It was distressing, the funeral of Jules Goncourt. Theo wept buckets full.
Another grief for you, my poor old friend. I too have a great one, I mourn for Barbes, one of my religions, one of those beings who make one reconciled with humanity. As for you, you miss poor Jules [Footnote: De Goncourt.] and you pity the unhappy Edmond. You are perhaps in Paris, so as to try to console him. I have just written him, and I feel that you are struck again in your affections. What an age! Every one is dying, everything is dying, and the earth is dying also, eaten up by the sun and the wind. I don’t know where I get the courage to keep on living in the midst of these ruins. Let us love each other to the end. You write me very little, I am worried about you.
Dear good master,
Barbes’ death has saddened me because of you. We, both of us, have our mourning. What a succession of deaths during a year! I am as dazed by them as if I had been hit on the head with a stick. What troubles me (for we refer everything to ourselves), is the terrible solitude in which I live. I have no longer anyone, I mean anyone with whom to converse, “who is interested today in eloquence and style.”
Aside from you and Tourgueneff, I don’t know a living being to whom to pour out my soul about those things which I have most at heart; and you live far away from me, both of you!
However, I continue to write. I have resolved to start at my Saint-Antoine tomorrow or the day after. But to begin a protracted effort I need a certain lightness which I lack just now. I hope, however, that this extravagant work is going to get hold of me. Oh! how I would like not to think any more of my poor Moi, of my miserable carcass! It is getting on very well, my carcass. I sleep tremendously! “The coffer is good,” as the bourgeois say.
I have read lately some amazing theological things, which I have intermingled with a little of Plutarch and Spinoza. I have nothing more to say to you.
Poor Edmond de Goncourt is in Champagne at his relatives’. He has promised to come here the end of this month. I don’t think that the hope of seeing his brother again in a better world consoles him for having lost him in this one.
One juggles with empty words on this question of immortality, for the question is to know if the moi persists. The affirmative seems to me a presumption of our pride, a protest of our weakness against the eternal order. Has death perhaps no more secrets to reveal to us than life has?
What a year of evil! I feel as if I were lost in the desert, and I assure you, dear master, that I am brave, however, and that I am making prodigious efforts to be stoical. But my poor brain is enfeebled at moments. I need only one thing (and that is not given me), it is to have some kind of enthusiasm!