I have had a good many compliments in my life, in the time when people were interested in literature. I have always dreaded them when they came to me from unknown people; they made me doubt myself too much. I have made enough money to be rich. If I am not, it is because I did not care to be; I have enough with what Levy makes for me. What I should prefer, would be to abandon myself entirely to botany, it would be for me a Paradise on earth. But it must not be, that would be useful only to myself, and, if chagrin is good for anything it is for keeping us from egoism, one must not curse nor scorn life. One must not use it up voluntarily; you are enamoured of justice, begin by being just to yourself, you owe it to yourself to conserve and to develop yourself.
Listen to me; I love you tenderly, I think of you every day and on every occasion: when working I think of you. I have gained certain intellectual benefits which you deserve more than I do, and of which you ought to make a longer use. Consider too, that my spirit is often near to yours, and that it wishes you a long life and a fertile inspiration in true joys.
You promise to come; that is a joy and a feast day for my heart, and in my family.
Your old troubadour
Dear good master,
Don’t take seriously the exaggerations about my ire. Don’t believe that I am counting “on posterity, to avenge me for the indifference of my contemporaries.” I meant to say only this: if one does not address the crowd, it is right that the crowd should not pay one. It is political economy. But, I maintain that a work of art (worthy of that name and conscientiously done) is beyond appraisal, has no commercial value, cannot be paid for. Conclusion: if the artist has no income, he must starve! They think that the writer, because he no longer receives a pension from the great, is very much freer, and nobler. All his social nobility now consists in being the equal of a grocer. What progress! As for me, you say to me “Let us be logical”; but that’s just the difficulty.
I am not sure at all of writing good things, nor that the book of which I am dreaming now can be well done, which does not prevent me from undertaking it. I think that the idea of it is original, nothing more. And then, as I hope to spit into it the gall that is choking me, that is to say, to emit some truths, I hope by this means to purge myself, and to be henceforward more Olympian, a quality that I lack entirely. Ah! how I should like to admire myself!
Mourning once more: I headed the procession at the burial of father Pouchet last Monday. That gentle fellow’s life was very beautiful, and I mourned him.
I enter today upon my fifty-second year, and I insist on embracing you today: I do it affectionately, since you love me so well.