Will you forgive my long delay, dear master? But I think that I must bore you with my eternal jeremiads. I repeat myself like a dotard! I am becoming too stupid! I am boring everybody. In short, your Cruchard has become an intolerable old codger, because he has been intolerant. And as I cannot do anything that I ought to do, I must, out of consideration for others, spare them the overflow of my bile.
For the last six months, especially, I don’t know what has been the trouble with me, but I feel dreadfully ill, without being able to get to the root of the matter, and I know many people are in the same condition. Why? Perhaps we are suffering from the illness of France; here in Paris, where her heart beats, people feel better than at her extremities, in the provinces.
I assure you that every one now is suffering with some incomprehensible trouble. Our friend Renan is one of the most desperate, and Prince Napoleon feels exactly the way he does. But they have strong nerves. But, as for me, I am attacked by a well defined melancholia. I should be resigned to it, and I am not.
I work all the more, so as not to think about myself. But since I have undertaken a book that has absurd difficulties in its execution, the feeling of my powerlessness adds to my chagrin.
Don’t tell me again that imbecility is sacred like childhood, for imbecility contains no germ. Let me believe that the dead do not “search any more,” and that they are at rest. We are sufficiently tormented on earth to be at rest when we are beneath it! Ah! How I envy you, how I long to have your serenity! To say nothing of the rest! and your two dear little girls, whom I embrace as tenderly as I do—you.
You are distressed, you are discouraged, you distress me too. That is all right, I would rather have you complain than keep silent, dear friend. And I don’t want you to stop writing to me.
I also have great and frequent sorrows. My old friends are dying before I do. One of the dearest, the one who brought up Maurice and whom I was expecting to help me to bring up my grandchildren, has just died, almost in an instant. That is a deep sorrow. Life is a succession of blows at one’s heart. But duty is there: we must go on and do our tasks without saddening those who suffer with us.
I ask you absolutely to will, and not to be indifferent to the griefs which we are sharing with you. Tell us that calm has come and that the horizon has cleared.
We love you, sad or gay.
Give us news of yourself.