Front Page Titles (by Subject) 144.: Letter to Mme Cheuvreux - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
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144.: Letter to Mme Cheuvreux - Frédéric Bastiat, The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics 
The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics, translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Jacques de Guenin and Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation editor Dennis O’Keeffe (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Mugron, 12 September 1849
[Lettres d’un habitant
It seems to me that twenty deliveries of letters have passed without bringing me any letters. Has time, like my watch, stopped since my return here? Or has Mlle Louise taken me at my word? However, a careful calculation which I have redone a hundred times tells me that it is not a week since my letter has gone. It is not your dear daughter who is in the wrong but my impatience. I would like to know whether M. Cheuvreux has returned to you in full health, if you yourself have recovered from your unpleasant insomnia, and in short if there is as much joy at La Jonchère as it deserves and as I would wish. What a good invention the electric telegraph will be when it is put to the service of friendship! Perhaps one day it will have a telescope, which will enable it to see at two hundred leagues. Distance would then be bearable; for example, I would now turn it toward your drawing room. Mlle Louise is at the piano. I can guess from her expression the romantic song she is singing. M. Cheuvreux and you are experiencing the sweetest joy you can experience on this earth and your friends are forgetting that the last coaches are about to leave. This picture is heartwarming. Would it be unseemly and too provincial to tell you that this portrait of virtue, happiness, and union of which your family has given me such an example has been an antidote for me to the skepticism that is fashionable and a protection against anti-Parisian prejudice. What does this reproach by Rousseau mean, “Paris, a town of mud, etc.”? Not long ago I came across a novel by Jules Janin.281 What a dreary and disastrous portrait of society! “The stable and the church go together,” he says, meaning that esteem is gained in Paris only through the horse on which you parade in the wood or through hypocrisy. Tell me, pray, that you have never met this man or rather that he has never met you. Because they present wealth and selfishness as being the two sides of the same coin, novelists like him have supplied the grounds for socialist ranting. For my harmonies,282 I needed to be sure that wealth is not only compatible with the qualities of the heart but that it develops and perfects them. I am sure of this now and feel that I am proof, as the English say, against skepticism.
Right now, madam, do you want me to lend you my marvelous telescope for a minute? I would really like you to be able to see from behind the curtain the following scenes of provincial life. In the morning, Félix and I walk around my room reading a few pages of Madame de Staël or a psalm by David; when dusk falls I go to the cemetery to look for a tomb, my foot recognizes it, here it is! In the evening I spend four hours in intimate contact with my good aunt. While I am buried in my Shakespeare, she talks with the most sincere animation, being kind enough both to ask the questions and provide the answers. Here comes the chambermaid, however, who thinks that the hours are long and feels obliged to give them a bit of variety; she comes on the scene and tells us about her electoral tribulations. The poor girl has been giving me publicity; people have always challenged her on free trade and she has argued with them. Alas, what arguments! She proudly repeats them to me and while she is giving her speech in Basque dialect, patois, and French, I remember this quotation from Patru, “There is nothing like a bad advocate for ruining a good cause.”283 Finally, suppertime arrives; dogs and cats rush into the room, escorting the garbure.284 My aunt becomes furious. “Dreadful animals,” she cries. “You see how bold they become when M. Bastiat arrives!” My poor aunt! This great fury is just artful tenderness and can be translated thus: “See what a nice person Frédéric is.” I do not say that this is true, but my aunt wants this to be believed.
I was rightly telling you, madam, that letters from villages are deadly things; we can find subjects to write about only in the environment in which we live or in our own selves.
What a milieu Paris is for someone who writes! The arts, politics, and news are all in abundance, but here the outside world is sterile. You have to have recourse to another world, the inner one. In a word, you have to talk about yourself, and this consideration ought to have made me choose the smallest of scales. Instead of this I am clumsily sending you an acre of chatter; what reassures me is that my indiscretion will find it impossible to exhaust your indulgence.
I think that the prorogation has calmed the political effervescence a little; this should be a good thing, and in this respect we should wish that it were not so near to the end of its term. On our return, I would like the government to deliver us a heap of laws on which to browse, to take up our time, and to distract us from discussions that are sterile, or rather fertile only in hatred and exaggeration.
Please convey to M. Cheuvreux and Mlle Louise the great pleasure that I will have when I meet them again soon. Perhaps I will be back at La Jonchère again on Sunday, 30th September.
If I am in Paris, I will offer to escort Mme Girard, happy to receive the confidence of her maternal joys and cares. As for the tourists, I will be writing shortly to M. Say.
Farewell, madam; allow me