Tourgueneff has been in Paris since the first of December. Every week we have an engagement to read Saint-Antoine and to dine together. But something always prevents and we never meet. I am harassed more than ever by life and am disgusted with everything, which does not prevent me from being in better health than ever. Explain that to me.
You must not be sick, you must not be a grumbler, my dear old troubadour. You must cough, blow your nose, get well, say that France is mad, humanity silly, and that we are crude animals; and you must love yourself, your kind, and your friends above all. I have some very sad hours. I look at my flowers, these two little ones who are always smiling, their charming mother and my wise hardworking son whom the end of the world will find hunting, cataloguing, doing his daily task, and gay withal as Punch, in the rare moments when he is resting.
He said to me this morning: “Tell Flaubert to come, I will take a vacation at once. I will play the marionettes for him, I will make him laugh.”
Life in a crowd forbids reflection. You are too much alone. Come quickly to our house and let us love you.
I did not know about all that affair at Rouen and I now understand your anger. But you are too angry, that is to say too good, and too good for them. With a bitter and vindictive man these louts would be less spiteful and less bold. You have always called them brutes, you and Bouilhet, now they are avenging themselves on the dead and on the living. Ah! well, it is indeed that and nothing else.
Yesterday I was preaching the calmness of disdain to you. I see that this is not the moment, but you are not wicked, strong men are not cruel! With a bad mob at their heels, these fine men of Rouen would not have dared what they have dared!
I have the Chansons, tomorrow I shall read your preface, from beginning to end.
I embrace you.
You will receive very soon: Dernieres Chansons, Aisse and my Lettre au Conseil municipal de Rouen, which is to appear tomorrow in le Temps before appearing as a pamphlet.
I have forgotten to tell you something, dear master. I have used your name. I have compromised you in citing you among the illustrious people who have subscribed to the monument for Bouilhet. I found that it looked well in the sentence. An effect of style being a sacred thing with me, don’t disavow it.
Today I am starting again my metaphysical readings for Saint-Antoine. Next Saturday, I shall read a hundred and thirty pages of it, all that is finished, to Tourgueneff. Why won’t you be there!