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The Vinedresser and Other Poems, 1899 

Aphrodite against Artemis, 1901 

Absalom, 1903 

DanaS, 1903 

The Little School, 1905 

Poems, 1906 

The Centaur and the Bacchant, 1899 

From the French by Uaurtce de GuMn 
Altdorfer, 1900 
Ddrer, 1904 
Correggio, 1906 






First Published in igio 

Goethe . . . behauptete . . . alle Philosofhie musse geliebt und 
gelebt werden. 

Goethe . . . maintained . , , that all philosophies must be loved 
and lived. 

Goethe aus naherm personlichen umgange dargestellt. 
Ein nach gelassenes Werk von Johannes Falk, p. 79 


MAN but doubtfully forecasts his own per- 
fection and only defines its character in 
so far as he achieves it : therefore success is the 
true criterion. It follows that the number of 
suffrages is indifferent, their quality all-important ; 
so that he who first arrives may alone be able 
to recognise that fact. 

"Be natural" will then convey two opposite 
meanings: "Complete your development," or "Rest 
content as you were." So soon as simplicity and 
ease have been acquired it is time, by attacking 
new difficulties, to become laboured and artificial 
once more; forjjnly new can preserve us from 
the tyranny of dead hxbUi, only ripgr inheritJhe^ 
generosity of raw -passioiisr Every capacity has 
been unnatural and singular once; perhaps virtues 
remain so, since progress is always unwelcome 
to those who hope things need not change. The 



methods of a master must be factitious and 
experimental, his purposes unaccommodating. 

This book seeks to trace the above general 
conception through art's relations with science 
and morals : it contends both against those who 
believe that poetry arises "naturally out of life, 
as tree, flower and fruit spring from the soil," 
and those who hold that art, like instruction, 
should be addressed to the improvement of 

Within the writer's horizon Flaqbert and Blake 
seemed the most strongly characterised instances 
of men conceiving of art as an ideal life : he 
therefore uses them as illustrations ; and, since 
the French writer is ill-known amongst us as an 
individual, an author, and as a theme of con- 
troversy, sets out with a brief review of his life, 
his work, and the criticism to which both have 
been subjected. 



INTRODUCTION ....... vii 

GusTAVE Flaubert ...... i 

Critics, Man and Work . . 19 

The Critics and the Man 21 

The Critics and the Woi'k .... 27 

Madame Bovary 30 

Salammbo . . . -35 
■'Education sentimentale . . .41 

La Tentation de saint Antoine . 47 

Les Trois contes ..... 52 

Bouvard et Pecuchet • • • 55 

A Fairy Drama . . . . 62 

Samples ..... .67 

Impersonal Art ... • . 77 

Reality and the Ideal . . .131 

William Blake and his ./Esthetic ... 193 
Visionary Art . ... 217 

Prospects ....... 243 

Art and Science ..... 245 

Art's Social Status 250 

Epilogue .... -255 



Appendices . . ■ • • .263 

I. Maxime du Camp . • .265 

II. "Was he Intelligent?" . . . ■ 266 

III. "WasheWarm-Hearted?" • 27° 

IV. The Word Romantic . . . • 274 
V. Contradictions over Madame Bovary 275 

VI. „ „ Salammbo . . ■ 277 

VII. „ „ L' Education sentimentale . 282 

VIII. „ „ La Tentation de saint Antoine 285 

IX. „ „ Bouvard et Pecuchet 290 

X. Dramatic and Posthumous Works . 295 

XI. Contradictions over Impersonal Art . 299 

XII. The Double Genitive, &c. . ■ 302 

XIII. Parallels between Claude Bernard and G. Flaubert 

in regard to the Experimental Method . 304 

Index ....••■ 309 

The author is indebted to the Editor of the Quarterly Review 
for leave to reprint parts of an article on William Blake which 
appeared in January igo8, and to the Editor of the New Quarterly 
for leave to reprint the substance of Flaubert and Some Critics from 
the numbers for October 1908 and April 1909. 

His thanks are also due to Dr. J. H. W. Laing and Miss A. H. 
Moore for valuable assistance in correcting proofs, 


From the Monument by H. Ckapu, at Rouen 



Engraved on Wood, after the cotonr-printed original 




Macbeth, Act I. sc. vii. Colour Printed 










From the frint in the Whitworth Institute, Manchester, which 
Blake, on Us deathbed, coloured for Frederick Tatham 

The author's thanks are due to Messrs. Macmillan & Co. for 
No. 2, which is from their edition of Gilchrist's Life of Blake; 
for permission to reproduce Nos. 3, 4, and 5, to Mr. Graham 
Robertson ; No. 6, to The Trustees of the British Museum ; 
No. 7, to Miss Carthew ; and to Mr. A. G. B. Russell for much 
kind assistance in compiling this list. 


The youngest {readers] say that I'Education sentimentale has 
saddened them. They do not recognise themselves in it ; they have 
not yet lived, but hug illusions and say : " Why does this man, so 
good, so gay, so single, so sympathetic, wish to discourage us in 
regard to life?" 

They reason badly in saying this ; but since the thought is instinc- 
tive perhaps it should be considered. 

George Sand to Gustave Flaubekt, January 9, 1870 


A BIG man, he had been a beautiful child. An 
Apollo, for years as welcome as the sunlight, 
in consternation at terrible nervous seizures he 
collected himself ; then grew bald and heavy stoop- 
ing over a large round table, always blotting what 
he had written because he saw how to better it, 
prompt to believe that something he did not know 
would improve an inspiration, never shrinking from 
any effort which could give his love of rhythmic 
speech confidence that it was justly used. n[n~Hiin 
the social delicacy of introspective and affectionate 
natures, the enthusiastic timidity of a recluse, 
inherited boisterous frankness and the love of 

Nobody was more unworldly, more hearty, or 
more easily irritated. His senses were extremely 
refined, his appetites disordinate, his life sober and 
monotonous, and his home a seventeenth-century 
mansion with an ungainly Empire facade ; the 


heavy and dark furniture had slowly accumulated ; 
but the woodwork was painted white, and Flaubert 
loved large and semi-Oriental chintz patterns for 
his curtains. 

Summer-through the ample dressing-gown in 
which he worked was boldly figured with gay 
flowers on a light ground, but in winter brown, 
like a Franciscan habit. 

Every night he soared into the realm of vision 
and nice adjustments. From time to time he made 
excursions into the world, like some grand moth 
offended by the ^rish day, but full of rapid energy 
and determination to iind what he sought. 

His father, eminent in his profession, was sur- 
geon-in^-chifif at the hospital of Rouen. Gustave, 
nine yeairs younger than his brother, three years 
older than his sister, was dreamy, and so trustful 
that an old servant could bid him '*Go into the 
kitchen and see if I am there." Coming to the 
cook, the child of six would say, " Pierre sent me 
to see if he is here," and would stare at the laugh 
he provoked, as though half-divining some mystery. 

Subdued and suffering forms could be seen 
pacing to and fro from the garden where he and 
his sister played. Sometimes the children would 
clamber up to the laboratory window and watch 
the dissectors, while flies disturbed from feasting on 


a corpse buzzed round their flaxen polls. Presently 
their father would raise his head and bid them be off. 

Where is the use of learning your letters when 
opposite the hospital gates lives an old gentleman 
who is ever willing to read to his little friend ? But 
when at nine years old Gustave realised that 'pere 
Mignot " could not go to school with him, the art 
was rapidly mastered. His correspondence began 
forthwith, being from the outset concerned with 
acting and authorship. A billiard-table formed the 
stage on which the children and their friends per- 
formed little pieces written or adapted by them- 

Gustave hated school-life regulated by beat of 
drum, and could never feel like one of a herd. 

To vanquish the fear of darkness he roamed 
stealthily about at night ; and many half-holidays 
were spent walking round the coping-stones of a 
church tower until no vestige of dizziness remained. 
He had several chums, but Alfred Le Poittevin, 
slightly his senior, alone knew his whole mind. 
Precocious adepts in the romantic literature of the 
period, they went on to brave the summits and 
abysses of speculative .thought. They read much 
and well : Alfred was strong at metaphysics, Gus- 
tave in history. Measured by this first friend, 
Flaubert later found the most intelligent men of 
the epoch wanting, and considered whatever he 


was worth mainly due to this inspiring influence. 
They were, besides, the centre of a group of insa- 
tiable laughers ; jests lived for years, especially-" le 
gargon," a character which any one might assume 
to ridicule the world as the Philistine sees it, with 
certainty of Homeric success. 

When fifteen, by the seaside at Trouville, Gustave 
fell hopelessly in love with the wife of a gallant 
musical publisher who, unsuspicious as the lady 
herself, confided to his young friend his many 
successes with sirens of less distinction. This 
experience led him to meditate suicide — a then 
fashionable study. 

Out of bravado he next allowed a housemaid to 
make (as the phrase will have it) a man of him; 
in his own words, to fill him with disgust and 
bitterness. Possibly at this period a habit of sur- 
passing the vicious in immodesty of language was 
formed — cynicism which occasionally may have 
passed into action in order to astonish them. 
Voltaire had been read, the human race despaired 
of, and, in imitation of Byron a^ Rabelais, a^ 
determination formed to injure lit^by laughing in 
its face. At nineteen, having written les Memoires 
d'unfou, he started for Paris to waste time study- 
ing law, a profession chosen for him by his father. 
The first holiday was spent in Corsica ; at Marseilles, 
on the way out, a lady from Lima made him very 


happy. After this his letters refer to such absorp- 
tion over the development of imagination as left 
him. for three years unconscious of being a male. 
Plucked at the examination, after returning home 
he had the first of those terrible seizures so much 
debated on by doctors. 

The sufferer himself attributed them to intem- 
perate exercitation of his visionary faculty, resulting 
in its passing beyond control ; and thought that by 
bringing^physical relief to the inward fermentation 
of emotional and sensuous illusions which he had 
provoked, they left his head cooler and did him 
good. By the time he was somewhat recovered his 
sister married, and the whole family accompanied 
her on the honeymoon as far as Genoa, where, 
before a Flemish picture, la Tentation de saint 
Antoine was first thought of. The bride and 
bridegroom sailed for Naples ; he with his parents 
returned to their new country home at Croisset. 
Before seven months were run his father died ; 
before the full year his sister, with whom he had 
kmaintained jnHmacy, followed, leaving a baby-girl. 
A few weeks later Alfred Le Poittevin took a wife, 
and within a couple of years he too was dead, as 
it seemed to Gustave for a second time. While 
plunged in desolation just after his friend's marriage, 
he had met a poetess, renowned for beauty, 
lauded by literary Paris. She, turning from the 


endearments of a celebrated philosbpher;^, mistook 
Flaubert for the coming "lion, and, resolute as 
Cleopatra, netted her Caesar. The first blaze of 
exultation subsiding, his probity accepted the 
responsibilities of an adventuress's paramour. 
Happily Mme. Louise Colet lacked the fortitude 
to outlast his self-imposed noviciate, and ere the 
time his first book appeared had shattered their 
stormy communion. The de Goncourts were 
surprised to find Flaubert speak of her without 
bitterness ; while to F^ix Frank he said, "What a 
strange woman 1 She was always charging me with 
infidelity, whereas it was she who was unfaithful." 

Equally unfortunate was his choice of a friend 
to replace Alfred Le Poittevin. Maxime Du Camp,' 
like the lady, enchanted Flaubert by a prodigal 
facility of emotional energy ;, but, like the lady, 
deplored the steadfastness with which he neglected 
to make way in the world. 

The fits became more frequent. Swimming and 
canoeing, Gustave's two favourite pastimes, had to 
be renounced in deference to maternal anxiety, and 
a promise given not to venture far by himself. 
With Maxime he made a tour through Brittany, 
and the account of it, over which they collaborated, 
was the first work Flaubert wrote with difficulty. 
Rather later he was ordered south ; but before start- 
■ See Appendix I. p. 265. 


ing a first version of la Tentation de saint Antoin& 
was read to Du Camp' and Bouilhet^ — a young 
medical student with poetical ambition and finan- 
cial difficulties. Mme. Flaubert, listening outside 
the door in the, early hours of the morning,, over- 
heard the discouragement loyally accorded to her 
son by his two friends, and never forgave them. 
From Bouilhet's advice on this occasion sprang the 
design of Madame Bovary. 

During eighteen months the two friends voyaged 
in a "cange" up the Nile, and on camel-back under 
the desert sun ; they bathed in the Red Sea, explored 
Palestine, Lebanon, and Rhodes, coursed over crisp 
snow on the Asian shore of the Bosphprus, battled 
with rain and sleet when lost at night on Cythaeron, 
visited excavated Pompeii and the museums of 
Rome in the dancing spring. Gustave bid Jarewell 
to his nervous disorder, and to all illusion about a 
companion whose enthusiasms needed galvanising 
by hopes of worldly success, while Maxime found 
his friend over-persistent in jest and earnest. 

Apollo's looks and tresses gone, but with health 
refound, mature in thought and habit, Flaubert 
buried himself in the country, to comfort his 
mother, teach his little niece, make a brother of 
Bouilhet, renew correspondence with Louise 
Colet, and write Madame Bovary, Working far 
into the night, he never failed on his way bedward 


to bend over a pillow which the "Bonsoir, mon 
Gustave," murmured in response to his filial kiss, 
did not disturb' but composed to deeper sleep. 
He rose late ; before his bell sounded, the house- 
hold crept on tiptoe. After breakfast he taught the 
child geography and history, but above all how to 
give consequence to attention and memory. His 
gaiety yearned for that of those near him, whom 
in his free hours he delighted in amusing. 

Sudden fame resulted from the publication and 
prosecution of his novel. Henceforth the winter 
months were spent at Paris, Flaubert and his 
mother taking separate apartments in the same 
house. New friends were won — Jules Duplan, 
Charles d'Osmoy, and Ernesti Feydeau. Besides, 
his correspondence is enriched with letters to 
literary ladies, a nucleus of les dames de la des- 
illusion, that " seraglio of a more or less religious, . 
moral, and aesthetic character" which, as Goethe 
said, "tends to collect round a man of any im- 

Once his notes for SalammbS had been collected, 
he spent a month exploring the site of Carthage; 
five years later its publication matured his prestige. 
Soon after he joined the fortnightly dinners at 
Magny's, which brought together Sainte-Beuve, 
Gautier, the de Goncourts, Renan, Taine, &c., and 


frequented the salon of la princesse Mathilde, 
Napoleon III.'s blue-stocking sister, round whom 
a similar group centred. George Sand now becomes 
his correspondent ; for her was sketched one of his 
huge jests, the life of the reverend father Cruchard 
des Bamabites, directeur des dames de la desillusion. 
This caricature of Flaubert's relations to distin- 
guished ladies flourished till her death, though in 
the hour of need it was rather she who played the 
part of ghostly counsellor, but then it was he whom 
bereavements and loss of fortune overcharged in a 
period of public calamities. 

Caroline Homard, who had found more than a 
father in her uncle, in 1864 married the young master 
of some steam sawmills, M. Commanville. 

L'Education sentimentale appeared on the eve of 
the Franco-Prussian War. Before hostilities com- 
menced the deaths of Sainte-Beuve, Jules de Gon- 
court, Jules Duplan, and Louis Bouilhet followed 
one another. Lieutenant in the Garde Nationale, 
Flaubert took command of a patrol, while his 
medical studies enabled him to serve as wound- 
dresser at the hospital round which he had played 
as a child, and where his brother had succeeded 
their father. 

The cultivated enemy billeted at Croisset re- 
spected his home and Ubrary, but the spectacle of 
"men who understood Sanscrit" riding about 


giving "orders stupid through sheer brutality" 
revolted him ; and oh I the smell of their boots ! 

The invasion was followed by the still more 
humiliating Commune. Immediately after this 
Flaubert had to fight in the theatres for the fair 
treatment of dramas left by Bouilhet, and against 
the municipality of Rouen over a fountain memorial 
of him. 

La Tentation de saint Antoine, entirely re- written 
after Madame Bovary, but put aside" for fear of 
provoking a second prosecution, had, amid his dis- 
couragements, been once more taken up by the 
harassed and overwrought master. In spite of 
renewed seizures of his malady this beautiful poem 
was finished in 1872, a few months after the death 
of his mother had left him lonely at Croisset. 
Courage to publish failed him, and, though he 
yielded to the persuasions of Tourgueneff, a new 
and dear friend, his comedy, "le Candidat," had 
been written, played, and withdrawn before the 
book appeared. 

His health grew worse. Bouvard et Pecuchet 
demanded more buoyancy than he could muster. 
Mme. Commanville's husband failed in business, 
and her uncle gave up the major part of his fortune 
to pull him through. George Sand,, he owned, 
restored his desolation to self-respect in those 
dark days. 


In Brittany, at Concarneau, Hotel Sergettt, to fee 
near his friend G. Poudiet, the naturalist, he com- 
menced les Trois contes by way of recreation. Alas 1 
MM Cceur simple, designed especially to please George 
Sand, was not finished before she died. 

While often weeping for her, Bouilhet, and 
Gautier, friends never to be matched again, Flaubert 
could still draw abundant amusement from an 
invention df long standing. On the quaj?s he 
had once come across an old engraving of the 
bewildered St. Polyc^-p holding both hands to 
heaven, and inscribed, " My God, my God, on what 
times hast Thou cast my life 1 " He pretended to 
see in it his own efifi^ and a proof of pre-existence. 
Though indignation against the "imbeciles in 
pnesent power" and the widespread stupidity 
which maintained their incompetence was abun- 
dantly justified, he thoroughly appreciated the 
wild and delightfully ludicrous gestures it aroused 
in his tumiiltuous physique. The feast of St. 
Polycarp was kept by some ladies and gentlemen 
of Rouen whom he frequented. Anticipation 
prevented steady work for a fortnight before 
it came round, and of the "gay and original 
inventions," toasts, &c., with which it was cele- 
brated he kept a dossier labelled " the remedy for 

Dread of losing both Croisset and independence 


long weighed on his spirits ; promises of State aid 
were made and broken. Two years before the end, 
however, he received a sinecure worth £Ti20 per 
annum — money which he arranged to have repaid 
after his death. The 8th of May, 1880, having 
just come from his morning bath, he was found 
on the vast divan of his work-room, unable to 
articulate, and never spoke again. 

An attack of epilepsy was bruited by certain 
friends, but the doctor who had been called 
expressly declared that there were no such symp- 
toms, and attributed death to apoplexy. Flaubert 
had been in exceptionally good health, and for seven 
years free from nervous seizures. He was dead, 
but silly notions about him lived on, and, sanctioned 
by those who should and might have known better, 
are repeated even to-^day. Described as incapable 
of enjoyment, because he could regretfully reflect 
that there had been more elements claiming appre- 
ciation in any given happy moment than he had 
actually been conscious of, this soul of exceptional 
response both to pleasure and pain has been pitied 
by mediocrities. 

Perfect and adored as a son, as a brother, as an 
uncle, as a friend, as a master, he had cherished 
piety ; in hard winters his gate was thronged by the 
poor— eighty were fed at one time on the eve of 
the war. Every Watch-night he marched at the 


head of his household to the midnight Mass. His 
freedom of thought felt no need to trouble those 
who could not share it. Both simple and cultured 
were delighted by his extravagances in dress, 
gesture, and speech, and won by his childlike whole- 
heartedness. Ingrainedly he answered to the nick- 
name given him by fellow-students at Paris, and was 
" le vieux seigneur." 

Cordial friendship, both for the lady whom he 
had loved at fifteen and her husband, began at 
Trouville, matured at Paris, and did not die away 
when, after 1850, they settled in Germany, while 
his letters prove that he would gladly have shared 
with her children and grandchildren the care of her 
decline when she became a widow. Nor was this 
an exception : all friends from whom life had 
separated him were as sure of welcome as those 
with whom habitual commerce had strengthened 
affection. His hatreds were no less persistent — for 
the journalist who, to debauch the present, neglects 
past and future, for the professor who makes much 
of mediocrities and belittles the great, for the con- 
servative who preserves nothing, for the radical who 
respects nothing, for the bourgeois whose home and 
immediate interests distort or banish ideals, while 
they overload and abuse the civic state. Peculiar 
hideousness suffuses these lives. He preferred 
even wastrel initiative and passion to that sordid 


prudence ; the vulgarities of adventurers in thought 
and art seemed venial compared with such sedulous 
warming of purblind meanness. The blaze of his 
indignation once and again frightened a few 
worldlings into performing some obvious duty 
"which they had decided to neglect, but as a rule he 
explained his aloofness by shouting — 

" Honours dishonour, 

"Titles degrade, 

"A function deadens." 

Retired life alone made work regardless of expense 
in effort possible ; his avowed ambition was " to live 
like the middle classes but to think like a demi-god." 

This exuberant vitality had once more been at 
full power, when, by an accident, in a moment, it 
was ended. Five large windows opened from that 
room which such splendid visions had filled, where 
such heroic discontent with what was good had so 
often created perfection. Maytime leaf and flower 
framed the vast landscape : on the left a shrub- 
clad cliff which rose behind the house, then the 
many steeples of Rouen, and, facing them across 
the river, the chimneys of its factories ; in front, 
meadows dotted with red and white cattle ; while to 
the right a forest on a long sweep of hill closed the 
horizon. The calm, wide Seine, full of islands 


tufted with trees, curved across the broad valley, 
coining close so that the sails of hidden boats, 
like white clouds, drifted behind the great tulip-tree 
in the garden which, Flaubert loved to think, had 
been paced both by Pascal and the Abbe Pr6vost, 
their eyes soothed by so much that his own 


In La Harpe's day the grammarian judged, in Sainte-Beuve's and 
Taine's the historian. When will it be the artist, nothing but the 
artist, the thorough artist f Where is there a critic who is intensely 
preoccupied by the work as such f They analyse very delicately the 
circumstances in which it was produced and the causes which led 
up to it ; but the unconscious aesthetic, whence it is drawn f the 
composition ? the style f the author's point of view f Never. 

Great imagination would be needed for such criticism, and great 
goodness, I mean a faculty for enthusiasm always alert ; and then 
taste, a rare quality, even among the best endowed, so much so that 
it is no longer spoken of. 

What rouses my indignation every day is to see a masterpiece and 
a turpitude ranked side by side. Little talents are cried up, great 
talents disparaged; nothing could be more stupid, nor more immoral. 



MEN disagree about the gods. There is often 
something unaccountable, mysterious, out 
of reach, connected with subjects on which the 
intelligent contradict one another. French critics 
unanimously allew Flaubert's work, or at least part 
of it, to be all but perfect. Yet few such simple 
questions have so divided them as : Was he intelli- 
gent ? Was he warm-hearted ? ^ The Creator of 
the universe stands in the like case. Dante, Shake- 
speare, Goethe — how passionately the value of their 
thought has been denied ; again, how absolutely 
forgotten behind lifeless praise ! I will cojifess 
that the controversy over his books has been so 
drastic as to clench for me a foregone surmise that 
Flaubert participated in the nature -©f^ divine m^n 
and insoluble problem^. Those who claim to have 
found some quality are more easily credited than 
' See Appendices II. and III. pp. 266-273. 


those who assert it not to exist where it should 
presumably have been. The excellence of Madame 
Bovary, recognised by those who deny this author 
intelligence, creates such a presumption, and in 
1903 M. Ren6 Dumesnii wrote — 

"The fashion even was to pretend that he was 
incapable of metaphysical speculation. We have, on 
the other hand, shown the inanity of such a supposition 
— above all damaging to those who dared to formulate 
it, for it is easier to deny that a writer has any 
philosophy, than to refute that philosophy."' 

Alas ! he was too hopeful, for in 1905 M. Emile 
Lauvrifere produced the blackest Flaubert yet 
sketched : the " tainted " " victim " of a " maniac 
hatred " and a " murderous passion " ; while, if 
he avoided the word "unintelligent," he left us a 
"poor used-up writer whose noble but narrow 
ambition never believed in anything save the 
virtue of phrases." ^ 

Flaubert himself had recognised the difficulties 
he was creating. 

" People have a ready-made opihion about me 
which nothing will root up (it is true, I take no trouble 
to undeceive them), namely : that I possess no kind of 
feeling, that I make a joke of everything, that I am a 

' Rene Domesnil, Flmihert, p. 297. 

= Emile Lauvriere, Salamtnbo, Oxford Higher French Series, 
pp. xlii, xxxvii. 


loose liver (a kind of romantic Paul de Kock), some- 
thing between the Bohemian and the Pedant. There 
are even some who pretend I look like a drunkard, 
&c., &c. 

" Nevertheless, I believe myself neither a hypocrite 
nor a poser. No matter, folk always get hold of 
wrong notions about me. Whose fault is it? Mine, 
no doubt."' 

This half-baked legend waxed and flourished for 
twenty years after those lines were written. The 
publication of Flaubert's correspondence checked 
but failed to dissipate it. 

As Barbey d'Aurevilly had said, " It seemed 
repugnant to man's nature " for an author neither 
to relieve his feelings, expound his philosophy, 
demonstrate a psychology, promote political or 
class interests, nor even artlessly to betray unusual 
sensibility, refinement, wit, brilliancy, distinction 
while narrating. True, the best stories had not 
been so serviceable. 

A survival of this heartburning plagues a few 
even to-day. Yet M. Hennequin could draw from 
comparatively limited information a more generous 
conception : — 

" Towards the end, Flaubert's pessimism was pene- 
trated with sweetness. . . . The writer appears to pity 

' Lettre it Mile. Amilie Bosquet, cited by Felix Frank, whhout 
date, but between 1859 and 1869. 


the ills he reveals, and perhaps we ought to believe 
that .on the eve of old age Flaubert felt that it was not 
fitting to separate the cause of great men from that of 
the herd, who, victims as surely as they are torturers, 
doubtless bear their part in the sufferings which they 
help to embitter." ' 

Fine intuition though that reveals, there is to-day 
something strange in so delicate a critic's finding 
the author of Madame Bovary inconsiderate of 
humble lives. The homage paid to them in, 
Elizabeth Leroux had several times been under- 
lined even then ; but not only when he can 
sympathise is Flaubert just. Had he not far more 
respect even for the pilloried chemist than his 
critics have shared with him ? Homais embodies 
a vice which cankers all mankind, but he is rich 
in the very quality which Flaubert considered his 
own work deficient in — easy fellowship (bonhomie). 

" I divine in Flaubert a kind of speculative affection 
for those beings who represent everybody, who are 
barely responsible, who, with a great deal of egoism, 
have some kindliness, who work and are tasked Uke 
ourselves . . . ," says M. Jules Lemaitre, who had 
enjoyed personal contact with Flaubert ; and later on 
he cries, " Ah ! what great pity can Hve by all that is 
impUed in renouncing expression of particular pities 1"* 

» JEmile Hennequin, Quelques i0vains fmnfais, pp. 31, 32, 1890. 
" Jules Lemaitre, Les Contemporains, Serie vi. pp. 246, 248, 1896. 


Though driven by the amusingly low estimate 
which he had formed of Flauberfs intelligence 
to suppose Madame Bovary literally a miracle pro- 
duced without the aid of secondary causes, like 
wisdom out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, 
even M. France had seen enough of Flaubert to 
affirm that he was good and incapable of lying, 
and adds — 

" At the bottom I believe that Flaubert was not so 
unhappy as it strikes us he was. At least he was a 
pessimist full of enthusiasm for a part of human and 
natural things. Shakespeare and the East threw him 
into ecstasy. Far from pit3dng him, I pronounce him 
happy : his was the good part in the things of this 
world ; he knew how to admire." ' 

One who, reading Flaubert's books, had been 
deluded in the common way, confesses : 

" As soon as you became intimate with him you made 
the most surprising, the most touching of discoveries. 
. . . You found a heart of gold with a good man's 
thrills of generosity and the caressing tenderness of 
a young girl. This worn sceptic had the adorable 
candour of a child, and he who had been thought of 
as an indifferent egoist revealed himself in daily life as 
capable of the noblest self-sacrifice, the most amiable 

' Anatole France, La Vie litteraire, Serie ii. pp. 22, 23, 1887. 


virtues . . . under the most startling audacities [of 
language] a timid soul was divined."' 

Ready enough to acclaim genius when it appears 
theatrically, men will try hard to justify their neglect 
when honours have been avoided and the judgment 
of those who obviously cannot know contemned. 
In explanation of the reluctance shown in admitting 
Flaubert's mental reach let me adapt Browning's 
image : a little water, as a sphere of glass is turned, 
can visit the whole inner surface, yet air fills the 
vessel and holds thrice that weight of water resolved 
in itself. So discursive intelligences run over ideas 
with which a finer mind is in constant relation, the 
first watched by all, the second rarely noticed. 

Those who have never been there will hardly 
believe that the July sun tells equally on lofty 
snow-fields and in the dust of the valley road; 
similar was the reluctance to credit an author, 
whose work had been kept so pure, so bright, so 
keen, so high above the world, with experience 
of such stress as that which compels the humblest 
cry of affection. 

' Auguste Sabatier, journal de Geneve, Mai i6, 1880. 



FLAUBERT'S (Euvres Completes runs to eight 
volumes ; in each of them save the last some 
reputable critic has found the masterpiece. The 
name of those for whom Madame Bovary (vol. i.) 
occupies this position is legion. Salammbo (vol. ii.) 
is so acclaimed by George Sand and H. M. Stanley 
the explorer ; I'Education sentimentale (vols. iii. and 
iv.) by Zola and Pierre Gauthiez ; la Tentation de 
saint Antoine (vol. v.) by Emile Hennequin, R. L. 
Stevenson, and Professor Saintsbury; les Trots contes 
(vol. vi.) by Renan and Maupassant ; Bouvard et 
Pecuchet (vol. vii.) by Remy de Gourmont and 
J. C. Tarver (author of Gusfave Flaubert as seen in 
his Work and Correspondence, 1895). 

Several prize equally highly two or three of these 
works ; for some la Tentation and Bouvard et 
Pecuchet are complementary parts of one master- 
piece. 1 have known ardent admirers who pre- 
ferred his Correspondance to any of his books, and 


M. Auguste Sabatieri would seem to lend them 
his countenance. Such great diversity of opinion 
about an artist's best is a very rare distinction. 
Evidently the nature of his subjects divides his 
admirers, for they are unanimous on the quality 
of his workmanship. Listen to the chorus. 

" Care for precision, love of colour, hunger for light, 
are everywhere felt in his work. That is something, it 
is much. Take care, press me but a little and I shall 
say, it is everything." ' 

" One of the greatest European artists in the second 
half of the century, and perhaps the most accomplished 
writer of French prose in our whole literature."3 

" It is his . . . to have written the most i beautiful 
prose works extant in French." 4 

" The perfect writer." s 

" He sought immortal workmanship, while others 
only seek one that will wear. They are honest folk; 
he was a saint."* 

" The greatest, purest, most complete of our literary 

" See Appendix X. p. 207. 

' Edmund Scherer, Etudes sur la litUrature contemporaine, 
Serie iv. p. 301, 1870. 

3 Maurice Spronck, Les Artistes litUraires, p. 297, 1889. 

* Emile Hennequin, Quelques dcrivains franfais, p. 68, 1890. 

5 Anatole France, Hdrodias: Compositions de G. Rochegrosse. 
Preface par A. F., p. xxvii, 1892. 

Antoine Albalat, I'Art d'icrire : Ouvriers et procidh, p. 248, 

7 Paul Bourget, Taylorian Lecture at Oxford, 1897. 


" Flaubert, in all his works and on every page of his 
works, may be considered as a model of style." ' 

It is amusing to watch the aesthetic anarchy of 
to-day, especially at a distance. From one country 
it is quite clear that the .critics of another hardly 
ever try to see the work they judge for its own 
sake, but mainly as it may be used to illustrate 
principles to which they adhere or against which 
they animadvert. So eager are some to further 
" the party behind which they throw their weight," 
or hinder that "against which the forces of the 
future must tell," that they very rarely do see what 
their eyes so passionately devour. 

Readers who refer to the Appendices will find that 
I have tried to give the date of each pronounce- 
ment. For, though since his death Flaubert's 
work has steadily risen in the esteem of all who 
love beauty, a reaction came to its head in the 
early nineties, being caused by the extravagances 
of some who passed for his followers. Can any 
one doubt, besides, that the author of masterpieces 
like I'Histoire comique, le Mannequin d'osier, and 
les Opinions de M. Jerome Coignard would reprove 
some expressions and assertions made in la Vie 
litt'eraire f Perhaps he would not allow that 
Flaubert's reputation is outstripping even that of 

' Emile Faguet, Flaubert, p. 149, 1889. 


Renan, yet were he now thirty years younger he 
might e^en do that : in any case he must agree that 
the distance between that master's work and even 
the best produced by men like de Goncourt, Zola, 
Daudet, and Maupassant, has yawned into a gulf, 
consisting, as it does, in breadth and maturity of 
significance, as well as in perfection of execution. 
While we smile to distinguish the different points 
made in this Battle of Books, we may certainly 
admire the equipment and dash of many of the 


The hazards of adultery have as pre-eminent 
attraction for French readers as equally high stakes 
on raw virginity's elections have for English. Not 
only had Madame Bovary lovers, hut Napoleon the 
Third's Government advertised her intrigues by a 
prosecution which it lost. For once a work of art 
inherited the glamour and stir of a scandal : it has 
been the better studied, but judgments on it are the 
more open to suspicion. On the other hand, this 
book was written while Flaubert was still young, 
and several incidents in la Tentation which date 
from the same period are well-nigh as universally 
admired. There is a seduction about Shakespeare's 
and Milton's earlier work which even their grandest 


creations may be felt to lack. Had Keats gone on 
to produce greater things, they would probably 
have grown poorer in just those qualities which 
most intoxicate his devotees. Adultery being for 
French novels as stale a theme as the idyll of im^ 
pulse is in English fiction, the interest needed a 
new import. 

" Have you noticed how that book is one of those 
which mark a date not only in a literature, but in the 
moral history of a nation, because they put an end to 
certain influences which have long been paramount, 
and in ending them change the optical and hygienic 
conditions of the public standpoint? For the fals e 
ideal brought into fashion by the romantic school and" 
forme dangerous sentimentality which resulted from it, 
Mndn ^ t ^ g Bovgry wzs verv really what Don Quixote h ad 
been for the chivalrous mania when it, in Spain, had 
lasted too long, or again what Moliere's les Precieuses 
ridicules and les Femmes savantes had been for the 
influence of the Hotel Rambouillet. . . . Jjist_aa-Cer- 
vantes gav e its death-blow to the chivalrous man ia 
\^th the very weapons of chivalry, so with the very 

ruiiie3"{ffe TdlSe'raearwKchTr hadlBfoiigKl info"'Ber5g; 
dr awing on resOT irces created by the imagi nation, he 
pamted'the^vicesand errors of iniagination." ^ 

' See Appendix IV. p. 274. 
Emile Montegut, Le Roman en 1876, " Dramaturgies et 
romanciers," p, 262. 


All later critics have either acknowledged or be- 
trayed their indebtedness to that. 

Yet to Arnold,' as to Sainte-Beuve, it seemed 
unheard of that a novelist should trust you to pity 
one whose helplessness, folly, and ruin he had 
shown, instead of specially pleading for his chosen 
/sinner. It never occurred to them how much 
finer a thing it is to^ recognise events in their true 
proportions at sight than only after the school- 
master's pointer has traced them over. 

George Sand justly exclaimed, "They say his [the 
author's] indignation is not felt. What matter, if 
he rouses yours ? " Arnold thought Flaubert had 
not seen what he showed, had not felt what he 
inspired: or would he imply that Emma's vices 
should have been veiled in order to set off her un- 
happy fate ? But it is not only the virtuous who, 
naked, suffer and fail, the vicious also are crucified 
on either hand. We are too apt to see only one 
cross where there are three, and thus brush its 
divine bloom from that humanity which gives them 

Baudelaire must have felt the beauty of Flaubert's 
book, but his review is indolent and ironical.^ He 
teases Flaubert about his pet theory, and, bowing 
to intellectual ladies who are complacently sure of 
having taken the highest places, suggests that they 
' See Appendix V. p. 275. ' See Appendix V. p. 276. 


may be called on to make room for others. Per- 
haps he sincerely regarded Emma as too fine to be 
true, since she owns not only her creator's visionary 
habit, but "imagination," "sudden energy in action, 
rapidity of decision," and "the inordinate love of 
winning others over and dominating them " which 
he shared with all great men. And thinking of her 
soul's native complexion we might well agree : but 
inborn qualities must succeed before they are fully 
possessed, and Emma is ruined partly by inclement 
circumstances, chiefly through inability to study 
what lay immediately under her nose. She had 
none of Flaubert's aptitude for taking boundless 
pains and thereby correcting and directing ambition. 
Common judgments depend on narrow associa- 
tions. An item of police news attracts many as 
offal will^ies : in other minds it becomes a nucleus 
for Pharisaical prejudice, and can only, so cloaked 
be thought of and remembered. Interests take 
fresh import when felt in relation to new pre- 
occupations. For the first time Flaubert raised 
this French interest in adultery to the realm of con- 
templation, and produced its " unalterable beauty." 
Elevation and refinement distinguish the book; to 
lay stress on its realism is like dwelling on the the- 
ology of Paradise Lost. The sciences, the Russian 
steppes, spice islands, old wars, mummied kings, 
and Scythian idols provide images: nor in this 


expectation of a highly-cultured reader have we 
its only affinity to that great poem. With what 
success Flaubert laboured to give his prose a 
rhythm as lovely and vital as that of poetry is 
known. Yet another bond between Milton and 
this French novelist is the lack of a general sense 
of easy fellowship, by which both are less happy 
than Shakespeare and La Fontaine. Their work 
bears such an impress of strain perhaps because 
they could expect, and indeed found, little imme- 
diate comprehension. If Madame Bovary shaped 
history, as M, Mont^gut thought, or could appal 
Stevenson ^ by raising ghosts of Calvinistic moods/ 
these effects of its rare integrity occasioned by the 
needs of others are of little moment to us ; for in 
the harmony of its proportions and the unfailing 
music of its periods lives " the splendour of truth, 
beauty."? Yes, beauty, "resignation with the 
world as it is," and " an immense compassion, that 
which is born from science applied to life, silently 
disengage themselves from Flaubert's novel," 3 
mused on and re-read. 

' See Appendix V. p. 275. 

' Plato, cited in Corresfondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. p. 80. 

3 Jules Lemaitre, Les Contemporains, Serie vi. p. 287. 



We have been told on excellent authority that 
ancient Carthage is, and can be, nothing to us, and 
that Flaubert chose it wisely since we are not pre- 
possessed in respect to it : that his novel instructs 
too much to amuse,' and that it does not instruct 
at all, for— 

" Wishing to paint Punic civilisation, be painted any- 
thing but that ; we have the right to say then that his 
novel, having missed its mark, loses all interest." = 

These egregious sentiments possibly proceed from 
a mind better prepared to treat problems of archae- 
ology than of art. It may be that Flaubert, recon- 
structing Carthage, was misled both by what he 
knew and did not know ; for knowledge can hardly 
be said to extend beyond an extremely meagre list 
of monuments and texts of difficult interpretation, 
and his intention was to produce a vivid epic 
picture. He says that he consciously , invented 
details,3 and admitted chronological improbabilities.4 
His picture was to be tjrpical and to correspond to 
a vague idea 5 that existed in men's minds, and this 

' See Appendix VI. pp. 277-281. 
° M. Pezard, Mercure de France, Fevrier 16, 1908. 
3 * ^ Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. pp. 212, 251, 248, 
249, and 153. 


he wished to transform as hachisch enhances recol- 
lections.i From the unnoted marriage of facts in 
the outskirts of attention, that idea had been born : 
he traced it to its sources, and developed them by 
logic and imagination, so as to arrest his contem- 
poraries by revealing the implication of their 
" henid " ^ perceptions in a magnificent picture. He 
who silenced the archceologists of his own day 
might make short work of M. P6zard, even though 
recently acquired knowledge ' may tend to discoun- 
tenance some of his suppositions. 

When the nineteenth century dreamed of the 
past, portions appeared as ineffable idylls, others as 
reaping the harvest of universal aspirations, but 
not a few like nightmares. To-day thought tends 
to reduce these peculiarities. The embryo of 
Flaubert's vision existed in other minds, as that of 
the inferno among the Florentines. M. P6zard 
asks, " Have not the greatest masterpieces sprung 
from observation of actual life ? " Salammbd as 

■ Journal des Goncouri, tome i. p. 307. 

- Sex and Character, by Otto Weininger, p. 99. " I propose for 
jpsychical data at this earliest stage of their existence the word 
Henid from the Greek iv, because in them it is impossible to dis- 
tinguish perception and sensation. ... A common example . . . 
may . . . illustrate what a ' henid ' is. I may have a definite wish 
to say something in particular, and then something distracts me, 
and the 'it' I wanted to say is gone. Later on . . . the 'it' is quite 
suddenly reproduced, and I know at once that it was what was on 
my tongue, but [I know it], so to speak, in a more perfect stage of 


certainly did as Michael Angelo's Last Judgment 
or as Goethe's Faust; but in them observation of 
life is transformed and organised by an intense 
creative imagination. 

'^Salammbo, like the Iliad, is only a continual car- 
nage full of descriptive repetitions . . . Sainte-Beuve 
did not understand that Homer, despoiled of the 
translator's modifications, has in the original the same 
violence, the same brutality, as Flaubert. . . . M. 
Taine, who is both critic and artist, showed more 
perspicacity when he wrote in his Voyage en Italie : ' 
' Homer forgets pain, danger, and dramatic effect, he 
is so taken up with colour and form. Flaubert and 
Gautier, who are considered singular innovators, write 
to-day exactly similar descriptions.' And M. Taine adds 
profoundly, ' The ancients need artists for commenta- 
tors. Till now they have only had closet-scholars.' " " 

While, according to M. Anatole France, Flaubert 
unphilosophically preferred barbarous antiquity to 
his own day, M. Paul Bourget deems that he held 
both periods in equal contempt.3 

A taste for rich colour and generous profusion 
is good ground for the preference of stupidity in 
caftan and balloon trousers to stupidity in a health- 
officer's frock-coat. M. France must have lived in 
a great many ages to be so sure that vulgarity was 

' Tome I", p. 132. 

