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TO THE COMTESSE DE CIRCOURT. - Alexis de Tocqueville, Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2 
Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville. Translated from the French by the translator of Napoleon’s Correspondence with King Joseph. With large Additions. In Two Volumes (London: Macamillan, 1861). 2 vols.
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TO THE COMTESSE DE CIRCOURT.
St. Cyr, September 2, 1853.
I shall not be able, Madame, to answer to-day M. de Circourt’s long and interesting letter, but I will not delay thanking you for your kind remembrance of me. It touched me extremely; for there is nothing which I value so highly as the little corner which you permit me to occupy in your heart. The more opportunities I enjoy of seeing you, the more I prize it. I wish only that a still greater intimacy might, in time, give me a chance of enlarging it. Unfortunately, I do not see my way to this at present, for Paris is naturally your headquarters, and I own that it is my intention to make it less and less of mine. I shall certainly return thither every year to rub off the rust of the country, but only for a short time, just long enough to restore the edge of my mind. A few months are enough. This year, indeed, I do not intend to return before the spring. I have certainly made a great sacrifice in establishing myself as I have done this year in the country, away from my own home, in order, if possible, to recover my health by leading a quiet life in an equable and temperate climate. I do not want to have made it for nothing, and therefore I must allow a long period of perfect stillness to succeed the anxious and sometimes painful years that I have given to politics. This peace I find here, uninterrupted even by the petty details of business; for I possess nothing, know nobody, and want nothing in Touraine. We sometimes feel our solitude; but in these times it suits me better than a crowd.
You must have experienced in your travels, Madame, a peculiar sensation on arriving in the morning in a foreign town, where all is new and strange to you—people, language, and customs. You are in a crowd, and yet you are more overpowered by the sense of solitude than if you were in the middle of a forest. This is what often happens to me in the midst of my countrymen and contemporaries. I find that there are scarcely any points of contact left between their modes of feeling and thinking and mine. I have preserved many strong feelings which they have lost; I still love passionately the things to which they have become indifferent; and I have an antipathy which grows stronger and stronger for the things which seem to please them more and more. It is not only the times that are changed, the whole race seems to me to have altered. I feel like one belonging to the old in the midst of the new. From this category I, of course, except certain persons, whose society would be an amends for contact with all the others, if only one could enjoy it. But what society is it that one can enjoy in Paris? In whose drawing-room does not one meet some of the people whom one least cares to see? In whose drawing-room especially is it that the person of whom one sees least is precisely the only one one comes to see?
In this last picture you cannot fail to recognise a drawing-room of your acquaintance. Did I, during the whole of last winter, have as much as five minutes’ conversation with you? Do not, however, from all that I have said, fancy that I am as cross as a bear. I merely say what I should have said to you an hundred times before if I had had more opportunities of seeing you; I mean of seeing you, not of seeing your friends.
Pray keep the secret of my misanthropy, and forgive me for enjoying the life that I lead here—I only wish that it were more productive. Most people would think that I made great use of my retirement. Nothing would be less true. I read a great deal, I live a great deal in the open air, I try to meditate on certain subjects. But as yet, I have not written three lines. Still, I never suffered less from ennui. Shall I confess to you, Madame, that I have gone back to school, and that I am learning a language just as if I were twelve years old? This language is German, which you are so fortunate as to be able to speak, and no doubt speak perfectly, as you do every European language. I have thrown myself valiantly into this abominable literature, where all is strange for a Frenchman—the root, the construction, and the mode of expression; and the absurd part of it is, that this ungrateful study interests me. I indeed plunge into it with the idea that it is not only useful, but indispensable for my ulterior objects.
Ampère left us two days ago. I really cannot tell you how sorry I was to see him go. No one that does not know Ampère intimately, and that has not lived with him for some time in the country, can have any idea of the pleasant, lively, and natural turn of his mind, and of the more solid qualities in his character.
Of course, you see Madame Swetchine. Do not forget to remember me to her before you leave Paris. Her extreme kindness to me last winter created a deep impression on me, and has made me regard her with an affection equal to the admiration which I have always had for her talents. They are as remarkable as her goodness, and this is not saying little.