THE PUBLIC vs. M. GUSTAVE FLAUBERT
The folios referred to in the trial are the folios either of the Revue de Paris or of the first edition of the book.—EDITOR.
Speech of the Prosecuting Attorney,
M. ERNEST PINARD
Gentlemen, in entering upon this debate, the Public Attorney is in the presence of a difficulty which he cannot ignore. It cannot be put even in the nature of a condemnation, since offenses to public morals and to religion are somewhat vague and elastic expressions which it would be necessary to define precisely. Nevertheless, when we speak to right-minded, practical men we are sure of being sufficiently understood to distinguish whether a certain page of a book carries an attack against religion and morals or not. The difficulty is not in arousing a prejudice, it is far more in explaining the work of which you are to judge. It deals entirely with romance. If it were a newspaper article which we were bringing before you, it could be seen at once where the fault began and where it ended; it would simply be read by the ministry and submitted to you for judgment. Here we are not concerned with a newspaper article, but entirely with a romance, which begins the first of October, finishes the fifteenth of December, and is composed of six numbers, in the Revue de Paris, 1856. What is to be done in such a case? What is the duty of the Public Ministry? To read the whole romance? That is impossible. On the other hand, to read only the incriminating texts would expose us to deep reproach. They could say to us: If you do not show the case in all its parts, if you pass over that which precedes and that which follows the incriminating passages, it is evident that you wish to suppress the debate by restricting the ground of discussion. In order to avoid this twofold difficulty, there is but one course to follow, and that is, to relate to you the whole story of the romance without reading any of it, or pointing out any incriminating passage; then to cite incriminating texts, and finally to answer the objections that may arise against the general method of indictment.
What is the title of the romance? Madame Bovary. This title in itself explains nothing. There is a second in parentheses: Provincial Morals and Customs. This is also a title which does not explain the thought of the author but which gives some intimation of it. The author does not endeavour to follow such or such a system of philosophy, true or false; he endeavours to produce certain pictures, and you shall see what kind of pictures! Without doubt, it is the husband who begins and who terminates the book; but the most serious portrait of the work, the one that illumines the other paintings, is that of Madame Bovary.
Here I relate, I do not cite. It takes the husband first at college, and it must be stated that the boy already gave evidence of the kind of husband he would make. He is excessively heavy and timid, so timid that when he arrives at the college and is asked his name, he responds: "Charbovari" He is so dull that he works continually without advancing. He is never the first, nor is he the last in his class; he is the type, if not of the cipher at least of the laughing-stock of the college. After finishing his studies here, he goes to study medicine at Rouen, in a fourth-story room overlooking the Seine, which his mother rented for him, in the house of a dyer of her acquaintance. Here he studies his medical books, and arrives little by little, not at the degree of doctor of medicine, but that of health officer. He frequented the inns, failed in his studies, but as for the rest, he had no other passion than that of playing dominoes. This is M. Bovary.
The time comes for him to marry. His mother finds him a wife in the widow of a sheriff's officer of Dieppe; she is virtuous and plain, is forty-five years old, and has six thousand a year income. Only, the lawyer who had her capital to invest set out one fine morning for America, and the younger Madame Bovary was so much affected, so struck down by this unexpected blow that she died of it. Here we have the first marriage and the first scene.
M. Bovary, now being a widower, begins to think of marrying again. He questions his memory; there is no need of going far; there immediately comes to his mind the daughter of a neighboring farmer, Mile. Emma Rouault, who had strangely aroused Madame Bovary's suspicions. Farmer Rouault had but one daughter, and she had been brought up by the Ursuline sisters at Rouen. She was little interested in matters of the farm; her father was anxious for her to marry. The health officer presented himself, there was no difficulty about the dot, and you understand that with such a disposition on both sides, these things are quickly settled. The marriage takes place. M. Bovary is at his wife's knees, is the happiest of men and the blindest of husbands. His sole occupation is anticipating his wife's wishes.
Here the role of M. Bovary ends; that of Madame Bovary becomes the serious work of the book.
Gentlemen, does Madame Bovary love her husband, or try to love him? No; and from the beginning there has been what we might call the scene of initiation. From the moment of her marriage, another horizon stretched itself out before her, a new life appeared to her. The proprietor of Vaubyessard Castle gave a grand entertainment. He invited the health officer and his wife, and this was for her an initiation into all the ardour of voluptuousness! There she discovered the Duke of Laverdiere who had had some success at Court; she waltzed with a viscount and experienced an unusual disturbance of mind. From this moment she lived a new life; her husband and all her surroundings became insupportable to her. One day, in looking over some furniture, she hit a piece of wire which tore her finger; it was the wire from her wedding bouquet.
To try to dispel the ennui that was consuming her, M. Bovary sacrificed his office and established himself at Yonville. Here was the scene of the first fall. We are now in the second number. Madame arrived at Yonville, and there, the first person she met upon whom she could fix her attention was—not the notary of the place, but the only clerk of that notary, Leon Dupuis. This is a young man who is making his own way and is about to set out for the capital. Any other than M. Bovary would have been disquieted by the visits of the young clerk, but M. Bovary is so ingenuous that he believes in his wife's virtue. Leon, wholly inexperienced, has the same idea. He goes away, and the occasion is lost; but occasions are easily found again.
There was in the neighborhood of Yonville one Rodolphe Boulanger (you understand that I am narrating). He was a man of thirty-four years old and of a brutal temperament; he had had much success and many easy conquests; he then had an actress for a mistress. He saw Madame Bovary; she was young and charming; he resolved to make her his mistress. The thing was easy; three meetings were sufficient to bring it about. The first time he came to an agricultural meeting, the second time he paid her a visit, the third time he accompanied her on a horseback ride which her husband judged necessary to her health; it was then, in a first visit to the forest, that the fall took place. Their meetings multiplied after this, at Rodolphe's chateau and in the health officer's garden. The lovers reached the extreme limits of voluptuousness! Madame Bovary wished to elope with Rodolphe, but while Rodolphe dared not say no, he wrote a letter in which he tried to show her that for many reasons, he could not elope. Stricken down by the reception of this letter, Madame Bovary had a brain fever, following which typhoid fever declared itself. The fever killed the love, but the malady remained. This is the second scene.
We come now to the third scene. The fall with Rodolphe was followed by a religious reaction, but it was short; Madame Bovary was about to fall anew. The husband thought the theatre useful in the convalescence of his wife and took her to Rouen. In a box opposite that occupied by M. and Madame Bovary, was Leon Dupuis, the notary's young clerk, who had made his way to Paris, and who had now become strangely experienced and knowing. He went to see Madame Bovary and proposed a rendezvous. Madame Bovary suggested the cathedral. On coming out of the cathedral, Leon proposed that they take a cab. She resisted at first, but Leon told her that this was done in Paris, and there was no further obstacle. The fall takes place in the cab! Meetings follow for Leon, as for Rodolphe, at the health officer's house, and then at a room which they rented in Rouen. Finally, she became weary of the second love, and here begins the scene of distress; it is the last of the romance.
Madame Bovary was prodigal, having lavished gifts upon Rodolphe and Leon; she had led a life of luxury and, in order to meet such expense had put her name to a number of promissory notes. She had obtained a power of attorney from her husband in the management of their common patrimony, fell in with a usurer who discounted the notes which, not being paid at the expiration of the time, were renewed under the name of a boon companion. Then came the stamped paper, the protests, judgments and executions, and, finally, the posting for sale of the furniture of Monsieur Bovary, who knew nothing of all this. Reduced to the most cruel extremities, Madame Bovary asked money from everybody, but got none. Leon had nothing, and recoiled frightened at the idea of a crime that was suggested to him for procuring funds. Having gone through every degree of humiliation, Madame Bovary turned to Rodolphe; she was not successful; Rodolphe did not have 3000 francs. There remained to her but one course: to beg her husband's pardon? No. To explain the matter to him? No, for this husband would be generous enough to pardon her, and that was a humiliation which she could not accept: she must poison herself.
We come now to grievous scenes. The husband is there beside his wife's icy body. He has her night robe brought, orders her wrapped in it and her remains placed in a triple coffin.
One day he opens a secretary and there finds Rodolphe's picture, his letters and Leon's. Do you think his love is then shattered? No, no! on the contrary, he is excited and extols this woman whom others have possessed, as proved by these souvenirs of voluptuousness which she had left to him; and from that moment he neglects his office, his family, lets go to the winds the last vestige of his patrimony, and is found dead one day in the arbor in his garden, holding in his hand a long lock of black hair. This is the romance. I have related it to you, suppressing no scene in it. It is called Madame Bovary. You could with justice give it another title and call it. Story of the Adulteries of a Provincial Woman.
