.

His mode of procedure, although it seems at the first glance simple and
easy, is none the less clownish and superlatively entertaining, and
in my opinion it deserves to be handed down to posterity--to our last
nephews, as the old fogies of the so-called _Grand Siècle_ used to say.

In the first place, to pose as a journalist of this variety, you need
some few preliminary utensils--such as two or three legitimate wives,
a few mothers, as many sisters as possible, a full assortment of
daughters, and cousins innumerable.--The second requisite is a play or
novel of some sort, a pen, ink, paper, and a printer. Perhaps it would
be as well to have an idea or two and several subscribers; but you
can do without them, if you have a large stock of philosophy and the
shareholders' money.

When you have all these things you can set up as a moral journalist.
The two following recipes, varied to suit the occasion, will suffice
for the editorial part.

_Models of Virtuous Articles Concerning a First Performance._

"After the literature of blood, the literature of mud; after the morgue
and the galleys, the alcove and the brothel; after the rags stained
by murder, the rags stained by debauchery; after," etc. (according
to the necessity of the occasion and the available space, you can
continue in this vein from six lines to fifty or more),--"this is as
it should be.--This is where neglect of sacred doctrines and romantic
licentiousness lead: the stage has become a school of prostitution
where one dares not venture, save with fear and trembling, with a woman
one respects. You come upon the faith of an illustrious name, and you
are obliged to retire at the third act with your young daughter all
confused and abashed. Your wife hides her blushes behind her fan;
your sister, your cousin," etc. (The degrees of relationship may be
diversified at pleasure; it is enough that they be all females.)

NOTE.--There is one man who has carried morality so far as to say: "I
will not go to see that play with my mistress."--That man I admire and
love; I carry him in my heart, as Louis XVIII. carried all France in
his; for he has conceived the most triumphant, the most monumental,
the most insane, the most extravagant idea that has passed through the
brain of man in this blessed nineteenth century, which has seen the
birth of so many and such amusing ideas.

The method of dealing with a book is very expeditious and within the
range of every intellect:

"If you choose to read this book, lock yourself securely into your
own room; do not leave it lying on the table. If your wife and your
daughter should open it, they would be lost.--This is a dangerous
book, it advises vicious habits. It would have made a great success,
perhaps, in the time of Crébillon, in the houses of kept mistresses, at
a duchess's select supper-parties; but now that morals are purified,
now that the hand of the people has razed the rotten edifice of
aristocracy, and that,--etc., etc.--there must be in every work an
idea--an idea--yes, a moral and religious idea which--an exalted
and profound aim, answering to the needs of humanity; for it is a
deplorable thing that young writers should sacrifice the most sacred
things to success, and should expend their talent--a notable talent by
the way--in lewd descriptions that would make a captain of dragoons
blush."--(The virginity of the captain of dragoons is, after the
discovery of America, the most delightful discovery that has been made
for a long while.)--"The novel we are considering recalls Justine,
the philosophic Thérèse, Félicia, Compère Matthieu, the Contes de
Grécourt, the Priapées of the Marquis de Sade." The virtuous journalist
is immensely erudite in the matter of filthy novels;--I am very curious
to know why.

It may be obtained at Eugène Renduel's, Rue des Grands-Augustins, No.
22. A handsome volume in 8vo. with vignette. Price 7 francs 50 centimes.

_Eccò_,--_ecce_,--see it.

It is frightful to think that, through the fault of the newspapers,
there are many honest manufacturers who have only these two recipes to
live upon, they and the numerous families they employ.

Apparently I am the most monumentally immoral personage to be found
in Europe or elsewhere; for I can see nothing more licentious in the
novels and plays of the present day than in the novels and plays of an
earlier time, and I find it difficult to understand why the ears of the
gentlemen of the journals have suddenly become so Jansenically ticklish.

I do not believe that the most innocent newspaper man will dare to say
that Pigault-Lebrun, Crébillon Fils, Louvet, Voisenon, Marmontel, and
all other writers of novels and tales do not surpass in immorality,
since there is such a thing as immorality, the most dissolute and
licentious productions of Messieurs Such-an-one and So-and-so, whom I
do not name out of regard for their modesty.

One must be most notoriously false to his convictions not to agree to

Let not the objection be made that I have cited names little known or
unfavorably known. If I have not mentioned the brilliant, imperishable
names, it is not because they will not support my assertion with the
weight of their great authority.

The novels and tales of Voltaire, aside from the question of merit, are
most assuredly no more suitable to be given as prizes to little slips
of boarding-school misses than are the immoral tales of our friend the
lycanthropist, or even the moral tales of the insipid Marmontel.

What do we find in the comedies of the great Molière? the sacred
institution of marriage--as the catechism and the newspapers call
it--scoffed at and ridiculed in every scene.

The husband is old, ugly, and peevish; he wears his wig awry; his coat
is out of fashion; he has a bill-headed cane, a nose smeared with
snuff, short legs, and a paunch as fat as a budget.--He stammers,
says nothing but foolish things, and does as many as he says; he sees
nothing, he hears nothing; his wife is kissed before his face, and he
has no idea what is going on; that state of things lasts until he is
well and duly proved a cuckold in his own eyes and in the eyes of the
whole audience, who are mightily edified and applaud in a way to bring
the walls down.

They who applaud the loudest are they who are the most married.

In Molière, marriage is named George Dandin or Sganarelle.

Adultery is Damis or Clitandre; there is no name sweet and charming
enough for it.

The adulterer is always young, handsome, well-made, and a marquis
at the very least. He enters from the wings humming the very latest
waltz; he takes one or two steps on the stage with the most deliberate,
all-conquering air imaginable; he scratches his ear with the pink nail
of his deftly spread little finger; he combs his lovely fair hair with
his tortoise-shell comb, and arranges his ruffles, which are of great
volume. His doublet and his hose are almost covered with bows and knots
of ribbon; his neckband is from the best maker; his gloves smell
sweeter than balsam and civet; his plumes cost a louis apiece.

How his eye sparkles and his cheek glows! how smiling his mouth! how
white his teeth! how soft and well cared for his hand!

He speaks, naught issues from his lips save poesy, perfumed gallantries
in the most refined style and with the most charming manner; he has
read the latest novels and knows all about poetry, he is brave, and
quick to draw his sword, he scatters gold with lavish hand.--And so
Angélique, Agnès, Isabelle, can hardly refrain from leaping on his
neck, well-bred and great ladies though they be; and so the husband is
regularly betrayed in the fifth act, and is very lucky that he was not
in the first.

That is how marriage is treated by Molière, one of the loftiest and
most serious geniuses who ever lived.--Do you think there is anything
stronger in the suits of _Indiana_ and of _Valentine_?

Paternity is even less respected, if that be possible. Witness Orgon,
Géronte, and all the rest of them.

How they are robbed by their sons, cheated by their valets! How their
avarice, their obstinacy, their idiocy are laid bare, without mercy for
their age!--What practical jokes! what mystifications.--How they are
taken by the shoulder and pushed out of life, poor old fellows, who
take a long time to die and refuse to give up their money! how much is
said about the immortality of parents! what arguments against heredity,
and how much more convincing they are than all this Saint-Simonian

A father is an ogre, an Argus, a jailer, a tyrant, something that at
the best is good for nothing but to delay a marriage for three acts
until the final reconciliation.--A father is the ridiculous husband
perfected.--A son is never ridiculous in Molière; for Molière, like all
authors at all possible epochs, paid his court to the young generation
at the expense of the old.

And what of the Scapins, with their striped cloaks _à la Napolitaine_,
their caps tilted over their ears, their plumes sweeping the layers of
air,--are not they very pious, very chaste individuals, most worthy of
canonization?--The galleys are filled with honest folk who have not
done the fourth part of what they do. The knavery of Trialph is paltry
knavery compared with theirs. And the Lisettes, the Martons, _tudieu_!
what hussies!--The girls of the street are far from being as sharp,
as quick at prurient retort as they. How well they understand how to
deliver a note! what good watch they keep during assignations!--On my
word, they are invaluable girls, serviceable and shrewd advisers.

It is a charming company that walks and fidgets through those comedies
and imbroglios.--Duped guardians, cuckold husbands, lewd maids,
keen-witted valets, young ladies mad with love, dissolute sons,
adulterous wives; are not these quite as bad as the melancholy young
beaux and poor, weak women, oppressed and impassioned, of the dramas
and novels of the writers in vogue to-day?

And yet the denouements, minus the final blow of the dagger, minus the
regulation cup of poison, are as happy as the time-honored ending of a
fairy tale, and everybody, even the husband, is perfectly satisfied.
In Molière, virtue is always in disgrace, always being pummelled; it
is virtue that wears horns and turns her back to Mascarille; morality
barely shows its face once at the end of the play, in the somewhat
commonplace person of the gendarme Loyal.

All this that we have said is not intended to knock a chip off
Molière's pedestal; we are not mad enough to attempt to shake that
bronze colossus with our weak arms; we desired simply to show the pious
_feuilletonistes_, who are terrified by recent works and by those of
the romantic school, that the old classics, whom they urge us every day
to read and imitate, far surpass them in looseness and immorality.

To Molière we might easily add Marivaux and La Fontaine, those two
strongly-contrasted exponents of the French mind, and Regnier and
Rabelais and Marot, and many others. But it is not our purpose in
this place to prepare, from the standpoint of morality, a course in
literature for the benefit of the virgin minds of the _feuilleton_.

It seems to me that we should not raise such a hubbub for so small a
matter. Luckily we are not living in the days of the fair Eve, and we
cannot, in good conscience, be as primitive and patriarchal as people
were in the days of the ark. We are not little girls preparing for our
first communion; and when we play crambo, we do not answer _cream-pie_.
We are passably knowing in our innocence, and our virginity has been
on the town for a long while; those are things that one does not have
twice, and, whatever we may do, we cannot recover them, for there is
nothing in the world that runs faster than a fleeing virginity and a
vanishing illusion.

After all, perhaps there is no great harm in that, and knowledge of
everything is preferable to ignorance of everything. That is a question
that I leave for those who know more than I, to discuss. The fact
remains that the world has passed the age when one can feign modesty
and chastity, and I consider it too old a greybeard to play the child
and the virgin without making itself ridiculous.

Since its marriage to civilization, society has lost the right to be
artless and bashful. There are certain blushes that are all right for
the bridal bed, but can serve no further purpose the next day; for the
young wife thinks no more of the maiden, it may be, or if she does
think of her, it is a most improper thing and gravely endangers her
husband's reputation.

When I chance to read one of the fine sermons that have taken the place
of literary criticism in the public sheets, I sometimes feel great
remorse and dire apprehension, having on my conscience some paltry
equivocal stories, a little too highly spiced, such as a young man of
spirit and animation may have to reproach himself for.

Beside these Bossuets of the Café de Paris, these Bourdaloues of the
balcony at the Opéra, these Catos at so much a line, who berate the
present age in such fine fashion, I esteem myself the most infamous
villain that ever marred the face of the earth; and yet, God knows,
the list of my sins, capital as well as venial, with the usual blank
spaces and leads, would barely, even in the hands of the most skilful
publisher, make one or two octavo volumes a day, which is a small
matter for one who does not claim to be bound for paradise in the other
world and to win the Monthyon prize or be rose-maiden in this.

And then, when I think that I have met under the table, and elsewhere,
too, a considerable number of these dragons of virtue, I return to a
better opinion of myself, and I consider that, whatever faults I may
have, they have another which is, in my eyes, the greatest and worst of
all:--I refer to hypocrisy.

By looking carefully one might perhaps find another little vice to
add; but this is so hideous that I really hardly dare to name it. Come
nearer and I will breathe its name into your ear:--it is envy.

Envy, and nothing else.

It is envy that crawls and wriggles through all these paternal
homilies; however careful it may be to hide itself, you can see its
flat little viper's head from time to time gleaming above the metaphors
and rhetorical figures; you surprise it licking with its forked tongue
its lips blue with venom, you hear it hissing softly in the shadow of
an insidious epithet.

I am well aware that it is insufferably conceited to say that any one
envies you, and that a dandy who boasts of a conquest is almost as
nauseating.--I am not so boastful as to believe that I have enemies or
envious detractors; that is a piece of good fortune that is not given
to everybody, and I probably shall not enjoy it for a long time; so
I will speak freely and without reservation as one who is perfectly
disinterested in the matter.

An unquestionable fact, and easy of demonstration to those who may
doubt it, is the natural antipathy of the critic to the poet--of him
who does nothing to him who does something--of the drone to the bee--of
the gelding to the stallion.

You do not become a critic until the fact is established to your
own satisfaction that you cannot be a poet. Before descending to
the pitiful rôle of watching cloaks and counting strokes like a
billiard-marker or a tennis-court attendant, you have long courted the
Muse, you have tried to seduce her; but you have not sufficient vigor
for that; your breath has failed you and you have fallen back, pale and
broken-winded, to the foot of the sacred mountain.

I can conceive that antipathy. It is painful to see another take his
seat at the banquet to which you are not invited and lie with the woman
who would have none of you. I pity with all my heart the poor eunuch
who is compelled to assist at the delights of the Great Turk.

He is admitted to the most secret recesses of the Oda; he escorts the
sultanas to the bath; he sees their lovely bodies gleaming in the
silvery water of the great reservoirs, shedding streams of pearls
and smoother than agate; the most hidden charms are disclosed to him
unveiled. No one is embarrassed by his presence.--He is a eunuch.--The
sultan caresses his favorite before him and kisses her on her
pomegranate mouth.--In very truth his is a terribly false position and
he must be sadly embarrassed to keep himself in countenance.

It is the same with the critic who sees the poet walking in the garden
of poesy with its nine fair odalisques, and disporting himself
indolently in the shade of tall green laurels. It is very hard for him
not to pick up stones in the road to throw at him and wound him over
the wall, if he is skilful enough to do it.

The critic who has produced nothing of his own is a coward; he is like
an abbé paying court to a layman's wife: the layman cannot pay him back
in his own coin or fight with him.

I think that an account of the different methods of depreciating any
sort of work, resorted to during the last month, would be at least
as interesting as the story of Tiglath-Pileser, or of Gemmagog, who
invented peaked shoes.

There would be enough matter to fill fifteen or sixteen folio volumes,
but we will have pity on the reader and confine ourselves to a few
lines--a favor for which we demand more than everlasting gratitude.--In
a very remote age, lost in the darkness of time--it was fully three
weeks ago--the romance of the Middle Ages flourished principally in
Paris and the suburbs. The coat of arms was held in high esteem;
_coiffures à la Hennin_ were not despised and party-colored trousers
were thought well of; the dagger was priceless; the peaked shoe was
adored as a fetich.--There was nothing but ogive windows, turrets,
colonnettes, stained glass, cathedrals, and fortified châteaux;--the
characters were all _damoiselles_ and _damoiseaux_, pages and
varlets, beggars and swash-bucklers, gallant knights and ferocious
castellans;--all of which were more innocent certainly than innocent
games, and did absolutely no harm to anybody.

The critic did not wait for the second romance before beginning his
work of depreciation: as soon as the first appeared, he enveloped
himself in his robe of camel's hair, and sprinkled a bushel of ashes on
his head; then, in his loud, wailing voice, he began to cry:

"More Middle Ages, nothing but the Middle Ages! who will deliver me
from the Middle Ages, from the Middle Ages which are not the Middle
Ages?--Paste-board and terra-cotta Middle Ages, which have nothing of
the Middle Ages save the name!--Oh! these iron barons, in their iron
armor, with iron hearts in their iron breasts! Oh! the cathedrals with
their rose-work always in bloom and their stained glass in flower,
with their lace-work of granite, with their open-work trefoils, their
toothed gables, their chasubles of stone embroidered like a bride's
veil, with their tapers, their psalms, their glittering priests, with
their people on their knees, their rumbling organ, and their angels
soaring aloft and flapping their wings under the arches!--how they have
spoiled my Middle Ages, my refined, brightly-colored Middle Ages!--how
they have blotted it from sight under a layer of coarse plaster!--what
discordant colors!--Ah! ignorant daubers, who fancy you have created
an effect by splashing red upon blue, white upon black, and green
upon yellow, you have seen only the outer shell of the Middle Ages,
you have not divined the true meaning of the Middle Ages, the blood
does not circulate beneath the skin in which you have clothed your
phantoms, there is no heart in your steel corselets, there are no legs
in your tricot trousers, no stomach or breast behind your emblazoned
skirts; they are clothes that have the shape of men and that is
all.--So, down with the Middle Ages as they are presented to us by the
_fabricators_"--the great word is out, the _fabricators_!--"The Middle
Ages meet no need of the present day, we must have something else."

And the public, seeing how the _feuilletonistes_ snarled at the Middle
Ages, was seized with an ardent passion for the Middle Ages, which
they claim to have killed at a single blow. The Middle Ages invaded
everything, assisted by the obstruction of the newspapers:--dramas,
melodramas, novels, tales, poetry--there were even Middle-Age
vaudevilles, and Momus recited feudal mummeries.

Beside the romance of the Middle Ages flourished the carrion romance,
a very pleasing variety, which nervous _petites-maîtresses_ and blasé
cooks consumed in great numbers.

The _feuilletonistes_ speedily came flocking to the stench, like
crows to the carrion, and they tore with the beaks of their pens and
inhumanly put to death that poor species of novel, which asked nothing
more than to be allowed to prosper and putrefy in peace on the greasy
shelves of the book-stalls. What did they not say? what did they not
write?--Literature of the morgue or the galleys, an executioner's
nightmare, hallucination of a drunken butcher, or a convict-keeper with
the jail-fever! They benignly gave us to understand that the authors
were assassins and vampires, that they had contracted the vicious habit
of killing their fathers and mothers, that they drank blood from human
skulls, that they used the bones of the legs for forks and cut their
bread with a guillotine.

And yet they knew better than any one, from having frequently
breakfasted with them, that the authors of those charming slaughters
were excellent young men of family, very easy-going and in the best
society, white-gloved and fashionably near-sighted,--with a decided
preference for beefsteak over human cutlets, and more accustomed
to drink Bordeaux wine than the blood of young girls or new-born
children.--From having seen and touched their manuscripts, they knew
perfectly well that they were written with ink of great virtue upon
English paper, and not with blood from the guillotine upon the skin of
a Christian flayed alive.

But whatever they might say or do, the age was after carrion, and the
charnel-house suited them better than the boudoir; the reader would
bite at no hook that was not baited with a little body already turning
blue.--A state of things easily conceived; put a rose at the end of
your line and the spiders will have time to spin their webs in the
crook of your elbow before you catch the tiniest minnow; put on a worm
or a piece of rank cheese, and carp, barbel, perch, eels, will all leap
three feet out of water to snap at it.--Men are not so different from
fish as people generally seem to believe.

One would have said that the newspaper men had become Quakers,
Brahmins, or Pythagoreans, or bulls, they had been suddenly seized with
such a horror of red and of blood.--Never had they been known to be
in such a soft and melting mood;--it was cream and buttermilk.--They
admitted the existence of only two colors, sky-blue and apple-green.
Pink was only tolerated, and if the public would have allowed them to
do as they chose, they would have led it to the banks of the Lignon to
feed on spinach beside the sheep of Amaryllis. They had changed their
black frock-coats for the dove-colored jacket of Celadon or Silvander,
and surrounded their goose-feathers with clusters of roses and ribbons
after the style of a shepherd's crook. They let their hair float in the
wind like a child's, and had made themselves virgins according to the
recipe of Marion Delorme, and about as successfully as she.

They applied to literature the article in the Decalogue:

_Thou shalt not kill._

The least little dramatic murder was no longer permissible, and the
fifth act had become an impossibility.

They considered the poniard extravagant, poison monstrous, the axe
horrible beyond words. They would have liked dramatic heroes to live
to the age of Melchisedec; and yet it has been a recognized fact, from
time immemorial, that the object of every tragedy is to have a poor
devil of a great man, who cannot help himself, murdered in the last
act, just as the object of every comedy is to join in matrimony two
idiots of _jeunes premiers_ of about sixty years each.

It was about this time that I threw into the fire--after having taken
a duplicate, as almost always happens--two superb and magnificent
Middle-Age dramas, one in verse, the other in prose, in which the
heroes were quartered and boiled on the stage, which would have been
very entertaining and decidedly unusual.

To conform to their ideas, I have since composed an antique tragedy in
five acts called _Héliogabale_, the hero of which throws himself into
the privy, an extremely novel situation and one that has the merit of
introducing a bit of scenery not yet seen on the stage.--I have also
written a modern drama, very much superior to _Antoni,--Arthur,_ or
_L'Homme Fatal,_ where the providential idea arrives in the shape of
a Strasbourg pâté de foie gras, which the hero eats to the last crumb
after committing various rapes, and that, combined with his remorse,
brings on a frightful attack of indigestion of which he dies.--A moral
ending, if ever there was one, which proves that _God is just_, and
that vice is always punished and virtue rewarded.

As for the monstrosity species, you know how they have dealt with that,
how they have abused Han d'Islande the cannibal, Habibrah the obi,
Quasimodo the bell-ringer, and Triboulet, who is only a hunch-back--all
that family so strangely swarming--all those gigantic deformities whom
my dear neighbor sends crawling and leaping through the virgin forests
and the cathedrals of his romances. Neither the great strokes _à la_
Michael Angelo, nor the curiosities worthy of Callot, nor the effects
of light and shade after the fashion of Goya, could find favor before
them; they sent him back to his odes when he wrote novels, to his
novels when he wrote dramas: the ordinary tactics of journalists who
always praise what you have done at the expense of what you are doing.
A fortunate man, however, is he who is acknowledged to be superior,
even by the _feuilletonistes_, in all his works,--except, of course,
the particular one with whom they are dealing,--and who need only write
a theological treatise or a manual of cooking to have his plays admired.

Concerning the romance of the heart, the ardent, impassioned romance,
whose father is Werther the German, and its mother Manon Lescaut
the French-woman, we had a few words to say, at the beginning of
this preface, of the moral scurf that has fastened itself upon it in
desperation, on the pretext of religion and good morals. The critical
louse is like the body-louse that deserts the dead body for the living.
From the corpse of the Middle Ages the critics have passed on to the
living body of this age, whose skin is tough and hard and might well
break their teeth.

We think, notwithstanding a deep respect for the modern apostles,
that the authors of these so-called immoral novels, without being
so thoroughly married as the virtuous journalist, generally have a
mother, and that several of them have sisters and are provided with
an abundance of female relations; but their mothers and sisters do
not read novels, even immoral novels; they sew and embroider and look
after the house-keeping.--Their stockings, as Monsieur Planard would
say, are--entirely white: you can look at them on their legs--they are
not _blue_, and excellent Chrysale, who hated learned women so, would
suggest them as models to the skilled Philaminte.

As for these gentlemen's _wives_, as they have so many of them,
however spotless their husbands may be, it seems to my simple mind
that there are certain things they ought to know.--Indeed, it may well
be that their husbands have never shown them anything. In that case I
understand that they are bent upon keeping them in that useful state of
blessed ignorance. God is great and Mohammed is his prophet!--Women are
inquisitive creatures; may Heaven and morality grant that they gratify
their curiosity in a more legitimate way than that adopted by their
grandmother Eve, and do not go putting questions to the serpent!

As for their daughters, if they have been at boarding-school, I fail to
see what they can learn from these books.

It is as absurd to say that a man is a drunkard because he describes
an orgy, or a debauchee because he narrates a debauch, as to claim
that a man is virtuous because he has written a book on morals; we
see the contrary every day. It is the character that speaks, not the
author; his hero may be an atheist, that does not mean that he is an
atheist; he represents brigands as acting and talking like brigands,
but that does not make him a brigand. On that theory we should have
to guillotine Shakespeare, Corneille, and all the writers of tragedy;
they have committed more murders than Mandrin and Cartouche; we have
not done it, however, and, indeed, I do not believe that we shall
do it for a long time to come, however virtuous and moral criticism
may become. It is one of the manias of these little shallow-brained
scribblers always to substitute the author for the work, and to resort
to personalities, in order to give some paltry scandalous interest to
their miserable rhapsodies, which they are well aware that nobody would
read if they contained only their individual opinions.

We can hardly imagine the tendency of all this wailing, or what good
purpose all this indignation and snarling can serve--or who impels
these Messieurs Geoffroy on a small scale to set themselves up as the
Don Quixotes of morality, and, like genuine literary policemen, to lay
hands upon and club, in the name of virtue, every idea that appears in
a book with its mob-cap awry or its petticoats raised a little too
high.--It is very strange.

Whatever they may say, the present age is immoral,--if the word means
anything, which we much doubt,--and we require no other proof of it
than the quantity of immoral books it produces and the success they
meet with.--Books follow morals, morals do not follow books.--The
Regency produced Crébillon, not Crébillon the Regency. Boucher's
little shepherdesses were painted and immodest because the little
marchionesses of the day were painted and immodest.--Pictures are
painted after models, not models after pictures. Somebody or other
has said somewhere or other that literature and the arts have a
great influence on morals. Whoever he is, he is unquestionably a
great fool.--It is as if some one should say: "Green peas make the
springtime grow;" on the other hand, green peas grow because it is
spring, and cherries because it is summer. The trees bear fruit, the
fruit assuredly does not bear the trees--the law is everlasting and
invariable in its variations; the centuries succeed one another and
each bears its fruit, which differs from that of the preceding century;
books are the fruit of morals.

Beside the moral journalists, under this shower of homilies, as if it
were a summer shower in a park, there has arisen, between the boards of
the Saint-Simonian stage, a school of little mushrooms of a curious new
variety, of which we propose to give the natural history.

They are the utilitarian critics,--poor fellows whose noses were so
short that they would not hold spectacles, and who could not see to the
end of their noses.

When an author tossed upon their desk a volume of any sort,--novel
or poetry,--these gentry would lean back nonchalantly in their
chairs, balance them on their hind legs, sway back and forth, puffing
themselves out with a knowing air, and say:

"What purpose does this book serve? How can it be applied to securing
the moral and spiritual well-being of the most numerous and poorest
class? What! not a word of the needs of society, nothing civilizing
and progressive! How, instead of dealing synthetically with the great
problems of humanity, and following, through the events of history,
the phases of the regenerating, providential idea, can you waste
time writing poetry and novels which lead to nothing, and which do
nothing to help the generation forward in the pathway of the future?
How can you concern yourself about form and style and rhythm, in
presence of such grave interests?--What do we care for rhythm and
style and form? that is all right in its place!" (Poor foxes, they
are too green!)--"Society is suffering, it has a terrible gnawing at
the vitals;" (translate: no one will subscribe to the utilitarian
papers.) "It is for the poet to seek the cause of the trouble and cure
it. He will find a way by sympathizing heart and soul with humanity;"
(philanthropic poets! that would be something rare and charming.) "We
await the coming of that poet, we pray for his coming with all our
hearts. When he appears, his will be the acclamations of the multitude,
his the palm-leaves, his the wreaths, his the Prytaneum."

Very fine; but as we desire the reader to stay awake to the end of this
blessed preface, we will not continue this very close imitation of the
utilitarian style, which, by its nature, is unusually soporific, and
might advantageously replace laudanum and the discourses of the Academy.

No, fools, no, cretins and goitrous creatures that you are, a book does
not make gelatine soup;--a novel is not a pair of seamless boots; a
sonnet is not a syringe with a continuous stream; a drama is not a
railroad,--all essentially civilizing things and tending to assist
humanity along the pathway of progress.

By the bowels of all the popes, past, present, and to come, no, two
hundred thousand times no.

You cannot make a nightcap out of a metonymy, or wear comparisons by
way of slippers; you cannot use antithesis as an umbrella; unluckily
we have not the secret of clapping a few variegated rhymes upon the
stomach as we put on a waistcoat. I have a firm conviction that the ode
is a garment too light for winter, and that one would be no more warmly
clad with the strophe, the antistrophe, and the epode, than the wife of
the cynic who was contented to have only her virtue as a chemise and
went about as naked as your hand, as history tells us.

The famous Monsieur de la Calprenède once had a coat, and when
some one asked what kind of cloth it was made of, he answered:
Silvandre.--_Silvandre_ was a play of his that had just been produced
with success.

Such arguments make one raise his shoulders above his head, higher than
the Duke of Gloucester's.

People who claim to be economists and who wish to rebuild society from
top to bottom, seriously put forward such trash.

A novel may be useful in two ways:--one material, the other spiritual,
if we may use such an expression with reference to a novel.--Its
material utility consists, first, of the few thousand francs that go
into the author's pocket, and ballast him so that neither the devil nor
the wind can whisk him away; to the publisher it is a noble race-horse
who stamps and rears with his cabriolet of ebony and steel, as Figaro
says; to the paper manufacturer, one more factory on some stream and
often the means of spoiling a fine site; to the printers, divers
hogsheads of logwood to put their windpipes in shape once a week; to
the circulating libraries, piles of big sous covered with proletariat
verdigris and a quantity of grease, which if it were carefully
collected and utilized would render the whale-fishery useless.--The
spiritual utility consists in this: that, while you are reading novels,
you fall asleep, and you are not reading utilitarian, virtuous, and
progressive newspapers, or other similar indigestible, stupefying drugs.

Let any one say after this that novels do not assist civilization.--I
will say nothing of the tobacco agents, grocers, and dealers in fried
potatoes, who have a very great interest in this branch of literature,
the paper used therein being, as a general rule, of a superior quality
to that used by the newspapers.

Verily it is enough to make one split one's sides with laughter to hear
messieurs the republican or Saint-Simonian utilitarians hold forth.--In
the first place, I should be glad to know the exact meaning of that
great lubberly substantive with which they daily lard the empty void
of their columns, and which serves them as a sort of shibboleth and
sacramental term:--Utility; what is the word, and to what is it applied?

There are two kinds of utilities, and the meaning of the word is always
relative. What is useful for one is not for another. You are a cobbler,
I am a poet.--It is useful for me to have my first line rhyme with my
second.--A dictionary of rhymes is of great utility to me; you have
no use for it in cobbling an old pair of boots, and it is fair to say
that a cobbler's knife would be of no great use to me in writing an
ode.--Now, you will remark that a cobbler is much above a poet, and
that we could get along better without the latter than without the
former. Without undertaking to cry down the illustrious profession of
cobbler, which I honor equally with the profession of constitutional
monarch, I will humbly confess that I should prefer to have my shoe
down at heel rather than to have my lines haltingly rhymed, and that
I should be more willing to go without boots than without poems. As I
rarely go out, and walk more readily on my head than on my feet, I wear
out fewer shoes than a virtuous republican who does nothing but run
from one government department to another trying to induce somebody to
toss him an office.

I know that there are those who prefer windmills to churches, and the
bread that feeds the body to that that feeds the soul. To them I have
nothing to say. They deserve to be economists in this world and also in
the other.

Is there anything absolutely useful on this earth and in this life that
we live? In the first place, there is very little use in one being
on the earth and living. I challenge the most erudite of the band
to say of what use we are, unless it be to subscribe neither to the
_Constitutionnel_ nor to a journal of any sort.

Secondly, the utility of our existence being admitted _a priori_, what
are the really useful things to maintain it? A plate of soup and a bit
of bread twice a day are all that we need to fill the stomach, in the
strict acceptation of the word. The man for whom a coffin six feet by
two will be enough and more than enough after his death, does not need
much more space during his life. A hollow cube, seven or eight feet
broad, long and deep, with a hole to breathe through, a single cell in
the hive, is all that he needs to lodge him and to keep the rain from
falling on his back. A quilt, rolled properly about his body, will
protect him from the cold as well as, yes, better than, Staub's most
stylish and elegant frock-coat.

With that a man can exist, theoretically. They say that one can live
on twenty-five sous a day; but to keep from dying is not living; and I
cannot see wherein a city organized on utilitarian principles would be
more agreeable to live in than Père La Chaise.

Nothing beautiful is indispensable to life.--If flowers should be
suppressed, the world would not suffer materially; and yet who could
wish that there were no flowers? I would rather give up potatoes than
roses, and I do not believe there is more than one utilitarian in the
world capable of digging up a bed of tulips to make room for cabbages.

What good purpose does female beauty serve? Provided that a woman is
well-developed physically, in a condition to receive a man and to
produce children, she will always be good enough for the economist.

What is the use of music? or painting? Who would be foolish enough to
prefer Mozart to Monsieur Carrel, Michael Angelo to the inventor of
white mustard?

Nothing is really beautiful but that which cannot be made use of;
everything that is useful is ugly, for it is the expression of some
need, and the needs of man are vile and disgusting, like his poor, weak
nature.--The most useful part of a house is the privy.

I myself, with due respect to those gentlemen, am one of those to whom
superfluities are necessaries--and my liking for people and things is
in inverse ratio to the services they render me. I prefer a Chinese
vase, covered with dragons and mandarins, which is of no use to me
at all, to a certain other vase, which is useful to me; and that one
of my talents which I prize most highly is my inability to guess
riddles and charades. I would very willingly renounce my privileges
as a Frenchman and a citizen to see an authentic painting by Raphael,
or a beautiful nude woman: the Princess Borghese, for instance, when
she posed for Canova, or Julia Grisi when she was in her bath. For
my part I would gladly consent to the return of that cannibal of
a Charles X., if he would bring me, from his castle in Bohemia, a
hamper of Tokay or Johannisberg, and I would agree that the suffrage
laws were broad enough, if some of the streets were more so and other
things less so.--Although I am not a born _dilettante,_ I prefer the
noise of squeaking fiddles and bass drums to that of Monsieur le
Président's bell. I would sell my trousers to buy a ring and my daily
bread for sweetmeats.--The most becoming occupation for a polished man
is, it seems to me, to do nothing, or to smoke his pipe or his cigar
analytically. I also have a high regard for those who play at skittles
and for those who write good poetry. You see that my principles are
very far from being utilitarian, and that I shall never become editor
of a virtuous newspaper unless I am converted, which would be droll

Instead of awarding a Monthyon prize as a reward of virtue, I would
prefer to give, like Sardanapalus, that great philosopher who has been
so misunderstood, a handsome premium to the man who should invent a new
form of pleasure; for enjoyment seems to me the true aim of life and
the only useful thing in the world. God has so willed it, for it was He
who made women, perfumes, light, lovely flowers, good wines, prancing
horses, greyhounds, and Angora cats; nor did he say to his angels:
"Be virtuous," but: "Love;" and he gave us a mouth, more sensitive
than the rest of the skin, with which to kiss women, eyes uplifted to
see the light, a subtle sense of smell to inhale the soul of flowers,
well-knit thighs to press the sides of stallions and fly swifter than
thought without railroad or steamboat, delicate hands with which to
caress the long head of the greyhound, the velvety back of the cat,
and the gleaming shoulders of creatures of doubtful virtue; in a word,
he bestowed only upon us the threefold, glorious privilege of drinking
without being thirsty, of striking a light, and of making love at all
seasons, which distinguishes us from the brute much more than the
custom of reading newspapers and drawing maps.

_Mon Dieu_! what an idiotic thing is this alleged perfectibility of the
human race that is being dinned into our ears! One would say in truth
that man is a machine susceptible of improvements, and that the more
careful adjustment of a wheel, a counterpoise more conveniently placed,
might make it work more smoothly and more handily. When they have
succeeded in giving man a double stomach, so that he can chew his cud
like an ox, and eyes in the back of his head, like Janus, so that he
can see those who stick out their tongues at him behind his back, and
contemplate his _unworthiness_ in a less uncomfortable position than
that of the Venus Callipyges at Athens, and in planting wings on his
shoulder blades so that he will not be obliged to pay six sous to ride
in an omnibus; when they have given him a new organ, well and good:
then the word _perfectibility_ will begin to mean something.

Since all these fine ameliorations, what has been done that was not
done as well and better before the deluge?