" Antoine Albalat, Le Mai d'Ecrire, p. 134, 1895. 

3 See Appendix VI. p. 281. 


as oppressive in Athens 430 B.C. as it is in London 
to-day. But Flaubert agrees, and calls " the times 
of Pericles and of Shakespeare atrocious epochs 
in which beautiful things were made,"' indicating 
the nature of his preference. Two equally offensive 
civilisations may yet yield very dissimilar harvests 
for the eye of an artist ; in the one his sense might 
be full fed, in the other starved. The Parthenon 
may be superior to the Orleans railway station, 
even though the men who condemned Socrates 
were no better than those who condemned Dreyfus. 
So when they choose a beautiful background for 
their dreams, the wise often seek far into the past. 
Swinburne found in a drawing by Michael Angelo 
"such a mystic marriage as that painted in the 
loveliest passage of Salammbo, between the maiden 
body and the scaly coils of the serpent."^ Experi- 
ences differ ; M. Faguet cannot believe a reader 
to be honest who pretends that he has "read 
SalammbS without quitting it several times for a 
pretty long rest ; " 3 whereas some years back, 
frequently suffering from toothache, I found it the 
only book which could hold my attention in spite 
of the pain ; while Professor Saintsbury well-nigh 
bridges this gulf : — 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iv. p. 75. 
= A. C. Swinburne, Notes on Designs of the Old Masters at 
Florence, 1864. Essays and Studies, p. 321, i87Si 
3 Emile Faguet, Flaubert, p. 46, 1899. 


"I have mentioned my own impression in first 
reading Salammbo — how I wondered at the lack of 
interest (as it then seemed to me) which distinguished it, 
although at the same time I found it impossible to drop 
or skip it, and how years afterwards I read it again, 
and then it no longer seemed to me to lack interest, 
and I was no longer in doubt as to what had made me 
read it through at first almost against my will." ' 

George Sand wrote : Flaubert's literary form 

"is as beautiful, as striking, as concise, as grandiose" 
in SalammbS " as in no matter what verse in any 
language on earth. His imagination is as fecund, his 
pictures are as terrible as Dante's : his inward anger is 
as intentionally cold : in order not to fard the horror of 
his vision, he no more spares the onlooker's dehcacy."^ 

M. Louis Bertrand, who to-day knows the north 
of Africa well, claims that this book, while owning 

"the purely ideal life of great works of art, is also 
animated by the wholly actual and almost contemporary 
Ufe which the novel of to-day strives to arrest. . . . 
The old Semitic spirit of Carthage, always live in spite 
of revolutions, has once again triumphed — and that 
with the same characteristics of guile, cupidity, cruelty, 
fanaticism, and, at times, furious madness. The 
mercenary barbarians troop thither, more numerous 
than ever, from all the Mediterranean countries, with 

' G. E. B. Saintsbury, Essays on French Novelists, p. 374, 1891. 
" Questions dart et de Uttirature, p. 308, 1863. 


the same lust of lucre and domination as in the days of 
the inexpiable War." ' 

Foreign and antique life repel many, attract but 
few. Only the adventurous seek Beauty so far, or 
those who count her worthy any toil — who forget 
pain like Homer, lifted above it by delight in colour 
and form. Yet who can say that either he or 
Flaubert really forgot others' anguish, save when 
the sufferers themselves forget in the heat of battle ? 

" I would give the demi-ream of notes which I have 
written in these last five months, and the ninety-eight 
volumes which I have read, to be for the space of three 
seconds really moved by the passion of my heroes." 
" Since literature exists never was such a mad enterprise 
undertaken 1 . . . Shape folk speech out of a language 
in which they did not thjnk ! Nothing is known of 
Carthage. ... No matter, it must correspond to a 
certain vague idea which there is about it. If I croak 
under the task, that will be a death at least. And I 
am convinced good books are not made in this fashion.. 
This_ will not be . a good book. _^q,_ mat ter \—If 
through it great things are dreamed about," ' 

After it was finished he confessed that the 
pedestal was too big for the statue ; SalammbS 
should have been personally as engrossing as 
Madame Bovary. 

' Revue de Paris, Avril i", 1900, pp. 617, 623. 

" Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. pp. 103, 153. 


Esmeralda, Quasimodo, Claude Frollo, Phoebus ; 
Salammbo, Matho, Schahabarim, Nar Harvas. 

Though little resemblance obtains between these 
individuals, are not the interrelations between either 
set akin ? Victor Hugo's genius was not merely 
"verbal," and Flaubert owed more to him than 
seems to be recognised. He believed human 
relations to be most beautiful when they were both 
general and intense, pushed to an extreme and 
simple. Such his master had evoked. And if the 
pattern he had well-nigh worshipped was here 
shadowed, he was no doubt as unconscious of the 
fact as his critics have proved since. The note of 
Gringoire chimes in the one harmony somewhat 
as that of Spendius does in the other, and the 
muttering bass of crowds and vagabonds tells 
similarly to that of mercenaries and nomad peoples. 
Flaubert retained from Hugo, whom he sifted as 
searchingly as he admired him loyally, the large 
sense of harmonies woven from interplay of things 
base and hideous, but as beautiful and even more 
rare than the choicest single profile, bird, flower, 
shell, or play of light. 


M. Hennequin speaks of " the high and difficult 
import" of Flaubert's books ; no wonder, then, if the 


careless reading of other critics has created enigmas 
in I'Education sentiiHentale, and its hero's love been 
described as saved by renunciation and wasted by 

In the scene referred to, the transference of 
Fr6d6ric, the hero's ideal of himself, to Mme. 
Arnoux, the heroine, is finally completed ; and he 
feels how further familiarity must murder in her 
what had been slowly done to death in himself. 
Flaubert is exquisitely just. Mme. Arnoux and 
Dussardier take away that ideal of himself which 
Fr^d6ric had conceived but never realised, and 
they alone had provided the climate which his soul 
needed, they alone had sacrificed their immediate 
interest to their more generous conceptions. He 
bids farewell to himself and her with open eyes, 
knowing hers to be sealed. His repression of a 
momentary return of " raging lust " is made easier by 
his dislike of "embarrassments" and " dread of being 
tired of her later on." Her gratitude is doubled 
by the refusal of what it had felt bound to offer, and 
makes the hero of his sometime dream her abiding 
possession ; this sense of what he seems to her 
softens resignation with what he is, his last flicker of 
abnegation being thus rewarded, while her whole 
life's effort inherits what he might have been. The 
crown of virtue is always better than recognition of 
' See Appendix VII. p. 284. 


an isolated fact. A complementary foil to experi- 
ence, the vision of what might have been and may 
in other cases be, counterbalances the actual failure, 
and in simple hearts often altogether supplants 
perception of it. 

M. Lemaitre has excellently cleared up what to 
several had seemed enigmatic in Fr6d6ric and 
Deslaurier's agreement that the boyish glamour of 
their bootless visit to " La Turque " 

" ' is perhaps the best we have known of life ' ; best 
because only the dream of it was theirs, and that dream 
was the first. A recollection so melancholy, that it 
ceases to be impure ; a judgment so big, in its wilful 
baseness, with unexpressed considerations, that its cyni- 
cism is no longer felt, but only its terrible sadness." ' 

They first sought love in advantage taken of 
others' vice, and all their after plans have the same 
defect. Parasites, they think to profit by the 
ambient corruption rather than by their own merit. 
Not that Flaubert shows worldly success justly 
allotted ; undeservers obtain it and it proves trash 
in their hands, nor is it true that the two friends are 
" abject " 2 and ignoble.3 Fr6d6ric is unusually 
friendly, generous, open-minded, and amiable : 

■ Jules Lem^tre, Les Contemporains, Serie vi, p. 253, 1896. 
' Henry James, Critical Introduction to "Madame Bovary," 
p. XX, igoi. 
3 F. Brunetiere, Le Roman naturaliste, p. 192, 1880. 


Deslauriers has a rare energy and perseverance; 
that one is limp and the other blunt and indelicate 
does not prevent those qualities being real. Youth 
gives them beauty for a time, and we feel their 
loneliness in a crowd made up of themselves, of 
which they truly represent the pick. Better 
educated, better surrounded, they would have 
shown creditably. Carefully avoiding "the really 
furnished, the finely civilised consciousness"^ 
because it is exceptional, dependent on peculiar gift 
and therefore inexplicable, a subject for speculation 
and admiration only, Flaubert chose characters ill- 
furnished and half civilised, which being general 
may be portrayed with universally recognised 
impulses and motives. Art of a lyrical and exces- 
sive nature, like iEschylean and Shakespearean 
tragedy or the farce of Aristophanes and Rabelais, 
can employ extremes which are inconvenient else- 
where, and above all not typical of the modern 
world he had set himself to describe. Sentimental 
writers conveniently isolate chosen characters, but 
these are shown mingled in the woof of history, the 
personal incidents glinting amid numbers of others 
as rare and pregnant. 

" For not only is I'Education sentimentale the story of 
two youths very particularised as individuals, and very 

• Henry James, See Appendix VII. p. 283. 


general as types, since they represent, one the romantic 
and the other the positivist young man, and that at the 
precise moment when the period of positivism was with 
us about to succeed to the period of romanticism ; and 
not only is this story combined with a study of ideas 
and of manners in the last years of Louis Philippe's 
reign : I'Education sentimentale is something more : a 
history of the picturesque, moral, social, and political 
aspects of the revolution of 1848 ; it profoundly portrays 
the barricades and the clubs, the streets and the draw- 
ing-rooms : it shows us that extraordinary spectacle, 
the bewildered middle class set face to face with the 
Revolution, that Revolution which their fathers effected 
sixty years before, and which they believe has ended, 
since it has enriched them ; which they are indignant 
to see begin again, or which rather they no longer 
recognise when it menaces them in their turn, and 
which they then repudiate with horror and anger. 
There perhaps is as considerable a theme as the 
campaign in Russia." ' 

" I know and I admire the richness, superabundant, 
and almost equal to life itself, which belongs to that 
tangled thickset novel. War and Peace. But have we 
none of those novels fashioned on the complexity of 
things . . . ? Give attention, and you will find one 
in les MiserableSy perhaps even more will you find one 
in I'Education sentimentale. I say it after reflection and 
with confidence."^ 

Jules Lemsultre, Les Contemporains, Serie vi. p. 250. 
Ibid., p. 249. 


But so far we have only discussed Flaubert's 
subject, which, as Zola well said, 

" is one of the most original conceptions, one of the 
most audacious, one of the most difficult to succeed in, 
that French literature has ever attempted, though our 
literature be not in general lacking in boldness." ' 

Then, turning aside from the theme, he says what 
could never be said of les Misirables or of War and 
Peace, that it was brought to completion " with that 
masterly unity and concentration on executive 
detail " in which Flaubert's strength lies. 

" It is a magnificent marble temple raised to human 
weakness and incapacity. Of all Gustave Flaubert's 
works, it is certainly the most personal, the most vastly 
conceived, that which gave him most trouble, and which 
will long be least understood." " 

Like the Parthenon, this "marble temple" has 
quite another moral, quite another aesthetic value 
than that which it was built to enshrine, for it too 
represents human virtue, human insight, at their 
highest, as they can only adequately be represented 
by their action, in their creations.s "Lofty equity," 

" Emile Zola, Les Romanciers naturalistes, p. 147. 
= Ibid, ; see also Appendix VII. p. 282. 
3 See Appendix III. p. 271. 


" immense compassion," ' an example of suffering 
witli and for others, of insistence on integrity as the 
touchstone of Ufe's value, by these is Flaubert 
Milton's peer. Their presence makes I'Education 
sentimentale grand. The central harmonies have 
been denied because they, like granite walls, are 
coated with so fine a mosaic of precious cubes. 
Goethe, in his Wilhelm Meister, gave the suggestion 
that such architecture might be possible : but his 
mobile and widely enterprising nature could not 
command the arduous consecutive application 
needed, and his book is most admired for accidental 
accretions, like the incident of Mignon or the 
criticism of Hamlet, which form no part of what 
should have been its design. 


La Revue de Paris has published the earlier ver- 
sions of La Tentation, and, in a footnote, a vision 
written for the final work, but rejected. At a great 
distance a modern city appears ; there St. Antony 
sees Jesus fall under the weight of His cross and 
watches Him mobbed by those who execrate in Him 
the cause of wars, persecutions, public and private 
hatreds, all Christian history ; and others who hold 
that He has duped them into vain renunciations and 

' See above, p. 34. ' See Appendix VIII. pp. 285-289. 


mortifications. He is left a shapeless mass in which 
His heart, visibly shining> flickers out like a dip in a 
lantern. Why did Flaubert delete this vision ? 
Perhaps his chief reason was that it seemed to draw 
a conclusion that no one has any right to draw. It 
was a prophecy; a future event was represented, 
which may be in course but which is certainly not 

What, then, is the significance of Christ's final 
apparition in the sun ? First, the historical fact is, 
that Antony, though tempted, died a saint. The 
terrors of darkness did not efface for him the 
beatific vision. Still, this termination may, I think, 
have bdrne for the writer further import. 

" I happen on Flaubert, just as he is starting to 
Rouen ; under his arm, fastened with three locks, the 
cabinet minister's portfolio, in which his Tentation de 
saint Antoine is enclosed. In the cab, he talks to me 
about his book, of all the trials which he makes the 
hermit of the Thebaide undergo, and from which he 
issues victorious. Then just as we are parting, at la rue 
Amsterdam, he confides to me that the final defeat of the 
saint is due to the cell, the scientific cell. The curious 
thing is that he seems astonished at my astonishment." " 

' La Premiire tentation de saint Antoine has since appeared in 
book form (Charpentier, 1908), and in a footnote the statement 
that Flaubert's niece holds this vision to have been deleted from 
fqar of wounding pious consciences. This is only one aspect of the 
reason I suggest, and we kiiow that where he thought facts fully 
bore him out Flaubert was not restrained by such scruples. 

= Journal des Goncourt, tome iv. p. 352, 18 Octobre, 1871. 


It will be remembered that Antony sees the most 
rudimentary forms of life, cells moved by cilia ; 
deliriously cries out, " I have seen life born, move- 
ment begin," and ends by desiring to become 
matter. Then the sun rises. In its disc he beholds 
Jesus Christ, and, crossing himself, returns to his 
prayers. The idea that life is not the expression of 
an idea or a purpose, but itself its own ultimate 
explanation, makes him for a last time lose self- 
control ; though, almost immediately, daylight 
brings him repentance. 

Writing books and saying prayers are perhaps 
equally futile effects of aspiration and application. 
This very present possibility often spoilt Flaubert's 
joy in his own work. The end is out of sight, and 
may be in no sort related to our efforts, utterly 
disparate and disappointing. Vital energy must 
needs prosecute its daily task, replying to all 
optimists as Candide and Martin do to Pangloss : 
"Well said, but we must work at our garden," or 
" Let us work without reasoning ; it is the only way 
to make life bearable." Inwardly thus admonished, 
Flaubert went on writing, and Antony resumed his 

" How he resigned himself, and consented to turn the 
mill of life without illusions, is well known. But it is 
less known . . . that, like his well-beloved saint, he 


often sought consolation and a strange delectation in 
mentally caressing temptations, even after he had 
judged them deceptive and blameworthy. Casuists 
and theologians have given this mania the name of 
deledatio morosa. Delight taken in the insistent and 
vain evocation of illusory pleasures, is intellectual sin 
in all its insidiousness." ' 

Is it ? and if so, did Flaubert indulge ? 

"This great consoler of life, imagination, has a 
special privilege, which makes her, when all is 
reckoned, the most precious of gifts ; it consists in 
this, that her sufferings are delectable. With her, all 
is profit. She is the foundation of the soul's health, 
the essential condition of gaiety. She enables us to 
enjoy the madness of the mad and the wisdom of 
the wise."^ 

Renan is undoubtedly right. Imagination is 
good, like thought, like health, like affection, like 
humour ; most men do not get enough of any of 
these ; they starve. Evil exists : imagination re- 
moves it to a safe distance, makes it an object of 
contemplation. Her enchantment bathes remote 
and intangible things. Our prejudices and greeds 
are out of place there ; put to silence, like vulgar 

" La Premiire tentation de saint Antoine : Priface far Louis 
Bertrand, p. xxi, 1908. 

= E. Renan, Lettre k M. Gustave Flaubert sur la " Tentation de 
saint Antoine," 1874 : Feuilles ddtachSes, p. 347. 


people, they drop behind ashamed. Never is any 
mind so free from self-interest as in contemplation. 

" That the procession of humanity's dreams at times 
resembles a masquerade, is no reason to forbid the 
representation of it" ' 

" Among us, a book is expected to instruct, edify or 
amuse. . . . The prime amusement and philosophic 
exercise, contemplation of reaUty, spectroscopy of the 
universe, is little understood." = 

" He has opened a briUiant dream before the imagi- 
nation. That is enough ; neither archaeologist, nor 
moraUst, nor historian, nor politician, has anything to 
say. Nothing is bad in the way of art, save that which 
has no style and no shapeUness." 3 

Here the supercilious accent may be heavy, but 
the sense is sound. In plain language, what does 
Renan call " dunghills" ? 4 Why, all mankind's faded 
speculations, sear religions, dead gods, the left-oif 
wear of ancient kings, hopes shed by mighty 
peoples, stranger than our strangest dreams. Flau- 
bert has marshalled them all before "that inward 
eye which is the bliss of solitude." With Saint 
Antony we wonder, are delighted, laugh to our- 
selves, indignation rouses or terror stirs, but the 

' E. Renan, Lettre a M. Gustave Flaubert sur la " Tentation de 
saint Antoine" 1874 : Feuilles detachees, p. 349. 
' Ibid., p. 346. 3 Ibid.,,p. 345. 

1 See Appendix VIII. p. 287, 


enchantment is never broken ; these objects keep 
their distance, they touch us only as we are 
moved by tales — 

" Of woful ages long ago betid." 

The moral effect may well enable us to resume 
our tasks, feeling that to work is to pray, while 
Christ's gaze fills Apollo's sphere; for this vision 
was created by self-annihilating work, and bears 
the impress of the greatest human dignity in its 
precision, equity, elevation. 


Very few voices have been raised against les 
Trois contes. Brunetifere, having allowed one 
masterpiece to an author whom he had hastily 
classed with the Naturalistes, did not fail to bark 
like the good watch-dog he believed himself to be. 
However, M. Auguste Sabatier, as early as 1877, 
called them 

"three statues which have lived and under whose 
white envelope a human heart has beaten. Cry 'A 
miracle ! ' if you like ; discern therein a personal f oiblCf. 
I agree : but I confess I took interest in Herodias^ 
I was touched to the quick by Felicit6, I wept while 
reading the last pages of Saint yulien." 


Readers to-day probably stare at the implication 
that others did not find un Caeur simple poignant, 
Saint Julien moving. Renan pronounced this last 
perfect, and M. Paul Adam cries : — 

"He (Saint Julien) liberates himself from cruelty, 
from murder, from blood, from wealth and power, as 
the ascetic (Saint Antony) had stripped himself of 
pagan illusions which invited him to believe himself 
master of certainty. . . . He becomes a ferryman, and 
welcomes a leper beneath his thatched hovel. To 
warm him he stretches his body, his health and his life 
against the innumerable ulcers of the poor wretch. 
Then the leper is transfigured, he arises Christ, he be- 
comes the light that, in manifesting itself, recompenses." 
Soaring aloft, "his triumphant divinity carries up the 
man who had sacrificed himself to ease another's 
misery. Nothing is certain except the beauty of 
Christian sacrifice. . . ." ' 

As much might be said of the legend as given 
by Saint Antoninus.^ Such praise is like the blame 
bestowed on /' Education or Salammbo as common- 
place or embroiled in blood ; an appreciation of its 
theme is mistaken for criticism of the work of art. 
A Httle child recognises objects as good, nasty, big 
or little even in a picture : we are rightly thankful 

» Paul Adam, Le Myst&re des Foules, Preface, p. xxiv, 1895. 
' La Legende de saint Julien I'Hospitalier : Compositions parL. 0. 
Merson. Priface par Marcel Schwob. 


when a critic can do as much without mistake. 
Flaubert admired and portrayed the lovely creations 
of the Christian spirit, but their beauty was only 
the occasion for that of his tale, as the inadequacy 
of the middle classes had been for the beauty of his 
longest novel. In like manner, lago, as an admir- 
able part of Othello's tragedy, is distinct from the 
cynical humanity of such a man. Herodias for 
many has the qualities of Salammbo and la Tenta- 
tion without the length of the first or the over- 
simple mechanism of the second. In his introduc- 
tion to it, M. Anatole France well says of Flaubert : ' 

" This strong man sought out difficulty. His athletic 
nature urged him to wrestle with his work. This time 
too he came forth victor from the struggle with the 

And again : — 

" This powerful evocator has known how to restore 
colour and form to the vague ghosts of history, and his 
tale is a wonderful poem." 

The accumulative effect of so many extreme pro- 
nouncements has by now perhaps inclined most of 
those who have perused the Appendices to accord 
Guy de Maupassant his point, when he indignantly 
replied to carpers : — 

' Hdrodias : Compositions de G. Rochegrosse. Prdface far Anatole 
France, pp. xxviii, xxvi, 1892. 


" If the man who has left such books as I'Education 
sentitnentale and Madame Bovary, Salatnmbo, and la 
Tentation, without counting that prodigious masterpiece 
entitled Saint yulien I'Hospitalier, — ^if this man is not 
a genius, I am totally ignorant of what genius is." ' 


It is as common a judgment to consider Bouvard 
et Pecuchet an absolute failure as to see in Madame 
Bovary Flaubert's greatest success. The subject of 
the one appeals as little to the vulgar as that of the 
other greatly fascinates them. Such widespread 
contempt needs no illustration. What will interest 
in this case are the rare appreciations. They are 
sampled in the Appendix ; = here I will merely quote 
an account of the book by a personal friend of 
Flaubert's last years : — 

"A witness of the long elaboration of Bouvard et 
Pecuchet, and knowing, I believe, better than any one 
the parent idea from which it sprang, and which I have 
discussed with the author above a score of times, I 
simply wish to show that he has not written an in- 
significant or worthless book. . . . ' Quite true,' he 
used to say, ' my two heroes are not interesting ; but 
I needed them as they are : my arrangement resembles 
a chest of which the chapters are the drawers, and 

" Le Gautois, 25 Octobre, 1881 ; see also CEuvres computes de 
G. Flaubert, vol. vii. p. Jdiv. 
" See pp. 290-292. 


there are too many drawers ; but this defect belongs to 
my subject ; I have tried to disguise but not to suppress 
it, for that would mean suppressing the work itself. 
Perhaps there is no name in any language for what 
I have done ; but as I cannot prevent its being taken 
for a novel, I should like folk to see in it a philosophical 
novel. It is my testament, the summing up of my ex- 
perience and my judgment on man and his works. . . . 
" ' I am not writing a popular novel. If three hundred 
people in Europe read my work and get a glimpse of 
its import, I shall be satisfied. The second volume of 
notes which will follow the novel will set them on 
the track.'"' 

M. Sabatier goes on to show how the crazes of 
Bouvard and P6cuchet shadow the movements of 
middle-class society from the close of Louis Philippe's 
reign to the end of Napoleon the Third's, 

" Take care ; when we pity and laugh at them, our 
laughter and compassion return on ourselves. They 
fail miserably. But have we done anything else with 
all our reforms and all our revolutions for forty years 
past? Modern Society is the tfue hero. These two 
good fellows are essentially idealists ; they set out 
every time with confidence, naive, so whole-hearted is 
it, in the power of human reason and of science. They 
love instruction ; . . . a thousand times their criticisms 
are reasonable ; . . . they are really the most enlight- 
ened and the most generous ; they represent initiative 

' Journal de Gentve, 3 Avril, 1881. 


and progress : ... yet they fail, . . . they ruin them- 
selves where their farmer succeeds and grows 
fat. . . ." 

We can but mistrust one who in Flauberfs in- 
terest continues : — 

" Let us at last draw the conclusion : ' Society lives 
on errors and on prejudices ; do not take them away, 
for that which you offer in their stead cannot possibly 
replace them. That which makes society strong is not 
the truth, nor can she find a use for the truth. Man's 
life needs illusions, customs, traditions ; reforms are 
catastrophes, truth leads to nothing, for the void alone 
is true. Silliness of sillinesses, all is silly here below." 

After this, M. Sabatier impersonates Flaubert 
again : " Sad," he would reply ; " enough to disgust 
one with life. If that disgust is born from my 
book, it is because I have experienced it, and before 
dying wished to express it." Flaubert may easily be 
imagined using some such words, but M. Sabatier's 
conclusion is only one of many that may be tied to 
Bouvard et Pecuchet, as the citations in the Appendix^ 
from MM. Remy de Gourmont, Jules de Gaultier, 
and J. C. Tarver indicate. The "if" with which 
Flaubert began was not forgotten, though its signifi- 
cance escaped. He had felt that disgust, but that 
was not the only thing that he had felt or expressed. 

' See pp. 8s, 86. ' Appendix IX. pp. 291, 293. 


The accusation of Nihilism has been Hghtly made. 
Some are perhaps convinced that no ful'filment 
awaits man's aspirations, but it is not the same 
thing to beUeve that none has yet been achieved. 
As M. L6vy-Bruhl remarks, his mental attitude, like 
Montaigne's, " is positive, rather sceptical." Those 
who regard Bouvard et Pecuchet as an attack on 
science as greatly overween as those who see in 
la Tentation an onslaught on religion. For 
Flaubert, science was a discipline, a means to an 
end ; its rules preserve men's minds from that 
corruption by pre-imagined, pre-desired goals to 
which they are so prone. He realised the tentative 
and confused nature of theories resulting from 
actual scientific essays ; but when the method 
should be fully grasped " it would above all be 
applicable to art and religion, those two grand 
manifestations of idea," and would lead by degrees 
to "the art of the future, the hypothesis of the 
beautiful and the clear conception of its reality, to 
that ideal type towards which all our efforts ought 
to tend." ^ His satire strikes that common futility 
which thinks to advance either life, art or worship 
without method, though it may asperse presumption 
hopeful of replacing habits or beliefs which it only 
sees how to ridicule. M. Sabatier's memory, or else 
his comprehension, was at fault, in putting this secon- 
• Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. pp. 338. 


dary effect first. " On the lack of method in human 
inquiries " ^ had been thought of as a sub-title. 

The end, like the beginning, is out of sight ; hope 
is natural since the universe presents an objective 
to man's effort ; depression is natural, so little pro- 
portion obtains between his means and this task. 
" To work is the best way of scamping life " ; = for 
to call even the most thorough application adequate 
is absurd. There is no escape : toil we must, since 
everything else is far less satisfying. Persevering 
labour has its reward ; the master- workman feels 
that he is in the way of truth, he achieves faith and 
renews his strength. His last letter glows with 
triumph : — 

" I was right ; because aesthetic is truth, and at a 
certain intellectual level (when method is ours) mis- 
takes are no more made. Reality does not yield to the 
ideal, but confirms it." 3 

Bouvard et Pecuchei is a fine exposition of all that 
in ourselves and in society besets, hampers, and 
defeats work. The only vengeance which the 
victor took on his enemies was to describe them ; 
and those enemies were not persons, as is too 
often assumed, but habits of thought. Good-will, 

' (Euvres completes, tome vii. p. xix ; also Correspondance, Serie 
iv. p. 348. 
' Journal des Goncourt, tome i. p. 307. 
3 Lettres h sa niice Caroline, p. 523. 


energy, initiative Bouvard and P6cuchet possess in 
a remarkable degree : but more is necessary — 
method, infinite patience, readiness to begin all 
over again, time after time. Nor could this 
necessity be better shown in a more abstract 
form ; Flaubert had analysed and rejected that 
light and careless play with general ideas which 
so fascinates "the intelligent,"^ "feeling shame to 
expend on it attention perhaps sufficient for some 
good thing," as Montaigne says of chess. Abstrac- 
tions are only pregnant in particular relations, to 
re-word them avails nothing ; there is no magic in 
formulas, they must be shown in living instances. 
Therefore with immense pains he created an 
aquarium in which the most widespread modern 
notions could be watched alive, under the simplest 
conceivable conditions, in an unusually clear light, 
so that their subtle interrelations with common 
passions, common prejudices, common meanness, 
might be followed. He says, " Look, you will see 
all that you are constantly talking about rendered 
new and strange by immersion in the inexpressible 
life which is a fundamental condition for its com- 
prehension." And as sea-monsters, which were 
repulsive and opaque stranded on the shore, be- 
come beautiful in the glass tank when they revive 
and the light shines through them, so slimy, ugly, 
' See Appendix II. p. 267. 


clumsy notions receive beauty from the way they 
are shown ; its clarity, its distinctness, its perspec- 
tives set them off and transfigure them. 

Before the first volume was complete Flaubert 
died ; of the second next to nothing has been pub- 
lished. In it Bouvard and P6cuchet were to have 
copied passages which had struck them from primers, 
text-books, and classical authors, thereby revealing 
the solidarity of faulty action in trained and gifted 
minds with the habits of brains raw and ordinary. 

Indulgent in private life, his pen served justice ; 
from Chateaubriand, whom he admired, he yet 
made a rich collection of ineptitudes, and told 
Sabatier, "My two heroes ... are two fools, 
nevertheless I want them to be loved and pitied," » 
They are certainly more significant than the Pick- 
wick Club, and though they find us less readily, 
every time I re-read the book they win on my 
affection, and I laugh more heartily. "Endowed 
with the sense of veneration . . . their life is 
nothing but a perpetual comedy which they play 
by themselves, a continual effort to love and 
understand." ^ 

They were to have copied into the second volume 
not only " stupidities," but three more stories : 3 le 

' Journal de Geneve, i6 Mai, 1880. 

' Jules de Gaultier, Le Bovarysme, pp. 53, 55, 1892. 

•> CEuvres completes, vol. vii. p. xxxvii. 


Combat des Thermopyles (he wanted to make of this a 
kind of patriotic narrative simple and terrible, that 
might be read to the children of any race to teach 
them to love their country) ; " ' une Nuit de Don 
Juan, for which a marvellous sketch has been 
published ; ^ and a modern version of the Matron 
of Ephes^s.3 Thus of the whole which Flaubert 
intended we have less than half, while to the 
other belonged the most attractive items. 


Before Flaubert's death La Vie moderne published 
a fairy play composed in collaboration with Louis 
Bouilhet and Charles d'Osmoy (who are under- 
stood to have disclaimed any real share in the 
invention), which Flaubert entirely rearranged and 
re-wrote before it appeared. If well translated le 
Chdteau des cceurs might win a wider public here 
than it has in France, where fancy and make- 
believe are less at home. Not so pretty as Peter 
Pan, it is more powerful. On its appearance 
a certain Mr. Lee connected with the Strand 
Theatre wrote for permission to compose inci- 
dental music to it ; but probably his manager 
could not satisfy Flaubert that the stage direc- 
tions would be implicitly obeyed ; their exigent 

" CEuvres computes, tome vii. p. xlv. 
= Ibid., xxxvii. 3 ibid., xlv. 


character seems to have frustrated more developed 
negotiations with Paris theatres, and could only be 
complied with where expense was not regarded. 
Another difficulty is the scene at the banker's 
house, for that the wife's adultery should serve 
her husband's swindle passes as " of course " ; and 
though for young people probably incomprehen- 
sible, as the world grown-up is wont to seem, it 
might shock more initiate aunts and nurses. Worse 
occurs every year at Drury Lane, yet the absence 
of buffoonery and coarseness must make this more 
dangerous. Flaubert's "f eerie" should be an abso- 
lute refutation of the charge of misanthropy and 
lack of heart. Hardly a critic mentions it ; but 
Wagner " fell in love with it, and wished to make 
an opera of it."^ 

Yes, critics whose reputations stand at present 
highest have been found most decided in dis- 
paragement of this great master .= Men of initia- 
tive and energy are naturally the least tentative. 
Like Milton's, Flaubert's work has obvious limita- 
tions of mood, of temper, though he never passed 
what was careless and bad as Goethe and Shake- 
speare often did. M. Jules Lemaitre well says, 
"There is no thorough comprehension without 

■ Charles Lapierre, Esquisse sur Flaubert intime, p. 52, 1898. For 
Flaubert's remaining works see Appendix X. pp. 295-297. 
' See Appendix IX. pp. 292-294. 


love : " perhaps there is not even passable under- 
standing without respect. 

Few opinions published before Flaubert's death 
have been referred to : they are either well known 
or their writers already forgotten. Contradictions 
on simple and gross points have alone been chosen ; 
more subtle discrepancies, if numberless, are often 
less clearly expressed, and therefore harder to ex- 
hibit. Doubtless the conflict is rather apparent 
than real, and if the parties to it forced them- 
selves to find out and set down what they thought — 
no more, no less — consent would accrue to those 
who have taken most pains. Licence in assertion 
must then be foregone, and, as Flaubert did, many 
might cease to please themselves. His attitude 
recalls Huxley's, comparison with whom (creative 
power and a highly developed aesthetic sense being 
added) might help better than that with Milton, 
which causes an imported syntax and elaborate 
diction to be first thought of, though they find 
no parallel. Yet what other English writer owned 
at once such erudition, such austerity, such love 
of beauty ? Then too, if succinct and straight- 
forward, the French master's prose is also musical, 
often grandiose, sonorous, lofty. 

"Coming at the end of a long period of culture, 
resuming in himself the whole intellectual effort of 


several generations, he is chock full of things and of 
ideas. His sentences, so serried, so condensed, are 
like Virgil's verses — Virgil whom he loved and read 
passionately, over whom ' he swooned with pleasure 
[his own words] like an old professeur de rhetorique.' 
And again, as with Virgil, . . . the sense of humanity 
has in him prodigiously widened. In barbarous periods 
he will comfort noble souls, and, by their means, save 
the highest moral conceptions of our race, with the 
purest form of its genius ; and, in periods of renascence, 
to recognise in "his pages, as in an ancient poem, 
luminous divinations of the future, will give delight." ' 

English readers may ask, " How does Flaubert 
stand in relation to Balzac, Hugo, or George 
Sand ? " The reply leaps out, " He is that Her- 
cules who cleaned out stables which had become 
impossible through their neglect." But, imperti- 
nence apart, I dare not answer ; only those great, 
prolific writers have not so drawn my study on. 
For me, he is the literary event since Goethe. 
Wordsworth, Keats, and others have been as choice, 
but his work has the wider range and more of it is 
sound. With those of the best poets alone can I 
rank his finest pages, which, if never more popular 
than theirs, will surely never win less love, less 

' Louis Bertrand, Flaubert et I' Afnque : Revue de Paris, r Avril, 
1900, p. 600. 


Some little intelligence is gained through cultivating imagination, 
and much nobleness from contemplating beautiful things. 



PERHAPS this section of my work should not 
close without an attempt to give the English 
reader some notion of the beauty of Flaubert's 
prose. Translations have, indeed, been published, 
but such as it were useless to refer to for this pur- 
pose. Flowers culled from an author, who held 
that "Style lives in continuity as virtue does in 
constancy," like woodland leaves in a vase, have 
lost their variety, number, and relative positions; 
and, if still lovely, seem wistful for a world of their 

Besides, the melody of English, not being that of 
French, does not lend itself to similar effects, so my 
success can only resemble that of a taxidermist at a 
Natural History Museum. 

Therefore, to take the dead taste out of the reader's 
mouth, I haye added a passage from the greatest of 
English prose writers, which Flaubert would no 
doubt have got by heart had he been born amongst 



us : and this I do the more confidently as its theme 
is one discussed in a later chapter. 

But first of all, let me try to fill all ears that can 
test it with a music as unforgettable as ever any 
poet has created. 

The Lament of his 

Egypte ! Egypte ! tes grands Dieux immobiles ont 
les epaules blanchies par la fiente des oiseaux, et le 
vent qui passe sur le desert roule la cendre de tes 

Lovers in Paris 

La lueur des boutiques eclairait, par intervalles, son 
profil pale ; puis I'ombre I'enveloppait de nouveau ; et 
au milieu des voitures, de la foule et du bruit, ils allaient 
sans se distraire d'eux-memes, sans rien entendre, 
comme ceux qui marchent ensemble dans la campagne 
sur uii lit de feuilles mortes. 

Chateaubriand in the East 

II part encore ; il va, remnant de ses pieds la 
poussiere antique; il s'assoit aux Thermopyles et 
crie : Leonidas 1 Leonidas ! court autour du tombeau 
d'Achille, cherche Lac6demone, 6grene dans ses mains 
les caroubiers de Carthage, et, comme le patre engourdi 
qui leve la tete au bruit des caravanes, tons ces grands 
paysages se r^veillent quand il passe dans leurs soli- 

' For translations o{ these passages see Appendix, p. 298. 


The Close of Bouvard andPecuchet's First Day in their 
New Home 

Deshabilles et dans leur lit, ils bavarderent quelque 
temps, puis s'endormirent, Bouvard sur le dos, la 
bouche ouverte, tete nue ; Pecuchet sur le flanc droit, 
les genoux au ventre, affuble d'un bonnet de coton, et 
tous les deux ronflaient sous le clair de la lune, qui 
entrait par les fenetres. 

The Swallow 

A swallow neared : we watched her flying ; she came 
from the sea, soared up softly, the fine edge of her 
feathers cleaving the fluid and luminous air in which 
her wings swam at large and seemed to enjoy the entire 
freedom of their play. Still she mounted, higher than 
the cliff-top, and, mounting always, disappeared. 

(Euvres completes, tome vi. p. 250 

Silent Love 

Leon would not know, when in despair he left the 
house, that she got up in order to see him in the street. 
She concerned herself about his aifairs ; she furtively 
watched his features ; she carried through an elaborate 
fiction for a pretext to visit his room. The chemist's 
wife was deemed very fortunate to sleep under the 
same roof with him ; and her thoughts constantly 
settled down on that house, like pigeons from the Lion 
d'or, which congregated in its gutters to bathe their 
pink feet and white wings. 

Ibid., tome i . p. 146 


The Rich at Carthage 

Three times a moon, they had their couches set on 
the high terrace which ran round the wall of the court ; 
and from below they could be seen at table in the open 
air, buskins and cloaks laid aside, the diamonds on their 
fingers wandering over the meats, and their large ear- 
rings stooping between the flagons — all strong and fat, 
half-naked, happy, laughing and eating, against the 
azure, like great sharks rollicking in the waves. 

(Euvres completes de G. Flaubert, tome ii. p. 120 

Socialism in the Revolution of 1848 

Its theories, although they were as new as "hunt 
the slipper," and had for forty years been sufficiently 
debated to fill whole libraries, yet scared the middle- 
class man like a hail of aerolites ; he was indignant, for 
every idea, because it is an idea, at first provokes his 
hatred, and later on seems glorious because he execrated 
it, always superior, no matter how mediocre it be, to 
this opponent. 

In those clays respect for property reached the plane 
of religion arid became difficult to distinguish from God. 
Attacks on it appeared sacrilegious, almost as revolting 
as cannibalism. In spite of legislation more humane 
than had ever been known, the spectre of '93 rose up, 
and the shutter of the guillotine flashed in every 
syllable of the word republic ; — yet could not save that 
government's weakness from contempt. France, con? 
scious she had no master, set up a wild howl like a 


blind man groping for his stick, or an urchin who has 
lost his nurse. 

CEuvres completes, tome iv. p. 143 

The Monks 

I recall a journey that I once made with Ammon 
to discover solitudes suitable for the foundation of 
monasteries. On the last evening, side by side we 
quickened our steps, murmuring hymns, but not talking. 
By so much as the sun sank lower, our two shadows 
lengthened out like twin obelisks, always growing taller 
and seeming to walk before us. With pieces of our 
staves here and there we planted a cross to mark some 
site for a hermitage. Darkness was long in coming, and 
lakes of black shade spread the earth over while a vast 
rosy hue still occupied the sky. 

(Euvres completes de G. Flaubert, tome v. p. 240 

The Treasures of Herod Antipas 

The darkness exhaled a breath of warm air. A 
curved alley led downwards : they took it and came on 
the threshold of a cavern, of greater extent than the 
other vaults ; its further end opened through an arcade 
in the precipice which on that side defended the 
citadel. A honeysuckle clung under the roof, but its 
flowers swung down full in light. Flush with the floor, 
a trickle of water murmured. 

White horses were there, perhaps a hundred, eating 
barley from a wooden shelf on a level with their mouths. 
Their manes were all dyed blue, their hoofs in mittens 
of esparto grass, and the hair between their ears curled 


above their foreheads like a periwig. With very long 
tails they softly beat their fetlocks. The proconsul was 
struck dumb with admiration. 

They were marvellous animals, supple as serpents, 
light as birds. Starting off apace with their rider's 
arrow, they would overthrow men, biting into their 
vitals, disengage themselves from difficult places among 
rocks, leap ravines, and across plains keep one frantic 
gallop up all day long ; a word would stop them. As 
soon as lapim entered, they flocked to him like sheep 
when they see the shepherd, and stretching their necks 
forward, gazed at him wistfully with childlike eyes. By 
force of habit he threw out a raucous cry from the 
depths of his throat, which set them prancing gaily : 
they reared up hungry for the open, pleading to run. 
CEuvres completes, tome vi. p. ii8 

These passages must not be regarded as plums ; 
well-made books cannot be rifled of their best 
things any more than the heart may be torn from 
a living man. Translated extracts as little bring 
home the beauty of Flaubert's prose as engraved 
patterns of ' stuffs enable you to picture Nesera 
filling the coming season's dress. 

