I feel in the vein for work, and this notwithstanding that I have left the enthusiasm of youth far behind me. I write with a calmness which astonishes me. Let us hope that the work will not suffer therefrom. Coldness generally implies mediocrity.
You [Flaubert] must not forget, moreover, that men are measured according to the measure they have given of themselves, and you are bearing the burden of your past.
My publisher keeps circling round me like an eagle, screaming for something.
Madame Sand’s death has been a great, great grief to me…. There was no public upon which Madame Sand had more influence than the Russian public, and of course I ought to have said so!… What a heart of gold she had! What an entire absence there was in her of anything small, mean, or false. What a good fellow she was, and what a delightful woman!
Well, now I am going to astonish you ! Never in my life have I worked as I’ve been working here. I spend sleepless nights, bent double over my writing-table. I’m once more filled with the illusion that I can say, not exactly something different from what has ever been said before that I don’t care about but that I can say it differently.
Thank you for having made me read Tolstoi’s novel (La Guerre et la Paix). It belongs to the very first rank. What a word-painter and what a psychologist! The two first volumes are sublime, but the third goes off terribly. He repeats himself, and he philosophises! In a word, one realises the man himself, the author and the Russian, while till then one had realised nothing but nature and humanity. Occasionally it seems to me there are things worthy of Shakespeare. I kept uttering cries of admiration as I read it,… and it’s long. Yes, it’s great, really great.
Oh, this literature that smells of the lamp! The principal quality of Tolstoi’s work is precisely that it breathes of life itself.
I am working here like a galley-slave. I go up to bed at 2 o’clock, and to sleep at 3. I get up at 9 in the daytime.
At all events, if you want to publish a series of articles in the Gaulois upon great foreign writers an idea which meets with my entire approbation, and for which I put myself entirely at your disposal in the matter of getting information, etc. I must beg you to let me take my proper place and pass in my proper turn.
Begin, for instance, in the case of Russia, by Push-kin and Gogol; in that of England, by Dickens; in that of Germany, by Goethe, at whom Barbey d’Aurevilly has, stupidly been throwing mud just lately; and then, if you find it takes, you can pass on to the dii minorum gentium.
I cannot disguise from you, however, that on principle and as a general rule I am against any sort of adaptation of novels for the stage, and especially in this particular case, Roudine being a psychological study.