As for letting my personal opinion be known about the people I put on the stage: no, no, a thousand times no! I do not recognize the right to that. If the reader does not draw from a book the moral that should be found there, the reader is an imbecile or the book is false from the point of view of accuracy. For, the moment that a thing is true, it is good. Obscene books likewise are immoral only because they lack truth. Things are not “like that” in life.
And observe that I curse what they agree to call realism, although they make me one of its high priests; reconcile all that.
As for the public, its taste disgusts me more and more. Yesterday, for instance, I was present at the first night of the Prix Martin, a piece of buffoonery that, for my part, I think full of wit. Not one of the witty things in the play produced a laugh, and the denouement, which seems out of the ordinary, passed unperceived. Then to look for what can please seems to me the most chimerical of undertakings. For I defy anyone to tell me by what means one pleases. Success is a consequence and must not be an end. I have never sought it (although I desire it) and I seek it less and less.
After my little story, I shall do another,—for I am too deeply shaken to start on a great work. I had thought first of publishing Saint-Julien in a periodical, but I have given the plan up.
Ah! thank you from the bottom of my heart, dear master! You have made me pass an exquisite day, for I have read your last volume, la Tour de Percemont.—Marianne only to-day; as I had many things to finish, among others my tale of Saint-Julien, I had shut up the aforesaid volume in a drawer so as not to succumb to the temptation. As my little story was finished last night, I rushed upon your book when morning came and devoured it.
I find it perfect, two jewels! Marianne moved me deeply and two or three times I wept. I recognized myself in the character of Pierre. Certain pages seemed to me fragments of my own memoirs, supposing I had the talent to write them in such a way! How charming, poetic and true to life all that is! La Tour de Percemont pleased me extremely. But Marianne literally enchanted me. The English think as I do, for in the last number of the Athenaeum there is a very fine article about you. Did you know that? So then, for this time, I admire you completely and without the least reserve.
There you are, and I am very glad of it. You have never done anything to me that was not good; I love you tenderly!
Victor Borie is in Italy, what must I write him? Are you the man to go to find him and explain the affair to him? He is somewhere near Civita-Vecchia, very much on the go and perhaps not easy to catch up with.