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TO THE SAME. - 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 SAME.
Tocqueville, December 23, 1855.
With M. Molé has vanished one of the last models of the dignified politeness of former days. He was also one of the last representatives of the French taste for intellectual pleasures, a taste which is every day disappearing. Nothing strikes me more than the change which has taken place, and which is still going on. By a taste for intellectual pleasures, I mean the taste for fine literary compositions and good conversation, which never ceased to reign during three hundred years in every vicissitude and in every class. Neither revolutions, martial glory, public opinion, nor material prosperity affected it in the least. It animated the priest and the layman, the nobleman and the tradesman. Nothing contributed more to making us the brilliant nation which, in spite of its faults, its follies, and its crimes, captivated the imagination of Europe.
Now it would seem that to give oneself up to such pleasures is a dangerous, or at least, a frivolous employment. Well-behaved, serious people, think that they have something better to do. M. Molé belonged to the race who believed that a strong and lively taste for intellectual pleasures might be combined with everything else. He has left no school behind him.
I hope, dear friend, that you are finishing the year 1855 better than I am. My health is feeble, and my heart sad. But this does not prevent my entertaining the most affectionate good wishes for you and yours in the year 1856.
TO MADAME SWETCHINE.
Tocqueville, January 7, 1856.
It is very long, Madame, since I have profited by your permission to write to you. I hoped to do much better—to return to Paris and to see you. But one duty after another kept me here, and will probably detain me for three weeks longer. I will not wait so long without thanking you for your interesting and touching letter. It is a full-length portrait of yourself. I wish that I could deserve its kindness, for the friendship of such as you are, imposes obligations. Not only ought one to be grateful, but to justify it. For this reason I wish that I could cure myself entirely of the tendency to despondency which you argue against in your letter. The disease is, unfortunately, almost as old as myself, and it is not easy to get rid of it entirely. I have, however, struggled much against it during the last few years, and I have certainly diminished its violence. Your letter has helped me, and done me real good. Do not, however, think that the attack I mentioned to you was entirely due to my morbid and habitual melancholy. It especially arose from my reflections on facts which are only too real. As I proceed in the work in which you are so kind as to interest yourself, I find myself more and more carried away by a stream of feelings and opinions which are exactly opposed to those of most of my contemporaries. I still love passionately things which they no longer care for.
I still consider liberty as the first of blessings; I still see that it is one of the most fertile sources of manly virtues and great actions. No tranquillity and no material comfort can in my mind make up for its loss. And yet I see that most of the men of my time, of the most honest among them, for I care little about the others, think only of accommodating themselves to the new system, and, what most of all disturbs and alarms me, turn a taste for slavery into a virtue. I could not think and feel as they do if I tried: it is even more repugnant to my nature than to my will. An unconquerable instinct keeps me consistent.
You can hardly imagine how painful, and often bitter, it is to me to live in this moral isolation; to feel myself shut out of the intellectual commonwealth of my age and country. Solitude in a desert would be less intolerable to me than this solitude among men. For I own my weakness, I have always dreaded loneliness; I cannot be happy, or even calm, unless I meet with the encouragement and sympathy of some of my fellow-creatures. To me, more than to any one else, may be applied the saying, which has such a deep meaning, “It is not good to be alone.” This condition of my mind which I have ventured to unfold to you, will explain the utter despondency which sometimes seizes me when I am writing; for in working for the public it is sad to remember how different from one’s own are its thoughts and feelings. I wish that I possessed the virtue of indifference to success, but I do not. Long experience has taught me that the success of a book depends more upon the previously conceived opinions of the reader than upon those expressed by the writer.
You must not, however, think that the object of my book is connected, either nearly or remotely, with the events or the men of the present day. But you are as well aware as I am that however little a book may seem to have to do with the circumstances of the time, it is pervaded with a spirit which is either sympathetic or antipathetic to that of the age. This is the soul of the book, the principle by which it attracts or repels.
I have said a great deal about myself, Madame, but you yourself were the snare that drew me into this fault, which is not habitual to me. I had much rather speak of you. . . .