You must know that it is said that I was a gentleman of letters, and that my style was one of prim and properness, and I smelled of gunpowder and Spanish tobacco. Isn’t that the perfect confirmation of this truth: The style is the man? Although somewhat exaggerated they represented me with a sword on my side and a pen in my hand and I must confess that I enjoyed nice things, bright clothes with their laces and flamboyant jackets, in a word everything that was elegant and delicate. Hence it is natural that I was always elegant and that is why my style carries with it, the stamp of good form, this fragrance of good company was equally found in our grand home of Sévigné. What would you want? I always preferred the alleyways and ladies bedrooms to the cabarets and low class crowds. Allow me, therefore, despite the opinion expressed by your contemporary Lamennais, to maintain my wise adage, supporting it with some examples collected from your modern authors and philosophers. One of the misfortunes of your time is that many people use the pen as their source for revenue; but let us forget these types of artisans that write aimlessly for or against an idea, according to the compensation they shall receive and who shouts the loudest, according to the moment: God save the King! God save the League (the Holy League of the Duke of Guise - 1590)! Leave them be, those to me are not serious authors.
So you see, Father, do not be offended if I use you as an example. Weren’t your bad foundations always mirrored in your work? From your religious essay ‘Indifference’ to your publication ‘The words of a believer’, what a contrast as you say! Yet, your scholarly style is as sharp in one publication as it is in the other. You are ill-tempered, Father, you must agree, and you distil that anger in the bitter sorrow of every beautiful page you left us. With your button frock coat as well as your Priest’s cassock, you remain downgraded, my poor Lamennais, now do not get angry, but agree with that the style is the man. From Lamennais I move on to Scribe, the happy man that is reflected in the calm and peaceful sitcoms. He is joyful, happy and sensible. He spreads usefulness, joy and happiness in his work. Neither drama nor blood is present in his works, just a few harmless duels to punish the traitor. Next comes Eugène Sue, the author of the Mysteries of Paris. He is as strong as his prince Rudolph, holding the callous hand of a worker in his worn out gloves. Like him, he is the advocate of popular causes. Look at your Dumas, a vagabond that dissipates his life and intelligence; he moves from the South Pole to the North as easily as his famous musketeers; with Garibaldi he is a conqueror; he enjoys the company of the Duke of Orleans and then to the intimacy of the Neapolitan beggars; creating romances with History and using History in his romances.
Look at the proud publications of Victor Hugo, with his embodied pride. ‘I, me’ says Hugo the poet; ‘I, me’, says Hugo on his Jersey rock. Look at Murger, that easy life singer, consciously playing his own role in the bohemia of his lyrics. Look at Gérard de Nerval with his strange and colorful style, fantasizing his life as he did in his writings. How many more have I left out that are even better! Like Soulié and Balzac, whose lives and work follow parallel paths! However, I believe these examples are enough for you not to deny in such absolute terms my maxim: the style is the man!
Dear Father, haven’t you confused the form with the substance, the style with the thought? In any case it is all interconnected.