How Flaubert developed his courage.

In the last few years, I’ve developed the habit of reading the autobiography of great writers. It provides insight into their methods of creation, more than their body of works alone.

The foremost thing in a writers mind is his audience. Isn’t it? Whom does Michael write for? It’s a question that needs some penetration of thought and application of analysis. Does one write for everyone? Themselves?

Recently I’ve been reading the correspondence between two writers, translated from the original French into English. While just halfway through their 1860s correspondence, I reached this statement: “I write for ten or twelve people only.”  Then further the debate develops as the author assays with the counter view: “One writes for all the world, for all those who need to be initiated; when one is not understood, one is resigned and recommences. When one is understood, one rejoices and continues….What is art without the hearts and minds one which one pours it? A sun which would not project rays and would give life to no one?”

The writers above is George Sand (then 62); the young writer known to Chopin, the master composer; writing to the great romantic, Flaubert (then 45), mentor of Guy de Maupassant. Flaubert calls George Sand “Dear master” in his beautifully vivid letters.

About portraits, Sand says “Age gives unceasingly another character to the face of people who think and study, that is why their portraits do not look like one another nor like them for long.”

In luck was the French bourgeois, hosting house parties of creative people together in their homes, entertaining the greats of their times. A huge melting pot of creative opinion and dainty finesse it must have been.

George calls him “courageous” for holding views contrary to this “smart set”.  She further says “one should not fear to show owns sketches and drawings.”

Flaubert was also lucky in finding the right mentor to guide him. Talent has a way of restricting itself unless unleashed by a power greater than itself. For Flaubert, that power was his 20 years senior, George Sand.

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