I am worried at not having had news from you for a long time. Are you at Croisset? You must have been in Paris for the funeral of this poor friend. What cruel and repeated separations! I am angry with you for becoming savage and discontented with life. It seems to me that you regard happiness too much as a possible thing, and that the absence of happiness which is our chronic state, angers you and astonishes you too much. You shun friends, you plunge into work, and reckon ass lost the time you might employ in loving or in being loved. Why didn’t you come to us with Madame Viardot and Tourgueneff? You like them, you admire them, you know that you are adored here, and you run away to be alone. Well, how about getting married? Being alone is odious, it is deadly, and it is cruel also for those who love you. All your letters are unhappy and grip my heart. Haven’t you any woman whom you love or by whom you would be loved with pleasure? Take her to live with you. Isn’t there anywhere a little urchin whose father you can believe you are? Bring him up. Make yourself his slave, forget yourself in him.
What do I know? To live in oneself is bad. There is intellectual pleasure only in the possibility of returning to it when one has been out for a long time; but to live always in this Moi which is the most tyrannical, the most exacting, the most fantastic of companions, no, one must not.—I beg you, listen to me! You are shutting up an exuberant nature in a jail, you are making out of a tender and indulgent heart, a deliberate misanthrope,—and you will not make a success of it. In short, I am worried about you, and I am saying perhaps some foolishness to you; but we live in cruel times and we must not undergo them with curses. We must rise above them with pity. That’s it! I love you, write to me.
I shall not go to Paris until after a month’s time to put on Mademoiselle La Quintinie. Where shall you be?
You have guessed rightly, dear master, that I had an increase of sorrow, and you have written me a very tender, good letter, thanks; I embrace you even more warmly than usual.
Although expected, the death of poor Theo has distressed me. He is the last of my intimates to go. He closes the list. Whom shall I see now when I go to Paris? With whom shall I talk of what interests me? I know some thinkers (at least people who are called so), but an artist, where is there any? For my part, I tell you he died from the “putrescence of modern times.” That is his word, and he repeated it to me this winter several times: “I am dying of the Commune,” etc.
The 4th of September has inaugurated an order of things in which people like him have nothing more in the world to do. One must not demand apples of orange trees. Artisans in luxury are useless in a society dominated by plebeians. How I regret him! He and Bouilhet have left an absolute void in me, and nothing can take their place. Besides he was always so good, and no matter what they say, so simple. People will recognize later (if they ever return seriously to literature), that he was a great poet. Meanwhile he is an absolutely unknown author. So indeed is Pierre Corneille.