•' In verse," he would say, " the poet possesses fixed 
rules. He has metre, caesura, rhyme, any number of 
practical indications, a complete technical science. In 
prose, a profound feeUrig for rhythm is necessary, an 
elusive rhythm, without rules, without fixity; inborn 
qualities are needed, and also a power of reasoning. 


an aesthetic sense infinitely more subtle, more acute, 
that the movement, the colour, the sound may at 
every instant change to accord with the varying 
theme. When a man knows how to handle that 
fluid thing, French prose ; knows the exact value 
of words, and knows how to modify that value 
according to the place he gives them ; — when he 
knows how to draw the whole interest of a page to 
one line, and give relief to one idea among a hundred 
others, solely by the choice and position of the terms 
which express it ; — ^when he knows how to strike with a 
word, a single word, set in a certain manner, as with a 
weapon ; knows how to overwhelm the soul, fill it 
suddenly with joy or fear, with enthusiasm, chagrin or 
anger, by merely passing an adjective beneath the 
reader's eye ; — ^he is truly an artist, the paragon of 
artists, a master of prose."' 

Conjectures Concerning the Invention of Devils 
from ''A Tale of a Tub" 

"And whereas the mind of man, when he gives the 
spur and bridle to his thoughts, doth never stop, but 
naturally saUies out into both extremes of high and 
low, of good and evil ; his first flight of fancy commonly 
transports him to ideas of what is most perfect, finished, 
and exalted ; till having soared out of his own reach 
and sight, not well perceiving how near the frontiers 
of height and depth border upon each other ; with the 
same course and wing, he falls down plumb into the 
lowest bottom of things ; like one who travels the east 
into the west ; or Uke a straight line drawn by its own 
' CEuvres completes, tome vii. p. liv. 


length into a cirple. Whether a tincture of malice in 
our natures makes us fond of furnishing every bright 
idea with its reverse ; or whether reason, reflecting 
upon the sum of things, can, like the sun, serve only to 
enlighten one half of the globe, leaving the other half 
by necessity under shade and darkness ; or whether 
fancy, flying up to the, imagination of what is highest 
and best, becomes overshot, and spent, and weary, and 
suddenly falls, like a dead bird of paradise, to the 
ground ; or whether, after all these metaphysical con- 
jectures, I have not entirely missed the true reason ; 
the proposition, however, which hath stood me in so 
much circumstance, is altogether true, that, as the 
most civilised parts of mankind have some way or other 
climbed up into the conception of a god, or supreme 
power, so they have seldom forgot to provide their 
fears with certain ghastly notions, which, instead of 
better, have served them pretty tolerably for a devil." 

Swift, as a rule, used his Pegasus for a cart-horse, 
since it was strong, and he sorely importuned by 
the press of men and notions in need of condign 
punishment : but even when plodding in the ruts, 
its motion betrays the mettle in which it here revels. 
The chime of " wing " with " things " is probably 
the only blemish which Flaubert would have detected 
in the marvellous music of this page ; but he also 
acknowledged that, however great the older French 
classics were, it was only quite the moderns who, 
though of less pregnant virtues, had been scrupulous 
in removing flaws. 


It should be our earnes endeavour to use words coinciding as 
closely as possible with what we feel, see, think, experience, imagine, 
and reason. It is an endeavour which we cannot evade, and which 
is daily to be renewed. 

Let every man examine himself, and he will find this a much 
harder task than he might suppose ; for, unhappily' a man usually 
takes words as mere make-shifts ; his knowledge and his thought 
are in most cases better than his method of expression. 

Goethe's " Maxims and Reflections," translated by 
Bailey Saunders, p. 129 

Literature first transgresses equity by not conforming to cesthptic 
law, which is nothing but a finer justice. 


"I believe that great art is scientific and impersonal. You 
should by an intellectual effort transport yourself into characters, 
not draw them into yourself. That at least is the method ; which 
amounts to saying : Try to have a great deal of talent and even 
genius if you can. What vanities all poetics and criticisms are ! 
And the self-assurance of those gentlemen who write them knocks 
me down. Oh ! Nothing makes them uneasy. . . ! " • 

THIS description of great art has been more 
debated than understood ; some notion of 
the result may be gathered from the Appendix. » 
Wherein personality consists is not known ; 
many conceptions are implicit in common speech. 
Some assume that there is no absolute element ; 
all shifts and changes, we are what we seem, not 
what shapes our seeming. The impress of most 
men on surviving thought is gone like the shadow 
of a cloud from the sea : yet a few ride there 
like stately ships which, even when distant, hang 

• Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. pp. 331 and 332. 
' See pp. 299-301. 



indefinitely on the horizon — or reappear a mirage 
in the sky. 

"A beautiful life, it has been said, is a youth's 
great thought realised in man full grown."' But 
could the lad meet his destined self, there might be 
no recognition, for the finished work never has been 
what its author first conceived ; even when neither 
transcending nor falling short, it has been other 
than he meant. The same and not the same, 
planned and accidental, permanent and fleeting, 
complex fact, admits the whole gamut between these 
statements. To pretend that one alone is compre- 
hensible may amuse, but must soon seem siHy. 
' Impersonal ' in aesthetic was for Flaubert the 
equivalent of ' disinterested ' in administration. It 
did not mean ' riot personal ' any more than that 
excludes taking any interest or than 'unselfish' 
implies ' non-existent.' 

" For from the moment you offer a work [to a publisher] 
i^ ypu are not a knave, you believe it good. You ought 
to, have made every possible effort, and haye.put your 

Shoie soul into it. One personality cannot be substi- 
ted for another. A book is a complicated organism. 
Then every amputation, every change operated by a 
stranger, takes from its integrity. Though it niigh't be 
less bad/ no matter, it would not be itself."* 

' !■'. Paulhan, Les CardcUres, Introduction, p. 23. 
' Correspondance de G, Flaubert, Serie iii. p. 326. 


" His worship of beauty made him say : ' M^orality 
is only a part of sesthetic, yet is its fundamental 
condition.' " ' 

" Wit is not enough. Without character, works of 
art, whatever you may do, will always be mediocre j 
borifisty is the first condition of art."* 

Man believes he must act as a whole, not as a 
fluctuating chaos of desires And fancies. He must 
hold hinlself responsible for his various faculties 
and be able to pledge their action when he will. 
Integrity, common honesty, the hope and founda- 
tion of civil progress demand impersonality from 
the artist, as justice demands fair play in human 
dealing. Should beaiity be created to seduce ? 
is it a cloak for sdf-ihdtilgence, or armour for 
malignity ? Nay, such perversion spoils it. Besides, 
a man cannot write even of himself save relatively ; 
then he need attend to both terms of each com- 
parison. If he is naturally engrossed by home 
affairs, effort must overcome lukewarmness on 
foreign questions, that his credit where all can 
judge may stead him where he alone has infor- 
mation. His own advantage will not let him see 
himself magnified and others dwarfed, for decisions 
so ill prepared will often pfove erroneous,; nay, even 
ridiculous. There must be no pretence of knowing 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie i. p. xxzvui. 
* Ibid-i 3ede iv. p. 299. 

82 ' ARTIANiD. LIFE ' 

what he ignores, nor neglect where imagination 
might be nourished with matter of fact or chastened 
by more reflection. What these imperatives mean 
to each individual will depend on his capacities, on 
his social afid historical position. Learning is onjy 
necessary to him who sees it from such a vantage 
that h^ Ipngsfor it. So much of what we can know 
as we feel we ought to know, is alone requisite for 
sincerity. M. Dumesnil has amply shown how 
Flaubert's capacities and , situation claimed an un- 
usual erudition. In assimilating this , he suffered 
the throes of style. To attain fine cadences, he 
needed his subject-matter at hand and in order. 
"Image or sentiment wholly clear in the head 
brings the right word on to the paper."' 
And . we read in another place — 

: " Perfection has the same characteristics every\ivhere, 
precision and justness. If this book that I suffer so much 
over writing turns out well, L shall have established 
by the mere fact of its exep,nti6n the. following ..truths 
which for me are axioms, namely, in .the first place, that 
poetry is purely subjective, ^zt there are not for litei^iture 
Eesthetically beautifuj subjects, and that therefore Yvetot 
is as' good as Constantinople ; and consequently, no 
matter what may be written as well as whatever it may 
be. "j/he artist ought to raise everything: he has within 
hifli a , great; pipe which goes j down into thq bowels, of 
things, into the lower beds ; it sucks up and sends high 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 331. 


towards the sun in giant spouting fountains that which 
lay spread under the earth and out of sight."' 

Here is one of those contradictions with which 
Flaubert has been so sagely reproached. How 
indeed can art be purely subjective and impersonal 
at the same time ? 

Man does not choose a universe; one is offered 
to study, yet the temper and pains with which it is 
inspected may be improved ; and perhaps as much 
delight has been found in understanding finely as 
was anticipated when the discovery of congenial 
things was hoped. Style is ideally the ultimate 
manner of seeing and thinking and must be ap- 
proached by departing from present ways.^ If to 
apply the mind both shape and strengthen it, then 
those who at times perceive and think splendidly 
will grow less and less like their own and other 
mortal selves. In them and not in the object of 
their study sojourns consideration free from 
personal concern, . which can only be conceived 
of as thus subjectively existing. All men desire 
that what in such happy hours has been created 
may outlast the anxious and greedy make- 
shifts with which they buy off necessity or waste 
their time and strength. Hence works of art, 
though subject to accidental destruction, are 
defended by widespread if often ill-judged efforts. 

• Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. pp. 252, 253. 
= Ibid., Serie iii. p. 199 ; Serie ii. p. 71. 


THE authority of this impei'sonal attitude in 
literature will grow as we discover the like 
influences elsewhere. 

" Seekest thou great things ? seek them not." 
" I lay down my life, that I may take it again." 
" Magnanimity despises all, in order tq possess all." 
" He that loves himself 
Hath not essentially but by circumstance 
The name of valour." 
" Every man may be said to be mad, but every man 
doth not show it." 

" Egoism gives the measure of inferiority ; a perfect 
being would no longer be egotistical." 
" Hide thy hfe." 

" The man is nothing, the work is all." 
" We need to efface our own opinions as well as 
those of others when confronted with decisive ex- 

" Let us prove keen and honest in attending to any- 
thing which is in any way brought to our notice, most 
of all when it does; not fit in with our previous i,deas." 



These sentences express vividly a widespread 
sentiment of opposition between two categories 
of motive, which may conveniently be called 
selfish and unselfish, corrupt and disinterested, 
personal and impersonal, or subjective and objec- 
tive, according to the field of action pro- 
posed. In psychology and history phenomena 
lie beyond the . reach of thorough investigation 
and uniform experiment, therefore the attempt to 
be too precise must here be unintelligent. If any 
man doubts the existence of two such lines of 
conduct, one effective, the other ineffective, no 
proof is possible. Whether or no choice be a 
necessary illusion, those subject to it cannot 
determine. They may surmise as much, — perhaps 
they should, if they gain thereby a greater elas- 
ticity in choosing ; since he who decides for ever 
is under a self-imposed illusion that he must not 
choose again. Flaubert's " The supreme ineptitude 
consists in wishing to conclude "' is another way 
of saying " Judge not that ye be not judged : " but 
choose we must to die to this, live to that tendency ; 
starve these, feed those faculties ; embrace or neglect 
one of two opportunities. 

" A man must be mad to undertake such a task ! 
But we should db nothing if we were not guided by 

" Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie i. p. 338. 


false ideas — a remark of^Fontenelle's which I think 
far from, silly."' 

These choices are experimental : we must expect 
to regret and correct them ; they are not conclusions 
or judgments, only the short-sighted so regard them. 
Saints ever need some forth of salvation by grace, 
because it forbids mah to conclude himself saved 
or lost. The last shall be first; let those who stand 
beware lest they fall. The sons of God were com- 
rades once : " the brightest fell." 

Flaubert rightly says : — 

" Reality is always misrepresented by those who wish 
to make it lead up to' a' conclusion ; God alone may do 
that.'". ..' Every religion and every philosophy has 
pretended to possess God, to measure the infinite and 
know the receipt for happiness. 'What pride and what 
inanjty ! I see on the contrary that the greatest 
geniuses and the grandest works have never con- 
cluded. Homer, Shakespeare, Goethej all the elder 
sons of God (as ISiichelet says) have been careful not to 
meddle with anything save representation." " 

But if some still tljink the a^ssertipn, " The artist 
should take such measures as will make posterity 
think he has never lived," 3 mere midsummer mad- 
ness, Renan has yet other considerations to offer. 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Sefie iv. p. 334. 

" Ibid., Serie iii. p. 270. 

3 Ibid., Serie ii. p. 77 ; see also Appendix XL; p. 299. 


"Anonymity is, for a book destined to become 
popular, an immense advantage. Obscurity of origin is 
the condition of_Ere§tige ; a too clear view of the author 
behttles the work and, despite ourselves, from behind 
the finest passages obtrudes on us a scribe busied 
polishing phrases and combining effects."' 

Not only books that in the same sense as the 
Imitation are to be popular, but all grand works, 
benefit when dangers run in their native homes can 
be forgotten, so much so that divinity has received 
the credit of some. Even self-reflections like 
Montaigne's triumph by an estranging attribute, 
when we wonder how any mind could treat its soul 
so like a third party. The secret of strong cha- 
racters has often lain in capacity to think of them- 
selves comparatively unmoved. It will appear later 
that Flaubert recognised originality as some equiva- 
lent for impersonality ; a master might be so unlike 
others that neither modesty nor oblivion could add 
the prestige of more wonder to his work. 

• Etudes d'histoire religieusej p. 317. 


ART selects and exhibits perceptions appealing 
for their recognition to a chosen audience, 
since the artist must divine the capacity he addresses 
and the suitability of his means of expression both 
to it and for rendering his theme. The rest is 
experimental, for, as Claude Bernard says, "an 
intuition cannot be established and proved; save by 
experiments " ; ^ the artist must track beauty as 
scientists follow up the immediate causes of 
phenomena. Doubtless, like them, he has to work 
with imperfect instruments under variable con- 
ditions, for his faculties dilate, contract^ and are 
hindered. There is not even relative safety till that 
extreme of sensibility be reached at which he best 
responds to pleasure and is most revolted by 
offence. Discord arrests the born artist, because 
the means of exposition are sensuous and his sole 
aim is to exhibit beautifully. He is rightly con- 
vinced that harsh accidents prove him not to have 
■ L' Introduction ii I'dtude de la mddecine expdrimentaU, pp. 56, 71. 


grasped the true nature of his initial perception ; 
otherwise he has expressed something that cannot 
be harmoniously rendered, which was none of his 
business. Yet he acted on faith in an intuitive 
forecast that the chosen perception was suitable : to 
justify this he must conclude that what he has 
embodied is not what he meant to embody ; then 
to discover differences he must compare the copy 
with the original anew, which leads to his treating 
this latter with yet nicer respect. Thus his pas- 
sionate hunger for harmony begets effort to master 
every inertness in respect to observation or analysis. 

" I declare for my part that the physical overbears 
the moral. No disillusion gives such suffering as a 
rotten tooth, nor can an inept remark exasperate me so 
greatly as a creaking door ; and that is why an asso- 
nance or a grammatical kink causes the best-intentioned 
sentence to bungle its effect." ' 

Everything invented so as to fill mind, heart, and 
soul is true.2 Inventions are not mature just as 
facts have not been digested till the whole man is 
alive to them. Some myths, some imaginations, 
some statements of fact have set poets tingling with 
complete harmonies, hence arose masterpieces ; 
proportion dwells between their parts, music and 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 383. 
" See p. 117. 


fascination inform all their details. " Poetry is 
simply the most perfect speech of man," in which 
his organs of perception, conception, and expression 
are at one, and Flaubert called their union style. 
To discover this in any work you must read it 
perfectly aloud— which includes faultless thought 
and feeling about its theme. Before you can do or 
at least imagine this your opinion on its beauty 
is merely hazarded. The criterion, satisfaction given 
to thoroughly trained and copiously gifted men, is 
inborn, absolute, and necessary. "Indeed, the 
greatest truths are at bottom only sentiments," ' as 
Claude Bernard said, and an eminent English 
physicist is even bolder: — 

" Scientific truth or aesthetic beauty are but different 
names for that which satisfies" the instinctive needs of^ 
the creative imagination." = 

Unfortunately he has not emulated the French 
master's caution, but, led away by Oscar Wilde's 
paradoxical ingenuity, has overstated his case. 

"A great man of science invents a theory and life 
tries to live up to it. He is no thick-skulled rationalist, 
but a dreamer, and his dreams come true. He dreams, 
and messages flash across the empty ocean ; he dreams 

' Introduction h I'itude de la mddecine experimentale, p. 48. 
' Norman R. Campbell, " The Meaning of Science " (the New 
Quarterly, October, 1908, p. 503). 


agjiin, and a new world springs into being and starts 
upon the course that he has ordained." 

Does Mr. Campbell really believe that their planet 
did not exist till Adams and Leverrier conceived 
that its creation would account for the deflection of 
Uranus's orbit, when it obediently came into being ? 
Rossetti and Burne-Jones found elements for the 
types of beauty, which they are said to have created, 
among actual women, selected and set them off by 
well-calculated arrangements of dress and hair ; 
these were copied by ladies who had some slight 
resemblance to the type thus defined, and the 
intention of the fashion was recognised when men 
found themselves constantly reminded of a beauty 
which had been and remained extremely rare. It 
would in the same way be more rational to think 
that Balzac taught us to see the nineteenth century 
than that he invented it. Mr. Campbell's statement 
would be better worded, "Scientific truth or 
aesthetic beauty are but different names for that 
which satisfies man's imaginative instinct." Genius 
creates the description, not the object described, 
and our nature hankers after true and harmonious 
descriptions, for they alone consist with all our 
impressions. If the diverse facts concerning a 
complex object raise conflicting feelings we are not 
satisfied ; for us the criterion of truth is the integrity 


of sentiment. In other words, all parts of an object 
with which we are concerned must have compre- 
hensible interrelations and evoke its harmonious 
represehtation in our minds. 

The part played by imagination in scientific 
method cannot be better described than by Claude 
Bernard : — 

" It is true that the results of experinffcnt must be 
recorded by a mind stripped of all hypotheses and pre- 
conceived ideas. But we must be careful how we 
proscribe the use of ideas and hypotheses when the 
work in hand is to set experiments on foot, or imagin'e 
means of observation. Here, on the contrary, as we 
shall soon see, the imagination must be given free 
course ; the idea is the principal root of all reasoning 
and all invention, to it is due all the credit for every kind 
of initiative. To stifle or drive it away under pretext 
that it might do harm were folly ; all we need is to 
regulate it and provide a criterion for it." " 

' Introduction it I'itude de la midecine experimcntale, pp. 40 
and 41. 


APART from the truth or erroneousness of its 
positions, this impersonal method in art has 
been rejpcted as impracticable. The effort required 
is held to put felicity out of question, so that still- 
born harmonies alone can result. 

" Most writers sin by an excessive confidence in the 
infallibility of their genius. Flaubert has sinned by 
excessive distrust of his. . . . Goethe said, ' Poetry is 
deliverance.' . . . Flaubert might have said on the 
contrary, ' Poetry is torture '..."' 

But this is misrepresentation : for Flaubert never 
denied that ease and joy in production were desir- 
able, or had belonged to great masters. His letters 
tell how he experienced them himself. 

" If at times I pass galling hours which cause me 
almost to cry with rage, I so feel my impotence and weak- 
ness, there are others also when I can hardly contain 

, ■ \ 

■ Paul Bourget, (Euvres commutes, tome i.,, pp. 138 and 143. 


myself for joy ; something profound and super-volup- 
tuous overflows me in hurried gushes like an ejaculation 
of the soul. I feel myself transported and intoxicated 
by my own thoughts." ' 

However, not a present rapture, but a child^ound, 
vigorous, and capable of a long career was what 
Flaubert craved for. 

'' He had an exquisite passion for what is properly/ in 
the sense of ease and pleasure, poetical Luxury ; and 
with that it appears to me he would fain have been 
content, ■■ if he could, so doing, have preserved his self- 
respect and feel of duty performed ; but ;there was 
working in him as it were that same sort of thing as 
operates in the great world to the end of a Prophecy's 
being accomplished : therefore he devoted , himself 
rather to the ardours than the pleasures of Song, 
solacing himself at intervals with cups of old wine." ' 

Thus Keats wrote of Milton ; the words apply 
equally well to Flaubert, who speaks of the lyric 
opportunities which the severity of his tasks allowed 
him and of the " good times" when he was writing 
the early versioii of Saint Antoine, as one who loved 
and refused himself " cups of old wine." 

" Taking a subject which left me entirely free as to 

• Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. i88 ; also p. 91. 
' -Notes on Milton's Paradise Lost, " 


lyricism, movement, extravagances, I found myself well 
within my nature and had only to go ahead. Never 
again shall I find the rapturous abandonment to style 
that I then gave myself during eighteen long months." ' 

And even over subjects "which stank in his 
nose " 2 when he had worked himself up to the full 
pitch he would spend entranced hours. 

"No matter, well or ill, writing is delicious — to be 
yourself no longer, but to circulate through all the 
creation of which you are Speaking. . . .' Is it pride or 
pity, is it the silly overflow of an exaggerated self-satis- 
faction 1? or really a vague and noble religious senti- 
ment ? Anyway, when I ruminate after experiencing 
those delights, I should be tempted to put up a prayer 
of thanks to the good God if I knew He could hear me. 
Be He blessed then, since He has not let me be born a 
cotton merchant, a vaudevilHste, a man of wit, Ac. ! " 3 

Men do not choose what they shall suffer and 
enjoy ; they are capable or incapable, can train and 
acquire taste or can not* Though our sensitiveness 
may be controlled in various degrees, some with- 
out effort can make light of much that is untoward, 
while others with great Self-mastery rarely obtain a 
thrill of spontaneous satisfaction even in chosen 
stirfotindings. Flaubert was as enthusiastic as he 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. pp. 70. 
= Ibid., Serie iii. p. 331. 3 Ibid., Serie if. p. 359. 


was irritable. He had the good fortune to be ever 
up and down with a vengeance, so that his was an 
unusually vivid appreciation of both the goods and 
the ills of life. In love with art, he felt as continu- 
ally provoked by difficulty, hindrance, and imper- 
fection, as he was thrown into ecstasy by all great 
examples and achievements. Emulous, yet a keen 
analyst, his pileasure in his own success was the 
least likely to endure. , 

Walter Pater grasped this question more firmly 
th^n many of Flaubprt's countrymen : — 

"The unique term, will come more quickly to one 
than, another, at one time than another, according also 
to the kind of niatter in question. . Quickness and slow- 
ness, ease and closeness {sic : effort ?) alike, have nothing 
to do with the artistic character of the true word found 
at last. ... If Flaubert had not told us, perhaps w© 
should never have guessed how tardy and painful his 
own pfO<?,edu^e really was." ? . s n i 

Fla,ube^t did not tell us ; be tqld hisi intimates, 
who for our good; thOjUght right to disregard his 
declared wishep. "X^ie proper rqles of ease and, 
pleasure in creating art can be endlessly discussed ; 
yet reason why so rnuch is made ,Qf them by 
brillianV critics ma,y be syggesteid 'vifithout a wi?h to 
dogmatise where circumstances ought to determine. 

" Appreciations, 1890, Style, p. 29, 


How delightful it is to watch a child's eyes as, 
enchanted, it tilts a tray on which beads of 
quicksilver " roll and unite, then self-divide anew ! " 
M, Anatole France, following his bright and mobile 
reflections, exerts a similar charm. " According to 
me," Flaubert had said, " the artist is a monstrosity, 
something outside nature ; " ' and his critic cries, 
" There is the mistake. He did not understand that 
poetry should be born naturally out of life, as tree, 
flower, and fruit spring from the earth," ^ to which 
let Renan reply, since only for him M. France uses 
the deference due to a superior. " Scarcely human, 
scarcely natural. Doubtless, but we are only strong 
by opposing nature. The natural tree does not bear 
fine fruit. The espalier bears fine fruit, that is a tree 
which is no longer a tree." 3 Yes, all civilisation, all 
religion, all art have been bought at that price. 

' Cotrespondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. ig. 
' La Vie Utteraire, Serie iii. p. 305. 
3 Souvenirs d'enfance et dejeunesse, p. 341. 
H 97 


Flaubert's correspondence abounds in proofs of 
how he loved freedom, wildness, ease, like a truant 
revelling the more in his own and his friends' escape 
since he had realised how the crucified tree nailed 
to the wall, like the man nailed to the tree, were 
symbols of the tax too often levied on excellence. 
" Not ideal ! " he gibes the pilloried orchard : 
" but necessary " ; he bows his head. Fortified by 
the discovery of this contradiction, M. France, 
taking the words out of Brunetifere's mouth,' who 
might have found them on Louise Colet's lips," says 
he is not intelligent. 

Though too prudent so to speak of a great artist,- 
M. Bourget may yet have led M. France astray; 
this latter has told us how he then thought no man 
was ever more intelligent.3 

" That which^ecause it moves us we seek/ in the 
work of great oKi-world poets, is the impression, on 
tangible material, of this soul-shape forever vanished; 
it is the charming line of the little leaf of a morning 
reproduced on a stone which remains^ and which 
permits us to muse endlessly over it. Such is the truth 
against which Flaubert rebelled all his life long." •* 

No plant ever laboured to print its form on a 

• Hisioire et Uttirature, tome ii. p. 131. 

= Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 385. 

3 La Vie littdraire, Serie ii. p. 10. 

4 Paul Bourget, (Euvres computes, tome i. p. 146. 


stone, much less to print that of other objects 
which it had studied and loved, tracing the beauty 
of some creating harmony by the arrangement even 
of those deficient in grace. The choice of that 
image reveals the untrustworthiness of the writer's 
critical conception which, as Flaubert said, 

"perforce leads to talent being treated as negligible. 
The masterpiece has no longer any significance save 
as an historical document. . . . Once literature was 
believed to be a wholly personal affair, and works fell 
from heaven like aerolites. Now all purpose, every- 
thing absolute is denied. The truth lies, I believe, 
between the two." ' 

Yet M. Bourget is able to blame others for 
" more and more repressing in their books the study 
of the will." 2 

Now after " toute volonte " Flaubert added " tout 
absolu." Modern critics, in tracing developments 
and seeking origins, are prone to ignore absolute 

" The feeling for beauty, for truth, for good . . . 
these sentiments are facts revealed by study of 
human nature," 3 says a great scientist ; and he has 
treated one of them as " primordial," and " imposed 

■ Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. p. 196. 
' Paul Bourget, (Euvres completes, tome i. p. 126. 
3 Dialogues philosophiques, par E. Renan. Berthelot's reply, 
pp. 235 and 236. 


on us, apart from all reasoning, all dogmatic creed, 
all idea of penalty or recompense" ; as " never again 
to be compromised by the downfall of metaphysical 
systems." ^ 

The study of objects in series may cause inborn 
and necessary perceptions to fall into abeyance. 
Since no one thing is absolutely, and everything 
may be relatively true, good, or beautiful, expec- 
tancy of better or worse influences criticism, as it 
enters into a nurse's praise or blame. Yet where 
is the analogy ? No work of art ever improves or 
deteriorates in this sense. Terms have been used 
of objective relations which are only proper to the 
living subject. The historical evolution of stylistic 
characters is not regular or continuous in regard 
to beauty, and any stage, independently of ante- 
cedents or prognostics, may approach most nearly ; 
neither source nor climax has the better chance.^ 
A fervid preference for mature or primitive art 
springs from some pathetic fallacy. Thus his- 
torical study betrays and deludes the critic. "A 

' Dialogues philosophiques, par E. Renan. Berthelot's reply, 
p. 209. 

» Chinese notions were saner ; " the style varied with the subject," 
instead of with the age. " Nothing is more unsafe than to generalise 
about the style of a Chinese or Japanese artist ; one never knows 
what manner or model he may not adopt " ; a primitive one for 
this mood, the most up-to-datS for this other : it being clearly recog- 
nised that the excellence attained may be at once diverse and equal. 
See L. Binyon, Painting in the Far East, pp. 4S and 92, 1908. 


link in the chain," he says, when another at its far 
end is alone valuable. Partial resemblances to 
childhood, virility, age, seduce him, and kindness 
for his own dear life tunes sentiment in regard to 
utterly disparate things. To maunder over early 
or late failures as we spoil children, or flatter 
senility, has seemed profound, exquisite — nay, even 
judicious. Again, as the colour-blind perceive 
only one or a few tints, appreciation of subtleties 
in character or psychic developments is to-day 
a fashionable jaundice indicative of insensibility 
to completer harmonies, in vdiich such quality 
plays but one of many parts, and is sometimes 
subordinate. This lop-sided admiration soon 
tempts an artist to adopt forms in which he is at 
ease. His self-development may be watched most 
advantageously when he is freed from preoccupa- 
tion with it; discipline is relaxed; leaf covers leaf, 
thou^ fruit be sparse and never ripen. 

We can all correct our fellows ; even M. France 
accepts Flaubert's theory for this purpose : — 

" To set the same value on what every man does for 
himself as on what one alone does for all ; to weigh, 
as Mr. Laujol appears to, the nurture of a child against 
giving birth to a poem, amounts to proclaiming the 
inanity of beauty, of genius, of thought, of every- 
thing." " 

' La VielitUraife, Serie iii. p.301. 


Yes, and to point this out amounts to saying that 
"poetry is not born naturally out of life, as tree, 
flower, and fruit spring from the earth," ' or as 
children arrive in due course. 

To those who live on inherited intellectual and 
moral capital the conviction that we do not know 
or feel or act as well as we might by taking pains 
may easily appear a little ridiculous. Even when 
they have striven in youth to augment their fortune 
they put away childish thoughts and accept them- 
selves for what they are. Their gifts push forward, 
flower, and bear almost unconsciously ; and who 
would dispute their happiness ? But if genius 
remains childlike, as is sometimes asserted ; if to 
live and die for others be not always futile; if 
barriers that checked man's advance have been 
taken down by conscious effort and voluntary 
suffering ; to call those unintelligent who, instead 
of spending the much that is to hand, strive to 
mine or mint for currency the more that is still 
to seek, may not only be ungracious, but deserve 
that lightly bandied disparagement. 

Great powers and inherent convictions will be 
obeyed ; a man is not more his own when singled 
out from classes and masses by originality, but 
becomes the servant of forces we cannot measure. 
In his case our standards cease to be adequate ; 
' La Vie litUraire, Serie iii. p. 305 ; see .above, p. 97. 


in describing him our science meets a fact of which 
the parallels are too widely scattered, too variously 
conditioned for safe generalisation. Here is love's 
happiest use, here admiration nourishes while those 
starve who contest ; to receive is here to give, since 
only attention, receptiveness, and respect are asked 


BELLOWING and chanting his periods, Flau- 
bert gauged their fitness to be heard, uttered, 
and delighted in by the human organism. 

" A sentence will live when it answers to the needs 
of respiration. I know it is good when it can be read 
out loud." "^ 

If the current of thought is embarrassed, the 
effort to attend causes hesitation ; if the vocables 
do not lead harmoniously one on to the other 
delivery is impeded, and if these two streams do 
not keep pace, the voice will pant after the sense 
or the thought pause while a sinuous verbosity over- 
takes it. Both must rush or both must loiter, or 
one will tax our faculties in excess and cause a 
dislocation. This conception was rendered yet 
more fertile by its application. On discovering a 
flaw or hitch Flaubert refused to tinker, and 

" G. Flaubert, (Emires computes, vol. vii. p. lii. 


returned to his idea convinced it had not been 
thoroughly grasped. 

" As to correction, before carrying a single one out, 
re-meditate the whole and try hard to ameliorate, not 
by excisions, but by a new creation. Every correction 
ought to be reasoned ; the subject should be thoroughly 
ruminated before a thought is given to the form ; a 
good form only occurs to the mind if the illusion of 
the subject has become an obsession." ' 

When his conception shall live in him, the 
musical expression will gush forth and be found 
also more lucid and complete. Hackneyed, idle, 
or vague epithets, purposeless repetitions of sense, 
sound or rhjrthm, conventional circumlocutions, he 
early banished altogether. Vivisection of his own 
work and of acknowledged masterpieces had shown 
that they could always be replaced or omitted with 
advantage.2 The best vocables are explicit to the 
brain, while they satisfy heart and voice, so that the 
whole body is in tune with the mind when it utters 

" He intoxicated himself with the rhythm of verse 
and the cadence of prose (which should also lend itself 
to reading aloud). Badly written sentences cannot 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Seiie ii. p. 3S0. 
' See Appendix XII. p. 302. 


stand this test; they oppress the lungs, hamper the 
beating heart, and are thus outside the pale of vital 
conditions." ' 

He was not alone. Montaigne had said : — 

"When I see (in the Latin authors) those fine forms 
of explaining whatjis meant, so lively, so profound, I do 
not say 'well said,' I say 'well thought.' The bravery 
of the imagination lifts and fills out the words, pectus 
est, quod disertum facit; we (French) think judgment 
lies in speech, and that fine words are as good as full 
conceptions." ^ 

Boileau: "That which is well conceived is clearly 
delivered." 3 

La Bruyere : " Let us only try to think and speak 
exactly, without wishing to win others over to our 
taste and our feelings ; that is too vast an undertaking.* 

"Among all the diverse expressions which can render 
a certain thought for us only one is good: we do not 
always come across it when speaking or writing, never- 
theless it exists, and a good judge who wishes to make 
himself understood finds everything else feeble and 

"All an author's power consists in defining and paint- 

' Priface aux Demiires chansons de Louis Bouilhet: (Euvres 
computes de G, F., vi. p. i8i. 
' Essais, Livre iii. ch. v. ' L'ArtpoSHque, Chant Premier. 

♦ Les Caractires ; Des Ouvrages de I'esprit, par. ii. 
5 Ibid., par. xxvi. 


ing well ; ... to write naturally, strongly, delicately, 
you must express the truth.' 

" Mediocrities think to write divinely, a fine intelli- 
gence hopes to write reasonably." ' 

Fenelon^ "If a work is to be truly beautiful, the 
author must forget himself, and allow me to forget him ; 
he ought to leave me alone in full liberty." 3 

Montesquieu: "An organ more or less in our mechan- 
ism would have necessitated another eloquence, another 
poetry. ... If the constitution of our organs had 
rendered us capable of a longer attention, all rules 
which proportion the disposition of the subject to the 
measure of our attention would no longer exist; . . . 
laws fpunded on the fact that our mechanism is of a 
certain kind would be different if our mechanism were 
not of that kind."* 

Buffon : " To write well is at the same time to think, 
to feel, and to render well ; it means wit, soul, and 
taste conjoined." 5 

Goethe : " Everything depends on the conception." * 

This last the French master amplified thus : — 

' Les Caractires : Des Ouwages de Vesfrit, par. xv. 

° Ibid., par. xxix. 3 Lettre h V Acadimie, p. 63. 

♦ Essais sur le gout : Des plaisirs de notre ame. 

s Discours sur le style. 

" In order to form a correct judgment on what he was writing 
BuSon would have his manuscript read to him by a stranger. If 
the reader became embarrassed, if he did not read freely and har- 
moniously, BuSon marked the passage and re-worked it later on, 
then put it to the same test again" (Antoine Albalat, Le Travail 
du style, pp. 153 and IS4)' 

* Quoted by Flaubert, Correspondance, Serie ii. p. 132. 


" The more beautiful an idea is, the more sonorous 
will be its expression. . . . The precision of the 
thought is and necessitates that of the word."' 

French artists have been perhaps pre-eminenitly 
conscious and rational, and by her prose has France 
taken highest rank among the nations of the world. 
If Flaubert understood the statements of his fore- 
runners as well as he continued their achievements, 
then we may call art scientific, because it implies the 
discovery of the physiological conditions which 
determine aesthetic approbations. These artists, 
following the same procedure as men of science, 
intuitively divine, then develop the hypotheses thus 
formed by more or less consequent experiment. 
Taste is only subjective in the same sense that all 
knowledge is: and though at present more imma- 
ture than some branches of science, yet the same 
method that has given them consistency must 
consolidate its essays. 

However, the end of art not being physiological 
knowledge, but an application of it, whether em- 
pirical or reasoned, art is not that science any more 
than a water supply is hydraulics. Results may be 
excellent where very little or no conscious method 
has been exerted, and may be bad where great 
mastery over principles has wrestled with niggardly 

' Corre^ondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. p. Il6. 


THE words, " I believe that great art is scien- 
tific," had, however, a further significance for 
Flaubert : though they never meant, as is generally 
assumed, that to represent fact is her sole function, 
for he added, "I regard technical details, local 
information — in short, the historical and exact side 
of things — as altogether secondary," ' Still Flau- 
bert thought that artists, in preparing their subjects, 
might apply the methodical wariness by which 
accidental and personal decoys have been elimi- 
nated from scientific study. 

Perfect docility would dispose the mind con- 
tinually to assimilate new impressions ; but men 
rest on old association, or are welded into it — 
then their only escape is by voluntary renunciation. 
Effort may achieve what youth in a measure enjoys 
and some more happy natures maintain — freshness 
in pursuit of experience. When sight dims, instead 
of the old horn spectacles of prejudice and desire, 

" Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Series iii. p. 331, iv. p. 220. 


let us employ the pure lens of disinterested examina- 
tion, polished by patience. He would not have the 
artist less imaginative or inventive, but let him 
use better material — as Michael Angelo applied 
the knowledge of anatomy to the creation of 
unheard-of types which dwarf mere men. This if 
he can ; but less ambitious designs will mature by 
the same process. Better provided, each inventor 
has a greater range of choice, and fixes on the 
best, not the second best, feature for his purpose; 
besides, in the presence of those vast and intricate 
vistas, his own passions and peculiarities take a 
truer proportion and seem less absorbing, leaving 
him free to sympathise with more varied existences.^ 
He might be tempted to forget himself in his work.* 
Learning from the Mayor of Trouville in 1853 that 
during forty years there had only been two con- 
victions for theft among a population of three 
thousand, Flaubert writes: — 

" To me that seems luminous. Are fisher-folk 
moulded of other clay than labourers ? what is the 
reason ? I believe it should be attributed to contact with 
vastness ; a man who has ever before him as much space 
as the human eye can scan should draw a disdainful 
serenity from frequenting it (witness the prodigality of 
sailors of all grades, careless of life and money). I 

' Correspondance, Serie iii. p. 203. ' Ibid., Serie ii. p. 298. 


believe the morality of art should be sought in the same 

And of natural science he cries : — 

" Look what stretches of facts ! what an immensity 
open to thought ! " 

Haunted by that, who will filch a satisfaction for 
his vanity, his sentimentality, or his comfort ? 

In this sense the art of Homer and Shakespeare is 
scientific ; like sailors on the high seas they gave all 
and were whatever they might be. A fundamental 
docility in respect of experience was the air by 
breathing which they held all human beliefs lightly. 
Their curiosity was animated with reverence for 
things observed rather than with personal needs and 
preferences. This temper was for Flaubert the soul 
of great art, by which it is akin to science. M. 
Ren6 Dumesnil ^ set passages from his letters side by 
side with others from U Introduction d I' etude de la 
medecine experimentale in order to show that, like 
Claude Bernard, Flaubert had been a spiritual 
grandson of the great doctors Bichat and Cabanis, 
and such parallels may be extended. = Though no 
number of them can, of course, show that Flaubert 
could, if he would, have written some such perfect 

' Flaubert : son hiridite — son milieu — sa mithode, p. 294, &c. 
» See Appendix XIII. pp. 304-307. 


Introduction to Experimental Method, perhaps they 
indicate that he might have tabulated the main 
positions, and was at least far on the road to grasp 
their full bearing, before the publication of Claude 
Bernard's master thesis. 

Critics forget what hasty outpourings his letters 
were, written after the day's work to friends, 
arguing with them, shouting to rouse them ; eager 
to make notepaper a substitute for personal com- 
munion, and so serve both as relief and recreation. 

'' Often Flaubert gave outrageous, paradoxical, or 
provoking expression to his ideas : so much so that he 
has been accused of ferocity or immorality. Their 
profound justness will strike those who relate them to 
the social period of their enunciation and their due 
place in the mind that conceived them."' 

However, for us, the main interest of this parallel 
between the great doctor's and the great writer's 
thought lies in the latter's application of such ideas 
to assthetic ends. He regarded experimental pre- 
paration as neither necessary nor binding on every 
artist : the realist alone must suffer from lack 
of it. 

" And then, that (scientific preparation) matters very 
little, it is secondary. A book may be full of enormities 

• G. Lanson, Pages choisies des grands icrivains : G. Flaubert, 
Introduction, p. xxix, 1893. 


and blunders and be none the less very beautiful. Such 
a doctrine, if it gained ground, would be deplorable ; 
I know that in France above all, where the pedantry of 
ignorance is rife. But I see in the opposite tendency — 
which, alas ! is mine — a great danger. Study of the coat 
makes us forget the soul." ' 

Writers who abjure phantasy can be scientific 
and create beauty only by keeping to "probable 
generalities," = and by displaying "more logic" 
than can be traced through " the hazard of 
occurrences." 3 

"Characters must be worked up to the height of 
types : paint that which will not pass away, try to virrite 
for eternity."* 

" Special cases are for that reason false ; " for 
exceptions s will not fuse in harmonies based on 
cause and effect rather than on the author's senti- 

Flaubert well perceived the danger of vain 
curiosity, which hovers round such odd incidents as 
must lack definite significance and therefore cannot 
yet form parts ' of intelligible wholes. Mysteries, 
unless typical of some ignorance which plays a 
constant and recognised part in human life, cannot 

' Corresfottdance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. p. 103. 

' Ibid., Serie iii. p. 340. ' Ibid., p. 376. 

* Ibid., p. 209. s Ibid., p. 306. 


beget mature emotion, and sound impertinent in 
any sequence of vital impressions. Instead of 
wooing our contemplation they rouse us from it 
with a start. Thus Flaubert, wishing to work with 
conscious observation and. experiment, is anxiously 
on his guard against bootless excursions ; and, 
devout to achieve beauty, is not content to surprise 
alone, but seeks always to entrance and fascinate. 