Gentlemen, the first part of my task is fulfilled. I have related, I shall now cite, and after the citations come the indictments which are brought upon two counts: offense against public morals and offense against religious morals. The offense against public morals lies in the lascivious pictures which I have brought before your eyes; the offense against religious morals consists in mingling voluptuous images with sacred things. I now come to the citations. I will be brief, for you will read the entire romance. I shall limit myself to citing four scenes, or rather four tableaux. The first will be that of the fall with Rodolphe; the second, the religious reaction between the two adulteries; the third, the fall with Leon, which is the second adultery, and finally the fourth, the death of Madame Bovary.
Before raising the curtain on these four pictures, permit me to inquire what colour, what stroke of the brush M. Flaubert employs—for this romance is a picture, and it is necessary to know to what school he belongs—what colour he uses and what sort of portrait he makes of his heroine.
The general colour of the author, allow me to tell you, is a lascivious colour, before, during, and after the falls! When she is a child ten or twelve years of age, she is at the Ursuline convent. At this age, when the young girl is not formed, when the woman cannot feel those emotions which reveal to her a new world, she goes to confession:
"When she went to confession, she invented little sins in order that she might stay there longer, kneeling in the shadow, her hands joined, her face against the grating beneath the whispering of the priest. The comparisons of betrothed, husband, celestial lover, and eternal marriage, that recur in sermons, stirred within her soul depths of unexpected sweetness."
Is it natural for a little girl to invent small sins, since we know that for a child the smallest sins are confessed with the greatest difficulty? And again, at this age, when a little girl is not formed, does it not make what I have called a lascivious picture to show her inventing little sins in the shadow, under the whisperings of the priest, recalling comparisons she has heard about the affianced, the celestial lover and eternal marriage which gave her a shiver of voluptuousness?
Would you see Madame Bovary in her lesser acts, in a free state, without a lover and without sin? I pass over those words, "the next day," and that bride who left nothing to be discovered which could be divined or found out, as the phrase in itself is more than equivocal; but we shall see how it was with the husband:
The husband of the next day, "whom one would have taken for an old maid," the bridegroom of this bride who "left nothing to be discovered that could be divined," arose and went out, "his heart full of the felicities of the night, with mind tranquil and flesh content," going about "ruminating upon his happiness like one who is still enjoying after dinner the taste of the truffles he is digesting."
It now remains, gentlemen, to determine upon the literary stamp of M. Flaubert and upon the strokes of his brush. Now, at the Castle Vaubyessard do you know what most attracted this young woman, what struck her most forcibly? It is always the same thing—the Duke of Laverdiere, as a lover—"as they say, of Marie-Antoinette, between the Messrs. de Coigny and de Lauzun." "Emma's eyes turned upon him of their own accord, as upon something extraordinary and august; he had lived at Court and slept in the bed of queens!" Can it be said that this is only an historic parenthesis? Sad and useless parenthesis! History can authorise suspicions, but has not the right to establish them as fact. History has spoken of the necklace in all romances; history has spoken of a thousand things; but these are only suspicions and, I repeat, I know not by what authority these suspicions should be established as facts. And, since Marie-Antoinette died with the dignity of a sovereign and the calmness of a Christian, her life-blood should efface faults of which there are the strongest suspicions. M. Flaubert was in need of a striking example in the painting of his heroine, but Heaven knows why he has taken this one to express, all at once, the perverse instincts and the ambition of Madame Bovary!
Madame Bovary dances very well, and here she is waltzing:
"They began slowly, then went more rapidly. They turned; all around them was turning—the lamps, the furniture, the wainscoting, the floor, like a disc on a pivot. On passing near the doors the bottom of Emma's dress caught against his trousers. Their legs commingled; he looked down at her; she raised her eyes to his. A torpor seized her; she stopped. They started again, and with a more rapid movement; the Viscount, dragging her along, disappeared with her to the end of the gallery, where, panting, she almost fell, and for a moment rested her head upon his breast. And then, still turning, but more slowly, he guided her back to her seat. She leant back against the wall and covered her eyes with her hands."
I know well that the waltz is more or less like this, but that makes it no more moral!
Take Madame Bovary in her most simple acts, and we have always the same stroke of the brush, on every page. Even Justin, the neighbouring chemist's boy, undergoes some astonishment when he is initiated into the secrets of this woman's toilette. He carries his voluptuous admiration as far as the kitchen.
"With his elbows on the long board on which she was ironing, he greedily watched all these women's clothes spread out about him, the dimity petticoats, the fichus, the collars, and the drawers with running-strings, wide at the hips and growing narrower below.
"What is that for?" asked the young fellow, passing his hand over the crinoline or the hooks and eyes.
"'Why, haven't you ever seen anything?' Felicite answered laughing. 'As if your mistress, Madame Homais, didn't wear the same.'"
The husband also asks, in the presence of this fresh-smelling woman, whether the odour comes from the skin or from the chemise.
"Every evening he found a blazing fire, his dinner ready, easy-chairs, and a well-dressed woman, charming with an odour of freshness, though no one could say whence the perfume came, or if it were not her skin that made odourous her chemise."
Enough of quotations in detail! You know now the physiognomy of Madame Bovary in repose, when she is inciting no one, when she does not sin, when she is still completely innocent, and when, on her return from a rendezvous, she is by the side of her husband, whom she detests; you know now the general colour of the picture, the general physiognomy of Madame Bovary. The author has taken the greatest care, employed all the prestige of his style in painting the portrait of this woman. Has he tried to show her on the side of intelligence? Never. From the side of the heart? Not at all. On the part of mind? No. From the side of physical beauty? Not even that. Oh! I know very well that the portrait of Madame Bovary after the adultery is most brilliant; but the picture is above all lascivious, the post is voluptuous, the beauty a beauty of provocation.
I come now to the four important quotations; I shall make but four; I hold to my outline: I have said that the first would be the love for Rodolphe, the second the religious reaction, the third the love for Leon, the fourth her death.
Here is the first. Madame Bovary is near her fall, nearly ready to succumb.
"Domestic mediocrity drove her to lewd fancies, marriage tendernesses to adulterous desires. She would have liked Charles to beat her, that she might have a better right to hate him, to revenge herself upon him."
What was it that seduced Rodolphe and prepared him? The opening of Madame Bovary's dress which had burst in places along the seams of the corsage. Rodolphe took his servant to Bovary's house, to bleed him. The servant was very ill, and Madame Bovary held the basin.
"Madame Bovary took the basin to put it under the table. With the movement she made in bending down, her skirt (it was a summer frock with four flounces, yellow, long in the waist and wide in the skirt) spread out around her on the flags of the room; and as Emma, stooping, staggered a little as she stretched out her arms, the stuff here and there gave with the inflections of her bust."
Here is Rodolphe's reflection: "He again saw Emma in her room, dressed as he had seen her, and he undressed her."
It is the first day they had spoken to each other. "They looked at one another. A supreme desire made their dry lips tremble, and softly, without an effort, their fingers intertwined."
These are the preliminaries of the fall. It is necessary to read the fall itself.
"When the habit was ready, Charles wrote to Monsieur Boulanger that his wife was at his command, and that they counted on his good-nature.
"The next day at noon, Rodolphe appeared at Charles's door with two saddle-horses. One had pink rosettes at his ears and a deerskin side-saddle.
"Rodolphe had put on high soft boots, saying to himself that no doubt she had never seen anything like them. In fact, Emma was charmed with his appearance as he stood on the landing in his great velvet coat and white corduroy breeches."
"As soon as he felt the ground, Emma's horse set off at a gallop. Rodolphe galloped by her side."
Here they are in the forest.
"He drew her farther on to a small pool where duckweeds made a greenness on the water. Faded waterlilies lay motionless between the reeds. At the noise of their steps in the grass, frogs jumped away to hide themselves.
"'I am wrong! I am wrong!' she said. 'I am mad to listen to you!'"
"'Why? Emma! Emma!'"
"'Oh, Rodolphe!' said the young woman slowly, leaning on his shoulder."
"The cloth of her habit caught against the velvet of his coat. She threw back her white neck, swelling with a sigh, and faltering, in tears, with a long shudder and hiding her face, she gave herself up to him."
Then she arose and, after shaking off the fatigue of voluptuousness, returned to the domestic hearth, to that hearth where she would find a husband who adored her. After this first fall, after this first adultery, this first fault, is it a sentiment of remorse that she feels, in the presence of this deceived husband who adores her? No! with a bold front, she enters, glorifying adultery.
"But when she saw herself in the glass she wondered at her face. Never had her eyes been so large, so black, of so profound a depth. Something subtle about her being transfigured her. She repeated, 'I have a lover! a lover!' delighting at the idea as if a second puberty had come to her. So at last she was to know those joys of love, that fever of happiness of which she had despaired! She was entering upon marvels where all would be passion, ecstasy, delirium."
