Guy de Maupassant Fullscreen Dear friend (1885)


For me a good hypertrophy, a good aneurism, and above all, a good beginning of locomotor ataxy, would be a hundred times more valuable than forty volumes of disgressions on the idea of patriotism as embodied in barbaric poetry."

An astonished silence followed this opinion, and Madame Walter asked with a smile: "But why?"

He replied: "Because I never seek aught else than the pleasure that any one can give the ladies.

But, Madame, the Academy only has any real interest for you when an Academician dies.

The more of them die the happier you must be.

But in order that they may die quickly they must be elected sick and old."

As they still remained somewhat surprised, he continued.

"Besides, I am like you, and I like to read of the death of an Academician.

I at once ask myself:

'Who will replace him?'

And I draw up my list.

It is a game, a very pretty little game that is played in all Parisian salons at each decease of one of the Immortals, the game of 'Death and the Forty Fogies.'"

The ladies, still slightly disconcerted, began however, to smile, so true were his remarks.

He concluded, as he rose: "It is you who really elect them, ladies, and you only elect them to see them die.

Choose them old, therefore, very old; as old as possible, and do not trouble yourselves about anything else."

He then retired very gracefully.

As soon as he was gone, one of the ladies said: "He is very funny, that young fellow.

Who is he?"

Madame Walter replied: "One of the staff of our paper, who does not do much yet; but I feel sure that he will get on."

Duroy strode gayly down the Boulevard Malesherbes, content with his exit, and murmuring:

"A capital start."

He made it up with Rachel that evening.

The following week two things happened to him. He was appointed chief reporter and invited to dinner at Madame Walter's.

He saw at once a connection between these things.

The _Vie Francaise_ was before everything a financial paper, the head of it being a financier, to whom the press and the position of a deputy served as levers.

Making use of every cordiality as a weapon, he had always worked under the smiling mask of a good fellow; but he only employed men whom he had sounded, tried, and proved; whom he knew to be crafty, bold, and supple.

Duroy, appointed chief of the reporting staff, seemed to him a valuable fellow.

This duty had been filled up till then by the chief sub-editor, Monsieur Boisrenard, an old journalist, as correct, punctual, and scrupulous as a clerk.

In course of thirty years he had been sub-editor of eleven different papers, without in any way modifying his way of thinking or acting.

He passed from one office to another as one changes one's restaurant, scarcely noticing that the cookery was not quite the same.

Political and religious opinions were foreign to him.

He was devoted to his paper, whatever it might be, well up in his work, and valuable from his experience.

He worked like a blind man who sees nothing, like a deaf man who hears nothing, and like a dumb man who never speaks of anything.

He had, however, a strong instinct of professional loyalty, and would not stoop to aught he did not think honest and right from the special point of view of his business.

Monsieur Walter, who thoroughly appreciated him, had however, often wished for another man to whom to entrust the "Echoes," which he held to be the very marrow of the paper.

It is through them that rumors are set afloat and the public and the funds influenced.

It is necessary to know how to slip the all-important matter, rather hinted at than said right out, in between the description of two fashionable entertainments, without appearing to intend it.

It is necessary to imply a thing by judicious reservations; let what is desired be guessed at; contradict in such a fashion as to confirm, or affirm in such a way that no one shall believe the statement.

It is necessary that in the "Echoes" everyone shall find every day at least one line of interest, in order that every one may read them.

Every one must be thought of, all classes, all professions, Paris and the provinces, the army and the art world, the clergy and the university, the bar and the world of gallantry.

The man who has the conduct of them, and who commands an army of reporters, must be always on the alert and always on his guard; mistrustful, far-seeing, cunning, alert, and supple; armed with every kind of cunning, and gifted with an infallible knack of spotting false news at the first glance, of judging which is good to announce and good to hide, of divining what will catch the public, and of putting it forward in such a way as to double its effect.

Monsieur Boisrenard, who had in his favor the skill acquired by long habit, nevertheless lacked mastery and dash; he lacked, above all, the native cunning needed to put forth day by day the secret ideas of the manager.

Duroy could do it to perfection, and was an admirable addition to the staff. The wire-pullers and real editors of the _Vie Francaise_ were half a dozen deputies, interested in all the speculations brought out or backed up by the manager.

They were known in the Chamber as "Walter's gang," and envied because they gained money with him and through him.

Forestier, the political editor, was only the man of straw of these men of business, the worker-out of ideas suggested by them.

They prompted his leaders, which he always wrote at home, so as to do so in quiet, he said.

But in order to give the paper a literary and truly Parisian smack, the services of two celebrated writers in different styles had been secured--Jacques Rival, a descriptive writer, and Norbert de Varenne, a poet and story-writer.

To these had been added, at a cheap rate, theatrical, musical and art critics, a law reporter, and a sporting reporter, from the mercenary tribe of all-round pressmen.

Two ladies,

"Pink Domino" and