Have we succeeded in drinking more than they drank in the days of
ignorance and barbarism--old style? Alexander, the doubtful friend
of the fair Hephæstion, was no small drinker, although there was no
_Journal des Connaissances Utiles_ in his day, and I am unable to
conceive how any utilitarian, unless he should become oïnopic and
more puffed out than the younger Lepeintre or a hippopotamus, could
drain the great beaker which he called Hercules' cup. The Maréchal
de Bassompierre, who emptied his long boot to the health of the
Thirteen Cantons, seems to me a singularly estimable personage in his
way and very hard to improve upon. What economist will enlarge our
stomachs so that they will hold as many beefsteaks as the late Milo
of Crotona, who ate an ox? The bill of fare at Véfour's Café Anglais,
or at any other culinary celebrity's that you choose, seems to me very
ill-supplied and commonplace compared to the menu of Trimalcion's
dinner.--At whose table in these days are a sow and her twelve
shoats served on a single platter? Who has eaten muræna and lampreys
fattened on man? Do you really think that Brillat-Savarin has improved
upon Apicius? Could Vitellius's big tripe-man find at Chevet's the
wherewithal to fill his famous Minerva's shield with pheasants' and
peacocks' brains, tongues of flamingoes and scarus livers?--The oysters
you eat at the Rocher de Cancale are such a great delicacy compared
with the oysters of Lucrin, for which a lake was made expressly.--The
little establishments in the suburbs kept by the marquises of the
Regency were wretched little boxes, if we compare them with the villas
of the Roman patricians at Baiæ, Capri, and Tibur. The Cyclopean
splendor of the great voluptuaries who erected everlasting monuments
for a day's pleasure should cause us to fall flat on our faces before
the genius of antiquity and erase forever from our dictionaries the
word _perfectibility._

Has a new capital crime been invented? Unfortunately there are only
seven of them as before, the number of the just man's backslidings for
one day, which is very moderate.--Indeed, I do not think that after a
century of progress, at the rate we are travelling, any lover would be
capable of renewing the thirteenth labor of Hercules.--Can a man be
agreeable to his divinity a single time oftener than in the days of
Solomon? Many very illustrious scholars and very respectable ladies
answer that question in the negative, and aver that amiability is on
the wane. Very good! if that is so, why do you talk of progress?--I
know that you will tell me that there is an Upper Chamber and a Lower
Chamber, that you hope that everybody will soon be an elector and the
number of representatives doubled or trebled. Do you think that there
are not enough mistakes in grammar made in the national tribune as it
is, and that the deputies are not numerous enough for the vile work
they have to do? I can hardly understand the utility of quartering
two or three hundred provincials in a wooden barrack, with a ceiling
painted by Monsieur Fragonard, there to botch and bungle nobody knows
how many absurd or atrocious little laws.--What difference does it
make whether it is a sabre, a holy-water sprinkler, or an umbrella
that governs us?--It is a club all the same, and I am amazed that
progressive men should dispute as to the kind of club that is to make
their shoulders tingle, when it would be much more progressive and less
expensive to break it and throw the pieces to all the devils.

The only one of you who has any common sense is a madman, a great
genius, an imbecile, a divine poet far above Lamartine, Hugo, and
Byron; it is Charles Fourrier, the phalansterian, who is all that in
his single person: he alone is logical and has the courage to carry
his theory through to its inevitable consequence.--He asserts, without
hesitation, that man will soon have a tail fifteen feet long with an
eye at the end of it; that surely is progress and will permit us to
do a thousand fine things we could not do before, such as killing
elephants without striking a blow, balancing ourselves on trees without
swings, as handily as the most expert ape, doing without sunshade or
umbrella by raising the tail above the head like a plume, as squirrels
do, who get along very well without umbrellas; and other prerogatives
too numerous to mention. Several phalansterians claim that they already
have a little tail that asks nothing better than to grow longer, if
only God gives them length of days.

Charles Fourrier has invented as many species of animals as George
Cuvier, the great naturalist. He invented horses that will be thrice
the size of elephants, dogs as large as tigers, fish capable of feeding
more people than the three small fishes of the Saviour, which the
incredulous Voltaireans believe were _poissons d'Avril_,[1] and I the
text of a noble parable. He has built cities beside which Rome, Tyre,
and Babylon are simply mole-hills; he has piled Babels one upon another
and built spiral stairways ascending among the clouds to a greater
height than all those in John Martinn's engravings; he has conceived I
cannot say how many orders of architecture and new sauces; he has drawn
a plan for a theatre which would seem immense even to Romans of the
Empire, and prepared a dinner menu that Lucius or Nomentanus might have
deemed sufficient for a dinner to their friends; he promises to create
new forms of pleasure and to develop the organs and the senses; he is
to make women fairer and more voluptuous, men more robust and sturdy;
he guarantees you children and proposes to reduce the population of the
world so that every one will be in easy circumstances; which is more
reasonable than to urge paupers to make other paupers, with the idea of
shooting them down in the streets when they breed too fast and sending
them bullets instead of bread.

Progress is possible in no other way.--All the rest is bitter mockery,
buffoonery without wit, which is not even calculated to deceive
gullible fools.

The phalanstery is really a step in advance of the abbey of Thélème,
and definitely relegates the earthly paradise to the ranks of those
things that are altogether superannuated and old-fashioned. The
Thousand and One Nights and Madame d'Aulnay's Tales alone can contend
successfully with the phalanstery. What fertility! what invention!
There is material there from which to supply marvels for three thousand
cartloads of romantic or classic poems; and our versifiers, whether
academicians or not, are paltry inventors compared to Monsieur Charles
Fourrier, the inventor of startling attractions.--This idea of making
use of impulses which people have hitherto sought to repress, is most
assuredly a lofty and powerful idea.

Ah! you say that we are making progress!--Suppose that a volcano
should open its maw to-morrow at Montmartre, and should make a
winding-sheet of ashes and a tomb of lava for Paris, as Vesuvius once
did for Stabia, Pompeii, and Herculaneum, and that, some thousand
years hence, the antiquaries of that day should make excavations and
exhume the corpse of the dead city, tell me what monument would remain
standing to bear witness to the splendor of the mighty entombed, the
Gothic Notre-Dame?--They would form truly a fine idea of our artistic
development when they cleared away the rubbish from the Tuileries,
redecorated by Monsieur Fontaine! The statues on Pont Louis XV. would
look splendid in the museums of those days. And were it not for the
pictures of the ancient schools and the statues of antiquity or the
Renaissance crowded together in the gallery of the Louvre, that long
shapeless conduit; were it not for the ceiling by Ingres, which would
show that Paris was not a Barbary camp or a village of Welches or
Topinamboux, the things that would be unearthed from the ruins would
be very interesting.--Short swords carried by National Guardsmen,
firemen's helmets, coins struck from pyriform dies, that is the kind
of thing they would find instead of the beautiful, curiously-carved
weapons that the Middle Ages left in the recesses of their towers and
ruined tombs, the medallions that fill the Etruscan vases and pave the
cellars of all Roman buildings. As for our wretched veneered furniture,
all the cheap boxes, naked and ugly and shabby, that we call commodes
or secretaries, and all our shapeless, fragile utensils,--I trust that
time would have been compassionate enough to destroy the last vestige
of them.

Once, this whim of erecting a magnificent, pretentious monument took
possession of us. In the first place we were obliged to borrow the plan
from the old Romans; and even before it was finished, our Panthéon
tottered on its legs like a child with the rickets and staggered like a
drunken man, so that we had to give it crutches of stone, otherwise it
would have measured its shameful length on the ground, in sight of all
the world, and would have given the nations something to laugh at for
more than a hundred francs.--We thought it better to set up an obelisk
on one of our squares; we had to go and filch it at Luxor, and we were
two years bringing it home. Old Egypt lined its roads with obelisks as
we line ours with poplars; it carried bundles of them under its arm as
the market-gardener carries bunches of asparagus, and carved a monolith
from the sides of its mountains of granite more easily than we make
tooth-picks or ear-picks. A few centuries ago Raphael was living and
Michael Angelo; now we have Monsieur Paul Delaroche, all because we
are progressing.--You boast of your Opéra; ten Opéras like yours could
dance a saraband in a Roman circus. Monsieur Martin, himself, with his
tame tiger and his poor gouty lion, sound asleep like a subscriber
to the _Gazette_, makes a very poor showing beside the gladiator of
antiquity. Take your benefit performances that last till two o'clock
in the morning--what do they amount to when you think of the games
that lasted a hundred days, of the plays in which real ships really
fought in real water; in which thousands of men conscientiously cut
one another in pieces;--aye, turn pale O heroic Franconi!--in which,
when the sea retired, the desert arrived with its roaring tigers and
lions, awe-inspiring supernumeraries who did duty but once; in which
the leading rôle was taken by some robust, athletic Dacian or Pannonian
whom they would very often have found it embarrassing to produce at
the end of the play, his sweetheart being a lovely and dainty Numidian
lioness who had fasted for three days?--Does it not seem to you that
the rope-dancing elephant was superior to Mademoiselle Georges? Do you
suppose Mademoiselle Taglioni is a better dancer than Arbuscula, and
Perrot better than Bathyllus? I am convinced that Roscius could have
given points to Bocage, excellent actor though he is,--Galeria Coppiola
played _ingénue_ rôles when she was more than a hundred years old. It
is fair to say that the oldest of our _jeunes premières_ is but little
more than sixty, and that Mademoiselle Mars shows no sign of progress
in that direction: they had three or four thousand gods in whom they
believed, and we have only one and we hardly believe in him; that is a
strange kind of progress.--Was not Jupiter a better man than Don Juan
and a much more successful seducer? Verily, I cannot see what we have
discovered or even improved.

After the progressive journalists, as if to serve as a foil to them,
come the blasé journalists, who are usually twenty or twenty-two years
old, who have never left their quarter and have as yet lain only with
their housekeeper. Everything bores them, tires them out; they are
sated, blasé, used up, inaccessible. They know beforehand what you
are going to say to them; they have seen, felt, heard, experienced
everything that it is possible to see, feel, hear, and experience; the
human heart has no corner so dark that they have not held a lantern
to it. They say to you with marvellous self-possession: "The human
heart is not like that; women are not made so; that character is
falsely drawn;"--or else: "What's this! always love or hatred! always
men and women! Can't you talk about something else? Why, man is worn
threadbare, and woman, more so, since Monsieur de Balzac took a hand.

"'Who will deliver us from men and women?'

"Do you think your fable is new, monsieur? it is new after the fashion
of the Pont-Neuf:[2] nothing in the world could be more common; I read
it somewhere or other;--when I was out at nurse or somewhere else;
it's been dinned into my ears for ten years.--By the way, monsieur,
understand that there's nothing I don't know, that everything is
worn threadbare for me, and that even if your idea were as virginal
as the Virgin Mary, I would swear, none the less, that I had seen it
prostituting itself on street corners to the vilest scribblers and the
most contemptible pedants."

Journalists of that stamp are responsible for Jocko, Le Monstre Vert,
Les Lions de Mysore, and a thousand other charming conceits.

They are constantly complaining of being obliged to read books and see
plays. Apropos of a paltry vaudeville, they will talk about flowering
almond-trees, limes that perfume the air, the breezes of spring, the
odor of the young foliage; they set up for lovers of nature after the
style of young Werther, and yet they have never set foot outside of
Paris and could not tell a cabbage from a beet.--If it is winter, they
prate about the joys of the domestic fireside, and the crackling fire,
and the andirons, and the slippers, and the reverie and the state
between sleeping and waking; they never fail to quote Tibullus's famous

     Quam juvat immites ventos audire cubantem,

by the aid of which they assume a knowing and at the same time
ingenuous air, the most fascinating thing imaginable. They pose as men
upon whom the work of men can no longer make any impression, whom the
emotions aroused by the drama leave as cold and hard as the knife with
which they cut their quills, but who exclaim, nevertheless, with Jean
Jacques Rousseau: "Ah! there's the periwinkle!" They profess fierce
antipathy to the colonels at the Gymnase, the American uncles, the
cousins, male and female, the sensitive old grumblers, the romantic
widows, and try to cure us of the vaudeville by proving every day by
the _feuilletons_ that all Frenchmen are not born wicked.--In truth,
we see no great harm in that, but the contrary, and we are glad to
acknowledge that the extinction of the vaudeville or the opera-comique
in France--national style--would be one of the greatest benefactions
that the press and Heaven could bestow.--But I should be very glad
to know what species of literature these gentlemen would allow to be
established in its place. To be sure, it could be no worse.

Others preach against false taste and translate Seneca the tragedian.
Lastly, and to close the procession, a new battalion of critics has
been formed, of a species never before seen.

Their formula for estimating a work is the most convenient, the most
elastic, the most malleable, the most peremptory, the most superlative,
and the most successful that a critic ever could have conceived. Zoilus
would certainly have lost nothing thereby.

Hitherto, when it has seemed desirable to depreciate a work of any
sort or to cast odium upon it in the eyes of the patriarchal and
simple-minded subscriber, the ordinary method has been to make false
or cunningly isolated quotations; to maim sentences and mutilate
lines in such a way that the author himself would have considered
himself the most ridiculous creature on earth; to bring accusations of
imaginary plagiarisms; to place passages from his book side by side
with passages from ancient or modern authors, which had not the least
connection therewith; to accuse him, after the style of a cook and with
innumerable solecisms, of not knowing his own language and of degrading
the French of Racine and Voltaire; to assert in all seriousness that
his book tended toward anthropophagy, and that readers would infallibly
become cannibals or have hydrophobia in the course of the week; but all
that was paltry, out of date, false and fossilized to the last degree.
By dint of having dragged along through _feuilletons_ and _Variétés_
articles, the charge of immorality became insufficient, and so unfit
for service that the _Constitutionnel_, a bashful and progressive
journal, as we know, was almost the only one that had the desperate
courage to continue to use it.

So they invented the criticism of the future, the Prospective
criticism. Can you imagine, at first thought, what a charming thing it
is and what a prolific imagination it indicates? The recipe is simple
and I can tell you what it is. The book that will be considered fine
and will be praised is the book that has not yet appeared. The one that
has just appeared is infallibly detestable. The one to appear to-morrow
will be superb; but it is always to-day. It is the same with this sort
of criticism as with the barber who had these words in huge letters for
his sign:


All the poor devils who read the placard promised themselves for the
next day the ineffable, sovereign sweetness of being barbered once in
their lives without unloosing their purse-strings: and the hair on
their chins easily grew half a foot during the night that preceded
that blessed day; but when they had the napkin around their necks, the
barber asked them if they had any money and bade them pay up, or he
would treat them like nut-pickers or apple-gatherers of Le Perche; and
he swore a mighty _sacre dieu_ that he would cut their throats with
his razor unless they paid him; and when the poor devils, whining and
whimpering, talked about the sign and the sacrosanct inscription:--"Ha!
ha! my little fatties!" said the barber, "you don't know so much
after all, and you'd much better go back to school! The sign says:
'To-morrow!' I'm no such whimsical fool as to shave for nothing to-day;
my confrères would say I was throwing away my trade.--Come another
time, come the week that has two Sundays together, and you'll find
everything all right. May I be called a niggardly fellow and a flat, if
I don't shave you for nothing, on the word of an honest barber."

Authors who read a prospective article in which an existing work is
attacked always flatter themselves that the book they are writing will
be the book of the future. They try to accommodate themselves, as
much as possible, to the ideas of the critic, and become socialists,
progressives, moralizers, palingenetics, mystics, pantheists,
buchezists, thinking in that way to escape the anathema; but the same
thing happens to them that happened to the barber's customers:--to-day
is not the eve of to-morrow. The to-morrow that we hear so much about
will never shine upon the world; for the formula is too convenient to
be abandoned so soon. Even while decrying the book of which they are
jealous and which they would be glad to annihilate, they put on the
gloves of the most generous impartiality. They apparently ask nothing
better than to approve and praise it, and yet they never do it. This
recipe is very superior to the one that we might call retrospective,
which consists in vaunting ancient works only--works which no one reads
and no one cares about--at the expense of modern books, which people do
think about and which wound their self-esteem more directly.

We said, before beginning this review of messieurs the critics, that
the material would fill fifteen or sixteen folio volumes, but that
we would content ourselves with a few lines; I am beginning to fear
that those lines will prove to be each two or three thousand fathoms
long and will resemble those thick, bulky pamphlets that a cannon-ball
would not make a hole through, which bear the perfidious title: "A
word concerning the Revolution," a word concerning this or that. The
history of the doings of the manifold loves of the goddess Madeleine
de Maupin, would run great risk of being elbowed out of the first
book, and you will understand that two whole volumes are not too much
to sing worthily the adventures of that lovely Bradamante.--That is
why, however much we may desire to continue the blazonry of the
illustrious Aristarchuses of the age, we will content ourselves with
the partial sketch we have drawn, adding a few reflections concerning
the good-nature of our easy-going confrères in Apollo, who, as stupid
as the Cassander of pantomime, stand still to receive the blows from
Harlequin's lath and the clown's kicks in the stern, without budging
any more than an idol.

They resemble a fencing-master, who should fold his arms behind his
back during a bout, and receive all his opponent's thrusts in his
unprotected breast without attempting a single parry.

It is like the trial of a cause in which the king's attorney only is
allowed to speak, or a debate in which no reply is permitted.

The critic puts forward this or that theory. He makes a great dash
and ostentatious display. Absurd, detestable, monstrous; it resembles
nothing, it resembles everything. A drama is produced, the critic goes
to see it; he finds that it bears no resemblance to the drama he had
constructed in his head on the strength of the title; thereupon he
substitutes, in his _feuilleton_, his own drama for the author's. He
interlards it with his erudite phrases; he relieves himself of all the
knowledge he has collected the day before in some library, and belabors
people to whom he ought to go to school, and the least of whom could
teach greater men than he.

Authors endure this with a magnanimity, a long-suffering which seems
to me truly inconceivable. After all is said and done, who are these
critics whose tone is so cutting, whose words are so peremptory, that
one would say they were veritable sons of the gods? they are simply
men who were our school-fellows, and who have evidently profited
less by their studies than we, since they have produced nothing and
can do nothing but befoul and spoil the work of others like genuine
Stymphalian vampires.

Would it not be worth while to criticise the critics? for those
disgruntled great men, who are so fond of playing the magnificent
and the fastidious, are far from being infallible like the Holy
Father. There would be matter enough to fill a daily newspaper of the
largest size. Their errors, historical or otherwise, their distorted
quotations, their mistakes in grammar, their plagiarism, their drivel,
their oft-repeated, ill-bred jests, their paucity of ideas, their
lack of intelligence and tact, their ignorance of the simplest
things which leads them to mistake the Piræus for a man and Monsieur
Delaroche for a painter, would furnish authors with ample material for
vengeance, without other labor than that of drawing a line under the
passages and reproducing them word for word; for one does not receive
a commission as a great writer with a commission as critic, and to
reproach others for errors in language or taste is not enough to ensure
one against making them himself; our critics prove it every day.--If
Chateaubriand, Lamartine, and other men of that stamp should become
critics, I could understand that people might go down on their knees
and worship them; but that Messieurs Z. K. Y. V. Q. X., or any other
letter of the alphabet between Alpha and Omega, should set themselves
up as little Quintilians and scold you in the name of morality and
good literature--that is what always disgusts me and sends me into
an unparalleled rage. I would like to have a police ordinance issued
prohibiting certain names from attacking certain others. To be sure, a
cat may look at a king, and Saint-Peter's at Rome, giant that it is,
cannot prevent the Transteverins from defiling its base in strange
fashion; but I do not believe, nevertheless, that it would be a bad
idea to inscribe upon certain monumental reputations:


Charles X. alone understood the question. By ordering the suppression
of newspapers he conferred a great service upon the arts and
civilization. Newspapers are in a certain sense courtiers or jobbers,
who interpose between artists and public, between king and people. We
know the fine things that resulted therefrom. This perpetual barking
and snarling benumbs inspiration and causes such a feeling of distrust
in the heart and mind, that no one dares place his confidence either
in a poet or in a government; the result being that royalty and poesy,
the two greatest things in the world, become impossible, to the great
detriment of the people, who sacrifice their well-being to the paltry
pleasure of reading every morning a few vile sheets printed on vile
paper, besmeared with vile ink, and filled with vile stuff. There
was no criticism of art under Julius II., and I never heard of any
_feuilleton_ on the subject of Daniel de Volterra, Sebastiano del
Piombo, Michael Angelo, Raphael, Ghiberti della Porta, or Benvenuto
Cellini; and yet I think that, for people who had no newspapers, who
did not know the word _art_ or the word _artistic_, they had a fair
share of talent and acquitted themselves reasonably well at their
trade. The reading of newspapers hinders the growth of genuine scholars
and genuine artists; it is like daily dissipation that brings you,
enervated and weak, to the bed of the Muses, those harsh, exacting
damsels who will have none but fresh and lusty lovers. The newspaper
kills the book, as the book has killed architecture, as artillery has
killed physical courage and muscular strength. No one realizes the
pleasures that the newspapers deprive us of. They strip everything of
its virginity; they prevent us from having anything of our own, even
from owning a book all by ourselves; they deprive us of the pleasure
of being surprised at the theatre by telling us beforehand how every
play ends; they deprive us of the pleasure of spreading idle gossip and
tittle-tattle and slander, of inventing false news or peddling genuine
news for a whole week through every salon in society. They drone
ready-made opinions to us, do what we will, and warn us against things
we might like; by their means, dealers in phosphorous matches, although
they have poor memories, discuss literature as impertinently as
provincial academicians; by their means we hear, all day long, in place
of artless opinions or individual nonsense, ill-digested fragments of
newspapers, which resemble omelets half cooked on one side and burned
on the other,--and we are pitilessly stuffed with news three or four
hours old, which children at the breast already know; they deaden our
taste, they make us like those people who drink spiced brandy, and
those who swallow lemons and grape-stalks, and lose the flavor of the
most generous wines and cannot appreciate their delicate, perfumed
bouquet. If Louis-Philippe should suppress all literary and political
journals once for all, I should be infinitely grateful to him and I
would dash off on the spot a fine, rambling dithyramb, in soaring verse
with alternate rhymes; signed: "Your most humble and loyal subject,"
etc. Pray do not imagine that there would be no further interest in
literature; in the days when there were no newspapers, a quatrain
engrossed all Paris for a week, and a first performance for six months.

It is true that this step would result in the loss of advertisements
and puffs at thirty sous a line, and notoriety would be less sudden
and less overwhelming. But I have thought out a very ingenious way
of replacing advertisements. If, between now and the day when this
magnificent novel is placed on sale, my gracious sovereign shall
have suppressed the newspapers, I shall most assuredly make use of
it, and I anticipate wonders therefrom. When the great day arrives,
twenty-four mounted criers, in the livery of Renduel, with his address
on their backs and breasts, carrying banners in their hands with the
title of the novel embroidered on both sides, each preceded by a
drummer and kettle-drummer, will ride through the city, and, halting
on all the squares and corners, will shout in a loud, distinct voice:
"To-day, not yesterday or to-morrow, is placed on sale the admirable,
the inimitable, the divine and more than divine novel by the most
illustrious Théophile Gautier, _Mademoiselle de Maupin_, which Europe,
not to mention other parts of the world and Polynesia, has been
awaiting so impatiently for a year and more. It is selling at the
rate of five hundred a minute, and editions follow one another from
half-hour to half-hour; the nineteenth is already on sale. A detachment
of municipal guards is stationed at the door of the shop, holding back
the crowd and preventing all confusion." Surely that would be worth as
much as three lines in the _Débats_ or the _Courrier Français_, between
advertisements of elastic belts, hoop-skirts, nursing-bottles with
indestructible teats, Regnault paste, and remedies for fluor albus.

_May, 1834._

[Footnote 1: April fools--literally, April fishes.]

[Footnote 2: New Bridge.]



You complain, my dear friend, of the infrequency of my letters.--What
would you have me write you except that I am well and that my affection
for you never changes?--Those are facts that you know perfectly well,
and that are so natural to my age and to the noble qualities that every
one recognizes in you, that it is almost absurd to send a paltry sheet
of paper a hundred leagues to say nothing more.--In vain do I cudgel my
brains, I know of nothing that is worth the trouble of repeating; mine
is the most monotonous life imaginable and nothing happens to break the
monotony. To-day leads up to to-morrow as yesterday led up to to-day;
and without claiming to be a prophet, I can boldly prophesy in the
morning what will happen to me in the afternoon.

This is how I arrange my day:--I rise, that goes without saying, and
that is the beginning of every day; I breakfast, I fence, I go out to
walk, I come home, I dine, make a few calls or amuse myself reading:
then I go to bed precisely as I did the day before; I go to sleep, and
as my imagination is not excited by unfamiliar objects, it supplies me
with none but threadbare, often repeated dreams, as monotonous as my
actual life: all this is not very entertaining, as you see. However,
I reconcile myself to this existence better than I should have done
six months ago.--I am bored, to be sure, but in a tranquil, resigned
fashion, which does not lack a certain agreeableness, which might well
be compared to those gray, mild autumn days in which one finds a secret
charm after the excessive heat of summer.

This sort of existence, although I have apparently accepted it, is
hardly suited to me, however, or, at all events, it bears but little
resemblance to the existence I dream of and consider myself well
adapted for.--Perhaps I am mistaken and am in reality adapted for no
other kind of life than this; but I can hardly believe it, for, if it
were my real destiny, I should more readily have adapted myself to it
and should not be so painfully bruised by its sharp corners in so many

You know what a powerful attraction strange adventures have for me,
how I adore everything out of the common course, extravagant and
dangerous, and with what avidity I devour novels and tales of travel;
I doubt if there is on this earth a madder, more vagabond fancy than
mine; and yet, by some curious fatality or other, I have never had an
adventure, I have never made a journey. So far as I am concerned, the
tour of the world means the tour of the town in which I live; I touch
my horizon on every side; I am elbow to elbow with reality. My life is
that of the shell on the sand-bank, of the ivy clinging to the tree, of
the cricket on the hearth.--Verily, I am surprised that my feet have
never taken root.

Cupid is represented with a bandage over his eyes; Destiny should be
represented in the same condition.

I have for a valet a sort of rustic boor, loutish and stupid enough,
who has travelled as much as the north wind, who has been to the
devil, to every conceivable place, who has seen with his eyes all the
things of which I conceive charming ideas, and cares as little about
them as about a glass of water; he has been in the most extraordinary
situations; he has had the most amazing adventures that a man can have.
I make him talk sometimes, and I rage inwardly when I think that all
those fine things have happened to a clown who is capable neither of
sentiment nor reflection, and who is good for nothing but to do what he
does, that is to say, brush clothes and clean boots.

It is clear that that knave's life should have been mine.--For his
part, he considers me very fortunate, and his surprise is unbounded
when he sees how melancholy I am.

All this is not very interesting, my poor friend, and hardly worth the
trouble of writing, is it? But as you insist upon it that I must write
to you, I must tell you what I think and what I feel, and must give you
the history of my ideas, in default of events and acts.--It may be that
there will be little order and little novelty in what I shall have to
say to you; but you must blame nobody but yourself for it. You would
have it.

You are the friend of my childhood, I was brought up with you; we lived
our lives in common for a long, long while, and we are accustomed to
exchange our most secret thoughts. I can tell you, therefore, without
blushing, all the absurd things that pass through my unoccupied brain;
I will not add a word, I will not cut out a word, I have no self-love
with you. So I will be absolutely frank--even in petty, shameful
things; not before you, certainly, will I cover my nakedness.

Beneath the shroud of indifferent, depressed ennui to which I have
referred just now, there stirs sometimes a thought that is benumbed
rather than dead, and I have not always the sad and gentle tranquillity
that melancholy gives.--I have relapses and fall back into my old
attacks of agitation. Nothing in the world is so fatiguing as those
motiveless paroxysms, those aimless impulses.--On those days, although
I have no more to do than on any others, I rise very early in the
morning, before sunrise, I have such a feeling of being in a hurry, of
not having all the time I need; I dress in hot haste, as if the house
were on fire, tossing on my clothes at random and bewailing a wasted
minute.--Any one who happened to see me would think that I was going
to keep an assignation or to hunt for money.--Not at all.--I have no
idea where I shall go; but go I must, and I should think my salvation
endangered if I remained at home.--It seems to me as if somebody were
calling me outside, as if my destiny were passing through the street at
the moment and the question of my life or death were on the point of
being decided.

I go down with an air of surprise and alarm, clothes in disorder,
hair uncombed: people turn to look and laugh when they meet me, and
take me for a young rake who has passed the night at the ale-house or
elsewhere. I am drunk to all intent, although I have drunk nothing,
and I have the aspect of a drunken man even to the uncertain gait, now
slow, now fast. I go from street to street like a dog that has lost
his master, looking in every direction, ill at ease, on the alert,
turning at the slightest sound, gliding into the centre of every
group, heedless of the rebuffs of the people I jostle against, and
scrutinizing everything with a clear-sightedness that I do not possess
at other times.--Then all of a sudden it is made clear to me that I am
mistaken, that that surely is not the place, that I must go on farther,
to the other end of the town, Heaven knows where.--And I rush off as
if the devil were after me.--I touch the ground only with the tips of
my toes and I don't weigh an ounce.--Really I must be a strange sight
with my terrified, frantic manner, my waving arms and the inarticulate
cries I utter.--When I think it over in cold blood, I laugh at myself
with all my heart, which doesn't prevent me, I beg you to believe, from
doing it all over again on the first occasion.

If any one should ask me why I rush about so, I certainly should be
much embarrassed to answer. I am in no hurry to arrive, as I am going
nowhere. I am not afraid of being late, as I have no appointment.--No
one is waiting for me--and I have no possible reason for hurrying so.

Is it because an opportunity to love, an adventure, a woman, an idea,
a fortune, or anything else is missing in my life, and I am seeking it
unconsciously, impelled by a vague instinct? is my existence struggling
to complete itself? is it a longing to get away from myself and my
surroundings, the tiresomeness of my life and the wish for something
different? It is one of these, or perhaps all of them together.--At
all events, it is a very unpleasant experience, a feverish irritation
ordinarily succeeded by the most complete collapse.

I often have the idea that, if I had started an hour earlier, or if I
had quickened my gait, I should have arrived in time; that, while I was
passing through one street, the thing I was looking for passed through
another, and that a block of carriages was enough to make me miss what
I have been pursuing, regardless of everything else, for so long a
time.--You cannot imagine the intense melancholy and profound despair
into which I fall when I see that all this comes to nothing and that
my youth is passing and no prospect opening before me; thereupon all
my idle passions mutter in my heart and devour each other for lack of
better food, like the wild beasts in a menagerie whom the keeper has
forgotten to feed. Despite the stifled, unacknowledged disappointments
of every day, there is something within me that resists and will not
die. I have no hope, for, in order to hope, one must have a desire,
a certain propensity to wish that things should turn out in one way
rather than another. I desire nothing, for I desire everything. I do
not hope, or rather I have ceased to hope;--this is too absurd--and
it is absolutely one to me whether a thing is or is not.--I am
waiting--for what? I don't know, but I am waiting.

It is a shuddering sort of expectation, overflowing with impatience,
broken with somersaults and nervous movements, like the suspense of a
lover waiting for his mistress.--Nothing comes;--I fly into a passion
or begin to weep.--I am waiting for heaven to open and an angel to
descend and make some revelation to me, for a revolution to break out
and the people to give me a throne, for one of Raphaël's virgins to
step out of its canvas and come and embrace me, for relations that
I don't possess to die and leave me the wherewithal to set my fancy
afloat upon a sea of gold, for a hippogriff to snatch me up and bear me
away into unknown regions.--But whatever I am waiting for, it certainly
is nothing commonplace and ordinary.

It has gone so far that, when I return home, I never fail to ask: "Has
no one been here? is there no letter for me? nothing new?"--I know
perfectly well that there is nothing, that there can be nothing. That
makes no difference; I am always much surprised and much disappointed
when I receive the regular reply:--"No, monsieur--nothing at all."

Sometimes--very rarely, however--the idea takes a more definite
form.--It will be some lovely woman whom I don't know and who doesn't
know me, whom I have met at church or at the theatre and who has not
taken the slightest notice of me.--I rush all over the house, and until
I have opened the door of the last room--I hardly dare confess it, it
is so utterly absurd--I hope that she has come and is there.--It is
not conceit on my part.--I am so far from being conceited that several
women have taken a most affectionate interest in me--at least so others
have told me--when I had supposed them to be entirely indifferent to
me and never to have thought much about me.--That comes from another

When I am not stupefied by ennui and discouragement my mind awakes
and recovers all its former vigor. I hope, I love, I desire, and my
desires are so violent that I imagine they will force everything to
come to them, as a powerful magnet attracts bits of iron although they
are at a great distance.--That is why I wait for the things I desire,
instead of going to them, and I often neglect opportunities that open
most favorably before my hopes.--Another than I would write the most
amorous note you can imagine to his heart's divinity, or would seek an
opportunity to approach her.--But I ask the messenger for the reply
to a letter I have not written, and pass my time constructing in my
brain situations most marvellously adapted to exhibit me to the woman
I love in the most unlooked-for and most favorable light.--I could
make a book thicker and more ingenious than the Stratagems of Polybius
of all the stratagems I invent to make my way to her presence and
reveal my passion to her. Generally it would be enough to say to one
of my friends: "Present me to Madame So-and-So," and to indulge in a
mythological compliment suitably punctuated with sighs.

After listening to all this, one would naturally think me a fit subject
for the Petites-Maisons; I am a sensible fellow enough, however, and
I haven't carried many mad ideas into execution. All this takes place
in the cellar of my brain, and all these ridiculous ideas are very
carefully buried in my lowest depths; no one notices anything on the
outside, and I am reputed to be a calm, cold young man, by no means
susceptible to female charms and indifferent to things affected by most
young men of my age; all of which is as far from the truth as society's
judgments usually are.

However, in spite of all the things that have happened to dishearten
me, some of my longings have been gratified, and from the small amount
of pleasure their gratification has afforded me, I have come to dread
the realization of the others. You remember the childish ardor of my
longing to have a horse of my own? my mother gave me one very recently;
he is as black as ebony, with a little white star on his face, flowing
mane and tail, glossy coat, slender legs, just exactly the horse I
wanted. When they brought him to me, it gave me such a shock, that I
was as pale as death, and unable to recover myself, for a good quarter
of an hour; then I mounted him, and started off at a gallop without
saying a word; I rode straight ahead through the fields for more than
an hour, in a state of ecstasy hard to conceive; I did the same every
day for more than a week, and, upon my word, I don't know why I didn't
founder him, or at least break his wind.--Gradually my intense zeal
slackened. I rode my horse at a trot, then at a walk, then I began to
ride so indifferently that he would frequently stop without my noticing
it: the pleasure was transformed to a habit much more quickly than I
supposed.--As for Ferragus--that is the name I gave him--he is really
the most beautiful creature you can imagine. The hair on his feet
is like the down on a young eagle; he is as active as a goat and as
gentle as a lamb. You will enjoy above all things taking a gallop on
him when you come here; and, although my passion for equestrianism has
grown decidedly cool, I am still very fond of him, for he has a very
estimable equine character and I very much prefer him to many human
beings. If you could hear his neigh of delight when I go to see him in
his stable, and how intelligent his eyes are when he looks at me! I
confess that I am touched by those marks of affection, and I put my arm
around his neck and kiss him as affectionately, on my word, as if he
were a lovely girl.

I had another longing also, more intense, more ardent, more constantly
awake, more dearly cherished, upon which I had built a fascinating
house of cards in my mind, a palace of chimeras, very often demolished,
and reared again with desperate constancy;--it was to have a
mistress--a mistress all my own--like the horse.--I cannot say whether
the realization of that dream would have cooled my ardor as speedily
as the realization of the other; I doubt it. But perhaps I am wrong,
perhaps I should have grown weary as quickly.--It is a peculiarity of
my disposition that I crave so frantically what I desire, although I
never do anything to procure it, that if by chance, or by any other
means, I attain the object of my desire, I am so afflicted with moral
weakness and confused to such an extent, that I feel faint and ill,
and have no strength left to enjoy it: so it is that the things that
come to me without my having wished for them ordinarily afford me more
pleasure than those I have most eagerly coveted.

I am twenty-two years old; I am not virgin.--Alas! nowadays nobody
is so at that age,--either in body--or in heart--which is much
worse.--Aside from those who afford pleasure to men for money, and
who ought not to count any more than a bad dream, I have had, here
and there, in some dark corner, divers virtuous, or almost virtuous
women, neither lovely nor ugly, neither young nor old, such as fall
in the way of a young man who has no settled attachment and whose
heart is disengaged.--With a little good will and a considerable dose
of romantic illusion, you can call that having a mistress, if you
choose.--So far as I am concerned, it is impossible, and if I should
have a thousand of that sort I should still consider my longing as far
from accomplishment as ever.