Thus, from this first fault, this first fall, she glorified adultery, she sang the song of adultery, its poesy and its delights. This, gentlemen, to me is much more dangerous and immoral than the fall itself! Gentlemen, all pales before this glorification of adultery, even the rendezvous at night some time after:
"To call her, Rodolphe threw a sprinkle of sand at the shutters. She jumped up with a start; but sometimes he had to wait, for Charles had a mania for chatting by the fireside, and he would not stop. She was wild with impatience; if her eyes could have done it, she would have hurled him out at the window. At last she would begin to undress, then take up a book, and go on reading very quietly as if the book amused her. But Charles, who was in bed, called to her to come too.
"'Come, now, Emma,' he said, 'it is time.'
"'Yes, I am coming,' she answered.
"Then, as the candles dazzled him, he turned to the wall and fell asleep. She escaped, smiling, palpitating, undressed.
"Rodolphe had a large cloak; he wrapped her in it, and putting his arm around her waist, he drew her without a word to the end of the garden."
"It was in the arbour, on the same seat of old sticks where formerly Leon had looked at her so amorously on the summer evenings. She never thought of him now.
"The cold of the nights made them clasp closer; the sighs of their lips seemed to them deeper; their eyes, that they could hardly see, larger; and in the midst of the silence low words were spoken that fell on their souls sonorous crystalline, and reverberating in multiplied vibrations."
Gentlemen, do you know of language anywhere in the world more expressive? Have you ever seen a more lascivious picture? Listen further:
"Never had Madame Bovary been so beautiful as at this period; she had that indefinable beauty that results from joy, from enthusiasm, from success, and that is only the harmony of temperament with circumstances. Her desires, her sorrows, the experience of pleasure and her ever-young illusions had, as soil and rain and winds and the sun make flowers grow, gradually developed her, and she at length blossomed forth in all the plentitude of her nature. Her eyelids seemed chiselled expressly for her long amorous looks in which the pupil disappeared, while a strong inspiration expanded her delicate nostrils and raised the fleshy corner of her lips, shaded in the light by a little black down. One would have thought that an artist apt in conception had arranged the curls of hair upon her neck; they fell in a thick mass, negligently and with the changing chances of their adultery that unbound them every day. Her voice now took more mellow inflections, her figure also; something subtle and penetrating escaped even from the folds of her gown and from the line of her foot. Charles, as when they were first married, thought her delicious and quite irresistible."
Up to this time this woman's beauty had consisted of her grace, her elegance, and her clothes; finally she is shown to you without a veil and you can say whether adultery has embellished her or not.
"'Take me away,' she cried, 'carry me off! Oh, I entreat you!'
"And she threw herself upon his mouth, as if to seize there the unexpected consent it breathed forth in a kiss."
Here is a portrait, gentlemen, which M. Flaubert knows well how to draw. How the eyes of this woman enlarge! Something ravishing expands around her, and then her fall! Her beauty has never been so brilliant as the next day after her fall and the days following. What the author shows you is the poetry of adultery, and I ask you again whether these lascivious pages do not express a profound immorality!
I come now to the second situation, which is the religious reaction. Madame Bovary is very ill, is at death's door. She is brought back to life, and her convalescence is made remarkable by a little religious awakening.
"It was at this hour that Monsieur Bournisien came to see her. He inquired after her health, gave her news, exhorted her to religion in a coaxing little gossip that was not without its charm. The mere thought of his cassock comforted her."
Finally, she goes to communion. I do not like much to meet these holy things in a romance; but at least, when one speaks of them, he need not travesty them by his language. Is there in this adulterous woman going to communion anything of the repentant faith of a Magdalene? No, no; she is always the same passionate woman, seeking illusions and seeking them even among the most august and holy things.
"One day, when at the height of her illness, she had thought herself dying, and had asked for the communion; and, while they were making the preparations in her room for the sacrament, while they were turning the night-table covered with sirups into an altar, and while Felicite was strewing dahlia flowers on the floor, Emma felt some power passing over her that freed her from her pains, from all perception, from all feeling. Her body, relieved, no longer thought; another life was beginning; it seemed to her that her being, mounting toward God, would be annihilated in that love like a burning incense that melts into vapour."
In what tongue does one pray to God in language addressed to a lover in the outpourings of adultery? Without doubt they will tell us it is local colour, and excuse it on the ground that a vapourous, romantic woman does nothing, even in religion, like anybody else. There is no local colour which can excuse this mixture! Voluptuous one day, religious the next, there is no woman, even in other countries, under the sky of Spain or Italy, who murmurs to God the adulterous caresses which she gives her lover. You can appreciate this language, gentlemen, and you will not excuse adulterous words being introduced in any way into the sanctuary of the Divinity!
This is the second situation. I now come to the third, which is a series of adulteries.
After the religious transition, Madame Bovary is again ready to fall. She goes to the theatre at Rouen. The play is Lucia di Lammermoor. Emma returns to her old self.
"Ah! if in the freshness of her beauty, before the pollution of marriage and the disillusions of adultery, she could have anchored her life upon some great, strong heart, then virtue, tenderness, voluptuousness, and duty blending, she would never have fallen from so high a happiness."
Seeing Lagardy upon the stage, she had a desire to run into his arms, to take refuge in his strength, even as in the incarnation of love, and of saying to him: "Take me, take me away, let us go! thine, thine, with thee are all my ardour and all my dreams!"
Leon was with the Bovarys.
"He was standing behind her, leaning with his shoulder against the wall of the box; now and again she felt herself shuddering beneath the hot breath from his nostrils falling upon her hair."
You were spoken to just now of the pollution of marriage; then you are shown adultery in all its poesy, in its ineffable seductions. I have said that the expression should be modified to read: the disillusions of marriage and the pollution of adultery. Very often when one is married, in the place of happiness without clouds which one promises himself, he finds but sacrifice and bitterness. The word disillusion can then be used justifiably, that of pollution, never.
Leon and Emma have a rendezvous at the cathedral. They look around or they do not, it makes no difference. They go out.
"A lad was playing about the close.
"'Go and get me a cab!'
"The child bounded off like a ball by the Rue Quartre-Vents; then they were alone a few minutes, face to face, and a little embarrassed.
"'Ah! Leon! Really—I don't know—if I ought,' she whispered. Then with a more serious air, 'Do you know, it is very improper?'
"'How so?' replied the clerk. 'It is done at Paris.'
"And that, as an irresistible argument, decided her."
We know now, gentlemen, that the fall did not take place in the cab. Through a scruple which honors him, the editor of the Revue de Paris has suppressed the passage of the fall in the cab. But if the Revue lowered the blinds of the cab, it does allow us to penetrate into the room where they found a rendezvous.
Emma wished to leave it, because she had given her word that she would return that evening.
"Moreover, Charles expected her, and in her heart she felt already that cowardly docility that is for some women at once the chastisement and atonement of adultery."
Once upon the sidewalk, Leon continued to walk; she followed him as far as the hotel; he mounted the stairs, opened the door and entered. What an embrace! Words followed each other quickly after the kisses. They told the disappointments of the week, their presentiments, their fears about the letters; but now all was forgotten, and they were face to face, with their laugh of voluptuousness and terms of endearment.
"The bed was large, of mahogany, in the shape of a boat. The curtains were in red levantine, that hung from the ceiling and bulged out too much towards the bell-shaped bed-side; and nothing in the world was so lovely as her brown head and white skin standing out against this purple colour, when, with a movement of shame, she crossed her bare arms, hiding her face in her hands.
"The warm room, with its discreet carpet, its gay ornaments, and its calm light, seemed made for the intimacies of passion."
We are told what happened in that room. Here is still a passage, very important as a piece of lascivious painting:
"How they loved that dear room, so full of gaiety, despite of its rather faded splendour! They always found the furniture in the same place, and sometimes hairpins that she had forgotten the Thursday before under the pedestal of the clock. They lunched by the fireside on a little round table, inlaid with rosewood. Emma carved, put bits on his plate with all sorts of coquettish ways, and she laughed with a sonorous and libertine laugh when the froth of the champagne ran over from the glass to the rings on her fingers. They were so completely lost in the possession of each other that they thought themselves in their own house, and that they would live there till death, like two spouses eternally young. They said 'our room,' 'our carpet,' she even said 'my slippers,' a gift of Leon's, a whim she had had. They were pink satin, bordered with swansdown. When she sat on his knees, her leg, then too short, hung in the air, and the dainty shoe, that had no back to it, was held on only by the toes to her bare foot.
"He for the first time enjoyed the inexpressible delicacy of feminine refinements. He had never met this grace of language, this reserve of clothing, these poses of the weary dove. He admired the exaltation of her soul and the lace on her petticoat. Besides, was she not 'a lady' and a married woman—a real mistress, in fine?"
