This is a letter Proudhon wrote to his brother, Charles, while in prison, letting him know of his situation and future plans.
To view the original French, click here
To Charles Proudhon1
Conciergerie, August 12 1849
My dear Charles, since you have seen Dessirier, you know almost everything about me being in prison.. The Conciergerie is the ancient palace of St. Louis, transformed into a prison; all the rooms are arched; the prisoners only occupy the first two floors. It is the Conciergerie that once housed Ravaillac, Mandrin, Marie Antoinette, the Girondins, Louis Bonaparte, the current president of the republic, and a host of other more or less respectable and famous people. The room that I occupy at the moment is like a miniature cathedral. It receives the day only by a very high window, to which is added metal bars, a lattice of iron and lampshade. It isn't a bad resemblance to a coffin. In the morning they open my door at seven o'clock; I return at night and I am under lock and key until morning. I eat white bread in prison, which is good; I eat thin soup and take for myself the surplus, which I need for the rest of my meals. At the momen,t while my friends have great zeal for political prisoners, we don't miss rum, red wine, cognac, the wines of Bordeaux, or the other [alocholic beverages]. I still have my full buffet. I don't feel deprived of anything except for not being able, all this time, to take two walks in the evening after dinner; instead of getting up early in the morning, I sleep late; this makes me soft and lazy.
Since I am condemned to more than a year in prison, I pay 18 francs a month to the establishment, as rent for staying in Paris. This is an imposition on top of captivity; you see that the government knows how to make money off of everybody. If I can't pay these 18 francs, they'll send me to Doullens or who knows where.
I am doing my best on a brochure which will appear shortly
William leaves tomorrow for Geneva; he is going to try to raise the sum of 24,000 francs in order to make a deposit on starting a new magazine. I have the hope that this will achieve more than the other and not cause me much hassle. The pains [associated with his preivous political activity] have taken everything out of me; this means [of promoting anarchy] is worn out and I will abstain from it in the future. If only I had four brains! Or if only I could take workers to help me complete my work, just as you take companions to help you with yours! I would make more than my share of money within six months. My pubilsher will pay me 2000 francs a month if I make a monthly Review for them. They must talk to me about all the costs before that I'll accept. If I go away from you in this circumstance, it is so that you will be convinced that one doesn't regard me here as a dead man, and that one expects something of me. But you know also that I don't conduct myself by money considerations; I therefore won't accept the offer of my publisher just so that I don't do something less lucrative, no doubt, but only according to what is most useful for the public. Because, you see, I appear before the public, and I must have their respect.
Good day, my dear Charles.
Translated from the French by Stephanie Silberstein.
Return to top
Return to Proudhon's Collected Works
Return to Proudhon's letters