I have had no mistress, therefore, and my sole desire is to have
one.--It is a matter that disturbs me strangely; it isn't an
effervescent temperament, a boiling of the blood, the first glow of
virility. It is not woman that I want, it is a woman, a mistress; I
want her, I will have her, and before long; if I don't succeed, I
admit that I shall never get over it and that I shall retain an inward
timidity, a secret discouragement that will have a serious influence
on the rest of my life.--I shall consider myself lacking in certain
respects, inharmonious, incomplete--deformed in mind or heart; for,
after all, what I ask is no more than fair, and nature owes it to
every man. So long as I fail to gain my end, I shall look upon myself
as nothing more than a child, and I shall not have the confidence in
myself that I ought to have.--A mistress for myself, that is the _toga
virilis_ for a young Roman.

I see so many men, despicable in every respect, with lovely women whose
lackeys they are hardly worthy to be, that a blush rises to my cheeks
for the women--and for myself.--It gives me a pitiable opinion of
women to see them sully themselves with such blackguards who despise
and deceive them, rather than bestow themselves upon some loyal,
sincere young man who would deem himself very fortunate and would adore
them on bended knees; myself, for example. To be sure, that sort of
creature frequents salons, struts about in all weathers, and is always
sprawling over the back of some easy-chair, while I stay at home, with
my face against the window-pane, watching the river steam and the
mist rise, while rearing silently in my heart the perfumed sanctuary,
the marvellous temple in which I am to set up the future idol of my
soul.--A chaste and poetical occupation which makes women feel as
little kindly toward you as possible.

Women have very little liking for contemplative men and take strangely
to those who put their ideas into action. After all, they are not
wrong. Compelled by their education and social position to hold their
tongues and to wait, they naturally prefer those men who come to
them and talk, for they relieve them from an unnatural and wearisome
silence: I realize all that; but never as long as I live shall I be
able to make up my mind, as I see many men do, to leave my seat, walk
across a salon and say unexpectedly to a woman: "Your dress makes you
look like an angel," or: "Your eyes are particularly bright to-night."

All this does not make it any less essential for me to have a mistress.
I don't know who it will be, but I see no one among the women I know
who can fill that dignified and important position properly. I find in
them but very few of the qualities I must have. Those who are young
enough haven't sufficient beauty or charm of mind; those who are young
and beautiful are disgracefully and repulsively virtuous or lack the
necessary freedom of action; and then there is always some husband or
brother about, or a mother or an aunt, or I don't know what, who has
big eyes and long ears, and whom one must cajole or throw out of the
window.--Every rose has its grub, every woman has heaps of relations
whom you must get rid of like the caterpillars on a tree, if you want
to pluck the fruit of her beauty some day. There is not one of them,
even to the third cousins in the provinces, whom no one has ever seen,
who is not determined to maintain his or her dear cousin's immaculate
purity in all its snowy whiteness. That is nauseating, and I shall
never have the necessary patience to tear up all the rank weeds and lop
off the thorns that fatally obstruct the approaches to a pretty woman.

I don't care much for mammas and I care still less for little girls. I
must confess, too, that married women have very moderate attractions
for me.--There is a confusion and mixture in the latter case that
disgust me; I cannot endure the idea of going shares. The woman who has
a husband and a lover is a prostitute to one of them, often to both,
and then I could never consent to give place to another. My natural
pride would be incapable of stooping to such degradation. Never will
I go away because another man is coming. Though the woman should be
compromised and ruined, though we should fight with knives, each with
one foot on her body--I would remain.--Secret staircases, closets,
wardrobes, and all the machinery of adultery would be poor expedients
with me.

I am but little enamored of what is known as virgin purity, the
innocence of the flower of life, purity of heart, and other charming
things which sound most beautiful in verse; I call it all pure
nonsense, ignorance, imbecility, or hypocrisy.--Virgin purity, which
consists in sitting on the edge of a chair, with the arms pressed close
against the body, the eye on the point of the corset, and in speaking
only after permission from its grandparents, the innocence which has a
monopoly of uncurled hair and white dresses, the purity of heart which
wears the corsage high in the neck, because it has as yet no breast or
shoulders, do not seem to me, in very truth, a marvellously tempting

I am not at all anxious to teach little fools to say the alphabet of
love.--I am not old enough or corrupt enough to take any great pleasure
in that. I should have but ill-success, too, for I have never had the
knack of teaching anybody, even the things that I knew best. I prefer
women who can read freely, you get to the end of the chapter sooner;
and in all things, but especially in love, what one must consider, is
the end. In that respect I am much like those people who take a novel
by the tail and read the conclusion first, being prepared then to
go backward to the first page. That method of reading and loving has
its charm. One relishes the details better when one's mind is at ease
concerning the end, and reversing the natural order of things brings
the unexpected to pass.

So young girls and married women are excluded from the category.
Therefore we must select our divinity from among the widows.--Alas! I
am very much afraid that although we have nothing left but them, we
shall still fail to find what we want.

If I should fall in love with one of those pale narcissuses bathed in a
warm dew of tears and stooping with melancholy grace over the brand-new
marble gravestone of some husband happily and recently deceased, I
should certainly be, and in a very short time, as unhappy as the
defunct spouse in his lifetime. Widows, however young and charming
they may be, have one terrible inconvenience that other women have
not; the instant that everything does not go well with them and the
slightest cloud floats across the sky of love, they say at once, with
a high and mighty, contemptuous manner: "Oh! how you act to-day! You
are exactly like monsieur: when we quarrelled he never said anything
but that; it's very strange, you have the same tone and the same
expression; when you are angry, you can't imagine how much you resemble
my husband:--it's enough to make one shudder."--It's very pleasant to
have such things thrown in your face point-blank! There are some who
carry their impudence to the point of praising the departed like an
epitaph and extolling his heart and his leg at the expense of your
leg and your--heart.--With women who have only one or several lovers,
one has, at all events, the inestimable advantage of never hearing of
one's predecessor, which is no trifling consideration. Women have too
great an affection for what is proper and legitimate not to be very
careful to keep quiet under such circumstances, and all those matters
are relegated as speedily as possible to the old records.--It is always
understood that one is always a woman's first lover.

I do not consider that there is any serious answer to be made to
such a well-founded aversion. It is not that I look upon widows as
altogether unpleasing, when they are young and pretty and haven't put
off their mourning. There are the little languishing airs, the little
tricks of letting the arms fall, bending the neck and puffing up
like a half-fledged turtle-dove; a multitude of charming mannerisms
prettily veiled behind the transparent mask of crêpe, a coquetry of
despair so skilfully managed, sighs so adroitly husbanded, tears that
fall so in the nick of time and make the eyes so bright!--Certainly,
after my wine, if not before, the liqueur I love best to drink is a
lovely, clear, limpid tear trembling at the end of a dark or light
eyelash.--How is a man to resist that!--We don't resist it;--and then
black is so becoming to women!--The fair skin, poetry aside, turns to
ivory, snow, milk, alabaster, to everything pure and white on earth
that madrigal-makers can use: the dark skin has only a dash of brown,
full of animation and fire.--Mourning is good fortune for a woman, and
the reason why I shall never marry is that I am afraid my wife would
get rid of me in order to wear mourning for me.--There are women,
however, who do not know how to make the most of their affliction
and who weep in such a way as to make their noses red and to distort
their features so that they look like the grotesque figures we see
on fountains: that's a great stumbling-block. A woman must have many
charms and much art to weep agreeably; lacking those, she runs the
risk of not being consoled for a long time.--Nevertheless, great as
the pleasure may be of making some Artemisia unfaithful to the shade
of her Mausolus, I do not intend to choose definitely, from among
the lamenting swarm, the one whom I will ask to give me her heart in
exchange for mine.

I hear you say at that: "Whom will you take, then?--You won't have
unmarried girls nor married women, nor widows.--You don't love mammas;
I don't imagine that you love grandmammas any better.--Whom in the
devil do you love?"--That is the key to the charade, and if I knew
it I should not torment myself so. Thus far I have never loved any
woman, but I have loved and I do love _love._ Although I have had no
mistresses and the women I have had have aroused in me nothing but
desire, I have felt and I know the sensation of love itself: I do not
love this one or that one, one rather than another, but some one I
have never seen, who must exist somewhere, and whom I shall find, God
willing. I know what she looks like, and when I meet her I shall know

I have very often imagined the place she lives in, the dress she wears,
the color of her eyes and her hair.--I can hear her voice; I should
know her step among a thousand others, and if, by chance, any one
should mention her name, I should turn to look; it is impossible that
she should not have one of five or six names I have assigned to her in
my head.

She is twenty-six years old--no more, neither less nor more.--She is
not ignorant and she has not yet become _blasé._ It is a charming age
at which to make love as it should be made, without puerile nonsense
and without libertinage.--She is of medium height. I don't like a giant
or a dwarf. I want to be able to carry my deity from the sofa to the
bed without assistance; but it would be unpleasant to me to have to
hunt for her there. She must be just tall enough to put her mouth to
mine for a kiss by standing on tiptoe. That is the proper height. As
for her size, she is rather plump than thin. I am a little of a Turk
on that point, and it would be very disagreeable to me to find an
angle where I was looking for a rounded outline; a woman's skin should
be well filled out, her flesh hard and firm as the pulp of an almost
ripe peach: the mistress I shall have is made in just that way. She
is a blonde with black eyes, the fair skin of a blonde and the rich
coloring of a brunette, something red and sparkling in her smile. The
lower lip a little thick, the pupil of the eye swimming in a sea of
aqueous humor, the throat well-rounded and small, the wrists slender,
the hands long and plump, the gait undulating like a snake rearing on
its tail, the hips full and flexible, the shoulders broad, the back of
the neck covered with down;--a refined and yet healthy style of beauty,
animated and graceful, poetic and human; a sketch by Giorgione executed
by Rubens.

This is her costume! she wears a dress of scarlet or black velvet
slashed with white satin or cloth of silver, an open corsage, a huge
ruff _à la_ Medici, a felt hat, capriciously dented like Helena
Systerman's, and long white feathers crisp and curled, a gold chain or
a stream of diamonds around her neck, and on all her fingers a number
of large rings of various enamels.

I would not waive a single ring or bracelet. The dress must be of
velvet or brocade; if I should allow her to descend to satin, it would
be the utmost concession I would make. I would rather rumple a silk
skirt than a cotton one, and pull pearls or feathers from a head than
natural flowers or a simple knot of ribbon; I am aware that the lining
of the cotton skirt is often at least as appetizing as that of the
silk skirt; but I prefer the latter.--And so, in my dreams, I have
taken for my mistress many queens, many empresses, many princesses,
many sultanas, many famous courtesans, but never middle-class women
or shepherdesses; and in my most vagabond desires, I have never taken
advantage of any one on a carpet of turf or in a bed of Aumale serge.
I consider that beauty is a diamond which should be mounted and set in
solid gold. I cannot imagine a lovely woman who has not a carriage,
horses, servants, and everything that one has with a hundred thousand
francs a year: there is a certain harmony between beauty and wealth.
One demands the other; a pretty foot calls for a pretty shoe, a pretty
shoe calls for carpets and a carriage, and so on. A lovely woman with
mean clothes in a wretched house is, to my mind, the most painful
spectacle one can see, and I could never fall in love with her. Only
the comely and the rich can fall in love without making themselves
ridiculous or pitiable.--On that principle few people have the right to
fall in love: I myself should be shut out first of all; however, that's
my opinion.

It will be evening when we meet for the first time--during a lovely
sunset;--the sky will have the bright orange-yellow and pale-green
tints that we see in some pictures by the great masters of the old
days: there will be a broad avenue of chestnuts in flower and venerable
elms all covered with ringdoves,--lovely trees clothed in cool dark
green, shadows full of mystery and moisture; here and there a statue or
two, some marble vases, standing out in their snowy whiteness against
the background of verdure, and a sheet of water in which the familiar
swan disports itself,--and in the background a château of brick and
stone as in the days of Henri IV., pointed, slate-covered roof, tall
chimneys, weather-cocks on every gable, long, narrow windows.--At one
of the windows, leaning in melancholy mood upon the balcony rail,
stands the queen of my heart in the costume I described to you a moment
ago; behind her is a little negro carrying her fan and her parrot.--You
see that nothing is lacking and that it is all utterly absurd.--The
fair one drops her glove;--I pick it up, kiss it and return it. We
engage in conversation; I display all the wit that I do not possess;
I say some charming things; she answers me, I retort; it is a display
of fireworks, a luminous shower of dazzling repartee.--In short, I
am adorable--and adored.--The supper hour arrives, she invites me to
join her;--I accept.--What a supper, my dear friend, and what a cook
my imagination is!--The wine laughs in the crystal goblet, the white
and gold pheasant smokes in a platter bearing her crest: the feast is
prolonged far into the night and you can imagine that I don't finish up
the night at home.--Isn't that a fine bit of imaginative work?--Nothing
in the world could be simpler, and upon my word it's very surprising
that it doesn't happen ten times rather than once.

[Illustration: Chapter I--_What a supper----The wine laughs in the
crystal goblet, the white and gold pheasant smokes in a platter bearing
her crest: the feast is prolonged far into the night and you can
imagine that I don't finish up the night at home._]

Sometimes it is in a great forest.--The hunt sweeps by; the horn rings
out, the pack gives tongue and crosses the path with the swiftness
of lightning; the fair one in a riding habit is mounted on a Turkish
horse, white as milk, spirited and swift beyond words. Although she is
an excellent horsewoman, he paws and curvets and rears, and she has
all the difficulty in the world in holding him; he takes the bit in
his teeth and rushes straight toward a precipice with her. I fall from
heaven for the express purpose of saving her, I stop the horse, I catch
the swooning princess in my arms, I bring her to herself and escort her
to her château. What well-born woman would refuse her heart to a man
who has risked his life for her?--None;--and gratitude is a cross-cut
that leads very quickly to love.

You will agree, at all events, that when I go into romance, I don't
stop half-way, and that I am as mad as it is possible for a man to be.
That is as it should be, for nothing in the world is more sickening
than rational madness. You will agree also that, when I write letters,
they are volumes rather than simple notes. I love whatever goes beyond
ordinary bounds in everything.--That is why I love you. Don't laugh too
much at all the nonsense I have scribbled; I lay aside my pen to carry
some of it into execution; for I recur always to my refrain! I mean to
have a mistress. I cannot say whether it will be the lady of the park
or the lady of the balcony, but I bid you farewell to go in quest of
her. My mind is made up. Though she whom I seek should hide herself in
the heart of the kingdom of Cathay or Samarcand, I shall find a way to
dislodge her. I will let you know of the success or non-success of my
undertaking. I hope that it will be success: give me your prayers, my
dear friend. As for myself, I dress up in my best coat, and go out of
the house determined not to return except with such a mistress as I
have in my mind.--I have dreamed long enough; now to work.

P.S.--Tell me something about little D----; what has become of him? no
one here knows anything about him; and give my compliments to your good
brother and all the family.


Well, my friend, I have come home again, I have not been to Cathay
or Cashmere or Samarcand;--but it is fair to say that I am no nearer
having a mistress than ever.--And yet I took myself by the hand, I
swore a mighty oath that I would go to the end of the world. I have
not even been to the end of the town. I don't know what the matter is
with me, but I have never been able to keep my word to anybody, even
to myself: it must be that the devil takes a hand in it. If I say: "I
will go there to-morrow," it is certain that I shall stay at home; if
I propose to go to the wine-shop, I go to church; if I start to go to
church, the roads get tangled under my feet like skeins of thread,
and I find myself in an entirely different place. I fast when I have
determined to have a debauch, and so it goes. Therefore I am inclined
to believe that what prevents me from having a mistress is that I have
determined to have one.

I must tell you about my expedition, step by step: it is well worth
the honors of narration. I had passed at least two full hours at my
toilet that day. I had had my hair combed and curled and my moustaches,
such as they are, twisted and waxed a little; and as the excitement
of longing imparted some slight animation to my ordinarily pale face,
really I was not so bad. At last, after scrutinizing myself attentively
in the mirror in different lights, to see if I was fine enough and if
my bearing was sufficiently gallant, I went resolutely forth with head
erect, chin well raised, eyes front, one hand on the hip, making the
heels of my boots ring like an _anspessade_, elbowing the bourgeois,
and with a flawlessly triumphant and all-conquering air.

I was like another Jason setting out to conquer the Golden
Fleece.--But, alas! Jason was more fortunate than I: besides the
conquest of the fleece, he made, at the same time, the conquest of a
beautiful princess, and I--I have neither fleece nor princess.

I walked through the streets, eying all the women, and hurrying toward
them and gazing at them at closer quarters when they seemed to me to be
worth the trouble of examining.--Some assumed their high and mighty
virtuous air and passed without raising their eyes.--Others were
surprised at first, then smiled if they had white teeth.--Some turned
after a little time, to look at me when they thought I was not looking
at them, and blushed like cherries when they found themselves face to
face with me.--It was a lovely day; there were quantities of people
out walking.--And yet I must confess, notwithstanding all the respect
I feel for that interesting half of the human race, which is called by
common consent the fair sex, it is, as a whole, devilishly ugly: out of
a hundred women there is hardly one who is passably good-looking. This
one had a moustache; that one had a blue nose; others had red spots
in place of eyebrows; one was not badly built, but she had a pimply
face. The head of another was charming, but she could scratch her ear
with her shoulder; a third would have put Praxiteles to shame with the
graceful roundness of certain outlines, but she stumbled along on feet
like Turkish stirrups. Another exhibited the most magnificent shoulders
imaginable; in revenge, her hands resembled in shape and size those
immense scarlet gloves that haberdashers use for signs.--Generally
speaking, what tired-looking faces! how worn and streaked they were,
withered by degrading petty passions and petty vices! What expressions
of envy, of malevolent curiosity, of avarice, of brazen coquetry! and
how much uglier is a woman who is not beautiful, than a man who is not

I saw nobody worth looking at--except a few grisettes;--but they have
more cotton than silk to rumple, and they don't interest me.--In very
truth, I believe that man, and when I say man I include woman, is the
vilest animal on the face of the earth. That quadruped who walks on his
hind feet seems to me extraordinarily presumptuous to claim the first
place in creation as his undoubted right. A lion, a tiger, are finer
animals than men, and in their species many individuals attain all the
beauty that belongs to it. But such a thing rarely happens among human
beings.--How many abortions for one Antinous! how many Goths for one

I am very much afraid, my dear friend, that I shall never be able to
embrace my ideal, and yet there is nothing extraordinary or unnatural
about it.--It is not the ideal of a third-form school-boy. I do not ask
for ivory globes or alabaster pillars, or azure veins; I have not used
in its composition either lilies, or snow, or roses, or jet, or ebony,
or coral, or ambrosia, or pearls or diamonds; I have left the stars
of heaven at rest, and I have not unhung the sun unseasonably. It is
almost a bourgeois ideal, it is so simple, and it seems to me that with
a bag or two of piastres I could find it all ready-made and realized in
the first bazaar I might happen upon at Constantinople or Smyrna; it
would probably cost me less than a blooded horse or dog; and to think
that I shall not get what I want, for I have a feeling that I shall
not! It is enough to drive a man mad, and I fly into the hottest sort
of a rage against fate.

You are not such a mad fool as I, you are fortunate;--you have simply
taken your life as it came, without tormenting yourself trying to shape
it, and you have dealt with things as they turned up. You haven't
sought for happiness, it has come in search of you; you love and are
loved.--I don't envy you;--for Heaven's sake, don't think that! but I
am not so happy as I ought to be when I think of your felicity, and I
say to myself, with a sigh, that I would like to enjoy felicity of the
same sort.

Perhaps my happiness passed by my side and I did not see it, blind that
I was; perhaps a voice spoke, and the uproar of my internal tempests
prevented me from hearing it.

Perhaps I have been loved in secret by some humble heart that I have
neglected or broken; perhaps I have myself been the ideal of another,
the pole-star of a suffering heart,--the dream of a night and the
thought of a day.--If I had looked at my feet, perhaps I should
have seen there some fair Magdalene with her box of ointment and
her dishevelled hair. I walked along with my arms raised to heaven,
longing to pluck the stars that fled from me, and scorning to pick
the little daisy that opened its golden heart in the dewy grass. I
have made a great mistake: I have asked love for something other than
love, something that it could not give. I forgot that love was naked,
I failed to grasp the meaning of that magnificent symbol.--I asked him
for brocade dresses, feathers, diamonds, sublime intellect, learning,
poesy, beauty, youth, supreme power--everything that is not love;--love
can offer naught but love, and he who seeks to extort anything else
from him is unworthy to be loved.

I have been in too much of a hurry, of course: my hour has not yet
come; God who lent me my life will not take it back without letting me
live. What's the use of giving a poet a lyre without strings, or man
a life without love? God cannot be guilty of such inconsistency; and
I have no doubt that when the allotted moment comes, He will place in
my path the woman I am to love and by whom I am to be loved.--But why
has love come to me before a mistress? Why am I thirsty when I have no
fountain at which to quench my thirst? or why can I not fly, like the
birds of the desert, to the spot where water is to be found? The world
to me is a Sahara without wells or date-trees. I have not in my whole
life a single shady nook to give me shelter from the sun: I suffer all
the ardors of passion without its ineffable ecstasy and delight; I know
its torments and have not its pleasures. I am jealous of something that
does not exist; I am ill at ease for the shadow of a shade; I heave
sighs that mean nothing; I have sleepless nights embellished by no
adored vision; I shed tears that flow to the ground without being wiped
away; I give the wind kisses that are not returned to me; I wear out my
eyes trying to distinguish a vague, deceitful shape in the distance; I
await what cannot come, and I count the hours with feverish anxiety as
if I had an appointment.

Whoever you be, angel or demon, virgin or courtesan, shepherdess or
princess, whether you come from north or south, you whom I do not know
but whom I love! oh! do not force me to wait longer, or the flame
will consume the altar, and you will find only a heap of cold ashes in
place of my heart. Descend from the sphere where you now are; leave the
crystal sky, O comforting spirit, and cast upon my heart the shadow of
your great wings. Come, woman that I love, come, and let me clasp about
you the arms that have been open so long. Ye golden doors of the palace
where she dwells, turn on your hinges; raise yourself, latch of her
humble cottage; untwine yourselves, ye branches of trees and thorns by
the road-side; be broken, ye enchantments of the turret, ye spells of
magicians; open, ranks of the common herd, and let her pass.

If you come too late, O my ideal! I shall not have the strength to love
you:--my heart is like a dovecote full of doves. Every hour of the day
some desire takes flight. The doves return to the dovecote, but my
desires do not return to my heart.--The azure sky is whitened by their
countless swarms; they wing their way through space, from world to
world, from sky to sky, seeking some love to light upon and pass the
night: haste, O my dream! or you will find naught in the empty nest
save the shells of the birds that have flown.

My friend, ray childhood's companion, you are the only one to whom I
can say such things. Write me that you pity me and that you don't look
upon me as a hypochondriac; comfort me, I never was in greater need
of it; how greatly to be envied are they who have a passion they can
satisfy! The drunkard finds no cruelty in any sort of a bottle; he
falls from the wine-shop to the gutter and is happier on his dung-heap
than a king on his throne. The sensual man resorts to courtesans in
search of ready loves or shameless refinements of indecency: a painted
cheek, a short skirt, an exposed bosom, an obscene jest, he is happy;
his eye turns white, his lip is moist; he attains the height of his
happiness, he enjoys the ecstasy of his vulgar lust. The gambler needs
only a green cloth and a worn and greasy pack of cards to procure the
poignant excitement, the nervous spasms and the diabolical joy of
his ghastly passion. Such people can satisfy their cravings or find
distraction;--to me it is impossible.

This idea has taken such thorough possession of me that I no longer
care for the arts, and poetry has now no charm for me; the things that
used to be my delight do not make the least impression on me. I begin
to believe that I am wrong, I demand more of nature and society than
they can give. What I seek does not exist and I ought not to complain
because I cannot find it. However, if the woman we dream of does not
come within the conditions of human nature, how is it that we love only
her and not others, since we are men and our instinct should draw us
irresistibly toward them? What puts this imaginary woman into our head?
with what clay do we mould this invisible statue? where do we get the
feathers we fasten to the back of this chimera? what mystic bird laid
in a dark corner of our soul the unseen egg from which our dream was
hatched? what is this abstract beauty that we feel but cannot define?
why, before a woman who may be charming, do we sometimes say that she
is beautiful,--whereas we find her very ugly? Where is the model, the
type, the interior pattern that serves us as a point of comparison?
for beauty is always comparative and can be appreciated only by
contrast.--Was it in the sky that we saw her--in a star--at a ball
in the shadow of a mother, fresh bud of a leafless rose?--was it in
Italy or in Spain? was it here or there, yesterday or long ago? was it
the admired courtesan, the popular cantatrice, the prince's daughter?
a proud and noble head bending under a heavy diadem of pearls and
rubies? a young and childish face stooping over the nasturtiums and
volubilis in the window?--Of what school was the picture from which
that beauty looked forth, fair and beaming amid dark shadows? Was it
Raphael who caressed the contour that has caught your fancy? Was it
Cleomenes who polished the marble that you adore?--are you in love with
a Madonna or a Diana?--is your ideal an angel, a sylph, or a woman?

Alas! it is a little of all of these and it is none of them.

That transparent tint, that charming, blooming freshness, that flesh
wherein the blood and the life flow in abundance, that lovely fair
hair falling over the shoulders like a cloak of gold, that sparkling
laughter, those amorous dimples, that figure undulating like a
flame, that strength, that suppleness, that glistening satin, those
rounded outlines, those plump arms, that full, smooth back, that
whole appearance of blooming health belongs to Rubens.--Raphael alone
could have given that pale tinge of amber to such pure features. What
other than he drew the curves of those long, fine black eyebrows,
and spread out the lashes of those modestly lowered lids?--Do you
think that Allegri had no part in your ideal? From him the lady of
your thoughts stole the warm, ivory whiteness of complexion that
fascinates you. She stood long before his canvas to catch the secret
of the angelic smile that is always on her lips; she modelled her oval
features upon those of a nymph or a saint. That line of the hip that
undulates so voluptuously is taken from the sleeping Antiope.--Those
plump, well-shaped hands might be claimed by Danaë or Magdalen. Dusty
antiquity itself supplied much material for the composition of your
young chimera; those strong and supple loins, about which you twine
your arms so passionately, were carved by Praxiteles. The divinity left
everything for the express purpose of putting the toes of her charming
foot outside the ruins of Herculaneum, so that your idol should not be
lame. Nature also has contributed its share. You have seen here and
there, in the prismatic rays of desire, a beautiful eye behind a blind,
an ivory forehead pressed against a window, a mouth smiling behind a
fan.--You have divined the quality of the arm from the hand, of the
knee from the ankle. What you saw was perfect; you assumed that the
rest was like what you saw and you finished it out with bits of other
beauties gathered elsewhere.--Not even ideal beauty, as realized by
painters, is sufficient for you, and you must go and ask the poets
for outlines even more gracefully rounded, shapes more ethereal,
charms more divine, refinement more exquisite; you begged them to give
breath and speech to your phantom, all their love, all their musings,
all their joy and their sadness, their melancholy and their morbid
fancies, all their memories and all their hopes, their knowledge and
their passion, their mind and their heart; you took all these from them
and you added, to cap the climax of the impossible, your own passion,
your own mind, your dreams and your thoughts. The star lent its beams,
the flower its perfume, the palette its colors, the poet his harmony,
the marble its shape, and you, your longing.--How could a real woman,
who eats and drinks, who goes to bed at night and gets up in the
morning--however adorable and instinct with charm she may be--sustain
comparison with such a creature! We cannot reasonably hope for such
a thing, and yet we do hope for it and seek it.--What extraordinary
blindness! it is sublime or absurd. How I pity and admire those who
pursue the reality of their dream through everything and die content,
if only they have once kissed their chimera on the lips! But what a
frightful fate is that of the Columbuses who have not discovered their
world, and of lovers who have not found their mistress.

Ah! if I were a poet, I would consecrate my verses to those whose
existence is a failure, whose arrows have not reached the target,
who have died with the word they had to say still unsaid and without
pressing the hand that was destined for them; to all who have been
unsuccessful or have passed by unnoticed, to genius without issue,
stifled fire, the undiscovered pearl at the bottom of the sea, to all
who have loved without being loved, to all who have suffered and not
been pitied;--it would be a noble task.

How wise it was of Plato to wish to banish you from his republic,
and what harm you have done us, O poets! Your ambrosia has made our
absinthe more bitter than ever; and we have found our lives more arid
and more devastated after plunging our eyes into the vistas leading to
eternity that you open to us! What a terrible struggle your dreams have
brought upon our realities! and how our hearts have been stamped upon
and trampled under foot by those rude athletes!

We have seated ourselves like Adam at the foot of the walls of the
terrestrial paradise, on the steps of the staircase that leads to the
world you have created, seeing a light brighter than the sunlight
gleam through the chinks of the door, hearing vaguely some few
scattered notes of a seraphic harmony. Whenever one of the elect enters
or comes out amid a flood of glory, we stretch our necks trying to see
something through the open door. It is fairy-like architecture equalled
nowhere save in Arabian tales. Great numbers of pillars, superimposed
arches, fluted spiral columns, leaf-work marvellously carved, trefoils
hollowed out of the stone, porphyry, jasper, lapis-lazuli and Heaven
knows what! transparencies and dazzling reflections, a profusion of
strange stones, sardonyx, chrysoberyl, aquamarines, rainbow-hued
opals, azerodrach, jets of crystal, torches to make the stars turn
pale, a gorgeous vapor filled with noise and vertigo--genuine Assyrian

The door closes: you see no more--and you cast down your eyes, filled
with burning tears, to the poor, bare, lifeless earth, to the ruined
hovels, to the people in rags, to your own soul, an arid rock upon
which nothing grows, to all the woes and misfortunes of reality. Ah! if
we could only fly as far as that, if the steps of that fiery staircase
did not burn our feet; but alas! none but angels can climb Jacob's

What a fate is that of the poor man at the rich man's door! what
ghastly irony in a palace opposite a hovel, the ideal opposite the
real, poetry opposite prose! what deep-rooted hatred must tighten the
knots at the bottom of the poor wretches' hearts! what a gnashing of
teeth there must be at night on their poor beds, when the wind brings
to their ears the sighing notes of the lutes and viols of love! Poets,
painters, sculptors, musicians, why have you lied to us? Poets, why did
you tell us your dreams? Painters, why did you place upon your canvas
the intangible phantom that ascended and descended between your heart
and your brain with the throbbing of your blood, and say to us: "This
is a woman." Sculptors, why did you procure marble from the bowels of
Carrara to make it express for all time, in the eyes of all men, your
most secret and most fleeting desire? Musicians, why did you listen to
the song of the stars and the flowers during the night, and note it
down? Why do you write such lovely ballads that the softest voice that
says to us: "I love you!" seems to us as hoarse as the rasping of a
saw or the cawing of a crow?--My curse on you, impostors!--and may the
fire from heaven burn and destroy all pictures, poems, statues, and
concerted pieces.--Ouf! there's a tirade of interminable length and a
little out of the ordinary epistolary style.--What a harangue!

I just gave full swing to the lyric impulse, my dear friend, and I have
been talking on stilts for a long, long time. All this is very far
from our subject, which is, if I remember rightly, the glorious and
triumphant history of the Chevalier d'Albert in pursuit of Daraïde,
the loveliest princess in the world, as the old romances say. But in
truth the story is so poor that I am compelled to have recourse to
digressions and reflections. I hope that it will not always be so, and
that, before long, the romance of my life will be more involved and
complicated than a Spanish imbroglio.

After wandering about from street to street, I decided to call on one
of my friends who was to present me at a house where, according to
what he told me, I should see a world of pretty women--a collection
of flesh and blood idealities--the wherewithal to satisfy a score
of poets.--There are some there to suit all tastes:--aristocratic
beauties with eagle glances, sea-green eyes, straight noses, chins
haughtily elevated, queenly hands, and the gait of a goddess; silver
lilies mounted upon golden stalks;--modest violets, pale of hue, sweet
of perfume, with melting, downcast eyes, slender neck, transparent
flesh;--animated, piquant beauties; devout beauties, beauties of all
sorts;--for the house is a genuine seraglio, minus the eunuchs and the
Kislar aga.--My friend tells me that he has already had five or six
affairs there--quite as many as that;--that seemed to me a prodigious
record and I am very much afraid that I shall not have the like
success; De C---- says yes, and that I shall succeed much better than
I shall care to. According to him I have only one fault, which I am
certain to correct as I grow older and go more into society--he says I
think too much of woman and not enough of women.--It may well be that
there's some truth in that.--He says that I will be perfectly lovable
when I rid myself of that little failing. God grant it! It must be that
women feel that I despise them; for a compliment, which they would
consider adorable and delightful to the last degree in the mouth of
another, in mine displeases them and makes them angry, as if it were
the most savage epigram. That probably has something to do with the
fault De C---- refers to.

My heart beat a little faster as I went up the stairs, and I had
barely recovered from my emotion when De C----, taking me by the
elbow, brought me face to face with a woman of about thirty--not
ill-looking--dressed with dissembled magnificence and extreme
affectation of childlike simplicity--which did not prevent her being
daubed with rouge like a carriage-wheel:--it was the lady of the house.

De C----, assuming the shrill, mocking voice which is so different from
his ordinary voice, and which he uses in society when he wants to be
fascinating, said to her, half aloud, with abundant demonstrations of
ironical respect, in which the most profound contempt could plainly be

"This is the young man of whom I spoke to you the other day--a man of
very distinguished merit; he is of unexceptionable birth and I think
that it cannot be otherwise than agreeable to you to receive him; that
is why I have taken the liberty to present him to you."

"Assuredly, monsieur, you have done well," rejoined the lady, with
a most outrageously affected manner. Then she turned to me, and
after looking me over out of the corner of her eye, like a clever
connoisseur, and in a way that made me blush to my ears, she said: "You
may consider yourself invited once for all, and come as often as you
have an evening to waste."

I bowed awkwardly enough, and stammered a few disconnected words which
could not have given her a very exalted opinion of my talents; other
persons came in and I was delivered from the ennui inseparable from an
introduction. De C---- led me to a window recess and began to lecture
me vigorously.

"What the devil! you will get me into a scrape; I announced you as a
perfect phœnix of wit, a man of unbridled imagination, a lyric poet,
everything that is most transcendent and impassioned, and you stand
there like a ninny without lisping a word. What a wretched imagination!
I thought your vein was more fruitful; come, come, give your tongue
the rein, chatter away through thick and thin; you don't need to say
sensible, judicious things, on the contrary, they might injure your
chances; talk, that's the main thing; talk fast, talk all the time;
attract attention to yourself; throw aside all fear and all modesty;
fix it firmly in your head that all who are here are fools, or almost
that, and don't forget that an orator who wants to succeed cannot
despise his audience enough.--What do you think of the mistress of the

"I dislike her very much already; and although I talked with her hardly
three minutes, I was as bored as if I were her husband."

"Aha! that's what you think of her, eh?"

"Why, yes."

"Is your repugnance for her altogether insurmountable?--So much the
worse; it would have been decent for you to have her, if only for a
month; it's good form, and a young man with a little money can't get
into society except through her."

"Very good! I'll have her," I said piteously, "since it must be; but is
it as necessary as you seem to think?"

"Alas! yes, it is absolutely indispensable, and I will tell you why.
Madame de Thémines is the fashion now; she has all the absurd foibles
of the day in a superior way,--sometimes those of to-morrow, but never
yesterday's: she is thoroughly posted. People will wear what she
wears, and she never wears what any one else has worn. She is rich,
too, and her carriages are in the best taste.--She has no wit, but
much small-talk; she has very keen fancies and little passion. People
amuse her but do not move her; she has a cold heart and a dissolute
head. As for her soul--if she has one, which is doubtful--it is of
the blackest, and there is no malice and baseness of which she is
not capable; but she is extremely adroit and keeps up appearances,
just what is necessary to prevent anything being proved against her.
For instance, she will lie with a man, but she will never write him
the simplest kind of a note. Thus her most intimate enemies can find
nothing to say against her except that she applies too much rouge and
that certain parts of her person are not, in fact, so well rounded as
they seem to be--which is false."