This, gentlemen, is a description which leaves nothing to be desired, I hope, from the point of view of conviction. Here is another, or rather here is the continuation of the same scene:
"She used some words which inflamed him, with some kisses which drew forth his soul. Where had she learned these caresses almost immaterial, so profound and evasive were they?"
Oh! I well understand, gentlemen, the disgust inspired in her by that husband who wished to embrace her upon her return; I comprehend admirably that after a rendezvous of this kind, she felt with horror at night, "that man against her flesh stretched out asleep."
That is not all, for according to the last tableau that I cannot omit, she came to be weary of her voluptuousness.
"She was constantly promising herself a profound felicity on her next journey. Then she confessed to herself that she felt nothing extraordinary. This disappointment quickly gave way to a new hope, and Emma returned to him more inflamed, more eager than ever. She undressed hastily, tearing off the thin laces of her corset that nestled around her hips like a gliding snake. She went on tip-toe, barefooted, to see once more that the door was closed; then, pale, serious, and without speaking, with one movement she threw herself upon his breast with a long shudder."
I notice here two things, gentlemen, an admirable picture, the product of a talented hand, but an execrable picture from a moral point of view. Yes, M. Flaubert knows how to embellish his paintings with all the resources of art, but without the discretion of art. With him there is no gauze, no veils, it is nature in all her nudity, in all her crudity!
Still another quotation:
"They knew one another too well for any of those surprises of possession that increase its joys a hundred-fold. She was as sick of him as he was weary of her. Emma found again in adultery all the platitudes of marriage."
The platitudes of marriage and the poetry of adultery! Sometimes it is the pollution of marriage, sometimes the platitudes, but always the poetry of adultery. These, gentlemen, are the situations which M. Flaubert loves to paint, and which, unfortunately, he paints only too well.
I have related three scenes: the scene with Rodolphe, and you have seen the fall in the forest, the glorification of adultery, and this woman whose beauty became greater with this poesy. I have spoken of the religious transition, and you saw there a prayer imprinted with adulterous language. I have spoken of the second fall, I have unrolled before you the scenes which took place with Leon. I have shown you the scene of the cab—suppressed—and I have shown you the picture of the room and the bed. Now that we believe your convictions are formed, we come to the last scene,—that of the punishment.
Numerous excisions have been made, it would appear, by the Revue de Paris. Here are the terms in which M. Flaubert complains of it:
"Some consideration which I do not appreciate has led the Revue de Paris to suppress the number of December 1st. Its scruples being revived on the occasion of the present number, it has seen fit to cut out still more passages. In consequence, I wish to deny all responsibility in the lines which follow; the reader is informed that he sees only fragments and not the complete work."
Let us pass, then, over these fragments and come to the death. She poisons herself. She poisons herself, why? Ah! it is a very little thing, is death, she thinks; I am going to fall asleep and all will be finished. Then, without remorse, without an avowal, without a tear of repentance over this suicide which is brought about by adulteries in the night watches, she goes to receive the sacrament for the dying. Why the sacrament, since in her last thought she is going to annihilation? Why, when there is not a tear, not a sigh of the Magdalene over her crime of infidelity, her suicide, or her adulteries?
After this scene comes that of extreme unction. These are holy and sacred words for all. It is with these words that our ancestors have fallen asleep, our fathers and our relatives, and it is with them that one day our children will see us sleep. When one wishes to make use of them, it should be done with exactness; it is not necessary, at least to accompany them with the voluptuous image of a past life.
You know how the priest makes the holy unctions upon the forehead, the ears, upon the mouth, the feet, pronouncing at the same time the liturgical phrases: quidquam per pedes, per auras, per pectus, etc., always following with the words misericordia ... sin on one side and pity on the other. These holy, sacred words should be reproduced exactly; and if they cannot be reproduced exactly, at least nothing voluptuous should be put with them.
"She turned her face slowly and seemed filled with joy on seeing suddenly the violet stole, no doubt finding again, in the midst of a temporary lull in her pain, the lost voluptuousness of her first mystical transports, with the visions of eternal beatitude that were beginning.
"The priest rose to take the crucifix; then she stretched forward her neck as one who is athirst, and gluing her lips to the body of the Man-God, she pressed upon it with all her expiring strength the fullest kiss of love that she had ever given. Then he recited the Misereatur and the Indulgentiam, dipped his right thumb in the oil and began to give extreme unction. First, upon the eyes, that had so coveted all worldly pomp; then upon the nostrils, that had been greedy of the warm breeze and amorous odours; then upon the mouth that had uttered lies, that had been curled with pride and cried out in lewdness; then upon the hands, that had delighted in sensual touches; and finally upon the soles of the feet, so swift of yore, when she was running to satisfy her desires, and that would now walk no more."
Now, in the prayers for the dying which the priest recites, at the end or at the close of each verse occur these words: "Christian soul, go out to a higher region." They are murmured at the moment when the last breath of the dying escapes from his lips. The priest recites, etc.
"As the death-rattle became stronger the priest prayed faster; his prayers mingled with the stifled sobs of Bovary, and sometimes all seemed lost in the muffled murmur of the Latin syllables that tolled like a passing-bell."
After the fashion of alternating these words, the author has tried to make for them a sort of reply. He puts upon the sidewalk a blind man who intones a song of which the profane words are a kind of response to the prayers for the dying.
"Suddenly on the pavement was heard a loud noise of clogs and the clattering of a stick; and a voice rose—a raucous voice—that sang—
"'Maids in the warmth of a summer day Dream of love and of love alway. The wind is strong this summer day, Her petticoat has flown away.'"
This is the moment when Madame Bovary dies.
Thus we have here the picture: on one side the priest reciting the prayers for the dying; on the other the hand-organ player who excites from the dying woman
"an atrocious, frantic, despairing laugh, thinking she saw the hideous face of the poor wretch that stood out against the eternal night like a menace.... She fell back upon the mattress in a convulsion. They all drew near. She was dead."
And then later, when the body is cold, above all should the cadaver, which the soul has just left, be respected. When the husband is there on his knees, weeping for his wife, when he extends the shroud over her, any other would have stopped, but M. Flaubert makes a final stroke with his brush:
"The sheet sank in from her breast to her knees, and then rose at the tips of her toes."
This the scene of death. I have abridged it and have grouped it after a fashion. It is now for you to judge and determine whether there is a mixture of the sacred and the profane in it, or rather, a mixture of the sacred and the voluptuous.
I have related the romance, I have brought a charge against it and, permit me to say, against the kind of art that M. Flaubert cultivates, the kind that is realistic but not discreet. You shall see to what limits he has gone. A copy of the Artiste lately came to my hand; it is not for us to make accusations against the Artiste, but to learn to what school M. Flaubert belongs, and I ask your permission to read you some lines, which have nothing to do with M. Flaubert's prosecuted book, only to show to what a degree he excels in this kind of painting. He loves to paint temptations, especially the temptations to which Madame Bovary succumbed. Well, I find a model of its kind in the lines to follow, from the Artiste, for the month of January, signed Gustave Flaubert, upon the temptation of Saint Anthony. Heaven knows it is a subject upon which many things might be said, but I do not believe it possible to give more vivacity to the image, stronger lines to the picture. Apollonius says to Saint Anthony:—
"What is knowledge? What is glory? Wouldst thou refresh thine eyes under the humid jasmines? Wouldst thou feel thy body sink itself, as in a wave, in the sweet flesh of swooning women?"
Ah! well! here is the same colour, the same strength of the brush, the same vivacity of expression!
To resume. I have analyzed the book, I have related the story without forgetting a page, I have then made the charge, which was the second part of my task. I have exhibited some of the portraits, I have shown Madame Bovary in repose, by the side of her husband, in contact with those whom she could not tempt, and I have pointed out to you the lascivious colour of that portrait! Then I have analyzed some of the great scenes: the fall with Rodolphe, the religious transition, the meetings with Leon, the death scene, and in all this I find the double count of offense against public morals and against religion.
I had need of but two scenes: Do you not see the moral outrage in the fall with Rodolphe? Do you not see the glorification of adultery in it? And then, the religious outrage, which I find in the drawing of the confession, in the religious transition, and finally, the scene of death.
You have before you, gentlemen, three guilty ones: M. Flaubert, the author of the book, M. Pichat who accepted it, and M. Pillet, who printed it. In this matter, there is no misdemeanor without publicity, and all those concerned in the publicity should be equally blamed. But we hasten to say that the manager of the Revue and the printer are only in the second rank. The principal offender is the author, M. Flaubert; M. Flaubert who admonished by a note from the editor, protested against the suppression which had been made in his work. After him comes M. Laurent Pichat, from whom you will demand a reason, not for the suppression which he has made, but of that which he should have made; and finally comes the printer, who is a sentinel at the door of scandal. M. Pillet, besides, is an honourable man against whom I have nothing to say. We ask but one thing of you, which is to apply the law to him. Printers should read; when they do not read or have read what they print, it is at their own risk and peril. Printers are not machines; they have a privilege, they take an oath, they are in a special situation and they are responsible. Again, they are, if you will permit the expression, like an advanced guard; if they allow a misdemeanor to pass, it is like allowing the enemy to pass. Make the penalty as mild as you will for Pillet, be as indulgent as you like with the manager of the Revue; but as for Flaubert, the principal culprit, it is for him you should reserve your severities!
