Chapter 12 Summary

Braithwaite's Dictionary of Accepted Ideas

Playing off Flaubert's Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues, Braithwaite presents his own dictionary of received ideas regarding Flaubert. It is an alphabetical listing of things and people associated with Flaubert, beginning with A for Achille, Gustave's older brother, who was named for their father and inherited the family expectations. Louis Bouilhet was Flaubert's "shadow" with whom he shared a close resemblance; Flaubert referred to him as his "left testicle." Louise Colet was either an untalented encumbrance who plotted to entrap Flaubert and force him to be happy, or a passionate woman cruelly misunderstood and underappreciated by the heartless Flaubert.

Maxime Du Camp wrote with a steel nib pen while Flaubert used a quill. Epilepsy conveniently gave Gustave the excuse he needed to avoid a more conventional career path. Flaubert, the father of Realism, the "pontoon" between Balzac and James Joyce, said "Honors dishonor." Goncourts—as in Jules and Edmond—said of Flaubert that he was never perfectly sincere; but then everyone else said that the brothers were unreliable in their accounts; but then everyone else has proven unreliable in their own accounts. Juliet Herbert requires more research.

There is no I entry, for Irony is Flaubert's dictionnaire. Jean-Paul Sartre was a scholarly pest. Kuchuk Hanem was the bedbug-ridden prostitute Flaubert weighed against the Parisian proto-feminist poet. Letters were Flaubert's masterpiece. Mme Flaubert said to her son, "Your mania for sentences have dried up your heart."

Flaubert was from Normandy. He visited the Orient and came back a Realist. He fumigated Croisset after the Prussian army left. When he said, "Madame Bovary, c'est moi," Flaubert was alluding to Cervantes' reply to the question of where the idea for Don Quixote came from. Flaubert always denied being a Realist.

George Sand was like a second mother to Gustave. T is for Transvestitism, because, though he was not reputed to wear women's clothes, he sometimes identified with women: "Madame Bovary, c'est moi." U is for USA, because Flaubert predicted that the future would be "utilitarian, militaristic, American. . . ." Voltaire preceded Flaubert as his century's voice of skepticism.

Whores were the primary source of syphilis for nineteenth century literary geniuses, all of whom seem to have had it. X is for Xylophone. Braithwaite has noted in a previous chapter that Flaubert couldn't seem to find anything for X either. "See Yvetot and die," is a recommendation from the Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues. Braithwaite recommends that the epigram be accompanied by an enigmatic smile rather than a citation of its source. Regarding Emile Zola, Braithwaite asks who needs whom more: the master or the disciple?