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Artists' Wives   By: (1840-1897)

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First Page:


By Alphonse Daudet

Translated by Laura Ensor

Illustrated by De Bieler, Myrbach; And Rossi

[Illustration: Frontispiece]

[Illustration: Titlepage]

[Illustration: p007 018]


Stretched at full length, on the great divan of a studio, cigar in mouth, two friends a poet and a painter were talking together one evening after dinner .

It was the hour of confidences and effusion. The lamp burned softly beneath its shade, limiting its circle of light to the intimacy of the conversation, leaving scarcely distinct the capricious luxury of the vast walls, cumbered with canvases, hangings, panoplies, surmounted by a glass roof through which the sombre blue shades of the night penetrated unhindered. The portrait of a woman, leaning slightly forward, as if to listen, alone stood out a little from the shadow; young with intelligent eyes, a grave and sweet mouth and a spirituel smile which seemed to defend the husband's easel from fools and disparagers. A low chair pushed away from the fire, two little blue shoes lying on the carpet, indicated also the presence of a child in the house; and indeed from the next room, within which mother and child had but just disappeared, came occasional bursts of soft laughter, of childish babble; the pretty flutterings of a nest going off to sleep. All this shed over the artistic interior a vague perfume of family happiness which the poet breathed in with delight:

" Decidedly, my dear fellow?" he said to his friend, "you were in the right. There are no two ways of being happy. Happiness lies in this and in nothing else. You must find me a wife! "


Good Heavens, no! not on any account. Find one for yourself, if you are bent upon it. As for me, I will have nothing to do with it.


And why?


Because because artists ought never to marry.


That's rather too good. You dare to say that, and the lamp does not go out suddenly, and the walls don't fall down upon your head! But just think, wretch, that for two hours past, you have been setting before me the enviable spectacle of the very happiness you forbid me. Are you by chance like those odious millionaires whose well being is in creased by the sufferings of others, and who better enjoy their own fireside when they reflect that it is raining out of doors, and that there are plenty of poor devils without a shelter?


Think of me what you will. I have too much affection for you to help you to commit a folly an irreparable folly.


Come! what is it? You are not satisfied? And yet it seems to me that one breathes in happiness here, just as freely as one does the air of heaven at a country window.


You are right, I am happy, completely happy, I love my wife with all my heart. When I think of my child, I laugh aloud to myself with pleasure. Marriage for me has been a harbour of calm and safe waters, not one in which you make fast to a ring on the shore, at the risk of rusting there for ever, but one of those blue creeks where sails and masts are repaired for fresh excursions into unknown countries, I never worked as well as I have since my marriage. All my best pictures date from then.


Well then!


My dear fellow, at the risk of seeming a coxcomb, I will say that I look upon my happiness as a kind of miracle, something abnormal and exceptional. Yes! the more I see what marriage is, the more I look back with terror at the risk I ran. I am like those who, ignorant of the dangers they have unwittingly gone through, turn pale when all is over, amazed at their own audacity.


But what then are these terrible dangers?


The first and greatest of all, is the loss or degradation of one's talent. This should count, I think, with an artist. For observe that at this moment, I am not speaking of the ordinary conditions of life. I grant you, that in general marriage is an excellent thing, and that the majority of men only begin to be of some account when the family circle completes them or makes them greater... Continue reading book >>

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