"How do you know?"

"What a question!--how does one know that sort of thing except by
finding out for himself?"

"Then you have had Madame de Thémines?"

"Certainly I have! Why shouldn't I have had her? It would have been
most unseemly of me not to have her.--She has done me some very great
favors, and I am very grateful to her for them."

"I don't understand what kind of favors she can have done you."

"Are you really a fool?" said De C----, gazing at me with the most
comical expression imaginable.--"Faith, I am much afraid of it;
must I tell you everything? Madame de Thémines is considered, and
justly, to have special information in certain directions, and a young
man whom she has taken and kept for some time can present himself
boldly anywhere, and be sure that he won't be long without having
an affair--more likely two than one.--Aside from that ineffable
advantage, there is another hardly less great; and that is that, as
soon as the female members of this circle see that you are Madame de
Thémines' official lover, even though they have not the slightest
taste for you, they will consider it a pleasure and a duty to take you
away from a fashionable woman like her; and, instead of the advances
and manœuvres you would otherwise have to make, you will have an
embarrassment of riches, and you will necessarily become the focus of
all imaginable cajoleries and blandishments.

"However, if she arouses too strong a repugnance in you, don't take
her. You are not exactly obliged to do it, although that would be
courteous and proper. But make your choice quickly and attack the one
who pleases you best or seems to offer the most facilities, for by
delaying you will lose the benefit of novelty, and the advantage it
gives you over all the men here for a few days. All these ladies have
no conception of the passions that are born in private intercourse and
develop gradually in respect and silence; they are all for lightning
strokes and occult sympathies; a wonderfully well-conceived scheme
to avoid the ennui of resistance and all the long and wearisome
repetitions that sentiment mingles with the romance of love, and
which serve only to defer the conclusion to no purpose.--These ladies
are very saving of their time, and it seems so valuable to them
that they would be in despair at the thought of leaving a single
moment unemployed.--They have a craving to oblige the human race
which one cannot praise too highly, and they love their neighbor as
themselves--which is most meritorious and perfectly angelic; they are
very charitable creatures who would not, for anything in the world,
drive a man to die of despair.

"There must be three or four of them already who are _impressed_ in
your favor, and I advise you as a friend to press your advantage warmly
in that direction, instead of amusing yourself prattling with me in a
window-recess, which will not materially assist your prospects."

"But, my dear C----, I am altogether green in such matters, I haven't
the necessary experience of society to distinguish at first glance
a woman who is impressed from one who isn't; and I might make some
strange blunders unless you will assist me with your experience."

"Upon my word, you are a primitive creature without a name, and I
didn't suppose it was possible to be so pastoral and bucolic in the
blessed age we live in!--What the devil are you doing with that pair of
great black eyes of yours, which would produce a most stunning effect
if you knew how to use them?

"Just look over yonder, in the corner by the fire-place, at that little
woman in pink playing with her fan: she has been staring at you for
a quarter of an hour with most significant assiduity and fixity; no
one in the world but she can be indecent in so superior a fashion and
display such noble insolence. The women don't like her at all, for
they despair of ever reaching that height of impudence, but, on the
other hand, she is very popular with the men who find in her all the
piquant flavor of the courtesan.--To be sure, her depravity is of a
fascinating sort, she is full of wit and impulse and caprice.--She's an
excellent mistress for a young man who has prejudices.--Within a week
she will rid your conscience of all scruples and corrupt your heart to
such an extent that you will never make yourself ridiculous or indulge
in elegiacs. She has incredibly positive ideas on every subject;
she goes to the bottom of everything with astonishing rapidity and
accuracy of insight. The little woman is the incarnation of algebra;
she is precisely what a dreamer and an enthusiast needs. She will soon
cure you of your misty idealism: therein she will render you a great
service. She will do it with the greatest pleasure, however, for her
instinct leads her to disenchant poets."

My curiosity being aroused by De C----'s description, I emerged from
my retreat, and, gliding from group to group, approached the lady in
question and observed her closely,--she may have been twenty-five
or twenty-six years old. She was small, but well shaped, although a
little inclined to be stout; she had round, white arms, well-formed
hands and pretty feet, almost too small,--plump, polished shoulders,
breast but little exposed, but what there was, very satisfactory and
affording a favorable idea of the rest; her hair was extremely glossy
and of a blue-black shade like a jay's wing; the corner of the eye
was turned well up toward the temple, nose thin, nostrils very open,
mouth moist and sensuous, a little crease on the lower lip and an
almost imperceptible down at the corners. And with it all, vivacity,
animation, health, and an indefinable suggestion of wantonness adroitly
tempered by coquetry and tact, which made her a very desirable creature
and more than justified the very lively passions she had inspired and
continued to inspire every day.

I desired her; but yet I understood that that woman, agreeable as she
might be, was not my ideal, or could make me say: "At last I have a

I returned to De C---- and said: "I like her looks, and perhaps I may
come to an understanding with her. But, before saying anything definite
which will bind me, I would be very glad if you would have the kindness
to point out those indulgent beauties who are so condescending as to be
impressed with me, so that I may make my choice.--You will also oblige
me, as you are acting as showman on this occasion, by adding a little
descriptive notice and a list of their good and bad qualities; how I
must attack them and the tone I must adopt with them in order not to
seem too much like a provincial or a literary man."

"I most certainly will," said De C----. "Do you see that lovely,
melancholy swan who manages her neck so gracefully and makes her
sleeves move like wings? she is modesty itself, the most chaste and
virginal creature in the world; she has a snow-white brow, a heart
of ice, the expression of a madonna, the smile of an Agnes; she has
a white dress and a soul of the same color; she wears nothing but
orange-blossoms or water-lily leaves in her hair, and is attached to
earth only by a thread. She has never had an evil thought and has no
idea wherein man differs from woman. The Blessed Virgin is a Bacchante
beside her, all of which does not prevent her having had more lovers
than any woman I know, and that is certainly saying a good deal.
Just cast your eye on that discreet person's throat; it is a little
masterpiece, and really it is very difficult to show so much without
showing more; tell me if, with all her reserve and all her prudery,
she isn't ten times more indecent than that good lady at her left, who
bravely displays two hemispheres which, if they were united, would form
a life-size globe,--or the other one at her right, _décolletée_ to the
navel, who parades her nothingness with fascinating intrepidity?--That
virginal creature, unless I am very much mistaken, has already figured
out in her head how much love and passion your pallor and your black
eyes may be taken to promise; and my reason for saying so is that she
hasn't once looked in your direction, visibly at least; for she can
manage her pupils with such art and roll them into the corner of her
eyes so cleverly that nothing escapes her; one would think that she
looked through the back of her head, for she knows perfectly well what
is going on behind her.--She's a female Janus.--If you want to succeed
with her, you must lay aside anything like a free-and-easy, victorious
manner. You must talk to her without looking at her, without moving,
in a contrite attitude and in a subdued, respectful voice; in that way
you can say whatever you choose to her, provided that it is suitably
glossed over, and she will allow you to take the greatest liberties,
at first in words; afterward in deeds. Simply take care to roll your
eyes tenderly when hers are cast down, and talk to her about the joys
of platonic love and the communion of souls, while you employ with her
the least platonic and least ideal pantomime imaginable! She is very
sensual and very sensitive; kiss her as often as you choose, but don't
forget, even in the most intimate intercourse, to call her _madame_ at
least three times per sentence: she fell out with me, because, when I
was in her bed, I said something or other to her and called her _thou_.
What the devil! a woman is not virtuous for nothing!"

"After what you tell me I have no great desire to try my luck. A
prudish Messalina! an entirely novel and monstrous combination."

"Old as the world, my dear boy! it is seen every day and nothing is
more common.--You are wrong not to try your hand with her.--She has one
great charm, which is that with her you always seem to be committing a
deadly sin, and the least kiss seems altogether damnable; while with
others you think of it as nothing more than a venial sin, and often you
don't think you're doing anything wrong at all.--That is why I kept her
longer than any other mistress.--I should have her still if she had not
left me herself; she's the only woman who ever got ahead of me, and I
look upon her with a certain amount of respect on that account.--She
has the most delicate little refinements of pleasure and the great art
of appearing to be forced to grant what she grants very freely; which
gives to each of her favors the fascination of rape. You will find in
society ten of her lovers who will swear to you that she is one of the
most virtuous creatures on earth.--She is precisely the contrary.--It
is an interesting study to analyze that virtue of hers on a pillow.
Being forewarned, you run no risk, and you won't make the blunder of
falling in love with her in earnest."

"How old is this adorable creature?" I asked De C----, for it was
impossible to decide, even after examining her with the most careful

"Ah! there you are! how old is she? that's a mystery and God only knows
the clue. For my own part, and I pride myself on telling a woman's age
almost to a minute, I have never succeeded in finding out hers. I can
only estimate approximately that she is somewhere between eighteen
and thirty-six.--I have seen her in full dress, in déshabille, in her
linen, and I can tell you nothing in that connection: my knowledge is
at fault; the age that you would generally take her to be is eighteen,
and yet that can't be her age.--She is a combination of a virgin body
and the soul of a harlot, and she must have had much time or much
genius to corrupt herself so thoroughly and so speciously; she must
have a heart of brass in a breast of steel; but she has neither; that
makes me think that she is thirty-six, but in reality I know nothing
about it."

"Hasn't she any intimate friend who could enlighten you on the subject?"

"No; she arrived here two years ago. She came from the provinces or
from abroad, I don't know which--that is an admirable position for a
woman who knows how to make the most of it. With such a face as she
has, she can make herself any age she chooses and date only from the
day she arrived here."

"That certainly is a most agreeable state of things, especially when
some impertinent wrinkle doesn't give you the lie, and Time, the great
destroyer, is kind enough to connive at that falsification of the
certificate of baptism."

He pointed out several others, who, he said, would receive favorably
whatever requests it might please me to prefer to them, and would
treat me with peculiar philanthropy. But the woman in pink in the
chimney-corner and the modest dove who was her antithesis were
incomparably superior to all the others; and, if they had not all the
qualities I require, they had some of them, at least in appearance.

I talked all the evening with them, especially with the last, and I
took pains to cast my ideas in the most respectful mould;--although
she hardly looked at me, I fancied sometimes that I could see her eyes
gleaming behind the curtain of their lashes, and at some compliments
that I ventured to address to her, decidedly broad but shrouded in
the most modest gauze, I noticed just below the skin a tiny blush,
held back and stifled, not unlike the effect produced by pouring a
red liqueur into a glass that is half opaque.--Her replies were, in
general, sedate and well-weighed, but keen and bright, and they implied
much more than they expressed. The whole conversation was interspersed
with pauses, unfinished phrases; veiled allusions, every syllable had
its meaning, every pause its bearing; nothing could be more diplomatic
or more charming.--And yet, however great my pleasure in it for the
moment, I could not endure such a conversation very long. One must
be forever on the alert and on his guard, and what I like best in
conversation is ease, familiarity.--We talked first of music, which led
us naturally to speak of the Opera, then of women, and then of love,
a subject in which it is easier than in any other to find excuses for
transition from general principles to special instances.--We vied with
each other in amatory talk; you would have laughed to hear me. Verily,
Amadis on poor La Roche was no better than a dull pedant beside me.
It was generosity, abnegation, self-sacrifice enough to put the late
Curtius of Rome to the blush.--Really I didn't believe myself capable
of such transcendent humbug and bathos. Can you imagine anything more
ridiculous, a more perfect scene for a comedy, than myself indulging in
the quintessence of platonism? And then my sugary manner, my demure,
hypocritical little ways! _tubleu_! I looked as if I could never touch
anything, and any mother who had heard me argue wouldn't have hesitated
to let me lie with her daughter, any husband would have trusted his
wife with me. It was the one evening in all my life when I seemed to be
most virtuous and was least so. I thought it was more difficult than
that to be a hypocrite and say things one doesn't believe. It must be
very easy or else I must be strongly predisposed that way, to have
succeeded so satisfactorily at the first trial.--Really I have some
inspired moments.

As for the lady, she made many remarks, very shrewdly worded, which,
notwithstanding the innocent air with which she made them, denoted
a very extensive experience; you can't conceive the subtlety of her
distinctions. The woman would split a hair in three pieces lengthwise,
and make fools of all the angelic and seraphic pundits that ever were.
Indeed, from her way of talking, it was impossible to believe that she
has the shadow of a body.--It is all immaterial, vaporous, ideal enough
to break your arms; and if De C---- had not warned me beforehand of
the creature's manœuvring, I should certainly have despaired of the
success of my undertaking, and stood shamefacedly aside. How in the
devil, when a woman tells you for two hours, with the most indifferent
air you can imagine, that love lives only on privation and sacrifice
and other fine things of that sort, can you decently hope to persuade
her to get between two sheets with you some day to stir your blood and
see if you are made alike?

In short, we parted the best of friends, mutually congratulating each
other on the elevation and purity of our sentiments.

My conversation with the other was, as you will imagine, of a very
different tenor. We laughed as much as we talked. We made fun, and very
wittily too, of all the women there. When I say: "We made fun, and very
wittily too," I am wrong; I ought to say: "She made fun;" a man never
makes fun of a woman. I listened and approved, for it is impossible to
draw with more telling strokes or to apply colors more brilliantly; it
was the most interesting gallery of caricatures that I have ever seen.
In spite of the exaggeration, you felt the truth underneath; De C----
was quite right; that woman's mission is to destroy the illusions of
poets. There is an atmosphere of prose about her in which a poetic idea
cannot live. She is charming, sparkling with wit, and yet when you are
with her you think only of base, vulgar things; as I talked to her I
felt a crowd of desires, incongruous and impracticable in that place;
I felt like ordering wine and getting tipsy, taking her on my knee
and kissing her neck--like lifting up her skirt to see if her garter
was above or below the knee, like singing an obscene song at the top
of my voice, smoking a pipe or smashing the windows: the devil knows
what.--All the animal, all the brute rose in me; I would willingly
have spat on Homer's Iliad and thrown myself on my knees before a
ham.--I understand perfectly to-day the allegory of Circe changing the
companions of Ulysses to swine. Circe was probably a wanton like my
little woman in pink.

It is a shameful thing to say, but I felt a keen delight in the
consciousness that the brute nature was gaining the upper hand; I did
not resist it, I assisted it with all my strength, corruption is so
natural to man and there is so much mud in the clay of which he is

[Illustration: Chapter II--_My conversation with the other was, as
you will imagine, of a very different tenor. We laughed as much as we
talked. We made fun, and very wittily too, of all the women there._]

And yet I was afraid for a minute of the gangrene that was gaining upon
me, and I tried to leave my corrupter; but the floor seemed to have
risen to my knees, and I was as if riveted to my place.

At last I made a determined effort and left her, and, it being then
very late, I returned home in dire perplexity, very much disturbed in
mind and with none too clear an idea what I ought to do.--I wavered
between the prude and the wanton.--I found piquancy in the one,
sensuousness in the other; and after a very close and very thorough
examination of my conscience I discovered, not that I loved them both,
but that I desired them both, one as much as the other, with sufficient
eagerness to indulge in reverie and preoccupation.

According to all appearances, O my friend! I shall have one of those
two women, perhaps I shall have them both, and yet I confess that I
am only half satisfied by possessing them; it isn't that they're not
very pretty, but at sight of them nothing cried out within me, nothing
throbbed, nothing said: "It is they;"--I did not recognize them.--And
yet I don't imagine that I shall find any one much better off in the
way of birth and beauty, and De C---- advises me to try my hand with
them. Most certainly I shall do it, and one or the other shall be my
mistress before long or may the devil fly away with me; but way down in
my heart a still small voice reproaches me for lying to my love and for
pausing thus at the first smile of a woman I do not love, instead of
seeking untiringly through the world, in cloisters and all sorts of bad
places, in palaces and taverns, the woman who was made for me and whom
God destines for me, be she princess or serving-maid, nun or courtesan.

Then I say to myself that I am indulging in chimeras, and that it's
very much the same after all, whether I lie with that woman or another,
that the earth will not swerve a hair's breadth from its course, and
that the seasons will not change their order on that account; that
nothing in the world is more indifferent to me, and that I am very
simple to torment myself about such trifles: that is what I say to
myself.--But it's of no use for me to talk, I am not a whit more easy
in my mind or more decided.

It may be because I live much alone and the smallest details take on
too much importance in a life so monotonous as mine. I give too much
heed to my living and thinking: I hear the throbbing of my arteries,
the beating of my heart; by dint of dose attention I disengage my most
intangible ideas from the confused haze in which they float, and give
them a body.--If I had more to do I should not notice all these trivial
things and should not have time to look at my heart under a microscope,
as I do all day long. The din of action would drive away this swarm
of indolent thoughts that are flying about in my head and deafening
me with the buzzing of their wings: instead of pursuing phantoms I
should come to blows with realities; I should ask women for nothing
beyond what they can give--pleasure--and I should not try to embrace
some fanciful ideal decked out in hazy perfections.--This desperate
tension of the eye of my heart toward an invisible object has impaired
my sight. I am unable to see what is, from having stared at what is
not, and my eye, so keen for the ideal, is terribly short-sighted for
the real; so that I have known women whom everybody declared to be
most ravishing creatures, but who seemed to me very far from that. I
have greatly admired pictures generally considered to be daubs, and
fantastic or unintelligible verses have given me more pleasure than
the most courtly productions.--I should not be at all astonished if,
after addressing so many sighs to the moon and looking at the stars
with strained gaze, after perpetrating so many elegies and sentimental
apostrophes, I should fall in love with some vile girl from the street,
or some ugly old woman; that would be a great come-down!--Reality
will perhaps take its revenge thus for the little care I have taken
to pay court to it:--wouldn't it be a fine thing if I should conceive
a romantic passion for a scullery wench or a low, dirty trollop? Can
you imagine me playing a guitar under a kitchen window and supplanted
by a lackey carrying an old toothless dowager's pet cur?--Or perhaps,
finding nothing in this world worthy of my love, I shall end by adoring
myself, like the late Narcissus of selfish memory. To protect myself
from such a great disaster, I look at myself in every mirror and in
all the streams I pass. To tell the truth, as a result of musing and
mental wandering I am terribly afraid of being led into something
monstrous and unnatural. That is a serious matter and I must be on my
guard.--Adieu, my friend;--I am going at once to call on the pink lady,
for fear of relapsing into my usual state of meditation. I do not think
that we shall trouble ourselves very much about actualities, and if we
do anything it surely won't be in a spiritual direction, although she
is very spirituelle. I carefully roll up and put away in a drawer the
pattern of my ideal mistress in order not to try it upon this one. I
propose to enjoy tranquilly such good qualities and merits as she has.
I propose to leave her in a dress adapted to her figure, and not to try
to fit clothes to her that I have cut out, in case of emergency, for
the lady of my thoughts.--Those are very prudent resolutions, but I
don't know whether I shall keep to them.--Once more, adieu.


I am the titular lover of the pink lady; that is almost a profession,
an office, and it gives a man a firm footing in society. I no longer
look like a scholar seeking a mistress among a parcel of grandmothers
and afraid to sing a love-song to a woman unless she's a hundred
years old; I notice, since my installation, that I receive much more
consideration, that all the women talk to me with jealous coquetry and
go out of their way to smile on me.--The men, on the other hand, are
colder, and in the few words we exchange there is a touch of hostility
and constraint; they feel that they have in me an enemy already
formidable, who may become much more so.--I have heard that many of
them had bitterly criticised my way of carrying myself and said that my
style of dress was too effeminate; that my hair was curled and anointed
with more care than beseemed me; that that fact, taken in connection
with my beardless face, gave me a most absurd girlish appearance; that
I affected rich materials that smelt of the stage, and that I looked
more like an actor than a man: a parcel of trite, sneering remarks,
intended to justify themselves in being dirty and wearing wretched,
ill-fitting clothes. But all this serves only to make me the whiter,
and all the ladies consider that my hair is the finest in the world,
and that the niceties of my toilet are in the best taste, and they
seem strongly disposed to make up to me for all that I spend for
their benefit, for they are not fools enough to believe that all that
elegance has no other aim than my own private embellishment.

The lady of the house seemed at first a little offended at my choice,
which she thought must inevitably fall upon herself, and for some days
she was decidedly sour--to her rival only, for there was no change in
her manner to me--her spleen manifesting itself in divers little "My
dears," uttered in that dry, abrupt tone that women alone can master,
and in certain uncomplimentary remarks concerning her costume, made
in as loud a voice as possible, such as: "Your hair is done too high
and not at all to correspond with your face," or: "Your waist bags
under the arms; who in the world made that dress?" or: "You have black
rings under your eyes; it seems to me you are much changed;" and a
thousand other trivial observations to which the other did not fail to
retort with all desirable malignity when opportunity offered; and if
the opportunity was too slow in offering she made one for her own use
and returned, with interest, what she had received. But soon, another
object having distracted the attention of the slighted princess, the
little war of words ceased and everything resumed its usual order.

I said baldly that I was the pink lady's titular lover; that is not
enough for so accurate a man as you are. You will undoubtedly ask
me what her name is: as for that, I shall not tell you; but, if you
choose, to shorten the story and in memory of the color of the dress in
which I first saw her, we will call her Rosette; it's a pretty name; my
little dog has the same name.

You would like to know from point to point, for you love exactness in
all things, the story of our love-affairs with this fair Bradamante,
and by what successive steps I passed from the general to the
particular and from the condition of simple spectator to that of actor;
how, after being one of the audience, I became the lover. I will
gratify your desire with the very greatest pleasure. There is nothing
unpleasant in our romance; it is all rose-colored, and no tears are
shed except tears of pleasure; you will find no long descriptions or
repetitions, and everything moves on toward the end with the haste
and speed so urgently recommended by Horace;--it is a genuine French
romance.--Do not imagine, however, that I carried the citadel at the
first assault. The princess, although very humane to her subjects, is
not as lavish of her favors at first, as you might think; she knows
their value too well not to make you purchase them; she also knows
too well how a judicious delay sharpens the appetite and what relish
a semi-resistance adds to the pleasure, to abandon herself to you at
first, however keen the inclination you have aroused in her.

To tell the whole story at length, I must go back a little. I gave you
a very circumstantial account of our first interview. I had one or two,
perhaps three others in the same house, and then she invited me to call
on her; I did not make her repeat the invitation, as you can believe;
I went there at discreet intervals at first, then a little more
frequently, then still more so, and finally whenever the fancy seized
me, and I must confess that it seized me at least three or four times a
day.--The lady, after we had been parted a few hours, always received
me as if I had just returned from the East Indies; which fact touched
me as much as anything could and impelled me to show my gratitude in a
marked manner by the most gallant and tenderest words you can imagine,
to which she replied as best she could.

Rosette--as we have agreed to call her that--is a very bright woman and
has a most admirable appreciation of man; although she postponed the
end of the chapter for some time, I did not once lose my temper with
her: which is really marvellous, for you know how I fly into a passion
when I don't get what I want on the instant, and when a woman goes
beyond the time I have mentally allowed her in which to surrender.--I
have no idea how she did it at the first interview; she gave me to
understand that I should have her, and I was surer of her than if I had
had her written promise signed by her hand. You will say perhaps that
her bold and free-and-easy manners left the field free to rash hopes.
I do not think that that is the real motive: I have seen some women
whose prodigious freedom of manner excluded the last vestige of doubt,
who did not produce that effect upon me, and in whose presence I was
conscious of a timidity and uneasiness that were, to say the least,

The result is, generally speaking, that I am less amiable with the
woman I long to possess than with those who are indifferent to me;
it is because of the excitement of waiting for an opportunity and my
uncertainty as to the success of my project; that makes me gloomy and
casts me into a fit of musing which takes away much of my power of
pleasing and my presence of mind. When I see the hours I had set aside
for another purpose passing one by one, I am filled with anger in spite
of myself, and I cannot keep from saying very sharp, harsh things,
which sometimes go as far as brutality and put my affair back a hundred

With Rosette I had no such feeling; never, even at the moment when she
resisted me most stubbornly, did I have the idea that she wanted to
escape from my love. I calmly allowed her to display all her little
coquetries, and I endured in patience the overlong delays to which it
pleased her to subject my ardor; there was something smiling in her
harshness that consoled you for it as much as possible, and in her most
Hyrcanian cruelties you could distinguish a background of humanity that
made it impossible for you to have any very serious fear.--Virtuous
women, even when they are not really virtuous at all, have a crabbed,
disdainful way which is perfectly unendurable to me. They have the
air of being always ready to ring and order their footmen to put you
out; and it seems to me, really, that a man who takes the trouble to
pay court to a woman--and it isn't always as agreeable as you may
think--doesn't deserve to be looked at in that way.

Dear Rosette has no such glances as that, not she; and I assure you
that she doesn't lose anything by it; she is the only woman with whom
I have ever been myself, and I am conceited enough to say that I have
never been so agreeable. My wit has displayed itself freely; and, by
the skill and fire of her retorts, she has led me to discover more than
I had any idea that I possessed, and more perhaps than I really do
possess.--To be sure, I haven't done much in the way of lyrics--that
is hardly possible with her; it is not that she has no poetic side,
notwithstanding what De C---- said of her; but she is so full of life
and strength and movement, she seems to be so well placed in her
present surroundings, that one has no desire to leave them for a flight
among the clouds. She fills one's real life so pleasantly and makes of
it something so entertaining to herself and others, that reverie has
nothing better to offer you.

A miraculous thing! I have known her nearly two months, and in those
two months the only times I have been bored have been when I was not
with her. You will agree that she can be no inferior woman to produce
such a result, for women usually produce exactly the opposite effect on
me and are much more agreeable to me at a distance than near at hand.

Rosette has the best disposition in the world, with men I mean, for
with women she's as wicked as a devil; she is bright, lively, alert,
ready for anything, very original in her way of speaking, and has
always some charming nonsense to tell you that you don't expect; she
is a delightful companion, a jolly comrade with whom you sleep, rather
than a mistress; and if I were a few years older and had fewer romantic
ideas, I should be perfectly satisfied, indeed I should deem myself
the most fortunate mortal on earth. But--but--that conjunction implies
nothing good, and unfortunately that little devil of a restrictive word
is the one most frequently employed in all human tongues;--but I am an
imbecile, an idiot, a downright booby, never content with anything and
always hunting mares' nests; and, instead of being altogether happy, I
am only half so;--half, that is a good deal for this world, and yet I
find it not enough.

In the eyes of the world I have a mistress whom several desire and envy
me, and whom no one would disdain. My desire is gratified, therefore,
in appearance, and I no longer have the right to pick a quarrel with
fate. However, it seems to me that I have no mistress; I can convince
myself that I have by arguing it out, but I do not feel it, and if
anybody should ask me unexpectedly if I had one, I think I should
answer no.--However, the possession of a woman who has beauty, youth,
and wit, constitutes what, in all times and in all countries, has
been and still is called having a mistress, and I think there is no
other way. That doesn't prevent my having the strangest doubts in that
connection, and it has gone so far that if several people should unite
to convince me that I am not Rosette's favored lover, I should end by
believing them in the face of the palpable evidence to the contrary.

Do not think from what I say that I do not love her or that she is
displeasing to me in any way; on the contrary, I am very fond of her
and I see in her what everybody else would see in her: a pretty,
alluring creature. I simply do not feel that I possess her, that is
all. And yet no woman ever gave me so much pleasure, and if I have ever
known bliss, it has been in her arms.--A single one of her kisses, the
most chaste of her caresses makes me shiver to the soles of my feet
and sends all my blood back to my heart. Explain it all if you can.
The facts, however, are as I tell them to you. But the human heart is
full of such absurdities; and if we were obliged to reconcile all the
contradictions it exhibits, we should have a heavy task on our hands.

How does it happen? Verily, I have no idea.

I see her all day, and all night too, if I choose. I bestow as many
caresses on her as I please; I have her naked or dressed, in town or
in the country. Her good humor is inexhaustible, and she enters heart
and soul into my whims however eccentric they may be; one evening the
fancy seized me to possess her in the middle of the salon, with all the
candles lighted, the fire blazing on the hearth, the chairs arranged
in a circle as if for a grand evening reception, she, in a _toilette
de bal_ with her bouquet and her fan, all her diamonds on her fingers
and her neck, feathers in her hair--the most magnificent costume
imaginable--and I dressed like a bear; she consented.--When everything
was ready, the servants were greatly surprised to receive orders to
close the doors and admit no one; they acted as if they had not the
slightest comprehension of what it all meant, and went away with a
dazed look that made us laugh heartily. They certainly thought that
their mistress was stark mad; but what they thought or did not think
mattered little to us.

That was the most burlesque evening of my whole life. Can you imagine
the appearance I must have presented with my hat and feather under my
paw, rings on every claw, a little silver-hilted sword and a sky-blue
ribbon on its hilt? I approached the fair one, and, having made her
a most graceful reverence, sat down beside her and besieged her in
due form. The flattering madrigals, the exaggerated compliments I
addressed to her, all the jargon suited to the occasion assumed a
strange significance in passing through my bear's muzzle; for I had
a superb head of painted cardboard which I was soon obliged to throw
under the table, my deity was so adorable that evening, and I longed
so to kiss her hand and something better than her hand. The skin soon
followed the head; for not being accustomed to play the bear, I was
stifled in it, more so than was necessary. Thereupon the ball-dress
had a fine time as you can imagine; the feathers fell like snow around
my beauty, the shoulders soon came out of the sleeves, the bosom from
the corset, the feet from the shoes, the legs from the stockings; the
unstrung necklaces rolled on the floor, and I believe that fresher
dress was never more pitilessly rumpled and torn; the dress was of
silver gauze and the lining of white satin. Rosette displayed on that
occasion a heroism altogether unusual to her sex, which gave me a most
exalted opinion of her. She looked on at the sack of her costume like
an uninterested witness, and did not for a single instant show the
slightest regret for her dress and her lace; on the contrary, she was
wildly gay, and assisted with her own hands in tearing and breaking
anything that wouldn't untie or unclasp quickly enough to suit my
taste and hers.--Doesn't this strike you as worthy to be handed down
in history beside the most brilliant deeds of the heroes of antiquity?
The greatest proof of love a woman can give her lover is to refrain
from saying to him: "Take care and not rumple me or spot my dress,"
especially if the dress be new.--A new dress is a greater source
of security to a husband than is commonly supposed. It must be that
Rosette adores me or else she is blessed with a philosophy superior to
that of Epictetus.

[Illustration: Chapter III--_Thereupon the ball-dress had a fine time as
you can imagine; * * * and I believe that fresher dress was never more
pitilessly rumpled and torn; the dress was of silver gauze and the
lining of white satin. Rosette displayed on that occasion a heroism
altogether unusual to her sex._]

Nevertheless I think that I paid Rosette the full value of her dress
and more, in coin which is none the less esteemed and valued because it
does not pass current with tradesmen. Such unexampled heroism surely
deserved such a recompense. However, like the generous creature she
is, she repaid what I gave her. I had a wild, almost convulsive sort
of pleasure, such as I did not believe myself capable of enjoying. The
resounding kisses mingled with bursts of laughter, the shuddering,
impatient caresses, all the piquant, tantalizing sensations, the
pleasure imperfectly enjoyed because of the costume and the situation,
but a hundred times keener than if there had been no obstacles,
produced such an effect on my nerves that I was seized with paroxysms
which I had some difficulty in overcoming.--You cannot conceive the
proud, affectionate way in which Rosette gazed at me as she tried to
soothe me, and the joyful yet anxious manner with which she lavished
attentions upon me: her face glowed with the pleasure that she felt
in producing such an effect upon me, while her eyes, swimming in
sweet tears, bore witness to her alarm at my apparent illness and the
interest she took in my health.--She had never seemed so beautiful to
me as at that moment. There was something so maternal and so chaste
in her glance that I entirely forgot the more than anacreontic scene
that had just taken place, and threw myself on my knees at her feet,
asking permission to kiss her hand; which permission she granted with
extraordinary dignity and gravity.

That woman certainly isn't as depraved as De C---- claims and as she
has often seemed to me to be; her corruption is in her mind and not in
her heart.

I have cited this scene from among twenty others: it seems to me that
after such an experience one can, without overweening conceit, believe
himself a woman's lover.--And yet I have not that feeling.--I had no
sooner returned home than that thought took possession of me and began
to work upon me as usual.--I remembered perfectly all that I had said
and heard, all that I had done and seen. The slightest gestures, the
most insignificant attitudes, all the most trivial details stood out
clearly in my memory: I remembered everything, even to the slightest
inflections of the voice, the most indescribable shades of enjoyment;
but it did not seem to me that all those things had happened to me
rather than to some one else. I was not sure that it was not all
an illusion, a phantasmagoria, a dream, or that I had not read it
somewhere or other, or even that it was not a story invented by myself
as I had invented many others. I dreaded being the dupe of my own
credulity or the plaything of some deception; and notwithstanding the
evidence of my weariness and the material proofs that I had not slept
at home, I could easily have believed that I had gone to bed at my
usual hour and slept till morning.

I am very unfortunate in my inability to acquire the moral certainty
of something of which I am physically certain. In ordinary cases the
contrary is the case and the fact proves the idea. I would like well to
prove the fact by the idea; I cannot do it; although it is a strange
thing, it is so. It rests with myself, to a certain extent, to have a
mistress; but I cannot force myself to believe that I have one, even
though that is the fact. If I have not the necessary faith in me, even
for a thing so palpable as that, it is just as impossible for me to
believe in so simple a fact as for another to believe in the Trinity.
Faith is not to be acquired, it is a pure gift, a special grace from

No one ever longed as I do to live the life of others and to assimilate
another nature to my own; no one ever had less success. Whatever I may
do, other men are little more than phantoms to me and I do not feel
their existence; but it is not the desire to understand their lives and
share in them that I lack. It is the power or the want of real sympathy
with anything on earth. The existence or non-existence of a person or
thing does not interest me enough to affect me in a perceptible and
convincing way. The sight of a man or a woman who appears before me
in flesh and blood leaves on my mind no more definite trace than the
fanciful vision of a dream: a pale world of shadows and of apparitions,
false or true, hovers about me, murmuring low, and in the midst of
them I feel as utterly alone as possible, for not one of them has any
effect upon me for good or evil, and they seem to me to be of a nature
altogether different from mine. If I speak to them and they make what
seems a sensible reply, I am as surprised as if my dog or my cat should
suddenly open his mouth and take part in the conversation: the sound
of their voices always astonishes me and I could easily believe that
they are only fleeting apparitions and I the mirror in which they are
reflected. Inferior or superior, I certainly am not of their kind.
There are moments when I recognize none but God above me, and others
when I deem myself hardly the equal of the earthworm under its stone or
the mollusk on its sand-bank; but whatever my frame of mind, exalted or
humble, I have never been able to persuade myself that men were really
my fellows. When any one calls me _monsieur_, or, in speaking of me,
refers to me as _that man_, it always seems strange to me. My very name
seems to me but an empty one and not my real name; and yet, no matter
how low it may be uttered, amid the loudest noise, I turn suddenly with
a convulsive and peevish eagerness which I have never been able to
explain.--Is it the dread of finding in the man who knows my name, and
to whom I am no longer simply one of the common herd, an antagonist or
an enemy?

It is when I have been living with a woman that I feel most strongly
how utterly my nature repels every sort of alliance and mixture. I am
like a drop of oil in a glass of water. No matter how much you turn it
and shake it, the oil will never mix with the water; it will separate
into a hundred thousand little globules which will unite again and
rise to the surface the instant it becomes calm: the drop of oil and
the glass of water epitomize my history. Even lust--that diamond chain
that binds all human beings together, that consuming fire that melts
the stone and metal of the heart and causes them to fall in tears as
material fire melts iron and granite--all powerful as it is, has never
been able to subdue or move me. And yet my senses are very sharp; but
my heart is a hostile sister to my body, and the ill-mated couple, like
every possible couple, lawfully or unlawfully united, lives in a state
of constant warfare.--A woman's arms, the strongest of all earthly
bonds, so it is said, are to me very weak fetters, and I have never
been farther from my mistress than when she was straining me to her
heart.--I was stifled, that's the whole story.