My task is accomplished; we await the objections on the part of the defense. The general objection will be: But after all the romance is moral on the whole, for is not adultery punished?
To this objection there are two replies: I believe that in a hypothetically moral work, a moral conclusion cannot be reached by the presentation of the lascivious details we find here. And again I say: that the work is not moral at the foundation.
I say, gentlemen, that lascivious details cannot be covered by a moral conclusion, otherwise one could relate all the orgies imaginable, describe all the turpitude of a public woman, making her die in a charity bed of a hospital. It would be allowable to study and depict all the poses of lasciviousness. It would be going against all the rules of good sense. It would place the poison at the door of all, the remedy at the doors of few, if there were any remedy. Who are the ones to read M. Flaubert's romance? Are they men who are interested in political or social economy? No! The light pages of Madame Bovary fall into hands still lighter, into the hands of young girls, sometimes of married women. Well, when the imagination has been seduced, when this seduction has fallen upon the heart, when the heart shall have told it to the senses, do you believe that cold reason would have much power against this seduction of sense and sentiment? And then, man should not clothe himself too much in his power and his virtue; man has low instincts and high ideas, and, with all, virtue is only the consequence of an effort ofttimes laborious. Lascivious pictures have generally more influence than cold reason. This is what I respond to that theory, that is, as a first response; but I have a second.
I hold that the romance of Madame Bovary, from a philosophic point of view, is not moral. Without doubt Madame Bovary died of poison; she suffered much, it is true; but she died at her own time and in her own way, not because she had committed adultery but because she wished to; she died in all the prestige of her youth and beauty; she died after having two lovers, leaving a husband who loved her, who adored her, who found Rodolphe's portrait, his letters and Leon's, who read the letters of a woman twice an adulteress, and who, after that, loved her still more, even on the other side of the tomb. Who would condemn this woman in the book? No one. Such is the conclusion. There is not in the book a person who condemns her. If you can find one wise person, if you can find one single principal virtue by which the adulteress is condemned, I am wrong. But if in all the book there is not a person who makes her bow her head, there is not an idea, a line, by virtue of which the adulteress is scourged, it is I who am right, and the book is immoral!
Should it be in the name of conjugal honor that the book be condemned? No, for conjugal honor is represented here by a devoted husband who, after the death of his wife, meets Rodolphe and seeks to find upon the face of the lover the features of the woman he loved. I ask you whether you could stigmatize this woman in the name of conjugal honor when there is not in the book a single word where the husband does not bow before the adulteress?
Should it be in the name of public opinion? No, for public opinion is personified in a grotesque being, in the Homais apothecary surrounded by ridiculous persons whom this woman dominated.
Will you condemn it in the name of religious sentiment? No, for this sentiment you see personified in the curate Bournisien, a priest as grotesque as the apothecary, believing only in physical suffering, never in moral, and little more than a materialist.
Will you condemn it in the name of the author's conscience? I know not what the author thinks, but in chapter 10, the only philosophical one of his book, I read the following:
"There is always after the death of any one a kind of stupefaction; so difficult is it to grasp this advent of nothingness and to resign ourselves to believe in it."
This is not a cry of unbelief, but it is at least a cry of scepticism. Without doubt it is difficult to comprehend and believe it, but why this stupefaction which manifest's itself at death? Why? Because this surprise is something that is a mystery, because it is difficult to comprehend and judge, although one must resign himself to it. And as for me, I say that if death is the beginning of annihilation, that if the devoted husband feels his love increase on learning of the adulteries of his wife, that if opinion is represented by a grotesque being, that if religious sentiment is represented by a ridiculous priest, one person alone is right, and that is Emma Bovary,—Messalina was right against Juvenal.
This is the conclusion of the book, drawn not by the author, but by a man who reflects and goes to the depths of things, by a man who has sought in this book for a person who could rule this woman. There is none there. The only person who ruled was Madame Bovary. It is necessary to seek elsewhere than in the book; we must look to Christian morals, which are the foundation of modern civilization. By this standard all explains itself, all becomes clear.
In its name the adulteress is stigmatized, condemned, not because her act is an imprudence, exposing her to disillusions and regrets, but because it is a crime against the family. You stigmatize and condemn suicide, not because it is a foolish thing (the fool is not responsible), not because it is a cowardly act (for it sometimes requires a certain physical courage), but because it is a scorn of duty in the life we are living, and the cry of unbelief in the life to come.
This code of morals stigmatizes realistic literature, not because it paints the passions: hatred, vengeance, love—the world sees but the surface and art should paint them—but not paint them without bridle, without limits. Art without rules is not art. It is like a woman who discards all clothing. To impose upon art the one rule of public decency is not to subject it, not to dishonor it. One grows great only by rule. These, gentlemen, are the principles which we profess, this the doctrine which we defend with conscience.
* * * * *
Plea for the Defense, by
Gentlemen, M. Gustave Flaubert has been accused before you of making a bad book; of having, in this book, outraged public morals and religion. M. Gustave Flaubert is beside me and affirms before you that he has made an honest book; he affirms before you that the thought in his book, from the first line to the last, is a moral thought; and that, if it were not perverted (and you have seen during the last hour how great a talent one may have for perverting a thought) it would be (and will become again presently) for you, as it has been already for the readers of the book, an eminently moral and religious thought capable of being translated into these words: the excitation of virtue through the horror of vice.
I bring M. Gustave Flaubert's affirmation here to you, and I put it fearlessly in the light of the prosecuting attorney's speech, for this affirmation is grave; and it is through the personality of its maker, through the circumstances which have led to the writing of the book, that I am going to make it understood to you.
The affirmation is grave on account of the personality that makes it: and, permit me to say to you that M. Gustave Flaubert is not to me an unknown man who has instructions to give me, and who has need of recommendations from me—I speak not only of his morality but of his position. I come here, into this precinct, fulfilling a duty of conscience after reading the book, after feeling myself exalted, by this reading, in all that is honest and profoundly religious. But, at the same time that I come fulfilling a duty of conscience, I come to fulfill a duty of friendship. I remember, and I can never forget, that his father was an old friend of mine. His father, by whose friendship I was long honoured, to the last day of his life, his father,—permit me to say his illustrious father,—was for thirty years surgeon-in-chief at the hospital at Rouen. He was in charge of the Dupuytren dissecting room, and in giving to science great instruction, he has endowed it with some great names; I will mention but one, that of Cloquet. He has not only left for himself a good name in science, he has left a grand memento in his immense service to humanity. And at the same time I am recalling my bond of friendship with him, I wish to tell you that his son, who has been dragged into Court for an outrage against morals and religion, this son is the friend of my children, as I was the friend of his father. I know his thought, I know his intentions, and the counsellor has the right here of placing himself as a personal guaranty of his client.
Gentlemen, a great name and great memories have obligations. Children were not wanting to M. Flaubert. There were three of them, two sons, and a daughter who died at twenty-one. The eldest has been judged worthy to succeed his father; and he is to-day, as he has been for many years, carrying on the mission which his father conducted for thirty years. The younger son is here; he is at your bar. In leaving them a considerable fortune and a great name, their father has left upon them the obligation of being men of intelligence and of heart; that is to say, useful men. The brother of my client has been thrown into a career where each day brings its own service. This one has devoted his life to study and to letters, the work before you being his first work. This first work, gentlemen, which provokes the passions, as the Government Attorney has said, is the result of long study and much thought. M. Gustave Flaubert is a man of serious character, turning his attention, through his very nature, to serious subjects, to sad subjects. He is not the man whom the prosecuting attorney, in fifteen or twenty lines bitten out here and there, has presented to you as a maker of lascivious pictures. No; there is in his nature, I repeat, all that is gravest, most serious, and even the saddest that one could imagine. His book, by restoring a single phrase, by putting beside the quoted lines the lines which precede and follow, will take on its veritable colour, as soon as you understand the intentions of the author. And, of the too clever words to which you have listened, there will remain to you only the memory of a sentiment of profound admiration for a talent which can thus transform things.
I have told you that M. Gustave Flaubert was a serious and grave man. His studies, conforming to his nature, have been serious and broad. They have embraced not only all branches of literature, but the right branches. M. Flaubert is not the man to be content with observations of even the best where he lived; he has sought out the best in other places; Qui mores multorum vidit et urbes.
