Front Page Titles (by Subject) 181.: 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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181.: 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
Les Eaux-Bonnes, 4 July 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 95]
At last I have a letter from La Jonchère, my dear madam, and I am now certain that you are somewhere definite. What is more, you tell me that your first few days in the country have been happy, that you are taking long walks in the woods, and that you are having some lovely visits, since today the Say family have come to call.
Just as I have your first letter from La Jonchère, this is, I think, my last from Les Eaux-Bonnes. I will be leaving on the 8th, unless in the meantime I learn that the Assembly is going on holiday. However, if there is any doubt, I will have to leave. It is not that I have been fundamentally cured; while my health has improved, my larynx stubbornly continues to suffer.
It is clear that in Les Eaux-Bonnes this year, ridicule of the gentlefolk has risen to such a height that it is ruining everything. People adopt accents, figures, and manners worthy of Molière’s pen; the only person who continues to be unaffected here is Mme de Latour-Maubourg. If she is giving a lesson to the précieuses around her, this lesson has gone unnoticed. Of course, I do not frequent these circles overly much, since I have noticed that they welcome only those people who give them the opportunity of saying, “I was with M. de ——, we were on a walk with the Count of ——, etc.” My company is made up of a very ill lieutenant, a young Spaniard who is at death’s door, and a Parisian aged twenty-three, as ill as the two others.
I am surprised that this time of exile, whose end I have desired so ardently, has seemed so short: “Everything that has to end passes quickly.” This saying is as true as it is sad. In fact, the provincial habits I rediscovered have had a certain charm. Independence, free time, work, and leisure at will, reading at odd times, thoughts that wander on impulse, solitary walks, scenery that is admirable, peace and quiet, this is what you can find in our mountains, and the power of a piece of music in b, a single piece in b, would make it a paradise. What else would you need, other than a drop of the ambrosia that perfumes all the details of life that is called friendship?
You have seen the success and ovations given to MM Scribe and Halévy in the newspapers. This will have pleased you and doubtless made you regret that you were not there to witness it. Mlle Louise had the feeling that pleasant amusements were awaiting her in London. We should congratulate ourselves on everything that brings peoples together and unites them: in this respect your friends’ attempt will bear good fruit. It will increasingly encourage our neighbors to study French. Reciprocity would be very useful, for we have a lot to learn from the other side of the Channel. I was happy to see that Richard Cobden, in difficult circumstances which must have been a cruel test for him, neither slipped nor stumbled.346 He has remained true to himself, but these are things that our newspapers do not notice.
Have you read the article by M. de Broglie on Chateaubriand in La Revue des deux mondes? I was not displeased to see this chastisement inflicted on vanity that is inflated to a childish level. With such exclusive selfishness of heart one can be a great writer, but do you believe one can be a great man? For my part, I detest these blind and proud men who spend their lives striking postures and attitudes, who put humanity on one side of the scales with themselves on the other and believe they win the day. I regret that M. de Broglie did not seek to appreciate the value of Chateaubriand’s philosophy; he would have found that it was very slight. From the eleventh volume of his memoirs, I copied out this paradox, “The perception of good and evil is obscured in proportion to the enlightenment of the mind; the conscience shrivels in proportion to the expansion of ideas.”
If this is so, the human race is condemned to fatal and irremediable degradation; the man who has written these lines is a soul condemned.
Here is another letter from La Jonchère, but one that does not confirm its predecessor. In the meantime, I have had news from M. Say and I thought that you were all in good health. I see that sleep is eluding you, that Mlle Louise is fatigued by the heat, and that M. Cheuvreux himself is unwell! What a well-organized trio! What upsets me considerably is that I will have no news of you from now until 20 July, unless you are good enough to write to me once more, if only a note to Mugron. I am definitely leaving Les Eaux-Bonnes repeating the chorus of our ballad:
“Hot water, cold water, nothing can cure my ill.” It is true that the good cavalier was doubtless speaking of some strange wound on which all the springs of the Pyrenees had no effect. I was better placed to count on them for my larynx; it resisted them; what should I do?
I will probably have some strong battles to confront at Mugron to get any holiday there as well. But I will resist these assaults as I cannot allow myself not to be present at the Assembly.
Do you wish to visit Les Cormiers?348 It is a place that is very peaceful, cool, and solitary. If I spend two months there, I will perhaps reach the stage of starting out in the world of the Harmonies. I have not done anything about them here; my publisher is pressing me and I tell him that the coolness of the public is cooling my ardor. In this respect, I am committing the sin of lying. Authors do not lose courage over so little. In these types of mis-adventures, the angel or demon of pride calls out to them, “It is the public which is mistaken, it is too scatterbrained to read you or too backward to understand you.” “That is all very well,” I say to my angel, “but in this case I can dispense with working for it.” “It will appreciate you in a century and that is enough for fame,” replies the stubborn tempter.349
Fame! Heaven is my witness that I did not aspire to it and if one of its stray rays, ever so weak, should fall on this book, I would be delighted for the advancement of the cause and also a little for the satisfaction of my friends; let them love me without this and I will not give it another thought.
Your devoted servant,
[346 ]Cobden was opposed to the foreign policy of Palmerston.
[347 ]This is the Gascony dialect, which evolved from the langue d’oc, from which Catalan and Provençal also evolved.
[348 ]Le Butard.
[349 ]For most of the first half of the twentieth century the works of Bastiat lay forgotten. It was not until the Foundation for Economic Education published a translation of “La Loi” in 1950, the centenary of Bastiat’s death, that his work became known to another generation.