Saint-Evremond to Ninon
I have never read a letter
that contained so much common sense as your last one. You
eulogize the stomach so highly, that it would be shameful to possess
an intelligent mind without also having a good stomach. I
am indebted to the Abbé Dubois for having sounded my praises to
you in this respect.
At eighty-eight years
of age, I can eat oysters every morning for breakfast. I dine
well and sup fairly well. The world makes heroes of men with
less merit than mine.
Qu’on ait plus de bien,
Plus de vertu, plus
Je n’en aurai point
Qu’un autre me passe
Sur le goût et sur l’appétit,
C’est l’avantage qui
L’estomac est le plus
Sans lui les autres
ne sont rien.
Un grand coeur veut
Un grand esprit veut
Les droits de l’estomac
sont de bien digérer;
Et dans les sentiments
que me donne mon âge,
La beauté de l’esprit,
la grandeur du courage,
N’ont rien qu’à se vertu
l’on puisse comparer.
(Let others more riches
More virtue and morals
‘Twill kindle no envious
But to make my merit seem
In taste, appetite, is,
An outrageous thing to
The stomach’s the greatest
All else to us nothing
A great heart would all
A great soul investigate,
But the law of the stomach
is good things to digest,
And the glories, which
are at my age the delight,
True beauty of mind, of
courage the height,
Are nothing unless by
its virtue they’re blest.)
When I was young I admired
intellect more than anything else, and was less considerate of the
interests of the body than I should have been; today, I am remedying
the error I then held, as much as possible, either by the use I
am making of it, or by the esteem and friendship I have for it.
You were of the same opinion.
The body was something in your youth, now you are wholly concerned
with the pleasures of the mind. I do not know whether you
are right in placing so high an estimate upon it. We read
little that is worth remembering, and we hear little advice that
is worth following. However degenerate may be the senses of
the age at which I am living, the impressions which agreeable objects
make upon them appear to me to be so much more acute, that we are
wrong to mortify them. Perhaps it is a jealousy of the mind,
which deems the part played by the senses better than its own.
M. Bernier, the handsomest
philosopher I have ever known (handsome philosopher is seldom used,
but his figure, shape, manner, conversation and other traits have
made him worthy of the epithet), M. Bernier, I say, in speaking
of the senses, said to me one day:
“I am going to impart
a confidence that I would not give Madame de la Sablière even to
Mademoiselle de l’Enclos, whom I regard as a superior being.
I tell you in confidence, that abstinence from pleasures appears
to me to be a great sin.”
I was surprised at the
novelty of the idea, and it did not fail to make an impression upon
my mind. Had he extended his idea, he might have made me a
convert to his doctrine.
Continue your friendship
which has never faltered, and which is something rare in relations
that have existed as long as ours.