French Poet, Novelist, Art and Literary Critic, and Dramatist
Théophile Gautier, fully Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier, aka Le Bon Theo
French Poet, Novelist, Art and Literary Critic, and Dramatist
Nothing is truly beautiful unless it cannot be used for anything; everything that is useful is ugly because it is the expression of some need, and those of man are ignoble and disgusting, like his poor and infirm nature.
To extract beauty from one's own milieu is one of the most difficult tasks of art.
Once a cat has given its love, what absolute confidence, what fidelity of affection! It will make itself the companion of your hours of work, of loneliness, or of sadness. It will lie the whole evening on your knee, purring and happy in your society, and leaving the company of creatures of its own society to be with you.
I had never been into society; for me the world was the enclosure of the college and the seminary. I had a vague knowledge that there was a something called woman, but I never dwelt upon the subject; I was absolutely innocent. I saw my infirm old mother only twice a year; that was the extent of my connection with the outside world.
One evening he was in his room, his brow pressing hard against the pane, looking, without seeing them, at the chestnut trees in the park, which had lost much of their russet-colored foliage. A heavy mist obscured the distance, and the night was falling grey rather than black, stepping cautiously with its velvet feet upon the tops of the trees. A great swan plunged and replunged amorously its neck and shoulders into the smoking water of the river, and its whiteness made it show in the darkness like a great star of snow. It was the single living being that somewhat enlivened the lonely landscape.
What is certain is that the world has got beyond the stage at which one may affect modesty and maidenly shame, and I think that the world is too old a duffer to assume to be childish and maidenly without becoming ridiculous. Since its marriage to civilization society has forfeited its right to be ingenuous and prudish. There is a blush which beseems the bride as she is being bedded, which would be out of place on the morrow; for the young wife mayhap remembers no more what it is to be a girl, or, if she does remember it, it is very indecent, and seriously compromises the reputation of the husband.
Although it was only six o'clock, the night was already dark. The fog, made thicker by its proximity to the Seine, blurred every detail with its ragged veils, punctured at various distances by the reddish glow of lanterns and bars of light escaping from illuminated windows. The road was soaked with rain and glittered under the street-lamps, like a lake reflecting strings of lights. A bitter wind, heavy with icy particles, whipped at my face, its howling forming the high notes of a symphony whose bass was played by swollen waves crashing into the piers of the bridges below. The evening lacked none of winter's rough poetry.
I have kept thee long in waiting, dear Romuald, and thou mayst well have thought that I had forgotten thee. But I have come from a long distance and from a place from which no one has ever before returned; there is neither moon nor sun in the country from which I come; there is naught but space and shadow; neither road nor path; no ground for the foot, no air for the wing; and yet here I am, for love is stronger than death, and it will end by vanquishing it. Ah! what gloomy faces and what terrible things I have seen in my journeying! What a world of trouble my soul, returned to this earth by the power of my will, has had in finding its body and reinstating itself therein! What mighty efforts I had to put forth before I could raise the stone with which they had covered me! See! the palms of my poor hands are all blistered from it. Kiss them to make them well, dear love!
Some centuries ago they had Raphael and Michael Angelo; now we have Mr. Paul Delaroche, and all because we are progressing. You brag of your Opera houses; ten Opera houses the size of yours could dance a saraband in a Roman amphitheatre. Even Mr. Martin, with his lame tiger and his poor gouty lion, as drowsy as a subscriber to the Gazette, cuts a pretty small figure by the side of a gladiator from antiquity. What are your benefit performances, lasting till two in the morning, compared with those games which lasted a hundred days, with those performances in which real ships fought real battles on a real sea; when thousands of men earnestly carved each other -- turn pale, O heroic Franconi! -- when, the sea having withdrawn, the desert appeared, with its raging tigers and lions, fearful supernumeraries that played but once; when the leading part was played by some robust Dacian or Pannonian athlete, whom it would often have been might difficult to recall at the close of the performance, whose leading lady was some splendid and hungry lioness of Numidia starved for three days? Do you not consider the clown elephant superior to Mlle. Georges? Do you believe Taglioni dances better than did Arbuscula, and Perrot better than Bathyllus? Admirable as is Bocage, I am convinced Roscius could have given him points. Galeria Coppiola played young girls' parts, when over one hundred years old; it is true that the oldest of our leading ladies is scarcely more than sixty, and that Mlle. Mars has not even progressed in that direction. The ancients had three or four thousand gods in whom they believed, and we have but one, in whom we scarcely believe. That is a strange sort of progress. Is not Jupiter worth a good deal more than Don Juan, and is he not a much greater seducer? By my faith, I know not what we have invented, or even wherein we have improved.
