I think that he is preparing for a funeral like Beranger’s, and that Hugo’s popularity makes him jealous. Why write for the papers, when one can make books, and when one is not perishing of hunger? He’s no sage, Sainte-Beuve. Not like you!
Your strength charms me and amazes me. I mean the strength of your entire being, not only that of your brain.
You speak of criticism in your last letter to me, telling me that it will soon disappear. I think, on the contrary, that it is, at most, only at its dawning. They are on a different tack from before, but nothing more. At the time of La Harpe, they were grammarians; at the time of Sainte-Beuve and of Taine, they are historians. When will they be artists, only artists, but really artists? Where do you know a criticism? Who is there who is anxious about the work in itself, in an intense way? They analyze very keenly the setting in which it was written, and the causes that produced it; but the unconscious poetic expression? Where it comes from? its composition, its style? the point of view of the author? Never.
That criticism would require great imagination and great sympathy. I mean a faculty of enthusiasm that is always ready, and then taste, a rare quality, even among the best, so much so that one does not talk about it any longer.
What irritates me every day, is to see a master-piece and a disgrace put on the same level. They exalt the little, and they lower the great, nothing is more imbecile nor more immoral.
At Pere-Lachaise I was seized with a profound and sorrowful disgust for humanity. You can not imagine the fetichism of the tombs. The real Parisian is more of an idolater than a negro is! It made me long to lie down in one of the graves.
And the progressives think that there is nothing better than to rehabilitate Robespierre! Note Hamel’s book! If the Republic returned they would bless the liberty poles out of policy and believing that measure strong.
When shall I see you? I plan to be in Paris from Easter to the end of May, This spring I shall go to see you at Nohant, I swear it.
While you are running around to get material for your novel, I am inventing all sorts of pretexts not to write mine. I let myself be distracted by guilty fancies, something I am reading fascinates me and I set myself to scribbling on paper that will be left in my desk and bring me no return. That has amused me, or rather that has compelled me, for it would be in vain for me to struggle against these caprices; they interrupt me and force me...you see that I have not the strength of mind that you think.