translated by Christopher Isherwood, introduction by W. H. Auden
translation originally published in a limited edition by Blackamore Press in 1930
preface originally published in 1947 in an edition by Marcel Rodd, Hollywood
[This is the second half of Intimate Journals
— consisting of Baudelaire’s
“My Heat Laid Bare” and “A Selection of Consoling Maxims upon Love.” To read the first half — consisting of Isherwood’s preface, Auden’s introduction and
Baudelaire’s “Squibs,” please click here.]
MY HEART LAID BARE
Of the vaporization and centralization of the Ego.
Everything depends on that.
Of a certain sensual pleasure in the company of
those who behave extravagantly.
(I intend to begin My Heart laid bare, no matter
where or how, and to continue it from day to day,
following the inspiration of the day and the circumstances,
provided that the inspiration is vital.)
Anyone, provided that he can be amusing, has the
right to talk of himself.
I understand how one can desert a cause in order
to experience the sensation of serving another.
It would perhaps be pleasant to be alternately
victim and executioner.
Stupidities of Girardin:
`We are accustomed to take the bull by the horns.
Let us therefore take the speech by its conclusion’
(November 7, 1861).
Then Girardin believes that the horns of bulls are
set in their behinds. He confounds the horns with
`Before imitating the Ptolemies of French journalism, the
Belgian journalists have taken the trouble to meditate upon
the problem which I have been studying for the last thirty
years in all its aspects—as the volume which will shortly
appear, entitled “Questions de presse”, will prove—with
the result that they are in no hurry to treat as a matter for
an opinion which is as indisputable as
the statement that the earth revolves and that the sun does
EMILE DE GIRARDIN
Woman is the opposite of the Dandy. Therefore
she should inspire horror.
Woman is hungry, and she wants to eat; thirsty,
and she wants to drink.
She is in rut and she wants to be possessed.
What admirable qualities!
Woman is natural, that is to say abominable.
Thus she is always vulgar; the opposite, in fact, of
Concerning the Legion of Honour. The man who
solicits the Cross has the air of saying: If I am not
decorated for having done my duty, I shall cease to
If a man has merit, what is the good of decorating
him? If he has none, he can be decorated, since it
will give him distinction.
To consent to being decorated is to recognize that
the State or a prince has the right to judge of your
merits, to dignify you, etc. . . .
Besides, Christian humility forbids the Cross, even
if pride does not.
Calculation in favour of God. Nothing exists without
Therefore my existence has a purpose.
What purpose? I do not know.
Therefore, it is not I who have appointed that
purpose. It is someone wiser than I.
It is therefore necessary to pray to this someone to
enlighten me. That is the wisest course.
The Dandy should aspire to be uninterruptedly
sublime. He should live and sleep in front of a mirror.
Analysis of the counter-religions. Example: sacred
What is sacred prostitution?
The mystery of Paganism. Mysticism: the common
feature of Paganism and Christianity.
Paganism and Christianity confirm each other.
The Revolution and the Cult of Reason confirm
the doctrine of Sacrifice.
Superstition is the well of all truths.
There is in all Change something at once sordid
and agreeable, which smacks of infidelity and household
removals. This is sufficient to explain the
My wild excitement in 1848.
What was the nature of that excitement?
The taste for revenge. Natural pleasure in destruction.
Literary excitement; memories of my reading.
The 15th of May. Still the pleasure in destruction.
A legitimate pleasure, if what is natural be legitimate.
The horrors of June. Madness of the People and
madness of the Bourgeoisie. Natural delight in crime.
My fury at the Coup d’Etat. How many gunshots
have I endured! Another Bonaparte! What infamy!
And, meanwhile, all is quiet. Has not the President
some right to invoke?
What Napoleon III is. What he is worth. To find
the explanation of his nature and of his mission
To be a useful person has always appeared to me
something particularly horrible.
1848 was amusing only because of those castles in
the air which each man built for his Utopia.
1848 was charming only through an excess of the
Robespierre can only be admired because he has
made several beautiful phrases.
Revolution confirms Superstition, by offering
Politics. I have no convictions, as men of my century
understand the word, because I have no ambition.
There is no basis in me for a conviction.
There is a certain cowardice, a certain weakness,
rather, among respectable folk.
Only brigands are convinced—of what? That they
must succeed. And so they do succeed.
How should I succeed, since I have not even the
desire to make the attempt?
Glorious empires may be founded upon crime and
noble religions upon imposture.
Nevertheless, I have some convictions, in a higher
sense, which could not be understood by the people
of my time.
The sense of solitude, since my childhood. In spite
of my family, above all when surrounded by my
comrades—the sense of a destiny eternally solitary.
Yet a taste for life and for pleasure which is very
Nearly our whole lives are employed in foolish
inquiries. Nevertheless, there are questions which
should excite man’s curiosity in the highest degree,
and which, to judge from his customary mode of life,
do not inspire him with any.
Where are our dead friends?
Why are we here?
Do we come from some other place?
What is free will?
Can it be reconciled with the laws of Providence?
Is there a finite or an infinite number of souls?
What of the number of habitable lands? Etc.,
etc. . . .
Nations only produce great men in spite of themselves.
Thus the great man is the conqueror of his
The ridiculous modern comic religions:
Belief in Progress is a doctrine of idlers and Belgians.
It is the individual relying upon his neighbours
to do his work.
There cannot be any Progress (true progress, that
is to say, moral) except within the individual and by
the individual himself.
But the world is composed of people who can think
only in common, in the herd. Like the Sociétés belges.
There are also people who can only take their
pleasures in a flock. The true hero takes his pleasure
Eternal superiority of the Dandy.
What is the Dandy?
