|About the Book|
The partnership of Edmond and Jules de Goncourt is probably the most curious and perfect example of collaboration recorded in literary history. The brothers worked together for twenty-two years, and the amalgam of their diverse talents was soMoreThe partnership of Edmond and Jules de Goncourt is probably the most curious and perfect example of collaboration recorded in literary history. The brothers worked together for twenty-two years, and the amalgam of their diverse talents was so complete that, were it not for the information given by the survivor, it would be difficult to guess what each brought to the work which bears their names. Even in the light of these confidences, it is no easy matter to attempt to separate or disengage their literary personalities. The two are practically one. Jamais âme pareille na été mise en deux corps. This testimony is their own, and their testimony is true. The result is the more perplexing when we remember that these two brothers were, so to say, men of different races. The elder was a German from Lorraine, the younger was an inveterate Latin Parisian: the most absolute difference of temperaments, tastes, and characters?and absolutely the same ideas, the same personal likes and dislikes, the same intellectual vision. There may be, as there probably always will be, two opinions as to the value of their writings- there can be no difference of view concerning their intense devotion to literature, their unhesitating rejection of all that might distract them from their vocation. They spent a small fortune in collecting materials for works that were not to find two hundred readers- they passed months, and more months, in tedious researches the results of which were condensed into a single page- they resigned most of lifes pleasures and all its joys to dedicate themselves totally to the office of their election. So they lived?toiling, endeavouring, undismayed, confident in their integrity and genius, unrewarded by one accepted triumph, uncheered by a single frank success or even by any considerable recognition. The younger Goncourt died of his failure before he was forty- the elder underwent almost the same monotony of defeat during nearly thirty years of life that remained to him. But both continued undaunted, and, if we consider what manner of men they were and how dear fame was to them, the constancy of their ambition becomes all the more admirable.Edmond de GoncourtDespising, or affecting to despise, the general verdict of their contemporaries, they loved to declare that they wrote for their own personal pleasure, for an audience of a dozen friends, or for the delight of a distant posterity- and, when the absence of all appreciation momentarily weighed them down, they vainly imagined that the acquisition of a new bibelot consoled them. No doubt the passion of the collector was strong in them: so strong that Edmond half forgot his grief for his brother and his terror of the Commune in the pursuit of first editions: so strong that the chances of a Prussian bomb shattering his storehouse of treasures?the Maison dun artiste?at Auteuil saddened him more than the dismemberment of France. But, even so, the idea that the Goncourts could in any circumstances subordinate literature to any other interest was the merest illusion. Nothing in the world pleased them half so well as the sight of their own words in print. The arrival of a set of proof-sheets on the 1st of January was to them the best possible augury for the new year- the sight of their names on the placards outside the theatres and the booksellers shops enraptured them- and Edmond, then well on in years, confesses that he thrice stole downstairs, half-clad, in the March dawn, to make sure that the opening chapters of Ch?rie were really inserted in the Gaulois. These were their few rewards, their only victories. They were fain to be content with such small things?la petite monnaie de la gloire.