Poor dear friend,
I love you all the more because you are growing more unhappy. How you torment yourself, and how you disturb yourself about life! for all of which you complain, is life; it has never been better for anyone or in any time. One feels it more or less, one understands it more or less, one suffers with it more or less, and the more one is in advance of the age one lives in, the more one suffers. We pass like shadows on a background of clouds which the sun seldom pierces, and we cry ceaselessly for the sun which can do no more for us. It is for us to clear away our clouds.
You love literature too much; it will destroy you and you will not destroy the imbecility of the human race. Poor dear! imbecility, that, for my part, I do not hate, that I regard with maternal eyes: for it is a childhood and all childhood is sacred. What hatred you have devoted to it! what warfare you wage on it!
You have too much knowledge and intelligence, you forget that there is something above art: namely, wisdom, of which art at its apogee is only the expression. Wisdom comprehends all: beauty, truth, goodness, enthusiasm, in consequence. It teaches us to see outside of ourselves, something more elevated than is in ourselves, and to assimilate it little by little, through contemplation and admiration.
But I shall not succeed in changing you. I shall not even succeed in making you understand how I envisage and how I lay hold upon happiness, that is to say, the acceptation of life whatever it may be! There is one person who could change you and save you, that is father Hugo; for he has one side on which he is a great philosopher, while at the same time he is the great artist that you require and that I am not. You must see him often. I believe that he will quiet you: I have not enough tempest in me now for you to understand me. As for him, I think that he has kept his thunderbolts and that he has all the same acquired the gentleness and the compassion of age.
See him, see him often and tell him your troubles, which are great, I see that, and which turn too much to spleen. You think too much of the dead, you think that they have too soon reached their rest. They have not. They are like us, they are searching. They labor in the search.
Every one is well, and embraces you. As for me, I do not get well, but I have hopes, well or not, to keep on still so as to bring up my grandchildren, and to love you as long as I have a breath left.
I too, dear Cruchard, embrace you at the New Year, and wish that you may have a tolerable one, since you do not care to hear the myth happiness spoken of. You admire my serenity; it does not come from my depths, it comes from my necessity of thinking only of others. There is but a little time left, old age creeps on and death is pushing me by the shoulders.