The fright which the elections caused to the bourgeois has been diverting.
I should have a good deal to say about the novels of M. Zola, and it would be better to say it in an article than in a letter, because there is a general question there which must be formulated with a refreshed brain. I should like to read M. Daudet’s book first, the book you spoke of to me, the title of which I cannot recall. Have the publisher send it to me collect, if he does not want to give it to me; that is very simple. On the whole, the thing that I shall not gainsay, meanwhile making a philosophical criticism of the method, is that Rougon is a strong book, as you say, and worthy of being placed in the first rank.
That does not change anything in my way of thinking, that art ought to be the search for the truth, and that truth is not the picture of evil. It ought to be the picture of good and evil. A painter who sees only one is as false as he who sees only the other. Life is not crammed with monsters only. Society is not formed of rascals and wretches only. The honest people are not the minority, since society exists in a certain order and without too many unpunished crimes. Imbeciles dominate, it is true, but there is a public conscience which weighs on them and obliges them to respect the right. Let people show up and chastise the rascals, that is good, it is even moral, but let them tell us and show us the opposite; otherwise the simple reader, who is the average reader, is discouraged, saddened, horrified, and contradicts you so as not to despair.
How are you? Tourgueneff wrote me that your last work was very remarkable: then you are not done for, as you pretend?
Your niece continues to improve, does she not? I too am better, after cramps in my stomach that made me blue, and continued with a horrible persistence. Physical suffering is a good lesson when it leaves one freedom of spirit. One learns to endure it and to conquer it. Of course one has some moments of discouragement when one throws oneself on the bed; but, for my part, I always think of what my old cure used to say to me, when he had the gout: That will pass, or I shall pass. And thereupon he would laugh, content with his joke.
My Aurore is beginning history, and she is not very well pleased with these killers of men whom they call heroes and demigods. She calls them horrid fellows.
We have a confounded spring; the earth is covered with flowers and snow, one gets numb gathering violets and anemones.
I have read the manuscript of l’Etrangere. It is not as decadent as you say. There are diamonds that sparkle brightly in this polychrome. Moreover, the decadences are transformations. The mountains in travail roar and scream, but they sing beautiful airs, also.