My views on the theatre. In childhood and still
today, the thing which I have always thought most
beautiful about the theatre is the chandelier—a fine,
luminous, crystalline object with a complex spherical
Meanwhile, I do not entirely deny the value of
dramatic literature. Only I should like the actors
mounted on very high pattens, wearing masks more
expressive than the human face and speaking
through megaphones; also the female parts should
be played by men.
But, after all, whether seen through the big or the
little end of the opera glass, the chandelier has always
appeared to me to be the protagonist.
One must work, if not from inclination at least
from despair, since, as I have fully proved, to work
is less wearisome than to amuse oneself.
There are in every man, always, two simultaneous
allegiances, one to God, the other to Satan.
Invocation of God, or Spirituality, is a desire to
climb higher; that of Satan, or animality, is delight
in descent. It is to this last that love for woman and
intimate conversations with animals, dogs, cats,
etc. . . . must be ascribed. The joys which derive
from these two loves are appropriate to the nature
of these two loves.
Intoxication of humanity: a great picture to paint:
From the aspect of Charity.
From the aspect of licentiousness.
From the aspect of literature or of the actor.
The Question (torture), when considered as the
art of discovering the truth, is a barbarous stupidity;
it is the application of a material means to a spiritual
The penalty of death is the expression of a mystical
idea, totally misunderstood today. The penalty of
death does not attempt to save Society, that is, in the
material sense. It attempts to save spiritually Society
and the guilty person. That the sacrifice may be
perfect there should be joy and consent on the part
of the victim. To give chloroform to a person condemned
to death would be impious, for he would
thereby be deprived of his consciousness of grandeur
as a victim and of his hopes of attaining Paradise.
As for torture, it has been devised by the evil half
of man’s nature, which is thirsty for voluptuous
pleasures. Cruelty and sensual pleasure are identical,
like extreme heat and extreme cold.
My opinion of the vote and of the right of election.
Of the rights of man.
The element of baseness in any sort of government
A Dandy does nothing. Can you imagine a dandy
addressing the common herd, except to make game
There is no form of rational and assured government
save an aristocracy.
A monarchy or a republic, based upon democracy,
are equally absurd and feeble.
The immense nausea of advertisements.
There are but three beings worthy of respect: the
priest, the warrior and the poet. To know, to kill
and to create.
The rest of mankind may be taxed and drudged,
they are born for the stable, that is to say, to practise
what they call professions.
We should observe that the abolishers of the death
penalty must be more or less interested in its abolition.
Often they are guillotiners. Their attitude may be
thus expressed: `I want to be able to cut off your
head, but you shan’t touch mine’.
The abolishers of the Soul (materialists) are necessarily
abolishers of hell; they, certainly, are interested.
At all events, they are people who fear to live again
Madame de Metternich, although she is a princess,
has forgotten to answer me, regarding what I said
about her and Wagner.
The story of my translation of Edgar Poe.
The story of the Fleurs du Mal. The humiliation of
being misunderstood and my lawsuit.
The story of my relations with all the celebrated
men of the age.
Some amusing portraits of certain imbeciles:
Clément de Ris.
Portraits of magistrates, officials, newspaper editors,
Portraits of artists in general.
Of the chief editor and of the rank and file. The
immense pleasure which the French people take in
being regimented. It is the If I were King!
Portraits and Anecdotes.
François Buloz—Houssaye—the precious Rouy—
de Calonne—Charpentier, who corrects his authors,
by virtue of the equality bestowed on all men by the
immortal principles of (17)89—Chevalier, a really
typical editor-in-chief under the Empire.
On George Sand. The woman Sand is the Prudhomme
She has always been a moralist.
Only she used to work as an anti-moralist.
She has never been an artist. She has that celebrated
flowing style, so dear to the bourgeois.
She is stupid, she is clumsy, and she is a chatterbox.
She has, in her moral concepts, the same profundity
of judgement and delicacy of feeling as a concierge
or a kept woman.
What she says about her mother.
What she says about Poetry.
Her love for the working classes.
It is indeed a proof of the degradation of the men
of this century that several have been capable of
falling in love with this latrine.
See the preface to Mademoiselle La Quintinie, in
which she pretends that true Christians do not
believe in Hell.
Sand represents the God of decent folk, the god of
concierges and thieving servants.
She has good reasons for wishing to abolish Hell.
The Devil and George Sand. It must not be supposed
that the Devil only tempts men of genius. Doubtless,
he despises imbeciles, but he does not disdain their
co-operation. Quite the reverse; it is upon them that
he builds his greatest hopes.
Consider George Sand. She is, first and last, a
prodigious blockhead, but she is possessed. It is the Devil
who has persuaded her to trust in her good-nature and
common-sense, that she may persuade all other prodigious
blockheads to trust in their good-nature and
I cannot think of this stupid creature without a
certain shudder of horror. If I were to meet her, I
should not be able to resist throwing a stoup of holy
water at her head.
George Sand is one of those decayed ingénues who
will never leave the boards. I have lately read a
preface (the preface to Mademoiselle La Quintinie) in
which she pretends that the true Christian cannot
believe in Hell. She has good reasons for wishing to
I am sick of France; chiefly because everybody is
Emerson has forgotten Voltaire in his Representative
Men. He could have written a fine chapter entitled
Voltaire, or the Anti-Poet, the king of loungers, the
prince of triflers, the anti-artist, the preacher to concierges,
the Father Gigogne of the Editors of Le Siècle.
In Les Oreilles du Comte de Chesterfield, Voltaire jests
about our immortal soul, which has dwelt for nine
months amidst excrement and urine. Voltaire, like
all loafers, hates mystery.
Being unable to abolish Love, the Church has
desired at least to disinfect it, and has invented
Note.—He might, at least, have traced, in this localization, a
malicious and satirical intent of Providence against Love, and,
in the mode of generation, a symbol of original sin, since we
can only make love with our excretory organs.
Portrait of the literary rabble.
Doctor Estaminetus Crapulosus Pedantissimus.
