Saturday, December 1, 2007

Contre Sainte-Beuve

Gustave Flaubert to George Sand

Croisset, 1866.

I a mysterious being, dear master, nonsense! I think that I am sickeningly platitudinous, and I am sometimes exceedingly bored with the bourgeois which I have under my skin. Sainte-Beuve, between ourselves, does not know me at all, no matter what he says. I even swear to you (by the smile of your grandchild) that I know few men less vicious than I am. I have dreamed much and have done very little. What deceives the superficial observer is the lack of harmony between my sentiments and my ideas. If you want my confession, I shall make it freely to you. The sense of the grotesque has restrained me from an inclination towards a disorderly life. I maintain that cynicism borders on chastity. We shall have much to say about it to each other (if your heart prompts you) the first time we see each other.

Here is the program that I propose to you. My house will be full and uncomfortable for a month. But towards the end of October or the beginning of November (after Bouilhet's play) nothing will prevent you, I hope, from returning here with me, not for a day, as you say, but for a week at least. You shall have "your little table and everything necessary for writing." Is it agreed?As for the fairy play, thanks for your kind offers of service. I shall get hold of the thing for you (it was done in collaboration with Bouilhet). But I think it is a trifle weak and I am torn between the desire of gaining a few piasters and the shame of showing such a piece of folly. I think that you are a little severe towards Brittany, not towards the Bretons who seem to me repulsive animals. A propos of Celtic archaeology, I published in L'Artiste in 1858, a rather good hoax on the shaking stones, but I have not the number here and I don't remember the month. I read, straight through, the 10 volumes of Histoire de ma vie, of which I knew about two thirds but only fragmentarily. What struck me most was the life in the convent. I have a quantity of observations to make to you which occurred to me.

-from The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters trans. by A. L. McKenzie; introduction by Stuart Sherman (London: Duckworth, 1922).

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