Politics is a comedy just now. We have had tragedy, shall we end with the opera or with the operetta? I read my paper conscientiously every morning; but aside from that moment, it is impossible for me to think of it or to be interested in it. All of it is absolutely void of any ideal whatsoever, and therefore I cannot get up any interest in any of the persons concerned in that scullery. All of them are slaves of fact because they have been born slaves of themselves.
My dear little girls are well. Aurore is a well-set-up girl, a beautiful upright soul in a strong body. The other one is grace and sweetness. I am always an assiduous and a patient teacher, and very little time is left to me to write professionally, seeing that I cannot keep awake after midnight and that I want to spend all my evening with my family; but this lack of time stimulates me and makes me find a true pleasure in digging away; it is like a forbidden fruit that I taste in secret.
All my dear world embraces you and rejoices to hear that you are better. Did I send you Flamarande and the pictures of my little girls? If not, send me a line, and I send you both.
Your old troubadour who loves you,
Embrace your charming niece for me. What a good and lovely letter she wrote me! Tell her that I beg her to take care of herself and to please get well quickly.
What do you mean! Littre a senator? It is impossible to believe it when one knows what the Chamber is. All the same it must be congratulated for this attempt at self-respect.
Your good letter of the 18th, so maternally tender, has made me reflect a great deal. I have reread it ten times, and I shall confess to you that I am not sure that I understand it. Briefly, what do you want me to do? Make your instructions exact.
I am constantly doing all that I can to enlarge my brain, and I work in the sincerity of my heart. The rest does not depend on me.
I do not enjoy making “desolation,” believe me, but I cannot change my eyes! As for my “lack of convictions,” alas! I choke with convictions. I am bursting with anger and restrained indignation. But according to the ideal of art that I have, I think that the artist should not manifest anything of his own feelings, and that the artist should not appear any more in his work than God in nature. The man is nothing, the work is everything! This method, perhaps mistakenly conceived, is not easy to follow. And for me, at least, it is a sort of permanent sacrifice that I am making to good taste. It would be agreeable to me to say what I think and to relieve Mister Gustave Flaubert by words, but of what importance is the said gentleman?
I think as you do, dear master, that art is not merely criticism and satire; moreover, I have never tried to do intentionally the one nor the other. I have always tried to go into the soul of things and to stick to the greatest generalities, and I have purposely turned aside from the accidental and the dramatic. No monsters and no heroes!