His portrait executed in the manner of Praxiteles.
His ideas on art.
A fine portrait of modern youth.
Φαρμαχοτρίδης, ἀνήρ καὶ τῶν τούς όψεις ες τα
Theology. What is the Fall?
If it is unity become duality, it is God who has
In other words, would not creation be the fall of
Dandyism. What is the superior man?
He is not a specialist.
He is a man of leisure and of liberal education.
To be rich and to love work.
Why does the man of parts prefer harlots to
Society women, although they are equally stupid?
To discover this.
There are certain women who are like the red
ribbon of the Legion of Honour. They are no longer
desired because they have been contaminated by
It is for the same reason that I would not put on
the breeches of a man with the itch.
What is annoying about Love is that it is a crime
in which one cannot do without an accomplice.
Study of the great malady, horror of one’s home.
Causes of the malady. Progressive growth of the
Indignation aroused by the universal fatuity of all
classes, all persons, of both sexes, at all ages.
Man loves man so much that, even when he flees
from the town, he is still in search of the mob; he
wishes, in fact, to rebuild the town in the country.
Lecture by Durandeau on the Japanese. (`I am,
before all else, a Frenchman.’) The Japanese are
monkeys, Darjon it was who told me so.
Lecture by a doctor, a friend of Mathieu, on the
art of not having children, Moses, and the immortality
of the Soul. Art is a civilizing influence
The faces of a sage man and his family, who live
on the sixth floor, drinking café au lait.
Lord Nacquart senior and Lord Nacquart junior.
How the Nacquart son has come to be a counsel
in the Court of Appeal.
Of the delight in and preference for military metaphors
shown by the French. Here every metaphor
To hold the breach.
To keep the flag flying.
To emerge with flying colours.
To plunge into the fray.
One of the old brigade.
All these glorious phrases are commonly applied
to drunkards and bar-flies.
A soldier of the judicial press (Bertin).
The militant press.
To be added to the military metaphors:
The fighting poets.
The literary vanguard.
This use of military metaphor reveals minds not
militant but formed for discipline, that is, for compliance;
minds born servile, Belgian minds, which
can think only collectively.
Desire for Pleasure attaches us to the Present. Care
for our safety makes us dependent upon the Future.
He who clings to Pleasure, that is, to the Present,
makes me think of a man rolling down a slope who,
in trying to grasp hold of some bushes, tears them up
and carries them with him in his fall.
To be, before all else, a great man and a saint according
to one’s own standards.
Of the People’s hatred of Beauty. Examples:
Jeanne and Mme. Muller.
Political. After all, the supreme glory of Napoleon
III, in the eyes of History and of the French people,
will have been to prove that anybody can govern a
great nation as soon as they have got control of the
telegraph and the national press.
They are imbeciles who believe that such things
can be accomplished without the permission of the
People—and that glory can only be founded upon
Dictators are the servants of the People—nothing
more; a damnable job, the glory and the result of
adapting a brain to the requirements of the national
What is Love?
The need to emerge from oneself.
Man is an animal which adores.
To adore is to sacrifice and prostitute onself.
Thus all Love is prostitution.
The most prostitute of all beings is the Supreme
Being, God Himself, since for each man he is the
friend above all others; since he is the common,
inexhaustible fount of Love.
Do not punish me through my Mother and do not
punish my Mother on my behalf—I entrust to your
keeping the souls of my father and of Mariette—
Give me the strength immediately to perform my
daily task and thus to become a hero and a saint.
A chapter on the indestructible, eternal, universal,
and ingenious ferocity of Men.
Of delight in bloodshed.
Of the intoxication of bloodshed.
Of the intoxication of the mob.
Of the intoxication of the tortured (Damiens).
There are no great men save the poet, the priest,
and the soldier.
The man who sings, the man who offers up sacrifice,
and the man who sacrifices himself.
The rest are born for the whip.
Let us beware of the rabble, of common-sense,
good-nature, inspiration, and evidence.
I have always been astonished that women are
allowed to enter churches. What conversation can
they have with God?
The Eternal Venus (capricious, hysterical, full of
whims) is one of the seductive shapes of the Devil.
On the day when a young writer corrects his first
proof-sheet he is as proud as a schoolboy who has
just got his first dose of pox.
Do not forget a long chapter on the art of divination
by water, by the cards, by chiromancy, etc.
Woman cannot distinguish between her soul and
her body. She simplifies things, like an animal. A
cynic would say that it is because she has nothing
but a body.
A chapter on The Toilet.
Morality of the toilet, the delights of the toilet.
And of Cabinet Ministers.
The precious little great men of the day.
The editors of newspapers, François Buloz, Houssaye,
Rouy, Girardin, Texier, de Calonne, Solar,
A list of guttersnipes. Solar first of all.
To be a great man and a saint by one’s own standards,
that is all that matters.
Nadar is the most astounding example of vitality.
Adrien used to tell me that this brother Felix had all
his viscera double. I have been jealous of him, seeing
him succeed so well in everything which is not
Veuillot is so uncouth and such an enemy of the
arts that one might suppose the whole democracy
of the world had taken refuge in his breast.
Development of the portrait. Supremacy of the
pure idea over the Christian and the babouviste communist.
The fanaticism of humility. Not even to aspire to
Of Society women.
Of the sacraments.
The man of letters is the enemy of the world.
In Love, as in nearly all human affairs, a satisfactory
relationship is the result of a misunderstanding.
This misunderstanding constitutes pleasure. The
man cries: Oh, my angel. The woman coos: Mamma!
Mamma! And these two imbeciles are persuaded that
they think alike. The unbridgeable gulf—the cause
of their failure in communication remains—unbridged.
