Two Goncourt pastiches1

   Dinner at the Daudet's. After dinner animated conversation in which Lucien confessed to us of going, counter to Léon's wishes, into the society of the Rothschild's, which he assured us to be still, despite all its aristocratic gloss, very Jewish, giving as an example one of their number only ever going with forty sou women, much to the amusing dismay of all the great coquettes. He told us about Japanese porcelain of extraordinary execution, to be admired at the home of the richest of all the sons who he told us was called Alphonse. A fine name for one whose heart's love is for Money; for the Keeper of all our little purses out of which he literally drains gold, of all deficits, of every Crash and of every misery. A truly interesting character for the artist who dares to venture the true story of these present times, the Story of Money. Thereupon Madame Daudet amusingly declares that she does not appreciate people speaking ill of a name that is also shared by her husband.


   Today Lucien comes to see me and tells me the following. The true reason for the Emperor's hostility towards me, that Lucien says was revealed to him by the Empress, arose one day when he had found his Minister for War, all hostilities having ceased, deferring an operation against Metz, quite smitten as he was with an old book that he could not stop reading. And this book was Renée Mauperin. Well a few days later a man made himself impede a barrier to the throne and to the judge who asked him who had impelled him to do such a thing he confessed that he had found the strength to do so from a book that had given him, in a quick-tempered exaltation of all his nerves, a disregard for all consequences. And once again this book was Renée Mauperin. At that time the idea of a writer laying his hand on the heart of his people in this way had been a genuine panic for the sovereign, a writer of whose power he had never known the equal. And the Emperor had taken fright, a "funk" that went so far as to make him get up two or three times in the night. And Lucien's allegation became categorical, leaving no room for doubt, it throws light for me on many failures, conspiracies of silence that to us had always seemed to come down from on high. Ah! it could be said that luck has never been with my brother and I. And with Lucien it is the thought of the sovereign trying to stifle our glory that troubles him, as a revolt to his entire artistic being, in indignation towards gestures that raise their arms towards me, as if in supplication, and an anguished allegation that I did not know, and contriving to depict truly beautiful features, curiously chosen beautiful words from the vocabulary of the humble masters of the eighteenth century. At which point Bonnetain arrives and confesses to us that every time he eats garden peas he is visited by such a heaviness in the head and lower abdomen that he knows not how to make it pass, a heaviness making him wish he were dead, to the extent that he says he cannot imagine anything better then than to be a Chinaman, never eating anything but his housmaké.2 "Go along with you", I told him, "it would be so much better again to remain French, just don't eat garden peas too often!"

1. These two unpublished pastiches were discovered in 1996 as part of an auction lot of letters to Lucien Daudet.

2. I can find no reference to any Chinese dish called housmaké.


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