Les Plaisirs et les jours manuscripts

   There are certain people with a certain natural distinction and who are capable of every vice without us being able to affirm that they have ever practised any of them. If it happens that they are affectionate and witty, they spend their time agreeably with honest people and with those too who exercise publicly a particular vice. There is something in these people that is both supple and secret. They live very easily and are made to feel much more than others a certain slightly mysterious sweetness in life. Their perversity gives a certain piquancy to the most innocent occupations such as walking in gardens at night.

Alternate manuscript version of Fragments de comédie italienne V (untitled: "La vie est étrangement facile...")


   Every tendency of a work or of a man, if it finds itself produced artificially, deviates, descends to the lowest level. And that is just as perceptible in unoriginal people as in imitative literature. By spending too much time with his witty friend Fabrice, who is witty, Lorenzo becomes wicked. Thus transposed wit loses its savour, turns sour. Scandals that are flattering to the gallery however become unbearable. That is what happened when it was Fabrice. But now that it is Lorenzo, what do you say about it?


   It is very healthy to note how often scandal is inevitably coarse and how it quickly descends into banality. Even if it is improved upon somewhat by men of letters for example, it astonishes by its simplicity. Two writers, two men of the world who speak ill of one another, are like two fairground Hercules who triumph over one another alternately with identical "blows". B... is not at a dinner party where C... shines. C... soon discovers his lack of a breast-plate, runs him through, throws him defenceless to the ground. He could deliver the coup de grâce, and he deprives us of the spectacle, makes a show of his mercy. But at the next dinner party it is B... and not C... who finds himself there, B... will give just as hard a time to C... as he has recently had himself. These are games that quickly weary the onlookers.
   To pull X, Y or Z to pieces we usually seize upon one of their most external features, the most insignificant, occasionally too their least proven, sometimes the least incontestable, always the most external, the most peculiar, and we bring it to the light, as if it were the very foundation of their nature. Presented in this way it contradicts all the qualities we attribute to X, Y or Z. And we say of somebody who is first and foremost a great wit or a man of charm, in spite of the inconsistencies: "In the end he is a snob, in the end he is a naive practical joker, in the end he is a commoner, in the end he is a country squire, in the end he is a commercial traveller." That is the world. What we put into it is often the most venomous.



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