Why is the spectacle of the sea so infinitely and
Because the sea presents at once the idea of immensity
and of movement. Six or seven leagues
represent for man the radius of the infinite. An
infinite in little. What matter, if it suffices to suggest
the idea of all infinity? Twelve or fourteen leagues
of liquid in movement are enough to convey to man
the highest expression of beauty which he can
encounter in his transient abode.
Nothing upon the earth is interesting except
What is the universal religion? (Chateaubriand,
de Maistre, the Alexandrines, Capé.)
There is a universal religion devised for the alchemists
of thought, a religion which has nothing to do
with Man, considered as a divine memento.
Saint-Marc Girardin has uttered one phrase which
will endure: `Let us be mediocre!’
Let us put this beside the words of Robespierre:
`Those who do not believe in the immortality of their
being pass judgement upon themselves’.
This phrase of Saint-Marc Girardin implies an
immense hatred of the sublime.
Whoever sees Saint-Marc Girardin walking in the
street is reminded immediately of a fat goose, full of
self-conceit, but bewildered and waddling along the
high road in front of the stage-coach.
Theory of the true civilization. It is not to be found
in gas or steam or table-turning. It consists in the
diminution of the traces of original sin.
Nomad peoples, shepherds, hunters, farmers and
even cannibals, may all, by virtue of energy and
personal dignity, be the superiors of our races of the
These will perhaps be destroyed.
Theocracy and communism.
I have grown, for the most part, by means of
To my great detriment; for leisure without fortune
breeds debts and the insults which result from debts.
But to my great profit also, so far as sensibility is
concerned and meditation and the faculty of dandyism
Other men of letters are, for the most part, common,
The modern girl according to the publishers.
The modern girl according to the editors-in-chief.
The modern girl as a bugbear, a monster, an
assassin of art.
The modern girl as she is in reality.
A little blockhead and a little slut. The extreme of
imbecility combined with the extreme of depravity.
There are in the modern girl all the despicable
qualities of the footpad and the schoolboy.
Warning to non-communists:
All is common property, even God.
The Frenchman is a farmyard animal, so well
domesticated that he dares not jump over any fence.
Witness his tastes in art and literature.
He is an animal of the Latin race; he does not
object to filth in his place of abode; and in literature
he is scatophagous. He dotes on excrements. That is
what pothouse men of letters call the Gallic salt.
A choice example of French depravity: of the nation
which pretends to be independent above all others.
(Here a paragraph cut out from a newspaper is
fastened to the manuscript.)
The following extract from M. de Vaulabelle’s fine book
will suffice to give an idea of the impression made by Lavalette’s
escape upon the least enlightened section of the Royalist party:
`The tide of Royalism, at this period of the Second Restoration,
was rising almost to the point of madness. The young
Josephine de Lavalette was receiving her education at one of
the principal convents of Paris (l’Abbaye-au-Bois). She had
left it merely to come to kiss her father. When she returned
after the escape, and when the very modest part she had played
in it was known, an immense outcry was raised against the
child; the nuns and her companions avoided her and a number
of the parents declared that they would remove their daughters
if she were allowed to remain there. They did not wish, they
said, to allow their daughters to come into contact with a
young person who had been guilty of such conduct and such
an example. When Madame de Lavalette recovered her liberty,
six weeks later, she was obliged to take away her daughter.’
Princes and generations. It is equally unjust to attribute
to reigning princes the merits or the vices of
those whom they actually govern.
These merits and these vices are almost always, as
statistics and logic can prove, attributable to the
influence of the preceding government. Louis XIV
inherits from the men of Louis XIII: glory. Napoleon
I inherits from the men of the Republic: glory.
Louis-Philippe inherits from the men of Charles X:
glory. Napoleon inherits from the men of Louis-Philippe:
It is always the preceding government which is
responsible for the morals of its successor, in so far as
a government can be responsible for anything.
The sudden cutting short of a reign by circumstance
prevents this law from being quite exact as
regards time. One cannot mark exactly where an
influence ends, but this influence will survive
throughout the whole generation which has undergone
it in youth.
Of youth’s hatred of the quoters of precedents.
The quoter is its enemy.
`Even spelling I would hand over to the hangman.’
A fine picture to paint: the literary riff-raff.
Not to forget a portrait of Forgues, the plagiarist,
the cream-skinner of letters.
Ineradicable desire for prostitution in the heart
of man, whence is born his horror of solitude. He
wants to be two. The man of genius wants to be one,
and therefore solitary. Glory is to remain one, and to
prostitute oneself in an individual manner.
It is this horror of solitude, this need to lose his
ego in exterior flesh, which man calls grandly the need
Two fine religions, immortalized upon walls, the
eternal obsessions of the People: a p—(the antique
phallus) and `Long live Barbès!’ or `Down with
Philippe!’ or `Long live the Republic!’
To study in all its modes, in the works of nature and
in the works of man, the universal and eternal law
of gradation, of the little by little, of the by degrees,
with forces progressively increasing, like compound
interest in money matters.
It is the same with literary and artistic talents; it is
the same with the variable treasures of the will.
The crush of minor literary men whom one sees
at funerals, distributing handshakes and trying to
catch the eye of the writer of the obituary notice.
Of the funerals of famous men.
Molière. My opinion of Tartuffe is that it is not a
comedy but a pamphlet. An atheist, if he is simply
a well-educated man, would reflect, in thinking
about this piece, that there are certain serious
questions which must never be referred to the rabble.
To glorify the cult of pictures (my great, my
unique, my primitive passion).
To glorify vagabondage and what may be called
bohemianism. Cult of the multiple sensations expressed
by music. Refer here to Liszt.
Of the necessity of thrashing women.
One can chastise those whom one loves. As in the
case of children. But that implies the sorrow of
despising those whom one loves.
Of cuckolds and cuckoldom.
The sorrows of the cuckold.