After his father's death and the completion of his studies at college, he visited Italy, and from 1848 to 1852 traveled through the countries of the Orient,—Egypt, Palestine, Asia Minor—in which countries, doubtless, a man traveling through and bringing to his travels a fine intelligence, could acquire something exalted, something poetic, as well as the colour and prestige of style which the public minister has just pointed out, to make good the misdemeanor that he imputes. That prestige of style, those literary qualities pointed to with eclat in this debate, are there, but after no fashion can they be brought up for indictment.
Since his return, in 1852, M. Gustave Flaubert has written and sought to produce in a grand outline the result of his close and serious studies, the result of what he had gathered in his journeys.
What is the outline he has chosen, the subject he has taken, and how has he treated it? My client belongs to any of the schools, whose names I have just learned in the Attorney's speech. Heaven knows he belongs to the realistic school, in that he occupies himself with the reality of things. He belongs to the psychological school, in the sense that it is not material things which engage him, but human sentiment and the development of the passions wherever the human being is placed. He belongs to the romantic school less perhaps than to any other, because, if romanticism appears in his book, as does realism, it appears only in some ironical expressions here and there, which the public attorney has taken seriously. What M. Flaubert especially wished was to take a subject of study from real life, creating from it some true types of the middle class, arriving finally at some useful result. Yes, what has most occupied my client in the studies to which he has devoted himself, is precisely this useful aim, followed out in putting upon the scene three or four personages from actual society, living in the conditions of real life, and presenting them to the eyes of the reader in a true picture of what is met with very often in the world.
The Prosecuting Attorney, summing up his opinion of Madame Bovary, has said:
"The second title of this work might be: The Story of the Adulteries of a Provincial Woman."
I protest vigorously against this title. This alone, had I not listened to your speech from beginning to end, would prove to me the prejudice in which you are firmly bound. No! the second title of this work is not: The Story of the Adulteries of a Provincial Woman; it is, if it is absolutely necessary to have a second title: the story of the education too often met with in the provinces; the story of the perils to which such an education leads; the story of degradation, of dishonesty, of suicide, considered as a consequence of a first fault, and a fault led up to through wrong-doing, by which a young woman is often carried away. It is the story of an education, and the deplorable life of which such an education is often the preface. This is what M. Flaubert desired to paint, and not the adulteries of a woman of the provinces. You will see this at once on reading the incriminated book.
Now, the prosecuting attorney perceives in all this, and through it all, a lascivious colour. If it were possible to take the number of lines of the book which he has cut out, and put parallel to them other lines that he has left, we should have a total proportion of about one to five hundred; and you would see that this proportion of one to five hundred was in no way of a lascivious colour; it exists only under the conditions of being cut out and commented upon.
Now, what has M. Flaubert desired to paint? First, education given to a woman which is above the conditions to which she was born—something that too often happens among us, it must be confessed. Then, the mixture of discordant elements that are thus produced in the intelligence of the woman; and then when marriage comes, especially if the marriage is not in accordance with the education, but rather with the conditions under which the woman was born, the author explains all these facts which occur in the situation that he depicts.
What has he shown? He shows a woman entering upon vice because of a disappointing match; then vice in its last degree, degradation and wretchedness. Presently, when through the reading of several passages, I shall have made you acquainted with the book as a whole, I shall demand of this tribunal the privilege of their accepting the question on these terms: Would this book, put into the hands of a young woman, have the effect of leading her towards easy pleasures, towards adultery, or, on the contrary, would it show her the danger of the first step, and bring upon her a shiver of horror? The question thus put, your conscience would soon decide.
I have here stated that M. Flaubert wished to paint a woman who, instead of trying to adapt herself to the conditions in which she was placed, to her position and her birth, instead of seeking to make herself a part of the life to which she belonged, was occupied with a thousand foreign aspirations drawn from an education too far above her; instead of accommodating herself to the duties of her position, of being the tranquil wife of a country doctor with whom she should pass her days, in place of seeking her happiness in her house and in her marriage, sought it in interminable fancies; and then, meeting a young man upon the way who coquetted with her, she played the same game with him (Heaven knows they were both inexperienced enough!) urging herself on by degrees, and frightened when she turned to the religion of her early years and found it insufficient. We shall see presently why this was so. At first, the young man's ignorance and her own preserves her from danger. But she soon meets a man, of the kind of which there are too many in the world, who takes possession of her—this poor woman, already perverted and ready to stray. Here is the main point; now it is necessary to see what the book makes of it.
The Public Minister becomes incensed, and I believe wrongly so from the standard of conscience and the human heart, over that first scene, where Madame Bovary finds a sort of pleasure, of joy, in having broken her prison, and returns to her home saying: "I have a lover." Do you believe that this is not the first cry of the human heart! The proof is between you and me. But we must look a little further, and then we shall see that, if the first moment, the first instant of the fall, excites in this woman a sort of transport of joy, of delirium, in some lines farther on the deception makes itself manifest and, following the expression of the author, she seems humiliated in her own eyes.
Yes, deception, grief, and remorse come to her at the same time. The man in whom she has confided, to whom she has given herself up, has only made use of her for the moment, as he would a plaything; remorse and regret now rend her heart. It has shocked you to hear this called the disillusion of adultery; you would have preferred pollution at the hand of a writer who placed before you a woman who, not having comprehended marriage, felt herself polluted by contact with her husband, and who, having sought her ideal elsewhere, found the disillusions of adultery. This word has shocked you; in the place of disillusions, you would have wished pollution of adultery. This tribunal shall be the judge. As for me, if I had depicted the same personage I would have said to her: Poor woman! if you believe that your husband's kisses are monotonous and wearisome, if you have found only platitudes—this word has been especially brought to our notice—the platitudes of marriage—if you seem to see pollution in a union where love does not preside, take care, for your dreams are an illusion, and you will one day be cruelly deceived. But this man, gentlemen, who knows how to speak strongly, makes use of the word pollution to express what we would have called disillusion, and he has used the true word, although vague to him who can bring to it no intelligence. I would have liked better his not speaking so strongly, his not pronouncing the word pollution, but rather averting the woman from deception, from disillusion, and saying to her: Where you believe you will find love, you will find only libertinism; where you think you will find happiness, there is only bitterness. A husband who goes tranquilly about his affairs, who kisses you, puts on his house cap and eats his soup with you, is a prosaic husband revolting to you; you aspire to a man who will love you, idolize you; poor child! that man will be a libertine who will have taken you for a minute for the sake of playing with you. There will be some illusion about it the first time, perhaps the second; you may come back home joyous, singing the song of adultery. "I have a lover!" but the third time you will not wish to go to him, for the disillusion will have come. The man you have dreamed of will have lost all his prestige; you will have found again in love the platitudes of marriage, and this time with scorn, disdain, disgust and poignant remorse.
This, gentlemen, is what M. Flaubert has said, what he has painted, what is in each line of his book; and this is what distinguishes his work from all other works of the kind. Under his hand, the great irregularities of society figure on each page, and adultery walks abroad full of disgust and shame. He has brought into the common relations of life the most powerful teaching that can be given to a young woman. And Heaven knows that to those of our young women who do not find in lofty, honest principle and stern religion enough to keep them steady in the accomplishment of their duties as mothers, or who do not find it in that resignation and practical science of life which bids us accommodate ourselves to what we have, but who carry their dreams to the outside (and the most honest, the most pure of our young women, in the prosaic life of their households, are sometimes tormented by that which is going on outside), a book like this would bring but one reflection. Of that you may be sure. And this is what M. Flaubert has intended.
And notice carefully one thing: M. Flaubert is not the man who has painted a charming adultery for you, in order to arrive later with the Deus ex machina; no, you are carried too quickly on to the last page. Adultery with him is only a series of torments, remorse and regret; and then he arrives at the final, frightful expiation. It is excessive. If M. Flaubert sins, it is through excess; and I will show you presently what is meant by this. The expiation is not allowed to wait, and it is that which makes the book eminently moral and useful. It does not promise the young woman some beautiful years at the end of which she can say: after this, one is willing to die. No! from the second day there is bitterness and disillusion. The conclusion for morality is found in each line of the book.
This book is written with a power of observation to which the Government Attorney has rendered justice. And it is here that I would call your attention to it, because if the accusation is without foundation, it must fall. This book is written with a power truly remarkable for observing the smallest details. An article in the Artiste, signed Flaubert, has served as yet another text for the accusation. Let the Government Attorney note, first that this article is foreign to the indictment; then, that we will hold him innocent and moral in the eyes of this tribunal on one condition, which is, that he will have the goodness to read the entire article from the place of the cutting.
