Ah! it would have been more practical to keep Badinguet, in order to send him to the galleys once peace was made! Austria did not have a revolution after Sadowa, nor Italy after Novara, nor Russia after Sebastopol! But the good French hasten to demolish their house as soon as the chimney has caught fire.
Well, I must tell you an atrocious idea; I am afraid that the destruction of the Vendome column is sowing the seeds of a third Empire! Who knows if in twenty or in forty years, a grandson of Jerome will not be our master?
For the moment Paris is completely epileptic. A result of the congestion caused by the siege. France, on the whole, has lived for several years in an extraordinary mental state. The success of la Lanterne and Troppman have been very evident symptoms of it. That folly is the result of too great imbecility, and that imbecility comes from too much bluffing, for because of lying they had become idiotic. They had lost all notion of right and wrong, of beautiful and ugly. Recall the criticism of recent years. What difference did it make between the sublime and the ridiculous? What lack of respect; what ignorance! what a mess! “Boiled or roasted, same thing!” and at the same time, what servility for the opinion of the day, the dish of the fashion!
All was false! False realism, false army, false credit, and even false harlots. They were called “marquises,” while the great ladies called themselves familiarly “cochonnettes.” Those girls who were of the tradition of Sophie Arnould, like Lagier, roused horror. You have not seen the reverence of Saint-Victor for la Paiva. And this falseness (which is perhaps a consequence of romanticism, predominance of passion over form, and of inspiration over rule) was applied especially in the manner of judging. They extolled an actress not as an actress, but as a good mother of a family! They asked art to be moral, philosophy to be clear, vice to be decent, and science to be within the range of the people.
But this is a very long letter. When I start abusing my contemporaries, I never get through with it.
I never had a greater desire or a greater need to see you than now. I have just come from Paris and I don’t know to whom to talk. I am choking. I am overcome, or rather, absolutely disheartened.
The odor of corpses disgusts me less than the miasmas of egotism that exhale from every mouth. The sight of the ruins is as nothing in comparison with the great Parisian inanity. With a very few exceptions it seemed to me that everybody ought to be tied up.
Half the population wants to strangle the other half, and vice versa. This is clearly to be seen in the eyes of the passers-by.
And the Prussians exist no longer! People excuse them and admire them. The “reasonable people” want to be naturalized Germans. I assure you it is enough to make one despair of the human race.