They are born of his pride, of false reasoning concerning
honour and happiness, and of a love which
has been foolishly withdrawn from God to be
bestowed upon his fellow-creatures. It is always the
animal idolator being deceived in his idol.
Analysis of insolent imbecility. Clément de Ris and
The more a man cultivates the arts the less he
fornicates. A more and more apparent cleavage
occurs between the spirit and the brute.
Only the brute is really potent. Sexuality is the
lyricism of the masses.
To fornicate is to aspire to enter into another; the
artist never emerges from himself.
I have forgotten the name of that slut. Bah! I shall
remember it at the last judgement.
Music conveys the idea of space.
So do all the arts, more or less; since they are
number and since number is a translation of space.
To will every day to be the greatest of men!
When I was a child I wanted sometimes to be pope,
but a military pope, and sometimes to be an actor.
The pleasures that I derived from these two
Even when quite a child I felt two conflicting
sensations in my heart: the horror of life and the
ecstasy of life. That, indeed, was the mark of a
Nations produce great men only in spite of themselves.
Speaking of the actor and of my childish dreams,
a chapter upon what constitutes, in the human soul,
the vocation of the actor, the glory of the actor, the
art of the actor and his situation in the world.
The theory of Legouvé. Is Legouvé a dispassionate
joker, a Swift, who has tried to make France swallow
a new absurdity?
His choice. Good, in the sense that Samson is not
Of the true grandeur of pariahs.
It is possible, indeed, that virtue would injure the
talents of pariahs.
Commerce is, in its very essence, satanic. Commerce
is return of the loan, a loan in which there is
the understanding: give me more than I give you.
The spirit of every business-man is completely
Commerce is natural, therefore shameful.
The least vile of all merchants is he who says: `Let
us be virtuous, since, thus, we shall gain much more
money than the fools who are dishonest’.
For the merchant, even honesty is a financial
Commerce is satanic, because it is the basest and
vilest form of egoism.
When Jesus Christ says, `Blessed are they that
hunger, for they shall be filled,” Jesus Christ is
calculating on probabilities.
The world only goes round by misunderstanding.
It is by universal misunderstanding that all agree.
For if, by ill luck, people understood each other,
they would never agree.
The man of intelligence, who will never agree with
anyone, should cultivate a pleasure in the conversation
of imbeciles and the study of worthless books.
From these he will derive a sardonic amusement
which will largely repay him for his pains.
Any official, whether a minister, a theatre manager
or a newspaper editor, can sometimes be an
estimable individual, but he is never a man of distinction.
They are persons without personality,
unoriginal, born for office, that is, for domestic
service to the public.
God and His profundity. It is possible even for the
intelligent man to seek in God that helper and friend
whom he can never find. God is the eternal confidant
in that tragedy of which each man is hero. Perhaps
there are usurers and assassins who say to God:
`Lord, grant that my next enterprise may be successful!’
But the prayers of these vile persons do not mar
the virtue and joy of my own.
Every idea is endowed of itself with immortal life,
like a human being. All created form, even that
which is created by man, is immortal. For form is
independent of matter: molecules do not constitute
Anecdotes of Emile Douay and Constantin Guys,
and how they destroyed, or believed that they
destroyed, their works.
It is impossible to glance through any newspaper,
no matter what the day, the month or the year,
without finding on every line the most frightful
traces of human perversity, together with the most
astonishing boasts of probity, charity, and benevolence
and the most brazen statements regarding the
progress of civilization.
Every journal, from the first line to the last, is
nothing but a tissue of horrors. Wars, crimes, thefts,
lecheries, tortures, the evil deeds of princes, of
nations, of private individuals; an orgy of universal
And it is with this loathsome appetizer that civilized
man daily washes down his morning repast.
Everything in this world oozes crime: the newspaper,
the street wall, and the human countenance.
I am unable to comprehend how a man of honour
could take a newspaper in his hands without a
shudder of disgust.
The power of the amulet as displayed by philosophy.
The sous with holes bored in them, the
talismans, each man’s souvenirs.
Dissertation on the moral dynamic. Of the virtue
of the sacraments.
A tendency to mysticism since my childhood. My
conversations with God.
Of Obsession, of Possession, of Prayer and Faith.
The dynamic Ethic of Jesus.
Renan finds it ridiculous that Jesus should believe
in the omnipotence, even over matter, of Prayer and
The sacraments are the modes of this dynamic.
Of the infamy of the press, a great obstacle to the
development of the Beautiful.
The Jews who are librarians and bear witness to
All these imbecile bourgeois who ceaselessly utter
the words: immoral, immorality, morality in art,
and other idiotic phrases, make me think of Louise
Villedieu, the five-franc whore, who, having accompanied
me one day to the Louvre, where she had
never been before, began blushing and covering her
face with her hands. And as we stood before the
immortal statues and pictures she kept plucking me
by the sleeve and asking how they could exhibit such
indecencies in public.
The fig-leaves of Mr. Nieuwerkerke.
In order that the law of Progress could exist each
man would have to be willing to enforce it; for it is
only when every individual has made up his mind
to move forward that humanity will be in a state of
This hypothesis may serve to show that two contradictory
ideas—free-will and destiny—are identical.
Not only will there be identity between free-will and
destiny in Progress, but this identity has always
existed. This identity is history—the history of
nations and individuals.
A sonnet to be quoted in My Heart Laid Bare.
Quote also the poem on Roland:
Fair as she was in the brightness of day,
And I desired once again to possess her as ghost
And, like Ixion, to embrace a cloud.
Her naked shadow stole into my bed,
Saying, `Dear Damon, see, I have come back;
Only grown fairer in my sad abode
Where fate has held me since my departure.
`I am come to kiss again the most beautiful of lovers;
I am come to die again within thine embrace.’
Then, when my idol had abused my flame,
She said, `Adieu. I must return to the dead.
As thou hast bragged of having — my body,
So also canst thou boast of having — my soul.’