The most noticeable thing in M. Flaubert's book is what some accounts have called a fidelity wholly Daguerreian in the reproduction of the type of things, and in the intimate nature of the thought of the human heart;—and this reproduction becomes more powerful still by the magic of his style. Now notice, that if he had applied this fidelity only to the scenes of degradation, you could say with reason: the author has been pleased to paint the scenes of degradation with that power of description which is peculiarly his own. From the first to the last page of his book, he keeps close to all the facts in Emma's life, without any kind of reserve, from her infancy in her father's house, to her education in the convent, sparing nothing. And those of us who have read the book from beginning to end can say—and this is a notable point which should put him in a favorable light with you, not only bringing him acquittal, but removing from him every kind of misunderstanding—that when he comes to the difficult parts, precisely at the time of degradation, in place of doing as some classic authors have done, (as the Public Attorney knows full well, but whom he forgot when he wrote his address) a few pages of whose writings I have with me here, (not to read to you but for you to run through in Court—and I might quote a few lines here presently), in place of doing as our great classic authors, our great masters have done, who never hesitate at description when they have come to the scene of a union of the senses between man and woman, M. Flaubert contents himself with a word. All his descriptive power disappears, because his thought is chaste; because where he might write in his own manner and with the magic of his style, he feels that there are some things that should not be described or even touched upon. The Public Attorney finds that he has still said too much. When I have shown him some men who, in great philosophical works, have delighted in descriptions of these things, and when in the light of this fact I have shown that this man, who possesses the descriptive faculty to so high a degree and who, far from using it, desists and abstains from it, I shall indeed have the right to ask why this accusation has been brought?
Nevertheless, gentlemen, just as he has described to us the pleasant cradle of Emma's infancy, with its foliage, its rose-colored and white flowers which gladdened her with their blossoms and their perfume, so he has described her when she went out from there into other paths, into paths where she found mire, where her feet became soiled from its contact, when the mire rose higher than herself and—he need not have told it! But that would be to suppress the book completely, and I am going far enough to say would suppress its moral element under a pretext of defending it; for if a fault cannot be shown, if it cannot be pointed out, if in a picture of real life which aims to show, through thought, peril, fall and punishment, you would debar painting such as this, it is evident you would cut out of the book its whole purpose.
This book was not a matter of a few hours' amusement for my client. It represents two or three years of incessant study. And now I am going to tell you something more: M. Flaubert who, after so many years of labor, so many of study, so many journeys, so many notes culled from authors he had read,—and Heaven grant you may see the fountain-head from which he has drawn, for this strange fact will take upon itself his justification—M. Flaubert (and his lascivious colour)—you will find impregnated wholly with Bossuet and Massillon. It is in the study of these authors that we shall presently find him seeking, not to plagiarize, but to reproduce in his descriptions the thoughts and colours employed by them. And can you believe, after all that, having done this work with so much love for it, and with a decided purpose, that, full of confidence in himself, and after so much study and meditation, he would wish to throw himself immediately into the arena? He would have done it, no doubt, had he been an unknown man, if his name had belonged to himself in sole ownership, had he believed himself able to dispose of it and use it as it seemed good to him; but, I repeat, he is one of those upon whom rests the obligation of rank. His name is Flaubert, he is the second son of M. Flaubert, and he has desired to make a place for himself in literature, profoundly respecting the moral and religious phases of it,—not through the notoriety of a lawsuit, for such a purpose could not enter his thoughts—but through personal dignity, not wishing his name to be at the head of a publication that did not seem to some persons and to those in whom he had faith, worthy of being published. M. Flaubert read in fragments, and even in totality, to friends holding high places in the world of letters, the pages which he hoped some day to print, and I assure you that not one of them has been offended by what has just now excited such lively severity on the part of the Government Attorney. No one even thought of it. They simply examined and studied the literary value of the book. As to the moral purpose, it is so evident, so written in every line in terms so unequivocal that there was no need of raising the question.
Reassured upon the value of the book, encouraged, furthermore, by the most eminent men of the press, M. Flaubert thought only of printing it and giving it to the public. I repeat: everyone was unanimous in rendering homage to its literary merit, to its style, and at the same time to the excellent thought that pervaded it, from the first line to the last. And when this action was brought it was not he alone who was surprised and profoundly troubled, but, permit me to say, we, who cannot understand the action, and I myself most of all, who had read the book with a very lively interest as soon as it was published. But we are his intimate friends. Heaven knows that there are some shades of meaning that might escape us in our easy-going habits which never could escape women of great intelligence, of great purity and unquestioned chastity. These are not names which can be pronounced in this audience, but if I could tell you what has been said to Flaubert, what has been said to me, even, by mothers of families who have read this book, if I could tell you their astonishment, after receiving from that reading an impression so good that they believed they should thank the author for it, if I could tell you their astonishment, their grief, when they learned that this book was thought to oppose public morals and religious faith, the faith of their whole life, God knows there would be in the sum of this appreciation sufficient to fortify me, had I need of being fortified for this combat with the Public Attorney.
However, in the midst of all the appreciative voices of contemporaneous literature there is one which I wish to mention to you. There is one who is not only respected by reason of a grand and beautiful character, who, in the midst of adversity, of suffering even, has struggled courageously each day; who is not only great by virtue of many deeds useless to recall here, but great through his literary works which must be recalled because here he is an authority; great especially through the purity which exists in all his works, through the chastity of all his writings: Lamartine.
Lamartine did not know my client; he did not know that he existed. Lamartine, at his home in the country, read Madame Bovary in each number of the Revue de Paris, and Lamartine found there such power that it recurred to him again and again, as I am going to tell you.
After some days, Lamartine returned to Paris, and the next day informed himself where M. Gustave Flaubert lived. He sent to the Revue to learn where M. Gustave Flaubert lived, who had published in the magazine some articles under the title of Madame Bovary. He then directed his secretary to go and present his compliments to M. Flaubert, to express for him the satisfaction he had found in reading his book, and also his desire to see the new author who revealed himself in an essay of that order.
My client went to Lamartine's house; and he found in him not only a man who encouraged him, but who said to him:
"You have made the best book I have read in twenty years."
In a word, his praise was such that, in his modesty, my client scarcely liked to repeat it to me. Lamartine proved to him that he had read each number, proving it most graciously by repeating entire pages from them. Lamartine only added:
"While I have read even to the last page without reserve, I did blame the last pages. You have hurt me, you have literally made me suffer! The punishment is beyond all proportion to the crime; you have created a pitiably frightful death! Assuredly the woman who defiles the marriage bed should expect punishment, but this is horrible; it is a punishment such as I have never seen. You have gone too far; you have done mischief to my nerves. That power of description which you have applied to the last moment of death has left upon me an indelible suffering!"
And when Gustave Flaubert said to him:
"But, Monsieur de Lamartine, do you know that I have been indicted and summoned to a court of correction for an offense against public morals and religion for having made a book like that?"
"I believe that I have been all my life a man who, in literary works as well as others, comprehends fully what makes for public and religious morals; my dear child, it is not possible to find in France a tribunal that will convict you."
This is what passed between Lamartine and Flaubert yesterday, and I have the right to say to you that this approval is among those which are worthy to be well weighed.
This well understood, let us see how my conscience could tell me that Madame Bovary was a good book, a good deed. And I ask your permission to add that I do not take to these things easily, this facility is not my habit. Some literary works I take up which, although emanating from our great writers, do not remain two minutes before my eyes. I will pass to you in the council chamber some lines that I took no delight in reading, and I will ask your permission to say to you that when I came to the end of M. Flaubert's work, I was convinced that a cutting made by the Revue de Paris was the cause of all this. I shall ask you further to add my appreciation to this highest and most distinguished appreciation which I am about to mention.
Here, gentlemen, is a portfolio filled with the opinions of all the literary men of our time upon the work with which we are engaged, among whom are some of the most distinguished, expressing their astonishment upon reading this new work, at once so moral and so useful!
Now, how has it come about that a work like this can incur a process of law? If you will permit me, I will tell you. The Revue de Paris, whose reading committee had read the work in its entirety, for the manuscript was sent long before it was published, evidently found nothing to criticise. When it came time to print the copy of December 1st, 1856, one of the directors of the Revue became affrighted at the scene in the cab. He said: "This is not conventional, we must suppress it." Flaubert was offended by the suppression. He was not willing that it should be made unless a note to that effect were placed at the bottom of the page. It was he who exacted the note. It is he who, on account of his self-respect as an author, neither wishing to have his work mutilated nor, on the other hand wishing to make trouble for the Revue, said: "You may suppress it if it seems best to you, but you will state that you have suppressed something." And they agreed upon the following note:
"The directors have seen the necessity of suppressing a passage here which did not seem fitting to the Revue de Paris; we give notice of it to the author."
Here is the suppressed passage which I am going to read to you. We have only a proof, which we had great difficulty in procuring. The first part has not a single correction; one word is corrected in the second part.
"'Where to, sir?' asked the coachman.
"'Where you like,' said Leon, forcing Emma into the cab.
