Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXX, 15

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XXX, 14 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXXI, 1


Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXX, chapter 15
A letter to Madame Récamier



‘Rome, 16th of May 1829.

This letter will leave Rome some hours after me, and will arrive in Paris some hours before me. It will complete this correspondence which has never missed a single courier, and which has left a whole volume in your hands. I am experiencing a combination of joy and sorrow that I cannot explain; for three or four months I have been quite miserable in Rome; now I am seized again by these noble ruins, this solitude, so profound, peaceful and yet full of interest and memories. Perhaps the unhoped-for success I obtained here has wedded me to it: I arrived to find every obstacle erected against me, and I overcame them all; they seem to regret my leaving. What shall I find in France? Noise instead of silence, anxiety instead of repose, nonsense, ambition, struggles for position, and vanity. The political approach I adopted was one that no one wished me to, perhaps, and moreover one that they would not have expected me to execute. Yet I tasked myself with bringing France great glory, as I contributed to her obtaining a great freedom; but did they give me a free hand? Did they say: “Take charge, handle everything on your own responsibility?” No; so far from wishing to say any such thing to me, they would have taken anybody in preference to me, they would only admit to me afterwards that they had obtained refusals from all the mediocrities in France, and thought they were doing me a great favour by relegating me to this obscure corner. I am coming to meet you; ambassador or not, it is Rome where I would wish to die. In exchange for a few years of life, I would at least have a fine sepulchre until the day when I went to fill my tomb among the sands which saw my birth. Adieu; I have already travelled several miles towards you.’