Malassis pretends that it is by Théophile.
Hygiene. Projects. The more one desires, the stronger
The more one works, the better one works and
the more one wants to work.
The more one produces, the more fecund one
After a debauch, one feels oneself always to be
more solitary, more abandoned.
In the moral as in the physical world, I have been
conscious always of an abyss, not only of the abyss
of sleep, but of the abyss of action, of day-dreaming,
of recollection, of desire, of regret, of remorse, of the
beautiful, of number . . . etc.
I have cultivated my hysteria with delight and
terror. Now I suffer continually from vertigo, and
today, 23rd of January, 1862, I have received a
singular warning, I have felt the wind of the wing of
madness pass over me.
Hygiene. Morality. To Honfleur! as soon as possible,
before I sink further.
How many have been the presentiments and signs
sent me already by God that it is high time to act, to
consider the present moment as the most important
of all moments and to take for my everlasting delight
my accustomed torment, that is to say, my work!
Hygiene. Conduct. Morality. We are weighed down,
every moment, by the conception and the sensation
of Time. And there are but two means of escaping
and forgetting this nightmare: Pleasure and work.
Pleasure consumes us. Work strengthens us. Let us
The more we employ one of these means, the
more the other will inspire us with repugnance.
One can only forget Time by making use of it.
Nothing can be accomplished save by degrees.
De Maistre and Edgar Poe have taught me to
No task seems long but that which one dares not
begin. It becomes a nightmare.
Hygiene. In putting off what one has to do, one
runs the risk of never being able to do it. In refusing
instant conversion one risks damnation.
To heal all things, wretchedness, disease or melancholy,
absolutely nothing is required but an inclination
Precious notes. Do, every day, what duty and prudence
If you worked every day your life would be more
supportable. Work six days without relaxing.
To find subjects, Γνωδί σεαυτόν.
Always be a poet, even in prose.
The grand style (nothing more beautiful than the
First make a start, then apply logic and analysis.
Every hypothesis demands a conclusion.
To achieve a daily madness.
Hygiene. Conduct. Morality. Two parts. Debts.
Friends (my mother, friends, myself).
Thus, 1,000 francs should be divided into two
parts of 500 francs each, and the second divided into
At Honfleur. To go through and classify all my
letters (two days) and all my debts (two days). (Four
categories: notes of hand, large debts, small debts, friends.)
A classification of my engravings (two days). A
classification of my notes (two days).
Hygiene. Morality. Conduct. Too late, perhaps!—
My mother and Jeanne—My health, for pity’s, for
duty’s sake!—The maladies of Jeanne. My mother’s
infirmities and loneliness.
To do one’s duty every day and trust in God for
The only method of earning money is to work in
a disinterested manner.
A summary of wisdom. Toilet. Prayer. Work.
Prayer: charity, wisdom and strength.
Without charity I am no more than a resounding
My humiliations have been the graces of God.
My phase of egoism—is it passed?
The faculty of being able to meet the need of the
moment; exactitude, in other words, must infallibly
obtain its reward.
Prolonged unhappiness has upon the soul the same
effect as old age upon the body: one cannot stir, one
takes to one’s bed. . . .
Extreme youth, on the other hand, finds reasons for
procrastination; when there is plenty of time to spare,
one is persuaded that years may be allowed to pass
before one need play one’s part.
Hygiene. Conduct. Morality. Jeanne 300, my mother
200, myself 300—800 francs a month. To work from
six o’clock in the morning, fasting at midday. To
work blindly, without aim, like a madman. We shall
see the result.
I believe that I stake my destiny upon hours of
All may be redeemed. There is still time. Who
knows, even, if some new pleasure . . . ?
Fame, payment of my debts. Wealth of Jeanne
and my mother.
I have never yet tasted the pleasure of an accomplished
Power of the fixed idea, power of hope.
The habit of doing one’s duty drives out fear.
One must desire to dream and know how to dream.
The evocation of inspiration. A magic art. To sit
down at once and write. I reason too much.
Immediate work, even when it is bad, is better
A succession of small acts of will achieves a large
Every defeat of the will forms a portion of lost
matter. How wasteful, then, is hesitation! One may
judge this by the immensity of the final effort necessary
to repair so many losses.
The man who says his evening prayer is a captain
posting his sentinels. He can sleep.
Dreams and warnings of death.
Up to the present I have only enjoyed my
memories alone; I must enjoy them in the company
of another. To make the pleasures of the spirit one’s
Because I can understand the nature of a glorious
existence, I believe myself capable of its realization.
Work engenders good habits, sobriety and chastity,
from which result health, riches, continuous and
strengthening inspiration and charity. Age quod agis.
Fish, cold baths, showers, moss, pastilles occasionally,
together with the abstinence from all stimulants.
Iceland moss . . . 125 grammes.
White sugar . . . 250 grammes.
Soak the moss for twelve to fifteen hours in a
sufficient quantity of cold water, then pour off the
water. Boil the moss in two litres of water upon a
slow and constant fire until these two litres are
reduced to one, skim the froth off once, then add the
250 grammes of sugar and let it thicken to the consistency
of syrup. Let it cool off. Take three very large
tablespoonfuls daily, in the morning, at midday and
in the evening. One need not be afraid to increase the
doses if the crises are too frequent.
Hygiene. Conduct. Method. I swear to observe henceforth
the following rules as immutable rules of my
To pray every morning to God, the source of all
power and all justice; to my father, to Mariette and to Poe,
as intercessors; that they may give me the necessary
strength to fulfil all my appointed tasks and that
they may grant my mother a sufficient span of life in
which to enjoy my transformation; to work all day
long, or as long, at any rate, as my strength allows me;
to put my trust in God, that is, in Justice itself, for the
success of my plans; to offer, every evening, a further
prayer, asking God for life and strength for my
mother and myself; to divide all my earnings into
four parts—one for current expenses, one for my
creditors, one for my friends and one for my mother
—to obey the strictest principles of sobriety, the first
being the abstinence from all stimulants whatsoever.