"I believe ,,, .■ yqu njay. interest, with any subject : 
as to creating beauty with any, I think that too, 
theoretically at least, but am less sure."' 

And lie says of a scene in Madame Bovary \ha.i 
"even perfectly succeeded in . . . it w^ll never be 
beautiful on account of the subject."" 

In order to nourish our .sense of beaoty, 
curiosity must not be imerely irritated, but attunftd 
to follow a definite evolution, and return, instead of 
fainting exhausted where its tether becomes taut. 

" I try to think well in order to write well. But to 
write well is my end, I make no secret of it." 3 

The risk of loss is thus diminished : not only has 
an outlook been achieved, but a golden stair thither 
is provided by perfectly fitting words. Thus the 
forms of enlightened interest may beconie a racial 

' Correspandance de G, Flaubert, Serieii. p. 319. 
" Ibid,, p. 275. 3 Ibid.,'Serie iv. p. 221. 


possession, a dance of thought. Then generations 
joining in will be carried through certain figures on 
lovely rhythms by which every step is determined. 
The beyond not yet subject to vision or survey will 
be better divined and explored by those for whom 
past experience is consolidated in habits effecting 
the ends proposed, exhilarating the performers and 
beautiful to witness; reading aloud might be all 
this. Some Greek rhapsodist or actor with a happy 
audience iHay have touched this ideal. Homer may 
have once produced his due effect, and style been 
fjEeed an hour from the gaol in which the lack of 
.harmonious training and ej^ercise universally con- 
fines it. 

"The world's injustice, baseness, and tyranny, and 
all the turpitudes and fetidness of existence revolt 
you . . . " (Flaubert says to the artist). 

"^But are you quite sure of knowing life f Have you been 
to the bottom of science f Are you not too feeble for 
passion ? Let us not accuse alcohol, but our stomachs 
or our intemperance. Who among us without hope 
of recompense, without personal interests, without 
expectation of profit, constantly strains to approach 
God ? Who works to be greater and better, to love 
more strongly, to feel more intensely, to understand 
more and more ? " 

" How can we, with our bounded senses and finite 
intelligence, reach absolute knowledge of truth and 
good ? Shall we ever grasp the absolute ? If you 
want to live, you must do without a clear idea of any- 


thing whatsoever. . . . Life is so hideous that the only 
way of enduring it is to avoid it. And it may be 
avoided by living in art, in ceaseless search for truth 
rendered by beauty." ' 

To-day, beauty may express truth more directly 
than in myths and legends : for of them, as of his 
licentious tales, La Fontaine might have said : — 

" The beauty and grace of these things lie neither in 
truth nor in verisimilitude, but in the manner of telling 
them alone." * 

Yet beauty is "the splendour of truth? "3 Yes, 
but not only that of ascertained circumstances. 
Sincerity — truth about what a man thinks and 
feels even when he is ignorant, deceived, and 
vicious — nay, even when he is jesting, ridiculing, or 
romancing — is capable of admirable expression. It 
includes the best that has yet been thought of 
human life. Errors, illusions, dreams have in the 
past been rendered by beauty, often doubtless 
charged with detached or half -apprehended verities ; 
now, with the experimental method and the 
historical sense added, modern artists have the 
opportunity of thus rendering the probable and the 
known. Solidarity of thought, feeling, and expres- 

' Correspendance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. pp. 8S, iSS, 85, 86. 
" Preface de La Fontaine four la seconde idition du premier livre 
de ses contes, 1665. 
3 Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii, p. 80. 


sion begets beauty. He who would use objective 
reality in art can never, as Flaubert said, have 
enough sympathy ;i for heart and soul, as well as 
mind, must be filled by the facts studied, or he will 

" Everything invented is true, be sure of that ; poetry 
is as precise a thing as geometry ; induction is as good 
as deduction. And then on reaching a certain level, 
mistakes are no longer made about all that belongs to 
the soul ; without doubt, at this very hour, my poor 
Bovary suffers and weeps in twenty villages of France 
at once." ^ 

The throes of style are caused by the painful 
parturition of what is comprehensible in thought 
and emotion from what is incoherent. Flaubert 
felt that so much as could live in other minds, and 
augment their efficiency, must be freed from all 
taint of matters which could only swell prejudice 
and hasten corruption. The public should have his 
best after it had passed the inquisition of his most 
active hours. 

" He did not lay down principles in order to give 
authority to his natural bent, but in order to defend 
himself against it, rectify and complete it." 3 

' Cotrespondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. p. 367. 
' Ibid., Serie ii. p. 284. 

3 Pages choisies des grands icrivains : Gustave Flaubert, par 
G. Lanson, Introduction, p. xxxv. 

ii8 ART AN1> LIFE 

A large amount of incompifehensible jargon passes 
unnoticed in the work o£ those who address their 
contemporariies ; but to win a ' hearing from men 
who will use quite other cant, and detest the old- 
fashioned, a writer must traverse current opinions 
for a better view of his object. Though he dis- 
associate himself from those who are called "the 
intelligent " — who are introducing the next fashion, 
or wielding the present one with exceptional fluency 
— he may approach minds of far distant periods and 
purge his conceptions of temporary oddities. The 
lasting esteem due to reason is worth the risk oi 
seeming a little out of date to-day. Those who 
strain after immediate effect are often nettled by 
those who suffer that their work may livp. Alas ! 

"the strong also, the great, have said in th^ir turn, 
' Why not agitate this c^owd hourly instead of making 
it dream later on?' And they have climbed on the 
platform, they have written for newspapers ; and there 
they are, buttressing with itnmortal names iephemeral 
theories. ... To me it seems finer to reach several 
centuries ahead and to set beating the hearts of genera- 
tions to come, flooding them with pure joys ; who shall 
tell the divine thrills that Homer has caused, all the 
tears that the good' Horace has sent flowiiug through 
remembrances ? " ' 

■ Conespondance de G. Flaubert, Serie i. pp.- 138 and 159. 


" T)OOR Flaubert could never understand what Sainte- 
X^ Beuve tells, in his Port-Reyal, of those solitary 
souls who, passing their whole hfe in the same house, 
addressed each other as 'Monsieur' to their dying 

Flaubert had written to Sainte-Beuve : — 

" It is precisely because their ways are very far from 
mine that I admire your talent in making me under- 
stand them,"'' 

which is not quite the same thing. However, the 
reproach which immaculate criticism might venture 
on would probably be that here implied by Renan. 
For though profound respect from his intimates 
rarely failed him, Flaubert perhaps leaned towards 
the extreme that breeds contempt rather than that 

' E. Renan, Souvenirs d'enfance ei de jeunesse, p. 339. 
■•' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. p. 250. 

119 / 


which regards the asking of a service between 
friends as " an act of corruption." ' 

To explain the contrast between his attitudes in 
work and leisure, he says : — 

" I have always tried not to belittle art for the satis- 
faction of an isolated personality." " 

Could he have foregone his freedom with those 
whom he trusted, have tamed his exuberance in 
private as in public, making life itself a work of 
impersonal art, as saints have done, he had been 
more irreproachable, if hardly more lovable. 

He never dared to compare himself with the 
Shakespeares and Rabelais who are assumed to have 
produced with ease, — not even with the Montaignes 
who say just what comes into their heads. Carefully 
and respectfully though M. Albalat has defended 
his judgments, he has not done justice to their 
coherence. He thinks " the method matters little, 
for to re-work again and again proves to be the 
necessity." 3 

" Talent consists in understanding that you can do 
better." * 

" E. Renan, Souvenirs d'enfance et de jeunesse, p. 339. 

" Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie i. p. 128. 

3 Le travail du style, p. 10. ♦ Ouvriers et frocidis, p. 325. 


Anxious not to exclude any great reputation, he 
failed to grasp the catholic nature of Flauberfs 
physiological test. The nice convenience of voice, 
heart, and brain while reading aloud, as it could 
only be applied by a perfect man, would only dis- 
cover one style capable of adequately varying with 
every subject. Divergencies between actual styles, 
not derived from change of theme, are necessarily 
due to imperfections in writers. Fortunately, great 
men have owned as diverse excellences as faults, so 
that true eloquence exists in their successes, though 
no one has complete control of it. But for each 
man's style Flaubert's method holds good, though 
its effect will vary with individual limitations. All 
good writers have probably used it, though often 
unconsciously, and with every degree of thorough- 
ness. M. Albalat even champions some whom 
Flaubert consistently admired against a severity 
which he reads into his theory. 

"To conceive of art as ttie expression of a collec- 
tive (?) sensibility, is to declare the inferiority of works 
of personal sensibility and of reflective autobiography 
such as Montaigne's Essays, Adolphe, Rene, Rousseau's Con- 
fessions, Hugo's poetry, certain pieces by Lord Byron. 
The predominance of a personality in a literary work 
seems to us as reasonable as the non-intervention of the 
author, and as powerful works may result from treating 
only of yourself as from treating exclusively of others." ' 
" Ouvriers etfrocidds, p. 243. 


Yet we have seen that M. Albalat admits the very 
best works to be all impersonal.^ 
What was Flaubert's contention ? 

" Poets are of two classes — the very great and the 
rare ; the true masters sum up humanity ; preoccupied 
neither with themselves nor with their passions, throw- 
ing their personality on the rubbish-heap in order to 
absorb themselves in those of others, they reproduce 
the universe, which is reflected in their works, sparkling, 
varied, manifold, as a whole sky is mirrored in the sea 
with all its stars, and all its azure ; there are others 
who have only to create in order to. be harmonious, 
only to weep in order to touch us, and only to occupy 
themselves with themselves in order to remain with us 
eternally ; they could not perhaps have gone farther by 
acting differently, but in default of ampleness they have 
ardour and zest, so much so that had they been born 
with other temperaments they would perhaps have had 
no genius. Byron was of this family,- Shakespeare of 
that other ; of a truth is there anything to tell what 
Shakespeare loved, what he betrayed, what he felt ? 
He is a Colossus who terrifies, it is difficult to believe 
that he was a man. Ah well, fame ! we want ours to 
be pure, ,tirue,, sound as that of. those depii-gods ; we 
put ourselves out of joint, we strain and strut to reach 
their level, we lop away from our talent naive caprices 
and instructive fancies in order to fit them into the type 
agreed upon, into a ready-made mould ; or possibly at 
other times one has the vanity to believe that it suffices, 
like Montaignp and Byron,, to say what comes intqh^ad 
' See Appendix XI. p. 300. 


and heart in order tO create beautiful things. This last 
method is perhaps the wisest for those who are original, 
for writers would often have far more qualities, if they 
strove less after them, and the first man to hand who 
knew how to write correctly could make a superb book 
of his memoirs, completely, sincerely written. Now 
then, to come back to myself. I saw I was not of 
sufficient stature to make true works of art, nor eccen- 
tric enough to fill them with myself alone ; and not 
having cunning enough to procure success, nor genius 
enough to conquer glory, I condemned myself to write 
for my own satisfaction, as one smokes a pipe or goes 
out riding." ' 

Flaubert had an " inverted hypocrisy," = as 
Sabatier says, and willingly gave you to understand 
less than the truth about his motives.3 

In any case perfection pleased him, and his exer- 
cise was a rigorous and patient effort to compass it. 
He would invent sequences of articulate sounds 
which, even when the information they conveyed 
should be outgrowrn', might still seem worth repeat- 
ing for the sake of hearing such, melody and utter- 
ing -with so much grace thoughts- buoyant with 
sympathy. Why publish what is less well written, 
unless it be news or discoveries ? He was neither 
journalist nor scientist, nor even an historian. 

" Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie i. p. 180. 

= Journal de Genive, Mai 16, 1880. 

3 Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie i. p. 115. 


Having observed matters that any one might look 
into, he thereafter retold tales as Homer and Virgil 
had, or composed a new one out of scraps as Shake- 
speare sometimes did. Dances, songs, and more 
ponderate rhythms outlive systems, catch-words, and 
arguments because they enchant, they occupy the 
living with beauty and re-create joy. Harmony is 
more explicit than any language ; it alone informs 
the soul, begetting the temper which welcomes 
knowledge and achieves peace. In spite of the 
grandeur of this conception Flaubert was not con- 
sistently so contemptuous of his own effort as in 
the passage quoted above — at other times he is 
kinder to his hopes than to treat them as a self- 

" In writing this book [Madame Bovary] 1 am like 
a man playing the piano with a lead shot tied to every 
finger-joint, but when I shall know my fingering, if I 
hit on an air to my liking, and can play with my sleeves 
turned up, it will perhaps be good. . . . 

" / believe that as to this I am in line, what you create 
is not for you but for others. Art need not take ac- 
count of the artist : so much the worse for him if he 
does not like red, green, or yellow, all the colours are 
beautiful, the thing is to copy them." ' 

Flaubert manfully copied dull colours while pre- 
ferring bright ones ; he felt that subjects imposed 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 128 ; see also p. gi. 


themselves and were not chosen ; modern life in- 
vited observation, bygone and foreign existences 
baffled it, and, as Buffon says : — 

" Human intelligence can create nothing, and only 
produces when fertilised by experience and meditation ; 
knowledge is the seed of its productions."' 

Madame Bovarv and I'Education embody know- 
ledge which alone could impregnate such concep- 
tions of the imagination as SalammbS and Saint 
Antoine. Not to have repined at having to seek his 
experience in such colourless dirt would have been 
grander : but those to whom he complained were 
always ready to listen, and many of us are delighted 
to overhear. 

' Discours sur le style. 


As Flaubert's critics have but little followed up 
this idea of impersonal art, so they have ill- 
observed his application of it. 

" If the reader does not draw from a book the lesson 
which ought to result from it, that must mean either 
that the reader is an idiot or that the book is in- 
accurate. . . ." ' 

" By virtue of the profoundly just dilemma which 
he thus formulates, Flaubert always abstains from ap- 
preciating both the events which he exhibits and the 
characters which he develops." 

M. Dumesnil is not alone in making this observa- 
tion ; most of the critics I have quoted acquiesce in 
it more or less explicitly ; yet we read in Madame 
Bovary : — 

" ' I bear you no ill-will,' he said. 

" Rudolph remained silent. Charles, holding his head 

' Corresiondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iv. p. 230. 


fx>. both hands, spoke again with faded voice and the 

•resigned accent of a limitless grief. 

" ' No ! I no longer bear you any ill-will ! ' 

" He even added a great comment, the only one he 

ever made. 
" ' The fault lies at fate's door.' " ' 

The whole book is written by one of Charles 
Bovary's school friends, to whom Flaubert not only 
attributes his own powers but his self-restraint in 
the use of them. This very decided appreciation of 
his hero's pronouncement occurs in a position that 
gives it the air of being the corollary of the whole 
history. Again, where will you find a more definite 
appreciation than that of Dr. Larivifere or than that 
of Rudolf's heart, when, after reviewing his mistresses' 
letters, he says to himself : — 

" ' What a heap of rot ! ' 

" Which summed up his opinion, for his pleasures, 
like the boys in a school playground, had trodden his 
heart, till nothing green grew there ; and that which 
passed over it, more giddy than children, never even 
left, as they will, a name cut on the wall." = 

Could Rudolf himself have written that ? No, 
only one of Charles Bovary's companions could so 
express his appreciation of such a man. 

' (Euvres computes, vol. i. p. 474. ' Ibid., p. 275. 


Not pedantically impersonal we found his theory, 
and so from his practice, too, pedantry is absent : 
but he strove to remove from his pictures, apprecia- 
tions, and aspersions all colour of ignorance, passion, 
prejudice, insolence, negligence, or indifference 
that he found deforming his first impressions. He 
felt he " could never command sympathy enough " ^ 
to be wholly just and wholly lucid. 

' Conespondance de G, Flaubert, Serie iii. p. 376. 


FLAUBERT'S "A new aesthetic is latent in every 
proposed work, which it is our business to dis- 
cover," I is indeed the flattest contradiction of all 
arid conformities. Yet for him perfection had every- 
where the same characters of power, of precision, 
and of inconclusiveness ; that is, it never fell flat, or 
struck at random, or overweened. Feebleness, aim- 
lessness, and pretension always mar. 

Man's perceptions are, for the time being, seen 
independently of his origin and destiny, they 
appear essential and necessary just as much even 
of his ignorance does ; therefore if he is true to 
them, that like the night sky will serve to con- 
centrate and set off their light. Blunders and 
errors will not outweigh great gifts save where 
the individual should have been conscious that 
he might and could have avoided them : for in- 
sincerity spreads like blight, George Sand and 
TourguenefT had Flaubert's hearty admiration, 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 380. 
K "9 


though he could have passed little of their work. 
From him it would have been insincere. They 
were happily blind to its defects ; and the power^ 
and large freedom of their conceptions is often 
patent in spite of clumsy construction and careless 
writing. But " Boileau will last as long as Hugo . . . 
La Fontaine as Dante," ^ because though they 
were not so richly endowed, they embodied what 
they had more perfectly. Great men carry off an 
ill fit : he lesser men need to be perfectly dressed. 
Most critics have found that Flaubert's faults might 
easily have been trusted to his ample nature : he 
thought otherwise, and though born a downright 
Brobdingnagian conformed himself to soft-skinned 
and squeamish Lilliput in matters of toilette. As a 
consequence he has been adored and admired, but 
not always by the same people. Little wits find 
the giant too gross for love — and we know the 
scrupulous stylist astonished his easy-natured and 
prolific comrades by wasting so much effort and 
conscience over, for them, imperceptible niceties. 
Those who are neither too great nor too delicate 
might make sure of the advantage, had not several 
critics like Gulliver proved first too big and then too 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 194. 


Do not read, like children, for amusement, nor, like the ambitious, 
for instruction. Read to live : compose for your soul an intellectual 
atmosphere emanating from all great minds. 


To read books treating of grave matters, is not what I call serious 
reading, but to read well-built and above all well-written books, 
realising for oneself each author's method. 

Felix Frank, "Gustave Flaubert d'apres des documents 


Try in reading the great masters to grasp their methods, to draw 
near to their souls, and you will come forth from study in a blaze of 
admiration, joyous. You will feel like Moses descending from Sinai. 
Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. p. 86 


ART'S functions were for Flaubert, as for all 
great masters, the evocation, development, 
and perpetuation of beauty. If you asked him to 
define he replied by telling you what beauty did 
for him. 

" He reads us his notes ; we are closeted the whole 
day ; at its end we are tired with running over all those 
countries and picturing all those landscapes. 

" By way of rest the reading is cut in lengths by short 
pipes which Flaubert smokes quickly, and by Uterary 
dissertations, contentions entirely opposed to the nature 
of his talent, show-off and ready-made opinions, and 
su£&ciently compUcated and obscure theories, about a 
beauty not local, not particular ; a pure beauty, a beauty 
to ail eternity, a beauty in the definition of which he 
loses himself in a maze whence he escapes wittily 
enough by this phrase, ' Beauty — beauty is that by 
which I am vaguely exalted.' " ' 

Flaubert himself said of his friend and disciple 

Bouilhet — 

' Journal des Goncourt, tome ii. p. 159. 


" He thought art should be seriously treated ; the 
vague exaltation, which it aimed at producing, sufficed 
to give it moral value ; " ' 

vague, or rather indeterminate, because it must be 

"In art neither to provoke laughter nor tears, nor 
lust, nor rage, seems to me to be highest (and most 
difficult), but to act after Nature's own fashion, that is, 
to set musing." = 

Particular emotions grow tyrannous and drown 
other, often exquisite, perceptions that might have 
set them off. 

" There, that is poetry as I love it, — tranquil and crude 
as nature, without a single striking idea, and every line 
of which opens an horizon to set you musing all a day 
long." 3 

Like emotions, ideas easily usurp more than their 
due attention. Abstract thought seems jealous of 
the five ways in which matter carries on her com- 
merce with us. General definitions only exist by 
ignoring subtle shades, but these distinguish indivi- 
dual objects. Artists cannot be rigidly intellectual, 

' (Euvres Computes, vol. vi. p. 178. 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 304. 

3 Ibid., p. 41. 


since logic to become practical must yield some- 
thing to the sensuous illusion in which life is 
immersed. Anatole France was perhaps feeling 
after this fact when he made the clumsy assertion 
that Flaubert was unintelligent. 

" God is everywhere present in the universe, nowhere 
visible : so should an author be in his work. Since art 
is a second nature, its creator ought to act in an 
analogous manner in order that a secret and infinite 
impassibility may be felt in every atom, in every aspect ; 
the effect on the spectators should be a kind of dum- 
foundedness. ' How has it all been done ? ' they should 
say : and let them feel crushed without knowing why. 
Greek art was on those Unes, and to attain its end the 
more quickly, persons were chosen from exceptional 
social conditions — kings, gods, demigods ; it did not 
interest you with yourself, the divine was aimed at." ' 

No doubt Keats laboured with a similar experi- 
ence when he wrote — 

"Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing 
that enters into one's soul, and does not startle it or 
amaze it vrith itself, but with its subject." = 

On questions of beauty the authority of Keats 
and Flaubert is as good as any : both had actual 

» Corrfspondance de G, Flaubert, Serie ii. p; 155. 

= J. Keats, letter to T. H. Reynolds, dated February 3, 1818. 


experiences in view, and neither was sophisticated 
by the metaphysics of subject and oljject. The 
import of their words is practical. Goethe, at times 
their peer in aesthetic sensibility and in other ways 
the superior of both, powerfully grasped the same 
idea — 

" I for my part should be glad to break myself of 
talking altogether, and speak like creative nature only 
in pictures." ' 

" Unhappily," Flaubert cries in another place, 

" French mentality so rages for amusement, and so 
imperatively demands garish things, that it little lends 
itself to what is for me the essence of poetry, exposi- 
tion, — whether effected sensuously in pictures, or 
morally by psychological analysis."^ 

The organism that shall thus represent will not only 
receive an image, but find it living room; more 
than a faithful mirror, its sympathy, like a still lake, 
will give new relations to objects without disturbing 
those proper to them, and reflect them enhanced, 
more luminous, intangible. Less perfect poetry 
shows the grain of some current or has a ripple : 

it may seem more lively, but less completely lives. 


" Falk, Characteristics of Goethe, trans. S. Austen, vol. i. p. 55. 
' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 232. 


Effective as the tide on limp seaweed, the full 
mood bathes our impressions and memories, dis- 
plays them with unforgettable grace, and enables 
the artist enchantingly to dispose sounds, words, 
colours, or forms. That felicitous access is as 
necessary to the poet as the deep and vital water 
to the weed. Before perception can dilate, the 
faculties must be relieved from pressure of anxiety, 
greed, business, inquisitiveness, or any insistent 
effort. The nice poise of innumerable tender hosts 
should entertain the fluid aspects of all things con- 
templated with unflagging cordiality. Therefore, 
like perfect expression, the whole beauty of the 
world exists for the ideal man alone. The fine 


capacity of the creative atmosphere or temper is 
tested by the complexity and crudeness of the 
matters which without strain it can envelop, while 
its integrity is gauged by power to order the symbols 
of expression as the vibrations of musical notes 
arrange sand on a plate of glass. Are not mis- 
fortune and suffering the ordeals of moral fibre ? 
Will not holiness compose feelings, thoughts, and 
deeds in lovely pattern, despite harsh circumstance ? 
Human success must ever be more than it has been ; 
for man, not to advance is to give way, " How will 
he show under trial ? " we muse about one with a 
native tact for behaviour, — " Has his rich patrimony 
been kept in training ? " and we make the same 


reflection about an artist : " Is it gift alone, or that 
backed by mastery ? " Sometimes the heir of in- 
tegrity or strenuousness may fail to achieve the 
graces and decencies that enchant and give con- 
fidence. In every case personal effort has com- 
pleted endowment before we acknowledge a master 
in art or life. 

As the radiance of a star must encounter a sen- 
sitive nerve before it can be perceived, a polished 
surface before it can flash again, and would other- 
wise for ever permeate dark space in vain, — so un- 
admired, unemulated beauty is futile as eloquence 
poured out above a crowd both deaf and blind. 
Only known when felt, like sound, light, heat ; like 
form, life, goodness, it cannot be defined, yet as a 
literary quality its character is constant as that of 
" the ideal type towards which all our efforts ought to 
tend." I 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 338 


BEFORE he commenced Madame Bovary Flau- 
bert wrote : — 

" Literature has lung disease. . . . Christs of art are 
needed to heal this leper." ' 

Several critics have independently thought that 
he answered this need. 

" He is the Christ of literature. During twenty years 
he wrestled with words, he agonised over phrases. . . . 
His case is legendary."^ 

" Such a method only allowed him to attain beauty 
by a long ascent, every stage of which was an affliction, 
and implied an ordeal." 3 

" Flaubert conceived of aesthetic creation under guise 
of a moral effort, and every one of his sentences is 
rigorously a sacrifice of pleasure to duty."* 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. ll. 
= A. Albalat, Travail du style, p. 65, 1905. 
3 Rene Dumesnil, Flaubert, p. 2S2, 1903. 
* G. Lanson, Pages choisies de G. Flaubert, p. zxxvi, 1895. 


, " To state the matter simply, he is our operative 
conscience, or, as may be said, our vicarious sacrifice ; 
animated by a sense of literary honour, attached to an 
ideal of perfection, that enable us comparatively to sit 
at ease, to surrender to the age, to indulge in what 
lapses we may find profitable. May it not in truth 
be said that we practise our industry, so many of us, 
at comparatively little cost, because poor Flaubert, 
producing the most expensive novels ever written, so 
handsomely paid for it?"' 

How old our minds are ! " Let us sin now, that 

grace may abound " ; what Gnostic argued thus ? 

Happy Mr. James ! Because the master's work 

is lucid, are we absolved from having a definite 

meaning and clear expression ? I fear nonsense 

is still as futile as before those novels appeared, 

There is in all this, however, something that takes 

from M. Mauclair's apparent wildness when he 

wrote of Flaubert, " The pessimist threw himself 

at the foot of the cross," and his "Work yields 

but one conclusion — believe. The victory of the 

Christian spirit dominates it throughout." ^ Why 

should we not charge M. Sabatier,3 sometime 

doyen of the faculty of Protestant Theology at 

Paris, and M. Bruneti^re,4 defender of the Pope, 

with having failed to recognise a primary attitude 

of the great ensainple of their sects, when assumed 

' Henry James, InlroducUon to Madame Bovary,p, xxv. 
» See Appendix, p. 273. 3 Ibid. p. 300. < Ibidp 2 


in a new field by a man who communicated with 
neither Church ? 

Flaubert was in no marked sense a Christian. 
Though an exceptionally affectionate, generous, 
and loyal man, neither chastity nor charity was 
by him pursued for its own sake. Yet in his 
art their equivalents, concision and impartial 
sympathy, were paramount ; and such scrupulous- 
ness there is perhaps rarer even than in the social 
sphere. When we slight our fellows, revenge or 
discontent informs us of the fact : but when reason 
and mental delicacy are flouted, who is sufficiently 
concerned to take offence ? Few men have done 
more by self-discipline : yet his temper may have 
only reaped some thirty, while his art profited 
a hundredfold. 

" In religion, it was with the temperament and views 
of M. Renan (1875-1878) that he most sympathised. 
Like the latter, he delighted in the religious emotion 
and disdained formal worship and dogma. ' You are 
a Christian,' he would say to me at times, ' I remain 
pagan ; I am religious in my own way. Atheism is a 
great stupidity ; but my God is the unknown God.' " ' 

Action is more veracious than words; there is 
a flavour of humbug about verbal professions. A 

■ A. Sabatier, Journal de Gentve, i6 Mai, 1880 ; see also Corre- 
spondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. p. 143. 


rule describes a series of instances : a million will 
claim conformity for one whose life is in line. 

If Flaubert's great effort proved that art's 
autonomy implied loving obedience and emotional 
freedom from self-concerns, similar to those which 
Jesus had prescribed for His kingdom, perhaps no 
nominally subjected province, no Church was in 
such a condition as ought to have startled him 
into recognition of the fact. Besides, he may 
have perceived it, but refrained from the pre- 
tentiousness of insistence ; for he did write : — 

"That is what Socialists all the world over have 
always refused to see with their eternal materialistic 
preaching ; they have denied sufEering, they have 
blasphemed three-quarters of modern poetry ; Christ's 
blood which stirs in us — nothing will extirpate that, 
nothing will drain its source : our business is not to dry 
it up but to make channels for it." " 

A later letter suggests how he thought art could 
furnish channels for vicarious suffering. 

"Some natures do not suffer — are people without 
nerves happy ? Yet of how many things are they 
not deprived ? Nervous capacity — that is to say, power 
to suffer — augments the higher you trace the. scale of 
beings ; to suffer, to think — are they one and the same ? 
Genius may be after all only a refinement of pain — that 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. pp. 129 and 130. 


is to say, a meditation on the objective throughout the 
soul. Moliere's melancholy sprang from the human 
stupidity which he felt comprised within him ; he 
suffered from the Diafoiruses and Tartuffes who 
crowded into his brain through his eyes. I think the 
soul of Veronese imbibed colours Uke a piece of stuff 
plunged in a dyer's boiling vat ; all objects appeared to 
him with their tints so heightened as to arrest his gaze. 
Michael Angelo said that blocks of marble trembled on 
his approach ; that he trembled on approaching blocks 
of marble is certain." ' 

The reluctant soul must receive impressions, how- 
ever importunate they may be (as Christ is supposed 
to have accepted the sins of the world) or confess 
that since it cannot carry that burden the in- 
transigence of desire and aspiration is insane 
presumption. The ideal must comprise the real 
or be irrelevant. Had Veronese been unable to 
use the tints his eye discriminated, had Michael 
Angelo lacked power to turn the quarried mass 
to account, had Molifere failed to provoke laughter 
over what he ached to perceive, might not their 
impotencies have well thought: "Better be a dog 
without taint of speculation " ? 

• Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. pp. 329, 330. 


FLAUBERT thought the literary artist should 
find every event, transposed as by an illusion, 
lend itself to verbal description, and should count 
no sacrifice great by which that pregnant ecstasy 
was fostered.^ With what pride he spoke of having 
been finely worked up I^ And to render truth by 
beauty was the final triumph 3 when " reality, instead 
of yielding to the ideal, confirmed it." 4 

His language has often disconcerted those whose 
acquaintance with beauty was conventional or at 

"I do not share TourguenefE's severity in regard 
to 'Jack' nor the immensity of his admiration for 
' Rougon.' The one has charm, the other strength. 
But neither is in the first place preoccupied with 
that which is for me the end of Art, namely, beauty. 
I remember with what violent pleasure my heart beat 

' (Euvres computes, tome vi. p. 184. 

= Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 3S9 ; iii. pp. 192, 223, 
313 ; iv. p. 77. 
3 Ibid., Serie iii. p. 86. * Lettres it sa niece Caroline, p. 523. 


when contemplating a wall of the Acropolis, a quite 
bare wall (that which is on the left as you go up to 
the Propylaea). Well, I wonder if a book, quite apart 
from what it said, might not produce the same effect ? 
In the precision of its groupings, the rarity of its 
elements, the polish of its surfaces, the harmony 
of the whole, is there not intrinsic virtue, a kind of 
divine force, something eternal like a principle? (I 
speak as a Platonist.) Thus, why is there a necessary 
relation between the right word and the musical word ? 
Why does one always write a verse when one con- 
denses one's thought too much ? The law of numbers 
then governs sentiments, and what appears external is 
very really the inside. If I continue long at this rate 
I shall poke my finger in my own eye : for, from another 
point of view, art ought to take its ease {etre bon- 
hotnme) ; or, rather, art is what you can make it, we 
are not free. Each follows his own course willy-nilly. 
In short, your Cruchard no longer has a single idea in 
his head that stands on its feet."' 

Bruneti^re quoted the first half of this passage 
by itself. His comment was, "This means that 
words need not express ideas, and that if you 
group them somewhat harmoniously, without 
troubling further about their significance, the end 
of art is attained. Or, if you like it better, it 
means that thought is no help to a writer, and is 
even a hindrance." 2 

" Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iv. p. 227. 
" Brunetiere, Histoire et LitUrature, vol. ii. p. 144. 


146 ' r 7r< , ART AND LIFE 

Such gross misrepresentation would be dishonest 
in one who was not passion's slave. The passage 
really develops BufFon's. 

" Now a style is only beautiful by the vast number of 
truths which it presents. All the intellectual beauties 
which are found in it, all the inter-relations of which it 
is composed, are so many truths as useful as those in 
which the subject treated can consist, and perhaps 
more precious to the human spirit."' 

The niceties of conception, the clarities of ex- 
position, the proprieties of temper and humour 
in approach and pursuance, are in very deed 
more beneficial to men's minds than information 
can easily be. A powerful and delicate rendering 
implies that the given subject has been grasped 
as a whole and justly conceived. Thoroughness 
and fineness are among the most beautiful things 
we know — they have a divine force, there is 
something eternal about them. So much of the 
subject as might be conveyed in less happy words 
is negligible, is perhaps a commonplace. Thus 
the felicity and harmony of sentences are a more 
important part of thought than can exist else- 
where, its truest truth, its adequacy ; and the 
musical is the only fight word, since in it dwells 
the splendid soul. Thus the law of numbers 

.; ;, , " .Discours sur le sfyle. 


governs our feelings, for the melody is all we 
know of its burden, which only lives in us while 
we hear it. Thus the envelope is the contents 
and the outside very simply the inside. Beauty 
is not produced without thinking but by the 
most subtly pervading intelligence. And then 
too, Flaubert cries, all should be miracle, done 
with ease, found as readily as an honest smile. 
Yet both ease and smile must needs result from 
a man's own or his forefathers' effort ; and it is a 
snob that spends without adding to the stock. 

The pith of perfect book or poem cannot be 
extracted, for all is essential. Write it shorter 
or expatiate upon it, you blight its rarest effect. 
The true subject exists only in that form which 
no other can rival. To show such work is the 
only way to praise it ; nor can it be possessed till 
learnt by heart. This is why those who expound 
the psychology of Flaubert's personages are so 
irritating. He himself has pictured all far more 
completely. Why, he even took greater pains 
than any one else, let alone the more patent dis- 
proportions in point of intellect and genius. 

" If I had my way, books would be written by simply 
rounding periods, as to keep alive you have only to 
breathe the air ; tricks of design, combinations of effect 
are what gravel me, all those sub-calculations which are 


none the less part of art, since style depends on them 
for its effect, and that exclusively." ' 

" What I think fine, what I should like to write, is a 
book about nothing, a book without external connec- 
tions, which would hold together by the internal force 
of its style, as the earth without being underpropped 
hangs in the air ; a book well-nigh devoid of subject or 
at least with an almost invisible subject, if that is possible. 
The most beautiful works are those with least substance ; 
the nearer expression comes to thought,, the more closely 
the word fastens upon it and disappears into it, the 
more beauty there is.'' 

" I believe art's future lies in that direction. I see it, 
in maturing, refine as much as possible, from Egyptian 
pylons to Gothic needles, from Hindoo poems twenty 
thousand lines long to the tirades of Byron. Form in 
becoming skilful attenuates ; it quits all liturgy, all rule, 
all proportion, abandons the epic for the novel, verse 
for prose, no longer acknowledges any orthodoxy, and 
is free like each individual will which produces it. 
This affranchisement from materiality is found in every- 
thing: and governments exemplify it, from Oriental 
despotisms to the Socialisms of the future. 

"That is why there are neither beautiful nor ugly 
subjects, and why, from the point of view of sheer art, 

" Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 252. 

' Remark that Flaubert is indifferent as to whether the word 
disappears in the thought or the substance in the form ; his idea is 
that both must merge in an indissoluble entity, so that to think the 
same thought would necessitate reinventing or else repeating those 
identical words. Thus the subject of a book would only exist in it, 
and could not be conceived of by any other means ; this is actually 
the case in a poem like Keats's " Ode to a Nightingale." 


an axiom might almost be laid down that there is no 
subject, style being in itself an absolute manner of 
seeing things ; I should need a whole book to develop 
what I want to say. I shall write about all that in my 
old age when I have nothing better to make a mess of ; 
in the meanwhile I work heartily at my novel. Are the 
good times of SL Antony about to come back ? " ' 

To understand Flaubert's lyrical cry, "A book 
about nothing," we must go to another artist : critics 
will be of no use, they lack the necessary experience. 

"There are some who think that this simpUcity is 
a proof of small invention. They do not consider 
how, on the contrary, all invention consists in making 
something of nothing." ' 

No modern has ever spoken of the subject with 
more contempt than Racine does here : it is that 
nothing of which his invention can make a tragedy : 
and he was composedly inditing a preface, not in 
excitement scribbling a letter to a friend. That the 
best books are those which have the least substance 
was altogether Racine's feeling. There is weight 
enough in legendary tale or pure invention envelop- 
ing a few chosen circumstances or a fascinating 
situation, such as from age to age may be endlessly 
transformed, — not burdened by any definite problem 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. pp. 70, 71. 
' Jean Racine, Prdface a " Berenice," 1670, 


or weighty conviction, but capable of re-achieving 
h'fe in the right mood, as the skeleton rose of 
Jericho responds with delicate green to the caress 
of humid winds ; then the philosopher may glean 
hints, the man of the world tact, while the child's 
eye gathers wonder, the young man's love, awe, 
and the girl's beauty, peace, as each listens or reads. 

"Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow 
For old, unhappy, far-off things, 
And battles long ago : 
Or is it some more humble lay. 
Familiar matter of to-day ? 
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain. 
That has been, and may be again?" 

That it was familiar, that it had been and might 
be again, was an essential quality,' Flaubert felt, in 
choosing a near theme ; while that those more 
rare should be old, unhappy, far-off and full of 
strife, added to their fitness. I am a little re-drap- 
ing his conceptions with aid from analogies pre- 
sented by English achievements. Though splendidly 
sensuous compared with most French classics, he 
had the Latin delight in precise and ultimate ex- 
pression, and responded where we remain insensitive. 
The whole Roman spectacle, like a boundless 
horizon, was given to his eye by Montesquieu's 

, ' Corfespon'dance de G, Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 264. 


stately dialogue between Sylla and Eucrates,^ as 
lines from Wordsworth will bring about us the hills 
and the beauty of frugal uncrowded human life. 
The Campagna on a fine day might effect this 
better for men of our race than those clear-cut 
sentences, and Flaubert would have fully relished 
that prospect; but the well-turned and resonant 
reflections of the historian could overwhelm him 
with infinite perceptions, as a distant peal of bells 
can immerse us in an atmosphere and local asso- 
ciations too complex and far-reaching for words. 
M. G. Lanson has admirably remarked : — 

" It is not himself that Flaubert wishes to transport 
to Rome; he wanted to put off the Flaubert he is, 
French and of the nineteenth century. . . . ' Have you 
sometimes thought about the evening of a triumph, 
when the legions returned, and perfumes were burning 
round the car of the victorious general, while the captive 
kings walked behind?' He does not put himself on 
the scene, he does not make himself its centre ; he is 
only an onlooker, an anybody among the antique 
folk. . . . 'And those poor Kaffirs, what are they 
dreaming of now?' 

" That is Flaubert's attitude. How far are we from 
romanticism ? Since there is no question of sensation- 
ally enjoying or stretching oneself, the imagination will 
no longer obey appetites and temperaments, it will 

' Paul Bourget, (Euvres computes, Critique I., p. 139. 


have its own rule and direction in the intellect ; it will 
become an instrument of exact knowledge and concrete 
resurrection. . . , 

" But art cannot possess this high value . . . save on 
condition of serving to translate something -other than 
the ephemeral self ... let it find a form which is not 
simply the artist's satisfaction, the relief of his sensa- 
tions, but which by expressing the intrinsic beauty of 
things, inexhaustibly communicates that to all gene- 
rations to come." • 

" G. Lanson, Pages choisies de G, Flaubert : Preface, pp. xxvi, 
xxviii, including quotations from Correspondance de G. Flaubert, 
Serie i. p. 102, and Serie iii. p. 10. 


GUY DE MAUPASSANT was not deeply pre- 
occupied with beauty, and would perhaps 
never have given it the importance as a constituent 
of style which he did, had he not been Flauberf s 
disciple. The Preface to Pierre et Jean and the 
Introduction to Bouvard et Pecuchet well represent 
the master's advice to a writer whose subject-matter 
was mainly direct observation. But all he would 
have taught a young genius of lyrical and mystical 
tendencies, still to seek, is needed to complete the 
exposition of his ideas. Doubtless, as he urged the 
observer to respect beauty in certain ways, he would 
have bid a poet nourish his visions on matter of 

" In order to describe a bonfire and a tree in the 
field, pl^at yourself in front of them till they seem no 
longer to resemble any other tree or fire. That is the 
way to become original."' 

' Pierre et Jean, p. 22. 


"The unexplored is in everything. . . . The least 
object contains an unknown element or aspect. Find 
that." ' 

" Whatever you may want to say there is only one 
word that will express it, one verb that will animate 
it, one adjective that will qualify it. You must hunt 
then till you have discovered them."" 

To supplement such maxims, we should have 
to distil passages of Flaubert's letters which have 
been very rarely quoted, wherein the ideas of 
nicety and precision suddenly take a second 
place, and the excessive, the colossal, are held up 
to admiration. 

"Never fear to be exaggerated, all the very great 
have been so — Michael Angelo, Rabelais, Shakespeare, 
Moliere. . . . But in order that the exaggeration may 
not shock, it must be everywhere constant, propor- 
tional, in harmony with itself ; if your good folk are 
a hundred feet high your mountains must be twenty 
thousand ; and what is the ideal if it be not that kind 
of bulking out " ? 3 

" Let us always remind ourselves that impersonality 
is the sign of strength ; let us absorb the object and 
let it circulate in us, that it may reproduce itself outside 
without leaving room for any one to understand the 
marvellous chemical process. Our hearts should be 

' Pierre etjean, p. 22. " Ibid., p. 23. 

