L.A., [Paris 23 (?) September 1840], to Eugène DELACROIX; 6 pages in-8.
Very beautiful and long letter to Delacroix.
"My dear old man [...] You know very well that I miss you devilishly and that the evenings are long and sad without you. She was admiring the drama of the Shipwreck of the Medusa: "It enchanted us as you did, the raft is really an amazing thing.
This is Géricault's animated painting, and what surprised me the most was that we managed to make the color look terrible and pale; the sail of the salvage ship is also a wonderful thing. How beautiful it must have been when the paintings were fresh! Now it's all a bit ragged, and yet it's still so impressive that we came out of it with a big heart. But also, what a situation to imagine, what anguish, and what despair!"
Then she talks about Madame LAFARGE's trial: "Never has a case been more mysterious, more confused, more badly conducted, more dryly pleaded, more badly prosecuted by the Public Prosecutor's Office, and more strangely resolved? Yes, she is guilty - yes, she is saved from death by the mitigating circumstances. What mitigating circumstances, if she poisoned her loudmouthed husband with such perfidy, cold-bloodedness and impudence? But is it possible? But was the Laffarge poisoned? And what is science in such a case? In six months time Mr. Orfila may discover that there is arsenic in the liver and brain of all corpses, just as he discovered it was in the bones &c. Finally, here is a horrible accusation, where all the accusers are forgers [...] And a defendant who shows herself superior in all things, fine, good, dignified, adored by poor people, inspiring passions in all men, subjugating her entire audience with a word and a look, showing from one end of the trial to the other a reserve, a tact, a taste, a charm which even seizes the absentees. And through these two camps, there is an indecipherable mystery, as much evidence of innocence as of crime, suspicions about everything that is not the accused, motives for all crimes except his own. The trial is more muddled at the end than at the beginning. There is no moral investigation of the accusers, half of France is for them, half for her. There is therefore a great deal of hesitation and abstention from judgment, because nobody likes theft and poison and everyone says to themselves: I don't understand it, I don't know anything about it. I would not want to absolve her, but I would not want to condemn her. - And then, in order to end it all and to save ourselves the boredom of being enlightened, we end up with the realization of BALZAC's word: she is guilty, but since it is her husband that she has concealed, we must admit the extenuating circumstances! - Poor creature if she is guilty! Deplorable martyrdom if she is not!"... Sand was "tempted to write about this as an outburst against the legal statutes, and the spirit of the laws. It wouldn't have been as beautiful or as scholarly as
Montesquieu. But it would have been truer in many ways". But she didn't want to follow in Balzac's footsteps with the Peytel affair: "It wasn't nice of him, and I don't know if after that a literary pen will be able to devote much time to defending a principle of this kind, without inspiring ugly mistrust of common sense or disinterestedness on the part of the author."
There's nothing very new... "We still live within four greenish walls. The only difference is that we lit a fire, and instead of making a net, I make winter dresses. There are some that I hope you'll like. I always scribble all through the holy night, if not the holy night. In the morning, I go to the merry-go-round and fencing with the doe, the light, the Béarnaise, and other rosses on which I spend my black mood, administering to them the spur blows that I would like to give to the human race, the whip blows that I would like to administer to a bunch of scoundrels who make our lives and hearts so sad.
Fortunately, there are still for each of us half a dozen beings to cherish and esteem. Me, I've got brats to mortify, an infamous kid from CHOPIN to beat up, and naughty old brothers like you to give to the devil when they go off to run the pretentious away from me! It seems to me that the countryside has brought you up to a level of poetry that I envy you. I thought I was reading a meditation by Oberman!
Courage my old man, be not too black with melancholy, and when it gets too dark, come back to us, we'll try to laugh or swear or complain together.