A SELECTION OF CONSOLING
MAXIMS UPON LOVE
Whoever writes maxims likes to exaggerate his
character—the young pretend to be old, the old
paint their faces.
Since the world, this vast system of contradictions,
holds all forms of decay in great esteem—quick, let
us darken our wrinkles; let us garland our hearts like
a frontispiece, for sentiment is widely fashionable.
To what purpose? If you are no true men, be at
least true animals. Be unaffected, and you will, of
necessity, be useful or agreeable to somebody. Were
my heart on my right side, it would find at least a
thousand co-pariahs among the three thousand
millions of beings who browse upon the nettles of
If I begin with Love, it is because Love is for
everyone—and they will deny it in vain—the greatest
thing in life!
All you who feed some insatiable vulture—you
Hoffmannesque poets, whom the harmonica sends
dancing through crystal regions, whom the violin
lacerates like a blade searching the heart—you eager
and embittered onlookers in whom the spectacle of
nature herself promotes dangerous ecstasies; let Love
be your calmative.
You tranquil, you objective poets, the noble partisans
of technique, architects of style—you prudent ones
who have a daily task to accomplish; let Love be
your stimulant, an exhilarating and strengthening
potion, and the gymnastic of pleasure your perpetual
encouragement to action! To those the soporifics, to
these the alcohols.
You for whom nature is cruel and time precious;
let Love be a burning draught which inspires the
It is necessary, therefore, to choose one’s loves.
Without denying the coups de foudre, which is impossible—see
Stendhal (De l’Amour—book one,
chapter XXIII)—one must suppose that fate possesses
a certain elasticity, which is called human liberty.
In the same way as, for theologians, liberty consists
in avoiding occasions of temptation rather than
in resisting it; so, in Love, liberty consists in avoiding
women of a dangerous category—dangerous, that is
to say, for yourself.
Your mistress, the woman of your paradise, will
be sufficiently indicated to you by your natural
sympathies, verified by Lavater and by a study of
painting and statuary.
The physiognomical signs would be infallible if
one knew them all, and well. I cannot here set down
all the physiognomical signs of the woman eternally
suitable to such and such a man. Perhaps one day I
shall accomplish this enormous task in a book which
will be entitled: the catechism of the beloved woman; but
I am certain that every man, assisted by his imperious
and vague desires and guided by observation,
can discover, after a time, the woman necessary to
himself. Further, our sympathies are not, in general,
dangerous; nature, whether in cookery or in love,
rarely gives us a taste for what is bad for us.
As I understand the word Love in its fullest sense,
I am here obliged to set down some special maxims
upon delicate questions.
You man of the North, you eager navigator lost in
the mists, seeker of auroras more beautiful than the
sunlight, untiring in your thirst for the ideal; love
cold women. Love them well, for the toil is greater
and more bitter and you will find one day more
honour at the tribunal of Love, who is seated over
there in the blue of the infinite!
You man of the South, you whose open nature can
have no taste for secrets and mysteries—light-hearted
man—of Bordeaux, of Marseilles or of Italy—let
passionate women suffice you; their mobility and
their animation are your natural empire, an empire
Young man, you who wish to become a great poet,
beware of the paradoxical in Love; let schoolboys
excited by their first pipe sing at the top of their
voice the praises of the fat women; leave these falsehoods
to the neophytes of the pseudo-romantic
school. If the fat woman is sometimes a charming
caprice, the thin woman is a well of sombre delights!
Never slander great Nature; if she has bestowed
upon you a mistress without a bosom, say: `I have a
love—with such hips!’ and go to the temple to render
thanks to the Gods.
You must know how to make the best of ugliness
itself—of your own, that is too easy—everyone
knows how Trenk (la gueule brûlée) was adored by
of hers! that is a rarer and more beautiful
art, but the association of ideas will render it easy and
natural. Let us suppose that your idol is ill. Her
beauty has disappeared under the frightful crust of
small-pox, like verdure beneath the heavy winter
ice. Still shaken by long hours of anguish and the
fluctuations of the disease, you are regarding sorrowfully
the ineffaceable stigmata upon the body of the
dear convalescent; then suddenly there vibrates in
your ears a dying air executed by the rapturous bow
of Paganini, and this air speaks to you with sympathy
of yourself, seeming to reiterate the whole poem of
your dearest abandoned hopes. Thenceforward, the
traces of the small-pox will form a part of your
happiness, beneath your tender gaze there will
always echo the mysterious air of Paganini. Henceforth
they will be the objects, not only of sweet
sympathy but even of physical desire—if, that is, you
are one of those sensitive spirits for whom beauty is
the promise of happiness. Above all, it is an association
of ideas which makes one love ugly women—so
much so that you run a grave risk, if your pock-marked
mistress betrays you, of being able to console
yourself only with pock-marked women.
For certain spirits, more precious and more jaded,
delight in ugliness proceeds from a still more obscure
sentiment—the thirst for the unknown and the
taste for the horrible. It is this sentiment, whose germ,
more or less developed, is carried within each one
of us, which drives certain poets into the dissecting
room or the clinic and women to public executions.
I am sincerely sorry for the man who cannot understand
this—he is a harp who lacks a bass string!
As for illiteracy, which forms (according to some
blockheads) a part of moral ugliness—is it not superfluous
to explain to you how this may be a whole
naïve poem of memories and delights? The charming
Alcibiades lisped so well; childhood has such a divine
jargon. Then beware, young adept of pleasure, of
teaching your love French—unless it is necessary to
become her French master that you may be her lover.
