Lot n° 69
3000 - 4000
Result with fees
: 3 295EUR
FLAUBERT Gustave (1821-1880).
L.A.S. "your G.", Sunday evening ["December 18, 1853" in Louise Colet's hand], to Louise COLET; 4 pages in-4, envelope.
Long letter of advice to her Muse on her poems, and on the Crocodile Victor Hugo.
I have a thousand apologies to make to you, poor dear Muse. [...] When I say apologies, they are rather explanations. I do not despise in any way The Maid. Who put that in your head? On the contrary! If I had judged the thing to be bad, I would have told you so, as I did with your Princess, with your comedy The Teacher. - But no! You never understand the half-tones. I think, like you, that you have perhaps never written more beautiful verses and in greater quantity in the same work; but - and here the reticence begins.
First of all, I am not grateful to you for writing beautiful verses. You lay them like a hen lays eggs, without being aware of it. - (It's in your nature, it's the good Lord who made you like that) - Remember once again that the pearls don't make the necklace - it's the thread, and it's because I had admired a transcendent thread in the Peasant Woman, that I was shocked not to see it so clearly in the Handmaid. You .../...
had been, in The Maid, Shakespearean, impersonal. - Here, you felt a little bit the man you wanted to paint [Alfred de MUSSET]. The lyricism, the fantasy, the individuality, the bias, the passions of the author are too much twisted around your subject. That is younger, & if there is an incontestable superiority of form - superb pieces, the whole will never be worth the other (?) because the Peasant girl was imagined, that it is a subject of you - & by imagining one reproduces the generality, whereas by attaching oneself to a true fact, it comes out of your work only something contingent, relative, restricted. You object that you did not want to do didactics. Who speaks to you of didactics. - Yes! it was necessary to make the Handmaid! now, it is too late, and besides, it does not matter. Once the title is put aside, it will be a very beautiful and moving work. - But prune everything that is not necessary to the very idea of your subject. For example, why your great artist, at the end, who comes to talk to Mariette? What's the point of this character who is completely useless in the drama, and very colorless by himself? Take care of the dialogues and especially avoid saying vulgar things. - it is necessary that all the verses are verses. Continuity constitutes the style, as Constancy makes Virtue. - To go upstream, to be a good swimmer, one must lie on the same line from the occiput to the heel. - One gathers oneself like a toad & one spreads out on all its surface, in measure, of all the members, head low and clenching the teeth. The idea must do the same through the words. - & not to splutter, by typing on the right and on the left, which does not advance to anything - & tires.
But how could you judge me so narrow-minded as to disregard the value of the Handmaid?"...
Then he comes to the "Crocodile" [Victor HUGO] and to Sainte-Beuve accusing Louise of lacking delicacy: "These are things that one must take advantage of, or rather exploit for the benefit of one's own work; let us therefore be restrained, chaste, without forbidding ourselves anything in terms of intention. But let's watch our words. You, you let yourself go a little too much in these matters and you put there a candor which can pass for impudence (I speak in general, witness: "It is the last love, etc."). In this tale of the Handmaid, there is nothing but impurity, debauchery, courtesans! Forbid yourself all that in the future. Your work will gain, first of all. - And then you will have more readers, and less critics. These subjects trouble you. I would like you to be forbidden to speak about them, and I wait to admire you unreservedly until you have written us a tale, where there is no question of love. - an in-sexual, in-passionate work. Meditate well on your Religieuse. & especially no love and no declamation against priests or religion. Your heroine must be mediocre. What I reproach to Mariette, it is that she is a superior woman.
As for publishing, I don't agree with you. It serves. What do we know if there is not at this time, in some corner of the Pyrenees or of Lower Brittany, a poor person who understands us? We publish for unknown friends. The printing press has only this beauty. It is a wider spillway, an instrument of sympathy that will strike at a distance. As for publishing now, I don't know. To launch at the same time the Handmaid & the Nun, would be perhaps more imposing, as mass & contrast. No! I don't have a sepulchral detachment, because I was pleased to hear about your little bookstore successes. - I am not very detached from you, poor Muse! I would like to see you rich, happy, recognized, celebrated, envied! But I want above all to see you Great. C
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