3 Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 247. 


good for nothing save to feel what those of others feel. 
Let us be magnifying mirrors of the truth." ' 

" How excessive the great masters are ! They push 
an idea to its last limit ; Michael Angelo's men have 
cables rather than muscles, in Rubens' bacchanals folk 
piss on the ground, see all Shakespeare, &c., &c., and 
the last of that family, old father Hugo, what a beautiful 
thing Notre Dame is ! I have lately re-read three 
chapters, the Truands among others ; that is strong. I 
believe the characteristic of genius is, before all else, 
strength ; thus what I most detest in art, that which 
sets my teeth on edge, is ingenuity, wit. How different 
it is with bad taste ! that is a good quality gone astray, 
for to produce what is called bad taste, you must have 
poetry in you. But wit, on the contrary, is incom- 
patible with true poetry ; who ever had more wit than 
Voltaire, and who was less a poet ? " " 

"The prime quality in art is illusion : emotion, often 
obtained by certain sacrifices of poetic detail, is an 
altogether different thing and of an inferior order. I 
have wept at melodramas which were not worth two- 
pence ; and Goethe has never moistened my eye, unless 
it has been with admiration." 3 

" Very beautiful works set you musing as nature does. 
To look on they are serene and incomprehensible ; 
in their processes they are motionless as cliffs, rough 
as the sea, as full of sprays, verdancies, and murmurs as 
the woods, forlorn as the desert, blue as the sky. 
Homer, Rabelais, Michael Angelo, Shakespeare, Goethe 
seem to me pitiless ; their work is an abyss, infinite, 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 348. 
' Ibid., pp. 277 and 278. 3 ibid., p. 320. 

1 56 • ART AND LIFE 

manifold. Through tiny rents we catch glimpses 
of precipices : blackness is down there, to make you 
giddy, and yet something singularly sweet hovers over 
the whole ! It is the ideal of light, the smile of the 
sun, and how calm it is, how calm and strong ! It has 
neck and dewlaps like Leconte's bull." ^ 

" None the less, one thing saddens me, namely, to see 
how great men achieve effects easily outside the pale of 
art; what could be worse constructed than a crowd 
of things in Rabelais, Cervantes, Moliere, and Hugo? 
But what sudden hits straight from the shoulder ! what 
power in a single word ! " ^ 

"The prodigious thing about Bon Quixote is the 
absence of art, the perpetual fusion of illusion with 
reality, which make the book at once so humorous 
and so poetical." s 

" Generalisation and creation are the mark of great 
geniuses ; they sum up scattered individuals in a type 
and make mankind conscious of new characters ; do we 
not believe in Don Quixote's existence as in Caesar's ? 
Shakespeare is formidable from this point of view. . . . 
Those folk have no need to work at style, they are 
strong in spite of all faults and on account of them ; 
but we, the dwarfs, we only count through finished 
execution. Hugo in this century will knock out every 
one else although he is full of bad things ; but what 
go ! what go ! I will here hazard a proposition that I 
should not dare to utter anywhere else : those great men 
often write very badly — so much the better for them. 
You must not seek the art of form there, but among 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii, pp. 304 and 305. 
" Ibid., p. 189. 3 Ibid,, p. 148. 


geniuses of secondary importance (Horace, Labruyere). 
You must know the masters by heart and idolise them ; 
try to think as they did, and then part company with 
them for ever. In the matter of technical instruction 
you can reap more profit from learned and skilful 
geniuses." ' 

These passages throw the precepts on observation 
and style which Flaubert taught into perspective. 
He never considered himself the equal of those 
whom he admired. Several critics have thought 
he failed to give his full measure because, though 
mature, he held himself in need of further school- 
ing. Others see in him the only master who largely 
combines the abundance and strength of great with 
the virtues of perfect writers. His ambition had 
certainly entertained this last notion as a programme. 

" We must show the classical school," he says, " that 
we are more classical than they, and turn the romantics 
pale with rage by surpassing their intentions ; these 
two purposes are really one and the same, therefore I 
beheve the thing may be done." ^ 

Every one of his works is so absolutely what 
it is, that it could only be rivalled in another field. 
The same task is never attempted twice, whereas all 
the books of many authors are approximations to 

• Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 138. 
' Ibid., p. 252. 


one they never write. But, for him, the con- 
ception of every intended work carried within it a 
new aesthetic, the laws of which must be found 
and applied.' 

It may be that by achieving this distinct character 
in each volume he did what Michael Angelo, Rem- 
brandt, Rubens, Shakespeare, Moliere, or Cervantes 
had done. Were they really less deliberate, or does 
he only seem to have disciplined his gift more 
strictly ? The gradual stages by which these great 
personalities cleared their talents survive in abun- 
dance, whereas he destroyed as he went along all 
trace of hesitation or wandering after false scents. 
The world presented him with a more perplexed 
spectacle ; science had dissolved those grandiose 
generalisations in which the mundane pageant had 
for them been comprehended. The Creator had 
withdrawn ; perhaps for a reason analogous to our 
experience, that beauty can only be perfected when 
the artist has purified emotion from self-concern ; 
thus Flaubert, like those great masters, formed him- 
self on the most authoritative example. They had 
divined a god, and shaped a world in his likeness 
because they conceived this earth to have been so 
moulded : in the modern master's work the author's 
character must baffle curiosity, as he had found 
his own nonplussed. Both efforts are grand, both 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 380. 


are religious and in the best sense of the word 
impersonal ; for their efficacy consisted in winning 
free from petty aims and sordid considerations. 

"Sancho Panza's belly bursts the girdle of 
Venus," I he would say to those who, like Leconte 
de Lisle, wished to copy antique models and repro- 
duce effects peculiar to a vanished world ; and he 
thought that the infinity of science had dwarfed the 
miracles of Christian passion, by presenting a wonder 
more apt to overwhelm and annihilate each man's 
self -absorption. 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 277. 


MANY of his admirers have attempted to foist 
their own conclusions on the master. M. 
Gaultier believes that as bees taught botanists to 
distinguish the members of certain families of plants, 
so artists of Flaubert's very rare type start before 
the attentive philosopher coveys of ideas, which 
hitherto, like pheasants by bracken, were screened 
under unobserved facts, but which, breaking cover, 
can be shot down by a theory loaded with coined 
words for slugs, Rembrandt, Shakespeare, Mozart, 
and Corneille were, he thinks, this sort of beaters to 
the sportsman philosopher.^ M. Emile Bergerat, 
" wishing to humiliate man before the mere animal," 
described him as " endowed for sole privilege with 
the power of conceiving himself to be other than he 
is."2 M. Gaultier cried, " So Emma Bovary con- 
ceived herself to be a refined lady when she was 
only a farmer's daughter ; " and so on through all 
Flaubert's characters to Bouvard and P6cuchet, who 

' Le Bovarysme, 1892, p. 3, and ch. i., 1902. ' Ibid., p. 18, 



typify humanity which conceives itself as capable 
of possessing knowle.dge that it will never conquer, 
since a formidable disproportion yawns between the 
questions asked by the uneasiness of our spirit and 
our means of answering them.' 

Consciousness consists in conceiving things as 
being other than they are. If an intelligence 
grasped the truth, subject would be fused with 
object and it would lose consciousness both of self 
and the universe." 

But I should wrong M. Gaultier's ingenious and 
suggestive developments if, like ah Italian beggar 
closing his accordion, I squeezed all the wind out 
of Le Bovarysme to fit it into my box. 

M. G. Palante has very well shown how hypo- 
thetical the bases of this theory are. . . . The exist- 
ence of the non-apparent normal must be assumed, 
in order that the glamour of the object may cause 
the subject to deviate from that true line of 'develop- 
ment. Yet how can so much be granted, if, like 
M. Gaultier, we hold the personality to be absolutely 
determined by heredity and environment ? 3 

The Devil says to Saint Antony : — 

" Things only reach thee through the mediation of 
thy spirit, which, like a concave mirror, deforms objects ; 

» Le Bovarysme, 1892, p. 56. " Ibid., 1902, p. 199. 

3 Mercure de France, tome xlvi. p. 7S et seq. 


— and thou lackest all means wherewith to verify its 

" Never wilt thou know the full extent of the universe, 
therefore thou canst not conceive of its cause. . . . 
May not appearance be the truest truth that exists, 
illusion the only reality ? . . . Perhaps there is nothing ! " ' 

In regard to things we do not know, the act of 
faith is not to confide in any theory — no more in 
illusionism or nihilism than in Satan's suggestion 
that he alone is. 

M. Ren6 Dumesnil calls his book Flaubert: son 
heredite — son milieu — sa methode, and claims to 
have followed this last : yet Flaubert held it in- 
applicable ito just such cases. 

" So much the better if Taine's English Literature 
interests you. His work is dignified and solid, though 
I find fault with the position from which he sets out. 
Art contains more than the environment wherein it is 
exercised and the physiological antecedents of the 
workman can account for. By that theory, the series, 
the group, may be explained ; but never individuality, 
the special fact which makes a man, that man." ' 

" The first man to hand is more interesting than M. G. 
Flaubert, because he is more general and in conse- 
quence more typical." 3 

■ (Euvres computes de Gustave Flaubert, vol. v. p, 236. 
" Corresfondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. p. 19S and 196. The 
continuation of this passage is quoted above, p. 99. 
3 Ibid., p. 306. 


The books about him prove that Flaubert was vastly 
more fascinating than the first man to hand. The 
attraction that is felt for great men is not and cannot 
be scientific, but is analogous to that exerted by the 
supernatural. As Renan said, "the miraculous is 
only the unexplained," — the unaccountable must 
necessarily be the most essential factor in a peerless 
man ; so much as is typical of common mortals or 
of great men as a class lessens this glamour. A 
unique fact cannot be classed ; the exception only 
proves the rule in the sense that light makes the 
nature of darkness more obvious. If Flaubert's 
heredity and circumstances explain him, why was 
his brother who shared them so different ? The 
most important factor in him is obviously one 
which neither experiment nor observation can con- 
trol. The greater, the rarer a genius, the less can 
cause and effect be traced in respect to him, to portray 
such a man will be proportionally difficult. Flaubert 
always spoke of Shakespeare, Rabelais, Homer, Aristo- 
phanes as giants, as vaguely defined and monstrous 
beings beyond the reach of our senses, our judgment, 
our science. He could only picture Michael Angelo 
to himself as an old man seen from behind.^ 
' Nearly all the causes of Flaubert's characteristics 
discovered by M. Dumesnil may quite as well be 
denied or explained differently. 

■ Cormsfondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii< p. 77. 

i64 ' ART lANiD /LIFE 

" His impulsive character and his ejc^ggerated love of 
the grotesque, which make so large a part of the par- 
ticularity of his genius, are attributable to his nervous 

But this impulsiveness and this love of the 
grotesque are remarkably expressed in the early 
letters and the Memoires d'un fou, written before 
Flaubert was stricken ; while M. Dumesnil tells us 
that his personal antecedents before his first attack 
present no noteworthy fact which might have led 
to the incidence of his nervous malady being 

Is it not likely that M. Dumesnil's real ground for 
the first of these statements was, that he had failed 
to find sufficient analogy for such impulsiveness' 
and love of the grotesque in the characters of 
Flaubert's forefathers, and therefore sought its 
cause in the one salient influence to which 
Gustave was subjected and from which his 
brother was free ? Again we read : — 

" Flaubert incontestably owes his aristocratic cha- 
racter to his maternal ancestors."' 

Yet his father disdained money, titles, honours; 
expressed anger openly, had beautiful hands, exer- 
cised a paternal hospitality, possessed a debonair 

' Dujnesnil, f tewterf, pp. 113, 86, 87, IS- 


majesty : why should not these traits have fcourited 
in that result ? 

M. Dumesnil has not recognised the limits of the 
method he seeks to employ, and therefore his whole 
book is erroneous, quite apart from the questionable 
nature of such deductions and of the many mis- 
statements which have escaped his vigilance. The 
passage which he quotes in order to show that 
Flaubert's blessing rests on his enterprise runs 
thus : — 

" Literary criticisin, like natural history, must work 
without moral ideas : it is not our business to declaim 
against such and such a form, but to show in what it con- 
sists, how it links with another and by what means it 
lives (aesthetic awaits its Geolfroy Saint Hilaire, that 
great man who demonstrated the legitimacy of monsters). 
When the human soul shall have for some time been 
treated with the impartiality that in physical science is 
given to the study of matter, a great stride will have 
been made. . . < There is perhaps, as in the case of 
mathematics, nothing but a method to find, which will 
be applicable in the first place to art and to religion, 
those two great manifestations of idea. Let us imagine 
a beginning thus : the first idea of God being granted (the 
most rudimentary possible), the first glimmer of poetic 
feeling {however trifling that may be), find at the outset 
its manifestation, and this may easily be traced among 
children and savages, &c. ; there is your first step ; from 
it you ascertain its relations; then go ahead, taking 
count of all relative contingents, climate, language, &c. ; 


then from level to level you may climb to the art of the 
future, and the hypothesis of the Beautiful^ to a clear con- 
ception of its reality, to that ideal type towards which our 
whole effort should tend. . . ." ' 

M. Dumesnil omits the phrases in italics, making 
the last words run " to the art of the future and to 
the clear conception of the Beautiful," and assumes 
elsewhere that " such and such man of genius " 
might have been substituted for the words " such 
and such form " at the outset of the passage ; but 
forms of literary art — lyrical, narrative, dramatic, &c. 
, — are in question, not individualities, much less ex- 
ceptional ones. Referring to Flaubert's criticism of 
Taine ^ M. Dumesnil remarks : " That is, he blames 
him for attaching too much importance to the seed 
{i.e., heredity, &c.) and not enough to the soil 
{i.e., personality)." Had Flaubert used this metaphor 
the seed would surely have been personality with its 
vital capacity ; the soil, hereditary and other in- 
fluences which conditioned its growth. He differed 
from his brother by the kind of energy with which 
he drew sustenance from or reacted against hered- 
itary and other influences — by being able to wage 
a better battle both within himself and against the 

The superior vitality commonly attributed to love- 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 338, and Dumesnil, 
Preface, pp. v and vi. " See passage quoted above, p. 162. 


children point3 to fulness of excitement in their 
begetters as a cause of rare endowment. Any who 
have experienced the vitalising effect of contact 
and situation will easily credit post-natal conjunc- 
tures also with considerable efficacy. Some flowers 
await fecundation by a single kind of insect, and if 
it fails them die fruitless ; so the child who at the 
due season meets the rare stimulus develops and 
hence encounters fresh pregnant occasions ; each 
time having a better chance of repeating the process. 
He alone will explore the full riches both of his 
hereditary resources and of his environment, while 
his less lucky companions wistfully resign them- 
selves to spiritual sterility. The possibilities which 
children of the same race receive at birth must 
almost necessarily be fairly equal. A series of 
timely outward accidents produces keys giving 
access to closed rooms in the soul's mansion and 
permitting her to throw open to the sun her long 
shuttered heirlooms. Most find one or two, some 
ten or a dozen keys, but who has ever handled the 
whole bunch ? while every generation adds room or 
furniture. Education proceeds on some such as- 
sumption, but its success is restricted by the 
difficulty of recognising and commanding the 
germ-bearing contingencies. 

Psychologists naturally wish to simplify the 
problems that baffle them, but the soul smiles, con- 


scious of inexhaustible complexity, and does not 
expect their success. They may describe her more 
common misfortunes but never estimate her worth. 
I must add that while demurrihg to his conclu- 
sions I have found M. Dumesnil's work most valu- 
able and suggestive. Like MM. Albalat and Lanson, 
he has the great advantage of loving Flaubert. 


/'^LAUDE BERNARD has very well said :— 

" In the search for truth by this (the experimental 
method) sentiment always takes the initiative, and gives 
birth to the a priori notion or intuition ; reason next 
develops the idea and deduces its logical consequences. 
But if sentiment needs to be enlightened by reason, 
reason in turn should be guide^ by experience."' 

Reason and experiment are impossible where 
facts are unique, for there is none save general 
science, therefore exceptional beings can only be 
known intuitively ; and in regard to excellence sen- 
timent is love. Flaubert was here most worthy 
imitation, for his many admirations always partook 
largely of adoration. He knew how far experi- 
ment and reason could take him, and never 
appealed to them out of bounds. It is our 
instinct for self-defence against the crushing 
superiority of the universe that bids us worship 

" Introduction h Vitude de la mSdecine expMmentaU, p. 47. 


the unknown god. Great men are less oppres- 
sive; we know something of them, but still we 
must be their lovers in order to profit by com- 
merce with them. Phantom masters of the mind, 
sentiment must continually take the initiative or 
they will delude our powers. The first step must 
be taken first, and in the dark, without assurance 
that the second and third, although highly desirable, 
will ever be possible. 

" In other words man, confronted with things beautiful, 
good, and true, goes out from himself, and, suspended 
by a celestial charm, annihilates his puny personality, 
exalted, absorbed. What is that if it be not to 
adore ? " • 

Objection may be raised that Flaubert failed to 
love the unknown God. He has been accused 
of pessimism, of nihilism — words used extremely 
loosely, with as little scruple as justice. 

" Quit then thy sex as thy fatherland, thy religion 
and thy parish : we should be soul to the greatest 
possible extent, and by this aloofness will the im- 
mense sympathy with things and beings reach us 
more abundantly." = 

In his mystic moments he imagined that for man, 

" Renan, Etudes d'histoire religieuse, p. 419. 
" Corresj>o»dance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 309. 


by filling out his own measure, exercising his con- 
science to its extreme limit, 

"a time will arrive when something wider and 
higher will replace the love of humanity as that is 
replacing patriotism," 

and he — 

"will love nothingness itself, so greatly he will feel 
himself to participate in it. 

" ' I said to the worms in the grave, You are my 
fathers, &c."'' ' 

" When I look at one of the little stars in the Milky 
Way, I say to myself that the earth is no larger than 
one of those sparkles. And I who gravitate for one 
minute on this spark, what am I then, what are we ? 
This feeling of my lowliness, of my nothingness, re- 
assures me. I seem to have become a grain of dust 
lost in space, and yet I form a part of that limitless 
grandeur which enfolds me. I have never understood 
how that might breed despair, for it is quite possible 
that there is nothing behind the black curtain. Besides, 
the infinite submerges all our conceptions ; and, since 
it exists, why should it present an aim to things so 
relative as we are ? " * 

Such passages, on which, I suppose, is founded 
the accusation of nihilism, are by Flaubert only 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 309. 
» Ibid., Serie iii. p. 329. 


used as dissfol vents for chimerical antioipaticlhg,to 
help "disillusioned ladies" to feel independent of 
distant possibilities. "The search for a cause is 
anti-philosophic, anti-sciehtific/' ^ because it is 
hopeless. In a methodical treatise such sugges- 
tions might have appeared as arguments, but 
certainly would not have figured as conclusions. 

He showed his love of God by demanding that He 
should be conceived of as divine in very deed, and 
hence, for minds preoccupied with evil, unknowable. 

" The ideal is only fruitful when everything is 
brought into it. It is a labour of love, not of ex- 
clusion." * 

He hated the proprietary familiarity of popular 
religion whose ministers confidently prate about 
" the goodness of God, the anger of God, and offending 
God," till such phrases become for them " a sort of 
habitual sneezing." 3 Saints do not possess God, 
but are possessed by Him. "The world is His 
and the fulness thereof." To exclude is to 
blaspheme* Let us rather suppose human men- 
tality may account for evil than that it opposes 
God because it oppresses men. Above all, be 
honest, and, when you do not know, say you do 
not know. 

■ Cerrespondafice de G. FldubeH, S6rie Hi. p. 281. 

' Ibid., Serie ii. p. 366. 3 Ibidi, Serie iii. p. 123. 


Thus he thought the methods and discoveries of 
science should be regarded as better material, by 
using which the ideal constructions of religion and 
art might be grandly extended. Every man is a 
determinist in his own trade ; in practice we can- 
not reject all that this idea has achieved. The 
notions of Fate, Providence, Chance, and Abso- 
lute Mechanism are in the same quandary, it is 
impossible to justify their ways to man ; events 
are not moral, and apparently useless suffering 
exists. But, like science, morality is based on 
sentiment, which. " always takes the initiative " ; 
and though it too has been enlightened by reason 
and solidified by experience it has not so de- 
veloped in regard to these vast relations. Still 
spontaneous there, how it shall be illumined and 
compacted cannot be even imagined ; but that 
necessary first step is " none the less respectable," 
however ridiculous the "ephemeral dogmas "' in 
which from time to time it hopes to express 
itself. If by conquering his vices and by 
obliterating the effects of egoism an artist dis- 
appear from his work, the Creator of the universe 
may be invisible because He is without fault and 

Respect for the object silences the artist's im- 
pulse to explain and palliate. Imagination fails 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. p. 281. 


us ere the analogy can be piished so far as this, 
yet, while confessing this inadequacy, such a 
conception as Flaubert's remains vital with awe 
and reverence. 

" We must lay our heads on the pillow of doubt," 
as he was fond of repeating after Montaigne, and 
" we shall find life tolerable once we have consented 
to be always ill at ease."^ For here he turned to 
another of those spiritual fathers in whom he so 
greatly rejoiced. i 

. " ' Let us work withoTjt reasoning,' said Martin, 'it is 
the only way to render life bearable.' 

"Every member of tlie little group took up with 
this praiseworthy intent, each began to use his 
talents (instead of wildly chivying chances as hereto- 
fore). The little plot of ground' brought forth plenti- 
fully. Cunegonde, it is true, was very ugly, but she 
became a first-rate pastrycook ; Paquette embroidered ; 
and the old woman looked after the linen. Every one, 
even brother d-iroflee, helped : he became a carpenter, 
and even an honest man. . . ." » 

Voltaire's " Let us work at our garden " is at once 
the most substantial and most widely accepted appli- 
cation of "What shall it profit a man, if he shall 
gain the whole world and lose his own soul ? " 
A bird in hand is worth two, in the bush ; and who 

' ■ 11'"' ■ ■'; ..I" • .-J,: I'l, I ,.\. , , ,L.'i ,: , ; ,, ; 

" Corres^ondance de G. Flaubert, Serie i. p. 86, io6. 
^ Cowdjde, chap. XXX. 


so poor as not to have a soul ? Time lost is life 
lost. Speculation, like the lover's quest, like for- 
tuncrhunting, is an endless adventure ; our integrity 
must strictly limit it. Nevertheless, we depend not 
on our own action alone, but on that of forces 
which we have never controlled, never even 
described. Science may often figure as know- 
ledge of an enemy's tactics ; to obtain it we had 
to neglect our business and risk our best. Whether 
a foe's or a friend's, those great movements, since 
they may checkmate us, must be reconnoitred and 
interpreted as best we can. Woe to us if absorp- 
tion over home concerns blind us to the advance 
of a pestilence, or of an army which, even though 
friendly, must devastate those who are unprepared 1 
A judgment sufficiently free from personal pre- 
occupations is essential to defence as it is essen- 
tial for honest work, the one foundation of science, 
art, and of religion. Skill whole-heartedly employed, 
achieves knowledge, beauty, goodness. That, and 
that only, gives life value. The workman, scorn- 
ing sordid needs and particular utilities, has acted 
for some hours as though the resources of heaven 
were his, and the leisure, of the angels would be 
theirs who should enjoy his work ; he does not 
address the busy. Religion is life honestly thus 
lived — that is, not for success or maintenance, but, 
whether it end soon or late, as though it would be 


continued for ever — and, therefore, willing to accept 
death rather than deterioration of character. 

The soul is not tied to a locality, and may be 
cultivated anywhere. A Bedouin carries his work 
with him, and therefore needs the longer sight, the 
more nimble judgment, for he must treat mirages as 
such, and never be the dupe of even distant appear- 
ances. What does it matter to the owner of a 
cabbage-patch whether the distant city he descries 
be real or not ? — ^he will never need to travel beyond 
his market. But the nomad must not swerve from 
his chosen course to avoid or approach the mighty 

Now, it is by doing what lies to hand that the 
soul progresses; not by actual locomotion. Yes, in 
kneading dough, threading bobbins, folding sheets, 
dove-tailing corners, and in digging and in manur- 
ing, honesty may be achieved, so long as there be 
no hope that well enough will produce the equivalent 
of as well as possible. It may, on female hearts, on 
the applauding world, and in the mart; but those 
chances are the lake, the palm-trees, the minarets 
and cupolas — to turn towards which, as Flaubert 
knew, is to be lost in the boundless and shifting 
sands, like Cambyses' army. 


TILL now we have considered no idea of 
Flaubert's which lacked ancient and wide 
authority gathered in the service of illustrious 
minds: nor need originality be claimed for one 
which is certainly more distinctive of him, since 
the notion that evil is disarmed by knowledge and 
familiarity has been matter for proverbs. Our fore- 
fathers thought it well that a young blood should 
sow his wild oats ; and to know the worst commonly 
gives satisfaction to sensible folk. But the man 
who, subject to epileptic (?) fits, counteracted the 
mesmeric efifect they often exert over their victims 
by scientific inquiry into nervous disorders ' — the 
man who devotedly studied stupidity and baseness, 
and thus cleansed his own mind from their adhesive 
ubiquity — the man who amusedly sought out all 
kinds of lasciviousness and lubricity and won there- 
by a disdainful mastery over his own waywardness 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. pp. 84, 85 ; see also 
Dumesnil, Flaubert, pp. 336-350. 
N 177 


— the man who perseveringly analysed the bad art 
of wretched authors that he might improve a style 
which emulous admiration of the great masters had 
benefited to the full — such a man raises the prin- 
ciple of the Spartan prevention for drunkenness by 
contemplation of an awful example to a pre-emi- 
nence which it surely never attained before. Indeed, 
"the intelligent" thought the long and painful 
prosecution of such researches so absurd, that they 
ascribed to disease and defect that which was due 
to profound intuition and deliberate purpose. A 
crowd of passages from his letters, and anecdotes 
reported by his friends, put it beyond all question 
that Flaubert consciously and gratefully fostered 
the impulse which in childhood had directed his 
curiosity to the dissection of evil. 

His notorious hatred for le bourgeois, and the 
attraction resembling that of love which he felt 
towards its object, can only be intelligibly conceived 
as a vigorous branch of these his life's pursuits — 
intuitive in its origin, but reasoned in its develop- 

The boy of nine who in a letter prattles to his 

" I will write comedies and you shall write your 
dreams, and since a lady who comes to see papa always 
tells us lots of stupid things, I will write them down," ■ 

" Corresfiondance de G. Flaubert, Serie i. pp. i, 2. 


has already set forth on the enterprise which will 
result in that anatomy of average mental processes, 
Bouvard et Pecuchet. The young author who 
carries a volume by the Marquis de Sade in his 
pocket, and ostentatiously proclaims it the most 
amusing of books, on occasion can reflect " It 
is the last word of Catholicism. Let me explain. It 
is the spirit of the Inquisition, the spirit of torture, 
the spirit of the mediaeval Church, of horror at 
nature. . . . Note this, there is no mention of 
animal or tree in de Sade." ^ 

And years before we find him wrestling with the 
still more daring idea, that the fertility of the human 
soul in creating symbols to express evil has a func- 
tion akin to that of the knowledge which strips it 
of its fascination and of the familiarity which breeds 
contempt for it. 

Some, who will never understand anything about 
beauty, have truncated the following passage for 
abusive purposes:^ 

" Let us not confound the yawn of the common soul 
over Homer with that profound meditation, with that 
intense and almost painful reverie which comes over the 
poet when he measures colossi and, sick of heart, says, 
' altitudo!' 

"And then I admire Nero: the man of the antique 
world culminates in him ! woe to any who has never 

^ journal dcs Goncourt, tome i. pp. 259, 309, 


thrilled in reading Suetonius. I have lately read the 
life of Heliogabalus in Plutarch. His beauty is different 
from Nero's ; more Asiatic, more feverish, more ro- 
mantic, more unbridled. It is the evening of Nero's 
day ; but Nero is calmer, more beautiful, more antique, 
more stable, in sum superior. The masses have lost 
their poetry since Christianity. Don't talk to me of 
the grandiose in modern times. There is not enough 
to satisfy the imagination of a novelette writer." ' 

Like a popular poem, Nero's life fastened on the 
common imagination, and had in a measure been 
moulded by it, since he perpetually conceived of 
himself as a spectacle for the whole world and 
addressed the masses with native divination. Flau- 
bert relates him to Homer as the devil confronts 
God. He is the sublime in the depths, a revelation 
of man to man, the antichrist who for a last time 
embodied the plastic and sensuous pagan ideal. 
His beauty outrivalled that of Satan, as the Christ's 
did that of Jehovah or of Jove; In a fragment 
written about the same time as the above letter, 
Satan calls Nero "the beloved son of my heart, the 
greatest poet the earth has seen,"^ Difference of 
moral value takes nothing from the apt significance 
of such symbolical figures, nor from their beauty; 
they were conceived to express that contrast, and 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie i. p. 72. 
' (Euvres computes, tome vi. p. 350. 


neither is complete without its opposite. Indeed, 
the poetry of Hell may be regarded as reaching 
maturity later than that of Paradise or Olympus, 
and the tendency of modern art be seen in the 
fusion of the two which is already foreshadowed 
in the poems of Marlowe and Milton. For all 
the ultimate figures, whether historical ^ or mythical, 
which stand like boundary pillars round the world 
of human imagination, Flaubert had the instinctive 
reverence of the craftsman for unsigned master- 
pieces. The dulness which misconstrues his 
admiration is as common as the capacity to share 
in it is rare. He as fully realised the relative moral 
values of the ancient and modern worlds as he had 
that of their aesthetic creations. 

"Christianity, though we seek to defend ourselves 
against admitting it, has come to enlarge all that [i.e., 
the antique conception of man], but also to spoil it, 
by introducing suffering. The human heart is only 
enlarged by means of a cutting edge that tears it." ' 

The religious and the aesthetic imaginations raise 
ideas and forms above fact by outri vailing its vivid- 
ness, and thus enable memory and desire to intermit 
mechanical perception and provide the standards of 
comparison without which our minds could not exist. 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie i. p. 202. 
' Ibid., p. ii6. 


Reflections from his study of evil run through 
the richly variegated tissue of Flaubert's letters, 
like threads of fire flashing mysteriously now and 
again, and inviting to rare and pregnant meditation. 
A few instances may be cited. 

" In the first place this woman is atrociously ugly ; 
she has nothing in her favour save a very great cyni- 
cism full of naivety which highly delighted me. 
Besides, I witnessed the expansion of her nature in 
its fury, always a beautiful thing to see : and then, as 
you know, I like that kind of spectacle well enough. 
My taste for it is inborn — the ignoble pleases me, it 
is the sublime in the nadir ; when genuine, it is as rare 
as that in the zenith. Cynicism is wonderful ; the 
caricature of vice, it at the same time corrects and 
annihilates it ; all great voluptuaries are extremely 
modest ; till now I have not come across a single 

"Who has counted all the base actions that must 
be contemplated in order to build up a truly great 
soul ? all the sickening miasmas that must be swallowed 
down, all the mortifications undergone, all the tortures 
endured, before a good page can be written? We 
authors are sewermen and gardeners ; we draw delect- 
able things from putrefaction and grow baskets of 
flowers on spread-out miseries. The fact distils into 
form and mounts on high like a pure incense of the 
spirit towards the Eternal, the immovable, the abso- 
lute, the ideal. . . . Have you ever mused over the 

" Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie i. p. 148. 


number of wives who have lovers, the number of 
husbands who have mistresses — over all those homes ? 
What lies, what tears, what anguish ! All that gives 
relief to the grotesque and to the tragic ; indeed, they 
are one and the same mask, and cover a single void, 
while, like a row of white teeth under a black hood, 
fantasy laughs in the midst.' 

"More than anybody I have felt after others. I 
have been to sniff unknown dunghills, and have had 
compassion for many things over which sensitive 
people are not tender. Whatever my Bovary may be 
worth, there will be no lack of heart in the book. 
And yet irony seems to me dominant in life. Why 
is it that I have, when weeping, often gone to look 
at myself in the glass ? This disposition to look down 
from a height on oneself is perhaps the source of all 
virtue. Far from prisoning you in the personal, it 
sweeps you away from yourself. The extreme comic, 
the comic that does not make you laugh, cynicism in 
not taking things seriously,^ is the quality I most 

' Corresfondance de G, Flaubert, Serie ii. pp. 360, 361. 

" I.e., " The caricature of not taking things seriously, the corrective 
of that temper and its annihilation." " Cynicistne dans la blague" 
describes the divorce of conviction which is the natural outcome 
of love and admiration from intellectual conceptions, on the ground 
that these latter are necessarily relative and experimental. Pas- 
sion can only achieve particular ends. Many problems are laugh- 
ably too big for it. The student confesses ignorance and is patient ; 
over-eagerness in learning counts on a speedy occasion to desist, 
and may easily seem irreverent. Let us gibe at every trace of 
fanatic fever ; after all it is usually more important to catch a train 
than to solve the riddle of the universe, to rescue a bird from a 
cat than the human race from the devil, to svreat over polishing 
one sentence than over the systematisation of knowledge) reso- 


hanker for as a writer. Both elements exist. 
The Malade Imaginaire probes further through the 
inner world than all the Agamemnons. 'Would there 
not be danger in talking of all these diseases?'' is 
worth ' He might die.' ^ But how on earth make 
.pedants understand that 1 It is a queer thing what 
a strong comic sense I have as a man, and how my 
pen refuses to serve it. My powers converge more 
and more thither as I become less gay, for it is the 
final sadness.3 

" Hideousness in subjects drawn from modern 
middle-class life ought to replace the tragic which is 
incompatible with them.t 

" Read the bad and the sublime, not the mediocre; 

luitely to know one friend than to presume with God. The first 
of such contrasted aims is but an initial preparation for the dis- 
tant second. Objects too vast or too distant demand a passive, not 
a militant reverence: their authority is real, but commands our 
silent expectancy, not our action or eloquence. For Wisdom, 
history is a lie which only fools and fanatics believe ; she, in 
Emerson's words, " does not like our benevolence or our learning 
much better than she likes our frauds and wars. When we come 
out of the caucus, or the bank, or the Abolition convention, or the 
Temperance meeting, or the Transcendental club, into the fields 
and woods, she says to us, 'So hot, my little sir?'" 

' This trait is not in Moliere's comedy : the idea is often immanent, 
but is never so concisely expressed. The nearest approaches are 
in Act III. Scene IX. : " Look you now, all those diseases that 
I know nothing of oppress me, those . . ." And in Act III. 
Scene XVII. : " Is there no danger in counterfeiting death ? " 

' The reference is to Corneille's Horace, Act III. Scene VI.: — 

"Julia: What would you have him do single-handed against 
three ? 
■ "! Horace the Elder : He might die." 

3 Correspondanee de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. pp. 97, 98. 
- ' 4 Ibid., p. 3S0' 


... I assure you that in the matter of style those 
whom I detest most have been more useful to me than 
any others." ' 

Both love and hatred are useful, yet the latter 
has been less consciously and less constantly 
employed. To raise his nature to its highest 
efi&ciency man must learn to hate with determina- 
tion and refinement (that is, impersonally), as the 
best have known how to love ; equally honest and 
serious study is needed for success. To realise 
precisely what you want not to be helps to define 
what you would be. The saint has an abyss con- 
stantly beside him — " the brightest fell." The man 
least likely to lie mangled at the foot of a preci- 
pice is he who has climbed down its face and 
acquainted himself with its footholds and treach- 
eries. Holiness is irresistibly drawn to the morally 
sick, its essence is expressed most perfectly by 
conquering their resistance; where is most diffi- 
culty is most glory. The best climber is chosen 
to risk his life for the companion who has fallen. 
The man who is most familiar with danger has 
least to fear. 

"The Dutch and Venetians are colourists, not the 
Neapolitans ; for living always in fogs, they love the 

' Corresfondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii, pp. 99, 100, 


"Let a man be small or great, when he wants to 
meddle with the good God's works, he must begin, if 
only on the score of health, by putting himself in a 
position not to be their dupe. Thou shalt depict 
wine, love, woman, glory — on this condition, my good 
fellow : that thou art neither drunkard, nor lover, nor 
husband, nor soldier-lad. Life is seen badly by those 
mixed up in it ; they either suffer from it too much, 
or enjoy it too much." ' 

The common run turned from contemplatioft of 
the devil and were either haunted, or, stumbling on 
him unawares, terrified out of their wits. For the 
unknown is respected and gathers portentousness ; 
what is great attracts. Hell's mouth devoured 
crowds. But the artists and poets pursued Old 
Nick and inventoried every circle of hell, till 
familiarity bred contempt. 

Study is pricked on by a stirring of attraction ; 
but to desire evil is repugnant to reason ; how then 
can it be so well known as to be contemned ? The 
artist longs to give every perception harmonious 
form and function in a mental world. Evil exists, 
impresses, must be rendered ; this imperative keeps 
him busy. William of Orange while directing his 
gunners said to a gentleman — 

" Do you know, sir, that every moment you 
spend here is at the risk of your life ? " 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 19, 


" I run no more risk than your majesty." 
" Yes, but >my duty brings me here ; yours does 

A few seconds later the gentleman was killed. 
Though those who prosecute tasks of moment may 
only seem to bear charmed lives, they are at least 
exonerated from courting danger. It is more com- 
prehensible that the artist's preoccupation may save 
him from obsessions fatal to idle minds. The note 
of depression which in later life, after the night- 
mare year of the Franco-Prussian War and his 
own private losses in friends and fortune, so 
often clouded Flaubert's enthusiastic and worship- 
ful nature, was perhaps caused by his having 
too steadfastly inspected evils for which neither 
he nor any one else could conceive an ade- 
quate image or an ideal significance. Those 
who launch on grand adventures are liable to be 
thus stranded naked beyond the reach of human 
aid. It was George Sand's inexhaustibly buoyant 
emotional force whjch, though comparatively igno- 
rant, yet restored to him the love and devotion 
needed in the prosecution of his labours. For a 
period he had been unable to achieve his daily 
hours of impersonal life ; his own woes drew him 
tyrannically away from those of his characters. No 
longer sustained by the aesthetic passion of finding 
harmonious expression for the ills he recognised, he 


felt their dreadful fascination — the wish to yield to 
them, to be crushed, to be seduced, to feed their 
Juggernaut progress with yet another mangled life. 
Yes, he realised once more what he had often 
said, that 

the less you feel a thing, the better fitted are you 
to express it as it is (as it is always in itself, in its 
generality, and disengaged from every ephemeral con- 
tingency). But it is necessary to have the faculty of 
making one's self feel it. This faculty is no other than 
the genius of seeing — of having the model before you, 
posing." " 

Tears are the worst possible spectacles : and he 
was weeping who had wished to raise himself above 
the haippiness that the sense of well-doing brings, 
in order that even so much rosy colour might not 
tinge the purity of his vision. 

" Alas, vice is no more fecundating than virtue ; it is 
necessary to be neither the one nor the other, neither 
vicious nor virtuous, but above all that." ^ 

Indeed, the ideal man will be consciously neither 
good nor wicked : he will be above all that, seeing 
things as they are, and expressing them in their 
beauty ; he will be adequate to the universe and 

• Corresfondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 82. 
= Ibid., p. 121. 


satisfy his own nature, without pride, without anxiety; 
evil will no longer exist for him save as the blood- 
shed round Troy walls is present with lovers of the 
Iliad. His science will control all elemental forces, 
his polity have purged the crowd of any taint of 
the ancestral beast and intermediate villain, fool, 
and prig. To count on such a consummation is 
to overween as Flaubert never dared : yet at 
times he was forced to cry : — 

" Has life not made thee aware of a somewhat loftier 
than happiness, than love, than religion, because it 
springs from a more impersonal fount ? A somewhat 
which sings through everything, whether we stop our 
ears or deUght ourselves with listening : on which con- 
tingencies have no effect and which is of the nature of 
the angels who do not eat : I am speaking of idea. 
They love by its means whose Ufe it is." ' 

That is from his last letter to Madame Louise 
Colet : and in the last he ever wrote, twenty-six 
years later, the same note is sounded again, though 
on a paltry occasion, with more precision : — 

" Guy has sent me my piece of botanical informa- 
tion. I was right ! . . . My authority is the professor of 
botany at the Jardin des Plantes, and I was right, be- 
cause aesthetic is true, and at a certain intellectual level 
(when method is ours) we no longer make mistakes. 

" Correspondance defi, Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 397. 


Reality does not yield to the ideal hut confirms it. For 
Bouvard et Pecuchet I had to make three journeys into 
different regions before I found the neighbourhood 
proper to the action. Ah ! ah ! I triumph ! That is 
a success ! and one that flatters me." ' 

Those words which I have italicised give fresh 
expression to that which raises Spinoza above philo- 
sophers, and makes his temper and character an 
object of contemplation for many whom his reason- 
ing cannot satisfy. Flaubert has been called a 
pantheist, and his niece has in a measure authorised 
this designation.2 However, I feel sure that he had 
not been willing to subscribe to any system, even 
that of his adored Spinoza. Perhaps the whole 
extent of his pantheistic leanings is expressed in the 
devout conviction of the assertions, " Reality does 
not yield to the ideal, but confirms it," " The ideal 
is only fruitful when everything is brought into it," 3 
which are but another way of saying that " Beauty 
is the splendour of truth," 4 and " Style the absolute 
manner of seeing things," s since only by its achieve- 
ment can any subject be grasped with lustre entire. 

That every fact would confirm the hopes of one 
who had so deftly hated waste as to live both 

■ Lettres h sa niice Caroline, p. 523. 

" Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie i. p. xxxv 

3 Ibid., Serie ii. p. 366 ; see above, p. 172. 

* Ibid., Serie iii. p. 80 ; see above, p. 34. 

s Ibid., Serie ii. p. 71 ; see above, p. 149. 


exactly and musically, and so shunned injustice as 
to realise charity both in deed and in representation, 
is a proposition to be neither gainsaid nor asserted 
lightly. But say, " The ideal demands a labour of 
love, not of exclusion," ^ and few will demur from 
the practical rule suggested, however diffident they 
might feel in prospecting its logical outcome across 
the future. Evil may grow transparent to those 
who, no longer dreading, study it, and with 
ignorance might vanish away ; as the loathsome 
leper, when St. Julian had conquered the last 
shudder of his natural repugnance, became, on the 
instant, the very presence "of that ideal type to- 
wards which all our efforts ought to tend." 2 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 366. 
' Ibid., p. 338. 


It is a fine thing to write our very thought, it is man's privilege. 

The freedom which inspires English men of genius would please me, 
if passion and party spirit did not corrupt the most estimable half of 
that precious liberty. 

Voltaire, " Candide," chapter xxv 


ART needs autonomy, but for the artist's sake 
accepts many imposed tasks ; for only through 
him can she become "self-schooled, self -scanned, 
self-honoured, self-secure." 

Her servants, in France and England, have had 
contrasted characters and circumstances. If we 
liken the author to an host, the French type will 
seek a peer or even a superior in his reader ; hence 
anxiety to inform succinctly, deferentially to enter- 
tain, and that self-effacement which, wherever 
possible, leaves guest and theme in presence, — 
having only drawn back the curtains, cleaned the 
windows, and tempered the atmosphere, like a 
collector who shows a treasure he knows the 
value of to a judge whom he respects. 

The English host receives poor relatives and such 
as would gladly know the owner of such property, 
whoever he might be. Confident that to them his 
ideas, his talents, his knowledge, his temperament, 
reveal the divine, he feels free to dictate a reverent 
absorption or an ecstatic trance, to browbeat and 
depress, rally and detect, teach, be hearty, hob-nob ; 



or, if his mansion be sufficiently palatial, he need 
not trouble himself to appear. Thus even Shake- 
speare is included. 

Pedantry is the pitfall in accepting an outside 
standard ; the presumption of inspiration leads to 
fatuity. There the poet so dreads suggesting that 
he has taken the lead of your comprehension, that 
he neglects his own thought to show appreciation of 
what yours surely is. Here, whether his walk be 
through Paradise or with Pickwick, he ignores 
every alternative of gait or bearing, unweariably 
maintaining the first he happened on. Across the 
Channel adopted virtues often stifle spontaneous 
growths ; on this side you must look for every kind 
of fruit on one proud plant, sometimes a bramble. 

The most admirable products of both soils have 
been extremely diverse ; but now the exchange of 
influences has begun and will proceed. 

We have already considered Flaubert, who may 
stand for the French type at its strongest. In Blake 
the English presumption of a God-illumined judg- 
ment reached its acme of assurance ; no writer of 
the same force has deviated from initial impulse so 
little, or gathered less from experience and observa- 
tion. The path of destiny was for him strangely 
straight and bright. All that he learned in pain 
was the pace at which his course might be run, till 
at last he was patient and trod delicately as a Iamb. 


A GREAT critic has said that applied to work 
the word "genius gives . . . the notion of 
felicity and perfection" ; but mark in "this divine 
gift of consummate felicity" how large a part 
we allot to effortless power to receive or effect. 
Such unaccountable superiority is more generally 
thus denoted than perfection itself. Men do not 
ask whether fertility, delicacy, proportion, coherence, 
and serenity were his ; they call Blake a genius in 
spite of his obvious deficiency in many of these 
qualities. Nor does recognition " that his ideas and 
language are substantially underived " give a writer 
the fame of originality, but our sense that his 
nature compels him to be eloquent, that he is 
apprehended by his conceptions rather than with 
labour and forethought become their master. All 
ideas, like all language, must of necessity be derived : 
few will even inquire how apparent the lineage of 
a great man's thoughts may be. " He has made it 
his own," they say, and bid us observe how those 



whose poetry or action was their Ufe, not merely an 
occupation, shape their own rules. 

The Poetical Sketches, though full of direct thefts 
from Elizabethan poetry, produce the effect of a 
very marked originality in their author ; whereas we 
have all read verse not to be reproached with stolen 
phrases, but making no such impression. 

Blake believed his verses to be the voice of God 
within him, and held "the worship of God is 
honouring His gifts in other men, each according 
to his genius, and loving the greatest men best. 
Those who envy or calumniate great men hate God, 
for there is no other God." Hence, conscious of 
great powers, he saw no occasion to correct his 
work, and misconceived the motives of those who 
urged him to better it.^ He failed or refused to 
learn the A B C of history, of literature, of art, of 
religion, of prosody : this gave his confidence an 
air of madness. Commercial obscurity surrounded 
the issue of his work, and deprived it of immediate 
influence. As soon as they were known, and 
wherever they became known, both poems and 
pictures told on original artists as an influence, 
while lesser talents did their best to imitate them. 
If his poetry had even less effect than his designs on 
his contemporaries, that is because fewer encoun- 
tered it. Blake was in touch with professional 
» Edwin J. Ellis, The Real Blake, pp. 46 and 47, 


artists, but the only poets he came in contact with 
were mere dilettanti, like Hayley. Had death and 
fate permitted Collins, Gray, or Cowper to chance 
on the lad who wrote the Poetical Sketches, there is 
no reason to suppose that they would have been 
less impressed than were Fuseli, Flaxman, and 
Romney with his designs ; and if, later, Wordsworth, 
Coleridge, or Lamb had come to know Blake 
personally, they would have made at least as much 
of him as did Lawrence, Richmond, or Linnell ; 
while we can imagine Shelley sitting at his feet with 
Calvert. On men of talent not the felicities alone, 
but the very imperfections of his pictures and poems, 
are calculated to exert attraction. Fuseli put it 
grossly when he said Blake was " damned good 
to steal from." Works of genius which have never 
benefited by the second heat, or that long, patient 
process of sifting and clarifying which so often 
precedes it, must need gleam with stimulating 
accidents for the experienced workman's eye, 
inspiring him with both thought and word which 
he can but prize the more because they first arose 
in another mind, and are real additions to his 
primary perceptions, however truly their final shape 
may have become his own. 

With the exception of a few stanzas and lines, 
the Poetical Sketches and Songs of Innocence and 
Experience contain all of Blake's poetry which 


should be called beautiful. What remains is in 
movement and diction neither simple nor sensuous ; 
and, if impassioned, lacks that ease and grace which 
passion sometimes gives ; only to provoke thought 
and arouse curiosity can it claim effectiveness. 
Surveying the earlier work, one notes how largely 
it is preoccupied with poetical commonplaces ; 
there is little new observation, few subtleties of 
sentiment ; yet all is fresh, ardent, naive, and not 
infrequently felicitous. The influence of Blake's 
peculiar religious apprehensions has already been 
felt ; and henceforth the burden of dark meaning 
will increasingly overstrain syntax and rhythm, 
Thel has been made much of because it is less 
horrid ; yet is it not insipid ? Passages about the 
awakening of birds and flowers are relished in 
Milton that elsewhere would appear hackneyed in 
theme and less magical as effect. 

a 7 • 


IT may help us to discover the literary value of 
Blake's prophetical writings to enumerate 
those of their main characteristics which criticism 
would seem to have established, and such as are 
obvious the moment they are set beside accepted 

1. They were intended to present Christianity 
afresh ; or, as Matthew Arnold would have phrased 
it, " to renew the intuition that righteousness is not 
an observance of rules, but a well-head of mutual 
forbearance and effort springing up to spiritual 
reunion within us." 

2. The Christianity presented is orthodox in its 
main outline : the Fall, the insufficiency of the law 
(righteous observance) as a means of salvation, the 
sufficiency of spiritual union in Jesus to redeem, 
and the final establishment of the kingdom of 
heaven by his means. 

3. It is "advanced," like the "higher criticism," 
in the sense that it presented this orthodox sub- 


stance, not merely as an historical fact, but mainly 
as a symbolical description of the inner life. 

4. It was eccentric in that it identified Jesus with 
the imagination, in that it added a vast structure of 
heterogeneous elements to the traditional myth, and 
in the literalness with which it accepted the sugges- 
tion that the apparent universe was a veil, could be 
put off as a garment, and would finally by every 
man be laid aside. 

5. It was efficacious in effect on Blake's character 
and life because the psychology inherent in it was 
borne out by experience, in the same sense as that 
of the Churches is ; while the myth which expressed 
it equally gave enhanced importance to the events 
and sentiments of individual lives, by showing them 
as parts of a grandiose whole. 

6. Its psychology was apparently more complex 
than any that is usually associated with the tradi- 
tional myth, and in this better corresponded to the 
infinitely complex conception of the material uni- 
verse which has been gaining on the European 
mind since the time of Descartes. 

7. The myth which embodies this psychology is 
confused and ugly because its personifications of 
tendencies and forces are not complete enough, 
and are never entirely freed from their roots in 
abstraction. ^ They are continually undergoing 
metamorphoses and are always distinct from their 


actual appearance. No kind of tolerable plasticity 
or comeliness could be or is maintained for more 
than a short passage with this ungainly machinery. 
Besides, the habits of these tremendous persons are 
extremely few and mostly gross; they are without 
the finer shades, and, like their emotions, are 
bewilderingly common to a whole group of names. 
One can but deplore that reality as revealed by 
vision is neither so varied, so highly organised, nor 
so beautiful as the material universe that deludes 
the senses. 

8. It is obvious that the writer of these books was 
becoming less and less observant in regard to this 
unworthy "contraction of spirit perceived by the 
five senses ; " and so his stock of images steadily 
perished, losing in fineness and vividness as the 
subtler shades of all that in youth he had been so 
eagerly enchanted by wore out in his vision- 
laboured mind. 

9. The language he employs grows more and 
more monotonous and exasperating, since all 
aesthetic control over it is abandoned, even when 
he does not write subconsciously at the dictation 
of visions endowed with only part of the faculties 
of their amanuensis. Tedious repetitions of every 
kind abound, while the natural malapropism of a 
self-educated mind leads to peculiar efficacy being 
attached to just those words the writer does not 


quite understand, such as " redound," " chartered," 

Certainly if it is, as I think, not to be gainsaid, 
that the above are main characteristics of the 
prophetic books, these must be very poor literature. 
With so absolute a trust in vision it is not likely 
that they can hold, in respect to great poetry, a 
relation more favourable than that which the Book 
of Ezekiel or the Apocalypse bears to the Book of 
Job. But even as compared with Ezekiel's, Blake's 
prophecies stand at a very sorry disadvantage ; not 
having so simple a message, so significant a relation 
to history, or so intelligible an aim as the establish- 
ment of an ideal theocracy. The elder prophet's 
visions are not subject to violent metamorphoses; 
nor can it be claimed that any of Blake's is so 
acceptable as that of the valley of dry bones, or 
presents so elaborate and imposing a cumulative 
effect as that of the four living creatures, — combined, 
as it magnificently is in Ezekiel's last chapters, with 
the completion of the holy city. And, of course, 
the style of "Milton," "Vala," and "Jerusalem" is 
nowhere when compared with our Authorised Ver- 
sion of the book written on the banks of Chebar. 

On the other hand, Blake having apprehended 
with marvellous integrity certain of Jesus' most 
penetrating intuitions, at which popular Christianity 
has always boggled, a far richer harvest may be 


gleaned from his prophetic writings than from 
those of Ezekiel in lines and phrases vividly ex- 
pressing an exquisite religious sense. 

' " If God dieth not for Man and giveth not himself 
eternally for Man, Man could not exist, for Man is Love 
as God is Love ; every kindness to another is a little 
Death in the Divine Image, nor can Man exist but by 
Brotherhood." ' 

No reasonable man will feel convinced that 
Blake's prophetic writings have been understood 
until he is shown a full paraphrase of them which 
he can understand. In the meantime there may be 
less impertinence than appears, in advancing con- 
siderations why we should not hope ever so to 
understand them. The most overwhelming is that, 
though a man possessed by great themes insecurely 
grasped may write confusedly, no man not mad, 
having definite and important ideas to convey, 
would so impenetrably have wrapped them up. 
This reflection brings those who entertain it great 
advantage ; by it they become defenders of Blake's 
sanity. They, and not those devoted scribes who 
labour to discover the immaculate order of his 
system of ideas, should be fired by a conscious 
generosity. Though less quixotic, are they not 
as chivalrous ? For, as Professor Raleigh says, 
• Jerusalem, ed. by Russell and Maclagan, p. ii8. 


" What can be intelligibly deciphered can be intel- 
ligibly expressed, so that it needs no deciphering ; " 
and, we add, must much better have been so 

Perhaps mysticism must always lead to a licen- 
tious use of language ; while, like poetical licenses, 
mystical ones may sometimes justify themselves by 
bringing within range of expression conceptions 
that lie beyond it. Though we cannot measure the 
necessary bondage of thought to speech, I ask all 
Blake's hopeful editors. Is it really conceivable that 
thoughts should be clear in a mind that could 
choose to express them in words so far wrested 
from their common use, or in such a code of 
symbols, as Blake's ? ^ I think it is greatly to the 
credit of his sanity that a nucleus of ideas was 
consolidated, in spite of the untrustworthy nature 
of the mental recreation which he wrongly supposed 
to be the best ; and I think it proves that his 
character was very much more constructive than 
his mind. 

' It is useless for Mr. Ellis to bid us learn the code and become 
familiar with it, as with a foreign language, so as to enjoy it. It 
is not a foreign language ; it is nothing so beautiful, so vast, so 
approved. It has not quickened in, grown in, and mastered 
millions of minds. It is a crude and barbarous novelty ; it is one 
man's bastard, stained and soiled throughout by insensitive incon- 
gruities, and its every fault is a crime against our own most 
beautiful tongue ; it is a code in English. 


BLAKE'S education was wretched, and his genius 
makes its inadequacy horribly obtrusive ; he 
was too impatient ever to feel the force of ignorance, 
while the power of his mind made it easy for him 
to despise accepted conclusions. He read consider- 
ably, but understood only about half. No one can 
picture Blake's mind who does not realise how 
every passage which baffled his immediate compre- 
hension was supposed by him to be transcript from 
a visionary revelation.' His enemy was the intellec- 
tual assurance that has never surveyed the world 
it presumes to judge, and judges most things by 

' An amusing instance of his ineffectual reading is reported by 
Crabb Robinson (A. Symons, William Blake, p. 263). He said 
Milton had come to him in vision and begged him to correct the 
false doctrine promulgated in Paradise Lost "that sexual inter- 
course arose out of the fall." The famous passage (Bk. iv. 1. 741) 
actually illustrates the opposite opinion. But both Blake and the 
visionary Milton had forgotten or failed to grasp this fact. What 
mental deterioration awaits a great poet when he is forced to visit 
such ill-trained minds to supply them with reality and save them 
from the illusion of matter-of-fact knowledge ! 



standards not applicable to them. His madness is 
that of ignorance with the best intentions, trying to 
set machinery it does not understand in motion. 

Like those citizens at the time of the French 
Revolution, who revealed to the world that they 
had not received preparation as a governing class, 
by making monstrous mistakes, Blake reveals that 
he had not received or been able to achieve the 
culture necessary for the adequate treatment of 
themes which he rightly perceived to be the proper 
ones for great poetry. He alone felt the need and 
answered it to the best of his ability; though his 
effort was abortive, it is honourable. The main 
result of all his spiritual warfare was determined 
by the assumptions of popular Christianity, which 
he had imbibed in childhood before he could think 
for himself. These he never doubted, though he 
did reinterpret them. The question of his sanity 
will be reduced to this question : Have not many 
of the greatest intellects done less to conquer their 
faults of temper and sensuality than did this man 
to conquer his ignorance ? Is not his victory, with 
its industry supported without weariness, its poverty 
free from all envy, its violent temper subdued 
almost entirely to peace and forgiveness, its dis- 
appointed ambition accepted finally without rancour 
or despair, its lifelong preference for the things of 
the spirit over those of this world, of being to 


seeming and having — is this not of the very essence 
of sanity ? Is it not holiness ? Could we have 
hoped for a judgment from Voltaire on a man like 
Blake, comparable to that vision reported by Crabb 
Robinson, in which Voltaire said to Blake, " I 
blasphemed the Son of Man, and it shall be for- 
given me ; but my enemies blasphemed the Holy 
Ghost in me, and it shall not be forgiven them." ' 

There may have been periods when a nation's 
mind has needed men like Blake; when, under 
Druid oaks, the reverent colleges of elect souls 
would have listened in the moonlight to his admired 
dreams. The ideal is always partly located in the 
past, partly in the future ; the father and the son 
of man are divine. We lose while we gain. Blake 
may have been born too late, he may have been 
born too early. I prefer to think that nothing 
essential divided him from the men with whom 
he lived ; that he was no belated antediluvian, nor 
yet " fallen all before his time on this sad world," 
but that accidental circumstances prevented his full 
effectiveness. The improvement shown in the style 
of the "Ghost of Abel" may have been due to 
the influence of Byron's poetry. Can we not 
imagine Blake's having felt, when reading that or 
Wordsworth's, how his own books, true and vital 

■ A., SytnonSr William Blake, p. 301. 



though their burden was, were not fit for publica- 
tion in this world ? Are not his words to Crabb 
Robinson an arch and gentle confession of this ? 
" I shall print no more : when I am commanded by 
the spirits, then I write; and the moment I have 
written, I see the words fly about the room in all 
directions. It is then published. The spirits can 
read, and my MS. is of no further use." ^ 

Every young and in consequence half-educated 
man of pregnant parts has been through a similar 
experience. Things written and thought with the 
eccentricity natural to ignorance he has come across 
done adequately by fully equipped minds ; and of 
some tasks once lightly undertaken perhaps been con^^ 
vinced that they were not for him, for he could never 
acquire the scholarship, breadth of experience, or 
dexterity required. Yet they truly had been revela- 
tions to him, and some may receive them even now 
best from his work ; besides, it often happens that 
the more fully equipped prophets have only half the 
message or have mingled it with errors. Blake 
did not talk like that about his designs; he was 
surrounded by young and ardent admirers of them, 
and if the spirits were even more enthusiastic, still, 
his latest and best designs were commissioned, pub- 
lished, and paid for. Gazing on his picture of 
"Cain Fleeing from the Face of his Parents by the 
' A. Symons, William Blake, p. 268. 


Grave of Abel," in that distracted figure he came to 
see not, as he had intended, the murderer, but the 
spiritual form of the murdered in agony demanding 
vengeance ; and wrote his last poem.' A murder 
was an accident of no consequence, a material 
event ; vengeance, the living influence of the dead 
man on his surviving friends, was big with evil import 
and strong to perpetuate war against the forgiveness 
of sins, 

" ' In Hell all is self-righteougness. There is no such 
thing there as the Forgiveness of Sins.' ' It is not because 
angels are holier than men or devils that makes them 
angels, but because they do not expect holiness from 
one another, but from God only.' ' Men are admitted 
into Heaven, not because they have curbed and 
governed their passions or have no passions, but 
because they have cultivated their understandings.' 
' The fool shall not enter into Heaven let him be ever 
so holy.' " * 

These interpretations are beautifully apt to prick 
the bubbles of popular religion which the rich 
blow for the poor and the clever for the stupid, 
that they may amuse them. Intelligence is an 
essential part of the ideal, and holiness is not holy 
enough without it. 

' See the " Ghost of Abel," Poetical Works of W. Blake, ed. by 
J. Sampson, Preface, p. xvii. 
' E. J. Ellis, The Real Blake, pp. 326, 327, 325. 

NOT merely in religious devotion to art and in 
fascinated horror at vulgar errors does Blake 
resemble Flaubert, but he has formulated very 
similar aesthetic principles : indeed, his contempt for 
reason and science alone divides them. 

Like Buflon, he understood that the manner of 
seeing things may be as rich in revelations of truth 
as the simple perception of any object can be," 
perhaps richer, and said, " The tree which moves 
some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a 
green thing which stands in the way. . . . To the 
eyes of the man of imagination. Nature is Imagina- 
tion itself " : 2 or, as Flaubert put it, for the artist, 
"The accidents of the world, as soon as they are 
perceived, should appear transposed as though to 
serve an illusion intended for description " 3 (i,e., a 
vision prepared for art's means). 

' P'or a more literal translation, see above, p. 146. 

' The Letters of William Blake, ed. by A. G. B. Russell, p. 6a. 

3 CEuvres computes, vol. vi.. p. 184. 



Like La Bruy^e,* he perceived that style was 
a consequence of sincerity. 

" No man can write or speak from his heart but 
he must intend truth." 2 " Expression cannot exist 
without character as its stamina." 3 

Therefore for him, too, " Execution is the Chariot 
of Genius." ..." Invention depends altogether 
upon execution or organisations" . . . "Grandeur 
of ideas is founded on precision of ideas ; '' 4 and 
this results in a parallel to the theory of the one 
right word : " Ideas cannot be given but in their 
minutely appropriate words. Nor can a design be 
made without its minutely appropriate execution." s 

Hence the necessity of hard work : " Without 
unceasing practice nothing can be done. Practice 
is art If you leave off you are lost." 6 

Then his " Exuberance is beauty," or " The road 
of excess leads to the palace of wisdom," 7 corre- 
sponds to Flaubert's admiration for exaggeration.8 

Nor could a stronger estimate of the beauty and 
permanence of types be found than in Blake's 
"Chaucer makes every one of his characters perfect 

' See above, p. 107. 

= Poetical Works, edited by E. J. Ellis, vol. i. p. 212. 
3 Gilchrist, The Life of W. Blake, ed. by W. Graham Robertson, 
p. 325. « Ibid., p. 282. s The Real Blake, p. 302. 

" Poetical Works, edited by E. J. Ellis, vol. i. p. 434. 
' Marriage of Heaven and Hell, pp. 10 and 7. 
B See above, p. 154. 


in his kind ; every one is an antique statue, the 
image of a class, and . not of an imperfect indi- 
vidual ; " ? or when he says : " The oak dies as well 
as the lettuce, but its. eternal "iniage or individuality 
never dies but renews by its seed. Just so the 
imaginative image returns by the seed of contem- 
plative thought'." 2 ' ' 

The association of sympathy with intelligence is 
for him as for Flaubert a guai-antee of fruitful 

" Be assured, my dear friend, that there is not one 
touch in those drawings, and pictures but what came 
from my head and my heart in unison." 3 

The necessity of banishing foregone moral con- 
clusions from both representations and inquiries 
shone for Blake like the noonday ; for, as be says, 
" Here [j.e., in heaven], tjiey are no longer talking 
of what is gqod and eyjl, of what is right or wrong, 
and puzzling themselves in Satan's Labyrinth, but 
are conversing with eternal realities as they exist 
in human imagination." 4 The study of evil and 
admiration for art's portrayal of types of evil, was 
for him, as certainly as for Flaubert, an antidote 
for the fascination exercised .by infernal powers, 

" Gilchrist, .p. Sq6. ' The Real Blake, p. gr8. 

3 The Letters of William Blake, p. 104. 
* The Real Blake, p. 323. 


" The uses to society are perhaps equal of the Devil 
and of the Angel : their sublimity who can dispute ? 

. . Let the young reader study what he [Chaucer] 
has said of her [the Wife of Bath] ; it is useful as a 
scarecrow." ' 

As La Fontaine is Dante's equal where both are 
at their best, Wordsworth is Shakespeare's when he 
writes about Hartley Coleridge, six years old : — 

"This is all in the highest degree imaginative and 
equal to any poet, but not superior. I cannot think that 
real poets have any competition. None are greatest in 
the kingdom of heaven. It is so in poetry." ^ 

Even impersonality, at least in respect of narra- 
tives, is upheld by Blake — 

"Reasons and opinions concerning acts are not 
history, acts themselves alone are history. . . . Tell 
me the acts, O historian, and leave me to reason upon 
them as I please. . . ."3 

Doubtless Blake's practice was not, like Flaubert's, 
consequent on these principles. He did not view 
them clearly ; their disentanglement from that old 
poetry of a last judgment, a forgiveness of sins, 

' Gilchrist, pp. 505 and 508. 

' A. Symons, William Blake, p. 299. 

3 Gilchrist, p. 517. 

5^16 i ART AT^D LIFE 

a hkppy life to come as a reward to faith and 
self-conquest, might have caused him to demur. 
Occasionally he may be found contradicting this or 
that one rebelliously even in his extant writings. 
Yet was he not bound to reach acquiescence in 
them, however associated ? Born an artist, every- 
thing else, even the apocalyptic character of his 
visions, was accidental, had grown out of un- 
propitious circumstances. Besides, can the truth, 
in view of what is and is not known about it, be 
conceived as less glorious than these prophetic 
dreams? Any answer to have weight must come 
from as valiant and as faithful a spirit. 



There is no surer way of evading the world than by Art; and no 
surer way of uniting with it than by Art, 

Goethe's "Maxims and Reflections," translated by Bailey 
Saunders, p. 172 


BLAKE was entirely deluded about the historical 
development of art, and therefore misinter- 
preted the origin and needs of his own gift. Stylistic 
characters were for him faithful copies after spiritual 
objects seen in vision. He considered that Michael 
Angelo had gazed on men nine, twelve, or fifteen 
heads high ; and, when he grouped them together 
so that it was very difficult to make out what they 
were doing or why they were moved, it was 
because he in trance had watched them behaving 
so. He thought the long straight lines of Gothic 
sculpture and the simplified forms dictated by the 
difficulty of overcoming stone with chisels and 
fitting statues to pillars were a literal rendering 
of spiritual realities. And all the stylistic characters 
which he adopted from ancient tombs, old prints, 
or even from his contemporaries, had been seen by 
him in vision, and proved that those other artists 
had seen the same things in the same way. Thus 
we see that he was fundamentally in the dark as to 



the nature of his own art, as to its relations with 
other art, and as to its limitations and their relation 
to the materials and implements employed. Had 
he been consequent in these ideas he would have 
seen that Rubens' women or Titian's children were 
as necessarily copied from vision, since in their 
work the stylistic developments from natural 
forms are quite as marked. But Blake was not 
observant enough to make such a reflection. The 
commercial world was the work of Satan, and 
artists who obviously appreciated it were demons. 
They delight in deep shadows, vague perspectives^ 
and the soft confusion of rich wardrobes ; their 
women belong to the satisfied classes, who are not 
pilgrims but leaseholders in respect to material con- 
ditions. To contemplate such pictures results in 
a higher value being set on good living, not in a 
longing for rustic simplicity. 

Blake confesses that "the spirit of Titian was 
particularly active in raising doubts concerning the 
possibility of executing without a model." At such 
times " memory of nature and of pictures of various 
schools posisessed his mind instead of appropriate 
execution." We who perceive that his mind was 
equally possessed by memories when it was most 
self-satisfied can explain his experience better. The 
stylistic character with which Titian tempted him 
could not be used at once, like those which he had 


unconsciously got by heart through constant copy- 
ing when young. Probably he viewed him through 
even worse travesties ^ than the prints which veiled 
Raphael and Michael Angelo from his divining 
enthusiasm. His very limited stock of mannerisms 
failed before this new revelation ; he had to rack 
his memory, and wanted to explore the correspon- 
dences which he intuitively felt must exist between 
Titian's stylistic developments and natural forms. 
But he tells us he had " the courage to suffer poverty 
and disgrace," rather than enrich his mind by quit- 
ting the narrow circle of his acquired habits docilely 
to learn of yet another great master. He had taken 
up with the spirit-world, and easily believed that his 
senses deceived even when they delighted him. 
Still, he was no consistent Puritan. Afi&nities to 
Michael Angelo, who " created his visions of beauty, 
pity, and terror through the sole instrument of the 
human body," may be too heavily insisted on ; for 
the Englishman's preferences were not so exclusive ; 
certain motives of landscape and idyllic life had 
always an equal power over him, and in his treat- 
ment of these he is really more akin to the Venetian 
than to the Florentine school. He did not love the 
solidity of the nude in nature as did Michael Angelo. 
What he found in the great Florentine's art was 
a stylistic treatment of the human body in harmony 

• Gilchrist, p. 283. 


with august and religious emotion — just what he 
found in Gothic draperies and peaceful poses. 
Thus the whole reach of his art is provided with a 
language of outline ; and if any other element be 
added, it is something from the conventional art of 
his own time — high-waisted damsels floating like 
wind-flowers from their toe-tips in a gush of senti- 
mental ravishment. He had no idea that all these 
characters had been slowly evolved from the study 
of nature and humoured into harmony with moods 
that were equally a conquest over the world. 
He had no objection to detail or homely accident, 
only to the use of both made by the Dutch painters. 
Had it been granted to him to see them in pic- 
tures by Puvis de Chavannes he would certainly 
have been enchanted. His pupils, Calvert and 
Palmer, were doubtless encouraged by him to make 
a similar if less perfect use of such motives. In the 
illustrations to the Book of Job and the Eclogues of 
Virgil — nay, even here and there in the borders of 
Milton and Jerusalem — we find a treatment of such 
themes really worthy of comparison with that of 
the great French painter-poet. 

Blake never dreamed that the materials and 
implements used had dictated each its proper 
stylistic tendency, and that, tutored by these, every 
master had shaped yet another natural trait till it 
conformed with their straitness. His theory of in- 


spiration left him at the mercy of every inane 
inipulse or freak which arose in an exceptionally 
mobile imagination. Reynolds was the only man 
he met who could have understood his difficulties 
and have helped him to overcome them, but bigotry 
prevented him from profiting by that noble and 
seasoned experience. His education as an artist 
rigorously limited his means of expression ; while 
he was debarred from adding to these formulas, as 
most great artists do, by his dogmatic dread of the 
influence of memory and nature. The slow process 
of evolving out of the wilderness of natural sugges- 
jtions articulate items capable of working together 
for a definite pictorial effect was unknown to him, 
for both superstition and impatience prevented his 
discovering it, though he was continually prompted 
thereto by his native gift and the needs it created. 
Added to this endless difficulty, which was always 
tripping up Blake's feet whenever he might have 
made an advance in his art, was a superhuman 
power of self-delusion. He tells us in an often 
quoted passage, " I question not my corporeal eye 
any more than I would question a window con- 
cerning a sight " — a very foolish negligence indeed 
if the window happened to be dirty or have bubbles' 
in it. " What 1 " it will be questioned, " when the 
sun rises do you not see a round disc of fire some- 
what like a guinea ? " " Oh 1 no, no I I see an 


innumerable company of the heavenly host crying 
— ' Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty ! ' " 
With the same lovable perversity he appears never 
to have seen his own works, but always, in their 
stead, a vision flattering their creator. Compare 
his own description of the colouring and finish of 
the items in his catalogue with that of Crabb Robin- 
son, or with the works themselves, and one is 
immediately convinced of this happy self-delusion, 
which would seem to have proved contagious for 
one or two of his admirers. He asserts that 
"precision," "clear colours," and "determinate 
lineaments" are the qualities aimed at — and, one 
can but conclude from his tone of confidence, 
attained— in such works as "The Bard," "Pitt," 
and "The Canterbury Pilgrims." As a matter of 
fact the colour is not clear, and "precision and 
determinate lineaments" are the last qualities 
attributable to at least two of these strange pictures. 
Even his " rival " the contemned Stothard's " Can- 
terbury Pilgrims," however vulgar and vapid, is at 
least clearer in colour and nearer to its original 
appearance than Blake's dull and ineffective, if 
weightier and more pregnant picture. Yet he tells 
us " All frescoes are as high finished as miniatures 
or enamels, they are known to be unchangeable." 
To this capacity for self-delusion must be attributed, 
the unbelievable carelessness of a great numiber, oi 


his works, which come within no measurable 
distance of the standards set by the rest. 

But if this artist is thus self-impeded and stunted, 
on the other hand he is, at his worst as at his best, 
entirely free from the superstitions and confusions 
that frustrate the more part of his fellows. There 
is no tendency to regard accidental nature as a 
fetish, nor to confuse the idea of beauty with that 
of truth or the aim of science with that of art. He 
is always direct and sincere ; if the result is not 
beautiful, that is merely because the impatient 
creator neglected to sort and select, or to balance 
and complete, and contented himself with hasty 
work, or the deadly smoothness of elaborated 
mechanical processes which have been dreamed 
over. Instinctively conscious of the limitations of 
his materials, he is sometimes careless in employing 
them ; and he always has an intention, if often that 
intention is crude or silly. His line work is some- 
times direct and bold as that on a Greek vase ; but, 
instead of the fund of observation which the best 
vase painters added to their limited and conventional 
means of expression, he is for ever making snap- 
shots at sublime effects, which had been attained, 
through very much more elaborate processes, by 
masters patient of the necessarily slow evolution 
of beauty. His sudden recollections were visions, 
spurring his hand — already impatient to a fault. 



When he is at his best he goes as straight to his 
point as a caricaturist, and is then unsurpassed for 
accent and power of suggestion. 

Blake knew little about the anatomy of horses ; 
yet he has been strangely fortunate in treating them. 
The horses in the " Canterbury Pilgrims " have 
been found to need apology.' But all artists and 
designers will, in this dull, over-laboured pro- 
duction, be first delighted with these horses. 
" Wherever did Blake get them from ? " we cry.= 
The artist tells us lies about equine anatomy per- 
haps, but he never pretended to tell the truth on 
that subject ; what he was full of was the grandiose 
aspect, the proud stepping, superb holding of the 
head, the sculpturesque stability and groomable 
simplicity of their forms. Two of them are fine 
inventions in picture language, and could be used 
decoratively in a thousand ways, because they speak 
so simply and so well about equine impressiveness. 
Between them and those on the Parthenon frieze 
there are the difference and the affinity that exist 
between Giotto and Michael Angelo. One could 
imagine a good and interesting artist who, having 

• The Real Blake, p. 327. 

" Mr. A. G. B. Russell informs me that they are undoubtedly de- 
rived from an engraving on which Blake may have worked. Its title 
runs : "The Procession of King Edward VI. from the Tower of 
London to Westminster, Feb. xix, mdxlvii, previous to his corona- 
tion. Engraved from a coeval painting at Cowdray in Sussex, the 
Seat of Lord Viscount Montague, by James Basire." 


once invented them, would have used them his life 
through ; nay, a school of designers that would have 
repeated them for centuries. But Blake does not ; 
he has created others as fine and quite different : 
those with the stormy manes in what is, I think, his 
grandest creation, " Elijah in the Chariot of Fire " ; 
that, finest of all, with the griffin-like head, in " The 
Rider of the Pale Horse " ; those crouching low on 
the earth, almost invisible, behind " The Bard " ; 
and last, though not least, the sightless couriers of 
the wind in "Pity." All these have the superb 
directness of the greatest art, though they have not 
its completeness. 

Blake apprehended that the obsolete tempera and 
fresco would yield greater beauties than the oil 
medium, the consummate use of which was still 
extant in his day. He set to work to rediscover 
these lapsed mediums, from insufficient inquiries leap- 
ing to insecure results. His two finest "frescoes" 
are "The Bard," from Gray, and "Pitt Guiding 
Behemoth." Both are unusually delightful to the 
eye ; we think of the most decadent Tintorets or El 
Grecos as we gaze at their gleaming topsj^turvydom. 
There is something grand about them that suggests 
how Blake might have evolved a technique with 
Venetian affinities, resembling that of G. F. Watts, 
whose " Curse of Cain " in the Diploma Gallery is 
in every respect such a monumental picture as 


would have satisfied Blake's innate aspirations fully. 
Perhaps the most enchanting of his drawings is 
"The Wise and Foolish Virgins," of which Law- 
rence ordered a replica. " It was Sir Thomas's 
favourite drawing," and " he commonly kept it on 
his table in his studio, as a study " — " which is high 
praise when we remember that Lawrence's collec- 
tion of drawings by the Old Masters was one of the 
finest that has ever been brought together." ' On 
the other hand, the artist's intention, not the actual 
work on the actual paper, wins praise for "The 
River of Life," since the composition suggested has 
never been really found. This drawing, and even 
more "The Entombment," and "Job Confessing 
his Presumption to God," make one think how, 
more fortunately situated, Blake might have become 
to Fra Angelico something of what Puvis de 
Chavannes became to Piero dei Franceschi. 

Blake is a real art force : therefore he would 
certainly have benefited — not, like Barry and 
Fuseli, been rendered impossible for ever — by 
gazing up at the Sistine ceiling or wandering 
•throughi the cells at San Marco. 

Evidence of the way Blake must often have been 
hypnotised by his own work is to be found in the 
much vaunted minute detail in some of his colour 

' The Letters of William Slake, Introduction by A. G. B. Russell, 
p. xxii ' 


prints, which is entirely thrown away, because it is 
out of scale with the design as a whole, and out 
of harmony with its generalised character. Of 
course the forms of these plants growing like sea- 
anemones over the hills and valleys of his visionary 
world were suggested by the peculiar patterns that 
the sticky oil paint raised upon the paper when the 
millboard was torn from it, and had nothing to do 
with the design as originally conceived. Blake's 
attention is caught by this strange surface, and he 
follows its suggestions, obliviously elaborating fan- 
tastic forms of vegetable growth, helping to explicit- 
ness the hints it gave, like a child tracing fairy trees 
on a frosted window-pane. In the much later 
water-colours for " Dante," we find him drawing 
these same growths from recollection as an inherent 
part of the design — an absurdly minute scale being 
no longer imposed by the broken surface left by the 
sticky millboard. In the same way he hp,d no 
doubt been hypnotised by the colours in his paint- 
box or on his palette when he painted the tiger green. 
His books were printed by a similar process, 
revealed to him in a dream by his brother's spirit. 
Presumably the possibilities of some such invention 
had been discussed between the brothers before the 
younger's death. These books are great rarefies, 
especially copies worth having ; they are therefore 
often overestimated. A few pages reveal an instinc- 


tive sense of decorative propriety ; the more part is 
rather curious than beautiful. 

It was a fresh study of old engravings and other 
works of art, to which he was roused by the sym- 
pathy and encouragement of younger artists like 
Linnell, Palmer, and Calvert, which caused the 
great improvement in his illustrations to the Book 
of Job. This work must really count among the 
finest ever produced in England ; the designs for 
" Dante," begun later, are of much inferior promise, 
being less coherent and less central in conception. 

Folk who complain of Blake's bad or incorrect 
drawing do not understand what they are talking 
about ; for such censure is as relevant as complaints 
of the incorrectness of Japanese paintings in the 
same respects, or that of a Gothic statue. It is 
not fidelity to natural fact which is wanting, but 
sensitiveness as to what forms are cheap and 
empty, what fully developed and refined. He did 
not pretend to copy nature, but visions ; unfortu- 
nately he neglected to insure that these visions were 
always the best he was capable of receiving, and 
sometimes, in his impatience, he treated them more 
cavalierly than even the shoddiest deserved. 

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BLAKE was probably right in believing that the 
greatest artists had worked from vision ; 
"students of nature" clumsily supply their 
physical defect by handicapped labour. Michael 
Angelo and Rembrandt watched the world in order 
to enrich their visions, not each item piecemeal for 
each several work ; hence, as in fine literature, 
their observation is thoroughly assimilated. On a 
lower plane, Wordsworth's " bliss of solitude," and 
"eye upon the object," suppose a visionary habit 
perhaps less vivid but possibly better trained than 
Blake's : but in Flaubert's case we have indisputable 
evidence that one as exceptional can be treated 

"Do not class the artist's inward vision with those 
of the hallucinated. During what is properly called 
hallucination, terror is always present ; you feel your 
personality escaping, you think yourself about to die. 
With the poetic vision, on the contrary, joy comes, 
something enters into you. Yet none the less truly you 



know not where you are. . . . Such a vision often forms 
slowly, piece by piece as the parts of a scene slide on to 
the stage ; but often also it is sudden and fugitive like 
the hallucinations of sleep. Something passes before 
your eyes ; then you must throw yourself eagerly 
upon it. 

The taste of arsenic was so really in my mouth when 
I described how Emma Bovary was poisoned, that it 
cost me two indigestions one upon the other — quite 
real ones, for I vomited my dinner." ' 

Imagination cultivated to the point of vision,3?'of 
great service to an artist^needs a constant supply of 
trustworthy ftiaterial, and correction by a free critical 
reference to logic and aesthetic judgment ; for, like 
any other human faculty, it must be disciplined and 
not worshipped blindly. Flaubert was at vast pains 
to acquife a stock of precise information about 
objects, persons, places, and periods with which his 
work was concerned, though we are to understand 
that he often wrote his actual descriptions from 
visions for which his mind had been thus prepared. 
Blake would have dreaded the influence of any pre- 
paration other than prayer or good deeds, since, in 
his belief, it could only have imposed on the real 
spiritual world shadows, stains, and contortions, 
characteristic of the outward spectacle, which was 
inherently false. 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie Hi. pp. 349 and 350. 


THE surmise that there exists in the actual 
ordinance of sensuous objects far more sig- 
nificance than has yet been divined, enhances the 
value of correctness in memories and of probability 
in imaginations, just as it spurs on the analytical 
observer. This hope_ was strong in Flaubert ; it 
barely existed for Blake ; yet both owned the 
visionary's power of re-picturing things no longer 
present, and the artist's impulse to construct 
novelties out of similar elements. Blake infinitely 
preferred the most adventitious of these creations to 
the mere fidelity of remembrance. His own eager 
divinations could alone be consulted as to their 
import — ^which, since they were fortuitous, was 
always possibly rare. At least they were no common 
experiences ; his neighbours could not bid him 
correct his first impressions of them or reconsider 
their significance.' 