"And the lumbering machine set out. It went down the Rue Grand-Pont, crossed the Place des Arts, the Quai Napoleon, the Pont Neuf, and stopped short before the statue of Pierre Corneille.
"'Go on,' cried a voice that came from within.
"The cab went on again, and as soon as it reached the Carrefour Lafayette, set off down-hill, and entered the station at a gallop.
"'No, straight on!' cried the same voice.
"The cab came out by the gate, and soon having reached the Cours, trotted quietly beneath the elm-trees. The coachman wiped his brow, put his leather hat between his knees, and drove his carriage beyond the side alley by the meadow to the margin of the waters.
"It went along by the river, along the towing-path paved with sharp pebbles, and for a long while in the direction of Oyssel, beyond the isles.
"But suddenly it turned with a dash across Quatre-mares, Sotteville, La Grande-Chaussee, the Rue d'Elbeuf, and made its third halt in front of the Jardin des Plantes.
"'Get on, will you?' cried the voice more furiously.
"And at once resuming its course, it passed by Saint-Sever, by the Quai des Curandiers, the Quai aux Meules, once more over the bridge, by the Place du Champ de Mars, and behind the hospital gardens, where old men in black coats were walking in the sun along the terrace all green with ivy. It went up the Boulevard Bouvreuil, along the Boulevard Cauchoise, then the whole of Mont-Riboudet to the Deville hills.
"It came back; and then, without any fixed plan or direction, wandered about at hazard. The cab was seen at Saint-Pol, at Lescure, at Mont Gargan, at La Rouge-Marc and Place du Gaillardbois; in the Rue Maladrerie, Rue Dinanderie, before Saint-Romain, Saint-Vivien, Saint-Maclou, Saint-Nicaise—in front of the Customs, at the 'Vieille Tour,' the 'Trois Pipes,' and the Monumental Cemetery. From time to time, the coachman on his box cast despairing eyes at the public-houses. He could not understand what furious desire for locomotion urged these individuals never to wish to stop. He tried to now and then, and at once exclamations of anger burst forth behind him. Then he lashed his perspiring jades afresh, but indifferent to their jolting, running up against things here and there, not caring if he did, demoralised, and almost weeping with thirst, fatigue, and depression.
"And on the harbour in the midst of the drays and casks and in the streets at the corners, the good folk opened large wonder-stricken eyes at this sight, so extraordinary in the provinces, a cab with blinds drawn, and which appeared thus constantly shut more closely than a tomb, and tossing about like a vessel.
"Once, in the middle of the day, in the open country, just as the sun beat most fiercely against the old plated lanterns, a bared hand passed beneath the small blinds of yellow canvas, and threw out some scraps of paper that scattered in the wind, and farther off alighted like white butterflies on a field of red clover all in bloom.
"At about six o'clock, the carriage stopped in a back street of the Beauvoisine Quarter, and a woman got out, who walked with her veil down, and without turning her head.
"On reaching the inn, Madame Bovary was surprised not to see the diligence. Hivert, who had waited for her fifty-three minutes, had at last started.
"Nothing, however, could prevent her setting out; she had promised to return that evening. Moreover, Charles expected her, and in her heart she felt already that cowardly docility that is for some women at once the chastisement and atonement of adultery."
M. Flaubert calls my attention to the fact that the Public Attorney condemned this last clause.
THE GOVERNMENT ATTORNEY:
No, I have pointed it out.
It is certain that if he had made a reproach it would have fallen before these words: "at once the chastisement and atonement of adultery." Furthermore, that could be made a matter of reproach with as much foundation as the other quotations, for in all that you have condemned there is no point that can be seriously held.
Now, gentlemen, this kind of fantastic journey having displeased the editors of the Revue, it was suppressed. This was certainly excess of reserve on the part of the Revue; and it is very certain that it is not an excess of reserve which could furnish material for a lawsuit. You shall see now what has furnished the material. What is not seen, what has been suppressed, comes thus to appear a very strange thing. People imagine many things, and often those which do not exist, as you have seen from the reading of the original passage. Heavens! Do you know what they imagined? Probably that there was in the suppressed passage something analogous to that which you will have the goodness to read in one of the most marvellous romances from the pen of an honorable member of the French Academy, M. Merimee.
M. Merimee, in a romance entitled The Double Mistake, describes a scene which took place in a postchaise. It is not the locality where the carriage is that is of importance, it is, as here, in the detail of what is done in the interior. I do not wish to abuse the audience, and will pass the book to the Public Attorney and to the court. If we had written a half, or a quarter part of what M. Merimee wrote, I should find some embarrassment in the task that has been given me, or rather I should have to modify it; in place of saying what I have said, and what I affirm, that M. Flaubert has written a good book, an honest book, useful and moral, I should say: literature has its rights; M. Merimee has made a very remarkable literary work, and it is not necessary to show ourselves too particular about details when the whole is irreproachable. I take my stand there; I should acquit, and you will acquit. Great Heavens! It is not by omission that an author can sin in a matter of this kind. And besides, you will have the detail of that which took place in the cab. But as my client himself was content to make a journey, revealing what passed in the interior of the carriage only by a bare hand which appeared under the yellow silk curtains and threw out bits of torn paper which were scattered by the wind and settled down afar off like white butterflies upon a field of red clover all in flower, as my client was content with that, no one knew anything about it and everyone supposed—from the suppression itself—that he had at least said as much as the member of the French Academy. You have seen that there was nothing in it.
Ah, well! this unfortunate suppression has caused the lawsuit! That is to say, when, in the offices where they have charge, and with infinite reason, of inspecting all writings which could offend public morals, they saw this cut, they took warning. I am obliged to declare, and, gentlemen of the Revue, allow me to state that they started the work of their scissors two words too far off; they should have begun before they got into the cab. To cut after that was more difficult. This cutting was indeed most unfortunate; but if you have committed the error, gentlemen of the Revue, assuredly you will atone for it to-day.
They said in the inspecting office: Take heed of what is to follow, and when the following number appeared, they made war on it to the syllable. The people in the office are not obliged to read all; and when they saw that some one had written about a woman removing all her clothing, they were startled enough without going further. It is true that, differing from our great masters, Flaubert has not taken the trouble to describe the alabaster of her bare arms, throat, etc. He has not said, as did a poet whom we love:
I see her alabaster limbs ardent and pure, Smooth as ebony, like the lily, coral, roses, veins of azure, Such indeed, as in former times thou showedst to me Of nudity embellished and adorned; When nights slipped by, and pillows soft Saw thee from my kisses waking and sleeping oft.
He has said nothing like this of Andre Chenier's. But he finally said:
"She abandoned herself.... Her clothing fell from her."
She abandoned herself! Why not? Is all description to be prohibited? But when one makes an incriminating charge, he should read the whole, and the Government Attorney has not read the whole. The passage he makes the charge against does not stop where he stopped; it has a corrective, and here it is:
"Nevertheless, there was upon this brow covered with cold drops, upon these stammering lips, in these bewildered eyes, in the clasp of these arms something extreme, something vague and lugubrious which seemed to Leon to glide between them in some subtle fashion, as if to separate them."
In the office they did not read that. The Government Attorney just now did not notice it. He only saw this:
"Then, with a single gesture, she allowed all her clothes to fall from her."
And then he cries out: An outrage to public morals! Surely, it is too easy to accuse with a system like this. God forbid that the authors of dictionaries fall under the Government Attorney's hand! Who could escape condemnation if, by means of cutting, not of phrases, but of words, one is to be informed of a list he has made that might offend morals or religion?
My client's first thought, which unfortunately met with resistance, was this: "There is only one thing to do: print the book immediately, not with parts cut out, but the work entire as it left my hands, restoring to it the scene in the cab." I was of his opinion, believing that the best defense of my client would be a complete imprint of the work with special indication of some points to which we would beg to draw the Court's attention. I myself gave the title to this publication: Memoir of Gustave Flaubert for the prevention of outrage to religious morals brought against him. I had written on it with my hand: Civil Court, Sixth Chamber, with the signature of the President and the Public Minister. There was a preface in which was written:
"They have indicted me with phrases taken here and there from my book; I can only defend myself with the whole book."
To ask the judges to read an entire romance would be asking much; but we are before judges who love truth, who desire the truth, and who to learn it would not shrink from any fatigue. We are before judges who desire justice and desire it energetically, and who will read, without any kind of hesitation, what we beg them to read. I said to M. Flaubert: "Send this immediately to the printers, and put my name at the bottom beside yours: SENARD, Counsel." They had begun the printing; arrangements were made for a hundred copies for our own use; the work went on with extreme rapidity, they were working day and night on it, when the order came to us to discontinue the printing, not of a book, but of a pamphlet in which was the incriminated work together with explanatory notes. We appealed to the office of the Attorney-General—who informed us that the prohibition was absolute and could not be removed.