How many times have I been angry with myself! What superhuman efforts
have I made to be different! How I have exhorted myself to be
affectionate, lover-like, passionate! how often I have taken my heart
by the hair and dragged it to my lips in the middle of a kiss! Whatever
I do, it always recoils, wiping the kiss away, as soon as I release my
hold. What torture for that poor heart to look on at the orgies of my
body and to be constantly compelled to sit through banquets at which it
has nothing to eat!

It was when I was with Rosette that I determined, once for all, to
ascertain if I am not hopelessly unsociable, and if I can take enough
interest in another person's existence to believe in it. I exhausted
the whole category of experiments, and I have not succeeded in solving
my doubts to any great extent. With her my pleasure is so keen that my
heart often finds itself diverted at least, if not touched, a state of
things that impairs the accuracy of observations. After all, I have
discovered that it didn't go below the skin and that my enjoyment
was confined to the epidermis, the heart participating only through
curiosity. I have pleasure because I am young and ardent; but the
pleasures came from myself and not from another. Its source was in
myself rather than in Rosette.

It is of no use for me to struggle, I cannot go out of myself for a
single moment. I am still what I was, that is to say, a very tired,
very tiresome creature, who disgusts me exceedingly. I have failed
utterly to introduce into my brain the idea of another human being,
into my heart, another's emotion, into my body, another's pain or
pleasure. I am a prisoner in myself and all escape is impossible: the
prisoner longs to escape, the walls ask nothing better than to crumble,
and the doors to open before him; but some inexplicable fatality keeps
every stone immovable in its place, every bolt in its groove; it is as
impossible for me to admit any one to my quarters as to go myself to
others; I cannot make or receive calls, and I live in the most absolute
solitude amid the multitude: my bed may not be widowed, but my heart
always is.

Ah! to be unable to increase one's size by a single line, by a single
atom; to be unable to admit others' blood into one's veins; to see
always with one's own eyes, never clearer, never farther, never
otherwise; to hear sounds with the same ears and the same sensation;
to touch with the same fingers; to perceive changing objects with
an unchangeable organ; to be doomed to the same tone of voice, the
repetition of the same sounds, the same phrases, the same words, and
not to be able to fly, to escape one's self, to take refuge in some
corner where no one can follow; to be compelled to keep always to one's
self, to dine and lie alone--to be the same man to twenty different
women; to play, throughout the most complicated situations of the drama
of your life, a part that is forced upon you, whose lines you know
by heart; to think the same things, to have the same dreams:--what
torture, what ennui!

I have longed for the horn of the Tangut brothers, for Fortunatus's
hat, Abaris's bâton, Gygès's ring; I would have sold my soul to
snatch the magic wand from a fairy's hand, but I have never longed so
intensely for anything as to meet on the mountain, like Tiresias the
soothsayer, those serpents who can change the sex of mortals, and what
I most envy in the strange, monstrous gods of the Indies are their
constant incarnations and innumerable transformations.

I began by longing to be another man; then, as I reflected that I
could, by analogy, foresee almost exactly what I should feel and
therefore not experience the change and the surprise I expected, I
concluded that I would prefer to be a woman; that idea always occurred
to me when I had a mistress who was not ugly; for an ugly woman is like
a man to me, and in my moments of enjoyment I would gladly have changed
my rôle, for it is very annoying to know nothing about the effect one
produces and to judge of others' pleasure only by one's own. Such
reflections and many others have often given me, at moments when it
was most inappropriate, a meditative, dreamy air, which has caused me
to be accused most unjustly of coldness and infidelity.

Rosette, who, very luckily, doesn't know all this, believes me to
be the most amorous man on earth; she takes that impotent _frenzy_
for a frenzy of passion, and she does her utmost to humor all the
experimental caprices that pass through my brain.

I have done all that I possibly could to convince myself that she
belongs to me. I have tried to go down into her heart, but I have
always stopped on the first step of the staircase, at her flesh or her
mouth. Despite the intimacy of our corporeal relations, I feel that we
have nothing in common. Never has an idea of the same tenor as mine
spread its wings in that youthful, smiling head; never has that heart,
overflowing with life and fire, whose palpitations cause that firm,
white breast to rise and fall, beaten in unison with my heart. My soul
has never coalesced with hers. Cupid, the god with the hawk's wings,
has not kissed Psyche on her fair ivory brow. No!--that woman is not my

If you know all that I have done to compel my heart to share the
love of my body! with what frenzy I have glued my mouth to hers
and wound my arms in her hair, and how tightly I have embraced her
rounded, supple figure. Like Salmacis of old, enamored of the young
Hermaphrodite, I have tried to melt her body and mine together; I have
drunk her breath and her warm tears that bliss forced from the brimming
chalice of her eyes. The more inextricably our bodies were intertwined,
the closer our embrace, the less I loved her. My heart, sitting sadly
by, looked on with a pitying air at that deplorable union to which it
was not bidden, or veiled its face in disgust and wept silently behind
the skirt of its cloak. All this is attributable perhaps to the fact
that I do not really love Rosette, worthy to be loved though she be,
and anxious as I am to love her.

To rid myself of the idea that I was myself, I transported myself to
most unusual surroundings, where it was altogether unlikely that I
should meet myself, and being unable to cast my individuality to the
dogs, I tried to expatriate it so that it would no longer recognize
itself. I have had but moderate success therein, for that devil of
a myself follows me persistently; there is no way of getting rid of
him; I haven't the resource of sending word to him, as I do to other
uncomfortable callers, that I am not at home or that I have gone into
the country.

I have had my mistress in the bath and I have played the Triton as
best I could.--The sea was a huge marble tub. As for the Nereid, what
she showed accused the water, transparent though it was, of not being
sufficiently so for the exquisite beauty of what it concealed.--I have
had her at night, by moonlight, in a gondola with music.

That would be very commonplace at Venice, but here it is anything but
that.--In her carriage, with the horses going at a gallop, amid the
rattling of the wheels, the leaping and jolting, sometimes by the
light of lanterns, sometimes in the densest darkness.--That doesn't
lack a certain stimulating interest and I advise you to try it: but I
forget that you are a venerable patriarch, and that you don't indulge
in such refinements.--I have climbed in at her window when I had the
key to the door in my pocket.--I have made her come to my apartments
in broad daylight, in fact, I have compromised her so thoroughly that
no one--myself excepted, be it understood--now doubts that she is my

By reason of all these inventions which, if I were not so young, would
resemble the expedients of a blasé old rake, Rosette adores me far
and away above all others. She sees therein the ardor of a teasing
passion that nothing can restrain, and that is always the same despite
the changes of time and place. She sees therein the constantly renewed
effect of her charms and the triumph of her beauty, and, in truth, I
would that she were right, and it is neither my fault nor hers--I must
be just--that she is not.

The only wrong I have done her consists in being myself. If I told her
that, the child would reply at once that that is my greatest merit in
her eyes; which would be more courteous than sensible.

Once--it was in the beginning of our liaison--I believed that I had
gained my end, for a moment I believed that I loved her--I did love
her.--O my friend, I have never lived except during that moment, and
if it had lasted an hour I should have become a god. We had ridden out
together in the saddle, I on my dear Ferragus, she on a snow-white mare
that looks like a unicorn, her feet are so delicate and her body so
slender. We rode along a broad avenue of elms of prodigious height; the
sun poured down upon us, bright and warm, sifting through the serrated
foliage; ultra-marine patches showed here and there amid the fleecy
clouds, broad bands of pale blue lay along the horizon, changing to a
most delicate apple-green when they encountered the golden rays of the
setting sun. The appearance of the sky was unusual and fascinating; the
breeze wafted to our nostrils an indefinable perfume of wild flowers
delicious beyond words. From time to time a bird rose in front of us
and flew singing along the avenue. The church-bell of an invisible
village softly rang the Angelus, and the silvery notes, which came
but faintly to our ears because of the distance, were inexpressibly
sweet. Our horses were going at a foot pace, and they walked side by
side in such perfect step that neither of them was an inch ahead of the
other.--My heart dilated and my soul overflowed upon my body. I had
never been so happy. I did not speak, nor did Rosette, and yet we never
understood each other so perfectly. We were so close together that my
leg touched her horse's side. I leaned toward her and put my arm about
her waist; she made a similar movement and rested her head against my
shoulder. Our mouths met; O such a chaste, delicious kiss! Our horses
walked on, the reins lying on their necks. I felt Rosette's arms relax
and her body yield more and more. I knew that my own strength was
failing me, and I was near fainting.--Ah! I promise you that at that
moment I cared but little whether I was myself or somebody else. We
rode in that way to the end of the avenue, where the sound of footsteps
caused us abruptly to resume our natural positions; some of our
acquaintances, also in the saddle, rode up and spoke to us. If I had
had my pistols, I believe I should have fired at them.

I glared at them with a fierce, lowering expression that must have
seemed very strange to them. After all, I was wrong to be so angry
with them, for they had unwittingly done me the service of cutting
my pleasure short at the moment when, by its very intensity, it
was certain to become pain or to sink under its violence. The
science of stopping in time is not regarded with all the respect
it deserves.--Sometimes, as you lie with a woman, you put your arm
under her waist: at first it is a most blissful sensation to feel the
pleasant warmth of her body, the soft, velvety flesh of her sides, the
polished ivory of her hips, and to press your hand against her breast
which throbs and quivers. The fair one falls asleep in that voluptuous,
charming posture; the curve of her loins becomes less pronounced,
the agitation of her bosom is calmed, her sides rise and fall with
the freer, more regular respiration of sleep, her muscles relax, her
face is hidden by her hair.--Meanwhile the weight upon your arm grows
heavier, you begin to observe that she is a woman, not a sylph; but you
would not remove your arm for anything on earth. There are many reasons
for that: the first is that it is dangerous to wake a woman with whom
one is lying; one must be prepared to substitute for the blissful dream
she is probably dreaming, a more blissful reality; the second is that,
if you ask her to raise herself so that you can take away your arm,
you tell her indirectly that she is heavy and discommodes you--which
is not polite--or else you give her to understand that you are feeble
and overdone--an extremely humiliating admission for you and likely
to lower you greatly in her mind; the third is that, as you have had
pleasure in that position, you think that if you retain the position
the pleasure may be renewed, wherein you are mistaken. The poor arm is
caught under the mass that crushes it, the blood is checked, the nerves
are distended and numbness pricks you with its countless needles: you
are a sort of Milo of Crotona on a small scale, and the mattress and
the back of your divinity are a sufficiently accurate representation
of the two parts of the tree that have reunited. Day comes at last to
deliver you from your martyrdom and you leap out of that instrument
of torture more eagerly than ever husband descended from the nuptial

That is the history of many passions. It is the history of all

However that may be--despite the interruption or because of the
interruption--never had such a blissful sensation fallen to my lot: I
felt that I was really somebody else. Rosette's soul in its entirety
had entered into my body. My soul had left me and filled her heart
as hers had filled mine. They had met, no doubt, during that long
equestrian kiss, as Rosette dubbed it afterward--to my annoyance by the
way--and had penetrated and mingled as inextricably as the souls of two
mortal creatures can upon a morsel of perishable clay.

Angels surely must kiss like that, and the real paradise is not in
heaven but on the lips of the woman we love.

I have waited in vain for such a moment and have tried unsuccessfully
to lead up to a repetition of it. We have often ridden together
through the avenue of elms at sunset on lovely evenings; the trees had
the same verdure, the birds sang the same song, but to us the sun
seemed dull, the foliage withered: the song of the birds had a harsh,
discordant sound, we were no longer in harmony with it all. We brought
our horses to a walk and we tried the same kiss.--Alas! only our lips
met and it was only the spectre of the former kiss.--The beautiful,
the sublime, the divine, the only real kiss I have given and received
in my whole life had flown away forever. Since that day I have always
had an inexpressibly sad feeling on returning from the forest. Rosette,
light-hearted madcap that she naturally is, cannot avoid the feeling
and her reverie betrays itself by a sweet little pout, which is at
least as attractive as a smile.

Scarcely anything but the fumes of wine and a great blaze of candles
enable me to shake off these fits of depression. We both drink like
men condemned to death, silently and glass after glass, until we have
swallowed the necessary amount; then we begin to laugh and mock most
heartily at what we call our sentimentality.

We laugh--because we cannot weep. Ah! who will succeed in sowing a tear
in my parched eye?

Why did I enjoy that evening so? It would be very hard for me to say.
I was the same man, Rosette the same woman. It was not my first
experience on horse-back, nor hers; we had already watched the sun set
and the spectacle had touched us no more than a picture, which one
admires or not according as the colors are more or less brilliant.
There is more than one avenue of elms and chestnuts in the world, and
that was not the first one we had ridden through; what then caused us
to find such a sovereign fascination there, what metamorphosed the dead
leaves into topazes, the green leaves into emeralds, gilded all those
whirling atoms and changed into pearls all the drops of water scattered
over the greensward, what imparted such sweet melody to the tones of
a bell that was usually discordant and to the twittering of countless
young birds?--There must have been a very penetrating flavor of poesy
in the air, as even our horses seemed to catch the scent of it.

And yet nothing in the world could be more pastoral and more simple:
a few trees, a few clouds, five or six clumps of wild thyme, a woman,
and a sunbeam over all like a gold chevron on a coat of arms.--There
was neither surprise nor bewilderment in my sensations. I knew
perfectly well where I was. I had never been to that precise spot, but
I remembered perfectly the shape of the trees and the position of the
clouds, the white dove that flew across the sky I had seen flying in
the same direction; the little silvery bell, which I then heard for
the first time, had often tinkled in my ears, and its voice seemed
to me like the voice of a friend; although I had never been there,
I had many times passed through that avenue with princesses mounted
on unicorns; my most voluptuous dreams rode there every evening and
my desires had exchanged kisses absolutely like the one exchanged by
myself and Rosette.--There was nothing new to me in that kiss; but it
was as I had thought it would be. It was perhaps the only time in my
life that I have not been disappointed and that the real has seemed to
me as beautiful as the ideal.--If I could find a woman, a landscape,
a building, anything that corresponded as closely to my desires as
that moment corresponded to the moment I had dreamed of, I should have
no reason to envy the gods, and I would gladly renounce my box in
paradise.--But, in truth, I do not believe that any man of flesh and
blood could have an hour of such exquisite enjoyment; two kisses like
that would pump a whole life dry and leave a complete void in a heart
and a body.--But no such consideration as that would stop me; for, not
being able to prolong my life indefinitely, I am ready to die, and I
should prefer to die of pleasure rather than of old age or ennui.

But that woman doesn't exist.--Yes, she does exist; it may be that only
a wall separates us.--Perhaps I jostled her in the street yesterday or

In what does Rosette fall short of being that woman? In this, that I do
not believe she is. By what fatality do I always have for mistresses,
women that I do not love? Her neck is smooth enough to set off the
most beautifully-wrought necklaces; her fingers are taper enough to do
honor to the loveliest and richest rings; the ruby would blush with
pleasure to gleam on the pink lobe of her delicate ear; the cestus of
Venus would fit her waist; but Love alone has the secret of tying his
mother's scarf.

All Rosette's merit is in herself, I have attributed nothing to
her that she has not. I have not cast over her beauty the veil of
perfection with which love envelops the loved one;--the veil of Isis is
transparent beside that veil. Naught but satiety can raise the corner
of it.

I do not love Rosette; at least my love for her, if I have any, does
not resemble the ideal I have formed of love. It may be that my ideal
is not a just one, I do not dare to say. Certain it is that it makes me
insensible to the merits of other women, and I have desired no other
with any consistency since I have had her. If she has any reason to be
jealous, it is of phantoms only, about which she worries very little,
and yet her most formidable rival is my imagination; that is something
which, with all her shrewdness, she will probably never discover.

If women only knew!--How many infidelities the least fickle lover is
guilty of to the most adored mistress!--It is to be presumed that they
pay us back in full and more; but they do as we do and say nothing.
A mistress is a necessary subject, who ordinarily disappears under
flourishes and embroidery. Very often the kisses you give her are not
for her; you embrace the idea of another woman in her person, and she
profits not infrequently--if it can be called profiting--by the desires
aroused by another. Ah! my poor Rosette, how many times you have served
as a body to my dreams and given reality to your rivals; to how many
infidelities have you unwittingly been accessory! If you could have
imagined, at times when my arms clasped you so tightly, when my mouth
was most closely united to yours, that your beauty and your love had
nothing to do with my passion, that the thought of you was a hundred
leagues from my mind; what if some one had told you that those eyes,
veiled with amorous languor, were cast down simply in order not to look
at you and not to banish the illusion that you served only to complete,
and that, instead of being a mistress, you were simply an instrument of
lust, a means of assuaging a desire impossible of realization!

O divine creatures, ye lovely virgins, slender and diaphanous,
who lower your periwinkle eyes and clasp your lily hand in the
pictures with golden backgrounds of the old German masters, ye
stained-glass saints, ye missal martyrs who smile so sweetly amid
the convolutions of the arabesques, and come forth so fresh and fair
from the flower-bells!--O ye lovely courtesans lying all naked in
your hair on beds strewn with roses, beneath great purple curtains,
with your bracelets and necklaces of huge pearls, your fan and your
mirrors, gleaming in the shadow in the fiery rays of the setting
sun!--ye dark-skinned maidens of Titian, who display so wantonly your
undulating hips, your firm, round thighs, your polished breasts and
your supple and muscular loins!--ye antique goddesses, who rear your
white phantoms in the shady corners of gardens!--ye are a part of my
seraglio; I have possessed you all in turn.--Sainte Ursule, I have
kissed your hands on the fair hands of Rosette; I have toyed with the
black hair of the Muranese and Rosette never had such a hard task to
rearrange her hair: I have been with you more than Acteon was, O virgin
Diana, and I have not been changed to a stag: it was I who replaced
your handsome Endymion!--What a multitude of rivals whom she does not
suspect and upon whom she cannot be revenged! yet they are not all
painted or carved!

Women, when you notice that your lover is more affectionate than usual,
that he presses you in his arms with unwonted emotion; when he rests
his head upon your knees and raises it to look at you with moist and
wandering eyes; when enjoyment serves only to augment his desire and
he stifles your voice with his kisses as if he dreaded to hear it, be
sure that he simply does not know that you are there; that he has, at
that moment, an assignation with a chimera which you make palpable, and
whose part you play.--Many chamber-maids have profited by the love that
queens inspire.--Many women have profited by the love that goddesses
inspire, and a commonplace reality has often served as the pedestal
for an ideal idol. That is why poets habitually take dirty trollops for
mistresses.--You can lie ten years with a woman without ever seeing
her; that is the history of many great geniuses, whose ignoble or
obscure connections have caused the world to wonder.

I have been unfaithful to Rosette in no other way than that. I have
been false to her only for pictures and statues and she has been
equally concerned in the treachery. I have not the slightest material
sin upon my conscience with which to reproach myself. I am, in that
respect, as white as the snow-capped Jungfrau, and yet, while not in
love with anybody, I would like to be with some one. I do not seek the
opportunity, but I shall not be sorry if it comes; if it should come,
I might not use it, perhaps, for I have an innate conviction that it
would be the same with another, and I prefer that it should be so
with Rosette than with any other; for, take away the woman, I still
have a jolly companion, witty, and very agreeably depraved; and that
consideration is not one of the least of those that restrain me, for,
in losing the mistress, I might be distressed to find that I had lost
the friend.


Do you know that it will soon be five months, yes, fully five months,
five eternities that I have been the titular Celadon of Madame Rosette?
That is admirable to the last degree. I would not have believed myself
to be so constant, nor would she, I will wager. We are in very truth a
couple of plucked pigeons, for only turtle-doves are capable of such
affection. How we have cooed! how we have pecked at each other! what
pictures of clinging ivy! what a charming existence _à deux!_ Nothing
could be more touching, and our two poor little hearts might have been
placed on a dial pierced by the same spit, and as though trembling in a
gust of wind.

Five months' tête-à-tête, so to speak, for we see each other every
day and almost every night--the door being always closed to visitors;
doesn't it make your flesh creep simply to think of it? Well! to the
glory of the incomparable Rosette be it said, I am not greatly bored,
and those months will doubtless prove to be the most agreeable in my
life. I do not think it would be possible to entertain more constantly
and more successfully a man who has no passion in his heart, and
God knows what pitiable idleness it is that is attributable to an
empty heart! You cannot imagine that woman's expedients. She began
by taking them from her mind, then from her heart, for she loves me
to adoration.--With what skill she makes the most of the slightest
spark and how well she knows how to fan it into a conflagration!
how adroitly she guides the slightest impulses of the heart! how
she transforms languor into tender reverie! and by what roundabout
roads does she bring back to her the mind that is slipping away!--It
is marvellous!--And I admire her as one of the greatest geniuses

I have been to her house in very bad humor, sulky, looking for a
quarrel. I have no idea how the witch did it, but in a very few minutes
she had compelled me to say flattering things to her, although I hadn't
the slightest desire to do it, to kiss her hands and laugh with all my
heart, although I was horribly angry. Can you conceive of such tyranny
as that?--However, adroit as she is, the tête-à-tête cannot last much
longer, and in the course of the last fortnight I have frequently
done what I never did before--open the books on the chimney and on
the table and read a few lines during the pauses in the conversation.
Rosette has noticed it, it has alarmed her so that she has had hard
work to dissemble her feelings, and she has taken all the books out of
her room. I confess that I regret them, although I dare not ask for
them.--The other day--an alarming symptom!--some one called while we
were together, and instead of flying into a rage as I used to do at the
beginning, I was conscious of a sort of pleasure. I was almost affable:
I kept up the conversation when Rosette tried to let it languish so
that monsieur would take his leave, and when he had gone I ventured to
say that he didn't lack wit and that he was a very agreeable fellow.
Rosette reminded me that only two months before I had found the same
man intensely stupid and the most annoying idiot on earth, to which I
had no reply to make, for I did actually say it; and I was right, too,
despite the apparent contradiction: for the first time he disturbed
a charming tête-à-tête, and the second he came to the assistance of
a conversation that was exhausted and running dry--on one side at
least--and spared me for that day a tender scene that I was tired of

That is the point at which we now are; it is a serious state of
things, especially when one of the two is still in love and is
clinging desperately to the remains of the other's love. I am in great
perplexity. Although I am not in love with Rosette, I am very, very
fond of her, and I should hate to do anything to cause her pain. I wish
her to believe, as long as possible, that I love her.

In gratitude for all the hours to which she has lent wings, in
gratitude for the love she has given me for pleasure, I wish it.--I
shall deceive her; but is not pleasurable deceit preferable to painful
truth?--for I shall never have the heart to tell her that I do not love
her. The empty shadow of love on which she is feeding seems to her so
adorable and so dear, she embraces the pale spectre with such rapture
and effusion that I do not dare cause it to vanish; and, yet I am
afraid that she will discover at last that it is only a phantom. This
morning we had an interview which I propose to repeat in dramatic form
for greater accuracy, and which makes me fear that I cannot prolong our
liaison very long.

The scene is Rosette's bed. A sunbeam streams through the curtains: it
is ten o'clock. Rosette has one arm under my neck and lies perfectly
still for fear of waking me. From time to time she rises a little
on her elbow and leans over my face, holding her breath. I see all
this through my eyelashes, for I have been awake an hour. Rosette's
night-dress has a neck ruffle of Malines lace which is all torn: it
has been a stormy night; her hair protrudes in disorder from under her
little cap. She is as pretty as a woman can be, when one doesn't love
her and is lying in bed with her.

      ROSETTE (_seeing that I am awake)._

      Oh! sleepyhead!

      I (_yawning_).



      Don't yawn like that or I won't kiss you for a week.




      It seems, monsieur, that you don't care much whether I
      kiss you or not.


      Yes, I do.


      How indifferently you say it!--All right; you can depend
      upon it that I won't touch you with the end of my lips for
      a week to come.--To-day is Tuesday: not till next Tuesday.




      What's that? nonsense?


      Yes, nonsense! you'll kiss me before night, or I shall die.


      You die! What a silly fellow!--I have spoiled you,


      I shall live.--I am not silly and you have not spoiled
      me--quite the contrary. In the first place I demand the
      instant suppression of _monsieur;_ I know you well enough
      for you to call me by my name and speak in the language of


      I have spoiled you, D'Albert.


      Very good.--Now put your mouth over here.


      No, next Tuesday.


      Well, well! has it come to this, that we exchange
      caresses, calendar in hand? We are both a little too young
      for that.--Come, your mouth, my child, or I shall get a
      crick in my neck.




      Ah! you want me to force you, mignonne; _pardieu_! then I
      will force you. The thing is feasible, although perhaps it
      has never been done.




      Notice, my lovely one, that I was courteous enough to say
      _perhaps;_ that was very good of me.--But we are getting
      away from the subject. Put down your head. Hoity-toity!
      what is all this, my favorite sultana? and what means the
      sulky expression on your face? It is a pleasure to kiss a
      smile and not a pout.

      ROSETTE. (_stooping to kiss me)._

      How do you expect me to laugh? you say such harsh things
      to me!


      My purpose is to say very tender things to you. Why should
      I say harsh things?


      I don't know; but you do say them.


      You mistake meaningless jests for harshness.


      Meaningless! You call it meaningless, do you? everything
      has a meaning in love. I tell you I would rather have you
      beat me than laugh as you do.


      Then you would like to see me weep?


      You always go from one extreme to the other. No one asks
      you to weep, but to talk reasonably and drop that tone of
      persiflage that becomes you so ill.


      It is impossible for me to talk reasonably and not joke;
      I'll beat you, if that's what you want!


      Do it.

      I (_giving her a little tap or two on the shoulder)._

      I would rather cut off my own head than mar your adorable
      little body and make blue stripes on that lovely white
      back.--However much a woman may enjoy being beaten, my
      goddess, I swear that you shan't be.


      You don't love me any more.


      That doesn't follow very logically from what precedes;
      it's almost as logical as to say: "It rains, so don't give
      me my umbrella;" or: "It's cold, open the window."


      You don't love me, you have never loved me.


      Aha! the plot thickens; you don't love me any more and you
      have never loved me. That is rather contradictory; how can
      I cease to do a thing which I never began to do?--You see,
      my little queen, you don't know what you are saying and
      you are perfectly ridiculous.


      I longed so to have you love me that I helped to deceive
      myself. It is easy to believe what one desires; but now
      I see that I am mistaken. You made a mistake yourself;
      you mistook liking for love and desire for passion. It's
      something that happens every day. I bear you no ill will
      for it: it wasn't your fault that you weren't in love with
      me; my own lack of charm is all that I have to blame.
      I ought to have been prettier, more playful, more of a
      flirt; I ought to have tried to rise to your level, O my
      poet! instead of trying to pull you down to mine: I was
      afraid of losing you among the clouds, and I dreaded lest
      your head should steal your heart from me. I imprisoned
      you in my love and I thought that, if I gave myself to you
      utterly, you would keep a little something of me--


      Move away a little, Rosette; your leg burns me--you're
      like a hot coal.


      If I annoy you, I'll get up.--Ah! stony heart, drops of
      water pierce the stone, but my tears have no effect on
      you. (_She weeps_).


      If you weep like that, you will certainly make a bathtub
      of our bed.--A bathtub, did I say? an ocean.--Can you
      swim, Rosette?




      Oho! now I am a villain! You flatter me, Rosette, I
      haven't that honor. I am a blithesome bourgeois, alas!
      and I have never committed the least crime; I have done a
      foolish thing, perhaps, in loving you to distraction; that
      is all.--Are you absolutely determined to make me repent
      that?--I have loved you and I love you now as much as I
      can. Since I have been your lover I have always walked
      in your shadow: I have given you all my time, my days
      and my nights. I have indulged in no high-flown phrases
      with you because I don't care for them except when they
      are written; but I have given you a thousand proofs of my
      affection. I won't speak of the most scrupulous fidelity,
      for that goes without saying; but I have lost a pound and
      three-quarters since you have been my mistress. What more
      do you want? Here I am in your bed; I was here yesterday,
      I shall be here to-morrow. Is that the way a man acts
      with a woman he doesn't love? I do whatever you want; you
      say: "Go," and I go; "stay," and I stay; I am the most
      admirable lover in the world, it seems to me.


      That is just what I complain of--you are the most perfect
      lover in the world.


      What have you to reproach me for?


      Nothing; and I would prefer to have some reason to
      complain of you.


      This is an extraordinary quarrel.


      It's much worse than that.--You don't love me.--I can
      do nothing about it, nor can you.--What remedy have I
      for that? Certainly I would prefer to have something to
      forgive you for.--I would scold you; you would apologize
      as best you could and we should make up.


      That would be all clear gain for you. The greater the
      crime, the more imposing the reparation.


      You know very well, monsieur, that I am not yet reduced to
      that, and that if I chose, at this moment, although you
      don't love me and we are quarrelling--


      Yes, I agree that it is purely the result of your kindness
      of heart.--Be a little kind now; that would be better than
      syllogizing over our heads as we are doing.


      You want to cut short a conversation that embarrasses you;
      but by your leave, my good friend, we will be content with


      That's a cheap repast.--I assure you that you are making
      a mistake, for you are distractingly pretty, and I have


      Which you can describe some other time.


      Aha! my adorable, you have become a little Hyrcanian
      tigress, have you? your cruelty to-day is beyond
      words!--Have you been taken with the fever to set yourself
      up as a vestal? It would be an amusing whim.


      Why not? stranger whims have been known; but this
      much is sure, I shall be a vestal so far as you are
      concerned.--Understand, monsieur, that I give myself only
      to people who love me or who I think love me.--You are in
      neither position.--Allow me to rise.


      If you rise, I shall rise too.--You will have the trouble
      of going back to bed, that's all.


      Let me go!


      _Pardieu_, no!

      Rosette (_struggling)._

      Oh! you shall let me go!


      I venture, madame, to assure you of the contrary.

      ROSETTE (_seeing that she is not the stronger)._

      All right! I will stay! you squeeze my arms so
      tight!--What do you want of me?


      I think you know.--I would not allow myself to put in
      words what I allow myself to do; I have too much respect
      for decency.

      ROSETTE (_already beyond the power to defend herself_).

      On condition that you will love me dearly--I surrender.


      It's a little late to strike your flag, when the enemy is
      already in the citadel.

      ROSETTE (_half swooning, throwing her arms around my

      Unconditionally. I rely on your generosity.


      You do well.

At this point, my dear friend, I think it would not be amiss to place
a line of asterisks, for the rest of the dialogue could hardly be
translated except by onomatopœia.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sunbeam has had time, since the opening of the scene, to make the
tour of the bedroom. A pleasant, penetrating odor of linden-trees
comes up from the garden. It is as beautiful a day as can be imagined;
the sky is as blue as an Englishwoman's eye. We rise, and, after
breakfasting with a good appetite, we take a long drive in the country.
The clear air, the beauty of the landscape and the aspect of nature in
her joyous mood instilled enough sentimentality and tenderness into my
soul to make Rosette agree that, after all, I have something in the
shape of a heart like other men.

Have you never noticed how the shade of the woods, the plashing of
fountains, the singing of birds, a bright and laughing landscape, the
odor of the leaves and flowers, all the paraphernalia of eclogues
and descriptive poems which we have agreed to despise, none the less
retain a secret influence over us, however depraved we may be, which
it is impossible for us to resist? I will tell you in confidence,
under seal of the most profound secrecy, that I surprised myself very
recently in a most provincial state of emotion in connection with a
nightingale's song. It was in D----'s garden; the sky, although it
was night, was almost as bright as at noonday; it was so measureless
and so transparent that one's glance easily penetrated to God. It
seemed to me as if I could see the folds of the angels' robes on the
white windings of the Milky Way. The moon had risen, but a great tree
hid it completely; it riddled the dark foliage with a million little
luminous holes and showered more spangles about than ever glittered
upon a marchioness's fan. A silence laden with faint sounds and sighs
filled the garden--perhaps this resembles pathos, but it is not my
fault;--although I saw nothing save the bluish gleam of the moon, it
seemed to me as if I were surrounded by a whole population of phantoms,
unknown yet adored, and I had no feeling of loneliness, although there
was no one but myself on the terrace.--I was not thinking, I was not
dreaming, I was blended with my surroundings and I felt myself shiver
with the foliage, glisten with the water, gleam with the moonbeams,
bloom with the flowers; I was no more myself than the tree, the
streamlet, or the four-o'clock. I was all of them at once, and I do
not think it possible to be more thoroughly removed from one's self
than I was at that moment. Suddenly, as if something extraordinary
had happened, the leaf ceased to flutter at the end of the branch,
the drop of water from the fountain remained suspended in the air and
did not fall. The silvery thread, starting from the edge of the moon,
stopped on the way; my heart alone beat with such resonance that it
seemed to fill the whole vast space with clamor.--My heart ceased to
beat and there was such a profound silence that you could have heard
the grass grow, and a word spoken in an undertone two hundred leagues
away. And then the nightingale, who probably was awaiting that moment
to begin his song, emitted from his little throat a note so shrill and
piercing that I heard it with my breast no less than with my ears. The
sound spread quickly through the crystalline expanse, until that moment
as still as death, and created a harmonious atmosphere, wherein the
other notes that followed it flew to and fro, flapping their wings.--I
understood what he said as perfectly as if I had known the secret of
the bird language. The story of the loves I have not found was what the
nightingale sang. Never was a truer story told or told with greater
fulness. He did not omit the smallest detail, the most imperceptible
shade. He told me what I had not been able to tell myself, he explained
what I had not been able to understand; he gave voice to my reverie
and compelled the phantom, hitherto dumb, to reply. I knew that I was
beloved, and a thrill most languorously drawn out informed me that I
should soon be happy. It seemed to me that I could see the white arms
of my beloved extended toward me through the trills and quavers of his
song and beneath the shower of notes, in a moonbeam.

She rose slowly before me with the perfume of the heart of a
hundred-petalled rose.--I will not try to describe her beauty. It is
one of those things that words decline to attempt. How describe the
indescribable? how paint that which has neither form nor color? how
note down a voice without quality and speechless?--I have never had
so much love in my heart; I would have pressed nature to my bosom, I
embraced the empty void as if my arms were clasped about a virgin form;
I kissed the air that blew upon my lips, I swam in the magnetic fluids
that exhaled from my glowing body. Ah! if Rosette had been there, what
adorable rhapsodies I would have indulged in! But women never know
enough to arrive at the opportune moment.--The nightingale ceased
to sing; the moon, who could keep awake no longer, pulled her cap of
clouds over her eyes, and I left the garden; for the cool night air was
beginning to make itself felt.

As I was cold, I naturally thought that I should be warmer in Rosette's
bed than my own, and I went to lie with her.--I let myself in with my
pass-key, for everybody in the house was asleep.--Rosette herself had
fallen asleep, and I had the satisfaction of seeing that it was over a
volume uncut, of my latest poems. She had both arms under her head, her
mouth half open and smiling, one leg stretched out and the other partly
curled up, in an attitude instinct with ease and grace; she was so
lovely that I mortally regretted that I was no longer in love with her.

As I looked at her I reflected that I was as stupid as an ostrich.
I had what I had so long desired, a mistress as entirely my own as
my horse and my sword, young, pretty, amorous and clever; with no
stern-principled mother, no father with a decoration, no cross-grained
aunt, no swaggering brother, and with the priceless advantage of a
husband duly sealed and nailed up in a fine oaken casket lined with
lead, the whole covered over with a large block of hewn granite, which
is not to be despised; for, after all, it is a very doubtful pleasure
to be caught in the act in the middle of a blissful paroxysm, and to
complete one's sensations on the pavement, after describing an arc of
40 to 45 degrees, according to the floor on which you happen to be;--a
mistress as free as the mountain air and rich enough to indulge in
the most exquisite refinements and luxuries, and, moreover, free from
anything like moral ideas, never talking about her virtue as she tries
a new posture, nor of her reputation, any more than if she had never
had one; with no intimate female friends, and despising all women
almost as much as if she were a man, entertaining a very low opinion of
platonic affection and making no secret of it, and always playing with
her heart in the game; a woman who, if her lines had fallen in another
sphere, would indubitably have become the most admirable courtesan on
earth and dimmed the glory of the Aspasias and Imperias!

