SAND George (1804-1876)

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SAND George (1804-1876)

Autograph MANUSCRIPT, Impressions and Memories No. 23.
In the Woods, January 10, 1873; 39 pages in-8.
About Napoleon III who has just died.
Napoleon III died on January 8, 1873. On January 10, 1873 (this date is carried at the head of the manuscript), Sand went for a walk in the woods; she notes in her Diary: "Napoleon III died yesterday - last hour. Telegram in the newspaper this morning".
The serials of Impressions et souvenirs de Sand were published in Le Temps from August 22, 1871; the first 22 (until December 11, 1872) appeared in a collection by Michel Lévy in 1873. The rest of the Le Temps series, including the first one, "Dans les bois", was published, along with a few other texts, in the posthumous collection
Dernières pages (Calmann-Lévy, 1877).
The manuscript, in brown ink on the front of the leaves, has numerous erasures, legible under the large strikethrough, and interlinear additions. The final apostrophe is re-written on a bequet, pasted over the original version (the very last lines are missing).
The text begins with a walk in the woods and a study of botany: "Time, always admirable, has allowed us to return to the woods. I was curious to define the scabieuse, which still blooms there in the middle of January. And I didn't define it. It offers characteristics that do not agree with the exact description of any species registered in the nomenclatures, and, as I do not pretend to make a new species out of it, as it is probably one of the most vulgar, I am forced to attribute the anomalies it presents to me to the anomalies of the season, which gives it an untimely flowering" . Etc. But she did not take up the pen to speak botany; in her walk, she thought of Napoleon III who has just died, but this "fatal man" had not existed for three years. She evokes her correspondence with Ham's prisoner, whom she will meet again at the Elysée Palace: "I was completely deceived by him and, then, believing myself played, I did not want to see him again. [...]
But I continued to write to him when I hoped to save a victim, to comment on his answers and to observe him in all his actions. I convinced myself that he didn't want to play anyone; he was playing everyone and himself. He believed in what he said.... With the exercise of absolute power, this illusion of flipping a coin with events became monomania, and the quiet, patient fatalism took on all the appearance of strength and skill. The skill was null and void. The man was naive in his restrained and reflective air. He didn't pose like his uncle. He hadn't learned to drape himself in the ancient toga. He was small, stooped, withered, and made no attempt to look majestic. A man of erroneous principles, he governed a nation that lacked principles and put a romantic ideal of prosperity in the place of true civilization, success and luck in the place of law and justice....
It evokes Victor HUGO launching "his anathemas to Napoleon the small.
But the great romantic poet did not have here a sufficient sense of reality. His masterpiece will remain as a literary monument, it has no historical value. ...] He believed himself to be the instrument of Providence, he was only the instrument of chance. The party, at first small and suddenly immense, which brought him to the summit of power, was not even a party [...]
It was a swarm of adventurers at first, and then a meeting of interested parties speculating on adventure, and then the sudden infatuation of the masses, disgusted with a republic in dissolution"... Etc.
And she concludes this portrait, "reconstructed while walking in the woods", in republican terms: "I believe that there would finally be a need to recognize that the best of men can be the most disastrous of sovereigns, that to hand over the destinies of all to one is the most guilty and senseless act that a civilized people can commit. Ah! we are Frenchmen of the 19th century, and we still want to treat ourselves to "children of miracles": Henry V, the future saviour; "men of destiny", Napoleon the Thunderbolt; emperors on a mission, Napoleon the Evil One! Let's go on! After Waterloo and Sedan, there are still abysses [to rest from our glories, our splendours and our feasts. These last lines are missing at the end of the manuscript.]"
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