“Never had he beheld such a magnificent brown skin, so entrancing a figure, such dainty, transparent fingers. He stood gazing in wonder at her work-basket as if it was something extraordinary. What was her name? Where did she live and what sort of life did she lead? What was her past? He wanted to know what furniture she had in her bedroom, the dresses she wore, the people she knew; even his physical desire for her gave way to a deeper yearning, a boundless, aching curiosity.”
“His heart was flooded with immense love, and as he gazed on her he could feel his mind growing numb.”
“Standing side by side, on some rising ground, they felt, as they drank in the air, the pride of a life more free penetrating into the depths of their souls, with a superabundance of energy, a joy which they could not explain.”
”What bliss it would have been to ascend side by side with her, his arm around her waist, while her gown would sweep the yellow leaves, listening to her voice and gazing into her eyes! The steamboat might stop, and all they would have to do was to step out of it; and yet this thing, simple as it might be, was no less difficult than it would have been to move the sun.”
”No, monsieur, you have no right to excite my interest in matters of which I disapprove. What need have we of laborious trifles, from which it is impossible to derive any benefit—those Venuses, for instance, with all your landscapes? I see there no instruction for the people! Show us rather their miseries! arouse enthusiasm in us for their sacrifices! Ah, my God! there is no lack of subjects—the farm, the workshop.”
“It’s hard to communicate anything exactly and that’s why perfect relationships between people are difficult to find.”
“Another thirst had come to him—the thirst for women, for licentious pleasure, and all that Parisian life permitted him to enjoy. He felt somewhat stunned, like a man coming out of a ship, and in the visions that haunted his first sleep, he saw the shoulders of the fishwife, the loins of the ‘longshorewoman, the calves of the Polish lady, and the head-dress of the female savage flying past him and coming back again continually. Then, two large black eyes, which had not been at the ball, appeared before him; and, light as butterflies, burning as torches, they came and went, ascended to the cornice and descended to his very mouth.
Frederick made desperate efforts to recognise those eyes, without succeeding in doing so. But already the dream had taken hold of him. It seemed to him that he was yoked beside Arnoux to the pole of a hackney-coach, and that the Maréchale, astride of him, was disembowelling him with her gold spurs.”
“There are some men whose only mission among others is to act as intermediaries; one crosses them like bridges and keeps going.”
”He saw himself with her at night in a post-chaise, then on a river’s bank on a summer’s evening, and under the reflection of a lamp at home in their own house. He even fixed his attention on household expenses and domestic arrangements, contemplating, feeling already his happiness between his hands, and in order to realise it, all that was needed was that the cock of the gun should rise.
The hearts of women are like little pieces of furniture wherein things are secreted, full of drawers fitted into each other; one hurts himself, breaks his nails in opening them, and then finds within only some withered flower, a few grains of dust – or emptiness! And then perhaps he felt afraid of learning too much about the matter.”
”They’d both been failures, the one who’d dreamed of Love and the one who’d dreamed of Power. How had it come about?
“Perhaps it was lack of perseverance?” said Frédéric.
“For you maybe. For me it was the other way round, I was too rigid, I didn’t take into account a hundred and one smaller things that are more crucial than all the rest. I was too logical and you were too sentimental.”
Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education, 1869
L’Education sentimentale, Gustave Flaubert manuscript pages of the first and second draft, 1869
”I want to write the moral history of the men of my generation– or, more accurately, the history of their feelings. It’s a book about love, about passion; but passion such as can exist nowadays–that is to say, inactive.”
Gustave Flaubert, 1864