Now, that woman, so made, was mine. I did what I chose with her; I
had the key to her room and her drawer; I broke the seals of her
letters; I had taken away her name and given her another. She was my
chattel, my property. Her youth, her beauty, her love, all belonged
to me; I used them, I abused them. I made her go to bed in the daytime
and sit up at night, if the whim seized me, and she obeyed simply,
without any affectation of making a sacrifice, and without assuming
the air of a resigned victim.--She was attentive, caressing, and--a
most extraordinary thing!--absolutely faithful; that is to say, if in
the days when I was lamenting that I had no mistress, six months ago,
any one had given me a glimpse of such happiness, even in the distant
future, I should have gone mad with joy and tossed my hat up to knock
at the gates of heaven, in token of my delight. And now that I have
that happiness, I am cold; I am hardly conscious that I have it, I
am _not_ conscious of it, and my present position makes so little
impression upon me that I often doubt if I have changed my position at
all. If I should leave Rosette, I am convinced in my inmost soul that,
at the end of a month, perhaps less, I should have so thoroughly and
carefully forgotten her, that I shouldn't know whether I had ever known
her or not! Would she do the same? I think not.

I reflected, as I say, upon all these things, and impelled by a sort
of repentant feeling, I deposited on the fair sleeper's brow that
most chaste and melancholy kiss that ever young man bestowed upon
young woman--just on the stroke of midnight. She moved slightly, the
smile about her mouth became a little more pronounced, but she did not
wake. I undressed slowly, and, creeping under the clothes, stretched
myself out by her side like a snake. The coolness of my body startled
her; she opened her eyes, and, without speaking, put her mouth to mine
and twined herself about me so completely that I was warmed in less
than no time at all. All the poetry of the evening changed to prose,
but to poetic prose at all events. That night was one of the sweetest
sleepless nights I ever passed. I can hope for no more such.

We still have pleasurable moments, but they must be led up to and
prepared for by some outside incident like this, and in the beginning I
did not need to have my imagination excited by gazing at the moon and
listening to the nightingale, in order to have all the pleasure one can
have when one is not really in love. There are as yet no broken threads
in our woof, but there are knots here and there, and the chain is not
nearly so smooth as it was.

Rosette, who is still in love, does what she can to avert all these
inconveniences. Unfortunately there are two things in the world that
cannot be guided: love and ennui.--For my own part I make superhuman
efforts to conquer the drowsiness that steals over me in spite of
myself, and like the provincials who fall asleep at ten o'clock in
Parisian salons, I keep my eyes as wide open as possible and hold up
my eyelids with my fingers!--nothing serves the purpose and I take
conjugal liberties that are most unpalatable.

The dear child, who found the rural expedition so successful the other
day, took me off to her country estate yesterday.

It would not be out of place, perhaps, to give you a little description
of the aforesaid estate, which is very attractive; it will lighten up
all this metaphysics a little, and then, too, we must have a background
for the characters, and figures will not stand out in relief against
an empty void, or against the vague shade of brown with which painters
fill up the field of their canvas.

The approach is very picturesque.--Driving through a broad avenue,
lined with venerable trees, you come to a star, the centre of which is
marked by a stone obelisk surmounted by a sphere of gilded copper:
five roads form the points of the star. Then the land suddenly
descends. The road plunges down into a narrow valley, with a small
stream flowing at the bottom, which is crossed by a bridge of a single
span; then, ascends the opposite slope, where the village lies, whose
slated church-tower can be seen among the thatched roofs and the
rounded tops of the apple-trees. The view is not very extensive, for it
is limited on both sides by the crest of the hill, but it is bright and
pleasant and rests the eye.--Beside the bridge there is a mill and a
tower-shaped structure built of red stone: almost incessant barking and
the sight of a brach-hound or two and some young terriers with crooked
legs warming themselves in the sun before the door, would inform you
that it was the head-keeper's abode, if the buzzards and martens nailed
to the shutters could leave you for a moment in doubt. At that point an
avenue of sorb-trees begins; the red berries attract clouds of birds;
as there is little passing, there is only a band of white in the middle
of the road; all the rest is covered with short, fine moss, and, in the
double rut made by carriage wheels, little grasshoppers, as green as
emeralds, buzz and hop about.

After driving some little distance along this avenue you come to a
painted iron fence, with gilt trimmings, and bristling with spikes
and _chevaux de frise._ Thence the road leads to the château--which
is still invisible, for it is buried in verdure like a bird in its
nest--but its progress is leisurely and it frequently turns aside to
visit a brook and a fountain, a dainty summer-house or a point from
which a fine view can be had, crossing and recrossing the stream over
Chinese or rustic bridges. The inequality of the land and the dams
built for the purposes of the mill cause several waterfalls some four
or five feet in height, and you can imagine nothing more delightful
than to hear the splashing of all these cascades close beside you, but
generally out of sight, for the osiers and elders that line the bank
form an almost impenetrable curtain. But all that part of the park is,
so to speak, only the antechamber of the other part: unfortunately, a
public highway passes through the estate and cuts it in two, a drawback
for which a very ingenious remedy has been devised. Two high crenelated
walls, provided with barbicans and loopholes in imitation of a ruined
fortress, stand on each side of the road; connected with a tower on
the château side, completely covered by gigantic ivy plants, is a
genuine drawbridge which is lowered every morning, by iron chains, upon
the opposite bastion. You drive through a lovely ogive archway inside
the tower, and thence into the second enclosure, where the trees,
which have not been cut for more than a century, are of extraordinary
height, with gnarled trunks swathed in parasitic plants--the handsomest
and most curious trees I have ever seen. Some have leaves only at
the very top like broad umbrellas; others taper toward the top like
plumes; others, on the contrary, have a large tuft of foliage near
the bottom, from which the naked trunk rises toward the sky like a
second tree planted in the first; you would say it was the foreground
of a landscape painting or flies painted for a scene on the stage, the
trees are so curiously misshapen;--ivies that reach from one to another
and hug them so tight as to choke them, mingle their dark hearts with
the green leaves and seem like their shadow. Nothing can be more
picturesque. The stream widens at that spot, so as to form a little
lake, and it is so shallow that you can see, through the transparent
water, the lovely aquatic plants that carpet its bed. There are
nymphæas and lotuses swimming nonchalantly in the purest crystal with
the reflection of the clouds and the weeping-willows that lean over
the bank: the château is on the other side, and yonder little skiff,
painted apple-green and bright red, will save you a long detour to the
bridge. The château is a collection of buildings built at different
periods with gables of unequal heights and a multitude of little
turrets. One ell is of brick with stone trimmings; another portion is
in the rustic style, with quantities of excrescences and vermiculated
work. Another ell is entirely modern; it has a flat Italian roof with
vases and a tile balustrade, and a canvas porch in the shape of a tent.
The windows are all of different sizes and do not correspond; there
are some of all styles, even the trefoil and ogive, for the chapel
is Gothic. Certain parts are trellised, like Chinese houses, with
trellises painted different colors, covered with climbing honeysuckle,
jasmin, nasturtiums, and virgin's bower, whose tendrils look familiarly
in at the chamber windows and seem to put out their hands to you as
they say good-morning.

Despite this lack of regularity, or rather because of it, it is a
fascinating structure; at least, one does not see it all at a single
glance; there is an opportunity for choice and one is always on the
lookout for something one has not seen.

This château, with which I was not familiar, for it is twenty leagues
from town, pleased me immensely at first sight, and I was extremely
grateful to Rosette for conceiving the admirable idea of selecting such
a nest for our love.

We arrived just at nightfall; and, as we were tired, after eating a
hearty supper there was nothing we were so anxious to do as to go to
bed--in separate rooms, mind you, for we intended to sleep in good

I was dreaming some rose-colored dream, full of flowers and sweet
perfumes and birds, when I felt a warm breath on my forehead and a kiss
descend upon it with quivering wings. A slight smacking of the lips
and a pleasant moisture on the spot breathed upon led me to think that
I was not dreaming: I opened my eyes and the first thing I saw was
Rosette's cool, white neck, as she leaned over the bed to kiss me. I
threw my arms around her waist and returned her kiss more passionately
than I had done for a long while.

She went and drew the curtain and opened the window, then returned and
sat on the edge of my bed, holding my hand in hers and playing with
my rings. Her costume was marked by the most coquettish simplicity.
She was without corsets or skirt, and had absolutely nothing on save
a lawn _peignoir_ as white as milk, very ample and full; her hair was
held in place on top of her head by a little white rose of the sort
that has only three or four petals; her ivory feet were encased in
embroidered slippers of brilliant, diversified colors, as small as they
possibly could be, although they were too large for her, and without
quarterings like those of the young Roman dames. I regretted, when I
saw her so, that I was already her lover and hadn't the prospect still
before me.

[Illustration: Chapter IV--_She went and drew the curtain and opened the
window, then returned and sat on the edge of my bed, holding my hand
in hers and playing with my rings. Her costume was marked by the most
coquettish simplicity._]

The dream I was dreaming at the moment that she waked me in such
pleasant fashion was not very far removed from the reality.--My
chamber looked on the little lake I described just now. The window
was surrounded by jasmin, which shook its stars over my floor in
a silvery shower: large, exotic flowers swayed in the wind under
my balcony as if to waft incense up to me; a vague, sweet perfume,
composed of a thousand different perfumes, penetrated to my bed, from
which I could see the water gleaming and flashing with millions of
spangles; the birds chattered and warbled and whistled and chirped;
it was a confusion of harmonious sounds like the hum and buzz of a
fête.--Opposite, on a hill-side lying in the sunlight, was a smooth
field of a golden green, with fat cattle feeding here and there, under
the care of a small boy.--Higher up the hill and farther away were
great patches of forest of a darker green, above which the bluish smoke
of charcoal-kilns rose in spiral columns.

Every detail of the picture was calm and fresh and smiling, and
wherever I turned my eyes, I saw only what was young and fair. My
chamber was hung with chintz, with mats on the floor, and blue Japanese
jars with rounded bodies and tapering necks, filled with strange
flowers, artistically arranged on étagères and on the dark-blue marble
chimney-piece; the fire-place also was filled with flowers. Panels
above the doors, representing rural or pastoral scenes, bright-colored
and daintily executed, sofas and divans in every nook and corner--and
a lovely young woman, all in white, whose flesh gave a delicate pink
tinge to the transparent dress where it came in contact with it: one
can conceive nothing better calculated to give pleasure to the soul as
well as to the eyes.

And so my gratified, careless glance wandered, with equal pleasure,
from a magnificent jar thickly strewn with dragons and mandarins,
to Rosette's slipper, and thence to the corner of her shoulder that
glistened under the lawn; it rested on the fluttering stars of the
jasmin and the white hairs of the willows on the bank, crossed the
water and sauntered over the hill-side, then returned to the chamber
to fix itself on the rose-colored ribbons of some shepherdess's long

Through the openings in the foliage the sky showed millions of blue
eyes; the water rippled gently and I gave myself up to the enjoyment of
the moment, plunged in blissful tranquillity, saying nothing, with my
hand still in Rosette's tiny hands.

It is of no use to talk: happiness is white and pink; it can hardly be
represented otherwise. Delicate colors belong to it as of right. It has
on its palette only sea-green, sky-blue and light yellow: its pictures
are all light like those of the Chinese painters. Flowers, bright
light, perfumes, a soft and velvety skin touching yours, a veiled
melody coming from you know not where,--with those one can be perfectly
happy; there is no way of being happy otherwise. I myself, who have
a horror of the commonplace, who dream only of strange adventures,
violent passions, frenzied bliss, unusual and difficult situations, I
must be happy like an animal in that way, and, whatever I may do, I can
find no other.

I beg you to believe that I made none of these reflections at the time;
they have come to me since as I sat here writing to you; at that moment
I thought of nothing but enjoying myself--the only occupation of a
reasonable man.

I will not describe the life we lead here, it is easily imagined. There
are walks under the great trees, violets and strawberries, kisses
and little blue flowers, luncheons on the grass, readings and books
forgotten under the trees; water parties with the end of a scarf or
a white hand dipping in the stream, long ballads and long laughter
repeated by the echoes of the bank;--the most Arcadian life imaginable!

Rosette overwhelms me with caresses and little attentions; more amorous
than the dove in May, she twines about me and envelops me in her folds;
she tries to let me breathe no other atmosphere than her breath and see
no other horizon than her eyes; she maintains a very strict blockade
and allows nothing to go in or out without permission; she has built
a little guard-house beside my heart, from which she keeps watch on
it night and day.--She says delightful things to me; she makes very
complimentary speeches; she sits on my knee and acts in my presence
exactly like a submissive slave before her lord and master; all of
which suits me very well, for I like such little humble ways and I have
a leaning toward Oriental despotism; she doesn't do the smallest thing
without asking my opinion, and seems to have completely laid aside her
own fancy and her will; she tries to divine my thought and anticipate
it; she crushes me with her wit, her affection and her submission; she
is perfect enough to throw out of the window.--How in the devil can I
leave a woman so adorable without seeming to be a monster? It would be
enough to discredit my heart forever.

Oh! how I would like to catch her tripping, to find some grievance
against her! how impatiently I await an opportunity for a quarrel!
but there is no danger that the hussy will give me one! When I speak
sharply to her, in a harsh tone, to bring about a quarrel, she answers
me so sweetly, in such a silvery voice, with her eyes swimming in
tears, and such a sad, loving expression, that I seem to myself to be
more than a tiger, or at least a crocodile, and, inwardly raging, I am
forced to ask her pardon.

She is literally murdering me with love; she puts me to the question
and every day she draws closer the planks between which I am caught.
She probably wants to drive me to tell her that I detest her, that she
bores me to death, and that, if she doesn't leave me in peace, I will
slash her face with my hunting crop. Pardieu! she will succeed, and if
she continues to be as amiable, it will be before long or may the devil
carry me off!

Notwithstanding all this fine show, Rosette is surfeited with me as I
am with her; but as she has done some notoriously foolish things for
me, she doesn't want to take to herself the discredit of a rupture
in the eyes of the excellent corporation of sensible women. Every
great passion claims to be everlasting, and it is very convenient
to assume the credit of that everlastingness without suffering its
disadvantages.--Rosette reasons thus:--"Here is a young man who has
hardly a vestige of fondness left for me, and, as he is simple-minded
and easy-going, he doesn't dare show it openly and doesn't know which
way to turn: it is plain that I bore him, but he will wear his life out
in the toils rather than take it on himself to leave me. As he is a
poet after a fashion, he has his head full of fine phrases about love
and passion, and considers himself bound in conscience to be a Tristan
or an Amadis. Now, as nothing in the world is more insupportable than
the caresses of a person one is beginning not to love--and to cease to
love a woman is to hate her intensely--I propose to lavish them on him
in a way to sicken him, and the result will be either that he will send
me to the devil or will begin to love me again as he did on the first
day, which he will take very good care not to do."

No reasoning could be better.--Isn't it charming to play the part of
the abandoned Ariadne?--People pity you and admire you, and there are
no imprecations strong enough for the infamous wretch who has been so
inhuman as to abandon such an adorable creature; you assume an air of
grieved resignation, you put your hand under your chin and your elbow
on your knee so as to show off the pretty blue veins in your wrist. You
wear your hair more dishevelled, and your dresses for some little time
are of soberer hue. You avoid mentioning the ingrate's name, but you
make roundabout allusions to him, at the same time heaving beautifully
modulated little sighs.

A woman so good, so beautiful, so passionate, who has made such great
sacrifices, who has done nothing worthy of blame, a chosen vessel, a
pearl of love, a spotless mirror, a drop of milk, a white rose, an
ideal essence to perfume a life;--a woman whom you should have adored
on your knees, and who will have to be cut in little pieces after her
death, to make relics:--such a woman to be abandoned iniquitously,
villainously, fraudulently! Why a pirate would do no worse! To give her
her death-blow!--for she certainly will die of it.--One must have a
paving-stone in his breast, instead of a heart, to act so.

O men! men!

I say this to myself, but perhaps it's not true.

However great actresses women naturally are, I find it hard to believe
that they carry it as far as that; and, when all is said, are all
Rosette's demonstrations simply the exact expression of her sentiments
for me?--However it may be, the continuation of the tête-à-tête is
impossible, and the fair chatelaine has at last issued invitations to
her acquaintances in the neighborhood. We are busily engaged making
preparations to receive the worthy provincials.--Adieu, my dear fellow.


I was mistaken.--My evil heart, incapable of love, seized upon that
reason to deliver itself from the burden of a gratitude it did not
wish to bear; I joyfully grasped that idea to excuse myself to my own
conscience; I clung fast to it, but nothing could be farther from the
truth. Rosette was not playing a part, and if ever woman was true, she
is the woman.--Ah! well! I am almost angry with her for the sincerity
of her passion, which is an additional bond and makes a rupture more
difficult or less excusable; I would prefer her to be false and fickle.

What an extraordinary position! You long to go, but you stay; you
long to say: "I hate you," but you say: "I love you;"--your past
urges you forward and prevents you from turning back or stopping.
You are faithful and you regret it. An indefinable sense of shame
prevents your abandoning yourself altogether to other acquaintances
and leads you to compromise with yourself. You give to one all you
can steal from the other and at the same time keep up appearances; the
opportunities for meeting which formerly came about so naturally are
very hard to find to-day.--You begin to remember that you have business
of importance.--Such a perplexing situation as that is very painful,
but it is much less so than my present situation.--When it is a new
friendship that steals you from the old, it is easier to extricate
yourself. Hope smiles sweetly upon you from the threshold of the house
that contains your new-born love.--A fairer and rosier illusion hovers
on its white wings over the scarce-closed tomb of its sister who has
died; another flower, blooming more radiantly and of sweeter perfume,
upon whose petals trembles a celestial tear, has suddenly sprung forth
from among the withered calyxes of the old bouquet;--lovely, azure-hued
perspectives open before you; avenues of fresh and unpretentious
beeches stretch away to the horizon; there are gardens with white
statues here and there, or a bench against an ivy-covered wall, lawns
dotted with marguerites, narrow balconies, on whose rails you lean and
gaze at the moon, and shadows cut by fleeting rays of light;--salons
from which the daylight is excluded by heavy curtains;--all the
darkness and isolation that the passion craves which dares not avow
itself. It is as if your youth had come again. You have, moreover,
a complete change of haunts and habits and persons; you feel a sort
of remorse, to be sure; but the desire that flutters and hums about
your head, like a bee in spring, prevents your hearing its voice; the
void in your heart is filled and your memories are effaced by present
impressions,--But in my case it is different: I love no one and it is
from weariness and disgust with myself rather than with her that I wish
I were able to break with Rosette.

My former ideas, which had become a little indistinct in my mind, are
coming to the front again, more foolish than ever.--I am, as formerly,
tortured by the longing to have a mistress, and, as formerly, even in
Rosette's arms I doubt whether I have ever had one.--I see once more
the lovely lady at her window, in her park of the time of Louis XIII.,
and the huntress on her white horse gallops along the forest path.--My
ideal beauty smiles upon me from her hammock of clouds, I fancy that
I recognize her voice in the song of the birds, in the rustling of
the foliage; it seems to me that some one is calling me from every
direction, and that the daughters of the air brush my face with the
fringe of their invisible scarfs. As in the days of my agitation,
I imagine that, if I should set out instantly and go somewhere very
far away at great speed, I should reach some place where things that
concern me are taking place and where my destiny is being decided.--I
feel that somebody is impatiently awaiting my coming in some corner of
the earth, I don't know where. Some suffering soul who cannot come to
me is calling eagerly to me and dreaming of me; that is the reason of
my uneasiness and of my inability to remain in one place; I am being
violently drawn away from my centre. Mine is not one of those natures
to which others flock, one of those fixed stars about which other
radiant bodies gravitate; I must needs wander through the expanse of
heaven like an erratic meteor, until I have fallen in with the planet
whose satellite I am to be, the Saturn about whom I am to pass my ring.
Oh! when will that union take place? Until then I cannot hope for rest
or peace of mind, but I shall be like the bewildered, vacillating
needle of a compass, seeking its pole.

I allowed my wing to be caught in the deceitful snare, hoping to leave
only a feather there and to retain the power to fly away when it seemed
good to me: nothing could be more difficult; I find myself covered by
an invisible net, harder to break than the one forged by Vulcan, and
the mesh is so fine and close that there are no openings through which
I can escape. The net is large and roomy, however, and I can move about
in it with an appearance of freedom; it is hardly perceptible except
when you try to break it; but then it resists and becomes as firm as a
wall of brass.

How much time I have lost, O my ideal! without the slightest effort to
realize thee! How basely I have yielded to the temptation of a night's
pleasure! and how little I deserve to meet thee!

Sometimes I think of forming another liaison; but I have no one in
view; more frequently I make up my mind that, if I succeed in bringing
about a rupture, I will never again involve myself in such bonds,
and yet there is nothing to justify that resolution, for the present
connection has been, to all appearance, a very happy one and I have
no reason in the world for complaining of Rosette.--She has always
been kind to me, and has behaved as well as any one could; she has
been exemplarily faithful to me and has not given an opening for
suspicion; the most alert and most anxious jealousy could have had no
word of blame for her and must have slept in security.--A jealous
man could have been jealous only of the past; in that direction, it
is true, there was ample ground for jealousy. But luckily, jealousy
of that sort is a very rare article, and one has quite enough to do
to look after the present without going back to fumble under the
ashes of extinct passion for phials of poison and cups of gall.--What
woman could a man love, if he thought of all that?--You may have a
sort of vague idea that a woman has had several lovers before you;
but you say to yourself--a man's pride has so many tortuous folds and
counterfolds!--that you are the first she has really loved, and that
it was through a combination of fatal circumstances that she became
connected with men unworthy of her, or else through a vague craving of
a heart that sought to satisfy itself and changed because it had not
met its affinity.

Perhaps one can really love none but a virgin--a virgin in body and in
mind--a fragile bud that has never been caressed as yet by any zephyr
and whose carefully hidden breast has neither received the drop of rain
nor the pearl of dew; a chaste flower that displays its white robe for
you alone, a beautiful lily with a silver urn at which no desire has
slaked its thirst and which has been gilded only by your sun, swayed
by no breath but yours, watered by no hand but yours.--The glare of the
noonday sun is less agreeable than the divine pallor of the dawn, and
all the ardor of an experienced heart that knows what life is, yields
the palm to the celestial ignorance of a youthful heart just awaking to
love.--Ah! what a bitter, degrading thought it is that you are wiping
away another's kisses, that there may not be a single spot upon that
brow, those lips, that bosom, those shoulders, that whole body which is
yours now, that has not been reddened and branded by other lips; that
those divine murmurs which come to the relief of the tongue that can
find no more words of love, have been heard before; that those excited
senses did not learn their ecstasy and their delirium from you, and
that away, away down in one of those recesses of the heart which are
never visited, there lives an inexorable memory which compares the joys
of an earlier day to the joys of to-day!

Although my natural nonchalance leads me to prefer the high roads to
unbroken paths, and the public watering-trough to the mountain spring,
I absolutely must try to love some virginal creature as spotless as the
snow, as timid as the sensitive plant, who can only blush and look
down; it may be that, from that limpid stream, which no diver has as
yet investigated, I shall fish up a pearl of the fairest water, worthy
to be a pendant to Cleopatra's; but, in order to do that, I should have
to cast off the bond that binds me to Rosette,--for I am not likely to
realize that longing with her,--and to tell the truth, I do not feel
strong enough to do it.

And then, too, if I must make the confession, there is at the bottom
of my heart a secret, shameful motive, which dares not show itself in
broad daylight, but which I must tell you of, since I have promised to
conceal nothing from you, and a confession, to be deserving of credit,
must be complete;--the motive I speak of has much to do with all this
uncertainty.--If I break with Rosette, some time must necessarily pass
before her place is filled, however easy of access the class of women
may be among whom I shall seek her successor; and I have fallen into
a habit of enjoying myself with her which it will be hard for me to
break off. To be sure I have the resource of courtesans; I liked them
well enough in the old days and I did not hesitate to resort to them
under such circumstances;--but to-day they disgust me beyond measure
and make me ill.--So I must not think of them, and I am so softened
by indulgence, the poison has penetrated so deep into my bones that I
cannot bear the idea of being one or two months without a woman.--That
is pure egoism of the basest kind; but it is my opinion that the most
virtuous men, if they would be perfectly frank, would have to make
nearly a similar confession.

That is the true secret of my captivity and, if it weren't for that,
Rosette and I would long ago have fallen out for good and all. Indeed
it is such a deathly bore to pay court to a woman, that I haven't
the heart to attempt it. To begin again the charming idiocies I have
already said so many times, to play the adorable once more, to write
notes and reply to them; to escort the charmer, in the evening, to
some place two leagues away; to catch cold in your feet and your head
standing in front of the window watching a beloved shadow; to sit upon
a sofa calculating how many thicknesses of tissue separate you from
your goddess; to carry bouquets and go the round of the ball-rooms
to reach the point where I now am, is a vast deal of trouble!--It's
about as well to remain in one's rut.--What is the use of leaving it,
only to fall into another exactly like it, after much unnecessary
agitation and untold trouble? If I were in love, the thing would go
of itself and it would all seem perfectly delightful to me; but I am
not, although I have the most earnest desire to be; for, after all,
there is nothing but love in the world; and if pleasure, which is only
its shadow, has so many allurements for us, what must the reality be?
In what an ocean of ineffable bliss, in what seas of pure, unalloyed
delight must they swim whose hearts Love has pierced with one of his
gold-tipped arrows, and who burn with the delicious warmth of a mutual

Beside Rosette I feel that insipid tranquillity, that sort of slothful
well-being which results from the satisfaction of the senses, but
nothing more; and that is not enough. Often that voluptuous indolence
turns to torpor, and that tranquillity to ennui; thereupon I fall into
aimless meditation and dull, spiritless reveries that weary and harass
me;--it is a state of things that I must put an end to at any price.

Oh! if I could only be like some of my friends, who kiss an old glove
with ecstasy; who are made perfectly happy by a clasp of the hand; who
would not exchange for a sultana's jewel-case a few wretched flowers
half-withered by the heat of the ball-room; who cover with tears and
sew into their shirt, where it will rest against the heart, a note
written in an inelegant style and so stupid that you would think it
was copied from the _Parfait Secrétaire_; who adore women with large
feet and apologize for them on the ground that they have noble souls!
If I could follow tremblingly the vanishing folds of a dress, or wait
for a door to open in order to see a cherished white apparition pass
in a blaze of light; if a word spoken beneath the breath would make
me change color; if I had the virtue to go without my dinner so as to
arrive sooner at a rendezvous; if I were capable of killing a rival
or fighting a duel with a husband; if by a special dispensation of
Providence, I were endowed with the power of considering ugly women
clever, and those who are ugly and stupid as well, pleasant and
agreeable; if I could make up my mind to dance the minuet and to listen
to sonatas played by young ladies on the harpsichord or harp; if my
capacity should rise to the height of learning ombre and _reversis_;
in short, if I were a man and not a poet--I certainly should be much
happier than I am; I should be less bored myself and should bore others

I have never asked but one thing of women--beauty; I am very willing to
go without intellect and soul.--In my eyes a beautiful woman is always
intellectual;--she knows enough to be beautiful, and I know no other
knowledge as valuable as that.--It takes many sparkling sentences and
keen shafts of wit to equal the value of the flash of a lovely eye. I
prefer a pretty mouth to a pretty speech, and a well-modeled shoulder
to a virtue, even one of the theological sort; I would give fifty souls
for a dainty foot, and all poetry and all the poets for the hand of
Joanna of Aragon, or the brow of Foligno's virgin.--Above all things
I adore a beautiful figure; to my mind beauty is manifest Divinity,
palpable happiness, heaven come down to earth.--There are certain
undulations of outline, certain turns of the lip, a certain droop of
the eyelids, certain inclinations of the head, certain elongations of
the profile which enchant me beyond all expression and fix my attention
for whole hours.

Beauty, the only thing that cannot be acquired, inaccessible forever
to those who haven't it at first; an ephemeral and fragile flower that
grows without being sown, a pure gift from heaven!--O beauty, the most
radiant diadem with which chance can crown the human brow--thou art
admirable and precious like everything that is beyond man's reach,
like the azure of the firmament, like the gold of the star, like the
perfume of the seraphic lily!--Man may change his stool for a throne,
may conquer the world; many have done it; but who could fail to kneel
before thee, thou pure personification of God's thoughts?

I ask only beauty, it is true; but I must have beauty so perfect that
I probably shall never find it. I have seen here and there women who
were admirably beautiful in some respects but only mediocre in others,
and I have loved them for what was best in them, ignoring the rest; it
is a difficult task, however, and painful, to suppress thus the half
of one's mistress, and to amputate mentally the ugly or commonplace
portions of her anatomy, limiting one's glances to what points of
beauty she may have.--Beauty is harmony, and a woman who is equally
ugly in all parts is often less disagreeable to look at than one who is
unevenly beautiful. Nothing offends my sight so much as an unfinished
masterpiece, or beauty in which something is lacking; a grease-spot is
less offensive upon coarse sackcloth than upon rich silk.

Rosette is not ill-favored; she might be considered beautiful, but
she is far from realizing the ideal of my dreams; she is a statue,
several portions of which have been completed. The others are not so
sharply cut from the block; there are some parts brought out with much
skill and charm, and others more carelessly and hurriedly. To ordinary
eyes the statue seems entirely completed and perfectly beautiful; but
a more careful observer soon discovers places where the work is not
close enough, and outlines which need to be touched and retouched many
times by the workman's nail before attaining the purity that belongs to
them;--it is for love to polish the marble and complete it, which is
equivalent to saying that I shall not be the one to do it.

However, I do not confine beauty to this or that particular form or
contour.--The manner, the gesture, the gait, the breath, the coloring,
the voice, the perfume, everything that is a part of life enters into
the composition of beauty in my estimation; everything that sings or
shines or perfumes the air is rightfully a part of beauty.--I love rich
brocades, gorgeous stuffs with their ample and stately folds; I love
great flowers and jars of perfume, transparent running water and the
gleaming surface of fine weapons, blooded horses and the great white
dogs that we see in Paul Veronese's pictures. I am a genuine heathen in
that respect, and I do not adore misshapen gods;--although I am not at
heart exactly what is called irreligious, there are few who are in fact
worse Christians than myself. I do not understand the mortification
of the flesh that forms the essence of Christianity, I consider it a
sacrilegious act to lay hands upon God's work, and I do not believe
that the flesh is wicked, since He Himself moulded it with His own
fingers and in His own image. I think but little of the long sober-hued
frocks from which only a head and two hands emerge, or of the pictures
in which everything is drowned in shadow except some one radiant brow.
I want the sun to shine everywhere, to have as much light and as little
shadow as possible, the bright colors to gleam, the lines to undulate,
the nude body to exhibit itself proudly and the flesh not to lie
hidden, since it, as well as the spirit, is a never-ending hymn to the
praise of God.

I can understand perfectly the wild enthusiasm of the Greeks for
beauty; and for my part I can see nothing absurd in the law that
compelled the judges to listen to the arguments of the lawyers in some
dark place, lest their noble bearing, the grace of their gestures and
attitudes should prejudice the judges in their favor and throw undue
weight into the scales.

I would buy nothing of an ugly shopwoman; I give alms more freely to
beggars whose rags and emaciation have a touch of the picturesque.
There is a little fever-ridden Italian, as green as an unripe lemon,
with great black and white eyes that take up half of his face;--you
would say he was an unframed Murillo or Espagnolet exposed for sale on
the sidewalk by a second-hand dealer:--he always gets two sous more
than the others. I would never whip a handsome horse or a handsome dog,
and I would not care for a friend or a servant who is not pleasant
to look at.--It is downright torture to me to look at ugly things or
ugly people.--Bad taste in architecture, a piece of furniture of ugly
shape, prevent my enjoying myself in a house, however comfortable and
attractive it may otherwise be. The best wine seems to me almost sour
in an ungraceful glass, and I confess that I would prefer the most
unsubstantial broth on one of Bernard of Palissy's enamelled plates
to the most toothsome game on an earthen platter.--The exterior of
things has always exerted a powerful influence upon me, and that is
why I avoid the society of old men; they irritate me and affect me
disagreeably because they are wrinkled and deformed, although some
of them have some special beauty; and in the pity that I feel for
them there is much disgust;--of all earthly ruins, the ruin of man is
assuredly the saddest to contemplate.

If I were a painter--and I have always regretted that I am not--I
should people my canvases with none but goddesses, madonnas, nymphs,
cherubim, and loves. To devote one's brush to painting portraits,
unless of beautiful people, seems to me a crime against the majesty of
the art; and, far from seeking to duplicate those mean or ugly faces,
those insignificant or vulgar heads, I should incline toward ordering
the originals to be cut off. The ferocity of Caligula, if diverted in
that direction, would seem to me almost praiseworthy.

The only thing on earth that I have desired with any constancy, is to
be beautiful.--By beautiful, I mean as beautiful as Paris or Apollo.
To have no deformity, to have features almost regular, that is to
say, to have the nose in the centre of the face and neither flat nor
hooked, eyes that are neither red nor bloodshot, a mouth of suitable
dimensions, is not to be beautiful: on that theory I should be, and I
consider myself as far removed from my ideal of virile beauty as if
I were one of the puppets that strike the hour on church-bells; if I
had a mountain on each shoulder, the crooked legs of a terrier and
the muzzle of a monkey, I should resemble it as closely. Often and
often I sit and look at myself in the mirror, for hours at a time,
with incredible fixity and close scrutiny, to see if my face has not
improved in some degree; I wait for the outlines to make a movement and
straighten out or take on a more graceful and purer curve, for my eye
to brighten and swim in a more sparkling fluid, for the hollow that
separates my forehead from my nose to fill up, and for my profile thus
to become as simple and regular as the Greek profile; and I am always
greatly surprised that it does not happen. I am always in hopes that
some spring or autumn I shall cast off my present shape as a serpent
casts his old skin.--To think that I need so little to be handsome and
that I never shall be! What! half a hair's breadth, the hundredth or
the thousandth part of a hair's breadth more or less in one place or
another, a little less flesh on this bone, a little more on that--a
painter or sculptor would have it all arranged in half an hour. What
was it that made the atoms of which I am composed crystallize in this
way or that? Why need that outline bulge out here and sink in there,
and why was it necessary that I should be thus and not otherwise?--Upon
my word if I had chance by the throat, I believe I would strangle
him.--Because it pleased a vile mass of I don't know what to fall from
I don't know where and coagulate stupidly into the awkward creature
that I visibly am, I shall be miserable forever! Isn't it the most
absurd and pitiful thing in the world? How is it that my soul, although
eagerly longing to do so, cannot let the poor carcass that it now holds
erect, fall prostrate, and enter into and animate one of those statues
whose exquisite beauty saddens and ravishes it? There are two or three
people whom it would give me the greatest pleasure to assassinate,
taking care, however, not to bruise or mar them, if I knew the word by
which souls are made to pass from one to another.--It has always seemed
to me that, in order to do what I wish--and I don't know what I do
wish--I needed very great and perfect beauty, and I fancy that if I had
had it, my life, which is so entangled and harassed, would have been
just the same.

We see so many lovely faces in pictures!--why is not one of them
mine?--so many charming faces disappearing under the dust and decay of
time in the recesses of old galleries! Would it not be better for them
to leave their frames and bloom anew on my shoulders? Would Raphaël's
reputation suffer greatly if one of the angels whom he drew in swarms
flying about in the deep blue of his pictures, should turn his mask
over to me for thirty years? There are so many parts of his frescoes,
and among them some of the most beautiful, that have scaled off and
fallen because of their age! No one would notice. What have the silent
beauties to do that hang around those walls, and at whom men scarcely
cast an absent-minded glance? and why has not God or chance the wit to
do what a man does with a few hairs stuck in the end of a stick and
pigments of different colors mixed together on a board?

My first sensation before one of those marvellous faces whose painted
glance seems to look through you and into infinite space beyond, is
profound amazement and admiration not unmixed with terror: tears
fill my eyes, my heart beats fast; then, when I have become a little
accustomed to it and have penetrated farther into the secret of its
beauty, I mentally draw a comparison between it and myself; deep down
in my soul jealousy writhes in knots more intricate than a viper's, and
it is with the utmost difficulty that I refrain from throwing myself
upon the canvas and tearing it in pieces.