There are those who blush to have loved a woman
as soon as they perceive that she is stupid. These are
vainglorious jackasses, born to crop the foulest
thistles in creation or enjoy the favours of a bluestocking.
Stupidity is often an ornament of beauty;
it gives the eyes that mournful limpidity of dusky
pools, and that oily calm of tropical seas. Stupidity
always preserves beauty, it keeps away the wrinkles,
it is the divine cosmetic which preserves our idols
from the gnawings of thought which we must suffer,
miserable scholars that we are.
There are those who begrudge their mistress’s
extravagance. These are the misers, republicans
ignorant of the first principles of political economy.
The vices of a great nation are its greatest wealth.
There are others, the sedate, the reasonable,
moderate deists, followers of the middle path in
dogma, who are furious when their wives become
devout. Oh! the fumblers, who will never learn to
play any instrument! Oh, the thrice-foolish ones,
who do not perceive that the most adorable form
religion can take—is that of their wife! A husband
to be converted, what a delicious apple! The beautiful
fruit forbidden like some huge impiety—on a
stormy winter night, in a corner by the fire, with
wine and truffles—mute hymn of domestic bliss,
victory over harsh Nature, who seems herself to be
blaspheming the gods!
I should not have finished so soon had I wished to
enumerate all the beautiful and noble aspects of
what is called vice and moral ugliness, but there is
one problem which often presents itself to men of
feeling and understanding, a problem as vexed and
painful as a tragic drama; it is when they are caught
between the hereditary moral impulse implanted by
their parents and the tyrannical desire for a woman
whom they ought to despise. Numerous and ignoble
infidelities, habits which betray their evil haunts,
shameful secrets unseasonably laid bare, inspire you
with horror for your idol, and it sometimes comes to
pass that your joy makes you shudder. Here you are
much embarrassed in your platonic reasonings.
Virtue and Pride cry: Fly from her. Nature speaks
in your ear: whither can I fly? These are terrible
alternatives, in face of which even the strongest souls
reveal the insufficiency of all our philosophic education.
The more cunning, seeing themselves constrained
by nature to play the eternal drama of
Manon Lescaut and Leone Leoni, make their retreat,
saying that contempt goes well with love. I am
going to give you a very simple formula which will
not only save you from these shameful self-justifications
but will make it possible for you even to leave
your idol undisfigured, without injury to your
We will suppose that the heroine of your heart has
abused the fas and nefas and is come to the limits of
perdition, after having—final infidelity! supreme
torture!—tried the power of her charms upon her
gaolers and executioners.*
Are you going to abjure
your ideal so lightly, or, if nature throws you, faithful
and weeping, into the arms of this pale victim of the
guillotine, will you say, with the mortified accents
of resignation: Contempt and Love are cousins-german?
Not at all. These are the paradoxes of a
timid nature and a clouded intelligence. Say boldly
and with the candour of the true philosopher: `Had
she been less criminal my ideal had been less complete.
I contemplate her and I submit; great Nature
alone knows what she intends to make of such a
glorious hussy. Supreme happiness and supreme
absolute reason! product of contrary forces. Ormuz
and Ahriman, you are one!’
And thus, thanks to a more synthetic outlook upon
things, your admiration will lead you quite naturally
towards chaste love, that sunlight in whose intensity
all stains are swallowed up.
Remember this, that one must beware above all
of the paradoxical in love. It is simplicity which
saves, it is simplicity which brings happiness, though
your mistress be as ugly as old Mab, the queen of
terrors. In general, for men of the world, a subtle
moralist has said, Love is but love of gambling, love
of fighting. That is altogether wrong. Love should
be love, fighting and gambling are permissible only
as the politics of love.
The gravest mistake of modern youth is that they
force their emotions. A great number of lovers are
imaginary invalids who spend large sums on nostrums
and pay M. Fleurant and M. Purgon heavily,
without enjoying the pleasures and privileges of a
genuine malady. Observe how they irritate their
stomachs with absurd drugs, wearing out the digestive
faculties of Love. It may be necessary to belong
to one’s century, but beware of apeing the illustrious
Don Juan, who was, according to Molière, at first
nothing more than a rude rascal, well trained and
versed in love, crime and cunning, but who has since
become, thanks to MM. Alfred de Musset and
Théophile Gautier, an artistic lounger, chasing perfection
through the bawdy-houses, and who is finally
only an old dandy worn out by his travels, the
stupidest creature in the world when he is in the
company of an honest woman who loves her husband.
A last, general rule: in love, beware of the moon
and the stars, beware of the Venus de Milo, of lakes,
guitars, rope-ladders, and of all love stories—yes,
even the most beautiful in the world, were it written
by Apollo himself! But love dearly, vigorously, fearlessly,
orientally, ferociously the woman you love;
so that your love—harmony being included—does
not torment the love of another; so that your choice
does not cause disturbance to the community.
Among the Incas a man could make love to his
sister; be content with your cousin. Do not climb
balconies or give trouble to the public authorities;
do not on any account deprive your mistress of the
happiness of belief in the gods; and when you accompany
her to the temple remember to dip your fingers
in orthodox fashion in the pure, refreshing water of
Since all morality testifies to the good will of its
legislators—since all religion is a supreme consolation
for the afflicted—since every woman is a part of
essential Woman—since love is the sole thing which
merits the turning of a sonnet and the putting-on of
fine linen: I revere these things above all else and
denounce as a slanderer the man who sees in this
fragment of a morality an occasion for crossing himself
and a cause for scandal. Morality wrapped in
tinsel, is it not? Coloured glass which tints too
brightly, perhaps, the eternal lamp of truth shining
within? No, no. Had I wished to prove that all is for
the best in the best of all possible worlds, the reader
would have the right to tell me, like the ape of genius:
you are naughty! But I have desired to prove that
all is for the best in the worst of all possible worlds.
Much therefore will be forgiven me because I have
loved much—my male, or female reader!