This is a letter Proudhon wrote to an artist friend of his. While it is more personal than political, it shows some of Proudhon's character, as well as some of his personal philosophical beliefs.

To see the original, in French, click here

To Mr. Etex1

Conciergerie, January 14, 1851

  My dear Etex, I want to thank you for the package which you have had the goodwill to send me, of your Elementary Course in Drawing. You remembered that I adore drawing, that I am crazy about the beauty and purity of lines, just as I admire the melody in music.

  Maybe it is the disposition of my spirit that makes me indifferent to many pieces of painting and sculpture which, to believe the experts, do not lack merit; this causes me to remain impervious to the quantity of musical compisitions where the harmony, assuredly, and the science are abundant, but which, to my ear, do not sing.

  Once again, I thank you for having thought of me and for having believed that I could get pleasure out of reading your precepts and studying your examples

  How is Mme Etex? How are you doing, yourself? Where are you? Having made a grand sculpture and tried a revolutionary style of painting, you have become a professor of art and an author. Where do you stop yourself? What are your plans?

  Have you sent something important to the Exposition? I hear tell that you are not afraid to spread my unattractive figure, which attracts the original, who has enough self-love to laught at it, and also attracts the artist who cannot but force unfavorable criticism. My dear sculptor, it isn't enough to know how to mold clay and carve marble; one must still, you see, choose subjects which will be agreeable to the public. The President of the Republic isn't as handsome as me; I daresay that he is much uglier.

  Send your bust to the Exposition; I am sure that it will find many admirers. For the past eight days, the herd must have been multiplying prodigiously. The National itself cannot refuse them the tribute of its admiration.

  My dear Etex, you have suffered in the world from knowing me. Do me the pleasure of going to take this blasted plaster, which I will demand of you someday, if ever; returned to liberty, I can conquer for myself and mine, by my work, a little assistance and recompensate your zealousness for my fame. Remove it from there, I tell you, or else, I warn you, I will solicit permission to leave, and I will cut myself, with my knife, nose, eyes, mouth, face, everything which, finally, could make me recognizable, by name or by number.

  Give me, I beg you, by my modesty, or, if you prefer, by my captivity, which modesty can only turn into, this small satisfaction.

  You will be obligated essentially to one who, in the most sincere estimate, joins sympathy with the wisdom of having lived long.


1. Translated from the French by Stephanie Silberstein