However, even these visions possessed soine con- 
' The Letters of W. Blake, p. 114. 



sequent characters and were subject to a few critical 
comparisons. Since the pieces in his mental 
kaleidoscope were numbered, more especially the 
larger and more striking ones, the delight Blake 
took in reviewing their arrangements would cause 
him to welcome the same or similar combinations 
in differing moods : and then he compared new 
with old, as we all do with sense impressions at 
first hand. Besides, he had instructors — the great 
artists who had won his boyish admiration for 
forms, shades, and colours supernaturally pro- 
portioned and unlike any seen abroad. Goethe 
remarked how, after studying pictures, objects in 
the street appeared isolated and modified to suit 
the style of the master he had been absorbed with ; 
that is, his eye instinctively selected those qualities 
the artist in question would have chosen, and 
adapted them to the effects which his pictures had 
aimed at. From his earliest youth Blake thus 
played not only with real but with visionary appear- 
ances. Whenever he turned over his loved prints 
or saw new works by those great spirits, his inward 
world no doubt received that kind of castigation 
which our first impressions gain from renewed 
inspection of object and scene. Later, however, 
not even so persuasive a daimon as Titian could 
induce him to acclimatise quite foreign organisms. 
The flames of his indignation girt the strict 


innocence of his passionately adored Eden against 
the amenities and perspectives of luxury. 

Flaubert, though he nourished and chastened his 
visions till they corresponded to a highly complex 
possibility, nevertheless, as we have seen, appre- 
ciated exaggeration in proportion, though only so 
long as coherence was maintained. For him the 
articulation of such enlargements must remain of 
the natural type, though they would acquire a 
greater ease and directness from the exclusion of all 
the supernumerary details which so distract and 
confuse observation in the real world. Even 
visions often presented him with more detail than 
his art could cope with ; then a conscious synthesis 
must be undertaken before words could suffice. 
He rightly saw in this process a method of thought 
parallel to the determination of scientific formulas 
which describe the object deprived of all save 
general qualities and relations : only for him truth 
was a means, beauty the end. Man sensuous, 
emotional, intellectual, harmonised in a mood, was 
addressed — not his understanding isolated from its 
concomitants. , 

Again, Blake never clearly grasped, as Flaubert 
did, the fact that "the words of the poet are not 
merely symbols of what he wishes to say, they are 
what he wishes to say." == For him vision itself was 

■ Dr. Rudolf Kassner, quoted in The Letters of W. Blake, p. 62 : 


a purer art than any canvas or paper could assist j 
it existed in the real, they only in this unreal world. 
Thus, the lines, tints, and shades of the painter did 
not always constitute his success ; but, like much 
less gifted artists, he often hoped the public would 
meet him half-Way, and supply in response to stale 
and poor indications fulness of vision — persuaded 
that what sufficed to re-awaken his mind ought to 
arouse theirs. 

His equivocations about the meaning of the 
word " reality " balked him of the saving health of 
his own conviction that art could not exist without 
" minutely appropriate execution." ^ His paintings 
were too often but wretched copies of his true 
creations, and these latter, illusions only, were all 
too like nature in being devoid of the characters of 
appropriate brush or pencil work. Thus bigotry 
in holding a silly creed robbed him of the benefit 
due to the perception that art is outward and not 
inward, that style is thought, and that complete 
ideas only exist in perfect forms. 

" Die Worte des Dichters konnen nicht nur das bedeuten, was er 
mit ihnen sagen will, sondern sie sind es auch." 
■ See above, p. 213, 


USURPATION by the will of that control over 
sensation normally exerted by impress from 
without, lies perhaps at the root of expression. 
The origins of speech, like the first subtleties of 
grimace, may have accompanied the reproduction 
of sensations without the aid of external stimulus. 

A volition commands the senses to ignore the 
world and serve some desire ; thus thought is born. 
The eager divination of mechanical inventors and 
scientific discoverers watches the action of uncon- 
structed machines, predicts the result of investi- 
gations not yet set on foot. Men gifted with vision 
create sensuous illusions by transforming and re- 
arranging elements furnished by memory ; art's 
triumph is to register this marriage of sensation 
to purpose. 

If abstractions free from the most summary 
sensualisation even of a symbol occur in thought, 
use may have obliterated the process — as is perhaps 
the case with instinct, which always looks like a 



leap in the dark and occasionally proves so. The 
rapidity of mental activity, and the rareness of 
capacity for self-observation, make testimony on 
these matters extremely unconvincing. 

Less gifted men develop their conceptions from 
sketch to sketch, from stage to stage, till at length 
they satisfy the impulse which drives them, weary it, 
or transform it. How much more finely must the 
retentive mind correct and develop, advancing from 
vision to vision 1 while thus aided skill performs 
her prestigious miracles. Genius fluctuates between 
these two habits, always in some measure con- 
.forming to both. . 

Every perception, divination, and expression 
awaits corroboration or correction from the re- 
newed experience. Rash judges condemn or acquit 
a thousand times, before the proper witnesses are 
cited again and the court of appeal can sit to quash 
or uphold each finding. Hence the tardiness with 
which the . conquests qf exceptional minds are 
received even; by the intelligent. 

I'HK W'lSTv AM) FO(H ISEr \'[K(,INS 


WHO, even in his own case, can rightly appor- 
tion responsibiUty for failure between 
inherent 'deficiencies and avoidable disloyalty ? 
Yet can we think any of his contemporaries more 
obedient to duty than Blake, or any Frenchman of 
his day more conscientious than Flaubert ? Society 
was hostile to the excellence and maimed the 
efforts of them both. This oppression revealed 
their profound genuineness but marred its efflores- 
cence. Human perfection implies reciprocity ; no 
man can give perfectly unless his gift be as well 

Both were precociously independent : and if the 
one was poor, the other well-to-do, the one fully, 
the other under-educated, yet the iilsanity of a 
fashion may be as cramping as want, and over- 
confidence as baffling as too vast a task. 
• Ecelesiastes is not more resigned to the unin- 
telligible vanity of human things than les Memoires 

d'un fou ; but that book was written in reaction 



from violent and hopeless passion. The recurrence 
of the same mood when Flaubert found his body 
mysteriously stricken only proves that the same 
person suffered both misfortunes. Every thought 
of competing for the prizes all desire was banished ; 
as much as any hunchbacfe he knew himself a 

Blake might claim to be at home with prophets 
dead, but not with his neighbours, amongst whom 
no angel could havje felt more strange : and the only 
rival? his vast ambition espied, rendered it ridicu- 
lous, so desspicable; they seemed. 

The Frenchman was quicker to take advantage of 
this isolation, to feel that it made him what the true 
artist should be, a Nazarite, a priest. Proudly, if 
with a shudder, he noted how other human 
monsters were drawn to him, as to a brother who 
yet had a royal, strength with which to hold his own 
against the untainted crowd. He had touch for all 
whose mentality, whether through default or ex- 
cessive delicacy, was a stranger — idiots, savages, 
disillusioned ladies, poets, artists, monks, and the 
victims of vice. 

Blake took longer in resigning himself to the 
fact that the rich and powerful chose others to 
paint and write for them ; but in the end his 
serenity was more beautiful. Both had to wrestle 
with the exasperation , of those who, fully endowed. 


find that some primary instinct is being starved in 
them. Blake's marriage proved barren, Flaubert 
probably held that his malady forbade him to think 
of fatherhood. No doubt there were compensations 
in either case ; for Mrs. Blake was an ideal wife, 
and if the French master's makeshift love-affairs 
were unsatisfactory, his relations with his niece and 
later on with Guy de Maupassant were in the best 
sense of the word paternal. 

Flaubert poured his vitalising enthusiasm into the 
conceptions of trained freethinkers, Blake his into 
the prejudices of those who shared Bunyan's out- 
look : both splendidly overflowed these moulds and 
proved them inadequate. Yet the Frenchman's 
advantage was, I think, as great here, as that which 
the Englishman drew from his genius for personal 

The first cried — 

" The artist has no right to live like other men," 
the second — 

" All men should be painters, poets, sculptors, or 
musicians ; for none save artists can be Christians." 

Flaubert saw in style the crown of life : Blake in 
power to forgive sins the fruition of art's labour. 

Agreement underlies their difference. Each, with 
the other's advantages, must have accepted the dual 
ideal. The one harmonises religion, the other 
science, with aesthetic effort. 



Genius is not rare nowadays, but what no one any longer has 
and what we must strive for, is conscience. 

CORRESPONDANCE DE G. FLAUBERT, Serie i. pp. 202, 203 

Principles imply logic, and give room for debate, doubt, and ex- 
position; but genuine conscience knows only feeling, and goes 
straight forward to its object, which it tries lovingly to compre- 
hend, and when comprehended never lets go again. Like the 
innocent flock, that seeks not to crush under foot the herbs or 
flowers which instinct teaches it are pernicious or poisonous, nor 
to tear them up with impatient rancour, but peaceably passes them 
by, and goes in quest of that alone which is its appropriate 
nutriment and suited to its gentle, quiet nature. . . . 

Falk's " Characteristics of Goethe," translated by 
S. Austen, vol. ii. p. 65 


THE most successful artists for a century past 
have recombined in relation to modern 
mentalities elements derived from bygone arts. 
Alfred Stevens and Watts, Delacroix and Puvis 
de Chavannes, avail themselves of the opportunity 
to do this as of a chief privilege vi^on for us by 
the superior mechanical prowess, economic stability 
and sympathetic freedom of our times. No former 
age could have enjoyed such touch with so varied 
and rich a past : its exercise is proof of the utmost 

Nevertheless, other knowledge, till now never 
dreamed of, exerts strange influence over souls : 
the temper, the co-ordination, and the perspectives 
of science are puissant and beautiful. 

Alone among their contemporaries Gustave Flau- 
bert and Antoine Louis Barye perceived aesthetic 
possibilities here. 

Of course, the glamour of scientific successes 
has enervated much modern art. Crowds of 



aspirants, as though hypnotised, strive to rival 
the insignificance of unco-ordinated facts : others 
are constantly preoccupied with ill-digested in- 
formation, exaggerating and misapplying the so- 
called results of investigation. But these masters 
alone sought the beauty of general types as the 
scientist seeks for laws or formulas of experience. 

How can you know in what a fine tiger should 
consist until you have watched, measured, and 
compared a great number ? Barye taught his 
eyes to distinguish where all others were ignorant. 
Whether of a man or a stag, he knew, as precisely 
as the horse-trainer, what points and measures 
to look for and prize, " I am not tempted," he 
said, "to consecrate in sculpture the relative dis- 
order of an individual's forms." With an equal 
patience Flaubert sorted the herd of men, reveal- 
ing the fateful progress of mental and moral 
inadequacy, like a Japanese artist inventing demon 
or dragon, or a Gothic sculptor characterising 
a chimaera — only his resources were as infinitely 
more varied as they were more intimately terrible 
to the soul. 

Barye's biographer, Roger Ballu, though an in- 
telligent man and thorough scholar, could not divine 
what benefit that master drew from recording the 
measurements of so many animals of each species : 
and Maxime du Camp was, of course, still more at 


a loss to explain Flaubert's having read every book 
on mediaeval venery before writing Saint Julien 
I' Hospitaller. The idea that you must know all the 
facts before you can make a free, a reasoned, or 
an aesthetic choice, had never dawned on their 
minds : though the former had made a special study 
■ of, and the latter associated with, a more ample 
nature who from it drew power and inspiration. 

This experimental method of study adds enor- 
mously to the difficulty, if perhaps as vastly to 
the possible successes of art. However, enthusiasm, 
not observance of or abstention from any practice, 
preserves spontaneity : danger lies in every process 
to which our zeal is not equal. 

Art is the science which determines what ex- 
pressions are agreeable to the best developed 
human senses. 

All artists are consciously or unconsciously 
experimental investigators in respect to the means 
of expression, if all save Flaubert and Barye have 
mainly been empirical in regard to the appreciation 
of their theme. 

Organs of sensation act variously, but wherever 
life is examined the same disconcerting instability 
of phenomena has been met; and nevertheless 
its limits to a great extent have been determined 
and allowed for. Likewise sufficient consent exists 


that recognised masterpieces effectively impress, 
and such exceptions as arise may on the whole 
be satisfactorily explained. 

The object of science is to determine the con- 
ditions that play the part of immediate causes in 
respect to phenomena. Art discovers those con- 
ditions in respect to certain highly pleasurable 
emotions and sensations. 

In most undertakings a clear view of the con- 
ditions of effort and of the goal to be achieved 
saves time and energy. There are, of course, no 
royal roads. Men have diverse gifts ; and the 
discipline that frees and consolidates one talent 
may perplex and thwart another. Genius goes 
its own way : and the reason of its procedure 
can often only then be traced when glory is 
reflected back from a happy arrival. 

Goethe said : " My investigations in natural 
science delight me very much. It seems strange, 
and yet it is natural that in the end a kind of 
subjective whole must be the result "' — so the 
modern lop-sided increase in knowledge will in 
time find its emotional equipoise, and a weightier 
soul be formed. 

It may be that the plenitude of the future will 

' Correspondence between Schiller and Goethe, translated by L. D, 
Schmitz, vol. i. p. 257. 


be opened to us by those who, like Flaubert and 
Barye, avail themselves of the aesthetic opportunities 
offered by the scientific frame of thought. All so- 
called realists or impressionists, the duped students 
of objective and subjective accidents, could certainly 
only gain by adopting a similar method. Yet note 
that both the sculptor and the writer who lead the 
way were men of intense aesthetic individuality, 
such as, had they been willing to dilute it after 
the fashion of the common run of great geniuses, 
would have sufficed to dye an ocean gaudy. 


THE social relation of art to life remains to be 
dealt with ; that is, the demand for autonomy, 
which at the lowest means security and leisure, at 
the highest deference and admiration. Poverty 
may be congenial to morality, which consists in 
the victory of temper over circumstances ; if, as 
Renan says, "To command and to enjoy make 
virtue more difficult." 

Certain forms of aesthetic creativeness demand 
expensive materials, and imply long familiarity 
with exquisite conditions ; and most of its mani- 
festations require a degree of leisure which in the 
commercial world is well-nigh beyond the reach of 
those who earn their living, be they never so ener- 
getic : while if once art prefers an outward demand 
tcTthe inward its degradation is imminent, — or, in 
Flaubert's words, " Morality is but a part of aesthetic, 
yet is its fundamental condition." 

Some qualities can only develop in wealth, others 
equally admirable ask for poverty. Unfortunately, 



the man for whom wealth is a necessity starves ; 
another whom ease suffocates pines for hardship. 
Social freedom to exchange their estates, and such 
an education as would enable them to do so wisely, 
are ideal requirements. William Blake refused the 
post of drawing-master to the Royal Family, he 
so dreaded being not rich, but well-to-do. Gustave 
Flaubert, on the eve of old age, gave away his 
fortune, so that he was forced to seek employment 
in a library, yet for years he had enjoyed a generous 
competency, and for art's sake had desired more. 
In him the artist ruled, in Blake the saint. 

Poverty must be discriminated from want : the 
latter can only be accepted, like death itself, as a 
last resource to preserve integrity in the ideal if no 
longer in the real world. 

Mrs. Blake did not dare to tell her husband that 
want had crept into the cupboard, so much he 
grudged the time required to turn it out and 
secure poverty and freedom in the places of 
honour once more. Silently she set an empty 
dish before him. He understood, and turned to 
the drudge's task that the world would pay for, 
leaving that which it could not value till he had 
earned the pittance which freedom cost him. 

The poverty which has been beautifully sym- 
bolised as a brfSe leaves a man freer than riches 


Who felt most like the slave, Epictetus or Marcus 
Aurelius ? 

This is the gravest difficulty in the way of 
Socialism and democracy : how will they provide 
a more fluid medium for the man of genius to rise 
in, not only than our makeshift, and in the main 
condemned, commercialism, but than any monarchy 
or republic of the past ? The examination system 
is perhaps already starving corporations and govern- 
ments of superior intellects and characters. The 
future may be even more anxious than the present 
to discover a man, and even more incapable of 
recognising one. 

Blake and Flaubert were as unlikely candidates 
for examinations as Bismarck himself. Such men 
do not strike athwart the beaten track through in- 
capacity ; no, Nature has sent them to a better 
school, from which they must be truants were 
they to heed the professor's lesson. Later on 
they set themselves far more difficult tests, which 
they could hardly pass after following the routine 
preparation for a post. 

For this reason the motive of art for art's sake 
seems more trustworthy than that of work for the 

The individual must set himself the standard of 
attainment ; society cannot do this, cannot reward 
his doing it, except blindly. Why should not 


smiths and carpenters, manufacturers, and rail- 
way companies refuse to provide the pubhc with 
anything less than the best work, the best service, 
irrespective of reward ? They could only do so 
when ruled by a free and noble will, such as has 
never yet existed save in an individual "self- 
schooled, self-scanned, self-honoured, self-secure." 

Socialists might do well to regard the profes- 
sions of religion, music, painting, and poetry as 
asylums for the over-sensitive, which to-day they 
practically are. Even the doll-like functions of 
dwelling in pretty houses and wearing fine clothes 
might prove worth more than they cost. 

The crowd of unproductive failures fans and 
disperses enthusiasm ; and, as a mirror in a 
schoolboy's hand flashes its round of light into 
the dingiest corners of the class-room, — nay, 
suddenly by inadvertence well-nigh blinds his 
master, — so prodigal sons have danced the glory 
of genius through conventionality's gloomiest re- 
treats, and dazzled eyes that cared not a whit 
whether or no its sun were risen. 

Untaxed centres of light and leaven might do 
much to mellow the strenuousness of a world at 
last aware of its more obvious duties and willing to 
grapple with them. 



"Dock ihr, die echten GSttersdhne, 
Erfreut euch der lebendig reichen SchSne! 
Das Werdende, das ewig wirkt und lebi, 
Umfasz'euch mit der Liebe holden Schranken, 
Und was in schwankender Erscheinung schwebt, 
Befestiget mit dauemden Gedanken I " 

" But ye, the pure-bred sons of God, rejoice 
In the profusion of life and beauty I Let 
What becomes, what ever works and lives, fold you 
In love's boon bands; and what, through changeful 

Hovers, stablish ye in enduring thoughts I" 

Goethe, " Faust," Prolog im Himmel, 11. 102-107 


THE idea that life might be beautiful, lovable, 
and intelligible perhaps results from so 
much of experience as combines the faculties 

Those who are never attuned neither entertain it, 
nor taste the vigour and buoyancy 'which it pro- 
motes. Though sluggishness deprive most men 
of that pregnant poise which surely forbids the 
dread of a fortuitous or merely mechanical universe, 
a disordinate appetency for sensuous, for intellec- 
tual or foi: moral stimulus balks not a few. 

A fine fusion of our energies foreshadows the 
universal symphony so insistently that the artist 
can but labour to perfect all his works. 

Religious history may show a ghastly record of 

the greedy and fantastic exercitation of this mood : 

art collections and libraries seem drowned in the 

eccentricities of its partial and distempered expres- 

s 257 


sion, and the not-yet-included tyrannously menace 
all its purest manifestations. 

We may not Se able to see whence the expecta- 
tion of comprehensive harmony is derived : and we 
may anxiously note that creative felicity is more 
easily promoted in narrow social frames, and in 
early manhood, since under these conditions fewer 
elements are viewed massed together as by distance, 
and a standpoint may more readily be found from 
which all things compose a perfect whole, falling 
into wise perspectives. 

Nevertheless, notions of unity and proportion in- 
here through every organised structure. Nothing 
can be described as taking form or ripening to 
efficiency save as it assimilates to them. Their 
"henids"' prompt instinct, thought, and art, and 
we are quickened by every semblance of affinity 
with them in lifeless matter. 

Because masses of men live and breed without 
enthusiasm for constructive excellence, can it no 
longer ensure the survival of the fittest ? 

"Nature is in everything superfluous," and 
squanders a million germs that a few may de- 

Why should not our acquired taste and judgment 
have as necessary- a relation to the future, as our 
animal appetites to the past and present ? 

' See above, p. 36. 


Origins loom through guch remote speculations 
as make "the search for a cause anti-philosophic, 
anti-scientific " : yet Goethe splendidly insisted on 
being the equal of his thought. While we admit 
the problem of a first cause to lie beyond the reach 
of science and philosophy, man's tendency to train 
his character into the full complement of his intellect 
impels us to suppose our efforts worthily derived, 
since they have achieved so many values in con- 
duct, discernment, and art. 

The mood in which intelligence and nobility 
come to poise is imaginatively fruitful. Who, 
tasting it, has not waxed strong and buoyant, like 
the two artists I have chosen as- illustrations ? To 
maintain it (or rather the staling recollection of it) 
by shutting our eyes on fresh experience, is to side 
with Blake against science and reason, too often 
without pursuing what he with whole heart under- 
took — the conquest of the natural man in respect of 
social disposition and emotional aspiration ; while 
a maniac grapple with things hideous, hate-worthy, 
and insignificant, leads to lamentations over our 
imbecility and the extravagance of our needs, like 
those which desolated so many of Flaubert's heaviest 

Sympathise, see beauty, and understand inter- 
relations ; only passion born of failure to obey that 
summons saves man from degradation. He knows 


not whether the whole be lovable, beautifulj or 
intelligible, yet neither does he know that it is not ; 
for still social eflort reveals more goodness, art more 
beauty, science more order. 

" The child whose" eyes take light, 

When thou dost near, 
As oft would smile and bright 

Wert thou not here, 
But over-sea, or dead ; 
By others in thy stead 
His joy were fed. 

As on thy youth's top-hour 

Noon shines to-day, 
Where thine once kissed a flower 

Lips as fond may ; 
Answers thy heart received 
Had been as well believed 
Hadst thou ne'er breathed. 

Light did not wait for eyes ; 

Homeless love starts ; 
Suns o'er void worlds arise ; 

Live tend dead hearts : 
Powers, by thee found kind, 
Work also where thy mind 
Gropes or is blind. 

Leave better than for thee 

Was ready found ; 
To toil 'mid hostilit}^ 

Masters feel bound. 


From beyond mammoth-time 
Our spirit draws its prime 
Strength, and may cHmb 

Till it learn how that past 

Owned a control, 
Was willed, has prospered, last 

Sanctioned, is whole, — 
When, having striven through, 
Man who makes all things new 
Shall know and do." 


(See p. 8) 

MAXIME DU CAMP'S Souvenirs litteraires have 
been a principal source of error in respect to 
Flauberf s life and opinions. Fortunately, so many of 
his statements have been discredited, and such an 
animus revealed, that the conception he claimed to 
have formed of his friend now concerns his biographer 
rather than Flaubert's. 


(See pp. 21-26) 

Was he Intelligent ? 

" ■pVERYTHING seems to have been said about 
l^ him and yet still to need saying, he suggests 
so many ideas, he raises so many problems. No doubt, 
he lacked the serene fecundity of sovran souls who are 
not arrested by a critical faculty ceaselessly alert; he 
possessed as an offset, through this sureness of judgment, 
the incomparable merit never to have produced a page 
which was not well-nigh perfect." ' 

"Flaubert's ideas are enough to drive any sensible 
man mad. They are absurd and so contradictory that 
he who should try to conciliate only three would soon 
be seen clasping his temples with both hands to keep 
his head from splitting. . . ." 

". . . The unalterable beauty which extends through- 
out the pages of Madame Bovary every day enchants 
me more. But the man who wrote that book so surely 
and with such infallible control, that man was an abyss 
of incertitudes and errors." ' 

' Maurice Spronck, Les Artistes litUraires, p. 296, 1889. 
» Anatole France, La Vie littdraire, Serie iii. pp. 301, 303, 1890. 


"Flaubert was a thinker of rare breadth of mind, 
who assimilated with surety and ardour ever the same 
all that from near or far bore on literature and art. 
His critical insight was as great as his pictorial power. 
He leaves us not only masterpieces, but the example of 
a method of rigorous inquiry which we should follow, 
because it alone is efficacious, it alone is sound. Try 
to write and judge as he did. There is no fear that we 
shall have enough talent to lead us aside where he 
permitted himself to swerve. . . ." 

". . . His admirations were often extreme, but he 
knew how to admire everything, and nothing could 
discourage. his faith, lower his standard of taste, or 
lesson the sureness of his critical sense, which was 
extraordinary." ' 

" Flaubert lacks the critical sense entirely, and does 
not like it in those who have it ; to possess it is enough 
to estrange him." 

" Evidently the realm of ideas is absolutely closed 
for him, and an intelligent man seems to him an 
abnormal being and something of an evildoer." 

" He cannot lay hold of or is wounded by the intel- 
ligent, the reasoners, the witty, the gracious, and the 
lovable : he turns away from them, or else insults 
them, '.'j* 

" For a mind such as Flaubert's, nourished on 
Montaigne, can there be question of a system? It is 
enough if, like Montaigne, he holds a group of views 
which agree together. Flaubert's are sufficiently 
concordant, and he , held, them with remarkable 

' Antoine Albalat, Ouvriers eiprocidis, pp. 278, 371, 1896. 
" Emile Faguet, Flaubert, p. 31, 1899. 


perseverance ... he is distinguished by interest in 
a quantity of subjects about which for the most part 
men of letters in his day troubled Httle. He loved 
science for its own sake. ... He did not prize history, 
like a merchant who fuirnishes rich hangings, as the 
romantic school were wont, but for itself. ... He 
understood that modern methods were about to trans- 
form it. Lastly, he loved the great writers of antiquity, 
and, what is more rare, those of foreign literatures. 
Don Quixote had fascinated him in childhood, he 
returned to it all through life. He was at great pains 
to read Sophocles and Shakespeare in the original. 
He grasped the greatness of Goethe. . . . Flaubert 
thought it necessary to understand his own day in 
order to portray it. That he might be a novelist, he 
became an historian and a philosopher." ' 

"Flaubert was an artist, nothing but an artist, one 
of those artists in whom two or three predominant, 
exclusive, absolute, tyrannical faculties shrivel up, absorb, 
and finish by literally annihilating all others. The 
result is that Flaubert understood nothing of the world 
and of life save so much as he could consume personally 
with profit, as he said." ' 

" Binding fast with this prodigious literary effort the 
complete history of mentality and of the actions it 
suggests, Gustave Flaubert must have known unheard-of 
felicities. He must have passed miraculous hours 
intoxicated by the joys of knowledge. 

" L. Levy-Bruhl, " Flaubert philosophe," La Revue de Parti, 
February IS, 1900, p. 851. 

' Ferdinaad Brunetiere, Histaire et UtUmture, v.ok; ii. p. 130 
February, 1884. 


" He has dowered France with the emotion of 
thought which ^schylus offered to Greece, Lucretius 
to Rome, Dante to Italy, Shakespeare to England, 
Goethe to Germany." ' 

It is M. Faguet's due to mention that, unlike 
M. France, whose statements are left in the air, he cites 
passages in which Flaubert expressed slight esteem 
for the acumen of Sainte-Beuve, Proudhon, Bossuet 
{La Politique tiree de I'Ecriture), Thiers and Auguste 
Comte, and refrains from mentioning his admiration 
for Montaigne, Spinoza, Boileau, La Bruyere, Montes- 
quieu, Buffon, Voltaire, Goethe, Michelet, Schopen- 
hauer, Littre, Renan — all, one would suppose, reasoners, 
pre-eminently intelligent, many of them gracious, not a 
few witty. Unfortunately M. Brunetiere can no longer 
tell me whether he ever understood anything that he 
could not consume personally with profit. 

• Paul Adam, La Mystire desfoules, Preface, p. xxv, 1895. 

(See pp. 21-26) 

Was he Warm-Hearted ? 

" T T E had passed his life ' writing harmonious 
A A sentences and avoiding assonances,' but the 
power to live, which is the power to feel, had remained 
intact. . . . 

" He truly had the right to say ' I believe that the 
heart does not age ; there are even some in whom it 
quickens as they grow older.' " ' 

" [Like his Saint Antony,] after he had accomplished 
one by one labours prodigious by reason of the sacri- 
fices entailed, he experienced only an immense 
weariness and the vague horror of having been 
deceived. When death surprised him, nihilism was 
withering his intelligence and the blackest of 
pessimisms ravaging his heart. That intelligence 
was nevertheless worthy of the joys which compre- 
hension brings, and that warm heart intended for 
loving." = 

"Now all that [Flaubert's pessimism, &c.J flowed 
from a profound love of humanity. . . . His heart was 

' Pierre Gauthiez, Revue Bleu, No. 22, tome xlvi. p. 696, i8go. 
' Henry Laujol, Revue Bleu, No. 9, tome xlv. p. 269, 1890. 


obliging, his hand open, he adored his friends. No 
one had more the spirit of family affection. A patriot 
bled in this impassible when the terrible year [1870] 
arrived. And this scorner of love had experienced it to 
the depths of his soul, although he had tried to stifle 
even the dream of it." ' 

" ' If he had feeling,' said Villiers (de I'lsle Adam) 
. . . ' he would have everything.' " ^ 

" I have always marvelled that the gift of sympathy 
should have been denied to Flaubert, because he did 
not with effrontery express his own, while this gift is 
supposed to characterise — shall we say ? — the English- 
woman George Eliot. Never could Flaubert's lofty 
equity have permitted him to indulge in the heavy 
raillery, with an unconscionable abundance of which 
Eliot overwhelms the simple folk of The Mill on the Floss. 
And for the humble poor whom she loves . . . her soul 
has the artificially Christian disposition of a philosophical 
and enlightened Protestant visiting the homes of his 
inferiors. At least, with Flaubert, there is no trace of 
this frightful condescension." 3 

" M. Flaubert has no emotions, oh no ! he has no 
judgment, at least none that is appreciable. Incessant 
and unweariable narrator, analyst who never feels 
uneasy, he describes even the most finikin subtlety, but 
himself listens to all he recounts like one deaf and 
dumb. With a lover's scrupulousness he maintains 
indifference for all he portrays." 

• Felix Frank, Gustave Flaubert d'aprh des documents inedits, 
p. 13, 1887. 
' Camille Mauclair, L'Art en silence, p. 49, IQOI. 
3 Jules Lemaitre, Les Contemporains, Serie vi. p. 245, 1896. 


".../< is repugnant to man's nature to take a subject 
in hand and not regard it with love or hatred. This 
custom, which seems a law of human minds, is none for 
M. Flaubert. Still young for so much coldness, he 
begins where old Goethe ended." ' 

" What we know . . . enlightens us as to the con- 
descension, the submissiveness, the timid charity, of this 
great child of whom advantage was taken right up to 
his death, and who underwent everything with good 
humour, consoling himself with his [art] -worship, in 
which he found at once torture and f orgetf ulness, showing 
an inexhaustible goodness, accepting the advice of 
Bouilhet, putting himself to great pains in order to 
direct Mme. Colet ; importuned by his relatives, lovable 
and without gall, even in seasons of suffering . . . the 
pessimist threw himself at the foot of the Cross. 

" He did not perhaps believe in the sense usually 
given to the word, but his whole soul, his whole 
aesthetic and his whole ethic, concluded in an extremely 
powerful deism. From this point of view Flaubert's 
work yields but one consolation, but one lesson — 
believe. The victory of the Christian spirit dominates 
it throughout ... his is an Hegelian metaphysic leading 
through the worship of beauty to a deism opposed to 
the scientific materialism of our epoch." ' 

" Absolute truth being the opposite of beauty, and 
scientific study of the real the irreconcilable antithesis 
of art's effort . . . the record of Flaubert's case is most 
precious. He who wished to live by passionate love 

" Barbey d'Aurevilly, xix' SUcle ; Les (Euvres et les homines, 4° 
Partie, pp. 63, 64, 1865. 
= Camille Mauclair, L'Art en silence, p. 62, 1901. 


for the beautiful alone, we see whither he was led, 
against his wUl, . . . the faculty of loving, like that of 
suffering or that of admiri|ig, depends on a certain 
ignorance, or, to put it better, on a certain intimate 
illusion and a momentary forgetfulness of surroundings. 
... On the day when Flaubert should have proved 
able to love, he would have ceased to be himself : he 
would have lost that constant power of objective 
assimilation ... to which he owed his most celebrated 
works. — One cannot say that he would have been 
greater, for he would have ceased to exist, to make 
room for another man." ' 

Here the melee resolves itself into a question of 
information. MM. Barbey d'Aurevilly, Villiers de I'Isle 
Adam, Spronck, and Laujol did not know Flaubert, and 
were either wholly at the mercy of report or by it led 
to mistranslate insufficient documents. 

• Maurice Spronck, Les Artistes littSraires, pp. 276, 279, 293, 296, 

(See p, 31) 

THE word "romantic" will rarely, occur in this 
book. Flaubert has never been rightly called 
either "a romanticist" or "a realist." These words 
should not be applied to individuals save as repre- 
sentatives of a fashion. The youth whose enthusiasm 
read Candida twenty times and translated it into English f 
was not a type of the romantic frame of mind, just as 
the master whose chief preoccupation was beauty could 
never head any school of " realists" or " naturalists." 

M. Faguet tried to discriminate. 

"Now Flaubert has all romanticism in his soul 
except the very bottom of romanticism. ... 

" And thus was formed this singular realist-romantic 
which Flaubert was. And which of the two was the 
true bottom of the illustrious author ? Verily, I know 
nothing about it, and does one ever know, in a com- 
plex man, where the bottom is ? ... If you want my 
intuition on this question, it seems to me that the 
bottom in Flaubert was romanticism. . . . 

" Yes, the bottom is rather romantic." ' 

Scared by this awful example, I avoid the fallacious 
convenience of the above words. 

■ Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie i. p. 72. 
= Flaubert, par Emile Faguet, pp. 28, 32, and 33. 

(See pp. 32-34) 

Contradictions over " Madame Bovary " 


" '"p^HE poetry of adultery is what the author shows 
X yoti, and I ask you again whether these las- 
civiods' pages are not profoundly immoral?"' 

" When Flaubert wrote Madame Bovary^ I believe he 
thought chiefly of a somewhat morbid realism ; and 
behold! the book turned in his hands into a masterpiece 
of appalling morality." * 


"The treasures of compassion, tenderness, insight, 
which alone, amid such guilt and misery, can enable 
charm to subsist and to emerge, are wanting to 
Flaubert. He is cruel, with the cruelty of petrified 
feeling, to his poor heroine ; he pursues her without 

' E. Pinard, Speech for the prosecution when Flaubert was 
tried for offending public and religious morality in Madame Bovary. 
See (Euvres complbtes, vol. i. p. 491. 

' R. L. Stevenson, Essays in the Art of Writing, p. 66. 


pity or pause, as with malignity ; he is harder upon her 
himself than any reader even, I think, will be inclined 
to be." ' 

" Do you not feel that Flaubert loves poor Emma ? 
Vicious and silly, but so naive at bottom, and so 
unhappy ! Oh, those home-comings in the omnibus ! 
Oh, the tipsy song of the blind beggar which drowns 
the prayers for the dead ! Who has said that this book 
lacked the bowels of compassion ? " ^ 


"A poor creature, in fine, the heroine of the volume, 

rebellious and romanesque without grandeur, disgusted 

■ with her prosaic home, but |in love with an ideal sudi 

as the reading of novelettes might nourish . . . lacks 

even the sinister poetry of absolute depravation." 3 

" To sum up, this woman is truly great ; she is above 
all to be pitied, and in spite of the systematic rigour of 
the author, who has made every effort not to be seen in 
his book and to perform the function of a marionette 
showman, all intellectual women will thank him for 
having raised the female to such high power, so far 
above the mere animal and so near to the ideal man, 
for having given her participation in that double 
character of calculation and reverie which constitute 
the perfect being." 4 

" Matthew Arnold, Essays in Cnticistn, Second Series, p. 276, 

° Jules Lemaitre, Les Contemporains, Serie vi. p. 247, 1896. 

3 Maurice Spronck, Les Artistes littiraires, p. 281, 1889. 

« Charles Baudelaire, VArt romantique (Pe"" Bib. Lemerre), 
P- 373. 

(See pp. 35-41) 

Contradictions over "Salammbo" 


" ' I "HE ancient world . . . will not allow us what is 
X properly speaking the historical novel, for that 
supposes a complete familiarity and affinity with the 
subject. There is between it and us a breach of con- 
tinuity, an abyss." 

" How do you expect me to interest myself in this 
forgotten war ? . . . What does the duel between Tunis 
and Carthage matter to me ? " ' 

" Once again my blood has coursed furiously through 
the veins as it did when, a boy, Ivanhoe^s magic pages 
first burst upon my enraptured sense. Now, as then, I 
know what power lies in a stirring book . . . the best 
of them is excelled as an historical romance by the 
wonderful Salammbd. . . . The marvellous realism of 
the pages is so very unusual ; . . . we are in a sensuous 
atmosphere, where the senses are lulled into harmony 
with tropic scenes created for our enjoyment." = 

' Sainte-Beuve, Nouveaux lundis, Serie iv. pp. 80, 84, 1862. 
" Sir H. M. Stanley, the African explorer, in a letter to M. French 
Sheldon, the first translator, quoted on the fly-leaf to the second 




" It is not worth the trouble it takes learning to trace 
reality as though against a window, laboriously studying 
how to set down in a word the slightest appearance of 
things, if this curious talent is only to be applied in 
describing the imaginary gardens of Hamilcar and the 
conjectural temples of Tanith or Baal-Eschmoun." ' 

"Salammbo must be regarded as Flaubert's master- 
piece. It is the book in which his powers found freest 
scope, and in which he is at his best."^ 


"SalammbS has fully satisfied rio onfe but its autJior. 
. . . We are forced to repeat what a great seventeenth- 
century lady said of La Pucelle : ' It is beautiful, but 

" The epoch should be sufficiently known to us before- 
hand ; for, if it is not, an historical novel instructs us too 
much to move us." 3 

" Flaubert chose his antiquity wisely : a period' of 
Which we know too little to confuse us. . . . The illu- 
sion is perfect ; these people may not be the real peop'lei 
of history, but at least they have no self-consciousness, 
no Christian tinge in their minds." * 

edition ; it is also recorded that SalammbS was one of the last books, 
if not the last, before Shakespeare afid the Bible, thrown away to 
lighten his- packs. 

' Ferdinand Brunetiere, Le Roman naturaliste; p. 52, 1877. 

" J. S. Chartres, Preface, to hi^ translation of Salammbai,, p. xi, 

3 Emile Faiguet, Flaubert', p. 46, 1859. 

* Arthur Symonfe, Pntrodmctfon io' " SalammbS," translated by 
J. W. Matthews, pp. ix, xii, 1901. 



"AH those rough epic heroes are hot only like the 
limp bourgeois of Madame Bovary, more or less 
negligible, they are frankly disgusting. The human 
soul is everywhere portrayed in this cynical epic as 
cruel, . perfidious, pitiless, depraved."' 

"The exquisite humanity of all the central figures in 
this book, which Would make an illustrious play, is h6re 
and there almost Shakespearean." 

" There is a magic in the atmosphere, a truth in the 
delineation of passion, so abundant a sympathy in the 
accounts of the battles and the privations of the com- 
batants, and such a simplicity and strength in the 
hundreds of genre pictures scattered through the book, 
that it must be accounted a masterpiece. . . . Itawakens 
only noble thoughts, despite its sensuous setting. It is 
like an exquisite piece of Greek sculpture, mighty, yet 
too ethereal in its beauty for; modern hands to create, 
set against a background flooded with sumptuous 
colour." ' 

Sainte-Beuve, Brunetiere, Faguet, Ivauvriere ; unhkc 
the echo, criticism repeating itself grows louder. 

' Pmile Lauvriere, SalammbS: Oxford Higher French Classics, 
p. xxvi, 1906. The peajl,ij(r felicity which dogs educatitjnalists is 
well exemplified in the dbcteur es lettres chosen to introduce this 
classic to the English schoolboy who might possess an enthusiastic 
translation or obtain one for a crib. • Of course cordial hatred of 
^e w,oijls and contempt for the author were not the only qualifica- 
tions regarded when an expurgator was sent for. Yet an intelligent 
youngster could not fail to wonder why the book was chosen, if all 
that was said about it were true. Surely there are more -edifying 
classics ? 

" Edward King, Introduction to "SalammbS," Englished by 
M. French Sheldon, pp. xvii, xix, xx, 1885. 

28q art and life 

Parisian imaginations are not so hungry as those of 
explorers and schoolboys. The Goncourts had the 
courage to avow their dislike of the Iliad, which not all 
the professional critics dare, so that we are not surprised 
to read in their journal' : — 

" Flaubert sees the East and the antique East in the 
guise of Algerian exhibition stalls. ... As to a moral 
resuscitation, poor Flaubert is his own dupe, the senti- 
ments of his characters are the most commonplace and 
general ... his Matho is only an opera tenor in a 
barbarous poem." 

" Flaubert overflowed with invectives against the 
present. He deemed it commonplace. Here his philo- 
sophy seems to me at fault. For every epoch is com- 
monplace for those who live in it ; in whatever age a 
man may be born, there is no escape, an impression of 
vulgarity is disengaged from things in the midst of 
which he is belated."" 

" Was the setting of the nightmare of life worth much 
more in the so-called heroic ages than it is to-day . . . ? 
Would the stupid ferocity of the mercenaries who feasted 
in Hamilcar's gardens have seemed less sickening to a 
noble spirit than the stupid coarseness of guests at the 
Bovary wedding or that of Frederic's supper-friends ? 
. . . questions in answer to which Flaubert throws 
down the pages of his two epic poems of the ancient 

' Tome I , p. 373. 

* Anatole France, La Vie Uttiraire, Serie ii. p. 22. 


world, displaying an equal contempt for what was and 
what is." '■ 

That change from the setting of life to its moral gross- 
ness is surprising, and may reveal the confusion under- 
lying the contradiction between these clear critical 

' Paul Bourget, Essais de Psychologte contemporaine : CEuvres 
computes, tome i. p. iis, 1882. 

(See pp. 41-47) 

Contradictions over "l' Education sentimentale " 


" A NOVEL like VEducation sentimentale is outside 
I\ the province of literary criticism. It has no 
real value save as evidence on an epoch of our contem- 
porary history. . . ." ' 

" The mark of good books is that the oftener they 
are re-read the more excellent they seem. ... I never 
re-read VEducation without judging it to be a little 
better. I am thus come almost to find that it no longer 
bores me. ... I attach importance to this remark 
because it may cause VEducation sentimentale to be 
re-read, and it has this defect, that it does not invite 
you to re-read it. . . . To sum up, if Flaubert had 
not written Madame Bovary he would still have his 
masterpiece." " 


" This disconcerting chronicle, voluntarily written in 

' Ferdinand Brunetiere, Le Roman naturaliste, p. 72, 1877. 
' Emile Faguet, Flaubert, pp. 125, 126, 1899. 


style as lax as that of Salammbd is braced, discourages 
the heart as much as the spirit." ^ 

" Of these processes (those which he has analysed in 
Madame Bovary and SalammbS) only the least artificial 
subsist in VEducation sentimentale . . . this concentra- 
tion and the adroit choice of significant details border 
on the miraculous. . . . There are even passages which 
in the attenipt to express indefinable soul movements, 
seem to have required powers beyond the reach 
of art."'' 


