I expressed myself badly when I said to you that “one should not write from the heart.” I meant to say: not put one’s personality into the picture. I think that great art is scientific and impersonal. One should, by an effort of mind, put oneself into one’s characters and not create them after oneself. That is the method at least; a method which amounts to this: try to have a great deal of talent and even of genius if you can. How vain are all the poetic theories and criticisms!—and the nerve of the gentlemen who compose them sickens me. Oh! nothing restrains them, those boneheads!
Have you noticed that there is sometimes in the air a current of common ideas? For instance, I have just read my friend Du Camp’s new novel: Forces Perdues. It is very like what I am doing, in many ways. His book is very naive and gives an accurate idea of the men of our generation having become real fossils to the young men of today. The reaction of ’48 opened a deep chasm between the two Frances.
Bouilhet told me that you had been seriously ill at one of the recent Magny’s, although you do pretend to be a “woman of wood.” Oh! no you are not of wood, dear good great heart! “Beloved old troubadour,” would it not perhaps be opportune to rehabilitate him at the Theatre Almanzor? I can see him with his toque and his guitar and his apricot tunic howling at the black-gowned students from the top of a rock. The talk would be fine. Now, good night; I kiss you on both cheeks tenderly.
Something like a week ago someone came to my house in the morning to ask me the address of the bootmaker, my maid did not want to awaken me, and it was not until noon that I read the letter; the bearer said he came from the Hotel Helder on the rue Helder. I answered at once that Simonin lived at 15 rue Richelieu, I wrote to your mother thinking that it was she who wrote to me. I see that she did not receive my note and I don’t understand about it, but it is not my fault.
Your old Troubadour is sick as a dog again today, but it will not prevent him from going to Magny’s this evening. He could not die in better company; although he would prefer the edge of a ditch in the spring.
Everything else goes well and I leave for Nohant on Saturday. I am trying hard to push the entomological work which Maurice is publishing. It is very fine.
I am doing for him what I have never done for myself. I am writing to the newspaper men.
I shall recommend Mademoiselle Bosquet to whom I can, but that appeals to another public, and I don’t stand in as well with the literary men as I do with the scholars. But certainly Marengo the Swallow must be done and the apricot troubadour also. All that was of the Cadios of the revolution who began to be or who wanted to be something, no matter what. I am of the last comers and you others born of us, you are between the illusions of my time and the crude deception of the new times. It is quite natural that Du Camp should go parallel with you in a series of observations and ideas, that does not mean anything. There will be no resemblance.