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TO MRS. GROTE. - 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 MRS. GROTE.
St. Cyr, November 22, 1853.
I am determined to write to you, my dear Mrs. Grote, and yet God knows that in my solitude I have absolutely nothing to say to my friends, except that I have a great affection for them; a fact which, perhaps, would be very interesting to some of them, but which cannot have the merit of novelty for you. You cannot need to be told how great is the friendship with which we regard you. I have made up my mind, however, to write to you, though I have nothing to tell, because it annoys me to be so long without hearing of you from yourself. My news of you has all been indirect. Be so charitable then as to give us some. Do not treat us quite as if we were dead and buried, although there would be sufficient excuse for doing so. I myself am often tempted to exclaim like the drunkard in La Fontaine’s fable, who, waking up suddenly in a dark silent cavern, cries out, “I wonder whether my wife is a widow.”
Still you must not pity us too much; for though we have no noise here, we have plenty of light. We live in full sunshine, in a little cottage situated on the banks of the Loire, with the towers of Tours in the distance. We have avoided knowing any of our neighbours, as we did not wish to make acquaintances among the natives, recollecting that provincial society is an exchange of solitude for ennui. Many of our friends have taken the trouble of coming to see us, and this has been enough to keep up our taste for our fellow-creatures. The life I lead seems to have improved my health; and that of my wife, which had been so shaken, is, I hope, re-established. Our intention, therefore, is to brave another winter here, and to return to Paris only for a short time next spring, before the tour which, as you are aware, we are contemplating in Germany; a tour for which I shall not start without communicating with you again, and asking for your valuable advice and introductions.
You will fancy, that these four months of retirement must have been of great service to my book; they have been of very little. I have read and meditated, but I have not written, and I ask myself how so many hours can have slipped away. It has been with me, as they say is the case with prisoners, who see so much leisure before them, that they put off what they have to do till next day, and reach the term of their imprisonment, or of their life, without so much as having begun the work which they would easily have finished in the midst of the bustle of the world. However, I hope that such will not be my fate, and I already feel, at times, an appetite for writing which is a good symptom.
I hope that I shall not leave this place till I have made a fair start in my work. But how difficult it is to begin! The society which preceded the French Revolution is almost as difficult to reproduce and to understand as the time before the Flood. The convulsion of our Revolution has left nothing but fragments, now covered over by a fresh soil, which must be dug up one by one to recompose from one’s imagination a world which has for ever perished. When I consider all the things that I have learnt by these preliminary studies, and all the thoughts suggested by them, it seems to me that the chief deficiency of those who have attempted to write upon the French Revolution, and even on the present time, has been the want of clear and true views of the preceding period. I think that I shall have this advantage over them, and I hope to turn it to account.
Pray remember us to Mr. Grote. I brought his last volume with me, and we read it aloud in the evenings with great enjoyment. Do not forget to mention me to Chevalier Bunsen, when you see him; tell him that I am beginning his “Hippolytus,” which seems to be interesting, though the language sometimes puzzles me. Some parts are very hard, especially for a schoolboy like myself.
In conclusion, Madame, and this is the most important and urgent request of all, think of us at least now and then—very often if you can. Keep a little of your friendship for us, and believe that there is nothing on which we set so much store as to retain our small share of your affection and memory.