What is the use of beauty in woman? Provided a woman is physically well made and capable of bearing children, she will always be good enough in the opinion of economists. What is the use of music? -- of painting? Who would be fool enough nowadays to prefer Mozart to Carrel, Michael Angelo to the inventor of white mustard? There is nothing really beautiful save what is of no possible use. Everything useful is ugly, for it expresses a need, and man's needs are low and disgusting, like his own poor, wretched nature. The most useful place in a house is the water-closet. For my part, saving these gentry's presence, I am of those to whom superfluities are necessaries, and I am fond of things and people in inverse ratio to the service they render me. I prefer a Chinese vase with its mandarins and dragons, which is perfectly useless to me, to a utensil which I do use, and the particular talent of mine which I set most store by is that which enables me not to guess logogriphs and charades. I would very willingly renounce my rights as a Frenchman and a citizen for the sight of an undoubted painting by Raphael, or of a beautiful nude woman, -- Princess Borghese, for instance, when she posed for Canova, or Julia Grisi when she is entering her bath. I would most willingly consent to the return of that cannibal, Charles X., if he brought me, from his residence in Bohemia, a case of Tokai or Johannisberg; and the electoral laws would be quite liberal enough, to my mind, were some of our streets broader and some other things less broad. Though I am not a dilettante, I prefer the sound of a poor fiddle and tambourines to that of the Speaker's bell. I would sell my breeches for a ring, and my bread for jam. The occupation which best befits civilized man seems to me to be idleness or analytically smoking a pipe or cigar. I think highly of those who play skittles, and also of those who write verse. You may perceive that my principles are not utilitarian, and that I shall never be the editor of a virtuous paper, unless I am converted, which would be very comical.
I have often been charged with falsehood and hypocrisy, yet there lives not the man who would more gladly than I speak truthfully and lay bare his heart; but as I have not one idea, one feeling in common with the people who surround me, as the very first word I should speak truthfully would cause a general hue and cry, I have preferred to keep silent, or, if I do speak, to utter only stupid commonplaces which everyone has agreed to believe in.
Sooner barbarity than boredom.
What well-bred woman would refuse her heart to a man who had just saved her life? Not one; and gratitude is a short cut which speedily leads to love.
Art is beauty, the perpetual invention of detail, the choice of words, the exquisite care of execution.
I love the crazy dreams that tames cruelty.
The arts teach and moralize by their beauty alone, not by translating a philosophical or social formula. For the truly artistic person, painting has itself as its purpose, which is quite enough.
Whatever may have been said of the satiety of pleasure and of the disgust which usually follows passion, any man who has anything of a heart and who is not wretchedly and hopelessly blasé feels his love increased by his happiness, and very often the best way to retain a lover ready to leave is to give one's self up to him without reserve.
Ask the poetry of sentimentalism ... this is not it. Radiant words, words of light ... with a rhythm and music, that's what it is poetry.
I seemed to hear these words at a rate of infinite sweetness, because his eyes had almost the tone, and phrases that sent me his eyes echoed in my heart as if an invisible mouth had blown in my soul.
The cat is a dilettante in fur.