To be beautiful, that is to say, to have in yourself such a charm
that every one smiles upon you and welcomes you; that every one is
prepossessed in your favor and inclined to be of your opinion, even
before you have spoken; that you have only to pass through a street
or show yourself on a balcony to raise up friends or mistresses for
yourself in the crowd. To have no need to be lovable in order to be
loved, to be exempt from all the expenditure of wit and complaisance
which ugliness makes incumbent upon you, and to be excused from having
the thousand and one moral qualities that one must have to supplement
physical beauty--what a superb, magnificent gift!

And he who should combine supreme strength with supreme beauty, who,
beneath Antinous's skin, should have the muscles of Hercules,--what
more could he desire? I am sure that with those two things and the
mind that I now have I should be emperor of the world within three
years!--Another thing that I have longed for almost as much as beauty
and strength is the gift of transporting myself from one place to
another with the swiftness of thought. Angelic beauty, the strength of
the tiger and the wings of the eagle, and I should begin to conclude
that the world is not so badly organized as I used to think.--A
beautiful mask to charm and fascinate the prey, wings to pounce down
upon it and carry it off, nails to tear it to pieces;--so long as I
have not those I shall be unhappy.

All the passions and all the tastes I have had have been simply
disguised forms of those three desires. I have loved weapons, horses,
women: weapons to replace the muscles I had not; horses to serve as
wings; women, so that I might possess in some one the beauty that I
lacked myself. I sought in preference the most ingeniously deadly
weapons, and those whose wounds were incurable. I have never had
occasion to use any of the krises or yataghans, yet I like to have
them around me; I take them from their scabbards with an indescribable
sense of security and power, I lay about me in every direction with
the greatest energy, and if by chance I see the reflection of my face
in a mirror, I am astonished at its ferocious expression.--As for
my horses, I override them so that they must either founder or say
why.--If I hadn't given up riding Ferragus he would have died long
ago, and it would be a pity, for he's a fine beast. What Arabian steed
ever had limbs so fleet as my desire? In women I have not looked below
the exterior, and as those whom I have seen thus far are a long way
from fulfilling my ideal of beauty, I have fallen back upon pictures
and statues; which, after all, is a pitiful expedient when one's
senses are so inflammable as mine. However, there is something grand
and noble about loving a statue, for it is a perfectly disinterested
love, you have to dread neither satiety nor distaste with your triumph,
and you cannot reasonably hope for a second miracle like the story of
Pygmalion.--The impossible always had a charm for me.

Is it not strange that I, who am still in the fairest months of youth,
who have not even used the simplest things, much less abused anything,
have reached such a degree of satiety that I am tempted only by what
is unusual or difficult of accomplishment?--That satiety follows
enjoyment is a natural law and easily understood. Nothing is more
easily explained than that a man who has eaten heartily of every dish
at a banquet should no longer be hungry and should try to stimulate
his benumbed palate by the thousand stings of condiments or dry wines;
but that a man who has just taken his seat at the table and has
hardly tasted the first course, should already be assailed with that
superb disgust, should be unable to touch without vomiting any except
highly-seasoned dishes, and should like only gamey meats, cheese
with blue streaks running through it, truffles and wine that smells
of the flint, is a phenomenon that can result only from a peculiar
constitution; it is as if a child of six months should deem his nurse's
milk insipid and refuse to suck anything but brandy. I am as exhausted
as if I had performed all the prodigious feats of Sardanapalus and yet
my life has been apparently very chaste and peaceful; it is a mistake
to think that possession is the only road leading to satiety. We arrive
there also through desire, and abstinence is more exhausting than
excess.--Such a desire as mine is more fatiguing than possession. Its
glance envelops and penetrates the object which it longs to have and
which gleams above it, more swiftly and more deeply than if it were
in contact with it. What more could use teach it? what experience can
equal that constant, passionate contemplation?

I have gone through so much, although I have travelled very little,
that only the steepest peaks tempt me now. I am attacked by the disease
that fastens upon nations and powerful men in their old age--the
impossible. Anything that I can do has not the slightest attraction
for me. Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, ye great Romans of the Empire, whom
posterity has so ill understood, and whom the pack of ranters pursues
with its yelping, I suffer with your disease and I pity you with all
the pity I have left in my heart! I, too, would like to bridge the sea
and pave its waves; I have dreamed of burning cities to illuminate my
fêtes; I have longed to be a woman to learn new forms of pleasure. Thy
golden palace, O Nero, is only a filthy stable beside the palace I
have built; my wardrobe is better furnished than thine, Heliogabalus,
and much more magnificent.--My circuses are noisier and bloodier than
yours, my perfumes more acrid and more penetrating, my slaves more
numerous and of better figure; I also have nude courtesans harnessed to
my chariot, I have walked over men's bodies with as disdainful heel as
you. Colossi of the ancient world, there beats behind my feeble ribs a
heart as great as yours, and if I had been in your places I would have
done all that you have done and perhaps more. How many Babels have I
piled one upon another to reach the sky, to cudgel the stars and spit
upon all creation! Why am I not God--as I cannot be man?

Oh! I believe that I shall need a hundred thousand centuries of
nothingness to rest from the fatigue of these twenty years of
life.--God in heaven, what stone will You roll down upon me? into what
darkness will You plunge me? from what Lethe will You make me drink?
beneath what mountain will You entomb the Titan? Am I destined to
breathe a volcano through my mouth and to cause earthquakes when I turn
from side to side?

When I think of this, that I was born of a gentle, resigned mother,
simple in her tastes and manners, I am surprised that I did not burst
her womb when she was carrying me. How does it happen that none of her
calm, pure thoughts passed into my body with the blood she transmitted
to me? and why must it be that I am the son of her flesh only, not of
her mind? The dove begat a tiger who would like to have all creation
fall a prey to his claws.

I grew up amid the most chaste and tranquil surroundings. It is
difficult to imagine an existence in a setting so pure as mine. My
years were passed in the shadow of my mother's easy-chair, with my
little sisters and the house-dog. I saw about me only the kindly,
placid faces of old servants who had grown gray in our service and
were in a certain sense hereditary, of grave, sententious relations or
friends, dressed in black, who placed their gloves one after another
in their hat brims; a few aunts of uncertain age, plump and neat and
sedate, with dazzling linen, gray skirts, thread mitts, and hands upon
their waist-bands like people of a religious turn of mind; furniture
severely simple to the point of melancholy, bare oak wainscoting,
leather hangings--a gloomy, sober-hued interior such as some Flemish
masters have painted. The garden was damp and dark; the box that marked
the divisions, the ivy that covered the walls, and a few firs with
bare branches were entrusted with the duty of representing verdure
there and had but ill success; the brick house, with its very high
roof, although roomy and in good condition, had something dull and
drowsy about it. Certainly nothing could be better adapted to prepare
one for a secluded, austere, melancholy life than such a place of
abode. It seemed as if all the children brought up in such a house
must inevitably end by becoming priests or nuns: ah well! in that
atmosphere of purity and repose, amid that gloom and meditation, I
rotted away little by little, without any outward sign, like a medlar
on the straw. In the bosom of that upright, pious, saintly family I
reached a horrible depth of depravity.--It was not contact with the
world, for I had never seen it; nor the fire of passion, for I was
benumbed in the icy sweat that oozed from those stout walls.--The worm
did not crawl from the heart of another fruit to my heart. It came to
life of itself where my pulp was thickest and gnawed and furrowed it
in every direction: but nothing appeared outside and warned me that
I was tainted at the core. I had neither spot nor worm-hole; but I
was all hollow inside and nothing remained but a thin bright-colored
pellicle, which the slightest blow would have broken.--Is it not an
inexplicable thing that a child born of virtuous parents, brought up
with care and judgment, kept at a distance from everything bad, should
become perverted all by himself to such an extent, and reach the point
I have reached? I am sure that, even if you should go back to the sixth
generation, you would not find among my ancestors a single atom like
those of which I am made. I do not belong to my own family; I am not an
offshoot of that noble trunk, but a poisonous toadstool planted among
its mossy roots on some dark, stormy night; and yet no one ever had
more aspirations, more impulses towards the beautiful than I, no one
ever tried more obstinately to spread his wings; but every attempt has
made my fall the greater and the things that should have saved me have
been my ruin.

Solitude has a worse effect upon me than society, although I desire
the first more than the second. Whatever takes me out of myself is
salutary; society bores me, but it tears me by force from the vain
reverie whose winding staircase I ascend and descend, with bent head
and folded arms. And so, since one tête-à-tête came to an end and there
have been people here with whom I am compelled to put some constraint
upon myself, I am less subject to my black moods and am less tormented
by those immeasurable longings that pounce upon my heart like a swarm
of vultures, as soon as I am left for a moment without occupation.
There are some very pretty women and one or two young men who are very
pleasant and jovial; but of all this swarm of provincials, the one who
has the most charm for me is a young cavalier who arrived two or three
days ago. He took my fancy at the very first, and I became fond of him
simply from seeing him alight from his horse. It is impossible to be
more graceful; he is not very tall, but slender and well set-up; there
is something supple and undulating in his gait and his movements,
which is pleasing beyond expression; many women would envy him his
hand and foot. His only defect is that he is too beautiful and has too
delicate features for a man. He is blessed with a pair of the loveliest
and blackest eyes in the world, which have an expression impossible
to define and a glance that it is not easy to sustain; but, as he is
very young and has no sign of a beard, the softness and perfection
of the lower part of his face temper somewhat the vivacity of those
eagle eyes; his glossy, brown hair falls over his neck in great curls
and gives his head a character of its own.--Here then at last is one
of the types of beauty I have dreamed of, made flesh, and actually
before my eyes! What a pity that it's a man, or what a pity that I am
not a woman! This Adonis, who, in addition to his lovely face, has a
very keen intellect of very wide range, still enjoys the privilege of
having at the service of his bright remarks and his jests, a voice of a
silvery and penetrating quality which it is difficult to hear without
emotion.--He is really perfect.--It seems that he shares my taste for
beautiful things, for his clothes are very rich and well chosen, his
horse very spirited and a thoroughbred; and, in order that everything
might be complete and well assorted, he had behind him, riding a pony,
a page of some fourteen or fifteen years, fair-haired, pink-cheeked,
pretty as a seraph, who was half asleep, and so exhausted by his long
ride that his master was obliged to lift him from his saddle and carry
him to his room in his arms.

Rosette welcomed him very warmly and I think she has formed a plan
to use him to arouse my jealousy and thus kindle the tiny flame that
is sleeping under the ashes of my passion. However redoubtable such
a rival may be, I am little inclined to be jealous of him, and I am
so attracted to him that I would gladly abandon my love to secure his

[Illustration: Chapter V--_A page of some fourteen or fifteen years,
fair-haired, pink-cheeked, pretty as a seraph, who was half asleep, and
so exhausted by his long ride that his master was obliged to lift him
from his saddle and carry him to his room in his arms._]


At this point, with the permission of the indulgent reader, we propose
to abandon for some little time to his meditations, the worthy
personage who has thus far occupied the stage all by himself and has
spoken in his own behalf, and to adopt the ordinary form of the novel,
reserving the right, however, to resume the dramatic form hereafter,
if occasion should arise, and to draw still farther upon the species
of epistolary confession that the aforesaid young man addressed to his
friend, being fully persuaded that, however penetrating and sagacious
we may be, we certainly cannot know so much about him as he knows about

The little page was so overdone that he slept in his master's arms,
and his little head, with its hair all in disorder, rolled from side
to side as if he were dead. It was some distance from the stoop to the
apartment set aside for the new arrival, and the servant who escorted
him offered to take his turn at carrying the child; but the young
gentleman, to whom the burden seemed no more than a feather-weight,
thanked him and declined to relinquish it; he laid him gently on the
couch, taking the utmost care to avoid waking him; a mother could have
done no better. When the servant had retired and the door was closed,
he knelt beside him and tried to remove his boots; but his little feet
were so swollen and painful that the operation was a difficult one,
and the pretty sleeper uttered from time to time vague, inarticulate
exclamations, like a person who is on the point of waking; thereupon
the young gentleman would stop and wait until he was sound asleep
again. The boots yielded at last and the most important point was
gained; the stockings made little resistance.--This operation at an
end, the master took the child's feet and placed them side by side on
the velvet covering of the sofa; surely they were the two loveliest
feet in the world, no larger than that, white as new ivory, and
reddened a little by the pressure of the boots in which they had been
imprisoned seventeen hours--feet that were too small for a woman and
looked as if they had never walked; the part of the leg that could be
seen was round, plump, smooth, transparent, delicately veined, and of
the most exquisitely graceful shape--a leg worthy of the foot.

[Illustration: Chapter VI--_The pretty sleeper uttered from time to time
vague, inarticulate exclamations, like a person who is on the point of
waking; thereupon the young gentleman would stop and wait until he was
sound asleep again. The boots yielded at last and the most important
point was gained; the stockings made little resistance._]

The young man, still on his knees, gazed at the two little feet with
amorous, admiring intentness; he stooped, raised the left one and
kissed it, then the right one and kissed that; then, from kiss to kiss,
he ascended the leg to the place where the clothes began.--The page
raised his long lashes slightly and cast an affectionate, sleepy glance
at his master, in which there was no trace of surprise.--"My belt hurts
me," he said, passing his finger under the ribbon; and he fell asleep
again.--The master loosened the belt, placed a cushion beneath the
page's head, and finding that his feet, which had been burning hot,
were a little cold, he wrapped them carefully in his cloak, drew an
arm-chair close to the sofa and sat down. Two hours passed thus, the
young man watching the sleeping child and following the shadow of his
dreams on his brow. The only sounds to be heard in the room were his
regular breathing and the ticking of the clock.

It was certainly a very lovely picture. In the contrast between the two
types of beauty there was an opportunity for effect, of which a skilful
painter might have made good use.--The master was as beautiful as a
woman--the page as lovely as a young girl. The round, rosy face, set
in its frame of hair, resembled a peach among its leaves; it had the
same fresh and velvety look, although the fatigue of the journey had
lessened somewhat its usual brilliancy; the half-open mouth disclosed
two rows of small teeth of a milky whiteness, and beneath the full,
gleaming temples a network of blue veins crossed and recrossed; his
eyelashes, like the golden threads around the heads of virgins in
missals, reached almost to the middle of his cheeks; his long, silky
hair resembled both gold and silver--gold in the shadow, silver in the
light; his neck was at the same time plump and slender, and gave no
sign of the sex indicated by his clothes; two or three buttons of his
doublet were unbuttoned to enable him to breathe more freely and as the
fine shirt of Dutch lawn beneath was open, a glimpse was afforded of
an inch or two of firm rounded flesh of admirable whiteness, and the
beginning of a certain curved line difficult to account for on a young
boy's breast; upon looking closely one might have discovered also that
his hips were a little too fully developed.--The reader will form what
opinion he chooses; these are simple conjectures that we put forward;
we have no better information on the subject than he, but we hope
to learn something more in a short time, and we promise to keep him
fully informed of our discoveries.--Let the reader, if his sight is
keener than ours, bury his eyes under the lace of that shirt and decide
conscientiously whether the contour is too swelling or not; but we warn
him that the curtains are drawn and that there is a sort of half-light
in the room, ill-adapted to that sort of investigation.

The young gentleman was pale, but his was a golden pallor, full of
strength and vitality; his eyes swam in a crystalline blue fluid; his
straight, thin nose imparted a wonderful air of pride and energy to his
profile, and the flesh was of so fine a texture that it allowed the
light to pass through it on the edge; his mouth wore the sweetest smile
at certain moments, but ordinarily it was arched at the comers, curving
in rather than out, as in some of the faces we see in the pictures of
the old Italian masters; a detail that gave a charmingly disdainful
expression to his face, a _smorfia_ alluring beyond words, an air of
childish sulkiness and ill humor, very unusual and very fascinating.

What were the bonds that united the master to the page and the page to
the master? Assuredly there was something more between them than any
conceivable affection between master and servant. Were they friends
or brothers?--In that case, why this masquerading?--It would have been
difficult for any one witnessing the scene we have just described to
believe that those two individuals were just what they seemed to be and
nothing more.

"Dear angel, how he sleeps!" murmured the young man; "I don't believe
he ever travelled so far in his life. Twenty leagues in the saddle,
and he so delicate! I'm afraid that he will be sick with fatigue. But
no, it will amount to nothing; to-morrow there will be no sign of it;
he will have recovered his brilliant color and will be fresher than
a rose after the rain.--How handsome he is like that! If I weren't
afraid of waking him I would eat him up with kisses. What a fascinating
dimple he has in his chin! what fine, white skin!--Sleep soundly, sweet
treasure.--Ah! I am downright jealous of your mother, and I wish I had
brought you into the world.--He can't be sick? No, his breathing is
regular and he doesn't stir.--But I believe some one knocked."

In fact, some one had knocked twice, as gently as possible, on the
panel of the door.

The young man rose, but, fearing that he might be mistaken, waited for
a repetition of the knocking before opening the door.--Two more taps
followed, a little more pronounced, and a soft female voice said, in a
very low tone:--"It is I, Théodore."

Théodore opened the door, but with less eagerness than a young man
naturally exhibits about admitting a woman whose voice is soft and
who knocks mysteriously at his door at nightfall.--The open door gave
passage to--whom do you suppose?--to the mistress of the perplexed
D'Albert, to the Princess Rosette in person, rosier than her name, and
her bosom as deeply moved as ever woman was upon entering a handsome
youth's room in the evening.

"Théodore!" said Rosette.

Théodore lifted his finger and placed it on his lips so as to represent
a statue of silence, and, pointing to the sleeping child, led her into
the adjoining room.

"Théodore," continued Rosette, who seemed to take strange pleasure
in repeating the name, and at the same time to be collecting her
thoughts,--"Théodore," she continued, retaining the hand the young man
had offered her to lead her to her chair, "so you have returned at
last? What have you been doing all the time? where have you been?--Do
you know that it is six months since I saw you! Ah! Théodore, that is
not right; we owe some consideration, some pity to those who love us,
even if we do not love them."


      What have I been doing.--I have no idea.--I have gone
      away and come home, I have waked and slept, I have sung
      and wept, I have been hungry and thirsty, I have been too
      warm and too cold, I have been bored, I have less money
      and am six months older--I have lived, that's the whole of
      it.--And how about yourself, what have you been doing?


      I have loved you.


      Have you done nothing but that?


      Absolutely nothing.--I have made a bad use of my time,
      haven't I?


      You might have made a better use of it, my poor Rosette;
      for example, you might have loved some one who could
      return your love.


      I am unselfish in love as in everything.--I don't lend
      love at interest; it is a pure gift on my part.


      That is a very rare virtue and one that can exist only
      in a noble heart. I have often wished that I could
      love you, especially as you desire it; but there is an
      insurmountable obstacle between us which I cannot tell
      you.--Have you had any other lover since I left you?


      I have had one whom I still have.


      What sort of a man is he?


      A poet.


      The devil! who is this poet, and what has he written?


      I haven't a very clear idea--a volume that nobody knows
      anything about, and that I tried to read one evening.


      So you have an unpublished poet for a lover?--That must
      be interesting.--Is he out at elbows, does he wear dirty
      linen and rumpled stockings?


      No; he dresses very well, washes his hands and has no
      ink-spots on the end of his nose. He's a friend of C----;
      I met him at Madame de Thémines',--you know, that tall
      woman, who plays the child and puts on such innocent airs.


      And might one know the name of this eminent personage?


      Oh! _Mon Dieu_, yes! he is the Chevalier d'Albert.


      Chevalier d'Albert! I think that was the young man who was
      on the balcony when I alighted from my horse.




      And who examined me so closely.




      He's a very good-looking fellow.--And he has not made you
      forget me?


      No. Unfortunately you are not one of those whom one


      He loves you dearly no doubt?


      I am not so sure of that.--There are moments when you
      would think he loved me very dearly; but at heart he
      doesn't love me, and he is not far from hating me, for
      he is angry with me because he can't love me.--He did as
      many others before him have done; he developed a very
      keen taste for passion, and was greatly surprised and
      disappointed when his desire was surfeited.--It is a
      mistake to think that two people must mutually adore each
      other because they have lain together.


      And what do you propose to do with this lover who is not a


      What we do with bygone quarters of the moon or with last
      year's fashions.--He hasn't courage enough to leave me
      the first, and although he does not love me in the true
      sense of the word, he is bound to me by the habit of
      enjoyment, and those are the habits it is hardest to
      break. If I don't assist him, he is quite capable of
      conscientiously submitting to be bored with me till the
      last judgment and beyond; for he has within him the germ
      of all noble qualities; and the flowers of his soul ask
      naught but an opportunity to bloom in the sunshine of
      everlasting love.--Really I am very sorry that I did not
      prove to be the sunbeam for him. Of all my lovers whom I
      have not loved, I love him the most; and, if I were not
      as kind-hearted as I am, I would not give him back his
      liberty, but I would still keep him.--But that is what I
      will not do; I am finishing with him at this moment.


      How long will it last?


      A fortnight, three weeks, but at all events not so long
      as if you had not come.--I know that I shall never be
      your mistress.--There is, you say, an unknown reason for
      that, to which I would bow if it were possible for you to
      disclose it to me. Thus I am forbidden to entertain any
      hope in that direction, and yet I cannot make up my mind
      to be another man's mistress when you are here; it seems
      to me like a profanation, and as if I should not have the
      right to love you.


      Keep this lover for love of me.


      If it will give you pleasure I will do it.--Ah! if you
      could have been mine, how different my life might have
      been from what it has been!--The world has a very false
      idea of me, and I should have lived and died without
      any one suspecting what I am--except you, Théodore,
      the only one who has understood me and been cruel to
      me.--I have never wanted any one but you for a lover,
      and I have never had you. O Théodore, if you had loved
      me, I should have been virtuous and chaste, I should
      have been worthy of you; instead of that, I shall leave
      behind me--if any one remembers me--the reputation of a
      dissolute woman, a sort of courtesan, who differed from
      her of the gutter only in rank and fortune.--I was born
      with the highest aspirations; but nothing depraves one
      so much as being unloved.--Many people despise me who
      have no idea what I have had to suffer before reaching my
      present position.--Being sure that I shall never belong to
      the man I would prefer above all others, I have allowed
      myself to float with the current, I have not taken the
      trouble to defend a body that could not be yours.--As for
      my heart, no one has had it and no one ever will. It is
      yours, although you have broken it;--and I am different
      from the majority of women who believe themselves virtuous
      provided they have not passed from one bed to another,
      in this respect--although I have prostituted my flesh, I
      have been faithful in heart and soul to the thought of
      you.--At all events I shall have made some few people
      happy, I shall have caused white-robed illusions to dance
      about some pillows. I have innocently deceived more than
      one noble heart. I have been so miserable at being spurned
      by you, that I have always been horrified at the thought
      of compelling any one else to undergo such torture. That
      is the sole worthy motive of adventures which are commonly
      attributed to a spirit of libertinage pure and simple!--I,
      a libertine! O society!--If you knew, Théodore, how
      intensely painful it is to feel that your life is a
      failure, that you have let slip your chance of happiness,
      to see that everybody misunderstands you and that it is
      impossible to make people change their opinion of you,
      that your most estimable qualities are tortured into
      defects, your purest essences into deadly poisons, that
      nothing except the evil in you has transpired; to have
      found doors always open to your vices and always closed
      to your virtues, and to have been unable to bring to
      perfection, amid such a wilderness of hemlock and aconite,
      a single lily or a single rose! you know nothing of that,


      Alas! alas! Rosette, what you have just said includes the
      history of the whole world; the best part of us is that
      which remains within us and which we cannot display.--It
      is the same with poets.--Their noblest poem is the one
      they have not written; they carry more poems to the grave
      than they leave in their library.


      I shall carry my poem to the grave with me.


      And I mine.--Who has not written one at some time in his
      life? who is so fortunate, or so unfortunate, as not to
      have composed his in his head or in his heart?--Even
      headsmen may have composed poems, all moist with tears of
      the tenderest sensibility; poets perhaps have composed
      some that would be suited to headsmen, so bloody and
      monstrous they are.


      Yes.--White roses can fitly be placed on my grave. I have
      had ten lovers, but I am a virgin, and I shall die a
      virgin. Many virgins, on whose graves there is a constant
      snow of jasmine and orange blossoms, were veritable


      I know what a noble creature you are, Rosette.


      You only in all the world have seen what I am; for you
      have seen me under the influence of a love that is
      perfectly genuine and very deep-rooted, as it is hopeless;
      and no one who has not seen a woman in love can say what
      she is; that is the one thing that consoles me in my
      bitterness of spirit.


      And what does this young man think of you, who is your
      lover to-day in the eyes of the world?


      The mind of a lover is a gulf deeper than the Bay of
      Portugal, and it is very difficult to say what there is
      in the depths of a man; if the lead were attached to a
      line a hundred fathoms long and every fathom unreeled, it
      would still sink without meeting anything to stop it. Yet
      I have touched bottom several times with this man, and
      the lead has sometimes brought up mud, sometimes lovely
      shells, but most frequently mud and fragments of coral
      mixed together.--As to his opinion of me, it has varied
      greatly; he began where others leave off, he despised me;
      young men with vivid imaginations are likely to do that.
      There is always a tremendous fall in the first step they
      take, and the passage from their chimera to reality cannot
      be made without a shock.--He despised me and I entertained
      him; now he esteems me and I bore him. In the early days
      of our liaison he saw only the commonplace side of me, and
      I think that the certainty of meeting with no resistance
      had much to do with his determination. He seemed in great
      haste to have an affair, and I thought at first that it
      was a case of a full heart seeking only an opportunity to
      overflow, one of those vague passions that a man has in
      the May of youth and that impel him, in default of women,
      to throw his arms around the trunks of trees, and to
      kiss the flowers and grass in the fields.--But it wasn't
      that;--he simply passed through me to reach something
      else. I was a means to him, and not an end.--Beneath the
      fresh exterior of his twenty years, beneath the first down
      of adolescence, he concealed profound corruption. He was
      tainted to the core; he was a fruit containing nothing
      but ashes. In that young and lusty body was a heart as
      old as Saturn--a heart as incurably wretched as heart
      ever was.--I confess, Théodore, that I was frightened and
      that I was almost taken with vertigo as I looked into
      the black depths of that existence. Your sorrows and
      mine are nothing compared to those. If I had loved him
      more I should have killed him. Something irresistibly
      attracts and summons him--something that is not of this
      world or in this world, and he cannot rest day or night;
      and like the heliotrope in a cellar, he twists about to
      turn toward the sun which he cannot see.--He is one of
      those men whose mind was not completely dipped in the
      waters of Lethe before being attached to his body, but
      retains memories of the eternal beauty of the heaven from
      which it comes--memories that work upon it and torment
      it--and remembers that it once had wings and now has feet
      only.--If I were God, I would deprive of poetry for two
      eternities, the angel guilty of such negligence.--Instead
      of being under the necessity of building a castle of
      bright-colored cards in which to shelter a fair, youthful
      fancy for a single spring, it was necessary to erect a
      tower higher than the eight temples of Belus piled one
      upon another. I had not the strength, I pretended not
      to have understood him, and I let him flutter about on
      his wings in search of a peak from which he could take
      flight into boundless space.--He thinks I have noticed
      nothing of all this, because I have fallen in with all his
      caprices without seeming to suspect their object. Being
      unable to cure him, I determined--and I hope that I shall
      receive credit for it some day before God--to give him at
      least the happiness of believing that he was passionately
      loved.--He aroused in me so much pity and interest that I
      was easily able to assume a tone and manner sufficiently
      affectionate to deceive him. I have played my part like a
      consummate actress; I have been playful and melancholy,
      sensible and voluptuous; I have feigned anxiety and
      jealousy; I have shed false tears, and I have summoned
      flocks of ready-made smiles to my lips. I have arrayed
      this counterfeit of love in the richest stuffs; I have
      taken him to drive through the avenues of my parks; I have
      requested all my birds to sing as he passed, and all my
      dahlias and daturas to bend their heads in salutation; I
      have sent him across my lake on the silvery back of my
      darling swan; I have concealed myself inside the manikin
      and bestowed my voice, my wit, my youth and beauty upon it
      and given it such a seductive appearance that the reality
      fell far short of my deception. When the time comes to
      shatter this hollow statue, I shall do it in such a way
      that he will think the wrong is all on my side and so will
      have no remorse. I shall be the one to make the pinhole
      through which the air with which the balloon is filled
      will make its escape.--Is not that sanctified prostitution
      and honorable deception? I have in a glass jar some
      tears that I have collected just as they were about to
      fall.--They are my jewel-case and my diamonds, and I shall
      present them to the angel who comes for me to lead me
      before God.


      They are the loveliest that can glisten on a woman's
      neck. A queen's jewels are less precious than they. For
      my own part, I believe that the ointment Magdalen poured
      on Christ's feet was made of the tears of those she had
      comforted, and I believe, too, that the Milky Way is
      strewn with such tears, and not, as has been said, with
      drops of Juno's milk.--Who will do for you what you have
      done for him?


      No one, alas! since you cannot.


      O dear heart! would that I could!--But do not lose hope.
      You are lovely and still very young. You have many avenues
      of lindens and flowering acacias to pass through before
      reaching the damp road lined with box and leafless trees,
      which leads from the tomb of porphyry in which your happy
      dead years will be buried, to the tomb of rough and
      moss-covered stone where they will hasten to bestow the
      remains of what once was you, and the wrinkled, tottering
      spectres of the days of your old age. You still have much
      of the mountain of life to climb and it will be long
      before you reach the zone where the snow begins. You
      are now only at the level of aromatic plants, of limpid
      cascades over which the iris suspends its tri-colored
      arches, of stately green oaks and sweet-smelling larches.
      Mount a little higher and from that point, with the
      broader horizon spread out before you, perhaps you will
      see the blue smoke rising above the roof beneath which
      he who will love you sleeps. You must not, in the very
      beginning, despair of life, for vistas open in our destiny
      which we had ceased to expect. Man, in his life, has
      often made me think of a pilgrim toiling up the winding
      stairway of a Gothic tower. The long granite serpent winds
      upward in the darkness, every coil a stair. After a few
      circumvolutions the little light that came from the door
      dies out. The shadow of the houses, which are not yet
      passed, does not allow the loopholes to admit the sun:
      the walls are black and moisture oozes from them; you
      seem rather to be going down into a dungeon from which
      you are never to come forth, than ascending to the turret
      which, from below, seemed to you so slender and graceful,
      covered with lace-work and embroidery as if it were about
      starting for the ball.--You hesitate whether you ought
      to go higher, the damp shadows weigh so heavily upon
      your forehead.--A few more turns of the staircase and
      more frequent openings cast their golden trefoils on the
      opposite wall. You begin to see the notched gables of the
      houses, the carving of the entablatures, the strange forms
      of the chimneys; a few steps more and your eye overlooks
      the whole city; it is a forest of steeples, of spires and
      towers, bristling upon all sides, toothed and slashed and
      hollowed, stamped as with dies, and allowing the light to
      shine through their numberless apertures. The domes and
      cupolas raise their rounded forms like a giant's breasts
      or the skulls of Titans. The islets formed by houses and
      palaces appear through shadowy or luminous openings. A
      few steps more and you will be on the platform; and then
      you will see, beyond the walls of the city, the green
      fields, the blue hill-sides and the white sails on the
      changing ribbon of the stream. A dazzling light bursts
      upon you, and the swallows fly hither and thither, close
      at hand, with their joyous twitter. The distant sounds
      reach your eyes like a soothing murmur or the hum of a
      swarm of bees; all the bells scatter their necklaces of
      pearls of sound through the air; the breezes bring you
      the odors of the neighboring forest and of the mountain
      flowers: it is all light and melody and perfume. If your
      feet had been weary or discouragement had seized upon
      you, and you had remained on a lower step or had turned
      back and gone down again, that spectacle would have been
      lost to you.--Sometimes, however, the tower has only a
      single opening, in the centre or at the top.--The tower of
      your life is built so.--In that case you must have more
      obstinate courage, perseverance armed with sharper nails,
      to cling, in the darkness, to the protruding stones, and
      to reach the opening, resplendent with light, through
      which the eye embraces the surrounding country; or it
      may be that the loopholes have been filled up, or no one
      has thought to cut them, and then you must go on to the
      summit; but the higher one goes without looking out, the
      more extended the horizon seems, and the greater the
      surprise and pleasure.


      O Théodore, God grant that I may soon reach the point
      where the window is! For a long, long time I have been
      following the winding staircase in the most profound
      darkness; but I am afraid the opening has never been
      cut and I must climb to the very top; and suppose this
      staircase with the countless stairs should end at a
      walled-up doorway, or an arch closed by blocks of stone?


      Do not say that, Rosette, do not think it.--What architect
      would build a stairway that led nowhere? Why imagine that
      the placid Architect of the world was stupider and less
      far-sighted than an ordinary architect? God makes no
      mistakes and forgets nothing. It is incredible that He
      should have amused Himself by playing a trick upon you
      and shutting you up in a long stone tunnel without exit
      or opening. Why should you suppose that He would haggle
      with such poor ants as we are over our paltry momentary
      happiness and the imperceptible grain of millet that falls
      to each of us in this immeasurable universe?--In order to
      do that He must be as savage as a tiger or a judge; and if
      we were so obnoxious to Him, He would simply have to bid
      a comet turn aside a little from its path and annihilate
      us all with a hair of its tail. How the devil can you
      think that God diverts Himself by spitting us all on a
      gold pin as the Emperor Domitian did with flies?--God
      isn't a concierge or a church-warden, and although He is
      old, He is not yet in His dotage. All such petty malice
      is beneath Him and He is not foolish enough to show off
      His smartness to us and play tricks on us.--Courage,
      Rosette, courage! If you are out of breath, stop a bit and
      take breath and then continue your upward course; perhaps
      you have only a score more steps to climb to reach the
      embrasure from which you will see your happiness.


      Never! oh never! and if I reach the top of the tower, it
      will only be to hurl myself from it.


      Banish these gloomy thoughts that flutter about you like
      bats, and cast the opaque shadow of their wings on your
      fair brow, my poor afflicted one. If you want me to love
      you, be happy, and do not weep. (_He draws her gently to
      his side and kisses her on the eyes_).


      What a misfortune for me that I ever knew you! and yet, if
      I could live my life over, I would still prefer to have
      known you.--Your harshness has been sweeter to me than
      the passion of other men; and, although you have made me
      suffer intensely, all the pleasure I have ever had has
      come to me from you; through you I have caught a glimpse
      of what I might have been. You have been a flash of
      light in my darkness, and you have illuminated many dark
      places in my soul; you have opened new perspectives in my
      life.--I owe it to you that I know what love is,--unhappy
      love, it is true; but there is a melancholy and profound
      fascination in loving without being loved, and it is
      pleasant to remember those who forget us. It is a joy
      simply to be able to love, even when one loves alone, and
      many die without having had it, and often they who love
      are not the most to be pitied.


      They suffer and feel their wounds, but at all events
      they live. They have some interest in life; they have
      a star about which they gravitate, a pole toward which
      they ardently extend their hands. They have something to
      long for; they can say to themselves: "If I reach that
      point, if I obtain that, I shall be happy."--They suffer
      frightful agony, but when they die, they can at least say
      to themselves: "I am dying for him."--To die thus is to
      be born again. The really unhappy, the only ones who are
      irreparably so, are they whose wild embrace takes in the
      whole universe, they who want everything and nothing, and
      who would be embarrassed and speechless if an angel or
      fairy should descend to earth and say suddenly to them:
      "Express one wish and it shall be gratified."


      If a fairy should come I know what I would ask her.


      You know, Rosette, and therein you are happier than I, for
      I do not know. There are in my heart many vague longings,
      which become confounded with one another and give birth
      to others which eventually consume them. My desires are a
      cloud of birds that fly aimlessly this way and that; yours
      is an eagle that has its eyes on the sun and is prevented
      by lack of air from soaring upward on its outspread wings.
      Ah! if I could only know what I want; if the idea that
      haunts me would stand out clear and well-defined from
      the mist that envelops it; if the lucky or unlucky star
      would appear in the depths of my sky; if the light I am to
      follow would shine out through the darkness, a deceitful
      will-o'-the-wisp or a friendly beacon; if my column of
      fire would go on before me, even though it were through
      a desert without manna and without springs of water; if
      I knew where I am going, even though my path ends at a
      precipice!--I would prefer the wild flights of accursed
      huntsmen through bogs and thickets, to this absurd and
      monotonous stamping and pawing. To live thus is to follow
      a trade like that of the horses with bandages over their
      eyes, who turn the wheel of a well, and travel thousands
      of leagues without seeing anything or changing their
      position.--I have been turning a long while, and the
      bucket ought to be at the top.


