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Collected Letters of Elisée Reclus

To Alfred Dumesnil, Vascœuil.

Paris, the 27th of March of 1871.

My dear friend,

Yesterday, I saw my friend Chaté (1) who read me your letter from the 18th of March. I was moved by seeing your writing after so many months spent far away from each other, in a such an immense whirlpool which grabbed us and made us turn in circles according its will. Now, we are more or less back to our habits and our work, but what changes in a such a short period of time! So many transformations for better and worst!

It is you, my friend, who suffered the most. Our hearts bleed when thinking about what you lost in Vascœuil. Old idea associations, childhood memories, loved books, testimonies of profound friendships, all that was stolen from you at the same time as a phase of your old life disappeared. How large your anxiety must have been when you were far away from your family and you knew they were surrounded by a thousand dangers (2).

We learned through Jeanne’s previous letter that I received when I was still in Sainte-Foy, that your son was gravely afflicted, but I hoped for his recovery. Your letter for Chaté, told us that he is not back to his health. I rushed to get the Bisbeco hospital but he was no longer there : he probably went to regain strength in Vascœuil, in the shade. I hope they have not cut the big trees.

My wife and children are still in the Midi, but they hope to return as soon as possible. Elie and Paul arrived a few days ago. Onésime is still in Orthez, trying to overcome her rheumatisms of the winter. Maybe, if the events and my finances permit us, we will soon settle in Meudon, in a fairly nice country-house, a lot bigger and a half as expensive as our apartment at Feuillantines street. My wife would not dare settle in Paris with the little girls because of the continuous to-and-fro : this incessant movement would be detrimental to the health and good education of the children.

I do not address, my dear friend, the current revolution. It seems to me that the 18th of March is the most important date in the French History since the 10th of August. It is at the same time the triumph of the Labor Republic and the inauguration of the Communal Federation. The intellectual and moral progress were immense as a change of this magnitude was able to happen almost peacefully.

Let’s hope my friend. Yours.


(1)Chaté, Parisian horticulturor, the Dumesnils’ friend.

(2)At the beginning of the Prussian invasion, Dumesnil accompanied by two patriots from Normandy, Mr Boudouin and Mr Julien, who thought to organize with him the defense of Normandy, went to Tours and Bordeaux to discuss about it with the government of the National Defense. When they came back, Rouen had given up. Dumesnil did not manage to go back to Vascoeuil where the Prussians were in charge. A few months later, when, due to amnesty, he wanted to return home, he had to negotiate with the soldiers who were occupying it. The court was full of dead horses, lying among the furniture, the valuable objects and the library books. The family had to content itself with half of the house, leaving the other part to strangers, serving them and cohabitating with them for several months.

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