I don’t think that they will play Mademoiselle La Quintinie. The censors have declared that it is a masterpiece of the most elevated and healthiest morality, but that they could not take upon themselves to authorize the performance. It will have to be taken to higher authorities, that is to say, to the minister who will send it to General Ladmirault; it is enough to make you die laughing. But I don’t agree to all that, and I prefer to keep quiet till the new administration. If the new administration is the clerical monarchy, we shall see strange things. As for me, I don’t care if they stand in my way, but how about the future of our generation?...
I notice a phrase in your last letter: “The publisher would have taste if the public had it...or if the public forced him to have it.” But that is asking the impossible. They have literary ideas, rest assured, and so have messieurs the managers of the theatre. Both insist that they are judges in that respect, and their estheticism mingling with their commercialism makes a pretty result.
According to the publishers, one’s last book is always inferior to the preceding one. May I be hung if that is not true. Why does Levy admire Ponsard and Octave Feuillet more than father Dumas and you? Levy is academic. I have made more money for him than Cuvillier-Fleury has, haven’t I? Well, draw a parallel between us two, and you will see how you will be received. You know that he did not want to sell more than 1200 copies of the Dernieres Chansons, and the 800 which were left over, are in my niece’s garret, rue de Clichy! That is very narrow of me, I agree to that; but I confess that the proceeding has simply enraged me. It seems to me that my prose might have been more respected by a man for whom I have turned a penny or two.
Why publish, in these abominable times? Is it to get money? What mockery! As if money were the recompense for work, or could be! That will be when one has destroyed speculation, till then, no! And then how measure work, how estimate the effort? The commercial value of the work remains. For that one would be obliged to suppress all intermediaries between the producer and the purchaser, and even then, that question in itself permits of no solution. For I write (I speak of an author who respects himself) not for the reader of today, but for all the readers who can present themselves as long as the language lives. My merchandise, therefore, cannot be consumed, for it is not made exclusively for my contemporaries. My service remains therefore indefinite, and in consequence, unpayable.