      You resemble D'Albert in many ways, and, when you speak,
      it seems to me sometimes as if he were speaking.--I
      have no doubt that, when you know him better, you will
      become much attached to him; you cannot fail to suit each
      other.--He is tormented as you are, by these same aimless
      impulses; he is head over ears in love but does not know
      with what; he would like to ascend to Heaven, for the
      earth seems to him like a stool hardly fit for one of his
      feet to rest upon, and he has more pride than Lucifer
      before his fall.


      I was afraid at first that he was one of those poets, of
      whom there are so many, who have driven poetry off the
      face of the earth, one of those stringers of false pearls
      who see nothing in the world but the last syllables of
      words, and who, when they have made _ombre_ rhyme with
      _sombre, flame_ with _âme_, and _Dieu_ with _lieu_, fold
      their arms and legs conscientiously and permit the spheres
      to accomplish their revolutions.


      He is not one of that kind. His verses are beneath him and
      do not contain his thought. You would form a very mistaken
      idea of his nature from what he has written; his real
      poem is himself, and I don't know if he will ever produce
      another. He has, in the depths of his mind, a seraglio of
      choice ideas which he surrounds with a triple wall, and
      of which he is more jealous than ever sultan was of his
      odalisques.--He puts in his poetry only those ideas that
      he holds in light esteem, or with which he has become
      disgusted; he makes his verse the door through which he
      expels them and the world receives only those for which he
      has no further use.


      I can understand his jealousy and his modesty.--Just as
      many men do not care for the love they have had until they
      no longer have it, or for their mistresses until they are


      It is so hard for one to have anything to one's self in
      this world! every candle attracts so many moths, every
      treasure attracts so many thieves!--I love the silent men
      who carry their ideas to the grave and do not choose to
      abandon them to the filthy kisses and shameless handling
      of the vulgar crowd. Those lovers please me best who do
      not carve their mistress's name on the bark of any tree,
      who confide it to no echo, and who, while they sleep, are
      haunted by the fear that they may utter it in a dream. I
      am one of that number; I have not divulged my thoughts
      and no one shall know my love.--But it is almost eleven
      o'clock, my dear Théodore, and I am preventing your taking
      rest that you must sadly need. When I am obliged to leave
      you I always have a feeling of oppression at my heart, and
      it seems to me as if it were the last time I should ever
      see you. I postpone it as long as I can; but I always have
      to go at last. Good-night, for I am afraid D'Albert may
      be looking for me; good-night, my dear friend.

Théodore put his arm around her waist and thus escorted her to the
door; there he stopped and followed her a long time with his glance;
the corridor was lighted at intervals by small windows with narrow
panes, through which the moon shone, making alternate light and dark
patches of fantastic shape. At each window Rosette's pure, white form
gleamed like a silvery phantom; then it vanished to appear, even more
brilliant, a little farther away; at last it disappeared altogether.

Théodore stood for some moments motionless, with folded arms, as
if buried in profound meditation; then he passed his hand over his
forehead and threw back his hair with a jerk of his head, returned to
his room, and went to bed after kissing the brow of the page, who was
still asleep.


As soon as the daylight entered Rosette's room, D'Albert made his
appearance, with an eagerness that was not usual with him.

"Here you are," said Rosette, "I would say very early, if you could
ever arrive early.--To reward you for your gallantry I present you my
hand to kiss."

And she drew from beneath the sheet of Flemish linen trimmed with lace
the prettiest little hand that was ever seen at the end of a plump,
well-shaped arm.

D'Albert kissed it with compunction:--"And the other, little sister,
are we not to kiss that too?"

_"Mon Dieu_, yes! nothing is easier. I am in my Sunday humor to-day;
here."--And she extended her other hand with which she tapped him
lightly on the lips.--"Am I not the most obliging woman on earth?"

"You are grace itself, and temples of white marble should be erected to
you in thickets of myrtle.--Really, I am very much afraid that the same
thing will happen to you that happened to Psyche, and that Venus will
be jealous of you," said D'Albert, taking the fair one's hands in one
of his and raising them together to his lips.

"How you say all that without taking breath! any one would think it was
something you had learned by heart," said Rosette, with a delicious
little pout.

"No; you deserve to have the phrase turned expressly for you, and
you were made to pluck the virgin bloom from compliments," rejoined

"Oho! whatever is the matter with you to-day? are you ill that you are
so gallant? I fear you are dying. Do you know that when one's character
suddenly changes, and without any apparent reason, it is an evil omen?
Now it is a well-known fact, to all the women who have taken the pains
to love you, that you are usually as morose as a man can be, and it is
no less certain that at this moment you are as charming as a man can
be, and inexplicably amiable.--Really, I think you are pale, my poor
D'Albert: give me your arm and let me feel your pulse;" and she pushed
back his sleeve and counted the pulsations with mock gravity.--"No,
you are perfectly well and you haven't the slightest symptom of fever.
In that case I must be furiously pretty this morning! Go and find my
mirror so that I can see how far your gallantry is justified."

D'Albert brought a small mirror from the toilet-table and placed it on
the bed.

"In truth," said Rosette, "you are not altogether wrong. Why don't you
write a sonnet on my eyes, _Monsieur le Poète._ You have no excuse
for not doing it. Just see how unfortunate I am! to have eyes like
these and a poet like this, and to be left without sonnets just as if
I were one-eyed and had a water-carrier for a lover! You don't love
me, monsieur; you have never written so much as an acrostic sonnet for
me.--And my mouth, what do you think of that? I have kissed you with
that mouth and perhaps I will kiss you with it again, my dark-browed
beauty; and upon my word, it is a favor that you hardly deserve--I am
not speaking of to-day, for to-day you deserve anything;--but, to talk
about something beside myself, you are incomparably fresh and comely
this morning, you look like a brother of Aurora, and, although it is
hardly daylight, you are already arrayed in your best clothes as if for
a ball. Can it be that you have designs upon me? and do you meditate
dealing an unexpected and final blow to my virtue? do you propose to
make a conquest of me? But I forget that you have already done that,
and that it's ancient history."

"Don't joke like that, Rosette; you know that I love you."

"Why, that depends. I don't know it; and you?"

"I know it perfectly well, and from such symptoms that, if you should
have the kindness to forbid me your door, I should try to prove it
to you, and I venture to flatter myself that I should do it most

"Not that way: however anxious I may be to be convinced, my door will
remain open; I am too pretty to be shut up behind closed doors; the sun
shines for one and all, and my beauty shall be like the sun to-day, if
you approve."

"Upon my honor I strongly disapprove; but act as if I approved as
strongly. I am your very humble slave, and I lay my wishes at your

"That is as jolly as can be; continue to entertain such sentiments and
leave your key in your door to-night."

"Monsieur le Chevalier Théodore de Sérannes,"--said a huge negro,
putting his round, good-humored face between the wings of the
folding-door, "desires to pay his respects to you and begs that you
will deign to receive him."

"Admit Monsieur le Chevalier," said Rosette, pulling the sheet up to
her chin.

Théodore went first to Rosette's bed and made a very low and graceful
courtesy, which she returned with a friendly nod; then he turned to
D'Albert, whom he also saluted in an off-hand, courteous manner.

"What were you talking about?" said Théodore. "It may be that I
interrupted an interesting conversation: go on, I beg, and tell me in a
few words what it is all about."

"Oh, no!" Rosette replied with a mischievous smile; "we were talking

[Illustration: Chapter VII--_"Admit Monsieur le Chevalier," said Rosette,
pulling the sheet up to her chin._

_Théodore went first to Rosette's bed and made a very low and graceful
courtesy, which she returned with a friendly nod; then he turned to
D'Albert, whom he also saluted in an off-hand, courteous manner._]

Théodore seated himself at the foot of Rosette's bed, for D'Albert
had taken his place at her pillow, by right of having arrived first.
The conversation wandered for some time from subject to subject, very
bright and gay and animated, and that is why we do not report it; we
should be afraid that it would lose too much in being transcribed. The
manner, the tone, the vivacity of speech and gesture, the countless
ways of uttering a word, the effervescent wit, like the foam of
champagne which sparkles and evaporates at once, are details that
it is impossible to note down and reproduce. We leave that hiatus
for the reader to fill, and he will certainly acquit himself of the
task better than we could do. Let him imagine here five or six pages
filled with whatever is most capricious, most refined, most curiously
original, most ingenious and most sparkling in the way of conversation.

We are well aware that we are resorting to an artifice which reminds
one a little of that resorted to by Timanthes, who, in despair of ever
being able to reproduce Agamemnon's face, threw some drapery over his
head; but we prefer to be timid rather than imprudent.

It would not perhaps be amiss to inquire into the motives that had led
D'Albert to rise so early, and what spur had impelled him to call upon
Rosette at as unseasonable an hour as if he had still been in love.--It
would appear as if it were a slight attack of secret, unconfessed
jealousy. To be sure he cared but little for Rosette, indeed he would
have been very glad to be rid of her,--but he preferred to leave her
voluntarily and not to be left by her, a thing which always inflicts a
deep wound on a man's pride, although his first flame may be utterly
extinct.--Théodore was such a well-favored cavalier that it was
difficult to view his appearance on the scene while a liaison was in
progress without apprehending what had in fact happened many times,
that is to say, that all eyes would turn in his direction and the
hearts follow the eyes; and, strangely enough, although he had taken
away many women, no lover had harbored the enduring resentment that
men usually feel for those who have supplanted them. There was in his
whole behavior such winning charm, such unaffected grace, a something
so gentle and so dignified, that even men were touched by it. D'Albert,
who had come to Rosette's room, intending to speak very sharply to
Théodore, if he should meet him there, was greatly surprised to find
that he did not feel the slightest sensation of anger in his presence,
and that he was inclined to receive with warmth the advances he made.
In half an hour's time, you would have said that they had been friends
from boyhood, and yet D'Albert felt in his inmost heart, that if
Rosette was destined ever to love, she would love that man, and he had
every reason to be jealous, for the future at least, for he did not
suspect anything at present. What would he have thought, had he seen
the fair creature in a white _peignoir_ gliding like a night-moth on a
moonbeam into the handsome youth's room, and coming out three or four
hours later with mysterious precautions? He might well, in very truth,
have deemed himself more unfortunate than he really was, for it is a
thing rarely seen that a pretty, lovelorn young woman comes forth from
the bedroom of a no less attractive young man, exactly the same as when
she went in.

Rosette listened to Théodore with much attention and as one listens to
a person one loves; but what he said was so entertaining and upon so
many different subjects, that her attention was perfectly natural and
easily explained. And so D'Albert took no offence at it. Théodore's
manner toward Rosette was courteous and friendly, but nothing more.

"What shall we do to-day, Théodore?" said Rosette, "suppose we go for a
row on the river? what do you think? or shall we hunt?"

"To hunt is less depressing than to glide over the water side by side
with some tired swan and thrust the water-lily leaves aside to right
and left,--don't you think so, D'Albert?"

"I think perhaps I should enjoy gliding down the river in the skiff
quite as much as racing madly in the trail of some poor beast; but
wherever you go, I will go; what we have to do now is to allow Madame
Rosette to rise and don a suitable costume."

Rosette made a sign of assent and rang for her maid to come and dress
her. The two young men left the room arm in arm, and it was easy to
guess, from seeing them on such good terms, that one was the titular
lover and the other the loved lover of the same person.

Soon everybody was ready. D'Albert and Théodore were already mounted
in the first court-yard, when Rosette, in a riding-habit, appeared at
the top of the steps. She had assumed with the costume, a sprightly,
resolute air that was immensely becoming to her; she leaped into the
saddle with her ordinary agility and gave her horse a smart blow with
her crop, so that he darted away like an arrow. D'Albert spurred after
her and soon overtook her. Théodore allowed them some little start,
being sure of catching them up whenever he chose. He seemed to be
waiting for something and turned back frequently toward the château.

"Théodore! Théodore! come on! are you riding a wooden horse?" cried

Théodore urged his horse to a gallop and diminished the distance
between him and Rosette, but did not join her.

He continued to look back at the château, which they were beginning
to lose sight of; a little cloud of dust, in the centre of which
something that they could not as yet distinguish was moving very
rapidly, appeared at the end of the road. In a few moments the cloud
reached Théodore's side, and, opening like the classic clouds of the
Iliad, disclosed the fresh and rosy face of the mysterious page.

"Come, Théodore, come!" cried Rosette again; "give your tortoise the
spur and join us."

Théodore gave his horse the rein, and in a second, the animal, who was
pawing and rearing impatiently, had passed D'Albert and Rosette by
several lengths.

"Who loves me follows me," said Théodore, leaping a fence four feet
high. "Well, well, _Monsieur le Poète_," he said, when he was on the
other side, "you don't jump? but they say your steed has wings."

"Faith, I prefer to ride around; I have only one head to break after
all; if I had several I would try," D'Albert replied with a smile.

"No one loves me then, as no one follows me," said Théodore, bringing
the arched corners of his mouth even lower than usual. The little page
looked up at him reproachfully with his great blue eyes, and drove his
heels into his horse's sides.

The horse gave a tremendous leap.

"Yes! some one," said the child from the other side of the fence.

Rosette cast a strange glance at the boy and blushed up to her eyes;
then, with a furious blow of the crop on the mare's neck, she leaped
the barrier of green apple wood that barred the path.

"Do you think that I don't love you, Théodore?"

The child darted an oblique, stealthy glance at her and rode up to

D'Albert was in the middle of the path--and saw nothing of all this;
for, from time immemorial, it has been the privilege of fathers,
husbands and lovers to see nothing.

"Isnabel," said Théodore, "you are mad, and so are you, Rosette! You
didn't take enough start for your jump, Isnabel, and you, Rosette,
just missed catching your dress on the posts.--You might have killed

"What difference would it make?" rejoined Rosette, in such a
melancholy, despairing tone that Isnabel forgave her for having leaped
the barrier.

They rode on for some distance and reached the crossroads where the
huntsmen and the pack were to meet them. Six arched paths, cut through
the dense forest, met at a little stone tower with six sides, on
each of which was carved the name of the road that ended there. The
trees rose so high that they seemed to be trying to spin the woolly,
fleecy clouds that a brisk breeze carried hither and thither over their
towering tops; tall, thick grass and impenetrable thickets provided
hiding-places and strongholds for the game, and the hunt promised to
be a successful one. It was a true forest of an earlier age, with
oaks more than a hundred years old, such trees as we never see, now
that we no longer plant trees and have not the patience to wait for
those that are planted to grow;--a hereditary forest, planted by
great-grandfathers for fathers, by fathers for grandsons, with paths
of enormous width, the obelisk surmounted by a ball, the rock-work
fountain, the inevitable pool, and the keepers with powdered wigs,
yellow leather breeches and sky-blue coats;--one of those dense,
dark forests in which the white, glossy coats of Wouvermans' great
horses stand out in bold relief, and the flaring mouths of the hunting
horns _à la Dampierre_ that Parrocel loves to paint on the backs of
his huntsmen.--A multitude of dogs' tails, shaped like crescents or
reaping-hooks, waved frantically about in a dusty cloud. The signal
was given, the dogs, straining at their leashes, were uncoupled, and
the hunt began.--We shall not undertake to describe with precision
the detours and doublings of the stag through the forest;--we do not
even feel sure whether it was a stag seven years old, and, despite
our investigations on that point, we have not been able to satisfy
ourselves--which is really distressing.--Nevertheless we can but think
that in such a forest, so venerable, so dark, so seignorial, there
could be none but seven-year stags, and we do not see why the one after
which the four principal characters in this romance were galloping on
horses of different colors, and _non passibus æquis_, should not have
been such a one.

The stag ran, like the true stag that he was, and some fifty dogs or
more that followed at his heels were no slight spur to his natural
swiftness of foot. The pace was so fleet that only an occasional bark
could be heard.

Théodore, being the best mounted and the best rider, kept on the heels
of the pack with incredible zeal. D'Albert was close behind him.
Rosette and the little page Isnabel followed, falling farther and
farther behind.

The interval was soon so great that they could not hope to join their

"Suppose we stop for a moment and let our horses take breath," said
Rosette. "The hunt is going toward the pond and I know a crossroad by
which we can reach there as soon as they do."

Isnabel drew in his little mountain pony, who put down his head, shook
his forelock down over his eyes and began to paw the gravel with his

The little creature presented a most striking contrast to Rosette's
mare; he was as black as night, she as white as white satin; his mane
and tail were bristly and unkempt; her mane was tied with blue ribbons
and her tail combed and curled. She looked like a unicorn, he like a

There was the same marked difference between the riders as between
their steeds.--Rosette's hair was as black as Isnabel's was fair; her
eyebrows were very clearly marked and very prominent; those of the
page were hardly darker than his skin and resembled the down on a
peach.--The coloring of the one was as brilliant and enduring as the
light at noonday; the other had the transparent blushing hue of early

"Suppose we try now to overtake the hunt?" said Isnabel; "the horses
have had time to recover their breath."

"Come on!" replied the pretty Amazon, and they galloped away through a
narrow transverse path leading to the pool; the two horses ran neck and
neck and filled the whole path.

On Isnabel's side, a gnarled and twisted tree stretched out a huge
branch like an arm, and seemed to shake its fist at the riders.--The
child did not see it.

"Look out!" cried Rosette, "lean forward on your saddle! you will be

The warning came too late; the branch struck Isnabel in the middle of
the body. The violence of the blow caused him to lose his stirrups,
and, as his horse galloped on and the branch was too stout to bend, he
was brushed from his saddle and thrown rudely back.

The child fainted on the spot.--Rosette, terribly frightened, leaped
from her horse and knelt beside the page, who gave no sign of life.

His cap had fallen off and his lovely, rippling fair hair lay spread
about over the gravel in every direction.--His little open palms looked
as if they were made of wax, they were so devoid of color. Rosette
knelt beside him and tried to restore him to consciousness.--She had
no salts or flask with her and her embarrassment was great. At last
she discovered a deep rut in which the rain-water had collected and
clarified; she dipped her fingers in it, to the great alarm of a little
toad that was the naiad of that stream, and shook a few drops on the
young page's blue-veined temples.--He did not seem to feel them, and
the pearls of water rolled down his white cheeks as a sylph's tears
roll down the leaf of a lily. Rosette, thinking that his clothes
might distress him, unbuckled his belt, unbuttoned his doublet and
opened his shirt to give his lungs freer play.--Thereupon Rosette saw
something that would have been the most agreeable of surprises to a
man, but that seemed very far from affording her any pleasure--for her
brows contracted and her upper lip trembled slightly;--she saw a snowy
white breast, which was as yet undeveloped, but which made the fairest
promises and already fulfilled many of them; a smooth and rounded
breast, as white as ivory, and in the language of the Ronsardists,
delicious to look at, more delicious to kiss.

[Illustration: Chapter VII--_Rosette, thinking that his clothes might
distress him, unbuckled his belt, unbuttoned his doublet and opened his
shirt to give his lungs freer play.--Thereupon Rosette saw something
that would have been the most agreeable of surprises to a man, but that
seemed very far from affording her any pleasure_----]

"A woman!" she exclaimed, "a woman! ah! Théodore!"

Isnabel--for we will continue to call him by that name, although it
was not his--began to show some signs of life and languidly raised
his long eyelashes; he was not wounded in any way, he was simply
stunned.--He soon sat up and, with Rosette's assistance, was able to
stand and remount his horse, which had stopped as soon as he felt that
his rider was gone.

They rode slowly to the pool, where they found the remainder of
the hunting party. Rosette in a few words told Théodore what had
happened.--He changed color several times during her recital, and
throughout the rest of the ride he kept his horse close beside

They returned to the château betimes; the day that had begun so
joyously, had a decidedly melancholy ending.

Rosette was in a meditative mood and D'Albert seemed as deeply
engrossed in his reflections. The reader will soon learn what had given
rise to them.


No, my dear Silvio, I have not forgotten you; I am not one of those
who go through life without a backward glance; my past follows me and
encroaches upon my present, and almost upon my future; your friendship
is one of the sunlit spots that stand out most clearly on the blue
horizon of my later years; often, from the peak on which I stand, I
turn to gaze upon it with a feeling of ineffable melancholy.

Oh! what lovely weather it was!--how angelically pure we were!--Our
feet hardly touched the ground, we had wings on our shoulders, as it
were, our desires carried us away and the fair halo of youth around our
foreheads trembled in the breeze of spring.

Do you remember the little island covered with poplars at the spot
where the river forms a little arm?--To reach it we had to cross
a long, very narrow plank that bent in the middle, with a strange
sensation; an excellent bridge for goats and little used, in fact,
except by them: it was a delightful spot.--Short, thick grass where
the forget-me-not opened its pretty little blue twinkling eye, a path,
as yellow as nankeen, that served as a belt for the green robe of the
islet and encircled its waist, the constantly moving shadow of aspens
and poplars, were not the least charms of that paradise;--there were
great pieces of linen that the women stretched out to whiten in the
dew;--one would have said they were square patches of snow.--And the
little dark, sun-burned girl whose great wild eyes sparkled so brightly
under her long locks, and who ran after the goats, threatening them
with her osier switch when they were on the point of walking on the
linen she was watching--do you remember her?--And the sulphur-colored
butterflies, with their irregular, hesitating flight, and the
kingfisher we tried so many times to catch, that had its nest in the
clump of alders; and the banks sloping to the river, with the steps
roughly hewn in the rock, with their posts and stakes, all green at
the bottom and almost always closed by a hedge of plants and branches?
How smooth and clear the water was! how the golden gravel glistened
at the bottom! and how pleasant it was to sit on the bank and dabble
our toes in the stream! The water-lily, with its golden flowers
unfolding gracefully, seemed like green hairs floating on the gleaming
back of some nymph in the bath.--The sky gazed at its reflection in
that mirror with azure smiles and transparent rifts of pearl-gray
of most bewitching beauty, and at every hour in the day there were
turquoise blues, golden yellows, fleecy whites and flickering shades
in inexhaustible variety.--How I loved those flocks of ducks with the
emerald necks that sailed incessantly from bank to bank and caused an
occasional wrinkle on that glassy surface!

And how well adapted we were to be the figures in that landscape!--how
attached we became to those sweet, restful scenes, and how easily we
harmonized ourselves with them! Springtime without, youth within, the
sun on the turf, a smile on the lips, snow-white blossoms on all the
bushes, fair illusions blooming in our minds, a modest flush upon our
cheeks and on the eglantine, poetry singing in our hearts, invisible
birds humming among the trees, bright light, cooing doves, perfumes, a
thousand confused murmurs, the beating of the heart, the water stirring
a pebble, a wisp of grass or a thought springing up, a drop of water
rolling down the side of a flower, a tear flowing from beneath an
eyelid, a sigh of love, the rustling of a leaf;--what evenings we have
passed there, walking slowly, so near the edge that we often had one
foot in the water and the other on land!

Alas!--that lasted a very short time, in my case at least; for you,
while acquiring the knowledge of a man, were able to retain the
innocence of a child.--The seed of corruption that was within me
developed very rapidly, and the gangrene pitilessly devoured all that
was pure and saintlike about me. The only good that remained was my
friendship for you.

I am accustomed to conceal nothing from you--neither acts nor thoughts.
I have laid bare before you the most secret fibres of my heart; however
strange, absurd, eccentric the movements of my mind, I must needs
describe them to you; but, in truth, my sensations for some time past
have been so strange that I hardly dare confess them to myself. I
told you at some time that I was afraid that by dint of seeking the
beautiful and straining every nerve to attain it, I should fall into
the impossible or the horrible.--I have almost reached that point;
when, then, shall I get clear of all these currents that cross and
recross one another and drag me to right and left; when will the deck
of my vessel cease to tremble under my feet and to be swept by the
waves of every storm? where shall I find a haven in which I can cast
anchor, and an immovable rock out of reach of the waves, whereon I can
dry myself and wring the spray from my hair?

You know how ardently I have sought physical beauty, what importance I
attach to physical form, and what affection I have conceived for the
visible world; it must be because I am too corrupt and too _blasé_
to believe in moral beauty, and to pursue it with any constancy.--I
have completely lost the power to distinguish between good and evil,
and, by force of depravity, I have almost reverted to the ignorance
of the savage and the child. In fact, nothing seems praiseworthy or
blameworthy to me, and the most extraordinary actions surprise me but
little. My conscience is a deaf mute. Adultery seems to me the most
innocent thing in the world; I find it quite natural that a girl should
prostitute her person; it seems to me that I would betray my friends
without the slightest remorse, and I should not have the slightest
scruple in kicking over a precipice people who annoyed me, if I were
walking on the brink with them.--I could witness the most atrocious
scenes with indifference, and there is something that is not unpleasant
to me in the sufferings and woes of humanity.--I have the same
sensation of acrimonious, bitter joy when some great disaster falls on
the world, that one feels when one takes revenge for an old insult.

O world, what hast thou done to me that I should hate thee so? Who has
so filled me with gall against thee? what did I expect from thee that
I should bear thee such rancor for having deceived me? what high hope
didst thou disappoint? what eaglet's wings didst thou clip?--What doors
shouldst thou have opened that have remained closed, and which of us
two has failed the other?

Nothing touches me, nothing moves me;--I no longer feel, when I hear
the story of a heroic action, the sublime shudder that used to run over
me from head to foot.--Indeed, it all seems to me a little foolish.--No
accent is deep enough to tighten the relaxed fibres of my heart and
make them vibrate:--I look upon the tears of my fellow-mortals with the
same eye that I look upon the rain, unless they are of a particularly
beautiful water and the light is reflected prettily in them and they
are flowing down a lovely cheek.--Dumb animals are almost the only
creatures for which I have a slight remnant of compassion. I would
allow a peasant or a servant to be soundly whipped, but I could not
stand by and see the same treatment inflicted on a horse or dog in my
presence; and yet I am not evil-minded, I have never injured anybody
on earth and I probably never shall; but that is due rather to my
nonchalance and my sovereign contempt for all those people whom I do
not like, which does not permit me to interest myself even to the
extent of injuring them.--I abhor the whole world in bulk, and there
are only one or two in the whole lot whom I deem worthy to be hated
specially.--To hate a person is to be as much disturbed about him as
if you loved him;--it is to set him apart, to distinguish him from
the common herd; it is to be in a state of violent excitement because
of him; it is to think of him by day and dream of him by night; it
is to bite at your pillow and gnash your teeth as you think that he
exists; what more do you do for any one you love? Would you take the
same amount of trouble to please a mistress that you take to ruin an
enemy?--I doubt it--in order to hate one person intensely, one must
be in love with some other person. Every great hatred serves as a
counterpoise to a great love: and whom could I hate, when I love nobody?

My hatred is, like my love, a confused, general sentiment that seeks to
apply itself to some object and cannot; I have within me a treasure of
hatred and love which I don't know what to do with, and which weighs
horribly upon me. If I can find no place to bestow one or the other
or both of them, I shall burst and break apart, like a bag filled too
full of money, which rips at the seams and spills its contents.--Oh!
if I could detest some one, if one of the stupid men with whom I live
would insult me in such a way as to make my old viper's blood boil in
my frozen veins, and force me out of this dull drowsiness in which I am
stagnating; if thou, old witch with the palsied head, wouldst bite me
in the cheek with thy rat's teeth and infect me with thy venom and thy
madness; if some one's death could be my life;--if the last heart-beat
of an enemy writhing under my foot could send a delicious thrill
through my hair, and the odor of his blood smell sweeter to my thirsty
nostrils than the aroma of flowers, oh! how gladly would I renounce
love, and how happy I would deem myself!

Deadly embraces, tiger-bites, the hug of a boa-constrictor, an
elephant's foot placed upon a breast that is crushed and flattened
beneath it, the poisoned tail of the scorpion, the milky juice of the
Euphorbia, the curved kris of the Javanese, blades that gleam at night
and extinguish their gleam in blood--I call upon you now, it is you who
shall replace for me the leafless roses, the moist kisses and the warm
embrace of love!

I love nothing, as I have said, but alas! I am afraid of loving
something.--It would be a hundred thousand times better to hate than
to have such a love!--I have found the type of beauty that I have so
long dreamed of.--I have found the body of my phantom; I have seen it,
it has spoken to me, I have touched its hand, it exists; it is not a
chimera. I knew that I could not be mistaken and that my presentiments
never lied.--Yes, Silvio, lam living beside the dream of my life;--my
chamber is here, its chamber is there; I can see from here the curtain
trembling at its window, and the light of its lamp. Its shadow has just
passed across the curtain: in an hour we shall sup together.

Those lovely Turkish eyelashes, that clear, profound gaze, that warm
hue of pale amber, that long glossy black hair, that nose, of proud and
delicate shape, those joints and extremities, supple and slender after
the manner of Palmegiani, the graceful curves and the pure oval contour
that give such an air of aristocratic refinement to a face--all that
I longed for and would have been overjoyed to find distributed among
five or six persons, I have found united in a single person!

The thing that I adore most fervently among all earthly things is a
lovely hand.--If you could see the hand of my dream! such perfection!
such dazzling whiteness! such soft skin! such penetrating moisture! the
ends of the fingers so admirably tapered! the half-moon of the nails
so clearly marked! such polish and such brilliant color! you would say
they were the inner petals of a rose;--Anne of Austria's hands, so
vaunted and famous, were no more than the hands of a turkey-keeper or
scullery-maid compared with these.--And then what grace, what art in
the slightest movements of the hand! how gracefully the little finger
bends and stays a little apart from its tall brothers!--The thought of
that hand drives me mad and makes my lips quiver and burn.--I close my
eyes to avoid looking at it; but with its delicate fingers it seizes my
eyelashes and raises the lids, causing countless visions of ivory and
snow to pass before me.

Ah! doubtless it is Satan's claw gloved in that satin skin; it is some
mocking demon making sport of me; there is witchcraft in it.--It is too
monstrously impossible.

That hand--I propose to go to Italy, to see the pictures of the great
masters, to study, compare, draw, become a painter in short, in order
to be able to reproduce it as it is, as I see it, as I feel it; it will
perhaps serve the purpose of ridding me of this sort of obsession.

I longed for beauty; I did not know what I asked for.--It is like
trying to look at the sun without eyelids, it is like trying to
handle flames.--I suffer horribly.--To be unable to assimilate this
perfection, to be unable to pass into it and to cause it to pass into
me, to have no means of reproducing it and of making it feel!--When
I see anything beautiful, I want to touch it with my whole self,
everywhere and at the same time. I want to sing of it and paint it, to
carve it and write of it, to be loved by it as I love it; I want what
cannot be and never can be.

Your letter made me ill--very ill--forgive me for saying it.--All the
pure, tranquil happiness that you enjoy, the walks in the reddening
woods,--the long conversations, so affectionate and tender, that end
with a chaste kiss on the forehead; the serene, isolated life; the
days that pass so quickly that night seems to come before its time,
make the constant internal agitation in which I live seem even more
tempestuous.--So you are to be married in two months; all the obstacles
are removed, you are sure now of belonging to each other forever.
Your present felicity is augmented by all the happiness in store for
you. You are happy and you are certain of being happier soon.--What a
destiny is yours!--Your beloved is beautiful, but what you have loved
in her is not the mortal, palpable beauty, material beauty, but the
invisible, immortal beauty, the beauty that does not grow old, the
beauty of the soul.--She is full of charm and innocence; she loves
you as such souls know how to love.--You never looked to see if the
golden shade of her hair resembled the golden hair painted by Rubens or
Giorgione; but it pleased you because it was her hair. I will wager,
happy lover that you are, that you have no idea whether your mistress
is of the Grecian or Asiatic type, English or Italian.--O Silvio! how
rare are the hearts that are content with pure and simple love and
desire neither a hermitage in the forest nor a garden on an island in
Lago Maggiore.

If I had the courage to tear myself away from here, I would go and pass
a month with you; perhaps I should become purified in the air that
you breathe, perhaps the shade of your avenues would bring a little
coolness to my burning brow; but no, it is a paradise in which I must
not set foot.--Hardly ought I to be allowed to gaze from afar, over
the wall, at the two fair angels who are walking there, hand in hand,
eyes fixed upon eyes. The devil can enter Eden only in the shape of a
serpent, and, dear Adam, for all the happiness on earth, I would not be
the serpent of your Eve.

What frightful upheaval has taken place in my soul of late! who has
transformed my blood and changed it to venom? O monstrous thought, that
puttest forth thy pale green twigs and umbels of hemlock in the glacial
shadow of my heart, what poisoned wind deposited there the seed from
which thou didst spring? This, then, was what was in store for me, this
is the end of all the roads that I so desperately attempted!--O fate,
how thou dost mock at me!--All those upward flights of the eagle toward
the sun, those pure flames aspiring to reach the sky, that divine
melancholy, that profound, restrained passion, that worship of beauty,
that refined and curious fancy, that unquenchable and ever-rising
flood from the interior fountain, that ecstasy borne upon wings always
spread, that reverie blooming brighter than the hawthorn in May--all
the poesy of my youth, all those beautiful and rare gifts were
destined to serve no other purpose than to place me beneath the lowest
of mankind.

I longed to love.--I went about like a madman, calling and invoking
love;--I writhed in frenzy because of my feeling of helplessness;
I set my blood on fire, I dragged my body about in the gutters of
debauchery;--I strained to my arid heart until I almost stifled her,
a woman, young and beautiful, who loved me.--I ran after the passion
that avoided me. I prostituted myself, and I acted like a virgin who
should venture into an evil place, hoping to find a lover among those
whom depravity led thither, instead of waiting patiently, in dignified,
silent retirement, until the angel whom God has set aside for me
should appear in a radiant penumbra, a heavenly flower in her hand.
All these years that I have wasted in puerile agitation, in running
hither and thither, in seeking to force nature and time, I should have
passed in silence and meditation, in trying to make myself worthy to
be loved;--that would have been wisely done;--but I had scales over
my eyes and I marched straight to the precipice. I already have one
foot suspended over the void, and I believe that I shall soon lift the
other. It is useless for me to resist, I feel that I must roll to the
bottom of this new abyss that has opened within me.

Yes, it was thus that I imagined love. I feel now what I had
dreamed.--Yes, there are the delightful yet terrible sleepless
nights when the roses were thistles and the thistles roses; there
are the sweet misery and the miserable joy, the ineffable trouble
that encompasses you in a golden cloud and makes objects waver
before your eyes as drunkenness does, the ringing in the ears in
which you always hear the last syllable of the loved one's name, the
pallor, the flushes, the sudden shivering, the burning and freezing
perspiration;--all those are there; the poets do not lie.

When I am about to enter the salon where we usually meet, my heart
beats so violently that you can see it through my clothes and I am
obliged to hold it back with both hands for fear it will escape me.--If
I see my dream at the end of a path and in the park, the distance
vanishes at once and I have no idea what becomes of the road: it must
be that the devil takes me or that I have wings.--Nothing can distract
my thoughts: if I read, her image comes between the book and my
eyes;--I mount my horse, I gallop over the country, and it always seems
to me that I feel its long hair mingling with mine in the wind, hear
its hurried respiration, and feel its warm breath upon my cheek. The
image possesses me and follows me everywhere, and I never see it more
clearly than when it is not before my eyes.

You pitied me for not being in love--pity me now because I am in love;
and above all because I love what I love. What a misfortune, what a
crushing blow upon my already blasted life!--what an insensate, guilty,
hateful passion has taken possession of me!--It is a shameful thing for
which I shall never cease to blush. It is the most deplorable of all my
aberrations, I cannot imagine it, I cannot understand it, everything
within me is in confusion and bewilderment; I have no idea who I am
nor who others are, I doubt whether I am a man or a woman, I have a
horror of myself, I feel strange, inexplicable impulses, and there are
moments when it seems to me that my reason is going, and when the idea
of my existence abandons me altogether. For a long time I have been
unable to believe in anything; I have listened to myself and watched
myself closely. I have tried to disentangle the skein that has become
entangled in my soul. At last, through all the veils in which it was
enveloped, I have discovered the ghastly truth--Silvio, I love--Oh! no,
I can never tell you--I love a man!

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mademoiselle de Maupin, Volume 1 (of 2)" ***

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