" He never approached the complicated character, in 
man or woman, or the' really furnished, the finely 
civilised consciousness." 3 

" The subject, in art, has no interest save for children 
and the unlettered. What is the subject of the most 
beautiful poem in the French language, of pur Odyssey, 
PEducation sentimentale f " t 


"Before the multitude of our contemporaries who 
have treiated love as a deception, Flaubert expressed in 
PEducation sentimentale how only those women remain 
lovable whom we never succeed in possessing. The 

' Emile Lauvriere, SalammbS: Oxford Higher French Classics, 

= EmUe Hennequin, Quelques icrivains ftangais, pp. 15, 20. 

3 Henry James, Critical Introduction to '^ Madame Bovary,'' 
p. xxxiii, 1902. 

' Remy de Gourmont, he Problime du Style, p. 25, 1902. 


revelation of Mme. Arnould {sic) was the symbol of this 
dogma denying love."' 

'"I should have liked to make you happy ' — though 
desire stronger than ever, furious, rabid, resurged within 
him, he abstained from her ' in order not to degrade his 
ideal,' his conception of love which he had preferred to 
love. This final avowal of genuine attraction by Mme. 
Arnoux accentuates the chimerical nature of Frederic's 
passion, powerless to seize a happiness which was so 
near him ; and the novel terminates on this impression 
of a great tenderness wasted." • 

If Frederic's love is preserved by his abstention, 
why on the death of Arnoux does he not prepare to 
marry his widow? If Mme. Arnoux feels what M. 
Gaultier implies, why should she have contemplated 
him "in happy wonder" when he refused what she 
offered ? Why should she have cried, " How deUcate 
of you ! No one is like you — no one is like you " ? 
Flaubert did not intend to illustrate a maxim of Neo- 
Christian mysticism, nor can the significance of the 
beauty he created be unravelled by the hasty application 
of a single formula by the " illusionist " philosopher. 

' Paul Adam, Le Mystire des Foules, Preface, p. xxiv, 1895. 
" Jules de Gaultier, Le Bovarysme, p. 42, 1892. 

(See pp. 47-52) 

Contradictions over " La Tentation de Saint 
Antoine " 


" ' I "'HIS bizarre, wearisome, formless composition, 
X la Tentation de saint Antoine." ' 

" Reading this philosophic poem it is possible some- 
times to admire, it stirs interest if not emotion here or 
there, and even sometimes sets one thinking. 

"... Aspiration after beauty ... is felt . . . from 
one end to the other of the antique episode in the 
Second Part of Faust. It is almost the opposite, and 
at least a curious hunt, for the ugly, the mean, the 
burlesque, for aU that disenchants, which is felt from 
one end to the other of la Tentation de saint Antoine," * 

'' Heyday, you eminent professors ! in what good 
taste, good sense, good order, morahty, ideality you 
have your being, all that is what every honest weU-read 
man can put into a book ! I myself could do it did I 

' Ferdinand Brunetiere, VErudition dans le roman, 1877 ; Le 
Roman naturaliste, p. 5^- 
' Emile Faguet, Flaubert, pp. 63, 60. 


want to ! But the splendour, sound, overflowing 
songfulness, the profusion of dazzhng images in les 
Contemplations; the strangeness, the plastic per- 
fection in la Tentation, there is what only Hugo and 
Flaubert were capable of ! They had better have 
added good taste and good sense ; . . . those common 
qualities can indeed contribute to a book's perfection ; 
but, by themselves, they figure poorly enough." ' 


" Never has humanity received such a slap in the 
face. The discreet satire and hidden laughter of 
Madame Bovary and VEducation sentimentale are left 
far behind. It is no longer the stupidity of one society 
that Flaubert paints in order to revenge himself on it, 
but the stupidity of the world . . . vast spectacle, 
unprecedented picture of the continual fall of man and 
his religious conceptions into the unknown. Even 
when the saint returns to his prayers, this action, 
following upon the vision of a world void of gods, seems 
like an added irony ; he bows his shoulders by force 
of habit, and inspires us only with an immense pity. 
All Gustave Flaubert is in that : ... he yields to a 
need for negation, for absolute doubt, condemning all 
rehgions in the same degree. . . ."" 

"What makes the poor, gross, ignorant, cenobite 
Antony all at once ,a sublime figure, the very image 
of man tempted by the infinite ? It is faith. The very 
instant that, seized by the devil, he raises his eyes to 

' Jules Lemaitre, Les Contemporains, vol. i. pp. 241 and 242. 
' Emile Zola, Les Romanciers naturalistes, pp. 158, 159. 


heaven, he becomes a saint, and thereafter sees Luxury 
and Death, the Sphinx and the Chimasra, the confused 
and inferior forms of primitive materialisations, and 
the monads, without being troubled. In the centre of 
every atom he perceives God. The temptation has 
faded away in the unity and beauty of faith." ' 


" Keep your backgrounds ; they are perfect ; but 
turn them to account. Add a mere nothing ; put, as 
in Madame, Bovary, a flower on these dunghills. The 
good and the beautiful, like evil and ugliness, exist. 
You vidll know how to paint them admirably when 
you want to."" 

" In the master-work, La Tentation de saint Antoine, 
beauty and truth are fused . . . penetrated with signi- 
ficance and splendidly decorated, this work consigns 
in one last effort "Flaubert's whole spiritual and mystic 
wealth [to us "his heirs]." 3 


"The traditional perspective in which Flaubert's 
work is still regarded must be reversed, and Madame 
Bovdry and L'Educaiion sentimentale thrown into the 
background: they are nothing but two satires on 
middle-class decadence, and should remain on the 
outskirts of his true work. SalammbS, la Tentation, 

■ Camile Mauclair, L'Art en silence, p. 58. 
' E. Renan, last paragraph of Lettre h M. Gustave Flaubert sur 
,la " Tentation de saint Antoine" •: Feuilles detachees, p. 3S4, 1874. 
3 Emile Hennequin, Quelques.4erivavns fran^is, p. 20, 1890. 


Herodias, are the pure expression of what he wanted 
to do. But his true subject, the ideal subject which 
hovered above all his labour, is the East considered as 
the source of all life and of all beauty." ' 

MM. Mauclair and Zola must needs draw a conclu^ 
sion. Each imposes his own. Flaubert carefully 
refrained from any. 

" In La Tentation de saint Antoine . . . ought we not 
to see before all else the artist's exploitation of a new 
vein . . . that of abstract ideas, which also belong to 
the realm of his art since words can render them ? . . . 
Without troubling about their intrinsic worth, he copies 
them because they exist. . . ." = 

English Appreciations 

" I find I have no time for reading except times of 
fatigue, when I vnsh merely to relax myself. O — and 
I read over again for this purpose Flaubert's Tenta- 
tion de St. Antoine; it struck me a good deal at first, but 
this second time it has fetched me immensely. I am 
but just done with it, so you will know the large pro- 
portion of salt to take with my present statement, that 
it's the finest thing I ever read I Of course, it isn't 
that, it's full of longueurs and is not quite ' redd up,' as 
we say in Scotland, not quite articulated ; but there are 
splendid things in it." 3 

• Louis Bertrand, " Flaubert et I'Afrique," Revue de Paris, Jan. 
4, 1900, p. 619. 

= Jules de Gaultier, Le JBovarysme, pp. 7, 8, 1892. 

' Letters of R, L. Stevenson to his Family and Friends, 1899, 
vol. i. p. 82 ; to Mrs. Sitwell, 1874. 


" He could be frankly noble in Salammbo and Saint 
Antoine; whereas in Bovary and V Education he could 
be but suggestively, but insidiously, so."' 

"This Temptation is my own favourite among its 
author's books." " 

' Henry James, Introduction to the translation of "Madame 
Bovary" p. xxxi. 
' G. E. B. Saintsbury, Essays on French Novelists, p. 364, 1891. 

(See pp. SS-62) 


Contradiction over its Style 

EVEN the style of Flaubert's last work has been 
sadly called " literary Jansenism " ; ' it " has 
neither flesh nor blood ; nothing remains but the bone 
structure." * 

" The amateur of style will not deny that Bouvard et 
Pecuchet is ... a poem in the full sense of the word, 
a poem in which sonority employed by way of contrast 
to the flatness of the images achieves a peculiar comic 
effect." 3 

' Antoine Albalat, VArt d'dcrire; Ouvriers etprocddes, p. 277. 

" Antoine Albalat, Travail du style, p. 69. 

3 Camille Mauclair, L'Art en silence, pp. 59 and 60, 1901. Unfortu- 
nately M. Mauclaire cites as an example a sentence, " II fut succes- 
sivement ipris dune demoiselle" &c., whereas, on p. 83, the text 
runs, "s'etant tour h tour ij>ris d'une danseuse," &c. It is strange 
indeed that this study should have been reprinted in volume 
form without a correction of such paramount importance for the 
theory expounded. However, independent readers assure me that 
there is for French ears occasionally some such quality in the 




In La Tentation " the cohort of religious and meta- 
physical systems refute one another by the simple fact 
of their confrontation. . . ." 

In Bouvard et Pecuchet " the enterprise appears to 
us more rash, inasmuch as it tries to shake a belief 
of which the effect on men's minds is still actual. . . . 
Only a few superior spirits escape this yoke ; for the 
common run faith in science is absolute." ' 

" Bouvard et Pecuchet is the work which places 
Flaubert among the gods ; if he had never written that 
book he might have been classified as a writer of strong 
but clumsy romances ; a man of great genius, but some- 
how ineffective, a man who had never found the right 
form in which to deliver his message, or who had only 
found it in the form of three short stories ; but this 
book exactly suits his peculiar temperament ; ... it is as 
individual and distinctive as Faust is of Goethe, Frederick 
the Great of Carlyle, Henry IV. of Shakespeare, Don 
Quixote of Cervantes, Pantagruel of Rabelais. . . . One 
of the chief merits of the work is that the reader has 
continually to exert his own acuteness in order to see 
where the satire is bearing ; and in this way its interest 
is maintained. . . . Bouvard not unfrequently says ex- 
actly the right thing. And this is perhaps an additional 
stroke of satire, that the right thing should be not 
infrequently said by a man whom the ordinary person 
writes down a fool." ^ 

" Flaubert is our Homer as much as our Cervantes, — 

» Jules de Gaultier, Le Bovarysme, pp. 47, 49, 1902. 
' J. C. Tarver, Life and Letters of Gustave Flaubert, pp. 301, 358, 


his work contains so much reality, poetry, philosophy, 
and such demonstration of the properties of manners." 

" Those of Flaubert's books which are most admired 
to-day, la Tentation and Salammbq, though a dowry 
sufificient to crown two great writers with glory, are the 
least pure and the least beautiful. . . . What are the 
descriptions of Salammbo with their long cadenced 
periods when opposed to, the brief indications and con- 
densations of Bouvard et Pecuchet? That book can 
only be compared to Don Quixote and amuses us as 
Cervantes' novel amused the seventeenth century. . . ." 

" Madame Bovary, VEducation sentimentale, Bouvard et 
Pecuchet must be read consecutively. Only in this last 
book is the work consummate, and the man's genius 
appears in all its transparent beauty." ' 

Parallel Conclusions 

Guy de Maupassant published a selection of the 
ineptitudes which had been collected for quotation by 
Bouvard and Pecuchet. Under the title Insults to great 
men, we read : — 

" Posterity, to whom Goethe has given his work for 
judgment, will do her duty. She will write on bronze 
tablets : — 

" ' Goethe, born at Frankfort in 1749, died at Weimar 
in 1832, great writer, great poet, great artist.' 

" And, when the fanatics of form for form's sake, of art 
for art's sake, of love at all costs, and of materialism, 
come and ask her to add : — 

" ' Great man,' she will reply : ' No.' " ' 

' Remy de Gonrmont, Le Problhme du style, pp. 99, 105, 1902. 
» A. Dumas ^/s, July 23, 1873. 


After which let me place this parallel :— 

Gustave Flaubert and Gustave Courbet 

" 1 consider Madame Bovary, in its kind, very superior 
to Casseurs de pierres ; but both the master of Croisset 
and the master of Ornans were of the same order, and 
rearranging the famous line of de Mussel's : — 

' Artists, if you will, but great men, no ! ' 

For it is not enough to make a great man, nor above all 
a great spirit, to have produced a masterpiece, two 
masterpieces, three masterpieces." ' 

Again, under the same title, we read : — 

(Buonaparte) " is indeed a great winner of battles, 
but, beyond that, the least of generals is more skilful 
than he was." ' 

After which let me place : — 

" We have here enough to humble our feeble wisdoms ; 
this man [Flaubert], who owned the secret of far-reach- 
ing words, was not intelligent." 3 

Under what title, with what peers, would Flaubert 
have classed the following ? — 

" Evidently Flaubert drew inspiration for la Tenta- 
tion from a picture by Breughel seen at Geneva [sic : 
Genoa ?) in 1845, since he says so, but much more from 
the Second Part of Faust, which made a profound im- 

' Ferdinand Brunetiere, Histoire et Uttdrature, vol. ii. p. 147. 
' Chateaubriand, De Buonaparte et des Bourbons. 
3 Anatole France, La Vie littdraire, Serie iii. p. 299. 


pression on him,' particularly by the episode entitled a 
Classical Walpurgis night." ' 

The only mention of Goethe's Faust in Souvenirs 
intimes is on p. xxxvii, where 11. 384, 385, 391, 392, 409, 
and 410, from Nacht in the First Part are quoted. I 
believe no reference of Flaubert's to the Second Part 
has yet been published, and should be surprised if any 
exists that would in any degree lend colour to M. Faguet's 
statement : characteristically he has based the best part 
of a chapter on the supposed reference in Souvenirs 

It pained Flaubert to set off " stupidities " from an 
author whom he loved like Chateaubriand : may I be 
credited with similar reluctance in the choice of these 
parallels ? 

' Souvenirs intimes de Caroline CommanvlUe en avant propos de 
la Correspondance de Flaubert. 
' Emile Faguet, Flaubert, p. 55. 

(See p. 63) 

Dramatic and Posthumous Works 

THE only work of Flaubert's which does not 
promise me increased pleasure when read again, 
is Le Candidal, a comedy In four acts given at the 
Paris Vaudeville in 1874, and withdrawn by the author 
after four performances. The main idea is genial, but 
vivacity, fun, and allusiveness are to seek. Flaubert's 
vein in comedy was poetical or extravagant, and not 

Besides Bouvard et Pecuchet his posthumous works 
include " that masterpiece of description called Par les 
champs et par les greves." ' 

"... This narrative of a tour contains pages which 
can be classed and will remain among the greatest and 
most perfect of this rare writer." == 

" It is the first thing I wrote with difficulty — painfully 
— laboriously (I don't know where this difficulty in 
finding the right word will stop, I am not inspired as 
much as is needed) ; but I am altogether with you as to 

' A. Albalat, Formation du style, p. 126. 
' A. Sabatier, Journal de Genive, Decembre 6, 1885. 


the jokes, vulgarities, &c., they abound ; the subject 
accounts for much ; think what it means to write 
'travels' with a predetermination to tell everything. 
. . . You don't think La Bretagne sufficiently excep- 
tional to be shown to Gautier, and you want his first 
impression of my work to be violent. It is best to fore- 
go, you remind me, to be proud. Thank you." ■ 

Les Memoires d'un fou, an autobiography similar to 
Rene in form, written when he was eighteen or there- 
abouts, was published by the La Revue Blanche, 15 
Decembre, 1900 — i Fevrier, 1901. 

La Tentation de saint Antoine, versions of 1849 and 
1854, La Revue de Paris, February 15, March i, March 15, 
April I, 1908. They are most instructive as showing 
the cost at which the immense superiority of the final 
version was attained. 

For what still remains unpublished, see E. W. 
Fischer {Etudes sur Flaubert inedit, Julius Zeitler, 
Editeur, 76, Dresdenerstrasse, Leipzig, 1908), aad Rene 
Descharmes, Flaubert ; sa vie, son caractere et ses idees 
avant 1857 (A. Ferroud, 127, Boulevard Saint-Germain, 
Paris, 1909), founded on a study of unpublished papers 
and MSS. I much regret that this book did not appear 
in time for mine to profit by the fresh information 
which it contains. 

Contradictions over the Value of his " Correspondance " 

"Outside his books . . . Flaubert interests very little ; 
he is nothing but dregs." ^ 

" Has Flaubert, by means of his life and death 

" Correspondance, vol. ii, p. 87. 

' Remy de Geurmont, Lc Problitne du style, p. 107, 1902. 


struggle with style, ever written anything more beautiful 
than this page ICor. iii. 108], which all of a sudden 
gushed from his heart ? " 

" When 1 read certain pages of his Correspondance, I 
cannot help thinking that Flaubert never gave his full 
measure in his works "... [than these letters] " I do 
not know many published works of more sap and 
marrow, more exclusively and more passionately 
Uterary." ' 

" Greatness always astonishes. That of the vagaries 
which Flaubert heaped up in his letters and conversa- 
tions is prodigious. 

" On hearing him pay out in a terrible voice inept 
aphorisms and obscure theories that every line which 
he had written rose up and gave the lie to, one said to 
oneself, stupefied : Behold, the scapegoat of romantic 
follies, the chosen animal in whom go the sins of the 
whole tribe of geniuses." ' 

" A complete code might be extracted from his cor- 
respondence, such rules as a writer who devotes 
himself to the cult of that which has sometimes been 
called Art for Art's sake ought to follow. ... If now, 
gentlemen, you pass from Flaubert's Correspondance, 
where, on almost every page, his ideas are expressed in 
this abstract and doctrinal fashion, to the work over 
which his patient and relentless labour was consumed, 
you will remark at once that his books are nothing but 
his ideas put into practice." 3 

' Auguste Sabatier, Journal de Genive, Avril 26, 1891. 
' Anatole France, La Vie litUraire, vol. iii. pp. 302, 303, 1891. 
3 Paul Bourget, Gustave Flaubert ; Studies in European Literature 
being the Taylorian Lectures, 1889-1899. 


Translation of passages quoted on pp. 70 and 71 

" Egypt ! Egypt ! the shoulders of thy great motion- 
less gods are white with bird droppings, and the wind 
which scours the desert trundles the cinders of thy 
dead ! " ' 

" Light from shop-windows, at intervals, lit up her pale 
profile ; then darkness muffled it again ; and, in the 
thick of carriages, of the crowd and noise, they passed 
on undistracted from themselves, hearing nothing, like 
those who walk together in the country over beds of 
dead leaves." "^ 

" Setting out again, he goes, to stir the dust of the 
ancient world with his feet ; to sit above Thermopylae 
and cry, Leonidas ! Leonidas ! to course round the 
tomb of Achilles, seek for Lacedaemon, strip berries 
with his fingers from the clusters of Karoub-trees at 
Carthage, and, like the drowsy shepherd who lifts his 
head at the sound of a caravan, all those great land- 
scapes wake up when he passes through their solitudes."3 

" Undressed and in bed, they chatted some time, then 
fell asleep, Bouvard on his back, mouth open, bare- 
headed ; Pecuchet on his right side, his knees under 
his chin, rigged out in a cotton night-cap ; and both 
snored under the moonlight which slanted in through 
the windows."* 

' CEuvres completes, tome v. p. 194. ' Ibid., tome iv. p. 338. 
3 Ibid., tome vi. p. 338. ♦ Ibid., tome vii. p. 26. 

(See p. 79) 

Contradictions over Impersonal Art 

Ferdinand Brunetiere 

"Now it is quite certain — Flaubert is right here — 
that in this sense and, as mathematicians say, other 
things being equal, works take by so much the higher 
place in the heaven of art as they . . . avoid revealing 
what manner of man the artist was, and above all the 
history of his life and sentiments." ' 

Anatole France 

"Besides, he was stark mad about impersonal art. 
He said, ' The artist should take such measures as will 
make posterity think he has never lived ! ' This mania 
inspired him with sorry theories. But no great harm 
was done. It is all very fine to be on your guard ; we 
have no news to tell save of ourselves, and our every 
work speaks of nothing else, for all that it knows is 
what we are. Flaubert cri^ in vain that he is absent 
from his work. He threw himself completely armed 
into it, as Decius {sic : Curtius ?) did into the abyss." " 

' Histoire et UtUrature, voL ii. p. 137, 1884. 
= Anatole France, Les Idies de Gustave Flaubert: La VielitUraire, 
Serie iii. p. 306, 1891. 



Antoine Albalat 

" There is something grand about conceiving art as 
an objective and general representation . . . the study 
of past work lends authority to this lofty conclusion." 

The most " beautiful works are impersonal ; the 
author is lost sight of and never interferes — ^for example, 
the Gospels, the Odyssey, the Iliads the Oresteia, the 
tragedies of Shakespeare, Don Quixote — to cite only the 
best. Nature, the supreme example of creation, is 
there to prove that the Creator has vanished from bis 
work. Why should art have an end in view since 
Natur^lBas none ? " • 

Auguste Sabatier 

" His theory of objective art was false. . . . Never 
has idea held closer to sensation nor the brain kept in 
more intimate or more constant relation to the heart. 
His works sprang no less from his vitals for being 
impersonal, and it will be difficult to judge them well 
without knowing the man himself." * 

y^ules de Gaultier 

" The pure love of form and the intentional suppres- 
sion of the artist's opinions can produce, and can alone 
produce, work that suggests to the critical spirit quite 
new moral opinions, quite new psychological percep- 
tions." 3 

' Ouvriers et procSdds, p. 244, 1896. 
" journal de Genive, Mai 8, 1887. 
3 Le Bovarysme, p. 2, 1892. 


Remy de Gourmont 

" As though a great writer, as though a man of strong 
excessive domineering extravagant sensibiHty could be 
— ^what? the opposite of the only word which can 
define him ! . . . mediocre productions are alone im- 
personal. . . . Flaubert incorporated his whole sensi- 
bility in his works; and by 'sensibility' I understand 
here, as £verywhere, the general power of feeling, such 
as we find it variously developed in every human 
being . . . reason itself is only crystallised sensibility. 
. . . Far from its being his work which is impersonal, 
the roles are here reversed : it is the man who is vague 
and a tissue of incoherences ; it is the work which 
lives, breathes, suffers, and smiles nobly; . . . the true 
interest . . . begins when a personality has been so 
disengaged as to become peerless."' 

Words have been said to fit like gloves. M. Remy de 
Gourmont turns them inside out ; he means what Flau- 
bert said, only the seamy side is not so neat. In the 
sense which MM. France and Sabatier were pleased to 
alone consider, " the perfect writer " ^ had never sup- 
posed that books could be impersonal. 

"Every work of art contains a particular element 
proper to the artist's personaUty, which, quite apart 
from the execution, seduces or irritates us," 3 he says 
in the first paragraph of the only literary criticism 
which he ever published. 

T Le Probleme du style, pp. 106 and 107, 1092. 
' Anatole France, Preface to HSrodias, 1892. 
3 CEuvres completes, vol. vi. p. 157. 

(See p. los) 

MANY mare's nests have arisen round restrictions 
Flaubert is supposed to have formulated, such as 
that in regard to the double genitive ; yet the de Gon- 
court^eporting Gautier on ideas of Flaubert's which he 
confessedly did not understand, have no indiscutable 
authority.' The phrase instanced, " Une couronne defleurs 
d' orangey" does not occur, while '^d'ungarfon de classe" 
and "d'une quimaine d'annees" are found in the first fif- 
teen lines of Madame Bovaty, a proportion by no means 
exceptional for that or any other French classic. Flau- 
bert, therefore, could not have been in despair merely 
because a single one had proved unavoidable. The 
modification of the articles according to gender and 
number makes double genitives less clogging in French 
than they would be, were it not for the possessive s' 
in English, just as the diversity of sound between that, 
which, and who mitigates for us the effect of neighbour 
relatives, while the number of letters in those words 
tends to annul this advantage. Zola as ridiculously 
censures the frequent but modest sound of the con- 
junction et by false analogy with the obviously objec- 
tionable que and qui.'' Critics love to harp on these 
foolish mysteries because they have never examined the 

" Journal des Goncourt, tome ii. p. 14. 
' Les romanciers naturalistes, p. 215, 


facts. M. Albalat has ably dissipated another wonder 
by explaining how Flaubert could say he had deter- 
mined the fall of every period in some as yet unwritten 
pages.' Long passages were sketched and re-sketched 
in advance, while the closing cadence of each period 
must first be chosen before the effect of the whole 
could become a definite goal for attainment. As a map 
quickens and corrects the memory of an old explorer, 
so these skeleton pages enabled Flaubert to recapture 
and fulfil his inspiration. The approximate notion 
which most men prate of as an idea was for him but 
vague rumour or prophecy of the idea which would only 
exist when words it was equally delightful to utter and 
to hear brought it home to the mind. 

Masterpieces produced intuitively are only made 
human by our recognition of their value, but for which 
a madman's ecstasy would be their exact parallel. 
Flaubert nursed his theme, but it fed itself, thanks to 
his methods, taking from his and adding to its own 
life. A classic continues to grow at large, nourished 
by the strength of all who love, admire, quote, or 
imitate it, till its significance may outstrip even the 
highest flight of its author's hope by establishing re- 
lations which for him were undreamable, so tardily 
was Time's revealing hand to open. This fact has 
vastly amused M. Anatole France, but perhaps he 
might just as well have laughed with the other side 
of his face; such amusement is often in itself funny. 
And Virgil's thought may have been more truly what 
his admirers imagine than it was that seed of;^its final 
significance which he himself could have described. 

' Journal des Goncourt, tome ii. p. 14. 

(See p. Ill) 

Parallels between Claude Bernard and G. 
Flaubert in regard to the Experimental 

'' "f T THY try to explain incomprehensible things ? 
VV To explain evil by original sin is to explain 
nothing at all. Search for the cause is anti-philosophic, 
anti-scientific; and therein religions displease me yet more 
than philosophies, since they affirm that they know it. 
A need of the heart is it ? Well and good. That need 
is respectable, not ephemeral dogmas." ' 

"The nature of our spirit prompts us to seek the 
essence or the why of* things. In this we aim further 
than the mark which it is given us to attain ; for experi- 
ence soon teaches us that we cannot go beyond the 
how — that is to say, beyond the immediate cause or the 
conditions proper to the existence of phenomena." ' 

" At first sentiment, overbearing reason single-handed, 
created the truths of faith — that is to say, theology. 
Reason or philosophy, winning the mastery later, gave 

' Corresfondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. p. 281. 
" Introduction h Vdtudede la midecine expirimentale, p. 126, 


birth to scholasticism. At last experience — that is the 
study of natural phenomena — taught man that the truths 
of the external world are found ready formulated neither 
in sentiment nor in reason." ' 

Closer and more disinterested examination must 
necessarily, then, transform both sentiment and reason. 
Thus art will have fresh and better material, and if the 
creative impulse remains as strong the results should be 
correspondingly grander. 

"A fine book might be written on the literature 
which aims at proving ; the moment that youprove, you lie. 
God knows man's beginning and end ; the middle, art, Uke 
man himself in space, ought to remain suspended in 
infinity, complete in itself, independent of its pro- 
ducer." ' 

" When discussions and experiments are undertaken 
... to prove a preconceived idea at all costs, tie mind 
is no longer free, truth is no longer sought." 3 

" Our intelligence is, indeed, so limited, that we 
cannot know either the beginning or the end of things ; 
but we can grasp the middle — that is to say, all that 
immediately surrounds us." ♦ 

"That very fashionable phrase, the social problem, 
is repugnant to me. The day on which it shall be 
solved will be the last of this planet. Life is an eternal 
problem, and history also ; everything is." s 

" Certainly we shall never know the conditions which 

■ Introduction h I'etude de la medecine exferimentale, p. 47. 

' Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 76, 1852. 

3 Introduction aVitude de la mddecine experimentale, p. 81. 

« Ibid., p. 63. 

s Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. p. 87, 1857. 


absolutely determine the existence of everything ; man 
could no longer exist." ^ 

"That is the beauty of the natural sciences : they do not 
set out to prove anything : and look what stretches of 
facts, what an immensity open to thought ! We should 
treat of men as they do of mastodons and crocodiles ; 
are they angry about this one's horn or that one's jaw- 
bone? Show them, stuff them, pickle them, that is 
enough, but judge them, no : who are you yourself, 
little frog?"' 

" In teaching man, experimental science has the effect 
of diminishing his pride, by proving every day that first 
causes, as well as the objective reality of things, will 
always be hidden from him, and that he can only know 
some inter-relations." 3 

" You complain that women are ' monotonous.' The 
remedy is very simple ; do without them. ' Events are 
not varied.' That is the realist's complaint ; and be- 
sides, what do you know ? They need examining more 
closely. Have you ever believed in the existence of 
things ? Is not everything an illusion ? Nothing is 
true save 'inter-relations' — that is to say, our mode of 
perceiving objects. ' Vices are petty,' but all is petty 1 
' There are not enough turns of phrase I ' Seek, you 
will find." 4 

" Henceforth truth will never appear to man's intelli- 

' Introduction it Vitude de la medecine expirimentale, p. 223. 
" Correspondatice de G. Flaubert, Serie ii. p. 197, 1853. 
9 Introduction h Vitude de la midecine expirimentale, p. 46, 
» Correspondance de G, Flaubert, Serie iv. p. 302, 1878. (By this 
date Flaubert is probably quoting from Claude Bernard.) 


gence save under the form of a relation or an absolute 
and necessary inter-relation." " 

" Neither I nor anybody knows what those two words 
mean, soul and body — where one ends or the other 
begins. We feel forces, that is all. Materialism and 
spiritualism still too greatly oppress knowledge about 
man to allow of the impartial study of phenomena." ^ 

" Once the search for the conditions which determine 
phenomena is laid down as a fundamental principle of 
the experimental method, there is no longer any room 
for materialism or spiritualism, nor for matter, animate 
or inanimate ; there are only phenomena, the condi- 
tions of which — that is to say, the circumstances which 
in relation to those phenomena play the part of im- 
mediate causes — must be determined." 3 

• Introduction h I'itude de la mddecine expSrimentaU, p. 48. 

" Correspondance de G. Flaubert, Serie iii. p. I47f i8S9- 

3 Introduction k I'itude de la midecine exp6rimentale, p. 348. 


Adam (Paul), 53, 269, 284 
Adams Qohn Couch), 91 
jEschylus, 44, 269 
Albalat (Antoine), 28, 37, 107, 

121, 139, 168, 267, 290, 300 
Angelico (Fra), 228 
Aristophanes, 44, 163 
Arnold (Matthew), 32, 201, 275, 



Balln (Roger), 246 
Balzac (Honore de), 65 
Barbey d'Aurevilly, 23, 271, 

272, 273 
Barry (James), 228 
Barye (Antoine Louis), 245, 246, 

Baudelaire (Charles), 32, 276 
Bergerat (Emile), 160 
Bernard (Claude), 88, 90, 92, 

III, 112, 169, 304-307 
Berthelot (Marcellin), 99, 100 

Bertrand (Louis), 39, 50, 65, 288 
Bichat (Marie Frangois-Xavier), 

Binyon (Laurence), 100 
Bismarck (S. O. Count von), 252 
Blake (William), viii, 196-236, 

239-241, 251, 252, 259 
Blake (Mrs.), 241, 251 
Boileau Despreaux, 106, 130, 269 
Bosquet (Amelie), 23 
Bossuet (Jacques-Benigne), 269 
Bouilhet (Louis), 9, 11, 12, 62, 

106, 133, 272 
Bourget (Paul), 28, 37, 93, 98, 

151, 281, 297 
Bouvard et Picuchei, 12, 27, 55- 

62, 71, 153, 160, 179, 190, 

290-292, 29s 
Breughel (Peter the elder), 293 
Browning (Robert), 26 
Brunetiere (Ferdinand), 43, 52, 

98, 140, I4S,'268, 269, 278, 

279, 282, 28s, 293, 299 
Buifon Qean Louis Leclerc, 

Comte de), 107, 125, 146, 

212, 269 




Bunyan (John), 241 
Byron, 6, 121, 122, 148, 209 

Cabanis (Pierre Jean George), 

Calvert (Edward), 199, 222, 230 
Cambyses, 176 
Campbell (Norman), 90, 91 
Candidat (le), 12, 295 
Carlyle (Thomas), 291 
Cervantes, 31, 156, 158, 291, 292 
Chartres (J. S.), 278 
Chateaubriand, 61, 70, 293 
Chateau des ccsurs (le), 62, 63 
Chaucer (Geoffrey), 213, 215 
Coleridge (Samuel Taylor), 199 
Coleridge (Hartley), 215 
Colet (Mme. Louise), 8, 9, 98, 

189, 272 
Collins (William), 199 
Commanville (Ernest), 11, 12 
Comte (Auguste), 269 
Corneille (Pierre), 160, 184 
Courbet (Gustave), 293 
Cowper (William), 199 
Crabb Robinson (Henry), 207, 

209, 210, 224 
Curtius, 299 


Dante, 21, 130, 215, 229, 269 
Daudet (Alphonse), 30 
Decius, 299 

Delacroix (Eugene), 245 
Descartes (Rene), 202 
Descharmes (Rene), 296 
Dreyfus (Alfred), 38 
Du Camp (Maxime), 8, 9, 246 
Dumas (fils), 292 
Dumesnil (Rene), 22, 82, iii, 
126, 139, 162-168, 177 


Education sentimentale (l'), 11, 

27. 41-47; S3. 72, 73. 125. 

282-284, 286, 287, 292 
Eliot (George), 271 
Ellis (Edwin J.), 206 
Emerson (Ralph Waldo), 184 
Epictetus, 252 
Eucrates, 151 
Ezekiel, 204, 205 

Faguet (Emile), 29, 38, 267, 269, 

274, 278, 279, 282, 28s 
Fenelon (Fran9o1s de Salignac 

de la Mothe), 107 
Fischer (E. W.), 296 
Flaubert (Gustave), viii, 2-196, 
212-215, 231-^33, 239-242, 
his brother, 4, 163 
his father, 4, 164, 165 
his friends, 10, 11, 15 



Flaubert (Gugtave), his letters, 
20. 23. 27, 34, 35, 40, 58, 
99, loi, 105, 108, 109, 113, 
114, 116, 120, 123, 126, 128, 
129, 132, 134-136, 138, 139, 
142, 14s, 148, 149, 154, 159, 
166, 170, 174, 177, 178, igo- 
186, 188-191, 232, 274. 294, 
296, 297, 304-307 

his mother, 9, 10, 12 

his niece, 7, 10, 11, 48 

his sister, 4, 7 

his unpublished works, 62, 

Flaxman (John), 199 
Fontenelle (Bernard le Bouyer 

de), 86 
France (Anatole), 25, 28, 29, 37, 

54, 97, 98, loi, 102, 13s, 

266, 269, 280, 293, 297, 299, 

301, 303 
Frank (Felix), 23, 271 
Fuseli (Henry),i99, 228 

Gaultier (Jules de), 57, 160, 161, 

284, 288, 291, 300 
Gauthiez (Pierre), 27, 270 
Gautier (Theophile), 10, 37 
Gilchrist (Alexander), 213, 214, 

Giotto, 226 
Goethe (Wolfgang von), v, 10, 

2C, 37. 47. 63. 65, 86, 93, 

107, 136, 15s, 218, 234, 244, 

248, 256, 259, 269, 272, 291, 

292, 293, 294 
Goncourt (Jules et Edmond de), 

8,10, 11,30,36,48,59, 133, 

280, 302, 303 
Gourmont (Remy de), 27, 57, 

283, 292, 20, 301 
Gray (Thpmas), 199, 227 


Heliogabalus, 180 
Hennequin (Emile), 23, 27, 28 

41, 283, 287 
Homer, 37, 40, 86, iii, 118, 124 

155, 163, 179, 180, 291 
Horace, 118, 157 
Hugo (Victor), 41, 46, 121, 130, 

155, 156, 286 
Huxley (Thomas), 64 

James (Henry), 43, 140, 283, 289 
Jesus, 47, 49, 52, 142, 143, 204 


Kassner (Dr. Rudolf), 235 
Keats Qohn), 31, 65, 94, 135 
Kock (Paul de), 23 

La Bruyere (Jean de), 106, 107, 
157. 213. 269 



La Fontaine Qean de), 34, 116, 

130. 215 
La Harpe (Jean Fran9ois de), 20 
Lamb (Charles), X99 
Lanson (G.), H2, 139, 151, 152, 

Laujol (Henry), loi, 270, 273 
Lauvriere (Emile), 22, 279, 283 
Lawrence (Sir Thomas), 199, 

Leconte de Lisle, 156, 1,59 
Lee (?), 62 
Lemaitre 0ules), 24, 34, 43, 45, 

63, 271, 276, 286 
Le Poittevin (Alfred), 5, 6, 7, 8 
Leverrier (Urbain Jean Joseph), 

Levy-Bruhl (L.), 58, 268 
Lima (the lady from), 7 
Linnell (John), 199, 230 
Littre (E.), 269 
Lucretius, 269 

Madame Bovary, 9, 22, 24, 

25, 27. 30-34. 40, 71. "7, 
124-127, 139, 183, 232, 266, 
27s, 276, 279, 280, 286, 287, 
292, 293, 302 
Marcus Aurelius, 252 
Marlowe (Christopher), 181 
Mathilde (la princesse), 11 
Mauclair (Camille), 140, 271, 

272, 287, 288, 290 
Maupassant (Guy de), 27, 30, 
54. 153. i«9. 241, 292 

Mimoires dun fou, 6, 164, 239, 

Michael Angelo, 36, 38, 143, 

154. 155. 158, 163, 219, 221, 

226, 231 
Michelet (Jules), 86, 269 
Mignot (le pere), 5 
Milton (John), 30, 34, 47, 63, 64, 

94, 181, 207 
Moliere, 31, 143, 154, 156, 158, 

Montaigne (Michel de), 58, 60, 

87, 106, 120, 121, 122, 174, 

267, 269 
Montegut (Emile), 31, 34 
Montesquieu (Charles de Se- 

condat. Baron de la Brede 

et de), 107, 150, 269 
Mozart (Wolfgang Gottlieb), 


Napoleon IIL, 30, 56 
Nero, 179, 180 


Osmoy (Charles d'), 10, 62 

Palante (G.), 161 
Palmer (Samuel), 222, 230 
Pascal (Blaise), 17 
Pater (Walter), 96 
Paulhan (Fr.), 80 



Pezard (Maurice), 35, 36 
Piero dei Franceschi, 228 
Pinard (E.), 275 
Plato, 34 
Plutarch, 180 
Prevost (Abbe), 17 
Proudhon (Pierre Joseph), 269 
Puvis de Chavannes, 222, 228, 


Rabelais, 6, 44, 120, 154, 155, 

156, 193, 291 
Racine (Jean), 149 
Raleigh (Walter), 205 
Raphael, 221 

Rembrandt, 158, 160, 231 
Renan (Ernest), 10, 27, 30, 50, 

SO. SI. S3. 86, 97, 99, 119, 

120, 141, 163, 170, 250, 269, 

Romney (George), 199 
Rousseau (Jean Jacques), 121 
Rubens, 155, 158, 220 
Russell (A. G. B.), 226, 228 

Sabatier (Auguste), 26, 28, $2, 
56. S7. S8, 123. 140. 141. 
29s. 297. 300 

Sade (Marquis de), 179 

Sainte-Beuve (C.-A.), 10, 11, 20, 
32, 119, 269, 277, 279 

Saint-Hilaire (Geoffroy), 165 

Saintsbury (G. E. B.), 27, 38, 

Salammbo, 10, 27, 35-41, 53, 72, 

125, 277-281, 287, 292 
Sand (George), 2, 11, 12, 13, 27, 

32. 39. 65, 129, 187 
Scherer (Edmond), 28 
Schopenhauer (Arthur), 269 
Schwob (Marcel), 53 
Shakespeare (William), 21, 30, 

34. 38, 44. 63, 86, III, 120, 

IS4. ISS. 156, 160, 163, 196, 

268, 269, 279, 291 
Sophocles, 268 
Spinoza (Benedict), 190, 269 
Spronck (Maurice), 28, 266, 273, 

Stanley (H. M.), 27, 277 
Stevens (Alfred), 245 
Stevenson (Robert Louis), 27 

34. 27s. 288 
Stothard (Thomas), 224 
Swift Jonathan), 76 
Swinburne (Algernon C), 38 
Symons (Arthur), 207, 209, 210, 

215, 2;8 

Taine (Henri), 10, 20, 37, 132, 

Tarver (J. C), 27, 57, 291 
Tentation de saint Antoine {la), 

7, 12, 27, 30, 47-55, 58, 73, 

94, 125, 149, 161, 162, 285- 

289, 291 


Thiers (Louis Adolphe), i6g 
Titian, 220, 234 
Tourgueneff (Ivan), 12, 129 
Trois contes (les), 13, 27, 52-55, 

Trouville (lady of), 6,^15; 
Mayor of), iio '" 

Veronese (Paul), 143 

Villiers de I'lsle Adam, 271, 

Virgil, 65, 124, 222, 303 


Voltaire, 174, 195, 209, 269 


Wagner (Richard)y 63 
Watts (G. F.), 227, 24s 
Weininger (Otto), 36 
Wilde (Oscar), 90 
William of Orange, 186 
Wordsworth (William), 65, 150, 
199, 209, 215, 231 

Zola (Emile), 27, 30, 286, 288 

Vbe SMBbam pceig, 








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